Tag Archives: Religion

For the Love of the Church

“What I’m hearing you say is you can’t love these people.”

This came on a hot July Sunday morning after many explosive words on both sides.

My anger had never been loud before that day; it was a quiet anger that manifested itself in a hardness in my eyes and an igneous rock casing around my heart.  In the face of volcanic anger that day, though, something gave way inside of me, and I found the courage to express myself in a small way.

And I’m going to tell you what I told my parents that day: I don’t want to be part of a local body whose primary method of dealing with sin, or challenging people or situations, or difference of opinion is to hold itself apart from the offender, the difficulty, or difference.

My dad heard me correctly.  I could not, or far more likely, would not love these believers.  In fact, my lack of love made me not want to fellowship with them at all.

My dad (being who he is) swiftly turned this around on me and asked me how my behavior was any different from how I was accusing the Church of behaving.  (Touché).

I’ve shared different parts of this story before: how my dad accused me of taking the easy way out (many times before that), how I finally asked him how that could possibly be, and how I have long since learned that he meant that I didn’t fight for anything.  I’ve even talked about my lack of love, and how God began growing me in that almost immediately after that blustering anger-turned-argument-turned-discussion.

Honestly, three years ago, I would have told you I had the whole loving-the-Church thing down pat. (I think because I was a part of a local body that did a great job of loving me unconditionally).

But I bring it up now, because over the course of the past three years, God has shown me that I still don’t love the Church well.   I still don’t want to be part of local bodies or be friends with Christians who shy away from people in sinful or challenging situations, or oversimplify the problem and the solution.   And in these three years, I’ve uncovered some new things that give me pause about the Church: the pedestal it has set itself on and its love and affirmation of the people it can use.

Now, before you run and get your “not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of fat people” meme, or your illustration comparing your one bad experience at Chick-fil-a to a bad church experience, or the popular Rick Warren illustration about having to have a good relationship with the Church (the Bride of Christ) in order to have a good relationship with Christ, please understand: I love the Church and I identify with her – I belong to Christ, too.  I strive to be a part of a local body.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be any better than the parts of the Church that I’m less-than-thrilled with.

I’m just saying, loving the Church is hard.  And it clearly doesn’t happen overnight where there is history like mine.  It’s not impossible, either: I believe that with Christ alive in me, I do have the power to love the Church, no matter how sticky and challenging it gets.  I have a complicated relationship with the Church.

This is important with what’s coming tomorrow in the Big Reveal Extravaganza and in six months when the book is released. (Ergo, if you’ve been following, you were just got a little reveal a day early.  You’re welcome).

I say all of this because for a large part of the novel I’m writing, the protagonist and her story center around the Church, but by the end her priorities have shifted and realigned to something better. There’s a whole lot of flat out not-lovin’ and imperfect-lovin’ of the Church that goes on, and I can’t promise that she nails it at the end.

So, don’t get offended, at least not until you’ve read the whole thing.  (Or do get offended, if that’s your thing.  Just know I’m not taking any complaints from people who haven’t read the book).

 

 

 

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People-Pleasing and the Book of Galatians

I used to be a bona fide people-pleaser.  It sickens me now, actually, how much I lived for approval and affirmation from others.  The validation was a high, and eventually I found myself unable to live without it.

While I had nearly always been a people-pleaser, I had not always had approval or affirmation or validation.  I was like a little kid bouncing up and down, shouting, “Look at me! Look at me!” until finally someone did. Overnight, people were impressed with me, and that felt good. Really good.

Problem was, those things I did to get people’s attention were not really me.  I didn’t really want to showcase my doctrinal prowess, run myself ragged serving the church, give resources that I didn’t actually have, or fully embrace ideologies I didn’t fully agree with.  I felt like I needed to in order to keep people interested, because really, what was I to them without these things?

I felt enslaved, and I resented it.

Eventually, I couldn’t keep it up, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, I lost my approval, affirmation, and validation from others.

Then, I felt like nothing.

One day, I was reading the book of Galatians and came across this verse: “I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (Galatians 1:10, NLT).

It took me reading Galatians (and this verse) several times before I began to understand that my people-pleasing lifestyle was not pleasing to Christ.  When I lived my life to please other people, I was enslaved to them and what they wanted, and I was not considering what Christ wanted.

I began asking what He wanted, thinking He was going to give me some big old to-do list.  And because I’d been (mis)taught that the only way to serve Christ was to serve His Church, I assumed it would involve many of the same things I’d been doing before.

To my surprise, God told me, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a, NKJV).  Another translation says “cease striving” and that really hit me in the gut, because I had been striving – going to unnatural lengths to earn approval, affirmation, and validation.  As I gave up ministry after ministry to be still in God’s presence, people kept telling me I was going in the wrong direction, but I knew (although I didn’t fully understand) that God was pleased with the direction I was taking. I didn’t need to be doing more to please God.

God told me,  “I came so that you could have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, paraphrased).  I began to understand that I already had everything I needed to enjoy what God called me to.  I had been living a half-life because my schedule was so jam-packed and I was convinced that the more of myself I gave, the more I would be given by God. (Oh, the legalism I had gotten myself into there).  I didn’t need to give more to please God.

God told me, “Stand fast in the liberty by which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1, NKJV).  This was the hardest for me.  When people would offer their insight on what I was doing (without understanding why), it was challenging for me to remember that I had freedom to step away the way I did.  I wanted to explain until they got it (i.e., approved), but I found that I no longer needed to. I was exactly who and where God called me to be, and that became the most important thing.  I didn’t need to be more to please God.

It was like the gospel 2.0, although I’d been following Christ for around for years at that point: Christ had already done what needed to be done, given what needed to be given, and been what needed to be in order to please God.  I have God’s approval because of Christ.  Beyond that, I say with confidence that God is pleased when I seek Him and His call in my life.

And God’s pleasure is all I care about.

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I’m Writing a Story For Pharisees

I’m writing a story for Pharisees.

I’m writing a story for those bound to the letter and not the spirit.

I’m writing a story for those who dictate what loving Jesus and faith should look like.

I’m writing a story for those who try to make faith easy by making it a to-do list.

I’m writing a story for those who love rules more than freedom.

I’m writing a story for Pharisees, because I am a recovering Pharisee.  Honestly, we can all be a little Pharisaical.  We don’t want to admit that, because everyone loves to hate the Pharisees.  Good news: Jesus loves Pharisees and came to save them, too.

And so, I’m writing a story for Pharisees, about Pharisees, and by a Pharisee.

I’m wading into territory ill-addressed in Pharisaical circles; areas we usually don’t even realize need addressed because we’re so comfortable with them.

Being who we are as Pharisees, this story is going to ruffle some feathers, but I hope those ruffled feathers lead to serious consideration of our faith and what it really means to love Jesus.

I’m writing a story for Pharisees.

 

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The Green Monster

Open thoughts on a personal circumstance.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:13-18 NIV).

I do not see myself as the type of person who has anything that anyone else might want.

In fact, my experience with the Green Monster has largely been my wanting what a lot of other women my age have: namely, a career, a husband, a home, and a mess of kids to love on.  Wouldn’t you know, though, I don’t want just any career, or husband, or home, or mess of kids to love on.  No, I have a specific calling and vision on my life from God, so it seems I must wait.  This seems more than a little unfair to me, especially in a season where many of my friends are marrying off, and if God were a statistical being, I’m sure He’d have a large percentage representing the time I’ve spent crying about how I want my life to be together now.  He’s certainly seen it this year as I’ve watched people headed for the altar and whined (many, many times), “I want that.”  Yeah, not pretty.

And because I’m in the habit of thinking my existence is so lacking regarding career and husband options, especially in these last few months, I am shocked when someone wants the life that I have.  In fact, even when it’s clear to everyone around me, it’s the last thing that occurs to me.  It astounds me: someone who has everything I want  wants what I have.

I wonder for several days why I didn’t catch this off the bat, until two things dawn on me:

  • I didn’t realize how blessed I am to be able to do what I do
  • The Green Monster didn’t exactly appear envious, it paraded itself as wisdom

I have two part-time jobs.  You (my followers) have heard this a number of times from me, and how exhausting keeping that pace can be.  What I have not stressed enough is the flexibility this allows.  Neither of these jobs include responsibilities that extend beyond the time limits of my shifts. (Usually. There was, like, this one time).  In other words, my work stays at work, so when I come home, I can focus on other things.  Although I live with family and spend time with them, I am mostly free (being unmarried and childless) to focus on things besides family as well.  Guess where most of my free focus goes? Writing, of course! And I love to write! Writing energizes me; it is my chief catharsis.  The remainder of my focus goes towards building a readership, not just for The Field, but for future work as well: I develop content for this blog, Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest, and now Google+.  I’m digging into book themes and characters, utilizing tools that generate interest in my work.  Writing and networking with readers (and writers) is my third part-time job.  I enjoy what I do, but amidst the longing for the career and the husband and the (eventual) children, I forget how blessed I am to be able to do it.  I have something a lot of  women with any combination of the things I long for do not typically have: time.  And it took the Green Monster coming a-knocking for me to repent of my whiny-ness before God and have a serious attitude adjustment.  I can sincerely say that I would not have my life any other way at this moment.

But back to the Green Monster, and the way it presented itself, because it didn’t look like envy until I inspected it more closely.  It tried to pass itself off as experience, I think quite successfully, except it wasn’t my experience.  That didn’t stop experience from taking on a little pride in the way it did things, perhaps not realizing I have a diverse host of experiences within arm’s length, so I took on a little pride myself and explained that. I tried unsuccessfully to bring it back to joy and satisfaction in what I’d been called to do, but it didn’t take.  I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to twist my joy and satisfaction in God’s calling on my life into something negative. It took every ounce of will power not to escalate the situation and cry “SPIRITUAL WARFARE! Get thou behind me, Satan!” right then and there, trust me.

It took me a little over a week, though, to understand my ability to do things differently was what made experience reach out the way it did, not what I was actually doing, and that made it not experience at all, but envy.  This person could not do what I could do, not having what I have: the time to do it, and really so much more importantly, the call to do it.

Still, it’s more than a little irritating.  I would never take the calling to a career, or to be a wife, or a homemaker, or a mom and turn it into something negative simply because I couldn’t have –  oh wait.

There’s that woman in her power suit, rushing to get out of the store where I work to get back to her job.  She snatches the receipt, and runs out the door, cutting me off mid-sentence.  And I think, or perhaps remark to a neighboring cashier,  Lady, you need to take a chill pill.  If your job makes you that uptight, it can’t possibly be worth it.  I know I wouldn’t want it. Except, I do.  For some reason, a big part of me wants to be that successful (if not uptight) woman in the power suit.

There’s the woman snapping at her husband (or significant other), and I think, What’s the point of marriage/relationships if this is all there is? I don’t want that. Except, I do.  And of course there are those statistically-problematic pastor’s marriages that I’ve told the world I don’t want either.  Except, part of me kind of does – I want a husband who takes care of people for a living.  The fact is, no one wanting to be a pastor in his right mind, would want me to be the woman at his side, and that kills me a little, but it’s less bruising to my ego to just say I don’t want it.

There’s the tired mom and homemaker, trying to lasso her young brood in the grocery store, rather unhappily and impatiently. If parenting makes her this unhappy, why on earth does she have all of them?  And I thank God, because I don’t want to be in her position.  Except, of course, I do.

Silly, isn’t it? These things I want? I am willing to tear them down, not because I don’t want them, but because I don’t have them. Envy will make you do and say strange things, things that may seem logical, but they’re driven by that great swindler of joy: comparison.

Silly, isn’t it?  As women, we have small windows into one another’s experiences.  We see moments of positivity or negativity and we shrewdly base our judgments of that person upon them.  We compare our full experience to the glimpse we have at another.

So, I want to offer some true wisdom to those of us who struggle with envy.

Enjoy your own calling. “This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart” (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 NIV).  Doing what God has called you to do is a great source of true joy because it will keep your eyes fastened on Him, not on other people and how they are handling their callings.

Let go of your definition of success. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy” (James 4:12a NIV).  You are going to give an account to God, so you only need to be who He has called you to be.  His judgment is the only one that holds any gravity: let go of your own, let go of others’, and let go of your own for others.

Think a little less of yourself. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit” (Philippians 2:3a NIV).  Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you think you know what’s best for everyone.  Equally dangerous can be the position where you justify everything you do to another person. 

Are you doing what God has called you to do? Great! Do it.  And assume (unless it’s a situation that is CLEARLY against God’s will as stated in the Bible) that’s what other people are doing as well.

 

 

 

 

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A Dark Night of the Soul, A Crisis of the Faith

In the beginning, I gave Him my heart. My heart of hearts. Deepest desires, dreams, wishes.  And, one by one, they died.

Do you know what it is to see your desires, dreams, and wishes crucified? I do. I was angry.

Then my heart withered.

And I felt nothing.

I didn’t want to speak to God. I had nothing to say to Him. It was He who was to guard my heart, and He pillaged and plundered it.

You who have never been down this road will not understand this post, and because you do not understand, you will make judgments about me and my walk with God.  You will say, “God would never have put you through that; He is good. What you went through must have been the consequence of your sinful actions.”  And I’m going to let you think that, because I know you do not understand.  That is okay.  This post is not for those who have never been through a dark night of the soul or a crisis of the faith; it’s for those of us who have been, and those of us who are going as we speak.

The second thing is that I don’t presume to know anyone else’s experience with this; I only know my own and can only speak from it.  I don’t take the terms dark night of the soul or crisis of the faith dramatically or lightly: even with Christ, this was the very darkest season of my life, and I believe it is so for anyone who goes through it.

One of the first things you should know about this dark night of the soul, this crisis of the faith is that you feel like you are facedown on the ground, being kicked repeatedly in the stomach.  When you try to fight and get up, it’s like someone has a foot on your back, holding you down.  You have no choice but to sit there and take it.  You wonder where God is in all of this, and because your vision is extremely limited, you wonder if perhaps He is the one holding you down.  You cry out for Him to help you up, to rescue you from this brutality, and there is no answer.

The second thing you should know about this dark night, this crisis is the depressing realization that continuing to fight is useless. You are effectively stuck where you are at, whether because God Himself is holding you down, or He is allowing something else to.  So you stop fighting, because nothing you’re doing is working, and you stop crying, because God is not responding.  You lay on the ground, not moving, because you can’t; at least, you can’t unless you want to get beat up some more.  It’s suffocating.

After a season of stifling, you are going to get extremely angry with God. Maybe like me, you’ve been angry with the people and the Church who have grievously misused and abused you, but at some point, you will face the undeniable reality that God has allowed these people and circumstances into your life.  I’m not saying He made these things happen, but He’s God, and He certainly could have stopped them.  It’s an unforgiving and cruel thought.  You will get angry, and possibly ask God if He gets some sick pleasure from your pain.  This is the midnight hour.

Then you will go numb. It’s not because anything is holding you down anymore that you don’t move, but because you just don’t care.  This numbness can go on for months.

Eventually, though, the dawn breaks in the form of a reawakened desire.  It’s nothing you do, there’s no secret recipe for making it happen, it just does. Suddenly, you feel like you’re pulled up from under water, and you can breathe again.  Suddenly, that desire that got ripped away from you is in front of you again, more a possibility than ever before.  Of course, you don’t fully trust it right away, because something about this dark night of the soul, this crisis of the faith makes you feel perhaps this desire is wrong.  Yet, God tugs gently at your heart to bring that desire to Him and ask Him for it.  You may find in this reawakened moment that you don’t really trust God, either; He did allow what just happened to you.  What if you allow yourself to desire this thing, and He yanks it away again? The temptation to suppress the desire is ever present the first few months.

Still, I’d advise you to take a leap with your shattered faith.  Trust God with that desire, let Him wake you up. You will find Him good and faithful, perhaps so much so that you’ll wonder how you doubted in the first place.  You become more aware of the truth about Him, and I think, you become more aware of the enemy.  You come to understand that he is the one who held you down, and that his intention is to hold you back from good.

It’s anything but easy, and it’s lonely. Trusting God again is hard, especially when He’s been the bad guy in your mind for so long.  It’s also hard to find safe people to talk to about a dark night of the soul or a crisis of the faith, while you’re going through it or when you’ve come out of it.  In part, this is because it’s such a personal journey (with you and God) and it’s hard to know how to talk about it.  The flip side is that it is hard for Christians to understand, because this journey often doesn’t make sense, and many Christians feel the need to make sense of everything that happens. This is the first time I’ve talked so publicly and unambiguously about my experience with this.  Otherwise, I only have a handful of friends who know a few of the gory details.

Hang in there.  Whether you’re going through a dark night of the soul, a crisis of the faith or you’ve just come out, hang in there.  I say what I say now from deep experience and it in no way negates the terrible pain you may be in at this moment: what you are going through, what you have been through on this journey has immense benefits.

You are going to learn a lot about yourself.  A dark night of the soul, a crisis of the faith is an introspective season. You’re going to learn your strengths and your weaknesses, your boundaries and your breaking points.

You are going to learn what it really means to be still. Especially if you’ve been service- and ministry-oriented for a long time, you don’t really have much time for yourself.  Not being able to move or serve or ministry, can be a much-needed rest, even if you wouldn’t have chosen to have it this way.

You are going to get to new levels in your relationship with God. A dark night of the soul, a crisis of the faith is really and truly just you and your Maker. There is a season of distance, there is.  After the anger and the mistrust and the giving up can come intimacy and re-learning trust and joy.  When it’s just you and Him,  there is greater clarity about who He is.

It will strengthen your faith in God being who He says He is. It takes time, but ultimately you begin to trust that God is who He says He is – that He is good and faithful and gracious and loving and just.  You begin to recognize the voice of the enemy trying to persuade you otherwise, and you are better able to combat the lies.

It will make you more empathic and less judgmental. I’ve always favored empathy over judgment.  It’s who I am. Still, having gone through this, I am more likely to “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice” without worrying about why they’re weeping or why they’re rejoicing.  I am less likely to apply rules to people and situations. I am more likely to listen, and less likely to bring my assumptions into conversations.

You will appreciate life so much more. This is cliché, but the darkness makes the light that much brighter. Bluer skies, greener grass, you know.

Again, all of this takes time.

Did God allow the dark night of the soul, the crisis of the faith?  He did.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

BUT (and if you understand nothing else of what I’ve said today about this journey, please understand this) it’s never, ever God’s intention for you to be held down and held back from freedom and fullness of life.  God went to great lengths in making a way through Jesus to a relationship with Him, our Creator (the only way to experience true freedom and fullness of life), even after humans had messed up so badly.  And I think that holds even if sin in your walk with Christ or someone’s sin against you has brought this experience and journey through darkness about, God still wants you to have a free and full life.

So while God allowed this, He certainly did not cause it.  And because you are His, He intends for you to be strengthened, not weakened; He intends to bring you closer to Him, not drive you further away; He intends to tune your heart, mind and soul to His voice, not to give air time to every voice you hear; He intends to make you a better minister of His heart to the world, not to pass judgment on your neighbors, family, and friends; and most of all, He intends to bring you through it to freedom and fullness, not to be held down and held back. 

 

 

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Marvelous Light

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NKJV).

He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:12b-14 NLT).

For those of you who don’t know, I love to sing, but I’ve been stuck gifted with this range that is really perfect for country music.  I am always looking for praise, worship, and CCM songs within my range.  With the exception of a few Francesca Battistelli songs, I haven’t found much.  I was really excited to find Ellie Holcomb and her song “Marvelous Light.” (Well, all of her songs really, but this is the one I’m learning now).

I’m not who I once was
Defined by all the things I’ve done
Afraid my shame would be exposed
Afraid of really being known
But then you gave my heart a home

So I walked out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness and into the light

With years of keeping secrets safe
Wondering if I could change
Cause when you’re hiding all alone
Your heart can turn into a stone
And that’s not the way I wanted to go

So I walk out of the darkness and into the light
From fear of shame and into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness an into the light

There’s no place I would rather be
Your light is Marvelous
Your light is Marvelous

You have come to set us free
You are Marvelous
Your light is Marvelous

[lalalalalalalala…]

So I walked out of the darkness an into the light
From fear of shame into a hope of life
Mercy called my name and right away to fly
Out of the darkness an into the light

[lalalalalalalala…]

(Ellie Holcomb)
On Sunday evening, a friend and I were talking about what God is teaching us.  For me, God is teaching me about His marvelous light.
I can live in God’s marvelous light anywhere I am.  When something is “marvelous” it means that it is “good” and “pleasing.”  Honestly, there is not much in my life that I consider good and pleasing – right now, life is mostly just hard.    This light right now is not some happy, fluffy feeling – it’s hardcore exposure in my deepest brokenness, things I didn’t even know were there.
He sheds light on what is causing my pain on the nights I cry on my way home from work or in my bed.  He gets under the surface and shows me what’s really broken.  He sheds light on why I am where I am in random conversations at work.  He shows me why I belong here and not where everyone else thinks I should be.  He sheds light on those moments where I am just breathing in and out, and putting one foot in front of the other.  He uncovers a thirst for passion and excitement and something more than this life.
Frankly, my gut instinct is to bury it all.
If I do that, though, I miss the point: my freedom.
So I fight through the initial pain of this marvelous exposure, because the truth? It sets me free.  And maybe, with time, I’ll be able to sing the la-la-la’s with some conviction.

 

 

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Happy 23rd Birthday, Whit!

Dedicated to the fearless truth-speakers in my life:

my dad, Mark Thomas, and my dear friend Whitney Gross.

Thank you for not accepting the things I accept too easily.

~ the dedication of The Field

962965_10201716767741147_1471129219_n(Photo Credit: Melody Ellison, 2013)

Dear Whit,

Happy, happy, happy 23rd birthday, friend!

I know your birthday is not technically until tomorrow, but I was thinking of and praying for you on my drive home today.  You’ve been a fearless truth-speaker to me during some of the roughest seasons of my life, and I am so thankful for the times you have given me the eyes to see beyond what is right in front of me.  You are such an incredible person, and I sense that you need those eyes back tonight, so let me see if I can be a fearless truth-speaker to you.

God still has something big in store for you, but don’t despise the day of small things. I know this season has not turned out the way you had hoped and planned, and I know how disappointed and frustrated you must be, but God is not done with you.  Although unexpected circumstances have come, God is not reduced or lessened in your life.  He has something He is doing for you, in you, and through you.  As in, right now.  And maybe He’s doing it in the thing you’ve overlooked as not a big deal or insignificant.  Our God is both a big-picture God and a God of intimate detail, so keep seeking Him in the small stuff, and the big things will become clear.

Don’t be afraid to pray specific prayers and remain open.  After a door slams in our face, a door we deeply desire, it can be tempting to stop praying specific prayers and say, “Whatever, God.” You had gone through your door, you were living your prayers, and I know being snatched away from that is disheartening.  God has given you your heart for this world and for the people in it, so keep asking and seeking and knocking for the deepest desires of your heart.  No, God’s call doesn’t always look the way we think it should, but He’s given it to you for a reason, and He intends to bring it about in your life.  Keep trusting Him and remain sensitive to His leading, even if it could lead to more frustration, disappointment or discouragement.

These things will change, so find joy in where you are at and what you have now.  Our lives consist of seasons.  Some good, some bad, some long, some short.  I think God does this so we remember the impermanence of our lives here on this earth.  You are not going to be where you are at forever, or even for the rest of your life, although it may feel that way now.  And this season? It’s giving you what you will need at some point in the future.

I love you, dear friend, and am praying for God’s very best for you in the coming year.  I pray that He shakes up your life in ways that grow you closer to Him.  I pray that He gives you continued direction and purpose.  I also pray for the people you love in the country you had to leave.

Mostly, though, I’m just thankful.  Thankful to have had you in my life as a fearless truth-speaker, as a fellow-adventurer on this life journey, and someone to just laugh and cry with when life gets to be too much.

I’ll leave you with this verse: “Forget the former things and do not dwell on things of old.  See, I am doing a new thing, even now it springs forth.  Can’t you see it? I will make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Again, happy birthday, dear Whit!

Love,

Lyd

Untitled(It’s a lid! You see what I did there?)

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Dear Men, I Do Not Exist For You

[I really think I’m going to have to start issuing ruffle warnings.  As in, your feathers are about to be ruffled.  Consider yourself warned.  Ruffle, ruffle.]

Dear Men,

I do not exist for you.  I do not exist to satisfy your desires or to cater to your whims.  I am not obligated to respect you,  like you, befriend you, be attracted to you, date you, marry you or sleep with you.  There is nothing wrong with me if I am not drawn to you (and not necessarily anything wrong with you, either, I must add);  I am just not here – living this life at this point in time and space – for you.

As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is, the divinely-appointed purpose of humanity, of any life, of my life “is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.”

My life is not now and never will be about your needs.

Yet I’m told it should be.  And I’m not just hearing it from secular culture, I hear it from the Church.

I will never forget a conversation I had with a godly, older married friend a number of years ago.  We were discussing whether or not it was right or okay to have something you would leave your husband over when entering marriage.  She maintained that it was not right or okay, that a woman who had such a contingency was not fully committed.  I admitted that I felt I would leave my husband if he was ever unfaithful to me, because I didn’t think I could recover from that.  She returned with, “If a man’s needs are being met in marriage, he won’t ever go outside of it to fulfill them.”

That scared me off of marriage for a long time after that, because what the mess kind of standard is that?  I’ve been asked many times about my singleness: did I struggle with my sexuality? Was I a commitment-phobe? Was it because I had a front row seat to a messy divorce? Nope.  It was because for many years I was deathly afraid of marrying the wrong man; I mean, the really wrong man.  I was afraid I’d end up loving and marrying a black hole of need that I would never be able to satisfy.  Maybe I’d be sick, or upset, or otherwise just not feel like “it” and he’d take his needs somewhere else.  And of course, because for whatever reason I wasn’t up to giving him what he needed (forget my needs), his infidelity would be my fault.

I reject that now.  I reject that my actions ever FORCE someone to sin.  I reject it because I am not now and never will be held accountable for someone else’s sin.  God is never, ever, EVER going to ask me if it ever happens, “Lydia, why was your husband unfaithful?” In my feelings of betrayal, should I ever encounter infidelity in my marriage, God’s not going to say, “Okay, but Lydia, what could YOU have done better?”  That is NOT how God operates: “A bruised reed He shall not break” (Isaiah 42:3a).

And in case you’re wondering, I now also desire a healthy, Christ-focused (not husband- or wife-focused) marriage.

Where I am now in my attitude is unfortunately not the point, however; the fact that I was ever terrified of marriage because of being blamed for someone else’s sin is a problem.  And it’s not a problem because my attitude toward marriage was wrong; it’s a problem because someone placed (or at any rate, tried to place) a burden on me that God never intended.

This burden is not rare in the church; in fact, it’s all over the place, anytime a husband is unfaithful to his wife.  And it all boils down to this: the wife is spending too much time on things other than her husband.

Every time I encounter this attitude, the old fear in me rises up, and I spend days and weeks vanquishing it again.  I have to re-remember that I am not living this life for the pleasure of any man; I’m living to glorify and enjoy God.  I have to re-remember that any man who stands in the way of that is not worthy of my respect, good feelings, friendship, attraction, time, commitment, or body.  And since I am having to re-remember it, I am re-reminding you, dear men: I do not exist for you.

It’s ironic.  The Field contains this sort of romantic subplot, and I was really conflicted about whether to leave it in or take it out.  I left it in because it’s so personal, but until today I hadn’t been able to formulate why it was so personal.  It’s only sort of romantic because the heroine doesn’t choose her love interest; she chooses her purpose.  And that’s what I’ve had to do a time or two.

Because I don’t exist for men.

 

 

 

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Remain Open

I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind so much as I did this morning.  I’m pretty sure my brain is fried.

Here’s the story.

About a year-and-a-half ago, I began asking God to open a very specific door for me.  After a few months, the door opened, and I was poised to walk through it.  The week the door opened, I had a dream that I really believe was a vision from God for my life.  One morning, I was reflecting about this door and this vision, and God told me, “You can have this if you really want it, but I have better for you if you just wait for Me.”  I made a choice to trust God that morning, and little by little the vision for what God wants for me has become sharper and sharper.

Doors upon doors have been closed for me.  This week, though, I was faced with yet another open door.   A door that made perfect sense, except as I prayed about it, I had no peace about walking through it.  I felt like God was saying, “This isn’t it.  Keep walking.”

And that’s what I had every intention of doing.  I got to where I was going this morning and I found myself reasoning, “Well, it’s not like this is a bad opportunity.”

Then I’d come back with, “It is if it keeps me from what God wants for me.”

“How can God not want this for me?”

It would be easier than more waiting, more walking.  The feeling that it’s not quite right is easy enough to bury given enough busy-ness or the justification that it’s a good thing.  I mean, technically, since God is prompting me to say now, it’s sin, but it’s … a good thing.

But I can’t do it.  I have to keep going just to see what God has in store, because I can’t see two feet in front of me right now. I have to believe He has told me “no” for a good reason, just like He did thirteen months ago. So I’m going to keep walking and remain open for whatever God has in store for me, even if it’s just more of what I’m doing right now.   He’ll bring that vision about if and when He wants.

I just have to trust and obey.  And remain open for the right opportunities.

And write a bajillion more blogs about waiting and waiting on God and transience and interim seasons and endurance and patience and faith and obedience and things that don’t make sense and all that good stuff God is teaching me through this.

Yup.

 

 

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Not My Own

This morning at Vintage Church McKinney, we started a series called “Famous Last Words.”  We looked at the words of Jesus as He prayed at Gethsemane, “Not My will, but Yours.”  There was a lot of talk about surrender, submission, and dying to self; the battle between our wills and God’s; the cost of following Jesus.

At one point we looked at Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live for the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Last year, as I was meditating on God’s presence, the phrase “Christ lives in me” took on a new meaning.  He makes his residence in me.  He is with me wherever I am.

This year, I’m looking at a new part of the verse: “I live for the Son of God.” Because I have accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, my existence centers around Him.

This means this life is not about me.  It’s not about how I feel.  It’s not about my desires.  It’s not about what I have to offer.  It’s not about where I think I should be or what I think I should be doing.  It’s not about when someone steps on my toes or downright wrongs me.

To a much lesser extent, it means this life is not about other people.  (Gasp).  It’s not about what others feel.  It’s not about what others desire or want from me.  It’s not about what I can do for them.  It’s not about where others think I should be or what I should be doing.  It’s not about never offending people.

It’s about Christ.  It’s about what He feels.  It’s about what He desires.  It’s about what He has given me.  It’s about where He wants me and what He wants me doing.  It’s about not offending and wronging Him.

HE is paramount.

Now, I should state for the record (before I get chewed out by my readers): living for Christ will absolutely, beyond any shadow of any doubt involve serving and caring for others.  It absolutely involves living at peace with others, “as much as it depends on me” (Romans 12:18).  It may also include times of personal retreat to replenish myself in Him; to take care of health issues; to process life stuff in general.

None of these things are bad; they’re necessary.  But when I am doing anything for ANY reason other than God calling me to do it, it’s wrong.  It’s wrong because my life is supposed to be HIS – not someone else’s, and certainly not mine.

After all, “I am not my own.  I have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19b, paraphrased).

I feel like this is my lesson never fully learned.  It’s not about anyone or anything besides Christ.

Oh well. I suppose I will get there someday.  (Maybe?? Hopefully??)

 

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