In Death, In Life

In Death, In Life

Happy Post-Resurrection Day!!

I hope you enjoyed celebrating the day Jesus rose from the dead! My day was filled with church, family, food, games, and travel… followed by wine, cookies, and recap with family and friends. At the end of the day, it was lovely to relax, pet my dog, and be with like-minded friends that love Jesus.

My neighbor, aunt, and I are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection for the next eight days. Each day this week, we’re living in the joy of new life through Jesus Christ. Today, I wore sparkly shoes and put flowers at my desk. Tonight there will be a toast with my neighbor and we will reflect on the impact of the resurrection in our lives.

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With all this celebrating going on, you’d think my heart would be light and I’d have a smile plastered on my face… but that’s not the case. Well, not continuously. This morning actually started off pretty weird. I was running a little behind this morning and didn’t get to do anything that out of the ordinary in my quiet time. I had wanted to add something extra to celebrate the resurrection, but didn’t get the chance. I threw a lunch together for work, got in the car, and had technology fall apart (which seems to be my norm). As I’m trying to connect my phone to the Bluetooth in my car (because it had disconnected for some reason), the system isn’t recognizing my voice, repeating commands, and failing to pair up. I’m screaming, “CONTINUE!” at my car like I’m speaking to an elderly person with hearing problems. I’m calling people idiots on the freeway and wondering how they received a drivers license.

Halfway to work, I finally got the phone to connect, got my Resurrection playlist going, and felt miserable. How could I praise God for a new life after the fit I had just thrown? I was able to play a song and a half before pulling into work and rushing to clock in. Some day of celebration.

At work, my sparkly shoes were hidden by my desk and everything felt horribly normal.

Lunch came around and I got in my car to run some errands. I put on my Resurrection playlist for a second time and asked God for a fresh start. I’ve been discovering that God can change my day without me going to sleep and waking up the next morning. He can change it in an instant. He can change me in an instant.

The song, “One Thing Remains,” started playing. I listened to that song while at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. That is where it is believed Jesus was crucified – His tomb not too much further away. Thinking of His sacrifice fills me with gratitude when I think on it.

A lyric came that surprised me as I drove in the car.

“In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of your great love.”

At church yesterday, we covered Romans 8:31-39. A well-known part of that scripture reads,

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

The two connected for me in that moment. Neither death nor life. In death, in life. God knows I’m not perfect. Just because I have the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean I’ve reached glory yet. I’m a work in progress. And whether I’ve reverted to my old self (pre-Christ) or whether I’m living the fully satisfied life under Christ, I’m safe. God isn’t looking at each one of my actions, words, or feelings and weighing the balance of good and bad. He’s looking at His Son.

How can I celebrate the resurrection after realizing I’ve been a murmuring, whiney, first world human? Remind myself that is the whole reason Jesus came to live a perfect life, die, and resurrect. He did it so that I can place my trust in Him and know that I am secure regardless of my failures. Not only am I secure in physical death and physical life, but I am safe in spiritual death and spiritual life. There is never a time that I am not protected by Jesus Christ. Praise God!

The fact I am secure while being an idiot is glory to God and His magnificent grace, mercy, and love. His power to save a humanity that does not deserve it! I tell you, after thinking through this remarkable truth, my spirit was lifted and resurrection celebration was on!

So, be encouraged. God loves you and He is able to be present with you because of the sacrifice of His Son. God will never leave us and His love will never fail.

During my lunch break, I bought some flowers to put on my desk. The leaves have a thorny appearance with a beautiful, soft flower in the middle. I thought it was perfect for the lesson God taught me today. The crown of thorns Jesus wore and the suffering He experienced places a hedge of protection around the new life I’ve been given. It can never be taken away and my future glory is promised in Christ.

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Happy Resurrection Week!

Brains and Brawn

Brains and Brawn

I’m hosting a workshop for a conference this weekend and the topic is spiritual warfare. Preparation for this has been quite interesting for me because I have struggled with the fear of eternity for a long time. So focusing on the spiritual, embracing my fear, and processing it with God has been scary and, better yet, rewarding.

I spent a month of preparation studying the being of Satan – his origin, his present, and his future. Ezekiel 28 is a historical timeline of Satan that God has given us so that we can know who we are up against in spiritual warfare. In verse 12 of Ezekiel 28, the prophecy tells us of Satan:

“You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.”

God created Satan with the whole package: brains and beauty! I can only imagine how wonderful life could be having that combination. One could take on the world! And that’s exactly what Satan used it for.

You’ll find also, in Ezekiel 28, that God had made Satan the head cherub. That doesn’t mean he was the chubbiest, most naked, glowing baby in heaven. Satan’s original name was Lucifer – bringer of dawn! morning star! – he was perfect in wisdom and beauty, plus he was the head defender of the throne of God. Cherubs were defenders, of course, they probably still are.

God gave Lucifer what he needed to perfectly accomplish what God had designed him for. And that’s what Lucifer did – for how long, we don’t know. He worked faithfully for God until he allowed a deception to sneak into his head, Why defend God when you could be God? It was through this mysterious origin of evil, this seed of deception that was formed inside of Lucifer, himself, that caused him to rebel against God.

We have deceptions hindering us from our work for God, as well. Satan has built a global culture of deception that we are all born into. Satan, the world, and our own broken selves are working against us as we seek the truth of God.

God has created each one of us for a unique purpose on this earth. He has given us what we need to accomplish the tasks He has placed us here for. However, unlike Lucifer who lived in perfection and had everything going for him to succeed, we live in a broken world that throws every lie and fear our way to deter us from doing what we were born to do.

Don’t let your fears hinder you from doing the work of God and living out your calling. When fears come up in your life, work through them with God. Don’t run away. Behind that fear just might be your next step towards discovering what God has called you to. And it doesn’t have to be this big thing like, I finally know what my dream career is! No, it can be something like: Instead of fearing a social event, I went and prayed that God would show me who had a need. I was able to have a conversation with someone that really needed it. 

We get to glorify God by serving Him in our daily lives. We get to live for Him every day and experience the adventure of a life with Him. You never know where God is going to take you next or what He’s going to teach you, but it’s going to be great!

Satan’s brains and brawn got to his head and condemned him. By God’s grace we need neither. All we need is the perfection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Enjoy today!

Hope: More Than a Harp and a Cloud

Hope: More Than a Harp and a Cloud

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25

Last week I attended a conference on Eschatology at Dallas Theological Seminary. Eschatology is the culmination of God’s plan for His creation. It’s about God’s final judgment on earth, Jesus’ return, and the new heavens and the new earth. It’s when God comes and makes all things new. It’s the Christian’s hope.

One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Michael Svigel, made note of the sad fact that hope has been cheapened in our world. He said hope is often pictured as an abstract, fluffy light out there. That kind of hope isn’t going to cut it when one is struggling with depression or someone has experienced tragic loss. Believing that one day we’ll all be strumming harps on some cloud up in the sky is not all that encouraging.

But that’s the great thing about the Christian hope. It has grit. It has foundation. We don’t know everything about our future with God, but He’s given us enough to know that what we’re looking to is a total transformation of ourselves and creation. Dr. Svigel described the Christian hope as a forward trajectory. We’re all moving towards something tangible, not clouds and a bright light.

He used Romans 8:18-25 as a reference to the solidity of the Christian hope. Earlier in Romans 8, we find the hope of life that comes with accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and receiving the Holy Spirit in us as a guarantee of our salvation. So, even though there is true suffering in this world, we have the hope of a new life with Christ. The sufferings we experience here are absolutely nothing in comparison to the reality of our future with Christ in the new heavens and new earth.

Imagine a life of adventure with God who gives such great peace to us here on earth. Jesus who came to earth to live a perfect life for us, die for us, and resurrect so that we can be resurrected. It’s a place where Satan is not. Therefore, it is a place where abuse, anger, addictions, poverty, death; evil is not. We get to spend forever with God! The One who created us and knows us better than anyone else possibly ever could. He designed us to have special talents that no one else has. He gave us a unique personality and fun quirks. What will it be like to live in a world where we can use our personality and abilities to their fullest? What kind of satisfaction will we receive from being perfectly productive? What will it be like to have relationships with people that aren’t stuffed with assumptions, selfishness, and hurt?

Not only will we see our bodies redeemed, but we will see creation renewed. This one brings me such joy. I look forward to a world where there are no longer abused or neglected animals. Where nature looks it’s absolute finest and not every insect in the world is out to kill me. I don’t know what the Garden of Eden was like, but if Adam and Eve could take walks naked in the cool of the day and not even realize that they were naked… that’s some kind of luxurious nature in my book. I could go out in nature with seven layers on and a mosquito would still find a way to get some juice out of me.

I’ll leave you with the promises that Dr. Svigel left us with at the conference.

Our hope is centered on:

The Promise of a Bodily Resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
The Promise of Future Glory (Colossians 1:27)
The Promise of the Coming Kingdom (Acts 28:20-31)
The Promise of Eternal Life (Romans 8:37-38)
The Promise of Ultimate Righteousness (Galatians 5:5)

Jesus Christ is our hope.

 

Fear of Success

Fear of Success

This year, my goals consist of some health things, some emotional recoveries I’d like to process, and some tangible, deadline-kind-of goals. One of my tangible goals is to get published. I’ve focused in on a family-geared book and this past weekend I handed my first draft over to someone whose opinion really matters to me. He could possibly even help me move this project forward.

When I first wrote out this goal and my first step towards making it a reality, it seemed like an awesome, bold idea. Halfway towards the weekend, it started seeming like an exhaustive project with no end. One day away from presenting my first draft to someone important… I was terrified.

Usually, I’ve sabotaged myself by then. Since I didn’t quit, a daily inner discussion with myself began about when the proper time for sabotage will be.

Is it when it comes time to print out my manuscript? Will I just not? Or will it be when I arrive to present my book? Will I keep it in my bag and pretend it never happened? Will I regret going forward with the whole thing if he looks at it with a tired expression or one of indifference? Maybe I don’t want to know what the reaction to my hard work will be to a person I highly respect that hardly knows me… Maybe this whole thing is a bad idea. I’m not a great writer anyways. Why would people want to read my stuff? Why would a publisher want to publish my stuff?

It’s all very frightening.

However, this time I knew I was different. I’d been in recovery for two years. I coached myself.

I will push through my fears and just do. Not everyone is meant to be famous but I know God made everyone with a purpose. He made everyone with gifts uniquely designed to glorify Him. Since I was a kid, I have loved reading, writing, and drawing. It’s how I express myself. I believe it’s how God has designed me to glorify and praise Him. I enjoy it and it’s come to my realization that using our gifts for God is not a suggestion but a must. He must be glorified.

Knowing that my goal was God’s glory made each action easier. It wasn’t about me. It was about Him.

The handoff of my manuscript was pretty anticlimactic — but it happened. The fact that I stuck to my goal was a huge victory for me. I’m not doing scary things in life for myself… it’s not worth it. I’m doing it for God. He gave me the gifts and He will orchestrate them to be used in His time to spread His truth to whoever needs to hear it. His truth. I live my life by it and for it. There’s nothing better.

Here’s to kicking fear of success out the window in 2017!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Recovering from codependency comes with a lot of discovery and freedom in new areas of life. Part of my recovery has involved surrendering my people pleasing and fear of failure when it comes to the talents God has given me. I love to write, sing, and illustrate but most of my life I’ve kept these to myself due to negative thinking and fear.

Slowly this has begun to change. I no longer want to keep my gifts to myself. It is through these gifts that God has granted me the joy to praise Him. My life’s goal is to honor God and glorify Him. One of my professors in seminary, described praise in this way, “In the Old Testament culture, the word used in place of thanks was praise. That is, one would tell another what God had done, rather than merely saying, ‘Thank You, Lord.'” (Allen, Ronald B., And I Will Praise Him, pg. 64.) When I keep my methods of praise to myself, it’s hard for it to actually be praise. No one gets to experience the goodness of God but me!

In honor of God, recovery, and challenging my fears, I’ll be adding a new category to my blog called, For the Positive Thinker. This category will help those who struggle with negative thinking to replace those false accusations with truth. Scripture memory is a good way to begin storing up truth in your mind and heart so that you’ll have an arsenal prepared when negativity starts creeping in. The way I memorize scripture is through song. I can never remember scriptures if I memorize them in spoken word. They never stick. If you have the same issue, I invite you to take the songs I post and use them to help you begin to treasure God’s word in your heart, and at times more crucially, in your mind when obsessive or negative thinking kicks in.

In the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to start this new category of the blog off with a Christmas Carol. Do You Hear What I Hear is one of my favorite carols and I think it holds relevancy to recovering codependents. The last verse of the song proclaims, “He will bring us goodness and light.” Jesus came to the world and became the light of men that shines in the darkness. Jesus is the Word. Every time you place God’s word in your memory, think about the light that is entering into your body and removing the darkness. Every day as you pursue God and place His word in your heart, you can see more and more how free you are in Him.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas!

Loss of Control

I have bad weeks.

This past weekend – bad weekend. What was so bad about it? Externally, nothing. God is in control and He has blessed me with many great things. I got to go to my last class on church history for the semester on Saturday, discovered my car has an electrical problem (need to get that fixed), I got out of class early and hung out with my roommates and my dog, I went on a walk with my neighbor, and after all that went to bed. I tried a new church on Sunday (I think I’ll stick with my current church), got home before noon, hung out for awhile, and went to a Christmas show… came home with a migraine and nausea so I went right to bed. Woke up the next morning, and wanted to crawl straight back into bed and forget my existence. I was low. I was anxious. I was guilty. About what?

What I didn’t tell you in my weekend summary, is that underneath all the activity, there was a growing feel of pressure, anxiety, stress, and guilt. A nervous feeling of being in a rush and having my time stolen. What I really wanted to do all weekend was nothing. And when I say nothing, I have this image in my mind of slowly waking up with no alarm, sitting on the couch drinking coffee and staring at my Christmas tree, no time commitments, just hours of free time waiting to be filled with relaxation, reading, and creativity. There would be a couple of nice dog walks in there. Work on some manuscripts and enjoying the warmth and safety of home.

I’ve created time slots for mini versions of my day dream into my planner. At the beginning of the day, I have 30 minutes to drink coffee, sit on the couch, and write. At the end of the day, I set aside 30 minutes to sit in a chair and read whatever I’d like. I have intentional time with my dog, Tucker, for both parts of the day and it’s in these times that God refuels me to go back to work and spend the majority of my time earning money to not be homeless.

It’s a nice system I have, however, what happens when a stick gets thrown in the spokes? I mentioned I had class this Saturday. Did I mention it’s from 8-5? Yes, an all day class. Which is basically going to work for another full day. Also, did you catch that my car has an electrical problem? The turn signal, headlights, and interior dashboard lights are all not working. Yaayyyy. That means I have to find time to get to the dealership (which does not have weekend appointments). Also, I tried a new church and had a Christmas show Sunday evening. Does any of that sound like my day dream of the perfect day? No! A thousand times no!

And guess what I did all last week? I dreaded the weekend (and that was before I knew I’d be having car troubles). Last week I was tired. The work days seemed longer and I just needed some time! But I wasn’t getting any because people and institutions were taking it from me. Every week I feel robbed and I choose to focus on the negative rather than the positive of each day. And somehow, doing that leads me to feeling out of control, anxious, resentful, trapped, and guilty.

Work and rest are both important. If I spend all my time at home, how will I be an ambassador for God and have those conversations that really matter? So, my job is not just to refrain from homelessness, it’s to be a walking light of truth to those in darkness.

I know things need to change, but it’s going to be so, so hard. I do love my resentments and I do love possessing my time and working towards that day dream. There are three forms of codependency going on with this part of my life: fear, control, and fantasizing.

To start, I’ll write a letter to God and describe in detail all the things that are bothering me. I’ll surrender them to God and ask Him to remove the feelings of anxiety, fear, resentfulness, and guilt. I’ll ask Him to replace them with His characteristics and to forgive me for idolizing my schedule, my dog, and my dreams over Him. I’ll thank Him for the good work He is going to do. I look forward to it! He’s always done me right in the past and I know for certain He won’t stop now.

Sunday… for the disenchanted

Sunday… for the disenchanted

The past couple of years have been a flood of recovery for me in every area of my life. I guess you could say I was pretty dysfunctional. A quick snippet from my past self is that I was a girls’ student ministries director for a youth group at a church. During my four year stay, I developed what is commonly known among church leaders as burn out.

Did I blame the church for my spiritual death? Yes. Do I blame them now? No. In fact, I’ve come to love them again. Through God’s power and love, He has given me the release from a negative spirit I thought would never go away. I am so thankful for that and grateful for a fresh outlook on my past experiences with ministry.

However, due to my valley of burn out, there have been repercussions that I am slowly receiving healing for each in their own time. The first? Rejection of my faith. There was only a brief moment in my spiritual burn out that I toyed with the idea of leaving God behind and walking away from my faith. As I thought it through, I quickly knew that I could never leave God because He had never and would never leave me.

The second repercussion was, okay, now that I know that I know that I can never reject God, what do I do about Sunday? Singing means nothing to me (I used to love that part of worship and slowly the music and words had been lost). Preaching came through my ears as a fuzzy muffle of indistinguishable words and incomplete thoughts. I found excuses to be elsewhere during “big church.”

Every place I went in the church felt draining. I was exhausted and wanted to go home. What was it all for? Did these people really love God? Why are we doing all of this? For numbers? A cold distaste grew in my heart and mind blinding me to any blessing or genuineness that might have existed. All I saw was programming, marketing, and manipulation.

I left my job at the church and jumped into a ministry at another church, hoping to find the spirit of God alive elsewhere. All I found was that I brought my empty, jaded self to the next ministry.

I sought help, but no one really knew what to do with me. A couple of people had gone through the same type of burn out, but all they could say was that they were in a good place now but it took years. I still don’t understand how there can be such great numbers of burn out and no popular resources or strategies for how to walk alongside someone experiencing such a frightening segment of life.

Now, I know that what I’m about to share may not seem monumental to a seminarian or church leader, but let me tell you that I am both, and this helped me substantially. Maybe it will help you if you are struggling with burn out.

In the first century church, Christians got together on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everything they did in the service was to express joy for that miraculous, soul-saving event. In fact, communion was the main part of their service, not a sermon. They sang, read scripture, and ate together as an act of gratitude.

This is the perspective I chose to walk into church with this Sunday and it warmed my heart. You may be wondering if you will every enjoy a Sunday service again and I’m not saying this thought will bring you full recovery, but it has helped me. When I drive to church on Sunday, it’s not with a to-do list in mind, it’s the intent of standing in the midst of a group of Christians and celebrating the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and, in so doing, saved me from a life absent of God’s presence. Thinking this way made everything seem new. Announcements, events, songs, the sermon, all of it meant more when I thought of the greater fact that we were all sitting there celebrating a 2,000 year old practice of meditating on the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

I hope this truth can be even a small light in your valley if you are, indeed, walking through spiritual burn out. He is risen!