Heart in the Clouds

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Pattern of This World

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
Romans 12:2

This is a Scripture I've been pondering for the last couple of days. Many Christians relate this Scripture specifically to sin. And it's true--sin IS a pattern. It always has been. But what is the root of all sin? SELF. There are other parts to the pattern, though.

Last night, our discussion at church was about shame and the difference between shame and conviction. A lot of people project their feelings about themselves on to God, assuming that he feels the way about them that they have been made to feel about themselves. A lot of us think that God's desire is to shame us into "good behavior", when that's really a human thing.

God's pattern isn't shame. His pattern for our lives involves the Fruit of the Spirit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Do you see shame anywhere in there? No. When God reprimands us, he doesn't use shame. Shame is meant to inflict feelings of unworthiness and it's meant to manipulate. But when God speaks into the sinful places in our lives, it's out of love. That's what conviction is.

Shame leads us to close inward. It can be a prison that affects a person for the duration of his life, and can be found at the root of all kinds of addictions. We learn shame. It's not something we're born with. Shame is a hard thing to shake, and it's an easy pattern to fall into, especially when we go through difficult times.

The conviction of the Spirit is love. It's meant to free us and help us escape the prison of shame that could so easily enclose us. Conviction is God saying, "Here's an open door. I know you're struggling, but here's a way of escape. If you follow me, I'll lead you out."

People who live in a pattern of shame are emotionally immature. They struggle with feelings of unworthiness. They never think they're good enough they way they are. They're unable to be happy with themselves as they are in the present time, always thinking "if only." They either feel the need to please and be liked by everyone, or they have a rebellious nature that lashes out in anger when they feel like someone is trying to control them.

Shame is a state of extremes. Shamed people try to belittle others because of their insecurities, and are often tempted to gossip. Unless they learn to break out of it, those who struggle with it stay at the emotional age that they were when shame first entered their lives, and they often live in a pattern of addiction or compulsive behaviors.

Realizing the core difference between shame and conviction can free us from that pattern. The world tells us we're not good enough, but God tells us that He has made us good enough. Shame manipulates us into conforming to a desired pattern (the pattern of this world), but love pulls us out of the box that shame puts us in. If you're feeling shame, that's not God. If you use shame as a means of manipulation, that's not God. If you're feeling like you're not enough, that's not God. If you're feeling unworthy, that's not God.

If we allow Him, God can cut us to fit His pattern. He cuts off all the unnecessary parts--the shame, fear and unworthiness we carry--and sews us together with love to make a whole, beautiful tapestry.

I want to encourage you to take a look at the behavior patterns in your life and see if you notice shame at the core of any of them. If you do, it's not too late to change. God always offers us a way of escape from our insecurities and temptations, if we are able to just listen to the conviction of His Spirit.

It's not going to happen overnight, but it's never too late to escape from a life of shame.

All the way, my Savior leads me...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Random thought for the day...

There are two invaluable things I have learned in the 14 years that Sean and I have been married.

1. Any small object can be somehow fashioned into a toothpick.

2. Any food can be made into a sandwich.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Gifts

As a Christian parent, I sometimes struggle with finding the balance between the "train up a child in a way he should go" Scripture, and the idea of modeling God's unmerited favor. My kids aren't spoiled, by any means, but I see nothing wrong with giving them good things or special experiences once in a while even if they haven't earned them or don't "deserve" them.

Based on household rules, children know their boundaries and they hopefully know what the consequences will be if they choose to break rules. There are times as a parent, though, where I have the chance to pause and reflect on how God loves me and how he chooses to parent me.

Yes, I suffer the consequences of the bad choices I make. That's the way life is. But God doesn't restrict the flow of his love and good gifts based on what I do or whether I have earned them. The whole point of grace is that I have to realize I CAN'T earn his love. It makes the gifts he gives so much more meaningful because I know they come from his heart for me, having nothing to do with how deserving I am...or am not, in many cases.

I am a pretty strict parent when it comes to things like bedtime and being respectful and school work and doing what you're asked to do when you're asked to do it. But there are times when they are just going about their kid business, not thinking about anything in particular, and my heart fills up--I just want to drop everything, hug and kiss them, take them out for an ice cream cone and talk to them about what's on their little minds.

I think God is that way with us, too. He sees us going about our little kid business, thinking that everything we have to do is important, and for no reason other than love his heart fills up and he wants to lavish us, even though we don't deserve it.

So I'm asking God to teach me how to parent as he does.

Being human can be really, really overwhelming sometimes. Parenting is hard, especially if you think about the role you play in the person your child will become. The gravity of it can be too much to bear. But it doesn't all rest on your shoulders. God loves your child with the same lavish type of love that he has for you. Learning how to channel his love through you is the key.

God allows us to bear the consequences of our actions, but he is still there to listen with love and hugs and ice cream just because we are his kids and he loves us.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Feet on ground, heart in hand...

I traveled with my mom to Ohio today. She had a speaking engagement there, so I tagged along. I like traveling with her because I like to meet new people, and I also like hearing my mom speak about topics she feels passionate about. In some ways, it inspires me to keep talking about things I'm passionate about.

In this case, she was invited to speak about a book she wrote nearly 20 years ago called Restoring the Wounded Woman. The ladies who invited her are leaders who are orchestrating retreats focusing on counseling emotionally wounded women. We had a really good time with the lovely ladies of AWOM. I look forward to hearing about the amazing things that are going to happen on their retreats.

In other news...

I've had this song in my head for the last few days. If you know me, you know I'm all about gratitude and learning to focus on the positives. This song is about that, and being grounded by the blessings in your life.

This song also makes me want to be a better mother, so I'll leave you with it.

*Warning: there IS a swear in the song...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


I've been a TV lover ever since we got cable when I was in elementary school. The Disney Channel was my life blood...well, considering I was 9 that makes sense. I loved all the old black and white episodes of The Mickey Mouse Club, Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Zorro...all of them.

And ever since E.T., movies have been such a pleasant little escape. I've always been a connoisseur of visual entertainment.

In college, my roommate and I actually planned our classes around General Hospital, and I loved watching Conan late in the evening. Not much has changed over the years. Movies and TV have continually been one of my biggest forms of entertainment.

Which makes it strange that I'm finding myself shying away from all of that lately. That's weird for me.

My DVR is set to record everything from American Idol to Project Runway, but I find that I'm getting bored with the formats and formulas behind all of those shows. I noticed that I end up deleting most of what I record and I often don't even finish something that I am watching. Movies don't WOW me much anymore, either, other than the occasional surprise.

Until recently, I was wondering why, but then I figured out the connection. Running! Ever since I started running, I have come to the realization that I prefer quiet in my life. Maybe it's because I used to use TV to distract me from the stress I was feeling because I had no other outlet. I don't know. But that's the only connection I've been able to make.

Also, when things are quieter and I take the time to shush my soul (which isn't easy, by the way), I feel like I can hear God more in the little things and the tiny moments. That's an awesome thing. My life was so full of noise that I wasn't hearing anything in particular.

That's not to say that I don't have the occasional evening of popcorn and a crime expose' or Conan (still love him), or a Netflix movie before bed, but my enjoyment of TV has become less of a love relationship and more of an acquaintance I happen to see occasionally.

So I'll keep running, and I'll keep you posted. Changes are taking place! Through the times that God was teaching me to be grateful for everything and to acknowledge His work in my life, I felt like he was cleaning out my insides. Now I'm taking control of my outsides and it feels good. The inside and the outside are coming closer to matching than they ever have.

A side note: I have also fallen in love with my new calf muscles. Another perk of running.

Do you run? Are you crafty? Are you musical? What do you do to relieve stress?

(I took the photo below just before I went out running in the snow. See how much running has changed me??? Not long ago, I hated all running and avoided it at all costs. Now I enjoy it so much that I'm willing to run in the cold. And I hate cold...but it's perfect for running!)