Women, Worship and My Comfort

I waited in the parking lot until the last possible minute before being late. I walked in and realized I did not look anything like the other people there.

Here’s the thing, looks are deceiving. They lie to us and give us false perceptions, assumptions based purely on what our eyes are confronted with, and not the truth of a heart and mind.

This past Sunday I had the absolute privilege to sit among a body of fellow believers in a small country church just south of where I live, mere minutes from my front door. I was greeted and welcomed with the most loving smiles and sentiments, handshakes and hugs (and y’all know I’m not a hugger). It was an outpouring of gladness to see someone there to worship the same God they do on that Sunday. The only difference to be seen? The color of skin. (and the fact I had chosen not to put panty hose on…a fact I am sure my grandmother in heaven had a fit about).

But what wasn’t seen was the heart. Can I tell you that my heart needed to be there Sunday? In a house of worship where people weren’t worried what it would look like to praise Him, to shout and lift hands high as the Spirit was felt among us. The word brought from a female on the platform was truly challenging and affirming, reminding me to look and discern with not only a Christ-centered mind but also the female perspective.

Because y’all, the woman at the well? That story we hear so often in the church…the script was flipped and put from her point of view, from the dangers of gossip to the Stranger who became the Changer of her heart and life. I mean, c’mon…that was a good Word given to her to then give to all of us. I appreciated so much the recognition of women in the congregation (me and my friend included) for their Women’s Day. As the service ended, person after person came up to greet us, talk with us, invite us to coffee in the fellowship hall right then.

It struck me as I left that my worries over the stares or whispers, were purely driven by  my own ego, my own self and the comfort I like to live in. What I was met with was the hands and feet of God’s children, my brothers and sisters in Christ happily asking me to join them in giving back praise to our God. When our eyes and hearts are on God, they aren’t on our environment, or our surroundings. They aren’t concerned with how we’ll look to others but how we are bringing the glory to God as is due.

It comes down to focusing on the state of our hearts than the state of how little others are thinking about us. When we right our heart and mind in Christ, we find that the opinions (or lack thereof) of others and ourselves seem to matter a whole lot less. And we find when we take our eyes off of others, we too draw nearer to God in worship, giving Him the attention and praise He deserves and not ourselves.

Seeking Deliverance

Do you ever feel wronged? Like injustices are levied against you, repetitively to where you just can’t seem to win? During my Junior year of college I felt that way with a particular class. I just couldn’t win with the professor, no matter how many office hours I went to, no matter how many extra credit assignments I worked, I just couldn’t seem to grasp his method of teaching finance. I poured over the book, would dig into notes and still wind up feeling muddled and confused by the exams and projects. It came to a point of just hoping to get through it without falling below a C so I wouldn’t have to retake it my final semester at UT.

That semester saw me pull a C in that class, and the only time I have ever been proud to get C. (For the record I only received two other Cs-my Freshmen year, and that was because I was finding my new found freedom in not attending College Calculus and English) I was desiring after deliverance from the class after only three weeks in the semester.

I was thinking on that situation, as well as some others over the span of my life, where I was merely seeking to be delivered from the circumstances I found myself in. Circumstances I felt were injustices levied against me, and ones I would not have chosen had I had a say so in them. I couldn’t help but think of Joseph. While his situations differ quite drastically from those I found myself in, I find his example to be one which is best followed when responding to life.

You see Joseph didn’t ask for his brothers to sell him off to a band of travelers which caused his enslavement (yes, Joseph got a bit mouthy about his dreams of being above the family, but let’s just chalk that up to being the sassy-pants youngest child). Joseph didn’t ask to be placed within Potiphar’s house, nor did he beg to be seduced by his wife and then falsely accused of advances when he held strong to his integrity and character.

But we see over and over in just a few chapters in Genesis that God was with Joseph. He was with him and Joseph prospered. (Don’t confuse this with prosperity gospel, please…) Joseph didn’t rely upon God because of what God could give to him, but rather because Joseph knew God was with him in the midst of it all. He trusted that the Lord was with him and his character remained unchanging when he faced enslavement, imprisonment and success within Pharaoh’s employment.

There is a real difference in praying for deliverance from a situation and praying to seek God in all things. It’s an attitude shift and a perspective change. One that Joseph illustrated repeatedly throughout a life filled with injustice and enslavement. When we seek deliverance we place our good above that which God knows is good. We believe we know better than the Sovereign God.

Do some circumstances just plain stink? Absolutely.

Do I want to be delivered out of them? You bet.

But sometimes that just isn’t possible because that’s not what needs to be done. When I set my sights on deliverance, instead of God I hear my voice instead of His alot more. I hear my justifications of rightness and not of His promises. When I seek Him, I don’t see the slights or hurts as often, because I am no longer self-focused. I am driven by the will of Him who seeks to bring about every situation for good if I but allow His work to be done in and through me.

Even in the darkness of the prisons we find ourselves in, the Lord is with us and shows his kindness to us if we but seek Him instead of our own plan of deliverance.

The Week I Couldn’t DeThaw

The entire city shut down this week. Nashville doesn’t handle bad weather well. I am not sure if it’s because we’re in the South (I am a Southerner, so I can say that fully) or if it’s because so many people that live here are from elsewhere, where they may never see weather like this. Whatever the reason, when we got a mix of sleet, ice, snow and freezing rain this week the city flipped out. 10999900_10102866496130665_6212275999966148498_n 10995656_10102866495806315_5455224881107460534_n(1) Across the nation everyone’s been dealing with this winter weather in one way or another, so you can all commiserate. this week proved to be too much for us all though it seems. No one could handle it well, least of all me. It turned from a calming peace of a couple of days off, to the week which wouldn’t I couldn’t dethaw. I kept finding myself in this place of bitter icyness. I simply could not dethaw from the weather, from my head and from my heart. Have you ever encountered that? Where all you could see what the growing hardness but could simply do nothing to stop it? I found that I kept climbing back into this igloo this week after poking my head out. All I saw was bleakness running on for endless miles ahead and I welcomed it. Things were abounding where I would see winter’s firm grip on my heart and situations. A frozen state of mind that simply could not warm to anything. It’s sad to even type those words but that’s where I have been. I think we too often don’t talk about when we feel closed off, hardened by life. We instead only want to point it out in others and move along. Telling them simply to “straighten up and get over it” as if those words are helping a situation or season of life. I am thankful for friends who allow me to be in this season without judgement or harsh words, but instead words of encouragement, of support. Words that affirm that this is a season and not forever. Prayers of perspective instead of gossip and whispers. Friends that take time to understand rather than pass the buck of fault, seeking healing rather than wounding. I am also so very thankful for this season of life. While difficult, trying and tense it has show me that springtime is coming. That I have to navigate the icy paths of winter in order to get new life springing forth. I hope that breathes hope into someone else today, as it did me. Instead of an icy chill of demeaning words or judgement, let the warmth of the hope of spring blow into your heart as it did mine. You don’t have to be strong for tomorrow, simply in today. You merely only need to grasp today as you were created for it, and it was made for you to live fully in. 10173578_10102531468843035_8725455831267033928_n Soon enough spring will be here.

Mini-Break Holiday

I don’t normally take advantage of a three day weekend to go out of town. I am not sure as to why but I often just look at it as a way to accomplish more with the extra day, whether errands or around the house. For the last year a friend had been living in Atlanta, and I had been attempting to make plans to visit. It seemed at every turn they got cancelled by weather or illness or scheduling (my part).

Finally last month we settled for the MLK holiday weekend, that way we both were off for an extra day and could have a very chill break.

Let me just tell you, if you don’t live in the Southern US (and some of you don’t so hey Canada and Ireland!) that the weather this weekend was superb. We don’t see mid-60s in January. We just don’t around these parts, but we did for three glorious days. It even looks like we’ll get up there today. My friend and I ate ridiculously great foods, imbibed on some adult beverages and I did some damage at Ikea. I also put the media cabinet together upon my return home yesterday, like a boss.

Why am I sharing all this today? Because we simply need breaks in life. I know I just returned to work off a Christmas holiday vacation, where I had my wisdom teeth removed and an abbreviated visit home. Something about this weekend had an extra touch to it, whether it was the spring-like weather or being in another city that I feel at home in.

We need moments where our phones get put away, we enjoy the person we’re with and the environment we are in. Did I check my phone on occasion? Yes. But I didn’t feel it necessary to stay glued to it, as I often push myself to do. I realized that this mini-break holiday is needed in all our lives for a breather. To take a pause and remember life and appreciate it for what it is-fleeting. I could check emails in my off-time or I could indulge in a walk around a beautiful park in the middle of downtown Atlanta.

This mini break holiday put a bookend on the last year for me that brought about alot of internal dwelling and thought, alot of frustration and tension. It closed the door on a chapter that I had been lingering in for far too long, attempting to write my own paragraphs. When all I truly needed was a break, space and to breathe in the newness of it all.

A new chapter.

A new mindset.

A new appreciation for life that is to be lived, not worried or fretted over.

May you get a mini break holiday in your life if you’ve not had one. To become unsettled and renewed. To gain joy that is lost and peace in the midst of it all.