Check Your Blind Spots

Picture with me, if you will, 16-year old Holly learning to drive. I was an overly cautious kid. Hands on 10 and 2. Constantly checking my speed and my mirrors. I was keenly aware that I was, in fact, driving a machine that could kill someone. This reality weighed heavily on my mind every time I got behind the wheel and still does to this day. It’s fun living inside this head of mine. 🙂

One of the things we are taught when we are learning to drive is about the importance of checking our blind spots. Blind spots are those sneaky areas to the side of our cars that can’t be seen by the side or rear view mirrors. What that means is we can’t be reliant upon just our mirrors when wanting to change lanes or to merge onto the highway.

If we are going to safely and accurately check our blind spots we’ve got to actually turn our heads and look over our shoulders. A simple, but vital step in preventing a collision.

Didn’t know you were getting some driving instruction in today’s post, did ya? 😉

Here’s my point: Christians are not exempt from blind spots. We’ve all got them.

These blind spots can include our personal preferences, any biased beliefs, old ways of thinking and just plain ole’ misinformation. Yes, sometimes we aren’t thinking or believing correctly and we leave that blind spot unchecked because it’s easy and comfortable.

In order to check your Christian blind spots you have to have a measure of humility– a willingness to have your heart and motives examined to find out why you think or believe a certain way and why you might be hesitant to relinquish those beliefs.

Sometimes we ignore those spots because we’d rather not deal with it. We know whatever is lurking in that spot is detrimental to our growth but it’d take too much work (time, emotions, energy). Heck, you might even need to get a counselor or therapist! GASP!

[Side note: I’m sans coffee for about 21 days now so I might just come off extra sassy in this week’s post.]

Actually, counselors are really great at helping us pinpoint blind spots and deal with them appropriately. Scripture is also necessary in this process as long as it’s not being used inappropriately or out of context in an attempt to make excuses for that blind spot. The Holy Spirit is also helpful in bringing some clarity and discernment.

All of that requires being open to change and correction. It also requires doing some thoughtful listening without immediately offering a rebuttal.

I’ve seen what happens when Christian blind spots go unchecked and I can tell you that it has stunted growth and caused quite a bit of hurt. We’ve got to be diligent in this area.

I hope it goes without saying but I’ve got blind spots, too. Areas I refused to look at because it hurt too much or I just didn’t want to deal with it. I’m right there with you. I’m just hoping to take a lesson from 16 year old Holly learning to drive and checking those spots that can be easily overlooked….and I hope you will, too.

I love my country but… not as much as I love the Kingdom of God.

It only seems fitting to write about patriotism the week we celebrate Independence Day in all it’s red, white and blue glory. This special day was set aside so each year we could intentionally celebrate America’s freedom by grilling and blowing up fireworks.

I’d consider myself a fairly patriotic person– like “Hulk Hogan staking an American flag into some rock” kind of patriotic. If you’ve never seen that picture please go here. I don’t own a pair of American flag pants like Rex Kwon Do in Napoleon Dynamite, but I cry every time I hear “America the Beautiful” sung.

I love my country. I’m thankful I was born here and that as a white, straight female I get to experience it’s benefits. In many ways, I am proud to be an American, but my identity as an American doesn’t rank #1. I’m not even sure it makes it to my top 5.

I am a Christian first and foremost. That means my citizenship and my loyalty belongs somewhere else. As Hebrews 13:14 puts it,

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”

Hebrews 13:14 NLT

Or as Paul tells the Philippians,

“But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20 (TPT)

Christianity and American patriotism seem to have this odd relationship. Almost as if one could not exist without the other. What I mean is if I disagree with something my country is doing or how my president is acting (or saying or posting on Twitter) then maybe I’m not being a very good Christian.

Crazy, right?!

I recently had a disagreement with someone concerning racism in our country. At the end of the conversation they remarked, “I love my country,” as if my disgust with the lack of progress in regards to equality was somehow NOT loving to my country.

I love my country but I love the Kingdom of God and people He created more. ALWAYS.

I not only love the Kingdom of God, but have committed to fulfilling the work and calling that comes with being a citizen of it. Jesus the King of Kings has commissioned me for His work.

The ideologies of the Kingdom of God and the “American Kingdom” are vastly different. In Robin DiAngelo’s book White Fragility she shares this:

“Examples of ideology in the United States include individualism, the superiority of capitalism as an economic system and democracy as a political system, consumerism as a desirable lifestyle, and meritocracy (anyone can succeed if he or she works hard).

Robin J. DiAngelo “White Fragility”

When I read that I was confronted with how differently these two kingdoms are run. The Kingdom of God isn’t about individualism, but about community and fellowship–so much in fact that even God is triune!

In the Kingdom of God, giving and generosity is foundational making sure everyone is being taken care of including widows and orphans. Jesus even urged one man in Mark 10:17-27 to give up everything he had and give it to the poor! ALL he had. The man went away sad because he was quite wealthy– a huge mansion, 401K, cars, boats, vacation homes! I’m kidding, but he did walk away sad because the one thing he didn’t want to give up Jesus was asking him to give up for the sake of the Kingdom.

God’s kingdom isn’t a democracy either. He sits on the throne and He calls the shots.

Lastly, and for which I am very grateful, the Kingdom of God and our citizenship in it is not based on our merit, but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing I could do or say could get me entrance– it’s His grace and mercy alone!

The Kingdom of God, unlike the American one, is perfect. I’m not saying Christians are (we are NOT by any stretch of the imagination), but it was designed and is governed by a perfect and loving God. A God who doesn’t classify a person based on race, social status or money in the bank!

I pledge my allegiance to my God.

White Christian Hypocrisy

White christian

I will give fair warning now, there will be language found in this post that some would call vulgar and distasteful. If that is something you find offensive then you might not want to read this one. 

As a white/heterosexual/female/Christian, I have often heard Christians accused of being hypocritical. It’s certainly nothing new, but each time I would do my best to ardently defend Christians everywhere by saying, “Christians aren’t hypocrites. We are just imperfect people. We make mistakes.”

As true as that may be, we aren’t perfect by any means, I am finding it harder and harder to dismiss the hypocrisy found among some.

As a Christian, if you give a hearty “Amen!” after someone reads Micah 6:8 (He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”) but don’t support justice for our black brothers and sisters then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with protesting colonists who threw 342 containers of British tea (valuing about 1 million dollars today) into the Boston Harbor, but get upset when protesters loot a Target then you’re a hypocrite. (By the way, the CEO of Target released a very loving and UNDERSTANDING message to the community.)

As a Christian, if you are ok pledging allegiance to a flag (or nation), but feel personally offended when someone kneels during the pledge (the very right given to them because of that flag) then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you fight for your right to bear arms, but don’t weep when you see and hear of UNARMED black men and women being shot then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you preach that God is love, but God’s love has some kind of conditions to it (like race, sexual orientation, political party, gender, denomination, etc.) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you celebrate that the Body of Christ is diverse (and you even send missionaries to other countries because every nation needs to be represented in the kingdom!!), but everyone around you looks like you and thinks like you then you’re a hypocrite.

As much as this applies to race, it isn’t the only area of hypocrisy.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President using the term “pussy” on multiple occasions, but get upset when people wear pink vagina hats at the Women’s March then you’re a hypocrite. (Or if you think Christian women shouldn’t even be a part of such an event!)

By the way, if you support a President who uses vulgar language and claims to be a Christian, but get pissed off when a Christian blogger does it then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with your President talking about kissing women without consent (or “grabbing them by the pussy” as he so lovingly described it) and say it was “before his conversion”, but are disgusted by children being abused in Catholic church (which is undeniably disgusting on every level) then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you are ok with obeying one politicians direction because he considers himself a Christian (because he prays?!?!), but refuse to listen to another one because he isn’t then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you pray for the persecuted church in other countries and then use the same term to describe the American church during social distancing/quarantine then you are a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say women and men are created equal and in the image of God, but magnify the voice of men while stifling the voice of women because they are “too emotional” then you’re a hypocrite.

As a Christian, if you say that abuse is wrong, but allow husbands to verbally abuse their wives and children and allow them to remain in Christian leadership because it isn’t PHYSICAL ABUSE and you aren’t sure it’s “that big of a deal” then you are a hypocrite.

In order to define hypocrisy, I’d like to throw it back to 1995 when DC Talk (a popular and celebrated Christian rock band) released the song “What If I Stumble?”. The song begins with a recording of Christian theologian Brennan Manning saying:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Or if you prefer the definition found in the dictionary it’s when someone claims to have a moral standard or belief but their actions do not line up. Seems to me like consistency is important here. And I believe one of the top reasons why so many young adults leave the church after high school, but that’s for a different post.

So, how do we address this? How do I even begin to discuss the next steps. If we allow ourselves to look in the mirror and we find hypocrisy there how to we respond? That’s the question I keep asking myself because I understand there ARE areas of hypocrisy in my life.

As I have mentioned in past blogs the only thing I know to do is look to Jesus. How did He respond/act? What did Jesus say about it?

Jesus was not silent on hypocrisy.

In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus talks to the religious scholars and Pharisees calling them out on their bullshit. As The Passion Translation puts it in verse 28, “Outwardly you masquerade as righteous people, but inside your hearts are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

THIS is the question we’ve got to ask ourselves– is there hypocrisy in my heart? Allow Him to reveal it to you. We can trust Him to do that because there wasn’t an ounce of hypocrisy in Jesus.

Jesus was so perfect in fact that His perfection caused people to not like Him. Actually, some people hated Him and were trying to trick Him and trap Him with His words.

They were so hell bent on it in fact that they brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery (I wonder how they knew that?!) in front of Jesus who was teaching in the temple courts (John 8). They made this woman, who I assume was naked, stand in the middle of everyone not only to shame her, but to see if Jesus would condemn her.

As good religious scholars would they brought up the law of Moses. Certainly Jesus wouldn’t disobey the law handed down to them! When He finally responds to them He looks them in the face and gives them permission to stone her if they themselves have never sinned.

I wish I could have been there– to see the look in His eyes the tone in His voice. The leaders who were once angry and demanding answers now silent. One by one walking away because they couldn’t deny their own hypocrisy when Jesus presented them with it.

Again, an example of how Jesus can bring conviction to our hearts if we are willing to listen. If we are willing to let Him confront us on stuff that we’d rather not see.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty angry about the hypocrisy I see in others in the Church. It disgusts me and enrages me to no end, but I need to have that same response when I see it in myself, too.

Oh, Jesus. Root out every sliver of hypocrisy found in our hearts and allow us to pursue justice, to love mercy and walk with humility. Break our hearts for the things that break yours. Heal our nation and bring unity as only You can. Bring freedom to those bound by racism, by tradition, by sexism and ANYTHING that doesn’t come from You! May your kingdom of peace reign in the hearts of your people. Amen.

Radical Acceptance

Radical

Every time I sat down to write this I was unable to because I felt like a fraud. You see, I don’t have this radical acceptance stuff figured out. I am very much on the journey towards it, but I’m not there yet.

Actually, that could go for everything I write. There is not a topic I’ve fully grasped, championed or perfected. I’d like to think that’s part of why you come here because you can relate to not having it all figured out. When I share my own imperfection I hope you find it an encouragement and not something that makes what I have to say fraudulent.

Back to the topic at hand then: RADICAL ACCEPTANCE.

A friend mentioned this phrase to me recently and it stuck with me. So much in fact that I scribbled the words into my notebook to study out when I had more time. I wanted to figure out what radical acceptance means to me? FOR ME?

Like the nerd that I am one of the first things I like to do is look up definitions. In my experience, there’s a wealth of insight when we look at what a word means. So that’s what I did here.

I won’t bore you by writing out the lengthy definitions, but just some things that stood out to me that I think will further our discussion. (This is a discussion, right? Or are blogs just me talking to myself? haha….moving on.)

radical (adj): far reaching or thorough

Radical is fundamentally extreme. It is not wishy washy, but an “all in” mentality.

I’ve heard Christian leaders call us to be “radical for Jesus” yet when we radically love the people He instructed us to they don’t like it. Funny how that Truth can be so easily warped by a person’s agenda. Thing about that is when you warp a Truth to fit an agenda it’s not longer true.

I may be going off on a side tangent here (not sorry about that), but being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean sitting in the front row on Sunday mornings or rushing to get back IN a church building after this Coronavirus stuff is over. Being radical for Jesus doesn’t mean putting a Jesus sticker on your bumper or not saying words like shit.

Being radical for Jesus means advocating for those who have been abused, neglected and mistreated. Being radical for Jesus means getting OUTSIDE the church walls and pursuing the hurting and broken and not just expecting them to walk into a church building.

Seems to me like some of the stuff that Christians have labeled as “radical for Jesus” is just whitewashed religiosity.

My tone might sound angry in those last few paragraphs because….I am. American Christianity (and I do stress a difference here) seems to pick and choose what aspects of Jesus fits nicely into our life and schedule. There’s nothing radical about that.

On to our next word.

acceptance (noun): consenting to receive something offered

Under one of the definitions for acceptance was this line: a willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation. 

Damn.

I’m going to let that sit a minute. That leveled me. I feel difficult and unpleasant the majority of the time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered and worried if I was being a pain in the ass. Just ask my best friend, siblings or guys I’ve dated and they could all attest I’ve asked them if I was being a pain numerous times.

For me this phrase “radical acceptance” should read “radical self acceptance”. And when I go back to my original questions (What does radical acceptance mean to me? For me?) this is how I would answer them with all that stuff in mind.

Radical acceptance means willingly tolerating (and even celebrating) every aspect of who I am. Even the more difficult or “ugly” parts of who I am.

Radical acceptance means to thoroughly and wholeheartedly receive a person and all they bring to the table.

It means allowing myself the grace to share my thoughts, struggles and opinions without having to preface it with an apology. NOT that it gives me free reign to be a jerk, but that it simply allows me to be open and authentic without feeling like I have to soften that for someone’s palate.

I’ve been told I’m too emotional, too loud, too opinionated, too whatever and I’m coming to some conclusions that I might be too much for some and that’s ok. I may not be spiritual enough for some or lady-like for others. I may be too liberal for some and too conservative for others.

In caring so deeply about what other’s liked and didn’t like about me I ended up hating myself and I’m slowly trying to pick up the pieces and accept me for all that I am. I am imperfect and flawed and get it wrong so very often, but I’m also generous and thoughtful and funny.

And on my journey to radical acceptance I will celebrate all of who I am…even the unpleasant or difficult stuff.

I hope you will find the strength and courage to love all of you, too. That’s the kind of radical love Jesus has for you. An all encompassing, unapologetic fierce kind of love.

 

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.

 

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!

 

 

When Holidays hurt.

when holidays hurt

Holidays don’t summon happy memories for some people.

No matter how many happy moments have tried to crowd the painful ones, the painful ones still remain. Sometimes these memories are hidden in the dark corners of our hearts where only a few have been allowed in.

As much as we don’t want our past to effect our present, we struggle to forget. Believe me, we wish we could. We long to forget. Instead, we do our very best to celebrate with those who are celebrating.

But what about grieving with those who grieve?

It’s a toss up, I’ll be honest. It’s not that I want people to be miserable. Hell, I don’t want to be miserable. I want to be celebrating with everyone else– wearing red and green flare, singing Christmas carols and giving off that Holly Jolly vibe. Ok, maybe not that much Christmas spirit.

Instead, I feel like I’m in a hole. I can see the colored lights, hear the singing and smell the homemade cookies, but all around me is dark and lonely.

Lonely.

I’m not lonely because I am alone. In fact, I am not alone at all. I have some of the most amazing family and friends around me. You can’t fix an internal problem externally, though. As much as those closest to me shower me with love, my heart still hurts.

On December 4th, I had given up. I texted my best friend and told her how badly I wished for this dumb holiday to be over already. All I wanted was to get through it in one piece. I was a broken, weepy mess.

As she tends to do (thankfully) my bestie brought it back to Jesus.

“I just want to enjoy Him,” she confessed.

::sigh:: Me too.

It would mean I’d have to turn my eyes from my grief to someone else. Someone much more beautiful than all the pain and hurt.

So, I decided to do something I had never done before. I decided to celebrate Advent.

christmas

Since then, I’ve been reading portions of Scripture that talk about the birth of Christ. The reading isn’t super in-depth, a verse or two in length making it easy to follow through on daily. I made a similar calendar for my best friend, too, so we could share the experience. Just the thought that at any minute she could ask me if I’ve done my reading is enough motivation (…guilt…) to keep me on task.

Confession time….I’m still sad. I’m still hurting. I still feel like I’m in a hole. Some days, it feels unbearable.

What gives, Jesus?! I thought if I did the Christian thing that I’d get my happy shot and be good to go until Christmas. That all of a sudden my frown would be turned upside down and I’d be walking around with a smile plastered across my face. Instead of choking back tears anytime someone asks me “How are you doing?”

Maybe you’re like me and you’re hurting, too. I don’t know your story or the reasons why you’re hurting. I won’t pretend to have any answers. All I can do is tell you what I’ve decided to focus on despite the pain.

His name is Immanuel, which means God WITH us. That simple, but profound truth is the hallmark of my days. The powerful reminder that He is:

With us in the pain.

With us in the tears.

With us in the brokenness. The anger. The grief.

The nights I have fallen asleep with tear stained cheeks, He’s been there.

The days where I can barely respond to a text message asking how I am, He’s been there.

The days when my little girl heart was crushed, He was there.

And He’s there with you too. In all of your loneliness, in all of your unpleasant memories, in all of the questioning He’s there. I know you may not feel Him. I know you may not hear Him. But I pray that you would. That in this holiday season, you would experience Jesus…IMMANUEL…in a deeper, more real way than you ever have before.