Tuesday, February 12, 2013
It's an easy trap to fall into- the sin of comparison.
"Comparison isn't a sin," you say?
Oh, but I beg to differ.
I have lived most of my life comparing myself to others. As a child, it was comparing myself to the "popular girl". As a teenager, it was comparing myself to actresses and models. As an adult, it became comparing myself to other wives and mothers. (The Pinterest Pedestal, anyone??) It's a terribly discouraging and depressing chore, comparing oneself to others. Especially since we often[always] fall short.
Somehow, through comparison, I developed this idea in my mind of the wife and mother I should be.
Clean house. Delicious dinners every night. Put-together and stylish. Crafty. Calm, cool and collected. Healthy and fit. Super-mom. Doting wife. The girl who does it all.
And the harsh reality?
My house is sometimes clean and always messy. I order pizza for dinner way more often than I'd like to admit. I have no idea what the current fashions are because most of my clothes come off the Target clearance rack. My oldest child's scrapbook only goes to her 4th month (she's 6). My other two children don't even have one. I'm usually frazzled, forgetful and impatient. I never exercise and sometimes I go without eating one fruit or vegetable all day. I am FAR from super-mom. My husband usually comes home to a tired, stressed wife who can barely keep her eyes open long enough to give him a kiss goodnight.
"Well, you need to get your act together like the rest of us." That's what Satan whispers in my ear. He tells me that I've fallen so very short of where everyone else is. I live too many days in guilt and frustration because I choose to compare myself with the "idea" of who I should be.
And I am convinced that that mentality keeps us from living the "abundant life" that Jesus came to give.
But it's not always the falling short that causes the sin. Often, it is the rising above. We think:
"At least I'm a better mother than she is."
"I don't use crude language like her."
"I give more to missions than they do."
"I have a better marriage."
"I do more volunteer work than her."
"I would never act like that."
"I'm at church way more than they are."
*GASP* "You mean, you've thought those things?"
Oh yes, yes I have. And as much as it hurts to admit, I bet you have too. We are flawed human beings. We don't like admitting our flaws. So any time we have the opportunity to feel better about our flaws, we usually jump at it.
I have fallen victim to the sin of comparison in my own life more times than I can count. I don't consider myself to be a boastful person. I don't go around parading my successes in front of others. But the sin of comparison isn't loud and proud. Typically, it is quiet and unassuming. And as we let it take shape in the secret places of our mind and heart, it steals away conviction.
For years, I justified what I did for the Lord as "being enough" because it was more than so-and-so. I prayed more. Gave more. Volunteered more. Taught more. Sacrificed more. I lived under the false impression that as long as it was "more", it was enough.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Our "more-than" will always fall short of total surrender.
When we allow our convictions to be molded and shaped by comparison to others, it is easy to fall into complacency and apathy. We stop listening to the voice of the Spirit and allowing Him to direct our path. Instead, as long as we are "as good as" or "better" than the rest, we're okay with that. We sit back, arms folded in satisfaction, unwilling to truly lay our lives on the altar of complete and total surrender to Christ.
Several years ago I realized that my Christian life had become a byproduct of the sin of comparison. I no longer felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, calling me to a life of greater sacrifice and deeper relationship. I looked around, compared myself to other believers, and was convinced I had done enough. I had become satisfied. Satisfied, yet empty.
This mentality, too, robbed me of the "abundant life" that Jesus talked about.
Dear friends, there is a beautiful balance that the Spirit gently draws us to. It is far from the place of less-than and more-than. It cannot be reached by comparison. It is only found when we humbly submit ourselves- completely surrendered- to our gracious Heavenly Father and allow Him to take us to the place of "enough".
The place where we are enough because He is enough.
This place of "enough" is not based on what we do. We could never do enough. It is not based on who we are. We could never be enough. It is based on the redemption, grace, mercy and love of Jesus Christ who will always and forever be more than enough.
So today, if you're living in the place of "less-than", stop the compari[sin] and live in the freedom of being a daughter of the one who is enough. If you're living in the place of "more-than", step bravely onto the altar of complete surrender before Christ where our righteousness becomes filthy rags and our total obedience to Him is all that will ever be enough.
He is calling you to the place of "enough". Will you come?
"My heart has heard you say, "Come and talk with me." And my heart responds, "Lord, I am coming." -Psalms 27:8
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I've always known You loved me.
I knew from the beginning You wanted me.
But this conflict inside me, it wouldn't let me be loved by You.
I've always known You cared about me.
I knew from the beginning you went to great lengths to call me Your own.
But something deep within resisted Your affection.
I've refused to let You in.
It's not that I didn't want to.
I wanted to be loved, wanted, cared for.
I desired the embrace of someone who genuinely loved me.
But something wouldn't let me be vulnerable enough to be loved by You.
The fear that You would leave.
The fear that I would disappoint You.
The fear that You would walk away, just like everyone else.
Fear wouldn't let me be loved by You.
So here I am- an orphan, afraid and alone.
I long to belong, to be loved.
And there You are- a Father, arms open wide.
You long to lavish Your love upon me.
Can I trust You?
Will You stay?
Will You hold me and love me?
Will You call me Your own?
Will You love me unconditionally?
Will You be my....Father?
I step closer...
Something rushes over me as I welcome Your embrace.
Emotions swirl inside of me.
Relief. Joy. Peace.
And something I have never experienced before-
So this is what it is like to belong.
To be loved.
To be wanted.
To be safe in the arms of a Father.
You wash away my fear,
And I am loved by You.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
I want to change that, though, because our family is just starting on a new journey that I want to share with the world. We have started the process of international adoption. Many of our friends and family are aware that in the fall of 2009, God began shifting some things in Derick and I. Through an incredible book called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan, we were challenged, convicted, humbled, and empowered to make a greater difference for Christ than ever before. Let's just say, God pretty much rocked our world.
Through the process of God opening our eyes to the need in the world around us, He began dealing with our hearts about adoption. We had talked about adoption being a possibility for our distant future, but never imagined it would be something we would embark on with two small children already in our home. I could feel the Lord tugging on my heart, calling me to this very scary thing called "international adoption." I prayed and asked the Lord to give Derick and I His clear direction. I decided not to say anything to Derick just yet.
One day, Derick walked through the door after a day at the office and, out of the blue, said, "I think we need to adopt." I was surprised, but not really, because I knew that God was orchestrating this behind the scenes the whole time. So, I began researching, reading, Googling, asking questions, and looking for answers. I am so thankful that God placed some precious people in my life who had walked this road before me and were able to give some extremely helpful advice. We found an adoption agency in Georgia and began the preliminary paperwork to get started.
Many people have asked why we chose international adoption, and more specifically, South Korea. Why we chose to adopt internationally really has much more to do with God and less to do with us. It is simply what He put in our hearts to do. We are just being obedient to His leading. As for why South Korea, over 35 years ago, my grandparents also had a burden for the people of South Korea. They chose to leave their home in Oklahoma for several years and serve as missionaries there. My mother lived there during her junior and part of her senior year in high school. Growing up, it just felt like the culture and language of South Korea was a part of my family. So when it came time to choose a country to adopt from, we felt that it would be such an incredible blessing to continue the heritage of love for the people of South Korea that was birthed in my grandparents by adopting a child from there.
Unfortunately, when we started the process in early 2010, we were told by our adoption agency that we would have to be put on a waiting list because the quota of children to be adopted from S.K. had already been filled for that year. It was disappointing, but we trusted God had a better plan. And He did! In July of 2010 we moved to Tomball, Texas, and if we had been further along in the process, all our time and money would have been wasted because the agency we were using doesn't have an office here. I am so thankful that God's timing is perfect!
When we moved to Texas, we couldn't start the process here until we had our own home, and it took a frustrating and long 10 months for our house in GA to sell! During this time, my heart ached to continue the adoption process and bring our sweet child home, but our hands were tied. It was a season of much prayer and trusting in God.
Finally, in April of 2011 our house sold. As much of a blessing as that was, due to the economy, our house was worth much less than what we owed on it. We had been saving towards adoption and had to take the (miraculous) $14,000 we had saved to pay off our house. My dreams of adopting were devastated. How in the world could we afford an adoption that could cost up to $25,000 when we had literally nothing left in savings? But slowly, quietly, God reassured me that in my great need, He can do greater miracles.
So, the research began again. Finding an agency. Filling out applications. Saving money...sometimes pennies. We were accepted into Holt International's Korea program in June and will be sending off our homestudy paperwork to our local agency tomorrow! After that, we have a series of interviews and training to do before our papers can be sent to Korea for approval and a child referral.
Right now, when I think about the huge financial, mental, and emotional mountain we have in front of us, I am overwhelmed. In my human mind, I see no way we can afford this. But God is able. He has called us to this journey, and I am trusting He is leading the way. I am so excited to add another precious child to our family, and give a child a home and a family that wouldn't otherwise have one. I am thankful that God would choose us to be a part of His plan for a child's life that is across the world from here. I am humbled that I get to be the mother of yet another gift from God. And I am confident- that with God, all things are possible!!
Thank you for your prayers, support, and encouragement during this time! We will keep you updated on our progress. :)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
"Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul..." -Matthew 22:37
In my last blog I talked about loving God with all our hearts- the emotional core of who we are. God delights in us pouring out our emotions to Him in worship and prayer. He created us to be emotional beings and wants to connect with us on an emotional level. When we open our hearts in communion with Him, He will begin to change our emotions and passions to look more like His own. Our heart becomes His. That is the ultimate gift of love to our Father.
Next, Jesus commands us to love God with all our soul. So what is our soul? We know it is the eternal part of our being- the essence of who we are that will live on in eternity after our bodies have entered their earthly grave. But what elements of our person does our soul encompass? Well, based on the other things Jesus commanded us to love God with (our heart, mind, strength) we know it isn't our emotions, thoughts, or physical action. So what is left?
I believe this coincides with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke chapter ten. Mary and Martha were sisters. They lived together and just happened to be hosting Jesus Christ in their home (can you imagine the pressure?!) as he taught his followers. Martha gave into the pressure of performance. She felt she needed to have everything just right in order to please the Lord. But Mary, who seemed to be sitting lazily at the feet of Jesus, was the one who was commended for her actions. Jesus said:
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:41-42
Jesus clearly says in this passage that Mary chose the better thing- just being in the presence of God. She gave him her time and attention and laid her priorities down to just be. We can pour out our hearts in worship to Jesus. We can know the Word and teach it to others. We can live a life that shines His light. But if we don't take time just to be, we have missed what Jesus calls the "one thing" that is really needed.
Loving God with our soul takes us to a deeper spiritual place than anything else. It requires us to remember that we are, in essence, spiritual beings wrapped in human bodies. We were made for something more. Yet often we allow our humanity to determine our spirituality, rather than the other way around. When we connect with God on His level- in spirit- and release ourself from the confines of humanity, we can experience His presence in a more powerful way than ever before.
This might sound tricky or mystical, but really all it means is just allowing ourselves to be in the presence of God with no agenda, no hidden motives, and no reservations. It means being real, open, and vulnerable before the God of Creation. Loving God with all our soul means giving God the opportunity to meet with and know us at the deepest point of who we are. More than anything, God desires to know us and for us to know Him. So when we make time to just be in His presence and commune with Him, we are giving ourselves- our souls- as a love offering to Him.
As a parent, I love just being with my daughters. They don't have to do anything in particular to make me enjoy my time with them. I just love the privilege of knowing them and being involved in their lives. The conversations we have, the games we play, the shows they put on- it all brings me joy just because we are together, and they are just being their precious little selves. I know as they get older they won't want to spend as much time with their mom, so I try to enjoy every moment I can. Every hug, every giggle, every smile.
God is much the same way. He revels in just being with us. He loves our quirks, and the things that make us uniquely us. After all, He made us that way! So when we take time just to be with Him, unhindered and vulerable, it is one of the greatest things we can give Him. He aches just to know us and have us know Him. When we do that, we fulfill His greatest desire and our greatest need.
Loving God with all our soul is really one of the easiest ways to love Him, but one of the hardest things to do. We can get so caught up in the demands of life, including "doing good", that we neglect to make time just to be in the presence of God. When all is said and done and we enter the eternity that we were created for, being in God's presence is one of the main things we will do! Our life on earth is just preparation for eternity. If we truly want to love God "with all", we must give Him what He truly desires more than anything else:
"You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." -Psalm 16:11
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"With all my heart" is a common expression used to describe the depth of love we have for someone. Obviously we aren't talking about the muscle in our chest that pumps the lifeblood through our bodies that keeps us alive. So what is our "heart"? And how do we love someone with all of it?
Look under the third definition of "heart" on dictionary.com and you'll see that the heart is defined in this sense as: the center of of the total personality, especially in reference to intuition, feeling or emotion. Chew on that for a minute. Our heart is at the center of who we are, because God has created us as creatures driven by emotion. Our emotions typically determine our actions. The way we feel governs the way that we live. Hence the mindset to "just do it."
Now when we crucify our flesh and allow the Spirit to guide our lives, we can choose to live by what we know to be true rather than by what we feel, which is a vital discipline for the Christian walk. But we can never get away from this core element of our humanity- raw emotion. And this is a good thing! God created us like this. He wanted us to have and experience emotions. They are a beautiful and wonderful part of the vibrant life that Jesus came to give us. We aren't supposed to be apathetic, uncaring, unfeeling Christians. We are supposed to be passionate and spirited, especially when it comes to our relationship with our Heavenly Father and the things that He is passionate about.
David is one of my favorite personalities in the Bible. Partially because I can relate to his emotional ups and downs. He never held back in expressing his emotions- good or bad- through the Psalms. I, too, am an emotional person. Some days I feel overwhelmed with love for my Savior. And some days I feel frustrated, far away, or even angry with God. David mirrors these emotions in his writings. Take a look:
"I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High."
and in the very next chapter...
"Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?"
Although David was an emotional person, he was also said by God to be a man "after my own heart". I honestly believe that God delights in hearing the pure emotion of His children poured out in prayer and song to Him. He loved David and savored every moment of fellowship and interaction, regardless of David's mood swing that day. He knew David was honest, open, and pure and that is what God longs for in a love relationship with us.
Truly loving God "with all your heart" means to surrender your every emotion to God. Highs and lows, ups and downs- turn them all into a prayer of devotion to your Father. He loves that raw emotion and passion. He longs for us to express those emotions about and to Him. It doesn't mean that we can't be passionate about other things. But the cry of our heart, the core of our emotions, should be centered around and offered up to God. As we live a passionate life to and for our Father, He can begin to shape those very emotions to point us toward the things that He is passionate about. He takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on what is really important. Our passions will begin to be channeled toward helping the needy, relieving human suffering, spreading the Gospel and winning the lost. The more we know Christ, the more our emotions look like His.
The embrace, expression and surrender of our emotions to God, and the transformation of our passions to become His passion for the world around us- that is the ultimate expression of love to our Father.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." -Mark 12:28-29
The most important thing. The greatest commandment. The one thing that sums up God's greatest desire for us. To love.
This is a familiar passage to me. I grew up hearing and memorizing it as a child in Sunday School and children's church. We sang songs about it. It has followed me into adulthood and remained one of the core concepts that drives my Christian faith- I must love God.
But when giving this most important commandment, Jesus doesn't just stop at love. He goes as far as to tell us what our love should look like. It should take shape in our passions, thoughts, emotions and actions. Our love for God should influence every part of our life and be evident in every area of our being. If it's not, we are not fully living out the most important commandment given to us as Christ-followers.
I feel that the church has failed to really explain and educate on the importance of this "one thing" that we are commanded to do. What does being a Christian really mean? Why do so many people struggle with their faith? Why do so many fall away? What makes being a Christian such a difficult task? Perhaps we have never really embraced the one thing that should fuel and energize this commitment to a life of surrender to God- love.
Over the next few weeks I am going to do a four-part blog on the four elements of our lives that should embody this love commitment: heart, soul, mind and strength. Each blog will be given entirely to one of these elements and dig deep to find out what Jesus meant when He commanded us to love God "with all". I hope you will join me as we get to the root of the Christian faith and Almighty God himself: love.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom." Psalm 111:10
The Christian church has done its best to try and explain God. We have wrapped Him up in clever little sayings and heartwarming songs. We've used phrases like "Jesus is my homeboy" and "best friend" to describe a relationship with Christ in a way that is appealing and approachable to the world. I am not criticizing these attempts to present God to the world in a way that they can receive Him. All of our human efforts (including my own), regardless of doctrinal correctness or theological caliber, fall embarrassingly short of capturing God in the fullness of who He is.
"For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom..." 1 Cor. 1:25
However, I do believe that in bringing God to a level that we can understand and accept, we have done new converts (and life-long believers as well) a huge disservice. In our attempts to win people over to Christ, we have reduced the privilege of a relationship with the God of the Universe down to a simple "friendship". A casual buddy. In doing this, we have neglected and ignored one of the most essential traits of a true relationship with God- fear.
"But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love..." Psalm 33:18
You don't often hear people talking about the fear of God when they are witnessing. And that is understandable- how do you attract someone to a being that should be feared? As a young teenager, I remember reading about the fear of the Lord and quickly skimming over those passages and moving on. I didn't want to think about fearing God. I just wanted to think about the God who loved me and wanted to be my friend. I didn't want to think about a God who invokes fear.
But if we are really going to turn our lives over to this God who existed before time began and knows the end from the beginning, we must understand and embrace a holy fear of God. Without it, we are in danger of giving our lives to an "idea" or "version" of God, rather than the I AM Himself. (Which could be argued, is a form of idolatry.)
To understand the meaning of "fear" when it comes to God, we must be willing to look at the complete picture (or as best as we can comprehend it) of who God is. Job chapters 36 and 37 are a stunning picture of God. The visual images cast by the words of the author are hard to comprehend. But in reading them, they evoke a sense of wonder, awe, and reverence for Almighty God.
"At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth. He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice. When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God's voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. " Job 37:1-5
Yes, God loves us. He is a good God. He desires a relationship with us. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. But we cannot accept God for all of His benefits without acknowledging that He is powerful, just, righteous, majestic, and holy. He can create and destroy with His very breath. He can plant and uproot. He requires holiness from His people. And He judges the very hearts of men.
I have a wonderful earthly father. He is a tall man with a loud voice. I know that he loves me, but as a child he was very intimidating. As much as it was his responsibility as a father to love me, it was also his responsibility to correct and discipline me in love. He had rules. Expectations. And I knew that. If I did something I wasn't supposed to, I was afraid. Afraid of the consequences, and afraid of disappointing him. I knew he would never do anything to harm me. I wasn't afraid of him like I was afraid of spiders or the boogey man. I was fearful of him because I respected him as the authority over my life.
Our fear of God should be similar. We should never doubt that God loves us. Love is the motivation for everything God does. But because God loves us, He desires the best for our lives. He created the world and everything in it for His purpose, and our part in that purpose is His best for us. He will guide, discipline, judge and correct in righteousness to bring about that purpose in our lives. He is our authority- and His authority demands respect and reverence. Fear.
True wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. When we allow our view of God to include not only Jesus the friend, but I AM- the Creator, Sustainer, Judge, and King- we experience the fullness of knowing and serving a God who not only walks by our side each day, but gives us the very breath to live that day out in communion with Him. Our fear of God should motivate us to live according to His will. We should read His Word with an urgency to discern and know His expectations of us. And once we know them, we should apply them and honor Him with our lives. His grace covers our failures, and His righteousness covers our shortcomings. But grace and mercy should not be an excuse to undermine God's authority over our lives.
If we truly live in a relationship with God, we will fear Him. There should be a sense of awe when we come into His presence. He isn't just a buddy. He is the Great I AM. Be challenged to think about God in the fullness of who He is. And don't be surprised if a holy fear is the result as He reveals His glory to you. If it's not, we may have missed God entirely.