Chameleon Living

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1 NLT

The overhead loudspeaker crackled to life. A familiar voice announced a page for an individual.

“Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” There was hardly a pause, “Mr. So-and-So please call blah-blah-blah-blah.” I had no idea to whom Mr. So-and-So was referring and despite the familiarity of the voice, I had no idea what the speaker looked like. The overhead loudspeaker went silent and the familiar matter-of-fact voice of my coworker standing behind me spoke.

“Ruth-Ann’s been in Alabama longer’n I’ve been alive but she refuses to acclimate to the accent. She still talks like she’s in the north.”

I literally burst out laughing and spit out the water I had just taken a sip of. I snorted and turned around.

I knew exactly what he was talking about. I had never actually knowingly laid eyes on Ruth-Ann. I do not know her state of origin, her last name, if she wears glasses or not. If I had to pick her out of lineup I’d have to be blindfolded because I only know her voice; she has a distinct accent, not at all like my own. She sounds, well … northern.

As I pondered on the statement, I thought about the acclimation that takes place when we inhabit a place for any length of time. How we take on the accent of those around us, words and phrases of the speakers. Case in point, I watch a lot of British TV and find myself saying the following:

                    “That’s Brilliant!” Instead of “That’s great!”
“Queue” instead of “Line.”
“Rubbish” instead of “garbage.”
“Bin” instead of “trash can” and “tin” instead of “can.”

Without even knowing it I’ve acclimated to the television vocabulary. I’ve become like a verbal chameleon, speaking like those I have heard.

As I thought about Ruth Ann (if that actually is her name, I have no idea) and her apparent refusal to acclimate to the Southern-speakers around her, I found myself challenged.

This world is not my home, yet there are times you would never know that, not based on my behavior anyway. I look so much that the world and so little like Christ that others can not distinguish the difference residing in me. I walk around so defeated and beat down you’d never know I possessed the joy of the Lord. Perhaps I should live more like Ruth-Ann, with such intention as to not look so much like the world around me and more like the unique me I have been created to be.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 MSG

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Until the Cloud Moves

“The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

 Our power had been out for hours. As my husband walked in the house that night, the silent darkness became a fitting metaphor. I knew weeks before the black cloud of despair and anxiety and depression had descended. My precious husband, former Marine and high school football and wrestling coach, and now successful business owner, the strongest person I know, was broken. He was soul weary and in such deep agony of heart it overwhelmed him, and me.

adult-couple-dating-951290.jpgWe sat at our kitchen table in the dark for a long, long time. I held his hands. He spoke broken sentences about fear and failure and sadness and worry. But much of what he communicated, even in the heavy blackness was too agonizing for words. Psalm 77:4 says “I am so troubled that I cannot speak,” and that is exactly where he was. There was nothing I could do but cry out to God on His behalf. The more he expressed his despair, the more the Spirit of God reminded me of truth—the reality of living on these earthly shores is suffering, but God is not a God who is far away, He is a God who is near.

After we wept together and he surrendered his wounded heart, I asked him quietly, “Can I pray for you?”. He nodded through tears. As I prayed over him and our tears splashed on the tile floor, the weight of the moment and the difficulty of the journey that lie ahead shrouded us, yet there was a certain peace, a knowing that the God who created us and knows us and loves us and calls us by name was there, in our midst, reminding us He would be with us. No matter the darkness of the moments, no matter the heaviness of our souls, He would be there. Every moment, every tear, every prayer, He hears and He will never leave us nor forsake us. Ever.

As I’ve walked through this dark cloud of depression with my husband, I’ve realized many, if not all, the men God used to illustrate His goodness and glory in the Bible walked through depression, as have many more contemporary saints.

David cried out in Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from my groaning?”

In Psalm 42:11 David says, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”

Elijah cried out in despair in 1 Kings 19:4 “I’ve had enough Lord. Take my life, I am not better than my ancestors.”

In Jonah 4:3 the prophet said in anger, “Now O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

Job’s life was a study in suffering. He says in Job 3:26 “I have no peace, no quietness, I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Moses was overwhelmed with the weight of the sin of Israel, “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Exodus 32:32

Many, many great men of God also suffered from a melancholy soul. George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, D.L. Moody, and Charles Spurgeon all dealt with the dark cloud of depression. Yet, the Lord used them mightily for His good purposes. These men all carried the weight of souls heavily and felt a supernatural compulsion to care for others, serve others, and share with others the hope of the gospel of Christ.

But perhaps the most beautiful comfort and solace when the black cloud is hovering is found in Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

black-and-white-cemetery-christ-208315.jpgJesus understands our weaknesses because He walked through them. He knows anguish. He knows sadness and heartache. Because He knows, we can come before him knowing He will receive us with mercy and grace and will carry us in the valley and walk with us as we find our way to standing firm in the truth.

If you find yourself under a stormy cloud, or if you know someone who is fighting their way through the darkness, there are a few practical things you can do.

          Memorize and mediate on the Word. Romans 12:2 says we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. Our mind is renewed only when we paint over the lies with truth. That is done by plastering our mind with the Word of God. The first thing I did after praying over my husband was enlist my kids to help in posting scriptures on my husband’s bathroom mirror. Every morning he is bombarded with truth.

          Be prayerful. We can go before that throne of grace with confidence knowing God knows and hears and cares. We can go before Him honestly and express our despair and our agony. He is a safe place and He is the One who will reveal truth and show you the way out of the darkness. “Pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8b

          Be patient. Healing takes time. The darkness can linger for days, weeks, months, sometimes years. Give yourself or your loved one time and space to find their way out of the dark.

          Seek help. After praying and posting scripture, I encouraged my husband to reach out to some close friends. Friends I knew would exhort him in the truth and keep him accountable. Counseling by a Biblically grounded professional counselor is also a valuable tool. In many cases, there is a physiological component to depression. Don’t be afraid to seek out a medical professional.

          Serve others. In Philippians 2 Paul says “Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When we look outside ourselves and look for ways we can serve those around us, it helps us put our circumstances in perspective. The day after the darkest night at our kitchen table, God sent a precious family to our tire store. My husband was able to help meet a need for them. The father of this family was an older gentlemen who happened to be a follower of Christ. He took time to encourage my husband in the truth. By helping this family my husband received a needed blessing.

 One of the most beautiful aspects of the Psalms is the way David, in his depression and in his despair, always comes back to the truth, the reality of the God who is.

In Psalm 22 which begins with a passionate cry to the Lord for help out of his groaning and despair David says this, “YET you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”

It requires a supernatural strength to look up to heaven, to will yourself to speak the truth when your heart isn’t cooperating. But until the cloud moves, keep standing firm on what the Word says is true about who you are and who your God is. He will meet you right where you are and He will carry you– every step of the way.

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God Doesn’t Make Junk – Only Masterpieces!

Have you ever seen a masterpiece in person?

One of the things on my bucket list is to go to Italy a see some of the great masterpieces done by Michelangelo and Leonard da Vinci (the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, the sculpture of David and The Last Supper just to name a few).

Grant_DeVolson_Wood_-_American_GothicA few years ago, some friends and I went to Chicago for a few days. One of the things I wanted to do was to visit the Art Institute of Chicago to see the famous painting by Grant Wood titled “American Gothic.” Unlike our own Birmingham Museum of Art, which has free admission, the cost to enter the Art Institute of Chicago is $25.00, unless you are viewing a special exhibition. My thinking was that it would be worth it. We were going to be seeing a famous piece of art. So we made our way through the museum to the place where the picture was to be displayed. When we arrived, there on the wall was a picture of the famous painting and a sign with the words, “This piece has been loaned out.” I had missed seeing what some consider to be a great masterpiece.

So what makes something a masterpiece? Merriam-Webster defines a masterpiece as “a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.” A masterpiece doesn’t have to be a piece of art, it can be anything done with extraordinary skill. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Some Bible versions use the word handiwork or workmanship. Each one is saying the same thing. We are God’s work of art. He created and is continuing to create us in His image.

Psalm 139 tells us that God knows every single thing about us, and nothing was or is hidden from him. God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t make junk. You are God’s piece of art. We don’t view or value ourselves as masterpieces that have worth. In today’s world we are so quick to compare ourselves to other around us. We focus on the negative in our lives. Don’t view yourself through the eyes or standards of others, see yourself as God’s treasure.

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We may make our lives messy at times because of our sin, but as believers, God’s word tells us he is creating us anew. God has a specific plan for us and we have to let him keep working on us. Isaiah 64:8 says “God is the potter and we are the clay. We are formed by His hand.” We have to let God continue molding us and shaping us and putting us through the fire. It is not an easy process. It takes time. It can even be painful at times. We have to be willing to let Him work. In the end, God will create and mold us into a beautiful piece of art that will display Jesus to others.

One of my favorite skits done by the Skit Guys is called “God’s Chisel” or “God’s Chisel Remastered.” It tells of God chiseling away at the sin in our lives so that when others see us they see Jesus, and when we see ourselves in the mirror we see Jesus. God is creating us into His masterpiece. He is working on us and chiseling out the sin, worry, ugly attitudes, and anything holding us back from being all God wants us to be. So why don’t we let Him work and not fight him. I think some of the reasons are fear, guilt, anger, bitterness, and laziness.

Today, why don’t you turn loose of the ugly sin and let God work on you. When you stand in front of the mirror don’t be disappointed. Don’t plaster a picture or image up of what you want to look and be like and loan yourself out to Satan to beat you down and conform you to this world. Instead, see yourself as the Masterpiece God created you to be. Be open to him chiseling and molding you into His image. Start by letting Him renew your mind into what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2) for your life.

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