Saturday, July 31, 2010

Imago Dei

When did the messages of culture become more powerful than the messages of God?

I would really like to figure this out, because somewhere along the line, I forgot that I was made in the image of the living God.

Imago Dei...

God created us to be whole persons. Culture teaches us (especially women) to be fragmented selves.

Kim Gaines Eckert, in her book Stronger Than you Think, writes, "Women's bodies [are] selling everything [in culture]... Women's bodies are not women's whole selves. When women are valued for their beauty and sexual appeal to the neglect of their many other capacities and gifts, it fragments them" (19, emphasis mine). If we do not guard ourselves against the education offered by culture, we will live under the self-condemning cloud of "never-good-enough."

But in the guarding, where do we turn? How do we live in celebration of the fact that we are image-bearers of our very Creator?

"Instead of focusing on what you look like (or don't look like), begin to focus on what you can do" (125).

God created you with specific abilities to do different things -- from riding a bike to crafting sentences to running and walking to creatively expressing yourself through vintage clothing or Etsy to climbing trees to cooking to eating to digesting -- seriously, people, we are absolutely intricate, fascinating, created beings! Affirm what you can do, affirm what others can do, and when awe hits you, revel in that awe.

We are His miracles.

"When you begin reciting body-hating messages, remind yourself that you were created as an embodied person in God's image" (126).

I recently discovered my struggle with brutal, negative self-talk. Now that I am aware of the messages I am constantly streaming into my head, when one pops up, I immediately repeat, "Imago Dei," to myself until I can rest in the knowledge that God has created me to be an image-bearer. Sometimes my negative self-talk turns into private bouts of worship. I was made in the image of God. Wow.

"We will grow in our search for wholeness when we stop breaking our bodies into pieces that we like and don't like... You have a whole body. Start trying to think of and appreciate your body that way" (129-130).

As stewards of God's creation, I believe we have a mandate to work towards self wholeness. When we disparage ourselves in any way, we are telling God, "Your work wasn't good enough. Your creation wasn't complete. I'm going to take control from here." When we fall into this line of thinking, we are forgetting that God saw what he created and it was very good.


(Thanks to Kim Gaines Eckert for an excellent book.)

Re-posted in Ruby-Eyed Okapi,
"Promoting Modesty and Purity to an Overly-Sexed Generation."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Talk Endlessly About Jesus

We let long pigtails and ponytails fall dancing behind us as we race against the wind on our bikes. We revel in the glory of it all, and reminisce about childhood times of endless summer days.

Photo by lilsuzy_09

It's the summer, and this is what summer is made for...

- for biking long into warm, humid nights - for running harder and farther than we think our bodies will carry us - for welcomed adventures, and some unwelcomed ones - for discovery and uncovery - for honesty - for new goals and looking ahead - for remaining in the present moment - for laughing and grieving and carrying - for talking endlessly about Jesus -

And that's where we stop, and pause, and wonder:

Why aren't we always talking endlessly about Jesus?

So I invite you today-tonight-tomorrow-- to talk endlessly about Jesus.
Share how time after time Jesus has awed you.
Tell of how He has saved you.
And ask to hear a story in return.

We can never cease to be in awe of the mighty things God has and continues to do.
We are His wondrous work. Tell of the work happening in you!

(Hint: you can start in the comment box below.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dirty Feet

Like Eve, I cover myself and hide away.
Because every day, I am more and more aware of my unworthiness.
My guilt and shame consumes me.

I look down and see my dirty feet, cracked and soiled and unpresentable.


Photo by joeyjoe000

I hide them. Then I hide my hands. Then my thighs. Then my face. My hair. My eyes. My soul. Everything.

"He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet.
"No," said Peter. "You shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."
"Then Lord," Simon Peter replied. "Not just my feet, but my hands and my head as well!'"

We speak of repentance, and I feel my soul crushed by my need for repentance. I want to repent every day of every thing, but I feel that my efforts are never good enough. My prayers are never enough. I am still crushed. Like Peter, I cry out to my Father, "Clean all of me, Lord!"

"Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet;
his whole body is clean."

Jesus has already cleansed me.
I have already been forgiven.

But I still have dirty feet.

Repentance is good news.
It is recognizing where we have dirty feet,
and recognizing the horror if we keep those feet dirty.

Thank me.
Call out.
And I will save you.


(Thanks to Rev. John McElwain for his inspiration and teaching on this topic.)


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Perspective: Consider My Servant Job

Have you ever considered Job?

To give a brief summary, this book in the Bible tells of Job - "a blameless and righteous man." Satan insists that Job is only blameless and righteous because God has blessed him. So God says, "Alright, Satan. Do your worst, and see how Job reacts. Only spare his life."

So Satan gives Job a heavy dose of suffering. And let me tell you, it's a lot.

Job experiences the gamut of reactions: lament, anger, despair, confusion, desperation, praise-- you get the point. His friends attempt to give him advice, but it's all the wrong advice. In the end, God answers Job: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations?" -- basically: Listen, Job. You don't know the Lord's plans. How can you even attempt to claim that God is unjust? He has a purpose that you can't even begin to see. Job finally acknowledges, "Therefore I uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me," and he repents.

In the end, God restores his riches, health, and family in abundance - more so than before.

You really ought to read it for yourself.

Anyways, that's not the point of this post.
The point is that I want you to
Really. Consider. Job.

People can have trouble with this book. And I get that. It's tough for us to understand how we Christians can claim God is good, and then read about an entire book where God allows Job to endure massive suffering. How can God actually love Job so much, when so much of Job's life is a test of sorts - an ongoing suffering?

I started thinking about this idea last night while leading Bible study on James 4-5.
Here's my question:
What if God hadn't tested Job?

The reality of life is that there will be suffering. Sometimes it's of a lesser degree, and sometimes it's really - almost-unbearably - painful. We just want it to be over, and a lot of the time, we don't understand why God would put us through so much pain.

But consider again our friend, Job. Yes, his suffering was great. No, he didn't understand it, and yes, he wanted release. But had he not gone through it, where would we turn during our suffering? How much perspective have we gained through Job's story? Job had no idea that for centuries after his life, we would be understanding our own place in the Biblical narrative through his experiences.

In the same way, when we are suffering, we have no idea how God will use it to effect others in the Biblical story. If you've gone through a painful experience, you may realize that your story - through the Lord's redemptive nature - has the power to impact, encourage, comfort, and teach another. If you don't know this, allow yourself to be open to the way God can use that time of pain to give hope to another. You may also have been able to step back and look at how that painful experience allowed you to grow. You have a better perspective five - ten - twenty- years down the road.

God redeemed and restored Job - likewise, He will redeem and restore us. He will use our sufferings for good - for ourselves, for others, and ultimately, for His Kingdom.



Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Choice to Remain at Home

I will rest in You today.
I will remember that I am always at home in You.
Today, I choose to remain at home.
I choose to put my trust in You.

Help me.

Update: Today was a very trying day for me, anxiety-wise. I had to leave training at least once today to spend some time receiving from the Lord, and I battled my way through an important meeting and the morning session.

Things God taught me today:
  • He loves me. Fully. The way He made me to be - extra-sensitive, artsy, and all.
  • He wants me to be free of the ways I tell myself He doesn't love me - the ways I haven't loved myself; I'm too self-critical of my body, my studying/attention in meetings, and my issues with anxiety.
  • I need to let things go.
  • And I received a special word from Him tonight when I was lying down, listening to the worship band singing, "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus." He distinctly said, "Rachel. Stop fighting me."
I'm done fighting, Lord. I'm yours, and I will wait for you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Who Are Weary

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest in your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Matthew 28-30

Hm.
That's a true comfort, isn't it?

I was drawn into this passage today because the truth is that I've been very weary and burdened. I like this promise.

It's an interesting passage though, isn't it? Jesus tells us to take his yoke upon ourselves. He tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

How can he give us such a promise, when so much of life is full of suffering, and we are called to persevere through the many trials we will inevitably face?

The answer is found in Him. Read this selection from Ann Voskamp:

"Just wait, weary worker, weary wanderer. All your travels, all your relentless journeys, all your endless seeking, it is over. You are at your destination. You have arrived. You are in Me. Rest here, in Me, wait here, in Me. I will endlessly revive you. I will endlessly carry you. Live here."

Is it always easy? No. Is it always obvious? No. Resting in Him--grasping the easy yoke and light burden--takes some practice because His Rest is contrary to our world.

So how? - you may ask. How do I practice this rest?
I would highly recommend reading 3 Ways to Really Enter into His Rest Right Now.

(And yes, I just linked to the same post twice! -- It's really that important that you read it!!)

A final question to you, dear readers: How do you find rest in the Lord-- especially in the midst of great pain and non-restful circumstances? What do you think Jesus meant when he said his yoke is easy and his burden is light?

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Thorn

Okay, so I've actually been avoiding writing this post--partly because I'm not exactly sure what to write or how to write it, and partly because I'm just so tired of thinking about it.

However.

I've realized that this blog, although it may be uplifting, might just showcase my spiritual journey as too polished. And although the Holy Spirit has certainly been pouring into me over the last few weeks and months, I also want to share the struggle.

So let me tell you about the thorn in my flesh.
His name is anxiety, and he's probably not a stranger to you.

(Just a heads up: this post may be a bit lengthy. I'll try to include some pictures to break it up a bit. Be mindful, dear reader, that it's possible that you may have already received a version of it via e-mail. Also, please click the links to be re-directed to related Scripture.)

Off and on throughout life, I have struggled with a slight anxiety disorder. By slight, I mean: avoiding crowds (malls at Christmas or on weekends, the grocery store on weekends or holidays, traffic, amusement parks, etc.). After getting married, I could sense that my anxiety was steadily increasing. For the past year, driving a car or going to the grocery store (EVER) became nearly impossible for me without my husband. Instead of merely picking up some groceries, I am constantly battling with myself and my fears--repeating over and over again that I will NOT die and I WILL get out alive and someday this [grocery shopping] will all be over. I usually come back exhausted and irritable.

I knew this was an issue, but I sure as heck didn't know how to deal with it. So onward we go.



And onward we went. Until --
BOOM! -- Sunday: Major. Panic. Attack.
In the city. On July Fourth. In the midst of thousands of people.


Since then, I have steadily been going downhill this week-- just fighting myself to stay functional in front of people. Behind closed doors, I was constantly crying. Or shaking in fear. Or dreading the next time I would have to leave. Or thinking about how the walls were closing in and I was suffocating.

(Please bear with me. There is hope at the end of this post.)

It was a rough battle today. Right now I currently feel at peace. But worn down. I definitely feel like I had a spiritual attack today. At one point, in my sobbing mess, I hear an enemy voice try to defeat me by twisting words and thoughts: "You fall short. You are forever falling short. You should only fear God, but instead you fear man. You should find your refuge in God, but instead you escape. You are falling short. There is no way out." It was a downward, scary spiral and I realized I had the potential to sink into that despair that has won me over in times past.


However.

God is victorious!
Satan does not win.

My sense is that God is answering a prayer that I asked for, but the process of that prayer is painful for me because it is requiring change -- a breaking of myself in order to rely fully on the Lord. The past week, I asked two people to start praying that God will prepare me to be a good mother someday, and I am also in training to be a CCO campus leader, and I do think this affliction is related.

Elliott thinks (and I agree) that my source of anxiety is coming from my need for escape. I panic when I think there is no way out. For most of my life, having an escape has been my crutch. God wants to be my refuge, no matter the situation. I am thankful that this is being brought to light and that he is answering prayer, but I am confused as to how to handle it. I pray, but every day I am still waking up gripped by uncontrollable fear -- a fear that makes my whole body shake. It's interfering with my studies and fellowship here at training.

Today it hits me: I have not trusted God. For years.

I tell myself I trust Him, and I try so-so-so hard. But I don't.
(Although there is an identifiable reason behind my distrust, it's rather sensitive (and involves people other than myself), so I must refrain from those details. Instead, I will focus on the current work happening in the present.)

I was thinking about how timely all this started happening: God is using this trial to mold me into a more complete person. At the same time, the Holy Spirit has been pouring into me abundantly over the last couple of weeks.

No WONDER Satan flipped out.

All the work that Satan had been doing in my life the last ten years or so have slowly faded away. The addictions to vanity, partying, guys, etc. -- all of these things have slipped from his grip and instead are being tossed away into the fire by the Father. It just dawned on me this afternoon that certain sins -- like partying and guys -- are but faded memories now. I do not struggle with those temptations any more at all. This gives me so much hope, because the things I am currently struggling with will someday also be vague memories. God will continue to root stuff out of me until He finally restores me on the Last Beautiful Day. He is doing His work and even though I may not understand it, I will let Him. He is so, so Good.

I also need to add that this season of suffering is unlike any other I have ever experienced. When I wrestled with deep depression throughout high school and most of college, and suffered through my weird, Rachel-specific eating disorder (lots of non-eating in the guise of "spiritual fasting," as well as lots and lots and lots of laxatives), I always felt despairing. I just wanted to die. I never saw the hope. This time, the Lord has sustained me with abundant hope. I know He is working in me. I know this season will end, and afterwards, I will be more complete than when I started.

It will be very good.
I look forward with anticipation to that time.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
James 1:2-4

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Here's to Hoping my Job Becomes Obsolete

My job ought to be obsolete.

Okay. Allow me to explain.
But first, let's read 2 Timothy 2:2 together:

"And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
(ESV)

In this passage, Paul is writing to Timothy. Note the following things: Timothy heard straight from Paul--not from others, but he was with Paul. Timothy learned directly from this teacher. Paul's charge to our friend Tim here is to "entrust [this message] to faithful men," so that they, in turn, may teach others.

Here we see four generations of discipleship:

Paul à Timothy à Faithful people à Others

This is what we here at the CCO call the "3, 12, 70" model. Disciple to a few (3) and equip them so that they may disciple a few more (12) to teach others (70). And so on and so forth. I mean, if you really stop and think about it, you are reading this blog only because of the first twelve who took the Great Commission seriously and went out and made "disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19).

No, seriously. Think about that for one moment. What if they hadn't taken this charge? What if, instead, they dwindled away their time apathetically, thinking that their lives would speak the gospel? What if they bought completely into the whole, "Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words" and nothing else? Yes, friends, our lives do need to reflect the Kingdom of God, but for Pete's sake: use your words.

Now, returning to my first statement: my job ought to be obsolete because I shouldn't have to sit in training for my career, listening to someone tell me to make disciples. I should have been doing this my whole life! The church should be doing this the whole time. We should make disciples regardless of job, location, temperament, vocation, or giftedness.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20, NIV

Monday, July 5, 2010

And It Was Very Good

I slip my feet snug into my running shoes. I don't know where I am going-- I just know I need to get out.

"You should come play ultimate with us," my husband says. "It would be a good break for you."

We've just spent the last six(+) hours support-raising. I feel discouraged, confused, and (most of all) guilty--because I know I shouldn't feel this way.

I shake my head. I am sensing a Holy-Spirit tug. "I think I just need to get out alone."

"Jesus went out to a solitary place." - Lk 4:42

I usually run. This time I walk. Walking seems more appropriate tonight. It's a thick humidity and I talk my steps slower than normal. I wind myself in and out of forgotten paths, until I am led into an evergreen forest deepened by twilight.

That's when the lightening bugs started worshiping.

lightning bugs Pictures, Images and Photos

All at once, I am stricken by awe. In wonder, I try to take it all in, but it's too much for me. I want to drink in the beauty. I want to join the twinkling bugs in flight. I long for the restoration of God's creation--for the day when I can fully understand how to comprehend and join in such beauty.

I think it's all I can handle, when three deer prance behind me. I turn around just in time to see them jump effortlessly over a fence and into the forest deep.

That's when I start to cry.
God's glory is too magnificent for me. His Creation cannot help but worship Him. I cannot help but be awed by Him. I moved too deeply that I cannot handle it.

I weep.

I mourn for those who do not know the Father's love like this--who go by day by day without acknowledging these moments. I mourn for the person I allowed myself to be for so long--a person who would have rushed right by such a moment.

And I weep tears of joy because of where God has brought me--
to this place--
to experience this moment
with Him
and the Creation which He declared, "Good."

"God saw all that he had made,
and it was very good."
Genesis 1:31

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