Archive | October 2012

Divine Interruptions

I’m a little stuck in my Ecclesiastes study right now, so I thought I’d take a break and travel down a different path than where I’ve been writing from. Since we finished up our Jonah study, and it’s unlikely I will be able to make the final meeting, I thought it would be appropriate to write about what I took from that study…what my own personal “divine interruption” is and how I’m progressing.

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3 ESV)

The story of Jonah is not so unlike my life. Jonah runs away from God because he doesn’t want to go to Nineveh. In a similar way, I have spent most of my life running from something. Insecurity used to have a huge hold on me, and kept me from fully embracing who I am. As a kid, I felt inferior around those I deemed were “better” than me. In fact, that attitude persisted a lot longer than it should have. It led me to make some really bad decisions, and not have the confidence to be completely comfortable in myself. At the time, I did not have a relationship with God, and often sought out acceptance in the wrong places.

When I became a Christian, I was a huge Angela Thomas fan. Our church started a support group for single moms and we read “My Single Mom Life”. I loved her down to earth style of writing and felt compelled to buy every Angela Thomas book I could find. One day, I came across a book and journal study called “Do You Think I’m Beautiful”, and while I totally disregarded the whole premise of God finding me beautiful or having a ‘romance’ with me, I bought it anyway and promptly filed it away in my nightstand.

In January of 2009, I was at a pretty low place in my life. I remembered the book and began reading and going through the workbook. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed this study to better understand the patterns in my life. It seemed that a lot of my poor decisions were related to my negative self-esteem. The study was eye opening and addictive, and landed me in the pastor’s office on a couple of occasions, as I tried to come to terms with everything I was learning about myself!

By the end of the study, I felt confident in God’s love and that He did see me as beautiful. I was passionate about Bible study and became very involved in the women’s ministry in my church. I knew I was being called to help other people overcome their self-esteem issues and become empowered by Christ’s love. The problem was that while I felt changed, I wasn’t comfortable showing everyone that I was a “new creation”. It wasn’t intentional, but I was almost living a double life – I acted “Christian” around “Christian” people, and “normal” around everyone else. I truly wanted people to see Christ in me, but He wasn’t shining through me in the manner He deserved.

But, God wasn’t finished with me….

When I started the Jonah study this fall, I wasn’t sure what “divine interruption” was taking place in my life. I considered that it was being single, but that’s been my life; it’s all I’ve known, hardly an “interruption”. I prayed about it and started getting to know people at my new church. It then became clear… God was telling me that I need to be who He has created me to be, all of the time, to everyone!

I always considered myself to be “real” and “open”, but I became aware that I was afraid to show the “world” that I was a completely sold-out Jesus freak, and afraid to share my story with Christians who seemed to have it all together. In other words, I was “real” and “open” when it was safe, but mostly afraid to completely step out of the box to glorify God and let Him work through me.

This Jonah study, along with the well timed encouragement of friends, has really helped me come out of my shell. Not only do I know God loves me and has a great plan for my life, I’m willing to let Him use me in any way He desires, even if it’s scary! This isn’t to say that I won’t have periods of self-doubt or insecurity in myself or where He’s leading me, but I am committed to follow Him wherever He leads, even if that means I have to go to Nineveh!

Usually I close with scripture, but today I want to close with a passage from my favorite children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. Oh, I have always loved the words of the Skin Horse; such wisdom!! I look forward to a day where we can all be “real” and be exactly who God made us to be, without condemnation, guilt, or shame!

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

A Fool and Her Mouth – Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

“Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business, and a fool’s voice with many words.

When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 ESV).”

These verses have intimidated me for a few weeks now, but it’s finally time to tackle them. Honestly, I’m not sure exactly where this blog is going to go… You see, I’m going through a period in my life right now where I’m trying to become more peaceful regarding who I am. I have become more open about myself to people who might not understand; I have shared my writing with my Facebook friends; I’m working to be completely confident in my thoughts, feelings, and actions. As a result, which I’m sure won’t come as too much of a shock to anyone who knows me well… I am being constantly reminded that I use a lot of words!

“Therefore let your words be few…a fool’s voice (comes) with many words; when…words grow many, there is vanity.” Oh boy… Am I a fool, or what? Thankfully, the commentary and the context of these verses make me feel a little better. The fool here is one who provides “lip-service” for the sake of looking spiritual, when in reality, their heart is far from God. The commentary says, “Sincerity, by contrast, is to be the mark of the Christian.” Phew! I’m sincere, so that makes me feel better….

One important takeaway from this passage is that our words and actions should be consistent. We should strive to always do what we say we’re going to do, and never promise something we have no business making, or worse yet, no intention of fulfilling. We have been studying the book of Judges in church, and a couple of weeks ago, our sermon was about how Jephthah made a vow with God that wasn’t particularly well thought out (Judges 11). Being unfamiliar with this story prior to hearing it, I must admit that I struggled with this sermon, and still do not completely understand everything. However, one thing is perfectly clear – it is of vital importance to clearly think through the promises we make to the Lord!

The commentary makes some other excellent points regarding when to speak and when to listen. The Bible says “Hear, O Israel” rather than “Speak, O Israel”. Jesus also says “He who has ears, let him here” rather than “She who has a mouth, let her speak.” There are many contemporary expressions that go along with this… My personal favorite is “Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver.”

I am comfortable joking about the fact that I am verbose, but I do strive to use my words wisely for building relationships and encouraging others, rather than for tearing people down and being hateful. I pray that my words, while sometimes plentiful, serve to show my love for God and for others. As Ecclesiastes 3:7 mentioned, there is “a time to be silent, and a time to speak.”

But, sometimes I speak too much… I know this; I don’t always want to take it seriously, but it’s an ever present reality. It’s definitely a societal ailment to embrace noise over silence. But, there is a time for silence…

I have a verse on the wall above the television in my living room. It says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still (Exodus 14:14).” In the ESV, the latter part is translated “you have only to be silent”. I need reminder of this truth….every day, every second, which is why this was the first scripture to adorn my walls.

I strive to be a Christian who revers God and remains in constant awe of His power and mercy. I pray that I am not found guilty of turning God into a false god, a construct of my selfishness, which seeks to promote my own will, rather than His amazing plans for my life. In order to live the life He desires for me, I must keep His greatness (of which I fall incredibly short) at the forefront of my worship, and that requires me to be silenced and humbled by His presence. It also requires me to be patient with His plan, as I am His work in progress, and will not be perfected overnight.

Love God, love people, daily surrender, completely trusting in His plan…. Yeah, that’s what it’s all about!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14)”