Fear Looks Like Freedom

 

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Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis

I haven’t written on my blog for a long time (since the end of January I believe). In writer’s time, that’s a very long (nigh unacceptable) time. To be honest, I haven’t been inspired to write or if I have there’s always this whiny voice telling me that it’s already been said better or it’s not original at all. I try too hard. I do. I really do. Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m a perfectionist. I hate admitting that. Excelling and putting your heart into something is one thing and totally okay. But for me ::running hands through hair:: I crave perfection and praise. Why? Because, I want it to be about me. I want to be “worshipped,” in essence.

Bottom-line: Pride. Fear of man. It’s poison. Fear is the opposite of love, you know, not hate. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). Fear is selfish. Love is selfless. I’m seeking to be perfect in man’s eyes because I fear their disapproval, rejection, disappointment and anger. I’ve been scarred by my fear, because it has led me down paths in life and relationships that have tried to suck the love and joy and freedom out of my soul. I took that path because I deceived myself. Fear that looked like freedom. Is this me beating myself up? Maybe. Self pity? No. Revelation? Yes.

But looking back and beating myself up over my past sin doesn’t do any good. It’s like Christian from John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” in the Slough of Despond, just wading in it until he realized he needed saving, and Help came. Jesus already covered all those detestable sins on the cross. Grace. Love. Mercy. Freedom. I was made perfect through His perfection. I should seek His perfection (holiness), not my own (Matt. 4:48)

How do I begin to seek His perfection? Stop caring what others think? No. Indifference? No. Let’s look to Jesus here. Did He care what others thought? No, He didn’t, but he still showed love, consideration, gave rebuke when needed, and above all, He was more concerned with how He represented His heavenly Father. So, it’s about setting your priorities straight and having your perspective on the eternal, not the temporary praise and love of man (you know I mean, “people” when I say “man,” right? Ok, just checking). Do I need man’s approval? No, but yeah, it’s really a wonderful thing to have, if you have your heart set to thank God for giving you that little joy.

I believe if I desire first and foremost God’s approval, and live my life accordingly, then all the rest will grow unimportant, but still be welcomed. There’s nothing wrong with approval and love.

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our lives. – C.S. Lewis

God wired us to love and to be loved; to serve and be served; to encourage and be encouraged. Some seasons may feel like you’re the only one giving it their all, which may or may not be the case. God sees and knows, and perhaps that’s Him reminding you of where you’re seeking approval, joy, love, freedom and affirmation.

Are these things wicked to desire from others? Absolutely not. But to love them more than God, is sinful indeed.

God cannot gives us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. – C.S. Lewis

Keep examining your heart, and please, call me out if you see me fail and stumble of the path. Oh, we humans. God is awesome in the fact that He didn’t have us be alone in our struggles.

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What Does God’s Sovereignty Mean to You?

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“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

As some of you know, the post before this one was about Christmas, a poem, and how do we deal with the loss of the children and teachers in the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

My dad read my post, and replied. It felt very much like a “letter to the editor” and complemented and shed further light to what I said in my previous post. He talks about the hope we have in Christ and how this enables us to comfort others. The only thing I’d like to help clarify is that when he says “not by speaking theology or doctrine to them,” and then goes on in the next graph to say how we still proclaim Christ, is not a contradiction. I think he’s touching on the importance of not sounding trite or doing as James 2:15-17 says about just sounding spiritual, but not meeting the person’s needs.

The reply

Thank you for your timely and sensitive post. There is so much pain and suffering in our world, some obvious, some concealed behind a smile. God is sovereign, but this is only good news because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. God’s sovereignty is not good news to those who do not believe, nor, does it necessarily or immediately sound like good news to someone who has suffered a tragic loss. It may. It may not.

God did not make us human (originally) so that we might experience grief, but that we might know joy forever in His presence. Comforting those who are sorrowing – I mean really comforting them, not by speaking theology or doctrine to them and wishing them well – requires great love and great wisdom and great compassion, at least. I think this is true whether it is a believer or non-believer.

Please, please let us tell them again and again about Jesus, the one who suffered and died and was raised from the dead. Let us speak incessantly of the Savior who is seated at God’s right hand, who is able to save to the uttermost, who ever lives to make intercession for us. Let us speak of Him who ordained all our days before there was one of them, in whose hand we are kept until that great day when He returns to judge the living and the dead. Let us speak of Him who loves us with such blazing, unquenchable intensity that He will not rest until we stand before Him holy and blameless. Let us take heed to His word that in this world we have tribulation – death, violence, perversity, greed, corruption, injustice, war and much more – so that we cease trying to make this world a private heaven. Finally, let us point always to the glory that shall be, that is laid up for those who love God and are called by Him. Paul says, “For I consider that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us. This is being “spiritually minded.” So must we strive to be while we point others to the same hope that nourishes and sustains our own soul.

How my heart breaks for the parents and grandparents of the slain little ones! But, there is no fixing it with words or otherwise. There is Christ. There is grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness and hope, a living hope in Him. There is incomprehensible love, unknowable apart from grace because of its unsearchable magnitude. There is the promise of eternally satisfying, joy-producing good from all manner of evil. There is resurrection, glory and immortality promised to all who believe in Jesus. But, the fullness awaits His return. Until then, how utterly crucial it is that we strive to display the truth of our profession of Christ in lives of sacrificial, unfeigned love for each other and our neighbor, so that when the next tragedy comes those who are impacted will be more willing perhaps to hear about our Jesus in whom we have hoped.

The truth we celebrate during Christmas – God was manifested in the flesh – is for innumerable reasons the inexhaustible, unshakable, unchanging ground of our rejoicing right now, even in a world like ours filled with such heart-rending sorrow, brokenness and death, so much death. Against this black background the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ shines more magnificently bright. Wouldn’t you agree?

So, we grieve and it is right to do so. But, we also rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Merry Christmas! Not the superficial merriment of the profane secular Christmas, but that deep, soul-satisfying, heart-consoling, impregnable-to-tragedy merriment that comes from knowing Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Why We Can Have Christmas Cheer Amidst Loss

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I’ve been thinking about writing this post and what I would write for this entire week. It all started when I heard Casting Crowns’ rendition of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” on Pandora (Be sure to check it out! Video posted at the bottom of this post).

Given today’s (it was the same day when I started this post) events with the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut, I thought it was only fitting to dedicate this little, measly as it is, post to those families who will be missing a little one around their tree this Christmas. I can’t even fathom that pain, even as tears stream down my cheeks.

“I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” is not among the popular Christmas carols/songs. I only heard of it as a child because the pastor, God used to lead my dad to Christ, loved it – his favorite carol. In fact, if you ever have heard this song, you may not be familiar with the story behind it. As both a lover of writing and history, I love finding what inspired people’s creations. For me, these little additions/discoveries are more exciting than a kid whose eyes light up upon opening a gift on Christmas morning.

This song was originally a poem, written on Christmas Day, 1863, by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His son, Charles, joined the Union cause in the Civil War, against his father’s wishes. Longfellow was informed his son was severely wounded in November. That, along with the recent death of his wife in an accidental fire, inspired this poem and words:

…in despair I bowed my head. There is no peace on earth I said.

For hate is strong and mocks the song…

But then, through his pain, he rightly rejoices and see the sovereignty of God as his poem ends in hope:

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.

The wrong shall fail, the right prevail…

I’d like to refer to an article by Barnabas Piper, John Piper’s son, titled The tension between “God is good” and “It shouldn’t be this way” 

How are we to respond when we hear tragic news or when we experience something devastating?…It is a mix of “Why?” and “This shouldn’t have happened!” But for many of us, myself included, theology often catches up to instinct and says “Yeah, but God is sovereign” as if this is more true than out first reaction. This theological realization stands in direct opposition to the emotional response. Are we sit back and think that all is ok, then?

In these times of wracking grief it is the reality of God’s sovereignty that keeps us sane, keeps us afloat in our faith. But it is the grief itself that keeps us human and humane. These two realities exist in an inexplicable, symbiotic tension. Without knowledge of God’s goodness and sovereignty we risk a spiral of hopeless insanity. Without the reality of it-should-not-be-like-this grief we risk losing all connection to what God made us as human beings. With an over-emphasis on sovereignty we become emotionally retarded as we lose the ability to feel and acknowledge real human experience. With an over-emphasis on the emotion, the grief, we wallow in a La Brea tar pit of godless grief.

Books: A Gift That Keeps on Giving

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“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of books. So much so, my parents would ban reading after 9 0′ clock at night. But, my little rebel heart found ways around that rule. No reading after certain hours, just meant a little flashlight and book under the covers. I’d try not to get so lost in the book in order to be alert to any movement towards or outside my door. Not saying this was a fool-proof plan…

My first “big girl” book, with chapters in it, was Nancy Drew “Skeleton in the Closet” by Carolyn Keene. It was my mom’s book as a girl. Yes, I ended up asking for the whole set, and accumulated it over several birthdays and Christmases. I’m really glad I had a brother who loved to read as much as I did. No, he did NOT read Nancy Drew, for the record.

As a child, and even now as an adult, I’m drawn to books of historical fiction, intrigue, fiction, and yes….a little romance for the romantic in me. I think reading books and authors like C.S. Lewis and his “The Chronicles of Narnia,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” and Jane Austen (among many others), shaped my love for words and writing.

Now, as an adult, I have to be even more intentional with my reading. Often, I’m juggling two or three books at a time. Through college, and even now, I struggle at making time to read. I am often surprised to learn how many people really don’t like to read. Reading does wondrous things for your vocabulary, your imagination and for your education!!

I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook. A friend had shared the link on her profile. It’s titled: How to Raise Boys Who Read. The writer shares some great insight just about reading and education in general.

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, she quotes him in this article:

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised “so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education.”

“Plato before him,” writes C. S. Lewis, “had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful.”

WHAM! This is so true about myself. Anything good or worthwhile usually doesn’t mean it will be the easiest, most natural thing or be on the path of least resistance.

 

Traffic Thoughts

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Today was my typical weekday commute of fighting traffic all the way to work. I was on Dallas North Tollway driving along, and I was keeping distance between me and the car ahead of me, but still going over the speed limit. The Jeep behind me got impatient and moved into the lane next to me and pulled alongside me, glaring at me in annoyance and his face twisted in anger. I was incredulous that he was painting me as the “mean bad guy.” His lane suddenly slowed and he was soon out of my sight. I shook my head and said aloud to myself, “Dude, I’m actually helping us both by keeping enough distance between me and the car ahead so that if I had to slam on my brakes, you won’t plow into me.”

Then I thought how we, as short-sighted humans with selfish tendencies, often don’t see love as love, but as a hindrance or cruelty. It reminded me of how this is how we can view what the Lord does at times. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). We see something that looks “mean” or “bad,” but He’s really loving us, growing us, and being gracious.

Once Upon A Time

I may be accused of bending too far over in this post, but I’m a romantic at heart, plus I love analogies that can be used to point us to our condition and who we’d be apart from Christ.

That being said, I’ve recently become a big fan of the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” I only heard of its existence within the past few months, thanks to my mom. Basically, it’s about all the fairy tale characters you read about and saw in movies as a child, but they all interact with and live in the same land. The evil queen (from “Snow White”) terrorizes them, but there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. She seeks vengeance by putting a curse on them, which sends them to our world; a town named Storybrooke. There they are given false memories and don’t remember their world or real past (except of the evil queen, who keeps her memory and is the mayor). Snow White and Prince Charming have a baby girl, Emma, right as the curse is arriving. They stick her in this magical wardrobe, which will only transport one person to our world. They believed that on her 28th birthday, she would return and save them from this curse.

There’s a lot of actors in it (Ginnifer Goodwin, included) that I really like, and it’s always cool and soothing to see so many familiar faces in one TV series. Plus, who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? The way their stories intertwine is so intriguing and makes for a suspenseful, fun watch.

As I quickly made my way through the whole first season, my overactive mind kept finding these analogies within the stories to us and our relationship to God, and His plan for us. Obviously the curse the evil queen cast on all the fairy tale characters that plucked them out of their world and made them forget who they were, reminded me of because of sin were were cast out of the Garden of Eden and we were blind to our need to salvation. But because our Savior, Jesus Christ came and lived the perfect live and died the perfect death (for our sins), and because God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, He has allowed the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, so that we are no longer under the curse, but are free from it; although we are trapped in these bodies and in this world until Christ comes again, as He has promised. And much how Charming and Snow sacrificed raising their baby and put her in an enchanted tree wardrobe, God sacrificed His only Son by allowing Him to die on the cross in order to save and reconcile us to Him. Of course, Snow and Charming didn’t have to let their baby die, and none of these fairy tale analogies carry any weight in comparison to what God in Christ has done. I just find it fascinating and beautiful when secular stuff still points back to a higher power, and our need for a savior.

Despite All Odds, Change Is Possible

Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)

Via John Piper: Christianity means change is possible. Deep, fundamental change. It is possible to become tenderhearted when once you were callous and insensitive. It is possible to stop being dominated by bitterness and anger. It is possible to become a loving person no matter what your background has been.

The Bible assumes that God is the decisive factor in making us what we should be. With wonderful bluntness, the Bible says, “Put away malice and be tenderhearted.” It does not say, “If you can…” Or: “If your parents were tender-hearted to you…” Or: “If you weren’t terribly wronged…” It says, “Be tender-hearted.”

This is wonderfully freeing. It frees us from the terrible fatalism that says change is impossible for me. It frees me from mechanistic views that make my background my destiny.

And God’s commands always come with freeing, life-changing truth to believe. For example,

  1. God adopted us as his children. We have a new Father and a new family. This breaks the fatalistic forces of our “family-of-origin.” “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for one is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).
  2. God loves us as his children. We are “loved children.” The command to imitate the love of God does not hang in the air, it comes with power: “Be imitators of God as loved children .” “Love!” is the command andbeing loved is the power.
  3. God has forgiven us in Christ. Be tender-hearted and forgiving just as God in Christ forgave you. What God did is power to change. The command to be tender-hearted has more to do with what God did for you than what your mother did to you. This kind of command means you can change.
  4. Christ loved you and gave himself up for you. “Walk in love just as Christ loved you.” The command comes with life-changing truth. “Christ loved you.” At the moment when there is a chance to love and some voice says, “You are not a loving person,” you can say, “Christ’s love for me makes me a new kind of person. His command to love is just as surely possible for me as his promise of love is true for me.

All God’s Commands Are Possible with God