What is it to you?

Earlier this week I was fortunate to be at my home church in Knoxville, a place I hold very dear in my heart and my was instrumental in my faith journey. The Senior Pastor is retiring and to hear Hollie Miller is a treasure and a delight. I am so thankful I was able to sit under his leadership while I lived there. He pointed to a Scripture in his sermon on Sunday that was something I’d forgotten about, and ultimately reminded me of where I’d been for a hot minute myself.

As much as Paul is my Bible boyfriend, Peter is who I am ultimately fashioned after. So much of my faith journey, my life journey is lived out much like Peter’s walk. Never was it truer than at Christ’s return, after Peter’s denial (multiplied by three y’all) while Christ was being taken to the cross. So it’s afterwards, they’ve been out fishing, back to the lives they knew before encountering Christ, when He appears on shore with some wise words on how they should be fishing.

Recently, someone (and by someone, one my beloved sisters in Christ Amy B.) showed a clip of Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump seeing Lt. Dan on the dock as his shrimping boat is coming in, and with utter glee and joy Forrest jumps off the boat to swim to the dock to see his friend. That image is liken to how Peter reacts to seeing Christ…and then Peter slips into his old self again. Christ is giving him instruction through the question of “Do you love Me?” and Peter is adamant about that fact, multiplied again by 3. And then he turns to see John, whom Christ loved, and points to him, asking “But what about him??”

It makes me laugh…and then we see Christ’s very direct and pointed response.

“If I will that he remain til I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”

Not just to Peter, but to me. To you. To each one of us who is really good and going “But God, what about them??!!”

What is that to you?

Ouch. That one hurt. What is it to us what God has given, told, or blessed someone else with? But we do it. We have since before Christ, and we have since His return. But Peter is getting a lesson straight from Christ Himself here just for us. To help us out. To show us too that we are easily susceptible to the comparison trap, even when we are followers of Christ, even an original disciple.

We sling judgement, whether via social media, our friends or internally. But what is someone else’s pursuit of God’s will to us? What is driving our insecurity and our need to compare? What is telling us it’s okay to cut down someone else’s pursuit or gift so that we can pursue ours instead? Check your motives and your direction on why you’d feel the need to make any sort of judgement on how God has asked, directed, willed another to bring His Name glory.

You follow Me.

Are we following Him? Are we keeping our eyes trained solely on Him and what He has for us?

I’m speaking to myself too here, so believe me when I say this is hard to work through…but how easy is it for us to follow someone’s Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, or Facebook and think that’s what we should be doing too? How we slip into social theology rather than the Word? We can scroll and post, and never really dig into Scripture because we just don’t have the time. But yet, we make darn sure we get our workout in, our coffee chat, our three posts on social media that’s flowery and good feeling, but we aren’t doing what He’s asked of us.

Following Christ is hard. Following Christ didn’t promise ease or blessings on demand. It promised being in His will and knowing Him more. It promised goodness and joy, glory that is in Him and not ourselves.

God didn’t restore us through His Son’s death so we could concern ourselves with others’ wills. Nope. He wanted to restore us to Him so we could be in fellowship and relationship with Him, His Son, His Spirit. He wanted our full attention because He is worthy of it, and so is His will for us, individually.

May we learn from Peter, whether it is trusting Him when He calls us out onto the water, loving Him when others are questioning whether we know Him, or when the pull to look to our left and our right at others instead of Him pulls at our hearts, minds and eyes.

A Semicolon

For a while now I have been quite enamored with the semicolon. It is stronger than a comma, but weaker than a period. It separates major sentence elements. It is more than a pause; it is a continuation of a thought relative to the sentence.

The semicolon has one definition though that I love. I read it several months ago and it has just stuck.

The author could have ended the sentence right there, but they chose to continue the story.

When I read David’s words in the familiar Psalm 23, I gave pause to the first line where David states: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Because those two lines could have been separated into different lines. But they weren’t. David’s thoughts were a continuation. Because the Lord is our Shepherd, we have no need for anything else. He leads us, restores us, comforts us, anoints us, gives us rest, brings us calm.

But for me, well I often I don’t see those two thoughts as connected. Instead I like to put emphasis on the second half as more of a directive rather than a proclamation. I do not have wants, I try to convince my soul and face my sin instead of leaning fully into the Lord being my Shepherd. To His leading and guidance that then causes my wants to be fully met by Him and not anything else.

The story continues beyond the acknowledgement of the Lord as our Shepherd. It points to our needs, our desires being found and met in Him. It means all that flows after, even in Psalm 23, is His. It comes from Him and is provided by Him. We merely have to pause and see the continuation of the story and acknowledge how it begins-with Him.

Holy Saturday

Originally posted in 2016, this post below has been updated and edited.


I have a small sign on my desk from a friend that reads “Hope always.” It was given to me in a time where I couldn’t muster much hope. I was practically an empty shell and questioning much about what I had known for some time. It sits not only as a reminder but a marker of a time when I may not have been able to find hope, but someone else was giving me some of theirs in the waiting.

Today, Saturday, I think on this hope in the waiting. I sit in the knowledge of what has happened and what is yet to come.

I think of those who couldn’t muster hope after standing, watching the One Whom they called Christ die. The One Whom they believed to be just as He said He was, the coming Messiah. He was their hope, and hope was dead.

I thumb through the words of Matthew, of Mark, in Luke and John looking for hope. I find waiting. I find Joseph active in the wait, I see the women resting in the wait. I just see a whole lot of waiting.

When it seems like our rescue is dead and buried, when that promise will not be fulfilled we can lose our hope. We watch it slip away, confident expectation no longer pulling us. But in that waiting I believe we see hope. We see hope isn’t always this shining, beautiful thing but a mess. It’s hard. It’s difficult, and maybe even borrowed when we can’t seem to muster the hope we once knew and called our own.

Hope in the waiting can look like doing the thing we know we should or resting in a promise given by Him. The wait of Saturday can be a weighty thing in our lives. It can bear out grief, mourning, doubt and fear. Hope collides with each and every one of those to bring us through and unburden us from the weight of it all. Waiting through Saturdays of our lives guide us to the beauty of the coming morning. We no longer want the pain of Friday, a necessary grief. Yet our hearts aren’t quite prepared for Sunday.

So we wait. We wait in Saturday.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities. 

Psalm 130 (NKJV)

It is the Monday of Holy Week. Yesterday in church the palm branches were waving and shouts of “Hosanna!” were heard. We cry out “Save Us!” as Christ enters Jerusalem, we recognize the Savior has come and we lay down our garments before Him.

And Monday comes. With the celebration of praise and adoration comes the judgment of God. Christ is fully God and fully man, and with that entry into holy week He brings with Him the judgment of our fruitless, thieving hearts. Mark leaves us only eight verses of Monday and yet it’s a direct reflection of who we are and why we needed Christ’s entry on Sunday.

The fig tree not bearing out fruit isn’t Christ having a case of the Mondays and losing His temper. Remember He is GOD. No the fig tree should have had evidence of it’s future fruit bearing at that point in the season. But there was nothing. Christ wasn’t hangry, He was exacting judgment and pronouncing that judgment had come to all. That speaks directly to me and it should to us all as believers. Are we bearing fruit as expected by the Vine? Are we connected to the Source of our lives? We will show budding of that expectant fruit if we are, and we can expect the convicting power of Christ if we are not producing fruit.

Then we have the table-flipping Jesus,  the Jesus who I seem to like alot. But He’s also bringing judgment, to our thieving hearts. To those that sit in the temple and seek to segregate, separate and profit from their own ideas and opinions. Thieving hearts that serve themselves rather than the gospel of Christ. Worshiping idols of greed, pride, ego and self-service.

So Monday is here. The Monday that follows praise and adoration, triumphal celebration of Sunday and brings the urgent message of judgment. Judgment come in flesh for repentance…for confession…for turning. We see the full righteous anger of Christ on Monday of Holy Week, and how it directly speaks to us and the state of our hearts.

Inconveniences

“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 (NKJV)

In the aftermath of traveling (by foot and ship), preaching to hardened hearts and skeptics, converting those whose hearts were opened to the gospel, and casting out demons in Christ’s power and authority. Even just one of those exhausts me in reading about it. In the midst of all this, Paul and Silas were met with opposition which took a violent turn into floggings and imprisonment. All of this after being directly guided by the Holy Spirit to go to this exact place.

And what are Paul and Silas found doing at midnight, of all times, in prison ? They are praising God and singing hymns. And the prisoners are listening to them, as one would a beautiful piece of music, with delight and intent.

I don’t know about you all but I whine and complain about minor inconveniences in my daily life. Like a busted water pipe, missing a workout, a car not starting, traffic, stress at work. I don’t automatically and with voice raised sing hymns and praise God in the midst. I admit that freely because it’s not my natural tendency.

But it should be as a child of God. Just like Paul and Silas.

They were specifically and unjustly being punished for their faith. For preaching the gospel we know today and Christ which we call Savior and King. They were experiencing true persecution, and not just inconveniences we too often feel in our every day life. And yet, they were rejoicing in the God who had led them there by His Spirit. More than that, those in the jail were listening y’all.

People are listening, watching as those of us who are believers react and respond to life, circumstances, situations and inconveniences. They see what it is we truly place our hope and faith in when we face the dark of midnight.

Paul and Silas were living testimonies that circumstances don’t define our hope, our joy, our faith, the gospel, Christ Himself. Not a bit of it weighed them down as they were bleeding and chained in that prison. They knew where God intended to have them, to use them, to spread His truth and His word at just the right time, that no one else would be fit for that time and those men in prison.

Maybe you’re not called out to international missions, but you are called as a believer to carry the gospel with you each day, in each interaction and circumstance. And how you respond to the stressors of this life could be the only glimpse of Christ a person might have, and that you were called to be in that place at that time, even if it’s an inconvenience to you, it could mean eternity to someone else.

Because when you continue to read in chapter 16 you see a jailer and his family believing and receiving Christ as their hope and redemption. That is worth the inconvenience of your time and your life.

The Legitimacy of Singlehood

I write and delete quite a bit when I am writing on singleness. Because I fear what I say will be misconstrued or even so boldly taken as offensive. But what I struggle with more is the tension I feel within the church more and more for singles. My heart is for them, because I am one of them. It’s something I have grown into wrestling with over the years and now find as I look around the landscape a desperate need for us within the walls of the church and in the community.

You’ve likely heard the statistics that people now-a-days are waiting to get married later in life (27 ain’t that late y’all) and there are more singles than in years past whether from never marrieds, divorce, widowhood.

So we’re prevalent in numbers and also in need. We are a subset based upon our marital status has left us wanting community, wanting a safe haven, a place to be. To walk out lives of faith with others. Sometimes that means with couples guiding the way, other times that’s in similar communities, and invariably it means living life with groups of the same sex because we are often drawn to what we know and do daily.

But when I look at the landscape of churches these days, I don’t see much modeled in the legitimacy of singleness in leadership. Yes, you’ll have a handful in the pre-school or nursery ministries, maybe even in kid’s ministry that are singles. You’ll have a couple of singles leading life groups that are for singles. But what you don’t see are singles in pastoral positions for the most part. (I put a contingent on there because I know of ONE) I don’t see singles in other leadership roles within a church staff.

To me it seems that we aren’t counted worthy in the church until there’s a band attached to our fingers. That we cannot be taken seriously as leaders, servants in the church, unless we have a spouse. I understand the difficulties of leading in ministry, and when you are single, the inherent loneliness that surrounds you in that. I have seen it first hand and heard from others.

It just makes me wonder what the undercurrent culture we are building in the church is saying to those of us who are single. That we aren’t worthy? That we only matter yea far and no further? That we can be responsible for babies and teaching kids, but don’t get us near a group of grown adults? Or that we’ll read Paul’s words in the Bible, learn from words given him by God and then forget that he too was single. Or that frankly Christ Himself was single throughout His ministry here with us. The Son of God brought forth here in earth was never married. In His 30s.

And yet, we can’t be bothered to consider how singles can impact the world with their faith just by pouring a bit more into them? That we’d rather discount their abilities simply out of the lack of a spouse. We’d discount their calling God has given them, their spiritual giftedness, simply due to their marital status.

Maybe this is my soap box currently. That the church has moved corporately in many ways to the family, without realizing the very definition of family was long ago crushed and restructured by Christ-brothers and sisters defined by faith and not blood. That we are all the Bride of Christ.

Do I Matter to God?

I heard him rattle of phrases such as Daniel in the den, Moses at the burning bush, David and Goliath. It’s that “Go Big or Go Home” mentality but with a spiritual twist on it. As believers we often point to the big works of God and want that for ourselves. To be plucked out of shepherding of the field to take down a giant. From unknown in the hard work of daily tending to on the largest stage of battle slaying a mouthy colossus of a man, showing him our God is bigger. Our ark to build for safety away from the sin-filled world around us.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all want that big moment. To go from unknown to known. From feeling meaningless in our work for God to meaningful. When we get the small or seemingly mundane task, we fight against it. We wage in the tension of the small, our obedience in it because it feels like there should be more. We should be more. More known. We wonder if we’ve been forgotten by God in our small things. Are we not special enough to get the call for something big for God? Where’s our ark? Where’s our Isaac? Can we not be trusted with such big works for Him?

And so we give up in our daily, small works for Him. Our faith falters, we stumble in our egos and emotions. We question, doubt, we throw our hands up in frustration. We believe ourselves to be less than everything He’s said we are to Him, to one another. Or better yet, we strive after arks of our own building and battles that aren’t ours to wage. All as a means to make ourselves known more to God. To be seen by the One who sees all, who knows all-especially those whom He created…that’s us. Because we feel as though we don’t much matter unless He’s giving us something big to do, a platform or cause, a war to fight on His behalf that we’ve not been called to. We busy ourselves with work that isn’t ours all for the banner of being known, of mattering to God.

Mary and Martha come to mind…one recognized the immediacy of the task at hand-being with Christ, called to obedience in sitting at His feet, being in His Presence, knowing Him. The other? Well she looks a lot like me. Busying herself to matter to Him, all the while He’s asking me to come sit, be in His Presence. He’s whispering that I matter because He’s chosen to dwell with me, here and now. Not for what I can do big for Him but for simply meeting Him there, in my small, in my mundane, in my daily. Hour to hour, moment to moment.

That “Go Big or Go Home” mentality that calls us to this new year with new pages to write on our stories may look like small moments. Small yeses in the mundane, hourly obedience and living out the fruit of joy, peace, patience, kindness in the immediate things. So maybe that means sitting a bit longer at His feet, in His Presence rather than rushing to organize that conference or speak from a platform. Maybe that is what matters most to Him-your attention to Him and not to the stuff.

Regardless of what we do or don’t do, we matter to Him. We matter so much He came to be with us, to go before us and be the sacrifice in our place, to take on our guilt, shame, sin so that we could be in relationship with Him, with God, and the Holy Spirit. He chose us because we matter to Him…so maybe your obedience in the small, in the seemingly mundane is meaningful. Maybe today He just wants you, your attention, your presence with Him.