The Exact Timeline for Healing

the exact timeline for

I tricked you.

There is no such thing as an exact timeline for healing. 

wish it were that easy. I wish I could sit here and give you a formula so we could determine how many days you’d be hurting. It’s not like that.

Yet people will try to offer you advice, books to read (I currently have 8 books that have been given to me and are waiting to be read)  or essential oils to buy. When that stuff doesn’t work and some magical number of days/months have passed we’ll be told to just “get over it”.

Sure, they may not say those words. Most will try and cushion it and frame it as gently as possible, but when you shake off all the niceties that’s what you’re left with.

We say some dumb things to grieving, hurting people.

And I get it’s with the best intentions. Actually, I really get that. As I’ve watched people I love walk through some horribly painful experiences I have tried to use every kind of word band-aid I could come up with. Anything to ease the pain and stop the hurting.

“It won’t always be like this.” Just another fancy way of saying, “You’ll get over it.”

We wrongly assume that time lessens grief and pain….but it doesn’t. Time (alone) doesn’t do anything. In fact, sometimes time can make it worse.

The last few years I found myself in a perpetually painful situation. One that has left me so strangled by anxiety that I am losing sleep (or unable to get out of bed). I have felt like a shell of a human unable to even fake a smile on the outside. On the good days I’m miserable and on my bad days I’m begging God to kill me.

I told myself a good Christian (a good leader) would just get over it. I told myself it wasn’t a big deal and to just get over it. I told myself it was all my fault and to just GET OVER IT.

As time went on the hurt only got worse as I compounded it with layers of shame and guilt because I hadn’t just….gotten over it. I’m starting to slowllllllly peel back those layers, but it’s only through getting help that I have made any progress towards healing at all.

But what about grief? It’s no different.

The thing about losing someone you love is that time only makes the chasm bigger. The time since you last heard their voice, felt their touch or saw their face gets further and further away. You don’t just get over losing someone.

I saw a bleeding heart plant the other day and for a moment it took my breath away. That plant will always remind me of my grandma. Each summer she would have one hanging on her back porch and we would watch the hummingbirds come drink from their flowers. I miss her and as the time goes by I only seem to miss her more.

At the grocery store this week, while we were all masked up and steering clear of each other’s personal space there was a woman who came up behind me in the meat department. I almost said to her, “Hey Ma!” thinking it was my best friend’s mom who passed away a few years ago. She’s gone and I don’t feel like I had the opportunity to say goodbye to her. Time hasn’t brought any comfort there.

Grief is more than death though. It’s the loss of a marriage that you thought was perfect. It’s the loss of a job because of COVID-19. It’s infertility or miscarriage. It’s singleness. It’s the result of abusive relationships. I don’t need to give you examples. You’ve got your own.

If there is no timeline, and there isn’t, what do we do?

It seems silly to try and give you some prescription for this. There are no “3 easy steps”. No miracle drugs. And to be honest, I’m still in over my head trying to work through it all myself.

My intention wasn’t to give you answers. It was simply to let you know that if you’re still hurting when everyone has forgotten why that it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. There’s no reason to be ashamed. Your healing process won’t look like anyone else’s so be gentle with yourself. No need to compare your journey with those in your Facebook feed.

Please, whatever you do, just remember to give yourself some grace.

 

 

Lessons from COVID-19: Things I Don’t Want to Change

Lessons from COVID-19_

Captain’s log: Day 9,214 of Quarantine

Has it been that long or does it only feel that long?

I no longer fit in pants other than leggings (yes, leggings are pants). I blame it on an amazing 1-minute microwave mug brownie recipe I found a few weeks ago.  Days not only bleed together, but snacks and meals volley back and forth all day long. Also, is it ok that breakfast has dessert following it?

I’m finding new and creative ways to organize drawers and cabinets including using an old Clementine crate I painted to match my shower curtain. I’ve scrubbed cabinet handles with Brillo pads, which I’m certain haven’t been cleaned since I moved in 9 years ago. Also, spent an afternoon soaking my shower drain grate and then cleaning each square individually with a pipe cleaner.

This is what my life looks like, but I’m not mad at it.

Actually, quite the opposite.

I know this season has been difficult on many as they try to manage finances, homeschool children, social distance and simply survive this global pandemic. This post is in no way belittling the hardship people are facing.

Yet, I find myself incredibly thankful for some lessons I am learning during this time. Maybe you have felt these, too.

R E S T

I was listening to a sermon recently where a question was asked that pricked me a bit. You know what I’m talking about– the one where you’re like, “Alriiiiiiiiiiiight, Lord. I’m listening.” The preacher asked:

Are you praying to get out of something a few months ago you were asking God to give you?

Gulp.

I have been begging God for a break for a long time now. Not months….we are talking years. I’ve been so burnt-out on busyness that it was grinding away at any joy I had in life (or ministry or serving). I couldn’t enjoy simple pleasures because I was so busy trying to fit in all the friggin things I HAD to do.

And now, I don’t have to do anything. Well, I’m still working from home everyday, but other than that my schedule is free and that is freeing.

W R I T I N G

My cabinet handles aren’t the only thing getting some much needed attention. My blog, which had gone radio silent for well over a year, is now back into my regular routine. Where ideas had dried up previously there are now creative and inspiring springs coming forth.

In a similar creative vein, I’ve started testing out 1-Minute Monday video messages on some of my social media platforms, which I’m quite certain I would have never attempted if it wasn’t for all this. I’m actually  enjoying changing up the media and trying something new even if my stuff isn’t highly edited or the lighting isn’t always quite right.

C O M M U N I T Y ~ R E I M A G I N E D

One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given in this season is that I get to connect to those I want to. The social demands of my life are much more restricted, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been able to experience community. It just doesn’t look like it did before.

It’s not just that I’m spending more time on the phone and writing letters, but it’s the quality of conversation I’ve been having. Where conversations were once overrun with recapping schedules and how tired I was I’m now able to talk about an interesting article I read or how I’m exploring ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

I’ve also been inspired by the simple creativity of others who have found new ways to connect while maintaining the 6-feet perimeter. For me personally I’ve had handpicked Spring flowers left on my doorstep. I’ve seen how others have used some of their time to sew masks for those who need them. This generosity creates connection even if words are never exchanged. I can’t fully explain it, but I know how it feels. I’m sure you do, too.

Have I felt lonely at times? Absolutely!

I’d be lying if there weren’t moments this whole situation has felt mind-numbingly isolating. On the good days, I redirect and FaceTime my sister to talk about laughter yoga and say “Hi” to my doggie nephew. On the bad days, I eat a “sharing size” bag of peanut M&M’s.

B O U N D A R I E S

If ever I needed an intervention (besides for my chocolate addiction, of course) this would be the area I’d need it. “No” was a word that had somehow never been programmed into my vocabulary. Add an unrelenting desire to make people happy and voila you’ve got the making for some toxic relationships!

This season has created some much needed space for me. Space for me to realize what I need to do moving forward to create a healthier environment for myself.

It’s hasn’t been easy and the first few weeks I was scrambling to find some activities I could safely lend myself to like serving at the Meals on Wheels program. An amazing and worthwhile place to give your time, but for me this was me filling an unhealthy hole that very much did not need to be filled.

There will come a time where this “pause” will be lifted and life will get back to normal. I will no longer be able to use social distancing as an excuse NOT to do something. A time where I will have to actually stick up for myself and my needs and not feel guilty about it and I’m using this time to (hopefully) prepare for all of that.

I’m finishing this post on a rainy, chilly Sunday afternoon. My morning spent enjoying scrambled eggs, a pot of coffee and trash-picking videos on YouTube. I’ve got some candles burning and things feel….good. I could not say that for many years and for that I am thankful.

I hope there are moments like this for all of you, too. Moments you find yourself snuggled up on the couch with your kids or pets watching a funny movie or with your hands elbow deep in bread dough just having the time of your life. May there be lovely moments that bring you simple contentment.

Things You Shouldn’t Say to the Hurting

Things You Shouldn't Say to the Hurting

Here’s another one from the vault. Last week’s post was from 2015– this one goes back a snidge further to 2014.

I’ve debated on reopening these posts and actually finishing them. There’s a reason I never hit publishShame (& fear) has often stopped me in my tracks. I’ve worried I’d “offend” people. Afraid of being misheard or misunderstood.

Turns out that I’m finding freedom in realizing no matter what I do or say someone will always be upset. So, I’m going to share the stuff I feel like God has placed on my heart and hope it encourages the people it’s meant to.

A few weeks ago (in 2014) at church, a lady came up to me and said: “It’s so nice to see you smiling again. It’s good to have you back.”

I didn’t know I had been “gone”.

If you’ve spent any time with me in person, you’d know that my face is pretty readable. When I’m sad, you can tell. When I’m pissed off, you can tell. When I’m giddy with excitement, you can tell. If I need a cup of coffee….you get it.

There’s no doubt, that my “struggling” had been visible to people. I knew I hadn’t been smiling very much, but I’m not the type to smile if I’m not happy. Maybe you think its appropriate to be fake in certain settings, but I don’t. See it as a flaw or a virtue, I am who I am.

So, when I stared at her first in shock and then in frustration, I’m pretty sure she could sense that I wasn’t taking her comment as encouragement even though I’m assuming that was her intention.

Instead of encouragement I was met with shame. Holly, why can’t you just get your crap together? Why do you always seem to be struggling? You’re a Christian, what kind of testimony is it to be such a mess? That’s a brief and highly edited synopsis of my internal thought life after the woman walked away.

I was hurt. It hurt. And it’s ok to admit that. It doesn’t make me emotional or immature or ungodly. IT MAKES ME HUMAN. 

I’ve sat in meetings where people have told me they couldn’t understand how I could look so miserable. What kind of leader was I? Just more examples of what NOT to say to someone who is hurting.

It never seemed to cross their minds to simply ask, “Hey Holly. It looks like you’re hurting. I see you. I care about you.”

I’ve said the wrong things, too. Actually, just this week (back in 2020 now) I probably (read: absolutely) said some things to my best friend I shouldn’t have. I was trying my best to encourage with endless Bible verses when all she really needed to hear was “I love you. I’m sorry this sucks so bad. Let’s eat ice cream.”

Is it bad to share Bible verses or worship songs that have lifted you up in hopes it’ll be a drink for their weary soul? No. Not at all. Most of the time though they just want to know you care.

Just shut up and care, Holly.

 

The Back Story: My Writing Journey

The Back Story_ My Writing Journey

I started writing this post in 2015. It was originally titled: “My Struggle to Speak”. haha. Pretty fitting title considering it’s 5 years later and I’m just now finishing it. 😉

My blog has been on again off again since 2013. When announcing my most recent return to it on Facebook I jokingly asked, “How many times am I going to do this?” The answer? As long as it takes.

I was created to write. How’d I figure that out? Here’s my story….

I started writing in high school, which means I kept a journal filled with angsty poetry. My senior year I took on some larger writing projects and realized writing came easy(er) for me. At that point, it wasn’t a dream and I had no idea what my calling was…or, if you would have asked me, it’d have been to get married at 18 and live off love. Ya, I’m serious.

While attending Bible college a few years later, I took a Journalism class which had never been offered and would never be offered again. My first article was about the MTV generation and I got an A (in case that question ever ends up on Jeopardy). This was where my sassy tone in writing started showing–like when I mentioned in one of my pieces how I imagined my guardian angel to be the type to have tattoos, smoke cigarettes and drive wood paneled station wagons. Actually, this is still pretty accurate.

My last semester there, Ezekiel 37 became my life calling/verse. If you don’t know the story off the top of your head, it’s where God tells Ezekiel to speak to the dry bones and command them to live again. Spoiler alert: THEY DO. I felt like God was telling me that I was going to be used to speak life. I wasn’t entirely sure what that would look like then. In many ways, I’m still figuring it out.

After Bible school I moved to Kansas to be a full time youth leader. Writing became more of a hobby during that season. I started a Xanga page, which was the cool social media platform back then. This was when Facebook was still only for college kids (that makes me feel old) and Xanga was a way for me to connect with the teens in my youth group. There was still no dream just a recognition that I enjoyed writing and people enjoyed reading what I wrote.

It wasn’t until I moved back to New York that I realized there was more to this writing thing than I thought. I was now unemployed and waiting to figure out my next step when I submitted an article to an online magazine on a whim. It was accepted and published and I was ecstatic. That happened a few more times and I decided I should probably get my writing degree. And that’s what I did.

Do you need a Writing degree to write? Absolutely not. haha

Fast forward to 2015 (when I first started writing this). I’m working as an administrator at a small church. It’s not a writing gig, and it won’t be making me a millionaire, but there’s some perks to the job. The biggest perk being that it’s paying my bills so I can write when I come home at night. My small studio apartment has a writing nook, which once held a kitchen table. Now I just eat dinner at my desk.

It’s now 2020 and most of that is still true. Still no kitchen table and I’m eating meals at my desk. Seems like what a die-hard writer would do. 🙂 I’m no longer working at the aforementioned church, but work from home which allows me the same flexibility I had before in regards to my writing.

So, what’s this mean for you? Why should YOU care about this?

I don’t think I’m the only one who has struggled to do what they were made to do. Knowing IS half the battle, but doing is no easy task either. At least in my experience. My advice is going to be simple and a repeated truth from the second paragraph. Keep doing it (or attempting to do it) as long as it takes.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to do– start a new business, learn to paint or create a YouTube channel. You may have tried a dozen times. Try again. If God put something on your heart to do please do it.

We need you to do it.

 

Jesus’ Resurrection Day Instructions

Jesus' Resurrection Day Instructions

We’ve come to Sunday. The day that ushers in the grand celebration and realization that Jesus did what He said He would do– He conquered death and the grave and gives us all the VICTORY!

If that’s all I were to write for you today it would be sufficient. Period. But as I read the resurrection account in Matthew I felt there was a message for us for the days AFTER Easter and especially in the days of quarantine and global pandemic.

These instructions come from Jesus Himself when talking to the first people to see Him in His resurrected form. I know we like to focus on His last words before returning to Heaven. They are obviously important instructions as well, but these “first words” shouldn’t be skipped or skimmed over.

Here’s the interaction:

Matthew 27: 9-10 (The Passion Translation) “Along the way, Jesus suddenly appeared in front of them (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) and said, ‘Rejoice!’ They were so overwhelmed by seeing Him that they bowed down and grasped His feet in adoring worship. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Throw off all your fears. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will find me there.”

REJOICE

I’m a word nerd. Sometimes I look up definitions for commonly used words just so I don’t miss any deeper beauty. Rejoice is defined as to feel or show great joy or delight.

In the Greek, rejoice was used as a common greeting but it’s also a blessing. Imagine if the very first words out of your mouth when interacting with someone was a blessing to say, “My desire is that our conversation brings you JOY!”

Or in Holly terms, that our hope is that we leave people better than we found them. I could go on in great length in the amount of conversations that have left me hurt, discouraged and angry. Instead, I’d like to turn the question to myself. How many people I haven’t left better?

If you read the Gospels you’ll notice the vast majority of people who encountered Jesus left feeling lighter– many of them having their lives radically transformed. Just like Mary Magdalene, in fact.

There were some people who left Jesus saddened. Why? He told them something they didn’t want to hear.

I’ve had both experiences. I know you may be shocked to hear that sometimes I do dumb stuff and Jesus needs to lovingly correct me. It happens. But oh man, those joyous moments where I’m lost in His delight and affection have revived me and comforted me time and time again.

THROW OFF ALL YOUR FEARS

Unfortunately, fear isn’t quarantined to this Cornavirus crisis. For some, it may rise up when they see a certain name pop up on the caller ID, see a negative balance in their checking account or get the news of a diagnosis.

Fear has come at me in all those ways and more. I’m sure you’ve got your own to share, too. It sounds like Jesus is showing our options when faced with fear. We can hold on to it and allow it to consume us OR (as He suggests) throw those suckers off.

What does that mean? How can I practically apply that to my life? As soon as the fear and anxiety comes your way to not entertain them. Often I find myself conversing with my fear giving it more time and space than it’s due.

I’ve worked with kids for a long time and when a child is struggling with fear (like homesickness at camp) you redirect them. You ask them questions about their pets. You tell them about fun things you’ll be doing with them that day. You tell them a joke.

When fearful thoughts come our way (I KNOW this is easier said than done)– redirect them. Respond to them with faith and God’s word. In doing so, you’re redirecting yourself to the heart and voice of God and giving attention to what He says.

GO & TELL

When you’ve encountered Jesus in a supernatural and powerful way He wants us to tell others about it because He knows others need to hear it. They need to know that God does what He promises and that you’ve seen it with your own eyes! It’s not just something in an old book, but it’s something you’ve experienced.

What are some things God has promised you that you’ve seen come to pass? Tell someone! They need to know that God is still working and moving and speaking TODAY.

If we skip to Mark 16:11 we find out that Mary does exactly what she’s told. Let’s check it out:

Mark 16:11 (TPT) “Excitedly, Mary told them, ‘He’s alive and I’ve seen Him!’ But even after hearing this, they didn’t believe her.”

Even when God Himself gives you a message to share there will be people who doubt it. 

Wow.

How many times have I shared something in a sermon or a blog post and wondered if I said the right thing because of how people responded? The Truth is Jesus only requires me to do (and say) what He says. I don’t get to determine how people will interpret it or respond to it.

In fact, as one friend encouraged me today, you will be opposed in the areas you have been effective.

What’s that mean for me? Imma keep writing.

What’s that mean for you? Keep doing what God has called YOU to do.

In conclusion, Happy Easter. 🙂 Though your Easter may look wildly different this year, I pray it’s one where you encounter Jesus in a powerful way!

 

What do you do when God is silent?

What do you do when God is silent_

(Seemingly) Silent Saturday.

The day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. The day the disciples were in the middle of shock, bewilderment, discouragement and (I imagine) asking all kinds of questions.

Had we been wrong about Jesus after all? Maybe He wasn’t the Messiah.

What about all the miracles?

What about all the things He taught us?

We’ve all been there. We’ve experienced heart wrenching disappointments and wondered if God was aware or listening. And if so, why wasn’t He saying anything?! There are nights I’ve laid in bed so distraught and undone that the only prayer I could whisper was, “Please, God. Help.” The only response was the sound of my own heartbeat echoing in my ears.

What do we do then when God is silent? When we’ve prayed and there seems to be nothing but crickets on the other end of the line.

As I’ve meditated on Psalm 22, I feel like we can find some guidance there. Upon reading the psalm, you will quickly see that David was writing from a place of deep pain and walking through a difficult trial.  This psalm is full of prophetic language. In fact there are 33 prophesies found in it that would be fulfilled when Jesus was on the cross.

In Psalm 22 we find Jesus’ last words in the very first verse (1) and last verse (31). (I will be quoting from the Passion Translation throughout this post.)

“God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?”

“It is finished.” Or as Mark 27:50 describes it, “Jesus passionately cried out” these words with His last breath.

It sounds like Jesus is asking, “Where are you God?” Sounds like a familiar prayer. One I may or may not have prayed myself 967 times. Give or take a few.

But it’s Psalm 22:2 that words it so well:

Why do you remain distant, refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day and my desperate cries for your help in the night? I can’t stop sobbing. Where are you, my God?

There are times God feels silent. When that happens what do we do? Well, here’s some of my thoughts.

  1. Bring God a song.

Right after asking God where He is David continues in verse 3 by saying:

Yet I know that you are most holy; it’s indisputable. You are God-Enthroned, surrounded with songs, living among the shouts of praise of your princely people. (or common queens as the case may be 😉 )

David goes back to the basics. Even if God is silent, He is still holy and because He is holy it demands a worshipful response on my part. Not exactly my first response, to be honest. When I’m discouraged the last thing I want to do is worship and praise. Why is praise important when God feels silent? Simply put, I think it just keeps things in perspective for us.

2.  Remember His faithfulness.

In Psalm 22:9 & 10 David recounts how God has cared for him since the moment he was born! This reminder brings him to this conclusion at the end of verse 10:

I’ve trusted in you and you’ve always been my God.

You can trust the character of God….even when He’s silent. Everything you know about Him is still true. Go back and remember how He’s come through for you before. Maybe crack open an old journal (that’s what I like to do) and read stories of God answering your prayers and getting you through hard times. If He’s done it before, you can trust Him to do it again.

3. Know He is there.

In 2006, I experienced the worst pain I have ever gone through. In that season, I remember one night in particular where my best friend sat down on the couch next to me and didn’t say a word. She didn’t attempt to give me words of comfort or explain why this horrible loss had happened. All she did was sit silently next to me.

It was a beautiful act of love and all the comfort I needed because I knew she was there.

God may be silent, but I promise you He is there.

Psalm 22: 24 reads,

For He has not despised my cries of deep despair. He’s my first responder to my sufferings, and He didn’t look the other way when I was in pain. He was there all the time, listening to the song of the afflicted. 

I don’t think these are the only things we can do when God feels silent. One of the things I do often is reach out to a trusted friend who I know will immediately start praying on my behalf. She’s sent me countless verses to encourage me or songs to worship to on YouTube.

Sometimes (dare I say, oftentimes) we need people on this journey. Safe people you can go to and share your questions and hurts and know they won’t judge you or use those things as weapons against you. Those kinds of people are diamond friends. You’ll only have a few, but they are extremely precious.

If God feels silent in your life right now know that silent Saturday isn’t the end of this story. Sunday is coming!

 

 

 

 

 

Death by Religion

thecommonqueen.com

I don’t usually do this and I don’t want to make a habit of it, but I want to make a disclaimer before I get into the heart of this post. I write what I feel like God has placed on my heart– what He’s speaking to me about. It’s not always comfortable stuff and it may be uncomfortable to hear, but I refuse to filter my words in fear of offending someone. Believe me, this stuff is just as much for me as it is for other people.

God asks me to write. I didn’t choose this life or calling, but I have determined in my heart to be as faithful and obedient as possible. I won’t always get it right, but there is nothing that I share that I haven’t carefully considered.

I’ve seen religion kill a lot of things. Creativity. Relationships. Purpose. Heart/Passion. I’ve seen it bind people with made up rules and expectations for the sake of appearances. Religion has locked people in boxes of tradition and thrown away the keys. Religion can go to hell.

Religiosity is what sent Jesus to the cross. Rather the fact that Jesus refused to obey the religious expectations (legalism) put in place by tradition. He did things like:

Heal on the Sabbath (HOW DARE HE?! Doesn’t He know there’s 6 other days in the week for that. Our Sabbath rules are much more important than hurting PEOPLE.)

Hang out with drunkards and outcasts of society (Come on, Jesus. You know better to hang out with people like that. They’ll get their sinner cooties on you.)

He gained a following (The religious did not like this because they were jealous. Jesus was becoming more popular than them.)

The final nail in the coffin (or cross as the case may be) for Jesus was the fact that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Jesus simple admission of identity secured His death sentence. What’s interesting to me about this point is that these religious leaders knew the prophesies and Word of God (they only had Old Testament at this time) more than anyone else. Like, that’s what got them to the positions they were in– even having huge portions of it memorized. Yet, they missed it. They knew the Word and yet missed the Word when it was standing right in front of them.

That’s was religion does though…it can blind you.

Good Friday shows this so eloquently in Scripture. I will be referencing verses from Mark 26:47-Mark 47:44 (TPT) and reiterating a few points I stated earlier.

  • Mark 26:47 It was the ruling priests and Jewish leaders who ordered Jesus arrested.
  • Mark 26:57 It was the chief priest, religious scholars and Jewish council who held the meeting to interrogate Jesus.
  • Mark 26:59 These same religious leaders “were doing their best to find false charges that they could bring against Jesus because they were looking for a reason to put him to death.”
  • Mark 27:1 The religious leaders resolved to take action against Jesus.
  • Mark 27:12 The religious leaders slandered and accused Jesus.
  • Mark 27:18 Pilate recognized the Jewish leaders were handing Jesus over because of jealousy. (As the Passion Translation puts it their bitter jealousy)
  • Mark 27:20 The religious people were inciting the crowd– literally getting them riled up and on their side.

So, what’s the answer? What am I getting at?

If I were to sum it up, it would be this: Jesus showed us that we were not meant to be led by religion but by the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit). Jesus did what His Father told Him to do. If it was healing someone on the Sabbath, He did it. If it was hanging out with people that didn’t fit the status quo, He did it. If was saying something that made people uncomfortable (like eat my flesh and drink my blood kinda stuff), He did it.

What I love so much about Jesus and find so absolutely freeing is that He didn’t allow people (or fear of people) to dictate His actions. He simply wanted to bring His Heavenly Father pleasure.

Even if that meant going to the cross. And He did so willingly and loving for the wildly religious and the blatant sinner both categories of which I have found myself.

 

 

Feet Washing in the Age of Hand Washing

Feet Washing in the Age of Hand Washing

It’s Holy Week.

I feel inspired and passionately spurred on, which means you’ll be seeing a few extra posts from me this week. My hope is that they will encourage you during this difficult time. We can admit that, right? This crisis is a difficult time for us all in some way or another. We are all being effected. Our routines messed up. Plans on hold. Life is different.

I’ve been thinking about COVID-19 in relation to Easter. What a juxtaposition of events. I think that’s what fires me up most. Death comes (it’s purpose!!) to steal, kill and destroy, but man Jesus came on the scene and was like, “I see your death and I raise you a RESURRECTION!”

That’s powerful.

But today I’m not talking about Jesus’ resurrection. I’m backing up a little bit to the Thursday before that amazing resurrection Sunday. The day that Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Passover together. Later that same night, He would be betrayed, arrested and accused.

If you read John’s account of that night (John 13) he shares how before dinner Jesus got up from the table and prepared a foot washing station for His disciples. All of them mind you. Judas included who, John tells us, had already been prompted to betray Jesus.

And we know Jesus is aware of this, too. If you read a little further (verse 21) Jesus let’s them all in on that secret. “Someone here is going to betray me.” Eleven of them stumped and horrified at this news. One released to do what he intended on doing.

Jesus washed Judas’ feet.

I can’t understand this. Every year I meditate on this Truth– that the Son of God would stoop down and wash the stinky, disgusting feet of a traitor.

How absolutely humbling when I think about the people who have stabbed me in the back or spoken unkind, hurtful words to me. I don’t want to be within 10 feet of them (Have I mentioned I love social distancing 😉 ) let alone wash their stinking feet.

Worse yet, Jesus washed His disciples feet so He could show them what He expects them to do, too. Or rather, US to do.

If Jesus was just washing the disciples feet to show us how humble and wonderful He was that would be GREAT. But you want me to do that too? Uhhhh. Not so great. In fact, I do NOT want to do that. Are there some other options? Something less….messy.

Alas, that is not the case and we are in fact strongly encouraged (aka voluntold) to do this. Which begs the question: How do we wash feet in the age of hand washing?

How do we exemplify this in a practical way? No, I don’t think we need to go around actually washing people’s feet. Social distancing again, remember? Jesus was showing the heart of the issue and not the method. Humbly lowing ourselves to serve was the point. Not the feet.

During a global pandemic, it practically looks like washing your hands and staying home for the health of those around you when you’d rather be out and about doing just about anything. On a more personal level, it might mean calling a person and saying, “I know we don’t see eye to eye, but I want you to know love and unity matters to me more than my opinion or being right.”

Humility is shown in action/service. Though this is a season where we are separated and isolated we can still follow Jesus’ example. We don’t get a free pass here. I’m praying and asking God to help me. This isn’t easy and I don’t like it, but then I picture my Savior, my beautiful Savior, stooped down and showing me how it can be done. It must be done. Not as some religious requirement, but rooted in love. Just like when He did it.

 

 

 

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.