Here's where the thoughts happen...
The Best Plan
If you are anything like I was growing up and if your faith background is similar to mine, then you probably have a generalized, basic idea of sin. It wasn't until my late 20's that I truly began to understand what "sin" is and why God considers it "sin".
Dos and Don'ts
I was raised in a Christian home, and we very much took the Bible seriously. We believed that the 10 Commandments were truly a thing that were given to Moses (Deuteronomy 5:7-21) ,and that the 10 are still rules that every Christian should abide by. A list of "dos" and "don'ts". Do keep the Sabbath holy; do honor your father and mother. Don't have any other gods before Him; don't have any false idols; don't take God's name in vain;...don't murder; don't commit adultery; don't steal; don't lie; and don't covet. Then throughout the Bible there's plenty of other "dos" and "don'ts" that have been added to that list of what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, good and bad, Christian and un-Christian. Basically, being a Christian seemed like a long list of rules.
Don'ts = Sin
My understand was that the "dos" were characteristics of a good Christian. Someone who is kind, loving, and forgiving. Someone who obeys God and prays. As a kid, it was me being a good student, not lying or cheating at school, going to church regularly, and honoring my parents. That was simple enough. But what did that mean about the "don'ts"? Well, those things are obviously sinful. Thus, my definition of sin became "the bad things that we don't do". I tend to be a very logical in my thinking, especially in my younger years, almost absolutist. Meaning, I see things as right or wrong, black or white. Grey areas generally make me uncomfortable. So seeing sin as simply all the "don'ts" was very tangible for me. I would be totally fine, just avoid the things on that list.
There are several problems with this way of viewing sin. First off, that list, if you were to take all the laws given in the Bible would be crazy crazy long. It would take way too much time just compiling the list, and then to even begin to read through it, study it, and memorize it would be insane. Trying to live by it would be impossible (literally, since we are all sinners and need the blood of Christ for salvation). However, it seemed like my definition matched the Christian world's definition, so I went with it. Sin was anything illegal by God's standards. Then about 3 or 4 years ago, I can't pin when my thoughts on this began to first change or why, but God began teaching me that my definition was not complete. In fact, it was simplistic and yet more complex than God's definition.
Love of the Father
God began to show me that He isn't some strict law-giver just sitting up there writing our rulebook and taking note every time we mess up. He isn't willy-nilly making up rules just for the fun of it and watching us try to jump through these hoops. No, that's not who He is at all. And when I began to look deeper, it was obvious that this idea of sin was conflicting with who I believed God to be. God, first and foremost, is love. He is loving; He loves us and loves through us. Why would a loving Father set unnecessary rules? He wouldn't. We just don't see the reasoning behind the rules. He is a good Father and wants what is absolutely best for us. Anything He classifies as a "don't" is not part of that best plan for our lives. We might think it's best, but guess what, He is smarter than we are. "For your thoughts are not My thoughts, neither are your ways My ways" declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Sin and Pain
When you began to see His plan for your life as better than your plan, you can accept that He knows what is right and what is wrong much easier. The things He warns us about have great potential to cause pain and suffering to us and oftentimes others. He is our Father, and He hates seeing His children in painful situations. Thus, He tries to direct us away from paths likely to lead there.
Viewing sin as all the "don'ts" was too simple in that there's not an exhaustive list. It could be anything that we do outside of that best plan. Often times, things that become sin in our lives are by design good things. For instance, food. We all need food to survive, and God is the one who gave us food to eat. However, if we have an unhealthy relationship with food and gorge ourselves, that is outside of God's best for us. We are sinning simply by eating too much.
On the other hand, seeing sin as the "don'ts" was too complex because it assumed that there was some deeper secret reasoning as to why God said so. Like when your parents say no to something without an explanation - they probably have one but just don't take the time to explain. Well as kids, that makes us frustrated and gives us the feeling like either there is no real reason or they aren't sharing it for an even more secret reason. Well He is God - He could just make up rules with the reason being because He's God. But He didn't, and He doesn't. All of His "rules" are simply because He loves us. He wants the very best for each of us.
So when you are considering something, is this sin or not? Ask yourself, is it truly in God's best plan for you? If not, then yes, consider it sin and stay far away. I know I don't want to settle for anything good or even something better when I know He has the best in mind.
Hey there beautiful. If you read my 3-part blog intro, this post is expanding on one of the ideas I shared there: our intrinsic beauty as women.
As I explained before, we all as women are intrinsically beautiful. That means we are naturally beautiful; it is part of our essence, or who we are to the core, as women. So by default you are beautiful. But why? Because you were divinely created by God.
Notice, in Genesis 1 that everything God makes, He calls it "good". Here's a brief rundown...
~Light - Genesis 1:4
~Separation of Waters/seas and Land - Genesis 1:10
~Vegetation - Genesis 1:12
~Sun, Moon, and Stars - Genesis 1:19
~Fish and Birds - Genesis 1:21
~Land animals/livestock - Genesis 1:25
Therefore, just to simply be made by God qualifies you as "good".
But look specifically at how God goes about creating mankind. He drops the "Let there be..." pattern and says, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness..." (Genesis 1:26). Suddenly, this gets very personal. God is not just calling humans into existence like everything else He created. Instead, they (the Trinity - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) create mankind in their own image. Wow. Just wow. Take a minute to try and wrap your brain around that. The God of the universe made you in His image. You are a reflection or image-bearer of God. That means you have character traits of God in you.
If we continue reading, it says, "So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). (Side note for later: notice that it specifies He created males and females - this points to the fact that men and women while both being image-bearers of God, reflect different aspects of His nature and character.)
The story continues, and God blesses the humans (Genesis 1:28) which He did not do with any other aspect or species of His creation. Clearly, there is something unique in being human, something divine. Psst...here's a hint...it's our image-bearership, so to speak. God then sets up mankind with all the animals to rule over and plants to eat. Then once He was finished onboarding Adam and Eve, "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31a). We, humans, took something "good" to a whole new level - "very good". You could say, we were the finishing touch. "For we are God's masterpiece..." (Ephesians 2:10).
Now that we see us as "good" and "very good", let's take it a step further. Genesis 2 is basically a magnified look at the creation, specifically at the creation of mankind. It is a much more personal account and describes in detail how God made man and woman. In Genesis 2:7 Adam is created from the dust of the ground when God breathes the breath of life into him, but He does not create Eve in this same way. Adam is alone in this world as the only human, to which God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). He then goes about having Adam tend to the animals, naming each of them and hoping to find him a partner. Unfortunately, none were suitable.
Back to the Beauty
So then with all sorts of artistic mystery and infinite wisdom, God causes Adam to fall asleep, takes a rib from him, and uses the rib to make the first woman (Genesis 2:21-22). When God presents the woman to the man, Adam (I'm sure jumping up and down, shaking his head wildly "yes", and with an abundance of enthusiasm) said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman', for she was taken out of man" (Genesis 2:23). Finally, God had created the perfect companion for Adam, his wife Eve. She was just like him in the sense that she too was divinely created in God's own image, yet she was the exact opposite of him in all the ways he needed for doing life together. The original word used to describe this role translates to "helpermate". (More on this in an upcoming post!)
Cherry on Top
So if mankind is the finishing touch to creation, you could say the whipped cream to a sundae, then women are the cherry on top. We were the absolute last piece to the puzzle, and we filled the hole by fitting perfectly into God's design. We were the series finale to your all-time favorite tv show that wrapped up all the lose-ends and answered all your questions. We were created beautifully by a beautiful Creator and were meant for beautiful things.
Loss but not Lost
This wasn't on the schedule to post just yet, but with recent events I feel it's really on my heart.
We all lose things.
So we all lose things in this life. That's just a fact. Nothing - outside the love and grace of God - is permanent. Everything has its expiration date, yet for some reason when we lose things, especially people, we find it hard to accept. Why is that?
Time - is it real? Do we need it?
I think this is directly tied to our need for time. Trying not to get too sciencey here, but I fully believe that time is a construct that God set in motion with the Creation because He knew that with our limited brain power mankind would need time to regulate and manage our lives, to the extent we are even able to do that. We need time to organize ourselves and understand our world. But God Himself stands outside of space and time; He is not limited or held to the constraints of a past, present, and future. His days do not flow in 24-hour cycles, 365 days a year. However, being the good Father that He is, He invented and set time into motion just for us. For the Bible says that after God created light and saw that it was good, "He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day" and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day" (Genesis 1:4b-5).
Do we know what our future holds?
Under this establishment of time, we are unable to see the outcomes of life, so we don't know what our future holds. Or do we? (Answer to come below.) We might not know if we're going to make the team or if we are going to get accepted into our top-pick college or if we are ever going to find love and get married because life has no guarantees. Well it has one, and I'm sorry to disappoint but it isn't fun. Jesus tells us that, "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33b). He didn't say you might or you could possibly, maybe, if things go a certain way. No, He point blank says we will have trouble as long as we are in this world. But that's not all He said. To view it in the full context, He says "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). There - that's a much better guarantee. We are not going to escape the trouble this world brings, but we, as followers of Christ, have a peace and a hope because He has "overcome the world". So back to our question, do we know what our future holds? If we are a Christ follower, the simple answer is YES! (Keep on reading for the explanation.)
Christ the Overcomer
When we lose the things we hold most dear in this life, we must remember first that Christ has overcome everything we could possibly face in this world, everything. He has overcome great loss and even overcome death. Second, we must remember that our perspective on these events is very limited; we cannot see what all will unfold in God's plan. In our own story we cannot foresee what is to come while here on earth, let alone see how it intertwines with the other billions of individuals on the planet. God's "thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways [His] ways" (Isaiah 55:8).
We have lost but are not lost.
So how should we respond to a deep loss? We should seek peace and comfort in knowing He has a divine plan that though we may not see the why, maybe not ever, we can trust is good. Don't feel lost, for remember you are a part of this "divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). We should also be grateful for the time that we were given. Think of every moment as a gift from the Lord. Lastly, we are to realize that as children of God, even our life here is temporary. (And here it is...) We will have trouble in this world, but this world is not our forever home. One day we will go home to be with the Father, and there we will have a life free of all loss and all troubles. We know our future holds victory over death and all loss because Christ is victorious!
Where to begin? (Part 3)
I needed a serious attitude adjustment.
Now that experience certainly taught me something, but it didn't change my general thoughts towards women overnight. In fact, I occasionally still have to retract some things I say that are not God-honoring in regards to women. But I have come a long way. In realizing my jaded feelings towards all women, I also discovered that I had been neglecting the fact that I, too, am a woman. Once I decided that my attitude needed to change I began rewording my sentences and trying to plant new, positive thought patterns regarding women and womanhood. Instead of saying, "Oh, of course that's a woman driving!" when someone aggravates me on the road, I try to think, "Hmmm...I wonder what's going on in her life that is distracting her today. Perhaps an issue at work? Or maybe a sick kid?" Give your sister a little grace.
What is true beauty?
So that is how my interest in true beauty was sparked, by God literally shoving it in my face. Since then I've been discovering more and more about beauty and what makes each woman uniquely beautiful. This is something I hope to explore more in future posts. Note, by true beauty I am referring to an inward and outward beauty. It is my experience and belief that every single woman has both if you're willing to look hard enough for it.
Now for a brief explanation of the second half of our blog title: Radiant. To be radiant is to emanate light, and in my definition of radiance love and joy are included. Not only are we, as women, beautiful by divine design, but we are like little lighthouses or beacons. We are intended to shine (share) this divine light (the character of God), as well as love and joy, for we are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). We are called to participate in the Kingdom of heaven here on earth by boldly sharing our faith in Christ and telling others of the amazing freedom found in accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. Another, less direct way we share Christ with others is simply by loving them. Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). And so we are called to love everyone. Thirdly, we should have an abundance of joy as a sign of God's great love and faithfulness. Christ said, "I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:11). Having the joy of Christ year-round, not just in the good seasons of life, is a sure sign to others of His provision.
You are beautifully radiant.
So there you have it. You are beautifully radiant. So my sisters, as this 3-part introduction to our blog concludes, the journey together is just beginning. In this blog I plan to explore all of these topics deeper: beauty, radiance, love, joy, bravery, God's faithfulness, our role in His divine nature, what it means to be a woman, and many many more. If you have any suggestions for a possible post, please leave me a comment or fill out my contact sheet. Can't wait to dive in more with you!
Be brave darlings!
Where to begin? (Part 2)
Why hadn't I noticed her beauty?
So there I was completely mystified, as I continued my search of why I was suddenly viewing this plain-Jane in a whole new way. My thoughts kept going to, "But I've never noticed her beauty before..." until I successfully identified what was so alluring about her. It was her eyes. Now I'm going to be honest - I don't even remember which woman it was at this point. That's not what mattered, nor was it important that it was her gorgeous eyes that I found so beautiful. It was simply that I was able to find beauty in her.
Once realizing it was her twinkling eyes, I glanced to the woman seated beside her. Again, it was another woman I had known for a couple years but had never particularly connected with. In looking her way, I had planned to challenge myself in finding something beautiful about her as well. But I didn't have to. As soon as she entered my gaze, BAM! Beauty.
What about the others?
I began going from woman to woman throughout the crowded room, finding beauty in each of them. The majority were of the acquaintance friend type while a handful were more like actual friends, but some were even women I had harbored ill feelings towards due to past disagreements. Some had simply rubbed me the wrong way with their bold personalities and opinions. In each and every one of them I was able to find beauty. (And this wasn't a small room. There were probably close to 70 women there.)
Why would God show me this?
At some point the speaker concluded her talk and stepped away from the mic. This alerted me to the fact that I had completely lost track of time and hadn't heard a single thing she had said. I did, however, take a second to acknowledge her beauty. They directed us to take a quick break, so I immediately began searching my heart and head for answers. I was throwing rapid-fire questions at God like, "Why am I noticing their beauty?", "What's Your point in showing me this?", and (sad to admit) "Really, even the ugly ones?".
My takeaway from that little sidetrack adventure was that I had been dishonoring God by choosing to dishonor His creations. That each and every single woman there had been divinely created by Him, so they intrinsically were beautiful. In other words, all of us women, every single one of us, are beautiful by default because He made us. You are beautiful because you were "fearfully and wonderfully made" by God (Psalm 139:14).
Stay tuned for Part 3 to discover your radiance!
Where to begin? (Part 1)
You are beautifully radiant.
You are beautifully radiant. Yes, you. Did you know that? And how could I know that when I very likely have never and will never meet you? Well to answer that question, we will have to go back to the beginning of a journey that God took me on about 3 years ago. And along the way you will get to learn a little more about me and quite a bit more about why this blog happened, all in an effort to help you possibly learn something new about yourself.
My journey begins...
So let's rewind a few years. We'll see a young woman who was very insecure and had been deeply hurt by some she had thought were closest to her, women whom she had called friends. These other women had betrayed and disowned her. Alone, she now felt rejected and disengaged from all women, not just the handful that had bruised her heart. She sought friendships with guys only. They seemed easier, less complicated, and certainly much less likely to stab you in the back. But along with this new trend came a complete lack of disrespect and disregard of all people and things feminine. Her general attitude towards other women became cold and harsh, and she did not even leave room for the slightest possibility of friendships to blossom. The underlying feelings about how she had been treated became associated with womanhood and femininity itself. It was as if deep down she believed that women were the problem, that the cruel words and actions by that group of so-called "friends" were tied to their woman-ness (spoiler alert: this was a sin problem, not a woman problem). That it was the nature of all women. With no way to separate the two, it was just easier to avoid being friends with them. ALL of them.
She is beautiful!
Yep that was me a little more than 3 years ago. But then God did the strangest thing. While sitting in a meeting for a ministry I serve in, my attention was suddenly drawn away from our speaker and to a woman who I had known for a couple years. This woman wasn't someone I had spent much time with or even someone I considered either friend or foe. She was one of what I call acquaintance friends. (You know of them, they know of you, and you are mutually associated by either another individual or a shared activity.) Well we had this ministry in common, so we occasionally saw each other and were sometimes in group conversations together. She was no one special to me. It seemed weird at the time that she had caught my eye randomly, but even weirder was how I couldn't help but keep gazing at her. For some reason, she seemed different today, like I was looking at her through someone else's lenses. This ordinary middle-aged woman, who by our world's standards is no Miss America, was now strikingly beautiful to me.
Why hadn't I noticed???
Totally distracted by this, I lost all track of what was being discussed, as I tried to identify what was so captivating about her suddenly. And more importantly, how had I not noticed this before?!
More to come...