Monday, December 22, 2008

What if you could see right through me?

I am surprisingly inspired by a new friend, a few years my junior, who has decided to be completely transparent. She's calling fat days just that ~ fat days. And for someone recovering from a lifetime battle with an eating disorder, I stand in abject admiration. She's done pretending, done faking, done with the whole charade. I am so proud to call this woman a friend; spurred on by her willingness to just be.

Yet here I am, three decades in, having spent a lifetime practicing image management: learning what to say to whom, how to say it, and when to swallow my thoughts. Why? To be considered pleasing; to be thought of as a pleasant and worthwhile person. Think debutante, junior league, 1950's country club; crinolines, white gloves, and ruby, red punch in cut-glass cups. And the suffocating feeling of donning your "every thing's peachy-keen" face so the world won't think you're too messy, too emotional, too much effort.

Today, in an attempt to honor my friend's valiant strides, I am setting down my punch glass (and yes, I do so with a little extra force so that the ruby, red punch sloshes over the sides onto the pristine white table cloth beneath. See, I am a mess). I'm tossing my delicate white gloves on top of the heap of tulle in the corner that is my abandoned crinoline. Today, I'm going to be see-through.

Today, I want to say that I'm tired; not weary, more the sick-and-tired sense. I'm tired of hashing and rehashing my past. For the holiday season, I'd like to just let it be that ~ my past. I'm not saying I want to put it away forever. I know that I have been called to share my testimony with others; I know that I have been redeemed and I am so blessed to be able to give the glory to God for this. But I also know that HE does not define me by my past sin. HE sees me restored, a new creation. HE doesn't look at me and see my sin; HE looks at me and sees HIS Son. Yet in the earthly realm, I feel the scarlet A is emblazoned on my chest for everyone to gawk and judge. Today, I want to walk into a room and just be God's Jenni: His forgiven, redeemed daughter; His fair one.

Today, I want to say my trust has been broken. I made myself vulnerable, on more than one occasion; and that vulnerability was capitalized upon, manhandled. So that now, I'm curling tightly into my safety ~ my God. And I'm going to be more discerning about allowing myself to be that vulnerable. Today, I'm working on trusting my God with everything, starting with my heart and dreams.

Today I want to say that I am a work in progress. I am rarely bold (hence the blog), frequently inappropriately sarcastic, and always messy (literally and figuratively). I get angry far too often, I interrupt all the time, and I snort when I really laugh. I want people to like me; it makes me feel valued, worthy. I'm trying to get over that ~ trying. Today, I'm praying that I can smell more like Christ than I did yesterday.

So I'll pick up my glass of punch again, don my white gloves, and struggle back into my crinoline, admitting that I am a broken mess without the forgiveness of Christ. But I know that His forgiveness is complete and in His eyes, I am not that person any longer. I know that my heart, however hurt it may have been is safe with Him. And I know that everyday I try, I come closer to being a "Christian;" which is literally a "little Christ." And I am so thankful that I don't need crinolines to be acceptable to the King of Kings ~ He loves me for who I am; and I am His!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Apple Pie

It's the cold weather, really. Rarely will you find me in the kitchen for industrious purposes. (To consume, yes; to prepare? No.) However, there was an autumnal chill around the edges of the day. Slightly overcast skies, calling to mind impending wool-sweaters, sent me scurrying for the oven. I do love to bake when the mood strikes; the ultimate mood-enhancer being weather. However, today was different. There was a heaviness about ~ a lurking undercurrent of dread. Baking seemed so frivolous, truly anti-climactic, when compared with the tone of my heart.

Restlessness, cynicism, pride, fear, isolation. I wrestled each at one point. Where I landed surprised even me. ~ I settled on apple pie. The quintessential American baked-good. Because, I know that GOD is in control. At all times, in all things.

No political officer can take the place of El Elyon [the Most High God].
No political party can outlast El Olam [the Everlasting God].
No army can conquer El Gibbor [the Mighty God].
No leader nor circumstance will convince me to abandon El Roi [the God who sees me], El Chaiyai [the God of my life], El Yeshuati [the God of my salvation]!

Resting in the sufficiency of El Shaddai [the All-Sufficient God], I recognize that in this country I am able to worship, El Hannora [the Awesome God], as I please. I may sit in the church of my choice. I have the right to speak out against any decision made by any administration, without fear of punishment or retribution. I can purchase a Bible in any town in this country. I can stand on the street corner and read from Scripture aloud. I may call upon the name of my GOD, I may set HIM as a seal upon my heart, as a visible seal upon my arm, without fear. I may introduce myself as a Christ-follower. All because El Hakkadosh [the Holy God] reigns, forever and ever. Amen.

So tonight, my family gathered around a homemade apple pie, gave thanks to YHVH [LORD GOD], and prayed for the well-being of our great nation.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Measuring Cup

1 Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray continuously."

Ruminating on prayer and the philosophical questions that sometimes follow ("If God knows my heart, why do I need to ask?" or "Do my prayers affect God's actions?" and "If so, why does the Almighty LORD of the universe need my cooperation?"), my mind settled on a simple, white measuring cup.

The cup I saw in my mind's eye is resting in a drawer in my kitchen, the baking drawer to be precise. This particular cup has been with me since my marriage began and has seen it's fair share of use; nine years of cakes, pies, stews, attempts at new recipes, and relative successes with favorites. Over the years, with the cup ever-ready, I have gotten better at cooking and baking. I make less of a mess; my mistakes are fewer and further between. I am now able to have fresh-baked cookies ready to eat in thirty minutes, from pulling out ingredients to dunking in milk.

That is, until recently. My children used to be content watching, eating a few chocolate chips here and there, and enjoying the fruits of my labor. But now, they want to be involved. So, my baking time waxes to an hour; there is flour all over the kitchen. And sometimes, the cookies don't turn out as expected.

When we bake, the worn, white measuring cup is now the favorite of my children. They excitedly determine who gets to hold it first, while Mom fills it; how many times they get to pour it's contents into the bowl. Their eyes are bright as we work together to create something; they chatter enthusiastically throughout the process. We laugh, we hug, and every so often, we throw flour at each other. If the mess is greater than usual or cookies don't turn out, it matters not, because we've spent time together.

Which brings me back to prayer. My Heavenly Father, Almighty God, certainly doesn't need my help to accomplish His will. In fact, when I do try, I will make a bigger mess, take longer, and sometimes spoil the recipe entirely. But because He loves me, He wants to spend time with me. He desires to make me feel like I'm helpful because that tells me I'm important to Him. And because I am uniquely important to Him, though He knows my heart better than I, He desires to hear directly from me how I feel.

So, my God hands me a measuring cup. And though I am inept and frequently messy, He lovingly tells me that we'll work together, to build our relationship. Which is the reason He gives me the cup in the first place.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Preparing to Go Out

Antsy. I feel like my legs are pumping in the air, just ready to hit the ground at full speed. But there is a reason I'm not yet touching the ground; some explanation for why I haven't been turned loose. The reason is simple, though I don't want to acknowledge it ~ I'm not ready. I want very much to be. And I am impatient at the thought of more waiting; more preparation.

However, God's word shows us that before we enter life-altering service to our King, we need preparation. Much like a slovenly peasant coming in out of the field, I am far too crass, too awkward, too dirty to be a representative of the King of kings. Please understand ~ I am worthy to enter into His courts, because I am His adopted daughter. He pursued me, relentlessly, in the muck and mire to which I had run. His son Jesus, brought me into this palace; He covered my with His pristine robes of royalty and presented me to His Father. And His Father said, "welcome back, little girl. How We've missed you! Now, Let's get to work."

I've found that before any redeemed children can jump directly into the roles for which our Father destined us, we need His divine preparation. Sometimes we know what our roles are, and even how to go about accomplishing them. Other times, we do not. In Genesis 6:13-22, God tells Noah exactly what he is do to (build the ark, get all the animals on board, get in the boat). "And Noah did everything just as God commanded him (Gen 6:22)." In those few lines of scripture, we see Noah's preparation. Where? Well, the ark took more than a day to build. So God was preparing Noah through his project. Noah hadn't ever seen rain; had no need for an ark. The act of getting up everyday and going back to the task that God had assigned him was a great act of faith. And Noah was going to need a whole lot of faith if he was going to get onto a boat, float for only-God-knew how long, land only-God-knew where, and start re-populating the world. In his daily obedience, God was growing Noah's faith to handle what would come next.

We see a different story in the book of Ester. Having been plucked from her family and carted off to potentially wed a king, Ester had no idea that she was being groomed by her God to save her people. In Ester 2:12, we read that before a girl could be presented to the king, she had to undergo a year of beauty treatments. While her "job" was to try to please the king, she needed a great deal of preparation in order to make this attempt. She would first have to be pleasing to his eyes, then his touch, before she could be close enough to his heart to gain his trust. And in order to do the job for which God was preparing her, she would have to be close enough to the king to have his ear even more than his most trusted advisers. And only a wife is that close.

In Daniel 1:5, we see that the youths who were entering the king's service had to undergo 3 years of training before they could test. In that time, Daniel also had to choose to be obedient to his God, as opposed to being swayed by the cultural norms. So Daniel had to learn about these cultures, but keep himself separate from them. Then, he could be the man God would use to influence kings. And through his service, only God would be glorified.

Please don't hear that women are only valued by their looks (Ester was only prepared with beauty treatments) and only guys are valued for their intellect and faith (Daniel was prepared with 3 years of teaching and Noah by building the ark). What's going on here is a specific preparation for God's specific purpose. Noah didn't need 6 months of oil baths to get him ready to sit in a boat with all the animals of creation. So, God didn't prepare him that way. Daniel didn't need 6 months of beauty treatments to prepare to serve the king in a God-honoring way. Look at the practical means of service ~ Noah needed a mode of transport for himself, his family, and a literal zoo. God prepared him for this by telling him to get to work on that vessel, though he'd never seen a drop of rain. Daniel needed to be steeped in the intellectual and cultural norms, so that he could serve as Nebuchadnezzar's advisor; but separated from these norms so all the glory would go to God. Ester needed to be closer to the king than an advisor. Who is the closest person to a man's heart? His wife. Therefore, in order to enter the innermost circle of the king's trust, Ester had to prepare to become the woman a king would desire.

Don't look at the preparation of another as necessarily appropriate or even needed for your specific service. Frankly, I would much prefer a year of beauty treatments to building an ark. But, if God wants me to be on the boat, oil baths and beauty treatments will do me no good in furthering His will.

For now, I will keep my zealous anticipation for my intended service with the understanding that I'm in a time of preparation. I feel like I'm being groomed, in a fashion, after each of these individuals. God's given me a ministry; so like Noah, I don't know where it's going to take me, but I'm out there daily, building my boat to God-only-knows where. I am, like Daniel, learning about the cultural and intellectual norms of our society; not to embrace them, but so that I may be separate from them and in this glorify my God. And I am in a way being treated like Ester. My speech is being refined to something more beautiful (not eloquent, but not harsh or cruel either). And I am enjoying baths of oil, not literal baths~figurative of course, so that I am a beautiful, softly glowing bride for when I meet my groom ~ Jesus Christ ~ in person!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Uniquely the same

We all suffer from moments of griping uncertainty; where we know that we are not capable of the task before us. We hold, without question, that whatever it is we are called to do is beyond us. And we believe that we are too small, too insignificant, to make a difference or do something that matters. We agree with ourselves that we can't have much to offer, so we settle for insignificance or mediocrity. But we have not been created to be mediocre ~ and not one of GOD's children is insignificant!

Regardless of the past sin, Jesus paid the same price for each of us. He paid the same price for abortion as He did for disobedience to parents. He shed the same blood for adultery as for coveting. Murder, idolatry, lust ~ each of these cost the same. And Christ paid, in full, the price for each.

Because of that payment, the very same Holy Spirit comes into the heart of every person who believes Christ died for their sins. The same Holy Spirit that resides in Beth Moore, resides in me. The same Holy Spirit that lives in Chuck Smith, or the Rev. Billy Graham, or even the apostle Paul, lives in me. Regardless of who you are or what you've done, if you have believed in Jesus and asked His forgiveness for your sins ~ you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of the Lord God Almighty!

As you know, I'm no Beth Moore, nor Chuck Smith, nor the apostle Paul. What separates me from these venerable teachers is how I respond to this indwelling. How well I listen, obey, even seek Him. So it is not our sins, our maturity, or even our gender that determines our impact for God's kingdom. It is in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. If I choose to ignore Him, I will follow my own, however well-intentioned, path to futility. If I am in constant commune with Him, I will see my feet set upon the path laid out for me since before time began. And if I willingly submit my self to His design, I will be used greatly for His glory!

This does not mean that if I seek after Him with reckless abandon that I am destined to be the next Beth Moore. There is no "next" Beth Moore, Chuck Smith, or Paul the apostle. If I am listening intently to His stirrings in my heart, then I will become the Jennifer He intended me to be. And that, I am finding, is infinitely better than striving to be a shadow of someone else.

So while I am saved by the same grace, ministered to by the same spirit, and empowered by the same Almighty GOD ~ I am uniquely qualified, by His very design, to serve His kingdom and glorify Him as only I can! In this sameness, our uniqueness is fully realized; and His plan is completely glorious!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I am becoming increasingly convinced that self-sufficiency is an ego-centric denial of Truth. Unto ourselves, we are not sufficient, regardless of our valorous attempts. It is our vanity, our fear of helplessness, our ignorant attempt to wrest control over our small corner of the universe.

That being said, from one who adheres strictly to the mantra “I’ve got this,” I don’t see the necessity for me to exhibit public displays of sloppy, emotional outbursts. There are some people who, by their very nature, are public people. And when they encounter crises in their lives, they are entirely comfortable letting the world see their pain and share in their journey. I am not one of those. I have a very small group of people to whom I turn when life overwhelms me. It is in these few that I have confided almost everything. I say almost, because there are a few things that will always remain between my Father and I, unless He leads me to share them. These people take my fears and worries upon themselves. They offer advice, a shoulder, an empathic tear. They hold my hand to walk with me through the darkness, read God’s word to me, and pray over me.

There is nothing wrong with walking into church on a Sunday morning, tears streaming down your face because you simply can’t take anymore. God’s children will rally around you. Conversely, there is nothing wrong with lying on your bed and falling into the Father’s arms, so that your soul may cry out to Him, “I can’t take this!” In either place, He is our hope, He is our shield. He is sufficient. He will bring people around you who will support you, lift you up, bear your burden (to speak “church”).

But the absence of public reaction does not negate the spiritual journey. In fact, I believe the later is closer to God’s heart. He wants us in communion with Him first. He is a very jealous God; He wants all of us, before we give any of ourselves to others. In sadness, joy, pain, laughter ~ He wants us to run to Him first. However, He designed us for fellowship. We are intended to form relationships; to love one another. And we should be transparent with those we feel comfortable. I don’t mean that we should offer the world a painted on smile and say, “everything’s peachy-keen.” But if we’re having a rough time, have the freedom to merely say, “things are tough,” and then take the deepest concerns of our hearts to whomever we trust.

Above all, we should trust God first. Period. Because there is not one person on this earth, however godly and caring they may be, who has more love for you than the One who made you. It is in Him you will find sufficiency.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I have known the dark; I am now known by the light.

I am no stranger to the dark. Blackness, both metaphorical and physical, has been my casing for longer than I care to remember. It has been with me for over half my life now. However, there is a particular darkness with which I am intimately acquainted. It goes beyond a mere absence of light. It is a palpable entity. It lives, consumes, becomes you. It is as defining as belief itself.

I spent years strangling myself with my own hand; screaming into the vacuous blackness of silence I created. I built my dungeon, stone by stone until there was not air, not light, none but me and my misdeeds. The genius behind this prison was the location. It was my own soul.

On the inside, I was dying; a slow, suffocating suicide. On the outside, I was ~ me. Bouts with external darkness preceded and followed; the ebb and flow of a life plagued with the blackness. Each was but a shadow compared with what lurked deep within me. Loneliness incomprehensible; loathing unimaginable. And fear as close as breath.

Each of these: the years of separation, of reflective hatred, and of being afraid of the loss that would rend my heart from my shriveled soul. The inability to sleep next to the one I love, for so many different reasons. I could not find comfort without; and there was nothing but death within. Each of these I tried to weather on my own. Piteous attempts at self-reliance crumbled into addictions, attempts at piety, and finally the grand facade of, "everything is alright."

Until, quite unexpected, I was sought out by the Light. And this Light does not seep into the dark, gently shying it away. This Light shatters it. It eliminates the blackness; slays the reasons behind it. It burns away any remnants of the prison in which I bound myself. It encircles me so that I am untouchable by any of my former assailants. It transforms my very being so that I stand now, fully enveloped in this Light. It radiates new life; within me It is luminous!

So to say that I am "one of those" is quite right. I am. And so thankful to be! I am a child of Light; as much in that Light as It is in me. I strive to shine brightly amongst the blackness of a fallen world. Because I have more than seen the darkness; I was with the darkness. And having battled the dark on my own, having lost to it over and over again, I can only plead ~ turn around. Let the Light in. It is your only hope. It is my every hope. There is no situation, no internal blackness that is too much. This Light is the truth; and the only Way.

Let the Light in; let It guide you, strengthen you, comfort you. Shine among the stars, though you are brighter by far!