May 15 2015

Loving the Unlovable

Who are the unlovable? They are the family that has broken your heart. They are the friends who have betrayed you. They are the homeless, begging for your money on the corner. They are the co-workers who have taken your promotion or the boss who hates you. They are the people who just cut you off while driving. They are the ones that bullied your child. They are you.

unlovableWho are the unlovable? To God, that word doesn’t even exist. There is no one that is unlovable. God does not love the way we do. His love is an action, not a feeling. His love is not based on performance or warm feelings. He is love. God is the author and perfector of all love, and no matter how horrible we are, no matter how bad we act, who we hurt, how we disrespect Him – He will never stop loving us. Oh, how I wish I could say the same for myself.

 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Matthew 5:46-47

As a child I had a very distant relationship with my parents. I was very hurt by them, and felt very unloved. I felt I was unlovable. Never good enough. As I grew to be older I carried these feelings of hurt and rejection with me into every relationship I had. With boyfriends, friends or even acquaintances. As desperate as I was to be loved, I could not help but to push any and everyone away. It would be too much to bear to be hurt again. My poor broken heart could not take another beating.

I was painfully shy and would never try to talk to others in a social setting, let alone look people in the eye. I felt it would be best to let others come to me to start a conversation. Less chance for rejection that way. With friends and boyfriends, I was easily hurt. It wouldn’t take much for me to feel rejected and unlovable before I was pushing them away as hard as I could. Phrases like “I’m never going to talk to you again.” were a normal part of my life. I mean, if someone was going to hurt me, why should I let them be a part of my life? I didn’t deserve anymore hurt or pain. I couldn’t take anymore hurt or pain.

Thank God for His grace and His divine healing power. Once I came into a relationship with Jesus I began to know love in a completely new way. I just knew I was unlovable, yet here was Jesus, in all His glory, loving me. How could someone so magnificent love someone as unlovable as me? Yet He did, and it was the most amazing thing I had ever felt. Jesus love began to heal my broken heart and beat down spirit. Healing is often a process that takes time though. And I saw myself beginning the have the same relational problems with the new people I was meeting at church as I had in the past. I had the same drive to run away and hide from these people, so that I wouldn’t get hurt.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

God had other plans for me though. Plans to grow me and sing a new song over me, so that I could blossom and grow like a tender young shoot. After months of feeling unlovable in many situations with others at church, I began a new prayer. “God, please help me love others the way you love.” Quite a big prayer for someone who has spent their entire life running from other people. Yet I earnestly desired it with all my heart. I had experienced God’s amazing love, and I wanted to share it. I just didn’t know how.

Jesus took me by the hand and walked with me through it. He began to open my eyes to the little things I did that I could change. Starting with making eye contact and smiling at others. I saw that my smile brought a smile in return and I loved it. Soon I was giving encouraging words to others and praying for them. It made my heart swell with love – just a little piece of love like God has for us. It was wonderful.

I thought I was doing great, but Jesus again, wanted to nurture and grow me, to develop me further into loving others as I had asked. There were still the unlovable, waiting in the wings. It was so easy to love those that smiled back and were uplifted by my encouraging words. But not everyone is going to be easy to love. I had to tackle my disgust at the homeless next. God opened my heart to the unlovable homeless and soon, I was even loving them. Then there were those who had hurt me in the past. I began to open my heart to those poor souls, who I knew were as lost as I used to be, who were captives just as I was. I began to feel love and compassion even for them. My heart was full and happy.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

I was doing so well at loving with the help of Jesus. I felt good and I wanted to love even more. Well, when you ask God for more, He is always happy to respond to that request! God began to place people directly in my life that were completely unlovable. I started to forget my prayer to love more, and started to feel filled with anger and even hate. It was startling and distressing – it was as if the old me had crept back in when I wasn’t looking. How could I even have such feelings left inside of me? Hadn’t I been doing so well-being kind and sweet and encouraging? Then I began to get upset with myself for being such an awful person. There I was again, completely unlovable.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Yet Jesus spoke to me so kindly, so sweetly. Don’t you see my child, that I love you even when you are hateful and mean-spirited? Even that cannot separate you from my undying love; from my mercy and grace. In my eyes, you are completely lovable, and you always will be. And this is how I am going to teach you to love those around you that you find to me unlovable.

I have to admit that was like a slap in the face and a sweet embrace all at once. Whatever that feels like…I am still prey to believing those old lies that I have listed to for so many years. It is still easy to fall into that trap of pushing people away, or putting up a wall around my heart to protect myself. But I don’t have to do that anymore. I have all the protection I need. I had the shadow of the mountain to cover me, to hide me from anything that is more than I can bear.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

 

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May 7 2015

Homeless Heartbreak

signMany years ago, when I was married to my first husband and we had a baby, he worked in a recycling center in front of a grocery store. Many of his clients were homeless people who came to recycle the cans and bottles they collected from garbage. I began to have a new perspective on the homeless during this time. I saw that the homeless who came to his center were drunk and used the money to buy more alcohol. I heard stories of homeless people refusing to eat because they wanted to spend their money on alcohol. I started to look down on homeless people. I had reached hard times before. I knew what it was like to have very little money, to survive paycheck to paycheck, and to have serious depression and other emotional issues. I had always had to pick myself and get through it all. It was just the way life was.

So I began to have an attitude that the homeless should do the same thing. Why should I give them my hard-earned money so they could waste it on alcohol or drugs? The alcohol and drugs were what was keeping them on the streets. They were making a choice to live that kind of life. Even if they were homeless vets, there are programs for them where they could get help. There are always ways to get help, I thought. Enough excuses, I thought. I was actually angry and disgusted with the homeless.

That was about 16 years ago. That was before Jesus touched my heart and gave me a whole new perspective on the homeless. It is hard to have disdain for other people and love Jesus. It is difficult to not feel compassion and love towards others, when you have given your heart to Jesus. Even as a new Christian I balked at a friend who gave a woman begging on a street corner food. She didn’t look hard up. She had pretty nice clothes on. How bad off could she be? How wrong I was, friends.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. Proverbs 19:17

I know I am not the only person who has looked down on the homeless. It is so very easy to judge others, and I find myself doing it often. It is a very bad habit I have, and I pray constantly to lose it. Yet Jesus has transformed me when it comes to looking down on the homeless. I have had some very precious interactions with men and women who have been on a street corner with a hand out for help. Because that is exactly what they are looking for – some help. God sees these poor souls. They are His precious children, just as much as I am. He loves them and yearns to see their suffering end. Because let’s be real – they are truly suffering souls.

I have been so touched with a new love for the homeless that I now keep $5 bills and $5 McDonalds gift certificates in my purse. If my husband and I see a homeless person we can get to, we go to them and talk with them and pray for them and give them the money or gift card. I have absolutely had my heart touched by these people. And I have seen what a stranger stopping to talk to them has affected them. They are the hated, the invisible, the disgusting. People yell out their windows at them and tell them to get a job. How can we judge, when we have no idea what their story is?

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Psalm 82:3

homelessThe other night we were driving to get ice cream and saw a young man on a very busy street corner. I felt so-called to stop and talk to this man. We gave him the last gift card I had, and because of his position in the street, there was not more we could do. Yet I knew God wanted us to do more. I felt distraught as we went to the ice cream place. I knew the Spirit was moving me to do more than I had. And what really touched me was one word on his sign. “Lonely”. It just broke my heart for this poor lost soul.

I think we have all been in that place at least once in our lives. A place of desperation, loneliness, pain. We just want someone to acknowledge us. To see our suffering and care. We were not meant to be alone, nor to have to do this life alone. God made us to live life in community. Helping each other, caring for each other. It is not natural or right to be so alone and so desperate that we have to be relegated to begging on a busy street corner.

Jesus has a heart for the broken-hearted, the sick, the suffering.  Many times throughout the Gospels we read how Jesus, the disciples, or the apostles heals beggars. El-roi – the God Who Sees Me. That is our God. He sees our suffering and pain and He longs to heal it. To hold us in His mighty right hand and lift us up out of the mire. To be our Rock and Redeemer. El-roi. And He is calling us out to do His work for Him. To go to the invisible homeless on the streets and tell them Jesus Sees You. He knows you. He is here with you.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:6

Back to the young homeless man. I told my husband I was convinced the Spirit was leading us to go back to speak with him. He agreed and on the way home we saw him at the same intersection. My husband pulled over into a gas station and walked to the corner of the street. He waved over to the man who was on the little cement strip in the middle of the lanes of traffic. The young man came over and we told him we wanted to give him a little more than we gave him before and asked if we could pray. Before we prayed I asked him what brought him out to the streets. He told us his story of how he ended up homeless, and it was indeed a tale fraught with troubles and mistakes.

Jesus-Healing-beggerThis young man was desperate for a second chance in life. Yet at every turn he was denied one. He longed to make a life for himself, to have a job and a place to live. How does one go to a job interview in dirty clothes? How does a person fill out an application with no address? And what do you do when your past won’t stop haunting you, bringing judgement from prospective employers? As we prayed for him, there on the street corner of a busy intersection, a woman walked by praising the name of Jesus. El-roi.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

The young man was wiping away tears in his eyes as we closed the prayer. No one had given him the time of day before. Invisible. No one was willing to care or give him a chance or help him other than maybe giving him some money. “Jesus sees you”, I told him. We touched that mans heart that night. It may not have taken him off the streets or given him a job, but it gave him something else very important. Hope. If you are lost, but you have hope, you have a treasure that no man can steal. I am praying for that young man and I believe in my God, that He is going to do something amazing for him. Because Jesus us the God that works miracles and I believe in His promises. He is the God That Sees Me, and you; each one of us. Thank you Jesus.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1

 

May 4 2015

Embracing Modesty

modestyI have never been one to think much about modesty. As a young adult and on I pretty much-loved to dress to show off my body. I loved showing lots of cleavage and leg and accentuating my butt. It made me feel sexy and I loved the attention. I didn’t care what other women thought, or if they were upset or jealous. It was all about me and it felt good.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

For most of my life I didn’t love myself, and I really didn’t even like myself. I thought I was ugly, fat, and just not good enough. I had a perfectionist standard for myself that I could never reach. I was extremely harsh with myself, berating myself often. When I gained 100 pounds during my last 2 pregnancies, I really hated myself. Now I really had a reason to think I was fat and ugly, and now it was so hard for me to move around and be active with all the extra weight. I would look into the mirror and tell myself I was absolutely unlovable. And I freely told my husband that he should not even love me, because I was disgusting. No matter who told me I was beautiful or worth something, I could never believe it. I knew the truth, and they were liars.

That is until I met a man who changed my opinion on how I view myself.

What kind of man can change a woman from self loathing to seeing herself as beautiful? Only a man who can love her unconditionally. A man who can inspire her to be her best self, inside and out. A man who infuses her with love, who adores her. A man who is so passionate about her, she can’t help but see herself in a new and exciting way. Who is this man? Well, he isn’t just a man, but God. He is Jesus.

Jesus has more than inspired me to a loving relationship with myself. To live for Christ is to live boldly, passionately; to give Him my all and seek His will. When I decided to commit my life to Him, I started by giving Him not just my life, but my body, and my mind. I lost 50 pounds, cut my hair really short and began to wear makeup again. I would look in the mirror and be so thankful that I could call myself pretty for the first time ever. It wasn’t just because of the weight loss, but because of the love. His love for me.  And my love for Him was truly where my beauty came from.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;  you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

With my new self-esteem came a new self-image. I enjoyed being beautiful, and wanted to glorify my Jesus with it. I no longer felt comfortable wearing revealing clothing. I began to feel convicted about dressing in a more modest way. I hardly knew what dressing modestly was. I started very simply; no more cleavage showing. It progressed into no more short shorts and no bra straps showing. I felt good about it. I felt that I was honoring my Lord and my husband as well. Marriage is a something sacred between a man and a woman, and I wanted to give my body to my husband and no one else. That meant to keep it covered up and for his eyes only.

Before Jesus, I was always looking for love and approval. Dressing for attention made me feel better and I liked it. With Jesus, I didn’t need any attention to feel good about myself. I didn’t need men’s eyes staring at me to feel beautiful. I knew I was beautiful, because my Lord tells me so. There is nothing more I need. I can appreciate my husband’s compliments more now. I am humbled by how dearly Jesus loves me.pink

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.John 15:13

The following summer I began to feel further convicted of modesty. It started with the bathing suit. I had previously worn pretty revealing bathing suits. Again, I felt pretty sexy and enjoyed it. This time I felt practically naked. Even a one piece bathing suit wasn’t covering enough. They were all pretty low-cut and showed a lot of my bottom as well. I opted for the most modest bathing suit I could find, but still felt uncomfortable. My shorts also got much longer and I began to wear more skirts. For me modesty was becoming more than just covering up, it was also showing off my femininity. I loved feeling pretty and fun in skirts, which I almost never wore before.

I also started to be more conscious of how my modesty (or lack thereof) affected the men around me.  I have four sons myself, and so I am very aware of the temptations that surround men in our current culture. Everywhere you look, women are wearing very little. If they are covered, they are wearing clothes that are very tight.All in all it leaves very little to the imagination. I know that men are responsible for themselves, but I do feel that I can make it easier for the men around me, by dressing modestly and removing some of that temptation. It also helps men to focus on me as a person, and not on my body. It helps me to edify those around me with my spirit, not my sexuality. My sons have already had to deal head on with lust and pornography at young ages, and it scares me. I can only imagine what many of the other men in my church might be struggling with.

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

dressModest doesn’t mean frumpy. I know when I first started thinking of what modesty was, I conjured up the idea of women covered from neck to feet in a long dress that was bland and tasteless.  I do not believe that modesty means you have to wear outdated clothes that aren’t the least bit flattering. Modesty can cover up your body while still showing off your beauty. The current trend in modesty is classy, elegant yet fun, comfortable yet feminine. Believe me, I do not wear anything that isn’t comfy. But I do believe that it is important to put my best foot forward when it comes to the first impression I give to others. How I dress is akin to putting a big smile on your face. People are more apt to smile back at you, even when they are having a bad day. So with modesty it is similar – wearing flattering yet modest clothing shows the best parts of you and helps others feel more at ease.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

Modesty has such a wide range of meaning for so many different people. For some it includes many rules or requires you to be completely covered. For some it means no jewelry or only skirts. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules on modesty, other than keeping your private parts private. Outside of that, I do think it is to each person the conviction the Holy Spirit lies on their heart. God wants us to be holy, and to live our lives modestly as well. Modesty is just about how you dress, but about your heart and your attitude. A heart for Jesus is pure and that reflects in every aspect of your life, from how you treat others to the clothes you wear.

I want to represent my Lord with reverence, love and respect. I am so very thankful that He has changed my heart and given me respect for myself. I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you too, on your own journey towards love and acceptance of yourself. You are truly and dearly loved. You are valuable to God – worth His very life. You are beautiful, a rich treasure in His eye. You are special.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:7

 

 

 

 

 

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