#IAmNot: The lens of conviction versus condemnation

For this week’s blog post for the A Confident Heart OBS, one of the choices is to “Describe a time when you felt condemned (by yourself or someone else), and answer two key questions: What would the difference have been if you had processed the situation through the filter of conviction instead? and What steps can you take the next time to usher in restoration instead of condemnation?

For the last 2 1/2 years, I have been riding a roller-coaster of emotion and behavior with consequence. I made a mistake in leaving a fairly secure position to take on a title. In the last year alone, I have dealt with the ups and downs associated with caring for a loved one who is undergoing significant medical treatment (open-heart surgery, followed by two major cancer surgeries, and all kinds of follow-up treatments); in addition, I lost a loving cousin and was unable to attend her funeral and grieve with the rest of the family; further, I nursed my beloved pet through toxic shock and surgery, pneumonia, and cancer until her death 4 months ago; and right before her death, we suddenly lost a wonderful friend who had done much in our lives. Finally, I lost my job — and I am really not entirely sure why; but with this latest loss, there was an undercurrent of personal failure, voices of accusers implying that I should be condemned for my actions (or lack thereof). Somehow, it seems that I was entirely at fault that I could not cleanse the toxic environment in which people operated long before I entered, and will likely continue to operate in after my departure.

As a result of all of this, I have felt like I was madly treading the waters (filled with sharks) simply to keep going. I grew to not like myself very much — at least not the me that I had become, wallowing in self-pity, blaming God and others for my misery and condition, and standing mired in the quicksand of my insecurity to the point of being unable to take the steps necessary to move forward.

About two months ago, as my job search seemed to hit a dry spell, I knew that I had to do something — and as I have always done in the past — my first step was try to find my way back to Him. If nothing else — from returning to prayer, reading and reflecting on the Scripture, and joining an OBS — I have begun to take great comfort in the fact that no matter what, there can be redemption — for He loves me! Through research and reflection, I have learned more in the last two months about the precepts of the Church that I was baptized into, along with the depth of my faith and the power of the Divine Truth than I had in the last 55 years. For that, I cannot even begin to express my gratitude!

So to view my situation in the lens of conviction versus condemnation, I sought to understand the difference between condemnation and conviction, and note the following:

Condemnation is not constructive — it is accusatory and critical, and judgmental. It affirms guilt, and perpetuates feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Conviction, on the other hand is constructive and specific in its revelation. Conviction points out sinful actions and attitudes and ways to mitigate negative results and consequences. We have the opportunity to reflect and to change harmful behaviors that impede our relationship with Him and with others.

It gives me pause to think that I have been acting in accordance with my free will, with complete disregard of His — but also hope that I can turn it around and use it to create a better me as I move into the next phase of life.

On p. 129 of A Confident Heart, Renee notes that when we feel like a failure, we should ask ourselves some questions:

Did I do something wrong or make a bad decision that led to this failure? YES — I relied on my own free will and ignored His plan and Will — seeking validation of my worth through position and others — I moved without doing due diligence, from a perfectly good job to one in a very volatile environment, simply to attain the next rung up a ladder.

Am I acting independently of God? YES

Is there anything I am not doing to fulfill a commitment I made? YES — this haunts me, as I vowed to do everything within my power to make things better for all around me. I am not sure however, that I could have done more — because as I noted, the toxicity was deep-rooted, the climate not conducive to positive change — and yet, I know from their own lips and actions, that I did make a difference in the lives of some people.

Did I pray about this or just do it because I wanted to? NO, I did not pray about the decision to make the move, and YES I simply did it because I wanted to — I wanted the title.

Was I responsible for the outcome? Given what I know now about the environment — I could make a case that I was not entirely responsible for the outcome, but did play a role in it.

Did I over-commit myself in agreeing to do this? Again, given what I know now — I would have to say YES, because at one point, I had an inflated sense of my capability. In hindsight, I am not sure that anyone could have done much more than I did or have enjoyed a different outcome.

Is God using this to refine my character? YES — I firmly believe that to be the case — it has served as a giant “wake-up call.”

So, in the lens of conviction rather than condemnation, I cite the following conclusions:

I have been seeking validation through all other means than His provisions and promises. I can thus make a conscious decision not to continue to pursue this course of action.

I have pursued positions with wrong motivation. I can thus seek always to fully understand my motivations and if they are not in alignment with His Will — change course accordingly.

While I have soothed some, I have hurt others through my words and actions. I can thus make a commitment to watch my tongue, obey His laws, and act in accordance with His way — treating and serving others as I wish to be treated and served.

Advertisements

#WhoIAm in Him: Toward full Acceptance

Today’s Verse

But those who did welcome Him, those who believed in His name, He authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion, but born from God. (John 1:12-13, CEB)

john-1-vs-12-13

Exploration

This verse is part of John’s discussion of the acceptance of the Word made flesh (Jesus). Not all were accepting of the man-God in his time — in fact, we find in these and preceding passages that He was being shut out by the majority of his people. He was acknowledged by a few, however, and He regenerated them with his own strength and power — and giving them the rights associated with being children of the Father.

I have undertaken a journey to move from relying on temporal things being a determinant of #WhoIAm to relying on God’s promises.  Thus, my expectation is that #WhoIAm will become fully a function of Whose I am — and I am His — a child with full expectations for unconditional love and support, and sharing in the rights and benefits inherent in his promises.

I have His Word, in writing:

I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:18)

Affirmation

Through his honor and glory he has given us his precious and wonderful promises, that you may share the divine nature and escape from the world’s immorality that sinful craving produces. (2 Peter 1:4)

God never promised a life without pain,

Laughter without tears; or sun without rain.

But He did promise strength for the day, 

Comfort for the tears, and light for the way.

For those who believe in His Heaven above;

He rewards their faith with His everlasting love. (Author Unknown)

Inherent rewards:

In addition to his uncompromising love and support, as a child of God — I am an heir, with standing to inherit.

Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. (Galatians 4:6-7)

in my temple and courts, I will give them a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give to them an enduring name that won’t be removed. (Isaiah 56:5, CEB)

Reflection

The path and the end-result are the same no matter who we are, what we have done, or where we come from. Through faith and trust in the Divine Truth.

How?: through the Son and the Spirit — You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26); and All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. (Romans 8:14)

galatians3_26-27

 

#MovingForward: Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts

MovingForward

This Week’s Truth

He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? (Luke 24:38, NRSV)

Exploration/Affirmation

When I stumbled on the Proverbs31 Ministries website, I saw the ad for their next online bible study and it spoke directly to my heart. I signed up immediately. Since I have started this study, I have had several very emotional revelations. The biggest of these is that it is likely that everything that has been happening in my life for the last several years is my wake up call to surrender — to Him, once and for all — and that He has been waiting pretty patiently for me to do so.

So — this week we are working through Chapters 4 and 5 of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. As I began to read the material, I was overcome with a range of emotions — pain, anger, resistance, and finally acceptance and willingness to try anything to make myself feel better. All of this just reinforces the fact that I can’t #MoveForward effectively in my everyday life, or in my journey with and to Him, until I open up my heart and begin to work through all of the issues and situations from my past that keep impinging on both my ability to be consistent in my belief and trust in Him and my ability to perform in all areas.

The title of Chapter 5 — Living Beyond the Shadow of My Doubts, lets me know that once I identify the triggers and responses, I can work daily to heal. The title of Chapter 4 Hope for My Future Despite the Pain of My Past — reassures me that once I begin to heal, in faith, I will be able to reaffirm my trust and listen to what He is trying to tell me. Combining the wisdom and exercises of the two chapters will help me start living a fuller life daily — and hopefully I won’t be the only one to benefit from that.

The context of the verse for the week is in the aftermath of the crucifixion, when Jesus miraculously appears to his disciples. While he is offering them every blessing, he notices their disbelief — they think perhaps they are seeing a ghost. He is disconcerted because He feels that even if they don’t remember the words of the prophets, they should certainly remember what He told them earlier:

Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 18:31-33, NRSV)

BUT,

…they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:34, NRSV)

So he is moved to remind them in this passage:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49, NRSV)

Inspiration

This made me think several thoughts at once — He’s been waiting for me to open my heart, is not pleased that I am suffering and anxious, or that I entertain troubling thoughts about things that shouldn’t be troubling at all.

Some of you know that I have been desperately seeking employment after having been told that my current contract would not be renewed beyond October 31, 2013. (And this DEADLINE seems to loom over my head in red letters). This news comes on the heels of dealing with significant concerns regarding my other half’s health, losing 2 people who were dear to me, and having to put my beloved canine baby to sleep after 13 years.

This week — I have the opportunity to interview for 3 different positions — any of which would be a great opportunity for #MovingForward. This, of course, is great news, and I do feel blessed. HOWEVER — (isn’t there always a HOWEVER); with my confidence at an all-time low, particularly after having already been through a few great interviews over the last few months with no offer, uncertainty has rooted itself in my heart, and doubt is whispering in my ear as I prepare for these interviews. Because this process seems so heavily dependent upon what others think of me and may abilities — I have reverted to seeking my worth other than through Him.

I find some small consolation in the disbelief of the disciples — for it tells me that they, too, were fallible. The passage also reminded me that He has likely told me over and over, in many different ways, how to overcome my doubt and uncertainty.

Just prior to starting this study, I had been trying to work my way back to Him through prayer. I had been praying well-know prayers and I often sought guidance from the Spirit to help me personalize them. In relation to my concern about my abilities and getting through the interviews, the following verses caught my attention:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (Psalms 31:14, NRSV)

in God I trust; I am not afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me? (Psalms 56:11, NRSV)

Reflection/Prayer

LORD, let me always remember the sacrifice that You made for my salvation. When insecurity makes me begin to falter in my trust and belief in You, let me understand that Jesus is dismayed since he has repeatedly assured me that He sends upon me what His Father promised. Let me remember that for this, and many other reasons, I need not be afraid of anything that happens nor entertain disquieting thoughts, because mere mortals cannot harm me and I can always rely on You in times of trial. It’s time to move forward, working through the lessons You have for me from the pain of my past in order to live beyond the shadow of my doubts. In Jesus’ name, I pray, AMEN (See: Luke 24:38; 

Exchanging fear for faith: #priceless

I have spent my entire life in a big “shadow of doubt” created by insecurity that developed at a very early age (Swope, p. 21). Insecurity arising from my perspective of how others’ viewed or valued me, which in turn, determined my self-worth  and has continued to do so. That shadow always looms, as the insecurity manifests itself in many ways and many situations — its symptoms are not pleasant — fear, anxiety, depression, defensive and offensive behavior and caustic speech, to name a few. I have desperately sought to get rid of that shadow and its consequences in a variety of ways — some of which I am not terribly proud of. I have tried, over and over, in many different ways and many different arenas to prove that I am “perfect,” or at least well above average, when in reality I am flawed, and average. I have pretended that everything is fine, and that my life is going well and that I am satisfied, because some of my “successes,” by most standards should have been enough. The pretense has been very costly at times. So, I now take great comfort in the fact that “because His love is perfect, I don’t have to be (Swope, pp. 29-46).”

I have been seeking to prove my worth to and through others, through my jobs, promotions, new cars, new technologies and gadgets — and it hasn’t worked. I love my family and friends, and I know that they love me. But, I still keep seeking, “what a person desires: unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22).” So, I want to believe that, as Renee Swope (2011) states, “[I] was made for love that isn’t measured by my last accomplishment, but marked by God’s measureless grace (p. 62).”

There is indeed an emptiness in my heart. No amount of validation from others, no single accomplishment (or even a compendium of all of them), no possession, no career path, promotion, accolade has or will give me value or a true sense of significance — nor will any of these fill that emptiness. Why? Because I guess I finally realize that material goods wear out or lose value quickly, and performance-based measurement of my worth, is dependent upon the opinion, action, or behavior of others (who are likely seeking their value in the same fashion). I also don’t like who I am very much when I seek my worth in this fashion. The realization that the emptiness can ONLY be filled by God, because reliance on any other validation will never provide the abiding love and acceptance marked by His grace is a big, and welcome “wake-up call,” at a time when it is much needed. It implies that “His love will not fail, even when I do (Swope, pp. 47-64).” That type of love is #priceless (Pure; Redeeming; Inexhaustible; Comforting; Energizing; Liberating; Enduring; Supportive; and Sustaining)!

In my quest for #AConfidentHeart, I want to move from “fear-filled thinking to faith-filled believing (Swope, p. 228).”

The following When I/Then He statements address my “Top Ten” doubts and insecurities — they serve as a basis for replacing my doubts and insecurities with His truths:

  1. When I find myself seeking validation of my  worth through the 4 Ps (people, performance, possessions, or position); Then He will remind me that what I really desire is the unfailing love (Proverbs 19:22) that can be found through the 3 Gs (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
  2. When I feel as though life has filled with adversity and has become too difficult; Then He will remind me that He is with me in times of trouble, that He will rescue me, and honor me (Psalms 91:15).
  3. When I sense doubt creeping in and worry becoming all-consuming and non-productive; Then He will remind me that he cares about me and I can surrender my cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7).
  4. When I think that I have no strength left to face the latest trial; Then He will remind me that through His strength I can do all things (Philippians 4:13).
  5.  When I perceive that others are against me and feel beaten down, or defeated; Then He will remind me that no one can be against me if He is for me (Romans 8:31), and that I am a conqueror through His love (Romans 8:37).
  6. When I start to worry about finances, and finding a job that will provide the basic necessities; Then He will remind me that He knows what I need, and it will be provided (Matthew 6:32).
  7. When I begin to feel as though I will never find a sense of peace and contentment; Then He will remind me that I can find peace and confidence in Him (John 16:33); and can learn to be content in any situation or circumstance (Philippians 4:12).
  8. When I am tempted to pretend that things are fine, when in reality I am FINE (Frazzled, Irritated, Neurotic, and Exhausted (Swope, p. 31)); Then He will remind me that He can give me rest (Matthew 11:28), peace, and confidence (John 16:33).
  9. When I feel as though I don’t know what to do next; Then He will remind me that I simply have to ask him, and He will give me wisdom (James 1:5).
  10. When I find myself feeling uncertain about my next steps or my purpose: Then He  will remind me to rely on Him to guide me (Proverbs 3:5-6); and that His major goal is that I enjoy the full riches of complete understanding of the divine truth. (Colossians 2:2).

References

NRSV translation of The Holy Bible

Swope, R. (2011). A Confident Heart, Grand Rapids, MI: Revell Publishers.

#priceless love: motivation to pray

Today’s Truth

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:16-17, NRSV)

Exploration

This prayer for spiritual blessings comes from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians. In this segment, his hope is that they will develop the capacity to pray in meaningful ways and to develop a strong relationship with Christ.

Given the definition of some of the key words and phrases: Paul’s hope appears to be based on God’s strong desire that through a combination of faith, prayer, belief in and understanding of the divine truth, and the love of Christ, each person’s status as a follower, or one of the chosen will be solidified.

Rephrased, with these definitions: I pray that, God, in His Divine Wisdom, may grant that your belief be fortified, through prayer and the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and that Christ inhabits your core through faith, as you become entrenched and secure in His love.

  • Riches of His glory = the most precious realities of the spiritual realm
  • Strengthened = fortified; made stronger
  • Inner being = the heart of a believer
  • Power = capacity to do something
  • Dwell = live; inhabit
  • Heart = the core; source and center of all emotion, where the deepest and most sincere feelings are located
  • Faith = confidence/belief, even in the absence of logical proof
  • Rooted = well-established, entrenched
  • Grounded = secure

Application

I pray, in fact, I pray a lot. Once I found out that He wanted me to bring all of my concerns to Him, I flooded the airwaves. Some issues appear to be taken care of right away, while others seem to linger, unresolved, or perhaps, are resolved in a way that I never asked for or imagined.

While Paul affirms that the underlying motivation for prayer should generally be spiritual growth, James words really struck a chord with me — there are right and wrong ways to pray — all based on an appropriate motivation — love:

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:3, NRSV)

I wish I could say that I had never prayed a “wrong” prayer, but it wouldn’t be true. I have asked for specific self-motivated outcomes — that people be changed in order to make my life easier, and for situations to change so that my own needs are met at the expense of others. The reality is that I find it easier to pray “appropriately,” when all is going well, or in light of evidence that a prayer has been answered in my favor. It’s much more difficult to formulate an appropriate prayer when I am feeling beaten down, insecure, unloved, anxious, weak, overwhelmed, or defeated. (Of course, these are the times that my motivation should strictly follow Paul’s wishes — yet, easier said than done sometimes.)

In reflecting, I know that the motivation behind my prayer should be to strengthen my understanding and my relationship with God so that I can reap all of the rewards of his priceless and unfailing love. It should thus always be guided by the Spirit, rooted in love, and cognizant of the promises held in the Scriptures.

Inspiration

What do I truly long for?

Every [wo]man longs for love that never fails. (Proverbs 19:22a, NIV)

What are some of the particular promises that I can count on when I am faced with impossible circumstances, or life becomes too difficult?

Jesus replied, “Things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27, NRSV)

 [She] will call out to me, and I will answer [her]. I will be with [her] in times of trouble. I will save [her] and honor [her]. (Psalms 91:15, NRSV)

All of which are exactly what I need and can only be found through Him — with the aid of right-motivated prayer. 

Reflection and Prayer

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26, NIV)

Lord, let the Holy Spirit guide my prayer. When I pray, let it always be with the proper motivation, rooted and grounded in love. Let me remember that every person longs for a love that never fails, and I am no exception. Through Your priceless love, I can have full confidence that when I call out with proper motivation, You will answer. You will be with me in my times of trouble. You will save me and honor me. For what is impossible with people is possible with You. In Jesus’ name, I pray. AMEN (See Ephesians 3:16-17; James 4:3; Luke 18:27; Proverbs 19:22a; and Psalms 91:15, NRSV)