For many years there has been conversation about assigning the male gender to God. Some say it’s a hold over from the male-dominated world that, thankfully, is changing. I can only speak for myself.
For as long as I can remember I had called God “Father”. And yes, when I pictured God, He was a Gandalf-like figure, warm and wise with a long white beard. That view brought me comfort during countless difficult times, a father-figure I could always count on. I have long recognized the female side of God, using She for the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But when others referred to God as She and Mother, I was quite uncomfortable. Whether it was because I still felt I needed that father-figure, or simply that it challenged me to look beyond my long held belief, I struggled with the concept.
But recently, I realized that I was limiting God by assigning such human attributes. God is more than I can imagine in every way. More loving, more nurturing, more supportive, more present than my mind can possibly comprehend. And suddenly, saying He or She became wholly inadequate. Just yesterday, working on a letter to Sunday School parents, I typed He when referencing God and it didn’t feel quite right. As I reread the letter, I had to change the He to God. That’s when I knew, I can never place those human limitations on God again.
He? She? No more. From now on – God!
“I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will consistently speak of all His glories and grace. I will boast of all His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise The Lord together, and exalt His name. For I cried to Him and He answered me! He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:1-4 The Living Bible
This verse was part of the reading for my morning devotion today, and wow did it hit home. After my experience the last few days, it was the perfect verse and a reminder that it’s important to share these stories.
I’ve been feeling stressed and unfortunately my reaction to stress is to overeat. I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s not wise, I know in a way it denies my claim of faith – that I can rely on God to help me through anything and everything. But I felt powerless to stop. And finally two days ago as I was driving to work I reached my limit. I cried out to God, literally. People passing me may have thought I was crazy. I spent a good ten minutes talking out loud to God. I asked Him to help me understand why I couldn’t seem to rely on Him, instead turning to food for comfort. I reminded God, and myself, that I had asked Him to fill the God-shaped hole inside me. And that when He answered my prayer my life had changed drastically. I asked God to help me remember how much He loved me and wanted only the best for me. I offered Him my worries and my fears and by His grace I was able to leave them there. That day, the urge to eat just for the sake of eating was less and I felt encouraged.
Then yesterday as I was driving to work I realized I had left my phone at home. My first instinct was to proceed on to work as I don’t really need it, but then I thought about my mom. When she needs me, she always calls my cellphone. I decided to go back home to get my phone. I couldn’t leave her without a way to reach me, even if it meant I would be late for work. As I turned toward home, I felt the stress settle back around me. And that is when God helped me recognize the heart of my issue. I am my mother’s main support now. I’m glad to be able to help and do what I can for her, but I can’t do everything she needs, or even everything I might wish I could. And in that moment I realized that was my problem. I feel guilty for not doing more. My stress comes from feeling like I am failing my mother. But I give what I can, and I vowed in that moment to remember that God is there with me – and with my mother – and I do not need to do it all. I felt the stress begin to lift and as I rounded a curve in the road, God gave me the exclamation point to His reminder. The truck coming toward me had a sign below it’s license plate with one simple word – Jesus.
The rest of the day, my appetite was back to normal. I was comforted that my focus was back where it belonged and my stress was under control. God had heard my plea and answered me. He understood my fear and loved me even when I doubted His presence.
So now, you can see why the Psalm I read this morning prompted this post. I had to speak of God’s love and mercy and share how He is always near and ready to hear when we call..
I have a sticker on the front of my Bible, it’s been there so long that I usually don’t even see it. But when I picked up my Bible this morning I noticed that one side of the sticker is starting to lift, and that made me stop and really look at it. And I was struck by how appropriate it’s message is, especially at this time of year…
“God blesses each season of our lives with a beauty all it’s own.” A simple premise really, but filled with deeper meaning if we take the time to really look at it.
The first thought that occurred to me? This is a promise that God is paying attention to what is going on in our lives. If God is not paying attention, how would God notice the the seasons we are in? I find great comfort in the reminder that I am important enough that God pays attention to those details in my life.
As I thought about it a bit more, I realized that it means God is not just paying attention, but wants what is best for us and by blessing us helps us to achieve that.
It’s also a reminder that each season has it’s own beauty. I think that sometimes when we experience change in our lives – whether it’s illness, injury, the death of a loved one, aging parents, or any of another of the multitude of changes we face in the course of our lifetime – we focus on the loss we feel rather than the possibilities of the new season. At this time of year, it’s so easy to focus on missed chances and unrealized goals from the preceding months. But the beauty lies in the possibilities and opportunities ahead. There will always be change, we have no choice in that. But what we can choose is how we handle those changes.
My wish for you, for all of us, in the coming year, is that we be open to the beauty God offers us and that we not only recognize, but seek out God’s blessings. 2016 is filled with potential, and with God we have so many opportunities. It’s up to each one of us to look for the blessings of joy and beauty that God offers us.
Happy New Year!
My 5 year old granddaughter gave me a heart-shaped sticker that said “Love God”. As she’s just learning to read, she asked me what it said. When I told her, it got me thinking about how different punctuation can change the meaning of that simple phrase.
Love God. – A gentle reminder that I am called to love the God who loves me. The relationship I have with God is one of mutual respect and I’m grateful to be able to give love back for all that God has given me.
Love God! – How can anyone demand love from another person, even if it is for God? That emotion is a personal choice. And demanding anything from someone else is disrespectful, definitely not what God wants from us or for us. God wants an honest relationship with us, not something that we do because we feel someone else expects it of us.
Love God? – For those unsure of their relationship with God and perhaps exploring their faith. How blessed we are that God welcomes us where we are, as we are. Questions and doubts are not only okay, they are welcome. God knows we have difficulty accepting things we cannot understand and recognizes that questions are our way of working our way closer to God.
Love God… – Not the end point, but along the way of our faith journey. Love is an ongoing process, it grows and expands as we learn more about God and God’s love for us.
Love, God – My personal favorite. God writes us a love letter every day. From sunrise to sunset, God paints our days with beauty, offering tangible reminders of how God loves us and cares for us. The sun and rain, the moon and stars, flowers and smiles, hugs and kind words – these are God’s palette. I am so grateful for these gifts, and that God understands that I may need daily reminders.
“See me beautiful look for the best in me“… Hearing those words a few weeks ago brought me back some 25 years. When my girls were small I had a cassette tape Teaching Peace by Red Grammer. It has a lot of wonderful songs of different genres that share important lessons. I loved it and played it frequently. I happened to mention to my younger daughter that I thought it might be nice for her 5 month old son and the next time I was at her house she played it for me. It touched my mother-heart that something I shared with her was something she wanted to share with her son.
My favorite song was always See Me Beautiful, and hearing it that day touched me on a deeper level. When my girls were younger I had so many doubts about myself – my abilities as a wife and as a mother, my value as a person. “It may take some time, it may be hard to find, but see me beautiful” spoke to me. I wanted to feel that I was worth the effort to see the beauty in me. I now know that because of my self-doubt, I was harsher at times than I needed to be, than I wanted to be. I have come to accept that I did the best I could considering all the circumstances of my life. I have forgiven my younger self and I have apologized to my daughters.
Through God’s loving grace, I am no longer that same insecure young mother. God has helped me understand that He has always seen me beautiful. He has helped me accept my beauty and to see the beauty in others. And I strive to help others see themselves beautiful.
“It’s what I really am and all I want to be…”
(Thank you Karen and Red Grammer for giving words to my longings all those years ago. I am grateful to be able to share the gift of your music with my grandchildren!)
I was visiting with a friend recently and the conversation turned to the subject of how we look at things that are going on in our lives. We talked about how our perceptions are colored by our expectations – if we are expecting to find something wrong or bad or irritating in a situation, then that is how we will likely see it. If I think of someone as irritating or annoying, then even their most benign and innocent comments will irritate me.
That conversation reminded me how a few years ago many people used the term “whatever” in a dismissive way, as if to say that people’s feelings and opinions didn’t matter. At that time, if I heard someone say “whatever” in that way, I tried to always think of Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” NIV (emphasis mine).
That helped to strengthen my efforts to see the best in people and circumstances – to color my expectations so that my perceptions are more positive. Because even though all of us can behave in irritating and annoying ways, that does not define us as people. We all have good days and bad days. We all have times when we speak first and think later. After all, we are only human.
Now, imagine what might happen if we try to follow Paul’s recommendations to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy, to see the best in people and their circumstances. Our lives could be more pleasant, we might stop wasting time looking for bad intentions, we might treat each other a little more kindly, our relationships might improve. I for one, would much prefer to color my world this way…
I was watching The Lord of the Rings – Fellowship of the Ring the other day, and once again I was struck by Gandalf’s profound words near the end of the movie as Frodo, with tears silently coursing down his cheeks, contemplates the ring in his hand and the choice he faces.
Frodo recalls saying to Gandalf “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” and Gandalf’s response, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.”
On this World Communion Sunday, Frodo’s dilemma strikes a chord in my heart as it reflects the choice Jesus had to make so many years ago. He too wept as He faced the choice of moving forward to difficult times and certain death. Jesus also wished that His painful situation could be taken away.
Now, many books and articles have been written on the correlations to Jesus’ life that can be found in J R R Tolkien’s books. I in no way claim to have the knowledge to make detailed comparisons. I can only relate how the story speaks to my heart.
Jesus accepted the path He was called to, and so does our small hero Frodo. Not without sadness, not without fear, but most definitely – on both their parts – with resolution and the understanding that the actions they were about to take would have a profound effect on their world that day and on into the future.
So I would like to take a moment to thank Jesus, and the “Frodos” all around the world, and down through all the years who have resolutely wiped away their tears, took hold of their courage and stepped out to do as they were called.
May we all have the courage to do the same when we are called…