Back to the Boat

Commitment often requires a release of comfort.

Peter found himself in that boat (literally and figuratively).

See, he had just walked 3 years with an amazing man who he believed to be the incarnated Christ, the Messiah his people had heard about and awaited for generations upon generations, saw miracles the likes of which he never believed possible, and just prior to the day everything fell apart, had been commissioned to continue the work that He started.

But then, his faith was tested. His promise felt a million miles away, and his hope looked less like a rock but rocky water, the water he had even walked upon, and so when we see Peter after the crucifixion and the resurrection, he has returned to the comfort of the boat. And this time, he wasn’t thinking about walking on the water, but simply staying afloat.

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Have you been there?

I have.

When all that I believed with my whole heart would happen and had faith to receive and even in some part witnessed its appearing, fell apart, and I was left with my guilt and my shame and the knowledge that I hadn’t done well under pressure, and like Peter, I had a choice to move forward in my commission, committed to the call or return to what I knew, what was comfortable.

So, Peter witnesses the resurrection and hears again the voice of his Teacher and Leader but eventually finds himself apart from fishing men and back to simply fishing. Why? Because somewhere between the two gardens, he lost sight of the passion that recognized his purpose.

Guilt has a way of stealing our resolve. Fear has a way of dissolving our confidence.

But, Jesus knew something was yet to be done, and there was no question in His mind where He would find His disciple, so He meets him where He knows the truth must be revealed, on the shore of the sea, with a warm fire.

The scene played out similar to the few years before when Jesus found them, only this time the men weren’t catching anything and Jesus shows up re positions them and they can’t contain their catch.  Then, He doesn’t question them, He invites them to a meal.

Isn’t that like God?

I’m not here to shame you. We both know that where you are isn’t where I sent you, but I want to show you something, grace, and from that place you will see that I am committed to you, first.

And He did.

“Do you love me, Peter?” 

“Yes Lord, you know I do!”

“Then feed My sheep.”

That’s what happens, isn’t it? We get off track. We lose sight of truth and purpose for any number of reasons, and He doesn’t shame us or condemn us, He reminds us of relationship and beckons us to share that with others. In that very moment, Jesus was modeling for Peter what He saw in Peter. It might be bold of me to suggest that Jesus knew He disappointed Peter. He knew that the way things played out were completely contrary to the dreams and longings of His follower, and He knew that in order for Peter to move forward, He had to meet him with grace and remind him of love.

If I may, here is what I read between the lines:

“Peter, I’m sorry. I know that you got confused and frustrated and doubted Who I am, but I’m here and all the things I said to you are still true. I love you. I believe in you, and I am here to show you that by feeding you, again. Nothing has changed. And, Peter, just like I am offering this grace to you, I want you to go out and offer it to others – the ones that mocked me, the ones that crucified and hung me and even now gloat that they took care of Me once and for all – I want you to love them and share my love with them and teach them what I have taught you. I want you to know that I love you, and I called  you and I haven’t failed as you feared, but I have victory you can’t even fathom, and I still choose you.”

Commitment was borne of that conversation. The one we don’t read, but the one we hear in our heart daily, “Trust me. I love you. I chose you. Come back. I believe in you and no matter where you find yourself today, tomorrow is another day where you can still walk out your purpose.”

Grace has a way of restoring what we’ve lost and love has a way of building our confidence.

Peter walked away from that fire, on fire, reminded of his purpose and empowered by the love of his Savior, and Jesus meets you and I with that same grace and love, no matter where we find ourselves, because our purpose is so much bigger than our fears and our convictions must fuel our commitment, regardless of our comfort.

 

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The rain falls

You’ve heard it, right?

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.”

We quote it quite often to imply that bad things happen to good people, but do we possibly have it backward? Rain could mean blessings, after all it takes rain to grow a crop and to provide a break from the drought. In fact, with the exception of the flood, rain is not depicted as a bad thing. So what of this verse? Well, let’s start by reading it in context.

“In this way you show that you are children of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on people whether they are good or evil. He lets rain fall on them whether they are just or unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

Why is Jesus having this conversation? What is He teaching? He’s teaching about love. More importantly, He is talking about loving your enemies. See, we are an “either/or”,” this or that” society and culture. But Jesus was in an “either/and” as well as a “this and this” culture. Many times in order to emphasize something it was said a multitude of times, three times would be the ultimate number of repetitions. In this moment with the disciples Jesus is in the process of telling them and retelling them that God provides blessing (the sun rising) and blessing (the rain fall) on the just and the unjust. That’s important!

This same conversation is recorded in Luke, and He words it a little differently (and since He’s a doctor, maybe a little more intellectually.)

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

Ahhh. The and with the and. “He is kind (the sun shines, the rain falls) to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Wait. Matthew puts the “unjust” in there, but Luke says overwhelmingly, “the wicked.” We know it is the same conversation, the same teaching.. So why the different verbiage? Maybe it has more to do with the writer than the Speaker.

Who is Matthew? A formerly, notoriously unjust man, a tax collector. He is there as Jesus is sharing this story about loving your enemies (of which he knows he was one) and as He speaks, Matthew is experiencing blessing! Not only was God kind to him, He had chosen him as a follower and cohort and put him in charge of the money! Okay. That’s like the the alcoholic being keeper of the wine for the Lord’s supper. That is a responsibility not just of trust but of proof of redemption! Matthew is hearing this through the ears of a formally publicly condemned sinner, and in his interpretation Jesus might as well be pointing at him, “See? I bless and hang out with those you’ve condemned.” Luke on the other hand didn’t have that lens, he heard Jesus say that God is kind to those we might consider wicked, enemies of our souls. Both men share the same message of Jesus to love those who do evil just as God does, but in their interpretations based on their personal experience, we hear how that message affects each one! But, the message is the same, “God who loves and is kind to those who hate him, asks the same of you.”

I can’t help but think of Christians and our wrestle with the LBGTQ community. So many call them on sin saying they are sinners, stopping short of calling them wicked (or some out and out doing so), but if that’s the case, God is kind to them. He chooses to bless them and give them good things, regardless. So “Love your enemy” looks more like be kind to your enemy and bless your enemy… And enemies look like those we don’t agree with who commit actions that we think are evil or against God’s plan. Ahhh. And, they are entitled to the sun and the rain just as the Godly are, without prejudice or bias or judgement. That looks different, that feels different, that steps on the toes of the righteously political. But, that’s what loving our neighbor looks like – Doing for others not because they deserve it or because they are worthy, but because we recognize we aren’t, and, as much as it may pain us to speak it, God desires to see them blessed.

Crazy, this God Who loves us – ALL of us! And the rain falls equally across the landscape of humanity.

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Facebook Fast

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Okay.. It wasn’t a fast. I straight up wanted out. Out of the drama. Out of the posts that were less than authentic. Out of the arguments. The back biting. The passive aggressive warfare meant to injure with wit and snark and the ever revealing emoticons. Off the breeding ground for competition.

So, I got off. No explanation. No “don’t you wish you were this pious” statements. I just left. Status hanging in mid air, comments left unmade, posts unliked and liked. I agree that originally my emotions led the choice, but my mind kept the commitment. And it was hard… At first.

I felt out of the loop.
People would text me and say “Did you see such and such?”, and I hadn’t. People would start conversations about something they saw in a status and all I could do was listen and silently agree or disagree. Articles posted would be fodder for discussion, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

I felt isolated.
Here is the sad truth of it, most of my friends stopped communicating with me. Not sure if it’s just more convenient to chat through Facebook or if it was an “out of sight, out of mind” thing regardless, my phone stayed silent.
A lot.

I felt limited.
Take this blog for instance… You either stumbled upon it by chance, saw it on Pinterest (because let’s be honest what woman can live without that!!?) or happen to already follow me. There is something about having a cyber megaphone. Those lessons become group sessions and those words of hope become anthems! But, without Facebook, my ability to project was severely limited. I felt like a lion who suddenly became a tiny mouse. Where was my voice?

But, despite those inconveniences, here is what I found.

Time to read.
My Bible Study time increased exponentially. I’ve always been a reader and studier but now I was reading and studying simply for me.. Not to share a scripture or what God was teaching me. My lessons became truly my lessons not rolling through a Rolodex of names thinking who would benefit from my study.

I found more time for my girls to play or to talk or just to enjoy a movie or show on Netflix without interruption. It is amazing how much more “quality” that time becomes when half of it doesn’t consist of scouting out “I need to put this on Facebook” moments.

I came to appreciate Silence.
I realized that without a half dozen notifications popping up on my screen every 30 minutes I could actually set my phone aside. Like, in the back bedroom, far from my sight and from my ear. I actually missed texts! Can you imagine!? Remarkably, the world did not end.

I found less need for validation.
Did you know that research has found that the endorphin rush of getting a “like” on social media is akin to an addiction? Test yourself. Do you find yourself constantly checking likes, shares, and comments and feeling extreme disappointment when they don’t show? You might have a problem. Suddenly what we liked and what we need is based on what everyone else thinks what we should like and should need. Approval is a drug. And I can be an addict.

I faced Reality.
There was no hiding behind poignant posts to mask my feelings. Talking to my soul became quiet.. One on one.. And I found my soul without the encouragement of the Body, was significantly less empowered. There is a reason why God said it isn’t good for man to be alone, and whereas Facebook has it’s major hang ups and distractions, it can also be a beacon of hope to the desperate the discouraged and the hurting. Reality bites. It’s good to have those who recognize that taste.

I will find my way back to the Book of Faces in a few more weeks, but I am wiser having released myself (even if momentarily) from it’s hungry grasp. I challenge you to try. Break free. See what you’re missing and return with a purpose for being there.. Because it isn’t there to create a pretend life, it isn’t there to take out your anger based on insecurities on those who would be exposed, it isn’t there to aid you in posting pictures and being validated and bragging on our kids (which certainly impacts them more if we SAY it not tag it), but it IS about belonging, finding a place to share your voice, to grow in faith and understanding. If you’re a Christian, it’s a place for ministry and mission work. Just don’t get lost. Because in a world of faces, we need to see more of you… Literally.

Magnetic

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As a teen, I wondered what would make me more attractive to those around me. I knew I wouldn’t be the most beautiful or the most talented or even the most talkative (shocking, I know!), but I wanted to be someone who stood out. I struggled to feel important and even necessary at some points. I wondered why I struggled so much even as I believed in Christ – that should be the answer right? And He was, but I didn’t know what that looked like for me or to those around me.

The struggle was real.

Recently, I was given a book to read that really put those questions in perspective. Here I am 38 (gasp!) years old, and I still find myself struggling to be seen or to be attractive. So much for “it won’t matter when you’re older.” It matters. And even more so, it matters to all of us girls – young or old, ancient or adolescent. We all want to know we are contributing beauty to the world we live in and when we are gone will leave a void where our shining light used to be.

“Magnetic – Becoming the Girl He Wants” by Lynn Cowell ties all these thoughts together and provides a blueprint to help you get there. Sounds too good to be true?… Well, it depends on which “he” you want to get! Galatians 5:22-23 gives us a list of characteristics that will lead us directly to becoming a person of influence. They are called “Fruits of the Spirit” and each one of them are pleasing and attractive to those that are affected by them and infected with them. (Infections aren’t all that attractive but for the sake of poetic license just go with it.)

Cowell takes each fruit and defines what they mean translated into day to day life. It may be a book written for teen girls, but each issue addressed can carry over into the life of any woman struggling to be more. She gives practical advise to rethink how you deal with the world and circumstances around you and pushes it through the lens of the Holy Spirit, Who alone has the power to transform your mind and your life! The point is to establish a sweeter character by changing the way you act and react – whether it’s love and understanding that love is compassionate, or peace and bringing His peace to those around you, or self-control and taking reign over that little two edged sword the tongue! Ultimately, incorporating these characteristics affects the world around you, sets you apart as someone of grace, and this will make you stand out like a candlelight in a darkened room.

The beauty that Lynn tries to portray is this … You aren’t worthless or unlovely or unimportant, but as you live in the power of the Holy Spirit, He attracts the right people to you! This is important to teen girls as they desire to attract teen boys, but good boys that don’t need sex to spell out love or arm candy to parade around to his friends but sincerely desires to find a girl who loves him for him and who challenges him to be a better man and most of all recognizes and admires the character of Christ in her. Because if you have ever seen a magnet line up with other random metal objects, it is the magnet with equal or greater strength that is most powerfully attracted to the first!

I presently have an 11 year old girl and a 13 year old girl, and I will give them this book to read because it’s important. I want them to seek to be His not just be popular or the best. It is my heart that they will establish these characteristics into their own lives and not see it as so much a struggle but a challenge. I want them to gain the right attention and to be treated the right ways, and perhaps more importantly, I want to see them treat others the right way. I want them to know that they are enough and Christ in them makes them MAGNETIC!

Do your daughters, nieces, granddaughters or Goddaughters a favor and buy them this book! I assure you, as one who has a decade of experience ministering to broken hearts and hurting souls, you will be making an investment in their future.

Order yours here 🙂

Father and Son

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Isaac. The story of willingness and sacrifice and reprieve and provision, captivate me. After all, isn’t that ultimately the journey of every faithwalker? But this week God challenged me to reread it, in His narration, with His thoughts, through His eyes and, most of all, in regard to His heart for His beloved.

Abraham was ready, I felt sure of it. Patiently, he had waited for Me to send Isaac, and daily I watched his love for his son and pride over him grow. I delighted to see that My friend was pleased, but much rode on the faith of My beloved Abraham, a faith that I had to test for its surety and steadfastness.

He was out observing My creation, strolling among his people, eyes always trained upon his boy. He marveled aloud to Me as he watched Isaac pull back the bow how very grateful he was over the gift of his son. It was in that moment of thankfulness I chose to make My request, in the glow of his joy.

“Abraham!” I called.

Immediately he answered, “Yes, Lord! I am here.” The look on his face was eager to speak, eager to obey, age had not changed his youthful expectation, but I had the highest price to ask of him.

“It’s time,” I commanded. He seemed confused so I continued, “Take your only son, Isaac, now and go to Moriah…” I waited to finish as his smile hesitated, “…and take him and offer him…”

Abraham’s eyes took on a look of disbelief even as his soul screamed out to My heart not to finish the thought, but his obedient heart waited for Me to finish.

“Offer his as a burnt offering on the mountain of My choosing.”

His head fell, his grown man lips quivered, but his resolve was not shaken. He trusted Me. I felt it and I read it from his heart even if his lips could not utter it.

I watched the next morning, early, as he loaded up his donkey and assembled his entourage, Isaac, the most prized possession by his side as he led the way. Each day was a litany of praise to Me, stories of my goodness and faithfulness shared with each footstep closer to the unspeakable. Isaac never seemed to question Abraham’s frequent affections and head rubs. Abraham was making the most of the three days, three days I ordained for them to say goodbye. I’m a loving God, I could have chosen any mountain, but that one had significance to this sacrifice and to My own, and I wanted this for them.

When they made it there I observed intently as Abraham settled his servants and gave them directions and a time frame in which he would return. I watched as he swallowed hard while Isaac said his goodbyes. Then, I watched as Abraham placed the bundle of wood upon Isaac’s shoulders. As he did so, I felt the scars in My own back ache.

“This is necessary,” I whispered into the ear of My beloved, but all he felt and heard was the whistle of the wind.

In his own hands, Abraham carried the fire source and the knife. His grip on its handle was weak almost begging the slightest force to rip it from his hands, but his obedience carried it nonetheless. Isaac wondered often as he observed the elements of sacrifice that a significant piece was missing – the offering. He questioned his father, but he could not bear to tell his son and so I heard him say with spoken words, “God Himself will provide.” He had no idea the revelation of those words. I could feel the cries from Abraham’s bosom asking if there was any other way? And, My own voice echoed through the ages in his acceptance, “Nevertheless, let Your will be done.” Years evaporated and generations passed away as I beheld Abraham telling Isaac to be still as he bound his only son. I watched Isaac struggle and question, begging for understanding. Abraham was silent but in his heart he called out to Me declaring My name for all generations and with each name a work of goodness that preceded it. He, like his son, was begging Me to hear his cries, and I, too, remained silent. Would he recall My favor thus far? The promises I had made? The nature of My faithfulness?

I observed the Accuser reminding him of his failures, of his sins, planting doubts of My character and My affections for him. But, I encouraged Abraham to recall My love, My grace, My kindness despite what wrongs he had committed. As the Accuser started in again, I held up My hand to silence him. I tired of his lies, his attempts to discredit Me and to discourage those I love. Besides, something greater had My complete attention, Abraham reached for the knife.

All eyes in heaven stood in observance of this moment. I had issued a command, and only I could choose to undo it. A tear escaped My eternal eyes as I watched my beloved hold the knife high. Faith that once trembled from his lips now held firm in his love for Me. My heart was full! Abraham was declaring his love for Me! I had asked him to do the unthinkable, and still he chose My will over his own. Time stood still as I observed this gift. – the love he showed Me as he held a knife to his son – his beloved as he was Mine.

“Abraham!”

He didn’t drop the knife, “Yes, Lord?” Determination shook his frame.

“Stop! His arm slowly dropped its position, confusion, quickly replaced with relief, washed over him.

“Don’t touch that boy!” All of heaven was rejoicing in his love for Me! “You have shown you honor and respect Me! You were willing to sacrifice, without holding back, your son, your heir.”

I had situated the ram – spotless and pure – a most fitting offering – in the bushes beside their makeshift altar. I caught My breath as Abraham quickly unbound Isaac, clutching him to his chest and thanking Me for My provision. Together, they situated the sacrifice on the pile of wood. I touched the engravings in My hands, the scars that symbolized the name of every soul willing to be saved, and I smiled.

“ No, my friend, my beloved. I would never ask you to give up anything that I haven’t already sacrificed for you.”

Heads bowed, knees bent, I listened as father and son praised My name for their provision, but what I had truly provided was more than a ram but the Lamb of God – for with the sacrifice of MY son, I would fulfill My promise to Abraham, for I AM Jehovah Jireh. I AM the Lord who provides.

Waist Deep

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It’s that moment.

I’m standing waist high in the ocean..mere feet from shore, with my feet planted. For the longest moment I stand, face lifted upwards, the glow of the sun feeding my weary soul. I could stay here forever, basking in the peace of its rays, but just as I get comfortable, inhaling the ocean scent as I watch the gulls lite upon the shore, I hear the roar rising up behind me, the crash of the crest of the wave as it barrels toward me, and in that moment, I have a choice – dig my feet in the sand and brace for the impact or run.

Somehow I know if I move I will be overtaken, sucked under, swept up in the mighty wave never to find that spot on the ocean floor again. The sound of the crested wave crashes toward me, and I stand still, arms outstretched, legs locked, awaiting the connection of body of water and body of soul.

I’m unprepared for the fullness of the tumult, but my feet stand firm, refusing my knees the freedom to buckle. As the wave pushes me forward I find the strength to push back, against it’s current, against the pull to push me forward and back toward the shoreline I worked hard to get past. I close my eyes as the wave personified fist pummels my back, challenging my position, doing it’s best to defy my resolve.

If I’m honest, it hurts.

I think within my mind that is made of mere common sense that I could be safely on the shore riding this wave instead of fighting it, but the Voice that echoes peaceful “stand still” assures my mind that isn’t bound by fear that the best is yet to come.

All at once the wave breaks completely, stillness once again flows, and shaking the wet assault from my hair and face, I open my eyes. The sun still shines bright, the advance of the Oceans arms around me never blocked it’s rays, only my feeling of them, and the Voice that held me firm, beckons, “Deeper.” And I find my footing gained and take a step forward before the next strong current has me again longing to run back to shore. Because though the shore may be safe, life is found in the wrestle with the waves.

Psalm 93:3-4
“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!”

The Siren’s Song

There’s a pain, a numbness, a vacancy left inside one who is molested. It doesn’t matter so much the degree to misuse or abuse… The hole presses in with the smallest infraction. There’s a shame that comes with the wounds made then that make the scar now that much more noticeable – a guilt that […]