Rising Up From the Ashes

Rising Up From the Ashes

This one is for the people who find themselves burnt out from life or ministry or marriage or disappointment or anxiety….or whatever is leaving you a heap on the floor (literally or figuratively).

I’ve been burnt out for a number of years now. It’s not a new realization by any means. I knew it. I tried to deny it out of shame convinced if I was a good enough Christian I wouldn’t be feeling this way. It was this drive that sent me deeper, much deeper into this pit where I was determined I could serve my way out of this condition.

Serving. That was my hamster wheel that kept me spinning endlessly and getting nowhere but tired and angry and hurting. Things that once brought me pleasure and joy now left me anxious and bitter and I wonder if I was ever called to ministry after all. I question my purpose and calling, which has been the very core of my being since I was a kid.

It was…is.. my identity. It has entwined itself around my worth and in order to be loved I needed to DO. Holly wasn’t enough. Rather Holly simply BEING wasn’t enough.

So, here I sit in my ashes.

There’s a story of man named Job who had everything he could have ever wanted– money, prestige, family, friends, a thriving business. Then, one day, he lost it all. He lost his family, his health, his wealth and found himself in an ash heap. He sat there (according to Job 2:8, CEV) to show his sorrow.

Ashes can so often represent destruction and devastation. Earlier this year, Australia experienced horrific wildfires that destroyed more than a fifth of the country’s forests. People and animals died, too. Sure sounds like devastation to me.

And yet, every time I think of ashes I am reminded of the Phoenix. A Greek mythological legend says the bird dies by bursting into flames and then is reborn from its ashes. In its death there is renewal and resurrection. It does not limp or walk away from its ash heap. It SOARS away with a grand, majestic and glorious display of strength and vigor.

As we enter this Holy week, that is the image I am mediating on because that is the image Christ Himself exemplified. Not some folklore story mind you, but an actual literal empty grave where His body once lay. Christ did not limp from the borrowed tomb, but victoriously trampled death, disease, discouragement and everything in-between.

In doing so, He has given that same victory to me (and YOU)– to soar on the wings like eagles (& Phoenixes) , to run and not grow weary (or burnt out), they will walk (not limp) and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31, NIV with parenthetic additions made by yours truly).

To go back to our friend Job, he didn’t limp away from his ash heap, either. In fact, he got back everything that had been taken from him and MORE. As you’ve reflected on what has been lost maybe you need that reminder. You will get back more than you had before.

In your marriage that has been on the brink of divorce you will see redemption. In your soul that has been wracked by anxiety you will experience a peace that transcends even a global pandemic.

In my burn out, I believe, a passion will be reignited that will propel me on to do the very thing(s) I was created to do. Not to get love, but from a beautiful understanding that I am loved simply for who I am and not the ways I serve.

Rise up from the ashes, friends! Soar!

Sin & the Coronavirus

Sin & The Coronavirus

Her eyes were fixed intently on her schoolwork as she traced the letters “V” both upper and lower case. Without looking up she asks, “Did sin cause the Coronavirus?”

“Hmm.” I say.

While inside my head I’m screaming, “Hey God! This is a bit outside my pay grade! Mind tossing me some Truth and wisdom a 5 year old can understand? That I can understand?!”

This was important. You don’t want to mess this one up. Ya know? We’re all asking hard questions right now or so I’d imagine. You don’t walk through a global pandemic without one or two boinking around in your brain.

So, I ask her, “What was it like before sin entered the world? Before Adam and Eve sinned?”

“It was perfect!” she says with a smile.

“Yup! It was perfect. No sickness. No sin. None of that.” Things are going smoothly and I’m shocked. SHOCKED I tell you.

We spend a few more minutes discussing the effects of sin– selfishness, greed, fighting with your siblings, being disobedient.

She seems satisfied with our discussion and we move on to other important conversations. Like how one of the boys in her class put chocolate down his pants and then ate it. I’m horrified at this news though less shocked because it’s coming from a girl who tells me boogers are considered dessert.

This story is true, by the way, ALL of it. I wanted to share this cute one in hopes that when I transition into my next point, which will undoubtedly step on some toes that you’ll remember that you once found me funny and endearing.

I’ve been seeing Christians post some pretty “interesting” things on social media with the onset of this global crisis. And it’s those kinds of posts that shake me from my silence and stagnancy in regards to blogging/writing.

My 5-year old niece isn’t the only one thinking about sin and the Coronavirus. I recently read a post that said, “What if this nation were to deal with the problem of sin as strongly as we are with the threat of COVID-19?” My! What a mighty high horse you have!

Mind you, there were many Christians (disclaimer: NOT ALL) who upon first hearing our leaders talk about social distancing and self-isolation were LAUGHING at the thought. How dare they ask us to not meet in groups of 10 people or more!

So, let me get this straight….is THAT how you think I should be dealing with sin in my life? According to your model, we laugh when a sin seems insignificant or at least not relevant for my life, but those other people’s lives. Until we realize that sin is actually effecting MY life and I should probably do something about that, but not before using it as an opportunity to shame some people on the internet first.

Let me stop here for a minute.

It’s much easier to see other people’s sins (and flaws) and not our own. MYSELF INCLUDED.

It was Jesus who reminded us of this Truth in Matthew 7. Other people have specks in their eyes while we’ve got logs. I can’t overlook my crap by putting a spotlight on someone else’s. Doesn’t exactly work that way and yet we try to do that because we don’t want to confront it. Again, I get it. I’m in this support group, too.

Am I saying we never discuss sin? No. Am I saying we should never talk to other people about their sin? Again, no. (Keep reading Matthew 7 for how we should actually go about doing this. I’ll give you a hint: deal with your own crap FIRST.)

What I’m asking is that we STOP SHAMING PEOPLE on the internet. This is a time where people are in need of encouragement and peace and we have the opportunity to offer hope through the social media platforms we are on. You have a voice. All I’m asking is you use it wisely.

 

Social Distancing & Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

HnBKs1584856403

People loved to ask Jesus questions. What do you think about this? Do you know who that person is? Why do you eat with those people? Don’t you have an answer?!

Many of these questions were asked by the super religious and sometimes their intentions weren’t exactly “pure”. Sometimes though there’d be some religious people who wanted to engage with Jesus honestly.

In Mark 12:28-34, we see one of those exchanges. Jesus was asked a simple question: Out of all the commandments, which is most important?

Come on, dude. Give us the Cliff Notes version. And so, He does. And I’m going to shorten it up a bit more.

Love God & Love Others.

That’s the MOST important. So, in this age of social distancing and pandemic and quarantine how do we do the most important things?

Love God

If loving God for you is solely summed by walking through the sanctuary doors on a Sunday morning, I think you’ve missed the point.

Loving God happens Monday through Saturday, too.

We can love God by reading our Bible app devo while laying in bed. We can love God by singing while we wash the dishes. We can love God by eating a homemade dinner. And we can love God by getting a good night’s sleep.

Yes, I’m certain God cares about all that.

I think He cares about how we’ve reduced His Gospel to a building that’s open once or twice a week. Which might be why so many people are struggling when those doors CAN’T be opened for a time being. It’s not because a government or a politician is trying to restrict our rights….rather, they’re trying to do their due diligence to keep us safe and healthy.

Love Others

In a matter of weeks (or days), what it meant to practically love your neighbor drastically changed. It meant being patient with the long lines at the grocery store, only buying toilet paper when you needed it and calling friends to check up instead of meeting up at a crowded restaurant.

Loving others means considering another person’s health as important as our own.

As we all try to wade this new and uncharted territory together let us remember what is most important. Loving God is a lifestyle that encapsulates every DAY and every THING we do. And loving people looks like washing our hands more than we ever thought possible.

Keep on doing those MOST important things during this season of social distancing and once we find ourselves beyond it. Love has always and will always be the most important thing.

 

 

Accomplishing Nothing

Accomplishing Nothing

Up until last week, it had been 2 years since I had written a single blog/article. I’d have friends ask me why I wasn’t writing and my response was, “I don’t have anything good to say.” And I had decided, following that old golden rule, if you don’t have anything nice to say than you shouldn’t say anything at all.

So I didn’t.

I decided that maybe I was done with trying to encourage others with the written word. If I couldn’t encourage my own heart how in the world was I going to encourage someone (ANYONE) else?!

Then, recently, a week after I had preached at my church, I had someone call me a hypocrite. “How could you preach with such anointing and then act the way you do?” If I was what that person said I was — a hypocrite– than I certainly shouldn’t be speaking publicly.

It seemed like only more confirmation that I should continue to be muzzled. I didn’t want to risk saying something wrong or worse yet hurtful. In many ways, that philosophy ran over into my personal life, too.

My struggles had kept me silent and I thought that I couldn’t write until I was “better”. Whatever that means. But here I am, chest deep in struggle and I’m clawing myself to the keyboard to squeak out something that might bring us hope.

When we go through suffering one of the questions we like to ask is “Why is this happening to me?! The rest of the conversation, at least from my end, goes something like this: Haven’t I done enough?

Ah. There it is: the sting of Truth. I’ve been working at trying to be enough since I was a kid. I thought if I wasn’t so fat maybe then I would be enough. If I got better grades maybe then I would be enough. If I was athletic maybe then I would be enough.

Those thoughts easily moved into my relationship with Jesus. If I read the Bible more then I will be enough. If I pray and fast more then I will be enough. If I serve every week at church then I will be enough.

Sitting across the table from a dear friend and mentor last week I asked her, “What do I need to do to get out of this difficult season? Just tell me, what am I not doing?”

Rest.

::groan::

I do that so well. (Please read that in the font: sarcasm)

But I also knew what she was saying was right because God has been telling me the same thing. Actually, two days earlier I was at a Youth Conference and sang these words:

“I won’t rest until I find my rest in you. You are where my hope is!” (Find Rest)

The words landed heavy in my chest and I knew that simple phrase was what God was trying to get through to me. He wanted me to be just as devoted and determined to rest as I had been about striving.

To continue to drive the point home further, I was brought to this verse in John 6 twice this week:

John 6:63 (NLT) “It is the Spirit who gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”

Those words are from Jesus. At the time, He had just shared some difficult Truth with His disciples and they were complaining because it offended them and it was too hard for them to get. (Uh, relateable.) So, He reminds them it’s the Holy Spirit that does the work and all of our effort or striving gets us nothing. At which point, many of His disciples left.

Guess they didn’t like what they heard. Kinda like how I didn’t like what I was being told. But Jesus was/IS right and I know it.

All our “trying so hard” is getting us burnt out and discouraged. It’s not going to bring us the freedom and PEACE we’re searching for. Admittedly, working/doing/striving comes easier for me. It’s easier than quieting down and allowing the Holy Spirit to work– to give over control and trust that He will do a good work in me.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar season. You’ve tried it all and nothing has worked, but you keep spinning your wheels finding yourself in a deeper hole. Give rest a shot. Put as much energy and devotion into rest as you do in your work. Hold it as sacred time where God can do some repair on the areas of your heart that have been bruised and broken.

It may seem like you are accomplishing nothing. In fact, that’s exactly right. You aren’t so He can.

 

Take Your Victory Lap

It was a perfect Autumn afternoon. The clouds had parted and there were pockets of blue skies and warm sunlight. The air was crisp, but enjoyable with a rhythmic gentle breeze that would softly place the brightly colored leaves before me as I walked. Like my very own red carpet rolled out for me.

I’ve been taking these walks as often as possible. My intention being that I can get some exercise in for my body and release some pent up feelings to relieve my mind. I’ve been frequenting the same park the past few weeks and have half expected someone to report me to the police for talking to myself, which I often do as I try and get myself out of the mental rut I’ve found myself in that day. Sometimes in the midst of the steps and complaints I hear the Lord speak to me.

That’s what happened to me yesterday.

As the leaves spread out before me I smiled. Admittedly, my first thought had not been a movie star’s red carpet, but rather Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As He rode into the city, the crowds began to throw down leaves (not my Autumn colored leaves, but Palm branches) and coats before Him with shouts of praise.

“Hosanna!” they shouted. This word– Hosanna– had been used in the Psalms as a plea. Please, save me! Yet, in this context it’s used differently. It’s used as a praise of thanksgiving for salvation. Jesus would bring them the help and salvation they needed, but it certainly wouldn’t look like what they had thought or hoped. The people longed for political salvation, but Jesus would bring a freedom much more life altering.

This triumphal entry, in fact, did mimic the type of parades that would accompany military victories. These celebrations would usher in the commander that led the troops in victory. It was their moment to soak in their success and show off the spoils of war.

In modern terms, it’s like a victory lap in NASCAR. I’ve been told by my own resident NASCAR expert (since I know absolutely nothing about the sport) that the winner gets to take a lap around the course as the fans cheer and general merriment ensues. It happens after all other 500 laps have been successful completed. Makes sense. You can’t celebrate a victory until you’ve won.

Jesus, though, took His victory lap before He went to the cross. Before the relentless scourging. Before the devastating betrayal. He took it before the battle had really even begun.

And so can you.

In all honesty, I don’t feel equipped to bring this type of encouragement to you. As someone feeling battle weary, broken and drained, most days I’m mustering every ounce of energy just to hold on. But maybe that’s you, too. Maybe you’re dealing with the loss of a parent or loved one and you wonder if the pain will ever stop. Maybe you’re walking through chemo treatments and the side effects don’t seem to be letting up. Maybe you’re grieving your life/marriage/ministry and how it doesn’t look like what you had imagined long ago.

Whatever you’re facing, you don’t see victory yet. It’s there where I want you to take your victory lap. I know it doesn’t make sense. I know it seems silly.

As Christians, we know that we’ve received victory through Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:57). He’s already given it to us and yet we still face our battles. Not fighting for victory, but from it. It may not feel like you’re victorious, but you are and it’s the moments you don’t feel it that you’ve got to walk in the Truth of it.

If you don’t have a crowd of fans, know that I’m here cheering you on. Keep on going.

Mountainside Chats With God

Mountainside

I met up with a friend tonight. Mostly because another minute home alone was going to do me in. Sometimes my thoughts are too loud and my bedroom walls amplify them, as if that’s possible. That’s what happens when you overthink and re-evaluate every decision you’ve made….well, since you started making your own decisions.

We walked along the aisles of a chain bookstore as she spoke of disappointments and frustrations. The questionings of the mid-thirties mind. I wonder if the world has us going through midlife crises sooner or if this is how it’s happened since the beginning of time. Either way, I remind her she isn’t alone.

And she isn’t. You aren’t, either. We’ve all experienced it. Regardless of age, marital status, job placement or ministry opportunity there comes a time where we wonder if we are doing anything of significance. Are we truly living out are calling? Are we making a difference? Are we just wasting time?

We decided to take a drive up to a place called Harris Hill. Depending on the time of day or night, there’s a variety of activity there. We pass the go-cart track, the old timey children’s rides, the park campgrounds, the museum and reach the lookout. From there you can see the valley wedged between the surrounding hills. It’s dusk which means almost all of the benches and swings are full. All but one, so we settle in to watch the last red sliver of sun go down. The air is cool, surprisingly cool, considering it’s been in the 90’s all day.

Everything is green. Fresh. Alive. Lush. The river weaves in and out of the forestry below. We sit perched taking it all in. It’s beautiful.

“So what do we do now?” She asks.

“Wait just a few more minutes.”

“I mean, about life.”

“I feel like the advice is the same.”

As we look out at His kingdom, we pray. For guidance and wisdom and strength to get through the next few minutes. And then, the next few after that.

After our whispered “Amens” we are reminded of Jesus and how He would often go to the mountainside to pray. He needed those moments to connect with the Father and hear His voice. Those moments recharged Him so He could do what He was called to do– heal the sick, love the unlovely, and disciple a ragtag band of misfits. I can only imagine how tiring it all must of been. Because, I mean, people.

I’m not sure what those mountainside chats between God and Jesus sounded like. Maybe they sounded like the prayers that my friend and I offered. “God, we just want to be faithful to what you’re calling us to do.” I imagine God smiling, both at Jesus and two silly girls on a mountainside, and saying, “I am so pleased with you.”

You see, I’m not sure it’s all about the doing. Sure, I believe we’ve all got a holy calling. Unique callings that ultimately all have the same goal: to bring glory to our Heavenly Father.

So, I guess, the most important thing we can do is continue meeting with God just like Jesus did. Keep asking Him what to do and when to do it and He’ll help us do the things we are supposed to do when we are supposed to do them.

Let’s commit to a few more minutes in His presence. May our mountainside chats with God, wherever they may take place, prepare us for whatever tasks or Heavenly assignments come our way: this week, this month and every day until the day we meet Him face to face.

To God be the glory!

 

Pressing Through To Jesus

Pressing Through To Jesus

Warning: this may be TMI (too much information) for some people. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve had “the issue of blood” (we all get what that means, right?) basically every day for the last 7 months. Just in case you are worrying, I’m aware of why it’s happening, but at this point it’s just something I have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s annoying, frustrating, sometimes scary and sometimes painful. This week, I was especially frustrated and let out a disgruntled sigh.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

I hadn’t expected a response, but in the middle of my frustration God encouraged me. I was instantly reminded of the story of the woman with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:25-34, which I’ve read probably a hundred times. This morning though, it took on a deeper meaning– not just because I could relate to the woman on a very small scale.

The woman in Mark 5 lived with her sickness for 12 long years. She tried everything she could possibly try in order to get relief. I’m sure she even tried essential oils because a friend on Facebook told her to give it a try. I joke, but this woman was desperate. She visited doctors and tried a variety of procedures and literally spent all the money she had in order to get better. In the end, she only got worse.

Until Jesus.

A desperate woman who had tried everything else pressed through and found her way to Jesus. She knew He was her only hope. In reaching Him, in that very moment, she was healed. Instantly, I might add.

For me, singleness is my “issue”. At times, it can be frustrating, annoying, scary and painful as I try and walk through this journey with faith. I’ve tried everything and still find myself waiting for this season to be over. From dating apps to being set up by friends and waiting for that guy in small group to ask me out to coffee. There are moments I get to the end of myself and pray prayers similar to the one I shared at the beginning of this article.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

His answer, “Press through these circumstances and get to me. I want you to come to me because that is where you will find wholeness.”

It is there, in the presence of Jesus, that we find healing. Healing from a break-up or healing from the heartache of not having been on a date in years. Maybe your healing isn’t connected to your relationship status– maybe it has to do with an attitude you have towards someone or that every day you wake up feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

All I know is whatever we need, can be found in the presence of Jesus. In that area where you need healing, press through to Jesus. He wants us to come to Him. He loves it when we do because it’s admitting our need for Him. And I don’t know if you need the reminder, but you do NEED Him.

My encouragement to you: Press through. Don’t let people, diagnoses, hurdles or difficulty get in your way. Get into Jesus’ presence and it’s there I know He’ll do a miracle for you!