What’s in a Name?

During my Lectio Divina practice this morning, I reflected on the second line of the Lord’s Prayer. Again, I got ahead of myself and assumed “hallowed” would be the focus. Again, I was wrong 😊

“Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I couldn’t get away from name, so I relaxed and listened to God. He led me to the scripture where Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. He asked Peter directly, and got the answer He is hoping to hear. Jesus always pointed to His Father and resisted those who wanted to worship Him instead of His Father.

 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16:14-16 NASB

What we are called says a lot about who we are, and what we call others says a lot of who they are as well as who we are. I thought about what I call God. I usually call Him Father when I pray, but I also like Creator. When my prayer is very personal, I call Him Adonai.

I use Yahweh, Elohim, and El Shaddai when supplicating because I feel the need to call all His names when I’m desperate. The Jewish people use HaShem, the Hebrew word for “the Name.” I like that name because it reminds me that God used I Am when referring to Himself. There are over thirty verses in the Bible where God uses those words to describe Who He says He Is. Father fits best for me because it reminds me of who He believes me to be. I am His beloved daughter, and that name is the one I go to when I need balance or reassurance. It is the most precious name I have.

A name means something, so I do my best to call those I know by name when addressing them. I taught over 2,000 students, so it is very difficult to recall every name. Facebook helps me with that 😊

Kathy, Kathy Jean, Mom, Mrs. Proctor, Ms. Kathy and Gigi represent different aspects of who I am. Child, friend, wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, and grandmother. The first time I heard “Mom” my heart was altered forever. The first “Gigi” stretched my heart beyond my wildest imagination. When my first students called me Mrs. Proctor, I felt a new sense of identity and purpose. I love, and answer to, all of the above; but there was one name that left a deep scar on my heart. I do not answer to it any more.

My father called me “stupid” for the first five years of my life. It got my attention and captured my essence for too much of my life, but I knew that name lost its power when an angry middle school boy lashed out at me in the office one day. I wasn’t his teacher and had nothing to do with his anger, but I was the person standing closest to him.

I asked what was going on, simply wanting to help. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Shut up you stupid b****!!” I realized at that point that it would be best to leave him in the hands of those involved in his situation.

I smiled as I left the office because that name didn’t anger me at all. In fact, I quietly told the young man that I was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

The Power of “Our”

I’ve been practicing Lectio Devina lately and was taken aback this morning by the power of the word “our.” I decided to go through the Lord’s Prayer over the next few days and began with:

Our Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I tend to get ahead of myself, so I imagined before I went into prayer, that “Father” would most likely be the word God would bring to me as I prayed. For those unfamiliar with Lectio Divina, it’s a Benedictine practice that involves reading and rereading a short passage until one word becomes clear. It literally means divine, or sacred, reading.

Lectio Divina allows the living Word of God to speak to the heart as the person praying digests each word in the selected scripture. One word will come to the surface, and God will lead the person to a greater understanding of that one word.

It seemed obvious to me that “Father” would be the word because it was the most important word as far as I could tell. As always, God turned the obvious around and left my head and heart spinning in the process. I was delighted to find that “Our” was to be the focus of my prayer this morning.

I repeated the scripture over and over again, emphasizing the word “Our.” My body and spirit become still as I chewed upon the tiny word. The more I chewed, the more it became clear that “Our” opened an important door in Christ’s powerful prayer.

In uttering “Our” to the disciples, he included them in God’s kingdom. They became, and we become God’s children. I quickly smiled and repented not giving that simple plural possessive pronoun its due. The whole of the Good News Christ brought into the world is contained in that tiny, seemingly insignificant, word.

The power of “Our” became crystal clear after praying, and I had to laugh as God made it clear that this “Our” was more inclusive than possessive 😊   God gave the image of my smallest granddaughter, who will be two in a few weeks, taking ownership of all in her reach. Like her sisters before her and two-year-olds around the world, she is fascinated by another little possessive pronoun. Mine!! She has a little munchkin voice until she uses that word!

Her voice deepens, and her face becomes ready for battle when she sees something new and says, “Mine!” I smile when she says it, but I also tell her that something isn’t hers if it doesn’t belong to her. I have a little seal I bought in San Francisco that makes a loud noise when you squeeze it, and she likes it a lot. She held it tightly, pulled it to her side, and said, “Mine!” in her deepest I mean it voice.  I told her nicely that it belonged to me, but I would share it with her. She seemed okay with that as long as she could still hold on to it.

Too often, Christians take a two-year-old attitude when it comes to Christ. He shared as no one ever has, and His love was never clearer than in the first little word of the prayer He taught us all to pray.

I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

 

Family

Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also give birth to the level of affection we are created to experience. The difference is whether I let fear or love lead the way. 1 John 4:18 says it best.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB)

Families fall apart when fear forces them to fuse together. They connect beautifully when love allows them to be who they are. God created us to connect, and our hearts cannot survive without those connections. The most valuable thing the homeless have lost is not their addresses; it is their family connections.

The family systems theory concerning differentiation of self makes a great deal of sense, and I believe God is the ultimate example of how it works. He makes it clear that He is the Great I AM. That isn’t as much about being all powerful as it is about being exactly Who He Is. I believe He wants each of us to be the amazing individual He created us to be, so we can  connect and live in community as He desires.

The Bowen Center has this to say about the negative effects of unhealthy interdependence:

“The more intense the interdependence, the less the group’s capacity to adapt to potentially stressful events without a marked escalation of chronic anxiety. Everyone is subject to problems in his work and personal life, but less differentiated people and families are vulnerable to periods of heightened chronic anxiety which contributes to their having a disproportionate share of society’s most serious problems.”

You can read more at https://www.thebowencenter.org/theory/eight-concepts/differentiation-of-self/

Family brings a sense of belonging, and Christ made it very clear that His family is open to all. That doesn’t mean He sanctions abusive behavior. Abuse is the worst form of fusion, and it breaks God’s heart to see His children hurting. Parents and children alike understand the pain of such breaking. Society suffers alongside broken families. God has the power to make us love any way or any one He wants, but He knows better than to force love upon His children.

Family isn’t an easy word to define; but like love, I know it when I feel it. God has helped me see myself as He sees me, and I am so very thankful for a birth family who loves me just as I am. I can’t imagine life with my three sweet sisters and their families, my son and his wife, or my three adorable little grand daughters; but I also thank God for brothers and sisters who are related beautifully by the common thread of love. I am thankful for connections that surround me like a warm, cozy blanket and melt my heart into a sweet, still pool of peace.

Reaching out isn’t easy; it is much simpler to fuse into small groups who share a common love. It is easier still to form groups with a common hatred, and we all know examples of how that destroys families, churches, communities, and countries. It is easiest to simply stay out of sight and not connect at all. That lets you off the hook when it comes to grieving over the loss of a loved one, but it also leaves you with a deep sense of longing that is the worst pain of all.

God loved us enough to send His only Son. I haven’t reached that level of love and doubt I will understand it until I am with Him, but I have learned that God will provide connections that are good for my heart when I relax into faith and trust Him to know what is best for my heart.

Jesus was born into a beautiful family, but I’m sure His earthly family was filled with individuals who were far from perfect. This morning, I was imagining what a large family gathering might look like when He was a young boy. I bet He had a crazy aunt or uncle who made Him smile, and I’m sure there were squabbles and even a feud or two. That didn’t stop Him from loving them, and it doesn’t stop Him from loving us. I also know with all my heart, that He must have looked around when all were gathered in one accord, smiled, and said to Himself, “This reminds me of Home.”

Purity

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (NLT)

When King David prayed this prayer in Psalm 51:10, he was asking God to help him get back on the right path. I love his supplication because it comes from a repentant heart. To me, that is the highest level of purity we humans can achieve. King David was not a perfect or a pure man, but he was a man after God’s own heart who wanted to be near his dear Lord.

Christ was pure in every sense of the word, the ultimate unblemished Lamb suitable for the proper sacrifice to God, the Father. We can stumble along the path Christ lays before us, but we will not achieve true purity until we are with Him in heaven.

Until then, God asks us to have the courage to walk along the path His Son walked. I like to think it is like taking the first step on a snow covered road. I hate to be the first to trod on the purity of that path, but I remember what is underneath the white covering and step out.

Like a beautiful snow covered path, Christ’s sacrifice covers the ugliness of our hearts with a purity only He can achieve. Unlike the snow, Christ’s covering is permanent. He wants us to trust Him and walk bravely in the same places we have always lived but with a light heart knowing our paths are covered with His Holy Spirit’s presence.

There’s nothing more fun that being the first one out on a snowy morning and frolicking with abandon in newly fallen snow. The animals usually beat us to the path, but sometimes, we get to experience the world in the light of the sweet purity of a winter wonderland. If we tune our hearts to God’s sweet presence each morning, we can get an even greater sense of wonder without the cold 🙂

Love

No one can snatch me from God’s hand, but I am free to hop out at any time. He will let me wander for as long as it takes for me to create my own kingdoms, make my own mountains, and plan my own projects. He waits because Love is patient.

God doesn’t close his hand around me because love cannot be forced with a fist. He knows only an open palm works when it comes to love. He is the ultimate example self-differentiation and waits for His children to find their way back to Him. Love requires openness and freedom; otherwise, it will wither and die. God knows that better than anyone, so He never forces or coerces. He refuses to fuse. I must do the same if I am to love Him and others as He desires.

When my kingdoms crash, my mountains topple, and my projects fail, I find comfort in God’s loving hand. He doesn’t gloat or fuss or say, “I told you so. I knew you’d be back!” He simply loves. His love never changes or moves and is best described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” NASB

 

Don’t Hold Your Breath

I heard a beautiful message this morning on Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.” (NLT)

As I listened, I imagined God breathing life into His creation. I’ve always thought of this verse in regard to the beginning of man, but God reminded me this morning that He is always breathing new life into His children. It isn’t necessarily CPR, but it can be. It is, more often, a gentle filling that sustains the heart and sates the soul.

Relaxing into obedience is testing my faith and taxing my patience, but I am slowly learning to stop striving and trust that God knows what is best for me. It isn’t easy for me to be still, but I have experienced periods deep stillness over the past year. The stillness that came in those moments created beautiful connections that made me want more.

I asked God to breathe new life into me this morning, and He reminded me that He would be happy to if I would stop holding my breath. I smiled when I realized it is impossible for Him to breathe into me when I’m already full. I know it’s a survival response to hold my breath, but it has become a habit with me. I’m not sure when the habit started, but I think it may have begun when I almost drowned at five.

I tend to hold on to that which I should release to God. Like holding my breath, it keeps me from the new life He envisions. He will never force me to let go of my breath, but He will give me a sweet sense of peace when I relax long enough to catch a deep breath of His Son’s sweet love. Breathing is involuntary, but fear can break its natural rhythm. Hearing God gently bid me to exhale reminded me that His love banishes fear.

Nothing is better for the heart than breathing deeply, and nothing is better for the spirit that exhaling completely and allowing God to breathe new life deeply into my heart. It is what revival is all about, and I’m ready for a revival!