Friday, July 26, 2013

Most Embarrassing Moment

We all have them.  Embarrassing moments in our past that haunt or humor us to this day.  Being the sensitive person I have always been, I personally feel I have more of these moments than anyone needs.  But let me share a few of my favorites to set the tone here...

The first embarrassing moment I can even recall was when I peed my pants in second grade.  I had asked my teacher numerous times to use the restroom, but she kept saying, "No."  Our class had just gone to the restroom as a class and I had refused to take the opportunity.  So, in her domineering attempt to teach me a lesson, I wet myself...and my chair, and the floor.  I can still see that puddle to this day (and hear it)!  Surprisingly enough, no one made fun of me for it.  I think the other kids were all empathetic that she had refused my repeated requests--well, that and the fact that I began bawling hysterically upon releasing the flood gates.  I guess they all decided I'd already had enough stress.  One boy, who usually took every opportunity to pick on me, even came over and said he was sorry for me.  Kids can be cruel...but they can also be wonderful.  I still remember the hideous jeans she made me put on until my mom could arrive with fresh attire.  Boy, was I stylin'.  As if wetting myself wasn't enough humiliation.

My next most embarrassing moment was when I was around 16 years old.  I was at Grand Lake in Oklahoma vacationing with two girlfriends and their families.  We'd left the cabin for the day to take the boat out for a fun day of tubing and skiing.  I didn't know how to ski yet, so one friend's cousin kindly asked if she could get in the lake with me and teach me.  Being the sports-lover and athlete that I was (and still attempt to be), I was thoroughly excited that someone was willing to teach me a new sport.  Within about 30 minutes, (and several face flops and massive wedgies), I was slalom skiing and absolutely elated about it!  The feeling of accomplishment to have learned a challenging and new sport was quite a thrill.  As I proudly climbed into the boat with my friends cheering and encouraging me for a job well-done, I was so busy feeling exhilarated that I failed to do a "self-check" of my swim attire before removing my life jacket.  As I unwittingly unzipped that life vest, I looked up to see the face of my friend's boyfriend, who was seated dead in front of me.  His expression changed rapidly from normal to utter shock.  Upon looking down to see what the issue was, I screamed and bailed over the side of the boat in sheer horror.  It was a good thing I dove into the water because my face was so red-hot I needed cold water to keep it from exploding! To make matters worse, this friend's beau proceeded to call me, "four eyes" for the remainder of the trip and even later (and I didn't wear glasses then).  Ay, yai, yai.  I wanted to just die.  Every time I saw him afterward, I felt like he took abnormally great pleasure in the fact that he saw, "the girls" without my approval.  Embarrassment in the purest form...

The last anecdote I will share occurred my freshman year at Kansas State University.  I was just 18 years old, had recently married my high school sweet heart, AND we had a new baby.  (Side note:  Yes, I endured and survived an unexpected, teenage pregnancy.  That would easily rank #1 in the "embarrassment" and "shame" department for me, but God is merciful and good.  I am still married to the same man and our, "little bundle-of-unplanned-bliss," has been just that--she is our pride and joy.  She had to have been the easiest child ever to raise, and was the apple of both our eyes.  But that lengthy story of sin, mercy, and blessing is better-suited for another blog post, not one on, "embarrassment").  Back to my original tale... So I'm standing in a horrendously long line in the Financial Aid Office at KSU, waiting to receive my Financial Aid check so I can go register and pay for my first semester of classes.  I can't recall who was watching my little girl, but she was not with me.  Now you moms and new mothers will understand the overwhelming feeling you have nearly 100% of the time as the mother of a 6-week old.  When your baby is not with you, you feel completely detached and out-of-sorts.  You've been used to carrying the precious little babe for nine months, and they belong with you.  It's just unnerving.  (Another side note:  They say the top five major, normal stresses an adult can face in life are:  marriage, moving, a new job/position, a new baby, and an unexpected death.  I had experienced 4 of the 5 in just six months, and all at only 18 years of age).  Suffice it to say, I was a basket of emotional, toxic-nervousness.  So I'm standing in line for nearly two hours panicking that I'm not going to make it to registration, and even more strained over the fact that as a nursing mom I needed to return home ASAP for the next feeding.  I had left some other feeding options for the sitter, but my little babe was particular and didn't like bottle feedings.  So my goal was to try to get back in time, and I was praying like Job for God to help me do so!  As I obsessively watched the clock, I knew I wasn't going to make it.  Meanwhile, the ditzy sorority girls behind me in line were driving me totally bonkers.  All their senseless, self-absorbed talk of, "getting wasted in Aggieville the night prior," and how they, "had their daddy's credit card to go to the mall after this," and how they, "couldn't wait to pick up on guys at the bar again tonight," was making me emotionally and physically ill.  The rest of my day would consist of racing to pay my course fees, rushing home to feed my baby, more laundry, making supper, cleaning up supper, and probably bawling myself to sleep from the stress of the day.  I recall bitterly entertaining myself with thoughts like, "I wonder...if we spliced the brains of these two together, would it equal one brain?" and, "God knows how many STDs these two will get in this semester alone..."  I'm not proud to admit my nasty thoughts, but it's the truth.  These two girls were clearly not at K-State for studying, let alone doing so while caring for a family as I was.  All of sudden, I hear one of them say in her best, dumb-girl tone, "OH, MYYY GODDDD!  What in the HELL is THAT?"  Her even less-intelligent friend said, "OH, GA-ROSSE!" I dun-NO!!!!"  I looked down to see what all the panic was about to find that my nursing pad had slipped out of my bra onto the freaking floor of the Financial Aid Office, and these two geniuses of course had no idea what it was, nor the tact to just let it go!  I thought they would never shut-up about it.  I wanted to die, right there on the K-State campus--and I wasn't even officially a freaking Wildcat yet.  In all of about 30 seconds, I weighed the odds of what to do.  Should I explain to them quietly what it was, and apologize condescendingly?  Should I bend down, maturely pick it up, and go throw it away in silence?  Or should I ignore the entire situation?  I chose Option 3.  As I stood there listening to them go on and on incessantly and crudely about what they thought the foreign, round object lying on the floor was, I began to cry quietly.  Huge crocodile tears poured down my face, and thank God, no one noticed.  I was pretty invisible, and for once in my life, I was glad.  I stammered out of my foggy tears to hear one of them say, "What should we DO with it?"  So I turned around and angrily kicked my nursing pad clear away from them and gave them a look of disgust as if it say, "Would you two drop it, please?!"  And they did.  I think they knew at that minute they'd been total A$$E$.  "Wow.  Maybe their brains would add up to one," I thought.  As I attempted to pull myself together, I then began to panic because I knew I was going to be needing that nursing pad any minute now.  By the time I finally got to the front of that stinking line and got my check, I was soaked.  I bawled all the way to my car and drove straight home.  Thankfully, I was able to call and register the next day with no problem (and there were no nursing pad incidents that day, praise God)!

So why do I share my little stories with you?  Because in thinking about embarrassment, I realize that though I've had many embarrassing moments in life (that are now funny tales), none of them come close to the shame I feel for the sins I have committed against my beloved Lord.  Every day I fail Him.  I do stupid, selfish things without even thinking. I think depraved thoughts of doubt and fear without even realizing it. I worry about things instead of trusting my God.  I eat too much, hoard my money at times (another sign of fear and mistrust of God), and spew venomous words when hurt or angry (as I've confessed in a recent, prior blog).  I tell white lies for ease in dealing with difficult people, ignore people who annoy me, and struggle to forgive and forget people who have hurt me deeply.  I avoid friendships where I have to be the one who does all the giving and encouraging.  I also battle a major people-pleasing illness, thinking everyone needs to love and accept me, and if they don't, I obsess over what it is that could possibly be wrong with me that causes them not to love or want to be with me (and the vanity of that disgusts me--Jesus Himself couldn't and still can't get everyone to love Him, and He was perfect)!  On top of all that, I don't pray or read my Bible as much as I should.  You might think, "Oh, please. You can't read the Bible every second!"  No, that's true.  But for the depravity of my mind, I need to read it much more.  If we're brutally honest with ourselves, we ALL have areas we need to truly work on for improving our lives.  I make it all sound worse than it is, but in an effort to be as transparent as possible, I must say that I am sick of falseness.  I see it everyday--people trying to convince the world that they have it all together, that all is well, and that they are "perfect."  Well, folks...I am far from perfect, and I'm not playing the game anymore.  These are my sins and I am sick of them.  I have no interest in friendships with people who aren't real or honest.  We aren't here to put up a show, win placement in the popularity-of-the-month-club, or keep up appearances.  We are here to love and help each other.  We are here to be encouragers and love others higher than ourselves.

God's Word tells us numerous times that our sins will all be brought into the light one day, even if we try to hide them.  I do not say that to bring fear, undue pressure, or even pain into any one's life.  But I do say it to make the point that there really is no point in touting false appearances to others.  God will bring it all to light one day anyway.  On top of that, the Bible tells us we need to share our sins with others in order to get victory over them.  Now I don't believe that means you have to share your sins and struggles with the world, as I'm basically doing here.  I trust that God means we need to tell someone because the enemy loses his power over us when we bring things into the light.  When we desire to keep our sins or struggles secret or hidden, that is when they grow and can become serious issues.  I have found this to be absolutely true, though I am aware that my sharing honestly makes me quite vulnerable.  There are those who are reading this blog simply because they are curious--they really don't care about me and have no honest intentions regarding me.  Those "curious" folks could have a field-day with the information I share here, and God help them if they do.  Does this bother me?  A little.  Will it silence me?  Absolutely not.  One of my biggest struggles is with fear--and the only way to conquer fear is to face it.  People's opinions of me weigh heavily with me--this is yet another struggle I battle.  But if I'm ever going to tackle the vanity and self-absorption of that, I have to face it head-on, as well.  The only thing I really want to care about in this life is sharing the eternal life that God freely gives to me with as many people as I possibly can.  The rest is just hay and stubble and won't survive the fires of life (1 Cor. 3).

Maybe you're reading this blog and thinking, "Oh, good grief.  Why is she always so adamant about her faith?  There are plenty of other faiths out there and hers is no more special than any of the others."  Well, friend, I would disagree with that with my very life.  I believe in One true God--the God of the Holy Bible, Jehovah God, the God of Israel.  I believe the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of the One true God.  I believe Christ came as the incarnate God, the Son of God, the deity of God, to die for the sins of the world.  I believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven and for eternal life.  If I say I truly believe all these things, but I keep my faith compartmentalized and hidden, then I am either a liar or I desire to see the world rot in hell.  Since neither of those things is true, here I am...sharing honestly from my heart about what God has done for me and about how I am a wretched sinner who needs Him every second of every day.

Embarrassment is defined on Google as, "a feeling of self-consciousness, shame, or awkwardness."  Jesus felt shame for us.  He died on a cross in the middle of a public square with wretched criminals at His sides, as if He were one, as well.  He was naked (ultimate embarrassment), beaten to a pulp (fairly embarrassing as a guy), agonizing in pain, and mocked in public while He died.  It gets no more embarrassing and shameful than that.  Add to that the fact that God Himself, Christ's own Father, had to look away and turn His back on Him for a moment--the moment when your sins, my sins, and those of the entire world, past, present and future, were laid upon Him.  God was too perfect to look upon all that horrendous stuff, even though He shared a deity with His Son unlike any bond any of us will ever have.  So Jesus suffered the utmost shame and embarrassment, and He did so totally alone.  Even God Himself wasn't with Him for a moment.  None of us endures that.  We have God with us every second, even if we choose to make our bed in hell (Psalm 139:8).  We choose to leave God or ignore Him.  He doesn't leave us--ever.  We leave Him.

I also love the definition of, "shame," given by an online Bible Study course by Dean & Laura Van Druff:  "Shame is the wounding of our flesh towards its death with the truth of God."  Basically, when we feel shame, we are deeply feeling our own depravity.  We weigh and filter our actions through God's truth, and it is painful.  It is not the kind of embarrassment placed on us by an outside source or by one out of our control (like my three stories above).  This is the embarrassment and shame we feel when we truly get real with ourselves about our sins.  Funny how others' sins are so pungent to us, but our own?  Nah...we put those through a nice, clean filter of justification and reason, and we think they come out looking and smelling like a rose.  What a joke.  We conveniently forget about the thorns...and even if those thorns don't hurt us, they hurt others.

I don't want to stand in heaven alongside you one day and be ashamed that I made myself out to be perfect when God and Christ tell and show otherwise.  I'm a scum-bucket, and I need Jesus every day--period. I've got issues, friend, and guess what?  So do you.  The gate and throne of heaven is no place for embarrassing moments.  Praise be to God for His steadfast love and forgiveness to us.  "His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:22-23). 

Related Scriptures on SHAME: 

*  Jeremiah 6:15, "'Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,' says the LORD."
*  Jeremiah 31:19, "After I strayed, I repented; after I came to understand, I beat my breast. I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth."
*  1 Corinthians 15:34, "Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God--I say this to your shame."
*  Jeremiah 3:3b, "Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame."
*  1 Peter 2:6, "For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious Cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.'" 
*  Isaiah 54:4, "Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood."
*  Ezekiel 16:63, "'Then, when I make atonement for you for all you have done, you will remember and be ashamed and never again open your mouth because of your humiliation,' declares the Sovereign LORD."
*  Psalm 69:5-7, "You, God, know my folly; my guilt is not hidden from You. Lord, the Lord Almighty, may those who hope in You not be disgraced because of me; God of Israel, may those who seek You not be put to shame because of me. For I endure scorn for Your sake, and shame covers my face."
*  Hebrews 12:2, "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
*  Romans 7:24, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"
*  1 John 1:8-10, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us."
*  Psalm 40:1-3, "I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him."

Related Scriptures on Bringing SIN to LIGHT: 

 *  Matthew 10:26-27, "So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs."  
*  Mark 4:22, "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open."
 *  Luke 18:13-14, "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
*  Psalm 90:8, "You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence."
*  Ephesians 5:8-14, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:  'Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'”
*  Job 28:11, "They search the sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light."
*  Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy."
*  1 Cor. 4:5b, "He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God." 
*  James 5:16, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective."


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time is Ticking...Today

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were having a typical late night supper with a few members of my church praise band at one of our favorite hangout spots in Topeka. We were laughing, joking, and just enjoying great conversation, as always.  The guitarist, John, who happens to be a dear friend of ours for over 14 years now, asked me sincerely about an item in my life for which he knows I have been praying.  I shared that I still needed prayer and advice because this particular thing had begun to suck my energy, time, and joy to a level that was no longer profitable.  The "item" isn't important.  What is important is what my friend said in response.

John randomly asked me what the average life-expectancy has been for the elders in my family, and thus, how long I expected to live (barring no unexpected, early interventions by God).  I told him that with my family history of stroke, heart attacks, cancer, and the like, I am guessing that I will live to be about 85 (if everything goes reasonably well).  Then he did the mathematics on my current age and alerted me to the fact that I have lived more than half my life (thanks for that tidbit, friend)!  Next, he pulled out his calculator (yes, he actually carries a calculator in his wallet--I call him, "George Costanza" with his "organizer" wallet), and told me that I only have 2,184 weekends left in my life.  In true and typical form, John humorously coined this as his, "morbid calculation."  He concluded his point with this question, " do you really want to spend those 2,184 weekends?  Wasting your time on [insert "item" here], when it brings you little joy, zaps your energy, and takes time away from Matt?"  Case in point.  But it hit me like a ton of lead...2,184 weekends left...seriously?  Where has my life gone?  Where is it going?  (Side note:  This conversation was at least a month ago, so now I only have 2,180 left. Whew, those four went by quickly)!  Though the point he made was perfect and brought everything into focus more clearly, it also kind of stung a bit.  I hear elderly people constantly say, "Life sure goes fast...especially the older you get."   But that phrase seemed to keep playing over and over in my head as I pondered the fact that I recently passed the halfway point of my life-expectancy without even realizing it.  Ignorance is bliss...

Now I don't plan to have some major mid-life crisis over the situation.  I say all the time that if the Good Lord decided to come back today, I wouldn't be happier--and I mean it.  I try my level best to keep one foot in this world and one foot in the next where my real life will be.  Eternity is a heck of a lot longer than 85 years, so it behooves us all to focus a bit more on it than on the here and now.  But the reality of being left with 2,184 weekends was just unreal to me.  I am a bit of a numbers person.  If my checkbook is even a penny off, I WILL find the penny.  So putting my life to me in numbers was pretty effective.  I knew at that minute that I needed to remove the "item" from my life as best as I could.  (Another side note:  God actually ended up taking care of the item for me--and in only a couple of weeks!  Prayer is powerful!).  John concluded the discussion and said, "There are two commodities in life--time and money.  Money, you can sometimes get back.  But time is limited, and I'm not allowing anything or anyone to waste mine."  Wise advice.  You hear people say all the time that time IS money.  The more I think about all that, the more I realize that time is actually much more valuable than money--once it is gone, it's gone.

So what do I want to do with my 2,184 weekends (ah hem...correction, 2,180)?  I want to be in church as many Sundays as I possibly can, serving and using my gifts for my Lord and His glory, and fostering a walk with God that enables me to live wisely in every other domain of my life.  God's Word says that the only things that will last or be of any genuine value in heaven are the things we do in the name of the Lord for His glory and Kingdom.  I want to nourish my marriage and enjoy every minute with Matt that I can.  I want to foster great relationships with my daughter, my son in-law, and other extended family and friends.  I want to take care of the things God has given me and be a good steward of those things.  I want to balance work, ministry, and play in such a way that brings joy and wise investment to my life and my future.  I want to stay physically healthy and work to stay in reasonably good shape to hopefully get those 2,180 weekends!

That conversation with my friend has entered my mind literally a hundred times since we had it (thanks, JB).  It has helped me to streamline my life in an entirely new way.  It has also eliminated the guilt I was having in my struggle to rid my life of wasteful items.  If you're a recovering people-pleaser and perfectionist like me, you are always thinking you should be able to do all things, do all things for all people, and do all those things perfectly.  John's morbid calculator has helped me put many things through the litmus test of, "Is this truly a good use of my very limited time?  Is this item honestly taking me where I want to be later?  Does God REALLY want this in my life?"  Time is a tricky thing.  We always feel like we have plenty of it.  In actuality, we don't have much at all. 

So what things are you avoiding doing or avoiding ceasing to do that you will one day regret?  Time is ticking...and you have a choice.  Everything you allow or disallow into your life is ultimately your choice.  What person do you need to go to and apologize?  What energy-drainers do you need to toss out with your weekly trash?  What addiction(s) or sin(s) are you ignoring that are causing harm to your life, your peace, your joy, and/or your relationships? Is what you are doing today driving you along the path to where you really want to be later?  With what friend do you need to reconnect or reconcile?  Who do you need to just forgive in your heart and then let go permanently?  What things and people do you need to remove from your life because they are a waste of your time?  Who are the people that are causing you to stumble, or robbing you of your peace and joy--and therefore, need immediate removal (or added distance)? What dream or vision has God given you that you are avoiding pursuing because of laziness, doubt, or fear?  Most importantly, are you avoiding GOD, thinking you will take care of your business with Him later when you feel like it?  Later may not come--and if I waited to do things until I felt like it, I would rarely accomplish anything.

Another pitfall of "later," is that the longer we wait to do something, the harder it becomes to do it.  I have noticed at times, when I wait too long to do something I need to do, the situation has often morphed in ways that make it much more difficult to handle or navigate.  Sometimes, the results even change because of the time that has passed.  For best results, act immediately.  For better results, act now!

The best verses I can think of for this blog post are:  James 1:5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you," and James 4:14, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  So basically, we know two things:  One, life is a vapor.  Two, if we want to live it wisely, we need to go to God.  It's pretty simple really.  I pray that as you read this you will begin to feel conviction by God that you have urgent business at hand for your limited days and weekends ahead.  We all do.  The list of urgent "add" and "remove" items will look differently for everyone.  Some will actually be pretty easy...some won't be.  You may be thinking, "I'm already too late...I'm too old, too tired, too useless, too done."  If you are awake, breathing, and reading this, you are far from done.  Maybe you even think your clock is not in your control...or worse, you think it's broken.  Friend, as long as the sun keeps rising and you keep breathing, the clock is still ticking and it is still your clock!  I personally believe that if we seriously want to correct something(s) in our life, and we truly go to God repeatedly and sincerely, He WILL show us what to do and how to do it.  God is the ultimate time-giver and He hates seeing time wasted (essentially, lives wasted).  He gave you this life and desires for you to live it to the very fullest with Him, with others, and with yourself!  But it takes willingness, persistence, patience, and belief to seek Him and get answers or help.  It will also take some evaluation and maintenance because once you get your life rollin' on the right track, be assured--someone or something will come along and throw you off-kilter again.  Get quiet before God and let Him speak to you.  You will never make wise choices, feel peace, and get real answers for decisions in your life if you are constantly drilling outside, worldly stimuli into your head and drowning out God (which, by the way, is also your choice).  But God is always there.  He is right there today, beckoning you to Himself.  Will you go?  Will you let the Great Counselor counsel you?  Do you want to see real change in your life and live out your 2,000 +/- weekends to the fullest?  We all have the natural tendency to say, "I'll deal with those things tomorrow."  There may not be a tomorrow.  So let's make tomorrow, today.  God bless you all!