March 29, 2013

Take It Captive

I am reading an awesome book by Lysa Terkeurst entitled Am I Messing Up My Kids? Love.it. The chapters are short and sweet and at the end of every chapter she has a little devotional. Perfect for my crazy busy life.

At the end of one of the first few chapters, she asks us to read Psalm 4...such a powerful Psalm. Verse 4 reads: "In your anger do not sin, when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent." David packs a lot of punch in one verse.

First, I love that David tells us to sit on our beds and be silent...especially when we are angry. However, I want to take it a step further. I don't know if you are like me, but I like to speak everything that comes into my mind. I guess somehow I feel like I am being honest that way. However, I have learned over the years that not everything that comes to mind is true, beneficial, and gracious for the listener (duh - Has it seriously taken me several years to learn that obvious truth? Yes. Yes it has.). Often times, my heart and mind are so cluttered with deceit and wrong motives and I have a hard time deciphering just why I am thinking what I am thinking and what needs to be said when and where. Feel me? David must have understood cause he says that we are to search our hearts. Now, searching my heart can be just as dangerous...simply because I am an over-analyzer. But, when you skip over to Psalm 139:23-24, you will see that David doesn't intend for us to search our own hearts, but for God to search them and then reveal the wickedness to us so that we can deal with it. Sigh.

Sometimes, we have to wait a little bit before God reveals just what is going on in our hearts. So in the meantime, we have to rely on Scripture as our guide for what to think and what to say...

2 Corinthians 10:4-5: "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Three steps here on guarding our minds and our mouths:
1. I have Divine Power to demolish the strongholds in my life. My thought life and my tongue can be very enslaving...especially when I feel I have to share everything. Praise God that He has given me everything I need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). I have His power flowing through me. I am not helpless. I just need to cry out to Him in those moments I feel weak and claim the promise that I can be obedient. Obedience then opens me up to the flow of His power (I stole that last thought from Lysa).

2. Anything that isn't truth is pretension (look at the verses). Falsehood is to be destroyed because Satan is the father of lies and only seeks one thing: my destruction (John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8-9). Deceptive thoughts will destroy me. Deceptive words will destroy someone else. I am not just talking about out-in-out lies here. I am talking about us thinking we are doing the right thing and saying the right thing before we sipher our thoughts through the grid of Scripture.

3. Take captive every one of my thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. I love the wording in the verses..."make it obedient". That's right...I am in control. I have a choice. Will I align my thoughts and words with Scripture...or will I not? What does Scripture say I should be thinking about? Read on dear friend.

Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praise worthy - think about such things."

Amen.

March 19, 2013

Not So Comfy Comfort Zones

Comfort Zones. We like them because, well, they're comfortable. Duh. But comfort zones can be really enslaving. Take for instance the Israelites. They lived in literal bondage as slaves for 400 years in Egypt. God sent Moses to free the Israelites and as soon as the going got tough in the wilderness, what did they want? To go back to Egypt...what they were used to, their comfort zone. Seriously? Just read the book of Exodus in your Bible. Over and over again after God provided over and over again, the people would complain to Moses. They'd ask why God brought them to die in the desert when they could've just died in Egypt. Are you kidding me? God was delivering His people and all they did was grumble when things did not go exactly their way. Because the process to freedom was the scary unknown, they wanted to quit and go back to bondage, the unbearable known. Neither situation was ideal, but the known is always better than the unknown, right? Wrong.

Comfort zones are those behaviors that we develop as forms of self-protection or self-medication when life hurts or doesn't make sense or both (namely: When we experience change - any sort of change that is - you guessed it - uncomfortable). My comfort zones are depression, anxiety, and manipulation (I am looking pretty bad right now, aren't I? You're thinking, "Whoa...okay, compared to her, I'm doing alright." Well, you're welcome for that boost.) About two years ago, God revealed how I had been living in my own Egypt for years...ignorantly (and I can say that with all honesty). I had been "white-knuckling" life for far too long. I had no idea what grace and freedom were. And it was ugly. God had to completely break me. I literally didn't know what else to do but take my life by suicide or give my life to Jesus. However it was in that brokenness that He healed me. The freedom that ensued from surrender was indescribable. But would you believe that when any major change occurs in my life, I go back to my Egypt...depression, anxiety, manipulation? In those moments, I call out to God questioning why He left me...why He is silent...why He doesn't seem to be answering any of my prayers (which are all about me feeling comfortable in my bondage). His Word is clear: He opposes the proud. My pride, the idea that I am in control of my own life and can decide what is best for me apart from God, is what drives me to my comfort zones. It blinds me of my need of Jesus Christ. It keeps me from remembering that God healed me when I could not heal myself. My pride convinces me that I can meet my own needs in my comfort zones.

Hosea 11:3-4: "But they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love."

I often live like I have not been healed.

I love Psalm 103: "Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s."

Why do I need to remember all of God's benefits (forgiveness, healing, redemption, crowning, satisfaction)? Because when I have retreated back to bondage...when I am living in my comfort zones looking for safety and peace away from my God, I feel like He has abandoned me...left me on my own. I get so consumed in my own little world that I can't find God because I am demanding my way instead of following God's way.

The book of the Bible Hosea is scandalous. It takes place hundreds of years after the Exodus from Egypt and the Israelite's time in the wilderness. Instead of staying true to God, the people have committed spiritual prostitution and gone after false gods. God asks Hosea, His prophet, to marry an actual prostitute as a metaphor. So, Hosea marries Gomer. They have several children together. However, Gomer returns to prostitution and consequently Hosea must also raise several of her illegitimate children conceived while she was married to Hosea. The heartache. God wanted to prove that when the people "cheat" on Him so to speak, He hurts. Badly. In fact, the book of James tells us that God is jealous for us. He loves us so much, He can't stand to share us. Think about this: If you aren't turning to God for comfort, where do you go? Back to your own Egypt...your comfort zones. This breaks God's heart. In Hosea, God actually tells the people that He wishes He could take them back to the wilderness. Why? Because while they were in the wilderness, they had to fully rely on and trust in God. Their time in the wilderness was a constant test of whether or not they would walk by faith.

Will I embrace all that I know to be true from His Word when I can't seem to hear or see Him? Will I walk away from my comfort zones and to Him? See, that's the tricky thing...our comfort zones can provide immediate relief. But do they provide lasting relief? Really think about that.

Right now, practically, I am living from poopy diaper to poopy diaper. I don't have much time to shower most days, let alone do devotions. I have felt far from God...but He hasn't left me. I have wandered back to Egypt and felt alone. But He's with me everyday. His Word says He has given me "everything that pertains to life and to godliness." I love that. He is not only concerned about my godliness, but my life. Those things that happen that tend to drive me away from Him and to my comfort zones. He cares about those. And He has given me everything I need to fight against those urges to return to Egypt. He has given me His Word, and as I dwell and meditate on it, as I choose to live by what I know, not what I feel...as I choose to trust Him...to walk by faith, I once again claim and experience the healing He has brought over my life. I remember His benefits...I dwell on the fact that He has crowned me with His gentle love and compassion and nothing can ever separate me from Him...not even myself. Now that is a comfort zone.

March 9, 2013

Mommy Life: Redeeming the Ugly Stuff

Okay...so I am feeling a little "out of sorts" today and need to write it out - so to speak (there were multiply puns in that one statement...awesome). The problem with being a blogger is the fact that everyone knows what I am struggling with - and why - because the only way for me to process is to write. Awesome again. Don't worry...this should be quick today. I don't even have my Bible out. Just some thoughts.

Nothing will drudge up all of your "stuff" - old or new - like a baby. If I thought marriage was a sanctifying process (the first year especially...whew the first year), then being a mommy is sanctification on steroids. Boy oh boy. Day after day it's a struggle for me to find my identity in Jesus Christ and His unconditional acceptance of me...not in whether my daughter rolls over, drinks from a bottle, self-soothes, sleeps in her crib, coos, laughs, and so on. If everything goes "right" one day, I am flying high. If we have a night like last night because I was "feeling behind the other moms" and we are up until 2 AM unnecessarily because I forced something (run-on sentence, I know), then I feel like a complete failure and struggle to keep perspective the next day (today). If you are like, "What the heck, Nicole...seriously? These are the 'issues' (and you are using that word lightly, aren't you?) that you are battling with?" Then you probably aren't a mom (cause I guarantee that even if your "babies" are teeny-tiny, you are still anxious over their schooling, sports, extracurricular activities, appearance, friends, so on). And if you are a mom, please, share your secret to peace...because I can't seem to find it. My insecurity is fueling my incessant need to feel in control of everything and consequently I am impossible to live with. I feel like right now I am in this rat-race to keep up with all of the "other moms" who have it "all-together". Seriously? Who has it all-together? But doesn't it feel like that sometimes ladies...like we are in this race to keep up with each other...well, to have our kids keep up with each other...I guess to have our kids be "ahead of the game" so we can keep up with each other or be one step ahead? Why oh why?

"But God Who is rich in mercy..." I am so thankful for the "But God" moments in my life, aren't you? Jesus, Your mercies are new every morning. I need those mercies today. I need You to cleanse my heart of my pride (all about me), which fuels my insecurity (proving it's all about me), which ignites my need to control (keeping it all about me). I need You to remind me that I am loved, accepted, worthwhile, and secure...not based on being a "good mom" (whatever the h-e-double-hockey-sticks that means), but based on the fact that You came and died on the cross for me proving Your love for me...while I was still in my sin. Forgive me for turning to lesser things right now to feel okay about myself when You are standing there with Your nail-scared hands open offering peace and safety. Forgive me for not enjoying the moment...living in thankfulness...looking up. Help me to see that life is so much bigger than me...it's You. I love You. Amen.