Barbie costumes, Armor, and Strength

I remember few Halloween costumes growing up as a kid. There’s only one photo of me in one (hi second kid over here), and it was taken by the school during lunch. One of the ones I remember vividly though is of Barbie. If you are a child of the 80s and early 90s you’ll remember our costumes didn’t exactly resemble the ones of today. By that I mean it was a plastic mask and essentially a painted trash bag you slipped over your school clothes. The trash bag often was painted to give you the idea of a costume. But it was a trash bag and a flimsy plastic mask held on by a string that inevitably broke 5 minutes into the night.

What brought this to mind was not the fact that today is Halloween, but what I was reading in Ephesians 6. As Paul starts to conclude his letter we see nestled in the very last paragraphs his instructions on arming ourselves for daily battle as believers. He lists out exactly what we should be arming ourselves with, and that it should be the full armor of God. We cannot go into battle with just a helmet and shoes, or a shield and a belt. He is pointing to the very real need to have a complete armor to face the things which wage against us daily.

Many of us, if we grew up in the church, have heard of the full armor of God. We might even remember flannel-graphs being pulled out and we dress up a figured with the items. But as I read the garments for battle I kept thinking of that stinkin’ Barbie costume. The image kept coming to mind as I tried again and again to focus in on what Paul was saying.

Then I went back a verse to see these words anew:

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.

(v. 10, CSB)

You see I too often try to strap on all my battle gear and armor without taking into account that it’s of my own making. That I am essentially putting on that trash bag and plastic mask for battle daily rather than leaning into the strength of the Lord. I am taking plastic facades of my own weakness to fight against principalities and powers that know exactly what will take me down, and yet I seem to be fine with that. I choose my own lack of strength instead of allowing myself to be strengthened by the Lord and given His strength. I put on trash bags instead of righteousness, flimsy strings instead of salvation.

So when Paul’s words struck anew about fashioning each day with the full armor of God it’s not in my strength (or true lack thereof) but in the Lord’s that I put it on. Not in my former self, that was all too dependent upon me to take care of things, but in my new clothes those of a new self…one that recognizes the need for the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit and all the rest for each day. Not more than today but just the armor of today specifically for battle. My armor looks to be more prepared and strengthened in what it should be rather than that Barbie costume I tried to hide behind.

It’s About Time

Time is a precious commodity to us all. We believe we can control it but in fact we have absolutely zero control over time in general-it moves whether we want it to or not. I see posts of friends’ kids with the caption “time slow down” and the inevitable countdown to Christmas clocks as well. So you see we want both, we want it to slow down and to speed up.

timeAlong with our talent and our treasure (money y’all), time is ours to give as my pastor likes to point out. We each are given the same, but with our differing treasures and unique talents we can choose how to spend out of our time bank so to speak.

I have to say for me personally, I will choose the least productive and effective way to spend my time when I have a deadline on my writing (I currently have two). Or if I’m honest anytime I find that I could be working on my book. I will scroll through Netflix to find something to binge or go wander through thrift stores instead of buckling down to do the work. I admit that to y’all simply because I know we can’t all have holy moments of spending our time 24 hours a day, seven days a week devoted to focused spending of it. But I do feel that our culture has gotten to a place of more time wasted than ever before, and I am a contributor over here.

So when we read Paul’s words in Ephesians to “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live–not as unwise people but as wise–making the most of the time, because the days are evil,” (CSB) we find that how we spend our time is much more important than we like to believe. The days will lie to us, telling us we have more time when we don’t really know that it’s the case. In the NKJV version along with several others, Paul exhorts us to “redeem the time” and I find that a challenge. We get to choose how to invest our greatest commodity, the value of our time, and make the very most of it living as wise individuals in that knowledge.

And yet, do we?

Do you?

I know I don’t often do that…she says after watching three straight episodes of Stranger Things season 2. Instead I will waste time, spend it fruitlessly and frivolously as if I have control over how much is in my account to give. How and where we spend our time also reflects our hearts’ focus and desire, what we are valuing over everything else. Because when we spend time on things of no value or no worth, we are telling everything else to everyone else is less meaningful, that we value this so much more over that.

That realization gave me pause as I read Paul’s words once more to the Ephesians as he laid out living a life in Christ and our consistency in our lives in the walk with Him. Because I can spend it wisely or foolishly, but I’ll never get it back.

So how do I redeem my time? How are you making the most of the time you are given?

Walk A Mile

img_9895It was supposed to be one mile up and one mile back. On concrete stairs, in the cool of the morning. Yes, the incline was steep but it wasn’t something I hadn’t encountered before in hiking in the Smokies or beyond.

I hadn’t expected the heart talk, the overwhelming sense of God in our midst and the whispers of peace that kept flooding over me. We were a group of four women, three visitors and Nicole walking this walk so many Catholics have for penance. We were there to see and talk with Nicole, spend time with her and hear more about this city her family loves, the people and their desire to pursue Christ in the midst of so much darkness.

Of the week we spent in Italy I have so much to process and ruminate on, so much that God spoke into, revealed and called me to conviction on. But these precious hours on Thursday morning spent walking (and huffing and sweating) up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca was the stone of remembrance I’ll place on this trip.

That talk and that walk point me directly to these verses in Ephesians (which were talked about this last week coincidentally)…

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

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We walked a road for a short time hearing how God called Nicole’s family to travel this specific one. It also reminded me of the road He’s called me to travel. It’s not one sitting on my hands, just as Paul’s words are translated. It’s not one that is distracted by the view or the people passing by on their own travels. It’s about the one I am walking, the one He purposed specifically for me, unique to my gifts and talents He has blessedly given me.

The mile may be long, it may be far more arduous and heartrending than I had expected, but it’s one that I wish to be steady in climbing and alert for the time I am on it, obedient to the path He has called me to walk (and sometimes run) even when I am tired, out of breath and straining against my own will and lack of strength.

A Lesson from Taylor

I am not a fan of Taylor Swift, never really have been. We got off on a bad foot, and I just never became a fan. But I have tried, truly to appreciate the fact she does write from a young woman’s heart and she puts on quite a stage show (from what I have had people tell me).

Photo courtesy of Fashion Gone Rogue
Photo courtesy of Fashion Gone Rogue

Cut to last week’s GRAMMYs. I was enjoying the red carpet when she popped up to talk with Ryan Seacrest. Instead of changing the channel I left it on, to give her another shot…after all, she’s roughly the same age as many of my students and it helps to see her in that light instead of a heartbroken teenager. Towards the end of the interview, Ryan asked about her dress (obviously) and she said it was actually made of heavy laden chain-mail. That’s a full length shot over there ——————————————–>

She commented that it was disarmingly heavy to wear, as it was not faux anything but rather the mesh you’d get on chain-mail.

That moment is when I gained respect for Taylor Swift. That right there.

Why you ask? Why would a dress of all things garner some respect from me, someone who had long since written her off?

Because she is sending a message, one that we should all take note of. She’s been blasted, taunted, and poked fun at. (Often warranted, the hair flip during the performance later on would be an example) Yet she throws on some armor and out into the world she goes. Did you catch what she admits to as well? It’s heavy…surprisingly hard to carry.  She could have chosen another dress, probably from a thousand samples that were sent her, but she chose that one.

Do you put thought into what you are putting on each day? Do you prepare for daily life by dressing appropriately? By draping yourself in armor?

I know I don’t, but yet, in Ephesians Paul tells us to explicitly…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:11-14, NIV)

We put so much thought into what we wear, based upon our schedules, our plans throughout our day. But do we take the same time to think through the armor we are girding ourselves with? Do we realize we have an armor available to us daily to clothe ourselves in? I know without a doubt many days I rush through preparing for my day instead of being intentional to think through it.

We are gifted this armor, for daily use. To stand. Not to fall, not to stumble, not to even weaken us…but to STAND. How formidable of an opponent would the devil see you today if you were standing in full armor ready to do battle? It is heavy to carry, to wear in each moment, but how much more so are the consequences of going into battle unarmed?

Let’s learn a valuable lesson from Taylor today and thrown on our best armor that is hanging in our closets. To me, it wins Best Dressed every single time.

Ruining Others

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers…. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. 2 Timothy 2:14, 16-17b
Have you ever gotten caught on something you’ve said about someone? Have they confronted you in regards to it, or when you’ve made some remark to an individual about someone they reply with “Yeah, they’re my friend”? The embarassment and shame that fills you is almost too much to bear in those moments.

Let’s turn the table now…how does it feel to know someone was talking about you poorly? or to overhear them doing so? Have you confronted that individual to open the dialogue and figure out what the issue is? This too is embarassing and often quite hurtful.

No good comes from idle babble. Paul even references it several times, but most pointedly in his letter to Timothy as he was struggling in leadership. I find this plays out no where more than in the church. True it happens with friendships and workplace chatter, but I’m finding more and more the church is being torn apart through the mouths of godly people. I’m not pointing any fingers here, except at myself. Upon some long reflection lately I’ve seen that I do more yapping than I do listening. I run my mouth rather than run after God.
What’s more, I’m ruining others in the process. I’m ruining those who I run to gossip to, and those I gossip about. I’m calling it what it is, cause all it is is purely gossip. What is gossip? It’s profane, ungodliness…Ephesians 4:25 says all gossip is good for is disruption, conflict, and destruction. Do I want myself to be synonymous with those words?
It also tears down…others and myself. It tears down relationships between brothers and sisters, friends, family members, and spouses. It breaks the intimate relationship I have with God Himself. It grieves Him to hear me air out stuff that is not meant for others to hear. No corrupt word is to proceed out of my mouth (Eph. 4:29), and as I am made in the image of Christ, my mouth should be only edifying and encouraging.

I’ve been truly convicted in regards to this in my own life and it’s something I can no longer shove aside. If I am to be a reflection of the Holy God above in all ways, my mouth needs to shut tight. I pray that for those of you who know me and read this, you’ll hold me to this as I do struggle in it. I’m praying for the strength only God can provide in staying my mouth when it is not edifying, encouraging, lifting up, or praising.  There will be moments I have to walk away, I have to veer the conversation elsewhere, or I might be quite open and say “I cannot participate in this.” It’s torn down me for far too long, as I have torn down others. God wants to build, wants me to build for His kingdom.