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))

What If?

I sat there in a movie theater with a friend not really knowing what to say. We were at a screening and had decided to use the time to talk about some heart issues we both had been experiencing as of late. She looked at me with such fear and pain in her voice asking “But what if this is it?”

I looked at her and shared that I too had asked that same question, with longing, fear and pain. What if this is it for me?

She looked with such honesty, seeking an answer as if I held some secret. Me, another single female with a job and a mortgage. Me the woman seven years older, and supposedly wiser, yet still single.

What-ifOh my heart hurt, and friends, it still does…because this What If plagues us in some very quiet times-no matter our marital status. It whispers ever so softly that it echoes out into every corner and crevice of our lives. We begin to wonder what if this happens? what if that doesn’t? What if? What if? What if?

Those two words will slither and crawl throughout our lives when we are at our most vulnerable, when we aren’t on guard or we just aren’t prepared. I remember not too long ago my “What if?” snuck up and sucker punched me hard. I had to pull over because I had started to sob. It was speaking fears and doubts I had left unchecked and running loose. It was the reality of no control that I chose to carry with me as if I could control it. Oh that illusion of control will mess you up friends if you aren’t careful. You’ll think you’ve checked off this on your timeline of life and not its time to for that….when in actuality we are on God’s timing and that may mean you don’t get that, or not right now but when He believes you are ready.

I wish I could tell you that it’s easy to answer the what if of my friend, or of my own life. But it’s not. It’s difficult because the what if is a lie. It’s a lie of comparison. It’s a lie that our story has to be like that person or those people. It’s a lie that tells us that we can control it and we are in command. We aren’t.

You aren’t.

Neither am I.

So that night, after sharing that hard conversation with no answers with my friend, I began to wrestle once more with the what ifs? that were circling my own heart and mind. Then very clearly I realized that I had laid down that struggle before of my future but I hadn’t let go of my present. I was still wrangling it with both hands, herding here and there like wild cats. Yet God stood there all the while waiting for me to relinquish and rest. To allow Him His work and me to trust. I go before Him, even in the moments since, seeking to give my present and my future back over to Him when I try to pull it back.

It’s not mine.

Those questions? Well they are a lie that is used as a weapon to distract, manipulate and take us from His truth. And that’s when I cling to His word that tells me exactly where I am if I just keep faith and remember it’s not about me.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

1 Peter 5:6-10

More Than

I make God rather small the majority of the time.

I believe my God doesn’t want to hear about my worries and troubles. He has far bigger things to concern Himself with across the globe. They are often petty and ridiculous, so I save Him the trouble of even listening.

Because let’s be honest, conflict with a friend or woes of single life pale in comparison to the conflicts in Iraq. To the earthquake in Nepal. To those suffering and grieving in life. I feel like I am doing Him a favor by not pestering Him with my heart’s cries. And I figured He appreciates me for that.

That right there is where I, and I think many of us, get it all wrong. I am taking my perceptions of God, with my limited understanding and my own experiences of life, and placing them on Him as characteristics and ability to time manage. He’s the omnipotent, omnipresent Abba Father.

He’s Daddy.

The God who wants to hear everything, who knows our inmost being and still wants to hear from us. He calls us to abide in Him, and what happens when you abide? You continue without fading or being lost. You are fully in Him, casting it all upon Him.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6,7

That means I have to humble my opinions, experiences and thoughts. I have to put those down and thinking God doesn’t care about my anxieties because they don’t seem important in the grand scheme. Because He is more than I think He is. He is more than  my limited understanding as a human, He is more than words can describe. He is so much more than anything I have ever experience.

So today I come boldly before that throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) to talk with Him. To share, and to listen. To be in Him, without fading or being lost. Because I want to share with Him what is weighing on me, as well as the joys. I want to cast of this thought that I can handle things up to this point when He wants it all.

Take a moment today to unburden your heart, even the small things, the things which you may deem petty or minor. Let Him take on the anxieties and cares of your heart. I am learning, ever so slowly, that He wants to hear from His child. He wants to be with me and have me trust Him fully to share every thing about my life, my mind and my heart. It’s not about Him already knowing, it’s about me faithfully trusting He is more than.


This song from Danny Gokey was what got my heart and mind pushing beyond the boundaries of limited thinking to see Him as more than.

Fruit and Roots

I have a love for winter that most don’t understand. To put a caveat on this though, I do live in the South where for the most part our winters are rather mild compared to say the upper Northeast. I love snow, seeing your breath in the air, wearing mittens and coats (although I like to play the brave girl and not wear one sometimes). Seriously, every bit of it.

Well almost every bit of it.

You see I am a nature girl too, to an extent. I love plants and trees, flowers and grass. Winter brings about a pretty bleak landscape when it comes to the other thing I love, seeing things in bloom. The full color dynamic that takes place is just glorious, and for me it begs the question, “How could anyone doubt God’s existence when you see this?”

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Winter sweeps that away for the most part. We are left with bare trees, dead plants and alot of greyness. Monday I realized something though as I was out for a run on an unseasonably warm day for January, even by Southern standards (63 y’all, 63 degrees). That often some things are laid bare while others are still in bloom, still growing and prospering. I noticed it in this set of trees pictured below. All the same tree, some barren others with leaves full of green and growth.

IMG_7061I know many of you can explain why, in horticultural terms, as to why that is occurring. However for me I couldn’t help but see that it was more than just those trees. It is our lives as well. Many of us feel like we’ve been laid bare by life, circumstances, and even God. Often that is true. We are stripped bare and in the bleakness of winter, wondering if we will continue on this way. We look around us and see growth, prospering of others in their lives. We grapple and wrestle with the reality before us that we are standing side by side with others that are just having a better go at life currently while we feel naked and stunted.

That image of the trees as I ran on Monday has stuck with me this week because what is going on beneath the surface is unseen to us, how deep the roots are going in search of richness, what might be affecting one isn’t touching another, and so on. While I have touched on the comparison trap before, I think more than ever I find it’s not so much comparison as it is uncomfortableness in the uncomfortable seasons. We aren’t sure how to navigate when others seem to be blooming and we aren’t. Doubt seeps in and we question ourselves, and God too, rather than accepting that this right now, right here is what is needed in our life to sustain us for long-term growth, to let roots dig a bit deeper for the next season. A season that might have us bearing fruit for far longer than another, shining brightly full of radiance of His care for us in the bareness of this time.

Regardless of whether you’ve stripped yourself bare or it’s been at the hands of others in your life, or through God’s work, know that you aren’t alone in it. What that picture above doesn’t capture is the line of trees where every other one was blooming, while the others were bare. Bearing fruit and deepening roots come at different times, while one is obvious the other isn’t.

My prayer is a deepening of the roots when it feels like I’m in the midst of barrenness knowing that the bearing of fruit will come in it’s time.


I wanted to share the song below with you as well if you are in the midst of being stripped bare, feeling along in it, as if life is becoming a wasteland. This song had such a deep impact on me at such a dark time that I would be remiss if I didn’t share it here.

I Suck at Providing

Ack.

That would be a common text I send to a select group of people. I am quite sure they truly love getting those. They often know what that means. It’s my sound of frustration. My warring of tension and strife. The resemblance of defeatism stumbling out in the only way it can.

I find I am weary and worn, when I should be rested and ready. I look around and see others just the same. In what normally is a time of refreshment and joy, we find exhaustion and doubt.

Last night I had some of the most troubling nightmares I have had since I saw The Ring back in ’03. (just another reason to hate Alabama…) I found myself in high anxiety and it spilling into even my rest. It then rolled itself into my day and overwhelmed me at every turn.

When I sent the frustrated call out I got an amazing soap box moment from a friend. While she may have meant it for herself, it was most definitely meant for me. It was a ‘how bad could it be?’ but in a kind way. It was God looking down and saying…”Well are you going to rest your confidence in yourself some more? Or are you going to finally give in and place it in me?”

I say so often that I rest my trust in Him. I place every bit of my faith in Him. And yet when the tension rises, the expectations mount, I burrow deep and cry that the walls are caving in around me. He waits for the cry for help. He comes running when we turn back towards Him. When I try to muster up the confidence and courage in myself, it just doesn’t fit.

Why?

Because I am a sucky provider. I am actually pretty bad at it. But you know what? He’s not. Never has been. Never will be. My next step requires me to put faith into Him and not myself. Not even an ounce of it. Because He is calling me to a place of utter dependence upon Him and not a lick of it on myself. To provide. To care. To work through. To lean on. That’s some pretty great provision from a pretty solid God.

You ate no bread and drank no wine or other alcoholic drink, but he provided for you so you would know that he is the Lord your God. Deuteronomy 29:6 (NLT)

Verbally Vomiting on God.

I’m sorry for verbally vomiting on you like that the other day.

I wish I hadn’t dumped my stuff all over you like that.

My stuff is just so trivial compared to the battles others are in the midst of.

I always apologize to friends after I share what has been going on in my life, which often entails my emotions flowing out of my eyes. I’ll stammer, head down, muttering one of those phrases above. I will tell them how sorry I am for being selfish with my emotions and my anxieties, knowing they have their own fears and doubts they carry around.

Yesterday as I was reading a book on craving God in life instead of other things or people, the verse below popped up.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. 1 Peter 5:7-8

The emotion, and revelation, of seeing that verse at that moment overwhelmed me. The reason being that I do the exact same thing to God that I do with my friends. I will either keep quiet about what my fears are, what anxieties I am holding in and let them overwhelm me to the point of verbal vomit exploding forth. Or I will apologize for telling Him anything that I am feeling (yeah He already knows, but…) because I feel like I am a nuisance or being selfish.

Something I am realizing during this Christmas season is that God cares. He cared so much to send His Son to redeem and save me, to redeem and save you, then He must care about my stuff no matter how trivial I feel it to be. He cares for a heart filled with anxiety over the future, a heart riddled with fear of the unknown day ahead. It is not an annoyance for Him, when I come before Him a ball of emotions and worry to lay it down, to listen, to hope for healing.

Peter follows up that sentence with having self-control, being alert. I found that odd when I first stopped and considered the verse in depth. Then I saw that so much of the fear and anxiety can come from a place or a person whom the devil uses. What do I allow when I am not exercising self-control? I allow my eyes to wonder to those who are at a different place in their life journey, which sparks my fear. When you aren’t alert to what is around you the state of your heart becomes affected. Not only does He ask for me to cast my cares upon Him, leaving my anxieties where they are, but He asks me to have self-control and be alert to life. Alert to what it is I am allowing into my heart in order to care for me.

He cares for you today, just like He did yesterday and just like He will tomorrow. He cares for me. I simply must have self-control and take watch to be alert for what the devil may use to cause my fears to build, the anxieties to overflow once more. Verse nine closes out the section well, so I pray it for you today, as I pray it for myself, that we aren’t alone in our sufferings.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

 

Baking to Cope.

My coworkers love when I am stressed out.

Wait, that didn’t sound right.

They don’t necessarily love when I am stressed out. They love the effects of my stress often, as I tend to deal with stress through baking. Baking makes sense and it is a precise task or it will more than likely fail. And sometimes I do fail at baking. But it is how I choose to cope in stressful times. Which then is a reward for my colleagues…

I also realize that ignoring the stress, or not addressing it properly, is an unhealthy coping strategy. Believe me when I say I have been there in the ugly coping times. When I chose something far worse to channel my inability to control a situation into. I welcomed the wrong people and the wrong outlets into my life. I let chaos have control and my anxiety overwhelm me.

Some of us in this world don’t know how to address stress, anxiety, and the pressures that are often piled upon us in healthy ways. I didn’t for a long time. With either an explosive reaction of anger and frustration or choosing to ignore the reality that was presented me simply because I didn’t like it, I would go about life. I would think the world was out to get me and I would craft these elaborate scenarios which would come to be my reality.

Then I realized something, thanks to some real conversations with friends who truly cared for my well-being and health…I was choosing to cope with life. I just wasn’t choosing a life I could cope with. I picked what was easy and comfortable for me, because I needed that comfort in the stress. I needed that safety blanket.

Unfortunately for many (including myself at one point) that safety blanket has been alcohol, or pills, or sexual encounters, or cutting. I have had countless conversations with people on their coping mechanisms and far too often we choose to bury it within ourselves instead of seeking help. I was one for far too long and I understand the hurt and pain that confronts you. The words and fears of others finding out you just aren’t strong enough to cope with daily life.

But you are.

You will find out that we’re all struggling with something in our life when you decide to ask for help. For some it’s loneliness, others its finances, or family pressures. Maybe it’s work expectations or a wayward child. God never guaranteed a perfect life for us, and I know I struggle with that understanding as His child. I also know my strength doesn’t come from within myself all the time. It comes from asking for help…from talking with someone who can see the destructive path ahead of me and guide me to another trail.

Today whatever it is you are attempting to cope with in your life…whatever you are choosing to do instead of face the struggle know you are not alone. Know you don’t have to go it alone anymore. Know you are being prayed for specifically by me today.