I’m above that, but wouldn’t admit it.

28 Apr

Have you ever been in a situation where someone was literally choking on their self-righteousness?

I’m going to be straight with you.  We have ALL struggled with this at some time in our life.  And I am absolutely no different.  There are times when I’ve thought I was better than other people.  Times when I thought I knew more scripture or knew my Bible better.  Times when I thought I was more spiritual than my own husband.

Please don’t get the impression that I ever write from a place of innocence.  Ha.  Actually, I literally just laughed out loud.  Innocent. That’s a good one.

I’ve never been shy in admitting my sin and the truth that last year God allowed Satan to sift some nasty things from my life.  Some things I knew I was hiding or holding on to, some things I had absolutely NO IDEA were even in there (as in, from my childhood) and other things I didn’t realize were a problem.

I’m not ok with the road I’ve been down.  I’m not sure I ever will be.  But I am learning to worship and praise God from the depths of my soul for taking the failings of my life to refine and mold something new that is actually beautiful and useful for me (and HIM) in the future.

The uncomfortableness of this mess though is that we can come face to face with someone who is incredibly self-righteous toward us and they don’t even see it.  I’m in this boat.

It’s easy to feel anger toward the self-righteous because their self-righteousness keeps ripping open our scabs that are starting to heal. We keep bleeding over and over again with their judgment and ridicule.  Their finger-pointing does not lead to healing, repentance, holiness or godliness.  It leads to shame, guilt, hiding and the temptation to sin all over again in picking up bitterness toward them.

Sometimes others make open handed comments about our hearts.  Blunt statements that they have absolutely no clue about because they’ve never talked to us about the matter at hand, and can truly have no idea what has happened in our hearts.

Praise God almighty that we answer to HIM and He’s accessible 24/7.  His mercies are new every morning and He sees the instant heart change.  He recognizes true confession and repentance and His forgiveness is instant.  And in this redemption process, we don’t owe any humans any explanation except, “I’m a sinner, But God restored me.” That’s it.

I write this today as an encouragement to you reading.

If someone is being self-righteous toward you, take a step back from them and find a quiet place to pray.  I know this sounds tongue-in-cheek because we’re talking about some actions and words that can cut us to our core but the truth is, they really have no idea what they’re doing.  Self-righteousness blinds us from our own failures and sin and convinces us that it’s our right and duty to play Holy Spirit for someone else and make sure they feel convicted.  We think we can guilt others into repentance and change. It’s just as big of a lie from Satan as any other.  And they need our prayers.  As hard as it is, they need an intercessor.

If you see someone being self-righteous against another -SPEAK UP for them! Do it. It doesn’t mean you’re defending their sin – it means you’re defending their right to claim freedom in Christ.  Whether or not they’ve repented, we are all blind to our own sin at times in our lives, and the last thing we need is another person slamming condemnation on us.  The Holy Spirit can never do His job to bring conviction and repentance when other humans are in the way trying to do it for Him with judgment. Help clear the path with love; because that’s our greatest calling!

And lastly, if you’re really struggling with being critical and self-righteous toward someone else for their sin, whether it’s something you don’t understand how they could possibly do, or are very frustrated they don’t see it as sin-  It is by the grace of God that our eyes are open to any sin. We could/would be as rebellious as any if it weren’t for the mercy of God removing blinders and giving us good conscience and wisdom to know Him and understand His word.  Take some time to thank Him deeply and completely for His favor and beg His grace on the person you’re struggling with too.  Not only will it give the Holy Spirit room to move, it’ll change your own heart in the meantime.

Like New Condition

7 Apr

It’s been an odd couple of days.  I suppose odd is always good when it causes desire in me to dive into Scripture.  Sometimes I like it a lot when people say things that make me pull back and go “you know, I don’t think so.” Because it’s those moments when I grab my Bible and dig for truth, even if it’s just to affirm what I was sure I already knew.

I have a confession. I’m an addict amazon and Ebay shopper.  I would be horribly embarrassed to admit the amount of time I’ve spent on those two websites researching the best buys. (It’s in the hundreds of thousands I’m sure by this point in my life.) I’ll tell you what – I love finding items in like new condition for used prices! I live for a good bargain.

Today I sat here with my Bible and started weeping.  I could sell this current Bible with the status “Like New Condition.”  I was curious how old it was.  I looked in the front cover.  My husband and kids bought this for me December 25th, 2009.  This Bible is over 6 years old.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s been used.  In fact, I’d say from 2009 – 2012 it was used absolutely daily, even multiple times per day.  Slightly less in 2013, much less in 2014, and virtually not at all in 2015.

It’s been open almost daily in 2016.  The words are flying off the page and some days it’s like reading my favorite story and other days it’s like I’ve never seen the words before.  I’m pretty certain I’ve read this specific Bible cover to cover 4 times, along with using it during Bible Studies I’ve done over the last six years.

I will say, I’m glad it is high quality and it didn’t fall apart in a year just from poor materials.  But those deep tears I was sobbing were not because the materials held up.  They were brokenness that the God who created me, who has forgiven me of pure evil an unfathomable amount of times, has blessed me countless ways, entrusted me with four amazing children, and held me through every single day of my Christian walk has not received even a fraction of that love back from me.  And it shows in the crisp pages of my Bible.

It’s wrote in, but I’d still call it clean.  It has wrinkled corners, but less than a few.  It has a couple of water marks (probably from coffee) but not even enough to call it stained.

Should I really be surprised that I’m not always acting like Christ? I couldn’t even begin to imagine the billions of calories I’ve consumed in 6 + years of food just to live, move and breath.  But God’s word is so clear, Man cannot live on bread alone but on EVERY WORD of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)

My “like-new” Bible tells me I haven’t been living.  I’ve been surviving.  Living leads to witnessing, ministering and evangelizing for the sake of others. Surviving leads to tending to myself and my immediate needs so I don’t die.

I was dead last year. And by the grace of God, He revived me.  What more could I say than it was only for the purpose that I would now LIVE.  And the evidence of a life well LIVED will show when my Bible looks USED. Oh what a day that will be. Challenge accepted.

Sifted

4 Apr

sifted.jpg

It’s not your typical word tattoo. Why not “love, family, grace, hope, faith, freedom, forgiven?” I contemplated a lot of words honestly, but it absolutely had to be “SIFTED” and if you’ll hang with me for a short story, I’m going to explain why.

Let’s take a look at Luke 22:31-34 “’Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’”

I could literally write an entire book on this tiny passage of Scripture (and I might some day) – there is a LOT here to unpack. But I mainly wanted to point out that Satan HAS to ASK PERMISSION to tempt/sift us, and also that he goes hard after CHRISTIANS, not simply the unbelieving.

Before I share more about this passage – I first want to acknowledge that it’s easy to think of “sifting” as someone taking pretty white flour and gently sifting it through a little metal mesh for cookies. This is not what sifting wheat looked like. It was a very violent process. It was a threshing, that closely resembles thrashing, as the wheat is beat and torn to remove the worthless stalk to preserve the valuable grain.

Looking back at these verses, what I truly love is that Simon already had his name changed to Peter and with that change came the promise that God was going to build His church on the rock and planned to use Peter in this process. God knew when he changed Simon’s name to Peter he was going to deny him, not once, but three times in the future. The same is true for us. God doesn’t choose us knowing we’ll be perfect from that moment forward, He chooses us even when He knows more sifting is yet to come.

What’s even more beautiful is that Jesus speaks right into Peter, “I have prayed for you.” and then goes on to give him the reason he’s allowing the sifting – right up front! WHEN YOU TURN BACK (acknowledging He knows Peter is going to stumble – but telling him, come back, what you’re about to do isn’t strong enough to break my love for you – and it can’t separate me from you.) STRENGTHEN YOUR BROTHERS. Use it Peter. Let the sifting get rid of what’s holding you back, what’s making you doubt, what’s promising to fill you but can’t follow through, what temporarily feels like safety & security. Let that harsh, violent, painful sifting process, remove the impurities and worthlessness and refine you to perfect grain, and then Go – GO, and strengthen your brothers who are facing Satan’s deception and confusion.

Whether you’re in a pile of rubble because Satan attacked you and you remain innocent, upright, blameless (like Job) or whether you’re broken and sobbing in a pile of ashes because you did or said things you thought you’d never, ever possibly do in the sifting and you’re 100% guilty (like Peter) – it’s ok. You’re not the only one being attacked and you’re also not undesirable to the Father, God knew you’d be where you are, Christ is praying for you, AND, His arms are wide open for you to come to Him and let Him heal all your broken pieces. He delights in making beauty from ashes.

Today just may be the day to recognize SATAN asked to sift you. And to admit (even if just to yourself), it was worse than you wanted anyone to know. It was brutal and you barely survived, thrashing the whole way. If that’s you, I encourage you to leave the worthless stalk behind and claim victory. The siftING is not the end. The wheat that is SIFTED is a beautiful grain ready to be used to strengthen others.

Made up rules

11 Mar

You know what got the Pharisees in trouble?  It was the fact that they became so ritualistic that they started adding MORE and MORE rules and regulations to follow in order to be in good standing before God; and pretty soon they were implying things God never intended from the Law at all.

We see that play out clearly when they start having an anxiety attack that Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath. GASP! That’s work! Healing is work! And Jesus, so frustrated, puts them in their place. (Luke 13:10)

The same happens to our testimony to the lost world when we take one verse of Scripture out of context and imply something that isn’t actually said at all in Scripture.  Especially when you look at the verses around it, or even pay close attention to what Jesus was constantly teaching on and pointing out as what was most important to Him.

Someone posted this on Facebook. (Honestly,  I dislike FB more than I like it but I keep it for my Norwex business page)

wrong

Here’s the thing – I’m not saying vulgarity has a place in Christianity. However – what I am saying is that this verse was not written so people wouldn’t use four letter words.  In fact, swearing is cultural.  And words have taken on vulgar meanings over time that were never associated with them when the words were created.

This verse, when you read all of James 1:19-27 is about the moral filth, hypocrisy, lack of concern for orphans and widows, and the pollution of our souls by the world to care more about things of no eternal value than what God concerns Himself with.  When you pair that with what Jesus says is the most important to Him (Love God first and your neighbor like yourself) along with His great concern with keeping yourself pure sexually, not gossiping or slandering others, not praising God while cursing men, not withholding good from those when it’s in your power to act, not storing up earthly treasures, looking after those who can’t speak for themselves, it becomes so much more clear what He actually considered worthless religion and the point He was making.

God isn’t reminding us not to say four-letter words in this verse.  He’s telling us to stop talking about other people – especially other believers.  Stop letting the world decide what’s of value and compromise what comes out of our mouths that contradicts what we say we believe in our hearts and therefore, muddy up the gospel message. He wants us to use our words to give life and not speak death over others.

If we tell the lost they’re in trouble for swearing – not only are we putting rules on them that God didn’t give…. we’re neglecting to share the importance that the truth of this whole passage is really that the overflow from the heart is what actually comes out of the mouth.

If our heart is polluted by the world, even if we claim that in our mind we know there is a God and think we are religious, it’s worthless.  But if our heart is right with God, our mouth will testify to that because we will closely watch what we say to honor Him.

And personally, I think some vulgar talk that has nothing to do with a single “curse word” is more filthy and nasty than when someone accidentally says the “d-word”. But, maybe that’s just me.

 

Shaming never works!

18 Feb

So at first I wanted to write about this experience just because I’m down right angry and this is a good outlet to vent.  I was thinking though that it really didn’t fit the theme of my blog, but the truth is, it really does.

I went to the dentist this morning.  I HATE the dentist. Mind you, I have a super great dentist and he does great work, but the entire experience is so awful that I avoid going at all costs.

I knew however that it’d been awhile and I have HORRIBLE teeth (God bless genetics) and it was time to put on my big girl pants and go.

This was my encounter.

As I walked up to check-in, the shaming began.

Receptionist “Oh (disappointed tone of voice) I see it’s been an awfully long time since you’ve been in.  Nearly five years since your last cleaning. Can you verify your address for me please?”

(Here’s the appropriate receptionist response. “Good Morning Kayla.  Great to see you today.  Can I have you verify some info for me so I know we’re up to date? Thanks so  much.”)

As soon as the receptionist called me back she says (before we even reached her chair) “So in looking at your chart, I see it’s been far too long since you’ve been in last.  It’s been 5 years since we’ve done bite wing x-rays and those need done once a year.  And it’s been 7 years since we did a panoramic x-ray and that needs done very 5 years.  We need an update on these. Assuming you haven’t been going to anyone else? Can we update these?”

(Here’s the appropriate way to greet your patient. “Hi Kayla.  I’d like to start with x-rays today to update your chart.  Your insurance will cover bite-wing once a year and panoramic every five years so you shouldn’t have any concerns with these being covered services today.  Would it be ok if we take these?”    The customer knows how long it’s been.  They don’t need you to remind them.  And if they had them done elsewhere and the know there will be insurance issues, they will let you know.  They are an adult.  Treat them like one.)

As she’s cleaning my teeth, “Since it’s been five years, there is a little more tarter build up than when you come in every 6 months like you should be doing. I’m going to get you fixed up, but in order to stay on this, make sure you’re coming in every six months from now on.”

(Again, the correct manner to address this. “I’m so glad you came in today and gave me the opportunity to clean your teeth.  I hope I’m doing a great job and get to see you again in 6 months.)

As the dentist came in (RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME) she filled the dentist in “I let her know five years is far too long and if she expects to have healthy teeth and stay on top of things, she needs to be coming in more regularly.  She did have excess tarter build up from the long absence but again I addressed with her that she needs to be here regularly.”

(This does not need addressed in front of the client. Talk outside the room or leave it in the notes.)

And then, the dentist took the opportunity to address the “issue” at hand.  “If you come in every six months as you should be doing, I can keep a close eye on things and make sure we stay on top of the areas that give us concern.”

(How about saying this “In taking a look at things today, here is what I see.  I feel like this could be a bigger issue and in order to prevent this from happening, I would really like to keep an eye on this at your next appointment preferably in six months if that works for you.”)

I don’t know if they train everyone (which appears to be the case) to lecture the clients but I was FURIOUS when I left.

If the goal was to make me feel empowered to take good care of my teeth and come back in six months, they FAILED!!!!!

If the goal was to embarrass me, belittle me, treat me like a child, mock my intelligence, and heap unnecessary guilt on my shoulders – they NAILED it like champs!

I got to thinking… how are we doing with the sin in others lives?  Are we heaping unnecessary guilt, belittlement, embarrassment, attacking their intelligence and shaming them like children when we don’t like what we see or think they need to stop/start doing something?

Or are we doing our job as Christians with love, grace, mercy, and tenderness which allows them to feel empowered to make the right decision for themselves?

Practical Application:

Just taking a self evaluation of how I handle when my spouse, children, co-workers do something I don’t like or agree with.  Do I reach for shaming – or love?

Not just a girl thing

11 Feb

My oldest son, (almost) 11 and in the fifth grade, was face timing with a friend (another 5th grade boy) a couple of nights ago.  I wasn’t eavesdropping but he walked into the kitchen to hand me something and because face time works like a speaker phone, I heard part of the conversation.

Friend: I have to ask you something but I want you to be honest.

My son: Ok

Friend: I mean it, be completely honest.

My Son: Ok, I will.

Friend: Who do you like more, ______ or me?

My Son: Um.

Friend: Honestly, I don’t care at all if you like ____ more, I just want to know.  Just tell the truth.

And then my son was back up the stairs and I didn’t hear how he handled the question.

My heart literally broke in half, and I started to be gripped with fear for my son. I wanted to interrupt and help him out, but I knew that wasn’t the best choice.

——

I’d like to share with you two stories from my childhood.  Both happened while I was in the sixth grade, and I assumed this was just a “girl” thing, because girls are nasty and mean.

Story One:

My best friend and I were coming into a rough stage in life because there was a popular group of girls in our grade and we really wanted to be part of it.

This popular group of girls pulled my best friend aside at some point and told her a bunch of things she was allowed to say about them to me to see if she could get me to talk bad about them.

So,my best friend desperate to fit in caused this situation to unfold. One day she says to me “how do you feel about those girls?” I say something casual and safe like “They’re ok. They can be nice.” So she started saying the ugly rehearsed things about them that they had approved as bait to trap me.  I took the bait thinking I was safe with my best friend.  I told the truth about how I thought they were mean and used people.

The next day, she told them.  And they confronted me like an army of a thousand – screaming, cussing (yes cussing in 6th grade) pushing me against the brick wall of the school. I was humiliated and left with absolutely no friends.

Story Two:

There was always one popular girl who really didn’t seem to me to be as nasty as the others.  She laughed and played along, but it was rare to hear her say much about people or be the one to instigate.

One night she called me on the phone.  She said “I wanted to apologize for the way so & so has been treating you. I don’t think it’s right and I should say something but she’ll just be nasty to me too. It has to really hurt your feelings doesn’t it?” After some more conversation I admit that yes, it has hurt my feelings and I think she’s a really mean person.

All at once, a whole room full of girls started laughing and screaming at me through the phone.

You see, it was a slumber party I wasn’t invited to and I was on speaker phone.

—-

So the other night when I heard the start of what I knew was the start of a horrible game being played on my son, I just wept.

The next night my husband and I spent some time talking to him about the situation and asking how he handled it.

Turns out, He said “I like you both the same.” And then admitted to us that everyone at school right now is playing this game of asking who you like best and then turning on each other and causing a lot of broken friendships and hurt feelings.

Satan’s tactics to destroy fellowship among God’s children are timeless and flawless.  He shows up like a wolf in sheep’s clothing and devours kids (and ADULTS) one person at a time.

I’m glad we were able to talk with our son about this before he has any major scars.  I’m so thankful God let me hear that conversation.  We explained to him that it shows a huge character flaw in someone to need assurance by claiming it over someone else.

You know that saying “When someone is talking about another person (even if it’s true) it says so much more about their character than it does the person they’re talking about.”

That’s the ultimate truth about gossip or triangle-trap friendship games, and most of us don’t take a step back to see that.  We either get caught up in the attention/rumors or we fear the backlash of not participating.

I don’t blame that little boy for asking my son what he did.  I really don’t.  He’s trying to figure out fifth grade, and see where he stands.  Does he have real friends, is he liked, does he have more to offer than someone else?

The problem is – playing those hurtful games isn’t the way to prove any of that true.

These boys all need help and guidance.

I feel even more assurance that this friendship study / monthly event / whatever it’s going to truly turn into is not only necessary for me – it’s necessary for my children. I’m going to plan a weekly study with my children this summer going through what it looks like to be a good friend to others, and what qualities they should be looking for in friends they can really trust.

Practical Application:

Do you have any unforgettable stories from your childhood while navigating friendships?

What topic would you include if you were writing a study on friendship?

By which you see all things.

9 Feb

Tragedy has a way of changing the way you see everything.  Not just your current circumstances, but the past, the present, and even the future too.

Sometimes you’re strolling along after tragedy like nothing ever happened and then BAM! out of what seems like no where – you’re bombarded with memories, thoughts, and emotions.

I had a really good week last week. (Hence the crazy excitement in my last post about starting a new ministry and using my terrible, no good, rotten, awful, painful year last year to the glory of God.)

And then, yesterday.

I was just trying to make this collage, what I hoped would fulfill this vision my husband had of a keepsake he wanted, and everything fell apart.  All the progress I made. All the good changes I was making.  All the forward thinking, never looking back, use it for the strengthening of others just crumbled in a pile of tears and I lay on the floor in a worthless heap sobbing.

(Side note, this idea was really good that my husband had – though I didn’t put it together the way he really envisioned it, I think it’ll work none-the-less.  We took the entire family to our first MSU basketball game all together, and my husband wanted a keepsake of the program, tickets, photos and so I came up with this.)

collage.jpg

When I print photos, I usually dump my phone of a few months and then print some off and keep them in albums we can go through.  The more technology advances, the less photos make it to the albums, but still – I try to get some printed off a couple times a year.  The kids love these albums, and up until yesterday, I really did too.

As I worked on that collage, and then flipped through 14 years of photos – I was overwhelmed with thoughts.

You see, the thing about tragedy is it gives you a timeline you never wanted.

For example :

This was “Before” such and such.

This was “During” such and such.

This was “After” such and such.

And mine looks a little like this.  As I flipped through those pages all I could do was chase around fleeting phrases that half formed sentences I didn’t want to own.

These little boys, the birth of that sweet girl, the look on our faces, the love in that moment, the touch of that hand, the joy of that experience….

all ended in this one phrase.  “This was all before 2015 when the bottom fell out.”

And then I looked at the ones I just printed from last year.  “The Durings.”  Every smile looked fake, tainted, broken, and I knew they weren’t the same people from the first 13 years. Every thing looked tarnished.

I almost chucked that new collage in the burn pit and lit it on fire. I was tempted to rip down every photo in the house and smash them into a million pieces.

I don’t want before pictures.  And I SURELY don’t want after pictures.  I don’t want to “never be the same again.”

I’ve heard and read countless depictions about haunting memories.

People usually pick one side or the other.

  • They’re Satan’s way of beating you down, holding you in defeat, making you feel helpless, broken, unworthy, unable to move on. They serve no purpose but to destroy – you have to refuse to entertain them.
  • They’re God’s way of never letting you forget.  He forgives and He heals, but He never lets you forget where you’ve been, so you never go back. He wants you to use that pain and brokenness to show His power in your weakness and fuel your testimony in Him.

I’ve felt like both are true.

And honestly, sometimes I just feel numb to either. I don’t want to accept remembering. It destroys me every time. And then it takes days to get up again.

Practical Application:

Have you ever experienced something that became your time line? Death, Sin, An accident?

What do you do with remembering? Resist it and ask the devil to flee?  Run after it and Thank God for sustaining your future?

 

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