I've spent the last (very exhausting) two weeks finding silver linings and reminding my child of them. It's so easy to get caught up in our own stuff and lose perspective, especially in the teen years (though the struggle continues through adulthood).
Shame. Shame is a hard topic to talk about and often times it’s even harder to see how shame is shaping and affecting our lives. When I asked Siri what shame is, she replied, “Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Or, as a verb, “to cause someone to feel ashamed or inadequate by outdoing or surpassing them.” Let me summarize: Shame feels awful, but to shame someone else makes us feel better about ourselves. This summer I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly on Audible. She is a researcher of shame and wholehearted living. She insists that in order to live happy, meaningful lives we must become “shame resilient.”
For the last two years, I’ve been participating in a CBC women’s small group doing Life With God. (It’s one of the four types of small groups offered in women’s ministry.) Life With God is a study of relational theology where Scripture is studied to discover how the events and circumstances of people’s lives affected their relationship with God. It covers the lives of Adam and Eve, the patriarchs, Moses, David, John and Paul.
One of the most impactful truths I learned is that God’s grace doesn’t require me to know everything about myself all at once. Grace and shame have a hard time coexisting. Shame keeps us from drawing close to God and from self-awareness because, it’s painful to see ourselves as others do. But God, in his grace, only show us that which he desires to transform – one piece at a time. Godly sorrow and remorse are important tools in our spiritual growth, but God never uses shame! Only God can disclose sinful, disobedient parts of our lives with total and complete love.
God only transforms our real selves – not the image we would like everyone to believe about us, the image we advertise on social media. So we have to bring our real selves to God and in order to do that we must fiercely eliminate shame from our life with God.
We have enjoyed walking through The Psalms so far this Summer. As we read the Psalms, we are reminded of God's faithfulness to His people. As part of our Psalms series this Summer, we are encouraging our CBC community to write a psalm of their own. We want to put these Psalms together and share them with our community so we can look back and see what God was doing in and through CBC this Summer. You can send them in anonymously or with your name on them, and you can email them here when yours is finished.
Below are two Psalms that have been emailed in already. Read through these psalms and think about what God is doing in your life as you consider your own psalm.
In the midst of the storm, I am afraid, fearful of what may be to come.
I am angry and bitter, consumed with myself and my own needs.
I sense the junk of my life closing in.
I feel helpless and hopeless, overrun with worry.
I want to give back, but I'm inadequate to do so.
I desire to be secure in the ability to be used by you.
I aspire to grow old gracefully, to quit being consumed with myself.
I yearn to let go, but I keep taking it back.
I crave to focus on you.
I long to focus on you morning and night.
I thirst for thankfulness, but I forget to say thanks.
I get caught in my mundane and forget to praise your name.
You are big, you are good, you are GOD.
You are constant, you are Faithful.
You know what I need before the thought enters my mind.
You provide my needs and meet the desires of my heart.
You produce comfort to dry my tears.
You keep me close to you.
You take my worry and it dissipates
Your word illuminates my humaneness and makes me cognizant of my need to depend on you.
You keep showing me your presence.
Your hand-print is all over my life.
You send angels to comfort me.
Your spirit calls me into prayer, and I see the works of your hands.
In this moment, I can not help but to praise your name.
I know well LORD, that only eternity matters.
I know that everything will be ok, even in the midst of uncertainty.
I know that this is but a season, and the storm will pass.
I know that what was then, isn't now, and doesn't control my future.
I know you are the only one with control.
I know that my worry does not change the work of your hands.
FATHER grow me through this.
Help me to listen to your spirit as you nudge.
Deepen my faith.
Hold fast to me.
Turn my prayers to you.
Give me wisdom.
Place my focus on you.
Use me. Teach me. Move me.
Engage me for your work.
Take me to new heights.
Bring me out of my comfort zone.
Make me your servant.
– A psalm from one of our small groups
You Lord are generous.
You Lord are kind.
Nothing satisfies like you.
The struggle to wholly believe this is maddening.
Kill the things in me that choose me.
Aliven my chooser of You.
May I be overcome with your patient redeeming grace.
Cause me to release what gets in our way.
You Lord are good.
You Lord are hope.
I was afforded the unique opportunity to hang out with some Christian leaders recently. Some of whom were older and wiser in their faith, spiritual giants you might say, and what I witnessed in their interactions with others was astounding. We had several days together, but I began to see the difference in some rather immediately. Two of the leaders, who had years of following Jesus and Christian leadership under their belts, took a few newbies under their wings almost immediately. They began to look at scripture with these new leaders, pose questions and discuss the realities of their faith journey with them. I watched it continue and grow throughout our days together. I saw the change in those young, new leaders. I saw a fire begin to light in their eyes as they discussed God's Word and their faith with these giants, an acknowledgment that they too could follow God like these older and wiser leaders. I saw them grow bolder and stronger in their leadership, and more confident in their faith. I began to wonder, what keeps so many of us from learning this lesson, from following this example?
Over the next 12 weeks at CBC we will launch in to our Summer Series - The Psalms: Finding God.
I love the Psalms. I love that poetry and prayers have a space in the Scriptures. I love the honesty of the writings, the emotion that often times is palpable as you read through the psalms of lament or praise and the courage the writers had in how they talked to their Heavenly Father. But most of all, I love the picture the Psalms paint of the character of God. Throughout the Psalms, the emotion of the writers don’t continue to shape the character of God, but rather the emotions of the writers we see on the page are shaped by the character of a God who is known. Sometimes it takes a few stanzas, but the writers reflect on and are shaped by a God who is known and whose character has been revealed to His people.
As I was getting geared up for this weekend, I came across this quote by Eugene Peterson about why he loves the Psalms:
In a world of prayers that indulge the religious ego and cultivate passionate longings, the Psalms stand out with a kind of angular austerity. Left to ourselves, we will pray to some god who speaks what we like hearing, or to the part of God that we manage to understand. But what is critical is that we speak to the God who speaks to us, and to everything that he speaks to us…The Psalms…train us in that conversation. We are wrestled into obedience, subjected to the strenuous realities of living by faith in the God who reveals himself to us. There is a difference between praying to an unknown God whom we hope to discover in our praying, and praying to a known God, revealed through Israel and Jesus Christ, who speaks our language. In the first, we indulge our appetite for religious fulfillment; in the second we practice obedient faith. The first is a lot more fun, the second is a lot more important. What is essential in prayer is not that we learn to express ourselves, but that we learn to answer God.
If you’re the over achieving type, check out this video Peterson did with Bono on the Psalms. It’s worth every minute of the 20 you give to it. Also - in a culture whose currency is celebrity, Christians are always trying to prove they are credible by latching on to any B list celebrity who says anything about God. I’m not saying I agree with our attempt to trade in the currency of our culture, but come on, it’s freaking Bono.
Enjoy. See you Sunday as we continue to be shaped by a God who is known.
I'm not sure why so many memories are food memories, they just are. But a smell or flavor can bring you back to a moment in my life almost instantly. I love that, I love being able to relive a moment through an aroma or flavor.
I have had the beautiful pleasure of being part of a cooking group the last couple of years. There is something wonderful about being able to share in other people's memories, connecting to their memory in a physical and tactile way, like sharing a meal together. You know someone stronger in this way. Likewise, I've loved being able to share my memories through the tastes of my childhood. It's such a special thing.
Growing up in the middle of nowhere between Mansfield and Midlothian, my father owned a small convenience store/gas station/barbecue restaurant. It sounds strange, but it was always packed. And in his store, he always carried Mindy Lu's Fried Pies. Mindy might seem like a nobody to you unless you live in South Small Town Texas, and then you've probably seen her pies for sale. Every day the school bus would drop me off from School in front of our store or I would go in and get my after-school snack, and then walk home. On too many occasions to count my snack was a Mindy Lou fried pie. It's total and complete comfort at its best with more calories than I care to think about.
Today I had the wonderful opportunity to love on some of our school teachers and show them a little appreciation, and without a second's hesitation, my mind went to Mindy Lu's Fried Pies, because to me they spell love. And to be able to share them with others was almost as sweet as eating one myself. Do not be mistaken, I totally ate one, but I'm just saying that giving them away was quite nice too.
More often than not, I mess up and live my life more for me than for Christ. But when I get it right, it always involves me giving a little bit of myself and sharing myself and my love with others. And I'm always glad I did.
So, you go to a movie and, despite several crafty ads from the theater company telling people to silence their phones and stop talking, some people just aren’t PAYING ATTENTION! How long will you wait to say something? Well, thank goodness, Timex, Inc. recently ran a survey on this kind of thing and the average moviegoer said they’d wait for (drum roll)… 1 minute 52 seconds. I assume that’s after the film has already started. Some of you are thinking, and I know who you are, “That’s way too long! I paid my money, I’m not waiting at all!” Others are like, “Well, maybe they have something important to talk about, I’ll give them some time. You never know someone until you walk in their shoes.” (This kind of person probably just doesn’t like confrontation.)
It occurred to me during the middle of one of our services a couple of weeks ago as Joe was making his guitar sing that a guitar solo might be considered offensive in church. The thought may have whizzed through my mind at other points during my life, but I never gave it much credence. I’m prone to taking almost any argument in an “ad absurdum” type of way (much to Jaime’s chagrin) and I long for consistency. So, it got me thinking. Is a guitar solo irreverent? If so, how so? We have instrumental breaks in music regularly. Is it because one instrument is standing out beyond the rest? Surely we have the makings for quite a terrible symphony if the first chair violin is never to be heard above the last chair oboe. No offense to any oboe players out there! I’m just wondering if there is something to the notion that a guitar solo could be irreverent.
One of the reoccurring things I have students do when I meet with them is to pinpoint a couple of things that have influenced their spiritual growth up to that point in their lives. It is an open-ended question that I don’t expect certain answers for but seem to always get a re-occurring theme over and over again. Rather than it being deep theological lessons from a sermon or lesson. More than it being an experience in a foreign country serving others. More than it being the tools and tasks given to them to do on their own. The thing that comes up over and over again are the relationships they have had with others.
When I was a young Christian a friend told me to read CS Lewis. I had never heard of him. But I usually did whatever this very persuasive friend told me to, and ended up devouring most of Lewis’ works. I was astonished that a Christian writer could be so creative and thoughtful and deep and insightful and accessible all at the same time.