Holy Spirit

Love Me Tender

Life would be so much easier if we always interacted with others from a place of love and grace and compassion and mercy. That is who we are becoming but it’s not always how we live. We can’t treat others in a manner counter to how we treat ourselves. We can’t see others in a way we don’t see ourselves.

Who I am in Heaven and how I live my life now are often at odds with each other. When this chasm in who I am and how I behave is pointed out to me, my first instinct is to defend my behavior. And shift blame on to others. She made me do it. He made me so angry. There was nothing I could do. The devil made me do it.

Raise your hand if you’ve reacted to criticism in the same way? This reaction that we think is so normal is rooted in fear and shame. Why should we be defensive when a person or the Holy Spirit is pointing out an area in our lives that are in need of growth? Why should we be afraid of growth? We shouldn’t. But the enemy is If we grow, we become more like Christ. We become stronger and more able to resist and triumph over the the schemes of the ruler of this world.

I was reminded recently that part of the prophetic journey is not just to remind others of who they are in Christ and the great gifts God has for them, it’s for us. God wants His people to be filled with His compassion so we can be that compassion for others. We live in an age of grace. Judgement for the world was poured out on Jesus at Calvary. Jesus was judged for sin past, present, and future. He was punished for our sin. He paid for our sin. We are no longer bound by sin. There are natural consequences to our actions, sinful and otherwise. But God is not sitting up on His throne casting judgement.

God speaks to us in love. As His prophet, I need to be filled with this love. Without this love, I am prone to judgement. If God is not judging in this period of grace, I certainly should not be judging. The church shouldn’t be judging. Anyone. There’s a lot of judgement in today’s church. Heck, in today’s world. We don’t agree with someone, we judge them. Someone offends our belief system, we judge them. Someone hurts us, we judge them.

I’ll admit it, I get something out of judging other people. I feel smug and superior and for a girl who always felt less than, this can be a heady experience. This is not a helpful thing for a prophet. Or for any Christian for that matter. We aren’t better than anyone else. In God’s eyes, we are all equal. He doesn’t see castes of believers and non believers. He sees His children and He wants to reconcile the relationship with each of us. That takes a whole lot of love. He knows that most of us will reject Him and yet He showers us with His love anyway. And it is this message of love He wants to spread through His prophets. This is why the first lesson the prophet needs to learn is about love. 1 Corinthians 13 love. The way God loves us, that needs to become how we love others.

I’m not there yet. I still find myself sitting on my high horse at times. But I see things differently. 1 Corinthians 13 is taking on new meaning for me. It’s not an unattainable standard we will never be able to live up to. Turn it around. Don’t read it as though it’s a manual for us. Read it as though God is speaking to us. Read it over and over again and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the passage from God’s perspective. To show you God’s deep and abiding love for you. For us. It will start to really change your life.
It’s been changing mine.

Just The Way You Are

Sometimes God talks to me through my radio. I know that sounds strange and may have you running for the hills, wondering if I’m unbalanced or mentally ill. I get it. I know how that statement sounds. God, speaking through the radio? Seriously? Does he, like, take over the airwaves and speak to you? What happens if you change the station? Honestly, do other people hear him when he “talks” through the radio?

I see how this can look like I’m living under a grand delusion. Let me reassure you, it’s not like a voice starts to talk to me over the airwaves. It’s more that God knows a message I need to hear and He shares that message through a particular song that is playing on the radio at a particular time. This has happened to me on several occasions that when I start the car and turn on the radio, the same song will be playing. Or I’ll be driving along feeling really crappy about myself or my circumstances and I turn the station from talk radio to music and a random but totally appropriate song is there, revealing to me something about God’s character or about how God sees me.

Along with my identity issues, I have an image problem. I look at myself and I don’t see a beautiful woman. I often see someone who is overweight, plain and unremarkable. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about myself. Many people, especially women, have body image issues. It’s epidemic and it’s so very sad. This is not how God sees us. He doesn’t create unremarkable. He doesn’t care what the current fashion is or how the world sees us. He looks at me and He sees a woman who is beautiful, who is talented, who has a great laugh, gorgeous eyes. He sees Himself in me, and God loves Himself completely. He can’t love me any less. He can’t see me as anything less.

I was feeling rather down about myself, feeling ugly inside and out, so much so that as I was driving to work I was crying. I forget the reasons why, I only remember swiping tears from my cheeks as I drove toward work, wondering if I had anything in my handbag that would allow me to mask the redness that would surely be in my eyes. There was a stupid commercial on the talk radio station I usually listen to during my commute, so I changed the station rather than endure the commercial break. Then God’s message to me poured out of the radio through the unlikely voice of Bruno Mars.

Her eyes, her eyes, they make the stars look like they’re not shining…

I remember I continued crying, so hard in fact I had to take an exit ramp and pull off the highway to a parking lot while the song continued to play. God was telling me that He loves me. He was telling me how He saw me. He was reminding me that I am amazing. Loved. Beloved. I felt touched in a way I hadn’t before. I felt humbled, and I also felt cherished. I hadn’t felt cherished in a long, long time.

I know, I know, when I compliment her she won’t believe me
And it’s so, it’s so sad to think that she don’t see what I see
But every time she asks me, “Do I look okay?” I say…

For a month, this song would be playing every time I turned on the radio. Every. Single. Time. I could be at home, in the car, or at work, and there it would be. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Sure, it was a popular song and received more than it’s share of airtime, but really, what are the odds that song would play every time I turned on the radio? No matter what time of day or day of the week? God was making sure I understood how He feels about me.

When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, because you’re amazing just  the way you are. When you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while, cuz girl you’re amazing just the way you are

~from “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars

Does this mean there aren’t things about my character that need to grow and develop? Or that God won’t touch parts of my life and tell me, “Now, let’s look at this, shall we? Is this in line with your identity?” No, He will still do those things. He sees me as I am in heaven and He’s working with me to become that person in the here and now. But I needed to know and believe that God loves me with great abandon and that I am beautiful. Loved. Beloved. Cherished.

God was using popular music to help change the narrative in my head. I can’t help but smile now when I hear that song and know God is so happy with me. I don’t see myself as beautiful all the time. I’m still learning about my true identity and I’m still becoming who I am in heaven. Now, through that song, I have another piece of the picture of my present future self, a piece I didn’t have before.

Isn’t it amazing the lengths God will go through to show us who we are to Him? Nothing is beyond His reach. Nothing.

Help, My Identity is Shrinking!

In my last post I disclosed the issue I have with seeing God as he really is and seeing my authentic self. In my years coaching, teaching and counseling I have come to realize this is a state of being for many people. Many people have a blind spot when it comes to seeing themselves. Our narrative is riddled with old scripts and pictures that don’t fit us anymore. Or we are haunted by the words and actions of others and are stuck believing lies about ourselves.

I grew up in a blue collar family. My dad was a mechanic and my mom stayed home to raise us kids until we reached junior high, at which time she found a permanent part-time position as a secretary. My parents love learning but neither has education beyond high school. In fact, my dad earned his GED when I was young. We lived in a white collar neighborhood, one my parents could afford because dad applied sweat equity to the house to keep costs down and we moved in before all our white class neighbors.

I have never been ashamed of my roots. My family is smart, dedicated and loyal. I am honored to be a part of this family. Not everyone shared my value system and early on in elementary school it became clear that I was the odd girl out. I was introverted. I wasn’t athletically coordinated. I read at a much higher level than everyone else in my class. And I dressed “poor”. I also had a hard time remembering things like play dates and birthdays. I continue to have this difficulty but thanks to advancements in technology, I have a smart phone with a calendar that will remind me as long as I program dates in.

I’m also very opinionated and, well, like to be right. If I knew the answer, I would raise my hand. I found pride in being able to excel academically and to grasp concepts quickly. I also had an almost eidetic memory. If I read it, I remembered it. Especially if I heard and read it. Ah, I miss those days. In other words, I was a brainy, nerdy, bookish kid who loved learning. I was a teacher’s dream.

Due to all these things, and likely some other things I was blind to (social cues were a bit beyond me at times), I found myself alone on the playground at recess, the last one to be picked in gym class and excluded from social activities. Usually I didn’t mind. I had all those books to keep me company.

It really stung, though, when any friendships I attempted to make with children my own age were thwarted by the “in crowd”. I would extend the branch of friendship to new kids, especially to those who were shy and bookish like myself. My new friend and I would enjoy a few blissful days or weeks together and then, the whammy. I would show up to school, often after a day of being ill or volunteering in the school library for lunch and recess, and my new friend would avoid me. And the popular girls would taunt me with notes or snide remarks telling me they rescued my friend from me by telling my friend all about me. Never did they tell me what it was they told my friend. Sometimes my lost friends would make their way back to me for a time, but they would never tell me what it was that swayed them over to the other side.

I outgrew my social awkwardness and I learned to voice my opinions in more subtle ways, or to keep quiet and let others talk and share instead. My training in psychology has really helped me to develop good listening skills and to share empathy instead of a quick answer. I’ve grown as a person. We all do. We are not who we were in elementary school, high school, college. We aren’t who we were five years ago – or we shouldn’t be. We are constantly growing and changing and becoming.

Even though I am no longer that girl, I feel like her all the time. I feel like if I do something wrong or make a misstep I will lose the few amazing friendships I have. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in on the popular kids and because of that, I’m slow to participate. I wait for someone to slide a snide look my way to tell me they have told the world about who I really am; someone who is not worthy of the time or effort to be called friend. I live in fear of rejection.

This last weekend Claire and I spent the weekend together at a conference and as we spent time digesting and discussing the content, it came out that I was a lonely child who had issues with mean girls. What I didn’t tell Claire was that I sometimes have this visceral fear that I will lose her friendship, something that means so much to me. And due to this fear I hide my insecurities so I don’t come off as too needy. Honestly, I don’t want to be that person. I was a needy kid. Or maybe it’s more honest to say I was a lonely kid. And that loneliness tags along with me to this day.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

                      ~2 Corinthians 5:17

The Holy Spirit reminded me on the drive home from Claire’s house that as far back as I can remember I was never alone. That even now I am never alone. He reminded me that Claire is a smart cookie and amazing intuitive and knows me, has seen the depths of me and loves me. The same way my husband loves me. I’m not a powerless child anymore. I am the beloved of God, his child. The child, not of a king but The King. And as his child, I have more gifts,  resources and fellowship at my disposal than I realize. That he is opening up to me new levels of relationship, of authenticity then I ever imagined I could or would ever experience.

This old image of a lonely, brainy, bookish girl who has no friends and lives in a constant vigilance against rejection, it’s just that. Old. Faded. It doesn’t fit anymore. Like the ratty old security blanket my cousin’s teenage daughter carries around with her, it’s no longer necessary. And it has no place in my current identity.

It’s not easy to shed the remnants of my old identity. So what do I do? I wake up in the morning and thank God for his promise and provision. I take time through the day to voice my gratitude for thing both small and large. I pray for God to continue to reveal to me who I am in Heaven so I might live in that identity while on earth. I have some doubt, some unbelief within me so I pray for God to show me how he sees me in dramatic or memorable ways.

I’m not who I used to be. I’m becoming. And as one who has been reconciled to Christ through the work of the cross, I am becoming more like Christ every day. I just have to open my eyes and see.