Where Have I Been?

A Daddy Lion looks on tenderly at his cub
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One of my images of Father God, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, honestly, for a long time, the adoption process and keeping my home clean enough to please our agency was so stressful, I didn’t have enough creative energy left for any writing at all. Now I’ve improved on that front, only to take a class at church that required as much energy as college and took up a lot of free time and frankly after my chores and my course work I just wanted to play games, read, or Facebook on my Kindle. That got boring, so I got a job.

That story begins last September, when my friend Niccole asked me to host a Lilla Rose party for her, as an adoption fundraiser for me–in addition to my hostess rewards, she threw in her own

commission from that party–that floored me. Not many people like her in business these days. If you’re wondering “what’s Lilla Rose?” So was I.

The company sells unique hair accessories that work better than store-bought, last longer than store-bought, have a 1-year product warranty , and they’re gentler on hair and work for nearly any hair type. Including mine, and that says something.

I was born with a thick set of curls that my family had no idea how to care for on a girl and they were too proud to ask for help. At age twelve, my hair was frizzy and so brushed out, we’d thought my baby curls had gone away rather than having matured into long, wavy hair very stressed from neglect and so unmanageable, I was daily asking my mom to comb out my rat’s nests.  After she reached her frustration limit there, I ended up in a salon, getting an impulsive, bad hair cut fixed. I wanted my pretty curls back, which led to a perm and advice from the beautician that I needed to use conditioner and hair picks (or wide tooth combs) and never again let any sort of hairbrush anywhere near my head.

So over the next few years, the perm grew out into the long, naturally wavy hair I have today. And I could now manage my hair myself–but it remained unruly and stubborn. My styling was limited to the half-up, a ponytail, and a basic bun at the nape of my neck. I was surprised at first at how much it made the professionals’ day to get to put my hair up for my prom and my wedding. For the most part, I’d all but lived 24/7 in the boring buns and ponytails before the Lilla Rose Fundraiser. My best styling trick was making my hair look shorter with a Scrunci upzing–which you can get for under $10 easily but they’re not big enough to hold my buns and they caused scalp pain the whole time I had them in. They also tangle on themselves and break easily. Lilla Rose costs more but you get better quality and you can exchange any items that do develop defects in the first year.

Jesus saved my life; Lilla Rose reduced my hair problems. I still have migraines but otherwise I can now put up my hair as fancy as I can learn to do it with little pain, when only the boring bun wasn’t painful before. On top of that, these things are unique hair jewelry that jazz up even my standby simple bun, simple pony tail, and the half-up.  There’s also something to suit all tastes, ranging from a metallic Celtic knot, a skull and cross bones, to flowers and bling suitable for the prom queen or even a bride getting married on a tight budget. I was used to buying cheap, so their prices seemed high to me at first, but their prices are low-end from the jewelry standpoint. Their main product, the Flexi, was too unique to sell in stores, so Lilla Rose restored to selling their products online and via network marketing consultants like my friend Niccole and now me.

Yes, I got that excited but gave myself until this late spring to think about it before getting bored enough to go for it. In the end, I figured consultants get a 30% minimum discount and the $125 kit contains $300 worth of their best-selling products.  To keep this independent contractor position, we only have to sell like $29 a year and sales to ourselves count. You only have to actually work it if you want to actually make any money–and if you do work it, you may eventually build a passive revenue stream. If you want to test things out, host an online party for me either on my public Ashira Clips page or in my private  group.

Note this is a one-time announcement that will not repeat, and I do plan to get back on topic here soon. If you’re interested in becoming a consultant or hosting a party, PM Ashira Clips on Facebook. If you’d like to see more, check out the product demo videos on my Facebook page or browse my online catalog at: lillarose.biz/ashira

For the rest of my life update, my last class ended only for me to need to start a Bible Study that reads like an MLM/network marketing approach to Christian evangelism/missions. It’s talk about reproducing and “be fruitful and multiply” may be triggering for infertile women, and I’m concerned it talks too much like the goal is for us to multiply ourselves rather than for Christ to multiply himself through our efforts, but otherwise it looks good. We need more discipleship in the church, and the other evangelism methods known to me are obnoxious and boundaries-violating so I’ll be interested to see if this approach is instead respectful and effective. I’ll let you know when I finish the course and get back from Romania. (The Romania trip story is one I’ll save for another time.)

One thing I will say, in all this whirlwind, I’ve had a few thoughts. 1) Christians are too busy to be asked to spend more than three hours a week with Jesus, which is why so many wait until their only alternative is therapy to take my previous, more intense discipleship class. 2) What is more exciting to us? Hair jewelry that considerably reduce our hair headaches? Or Christ who saved our souls from Hell and supplies all of our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory? What do we show more appreciation for? A friend who gives us an unexpected gift worth in excess of $200? Or God the Father, who ransomed us with the precious blood of his only begotten son, whose worth is beyond measure?

Another of my images of Father God*, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown. (*The Son is the image of the Father See Col. 1:15)

Not to say we shouldn’t be grateful to our friends or happy to have solutions to every day problems. God cares about those, too, and he wants us to be grateful for each other when we do good for one another. I’m simply contemplating our priorities and wondering if we’re taking Christ for granted or if we’re letting the good gifts of this world remind us of the excellency and matchless worth of God’s gifts.

Let us remember the good people and good gifts we’ve received from them with gladness. Let’s also remember Christ’s glory and be spurred on to stir up what we’ve received from Christ and be mindful of Christ with us as we go about our day.

For anyone who walked in off the street because of Lilla Rose and now has no idea what I’m talking about, sorry. Please pretend I’m from a foreign country and speaking broken English from the strange cultural viewpoint of my strange foreign country. If you’re curious to understand it–not necessarily accept it–feel free to ask questions. Otherwise, please feel welcome to take in the data of interest to you, ignore the rest, and go on about your hopefully peaceful day.

 

Christmas Past, Present, and Future

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Transcript of a special Christmas message.

.nativitycardDuring this Christmas season, next to the original Christmas story, the most re-told story is that of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There have been all kinds of versions made for it. Animated versions with the Flintstones and Mr. Magoo. A version with the Muppets. A sci-fi version, a western version. Even some detective programs have taken to making their own spin on this story. It’s a timeless tale. It was written in a culture strongly influenced by the gospel. And there were some powerful truths in that story and some great lessons to be learned. There was that profound idea of Tiny Tim that men seeing his infirmity would think and consider whom had made lame men walk and blind men see.

The one I’m going to talk about comes from the end of the Christmas Carol when Scrooge has changed and is talking about how he will live his life. “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”

I think that is a good idea for how we observe Christmas.

There is the Past of Christmas and that can be seen in this season in so many ways.

This is the most nostalgic time of the year. It’s the time of the year when people who don’t watch anything that doesn’t have CGI and expensive new special effects sit and gather around a television and watch movies in black and white or animated specials from the 1960s.

And of course it can be seen in music. Every year, musicians release CDs of Chrismas music with original Christmas songs and fans will listen to them and then promptly bury the CDs.

And during this season we are repeatedly driven to old songs. Not decades old but in some cases centuries old. We sing Joy to the World, a song written in 1719.
During the advent season, we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel, based on a song from the ninth century. In some cases, we’re trying to remember something, recapture something that has been lost. And there is a danger that the great past of Christmas isn’t something that is living in us but dead. It’s a fact of history, like Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. And we take it for granted just like that. But that past must live in us. We have to recapture the wonder. We can never let it become common place that God came and dwelled with us, that Christ was our Emmanuel and he came to redeem us.

We have to look with new eyes as the shepherds did as they were sitting there, just doing their regular routine as shepherds had done for centuries and continued to do. And the scripture tells it.

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

[ref: Luke 2:9-14 KJV]

That moment is powerful and it lives, if we’ll let it, within us.

Of course, the past not only talks about Jesus’ coming but why He came. He came to free us from sin, to redeem us, that we might be saved through him. And that is the past that must live within us.

And then there is the Present of Christmas.

Christ’s coming to Earth wouldn’t have helped us much if, before he ascended, he has said, “well, I died so you could be redeemed, but you’re on your own from here on out, fellas. Figure out how to live and how to [prevent] evil in the world because I’m out of here.”

But that isn’t what Jesus said. He promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of the earth, and he said he would not leave us comfortless and gave us the promise of His Holy Spirit with us.

And there’s something remarkable the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:5, of the gift of the Spirit that”it hath been given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.”-

Now other modern translations say guarantee, which is fine I suppose but I like the term earnest because it is something that we use today. I remember that when we bought our house, and we made our offer to the realtor, we had to present earnest money so they would not market and sell the property to others. We were serious about purchasing this property. And they took our earnest money because we had a pre-approval letter. They knew we were serious about fulfilling our promise and that we were credit-worthy to be able to fulfill the promise to purchase the house from them. So it is an interesting image.

So God has left his spirit to be with us but it is only a down payment. Well, that raises the question, “A down payment on what?”

And that brings us to the future of Christmas.

And I’m not talking about the future five years from now or ten years from now. I’m talking about the ultimate future, the promises that God will bring us. And there are a few I will talk about. There are many more we could go through.

The first is a place for us with God. In John 14: 2,3, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

He also promises to wipe away all tears. Revelations (sic) 21:4 says, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And He promises peace. Not in the sense that people on Earth usually promise, “we won’t shoot at each other for a while. That’s peace.” But Jesus’ promise is so much more powerful. As revealed to the prophet Isaiah. He writes:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain. [Isaiah 11:6-9]

And in Isaiah 2:4 he says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,neither shall they learn war anymore.”

These are the promises of what Christmas means in the future, in that ultimate future. But it can be hard to hold onto as we continue to experience pain and sorrow and tears and sadness. As we look at the news and we see violence and that peace God promised seems so far away with all the violence and hatred and terrorism and evil running rampant in the world. We have to live in the past, the present, and the future.

And Christmas is about the promises, the promises that God has kept, with the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the redemption. It’s the promises He’s keeping, with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And it’s about the promises He will keep. And we can trust Him to keep those promises. He has given us the earnest of them, and He is credit worthy. He is worthy of our trust and our faith and Christmas reminds us of that.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]”Christmas points to the promises God’s kept, the promises he’s keeping, and the promises he will keep.” @idahoguy[/tweetthis]

Give Daddy Your Fake Pearls

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If you haven’t read the modern parable the title alludes to, it’s here: What Are You Hanging Onto?

Would you ever look at a sobbing child who is being bullied at school and yell at her for crying, telling her that’s why no one likes her? Would you ever say those words to a child you love dearly and have authority over? A child who respects you and looks to you for guidance, protection, and comfort?

I was that sobbing child. The person who uttered those words never remembers saying and doing such hurtful things, but those words were uttered, for they burned deep into my heart and soul. The message drilled into me repeatedly was if you’re not happy, fake it. If you’re not perfect, fake it. You’re not likable let alone lovable unless you’re happy and have it all together. I tried my best to obey this teaching, but I wasn’t even good enough at faking it. Fake is too contrary to the nature God’s given me.

And I wonder why God saw me as a child forsaken and wrapped his invisible arms around the child I once was and comforted her and loved on her and faithfully there for her through it all. He showed me truth and he showed me mercy. It’s taken God years of showing me loving-kindness to bring me as far as I’ve come. The process has often involved letting enemy assaults bring me to the point of tears, to the point of being so overwhelmed, I can’t hold the pain in anymore and I pour it out before God, often while prostrate, on my knees, or in the fetal position.
That’s when something amazing happens. God sees me at my worst, my ugliest, my most broken and vulnerable. He doesn’t despise me. He doesn’t yell at me. He doesn’t kick me where it will hurt most when I’m already in distress. He is there, quietly listening, quietly hurting with me. Still loving me, still seeing everything good that he can make me into and do through me.

When I feel ugly, God calls me beautiful. When I feel inconsistent, God calls me faithful (to him, he doesn’t pretend I don’t struggle in the flesh.) When I feel unlovable, God calls me beloved. When I feel like a failure, God calls me forgiven. Not only that, he gently encourages me to get up and keep going. We’ll keep working on it together.

God does not play favorites with his children. What he does for me, he’ll do for you, too.

If you’ve been taught to fake it, and are better at it than me, if you ever want the real thing, you need to confess this bad habit to God and learn the right way to take our thoughts captive. The way Christians with dysfunctional backgrounds try to do that only serves to release not only bad thoughts, but negative emotions into the wilds of our subconscious. Instead, stare the tiger in the eye, admit you feel/think it, and give it over to God. Ask God to show you what hides in your heart and get it out in the open between you, where he can begin the work of healing you. Give up your fake joy and fake perfection so he can begin giving you real joy and continue the work he’s begun of truly perfecting you.

Which person do you like more? Someone who seems to always be happy and seems to always have it all together, or someone who is honest, humble, and strong enough to show their weaknesses? While humans do prefer confidence to insecurity and hopeful outlooks to negative outlooks, we prefer humble to prideful and honest to dishonest. Further, the closer we come to perfection, the more painfully aware of our imperfections we are, and fake perfect people rarely are perfect at showing God’s grace. So I suspect most of us in truth stand to be more likable by being real. If nothing else, hiding our struggles denies God glory when Christ brings us through those fires and gives us real peace and true joy.

Rain or Shine, Lord, be my God.

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20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.” (From Genesis 28, HCSB)

At first glance, nothing may seem to be wrong with what Jacob is saying. God does watch over us and provide for all of our needs. He does keep us safe.  So of course these are the terms of our contract with God, right?

So what about the times when we subjectively don’t feel God with us? What about when we are naked and hungry, in peril or distress? What about when life isn’t rosy? Will we declare God in breech of contract and stop serving him, or will we trust Him to see us through this hard time somehow?

God’s promises don’t include us never experiencing struggles and hardship and trouble and affliction. It doesn’t include us not suffering for His name’s sake. In fact, God warned us of just the opposite, those who follow Jesus must take up the cross ourselves, and we will face hatred and opposition if we’re serving him. We will have trouble. What we do have is his promise he will never leave us nor forsake us, that he will be there whether we feel his presence or not, that nothing in all of creation can separate us from his love, not even death itself.

Don’t be a sunshine Christian who says “If live is going well, I will serve you.” Be a rain-or-shine child of God who loves and trusts our Father and our Brother the King through all times, because of what he has already done for us. We can’t know for sure this was a fault for Jacob–God’s greatest provision for us,  for our salvation and eternal safety, were still ahead of him, as were the New Testament words of Jesus I referenced, but we have no such covering.

Lord, give me the grace and courage to seek first the kingdom of God and your righteousness, and the faith and trust to know all these things we worry over will be added unto us. Strengthen me to endure with you as my God no matter what this life brings. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

 

A Prayer for When You’re Under a Cloud of Darkness

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“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!” (Psalm 143:10)

David prays for instruction from God on how to do God’s will, and presumably what God’s will is to start with, at a time when he is being pursed by the enemy, who sounds more like depression than a human enemy in this psalm: his soul is crushed, he sits in darkness, his spirit faints, his heart fails–or he is overcome with dismay.

David remembers first what God has done in the past and cries out to God to speak comfort to him and deliver him, determining to trust God.

Before David asks God to instruct David in obedience to God’s will, he does ask God out right to give him knowledge of the way he should go–what path he should take, the choices he should make–because he’s lifting up his battered soul to God for healing, and knows through experience that depression compromises our ability to make sound judgments. In his weakness, he’s relying all the more upon God’s leading. David determines not to listen to depression’s lies that he is alone and abandoned. He puts his trust in God to be right beside him even though he can’t see God there and lead him through the darkness. He prays that God would direct him over a clear path without any obstacles or uneven places for him to trip over, and deliver him out of the grasp of the enemy of our souls.

Lord, we say amen to David’s prayer. Show us the way we should go. Lead us over level ground, that we might not stumble into sin. Lead us into your light. Strengthen our hearts within us. Open our ears to hear your word and the voice of your spirit. Enable us to recognize your voice and discern between your voice and the voices of fear and depression and the flesh. We have decided to trust you. Enable us to trust you in deed. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.