Thursday, November 25, 2010

Seeing yourself as God sees you

1 Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Praise the LORD, my soul.

Psalm 103:1-18

If someone tells us we are worthless once, we might brush it off.
If someone tells us we are worthless twice, we might start to get angry.
If someone tells us, over and over again, that we are worthless.. we might actually start to believe them.

In the face of a person in front of us, telling us we are worthless, how do we combat that? Fortunately, we are not alone. We have a creator who loves us fiercely. We have a creator who doesn't care where we've been, what trouble we've got ourselves into, what we've done, or even what we will do. Or rather, He doesn't care about our sins because they can never separate us from Him or diminish our worth in His eyes.

Psalm 103 sings of how God forgives our sins, heals diseases, and redeems us.
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,

Nowhere in the Psalm does David sing that we will not ever sin. He does not sing that we won't need healing. He does not sing that our lives won't need redeeming. We are going to need all of these things, because on Earth, this side of heaven, there is sin, trial. All of us at some point in our lives find ourselves spiraling towards a pit. It seems bottomless. We look up, but we can't see light. We think we've gotten in so much trouble, we've done too many bad things, we can't see an end to our misery - we can't see our redemption. David does not sing that this won't happen. But, he does sing that when (not if) we find ourselves in this pit, we WILL be redeemed.

God doesn't see you as most people on Earth see you. Here, people often have labels. People misjudge, make assumptions. People can be jaded and unmerciful, unwilling to forgive or look past our inevitable flaws. God looks past our flaws, He forgives our sins, and he sees us without them. When God looks at us, He sees the best side of us. He sees us as someone worth loving. He sees us as someone worth sacrificing everything for - including his Son - to save.

When it comes to self worth, I don't think it matters where you are, what age, what gender, what circumstances or condition you find yourself in. Regardless of where they are from, all of them have trouble seeing themselves as worthy. Seeing themselves as God sees them: someone worth everything.

As I write this, it's in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning. I'm excited about visiting the juvenile detention center tomorrow, and I wanted to have a study prepared for them about self-worth. It occurs to me that we have much to be thankful for. I pray that God speaks through me and helps me to see the kids I'm ministering to as He does. And that He can show these kids to look at themselves the way God looks at them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Heart Update - Part III

It's been an interesting week or so, to say the least.

On 11/9 I went into heart surgery. Ran up the stairs to pre-op instead of taking the stairs, just because I could (and it would be awhile till I could again!). I felt completely prepared to go into what I like to call my "minor surgery". I was able to remain light-hearted with those I met at the hospital that day, from the receptionist who checked me in to the surgical team who would be taking care of me. It was interesting to see them all shocked that I wasn't falling to pieces. In fact, I told my surgeon he was running next year's Marine Corps Marathon with me and the team I've started putting together.

The night before, Ed Hunt had given a very powerful message. One of the important take-aways was to memorize scripture, so it's immediately available to you to fight fear, doubt, temptation, etc. So that night I made sure I memorized Philippians 1:20. "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." I really didn't imagine how useful that would be over the next several days. For almost a week, I haven't been able to read because the pain meds wouldn't let me focus on type. And there were a few times I was in so much pain, or couldn't breathe, and the only thing I could do was recite that verse again and again. I couldn't have been more thankful for the timeliness of Ed's message and that I have been equipped with the Word, even though I haven't had my Bible.

During my recovery, I've been so blessed as well. In the hospital, I often had more visitors then I could handle. I wanted them to stay longer, but I could only stay awake so long against the pain meds. My recovery itself is going unthinkably well. I had surgery Tuesday, was able to move to a chair by Wednesday, was walking around very well by Thursday, and Friday they sent me home. I keep having to remind myself to take it easier, but I confess to getting a little restless. Monday I even made it to church - although I began to realize my limits when I couldn't stay awake during the message. My small group was a little shocked to see me there on Monday night - and it's sort of crazy to think that a little think like heart surgery couldn't keep me from missing church. I have yet to email Todd and Ed, the teaching and campus pastors at Frontline, respectively, but I can't wait to share how their messages have helped me through the past several weeks.

I'm forcing myself to take it easy and miss small group tonight - which pains me, because I love the fellowship with these ladies. Also, now that I'm able to stay awake longer, and read and write again, at least to an extent, I feel like I need to get back into the Word. Which is really what I was looking forward to during this time off anyways. It's been very easy for me, back under mom's roof as I recover, to not make my time with God a priority. I hate to admit it, but I have a tough time standing strong in close proximity to my family - of them I'm really the only practicing Christian. God is not a part of everyday life in this house, so it's an added hurdle for me to set God as a priority in my day-to-day when no one in this house does. Pray for me to have more compassion for my family, and patience as I witness to them. Pray also for my recovery, and that I can recover here. It's been tough to sleep since the surgery, and I'm having trouble eating. I pray that I can use this time to myself wisely and invest in the areas I need to or that I've been neglecting.

All in all, I'm still unimaginably blessed. I could only be this confident going to and from heart surgery knowing I have a great and faithful God, and that He has put many brothers and sisters in Christ in my life.

I should also mention - the aneurysm was 5.8cm when they finally removed it. It was 5.5cm back in only mid-September. It's incredible that I made it to surgery, considering that I'd cave and run occasionally. I thank God for making it clear to me that everytime I had "caved", I got sick or injured and couldn't run afterwards. I find it incredible how well He provides for us, and how perfect His timing is. It's quite humbling to realize your life is completely in His hands. I pray that I am adequate in sharing this incredible testimony He's given me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Heart Update - Part II

I wish I could articulate everything that's happened over the past several weeks, days, and these last hours leading up to heart surgery. On the whole, I've felt eerily calm going into what I'm now calling my next crazy adventure.

The book of Philippians has been what I'm constantly returning to. It's been a battle of spiritual warfare, as doubts and fears are constantly being planted in and try to grow. But I keep returning to Paul, and the Word as a weapon against these doubts and fears. 4:6-7 keep me stable, and replace the doubts and fears. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

4:12-13 remind me that my God is with me in any and every situation. And whatever situation I get placed in, He will work it to an ultimate purpose. So I should be content knowing that there is always God's hand at work in my life.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

1:12 reminds me that this is an opportunity to witness and share the gospel. And I should share the hope I have with others.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

Even in prison, Paul advances the gospel through how he deals with his trials. Even in prison, Paul is content. Even in prison, Paul is not anxious, but at peace.

I would covet your prayers. The safe surgery and recovery, but specifically for me to continue use this as an opportunity to witness to others, and strengthen my own faith as He carries me over this trial.