Monday, March 27, 2017

Who do you love?

Today in my morning reflection, I was posed with a question: 

What do you love about yourself?

I wasn't sure I had an answer, or at least an answer with a simple list.  I appreciate the gifts God has given me.  I hope I have used them well, for His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.  

Yet, some of my experiences have been daunting, but I survived and thrived.  I love my children and I wish I had been a better mother when they were young.  I love my husband and I want to be a better wife to him.  I hope he never doubts my devotion to him.

I pray I am living as God intended.  I'm working hard at not dictating to God what that means.  I learn.  I try.  Yet, I seem to be inconsistent in my given qualities and possibilities.

What do I love about myself?

This one quality I love:  I am a risk-taker.  I am basically not afraid.  I am willing to try and try hard.  I am willing to make mistakes and learn from them.  I do love this about myself. I like that I have learned how to use this super-power for good and not for evil.  I want to be discerning of what is God's way in meeting change and challenge.  

The original question, though, challenged me with a second, near to it:

Do I love myself?

Do I value, hold dear, have an appreciation and affection for myself?  Do I work towards my own good? Do I hold a sweetness and fondness for who I am in being and action? (Like the love I hold for my grandchildren) Hmmm...How can I measure whether I "love" myself? 

So, I went to the Bible for my solution.  I always say it holds all the answers for life.  1 Corinthans 13:4-8.  The definitive terms of love have to tell the truth about the quality of love I may or may not hold for myself.

Am  I patient with myself?

Yes, by God's grace, I have learned that all humans live, move and change through a process.  It's a metamorphosis.  I love the process and can be patient through it.  I also am patient because I know it is God at work in me when I am in need of change and I want to be patient with His efforts.  He has perfect timing.  He knows what He is doing, so my patience with myself is as much patience with God and His processes.

Am I kind to myself?

I am learning to take it easy on myself.  I was once a task-master to myself (and others).  My kindness includes allowing for care, comfort and the above patience.  It does not exclude accountability, though, for it is a kindness when a person is told the truth and held to some accountability.  I hope I apply grace to even myself.

Am I rude to myself?

It has taken awhile to stop saying negative things to myself, or guilting myself, or always making myself least and little. God has some pretty great things to say about me; He has entrusted me with some great gifts.  I don't want to belittle any of the work He has done.  

Am I demanding of myself?
Am I irritable with myself?

Who suffers most with my Type-A personality?  Me!  It is interesting to ask for excellence of myself and yet recognize that I need others things besides "best behavior."  I know what I can do and can drive myself into unwellness with it.  It takes a humble, submissive confidence to keep balance with the other aspects of my life, which includes wellness and perspective.

Do I keep no record of wrongs against myself?

I am a human being who has made mistakes.  The only way I can manage the answer to the above questions is to place my sin and failures under the power of the Cross and the freedom of forgiveness.  Like many others, I find myself the hardest to forgive. But I will not deprive Christ of the effectiveness of His sacrifice and hold out forgiveness, even from me.  I love to live under these promises:

once slave, now free
no condemnation
reconciled to God
redeemed from the curse
more than a conqueror!

Do I rejoice when truth wins out in my life?

In fact, I celebrate truth, clarity.  I love that revelatory Truth of God when it is revealed to me, in me and has power in me.  Truth has set me free, indeed.  Truth is the ultimate quality of God I want translated in my life.  Interesting to me that it is one of the descriptors of love.

Do I never give up, never lose faith in myself?
Do I stay hopeful and endure through every situation?

By the power of God in me and trust in His work in me, I truly do not give up.  Being positive and hopeful are strengths built into me from my upbringing.  It is of God if I am able to endure, persevere until the end.  I do notice that life is L O N G. I am sure this part of loving myself is going to be tested as I face the slow, long road of old age into heaven (if I get to do it that way). 

So, do I love myself by that definition?  I do love myself that way. Could I love myself better?  Yes, I could.  I could build the activity of love so it is prepared to provide a loving "house" built by God's truth.  I love myself as I remember the reason for doing so.

First, we love ourselves for our own sakes.
Then, we love God for our own sakes.
Then, we love God for his sake.
Finally, we love ourselves for God's sake.
 Bernard of Clairvaux

Want to honor God's love for you? Explore the depth of what it means to love yourself for His sake.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Hound of Heaven

written by Francis Thompson
adapted by Gina Etherton

I fled Him down the nights and down the days.
I fled Him down the arches of the years
I fled Him down the labyrinth ways
                      of my own mind and in the mist of tears.
I hid from Him even under running laughter
          up vistaed hopes I sped
          and then down glooms of chasmed fears.
Running from those strong Feet that followed after
          with an unhurried pace,
          deliberate speed & majestic presence,
those Feet and a Voice beat—
          a beat more constant than the Feet—
that said, “All things betray you, you who betray Me.”

I clung to every shallow friend,
the whistling mane of every wind.
Across the world I fled,
troubling the gateway of the stars
          seeking the shelter of their clanged bars
          chained to melodious songs,
          slave to every cultural tune.
Their treacherous trueness and their loyal deceit
Kept me ahead of the tread of His Feet—
          still with unhurried chase & unperturbed pace
          deliberate speed & majestic presence,
Came the following Feet
And a Voice above their beat—“Nothing will shelter you, you who will not shelter me.”

I know the significance of the willful state of my demise—
          of the welcome face of dame & skies.
I sought rest & peace in delicate fellowship—
          first with one and then with nature.
My own moods rose and fell with the changeling gathered—
I triumphed and saddened with all weather—
          Heaven & I wept together.
But never did either bless my thirsting soul—
The night draws near and the chase goes on—
          with unperturbed pace,
          deliberate speed & majestic presence,
And past those noisy Feet
a Voice comes yet more fleet—
          “Lo, nothing will content you, who is not content with Me.”

Finally, I am utterly defenseless & stricken to my knees.
I pulled my life around me, grimey with smears.
I stand amid the dust of wasted years,
my mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
my days have crackled and gone up in smoke—
          and fail me now
          as if a bad dream.

Now in that long pursuit
comes the Hand of the brute…
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea—
          “And is your world so marred
          shattered—shard on shard?
          Lo, all things fly thee, now fly to Me.”

Finally, I can flee no more
          I yield to Love’s open door
          I said to the Voice:
          The prize You sought for so long is finally Yours.
          in dark & gloom, You have hounded me
          for so long  now that I cannot see.
          I surrender all those things You’ve taken from me.
Came back the Voice,
          “I only wanted You to seek them in my all.
          The dark and gloom you said you could no longer stand
          was after all the shadow of my Loving Hand.
          How little worthy of My Love could anyone be?

             Who else could ever love you, save only Me?”

Small Bites - Philippians 4:8,9 - Peace with God

Keep putting into practice all you learned 
and received from me—
everything you heard from me and saw me doing. 
Then the God of peace will be with you. 
Phil 4:9 

Peace.  It's what we have been pursuing all along.  Even in the fury of searching, depth of knowing, and development of ministry.  We just want peace.  What is this "everything" Paul has taught the Philippians?  He is summarizing what he has told them in the previous verse.  It involves focusing on the things which most fill the mind and satisfy the heart.

You can read in the following posts a short “small bites” presentation of Philippians 4:8.  

Paul gives us a set of items which deserve our attention: …meditate on these things… Paul says.  Interesting to me, the word for meditate is logizomai, a root word for "logic."  This means to see the sense in them and to reckon their significance inward:  “weigh” the import and impact of them and the fact (not supposition or opinion) of their reality.  This is God’s reality show.  He has something to demonstrate, to evidence.

Despite what the world is presenting and demanding, peace is acquired through leaning into the places where God-valued truths can be seen. The purpose is this – that this weightiness and worthiness of God-valued evidence on earth will become the inspiration for our lives. 

That is what I want most of all:  God-with-us.
It brings peace.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Face of God

from Glacier Point, Yosemite Park, California

Small Bites - Philippians 4:8 - Worthy of Praise

  And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8

What could be thought of as "worthy of praise?"  The Greek word “epainos” means this - something which deserves praise; a proper-fitting praise reflecting the worth of a thing; a commendation or recognition of the inherent, God-given value of a thing. In the Biblical context, praise is especially appropriate for anything which is a reflection of God’s will.

This is not praise according to world values, but rather what God values.  In a world where idol-worship is rampant, we give praise to many lesser things – dancing, singing, athletics, status, power.  And while God gives those talents and positions, what does it mean to know if something is truly praise-worthy?

What action/activity have you seen that God would value?
Where can we go to root out those greater things 
of value to God?
When might the gifts of God be used so God is valued?

This makes me think of one of the meanings of praise/worship in the Biblical context – “give credit where credit is due.”  The true nature of praise-worthiness is that we look for God-activity in its most obvious places and learn to look deep in places less obvious, or like the Bible says, in places where human wisdom would not account for it.

I have seen praiseworthy things –love, simplicity, honesty, majestic beauty - in the faces of children and homeless people, in the plots of good movies, in the rich, deep music of the symphony, in laughter and fellowship.  I have been overwhelmed by His Glory in the ocean and on the mountain. I have developed an eye for seeing God’s glory and presence in the smallest and biggest of places. 

Where have you seen something 
for which you could give credit to God?

Break out in praise so others can see it, too!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Isaiah 59:14-15

When justice calls, we turn it away.
Righteousness knows to keep its distance,
for truth stumbles in the public square
and honesty is not allowed to enter.

There is no truth-telling anymore,
and anyone who tries to do right
finds he is the next target.

Small Bites - Philippians 4:8 - Excellence (virtuousness)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, 
and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. 
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8

In the King James and New King James versions, that practically extinct word virtuous is used instead of "excellent."  Virtue is probably a more true word to the Greek because of its deep indication of instrinsic morality.  I am desperate to see a virtuous person in the public arena today.

Why do we hardly even think of virtue today?
What happens if the meaning is even lost to us?

Virtue in Jesus’ day pointed to moral excellence – as in modesty, honesty, or purity – but it was more than just a line of thinking.  It was a totality, a consistency of the entire life in morality – thought, feeling and action.  I know we need those models today.  We need those people who live their lives committed to an internal truth, a moral compass!  If we cannot see them in the public square, I bet you have a few who lived a virtuous life in your own history.  Our children are in desperate need of them.  The rest of us, too!

Where can we see virtuous people today?
Would we know virtue if we saw it?

I think we would be tempted to call such a person rigid or intolerant and unchanging, as if it is negative.  The truth is that virtue makes its greatest demands on the individual who wants to live virtuously.  Its purposes are only fueled by a deep love of the things of God and not any grandstanding or self-acclamation.  Rather, its gains stand in stark contrast to the world because it is always bathed in humility, that grandest of virtues.