Monthly Archives: October 2019

In the Mirror

Note: I’ve been posting devotional thoughts on my facebook author/speaker page for some time. From now on, I’ll  endeavor to post them here as well. If you follow me on facebook, this is the same devotion I posted there this morning.

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Photo by Carmen Barber

My friend Dianne bought a magnifying mirror. When she looked into the mirror, her face—enlarged seven times—didn’t even look like hers! She got rid of the mirror. Her story reminds me of my past relationship with Scripture, especially passages like James 1:23-25:

“Anyone who hears the Word of God and does not obey is like a man looking at his face in a mirror. After he sees himself and goes away, he forgets what he looks like. But the one who keeps looking into God’s perfect Law and does not forget it will do what it says and be happy as he does it. God’s Word makes men free” (NLV).

My approach to reading the Bible used to be like looking into a magnifying mirror. I read Scripture to scrutinize every blemish. When I did this, I fought feelings of unworthiness, shame, and failure.

But this week I saw something different—and exciting!—in this passage in James. In verse 25 James talks about God’s “perfect law.” Other translations use words like “perfect law of liberty” (KJV) or “perfect law that gives freedom” (NIV). While theologians disagree on which law James refers to, many believe it is the new covenant living ushered in by Christ’s death and resurrection.* So the “perfect law” is what Paul calls the “law of the Spirit” (Romans 8:2). It is the new “system” that Ezekiel talked about, when God fulfilled His promise to give us a “new heart and put a new spirit within” us (Ezekiel 36:26). It’s the New Covenant life where we are a people with a brand new heart, the heart of Jesus, beating within us.

So James is telling us to look into the New Covenant mirror. This understanding fits with the context of this passage. James is talking about living a life that overcomes sin. In verse 21 he wrote, “Receive with a gentle spirit the Word that was taught. It has the power to save your souls from the punishment of sin.” Other versions tell us to receive the IMPLANTED word. Friends, the only Word that is planted within us and can save our souls is the living Word, Jesus Himself.

THIS IS GOOD NEWS!

When James talks about overcoming sin, he tells us to look in the mirror and remember who we are. He wants us to look in the mirror and see ourselves AND the implanted Word. There are TWO people in that mirror: Jesus and us. And we are seen as people “in” Jesus. Scripture says we are “new creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and “righteousness” of God in Christ (Philippians 3:9).

So HOW do we view ourselves when we look in the mirror James talks about? We view ourselves as whole, forgiven people who have beautiful new hearts. We remember that because Jesus indwells us through the Holy Spirit, we have been CHANGED. We are no longer people who WANT to sin. We are no longer people who are hidden in shame. We are no longer unworthy, shame-filled creatures who constantly fail to live up to God’s goodness. NO! We have been transformed by Jesus. He took our sin upon Himself, and we’re brand new.

What joyful, glorious, empowering news! When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you are not magnifying it seven times to find your blemishes. When you look into the mirror of Scripture, you look to see who you REALLY are: A new creation who is being made into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

We read Scripture to remember the wonder of our salvation. We read Scripture to discover the goodness of God. We read Scripture to better know the One who has transformed us. We look in the mirror of the Word to remember that we have received a whole new identity in Christ.

When God looks at us, He sees us and Jesus. When we look in the mirror, we see the same thing—Jesus and us.
I don’t know about you, but being beaten down by my blemishes never empowers me to act differently. But remembering that the Living Word, Jesus Himself, has made me different empowers me to live out the new identity I’ve ALREADY been given.

I don’t overcome fault by focusing on it, beating myself up, and working hard to change. I overcome by remembering that I’ve already been changed and that there are two people in the mirror—me and the Jesus who cleansed me from sin. Me and the Jesus who empowers me not to sin.

Oh friends! James wants us to look in the mirror and remember we are a people who embody the implanted Word of Christ. We are a people who are forgiven. Whole. Beloved.
We look in the mirror. We see. We remember. Then we go out and live like the new person we are!

Precious God, What a wondrous thing You’ve done. You’ve changed me and given me the power to live as the new person You made me to be. Next time I look into the mirror—whether it is in my bedroom or my Bible—remind me to see myself as You see me. And help me to tap into the grace to live—to behave—like the person You say I am.

Until Next time,

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* If this is a new thought for you, consider this: If we look at the New Testament as a whole, then we read James in context with the other NT writers and passages like Galatians 5, which show that Christ’s work on the cross set us free from sin and death. Paul often refers to a new “law,” the law of the Spirit, which gives liberty. In Romans 8:2 he writes, “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (ESV). In this context it doesn’t make sense that James refers to Old Testament rules, but to new covenant living—freedom in the law of the Spirit, the new “system” put in place by the Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture never claims that living the law sets us free. The only freedom claim it makes is living free in Jesus and the grace He offers. For more thoughts check this out. 

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Sometimes You Don’t Want Advice

Sometimes you don’t want advice. Perhaps that’s why I’ve pulled back the last couple of years. This blog has been barely touched. No new books written. I’ve even been more quiet in “real” life–with most of my face-to-face community.

I’m trying to figure things out. And well, frankly that’s exhausting. The thing is, I really don’t want a plethora of other voices adding to my confusion in a particular area of my life. I want to learn to rest in the hope of the One Voice who leads. Trust in the One who knows the end from the beginning. But it’s been a long two years around this issue–and I do need prayer support. But I’m not ready to talk about that yet–I promise I will. At the end of this post.

The whole fear of advice thing is not all that’s  going on.  Life has simply taken a lot of energy and left little for blogging. After Jerry’s heart attack almost two years ago, we began a health journey that required our focus. Much of the last two years was about doctor’s appointments, diet change, and adjusting. (I talked a little about that here.) The exciting update is that Jerry is healing!!

But even though I think of the last two years as hard, not all has been hard. Some of it has been incredibly good, wondrously good, gloriously good!

My son Sam married the beautiful Ariel!

I spoke at retreats and a writer’s conference and gave a keynote at the Whole and Free Women’s Conference.

 

I traveled to NYC (which I actually told you about) and then to Afghanistan to serve with an NGO (non-governmental agency). Maybe someday I can dig deep enough to write of the great impact of that experience. Today I’ll share only one quote from a brave, female health care worker in Afghanistan. Through an interpreter she thanked me and said, “We know that you come from a place that is safe and traveled to a place that is not safe to encourage us.”

Yes, I cried.

A bonus for this huge life event was that I was part of an all-women’s service team–and my daughter was one of the team leaders! So I got to experience this humbling, beautiful, painful place with her.

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I came home from these trips and couldn’t rest until I found a way to connect with an Afghan woman nearby. I’d simply fallen in love with these beautiful, courageous, resilient women. I found my place as an in-home English tutor for an Afghan refugee. What precious, precious moments this woman and I have shared! We don’t know much of each other’s story–we don’t have enough words in common to tell our stories. But we share each other’s hearts. We are women. We are mothers.  We want to love, grow, and expand.

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Back to the home front–Jerry and I celebrated 30 years of marriage with a week in the mountains!

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And  . . . Drum roll please . . .

Jerry and I became grandparents! Oh the joy!

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There’s more. So much more I could write of God’s blessings. Our small group. The women’s Bible study. Faithful friends. It’s good to stop and remember. Any time. But maybe especially when you start a post with the words, “sometimes I don’t want advice” and admit that you’ve pulled in.

So let’s loop back to my “more on that later” promise.

The thing that has been the most draining for me (except of course for the emotion you feel when you almost lose a spouse and then watch them fight their way back to living over a two-year period) is that I was totally unprepared to be the primary wage earner for our family.

Jerry and I have always lived on a small, one-income (his!) budget. It wasn’t easy raising four children this way. But we believed I was called to some primary things–being a writer, speaker, and homeschooling mother (not necessarily in that order). So we limped along to allow me to do the things I’m passionate about. Making an income through books, speaking, and the occasional article was/is feast or famine. (Well, to be honest it’s more like a normal meal or famine. Never really a feast.)

God was incredibly gracious to me right after Jerry had his heart attack and was unable to work. Our Lord miraculously paid every single bill for six months. I’m so thankful. I really didn’t have it in me to figure out how to make more money on top of all we were dealing with. God is good. Faithful. Steady.

Next God provided me with a ghost writing job with the potential to support us for a while. The work started more slowly than expected, which freaked me out. (You can think you’ve been tried and tested and grown in faith–and I had–but then comes something that draws your faith in a whole new way and though you truly thought you were done with freaking out (because you know your God is good) you find yourself there again.)

Eventually the work became somewhat steady. I loved being able to bring in more consistent income while holding onto the flexible schedule that allowed me to drive Jerry to the doctor, occasionally babysit my granddaughter, and continue tutoring my friend. (And take the occasional speaking engagement, service trip, etc.)

But it was a huge learning curve. This trying to become the primary provider.

(Okay, not was. Is.)

For too many months I stressed over every penny I thought I needed to make. It was hard to balance my schedule, much less my checkbook. Finally, I learned to trust, to believe God was providing, and lean into the work without freaking out.  (To date I’ve sold 78 stories to this company.)

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But not long after I was able to wrestle my fears, questions, and stress to the ground–Not long after I was doing better at leaning on God–Not long after I could work without freaking, the project began winding down. Which meant the work slowed down. Which meant the paychecks did too.

The project is almost completed. I may have enough work to get us through October.

Now what?

(I know I just asked, but . . . um . . . please don’t give me advice.)

Last night I lay awake freaking again.

It’s so not how I thought I’d learned to live with Him. It’s so not how God wants me to live. It so not how I want to live.

I know I am a capable, educated, talented woman. I have skills. Marketable skills. I also have dreams. Whether or not they are marketable remains to be seen. And then there are the hopes I treasure . . . .

I’m not sure where all of those intersect. I’m not sure if they will anymore. I’m not sure how to move forward.

And I am so very sad. And tired. And afraid.

Please pray for me.

Earlier today I did part of what I love. I wrestled with a new spiritual truth that excited me. And I wrote it out to share with others. (I’ll post it here tomorrow–and on my author/speaker page on Facebook.) I have a feeling this new understanding of a Bible passage I’ve previously misunderstood relates to the struggle. Not because it is a direct correlation, but because–as you can read tomorrow–what we see in the mirror matters. (What I wrote talks about what we can see.) But I have a feeling I’m barely beginning to understand the vast applications of that view. Maybe instead of worrying as I climb into bed tonight, I’ll ponder that.

Meanwhile, here in Colorado, I’m just a grandma looking for Jesus. Believing He’s hanging onto me and being grateful for that, because my hang-er-on-er strength feels faint. Sometimes I don’t get that. How God can be so good, so faithful, so kind–and still I feel things that don’t match who I know Him to be. Tonight I may feel overwhelmed, scared, a bunch of things that don’t speak to the truth of the power of my God, but I promise you this. I still seek Him. I still love Him. I still reach for Him.

He IS my all in all.

Until next time,

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