Mary Was My Age

free image cross_jesus_wood

Last night we saw a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was seen through the eyes of several witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actress, playing the part of Mary, stated she was “old.” Now I know old is a relative term, but it didn’t sit well with me. So I started doing the math.

Tradition states in Biblical times a Jewish girl could be betrothed as young as age 10 or 12. We do not know how old Mary was during her engagement to Joseph, pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus; but, based on common knowledge of the culture at the time, we could guess somewhere between 10 and 16.  What we do know is Jesus was crucified when he was 33. So I added 14 (possible age of Mary at Jesus’ birth) and 33 (Jesus’ age at time of death) and got 47. 47! That’s my age! (That’s NOT old!) But that’s not my point.

When I started thinking of that blessed mother as someone my age, something clicked. There was Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. My heart sunk. For Mary, He wasn’t only (as if Jesus could be described as “only” anything) the Messiah; He was the baby she had nursed and the child she had raised.

What if that were my son on the cross? The pain would be excruciating.

I wonder if Mary clung to the hope she had that Sunday was coming. That Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the hope for the world. That all Gabriel and Jesus had told her would come to pass.

As I walk through trials and hurts of life, I cling to the hope I have.

It may be Friday . . . but Sunday’s a comin’!

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Back-out Barbie Battles Princess Barb

Identity_crisis

My back went out.

That four-word sentence contains much meaning and significance.

I struggled with chronic back pain for nine years. Then in March 2011 I underwent back surgery. Until recently I would have said (and might still say) I was miraculously healed. I was the poster child for this type of surgery.

So three weeks ago, when I felt a familiar painful pull in my lower back, old emotions and fears rushed back as reality soaked in. Hence, my original statement that much meaning and significance are wrapped up in the short sentence, “My back went out.”

I am uncertain how this will play out. I could be back to “normal” in a month or two.

Or not.

My mind is reeling with questions, my body has a life of its own, and my emotions are out of control. In the midst of this roller coaster, it has been difficult to pinpoint what is so bothersome—maybe because there are so many layers to unravel.

However, I managed to identify one worry: I don’t want to be “that person.” You know, the person who always talks about some issue or ailment he/she has.

“Nice to meet you. I’m Back-out Barbie. I have back problems.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t pick that up. I’m Back-out Barbie, and I have back issues.”

“Could you hand that to me? I’m Back-out Barbie, and my back isn’t cooperating today.”

“My children are unloading my grocery cart for me because I’m Back-out Barbie, and I can’t bend over.”

I don’t want people to whisper, “There goes Back-out Barbie. She’s got a bad back, and her husband and children take care of her.”

Back-out Barbie feels guilt, self-pity, and disappointment.

On the contrary, Princess Barb walks in her identity as a child of God. She knows her hope is in Christ and this world is not her home. Princess Barb immerses herself in her Father’s love and acceptance and, consequently, reflects His love and acceptance to others. They say, “There goes Princess Barb. She looks so much like her heavenly Father. Even in times of distress she smiles and radiates His love.”

The vigorous battle between Back-out Barbie and Princess Barb continues. I don’t know who will emerge moment to moment.

But I’m certain who wins in the end.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Phil. 3:20-21

Are you having an identity crisis?

What false identity are you battling?

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

A friend of mine tragically lost her four-year-old niece a few days ago. When I first learned of the calamity, my heart sunk, grief rose, and tears flowed. No four-year-old should die.

I have never met the parents of this precious child, but as I processed the information and my emotions started to surge, I thought, “I wish there were some way I could transfer some of this young mother’s anguish to myself, to siphon some of the heartache.” If only hearing of the death of this beautiful girl moves me so profoundly, how extensive is the pain and sorrow of her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles?

full of grief

Yes, I wish pain, grief, and sorrow could be measured like we measure water. And when it was on the brink of overflowing, it could be poured into someone else; thereby reducing the amount of distress felt by the original sufferer.

pouring water

I desperately want to help and at the same time recognize there is not a thing I can do (physically) to ease the discomfort, the agony.

Pain and grief are a part of life. No one can walk through it for someone else. That leaves those of us watching at a loss, feeling inadequate and ill-equipped (which probably explains why I skip out on most funeral services).

I believe God created me with an “extra-sensitive” feelings button. I easily “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). But the mourning feels unproductive and “less than.” If I had a measuring cup that magically reduced the hurting person’s misery by the amount of pain I feel for him/her, I could bear it easier.

shared grielf

But while I own no magic measuring cup, I know of One who can bear the pain—One who has borne the pain. Jesus is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:12).

My sympathetic grief need not be fruitless because I have access to the One with the answers. I have a direct line to the One who heals. I can throw myself at the throne of grace and ask for mercy to be poured out on the victim of grief. I can ask God to be the Vessel in which they pour their aches and pain. I can hope God’s healing will eventually come. I can rest in the promise that His complete healing will eventually come to those in Christ.

This is my prayer for this young couple and family still reeling in shock.

This is my prayer for those of you suffering from loss or unbearable pain.

Triggers, Visions, and A Solid Foundation

A trigger.

The memories came whizzing at me without restraint. Past episodes that hadn’t been brought to the forefront of my mind in months, possibly years, were suddenly vivid and fresh, as if they had happened yesterday.   It’s not a matter of forgiveness; that’s been extended. It’s not a matter of lingering over hurts; the wounds are healed with only scars left behind.

But there are triggers.

And I couldn’t halt the memories that crashed into my present time without permission.

It still confuses me how one can believe her world is stable, built on truth, and that she lives in reality when, in fact, it’s all an illusion—whether created by herself or someone around her. And when the fallacy fades and reality is revealed, the firm ground she thought she was standing on disappears.

I saw myself back then. I envisioned the floor caving underneath of me and falling through the hole while all around me—that which I thought was concrete but in actuality feeble and weak—faded, slowly dissipating into thin air. And the drop was long and took a while. Yet in the end it was God who caught me and carried me until I could stand again—this time on a more solid foundation.

Woman Falling

And I wondered what that drop would look like today if my world again turned out to be an illusion. This time I imagined a short drop, causing only a slight tremor, as I live closer to the solid foundation. The drop would be relatively quick and without much damage. I chuckled at the thought of coming to an abrupt stop as my knees bent to absorb the shock—like jumping out of a window a foot off the ground.

Woman Falling

And I am thankful . . . oh so very thankful my Rock, my Foundation, my Lifeline is not that far away.

Has your world caved underneath you?

Are you far from your Foundation?

Toothaches, Root Canals, and Skewed Reality

Last week I had a root canal. I’ve had a toothache off and on for months. I knew exactly which tooth hurt, the second to the last one on the bottom left (that’s tooth #19 for those of you who count teeth). My local dentist finally sent me to an endodontist (a specialist in root canals).

I explained to the young gal with the endodontic degree (Does she really know how to fix teeth?) how it hurt, when it hurt, and which tooth was the culprit. She listened patiently before telling me she was going to run a few tests to see which tooth was giving me the trouble. I thought this to be an unnecessary step but was in no position to argue. She found, to my astonishment, that the pain was radiating from a different tooth than I believed it to be. (It was tooth #18.) She said that sometimes we “feel the pain forward.” Though I was still skeptical, I chose to believe her because she was the expert performing root canals all day long. So I opened my mouth and let her do her thing.

My perception of my world was not reality. Had I let her “fix” the tooth I thought was the cause of my pain, I would still be in the same situation in which I started—only angrier and with less money in my pocket.

Distorted View

Distorted View

Sometimes, in life, we don’t live in reality. We think our unhappiness (read:pain) comes from a particular event, possibly a spouse leaving or kids misbehaving or a job that doesn’t pay enough. You name it. Maybe you believe that if you were taller, thinner, more creative, drove a better car or lived in a different location you would be happier. We search for the answer to our alleged problem. And when the solution doesn’t work we become frustrated.

Distorted View

Distorted View

To accurately deal with a problem, we must thoroughly understand the truth or reality of it. We must dig to find the true source of our discontentment and unhappiness. As the endodontist did on my teeth, we need to run diagnostic tests. Look at the problem from a different perspective. Ask questions. Ask for advice from a trusted believer.

Run to God. When we ask Him and open our hearts and minds to His wisdom, He will reveal the proper origin of our grief, sadness, or depression. I have found, many times, that instead of outward circumstances, selfishness, a skewed perspective or idolatry is the root cause.

clear view

Clear View

How about you?

Have you ever solved a problem only to find out later your initial diagnosis was incorrect?

A Message That Requires a Response

It’s hard for me to read a book centered on idolatry without food coming to the forefront. I have kneeled at the throne of food on and off for almost thirty years (I know you are thinking I can’t be that old); so I was beyond thrilled to see Kyle Idleman included an entire chapter on food in his book gods at war.

I wrote a blog entitled Food: Lies We Believe and Truth That Sets Us Free for several years. During that time I explored lies we tell ourselves to justify eating improperly and attempted to dispel the lies with biblical truth. So food idolatry is not a new subject for me. Unfortunately, I recently had to confront this ugly god once again. I had allowed it to slither back into my life and needed to face reality. Therefore Idleman’s thoughts on idolatry were timely and required a response.

What I found interesting was the placement of this particular chapter—first in a list of three (the god of food, the god of sex, and the god of entertainment) under the section entitled the temple of pleasure.

Food can be misused or worshiped for multiple reasons: to pacify a talking stomach, to stuff a feeling of rejection, to quiet loathing self-talk, to induce pleasant memories of the past, because it tastes irresistibly good (emphasis on irresistible). The list is endless. Most of these excuses (read: lies we believe) are born from a desire to be comfortable—physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically. A synonym of comfortable is pleased. I think we seek pleasure in order to feel comfortable or comforted. As Idleman points out, there is a reason we call it “comfort food.”

This isn’t the first time God has talked with me about my obsessive need to be comfortable. In general, I do not like to be cold . . . or hot. I don’t want to be wet (unless I’m swimming) or have wind blowing on me. I don’t like to feel restrained or constrained. I don’t want my children to misbehave in public or for someone to pull a prank on me. I don’t like to be thirsty or hungry. And I really don’t want to be in pain. I will go to great lengths to alleviate physical or emotional pain.

It’s natural for us to seek comfort when faced with disagreeable situations. Sadly, we look for it in the wrong places—food, new gadgets, the opposite sex, etc.

“But think about this:” Idleman states, “Comforter is what God calls himself. He is the God of all comfort and he is ready to talk with you about your day. The Prince of Peace waits to give you his gifts and strengthen you. He wants to be your satisfaction.”

Is food an idol in your life?
Are you inappropriately seeking pleasure from food (or some other idol)?
How will you respond to this message?

Food, like most things in life, requires the proper amount of attention. If you find yourself thinking about it more than necessary, it may be an idol in your life. “Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.” (Idleman) Replace your idol/god with the one true God, Jesus Christ.

*For more of my thoughts on eating issues and food, wander through the posts at Food: Lies We Believe and Truth That Sets Us Free. I recommend starting here and working your way backwards through the posts.

food idolatry, joy of cooking

Understand Your Worth

Understand Your Worth

I thought I was being played with like an easily discarded toy.

Lost in my feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and worthlessness, I begged for love and attention. I wanted someone to validate my existence.

I saw my Casanova as the answer. Even though I assumed he would flee easily, I clung to his flowery expositions on his unfailing love as if they were life-giving oxygen. In my desperation, I worshiped the relationship. In my ignorance, I didn’t see the idolatry.

Ironically, I didn’t honor the relationship; I not only cherished it, I also stepped on it. With fear of rejection driving me, I sought acceptance elsewhere.

I didn’t think it mattered. He could and would easily move on. There weren’t just other fish in the sea; there were much better fish than me.

What I failed to see or understand was how I affected him—that possibly he, too, wanted validation. How could a 15 year old girl grasp the needs of a teenage boy?

Validation

Several years later God saw fit to scoop me up in all of my brokenness and loss. He consoled me (as He still does). He loved and accepted me (as He still does). He validated me and gave me a reason to live (as He still does).

Worth

Last week I cried. After 30 years of no contact, the boy said, “You made me a better person.” Me? I thought I had nothing . . . gave nothing . . . was nothing.

So I cried. Because that teenage girl, once me, hadn’t understood her worth at the time—that the choices she made, the words she spoke, and the actions she took affected others. Her inward-focused self couldn’t see the influence she had. And that saddens me. It brings me to tears.

coins

Tragically, many teenage girls, some hiding in the bodies of older women, are searching for validation, desperate to feel worthy. Like the ladies in the Dove commercial (see below), they only see their flaws. And it brings me to tears.

Because we don’t understand our worth, we don’t understand the impact we have on others. Like the ladies in the Dove commercial, we don’t recognize our positive features. But, as one lady in the commercial remarks, how we see ourselves “impacts everything.”

Yet God desires for us to listen to Him tell us, “You are my creation and I love you unconditionally. Yes, you! In Christ, you are holy, blameless, loved, accepted, worthy, chosen, My child.” (See Eph. 1) “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

When we accept this truth, we understand our worth and see ourselves as He does. Consequently, that picture affects our choices, words, and actions positively. As His children, His love flows naturally from our hearts and we emulate Him so others will see Him through us.

Have you ever thought you were worthless?

Has there been a time when you heard God tell you how much He loves you?