Dictionary.com – *Shame – 1. The painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another. 4. A fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret.
*Shame launches us into a sort of sacred suffering that gives us tools, otherwise illusive, that can actually save us. It can originate in our own conscience, or it can be “assigned” to us by others who are more then willing to serve it up and offer seconds. Constructively, it can provoke remorse and change, or when felt on behalf of others, comfort, grace and prayer. Yet it also can circle over our heads with landing gear down, powerless to make its mark, if we aren’t willing to humbly inspect our hearts.
Jesus was no stranger to shame. He didn’t turn from it, but conquered the sting of it for the joy that came from making a way to save us. Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame…” Shame can be a stalker and a haunter, especially if we’re prideful, but when we follow Jesus example and despise it, we shrink it to its rightful place and role and amazing things can happen.
When I worked at a local daycare, we often sang action songs including a favorite “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”. Within the lyrics, there is a great message, “we’re coming to a wide river, and there’s no bridge going over it, no tunnel going under it, it’s just plain old water, and we’re gonna have to swim…I’m not afraid. Are you?”
We’re often put in circumstances just like that. There’s no way around, under, or over. We just gotta go through and get thicker skin while the elements pelt us. The ultimate example is Christ on the cross. John Piper wrote an excellent post on what it means to despise the shame. He concluded Jesus “despising the shame” was like saying, ‘Listen to me, Shame, do you see that joy in front of me? Compared to that, you are less then nothing…You think you have power. Compared to the joy before me, you have none…. You think you can distract me. I won’t even look at you….You are a fool. Your filthy hands fulfill holy prophecy.’ There was once a man who over the course of his lifetime had experienced devastating parenting failures with dire consequences, committed adultery, and set up a murder to cover his own mistake. Yet because he loved God and repented of his sins, he was able to say, “Those who look to Him are radiant with joy. Their faces will never be ashamed.” (Ps. 34:10) If you guessed David, you’re right. I love reading the Psalms, and am thankful he despised the shame and told his story.
So yeah, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, and so can you. That includes the boldness to be honest and humble for Christ’s sake, no pun intended. Some would rather avoid the power tools that can be earned in trials and shame, then admit anything shameful touched them or their families. Ann Voskamp said in a recent post “the worst grief is a grief that cannot speak…..Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.” The Bible is rife with examples of the type of guarantee that things are going to get tough, and that there’s no way around but through. There are no guarantees of turbulent free friendships, marriages, parenting, businesses, health, reputations, etc; only of a Savior who will walk beside us triumphantly through the turbulence and “keep” that which we’ve committed to Him, ultimately souls. He may allow some deep plunges, shame, grief, or heartache in order to refine and use what is of high value to Him.
For us, the hope and promise is that we have a Savior who showed us how to despise the shame and find joy. Have the filthy hands of shame and despair propelled you toward a destiny? Are you willing to share what might be useful to encourage someone?
As another Mother’s Day approaches I am leaning into hope and steering clear of man’s conclusions as I prod through my valleys. I refuse to compare myself to Mother Theresa, Susanna Wesley, Michelle Dugger, nor any young and idealistic mother full of preconceived notions about life and parenting, though I’m happy for all of them. But for myself, I’m madly in love with my kids and grandkids no matter what. Every single one. The sweetest celebration of my motherhood is not on any one particular day, or in reveling in any one of my children’s successes, though I do that. It is in the thoughtfulness of each one of them throughout the year. And then another year and another and another. It is in cards, calls, visits, and laughter. For the ones with children (my sweet grands), it is in the effort they put into guiding the grandkids to gift us with sweet indulgences of artwork, notes, hugs and chats. For seasons when there has been too much gap between visits or too much silence in the conversation, (on either end) it is in the celebration of a God who mends and heals in our lack, our uncertainty, and yes, even in our sin.
If I have ever doubted the lavishness of my God, and I don’t generally, I have only to feast my eyes on an azalea bush in May to settle the matter.
For my friends who have yearned to have children, but could not, I am sorry. Truly sorry. My heart aches for you. I am also sorry for those who have loved and held a child who passed away. There are no words to say I understand, because I don’t and can’t. Your hope for reunion is literally an eternity away. Then there are heart holes for those who have had to give up a child, parent a child without the parenthood “title” or for those of us who have miscarried without ever holding that child. As Ann Voskamp said in a recent post, “Grief is the guaranteed price we pay for love.” She went on to explain that God is the ultimate grief converter because He promises to invade our grief with joy and pour lavish comfort on us in our circumstances.
I hope that God fills your heart with hope in abundance this Mother’s Day…hope that you know how much love God has for you. If you are a believer in Christ as your Savior who died for you, that makes you a daughter of the King, and a joint heir with Christ. In other words, you are royalty! Since God has all the traits that were divided in Adam when He created Eve, He longs to love us and our children with a motherly type love, as well as a fatherly love, and of course, His agape love (which is not based on feelings). “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” from Luke 13:34.
This Mother’s Day I once again am thankful that God indulgently allows us to be a miracle in the middle of our circumstances. Our compass is always pointed to hope, as is beautifully expressed in a song about Christ and the church, “And though you’re in the dark here call me friend…not safe but worth it, so worth it…As you lead us away to valleys low, to acres of hope, acres of hope.”
Do you realize the miracle that He has allowed you to be and the acres of hope that He is leading you in from your “unsafe” valley?
The pendulum has swung wide for me recently on life events, and there have been moments in the stormy times, I’ve lost sight of the other side. Because stresses and griefs tug at the heart even through the elation of miracles, I’ve had a time of it. Yet the recent warmth of personal kindnesses and encounters threatens to thaw the icy numbness that settles and resettles in my arms.
I will highlight a few, but not all, of the weekend warmths God sent my way. On Saturday, a friend and marathon runner committed one of her many miles she runs to praying for our family. She says she likes to pick a friend and devote a mile to them in prayer. I’m humbled, honored. and grateful.
Sunday I received a “random” message from an out of state friend who I have not been in touch with for months. Among many other encouraging words, she said, ‘I am praying that the Lord carry you through the storms and calm the waves. May you always remember that the Lord is in the boat with you and that because He is, you will make it to the other side. When the Lord went into the boat with the disciples, he said to them “let us go to the other side“. There was no doubt that they would make it to the other side.even in the storm…even though they were afraid when the storm came…because Jesus was with them and He knew they would make it, it was not yet His time. It is hard to Trust in the storms that shake us, but Jesus says “Do not be afraid, Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth….” ‘
Again on Sunday (after church and a deeply satisfying nap) I did some catching up in the “Breathe” Bible study (by Priscilla Shirer) that I am in, on making room for the Sabbath, boundaries, etc. After discussing boundaries and margin, Shirer quotes Brad Lomenick, respected innovator and leader of the Catalyst Movement in America as saying several things about the powerful concept of ‘margin’ in several areas of life, including this quote, “Margin in our friendships creates significance and impact.”
If there’s anything new I’ve concluded about friendships over the past year or so, it’s that in my own strength, I might be able to encourage and pass along the love of Christ to someone on occasion, but any consistency is lost on me without some margin in my life for such efforts. To have margin requires that I set boundaries. To set wise boundaries necessitates time in prayer to be sensitive to what parameters I need in order to keep the proper things in their place, and to be guided to friendship as the Lord would lead.
Hebrews 4 says “for the person who has entered his rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience.” Entering into a “rest”, or a cessation of normal activity, and especially to focus on God, counters the physical world and is the beginning of true freedom and blessing.
Oswald Chambers says, “are these things crushing us? Are they badgering us out of the presence of God and leaving us no time for worship? Then let us call a halt, and get into such living relationship with God that our relationship to others may be maintained on the line of intercession whereby God works His marvels.”
Today, I was blessed with a friend who I haven’t seen for weeks coming by my place of work just for a quick hug. And then blessed again with a good ole chat with my mom, who I will never stop needing. I’m touched in those moments and more recently by many around me who get off the merry go round of their normal activities and in effect, say, ‘Let’s go to the other side. I’m with you. And, oh, yes, there IS another side and we’re headed there together!’ I’m so thankful to God because He sends those who would speak His Words, and actively care the way He does. That is what points to Him and reminds me what I momentarily forgot about the other side.
I am in a Master’s Degree School Program as I trudge through some one way valleys. After over 25 years of homeschooling seven children I have become accustomed to curriculum, whether bought as a package or whether I put it together hodge podge style. I spent many an August watching kids and sometimes grandkids swim at the city pool while I poured through the following year’s school plans and calender. Implementation of each year took off with grandiose thoughts of how organized I would be, how much they would learn and what balance of study versus hands on and field trips would be used. In addition to hours of planning, there were many, many more hours of reading out loud, drilling of tables and verses, etc. Admittedly, I did fall asleep a few times while reading out loud in the evenings, and my kids won’t let me live down the way I mastered “reading” in my sleep. There were a few such times when I sent them to bed, but still under the spell of sleepy delirium, told them to do such interesting things as “Brush your teeth and get in the toilet.” But none of those years of homeschooling required my focus as much as the intensive classroom of praying and keeping faith while an adult child wades through serious troubles.
As I focus on standing on many scripture promises, I can’t allow myself to indulge in logic and reasoning. Oh no. I serve a big God who is able to do exceedingly above all that I ask or think. (Eph. 3:20). Nothing is impossible for Him. (Luke 1:37) He can reach where I can’t. (Isa. 59:1) He will rescue my children, even when they’re not innocent if I keep my hands “pure” because of Christ. His rescue is first and foremost the soul, but sometimes he rescues circumstances also, if He chooses to bring glory to Himself from them a different way. (Job 22:30) His Word that we helped them store away, won’t return void. (Isa. 55:11) He is able to bring our children back to the Way; i.e. their own spiritual “land”. (Jer. 31:17) And best of all He is able to accomplish all this in spite of me, and all of my teaching efforts, because He will actually be their teacher and give them peace. Not only does He not judge me, He makes up for my lack. (Isa. 54:13) That is my teaching retirement verse. The very spring of my last year of supervising our home school, God caused that one to stand out in “neon” letters, both as a wake up call and a comfort, so that I can get on my knees before Him each day and give the teaching results to Him. Then I’m able to start a new day with renewed faith knowing He made this day for my faith to land on and soar in, no matter what circumstances I’m in. He causes me to repeat such promises as “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.” (Ps. 56:3) and Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6) And most of all, He brings me around to a sacrifice of praise to Him even when I’m down. My praises may come out in a sob but they switch my focus to Him and bring His presence into my circumstances or that of someone I’m praying for, sometimes with a surprising turn of events.
Giving the results to God as I bow my head in the “faith” school takes focus, but is rewarding. I have set backs, where I just don’t really want to display His glory. I’d rather stay under a pile of blankets (at least mentally) and indulge in some grief over some latest turn of events. He is patient with me as I need a little “down time” before forging ahead in this Master program He has me in. During those times I feel all the brokenness and all the pain and know that it is real. There is healing in this acknowledgement and in tears, which God collects and keeps. He hears my cries and yours!
But back in the faith classroom, He carries me to the table where I don’t see my brokenness anymore. I see things from His perspective and it’s so much better then my own. I’m whole and I know He is fulfilling His promises as He sees fit in my life and that of my family. This degree program doesn’t commence until eternity, but the dividends can’t be equaled in any other program out there. There is faith and peace for character enrichment and future crowns to lay at His feet. This is a program that some of the most intelligent folks don’t acquire; since it requires a surrendered heart.
Who am I to question His ways or His timing. It is enough that He carries me to a table I don’t deserve. Do you struggle with trials and His timing? What ways help you not see your brokenness, or that of a loved one, anymore, but rather the One who carries you?
When hope lingers slow and the mountain stays the same
words mean little minus public acclaim
When hypocrisies loom bold
and love waxes cold
When you live too many days
under friendly fire haze
And what was real
is denied by hearts of steel.
When friends join the throng
of the popular traitor’s song
it may hurt
but you learn – don’t dessert.
When vision is blurred
And your cries obscurred
Steps grow weak
and hands work meek
Fears grow strong
and doubts come along
God is there, rising up
to fill your cup.
When the promise is broke
and love wears a cloak.
Hate wins a round yet
angels rush to surround.
When the swords come clanging
Radicals at the door banging
or to your children say goodbye!
But you’ve taught them well
They won’t choose hell.
They close their eyes
and wait to meet you in the skies.
Storms may gather
but God would rather
we look to Him, not the storm..
Jesus is worth every trial
there’s no room for denial
His love grows more dear
with every year.
Regardless our circumstances
and the uninformed glances
He won’t waste our affairs.
He sees, He hears, He cares.
I’m going through a season of storms, changes and stretches in my life, and so are several of my friends. Looking back I know that God put many details in place in my life in preparation for this time. That He did this and impressed several scriptural promises on me beforehand gives me confidence as I walk this path. Just as I take shelter in a physical storm, I often take shelter in stormy life seasons. I allow myself the privilege of being hidden in Christ in more meaningful ways then times of “clear skies”. Making time for deeper and more personal Bible study, reading, journaling, prayer time and worship are all helpful during life storms, even if I have to give up on something I normally make time for. Just as in a physical storm I might not put myself in the same places as in clear weather for practical and safety reasons, so in a life storm I allow myself to pursue supports that are helpful and loyal, and am cautious about places that may be hurtful.
Other then my sweet and dependable family members, who I do not take for granted, and especially my husband who prays often while he drives during the day and who is a great listener, God put other supports in place. They would include prayer warriors, those who encourage, concerned and empathetic listeners, good church leaders and teachers, a generous friend or two offering their skill sets, and a mentor who pours herself into exhorting me and believing in me when I need it the most. She often asks me to choose her role for the eye of the storm, and if it’s possible she fulfills it. All of these supports are just the vessels God has used to pour out His love. They are special, very, very special, but they simply point to a personal God who seems to be saying through them, “It is Me! I am with you in this storm.”
Oswald Chambers said (Aug 12 “My Utmost for His Highest”), ‘There are stages in life when…a crisis arises that we instantly reveal upon whom we rely. If we have been learning to worship God and to trust Him, the crisis will reveal that we will go to the breaking point and not break in our confidence in Him.”
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t suddenly run out of energy when he asked Lazarus’s friends to remove the grave clothes. He wanted them to be a part of the burden bearing and therefore the bonds that come about from shared burdens and the joy that comes about from answered prayer and miracles. What is needed in the storm are supports that get us through. And, interestingly, this is a mutual need and blessing. What supports has God put in your life to get you through stormy seasons? Do you see Him in them? How do you provide support for your friends when they are in a stormy season?
Tonight I am torn between two worlds. The one my feet are in is full of burdens and heartaches. There are sweet moments with family and friends but oh how I long for the world I really live in in my heart and soul. The one my soul is in is full of celebration and good cheer. My God doesn’t waste difficult circumstances. He makes hearts soften, turns them radically toward Him, proves His Word and glorifies His Name. When I focus on this, how can I not rejoice no matter what circumstances I find myself in?
Recently I was thinking about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Daniel chapter 3). I had always remembered their story as one of God dramatically rescuing them from their trauma although they had boldly alleged their trust in God no matter what He chose to do for them! But God didn’t rescue them immediately. They first fell headlong into an intense fire that consumed the guards standing at the top. And we don’t really know if they had immediate assurance that they would be brought out of this fiery furnace quickly and restored to their “normal” life. We DO know that there was divine protection while they were IN the fire, and that they were aware of the presence of the very Son of God with them!
And that’s the promise we have. We will always have God’s divine presence in fiery trials when we have made Him our Lord. Whether or not we have deliverance before we end up in the midst of a trial is not the important thing for those of us who love God and devote ourselves to Him. His presence is precious and personal and gives us strength and that is the important thing. The joy of knowing His deeply intimate love in fiery trials is truly worth the suffering and heartache.
As Oswald Chamber says, “God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is not strain, there is no strength. Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy? He cannot, unless you will accept the strain. Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength…If you spend yourself out physically, you become exhausted, but spend yourself spiritually, and you get more strength.”
I recently “liked” a blog post on facebook that talked about the grace God gives us when we need to step back momentarily from a church body and heal.. It sometimes appears God does give more grace in those situations then we give each other, even if we are partially or completely at fault. Like the blogger, I have felt God’s comfort and healing in short “time out” seasons, have experienced God deeply in private worship and devotions, have felt His presence in the “mundane”, have felt His love and healing in the sweetness of my family members, family events, and a few friends who are willing to fellowship on an intimate level, found deep fulfillment in seeking my husband’s approval in our home and family as his helpmate, and felt God’s guidance as I move back into corporate fellowship refilled with grace received and grace to extend.
So my “like” was definitely one of acknowledgment and understanding that sometimes God leads us to a change. But the deepest spiritual blessings in my own life have so far come about by trusting Him within the hard places, knowing we’re all just a bunch of messed up folks in equal need of grace. As a dear friend and mentor said, ‘Why add the problems of others into the mix we each already have going on inside us?’ Because I serve Christ, I am not free to do anything but follow Him. I am His bondslave trying to follow where He is leading me. It is sometimes through fiery trials which He uses to refine. It is often in places where I have absolutely no choice but to trust in Him and His promises. It might be in places of loneliness, humility or misunderstanding, especially if my focus is on myself. It is often in places where He would have me be bold for Him without knowing the response. It definitely includes places that are tender and broken. Where He leads me is never just about me!
Oswald Chambers said in ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, July 12 devotional, “Am I building up the Body of Christ or am I looking for my own personal development only?…To fulfill God’s design means entire abandonment to Him….My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace, Not even blessing, but Himself, my God” and in the July 15 devotional, “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only….Quit praying about yourself and be spent for others as the bondslave of Jesus. That is the meaning of being made broken bread and poured-out wine in reality.”
What a revival we would have if we really lived like this. A portion of Matt Redman’s, “We Could Change the World” lyrics say it well, ‘Could we live like Your grace is stronger Than all our faults and failures?… Could we live like Your ways Are wiser than our understanding? Could we live like this? Could we live like this?…..We’re saying, “yes, Lord, yes, Lord!”…What else could we say, what else could we say?’
We are all debtors to something. What are you a debtor to? I want to hold onto God’s Word and the promises He has confirmed in my heart. My feelings and others’ opinions may or may not align with those Truths, but I am a debtor to God and His truths!
Clouds cover the truth. Whether they are menacing storm clouds covering the sun and a brilliant blue sky or whether they are clouds of trials and circumstances in our lives that cover our joy; they can block the truth. They give a false appearance of something large, frightening and lasting, but they are usually short lived, their contents spill out quickly and they dissipate. Just as the rain is soaked up and converted to use, so the contents of our trials can be useful when we let God convert them to something good in us.
Clouds gather moisture content and become puffed up. They are billowy but without as much substance as would appear. In Biblical contexts, to be “puffed up” refers to pride. (1 Cor. 5:2, 1 Cor. 8:1) In the animal world, “puffing up” is an instinctive mechanism used to appear larger and more intimidating then is true.
Our trials can seem puffed up, but they will pass and for those of us who turn to God and trust Him in them, they will not be wasted on us. Clouds can block the light and dampen our moods just as our trials can catch us off guard and bring discouragement and worry. But when we focus on the truth behind the trial we can hold on through the dark season of clouds and even find joy there.
Horatio Spafford wrote in “It is Well With My Soul”, ‘And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll!’ Rolling back the clouds of our trials reveals truths from God’s Word and is an important habit as we head for that time in eternity when the clouds will be rolled back to reveal heavenly realms. These realms include God on His throne, angels, a holy city, mansions, streets of gold and an exquisitely set banquet table to name a few. If you rolled back a few clouds in your life circumstances today, what forgotten truths would you remember?