Immanuel: The God of Hopes and Fears

2013-01-15_16-55-32_280               Photo Credit: Shelly Beach

For many of us, 2016 was a challenging year. 

Maybe “challenging” is the PC word you’d use if someone at church asked you about the year you had. In the privacy of your self-talk you might choose another word.

Heartbreaking.

Shattering.

Crappy, or other similar adjectives.

You may have lost a loved one. Been blindsided by abandonment. Been kicked to the curb in the face of injustice or self-interest, in spite of your faithful service. Or faced a dreaded diagnosis-yours or a loved one’s.

We look forward to a new year with hope that life will be better. Why?

Our hopes and fears are almost always intertwined. 

My first brain episode almost took my life. Doctors feared they might not be able to turn around the course of my rapid decline. My survival was in question, and it took over sixteen years for doctors to determine a diagnosis. During the first five years following that episode, I feared every symptom that struck my body would return me to a hospital bed and a dreaded diagnosis. I hoped and prayed I would remain healthy and thanked God for the measure of health and strength that returned to me. Many of my hopes and fears were tied to my health for years.

This year as I caught the phrase, “hope and fears of all the years of all the years are met in Thee tonight,” I’ve listened to the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” with new insight.

The hopes and fears of all humanity throughout history were met in Jesus’ birth. He lived among us, defeated death, and rose again. 

From the moment of His conception, He shared in our human experiences–our pain and suffering, sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, abandonment, hopes, and fears. He took the punishment we deserved to the grave so we could live with hope, free from fear of sin’s punishment and death. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory; we all demand our own way like the selfish rebels we are–yet He loves us so deeply we could never comprehend it.

Because of Jesus, I can look into my future without fear–no matter my diagnosis, income, feelings, or any human circumstances, because He is the source of all hope that has ever or ever will exist and the answer to every fear that has echoed through history.

IMMANUEL–God with us!

 

Courage to be Perfectly Imperfect You

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

Photo credit: jacobabshire.com

 

What does being courageous look like to you? Enduring a painful divorce? Walking through a frightening diagnosis and illness? Facing the death of a loved one? Finally walking through the pain of your abusive past?

We all can claim our personal fears and imperfections. Finding a voice was one of my greatest struggles. As a child, I wasn’t given the opportunity to freely express my opinions, to disagree, or to ask questions. I was often told what I was supposed to think and given no opportunity to state my fears or defend myself against accusations.

Like many people, I learned to protect myself by pleasing others.

So as I moved through my adult years, one aspect of courage for me has been to learn to be comfortable being the perfectly imperfect me. What does this mean? First and foremost, I’m a child of God. Everything about me is rooted in my security as His own child, chosen and loved.

Because I’m God’s child I find courage in Him:

1. My purpose, identity, and confidence are secure.

This gives me courage to set a course and direction that may oppose culture, popular thinking, or the advice or friends and loved ones. Living out God’s purpose for my life may require sacrifice and suffering, may mean laying down my life for others, but I find courage as I lean on God’s direction in my life and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Living a life of godly integrity and Christlike love surpasses pleasing others to protect myself.

We live in a post-Christian culture. I am who God says I am and I know my purpose here on earth because I believe what God says and trust who He is.

2. I no longer fear failure.

Courage wisely tells us that “failure” is an opportunity for learning, growth, and God’s redirection in my life. For instance, the loss of a job is an opportunity for ministry in a new environment or reevaluation of how to better apply my skill set. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate how I fit into my previous work environment and whether or not I was the best match for that position and why. This process is an opportunity for growth.

God builds purpose into every element of our lives. Nothing is wasted if we have a heart that’s willing to be taught. Failure is simply a matter of perspective and certainly nothing to fear, since we all fail.(For instance,I never got off the knot in “climb the rope” in gym class, and it really hasn’t affected my life much. Except I’ll probably never be an aerialist, and we can all thank God for that.)

3. I can admit I’m imperfect.

I cry easily. My house isn’t as clean as I’d like it to be. I don’t floss my teeth. I’m twenty pounds overweight. I’m not as patient with my husband as he deserves.

As imperfect as I am, God sees me as flawless.

The list of my imperfections and sins is longer and messier than I could or should write about in a blog.

But my sins are forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus. I don’t have to pretend I’m perfect or be ashamed because I’m not.I can live in freedom and gratitude. Because I understand the amazing grace and mercy I’ve been granted, I’m motivated to live in a cycle of faith and repentance, extending forgiveness and grace freely to others.

My goal is to never stop being overwhelmed by God’s goodness, mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.

4. I can drop the pretense. 

I know I’m not okay and neither are you. We’re, hopefully, both sinners saved by grace. I can drop the pretense. I’m a mess and you’re a mess. We just struggle with different messes and are in different places in our struggles. Our churches are filled with broken, forgiven people. As my former pastor says, his job was to try to get as many of them to heaven in the best shape possible.

It’s our job to try to help one another get to heaven in the best shape possible.

5. To help one another, we need to have the courage to be vulnerable.

This means talking about our brokenness and imperfections, our struggles and pain. This means dropping the pretense.

This takes courage to trust people. Courage to be seen as we are. Courage to explore the dark spaces of our souls, places we often keep hidden even from ourselves. It was refreshing to talk about this kind of courage on April 11, 2016 with Pastor Dawn Damon and Wanda Sanchez on FreedomGirlsSisterhood Radio. I encourage you to tune in and listen to the conversation.

I’d also love to have you share a time when you acted courageously. What fear did you have to face?

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Buy the Lie–Guest Post by Wanda Sanchez

FearIsaLiar

BEFUDDLED

That’s what I am. 
Today is one of THOSE days.

I don’t know what God was thinking when He placed the gifts inside of me that He did! It seems like lately I battle this sinking feeling that I am not going to be able to pull it off! Must it all be so hard? Not that things need to be easy… they don’t. But how about just not so hard?

Yesterday I told my BFF that I’ve been fantasizing about just dropping everything that I am involved in – and just walking (or running!) away into the sunset. Forever. Yep… I am having moments of wanting to quit.

But all I really am is AFRAID.

Afraid of failing. And that fear of failure causes me to want to run.

I don’t want to embarrass God.

I don’t want to be afraid of saying the wrong thing or of offending people.

I don’t want to get in the way of whatever plan God has for the people who will see/hear me speak.

Simply because of time, I worry about not being able to do everything I’m supposed to be doing: speaking, writing books, blogging, producing, singing, etc…

All I have ever really wanted is to be a successful Christian – a Christian who’s rooted and grounded, who knows how to utilize the weapons of warfare; a strong woman of God who isn’t tossed around or taken by surprise by any of the adversary’s wily tactics.

That’s where I’m at today. Relax, my friend… I am NOT quitting. I just feel like running away – but I have choices today. I can make the choice to listen to the lies that say I will be an embarrassment to God – or confront that lie with the TRUTH about how God sees me: I’m the apple of His eye, y’all!

Today, I can choose to listen to His voice as He whispers in my ear and tells me that He is so tickled by me that He sings over me!

Wow. I make God sing! Today I know it doesn’t matter what the situation LOOKS like.

It doesn’t matter what I see, what I hear, what I smell, what I touch or what I feel. I know that He sees me as His beloved daughter and that He couldn’t possibly love me (or you) anymore than He does at this very moment!

 With your whole heart and both feet, step into the position God has placed you in!

Don’t buy the lie and let fear paralyze you and keep you from using the gifts that God has placed inside of you.
He loves you like crazy and you make Him smile!

Zeph. 3:17: The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Photo Credit: JoyHaynes.wordpress.com

Ripping Off the Wallpaper

wallpaper-removalFor most of the years of our marriage, Dan and I have lived in fixer-uppers.

Much of our marriage has consisted of tearing down and rebuilding–usually one room at a time–until we finished an entire house. The thought of taking on an entire 2,400 hundred turn-of-the century farmhouse overwhelmed me. But I could handle the thought of taking on one room at a time. So that’s what we did–demo-ing and renovating our way through room after room, house after house for more than thirty-five years of marriage.

A lot of that demo began with a scabby patch of old wallpaper that just had to come down before something new could replace it.A rip of the wallpaper was always my first act of commitment to the task. After that, there was no going back.

A few months ago I finished trauma treatment. A lot of stuff in my life has to be torn down before the new can take its place.

I can spend days and hours stuck in fear, wondering if the task is too big and whether or not I should just keep on living in the musty vestiges of an old life.

Or I can peel up that corner of paper and commit to tearing up just one wall today and taking on just one room. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that God calls me to a hope and a future.

What’s God called YOU to today? Rip off some wallpaper. Commit. Tear out something old so God can create the new things he envisions for you.

Photo Credit: GreenwoodIndianapolisPainterPainting.com