Biopsies, Bandages and Sin

This week I had to have a biopsy done on an area that was of concern to my doctor. I was going in for a routine check-up and to ask about something in particular. This biopsy popped up out of no where once she did her check and it was a little startling. Biopsies are routine obviously as I have chatted with a couple of people about them since then, but let me tell you, I was not prepared for the slicing out of part of myself to then be looked at to determine if it was cancerous.

Nope. Not in the least.

I have a sheet of instructions for the next week or so to care for the area that was sliced, and let me tell you, it still hurts.

As I was re-bandaging the place this morning it got me to thinking about the unrealized areas of ourselves that often need to be sliced and put under a magnifying glass for review. Areas we weren’t expecting to get addressed but are brought to our attention rather suddenly and often hurt to have even a small amount removed for further examination.

We can be deceptively content with the comfort we find ourselves in-settled in the routines of life, only to be jarred with the painful revelation that all is not fine within us, whether it is our attitude, our words, our thoughts, our job, our relationships, our home, our hearts. So quickly it needs to be dug into, magnified and dissected to see if there’s a cancerous piece infecting it. It can be small and unassuming but when sin wiggles it’s way into those areas, it will spread and eat away from within.

So we allow God to reveal the deep down root of the sin in these areas, and then begin to apply healing to them. Slowly and deliberately, taking great care to see the cause of it in our lives and setting about through Him to remove it. Not just the spot, but the deep-seeded root of it. Then we seek out the balm and healing that only He can fully cover us in. It won’t be immediate, there will be waiting and echoes of the pain still there. But there will be lasting healing, there will be a space that once was eating away at us that is now filled with Him, His grace, His love, His forgiveness…with Him alone.

So maybe today we sit with our bandages, from where we have allowed Him to dig out the sin within, where we have examined what was within us and brought it to Him to dispose of. Bandages are not to be embarassments, they are proof of healing, proof of our weakness and inability to do it ourselves. Bandages show we are dependent upon something greater for healing, for restoration, for refuge. We wear them, not in shame but as evidence of His work in us.

Required Reading

required

We had required reading throughout my high school days, most of which I enjoyed. Some of which I truly did not…I am looking at you Cold Sassy Tree and Watership Down. I loved exploring the different genres and literature types, even if I struggled to write the papers on them or even to finish the book prior to summer ending.

I remember being taught allegory and theme, context and metaphorical writing. The entire time I kept seeing the true point of books, the thesis of many writers not being entertainment or story but a broader commentary on life, on humanity and the way we choose to live it out. When I finally got that, I fell in deeper love with books especially my two favorites Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby. 

When you are able to get beyond just a story, the words on a page, line after line, to see the root and heart of the author it changes so much about the story itself and how you digest it.

The same holds true for me in Scripture. When I dig in to passages that are more poetic and allude to something other than what they state, I find the beauty of God revealed all the more. That He knew we’d be a curious lot, one that wouldn’t settle for words at face value and so He gave us beautiful imagery and metaphor to describe our need, our deprivation and His provision.

I stumbled into such a passage this morning in Isaiah (Can you tell I am in the SheReadsTruth Lent study?). Where God is telling the barren woman to sing-a hard thing to do when one struggles with infertility. But when we look back in Scripture, we see the first three mothers of the Israelite nation were all barren-Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel, and yet they bore out a nation, fulfilled a promise set forth by God to Abraham at the beginning. Y’all. How beautiful those words of Isaiah 54 become to a heart and to barrenness.

We do not insure our own survival, we never have. God does. He brought forth Isaac in Sarah so that the nation of Israel might be born. He knew they’d turn from Him to other gods, enslaving themselves to idol worship and trusting in a king rather than the King. Then another child would be born, to usher in a new kingdom. To remind them, to remind us, that we are not survivalists.

We see from the barren woman singing that we too join her, because He provides, He makes a way. He chooses the most unlikely way to remind us that we do not do this life alone, that He is the author of our story and the focus of our song.

Maybe you’re having a hard time seeing the context of your situation, circumstances just seem to be coming at face value, but let me reassure you that God has a way of working this story into a song, the circumstances into a poem of beauty and rhyme that He is authoring. We have to be willing to honor His work and not be our own authors, we weren’t made for it. Maybe our lives should be required reading every once in a while so we can see His authorship written across it all, providing the beautiful song of joy for Him.

When Your Full Name is Used

In our neighborhood, every kid that lived there, all six of us, could tell you what the full name of the only other girl was. This was because she was four years younger than the rest of us, and often getting into trouble with us older kids when she shouldn’t be. Inevitably her mom would yell her full name from the front porch, and we all knew she was in for it. We’d turn to her and say, “Your mom wants you!” Not her brother, not any of us, but her. Still to this day, I can hear her mom clear as a bell yelling her name, and us all laughing out of relief because it wasn’t us getting called back home.

When I look through Isaiah 43-45 I cannot help but think of God calling His people, by their full known name back to Him. Back to Him that loves but disciplines, back to Him because they have turned and gone their own way. He’s calling their name because they alone are known by that name, He has given it to them. They ran from Him though, to be called by something else-servant. They went to be called idol worshiper and rebel. They went after their own things, making their own plans and way, only to realize that the people they’d sought to be a part of were not who they should have believed in, who they should have followed after.

Sound familiar?

Ever hear your name called out by God?

Oh, just me? Okay good. He calls our names, our full known names by Him alone to remind us of whose we are. Who we belong to ultimately and where it is we belong-in Him. Not in idol worship, not as a part of another culture or context. I am His. So clearly in Isaiah we are reminded, just as the Israelites were of this.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.”

He not only tells us at the start of Isaiah 43 that we are His, and He is calling us back by our names, but that we shouldn’t fear Him. We shouldn’t fear in a false and cowering way because He’s redeemed us. He’s gone before us and given Himself for us, but not for the junk we have run after but so that we could be in relationship with Him, living for Him and obediently living out His will.

We are known and we belong to Him. We often forget that until we find Him calling us back home, our full names being used across the heavens. Then we remember Whose we are, what we are made for and how we are to fully live.

Worshiping Today

“I worship at the altar of today’s circumstances, thinking they’re the most important and most pressing of all.”

-Lore Wilbert

I just came upon that quote this week and the magnitude of it struck me pretty deep. You see I think that’s become the norm for our lives, myself included. I cast aside the reminders of faithfulness, obedience and truth for today’s stuff. It may be a home renovation, encounter with a coworker (or your boss) or the lack of evening plans.

Whatever it may be, today’s calendar and the circumstances those don’t often capture become our intent focus. We lay every bit of it at the altar to those, all of ourselves, our emotions, our thoughts and our focus right there in front of today. We have slowly but very easily given up the long-run for the short-sighted of now, right this minute and immediacy.

As believers, we know a different time frame. One that looks at the long run, the marathon, the eternal. Our hearts yearn for it but our culture, our lives rush to be at the feet of today. It leads to doubting God, not taking Him into every circumstance and instead asking Him to rubber stamp our plans, actions and words. We rush to judgement, to pickup lines and to dinner. Instead we are called to be in presence with Him, to fully engage in relationship and conversation, to consultation and discernment, to the holy of each moment.

Y’all, I cannot tell you how I long for the holy of each morning, of time spent breathing in Him, His goodness and truth so that I can then breathe out His love, mercy and grace. The holy of time spent seeking His direction and will rather than my own, time engaging with people rather than ticking them off my to-do/to-meet list, to seeing the heart of the eternal in each and every person I interact with daily, from coworkers to strangers to my roommate.

Just for today. Maybe this weekend or even through the remainder of Lent can we lay down the idol worship of today for the invitation of the eternal into the present? Can we choose to give up the immediacy of our lives for the ever-guiding will of God in each circumstance?

Just for today, y’all.

Considering the Pursuit

During Lent I have been studying Isaiah along with thousands of women across the globe with SheReadsTruth. (I highly recommend them, HeReadsTruth and KidsReathTruth as well y’all) To be honest, Isaiah isn’t all that uplifting and hopeful of a book. In fact it’s chocked full of judgment and discipline on God’s own people.

Yowza…not what I was planning for when I set out in Lent.

I mean yes, there’s valleys full of armies coming for God’s chosen, promises of their captivity and judgment strewn across page after page of Isaiah. But God has a way of showing up in some pretty beautiful ways in the midst of our own plotting and destruction, our own demises we’ve brought on ourselves doesn’t He?

It’s hard to see the beauty of God when we are facing the ugliness of battle, the destruction of selves and lives based upon our own pursuit of other things. When we attempt to rescue ourselves, we find hope and faith are only in what we can accomplish, what we can strengthen in our own might. Even in Isaiah’s prophecy here in chapter 22 you can spot God trying to point them back to Him, to see the error of their own ways and call to mind His pursuit of His people once more.

You saw that there were many breaches in the walls of the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls or the water of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the one who made it, or consider the one who created it long ago.” (Isaiah 22:9-11, CSB)

We miss His creation, what He does and how He works when we pursue rescue on our own terms, in our own means, by our own strength and through our own wills. We miss HIM in the midst of pursuing after lesser things as He pursues us. Our flesh likes to tell us we can make it by in our ways, and then just give God the consideration of our plan. But we miss it all when we don’t consider the pursuit He is undertaking for us. For our hearts, minds, wills and ultimately us.

He desires us, we are His. And yet we find ourselves making weapons of war when He attempts to discipline us. We scurry to build walls upon the things in which He created and set forth long ago. We look to our hands to be our rescue and do not see the Creator reflected in them, instead we see ourselves and our means of saving. We don’t see the nail scars, but our own scars of our flesh.

While the words of Isaiah are hard to swallow, and truly reminding me of the current status of a nation, I am finding God is woven deeply into his words…the beauty of God pursuing us even in the hard, even in discipline and judgment, in order to bring us back. To remind us of Him and Who He is to us and for us and in us.

Thus I am reminded of these words from Tobymac, that ring so true in context of Isaiah, even in the difficult and hard of discipline…

My heart did all that it could to undue me,

but You loved me enough to pursue me.

 

Curses, Donkeys and Truth

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Those words from Numbers. Words spoken by Balaam to Balak, a man unwilling to listen. Balak had come to Balaam to curse the nation of Israel, but God has His plans and His words. He used Balaam, who just verses before seemed to be attempting to channel a curse against the people of Israel.

This goes further back to Balaam being summoned by Balak, and thus giving his words to the highest bidder, regardless of their intent or content. Yet God would not allow it. Back in the 22nd chapter of Numbers, God tells him flat out “only the word which I speak to you-that you shall do.” This evolves into the encounter with the donkey and the Angel of the Lord, where Balaam is confronted with the state of his heart on pursuing his own way instead of the one in which God sent him out on.

So we come back to these words here, Balaam’s second prophecy from God to Balak. These words y’all…

I don’t know about you but today my very soul needed to shout them. To myself. He doesn’t lie to us. We may do that to ourselves, but God most certainly does not. And we are really good at lying to ourselves on alot of things that God has never said. Then we turn and look to what He has said and have the audacity to doubt and question if what He said was true. Y’all, I am standing right in this guilt along with you…because we are all guilty of lying to ourselves and then turning the tables on God on what He’s said to us.

I know that there have been times I have put God in human form that is nothing resembling Christ. That I stand in reverence one moment worshiping Him and then turn and act like nothing He has said is true. I don’t love others as I love Him, I don’t honor my parents as I should, I grow jealous of others and their wisdom/platform/ministry. I don’t see the good He’s working in me because I turn my lies into solid truth about all things.

When He speaks, He makes good on it. He has proven over and over again that He is trustworthy, faithful and so very good. He cannot be pulled down to human form as we deem it and then question whether what He says is right, good and true. It’s us that needs the work, that has to rectify that while we cannot understand it some of the time, He is able. He is unchanging. He cannot renege on the promises He has given us. It is our responsibility as those who live in Christ to take those promises as truth, conforming and transforming our thinking to view life through that lens and not the human lies and doubt we so often jump to believing instead.


 

What truths do you need to believe from God today? What doubts have you supplanted in your heart, your mind that He’s told you to have no fear in?

These are things I wrestle with still, but know no matter what your heart and mind attempt to tell you that He is not us, He is God. He is good and true. He will make good on what He says and He will do what He says He will.

The Struggle is Real

Do you have those moments where you just know that it’s God talking through a friend specifically to you about something buried deep that you keep pushing back down?

No? Just me.

Oh well good.

Recently with a friend, who did not know what I had been killing and burying repeatedly within me, they brought up the struggle of the flesh with obedience to God’s prompting. I thought it interesting because I wasn’t prepared for that wallop at the time, since I myself had spent the better part of two weeks avoiding dealing with this rising notion of disobedience because of the flesh whispering the very thing it knew would get me, what others would think.

real

Most of the time I am good at really not minding what is thought of me, but the grooves of my old self, an approval addict to the very core, found some footing in my heart as I sought to be obedient in what I still feel is God prompting me on about discipleship and women’s ministry. Then this verse came up when listening to a sermon first thing today and I knew it. I knew exactly what the flesh was after and the struggle I had not been fighting but just burying to avoid.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. -Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

I was right back in my approval mode of life, looking alot like the habits of my old self and wondering what people would think of me if I asked, if I stepped out in obedience. I didn’t realize it in the moment, or over the course of the last few weeks but I knew for certain this morning that I was pursuing the things which I hate-old habits. A life that I had crucified to the cross because I was already approved, loved and adored by the One who went to the cross for me. Who took it all on Himself so that I would not have to worry about such things but live in the abundant approval of the King of the world.

But just because that approval addiction has been nailed to the cross doesn’t mean it still doesn’t wiggle off, limping and broken to come right back to me in the moments when the flesh wants to remind me of what I used to be, habits I left a solid tread mark for in my old self. I didn’t need a CSI team to tell me where those tracks led, but somehow I was willingly off the path that the Spirit had been leading, all too quickly simply out of the worry of approval.

Y’all, let me be the example to tell you that you cannot be living in obedience with God, walking in step with the Spirit and not expect your habits of old self to attempt to distract you. Because they do. They want you off that path, even with the lie as the pastor pointed out this morning, “that you’ll get back in step and on that path later.”

The struggle is truly real, not with our old selves but with those habits that wore deep paths within us from that prior life…ones that are often easier to find than the step in front of us that is with the Spirit. Maybe like me, you needed to hear today that even when we believe we are in step with the Spirit that our habits can distract us, can pull us into an old way that feels comforting and familiar but is blatantly disobedient to where we are supposed to be, where we are called to be by God. But we have the choice to recognize it, to see the old path and know that the outcome leads to death and hurt. So we can then choose repentance, obedience and placing that foot back on the path with the Spirit leading. Back in tune with “the desire to what is good” and knowing “there is no ability to do it” on our own. (Romans 7:18(b) HCSB)

Where is it today that you need to  step out of that habit of your former self to boldly step in the path with the Spirit? To choose obedience and the power of God in you rather than the flesh that reminds you of your old self?

The struggle is hard, but the continual sin of fleshly habits is real. And eternally tethered.