Friday Ramble: Authenticity

This is probably going to be a true ramble because these thoughts haven’t completely solidified in my head, but there is an edge to them that I can’t get rid of.

So why not just share it with you anyway.

Authenticity

I’ve talked about authenticity and living honestly on this blog.  I don’t think I’m changing my mind about what I’ve said before, but I’ve seen a danger in using this terminology without balance.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

I caught myself the other day talking about “living my truth.”  And for some reason, when the words came out of my mouth that time (because they have come out of my mouth before), they felt wrong, disturbing, like something was off.

And I realized that there is a danger in pursuing an authentic life.  The danger is that I can be focused so much on living my truth that I forget I’m supposed to be living THE truth, that is in Jesus Christ.  I can center my life so much inward that I never look upward and lose all my energy to live outward.

 

But no matter how inward I will go, I will never understand myself or know myself the way God knows me.  He knew me ever since I was knitted together in my mother’s womb.  He knows what will make me smile, what will make me belly laugh, what will make me cry, and what makes me scared.  He wraps his arms around me the second before the heartbreak.  And he doesn’t let go until the panic washes through me.

And God is proud of his creation.  He roots for us.  He’s the father in the stands demanding the coach put his kid in because he believes in us.  We can do it, not because of some secret we have figured out on our own, but because His strength is pulsing through our spirit.  We got this, even if we have no control over whatever this is, because ultimately, He’s got this.

I can’t continually try to get to know myself, to perfect myself, before going out in the world.  It doesn’t work that way.  I thought I had to live perfectly, to know perfectly, to speak perfectly, to engage perfectly before going out and making a difference in the name of Jesus.  I thought it would make it easier.  But I’ve learned that life is way more complicated and messy, and self-perfection isn’t sustainable, engageable, or even effective.  It’s going to take a mess of a person to reach into the nooks and crannies of the world to reflect a light of Jesus in the darkest corners.

And every time I obsessively try to find out who I am, my truth, my way, my light, I forget that there is only One Truth, One Way, and One Light that is Jesus.  I can’t forget that.  He knows the way through this life.  He said it was gonna be hard.  He said we would suffer.  But the only way I will feel complete and whole is through Him.

Again, there is nothing wrong with living an authentic life, a good life, a life lived in truth and honesty and transparency.  I’m all for that.  And I even think that Jesus wants us to live authentically, honestly, truthfully, transparently.  But I also think He calls us to live holy and righteous lives, led by the Spirit (not our own), with our feet firmly planted in His Truth.

What do you think?

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Summer Study: Ephesians 2

In truth, I picked Ephesians because it had six chapters, and Philippians had four.  I wanted a good solid 10 weeks of study in the Bible this summer.  Philippians is my favorite, but I hadn’t really delved into Ephesians.  I only picked it for a number of its chapters to match Philippians.

But this chapter couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ephesians2

The chapter begins with Paul telling the Ephesians more about how God’s rich grace has saved them from their sin, like in the first chapter.  How they all “gratified the cravings of their sinful nature, following its desires and thoughts, and were by nature objects of wrath.” (v. 3)  We are saved through Christ, through the grace through faith, not by our hands or by our works.

This leads up to the second part of the chapter, about the Gentiles and the Jews.  The Jews had been the chosen people for so long, their culture permeated with signs of this promise – from the annual festivals, to what they didn’t eat, even to circumcision.  This was still so prevalent, that in Ephesians 2:11, Paul mentions that the Jews were referring to the Gentiles as the “uncircumcised” and that they were “the circumcision.”  There was this cultural wall between these two peoples.

And here is where it gets good.

Ephesians21415a

Right now, this resonates with me.  In our world, we have so many cultures that are divided and hostile to each other – racially, ethnically.  Immigrant versus those who have generations born here.  Rich versus middle class versus poor.  Law enforcement versus minorities.  Over and over again, groups pitted against each other in hostility

He, himself, is our peace…by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

We may not hold Jewish law over others around us, but we do hold our own bias cultural standards and expectations.  We expect people to behave in a certain way, to uphold customs they didn’t grow up with, and if they don’t, they haven’t earned a seat at our table, a place in the conversation.

But here is the rub!  The rest of verse 15 and verse 16:

His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

In Christ, there is no us vs them.  When Christ died to deliver us from our transgressions, he held us to the standard of the Spirit, not any cultural standard.  We are justified by his grace, not by our own wisdom or strength or expectations.  And it is by being unified in the Spirit that we are saved through the Spirit.  Because when we walk in the Spirit, we will not be gratified by the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16) or be objects of wrath.  Instead, we pursue peace.  We pursue peace instead of comfort, success, or expectation.

When it comes to those people in my life that I find hard to trust in relationship.  I don’t want to be hurt, and I’ve been hurt so many times, let down so many times by people I thought knew better.  Especially when it comes to this journey of pregnancy loss.  The majority of my friends and family and all of you in my wonderful community have been nothing but gracious, understanding, and sincere.  I’m quite spoiled, actually because I know that there are women who go through pregnancy loss without the support of a community like you.

But there are people who have said and done things, knowing what I have been through, that have hurt me.  I expected them to respond to me in one way, because obviously that is the way to handle the situation, and they don’t or are unable to, and I get hurt.  I get let down.  And I have to forgive, but that’s hard.

Because forgiveness is giving up that right to be hurt, giving up the right to set the expectations. To give God the control of that relationship, trust that He will heal that hurt, and respond in the ways of the Spirit, not the flesh.

It also means living by the Spirit’s expectations and not other people’s expectations.   And that means listening to the Spirit, praying and surrendering to God. After reading this chapter, it’s what I have been convicted to pursue, not on my own strength, but with the strength and guidance of Christ in my life.

Summer Study: Ephesians 1

This summer, on Sundays, the plan is to go through the book of Ephesians and Philippians, with a few other blog posts sprinkled here and there on other types of reflection.  But I’m super excited to really dive into more scripture this summer – both on Sundays and the Bible Study I’m doing this summer as well.

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Ephesians is a letter from Paul to the church in Ephesus as Paul is writing from a prison cell in Rome.  One of the things I noticed when I compared the other letters that Paul wrote to churches was that Ephesians was only one of two letters that Paul writes alone.  In 1 Corinthians, he is writing the letter with Sosthenes.  In 2 Corinthians, Philippians, and Colossians, it’s with Timothy.  In Galatians, it’s with all the brothers with him.  And 1 and 2 Thessalonians, he is writing with Timothy and Silas.  Only in Romans does he not mention anyone else with him as he writes the letter.

The part of the first chapter that truly struck me was this quote:

In him (meaning Christ), we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace, that he lavished on us…

Ephesians 1: 7-8a

That word lavished pricked me as soon as I read it.  As I continued through the rest of the chapter, my mind kept going back to that word.  Lavish is such a luxurious word.  I think of when someone lavishes gifts on someone else.  But I wanted to know what Paul said exactly, so, like any nerd, I looked it up in Greek.  The word is Perisseuo which means overflow and exceed.

It made me think of the story of the feeding of the 5000 with the 5 loaves and 2 fish.  How it fed everyone but still had 12 basketfuls left over.  Jesus not only met the need, but he surpassed it.

Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t just pay our debt to sin.  It surpasses it.  And then I got giddy.  Because you know what that means?

I will never be too broken, too sinful, too much for the love and grace of God.  The riches of God’s grace not only pay my debt, but it surpasses my debt.  His grace is greater than any sin I have ever done, even the ones I think are too big to handle.

Not that we should continue sinning, which Paul talks about in his letter to the Romans (6:1-2).  We are freed from sin, and from the guilt and shame of that sin.  We didn’t bankrupt God with our sin.  But God did purchase us in our sin.  In Ephesians 1:13, it says that we are marked in him with a seal, a sign of possession.  And that seal is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit working within us is a sign that we are no longer our own, but that we belong to God.

Honestly, I have always thought that the Holy Spirit was a gift I could use, not a gift that used me.  You know, I thought that the power of the Holy Spirit was used to perform miracles, answer prayers, make life easier.  But this is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work for me, I work for the Holy Spirit.  And the Spirit’s purpose is to be “the praise of his glory” (v 14).  The Spirit uses us to praise God’s glory, to glorify God.

And that really sticks it to the Devil.  No matter what he throws at me – death, depression, isolation, anxiety, the Spirit can use those things to glorify God.  In my own weakness, God’s strength prevails, not just barely, but overabundantly with room to spare.

The story is of this powerful creator of universes who has an amount of grace and power that is beyond sufficient for all of the bad done in the world, all the losses, the pain, the hurt, the addictions.  We are heirs to that power, that redemption, that reconciliation through Christ (Ephesians 1:18-20), that cannot be separated from us (Romans 8: 28-29).

How cool is that?

Ephesians 1

The Best I Can

Earlier this year, I shared a mantra I’ve been using that revolved around learning, growing, and staying curious.  It really helps to look on that and remind me to keep moving forward.

Lately, I’ve been working on a new, much shorter mantra to help me with my problem of people pleasing.

I’m really hard on myself when it comes to pleasing other people.  I want to be helpful.  I want to support others.  I want to show other people that I care about them and love them.  And the way to do that is to make them happy, right?

Sometimes this manifests itself in the form of volunteering too much, or not saying no when I probably should.  But the harshest form of people pleasing for me are the critical people in my life.

You know those people who always seem to have these expectations for you that you never seem to meet?  Or the ones who constantly feel the need to one-up you?  The ones who constantly move the finish line on how they think you should live your life or express your love or care for them?  The “you don’t truly care for me unless you…” kind of people, whether they say this exactly or their actions speak this to you in some way.

They feed into my insecurities, make me feel like I’m not enough and they have it all together.  And it’s easy for me to believe the lie, to tell myself that their critiques are really improving me, pushing me to strive for better.  But that’s not actually the reality.  And it doesn’t even have to be a legitimate person, the voice in my head gives me more criticism than all my people critics could combine.

So, here’s the mantra that I’ve been telling myself when the critical speak rears its head at me.

BestICan

 

I had a professor in college who once said at the beginning of the semester.  “When you turn in a paper or take a test, don’t tell me that you could have done better.  In that situation, with your resources and distractions, you did the best you could.”  At first, I thought he just didn’t want to hear whining or complaining, but really, he was giving us the freedom to grow and learn.

I don’t talk to myself the way I talk to a friend.  I don’t give myself the grace and space that I give my friends.  And I need to start being a good friend to myself.  I mean, if I knew someone who had lost three babies, deals with bouts of anxiety and depression, and still gets up in the morning and tries her hardest to make other people happy.  I would think she is a rock star.  Sure, she has imperfections.  Sure, she loses her temper or her patience or both.  Sure she has her cranky days.  But I would tell her she isn’t defined by her good or her bad, but by her God.

defined

 

I don’t have everything figured out.  I’m still learning and growing as a person.  Hence, the mantra I tell myself every morning.  Today, in this situation, with the resources, and talents and knowledge I have, with all of the distractions and criticisms and anxieties and depressions I will sift through today, I am doing the best I can.  And that is true for my friends, my critics, and for you.  In whatever situation you find yourself in today, give yourself grace and space and just do the best you can.

And whatever we can’t do, God will handle.

Lamentations

Easter and Expectation

I’m taking a small break in my Legacy study to share something a little more personal this week.

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One year ago on Good Friday, the Friday right before Easter, I found out I was pregnant. I won’t lie.  I was kinda hoping for another positive test this Good Friday as well, but that didn’t happen.

Last Sunday, I went to my old church and heard a sermon about the Saturday in between the death of Jesus and the resurrection.  All those miracles, and promises, just to have him die on the cross.  They didn’t know Sunday was coming.  I can’t imagine what those men and women who had followed Jesus throughout his ministry felt.

Then again, maybe I do.

No one had the plan of God figured out.  They thought he was a prophet.  They thought he would restore the kingdom of Israel to its former glory.  Death wasn’t supposed to be a part of it.  Peter argued this point with Jesus and Jesus rebuked him.  The plan of God was impossible for them to see.

Last year, when I found out I was pregnant, I also did the math to know when I was due. It was going to be the day before Thanksgiving, the same day of the week that my first daughter was stillborn.  When I found out I was having another girl, I thought that all of the parts of the story were lining up so neatly into this beautiful testimony.  And then just five months after that positive test, my daughter passed away.

It didn’t make sense.  But just like the people in Jesus’s time, I’m not seeing the bigger picture.  And the truth is, I will never see the bigger picture in this life.  The only reason we can read the death of Jesus without faltering in our faith is because just a chapter or two later, he has risen.  And then we have the rest of the New Testament and the history of the world to see that story continue to the far reaches of the earth.  The people hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives after their teacher died, would have no way to see all of that.

The control freak in me wants to see that big picture, wants to be able to step back and see everything.  See why my daughters had to die.  See why I am having to wait now.  I know I get a few glimpses.  I see in small and big ways how God has used me during these past four years.  The rest of the story will have to be built on faith.  Faith that God will see this through, that he will reveal to me my next step when it’s time to take it.

That is the hope of Easter.  That one day everything will be revealed in the glory of God.  It is a reminder to continue living in expectation.  To keep living based in faith, learning from the ones hiding in those rooms.  Learning from the women who prepared the burial incense and got up early to honor their Lord, having no idea what they would find there.  I must continue to walk in faith, doing what God calls me to do.  Frankly, Saturday sucks.  But Sunday is coming.

Legacy: Nahshon to Solomon

On Sundays this month, I am going through the Matthew 1 genealogy of Jesus.  Because I’ve been fascinated with all of the connections in the Between the Lines study in March and the Women of Infertility study in February.

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So, last week, we left off with Nahshon.

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

So, if Nahshon was the leader of the tribe of Judah during the settlement time, then Salmon was his son.  Can you imagine how much people would be waiting to see what he would do with his life?  The pressure of being the tribe leader’s kid must have been rough.  I don’t know if he was handed that job, but I do know something even more interesting about him.

Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

This was Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho who hid the Israelite spies from the king in exchange for her family’s protection.  I could imagine because of her occupation, and the fact that her house was along the wall of Jericho, that she heard a lot of the stories about the Israelites.  So when two spies come to her door, she takes them in and protects them, telling them what she has heard of their Lord (Joshua 2:8-13).

And then, after the Israelites conquer the city of Jericho, it says that “Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.” (Joshua 6:25).  And that’s really the last we hear of her until we start looking at the genealogies.  While she was living among those Israelites, she met Salmon, the son of the leader of the tribe of Judah, and they fell in love and had Boaz.

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Ruth was a Moabite, the wife one of the sons of Naomi.  When Naomi lost her husband and both of her sons, she gives her two daughter-in-law’s freedom to go back to Moab to find other husbands to marry.  But Ruth stays with Naomi.  She makes a semi-famous speech to Naomi, committing her life to her mother-in-law, saying, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1: 16-17).  

Boaz enters the picture as a “man of standing” who owned fields near Bethlehem.  When I first read this story, I thought Boaz showed Ruth kindness because she was a hot tamale, but knowing now the bigger picture of who his mother was, I wonder if when he found out she was a Moabite, that she had left her family and homeland to stay with Naomi, that she was a foreigner just like his mother was a foreigner that it prompted his kindness.

Another precious moment was in Ruth 4, at the end of the chapter.  Naomi had a pretty hard life.  She lost her husband and her children.  She and Ruth had a tough time after moving back to Bethlehem, with the exception of the kindness of Boaz.  But after Boaz and Ruth have their first son, Obed, Naomi “took the child in her arms and cared for him.”  I can just imagine her holding this boy on her lap, looking for any signs of resemblance to her sons or her husband (Boaz was related to her husband after all). This boy gave her renewed hope and promise.

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

Jesse lived in Bethlehem like Boaz did.  David took care of sheep (1 Samuel 16:11), so we know he had livestock.  He interacted with both Samuel and Saul who were interested in David.  Samuel came to anoint him as the next king (after looking at Jesse’s seven other sons).  Saul asked for David to come play the lyre to calm his nerves.  Perhaps Jesse thought this was how David would become king.  He was very old when David went off to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:12), and that’s the last we hear of him directly.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

I won’t really go much into David’s story or Solomon’s in this series.  Both of them are pretty well know.  I do talk a little bit about David’s relationship with Bathsheba when I wrote about Uriah the Hittite in this post.

After this point, the genealogy goes from father to son, father to son.  The only “extra” names that are mentioned are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife.  I thought, “man, Bathsheba lost her spot in the genealogy line, being boiled down to Uriah’s wife.”  But it was then that I realized something connected these four names.

They were all outsiders.  Tamar and Rahab were Canaanites (not sure which “ite” they were actually a part of, but they were definitely not Israelites).  Ruth was a Moabite.  Uriah was a Hittite.  Matthew wrote this gospel to the Jews, and this genealogy was the proof of fulfilled prophecy.  But these four names being included…means more than just Jewish ancestry.

Next week, we will celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  To me, this genealogy represents the fact that Jesus didn’t die for just the Jews, but for all peoples.  For men and women.  Shepards and kings.  Rich and poor.  Foreigners.  Insiders.  Everyone.  And for that to be represented in just half of this genealogy?

Well, that’s pretty cool.

Can’t wait to find out the rest of the story.

How Power Rangers is Like the Church

This past weekend, Michael and I saw the new Power Rangers movie.  Both of us had seen the original show, oh so many years ago.  Nostalgia brought us out to the movie theater in hopes of hearing some of the cheesy lines from our childhood, which did not disappoint.  But as an adult, I walked away from the theater realizing some correlations between this movie and the way the church operates.

Fair warning, this post will contain spoilers.

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Picture from HDQWalls.com

Okay, so the story is basically a rag tag group of teenagers who don’t know each other but come together to defeat a big bad set on destroying the world.  They all happen to be in the same place at the same time to find these stones that would connect them to a higher calling.  But coming together and learning how to morph proved to be problematic, and without morphing into the armor they need, they will be unable to vanquish the evil.

Over the course of the movie, they all realize that the big bad, Rita Repulsa, is very real and very dangerous.  They come together under this common cause, but it doesn’t help them to morph.  They even spend time with each other, confessing their dark secrets, but still no morphing.

One of the girls, Kimberly, who hesitates to share her secret, is convinced that they can’t morph because she is an awful person.  She confesses to the leader of the group, Jason, that she shared a compromising picture of a friend, losing all of her friendships and reputation in the process.  Jason tells her that just because she did an awful thing, it doesn’t make her an awful person, giving her hope of redemption.

(anyone catching on to the correlations yet?)

And finally, it isn’t until they realize that it’s not just in confession, not just in having a common cause, but it’s in the reality that they care enough about each other to lay down their life for one another that they finally are able to morph.

In the church today, we have a common cause.  We are here to love God, love others (Mark 12: 29-31), and show people the way of Jesus through discipleship (Matthew 28:18-20).  We are called to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16).

But we are also called to love each other.  Jesus says in John 13, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  And just two chapters later, he defines love like this: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

When I look at the characters in this nostalgia-ridden story, I see broken human beings who don’t have it all figured out.  But when they come together, they are stronger.  And they sense that strength.  They seek one another out.  When one is being tempted to betray the others, she chooses to find them and tell them what has happened.  And by the end of the movie, they seek each other out, choose to be around each other, even outside of the fight.

I thought this was a neat metaphor for the church, and it really convicted me on a deeper level.  Do I seek out my church family?  Are they the first ones I go to when I’m feeling lost or alone?  Or do I treat them like I treat everyone else, with careful walls in place? The church is not something to go to, it’s something to belong to.  It’s an extended family of people who are willing to die for you, willing to fight for you, willing to listen to you.  And if it’s not, then I need to be the first to break down my walls and listen to them, and stand up for them, and die to my own selfishness for my brothers and sisters.

So, guys, it’s morphin’ time.  Who’s with me?