Monday, May 17, 2010

The Power Of The Bow

We associate rainbows with little girls & white ponies, leprechauns & pots of gold; we recognize it as a symbol of unity for the GLBT movement. Some of us still associate it with the Biblical account of Noah's Ark. However we see it, the rainbow has taken on a myriad of meanings. In Greek mythology, it clothes the "messenger of the gods". Various traditions consider it to be a bridge to heaven itself. Some cultures believe its a giant snake or even a demon. Still others think its the apex of spiritual enlightenment. Some believe it to be an archer's bow. And this is how I read it this morning:

God said, "I set My BOW in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth..." Genesis 9:13 NASB

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:28 NIV

Did you know that two people won't see the same rainbow at the same time? When you see one, its for your eyes only. Sure, we can point & yell "rainbow"! & others can see a rainbow, but everyone sees it differently b/c the scene is in constant motion. How you see it depends on your position & the position of the sun as the raindrops fall... The enemy of our souls has taken the glory of God & made a mockery of it. Hes taken the rainbow, a symbol of God's covenant to us, & made it into something we associate with being dainty & weak. Its the stuff of myth & fantasies now. Its become an international banner for folks who live in controversy with God's Word. All of us, Christian & non alike, we all see the "bow" differently based on where we stand & the place we give God in our lives. But Isaiah 40:5 says: "...the Glory of the Lord will be revealed, & ALL mankind TOGETHER will see it...."

WHAT A DAY THAT WILL BE!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guilt

When one experiences feelings of guilt when guilt is not warranted, its known as a guilt complex. The guilt complex sends mixed messages. Its manipulative, asserting it's will over yours. It says: "you WILL feel bad because I love you so much!" I have a friend who seems to think I have a guilt complex about everything. She calls me narrow-minded. But Jesus says: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV.

I don't want to join in on dirty jokes... I don't want to see the racy scenes on tv or in movies. I don't want to get drunk, swear like a sailor or talk about sex like its a car. All this & more apparently makes me narrow minded & a slave to guilt. Really? Because the truth is, I have a choice. I'm free to do whatever I want. But not everything is good for me. "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"— but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23 NIV. What I choose to do (or not to do), I do not out of guilt, but love for God. I love Him & I want to do what's best for me because He loves me. If it means walking a narrow road, so be it. I am free to do as I please (& I want to do what pleases Him!). Guilt has no place in this relationship.

God is greater than my heart, and he knows everything. If my heart doesn't condemn me, I have confidence before God and receive from Him anything I ask, because I obey His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love others as He commanded me. Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how I know that He lives in me: I know it by the Spirit He gave me". 1 John 3:20-24 NIV (paraphrased).

Its not a guilt complex. Its life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Shed of the Subconscious

Lately, I've been having some pretty unsavory dreams. In one particular episode, after a series of strange events, a girl my age (someone I'd never met before) reached out to grab my wrist & pinched me, saying "Oh you bet you'll open your eyes". Yet in my dream, my eyes were already open...

I'd been trying to pinpoint the feeling I've had for the last month or so & finally realized it was like waking up- my eyes are opening up to a new world through faith in Christ. There's a scripture that says "Wake up o sleeper & Christ's light will shine on you". The way the girl in my dream said "You bet you'll open your eyes" was malicious & it seemed to be a direct response to my "spiritual wakening". The dreams change every night, but the theme remains the same- life isn't as fulfilling if I choose Christ.

It appears that even my subconscious is being used against me now- if the enemy can't get me to fall consciously, my subconscious is ripe for the picking. I'm essentially powerless on this battlefield. During the day, I do my best to guard my eyes & ears from the things I know will harm me... At night, I go to sleep praying, but the dreams come anyway. Some are tempting, some are mocking. Sometimes my heart will be racing from fear when I wake up... So I'll get out of bed, pray, read my Bible & repent (even though I did nothing wrong). I feel like I've been assaulted, harassed, even defiled after one of these dreams & I just want to be clean.

The stuff stored in the shed of the subconscious mind can become viable weaponry in the hand of the enemy... I suppose I could pray that God would wipe my memory clean & take away all the images & scenarios from the past that could be used to piece these dreams together... But I prayed instead that He would tag & catalogue everything the enemy could use against me... I prayed that He would set a guard over the door of my "shed" so the enemy can't enter... Whether I have another dream or not is up to Him now... but I'm not going to be subject to my enemy on this particular battlefield any longer. My enemy is subject to God.

Friday, May 7, 2010

End of the Line

What does it take for change to break into ones life? What did it take for me? It was gradual, yet sudden... I remember going through the motions- going to church, singing songs, reading my Bible & praying. But I had been doing that for years. I remember beginning to pray specifically for God to change me. I was looking for a way out of the rut. There were good days & bad- good days were full of hope, life & energy to go go go... Bad days were full of exhaustion, self pity & darkness. I had a lot of bad days. I had been at this faith thing for years but hadn't felt much different... ever.

Change began with CONNECTION to various individuals in my church. Nothing major, just Hi's, coffee & lunches. I never talked much. I just "was". However, connection led to the desire to be in COMMUNITY. I thank God for my patient friends! Two years later, I finally moved closer. A 20 minute commute became a walk around the corner. FELLOWSHIP became easier since proximity & time wasn't an issue anymore.

I spent time in PRAYER, continuing to ask God to change me, to chose me, to buy me. I felt powerless, despairing. I knew I must have been "saved" all this time, but I still felt rejected, like merchandise nobody wanted. I continued to read the Bible & realized I needed to start living what I was reading. So I began to HUMBLE myself & SUBMIT to God. I began to DESIRE REPENTANCE, even though I still hung on to sin. And then that desire became OBEDIENCE (or more realistically speaking, progressive repentance, which lead to obedience)... I began to take ACTION, striving to live the way God said He wanted me to. Sin continued to foster opportunities for more prayer, more repentance & eventually, change. I'm nowhere near perfect, but I can say with growing confidence: Sin is no longer my master. I've been redeemed!

A friend approached me & suggested I go through Neil Anderson's Steps To Freedom. I don't know why I said yes, but I did. I mean, I had been through his books when I was younger & nothing happened. Still I hung on to some measure of hope that it would be different this time. And it was. My friend sat across from me each session, patiently listening as I read the material & prayers aloud. It doesn't seem significant, but it really was. The power of the spoken word had devastated me throughout my life. Family, peers, authority figures, they all spoke words that fed my inward destruction. But the power of the spoken word- God's Word- has set me free! It wasn't enough to hear someone else speak it over me- I had to speak it- to myself. As I practiced this, I learned to pray it & eventually, I learned to believe it. And I'm still learning!

This is the end of the line for the girl who was bound to her past, bound to be kicked around, bound to merely exist. I can't do anything without God, but He requires that with Him, I do SOMETHING. So we built a road together. This is where a new path begins, as a road raised up from the rubble of my brokenness... Praise be to God!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Revelations Of A Shrunken Head


Its become tradition for the worship leader to leave women's retreat with a special trinket. The leader before me got a stuffed rat & last year, I acquired a mechanical disembodied foot. This year, I came home with a shrunken head. I have to say, I was a little uncomfortable with the head, for all it implies:

"A shrunken head is a severed and specially prepared human head that is used for trophy, ritual, or trade purposes." "The practice of preparing shrunken heads originally had religious significance; shrinking the head of an enemy was believed to harness the spirit of that enemy and compel him to serve the shrinker. It was said to prevent the soul from avenging his death." The process also served as a way of warning enemies. "
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrunken_head

Even though the head I received was plastic, I held "me" in my hands. I had been decapitated, my mouth long ago sewn shut... I had been a trophy for the enemy of my soul. But this isn't who I am now- I've come to new life in Christ & am beginning to rediscover what my voice sounds like... Not only my physical voice, but my voice as one redeemed. I'm no longer a powerless, silent, boneless, shrunken head! And so today I presented the head to God & prayed that it would become a trophy for Him instead, as well as a warning to my enemy. It still represents me- who I once was (but am no longer)... & it represents the power of my God as well.

Thanks gals!

Faith & Mountains

He replied... "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20 NIV

Jesus is speaking to His disciples. They had tried to drive a demon out of a boy but failed. What's worse, the boy's father went to Jesus & complained! How humiliating. Jesus healed the boy on the spot & later told His disciples how they lacked faith. But what did mountains have to do with anything?

When I was a kid, I tried to envision what moving a mountain might look like. I imagined a giant snow capped peak, ripped from the earth. It floated up into the atmosphere like some ethereal being... It would glide slowly through the sky till it reached the sea, where it gradually disintegrated over the water. But in reality, if a mountain COULD be moved, what might it look like? Perhaps it would happen with an earthquake or a landslide or more slowly, via erosion. Maybe it would occur with strategically placed man-made explosives or extensive mining.

But Jesus said faith can move mountains too. I think its interesting that the disciples didn't seem to have enough faith, even after years at Jesus' side. I believe the idea of faith moving a mountain is a deliberate overexaggeration. He uses it to make a point, much like the picture of the plank in the eye or the idea of cutting off your hand if it causes you to sin... I know I tend to focus on the mountains first... but faith sees the outcome, not the mountain. It sees the place the mountain is going & the freedom its absence will bring.

Jesus said in another place, "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." (Mark 16:17-18). The disciples knew this, but did they really believe it? Were they focusing instead on the mountain of impossibility rather than envisioning the possible outcome- signs & wonders, not to mention freedom for this boy they were praying for? Herein lies the essence of faith. When we can start believing in the possibility that something so solid, secure & insurmountable (like mountains of "natural law") can actually crumble, be shaken or conquered, we can indeed begin to see them move. Faith as small as a mustard seed is all it takes to move peaks of doubt, of fear, of defeat... It may have taken years for these mountains to form, or it may have happened in one cataclysmic event. They may be big. They may be small. But a tiny seed of faith can move them all. Apparently.

I can't help thinking- if the disciples thought they had faith but didn't, how can I? There's no need to lose hope. The book of Acts paints a very different picture of the disciples AND their newfound faith...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back To the War

I recently went away on retreat with a group of women from my church. We took up temporary residence at a conference center which sat at the edge of the ocean. Whenever anyone opened a door or a window, you could hear the crash & roar of the ocean waves. Its kind of like that spiritually as well- opening doors & windows of our hearts & minds... when we do, we let the stale, stifling air out & allow the cool, salty breeze in to refresh us. Opening the doors & windows of our hearts & minds allows us to escape from the monotony of the sound that only we can make- and we are exposed to the voice of our God- mighty, majestic, powerful... constant, like the ocean's tide... but I digress, because this is war.

Retreat is a time to get away from the hustle & bustle of daily life. Most of the gals I know have husbands & children... some have financial troubles, others have health restrictions. Some are angry & bitter, some are joyful but weary & some just "are". All in all, retreat is 2 days of refuge from life as we know it. Well, almost. Many had cell phones to stay in touch with their families & me, well, I brought my laptop... Most of us remained connected to our everyday lives in some small way while we were out there. And isn't that what we tend to do with God as well? We pledge all, but carry our cell phones & laptops with us so we can access the other things that are important to us. But God wants all. Even our gadgets & our families... but I digress, because this is war.

We packed up our bags Sunday afternoon & headed home. It was on. The R & R was over, just like that, at the snap of a finger, the drop of a hat... Monday morning came & I knew I couldn't afford to revel in the good memories of the weekend. Temptation had been watching for me & was already at my door. I jumped in my foxhole (the place I have my "quiet time") & opened my bible... I took the inductive bible study booklet we used at retreat & loaded it with ammunition against my enemy. The scripture I chose was Mark 14:29-31. As I read, I was reminded of the words of 1 Corinthians 10:12-13. Peter was pretty sure of himself that fateful night, but it was Jesus' words that proved true in the end. Peter ended up denying Christ not once, not twice, but three times. Coming off retreat, I felt strong & still do- but I know temptation is at my door. My mouth breathing nemesis lumbered up the stairs, his long, yellowed toenails scraping on the concrete... His leathery wings got caught in the stairwell & I could hear him cursing as he tried to pull his scaley tail free from the bannister... Not really, of course, but I have a very good imagination.

This is war. In the last week or so, my enemy has brought up every last thing I've ever struggled with- thoughts, feelings, experiences. Its like he had a clipboard with a checklist & was barking temptations line by line. I'm thankful to say I was able to stand firm & I continue that trend. But this is war & if I'm not careful, I can fall, no matter how strong I think I'm standing. This is war & I need to be in my foxhole, no matter how quiet the field might be... despite how many temptations & sins I've slain... I fight the enemy within myself- my flesh, my pride, my sinful desires, as well as the enemy around me- the evil one & his inspirational minions...

God is my commander & the weapons of my warfare are not the weapons of this world... I submit to God in humility & rely on Him to keep me safe & sound in body, mind & spirit. I fight with words & deeds through faith, with the hope of salvation as my helmet, the righteousness of Christ as my breastplate, with God's truth as a belt around my waist, with the sword of the Spirit- God's own Word & the shield of faith- not only my faith, but the faith of those who have gone before me as well. I'm part of an army & I'm in a war. And so are you...