Want What You’ve Got! (wedding)

Wedding bouquetIn a few short months I will be traveling abroad to share in the joy of a family member’s much anticipated wedding. Though we have no real responsibilities concerning the event, my family is making plans for travel, lodging, financing (ouch!) and – of course – what to wear.

I bought my dress months ago (actually, I bought two dresses, just in case I changed my mind), but apparently I’ve over-indulged in comfort food this winter. To the tune of (at least) a couple of pounds, I’ve got some dieting to do. At least that’s what the scale is telling me.

Why is it that I can never seem to Want What I’ve Got where weight is concerned? I look in the mirror and I can’t say that I have real problems with what I see there, but then I jump on the scale and immediately feel the need to pop some appetite suppressants and drink a gallon of water. It isn’t that my dress for the wedding doesn’t fit, so what’s really going on here?

Amy Grant had a song that I listened to in the 80’s – my mind hit the play button just now:

“You’ve gotta know who to – who not to – listen to… They’re gonna hit you from all sides, better make up your mind who to – who not to – listen to.”

There’s a voice inside my head that says perfection is the goal. And for me, perfection was 8-10 lbs ago.

There’s a voice shouting out from the media that says “you’ve gotta look like this” as I walk past the freshly-pressed Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition at the grocery store.

There’s another voice that says I can only enjoy myself and feel good about life if I can manage to wear my skinny jeans for more than two hours without cutting off the circulation to my feet.

And there’s a really loud voice, disguised as the people I love, that says I’m only lovable when I look good to others. This lying voice tells me that looking good is inseparable from things like height/weight charts, the body fat index, how I look in a swimsuit and whether I can still wear my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

Amidst the clamor of voices vying for my attention comes the still, small voice of the Spirit, who whispers:

“…what matters is not your outer appearance – the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes – but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” I Peter 3:3-4 (The Message)

Last week one of my sisters in the faith shared an unedited epiphany with our study group. I found myself teary-eyed as she boldly proclaimed (forgive my poorly paraphrased translation) that…

I am beautiful to God just the way I am! This extra weight says that I’ve quit smoking! This gut says that I’m a Mom! These sags and bags say that I nursed my babies! I have a husband who loves me for just being me! How can I not be okay with who I am?

How can I not Want What I’ve Got?

For me – and for my friend – there will never be a shortage of critical voices to listen to…

Scales. Calipers. Pant sizes. Media. Competition. Perfection. Guilt.

The challenge for us today is to know who to – and who not to – listen to.

Because the voices… they will hit you from all sides.The best course of action for living a Want What You’ve Got life in a get-what-you-want world is to make up your mind and tune in to the voices that speak truth, improve your disposition, increase your capacity for grace, and cultivate inner beauty.

I may delight for a moment in being the ‘perfect’ weight, but that moment will pass and my critic (the scale) will remain. May you choose instead to delight the heart of God by wearing your true, ageless beauty on your sleeve – no matter what size that sleeve is.

Daily Questions: Are you satisfied with your current weight and fitness level? If not, what is the source of your dissatisfaction? Is Wanting What You’ve Got an option for you in this area, or is your physical state keeping you from pursuing the kind of beauty that gives glory to God? What can you do about it? Whose voice do you need to listen to today?

God IS ‘The Plan’ (a PINK Tuesday post)

god

Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

They were gathered along shore and night was falling. The water pounded past the rocks at flood-stage pace, though their hearts pounding in their chests at the prospect of tomorrow was keen competition for the river. Thousands of men, women and children waited and some tried to sleep, if their anxious hearts would let them. What lay ahead for this tribe of desert-weary travelers was a mystery, save for the God who had brought them to this place.

Israel learned that their God often prompts action without there being any human plans in place (and with no guarantee that everything will come together as it should). As Richard Foster and Julia Roller write in “A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines”:

“The water was only parted once they had acted in faith and followed God. They could not count on any plans, because God gave them none. He only gave them himself. God was the plan.”

God was the plan when He rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, and God was the plan when He held back the waters of the Jordan for His people to cross over into the land He had promised them. No marching orders were given. No map or what-to-expect pep talk were shared. No itinerary. No five-year plan.

There was only God.

In this new year, ‘our choice is either to trust our plans with all our heart or trust our God.’ (Foster & Roller)

That’s it.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

Some of us (including me) have been inclined more than once to make promises and plans and resolutions in January, fully intending to change the trajectory of our lives and maybe even clean up our act a bit in the new year. We know how long those promises are kept. We are experienced in failing ourselves, no matter how great the plan sounds on New Years Day. Even when we trust our plans with all of our hearts, we get burned (or eventually, we just burn out).

Because even if we stand a chance at controlling what we ourselves do, we are powerless to get everyone else to cooperate with our great plan.

Age is a great teacher, however, and I find myself captivated by words spoken to a frightened Israel by God’s friend, Moses, in Exodus chapter 14:

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

They did.

God parted the sea.

They crossed it safely.

Their enemies did not.

And freedom was found on the other side.

You are facing the unknown as you open the calendar to 2012. Some of us don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep the house. Some of us are pretty sure that the family we celebrated Christmas with last week will be smaller when we celebrate next year. Some of us have jobs that are iffy, bills that are piling up, and health concerns that threaten to take over our lives in the year ahead. Even the best-case-scenario among us is a big, fat question mark in this tumultuous economy that does not discriminate as victims are chosen. Yet in every situation and every circumstance, we have a choice.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

If Israel “had insisted that, before they left Egypt, scouts sent in advance report back that the route was clear, the Red Sea parted and waiting… They would have remained slaves.” (Foster & Roller)

And if you insist that, before moving into 2012, confirmation of your plans as “right” or “in God’s will” be provided before you make your move, well, you too will remain a slave to the illusion of control.

Freedom waits for us, my friends! This is GOOD NEWS! Stand firm and SEE the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you this year! He will FIGHT for you, and you need only be still. And wait. And watch.

Trust your God. And be set free.

Pants on Fire (a PINK Tuesday post)

Example capri pants.

Image via Wikipedia

I still can’t hear the word liar without hearing the rest of the rhyme:

Liar, liar. Pants on fire. Nose as long as a telephone wire.

(Proof that making something rhyme gives it staying power – possibly undeserved.)

I don’t use the word much. Don’t even hear the word much. So when it shows up in Scripture five times in the petite book of 1 John, it grabs my attention. I’m listening.

li-ar (n): a person who has lied or lies repeatedly. Synonyms include: deceiver, trickster, cheat, beguiler, fibber, storyteller.

Anyone come to mind?

In the world you and I live in, lying is fairly commonplace.

We struggle with ways to get our kids to tell the truth, and we wonder how we’ll know if they don’t.

We fail to tell the whole truth sometimes, hoping that a partial lie (or incomplete truth) will pass for the real thing in a pinch.

We weigh the value of a relationship before deciding whether this one is deserving of the facts (or just a camouflaged version of the truth).

We’d like to think we’re fairly wise in how we present ourselves, but we’re always open to the possibility of an aesthetic touch-up here or strategic adjustment there, to insure that we’ve put our best foot forward.

What we fail to acknowledge is that manipulation of the truth in any way, shape or form is actually a lie.

Apparently John had witnessed, on more than one occasion, behavior that warranted the use of this strong, descriptive word: liar. The Greek language definition of the word, which reflects John’s objections to its appearance in the church, is slightly different than the English dictionary version printed above:

Liar: One who breaks faith. A false and faithless man. To lie, to speak deliberate falsehoods. To deceive one by a lie, to lie to.

I may not think of myself as a liar, but have I ever broken faith?

Surely I’m not a trickster, but is there anything about my persona that could be considered false? A misrepresentation of who I am or what I believe?

Sometimes I tell a fib or two, but does that make me faithless?

I might use artistic license at times, but it’s not like I’m deliberately misleading others!

“Deceiver” is a name given to the evil one – God’s enemy. Not to people like ME!

What was John thinking when he offered up this four-letter word?

I Am A “C”

I am a “C H.” I am a “C H R I S T I A N.” Which implies, I belong to Christ. I follow Christ. I am HIS. And yet my claims of belonging to the family of Christ ring hollow and tinny when my life itself fails to confirm it.

“If someone says, “I belong to God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and does not live in the truth.” I John 2:4 (NLT)

We are liars in the eyes of God when we confess Him with our lips and deny Him with our lives. When the life I live is a misrepresentation of the One I’m living for, and still I claim to be a member of the Body of Christ, I’m fooling myself.

One of John’s names was John the Evangelist. If he was known as such, he must have spent years of his life proclaiming the Name of Jesus and lifting up the Gospel of grace before those who were hungry for a bit of good news. John knew that it was as important to preach without words – through a life lived authentically for the glory of God – as it was to speak the Message in audible ways. Actions speak louder than words, you know. John knew it, too.

And just in case we forget or begin to think that we’re somehow exempt from this truth, John is here to remind us that words are not enough for a watching world to be convinced. They’ve got to see it to believe it.

I Love You, Lord

And I lift my voice to worship You, oh my soul rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear; may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear. (Lyrics by Laurie Klein)

We sing the songs on Sunday morning. We pray the prayers that express in words the love we believe we have toward God. And we just can’t stand that annoying person sitting in the pew behind us.

“If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?” I John 4:20 (NLT)

John uses this word liar to describe someone who claims to love God but fails to extend that love to people. I wonder if it’s just that we’re… confused. It’s not difficult to see how we might have become confused – after all, love in our culture is best described as the warm, fuzzy feeling that wells up in our hearts when we think about someone who is special to us – right? If we claim to have the warm fuzzies for God, surely we can muster up a tepid fleece for those who worship with us, right?

Unfortunately for us, it’s going to take more than a feeling to qualify as a lover in the Kingdom of God.

In God’s world, love is an action. Love is a lifestyle. Love is a choice.

We can’t love outside of relationship, which means that we must be in relationship with the people of God in order to truly be in relationship with God Himself. Only through the act of loving real people can we even come close to knowing how to love the God who made them in His image.

Loving God is the result of loving those who bear His likeness and are known by His Name; not the other way around.

Denial… That’s a River in Egypt, Right?

I know – it’s tempting to play dumb. That must be why John was driven to use such hard words to drive home such a critical point to those who filled the worship centers of his day.

“And who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22 (NLT)

When it comes right down to it, I wonder how many people actually deny that Jesus is the Christ. Think about it with me. ANTICHRISTS. That’s quite an accusation. How many people in our communities today would deny the Lordship of God – if they were sincere? If they were totally honest? If they were asked?

I don’t think we’ll ever know unless we, like John the Evangelizer, wander out of our Christian bubbles of comfort and safety and start asking the questions that beg our attention.

Sure, there are great liars out there. But not so many, I suspect, as we might think.

There are those whose god is themselves.

There are those whose god is their appetites and passions.

But there are those who are just waiting to be approached.

To be looked at. To be asked. To be LOVED.

To BELONG.

With hearts (not pants) on fire, may we demonstrate today that we are lovers (not liars).

(And spread the news from the telephone wires!)

Welcome to my Mid-Life CRISIS! (a PINK Tuesday post)

Nautical star tattoo

Image by tinali778 via Flickr

You think I’m kidding, but I’ve never been more serious.

I WELCOME YOU to my MID-LIFE CRISIS because I’ve learned that ‘the more, the merrier’ is as practical as good counsel gets, and the one thing that my mid-life crisis has failed to produce is ‘merry’ of any kind.

‘Merry Christmas,’ we say.

‘Eat, drink and be merry,’ we say.

No one ever says, ‘You’re FORTY?! Well, Merry Mid-Life Crisis!’

Welcome back to Pink Shoes Ministries’ PINK Tuesday forum! Our topic for today is about as clear as crystal AND as clear as mud, which I’m sure you’ll relate to as you take a few minutes out of your busy day to read on.

My hope is that you’ll join me on the other end of this discussion, chiming in by way of comment, either here at wordpress OR on our facebook discussion board (see blogroll to the right).

Let’s get this party started by exposing one seriously foundational and ridiculous misunderstanding:

CHRISTIAN WOMEN DON’T FREAK OUT.

I totally disagree. Whoever decided that Christian women are somehow exempt from such delightful rites of passage as mid-life was never a forty-something wife / mother / daughter / daughter-in-law / employee / sister / friend. Your own particular brand of crisis is bound to vary from mine, but there are common mileposts along our journey’s path. How much we’re each affected by them probably depends on how fast we are traveling when that milepost flies by.

Crisis Milepost 1: PANIC

That’s right – we panic. Exact age at time of panic attack may vary, but most of us will at some point begin to panic upon the realization that we’re running out of TIME. The pressure we put on ourselves to make something of ourselves can create a fresh urgency to perform in ways we haven’t been compelled to act before.

I find myself asking the question: Have I been type-cast? Like an actor who always plays the same character type – only the location and situation seem to change – am I really stuck with who I’ve made myself to be? Is this all there is and ever will be for me, in my work? At home? In my relationships? Will my contributions to the world never exceed what I’ve given to the world thus far? What’s a forty-something girl to DO?

Get a tattoo?

On our twentieth wedding anniversary, I not-so-jokingly suggested to my husband that we ought to get matching tattoos. That, or join the Navy. He was much more open to the tattoo idea, but fortunately I never had to test him on that (some of you, my good friends, talked me out of it). Still, every time we drive past a tattoo parlor, he asks me if I’m ready yet and we share a good laugh. (Truth be told, though, honey – we’re not out of the woods yet!)

Panic. The Apostle Paul knew about people and panic. He talked with them about it in 2 Corinthians chapter 7, beginning with verse 9:

“Now I’m glad – not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.”

What we do with our mid-life panic attacks paves the way for the second half of life, to follow God’s clearly marked path OR to ease on down the wide road in the opposite direction. If we will invite God Himself into our worry over the gap between our life-expectations and our present reality, He will move us into the way of salvation. It may require a sharp turn here and there, but God is faithful to use our distress to draw us closer to Him. Paul is so sure of this that he concludes his thoughts in 2 Cor. 7 with these words:

“And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart.”

May our personal PANIC produce PURITY like that!

Crisis Milepost 2: STUCK

Remember the game ‘Statues’ that we played when we were kids? Someone would swing us by the arm in circles until we were terrifically dizzy, then they would let go and we were to ‘fall’ into a pose and hold it – like a statue. I recall holding the pose for painfully long periods of time, waiting for my playmates to guess what kind of statue I was.

Some of us are asking: Is this ALL there IS? This ‘pose’ I’m stuck in? And the weird thing about being stuck in mid-life is that even when life is GOOD, there’s this bleak gloom hanging overhead that tells us this is as good as it will ever get. I’ve known this party-pooper to present itself as depression or disappointment, grieving a future that for some reason we believe is gone. Because we’re knee-deep in the muck and we don’t see any way out. Because that’s exactly where the enemy wants us to be.

God, on the other hand, knows that we tend to buy into the lie that OUR goals and agendas are the only ones worth living and dying for. When our life’s mission is all about achieving our purposes, chances are we’re going to be disappointed. The goals we set for ourselves, independent of God, are very unlikely to be reached.

When we’re attuned to the work of the Spirit in our lives, however, the goals and agendas that we find ourselves attending to are tailor-made to fit the Kingdom-subjects we are becoming!

“God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Cor. 9:8

Stuck sounds like the opposite of abounding to me. God is ABLE, even when I am not. No matter how I feel about it. That’s GOOD NEWS!

Next week we’ll dive deeper into the depths of my own mid-life crisis (you’ll need scuba gear next week, I’m afraid). In the meantime…

How do YOU deal with the panic and stress that mid-life creates? What good counsel can you give – or have you received – that helps you make your way through life in spite of depression and disappointment?

Please SHARE your wisdom and questions with me! You are, after all, WELCOME here – in my mid-life crisis!