Sunday, October 1, 2017

For Me

Have you ever struggled with sin?  Ever found it difficult to stop behaving in a certain way that you knew wasn't good for you? Perhaps you drink too much and want to stop, but find yourself still pouring that glass at the end of the day. Maybe it's a sexual behavior and you're finding pleasure in promiscuity only to have it give way to feelings of guilt and shame when it's over.  Pornography? You want to stop watching, but the strength of what you see pulls you in one more time.  Addicted to stealing? The rush you get is one from which you want to be free, but you haven't been able to break that chain.  We've all got something and from mid-2015 to January of this year when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I  experienced self-inflicted heartache and struggle on an unprecedented level.  Like Jacob, who wrestled with God (Genesis 32:22-32), I regularly fought with God, myself, and others, and like Jonah, who ran from the call of God (Jonah 1:3), I, likewise, fled the Lord's summons.  I stepped deep into pits of my own sin and rebellion, and I watched as my family unit disintegrated under the tumultuous battle between good and evil, righteousness and wickedness.  Recently, however, I have come to realize that despite the chaos and storms raging around and within, even when I am against me, God is still always for me (Romans 8:31).

Friday, September 1, 2017

It Takes the Rain

Back in January, I was still working in Orange County so the commute home always took me on the I-57 North, which, if you're familiar with Southern California freeways, then you know that this one takes you through some small rolling hills before hitting the I-10. I drove through these peaks daily, but rarely noticed the beauty they offer until after a week or so of regular rainfall.  Instead, I mostly grumbled about having to drive in the downpour (pictured below) and sit in bumper to bumper traffic.  I dislike driving in wet conditions as it is, and most residents of the state will readily admit to being spoiled by the usually sunny conditions, so when our rainy season hits, people nearly lose their minds.  It's as if we all forget how to drive when water strikes.  Our interstates are jammed packed already without precipitation, but throw a storm into the mix and it looks like what L.A. dubbed "Carmageddon" in 2011 when the I-405 temporarily shut down.  Simply put, many of us, while keenly aware of the need for it, don't like the rain, at least not while driving.  On January, 12, however, I was heading home through the hills after the week of storms had subsided and I was caught off guard by how beautifully green the landscape looked as I passed by (see pictures below).  It was as if I was seeing everything for the first time.  Had it always looked so colorfully vibrant and just missed my attention or was there really a difference? There was just something deeper and richer about the shade of green than what it had been before the week of storms, and it wasn't long after that when I realized the sweet parallels in the spiritual realm - To see clearly, sometimes it takes the rain.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Choose Wisely

It's okay I felt His Spirit say.  After what I had just done, it seemed incomprehensible that His message to me would be one of consolation. I had just done the unthinkable, after all.  In a single moment I made the very mistake I had unknowingly been planning to make all along. The waves of forbidden desire finally emerged from my mind's shadow and came crashing into the shoreline of my moral compass, or as Freud would call it, my superego.  The gratification and pleasure I derived from it all slowly faded into a black hole of guilt and shame, despair and confusion. How could I have let this happen? I silently and anxiously questioned as I fought back the tears that tried to fall. I was horrified to have come face to face with the sinfulness and depth of evil in my own heart. You see, we rarely just make a bad decision or engage in a particular mistake on the spur of the moment. Before there's action, there was thought.  Contemplation. Consideration.   We entertained the idea of the sin before we acted out the crime.  You didn't just kill that person.  A thought occurred before the trigger was pulled.  Even in the most instantaneous and reflexive self-defense response, the thought preceded the pulled trigger.  You didn't just fall into bed with the attractive co-worker.  You first thought it through and imagined what it would be like.  Your nose didn't just accidentally snort the line of cocaine.  Your mind ingested it before your body ever did.  You simply followed the thought trail that led you to it.  The wisdom in Proverbs 4:23 that says "carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life" is undeniable for it is in our thoughts that sin is first conceived.  In my own scenario, instead of starving those ruminations, I fed them daily over a period of months. The next step was, inevitably, a painful one. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fervent - A Book Review

Fervent – A Book Review

Broken.  Disheveled.  Discouraged.  Barely clinging to hope.  Those are the words that encapsulate where I found myself as I picked up Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent.  I felt broken by the looming threat of marital dissolution.  Earlier in 2015, my husband and I separated and I found myself contemplating divorce as the year neared its cyclic close.  I looked in the mirror and I was emotionally and spiritually disheveled from the harsh beating inflicted by gusty winds of uncertainty and icy storms of confusion.  Discouragement over the future lurked along my horizon and I was barely clinging to hope. I sat alone in my small, one bedroom apartment and, through tears, opened the pages of one of the most life changing books I’ve read. Ever.

Immediately, I was incited against the dark forces that had held me captive for the last year.  Things about myself that I had forgotten began to resurface in my memories.  New words emerged.  Called.  Equipped.  Armed.  Empowered.  Only moments into the pages, a shift began to occur in my thinking and suddenly, I felt a surge of strength.  Of passion.  Of purpose.  Of anger.  How dare the enemy aim to rob me of not only my identity in Christ, but also all of those things for which Christ died on my behalf.  To hell with you, devil, became the new message ringing in my ears as I began to take captive every defeating and disheartening thought that had occupied my mind prior to opening the Spirit saturated pages of Shirer’s book.  As the words took root in my heart, I began to see that this was no ordinary volume.  It wasn’t written for the sweet child who prays innocently for a piece of candy after dinner.  Neither was it addressed to the prideful Pharisee type who offers up prayers of gratitude that he’s not like others.  It wasn’t even written to the one who already has a strong and faithful prayer life.  No, it was written to the worn out, desperate woman who’s on the edge of the seat of despair.  To the one who is about to give up.  To her who is considering quitting.  It was written to the defeated, the hopeless, and discouraged.  It was written to me.  So if that’s also you…if you’ve lost your fight, forgotten your position of victory, or feel your candle is about to burn out, allow me to recommend Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent. Reading it will leave you changed.  Hungry for victory. Angry over the enemy’s lies.  Fervent in prayer. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Perfectly Imperfect

I am free from the bondage of "can" and "cannot"...I have now entered into a realm of "want" and "do not want".. which makes choosing my Father's will far more desirable than it ever was while shackled in the chains of rules and dogmatic thinking.  I understand fully that I don't have to select His plan.  After giving it a go on my own, I've discovered that I want to choose His plan. I am no longer bound by the rigidity of absolutes like "must" and "should," nor does the catastrophizing over mistakes of which I'm accustomed suit me any longer.  Slips and miscalculations will not end me; instead, they will add beautiful and candescent color to my journey's canvas and will serve to grow me.  I am liberated to enter into all of life's activities untamed, wildly curious, and completely free to be me.  Mishaps are not only welcome, they are encouraged because from them, I will learn more reasonably who I am and why I'm here.  So far, I know well only these things:

1. I am not perfect
2. That's okay. 

Next step...

It's Okay

For as long as I can remember, I've been terrified of making mistakes so to rectify the wrong thought patterns I've had towards them, I recently embarked on a journey of embracing them.  Ordinarily this would be healthy and beneficial, but what I've found myself doing goes beyond hugging my errors close and looking for growth opportunities within them; it seems I've been purposing to make them.  I didn't just decide that I would learn from them if I unknowingly made them; I deliberately and voluntarily put myself in situations where it was inevitable that I would make them.  The results? Sleepless nights and irritable bowel syndrome. Don't try this at home.
I'm still working to find my elusive balance and I hope I connect with it soon because the stakes have gotten too high and the internal conflicts are nearly overpowering.  In the last few days especially, it has taken all of my energy just to maintain steady breathing.  In the wake of my latest and greatest misstep yet, I'm discovering the underlying reasons for my recent risky behavior.  It's not that I really want to do the wrong thing...I've simply been testing my Father to find out how He will respond.  Will He yell at me? Beat me down with His wrath? Call me names and send me packing down a path of guilt and shame? Even knowing the Bible as well as I do and after walking with Him for the last eight years, I honestly didn't know.  All of us develop an image or idea of God that is based on something or someone else in our life and until we get to know God for who He actually is, we perceive Him symbolically through the being of another.  Most of us formulate this symbol during childhood, but for others it comes later.  Whenever it arrives, the time will invariably follow when it must be dismantled and reconstructed based on the reality of His true nature.  Here's what I've learned so far:

1. He is not mad at me when I mess up
2. I'm going to make mistakes with or without trying to make them. No need for added effort.
3. When I do make a mistake, He responds with it's okay.  I love you and you are mine.  Call out to me and I will help you work through this. 
4. His response feels so odd. But I like it.  
5. It really is going to be okay. 

Next step...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Confession

I have a confession.  A deep secret boils in the caliginous recesses of my mind, and it lures me and torments me simultaneously.  I long to hold it close for the gratification of my flesh, but I'm even more compelled to let it go in order to protect my spirit.  Never before have I physically felt the war between good and evil raging the way I do now.  In one direction, I hear God gently whisper (I Kings 19:12) return to me (Joel 2:12) and in the other, a seductive voice calls out to me from the darkness that is my shadow. Carl Jung described the allegorical shadow as the "hidden, repressed, for the most part inferior and guilt-laden personality whose ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors and so comprise the whole historical aspect of the unconscious...".  Until recently, I had never fully explored mine, at least not intentionally, and as I have begun to open myself up to its existence, I now know why.  For most of my Christian walk, I've ignored its pull and even denied it, but as Dr. Stephen Diamond said "The shadow is most destructive, insidious and dangerous when habitually repressed...".  This, I know to be true because once the restraint has been lifted, sin will undoubtedly ensue.  More than once lately I have been caught in the snare of my own unconscious turned conscious desires, and like the opening of Pandora's Box, the invitation to the shadow to become center stage can give full vent to the most gruesome consequences.
 What, then shall we say? Should we continue in ignorance of the shadow's urges? No, we should know full well what it wants that we may be prepared to give an answer when the time comes (1 Peter 3:15).  To be clear, the shadow is not to be avoided, but embraced for the purpose of assimilation or integration.  I'm not there yet.  I'm still navigating its depths, trying desperately not to fall completely under.  No matter how badly I misstep, however, and I often do, somehow I know that Genesis 28:15 is true when God says "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go." If that wasn't enough, Isaiah 41:13 says "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." I'm not getting it right everyday, but when it's all said and done, Proverbs 19:21 says that "many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails." This, too, I know to be true and as I continue on this journey of exploration and deeper self awareness as a therapist, I rest on Exodus 14:14 that says I need only be still for "the Lord will fight" for me. What confessions do you have and to what or whom does your shadow cry out? Don't run from it, engage to understand it and let God help you overcome it. (Romans 8:37).