A Beautiful Life

To celebrate the end of Living As A Daughter of Promise, enjoy this meaningful allegory.   Click on the picture to download.

Be blessed!    Christine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Of The Two Dolls

Many years back, I was the guest performer at a church in Wisconsin. Before the concert, I had been sent to change my clothes in the church nursery since there was an adjoining bathroom that was private. I was dressed earlier than expected and had  time to kill so I roamed the nursery looking at the toys scattered around the room. In the corner was a doll lying on the floor. She was face down, naked, and was in rough shape from all the years of rough handling. Her hair was matted and there were numerous scuffmarks over her body. I picked her up, looked at her for a long minute, and said out loud, “I know you. I feel like you tonight.” Sounds funny to write but I was not trying to be humorous at the time. I was tired, disillusioned with ministry, and felt that the person who would be taking the stage was not the person I thought I was on the inside.

It’s hard to believe that this doll was once new in a box. She was a gift that lit up some young girl’s face. But that was long ago. Now, she’s been around the block a few times and has gotten pretty streetwise. As time passed (and the church was kind enough to give me the doll), I realized that I felt like that doll each time I pictured being alone with God. I couldn’t imagine Him looking at me with perfect love and acceptance. Tragically, this is how many, and probably most, see themselves. Looking up into God’s face and keeping eye contact seems frightening.

At the birth of Daughters of Promise, God was doing a lot of deep work in my soul. I decided that I needed a new representation of who I was in Christ. How about a new doll? Not really being a doll person, per se, I was intrigued to go to a doll collector’s store. In the store window was a doll sitting in a white, wicker, rocking chair. She was wearing a white eyelet lace dress and her blond hair spilled so beautifully over her shoulders. I was quite taken and asked the store owner if he could go get her out of the display so I could see her. A nametag hung from her wrist that said, “Jule”. And the back of the tag explained her origin, that she had been hand made by a German artist who was well known for her creation of life-like hands and feet. What captivated me most about Jule, though she was exquisite in every way, was her eyes. They looked real and seemed to gaze right through you. I purchased her that day and thought her name appropriate. Jule – the apple of God’s eyes.

Jule and the naked doll (I named her Hope) are in my home now. For years, they sat side by side in my office. They represented how I used to see myself and who I came to understand that I am. For a long time, this was the end of this story.

But, there’s now a twist. I paid many hundreds of dollars for Jule so was very careful when I traveled with her. I taped her eyelashes down so they wouldn’t break. I braided her hair so it wouldn’t get knotted. I wrapped her in bubble wrap and then wrapped her again in an Amish made baby quilt. And when I went to pack the naked doll, I just threw her in the suitcase. I figured, “How could she be any more damaged!” But after an event, an experienced doll collector asked me if she could see the naked doll. After examining her, she informed me that she was valuable. Worth a couple thousand dollars. After recovering from shock, I realized that I had been bubble wrapping the wrong doll!   Don’t you love it?

The next time I looked at Hope, the naked doll, I realize that THIS is the one Jesus comes to put His arms around. THIS is the one to whom He says, “I have called you and you are Mine. Thought the mountains may tremble and the hills may be shaken, my covenant of love with you will never go away. I have you inscribed on the palms of my hands.”

Live As One Who Is Cherished

Listen to the LORD who created you, for the One who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 

The last skill for living as a daughter of promise is:

5.) Live as one that is cherished.

Brennan Manning said, “We often feel like the homely peasant girl for whom the king has come to take a bride.”  My sense of self-condemnation makes me back away from God’s call to be His beloved. I can feel unworthy. My pride says that I can’t believe His words, and must cling to my own reality as the real truth.

And all the while, someone could ask me, “Do you believe that God loves you?”  I would nod my head appropriately and answer yes. I know the scripture verses. I learned the Sunday School songs. But the problem is, my understanding of love has been compromised by my experiences with others. In varying degrees, we have all felt degraded, excluded, rejected, ridiculed, passed over, and a host of other things related to rejection. Each memory festers in our soul. Each arrow of inflicted pain still sits there, infected by time. Oh, how we need our Father who is the Great Physician to do spiritual surgery to remove the arrow. The balm of His Spirit can heal the wound as truth replaces the lies of our past.

This scriptural truth needs to be the banner over my life. No one gets to define my worth except my Creator. Not a parent, not a caregiver, not a teacher, not a pastor, not a child or spouse. Only God’s opinion matters because His Word trumps all others as my Creator. He says I’m cherished and I must own that and live it with daily acts of faith.

My father used to tell this story about my infancy. In the middle of the night when I would cry, my father devised a way to put me back to sleep that never required him, or my mother, to leave their warm beds. He took a piece of twine, tied one end to his bedpost, and then ran it down the hall to the nursery. He tied the other end to the rung of the crib. When he would hear me crying, he’d tug on the string and gently rock the crib. That usually did the trick. When this story was told humorously, I felt the sting of unworthiness. Physical affection was almost completely absent in our home. Stoicism was more the norm and because my sister and I lived in want of physical touch, the story was painful to me. My parents were both kind, soft spoken people and intended no malice but the effect of isolation was still felt inside my heart.

How do I live cherished as I remember this story? I believe my Father’s proclamations of love as, by faith, I ask Him to rock me to sleep each night. Still, it’s a bedtime ritual for me. Do I feel Him answer my prayer? Do I have the sensation of being rocked? I would say, mostly no. How do I know that He does it? Because I no longer feel the hole in my soul. While I have slept, apparently He has rocked me and done spiritual surgery on my soul. The wound is not crippling anymore. The story has become something I can tell to extol the Fatherhood of God. Any story of deprivation has only driven me to learn how to experience God as my Father. And that journey is what led to the ministry you enjoy every day called Daughters of Promise.

So live cherished today. Make decisions based on the reality that you are the apple of God’s eye.  The next devotional you receive will be me finishing this series by telling  the story of two dolls. There will be pictures along with it. Don’t miss it.

I’m praying for you today to stand up tall.

It Must Start On The Inside

The fourth way to live as a daughter of is to:

4.)  Focus on thinking and feeling like your Father, not just doing what He does.

I am not a fan of the bracelet that was so popular some years back that was inscribed with, “What would Jesus do?” It was created to be a constant visual reminder to ask yourself, as you lived through the day, what Jesus would do in each situation. While that inspired many righteous acts, I wonder if a heart change preceded them. I can be really good at studying the life of Jesus, of getting to know, and name, the character qualities of God and then setting out to mimic them. It is self-produced, behavioral modification.

I used to live this way. I came to call it ‘grit mode’ because I became accustomed to gritting my teeth to do the right thing while my heart felt something completely opposite. I grew addicted to the respect I felt from others for acting so spiritual while, privately, I ignored what my heart was feeling and my mind was really thinking. For instance, my anger could seethe beneath the surface at any given moment but I acted nice. I was often depressed but portrayed that I was trusting God and everything was fine.

There’s a much better prayer than asking my Father to help me live like He would live. It’s asking Him to help me think, and feel, like He does. That comes from proximity. Meditating. Studying. Listening. Treasuring. Worshipping. Being one with God on the inside, mentally and emotionally, culminates in effortless, changed behavior.

The greatest commandment, according to Jesus, gives strong clues that what’s important to our Father is what’s happening on the level of our heart, soul, and mind. None of that is behavioral. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Judas, for example, was indistinguishable from the other eleven disciples. He looked like them, acted like them, said all the right things, and feigned love and loyalty to Jesus. Yet, his heart was cold. His betrayal was intentional and calculated. At the last supper, none of them knew who Jesus was referring to when He predicted that one would be traitorous.

The commands in scripture can seem like they form a textbook manual for one’s conduct. They do not. I am God’s child and spiritual formation is what His relationship with me is all about. Dallas Willard says it beautifully ~

Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.

Where Are Your Red Glasses?

The first way to live as a daughter of promise was meditating.  The second way was to pray about everything.  (Catch up on the past two days if you missed them.)

The third is:

3.) Pursue the redemption of broken places. Our Father is out to give His children abundant life and because He is not bound by time, He can travel back to our past as well as move ahead into our future. He longs to fix what has been broken. He loves to find what has been lost. He desires to resurrect what has been declared dead. What are we waiting for? Sometimes, we believe the death sentences others have pronounced and fail to believe that our lives are to be lived outside the tomb, not in it.

Childhoods and early adult years are fraught with pinnacles and painful valleys. By the time we’re in Kindergarten, we have dreams in our hearts. By the time we’re seven years old, we have a good feel for whether or not our world will support or attempt to kill the dreams God has put there. Someone who wants to be a doctor is told he should be an engineer like others in the family. Someone who is artistic is told that artists starve and he should pursue something else that pays the bills. The person we were was often not acceptable and because every child believes what they’re told by those who shape their realities, they set their dreams aside and pursue what will earn them love in their family circle.

In late adulthood, even in mid-life, the dreams that were driven underground begin to nag us. We feel it’s too late. Half of our life is gone, perhaps more, and what can God do about it now? It appears that we are to live second-rate lives and grieve over what God just might want to restore.

When I was four years old, I had a pair of red, toy eyeglasses. I thought they were fun and dramatic. I used to put them on and tell my friends that I could read any book, even an encyclopedia. I couldn’t read a thing. I was four! But I would wear the glasses, open a book, and weave a long tale for anyone who would listen. I loved telling stories. One of my parents, for some reason, didn’t like what I did with the glasses. They made a disparaging remark about them and being a sensitive child, I threw the glasses away and stopped being who I was. I withdrew into a quiet place and never embraced my calling of being a teacher and storyteller until I was way into my forties. God reminded me one day in prayer, “Remember the red glasses? Be who I made you to be. I am your Father who made you!” So, I bought another red pair and they sit in my office as a way of reclaiming the gift.

Is it too late to become who God made me to be if I’m 50? How about 70? Not in God’s kingdom. We have only started to live. In the new heavens and on the new earth, we will reign with Christ and get to do what we were created to do from the beginning. How about if each of us starts now!  Of what consequence is 70 years of age when eternity stretches out in front of it?

What are your ‘red glasses’? Talk to your father about it. Be His child, not some re-fashioned person others preferred rather than the original little person God created. God rescued you because He delighted in you. Psalm 18:19

Why Don’t We?

You do not havebecause you do not ask. James 4:2

A daughter of promise should live praying about everything.   There are many reasons though that I don’t. Here are a few.

1.) I’m shy to trust God for what He’s already promised. While traveling several years ago, I had dinner with a family who had recently adopted a ten-year-old boy from Russia. They were telling me some of his story. He had lived his entire life in an orphanage. Food was never plentiful and so he learned to live hungry. Though there was a refrigerator in the orphanage’s kitchen, it was padlocked.

When this family brought him home, they explained to him that he need never be hungry. They showed him the refrigerator in the kitchen and told him that he could go to it whenever he wanted something to eat. For the first few years, he never took them up on it. Why? He wasn’t yet sure of their love and couldn’t fathom good news. What keeps me from praying boldly? I’m unsure of God’s love. Insecure children rarely ask for much.

2.) I go to people first, give them all the details, and make prayer a generalized after-thought. When something bad happens, it’s easy to text a friend, call a spouse, even put bad news on Facebook. Out of habit, I learn to rely on friends for guidance, comfort, and validation. My father asks me to come to Him first, just like a child does when he’s hurt. He runs to Daddy and recounts the event that led to his tears. I might argue that God already knows but it’s not He who benefits when I communicate at length, it’s me. I need to say things. I need to ask. By asking, I’m affirming my trust in Him and getting to know my own heart as I speak at length.

3.) I believe that God is sovereign and is going to do whatever He wants anyway so prayer is not necessary. Prayer is cooperative. God hears my prayers. He changes His mind on matters because of my steadfast prayer. He withholds judgment from those who might otherwise experience harsh consequences because I, like Daniel, like Moses, plead their case, ask God to forgive them and stay His hand. Prayers change the course of history and God is sovereign. They are not mutually exclusive.

God is my King. He is my judge. But first and foremost, He is my Father. He delights to see me coming. The more I need Him, the more He likes it. Joni Eareckson Tada said, “Jesus is strong but He’s also approachable. He is able to carry our load but He’ll never make us feel embarrassed or defeated for asking.”

Living As a Daughter of Promise – Part 1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. I John 3:1

In many cultures, and perhaps in one where you grew up, children were to be seen and not heard. Their value was less than the adults in the group. Not so in God’s kingdom. He tells all adults, even highly educated ones, that they should become as children. The child is definitely the biblical role model in scripture. Jesus referred to us as His children. How humbling. Children need guidance and instruction in wisdom. Children need role models. God offers all that in Himself as our Father. The only way for me to mature from a baby child in the kingdom to a mature one is to live in my Father’s Word and ingest it on every level.

That being said, the 1st way to live as a daughter of promise is to meditate. Many Christians believe that meditation is synonymous with ‘new age’. It is not. It originated with God and it is His concept. Satan hijacked it. Meditation is a practice where scripture simmers constantly in my thoughts. If I am out for a walk, having lunch with a friend, sitting at my desk working, or straightening up my family room, thoughts of scripture co-exist with living.

Meditation is Father/Daughter time. It’s about being close, bonding, listening, feeling and thinking. The Hebrew word for meditate is ‘hagah’ which means to savor slowly. “Taste (hagah) and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8 To savor a bite of food means that it sits on my tongue and I chew it slowly. I engage with the taste of it in every way possible before swallowing. Jeremiah said, “Your words were found and I ate them; and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” Jeremiah 15:16

As God’s child, I must learn to think in whole new ways, ways that are opposite to how I currently think. My Father, through scripture, must redefine my perception of everything. God must fashion a whole new mindset in me since the philosophy of this world is not of heaven.

In scripture, God tells me the way things work. He tells me who He is, who I am, the way the world works, and the way the kingdom operates. Doesn’t this sound like basic instruction between a parent and a toddler? We begin teaching our baby how to recognize mama and dada. God tells us after adoption that He is our Abba.  (Daddy)

In the messiness of life, meditation is imperative. When I feel abandoned by God, meditation has me focus on His faithfulness. When I fear He hasn’t heard my prayers, meditation zeroes in on His promises to answer prayer. When my feelings trip me up, meditation reorders my thoughts.

As human parents, we don’t hand our small children a textbook to learn life. That would be tragically impersonal and disastrous. Instead, we offer them relationship and a learning environment within the context of a loving relationship. As God’s child, why would I think that studying scripture as God’s textbook would shape me in any significant way? God, also, desires to parent me in the context of a tender relationship.  He whispers in my ear through meditation.