I am a Christian — No Apologies

I make no apologies for my worldview expressed here.

I am a Christian. This is my blog.

In this place I talk about Jesus, God and the Bible as it relates to my personal experiences in life. Some will understand, some will not. I hope I express myself graciously and represent my LORD well. Nonetheless, some will undoubtedly take exception. I do not mean to offend. As a wise person once said, however, “Truth hurts. But we have to tell it. Don’t be upset with the Truth. The Truth won’t change just because it offends you.” Respectful discussion is always welcome. Petulant argument for the sake of ego or insult is not.  As Jim Fay says, “I will be happy to talk to you when your voice is as calm as mine.”

Blessings!
Tamara Christine
Christian blogger

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

So You Think You Want to Be a Leader…

Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 

Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Titus 1:5-9

Christian blog

Leadership has been on my mind a lot lately. Not because I am seeking any particular position of leadership.  I’ll leave the selection and appointment of that in GOD’s hands if that is something He has in my future.  And not because of any of the political battles raging wild since last year’s election season. That also is in GOD’s hands. No, my current concern with leadership is far more personal involving learning discernment in who is actually ready to handle the mantle of leader in my life and graciously putting away the pushy ambitions of those who aspire to such a position but are not actually ready for the responsibility.

It occurred to me that the roots of caution where leadership is concerned go far back before my current situation.  Mind you, I have every respect for truly Godly leaders who speak life giving encouragement and correction into my life, but I have learned to be very careful in granting someone this right. Probably because I have seen far too much abuse by self-proclaimed “leaders” who mistake contentious and quarrelsome bossiness and tyrannical control and manipulation for real leadership.

The church I attended until I was 10 years old when my dad’s job transferred him across the state, went nuclear and dissolved about a year or so after we moved away due to serious corruption in the leadership.  I heard all the horror stories from the “refugees” who would come visit my parents and talk when they forgot that little pitchers have big ears.  Anyone who thinks that a child wouldn’t understand or perceive hidden wrongs perpetrated by wolves in sheep’s clothing, don’t be so sure.  I didn’t know all the specifics of what went on behind the scenes and some I didn’t know even as an adult until the last 10 years or so when I started noticing some lingering attitudinal patterns among those who came out of that disaster even decades later and began questioning my mom for more details to better understand how the failure of leadership affected a whole generation in that town.  None of it was truly surprising because even as a child I would watch and listen and get this sense that something wasn’t quite right. But when you are young, it isn’t quite the thing to tell adults they are wrong, especially in a culture where questioning was not encouraged.  So hearing the details just confirmed and vindicated all those hidden childhood wonderings and doubts that all was actually as it seemed.

Then there were numerous authority figures who repeatedly drummed in the idea that something was wrong with me in the name of “constructive criticism.” If only I dressed right, had the right hairstyle or makeup, prayed more, believed more, was “more friendly” (read: outgoing, social butterfly, not so bookish and quiet), or conformed to whatever their current idea of perfection happened to be, then all my “problems” (as they perceived them anyway) would go away.  I never truly bought into their narrative of me, maybe because I already knew on some level from the first debacle above, that my perception of reality was more accurate than what many people wanted me to believe.  But fending it off was and is exhausting.  I know who and Whose I am and that only what He says about me is of any consequence in the grand scheme of things.  So anyone who starts to sound like a self-righteous critic without actually getting to know me and establishing creds is automatically disqualified as a leader in my life.

Can’t leave out the college kids who formed their own little clique of religious “leadership” and used it to pass judgment on and exclude anyone who they decided didn’t make the hyper-spiritual cut. Or those who let me into their group but only so far, keeping me at the fringes, as the saying goes, “damning with faint praise” or superficial kindness and uncalled for pity just to assuage their consciences of being so “accepting” and “inclusive” while actually stiff arming me from actually being part of their social life or fellowship as an equal.

By the time I graduated, I was so sick of the whole thing that I made the fatal error of running the other way, determined to show them I could do it my own way.  In the process, I forgot to wait for GOD’s timing and to check up on the leadership qualities of those I let into my life.  BIG MISTAKE!!  22 years later — that went nuclear in the worst possible ways.  He never was ready for leadership but I turned a blind eye and convinced myself that GOD wasn’t watching, that things would turn out OK anyway just so I could prove everyone wrong about me. Needless to say, it wasn’t and now I am doubly meticulous about vetting anyone who I think even hypothetically might possibly be wanting to be in a leadership position in my life at some future point.

This is not meant to proclaim some kind of victimhood and beg for pity because above all else, I despise pity and false kindness meant for show or as a backward way of showing that someone actually doesn’t care and just wants me to go away where their inaction and lack of caring doesn’t make them feel guilty.  I am only abbreviating my experiences with misplaced and misused leadership to illustrate the point that dictatorial control, manipulative mind games, using guilt and criticism to break someone down until they conform to your desires, and self-righteous arrogance only serve to destroy any leader creds you may think you have.

My pastor talked about the idea of headship when we went through Ephesians:

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.  But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…

Ephesians 5:23-25

Paul is talking about husbands and wives here but the principle he elaborates can be applied to anyone who expects to have a leadership role over anyone else.  My pastor described how many people misinterpret these verses to mean that the husband gets to have some kind of tyrannical, bossy, pugnacious control over the wife.  This is pointedly contrary to the heart of GOD.  What he pointed out was that, as the centurion pointed out in Matthew 8, having authority comes from being under authority. So the one who wishes to lead, whether it be a husband, father, a ministry leader or someone who wants to lead his or her employees in a Godly manner, must first be under GOD’s  authority.  If that relationship is out of whack, then any attempt at leadership will be out of sync with GOD’s will and heart because there is no grant of authority from the Highest Authority. As Jesus pointed out in Matthew 20, the one who wishes to wield authority must first serve those he or she wishes to lead. That’s true leader creds!

So if you are someone looking to exercise leadership over anyone, husbands and wives, parents and children, ministry leaders and congregation, or manager and employees, start with finding ways to serve, edify, and encourage those you wish to lead rather than following the example of the worldly minded leaders Jesus called out in this passage for lording it over their constituents.  When your true heart is to love and sacrifice your own self-interest for them and let GOD take care of your own needs, then you are a leader after GOD’s own heart, worthy of my trust. Until then, GOD wants a word with you about your spiritual health and I will wait until He is done shaping, molding, and transforming you into a truly Godly leader.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

 

Hanging Out With Imperfect People

Disclaimer: I am not referring in this post to people who need to cut ties with a theologically unsound church because of serious toxic culture and people issues; nor to those who are temporarily in the short-term process of searching for a church home.  I recognize there are legitimate concerns and reasons to change churches or to resonate more strongly with one or another, something that varies from person to person. I have concerns, however, with the gypsy mentality that just never sets down relational roots anywhere and that is what I am talking about here. So read carefully, and if it doesn’t apply to your situation, it must be for someone else, so please no hate mail or wounded defensiveness. I am NOT trying to personally attack anyone!

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 

A recent blog post from Proverbs 31 Ministries made me start thinking again about something that has been on my mind for a while, and especially the last few months because I’ve noticed what to me is an odd trend for Christians, at least in my circles. It kind of bothers me, quite frankly because the aversion to hanging out with imperfect people seems like a tool of the enemy to divide and disconnect the Christian witness of believers even further as we look at an increasingly hostile world and a growing number of signs that Jesus mentioned in His description of end times.  (This is not my main point so if you want to discuss/debate end times theology, please choose another time and place!)

In the process of describing the importance of weekly fellowship with other believers, P31 blogger Arlene Pellicane mentions several typical reasons why people stop going to church services. Accusations of hypocrisy, past hurts, “I can do it myself,” or the modern pandemic of over-busyness. I have heard all of them before so she is right in her partial list of excuses.  However, I have heard variations on a theme the last few months from several people who by all appearances are established members of a local fellowship, but suddenly start bailing or avoiding services for petty personal preferences.

Furthermore, I have noticed the last ten years or so, more and more people are doing the church gypsy thing on a more or less permanent basis. They go wherever their fancy takes them — or not, for any given service. Or they go somewhere for a few months or years and then just up and move on with no better excuse than “It’s just time for a change.”  No mention of GOD is calling them to something new, which would be a legitimate reason. Just “I’m bored and need a change of scenery.” Or worse, “I’ve learned everything that this pastor has to say. I need new material,” or “The new worship/youth leader just isn’t my cup of tea. He/she isn’t meeting my needs/expectations.” Or “I’ll only come when so and so is teaching/leading worship.”

What concerns me is the common theme that they are putting all the responsibility on the ministry leaders for carrying the weight of the whole worship experience and faith growth all by themselves without acknowledging that the quality of their relationship with GOD is a participatory activity.  No relationship can survive long when one person expects to be passively entertained, nurtured and served by another without any reciprocal effort to maintain their end of the relationship. Of course, serving should never be about what you’re going to get out of it, but when one person is doing all the giving while the other only takes and feels entitled to it, that is a patently toxically unhealthy relationship!  It doesn’t work in human relationships and it won’t work with GOD and His church either!!

It is worrisome in a time when Christians need to be pulling together more than ever that the trend is more and more toward an impersonal disconnect, even in the local church.  It almost feels like there’s this determined bent to avoid relationships at all. Maybe because the world tells us busy is the way to be, or maybe because of the isolation brought on by modern technology; or maybe because we are all imperfect people who undoubtedly have the capacity to hurt each other, intentionally or unintentionally.

Whatever the reason, avoiding gathering together robs believers of their God-designed spiritual and emotional support network to walk with each other through whatever spiritual, physical, financial, relational/emotional and practical trials life throws at us. It shortchanges people their opportunities to serve one another the way Christ served His church. If I bail as soon as something isn’t exactly to my liking or which stretches my limitations or vision and fail to consider that I may be in the wrong or that I may learn something from an unexpected person or circumstance,  I may be missing an opportunity to let GOD grow me outside my comfort zone and come out better and stronger in faith for it.

Having found a Biblically-sound church, with a heart of true worship and fellowship, and invested time in becoming established and building relationships there, it is beyond petty to start distancing oneself because of personalities or seasons that pass in the night; or because I am experiencing a temporary spiritual low and blaming it on the leaders instead of looking to strengthen myself in the Word. I will not find any permanent answer or solution by running around looking for someone else to meet my emotional/spiritual void instead of investing myself in growing right where I am. It’s like they say, “The problem with running away to ‘find myself’ is that wherever I go, there I am.”

Worship and ministry leaders can come and go. One may resonate more strongly than another with different people. But just as in any relationship, I have to take responsibility for my own worship and faith experience and carry my own weight or I am in danger of falling into a personality cult mentality instead of keeping my focus on GOD. If the quality of my faith depends wholly on the person up front giving me all my favorite feelies all the time, my focus is in the wrong place! If I avoid “gathering” because of unmet stylistic personal preferences, I am putting too much responsibility for my relationship with God and His church in the hands of fallible human beings who will never be able to meet all my needs anyway. It’s not their job to carry all the relational weight on both sides and if that is what I expect, I will surely live in a perpetual state of disappointment and unhealthy relationships. If the eyes of my heart are fixed on communing with my GOD and being a conduit of His grace and mercy to others, I can have sweet worship and fellowship no matter what’s happening or not happening on stage!

If this convicts you or causes your defensive hackles to start rising, please talk to GOD about it. Be open to the leading of His Holy Spirit and listen for His still small whisper of course correction. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular so if this speaks to you in some way, it may be that you and GOD have some issues to work out one on one. And if GOD actually IS calling you to a new ministry or season of life, by all means, always go with what GOD says…just make sure it is Him speaking and not your own wounded ego or pride or unrealistic expectations.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

GOD the Wallbreaker: Not a Prisoner of My Past

‘For I will restore you to health and  I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.” ‘
Jeremiah 30:17

Instead of your shame, you will receive a double portion and instead of disgrace, you will rejoice in your inheritance.
Isaiah 61:7

I’ve seen it all in my lifetime –and you can probably relate: senseless persecution, unfounded defamatory assumptions, snap judgments based on circumstances beyond my control or because I stand for GOD when the world says I shouldn’t — or don’t when I should, when I know better but  let my flesh have its way; mean-spirited and selfish accusations or gossip bearing zero resemblance to reality and masquerading as well-meaning advice or “constructive” criticism;  or sometimes actually meant to destroy and discredit me and bring me down or keep down to the same level of misery as my detractors and critics. Or those who will not allow themselves to be part of GOD’s plan for their own life, let alone mine, because of their own hurts and broken places.

Nonetheless, THIS I KNOW:

GOD sees every prejudice, blind and unfounded assumption, unfair judgment, persecution, unkindness, and ignorance, or blind eye of inaction, or experience of invisibility, or lack of compassion or involvement that has ever come against me or reared its ugly head in my presence or behind my back. He knows the cry of the outcast and He has heard my heart for Him. There is no wall he cannot break down. My GOD is a wallbreaker!

No matter what anyone else thinks or says, I matter to Him and only what He thinks of me matters.  I must resist believing the lies of insignificance or perpetual failure. I am NOT stuck because my GOD is bigger than anything that comes against me, or that dares to stand in the way of the promises He has made me.

He is bringing healing and restoration, in place of shame and disgrace and false assumptions of ill repute, even as we speak. I am not an outcast, for He accepts me. I am NOT uncared for, for in His eyes, I am a cherished daughter and He loves me beyond measure. I am NOT a prisoner of shame and disgrace, for He is bringing transformation, even now.

My GOD is a wallbreaker — working even now to demolish strongholds and bring me to a place of rejoicing, even greater than what He has already done for me.  He will never fail me, for He is GOOD and He is FOR me! I stand on that promise in complete faith that He will bring about every good thing that He has promised me, for the opposition does not stand a chance of resisting the power of my GOD to bless me in every way He sees fit. May it be done to me as He has promised!

Dear LORD,
I know You are a GOD who demolishes strongholds and breaks down walls that have the audacity to try to stand between Your will and Your beloved. I stand now in complete faith and boldness that You will do all that You have promised and that not a single roadblock will thwart Your plan to replace what has been broken in my life with healing and restoration beyond my wildest dreams. I want to be part of Your Unio Mystica that reflects Your perfect glory to a very broken world. May it be so just as You have said. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

Confidence Though I Cannot See

“You who know, O LORD, remember me and take notice of me. Take vengeance for me on my persecutors. Do not, in view of Your patience take me away. Know that for Your sake I endure reproach. Your words were found and I ate them. Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I have been called by Your Name, O LORD GOD of Hosts…Therefore,” thus says the LORD, “[Since] you have retuned to me, I will restore you — before Me you will stand…I will make you…a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you. For I am with you to save you and deliver you,” declares the LORD. “So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.”

Jeremiah 15:15-16, 19-21

Dear, LORD, my LORD,
Such is my prayer — that I would be found faithful to walk in the disciplines You have taught me, that You may show Yourself mighty on my behalf, according to Your Word. (2 Chronicles 16:9)  Let Your words be found in me and find a resting place in my heart and mind, that they may take root and grow and be a continual joy and delight, a nourishing meal and sustenance for my soul to grown in strength and confidence of Your provision for every good thing and every provision and fulfillment of every promise, no matter the reluctance and opposition that comes against me. I stand on Your promises of continued restoration and deliverance and redemption of all past wrongs. My confidence is in Your sufficiency and power to the breaking down of strongholds and determined opposition. You are able to bring about the transformation necessary to make Your promises come true, regardless of the depth of brokenness coming against me and Your work in my life. My hope and my confidence  is in You alone. May it be done to me as You have said and promised. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD, your GOD will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“I am not ashamed, for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12

When Jesus Speaks, My Circumstances Listen

But Jesus said…”Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.  
[keep on believing]

Mark 5:36

Impossible situations. No way out. No amount of striving or working had helped–or would help. But when Jesus speaks, circumstances change in an instant and it happens just as He says.

In the midst of our tumultuous circumstances of the last few years, at least one well-meaning person has advised me, “Pray like it all depends on GOD and work like it all depends on you.” GOD is not a magical genie granting wishes on demand and catering to my every whim without any effort on my part, so I won’t deny that there is some wisdom there. To be sure, GOD will not dance to my tune and is not at my beck and call. Without a doubt, it does not work like that. I can’t manipulate and control GOD nor paint Him into a corner where I pull the puppet strings and He acts according to my desire.

But in trying to prove my faith and participate in solutions, I can wander down the garden path in the opposite direction of apathy and learned helplessness. When my working and striving becomes my idol, I start to unconsciously think or act like that my solutions depend on impressing GOD so with my work and sacrifice or by the book adherence to “holiness” or “faith” that any failure on my part means I am disqualified from His blessing or promise. I feed an insecurity that says, “You messed this up by not being perfect. You have to do more to prove to GOD that you deserve His blessing and promise. You’ll only get it when you’ve “earned” it with enough compliance and goodness. It’s all your own fault if you don’t get it.”

That is the enemy speaking lies from the pit of hell. Nothing I do can impress GOD! While I shouldn’t sit around and do nothing and expect GOD to jump to and give me everything I ever wanted as an entitlement; or that it will appear magically out of the blue, dropped in my lap with zero effort to live a godly life on my part, His blessings do not depend on me!

On the contrary, it depends on His heart for me and that is always  for good.  In His time, it will never fail to happen. When He speaks the word, my circumstances listen. They jump to attention and obey the Word of the Master and the impossible becomes possible in the hands of my GOD.  I just need to keep believing in His word and promises and that He is able and willing, not that I am capable or deserving. It will turn out just as He says!

Christian blogger

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

Choose You This Day

Choose you this day whom you will serve…

Joshua 24:15

ThChristian bloggerousands of years before Robert Frost penned the words, “the road less traveled,” (later brought into popular psychology by Scott Peck’s book of the same title), Joshua issued the epic ultimatum to the vacillating Israelites, “CHOOSE you this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”  Later, Jesus Himself would speak of the narrow road and the blessings awaiting the few who find it. This whole idea of life altering choice has come into stark relief this week as GOD got up close and personal with me on a particular issue.

See, in all transparent honesty, I have this problem with letting my mind wander into daydreams about certain things I dearly desire. You might think this is normal and natural. I have been guilty, more than once, of justifying it because it is “just temporary,” an interim pacification of feelings until said dream actually comes true. But, when my fantasies take the place of filling my heart and mind with GOD’s peace and patience in waiting on the real thing and set my expectations for His way to conform to my visions and scripts of how this will play out, I am wandering into the danger zone where sin lives.

The last few weeks I have had a certain dream a few times. This was kind of an unusual dream for me since God usually wakes me up or interrupts the plot before anything really happens in these kinds of dreams. But the third time this dream came around, oh He interrupted alright. He confronted my flesh in a head-on collision: “You can choose this, but then this is all you will ever have.” That stopped me dead cold in my tracks, even in my somnolent state and stuck with me even when I woke up.

Do I really want to let flesh and fantasy and pipe dreams fill up the spaces between now and God’s time to bring these things to pass for real? Do I want to camp on the temporary and appease my feelings with elaborate wishful thinking scenarios that distract me from having faith that things will turn out exactly as God has said? (Acts 27:25) My flesh does, that is clear, but is this what I really want?

Without hesitation, the answer is a resounding NO!! The choice is clear. I can choose the instant gratification and temporary satisfaction and appeasement of entertaining the fleshly fantasies. I might even be able to manipulate circumstances enough to get a partial measure or appearance of what I long for and then be stuck with imaginary and second best forever. Or I can choose to wait for the full measure of blessing that comes with waiting for GOD’s way.

OUCH!  When You put it that way, it’s rather a no-brainer! I choose GOD!  My flesh may rebel and pull hard for easy, fast, instant or manipulated solutions for its own satisfaction. But I choose God’s way!! I truly do want the greater blessing of waiting on His way and time. As the old saying goes, my flesh is not the boss of me.  I want the full measure of Him guiding and directing my life and bringing lasting solutions and true satisfaction.

Dear LORD,
I choose Your way. Please help me with the rebellious parts that pull for fantasy and expedited, manipulated solutions! They are loud and messy, but not my heart and no match for the Power of my GOD!  I want Your way!  As for me and my “feelings”, we will serve the LORD!! In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

God is My Glue

He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.
Colossians 1:17

I was recently reminded of something my pastor says, “Never doubt in the dark what GOD has promised in the light.”  I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d wager a guess that I am not entirely alone in feeling the urge to rush GOD’s promised end results after hearing from Him, especially when a difficult period of life seems to stretch on without end. After extended periods of recovery from the intolerable twists and turns of life that have taken us down roads I never would have chosen to go, I have grown in my ability to trust GOD through all kinds of instability and uncertainty, but I have not yet arrived at perfection. [cue the mock “surprise” — ha!]

There are certain things that I am certain beyond a shadow of a doubt with multiple confirmations from trusted sources that GOD has said to me about where He is taking me, the end result of enduring all the trial, rejection and struggle to climb out of the hole only partially of my own making.

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.
Isaiah 54:4

And in regards to my own fiery trial:

…the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.
Daniel 3:27

He WILL vindicate me completely, utterly and entirely and give me a new start in every possible way. That’s the kind of GOD He is. I know this. I have seen this in many ways already in how He has walked with us and provided for every need at every turn. Yet I still leak, just like the Israelites in the desert. I don’t want to…but I do every time there seems to be a setback or a roadblock in moving forward in one area of recovery or another. I am weary of it all and I just want it to be over with and completely inhabit my Promised Land in peace with every specific promise He has spoken to me fulfilled and no more collateral damage from life’s implosion to bring the smell of fire or insecurity upon me. No more fear that life is flying in all directions out of control.

I want the financial and emotional recovery to be a done deal. Behind me. Nevermore to raise its threatening head and tempt my flesh to fear and despair. To raise lifelong demons of loneliness, desperation, rejection, failure that tempt me to try to take control and make things happen the way I want and to school everyone around me in the “right” way to create a false bubble of security and temporary fulfillment in order to stave off having to face the truth of alienation and rejection and all the accompanying negative feelings.  To avoid facing the fact that I am, in fact, not the one in control; that I can’t whitewash the situation with my daydreams of idyllic perfection and fantasies of a stress-free, everything I want happily ever after. To deny the reality that my wishes and desires do not have the magical power to make everyone act, say and do exactly what I want and that artificially magnifying the illusion that I can or have achieved such a protective bubble only creates more heartache and disappointment when it all falls apart.

The Truth is the only glue that will hold the broken pieces of my life together and make something beautiful out of it is GOD.  He knows the end before the beginning and declares it to be so, so it is. (Isaiah 46) Nothing can thwart His design because He knows just how to take all the shattered dreams, rejections, failures, bad choices (mine and others), every bad judgment and evil perpetrated by me or against me and put them all together to bring about His plan and His will. What He puts together, He holds together and no one can take it apart or destroy it. That is quality beyond anything I can create or put together on my own!

If I try to rush to the end result of His promises because of my own broken insecurities, desperation, loneliness, fear or doubt, I will get an imperfect result that comes apart because it is my own doing and a temporary fix, not GOD’s perfect plan. It won’t stop Him from bringing about His will, but it will be a detour, like the 40 years in the desert–an unnecessary delay brought on by failure to remember and trust GOD’s faithfulness.

I need to cultivate His patience and peace in my heart and mind and let Him put things together — relationally and financially– in His own time and way so that I get the added blessing of Him holding it all together. I want the unbreakable protection of being in His will and under His covering. No more rushing results to temporarily satisfy the flesh with the imperfect fruits of impatience. I only want what He has declared over my life and is holding together. I already know how disaster and heartbreak lie when I take my own shortcuts. It’s so NOT worth it!

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary  principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8

When I do that, I am settling for a knock off, second best, an “easier” alternative, lesser than what He calls me to, promises me or decrees. Expedient shortcuts that satisfy fleshly impatience don’t help. Trying to “outsmart” GOD and get what I want NOW doesn’t help.  Neither does trying to “out-wise” Him with the assumption that I can obtain His promises more quickly, effectively or efficiently on my own without His help; or that such a thing would even please Him or be as good as waiting for His way and time, even if I could. Which I can’t.

Note to self: Stop interfering in GOD’s plans and acting like it is OK because I am trying to bring about the same promised end anyway. The ends do NOT justify the means; nor will my co-opted road lead to the same place He wants to take me, no matter how close in appearance it appears to be. The substance and durability of the thing will not last as it is a sham, only similar in outer form, lacking in the glue of having GOD inserted at every point in its formation. As excruciating and maddening as it may be to take the long road, the best results come from waiting on GOD to be the glue that holds all the pieces of the dream He has placed in my heart together forever. The real deal is always worth the wait! (Rx: Repeat daily and hourly as necessary until this sinks in!!)

Dear LORD,
Thank you for hanging in there with me, holding me together while I struggle to let go of control of all those empty spaces of desperation, fear, panic, and loneliness that tempt me to rush in to “fix” it with temporary measures that imperfectly satisfy the flesh for a time, but do nothing to satisfy and sate the deep longings of my soul and heart. Help me to wait for what You are holding together for me, no shortcuts, impostors or knockoffs. Help me to stop seeking relief in way stations and byways–second best temporary fleshly indulgences, but rather to let You fill all those empty, desperate places with You — all the hidden places, the unconscious places, the places I am so accustomed to in the landscape that I don’t even see or know they are there. Shift my paradigm to reveal all the faulty basic assumptions that leave me vulnerable to the lies of the enemy; and fill all those places — seen and unseen — with Your Truth, Your Sufficiency, that You would be my enough for whatever comes. This is my heart and my desire even when my flesh fights against it. Help me to hold onto You and only You; and to remember Your faithfulness and trust You for every future provision–emotionally, spiritually and financially. Root out all that is not of You and works against Your perfect will and plan in my heart and mind, until only You are left to work Your perfect plan in Your perfect time. Let me be so filled with You that anything or anyone You add to my life is a bonus and a blessing and not a GOD-replacing idol. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

The Evergreen Hope of Christmas

For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living GOD, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
Timothy 4:10
Every year, I hear people — in real life and online — who get all bent out of shape over their perceptions of pagan symbolism of evergreen trees, Christmas lights and the commercialization of the Christmas season. I will not rehash my emphasis in previous writings that the method and style of an individual’s celebrations is completely a matter of the heart’s intent which is more important to GOD than a particular form or for some outright avoidance.  Nonetheless, I have long held that symbols only hold the significance they carry for a person in a particular place and time, according to their own conscience. GOD will not hold me responsible for what a given symbol may have represented to someone in ancient times, if in all good conscience, it is a representation of my worship to me today and only calls to mind and heart a reverence for the things of GOD,  and my hope in His Son and His Word.

Even if something was used for pagan or evil purposes in centuries past, my GOD is in the business of redemption.  He transformed an ancient torture device from a symbol of death and shame to a declaration of victory and life.  He can do the same for Christmas trees, lights and the myriad other traditional symbols of modern Christmas.  One person’s interpretation of a symbol has no magical power to imbue that object for all time with some mystical evil, pagan spirit. It only holds that meaning as long as a person or society believes in that meaning. Once that meaning has passed from public consciousness, it no longer means that, especially if GOD has redeemed it and turned it into a witness for Himself.

You can say the same of the commercialization of retail turning Christmas into a season of gimme gimme, obligation and debt instead of the spirit of giving that represents GOD’s ultimate gift to all humanity in sending His only Son to a humble manger to live on Earth as a man so He could better communicate His love and desire for authentic relationship with us. He wants to be with us so much that He was willing to send Jesus to take our sins on Himself and die on the Cross for the forgiveness of those sins and rise again on the third day to give witness and testimony to the glory and power of GOD and draw people into intimate relationship with Him.

Just because some people treat it as a secular obligatory gifting opportunity and feel it is an onerous duty to spend money they don’t have, to buy pricey gifts they can’t afford, for people they hardly take time for the other 364 days of the year, doesn’t mean it has to mean that to someone who is honestly trying to honor GOD’s ultimate gift, by celebrating the beginning of the redemption story come to Earth in the form of a baby.  If you let someone else’s misunderstanding or disrespect of the holiday ( derived from the Old English for holy day), guilt you or interfere with your enjoyment of celebrating your Savior, you alone are responsible for letting your joy be stolen.  If you want it to be about Jesus, then put your heart into it and make it that way for you and your family. What anyone else chooses to do and the attitude of their heart, is between them and GOD.

Exactly how that looks and sounds will be different for each person or family. I am not here to prescribe a particular manner of celebration. I only want to urge Christians not to allow anyone else to define a “proper” Christmas celebration for them; nor to feel that because of pagan roots or commercial interests, that they must avoid any kind of Christmas celebration whatsoever, if it brings them joy, promotes family relationships and brings them closer to GOD in the spirit of worship.  If it doesn’t, well, maybe it’s better to celebrate at a different time that inspires a worship heart. But, please don’t not celebrate because of someone else’s conscience and miss the wonder and rejoicing in your heart at the remembrance of your LORD and Savior’s birth.
Blessed be the GOD and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3
Perhaps the most seasonally appropriate illustration is the ever present evergreen Christmas tree.  Even though ancient pagans used branches as winter solstice decorations and the Roman use of evergreens as temple decorations for Saturnalia, they do not own the rights to define what evergreens mean to all people for all time. John 1 makes it clear, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”  So clearly, GOD created evergreens and placed them on Earth before the Romans and ancient pagan thought up any unholy uses.

1 Chronicles 29:11 tells us that everything in the heavens and earth belongs to GOD.  In Isaiah 55, the trees of the field clap their hands in praise of their Creator. If anyone has the right to determine the eternal significance of something, it would surely be Him. In journalism, when we say a text is “evergreen”, it means that the story is not time sensitive, but stands the test of time and is relevant to any time and place. The story will not go out of date but contains information that people can relate to now, next year or 10 or 100 years from now. What a perfect description of the hope of the gospel that started with the fulfillment of countless prophecies in the birth of a baby in Bethlehem!

Jesus is the living embodiment of that idea for as Hebrews 13 tells us, He is “the same yesterday and today and forever.”  Romans 1 explains, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” meaning each piece of creation is a glimpse into the qualities of GOD as a testimony to Him. It is not too much of a stretch then to say that the evergreen nature of fir trees is a picture of the unchanging nature of GOD. Keeping this in mind and being careful to worship the Creator and not the created, the Christmas tree is a wonderful symbol to help us remember Who GOD is, what He is like and the fact that because of what He did in Bethlehem, and on Calvary, our hope for eternity in His presence is also evergreen. It does not expire, run out, wear out or get old. Decorate with lights and you have a further illustration of the Light of the World. 

This is not stretching verses to make them fit my preconceptions and wishes.  The problem is that we have been so inundated with worldly interpretations of Christmas, we have forgotten the origins that predate by millennia, the pagan and Roman influences and the modern advent of a retail-driven holiday. A fairy tale Santa may have been turned into the focus of the season, but there is nothing more appropriate to celebrate GOD’s ultimate gift to us, than to engage in the spirit of cheerful giving and showering our loved ones with love — with or without store bought gifts and sweet treats. It’s really not about the dollar amount, big or small. It’s about the Hope that came to a humble manger in Bethlehem, whether the date is exactly right or not, to invite us into a close relationship with Him and because of that we have an everlasting, eternal, evergreen hope for eternity with Him. Now that’s a good reason to celebrate any time, any place!

Merry Christmas one and all!
Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, In Him shall the Gentiles hope.
Romans 15:12
Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12

More to Christmas Than Romance! [Video]

I think I am the only person I know who doesn’t have cable. When funds are tight, basic necessities take priority over frivolous extras. So, what Christmas movies we don’t own and want to watch, we either have to check out of the library or catch on TV.  Netflix is useless for any movie you’ve ever heard of anymore and if it’s more than a year old, forget finding it in a Redbox. (There were some definite advantages to brick-and-mortar video stores. CHOICE ranks high on that list!)

As a result, I was interested when ION started advertising that they were going to become the Christmas movie channel after Thanksgiving.  After the first set over the weekend, I am already done — for one specific reason.  Evidently, their idea of what makes Christmas “magic” is romance. Every single one was a thin variation on the idea of finding or reuniting/rediscovering your “true love” by Christmas Eve.  As if romance is the point of Christmas. Of all the Christmas-related story lines, they have reduced it to only an unrealistic notion of Christmas inspiring you to find your one perfect happily ever after.

I suppose they are partly right — Christmas IS about love, GOD’S love for a broken and dying world and His willingness to send His only Son in the flesh to restore the sin-broken relationship between GOD and His beloved people, the crown jewel of His Creation.  But, it surely ISN’T about Christmas being some kind of magical time in which all wishes and romances come true. It isn’t about human love, finding the right man/woman to ride off into the mythical sunset in a white horse drawn carriage and never come back to earth.  Maybe they are confused and don’t know how to translate God’s ultimate love story into terms they can understand so they water it down and make it just about fairy tale romance.

Trouble is, life is never as neat and tidy and perfect as they make it out to be; and Christmas is not a panacea for every ill in the romance department. Just because it is the holiday season does NOT mean every troubled marriage will be instantaneously fixed or that the estranged love will come home ready to make it all right again; or the MIA/KIA report will turn out to be mistaken and the heroine’s true love will make it home just in time for Christmas; or the perfect mate will just fall into your lap, look adoringly into your eyes and carry you off to your dream home; or turn out to be a prince/princess with untold wealth … or any number of variations on the Christmas fairy tale story line.

Not to be a cold, depressing downer….but honestly, if this is what Christmas is about for you, you have totally missed the point of the baby in the humble manger in Bethlehem. Not to mention, you are setting yourself up for disappointment because  Christmas, New Year’s (and later on Valentine’s Day) exaggerate emotional hopes and expectations beyond all reason. Once the “magical” feelings that come with the holidays pass into a new year and reality sets in, no relationship can perpetually live up to the high expectations of  the swollen and exaggerated emotions of starting in the season where the primary driving force is fear of loneliness and a desperate longing to make a fairy tale come true and create an epic romance story to tell the grandchildren. There can be no solid foundation in the holiday-driven “love blindness” so when storms come and the magic fades and your prince/princess turns back into a frog, it all comes crashing down and heartbreak ensues.

Reality check: The high won’t last. After the “happily ever after” moment, comes the realization that your “true love” has foibles, follies, warts — and comes with baggage and bad habits. If you make a decision about the rest of your life while on the high of “Christmas magic,” and a holiday-inspired yearning for companionship, without considering the rest of the story and whether you can live with the good and the bad for the rest of your natural life,  you are driving yourself right over an emotional cliff when the magic wears off and he/she is not all you hoped and dreamed of in your rush to “love.”

I’m sure there are couples out there who would argue with me and will be anxious to prove me wrong. There are always exceptions to every rule and I am sure somebody out there has a successful relationship/marriage, even if they did launch between Thanksgiving and New Year. But as a general rule, high caution is strongly advised when dealing with newly budding romance during the holiday season. If you are of the type to get carried away by the fairy tale hopes and wishful thinking, hold off aunashamed Christian month or so and see if you still feel the same way or if the feelings fade with the ambiance of the season.  If this person truly is your “true love,” he/she will wait and still be there. If it isn’t, it never was real to begin with — and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am so done with imaginary romance. I spent too much time there as a teen and a college student 30ish some years ago. I want real, or nothing. All in or not at all. I’m too old to play middle school games.

In the meantime, I’m going to focus on the One who I know for sure loves me beyond all compare and celebrate the advent of His Son who came to earth as a babe in a manger as Emmanuel — GOD with us. That’s the only love story that matters during this season of Christmas! No matter the actual date, no matter the origins of the holiday, no matter that retail has tried to steal Christmas and make it into a commercial, secular holiday. GOD sees my heart and any day, any time is a good time to celebrate the beginning of the greatest love story ever created and the fact that GOD can and has redeemed any possible pagan symbolism that some worry about just as He did with the cross, and made it His own — a symbol of perfect love, hope and new life in Him. Retailers can try to sell it all they want, but the true meaning of Christmas is not for sale. He is a free gift to all who call on His Name and believe in the saving power of His death and resurrection — because GOD loves me (and you) that much.  There is no greater love story than the one that started inauspiciously in a manger in Bethlehem.  No Hollywood-inspired fairy tale romance love story can hold a candle to GOD’s Divine love story for all the ages of all humankind!

 


Music video by Bill & Gloria Gaither performing The Love of God (feat. Gaither Vocal Band) [Live]. (P) (C) 2013 Spring House Music Group. All rights reserved.


Blessings!
Tamara Christine

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12