levitical lessons (a journaling journey)

In my quiet time this morning I felt the Lord nudge me to read Leviticus 4:9 – “And the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, which is by the flanks, and the caul above the liver, with the kidneys, it shall he take away. ‘

Needless to say, I was not entirely confident in how this applied to me. At all.

I have recently started journaling again, so I broke out the pen and dove in. After reading the commentary, I learned that the “fat and the most valuable portions were always burned on the brazen altar as an offering of the ‘sweet savor’ to God. Okay, so I wrote that down. Then I remembered that the bible says that obedience is better than sacrifice. So, if my offering the best, most sacred things in my life is a sweet fragrance to the Lord, but not as beautiful as my heart being inclined to obedience, then what more can I do but to wholeheartedly submit my spirit daily to incline to whatever He has for me in each situation.

Furthermore, my heart is not naturally in a static state of peace and grace, so I must, out of necessity, take moments (many) throughout the day to pause, rest, and be restored to the correct heart position.

After journaling all this, I went to the start of Leviticus and began to see a great deal of redundancy in directives. Over and over, the same (or similar) words and patterns of required behavior. (Is this why I never read this book?)

So often we go to the bible, open it up hoping for a two minute sound bite which will fill us up and inspire us for the day. We have unfortunately moved even further past microwave moments, to a literal craving for that next hit. Judge others all we want – Christians today more often than not just want a quick fix so we can move on to the next thing. And that next thing needs to be tailored to our wants, perspective, and individual agenda. AND, it needs to be inspiring and come with minimal personal responsibility. (Mental note – write that down).

But God has given us an entire manual created to guide us, step by step, through our walk with HIM. We are not designed to fit faith into our lives, but rather to build our lives AROUND faith. God didn’t give Moses one order and then say, “Yeah, do the same thing with all the animals, etc, etc.” But rather He was clear, concise, and spelled out each step so there was no ambiguity. Where there is confusion or seeming contradiction, we are given the opportunity to stay close in prayer. In quiet. In relationship. Communion.

Relationship takes work. It demands time. And by design, brings that heart shift that we need to come back to center, over and over again….

God is not the author of confusion, but rather is a God of order. Of relationship. Of revelation. He will not merely hand you something which your soul needs to do the work to earn. And He will never turn away a meeting with Him in the quiet.

Matthew 7:7 – Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

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blasphemed

Brothers and sisters, I admonish you to be very clear on your heart’s intent in this season. Believers arguing with one another and then walking away saying, “I will be praying for you,” after essentially maligning a fellow Christ-follower, or questioning their integrity, is no better than the Pharisees we all despise. If you are flippantly suggesting that you are genuinely praying for someone in such a manner, it in no way communicates heartfelt prayer before our King, but merely reinforces your clear position that only God can convince the other person they are wrong. When in fact, it is you, who is clearly outside of the will of the One you claim to serve. It is nothing short of blasphemy to speak in such a manner, when your own heart is not aligned with the Word of the Lord. He sees your heart, friend. These are eternal seeds you are sowing.

Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong. – Job 6:24

blurred lines. and eyes to see.

Last summer right around this time, I started wearing glasses for the first time in my life, and a few short months later developed cataracts on both eyes. Preparing for surgery in the coming months. I am seeing a daily change in my capacity to function, as lines continue to become increasingly blurry, and life is filtered through a perpetually foggy lens. To be honest, some days it is very discouraging as even the simplest of things are requiring assistance.

Even now, the letters on this page are fuzzy…not quite so crisp…

Since the beginning of this year, we have all witnessed and even experienced, discourse of unusual proportion. Lines have been drawn in the sand, and there seems to be no position, even that of understanding and empathy, in which a person can stand without retribution. As voices get louder, reason is but a distant echo. There is only either/or, with no room for “and” statements or discovery of common ground.

As a Christ-follower, I have become painfully aware of my complacency in standing firmly on a foundation of biblical truth. Living in America, there has been little pressure to truly know what the Word of God says; to hold my opinions and beliefs up to the light of its truth. Watching my Christian brothers and sisters around the world being persecuted, even martyred, for their faith, I have marveled at the tenacity and conviction with which they have clung to the eternal hope of Jesus, and have consistently wondered if I could even stand for a moment under such conditions.

Such tension has remained comfortably distant until now.

There is a season, there comes a time, when we must shift; when our lives require consideration and evaluation solely through the filter of faith above that of family, culture and familiarity. As my vision becomes decidedly dim in the natural, my soul is becoming more and more awakened to that of God’s Spirit. Sitting under the weight of the myriad voices around me, I am learning to listen more carefully to the song of my Jesus. Left or right, up or down, in spite of often intense waves of emotion, my daily choices and positioning must consistently align with the Word that He has given. If my life is not sifted through the lens of faith, I will surely fall.

While the world might be seemingly spinning out of control, there is nothing new under the sun. Rage, anger, hate, spite, power grabbing, evil, control and the like have been a part of the human condition since the dawn of man, and yet the love and restoration of God has never moved. We must allow ourselves, now more than ever, to measure all things against the weight of His truth. It is here that we find our compass, our plumb line, our bearings.

Lord, as our physical eyes fail, give our spirits eyes to see….

due north

I woke up this morning with a bit of a heavy heart. Sometimes old wounds can surface and we find ourselves processing, or at least re-packaging them again, in spite of years of work, forgiving, praying, therapy….

Wounds leave scars.

Years ago our family was building a log home. We had been living in a three-car garage with no plumbing for a few years at this point and the prospect of work beginning on the main house was more than exciting. I had seen the plans – mom and dad had shared them all – and there were some features I was more excited about than others. I know they felt the same.

One of said talking points was a mud/laundry room coming in from the back side of the house, leading to the kid bathroom. Having four children on five acres, and a husband, all in and out every day, I can only imagine how thrilled my mom was that the mess would be centrally located and not tracked all through our home. When the day came for the inspection after the cement foundation was poured, it was determined that the contractors had read the plans incorrectly, and where the laundry room was to go, would now have to be the stairs leading to the basement. I remember making all sorts of alternative solutions, desperate to find a way to make this dream of mom’s possible. And, I remember angrily admonishing my dad to hold them accountable to fixing their mistake; that our family shouldn’t pay for something not done correctly…

No mud room.

Over the years that followed, in addition to myriad other things, the mess was a constant point of contention. While I know it’s not the reason my parents divorced, I wonder about the added weight. The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Little decisions made throughout our lives can have unseen consequences.

I wonder about the moments I have been selfish or complacent to what someone else needed. I can certainly reflect on the many times that choices others have been made with little to no regard to my heart in the matter. Even something as relatively small as not finding an equitable household solution or common ground in communication, can have a wearing affect long-term.

While it is certainly not without it’s potential shortcomings, how beneficial would it be to have a game plan? A plumb line? What could it look like if we weighed our words and choices against a standard of generosity? Preferring one another? Sacrifice and grace? Empathy and understanding?

To my dad, that mud room was just a room. To my mom it meant peace and joy -hours of work and endless moments of frustration eradicated. Oh, what it would have meant for him to find a solution for her…

Consider today where you can create margin for the success of those you love. Pray for revelation as to where your shortcomings or blind spots are actually causing those closest to you to fall. Humility, grace, empathy … all these things extended to others bring about peace, unity, and deeper fellowship.

Make a plan. Be intentional. Love well. Set your eyes due north and go.

Shalom.

corona chronicles – civil liberties edition

Okay, kind of kidding – not gonna get super political. Yesterday, however, our governor mandated another month of stay-at-home. After 8 weeks of iso so far, to say that this is feeling like overreach and more than my brain and spirit can handle is grossly understated.

Businesses are lost. Domestic violence is increasing. Hospitals are nearly empty and people are waiting for needed procedures and surgeries. People aren’t getting their unemployment and the state is teetering. Meanwhile, our leaders continue to get paid, go to the gym, go golfing, get their hair done and the capital’s front lawn continues to be perfectly groomed. Odd…

I am exhausted, and so very, very worried for many in our communities.

In the middle of all of this, with an entire nation in turmoil, Twitter and Facebook continue to censor more conservative or right-leaning voices, passives continue to whine about voices inviting them to wake up, and we seem to have completely lost sight of our foundational “we the people” ideology.

Censorship… If people communicate a more red or conservative POV they are being censored. Now, thankfully, we don’t currently yet have a federal government operating this way, but the attitude behind silencing voices that don’t fit the currently trending popular narrative is glaringly obvious. And, it’s scary because there are leaders at local levels who also adhere to this philosophy. People tend to find delightfully creative ways to justify attitudes and choices made which they personally align with, and the world feels a little unfriendly these days.

Honestly, a little unnerving.

Yesterday after the announcement was made, I found myself feeling uncharacteristically rebellious. Up in arms, so to speak. It was unusual for me and I wasn’t quite certain what to do with all that energy. Feeling a bit like a caged lion, I wanted to lash out, stand up, and defy the decision of a man who is in leadership over me, but absolutely leading in a manner I completely disagree with.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. – Romans 13:1

It all comes back down to trust, I know. Do I really trust the Lord or not? Do I know that I know, He will bring something good out of this? YES! And, do I also believe there are times to stand up, speak up, even rebel? Absolutely. The tension is real and it’s vital to be prayerful and consider what each of us is called individually to do. Thankfully, today we still live in a democracy and I still have a voice at the ballot box. A platform with those in my circle. But we may not always. I am thinking more and more of our fellow humans living in countries where the government abuses their power at every level, with no recourse.

May we never arrive in such a space as a nation.

This morning my focus is on Him. Being in the Word. In prayer. Breathing deeply and choosing to cling to my faith and the truth of what I know in my heart to be true. These, are the freedoms which cannot be taken away.

Shalom.

how do we live a life of intentionality

HI recently wrote an article for Fave Lifestyles, and wanted to expand a bit more on my thoughts on being purposeful and living with intentionality. Of all of my coaching conversations over the years, I find that many of our challenges and disappointments come from a lack of having a clear understanding of where we are headed. Perhaps this will be an encouragment to you as well.

Four decades before founding Evoke Ministries, life looked a bit less structured and purposeful than it does today. As I moved from childhood to early adulthood, I began to slowly recognize that some of the “truths” that I had grown up with didn’t necessarily line up with my personal life experience or points of view. Increased knowledge, and an expansion of circumstances, brought new light to things once held dear; thoughts and values once hidden in the subliminal, came to light as life brought with it fresh revelation. Later, as a new mother, I began to challenge myself in my “why’s,” and began actively pursuing intentional parenting. I spoke with mothers who had gone before, read books, took courses and considered how my choices as a mom could shape my son as an adult. There were certain core values I knew I wanted to instill, and I carefully weighed my decisions as a parent, against those end goals for my child. Today, my mantra is,  “We do not get what we deserve. We get what we are committed to.” (Ronnie Doss)

Over time, this approach has served me extremely well as an adult; not just as a parent, but in my relationships with family, friends and in marriage. While we cannot control the choices of others, we can always choose our responses to them. We ourselves can cultivate the atmosphere we want within those relationships. Living with intentionality in our decision making and word choices, as well as our attitudes, also helps in identifying which relationships may not be best for us – whether in that moment or long-term. Life (and therapy!) have taught me that there is nothing more powerful and life-giving than choosing how, and when, we respond to the people and situations in our lives. What we nurture and what we put aside, greatly determines the atmosphere and culture we establish in our homes and for our daily lives. Intentional parenting does not come by default but by design. 

We must be willing to consistently learn and grow; challenge ourselves. “Do my choices speak to the destiny I want for myself? My family? My children?” I have outlined a couple of questions/statements which I often ask of myself and my clients, and  hope they will bring some clarity and encouragement to you as well. 

What is my end game?

As women we can sometimes forget that our emotions are meant to be indicators of something being out of balance, not a decision-making force. A solid pause and a reminder to think about where I am headed, and where I want to lead, will do wonders in not only making a better decision, but will also help us to maintain a sense of peace in our spirit and balance in our relationships.

Walking through my divorce, I struggled with being kind. Over the years, he and I have often been confronted with opportunity to choose long term goals over short term emotions, but the fruit of our decision to honor one another, even when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, has resulted in two very well-adjusted adult children who never feel they have to choose a side. I have also seen in all its splendor, the result of grown children raised by divorced parents with no strategy other than self indulgence and righteousness. 

Where am I headed?

When working with my coaching clients, I often encourage them that we don’t parent, or relate, from where we came from, but to where we are going. Just because mom did it this way, or my ex didn’t like that, doesn’t mean we respond in the same manner in the relationships we have today. In my family growing up, our world was full of do’s and don’t’s, and emotional outbursts if we didn’t line up with expectation, but there was little training in critical thinking, practical application of life skills or relationship skills, and zero margin for error. As a parent, I work really hard to communicate effectively while still maintaining a set of expectations. I don’t punish my kids with chores – they do them because we are a part of a team. When a child makes a mistake, they understand that there will be natural consequences because in life there are always natural consequences. Learning now that the value of honesty maintains healthy communication and trust sets them up to be honoring of the truth as an adult. Teaching them that we are in control of our emotions and decisions, establishes accountability for choices as adults, which will hopefully keep them gainfully employed and healthfully married.

Do I trust I’ve established a solid foundation?

Often as women, when we see others choosing a path which violates our personal, relational, or familial expectations, we can perceive the need to continue to correct; whether it’s a child, spouse or even friend. Our job, however, is not to control, but rather to help stir up one another’s strengths, to evoke the greatness within them, while helping them to effectively manage the weaknesses. When we feel the need to manage another person’s choices, it’s vital we revisit if we have done enough to communicate our message clearly. If we have, we must allow bandwidth for free-will and not take the decision personally. If we have not, it’s ok to grace ourselves and gently, but firmly, reestablish those parameters. Our position is to lead and guide, not control and micromanage. 

I remember once receiving a late night call to come pick up a child. I was angry, hurt and disappointed, but when we sat down together, it was most important that I calmly reestablish the expectation, let them know there was a consequence, but focus mostly on the safety concerns and my expectation moving forward as they continue to be a part of our family community. They already were quite clear on why I was upset, I didn’t need to repeat myself again. Reminding them that I still loved them, and that as an adult, the consequences would be bigger were they to make the same choice again, did more to cement our relationship and ability to trust one another than I believe any other response would have. To this day I see the evidence of their knowledge of my expectations, respect of those values, AND, personal responsibility for the decisions they make that I may not appreciate. 

day ??? of the corona lockdown

This week we have had protesters in the streets, prisoners released, a speech by our governor which literally said nothing and leaving even his fans scratching their heads, keyboard warriors at the peak of their passionate performances, and weary mamas finally resting in the truth that perfection is unattainable and yes, your child really is hungry. Again.

Even those decry video games are joining their children, and teachers who scream restrictions on screen time are communicating with their students almost entirely through computer and online sources. Truth be told, my son has never loved school more, nor been more motivated to just get it done and stop pushing back. Somewhat miraculous, actually.

Personally, this has been a roller coaster of epic proportion. My husband and I lost vital sources of income at the very start of the pandemic, and just as suddenly as the bottom fell out, provision arrived. The weeks which have followed have looked a little more like a crazy sitcom than real life …

lost jobs

provision

family challenge

gift card in the mail (anonymous)

diabetes diagnosis for our cat

another gift card and our utilities paid off

internal family strife

struggling with new job

obtain second new job

crazy hormonal and emotional crash

relationship mayhem

cataracts diagnosis (in both eyes!) for me

overwhelming PEACE.

I salute my friends who have received the endless emo texts and Marco Polos – to say that I have never cried so much as I have in the past three years or so would be an understatement. The constant release, forced confrontation of inner turmoil, and extreme relief in God’s most persistent and tangible presence has been recipe for more healing, growth, hope and emotion than I ever could have anticipated.

The darker the world, the brighter His light.

To say we will never again return to normal is truth. To say that some have lost everything, even life and loved ones, is unbearably true. But I must also admit that the truth of it is that the Lord never leaves us forsakes us. I was recently speaking with someone who stated they knew God would care for them, that they wouldn’t ever lose their home or declare bankruptcy or anything. I paused.

For you see, my marriage was more than tenuous for over a decade; we lost two cars, two homes, declared bankruptcy, my husband nearly died…and this was all in the midst of excruciating relationship challenges on EVERY front. To most, my confession that God is good might look strange. Insane, even. But there are changes which have occurred, generation curses broken, lives healed, eyes opened, moves and new relationships and job opportunities which never would have happened had things worked out and God “showed up” the way I would have preferred.

In this season as well, I believe we all have opportunities – to evaluate, assess, identify and take ownership of our spiritual, relational and emotional well being. We are ripe for perspective shift and primed for breakthrough. Jehovah Rapha is the Lord Who Provides, and El Roi is the God Who Sees. Our God is with us, He is watching, He is waiting …

for us to let it go and let Him in.

For those of you in lack, I am praying a blessing. For those with something to share, ask the Lord today who you are meant to share with. If you have power to help – do so. If you have only your time – pray. But most of all, whether it’s making up for years of lost nap time….a decade of not taking care of your body or your skin or health or marriage… perhaps a book you never read or a letter you never wrote, please don’t miss this opportunity. For tomorrow will never be the same, and neither should we.

the corona chronicles – just a little better

It’s been a bit over six weeks since the schools closed in Washington State. Businesses are closed, people are out of work, convicts in one of our state facilities rioted so many have now been released, schoolwork at home has become a whole new set of procedures as teachers continue to do their best to put into our hands the tools we need to teach our kids, people are becoming increasingly hostile, many are using this time to exalt personal agendas, politicians are putting their strategic gain above the people who pay their salaries and honestly….

I am exhausted.

As a mom, I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the responses of those around me and thought to myself, “where is their mother??” I suppose I should include fathers as well, but we all know that mamas generally set the tone and expectations. It is glaringly apparent at which developmental stages in life some of my peer’s parents simply gave up and gave in. For those who clearly did not receive the lesson about reaping what one sows, it will be a long season of relearning and pain for many as the next generation is growing up entitled to the whim of their emotions, justified in the dishonor of those around them, and completely unable to see past the immediate agenda in front of them.

There seems to be no “and.” Most Americans seem to operate under the misguided belief that one must always stand with an either/or perspective. Digging in heels and defending the deplorable because our party put it into place. Believing that if others believe A, they automatically believe B. Operating from the position of us vs them and completely unwilling to create margin for another perspective. Never before in my 48 years have I so greatly doubted the capacity of humanity.

And never before have I appreciated the forgiveness and grace of God more.

I used to read scriptures about liars and thieves, the selfishness of man, depravity of heart and rot of societal morality, and honestly, just didn’t fully comprehend that the Word wasn’t referring to any more than a select few. So clearly to me now, however, it is all of us. Stubborn, prideful, indulgent … It’s honestly so gross, and I struggle as I watch the world continue to plummet. We have centuries of history lessons, endless learning opportunities, countless books, podcasts and communicators, to guide us into a more altruistic and kind culture, and yet we are.

In the mire.

The most amazing thing to me is that even when things ARE handled appropriately, or the end result is what most of us would agree is a win, we STILL can’t be grateful for leadership or value the absolute truth that we are all struggling together. And have succeeded together. No, America today seems more staunch in its inherent nature to despise and convict than ever before.

I am saddened by this new reality, and yet heartened by those who are choosing to live more boldly in their grace and authority in this time. Those who would choose to finally shed the veil of complacency and truly chase hard after the altruistic and compassionate love of Jesus. Stepping out from behind predictable pews and cozy coffee dates, many are spending hours in the Word alone. Praying. On their knees seeking godly truth and revelation. Serving others. Reaching out in ways they never have before. Connecting with those in need. Lifting one another up in godly admonition. Suddenly discontent with their Christianity being merely a nice weekly addition to their schedule, many are now needing their Christ to be closer than their very breath…

every. single. day.

I am tired. I know you are, too. But my sincere hope is that in and through all of this, we might somehow come out different. Stronger. More centered. Possessing more clarity and hopefully, somehow, more gracious to others. I am not yet certain how, but I can only imagine our Lord, in His infinite wisdom and divine plan, will find a way… For now, I will be grateful for another opportunity to manage this just a little better than yesterday.

the corona chronicles – the force

It’s been a week since our governor made the announcement that our students would finish out the 2019-2020 school year from home. To be perfectly honest, it still makes my stomach churn and a lump begins to form in my throat every time I think about it. It’s been 7 days since I have blogged as well – to be frank, I have been a bit blue.

As a person who always hopes and seeks the blessing and the breakthrough at every turn, it’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize that this is our reality – high school seniors not finishing up their year with friends, athletes missing their last season before college, or ever, little missing precious time with friends, teachers and admin who have worked so hard to establish trust, kids with abusive homes not having a safe space to go …

Then there are all the financial challenges. Adult issues. Lost wages. Bills piling up. Compounded with the truth that many are gaining and using this season to promote their personal, professional and political agendas while Americans are suffering…

It’s sobering. Angering. And, there is nothing we can do.

But is there? Is there a silver lining? In the past week I have had some very interesting conversations. Dialogue which has forced me to once again face some challenges I have been avoiding. Feelings and inner workings that I find a little harder to escape in the multiplied hours spent at home. Somehow it seems more difficult to ignore and stuff emotions at home.

I am facing the truth that I need to work on myself. To prioritize. To deal with and face some things which have been out of balance for a while. Most of my excuses and opportunities for denial have been sufficiently shattered, and I find myself alone in front of a very, large, mirror.

Glaringly large.

For three days now I am wallowing – sadness. disappointment. woundedness. I have been unwilling to face the truth that some people don’t truly want relationship – they want a scapegoat for their own issues. Some really cannot offer more than they do, and it’s my own unmet expectations that send me reeling. My leniency in holding those around me accountable for how they treat me has reached a boiling point and there are no more lies to hide behind. No more busy days affording me a little more time to pretend.

This past week in my bible study we studied Sarah in the old testament. What stood out to me so clearly today was that when God promised Z, the expectation what that first obedience looked like X. We simply cannot go about our lives consistently in a manner of disobedience and lazy self indulgence and expect God to move. When Abraham and Sarah were called out of their home, and into the land God promised, they left ALL they knew – family, culture, possessions, comfort, patterns and habits that had brought them to where they were. To leave meant learning new ways of doing everything.

Therein lies the promise.

Change is massively uncomfortable. For all of us. And yet without change, without growth, without shedding those things which no longer serve us, we simply cannot reach forward and move to the next thing the Lord has for us. While this season is so very hard some days, it absolutely is the greatest opportunity that I have probably ever had thus far to take the time and create space for God to lead me into new things.

Let us be strengthened, shaken up, stirred to new things. Re-prioritize, regroup. May we recognize the season we are in and face each day with a fresh hope and clear perspective.

May the force be with us all.

what’s in your basket

Every Easter parents hide brightly colored eggs for their children to find. The Jewish people present them on their Seder plate for Passover the week preceding Easter. Cultures all over the world use eggs to represent new life.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, Christians are set squarely in between the day Jesus died on the cross, and the morning when millions believe he walked out of an empty grave. Having rolled away a stone that took many men to erect, women in mourning were presented with their slain teacher; his image blurred by the tears in their eyes and the grief in their hearts. 

Today, we are again hovering – in indecision, perhaps sadness, in a state of uncertainty. For my entire adult life this day has been one of preparation. Dividing candy, filling baskets, setting out spring outfits, and dinner preparations in anticipation of the friends and family who would be joining us for a feast after church the next day.

Not this year, however.

The followers of Jesus felt let down. Confused. Devastated by the loss of their teacher, and the man they believed would set them free in this life, would become King on the throne of their nation. Saturday brought with it more questions and doubt than they could possibly even begin to process. Similarly, many facing uncertainty and fear, unbelief and maybe even a shaking of their faith, wait for tomorrow, completely unaware of what tomorrow looks like.

What, my friend, is in your basket?

Am I still anticipating tomorrow? Still looking forward to the promise of a risen Savior? What will be in my basket this year? Eggs and outfits and fancy napkins … or joy, hope, grace and mercy, a prepared heart ….?

What do I truly believe about Easter?

About its power and potential? Is it true He is alive? Could it be that He died with me on His mind? Is there honestly life after death? Does a life with Christ really mean I can find healing, health, hope, and fullness in THIS life?

Let today be a day of reconciliation, open to moments of clarity. Do not lament what is seemingly lost, or saddened by distance between loved ones, but embrace the truth of our spiritual connection to one another.

And with Him.