Warm Wednesday Words: Despising the Shame

scandalDictionary.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?

Despise the Shame

*For the purpose of this post I chose not to split hairs over shame vs. guilt.
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Warm Wednesday Words: Perspective Rescued and Reframed

IMG_9722EditedBecause I believe in God’s sovereignty,  my perspective is constantly being rescued and reframed.  For years I have been closely effected by a roller coaster ride of heartaches due to the addictions and bad choices of a sweet adult child along with turbulence in some of the relationships he became entwined with.  Mixed in with the fun times we all have shared, there have been times that waves of despair have crashed in on our family.  Through it all I believe that God is rescuing and keeping those I have committed to Him, and in fact, our entire family.  (“…and that is why I have suffered these things.  But I am not ashamed because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.”  2 Tim. 1:12) As Carol Kent points out so well in her book, “When I Lay My Isaac Down”, the entire family suffers when a family member is arrested; i.e. not just with the shock and heartache, but with a taste of the ill treatment that is often dished out liberally to the incarcerated.  From exorbitant phone call charges, visitation lines, changing rules, searches, lies, rudeness, scapegoats, assumption of guilt, etc., we have learned more then we ever wanted to about our system.   As Joseph said to his brothers after his long set of trials at their hands, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result…”  (Gen. 37-45) Seeing things from God’s perspective caused him to be able to forgive his brothers for the evil scheme they had carried out.  It’s not always an easy thing to keep my eyes focused on God’s perspective, but when I do I see clearly His love and mercy even within difficulties.  Then there are the unexpected moments of God’s grace in the hard places, such as when a friend picks up the corner of our stretcher by encouraging words, cards, prayers, hugs (both virtual and real) or sacrificial actions.  There have been some who have sought us out just to help us stand strong in a hard place; as well as those who have essentially left us alone in it.

IMG_9719That thing that I would most like to erase from my circumstances is often the very thing God will get the most mileage from in His molding makeover plans.  This is something not understood by those who have not put their trust in God.  The lure of success, popularity, and power along with the slippery slope of pride can be too strong to welcome or see the need for a trial to sharpen spiritual perspective and increase trust.   Yet the most humbling things that I would choose to avoid, He uses for His glory and my good.

IMG_9707EditedLast fall I planted bulbs, which, like cocoons and butterflies, wombs and babies, and so many other design marvels, illustrate the amazing skill of a Master Weaver to use the dark and hidden places to yield something no less then splendid.  His transforming powers are not at all affected by my ideas of where they should occur, whether behind prison walls built by men or those constructed within hearts encased in a fine exterior in denial of the slavery within.  Meantime, true heart freedom is being forged in the hard places not the easy ones.

IMG_9706The beauty of flowers and spring is like a visual banner shouting God’s handiwork that was done in the hard and hidden places.  I am thankful for following through with the instinctive nudging to plant more bulbs last fall in addition to other landscape specimens already here. Beginning with helleborus, Magnolia Jane and white forsythia defying winter in the midst of freezing temps, the floral processional has begun.  Moving on from  hyacinths, viburnums and daisies to tulips, flowering almonds, spireas, Japanese Maple, lilacs, azaleas, and the unfurling of peonies, I’m feasting on an array of visionary and olfactory reminders of God’s creativity, faithfulness and love.

IMG_9708If the kaleidoscope of colors doesn’t settle the matter, there is the intoxicating aroma of hyacinths, Korean Spice Viburnum and lilacs to further prove He does exceedingly above all that we ask or think.  In “Eyes Wide Open:  Enjoying God in Everything”, author Steve DeWitt says, ‘…every created beauty was created by God to lead our affections to Him.  That’s why He made the pleasures of earthly beauty so fleeting – so that on the other side of the pleasure we might experience either wonder and worship and ultimate satisfaction in God or the pursuit of the pleasure that beauty provides for its own sake.  If we choose the latter, we will only be disappointed again.’

IMG_9701As one wave of blooms fades and another comes on, there is a rhythmic reminder that, like the blooms that come and go, my life, too is a vapor to be poured out in whatever channel He desires.  My response to the course He chose for me is sweet surrender, and yes, even gratefulness.  Since nothing happens to me outside of His permission, He must have confidence that I will  display His glory even in arid places.  Perhaps He has handpicked you for a hard place as well.

IMG_9718A sweet friend encouraged me after a recent turning point in my family’s heartbreaking saga of the loss of a family member to incarceration, “Now you have the framework for the future.”  Her words were comforting and also reminded me that I’ve always had the framework for the future from the time I turned my life over to Christ at age nine.  Through ups and downs, valleys and “mountaintops”, seasons of drought and seasons of showers, God has always been there and been my Savior and my friend.  The gardens have not failed to rescue and reframe my perspective!

IMG_9693How about you?  What hard place are you in right now and how is God reframing your perspective through it?

Warm Wednesday Words: Inside Out

insideout.jpgSitting in church Sunday, I glanced at my husband and was dismayed to notice that his shirt was inside out.  Surprised, but not too ruffled, he exited out the side door right by him and made the switch.  That was actually the second time my dear husband has been an inside out shirt trend setter at church.  The first time I noticed it after we returned to our seats from the alter where we had stood, back to congregation, and prayed for our youngest son on Graduation Sunday, while sporting “Faded Glory” washing instructions across his back for anyone with a keen eye.  While laughing at work the next day about our mishap, a sweet boss told me that it is the sign of a lucky man to find his shirt on inside out.  I don’t know, but I was thinking about the inside out business of being a Christian.

His strength in our weaknessWhen life seems overwhelming, I run to the Rock that is higher then I, and (sometimes after kicking and screaming inside first), I usually find this inside out truth – that His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  I make it my goal to…” take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures because of Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Cor. 12:9-10 HCSB) When I forgive others with the same grace I’ve received, knowing the ground is equal at the foot of the cross, and when I trust God to turn a situation around for the good, He is then willing to go to work on my behalf.

possible with HimHe picks up right where my weakness and faith invite Him in to take over.  Nothing is impossible with Him.

do not be anxiousMost everybody knows worry is a bad thing even in the most upsetting of circumstances.  It might take me a little while to get to a place of peace.  But the most inside out thing of all is to give thanks for my upsets and tragedies.  Not that I am glad for tragedies, but that God can be glorified through them.  For that I can give thanks with His help.

more blessed to give then receiveHere’s another inside out principle….storing up and  coveting more and better without thought for the poor (and that is not necessarily defined by government) can make a selfish and hardened heart, yet generous sharing enriches a soul.  God warns not to live in selfish  luxury and indulgence.  Giving, especially sacrificial giving, definitely softens the heart and just plain feels good.  In another inside out twist, God has actually chosen the poor who love Him to be rich in faith.

rejoice in insults I have been on both ends of rudeness and mistreatment before, (whether intentional or not) as likely anyone whose honest has.  It happens, though the persecutions spoken of here are more serious and horrific around the globe, and on the increase even in our country.  But the inside out perspective is this.  There’s a reward waiting when I leave it in God’s hands and refuse bitterness.

treasures in clay jarsThe cool thing about being a child of God is the enemy can’t win.  He’s already lost.  Even when I’m down.  God rushes to  rescue (soul first and foremost) and uses it all.  When I rally in my own strength this promise does not apply.

those who exalt themselvesWith God, the way up is down...bowed down in prayer that is.  Praying His promises, believing He will fulfill them because I have died to self and live for Him.  Just as a flower dies to drop it’s seed before renewal, so I have to leave my vision in His hands to fulfill or not, according to His best plan.

we look at what can't be seenHere’s a great inside out truth.  I look at what can’t be seen.  But actually, in my faith, it can be seen and I hold onto it through His promises.   Because of this I can let go and worship while still in the storm.  I can “see” with my faith vision, and because of His love for me that I know so well, I know that I know that He is at work.

we fight on our kneesIn my prayers, I go to war with the most powerful weapons not generally known to man.  They are mighty weapons that demolish “invisible”, but very real, strongholds.  They are the weapons of the name of Jesus, my faith in Him, and the Scripture promises that I stand on!  There is nothing on this earth so effective as a devoted child of God praying with “clean hands” and a pure heart (because of Christ) and childlike trust.  It’s here that often dismal circumstances turn with God’s miraculous touch, but whether or not, I definitely abide in His presence and know His love.  No matter how my life is going here, where I am just a stranger, I long for the day I am with Him in eternity and these present sufferings behind me.  I know it’s just ahead and I keep my eye on the prize.

faithful to death - crown of lifeThat seems to be the ultimate inside out deal.  Faithful unto death, gets the crown of life.  Whether it’s death to a thousand little selfish things, or choosing death over denying Christ for eternity’s sake, this is the ultimate call.  So next time you find your shirt on inside out, consider yourself “lucky” to be reminded that we live inside out.  What have you worn inside out or turned around?   Please tell me it’s not just at our house.  What “lucky” application fits?

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Shambles, Mockingbirds and Prayers

to kill a mockingbird

When the city’s in shambles
and unknowns abound
pray hard for the vandals
that truth would confound.

Lies meant to stir hatred
violence, crimes and unrest
destroy what is sacred
and won’t pass the test.

For evidence will disclose
a man’s effort to be true
one who heroically forgoes
his own safety for me and you.

He has respect from the grateful
even if a sorrowful state of mind
and violence from the hateful
who have an axe to grind.

They forgot the mockingbird was innocent
like the very one set up.
He was not defined by insolence
nor fight, thievery and such schmuck.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a sin
because the plot did imbibe
meanness, lies, and scandalous rumors wherein
the fearful and bullies felt emboldened in the tide.

But now who is the mockingbird
and who is the lynch mob?
Where is the hero who will stand strong and be heard?
Must the mockingbird’s heart continue to throb?

Lord make us humble
walk in truth, respect and by a code
Let us not stumble
into hypocritical mode.

May God hear the prayers
of those who know power rests in Christ
who hold up pure hands with these cares –
pure only because they know He sacrificed.

 

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Fresh Starts and a Grateful Heart

photo.phpFresh morning starts for me involve breakfast and coffee with Tony, cool morning air (preferably sitting on the “chicken yard bench”,  a scripture promise to focus on throughout the day, some worship time with music and a grateful heart.

ytyGod really is greater then all my concerns and as a friend texted me this week…”Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—”(Eph. 3:20).  There is so much in that one verse!  Yes, He is able.  He can do so much above and beyond what I even ask or think!  Last is the catch, if there is one.  It works according to the power that works in us, which hinges on our belief and trust in Him.  This morning I am again thankful for fresh starts to to humble myself before Him and let His power be at work in me. 

forgiven much loves much

As our pastor said in another great message Sunday, we have to make a choice who we will be like, the prideful Pharisee who was consumed with a judgmental, critical spirit, or the humble woman known as a sinner, who could not stop her tears of gratefulness for her Savior.  (Luke 7:36-50) Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance.”  Ps. 138:6 HCSB

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning great is Your faithfulness! I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.”  Lamentations 3:22-24

Warm Wednesday Words: Watch for God

watch for God

As we do Vacation Bible School this week at our church, we are wearing bracelets that say “Watch for God” as reminders to keep tracking God in our personal life.  Since God’s mercies are new every morning, it takes “watching” to see them each day.   If I’m not watching for God and His mercies then I often not only miss the sweetly personal supernatural, but default to complaining, fear, worry, etc.  The more I train my eye to watch for God, the more I see Him at work and my eye becomes trained to see the blessing in something that at first glance may just seem like something negative.

To watch for God at work in trials is like seeing drops of water in arid places.  The first definition for “arid” in Dictionary.com is: “being without moisture; extremely dry; parched: arid land; an arid climate”.  In our lives arid places can symbolize those times of trials and stretching, often lengthy and difficult.  But unlike geographically arid regions, which result in fruitlessness, “arid” life seasons can actually stimulate “fruit” production.  Our difficult seasons cause us to either watch for God and see His mercies, or become bitter and miss the God sightings.  

When we choose to watch for God at work in our arid places, we see mercy drops and sometimes showers even in our deserts.   Oswald Chambers said, “…God has to take us into the valley, and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the place where He can trust us with the veritable reality.”

“And the parched ground shall become a pool” (Isa. 35:7),  “I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys.  I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” (Isa. 41:18).  I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing.  I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.” (Ezek. 34:26)  God promises showers of mercy and blessing upon our arid places.  Are you watching for Him in faith?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Give Up & Let the Nets Down

In recent years I have increasingly begun to give up.  I can waste alot of time thinking, praying a script out for God or myriads of other ways that “seem right to a man“, but until I sit in a prayer time or engage in a worship time and “give up” some things to God, I may be just spinning my wheels. .  I know I’m not alone in this because Peter (in Luke 5:4-6) also argued with Jesus just a tad when he was caught up in his own efforts and hesitant to believe in the “resting in Jesus” principle.

come unto me“When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.’  Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing!  But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.’  When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear.”  Peter claimed they had worked hard all night, but now Jesus only asked him to let the nets down.  Since they hadn’t caught any fish before this, their hard work must’ve been in letting the nets down and pulling them up, moving to different spots, managing the boat, etc.  But at Jesus command, there was no work, just a giving up of the “work” to Jesus.  The nets were immediately heavy with fish.

luke5_nets_1000Though Peter was bone weary and could hardly see the miracle coming, He obeyed His master and reaped a reward.  It was a bit like Christ asking you and me to lay down pride, defenses, guard and worries and trust Him.  It is a giving up of my own way.  Whether in regard to relationships, ministry, missions or wild abandoning trust for some “roller coaster ride” I never envisioned being on, putting my net down for Christ to do the work while I rest in Him is the best way.

trust in GodIn his June 27th devotional, Oswald Chamber said, “Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives.  Our personal property and possessions are a matter of indifference, we have to sit loosely to all those things; if we do not, there will be panic and heartbreak and distress….Never look for justice in this world, but never cease to give it…Go steadily on with what I have told you to do and I will guard your life.  If you try to guard it yourself, you remove yourself from My deliverance.”

So remind me to give up if you catch me striving.  What do you need to give up to Christ and what nets do you need to let down?

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Warm Wednesday Words: Roll Back the Clouds

dark thunder cloudsClouds 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.

London to Brighton Veteran Car RunClouds 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.

puffer fishOur 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.

puffy clouds and bright skyHoratio 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?

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Warm Wednesday Words: The Rock that’s Higher

There are days…no seasons…when I have to seek a higher Rock.  Those times can feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.  But when I recognize Who truly is my Rock and Redeemer, I’m no longer in that hard place, I’m both set upon the Rock and sheltered by Him; i.e. The Rock of Ages.  My circumstances may not feel better, but my focus changes and they no longer are the big issue I thought they were.   Not that God has forgotten about them, nor asks me to.  He just grows my faith in His sweet and personal love that He will shine through it for those who have eyes to see and cause joy even in pain.  He gives beauty for ashes.  Everything is transformed in the light of His grace into something with His beauty stamped all over it even in our weakness.

10369221_10202873739737365_5990994660212438186_nJust as flowers are more prolific on the plant that has been through a season of winter. drought or stress then on a plant that has been over indulged with rich nitrogen, so we are more fruitful for Christ when our roots have been forced to reach deeper, then when we aren’t stretched by our circumstances.

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Oswald Chambers puts it well in the May 14 devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me….If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.”

10363953_10202873935142250_6242588642847180332_nWhen I think I’m being pressed beyond what I can do, I remember 2 Cor. 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Drink from the Living Water

 

living waterA dear friend and mentor just recently said to me, “Drink lots of water…from the living supply”.  Water consumption nowadays has become extremely specialized.  We use purifiers, filters, flavors, sweeteners of all sorts and carbonation.  We package with bottles, cans, and jugs of all sizes and designed for a variety of specific purposes and ventures.  We have streamlined our tastes because, after all what and when we drink is important and we know it.

How much more so what we “drink” into our thoughts and soak into our “hearts” and how often.  Hence the advice to drink much from the living supply.  Jesus said in John 4:14, “but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life“, and in John 7:38: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  There is absolutely nothing like soaking in the scriptures and taking refuge in the shadow of His wings.    There is no other source that can quench every soul malady no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.

God warned his people through his prophet Jeremiah (2:13), that they had sinned in two ways:  first by abandoning Him, the fountain of living water; and second, by digging cisterns for themselves that were cracked.  If they could hold water at all, it was stagnant.  Stagnant water holds disease, decay, toxins, harbors mosquitoes and is foul.  Leaking cisterns presents the idea of falsehood.  They gave the appearance of holding water but didn’t.  Our “leaky cisterns” can be pride, materialism, teachings and traditions of men, false sense of spiritual security, false religions, excessive entertainment, and depravity.  I want to drink deeply from the Well that never runs dry and satisfies my thirsts.  I want the living water that flows out in service and doesn’t stay pooled up in a leaky, misleading cistern.  What is your source of soul “water”?  Is it deeply satisfying and flowing?

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