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 Peter, 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.

Fasting, Stillness and Celebrations

For the most part I love social media. I think it’s a great avenue to connect, learn and grow….along with sharing pictures with friends. I have made friends just from online communities that I spend time with IRL, and I have found ways to decorate and cook as well. Recently though, I was having a bit of a chaotic mind and heart that I was frankly compartmentalizing and distracting with social media.

For the first few days of November I took a fast from it all. My head and my heart craved the quietness, the space, the stillness. It was nine days of finding a heart that needed to breathe, a mind needing to settle. Honestly I needed to learn to pare down and shut down, to listen more to my self and the call to my heart from God.

heads and heartsIf I am honest with you all, it was difficult the first couple of days when it got quiet. I’d want to go to the phone for distraction, but as the days grew on I realized my dependency on noise to fill the quiet was not healthy. For me, it’s become a noise-filled culture that my head and my heart really can’t quite come to terms with living in 24/7. Even more so, as I have spent time in prayer and reading and just being still I have come to find it’s allowed me time to reflect on the seasons I have been in over the last few years and hear more from God on the one I am finding myself in.

As I was reading the last bit of my study of Esther this morning, I couldn’t help but realize that we’ve subbed out reflection and stillness, in remembering God in our midst and at our defense for quick snippets of Scripture and posted prayer requests for the masses. (I am just as guilty y’all) We quickly jump to the very next thing without sitting in the moment of God’s provision, His timing, His beauty. We can celebrate God’s great strength and faithfulness in our circumstances, but how good are we at marking them for remembrance in our own hearts and lives? How well are we doing at tuning our minds and hearts to see His providing, His rescue and His defense in our lives every single day? I’m really good at knowing what’s going on in my HOA group online, but not so much about God’s working in my heart if I’m not careful.

As I read deeper about Purim, first marked in those pages of Esther, I found that often we forget the faithfulness of the God we love and serve. We move on to the next project, next task, next circumstance without celebrating the goodness of a God Who intervenes, who wants all things to turn out for good in us, who asks for our attention and who absolutely deserves all our devotion.

For me, it’s about tuning out more of the noise and tuning my head and my heart to stillness and quiet, to reflection and celebration of God’s unwavering faithfulness in my  lives of others. That means fasts from social media, choosing time alone, and recognizing the ways in which He provides daily.

Perfect Peace

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.

Isaiah 26:3

I don’t know about anyone else but on this Monday (or whatever day you are reading this) it’s no accident this verse is here. I love this translation version from the CSB because it’s pointing directly to a dependency issue.

When we are depending upon someone or something, we put our trust in it. We know it’s steadfast and true to what it has stated it will do. It comes through on promises. For me, placing my mindset in a dependence upon anything else than God will not bring peace. It’ll bring turmoil, anxiety and a lot of heartache. But when I choose to bring my thoughts back to God, depending upon Him in my thought-life over and over again? Well, there’s a bit of calm. There’s stillness and a quietness that descends.

The noise of depending upon social media, opinions and television just don’t hold my trust like God does. And they shouldn’t. They can’t fulfill promises made, they won’t provide peace. In fact they will often times distort and disrupt peace in order to further our heartache, the lies of the world, and our anxieties to perform for the crowd.

Maybe this Monday holds a lot of worry and chaos. But when we align our minds, pushing into utter dependence upon God alone to give peace in the midst, we find ourselves trusting more and more in the God of fulfilled promises.

Distracted and Consumed

I am chief among sinners. 

I thought about Paul’s words as my pastor spoke the words “Distracted and Consumed” yesterday. I felt the arrows of conviction hit straight and true as he continued on with his sermon, knowing those three words had struck at the heart of a problem. One that I know many wrestle with, even as a society and culture we are suffering from the very disease of distraction and consummation.

I get the irony of writing about this on a platform (and sharing it on other platforms) because it’s the very thing which is distracting and consuming this heart, this mind, and this time. I like to say “well it’s to keep up with this or to share my writing.” Unfortunately though it’s to the detriment of my heart and my focus.

Maybe it’s not so much social media that distracts you, maybe you don’t get consumed by the words, the actions, and the thoughts of others in such a divisive culture we are living in. Maybe the distraction is binging on the newest release from Netflix or your kids’ ballgames (this one I saw first hand last weekend y’all). It is whatever is consuming your time and distracting you from the very thing which God desires of you.

What is consuming your heart that it’s not allowing Him in? What is distracting you to the point you cannot hear Him? I am the first to admit that I willingly would choose those over time with Him, time digging in to His Word, time spent in silence with Him, waiting on Him. I would rather be consumed with distractions than allow Him space in my life…that’s what I am telling Him when I “scroll for just a few minutes.” Or when I say “just one more episode” or let someone else take up residency in my heart.

When I am distracted and consumed, I am more prone to worry, anxiety, doubt, fear, and control. I find that peace and stillness are commodities in short supply. The quiet filling of connection is negated with an empty longing to be known when we are consumed by anything other than the God who desires to know us more.

Maybe it’s time to stop the fighting for our attention and our hearts by simply giving them solely to Him. Not a screen, not the success or failure of our child’s pee wee league team, and not some fictional characters we enjoy.

 

Do The Thing.

Tap.

Scroll, Scroll, Scroll.

Tap.

Scroll, Like, (Ugh, why would you put that out there?), Scroll, Scroll. LOVE.

Tap.

I think the majority of you can ascertain what that is describing, as we all seem to tap and scroll, like and judge on our phones these days.

We see people doing amazing things, putting themselves out there and jumping at opportunities. We see people out having fun, pursuing dreams, and everyone seems to be in a happier place than us. Am I right?

Lately for me, I have used social media as a means of procrastination. I have read posts, looked through photos, found streams of hashtags all in the name of research for my writing. But not much writing has been going on. Instead it’s a whole lot of scrolling and a whole lot of unproductivity. It’s lost time and momentum, and instead supplanted a whole lot of self-doubt and questions.

I wouldn’t say I have become jealous or envious of others’ pursuits as several years ago I prayed through that as I saw others advancing and decided to celebrate them over feeling left out or rejected in any way. (I’m mature, I know)

No for me, it’s getting bogged down in the distraction of it all. In the taking a break to clear the mind and finding myself flipping through four forms of social media I have at the ready of my finger tips. Trust me when I say I do love it, it has connected me with people and broadened my perspective on certain things, discovering new ideas and thoughts that I wouldn’t have been challenged to see.

But y’all, it’s my excuse these days. I use it when I should be fighting through writer’s block, when I should be digging into His Word, when I should be sitting in the quiet stillness of life. This isn’t a proclamation of social media fast (you all can stop that at any time because it’s okay to just do it). It’s a call to accountability, that I need to do the thing I am called to do instead of choosing distraction.

you-must-do-the-thing-resized

Distractions are so good, they feed our selves in such ways that bring us delight in the moment, a reprieve from the hard/difficult/uncomfortable/quiet. I am chief of these in pursuing y’all. I even said last night to my friend that I watch entirely too much television, and then commenced to starting the next show on my DVR. Instead of writing. Instead of taking time to dig into Scripture that God has put on my heart. Instead of praying for that friend who came to mind earlier in the day. Instead of cultivating relationships in and around my life.

Maybe you’re like me and seeking out distractions from dealing with life, a call that has gotten to be difficult, loneliness in the midst of a season of quiet, expectations unmet or unrealized…a place where God isn’t providing how you expected or how you defined. It’s gotten hard or quiet and you just want to be distracted by the noise of the world-good intentioned, but still distracting.

For me, I have to do the thing. Not what my flesh desires but what I know deep within, obedience. Obedience to the thing that is greater than what I desire in social media, television, inherently good things…to the Lord in this moment, just now…for today. It’s not easy, nor will I get it right 100% of the time, but for just this moment when I’d rather reach for my phone or remote, I go empty-handed to Him. To His call. To His Word. To time spent with Him.

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.