She’s not one of us

tracks 2

Getting off the school bus, she was sure to walk a few steps behind the group of pretty girls, not wanting them to notice her.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but your words kill.”

She knew her place.

As she crossed over to the other side of the tracks, she wondered what it would be like to own a new dress with a matching Jo-Jo bow.

Dressed in her brother’s hand-me-down jeans that never seemed to fit right, she walked on dreading the evening routine: help with little sister’s homework, get the house clean, make dinner, hope mom doesn’t get mad and yell, smile pretty, maybe dad will notice.  Just maybe today her parents will acknowledge how hard she’s working for their approval.

We all long for significance.  Desiring to be the one on top, we like to break society into classes.  Although, in America these classes are more fluid, let us not be blind to ethnic, economic, and social barriers that we created to find value and significance at the expense of other image bearers.  This man-made significance never satisfies our need.

We can mine the Bible for a rich treasure trove of truth.  God has no favorites.  He does not love the rich more, giving them more for their comfort.  He does not love the poor less, causing them to suffer because of laziness.  He doesn’t favor one skin tone over another.  He doesn’t create girls to be taken advantage of by men. We live in a world broken by sin, plagued by suffering, and characterized by the strong taking from the weak, but this is not God’s desire.


The very sin that breaks our hearts and self-image broke Jesus Christ’s body on the cross!

Romans 2:11-11 but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good, first for the Jew, then for the Greek. For God does not show favoritism.   All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.

Deuteronomy 10:17
“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.

cross

Job 34:19
Who shows no partiality to princes Nor regards the rich above the poor, For they all are the work of His hands?

Acts 10:34
Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism,

Romans 9:14
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Absolutely not!

There are so many more verses!

The ground at the foot of the Cross is level.  If I know this to be true, why do I still struggle to find significance in the world?  Why do I still compare myself to others?  Why aren’t others struggling like me with finances, self-worth, disobedient children… the list can go on and on.  In short, a soft prosperity gospel has invaded the church.  Some-where along the way, we began to believe that being co-heirs with Christ means that we should never suffer, but that God will give us every desire of our hearts.  We missed the Bible’s message about suffering.

In Romans 8:17 Paul writes, “and if children, also heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, seeing that we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  Paul’s encouragement to us, is not that we won’t suffer, but suffering will never separate us from God’s love.  We are called, justified, glorified.  It’s not that we will never be afflicted, be anguished, be persecuted, be hungry, be naked, in danger, face the sword, or face death.  These things do not separate us from His love.

The soft prosperity gospel says, “#BLESSED, #tooblessedtobestressed.”

You have to read this article. It may hurt, but repentance frees us! Grace covers us!

How God Saved Me From The Prosperity Gospel

Before my son died, I didn’t even recognize how the soft prosperity gospel blinded me and my circle of friends.  Its influence is so subtle.  Like the author in the above article, I didn’t see it until my faith stopped making sense.  I was #blessed, so why is all this happening.  We were losing everything: Kai, house, job, friends, and church.

I faced the truth that God never promises to rescue us from the situations of earthly life that sin causes or the brokenness that follows.  Even when we ask for forgiveness, we experience the earthly consequences of sin. Read King David’s story in 2 Samuel 12:10.

We naturally gravitate towards teachers that inspire and make us feel good about ourselves.   We want to be told that we are basically OK.  Yeah, bad things happened to us, but now we are powerful and we can tell our story!  We are worthy and beautiful.  We prefer a feel good self-empowerment gospel.  After all, we want to be satisfied with our station life.  We’ve worked hard to be significant or find significance in the bad things that have happened.  We’ve exchanged the God of the Bible for therapeutic moralistic deism.  Peter says, “For uttering bombastic empty words, they seduce, by fleshly desires and debauchery… They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”

Jesus teaches that his kingdom is not of this world.  To be first we must be the servant of all.  The way that leads to destruction is broad.  The road that leads to righteousness is straight and the gate is narrow.  The righteous will be persecuted.  Almost everything he teaches is the opposite of our natural inclinations, including suffering.

Peter writes, “but even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed” II Peter 3:14.  Would we write #blessed after Herod chopped off John the Baptist’s head? What about Stephen who was stoned for preaching the gospel? Priscilla and Aquila started three churches, but were kicked out of their hometown.  The Apostle Paul says that he was overwhelmed with fears on the inside and outside.  Blessed?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust Matthew 5:45.  All of us would like the right amount of rain at just the right time to fall for our greatest comfort.  Some of us are poor, some of us have endured abuse, some of us are plagued by tragedy, and some of us have too many children, while others are infertile.  How can we know who is loved? 

All of us! Jesus loved the whole world, and gave his life for all of us!

Revelation 3:20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he will me.”

The Lord has prepared a wedding feast for his Bride. He calls all to come and eat with him, making no accommodations for rich or poor, abused or abuser, skin color, young or old.  He simply calls everyone to repentance, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting all to be saved. He wants to walk with us through all of life’s moments. Earth is not Heaven!

The evil in us

The school shooting demonstrates how broken this world is. Although, at times in human history, we have been able to restrain man’s evil heart by cultural means, however, sin remained. Women were less than men. Racism in all its evil pride lurks in our hearts and institutions. Sure, the Greatest Generation sounds great on paper for some. We didn’t have mass murders in schools, but let’s not gloss over that every generation has tried to restrain evil and failed.

I can’t imagine the grief these parents will have to walk through. Remember, picture the parents, then remove all their bones, and tell them to walk. They can’t, but some-how grieving parents find a way to keep going. Have you ever noticed, there isn’t a name for grieving parents? We have orphans and widows and widowers, but there isn’t a word for grieving parents. For these parents and this community the devastation has just begun.

I think about the shooter and what has come out about his life. When is the church going to take back it’s God given mandate to care for the fatherless and stop relying solely on foster care. I remember reading a startling statistic that if every church came together, chose a family to support (financially, socially, etc.), and adopted one orphan, we wouldn’t have any need for orphanages.  We are the royal priest hood. God’s chosen ambassadors to the world to make disciples. This mandate costs, but for some of us we don’t see ourselves as chosen for anything.

At first, thinking about what I have been through pales in comparison to Parkland, but whatever rejection and devastation we have endured is big to us. I am overwhelmed by God’s truth that He accepted me.  I have been verbally abused and mocked by a caregiver that should have loved me.  I have been physically abused by a boyfriend that said he wanted to marry me.  I have been rejected by friends that said they stood with me, only to reject my grief. I have done destructive things to myself and others. We all have our sad stories of rejection and destruction, but when I think about what Jesus endured for us, it doesn’t compare.

I am accepted because He was rejected.

The Bible clearly records that before the creation of the world God knew that Jesus would have to be sacrificed to restore creation.  I can’t imagine setting out to create something that I knew would fail me, but God loves us that much.  He didn’t make us robots that had no choice but to mindlessly obey him.  This opened the world up to all kinds of evil.  Ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, humans have been destroying one another.

I was in a small group of believers that were seeking to be healed from past hurts.  One of the believers said, “I don’t understand how God can be good, and sit back a let me as a little innocent child endure sexual abuse?  I’m angry at God!”  We sit back and ask how could God allow mass school shootings. When God allowed humans to choose Him, He allowed us to choose to sin against him and sin against one another.  The truth is, we love being able to choose.  We hate when others choose to be selfish and hurt us, but we don’t like being told what to do.  Some would call this a conundrum.

On one hand we hate evil, but we seem to keep choosing to be evil.

Maybe some of us can’t identify with the example of childhood sexual abuse, but we are all devastated by another mass school shooting. And personally, we all have been rejected or made to feel worthless at one time or another.

The explosive thought I had is that God can relate to us.  Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather he humbled himself into the womb of a teenage girl.  He became a baby, dependent on one of his creations to do everything for him. He took on flesh knowing that he would then humble himself again by becoming obedient to death on the cross.  We skipped over that He knew that the very people he came to save would reject him. Oh, and one of his twelve closest friends would betray him, giving him up to be killed by the religious authorities.

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.  Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-6

The punishment that brings us peace was on him. My favorite passage that I could quote at the end of every post is Ephesians 1:3-8. The key words in that passage are “in Him”.  Our peace, forgiveness, acceptance, worth, everything begins and ends with “in Him”.  In a culture that is “me” obsessed this doesn’t make any sense to us in the beginning.  We seek to find ourselves and heal our self-image.  In vain, we try harder to be better and achieve more.  These things always leave us needing more.  Some of us look at the drug addict without realizing that we can be just as addicted to acceptance by whatever means we are searching for it: religion, success, self-image, Christian service.  Yes, we can even use the church to bolster our-self-image and worth.  We are using religion or Christian service like some use success or drugs to feel acceptable or worthy.

We must face the truth that there is nothing that we can do or not do to be acceptable to God.  There is nothing that can be done to us or for us that makes us worthy or worthless. 

Our good works are like filthy rags.  Unless our righteousness exceeds the most righteous person we know, we will not be accepted.  Maybe now our pride is beginning to expand with all the times we did the right thing.  However, it is impossible to go through this life without becoming angry or lusting for love from someone.  Let’s face it, we can’t go through the normal crazy feelings of puberty without sinning.  In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus reveals the truth of our desperate situation.  He demonstrates that man is unable to keep all of God’s law thereby making them unworthy.

At this point some of us are pulling out our salvation as a badge.  But how do we live?  What situations make us feel rejected?  Where are gaining value?  What makes us feel worth or worthless? What is the motivation for our good works? Why are we nice to people?  Sometimes our motivation is to win the praise of men so that we feel good about who we are. There are too many situations where we wrongly use religion, success, or self-worth to go into detail about all of them.

I want to focus our attention on the Beginning and the End.  Without being “in Him” we are unacceptable.  We are on unworthy on our own. Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  God gave us Jesus as a sacrifice, the reparation for our unacceptable deeds, to be received by faith. This faith in the finished work of the cross makes us acceptable to God.  Why do we continually struggle with feelings of being unaccepted or unworthy?

The first reason may be unconfessed sin.  A sweet girl in my life submitted her will and life to God, but she thought she could make confession to God alone.  She continued to struggle in self-doubt because she needed to make confession to the other people that she sinned against. James 5:13 says to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed.  Only fools mock at making amends for sin, but good will is found among the upright, Proverbs 14:9.  When we make confession to the ones we’ve hurt, we begin repairing the relationship.  When relationships are broken we feel rejection.  Confession clears those feelings giving way for us to accept one another and we can feel God’s acceptance.  The problem does not begin with God’s acceptance, our feelings are clouding God’s truth in our lives.

Secondly, we have a real adversary.  The Evil One roams this earth looking for whom he may devour.  Jesus calls him the Accuser of the Brethren.  Do you feel accused?  The difference between conviction and condemnation is found here.  The Accuser of the Brethren will make you feel frightened, confused, obsessed, depressed, and rushed.  The only way to beat him is to draw close to God and he will flee from you.  How do we draw close to God?  We know His truth.  What makes you acceptable, JESUS.  How are you forgiven, JESUS!  It’s JESUS, JESUS, JESUS!  Making confession to God and those we have hurt will combat all the nasty feelings that we feel when we are accused.  We simply will not have anything for the Evil One to use.

Thirdly, holding on to past hurts that violated us as Image Bearers keeps us feeling worthless and shamed.  At some point in our lives, we got the message that bad things would not have happened to me if I was worth more.  This is a lie.  When someone harms another person, they are selfishly taking what does not belong to them.  This is another blog post to come, but God does not make different classes of people.  We are all equally image bearers.  The Bible contains a treasury of verses teaching that God does not have favorites.  He does not make “throw away girls” and “good girls”.  He creates every girl to be loved and cherished, imbuing each of us with value because He created us to belong to Him.  I have felt like a “throw away girl.” I found freedom in declaring that the abuse I suffered is sin.  I agreed with God (repented).  I released the abuse and the abuser to be judge by God, therefore, I can stop judging myself as worth-less than the abuser or others who have not been abused.  We are equal in God’s sight.  We are “sheep that have gone astray each of us to our own way.”  There is nothing in us that deserved to be harmed, rather, we each have free will.  We can freely choose to follow God, or we can freely choose to harm others to fulfill our selfish desires.  Abuse is about the abuser not the innocent.  Now, we can face the aftermath of the abuse.  Many of us begin to self-abuse.  Hand in hand, repentance and forgiveness, we go back to my first point and ask God to forgive us because we have self-abused.  We’ve damaged ourselves.  We need to repair the relationship with ourselves.

Conviction is a good feeling leading us to grace. Condemnation makes us feel hopeless.  We never enter a time of confession without Jesus’s grace.  The price has been paid.  We have no fear in uncovering our hurts or bad deeds before our God.  Freedom is found in repentance.  Holding on to our sin is like playing tug-of-war.  As long as the people on each end of the rope are tugging, we are at war.  We let go of our end of the rope by making confession and forgiving those who have hurt us. No matter how hard they may tug on their end, if we’ve released ours, the war is over.  But until we have released the rope, we are still a prisoner of war.  If this seems too difficult to do that’s because we must move from a place of power to confessing we are powerless.

Unloved

Grief GOT HARD! So I stopped blogging for what… 3/4 years. I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking about starting again for a long time now.  This journey of healing has been crazy.  I will blog about the deep grief and recovery later, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve worked on a piece titled Unloved.

Unloved

From my earliest memories, I felt unloved.  I remember thinking maybe I was simply unlovable.  There’s just something about me that people can’t love.  When Kai died, I thought his death meant God didn’t love me.  Feeling unloved is part of the fall.  If you, like me, have felt unloved, you are NOT ALONE.  We all seek to fill this void with everything except The One Who is Love.

1 John 4:8 … God is love.

Leah is the most famous unloved women.  Her story with her husband, Jacob, is recorded in Genesis 29-33.  Jacob is a scoundrel, deceiver, and thief, but chosen by God.  He is fleeing for his life after conniving with his mother to steal the firstborn’s blessing. Prince Charming, he was not.  In Jacob’s mad dash out the house, his mother commanded him to hide out with her brother Laban.

Jacob obeys his mom.  On his way to Laban’s house, he meets Laban’s second daughter, Rachel.  Infatuation infects Jacob; he was in lust.  To move the story along, Jacob meets Laban, and agrees to work for his uncle.  His uncle wants to pay him and asks his price.  Jacob wants to marry Rachel because she is beautiful, but Leah, the older sister, had “weak eyes”.  Scholars have written quite a bit about what this means, and not all of them agree.  However, we can assume that her eyes were unattractive and were mentioned as a detriment to her looks in contrast to her sister’s “beautiful form.” Jacob works for seven years to earn Rachel.

“Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to

make love to her.”    Jacob said to Laban. Genesis 29:21

-There’s nothing I can say about that.-

Laban calls everyone together for a marriage feast.  That night he sends Leah into the marriage tent instead of Rachel, and Jacob seals the marriage.  He wakes up the next morning angry at Laban for the trickery, but Laban says, “Our custom is for the oldest to be married first and then the youngest.  Work another seven years and I will give you Rachel.” Jacob agrees.  He finishes out the Leah and Rachelfirst week-long honey moon with Leah, and then Rachel was given to Jacob.  The Bible is not specific, but it reads as if Leah got one week before she had to share her husband with her sister.  Then, “When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.”

Leah gives birth to three sons.  Each time she believes that her husband will love her and become attached to her. The first son is named Reuben likely because it sounds like the Hebrew word for he has seen my misery. Then comes Simeon which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for one who hears.  The last one is named Levi which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for attached.  Although in each of these names Leah is struggling to understand God as the one who sees her misery and the one who hears her, her focus is still Jacob.

Tragically, we are all like Leah.  We seek love from other people who are looking to us to love them.  The deadly cycle of needy broken people needing needy broken people is born.  We insist that there must be a way to find love and make life work by affection, achievement, acceptance, affirmation, addiction… the list is very long. Eventually, we realize that no one or thing provides us the love we need.

What are we to do? Counseling is an option.  It is good to help identify the traumatic events that left us vulnerable to victimhood.  However, Christian counseling too often encourages us to get in touch with those feelings of being unlovable, and uses the love of rainbowsJesus to overcome them.  Some may even tell us to pick our “thing” that shows us that God loves us. I’ve heard of everything from pink skies to picturesque deer feeding in a field (mine was a rainbow).  The Suffering Savior is reduced to an inspiring symbol that helps us realize our worth.  Would Jesus go through being mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed, so that we can develop a good self-image? We look to God, not to find Him, but to use him!  We are exploiting Jesus!

The power of the cross lies in the undivorceable marriage of repentance and restoration.

We can face the evil traumatic events in our lives that produced the feelings of being unloved in us.  Let us repent, meaning that we will declare those events as evil and sinful.  We agree with the Lord! For us they are under the blood!  The perpetrator now owns his/her sin, not us! We are now responsible for the selfish acts that we did in our quest to be loved.  We are not worthy of this amazing gift of forgiveness.

“We all like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to our own way;

And the LORD has laid on him the

Iniquity of us all.”   Isaiah 53:6

This is the beauty of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross.  While we were sinners, God demonstrated his love for us by sending Jesus to die for us.  Sometimes I feel ugly because I was behaving ugly!  I know the nasty feelings of jealousy and envy, and I feel worthless.  I don’t feel beautiful when anger and strife are having their way with my words.  We know that we are not always worthy and beautiful, so I’m not going to trick myself into feeling worthy and beautiful.  The Cross of Jesus frees me from these unfair expectations.  Read Romans 7 and 8.  It frees you too.

Let’s go back to Leah’s story.  She again conceives and gives birth to a fourth son, but this time she declares, “This time I will praise the LORD.” Then she stopped having chilLeahdren.  Praise and love flow over us, when we realize how unworthy we are for God’s amazing love!  There is nothing in us and there is nothing that we can do or not do to make God love us any more or less than He does.  Jacob’s dysfunctional family displays God’s grace that is available to each of our dysfunctional families.

Isn’t He Beautiful?

Darkness

In the middle of darkness my hope remains.  I have come to identify with Noah. Imagine what the atmosphere was like to wake up day after day in the ark, a giant coffin covered in black tar floating on the waves of a world wide flood with no land or sun in sight. Bone deep darkness. Imagine the fierce storm with thunder, lightning, and maddening rain. My tears have come in violent storms, tossing my soul from side to side. Noah faced an unknown future. What was happening had never happened before in human history, much less Noah’s life.

I’ve written before that I’m walking a very familiar road to women, but I feel as if I’m in the ark with patchy sun, no land in sight, and a torrent of tears. Desperately, I prayed asking God for a rainbow just as He gave to Noah. A physical promise that He has not abandoned me. For 3 weeks I begged my Father, asking like the woman in Matthew 15:21-28, through her constant asking, moved Jesus to heal her daughter. I shared with my husband my request, and that’s where my story begins. Most share their moments of victory, but here is my moment of defeat…and I mean defeat. (Said loud and in the best southern voice you can muster.)

Rainbow Selfie

Warning Rainbow Selfie

Sitting in a meeting that I didn’t want to join, I received a text. “Here’s your rainbow. ”

And bless his heart, my sobbing response was, “That’s not my rainbow, it’s yours!” God sent my husband a rainbow, not me!!! I was able to keep control through the meeting and to my van before the storm of tears broke.

“Why does God hate me?” ran around my mind screaming… Have you been there? Devastated…  defeat attached himself to me. I couldn’t see the Son. I was drowning.

In grief, there isn’t much anyone can say that can encourage you. I went to sleep that night with one thought, I don’t want to give up, but let me reveal to you that I had no great promise to hold on to. No Word from the Lord. No dramatic feeling of I can go on.

Have you been here? I felt abandoned. Alone. Broken. That night I wasn’t sure what to even do next. The only thing I could do was put one foot in front of the other and keep walking. I’m not even sure if I was Trusting. I just didn’t turn back. My faith became like my breathing. Sometimes I forget to breath, and my autonomic system says, “Breath. Breath noW. BREATHE NOW!.” And finally, I will gasp and suck in air. I keep believing, just not as easily as I once did.

I leave you with this. Sometimes beautiful isn’t always pretty. James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who persevered under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” I am so thankful that there are no qualifiers with “having stood the test”. Or I’d be in trouble. Some days are great! Some days, I find myself in the battle to believe. Believe that God wants to love me.