“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

Don’t Miss It- Once in a Lifetime

Awww summertime! Or at least we’re getting really close to the summer solstice. Family vacation usually sets off the official summertime routine in our household. This year we’re down to two out of our four kids still left at home. So a trip to Steamboat Springs in the Rockies seemed like the appropriate trip for our crew. From our neck in the woods it is about a two day drive, if you like to take your time and have plenty of breaks. So off we went. The evening we arrived and got ourselves settled in to our condo a peak out our window at the Western sunset over the mountains caused me to pause. “I’ve got to go out and look at this sunset. It’s a once in a lifetime event.” That may sound kind of crazy to the people who live in Steamboat day in and day out. They’ve probably seen thousands of the sunsets over that mountain. It may even be so familiar they don’t even pause to gaze. But the truth of the matter is for the minutes the sunbeams shine upon the clouds as the angle changes of the light with the setting sun, each second is totally different from the first. The hues of the colors transitions from bright orange, to red, to purple to dark. It really is a “Once in a lifetime event” for anyone, not just this Missouri girl. It was awesome! But I’m sure had I let myself be preoccupied, I would have missed it…

Then yesterday, my husband and I went over to our friends home. They own a deer farm. They’ve been at this for a few years. So seeing the little fawns and petting them is nothing new, but I saw something yesterday that quite possible could be another “once in a lifetime” event, a fawn be born. When we went out to the pens to look at their growing herd of deer, we noticed a momma deer that had had her first buck fawn of twins she was bearing. Carefully we walked into the pen that allowed a better look and stood in awe as we watched her labor for around 20 minutes and finally push the second fawn out. We stood there and watched the momma clean her fawn and nurse the other one until the light of day was so far gone that we could not see very well. Once again something I could have easily missed if I was too busy to stop, or too preoccupied in my mind to realize I was going to miss something so unique that I will never see it go down like it did last night again.

It’s funny how life is just that way. If we are too locked into what happened in the past or too preoccupied with what might happen in the future, we miss the now, something that only happens “once in a lifetime”.

Saturday is wedding day for my oldest daughter. The plans are made, the ball is in motion, things seem to be ready to roll. But once again I find myself fighting anxieties of what was, what is, and what may come… preoccupied. If I am not careful I will miss it. I’ll miss the moment that will only happen “once in a lifetime”. The moment her groom first sees his bride. The moment her daddy walks her down the aisle and gives her away. The moment they exchange their vows and unite their lives. I’ll miss it all and it will never happen the way it will on that day again.

Guilt, anxiety, and worries are robbers and thieves. They come to steal one of the things that means the most, the gift God has given to us as we sojourn here on earth, our present life. In John 10:10 Jesus said something that would do us all some good to have tattooed into the back of our brains ever present in our memories. “The thief (satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Some translations say “abundant life”. All the good God has for us is not stored up for us to only be released in heaven. God has goodness and mercy for us “all the days of our lives”. Psalm 23:6. It is satan who wants to blind us with his toxic whirlwind of afflictions to the mind and block us from seeing just that- God has goodness and mercy for us every second, every minute, every hour of every day. And blinding us with toxic thoughts is the only way he can steal from a child of God. Whispering lies and getting us to believe them so we get our focus off the truth is his only game plan. Because the truth is he is already defeated at the cross. Jesus gave us His goodness when our past was forgiven, our future with Him was secured, and our present is spent dwelling in Him.

May I never forget THAT when the enemy tries to get my focus off. God intended for me to live in the Present. Fully engaged in the life to the full that He gives to me, His abundant life given to His children He dearly loves and has chosen.

Shalom- God’s Remedy for Never Enough

“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 ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This morning during devotions I felt impressed to spend some time chewing on this verse. The punishment that brought us “peace” (Hebrew “shalom”- wholeness, completeness, soundness.) What Jesus did on the cross has made me whole, complete, sound in my mind as well as my spirit. I have walked in the identity of Never Enough. I am Never Enough for life’s situations. The feeling that I as “Never Enough” was me in my past that tries to haunt me, me in my present that tries to hold me back, and Never Enough in my Future that tries to paralyze me from walking in Christ’s plan. Praise God!! The identity of Never Enough stops at the cross. Because Jesus brings completeness. He is more than enough. I can walk in His confidence knowing that where I fall short He fills to overflowing. He is the God who turns a shortage of wine at a wedding into an abundance of the good stuff with water in clay pots. He is the God who takes a few loaves and fish of a boy willing to give them up and feeds 5000. He is the God who takes what little we have to offer and does exceeding abundantly more than we can ask or think. His Shalom He gives us at the cross makes us complete. Happy weekend you all!

“ProcessME” vrs “InstaME”

 

A life with no struggles, wouldn’t that be awesome?  Somehow a segment of the Christian world in America has adopted this view.  If you do struggle, you lack the faith you should have to overcome the obstacle that presents itself to you.  That’s hard news for people who struggle with addictions, anxiety, depression, and other mental issues or even physical issues that have not yet been healed.

I’m not saying that God doesn’t ever set you completely free from the challenges you face, but I am saying if He hasn’t it’s time to let go of the guilt of not being good enough to overcome and trust in a God who may slowly refine us, mold us, and change us into the image He has created us to be.

In the midst of a struggle that I have fought against most of my life, I’m slowly getting an understanding of this.  A friend recently pointed me back to Paul’s quote on his “Thorn in his flesh.” I was talking about my struggle with anxiety and memories of bad times.  She encouraged me to look at these times as an opportunity to praise God for the struggle because it is the very thing that has driven me to my awareness of how much I need Him throughout the years.  As 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 puts it in the Message, it is the very thing that has “pushed me to my knees.”  Had I felt no pain, I would not know the need for God’s healing.  Had I not struggled, I would not know the need for God’s help.  Had I not seen all that I lack, I wouldn’t understand how I am only complete in Jesus.  It is in my understanding of how broken I am that I find my need for Jesus to make me new, and I am able to allow Him to do just that so I can live the life of freedom, peace, and joy He has promised.

Sometimes the process of being chiseled into the Masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLT) that God makes me  uncomfortable, and I cannot in my own strength produce the change that needs to be.  But God Is here with me He doesn’t leave me alone or unfinished.  He completes the good work He begins. (Philippians 1:6)

There’s a skit by The Skit Guys called “God’s Chisel”  I have thought of it often through the years since I saw it first.  I’m kind of fond of “InstaME”  instantly I am everything I wished I could be, perfect teeth, hair, mood, etc.  But that simply isn’t reality.  I am “ProcessME”.  One lesson at a time learned, one battle at a time fought and with Christ won, One area of struggle resolved at a time as I learn to walk in victory.  “ProcessMe” is began when I begin my life in Christ and He begins to slowly change me and strengthen me to make what I was meant to be all along.  It may take time and involve struggle, but as I learn to turn these things over to Him one struggle at a time, I find myself free.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

His Choice, His Desire, His Love

Right off the bat I want to put a personal plug in for “The Bible App” or “YouVersion”  It’s a game changer if your looking for a way to get into the Bible more and understand it better.  There are all kinds of nifty little details that it covers: making pictures with Bible verses on them, open your app daily for the daily verse streaks, devotions, and reading plans to mention a few.  My husband and I picked “The Bible Project: New Testament in One year” almost a year ago to do together.  We don’t really have a time we actually sit down and read the Bible together, but we are reading the same passage and on occasion we have struck up conversations on it.  It’s good to grow Spiritually together.  It’s been a joy.

As I mentioned, we’ve been at this for almost a year.  Which puts us in the book of Revelations.  Not really my favorite book of the Bible.  It has good stuff in it. They all do, but if there is one thing I’m not, an end times scholar is one of them.  So far we’ve made it to chapter 4 and so far so good.  In fact, what I read today is what’s been rolling around inside of me today.  Probably because I need it.  I would venture to say most people do.

Revelations 4:11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” NIV

My first read of this verse it kind of stuck out to me.  I thought, “Oh yeah I think some worship song in the 80’s quoted that verse or something.”  But it kept sticking out to me. So to satisfy my curiosity, I figured I’d check it out in some other versions.  I’ve got my go to list of versions I like to compare verses to.  One of them is “The Message”.  Sometimes I read it and think, “That couldn’t possibly be what the Bible was trying to say.”  But most of the time I come away looking at things a little different.  This is one of those times.

Revelations 4:11 “Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all;  It was created because you wanted it.”

Shazaam!  That last little bit struck me.  God didn’t just willy nilly wake up one day and decide that just for funzies He was going to create everything.  No, He created everything “Because HE wanted it.”

It’s turkey season in our neck of the woods.  My husband and son have been hunting most mornings this week.  They get up, excited at 5 am, and go sit out in the woods/ field near our home for hours on end.  So far after 5 days of trying, no Turkey.  My husband put a selfie of himself and my son from the first morning, with the quote “Gotta love the outdoors” on Facebook. He has told me more than once how much he loves just going out and sitting in the outdoors and enjoying creation.  I get it.  I’m fond of an occasional nature hike, trout fishing, and camping.  I love the peace I feel when I look up at the sky at night and see the stars quietly shining in the sky and hear the frogs and crickets singing in the background.  It’s beautiful.  So in reading that verse, I told God, “I get it.  You wanted all that so you made it.  That’s really cool.” But then it hit me… He made me. He wanted me.”

When my kids we little and I held them on my lap, I wanted to convey to them how much they were worth to me and to God.  I would say, “Do you know who loves you?”

“Yeah Momma, you do.”

“That’s right who else?” “Daddy”

“Yep, who else?”  (The list could go on for awhile with Grandparents, cousins, friends.) But I always ended it with this statement. “That’s true, but Jesus loves you the most. More than any of us can or could.”  This usually wrapped around to the final statement I would say, “You know, God wanted a sun. So He made one.  God wanted our dog Jack so He made him. But more than anything, He wanted you, an Andy, so He made an Andy.”

That is all fine and good when you’re talking to your precious child, but it’s hard to apply when you turn the table and apply it to you.  Especially if you struggle with self esteem/ self worth issues. If God made me, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted me…

If God made you, and I am certain He did, that means He wanted you…  Let that sink in.  All the things that are right, all the things that are wrong.  He looks right at us and “wants us.”  Things I want I don’t throw away.  Things I want I take care of.  Things I want I look at with affection.  Things I want I would fight for.  Things I want I would pay the price to Get.   Hmmm… The picture comes in clearer and clearer.  I’m not a thing, but I am His creation, and everything He has made was made by His choice, His desire, and His love.

Maybe, like me, that makes your mind go “tilt” like an old pinball game.  But I’m sure if that truth is applied to my heart and mind enough, the crooked will be made straight, and my value will become clearer and clearer.  The same for you.

It’s probably time to break out the old conversation I used to have with my kids and just fill in the blanks.  “Who loves you?  Yeah yeah, but Who Really Loves YOU? Yes, Jesus.  He wanted a (your name goes here) so HE made one. That is why you are here.”

https://www.youversion.com/the-bible-app/

Judge Janet Judges Janet

“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is a judge that sits in the courtroom of my mind. She scrutinizes every move I make. Her raspy little voice shouting down all the imperfections, misjudgments, and mistakes with the occasional bang of her gavel keeps me constantly in a state of trying to avoid her gaze. Her name is Judge Janet, and her game is judging Janet. Judge Janet is a lot harder on Janet than any other judge in town. She sets the standards so high that achieving them is only a pipe dream, and her constant critique after all the accusations is “You will never be enough”.

It’s bad that in a world full of critics we often allow our own selves to be the most highly critical one of ourselves and in that judgement, we always find ourselves lacking, guilty, bad, or wrong. My inner critic is the most brutal judge of me, and unfortunately it is often the voice I pay attention to the most.

Paul, in the Bible, must have experienced wrestling with his inner judge. Because he made a statement about judging that pointed to a person he did not judge anymore himself. He had fired his inner judge. He said “I do not even judge myself. “. He also said that there was “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Paul left the judging of self to God, who looks at those in Christ as being just that “in Christ.” He didn’t have to judge himself. He left that to God, and God at His judgement, had spoken to him just as Jesus did the woman caught in adultery: “Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.””
‭‭John‬ ‭8:10-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬ Jesus was the only one who really had the power to condemn, and He was the one who didn’t.

Recent news has reported that another famous Judge has recently retired, Judge Judy. Occasionally, I’ve caught episodes of Judge Judy. Her style of confrontation and crassness has caught my eye from time to time. Judge Judy can sure rip a good one into the party she senses to be in the wrong. She holds nothing back. Her style is compatible with Judge Janet. There’s no mercy when she’s on her judgement seat judging Janet.

While on a walk today, it occurred to me that Judge Janet needs to retire too. She needs to step down from the bench and let God be the judge. I’m pretty sure His judgements are fair and He is far from condemning. He’s about freedom in Him and walking without the condemning little voice nagging me. God is quite capable of letting me know what areas I need to change and what areas I need to leave alone. Judge Janet hasn’t got a clue. So letting her retire and leave the broadcasting air of my mind would be a nice change of programming. Playing the programs of truth God designed to be broadcasted from the beginning is the change that I need.