The Eye of the Beholder

That phrase “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” is really deep when you think about it. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to attend a sleepover with some young ladies. Looking at them I remembered my youth so distantly. The worries of my high-school years that at the time seemed so devastating now seemed so inessential. However, as the ladies spoke memories of a not so pleasant time came to the fore. The topic of beauty, was what was being discussed. I remembered when I thought I was ugly. For many years, I believed what I’d been told by mean-spirited kids who told me I was not attractive. I wasn’t depressed about it. I just took it as – “oh well, I don’t need to be pretty.” This mindset followed me through college and then through most of my twenties. When the first person I ever dated told me I was pretty… I just brushed it off as lip service. Of course I didn’t believe my mum when she said it, because she was my mum she had to tell me that. It also affected my interactions with men. I didn’t consider myself pretty so I depended more on my personality when conversing. I would maybe push my personality a little too much – I was too funny, too animated, too much of anything that would push my appearance to the back.

Listening to these young ladies talk of similar self-image issues I realized how damaging what we say and do to people can be. Also how even more damaging how we receive that information can be. Only 4% of women around the world think they are beautiful. Its disconcerting.  Now that I weed out a lot of things of the world, so that I feed my spirit with good things, my mind on this has changed significantly. I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Does that mean I think God is ugly? When he is described as a being of light and beauty in the bible (Revelation 4:3). As a Christian woman I strive to reflect Christ. For me, He is one of the most beautiful beings I can think of. So it makes no sense to have self-image issues when my creator made me beautifully.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)

To persist in such negative thinking is to insult the One Who Made Me. I wont lie it’s still a bit difficult to accept compliments. However, I smile now when I hear them because I am not accepting them for myself but for my God. They are complimenting his work.

I found this excerpt that I thought would be nice to share:

Heather Davis Nelson says in the Journal of Biblical Counseling:

In pursuing worldly beauty, we strive to become this elusive image in place of who we really are. You and I are created in the image of the living God. Our purpose is to reflect His image to the world. But since the fall, we let the world inscribe its image on us. It is the very picture of sin and ultimately death. Instead of being transformed to God’s image, we conform to the world’s image. We are hopelessly stuck in a lifeless cycle, exchanging God for the creature as our object of worship. But God in His mercy rescued us! In love, God sent Jesus Christ to take on the consequences of our idolatrous affair. He became sin so that we might become righteous. In Christ, God gives us freedom from sin’s power now and hope for its eradication in heaven. God makes you beautiful with the beauty of His Son, Jesus. It is in gazing at God’s image in Jesus Christ that you are transformed.Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, (sisters) in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Amen.

Faith like a mustard seed, notsoskinnydreams, Christian, faith

Faith Like a Mustard Seed

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
Matthew 17:20 (NLT)

When I read Matthew 17:20, about having faith like a mustard seed, my reaction is “wow” if that is a mustard seed then is my faith like an atom? I say this because even with small prayers I tend to hedge my bets. Giving long timelines, and vague hopes that allow for the possibility of failure. I once wrote an outline for a book about a Christian girl who finds salvation. After my cousin read it, she asked, so where’s the big miracle? Will you add that in later? I looked at her in confusion. Isn’t her finding salvation miracle enough? She received it just through dealing with life and hearing the right words from the right people. There was no Voice, no visions, no miraculous supernatural interventions, none of that. I knew God did those things for other people, He’d just never done it for me. Now I still think that having her saved that way was not a problem. Constantly expecting God to intervene supernaturally or waiting for a supernatural sign from Him to feel like your prayers have been answered, is another issue that I’ll tackle in a future post. For now I’ll say that my error was in believing he wouldn’t do it for me. That I just wasn’t as important for that kind of super special treatment. When other people gave testimonies about their own miraculous encounters, I’d listen enviously, resigned that it just wasn’t my portion.

I didn’t realize until recently that I’ve been limiting God all this time and  limiting myself as well. Since I’ve been praying seriously with other sisters in Christ I’ve noticed my prayers were small compared to theirs. I never really knew how small they were till my prayer partners started pushing me. Literally they would pause my prayers to tell me to stop limiting God. They would say “why next year? why not this week? or even tomorrow.” “This week??? tomorrow? that’s not enough time,” I’d answer. “Joy stop limiting God, he’s not a man.” Wow and there it was. What I’d been doing wrong. My faith went only so far as I could see. So far as I thought was “possible.” When God is a being that made the earth in six days. Who am I to say what He can and cannot do. Even my mum got annoyed with me recently. She exclaimed in annoyance, “Pray BIG!”

Why would God step in a miraculous way in my life if I never asked for Him to do so. I gave him small prayers and he answered them as they came… in small ways. Now I’m making changes. I’ve started praying BIG. I’m calling it praying with authority. I believe God will do it and I’m claiming his miracles for my life, with certainty. The worse that can happens is that he wont give me what I ask for because its not for my good. It’s a win win with God.

Feeding your Spirit

Of late I’ve been monitoring what I take in. What I watch with my eyes and listen to with my ears. This is because I’ve noticed that what I take in, directly and peripherally, affects my Spirit. Since I communicate to Jesus Christ through the Spirit, I have to make sure it’s in top shape to receive. It’s been poorly maintained in the past and there were long periods when it just couldn’t receive anything from the Holy Spirit. It seemed almost broken. I knew God hadn’t left me, but I wasn’t able to feel him nor hear from him. God is such a huge presence that when I feel his absence it leaves such a gaping hole. A vacuum that now sucks in anything, good or bad, it can get to fill in what used to be there. Other things now become your God.

They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.
Romans 1:25

God has blessed us with so many ways to sense the world around us. We take in both the beautiful and the ugly. Your spirit is sensitive to that. I remember when I used to be obsessed with “Scandal,” also known as “The Fixer” in other parts of the world. A show about a woman, named Olivia Pope, who is amazing at fixing other people’s problems, except her own. She also scandalously has an affair with the President of the United States. I idolized this fictional woman. She was everything I thought I wanted to be – bold, confident, brilliant, strong, successful,… I could go on. Even when a good friend of mine asked me, “how can you – a Christian, look up to her when she’s an adulterer? aren’t you being a bit blind?” At that time I scoffed at him for being judgemental. Couldn’t they see that she was in LOVE. That other woman, “his wife,” was no good. LOVE conquers all! How ridiculous all of this sounded never popped into my head. I took this “role model” with me to my next big job. I was a manager with a long list of responsibilities. Instead of depending on God when things became difficult, I’d say “what would Olivia Pope do?” She would say “It’s Handled” that’s what. I cover my face in shame now remembering how I used to respond to the MD in just the same way – “Yes sir, It’s handled.” I’m telling you now that this sort of thinking got me into a lot of trouble. I depended on my OWN understanding to solve my problems and believed in only my own strength and capabilities.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

I had made something else my God. As innocent as having a favorite show might seem we have to be careful of what we make our hobbies. Ms. Pope was everything God did not want me to be. Dependent on herself, immoral, and promiscuous. I finally realized my error, when I said “It’s handled” one last time and I really had no clue how I was going to “handle it”. I was so desperate for help that I called on what I believed were my helpers, my gladiators, and they all failed me. Alone and feeling hopeless, God met me. Lean not on your own understanding. I realized that taking in things that were not of Him and ideas that went against His, had desensitized me to Him. It had desensitized me from his peace, his guidance, from what I clearly knew was wrong. You see, purposely taking in what you already know is wrong, is the beginning of many excuses that can lead to sin and then death.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

 

Making God a Priority

Today I was searching desperately for something I’d misplaced. I literally felt out of my mind wondering where this thing could be. To the point that I started to get annoyed at my family for asking me “have you found it.” As if it was their fault that I had lost it. Thoughts of what I’d have to do to recover from losing this item bogged my thoughts and weighed me down emotionally. Then something dawned on me… Why was I worrying so much? Over something that was fixable. I’d started making plans upon plans on the steps I needed to take to recover from this loss. Then I stressed over having to make the plans at all to getting angry at myself for losing the item in the first place.

Where was my PEACE in all of this?

GONE, thats where. Right where the enemy likes it. When I realized that I was losing my wits over something so small, so infinitesimal in the grander scheme of things, I relaxed. In my last post I wrote about looking at situations spiritually instead of solely physically. When I looked at the current situation I realized this was keeping me from doing something I’d promised God I would do. I promised God that I would write a post a day on my blog for at least seven days. Right when I’d set my mind to go and write it I started looking for this thing. Everything else left my mind but finding it. I had this constant feeling that I was just about to find it. Even though that was far from the truth. My a-ha! moment woke me up from this. I thought “good one,” the enemy almost got me. I’d actually put aside the work God had given me to do for something else that did not really make sense. It got me thinking about how often we do that – put God aside for other temporal things. Instead of praying every morning, we sleep a bit later then wake up rushing to go to work or wherever else we think is more important, with the excuse “there’s just not enough time.” Sunday morning you stay-in to watch a soccer game instead of going to service, because church is every Sunday the Manchester United game is only this Sunday. God understands. 

Does God really “understand” when we put him second, third, last? Would we “understand” if God decided to put us last? Just when we really need Him, He says “Well i’ve got a ton of other things more important than you to do… lets take a rain check.”

God I don’t want to be last! I’m guilty of putting him on a shelf when I felt I had “more important” things to do. Project deliverables that felt so pressing at the time, phone calls that I just had to take, and many other things. These things have kept me from worship, bible study, prayer sessions, reading my bible,… they kept me from knowing God. These “more important” things that don’t seem so important now. Are they more important than my salvation? Are they more important than the love I CLAIM to have for Him? My petulant answer would be “of course not!”

However, I say I love God, more than anything. Even my family. However, if someone I loved neglected me… I wouldn’t feel so loved.

As I’m writing this I still have not found what I was looking for. Then again maybe I did… 

Stoop Low to Conquer

My mom told me that my dad gave her advice that has been helping her. That she should stoop low to jump high. It took a while for this nugget of wisdom to make sense to me. It was probably my pride that was clouding it’s meaning. It takes humility to “stoop low to jump high.” To be able to eat your pride and endure what may be an embarrassing situation, for the benefit of your future success.

It may be getting paid peanuts now for  the chance to open up new opportunities later. Or taking unjust treatment and not retaliating to be the bigger person. However way you do your stooping low the common thread is looking at the bigger picture. Does that short moment of satisfying your flesh equal a positive return long-term? I’m a strong advocate of allowing God to fight your battles. He can handle it better than you could ever imagine. Dwelling in the desires of the flesh, can result in focusing on temporary fulfillment. When I focus on what does this moment or situation mean to me spiritually, it gives me a totally new perspective. That guy that has been chatting you up turns out to be a playboy that flirts with anything in a skirt. Why get upset? why retaliate? Didn’t you pray to God to reveal to you the devourers and defectors in your life? The job that has been using you like a dog now wants to hire someone else? Well if you’ve been prayerful and asking God for a promotion, It’s just Him closing one door so a greater door can open. I see the people who take these kind of actions, that seem very low brow, as God laying down my yellow brick road to something better. As a result I smile at mean-spirited bosses and hold no grudges because God’s will in my life is mightier than theirs ever could be. Just like the Pharaoh that went against Moses, or King Cyrus that allowed the Israelites to return back home, they are only tools God can use to advance me to where he wants and needs me to be.

I know this is not a lifestyle for a lot of people. Many may see it as meekness or weakness.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

However I know that Jesus was not weak. However he was humble and achieved greater things for it. I cannot tell my full story today. That will be for another day, when the story is full and ready to be shared. My God is not a defector. He will never fail me, not even when things seem like all hope is lost. My life is a testament to that. So for now I will keep stooping low like my mama told me to… so when I jump it will be as far as the skies reach. God willing maybe even beyond that.