Thursday, February 10, 2011

One Hot Mama!

Thanking God When You're a Basket Case 
PART 1 CONT'D:    
A Tisket, a Tasket, What's in Your Basket?

Being a HOT Woman (or Man!)

Yes, this is really is me and a close friend.  (I'm in the yellow.) Why do you ask?

Several years ago, a young friend who worked with a Christian student group at the University of Houston called to ask if I would come and speak to their group.  He said their program committee had come up with several topics to be parceled out among several speakers over the coming months but that he had saved one in particular that he thought would be especially perfect for me to take on: Body image.

Say wha'?  (Yeah, that's what I thought, too!)

I grinned later, though, and told the group I ended up speaking to that my sweet friend, Matt's, reasoning must've been that anyone as old as I am and as . . . umm, fluffy . . . but who still thinks she's so F-I-I-I-I-I-I-NE must certainly have something to say on the subject! 

We all had a good laugh, but it did get me thinking about what it might really mean to be a HOT woman (or man) who follows Jesus.  Here are some conclusions I came to.  To be HOT means that I am 

                     Owned and operated by God
                             Tailor-made and designed with a purpose

And just what exactly does that mean and why is it important?  (And, trust me, it IS!)

Your first thought might be, "Me? Holy?"  Well, yeah; that is, after all, exactly what God has called us to. And when we recognize that God has called us, through Christ, to holiness – to be set apart for Himself – then we understand that we are going to think differently than the world around us thinks. In fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be! (After all, Jesus called us to go into the world but not to be part of it.) God’s ways are not like man’s ways, so the closer we get to being like our Father, the more our ways are not going to be like the world’s ways, and we have to expect that that’s going to feel a little uncomfortable sometimes. (Knowing that ahead of time helps.)

There’s a song I love that says, “In his hands, there’s only safety . . . nothing there can touch me except Him.”
When we understand that, as His, we have chosen to be owned and operated by God, we can rest in the absolute assurance that we are held securely by the Lord of the Universe Who loves us so much that He gave sent His Son to come to earth to live as one of us so that He might then die for us to pay the penalty of sin.  He then raised that Son from the grave so that we, too, might have life in Him!  (And life to the very fullest -- I love that part!) As His children, when we then choose to allow Him to work through us -- to fill us with His Spirit so that He can operate through us, just as a hand fills an empty glove and operates inside of it and through it, we are set free from the fears that might otherwise keep us from being the believers we’ve been called to be. We know that it is He Who is at work in us and not our own selves. Now, THAT is freeing!

Learning to embrace the man or woman God designed us to be – flaws and all – is one of the hardest things for us to do, but that's exactly what it means to know that we have been tailor-made and designed for a purpose.  Unless we choose to walk in that truth, our human nature will always want to be more attractive, more successful, more
talented . . . the list could go on and on. But the bottom line is that we will never run our own race as long as we allow our pace to be slowed by focusing on the other runners around us. Hebrews 12:1 says, “. . . let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us [italics mine].” (Note: We are not called to run someone else’s race!) 

Paul also writes, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil. 3:12b) and, “For we are
God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). See! Each of us was created for a purpose! But we will never fulfill that purpose until we embrace the manner in which we were individually, uniquely designed to fulfill that purpose, nor will we fulfill that purpose as long as our plans are more important than God’s plans.  (OUCH!  That hurts me, and I wrote it!)

Whew!  That's a lot of stuff I've just thrown at you, so stop, take a breath, and take time to reread and digest all of that food for thought.  And while you're chewing on some of that, I'm going to shut this down for now and head home to Casa St. Michael.  (I'm finishing this up at my School House computer.)

I'll add some more on to this in a couple of days . . . meanwhile, don't hesitate to let me know if I'm giving you too much at one time.  (I am at your service!)  And, remember, if all else fails, know that you are one HOT mama! (Or Daddy!)

Grins and blessings,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The "ME" in Our Baskets

Thanking God When You're a Basket Case 
PART 1 CONT'D:    
A Tisket, a Tasket, What's in Your Basket?

The "ME" in Our Baskets

Years ago, one evening in the middle of a Bible study I was teaching on Psalm 31 (do not stick your finger down your throat -- I promise, it had a different slant that what you're probably thinking right now), I was introducing the concept that some psychologists refer to as "the four basic temperaments" -- the choleric, the sanguine, the melancholy, and the phlegmatic temperaments -- and discussing the part our individual temperaments play in shaping who we are. With no warning other than her previously pursed lips and a few almost imperceptible head shakes, one young woman who had so far remained silent, could suddenly hold back no longer: 

"This is all wrong! This is all wrong!" she erupted, eyes flashing passionately and cheeks flushing.  "This is all just too focused on our selves . . . we need to look at Jesus -- we should only be looking at Jesus -- He should be our only focus!"  

And with that, she sprang from her chair and bolted out the door, never to return.

I have no idea what else might have been going on with that young woman, but I so wished she had stayed long enough to let me explain my reasoning for taking time to look at ourselves and to examine how God designed each of us, individually.

When Jesus was asked the question, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22:36), He responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5:

"Love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul, (emphasis, mine)
with all your strength,
and with all your mind."

Most of us understand loving God with our emotional being, our physical body, and with our thought life (our heart, strength, and mind, respectively), but that soul part is sometimes a little blurry.  (We often confuse it with our spirit.)  What part of us, exactly, is the soul?  

An unknown writer once described the soul as "what one is to oneself, [as opposed to] what one appears to be to one's observers."

The soul, as derived from the Hebrew word, nephesh, or the Greek, psuche, is essentially the essence of who we are as created beings -- our innermost self -- that basic "ME," for the purpose of this study, that's in each of our baskets.  If we are to truly love God with all of our soul -- with every fiber of our being -- then we need to know who we are, don't you think?  Not who the world says we are, but who we truly are.

Knowing who we are is not as easy as it sounds.  We live in a society that is continually trying to convince us that we are defined based on any number of superficial values:  Our appearance, our income, our age, etc.  (Heck, I once figured that seeing as I am overweight, over fifty, overworked and underpaid, in our culture, I'm pretty near worthless!)  

Some of the Things Notched Into 
The Measuring Stick 
  • How we look
  • How we dress
  • Our age
  • Where we live
  • Where we go to church
  • Where we work
  • If we work
  • Our education level
  • Our marital status
  • Our children
  • Our lack of children
  • Our titles 
  • Who we know
  • How busy we are (this is a biggie in some churches)

And the list could go on and on, but you get the idea, I'm sure.

Sometimes the voices of our culture -- the ones with the measuring tapes -- are so loud that we can hardly hear ourselves think -- even, sadly, sometimes within the church.  And if we're not careful, we buy into the standards of the world's system of assessment.  We begin to look at ourselves in ways that God never intended -- we begin to measure our inner selves -- who we are -- based on outer criteria. (Something our Father, Who is crazy about us, never intended us to do!)

If we fall into the trap of thinking we are what we look like, what we have, or what we don't have, etc., then our view of ourselves becomes skewed.  And here's the danger, sistas,  when our view of who we are -- our "ME" -- becomes skewed, everything else becomes out of balance, as well. (Been there, got the T-shirt.)

Thankfully, as believing women, we do not have to stay trapped in that kind of thinking.  In fact, our brother, Paul, in his letter to the Romans (12:2) tells us outright that we are not to buy into the world's pattern of thinking.  As followers of Christ, we have access to truth that sets us free from that kind of thinking if we choose to walk in that truth. 

And how do we do that?  How do we walk in God's truth?

First, we have to find out what God's truth is!

Paul tells us that we are transformed by the "renewing of our mind[s]," and one of the steps we can take to renew our minds is to focus on the truth of God, as found in His Word.  Just look at some of the truths we can find in God's Word regarding how we should view ourselves (and others):

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart."

1 SAMUEL 16:7b

"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view [not even ourselves, sistas!] . . . if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 CORINTHIANS 5:16a, 17

"For we are God's workmanship . . . "

And that's just a start!

For now, think about those things you've let define who you are.  If they're on any other list but God's, then you've got some mind-transforming to let the Spirit do.  Next post, we'll talk more about how to do that, but here's a hint:  It all has to do with realizing that we are . . . are you ready?  HOT women.  Yup, you heard me: HOT women.  (But, like my Proverbs 31 study, it's not what you think, so stay tuned!)

Okay, it's late, and this fine, HOT woman is off to bed . . . 
Until next post,
Grins and clutches to my (spiritual) bosom,


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bible Study Gone Green

Texas Preacher Woman, circa 2005
I miss preaching.

I even miss pastoring.  (Which is really kind of a miraculous statement, considering that I once told God I'd preach for Him all He wanted but that I nevah wanted to be a pastor.  Didn't feel it was my calling.  Too messy.  He laughed.  And then went on to call me to plant a church.  And pastor it. )

Our tiny congregation of Jesus seekers and Jesus followers met smack-dab in the middle of the low-income housing complex where most of our folks lived.  When the complex went into bankruptcy, the California-based bank that took over the property wanted no part of a church's being on the premises and gave us roughly a month to pack up, move out, and close the doors.  Though we banged on the portals of a number of other area venues, not even a window opened, and God wrapped His arms around us as we mourned the end of that ministry as we had known it.  Most of us stay in touch through phone calls, the Internet, occasional get-togethers, and some of us still see one another at the Big Church (our church plant's sponsor), and, for the most part, God has given each of us new work to do in other areas.  Still, I miss it at times.  Very much so.

Anyways, I say all that just for background's sake so you'll understand why I say that I miss preaching.  It's one of my gifts.  I am blessed to be called to lead women's retreats from time-to-time (something I LOVE to do) or to teach a Bible study once in a while, but, for the most part, I know that, at least for now, I am called to other things in my current day-to-day life.  Still, I often miss the challenge and excitement of researching and digging into Scripture that go with preparing a weekly message. I miss the feedback one gets when sharing insights from God's Word. (Ours was a very, shall we say interactive service -- feedback was usually immediate, and it made for a lively time of worship!)  

I love rambling on this blog for all of those reasons above, but, obviously, from the infrequency of posts since the school year started, time remains an issue for me.  (I'm a slooooow writer; thus one of the many reasons I did not go into print journalism.) This afternoon, though, while researching some ideas for an upcoming Bible study lesson, I ran across some things I wrote a few years back and thought, why not share these?  (Hey, aren't we all being encouraged to recycle these days?  We can think of this as Bible Study Gone Green and all feel kinda hip about it.)

For some reason I just felt drawn to start with Thanking God When You're a Basket Case.  Here are a few thoughts from the series to get us started:

 Thanking God When You're a Basket Case

 Part 1: A Tisket, A Tasket, 
What's in Your Basket?

A basket case?  Who, me?  

Well, maybe not at this moment, but, c'mon, we've all been there at one time or another.  (Either that or, like Miriam's baby brother, our basket is simply floating down a river called DeNial . . . sorry, couldn't resist.  I am, after all, the woman who entitled Part 1, "A Tisket, A Tasket . . . "   although in my defense, the folks over sixty-five loved that subtitle, and it did fit with a particular theme at the time . . . ahh, I digress.)  

Life is full of baskets, waiting to hold "cases."  That's just the way it is.  (I once said to a sister-friend of mine during a particularly hectic time, "When life gets back to normal, I'm going to . . . ", to which she replied, "Pamm, in a fallen world, this is normal; smooth waters in a fallen world are not the norm."  And she was right.)

So, if we're all destined to be basket cases, at least once in a while, how do we handle being a basket case when the waters get rough?  Obviously, in the interest of self-preservation, we grab at the nearest life jacket, pull the lid down over our heads in our baskets, and pray that the raft hurtling us toward the white waters will carry us safely through them.  But, practically speaking, what does that mean?  What does that look like?

Several years ago, St. Michael and I had a chance to raft a short distance down Alaska's Mendenhall Glacier. Before our guide allowed us to step even one little toe into our raft, though, we were given some basic information designed to help up best navigate the waters ahead. (We also had to put on special waterproof jumpsuits and life jackets.  St. Michael look like quite the adventurer; I looked like a giant, orange, stuffed sausage.  If I went overboard, there were absolutely no worries about my not being spotted in the water. I don't know that anyone could've gotten me back up into the raft, but I'm confident they could've tied me to the back of the raft and drug me to shore.)  

Here are some basic premises for navigating this study:
We can always trace being a basket case back to what's in our basket.  Each of us has three "basics" in our basket:
  • Our "ME"                                                                        Who we are as individuals -- spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally 
  • Our relationships                                                             The people with whom we share our lives -- our family, our friends, our co-workers 
  • Our circustances                                                       What's going on in our lives -- day-to-day happenings and long-term events that will shape our lives for years to come 

NOTE:  The wise woman (and man) knows not only what's in her basket but Who holds her basket. 
Regardless of what's in our baskets, 
we can trust in the following:

" . . . by Him all things were created; visible and invisible,
   whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; 
all things were created by Him and for Him.
He is before all things, 
and in Him all things hold together."

1 COLOSSIANS 1:16-17

. . . even when we're a basket case. 

In the next several posts, we'll examine the "ME" in our baskets and what our "ME" has to do with thanking God when when we're a basket case.

Grins and blessings!