Why you don’t need to be afraid anymore…

the-sky-is-not-falling

Every year, I avoided a certain appointment. I wanted to know about it, but I didn’t want to be there for it.  I panicked and my heart did funny things.

My heart raced and I couldn’t sleep for weeks leading up to the appointment. It consumed my waking thoughts and disturbed my sleep. I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything except worry.

Psalm 112:7 snapped me out of my funk: “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” I feared bad news. My heart wanted to be steadfast and it wanted to trust, but it struggled.

I’ve been exploring the concept of security in Christ and Psalm 112:7 could fit in with the next three verses used to assure us of security in an insecure world.

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his sear of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 NIV

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 NIV

Psalm 112:7, along with these three verses, may have penetrated the hard shell of fear around my heart, but I still struggled with the cycle of worry and lack of sleep.

I laid wide awake, listening to the creaky bones of an old farmhouse. The furnace cycled on and then off trying heat the drafty rooms. The water softener’s recycle echoed through the register vents. I listened to the coyote’s song and watched the red numbers on the digital clock creep their way to morning night after night.

I treated this event with the same intensity as Chicken Little in the children’s story who decided the sky must be falling when a single acorn hit him on the head. I laughed at the foolishness of Chicken Little, but when I became Chicken Little, I didn’t laugh.  This appointment was an acorn, not the sky, but I treated it as though the sky was falling. It was completely and utterly ridiculous and I knew it.

I knew my angst over this situation and I knew the word of God, but the battle within my heart raged and rarely did the word of God win. I said I trusted God, but my actions and my words did not jive.

I felt the truth God’s word strike me in such a way that my ‘sky is falling’ perspective fell from the sky and lay shattered at my feet.

My security is not found in the outcome of appointments, good health, or financial freedom. It’s found in my one true King. Your security is found there as well. He is trustworthy. He is secure.

When he is our rock, we can trust that he is working things out. He views a much larger picture, and we don’t need to see the entire picture in order to trust him. He is our security.

My circumstances do not establish me. God establishes me. He takes this wretched fear-filled heart and fills me with anointing. He anoints you as well. He calls you beloved and he lays before you the task to trust him.  We need his anointing to do this well. It’s impossible to trust well without his love coursing over and through us. If I don’t have his anointing, then my fear, anxiety and worry overtakes the goodness he longs to do in me and through me.

Our failures do not adversely affect our security because I know that God will complete the good work he began. He is the one who saves. He is the one who sets our feet on the solid rock. He is the one who rescues, redeems and gives a purpose for this life. And if he is the one who does the beginning, then he will do the middle, and he will do the completing.

We need only to submit, surrender, and obey.  He is our everything. He is love. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end. This gives us the security we need to face those hard days when we are not trusting him well.  It’s the security we need when we’re overtaken by angst on the parts of our story yet to be.

The sky is not falling. I can never recover those sleepless nights because the worry didn’t change the outcome. The fear of what might be was greater than reality, but I couldn’t see it at the time. Irrational fear overtook me in the face of our annual tax appointment.  Yes, my friends, it was a measly tax appointment that was the acorn in my Chicken Little Story.

In my mind, this acorn held my hopes for security, but that’s not an acorn’s job. An acorn’s job is to grow a tree and God used this ‘acorn’ to grow faith in my heart as I transferred my security from a circumstance to him.

What is the acorn that has fallen that makes you cry out, ‘The sky is falling!’ Will you let God show you where your security lies and how he can turn your acorn into faith that your security is in him?

 

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confidence or confident?

identity-acceptence-confidence

Acceptance.

It’s what I long for, and it’s what you long for. I also withhold it from others and myself and so do you.

I’ve been wrestling with my acceptance in Christ because there’s a part I play in it as well: I have to accept what God says.

I can read his truth and his words, but if I don’t believe them, I’m still lost. There’s a difference between knowing truth and believing truth and it’s hard to believe the truth about acceptance.

When I refuse to accept the truth that God says I am set free from darkness, I stumble and fall even though light is nearby. When I refuse to accept redemption, I abdicate my inheritance of forgiveness. When I refuse to accept completeness in Christ, I give up confidence.

I once confessed my insecurity to a close friend and she sat open-mouthed and dared me to deny my statement. I couldn’t and she couldn’t believe it.

I’m good at playing the confident woman, but I shake in my boots and hide behind a smile and a sparkle. I don’t see what my friend sees. I see a messy-haired, scared little girl hoping to be accepted, but believing she won’t be and so I pretend. I pretend I’m full of confidence.  I pretend I know what I’m doing. But inside? On the inside I’m afraid you will find out the truth and reject me.

God gives me opportunity after opportunity to strip my confident façade away and fully embrace his acceptance of me because it is only when I rest in his acceptance of me that I am truly confident.

Confident that I’ve been rescued, redeemed, chosen, and given access to the throne room of God. Confidence based in my own ability is shaky and will crumble. It has crumbled. Each time I’m publicly humbled–whether it’s through an editing mistake in a published piece, or my vocals cracking as I lead worship, or singing the wrong lyric at the wrong time–I’m given the opportunity to understand what it’s like to be confident in him.

This past Sunday, as I led worship, I cued the band and the tech team to section three of our opening song. They did their part, but I didn’t. I sang something entirely different. The smiles and laughter in the tech team cued me of my screw up. While the band played their way through my fumbling, I smiled my way through, course corrected, and kept the focus on God.

A few years ago, I would have spent the afternoon berating myself over my ineptness-turning the focus on myself-rather than rejoicing in the ability to learn a lesson in humility and glory.

God doesn’t want to embarrass me, but if I’m prideful in an area, I will be humbled. My confidence should never be placed in my abilities because my abilities are not because of me, but in spite of me. My abilities are gifts from God to be used for him for his people. They have nothing to do with me. They are for his glory.

My confidence is directly related to how well I accept that God accepts me. When I don’t feel accepted, when I feel I’ve disappointed God, either over something little or that thing, like perfect, that keeps cropping up in my life, I reject myself, assuming that God rejects me as well.

I couldn’t be more wrong. He doesn’t reject. He accepts.

Our confidence for living this God-life is directly related to our embracing God’s acceptance of us.

If we embraced this truth, we would confidently leave our old lives behind and embrace the new. We would truly understand amazing grace that’s set our hearts free. We would love without strings. We would confidently walk in the forgiveness God offers rather than in the condemnation we offer ourselves.

Could you imagine the effect you would have in your life if you walked confidently into every situation confident not in your ability to perform, but confident that no matter what others think of you or what you think of yourself that God calls you accepted?

There just might be a revolution.

There would be a revolution in our churches because it wouldn’t be about us, but it would be about following the Holy Spirit wherever he leads.

Our homes and society would revolutionize themselves because our love for each other would flow from the belief that we’re accepted fully and completely by God. We would give our best knowing that God is pleased when we accept and love each other.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 ESV

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 ESV

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Confidence is directly related to our belief in God’s acceptance of us. We might struggle with accepting ourselves with all our flaws and mistakes, but God doesn’t. He offers us rescue, redemption, forgiveness, completeness, and access to the throne of God because he accepts us. This is who you are in Christ: accepted beloved one.

perfect brokenness perfect completeness

perfect-5

You know that ‘thing’ that threatens to break you?

It’s that thing you deny exists and try to run away from? Yeah, that.

It’s okay, you can turn around and face it. There’s hope when you walk towards it and through to the other side because I’ve lived it.

Perfect has been a ‘thing’ for me. I bristle when someone calls me perfect or perfectionist. Perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect performance, perfect response and yet, within the bristle, is a craving for it as well. It’s the craving that made me examine my heart and the hold that perfect had on me.

It has long held me hostage in my relationships, my mind, and in the quiet space of me and God. Perfect has used my fear of rejection to keep me in a place of denial that I really do have issues with perfection.

The deal, though? Perfect became a noose. It became a strangler in my journey towards authenticity in my relationships, with myself, and with my God. As I attempted to break up with perfect, perfect’s hold threatened to break me.

As I began to crumple under the pressure of perfection, God began a different kind of breaking in me. You see, if perfect had broken me I would have been left with shards of perfection that I would have tried to hold and pretty soon my hands would be full and perfect would fail, I would fall and break again into tiny pieces.

God’s breaking is a healing kind of breaking.  And it’s a necessary break. Perfection was so woven into the fabric of who I was that the only way to put me back together again, in the way God saw me, was for him to completely and utterly break me. I needed to be so broken that perfection could be separated from the essence of who I am.

When brokenness happens because God is doing the breaking then he can be trusted to do the putting back together, and the putting back together is the part where his touch can bring healing and a whole lot more wholeness than I ever could bring in my own strength of breaking up with perfect.

God broke me and I was left in shards at his altar.

The initial breaking was painful. Like, I want to never lift my head again painful. It caused sleepless nights where I writhed in heart pain and questions. I would lie in bed listening to the creaking of the old house and the cycling of the furnace and the sound of the coyotes in our backyard and wonder. I would wonder if my heart was repairable. Everything I based my identity on-performance, acceptance, and approval-was suddenly stripped from me.

I was unable to perform to my level of standards in music.

I was failing in church leadership.

Friendships were broken.

I’ve been rejected at the core of who I am.

I have complexion issues, wild hair, and a tongue that’s difficult to control.

I’ve lived through some dark days of groping for God in my own strength.

These were some of my shards and he’s been piecing me back together. He’s filtering through the rejection and discarding the lies that I have long believed about myself.

He is teaching me to say ‘thanks’ for those monthly outbreaks, crazy hair, and to slow down and think before I speak.

He’s showing me that he’s the one who does the growing in my spiritual walk, not me and my efforts.

To be honest, I’ve run from the breaking. I’ve scurried like a rabbit before a prairie fire not realizing that I’m not the rabbit, but I’m the prairie grass that brings life and beauty, and sometimes the prairie needs a good burn.

Perfect.

Only when I’m broken of perfection can I be made perfect by  a perfect God.

Perfect in the biblical sense means to be made complete. My relationship with perfection prevented my completeness in God. God’s desire is for me to be complete in him. I can know him completely and love him completely when I am released from the noose of perfection.

I’ve grown since the initial breaking. I’ve come to see God’s hand in the breaking and to trust him with the healing because as I submit to the breaking and the healing I see how he has discarded the threads of perfection and picked up the pieces of me that glorify him best and he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.

So, yes, perfect and I have broken up, and yes, we still get together. But the breaking up with perfect is really done best when I submit to a brokenness before my God and when I do, I find that I receive long-lasting healing instead of the bandaids I apply to my ‘perfect’ issues.

Perfect brokenness is what I strive for now. Complete brokenness before a God who sees me, heals me and loves me enough to break me in order to make me new.

He is perfect and there is none like him and in the security of love he provides I find the true meaning of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

stepping into grace

perfection-part-3

I’m doing a lot of confessing here and it’s time for another one:

I adore fall.

I love the beauty in the changing leaves, the crisp temperatures, and the October blue skies. I love watching the farmers gather the crops and the glow of the setting sun on the dried corn calls to me and awakens a yearning within. But there is another reason I love fall.

Summer brings with it anxiety and self-criticism. I tear myself down about the big and small flaws of a body that’s jiggly from bearing four children which only intense training would repair and said person lives fifteen miles away from any gym. That kind of self-criticism. I battle these thoughts all summer and by the end of the summer I’m weary of reminding myself to stand tall and confident and all I want to do is crawl into my cozy sweaters, jeans and ankle boots.

My perception is not necessarily my reality and I know that my value is not tied to my physical appearance or my productivity, but I still struggle with this truth and my heart tells me the struggle goes much further than just my outside appearance.

I’ve been writing about breaking perfect and I’ve dealt with perfection in my relationships, in my thought life, and now I must address the one area that affects all the others and that’s when perfect interferes with my relationship with God.

Often what we do on the outside indicates issues on the inside and this is true for me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear more layers and long pants, but when I look at the deep in my heart I see what I’m really trying to do with all my covering up and accessorizing. I’m trying to cover up my imperfections, or at least my perceived imperfections, as if I can distract God with spiritual accessories. I might be able to fool you and myself, but I will never fool God.

Hebrews 4:13 lingers in my heart and reveals my futility in trying to hide. This verse states that nothing is hidden before God and that everything is exposed and laid bare. Everything. My impatience. My anger, selfishness, dissatisfaction, my doubts, and my fears. This verse releases me from the exhausting effort of hiding my weaknesses.

My weaknesses are not liabilities and something to be hid, but they are opportunities for me to come boldly to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is not a pat on the head and the encouragement to keep trying to live right or even the freedom to live as I please, but it’s the empowerment that enables me to exchange impatience for patience. Anger for acceptance. Dissatisfaction for contentment.

I hide behind perfect because I’m ashamed of my failure at my inability to make these exchanges on my own. Hebrews 4:13-16 stops me in my tracks. It shows me how wrong I’ve been for trying to cover up my heart ugliness behind the facade of perfect, and I’m relieved by the exposure because the hiding gets exhausting, and rubs against my need for truth.

This is the truth: God sees all and knows all and will–he will give me grace when I need it. I don’t need to slink, sneak or sulk my way to his throne, but because of Jesus- the one who faced all the same temptations I do and yet did not sin–because of him, I can boldly, with confidence, come to the very throne of God and receive empowering grace.

Grace to face my imperfections and say: ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for my struggles. Thank-you for my fears. Thank-you. Without imperfections in my life, I wouldn’t need God and and I desperately need God.

He’s authentic in every way with me and desires authenticity from me as well. He sees me. He sees the things I would rather pretend do not exist and do not love about me. But he sees into the hidden recesses of my heart and loves me despite the ugly that’s found there.

I can strip myself down to all the ugly and he will receive me and empower me to choose his way of living. Impatience for patience. Anger for peace. Dissatisfaction for contentment. Doubt for belief.

I’ve been invited to boldly come to him and so have you. We don’t need to get prettied up, even though it’s fun to get our pretty on. Ours is the kind of relationship where we can come confidently in our beauty and in our ugly because grace trumps perfect. We don’t need to stay in the shadows, but can walk boldly up the red carpet to his throne, fall at his feet and receive empowering grace. We can exchange our version of perfect for his perfect love poured into us through his grace.

 

it’s a break up that continues

perfect-part-2

I broke up with perfect, but sometimes we get back together. Ugh. Perfect makes itself known in my relationships and it has snared me in the fear of man that steals my authenticity and shapes me into a plastic version of myself.  I confessed I was afraid of you and now I must confess I’m afraid of myself.

I’m afraid of disappointing myself, and I fear failing my expectations. What if I have to buy new clothes because I can’t stick with an exercise program? What if I wrinkle my face into a permanent scowl because I’m perpetually disappointed in myself? What if I try, again, to organize my life into some resemblance of order and once again, fail? Why can’t I have endless energy? Why am I so jiggly? Why am I crabby in the morning and why do they expect me to be cheery? What if I give something my everything and it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough?

And there lies the root of my alliance with perfect. If I’m perfect then I’m good enough and the maddening what ifs stop taking over my mind. This is not a healthy place.

Enough.

I am enough. You are enough. But why do we struggle to receive this truth? Why do we wrestle with God over this?

It could be that I’ve confused my ‘fear of not being enough’ with being aware of my sinful nature and the journey toward holiness.  I’m wide awake to my failures and struggles: selfish ambition, fear, impatience, and judgement.  But those aren’t the things that make me ‘not enough’ and overcoming them isn’t what makes me ‘enough’ either.

So what makes us enough? It’s found in the depth of God’s love for us which is a deep, deep well we can draw from and find the sweetest of waters. He loved us while we were trapped in sin and we love him because he first loved us.

If this is truth then where does the alliance with perfect begin? Does it begin when we don’t believe ourselves worthy? Is the idea of a love freely given so far outside our comfort zone that we make ourselves work for it?

Our experiences with perfect are not going to be the same. We live in a society that tells us we can have it all. We reach higher and higher instead of resting in God’s expectations of us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but we burden ourselves when we add intentions outside of what he’s called us to do.

It seems easier to beat myself up for failing to follow through on that popular exercise program or that my calendar is still hopelessly disorganized or that I didn’t reach out to a hurting friend because I was self-absorbed with my problems. I failed again.

Perfect leaves no room for failure so I put even more pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, including myself. This is exhausting and impossible. It becomes a merry go round that takes me lower and deeper into the pit of perfect and further and further away from the truth of God’s expectations. 

Discovering God’s intentions has been the most freeing antidote to breaking up with perfect. My problem is that I think I need to add amendments to them creating an atmosphere of scales and balances.  I think to myself, ‘Oh, God says to be perfect? Well, I’d better not make any mistakes and not ever let anyone down,’ while disregarding the fact that God intends for me to be complete in him, which is not some twisted version of perfect that my mind thinks up.

God’s expectations for my life involve making him Lord of my life and doing what he wants me to do. The problem comes when I forget to listen and that’s usually when  perfect and I get back together.

Making him Lord means freedom from perfection because we don’t have to worry about fulfilling the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. It means we get to find out what he expects of us and release our fears of not being enough because he says, ‘Beloved you are enough. Rest in me, listen for my voice, and you will be complete.’

 

 

breaking up is hard to do… part 1

breaking up pt.1

Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.

Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder  if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.

So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.

There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.

However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.

God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.

Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.

The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.

But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.

1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!

The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate  I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.

Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.

I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?

Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.

breaking up is hard to do

perfection slayer

I’m a little afraid of what you might think. I’m afraid you won’t like my hair or the way I dress or the fact that I sometimes snort when I laugh. What if you don’t like my words or the way I express myself? I’m afraid you won’t like the way I can sometimes be sassy and blunt and sarcastic.

Actually, I’m a lot afraid, or at least I was until God showed up and revealed that your opinions were more important to me than his. I’ve been trying to live up to perfect and I’ve found that perfection is a hard task master whom I can never ever please.

So. Perfection? I’m breaking up with you.

Perfection, you’ve used my fear of rejection to sway me into a relationship with you.  It’s impossible to please you, and my heart has been twisted until it has little resemblance to my truest self. I keep breaking up with you because ours is a toxic relationship, but we get back together because you woo me with flattery and deceive me into thinking that you are the reason I’m accepted.  You use my fear of rejection against me, but perfection? I have a message for you:

Being perfect cripples and shames because perfection is impossible to attain and shame’s cousin is fear, which pulls me in tight and won’t let me go.

So I raise the white flag of surrender, not to my fears, but to my God. I bring my fears and shame to him and lay it at His feet because fear and shame keep me from receiving and being perfected in His love.

His perfect love means He is the one I fear, He is the one I please, and He is the one who holds me close when my world falls apart. So perfection? You and I are breaking up for good because His love is the key to overcoming my fear, not a relationship with you.  Sincerely, me. 

Breaking up with a habit, attitude or train of thought requires diligence in order not to re-form an alliance with that thing that holds us back from moving forward in our relationship with God. The ‘thing’ that cripples and stunts our growth is going to be different for each of us. It could be: jealously, religion, an inaccurate view of God, negative thinking or a lack of thanksgiving, but what if we stopped the crazy cycle and embraced the crazy, unfathomable love God has for us as individuals where our fears are gone and our perfection has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with his love. What if we let his love drive out our fears and submit to being perfected in his love?

Being perfected in His love is coming to a fuller, richer, and greater understanding of his love for us.  Perfection is this: to live so securely in His love that the crap of life doesn’t change our security in his love.

I’ve broken up with perfection and in its place is a brokenness which only God can fill, but it’s through the brokenness that I come to a fuller realization of this amazing grace that flows down and in and around and through me so that I only breathe in His love and breathe out His grace onto my brokenness and onto yours.

We’re all a broken mess and it’s only through God’s grace that we can break up with the toxic behaviors in our lives and be filled with his spirit so that we can run in the freedom he sets before us. 

A freedom to live securely in his love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

“I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:31-32 (NIV)