Barbie costumes, Armor, and Strength

I remember few Halloween costumes growing up as a kid. There’s only one photo of me in one (hi second kid over here), and it was taken by the school during lunch. One of the ones I remember vividly though is of Barbie. If you are a child of the 80s and early 90s you’ll remember our costumes didn’t exactly resemble the ones of today. By that I mean it was a plastic mask and essentially a painted trash bag you slipped over your school clothes. The trash bag often was painted to give you the idea of a costume. But it was a trash bag and a flimsy plastic mask held on by a string that inevitably broke 5 minutes into the night.

What brought this to mind was not the fact that today is Halloween, but what I was reading in Ephesians 6. As Paul starts to conclude his letter we see nestled in the very last paragraphs his instructions on arming ourselves for daily battle as believers. He lists out exactly what we should be arming ourselves with, and that it should be the full armor of God. We cannot go into battle with just a helmet and shoes, or a shield and a belt. He is pointing to the very real need to have a complete armor to face the things which wage against us daily.

Many of us, if we grew up in the church, have heard of the full armor of God. We might even remember flannel-graphs being pulled out and we dress up a figured with the items. But as I read the garments for battle I kept thinking of that stinkin’ Barbie costume. The image kept coming to mind as I tried again and again to focus in on what Paul was saying.

Then I went back a verse to see these words anew:

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.

(v. 10, CSB)

You see I too often try to strap on all my battle gear and armor without taking into account that it’s of my own making. That I am essentially putting on that trash bag and plastic mask for battle daily rather than leaning into the strength of the Lord. I am taking plastic facades of my own weakness to fight against principalities and powers that know exactly what will take me down, and yet I seem to be fine with that. I choose my own lack of strength instead of allowing myself to be strengthened by the Lord and given His strength. I put on trash bags instead of righteousness, flimsy strings instead of salvation.

So when Paul’s words struck anew about fashioning each day with the full armor of God it’s not in my strength (or true lack thereof) but in the Lord’s that I put it on. Not in my former self, that was all too dependent upon me to take care of things, but in my new clothes those of a new self…one that recognizes the need for the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit and all the rest for each day. Not more than today but just the armor of today specifically for battle. My armor looks to be more prepared and strengthened in what it should be rather than that Barbie costume I tried to hide behind.

The Palms

It is the start of holy week across the nation, as Christians turn their eyes to the week that marks the events leading to the cross and resurrection of Christ. When I think about Christ’s entry into Jerusalem then, I cannot help but envision the palm fronds waving in the air, people shouting “Hosanna!” just as the gospels tell us.

The picture it draws isn’t one of a great victory parade, but of a humble entry on a colt, borrowed from someone. The crowds that had followed Christ in his teachings were now crowded into the busy streets of Passover week, throwing down their blankets for his entry. We often talk about the choice of the cross, His acknowledgement of sacrifice for us, His coming to redeem us from sin and death.

Palm-Sunday-Cross-1024x429But if we take a moment, we see that decision laid out right here, right in the words of instruction to the two disciples to go into the village and find a colt tied to a post. He knew then what this would bring about, the obedience of the will of God becoming the the prevalence of the time He had. Without this entry, there wouldn’t be a crucifixion, a resurrection, Redemption come in the form of God Himself with us, Christ.

We need this week, the entry into the city with palms waving. We needed Him to come as a humble King, unexpectedly with grace and humility, not with pomp and circumstance. We needed Him to come, not for the temporary salvation that Israel was thinking but for the eternal salvation from sin, death.

Palm Sunday ushers in new life for us all, a turning in the story of Christ to the reality of our need for Him. The shouts of “Hosanna!” coming forth from us, shouts of “Save, I pray” calling from our hearts, knowing He comes not just for my momentary circumstances but for me, my heart, my redemption, every bit of it. We wave our own palms today, celebrating the entry of Christ into the city, into our hearts and lives, forever changing the landscape of life, death…ushering in Redemption and access that we would not have without it, without Him.

These palms we see in the gospels at the entry of Christ? They were there in temple as well, on the walls that King Solomon had built, that Christ would enter tomorrow…but they are also there in Revelation, in the hands of  every tribe, nation and language honoring the Lamb of Passover seated on the throne. Those palms are waved today in us, with shouts of Hosanna, Save now! For we celebrate His entry into the city, into our hearts, into salvation and redemption, into life eternal for us.

Daffodils in Winter

SONY DSCI cut daffodils out of my front yard the other afternoon.  Daffodils…Y’all it is the last day of February.  The high today here in Nashville? 72. This is ridiculous.

I am having NONE OF IT. NONE.

This winter kid is having serious withdrawals of no snow, freezing temps and big sweaters. My sinuses hate me, my allergies are in full swing and I do not want to look at pastel colored things just yet bunny rabbit.

I want my winter.

In my tantrum of missing winter, I had somehow misplaced that Lent begins Wednesday. As in tomorrow. I have been looking toward Lent in many respects as a means of shifting thoughts and heart-dwellings more towards Christ and less in the muck I have found myself sinking into in the new year. While I have bemoaned the lack of said winter, I can now see the hope coming forth earlier as a good thing. It means a time of seeing my need laid bare for Christ and the gift that is salvation brought forth at Easter.

I may not have liked spring reminding me of the hope, the joy and the need for Christ but I can now understand more than ever how deeply my soul needed the newness of life coming from the earth…reminding me that from that very earth is where I came and that without Christ, it is where I would return.

Lent can be the focus as spring ushers in the coming reminders of salvation, resurrection and life in Christ boldly. It’s a time to give space, time, attention and focus to our need for Christ and His love for us that was so great He beared it all for us. When I want to choose discouragement over a lack of snow, I can remember the joy that is the site of yellow daffodils springing up each morning and evening, every day on my table, and what that life represents to me as a fellow ground-dweller.

Spring would look much different without the hope of salvation, the promise of freedom and the love of a Savior.

My Dip In The Ocean

As I was looking through Instagram yesterday I saw a picture my friend Chris had posted of being in PCB for Big Stuf camp. The view of the parking lot and another hotel flooded me with memories from when I went to church camp there 14 years ago. As I started thinking about that particular camp, as it was my last in the youth group at my hometown church, I suddenly realized it was the exact day 14 years ago that asked Christ into my life.

This picture was taken 14 days ago this morning as my youth leader baptized me in the Gulf of Mexico as I could not wait to obey and follow my salvation with it. These moments have changed me, who I am, forever. I sit here now as a teenage Christian of sorts, reminiscing on those first moments of my coming to life in Christ.

I held a very defiant attitude about life for most of my childhood. Many say that’s a product of being the youngest child, but I definitely chose my reactions and actions purposefully for many years. I often call this the “You’re not the boss of me” mindset. Let’s be honest, I still wrestle with that from time to time. Now though, it’s a conversation I have with God.

For some of those teenage years I thought I did know Christ, having grown up in the church. Yet deep down, on that Friday night in a hotel in Panama City my heart told me otherwise. I had been having a conversation with one of my friends in the room with me about feeling some tug on my heart that I couldn’t explain. I remember seeing others in worship time and not feeling the same draw to worship, at all. (Many can debate this topic but I know my heart and how it is drawn to music. I knew something wasn’t right.)

I am thankful for youth leaders and their families because our minister’s wife took time to talk specifically with me about my heart in relationship with Christ. There was no shame in coming to question where my life was in the salvation story because head knowledge isn’t the same as heart knowledge. Just because one grows up in a church does not mean one simply is a believer. i had to come to terms with that to recognize my eternity was hinging on pride and what others would think of me.

Fourteen years later looks very different in a life following Christ, loving the way He does, and still at times battling the flesh that wants to be its own person. I will never regret that choice, because life is far greater knowing Him than being alone in this world. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Don’t be surprised if I get excited about church camps because for me, they changed my eternity. They are worth it. I pray every teenager has that opportunity. Investing in the lives of teenagers is vital and I am so thankful for each and every person who works in that ministry. It is another reason why I am involved in college ministry, as I was thrust into college right after my salvation and got lost a bit.

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