Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Truth Hurts

Oh, the trepidation of knowing you have something to say, but aren't sure you can get the words out right, and even less sure that anyone has any desire to hear what came to you from the Lord in a very personal, painful way. 

"Lord...why do I only have time these days to blog when You've corrected my sternly about something, and then ask me to share it? Why can't I ever blog the lighthearted stuff of life?"

This was the brief question I asked this morning, over my first cup of coffee, with two rowdy puppies wrestling at my feet. And the answer wasn't audible...it was merely a trembling in my fingers...which is a sure sign to me that the Spirit of God wants to use them. 

First, lest you think I only blog when I have the preaching gene showing itself...

I made my daughter so mad this week that she left the house. LEFT THE HOUSE. She just went for a walk to cool her head, but any of you who know my daughter know that it was a pretty dramatic anger if it made her leave the premises in a huff. I laughed a little, because it was just THAT out of character for her to do. When she finally returned, and we had spoken about how it wasn't okay for her to disappear, no matter how mad, and how I was sorry for provoking her...she still stayed in her room the rest of the evening. Because apparently that's how long it takes for her rarely-seen temper to cool.

Two of my three sons left huge chunks of their skin on the sidewalks of our neighborhood recently. As they came to me, limping and bleeding, I responded with wet paper towels to sop up the blood and dirt, and also with "THIS is why I tell you to wear shoes when you're riding your bike. Your feet wouldn't be shredded if you weren't barefooted. I guess you've learned that lesson the hard, painful way, haven't you?" No one has ever accused me of being overly compassionate.

I fed my kids pizza for three meals in a row this week. Nutritional care is clearly my strong suit.

Okay, enough of that. On to what the Lord has been saying to me, loudly and clearly and repeatedly.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how He shows His character through His Word. I know that's not a new concept, but sometimes I will read a portion of Scripture, and I'll sit thinking about exactly WHAT it says to me about the character of God. (Kind of like my own character being clearly definable, in part, by the above stories of parenting failures.)

We know He is loving, and kind, and merciful, and slow to anger, and powerful, and faithful, and patient, and meticulous in His plans, and mighty, and full of compassion...and all the rest.

Don't those things make you feel gooooooood about being in relationship with God?

And why not? Who doesn't think about the kindness and mercy of God and sigh in relief a little bit? I know I do. Every time I have to apologize to my kids for being an absolute screw up, I am thankful that they forgive me, and the same is true on a MUCH grander scale with God Almighty.

Our Christian culture is full-to-bursting with talk of the mercy and grace and kindness and patience and forgiveness and acceptance of the Lord. 

FULL. TO. BURSTING.

And every time we settle happily into the spiritual posture of "Thank you for being good, and for blessing me, and for being there any time I need you, and for hearing me when I pray,"

...wait for it...

We are missing half of who He is. Dare I say, we are REJECTING half of who He is.

Because the truth is, if we take a moment to be brutally honest with ourselves, we can absolutely see many more things about the character of God in Scripture. We flinch when we read about it. But we know its there.

He is just. He is holy. He is a keeper of His promises...and not only the ones that make us feel good. He protects His character however He has to. 

He DOES NOT tolerate sin. 
He CANNOT bless disobedience.
 He hands out discipline. 
He WILL NOT be mocked.
He is SHOCKING to mankind in the ways He chooses to move and work and bring about His plans.

Did you catch that? SHOCKING.

In all the feel-good ways, yes, because He allowed a prostitute to be in the ancestral line of His Son, and that Son ate with tax-collectors, and He loved us enough to make a way, violent and bloody and sacrificial beyond anything we can comprehend, for us to fellowship with Him. All shocking. All evidence of His character. 

But what kind of cowards does it make us, as Christians, if that is all we are willing to recognize and acknowledge about Him? The parts of His character that are "beneficial" to us?

What about the verse that says "Every branch that doesn't bear fruit, I cut off. And every branch that DOES bear fruit, I prune so it bears more fruit." (John 15:2, paraphrased)

What about the verse that says "I am the One who wounds and heals." (Deuteronomy 32:39b)

Did you read that? He heals, YES, but He also WOUNDS.

Not unbelievers and horrible people and those who don't go to church or call themselves Christians.

He cuts off branches in MY LIFE. He WOUNDS ME. He aggressively prunes the branches that are bearing fruit so that they will bear more fruit. 

HE IS SHOCKING in how He works in my life. And its painful sometimes...a lot of times.

But if I am unwilling to allow Him to show all of His character TO me, IN me, and THROUGH me...then I am picking and choosing what parts of God I find acceptable.

And the fact that He doesn't zap us with lightning every day of our lives is PROOF of just how patient He is. Because we deserve it.

I don't want to be known for only the parts of my character that you find uplifting and helpful and beneficial and 'feel good' to you. How selfish of anyone to want that of someone else.

But its EXACTLY how we are with God.

"Bless me, fill me with joy and peace, help me when I'm struggling, back off when I'm doing good, heal my family members, make my life easy, listen to all my requests, prosper me. Thanks."

WHAT ABOUT "Create in me a clean heart!" "Point out any offensive way in me" "I'll become even more undignified" "Whoever loves his life will lose it" "Take up your CROSS and follow me" "Present your bodies a living sacrifice" "Repent!" "Confess!" 

How have we become a body of believers who are willing to repent and confess once, for the forgiveness of our sins and the acceptance of the saving power of Christ's blood (because those area benifit to us!) ...but after that we balk when repentance and confession are suggested?

DAVID prayed for God to create in him a clean heart. DAVID, the man after God's own heart.

I WANT TO BE LIKE THAT. And I think that's WHY David is called that. He didn't arrive at the status of "man after God's heart" and then never do any more work. He screwed up, a LOT, and still kept saying " create in me a clean heart..." 

He repented repeatedly. Go read about him. You'll see. And God dealt shockingly with him because of his sins. But David wanted, and pursued, a clean heart. And THAT made Him a man AFTER God's heart. 

Because the heart of God isn't only rosy and sweet and peaceful.
It's also full of reproof and consequences and painful discipline and stern rebuke.

And if we are truly seeking after His heart, then we are blindly arrogant to assume we will only get the 'feel good' from Him.

He wounds me, He cuts branches from my life, He snaps His fingers at my snarky lip, He pulls me into His lap and puts a cool towel on my bleeding foot, and then reminds me that He TOLD me not to ride my bike without shoes, and I won't forget this pain next time, will I?

Sometimes He asks me to set aside things that aren't inherently bad. He just taps on my heart, and whispers "You can let that go. It isn't a thing that is seeking after my heart. You said you wanted to be a person AFTER my heart. So...lay that thing aside. It consumes time that you could be using to know Me better."

This particular pill was HARD to swallow this week. I pitched a rather epic tantrum about it, in fact. I left the metaphorical house and went on a walk to cool down, and then spent the rest of the day in my room, just to make sure my feelings on the matter were clear.

"That's RUDE, Lord. I love You, and I want to serve You and follow You and be in intimate fellowship with You. None of that is affected by my love of cop dramas or medical dramas or courtroom dramas. I won't love You more if I quit watching them. I'll just be giving up my ME time. And I hardly ever get any of it in the first place. I find this request way too uncomfortable and shocking." (This is not an example...its the ACTUAL rant I conveyed to Him this week.)

And I chuckle as I read the words...because the whole freaking POINT is that He wants me to have more time for ME AND HIM, and less "me" time. How selfish and spoiled do I sound? It's absurd. My mom-hand is twitching with the need to pop the mouth of the person who threw that fit..except it was me.

And before you judge me...I guarantee you would throw a similar fit if the Lord asked something of you that you find enjoyable and acceptable and 'not hurting' anyone.

We are all walking around like the Lord only wants to give us things, and requires nothing of us in return. Its comfortable, this Christianity we have created for ourselves, the version of God's character we have carved out in our lives.

And...It's a lie. He is more than what You give Him credit for. He is much more than you make room for in your comfortable life.

And don't pretend you don't know it. You, we, just don't want to acknowledge it. Because if we really, TRULY, gave our hearts to Him fully, with access to anything and everything...who KNOWS what He might try and do with us. It's too terrifying to contemplate being burned at the stake or crucified upside down...or selling all our possessions, or giving up our favorite shows or books...

And it isn't even only the obvious, tangible stuff He will start calling us to shed.

What if He asks you to stop walking in rejection and offense all the time?
What if He tells you to quit posting controversial things on Facebook?
What if He says "speak life-giving words, or don't speak at all."
What if He wants you to listen for His voice, and OBEY Him when He speaks, rather than balking and flinching and waiting? Because delayed obedience is disobedience, any way you slice it. I tell my kids that all the time.
What if He wants us all to confess our failures and struggles and sins to one another. What if He just asks us to acknowledge that we all do, IN FACT, have sin and failure and struggles and we aren't perfect and to act as if we have arrived is just PRIDE and COWARDICE and those are sins we should be confessing.

It gets messy and painful and bloody and uncomfortable really quickly, doesn't it?

And so, we climb up on soapboxes and we rant about the politics of the world and the country, and we disagree vehemently with people over things that are trivial and useless...we obsess over things we cannot change, we are consumed with things that are vain and superficial and fading...because if we don't LOOK at the whole character of God...we can continue to hold a false carving of Him in our hand and live our comfortable lives. 

Hear me, men and women who say we are followers of Christ, who claim that we know the Living God and who say, with our mouths, that He is Lord of our lives:

He will always continue to draw us to the cross. Not JUST the cross that Jesus died on. But the cross He wants US to take up. The road of death He wants US to walk. He will. It's part of His character. 

And He does it BECAUSE He loves us. His discipline, His correction, His harsh cutting away and pruning and stern reproof, the wounds He inflicts...it is all evidence of His great love. We have to begin to see it that way.

Today, can we look at the cross, the one He asks us to carry, the altar He asks us to climb up on, and TRULY accept that it might, it WILL cost us more than we want to give...and still choose it?

That is truly being a person after God's heart.
See the cost. And know that He is worth it.

It's been 5 days since I deleted the preset recording of all my favorite courtroom and medical and cop dramas. It stung, bad, doing that silly thing that I didn't want to do.

But I see Him. And I choose Him. And I know it will cost me more...but because He is good, He will always be enough for me. That's the 'feel good' part of His character. And I'm grateful for it.

Thanks for letting me share.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Whistler

"I think, since I failed so completely at this activity the first time I attempted it, that I will try it again." (Never have I ever voluntarily said this sentence.)

"Since I was so bad at it, and it was such a total hilarious humiliation, I believe I will force my children to go through the same thing. It builds character." (THIS is said by me regularly.)

Oh, the internal battle. Which side will win? My desire to never again attempt a sport which left me bruised and sore in both ego and body...or my desire to subject my children to as much life-building pain and suffering as possible?

And so...we came to Whistler, Canada.

Because, if you're going to perform terribly at the sport of skiing, you may as well do it on the same snow as hundreds of people who do it as easily as they breathe, right?

(eye roll)

Few things in life are as humbling as being surrounded by people who are miles ahead of you in the task you are all attempting to accomplish.

Even fewer things are as humbling as watching 3-year-olds navigating the slopes with ease and grace, while you flail and slip and use every muscle in your body to remain upright and moving in the direction you are attempting to go.

Parents are strapping snowboards onto the feet of their 18-month-old children.

Skiers race past you without a care in the world, dodging your poles and errant skies as they go.

Snowboarders jump and flip and slice through the snow and the air.

Rows upon rows of youngsters in "ski school" follow the directions of their instructors in perfect unison, without looking as if they are expending an ounce of energy.

It is actually awe-inspiring to watch, even from the place on the mountain where I am frozen.

Skiing does not come naturally to me. I have accepted this. 

My kids picked it up a lot better than I did on my first day. Very few wipeouts, no collisions with strangers, no four-letter words.

After 2 days of lessons, and several muscle-punishing hours on the breathtaking slopes of the Canadian Rockies...I am happy to report that I suck far less at skiing.

I'm not good. Not by a long shot. But I can MOSTLY control where I want to go, and stay upright while making my way there. 

So can the rest of my family, I am only slightly bitter to report. My grand plan to have them eating snow and pancaking random people and unable to move the next day as a result...failed.

Which is okay, I guess. I'm sure I'll have many more moments to teach them humility, plenty of chances to train them to accept failure and learn from it, lots more opportunities to laugh at (I mean with) them when they wipe out on an epic scale.

It's like anything in life. Some of the things we have to learn, we pick up quickly and with minimal damage to our bodies or souls or spirits. And other things...other things we learn by failing, and trying again, and hurting ourselves and others in the failing and trying. And while there are plenty of things in my life that I have failed at and learned from and done better the next time...I can say with certainty that I much prefer the lessons I learned well the first time, and the times I was able to absorb the skills needed for a particular task without the pain inflicted on myself and/or others in the learning.

I found myself reflecting on this truth as I sat on the slopes of Whistler mountain yesterday. And as I pondered, I uttered a prayer.

"Lord...help me to be quick to learn what you're teaching me. Help me to hear when You're correcting my movements, and to make the adjustments I need to in order to follow perfectly in unison behind You. Thank You that even when I fail dramatically, You can still teach me in it. Thank You that when I work too hard, and become exhausted in the striving, and forget that I need to relax and trust and breathe and just BE with You, that You still lead me and teach me and guide me. Forgive me for having to learn the hard way so many times about so many things. Remind me of this mountain, this moment, the next time I need to remember it. Amen."

And He hears me, I know, because we are pretty darn close to heaven up here in Whistler.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Soap-box Saturday

I was 6 years old the night I asked Jesus to come into my heart, forgive my sins, and be my savior.

I remember it. Vividly. I cried, so overcome with sorrow over all the things I had done wrong in my life, and so grateful that Jesus died to wash those things away.

I know I was only 6, but I understood. I knew what I was saying.

Or so I thought.

It's been 31 years since then, and I am still so grateful to my Jesus for saving me, for washing away my sins, for seeing me sniffling on my top bunk and writing my name in the Book of Life as I  prayed for forgiveness.

So many of us have that memory. That day in children's church, or at youth camp, or in our bed with our parents standing by, when we were moved, with perfect surrender, to accept the love and sacrifice of the Son of God. 

I will always remember my own sweet kids saying that prayer.


But.

If that one prayer that I prayed over 31 years ago were all that it took to be a follower of Christ...well, wouldn't that be something?

And how many people live their lives as if that were the case? I understood, as a girl, that the salvation prayer had certain things attached to it.

We go to church on Sunday.
We pray before meals.
We own a Bible, and at least know some of the stories in it.
We offer our money...sometimes.
We say "I'll be praying for you" in the right places.

And if that list were all it took to achieve a vibrant, intimate relationship with the God of all the world...the world would look a lot different, I'm convinced.

But that's laughable, obviously. No one becomes intimately acquainted with a person by meeting with them once a week, knowing stories about them, and talking about how they talk to them once in a while.


I've been on a regimen of "vocal rest" for at least a few hours every day this week. It's a pain when the kids ask me questions and have to wait while I type out my response. 

But you know what? My husband rarely needs me to type answers to his questions. He asks them while looking at my face, and either through reading the expressions I make, or just because he knows me, he will answer his own question with the response pinging around inside my head. It makes me giggle, thinking about it. We have whole conversations without me ever opening my mouth.

Because he KNOWS me.

And I guarantee that didn't happen from spending time together once a week, knowing stories about me, and talking TO me on occasion. 

The day we said "I do" 18 1/2 years ago was a wonderful day, but it wasn't even close to enough to last us our whole lives. It did not immediately give us the camaraderie and intimacy that a marriage should involve.

We worked hard at developing that. And, Lord willing, we will continue to work at growing closer still. 

Because you NEVER arrive at a place of knowing everything about a person. 

And if that's true of people...please take a moment and admit that it is impossible, even if we spend every moment of our lives trying, to know all there is to know about our God. 

It's laughable to ever think we can ARRIVE at an intimate relationship with the I AM, and then that's it. We can call it a day.

On my wedding day, I was "Mrs. Heath Martin" in name only. I had not arrived at the kind of marriage that allows me to say no words and still participate in conversation with the man who's name I 
bear.

How many of us are Christ-followers in name only?

Ouch. Take a minute and let that sink in.

On the day I asked Jesus into my heart, I was saved.
But that isn't all He wanted for me. It's not all He wants for you.

"I have come that they might have life AND life abundant."
 (John 10:10) 

Jesus came for life AND life.
Salvation AND Lordship.

What a sad thing it would be if we bore the name of the One who hung the moon and stars, parted the Red Sea, flattened Jericho, cured leprosy, raised the dead, conquered hell, tore the veil, and all the rest...and we never really got to KNOW HIM.

We would be missing out on abundant life.

Because salvation guaratnees us eternity with God after death.

LORDSHIP is about actively living in fellowship with Him NOW.

It's talking to Him, and listening, and spending time together, and being willing to make changes in your life to better accommodate the One who you are in relationship with.

Lordship is how we have conversations with Him on a daily basis.

Conversations that are NOT, I repeat, NOT one-sided. 

When was the last time you heard the Lord speak to you?
Have you ever?

Can I just take a second and stomp on all the toes and say something audacious?

If we aren't communicating, in conversation, with the One to whom we supposedly gave our hearts...we are not walking in fellowship with Him.

We are Christians in name only. We have life...but not life abundant.

And before you say "not everyone understands how to hear God speak..." let me go ahead and squash that.

Do you have a Bible?
Then you can hear Him speak.

 Open that thing up and read it.
And do it again the next day.
And the next.

THAT is how you arrive at a place of knowing Someone so intimately that when you say "Lord...I don't understand this..." you already know what He is going to say back to you, because you've been listening to Him speak through His Word.

When I say "This is really making me worried, Lord," His Word responds to me. "Don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow has enough worries of it's own." (Matthew 6:34)

THAT IS HIM SPEAKING. And if I only heard the Word read to me at church on Sunday...I mean, there's a chance that would've been the passage the pastor read that week...but its a slim chance. I know the response He is giving me because I spent time reading His Word for myself.

And that's only the beginning. Intimate fellowship, life abundant, is a path that keeps getting better and better, if we will get off our lazy butts and put the work in.

Stop making excuses. Stop saying you want a relationship with God, but without being willing to apply yourself to knowing Him.

And you have to do it more than once a week and before meals.

That would be insulting to me, if someone claimed they wanted to KNOW me, but only did the things required to achieve that knowledge occasionally, and half-heartedly.

I'm not saying we are insulting God. But we absolutely are selling our relationship with Him short, if all we do is check some boxes and add His name onto our own.

I don't want people to know my name. I want people to say "You know, that girl who loves Jesus so much that its all she can talk about," when describing me.

I want HIS NAME to be the one they know when they know me.

That's Lordship.
That's life abundant.
And you know what? 
It's not for the faint of heart. Or the lazy. Or the excuse-makers. Or the selfish. Or the half-hearted. Or the ones who only want fire-insurance. 

And also...it is. It's for all of those. 

It's for me, even when I want to sleep a little longer instead of getting up to fellowship with Him.

It's for you, even if you don't know where to start, and its been a long time since that salvation prayer.

It is for anyone who is willing to put in the work, understanding that it will require change, and commitment, and a lifetime of learning and seeking. If we know that there is always more to know about our Lord, and we WORK to know the next thing...then we will always be growing more intimate with Him. 

Life abundant.

Intimacy. Camaraderie. Fellowship. Conversation.

Lordship. 

It will take all the energy we can muster.
And it will absolutely be worth it.

What are you waiting for? Crack open that Bible. Get to know the One who's name you bear.

It will cost you everything 
And you will never regret it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Yes.

Well.

It happened.

I always knew it would. At least for the past 7 years I knew it would. But still...knowing you're going to do something feels different to actually DOING IT.

Today we sent our daughter across the world.

Without us.

For 13 days.

Not alone, obviously, since she's only "almost 16," as she would be quick to say. But having her outside the direct line of my eyes or her daddy's eyes...it might as well be alone. 

I purchased and packed an entire pharmacy for her, for any possible ailment. I made sure she took lots of bug spray, tons of warm clothes for the cold nights, and plenty of snacks.

She calmly added all the things to her luggage, if only to keep me feeling like I was actually helping.

As I drove her to the church where she was meeting up with the rest of the team, I grilled her on things. "Don't forget..." "Did you remember to pack...?" "If you need to..." 

She answered "okay," and "yes," and "I will," to it all.

And then she climbed her little self into a van, giant backpack and all, and rode away.

To GO to the world.
To be an ambassador. 
To be obedient to God's call to her.

I am BURSTING with how proud of her I am. She's so brave. And tough. And obedient to her Father. And I cannot wait to hear all about how much the Lord will pour out on her as she obeys Him.

And as I sit here in the quiet, thinking and praying and smiling and crying, I am reminded of so many other mornings in the past 7+ years...

I have sat in the quiet, dark house, and cried, and prayed, and asked the Lord why He chose to do it this way...ever since my sister died.

She was brave too. And tough. And obedient to her Father's call. She left a mark on the world, for sure. 

And she died. 

And maybe my little girl, my Faith Danielle, would've become a missionary anyway. But certainly she wouldn't have been shaken into GOING so early in life if she hadn't walked through losing her aunt Joy, the missionary, at such a young age.

Because who ever heard of an 8-year-old asking the Lord "What now, Lord? It can't be for nothing. She can't have died for nothing."

And because He is ENTIRELY faithful, He has proven that nothing is for nothing. He has used the quake of Joy's death, the shock and the pain, to widen the scope of missionaries and callings. 

There would be no trips to Bangladesh with our church if my sister hadn't died. If I hadn't spent all those quiet mornings crying, and praying, and wondering why the Lord chose to work the way He did, and why my sister's death had to be part of it...if not for all of that...this day would be just like any other day.

All I can think about, as I sit here, are all the children in Bangladesh at the school, and in the villages. The kids of the world were Joy's very favorite thing. She would've adopted them all if she could've. 

But instead, she went to heaven, my little sister, and she left a hole on the front lines of ministry.

And today...today the Lord allows me the overwhelming honor of sending my baby girl, my only daughter, to fill that hole for a time. To play games with the kids, and hand out stickers and balloons.

Last night her brothers were sniffling and hugging her, and I reminded them: "Boys, we can do this. The Lord thinks we can do it. If He's sending her, He sees us here, and He is with us. It's going to be okay."

I'm saying it to myself this morning.

Because I can't stop thinking about all the years that have gone by since my sister died. There were days when I didn't think I would be able to take another breath, when the grief and the loss were more than I could bear.

But the Lord saw this day on all of those. And somehow, in His plan that I can never understand, He stood beside me then, whispering to me that He was trustworthy and good and faithful and kind. I FELT Him carrying me. I knew He was with me. I have learned that He is all that sustains me, and all of those lessons give me strength for this day.

Courage to send my fearless little girl into the fray.
Peace to trust the One who loves her most.
Comfort in knowing she is right in the center of His plan for her.
Hope in the understanding that, even when I don't understand the ways of God, that He is entirely, ENTIRELY, faithful. 

Pray for her, and for the entire team. 

Pray for the people of Bangladesh. 

But most of all, let's all pray that we will see our loving Father at work in all our moments, all our past affecting our present, and all of our present a walk on the path He has laid before us, for the sake of the future.

When we say "YES" to the Lord, our path never only affects our own feet, but the feet of others as well.

That's what it means for a life to quake throughout eternity. For ripples to spread across the globe. For the kingdom to advance.

It isn't about me.
It isn't about you.
It isn't about Faith. Or Joy. Or anyone at all.

It's about HIM.
It's about THE ONLY ONE.

He is worth all. All that He has asked of me. All that He has asked of you. All that will come in the future. 

Yes, Lord. I don't have to understand. I only have to trust You. Teach me to trust You more. For the sake of Your kingdom, I say...

YES.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Fearless

I remember distinctly the first time I felt overwhelming, paralyzing fear.

I was 6 years old. I will spare you the details, which included sleeping in my parents floor that night, and going to the altar at church to ask for prayer. (I couldn't even get the words out, because I was so young I didn't understand what was going on, only that I was afraid, all the time, and I needed to be prayed for by as many people as possible.)

I haven't spent the 31 years since then in a constant state of terror, but I have consistently battled fear in one form or another throughout my entire life.

As a teenager, I turned on every light in the house on my way to the bathroom at night.

As a newlywed, I was petrified that people in my new hometown wouldn't like me. I laid awake at night, so consumed with fear over it that I couldn't even sleep. That same fear, that I was unliked or unaccepted or too polarizing a personality to really have friends, has plagued me for many years.

Motherhood added to the focus of the fear-vise. Raising children is terrifying. What will I forget to teach them? How will they know what to do in a situation? Are they safe? Do they feel loved?

Some of those are rational concerns, and can lead us to set our minds to being better parents, and that, in and of itself, is not bad.

This is not that, not for me. I have obsessively feared, for 15 years, that one of my children would drown. The ocean, and lakes, are especially terror-inducing for me. The thought that they might fall, or be dragged, in over their heads, and I wouldn't be able to find them and save them because the water is deep and dark and swirling...I have woken up from a dead sleep, sweating and gasping and shaking and sobbing, just thinking about it.

I am aware, trust me, that fear is not from God, and is, in fact, a tactic of the devil. I have scriptures written and memorized and strategically place all over my house, reminding me of Who overcomes fear, and Who is victorious, and to Whom I belong. I KNOW my fears are irrational. I know they are the enemy attacking me, distracting me, trying to keep me cowering in a corner instead of fighting him.

Last week, I dropped my 15-year-old daughter off for the driving portion of drivers education. Her instructor was the cranky little old man who had taught the classroom portion. But unlike the class time, where there were 15 other students, the driving portion was one-on-one. And as I drove away...I was gripped with fear.

"She's innocent, and young, and trusting. She's a little bitty girl. What if she's so focused on driving that this cranky old man tries to attack her?"

That's all it started out as. A twinge of worry for my sweet daughter alone in a car with a man she barely knows.

Rational thoughts tried to intervene (all said in my head in the voice of my husband and father.)

"He's super old, and he's been doing this job for 30 years, and surely if he was a creepy man, he would've been reported by now. I'm sure its fine."

"How can anyone attack anyone while driving? That's not safe. He wouldn't try anything like that."

"Faith is a highly trained martial artist. She has learned to defend herself. She's strong and fast and has excellent situational awareness. I dare that little cranky man to try anything. She will break his nose." (This one gave me the most momentary comfort, because its true, my little bitty girl is a BEAST. I've seen her fend off attacks from 6'3" police officers and soldiers in her Krav Maga class. She can absolutely defend herself.)

But the fear continued to swirl. "She shouldn't have to go through that. It will scar her forever to have to defend herself against a physical attack. How can I get ahold of her? Why didn't I ask to ride along? I don't even know where they are going for the driving lesson. How can I find her? How can I keep her safe from this?"

By the time I was halfway home, I was so twisted up with terror that I was convinced I would return to pick her up and she would've been forced to fight off the cranky old man who was trying to attack her.

I stopped at a stoplight, with my sweaty palms gripping the steering wheel, gasping for breath trying to force myself to calm down. And then...then the Spirit rose up within me. And I began to shout.

"I know that You love her more than I do, Lord. I know that You see her. I know that You are the only one who can really protect her. Thank You that You are the one who arms her with strength. Thank You that You are the preserver of her life. Thank You that she hears Your voice, and feels the power of Your presence. Send You angels to surround her, God. Set a guard between her and any evil. Thank You that only You can truly heal us from hurt and tragedy and wrong doing done to us. I choose to trust You, Lord. I believe that You are the Redeemer of all things.

Devil, even if all that I fear comes true, I still trust my God. Do you hear me, you stupid fear? Even if all that makes me afraid comes to pass, even that isn't reason to be afraid. Because my GOD is the restorer and redeemer and healer of every single thing. Even when you think you win, you don't win."

And anyone who saw me on the road would've thought I was CRAZY. Because I was pounding the steering wheel, and pointing my finger into the air, and yelling, and laughing, and crying.

Two hours later, when I picked her up, she was none-the-worse for wear. Of course. Because it had been an entirely irrational spiral on my part.

I took that drive time, and my total meltdown, and filed it under "another time the enemy attacked me with fear, and the Spirit drove him back with the Word."

And I thanked Him for always, my whole life, being faithful to help me fight this battle. A fight against an old foe that I have become familiar with.

But something happened this morning, something that inspired me to share this little piece of my struggle.

My sweet, innocent, little bitty 15-year-old daughter is leaving in 2 days. For the mission field. She will be gone 13 days. This will be her 3rd mission, but her FIRST without either myself or her father along on the trip.

There is so much planning and packing and preparing that goes into missions work. We've been totally consumed with that for weeks now, going over the mental catalog of every possible thing she might need or want while she's in a third world country with no Target nearby. She doubled down on 10th grade to get ahead, so that she didn't miss any assignments while she was gone. It's been busy.

People, friends, have been asking me if I'm okay, and how I'm feeling about my little girl going across the WORLD without me. I keep answering "I don't know. I'm just putting one foot in front of another, and hoping that I don't lose it when she actually leaves." "I'm trying not to think about it. I'm just in denial."

This morning, though...this morning I sat down to pray, and, while there are a million things to pray about on my list...the only thing I had in my heart was the team leaving in 2 days, with my sweet little girl among them.

And so I prayed. For protection. For divine appointments. For attitudes of humility and kindness. For teamwork. For health. For hearts that prefer each other, and eyes that see the spiritual needs around them. I asked the Lord to refine them, as only a trip outside one's comfort zone truly can, and I prayed that they would bear with one another in the refining.

And when I prayed "Lord, be with my girl. Let her see You in a new way, and hear You more and more, and as she says 'Yes, Lord' on this trip, will You give her a new revelation of Your glory?"

And then I stopped. Almost as if the Lord said "Shhh" to me. The house was dark, and until that moment the only sound had been my whispered conversation with the Lord.

I sat. I waited a beat. And then I realized what He wanted me to know.

And I started laughing. And weeping. And my arms went straight up in the air. And if there hadn't been 5 sleeping people in the house, I would've shouted.

I am not afraid.

I. Am. Not. Afraid.

I AM NOT AFRAID.

Arguably a motherhood moment where a little bit of worry and fear for a child is acceptable, and I am not consumed with terror. Not only am I not consumed...

I.

AM.

NOT.

AFRAID.



Can it be that He wants to use all our moments to make us more like Himself? That giving me children isn't only about me teaching them to love the Lord, but its about teaching me to trust Him more? And when they begin to say "Yes, Lord" to whatever He asks of them, we also have an opportunity to say "Yes, Lord," too?

"The Lord is calling me to Bangladesh. Will you pray about letting me go?" One little request. One little girl, willing to say "YES."

And then a month of my husband and I praying, and finally, around the lump in our throats, saying "Yes, Lord," but really not wanting to be obedient to Him. Really wanting to keep her close.

If not for that "yes," there never would've been this morning, where I saw His hand at work in me, new and miraculous and so awe-inspiring that I just said "GLORY" as I typed the words.

I don't know if I'll still feel this excited at 5:30 on Wednesday morning, when all our planning and preparing and praying and packing turns to waving goodbye...

But I am now altogether elated with the idea of saying YES to Him so that I might be flooded again with the goodness of the ONE Who loves me so dearly, and calls me into deeper waters.

This morning, this day...God Almighty has done a miracle.

I am FEARLESS.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Humiliation and Holiness

Have you ever had a time in your life where so much was happening internally that you simply couldn't give it proper voice? And if you were asked the question "what's been going on" by someone you hadn't talked to in a while, you would either respond with a two hour download of every single thing, or (much more likely) you would look at them with your head very near to overheating, and say "I can't talk about it. It's too much."

That is how the last several month have been for me.

I've been asked a few times why I haven't been blogging, and my response has been, every time, "Because I can't give it all words. There's not enough space on my laptop, or in my head, for everything. It's all just too much."

There has been the forward march of time, and all the physical things that come with it. My 15 year old daughter started driver's education (dear God, help me) and will hopefully have her permit by the end of this week.

My 13 year old son became too tall for me to rest my chin on top of his head when he hugs me. (Not that he hugs me very often...or ever without proper incentive...incentive like he wants to go to a friend's house or play a video game or eat some of my remaining Christmas candy or is trying to get out of trouble for calling me old or uncool.)

The 10 and 7 year-old boys continue to make my life a crazy conglomeration of hilarity.

All around me, externally, things change, as they always do, but to me it seems that all of it is the same, exactly the same, compared to the changes going on in my heart.

I can't explain it all. It would take forever. It would overheat my laptop, my brain, and the whole WORLD.

I have gone through, and am continuing to go through, a rather miraculous awakening in my spirit.

And rather than try and tell you all about it, I have finally decided to take a minute and tell you why it started. Not because this story speaks highly of me at all, but because this awakening is so all consuming to my very BONES that I want all the people I come in contact with to want it too.

It started with humiliation.

I'm totally serious.

It began with a conversation with someone, someone who pointed out to me, clearly and boldly, an area in which I was really screwing up.

The inner shriveling of my pride had to be externally visible, I swear.

It stings a lot more than we care to admit, having our faults and failures pointed out to us. Sometimes people aren't even aware of how much we feel like we've just been punched in the throat by their words. That was certainly the case for me. I swallowed and I blinked and I nodded and I cleared my throat and I took the reproof...and then I HOBBLED away, not wanting it to be known that I had just had my legs all but cut from my body.

I sat with that sting for a solid day, quietly mulling it over.

And then...then I told someone else about it.

"Yesterday someone said something to me and its sitting inside me like a weight. I need to confess this ugliness to someone." And so I did. And it felt like I was talking with KNIVES in my throat.

It is HARD for me to admit when I am wrong. I don't like to be weak. I don't want to be a failure.

And that is what started it all.

Because after that, a slow, steady pattern began to emerge. I would be going about my life as normally as anyone with a house full of wild kids and a life full of activities can, and suddenly, a person, or in several cases, the voice of the Lord in my heart, would directly shine light on a fault, flaw, sin, error, weakness, etc. in my life.

R. U. D. E.

At first I was getting pretty pissed off. "Come ON, I know I'm not perfect or even close to it, but I am tired of getting picked on."

But, something else began to happen at the same time. That first humiliation that led to confession and prayer and forgiveness and heart change...that area of my life had altered so dramatically and noticeably that I felt THANKFUL for that moment of utter, breathlessly horrifying rebuke.

And as I realized that it had been a good thing to have my failure pointed out to me, and an even better thing to confess the failure to someone else...a change took place (and continues to take place) in my heart.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out any offensive way in me, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24

This verse has become a constant prayer in me. And BOY has God been pointing out the offensive ways in me. Sometimes through people, more often through His Word and His voice.

And, if I'm brutally honest, I am always relieved it is just the Lord who is fussing at me, and people don't know my junk...until the Lord follows up His gentle reprimand with a reminder of this verse: "Therefore, confess your sin to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed."(James 5:16)

R. U. D. E.

And, lest you feel this is a blog post about how I have arrived at...anywhere...its not.

I am just walking the path...

And the Lord continues to point out offensive ways in me...and you know what else is happening, as I repent of my sin and confess it and get prayer and am delivered?

I am hearing His voice more clearly than I ever have before.

He prompts me to be obedient, and then, as I am, I see Him in a whole new, miraculous light. And when I fail to be obedient, He is gentle in His reprimand...and I repent again, and somehow, in His great mercy, He leads me further along the path of everlasting life.

I feel like this is a vague, detail-deficient explanation of the total heart transformation I am currently undergoing...but maybe that's the point.

My details wouldn't be the same as yours, and probably wouldn't resonate with you. If you want to hear specifics, ask me. I will share them. I will tell you my failures. Even though I'll be pushing out the words around metaphorical throat-knives.

I am eager to receive reproof (or at least I want to be), and I desire to practice humiliation, because I HAVE SEEN AND AM SEEING THE EVIDENCE of those things working in my life for my good!

Being rebuked is horrible. Confessing sin is humiliating.

We run away from it. We fake our spiritual status in order to avoid it. We pretend our failures aren't really there. And when we can't pretend, we make excuses for them, or justify them.

Y'all. We are missing out on more of the Lord when we do these things.

WE ARE MISSING OUT ON MORE.

"He forever made perfect those who are BEING MADE HOLY" (Hebrews 10:14)

 And that's what I wanted to share from the past several months of my journey. I don't want to miss what He has for me next. He sees me as perfect because of His Son's blood, and He's making me holy, through the work of the Spirit in my heart. It's an ongoing process. Its a path.

You don't want to miss what He has for you. And, terror-inducing as it may be, a journey toward holiness is often on the other side of a little humiliation.

More and more, Lord. Lead me along the path of everlasting life. Make me holy, for Your glory.

Humiliation and all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Carried

I am always prepared, and yet never really ready, for how this week and this day affect me, for all the emotions I carry around and how they spring up at random and unexpected times.

It's strange, because nothing can be harder than this day 7 years ago, so I don't know why I approach the anniversary with such dread. But I do, every single year.

It's been such a long time that my sister has been in heaven.

It FEELS like a long time most days.

This week it always feels like it just happened yesterday.

I had several new emotions this year, in the days leading up to this one. For example: I was so mad at myself on Wednesday. I kept thinking, "Why didn't you try harder to get there? If you had left on August 16th, 2010, when we all still thought it was dehydration or exhaustion or something, you would have made it before she died. Why were you trying to be optimistic? Why didn't you just GO?"

All week I have been so tired. A bone-deep exhaustion, sapping me of the desire to do anything. I'm used to that feeling, though, as the years pass, and I've gotten decent at letting myself off the hook for just a couple days.

"Yes, kids, I do know that we had frozen pizza for lunch and we are having Little Caesars for supper. I'm sorry. I'll do better next week." 

Seven years is a long time to spend walking through grief. But by the time I reach the end of my life, it will have been even longer. It seems like, in my logical brain, that I should be all better by now. That I should have figured out how to compensate, adjust, and keep on moving, without feeding my children the same meal 6 times in a 3 day span, without giving myself a stomach ache from crying.

I told that to the Lord this week, during my prayer time. "I'm sorry I keep bring this to You every year, Lord. I should be getting better at it by now."

I don't know if I can accurately explain what happened next, but I will try.

I pray in my closet. Because it's quiet, and if my kids come looking for me, they will look in my room and bathroom, but seldom come all the way into my closet to search. And usually I pray after my workout, because I'm going to be sitting down and gasping for air for a while anyway, and might as well kill two birds with one stone.

So, picture me in sweaty workout gear, face flushed and soaked in sweat, sitting in the floor of a relatively clean closet.

"Good morning, Lord. I know there are things for me to pray about. I just need to get my head in the game. Help me."

I sat and looked at the list of scriptures and prayer requests in front of me, and even though I WANTED to pray...I had no words.

"I'm tired, Lord. I want to praise You and worship You and pray for my fellow believers...but right now I'm sad. And sadness makes me tired."

And then I had the strangest string of memories and thoughts, flooding my brain in a row, like a reel of a movie.

A baby monkey at the zoo, walking along beside its parents, until it gets too tired and the mom slings the little one up on her back to ride for a few minutes.

A movie where the battle is raging and the soldier is surrounded, and suddenly a friend appears on a horse, his arm reaching out, and jerks his companion up to ride behind him through the fighting.

A toddler who walks and walks, and then suddenly can't anymore, so the daddy hauls them up onto his shoulders for a bit.

A poem about footprints, overused and cliche, but resonating nonetheless.

My 10-year-old with a broken foot, the day before we got him crutches, riding on my back from the car to the house.

My 7-year-old, toe busted and bleeding, being carried in his daddy's arms.

It took several minutes before I realized I had curled up onto the floor, in a ball, as the thoughts rushed over and over through my brain. And I was crying. And the Lord was talking to me.

"It's okay, little girl. Take a break. I'll do the moving forward for a while, and you can ride on my back. Just sit and breathe for a minute."

Relief is a sweet, precious gift this morning.

Because I am NOT advancing today. I'm sitting. I'm remembering my sister. I'm wishing I could tell her one more time that I love her. I'm missing her.

But I'm sitting on the back of a strong, swift, galloping horse. Because the rider reached out His hand and jerked me from the battle, and is carrying me forward for a while, while I catch my breath.

I'm bleeding and broken, but my Daddy has scooped me into His arms and is bandaging my wounds with His presence.

There were two sets of footprints last week, and this week there is one set. And I don't even care that it sounds cheesy.

He doesn't begrudge me the need to rest, and be sad, and need comfort. When my heart's greatest desire is shelter from the storm, relief from the battle, protection during the pain...He scoops me into His arms.

And so, spiritually, I've been curled in a ball, on the floor of my closet, all week. Still going through the days. Still having to face this one, the day my sister died...but not facing it standing up, or laying down, or alone.

He's carrying me.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest..." Matthew 11:28