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The Verdict on Reputation

 

 

Verdict on Value

Each Thursday for the next few weeks, we are talking about breaking free from insecurity, comparison, and shame. We are sharing our raw and messy real life stories. But also, more importantly, we are sharing the truths that set us free. We have bathed this series in prayer and ask now that the Father knit our hearts together and strengthen us to slay this giant called “insecurity” in our hearts.

 Today, Kerry is sharing her story…

 

 

 

 

Reputation Quote

A wise woman once told me, “You can only promote one reputation at a time; yours or God’s.”

When I strive to be recognized by others, then God looks small to the world (while I appear haughty and desperate). But if I seize every opportunity to spread God’s fame, then I fade into the background and His glorious kindness shines brightly.

It boils down to this. God is the all-powerful, sinless Creator… so His reputation is more important than mine. Yet because He loves and values me unconditionally, Jesus died to pay the price for my redemption. I am valuable to God! Does anybody else’s acceptance really matter?

When I rest in belonging to Him I can throw myself into Kingdom work by promoting God’s reputation. My every decision will be filtered through the question, “Will this action of mine show the world how great God is?”

On the other hand, if I doubt my value to God…then proving my worth through accomplishments, possessions, or my appearance becomes my full-time career. No resources remain for pursuing Christ and sharing Him with others.

Let’s look at two women of the Bible who illustrate these contrasting ideas. Hannah, who promoted God’s reputation instead of her own, and Miriam, who coveted more accolades for herself…

{For a refreshing dip into God’s Word, click over to Kerry’s post. Kerry writes real and helpful, pointing us to the Word of God that is able to save our souls. Grab a cup of coffee and let Kerry guide you into truth today? No regrets spending time here!}

 

When Love Becomes an Idol

 

Verdict on Value

 

As part of our “Verdict on Value” series, today we have the privilege of interviewing Jennifer Dukes Lee and giving away a copy of her brand new book, Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes!

Here is a snippet of the interview, which can read in it’s entirety at Leah’s place. Here’s Jennifer:

 

“Approval is a powerful force in our world. We want to be loved, and liked, and known and validated. And sometimes, we want all that from people – more than we want it from God.

I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy since I was a child – even though I was a perfectionist child with the As to prove it. I had always hoped that my good performances would fill the desire for significance and value. I wanted the approval of parents, peers, and pastors – of everyone.

Retraining my heart would take years. But I knew it was worth the fight – not only for me, but for our daughters. Children are mirrors, reflecting what they see in us. I’ll never forget one Thanksgiving several years ago. I found one of the girls crying in the corner of a bedroom. She had drawn a self-portrait and labeled the parts: “Boring brown hair. Stupid glasses. Dumb freckles. Bad teeth.” She had scrawled across the top of the paper: UGLY.

So many of us – as girls – feel like we’re never enough. And we grow up into women who feel the same way.

I sat on the floor next to my daughter that afternoon and held her for a long time. I vowed that I would provide a firm foundation for my girls to know that a woman’s identity is found in Christ alone. But I would need to live that truth out. I would need to model my Christ-identity.

My girls and I started saying these words out loud: “We’ve had enough of the not-enoughs.”

I started journaling my experiences, writing on my blog, and speaking about the issue of approval. On paper, I could see how my life had become a long journey of seeking approval in the classroom, the corporate cubicle, and my own family tree. After talking with women across the country, I’ve learned that my journey is every woman’s journey – even though the details of our stories differ.”

 

Click here to read the entire interview and a chance to win Jennifer’s just released book!

 

Going to Battle with Insecurity

 

 

Each Thursday for the next few weeks, we are talking about breaking free from insecurity, comparison, and shame. We are sharing our raw and messy real life stories. But also, more importantly, we are sharing the truths that set us free.

 

We have bathed this series in prayer and ask now that the Father knit our hearts together and strengthen us to slay this giant called “insecurity” in our hearts. Today’s post is from a wise woman who has been in the trenches with this thing. Here’s Kathy…

 

Verdict on Value

 

 

 

Starting the day with weariness, I was on my way into the church parking lot when the thought crossed my mind: “life is war.” And then, “if we for a moment put our sword down and pretend like it isn’t, we begin to lose ground.”

There are times we feel like we can’t win and want to just ‘get out’ of the fight.

I’m not talking about the wars we hear of on the daily news, the battles our soldiers fight on land with guns and tanks …

I’m talking about our personal wars. Life’s daily struggles.

We fight to maintain schedules, to make deadlines, to control our eating, to get to the gym, to give when we’d rather hoard, to be kind when we are under pressure, to cook and serve another meal, the list goes on and on.

But here is what I think is the crux of it all: The core battle is the one fought in our souls for our identity. I’ve written about the soul-hole, how we are born with a cavern that needs to be filled with love and only God’s perfect love can complete us.

Though we know that, we don’t always live it. Often, I think it is because we don’t know how to fight. We think we have to fight for validation, but we already have it. Christ who came to redeem us from the curse of broken identity has already validated us. We don’t fight for victory, we fight from it.

His cross proclaims, “It is finished.” {Your search for value ends HERE!} “I passionately love you!!!”

In this series we want to explore how to walk in victory, to teach what we have learned and to learn from one another. The battle won’t cease until we are done with this life and completely free from our old skin. But we have been given what we need to stay the course while we are here.

To finish reading Kathy’s post and hear her personal story with insecurity, Click here … Kathy’s words are solid and much needed.  

Join us next Thursday for more in this series with a special interview and a book giveaway!

 

 

Finding Your Worth in a Dog Eat Dog World

Verdict on Value

 

Verdict on Value

 

Noise. Our lives are surrounded by it.

It bombards from within and without and much of our daily noise serves one purpose: to tell us how we are measuring up. It tells us what we are… or aren’t. It tells us we are worthy, successful, valuable, up to par… or we, simply, are not. It tells us we can take it easy on ourselves… or we need to try harder, do more, drive ourselves further.

It should be no surprise to us that the enemy of our souls is alive and well in the noise, tempting us to such things as:

Comparisons

Pride

Insecurity

Intimidation

Inferiority

Selfish Ambition

Shame

Silence

 

As tempting and overpowering as these things may seem, we need not give place to them in our hearts. God’s Word tells us that greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. We can face the noise of our lives well equipped for triumph, grace, and confidence.

I am pleased to be part of a brand new series entitled “The Verdict on Value.” This series is about standing in confidence in a dog-eat-dog world and is brought to you by a group of blogging friends who have seen firsthand the damage comparison, insecurity, shame, and the like can do. Throughout this series we are going to share our stories and temptations with insecurity… and how Christ has worked in our lives to free us.

We invite you to join us every Thursday for the next 7 weeks for this series. We have some fun surprises  planned as well :)  Just tune in to Arabah Joy each Thursday! Here’s a sneak peak into the series and the bloggers I have the privilege of working with on this:

Kathy from Free to Fly

Leah from The Point

Jen from Confident in Grace

Arabah from Arabah Joy

Kerry from Plenty Place

Interview with  Jennifer Dukes Lee (and a book giveaway of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes!)

 

Be sure not to miss out! Sign up below for free updates

Putting Down the Gun

gun

 

 

 

 

gun

 

 

I’ve been totin’ a gun.

It’s actually been part of my daily garb for many years,  tucked away just out of sight.

But I have a little problem. You see, I’ve been trying to get rid of the gun. How do you ditch a gun? I mean, I could just put it in the garbage, but that doesn’t seem safe or practical. Plus, you don’t just put guns in the garbage unless you need to be arrested for something.

Perhaps a couple of monks can help you understand my predicament. These monks live in Snowmass, Colorado at the St. Benedict’s Monastery and one day, an unnamed monk was working alone in the vegetable garden.

A second monk happened upon the first and tells the story: “I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?”

He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had.

“I would like to become a monk,” he answered.

“But brother, you are a monk, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been here for 25 years, but I still carry a gun.” He drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun.

“And they won’t… are you saying… they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I  know.”

“Well then, why don’t you give it up?”

“I guess I’ve had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.”

“But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.”

“Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.”

“Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble.

He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he embraced me.”

 

~~Monk story from Ruth Haley Barton’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry“~~

 

Ruth Barton goes on to say, “Most of us have a gun- some way of protecting ourselves and making ourselves feel safe, hidden, under the robe…Holding on to our self-protective patterns is one manifestation of our unwillingness to surrender ourselves to God for the journey that is ahead.”

I know it. I mean, I really know it.

My gun, my self protection, is what’s hindering God’s work in and through my life.

And though I’ve been a Christian for a long time…even taken some risks… left home to live my life working overseas...I still carry a gun.

I’ve known the problem of my self protection for some time. In fact, the monk story has been sitting in my drafts since 2/25/12, waiting for the right moment to be shared.

I’ve struggled hard to put the gun down.  The sad truth is that I’ve not been willing to take the risk required. Give up the control I hold so desperately to.

Maybe I’ve been waiting for some dramatic moment, some monumental point of decision, like when God touched the blind man’s eyes and he was healed of his infirmity.

Self protection is an infirmity.

Some of us know that. Some of us see how the disease has manifested itself in our relationships.

It isn’t pretty.

But Jesus didn’t always heal the same way. For these, he told them to go. Go in obedience, in faith, taking one step after the other in the direction of holiness. They were healed, not instantaneously, but as they went.

And I’m pretty sure that’s where God wants for me to go. Down the foot path. One foot in front of the other, pushing through the fears, doubts, pain, one step at a time.

I’ve been putting it off long enough.

It sort of reminds me of Pikes Peak. I’ve been there a few times. I’ve driven up the thing and for a girl from the flatlands, it was a frightening drive to be sure. I’ve taken the tram up. Beautiful and scenic. But I’ve never walked up. That’d be hard. Risky, even. And certainly not quick. The view at the top is the same either way. But for those who’ve climbed, the scenery is sweetened by the victory of the journey, the sense of accomplishment, the fellowship, the win.

I could get the workbook on overcoming self protection. I could do the bible study, take the tram up. And I could laugh shallow and say I’ve been up Pikes Peak.

But I do believe God is gracious enough to tell some of us there isn’t the direct route plan in our trip agenda. There is no instantaneous healing, no quick fix. The is no car, no tram.

There’s something better. There’s ownership. There’s a hard climb and each step is a victory and there’s this sharing in his cross and crown.

Yeah, there’s fellowship.

Maybe that’s what the self protective heart needs more than anything.

Intimacy. Finally.

So I’m on the journey, the difficult foot path. And my loving husband told me, “Why don’t you take Complete and do the 21 day journey and apply it to this area of self-protection? I’ll help you.”

And at first I balked because that just would be over the top and what if I can’t? And what if it doesn’t work? What if it’s too demanding and how will I know what to do? And a thousand other what ifs. Can you believe that? How audacious I am?

Of course I must do it!

Last night Jackson and I stayed up late talking about it. Self protection is THE thing that is standing between me and my promised land. I simply cannot run from it any more.

So friends, I’m doing something very scary. I’m publicly declaring war on the giant in my land. Yes, I’m trembling in my boots. When it comes down to it, I’m no Caleb. And yet I do know without a doubt that the Lord has given me this land; and not only that, He has graciously given me a battle plan specific for this: Isaiah 58.

If I’m sporadic around here over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m camped out on the mountain somewhere in the wild. Living this thing out with God. Battling the giant. Living Complete.

It’s time.

Oh, how it’s time.

{I anticipate having lots to share~ wink~}

How to be a Confident Mom

 

How good are you at recognizing insecurity in yourself?

Becoming a confident mom starts with knowing the three basic types of insecurity.

Join me at The Better Mom to discover the 3 types as well as the one weapon to overcoming insecurity.

I am… I AM

 

 

When I awake, old voices haunt.

They’ve been on the prowl, like mangy, hungry beasts just waiting for the moment of consciousness to arrive… then they lunge and sink fangs into one barely aware, one scarcely awake.

I’ve hardly a chance.

Even before eyes open, old messages are there, telling me who I am. Telling me what I’m worth. Telling me how I’ll live this day. They make predictions over me and rob the best of the day from me before I even get out of bed. They take from me life, all ability to impart nourishment and grace to my children. They rob me of warmth and blessing to give my husband.

Outside the sun is shooting orange rays across the sky. I hear finches as they flit about this wondrous day, joyously feasting on seeds they did not produce. Their provisions come from their Creator. They do not worry, just fly.

But to me, the day seems bleak. It stretches before me with foreboding and try as I might, I can’t will my eyes to see it differently.

I start to panic. Feel overwhelmed. Thing is, I’ve started countless days like this. I’ve also looked all over for answers. There have been many perks I’ve fallen back on through the years. Western lifestyles make these a normal part of our lives.

Yet I’ve finally accepted and embraced one simple truth: “You will keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

“Get to Jesus,” I whisper to myself. “Just get to Jesus.”

But how does one really connect her heart to Christ? How does one latch on to the Vine and drink in its nourishment and receive its Life-blood poured out and abide in that place of protection and succor? I need to know because this is where I want to live, where I need to live.

In this, Moses mentors. He faced a day, a challenge, a task, a life purpose, far beyond himself. “Who am I?” he cried to the Lord.

“I AM,” God said.

That’s supposed to be sufficient. “I AM” is sufficient.

And like Moses, every time those inner voices say “look at what I am,” God says, “My child, that matters not! Look at what I AM.”

Inner voices say I am rejected…. but He says I AM Acceptor of the beloved, and I’ve given you a new identity and transferred you to the kingdom of my Son.

With each accusation, I AM is there to counter it.

I am abandoned…. I AM Father to the fatherless, who has taken you up

I am unworthy…. I AM Worthy, and have shed My Worthy blood on your behalf

I am unlovable…. I AM Love, who has wrapped you in everlasting love that cannot fail

I am beyond redemption… I AM Redeemer, who makes all things new and nothing is too difficult for Me

I am a failure… I AM Faithful, who will not allow your foot to stumble and I work all things to the good of those who love Me

I am a mess up… I AM in control

I am too sinful… I AM a friend of sinners and I came to seek and to save lost. It is the sick who need a Physician, not the well

I am unable… I AM able….and willing!

I am faltering… I AM your bread, take and eat! My body is broken and given for you!

My hungry, craving soul begins to take nourishment. The broken body, the blood freely spilled, it imparts life. Trembling, I reach out and lay hold. I bring to lips and swallow down and it is sweet to the taste, like manna.

“I am” thoughts are replaced with “I AM” thoughts and I am well.

Here I will stay.

 

Written on His Palms

The kids are outside playing when she falls into old patterns.

I hear her before I see her through the window. She’s having a pity party and those victim garments she’s heaped on can be spotted a mile away. She’s pouting and sniffling and holding herself aloof from everyone, hoping someone will come along and pet her little pitiful self.

She makes her way to the patio, dragging her feet and hanging her head and I know she wants to come inside. But her old identity has been triggered by something and she’s operating from “victim” instead of from “daughter” and I know she’s going to test me on the way this is all supposed to go. She always does.

I stick my head out the back door. “Little Bit,” I tell her, “momma doesn’t listen to pouting. If you want to come inside, you use your words and ask.”

She gets mad at me. She really puts on the tears then and starts boo-hooing. She is unhappy that I’ve given her a way out, because really? A self-imposed victim doesn’t want a way out, they want to convince everyone they really are a victim. They want their flesh petted.

She hates it when I refuse to agree with her ”poor me” status, when I give her a way out of her pity party.

I tell her, “When you are ready to stop pining and use your words, knock on the door and let me know.”

I go back inside.

I watch her through the slats of the blinds. She pines and moans and groans and bewails.

I see her struggle, her desire to come inside battles against the demons of her past. But in order to come in, she’s got to give up her victim cloak, the identity of “abandoned.” She’s got to accept the fact that she’s got a voice and when she uses it, those who love her listen.

“Come on, Little Bit,” I murmur under my breath, hidden unseen behind the blinds. “You can do this.”

Finally, she inches closer to the door, bit by bit. She rubs her eyes with the backs of hands and quiets herself for a split second. She reaches her hand out to knock… then pulls it back, rubs her eyes some more and sheds a few more tears.

She just does not want to let go of the old identity: “Forsaken. Unloved. Abandoned. Helpless.”

Why is it that we think wearing those old garments of rejection will somehow protect us best?

I wouldn’t have heard it happen, but I was watching. I saw when she put knuckles on glass door. I nearly tripped over myself rushing to the door. I’m there so fast I surprise her.

“Did you knock?” I ask sweetly, innocently.

“Yesshh,” she tells me with her heavy tongue and I take her in and tell her she is loved and must use her words because mom is here to help but I can’t help if she only pouts and doesn’t tell me what she needs.

What I’m really telling her is that she has a voice.

“Oh sweetheart,” I want to tell her, “You have a voice and the reason I make you use it is because I want you to know that from the inside out. When you use your voice, you shed the old identity and you grow into your new one. You discover who you are and what you were meant for. I want you to see that momma and your whole family will move heaven and earth when you use your voice.”

But she is only 4 and I am an imperfect momma who doesn’t know how to communicate such rich, deep, sacred things of the heart and soul. Me, broken one myself.

So I just stroke her face and her hair and I look deep in her chocolate eyes and I see me ~ a girl so afraid to hope, to believe, to trust. So afraid to let go of the identity given her by no choice of her own.

Victims don’t decide what’s done to them. Victims don’t decide who they are in that inner most place. They are told. They become what others or circumstances say.

And I know this: Victims don’t have a voice.

It strikes me so clearly then that I’m stunned.

Is this why God tells us to ask? Because He wants us to know He’s given our voice back?

I’m incredulous. Yes, I think that’s it, at least in part.

All the times I sat pouring out my “prayers” to God…was it really no different than Little Bit’s pouting and whining? Was it really simply a poor me party that I was hoping He’d join in on?  And I took His silence for rejection…When all along, He was telling me to stop seeing myself as a victim and start asking.

Because He absolutely aches for me to live like the daughter I am.

“Use your voice, My child. Ask. There’s a reason I don’t listen to whining.” Because He will not validate or agree with my self  imposed victim status.

And time after time when my stubborn refusal brought me near heat stroke, He retrieved me from the yard with a sad smile and carried me in arms with eternal hope that maybe next time…maybe next time. Next time I’d open the lips, lift the tongue, taste a word.

Maybe next time I’d ask.

Victims don’t have a voice but daughters do. I trace my finger across the bridge of my daughter’s nose and tears drip down my face.

“Do you know what?” I ask her.

She nods yes, she does know and I laugh at her confidence because she probably does. I say it often enough.

“God gave you to me,” I tell her, “And He gave me to you. We’re here to take care of each other.”

She sees my tears dripping and when I draw her close, her normally rigid body clings to mine.

 

Later, I’m jotting this down, recording holy ground moments between two hearts God has entwined. The Voice speaks to my heart and suddenly I’m the one standing outside on the patio, tears falling, rubbing eyes, wanting to knock but knowing it means letting go of all that old stuff.

“You don’t knock for the same reason she doesn’t,” He tells me. “You’ve grown far too comfortable in those shabby clothes, the rejection of the past, the shame and condemnation, the identity of “unworthy” and “not good enough” and “worthless.”"

“And I’m telling you to Ask, Seek, and Knock. I’ve given you back your voice. I’ve given you a new identity. I’ve given you the ability to move and breathe and bless and love. I’ve given you a new family and I’m your Daddy. The more you ask, seek, and knock, the more separated you become from that old self that no longer applies.”

“These are the keys for moving from Victim to Victor.

Before, you learned that if you used voice, you were ignored, condemned, or hurt. Now, as you ask and see Me respond, you will learn to trust Me with all your heart.

Before, you learned that if you tried to find a way out, you were beaten down mercilessly. Now, as you seek and find what your heart craves, you will learn that you can open up, risk, and find real, full life.

Before, you learned that if you knocked no one would listen. Or worse, it was a waste of precious energy. Now, as you knock and discover My riches opening to you, you will exit the bondage of the past and enter the fullness of My provisions.

In these things, I have outlined for you My fail-proof method to overcoming victimization. Therefore, Ask and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.”

And clinging to the hand of my Eternal Daddy, I do.

 

Adoption is teaching me, more than anything that ever came close, to enter into the inheritance given me in Christ Jesus. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done…gut wrenching, mind boggling, heart rending…but just as a  mother bears down in agony to birth life, so I bear down to enter in.

 

Deadly Cocktail

I’m addicted to strong drink.

It started when I was not yet five, a wisp of a girl with long hair and stick legs.

They took me to places I shouldn’t have been. They made me do things I shouldn’t have done. They told me things I had no business believing.  And it all felt so horribly good in a dark, evil way, that when the cup was passed, I drank it too.

I didn’t even think.

I just drank and the numbness set in and the darkness wasn’t so frightening and I was hooked.

I never saw the lies for the poison they were, smoothing over lips and tongue and entering the belly. I only saw the relief they gave.

The lies, the strong drink can become a way of life.

And then something comes along that shakes a stick at you, calls intoxication for what it is and tells you that you aren’t the victim you thought you were, you’re a drunkard.

You’ve done gone and made yourself inebriated on the stuff and you can’t stop. You’re addicted and there are no excuses.

Oh, it gets ugly alright.

It’s happened to me. And as I read Judges 6 again fresh, I see the cocktail.

Right there on the pages of scripture, there’s the deadly brew that has ensnared many and it was my drink of choice and it flows free still to anyone willing to try it. It’s the liar’s deadly mix that he’s specialized in serving up to God’s chosen people, people like Gideon. People like me.

I’ve drunk it. Not only that, but I’ve been addicted to it. Maybe you have too? Maybe you still are? Perhaps this post is for us, you and me.

Before God could use Gideon to fulfill His miraculous purposes…before God can use you to fulfill yours… He had to expose the strong drink Gideon had been feasting on his whole life. Isn’t this the way it always has to be? God shows up in our lives and it is interesting to note that what we start saying at that point reflects the stuff we’ve been drinking.

“Then Gideon said to Him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles? But the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”  Judges 6:13

Let me stop and ask you, has God shown up in your life and given you a vision for something great, something that you are a part of?

And what has been your response?

You see, Gideon’s response exposed the lies he’d been drinking. His answer to an incredible vision from God wasn’t faith but doubt.

This is the first part of the deadly cocktail: Doubt in God’s goodness.

This lie has many faucets. It doubts God’s intentions towards me. It doubts His Presence. It doubts His provision. It doubts His power. Gideon’s response reflects all these things.  The conclusion of this lie is that “God has abandoned” me.

And if God has abandoned me, I’m on my own.

Herein is the set up for the second part of the deadly cocktail, by which our enemy seals our fate and reduces us to blubbering fools, unable to live and lead the victory that God has granted.

“He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house…” (Vs 15)

The first part of the cocktail says, “God won’t.” The second part says, “I can’t.”

Yes, that’s the strong drink I’ve been addicted to. The “God won’t” and “Surely, I can’t” mix.

The mix that rolls over and says, “This is out of my league, leave me alone so I can wallow in numbness some more.”

I for one have had a belly F.U.L.L of this stuff. There’s good news for bellies and hearts made sick with this!

God’s response to Gideon is pretty astonishing if you really think about it:

“Surely I will be with you and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (vs 16)

The antidote for the deadly cocktail we’ve drunk is “God will and I can.”

Now perhaps it needs to be said that we can only through Christ who strengthens us and that we can do only what God gives, not what we desire for ourselves. This isn’t a blanket statement to pursue either self effort or self interest.

Even so, God tells us He will and we can, for whatever purposes He has for our lives.

Have you drunk the elixir? Have you caved in to thinking you will never…. (fill in the blank)? That you can’t…..? That God has given up on you or that His power isn’t enough for your situation?

Set that strong drink aside, my friend. Take the bottle and smash it.

Pick up this one instead: “GOD WILL and I CAN” and drink deep.

Unspoiled

I drove home from evening church early. The kids had reached their “point” and so I took the little ones and headed home.

I looked for stars, but there weren’t any. It was a night that belonged to darkness. The heavens were muffled with clouds.

I saw something moving in the road ahead and slowed. I approached and saw and my stomach lurched and my heart did too and I felt stunned and sick all at once.

A raccoon, on his back, shaking and trembling and clawing at the empty air, eyes wild…living his last few moments in the throes of death.

Alone in the dark.

On a cold asphalt road.

I know it sounds sappy and a long time ago I closed my heart to being sappy; but since I’ve reopened my heart to life and love and joy and pain, I guess to some I’m considered sappy again and that’s okay…but raccoon dying in such a terrible way hurt.

I felt it inside.

And I didn’t know what to do with it.

I guess I’ve never quite known what to do with pain.

Next morning I read this story of tremendous heartache, and when I pray on knees and tears for this family, I feel it again and wonder, “How do we do this? How do we live in a world of such heartache?”

Do we just pad our lives so that we don’t have to face pain? Do we seek as much comfort as possible so we don’t have to be acquainted with the real, terrible suffering of others? The poor? The oppressed? The lonely? The taken- advantage-of-ed? The ones without recourse in this world?

Or do we focus on pain, isolate it, encase it like a shrine, make it an idol? Do we think that by worshiping it in this way we can keep it at bay, as if it will do our bidding?

What if we can hurt healthy?

Pain tells us there is only one road to pursue: Be an Untouchable.

Put yourself out of pain’s reach.

The pain of rejection…”Be untouched by pleasing people.”

The pain of failure…”Be untouched by not risking.”

The pain of insignificance…”Be untouched by putting on pretenses.”

The pain of desperation…”Be untouched by not putting yourself in that position, whatever the cost.”

The pain of being robbed of dignity, voice, “rights” …”Be untouched by becoming strong. Self-reliant. In control. Independent. Become a person of means.”

The Words come then…”Not untouched, but unspoiled” … and I know that is what Jesus can do.

The simple truth? All of us are guaranteed some pain in this life and I’m tired of being afraid of it, letting that fear curl me up and close me off and I’m ready to know how to hurt healthy.

History, both world and personal, show that we will each be touched by pain and heartache. We can be knocked down by it, dragged to the stake by it, offered up as a living sacrifice on it.

But we can still be unspoiled.

Which do we really want? Untouched or unspoiled?

My friends, I know what my new choice means. I know that pain will come and shake me to the roots and do everything it can to spoil me.

But when choosing between untouched or unspoiled?… well I’m changing from the first choice to the second.

‘Cause Untouched is Impossible.

Untouched is really a deceitful lie, a temptation to curl off and close up and not engage and spend yourself and all you have trying to live a life that doesn’t really exist anyway.

Choice #2? Well it is possible. It can happen. It can be reality even when pain touches, scalds, sears, enters, and scars.

Still, unspoiled.

It’s how the early followers all died…

John exiled on Patmos

Stephen stoned to death

Matthew stabbed to death

Mark pulled in two at the legs by horses

Luke cruelly hanged

Peter, Philip, and Simon crucified on a cross

Bartholomew skinned alive

Thomas pulled apart by 5 horses

James beheaded

Little James cut in half by a saw

James the brother of the Lord stoned to death

Judas tied to a pillar and shot with arrows

Matthias’ head cut off

Paul martyred under Nero

Not one was Untouched. But all died Unspoiled.

It is Deceiver who says, “Oh, see? You must try to live a life untouched! You must fear. You must do all you can to be Untouched. Maybe you can escape it.”

And he is happy to give us his plans of escape, too.

Life and Truth says, “It’s a lie. There is no such thing as Untouched. Open your eyes and you will see. But there is something better than Untouched… It is yours if you want it.”

And I do.

I do.

Youngest one falls and bumps his head and feels pain. I give him the only thing I can and in that moment I get it. I get why deceiver wants to lure us with “Untouchable.”

Pain’s companion is Presence.

It’s what I gave youngest when he felt pain. It’s what we all look for, what we all really need. It’s what makes pain endurable.

It even makes pain worth it. “That I may know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings…”

Presence.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. When you walk through the waters, I will be with you…” See Is. 43:1-3

Instead of fearing pain, I will seek Presence… For I must walk through the valley of shadows, but I will fear no evil.

I will not be Untouched, but I will be Unspoiled.

For He is with me.

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