Rough Road Ahead

A few weeks back as we were traveling home from vacation, I saw a road sign stating “Rough Road.” Now, we were in South Carolina so that’s pretty much all of their roads. (Not sorry Palmetto peeps, because your roads are the worst, and that’s saying something from this Nashville gal) As we bumped along a bit I took a mental note of that sign, thinking more about it in response to life than to the physical conditions of the road.

Two years ago today, I was fired from my job with no explanation or reason as to why. Thinking back on some still fresh memories of that day and subsequent days, the road ahead that picture of the “Rough Road” sign came to mind once again. Because I started wondering if we’d appreciate knowing that a rough road was ahead in our lives.

If we could be warned of rough patches on the road of life ahead, would we want to know?

Would it make it any easier to bear? To live through and be on that road, knowing it was coming? I’ll be honest and say that no, it wouldn’t. In fact the knowledge of impending bumpiness makes it harder in many ways. We start to work in our means, (we do that anyways alot of the times) but we try to control the situation, the consequences or the people involved. The warning allows for preparation yes, but preparation on whose part? And what does that prep look like in our lives?

When rough roads approach us in life, do we grip the wheel and just endure it while we are on it, or do we lean in to see if there’s a change of course needed, or if we need to pull off and rest a bit in how we’ve been traveling that road? A rough road gives us the ability to see what’s lying underneath where we’ve been trodding, revealing to us what we are made of and on what/who we are relying. The signal of a rough road gives us false senses of reliance upon ourselves to avoid it or be able to get through it quickly.

Would I have wanted the warning of being fired? I have to say now, two years later, that while a warning of what lies ahead would be nice, I know that in it all I found that I was more trusting of God, not knowing how the road would wind and move, but I had to trust that it would move me more towards Him than anywhere else.

It was a rough road, and one that required healing, provision and trust beyond what I could muster up for myself alone. A rough road ahead doesn’t so much need a warning sign as it does a belief that the rough road is a part of our journey home.

Hoarding Memories

I love spring cleaning. Hi, yes, I am confessing that here in my safe space. I absolutely love the purge of  stuff. I don’t hang on to much, except this one box of stuff when I worked in baseball (shoebox size) and another small box of photos…they were these things you took with cameras and you couldn’t actually see the picture until you were done with a whole roll of film. You prayed just one came out well.

I love looking through those two boxes because they hold alot of memories and people who impacted me.

I am for the better because I purge though. I don’t like hanging on to stuff that is just clutter, that doesn’t bring value or meaning. While I enjoy clothes and shoes like a lady does, I wear out my clothes rather than leave ones with tags on them for months. Books and vinyl records I keep or accumulate if they bring to mind fondness or truth in the midst of alot of other noise.

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I was thinking on this recently, the things I hold close to me that bring smiles and joy, warmth to the heart as I talked with someone about the words we tell ourselves. We heard someone share the phrase “hoarding the wrong messages” and I could not believe just how true that statement was for me. I purge so much external but I hoard messages of lies and deceit, of hurt and anger, shame and regret. Most of this is aimed squarely at myself.

In realizing this, I find that I am not alone. The wrong messages I keep on repeat are of the wrong voice. The voice sounds alot like myself, very self focused and me-centered. It reminds me of the red flags I missed in a relationship. The faults I have, the shame of a lost job. The ways I fail and the regret I easily run to instead of the truth.

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t much truth being hoarded, only the self messaging. But truth is exactly what will throw the wrong messages out. The Truth found only in His Word, spoken throughout time and repeatedly to my heart. But when I hoard the wrong things, I don’t leave space for Him to get in. To breathe life, renewal, conviction and hope. 

But I choose to hoard the other messages. I choose to live into self through the wrong messages.

As I sat thinking on this, I thought about how I clean my closet. I follow the “Have I worn this in the last season?” But I don’t really apply that to my thoughts. I don’t look at them through the lens of “Is this truth I should be dwelling on?” It means I have to die to self even in my thoughts, every. single. day.

I can make that choice on so many actions but my thoughts? This is where I struggle so much. It is what leads to regret, shame, hurt, anger and deceit as we get self-focused and driven by ego/pride…driven by self. The work of our minds is the thing we are alone with the most, and as God dwells in us and the Holy Spirit fills us, we have to purge our minds of the messages we are hoarding.

I land here with Peter, nodding my head and seeking to purge the wrong messages of self and instead choose grace, the armor of God in the helmet of salvation, to use in adding truth in my thoughts.

With your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

My hope is no longer set in me, what I lack or what I accomplish, what my plans are or how I have failed. No, my mind is fully alert for Christ’s revelation. A mind shod with the helmet of salvation-grace extended in an unfathomable way- that is prepared for the battle ahead, in the day, with self, against the deception. A mind so trained on truth through the protection of faith that trust in the battle is forged fully in the hope of Christ.

Mind-full

It’s Friday around these parts, and it’s been a long week. Work’s been very busy, and then my body decided it wanted to be sick so I am battling just feeling cruddy the last 24 hours. My heart and mind are still trying to wrap around IF:gathering from last weekend, without much space to process this week.

In the midst of all this I keep being faced with verses in my daily study on the mind. The mind of Christ. My thoughts towards others. His thoughts towards me. Just all very mind full. This morning as I was looking at the intentionality of a life in Christ I saw something I hadn’t seen before….don’t you love when He does that?!

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus:” (Philippians 2:5, NKJV)

Here’s the thing on this, I usually stop there. I pray about a mind that is focused on a bigger plan, a bigger picture, peace and redemption for all. But that’s not a period at the end of the sentence but a colon. That colon is showing us the next steps to the mind like Christ.

1-We don’t think it robbery to be like someone else, a fellow believer, a sinner (cause we all are y’all), the coworker who annoys you, the friend who betrayed you, the rude person who cut you off in traffic. We are just like them. We are not above them.

2-We are to be servants with humility. True humility enables us to serve others above possessions and personal plans.

3-We are of no reputation when like Christ. He was loved and hated, and we will be too.

4-We are obedient-in all things, with our thoughts, our actions and words. Obedience isn’t easy and is surely isn’t popular but we were shown obedience when He went to the cross for us. So I think we can be obedient in the thing He’s called us to do.

But in all of this I keep looking at Jeremiah 29:11, where God tells us that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. But here, in Christ, we can find understanding, obedience, humility, and service to guide us to the peace, a hope and a future. Where our minds are full of Him instead of us.

What Was I Thinkin’ Pt. 3

Over this week I have tackled a verse that is alot easier said, recited or purposed on a block of wood than it is to live out in every moment of the day. We took a look at the first two parts of the verse here and here. Today I want to hit the last two areas of that verse.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (HCSB)

If it’s not lovely, it is unlovely.

I don’t know about you but I tend to dwell on the unlovely, ugly things about myself. I talk to myself in my head so much worse than I would ever talk to my mom, my sister or a girlfriend. I even hear it spill out when I affectionately refer to myself in passing with people I am around. I have been admonished for this, and now I am seeing, rightfully so. Self-shaming and even shaming of others derives itself from dwelling on the unlovely.

Instead let’s look at the lovely, the beautiful and exquisite in our lives, focusing on those aspects as God has given them to us. If no one else will say this, even your own self, you are lovely. You are beautiful. Every single part of you. You are loved. Dwell on the knowledge of His love in you. It’s a beautiful and gorgeous thing to see.

If it’s dishonorable then it’s not commendable.

I don’t know about you all but I have a knack for finding out the juicy gossip. I used to love E! News and reading the magazines at the checkout counters. It spilled into my own thought life with the people I know. Honestly it has been a real tense point for me in dealing with in the last few years and I have found the need to root it out. It begins with what I allow my mind to dwell upon. I focus on the things that are dishonoring to others. I look at things which are blameworthy. That don’t bring praise but wrong.

Ugh…that just leaves an ick feeling in my soul. So I am replacing those with admirable things to think on. When I want to tear down and share things which have no merit, I have to trace the thought back. (And I still fail at this y’all, it’s not an overnight work) I have to intentionally replace it with something of praise and thanks.

This is definitely not an easy task but I believe it is helpful to examine what it is that we have been focusing on to allow us to identify the need to uproot it and replace it with the good to focus on. Our thought lives are so vital to how we speak, act and live. I pray these over my life today and I pray you carry them with you as well. It’s a work, it takes time and I know that to wrestle with our thoughts is a step into being what God desires for us.