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!

We All Need Someone to Lean On

thecommonqueen.com

There’s a word that’s been on my heart since just before the start of the new year: lean.

It’s kinda random. I get that. Yet, the idea behind it (as I am going to share with you) is my theme for 2015. I have not perfected this concept, but it is something that I feel compelled to pursue in this coming year. Let me explain.

I worry a lot. The kind of worry that wakes me up in the middle of the night wracked with anxiety and fear. My mind will flip flop between cares as my heart races pounding at the walls of my chest. For hours, I’ll lay there praying (begging) God for relief until I fall back to sleep in mid prayer.

I’ll reawaken the next morning feeling like I’ve made it through a war. I layer make-up on top of the bags under my eyes in hopes to conceal the previous night’s battle. The morning is spent fueling up on caffeine so I can power through my day.

The day is not much better than the night. More worries. More anxiety. I busy myself as much as I can to distract my thoughts. I’ve found myself longing for peace– some relief from the constant barrage of uneasiness. Something to steady the waves and bring some calm.

I’ve tried calming my own storms. It only made things worse– the more I strived the more I felt like I was drowning. I couldn’t live like that anymore. There’s no way I’d spend another year, another month, another day, another second like that. Something needed to give.

In my sigh laden prayers, God told me to just lean.

Leaning means no more striving. It means no more busying of oneself. It means rest.

One of my favorite moments in the Gospel of John comes during the Last Supper. It’s this seemingly insignificant note about how John was leaning (or reclining) on Jesus. For me, this simple intimate act causes me to ask myself: “When is the last time I’ve leaned on Jesus?”

I want to be like the disciple John and just lean on the chest of Jesus. To hear His heart beat. To be that close to Him. I can’t allow these worries, anxieties and fears to be plaguing me any longer. So, I’ve started being more intentional. The moment worry comes in I begin to lean.

What’s the look like? Well, for me, it means immediately stopping and taking a deep breath. No distractions. No more indulging the fear. I quiet myself and close my eyes for a moment and pray a simple prayer that consists of “I trust you with this, Jesus.”

I’m not saying this is THE magic formula for anxiety, but I can tell you that it is causing me to be deliberate about shifting my focus from my worry to my Prince of Peace. 

As I thought about this post, I was reminded of Elisha Hoffman’s hymn that proclaims, “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” His arms are strong enough to carry all our burdens and shelter us from the storm. He doesn’t need our help, but takes great joy in caring for us.

It’s easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of thoughts and endless “what if’s”. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious or fearful take a moment to stop and turn to Jesus. It may sound silly or too simple, but give Him a shot. You may just find some peace and comfort in the fact that He can handle it. All of it.

My life as a prodigal.

prodigal

A few days ago, I woke up before my alarm. And as I laid there, all my stresses and anxieties from the past few months awoke as well. Each one feeling like a block of concrete on my chest– one on top of the other keeping me pinned down and gasping for air.

My weary heart turned to God, in that moment, and asked, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME??”

I was angry. I am angry.

And He whispered, “So, you’ll come to me”. He reminded me of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) and how it was a desperate, weary, broken, poor man who wandered back to his father.

I was starting to see the correlation. You see, the thing that was so devastating about the son’s request was the fact that he wanted his inheritance before his dad even died. He wanted the benefits without the relationship. Just give me my due and I’ll be on my way.

The audacity of that guy, right?!?! As if his father OWED it to him. Selfish, greedy kid.

The more I thought about it though, the more familiar it seemed.

“Jesus where are my blessings? Like the husband I’ve been praying for. Or the check in the mail to cover these medical bills. Or healing for that relationship I keep asking you for.”

I stand there with my open hand demanding my blessing thinking somehow I deserve it. “YOU OWE ME, GOD. After all I’ve done for you. After all I’ve given up. After all I’ve been through.”

The audacity, right? Selfish, greedy kid.

Like a loving Father, He has blessed me in innumerable ways. In things I’ve seen and in some I haven’t recognized. I enjoy the blessings, but think somehow it was because I earned it. Or because I’ve worked so hard. Or been such a “good person”. (All of those things laughable….and untrue.) He let’s me believe it and do my own thing.

Even if that thing is wallowing in a pig pen.

And that’s where I’ve been. For months.  Covered in mud and shit. Stealing the moldy scraps of slop from the pigs. Just enough to SURVIVE. But there’s a moment when you get fed up with simply surviving. There’s a revelation that life wasn’t meant to be just gotten through. It’s this voice in your heart that says, “You were meant for more than this.”

But you’ve got to go home to dad. So, you start the long walk of shame. Along the way, you craft the most eloquent apology you can muster. It’s sprinkled with groveling and dripping with sorrow. Surely, this will guarantee some grace.

And when He sees you, He comes running to you. And before you can even get out your perfectly practiced speech you are met with kisses, open arms and a freakin’ party. It’s the kind of love that’ll stop you in your tracks. The kind of love that’ll restore a broken, hurting heart. 

I think I’m getting it.

It’s not about being independent and doing things MY way. It’s not about working harder or doing MORE. It’s not even about the right words. It’s about Him. About being with HIM. Oddly enough, this parable was shared with the Pharisees and religious teachers of the day. Some theologians will tell you, the main point was to point out to them, that God rejoices when lost things are found. And that is 100% true. But I also wonder, if Jesus was also wanting them to see that even though they could have all the head/book knowledge, all the memorization of Scripture, every law obeyed to the finest detail that it boiled down to being with the Father.

Simply put, a prodigal is anyone who has wasted their life, time and talents for anything less worthy than what they were made and intended for. And we were made to know the Father and make Him known. In the midst of the pain of this season, in all of the unanswered questions and the seemingly unanswered prayers– God’s desire is simply that I come to Him.

I’m coming home, Dad.