Yokes of Weariness

Christmas may be over, but I still have the refrain “the weary world rejoices” playing in my head. I think we’ve been grasping this year for rejoicing. We are a weary world, and I have to think that 2018 won’t magically hold a quick fix for our weary hearts.

Over the last few days the weariness has born down heavy to the point where I could feel the weight settling in for a good long stay. A tension between heaviness and lightness began to build though, as I didn’t want to close out this year with such a view of it and also enter a new one with this weighted feeling.

That is when I was reminded of scorched earth in a photo, what I felt embodied so much of what this year has felt like at least for me. Alot of earth scorched. There were highlights, don’t get me wrong here, but there was much heaviness. As I looked on at this photo a friend took I saw the starkness of the earth and this tree, barren and bleak. I came back to Christ’s words for some reason in Matthew, where He reminds us that He came not that we would take on this weariness and brokenness, that this bleakness was ours to bear. He took it on. He bore it out. He faced it and He overcame.

For each one of us. For us to come to Him.

To bring Him our yokes we build and tie around our shoulders, we fashion out of worry, anxiety, burdens of health and death, grief and loss. To loose the yokes and lay them down. To take upon His of rest, to learn humble hearts. To become like Him and know light.

From this bleakness there is hope. Standing in the stark contrast is Christ asking for our weariness here at the end of 2017, and at the beginning of 2018. He asks for it daily. In the moments we want to carry our weary hearts, He asks we carry them straight to Him and let them go. Taking the burden off, He loosens our hearts to know Him more and trust Him deeper. To depend further upon Him in order to rejoice at His coming.

May our hearts rejoice in the beauty of the scorched earth and bleakness, knowing He is right there with us in it. He stands in the field, present in the manger, calling wise men to Him, and our hearts to His. To unburden and to release the yokes of life.

If you’d like to take a look at the photo that inspired part of this post, you can see it over at my friend’s site here.

Anxious in Everything

Be anxious for nothing,
but in everything
with prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving,
let your requests be known to God.

If you’ve been around Christianity for any length of time, you’ve heard this verse handed out when you say you are worried about something. It’s often given as a platitude by a well-meaning pastor or friend to easily point you to peace of mind. But I have to be honest with you that I haven’t really taken to that verse.

You see I’m quite the anxious person. I worry inwardly alot and have for years. About some of the most ridiculous things, about people, situations, words, you name it. I have worried about it. Let me be even more real with you all, that kind of worry all the time will eat you up. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Recently I grabbed a copy of Max Lucado’s new book Anxious for Nothing on a whim. I have only read one other book from Lucado, and it’s a small Christmas book I received for free once. As I tiptoed into the book with a skeptic’s eye on the very verse I have grown to really be irritated with, I was surprised to find that I had been looking at it with the wrong heart and the wrong perspective.

In my anxiousness I had chosen to identify with the chaos of the world instead of the sovereignty of God. I was running to tension, control and calamity instead of peace, security, and surety in Him.

As much as I didn’t this to be a book review, I have to contend that Max Lucado’s book on the verse against anxiety is one that caused me to re-examine the whole Scripture and context of Paul’s words to the Philippians. Lucado walks through the various areas Paul points out in the key verse but also lays the ground work around it, and our hearts that are so easily prone to anxiety-whether by our own doing or undoing. He also provides practical avenues of applying the words of Paul to our lives day in and day out.

Overall it caused me solely to realize that the chaos of anxiety is born out of a fallen world, and born within a fallen person…me. But I get to choose whether I abide in that chaos or the calm of the sovereign Lord each and every day. Not to be Pollyanna-ish about it, but the acknowledgement of choosing it daily is often the first step towards being anxious for nothing.

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.

To Remain in Wait

Can you imagine being hand-picked for something specific for your life and then being told to wait on it? You. Picked out because of exactly what you are right in that moment. To take on a specific role you are destined for. And then told you’d need to wait.

Oh and in that wait, you’ll face such obstacles that your life is at stake?

And yet, you remain in the wait. Fully trusting God. Knowing He’s in full control of every bit of the situation and He is faithful to keep the promise if you but remain in wait.

I couldn’t help but think on that phrase “to remain in wait” as I digested the story of David over the last bit. To be promised the kingship but told to wait. Ensured of the throne by God Himself but not yet. And in that remaining David honored God. He anguished over even tearing the robe of the king…the very one who was seeking to take his life across the mountains.

David sought God, not for what he knew was his by promise. Not to put his expectations on the God of Israel. No, he sought God to be in relationship with Him and Him alone. During that wait, David could have taken control, could have used the promise to usurp the throne, but he remained in wait. He found the intimate place with God in that wait. Remaining in it.

That’s hard to honor Him when we are told to remain in wait. It’s hard not to doubt the Promise Giver, not to usurp control for ourselves because the wait has gotten too much. The wait has led to battle, to refuge seeking, to fleeing into what can be seen as solitude and aloneness. Yet, we are called to remain in the wait for what He has promised. Not something less than, not for something of our own making and taking. For the exact promise He has given us.

When we remain in that wait, we get to be in the rest and of the intimate place with God, seeking Him and not the object of the promise He has given. We remain in the wait with Him, for Him.

David’s Swagger

I love a good war speech. The bravado and confidence as warriors go out to fight, called to bear arms by their leader. But I love the underdog in it too, where the cards are obviously stacked against them and there’s just zero way they can pull this out. Led often times by a humble individual who knows the call to lead. (One of the many reasons I do love me some Jon Snow and Sir Davos’ intro to the queen on GoT)

Maybe that’s why I love David’s speech in 1 Samuel as he goes out to face Goliath. Like I fist pump the air when I read it, that’s how much I love it. But it’s not because of any confidence in David’s strength or abilities, but his absolute love for God and trust in God’s provision of victory in battle. David doesn’t mention once in that speech before the giant his own victories over a bear and a lion….y’all, a bear and a lion.

Nope, David points directly to the God of hosts. The God of hosts will deliver the Philistines, He will strike down Goliath. It is all in His hands and His power because He is the God of hosts. I’d often bypassed one of God’s titles in my reading simply out of habit. But this is more than God’s title, it’s a descriptor of Who He is, part of Him. You see, God of hosts means that all the created agencies and powers are under the dominion of Yahweh, our God. He is sovereign and He is power.

Here Goliath is talking about his spear, his might, his shield bearer going out before him….and David’s pointing to the All-Mighty God as his weapon. I mean y’all. How triumphant and fist-pumping are those words from David? The God of all armies is on his side? Yes and thank you.

It’s not a false speech, dependent upon man’s strength or power. It’s not a swagger of false bravado. It is the words that are full of praise and soul-digging truth, that the God of all hosts goes before us into battle. He is with us and is strong enough for any battle that is calling us to the field. Those giants may taunt with words, they may scare with swords and spears, but He is our God. He is THE God of all armies. Power and might are His.

Here’s my question for myself today…Do I take that same trust and truth into my own battlefield? Do I confront the giants in my life with my confidence in God or in my self?

Community, James, and Doubts

For the last six weeks I have spent Monday nights with a group of women, talking and getting to really know one another. Let’s just end any similarities to the Bachelor/ette viewing parties right there. Because I was in fact, not at one of those, but spending much needed time in community with women in the Word of God.

Y’all. Can I confess here? I was apprehensive about going. It was a study of James (I had just finished studying it on my own with SheReadsTruth) and it meant adjusting my calendar on Mondays. This is coming from a woman who used to lead a small group, reads multiple faith-based books a month, and writes a devotion for her church. CMON. This should have been right up my basic, white Christian girl alley.

I have been hurt in female groups before and will be again, especially within the church because we. are. human. We are post-fall, culture living, sin-struggling humans. Every single one of us. Including me. But that lie that community will only harm was what had me questioning stepping into the room full of women. Who love Jesus. Who want to study God’s Word.

Just like me.

Little did any of those women know that for the prior eight to ten months my heart and prayer had been for women who yearned for the word of God. To study and be present with one another digging into what God was speaking in His Word to them and through them. The reminders that He still works and moves. He is active among those who seek Him.

19732017_10154738616990963_1382455788602163614_nSo last Monday night, as we wrapped up five weeks of gut-checking study, of sharing and being open with women I held in deep respect and those I never met before, I stood and shared that exact thing. I pointed back to the very first chapter of James where he urges us beyond just hearing the Word, but doing the Word. Doing means stepping out when it might cost me something, when it will cost me something. My self. That pride. That ego. That self that tends to lead me in the opposite way of His Word and into doubt and fear. That leads me into less community and more separation.

It was community right there in that room that showed me exactly what the prayers answered can look like. Prayers of months, of a heart desiring women to gather and dig in to His Word, for them to desire it and step into it, when I was skeptical myself. When I doubted He’d be able to do a thing. It was Him at work, when I felt it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t wanted.

Sometimes your answer to prayer means you are the doer…facing the doubt and lies on something so insignificant in many ways, but something so eternally impactful when stepped into. Because when we are only hearing the word for ourselves, we live in that deception of our own voice, our ego, our sin-soaked selves telling us no one else wants it so why desire it, pursue it, mention it? Why choose to change your schedule and pick a bit of discomfort in order to gain so much more?

Because He is so much more.

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.