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┬áPeter, 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.

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?”

DSCN0780

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.

The Straight Comparison

In around the fifth grade my hair mysteriously decided it would be curly. Up until that point it was straight. For years I have gone back and forth in allowing it to be curly or straightening it. My entire Senior year of high school I got every thirty minutes earlier every morning to straighten and hot roll it.

All I wanted was my straight hair back. Then I look around and see friends, people attempting to have curly hair. Gone, for the most part, are the days of perms. But you see the perfectly fake ringlets as women want so badly to have curly hair if they have straight.

In just this small way we see our propensity, a very natural one, to focus in on what we do not have, comparing it to what others do and measuring to see who came out at the top of the leaderboard. We have to fight against that natural part of us that desires to be on top. That desires to be the best or the first.

While not our natural tendency, one that we as Christ followers are called to embrace and weave into our lives is something we should be looking to first. In the world we are told that unless you’re first, you’re last in all things. I think we as believers have even gotten to that point of believing that. Of comparing our work to the work God has given others, or looking at a season one person is in and our own season wondering what they have done to be in theirs while we may be in the desert of our own.

It’s really interesting as lately the comparisons have come in a different way…yet they are still carrying the envy of another’s season of life and not the one I am in. It took me a while to figure that out, that even in a relatively good season of life we compare-even in our walks with Christ-among one another.

I am the world’s best comparer (see, even in that moment I had to be the best at something bad). Yet I am coming to see that where He wants me to be is good. For me. He knows me uniquely. That what I am in now, is what He has known I would be in. That it is for good and not for comparison nor to stir up strife or worry. While we are on the journey together, comparing the strides, the timing and the distance is not something we are called to do. Ultimately God is at work in each of us, specific to what we need. Would I rather be intimately known by the Creator, as He walks with me in my journey, or would I rather He address me as a number? Comparing diminishes the relationship I have with Him, and subsequently, diminishes Him and His sovereignty in my life, in all things.

 

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Romans 12:4, 5 (NKJV)

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30 (ESV)

Sharing Sunday

Just like with Singling Out Saturday, Sharing Sunday came from The Nester 31 Day Challenge. Today I wanted to share with you a pretty pointed quote. I am unsure of where it came from as I didn’t document it in my reading journal, but it’s from quite a while ago as I was reading back through the first few pages this morning.

One way to ensure a miserable life is to constantly measure your own life by the lives of the people around you.

I don’t know about you but this season of the year, with gifts and parties and friends and family, tends to cause a bit of envy to rise up. We see what others get, and give, and start to compare our life to theirs.

My nephews were looking over the Lego website to let Nana and me know what they wanted…the little one would say “I want that too!” everytime big brother would pick something out. It’s the age old story that goes back to the Fall of Man essentially. We want what we believe we deserve in life, and if that includes what others have then so be it. However it leads to a miserable life spent dwelling on what others are doing, where they are going, or what they have.

I hope this week of Thanksgiving we can all take time to understand we are all separate people with separate gifts and blessings, trials and hardships. Instead of dwelling on what others have that we don’t, let us be grateful for what God didn’t give us to begin with, because that is truly the only thing we deserve. Let that carry us through this season, and throughout the year.

Now and Then…

Being single, I hear alot of stories from people on how they met their spouse or significant other. They share where they met, who introduced them, and what their dating relationship was like. Most often, I love hearing those stories. The butterflies and googly eyes, the initial questions of when to tell the other “I love you” and so on. I value those stories as they often strike a chord in the romantic part of myself.

Photo property of proprofs.com
Photo property of proprofs.com

The threat to those stories, and what inevitably will happen when I am dating someone, is that I begin questioning why our story in the relationship isn’t reading just like another couple’s. I go to a place of comparing my current relationship’s now with another duo’s then, regardless of whether it was five or fifty years ago.

It even holds true in my own life as a single. I have some amazing single friends, but I catch myself if I am not careful comparing my now to their then of even several months ago. Whether that’s their walk in Christ or their profession. I want to look at my now and wonder why it’s not their then.

Image courtesy of makinglemonadeblog.com
Image courtesy of makinglemonadeblog.com

So I wonder today, why I would want to live in someone else’s past (or even my own) instead of the gift of now? It’s awfully tempting to live in someone else’s story than to risk the creation of your own. Enjoy your now today, and put a stop to looking at the thens.

 

 

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For more on comparison and joy thieving, check out a post I wrote this summer here.

Joy Thief

I have to say for the most part I haven’t really compared who I am or the life I lead to others. I don’t sit and pine away for the life of celebrities in magazines or on television. For a while I did think the news anchors had a sweet gig, but that’s about as far as it got. I don’t sit and look at my colleagues at other places and wish I had that office or that promotion. I am just not the person who strives to keep up with the Joneses or Pitts. I have a blessed life that I am truly grateful for.

Photo courtesy of laurabunk.com
Photo courtesy of laurabunk.com

I have written previously about loving pieces of others-things I wish I could attain like a healthier outlook on my writing or shrinking my mancalves. Don’t get me wrong on this, I appreciate the beauty in others, their lives and their stories. However just as that quote states, if I continue down the comparison path, I will find discontent with the life I have.

I am just as unique as you are, as every one else is, therefore my path-my life-is unique to me. Why would I want someone else’s anything when I have the knowledge God has blessed me with everything He knows I can be responsible for? The Creator of all trusts me with exactly what I have-nothing less, and nothing more. (Let’s be honest, I sometimes manage to screw up even that.)

How is that for your joy? How is that for my satisfaction?

Maybe right now you are comparing your single life to a married one? Or let’s switch it, and say you are comparing your married life to a single person’s? Maybe you’re looking at someone who has this great boyfriend and you wish you had someone like that in your own life. Carry the knowledge you are meant for today. Exactly where you are. With exactly what you have. He wouldn’t have it any other way. So why should you?

“…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11