How do you apply the Gospel to yourself?

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I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. Romans 7:15 NLT

My first thought was, “I did not handle that situation well at all!” As I replayed the event with a close friend, I started to feel worse and worse. At the time, I had no idea that I had hurt her. But now it was too late.  Only in fiction do you find those choose-your-own-ending storybooks. Sadly, this was real life and my heart ached.

I slept little that first night as I ran through the events and what I could have done differently. I awoke still feeling sad and ashamed.

It took me until midafternoon to hear the Holy Spirit’s prompt.

I was driving to my exercise class when the Lord brought to mind: Maria, Jesus already died for this!

Then a small kernel of an idea grew: Maria, you have to apply the gospel to yourself.

How does one do that?  I’ve never even thought that through.  But it rang true.  Coupled with that counsel came the truth of God’s sovereignty.  I spoke this fact out loud so my soul could hear:

Satan meant this for evil, to harm your relationship with your friend, but God meant it for good!

Okay, what is the good that can emerge?  I need to look for that.

At the gym, I had about 25 minutes on a cardio machine. To distract my mind, I let it float among these new thoughts.  Almost staccato like, others arrived. As soon as I got into my car, I grabbed the yellow post-it notes and pen that I keep handy.  This is what I jotted down as I applied the gospel of God’s grace to my heart. His assurances included the following:

  • I have not ‘blown it’ irrevocably.  Our relationship may have taken a step backwards, but there’s still time to mend it and grow healthier as friends.  And if it never does heal, well then, one day ALL relationships will not only be restored, but made new and perfect.
  • The truth is, my friend doesn’t know the half of my dark heart.  I’m worse than she realizes AND far more loved than I can even imagine.  Yes, God’s love for me outweighs my sinful, impure motives.
  • Although it’s true that we’ve had issues before that I thought were behind us, apparently the scab had not totally healed. Her accusatory words, some true and others not, were like a severe bump that started the wound to bleed again.

Other counsel from the Holy Spirit included:

  • In this occasion, my assumptions that led to my hurtful action were not correct. Developing the habit of rechecking what I think to be true and running it by the other person could make a difference in future situations.

But what has healed me the most is the image of light. Our God is he who commanded light from the beginning of creation. Supernatural power and protection stream from God’s light. When men encounter Jesus in his luminous light, they fall down powerless. Recall the transfiguration and Paul’s encounter while traveling.

So, in order to stop replaying that scene with my friend over and over, I have flown to the light.  Jesus abides in a circle of light.  Where Jesus is, there is only truth.  All the whispered lies that feel like truth can’t stand the light of God. They only hide in the darkness of fear and shame.

When I’ve been tempted to beat myself up, I have drawn close to the light of Jesus. Several nights have passed and I’ve been able to sleep.

I’m now on a hunt for bible verses about God’s light, aka God’s truth. I NEED that salvific healing balm.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

A bit of vulnerability

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Our Father is a very personal parent.  He treats each of us differently, according to what we need. In His holy judgment obviously. I like to think of His discipleship training course as an IEP, an individual education plan, in ‘educator speak’. 

This week has been no exception to tailor-made lessons for Maria.  Painful ones, yes, but kind.

**

May the God of peace…(be) working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ….Hebrews 13:21 ESV

I woke up feeling blah today. Usually cheery, I checked the usual suspects (sleep, pain, problems).  Fact is, I didn’t sleep well and my body feels off. But the REAL issue is that my heart is cold.

Two days ago, I read an email from a ministry we support. Once a year, they launch a focused prayer season.  I didn’t print out the attached guide.  It just felt too much, to add something else to pray for every day.

Then yesterday, our pastor sent out his weekly email detailing the upcoming Sunday. This year, 2021, we’re back worshipping in person. And two other services are planned for Passion Week.  My reaction?  Not interested.

Now THAT is the real reason for ‘the blahs’.  God made me look fully into a picture of my unholiness, my sin.

But, God prompted a friend…..who just ‘happened’ to send the above verse. Firmly nudged by the Spirit, I made a ‘deal’ with God. “If that Good Friday service is during the day, I’ll go!”

I checked the email. Sure enough, it’s scheduled for noon.

*****

He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 NASB

God’s timing, as always, was impeccable. I listened to an interview with a Christian comedian while cleaning yesterday. He described how his comedy improved once he changed the question (and purpose) from ‘How can I get people to laugh?’  to ‘How can I give people what they need?’

This morning I felt hurt when Anne texted, cancelling Spanish class for Noah because of her surgical appointment.  I have been longing for more contact with her.  So, not even knowing that she had scheduled a procedure stung.

I sat quietly with God, journal open.  Providentially, I had been on the cusp of writing down that comedian’s advice.  By grace, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask, “What can I give Anne right now in this relationship?” Then I knew!  I can write her a newsy, encouraging card.

Immediately, I felt happy, hurt feelings dissolved. I had let go of “I’m not getting what I want” to something better and more freeing.

And you know what?  About an hour after I experienced the bigger blessing of looking at how I could serve this dear gal, she texted and suggested we face time tomorrow. A sweet smile from my Father.

Painful start to summer vacation

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Thank God for Christian girlfriends and a Godly husband who have been holding me up recently.

School is out and I have frittered away 2 of my 11 weeks with not much to show for them.  I have been anxious and depressed.  (Does this come from too much time on my hands?)  Or am I being confronted with one of my many idols?

My worth consists in my productivity.  Here is what I did today!  Just call me superwoman.

My other idol that has me bowing and scraping as a willing slave is a fit body.  As a recovering bulimic I think constantly about food and exercise and how my body feels and looks.

Time for the training wheels to go, Maria!”  Suddenly, I have been confronted with the hollowness of my props.  But not alone.

In divine preparation, one friend gave me a book that has had me meditating on living in the present moment. I’m learning to construct a new reflex of gratitude, while trying to remember that all I do and think should glorify God.  That I can thank God FOR the previous moment that brought me HERE and live in that particular HERE, dependent on Him honors Him. That sacramental attentiveness in lieu of my customary rushed oblivion actually slows down T-I-M-E because it makes me aware of how the eternal I AM (Yahweh) is the God of the present moment.

Last Saturday in one of my rare ‘Ecclesiastes’ moments, I couldn’t think straight.  I kept saying over and over, “J’ai perdu mes repères!!! – I’ve lost my bearings.  I don’t know where I am and where I’m going.  I don’t how to frame my life!”  I finally thought, ‘I should share with my husband, after all, he needs to know what is going on and be a priest to me.’  I was in the bathroom cleaning the floor when he came up to change clothes to mow the lawn.  We sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed.  I told him what I was feeling (same ole, same ole).  As I teared up, he held my hand, listening to me.  When I didn’t know what else to add, I glanced up at him, embarrassed and spent with my emotion.  I saw that he was silently crying, entering into my pain.  Then he prayed for me.  Didn’t offer any advice.  Just sat WITH me and LOVED me.  Never have I felt so tenderly understood and accepted.

A few days later over coffee, another friend opened up about her anxiety in a way that gave me freedom to share my pain about being a slave to fitness. Then and now via email she has been listening to me and my customary thoughts (kept private up until NOW) and reflecting back to me how irrational they are.  (Anything that doesn’t align with God’s Truth needs to be ditched!)

Thursday,  I picnicked with another dear friend who is a classics expert and Godly woman as well.  I got up the courage to share with her what was going on with me and how these first 2 weeks of summer vacation have been painful, fleeting and have felt wasted.  (She teaches at my school and is on the same schedule.  One of the differences between us is that she knows how to rest without guilt.)

She reminded me that we live in wartime.  She pointed me to Revelation 12 where I read how the Accuser pursues us.  Sensing his time is short and driven in his Satanic Smear Campaign he boldly marches right up to the very throne of God bringing stinging condemnation.  Not bothering to address him, the Holy Father just points to the Son sitting next to Him, as if to say, ‘Why bother, these children of mine are clothed in my Son’s purifying blood, you can’t smear them!’ But Satan doesn’t give up:

17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring —those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

So dressing in gospel armor with my helmet of Salvation is a daily necessity!  (There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ)

Finally yesterday, I was catching up with one of my favorite young friends who inherited ME when she married our son.  She shared what she was learning about anxiety – that it is fear about the future.  As such, it is SIN.  And God has provided us with the gift of repentance.  We can experience FREEDOM from guilt, as much as need. Her anxiety is not a condition that God has given her and that He will remove if she prays fervently enough.  In hearing how she is processing anxiety, I was drawn to applying how I live with condemnation which drives me to live by law.  But that TOO is SIN.  And I can repent and move back into the realm of Grace where I am welcome.

Have I enjoyed my first two weeks of summer vacation?  NO!  But I think this is a gift whose time has come.  It’s time for me to unwrap the present and learn the lesson.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of pain that is preceded by and accompanied with Godly friends and family.

‘How blessed, blissful, to be envied – i.e. ASHER, is the woman (having her sins covered because SHE repented) who now trusts and relies on the unfailing love of the Lord’  Psalm 32: 1 & 10

 

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