Thursday, September 29, 2011

More on Being Right

In my last post I mentioned how being right is a pretty big deal for me. Well, this past week I read something about "differentiation"- a psychological term (I think) that has to do with a person's comfort with self even when others disagree with them. (Funny how that just happened to be in my required reading, and in a book on epistemology of all places!) Anyway, the bell went off in my head and I said, "yep, that's what I need!"

My personality tells me that if someone doesn't agree with me, they don't love me. (You can imagine how much pressure this puts on my poor husband!) But yea, it's interesting seeing what kind of patterns (other than food-hoarding) linger as a result of growing up in a large, opinionated, idea-loving, family! "How can you reject my ideas without rejecting me? How can you disagree with me without being disloyal?" In my efforts to "catch" myself equating agreement with love, I realized something pretty helpful.

Jesus doesn't always agree with me. In fact, He probably disagrees with me on more levels and on more personal levels than anyone else in my life- but He also loves and accepts me perfectly! In fact, it wouldn't be perfect love if He didn't disagree with the wrong I do. It wouldn't be perfect love that transforms and heals me if He didn't point out my lack of trust (food-hoarding), my insecurity (wanting to be right all the time), or any other myriad of issues He's addressing.

I'm learning to be thankful for a Perfect Love that accepts all of me while at the same time, disagreeing with me. I'm learning to realize this can be true of others in my life as well; and maybe I'm learning that the qualifications for love, loyalty, and acceptance aren't that I need to prove myself by being right. Maybe I'm just loved.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Being Right

One thing I've learned about myself since getting married is that I just love to be right. In fact, it's pretty dang important to me. Often my poor husband has to navigate through my anger about something ridiculous like whether we should eat shrimp or chicken (I wrote about that here), which I make as important as something serious like welfare reform. The sad thing about some of these conversations- even the "important" ones like welfare reform- is that I must take a position even if I know very little about it. I then channel all that Hannah-passion toward being right about it, and if Michael doesn't agree with me, he might be in for a long day.

Lately I experienced grace in this area. Not the warm, fuzzy blanket kind of grace, but the uncomfortable, somewhat embarrassing kind of grace. I got into an argument with a co-worker about something. I heard about the issue, quickly chose a stance, and defended it as if I had a PhD in this field. Now, arguing- especially at seminary- is all fun and games until someone decides to bicker with the professor. I decided to do that on this particular day and my professor gently reminded me about the dangers of arrogance. It was a crawl-under-the-rug moment.

So about half an hour later, I had a very red-faced time of prayer and confession. In the midst of asking God to give me another chance, the opportunity to wake up finding it was only a dream, I realized: what I need is not just to keep my mouth shut, or to get more educated so that I can argue better (believe me, I had that thought too!) What I need is to love looking like Christ more than I love being right. That might seem like a no-brainer for some, but it was a revelation for me. I'm so focused on being right that I forget I'm not actually called to know it all! I'm called to love. I'm called to be patient and not self-seeking. I'm called to be humble and not puffed up, even when I think I'm right!

It's not my job to make my husband agree with me about welfare reform or to convince anyone of anything. It's my job to be controlled by the love of Christ. That's an issue I can certainly channel my passion toward!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Food-Hoarding, Part 2

A few months back, I wrote a post called "Confessions of a Food Hoarder." I was reminded of it while writing my post on adoption because "food hoarding" (as I half-jokingly call it) is one symptom of my defiant, orphan spirit in relationship to God. I'll explain.

We talked about how adopted children sometimes need time to embrace the fact that they really are part of the family- that their parents really are not going to give them up- they struggle with trust. "My experience says that I have to fend for myself, so I trust my experience over what these people say." I'm sure it's heart-wrenching for an adoptive parent (or any parent, for that matter!) to see their child continue to live in distrust of their love and experience the negative effects of that.

I grew up in a big family with, at times, a small grocery budget. This meant that dinner went quickly and I had to compete with 5 other kids to clear my plate in time for a second helping. (Which reminds me of another bad habit of mine, eating too fast!) I remember one time a friend came over with a meal from our favorite fast-food restaurant. Shortly after he sat down to eat in our then empty kitchen, there were five faces watching him intently, ready to hear him say, "I'm finished." Ready to pounce.

I used to hide food under my bed (to protect it from the ravenous wolves who all had access to the pantry, of course!) and...here's the funny part...I'd forget about it. I'd find it months later after it had gone stale. Sometimes I"ll still try and save half-opened packs of crackers or pretzels, or refuse to share home-cooked meals with others (give away food? Ha!) and then I can't even eat it fast enough. A week later that chili I just couldn't share has mold on it, the chocolate stashed in my purse has melted (I've come to see the divine providence of God in sending me to Texas where all my stashed chocolate melts.)

What does all this have to do with an orphan spirit and not trusting God? Well, when I stash food, I'm essentially saying, "My experience says I have to provide for myself, so I'll trust my experience over what You say." And the ironic part about it is it doesn't even work. "Providing for myself" is a silly effort. My brilliantly hidden food rots under my bed.

The Israelites had some food-hoarding issues, too. In the wilderness, God provided fresh bread for them every single day and said, "Take as much as you need! But whatever you try to save overnight will rot." I wonder how many of them tried more than once to stash bread overnight? Sometimes we need to see the rotten food a few times to realize that we're not very capable of providing for ourselves, and that God really is trustworthy.

The best beauty of all is this: not only is God trustworthy, but He wants me to live in the knowledge of that truth. Not only does He provide for me, but He wants me to be changed by that reality. Just like the adoptive parent, God doesn't just love us. He wants us to know and experience and be changed by that love. His loving us is, in effect, what daily works that realization into our lives. I remember tears just a few months ago as I read Ephesians 1 and realized just that.

For almost the entire chapter Paul talks about all the great things God has done for us. He blessed us with every blessing, chose us in love, has given us an inheritance, etc. etc. Then Paul says,

"For this reason, I pray for you that
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe"

I remember being amazed. God doesn't just love me- He wants me to get it! He wants me to believe it. When I really believe that God is my provider, I stop living in a way that says "I'm my provider." When I really believe that God loves me, I stop living in a way that says, "I do good things so that God will love me." When I really believe that I am complete in Christ, I stop living in a way that says, "I need the approval of others to be complete."

As an adopted daughter of God, I am no longer an orphan. God my Father will provide for me. He won't abandon me. He won't leave me to fend for myself. But I have to believe it in order to experience life the way He intends for me.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Adoption

If you've been reading this blog very long, you probably know my favorite topic by now. The gospel. It pretty much shapes my life (but really, it does!). I've written a lot about how marriage thus far has taught me more about the gospel (like here and here) and how the role of husband has changed my understanding about Christ (like here). That's in part because it's a common Biblical metaphor for how God chooses to relate to those who are His, and in part because it's my current stage of life!

Our friends Rachel and Jesse are entering a different stage of life, one that represents another amazing picture of the Gospel-
parenting. One of the most powerful ways God illustrates His love is through this amazing phenomenon. (Side note- that's why it can be equally powerful in a negative sense if something damages parent-child relationship!) Anyway, my friends are pursuing a type of parenting that uniquely represents the Gospel. They're pursuing adoption.

There is no more
physically graphic depiction of who God is than adoption. Here are two people preparing to reorient their entire lives for little ones that don't even look like them. They won't be carrying on the Leos bloodline- but the Leos family will call them their own. They won't be entitled to a place in the home as if they were born into it- but the Leos family will invite them in and give them all that is theirs. When their adopted children are older, they'll be able to understand when Rachel says, "You are our very own because we chose you. We sought you out. We came to you and made you ours, and we will never let you go."

This is what God has done for us. He came to where we were. He pursued us while we were still far off. He reoriented His life- left the riches of Heaven- to be near to us and to rescue us into His family. And once we are His, He never lets go.

As a fatherless child, this has been really hard for me to grasp. Sometimes I relate more to the orphan- displaced, neglected, alone- than the loved daughter. But lately, I've been learning about how God helps me with that. He gives me the spirit of adoption by which I learn- ever so slowly- to cry, "Abba!" Daddy! (Romans 8:15) As I cry out to Him, I realize He's safe. He's not going anywhere. He won't let go.

I need to be loved with a love that will not let me go, because I'm prone to wander. I'm prone to live more like an orphan than a loved daughter- to feel unworthy and get ashamed and want to run away because I fear rejection. But God, my adoptive Father, runs after me every time I hide. He reminds me of His covenant love that is unbreakable. He reminds me that He has made me His very own child and that nothing can sever His faithfulness to me.

If you want to see this graphic display of the Gospel- if you want to see in the flesh the reality that has changed my life forever, follow my friends' blog. Support their fundraising efforts. Pray for them. Rejoice with them. Be moved by their story and how it relates to The Story. Here is where they're blogging and accepting donations. Here's where they're selling handmade items to raise money.








Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spoken Word: Raging Strong

The worship leader at my church came to know Christ in the hip-hop culture, and he is a talented writer. A few weeks ago he shared this "poem" with our church during the worship service. I wish I could write poems like this!

Raging Strong by Nate Calvin and Isaac Wimberley

Have you ever resisted temptation to the point of shedding blood?
Have you ever endured persecution to the point of giving up?
Do you even recognize the battle raging strong, over your thoughts and purity?
And this battle will last your entire life long.

Here is what I will do, I will try and tell you where this war began
Genesis 1&2, Adam and Eve in the garden walking hand in hand
Eve sunbathing working on her tan while Adam is swinging from the trees just trying to be the man

That is when things were right
There were no murders in the middle of the night
There was no cancer invading bodies, there was no strife
But sin cut the cord of humanity’s life

Genesis 3, Adam and Eve believed the lie
The lie that to this day is still robbing you and I

Here are the lies:

That we are our own purpose

That life exists only on this surface

That love, honor, glory, that we deserve it

You see, we still listen to the serpent

The enemy knows you better than you know yourself
He hates you, he wants to choke out your breath
Stop your heart like cardiac arrest
Ruin you name, your family, your life until there isn’t anything left

But sin set in motion God’s redemptive plan
For God so loved the world that He would send His son to man
To rescue, to redeem, to reconcile all things
And it was in this God-man, that the Father’s fullness was pleased to dwell
And Christ was sent on mission to conquer hell

He would take the sin of the world and bear it as His own
The wrath that His children deserved was transferred to Him alone
And like a lamb led to slaughter, our savior didn’t make a sound
And with His arms outstretched He hung, blood and water flowing down

With my finite mind, it just doesn’t make any sense
That He would get my sin, and I get His righteousness
And so my King, He was put in a grave
Not breathing, His mother weeping, the pre-destined dying day
But three days later the stone had been rolled away
And truth be told, death couldn’t hold, the enemy couldn’t keep Him in that grave

Our Savior is no longer dead
That serpent bruised His heal while Christ’s foot was smashing His head
And our fear and insecurities, those things have been put to bed
We live the life that Christ provides through His dying breath

He is risen from the grave
And God has given Him a name
A name that is worthy to be praised
A name that will forever be proclaimed
The only name that saves

Jesus

Jesus, God’s only son
There’s a battle raging strong but the war is already won
He sits in victory at His Father’s right side
And yeah, He’s got scars in His hands, scars in His feet, and a scar on His side
But it’s through those scars that we have a life
And it’s through those scars that we have the strength to fight

So let’s fight
Fight with all your might
Don’t waste your life
I’m telling you that there’s going to be strife
But our King holds the keys to hell and He’s about to turn off the light

Believe on Jesus
He was born, died, and was raised to free
He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life—God’s only Son

There’s a battle raging strong but the war is already won.

If you're interested in hearing more spoken word poetry, check out this video!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Third Special Gift

The little girl we shepherd here in Dallas had a birthday recently too, and we celebrated. It was an all out Princess extravaganza. We 6 girls decorated a homemade birthday cake that my cultured eye deemed a resemblance of Picasso's neon period. We painted nails in a tree house. We chased "Mr. Michael" around the pool about a thousand times We drank lots of lemonade.





Many of these party details came together somewhat spontaneously, but the one premeditated part of the day was giving MaKayla her gift: her very own Jesus Storybook Bible. (Side note, I highlyrecommend this Bible, no matter how old you are. Every time I read it, I cry. That's not saying a whole lot if you know me, but still!)

This was not the only gift she got, but we could tell that to her, it was special. On the way back to her house, she held my hand and said, "Hannah, do you have a Bible at your house? I have a Bible." When Mom opened the door, the first thing MaKayla said to her is "Mom, I got a Bible!"

I heard from the staff that MaKayla brought her new gift to school the next day to show her teacher. I am praying- now with my father and husband- that I will have a heart that treasures God's Word as much as my little MaKayla does.