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A Right Response is What We've Got to Give

Last week I arrived at the library with my return books but no wallet. I started to drive back home, but then I remembered that the new and improved library app on my phone had a virtual library card. I picked out four books quickly, took them to the counter, and pulled up the library card on my phone. The librarian looked at me like I was from Mars. She had not seen the new and improved library app. She gave scanning the bar code on my phone a try. Nothing. She consulted the librarian next to her. He belted out the rule of needing either the physical card or photo ID without even looking in our direction.

I could have argued. Mostly because the doe-eyed librarian who was choosing to actually converse with me seemed very kind. I responded, “Hold these for me. I’ll be back.”

I jumped in my car. I thought about how I could stew and steam about the twenty minutes that would be wasted in my day or I could turn on Spotify and listen to that new album I’ve been wanting to play all the way through.

That day I responded well to others and for myself. That isn’t always the case, especially those inward responses.

responding to God and others.JPG

I’ve been thinking about why listening to what God says about you and me is important. Why does it matter that he loved us first and we are beloved, that he chose us and we are chosen, that he called us and commissioned us?

I think it matters because we are responders to His moving in our lives. Our whole life as a Child of God is choosing how to respond to Him and others.

When He loves us, will we love back?

When He speaks to our heart, will we take time for silent listening?

When He allows hurt, will we turn to Him for healing?

When He allows hurt in the lives of others, do we sit alongside them in their pain?

When He sets the wind blowing on our physical life, will we focus inward to the spiritual?

When He puts people who bear His image in our life, will we show them grace, mercy, forgiveness, truth, and love?

When He shows us people, who bear His image, that are physically far away from us and suffering, will we take a moment to show love through prayer — even when they might disrupt our physical lives, prosperity, or safety?

When we experience joy, will we praise Him?

When we experience loss, will we praise Him?

It is all a response.

We like to think that we are navigating this life we are living, and we are to an extent. We hate to admit how little control we actually have in our lives.

We have no control over the family, country, or time we were born into. Just this small fact about us determines so much of our possible future.

We have no control over others. This may seem obvious but how easily we can be deceived into thinking we do. We could try to control or manipulate others, but that ruins relationships.

We have no control over circumstances. If we did, our house wouldn’t still be on the market. You probably have a thing in your life you have been actively seeking to change only to see stagnant results.

We have some choices in our lives, but we have many, many more responses in our deck of cards to play.

This lack of control does not mean we are off the hook and we can just sit back and respond. We are to be actively engaging in love toward others, connecting in relationships. We are also called and commissioned. This requires planning, working well with others, following through with commitments, stewarding resources, making decisions, and acting on those decisions.

As we play those cards of choices and actions, we will be interrupted by all the things out of our control. This is where our responses will dictate your spiritual maturity, and your spiritual maturity will dictate your responses.

Will you respond to the world around you by trying to manipulate people and circumstances to give you the best seat possible? Or will you respond with a willing heart that wants to serve and shepherd others with love, no matter the result — personally or spiritually?

Will you respond with trust, even when the circumstances seem bleak?

Will you respond with compassion and empathy when you see others choosing wrong responses?

Will you take two minutes out of the rush of trying to control and quietly listen for the One who actually has control?

We have to accept our hands are empty to respond correctly. We have to accept we are seen, known, beloved, liked, chosen, included, friended, called, commissioned, and kept to believe that we can hope and trust the God who feels all of this for each one of us.

The constant question in your life every day, all day is what is your response to this moment.

Can’t wait to see the ocean later this month.

Is Listening to What God Says About You Wrong?

Spending time in God’s Word has become very important to me. I find myself drawn to Scripture that tells me who I am in Him and how God feels about me.

I wrote about a verse Jude a few weeks ago that tells us we are beloved, called, and kept.

Twice I’ve written about how knowing we are clothed in His righteousness makes me believe blanketing myself in shame is something God would hate. (link 1 & link 2)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how God feels about me. I even changed my Instagram name to knownseenliked because I needed to focus my head and my heart on the true identity that God knows me, sees me, and likes me.

All of this focus on me feels wrong. I get a little sting inside that says, Shouldn’t you be focusing on who God is?

Is it wrong? Is my sting right? Should I be focusing more on God and less on me?

My youngest Hezekiah does this really cute thing, but it hit me yesterday that it was very telling to how our brains work as human beings.

Every time I say something complimentary to Hezekiah, which I try to do because I want his 3-year-old heart to know he is amazing and loved, he rejects what I’ve said and tells me his name — which he adorably says as Kia.

Here’s how the conversations go:

Me: “You are such a good boy.”

Hezekiah. “No, I Kia.”


Me: “You are so cute!”

Hezekiah: "No, I Kia!”


Me: “You are a good brother.”

Hezekiah: “No, I Kia.”


Spider man fade, listening to God, identity.JPG

I laugh every time. His insistence that his identity is just his nickname hasn’t stopped me from telling him all the things he is in my eyes. As a parent, I want more than anything to nurture love and kindness in him towards others and himself.

As humans, it is not easy for us to accept positive comments. We are protective and defensive. We easily accept criticism without question, but we are skeptical of praise and complements.

I know this because I had a Christian counselor tell me that I was doing this. He made me start writing down things people said to me that were complementary. It felt silly, but I did it because I wanted to get better. I was so mentally unhealthy, berating myself with negative self-talk.

Earlier this year I saw Curt Thompson speak at the IF:Gathering, and he presented the brain science behind the principle of accepting compliments differently. He shared that research shows that it takes our bodies about 3 seconds to absorb and believe a negative comment and about 30 seconds for us to absorb and believe a compliment. He encouraged us to not push away and deflect a compliment out of humility or false humility because when you do that, you have no chance of ever accepting it. He asked us to take a deep breath and let those kind words that were just spoken about us sink in. He asked us to go back to those words later in the day when we had time to really let our mind believe those words.

If this neurobiologist, psychiatrist knows it is important for good things said about you to be absorbed and I as a parent long for good things said about my children to be absorbed, then can we agree that God wants the good things He has said to His children to be absorbed?

It is important that we listen to the good things God says about us, and I’ve come to believe that that small sting inside of me that says I should only be focused on what is said about God is evil shame that does not want good for me.

Shame is the enemy that keeps us blind and in a corner. It keeps us from connecting to others and sharing our faith.

Obviously, we need to commit time to learn God’s character, and what we believe about God must line up with what Scripture says about God.

This knowing God does not mean knowing how God feels about us is then unimportant. Don’t skip absorbing what God says about you because of humility, false humility, or shame.

God says you are Beloved. God says you are known. God says you are seen. God says you are liked, friended, and included. God says you are chosen. God says you are called. God says you are commissioned. God says you are kept.


New Head & the Heart song this week. Ekkk!

If you’re interested in reading Curt Thompson’s work, he has published these two books:

A Greeting That Reminds Us Who We Are

Is there a connection between what we do and who we are? Does what we believe about ourself matter?

I think the answer is yes. I believe the key to fighting lies is the repetition of truth. I even made a worksheet to help you battle lies last fall.

Right now I’m halfway through the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I love the chapter called “How Your Habits Shape Your Identity (and Vice Versa).” It reminded me of our lie fighting strategy.

 
Your identity emerges out of your habits. You are not born with preset beliefs. Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience. More precisely, your habits are how you embody your identity.... The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. In fact, the word identity was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your ‘repeated beingness.’
— James Clear, Atomic Habits

How does this “repeated beingness” translate to finding our identity in Christ?

First, we never feel like we have repeatedly been the things that Jesus lays over our sin. We don’t feel righteous for good reason. Only He is righteous. Sometimes we don’t feel like a child of God, with all of the benefits as heirs to His kingdom.

We can try to act like a child of God, and slowly (if we can keep getting up after stumbling) our identity can change. Or — here’s the faster route — we can change what we believe internally first, and that belief will change our outward actions. According to Clear, this is the best way to make a change, by changing from the inside out. He says we focus on who we are becoming by focusing on identity-based habits instead of outcome-based habits. Clear points out that there is a feedback loop between identity and habits.

Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.
— James Clear, Atomic Habits

This is where my Battling Lies Worksheet will help you believe your identity in Christ and help you create identity-based habits.

Every morning, I write a sentence in my calendar. I write what I believe is true about my identity in Christ. This repetition of the truth is the best defense as I fight lies — lies from the enemy, lies in my thoughts, lies in my feelings, and lies in our world.

Believing I am known and liked by God helps me want to know and like God back. It is easy to find myself abiding in God’s Word when it is a part of my identity. Of course I’m studying God’s Word because I’m included, friended, and commissioned. How else would I know His plan so I can join Him in it?

Last week, I was studying the letter from Jude, and I found more words to add to my repeated morning writings.

Called.

Beloved.

Kept.

This greeting from Jude reminds us who we are.

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,

To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
— Jude 1-2 ESV

I am called, beloved, and kept.

You are called, beloved, and kept.

How do we act as if we are called? We believe we are called by God, and then we will behave as if we are called by God.

How do we act as if we are beloved? We believe we are beloved by God, and then we will behave as if we are beloved by God.

How do we act as if we are kept? We believe we are kept by God, and then we will behave as if we are kept by God.

I am so thankful for this identity reminder in Jude, and you better believe I have begun writing called, beloved, and kept every morning with my other truths.

I encourage you to stop trying to change outward behaviors and instead focus on changing what you believe about yourself. You will go far in changing your actions by focusing on who you are in Christ.

Need a truth-boost to get you going on this path of identity belief? Download the worksheet, friend.

I discovered Andrew Peterson over Easter weekend when I found his album Resurrection Letters. After listening to this precious song, I am now officially a life-long fan.