Dumb Sheep

Many times throughout the old testament, God asks his people to remember, to recall all the ways that he has saved them, been faithful to them, provided for them.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you.” (Deuteronomy 15:15)

Remember. Recall

Why does he keep reminding them? Why does he have to tell them again and again, that he will be there, that he will help them, save them?

Because they are dumb sheep.  In the midst of the desert, far away from the only home they have ever known, they have forgotten.  God pulled them out of slavery, saved them from the on coming armies. He parted the Red Sea!!! Given them food again and again, but yet they still complain.

Because they are dumb sheep.

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It is easy to look at these stories and think, how could they possibly forget something like that?  How could they forget being saved from slavery and being in a foreign land? How can they forget what God has promised them?

But just like them, we are dumb sheep.  We forget the ways God has been faithful.  We forget the his works so easily.  We quickly forget who He says he is.

THAT is why he commands us to remember.

OH and I need to remember.  Today, tomorrow, and the next day and next.  I will need to remember. To remember his faithfulness and his goodness to me.  

We need to remember to mark those moments, those days, those situations where God worked out the details, brought you through when all seemed impossible.  To count up those answered prayers as a bank of faithfulness to cash in on days when it seems like he isn’t present or he isn’t answering your call.  

So we can combat the lies that have their hooks in us.

Like the lie that constantly creeps up in my mind, “I am all alone”.  It’s a lie that I have been fighting since childhood. Feeling out of place, not belonging, unliked, or forgotten feel like a constant companion.  Prone to dramatic hyperboles, it avalanches into despair of loneliness.

It still creeps up on a Saturday night with no plans, even though I love a chill Saturday night.  The enemy creeps in turns up the volume on that age old lie in my heart. And suddenly I am in despair and anxiety.

In that spot, I need those words from the Lord.  

Remember.  Recall.

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And in that moment, I have to stop and count the ways.  List out the answered prayers. I have to remember the friends, the family, the life that God has given me.

God has been abundantly kind and given me a group of friends that I have known for over a decade.  I think back to the day as a teenager that I longed for a best friend.  And remember that he has provided. I think about my dear sweet friends whom I love and that are patient and kind and reach out to pray for me.  I think about the memories gained because I am friends with them.

Those memories, the pictures, bring me back a place of belief and trust that God has got this.  That the whisper from the enemy is a lie designed to make me doubt and despair.

It maybe something else for you.  Some other lie that has a hold on your heart, that never seems to go away.  A lie that you would long to be rid of for good, like those last 5 pounds.

  • That you won’t be able to pay your bills
  • That you your prayers mean nothing to him
  • That you are a mistake and a failure
  • That you won’t get through the day after a night of zero sleep.
  • It will always be this way.

So friend, recall, remember, the ways in which God has provided.  Mark it. Write it down to look back at when the lie seems louder. 

We won’t always be in a season where God answers in the way that we expect him too.  We won’t always be in a season of harvest or abundance. On this side of heaven we won’t always understand or see how God is working, but when we recall his works, we will see that he is not a God of inaction.  His ways are higher than our ways, and thoughts are higher than our thoughts. 

And His ways are more powerful that we will ever understand.

“I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us,and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” – Joshua 2:9-11

These verses are Rahab in the Old Testament, talking to the men who are going to conquer her country.  Because she had heard about the powerful acts of God, she knew…her heart melted because of who God is and what he has done.

What has he done…more than we ever thought possible.  Conquered the grave, given us a healer for our broken hearts, and provided the ENOUGH that we need in Jesus.

So squash down the disbelief with the powerful acts of God.  Let your melt your heart with remembering.  Help each other recall.   Tell about the His mighty works, and let the power of the cross remind you of who God is and always will be.

 

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Expectancy

Last year at this time, I unknowingly penned some of the same words I fully intended to process out today.  Today’s sermon actually covered this verse this morning as I sat in the pew, teary eyed trying not to let my sniffles be audibly heard by my friends besides me.

Colossians 1:17- “And in him all things hold together.”

Leaning hard into that verse, it almost hurts to think about all that 2017 was and did in my heart.  In many ways it was joyous and full of wonderful memories of fun, friends and family.  Good, wonderful moments.  Places visited, people met, and times of rejoicing.  But also….times of suffering and heartache.

2017 might as well have been the year of silence in many ways, I couldn’t write or share in the same ways I have done in the past, because the words from the Lord felt much closer and personally deeper that I am not sure if I am ready to share or able to.  It is much easier to share when the lesson has been learned and behind you….but in many ways the lessons and sufferings aren’t over yet.

I am in the midst.  I am standing in the muck, the grime of life. I speak from the trenches.  Maybe my trenches look a little different than yours, but it is still the struggle.

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Friends, this is it, right.  This is what living really is.  It isn’t the Instagram pictures, the funny stories shared on Snapchat.  It is the pain behind the eyes.  The screams and curse words no one hears or even the ones closest bear the brunt of.  The silent tears in the car.

  • The breakdown standing in front of a laundry pile.
  • It is being surrounded by people but still feeling the ache of loneliness.
  • It’s those moments in the grocery store when you are trying to decide whether to drown your sorrows in frozen pizza or ice cream.
  • Real life is when someone’s bags are packed ready to leave….and yet still wanting to fight to stay.
  • Or when you have to get up and do it all over again, even though your legs and heart feel like lead.

No one wants to share these moments online, we want to be distracted from them.We want to pretend these are just the moments we skip over to get to the shots of pretty lattes and shoes surrounded by leaves. (Totally saying this as my #bestnineof2017 included several of those shots!)

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This Holiday season, much like the ones before it have left me wanting. I always have expectations, ideas about what this time of year should hold. It should feel like all those Hallmark movies I have been watching.  Snow always flurrying, lights on every house, cookies available at all times.

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Even if it is a little like this, it won’t ever be enough.  It will always leave us wanting more.  Because what we expect from a supposedly happy, joyous season, is actually a satisfaction for deeper longing.  One that is broken open by living in this world. A longing that actually doesn’t have an answer that sounds as good as “Family, Love, and gratitude.”

I was frustrated that I was too busy this year to enjoy all my regular holiday things, like cookie backing, and crafting.  I didn’t drive around to look at lights and have yet to enjoy some hot chocolate.  But someone reminded me that all of those things are great, but it is good that this also be a season of expectancy and longing not just of met expectations.

As someone who is afraid to have expectations to be disappointed in or even crushed hopes for the year to come, expectancy looks much different.

Instead of holding tight to a list of goals, a word, or even some sort of resolution, being expectant means opening your hands, arms, and even heart to an anticipation of seeing what God will do with this blank slate of a year.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angle departed from her.” -Luke 1:37-38

Oooh, that feels too vulnerable, right?  Right now instead of writing this, I should be deciding on my 2018 word, creating some sort of Instagramable image to share with everyone. Something to give others hope and inspiration.

For me, proclaiming things over my year, makes me think that I am the one steering this thing, it implants this idea in my head that I am the captain of my soul.

Maybe that I have to pick the just right WORD to hold my life together.  A lie that I cling to…..to easily point blame or reason with, when things go wrong or the disappointment is just too real. Or even a word to just forget after January or misplace in the rough terrain for February.

So we our own scapegoat when we don’t meet goals or life fails us in some way.  Or its an ego boost when things are going right.  For our glory or downfall. Holding ourselves responsible for everything. Worshipping our own abilities, talents and gifts.

Right there it is….when we place ourselves in the captain seat of our lives, we are essentially trying to be our own savior, superhero and more.

Isn’t the truth is so, so much better….because Jesus is better. 

“and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” – Heb. 12:24

He has spoken the better word not only over 2018 but our lives.

The truth that says that we don’t have to be the one steering the ship.  We have someone that has already put themselves in the captain seat, the throne of our hearts and souls.  He came to take over the ship and steer us into eternity.  He holds the responsibility, he took on all the blame so we didn’t have to.  He is the captain that we could never be.

Mary knew that as she said those words “Let it be according to your word.”  She modeled an expectant heart for God to work.  And work he did.

So friends, as you enter into 2018, may your coffee and expectancy to be strong.  And may you see God work in impossible and mighty ways, not just in your lives but more importantly your hearts. 

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photo credit: Tuomo Lindfors Iisalmi via photopin(license)
photo credit: NathalieSt Festive Street via photopin(license)

Held together

Shattered and Broken. Destroyed and torn apart.

Everything is ending, the pieces are on the floor in front of you. The door just slammed, the call just came, the tears are running down your face.

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Maybe it is a job, a relationship or a family.  Or maybe it is a hope, dream or desire you have held as a pillar in your life for so long.

Whatever it is, you can’t breathe or focus, or seem to move on, it just feels as if you will die under the weight of the shattered pieces of your loss.  You might feel as you can’t continue, you can’t face the world, the others that haven’t been broken, and everything is together for them.

Perhaps you are in hard place of “this time of year” that can be suffocating.  You can’t muster the strength to smile and pretend everything is fine, so you just don’t go to that work party or that event with your friends.  You can’t face them again when your insides feel ripped in two. The happy couple or put together family is a punch to the gut.

My heart has been heavy this year thinking about how this advent season, the season of longing is truly that for many people.  2016 was a hard year for many, filled with heartache and pain and worry.  A year that just didn’t seem to quit. The world seems to be aching in so many ways.  Brokenness, shattered lives, cities literally crushed by hate and war, it is all too much.

We want to look away, we want to run and hide.  It seems too much to handle, to bear, to carry around from day to day. So maybe you ignore or just numb your self to the pain because you just can’t.

If you are anything like me, there might be things that seem impossible to hold together, to balance, to get through.  I look to myself to try to do it for myself, to pick up the pieces, to hold it together until I leave a party before I crumble.

The truth is that we actually don’t have to just power through, keep it in, and stuff it down.  Friends, we don’t have to hold ourselves together.  

We don’t do a very good job anyway, right.  We make a mess of it, like a stain that we try to fix without the stain remover.

The truth is that we have something that holds us together.  Someone, really.

In this season of Advent, of waiting and longing, I have been reminded that what we receive in the birth of Jesus is way through the pain, someone to hold it together for us, to be with us in the suffering.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:15-17 ESV)

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And in Christ, all things hold together.  

The power of that statement, in those moments when all the plates you have been juggling come tumbling down, when you feel at the precipice of destruction, when nothing seems sure, is water for the parched soul.

He came to us, he came to our world and lived the hard life that we are living.  He knows the pain and suffering of living this human life.  He knows. And he is still here.  He doesn’t run from it or hide from us. He stays and is with us. What a beautiful savior we have in Jesus.

Friends, as we wrap up 2016, we don’t have to pretend or posture before God about the state of our lives.  Our lives might be laying there destroyed by our sin or by others.  We might be in the midst of suffering and pain.  Or maybe 2016 was one of your best, but the message is the same.  It isn’t up to us to hold it together. 

We don’t have that power or might, but we have the One that does.

Friends, live in the freedom of not having to hold it together.  Step into the heartache and pain, you won’t be left there, you won’t be alone in it and it isn’t up to you to make it better. Praise Him.

photo credit: Shattered dove via photopin (license)

Not on my own

I have been thinking about this post for a while.  I haven’t written in a while, and feel the need to post something. I want to post something super positive and uplifting, but I also am not one to hide or be inauthentic.  Maybe I will figure out what I am writing by the end of this post.

So here it is….

Life is hard right now.  Sure it is easy to look on the outside of my life and consider that I have it made.  I am a single woman, working and living in a fabulous city.  I live in a vibrant neighborhood surrounded by my community and friends.  I have a steady job and am never bored. I am seem busy, but considering I am a grad student and working full time, it makes sense.

However, what you don’t see is this gripping anxiety that I have been dealing with for the last 6 months.  Perhaps we could call it a quarter life crisis or a life transition.  However, it doesn’t diminish the fact that I have had moments of overwhelming worry and anxiety that I have messed my life up in irreparable ways.

Heavy….right?

It is.

However, as I am slowly coming out of a fog that I have been somewhat living in, I am seeing things more clearly.  This anxiety, as crippling as it is, doesn’t have to be apart of my life.

Let me get super-spiritual on you, it all stems from the fact that I AM NOT TRUSTING GOD.

Me, someone who has professed faith for many years and believes in the gospel of Jesus.  Someone who leads and preaches truth to others, am having a hard time trusting in the God that I believe in.

In my pride and vanity, I hide this anxiety from other people.  I keep my panic attacks to bathroom stalls, my closet, and under my covers.  However, because currently my attempts in talking myself out of it are insufficient and half-hearted, I have to let others in.

I have let my community do what it is supposed to do and help me.  I also have to stop trying to fix myself.  (Even as I type that, I am coming to a fresh realization.)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

I cannot fix myself. I cannot make myself less anxious.  I cannot make myself trust God more. Jesus came because we cannot fix ourselves.  We do not have it in us to do that.

Goodness, I need to hear that everyday.  I cannot do it on my own.  I am utterly incapable of living everyday on my own.  And the good news is that I don’t have to.