Idol Worship…Who, Me?!

“You shall have not other gods before Me or besides Me.  You shall not make for yourself [to worship] and graven image or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above or that is in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth.” Deuteronomy 5:7-8 Amplified Version

Second Lieutenant Nathan Collins

My son came home from college last week for spring break (BEFORE spring…go figure) which triggered a flurry of activities; getting him ‘suited up’ for his sister’s wedding in June, prescription glasses, doctor visit, family dinner; the week was over before I knew it.  Somewhere in the whirlwind of busyness we were reminded that he has been a member of the Army National Guard for nine years; now a Second Lieutenant, leading men who are often older than him.

Flashback nine years ago as I drove two hours north for his swearing-in ceremony, having an earnest and emotional conversation with God about surrendering my man-child to Him…again.  In my head I recognized that the career path he had CHOSEN, (while we were at war on at least three fronts!) was honorable, but with the risk of him being killed or seriously hurt so high, there were some things I needed to work through with God IMMEDIATELY! 

For example, the reminder to NEVER close my fists too tightly over anyone or anything that God gives into my hand.  It is too tempting to think of the children as MINE, the house as MINE, the job, MINE, the money, MINE, and so on.  But on that drive north to Sacramento I had to recognize and affirm again that my son, my girls, my job, in fact everything I have are only on loan to me through the lovingkindness of the God who OWNS IT ALL, including the very breath I breathe.

Whatever I place the highest value on in my life; to which I ascribe the highest worth…THAT is my god.  That person or thing for which I will sacrifice the most of my resources, is who or what I worship; that is my idol.  That which I hold so tightly in my fist, refusing to let go even if God Himself tells me to give it up…that has the potential to destroy me as surely as holding on to a grenade with the pin removed.

My Lord, keep me from ever becoming so enamored and preoccupied with the gift that I fixate on making and keeping it all pretty and shiny, no matter the cost!  Instead help me to fix my eyes on you, the Giver of all things that are good, and good for me, especially when it is only given to me for a season.

I choose to stand before you with open hands, ready to receive from you all that I need for “life and godliness”, and equally ready to quickly surrender anything you ask/tell me to. You alone are my God whom I worship; the only One for whom I am… just living the thing.

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Naked And Not Ashamed…

Author, Ann Marie Collins

“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other’s presence” Genesis 2:25 Amplified Bible

When I moved to the United Sates from Jamaica in 1988 I was surprised that the thing I missed most was not the warm weather or traditional Jamaican food.  This is saying a lot because I live in the California Central Valley aka, Jamaican food Siberia, between two and five hours away from the nearest hard-dough bread, yellow yam, ackee with saltfish and so on!

No, what I missed most was the feeling of belonging.  I missed my community; those women and men who made up my inner circle of friends with whom I could, figuratively speaking, be “naked and not embarrassed or ashamed”.

They saw me through my best and my worst, rejoiced with me and cried with me, praised me and lovingly corrected me.  After years of doing life within this tight-knit group, I knew I could trust them to be a ‘safe place’ for me and to love me unconditionally.

Looking back I can see now that my community also sheltered me from having to face my greatest weakness and vulnerability.  Separated by 3,000+ miles and the ridiculous cost of international calls the insecurities and fear that imprisoned me for so much of my life were mercilessly exposed, and I had nowhere to hide.

My first reaction was not to deal with my issues, but to desperately seek the cover and shelter of a replacement community as quickly as possible.  The result was a mixed bag of foolish mistakes, hard truths, and painful lessons.

Thankfully, facing,  and doing the hard work of dealing with my insecurities ultimately led to freedom from the tyranny of my fears of never measuring up, never living up to expectations, never being good enough, and not deserving to be loved well.

I learned that I ought not, and will not be “naked” with EVERYONE!  I accept the challenge to love all people, but if my life is my dwelling place, there are really only a few that can be welcomed into the sanctuary of my ‘house’ and be privy to my deepest concerns and vulnerabilities.  Some need to be ‘porch’ people, others ‘yard’ people, and others, particularly those with destructive tendencies, need to stay on the ‘street’ and be loved over the ‘fence’.

Years later, thanks to Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media, contact with my original community is more frequent, easier, cheaper, as authentic as ever, and, sometimes to their dismay, the new, free me can be even more “naked and not embarrassed or ashamed”.

The greatest blessing has been the expansion of my community with new house, porch, yard and even street people with potential.  So these days it is a very good thing that what I miss most about Jamaica IS the perpetually warm weather, AND the food!  Thankfully, I have a plane ticket to go back at Christmas, so till then I’m …just living the thing.