proceed.

Years ago while attending Divorce Recovery, one of the speakers, who was a clinical psychologist, made reference to how selfish co dependent people are. In that moment, I was so extraordinarily offended that I nearly walked out. Heading home that day, and in the subsequent weeks, I mulled this perspective over and over in my mind.

Offense often precedes growth.

As a self-proclaimed, recovering co dependent, I could only think of my actions as being the result of wanting to be a nice person. Of being a good person. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that my desire to be nice to others was driven largely by a need to be liked. To be seen as valuable. In essence, I was trying to control what others thought of me by always being (to the best of my ability) agreeable. Falling in line, staying out of the way, people pleasing even when it violated who I was. My ‘yes’ was a ‘no,’ and my ‘no’ was a ‘yes.’

I was being dishonoring to myself, and subsequently those around me.

I also realized that when I focused on what I lacked, on who I perceived I wasn’t, I missed the opportunity to discover what I actually have to give. Subsequently, my relationships hinged disproportionately on the generosity of others; on their affirmation and approval. Such a bond was ultimately set up for failure, as one person cannot carry the relationship indefinitely, and I was a bottomless pit of emptiness.

Loving ourselves, honoring our God-design, our eternal purpose, gives perspective and brings light into dark, incomplete, even wounded spaces. To walk in the understanding that God fully sees me, my heart, my mind, and still loves and values me, brings a freedom that overrides the moments when I disappoint others or fall short of their expectations of me. Or MY expectations of me.

In this season of uncertainty, of waiting, what a blessed time it is to find the truth of who we inherently are. To dig into the Word, dive into meditation, sink into worship and marinate in prayer. What a time to grow.

Proceed …

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not too ruffly

Growing up, and in fact for a large portion of my adult life, I have worked hard to be intentional with my words. As a child, my words were selected with the singular goal of being liked. Not being “too much.” Keeping small, and only sharing when it seemed absolutely necessary. As I got older, my sights remained largely on being nice. Not too ruffly. (I know, that’s not a word). Not too salty. Ok, maybe salty to the extent that I made an occasional point. Overall, however, I think I inwardly had a sense of pride in not offending people and maintaining a reputation for being a nice person; holding onto relationships until either the end of time, or seasons of life happened to send us in different directions.

I believe now, however, that time has come to an end.

It’s a strange thing, finding your voice. Stranger still as you begin to notice who and why someone deems one’s voice as acceptable. Most notable in my journey of discovery so far has been the propensity of others to either color my words through the filter of their own personal ideology, or, to assign to me character flaws if my position is different from their own navigation system.

Recently a friend had stated that she had never really known where I stand politically, while still others have thought I was pro-Trump, anti-Trump, for our local politicians or against; all perceived through lenses which were not necessarily mine. I have received hate mail, correction, and praise, all based on the premise of someone else’s personal interpretation.

I think it’s wise to listen. To ask. To understand. In Psalm 2:34, the song writer asks the Lord for understanding. Now, while this scripture is speaking of enlightenment of God’s precepts, the heart behind it is still one of a sincere desire to not just take the laws at face value, but to fully engage in the knowledge of the directives and their place in his life.

So often information or opinion comes our way and we are quick to categorize it as good or bad, true or false, based solely upon our own world (or self!) view. Consequently, we often miss opportunities to fully engage in a more complete comprehension of the world, and people, around us. Even posing thought provoking questions, or a passionate plea to weigh an opposing view is seen as hateful or conspiring. In a time of great access to communication and understanding, we often remain in a position of stagnation and judgement, while assigning the very same attributes to those with whom we disagree.

And while I know it’s been said by many, I feel compelled to restate it, as our little part of the world continues to become colder and more hostile to voices of reason and contemplation. Bridge builders and peacemakers grow weary as indignation and self-righteousness increasingly lord over others and reign above relationship.

I admonish you to get quiet before the Lord. To make time spent in His Word of paramount importance. God’s people are called to look different. Sound different. To act in a manner counter to culture, and yet in accordance with our world. To be in the world and not of it, is to actively engage with it, while remaining steadfast in not being influenced by it. To do so we must choose to be influenced, inspired, directed and developed by the Words of God.

Listen. Understand. Engage. Speak. Be true to who you are in Him, even if you end up sounding ruffly…

gardens of revel

In my quiet time this morning, thoughts of all the shaking in this country, even across the world, came into full view. I closed my eyes, coffee in hand, and began to just ask the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart.

I began to think about gardening.

Okay, cliche’ I know, and honestly the theme of many biblical parables, but visions of churning soil came to mind, nonetheless.

In the spring when we are preparing to plant new things, we dig up the soil, move it around, add compost, release that which is hard or stale, and allow fresh air and oxygen to gain access to the earth, pulling away any weeds or dead leaves to expose ground ready for new life.

That, my friends, is what we are seeing today.

No longer can Christians merely exist behind a facade of niceties and philanthropy, often sidestepping the truth and conviction in the Word of God. Gone are the days of fitting in, as we are being pressed on every side. Standing in godly conviction now means hate, even now to those who once pursued and led in the ways of the Lord. The idea that we are to be in the world, and not of it, has taken on a fresh lens through which we can now more clearly see hearts exposed, and towers fall.

If we claim to love Christ, while aligning our beliefs and loyalties with temporary and trending cultural values, we ourselves have already fallen.

As terrifying as the world seems right now, this is perhaps the single greatest opportunity for us as believers to walk in a renewed conviction; a fresh revelation as we are being called to dive into His Word, not merely another’s interpretation of it. Fullness comes through the rhema Word of God. Our sole source of wisdom, peace and direction must come directly from the bible, and the bible alone.

Never before have I embraced so wholeheartedly the truth that knowing what God’s word says, studying and praying, are no longer nice little checks on my spiritual and “good person” to do list, but absolute oxygen to my soul. To my identity.

To my very existence.

Do not miss what God is doing in this season. We are being allowed a window of opportunity to choose, to truly know why we believe what we do, to learn WHO He really is, and to step into ALL that God has for us. To seek, absorb, and revel as He reveals…

inspired. now.

Watching the events in our country over the past twenty four hours, I am heartbroken. angry. thoughtful…

Inspired.

This. This space we are in, is the fruit of decades (nay, hundreds of decades) of God’s people choosing, even demanding, their own way. Modifying truth. Twisting justice. Deferring to anything other than the sacred words of the very One Who created us. We have traded peace and unity with Him and with one another, for cheap imposters of perceived freedom; self-proclaimed autonomy and godship.

God isn’t done waking up His people. Do not be dismayed nor dissuaded by those whose hearts are hard and heads are dull. Eyes have been blinded, and those whose heart is for pointing people to Jesus, is what He is working on in this season. This time of shaking has been one of separating the wheat from the chaff. Such has been the assignment of the Lord for Trump. Darkness is being revealed so no one can say they were not given the chance to awaken.

The Word says it is His will that NONE would perish.

To be clear, I stand for principle, not party. Hypocrisy is hypocrisy. Period. This is where we all choose if we are truly people of Christ or not. Core values don’t shift with the wind or situation. Double standards reveal immorality and immaturity. Some of us have had our own dullness revealed and it is time to repent. There is little time left and we cannot miss the opportunity for clarity.

2021 is the final call for believers to step into their authority and to lead with wisdom, compassion, godly truth and God-designed justice. We must refuse to be moved by the wind blowing through the misguided mouthpieces of the day, and instead choose to sit under the breath of God’s Spirit. Prioritize holiness, time spent lingering in the garden of God’s written word, and under the shade of prayer. Listen. Be strengthened. Receive revelation and bring every opinion, word, situation and choice into the light of divine principle.

The time is now.

wilderness 2021

This morning started with my blanket, coffee and journal as I opened up the bible and asked the Lord what He had for me today. Reflecting on the past year and setting my intentions for the coming 2021, I was brought back to a moment several years ago. Sitting on my dock and crying out to God to give me direction in a time of uncertainty, I had heard in my spirit that I was a filling station. Like an oil tanker which sits in the middle of the ocean to relief travel-weary ships, I was a space where others came to refresh.

While a beautiful picture, to be honest I was also disheartened at the time.

Fast forward to today and I still find myself battling the reality that I am less the fun friend and more the person people can rely on when in need of prayer or direction. At times the logistics of my daily life can seem quite lonely, and my personality a challenge. Being a more of a serious person, and one of extreme transparency, there are times of prayer in which I lament to the Lord about the way He made me and how that sometimes plays out in my relationships.

And yet here is the truth. Because of the way I am made, there is no hiding what is inside. Bitterness or unforgiveness oozes from me when in dark spaces. Frustration or disillusionment is clear. AND, when I am spending time (more time alone!) with the Lord, when I am full of the Spirit, this also comes through with little to no effort – effectively changing the atmosphere around me. And those I spend time with.

When I am my authentic self, the Lord can use me to love on His children. I become His hands and feet.

We are each created for a unique purpose. Sometimes the challenges we wrestle with most, are the very things we need in order to develop and strengthen the elements of our design God intends to use for His good purposes. Similarly, the weaknesses which keep us from reaching our full potential are also brought to the light through trial and obstacles, so God can bring full revelation and restoration. All things are brought to good for those who love Him and are called to His purposes.

If we fight our God-created assignment, however, we can struggle to recognize (and benefit from) the necessary refining being done, because our hearts are not aligned with His will, but rather our own plans. The longer we choose to pursue what we want and fight the very calling we are created for, the deeper our frustration, the more discouraged we become, and the less likely we are to feel fulfilled. Restlessness, anxiety and depression are often indicators that we are trying to travel a road we’ve not been designed for, and therefore not equipped to navigate effectively.

When we buck at God we inadvertently derail ourselves.

In the time of Jesus, God’s people looked at time as so fleeting that their language really only had tenses for the past and the future. Facing down 2021, I believe that if we choose to filter our lives through the lens of eternity, we can begin to process, appreciate and navigate our daily choices and circumstances in a manner worthy of our calling. When we choose to lay down our pride and perceptions, and align our minds, hearts, emotion and will with our Creator, I believe we can and will, begin to walk in the fulness promised to us.

May today be the day you lay down your map and pick up His compass as you turn to face the wilderness…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. –
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

count it all joy

Every year I pray and ask the Lord for my word for the subsequent twelve months. More often than not, it makes far more sense upon the completion of that season than when He first lays it on my heart. At the start of 2020 I was given the word, “joy.” And, as you can imagine, by March and April it was abundantly clear as to why.

“Definition: Joy means an intense, ecstatic, celebrative, and/or exultant happiness or pleasure. The biblical Greek term the apostle Paul wrote about in Galatians is chara: joy, cheer, gladness, or celebration.” The difference between joy and happiness is that joy is sustainable, it is a positioning of the heart. Joy seeks and finds the silver lining, it trusts the process, and abides in peace.

Joy is deep, abiding rest in the goodness and promises of God.

This past year has revealed to me where my faith needed to be shored up. Where I needed to press in. THAT I needed to press in. It was an opportunity to recognize that my soft American Christianity has never truly faced persecution. I have learned to embrace the smaller things, to laugh a little louder, to let go of anything not flourishing, and chase hard after every opportunity presented.

Trusting the process in the darkness of the season.

Taking a peek into 2021, I believe we are on the precipice of the single greatest global spiritual awakening since the first coming of Christ. And, most likely the deepest turmoil this country has seen since the Civil War. Perhaps ever. To count it all as joy, we must shift our gaze to an eternal perspective, no longer languishing in the luxury that is this life, but looking to those who truly have fought the good fight of faith and cherish the Word of God above their very lives. Recognizing that strength comes only through being tested, and hope is the result of freely engaging in this thing we call faith. Diving into the deep end regardless of the cost.

May you count 2020 as the year of joy. As a year of revelation. A year of shaking so that you can be rebuilt. Allow what has been lost to show you what has been gained. Engage in the new year recognizing that you are better prepared for what is ahead because of what you learned from what is behind. Choose to see every situation as an opportunity for the Lord to reveal to you what He is teaching you in that situation. Knowing that He brings ALL things to good for those who love Him and are called to His PURPOSE.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3

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.

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.