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Archive for July, 2012

“I don’t understand, Lord!”  These words  have been part of my inner dialogue, prayers, and conversations for at least the last week–and, really, for almost a year–as my children have been impacted by all sorts of struggles.

There have been spiritual issues.  My parents are just old-fashioned and out of touch.  God gets that I want to live my life before I commit to Him.

There have been academic issues.  Mrs. Kennington, we just don’t see the growth we expected. 

There have been emotional issues.  Temper tantrums at HIS age?  Tsk!  Tsk! 

Through all of it, God has reminded me that He sees the beginning from the end.  He is sovereign.  He is merciful.  And how have I responded?  Sometimes with worry or depression.  Often with frustration and anger.  And, just this week–I admit I’ve even neglected the God who has always proven Himself faithful.

Why?  Because I have an attitude disorder.  When things don’t go my way or according to my plan, I begin to think something is wrong.  I pout.  I whine.  I shake my fist at God and question His wisdom.  Isn’t that foolish?  Unfortunately, it’s an inherited human trait–this “I Did It My Way” mantra–and, it always proves false.  Even faithful believers like Abraham (Genesis 16; 17), Lot (Genesis 19:23-26), and Moses (Numbers 20:1-12) occasionally developed this kind of “stinkin’ thinkin” and  it definitely didn’t work for them.  Why would I ever assume it’d be effective for me?

If you’ve ever taken a dim view of God’s work in your life or the lives of those you love, you understand what I’m talking about.

Praise God for His bountiful grace!  Because once again, I’m kneeling at His throne asking for humility…wisdom…perseverance…forgiveness.  If you, too, have an attitude disorder then I welcome you to join me.  There’s a lot of room at the foot of the King.

 

 

 

 

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As I stand in the checkout line, I can’t help but notice the magazines perched at eye level.  Hollywood movie stars grace their covers with airbrushed good looks and perfectly sculpted bodies.  I find myself feeling insecure, imperfect, and unacceptable—just as I did years ago.  It’s been a long road to a healthy self-image and I remind myself not to wander down that path again.

Like most children, my first perception of self originated at home.  And, though my mother offered words of encouragement, my step-father’s abusive language only polluted a fragile self-image with terms like ugly, worthless, and stupid.  Without realizing it, I began collecting those labels as if they belonged to me and used them–against myself.  Ugly.  Worthless. Stupid.

I believed the lie.

Like Alice in Wonderland, my self-image kept shrinking and shrinking—even as I grew.  There wasn’t a magic cure to be found.  All of the rabbit holes were dead ends.  Listed on the honor roll?  I should have done better.  Homecoming queen?  The other girls all looked prettier.  A lot of friends?  Maybe, but not a boyfriend.  I was too skinny and uninteresting.

Over the next several years and even into my young adult life, I tried to earn favor and recognition from others.  Always striving; but never quite attaining.  When I looked in the mirror I saw imperfection.  Why?  Because my self-image was based on the perceptions of others.  I failed to view myself through Christ’s eyes.

As I matured in faith, the truth of scripture began eliminating the lies I’d accepted as reality.  Ugly?  Scripture promises that the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit… is of great worth in God’s sight.  (1 Peter 3:4Worthless?  No.  Instead, I have been adopted as his [daughter] through Jesus Christ.  (Ephesians 1:4-5Stupid?  It doesn’t matter because God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.(1 Corinthians 1:27).

Maybe you’ve accepted the negative labels others have tossed in your direction.  But, listen to what God says about you.  Instead of allowing the world to determine your self-image, why not claim the assurances of the One in whose image you were made?

 

  • Scripture for ReflectionBut you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.  (1 Peter 2:9) 

 

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I can still see my mother poised on the top of the ladder, rubber kitchen gloves pulled up to her elbows.  Thrusting a brillo pad in a bucket of steaming water and ammonia, she’d scrub the walls until every dust streak or scuff mark disappeared.  Spring cleaning almost seemed to take on the same importance as a birthday to a child.

Because of my mother’s example, I learned how to sort laundry, polish copper pots, and properly fold bed sheets.  But, with four children and a full-time job outside of the home, I admit to cutting corners.  My walls rarely feel the sharp points of a scrub brush, dust bunnies nestle safely under the sofa, and I only clean my oven on an as needed basis or before major holidays—whichever comes first.

If I manage to maintain a presentable main level and clean toilets—despite having three sons—I am (mostly) satisfied.  After all, everything looks clean.

Christ addressed this type of pseudo -cleanliness when he said, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” (NLT)

In Jesus’ culture, tombs were a symbol of uncleanliness.  Anyone who came in contact with a tomb was considered impure for seven days.  Jewish law required him to complete a series of rigid purification rites in order to worship God.  Refusal resulted in being cast from the community—and worship.

Because a bright, shiny tomb is more easily avoided than a grey rock camouflaged on the hillside, graves were whitewashed annually.  Few would stumble over the lovely markers dotting the landscape and were able to avoid being polluted—at least externally.

Like a house with a freshly swept front step and flowers dotting the landscape, we can dress up our appearance and seem bright and shiny on the outside but still need cleansing in the hidden corners of our hearts.  The Pharisees did.  As Jewish religious leaders, they were admired for their knowledge, eloquent prayers, and practice of their faith.  Sadly, these traits were only skin deep and Christ knew it.  He saw past the carefully placed décor and noticed the masked filth.

As believers, Christ continues to cleanse us of our impurity.  He stoops down on hands and knees and washes the dirt from the dark places. There are times, though, when we hide our struggles, sins, or strivings from each other—even from ourselves.  We hang a cheerful smile on our faces and respond with the words, “I’m fine” when asked how we’re doing—even though we really need a hug or an encouraging word.

Let’s be more than presentable. Invite a friend or loved one into the heart of your home where she can get to know you.   Share life’s struggles.  Pray.  Be real.  A little dust won’t bother her.  She needs to clean her house, too.

 

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She was lost, thirsty, and desperate for a rescuer.  Then, God showed up–to save a woman who didn’t even know Him.  Have you heard the story of Hagar?  It’s one of my favorites and one I’ve latched onto this year.

I love that El Roi–the God who sees–met Hagar in a lonely, frightened place.

I love that He comforted her in a desperate time.

I love that the God of the world bent down from Heaven’s throne to gather Hagar’s tears and offered tender promises for her son’s future.

Did you know that the God of all compassion and mercy is offering Himself to you today?  He wants to be your Rescuer, Comforter, and Promise Keeper.

I just wanted you to know.

Scripture for reflection Genesis 21

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Was peace an illusion?  For years, my haunted heart yearned for its calming balm.  Christ promised His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.   I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)  But the tears scattered across my people and the anguish twisting my stomach evidenced a complete lack of peace…  How I longed to claim that peace as my own!

I’ve come to understand that, in many ways, peace is something Christ offers but we have to choose it.  His perfect peace is available, but in order to claim it we must lay down our troubles and fears.  It’s as if a beautifully wrapped gift has been placed at our feet–waiting to be unwrapped.  When we clasp today’s worries tightly in our arms–refusing to give them up–it’s impossible to pick up that which we have longed to take hold of.

So…today I’m going to drop the heavy burden at His feet.  Instead, I’m going to trust Him to deal with those worries.  I’m claiming His peace this morning.  Will you, too, dear friend?

Scripture for reflection You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  (Isaiah 26:3)

Action step Create a list of all of today’s concerns, worries, and burdens.  Give each one in prayer to the Lord and throw the list away.  Meditate on Isaiah 26:3 throughout the day when your peace begins to dwindle.

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At times, I’m struck by my status of being just-an-ordinary-someone.  I like it that way.   I’m even comforted by my everyday-run-of-the-mill-wife-and-mother-role.  Why?  Because there is nothing about me that could have won God over or swayed Him to consider whether or not I might be a possible heavenly recruit.  He chose me as His own because of His amazing, incomprehensible love.

Imagine El Roi, the God who sees, reviewing resumes before extending the Good News invitation.

“Hmmm…this one…Tammy Kennington?  Not too promising.  Her credentials are listed here.  Parents?  Divorced.  Temperament?  Avoids conflict and tends to beat around the bush.  Children?  Gentle, but perceived as weak by some.  Faith?  Doesn’t rely on Me like she should.

What a frightening scenario!

Thankfully, the Lord of all mercy and grace offers access to His throne and to His kingdom in spite of my messed up, trying-hard-to- get- it-right, ordinary self.  Ordinary is alright when I have an extraordinary God.

Scripture for Reflection

I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.  (Romans 8:29 MSG)

Recommended Reading

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

Come as You Are by Sheila Walsh

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In a world that applauds Barbie-doll beauty and the bottom line, it’s easy to feel ordinary…unimportant…not worth noticing.  You’ve felt it, too.  I’ve seen it in your eyes.  Heard it in your voice.

Today, I want you to remember that you are uniquely made (Psalm 139:13-16  NIV).  The One who created everything placed His fingerprints on your heart and soul.

Today, I want you to remember that you were created for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10  NIV) by a loving God who has plans for your life (Jeremiah 29:11  NIV).

Today, I want you to remember that you are precious and invaluable to the Creator of everything.  He would give it all up for you alone!  (Isaiah 43:4 MSG

You are extraordinary.  You are made for a purpose.  You are worth so much that He gave His life for you.  You are beautiful.

 

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