Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Thoughts #1 - November 30th

My blog post from December 16, 2013 highlighted an embarrassment at a women’s Christmas event in Arizona at which I spoke. I had dropped baby Jesus. I bungled the message. One little instant from which I struggled to recover, however, became a Christmas message to my heart (and became a story to share at another women’s Christmas event – thank you, Lord, for your redemption!): I truly don’t want to drop baby Jesus at Christmas-time. No, not ever again! Obviously, since I’m still reflecting on this incident, it had a lasting impact on me…

It’s easy to do, you know. To drop baby Jesus, in the midst of my preparation for one of the holiest of seasons, is not uncommon. Sometimes, I get too wrapped up in wrapping up the trimmings, and the packages, and the cooking, that He simply gets dropped (period). I hope that’s not true of you.

Today, Sunday, November 30, 2014, is the beginning of Advent. Celebrating Advent is optional. It’s simply a tradition that developed over the course of the church’s history as a season to prepare for the coming (which is what the Latin word, adventus, means: the coming). I’m opting to celebrate Advent this season, not with a calendar-watching activity, but with a soul-searching, hopeful-expectation of “hanging onto Jesus” until the day-of-His-birth-kind-of-celebration. This will be my attempt at not dropping Him this year.

To do that, I’ll mark each day forward, with something to ponder on this blog site (#adventthoughts). It might just be a quote. Perhaps a Scripture. Maybe a comment or two. Possibly a picture. It could even be the words to a Christmas song upon which I’m reflecting. However, if you want to join me on this adventure into the Advent season, please come. The invitation is an open one. It’s an invitation to not drop baby Jesus this Christmas season.

This is the baby Jesus, I dropped, tucked safely into His manger.  Oh may I adore Him this season, just the way His mother was in awe and pondered everything about Him!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Anti-Shame Declaration

I completed my "homework." I am prepared. Next time I try to haul the weight of shame around in a backpack, here is my anti-shame declaration in the form of a prayer.

Jesus, you are the role model I seek to follow in all areas of life. You, who were tempted in every way, just as I , can show me The Way...the door of escape provided, when the enemy of my soul begins to tempt me with shame. I often need that door, and when I am bogged down in that woeful place, hauling luggage unintended for me on this journey, I struggle to even locate it. You've given me some direction, some steps to take, to eliminate the weight, pick up my feet, and flee to freedom. The way out is the way in - through my mind. So, I sort through all that I place inside:
What is true? Repent of it.
What is a lie, or a vain imagination? Lose it. Give it up. Let it go. SCORN IT!

The choice is mine - to disregard; make nothing of that which is a mere pretension, a distortion of TRUTH!

I chose to believe:
I am loved.
I am valued by you.
You have a plan for my life: a joy-job to fulfill.
Satan would try to steal that away.
I refuse to allow it under Your power and authority.
To do so, I remind myself:
You are always good; always Sovereign.
You use all things for my good and Your glory - even my mistakes.
You want to use EVERYTHING in my life to conform me to the image of your son.
You are greatly pleased with Your Son.
You are greatly pleased with me - Your child by grace and redemption.
Therefore, instead of letting shame bog me down -
I give thanks in all things that can be used to help me look more like Jesus, and keep me on the journey

Steadfast, and
Compelled to finish that which you have ordained as your perfect will for my life. That plan you will not allow to be thwarted. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

I.Will.Not.Let.Satan.Stop.Me.From.My Joy-Job!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Those are such great verses.  I hope you read every word carefully. In fact, even if you did, would you glance back up at the top, stop, and read it again, slowly, emphasizing each word. What a jam-packed passage filled with a GOOD WORD for so many situations in which we find ourselves. However, I’ve been battling the shame-factor, AGAIN, and this is the verse I’m using as my attack-plan.

Here’s the first thing that struck me: Jesus gets our continual problem with shame. He understands it. When God penned these words about Jesus in Scripture through human hands, in every way tempted as we were, He meant IN.EVERY.WAY. Oh my goodness, the power of hearing the words, me, too!  As I read this verse to myself, I heard the soul-whisper of the Spirit of God: “Oh, Peg…me, too! Shame was my temptation, too. It springs out of our humanness. But, here’s the victory: LEARN TO DESPISE IT!” Is that not comforting?

As, I took some time to cross-reference, and do a little word-study, I, first, found the difference between Jesus’ shame and mine. His came from the reproach of others. People mocked him, tormented him, “made a mouth at him,” refused to believe him, and eventually crucified him. For me, shame doesn’t always come from anywhere but my own brain. I think too much. I contemplate what I think others are thinking, what I think they would say to me if they weren’t buttoning up their lips (or possibly being fakey, too-kind), and I start to respond as if it that were so. Confusing, right? But that’s one of the descriptors of all shame: (Greek – aischyne) the confusion of one who is ashamed, or feels disgraced, by anything. 

I am my own worst critic. However, the Lord has given me a model to follow with one word, despise (scorn). To despise, meaning to exercise the mind, to set an opinion about, to think against, to dis-esteem, to make a choice to think little or nothing of an event. There it is. There’s the key. Jesus made a choice to think nothing of the shame that came from the words and actions of ANYONE else, because He had a greater goal in mind. Jesus had a mission, a calling, which was taking him straight to the cross, and the right hand of the Father. That end was his joy, and He refused to let shame stop Him.

In my own little way, in your own little way, we are purposed for the Kingdom of Heaven, and on our way there, we have a job to do. Yes, a job that should be our joy! God has validated each of us with special gifts to bring Him glory, and point others to salvation. Of course, the enemy would love to silence our joy-job with shame! The Lord has made me/us to be vessels of honor, sanctified, set apart for the Master, and prepared for EVERY good work (2 Timothy 2:21-22).  Yet, if our enemy can weary us under the weight of a backpack of shame, he will do his very best.

But, for the joy, Jesus endured…and He scorned…

Now, He says, “Child, focus on your joy-job, and do not dwell on reproach – not from others, but especially not your own made-up shame. Endure…and scorn. Lay it all down at my feet, and carry on. Shun the weariness and faintheartedness that comes with hauling around something so un-important, and, un-necessary!”

A verse further, and Scripture says, "...then, we will not grow weary and lose heart."  Of course, that's what the enemy wanted from Jesus in an attempt to keep Him from the cross.  Yes, it's what he knows will keep us wearied and discouraged, and so, will use to try and stop us in our tracks. So, NO! NO! NO! I.Will.Not.Let.Satan.Stop.Me.From.MY.Joy-Job!  I want to be all in. If so, I must fix my eyes on Jesus-my-role-model. Disregard shame. Press on with a "not-my-will-but-Yours, God" mantra. Here's to the end of shame!

Now, here’s my homework: to write out an anti-shame declaration to begin training my mind in order to disallow that awful thing from entering. When I write it out, I'll post it as an addendum to this thought...(I'll let you know if you're interested when it's up.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Magic Always Comes with a Price" - Do the Work, Clean out the Backpack!

After the shame debacle I wrote about last week, I decided to take a deeper look into the backpack I so often haul around. As I dug, I pulled out a lot of stuff… I thought that maybe by examining what I put in there, I’d find a correlation, and, ultimately an answer. A magic wand would be nice. I can’t tell you how often I’ve wished for a magic wand that I could simply wave and “poof” the magic would appear – my yuckiness would be fixed, marriages would be restored, children would be obedient, cancer would disappear… However, I’ve learned by watching the TV series, Once Upon a Time, that “Magic always comes with a price, dearie.”  I’m not sure I’m willing to pay that price, so back to the digging and cleaning out my backpack. Probably that’s the better of two evils…

As I sort, I find several things in common:
All of it is heavy.
All of it makes me uncomfortable.
All of it is very conflicting & confusing.
Every item is destructive.
Every piece is corrosive & eats away at the very part of me that thinks I can change and do better (you see that’s the difference between shame and guilt – guilt is constructive and propels us forward – not so, shame).
Everything I pull out is an embarrassment (which readily becomes shame); so, I want to run and hide, and if not able to do that, for sure I feel the need to self-protect.
Those are the human responses to the things I’ve placed inside…

But where does everything in that backpack come from? Who put it in there, really?
That’s what is probably the most obvious to me in a rational moment. At the time shame is consuming me, however, it’s not quite so obvious.

There’s a neuroscientist by the name of David Eagleman.  He has written this statement, “There is an ongoing conversation among the different factions in your brain, each competing to control the single output of your behavior.”  He goes on to divide these factions into two warring parties between what we know to be wise (something Solomon taught us in Proverbs) and our emotional responses (something King David talked a lot about in the Psalms).  Both parties battle for control of our behavior (and what goes into the backpack), but when emotions are screaming the loudest, they can tip the balance of our decision making EVERY TIME!  Another author, Brene Brown, calls these warring parties, Gremlin Voices.

Answer to the above question: I.PUT.THE.SHAME.INSIDE. There's no pointing fingers elsewhere!

It’s good to know these things. It’s good to have a background. Here’s why – when I’m consumed with the stuff I’m hauling around in the backpack, I forget the WISDOM. Wisdom scampers to a corner, and the little emotions take control. I don’t want to be ruled by emotions. I want to choose wisdom. So, if I can learn to recognize what’s happening quicker (because I’m more educated), I won’t put one more thing in that ridiculous backpack. I give it to the Lord so He can redeem my mistakes.

The question now becomes, how: how do I quit hoarding shame?
As soon as I jotted that question down in my journal, I thought of this verse in Hebrews 12: 2 - Jesus scorned the shame.
That tells me, Jesus knew shame, too. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He was tempted to throw it in a backpack and haul it with Him up Calvary.  BUT JESUS didn’t. He scorned it. He took control over the warring parties in His brain.  Those Gremlin Voices never had a chance to speak up, because Jesus chose to not listen to them. Shame never had a chance to go anywhere with Him.  

Now that is something to ponder…

(so come back…I’ve discovered MORE!)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Too much luggage!

The journey of LIFE: this has been my theme over the past several weeks. Not unusual, since I spent slightly over two weeks traveling to Tanzania and back for ministry. There are a lot of similarities between traveling overseas (well, anywhere for that matter) and life. Surprisingly, so!

Yet another similarity: baggage. I’ve been thinking about “baggage” off and on ever since I found this claim ticket stuck in my journal. 

Oh that I had only carried one piece of luggage, but I didn’t. It took four pieces to get me to Dar es Salaam – each one packed to the limit the airline would accept. 

This meant I hauled two “legal” carry-on pieces through six airports. It’s no wonder my shoulders ached and my lower back was knotted up when, at last, I finally arrived (not to mention the fact I was a little tired and cranky). In this case, I needed almost all that I took as I was carrying gifts for missionaries, books to give away, the handouts for my speaking sessions, etc. However, as usual, I over-packed and took more than I personally needed. The return was better, since I’d dumped off all the extra stuff, but then I’d done a little bit of Christmas shopping in the markets. It’s always been my goal to simplify packing (and I’ve returned more resolved than ever to meet that goal), to eliminate the unnecessary. I’m determined to forever forward pack as lightly as is humanly possible! #iwilllearntosimplify

The same is true in life. I tend to carry unnecessary baggage. Stuff I don’t need to haul around, nor want to haul around, but for some reason, yank from place to place with me. It gets heavy. It causes no small amount of pain. It’s cumbersome and awkward, and affects my attitude, and I imagine, though I try to deny it, my behavior. The one I really need to learn to lay down, and never pick up, is a backpack filled with shame. I’ve written about it before, many times. It’s a common, unnecessary, unwanted, painfully heavy emotion I stuff in my carry-on regularly. Yuck!

I don’t know what made me stick this baggage claim in my journal this week. Nevertheless, I did, and as I started whining about how much I tend to over pack, I realized the above. It was good for me to ponder. Here’s what I discovered.
I’d been given a job to do during the week (God-directed).
I followed through and did what I was supposed to do.
However, I didn’t meet my expectations.
I was less than perfect.
I felt inadequate.
That made me nervous.
I wondered what other’s thought about my incompetence.
That mattered to me.
I was sure they were thinking “LOSER,” like a big “L” was stamped on my forehead.
That made me more nervous.
I was a failure in my eyes, their eyes, and undoubtedly, God’s eyes.
Now, even God knew I was a failure, and was probably thinking, “How can I ever use her as a vessel-for-ministry eVeR AgAiN!

I hauled that backpack all day throughout the day. My goodness, I even slept with that backpack the entire night. Well, if you can call it sleep? Have you ever tried sleeping with a backpack? Right! I woke up and made coffee with it on, carried it to my favorite chair, still had it on when I sat and picked up my Bible and my journal. That's when I found the baggage claim…

“Give it to me, my daughter…”

"Surely, I have borne your griefs and carried your sorrows (your mental afflictions, your shame)..."
Isaiah 53:4
(loose translation mine)

“OK, gladly!”


(…there's more to this story…)