God’s Calling Card – Heavenly Hints this Thanksgiving Day

It’s no secret about my love for the holidays, there is a feeling that comes around once a year. You can sense it with the music, the laughter, the smells, the overall more generous tendency. Like Andy Williams said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” The holidays for me are like a home calling card, a heavenly hint. We are the only species that experience this.

Me and my husband were in the living room watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and our dog decided to get out of bed and join us in the living room. When she came down the hallway to the tune of pitter-patter on the laminate floor, we exuberantly exclaimed, “Happy Thanksgiving Sadie!” We love our dogs as you can tell. They really are a part of the family. Then my husband said sensitively as he patted her head, “This is just another day to you, isn’t it?” It is the truth, Sadie doesn’t experience that nostalgia, or longing the way we do. God placed in us something exceptional. He made us in his image.

After watching a bit of the parade, I decided to go for a jog in our neighborhood before I digest a weeks worth of calories. As I walked, taking in God’s beautiful creation, I  began to give thanks for all his bountiful blessings, I became overwhelmed with that home calling card.  I usually take my walks around this time everyday, but today was different. As I walked down the streets, there were kids riding their bikes, laughing and playing; adults waving, and wishing me Happy Thanksgiving, families in their driveways playing games.  I could feel my eyes welling up with tears; the heavenly calling card was giving me a ring. I thought to myself,  this is what we long for, this is what we hope for. We long for unity, genuine goodness, unconditional love, togetherness, no more division, no more discord, no more dysfunction, no more derision.  The beauty and the longing are not IN THE holidays themselves, or the music, or the smells or the feelings, it just coming THROUGH it. It’s a calling card to home! The beauty is in Christ. The oneness is in Him! The harmony that we long for is in Jesus. He is the source.

As you go about your Thanksgiving today, take notice of the heavenly hints,  God’s calling card and give thanks for He loves you with an everlasting love!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Johanna

“These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” C.S. Lewis

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High Self Esteem, Low Self-Esteem or Neither?

High self-esteem, low self-esteem or neither?  Our society says if a person is feeling bad about themselves all the time, talking down to themselves, insecure; they just need higher self esteem. If a person is too full of themselves, well they need a dose of humiliation .

One of my favorite little books that I always go back to is, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller. This is a 4 chapter book that is so good. He basically shows that the Bible clearly doesn’t talk about any kind of self-esteem, but instead gospel humility.

C.S. Lewis says,

“Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.”

Humility is not self-condemnation. We must love ourselves, and we are instructed by Jesus to  “love your neighbor, AS YOURSELF.”

I see it like this when we view ourselves through the lens of a Christian worldview we are who we are by the grace of God. All of our strengths, all of our gifts, every breath that we take, it’s all by the grace of God. If we keep that in view we won’t go down the slippery slope that might lead to pride. Pride makes its way in when we try to do things apart from God.

John 15:5 says,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Pride is really just a puffed up ego. We all have one, now the thing about our egos,  we aren’t supposed to draw attention to it. Tim Keller points out, our ego is a part of our body, but say for instance our elbow, we don’t think about our elbow and how it works it just does its job, but when its hurt, all the sudden our we are paying attention to our elbow. Same for our ego, when we have a hurt ego, we might over compensate and puff it up.

The opposite of pride is self-condemnation which is a form of pride it’s just inverted. Another thing we might do if our ego is hurt is to belittle ourselves, walk around talking bad about ourselves, this is just a deflated ego. It’s flat and bent out of shape, again drawing attention to itself.

The Bible gives us the proper view we should have about ourselves, and its gospel humility. C.S. Lewis said about meeting a truly humble person…

“To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.

Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.

If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

So what is this gospel humility?

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:3

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.”

Bottom line,  get out of the courtroom! Jesus went into the courtroom for us. We are acquitted. It’s finished! Court’s adjourned! We don’t need to judge ourselves. Jesus took our sentence on the cross, and now we can be set free. No more high self-esteem or low self esteem, just living free in Him. We don’t have to live in that bondage.

Now I am not an expert at this, and when I get on the low self train, and my ego is all bruised, and I am walking myself back into the courtroom, I have to remind myself, GET OUT OF THERE! YOU DON’T BELONG THERE!

Friends, I hope you know you don’t belong there either, if you already know the freedom that comes through Jesus then cling to it, and if you don’t know, he is knocking at your door, just open it and let him in.

Blessings to you all! Have a wonderful weekend!

Johanna

 

Two Things We Can Boast in: Weakness and the Cross

It’s been quite a week since last Thursday. I have had several sleepless nights, I have had a mental war. I have worried. I have fretted. My digestive system has suffered. Why you ask? Fear!

I am going to crack open my heart and soul with you. I struggle with worrying too much about what other people think. I also simply take myself too seriously much of the time. I struggle with anxiety. I worry I am going to appear a failure.

My story this last week began when me and my students performed at a retirement home last Thursday. I got up to perform and well I basically fell flat on my face. I lost where I was in the music, got distracted by my thoughts and was overwhelmed with anxiety. You would have thought in my mind that the world came to an end. I did not externalize my feelings. I acted as if nothing happened, but the inner war was tremendous and for a week straight I worried and fretted over that. I assumed people’s thoughts. I was not thinking rational, and I even told myself that, but I was still tortured by it.

In my Psalm study I have been reading through Psalm 64, the first couple of times I read it, it didn’t resonate with me in any particular way, and then I felt compelled to read it again last night, and it jumped off the page and into my heart! The Psalmist in the beginning says, “deliver me from my fear” He didn’t say deliver me from the situation. This is what I was pleading with God, deliver me from this dread! The Psalmist sounded just like me tortured in his mind. He continues on to say “hide me from the secret plots of the wicked.” Now for him it was external enemy, but for me, I resonated with wanting to be hidden. I wanted to go hide. I felt humiliated. Then the Psalmist says, “they hold fast to their evil purpose” I just thought about how our enemy, satan, can use this as an opportunity to try to overcome us, discourage us, condemn us, ensnare us. This is a perfect opportunity for him to get a foothold on us. In verse 7, the Psalmist says, BUT GOD! I just stopped here, because really we needn’t go any further. Everything that preceded this is not the final analysis. GOD is the one who has the final say. God is my deliverer. It says in verse 10, “let the righteous one rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him. Let all the upright in heart exult.”

I was humbled by this situation. God allowed my to fall. God knows my struggle with perfection and people pleasing, and the only way for me to overcome it is through the fire. How can I expect to be refined and to grow to be more like Him if I don’t go through some discomfort. It really has been a thorn in my flesh. I have to learn that it isn’t about me and there is noting like going through something like this, to humble me.

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25

Being a Christian does not mean perfection, or no struggles, and I think of the verse “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The word fear here is not anxiety but a reverence and respect for God’s authority, and trembling is admitting our weakness, and submitting to our dependence solely on God. This is an ongoing sanctification process to bring us into more of HIs likeness. To do this, God has to test and try our hearts. We have to be humbled, and this is not comfortable, but it must be done.

I have hanging in my hallway as a huge reminder from 2 Corinthians 12:9……..

“My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER is made perfect in weakness.”

We have nothing to boast in except our weakness and the cross. It is a truth that I am still learning every day. The layers of of my own self focus are being pulled back. God is gracious with me and he is gentle. I am being refined. I don’t want to remain the same. I want to be more like Him, but I have to be willing to go in the fire, be uncomfortable. I have to deny myself and take up my cross. I have to also remember this is a daily process. Every morning his mercies are new, and I have to come to the feet of Jesus to be renewed every day. Like the old hymn says…….

“Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting  of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Here’s my cup, fill it up and make me whole.”

A final thought — You might have heard that joke/story about the kid who was in church listening to the sermon. The minister prayed, “Dear Lord without you we are but dust.” When the child heard this she leaned over  to mom and said, “Mommy, what is butt dust?”  haha!

I  was sent this joke by my childhood piano teacher and friend before she passed away this past February. We laughed so much about that.  She texted about a month before she died, and the text read simply, “We are SO butt dust!” 😛

Don’t take myself so seriously. Depend on him. Boast in my weakness. Boast in the Cross. I have to beware that just when I think I am something, I will find out pretty soon that I am nothing.

He’s still working on me! He began a good work in me, and he is for sure going to see it though to completion!

God gets the glory!

Blessings,

Johanna

Be Still

Hi Everyone!

Its been almost a month since my last post. It’s been so busy. It’s a lame excuse though.

I have been going through the Psalms for a quite a while now, and this morning, Psalm 46 jumped out to me in a new and fresh way. This is a famous Psalm that speaks of God’s sovereignty, strength, mightiness and holiness, and we have all heard “Be still and know that I am God.” I have to be honest, I have a real problem being still. My mind is always going 90 to nothing. I am thinking of 1400 things that need to be done, even when I am trying to sleep I am bombarded with thoughts that won’t stop. I even get to thinking on theological things sometimes to where my brain starts hurting. Ever been there? In a way I kind of feel like a 3 year old, you know how toddlers squirm, and want to touch everything, and don’t want to listen. Well yeah thats me a lot of the time. I can’t sit still, I need to be doing something. And if I am sitting still, my mind is not sitting still. My mind is squirming and swirling and yes sometimes I don’t want to listen.

I wonder if God, is saying, “sit still child!” Well he is! It says it in Psalm 46. Too much busy-ness and preoccupation can get in the way of our communion with God. This is what I jotted down in my Bible in the margins that was a blessing to me, and I hope you can meditate on this and it is a blessing to you as well.

Be still; He is my refuge

Be still; He is my strength

Be still; He is most high

Be still; He is my help

Be still; He is with me

Be still; He is working

Be still; He is holy

Be still; HE IS GOD

Try putting “Be still” in front of whatever your facing, and then follow it with a truth and promise of God.

He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Blessings to you all!

Johanna