Monthly Archives: March 2014

A slice of Humble Pie

pie cherryFor whatever reason, the idea of humility has been bouncing around me for the last couple months.  Whether it’s just the current fad, or God’s trying to teach me something, well, I guess I need to ask Him.
Growing up, I was given the idea that humility meant thinking more of others than yourself.  That it meant taking care of others at the expense of you – your time, your money, your abilities, everything.
But, if we say the best example in the Bible of a humble person is Christ…than that’s not really true.  I mean, sure, He eventually did give up His life for the good of the world, but that’s because that was His job, His calling, His purpose.    But that’s not really how He lived His life.  Throughout the Gospels  we often find Jesus sleeping, or taking time out with just Him and God – even if there are people around wanting to learn from Him.  He took time to refresh.
He knew His human limits.  He knew what He could do, and did it when it was appropriate.  And He knew what He couldn’t do (think temptation after 40 days, or His quiet times with God).  And in all things, He depended on His Father (God the Father) for strength, and on the Holy Spirit for insight.  Jesus couldn’t do it all by Himself, and He acted in that knowledge.
Nor did He think He had to stay around to watch His church grow.  Nope.  He knew that wasn’t His job, and He empowered the men whose jobs it was – His disciples.
So, basically, humility is being aware of who you are – of your strengths and your weaknesses, and admitting to them and using them to the glory of God.   But even more than that, it means owning your dependence on God, and listening to Him.  Being aware of which jobs you’d be the best for, and which ones you should NOT accept because you can’t do them…or because they tempt you too badly.  Being aware of your body, and allowing it to be healthy (you know, feed it right, exercise, and REST it – physically, mentally and spiritually).  Humility means you are aware of the needs of the world around you, and your own, and you meet those needs as God leads.
I would end this by saying, “Know thyself”…but I think that’s not really possible without Christ revealing to you who exactly you are.  You can try it on your own, but I don’t think it’s going to turn out as well as it would with Christ.  So, let Him show you who you are.  Ask Him to show you your strengths and your weaknesses.  Ask Him to give you opportunities to grow you, and experiences that remind you of your complete and utter dependence on Him.

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Sugar and Noise

I did not grow up with Lent.  In fact, I’m not sure I even knew what “giving something up for Lent” meant until I read the story of the Von Trapp Family Singers (the family Sound of Music was based on).  Maria gave up sweets, or maybe it was just chocolate, for Lent.  And I read that book sometime in early high school I think.
Lent was something “those Catholics” did.  Not something us enlightened and freed from the law Protestants participated in.  I had a lot to learn.
In college I heard a lot about different takes on Lent – all from Protestant Christian types.  They talked about using the Lenten season to re-connect with God, to re-focus.  And so they suggested ADDING something to our lives.  Like focusing on a sense of gratitude during Lent, or taking 30 minutes out of our day to spend quietly before the Lord, and many other cool ideas.
At that time, I didn’t care enough.  The first time I can remember giving something up for Lent was when I was in Bahrain.  The girls I taught with and I gave up chocolate….sorta…kinda…maybe.  I tried anyway.  About three years ago I wanted to participate in this season, but knew I needed to keep it do-able.  So, I turned off the radio in my car and didn’t turn it back on until after Easter.  I tried to use the time to pray, but often became convicted of how easily my thoughts wander.  But somehow, the quiet is good for me, even if my thoughts don’t stay focused in prayer.  So it’s become a tradition during Lent.
This year is interesting, because while I’ve always driven a lot, I am driving like three or four times the distance than I have been, due to how far away the Seminary is from my home.  And so I live in silence for at least an hour a day…or relative, busy-road silence anyway.  And I cannot tell you how good that has been for my soul!
Noise adds so much clutter to our lives.  It often does an amazing job of cancelling out God’s voice in our lives.  And I haven’t done any studies on the subject, but I bet minds that have quiet as part of their daily routine are incredibly healthier than those that are constantly bombarded by music and noise.
But I also added something this year, mostly because the idea that the idea that my body is God’s temple, and so I need to take care of it as such, has been niggling at the back of my mind for months now.   Not that I have been abusing my body, per se.  At least, not anymore than the normal American.  But I do eat way more sugar than my body needs, and, indeed, over the last four months or so, I’ve come to notice how dependent I am on it.  Whenever I’d get stressed or tired or wanted to write or stay awake during class, I suddenly craved chocolate, or doughnuts or a mocha, or maybe ice cream.  If I was hungry for a snack, I’d grab something sweet.
A desire for dependency on God and not myself or things in my life has been growing.   So, with that two-fold goal of treating my body with better respect and with wanting to be more dependent on God during my times of stress and tiredness, I decided to give up sugar – to the best of my abilities.  I’m pretty sure to completely go off of refined sugar I’d have to only eat meat, veggies and fruits.  And I’m not going that extreme.  But I’m giving up everything that I can that I know has sugar in it.  AND IT’S CRAZY HOW MUCH DDOES!!!!
And while I do have sugar cravings every now and then (and fully expect them to get worse), it’s good.  I can’t say I’ve noticed any major difference in my body, but I no longer beat myself up for eating sugar.  And really, at least for now, that’s not the point.
But the coolest part of giving up sugar, is how present God is in my thoughts these days.  When I choose to eat a certain way that is radically different than how I was eating, then everything I put in my mouth is suddenly a very conscious choice…which reminds me of God, of His love, and who He is.   And what He’s done for me.  Which is the point of this season.
And that is worth it.
So, take some time this Lenten season (so, from now until Easter, April 20th) to remember God.  To be silent and listen.   And maybe, if you’re brave, ask yourself what you’re depending on instead of Christ.

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Train tracks

This may shock you, but I live in a place where occasionally my driving is hindered by a train rumbling along its tracks that cross some of our roads.  Yes, that still happens.  It’s happened twice to me in the last week, and one of those roads was a super-busy street!  I mean, this road is practically a highway, but all the fast-moving, impatient cars (well, impatient drivers anyway) still had to stop for the train to slowly roll by.
Normally, I try to get out of waiting.  I turn around and try to find a way around (either behind or in front of or under in some cases) the trundling train.  I’ve lived here for a while, so I know what my options are, and make use of them.  The silly thing is though, by the time I get the piece of track that I can drive over, I would have saved time had I stayed where I originally was to begin.  But, even though I know this, the idea of sitting there, counting the cars as they pass makes me slightly jittery.  So much time is wasted while this antiquated form of transportation rolls along its tracks.  And yet, in reality, it’s not that much time.  I timed it yesterday.  Three minutes.  I waste three minutes sitting and waiting for the train.  But the thing is, yesterday while actually waiting (I couldn’t get out of waiting yesterday) I realized that God was teaching me something here.
I think, sometimes, God puts inconvenient things in our lives (that technically, yes, we could get around) in order to make us slow down.  I think He’s trying to give us a chance to stop, take a deep breath, and reflect a bit before moving on.
So when God slows you down a bit – simple things feel a bit harder than normal, or some process you have no control over but whose mercy you’re at takes longer than it should.  It’s okay.  Just breathe.  And instead of worrying about when you’ll get your answer, or whatever, just trust that God’s got this.  That it will be okay.  And relax.  Slow down.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Slow.   Down.

 

 

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I.D. Please?

Just so you know, the lengthy blog below is not necessarily Biblically proven (I mean, sure, there’s a lot of Biblical truth in it, but there is no where in the Bible that says, “this is IT”, so please don’t think that this is that).  These is just where I have currently landed on my understanding of the topic.  If you have your own thoughts, please, I’d love to hear them.   

“Can I see your I.D.?”
I walk up to the man in uniform, hand him my driver’s license and boarding pass and wait as he checks to make sure my I.D. is valid, my boarding pass is legit, and then waves me on with a polite gesture.
Really?  This little piece of plastic that fits in my pocket tells you who I am?  I mean, I guess the picture looks like me, I haven’t changed THAT much in the ten years since my picture was taken.  So, since the picture and my face match-ish, than everything else on the little piece of plastic is accurate too.  It is a sum of who I am.
My first name is Amy.   My initials spell ALL (a detail I love!).  I live where there are beautiful mountains.  I have brown hair and brown eyes.  And then, of course, the piece of plastic holds a few other details about me (like height and weight), and even more important numbers are on there – like my birthday, my driver’s license number, and the date when this particular piece of plastic will no longer be a valid source of knowledge for who I am (the expiration date).
But if you ask anyone who knows me, I am so much more than that tiny bit of information.  I am daughter, sister, friend, mentor, leader, student, crazy-driver, brownie-baker, encourager, seamstress, writer, babysitter, and reader – to name a few.  And those are just titles!  That doesn’t even begin to go into the details – like what my laugh sounds like, or why or when I laugh for that matter. Or what my story with God is.  It doesn’t tell you my favorite flowers, or favorite season, or favorite candy, or favorite movie, or what kind of music I like.  Or whether or not I snore, or what hobbies I might have, or what makes me blush, or what I’m passionate about…and so much more.  And all this stuff – this stuff that you can’t take from me (might change over time, but you can’t take it from me) – this is what makes me, me.
So, when someone comes up to me in church and says, “Your identity needs to be In Christ.  You are Christ’s child.”…WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?
I’ve heard the general explanations:  God loves me.  I need to depend on Him for my validation, not my friends or family or the world.
But…WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?  Like, on a practical level, in everyday life.  How is THAT my I.D.?  I can’t simply make up a card with my face on it, my height and weight on it (just to make sure no one stole the little piece of plastic) and then put CHILD OF GOD across the top, with some pretty pearly gates in the background, since it will be issued by Heaven.  Pretty sure the guy at the airport gate isn’t going to accept that as “valid”.  Not that his opinion really matters.  I don’t think of my Driver’s License as my actual identification (it’s just a brief, precise physical description).  But still.
What does it mean to be a Child of God?
I know this much:
It means that He loves me enough for Jesus to come to Earth, live a perfect
life, die for my sins, defeat Satan’s claim over my life, and then, when the
time is right, usher me  into Heaven.
Now, don’t get me wrong – that’s GREAT.  But, it’s more than that
too.  It means that, as His child, I love Him like my father…which
means loving Him so much I want to live a life that pleases Him and
brings Him joy.   Which means living a life different than most people
around me live.   It means living a life that is full of joy and grace and
love and patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, etc.
But that’s what I DO, not who I am.  What I DO is a result of
how I see myself.  SO, in order for those things above to
happen, I have to see myself and recognize that I am God’s
kid, the apple of His eye, that I have ahold of His
heartstrings.
Which means, I think, that in order for me to practically, on a daily basis, understand what it means to be a child of God, to take those ambiguous three words as my identity, I need to see myself as He sees me…or as close as He’ll let me see myself as He sees me.
For example – growing up, whether or not we fully realize it – we learn to see ourselves as our parents see us (well, I think this is true.  Technically I’ve only ever observed this phenomenon … oh, and I’ve lived through it as a kid.  Never been on the parent part of this formula).  But, if our father sees us as a nuisance, he’s going to treat us as such…and we will respond to that.  If he treats us that way long enough, eventually, we will begin to realize He sees us this way, and it will become part of our identity, and from there, it becomes the source of our actions…and so (probably) we become an even bigger nuisance.
Now – quick note – not all parents realize how their actions are affecting their kids, nor understand how the messages they are sending are shaping their children’s identity.  And, most often, the way parents treat kids is not in reaction to the kid herself, but to the parents’ own old wounds, scars, and beliefs.  So, in cases like this, the child ends up believing stuff about herself which was never true, but had so much more to do with their parents’ wounds.
Okay – back to identity in God.  We need to see ourselves as God sees us.  If we understand that He sees the broken, ugly bits of us, but still loves us more deeply and purely than any human ever could, we’re going to view the world with a different perspective than if we believe that God sees us as a screw-up.  And if we understand His love for us, than how we interact with the world will change.  And this will change how we identify ourselves.  We will know what it means to have our identity in Christ.

 

 

A butterfly is a butterfly is a butterfly whether or not she chooses to fly or to crawl along the ground like the caterpillar she used to be.   
She IS a butterfly; that is her identity.  She can’t change that.  Nothing can take that from her.  But it is not until she realizes she is a butterfly, spreads her wings and flies that she is embracing her identity. 

You ARE a child of God, whether or not you want to admit it.  But, it won’t be until you do admit it that you’ll be willing to recognize you even have wings.  And then comes the process of spreading them, trusting the wind, and gliding.  The process of being willing to believe that God loves you – unconditionally, just as you are.  The process of learning to listen to Him, of following Him, of molding your life to His design.   The process of realizing what it means to be His child.

 

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