The Ping of Death

I heard the ping, ping, ping of a nail going into a piece of wood echo in the room. Words, lies, hurt, anger, things carried by women for far longer than they should of, and some since childhood, getting nailed to a cross. If I am still long enough, a week later, I can still hear it.

And there’s part of me that knows the devil does not want me to remember that. He likes me hearing words, believing lies he’s fed me and living in a place of hopeless regret and bitterness, turning to gossip and envy rather than pouring out love and support, encouragement and joy.

Y’all. I know without a doubt God has given me a desire to work in women’s ministry. To write about faith, singleness, dating, community. To put together studies and gather women to uplift one another. I know that without a single doubt in my mind. But here’s the kicker I have wrestled so hard and for so long with: I don’t do relationships with my fellow ladies well.

That’s the reminder I get when I start writing, when I sign up to lead a small group, when I step out to engage other women. You don’t do it well. Who are you to do this? Your circle is small. It’s like he knows what my downfall is, what will make me stumble and run back to my hiding place. Where I circle up with my self and vow that I won’t put myself out there, to look ridiculous and be known. I’d rather stay to the outskirts and not be hurt or mocked.

Even writing all of this has been a difficult step for me over this last week. Because I’ve had to admit to myself that I would prefer to live in the lie and doubt God rather than trust Him fully with the work He’s doing all along. And so last Monday I sat sobbing…ladies around me not understanding why or knowing what I wrote on that sheet of paper and put down on that cross-knowing Jesus Himself took care of it so long ago so that I wouldn’t carry it anymore, that I should have never carried it to begin with. But I had taken to living in James 3:16, choosing envy of others living out what I believed God had given me and seeking my own selfish ambition in my own strength…I was leaning into words and perceived slights of others as a means of willful disobedience and mistrust of God.

Y’all it’s an ugly place to be in, where you point the finger of judgement and unmet/unreasonable expectations of others, seeking to gossip and cut down fellow believers instead of building each other up through encouragement and support. It’s not mine to define how someone should be a friend to me, nor should I choose to sin against them when they don’t meet expectations I have falsely established for them. My life should look more like verses 17 and 18 of James 3-peace loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy, bearing out the good fruit of righteousness.

And so a work God had long since started in me, came bearing out in the pings of a nail and a hammer onto the cross Monday night. Surrounded by women from across the church, fighting to let go and put the lies, the hurt, the doubt, the anger, all of it. That view was intended specifically for me. That sound. That moment. Because God knew only that would get me to wake up to what He’d been aiming straight at my heart with for months…that the desire of His heart was calling to mine if I would but listen, lay everything else down and pick up the cross instead.

I had to hear that specific ping of death, the death nail of the lies and sin I had chosen repeatedly to finally see the weight of it all…to know He long took it from me, if I’d but put it there for good.

The Struggle is Real

Do you have those moments where you just know that it’s God talking through a friend specifically to you about something buried deep that you keep pushing back down?

No? Just me.

Oh well good.

Recently with a friend, who did not know what I had been killing and burying repeatedly within me, they brought up the struggle of the flesh with obedience to God’s prompting. I thought it interesting because I wasn’t prepared for that wallop at the time, since I myself had spent the better part of two weeks avoiding dealing with this rising notion of disobedience because of the flesh whispering the very thing it knew would get me, what others would think.

real

Most of the time I am good at really not minding what is thought of me, but the grooves of my old self, an approval addict to the very core, found some footing in my heart as I sought to be obedient in what I still feel is God prompting me on about discipleship and women’s ministry. Then this verse came up when listening to a sermon first thing today and I knew it. I knew exactly what the flesh was after and the struggle I had not been fighting but just burying to avoid.

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. -Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

I was right back in my approval mode of life, looking alot like the habits of my old self and wondering what people would think of me if I asked, if I stepped out in obedience. I didn’t realize it in the moment, or over the course of the last few weeks but I knew for certain this morning that I was pursuing the things which I hate-old habits. A life that I had crucified to the cross because I was already approved, loved and adored by the One who went to the cross for me. Who took it all on Himself so that I would not have to worry about such things but live in the abundant approval of the King of the world.

But just because that approval addiction has been nailed to the cross doesn’t mean it still doesn’t wiggle off, limping and broken to come right back to me in the moments when the flesh wants to remind me of what I used to be, habits I left a solid tread mark for in my old self. I didn’t need a CSI team to tell me where those tracks led, but somehow I was willingly off the path that the Spirit had been leading, all too quickly simply out of the worry of approval.

Y’all, let me be the example to tell you that you cannot be living in obedience with God, walking in step with the Spirit and not expect your habits of old self to attempt to distract you. Because they do. They want you off that path, even with the lie as the pastor pointed out this morning, “that you’ll get back in step and on that path later.”

The struggle is truly real, not with our old selves but with those habits that wore deep paths within us from that prior life…ones that are often easier to find than the step in front of us that is with the Spirit. Maybe like me, you needed to hear today that even when we believe we are in step with the Spirit that our habits can distract us, can pull us into an old way that feels comforting and familiar but is blatantly disobedient to where we are supposed to be, where we are called to be by God. But we have the choice to recognize it, to see the old path and know that the outcome leads to death and hurt. So we can then choose repentance, obedience and placing that foot back on the path with the Spirit leading. Back in tune with “the desire to what is good” and knowing “there is no ability to do it” on our own. (Romans 7:18(b) HCSB)

Where is it today that you need to  step out of that habit of your former self to boldly step in the path with the Spirit? To choose obedience and the power of God in you rather than the flesh that reminds you of your old self?

The struggle is hard, but the continual sin of fleshly habits is real. And eternally tethered.

Saul, Pride and The Wait

A while ago, the exact date I cannot recall, I remember praying for deliverance from a situation. It was a situation that I had wrestled, fought against, and made myself low in simply to find the means to get through it and into a new season. I kept finding myself back there, back in the situation that brought hurt, frustration and humiliation to some degree. As I asked God for deliverance, I defined how it should come forth. How He should provide it and what it should look like. I gave Him the story of deliverance to bless it, even in my most broken and convicted state.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of  the situation long enough to see how He was going to deliver me. I wanted the situation shuttled away, the person that was at the core of the frustration removed, all the while He was using me to refine and grow.

As I read through 1 Samuel this morning on the anointing of Israel’s first prince (Saul) and his reign over the course of five chapters I couldn’t help but see some of situation play out. What struck me was in the waiting on God to go before him in battle, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands. Specifically, he manipulated godly offering to justify his own inadequacies and fears. Moments after doing so, the promised arrival of the prophet and priest Samuel comes to fruition, laying bare Saul’s foolhardiness and prideful disobedience.

Years later, looking back on that season of life, I see that I was trying to manipulate my offering to God. Yes, you can have the situation and circumstances but only if you bless this specific outcome. Yes, I give this over to you, but only in this way and only if you deliver me in the way I have laid out for you. 

And I can honestly say I have done it since then, but not in such a large and bold manner. Not with such prideful disobedience to say that I would take the very thing God has given and use it for my own gain. It’s the evidence of a heart that still battles the sinful nature, a heart that desires control and knowledge beyond understanding. It’s the heart that tries to put itself on equal footing with God, when in fact it should be bowing in reverence, fear, and praise to Him.

When we define how God should work in our life, putting parameters and our limited thinking over His sovereignty we tell Him (and those around us) that we know better. We box Him into this far off God who does not care about the lives of His children instead of the truth that He does care, He does hear, and He does actively work in our lives for the good of all of us. That good doesn’t get defined by us in one moment/season/stage. We would choose the lie of our heart’s prideful disobedience rather than Truth which has redeemed us, carried us, and led us for far longer.

Maybe you haven’t dealt with this, or maybe you are smack dab in the middle of praying your way through a situation but giving God the directions as if He needed them. Instead of diagrams and manipulations of His will, today let’s release ourselves from the pride, the disobedience, the control and with open hands give God the entire situation as we wait. Waiting in obedience for Him to work as He deems good, and not how we define it for ourselves.

I Will Trust In You

Trust is a hard thing to define. Yes, we have what Webster’s defines it as: a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. But it’s not tangible, it’s not firm in our hands. Often times we misplace it.

Or maybe that’s just me.

That I will put trust in someone and find it’s not founded. Or that the trust is abused.

Then I realize most of all I am not always trusting God, trusting Christ with my concerns and trusting the Holy Spirit to lead me. Oh I say I trust in Him fully, I look to verses like Proverbs 3:5,6 which are great screen art and wall hangings….

But am I truly believing them and living it out? Am I trusting in Him with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding? Y’all, I have to admit I try too much to rely on my own understanding. I don’t acknowledge Him in all my ways, instead I go my own way and ask Him to bless that instead.

It makes a mess of things, a heart that thinks it knows best and a mind set on doing it’s very best in a situation. When I look back over the 18 years of my life as a Christian, I can see that placing trust in Him has been good, it’s been reliable. Yet I still want to think I know better for myself instead of the God who orchestrated the Creation of the world. The Savior Who brought my redemption into reality. The Spirit which resides within me daily walking with me in every single moment.

Frankly I am telling Him that I trust myself more. That’s a hard one to admit, even harder to realize that’s exactly what I have been saying for a while. That my own obstinate mind is far superior in the understanding of life than His. Oof. While I wish I didn’t do that, often times I do. Maybe you do too. (Or maybe you are better at this trust of Him than I am) So I try my own way, in my own understanding in a given situation. I step out of follower position and attempt to lead out. Leading from a place of misunderstanding, pride, limited view and disobedient will to show that I trust in me.

Oh I tell Him I trust in Him, I will tell others and listen as they tell me to “just trust God” in it. But I trust Him on up to this point and no further. It all stems from an ego of fallen nature. My family line of trust that points all the way back to Eve, and I just can’t quite shake it. I inwardly laugh at promises He gives because I simply don’t trust in the God Who has been faithful in every single thing He has said.

So I have to step away from lip service of trust and live in it. Live in the trust I so desperately want to call my own and place within me, and lay it down before Him. I have to give my trust over to Him and understand that He is worthy of all my trust. He is reliable. He is my strength. He is Truth. He is able. I have to keep giving it over to Him when I want to place it back in me, believing I know better or can do it all on my own.

It’s not about just saying “I will trust in You, Lord” but about living it out breath by breath, prayer by prayer, step by step and day by day.


Sandals, Bushes, and Obedience

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”  Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.  Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.  Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

If you grew up in the church, like I did, you may recall this flannel graph. Moses. The bush on fire. God’s call on Moses’ life to deliver the Israelites from slavery. Nestled in this story I have missed something all these years.

Maybe I was too preoccupied with the burning bush, removing the sandals on holy ground (I seriously love that part), and the precursor to the plagues in Egypt. If you keep reading through to the end you will see the slight shift. From reverent awe to selfish preoccupation.

The Creator God of all, who is present before you in the form of a burning bush, is calling you specifically to be the deliverance of an enslaved people. You respond with only weakness and excuses. Here’s the kicker for me. God doesn’t respond to Moses how you and I respond when others throw out false humility (cause we do, I know I do).

No, God responds only how God can. Pointing to Himself. That He is with Moses and that He is the Supreme God in I AM. Moses is insufficient, he is selfish and prideful, he is weak. As we all are. Yet God reminds him in the midst of his backtracking that He is with him, He is giving him a sign, and Moses will succeed because he will serve God on that very mountain. (Yeah I missed that when, not if, too in that last statement)

I don’t know about you but I often resemble Moses (we see him do this a couple more times) and Abraham and even my namesake, Sarah, more than I would like to admit. I backtrack when God calls me to something or someone. I point to my inefficiency and inability instead of resting in the presence of Him with me. Instead of trusting He knows far more than I do, and believing that He is at work in me and with me. I scoff at His plan simply out of a disobedient and prideful heart, even as I stand on holy ground watching Him at work.

Today, as we start a new week, dwell in what He has been calling you to or in. Maybe it’s a career change, or maybe it’s to remain right where you are. Maybe it’s to minister to the person you just cannot tolerate or maybe it’s the people in your own home. Instead of giving Him a list of why you can’t in response, today…in the moment, believe in the I AM. Trust that He is with you in it. When you have fulfilled it, know you will serve Him there. In that. With Him.

Feelings, It’s Gotta Be More Than Feelings…

How do you feel? You feeling okay today? Well, that doesn’t feel right.

As humans, we exist and emote. It sets us apart from most other mammals in that way. Feelings get hurt, encouraged, and empathized. We put alot of stock into feelings.

Often though, we confuse feelings and obedience.

I see this very profoundly in my nephews. Captain Chaos gets in trouble quite often because he doesn’t feel like minding what he has been told to do. He’ll even be honest and let you know he doesn’t feel like it.

As adults, we find ways of sneaking around obedience to mask it in feelings of tiredness, apprehension, and apathy, when in fact it’s outright disobedience.

We’ve become closed off to just how disobedient we are as believers. We’d rather pick one another apart than obey the Sovereign God of us all, me included. Perhaps if we all realized that obedience isn’t a feeling but rather a commandment the kingdom, and our lives especially, would look vastly different.