Wonder Woman

from: 12/05/2016

 

Two years ago, (12/05/2014), I took a Facebook quiz that gave me probably the most accurate results I’ve ever gotten from any of the tons of hokey Facebook quizzes I’ve ever taken.  The quiz was entitled “Which Justice League Superhero Are You?”  Much to my husband’s great delight, I got “Wonder Woman” (he’s a huge fam).  Normally, I am a fan of being associated with anything that my husband is a fan of because – ya know – it’s been 23 years and I like him and he likes me and, well, why not?!  And besides, what girl in her right mind wouldn’t want to be Wonder Woman.  But before I get too off-topic, or start “fan-girling” (as my kids would say), let me tell you: what got me most “excited” (thought I’m not quite sure that’s the right world) was the description behind the results.  Here is VERBATIM what I was told:

You are an idealist and a mediator, able to see and respect different viewpoints and to encourage others to embrace acceptance and compromise.  You have a deep love for people in all of their diversity and empower those who are underrepresented and less powerful.  You are honest and expect others to be honest in turn, even if the truth is painful.  Some people are intimidated by your ideals and consider you to be a radical, but you will never let ignorance and cruelty stop you from believing in what’s right.  Others might consider you a naïve dreamer, but you are wise beyond your years and your selfless defense of other people is invaluable.

Now…who wouldn’t want that kind of description?!  Right?!

Before I go any further, let me just say, for the most part (and I mean, like 99% of the time, the results I get from these quizzes are bogus.  And I only take them for fun.  However, I always answer the questions honestly simply to see how accurate an assessment is being offered.

This one is extremely accurate, of me at least.  And in case you’re wondering, NO, I don’t think it’s accurate because I want it to be.  But I have had many people come into my life over my 42 years and the ones I’ve had the time to get to know the best, and who’ve gotten to know me truly, have all said the same thing.

However, lest you think I’m about to break my arm patting my own back, I would like to tell you why I am sharing these quiz results with you.

For most of my life, I have wanted to be a part of the in-crowd but was relegated to the shadows.  For just as long, I have known this was treatment NOBODY deserves.  But because most people believe they are bound by stupid, societal, “supposed to” rules which perpetually feed an unfair and imbalanced caste system, we are all subjected to various forms of “ASSIMILATE OR DIE.”

However, I have not lived my entire life on the outskirts.  In fact, I have been right in the thick of the in-crowd a couple of times in my life, and MOSTLY I was happy to be there.  I felt like I had finally made it, like I had received all I had ever wanted.  You know what I found?  “ASSIMILATE OR DIE” is in full effect within the group too.  While there are profoundly unbreakable rules in place designed to keep outsiders OUTSIDE the group, there are also just as many rules in place to keep insiders to the group in their place.

I never enjoyed being an outsider.  I always thought people surely must not know what they were missing.  Cliques were so stupid.  However, as much as I couldn’t stand being an outsider, the constraints of being part of the in-crowd are worse FOR ME.

The safety of the in-crowd hinges on a willingness to jealously and zealously guard the borders of the group.  But I could not do it.  I would not.

People are people.  Status doesn’t matter.  In-crowd, outsider, doesn’t matter to me.  What matters to me is your story.

What’s more?!  I’ve felt more accepted by outsiders more often than I’ve ever felt accepted by the in-crowd.  And the kicker:  I didn’t have to sell my soul to get it.  Furthermore, I’ve learned some of my most profound theological and spiritual lessons from the outsiders.

You see, one of my closest friends was THE major outcast in the town where she grew up.  Another dabbled in witchcraft in her youth.  Yet another has tattoos the likes of which would have been looked down upon by many of my more “supposed-to” prone friends.  And the man I’m married to is someone I’d have never been allowed to date.  One thing they all have in common (besides me) is they all have a story I’ve seen many folks balk at getting to know because they are good, “supposed to” stories.

Being part of the in-crowd, too often, has required that I set aside such foolishness as thinking everyone’s story deserves to be heard.  Maybe it is naïve of me, but I’ve always thought the passages in Scripture where Jesus healed lepers and touched the most untouchable ought to be our leading examples of how to treat people.  If Jesus could minister to lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors, surely those who call themselves Christians ought to be ministering to the addicts, prostitutes, homeless, etc.; to ask them to obey Scripture by not preferring the rich and giving them a seat of great honor in our temples.

If that makes me naïve or a radical so be it.  If it makes me an idealist, FINE.  If it’s intimidating, so be it.  My only response is: if my way of thinking somehow threatens your way of life, perhaps that says more about you than me.  Personally, I’ve spent enough of my life apologizing for believing what the Bible says and choosing to be obedient while good people go unknown and outcast for failing to live up to the fickle and arbitrary standards of a small group of “supposed to,” clique-ish folks who think they’ve arrived when really, we’re all still just trying to make it.

Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God and see how many interesting but saved-by-grace outcasts He leads you to.

You’ll be amazed!

The Master Gardener and The Rose

November 27, 2016

A little something God gave me

 

Nobody accuses the rose of being ugly simply because they get stuck by a thorn.

The Rose does not apologize, explain, or make excuses for its thorns, or try to understand why God made it the way He did.

The Rose does not stop being beautiful or smelling good because someone has mishandled it and gotten themselves hurt.

God did not ask permission to make the Rose.  He did not consult other roses or people who had been pricked by other roses before He made more.

He doesn’t ask the Rose to understand.  He only asks the Rose to be a Rose, scent and thorns and all, without apology, trusting that He knew what He was doing when He made it.

How a person responds to the Rose says more about that person than it does the Rose.  We may get mad about being stuck.  We may stomp the Rose, dig it up, burn it, or kill it by some other means, BUT the Rose is still a Rose.  It can’t not be a Rose.

The Rose does not shrink away from sunlight because someone got hurt.  Day after day, the Rose turns its face to the sun and shares its beauty with the world.

 

Some appreciate the Rose for its beauty, others for its scent.  Most respect the fact that there are thorns.  They know they are looking at a Rose, and they look for the thorns so they know where they can and cannot touch.

Others don’t realize they are dealing with a Rose at all and are stuck before they do.

 

Is this the fault of the Rose?

 

Some people might chide the Rose, asking it to apologize for being so offensive to the one it stuck.  They may even suggest the Rose cut off its thorns so as to avoid any future injuries to loved ones, stating that, losing the thorns won’t affect the flower’s face, its beauty, its fragrance, or its life.  Surely that would not be too big a price to pay for one’s friends.

And, those people are probably right.  Most likely the Rose would not be affected the loss of a thorn or two.  But for how many thorns will this hold true?  For how long?  Exactly how much of a plant can a person cut away before killing the plant?

How long must the Rose suffer at the hands of those that only wish for the beauty of the Rose but none of the care of the thing?

How long would something so beautiful survive at the hands of such careless, ignorant, or thoughtless caretakers?

After all, it was not the Rose was not the one who was careless.

 

Surely the poor Beauty would begin to shrivel up and die.  Roses, thorny as they may be, require specific care.  The Master Gardener knows this and can provide just the ideal conditions.

The Master Gardener can look at the Rose, diagnose just exactly what is needed and set out a plan of care tailored to the roses specific needs that will cause the Rose to flourish and thrive.

Sometimes, this might mean that pruning and dead-heading are needed in order for the more established stems to grow stronger and sturdier.  Painful as it might be for the Rose, the end thereof for the plant, as a whole, is a hardier plant, capable of producing bigger and more fragrant blooms.

At other times, a complete uprooting and transplant is in order.  For a myriad of reasons, the Rose simply may not be thriving.  The Master Gardener alone knows the signs.

The Rose, upon being removed from the ground, may be certain it is about to die.  But the Rose is at the mercy of the Gardener.  He will place the traumatized Rose into a new place He has lovingly and knowingly prepared for the plant.  And the Master Gardener knows that the Rose will need some time to recover.  The Rose may even fail to produce blooms for a while, as the roots re-establish themselves.

A less-experienced gardener may mistakenly believe that he has killed the plant and proceed to yank it out of the ground and fill in the hole.  But the Master Gardener is patient, unwilling that His precious beauty should perish.  The Master Gardener gives the plant the time, love and care it needs (care for a sick Rose – not care for a thriving violet), and He waits.

The Master Gardener does not belittle or berate the Rose for failing to thrive.  He does not accuse the Rose of being rebellious and unwilling to bloom, when He is the one who uprooted the Rose in the first place.

The Rose – His Rose – is at His mercy.

 

But…that is the safest place in the world for the Rose to be.  And the best thing for that precious Rose to do is to rest in the knowledge that the Master Gardener knows what He is doing.

All the Rose must do is be the Rose it was created to be and bloom where it was planted.

A little bit of Admin

The method of study that I have chosen for this year’s study is called S.O.A.P. notes.  The acronym stands for:  Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  For much the same reason behind my needing to do this EVERY day for the discipline, I also need a system, otherwise, I may just end up reading a passage (whatever passage) and not doing much else with it.  My hope is to use this method as a way to “work hard so that I can present myself to God and receive his approval, to be a good worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and, likewise, to “train myself to be godly” because “godliness is much better (that physical training) promising benefits in this life and the life to come” (1Timothy 4:7-8).

Before I begin sharing my S.O.A.P. notes, I want to let you know what books I’m using for the passages I’m using this year.

The main book is:  God’s Words of Life from the NIV Women’s Devotional Bible.  I take a verse a day from each chosen section.  If there are not enough verses to fill out the month, I draw from God’s Promises for Your Every Need.  If there was not a corresponding section, or if I did not have enough verses that weren’t duplicated, I pulled from the Topical section of openbible.info and bible.knowing-jesus.com.  Finally, the bible translation I am using – almost exclusively – is the New Living Translation because it’s the one I most enjoy reading.

Though we are not Catholic, my family typically does something in recognition of Lent, which begins – very conveniently for me and this study – on March 1st.  The subject, at least, in part, is going to be fasting.  So, as of now, March is the only month for which I do not already have a schedule.

 

Much love in Christ,  Patty

 

Long time, no see :(

WOW!  It’s been a LONG time!  I feel like I should apologize for not posting so long but I know that’s just performance-based anxiety-guilt talking, so I won’t.  I also won’t make any lame excuses about time having gotten away from me.

Truth be told, when I started this blog, it was in a desperate attempt to bring something of value to God and to be thought something special enough to have some very desperate prayers answered.  He did answer those prayers and, immediately upon receiving my answers, my life entered a surreal tailspin.  WHY?  Well, the short answer is because God did not answer the way I wanted Him to.  He didn’t even answer the way He typically had for most of my life up until that point.

What I began to realize – with the Lord’s help – was that I had been under a pseudo-assumption that God and I had entered into a type of contract.  I say “pseudo” because, had you asked me if I believed that, I would’ve said NO.  Because, of course, that is absurd.  God wants it all, or nothing at all.  There is no contract.  No deal.  No negotiations.  No bargaining.  But prior to that one fateful day in March 2013, my life had pretty much resembled a contract.  To my mind, at least.

I did my part.  I was the obedient, good little, Bible-study-attending, never-miss-a-Sunday-or-Wednesday-service, church girl.  And God did His part and delivered me SWIFTLY – as promised – from ALL my troubles.

It was a pretty sweet deal.  Until it wasn’t.

Because, one day, He said NO.  And that no led to another no.  And that no led to another no.  Until the “no’s” were piled so deep I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever hear a “yes” again.

And just when I felt like I couldn’t possibly hear another “no,” Rejection came.  Well-meaning, good hearted, people thinking they were helping (to shake me loose from an obviously-self-imposed rut; who thought I was somehow guilty of the sins of pride and sloth; or that  I was refusing to help myself by not stepping out in faith, by trusting God) dropped my hand.

I suppose they felt like they were the only ones walking the path we were on and they were tired of carrying me or dragging my dead weight.  I don’t know exactly.

All I know is what I was told:  we simply do not have the grace to serve you and your family anymore.

BOOM!  Another no!  Only this time it came from Job’s friends and was paired with exhortations to get on with my repenting because surely I was sinning.

The damage was more than I could bear.  AND, I was mad!  My friends had hurt me and God had let them, and I couldn’t make anyone believe that the way there saw things was not how they really were.  How could I continue to attend a church where a small – but very important – group of people (people who had walked with us from the beginning but now had not grace left to extend) would now turn their backs on me?

Did I put more trust in them than I had placed in God?  The answer was obvious, given how devastated I was over something I had been certain for two years was inevitable.

People will always fail me.  And God will let it happen whenever I start to trust in men more than I trust in Him.

This is a lesson I’ve had to learn many times and, sometimes, very painfully.  And still, my first instinct is to ALWAYS try to figure things out.

It is with that in mind that I have chosen this year’s course of study.I am choosing to focus on Abba Father this year.  What He says about me.  What the Bible says about Him.  His promises to me.  And how His Love for me is based on His Goodness and not on my ability to do enough good often enough to feel worthy of that Love.

The plan I had before (the plan I had when I started) was all about me bringing something to God, hoping He’d love me.  This plan – which I’ve prayed over since before Thanksgiving – has its roots in The Father, and not in my own pride.  My goal is to draw near to God so that He will draw near to me.

I’m going to be blogging my S.O.A.P. notes for each scripture.  I will also Instagram a shot of each page (if you prefer to follow me there: @pattyh29).  I will be using the hashtags #gettingtoknowthefather and #iknowabbalovesme.

I would love for you to follow along with me and let me know your thoughts.  BUT, I’ll be here, even if you don’t.  Loving My Father and Letting the Father love me.

Blessings,  Patty

Day Sixty-Six: Talking Transparently with God

READ: Read the passage slowly, noticing the raw way Job communicates about God.

JOB 19:13-27
(13-20) “God alienated my family from me; everyone who knows me avoids me. My relatives and friends have all left; houseguests forget I ever existed. The servant girls treat me like a bum off the street, look at me like they’ve never seen me before. I call my attendant and he ignores me, ignores me even though I plead with him. My wife can’t stand to be around me anymore. I’m repulsive to my family. Even street urchins despise me; when I come out, they taunt and jeer. Everyone I’ve ever been close to abhors me; my dearest loved ones reject me. I’m nothing but a bag of bones; my life hangs by a thread.
(21-22) “Oh, friends, dear friends, take pity on me. God has come down hard on me! Do you have to be hard on me, too? Don’t you ever tire of abusing me?
(23-27) “If only my words were written in a book – better yet, chiseled in stone! Still, I know that God lives – the One who gives me back my life – and eventually he’ll take his stand on earth. And I’ll see him – even though I get skinned alive! – see God myself, with my very own eyes. Oh, how I long for that day!”

THINK: As you read Job’s honest description of his situation–what it’s really like–what word or phrase gives voice to some of your own thoughts, feelings, and desires? Perhaps one of Job’s statements bring to mind something in your life that’s weighing on you or confuses you.

In all honesty, I have to admit that I have never felt this kind of rejection. However, I have been put in the position , in our current situation, in which I can see that, did my husband and I not have the relationships that we do, it very well could happen. Not only that; it often does to most people. And, to be even more painfully honest, what’s worse is, I would have been one of the people that would – most likely – ostracize someone who was in the position we are in now.
How easy it is to judge when we’ve not been made to see where we need compassion!
To put a more positive spin on things: I think I’d have to say that this realization has been one of the best things to come out of what we’re going through. Being forced to walk a path that I never thought I’d have to walk because I have been obedient. But not just that: my kids are being forced to walk it as well. This is something my husband and I have discussed at length. If this is something we have to pay for because of sins in our past; FINE. But why make our kids pay the price as well. We are living under the New Covenant. There is not supposed to be any more of this: the sins of the Father are visited on the children to the 3rd and 4th generation.
But see how, even in that statement, I made the same kind of judgment that Job’s friends were making. For the majority of the time I’ve been alive, I have always equated suffering with wrong-doing, with punishment for sin (whether I remembered the sin or not). I’ve always figured that if I was suffering, I was being punished, which means I MUST HAVE done something wrong. So, imagine my shock when, my husband and I were obedient to what we felt like the Lord was calling us to do, and then things did not go the way they are “supposed to”. Then, the confusion is only compounded by the idea that we could pay a price for this for the rest of our lives.
I am thankful for the blessing of friends who have not behaved toward me as Job’s friends behaved toward him. But I am humbled by the knowledge that I have, far too many times, been one of Job’s friends – whether I said the words out loud or not.

PRAY: Talk to God about the feelings and thoughts that surface. Be as open as Job as you share them with him. You might write them out to him or just talk to him like a friend – one you’re in conflict with, but one who wants to work through that conflict with you.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that, with you, nothing is wasted! Thank you that, even in the midst of hard times, you continue to work all things for our benefit. Thank you for the assurance in Scripture that says you have a plan to prosper us, and not to harm us. Thank you for making all things beautiful in their time.
For those who are reading this, who are in the midst of a painful set of circumstances, and can’t understand why, I pray for peace and comfort. I pray You would give them glimpses of the work you are doing that they might be able to make enough sense out of what’s going on to keep going. I pray that You would show them where you’re molding them and shaping them, transforming them more into the likeness of Your Son.
For anyone reading this who has been falsely accused and is suffering persecution, for their spouses, for their children and other loved ones: I pray that you would offer them the assurance that these circumstances have nothing to do with how pleased with them You are. Living in a fallen world, in a world filled with sin, sometimes it’s easy to feel like You have abandoned us at our moments of deepest need. Lord, I pray that you would give each of these people the peace that you have not forsaken them, that you are not deaf to their cries, that you are hearing their prayers, and that they have been answered, though they just cannot see the answer yet. I pray for a renewed sense of hope for good things to come. I pray that their relationships with you would be strengthened, taken to a level deeper than they thought they could ever go.
I pray for fresh insights into the nature of your character. I pray that what seem to be like paradoxes in your character would be cleared up as they come to see that you are both just and merciful, that you do not wish that we would suffer but that you have allowed it in order that you might be glorified.
I pray for “AHA” moments: moments where we realize the truth of something we have known with our heads for so long has finally sunken in, finally taken hold, and we are now able to walk with a sense of peace that we have never had before, and with a deeper understanding of how you work in our lives.
Finally, Lord, I want to thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you that we do not have a high priest who cannot identify with us in our suffering. Thank you that we have a representative before Your Throne who knows how badly pain feels because He has felt it. Thank you that we have an ambassador who knows what betrayal feels like because He has felt it. Thank you for descending to Earth, in bodily form, to live as a man, so that you can know how it feels to be here. Thank you for the hope that offers, because, sometimes, just knowing that someone else has been through what we are going through and they made it, is enough to help us keep going. Thank you for those moments when you allow us to see that we are not as far away from you as we feel. Thank you for those times when you show us just a glimpse of what you working out of us and working into us. Thank you for those times when, we get to see the front of the tapestry of our lives, instead of just the knotted back.
And for those times during the refining process when we do not have to sit in the fire, or have to be banged on, I thank you for rest.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen

LIVE: As you go through the rest of your day, pay close attention to thoughts and feelings (similar to or different from those in your prayer time) that arise in relation to events, conversations, and experiences. Tell God about them as they come up, so you’re carrying on an extended dialogue with him all day long.
At the end of the day, take a few moments to remember what happened, in particular what it was like to talk to God throughout the day’s circumstances.