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Christian Life

Self-compassion

In Galatians 5:14, we are instructed to love our neighbors as ourselves. But how does that work if we don’t love ourselves? What does it mean to love oneself?

So often in Western culture, we associate love with passion and romance, the feeling of butterflies in the stomach as a preteen or what is actually lust mislabeled. What if we embraced love as a verb? What would that look like? What would it feel like?

In the scriptures we find direction to give and are told it will be given to us pressed down, shaken together and running over shall men give into our bosom. We are told judge not lest we be judged. We are told that to have friends we have to show ourself friendly. There’s a lot of action in these verses. And frankly, feelings don’t really enter into it.

What must we first give to ourselves before we can give to others? Or do we always start at the point of giving to others and find fulfillment flowing into our hearts and lives and informing how we treat ourselves?

I believe that we are to prefer one another in love as the Bible says. And I believe that in order to love my neighbor as myself, I’d better be on my own team and loving myself by recognizing who I am. I was made in the image of Christ, set apart to do good works that He has fore-ordained or predestined. If He loves me and has forgiven me, then it follows that I should do the same.

What does that look like operationally? Sometimes it can look like setting a boundary which will help oneself and their neighbor to be better at time management, have healthy interactions or attain in some other aspect of the maturation process. Sometimes it can look like taking yourself out for a cup of coffee or to the day spa. Other times, it may look like just being overwhelmingly kind to yourself by not putting too much on your plate and forgiving yourself when your plate has overflowed.

For many of us, I believe it can often be easier to show these various good attributes to others than to ourselves. But then how are we following the scripture to love our neighbor as ourselves? If I’m constantly beating myself up and judging myself harshly then am I not actually disobeying this command and dishonoring the Lord by not holding the view of myself that He holds of me? If I don’t love, how can I love? How can I give that which I have not allowed myself to receive from the Father Above? If the gas tank is empty, the car isn’t going to move. I believe that we do oftentimes get pulled out of our own emotional sinkholes when we bless and help others. I also believe that we are the best models for our children, friends and neighbors when we live authentically and that part of that authenticity is engaging in compassion for the self.

So are we left with allowing self-compassion to be manifest in real time with God filling us and putting His goggles on us so that we see ourselves the way He sees us and allowing that to flow out to our neighbors? Maybe that is part of seeking peace and pursuing it. for I believe, that one must have internal peace before they will have lasting external peace.

Goodnight, Neighbor.

Christian Life

At the Brink of Dawn

Have you ever been awake and observing your surroundings just before the blackest night is moved by the Light of Day? Notice I called this the brink of dawn rather than the break of dawn. At such a moment, it is the darkest of skies and the coldest in temperature since the sun has been held in abeyance for several hours. You have faith that the light will come back, shine, illuminate and warm you and your surroundings based on years of experience. You’re on the brink of expectation.

However, when you’re at the brink of anything, it can be very uncomfortable. You might be shivering because of the cold or feel lost because you can’t see clearly. It might feel like you are on the edge of a cliff just teetering. Sometimes in those moments, you long for the proverbial sunlight to break through or a helicopter with a rope to come fly over head so you can climb up and fly away from the trouble.

Do you remember in the biblical account where there was such a tremendous stor, the disciples were terrified and Jesus was asleep in the boat? That is a great picture to me of where fear and faith are right next to each other and are about to collide. The disciples had heard Jesus say to them very clearly that they were going to the other side and they were very familiar with all of his miraculous signs and wonders.

I wondered for a long time why it would be so hard to trust when you had Christ right there in the flesh with you. It seemed like they should be great men of faith, right? Yet how often can we all be bamboozled by what we have immediately in view?

You see, they had so many years of experience with the destruction such a tumultuous storm could bring, especially those amongst them who were fishermen. So, while they knew that Jesus had always come through, their natural mind was at war, not knowing if the promise or the seemingly inevitable reality win out.

So while I always thought that they should be such great men of faith because they saw Jesus in physical form and all of his miracles firsthand, how quickly can we discount the awesomeness and magnificence of that which becomes familiar or comes in familiar form? If I can see it, touch it, hear it, taste it or in any other way experience it through my senses, than does whatever the miraculous is become shrunken down to my size or smaller in my perception?

What about when we can’t perceive something through our natural senses and that which we do perceive is the proverbial cold, dark, edge of cliff living? When all Job could see was the destruction of everything he had ever known and the naysayers telling him he must be a great sinner, his wife telling him to curse God and die, he had really only two choices. But those two choices were enough and absolutely life changing. If he chose faith rather than reality, he was left to stand alone. If he chose to denounce God, he would have gone down a path of irreconcilable destruction.

So at times in our lives, where we have two choices and one is faith, the latter doesn’t always seem like a logical choice. In fact I suppose it could be argued that in many instances faith would seem to be the absolute opposite of logic. That’s when you get what’s called Crazy Faith!

I am at the point of having Crazy Faith. To borrow a phrase from Dr. Jesse Duplantis, ” I’m not braggin’ on that.” You see, I have no other choice really. Like many of you who are facing some mystifying and seemingly insurmountable challenges, I had two options. I have since removed one of those and am left with Crazy Faith because I’ve seen His goodness in the land of the living.

If God were not to hear and answer, I would be in big trouble. The enemy has been coming around like a roaring lion for a very long time trying to devour. If you notice however, he is merely like a roaring lion. Jesus Christ, who in the natural realm descended from the tribe of Judah, is known as the Lion of Judah.

You see Satan can only counterfeit, not create; and he fools a lot of people with his act, such as when his magicians’ rods turned into snakes in the Bible just as Aaron’s rod did by the power of the Almighty. Just as they train federal employees to recognize a counterfeit note by studying the originals produced at The Treasury, if we keep our focus on the Lord and study His Word, we will be able to know what is true and right and know that we are left with really only one option if we want to see and experience true freedom, a life beyond what we could imagine.

So I have chosen to follow the Lord, who is always true and whose Word is consistent and dependable in the face of Satan parading around counterfeits of power and control. One of my favorite phrases when I’m trying to encourage a colleague who is new to management is, “They can’t kill me today.” That’s sort of a variation on Philippians 4:13 for me. When no one is around to encourage you, start praising the Lord and the Holy Spirit will encourage you if you are a servant of the Most High. If you are not, I implore you to become one today by confessing your sins and asking Christ to be your Lord and Savior.

So I’m right in the part of my story where it seems coldest in some ways as well as darkest. But what I’ve learned is, that means hold on because I am on the brink of the dawn; and when it breaks, it’s going to stun everybody around…They will be drawn to the Miraculous God Who we will all say has done great things!

Happy Saturday, Friend!

Christian Life

The Unveiling

Today, I uncovered more ground in my backyard. The ivy was thinned and stubborn roots revealed. Thorny and overgrown plants were trimmed back to get closer to the root of the ivy that veils the fence, the tree, the rock wall and so much of the yard.

I disturbed the worm community and felt for them as they seemed stunned by the light. As I was digging, pruning and pulling, I had to be mindful the level of ferocity I employed so that I didn’t go sailing backward once the stronghold gave way.

Each layer removed, was progress; but there was still growth that wanted to entangle my feet and shifting terrain that would have obliged me to take a spill. It was so easy to become distracted from my original goal of saving the tree from death by strangulation as I drifted from the tree to other areas of the slope. Focus! Refocus! I was reminded.

Distraction is a powerful tool! Speaking of tools, I did not have the “right” ones for most of the work I did today. My pruning shears broke at some point after being strained from being used to separate the fused stems of the ivy from the tree trunk. But I had more insight at that moment as at many points in today’s journey. He put in me, what I needed. It just had to be brought out and used.

Don’t get me wrong; at some point, I will buy other tools. I will need them. Today, however, I used my hands and what was in them and on them. My gloves minimized the wear and wounds to my hands as they warred to unveil the trunk. The pruning shears, and yes, even a hammer and flat blade screwdriver were agents of change to the landscape. How interesting it is that we often don’t know what He put into us, until it’s all we have to use while leaning on Him to focus it and effect change.

I find the ivy so pretty; but it’s a killer of trees and intertwines so deftly with all life springing from the ground. Don’t sin and our own fleshly ways seem beautiful and exciting, until, it’s nearly too late and much of the life has been choked out of us? It’s like a tumor that has finger-like shoots, that wrap around every organ of a person’s body until the body can’t fight it off. One of my cousins died of such a disease, rare in the natural realm, but sadly, not in the supernatural.

I leave you with this encouragement for today. Romans 12:1-2 says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (The Message/MSG Bible)

Walk in blessings, My Friends!

Christian Life

Grace in the Battle

How many of us embrace the opportunity to love our enemies? I mean “love” as a verb, not an emotion. I have walked a long trail that has given me opportunity to learn and live this out. I have not always succeeded. In fact, the first few years were horrible. I dealt with so much anxiety that I was truly tormented. There was troubled and fleeting sleep and perseveration while awake.

One of the things God showed me was that I turned a person and an entire situation into an idol. I always thought of an idol as something or someone with whom or which I was enamored; but that simply wasn’t true in my case. What a mental bombshell that revelation was to me.

I have great, godly love and support from family and the closest of friends; but I wasn’t turning everything, including myself over to God….Huge mistake! God loves in the verb sense and has good plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11); and He chastens those He loves (Proverbs 3:12) to grow us and ready us to help others. But oh, I had an extremely difficult time surrendering my way and clearing the path of my own methods and thoughts so that He could act.

He was and is graciously kind to remind me to surrender. Along the way, He revealed to me that I’m not in control anyway. The perception that I was in charge, was simply an illusion. I was merely exhausting myself by pursuing something false.

Lord, may I surrender to You daily and watch as Your ways amaze and astound me (Isaiah 55:8-9). Amen.