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.

Over All,Even the Small

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It’s hard to fathom an “over all” ruler sometimes, especially in America where we cling desperately and aggressively to our democratic ways. We are the rulers of our choices. We are entitled to the rights and privileges, we get to vote for goodness sakes! We get a say in it all!

Believe me, I’m not advocating for a dictatorship in any way, but it’s funny how it shapes how we view so many things.

This week I have been especially drawn to the sovereign nature of things, of life, of Christ specifically. For me I see His sovereign nature as this big nebulous, orchestrating large movements and shifts in cultures and peoples. As I have dug deeper in study I am seeing that “over all” means over all. It means the big and the small, the minute detail and the largest scope of life.

Often we get it, but we don’t believe it in our daily life. We see the sovereign God of all at this 3,000 foot level where He’s reigning and weighing in on the big stuff-creation, judgement, salvation, redemption. But He’s also very present in His sovereignty in the small that I see as my life. He heals miraculously both in my broken heart and the terminal illness of another.

I often discount His character in my life, His presence of the nature that He can never not be. All of God’s character is present all of the time in the big, and my small. For He is Lord of all, meaning that decision I am making and the circumstances of my life. I see Him in the long game, but He’s in the short game as well with me.

It means He is sovereign, Lord of all, in the now of life. In this moment. In this thing. In a diagnosis. In a heart break. In an interview. In a birth. In a death. In my writing. In your hobby.

He is over it all. All.

Maybe I’m alone in realizing this, that He cares and reigns in my smallness. That is matters to Him, being over all in my small.

“In the presence of God, who gives life to all, and of Christ Jesus, who gave a good confession before Pontius Pilate, I charge you to keep the command without fault or failure until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God will bring this about in His own time. He is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings,and the Lord of lords…” 1 Timothy 6:13-15 (HCSB, emphasis mine)

So I look at Paul’s words now as he’s encouraging Timothy in the small of the work before him, to pursue righteousness and fight the good fight of faith. And I see these words below. The giving of life, the keeping of His commands…because He is Sovereign. He’s the God of BIG and small. In the fight and the rest. In salvation of all, and redemption of me. In each and every moment of my perceived smallness. Because He is a BIG God, He’s also the God of all..even in the small.

“that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:17 (NKJV)

Being complete is something every human being wants. To be made whole. Finished. We get the line from Jerry Maguire, “You complete me,” and we swoon. We look to stuff, people, jobs, food and experiences to complete us.

They do for a time. But much like that sugar high, there inevitably becomes the crash afterward. A crash that opens that chasm wider, often laying bare the incomplete nature of ourselves.

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Right here though, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, we find that completion and equipping for every good work is available. Eureka! We can be complete. We can be equipped. We can do good works.

But it’s not through our own doing. It’s not through means of our own making or will. It’s not one ounce of anything this world brings to us and lays before us. Nope. If we track back to see where this statement starts, we find Paul pointing to Scripture. To God’s very breath breathing out the words we read, we ruminate, we chew on, we inscribe on our hearts and minds.

And it is profitable. For changing a life and for knowledge and wisdom. It equips and it teaches. It corrects and it convicts. It is God’s breath into our lungs, our lives, our day.

These very words from Paul, were not his own, but God’s breathed out to give to Timothy. For his good, and for His glory. They point back to Paul’s first letter to Timothy where he continues in the same vein, exhorting him to flee the materialism that would attempt to deceive him into thinking it would make him whole. Instead in 1 Timothy 6:11 we see him telling Timothy to pursue after character qualities and fruits of a Spirit-filled life.

It equips. It teaches. It corrects. It convicts. When we breathe in the words of a God who took notice of us, to breathe them out, we find the gap closed over. The chasm no longer is void, but filled with the truth of Him. It changes our lives, bears out fruit that is from the Spirit, and redirects our pursuits to look like Him and not like the world.

He completes me.

Do you ever look around when you are reading something really good, something that speaks to you and you just want to tell everyone? You want to run up to them and say “Did you know this already? Think about this! This is soooo good! You have to read it!!”

Just me? Oh okay then.

If you are one of the Bible study girls I have been with in the last few years, you would know my penchant for Paul. He’s my main squeeze and we roll well together. So it’s no surprise that when I revisit his letter to the Philippians, as I talked about a little yesterday, I find something anew, words that speak to where I am now in this moment.

I find I want to camp out there, sit awhile in words of truth that make my heart beat a bit faster, my mouth fall agape, and wonder if Paul is sitting in my life right now. Then I remember that God is the one who is in my life, seeing and guiding me to where I need to be in Him and leading me to these words from Paul that were given by God.

When we camp out, when we take time to truly sit in His Words it becomes alive and breathing to us. It breathes in hope, joy, peace, patience, love…and sometimes conviction. Okay probably more conviction than I am comfortable with, but here we are. Words written in a prison that I now sit on my couch rejoicing over, crying over because they are the words meant for this time in my life.

They mark a season in Paul’s life, of encouragement as he lives out daily endurances in prison. They mark a season in my life of wrestling, of encouragement and hope and not quitting. They are markers of remembrance, gifted to us if we but take time to be still and sit. It could be a book of the Bible, a chapter, or like me presently, two verses in Philippians that I just keep digging into again and again.

Whatever season you find yourself in, joy, heartache, suffering, hurt, love or peace, choose time to be in tune with what God has for you in His Word. Don’t miss the very goodness He gave through it as a means of speaking to your life in this very present way, in this very present moment.

Singleness of Heart

“But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.”-1 Corinthians 7:32


So I thought my first post back from the mission trip would be in regards to the trip.  However I am still processing and praying through so much of it right now.  And God’s really laid this on my heart, even while I was gone.  For a very long time I wasn’t okay with being single at my age.  I couldn’t quite comprehend why God would be allowing me to meet all the wrong guys for me in my search for who He wanted me to be with.  My focus started shifting somewhere, and I cannot quite pinpoint where in this case.  God started showing me that the idea of marriage and my focus on it shouldn’t be what consumes my thoughts and my heart, but that He should be the one consuming me.  I finally started letting go of it and God really started showing up in my life in areas I couldn’t have dreamed.
I feel like much of the time society and it’s culture attempt to label those of us who are single as outcasts at a certain age, that there is something inevitably wrong with us because we are single.  However, the issue seems to be even more prevalent within the walls of the church.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had marrieds come talk to me and the first question is “are you married?” Then the utter disappointment on their face when I say no.  And if they are under the age of 40, the woman will always link her arm in her husband’s or snuggle in close to him. I kid you not.  I really want to stop the conversation right there and say “Hey, I’m not after him.  That’s not my M-O and I’m thankful God placed Him in your life.”  Now I realize there are some single women (and men too for that matter) in the church who attend to spouse-hunt.  Whether that’s in a singles ministry or not, they will inevitably be sifted out as being in church to find a spouse because “that’s where the best ones are at.” (Especially if they hit a church with a single pastor-it’s like the golden egg for them)  That’s not why I attend church.  That’s not why I serve in leadership.  And that’s most definitely not why I form friendships with men in our church.
I will say this…and freely admit it happened to me very recently.  You can lose your focus in the midst of some really heavy God-working moments when you’re mind isn’t fully focused on Him…when you’ve allowed yourself to start thinking again that this may be the one God intends for you.  And you pray about it and God gives you back a very blatant answer of “No, not now.” Don’t try to force God’s hand on it…He’s not moved.  I realized I’d attempted to force His hand and His timing in a friendship that was just tumultuous.  There was alot of hurt and heartache wrapped up in the last couple of months over it.  Then I realized something while I was away….this guy was not who God intended for me and that I was trying to make him be who God intended for me and that my focus had moved from pleasing the Lord to pleasing myself again.  I had to ask forgiveness from him first before I could go to God and ask for forgiveness from Him.  It was hard realizing it and then actively asking to be forgiven.  But you know, I am glad I experienced all of it.  The cost of disobedience is incredibly high…but God uses that in us to show us that He truly cares for us and has the best worked out for us.
So….while all of this has gone on, I’ve been reading in Paul’s writings. (Yes we all know by now my deep-seeded love for Paul and his writings) And I kept coming back to this verse in 1 Corinthians.  Then I read a facebook post from the Singles pastor about being single, and the people who struggle to understand it, especially in the church.  I was reminded that Paul was single, John the Baptist was single, and Christ was single.  The One whom we serve and praise knows what it is like to be single on this earth, and have those moments of quietness in our lives when no one is around.  He knows, he sympathizes, and He’s right there with us.  A huge peace swept over me and I’ve really dwelt on the possibility that God may not intend to have someone for me to marry.  And that He’s got something much greater in store for me-like the mission field. I pray I may care for the things of the Lord and how to please Him each and every day and in each and every way.