life of faith

taking baby steps & leaps & everything in between


4 Comments

We Will in All Things Grow Up

I met two wonderful women last night over Starbucks beverages and a tiny round table to catch up on life and discuss Ephesians 4. Ashlee and Rebecca are part of a slightly larger girls’ group we had going on for a few months several months ago. Ashlee started the group for the purpose of fellowship and accountability between us crazy women in our 20’s; we all just clicked, and it has been great laughing together, reading the Bible and applying it together, and praying together.

Unfortunately, life gets hectic and there have been a few months where it has just not worked out — but we started up our fledgling group again last night and I am so thankful for women I can learn and grow with.

Ephesians 4 gave us a lot to talk about. It starts out very broad and yet very challenging:

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Eph. 4:1, NIV, emphasis mine)

Paul, what a guy. I always admire how he is able to weave motivation throughout his words. I sometimes read a sentence of Paul’s letters and all of a sudden feel like I’ve found the key to Christianity and the energy to fulfill my life’s purpose. He was a great servant of the Lord.

Most of the chapter details, then, what a life worthy of our calling looks like. The main themes are love, patience, honesty, unity, and maturity. This verse is one of my favorites lately:

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15, NIV, emphasis mine)

Maybe it’s because I’m at the age where I want to grow up. Not turn 27, or 28, or even [I don’t want to think about it] 30, but I want to be mature. I want to be a good, sound wife, and I want to be the kind of woman who sets an example for her kids (which means I have to work on myself now before I have them). I want to be a reliable, dependable, trustworthy friend, a helpful and compassionate daughter, a caring and insightful sister, etc. I want to learn, learn, learn — absorb all things, take criticism well & grow from it, be brave and venture into new experiences. I want to hear what I’m doing wrong. There’s no time better than today to address it.

I invite you, from casual blog visitors to my closest friends and family, to speak the truth in love to me. I want to hear it.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Eph. 4:25, NIV, emphasis mine)

Why? Because we belong to one another. We function best in unity. We glorify God when we are lovingly honest in true relationship with one another.

This really convicted me. I hate conflict and I try to be as easy-going as possible, yet of course, because I’m human, things bother me. People are human around me, and humanity can sometimes just be ugly and disgusting, or at the very least, annoying. I tend to harbor these thoughts and feelings, thinking that the longer I stuff the negative thoughts further back in my brain, they’ll eventually, blissfully, disappear. Not true. They don’t. Wouldn’t it be easier, for me and for them, if I were to be honest from a place of love, instead of secretly hating this or that thing they do? Obviously this takes discernment, but I bet there is at least one thing in each of our hearts/minds that we have been harboring towards another person that would be better spoken in love.

And of course, possibly the most challenging of all the verses in the entire chapter is this one:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29, NIV, emphases mine)

Oh goodness. Our current pastor once asked: if someone recorded every single thing you said throughout the day, including times when you are alone in your car or talking in confidence to your spouse, and played it back – would it be representative of Christ? Would it be an example of Christianity? What a challenge. I fail at this probably every day. It’s something to think and pray about – and maybe it would be helpful to become slower to speak, to think about what I say before it comes tumbling out of my mouth.

Finally, love…

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph. 4:2-3, 31-32)

Advertisements


1 Comment

For Women Only — but Men Should Read This, Too.

I’m sure no other women struggle with perpetual low self-esteem, bouts of insecurity, and occasions of self-hatred…

…right?

Well, during my Sick Week, I caught up on my Beth Moore Breaking Free study, and this week was all about girlhood (the word I’m going to use for girls’ childhood) dreams. As you can see in the my previous entry (“Dreams”), Beth believes that God longs not just to fulfill, but to surpass our dreams. I’m gonna try not to write too much of what Beth writes, because if you really want to read what she wrote you can just pick up Breaking Free, but I do want to share an important lesson that changed my viewpoint this week.

Beth listed four common girlhood dreams: (1) to be a bride, (2) to be beautiful, (3) to be fruitful, and (4) to live happily ever after. I know some feminists (including me) might flinch at that list, but bear with me/her… out of all of them, I most strongly believe every woman deeply desires to be found beautiful. And this week I saw how it begins at a very early age.

It struck me when I was getting Emma, who is 3 years old, ready for school on Thursday morning. It was the day of her preschool’s Valentine’s Day party, so her mom had laid out a beautiful red dress, tights with red bows on them, sparkly red dress shoes, and a couple of red hair bows to choose from. I don’t know if you were like me when I was little, but one of my favorite things to do was to dress up. I think a lot of girls love dressing up, even though a half an hour later all you want to do is take the tights and shoes OFF…

Anyway, I got teared up after I put her dress on and as I sat her on my lap to put her tights on; I was just thinking about how neat it is to have a little girl to share the joy of dressing up with. And it really hit me that she was growing up because she was excited to look special and pretty. I was also touched because it was so innocent — there were no thoughts in her head that she was ugly, that she wouldn’t be as pretty as another little girl, that it was no use dressing up, that the dress makes her look fat, etc. She felt like and probably truly believed that she was a princess because she didn’t have any doubts that she was beautiful. I helped her put her shoes on over her tights as the finishing touch. Then she jumped up and immediately asked for the red bow to complete her outfit.

I took her into the bathroom and brushed her hair and put the bow in, and I told her over and over again how pretty she looked. As I spoke those words over her, she glowed. She couldn’t hold her smile in.

Every girl longs to be found beautiful. And we carry it with us throughout our lives. At 75 years old, we will still want to be admired, sought after, desired, enchanting…

Yet Beth writes, and every woman in America knows, that our inherent beauty has been attacked. Advertising, eating disorders, abnormal models, airbrushing, celebrities, plastic surgery, PORNOGRAPHY… the list makes me sick. Because I know I, and many women I love, have been deeply affected by it.

I will admit on here that I very, very personally and secretly struggle with the most intense self-hatred. I don’t believe this comes anywhere but from Satan (I know that sounds very abrupt and maybe a little off-putting, but I believe it’s the truth; it’s certainly not from God and I definitely don’t have people whispering hateful things in my ear all day). If you asked me one thing on my body that I liked about myself, I would probably answer my eyes… and if you asked me to name a second thing, I wouldn’t have an answer. That is the honest truth. I don’t admit it very much, or at all, to anybody. And therefore, Satan likes to use it very much. So hopefully declaring it on here will help a little.

I spend way too much time thinking about the physical things about me that I hate and wish were different. I don’t believe that I am beautiful. I might feel beautiful for several minutes a year. I know that isn’t healthy, but it feels like I can’t help it! I don’t know if any other women identify with that.

And let me tell you, being in a loving and caring relationship doesn’t fix it. If anything, it intensifies the insecurities. Dayne was not meant to solve that problem for me. God is.

So back to when I did this study this past week… I really struggled with the lesson. Beth tells us to read Song of Songs because it is a reflection of our relationship with God, our ultimate Lover. Well, I believe that, but my feelings of insecurity and unloveliness are SO deep-rooted that I come cynical even to Biblical truth. But she kept pushing it. Song of Songs 2 and 4. She had us list all the terms of endearment in those chapters, and then every phrase that uses the word “beautiful”. I’ll share my answers:

“my darling… my beautiful one… my dove… my bride… my sister… my beautiful one (2x)… how beautiful you are… oh, how beautiful… all beautiful you are”

Imagine if someone kept repeating that to you! I’d at least blush 🙂

Then she had us examine Song of Songs 2:1-2:

Beloved: “I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” Lover: “Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.”

Beth uses this to point out that the Beloved believed she was beautiful because her Lover found her beautiful. He became her “mirror”.

Alright, alright. My heart was beginning to soften to the idea that God truly does find me beautiful. Not “okay”, not “attractive”, but beautiful. Then towards the end of the study that day, Beth made this point:

“Being beautiful to Christ does not make me want to be less attractive… On the contrary, I am freer to look my best without feeling the bondage that I should look better.” (emphasis mine)

That is the key! We can rest in our relationship with Him. He is the Ultimate Lover of our souls. We will be with Him for eternity, and He is delightfully waiting for us. No one can take His love away from us. As I’ve started to realize this truth, my self-criticism has begun to quiet down. I’m not completely rid of it, and I think it will be a life-long process, but Satan shuts up when confronted with God’s truth. I finally feel some peace, and I’m beginning to see the truth of this verse as well:

“Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.” – Ecclesiastes 8:1

Christ makes me beautiful! As I find deeper satisfaction and grow more in Him, I will naturally exude God’s light and beauty. We are made in His image.

I will say I was blessed, because after reading all of this on Wednesday, I was just really hating my hair that day. I kind of hate my hair everyday, but that day I was particularly hating it. Then Dayne came over and, without me saying a word to him about it, kept telling me he loved my hair. Over and over again. Like a lot. His words touched my deepest insecurity that day.

Dayne could do that every day and I would still struggle. And the reality is that he’s not going to do that everyday. It was a blessing that day and it brought joy to my heart, but my fulfillment will not be in Dayne or any other man or in marriage. It will be through my relationship with God Himself. Beth touches on this as well: “Married women with common frustrations: Give your spouse room to be human. Forgive him for not being God. Forgive him for not always saying what you need to hear. The King is enthralled by your beauty.” Have you heard that before?

“The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord.” – Psalm 45:11

Oh, how I wish every woman would read this and know that God loves her and finds her beautiful! I pray that God will use this entry to touch your heart. He finds you perfect. Look to Him.

“…Let your mirror image be the face of Christ. To Him, the most beautiful woman on earth is the bride who steadily makes herself ready for her Groom.” – Beth Moore


1 Comment

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Jail.

I find so many interesting things through Twitter… really.

John Piper (Christian author & pastor) posted on Twitter this morning with a link to a letter that Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a jail in Birmingham in 1963.  He mentioned that Stephen Oates (I had to look him up – Wikipedia says that he was a history professor at UMass Amherst and wrote a biography of MLK Jr.) called it “the most eloquent expression of the movement”.  I looked forward to reading it all morning.

Came home, read it, and … wow.  I mean, I’m challenged by Martin Luther King, Jr. at the outset.  But this letter really got me and made me think.  How would I respond if injustice showed up on my doorstep?  Would I be an advocate of mediocrity, the status quo, or the way things are… or would I rise above it?  Would I even think twice?  I overlook small injustices and distant injustices all the time.  It’s overwhelming to think of all the injustices in the world, yet they exist…

So I’m going to let these quotes, my favorites from the letter, sink in… (followed by my questions for myself in Italics):

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…  Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”

Am I far more attached to being “comfortable” than doing what is right?  How am I being dismissive?  How am I representing the Church?

“…Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label.  Was not Jesus an extremist for love… Amos an extremist for justice… Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel… Was not Martin Luther an extremist… and John Bunyan… and Abraham Lincoln… and Thomas Jefferson…  So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. … Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

Am I being an extremist?  If so, what am I being an extremist for?  If not, WHY not?

“Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ.  But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists. … If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.” (emphasis mine)

I have seen the neglect and pickiness and pettiness that sometimes exists in the church when confronted with social issues.  I was in disbelief a few years ago when I learned that many churches were late to address the AIDS pandemic because of its association with sexual sin.  Thankfully, I go to a church now that I believe does its best to seek and follow the call of God in response to its community and the world.  But I strongly agree with King’s statements.  The church ceases to be the Church when it overlooks suffering.  BUT… the hard question is… how do I respond to suffering?

I have no desire to be a part of a social club (who needs it?).  I want to be involved in a movement for Jesus Christ and His love for the world.  But it really does start with me… you can’t move with a group if you aren’t going the same direction.

And so, I take this gentle reminder to reorient myself, to repent of my mediocrity, and to take a step forward.

[see MLK Jr.’s full letter here]