Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Rose

In so many ways I am that rose...for years the idea of anyone wanting me...let alone Jesus wanting me was as foreign to me as Mandarin Chinese.  Someone once told me with disgust seething through his teeth..."Who would want someone like you?!" 
Even now as I watch that clip I am awed and amazed that Jesus wants me.  His love for me just totally blows me away...

Purity... is a hard word for me to grasp... After reading part of my story you'll understand why. Yet, I longed for it, deeply desired it...but couldn't relate.  Who of us doesn’t long for purity?  We all long to be pure, not just physically pure, but emotionally and spiritually pure as well.

I imagine that my life started out like so many of yours... hard-working family with strong values and morals... but somewhere along the way things got messed up...I got messed up... innocence was stolen; purity was lost.  

I must have been 6 or 7 at the time… A group of older neighborhood kids cornered me one day, pushed me up against the metal siding of a tool shed, and fondled and kissed me. I didn’t know what to do.   I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t.  I didn’t know why, but I knew what was happening to me was wrong.  I broke free and began to run home. The closer I got to home the more afraid I became.  I wanted so badly to tell my mother what had happened...but I was afraid that she would be mad at me.  I never told anyone what happened that day.  

It was my secret…shame lies in the secret

Shame is a powerful tool of the enemy... in my secrecy and shame I felt alone and unprotected.  

As a little girl  - really well into early adulthood I was not able to look people (especially adults) in the eye.  Something deep inside of me told me I was dirty, and if anyone looked too long they would see just how dirty I was.  

During my middle school years, I was introduced to pornography. The words read and images they produced in my mind stole away my innocence in the blink of an eye.   The enemy opened the prison door to addiction and bondage, and I naively walked in - staying there for many years. 

From an early age, my view of sex was completely warped.  The bondage I was in led to sexual activity and addiction to alcohol. I used my body to get the attention I wanted. I used alcohol to self-medicate. I didn’t care that I was being used - couldn't see that I was being used. 

I just wanted to be accepted and feel loved.

I totally turned my back on God. I figured He had done the same to me.  I warmed many a church pew, but I failed to grasp the concept of relationship with God. I failed to understand what forgiveness really to receive it... how to live as one who had been forgiven.   I lived under a blanket of guilt because of the things I was doing...filled with shame because of what I had become.  I hated who I was...who I had become.  Suicide was always in the back of my mind, with one unsuccessful attempt under my belt.  

My life continued to spiral out of control - an abortion, a child out of wedlock, and affair with a married man, a flailing marriage, several more affairs, a divorce, a live-in boyfriend and finally another pregnancy out of wedlock which brought me to my knees.  I was 25 and at the end of myself.  No, purity is definitely not a word with which I could relate.
So much sinfulness...and so much of it directly relating to sexual sin.  

Overcome with sin-sickness, I didn’t have anywhere to turn...I was at the end of myself.  

That’s when I began hearing the loving voice of my Father God calling me to come back home.  ..."Jami , I love this really how you want to spend the rest of your life...let Me heal you...let Me make you whole."  

Change seemed impossible...there had been so many attempts on my part to "get it together" and "live right"...times when I was on fire for Jesus, but then one mistake, one mess up and I was back in the bars punishing myself for being such a failure.  

Purity seemed out of reach. I did not want to continue on as I was, but for the life of me I didn't know how to do different or be different. Every attempt in the past met with complete failure.   I told God – change me or let me die.  That was my cry for mercy and healing and forgiveness.  And, that was all He needed to hear.  So began the long and hard and painful journey to finding healing and wholeness in Christ.  

Brad (the live-in boyfriend) and I married soon after we found out I was pregnant...We began going to church together as a family.  God was working in me.  God was working in him.  From all outward appearances we looked like the family who had it all together.  But...I was still in bondage.  While I had turned to God and was pursuing Him, I had not relinquished any of my past into His hands. Our marriage was suffering.  Intimacy was difficult.  

The past was constantly with me and I didn't know how to overcome it.  I felt like a failure as a woman and as a wife. I wanted to give up, but I knew something about what God was doing in me was different this time.

God began prompting me to deal with my abortion and past sexual sin.  A weight of heaviness fell over me.  I didn’t want to go there – these were things that I had always swept under the rug.  These were things I didn’t talk about.  These were things I wanted to keep hidden from my new church friends. These were shameful things.  

I really think this is why so few people ever really experience true freedom in's hard to look the past in the face and's painful and often times we are fooled into thinking that the pain will cripple us. We are convinced that wearing a mask and going it alone is much easier.  Nothing could be further from the truth...  

I was led to book (Intimate Issues) that dealt with both abortion and sexual sin. As I began going through the process of breaking sexual soul ties and overcoming past sin I was overwhelmed to the point of brokenness.  I was literally on the floor before the Lord.  I felt so dirty and ashamed – so impure.  “Oh, God how could you love me?”  “How could you ever make me clean and pure and holy?”  

God was giving me the grace of seeing the totality and awfulness of my sin (which I had never done before) in light of His holiness.  It was hard...ugly... I wanted to look away, but God was THERE!  HE WAS THERE!  And He wasn't looking away.  I felt the weight of my sin lift...the heaviness... gone... the words FREEDOM began forming on my lips.  “Freedom – Freedom – Freedom... God you have set me free.”  For the first time in all of my memories I felt pure. I felt clean. God set me free that day. I was totally released from the past.  

The chains that shackled me and held me prisoner for years were broken; the root of impurity was pulled out and destroyed.  I am still in the unmasking process. I believe the journey to complete healing and wholeness takes a lifetime...but I have been forever marked by that day of brokenness before the Lord.  God gave me beauty for ashes. The soiled rose restored. 

Jesus wants the matter where we’ve been or what we’ve done in thought or in deed...

Jesus Christ loves us and wants us.  

I don't know where or what your empty places are...don't know if you've maintained purity or feel like you've blown it and it's just too late for thing I do know...We cannot outrun or out sin the love of God in Jesus Christ.  He sees me...He sees you... every detail of our lives...yet, He loves us still, and desires for us to come to Him and find complete love and acceptance.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fear Not!

A lifetime ago I was a huge Cranberries fan; the Celtic folk rock tunes of Delores O'Riordan and crew soothed my soul and stirred my inner artist. One song in-particular grabbed me.
Dreams - Cranberries
Click and listen if you like...I've got you singing along now...don't I; nothing like a little trek down memory lane. ;)

A while back I was spinning the ole' dial and this tune caught my ear. In seconds I was belting it out - even all the …Ah, la da ah...La’s. In my mind I was cruising the roads (in a convertible, no doubt), hair blowing in the wind, not a care in the world.  Feel good music that song is; funny how music transports us so quickly to another time...another place...another perspective.

One line reverberated through my mind for days; "Now I tell you openly you have my heart so don't hurt me..."  That one line...such raw transparency...such vulnerability elicited a pretty powerful emotional response from deep within.

From an early age, the lens through which I viewed myself and the world around me was smudged with rejection (both real and perceived). Wearing smudged glasses produces clouded vision…clouded vision is crippling.  For years, I limped around perceiving rejection at every turn…every decision informed by incorrect estimations…before long I was in some deep shout-it-out; all kinds of self-destructive behaviors dominated my life.  My life was at best a mess – at worst a complete failure.

But God (two of my favorite words), met me in my hurt; lifted me out the miry clay; and let me know I was worth it to Him.  Relinquishing my life to Him brought freedom and hope.  Over time, I grew in my relationship with Him; yet relationally (with others) something was not quite right…I found myself insecure, self-conscious and uptight.  What was that all about?

Answers can be found just about anywhere. (Reminds me of a Grateful Dead lyric…”Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” I digress…) Hearing, Dreams, with “older, wiser” ears  came sort of as an answer - “You have my heart so don’t hurt me…” it dawned on me…this had been the cry of my soul most of my life.  “Fearful” is not how I would have described myself.  Yet, suddenly I saw it so clearly; my internalized hurt and rejection had morphed into fear…fear of future hurt and rejection…fear of things that may or may not ever happen… leading to continual self-assessment...never quite comfortable with myself; never quite comfortable with others.

On a deeper level I was awakened to the reality that I was making that same appeal to God – “Oh God, You have my heart…please don’t hurt me.”  If you’ve ever experienced any sort of disappointment or loss then you know what I am conveying here; anguish of soul; a deep longing to know that our hearts are safe – that God is good and can be trusted with everything – even in the hurt – even when life has been turned on its head.

Unknowingly, I was projecting onto God past hurts and rejections...fearing that He would respond likewise. Never would I have acknowledged that with my mouth, but as I considered my behavior that's exactly what I was doing. Blaise Pascal once wrote: "God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment."  Ouch!  My mind was divided, because my vision of God was clouded. I didn’t fully trust His love; I feared that He was not really who He claimed to be. Out of fear came the inclination to protect myself. Self-protection is an obstacle to receiving love which keeps the cycle of fear spinning. 

Yet, God’s word proclaims, “Perfect love drives out fear.”  It is His perfect love that melts away fear. His love drew me in. I allowed His perfect love to fill me. Letting go of my own understanding and past experiences, I came to a place of perfect rest and complete security.  Ahhhh!

It wasn’t a one-time fix, though.  All too often I forgo His love allowing fear to drive me…crazy.  Yet, all it takes is one glance His way…hearing Him whisper the truth, “My love will take care of your fear; I love you, let Me love you” and all is right. He has my heart and I know He won’t hurt it.  My anxious heart is calmed.

Once again…I am cruising the freeway (in a convertible no doubt), hair blowing in the wind, not a care in the world, song of praise on my lips…and in the rear view mirror - seven passengers giggling.   Ah, da, da da da, da, la...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Taste and See...

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.  This poor man called and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.  Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.  Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.” Psalm 34

God is good.  Do I believe that?  Do I really believe that?
Larry Crabb wrote in his book,  The Pressure’s Off, “It’s time to shed our cynicism, to move beyond non-sacrificial living, and to abandon everything in the way of a deep experience of God.  I hope you’re desperate for a divine encounter, a genuine, non-contrived, deeply felt meeting with God that both exposes sinful pleasures as cheap counterfeits of soul joy and reveals to us that our nervousness about whether our lives will turn out well is an insult to the God who gives Himself and says, ‘Enjoy the feast!’” 

Taste and see that the Lord is good. 

I have become convinced that everything that comes to me has been filtered through the love of God.  I can be confident, because of His love, that whatever comes my way will be used to grow me, refine me, humble me, or bless me.

It’s as if there is a heavenly filter between this physical existence and the spiritual realm; a filter, comprised of His love, His sovereignty, His plans and His purposes.

One afternoon a question came to mind, “If everything that comes to me is filtered through my Father’s heart, and I really believe that then why do I so often miss His love and goodness?” "Why am I so quick to question or accuse?" The answer came so quickly it startled me; “You have filters coverings you, too, Jami – and your filters aren't like Mine.”

Well that had never crossed my mind before... I have filters covering me.  We all have filters; perspective or perception from which we form opinions, make assessments, pass judgments, and construct evaluations.

Jesus told His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount that, “The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness."

If our filters are dirty we won’t be able to properly perceive or receive God’s love.  We’ll miss His goodness; miss seeing His divine providence.

My filters certainly aren't like Gods; mine get yucky – clogged with things such as rejection, hurt, failure, frustration, disappointment,  judgment of myself, judgment of others, shame, guilt, fear, anger, bitterness, desire to control my life, self-protection, self-righteousness, selfishness, self-pity, self-condemnation, negative talk, and plenty of other things; you get the idea.  With junk like this no wonder my perspective and perception gets skewed.

I want clean filters so I can perceive and receive God’s love - so I can experience His goodness. 

A few years ago, I woke up with these words on my heart, “sanctify and consecrate yourselves, for the Lord is about to do a new thing.” Weird...kinda...then again...not-so-much.

God is seeking to do a new thing in me. He’s pouring over me the truth that He is sovereign and in COMPLETE control. I am a slow-learner. (Can i repeat that...I am a sssslllloooooooowww learner.) It’s not easy.  Sometimes it hurts. Yet, If I don't set myself apart as His...then I will miss His work in me and around me...even through me. 

God is asking me, “Will you go with me?”  

God gives us opportunity after opportunity to prepare ourselves - to be cleansed – to allow Him to wash our filters clean. He never grows tired or impatient with us...I think most us qualify as remedial-learners.  ...because He will present us as holy and blameless.  He will do it. He will.

He is asking, “Will you go with me?”

Everything we go through; every ditch in the road, every obstacle in the path, every blessing beyond measure is an invitation from our Father to go with Him; to be cleansed by His presence; to perceive and receive His love and live in unity with Him and with others.  Moment by moment giving and going.

Let us come before Him and be washed in His love so that we can join Him at the table and partake of the FEAST.  Taste and see...that He is good.