My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Posts tagged ‘lovingkindness’

Sin and Security…

I am going to be really transparent in this post. If you don’t like transparency, or emotional outbursts, this is probably not the post for you.

I have been taking a class at church going through a book called, “The Peace Maker” by Ken Sande. I have to confess that at first I was drawn to this class because at times my marriage has needed some peacemaking. But when two sinners get married, what do you expect?

The first few chapters were good, but then I hit Chapter 5 – Conflict Starts in the Heart. Wow…I will have to say that is when God really opened my eyes. I started reading this chapter and all of a sudden everything was applying to me…not to my husband. And let me tell you something, it was heartbreaking.

God has really used this book, and another study I am doing in my quiet time about Prayer, to break me. He has shown me that I have made an idol out of the need for security. I have seen clearly for the first time how I will do anything, including putting a huge burden on my husband, to get the security I crave and think that I deserve.

Let me back up a bit. Most of you know that I was adopted as a baby. I had fantastic, wonderful parents who always told me how much I was loved and wanted, but there was always this deep seated insecurity inside of me. I always felt like I was different and somehow not good enough because my birth mother obviously did not want me and just gave me up. Of course, as I got older and (a little) wiser, I realized that this was not true at all. She did love me, enough to give me up to someone who could better care for me. But knowing that intellectually and living it emotionally are always two very different things.

So, little by little, I placed a huge burden on my husband of making me feel secure. And when he failed, and he did, because he is a human sinner, as am I, I blamed him for my insecurity. This caused me to build a wall in my heart to avoid the pain. Sin, sin, sin…

I have never seen this so clearly as I did today. Let me share a little of what I journalled for my homework in class:

What do I seek and desire? Love of my spouse and security in our relationship. This is my idol. When I do not feel the security I desire in our relationship, I punish him by becoming distant (justification = protect myself) or angry (threaten or blame shift), instead of finding the security I crave from the one True God.

Another entry says:
As you look back on how you have handled this conflict do you see a need to repent and for confession? Yes! I was placing my needs and expectations on Bud. I believe that most of this (a recent argument) stems back to placing my desire for security on his shoulders as a burden that he can not possibly fulfill or carry. Again, repentance is necessary on my part as I have placed this on him rather than on God who is the only one who can and will give me the security and love I desire. I have continually taken the desire for love of God He has placed in me and put it as a burden on my husband. This has brought about a lot of conflict in our marriage which I have then blamed on him. I now realize there is no way my husband could ever meet these needs because he was never meant to…only God was.

As you can see, this has been rather eye-opening for me. And wildly freeing to my heart.

I can see God’s goodness and mercy so clearly and how I was the one backing away not God.

Why am I sharing this in a public forum such as my blog? I think transparency is a good thing. I think it is a public confession. I also think when God shows you something this good and freeing, you need to share it so others can learn from it as well. But most of all, I wanted to share how GREAT our God is! How loving and merciful and tender. I want to praise Him for being so longsuffering with me when I do not deserve it, worm that I am.

Thank you for letting me be transparent and free with you, as well.

I Once Was Lost…

I think that I have a very unique perspective than most people regarding salvation. A good many of the believers that I know were saved pretty early in life. They don’t really remember a time that they weren’t saved. It just always has been this way.

I, however, was not saved until I was 35 years old. I distinctly remember not being saved. I also remember a lot about the time that God was drawing me to Himself.

I always knew there was a God. I also knew that I would go to Hell once I died because I had enough knowledge to know that I wasn’t where I should be spiritually. It was a subject that I tried to avoid thinking about at any cost. I just hoped that when it was my time to die, I would have a few minutes to “get myself right.” Other than that I would push away any thoughts concerning God, Jesus, or my eternal destiny.

I remember when God started opening my heart to His advances. Here are some of my thoughts from that time that I wrote in a previous blog:


It seemed every time I got in the car to go to work in the morning “the Marshall Minute” was on. This is a little minute-long spot where the minister of St. James United Methodist Church would speak on some topic and relate it to Scripture. Every time it would come on I would change the channel. I absolutely hated it. Not really because of what was said in the spot but because I could feel God working on me. I would just get so mad.


Well, anyone who tells you that God doesn’t have a sense of humor is wrong. He absolutely does. Because not only did I hear this everyday, but it started that another station picked it up and when I would change the channel, it would be on that one too! It really infuriated me. And then people at work started talking to me about God and witnessing to me. Every book I would read would have something about religion or God in it somewhere – even though they were secular books.

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During this time in my life I was really angry at God. I had a lot of hatred towards God because I felt He had ignored my prayers and let my mother die of cancer when I was 19 years old. This hatred of God almost became like one of my children. I nurtured it and grew it up really big. I had it so long at this point that it was part of who I was and I couldn’t imagine how to begin to let it go.

So, as God started working on me, I started working against Him. A lot of people believe that the decision to believe is all theirs. They believe they can choose God at any time. They believe that they have the will and the strength to do that. I beg to differ on this point. Because I can tell them, you don’t. And not only that, you don’t want to either. The Bible says, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” — Romans 5:10

You see, I remember being God’s enemy. Oh, I didn’t think I was God’s enemy and I wouldn’t have put it that way at the time, but I was basically shaking my fist at Him. All I wanted was to be left alone. I wanted God to quit bothering me, quit drawing me to Him, and quit making me feel so guilty.

The first thing that happened was I begin to see my guilt. The Holy Spirit was showing me just what a guilty, worm of a sinner I actually was. He had to break me down to get me to even begin to see the light. Everywhere I turned, there He was.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall[a] on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You. ~ Psalm 139:7-12

There was nowhere I could go to escape from God. And the more I tried to escape from God, and couldn’t, the more I hated Him.

I thank God He did not give me what I wanted. He could have just left me alone. Because He does that sometimes. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;” Romans 1:28 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:11-12

He could have done that to me and that would have been right and just. But He didn’t! In His mercy and grace and lovingkindness, He didn’t leave me in the dark, deadness of my soul.

So when I pushed, He pushed back even harder. And finally, I saw His light and believed. And the light shined and the darkness was gone. “For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

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Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
John Newton (1725-1807)

The Death of Death…

Last night when I got home from choir I went to check on Bella’s recently acquired gerbils. There are two of them – Rick James and Lucy. Rick James was Bella’s gerbil for a semester long experiment last semester. After the class was over the students were given a choice to either keep the gerbil or to donate it to the zoo to feed the snakes. What kind of choice is that? Get attached for 3 months and then send it to its death? So Bella chose to keep Rick James. She also “adopted” Lucy, one of her other classmate’s gerbil.

Lucy (left) and Rick James

Lucy (left) and Rick James

So…after the issues we had with rats a few months back (plagues), I was trying to see these little rodents as something different…even working up the courage to hold one of them. Every day I check on them but last night something was different. Something was wrong with Lucy. At first I thought maybe she was trying to have some babies since she had gotten a little plump over the last week. But I quickly realized something was seriously wrong.

Lucy was in a little ball with her eyes barely open and her breathing was labored. The only time she would move was when Rick James would get too close and then she would almost fling her body across the cage to other side. When Bella got home we took Lucy out of the cage and put her in a cool-whip bowl lined with paper towels. Eventually Lucy died. I was so incredibly sad. I really don’t know why I reacted so strongly as I thought I hated rodents. But this was so sad to me.

I hate death. I hate it because it takes those we care about away from us. Whether it is a beloved dog, a new gerbil, or the person we love most in the world. I think I got so upset because I have seen a person die and I had such an incredible sadness about the end of life. Death is such an offense to God’s creation.

Should death be an offense to us? Yes. But death can also serve as a reminder to us of how our Lord Jesus Christ has conquered death. It should bring us back to the cross. So when someone we love dies should we grieve? Of course we should. However, the Bible tells us in 1 Thess. 4:13, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep [dead], that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

Now, I know what some of you are thinking…how can I equate the death of an animal to that of a person? I can’t – not really. I know that animals and humans are totally different. And I really don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not our beloved animals go to heaven or not. The Bible just isn’t clear on that one. I will leave that debate to those more scholarly than I. I would love to think that I would get to see my sweet dogs that have died when I get to Heaven…but I don’t know. I do know that I sure don’t want those rats we killed awhile back running around on the streets of gold. So…it’s a mixed bag.

But I do want to use this sad occurrence to bring me once more to the cross and remember that death has ultimately died. That God is in control of everything…even this little gerbil’s life and death. (“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” – Matthew 10:29) And that He is a loving, merciful God.

Lavished With Love…

Last night I was watching my husband with one of our basset hounds (his “baby”) Blossom. They have a bedtime ritual that they perform every night. When Bud goes to bed Blossom follows him. She gets on the bed beside him and he rubs her. As he pets and rubs her she starts to hum. He can even make a tone and she will basically imitate him. As long as Bud is willing to pet her, she will stay there and enjoy the love He is lavishing on her.

Blossom

Blossom

It is fun to watch her as she has a look of complete adoration on her face the whole time he is petting her. There is no one else in the world but Bud at that time. And pretty much nothing I do will take her attention away from him. In her world, there is only Blossom and Bud.

I’m sure you have heard the tale about the dog and the cat. A dog sees his owner feeding him, caring for him, and petting him and thinks, “He must be God.” A cat sees his owner feeding him, caring for him, and petting him and thinks, “I must be God.” A speaker in my Perspectives class called this basic premise Dog and Cat Theology.

There is some truth in that old adage. Because when Blossom looks at Bud while he is petting her, there is no doubt that she sees him as God. In her life, he is the one providing for her and the one who cares for her. When the mean cat at my father-in-law’s house slaps Blossom, she runs as fast as her short legs will take her straight to Bud.

While I was watching the two of them in their “love fest” last night, I couldn’t help but think about my relationship with God. Am I willing to just enjoy the love God lavishes upon me? Do I look upon Jesus’ face and nail scarred hands in adoration? When I am praying is there only God and me? When life smacks me in the face, do I run as fast as my short legs will take me straight to God?

There is so much I can learn from Blossom’s single-minded adoration. God lavishes me in so many ways every day. He protects me and cares for me. He provides for me and my family. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” And Psalm 94:17-19 says, “If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, ‘My foot has slipped,’ Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” And all He wants from me is my adoration…single-minded, uninhibited adoration.

It seems like so little to ask…after all He has done for me and continues to do for me. He chose me from before the foundations of the earth. The adoration should be no problem.

So I will again push aside my selfish, sin-filled self and love my Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will adore Him! And I too, like Blossom, will enjoy being lavished with love.

God Knows…

At our house, with four cars, there is a method to parking so no one gets blocked in. The first two home get to park in the carport (which is always the preferred spot but especially when it’s going to be cold or raining the next morning). The last two home have to drive straight up the driveway and up against the fence.

Last Wednesday, Bella and I were coming home from church together. My car was number four in that night so we parked up against the fence. As we pulled up, Bella noticed something in the fence in the headlights. Honestly, I thought it was just the way the leaves were arranged but Bella swore it was something there.

So we left the headlights on and took a look. And it was something…it was this little bird sitting in the fence in the middle of one of the links about a third of the way down. Something had obviously happened to the little guy. He was just sitting there and as we came up to him, he just sat there and looked at us. He was aware of us because Bella and I were on each of side of him and he would look at one of us and then at the other. But something was quite right with him either. It was like he was in a daze. He didn’t fly away and he even let Bella touch his side. (I myself didn’t attempt this because I didn’t want it to suddenly to go crazy and peck my eyes out or something. I guess I shouldn’t have watched the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds” that time…)

After getting Joey to come out and look at our new friend, we went on inside for the night. But I kept thinking about that little birdie. I wondered what had happened to him to that he would just sit right there when we came up. I wondered if he had hit a window and been grazed by a car to make him so dazed.

The next morning as I went to my car to go to work, I looked to see if he was still there. I was pretty sure that I would find his little body dead on the ground. But there he was…still sitting in the same section of fence looking at me. He seemed much more alert this time but showed no inclination to fly off.

He was on my mind all day but when I got home Thursday evening he was gone. I searched all around on the ground just to be sure he hadn’t died but I never found him and I wondered what had happened to him: why had he been there, where was he now…

I realized that I would never know why that little bird was there…but God knows. The Scripture says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.” Isn’t that a comforting thought? No matter what is going on in our life, God knows. He is not taken by surprise or unaware of even the littlest thing that happens or that we are going through. Just like with that little bird.

What a wonderful thought…God knows. Such a short sentence but so profound. So when I wake up feeling sad, missing my mom…God knows. When someone says something that really hurts…God knows. When I do something really nice for someone that no one sees…God knows. When I slam my finger into the door and curse…God knows. Wait – that last one – that’s not good.

You see, God knows everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. And if truth be told, it’s probably a lot more bad and ugly than good. A wonderful thought, but a scary one too.

That’s where the good news comes in. God knows it all…but He also made a way for us to be forgiven for the bad and the ugly stuff He sees in our hearts and minds! And that is one of the innumerable things that makes God so awesome…He knows and He still loves us. He knows and He made a way to wash us clean. He knows and He still chooses us to be called “Children of God.”

So next time I see a little bird – be it flying in the air or sitting on the fence – I am going to meditate on the fact that God knows…

It’s Spring again…

I’ve been trying to figure out what is up with our weather…..

I mean in the past couple of weeks we have had extremely cold weather, shorts weather, tornados, snow, shorts weather again, torrential rain, and back to shorts weather again. It’s no wonder I have a head cold I can’t get rid of. I’m sure that my sinuses are just fed up with the daily weather change.

I will have to say though…I love Spring. I like Summer too. I guess I’m just a warm-weather girl. I think I like Spring so much because of everything coming back to life. Just watching all the bare trees start sprouting their leaves once again, the flowers begin blooming, and seeing all the birds and squirrels running around makes me happy. It reminds me of how things are with us as well.

When we have unrepentant sin we experience a lack of closeness from God. Until we repent and repair our relationship with God, there is a time of Winter in our relationship. It’s cold and distant and not satisfying to our soul.

But then we repent….and just like Spring there is new life in our relationship. The relationship blooms between us and our heavenly Father. The light illuminates our soul. The fruit in our lives just begins to bloom. Oh, the lovingkindness and forgiveness of our loving Father God!

So I just have to remember – no matter what the weather is doing outside – I can always have the newness and life of Springtime in my soul. Thank you my Father!!!