When Not Good Enough Screams Pride

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Pride. That nasty thing that precipitates my downfalls.

When I hear the word pride, I think of times in my life when I’ve longed to be the center of attention, hogged the credit for a project, elevated myself above the rules, and walked my road alone—confident my way was best.

I don’t often attach the word pride to the idea of low self-esteem.

Who would? Low self-esteem equals humility. When I don’t believe I’m good enough, I’ve kicked pride in the backside. Right?

Maybe not.

What if by not believing in myself, I’ve committed my largest act of pride?

Look at it this way.

God isn’t stingy when He dispenses gifts. He isn’t stingy with talents and skills either. So what if He loaded your arsenal with everything He wanted you to be and you turned away, hung your head, toed the ground and said, “No thanks. You’ve made a mistake. I’ll never be good enough.”

That’s exactly what Moses did. He had an entire argument with God about why he wasn’t good enough. Read Exodus chapters 3 and 4.

Here’s the part near the end of their interchange:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.

Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him (Exodus 4:10-13 NIV).

Who was Moses to question God? Who I am to argue?

God gave Moses everything he needed to do His work.

Moses couldn’t see God’s provision through the reveal of the burning bush, his “live” conversation with the Master of the Universe, or the gift of Aaron.

Moses hung his head, scuffed his toe, and said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

What does God want you to do for Him? What experiences and people and opportunities has he placed in front of you that you’ve ignored because of your low self-esteem?

Remember that catchy phrase? If God leads you to it, he’ll bring you through it.

Pride isn’t telling everyone why you’re not worthy.

Pride is being ungrateful for God’s gifts. Pride is turning from your talents. Pride is scorning your God-given skills.

If you’re a believer, it’s not really about self-esteem anyway. It’s about God-esteem.

He’s equipped you. Now go do the work.

Where is the Good?

April 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

“For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49 NIV).

Some life lessons come harder than others. Being good is one of them.

While I’ve struggled with various temptations and issues as a child, teen, daughter, friend, wife, and mother, I’ve always understood one truth.

Without the Lord in my life, I am nothing. Nothing good anyway.

Left on my own, I tend to cross the line, dabble in what pleases me, explore areas of life better left unknown.

Yes, I might manage to hang onto to a husband, produce little people that grow up to be functioning members of society, and enjoy a few close friendships.

I may have more happy days than sad. When you look at me, you might think I have it all together, that I’ve figured life out, that I’m sure about my path. That I am a good person.

But you would be wrong.

Inside, where it counts, I could never claim to be innately good.

I do what’s expected. Cover feelings considered unacceptable. Bite back words I know shouldn’t say. Work hard to fit in. Smile and frown on cue. Move forward. Juggle life. Deal with some issues. Bury others.

But anything truly good, anything right, anything pure does not originate in me. Because inside, I hide anti-good behaviors and thoughts. Inside, I squelch desires I know I shouldn’t have. Inside, I am a completely different person.

Although on the outside it may look like we’ve become better people as adults, sometimes we’ve just become better at masking our flaws and insecurities. Emotions like jealousy, hate, and anger never completely disappear just because we age and develop a few wrinkles.

Some days maturity has more to do with what I censor and harness inside my head than how much I’ve really grown and changed.

Sad, but true.

But hiding is not what God has asked of me. He doesn’t want me to conceal who I really am. He wants to change what’s inside me to reflect what’s inside Him.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

Those are the qualities God asks me to seek.

And so I do. With His help. Hoping one day, what He wants for me will be what I am.

He wants me to be honest. Stop hiding. Quit covering. Be real. Change inside and out. Permanently. He wants a new me. A renewed me. He wants the best for me.

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9,10 NIV).

Thankfully, it is in His strength that I find the best things, put them on, and offer them back to Him.

For in my strength alone, I will always remain helpless, insecure, and eons from innately good.

Lord, help me put on the new today. Help me look to You for the things You want for me. Change me in a way that means I can never go back to the old.

The Shield That Never Slumbers

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12 NIV).

Today I’m glad God never sleeps.

Last night when I came home from writer’s group, the garage door wouldn’t go down. I asked Pat to check it.

He forgot. And went to bed.

I assumed he put the door down. And I went to bed.

So the garage gaped open all night—a beacon of vulnerability to anyone who drove down my street. Worse? The door to the house remained unlocked. While my kids slept upstairs.

When I woke up and realized anyone could have walked in my house, that thought shot me three quarters of the way to a coronary. I always check every door. Three times. Paranoia and safety top my priority list. I’m not one of those people who doesn’t worry about the what-if’s.

I play with what-if all day.

What if someone is stalking my children in a large, white, windowless van? What if my eleven-year-old daughter goes to the restroom in the Taco Bell and never comes out? What if there’s a fire in the middle of the night and we don’t wake up? What if my son falls asleep driving home from college late at night?

What if? What if? What it?

Then a great big wave of peace rolled across my heart and slowed the racing beats. That peace reminded of how often the Lord protects me when I don’t even see what He’s done.

Today I’m glad God never sleeps.

I’m glad He watches over me, whether I remember to ask Him or not. I’m glad He never misses anything as crucial as a deadbolt turned the wrong way. I’m glad He catches all the details I miss.

If I can trust Him to protect me when I don’t know I need protection, how much more should I trust Him when I do?

Yet, I have trouble giving my fears over.

How will we pay for college times three? Will my son pass the pre-nursing exam? Will he pass his yearly oncology screen? Will my fifteen-year-old finish chemistry and get the required credit to graduate? Will he figure out what he wants to do with his life? Will my daughter survive adolescence? Will I survive her adolescence? Will my husband’s job be safe? Will we be able to retire? Pay our bills? Will I accomplish everything I need to in the time I don’ t have?

And the list of will’s goes on. We all have a list. A list of concerns, needs, wants, fears and stumbling blocks. Some of us also tack on a list of what-if’s. And all that stress is enough to send any of us into a full-blown coronary.

Here’s a world shaker. What if I’ve opened my arms and invited all that stress? Embraced it. Breathed it in. Let the tension and fear lock me down.

For no reason at all.

Because God says:

“For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4).

If I believe the Word, and the Word says He is faithful in all He does, I need to believe He is faithful in all He does. Even when I forget to ask Him. He knows what I need. He even knows what I want. And sometimes His blessings include things I never imagined.

That’s the most comforting feeling in the world.

And so much safer than seven deadbolts and a steel-reinforced garage door.

Thank you, Lord, for being there for me. Even when I don’t know I need You.

What Love Isn’t

February 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (I Corinthians 13: 4-8).

I’ve read I Corinthians 13 a hundred times, trying to digest and mirror the model of perfect love. I used this verse in my wedding. I used this verse in my grandmother’s eulogy. I used this verse when I became a mother.

But in striving for an understanding of what love is I’ve never twisted the words to think about what love isn’t.

Thinking about what love isn’t offers me a fresh way to view how I treat the important people in my life. Or how I should be treating my spouse, my kids, my family, and my friends. Thinking about what love isn’t helps me to see where I need to make changes in my relationships and in the way I show others I care about them.

Love isn’t rushed.

Time is a commodity of which I own very little. Most days, giving up my minutes and hours can be a greater sacrifice than writing a check. I’m guilty of giving a gift card in place of a homemade meal when a care calendar rolls around. I’ve been known to pick up a Kroger rotisserie chicken and steak potatoes after one of my friends has a new baby. But, I can’t remember the last time I’ve spent the afternoon preparing a homemade meal to bring to someone. Time shouts love so much louder than money. Time is precious. Time hurts to give. Love takes time.

Love isn’t cruel.

Why would I hurt someone I love? But I do. More often than I’d like. Isn’t love supposed to be about putting the other person first? Taking their needs into account above my own? So why do I let those harsh, destructive words fly from my mouth uncensored? Why do I put selfish desires over the ones I care about the most? Why do I forget that it takes ten good words to replace an ugly one? Love takes patience.

Love isn’t keeping score.

What have you done for me lately? I’m guilty of this in attitude, if not in words. Like a scoreboard, if I do something nice for my husband, somewhere in the back of my mind, I expect him to do something nice back. Real love gives to give. No expectations. Love rips down the scoreboard. Love doesn’t keep a tally.

Love isn’t hopeless.

Some days my emotions jump all over the place. I take what people say, or don’t say, out of perspective and I don’t feel loved. How many times have I been the cause of that feeling of worthlessness in another person? How many times have I brushed off a moment to bring hope and encouragement to those I care about? How many times have I missed the signs of need in those around me and made them feel unloved? Love brings hope.

Loving those around us is hard. Even when the bonds and the feelings run deep in relationships we’ve cultivated. We’re human. With all the shortcomings that brings. Thank goodness we have the model of ultimate love in Jesus to rely on when we can’t be what others need us to be on our own.

Sins of the Past. The “S” Word: Part Two

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Lori Freeland –

Sin.

A past.

Everyone owns both. Combined, they can be quite unattractive. My sins plus my past? Definitely ugly. Certain periods of my life intertwine with blemishes I can’t scrub off. They feel dirty. Repulsive. Shameful.

Can you relate?

Whether I color my past transgressions white, gray, black or some palette of all three, a sin is a sin is a sin. God doesn’t differentiate between my white and my black. He doesn’t measure the gray and deem me good or bad. Acceptable or unacceptable. Fit or unfit.

“We have all fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).

Some of my bad choices I’d rather not relive. Rather not reflect upon. Rather not revisit. I’d rather bury them in a hole under twelve feet of dirt, six feet of cement, and a semi.

But that’s not always my choice.

What if one day, tomorrow or many tomorrows down the road, a few of those mistakes come rapping on my door and no longer afford me the choice to stuff them down in denial? Do I pay for them over and over? Do I live in bondage to my past? Should I punish myself forever? Forever can be a really long time.

Sins burden. They’re heavy. They’re draining. They pilfer joy and generate fear.

Maybe we all have at least one or two skeletons we’d like to keep locked in the cellar. Things that bring us shame, humiliation, or terror if another person were to discover just what kind of life we’ve led. Maybe we’ve worked hard to keep them buried under that dirt and cement.

Fear and oppression are harsh places to live. They color your heart, your world, your perspective.

Is there alternative to the shame sin drops at our doorstep?

Absolutely.

I don’t have to live in slavery to my former choices. To my past. No matter what I’ve done. Are there consequences for my actions? Yes. Will I have to live with those? Maybe. But not in fear and not in bondage. What is brought into the light can no longer hold darkness.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Yes. God offers me freedom. Like an over exuberant charge card rampage, when the debt comes due, He writes the check. He even covers the interest. His blood covers everything.

Everything.

The white lies. The muddy fabrications. The unpure choices. The murderous thoughts. The cruel words. All of it. Gone. And I’m left with a choice to seek forgiveness complete with a clean, white slate.

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25).

And if God doesn’t remember my sins, why should I? What an amazing gift. One I don’t want to blow.

What this gift offers me isn’t free reign to sin some more and come back begging an apology each time. What have I learned then? Nothing of value. What this gift does offer is a way to be different. To move into God’s light and make better choices so I can leave my past in the past, where it belongs.

Will I still continue to make mistakes? Of course. But I won’t live in bondage to those mistakes. I will do my best to forge ahead and, “…sin no more…” (John 8:11 KJV) knowing He will help me walk the path He’s designed. Resting in the knowledge that when I veer, His arms are always open.

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