Battles, Direction and God

If you haven’t noticed, I have been studying the life of David lately. If you don’t know, I am a Paul lady. Like hard-core crushing on him fandom. I have been for years. But the more I dig into David’s life I see why he was the man after God’s own heart. I see not so much the perfection of kingship, the shepherd turned victor.

I see the imperfect. I see the man. I see a man who went hard to be in wait for God’s promise, who was humbled in worship of God because he saw glimpses of the glory of God, promises fulfilled by only Him. I connect to the intimacy David sought with God. But the biggest piece I am learning in David’s life is that he went to inquire of God. Not of others, not of his own mind. He went to God before anyone or anything else early in his life (we aren’t to Bathsheba yet y’all).

Before engaging in a battle, he went to God.

game-thrones-battle-bastards.jpg

I mean c’mon y’all. Do you do that? I’ll own that I do not. I let worry, fret and anxiety rule my mind and heart rather than going into intimate time before God to seek His will and direction in it. I either avoid battle or bear down straight into it a la Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards in season 6 (you know what I mean). I let emotions rule, or compartmentalize them away into avoidance.

Yet David, the great warrior and king in the Old Testament stops to convene with God, to seek God above all else. Because that’s what God desires of us, to seek Him out and be in intimate relationship with Him. To be the first we run to in times of worry and anxiety, not the very last.

It means instead of running through best and worst case scenarios, we run to His feet. Instead of searching through our friend list to text out for prayers, we search our hearts and minds for the lies that have shaken our foundation in Him. Instead of posting to social media vague diatribes for commentary, we sit in silence with God, listening for Him.

My life, my heart, could do with more of God and less with worry. Could yours? When the worries come, and they will, can we cling to God alone, taking them to Him and then listening for Him? Can we still our anxious hearts in the firm foundation of Christ, and allow our sense of control to be relinquished to God?  Can we turn to songs of praise in the midst because the Lord of all has given us a place of refuge and is in control of it all?


Psalm 34 is not only a song of David but a battle cry of facing anxiety and worry. It’s one that I have found to bring me back to intimacy to God instead of running after the fear misplaced in this world and circumstances. Recently I stumbled upon the Psalms album from Shane and Shane with their version of Psalm 34 as well.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalm 34: 1-8 (ESV))

Rings, Babies and a Steadfast Spirit

Ever have one of those times where you know you are being utterly ridiculous and yet you find that you just dive head first into it? Just me? Oh good.

9fdc122dc2de2dd09e55c2c0b7f97beb--funny-engagement-quotes-engagement-announcement-funnyI have a multitude of friends who are currently pregnant right now, like it’s crazy how many women I know expecting in the next three months. It’s that stage of my life where the weddings have subsided and the pregnancies have come flooding in. And I am so overjoyed for each one, to see God use my friends to raise up the next generation. Unfortunately I found that feelings and emotions of being left out, a reminder of the lie that I am alone kept bubbling up at times.

When I saw a woman I was distant friends with post that she was now engaged it caused all the emotions of being left out and doubting God to just flood out of nowhere. I am truly happy for her, but in that moment, I made it about me. I made it about the lies that are fed to us over and over again, to doubt God and to step outside of His promise for our lives. I was shocked at how suddenly it felt like a tide of just utter bitterness, jealousy and outright frustration with God Himself came pouring out of me. Y’all, it wasn’t pretty and it definitely wasn’t the marker of a  friend or a guarded heart.

It was a flashing warning light that an area of my heart had been breached and was undergoing attack. That I had allowed it to go unmaintained and unchecked because so easily I slip into this comfort zone of life and put myself on autopilot. For a bit I sat in that mood, in that temperament of just irritation and doubt. As I turned to the consoling nature that social media likes to tell us it is, a verse was at the very top of a post and it dug right into the real issue-a clean heart and a steadfast spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 

Jealousy and doubt had wormed in and shaken my spirit. I had allowed them in because I wasn’t resting in the steadfast spirit God establishes. Nope, I was resting in the comfort of my own strength (which is just weakness with an ego in the flesh) and my own way. I was deliberately choosing to doubt instead of trust in what I know to be true. To trust in WHO I know to be true.

And it’s hard y’all. It’s hard not to live in that jealousy and doubt, to not just walk away and do it in my own way, but He’s shown again and again He is faithful to what He has promised-which is my good. Not what I define as my good, but the very best that He knows there is for me. But I have to make the choice, over and over again, to seek Him to create that clean heart in me and to renew that spirit of steadfastness. I have to be dutifully firm in the spirit He has created in me. Unwavering when so many things seek to buffet me about.

It doesn’t mean I don’t get excited when friends share their news of an engagement or an expected arrival of a baby, or the purchase of a new car or a thousand other things. Because that is God’s goodness for them in their lives, and He’s got some pretty amazing things planned for me as well if I but remain steadfast in spirit. It means I deliberately choose to not doubt in those moments, but take them to Him with an honest heart.

Getting Taught

My first year of college I was a double major in history and math, with a secondary education emphasis. I wanted to teach. In my high school years I was heavily influenced by math teachers and an English teacher. I fell in love with history thanks to my dad and AP History class. Even at 18 I saw how impactful teachers could be on the life of a bratty teen like myself and felt I owed them more than just an A in class, but to turn and give back myself.

On Tuesday of Holy Week, the Great Teacher went in the temple to teach. Christ, during His time here on earth, often taught through the lens of parables, illustrating an idea through story in order to bring about revelation on the hearts of those who hear. He took the harder lessons to be learned and brought them to the people who most needed to hear them.

But here we sit looking at Mark 11-13, and the hard words of Christ teaching and the Pharisees interrupting, to try to trap Him or ensnare Him. They bring lofty legalistic views, with religion carried on their shoulders rather than trusting in Christ, the God-man Himself right before them, teaching and preaching, pointing to the time of redemption.

They doubt His authority, seeking to be their own authority. I have to say, we all are alike in that vein. We prefer to use ourselves more often to rule than allowing Christ to rule in and through us. As one writer states, “We are not really interested in surrendering that rule to anyone else.” We see further on that they fear others more than they fear God, when they make decisions based upon the crowd’s opinion instead of the words of Christ before them. They chose the safe route, the expedient one rather than what was true, right.

Sounds a bit like me some days, alot of days. Choosing for myself based upon the opinion of others often instead of what Christ commands of me. When I look at this text I cannot help but ask myself, “Does what others will think of me hinder me from moving more towards Jesus?” Do the lessons He teaches me alter me in a way that moves me more towards His likeness or more towards the crowd’s opinion?

In many ways I am just as they were, questioning whether this Teacher has authority and influence in my life, whether I would allow the opinions of others to bare weight over His command. So on this Tuesday as I sit and look at the Teacher and His teachings that day thousands of years ago, I have to seek to know how much of all this is a reason to mask my own fear of what faith might cost me socially, relationally, and culturally. Whether I will be taught or continue to think I am the teacher.

Dry Ground and a River

We are in a bit of a drought here in middle Tennessee, and across the South in general, this year. We are close to four inches below where we typically are for this time of year, and you can see the markers of it. Dry, cracked ground…hard soil…plants succumbing to the changing season with sighs of thirst.

I was thinking on this as I read a portion of Joshua recently. The children of Israel were again to cross a river to get to the Promised Land. They were the children of the ones who did the initial crossing out of Egypt with Moses as their leader. Now they listen to Joshua, the main ordained as the leader of Israel into the Promised Land. They didn’t cross by boat, or shear might.

img_0008

No, God led them through, with specific plans. It wasn’t on dry land that He showed up, proving once more that He was with them in this journey. While we don’t see much hesitancy here from the people as we do the first go ’round with Moses, I cannot help but think they are calling to mind the stories they’d heard from the prior crossing.

Even when we recall past faithfulness on God’s part, it’s hard to not desire the dry ground to walk on. It’s easier to walk on dry ground, what we believe to be sure footing and stability. We are able to see it for ourselves and know the path before us. But here God is, calling us to the river once more, to walk through the physical representation of Living Water for our lives to reach the Promised Land. He calls us to obediently walk through that water with Him, knowing His strength in it is far more than anything we can accomplish on dry ground.

Because let’s be honest, dry ground is good for nothing. You can’t till it, it doesn’t bear fruit, it’s not fertile and it most definitely will not take seed. But we go after dry ground, we long for it rather than the trust of the river…crossing the unknown with our only surety being that the Living Water is with us, flowing around us.

The more I am called to cross over waters the more I am seeing He is taking me through them to the land He promised. While dry ground may bring stability for a season, the damage of the drought will far outweigh the fears silenced in obedience.

Fear, Webs and Moses

Never let fear keep you from pursuing hard after a God promise, a calling to your heart by God.

Y’all I say those words. I roll them over in my head and my heart. And then I find any excuse not to pursue a calling.

I meddle in distractions, search out ways to run, and call it “good for me in the moment.” I wonder out and climb down, I hide behind a camera lens and even a blank screen just to not live out what God is pushing me wholeheartedly into, simply out of fear.

IMG_4702.JPG

It’s the whispers of a failed friendship after seven years, the residue of single life, the doubt of comparison and screams of “it’s already been done, better.” Fear can grip us in the dead of night or the middle of the day. It can creep in or shout at us. It catches us in a web that sprung up overnight, unawares. It cocoons us, as we lay silent, dormant, giving over who we are to fear.

I let it. I choose it. I camp out in pajamas, full of stubbornness and turn to someone else’s writing to say “I’m not enough,” in a vapid attempt to shirk off this responsibility. I point to my voice, my experiences, my history and my present to say “Someone else please” to God. Just like with Moses, He says “No, it’s you I am seeking for this.”

Funny how I have been here before, but I don’t mark this place. I don’t set out a memoriam to the war I have with fear and with God. I don’t want to remember the removal of shoes because the holy ground He meets me at, finding me in the fear and pulling it all away. Instead I point to past stories, of my inadequacies…all excuses. He listens with such patience, only to say once more “You are who I have called for such a time as this, for such a journey.” It wells up inside of me, until fear is no longer present. It’s not marked by my story, but His. It’s not reminding me of who I am, but Who He is. It’s not about where I find myself now, but where He has already been.

So fear greets me, but God envelops me. He says no more to the excuses, no more to the disobedient heart, and no more to the distraction of life. He says “You are designed for this” and in my weakness, He is my strength. To open my heart, to speak words He gives and to be what He has called me to be.

Obedient.

I have been wrestling with thoughts of “Is this it? Is this what the next 40 years will look like God?

And I wallow in it y’all. I find it pulls me into a darker existence, questioning circumstance, a future and not allowing any room for hope in the midst. At times it can be all-consuming, filling and overflowing within and out. Sometimes it is just a passing whisper of a moment.

But it is there.

In my mind, rolling about like a pinball that keeps banging off the bumpers, and never quite hitting the pocket to complete the round. Instead it gets bumped into prayer in a light hearted way, then stronger into a frustration and then a cry of desperation to God.

“IS THIS IT?!!?”

Then I read a small phrase, blinking or hurrying through reading would make me miss it. In fact I did until someone pointed it out. There it stands, maybe not mattering to you in Numbers 21:4, but hitting me so hard that I had to sit in it’s power almost breathless.

“But the people became impatient because of the journey.” (HCSB)

That’s it. The mic drop moment God had with me. Oof.

The Israelites had just come from battle, and the journey was growing longer as we all know if you’ve looked at Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy or went to Sunday School as a child. The journey was dragging on, and their impatience in it grew by the day.

Right there is where I see myself. Where I see the thoughts of “Is this what it’s like from now on?” I am the impatient one on the journey. He doesn’t want me focused on the next thing, the next goal or project or the bump in my career (or a completely new one). He wants me focused on His leading, just as He led them with a cloud through the wilderness.

There’s a covenant and a hope of eternity in the promised land, just as He did with the Israelites. But in this time, season, in the now? He desires none of that extra. He knows me better than myself, and that the extra tends to get made into idols that are worshiped rather than Him. Idols of work. Idols of distraction. Good things in and of themselves that I then fashion into false gods that sit on a throne that is only made for Him.

Just as it’s guaranteed that a journey will involved mountains, valleys, and plateaus there is also the guarantee of rest, or I simply wouldn’t continue. Just as they came to a rest after the battle at Mount Hor, time dwelling on our own desires for ourselves instead of resting in the Presence right before us allows for impatience to grow. It’s part of the journey to take a rest, to give time to re-energize before taking up your pack once more to journey. While we often have maps or trails that allow us to see the destination, the end point, I must realize and trust there’s an eternity on this path with Him. I already know the conclusion, as His promise is sealed. The means by which to get there-a relationship with Him, is the end as well.

While I grumble in the moment, asking “What now?! Is this it?” He’s saying “Am I not enough?” He wants this moment, this season, this life with Him, in His Presence more than anything else we could fathom. Because He wants us. He wants good for us. He wanted a relationship with us so badly He gave Christ for it. It’s for this time when I would choose Him above the doubt of the next thing, the impatience of a slower journey, or the unknown of time that is not my own.

I may utter words of prayer that ask “Is this what it looks like?” while He is continually responding, “Isn’t it worth spending with me?”

Oof.

It’s those times I sit and stare at a blinking icon…a blank screen. Those are the times I hear whispers of doubt and fear. Or the times I read another’s words and the doubt floods my heart.

This same heart that beats out of time when I get excited about a topic, ecstatic about sharing it with just one other person.

Fear got loud in 2015 in many ways. It shouted, it screamed, it threw a fit like that three year old directly behind you in the checkout line getting groceries and the woman in front of you is paying with a check, a check yall. Fear told me that I obviously wasn’t good enough in so many areas, why would I think I could write? I wouldn’t be able to get a job with the blog I have, no one wants to hear my thoughts on life, the Bible or just random things.

That goal I had at the start of 2015…to finish that book? Yeah it didn’t happen. Yes I wrote several chapters but I kept sliding it to the back of the line of priorities. I kept distracting myself with excuses and lies of “well if I cared enough I would have it done by now.” Or “no one wants to read what a girl who is single have to say about marriage.” They just kept on coming for most of the year.

Fear made me feel like a failure, but ultimately I made me feel like a failure. I allowed fear to yell loud and yell long into my life in 2015 into some pretty profound and deep-seeded places. I let fear get the very best of me from start to end in 2015. Until I decided that I can write. That just because I don’t have a degree in English, or a multiple best-sellers under my belt does not discount me from the table as a writer.

If this is a passing whim, it’s been settled in for six years. Six years of writing is not a passing whim, it’s a passionate pursuit of something I am gifted with. Some days that means I talk about television I am crushing on and some days that means I share my heart on God’s pursuit of more of me.

That blinking white page still scares me…but not to inaction. To words overflowing. To choosing writing over tv, over reading, and over distractions. It takes my breath away like the sun rising every morning as I leave my house for work. The job I go to does not define me, even these words I write do not define me because fear doesn’t get to define me. It is my choice to write-well or poorly. But it is my choice to live into that giftedness He has given.

We are 14 days into 2016 and I can say, from here, fear has no place. He thinks thoughts of peace towards me to give me a hope and a future. Not of fear and not in definition. But hope…a future…right now, that future is blinking at me full of space to fill.

 

here’s to living it….