YOU HAVE AMAZING THINGS TO DO!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I’ve always liked that passage. At the very least, it’s encouraging. At the very most, it’s permission.

I know it sounds strange that grown, mature adults would need permission, doesn’t it? But consider what the opposite of permission looks like? I’ll show you.

Picture this: A college freshman is at a car dealership, narrowing down her choices first by price range, then by the only thing a college freshman would think was important – the cuteness factor. The only choices left are an adorable little sunshine-yellow sports car or an imposing Chrysler Newport. The budding relationship between girl and auto was rudely interrupted by her mother.

“We’re big people. We need a big car.” said the woman who’d never owned or driven a car in her life. Or been a college freshman!

Apparently, Lesson 1 in Auto Shopping 101 was: Make sure everyone can shove their big butts into it.

That was a very (very) long time ago, but I don’t think I’ve made a single decision since then that didn’t account for the size of my body. To this day, I am uncomfortable anywhere small-ish. I’ve often defined myself and limited my ambitions by my size.

We all have at least a bit of that in us.  It may not be your size. It might be your height, you academic aptitude, finances, your gender, the color of your skin.

I’ve participated in workshops where the speaker asks, “If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life?” And the thing is that I still see myself trying to squeeze into a cute little sports car. I just can’t imagine myself without limits.

I want to share something with you, and I don’t share this to get a pat on the back. It’s just to show the disconnect in my perception of myself.

god is already workingI’ve always loved words and spelling came easy to me. When I was in Grades 6 through 8, I competed in spelling bees and did fairly well.

When I was in the 8th Grade, I accidentally discovered that in spite my absolute fear of speaking in front of an audience, I had a real aptitude for it. Who knew? I spent my high school years in competitive speech and debate. I earned the highest level of recognition the National Forensic League offered at that time, lettered in Forensics and competed at the state level three years in four events.

When my first daughter was born, I had the opportunity to go back to school. Instead of returning to college, I opted for the Vo-Tech in town. That’s where I served as the president for our local chapter of Business Professionals of America, the state Vice President and the national Secretary-Treasurer. (Did you spot the trend? Yes, I’d peaked at the local level.)

The night of the ceremonies, I placed 1st in one of my events, 2nd in the other and became the second member from Kansas to be elected to a national office. (It. was. awesome!) I had given my campaign speech in front of an audience of almost 4,000 people. I was the only candidate hadn’t use note cards or the podium. My instructor was later mortified when I told her I’d gone in front of my peers with nothing more than a sketchy outline of a speech in my head.

Ten years ago, Chicken Soup for the Soul bought the only story I’d ever written with the intent of being published. This year, my second. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to get my very own book published. I’d love to be able to turn the broken pieces of my life into a stained glass vision of God’s grace, his favor, and his power. It would be a shame to waste all that trauma and drama, don’t you think? Do I expect myself to get such a book published? Can a fat girl squeeze her butt into a cute little yellow sports car? I have no idea, because I never tried it. I bought the Newport that day. I didn’t even test drive the smaller car.

There are three take-away’s from this.

  • I really don’t know how to say ‘No.’
  • I settle for a big car too often.
  • God has a plan for me whether I’m on board or not.

blown gods planDuring those years, I didn’t even acknowledge God. At the age of 12, I’d accepted Christ as my savior, collected my get-out-of-hell-free card, and went around doing my own thing.

Just remember that God’s going to do what God wants to do. And while he waits for us to surrender ourselves, he keeps busy.

So many of us, though, are the man Jesus met at the healing pool who had been crippled for many years.

“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked him.

The beggar never said “Yes.” Jesus healed him anyway because he had compassion. But the beggar had come to identify himself as broken, needy, helpless and dependent. He had no concept of what he would do if money were no object and success was guaranteed.

He simply wasn’t that guy. (You know…that guy.)

God has used so many of his children who couldn’t see themselves the way God saw them. Moses argued that he wasn’t good with words. Abraham and Sarah reminded God that they were beyond fertile years. Jonah? Well, Jonah had his own issues.

How did their stories end? Very simply, God got his way.

disney impossibleWe seldom grasp how the kingdom of God works. God’s all about doing the impossible, using resources that we don’t have access to. He’s about  and what’s on the other side of the wall.

We are his creations, and by limiting ourselves, our potential, and we’re limiting God.

Our lives aren’t about what we can do. They’re about what God can do with us. When God speaks, things happen!

Think about the beggar by the pool. When he was healed, he was suddenly able to walk, to get a job that used his particular talents, to become a valuable part of his community, to meet a woman who would love him and raise children with him.

Or he might have hung out at the market, doing nothing more than telling everyone why he can’t work because he used to be a cripple.

We don’t know what he did, but what a waste it would have been to not do something with the potential that Christ loosed in him with a touch and a word!

Isaiah 55:11 tells us “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

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This is the same word that created the impossibly intricate detail of our bodies. The way it heals itself, the way blood flows through it, the way it regenerates itself – they’re all on autopilot because God set them in motion with a word.

This is the same word that called this planet into being – all on auto pilot.

This is the same word that called you by name and created you in your mother’s womb, imprinting his purpose in your spirit.

People say children don’t come with an instruction manual. Actually, they do. God has a copy of it, but he doesn’t let us read it because he has seen what happens when we have brilliant ideas and try to help him. Crayon marks, highlighted sentences and corrections in red ink everywhere!

So the big question is this: If money was no object and success was guaranteed, what would you do with your life? Are you willing to at least test drive a cute little yellow sports car?

Go ahead! What are you waiting for?

 

 

And Then What?

A kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they drew pictures. Occasionally, she would walk around the room to see each child’s work.

“What are you drawing?” she asked one little girl who was working diligently at her desk.

The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.”

The teacher paused and said, “But no one knows what God looks like.”

The little girl replied, “They will in a minute.”

God must think we’re kind of funny when we try to identify Him or his plans. Or figure out what the platypus is.

I remember several years ago that someone contemplated the vastness of the universe. Imagine, they pondered, that we live in a solar system that we barely know anything about. That solar system is part of a galaxy. In fact, it’s one of several galaxies. And the universe is all of the galaxies. So…you’d think that somewhere out – at the end of all of that – is…a wall. Right?

The question, then, is…What’s on the other side of the wall?

The “other side of the wall” is the stuff that I think God is all about. We have those things we can examine and may some day be able to identify, label, and categorize. But what about the stuff on the “other side of the wall”?

People had ideas of what Messiah would sound like, look like, act like.

Do you think they expected their deliverer to be raised in the home of a carpenter – or in the home of a soldier or politician?

Do you think they expected him to “slum it” with lepers, Samaritans and tax collectors – or with society’s elite?

Do you think they expected him to actually encourage his brothers and sisters to walk the extra mile for the army that oppressed them – or to overturn that same government, to begin an insurrection? 

Do you think they expected him to go to his crucifixion without a hearing or a single protest – or to defend himself and finally rise up to make his stand?

Do you think they expected him to come back to life after three days in the grave?

Now, that is the stuff God’s about! That mind-blowing, are-you-serious, how-is-that-even-possible stuff is absolutely what God is all about. 

The Hebrews knew the stories of God’s miracles and deliverance – the exodus from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, Sarah’s conception of Issac, crazy Noah and his ark, David’s unlikely defeat of Goliath. But even then, they were determined to fit God into a man-designed box. Just like we do today, they considered very human, very limited ways that Messiah would – or could – come to them.

But Messiah didn’t come in a box. He came in a womb.

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“Immanuel…God With Us”

Now, that’s outside the box! But outside the box is exactly what we need because we’re not fighting a war that’s “inside the box.” The war is not about the possession of land or resources.

The battle is for our souls, for eternity.

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For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

And the battle?

But as it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

Like nothing we’ve seen before or can possibly imagine with our five senses and limited imaginations.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. 

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

But how unbelievable is it that God would come to us as a baby – vulnerable and dependent, yet so very embraceable.

God came down to be embraced. (And if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.)

So what has God got planned for us? When he makes a way where there seems to be no way, what will it look like? If it’s like nothing we’ve seen before, if it’s a new thing, it’s going to make the platypus appear logical and mundane. It will have colors and scents that we can’t imagine because we’ve never seen them or smelled them! It will be the stuff on the other side of the cosmic wall, and it will take our breath away and feel like home at the same time.

And I have a feeling that God is looking forward to seeing the look on our face when we see it.

Abba, Father!

I never had a daddy. I had a biological father whom I never met. My mother married my step-father when I was 8 years old, but he ended up being – for lack of a more definitive word – inconsequential. He wasn’t a bad man; he just simply lived in our house. He took up space. I’ve often explained that there was the chair, the couch, Frank and the lamp; we fed Frank and dusted the rest. In short, he was definitely not a daddy.

I’m 53 years old, and I could really use a daddy right now. Someone who could hold me, comfort me, reassure me that things would be fine – that he would do what he could to make sure things would be fine.

3226dd5cc757d77c500e184fc574f42eI’ve just read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog post How to Avoid Wormy Manna” in which she explores God’s daily provision for the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness after being delivered from slavery. In spite of the many miracles they’d seen, they would keep leftovers of manna against God’s instruction. God promised to provide their daily bread, but their doubt drove them to reserve a bit – just in case.

Just in case of what? In case, God forgot about them? In case God ran out of manna? In case God changed his mind about providing for them? In case God got mad and decided to punish them by withdrawing his provision? In case God was a liar?

God was their Abba father, their Jehovah Jireh – our Provider – and His Word is full of scripture that tells us none of these possibilities are realistic concerns.

According to Calling God “Abba, Father” Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling:

“Because we have been adopted into God’s family, we are privileged to call him “Abba, Father.” The word abba is an Aramaic word, one that was used by Jesus himself and echoed in the earliest Christian community, which spoke Aramaic (a language close to Hebrew). Abba was a word used by children for their father, something like “daddy” or “papa” today. But it was also a term of respect used by adult children for their fathers. Thus the word abba richly expresses our relationship with God. We are dependent upon him like little children. We are free to run to him as children run to their daddies. Yet we also offer God the highest respect and adult love.”

Because God is unchanging, we can rest in the security that He is still Abba, Father, Jehovah Jireh to his children. And because I am one of His children, I can lay claim to the promises of my heavenly “daddy.” (If you haven’t read Jennifer Arimborgo’s blog, I really encourage you to check her out at Feeding on Jesus. She has such a delightful, open-armed way of exploring the intimacy our heavenly triune wants to relate to us!)

We can easily criticize the Israelites for hording manna in spite of God’s promises, but only because we have the benefit of having the rest of the story available to us. These Israelites had been born into a world in which they hadn’t been lovingly cared for. They were expendable labor with no intimate care from the Egyptians to whom they were enslaved and on whom they were dependent. Who could blame them for doubting that their next meal was guaranteed? Except God, who else in their lives had loved them enough to truly care about their needs? Who else had cared enough about them to pursue a nurturing relationship?

How many of us who genuinely believe we are children of God, adopted into His family through our belief in the sacrificial death of his Son for the sake of our sins, have not experienced the intimacy of a truly loving daddy like our Abba, Father? Is it not just as challenging for us to trust Jehovah Jireh when He promises that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 ESV when so many of us struggle with the memory of an Earthly father who had limitations to what he could provide. Or worse, lied about, forgot about, or withdrew provision for the sake of punishment?

04b49e49818b8c804f3f9426d2f641a3What I need right now is something I’m not sure I know how to look for. God has unlimited resources. He can do more than I could possibly imagine to secure my future needs and has promised to do so. And yet, I’m anxious that He won’t. Heck, I hate to admit that there’s even a part of me that wonders if He can even if He wanted to. What kind of faith is that? What kind of faith do I have if I believe I need a contingency plan in case God fails me? Is the smallest offering of faith enough for God to honor as Jesus honored Peter’s very short-lived confidence to step out of the boat onto the sea’s roaring waves?

I’m praying that it is.

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WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY DISTURBED!

I love Pinterest! I think it’s great therapy. I can hoard all I want and not need more totes, and I can organize to my heart’s content. But I have two boards that are locked; no one but me can see them. One is Christmas gift ideas. The other is a combination of pins that talk about depression, poor self image, etc. They’re all things that I don’t want anyone to see because each is a part of that place in me that I don’t want anyone to know about.

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Some of you know what that place is like. It’s dark, sad, ugly, desolate and deliberately uninviting. It’s the “What Would People Think?” part of ourselves, and it’s the loneliest place in the world. As you can imagine, the only light is a single, naked bulb hanging in the middle of the room. (Ambience at it’s worst.)

But you know what I’m finding out? A lot of people have a room like this! Sure, some of them might be small closets while others are as large as a ballroom, but I think most of them are just about the same size as any other person’s. So I’m finding out that I’m really no more weird or damaged than the next person. (Although I have to respectfully acknowledge that there are people who have been through so much more than I have been.)

I think genuinely depressed people try very hard to appear happy because if you asked them how they’re doing (in any way other than that socially appropriate, rhetorical way), they might be tempted to tell you. And if they tell you, they might start crying. And if they start crying, they might not stop. And if they can’t stop, you might find out just how broken and frightened they feel. (Kinda sounds like a depressed person’s version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, doesn’t it – but without the cookie, which in itself is depressing.)

b93374320808c392e99e91e03685948dI applaud Brene’ Brown for bringing shame out of the closet. I appreciate Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson for revealing his own bouts with depression. I believe it’s time for mental health to be treated with the same degree of importance as physical health. After all, poor mental health can be life-threatening, too.

It’s one thing to tell children (and adults) that bullying and abuse is wrong. But there are so many victims of abuse and bullying who don’t see the wrongness of being bullied and abused! They don’t see enough value in themselves to make a stand and say enough is enough.

What’s even sadder is that some of those people are born-again, church-attending Christians. They’re children of a mighty God, and they’re living in despair. I know there’s hope, and as long as there’s hope, there can be victory. Christ has secured the victory over sin and He holds the keys to Hell. As Christians, we do not glorify God if we live our lives defeated and hopeless.

We don’t have to wear a fake smile and act like that everything is just peachy. Sometimes it’s hard. Cancer is hard. Financial problems are hard. Unemployment is hard. Depression is hard. Recovery is hard. Life is hard! But we’re not alone, and we’re not without hope and help.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this blog and how I could use it to encourage others. God has put it on my heart to not waste my own experience and to use the talents he’s given me to help others. But I haven’t figured out how. Who knows? Maybe someone else is already doing a good enough job of it, and I am doing this out of boredom or pride.

But here’s what’s on my heart that I want to share:

We are valuable. While we may feel broken or damaged, we’re not – at least not so much that we can’t be put back together as something even more beautiful. We started out valuable simply by being born, and someone perverted our value into something ugly.

We are not alone, even if there’s not another soul in the world who treats us with respect and affection, there is the offer of relationship with God through the sacrificial death of his son, Jesus Christ. But I also know how empty that can sound when we’ve been rejected by people who we can touch and hear. How are we supposed to trust in God when he isn’t physically present?

We are lovable simply because the One who has created us has set us aside for a divine purpose – all of us. But I also know how hard it is to believe that when those who were supposed to love us, nurture us and keep us safe did anything but that.

We are deeply and unimaginably loved by that same God, but how does that love translate into something tangible? It can feel pretty futile to tell ourselves, “but God loves me” when we go home to an empty house and eat lunch alone every day.

Some of you may think I’m looking for pity when I reference my childhood. I can assure you, I’m past that. I believe I’m finally at a place where I can refer to my past without living in it. If it bothers you, this is your warning to walk away while you can. But if you want someone who understands, stay tuned. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to send me right back to my mother’s house. I just don’t stay there as long as I used to!

I don’t want my experience wasted; I’ve wasted enough time with it and I’m done. I know that you can be a Christian and still be far from enjoying the love, approval and victory you signed up for when you gave your life to Christ. Christ didn’t just give you a Get Out of Hell Free card. You’ve been adopted into a whole new family where love and acceptance are abundant. You’ve been given the right to point to the Son of God and say, “I know I don’t deserve to be here, but I’m with Him.”

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Too many of us are still living as a child of Judy, Bob, Maria, David – pick your adult’s name – and are failing to live as a child of God. We’re missing out on the blessing we could be to others. We’re missing out on a radical, abundant, joyful life because we can’t see ourselves the way our Creator sees us. Heck, even other people in our lives see us more favorably than we see ourselves and we can’t even manage to accept their version of us, much less God’s. My husband and girls love me like crazy, and I still don’t get it!

We were created to be glorious reflections of the God who created us and, in doing so, live amazing lives. But we’re not. And attending a church service or listening to a great preacher on television or reading an inspirational book just doesn’t cut it when you walk away thinking, “except for me.” Trust me, this includes you! This is one team for which you won’t get picked last.

So where do we go from here?