Moore of Christ, Less of Them

I read the words of Beth Moore Sunday morning, 280 characters splayed across my smartphone. Words I couldn’t put to what I had been feeling and living in the last nine months. A heart conflicted and wondering. A heart struggling to rectify two pieces of life.

Emotions bubble up, along with my hackles. I’d get angry, self-righteous, and then remorseful. Over the last nine months it’s often felt like it was building to something in my life, a turning point…but it’s been more of a birth than anything. A birth of a heart and life that was becoming too dependent upon emotion and hurt feelings.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I’m just saying you can trust Jesus. Don’t let anybody who failed you confuse you about Jesus. Ain’t nobody Jesus but Jesus. Give the real one a real chance. You’ve missed Him so much. You just did not realize He was the one you were missing.</p>&mdash; Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) <a href=”https://twitter.com/BethMooreLPM/status/1046375475017383936?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 30, 2018</a></blockquote>
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I had allowed someone else-several someone elses-be the influencers in my relationship with Christ, be the key reason I’d distanced myself from my faith, my church, and from God. I’d supplanted looking to Jesus to looking at the actions of individuals for nine months.

Reading Beth’s words, I found they applied to me in a different way than she might have intended, but deep within I felt the Spirit stirring me to address what I’d been allowing to grow inside of me. Maybe you needed them too. Maybe you needed a reminder that people aren’t Jesus. Their words aren’t gospel and their actions against you are not serving Him, no matter their Christian status in the church or community. Christ is Christ to you, and for you, and wants to walk with you through the hurt of it all. He wants to speak to your emotions and feelings, that the devil will attempt to manipulate and use against you.

On Not Being Okay

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.

A Semicolon

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.

Do I Matter to God?

I heard him rattle of phrases such as Daniel in the den, Moses at the burning bush, David and Goliath. It’s that “Go Big or Go Home” mentality but with a spiritual twist on it. As believers we often point to the big works of God and want that for ourselves. To be plucked out of shepherding of the field to take down a giant. From unknown in the hard work of daily tending to on the largest stage of battle slaying a mouthy colossus of a man, showing him our God is bigger. Our ark to build for safety away from the sin-filled world around us.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want that big moment. To go from unknown to known. From feeling meaningless in our work for God to meaningful. When we get the small or seemingly mundane task, we fight against it. We wage in the tension of the small, our obedience in it because it feels like there should be more. We should be more. More known. We wonder if we’ve been forgotten by God in our small things. Are we not special enough to get the call for something big for God? Where’s our ark? Where’s our Isaac? Can we not be trusted with such big works for Him?

And so we give up in our daily, small works for Him. Our faith falters, we stumble in our egos and emotions. We question, doubt, we throw our hands up in frustration. We believe ourselves to be less than everything He’s said we are to Him, to one another. Or better yet, we strive after arks of our own building and battles that aren’t ours to wage. All as a means to make ourselves known more to God. To be seen by the One who sees all, who knows all-especially those whom He created…that’s us. Because we feel as though we don’t much matter unless He’s giving us something big to do, a platform or cause, a war to fight on His behalf that we’ve not been called to. We busy ourselves with work that isn’t ours all for the banner of being known, of mattering to God.

Mary and Martha come to mind…one recognized the immediacy of the task at hand-being with Christ, called to obedience in sitting at His feet, being in His Presence, knowing Him. The other? Well she looks a lot like me. Busying herself to matter to Him, all the while He’s asking me to come sit, be in His Presence. He’s whispering that I matter because He’s chosen to dwell with me, here and now. Not for what I can do big for Him but for simply meeting Him there, in my small, in my mundane, in my daily. Hour to hour, moment to moment.

That “Go Big or Go Home” mentality that calls us to this new year with new pages to write on our stories may look like small moments. Small yeses in the mundane, hourly obedience and living out the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness in the immediate things. So maybe that means sitting a bit longer at His feet, in His Presence rather than rushing to organize that conference or speak from a platform. Maybe that is what matters most to Him-your attention to Him and not to the stuff.

Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we matter to Him. We matter so much He came to be with us, to go before us and be the sacrifice in our place, to take on our guilt, shame, sin so that we could be in relationship with Him, with God, and the Holy Spirit. He chose us because we matter to Him…so maybe your obedience in the small, in the seemingly mundane is meaningful. Maybe today He just wants you, your attention, your presence with Him.

Advent Joy

It’s the start to the third week of Advent, where we look at JOY. But I have to say I am just not feeling joyful. I’m not.

I anticipate and look forward to this time of year so much and yet I find myself sitting in this time of shear unjoyfulness. There’s just this immense lack of it in my heart and mind. All around me I see it, and I desperately want it, but it’s just not there. It’s as if this overwhelming grief and sadness has just enveloped life for me.

It’s jarring to even admit because I have been trying to cover it up, put on a mask and smile and be joyful when deep within I ache and want to shut off everything and every one. It’s the glimpses of a seeping depression coming through cracks in my life that I have attempted all too poorly to patch up with manufactured things, stuff that doesn’t fill those cracks.

The opposite of joy is fear, it’s the basis and the origination of sin from the very beginning. Fear of missing out, fear of being alone, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. It compounds and mounts, leading to more of me trying to figure out or patch it up. To overcome the fear with confidence and gusto. But the more I tried in my own might I kept finding the grasp I was holding onto was slipping.

While the world looks at joy as emotion evoked by success or well-being, Biblical joy is a fruit of the Spirit, born out through labor and toiling, by pruning and stripping back. James tell us that we are to count it all joy when we are face to face with trials. It’s hard, it’s difficult and we often feel guilty for not feeling this exuberant joy all the time when it looks as though things are great on the outside.

This morning as I struggled to face the week of Joy in Advent I pulled open His Word to Zephaniah 3. (Yes, it’s a book in the Bible, but I did have to look in my index to find it too) These words cut deep to a heart struggling in fear and searching to make joy on it’s own.

“Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak.
The Lord your God in your midst, the Might One, will save,
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

We’re not to fear, to not resign ourselves to hopelessness. He is with us, the Warrior God fighting for us. He rejoices over us. He quiets our hearts with His unending love. He sings over us. Words of love, beauty, mercy, grace and JOY. He joys in us when we can’t find joy for ourselves. HE is our JOY. He is MY JOY, when fear tries to take hold and pull me under. When fear thinks it has won the battle in my mind and heart. He brings JOY to fight, songs of redemption is His battle cry, His strength in my hands for taking up the fight.

Joy may not look like a smiling, successful, fortunate turn of life. It may be the cries of the heart in battle, with God singing over us as He is with us. But JOY has come for us. To be with us. And for today, for now, we cling to a joy in Christ’s coming that brought hope, peace and love with the joy of today.

 

Rushing Christmas

So I put up my Christmas tree yesterday. Yep, Veterans’ Day…November 11th, and the Christmas tree is up. I have seen alot of ill-will and shade thrown this year about the Christmas décor and music coming too early.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Thanksgiving. I have done multiple years of thankfulness projects right here on this blog. Thanksgiving morning I have a tradition, and this year I’ll be running a 5K to add to it. Me and Macy’s parade are bffs and I watch it all while I begin prep work.

But there’s something about the spirit of Christmas that I want to pull in close. The hope. The joy. The peace. Especially this year. I yearned for that sense of awe in a year that has seen change and hurt and worry sweep across everyone’s hearts and lives. I want to wrap up in the holidays this year. Last year I said no to so much to slow it down and create space for my heart. This year I wanted to usher it in fully and be known and to know the season deeply. To rejoice and be filled with gladness.

I may be wrong but I feel as if the world is groaning for the holiday season, for the Christmas season. The anticipation of drawing into the birth of Christ, to remember the thrill of Hope, our weary world rejoicing at Him coming to be with us. I have this sense of pulling in close to His with-ness and seeing the hope abounding. To celebrating His desire to be with us, and our response of awe and wonder. Our coming to give Him the gifts that can never match the Gift of Him.

So I have my tree up on November 11th, and the filling of a heart drawing into the Christmas season knowing His with-ness is reason to rejoice. A reason to push the season a little earlier and usher in joy, peace, and Christ Himself a bit closer to this world-weary heart.

Growing up I don’t remember being grounded much. That’s not to mean I was the perfect child (far from it y’all) because I was met with a spanking instead when my mouth got me in trouble. A grounding would mean my oft-times introverted self would have a reason to sit and read for hours instead of playing with the majority of boys that grew up in our neighborhood.

Being grounded or getting grounded has taken on the connotation of that of airplanes more than it’s intended meaning. We’ve been there when a plane has gotten grounded, and the disparate sighs of the passengers and the crew too become the soundtrack of a gate. Or it’s been our own and we scurry to try to get around it, finding another one to hop onto to bypass the grounding. But being grounded as a person means you are stable, realistic, unpretentious. Wouldn’t you want that for your plane as well as your character?

Maybe that grounding as a kid was so that we could be more grounded as an adult, emotionally and mentally stable, realistic. Being grounded gives us time to think about what put us there to begin with as a kid. What consequences our actions (or words) hold for us and those around us.

I thought on this as well when I saw Paul’s words to the Ephesians of “being rooted and grounded in love”. And then again his words to those at Colosse, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” That grounding means rooted, holding fast, and found tapped into the very love of Christ and hope of the gospel. Being grounded isn’t a punishment but a reflection of character and of Christ Himself, who we are called to reflect. That to be grounded means we are unmoving and not blown about by whims and feelings, but connected to the source of our rooting, the True Vine Himself.

I think for me I’d much rather be grounded more and more as an adult, finding that if it’s in love it ends up setting up roots that grow deep and secure not in my own actions, words, whims and feelings but in Christ’s, in the very Hope of the world.