Planted By God to Display His Glory -Isaiah 61:3

Posts tagged ‘Love’

LOVE is…

LOVE  is…

A Christmas present worth unwrapping every day of the year!

In honor of all that LOVE has done for me recently I’ve put together a video collage of  the images and messages I’ve been blessed to receive from God this year.

LOVE is…

The beautiful sound track is from Hidden in My Heart Scripture Lullabies–the music that healed my soul this year as God healed my body.

Yes friends, I am finally walking (and dancing) into my miraculous physical healing!

What can I say, except that God’s LOVE is amazing!

Praying for God’s LOVE to embrace you and fill your heart with strength and joy today and every day!

~ Linda

© Linda Crawford, Sunny Side Up (not scrambled), 2011

Love Doodle

We are Named by LOVE. Healed by LOVE. Protected by LOVE.

When we allow Jesus to write LOVE on our arms we are kept for good by, as John Wesley calls Jesus, “the lover of our souls.”

He can write:

LOVE over the lies.

LOVE over the pain.

LOVE over the fear.

LOVE over the loneliness.

LOVE over the death.

Because LOVE never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Let Jesus write LOVE on your arms today too!

Today’s Doodle Monday is a short excerpt from a longer devotional to be published in December at Internet Cafe Devotions.

(Thanks to my daughter Sarah, for writing Love on my arm…today and every day you shine the love of Jesus!)

© Linda Crawford, Sunny Side Up (not scrambled), 2011

I Think I am a Princess

Friends,

I’m on a writing retreat for the month of September (although still at home with dirty dishes and laundry), so I’ve dug out chapters and excerpts from my previous two book attempts to share with you. The first book I started was called:

Escape From Wonderland: How to Stop Chasing Fantasies and Live in the Realities of Your Faith

Here’s Part II of Chapter 4… (See last week’s post for Part I)

I Think I am a Princess


Oh how I have prayed over the years for God to transform me into who I really am in Christ…to change the way I think about myself, and teach me to act like myself so I can be myself. There’s nothing more difficult or distressing than trying to live life not knowing who you really are.

Without my identity secure in Christ I’m just an actress always trying to find the right script.

Years ago I didn’t even know I was not really being me. I found out later that other people knew. A pastor friend told me that I used to drive him crazy because, in his words, “you would never say what you really meant.”

What he’d noticed for years was that I chose my words so carefully I was never free to be real—to say what I meant and to mean what I said. Mine was a tightly scripted act that was supposed to protect me from failure and keep me from thinking too highly of myself. After all, I reasoned, only people who thought too highly of themselves spoke their true minds!

I was stuck in Cinderella thinking.

“Stinkin’ thinkin’” is what my brutally honest husband would call it. And frankly, I have to agree with him. There was nothing sweet-smelling about it.

My thoughts about me were in the dump. God’s thoughts about me were in the kingdom.

I was continually throwing a load of stinky smelly trash on what God had deemed treasure.

It must have smelled pretty bad for me to finally realize that I had to learn how to stop that trash from desecrating the truth. It was time to redecorate my dump and re-wallpaper the rooms of my mind with scripture. I had to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

I went to war. I fought every time I recognized a negative accusation. I got lots of practice fighting, especially alone driving in my car and awake in bed at night. That’s when the fiercest battles raged in my mind.

“I am who God says I am! I am not a total failure, I am not a nothing, I am a beloved child of God, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

I would literally yell at myself to drown out those habitual self-destructive thoughts.

Over time, I began to yell less. Today, most of the time I just need to give myself a good talking to.

Love…As yourself

“Okay, God, maybe I can learn to accept myself, but can I really love myself?”

This was a tough question for me until I realized that by refusing to learn how to love myself I had no idea how to really love others.

My constant self-critical habits were an irritation to my husband and an obstacle to all my relationships. One night my husband said to me, “Do you realize that every time you criticize yourself you are criticizing God?”

He reminded me of Romans 9:20:

Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, “Why have you made me like this? ” (NLT)

He was right. I did not like myself, much less love myself, and every time I criticized myself I was questioning God. God made me and loved me the way He made me. I was His creation, fearfully and wonderfully knit together in my mother’s womb!

But how could I change how I felt about myself?

I began to get some insight a few years ago. I had started to feel pretty confident in my identity in Christ and developed some close friendships I treasured. I was astonished one day when one of my friends confronted me with, “I never feel like you really mean it when you hug me and you’re always the first to let go.”

Ouch. But I immediately knew she was right. I had “personal space” issues and I only allowed people to get so close.

Soon after this, I was involved in the formation of a women’s ministry group. The inaugural meeting was held at my house and the first thing God put on my heart was to have “a ministry of hugs.” (This would later become known as HUGS—Hearts United in Grace and Spirit—and we opened every meeting sharing the love of Jesus.)

About six months later, I heard a brief teaching on Romans 12:9: “Love must be sincere.” (NIV)

I had heard the words many times before, but this time I was hit between the eyes with the simple, no room for negotiation command, “must be.”

My friend’s words of a few months before echoed in my mind. My love was not sincere and I knew it. But God’s Word clearly said it “must be.”

So I started to pray every time I hugged someone that my love would be sincere. I prayed that I would learn to receive love and not be the first to let go. Over time the most amazing thing happened. My hugs began to become real. And I was able to receive hugs. I could love and be loved.

For me, by learning to sincerely fulfill the commandment to love my neighbor, I began to learn how to love myself. I realize now that every time I extend the love of Jesus to another person, that love must first flow in me.

Can I really love myself? I not only can, I must. This is not a distortion of pride or permission to esteem myself above anyone else or God. But if I say I sincerely love Christ, then I must endeavor to sincerely love myself, for God created me and Christ who lives in me is my true self. To deny acceptance of myself would be to deny acceptance of Him. And He not only loves, He is love!

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

From Fantasy to Faith

Are you like I was, oppressed and “faithfully” scrubbing toilets waiting for Prince Charming (or Jesus) to rescue you? Who do you say you are? Who does the world say you are? Who does God say you are? Are you believing in the minuses or the pluses? Do you find yourself pretending to be two people and never really finding your true identity through “Christ in you?” Can you truly say you love yourself?

Renewing my mind in Christ will be a life-long process, but today I can tell you that I am a princess. I am more who I really am than I have ever been. And with more prayer and practice living in the truth, I will be more of who I really am tomorrow—being ever transformed into His image and likeness.

No matter where you are on your journey from fantasy to faith, God always wants to help you learn more about knowing and loving who you really are.

You are a Princess!

 Have you found it hard to love yourself?

Share your story in the comments!

 ~Linda

© Linda Crawford, Sunny Side Up (not scrambled), 2011.  All rights reserved.

Is it Okay to Love Myself?

Dear Readers,

I’m taking myself on a writing retreat for the month of September (unfortunately still at home with dirty dishes and laundry), in order to REALLY work on and hopefully finish my first non-fiction book. I’ve started two others over the years that both made it to publishers committees, but I wasn’t ready. I pray I am now! In the meantime, I’ve dug out chapters and excerpts from my previous two book attempts to share with you. The first book I started was called:

Escape From Wonderland: How to Stop Chasing Fantasies and Live in the Realities of Your Faith

Hope you enjoy it! Here’s Part I of Chapter 4…

Is it Okay to Love Myself?

“Sometimes she scolded herself so severely as to bring tears into her eyes…for this curious child was very fond of pretending to be two people.”                                                – Alice in Wonderland

Am I Cinderella or a Princess of the King?

I told my husband a few years back that a strange thing was happening to me—I was starting to feel good about myself. I was beginning to think I was a good person. “Is that okay?” I asked.

“What if it’s pride? How will I know?”

“Don’t worry,” my tell-it like-it-is husband assured me, “I’ll be sure to let you know!”

What a distorted perception I had of the “right” thoughts to think about myself. I had interpreted the scripture “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought” (Romans 12:3) to mean it was wrong to think any good thoughts about myself. I believed proper Christian humility was to think poorly of myself. I thought being a good Christian woman meant living life as Cinderella—a hidden existence of humble servitude.

Being humble to me meant trying to balance performance scores in my head. Every time I felt a teeny bit successful or received any form of compliment I would immediately think of all the things that were wrong with me—I had to negate any thoughts that might pop into my head that something might be right. I had a minus for every pIus. Then I had to find even more minuses so I could always end up on the negative side of the scale.

I didn’t need anyone else’s criticism; I was my own worst judge. I didn’t even need an enemy; I was my own worst enemy. I could aim with sharpshooter accuracy my own fiery darts of accusation. After all, I knew my vulnerabilities better than anyone. I knew I wasn’t really worthy and I knew how to convince myself it was the truth.

It’s amazing that despite all my ferocious attacks against myself, I was never able to extinguish my hidden dream of being a princess—of being a somebody who was a somebody! Somewhere in my heart of hearts I knew I was really not a Cinderella, that my true hidden Christian identity was to be a princess of the King! So while I “humbly” tried to live as a sub-servant servant, I secretly dreamed of the day Jesus would show up and the shoe would finally fit.

I thought it would be like the fairy-tale and one day I would be Cinderella and the next I would be that princess. I had no idea that it would take years and years for God to rewrite the scripts in my head first.

I’m My Own Worst Enemy

Despite my laundry list of doubts about myself, I was somehow able to “put myself out there” and try doing things that were out of my Cinderella comfort zone. Like teaching a Bible study class. After my first night of teaching I decided I was going to go home and curl up into a ball and never venture out of my house again. I scolded myself so severely over what I had said or didn’t say, and flogged myself with my list of faults and inadequacies until I was a sobbing mess.

I cried for hours. But the next week I went out and taught again, and cried again. I continued this cycle for years. I would step out into ministry and do my best, then go home and beat myself up for a week.

It encouraged me to find examples in the Bible of true heroes of the faith who also experienced times of self-doubt and even despair about who they were. Elijah, for example, a prophet and a man of great humility and faith, conquered the prophets of Baal and called down fire from heaven, then packed up and ran to hide in the desert. After a great victory on the mountain he fell into the depths of discouragement.

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:4 (NIV)

How well I knew this feeling! And all I was doing was teaching a Bible study class!

I was, like the description of Alice at the beginning of this chapter, a curious child of God, pretending to be two people…

One who could do all things through Christ, and one who couldn’t. I had the scripts for both parts well memorized. But I couldn’t continue to play them this way forever.

Pretending to be anything other than the truth of who we are takes way too much energy. Thankfully, I began to get sick (literally) and tired of acting in the sad, overly dramatic play that had become my life.

I knew enough of the truth about what God said about me in the Bible to know that I was supposed to be believing it instead of attacking it. But the old habits of my thought life were deeply ingrained. I prayed for God to help me learn to live in the truth of the scripture.

Romans 12:2 became a guide for the re-writing of my scripts.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (NLT)

You know the old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, I’m not a dog, but I might as well have been! It seemed nearly impossible for my old mind to learn to renew itself. I found I had to turn my thoughts against myself again.

Only this time, instead of attacking the positive thoughts I went on a mission to attack the negative thoughts—to erase every minus thought with a plus and try to end up on the positive side for a change.

         To be continued in Part II…

         Have you found it hard to love yourself?

         Share your story in the comments!

         I’ll be back with Part II in a few days!

      ~Linda

© Linda Crawford, Sunny Side Up (not scrambled), 2011.  All rights reserved.

Is This Real Life?

One little boy asks his dad, “Is this real life?”

Millions laugh.

Another little boy tells his dad, “Heaven is for real.”

Millions listen. 

 

 

Millions of people ask “Is this real life?” every day. And millions listen for an answer.

What will they hear from us? From the story of our lives? And will it be real?

What will they hear from me?

A three-year old is not afraid to tell his story. I am. But today, I need to do it anyway. Because I came as close to heaven as I ever have a few weeks ago. And there are things about my life to share. So refill your coffee because it’s a long breakfast today, and I pray you get a little taste of heaven along the way…

…Nobody told me Jesus was real when I was a kid. I knew him as the guy in the Bible who was born in a manger, walked on water, died on a cross, and came to life again. He was a cool story character, with superhero characteristics, that people liked to talk about on Christmas and Easter.

I never once remember a person talking to me about knowing Jesus. Or that I could talk to Him and He would answer. That He could be my best friend. That He was my savior. That the empty hole in my heart could only be filled by knowing and loving Him.

Jesus was served to me like one of those fake plastic dessert displays some restaurants mistakenly think will inspire you to want to eat them…dust and all. I couldn’t stick a fork in what was presented to me. It wasn’t real. So I wasn’t buying.

But that didn’t stop Jesus from pursuing a relationship with me, and showing me how real He really was. Like the time I was eleven, sleeping in a big one room cabin with my family at a country resort. In the middle of the night a huge bright light came in through the window across the room from my bed and woke me up. I watched it move over me and then over each of my sleeping family members. It was so beautiful and I was suddenly filled with incredible joy and love. It was as if I had taken a huge drink of heaven…like nothing on earth I had ever experienced.

My parents were baffled and unable to console me when we got home as I cried for three hours straight, telling them I did not want “it” to end. I couldn’t explain what “it” was at the time. All they could figure was that I had such a good time on the trip that I didn’t want the trip to end. That wasn’t it. I had experienced IT and I never wanted to lose it.

I was thirty-two when IT showed up again as I cried in the shower. I had just prayed “Jesus if you are real, I need to know, because I’m not going to make it.” By this time I had heard people talk about a real Jesus. One who would love me, guide me, forgive me, save me, and give me the hope I so desperately needed to go on. The tiny shower stall filled with the same beautiful glowing light and I knew, finally, that Jesus was real. And not only was He alive in the world, He was alive in me.

IT has shown up twice since then. Ten years ago, just before my mother-in-law took her last breath, I saw the same light move behind me as I lay on a recliner next to her bed in hospice. Immediately her breathing changed and I sprang up, grabbed her hand, and witnessed the miracle of passing from this life to eternal life as she left me for the arms of Jesus.

The last time IT showed up was quite recent. And it’s taken me weeks to be able to talk about it. Even as I write these words I have not yet spoken them to anyone. These memories are so precious, so personal, so mine.

I was alone in my hospital bed a month ago. It was the middle of the night, and it was dark, but I was not afraid. In fact, I had not been afraid for many hours. Not since 3:30 pm when the nurse left me in the Emergency Room waiting area alone. I suddenly realized that they didn’t believe me when I told them I had a punctured lung. I could feel my body wanting to panic, wanting to shut down. From my medical background I knew I was headed into shock. And that shock could kill me.

I wasn’t ready to die. Nobody in the ER was ready to help me live. It was up to me and Jesus.

At first all I could do was say His name. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Over and over. Then I could say the Lord’s prayer. Over and over. Then my body changed direction. It calmed. Someone else had taken control and I knew I would live, no matter how long it took anyone to believe me.

That calm never left me, even when they put a tube in my chest without pain killing drugs. And even in the middle of the night, as I lay there, with every painful breath, and all I could say was His name, and all I could pray was the Lord’s prayer. Over and over and over.

I closed my eyes and the light came in the door. My eyes flew open and I saw IT again. More familiar to me now, I rejoiced in His presence. But it was a quick visit, a fleeting one that left me wishing it had not passed so soon. But I had tasted a piece of heaven again. And it changed my life forever…again.

I want to live more now than I ever have. I want to love more than I ever have. I want to laugh more than I ever have. I want to talk about Jesus more than I ever have. He is my savior, and He’s saved me more than once!

That’s my story. Is it real life? You bet. If you asked me how I know Jesus is real this is the story I need to tell you. Just like that three-year old boy experienced heaven was real, I’ve experienced Jesus is real. And He’s not just with me when the light shows up. He’s with me 24/7, and I could no more deny that He exists than I could deny my own existence.

Jesus is real. He’s not some plastic superhero Bible character.

I have my story, you have yours. Live it, breathe it, and share it, because millions are still blind:

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 NIV

I pray sharing my real life story will help the light shine out of the darkness so others may see. This is real life, my life. If you want to share what I have it’s okay to ask, “Jesus are you real?”

Then stick your fork in this, the very first scripture He led me to after I asked that same question:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 NIV

Trust me, when that door opens, IT will flood into your heart.

Thanks for sharing a piece of real life with me today.

          – Linda

Faith Lessons My Daughter Taught Me

Join me  today over at the (in)courage site!

I’m so blessed to be sharing the story Jesus With Skin On from my collection of stories called Faith Lessons My Daughter Taught Me.

Just click the (in) courage button and enjoy!

Click the HUGS button to visit my dear friend (and gifted illustrator) Becky’s website!

Have a blessed day full of HUGS and the love of Jesus!

     -Linda

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