Accept Your Cherished Identity In The Story

Listen to the LORD who created you, to 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

Brennan Manning said, “We often feel like the homely peasant girl for whom the king has come to take a bride.” Our sense of self-condemnation makes us back away from God’s call to live as His beloved. We feel unworthy. Our pride says that we can’t believe His words.  Our own view of ourselves overrides it.  Imagine someone asking you today, “Do you believe that God loves you?” You would nod your head appropriately and answer yes. You know the scripture verses. You learned the Sunday School songs. But the problem is, our understanding of love has been compromised by our 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, the Great Physician, to do spiritual surgery to remove the arrows. 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 that must be lived out by daily acts of faith.

Many were made to feel unworthy by their parents.  They were never anyone’s priority.  Work came first.  Or other children were preferred.  Perhaps ministry even trumped their importance.  Spouses can tragically communicate that their mate isn’t worth much.  Children tell their parents, “You’re a bad father, or bad mother.”  We tend to soak in their opinions of ourselves.  We rationalize that these are the ones who know us best and if they call us deeply flawed, don’t they have credibility?  No, not if their opinion of us contradicts God’s opinion of us..

How do I live cherished in a world where few are cherished?  I believe my Father’s proclamations of love, by faith.  I am no longer to be ruled by the hole in my soul. The wound is not crippling me anymore. The story becomes a narrative that I can tell others to extol the Fatherhood of God.  My story is no longer a tragedy.  Though it contains tragic elements, the overriding theme is joyous redemption.  Throughout my life, I may have had many storytellers but I’ve finally learned that the only one that counts is the one told by my new Father.  I’m a Daughter of Promise and every single thing is safely under God’s providence and it’s waiting for redemption.

Figure Out The Enemy’s Re-write

He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44

My storytellers can be people around me but I can also be one as I process things with or without God.  Satan is also a storyteller and I will be lied to.  His default language is lies.  A default language is what someone speaks instinctively. Satan lives and breathes falsehood.  In our justice system, someone is considered innocent until proven guilty.  But with the devil, I better realize that he is always guilty. The paradigm is flipped.

If he’s whispering his version of my own story in my ears, how will I know it?  He will say anything that puts me in bondage.  The most important thing on his agenda is to corrupt my trust in God.  The lies usually start with that goal in mind.  “See, your faith is in vain. God can’t be trusted. You’re foolish to believe His promises.  They’re not for you.”  On it goes.  If trust is breached, my relationship is fractured to the point where I am left completely vulnerable.  If I shut my ears to God, they’re wide open for someone else to fill them.

If I want to know if I’ve succumbed to the enemy’s re-write of my own story, I need to look for the symptoms that point to the lies; despair, hopelessness, depression, unresolved anger, jealousy, futility.  If any of these have taken over my soul, I can be sure there has been an editor from the pits of hell interpreting my story.  I need to be on guard, take every thought captive, and remember that life is one sifting exercise after another.  Thoughts come in ~ I examine them ~ then I keep them or throw them away.

I used to believe that certain events, or certain people, ruined parts of my life. It wasn’t true. Yes, they caused pain but it was my interpretation of the events and what I concluded about myself and God that put me in long term bondage. Jesus was never tormented about who His Father was.  He never stopped believing that He was God’s beloved Son.  He was never trapped by futility and despair.  Though He suffered more than any human being, He never believed lies about his pain.  He knew that everything He suffered was redemptive and would lead to glory.

Each of us need to figure out where we’ve been lied to and renounce it.  We will have a list of things to discard.  We will be telling God, “I used to believe ‘that’ but I renounce it as a lie.  Now, I believe ‘this’.”  I state the lie and replace it with a truth-telling scripture.  The enemy’s stronghold is broken, legal ground is taken back, and abundant life and freedom become mine.

 The only version I crave, and will believe, is Yours.  Amen

About Your Red Glasses

The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.  Romans 11:29

Who would you be if you had been raised in the Garden of Eden with God as your father?  Now, that’s a question, isn’t it?  Are you thinking about it?  Maybe you’d be a poet instead of a teacher, or a teacher instead of a accountant.  You’d probably be more confident, more secure, and surely more joyful in who you are and how God has wired you. There would be no shame, no hiding.  There would be no apologies for being an introvert or an extrovert.  No one would try to change you.  God, the Father, the Gardener, would be creating the perfect environment for you to thrive.  No two children are alike – nor are two gardens identical.

If you read yesterday’s devotional, you remember my story about the red glasses I used to wear as a 4 year old.  I threw them away because of ridicule and abandoned the way I was made for a decade or two.  Today, I encourage you to consider what your ‘red glasses’ might represent.  A dream you abandoned, perhaps, because you were told it was stupid.  Each of us wants to be loved and to belong and will change who we are to get it.  Our authentic self becomes an imposter, but a convincing one.  Sometimes, we even fool ourselves into thinking we’re really comfortable in the wrong skin.

Can Christ redeem what we lost along the way?  Absolutely.  Does He want to?  Not only does He want to but when we live in His kingdom, we will forever be who He created.  We will forever do what we were created to do.  But, some dreams can come to pass now and maybe yours is one.  You might think it’s too late.  Your age makes you question whether the gift is still inside, ready to develop and mature.  I can assure you that you do possess it for always.  Once God gives a gift, He never takes it back.  Look again at today’s scripture.  The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.  

Moses was 82 and Aaron was 80 when they stood before Pharaoh to start the most arduous journey of their lives.  In those 82 years, God shaped a leader.  I can often believe that God calls the young and prepares them to hit their stride in their thirties.  Most don’t.  The David Platts of this world are rare.  Most servants must train in the wilderness for several decades before they have enough wisdom and experience to lead.  We wrongly assume that the wilderness is where we are supposed to call home.  It’s been the norm but it’s for a season.  It’s preparation.  It’s never too late for you to claim your red glasses.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life…your eternal life.  You were created for that life and this one is a practice run where dreams are pursued and each of us rise up to walk in our God-given identity.  Hear the call to step out of the shadows.

You make something out of nothing.  There’s no such thing as ‘too late’ in your kingdom.  Show me what You are waiting to resurrect.  Amen

Pursue Redemption of Broken Places

Long ago the Lord said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. I will rebuild. You will again be happy and dance merrily with your tambourines. Again you will plant your vineyards on the mountains of Samaria and eat from your own gardens there.  Jeremiah 31:3-5

The themes of God’s story for mankind involve creation and the Fall, but also redemption and restoration.  Loss and  heartache are not supposed to be the final word.  All of us has settled there for a time though ~ believing that was our destiny.  God calls us to higher things, to the fight for joy, to the fight for faith in order to realize redemption in all the places the locusts have eaten.

I’ve seen him redeem major pieces of my story.  When I was four, I had a red pair of play-eyeglasses. I would put them on and declare that I could read any book.  I couldn’t read a thing!  I would tell stories by the hour, pretending that it was the glasses that provided the magic. Since I was the child of traditional and reserved parents, this was thought to be a little too radical.  I remember one of them teasing me about the red glasses and I interpreted it as rejection.  I threw the glasses away and pulled in the reigns to my free spirit.  I morphed into someone more mainstream.

For the next four decades, I played it safe and painted my internal world beige so that I could blend in with my surroundings.  Once in a while, in a weak moment, my free spirit would peek out but the risk of rejection was ever in front of me.  I was my own policeman, squashing the impulses of the best parts of me. This ritual killing of myself almost destroyed me.  Daughters of Promise was birthed in my own re-birth.

I had a dream a few years ago that was prophetic.  I was taking a walk by myself and left the main road to enjoy carving my own path.  Just beyond a stone wall was a large open field.  All of a sudden I came upon an open grave.  Inside were the full remains of a dead man.  I gasped and asked Jesus, “Who is this?”  He said, “My child.” I said, “It’s too late for him, isn’t it.”  He said, “Now, what am I teaching you? What are you to do when you enter a place full of dead men’s bones?”  I said, “Speak the Gospel to the bones and let You breathe over them.” “Right,” He said.  Daughters of Promise is the way God made it possible for me to speak to the bones, to any who may be technically alive but still dead inside.

What are your red glasses?  Where have you traded your gifting and authentic self for some re-fashioned version?  God waits to show you the child He created.  He waits to reveal, validate, and empower you to be HIS daughter first, to show you who you really are.  Believe it.  Stand up tall, be confident, start walking in the gifting God ordained to give you from before the foundation of the world.

You know who You made.  Make sure I do, Father.  Amen

Feel The Emotions Your Story Stirs Up

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  Ecc. 3:4

How do engage with God as my storyteller?  3.) I feel the emotions my story stirs up.  I come from a family of stoicism.  In my home, I rarely saw tears or anger, or even joy.  Demeanors were much the same from day to day.  Controlled, pleasant, subdued.  That teaches a child to sit on their own emotions.  To cry, to dance, to feel angry, these felt indulgent, out of control, and inappropriate.

I am to be more God’s child than my parent’s child.  At my spiritual birth, I got a new Father who wants to re-shape me to be like His Son.  Jesus lived a rich emotional life, not afraid of feeling.   He invites me to live as He did ~ authentic to the core.  He modeled it in so many ways.

  • He called the pharisees vipers.  As he shared the Gospel of the kingdom, they rebuffed Him continually.  ‘We don’t need that.  That’s not true.’  Jesus was angry and called them what they were.  A brood of vipers.
  • He looked over Jerusalem and wept. A current equivalent would be if I saw the lights of my city come into view and was overcome with emotion.  So I pulled my car over to the side of the road, got out, gripped the guardrail and wept.  An onlooker might perceive I needed professional intervention but Jesus was acquainted with a weeping that led to wailing.
  • He took a stand against bullying. When a dinner guest at Simon’s dinner party performed an outrageous act of worship by pouring expensive oil on His feet, Judas criticized her openly.  Jesus not only put a stop to it, He exposed his motives.
  • He expressed holy anger when He saw the abuses of spiritual power in the temple.  When the money changers padded their pockets, He cried out in protest.  He turned tables over, sent coins flying, and confronted those who sold doves that would be sacrificed in a setting filled with pretense and thievery.

When I came to Christ, I saw my need, came weeping, expressed remorse for my sin, and begged for God’s forgiveness.  Brennan Manning, the author, said “We can’t receive what the crucified Rabbi has to give until we hold out our arms until they ache.”  This is a picture of life with Jesus.  I am invited to be the real person He created.  I shouldn’t act in a way that is inauthentic…unless it would be sinful to express it. And don’t I love transparency in others?  I’ll say, “He’s the real deal.  He’s always himself!”    As was Jesus.

Whether I worship, dance, or grieve . . . I don’t want to fear.  Make me like you.  Amen

Consider The Worst of the Worst

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.  Isaiah 51:1

How do I engage with God as my storyteller?  2.) Consider the worst of the worst.

When Jesus talked with the woman at the well in Samaria, He took intentional steps to prepare her to receive Truth.  They began by talking of the mundane; water, thirst, and drinking.  He made a segueway to its spiritual counterpart; spiritual water, spiritual thirst, and the possibility of a drink that would forever quench thirst.  Jesus conversed about all of this because it needed to precede the revelation of Himself.  Thirst needed to overtake her and wake up her heart ~ for she had stopped dreaming of a Savior long ago.

She came alive as Jesus talked. She rose to engage Him in animated conversation.  Thirsty, she finally voiced a desire to what He was offering.  “Give me this drink,” she said.  But Jesus didn’t answer…. “I’m speaking of myself and this is how you drink of me.”  He immediately brought up the subject of her husband which unearthed the most painful of any possible admissions she might have to make.  She had been married five times and lived with a sixth man.  I often wondered why Jesus’ strategy was to change the subject. Perhaps it was to put His finger on the most painful place in her life.  By doing so, the message was this ~ If you want the most profound encounter possible with Me, you must drink of Me where you need Me the most.  Because she didn’t shy away, she received new life.

What is the worst part of your story? Have you dared unearth the need associated with the memory?  Where does it feel risky to trust God?  What would Jesus say if He sat on the edge of the well with you.  “I saw you at twenty four when you wanted to give up.”  Or, “When you were little, scared and hiding, thinking no one cared, did you know that I was there?”  In these crises of faith, in the darkest places of unbelief, Jesus calls us to a new awareness that there is such a thing as Living Water.  If we drink of Him, we will never need look again to fickle sources to give us what we think we need to feel whole.  We will find Him to be enough.

The Christian life begins when I learn the truth about God, when I learn the truth about myself, and apply the truth about God to the truth about me.  The Gospel is life changing only when it starts with great spiritual need.

Lord, I want to know the hope to which You have called me and Your incomparably great power for me if I believe in You.  Amen