“So often we miss life’s beauty because we’re too preoccupied with it’s flaws.” -Ann Spangler Did you forget God created you in His image? Or that He created the ground you walk on and… More
Recently two separate self-storage facilities have been built within about three miles of my house. One is actually within about 50 yards from one that has been in our area for several years. I keep thinking about those self-storage facilities as such a reflection of our culture and environment now. If you turn on your television, you can see it in shows such as Hoarders and Storage Wars. We want all the stuff and we want it for ourselves.
It’s even more apparent within us. We store up knowledge (not a bad thing), emotions, feelings and even Christ. We self-store thinking that if we keep it to ourselves, we are better off. If we store up the blessings and giftings from God that we are doing this life the right way because it’s how it plays out in our culture.
But we are so wrong…
What we define as treasures, they reflect where our hearts are. And what we do with those treasures, those gifts and blessings, well they also tell us where our hearts are. Time is a treasure to some…but how are we spending it? Money is a treasure to others….but how are you spending it? What about your gifts and talents? Are they being spent or stored up?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)
For a long season I stored up my own treasure, in my own self-storage unit you could say. I pulled it away and packed it up thinking that was what I should be doing. Packing away treasure that I defined instead of spending it for what it was made to be spent on. When I took the time to break down and really examine these verses in Matthew 6, I found that my treasure is worth pulling out of storage because it has a better return on investment in heaven than by storing it away. My heart is with the treasure I spend for His glory and good…not the one I pack away in self-storage and keep for myself. It does no one any good to hoard my time, my talents…these treasures I have been gifted, especially me, but most importantly the God who gave them to me.
What today do you need to unpack from self-storage? What do you define as treasures of your life-where your heart is invested by time or money or your talents? How are you storing them up? Where are you investing your treasure, here on earth or in heaven?
There have been multiple times I have written this post out over the years and deleted it. Or it’s been left as a draft. I have walked away thinking “What would people say if I posted that?” I worried over reactions and conversations that would have to be had if I wrote this post. Earlier this week it again came to the forefront of my mind when I was sitting with a coworker waiting for our to-go order as the news broke about Kate Spade’s suicide. Then this morning as news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke.
For a large chunk of my 20s I struggled with recognizing I was unwell. I allowed my mental wellness to become so toxic and unhealthy because I thought it was natural. I thought it would just be present with me and frankly, it sunk me into a depression I hid very well. 99.5% of the people who know me do not know that I gave serious thought to suicide. That I lived in a very dark place for a very long time. When you are struggling mentally, you find ways to hide it from those closest to you. Even now, my family wasn’t aware until they read this. I have confided in two or three people about this outside of a counselor up until now. I sought out help because I knew there was a path I was on that would lead me eventually to my death if I didn’t.
In our culture, and especially in the Christian culture, mental illness and suicide aren’t spoken about regularly or even comfortably. It has a shame shield wrapped around it, furthering the illness and deepening the depths of darkness one can find themselves in. Even telling someone you are seeing a therapist or counselor is met with embarrassment for many. Over the years I have walked the line of shame in seeking help rather than live in the depression that would kill me. It took me voicing my fears of shame and embarrassment to my counselor about even sitting there to hear the truth we all need.
It is okay to seek help when you aren’t okay. It is not okay to stay in the realm of fear.
We go to annual checkups with our doctors, we don’t dare skip our annual exam at the gyno (even though we dread it ladies), and we ensure if we need new glasses or contacts we are beating down the door to our optometrist. When we have an unknown rash or a blood test comes wonky, we go in for more testing, for follow ups, for consultations. We will seek out everything that can help us, except when it comes to our brains. We won’t ask for prayer on it, we won’t share about our struggles with our closest confidantes because fear has told us that it’s not okay to be not okay.
If you are struggling in the depths, know you are not alone. No matter what fear is telling you, it’s a lie. A downright ugly lie meant to steal and destroy you. I beg you to not let it. Reach out, confide in one person. It’s scary and unknown, but it sure beats the alternative. There is no shame in calling the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or looking for a counselor. If you are a believer, ask a pastor for a reference or who they have on staff as a counselor. I went online-as it can be both good and bad-and sought out a counselor in my area that was also thankfully on my insurance at the time. But there are low-cost options I promise you that are good and beneficial.
Some days I still wrestle with mental wellness, and those are days I find myself pulling out the notes from my sessions, quieting the chaos that wants to drag me under, and confiding in someone. Speaking directly at the lie of fear and saying “Not today.” But it is difficult to know this battle will wage on continuously. That I won’t find a cure for the struggles I have mentally on this side of life. But there’s a hope I can rest in, to know that the lies and the shame and the fears aren’t mine to battle and win. They were long ago put to death by the hope of my salvation, Christ Himself. Some days I forget that, when the struggle seems suffocating and burdensome, when it is within an inch or a minute of swallowing me whole. Some days it takes speaking my fear out to another person, to a counselor, to hear myself voice what is locked within me to see there’s someone to listen, to not judge but to be present and realize I am not alone in it. That it is a lie. And to ultimately be the truth of my life, to speak His Truth that I am valued, loved and never, ever alone.
If you haven’t struggled with mental illness, I am sure you are a friend or family member, coworker or pastor to someone who is currently living in mental unwellness. Be the one to ask “are you okay?” Be the one to simply offer to sit and listen. Be the one to not let them be alone in it. Just be with them.
Recently I have heard this song played more and more on the radio and it’s meant so much to me even this week as the fears and lies creep in when you see people defined as successful and “having it all” are committing suicide. Maybe you need to hear it, sing it, believe it for yourself today.
For a while now I have been quite enamored with the semicolon. It is stronger than a comma, but weaker than a period. It separates major sentence elements. It is more than a pause; it is a continuation of a thought relative to the sentence.
The semicolon has one definition though that I love. I read it several months ago and it has just stuck.
The author could have ended the sentence right there, but they chose to continue the story.
When I read David’s words in the familiar Psalm 23, I gave pause to the first line where David states: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Because those two lines could have been separated into different lines. But they weren’t. David’s thoughts were a continuation. Because the Lord is our Shepherd, we have no need for anything else. He leads us, restores us, comforts us, anoints us, gives us rest, brings us calm.
But for me, well I often I don’t see those two thoughts as connected. Instead I like to put emphasis on the second half as more of a directive rather than a proclamation. I do not have wants, I try to convince my soul and face my sin instead of leaning fully into the Lord being my Shepherd. To His leading and guidance that then causes my wants to be fully met by Him and not anything else.
The story continues beyond the acknowledgement of the Lord as our Shepherd. It points to our needs, our desires being found and met in Him. It means all that flows after, even in Psalm 23, is His. It comes from Him and is provided by Him. We merely have to pause and see the continuation of the story and acknowledge how it begins-with Him.
It’s closing in on 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning. April in Tennessee has decided to be a snowy/rainy/wind-chill freezing kind of thing. It resembles more February than it does spring time in bloom. I haven’t showered and I have consumed two very large cups of coffee and one slice of toast. I am in my favorite winter pajamas.
I was thinking about how my singleness looks, about the contrast of life with my friends who text me photos of their kiddos or the friends I see posting about their babies sleeping through the night or husbands whisking them off to fun birthday weekend surprises. There are days, moments, times where I get that sinking jealous feeling of it all. I love seeing their lives, but there’s a small ache within of coveting, of wondering and of doubt that it will happen for me too.
But then there are moments like these, where I find the freedoms of my life to be quite nice. Where there aren’t plans for the day, or worries over planning around nap times. Singleness looks different for each person living it, just like marriage and parenting and pretty much every single thing about living life. One thing is sure though, is that this life and the time we are given for it is a gift.
This morning as I was choosing my time in the Bible I found the words of Paul to a fellow believer to be something I needed reminding of as well. Timothy was around my age as well, called to minister at the church at Ephesus at the time we read Paul’s words to him in 1 Timothy. And some of the people had taken to legalism in the church, things that were good and created by God were being used as a form of legalistic religion instead by the church to set themselves apart as more holy or more devout.
Paul works through identifying the issue and encouraging Timothy in the fourth chapter of his letter. There nestled in between how to treat church members and the mystery of godliness is a small paragraph on ministry, and this phrase: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you…” It reminded me that I too neglect the spiritual gifts given me by God, those that are specifically designed just for me by the Creator of the universe. He knew I would be the only one that could use them in such a way for His kingdom and His purpose in such a time as this.
He knew that the still-in-her-pajamas, unshowered single gal on a Saturday morning would use the gift given her for Him in the way He designed her to use it. Just as He did the friends who are married, who are parents, who are divorced, who are single too. He has given gifts that reside in each of us that I often forget and neglect, letting doubt fuel the misuse or nonuse of the gifts, letting the words of others cause my gifts to look like obligations or ones I wish I could return. But then I remember the words of James just a few pages over from Paul’s letter to Timothy:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
Originally posted in 2016, this post below has been updated and edited.
I have a small sign on my desk from a friend that reads “Hope always.” It was given to me in a time where I couldn’t muster much hope. I was practically an empty shell and questioning much about what I had known for some time. It sits not only as a reminder but a marker of a time when I may not have been able to find hope, but someone else was giving me some of theirs in the waiting.
Today, Saturday, I think on this hope in the waiting. I sit in the knowledge of what has happened and what is yet to come.
I think of those who couldn’t muster hope after standing, watching the One Whom they called Christ die. The One Whom they believed to be just as He said He was, the coming Messiah. He was their hope, and hope was dead.
I thumb through the words of Matthew, of Mark, in Luke and John looking for hope. I find waiting. I find Joseph active in the wait, I see the women resting in the wait. I just see a whole lot of waiting.
When it seems like our rescue is dead and buried, when that promise will not be fulfilled we can lose our hope. We watch it slip away, confident expectation no longer pulling us. But in that waiting I believe we see hope. We see hope isn’t always this shining, beautiful thing but a mess. It’s hard. It’s difficult, and maybe even borrowed when we can’t seem to muster the hope we once knew and called our own.
Hope in the waiting can look like doing the thing we know we should or resting in a promise given by Him. The wait of Saturday can be a weighty thing in our lives. It can bear out grief, mourning, doubt and fear. Hope collides with each and every one of those to bring us through and unburden us from the weight of it all. Waiting through Saturdays of our lives guide us to the beauty of the coming morning. We no longer want the pain of Friday, a necessary grief. Yet our hearts aren’t quite prepared for Sunday.
So we wait. We wait in Saturday.
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.
Psalm 130 (NKJV)
It is the Monday of Holy Week. Yesterday in church the palm branches were waving and shouts of “Hosanna!” were heard. We cry out “Save Us!” as Christ enters Jerusalem, we recognize the Savior has come and we lay down our garments before Him.
And Monday comes. With the celebration of praise and adoration comes the judgment of God. Christ is fully God and fully man, and with that entry into holy week He brings with Him the judgment of our fruitless, thieving hearts. Mark leaves us only eight verses of Monday and yet it’s a direct reflection of who we are and why we needed Christ’s entry on Sunday.
The fig tree not bearing out fruit isn’t Christ having a case of the Mondays and losing His temper. Remember He is GOD. No the fig tree should have had evidence of it’s future fruit bearing at that point in the season. But there was nothing. Christ wasn’t hangry, He was exacting judgment and pronouncing that judgment had come to all. That speaks directly to me and it should to us all as believers. Are we bearing fruit as expected by the Vine? Are we connected to the Source of our lives? We will show budding of that expectant fruit if we are, and we can expect the convicting power of Christ if we are not producing fruit.
Then we have the table-flipping Jesus, the Jesus who I seem to like alot. But He’s also bringing judgment, to our thieving hearts. To those that sit in the temple and seek to segregate, separate and profit from their own ideas and opinions. Thieving hearts that serve themselves rather than the gospel of Christ. Worshiping idols of greed, pride, ego and self-service.
So Monday is here. The Monday that follows praise and adoration, triumphal celebration of Sunday and brings the urgent message of judgment. Judgment come in flesh for repentance…for confession…for turning. We see the full righteous anger of Christ on Monday of Holy Week, and how it directly speaks to us and the state of our hearts.
Often I skim read to get to the crux of a paragraph, chapter, article, etc. I don’t much care for details unless they are pertinent to a story, a character, a situation directly. The indirect stuff? You can keep it.
But in the details is where most of the story is in actuality. It’s where the plotlines develop, the characters come from the page and into being. It’s where most of the story is actually.
And it’s most often where I’d like a bit more involvement from God in my own life-the details of the every day, the situation, the cause and effect. We tell ourselves that a big God wouldn’t care about the details of our day, of our work, that relationship or that conflict. That He’s got better, more important stuff to handle like poverty, genocide, creating life.
But He does.
The details do matter to Him because I matter to Him. You matter to Him. What we are doing every day, in the big and the small-and especially the small, they matter.
The worshiping, confessing, ministering and cleansing of the Israelites in their day to day lives was so important God detailed how it should happen, what they should do, where it should be done because it all pointed back to Him. Every single detail pointed to a God who cared about the work of the people, how they worshiped, the responsibilities of the every day. He cared so much about the details that He gifted them the resources by which to build it far before they knew what they’d need it for. He set into the hearts of some to be gifted weavers to make the robes that pointed to the gospel before the very mention of Christ.
I like to point to God saying I’d like more details about why this matters, or that task has significance. I cry out for the bigger picture, when He has invited me into the details already. He’s asked for obedience in this task, right in front of me, gifting me with this particular set of skills in order to accomplish it for His good and glory, to point to Him and even to the gospel.
He is in the details of my life, and in yours, but I think I have gotten too accustomed to skimming through life in this perpetual state of hustle and bustle that I don’t see Him in the details. Because He is there, in the threads weaving a story if I but take time to listen, heed and obey.