David’s Swagger

I love a good war speech. The bravado and confidence as warriors go out to fight, called to bear arms by their leader. But I love the underdog in it too, where the cards are obviously stacked against them and there’s just zero way they can pull this out. Led often times by a humble individual who knows the call to lead. (One of the many reasons I do love me some Jon Snow and Sir Davos’ intro to the queen on GoT)

Maybe that’s why I love David’s speech in 1 Samuel as he goes out to face Goliath. Like I fist pump the air when I read it, that’s how much I love it. But it’s not because of any confidence in David’s strength or abilities, but his absolute love for God and trust in God’s provision of victory in battle. David doesn’t mention once in that speech before the giant his own victories over a bear and a lion….y’all, a bear and a lion.

Nope, David points directly to the God of hosts. The God of hosts will deliver the Philistines, He will strike down Goliath. It is all in His hands and His power because He is the God of hosts. I’d often bypassed one of God’s titles in my reading simply out of habit. But this is more than God’s title, it’s a descriptor of Who He is, part of Him. You see, God of hosts means that all the created agencies and powers are under the dominion of Yahweh, our God. He is sovereign and He is power.

Here Goliath is talking about his spear, his might, his shield bearer going out before him….and David’s pointing to the All-Mighty God as his weapon. I mean y’all. How triumphant and fist-pumping are those words from David? The God of all armies is on his side? Yes and thank you.

It’s not a false speech, dependent upon man’s strength or power. It’s not a swagger of false bravado. It is the words that are full of praise and soul-digging truth, that the God of all hosts goes before us into battle. He is with us and is strong enough for any battle that is calling us to the field. Those giants may taunt with words, they may scare with swords and spears, but He is our God. He is THE God of all armies. Power and might are His.

Here’s my question for myself today…Do I take that same trust and truth into my own battlefield? Do I confront the giants in my life with my confidence in God or in my self?

Community, James, and Doubts

For the last six weeks I have spent Monday nights with a group of women, talking and getting to really know one another. Let’s just end any similarities to the Bachelor/ette viewing parties right there. Because I was in fact, not at one of those, but spending much needed time in community with women in the Word of God.

Y’all. Can I confess here? I was apprehensive about going. It was a study of James (I had just finished studying it on my own with SheReadsTruth) and it meant adjusting my calendar on Mondays. This is coming from a woman who used to lead a small group, reads multiple faith-based books a month, and writes a devotion for her church. CMON. This should have been right up my basic, white Christian girl alley.

I have been hurt in female groups before and will be again, especially within the church because we. are. human. We are post-fall, culture living, sin-struggling humans. Every single one of us. Including me. But that lie that community will only harm was what had me questioning stepping into the room full of women. Who love Jesus. Who want to study God’s Word.

Just like me.

Little did any of those women know that for the prior eight to ten months my heart and prayer had been for women who yearned for the word of God. To study and be present with one another digging into what God was speaking in His Word to them and through them. The reminders that He still works and moves. He is active among those who seek Him.

19732017_10154738616990963_1382455788602163614_nSo last Monday night, as we wrapped up five weeks of gut-checking study, of sharing and being open with women I held in deep respect and those I never met before, I stood and shared that exact thing. I pointed back to the very first chapter of James where he urges us beyond just hearing the Word, but doing the Word. Doing means stepping out when it might cost me something, when it will cost me something. My self. That pride. That ego. That self that tends to lead me in the opposite way of His Word and into doubt and fear. That leads me into less community and more separation.

It was community right there in that room that showed me exactly what the prayers answered can look like. Prayers of months, of a heart desiring women to gather and dig in to His Word, for them to desire it and step into it, when I was skeptical myself. When I doubted He’d be able to do a thing. It was Him at work, when I felt it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t wanted.

Sometimes your answer to prayer means you are the doer…facing the doubt and lies on something so insignificant in many ways, but something so eternally impactful when stepped into. Because when we are only hearing the word for ourselves, we live in that deception of our own voice, our ego, our sin-soaked selves telling us no one else wants it so why desire it, pursue it, mention it? Why choose to change your schedule and pick a bit of discomfort in order to gain so much more?

Because He is so much more.

The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

Absolutely Surrendering: A Review

I’ll be honest here, cause well, I can. I don’t read alot of Biblical scholars. I just don’t. C.S. Lewis is about as far back as I go in reading some who are pillars of the faith. So when I decided to dig into an Andrew Murray that was re-released by B&H recently, I was challenging myself, my faith, and really struggling to pull through it.

But here’s the thing. This was perfect timing to read this. I got the very short book, running around 140 pages and thought, “Oh I’ll have this done in just a week or two. Six weeks later and I am digging back into it over and over.

B&H Publishing has gone through some classics in Christian writings and added reflections to the chapters, observations and applicable questions to reflect back on each chapter. I find that really valuable and strengthening in my own faith. Lore Ferguson Wilbert is the general editor on Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray.

This book format is in the same structure of Murray’s original, written from sermons given throughout his time and published in 1897. The chapters are short, but very dense, often causing me to sit and ruminate for days on one before coming back into reading. You walk through what surrender is, an absolute surrender and what that life defined by surrender will be. Murray talks about being a living sacrifice, and to be alive but fully dead to self.

The deeper I dug into this book to read and review, I found myself connecting to the reflections and observations, praying the prayers at the end of each chapter as I began wrestling with absolutely surrendering to God as well. Murray helps one who struggles with giving up all of oneself to God and those that didn’t realize just how tight they had gripped that sliver of self for so long.

I highly recommend this new collection of classics re-released by B&H for anyone seeking to delve deeper into the pillars of faith as they provide challenges to faith that are still applicable today, while giving questions to further ponder and dig into individually or as a group. This book would be a great small group study or to read on your own. Warning though, your surrender is at stake…and not just some of it. But absolutely all of it.

 


B&H sent this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review of this book.

A Can’t Do Attitude

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This week y’all, it’s been a doozy. While it may not compare to others’ weeks and what some are currently working through, it’s been a week of coming to bear out some things I have been wrestling with for a good long stint.

One of those being the mindset I have clung to that I can do it all myself. For a while I was claiming Philippians 4:13 in the midst of my doing, and fretting, and frustrations. Oh yes, I CAN do all things was what I would tell myself. My word did I misuse that verse to do things in vain and in my own way.

This week I went in to a couple of coworkers and said “I have to admit defeat and ask for help on some of these responsibilities.” To which one of them lovingly looked at me and said “It’s not defeat to ask for help, and we’ve been waiting for you to ask.” So y’all, I was wearing my weariness, anxiety, stress and CAN DO-ness out there for all to see. And it was not pretty…believe me I see it.

But from then on, I felt lightness as if a burden had been lifted from my back that I didn’t have to trudge along with. Over the last 24 hours I have thought about that and my attitude of “I can do this, and this and this and this.” I realized that I had made it a “had to” attitude instead of a “can but will ask for help” attitude. I made it the mandate to do it all, no one else did.

You see when I go back into Philippians 4 and point to verse 13 that I can do all of this through Him who strengthens me, I found that I hadn’t really looked for strength in Him first of all. Secondly, when I read the verses surrounding it in context I see that others were sharing in Paul’s distress, they were seeking to care for him in the state he was currently in and they had not had the opportunity to do so.

In my striving of can do-ness on my own, I wasn’t allowing others the opportunity to live out their God-given care for me. I was pursuing my own definition of success through a “have to” attitude that I had put upon myself instead of stepping into His strength, putting on humility and leaning into the beautiful community of care from those around me. Pursuing the right things with the wrong attitude will get us to the same spot as pursuing the wrong things.

I had to realize that I cannot do it all and I have to relinquish that sinful mindset. I can ask for help, I can be weak and seek strength that can only come from Him, and I can understand that it’s an opportunity for others to come along in my journey as well. It’s in fact not about me at all, and the more I realize that the more I’ll see it’s all about Him.

He can do and He does.

Living Sacrifices

It’s the 4th of July here in the States. A time when we celebrate our independence from that monarchy and reign of the British so long ago. I joked it was the original Brexit on a couple of social media platforms because IT WAS. We often take this time in America to show our respect for the Founding Fathers of our quite young nation (look at other countries y’all, we’re pretty green behind the ears still) and honor those who have sacrificed for our country through battles and wars.

We are very sentimental that way as Americans, remembering the sacrifices of others to give us the independence we exercise through tubing on the lake, shooting off fireworks until the neighbors call the cops, and playing Florida Georgia Line at top volume. We like that word sacrifice alot around this time of year, what with Memorial Day and 4th of July, and the regal nature in which we honor those that ultimately sacrificed their lives so that we can not be under a reign of a monarchy or dictatorship.

But I don’t think we like that word being applied to our lives, or what we are asked to do. It’s good for others, but no so much ourselves. Believe me when I say I wrestle with this just as much. Because sacrifice means something has to be given up, it has to be surrendered…or even killed. So I look at Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 12 and start to see the bigger tension evolving.

“That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

See we are living…breathing…acting…doing…and yet, we are to be sacrificing ourselves for God, to Him, because that is the reasonable response to the God who saves, redeems, loves and sacrificed Himself for us. It means to me I have to kill off myself in every moment, give myself over not to my whims, desires and emotions, but the Spirit within me. Not choosing this world (as Paul continues on telling us) to live into but transformed by Him in every single part of us. It is the surrender of ourselves for the sake of something better-the very best we could ever encounter, God Himself.

So when I want to dwell in this place of sacrifice and seeing how others have given of themselves I cannot help but look at the sacrifice of Christ and the daily act as this living being of sacrificing myself unto Him, His reign, His rule and His will. Not for some selfish pursuit or half-hearted liberty I can conjure up but for the ultimate liberty in Christ.  Not to pursue my own life, but one sacrificed fully for the very best thing…Christ.

Oh that I wish it were as easy as I like to deceive myself that it is. But sacrificing myself and all that selfish desire, ambition and emotion is hard. The person that says it’s easy is lying, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean I give in and lean back into a self-pursued life. It means going hard into transforming my mind, knowing my strength is not my own, but Christ’s in every. single. moment. if I but ask, seek with my heart. Y’all, this Christian life of sacrificial living isn’t easy but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to surrender my attitude, my mouth, my mind, my weakness…every single bit of me even the parts I really don’t want to give up, to know I am serving God in faith.

So where might you need to live as a sacrifice today? What area has God been hammering in on you that needs to be killed off in order to be set apart?

Rough Road Ahead

A few weeks back as we were traveling home from vacation, I saw a road sign stating “Rough Road.” Now, we were in South Carolina so that’s pretty much all of their roads. (Not sorry Palmetto peeps, because your roads are the worst, and that’s saying something from this Nashville gal) As we bumped along a bit I took a mental note of that sign, thinking more about it in response to life than to the physical conditions of the road.

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job with no explanation or reason as to why. Thinking back on some still fresh memories of that day and subsequent days, the road ahead that picture of the “Rough Road” sign came to mind once again. Because I started wondering if we’d appreciate knowing that a rough road was ahead in our lives.

If we could be warned of rough patches on the road of life ahead, would we want to know?

Would it make it any easier to bear? To live through and be on that road, knowing it was coming? I’ll be honest and say that no, it wouldn’t. In fact the knowledge of impending bumpiness makes it harder in many ways. We start to work in our means, (we do that anyways alot of the times) but we try to control the situation, the consequences or the people involved. The warning allows for preparation yes, but preparation on whose part? And what does that prep look like in our lives?

When rough roads approach us in life, do we grip the wheel and just endure it while we are on it, or do we lean in to see if there’s a change of course needed, or if we need to pull off and rest a bit in how we’ve been traveling that road? A rough road gives us the ability to see what’s lying underneath where we’ve been trodding, revealing to us what we are made of and on what/who we are relying. The signal of a rough road gives us false senses of reliance upon ourselves to avoid it or be able to get through it quickly.

Would I have wanted the warning of being fired? I have to say now, two years later, that while a warning of what lies ahead would be nice, I know that in it all I found that I was more trusting of God, not knowing how the road would wind and move, but I had to trust that it would move me more towards Him than anywhere else.

It was a rough road, and one that required healing, provision and trust beyond what I could muster up for myself alone. A rough road ahead doesn’t so much need a warning sign as it does a belief that the rough road is a part of our journey home.