What started as a letter to a man named John has now taken somewhat of a turn. I had all this stuff I wanted to say to him as if he has any idea who I am. There are many things that have already been shared. Thoughts on a drum that’s already been beaten. I sat down twice to write it and deleted it each time.
I went outside for some fresh air and sunshine. There’s something therapeutic about working in the garden. It’s mostly been put to sleep, as it is now the end of October. I had saved the Christmas lima beans for last for they have taken over the fence nearby, climbing up and through the nooks and crannies. They weren’t big producers of fruit but sure had a lot of fluff.
That’s when it hit me. This box of beans got so out of hand that it was hard to get in the garden gate but once you did there was a ton of goodness on the other side. The limas got a lot of attention simply because they stood out loud and proud.
You see, Jane, while I don’t agree with his tone or the manner to which he told Beth Moore to “go home” amidst the cackles and snickering of his compadres, nor do I wish to “hock jewelry” or be devalued by his buddies. I really don’t want to give him more attention. His type of argument and arrogance will be around long after I am not.
By giving him an ounce more consideration, I only perpetuate the fanning of his fame. No. That’s not what I want to do at all.
As I was tearing down that loud lima, our Dad reminded me that dear John is not the keeper of the gate and we don’t get our value and worth from the words and commands of a patriarchal group of grouchy men. But rather from a Book He wrote long ago as a reminder of who we are and Whose we are.
Our gifts are determined by Him, a Father who loves us dearly. How we use them (or not) is determined by us. With that said, dear sister, as Paul did for Timothy, I want to use mine to fan into flame, yours!
Where do we begin? What’s the best way to fight back? It’s not by flinging insult for insult. I’d like us to walk through scripture together one book at a time, one chapter at a time, one day at a time. I can’t explain it but our Dad’s words give encouragement and hope, courage and grace, instruction and discipline. The more the world roars, the more we need the whisper of His word.
There is something sacred about keeping it simple. With an expectant heart and mind and ears leaned into listen, pen and paper at the ready, won’t you join me as we walk through the Bible together.
Let me know if you want to join the private Facebook group I started called, Take a Walk With Me. It’s imperative we read a little bit of scripture each and every day. It won’t be hard but it will be beneficial. The invitation is always open! The start date is November 1st but you can join us at any time!
#1. Grace and Mercy need to be your very best friendsthe moment a + appears on the stick because I’m positive you’ll need them. Parenting is not for the faint of heart or the weak willed. Your kiddos will mess up. So will you.
Apparently practice makes perfect because parenting gives you lots of it. Just when you think you’ve survived one stage, you wake up to find them in the next one. And the learning curve starts all over again. It’s okay. Grace and Mercy with a little forgiveness thrown in makes for great parenting skills.
Grace and mercy are equally needed for the toddler who won’t let you pee by yourself as well as for the pimply-faced teenager who doesn’t acknowledge ever having had parents.
#2. Do what works for your family. Stay-at-home? Work from home? Work outside the home? Breast or bottle? Homeschool or public school? How will we discipline? So many decisions to make and everyone has an opinion about what you should do.
I’ve worked outside the home because I needed to financially but also because I wanted to at times. We homeschooled for a couple of years but mostly it’s been public school for our kids. While it’s good to seek advice from people who are ahead of you in this parenting thing, at the end of the day these are your people you’ve been given to protect, nurture and love. Trust that God gave them to you knowing you will do your best to do what’s best for them.
#3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Period. It’s the sucker of joy and maker of exhaustion. We are all uniquely designed with different personalities and quirks, needs and wants, capabilities and limits, talents and gifts, and energy levels depending on the season we’re in.
I know you may think organic is best but you can trust the Gorton fisherman every now and again and still be a good Mom. It’s okay if the last thing you want to do is crafts with your toddler. It’s okay if it’s the thing you love to do most.
It’s okay if dragging three littles to a play date is like nails on a chalkboard. And it’s perfectly fine if that’s what works for you. If you think your teenager should work or if you think their job is to concentrate on school then great! Do what works for you and your family.
#4. Disconnect from Social Media every once in a while. Please. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest…oh my word…so many opportunities for us to see just how very badly we’re failing. Often times I catch myself scrolling through everyone else’s perfect lives during a season of hard or lonely. Maybe you do too. I also find that during those times, I need to put my phone down and walk away for a bit.
Allowing yourself to disconnect from everyone else’s virtual reality let’s you live in the moment of your own. You can enjoy your family without comparing them to someone else’s. (re-read #3 above) A digital rest resets the wiring in your brain bringing with it gratitude, contentment and peace.
#5. Have a support system in place. This can be a big group like MOPS or my church does a Mom’s group every Wednesday where the Mom’s of younger kiddos get together and learn from each other and a mentor Mom. They have play dates with the kids and nights where they get together without them.
Maybe a bigger group isn’t your thing. I have a small group of women that I adore. We get together to laugh, cry, catch-up and check in on how the other is doing. It’s pretty laid back and just what I need for support.
We were designed for connection. We need to know we’re not alone. So whatever that looks like for you, reach out and find your people.
#6. Connect with nature. Go outside, soak up some sun, walk in the grass barefoot, look up at the stars, notice the moon, watch a sunrise or sunset, breathe in deeply, take a hike in the woods, dig in the dirt, rake leaves, look for wildflowers, skip rocks in a pond…do something outside.
It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. (Robert Louis Stevenson)
I think Robert was on to something. Connecting with creation connects us with the Creator. Connecting with the Creator refreshes, renews and rejuvenates. Try it.
#7. Connect with God. This doesn’t have to be set in stone. My time with the Lord looks way different in my 50’s with one teenage kid at home then it did in my 20’s and 30’s when I had five at home and was working. Our time with Him is more than a checklist, a study or specific amount of time.
Our prayer life can be anytime, anywhere. And yes, please Lord, don’t let me snatch them baldheaded today is considered prayer. As is dear God, help me! It’s not always on your knees, in reverence. Sometimes it’s in your car, in the thick of it.
Connecting with God can simply be being aware of Him, watching for Him, feeling His presence, thanking Him throughout your day, having a still moment of peace because of Him, see #6 above, reading a verse in the morning and pondering it the rest of the day.
#8. Find a rhythm for rest. God created the entire universe in six days, the seventh day He rested, not because He needed it but because we do. It’s His gift to us. What’s your rhythm?
Is it taking a nap? Do it! No guilt. No shame. Those dishes and dust bunnies will be there when you wake up or next week or when your kids are grown and gone. Take the time to take a siesta.
Maybe napping isn’t your thing. What if you allowed yourself time when the kiddos are napping or after bedtime to indulge a little? Take bath with candles lit and your favorite book. Grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea and look through a magazine. Curl up on the couch with your favorite blanket and book. Sit outside in the sun and do absolutely nothing! Eat chocolate or ice cream all by yourself…no sharing with anyone and completely out in the open. No closet dessert for you! (Gasp!!)
Find a rhythm that works for you, and then do it.
#9. Know you are not forgotten. I wrote a post a while ago to encourage you who are doing the mundane, the everyday, the simple acts that nobody sees or seems to care about. It’s to cheer for those who wonder if what they do day to day really matters. You’ve wiped noses and butts and feel stuck in a rut. Picked up toys and are tired of noise. You can’t answer another why or hear another cry. You show up to work all grown up covered in boogers and throw up.
God sees you.
God used a lunch packed with love, an ordinary, everyday task to feed hungry souls for His kingdom work. The same God that made a miracle from the meager will use you too!
#10. Your efforts are not in vain! The first time my oldest came home from college he gave me a big bear hug and proceeded to thank me through out the whole weekend. Everything I made to eat was the best he’d ever tasted. His sheets smelled wonderful. The house looked extra clean. Thank you for doing my laundry. Thank you for giving me an extra $20. It didn’t stop.
Kid number four is now in her junior year of college, first year in an apartment. She sent me this text just a few days ago:
What you’re doing today is important work. I know it’s hard when you walk in to a Picasso of poop on the wall. Or when your surly teenager won’t leave his room and has the vocabulary limitation of fine. Keep going. It matters. You’ve got this!
Life doesn’t always happen tsunami style. You know, one big catastrophic event that knocks the feet right out from under you. With tsunami’s, people expect you to take some time to recover. To take a moment to breathe. Seek rest, wisdom and solace.
Sometimes life sends wave after wave, not all of them bad but even good things can leave you a bit off balanced. For example we finished our basement, a wonderful, exciting thing but having someone in your house hammering away for nine weeks can be a bit unnerving.
Add to that some health things with my kids, starting a bigger-than-we’ve-ever-grown garden, my middle daughter and her family moved in for a few weeks as they transitioned to Wright Patt, one kid started his sophomore year of high school and one moved home for the summer then moved into her first college apartment.
Did I mention our hot water heater began leaking (in our newly finished basement) and needed replaced? Oh and all the cars had something happen to them that needed fixing beyond what my man was able to do….cha-ching!
All the while, “normal” life goes on…my man still travels all the time, and there’s groceries, cooking, baking, cleaning, mowing, weeding and laundry because we need to eat and not go out in public naked.
Wave after wave….keeps you struggling for balance, trying to catch your breath, nothing catastrophic but the salt in the wound still stings.
Maybe you’ve had seasons like that too? Maybe you’re in one. What can you do? Here are three things I did (and do) to keep my head above the waves so I could breathe:
1.) Get rid of the guilt.
I have a handful of friends who are reeling from recent tsunamis. Devastating cancer diagnosis. Death of a child. A divorce from the blindside. All horrific things. So every time another wave would come, I would feel guilty for being tired, stressed and overwhelmed because none of my waves measured up to what they were going through.
It is true that there is always someone going through more than you. That doesn’t negate what you are experiencing. Nor the need for self-care. It’s okay to ask for help, take something off your plate for a season, say no, rest, realize you can’t keep going when you can’t see for the salt water in your eyes. You need to…
2.) Recognize Your Limits
Tired writers write tired. And I was. I love to write. It’s a way I process things. But I was putting undue pressure on myself to perform. I have no real deadlines (for now 🙂 except for those I create to keep me on track. I was talking to my English professor daughter about struggling to be creative and that I felt like I sounded grumpy…not the message I want to convey. She reminded me of all that I had going on and how that can affect creativity. That’s her quote above. I needed to take that off my plate for a short while so I could catch my breath.
If you’re in a wave-after-wave season, what can you let go of? It won’t be for forever…just long enough for the waves to settle and balance to return. Recognize your limits, stop telling yourself you should or shouldn’t do this or that, offer yourself grace. Period.
3.) A Rhythm of Routine
There are some things that were non-negotiable for me during this particular wave-after-wave season (or ever really).
Bible study, prayer and being still.Every morning I spent a bit of time to work through a Bible study (No Other Gods by Kelly Minter), pray and simply be still. It’s where my help and strength comes from. I can’t explain it. I just know it soothes a searching soul.
Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:7-8 NIV)
Gratitude. I wrote down three things in my journal that I was grateful for every day. Lest I sound super spiritual or whatever…some days were a stretch, some days I had to ask the Lord to show me because I sure couldn’t think of anything. And He did.
It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful. (Ann Voskamp)
Sing praise songs. This is, in part, how I fight my battle. King Jehoshaphat was preparing for this huge battle that was on the horizon. He did three things: Sought the Lord for wisdom (2Chronicles 20:3), prayed a prayer of gratitude for who God was and what he could do (2Chronicles 20:6-12) and he sent the singers out ahead of the soldiers…wait….what?
Then he consulted with the people and appointed some to sing for the Lord and some to praise the splendor of his holiness. When they went out in front of the armed forces, they kept singing: Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever. (2Chronicles 20:21CSB bold is mine)
And guess what happened to that vast army that came against the Israelites.
…they were defeated. (2Chronicles 20:22)
There’s something to be said about singing praises to the Lord in the presence of one’s enemy.
It’s not easy when life keeps knocking you down. But we can rest easy in this: when the wounds still sting from the salt water of wave after wave we can be assured of the balm of grace upon grace. (John 1:16)
Hallelujah and amen.
You can do this. Keep seeking His face, stay thankful and belt out those hymns of praise like you’ve won the battle. Because we have!
I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand.
I’m so sorry.
Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived.
In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?
They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become.
They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)
When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV)
Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you.
The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament.
Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV)
How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?
If only you’d been there, Lord…
…in the darkest days of depression.
…in the emergency room.
…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.
…when abuse was happening.
…in divorce court.
…at the casket of a loved one.
…when my child died.
…in the middle of a panic attack.
…in the wondering and wandering and worry.
…in the confusion of identity.
…in the wilderness
Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?
Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different.
What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring.
True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James)
Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt.
Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)
I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory.
We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only.
I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend.
They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in.
The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.
I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included.
I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night.
Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us.
That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)
I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.
So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus.
For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways.
Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been.
Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet.
Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself.
So she sat at his feet, listened and learned.
This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day.
Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.
I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher.
Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get.
Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.
Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up.
There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see.
What are you up to Lord? Ever asked yourself that question? Ever wondered how he would work all things for the good when all seemed lost? (Romans 8:28NIV)
That’s where I found myself a couple years back when a friendship was severed like an amputated limb. Hacked off. Gone. Replaced with phantom pains and confusion.
From where I stood, I thought for sure God was messing up somehow or angry, trying to isolate me and take away things (and people) I thought was good for me. All I could see was destruction. All I could feel was hurt and heartache.
From where I stood the mountain seemed too steep, too rocky, too unapproachable, too desolate, too lonely. I was in need of too much faith to maneuver. I was all out of mustard seeds.
From where I stood, the trail back to who he would have me be meant an uphill climb. Sometimes the path twisted in ways I didn’t want to go and seemed impossible to walk on. Tree roots tripping, forks on the path, rock-slides, thinner air.
From where I stood I had to learn (again). Rest here. Walk this way. Be still. Listen. Trust me. One step forward. Inhale him. Exhale grace. Don’t look back. Look up child!
You see, God’s view is different. He can see further ahead because he can see from on high the mountaintop. Past the pain, the hurt, the heartache. He sees into the future, my future, and knows exactly what I need (or don’t need.)
He is the Maker and the Shaker of every mountain that’s in front of us. He is the God of impossible climbs when we cling to him for our next step, our next breath, our next direction.
He alone is trustworthy.
And when you get to the top. My, my, my, such a show off.
Sometimes he allows you to see that the purpose in the pain was for your protection. Not to harm you but to help you. Not to isolate you but to draw you closer to him. He showed me that recently on this particular adventure. What a different view than the one I had at the beginning of the climb.
Moses knew a thing or two about climbing and trusting, even when (especially when?) he could not see. One such time, the air was alive with thunder and lightning, the mountain was covered in a thick smoke. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21) and climbed.
If the mountain before you is clouded over with darkness, maybe it’s to show you things he wants no one else to see. For you to walk by faith with your hand on his shoulder, keeping pace with his pace, trusting each step of the path like never before.
He is there, in the darkest of places. He will teach you what you need to know. Trust him.
I’m still learning.
I can’t help but think that each mountain is a preparation for the next one. As long as there are people involved, there will always be more mountains to climb because we are human. Frail, fallible and forever in need of a Savior.
From where I stood, the mountain seemed un-climbable. From where God stands, the view is spectacular. Trust him on the climb. He’s got this.
This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)
I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.
Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)
My journal entry looked like this:
January 1, 2019
Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*
Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes
I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?
Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.
He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.
God shows us things at night.
Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)
This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.
God likes to wrestle at night.
In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…
a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)
I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…
Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…
But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.
Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?
Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?
I do want to live as lightlike I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.
There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)
And what a day it was too!
To be continued…
PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes I overcomplicate things. I think too hard, wonder too long, analyze to the point of paralyze and run a million rabbits of what-if. At the end of all those thoughts, wonderings and trails are holes that lead to nowhere but tired. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it leads to empty places, dark spaces that need Light.
This is where I found myself at the tail end of last year. Life had somehow hijacked my joy. Instead of an attitude of gratitude, I found myself wound up with worry. Oh, maybe not on the outside because I wouldn’t want the world to see my faith fading into fear like an ombre highlight at the salon…the subtleness soft, hardly noticeable until you take a step back and see the light to dark difference.
Even my word for this year is complicated. I had thoughts of Joy (the word, not my look on life at the moment) but it seemed inadequate. Gratitude seemed, I don’t know, lame (and so worn out with use. Really?) So in God’s witty humor he knew Eucharisteo was the other three-in-one I needed to get me out of this funk.
In the original Greek language, he gave thanks, is the word eucharisteo. The root word is charis which means grace. Jesus takes the bread and sees it as grace, a gift from above….even in the knowing of what was to be.
This word eucharisteo, giving thanks, wraps itself around the Greek word for grace, charis but also holds within it the Greek word chara,meaning joy.
I hate tests. Pop quizzes are even worse! It exposes any lack of preparedness. (Amen?!) Gracious sakes how can you be fully prepared for what life can throw at you? So this recent testing of my faith had me mad at the Teacher, the One who did the testing. But the test allowed me to see areas where my faith is weak and trust is timid.
Pure joy can be found in (not because of) trials. I’m learning.
Sharing my story, my thoughts and lessons I’m learning as this year of practicing Eucharisteo unfolds, reveals the certainty of the grace of God…how good he is, not how bad I am.
Grace, that unmerited favor, something we hoard and crave is often difficult to give and sometimes even harder to receive. Grace, at times, is challenging to recognize, clouded by our own thoughts and ideas of what life should look like or what the outcomes should be.
All is grace. I’m still learning.
Deep joy, chara and grace, charis begin at the table of thanksgiving, eucharisteo.
He gave thanks before the trial of all trials that would send him to the cross.
For you. For me.
He calls us to remember…
By giving thanks I am remembering what he did for me. Remembering what he did for me reminds me that I can place all my thoughts, wonderings, what-if’s, empty spaces and dark places, fragile faith and wearied soul before him with thanks giving.
It’s that simple. And that hard.
Joy, Grace and Thanksgiving…EUCHARISTEO…a beautiful word called to live out in a brutal world.
I have a friend who posted an article from Psychology Today on social media titled Politics and the Catastrophe of Us and Them. I’m giving you the link to the article but that wasn’t what caught my eye. This comment did: This is going to need to start at the top, with our leadership, as the article points out. I hope we can find a leader who sets a tone of unity in 2020.
I agree with the need for unity (or at the very least kindness in our differences). I disagree that it needs to start at the top or that we should have to wait until the next election that is almost two years away. Can you imagine what this nation will be like if everyone waits to see who the next president will be before we treat each other with some manner of dignity? Can you imagine if we all lived our lives based solely on the behavior of those in government? God help us.
So if not from the top, then where?
Got a mirror? Look in it. Right there is where it starts.
Do Your Part
Nehemiah shows us a little about how to rebuild a nation that was in great trouble and disgrace, a nation that was broken down. (Nehemiah 1:3NIV) After weeping, praying and fasting for the city of Jerusalem (there’s a whole lesson just in that) he travels there to help them get back on their feet. In fact, not only did he help them rebuild the entire wall around Jerusalem, he did it in 52 days. (Nehemiah 6:15) What a monumental task to perform and in such a short order!
How did he do it? He had people be responsible to repair the rubble that was immediately in front of them, everyone doing their small part. (Nehemiah 3) While the task of repairing a whole nation in ruins may seem insurmountable, what if we focused on repairing what was in our reach, our scope of vision?
What if we had conversations instead of arguments? Even if we don’t agree. What if we put aside that feud we’ve had with a church member, family member, coworker or friend for the greater good? Even if we think we’re right. What if we truly treated our neighbor as ourselves? Even if our neighbor isn’t like us.
You may not be able to vote on a bill on Capital Hill but you can treat Bill with kindness and respect. Right?
The Blame Game
Finger pointing is the oldest game in the Book, going all the way back to the garden of Eden when God asked Adam if he’d eaten the only tree that was forbidden and his reply was yeah but the woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it. To which Eve responded, yeah but the serpent deceived me and I ate. (Genesis 3).
Yeah but…seems to be our mantra as well.
Maybe we should take a lesson from Rep-elect Dan Crenshaw when he took the high road after being on the butt end of a bad Saturday Night Live joke because of an eye patch he wears due to an injury sustained while in combat. He could have easily started a different kind of war; one no one would win in the end. Yeah but could have been his ammo if questioned about his battle tactic. Instead he accepted an apology from SNL and wants to work towards restoring civility.
I’d say he helped build up what was torn down directly in front of him. He did his part in responding with grace.
What about you? If you find yourself saying yeah but, maybe you are part of the problem.
Worry About Yourself
This leads right into a great story found in John 21:15-23 where Jesus is talking with Peter about the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. (v19). It was going to be a brutal one (v18). Peter, in turn, looks around, spots John and asks, what about him? (v21) Jesus replies, what is that to you? (v22, 23)
In essence, worry ‘bout yo-self!
At the end of the day we are responsible for our own selves. Our actions. Our words. Our responses. Our reparations. Our part in unifying. When we meet our Maker He will not ask us about somebody else’s choices. Only our own.
I don’t know about you but I want to be found on my part of the wall, not in 2020, not waiting for the next election cycle but today, right now, repairing and rebuilding, connecting and correcting, balancing and bettering not just for the good of this nation but for the glory of the God I serve.
It’s the day after Election Day. My phone has not blown up with texts and voicemails telling me who to vote for. My mailbox has normal mail in it…I’ve never been so happy to see junk mail that was fliers from stores and not a politician. Anybody else ready to see a couple sitting in bathtubs on a beach talking about ED rather than all the politicians bashing each other?
Some of you went to bed last night with a renewed spirit and some of you woke up this morning thinking Jesus was going to be coming back today because surely this is it.
I spent half the day at the salon doing something new….
The timing was unplanned perfection and it gave me time to start reading The Ministry of Ordinary Places by Shannan Martin. Oh man! I was only eleven pages in and she said this one sentence that wrapped up my million thoughts…
The loudest revolutions often begin so quietly, so unassumingly near the ground that most don’t bother to notice. I won’t speak for you, but surrounded by cynics, worrywarts, doomsday prophets, and Facebook apologists with their lofty solutions, I’d rather be a hope-holder with mud on my shoes.
All day long, you guys. All the dang day long.
I don’t want to be a cynical, worrier who walks around with Eyore as her closest compadre and who thinks she has simple answers to complex issues. Nope. But as a believer I am never without hope. It’s my election hangover elixir.
As I was covered in tin foil and cooking in some new color, I thought about what a holder of hope looks like. I came up with this little acronym…
Heart. As in check it before you wreck it. This election cycle has done much to plant seeds of bitterness and hatred. Make sure your heart hasn’t become fertile ground to grow both. Harvesters of hope start with their own hearts first, tiling the ground, weeding the unwanted and planting seeds of grace and goodness.
Opportunities are everywhere! Don’t hold back doling out doses to everyone you meet! You don’t have to look far to see someone without hope or who is discouraged, down, and distraught. Let’s be known as the cocktail doctor of all things good and kind and patient and loving and…well, you get the picture.
Pray. For those who agree with us. And those who do not. For those who are our friends. And those who are not. For those we voted for. And those we did not. If for every time we felt the need to put someone down, trash talk or say awful things about people, what if we lifted them in prayer? Instead of searching for a mean meme, what if we bend the knee? Whoa. Game changing stuff right there.
Encourage each other. Our words matter. Both written and verbal. The next time you post something or say something ask yourself: does it lift up or tear down. Does it heal or hurt? Does it mend or maim? Am I posting on social media to simply start a fire or to soothe a soul? Is it helpful to a cause or cause a fight? Am I hearing what you’re saying or preparing my retort?
Holders of hope don’t hoard. They don’t stand with fists clinched. Their hands and hearts are open wide offering optimism in the face of pessimism, faith in the face of fear, love in the face of hate, light in the face of darkness. Because as believers….