Friday, February 18, 2011

My Daddy God

I have a great natural dad, but he can appear a bit off-putting when people first meet him because he is so big. He is tall, but he has a very large frame and huge chest. Many a boyfriend in my young life had second thoughts about me after meeting my daddy.

My daddy was very strict about my appearance as a teenager, and this often caused issues between us. And although both of my parents told us that we could talk to them about anything, the angst of being a teen created inevitable rifts between me and my daddy.

My parents have been pastors my whole life, and often this calling caused problems between us. I could not do the things that other kids did, and I sometimes acted out to show my displeasure at the perceived inequity.

The summer between ninth and tenth grade, my parents resigned our church in New England and prepared to move to the Eastern seaboard. I was not a happy teen. I didn’t want to leave my friends, my school, my church, my life. And, if memory serves, I told my parents exactly how I felt.

On one particular Sunday afternoon, the whole church had been invited over to a member’s house for a good-bye party. The house was crammed full of people. There was food to share as friends laughed and told their favorite memories of our time there. The smell of coffee floated through the whole apartment.

The teens had moved out to the porch where we sat close together, shoulders touching, watching people going to the beach. Then suddenly, the conversation changed. My friends began discussing me. First, it was just about my leaving and moving far away, but soon it turned to nasty, hateful comments about things they didn’t like about me but had never shared.

I sat for as long as I could, and then I jumped up and ran into the house. I don’t know what I was looking for inside, because there was no privacy anywhere. And then I saw him, my daddy. He was sitting in a recliner with a circle of men around him, talking and laughing. I don’t think I even had a second thought in that moment, I simply ran over to him. I had to be near someone strong, someone to protect me, someone who loved me.

He let me sit on the arm of the recliner for only a second before he drew me onto his lap. All conversation around us stopped as I buried my head in his shoulder and sobbed. He wrapped one arm around me and shielded my face with his huge hand, and with the other he patted my leg and began to rock the chair gently. Then he raised his eyes, and said, “I’m sorry, Mike, you were saying?”

What a picture we must have made! This half-woman, half-child sitting on a man’s lap as he rocked her like a baby. But I didn’t care at that moment what people thought of me or what I did. My heart was being broken, and I had to run to the only man I knew I could trust: my Daddy.

In Mark 14:36, Jesus prays, calling God “Abba, Father”, literally translated, “Daddy.” Then in Romans 8:15 & 16, the apostle Paul writes, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Paul is trying to help the Roman church and us to understand that God has given us a spirit of sonship and daughtership through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross, so we no longer need to be afraid to approach God with any need, any request, any fear, any triumph. Nothing is too big or small to bring to Him.

In Galatians 4:6, Paul states this concept again. “Because you are sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you have the Spirit of God living within you, and when you pray, your Spirit cries out to God calling Him “Daddy!” What a concept!

I have people tell me that my friendship and relationship with God seems irreverent because I dare to call Him “Daddy”, or say that He is the “lover of my soul”, like He is my boyfriend or something. But He is! He thinks I’m beautiful (Ps. 45:11); I’m His friend (John 15:15); I am His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10); and as an heir to all that Christ has, I am a princess! (Rom. 8:17, Gal 4:7).

In the last few troubled weeks at my house, I have had to find time to crawl up in my Daddy God’s lap and cry through some things. I have poured out my emotions, even the truly ugly ones, I have tattled on people who hurt me, I have told Him my fears for the future. And through it all, He has rocked me in His big chair, listened and allowed me to gain new strength as He poured His Truth back in my heart.

If you don’t know my Daddy God like this, but you would like to, please contact me. I’d love to share Scripture with you, and reassure you that He wants to be Daddy God to you too. If you used to know Him in this way, but it has been a while, find time today to escape from the noise and confusion. Spend time just talking to Him today, and letting Him love on you. He’s waiting for you (Rev. 3:20).

In pursuit of zoe,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day, part 2

Good evening, Jesus Girls!

Sorry for the late post, but I have been running all day. For a girl who is presenting not gainfully employed, I sure have been busy. Lest you hear fussing in those words, let me just say that I love it! Idleness is indeed the devil’s workshop in my personal life.

Yesterday we began discussing 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” We discussed verse 16, so let’s press on to verse 17.

Ok, now let’s be honest. How many of you read that verse, and thought, “Light and momentary troubles? Are you serious? Light for whom?” Before we get up on our high horse with the apostle Paul, let’s look back at verses 8 & 9. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Well, those things don’t seem “light or momentary” either, at least not until we begin to look at things from God’s perspective.

The word “light” used in this verse means “light in weight.” Keep that in mind as we continue to read the rest of verse 17. Our “troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.” Paul is using a compare and contrast technique here to help us to understand that our trials have a purpose: to create in us a faith that is of greater worth than gold. (1 Peter 1:6&7) Glory is a that means “weightiness”, and gives the mental picture of a scale that is so heavy on one side that the other side cannot even come close. This glory, this weightiness of God, is so much more valuable, worth so much more, that even gold couldn’t come close it.

Verse 18 continues, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” This is a common theme for Paul to keep reminding us that what we see around us is not all there is. If fact, in light of eternity with Jesus, it isn’t even what is the important thing to be concerned about. Now before you think I have lost my mind altogether (cabin fever has been known to do that to a girl!), please know that I am not talking about ignoring your reality to live in la-la land. Our “light and momentary troubles” can steal our joy, our excitement, and our power if we don’t understand what Paul is trying to say.

Thing is, troubles come. And usually at the most inopportune times. Our days seem to be filled with children who need attitude adjustments, husbands who need clean laundry, bills that must be paid, checkbooks that are slim-pickins. Don’t deny these things, but don’t dwell on these things.

Do you want to know the secret weapon God has shown me through this trial at the Cotignola home? Praise and thanksgiving confuses the enemy half to death. And praise and thanksgiving are habits that can be learned, and can become as natural as breathing, no matter what our circumstance looks like.

See the beauty of God is that He never changes. Our circumstances change, but He never does. He is the “I AM”, the ever “ISING” one. Yes, I know that is horrible grammar, (sorry Mrs. Eisman), but it seems to fit better that when we say the One was, and is, and is to come. To me, that almost seems like we are saying He was one person is the past, He is another person now, and He will be someone else in the future. But truthfully, He just IS. Don’t try to wrap your head around it; just settle it in your heart. He IS. He is faithful, He is trustworthy, He is always there, He gets the real me. He Is.

So what do your light and momentary trials look like today? In spite of there appearance, can you thank Him for Who HE is: Creator, Protector, Healer, Restorer, Provider, Friend? When we do, He makes the trials that feel monumental to seem like they are truly light and momentary.

In pursuit of zoe,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day, part 1

Hey Jesus Girls!

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, the holiday my thirteen-year-old officially dubbed the “stupidest holiday EVER!” Now, I don’t normally allow the “stupid” word to be part of her vocabulary, but I have shared this same thought many times in my life. Funny thing, I know more married women who dread the holiday than young women. Somehow our expectations don’t make it into reality. Can I hear an amen from my girls?

So what is Jesus girl to do? How do we deal with the disappointments that want to steal our joy, our peace, our contentment.

Don’t wallow in the “if only’s” or “I wishes.” We need to grab some Truth, God’s Truth, and allow it to soothe our broken expectations and hearts.

Here’s what God gave me last night. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 reads, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

First, let’s take this apart of bit. These verses begin with the word, “therefore”. This basically means, because of what I already stated. Whenever you see that word, go back and read the verses that came before so you will understand what the author is referring to. In this case, the apostle Paul is talking about how we have the glory of God living inside our jars of clay (literally in cracked pots.) Ponder that for a moment. We have the glory of God residing inside of our hearts. We don’t have to go to a temple somewhere to feel His Presence; He is living inside of us!

Now look at the next part. Because we have the glory of God living within us, “we do not lose heart.” In the Greek this means to be utterly spiritless, completely exhausted, weary beyond explanation. We aren’t talking about the kind of tired that requires a mental health day. We’re talking about the funk that comes over us, causing us to not want to get out of bed—ever.
Before I touch on that, let’s keep reading.

“Though outwardly we are wasting away,” (does anyone else’s mirror remind them of this daily??), “yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” Our spirits, the part of us that is reborn at salvation, is being renewed every day.

In the Greek, this means to mature, to make new, to be changed into a new kind of life as opposed to the former corrupt state. Those girls who have been a part of my Bible study should write in the margin of your Bible the word “zoe”! As our outer body continues to age and wrinkle and shift, our inner person continues to mature into the zoe, the greater life, that Jesus promised His followers. How is this possible? Because His glory lives within us, enabling us to look beyond our circumstances, and to rely on His power.

Look at Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Another phrase for “hope in the Lord” is to wait expectantly, to trust completely and confidently, to bind together. Our strength is renewed as we bind ourselves to the Truth of His Word, and trust Him confidently and completely. To me, binding means to read the Word, speak the Word, write it out and memorize it—make it a natural part of your daily life. That is how we renew our spirits, through the Truth of God.

Let these scriptures soothe your spirit and remind you that God wants to renew you, not just on the days when you feel spent, but every day!

Be blessed by His Truth. We’ll continue the rest tomorrow.

In pursuit of zoe,