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.

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?

Busted Tails and Lame Men

Last week I busted my tail bone. Flat out busted it, purple bruise, couldn’t sit straight for days. Let me tell y’all, it was not fun in the least. Almost a week later and it’s still hard to sit directly on it. I do not recommend busting it, ever.

If you are anything like me, when you are busted up or sick you really don’t want anyone around you or to ask for help. Yo don’t want to be seen as in need. Maybe it is just me, trying to remain independent and not be seen as helpless or in need of anyone but myself.

32926-support-illness-1200.1200w.tnBut what happens when we reach out for help? When we seek healing in the form of others’ assistance? We remind ourselves that we cannot do this alone and we are a dependent being.

In Acts 3 we see Peter coming off the sermon in the temple. The same Peter who weeks before had denied knowing Christ is now the Peter preaching His salvation and our need for Him. I love that…another beautiful picture of redemption. As Peter and John go into prayers at the temple they come across a man at the gate begging for money, unable to walk and dependent upon others to carry him there and others to give money either as they entered the gates or as they left. (The man was smart about where he put himself to ask for money due to his inability to walk)

Peter and John engaged him as they walked by, they wanted him to look them in the eye. Something that he probably thought odd since at that time a disability was a way to not look at someone, to not see them as human-often how many are seen even now. He wasn’t seeking healing but was merely seeking to settle for what had been his lot in life.  But Peter and John recognized the deeper healing that was needed, the healing of his heart, a renewal of his body in the strength of Christ and not money, or men. So not in their own power or authority but fully in Christ’s they tell him to get up, and he does.

I find that in my own times of desperate need I don’t ask for what it truly is I do need because I am blinded by the tangible in front of me. I am praying about this thing when He’s pointing to the deeper root of healing. He’s sending people in His power in my path to point me to the healing I need but I often am so focused on this thing that I miss it. What if this guy had missed it with Peter and John, focusing only on obtaining money from them to exist rather than to receive full restoration for the real hurt to be healed?

What if instead of walking past those hurting we fully see a hurt that we can speak healing into through Christ’s strength and power? Instead of denying others that privilege of helping us heal we allow ourselves the ability to share about our hurts, our wounds, our lame legs and weak hearts? What if we stopped trying to hide our wounds, our hurts and we started living into full healing that comes through Christ and His people?

 

Fig Trees and Flipping Tables Jesus

I have to be honest with y’all….I have never truly understood the cursing of the fig tree by Christ on the Monday of Holy Week. I jump quickly to the story of Christ flipping the tables in the temple-the image I really cannot wait to see in heaven, justice-seeking Christ full of righteous anger. But who doesn’t love that?!

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But first that fig tree y’all…As Christ is heading back into Jerusalem from Bethany, where He’s staying with Mary, Martha and Lazarus He is hungry. Yep, we see Jesus get hungry in Scripture, which is His human side coming forth from what I tend to lean towards. He sees a fig tree off there in the distance that is in full leaf, meaning it is showing that it should be bearing fruit, whether small or large. (Fig trees in that part of the world do not fruit until June, this would have been March-April) The tree was giving all intents and purposes that it was something that it, in production, in fruit, was not.

Christ immediately curses the tree, that it may never bear fruit again.

A parable lived right out for the apostles to see and hear.

It was a testament to the state of Israel at that time, and very well the state of our lives too in the church. Israel was showing off one thing, claiming Yahweh as God but yet bore out none of the fruit of that life…instead going after their own gods, making legalism their true aim instead of holiness. They bore no fruit of a life lived in obedience. It is a show with no substance, deceiving what is presented.

“The great majority of persons who have any sort of religion at all bear leaves, but they produce no fruit.”

-Charles Spurgeon, Nothing But Leaves

We believe within our own churches we are one thing, when in fact we are bearing nothing of substance out. Jesus is very well talking to us right here, right now in our churches in America. Egyptian Christians are murdered as they attended Palm Sunday services on Sunday. Yet we sit idly by and allow our comforts to be our concern, whether the a/c is working overtime or not (the very thing I complained about this morning, I kid you not y’all) or whether so-and-so is friendly towards us, or that our service had better numbers than the other church. Instead of our hearts yearning for righteousness, for holiness and complete obedience in all things.

We’ve grown into our own hypocrisy that our Savior cursed this very day….that He pointed to and made clear that deception in bearing fruit was not worthy of life, of His blessing, but rather a curse, a death. We need Him to make us useful and fruitful, to bear it out…just as John 15 points us to, that we abide in Him and we bear much fruit. But we must be in Him, not doing of ourselves or in ourselves. It took being led into John 15 over the last couple of weeks for me to see the real point Christ is making here…if we aren’t in Him, we bear false witness of fruit, we attempt to be the vinedresser, branch and root all in one, only there is nothing of substance to us, to our churches.

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.