From Frustration to Prayer

Sometimes I say “Oh Lord” when I hear about the shenanigans friends get into or when I glimpse the exasperating self-checkout where people who apparently have never experienced how to ring up things decide today is a good day to do just that…with their incredibly full cart.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of Lauren Daigle…while I cook, in the shower, working out, cleaning the house. If I could describe my current mood, it would be “Lauren Daigle” because she just seems to be singing what my heart and mind are feeling right now. One particular song has slowly become something I am praying instead deep within, and I find my cries of “O Lord O Lord” have been a welcome comfort instead of exasperation and frustration. It reminds me that He is right there with me, when I often like to lie to myself that He’s not, or He’s left me. He doesn’t. He hears. He meets me in my desperation, my loneliness and says “This will be made right.” It may not be mine to see, or experience, but it’s His.

So now when I cry out “O Lord O Lord” I know He’s already at work, but He’s there in the midst listening. I know my prayers are reflective of a God who is with me, a God who hears, who wants me to cry out to Him instead of in my own frustrations.


Part of Lauren Daigle’s “O’ Lord” is quoted below in how I have been praying it out. Maybe you needed it today or tomorrow. Maybe you needed to recognize your heart and mind have needed to cry out to God in a way that only you and He communicate. Whatever the means, know He’s listening.

Though times it seems
Like I’m coming undone
This walk can often feel lonely
No matter what until this race is won
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

Your strength is found
At the end of my road
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face This I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

I will stand my ground where hope can be found!
I will stand my ground where hope can be found!

Oh! O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

Perfect Peace

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.

Isaiah 26:3

I don’t know about anyone else but on this Monday (or whatever day you are reading this) it’s no accident this verse is here. I love this translation version from the CSB because it’s pointing directly to a dependency issue.

When we are depending upon someone or something, we put our trust in it. We know it’s steadfast and true to what it has stated it will do. It comes through on promises. For me, placing my mindset in a dependence upon anything else than God will not bring peace. It’ll bring turmoil, anxiety and a lot of heartache. But when I choose to bring my thoughts back to God, depending upon Him in my thought-life over and over again? Well, there’s a bit of calm. There’s stillness and a quietness that descends.

The noise of depending upon social media, opinions and television just don’t hold my trust like God does. And they shouldn’t. They can’t fulfill promises made, they won’t provide peace. In fact they will often times distort and disrupt peace in order to further our heartache, the lies of the world, and our anxieties to perform for the crowd.

Maybe this Monday holds a lot of worry and chaos. But when we align our minds, pushing into utter dependence upon God alone to give peace in the midst, we find ourselves trusting more and more in the God of fulfilled promises.

Beauty in the Small

Recently I had a large group of photos printed to frame, which led me to combing through hundreds of photos from the last two years. I haven’t done a really great job of getting them printed from adventures during that time. That’s when I stumbled across this photo I took at Biltmore Gardens.

14352510_10104189396637445_2201583990724913862_o

That beauty nestled inside the beauty of a blossoming flower? Well it made me feel like I’d discovered a little secret God wanted to share with me. And remind me of yet again as I was rummaging for photos to print.

That secret?

Well it’s that He is cultivating work in the smallest places, in the most unassuming and unexpected places. He is growing beauty from within and we might miss it looking at the bigger picture, at the sweeping grandeur blossoming we will let the smaller inner work just bypass us completely.

I know for me I have been so focused and intent on the work I see Him doing in everyone else and forgetting the work He’s been growing and refining in me. There is beauty within the bigger, but there is breathtaking wonder at the inner working going on. I love to see how He works in others but I am so reluctant to take that moment to observe where it is He’s been in what I call the small of my life. Because frankly, I’d rather have the big in my life too. I’d rather select the sweeping beauty of the field rather than the intimate quiet of the one flower above.

But He’s in both. He works in both for our very good. The big sweeping beauty comes from hours of toil, just as the seemingly minute does the same. They both require work, both by His hand and my submission. It’s not a one or the other, but a both and if I’ll just stop focusing on what I deem as unimportant and small in my world. Instead taking a moment to admire the beauty held within that I too easily think isn’t His handiwork.

 

Growing up I don’t remember being grounded much. That’s not to mean I was the perfect child (far from it y’all) because I was met with a spanking instead when my mouth got me in trouble. A grounding would mean my oft-times introverted self would have a reason to sit and read for hours instead of playing with the majority of boys that grew up in our neighborhood.

Being grounded or getting grounded has taken on the connotation of that of airplanes more than it’s intended meaning. We’ve been there when a plane has gotten grounded, and the disparate sighs of the passengers and the crew too become the soundtrack of a gate. Or it’s been our own and we scurry to try to get around it, finding another one to hop onto to bypass the grounding. But being grounded as a person means you are stable, realistic, unpretentious. Wouldn’t you want that for your plane as well as your character?

Maybe that grounding as a kid was so that we could be more grounded as an adult, emotionally and mentally stable, realistic. Being grounded gives us time to think about what put us there to begin with as a kid. What consequences our actions (or words) hold for us and those around us.

I thought on this as well when I saw Paul’s words to the Ephesians of “being rooted and grounded in love”. And then again his words to those at Colosse, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” That grounding means rooted, holding fast, and found tapped into the very love of Christ and hope of the gospel. Being grounded isn’t a punishment but a reflection of character and of Christ Himself, who we are called to reflect. That to be grounded means we are unmoving and not blown about by whims and feelings, but connected to the source of our rooting, the True Vine Himself.

I think for me I’d much rather be grounded more and more as an adult, finding that if it’s in love it ends up setting up roots that grow deep and secure not in my own actions, words, whims and feelings but in Christ’s, in the very Hope of the world.

Legos, Pillars and the Temple

When I was little I often preferred Legos to Barbies. That’s not to say that at some point there wasn’t a large box filled with chopped hair, markered face, scandalously naked dolls in my room (I tended to not like outfits on my Barbies, but did like to cut their hair thinking it’d grow back). But there was a large red bucket of Legos that I would avidly drag out more times than not. The reason being is that I loved to build things. To construct and design what I wanted, just the way I wanted it.

legosMy own community, created and orchestrated by my hand.

If I am honest, I haven’t changed much in that mentality from those days of playing with those Legos. I like community on my terms, even when it comes to those in the Christian faith, my very brothers and sisters in Christ. Yep, I’m admitting that frankly it’s alot easier to be with and listen to people who I choose. To not be challenged to love harder and think deeper, to sit in judgement rather than in the hurt and compassion of others. I like community on my times and in my orchestration.

And yet, that’s not how the body of faith is built. And it most certainly isn’t how I am called to be a part of it either.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-21 (ESV)

I am being fit into the building of His very holy temple. The imagery here points back to when the pillars were built on structures, and no seams were seen on how rocks were smoothed and sanded to fit, to mold into one specific structure with complete unity.

That means I am being fit in to the very structure that has laid the likes of Paul, John, and Esther alongside the ones I find difficult in the church, brothers and sisters I would “rather not” with. It means I am being sanded and smoothed down to fit in complete unity with them too. My roughness and scratchiness smoothed out to be in community in order to build a seamless temple for the Lord. His holy Church, the Bride He awaits.

And I really don’t like that idea because it butts up against my selfish nature, my comfort and my idea of control in what community is for me, for the church. And y’all it’s just plain ugly. To live in the comfort and security I have created and ordained as “good and right” rather than what He has defined as the Church. It humbles me to think of the selfish nature and my personal preference has taken the prime spot of life instead of listening intently for where I am supposed to be in the community of God.

It means disagreeing in love, it looks like uncomfortable silences and awkward reintroductions. It means giving forgiveness when I really just want to be self-righteous in my pride. Most of all, it looks like a seamless temple being built not out of my design but out of His.

Getting Ma’amed

It was bound to happen. At the ripe (and I do mean ripe y’all) age of 36 I got a ma’am from a guy that looked to be about 35 and a half.

EYE ROLL

I was leaving the gym one night and he was parked next to me, had his big ol’ truck’s door flung all the way open and was doing his post-workout “let me situate all my stuff” in his truck. I stood to the side and he looked up and said “Oh sorry about that ma’am” and let me through to get into my car.

not-maam

Let me be clear, I have been ma’amed before. Mostly by kiddos or college students. To be honest I hadn’t really taken offense to any of it because we’re in the South, it’s part of our learning. You ma’am and sir everyone who is in a semblance of authority or out of respect. But this one y’all, this guy got me. It’s been several weeks and I still am thinking on it.

Here’s why…

Because I haven’t really thought what a specific age would be like for me personally. I honestly was never one to say “by 40 I’ll have a husband, a cute refurbed ranch house and two very stubborn children who both take after their father. Oh and that dog I have always dreamed of.” It just wasn’t me, and it still isn’t. Maybe that’s a good thing, but part of me started thinking after I heard the word ma’am come out of this stranger’s mouth that it wasn’t.

I get he was being respectful but it’s opened up a huge thought train in my mind of future planning and where I often tend to cut ties with life on. Yes I have a 401(k) and have a mortgage, so obviously I plan for some future. But I have over the years never really drawn out much beyond the present state of affairs for my life. I jokingly, when asked by friends or family, point to Scripture in my obvious state of holiness saying “Only a fool makes plans and tells them to God.”

But there’s something to be said for pushing towards a future because when I dig into this deeper I find that I don’t think I am truly capable of one. I worry that setting some sort of goal (like writing a book) without putting a marker or date on it, will mean that I will get around to it eventually but have no means for monumental let down if I don’t. That by not putting any investment into some future plans, some hallmarks or goals, I am essentially setting myself up for mediocre living and underperforming to the potential God knows I have.

Am I the only one that does this? That sits in a consistent 45 mph drive and allows life to continue on without looking at where the GPS could take me if I pushed the pedal down or put my hands to the wheel? For me it took hearing a guy call me ma’am to jar me into this space of future, of seeing where life was letting me coast on cruise and where I was allowing myself to sit unchallenged and undefined, sifting through presentness without much concern for future. I am often here for the present making sure I am all the way into it but allowing the future to just come as it may, but now I am finding at this ripe age of 36 that future Sara would like some say in what present Sara is spending her time in, what she isn’t setting aside time to do, and where her goals are being set.

Have you ever had a ma’am moment that shocked you into seeing something about yourself you hadn’t realized was a problem? Where is it you need to set a focus or goal on in the future for yourself?

#blessed

I really enjoy Bruno Mars’ music.  It’s like if Barry White and Bobby Brown could have a kid, it would be him. It’s fun, fresh, and easily danceable. 24K is one of my favorite songs of his, and I find one of his lines so interesting:

“Got to blame it on Jesus, hashtag blessed.”

I think he captures something many perceive, that when it’s good, when life seems to be on this trajectory upward, where health, wealth and prosperity seem to be clicking on all cylinders, we are blessed and it’s directly from God. I tend to agree too, that those are good things, they really are blessings to have good health, to be prosperous in pursues and not be in poverty.

I have even joked about it on social media, whether it is an extra nugget in my Chick-Fil-A box or no line at a store. But I think we’ve taken the true idea of blessings of God and manipulated them for our own definition and benefit. Then we point them back to God as privileged or better because of that blessing.

But the blessings He bestows on those who believe in Him? Well those are a bit more lasting, eternal than just good health or a pay raise. They are spiritual blessings which move beyond the things of this world and what are defined by this world. Spiritual blessings bring us deeper into relationship with Him, often taking us through a time of pruning and growing, they unify us as believers, and bring Him praise for His compassion and goodness.

Those spiritual blessings He gives us aren’t always what we define as wanting, but He knows it is what we need to be blessed with-encouragement, relief of a burden, wisdom, reliance. It isn’t so much about what we get out of His blessing, but that He gives it willingly to those of us who love Him and call Him Lord. And it goes beyond earthly blessings, to those where He is seated in the throne room. It goes beyond defining them in the way we do in our context of culture or earth.

Praise be to the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)