Raw

“(1) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.  (2) And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan!  The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’

(3) Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.  (4) Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’  And to him He said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’

(5) And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’  So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him.  And the Angel of the Lord stood by.”  (Zechariah 3:1-5)

 

God truly does have a perfect sense of timing about things.  Today at Church Pastor Mark did a sermon on sexual assault; basically Chapter 7 of the book “Real Marriage” that he wrote with his wife.  If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.  Even if you aren’t married you probably know people who are, or you likely will be married yourself one day.  This was a hard and uncomfortable sermon for me.  But timely.  I am currently reading the book “Rid of my Disgrace” by the Holcombs; another highly recommended book.  It deals with sexual assault in the light of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  Again, even if you have never been sexually assaulted I can promise you that you probably know someone who has so this would be an awesome book for you to read so you know what to say….and more importantly what not to say…to someone who is hurting from this.  I will warn you that this book is not an easy read, particularly if you have been sexually assaulted.  I am only able to get through maybe a chapter a week. Right now I am on Chapter 5, which is about denial, and I am really struggling with how much of that I have actually been doing since my assault.

 

So today’s ‘Our Daily Bread’ fit in with the sermon.  It is about taking away the filth of our iniquity to clothe us in rich robes.  Pastor Mark spoke about how Jesus takes away my shame, my defilement, and scorns it on the cross.  To be perfectly honest I don’t fully understand it.  I see the vague outline of it like looking through a frosted over window peering out through a dense fog.  I can see the outline of the cross there, but in light of what happened to me I struggle.  Which is why I am going to be going through a Redemption Group to help me with this.  This idea terrifies me; it makes me want to itch all over.  You see I thought I was past all of this.  I went to a Rape Counselor for about a year and a half just over 5 years ago to deal with all of this.  I thought I had moved beyond it.  That everything was fine.  Only to learn within the first two chapters of reading the book that I probably suffer from PTSD, and that I am really not okay with what happened to me.  At all.  I learned how to function again on a normal standard.  I learned how to check back into this world.  But I have no idea what it means to be healed or not feel the way I feel.

 

The Scripture reading today says that Joshua was dressed in filthy rags.  I know it is common for assault victims to feel dirty or gross.  I feel disgust.  I feel disgusting.  I often believe the lie that the Enemy tells me that my fiancé thinks I am disgusting.  I don’t like to look at myself in the mirror because of that disgust.  I was raped over ten years ago and I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago that I carried this identity from that assault.  It was always just sort of there in the back of my mind.  So when I read that verse in the Scripture I cringe.  It makes my stomach turn because I can imagine what Joshua was feeling in that moment standing before the lord wearing that.  And Pastor Mark hit it on the head today with one of the struggles I have been having.  What was I supposed to do, say “Forgive me Jesus for being raped repeatedly by my ex-fiancé at the time.”  It wasn’t my sin.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  How does that get off?  I can’t scrub it off, trust me I have tried to scrub it off to the point of bleeding before in my past.  I have never been able to ever really feel clean again.  I want to feel clean again.  Which is why I really, really want to go to this Redemption Group no matter how terrified I am.

 

So the devotional today spoke about how Jesus takes away our sin: something I totally understand and am eternally grateful for. But Pastor Mark spoke of something else which I don’t get so I thought to look up what the dictionary definition of “iniquity” is.  Iniquity: 1. Gross injustice or wickedness; and 2. A violation of right or duty, wicked act; sin.  If I use that first definition it helps me to see that cross a little more clearly.  The Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, takes away my gross injustices.  All the gross, disgusting, deplorable injustices done upon me that make it impossible for me to look at myself in the mirror…Jesus took away.  My head knows that, but my heart doesn’t understand it.  I want to understand it.  I know that my understanding of it won’t happen overnight.  I know it is something I need to mediate on, prayerfully seek out the Holy Spirit to help me.

 

So tonight I will go to bed with that prayer in my heart for help, comfort, and understanding.  And a new memory verse that Crystal from “Rid of my Disgrace”, was kind enough to share. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” (Joel 2:25).  God is a good and faithful God.  I believe He will keep that promise.

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Sluggard/Slacker

“(6) Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, (7) which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, (8) provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. (9) How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? (10) A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep—(11) So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)
                Wow. Another hard word for me today. I am actually sitting here rather shocked at, again, how relevant this to me right now. This is something else I am struggling with. This is something else I have asked people to pray for me about. This again has to do with the breaking of old habits of the forming of new habits. Since I am still fiddling with the depths of fear I was hoping to have a “consider the lilies” sort of day. Guess that isn’t going to happen. But today’s Our Daily Bread snippet is written by Cindy Hess Kasper. She, again, hits the nail right on the head with what I am struggling with. She also starts out with a very good suggestion to make this passage easier to read. Miss Kasper suggests changing the word ‘sluggard’ to the word ‘slacker’. Fitting, accurate, and something we can more easily relate to.
                This proverb section is all about the follies of being lazy. There are several such passages in the book of Proverbs. When I read them the first thing I usually think of is physical laziness. Oh I need to exercise more. I should really get out in the yard this weekend if it is nice. If it isn’t raining tonight I will go for a walk after dinner. This is one way to look at this proverb, and others like it. They do not encourage laziness. They do encourage us to do more. To get up and do more. So this did fit into me wanting to form more healthy and consistent exercising habits in my life. But that is not what I asked others to pray for me about. And exercise was not the point Ms. Kasper made in her devotional either. My degree of uncomfortable shame would be much less if it were.
                Ms. Kasper spoke of spiritual slackery. Yes, I just made that word up. Which is something that I do struggle with. I really need to tattoo the book of James more permanently on my heart. She talks about the various forms of slacking off spiritually: not witnessing, not reading the Bible, not praying, and not doing what God tells us to do. The one I struggle with is not doing what God tells me to do. The Holy Spirit has really leaned on my heart to get something done, several somethings in fact, but I have not devoted my whole self to those things as I should have. Oh I could give a long list of reasons and excuses as to why that is, but I really don’t want to offend the Holy Spirit more than I already have. The truth is there is no reason or excuse for my behaviors. He put these things on my heart, heavily on my heart, for a reason. They are important. That should have been enough.
                Instead I have been like Moses, but God who am I to talk to these people? I have also been a lot like Jonah, and have simply ran the other direction. Thankfully God did not see fit to have me swallowed by a giant fish. He very well could have, I have been taking a ferry across the Sound at least twice a week. I need to pray in my heart to respond more like Noah and Mary. Mary had questions but was obedient. Noah was simply immediately obedient in faith. I need their hearts. I need to follow their examples. And I know my biggest problem with all of this has been myself. I have been trying to do this all on my own, so I get distracted and stuck and lost along the way. With me at the center I get a whole lot of nowhere.
                I have only just recently begun to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Since He is the one really leaning on my heart it would only make since to implore Him for His help, and to follow His lead. This, of course, means I have to give up my lead. I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t have any real experience following the Holy Spirit, so I don’t know how this will go. I know He is patient with me, because He is still here with me after all of this. It has just been one of those “duh” sort of moments. Just like right now, despite the fact this was hard for me to read, it was a ‘duh’ sort of moment. The Holy Spirit is here with me now, showing up, answering prayer.
                I want to form the habit of following His lead. I want to break the habit of being a sluggard/slacker. I can’t do this on my own. I can’t do this without His help. Jesus told me this flat out, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV) Apart from God, from the Holy Spirit, from Jesus, I am as effective as a fish out of water. I flounder really well. So although today’s devotional was a hard one for me to read, I take it as the Holy Spirit telling me to stop flopping around so He can put me back in the water. That way I can swim where He wants me to.  Which means He will put me in the right stream, going the right way; all I have to do is swim.
                Thank you Holy Spirit for waking me up out of my slumber. Thank you Jesus for giving us Yourself, and our Comforter. I am undeserving of the both of You. Holy Spirit I know that with Your help I can stop being a slacker, do the things I am meant to do to help shine the light of Jesus into all the dark places of this world.

Fear

“(1) I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

(2)My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear of it and be glad.

(3)Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.

(4)I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

(5)They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.

(6)This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

(7)The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.

(8)Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

(9)Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear him.

(10)The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”(Psalm 34:1-10)

 

Today I am really working on habits: the breaking of old ones and the creating of new ones.  One habit I have always struggled with forming is journaling.  I love to write, I love to journal, but I always allow things to come up and get in the way.  At least that is the case when I am journaling about something important to me like my faith or my thoughts on what I am reading in the Bible.  Another habit I am trying to create is reading a daily devotional I have actually enjoyed on many occasions called “Our Daily Bread”.  I can usually find nuggets of insight tucked inside that speak to me or lead me down some rabbit hole I have been carefully avoiding.  So in one fell swoop I am working on my old habits of avoiding and laziness while hopefully fostering new habits of faithful digging and spiritual reflection.  I didn’t promise myself that this would go well, but God sure has a funny way of directing me down my first rabbit hole.  His sense of timing is impeccable as always.

 

In today’s devotional I was to read the passage above in my Bible, which is the New King James version, and then read their little snippet which was written by Joe Stowell.  In reading the Psalm I made some assumptions about what his devotional would be about.  I was pretty sure it would travel along the lines of encouraging us to trust in the Lord. A message I truly agree with, although I am imperfect at following.  But Mr. Stowell tumbled onto a key word and point in the Psalm I sorta glossed over; a word and idea that Pastor Bill actually prayed for me about yesterday. Which affirms two things to me: 1) God does listen to prayers and answers them and 2) Pastor Bill might have a hidden ‘bat phone’.  Mr. Stowell focused on talking about fear, and how our fears cripple us.  They keep us from trusting in the Lord.  I didn’t expect him to make me chew on that; I wanted to get to the trusting in the Lord part.  I can think of all the pretty ways I do that and shine the light in those areas. Fear and I have a very dysfunctional relationship.

 

Fear.  Habits. It’s ironic, actually, that today’s devotional would be about fear when I am struggling with putting to death old habits and creating new habits.  I think one of my oldest habits has to do with fear.  I have told people for a very long time that I am not really afraid of anything.  And I really did believe that.  Spiders can make me uncomfortable if they are walking on me, but I am not scared of them.  I love snakes and mice.  Put me in tight, confined spaces and I actually feel more comfortable and secure so I fall to sleep.  I love heights and generally want to jump from them via various methods. I don’t really have any phobias. I don’t mind the dark.  I never really put myself worth or value in what others thought of me so their words didn’t frighten me.  I’m not afraid of pain.  Anyone who has been around me for any amount of time can attest to that.  I am the world’s clutziest person so pain kinda comes with the territory of ER visits and stitches and casts.  But then if I have no fear why then did Pastor Bill pray for my fears yesterday, and why did I use the word fear in my talk with him?

 

Fear is a dirty word to me.  It is something gross, something to be ashamed of.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like talking about it or examining it.  It is something I have been thinking a lot about since yesterday.  It isn’t a word I use casually.  So why did I use it?  The truth is I used lame excuses for my fear in talking with Pastor Bill.  I told him I was  afraid of what people would think, which I guess is partially true.  In reading today’s devotional the Holy Spirit sorta smacked me with a two-by-four.  It was more than warranted.  I went to bed last night praying He would help me change into a new creation, and I woke up this morning praying I would be a new creation.  I want to shed more and more of my old life to be who God wants me to be.  I am not good at that.  At all. By any stretch of the imagination.

 

The reason I am not afraid of anything is because nothing can touch me.  The reason I don’t care about what people think of me is because I don’t let them near enough to do real damage to me.  I keep people, even family, at a distance.  I don’t really let people close.  No one really comes inside of me.  I can look back on my life and see all the reasons for it.  I know why I am the way that I am.  It doesn’t make it okay, right, or acceptable.  But I realized what I am afraid of.  I am afraid of being known, which is probably why I struggle with journaling.  When I complete the book I am writing people will know me.  It is a thought that makes me highly uncomfortable.  I don’t even want my family to know me, much less strangers. And I realize that is what I should have told Pastor Bill yesterday.

 

When this book is complete I am afraid of people knowing me. Not just the parts of me I want them to see or to know.  The very broken mess of me.  You see I relate to Paul so deeply when I read the Bible.  The first time I read Acts I had a completely  unheard of take on why Jesus blinded him.  At least I think it is unheard of.  I see that time of blindness as a gift, a huge and wonderful and magnanimous gift.  Paul had been murdering Christians, and he just became one.  As a new Christian he probably didn’t have the best understanding of the forgiveness of Christ.  As a rich, well-educated man Paul probably had a few mirrors with him to make sure he looked good when he went out in public.  Paul felt the weight of his guilt, the weight of that blood on his soul, so profoundly.  I think Jesus gave him a huge gift in not allowing him to look at his reflection until he understood what Jesus did on the cross.   I know that when I feel the crushing weight of being chief among sinners I can’t stand my own reflection.  Jesus gave Paul a gift not to look at himself until he could see himself with Jesus’ eyes.

 

I have developed such a habit of keeping everyone at a distance I have kept myself at a distance.  I am segmented.  Like a shattered version of me spread out over the ground, each piece within reach of the other but separated by a small distance, waiting for glue.  As I look at the various pieces I realize I do have some fears.  Fears I have ignored or hidden because I didn’t want to appear weak or because they were too close to home to acknowledge.  They make me uncomfortable.  To be honest this entire blog makes me uncomfortable.  But here it is because on the other side of these fears is trust, happiness, and freedom in the Lord.

 

It is strange the feeling being able to trust God with the direction of my life, and what I am supposed to do with my life… but not trusting that He knew what He was doing when He put me together, or that He knows how to put me back together.  And it’s not that I don’t think He can do it, the Lord made everything out of nothing.  He can do anything He wants.  My problems are not too complicated.  I am not too difficult.  I know that He wants to.  I know that He loves me, cares for, and wants only good for me.  I trust Jesus died on the cross for my sins to do that very thing.  I know these things; but that is the problem with knowing.  Knowing doesn’t always come with understanding.  I know these things but I can’t see beyond the spaces between the pieces or the devastation I feel.  I know Jesus is the proverbial glue, but I have no real understanding of how this all works.  Which is why these are new and unexplored habits.

 

I guess the biggest thing for me to humbly realize and accept is that I cannot form these habits or hope to keep them on my own.  I will only be able to keep them, do them, hold them, and embrace them if I keep seeking the Lord through prayer.  The Holy Spirit needs to be my new best friend.  “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Verse 4.  I don’t get to deliver myself or save myself or put myself back together again.  That would give me something to boast about.  All I can do is boast in Christ, in what He has done for me, and through me.  This is a humbling lesson I will probably have to learn more than once, but at least I won’t have to learn it alone.