Faith, Insecurity, Surrender, Trust, Unbelief, Uncategorized

Who Am I?

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19

My father told me I was Italian.  Growing up in Las Vegas our family would go to the local Italian-American Club and eat Italian food with the other Italian families.  My father spoke Italian and competed in Bocce Ball tournaments.  But, although we had dark skin and dark hair, we were not Italian. It was a lie.

My true identity was revealed right before my wedding, seven years after my father’s death. Having been estranged from her brother for thirty-years, my father’s sister, Aunt Lee, traveled to Oregon from Rhode Island to attend my wedding. We connected after my father died but had never met.  Aunt Lee told us that my father left their family as a young man, cutting off contact with them for reasons too sordid to explain here. In spite of the circumstances she was excited to meet us and asked all kinds of questions.  Photo albums from our childhood and newspaper clippings of my dad playing in Bocce Ball tournaments were sprawled on the table. It wasn’t long before her brow furrowed in confusion as her dark eyes darted from picture to picture.

“Do you think you’re Italian?” she asked.

“Yes. We are Italian. Why?” I answered.

“Because you’re not, she beamed,  You’re Portuguese!”

Aunt Lee’s brown eyes were laughing as she spoke; then her round face revealed a smile.   She was amused but I was not.  It was shocking. This statement changed my perception of myself and of my father.  My earthly father lied to me about my identity.  What else did he lie about?  Later in the conversation Aunt Lee told us they grew up on a little farm, not in Reno, Nevada like my father claimed, but in Fall River, Massachusetts.  We also found out he had been married twice before and had three other children.  Why all the lies?  We may never know my father’s motives but, either way, he was not who he said he was and I am not who he said I was either.  My father defined me with lies.

So, who am I?  This identity crisis is one many struggle with even after coming to know Christ.  We are all targets of well aimed, fiery arrows launched from the enemy’s bow carrying messages that are meant to define us and undermine God’s Word.  They are all lies too.  The problem is they seem to to be true because of life experiences.  For example, when the “You are not wanted” arrow comes flying overhead it can be difficult to argue against if we’ve suffered rejection.  We may even let it pierce our heart because it’s what we know.  Therefore, believing God’s Word over any other source is key if we are to live in true freedom.  If we know what it says about His character and how He defines us as His children we will be able to recognize lies when confronted with them.   You know, the ones that start with, “Did God really say…” Our defense is to love the Lord with all our heart, mind and soul, believing Him above all else, which is faith.  But how can we truly know and love someone we don’t spend time with?  His word is His love letter to each of His children and His character is defined by the cross, not our circumstances.

Let’s be thankful to the Lord today that he is “not a man” and for His Word which is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Only He defines you in truth and love.  May we open His love letter, allowing God alone to answer the question, “Who am I?”

But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name,  He gave the right to become children of God.     John 1:12

Anxiety, Control, Idolatry, Insecurity, Obedience, Pride, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Unbelief, Uncategorized

Chokehold

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'”  Mark 10:21

One Sunday morning in October I saw a young girl with her dad walking toward the Children’s Museum in our small, New England town.  The legs of a stuffed Pooh Bear dangled beneath her right arm, his head peeking over the top of her chokehold.  All three crossed the street together.  The little girl’s left hand was securely tucked into her father’s right as she trotted to keep up with his pace.  My first impression was of the sweet picture this portrayed of our daily walk with Jesus; our secure, surrendered life of following Him.  My second thought concerned the Pooh Bear.   This little girl wasn’t content just holding daddy’s hand as she followed.  She needed Pooh to make her feel secure.

Of course,  I have one or two Pooh Bears under my arm of control for security too.  While I know in my mind that Jesus is enough there is a tendency to cling to other things while trying to follow Jesus.  “Pooh Bears” like savings, good health, ministry and family make me feel safe and secure.  However, anxiety rushes into my heart whenever I fear they may be slipping away.  My grip tightening with every anxious thought, I hold on to what I perceive as essential for my security by its furry little neck.  This happened a couple of weeks ago when we received a large but expected bill.  Emotionally spinning because it was outside my comfort zone of spending, my mind started flipping from asking, “What were we thinking!”  to “Why is this service so expensive!”   My Pooh Bear (savings) was in danger!

This incident was so revealing because I didn’t even know I had a chokehold in this area.  It took a few days of unpacking for God to reveal the content of my heart.  Using the key of confession (I’m sorry Lord that I don’t trust You to take care of me and believe I have to protect myself) and repentance (I choose to believe You over my feelings of insecurity, accepting Your forgiveness and choosing to walk in the truth that You will never leave me or forsake me and You have given me everything for life and Godliness) God opens the door freedom.   When I choose to look up and see that my Father has my hand and will never let me go there is an overwhelming sense of peace and security.  My  Pooh Bears, I realize, are only gifts to enjoy.  Like a carrot in the hand of a child feeding a horse they are meant to be held with an open palm lest my fingers get nipped.  His love enables the open hand.

In addition, although there are times when I am totally surrendered, walking in lock-step with God’s glorious pace, admittedly there are also times when I do insist that Jesus “follow me.”   Instead of holding other things in my grip for security I try to get hold of Jesus ’round the neck and choke out the sound of His voice, refusing to surrender to His life in me.  The result is mental chaos and feelings of isolation.  No longer walking in The Light I grope around in emotional darkness.  Insisting on my way while stumbling across the dangerous terrain of rebellion until He brings me to the end of myself.    Here, again at the altar of confession and repentance,  He restores my soul while I allow Him to wash my feet, getting me ready to follow HIM once again.

So, whether the sin revealed is idolatry or rebellion He is waiting to heal every dark place.  The key is recognizing when you are stuffed with other things or getting ahead of Him.  How can we know?  The answer is in Psalm 139:23-24:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.”

If you ask Him He will search your heart, revealing any unclean thing and, with His righteous right hand holding yours, lead you in the everlasting way. His path is straight.  We can follow Him with confidence, joy and peace, trotting all the way to Heaven with His good gifts held loosely in open hands of praise. \O/

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”  John 8:12

Hope, Insecurity, Trust, Unbelief, Uncategorized, Victory

Un-Bee-Lief

“..and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”  1 Peter 2:24

In 2001, after purchasing a two-acre lot in Maine, my husband and I decided to walk the property with our two little boys in search of the best place to build. However, during our trek we accidentally disturbed the ground nest of a bee colony.  They quickly swarmed around our children, chasing us off our own land!  That’s exactly what the enemy does.  He gets us to believe that we cannot inhabit the land that God has given us or that it is too difficult and too painful.  He chases us away shouting, “It’s just not worth it!”

Recently, the Lord has asked me to walk another kind of property.  This acreage is emotional and requires the use of my iPhone.  “Siri, remind me at 5:00 P.M. that my husband loves me.” As you know, this is not the typical Siri request.  It is, however, part of a reprogramming strategy to renew my mind; to exterminate the fundamentally flawed belief nested in my heart that “certain” people cannot be trusted.  This belief has grown into a colony of bees causing confusion and pain in my relationships, including Godly ones.  Unfortunately, my husband, Marty, experiences the consequences of this distrust more than anyone.  For example, last week Marty was sitting on the bleachers at a baseball game while I was returning from the restroom. He turned and smiled at me as I approached. Immediately I slowed my pace, trying to discern if his smile was happy or sarcastic.  Without realizing it I created a protective barrier to keep my ego from harm.  Seeing this unfold Marty said, “I’m your husband who loves you, remember?” He told me later that I looked at him suspiciously. All this happened while I was completely unaware!

Of course, as a child of an alcoholic father I learned to tread lightly around my dad.  Even if he was in a good mood, seemed happy and there was no evidence of alcohol consumption, I practiced self defense.  The result was insecurity, fear and loneliness.  Understandably, using emotional martial arts as a Christian created the same result.  This is because, even after Jesus redeemed me and made me a new creation, I decided to continue in unbelief when it came to my own security.  After all, I experienced rejection and pain at the hands of my own father.  Don’t I have the right to make sure it never happens again?  No, I don’t.  Because Jesus died for me in order to free me from the bondage of sin, unbelief in His resurrection power to heal the wounds of my past and bind up my broken heart is not an option.  Did He not say, “It is for freedom sake that I have set you free?”  And yet, I allow the thoughts that foster insecurity to “swarm around me like bees.”

As you can imagine, our boys never wanted to return to our bee-infested property. But we did return.  Marty killed the bees, reclaiming our land, and we built a beautiful home for our family.  In the same way, I am determined to allow God to exterminate the un-bee-lief that keeps me from living on my own spiritual and emotional land which He has already secured.  Indeed, scripture is the ultimate lie exterminator.  On the road to assured victory I will continue to battle insecurity and unbelief with God’s Word, prayer and a little help from Siri.

“They swarmed around me like bees; they blazed against me like a crackling fire.  But I destroyed them all with the authority of the Lord.   My enemies did their best to kill me, but the Lord rescued me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.  Songs of joy and victory are sung in the camp of the godly.  The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!  The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph.  The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things!  I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.”

Psalm 118:12-17