Ragamuffins Trust God

trust_meContinued from here.

This week, I’m discussing the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s excellent book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out.

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

I used to be a distrusting person. As an abused child, I learned early that the world is not a safe place and that people are not trustworthy. I told my therapist that I was incapable of trusting anyone, but he said this was not true. I trusted the waitress to bring me what I ordered and that the food would be safe to eat. I trusted the bridge I drove over would hold. He pointed out different aspects in my relationships with different people that I did, in fact, trust, such as for my husband to provide financially. It was a slow process for me to recognize that I did, in fact, have the ability to trust, and I grew to realize that the issue was not what other people did. Instead, my issue was a lack of trust in myself to be OK if someone else broke my trust.

Today, I trust God with my whole heart and soul, which means I don’t need to trust anyone else. Once I understood at a heart level that God’s got my back, I let go of the need to control what anyone else did that affected me. If someone breaks my heart, God will heal it. If he harms me, God will vindicate me. If she breaks my trust, God will remain faithful. God is all I need. Anything else good that I receive from someone else is gravy. God is the main course.

But what about not trusting God? That’s where I was for decades. I was a people-pleaser and twisted myself into a pretzel trying to be what others wanted me to be, but they were implacable. Because of their own self-interest, I would inevitable displease them. I saw God as the same way – as this being who had a list of rules I could not possibly follow and who I could never fully please, no matter how hard I tried.

Today, I fully trust in God’s love. I know that He loves me no matter what I do and no matter how badly I mess up. He loves me for who I am, not for what I do. In fact, whenever I ask Him why He loves me, His consistent response is, “Because I choose to.”

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing over the words, “Trust me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Walking into the Hall of Faith

swordContinued from here.

I don’t know about you, but I want to walk into the Hall of Faith. When God releases the updated list of people who “by faith” did X, I want my name on the list. I want to hear an angel say, “By faith, Grace …” But that’s not going to happen if I don’t do what those people did. What did those people have in common? They were terrified but did what God told them to do, anyhow.

By faith, Abraham offered his beloved son as a sacrifice. By faith, Moses’ parents defied the king’s edict and hid their baby for three months. By faith, the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. By faith, the Israelites defeated Jericho by marching around it. By faith, David killed Goliath, and by faith, Daniel spent the night in a lion’s den. Is what I am facing any scarier than what they did? My head says no, but as I look my giant in the eye, it looms just as large from my limited perspective as a den filled with hungry lions.

Isn’t it the human condition to want to have strong faith but not have to go through seasons that require it? I want the Jordan River to part before I step into it, not after I do. And yet, it takes no faith to cross the sturdy bridge or dive into peaceful waters. How can I develop faith without being asked to do things that are terrifying without God’s intervention?

And so, I choose to dive in, and not because I’m fearless … My knees are shaking so hard that I can barely walk up to the ledge. I choose to believe God. I trust that He would not tell me to dive into the rushing waters below me unless He was going to ensure that I would be OK. I also trust that He has a purpose and plan for requiring this of me. And so, I walk up to the ledge, say a quick prayer, and dive.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace unsheathing a sword. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Running toward the Giants in your Life

runningContinued from here.

On her television show Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer pointed out that in the story of David and Goliath, David first spoke his victory and then ran quickly toward him. He didn’t do what I do – He didn’t size up the giant, look him up and down, take a few deep breaths, and try to muster up the courage to do what God told him to do. He didn’t give himself time! How much easier might slaying the giants in my life be if I followed David’s example?

While God has taught me assertiveness over the years, assertiveness does not come naturally to me. It is a learned skill that has served me well over the years. However, when I face a giant – particularly like the one God has instructed me to take down – AGAIN – all of that training flies out the window. I take a few deep breaths to build up my courage, and that’s just enough time for the enemy to whisper in my ear all the ways that I don’t measure up. The giant is much bigger … stronger … a more accomplished warrior… Who am I to believe I can take that giant down? And then I lose sight of the fact that this battle is not mine but the Lord’s, and I hesitate.

I need to follow David’s example and speak my victory. I need to remind myself that God is in control and that He would not tell me to go to battle without ensuring my victory. And then I need to step forth in faith, as David did, building courage with each step as I run into battle. And I need to do this quickly or I’ll lose my nerve.

I wonder if David continued to feel fear when he went into battle after taking down Goliath. I wonder if that one victory was enough for him never to doubt or question the outcome in all of his successive battles. Did his knees continue to shake as mine do when I’m called into battle again? Does this spiritual journey ever get easier?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace running. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Diving in to Where God is Calling You to Go

Continued from here.

Many years ago, Steve Curtis Chapman had a great song out called Dive that I encourage you to listen to:

 

This song describes how I feel as I look at the chasm in front of me in my area of greatest weakness and vulnerability. I know this brokenness needs to be healed, not only for myself but also for the sake of those who love me. I know this brokenness is what drives me to say and do things that I don’t want to say or do, and yet I continue to say and do them. I so relate to Paul’s conclusion about his own wretchedness.

I’m standing on the ledge looking at the rushing waters of the river below me, and I’m terrified. It’s not that God hasn’t sent me into this river before – He has many times over the years. Each time he sends me, the platform from which I must dive is higher, and the waters are fiercer. Every time, I pray I’ll never have to do this again. And yet, here I am again, standing over the same river, but it’s at flood level this time. How do I muster the courage to dive in?

Steven Curtis Chapman gives me words of encouragement that I know are true.

There is a supernatural power
In this mighty river’s flow
It can bring the dead to life
And it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing
Worth living and worth dying for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power
Of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away
Into this holy flood”

Either I believe that God is in control, or I do not. What I believe will be evidenced by what I DO. I do have a choice – God will not force me to dive into this river at flood level. However, if I want to follow Him, that’s the direction He is walking. Jesus is walking on the water, but I don’t have the option. I have to muster up the courage to dive in and let the waters sweep me away to wherever God wants me to go. And it’s not like I haven’t swam in this river before, so why the fear? You’d think this would get easier with each pass, but it doesn’t. I’m still terrified.

To be continued…

 

 

Trusting the Rickety Bridge will Hold

Continued from here.

In her book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp shares the analogy of the rickety bridge. She talks about how she lives in an area with a rickety bridge that looks scary to cross, but it’s actually very secure. She knows this because she and numerous other people have safely driven over it many times before. She then points out that our life challenges often look like rickety bridges that might give way at any moment. The way we learn to trust that this bridge will hold is by looking in the rearview mirror at all of the other bridges that have already held.

Isn’t our walk with God that way? No matter how many rickety bridges He has held stable in His loving hands, we still question whether THIS is the rickety bridge that will collapse. We forget how unstable our past bridges appeared and assume there’s something much worse about THIS particular bridge. We compare the instability of the bridge in front of us with our own resources and find ourselves lacking. We fear that without God’s intervention, the bridge will collapse, and we question whether we can trust Him. We lose sight of the many bridges He has already held as we focus on the one in front of us. Our faith is measured not in what we say we believe but, instead, in how confidently we step out onto the rickety bridge, trusting that our God is faithful.

That’s where I find myself in this particular area of my life that God is working on – AGAIN. I was terrified the first time I crossed this bridge … and the second … and the third. And each time I made it across by the skin of my teeth, I prayed I would never have to cross another such bridge again. Yet, here I am, with the most rickety-looking bridge I have ever seen, crossing the widest chasm I have ever encountered in the area of my greatest brokenness and deepest fears. Many people call me fearless, but I know fear very well – particularly whenever I face this particular chasm. It’s not fearlessness that drives me to take that first step. It’s courage.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. Courtesy Amazon.]

Going in Circles in My Spiritual Walk

circle_shrugDo you ever feel like you are going in circles in your walk with God? That’s how I have been feeling lately. The same area for growth – the same one that has been the bane of my existence since pretty much birth – is the one that God is choosing to focus on today, and I find myself astonished that there can still be so much more to do in this area after the many years of healing and struggle I have already undergone. And then I find myself despairing that I’ll never be healed in this area, fearing the brokenness in my soul is more than God’s power is capable of healing.

And, yes, I know this mindset is pride. Whenever I believe I have stumped God, I’m being prideful. There is nothing – NOTHING – that is bigger than God. But if that is the case, why is He leading me around the same mountain AGAIN?

At times like this, I find it helpful to reflect upon others areas in my life in which God has circled back that are no longer challenges for me. This helps me gain perspective and see that I’m not going in circles so much as a spiral, revisiting the same areas of brokenness for deeper levels of healing. It’s not that I didn’t learn the lesson last time – instead, it’s time to learn the same lesson at a deeper level.

I went through this process when I finally gave up my stubbornness on the issue of giving and started tithing. At first, things were GREAT as money was flowing in from all sorts of unexpected places. But then, the money dried up, and my coffers ran very low. I was tempted not to tithe because I could no longer afford it. After all, if God wasn’t going to come through, didn’t I need to make sure that I had enough? As challenging as it was, I chose to tithe anyhow, and then the financial blessings started to flow again. Test passed.

And then I found myself in the same position a couple of years later, only this time, more $ was at stake. Didn’t I already pass this test? So, why I am here again? I was able to build on my positive experience in the last test – I tithed in my lack, and then the blessings flowed again. And then, it happened AGAIN a few years later. Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. In retrospect, the spiral was a blessing because by the time I lost my job last year, I wasn’t shaken because I had experienced enough of God’s faithfulness before to know that He would be faithful again.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging inside a green circle. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Changing the Way You Think

thinkingContinued from here.

Years ago, God powerfully transformed my life through sharing one simple truth: what I am feeling right now is a byproduct of what I have been thinking. Change what I am thinking, and it will change what I am feeling. This is why the Bible tells us…

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

When you think about lovely things, you have lovely feelings. When you think about things that are praiseworthy, you experience feelings of joy. This is also why the Bible tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. It’s not that we are thankful FOR all circumstances, but we can give thanks IN all circumstances because we have much to be grateful for, even in the midst of suffering.

Whenever I’m tempted to have a pity party, I always start with thanking God for what’s in my bathroom because no matter how self-focused and miserable I am, I am ALWAYS grateful not to have to walk out into the cold to relieve myself in the woods without toilet paper or running water. I thank God for toilets, indoor plumbing, running water, hot showers, toilet paper, etc. As silly as it sounds, as I give thanks for the items in my bathroom, my feelings start to shift because I am replacing my “woe is me” thoughts with thoughts of gratitude, which plant the seeds of joy.

I will sometimes realize that I am feeling anxious, irritable, etc. and not understand why. However, if I backtrack to what I have been thinking about, I will find the root cause. I will realize that I have become lazy about holding every thought captive to Christ and have allowed the enemy to plant seeds of self-centeredness and discontent. Thankfully, I know the antidote – praying God’s words back to Him in gratitude for all He has done. As I change the way I think, I change the way I feel. It’s not easy, but it really is that simple.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace thinking about a thinking emoticon. Courtesy Bitmoji.]