Battles, Direction and God

If you haven’t noticed, I have been studying the life of David lately. If you don’t know, I am a Paul lady. Like hard-core crushing on him fandom. I have been for years. But the more I dig into David’s life I see why he was the man after God’s own heart. I see not so much the perfection of kingship, the shepherd turned victor.

I see the imperfect. I see the man. I see a man who went hard to be in wait for God’s promise, who was humbled in worship of God because he saw glimpses of the glory of God, promises fulfilled by only Him. I connect to the intimacy David sought with God. But the biggest piece I am learning in David’s life is that he went to inquire of God. Not of others, not of his own mind. He went to God before anyone or anything else early in his life (we aren’t to Bathsheba yet y’all).

Before engaging in a battle, he went to God.

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I mean c’mon y’all. Do you do that? I’ll own that I do not. I let worry, fret and anxiety rule my mind and heart rather than going into intimate time before God to seek His will and direction in it. I either avoid battle or bear down straight into it a la Jon Snow at the Battle of the Bastards in season 6 (you know what I mean). I let emotions rule, or compartmentalize them away into avoidance.

Yet David, the great warrior and king in the Old Testament stops to convene with God, to seek God above all else. Because that’s what God desires of us, to seek Him out and be in intimate relationship with Him. To be the first we run to in times of worry and anxiety, not the very last.

It means instead of running through best and worst case scenarios, we run to His feet. Instead of searching through our friend list to text out for prayers, we search our hearts and minds for the lies that have shaken our foundation in Him. Instead of posting to social media vague diatribes for commentary, we sit in silence with God, listening for Him.

My life, my heart, could do with more of God and less with worry. Could yours? When the worries come, and they will, can we cling to God alone, taking them to Him and then listening for Him? Can we still our anxious hearts in the firm foundation of Christ, and allow our sense of control to be relinquished to God?  Can we turn to songs of praise in the midst because the Lord of all has given us a place of refuge and is in control of it all?


Psalm 34 is not only a song of David but a battle cry of facing anxiety and worry. It’s one that I have found to bring me back to intimacy to God instead of running after the fear misplaced in this world and circumstances. Recently I stumbled upon the Psalms album from Shane and Shane with their version of Psalm 34 as well.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
(Psalm 34: 1-8 (ESV))

So What? 

You ever worry that maybe God got your plans and someone else’s mixed up? 

Maybe that He got busy with a lot of lives and plans that somehow yours was shuffled into existence in some other person’s life rather than your own? 

I struggled with that for a while, and there are days I think just maybe He flipped my life plan with another’s. Yet I was reminded that my concern is not with someone else’s life (and neither is yours with mine) but it is to be concerned with following Him. Even in that I shouldn’t be worrying over the next thing, the career plan or family plan but should be following Him with full attention. 

His will for me is sure, steadfast and promising. It flows out of Him and embodies every bit of Who He is, and not an ounce of what I think it should be. Yes, He encompasses the personality and gifts that He has given…but ultimately His will for my life is nothing short of obedience to Him. That’s it. It’s not worrying that someone else got that promotion even though they don’t attend church as much as you…or that they seem to be succeeding when you feel like it’s all turning up failures and hiccups. 

I look at Peter, our zealous brother of the Bible. I’m a lot like him some days, and even more so there at the end of John. When I feel like someone else is getting what was meant for me or is favored more than I, I point to them and say, “Hey but what about them??” This is after He’s told me what His will is for me, that He shepherds me and has guided me this entire time I say, but that’s not good enough for me. 

Christ’s response to Peter in at the end of John is the same for you and for me today, when we feel as though our concerns for His plan for others is overtaking us…”What is that to you? You follow me.” 

Oof. 

What if He blesses them and not me? What if they get the thing I desired in my flesh? So what if He does allow that for them? That’s exactly what He’s saying to Peter and to me. So what? I’m to follow Him, period, end of questioning, end of discussion. 

Christ has a mic drop moment with Peter, and if I’m honest, with me. When I heard those words shared by the Vice President of the company I work for, I couldn’t help but feel nudged by God too. Maybe you needed to hear them too today. That so what about them? Just follow Him. Concern yourself with following Him in what He has you in currently, where you’ve found yourself, and not so much about others and where He has them. 

Today may you say So What?  when the pokes of comparison, covetousness or jealousy attempt to sneak in. When concerns try to force their way into your life that are none of your concern, follow Him instead. Make Him the focus rather than the complaint. 

Peter’s Concerns

Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He was openly talking about this. So Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and looking at His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan, because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s!”

Mark 8:31-33 (HCSB)

Growing up in the church, this story of Christ talking about His imminent death wasn’t one covered often on the flannelgraph. We’d have the mini-loaves and fishes demonstration, the healing of the blind man, but there wasn’t a discussion on this story that is a turning point in the disciples’ relationship with Christ.

It wasn’t until I was older that I read this story, and was taken aback at how Christ called Peter Satan. I mean, this guy had his issues, for sure, but he was a tad bit mistaken and Christ called him the devil?

For years I struggled with this story, three verses wedged into Mark and the rebuke of Peter. I just couldn’t grasp why Peter’s concerns over Christ’s revelation of His death would be worth such harsh language from the Messiah.

Now I get it though…I see where Christ was frustrated because the disciples were still concerning themselves with the temporary. They were honed in on human concerns, such as bread for their boat trip, than they were for the ministry Christ was revealing throughout their journey. They had been front row for the casting out of demons, the healings of many, the raising of the dead girl, and even the teachings to the multitudes.

And they just weren’t getting it.

They were anxious over food. Over losing Christ.

Yet, don’t we often do the same? Even in our utter dependence on Him, in our valleys and our mountains we concern ourselves with the temporary of this earth. We find ourselves worrying over a test, money, or our marital status, all of which are things to be concerned over in our human thinking. But Christ reminds us here that these aren’t concerns to God. They just aren’t. That’s not to cast off these are trivial or meaningless.

They are temporary. Fleeting. Momentary. Earth-bound.

Christ calls us to the eternal. Being concerned with love, compassion, mercy, justice, patience, redemption, salvation. He calls us beyond bread to Living Water. To have cares and concerns that reflect His heart and His concerns. We know He is sovereign in our temporary, but we must also be diligent to keep the eternal as the priority.

In His Presence

We have some pretty spectacular sunsets and sunrises around Nashville. You’ll know it (if you don’t live in these parts) by the flooding of social media with people capturing the moment. I am known to do it too. It’s just too beautiful, too breathtaking not to share with the world. If you’ll indulge my sentimentality as well, it’s also where I often hear God loudest…where He gives a wink or a nod to something I have been praying through and a scene of a sunset reminds me He’s heard me, He’s got it. I can release my worry or fear and just rest in the knowledge of Him.

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Taken in March 2011 at Maryville College.  Photo owned by Sara Stacy, do not copy without permission.

It takes a certain level of presence of the moment to see it though. To be fully present I can’t be distracted by a phone or thoughts of tomorrow, I have to be fully aware of the moment I am in. I find in seasons that I am really present in the moments, each and every one ticking by and then other seasons I find that I just can’t quite bring myself fully into the present because I am dwelling in the past or creating worry for the future.

Lately it’s been the latter. There’s been unfounded worry about this, and created anxiety about that. It’s pushed out where my focus and my heart should be, in the present, pursuing His voice in the noise of it all.

This week I was able to see Hillsong United and Lauren Daigle in concert. My  heart’s prayer as the lights dim was a plea to be present. It came on suddenly and it was breathtaking. It was a cry from deep within to no longer dwell in the fear of something happening or not happening. It was a song to Christ of trust and reliance, toward God. I want to trust and release it all because He is there in the future, He’s in the past as well. He extends before and behind, something I forget all too quickly when I am not in the present.

So I felt this pull to the present, Christ’s arm extending to draw me close, draw me near to Him and trust the present to be. He does that when we allow Him. When we make ourselves available to the Presence of Him. The sunsets, the worship, Scripture and quiet. All of these bring me to His Presence in the present if I choose it.

Many times I don’t. I choose busyness, social media, television…all distractions simply because being present is work. It’s difficult sometimes and it’s much easier to relax into a comfortable posture of procrastination and distraction than pursuit of Presence. But I desire that Presence especially in my present. If I desire it, and it’s aligns with His will, doesn’t He promise to give it?

Y’all, He does. He gives Himself to us if we but desire it with all of our self. If we pursue His Presence in the moment over the other, over our self as well. Sometimes it’s worth not capturing that sunset simply because He meant it for you in that moment. Desire to receive the present, a gift of His Presence.

Just For Today

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I am not sure why but this time of year we all seem to be carrying around more than usual. More than our usual stresses, anxieties and fears. We pile on doubt, ego, pride…we throw in for good measure a couple of pounds of anger or hurt. We find we are just packed to the gills with gifts we really weren’t wanting to give or receive.

 

It’s the Monday of Christmas week. So for today.

Just today.

Why not put down all the stuff you have been carrying around with you? All of it. The stuff you wake up every morning and pick up, like worry and fear. Instead, for today, pick up the Cross.

Carry just the Cross today. Nothing more.

The fears and stresses of today need not weigh you down as they once did. They should not become your idols of busy and pride. It’s difficult to put them down, but when we pick up the Cross instead we find the burden light in comparison-as there truly is no comparing them.

One thing you lack:
Go your way,
sell whatever you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.
Mark 10:21 (NKJV)

It’s not easy. But it’s a decision for today you can make, to not pick up everything else. Just the Cross. Just for today.

Mini-Break Holiday

I don’t normally take advantage of a three day weekend to go out of town. I am not sure as to why but I often just look at it as a way to accomplish more with the extra day, whether errands or around the house. For the last year a friend had been living in Atlanta, and I had been attempting to make plans to visit. It seemed at every turn they got cancelled by weather or illness or scheduling (my part).

Finally last month we settled for the MLK holiday weekend, that way we both were off for an extra day and could have a very chill break.

Let me just tell you, if you don’t live in the Southern US (and some of you don’t so hey Canada and Ireland!) that the weather this weekend was superb. We don’t see mid-60s in January. We just don’t around these parts, but we did for three glorious days. It even looks like we’ll get up there today. My friend and I ate ridiculously great foods, imbibed on some adult beverages and I did some damage at Ikea. I also put the media cabinet together upon my return home yesterday, like a boss.

Why am I sharing all this today? Because we simply need breaks in life. I know I just returned to work off a Christmas holiday vacation, where I had my wisdom teeth removed and an abbreviated visit home. Something about this weekend had an extra touch to it, whether it was the spring-like weather or being in another city that I feel at home in.

We need moments where our phones get put away, we enjoy the person we’re with and the environment we are in. Did I check my phone on occasion? Yes. But I didn’t feel it necessary to stay glued to it, as I often push myself to do. I realized that this mini-break holiday is needed in all our lives for a breather. To take a pause and remember life and appreciate it for what it is-fleeting. I could check emails in my off-time or I could indulge in a walk around a beautiful park in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

This mini break holiday put a bookend on the last year for me that brought about alot of internal dwelling and thought, alot of frustration and tension. It closed the door on a chapter that I had been lingering in for far too long, attempting to write my own paragraphs. When all I truly needed was a break, space and to breathe in the newness of it all.

A new chapter.

A new mindset.

A new appreciation for life that is to be lived, not worried or fretted over.

May you get a mini break holiday in your life if you’ve not had one. To become unsettled and renewed. To gain joy that is lost and peace in the midst of it all.