Remember Whose You Are

u_get_meContinued from here.

The second perspective-shifting message I received during my bizarre spiritual experience was that I need to remember WHOSE I am. I belong to God. Thus, my behavior needs to be directed by God, not by my body, emotions, troubles, or anything else.

Vicktor Frankl, who was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp, shared these wise words:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Vicktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the same thing that Paul tells us about our ability to choose our thoughts:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Phil. 4:8

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” ~ 2 Cor. 10:5

While it is completely human and understandable for me to become fixated on my physical or emotional discomfort, that’s not living the righteous life that God wants for us. God has equipped us with the power to choose, so when I choose to allow my body or emotions to drive my thoughts, it’s a choice. I am choosing a bad attitude. And, let’s face it, whenever we are in discomfort or pain, our natural setting is going to be choosing a bad attitude.

If Vicktor Frankl could choose a positive attitude in a concentration camp, then I can choose a positive attitude while dealing with hives. If Paul and Silas could choose a good attitude after being severely flogged and imprisoned, then I can choose to focus on God rather than my problems, no matter how severe they are. I’m not going to do this, though, unless I remember whose I am.

I am not my own: I am God’s. I was bought at a price, and I need to behave like someone who belongs to God, even when I don’t feel like it.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands over her heart, saying, “U get me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Remember Who You Are

who_meAs I shared in this blog entry, I have been in extreme physical discomfort for weeks from systemic hives triggered by exposure to poison oak. Oh, joy!

My doctor gave me a high dose of Prednisone to help my body settle down, and I struggled with emotional side effects from the prescription. By the end of the nine-day Prednisone treatment, I’m not sure I was entirely “sane.” I was extremely emotional and felt “crazed” by weeks of endless itching compounded by feelings of hostility in reaction to the medication. Let’s just say I wasn’t much fun to live with.

My physical and emotional health came to a breaking point one night. I sobbed before God and had a bizarre spiritual experience that I still have not fully processed, and I don’t really have words for what happened. The best way I can word it is that God showed up.

When God showed up, my perspective shifted, and I have been trying to process that perspective shift ever since. Two powerful messages that hit me during this bizarre experience were remember who you are and remember WHOSE you are. I had become so fixated on my physical discomfort that I had lost touch with the bigger picture of my life.

As for remembering who I am, I am a spiritual being having a physical experience. I was created for eternity, but my physical discomfort had distracted me from that focus. I was unable to see past my physical and emotional state of being, which was keeping me focused on myself – the fast track to misery. When we can remember that we are eternal beings and that whatever we are dealing with right now is temporary, we awaken to who we are. I believe this is what Paul had in mind when he said,

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” ~ 2 Cor. 4:17

When my focus is on the temporal, then everything I deal with – from minor annoyances to long-term struggles, becomes the center of my universe. However, when I focus on the eternal, I maintain perspective – that life is about so much more than whatever is vexing me, and this … whatever “this” is … will end. I don’t have to be consumed by whatever troubles I am dealing with because they are temporary, while I am eternal.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace pointing to herself and asking, “Who Me?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Change in Perspective: Seeing Life as a Whole

Continued from here.

One final thought on a change in perspective… God used (of all things) a secular movie to teach me an important spiritual lesson. The movie Arrival is a science fiction story that asks a profound philosophical question: If you could see your entire life now and knew that your journey would bring lots of joy ending in pain, would you still choose it?

I absolutely would make the same choice is Louise Banks, the heroine of the story. I thought about how I would not change anything about my past, even the child abuse, because I know how it all turns out – with God healing my pain and using my past for good as I encourage others who are still in pain themselves.

I then thought about how the Bible provides us with the same gift that Louise received – the gift of knowing how it all turns out, although it’s the opposite of her story. Louise had to decide whether the joy was worth the painful ending while I must decide whether the daily challenges and struggles are worth the joy that God has promised in the end. The Bible promises us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him, which means that “good” is coming from the “bad” I am facing now. Might I, like Louise, be empowered to embrace the journey, both good and bad, if I really believe that God will work all for good?

Might this perspective be the secret to Jesus’ obedience? We are told in Hebrews that…

For the joy set before [Jesus] he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Heb. 12:2

There was nothing “joyful” about being mocked, beaten, and crucified, but Jesus knew that God would work even this out for good, so he embraced the journey. Might I also embrace the journey if I believe … really believe … that God will use even this [whatever I am struggling with or suffering from] for good?

So much to ponder. I don’t claim to have all of the answers yet, but I am enjoying the journey of asking the questions.

[Graphic: Cover of Arrival. Courtesy Amazon.]

Change in Perspective: Seeing My Life through the Lens of Eternity

zurichContinued from here.

Tony Evans has been preaching a sermon series on living in the light of eternity. Put another way, he’s encouraging people to apply a heavenly perspective to our earthly lives. I listened to some of his sermons in this series before leaving for Europe, and I have been considering how my life might change if I were to choose to view my life from the perspective of eternity versus the temporal.

This reminded me of a wonderful book by Karen Kingsbury called A Time to Dance. John and Abby Reynolds are planning to divorce but put their plans on hold until their daughter’s wedding. Their son writes a report on eagles, which John reads, and God uses the metaphor of the eagle to help John see his marriage from a different perspective.

The information about how eagles deal with storms resonated deeply with me. Eagles don’t try to fight storms. Instead, they fly above them. I have been trying to find my peace in the middle of the storm by looking for the eye of the hurricane, but that’s not what eagles do – they rise above the storms. They don’t try to fight their way through the storm, aim for the eye of the storm, or pretend that a storm is not happening. Instead, they allow the winds of the storm to lift them higher … closer to God … and they view the storm from a perspective above it.

How might my own actions and reactions in the midst of life’s storms change if I followed the eagle’s example? If I viewed each storm of life as temporary but found my peace in the eternal — high above the storms of life — might I find peace despite the intensity going on below? Might rest be waiting for me on the six days outside of my Sabbath if I choose to shift my perspective from the temporal to the eternal?

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of Grace in Zurich, Switzerland. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

Change in Perspective: Importance of Loving God

munichContinued from here.

In my last blog entry, I shared that Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God resonated deeply with me and challenged my perspectives of how God interacts with us. One reason I was open to some of his points, which I had never heard despite completing numerous Bible studies, was because his starting point aligned so well with my own re: experiencing God.

Blackaby says – and I fully agree – that our starting point must always be loving God. As I shared previously, I had been a Christian for decades, but I continued to live in defeat until I made the life decision to set aside the first hour of every day for quiet time with God. The first thing God did was pour His love into me, and that changed everything – my perspectives about God, myself, my place in this world, and pretty much everything else. While I became a new creation at age 8 when I received Jesus as my Savior, that new creation did not manifest itself until I developed an actual relationship with God in which I received His love and grew to love Him.

I have learned through personal experience that loving God changes everything. I no longer try to “do what’s right” out of fear of going to hell or being punished. Instead, I love God more than I want to “do what’s wrong,” so my motivation for change is love rather than guilt, shame, or fear.

Another epiphany I had in Europe was that God cares much less about what I DO than about who I AM. When we were in Munich, the tour guide stopped us so she could place coins in the cup of a beggar (a sad young woman, not the dog in the photo). She didn’t do this for show, nor did she do it out of guilt, fear, or shame. Instead, her action was a reflection of her heart, which God had changed. I don’t think God cared half as much about her putting coins in the cup as He did about what her choice to do this revealed about who she is, and who she is reflects her love for God.

I have now been noticing my own actions and what they reflect about my heart. In some areas, my actions reflect a heart overflowing with love for God. In other areas, they reveal pockets of selfishness that need God’s healing. I am powerless to change my actions without God’s love, but as I fill with God’s love, my actions change with little effort. God’s love is truly that powerful!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of a dog pretending to sleep to collect coins in Munich, Germany. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]

Change in Perspective: Experiencing God

Continued from here.

God was at work in my trip to Europe. Our original tour guide had to drop out, and the replacement tour guide turned out to be a strong Christian. It’s no coincidence that our conversation over lunch happened to turn to our love for God, and God’s fingerprints were all over the tour guide lending me Henry Blackaby’s book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Considering this tour guide’s native tongue is not English, what were the odds of her happening to have an English version of this book with her on this tour?

I read the first 50 or 60 pages on the trip and then ordered my own copy when I returned home. I was blown away by perspectives I had never considered or heard discussed anywhere, despite leading and participating in numerous Bible studies over the years. Blackaby talks about how we err in asking God what His will is for our life (which I have done many times). Instead, he says that the correct question is, “What is Your will?”

He pointed out that God was already working toward Israel being freed from slavery in Egypt, and then God invited Moses to join what He was already doing. It wasn’t “God’s will for Moses’ life” to become the leader to free the slaves so much as an invitation to Moses to join God in what He was already doing. Blackaby encourages us to ask God to open our eyes to reveal where He is already at work and then join God there.

Another eye opener was Blackaby’s perspective on spiritual gifts. I have always heard that the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts (such as my gift of teaching) and that we should look for ways to serve the church using our spiritual gifts. Per Blackaby, that’s backward. He pointed out that the pattern in the Bible is the opposite. God calls us to do a particular task that is too big for us. We step out in obedience, and then He equips us with the spiritual gifts to do the task. He says that the Holy Spirit IS the gift and that God will equip us to do the tasks. We should not limit ourselves based upon whatever gifts God has given us in the past. He also points out that people who never step out to do what God calls them to do might not have ever exhibited any spiritual gifts because they have never done anything to require their use.

I’m excited to read the rest of the book because I am intrigued by this perspective.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Revised and Expanded. Courtesy Amazon.]

Change in Perspective after being “Unplugged”

lucerneI recently traveled to Europe for nine days. When I travel overseas, I completely disconnect. My cell phone doesn’t work internationally, and I don’t bring along my laptop. For nine glorious days, I was completely “unplugged.”

This is the second time I have traveled to Europe and stayed “unplugged” the entire time. After both trips, I returned home with a different perspective. I managed to hold onto it last year for several weeks. However, when I learned that my son needed major back surgery, I returned to my former way of viewing my life. This time, I am determined not to lose my (twice over) newfound perspective.

When I am “unplugged” in Europe, my days seem to last three times as long … in a good way. This is because I am present in my life. That’s not the way I typically live my life in my day-to-day existence. I’m so focused on getting everything done that I forget to “be.” While I begin my days with God, I become hypnotized by the need to DO, DO, DO. I blink, and the day has whizzed by. I remind myself that if I can only get to my Sabbath day, then I can breathe again, and I hold my breath, counting down the days until I can exhale.

I don’t want to live that way anymore, and I don’t think God ever intended for us to live that way, either. God created us to need to breathe every moment of every day. It’s not realistic to hold my breath for six days and then finally breathe on the seventh.

Jason Gray shares an interesting perspective on the sound of God’s name (Yahweh) being the sound of our breathing. How might my perspective of my life and priorities change if I recognized that with every breath, I am speaking God’s name? How might my priorities shift in my everyday life if I looked for God in every moment rather than only first thing in the morning and before I go to bed at night?

When I was “unplugged” in Europe, I found it much easier to view life from a broader perspective – a perspective of thanksgiving and awe at the beautiful world that God has created. I stepped away from my identity as wife, mother, employee, etc. and stepped into my identity of “child of God.” Is it possible for me to live my day-to-day life like this? My past experience says no, but God says that all things are possible with Him. I choose to believe God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Photograph of Grace in Lucerne, Switzerland. Courtesy Grace Daniels.]