Friday, January 19, 2018

for when it snows

We're on Snow Day #3 here in Oxford, GA though there was only snow on the ground during the first of these three.  Now, slick ice in the farthest reaches of the counties forever masked in shadows have kept many of us from school yet again and our boys are currently building all the legos and I am avoiding that room like the plague so that my intense OCD and mothery characteristics do not come out in full force.  I'll send the dad down there to help later on.  He's much better at calmly looking at chaos.


Wednesday morning we woke up to, not only snow falling from the sky, but layers of it sticking to the ground creating a beautiful white blanket over it all.  In Georgia, falling snow is one thing, still being alive once it hits the ground is quite another, and to have both at the same time is what southern snow deprived dreams are made of.  While sharing a video in my instastory of our yard covered in it's first--while we have owned it--snowfall, a friend commented on how beautiful our yard is.  Knowing how many things I wasn't able to get to this fall as far as yard work goes and how much work is left to do before it becomes what I envision in my head, I had to immediately agree.  All the faults I usually see from the weeds, to the dilapidated boxwoods, to the overgrown holly, looked magical draped in that winter white.   Is it a wonder that a certain verse crept itself into my mind?

...Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7

David did not believe he would be washed white as snow, but that he would be washed whiter than snow.  See, the thing is, that that snow around our home melted as soon as the sun began to beat down on it revealing underneath the same, albeit soggier, ground that was there before.  That beautiful blanket covering all the faults disappeared and the true likeness reappeared.

Colossians 3:3 says "for you have died and your life is hidden in Christ.  Not hidden by Christ, but hidden in.  We are not just walking around wearing a Jesus suit that can melt away when the intense elements beat down.  When God looks at us, we do not have to make sure we are perfectly blocked by Christ much like a little kid hiding behind a tree during a neighborhood game of hide and seek.  We are hidden in Christ.  When God looks at us He sees His son.  We are perfectly covered, washed whiter than even the most beautiful snow.  

This is not a new truth, but like all of them, can be easily forgotten as we tread on through life.  I pray that it will be a perfectly timed reminder for you whenever it is needed most, pray for me.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

bible in a year: week 2

This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

Genesis 8-15

This week began with all of mankind, save one family, being wiped from the earth and ended with Abram staring at the stars being promised that his offspring would be as numerous as them.  As I read, I am trying to place myself into the story and think about what reactions or emotions I might have.  This COULD lead to heretical observations as I emote my own sins onto others or it could open my heart to how much struggle, endurance, and faith was and still is needed to walk with God in this fallen world.  I am hoping the Holy Spirit is leading me towards the latter or if nothing else makes it extremely clear when I am drifting towards the former!

The first thoughts I had when rereading this well known story of Noah was how LONG they were on that stinking boat, adjective very much on purpose.  Months with very little fresh air or bathing and lots of animals and all the things that come along with that.  There are more than a few times I have found myself in uncomfortable, unfavorable situations wondering where God is and why he has left me there when in truth he could have been keeping me on that 'boat' to save my life.

And then, through the line of Shem, comes Abram who with no warning hears God tell him to leave his land and go to a new land that God promises, not so much to him, but to his offspring.  Abram obeys, immediately, completely on faith and goes out to the unknown, and waits and waits.  Through famine, his wife being taken as a wife for the Pharoah for a bit (I mean what the heck is that about), rescuing his nephew from the enemy, He waits.  At the end of this week we left him asking God, not through doubt and unbelief, but with confusion about how his offspring would inherit when he has none.  

I love God's grace in this part, because God explains not moment for moment but in the big picture of what He is going to do and the exact land He is going to provide.  I find myself wanting this same conversation with God where it speaks to me and lets me know what He is going to do for me and then I remember I have all those things, in this very book we have committed to reading through.  Not the specifics of my day to day life of course, but the promises of eternity with Him.

Matthew 8-14

It is one thing to just read seven chapters of the bible in a week and quite another to study, take notes, and attempt to comprehend seven chapters of the bible in a week, especially when it's this book right here.  Maybe using a quote from Hamilton is not the best way to describe Jesus's years of ministry while he physically walked here on earth, but I can't help it, because, Man, the Man is NON-STOP!  He worked like he was running out of time, because He knew He was, even when his disciples didn't. 

From preaching on the mountainside, to healing a man with leprosy, to healing a Centurion's servant and declaring His intent to be here for anyone who believes, to more healing, to calming the sea, to adding Matthew to his Disciples, to raising a girl from the dead, to healing the blind, to commissioning his 12 disciples, to warning about persecution and so on and so on with more healing, preaching with parables, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish, to going to the mountain alone to pray, and then walking on water.  All this in 7 chapters.

I have read more sermon texts googled from verses this week than I have in a lifetime.  From why do we fast in chapter 9, to what it means when he says you will not have gone through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes in chapter 10, to learning the reason--which was not as simple as I assumed--Jesus speaks in parables in chapter 13, this was a knowledge learning week.

It some ways it was great to see these verses from a different angle as all of scripture, though it only holds one truth, can teach lessons in numerous ways but there was a tendency this week to see negatives where I had never seen them before.  Understand me when I say that word, I do not mean negative as in bad scripture, I mean negatives as in hardships, and hard truths.  The pharisees and their insane intent on disproving and discouraging the gospel at every turn and warnings of hardships and persecution and being sheep among the wolves of the world can start to take your focus away from the amazing work of Jesus.  

All those hard things are true, and still happen and will happen, but mixed among them all is a gospel that keeps going and a faith of His people that keeps growing believing that just a touch of his robe or just a word from his mouth makes all the difference in your life.  In the beginning, in the middle, and in the end, it really is just all Jesus.

Ezra 8-10, Nehemiah 1-4

Through research, I learned that Ezra and Nehemiah used to be one book and was split up sometime in the 3rd century which makes sense, since they flow from one to the other seamlessly and are about the same structure.  Nehemiah is a brand new book to me as well and my heart is comforted by it as much or more than Ezra.  Again we see a faith and pioneering spirit.  A man whose heart God stirs because of the troubles of His people who wants to complete a task for the Kingdom, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  This faith led others to believe and want to help and thus a domino effect began as willing hard laborers built.  God's people, with one purpose, building the tangible wall that would later be witness to the work of Jesus that would build The Kingdom.  Ya'll.  Such good stuff!

They, as in Nehemiah and his fellow workers, had no clue what would be done later at these same locations.  All they knew was they were called to a task, a hard, heavy task that brought opposition and danger from those annoying enemies still bent on destroying anything that might glorify God, and they were not going to let anything keep them from completing it.  

I know a lot of us feel like our tasks are also hard, heavy, and monotonous, but take heart my friends.  The mundane tasks of today could be witness to the miraculous, gospel spreading work of Jesus later.

Acts 8-14

We started Acts with Saul and his heavy persecution against The Way (Christians) and continued with this same man becoming with not just a heart for the Gospel but a key apostle in the spreading of the Gospel who would eventually write half of the New Testament.  God uses who He chooses and He rarely chooses those we would choose.  He began his day one way and ended in quite another.  It only takes a moment for God to change your life, your heart, your direction.  

Within these chapters the truth was told to both Jews and Gentiles that Christ is open to all despite heritage.  Gentiles rejoiced, some Jews rejoiced, many Jews grew angry and bitter and immediately became enemies to Christ and these converts.  The thought of preconceived notions weighed heavily on my mind this week.  Had the Jews not had preconceived notions on what they wanted, namely a King to come and kill their Roman oppressors in revenge for the brutal treatment they had received, would they have been so hard hearted towards Christ.  Their thoughts of what they wanted, what they assumed was best, kept them from seeing Christ for who He was, so many examples in my own life where preconceived notions have caused struggles.

Week 2 is complete, there are 50 more to go.  That is both a lot, and not so much.  Just remember, one day is better than no days, one verse is better than none.  He promises His word will not come back void, so don't let getting behind get you down.  Each day is a new day with new mercies every morning!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

because you just need to be you

Sally Lloyd Jones shared on Andrew Osenga's podcast The Pivot about her life and within it inspired me and this post about the beauty of being yourself.  Lines may blur as her words, my thoughts about them, and the other thoughts included intertwine, but God is the divine inspiration behind us both so I hope grace and forgiveness can be extended if I miss a few acknowledgements throughout.  To listen for yourself visit here.

I have fond memories of my Grandaddy.  Actually, they are beyond just merely fond, they are literally heartwarming and can, in an instant, bring the sweetest of smiles to my face.  He loved me, but not in the typical he has to because I'm related to him way.  He LOVED me in a doted upon me, hid money in the couch cushions just so I could find it, ate dinner with a one year old in his lap just because she wanted to be there way.  He died when I was in Jr. High after suffering from dementia for a couple years and a little part of my heart still hasn't healed from that loss, not only the loss of his life, but of the relationship that that disease can rob from us even when physical presence is still intact.

The memories I cherish the most are the ones where we were just outside sitting and he, in some way, shared his life with me.  Whether funny comments, stories of his childhood, playing rock school on the front steps, or lessons on how to flip a pocket knife and get it to stand straight up on a picnic table, he invested in me with time and words.

Recently, while listening to a new podcast--and pretending that I am so on trend saying that instead of admitting that I am really late to the party--there were more words shared from a wise soul that took me beyond just wanting to sit and rock next to her on the porch while I soaked them in, to literally grabbing a notebook--or keep app in this case--in an attempt to write down all the things.  The heart of the message shining through for me was the beauty of being yourself and as a person who has struggled with seeing herself as less when others seem more it was perfect, and possibly life changing.

We each have qualities we admire in others.  Seeing from a distance a mother who is patiently dealing with a temper fueled toddler, a teacher who can go with the flow of a class full while keeping positivity, or a coach or athlete who keeps his cool and encourages calmly instead of belittling are just a few of the ways the world can see a heart of love behind actions and give us mentors to speak into our lives ways we can grow and change.

But, when we, living in this fallen world like we are, are tempted to look at another and not just see what qualities we admire in them but begin to Envy them instead we are, in that moment, making the situation about us getting elevated instead of God getting glorified. 

In her interview, Sally Lloyd Jones commented that we judge our stories halfway through our stories, but we have to wait because it is only at the end where we can start seeing the pattern of what is being done.

This can also be taken a step further. As we judge our stories halfway through, we are often judging everyone else's as well and as we view them from the outside our opinion is tainted all the more as we have no way of knowing the hardships, knowledge, and heart change that have built them up to now.  There's a reason teachers tell you to keep your eyes on your own paper.  Your life is God's work on you, not another.

It is in these times where Paul's words are not only encouraging, but help streamline focus.  For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of another (Romans 12:4-5)  

In Corinthians he spells it out even more clearly for those in the "please speak to me like I'm a 5 year old" group--my hand is raised here people.  If the foot should say, "because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, "because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, how could we hear?  If the whole body were an ear, how could we smell?...

"We on our own have a hierarchy of what is worthy and what isn't.  God does not have that.  He sees each of us as what He created us to be and if we are filling that role it is beautiful and helps bring order to the chaos which is this fallen world." ~Sally Lloyd Jones

Beauty in the chaos.  He makes the broken things beautiful.

C.S. Lewis says, "even in literature and art, no many who bothers about originality will ever be original; whereas if you simply try to tell the truth, without care twopence how often it has been told, you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."

We are each fearfully and wonderfully made specifically crafted in the biggest story before it was even set into motion and our part in it can not be performed by another.  In the wise words of Ernest T. Bass, it's "all mine, nobody elsies.

The most eye opening, stopping in my tracks, filling my heart part of Sally Lloyd Jones' interview came because of this simple yet, profound statement, "we spend more time comparing ourselves to other people than valuing what comes easy to us.  We think because it comes easy to us then it must not be worthwhile, but the reason it comes easy to us is because God has gifted us with the ability to do it."

God has given each of you[us] a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts.  Use them well to serve one another.  1 Peter 4:10

As said earlier, when we envy we making the situation about us getting elevated instead of God getting glorified.  When we are focused on honoring God instead we can't help but do it with those gifts we have been given.

Howard Thurman wrote, "Don't ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."  There is no better One to listen to in this regard, than the person who in the beginning gave you Life.

Don't ever let yourself forget that Jesus has purchased a future for you that is better than anything you could have dreamed or planned for yourself.

More than anything this week, and beyond, I am praying that you can see the beauty in just being the you you were created to be and the need for more of that in the Kingdom, pray for me.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

bible in a year: week 1

This year a goal has been set to read the entirety of God's word and there is a host of women joining in on the journey.  Failure is always an option as we are each imperfect people but it is never a reason to give up!  Whether each day is done without fail, catch ups are needed, or some have to stop for a variety of reasons, each word read, no matter how many, will lead us to grow in wisdom, grace, and fellowship with both us and our creator.

It took less than a day of reading to get a deeper understanding of why one can study the bible for a lifetime and still glean new things.  In truth a lifetime is not enough.  As Saint Augustine said, "The bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim.  Each verse opens up a new thought, a new question, a new understanding of what God has done and sometimes a confusion of why He is doing it.  In moments of questions research is good but there are times where I need to submit to His authority remembering what A.W. Tozer said in his book Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination, and the divine sovereignty.  The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, "O Lord, Thou knowest." Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience.  Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

Genesis Chapters 1-7

In one short week we read about God creating the world and saying it was good, to him having to wipe the world clean of all of mankind save the one he found righteous, Noah.  Adam and Eve, placed in perfection, literally walking with God feeling no shame and no discord with one another, threw it all away because of one thing, they thought God was withholding something from them.  This one seed of doubt from Satan set off a series of events that allowed sin into this world and became the reason that one day God would send a savior.  In the grand scheme of life the perfection of Eden was so minute.  However, the perfection that comes in Heaven through a relationship with Christ is here for eternity.  

Comforting moments in these chapters came from God, of course, but they came in the darkest part of sin and shame.  Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed yet He came to them, sought them out, clothed them.  Cain killed his brother in a jealous rage and yet God came to him, sought him out, and protected him from being killed even after Cain had failed to protect his brother from himself.   After hundreds of years of evil and debauchery, God was ready to wipe out all of mankind but he found Noah righteous and came to him, sought him out, and asked him alone to remain and to carry on the line of Adam. 

Matthew Chapters 1-7

Is there a reward for richest text in the bible?  If so Matthew is a definitely contender.  I would say flat out winner, but it's only the first week and there is a lot more reading to go!  

It makes sense that almost every word in the first seven chapters of Matthew are now underlined in my bible.  It begins with telling of the conception of Christ, the birth of Jesus, and then the ministry of our Savior starting with his baptism and continuing to include the beginning of the Sermon on the mount.  We, in our fallen state, get to hold and read the direct words of Jesus, the monologue on a mountainside where he poured it all out to his disciples and for the benefit of the others around to hear.  

Starting from before his birth, there was never a time that the name of Jesus didn't stir up polar opposite responses.  

There is more in these chapters than I can begin to touch on so the only thing I can think to do is share items that were new to me this time around knowing that there are countless more that are being left out.  To resist temptation, Jesus quoted scripture.  The word of God is power!  My eye is the lamp to my body so be careful little eyes what I see.  Focusing on Christ brings light into my life, when that focus shifts darkness will fill me.  Every one will be known by their fruit and that good fruit comes directly from God.  There's no need to worry about getting it done on our own.  Eyes up, trust Him.

Ezra 1-7

Ezra has been a first read for me and I love the hand of God actively shown throughout it.  God has brought his people back from exile and assembled them together to rebuild the temple of God.  He has stirred not only the hearts of his people to give of their riches to build it, but has also stirred the hearts of the King to decree that not only MUST the temple be built but that the riches Nebuchadnezzer took will be returned and taxes will be used to finish it.  

There was opposition from those who were denied the ability to assist, there was government decrees sent to stop the building of the temple, there were even heartbroken members of God's people saddened by the state of the new temple in comparison to what once was in the grandeur of Solomon's, but in all of it there was steadfast faith, wise words and actions, and hearts changed so that the temple was completed.

My favorite part of the entire week actually wasn't in Ezra but a verse in Haggai that describes this temple they were building.

"The final glory of THIS house will be greater than the first...I will provide Peace in this place."

Acts 1-7

The Gospel erupts.  Jesus has died, risen, and is spending his last days on earth with his disciples before God takes him up to heaven.  Constant in prayer, his disciples received languages of all the people so that they could carry his word forth.  Growing in grace, fellowship, and wisdom the church began to be what God created the church to be.  Telling another of His goodness, using their abundance to benefit the needy, healing those who were sick and lame, His word is being spreads and numbers are being added to His Kingdom.  However, as earlier said the name of Jesus always causes polar opposite emotions and those who's hearts are not being turned toward him are turning further away and doing everything they can to halt it.  History has taught us that that only causes more to come to him but in the midst His people are beginning to be persecuted and suffer for his name.  This cycle continues even to this day...

Week 1 has stirred my heart and opened up an intense desire to continue seeing how this book will show the story of Jesus from start to finish.  Praying for each of you as we continue on this journey, that the newness will remain as the weeks go by and the hunger will grow to keep going.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

gentle, a new word for a new year

It has been five months since we said goodbye to summer and embarked on a journey to make the most of the ten months of the school year.  There have been reminders that He is the simple answer we need in every situation, that He is who gifted us time and knows us fully, therefore can help us be content in what He has called us to do.

Together we have learned that small things are big, we all need new perspective, ways of loving our neighbor, God is worth repeating, there are stages in our growth, that fear does not own us, and that we have misguided thoughts of perfection.

Now, here, as we are halfway through, we find ourselves at the beginning of a new calendar year.  A time to take stock of a year that has passed and a new one that is coming.  There are successes and failures during this first half like during anything else, but above it all is a hand guiding and teaching and in the mirror a person who is not the same, proof of the promise that there is renewal day by day.

Each new year there is a challenge to find a new word, phrase, or idea to ponder upon and grow in.  For a few months I thought I had it nailed.  I have alluded to things I have not yet finished that God has asked of me and just "knew" that Finish was my word of 2018.  However there was the thought, are we ever truly finished this side of heaven?  Besides the fact that I do not have a desire to be "finished" this year in that respect if you catch my drift, when those tasks are completed, and even if they aren't, He will ask different things, new things, that will then need to be finished.  No, finish is not it.

Then thoughts drifted back to something read in the middle of the summer that never quiet left the forefront of my mind.  A word I aspire to be but long ago in my vast wisdom-ha!-deemed it impossible.  Let me explain...

In Elementary school, I called one of my best friends and her dad answered, as she was coming to the phone and asked who it was He responded, "I don't know.  I think it's some boy."  I didn't have the right voice.

In Seventh grade, my first year of junior high, an announcement was made that cheerleading tryouts were coming up.  Now, anyone who thought they knew me would never have assumed I would be interested, but oh my how my heart longed to just try.  There was a desire to be set apart, special, and every girl knew that a cheerleader was about as special as you could get--oh the many things I would love to go back and tell that girl!  Two things stopped me from trying out.  Number 1 when I stomped and clapped like cheerleaders do my thighs jiggled which obviously in my junior high head no one else's did.  And Number 2, I didn't have the right voice.

A large portion of my memorable lifetime has been spent envying my soft spoken friends and their beautifully, quiet, sing-song voices who did not just blurt things out at random times.  A large portion of my memorable lifetime has been spent trying to emulate those tones and qualities and an equally large portion has been spent distrusting the sincerity of people with those voices because if I could not be myself talking that way, they must not be being themselves either.

Somewhere in the journey to find my own truth I came to believe that I could not have a gentle spirit because my literal tone of voice was not gentle enough.  Instead of asking my Creator to develop a quality of character within me, I attempted to change myself and then instead of accepting failure deemed myself incapable.  God is the only one who has the power to change us and He is everything but incapable.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017, 35 1/2 years of living on this earth had passed, and these words from Paul David Tripp were read, "Treating a person with gentleness makes him or her want to move near you.  Responding with gentleness teaches another person that he or she is safe in your care.  It is an essential relational bond." 

Maybe it is odd that the thought of a stray animal came to mind before any other but the brain goes where it goes at times.  Trying to rescue a scared creature might require a somewhat softer tone but much more than that is required a gentle, patient disposition where trust is formed producing a desire to come near.  Too quick of a movement and you can scare them away.  Too short of a wait and you will show them there was not much care to begin with.

This was my desire.  The desire was to instill trust, a desire to be near, a feeling of safety and acceptance. My greatest desire for my relationship with my husband and bond with my boys who are growing rapidly past the young child care taking stage into the emotional and spiritual guiding stage was for them to feel safe with me whether just enjoying time in each other's presence or deep in life giving conversation.  Accomplishing this with just a voice was not going to work, it needed to be shown in action.

Therefore, Gentle is my word for 2018.

1 Peter 3:4 says, "Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."  Another translation which just my have one of my favorite phrases in it says, "but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God's sight."

Earlier in life I had misapplied out of the heart the mouth speaks to my tonal quality instead of the words being spoken.  And yes while the sound of your voice makes a huge difference and as a mama something I can struggle incessantly with during times of frustration, it is my words that can give life or take it away.  My mouth will speak the words that are in my heart and if my heart is full of the life giving words God gives the sound, sing-songy or not, will not matter as much.

As the word Gentle becomes a daily thought it will take different forms. 

First will having a literal gentle disposition that will draw others near and having a quiet spirit which comes from being at peace because of Christ and NOT from having a quiet voice.  She's learning folks! 

There will also be a gentleness with myself, grace before judgement which I tend to give to others freely and keep locked away when it comes to my own life, decisions, and mistakes. 

Lastly, there will be striving for a gentle approach.  A new friend commented about gentling herself into the new year, lowering expectations.  Loving this thought more would be impossible.  Expectations kill relationship with ourselves, our family, and our Heavenly Father.  The hurts that have been caused and the arguments that have ensued over unmet expectation is immeasurable.  Gentling, or easing, into conversation instead of conflict is worth practicing and (im)perfecting.

Clean slates, blank pages, an entire calendar before us of things that are not yet known.  It is scary to think about if you assume yourself alone, but to remember that each day has been preplanned for eternity to continually create you to be you is astounding.  Not each day will hold what we deem as good, but our eyes see so little of the story, of both our own stories and the ones of those around us.  The eyes that hold us each as an apple, the eyes that look down and know how we each relate to one another in the larger story of the Kingdom of God will never cease to show us that He is Good and He makes Good for us out of anything.

In this year, whether you choose your own word or not, make sure God is your source of sturdy joy, the thing you are living for, and the reason you do everything you do.

I will be praying for you in this, pray for me.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

for when we expect perfection from the imperfect

Auburn lost.  My sports lovers know what I'm talking about.  If you are not one of those, bear with me, this is going somewhere non sports related I promise.  They lost.  And while the mom and dad were disappointed, the ten year old and eight year old were devastated.  When your excitement and hope raises to high levels of what could be and are then dashed, it's a hard and hurtful fall.  When you're a young boy living in the state of Georgia and have to walk into school the following Monday and see the dreams you wanted written on the face of another, it stings.  Lessons are certainly learned in good situations and bad, but man doesn't it feel like one way outweighs the other?

While watching Auburn not win a title this year, six pieces of furniture sat outside in the driveway waiting to be brought in.  Warm air of day mixed with the cool air of night and condensation took those beautiful just completed refinished pieces and coated them with a milky white finish that couldn't just be wiped away.  The next afternoon amidst the frustration of a clogged paint sprayer in a desperate attempt to just finish something the right way, tears of anger and disappointment collided into a minor meltdown.  This time the ten year old and eight year old were happily watching a Merry movie while mama was devastated.  Lessons are certainly learned in successes and failures, but man doesn't it feel like one way outweighs the other.

Even without the perfectionist mentality of needing a blemish free situation, everyone loves a perfect ending.  Everyone wants a perfect outcome.  Everyone wants to perform perfectly.  Everyone wants to be treated perfectly.  The moment the end result doesn't meet the expectation created, friction starts, and sometimes that friction becomes a firestorm.

While trending topics do not often make their way into these thoughtful sharings there is one that has been on my mind for weeks.  Not so much the "what" that is happening, although that is sadly present, it's the wondering of the outcome.  What will the fallout be for those involved and how will our world change because of it?

I am cautiously treading forward begging for grace to be given while reading with the promise that I can do my best talk to it through with anyone who by chance misunderstands or misinterprets my meaning.  Or even better, to talk it through with someone who understands life much better than I and can help me discern the situation, can help bring wisdom into my life as I look upon it.  There are no real answers coming, just questions to ask and think about, and a pointing once again to the sole source of Truth.

Men of fame are falling like flies.  Each day another one has fallen from grace and hit a bottom so rocky there doesn't seem to be anywhere else to go.  Rightly so, as their actions are despicably  hurtful and harmful.  My mind, like the minds of many other girls and women, has gone back to times in my life where the dominance of a male figure convinced me to do things, say things, and act in ways outside of my thought-to-be character, due to naivety and fear.  And while there are just as many times that my own sinful heart encouraged me to engage in behaviors that were known to be wrong, the female in me still rejoices that there is a seemingly male witch hunt going on to claim those who have spent their life preying on weaker vessels to fill their own needs.

The redeemed part of me is heartbroken as I am reminded how much we have all fallen from grace and how much this world likes to demand perfect behavior without the presence of a perfect Savior.

We annihilate without understanding.  We condemn without compassion.  We reject without responding.  Leaving those that have fallen sitting in the muck feeling like they have no choice but to pull themselves up and figure out how to live up to the standard that has been set up.  A standard none of us can live up to. 

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they will refuse to listen, tell if to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.  Matthew 18:15-17

How did Jesus treat pagans and tax collectors?  He asked them to follow him.  He ate with them at their table.  He touched their hearts, and drew him near.  He did that for me, because I was one of them.  Just as you are.

How will the world respond to such situations?  Is the world going to help pick up those that have fallen under the weight of the consequences from their own actions?

How are God's people going to respond?  Will we join in the droves of others calling for their heads and rejoicing that they have gotten their comeuppance or will we crawl down into the mire and stretch out our hand just as God did for us when He came out of time and space and gave us His Son.

This well written and well timed quote was said by Savannah Guthrie, though I do not know if it was she who penned it, "We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks:  How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly and I don't know the answer to that."

Whether regarding this exact type of situation or countless others, we each come across many times in life when we have to look and see that the person we created in our minds does not match up to the behaviors that come out.  We are looking for perfection in the imperfect and are thrown off guard when expectations are dashed.

It's easy to love on the lovable.  It's a joy to bring a parent food for their new babe or to walk alongside a family lovingly opening their home to a fostered child.  Holding the hand and praying with a friend who is battling an illness is heart-wrenching but healing.  Donating funds to veterans who served and fought for your freedom seems like the least you can do. But Jesus didn't stop when it came to touching the lives of the socially acceptable problems so I don't believe we, as His people, can either.

The hands and feet of Jesus keep walking and keep grabbing the lives of those who feel like they have fallen so short it's as if they are a million miles away.  The hands and feet of Jesus leave 99 of their sheep in a pasture and searched high and low for that one so that it knows it will never be alone.  

We reconcile our love for someone when compared to their faults because we know we too are faulty.  Perfect love doesn't go away when someone fails us.  Perfect love doesn't go away when we fail another.   Perfect love is made stronger as we walk alongside each other guided by a Perfect Spirit given to us by a Perfect Savior.

The firestorms are not over.  They started a long time ago and will continue until the end of this earth.  I don't know how the world will respond, but I pray His people will respond, that I will respond, in the same way I was responded to, with an unconditional love and a direct arrow pointing to Jesus.

Pray I'll be able to do that, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

because fear doesn't own you

You don't own me
Don't try to change me in any way
You don't own me
Don't tie me down 'cause I'd never stay
Don't tell me what to do
And don't tell me what to say
Please, when I go out with you
Don't put me on display
~John Madera and David White, songwriters
As an adult with a slightly higher level of maturity than the me long ago, rewatching movies from my tween and teen years makes me gawk at what was being let into my being--I'm looking at you Clueless.  I mean Josh was in college thinking about law school and Cher was 15...15!!!  Along with droves of other things and other media I won't get into now, my abundant naivete thankfully/unfortunately did not understand the depth of the scenarios presented.  However within them situations stuck and for better or worse had a hand in developing me into me, my thoughts into my thoughts, and my reactions into my reactions.  
Have you ever heard something or seen something from an unconventional source and have it either radically change your life or set off a series of thoughts inside you that led you to a conclusion you have looked for for years?  Anything can preach.  The gospel is everywhere.  No matter how much the world desires and tries to hide it, God will make himself known whether in the most obvious of places or the most random.  
And all the peoples said Amen, especially this girl who while flipping through Netflix saw a picture from a movie watched during those years I mentioned.  After that brief moment of scrolling past, the title song made its way into my head and as it repeated within there was an almost immediate understanding of a Truth.  It doesn't own me.  It never has.  The It I am referring to is fear.
I could sit down and list all the things I am scared of, and actually have done some in the past here.  It's a great exercise and I will be challenging you to do that later.  There are also verses upon verses dripping with Truth from the only real source of it reminding that we have not been given a Spirit of Fear, that the Lord is our light and our salvation so whom shall we fear?in Him we trust we do not have to fear.  That last one gives insight to the issue of fear.  When my trust is in Him I do not fear, the moment my trust is moved onto something else fear sets back in.
 Even if there are extensive lists in front of you of both your fears and the Truths that fight them, until a realization hits that you, that I, am living in fear, letting those objects, people, and hypothetical situations effect choices and direct steps, there is never freedom from fear.  We were often reminded by our former pastor that head knowledge is not enough, you have to feel it in your gut too.  That is when it becomes part of you.
Fear is second nature, it's an involuntary reaction that feels so normal you do not even realize it's happening.  For some it has been that way forever.  The imperfect world you were born into, the imperfect body you start with because of the fall long ago is predisposed toward fear.  Much like the way some are predisposed to certain illnesses, or addictions.  Sin ain't no joke.  It weaseled it's way into everything.  
For others fear has  found its way to you through the experiences of life and the effects from them.  When you are faced with, hit by, a traumatic experience of any kind it leaves its mark not just physically, or emotionally, but chemically in the very makeup of you.  Fear is planted.  
There are wondrous things that come through trauma.  God promises that the sufferings of this world will NEVER compare to the glory revealed in us.  Within the hard you find a Good God that is more wonderful than you could have ever imagined, you see yourself more loved than you could have ever understood.  But somewhere, sometime later on because of this broken world an infiltration begins. However much you have known and felt the true Peace that passes all understanding, you still know what it is like on the other side.  That same past knowledge that God uses to give you an abundance of compassion for others is also used against you by another one to keep you on edge, making you think in every experience another shoe can drop, another shoe will always drop.  Satan twists, it's his specialty.  Fear is his favorite weapon.
When you let the list of fears effect your choices, guide your steps, you are giving the power of control to things that, quite frankly, don't get to say.  They don't get to change you.  They don't get to tell you what to do.  They don't get to tie you down.  They don't get to keep you from the things for which you were created.  They don't own you.  
But also remember that we don't own ourselves.  Thank goodness, because I've seen the way we mistreat the things we own, forget about the things we own, get tired of the things we own.
So who owns me?  The same one who created me, holds me, loves me, guides me, protects me, comforts me, never tires of me, never mistreats me, only helps me, only does things for my own good, and knows what I fear and has cast it out with his perfect love.
The earth is the Lord's and ALL it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.  Psalm 24:1
O LORD, how many are Your works!  In wisdom you have made them all;  The earth is full of your possessions.  Psalm 104:24
Confession time.  There are two things God has asked me to do that I have said yes to doing, yet still have not done.  Much like that annoying elephant in the room, they are there in my thoughts, the knowledge that I said yes but have been overcome with fear of what will happen after that I just keep circling them, painstakingly procrastinating, trying to tick off every other possible thing on the to do list first.  And for those who know me, my to-do list is looooonnnng.
It's a short trip from trust to fear.  One moment our eyes are directly upon our Creator and the next they are averted to an easier task,  a plan already accomplished, or an escape route that gives immediate comfort.  But Isaiah 26:3--and the tattoo on my foot--reminds that He will keep us in perfect peace when our minds are stayed directly on Him.  On Him, not on our fears, our doubts, our what ifs, our if onlys.  On Him.
I am challenging you to make a list.  Write down every little thing you are afraid of from the silliest of bugs to the biggest of scenarios.  Do you see a theme?  Can you see if those fears direct themselves all to a similar root?  If you are so inclined, also think about how those fears have changed the way you have made decisions.  Do you have your own elephant you are skirting around?  Please tell me I'm not the only one!  But please, please please please, do not stop there, in the midst of that despondency.  Now, look up.  Look to who owns you, who has always and will always love you, who gives more than you could ever ask or imagine.  Look to who has and will cast out every fear and redeems them in the process.  Look up and see that fear doesn't own you, a Mighty God does.
I'll be praying for you, pray for me.