Posted in discipleship, God's word, grace, humility, New year, pride, self-absorption, the gospel, transformation by truth

A humble entrance

       As I looked toward this new year, I am overwhelmed.  Yes, we are having a baby (still sounds crazy to say), but that is not until June.  I am seemingly overwhelmed by every task and relationship I face even before the new year rolls.

        This Christmas season has been busy.  We traveled for a full week to Texas, and in our time there my heart was burdened for family and friends.  There was not an extended time to focus on Christ–to be in and savor His word.  I came back feeling empty and defeated.  I began thinking through next week and next semester and the things going on in girl’s lives that I disciple.  There is a lot to prepare for for the future child, but there is so much to be faithful in NOW. 

      As I walk with these 20-something young women, I see the battle is so fierce for their affections.  A day without truth poured in breeds so much falsehood, deception–spaces where the gospel truth is robbed and they fall back into self-reliance and/or guilt.       I reflect back on this fall.  I feel like I have failed these girls because of my complete lack of energy and the intense sickness that I had with pregnancy.  I guess the balancing act begins as I see the struggle between caring for a child (whether in my womb or out) and serving others in the body of Christ!  I want  to be purposeful in planning and taking advantage of this time before the little one enters the world.  I long to run well and faithful–pouring out His truth and honoring Him above all.    Pray for me that I prepare now to help these girls as my life transitions and I lead in ministry. 

       The good thing about the way I am feeling now is that it puts me in a posture of complete need as the new year commences.  Is there ever a time where I am not in need?  Is there ever a time that I can do any of this on my own?  No.  However, there is always a time when I think I can.  There are times when I walk in self-reliance, self-preservation, self-righteousness.  Unfortunately, those times come too often, and I forget that He superintends the growth–He is in charge.  I try to give myself honor instead of Him.  Or I tend to think it is all on my shoulders.  So, yet again, I am reminded that my hope is in the Gospel.  Jesus took the punishment for my self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-righteous pride.  It is finished.  I am to repent of my rebellious ways and cling to Him yet again.  There is such peace in that–such release.   And yet, everything within me fights that truth.   If there is anything I want and need to pass on to these girls, to our children, it is this beautiful way that Christ has made–the Gospel.

       If there is anything that this season of life has taught me, it is that my hope is not in circumstance or people.  My hope is in Christ.  In this time of joy and preparation for a child, it is so easy to get side-tracked from that hope.  Having babies has become like having a wedding.  We are tempted to plan for a nursery or ceremony more than a life and marriage.   More than nurseries or diapers, I have been thinking about the overwhelming task of discipling children, of teaching them a God-entranced worldview.  How do I do that from birth?  If there is anything I want to be faithful in, it is that.  He is so faithful to teach me through these girls that I meet with–to trust and  rest in Him, in His word.

      So, with all the swirling thoughts in my head entering this new year, I pray for a continued reliance on the beautiful Gospel of Grace.  The Lord is so good, and I am in such need.  In my feeble ways, I pray that this year, each day, I point others to the beauty of Christ, the truth of His gospel, and remember it myself.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, humility, insecurity, pride, random thoughts, self-absorption, sin, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

So, I have a confession. When I became a teenager in the late 80s it was en vogue to carry a photo album in your purse. Insecure 13 and 14 year old that I was, one could not tell. My photo album was filled with pictures of me. Jennifer at a wedding, Jennifer with friends cut out of her picture, Jennifer on her “best” side dawned the pages of my photo album. Lucklily my vanity was not privy to the days of facebook to show to all the world! What one needs to know that has not known me all my life is that I had an intense awkward stage from 2nd to halfway through 9th grades. Buck teeth, huge glasses (I see some teenagers wearing them now–not cool!), bad haircuts and perms, and needless to say, an injured self-esteem. The only person who called me on it jokingly? My youth minister, who still takes jabs to this day…as he should.

Fast forward ahem…some years, and I am on the beach late this afternoon. Two 13 to 14 year old girls were in the surf taking pictures; I suppose to put on facebook. They are in bikini tops, short jean shorts and neon wayfarerers—is this 1989? I offer to take their picture together—they ignore me. Yes, I have reached the age that I am inconsequential to teenagers. (I knew that a few years ago, but I tried to ignore it.) These girls were posing–big time. I thought they might have taken in a playboy shoot or two the way they frolicked. All I could think was “oh, those girls are so insecure.” I remembered quickly what it was to be there–always wondering what others thought of them, holding their breath when boys walked by. It is exhausting, and it still sticks with you–just not to the same magnitude, thank goodness.

Much to my frustration, they were in the way of my view. Like most girls that age (well, let’s say all), they were all about themselves. It made me think of a point in John Piper’s

    Don’t Waste Your Life

where he speaks about the fact that one does not go to the Grand Canyon and think about themselves. One goes and is amazed at God’s glory displayed. (The point being this world is about God’s glory and not us. He goes on to explain that being about ourselves is like setting up a hall of mirrors at the Grand Canyon.) Well, these girls were all about the hall of mirrors.

I was sitting amazed at the beauty of God’s creation and the beauty of His majesty displayed and annoyed at the girl’s self-involvement. Then, like a hammer to my head, I knew it was just like me now. Yes, I am more socially acceptable in serving others and thinking about others, but the kingdom of self gets a lot of attention in my life. There is a huge part of me that is still like that gangly, braced faced, frizzy haired, paranoid teenage girl. Wow, God is so good to adopt me, call me His own, and put His Spirit in me to guide me. There are parts of me that are more like a six year old in freedom of being who I am, but there is this battle with my inner 14 year old everyday.
Were it not for His grace, I would stay 14. He loves me too much to leave me there. So, I could be prideful and say, “wow, those girls have a lot of growing up to do,” or I can face the fact humbly that I have a lot of growing up to do. I ask myself, what are the photo albums of self in my life right now? Please show me, Lord, that I might die to self and live to Christ!

Posted in authenticity, comparison, eternal things, pride, trusting God

Bloom where you’re planted.

Oh, the curse of being a woman–comparison. “If I just had her style, her family, her husband, her job, her finances, her mom and dad, her disposition, her body type and metabolism, her freedom, her city…” I could go ON and ON. Why do we torture ourselves? We dare to compare every hour of the day.
Contentedness is a choice and a gift to be guarded. We make excuses and wish our life away to be somebody else while not dealing with who we are made to be and where we are planted. It is funny how the smallest things tip my scale from content to downright crazy with covetousness.

“Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”
Oh, how I have to talk myself down from the ledge with the truth of what REALLY matters. Then, I have to humble myself in the truth to remember that I am not one upping someone else by thinking on things that really matter. That is another form of cancerous comparison. The One we are called to compare ourselves to and follow is Christ. I have to be renewed in the truth of the gospel, in my identity in Him, in my calling for this life, and in the reward of eternity–DAILY.
What is hilarious about women is that we are so self-conscious around each other a lot of times feeling less than or trying to one up that we forget that we are cut out of the same mold. That is, we are all feeling a lot of the same things. Instead of being honest about where we really are, we play the game. We worry about styles and houses, kids and how they are perceived, our husbands and how they are perceived, our choice of staying home or working and how that is perceived, etc. etc. etc. We could actually encourage one another and build each other up in our weakness. YES–everyone around you is struggling with the same concept possibly with a different spin.
I will be vulnerable and tell you one of my struggles. (You are thinking, infertility–duh!) Actually, this is a much more worldly, vain struggle–our house. We live in a 40+ year old house in a plain neighborhood with older people around. It is not historic or flashy. It is in a very convenient location. I am pretty frugal, and I have enjoyed piecing hand me downs and new things together. I probably have a cottage kind of style. I like to paint, so I have a lot of my paintings around. People have described my house as homey. My Mom’s house would probably have that same feel of homey.

When I am at my house, I feel so blessed beyond measure that we can invite people into our home to fellowship, etc. Where I get the discontentment is when I go to other’s houses. Most people I know have newer houses and/or live in “more desirable” neighborhoods. It is easy to get the comparison meter out and think–“I’d be embarrassed to invite them to my house.” I HATE this about myself.

For those who know me, I am a pretty confident person–this is an area of weakness in that confidence. I will admit, it is an area of SIN. I am comparing myself to others, worrying about what they will think about things that really do not matter, and I am being ungrateful to the tremendous blessings God has given us. I forget that I am called to be satisfied in Him alone. This area also impedes my giving and hospitality to others and loving them well. I would tell someone else that they are ridiculous for thinking this–but I think it myself.

I have to preach little sermons to myself about what my calling is–to love others with the love and truth of Christ. In that calling, it does not matter if I am wearing a trash bag or live in a tent. It does not matter if people think my style is cool and complement me.

Girls–we gotta trust Him and remember to bloom where we are sovereignly planted. May I remember today to not trust in houses or personality or circumstances or body type. May I remember to trust in the name of the LORD my God. May I be fulfilled in Him, and may he shake me awake when I start the comparison game all over again!

Posted in pride, random thoughts, self-absorption, spiritual growth, thankfulness, transformation by truth

How the corner was turned…

For those of you who have known me for any amount of time, you know that I have never loved Wal-mart. It brought the dread of fingernails on a chalkboard for me to venture there–crowds of families of 10 standing in the middle of aisles, small aisles. It’s like people get stupid when they walk in the doors standing in the middle of aisles, staring at product. I much preferred Target’s wide aisles, cool product, and sense of cleanliness.
In the last couple of years, it has become a necessity to be a part of the Wal-mart adventure because of finances. They really are cheaper. There are very few things that they are more expensive on. So, I would gather my strength and go early on Mondays. I did not like it, but I knew it was wise. It became part of my regular routine.
Over the year, I have come to dread it less. In fact, I do not even complain anymore. I, gulp…, kind of like it now. The main reason is not because of the low prices or convenience. The main reason is because of something that God has done in my heart.
There are so many places in my life right now that people make me feel comfortable, look like me, sound like me, speak my language (literally and figuratively). That can get claustrophobic. That can make you pretty selfish. That is not reality.
When I walk into Wal-mart, God says to my heart, “look around, see those hurting, living life in need, wanting to be noticed.” I see people from all different nationalities, all socioeconomic levels, living in all kinds of drama or boredom. I have had opportunities to smile, interact, pray, share with those alone and in need. Not every time have I taken the opportunity to live outside of myself, but when I prepare my heart to be open, God has blessed me with humility and brokenness over the needs of others.
This is gross, but I think I used to think I was above Wal-mart. Then, again, I am reminded of the Gospel. Christ condescended to us–messy, crowded hearts, full of drama and boredom, haters. He walked into our lives and loved us physically, emotionally, spiritually. He reached out to the least of these calling for us to repent and follow Him. There may be no other place in my life where it is more real to carry the message of the Gospel than to my neighborhood Wal-mart. Pretty amazing what God can teach us in the everyday. Pretty amazing that He shows me that I am exactly like everyone else in there–in need and sometimes clueless to my need. When I left Wal-mart last week, I left with a joy in my heart and thankfulness for His mercy. I did not see that one coming!

Posted in authenticity, infertility, pride

No packages here…

This continues to be an intense season of pain, and truthfully, I do not like it. Yesterday, God brought me to a place where I had to cry out for help to be able to process the pain in some way. My tears that flow easily for the pain of others do not flow easily for my individual pain. I texted my friend Beth that I was cry constipated. There is this burning sorrow within me that I know needs to be experienced or I am going to totally shut down. (She suggested a sappy hallmark movie to get the tears flowing.)
It is ironic that in the month that I felt a peace in taking time off of our infertility treatments, I have the most intense sadness. What do I want? Well…I want the pain to go away. That is the immediate want. I want to live my life devoid of the emotions of sadness and anger that seem to be plaguing my heart. “God, could you do that so I can get on about your business?” What I am learning…this is His business…this process of sadness and barrenness and lack of whys to explain everything away. He does not work in the way that I want Him to work. He is so much wiser and has a much better purpose than making me feel better about life–a deeper truer life-changing purpose.
I sat with a dear friend who is heartbroken last week, and finally admitted that the older I get the more messy life gets. Messy in that I cannot package a “why” for everything–even in retrospect. It makes me feel safe to try to figure God out…”oh, He is doing this so He can do this and so this will happen…and He gets the most glory this way because life is about His glory.” I do know His word says that we are to live to glorify Him and that He is making us more like Him progressively…and He is the victor. However, things along the way are not that neat because of a little thing called sin–the consequences of it played out in this world–in my heart–in families–in my womb. I realize as well that I am afraid of other’s reaction to my pain…I would rather package it neatly with an answer than to have to experience people not knowing what to say or running away or saying something hurtfully stupid.
I finally admitted to myself and God that I want a biological child, and the longer this thing goes and we get to the end of treatments, the more the reality of that seems bleak. I want to be able to shoulder all of this with a good neat attitude, but I am a bit of a mess. And, I am learning that God wants me to be a mess in Him–sharing my heart–walking with Him.
So, if you came today to read a neatly packaged story of life to gain a tidbit of wisdom–I am sorry. This is the work He is doing–and this is me not quite understanding it.

Posted in pride, respectable sins, Uncategorized

Pride: In the Name of Love, Part 2

The last two types of pride hit at the very core of American Westernized Culture.  We are taught to work hard (pride of achievement)–“you can be anything…you have it within yourself to conquer all that needs to be conquered.” We are also taught independence (pride of independent spirit)–“do not let anyone tell you what to do…stand up for yourself…you do not need anyone else.”3)  Pride of Achievement

  This pride of achievement looks to ourselves to work hard and attributes our success to ourselves and not God.  Bridges questions if there is anything we have that we did not receive.  God gave us our intellect, our skills and abilities, talents, health, opportunities.  When we live thinking they are our own, we are in pride.  He speaks about boasting in overtly proud ways and in subtle ways in which we want to be proud but not appear so.  He does remind us from the Proverbs and other places that our diligent effort is required (he does not want us to be slothful), but that He gave us the stuff to succeed.  It is a sin to not acknowledge the gracious blessings of God.  He also talked about an inordinate desire for recognition.  He asked several questions: 

1.  What is your attitude when you do a good job and do not get recognition?

2.  Are you willing to labor in obscurity as unto the Lord? 

Thinking about this takes me back to a conversation I had around the time of graduation from high school.  I was in the Gondolier restaurant in Athens talking with my boyfriend, Ken.  I had filled out a sheet in a Bible study of where I wanted to be in  ten years and  so on.  This conversation haunts me because I felt so assured and righteous in what I said, and, yet, I was dripping with pride.  I remember saying, “I do not know what I want to be doing, but I want people to look up to me and respect me greatly.”  It makes me sick to think that I thought I was so genuine and godly in saying that.  Gross.  Yet, there are times when that same attitude wells up in me now.  Am I willing to labor in obscurity for the Lord?  Do I live as unto Him or men? (Galatians 1:10)  Can I perservere without praise or recognition from man?  I am one of those people who does what the boss says and gladly.  A people pleaser at heart, I struggle when I get no feedback.  That is definitely a place where I have to die to myself and live to Christ.

 

4)  Pride of Independent Spirit

 My Great Aunt Sarah was 4’10” tall and was one of the sassiest people I have ever known.  I think I would rather meet Shaq in an argument than contend with her wrath!  She never married, and she was very successful in her work.  I do not think she ever said a negative thing about me—if you were in her clan, you were good to go.  She used to talk about carrying your bat with you.  In other words, you do whatever you want to do and let people know what you stand for and to get out of your way!  I threw a few curve balls into family meals when I was in high school and college because I took the path of resistance more than the path of least resistance.  Those pep talks from her encouraged me, but I can also see where I also mounted up in that independent spirit to say “who cares, I am going to do what I am going to do.”   Sometimes that attitude can be used for strength to perservere when going against the crowd for the pursuit of Christ, but it can also be filled with sin.   

The reality is that we need others, and God calls us to a life of dependence on Him instead of independence.  Bridges calls out several ways that this pride rears its head–

1.  a resistance to authority (spiritual authority) 

2.  an unteachable attitude

He uses examples of interns coming into the Navigators organization thinking that they know a lot better than people who have done it for a long time.  I shrunk thinking of attitudes I have had.  

God has set up systems of authority.  He sees the reality of our hearts as to how we submit or buck authority.  The way we treat the goverment or a boss or our parent speaks to the reality of our heart and trust toward God.  EEEEK.  

Another way we show pride is whether we are willing to be taught from His word or go from our own opinion above it.  If we disagree and close our ears to things that make us uncomfortable in His word versus being willing to pray and grapple with it, we have shown pride in our hearts.

The temptation is to think about others when we look at this.  We are so quick to point that finger…that reminds me of_______, or THEY really struggle with ______and need to read this.  Our pride grows in that.  Through reading this chapter, I have seen myriad places in my life where sin blossoms.  I pray that we all look and ask God to search us and examine those places and refine us to His son’s character.  It is scary, but it is so good.  I simply am reminded that He is my Father and is faithful to me despite my pride.  He takes it a step further to graciously grow me and remind me of His love and transforming power.   

Posted in pride, respectable sins, Uncategorized

Respectable sins: Pride

Ugh…Pride.  What I love and hate about this book is that I am nailed every time in my sin.  I love that Bridges gets to places that are so acceptable and shows us lovingly where we are spurring one another on in sin instead of love and good deeds, but I hate at the same time seeing the endlessness of my sin.  I am reminded that the gospel is true and applied there–I must remember the character and beauty and reality of his grace.  Then, I am reminded that it is not about my “righteousness” before Him or “paying Him back” but His AMAZING GRACE and love that grow me. Bridges speaks of 4 types of pride.  It is funny how the Holy Spirit had already been revealing some of these things to me in my spirit, but I did not have a way to describe or name them. The four types:

 1)  Pride of moral self-righteousness 

2)  Pride of correct  doctrine

3)  Pride of achievement

4)  Pride of independent spirit

This serves as a warning…if you do not want to be convicted, stop reading.  However, I have seen the beauty and goodness of the Lord by being convicted.   In the moment of conviction, I see the pitifulness of my “self-righteous” thoughts and acts and the beauty of his grace.  Then, I am reminded that I am a branch and He is the Vine–living life truly is remaining in Him for apart from Him I can do nothing (John 15). This will be a quick overview of types of pride, and, as always, I encourage you to read the book. 1) Moral Self-Righteousness

 This kind of pride expresses itself in a feeling of moral superiority in respect to others.  Believers and non-believers alike experience this.  We see ourselves fall into this when we begin to talk about society and what it is becoming.  Any area where we feel better than someone else shows this whether it be about the environment or adultery, homosexuality, abortion or our finances.  In other words, we are all nailed in some way. 

He does encourage ways to guard against it–which is another reason I love this book.  He doesn’t condemn in his pride, but spurs us on toward examining our hearts and growing in dependent holiness.  

One way to guard our hearts is to foster an attitude of humility by remembering that “there but for the grace of God go I.”  There is nothing that we would not be capable of put in the right situation, and we must cling to Christ and His grace to guard our hearts.  For with pride comes a fall.  

This makes me think of marriage.  People do not plan to engage in  adultery when they  are getting married (except for Julia Boulia’s husband to be in “The Wedding Singer”), but adultery plagues marriages everywhere.  Before we got married, Greg and I saw a lot of marriages struggling.  It was sobering to me.  I was “down right” freaked out, and I knew that if it could happen to them it could to us, as well.  We made a decision together to have couple friends with good boundaries and to not have opposite sex friends.  Both of us had good opposite sex friends before marrying, but we had seen the dangers played out in lives around us.  We were trying to save ourselves from the consequences in the future of something that seemed like a right to be able to do now because “there but for the grace of God go I.”  Some have not understood our decision, but it has already served as a safeguard to our marriage in the last few years.  It is not something that I look on and say that we have down pat…I look at it with fear and a guard on my heart that I could just as easily be there  and I must cling to Christ.

 2)  Pride of Correct Doctrine

  This is the assumption that whatever your doctrinal beliefs are, they are correct and anyone who holds another belief is theologically inferior.  He spoke of Arminian, Calvinist, to views of end times, to ecletic theology to thinking that theology is not important and looking down upon those who do.  Again, he gets us all in this.

This is where God had already been tugging at my heart and showing me uncomfortable places in myself.  I am very passionate about God’s word and studying it well and in the whole and seeing what it was written for and not just our feeling about a particular verse or set of verses.  I have been reminded by God lately that anything I know about Him or His word is because of His grace toward me.  

This point made me a bit uncomfortable, as well, because of the post-modern hermuenutic of life and the Bible.  Bridges used a great example of Paul talking to the Corinthians (1 Cor 8) about eating food sacrificed to idols.  They asserted that they had liberty to eat food sacrificed to idols.  Paul rebuked them, not because of wrong doctrine but because they had pride regarding the doctrine.  

1 Corinthians 8:1  “Now concerning food offered to idols:  we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’  This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.”

Those who have read anything of Paul know that he is very concerned about right thinking about Christ and the gospel and practice in the church, etc.  In fact, all of his letters are explicit about correcting error.  However, he is just as concerned about the attitude in which that is communicated and thought of in the heart.  

Lately, I have found myself getting angry and frustrated more and more that people would see the truth and the fullness of God’s word forgetting it was His grace that taught me in the first place.  His grace opens my heart and eyes to see truth, and He works that way in others, too.  There is a way to move forward in truth in a genuine spirit of humility.  

I read blogs–sometimes way too many.  A lot of blogs I read are about doctrinal differences.  I have stopped reading some because of the attitude in which they are written.  I found that some of them began to spread an attitude in me that I did not like.  I did not disagree, per say, with the opinion, but I did disagree with the manner with which it is shared.  My prayer is that daily I would lay my heart before the Father and share the Truth in love in genuine humility.   There are many I disagree with vehemently about some issues, but I must remember that some of those are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  

I have to keep a close check on my spirit.  In a day like today, where anyone who proposes that their beliefs are truth, one is seen as arrogant.  We will be hated, Jesus said.  So, it is an internal check to see where our hearts are as far as humility verses pride.  May He increase and I decrease.