Living Sacrifices

It’s the 4th of July here in the States. A time when we celebrate our independence from that monarchy and reign of the British so long ago. I joked it was the original Brexit on a couple of social media platforms because IT WAS. We often take this time in America to show our respect for the Founding Fathers of our quite young nation (look at other countries y’all, we’re pretty green behind the ears still) and honor those who have sacrificed for our country through battles and wars.

We are very sentimental that way as Americans, remembering the sacrifices of others to give us the independence we exercise through tubing on the lake, shooting off fireworks until the neighbors call the cops, and playing Florida Georgia Line at top volume. We like that word sacrifice alot around this time of year, what with Memorial Day and 4th of July, and the regal nature in which we honor those that ultimately sacrificed their lives so that we can not be under a reign of a monarchy or dictatorship.

But I don’t think we like that word being applied to our lives, or what we are asked to do. It’s good for others, but no so much ourselves. Believe me when I say I wrestle with this just as much. Because sacrifice means something has to be given up, it has to be surrendered…or even killed. So I look at Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 12 and start to see the bigger tension evolving.

“That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

See we are living…breathing…acting…doing…and yet, we are to be sacrificing ourselves for God, to Him, because that is the reasonable response to the God who saves, redeems, loves and sacrificed Himself for us. It means to me I have to kill off myself in every moment, give myself over not to my whims, desires and emotions, but the Spirit within me. Not choosing this world (as Paul continues on telling us) to live into but transformed by Him in every single part of us. It is the surrender of ourselves for the sake of something better-the very best we could ever encounter, God Himself.

So when I want to dwell in this place of sacrifice and seeing how others have given of themselves I cannot help but look at the sacrifice of Christ and the daily act as this living being of sacrificing myself unto Him, His reign, His rule and His will. Not for some selfish pursuit or half-hearted liberty I can conjure up but for the ultimate liberty in Christ.  Not to pursue my own life, but one sacrificed fully for the very best thing…Christ.

Oh that I wish it were as easy as I like to deceive myself that it is. But sacrificing myself and all that selfish desire, ambition and emotion is hard. The person that says it’s easy is lying, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean I give in and lean back into a self-pursued life. It means going hard into transforming my mind, knowing my strength is not my own, but Christ’s in every. single. moment. if I but ask, seek with my heart. Y’all, this Christian life of sacrificial living isn’t easy but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to surrender my attitude, my mouth, my mind, my weakness…every single bit of me even the parts I really don’t want to give up, to know I am serving God in faith.

So where might you need to live as a sacrifice today? What area has God been hammering in on you that needs to be killed off in order to be set apart?

Stretching Beyond Issues

I am a sucker for track meets. There I said it. Maybe it’s my middle school self that did the field events, or that most of the time it’s the Olympics I end up seeing. But something draws me in to the foot races. Having just taken up running in the last year or so I like to watch how they pace out or in relays where they hand off.

But mostly I like the close sprints at the end. I like the throwing of the body into every possible high gear imaginable and then seeing the stretch of the competitors as they cross for the hopeful win.

I was thinking on this as I watched the video recently of the Senior Olympics and the elderly women competing. One woman was walking the 100 yards, and still hauling tail doing it. But I didn’t see the women in this particular race pushing and stretching across the finish line. They’ve been there before. They have competed and are in the final laps of life (sorry to bring it down there) but that competitive streak just wasn’t there. They made it to that point and they were good with themselves.

Of course this has made me think about what we reach for in our lives. How we stretch to grasp a particular thing in our lives. And I come back to a story about another woman who stretched in faith to obtain something she desperately needed.

We don’t know her name, but in a just a few sentences we see much about her life story. We find her in Matthew 9, as Christ is being called to the home of a Jewish leader at the death of his daughter. This is after the incident in the boat, where Christ calls out for peace in the midst-pointing to the disciples lack of faith in the midst. She is a woman who probably has been cast out of the village, separated because of an ongoing condition that made her unclean. It probably also meant she was without children and possibly without a husband. She was dealing with a medical issue that had gone on for 12 years, intermittently.

She was unclean. Cast out. Alone. Questioning. Seeking healing.

I find I identify with her sometimes. The perception of so much rolled into one person…just fighting to get within arms’ reach of Christ. I wonder how long she journeyed, how long it took her to approach Him. But she came.

She came seeking. She came stretching, in the faith that He would make her well. Being in His very presence encouraged her faith in Him. I don’t know if she pondered, but I like to think she saw her opportunity and believed on Him in a split second, reaching to touch just His garment. Knowing that was enough. That HE is enough.

Trust. Faith. Hope.

Never more do I see faith in action than when I read this story and think about her. Those times when I see that I need to stretch and I allow the doubts, fears, my own voice, my ego, pride, and sin tell me to pull back and trust in my own way instead. I want to cling to that faith that I drew into 17 years ago. The faith that I cling to and grasp ahold of with all that I can hold. Oh but to reach just a bit farther into His Presence, in the midst of mourning, of busy and chaos, just to be healed.

That faith that Christ admonished the disciples for lacking so little of she was filled with in just a moment. She knew it was only in Him would salvation be found, the blood would stop draining from her and she would be made clean, whole.

All it took was a reach of faith. Stretching beyond herself into Who He is. Trusting His Presence more than self. Believing in faith bigger than anything else this world wants to offer as a distraction, respite or temporary salve.

And so I reach beyond my own boundaries, my own self to be in His Presence. Faith confirmed. Faith assured.

Stretching for His touch, believing it’s about Him and not in my power.

Singleness and Social Media

Babies are filling up my social media these days. And wedding announcements, engagements and hands held high with mouths in shock.

“He liked it, so he put a ring on it!”

“Excited to announce the newest arrival!”

Spring has sprung the nesting and additions to families all across my friendships.

If I am honest, as this is occurring and I am diving deeper into a healthy relationships with my church family it would be easy for me, the single gal, to slip into an ugly place of sin and discouragement. To find myself seeing what I don’t have and what others do have. To covet. To find jealousy lurking in the depths of a heart not in tune with God’s truth for me. To see depression set in once more, a true depression of the entire body where I shut myself off and shut myself down accepting this life as it is now.

Last week I talked a bit about questioning why we are in the place we are in. And I do from time to time, especially when these life celebrations begin to fill up my life for everyone else, but myself. I started to realize that it wasn’t about them but the state of my heart, and my relationship with God first before it ever got to my relationship with them.

You see, if I am loving God with all that I have (mind, heart, emotions) with everything I got (strength) even in my sensibilities and will (soul) then I am not focused on the others. My gaze isn’t on the scrolling screen of “good life, good wife” mentalities but on the One who gave His life so that I might be in this relationship with Him. When I lean into Christ and what my relationship is with Him, I don’t leave space for coveting because I know without a doubt in my head or heart that I am overflowing with gratitude, love, joy. When that happens, again and again, and I live into that truth for my life instead of the truth the world is trying to craft for me that I need to be this person or in that relationship, fruit develops. I bear out lovingkindness, peace, patience, goodness.

This is fruit for others to enjoy, for me to give away and not allow to sour or rot on the vine. Alot of times I want that fruit for myself, but when He points us to loving others as we love ourselves that means giving away what has filled us up-the good stuff, His stuff, HIM.

He pushes out all the other that I find I sometimes want to live in and loll about in on a quiet Friday night. But He’s right there, ever-present, whispering truth that my relationship with Him is filling me so that I am not growing into what the world thinks I should look like as a single lady but what He has defined for me to be as His.

So I can celebrate weddings, births, new jobs and adventures of friends with a heart full of joy, gratitude and love. For them. For myself. For Him.

Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV

I was listening to a podcast recently that was focused in on this piece of Scripture. With the recent terror attacks and debate on refugees in America, it caused me to look once more at the words of Christ here.

You see my neighbor isn’t just the one living in proximity to my home. It’s the people I work with, the people I hang out with, it’s my community, my town and all those I come into contact with. As I listened further something caught my heart. We can only love others as we love ourselves when we in fact do love ourselves.

That’s where I think most of us find the hiccup on this loving others command. Because loving ourselves comes from the overflow of God loving us. It’s us seeing how we are loved by God that we cannot help but love ourselves with that same love, which spills over into loving others as well. But I’ll be honest, I don’t love myself very much.

And I most certainly don’t love as God loves me.

I’m my worst critic and the first to jump out at myself for mistakes and blunders. I will critique things about myself that I would never do to anyone else. But I think we are in this context of viewing that if we love ourselves, as believers, we are being in the flesh and selfish. We are choosing to put ourselves above others. But that’s not what Christ is pointing out here. You see He first points to loving the Lord with every bit that we have-mind, heart and soul.

We love because He first loved us. We didn’t have the capacity to love until He loved us with a love that has no ending-it’s an all-consuming, holy love that flows deep into us. A love not based on performance or looks, not based on intelligence or athletic ability. It’s a love that doesn’t seek anything but to give us value and worth. That same value and worth that we demean when we cut ourselves down through unloving words and thoughts, actions and sentiments.

There are days when I find it incredibly difficult to love people but as I dig deeper into His Word and what He says about me, I am finding that it’s on those days that I haven’t been loving myself well either. You can’t fake love, and you certainly cannot conjure it up…but you can lean into His love and let it flood you when you aren’t feeling lovable. Because that’s when He reminds you of the love He has for you, love that is true and right. Love that is there waiting to fill so that you in turn can love others with that same unwavering love.

Loving your neighbor becomes a commonplace, just as loving yourself does. Give yourself space and grace to love yourself the way He loves you. Then you’ll see yourself loving others in the same way.