Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Clear the Way! Here I Come!


Isaiah 54 is the Lord's Sonnet to Israel, but as with most Old Testament writings, there are applications for God's modern Lady, the Church, and personal applications for individual believers.



Isaiah 54:9
To me this is like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you,
never to rebuke you again.
I used to be paralyzed by fear when I had a decision to make. I thought that there was only one “right” choice and that if I chose “wrong” I would be in big trouble. This verse gave me the courage to take risks and try new things without fear that God would “drop” me if He didn’t like the choice I made. I know if I make a mistake out of ignorance or immaturity, God will help me through it and set me back on the right path. Even if I sin willfully, He will patiently show me the foolishness of my ways and guide me back.
To Me this is like the days of Noah
Isaiah 54:9 is an especially personal and intimate declaration in which God, the Creator of the Universe, shares with great tenderness and transparency His intentions toward us flawed and continually failing human beings.

Genesis 8:20-22
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.” (NIV)

Never to Rebuke You Again
We have all felt the sting of rebuke, whether a well-deserved scolding from wise and loving parents or harsh, unjustified criticism by undisciplined, self-serving parents or caregivers. Through these repeated experiences as children we develop a filter for later encounters with teachers, supervisors, and other authority figures, including God.
A child in a healthy environment with good boundaries learns to compartmentalize a rebuke as, “I did something wrong this time and next time I can do things better.” A sensitive child in an unhealthy environment with poor boundaries learns to internalize and diffuse rebuke into a shame-filled belief system that says, “There is something wrong with me and everything I do. I am a bad person and there is nothing I can do about it.” Their lives are riddled with a vague sense of guilt and helplessness.
The adult from the first environment accepts criticism as an opportunity to learn, grow, and improve. When an unfair criticism or accusation is thrown their way, they can easily say, “That’s not me,” and move on. An adult who grew up in the second kind of environment hears every rebuke, whether accurate or not, as confirmation that they as a person are no good. Even the “sandwich” technique does not work very well for them.
For example, the boss might go to Joe and say, “Joe, I really appreciate the great work you have been doing. Your reports are spot on, and I can count on you get things in on or before the deadline. You missed a section on your last report, so I’m returning it to you for revision. Thanks again, Joe. You’re a real asset to the company.

If Joe has good boundaries and positive internal self-image, he will beam with pride that his boss noticed the good job he is doing and will appreciate that a mistake was called to his attention so he could correct it.
If Joe has poor boundaries and a shame-filled filter, he will hear that the boss is trying to soften the blow by pointing out that his work usually meets the minimum standards, but the main reason the boss is even talking to him is that he made a mistake. He wonders how many similar mistakes might lead to a write up or getting fired. He worries that his boss is disappointed in him. “Asset to the company” sounds like a canned phrase, again designed to soften the blow. He probably didn’t even mean it.
When a shame-filled person approaches the Bible, they are likely to identify with scriptures that classify them as unworthy sinners and explain away passages such as Luke Chapter 15 that describes in detail just how much God loves, values, and treasure one sinner who repents. This is how I approached my life-with a shame-filled filter, but God has been working with me to understand and know that I am precious to Him and He treasures me.

As a teenager, did you ever write the name of your current crush on the palm of your hand? Well, God has permanently carved your name on His hand. If you have a shame-filled filter, it’s time to tear down that old foundation and build a new one. Start today. Every time you hear your thoughts explaining away the message that you are loved, valued, and appreciated for the unique creation that you are, stop yourself. Replace those thoughts with the Truth that God is pleased with you and His mind is on you with loving adoration all day long.
 Isaiah 49:15-16
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me. (NIV) 
Questions for reflection or Group Discussion
Which kind of environment most closely reflect the home in which I grew up?
In what ways, if any, do I interpret people’s comments through a shame-filled filter?
In what ways, if any, do I interpret the Bible through a shame-filled filter?
How would my life be different without a shame-filled filter? 
Dear Lord,
Thank you that you don’t treat us as our sins deserve. Help us to set aside any habits we might have of internalizing negative words spoken over us. Help us to correct our mistakes with joy. Help us to see ourselves as You do, as treasured, beloved children of a devoted Father. Thank you that you think about us all the time, and that your thoughts toward us are always good. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Shift your body so it is well supported. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing in slowly and deeply and allowing your muscles to relax as you exhale slowly and fully. Take a few more deep breaths as you become more relaxed and focused.
Imagine yourself relaxing in a small pool of warm water. Notice if the water is moving or still. It may be colorful, too. Take another deep breath. Notice a pleasant scent. This water has healing properties. It is able to draw out tension, pain, and sorrow. Shame-filled thoughts and beliefs disintegrate into this water. This water infuses you with love, wisdom, and safety. This water is like a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s work, transforming you, gently changing the way you think, reminding you that you are loved.
This water seals in God’s love for you, reminding you that you are valuable. God the Father is overjoyed that you have come to Him for healing. He created you as the unique person you are. You are the apple of His eye. He thinks about you all day long and desires to give you good gifts. He sees you as clean and whole. Just take some time and allow yourself to be filled with all the goodness God has for you. (Pause for a minute or two) When you are finished, step out and wrap yourself in a warm, thirsty robe. Watch as the water slowly drains from the pool, along with all your old beliefs of “not good enough.”
Take a couple of deep breaths, wriggle your hands and feet, let out a big, big, sigh, and when you are ready you can open your eyes.

Action Steps
Take a few moments to journal about your meditation experience. You might also want to draw, color, or paint, or write a poem.
If you have discovered that you have a shame-filled filter, consider keeping a journal of shame-filled thoughts of self-blame or self-criticism and instances when you internalize (It’s all my fault) and diffuse (because I’m a bad person) a mistake or criticism (One thing you did that needs correction).
For each shame-filled thought, statement, or belief write down 2 or 3 scripture based statements to counter those false beliefs.
You can even practice saying these statements out loud and for reinforcement, say them to yourself in the mirror. You can also record them and listen to them while walking, driving, or sleeping.
Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)


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