A Creative Word

Practical, occasionally funny, faith-focused thoughts.

Month: November 2008

>What’s Shaping Your Identity?

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Today, I read this on a blog:
“Some of you see this pain as a friend – it gets you the attention you need from others, and the thought of losing that attention can be frightening. To you, losing the attention of others means being alone and that seems unbearable. Still this is another lesson you must learn – to the degree you feel alone is the degree you depend on others for your satisfaction, value, and self worth.”

I know that we sometimes hold on to pain– or anger, or hurt– and I guess I never really thought about why, but now it seems clear.

It’s an Identity issue. (Hey– we’ve just been talking about those!!!)

Pain, Anger… these things help establish to us or to others WHO we are. “I am the one who was wounded– wrongly.” “I am the one who was done wrong.” “I am the innocent– and righteous– victim.” “I am the one whose gift is never recognized because of un-spiritual people are in charge at work or at my congregation.” “I am the one allowed to be suspicious, bitter, angry, selfish… because someone hurt me.” “I am a Christian, but I’m the body part that doesn’t have to be present when the body gets together– because the other body parts hurt me!”

How can you know when you’re holding on to pain or anger and letting it become– or at least shape– your identity?

I know that when I hold on to anger or hurt, it comes up frequently in my conversations… if you’re not as verbal as I am, then maybe you’re experiencing it as the conversations or situations you rehearse mentally, over and over again. Is that happening in your life right now? Has it happened in the past?

Letting go of those hurts and that anger allows us to begin to really believe what GOD says about us, rather than what we or others say about us.

And believing what God says about us opens doors to joy, as we begin to experience Life as He intended us to!

Not to ignore what has happened to us… we must gain the tools that help us to cope and determine to forgive (sometimes daily) so that God’s healing can come to us.

Even after we decide to forgive, the enemy often reminds us of the offense… and if we begin mentally rehearsing it, we’re right back where we started! So… remind yourself (and the enemy) outloud that you’ve decided to forgive, and cast down that vain imagination.

This is one of the toughest disciplines there is. In fact, fasting food seems easy compared to disciplining our thoughts! (Another truth from the previously mentioned blog!)

But the rewards are amazing!

Imagine truly believing that you are an HEIR– inheriting what Jesus does!!!
Imagine truly believing that you are EXPERTLY CRAFTED, of many things that PLEASE GOD!!
Imagine truly believing that you absolutely have every ounce of love He has to give– that no matter how much good you do, no matter how badly you fail or fall, He won’t love you any more than He does right now, and He won’t love you any less!!!!

If you TRULY believed– and behaved– as if all that God says about you is REAL IN YOUR LIFE, how would your life be different?

One thing is for sure: there’s more joy and more peace (wholeness– nothing missing and nothing broken) when I let go of hurt and anger, and make room for what is TRULY my identity.

And to experience it, we only have to trade in our pain and anger… that’s better than the $3k the govt is offering for trade in on cars older than 10 years!!!!!

>Which’s Easier? Living or Dying?

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Have you ever considered what you would do if faced with the choice to deny Jesus as Lord or die?

I think most Christians have, and that they reach the conclusion “yes,” they COULD die for Jesus. I think, if faced with the choice, “Acknowledge Him as Lord and die, but admit He is not Lord and you will live” then most Christians know they could chose Christ as Lord.

But upon further thought, I think the most important question is not whether I could die for Jesus, but whether I could give up my life for Him.

What I mean is, am I willing to give up what I want to do, and spend the time doing what He wants me to do?

Jesus said, He who would gain his life, must lose it! (Matt 10:39)

Let me frame it in a real life situation. Should I watch another rerun of That 70s Show, or should I turn the TV off and work on the Bible Study lesson I have? (2 Tim 2:15)

Should I luxuriate in bed Sunday morning, or obey His command to “forsake not the gathering together of Christians, as is the habit of some…”? (Heb 10:25)

Should I complain away about a brother or sister when they have hurt me, or should I clamp my mouth shut and take that concern to the Lord, them and my spiritual advisor if necessary? (Mt 11:25, Mt 18)

Giving up my life is NOT an easy decision. And it’s not a one-time decision. It’s a daily question. In my life, sometimes it’s a moment-by-moment question. Will I walk with Him, giving up my wants and obeying His direction? Or will I do what pleases my flesh?

Sometimes I sound like a whiny adolescent “It’s MY life!!! I should get to do what I want!”

And God lets me. Every day He lets me choose what I want most. Do I want MOST to please myself, or do I want MOST to please Him? Sometimes, I choose to do what my flesh wants; sometimes I choose to give up my life for Him. And that is when I gain everything, and truly lose nothing of value.

When I choose to do what HE wants me to, I usually end up with an almost immediate delight in the outcome! For example, when I go ahead and turn the TV of that rerun, and study to prepare the lesson, then I usually find out that something that study time revealed actually helped a friend! When I roll out of bed and attend worship services, I usually experience His presence during worship or hearing something that truly helps me in a struggle I have.

Give it some thought. After you’ve made the decision you could DIE for Him… consider whether you could give up your life for Him.

>The Root of the Problem pt 1 of 3

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One spring, my husband noticed a gorgeous, leafy vine growing near our front door. It would make a beautiful surrounding to our entryway, so he placed a few wires and nails to help the vine wrap around the column and up over the door. Once those nails and wires were in place, the vine flourished, and soon the entire area was covered in brilliant leaves. Wow– gorgeous landscaping with very little cost!!!

That same summer, my husband developed an odd rash near his eye. He treated it and treated it, but it never went away. Our son developed a rash, too, and couldn’t seem to rid himself of it despite several applications of very potent medication.

You guessed it—the vine was an unusual and attractive species of poison ivy! My son had apparently brought a little of it to the house on his clothes from a trip to the woods, and it dropped near our front door. Naturally, it took root and grew. Then my husband—noticing only the pleasing aspects of it– had shaped and nurtured it so it would flourish, unknowingly causing pain and discomfort.

And neither ever suspected that the painful symptoms were caused by something that seemed so attractive. After, my mother-in-law took a close look at the vine, and found reference to it in a book, she let them know the source of their continuing discomfort.

Thank goodness, because no matter what we used to treat their rashes, every time they walked through the door and brushed up against the vine, this re-exposure would cause the rash to reappear– although they had no clue WHY the painful rash was returning!

After discovering this vine he’d encouraged was the cause of his and our son’s rash, he toiled to remove every last trace of the vine and its root.

>Bad Spiritual Fruit- Part 2 of 3

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Poison ivy leaves are a lot like bad spiritual fruit. Both are the result of a root from something bad. Poison ivy has seemingly endless yards of gnarly, woody roots beneath the surface, and every inch must be dug up to keep the ivy from returning. It’s also necessary to diligently search for evidence of the vine for months—and even years—thereafter, in case the tiniest trace remained and takes root again.

My husband dug out the root; he worked until the task was accomplished, to prevent future re-growth and resulting pain.

Our “bad” spiritual fruit, too, is the distasteful result of something with deep (often hidden) roots. And sometimes, we had nothing to do with how the seed got planted.

The Process

When someone sins against us, it wounds us, placing a vulnerable entry spot into our lives – a hole into our spiritual fortress, so to speak.

While our choice to quickly (and sometimes repeatedly) forgive (Matthew 6:14-15) can shore up these breaches to our defenses, often we are so conscious of our hurt that we focus on protecting ourselves from future hurt by every carnal (non-spiritual) means we can think of.

Maybe we devote our energy to making sure this person “pays” for his/her sin; maybe we want to wait till the perpetrator is “really sorry” for what he/she did before we forgive; or maybe we even think we’ve forgiven, but we’ve only said the words and buried the pain, rather than let God minister to our spirits and souls (emotions, thoughts and desires). However, if the entry point (wound) is left unprotected, that particular sin-seed will take root in that entry point– sending the roots as deep as possible.

We didn’t cause the vulnerable entry area, and we certainly didn’t send the roots into that area. Sin did that.

BUT– the fruit of the sin that was committed against us will come into our own lives if we don’t allow God to heal the wound that was caused when a person hurt us through his or her sin.

Look at an example we all understand. A child who is abused didn’t bring this violence into his/her own life, but unless he/she is healed and rid of it by the Holy Spirit and excellent counseling, he/she is likely to be angry, frustrated, and violent; and may even produce bad fruit by perpetuating this sin into the lives of others—namely his or her own children.

>Back to the Vine Analogy Part 3 of 3

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Treating only the symptoms (bad fruit, sin and pain) is like plucking all the fruit off the vine and burning that fruit. Look– no fruit, just scorched earth! At least for a little while…

Drastically treating the symptoms is like cutting the vine off at ground level. And at first– there’s no sign of the vine or its fruit at all.

But the root still exists, and it WILL produce new branches as well as more unpleasant fruit– perhaps a fruit that looks slightly different, but has the same bitter taste.

I hope we can all see the correlation. We must treat the underlying cause/root (the wound we received when someone sinned against us) of our bad spiritual fruit (which includes the our painful symptoms and our own resulting sins) so we can fully eliminate that fruit (pain or sin).

We need to look for the cause of our bad spiritual fruit/pain/sin and allow God to help us deal with it so that we can be completely and truly free.

Prayer can help reveal the root, when we aren’t sure what it is. Trained Christian counselors and those who are very experienced in deliverance ministry can also help us discover the root. (Psalms 1:1) Then God can help us be free of the fruit AND free of the root!!***

Digging up the roots to permanently remove the bad spiritual fruit/pain/habitual sins can be dirty, hard work. While there’s no question that Jesus forgives us and makes a way out of sin for us, we often have to change our habits of thought and habits of deed that lead us INTO sin! Digging up the root helps us do that. Jesus tells us to deal drastically with our own sin in Matt 18:8-9.

So how do we “dig up the roots?”

  • We already mentioned forgiveness. (Mark 11:25-26)
  • Digging up the roots usually requires godly, wise counsel. Spiritual intervention is frequently needed, too. (Ps 1:1)
  • Careful, personal examination of scripture is ALWAYS part of the process, as is prayer. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • Consistent fellowship with Christians in a worship and learning environment is incredibly helpful, also. (Romans 12:4-5)
  • Finally, determination to walk in spiritual health is absolutely required. (2 Cor 7:1) Without determination, one can easily slip into habits that allow the bad fruit (pain / sin) to re-introduce itself to our lives.

Being free of that bad fruit IS possible. Talk to those Christians you fellowship and worship with– they’ll often gladly share their personal stories of victory!

>Now What? A Post-Election Blog

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Sure, this is a day later than most post-election blogs, but I think the topic remains relevant…

I know you may be feeling numb, concerned, sick or even discouraged.

But remember this:

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1

and ESPECIALLY this:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14


And while the temptation to make jokes or snide remarks at the president’s expense may become very strong in the future, remember this:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Romans 13:1

Because although God gives the people what they ask for (Saul as King) the Lord is also gracious, and then gives them what they need (David– a man after His own heart!!!!!)

We have four years… if we will CONTINUE TO BE FAITHFUL TO: be humble, pray, seek God’s face and repent where our lives aren’t matching His Word, He will give us a DAVID!!!!

Is it worth it??? Four years can seem like a long time… don’t give up, don’t get discouraged… remember that our God is faithful!!!!!

Suzanne F said this:

I was reminded this morning of how desperate the situation must have seemed when those who followed Christ saw him being dragged to the cross knowing that God could have sent an army of angels to rescue Jesus, not understanding that the plan to come was for a grander purpose. I will hold on today with the hope that the same is true with this situation.

I believe that most people did not understand that this election was about more than the economy. I have to say that I am a bit concerned about the message we have just sent as a nation to our commitment as followers of Christ and our support for the people of Israel. I pray that we become more vigilant in our prayers for our new President… (end)

Amen, Suzanne!

>Failed Again? Remember This!

>Success is always high on our list of priorities, isn’t it? But have you ever noticed that when you succeed, when you do you do something right the first time, you really don’t learn anything?

Have you ever made a tasty dinner? Well, did you LEARN anything through that success? (Ummm, will you teach it to me? Cooking isn’t my forte.)

Anyway, did you learn anything when you succeeded? I’m guessing the answer is no.

But “failure” can actually teach us.

When we “fail,” we say something like this.

“Oops, this cake is too dry.”

Now, IF (and only if) we then say, “Next time, I’ll add more milk!” then we have learned something.We’ve learned the WRONG way to make a cake. That puts us one step closer to making a good cake.

Now, the next step may be discovering, “Oops! Too much milk! Next time I’ll use half that much!”

Yep, it can be a tedious process learning to make a really moist, good cake. And when we change ovens, there’s a certain part we have to re-learn. (Uh-oh! A hotspot—better leave it in for a few less minutes, or put a baking stone in the bottom of this oven!)

We only learn if we try to ANALYZE what went wrong, then try again, with something new in our efforts. And often, try AGAIN and AGAIN. Because if we’re trying to do something worthwhile, it’s probably pretty complicated and will take many, many attempts.

Now, if we instead say, “I am terrible at making cakes! I am never going to make another cake, because look what happens!!!” then we learn nothing.

We don’t grow at all. We blame ourselves, the recipe, the oven or whatever, and give up. We haven’t moved forward, we’ve just stayed in the same place. As good as we were yesterday, perhaps, but no better.

The question is, did God design us to fail and give up, or did He give us the reasoning capacity to figure out where we went wrong, and re-adjust our course?

The answer is obvious.

And it helps if we have someone who will kindly and honestly give us feedback. (I can tell you worked so hard. I think that a little butter in the milk will make it even moister!)

So often, we say “Nobody’s perfect!” but deep down, we really think that we should get things right the first time and every time, and it should be easy!

Truthfully, the curse prevents that. (Genesis 3:17-18)

Remember, God had told Adam & Eve to “tend the earth” or “dress the garden” way before the curse. (Genesis 2:15)The curse isn’t that they had to work (tend the earth) it was that they would have to tend the earth through sweat and thistles!

So—we are to meet our “failures” with determination, working to succeed. And the curse pretty much promises that there will be failures!!!

Rumor has it that Edison tried 10 thousand (!!!!!) ways to make a light bulb; and when asked if failing 9,999 times discouraged him, he said, “I didn’t fail 9,999 times. I just learned 9,999 ways how NOT to make a light bulb!”

It sounds funny, but the concept, if not the story, is true.

Success rarely teaches us anything. “Failing,” when we persevere toward success, can teach us LOTS!

But it will take grace, plenty of determination, and lots of humbleness to reach success.

BUT– you WILL reach it, if you’ll just fail, analyze, adjust and try again. And you’ll reach success faster if you’ll fail at a faster rate! 🙂

Click this link to read the first of my favorite three posts! A Creative Word: Self Esteem vs Self Image (Self Image pt 1)

Mary DID Know… You Can, Too (Self Image pt 1)

Have you EVER thought about what great self images Mary, Joseph and the shepherds must have had? Yeah. Me neither. But it’s true!

The second chapter of Luke begins with Caesar Augustus requiring a census, and Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.As I read the chapter, what I noticed again and again was the excellent self image of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds to whom the angels appeared.

Today, society is more concerned with self esteem than self image.Esteem is how highly (or lowly) we regard and value ourselves.This regard can be manifested in a healthy way (I will not remain in abusive relationships) or negatively (I am my top priority, attaining what I desire is my foremost concern.)The actual definition of self-esteem is “a feeling of pride in oneself.”

 Self image is how we see ourselves. (I am a nice person, or, I can’t possibly achieve that goal, I’m not good enough.) Image focuses more on our view or perspective. The difference is subtle, and the similarities are many but I hope you detect the difference. The definition of self-image is the concept one has of oneself, including an assessment of qualifications and personal worth.

I believe that God’s will for us is to have an excellent self-image.I also believe that the definition of an excellent self-image is agreeing with what God says about us, nothing more and nothing less.

Mary’s self image was certainly built upon confidence that what God said about her was true.He told her she was righteous and blessed—and she believed Him!Now I am convinced that this was NOT what all Mary’s neighbors were saying about her.There is not much doubt Mary participated in a community that valued the outward appearance of righteousness.Human nature being what it is, some in her community just went through the motions of a relationship with God, others passionately sought Him and others tried make sure that they were better by comparison with their neighbors so He would accept them.

In a community like that, the moral code is much stricter than the world we live in today; where couples frequently live together outside of marriage and have children with no regard to marriage, but let’s not forget that divorce and adultery were probably very much a part of the area in which she lived. And as Mary came of age during the reign of the most famous Caesar, abortions, orgies and demon worship weren’t unknown. But it is true that the penalty for adultery and children out of wedlock within a small, practicing Jewish village was much stricter than it is today!

Imagine clinging to the knowledge that you are truly righteous and favored of God—because He says so!– while engaged and becoming more and more obviously pregnant. Yet she faced down those who would declare her an adulteress or fornicator and gave birth to the Messiah. She had options. She could decide that this path was just too tough, the consequences too harsh, and abort. (Abortion is not a recent invention.) She could begin to doubt what she’d heard from the angel (too many figs, a bad batch of wine) or she could simply have hidden from Joseph and not faced what he had to say, living as an outcast. Her self image was based on what God said, and she behaved accordingly.

Joseph quietly and firmly believed what God said about him, rather than what he himself originally thought or those around him said.It was his first thought to “divorce” (end the formal engagement to) Mary.Then, when God sent word that she was pregnant with the Messiah, he ignored what others said about him and his fiancée, and carried out God’s plan despite the criticism he surely faced.What must God have thought of this man’s character, that He would trust Joseph to endure the mockery this birth would surely bring him and then raise Jesus with a kind and loving heart?

Joseph believed what God said about this situation, “It is not a dishonor, but an honor!”If he hadn’t, he would have simply gone on with his own thought, to divorce/break the engagement with Mary.

The shepherds, too, believed what God has said about them! “To YOU a Savior is born!” And they told the story far and wide. Don’t you imagine they heard comments like “Why would God’s angels appear to YOU, you’re just shepherds? Wouldn’t the King of the Universe appear to important people? You surely don’t expect us to believe that God announced the birth of our long awaited Messiah to you first, do you? He would certainly tell the Priests or prophets before He’d bother to mention it to a bunch of shepherds!”

But these men clung to what God thought: they were worthy to hear the news first, competent to find the baby, and qualified to spread the joy!

To have such excellent self images! It will affect everything: what we achieve, how we raise our children, how we respond to our enemies; I can’t think of anything it WON’T affect. So deciding to build an excellent self image is an easy decision. Read part 2 of Self Image, a 3 part series. Click here for part 3.

>Building Your Self Image (Self Image pt 2)

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Now for the hard part. Choosing HOW to build our self images. There are three possible foundation materials we can use to form our self images.

The first is the best: the rock of the Messiah Jesus, who is Truth. We must believe and trust that what God says about us is True. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made! That means he designed my quick sense of humor and my observant nature because they would be a delight to Him.

I can use my quick wit to slash others’ self confidence and I can choose to nit pick every little thing I hear; but that is me allowing God’s creation to be bent and twisted with sin. Mind renewal, submission to authority and allowing myself to be transparent to close and God-seeking friends is required to keep me walking upright, rather than bent by sins that I don’t want to acknowledge, that need to be put out of my life!

But to have an excellent self image that is TRUE, I MUST believe myself to be what God says I am. I must believe what He says about sex and marriage despite the message TV shows and women’s magazines give me (or, gulp! The hopefully-airbrushed pictures in men’s magazines.) I must believe what He says about modesty rather than what the fashion critics say about the hot new look. I must believe what He says about my talents, attitudes and actions rather than what my office or neighborhood rival says.

If that in ANY way sounds easy, don’t be misled! In our society, messages about who we are and what we have to do and be so we can be considered valuable, are surrounding us daily.

Recently a friend of mine confided how hurt she had been, when she gave a home jewelry show presentation. A guest of the show was seated to her right, and this guest kept turning to the woman on her own right, and criticizing my friend’s demonstration. Her remarks were cutting, and just loud enough that my friend endured them through the entire show; carrying on with her presentation; but all the while wondering if she was really doing as badly as the guest was saying. Imagine the difficulty in continuing her demonstration with that constant negative feedback. That is an extreme, although effective, example of the assault the world can wage on our self images.

How hard it is sometimes to believe what God says about us, and to let His truth over-rule what we hear everyday! Some of us—like me– were not raised to respond to the continual direction & redirection of God’s Word. Hearing that we have to believe what God says and reject whatever disagrees with His Word can be a totally new concept! To understand that this is a daily and sometimes hourly task is a really difficult idea to grasp!

The second foundation material we can use to build our self-image is compliments and criticism of those we come in contact with. It seems obvious that we shouldn’t base our view of ourselves on every criticism we receive. Not so obvious is how unhealthy it can be to place our image in the hands of the compliments we get. I don’t mean that we should disregard compliments—those can encourage us when we’re ready to give up. And we can’t disregard all criticism—it can be quite constructive when verified and prayerfully evaluated. But we are in a very weak position if we base how we see ourselves on the feedback we get from humans.

Compliments are given based on what the speaker values. The danger lies in enjoying the appreciation enough to begin basing our values (what we hold dear) on that compliment.

Think we would never do that? If one constantly praises a little girl for her appearance (Oh! Aren’t you cute!) she can begin to value/place importance on her attractiveness. Of course, I’m not advocating we never tell the young girls in our lives that we think they are beautiful—but it’s very important to demonstrate by our comments that we also place a high importance on how beautiful her heart is, how proud we are that she is improving her mind and learning to serve God.

When I first learned how damaging it could be to constantly emphasize how pretty a little girl was, I developed a habit of catching her doing something kind or thoughtful, and telling her that she was as pretty inside as she was outside. (I tried to make sure she understood what I meant, but who knows, there could be dozens of little girls out there whom I convinced that their small intestines are quite attractive!)

Of course, I don’t’ think we need to spend much time on how unhealthy and unhappy we’ll be if we base our image of ourselves on the criticism of those we come in contact with. People are human, and their view of us is naturally limited. They can’t see our hearts, as God can. And even those who dearly treasure us and know us well can mistake our motives and comments frequently! Their moods and pasts can also influence what they say to us, too, of course.

On to the third self-image foundation material. We can build our self image by tearing others down, verbally, and building ourselves up with the rubble. This one is the most dangerous to us and to others. Not only does it leave a swath of destruction in our wake, but the material has invisible stress cracks, and must constantly be shored up with more rubble.

Have you ever been guilty of turning to a friend and making a snide remark about someone’s appearance, intelligence or comments? I have. It made me feel clever, or more stylish or better informed and I usually did it with a seemingly appreciative audience (well, they were laughing or agreeing, anyway.) And the “victim” rarely heard my comments. That’s building myself with the rubble of someone I just tore down. And it never really hit home until my friend described her jewelry demonstration experience. Of course, we all know people who make such remarks out loud, within the victim’s hearing. But keep in mind, this is destructive to the speaker (not just the victim) whether the comments are made quietly or publicly.

Do you know what God says about you? Is that how you view yourself? Frankly, you’re NOT ALONE if you don’t really look at yourself the way He sees you. BUT—you CAN begin to see yourself that way. And there’s no “magic” or “hocus pocus” involved.

Start at the very beginning. “God created…” First, spend a little time thinking about the creation PROCESS. It begins with DESIGN, doesn’t it? Now, when you decide to create something (lets say, a cake) you immediately begin to decide to put things into the batter that YOU LIKE, right? Well, there you go. Before God created YOU, He decided to PUT THINGS HE LIKES into His design of you!!!!

That alone may not do all the work of helping you have an excellent self image, but it’s one of the very best beginnings! Read on for part 3 of Self Image.Click here to read part 1.

>My Self Image Journey (Self Image pt 3)

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Welcome to part 3 of this series—the final entry. And actually, if you haven’t read the first two parts, there may be a few things that are confusing… but not too much!

God has spent the past several years carefully walking me through rebuilding my self image. Frankly, parts of the process have been painful, and when faced with a choice, I might well have turned away, and remained as I was. Fortunately, He would rather have me whole, healthy and truly joyful and happy, than have me sitting on my rump in my comfort zone—where I’m not much use to Him, myself or others!

And each time I thought I was finally done, He’d give me a little recovery time, and begin to work on another area. I don’t dare say that I have finally achieved a complete victory, but I know He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in me!

Truthfully, I don’t remember praying for God to give me an excellent self image. Oh. As I typed that, the Holy Spirit began to tickle my memory.

He reminded me of late 2002. My husband and I had just left staff ministry positions at a church we’d been associated with for half of our Christian walk. As can happen, the circumstances we left under were very hurtful.

I remember sobbing in a private corner of our new church, begging God to show me what I’d done wrong, because if I wasn’t the youth pastor’s wife, if I wasn’t a young adult group leader, if I wasn’t a Sunday school teacher, then WHO was I?

Music was playing, and all through the sanctuary people were worshipping. A kindly man I recognized as the pastor came and knelt beside me, telling me he didn’t know me, but that the Lord had a word for me.

What He said to me isn’t significant here, but I have just now realized that my prayer WAS. My prayer was about my self image. “Who am I?”

Well, the Lord spent fully the next year healing me of some wounds I’d received at the former congregation, but sure enough, that following December He began dealing with my self image.

As many works of the Lord do, it started strangely! At least, the works He does in me seem to start that way. The “small group” we had just begun leading was having a Christmas party at our house. As I completely expected, one guest admired my Christmas tree. If that sounds strange, it must be because you haven’t seen how I obsessively decorate that tree. After several years of collecting oversize, shimmering gold ornaments, the only thing more prominent on this tree is the crimson and purple glass balls that are clustered on every available space. (Yes! Touching each other!)

So the conversation turned to Christmas trees, and I commented on how painstakingly I decorated it, squelching my children’s pleas for different colors, and insisting on every ornament conforming to my picture of the perfect tree. (Sounds like a warm and fuzzy Christmas tradition, doesn’t it?)

Then a woman who later became a mentor to me asked why I decorated my tree like that.

I looked at her slightly stunned. Couldn’t she see how beautiful it was? Why in the world would she ask a question like that? I finally replied that I liked the way it looked, and the conversation continued, with others commenting on the colors they had chosen, or decorating traditions in their families.

That night, around 3 am, after having slept for several hours, I woke up out of a sound sleep. God then told me that I decorated my tree like that because I wanted to cultivate an image of excellent and artistic taste. I was performing to achieve compliments and admiration of people, to bolster my self image.

Oh. Yeah, Lord, I guess You’re right. Yay! I can now relax and not base my image on people’s response to how they perceive me! What a great deliverance! Glad you took care of that “image thing” in me, Lord!

The following Spring I attended a women’s retreat my church sponsored. During this retreat, God brought me face to face with my constant obsession with creating a “pulled together” look (image) by planning every outfit and coordinating accessories. Now don’t get me wrong. There is no sin in wearing cute clothes or having great fashion sense.

But FYI, you can know you have a problem when you carefully accessorize your jogging suits and would never, ever jog in them!

My problem lay in being focused on how other people viewed me, and catering to the focus by planning each and every outfit worn in front of any person who wasn’t in my immediate family. That way, I could use other people’s compliments to create my self image. I dressed to achieve an image I admired, to receive other people’s admiration. Look, sometimes we’re not really strong on logic when we’re trying to create a self image!!!

In fact, God showed me that this image obsession was actually what is commonly known as a generational curse: something one of your parents or grandparents had, and one of their parents before them. He clearly showed me I had received this problem and I immediately prayed for deliverance! And He was faithful to do that.

You know, I had never realized how much of my time I spent planning outfits and accessories. It probably sounds silly to you, but it truly was a delicious freedom to not spend time analyzing what outfit would be best, and trying to remember whether I had worn it in front of that particular group within the past few weeks.

Wow! Thanks, Lord. I don’t have to slave over every outfit to create an image of who I am! Glad you’re finally done with that “image thing” in me, Lord! Now I don’t spend more time thinking about what others think of me, than what You think of me!

No, as you suspected, the journey isn’t done yet. A few months later I discovered that something I’d said regarding ministry had been misconstrued by one of my spiritual leaders, and that person’s family. Their anger and disdain was palpable, and truly crushing to me. I was heartbroken, and desperate to win back their approval. I was even willing to consider a critical “word from God” that actually contradicted what God had specifically told me; if my acceptance of that “word” would restore me to their good graces.

Sad, huh?

Again, I was basing my self image on who THEY said I was, rather than who God said I was.

When they were happy with me and praising me, I was satisfied. When they were disappointed, I was struggling to reestablish their satisfaction with me and their affection toward me.

God walked me through that painful episode, showing me when I had first learned to desperately seek approval whenever I was rejected. Do you know that the basis of it was so deeply ingrained in who I was that I had a hard time sharing it with my husband?

God next allowed me to take a brief 3 part course called Designed for Destiny. It consisted of some personality, interest and spiritual gift evaluations. And as strange as it sounds, I felt like the results of those evaluations (gifted in guiding people –through creativity– into deeper relationships with the Lord) gave me “permission” to declare myself to be what God had actually designed me to be. Interestingly, it turned out to be exactly what I had always dreamed of being!

What a journey—all to undo the self image I built through compliments and criticism, and frankly, a little bit of rubble from other people. And you know what? I may not be done yet, but God has declared that He is faithful to finish the good work He began in me!

So let’s hear what you think.

What have you been building your self image with, mostly?

Have you struggled with seeing yourself as the things God has declared you to be?

Do you know much about what God has declared you to be?

What facets of your self image do you struggle with most often, and why?

With whom do you identify most—Mary, Joseph or the shepherds?
Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

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