Unapologetically

My daughter has a paint spinner. It pushes and flings colors in streaks and droplets. They puddle and spill over the edges, sometimes bleeding through the paper. The thrill of her work is that no two images will ever be the same. By design, neither will we. I am dormant in a bed of thorns. The unmistakable pounding in my chest, tightness in my throat has returned. Anxiety. Depression. Every single one of us can feel anxious: melancholy. Yet, to have it as a condition doesn’t require being shaken or stirred to wake it up. It comes from behind, squeezing the life out of precious moments, while you are strangely still physically present. You fidget and laugh, adrenaline rushing to your bones. You wipe your sweaty palms on your jeans as you change positions, hoping to relieve the dizziness and plaguing feeling to throw up. You wait out the moment, only to sink into a series of depressing afterthoughts about what happened. You wish you could control it…get rid of it. But, you can’t. I certainly couldn’t. That’s why I decided to get help. I began taking medication. Friend, if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, I’m not offering advice on what to do. My message is simple. If you are struggling, you’re not alone. And, it’s going to be okay. “But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the {lifter of my head}…[Psalm 3:3 AMP] When we are not of sound mind, God keeps His complete word to us. He empowers us to live unapologetically where we are. THIS is the thrill of the...

What is my Reputation?

“I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority.” 3 John 1:9 Ouch! This verse hits home. Would anyone want their reputation to be that they put themselves first? I can be selfish. I often seek the best seat, first crack at the food, or to be first in line. I fall so easily into the trap of thinking putting myself first is the way to be happy. That’s a lie! It’s one tool our enemy, Satan, uses to lead us away from Jesus. It feels like putting self first makes us happy because it does: momentarily. For the moment, we enjoy the comfort, recognition, or convenience self-promotion brings us. But what are the fruits over time? I have found that although I may enjoy indulging self at the time, my selfish cravings are never satisfied. It becomes a black hole that can’t be filled. Self always wants more. Self starts wanting to always be first. There is always another craving. I can’t think of a time that my flesh (as opposed to my spirit) was completely satisfied. Jesus said that anyone who wants to follow Him must deny him or herself daily. (Luke 9:23) Self-denial sounds painful. It doesn’t feel good. Paul goes on to say in Philippians 2:3 that we should consider others as better than ourselves and challenges us not to do anything from selfish ambition. This is the opposite of what the world teaches. But what are the results of living this way? Denying self may be painful for the moment, but choosing to...

Casting Nets on Ordinary Days

“Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, ‘Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.’ They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.”  Matthew 4:18-20, MSG   How many times did they cast their nets into that sea? How many days of fishing had weathered their skin? How many conversations, laughs, frustrations had that boat seen? But something made that day different. That was the day Jesus stepped into the ordinary. I’m continually reminded that I don’t know the plans of the Lord. We don’t know His days or His hours. We live these “ordinary” days, casting our nets and pulling up fish and yet the Lord is moving all the while. How many moments had they lived; had led up to the moment of Christ’s call? Moments that seemed monotonous, routine, insignificant. Moments spent waiting, wondering if there was more. Moments of laughter and frustration and tears that brought them to that specific boat, on that specific place in the water, at that specific point in time, where their hearts were in the perfect posture to drop everything for Jesus. We get into these traps of waiting for that moment. And while the Lord may be preparing us for something in the future, we don’t know that. What He does tell us is that He’s stepping into every moment. His Spirit is always...

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I’ve been thinking a lot about the promise in Psalm 139. Specifically, verses 13 and 14: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,  I know that full well. God’s ability to create infinitely beautiful things overwhelms me. I am left breathless by the majesty of the world around me. The intricate details on the wings of butterflies and flower petals completely amaze me. The sensation of warm sunshine on my skin in spring and cool breeze on my face in the fall remind me of the gentleness of my Creator. Waterfalls  are my favorite things in nature. I could sit at the base of a waterfall and listen to the crashing water, the birds, and all the other sounds of nature for hours. I love the smell of damp earth and decaying leaves. I love the way the sunlight dances through dense foliage. I love the way moss sways to the rhythm of the current. I love the contrast of a boulder’s roughness against the softness of my skin. All this gives me an indescribable sense of peace while at the same time reminding me of my own fragility compared to these majestically destructive forces of nature. So then, it stands to reason that I would celebrate Psalm 139. The same God that created all these wonderfully beautiful things that bring me such joy also created me…my inmost being…knit me together… actually took time and created… me. I believe that God created me exactly the way He wants me to be. It just doesn’t FEEL that way. I don’t feel fearfully...

A Fast from WHAT?

Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 It sat in my inbox for nearly a week. The title simultaneously stirred me and scared me. I knew I NEEDED to read it. I knew simply by the title of the email that I needed some time to prepare to enter this ring. The other day, I felt like a boxer prepared to fight. I opened the email. The email with the subject header: A Fast from Judgement. This could take awhile. We are undeniably a culture of JUDGEMENT and this was a challenge to fast from judgement. I was hoping for coffee. I was convicted not only to read it, but study what the Bible really says about it and take a long, hard look inward. It doesn’t take much to see that we’re caught up in it y’all and it’s making us a hot mess. It’s destroying what Jesus died for; the heart and soul of mercy and grace. Okay. It may be just me, but my judgement comes in the form of THOUGHTS and unspoken ATTITUDES rather than vocalized social media commentary and since it’s just between ME and JESUS, it’s justified, and considered discernment, right? Uh, no. It’s still merciless. It’s conclusive without ever seeking Jesus. The unspoken thoughts and attitudes are just as relevant, destructive and sinful as ones openly expressed and for me, a fast was in order to expose the weakness of my flesh and to draw me into Jesus. Let’s be clear. There seems to be some confusion, especially in a social media obsessed,...

Stoop, young man, stoop

“For pride is spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love or contentment, or even common sense.” ~ C.S. Lewis Benjamin Franklin was a guest for dinner at the home of a friend one evening when his host offered to show him his library. Passing through a very narrow hallway, he yelled back at Franklin, “Stoop! Stoop!” Unfortunately, Benjamin Franklin didn’t understand what he meant and hit his head on a low beam. His gracious host didn’t let the opportunity go to waste and said, “Let this be a caution to you not always to hold your head so high. Stoop, young man, stoop – as you go through this world – and you’ll miss many hard thumps.” Years later, Franklin recounted that he never had forgotten that night, the bump on the head or the good counsel that went along with it. “This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me, and I often think of it when I see pride mortified and misfortunes brought upon people by carrying their heads too high.” One of our most famous forefathers learned a valuable lesson, from a very real and painful experience, about a pitfall that all of us come up against at some time or another in our life: Pride. There are all kinds of pride: we take pride in our appearance, we are proud to be citizens of our great country, our hearts swell with pride when our children excel — and those are just a few examples of “good pride.” Our official dictionary definition (can you have a blog post...

Break the Fast

I enjoyed ten wonderful days with family and friends: eating, visiting, laughing, seeing beauty, and having fun. Nothing wrong with that, except I also neglected prayer and reading and meditating on the Bible. My normal routine is to start every day reading His truth and mediating, talking to Him. My rationale was that it was just for a few days. I could get back to it when I got home. However, it wasn’t easy to go back to where I was. I felt disconnected from God, I was weak spiritually and I struggled for a couple of weeks. One morning as I was walking and praying, it occurred to me it was like I fasted from spiritual disciplines. What happens when one fasts from physical food? The body feels weaker. If a person does a ten-day fast from food, do they go back the next day and eat 3 full meals? No way. That person would have to start small, maybe even with broth. What about our muscles? If a part of the body is injured and has to be immobilized for a period of time, such as having an arm or leg in a cast, does that person go back to normal activity the next day? Not a chance. In fact, most will need the help of a physical therapist to get back to the strength they had before they put the cast on. So why do I think I can go without spiritual food for an extended time and then go right back to the state of mind and heart I was before? It doesn’t happen that...

Why it Matters that Jesus Wept

I stopped on the story of Jesus and Lazarus the other day. Stopped right at the part about Jesus weeping. He wept. Fully. Compassion poured from His eyes and ran into His hands, hands which would soon enough be torn up on a bloody cross. Maybe He bent over in grief, pressing those hands to His mouth, without words. See, the God of the universe did not simply blink extra and ignore the well of emotion coming to His holy eyes. Didn’t choke it back and cough gruffly. Didn’t mumble out something about how everything happens for a reason after all, and what a beautiful life this one lived at least. I couldn’t get over that scene of Heaven’s Glory grieving long and hard over His friend, Lazarus. Why? Because certainly Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Certainly He knew that death would never keep this one: not this time. Certainly He knew it was within His perfect power and awesome sovereign ways to fix this situation. Yet, for the moment or maybe for many moments, He wept. He grieved. He entered into the loss with compassion. He stayed there silently and let His human heart break with the brokenness of sin and death, for which He alone had the capacity to redeem. Jesus wept – willing to feel what He knew He could fix. And that’s where I stopped because I’m not sure we know what to do with that. How often we’d rather fix something than feel anything. We’d rather give a hand than grieve. We’d rather move on than mourn. It feels better...

How to Embrace Seasons of Change

Change: we all go through it at some point in our lives and it happens whether we want it to or not. So what do we do when the winds of change start to blow and we simply don’t want things to change? Do we stomp our feet like little kids and cross our arms, forbidding change to happen? Do we jump on an imaginary surfboard and ride the waves of change like a free spirit? Do we go through the motions of change, doing what we gotta do, all the while wondering, “what just happened?” If you are anything like me, you’ve probably done all three at some point or another in your life. This year though, has been different. This year has been all about change in every single arena of my life. Okay, so not every single arena. I am still very much happily married, but pretty much everything else has changed and this has proven to be one of the most emotional, gut wrenching, spirit checking, soul searching seasons in my life. I’ve always pictured myself as an “adventurer” type of person. The one who leads change, blazes new paths, plows right ahead. It wasn’t until everything changed that I realized just how comfortable my life was and how much I liked it that way. Isn’t that usually the way it is in life? You think things are one way, then quickly realize you were off in your view of reality. This has absolutely been the case for me, and while I wrestle with all the change, I’m slowly starting to let the words from...

Living in the Tension

Tension:  The state of being stretched tight or mental or emotional strain. That definition sums up what I feel about my life most days; a constant state of being stretched beyond what I feel like is humanly possible. As a wife, I live in the tension of being the best spouse possible by meeting my husbands needs without losing myself in the process. As a mother, I live in the tension of loving these little people so fiercely that I want to protect them from harm at all costs and knowing that my job is to prepare them to live in this broken world, where they are almost guaranteed to feel pain. As a Christian, I live in the tension of walking out what I say I believe on a daily basis. As a friend, I live in the tension of finding time to nourish friendships with a schedule that is borderline chaotic. As a woman, I live in the tension of finding the time to tend to my body, soul, & spirit without feeling guilty. As a student of life, I live in the tension of questioning what and why I believe what I believe about God, people, relationships & myself, while being open (and teachable) to new information. I am constantly being stretched…but it is in the tension of the stretching that I find myself. I love being a wife. My husband is amazing. We spend a lot of time and energy taking care of each others needs spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This is our relationship today… In the past our relationship has been extremely unhealthy. We...