A shield about me

Weekly, almost daily, I had a writing rhythm that I began in college.  I spent hours in coffeeshops avoiding home work by writing and thinking.  Some of it was ideas and stories that I had in my head, or just things that I was processing in my faith journey. It was a practice I copied from mentors and found that it sparked my soul.

But then when the struggles of life came rushing at me, when my life and identity began warping into something unrecognizable, I left this rhythm behind. I am beginning to guess that it begins with me running from pain that I didn’t want to process, and caring too much about what people think of my life than what God was teaching me through writing.

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Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Too often I back away from things that God has called me to because I fear what people think of me.  I have written about fear and approval before, but more often in the last 2-3 years, have I stopped writing, stopped thinking and sharing because I was afraid of being found out.  I was afraid that who I was, who God created me to be would be rejected.  I get mad at myself because I really should be past this, beyond this point with God. Trusting God is step 1 right? I should have stopped running.

We do that.  We run from God, our creator and sustainer because we fear the world.  We don’t trust in Him to be who he says he is.

My counselor called me on that once, that I don’t trust Him.  Ugh, how could she?! Here I am, a bible believing Christian and I didn’t trust God.  I mean, I sing about it on Sundays and tell my friends I would pray for them to trust God.

But at the end of the day, I am really good at carrying all my bags at once, I mean capable of handling my business.  Walling up my heart to protect and defend.  I don’t need to trust Him. At some point, after hurt and pain, I had decided that I don’t need him to defend me anymore, I have got it.

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Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

But because He is God and there is no where on earth I can run to.  He has a grip on my heart and soul and won’t let go, he has placed this word in front of me.

Shield.

There it is, in so many parts of the bible and the songs we sing at church.

  • “He is a shield about me.”
  • “The LORD is my strength and my shield.” Psalm 28
  • “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33 

It’s a happy and pretty thought, that we teach to kids in Sunday School, and maybe put on an art print to go on our wall.

But God as our shield, practically…..doesn’t make sense.  It hasn’t been working right.

If he as our shield is supposed to protect us, to block attacks, allow us to be safe, why am I experiencing pain and suffering in bigger ways than ever before.  It hasn’t gone away.  This word.  God works like that sometimes, continues to show us something He wants to reveal to us.  He puts things in our path to draw us closer to him.

So here I am, sitting in a coffeeshop, writing about how God is our shield, when my heart is struggling to believe it. That’s where I am, a hesitant heart, in a raw and vunerable spot, wondering if I will ever trust God like I once did, or if he will renew it far more than I ask or imagine.

Tears threaten to expose me how hard this is to write about.

We are at war with ourselves really, wanting to be protected but wanting to protect ourselves.  He is our shield. But we run out into battle without Him, our sinful hearts believe that we can do this without Him.  We think we can be Captain America without the shield.

“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3

My hesitant heart is welcomed by a gracious and loving savior who has nothing but compassion on my aching pain.  I don’t deserve it.  I ran from Him, and still feel like I have one foot out the door.  I fight with myself about this, surrender and rest, lay down my pride and accept his help and protection in a world full of uncertainties and potential pain. Sounds risky, right.

However, the alternative has show to be so painful and lonely the cost will be worth the risk.

Friends, my encouragement to you is this, the same thing I am praying for myself, let Him lift your head, when the pain is strong, when the suffering is great, let Him to do the heavy lifting of your soul.  Let Him in to do that for you.

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Fully Known, Fully Loved

Ugh, gross, another Valentine’s Day themed post.  Seriously.  I know, I know, I really don’t want to be THAT person. 

Honestly though, this has been on my heart for over 2 months, so it isn’t really just about Valentine’s Day.

What I DO want to talk about is holding ourselves back from love. But I don’t necessarily mean the romantic kind.  Because the romantic sort of love begins somewhere else. 

This thought is a burden on my heart and the forefront of my story for a long time and is the cause of some weary and lonely days. 

“I am afraid that once they really get to know me, they won’t want to be my friend.”  I uttered these words over a cup of coffee with my bible study leader, whom I desperately was afraid of being real with.
This was after years and years of unraveled friendships as a teenager.  I came to college searching for friendships that would be the answer, that would fix that loneliness in my heart.  It was a line that would continue to linger in my heart for years to come.  I would just show enough of myself, of my heart to gain friendships, but never fully letting in anyone.
This has often held me back from admitting sin, or being real with friends.  I cared so deeply of what people thought of me.  In so many ways, I held it as an idol in my heart. I still do.
But what I found was that a fear had grown deep in my heart. Would anyone be able to penetrate my heart?  Would I always be this guarded?  Would I always feel this lonely?
We often times, hold out on people.  We put them at arm’s length because we are afraid. At least I am.  I find myself often lonely because I have held people at bay because I don’t want to let them all the way in.

This thought struck me, as I was complaining about why I am the person that does things for other people, but people don’t often serve me.   (Okay, I know that sounds extremely ungrateful and selfish.) But the point I am getting at is that people can’t serve us if they don’t know us.They don’t know us because we don’t let people in.

 And….we don’t let people in because we are afraid. 

Afraid of what happens when they really get to know us.
Afraid that if we are our true selves and we care for them, they will disappoint us or hurt us. 
Afraid of being rejected.

So we put up walls, we learn how to be independent and not attach ourselves to anyone.  We learn how to show only what we want people to see.  We learn to protect the very parts of us that we don’t want anyone to see.  This is so easy in our Facebook and Instagram culture, with just a picture showing people what we want them to see of our lives, not the mess beyond it.

If you are like me, there is corner of your soul, that longs to be fully known and fully loved. Even with our built up fortress around our hearts.  We long for someone to take a sledge hammer to our walls and see our muck and jump in anyway.  We long for the unconditional love that our hearts are created for.

Friend, I don’t write this because I have fully grasped this, but because I know the loneliness and these are words that I desperately need to hear, truly.

Psalm 139: 13-16
For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

He shows here in the Psalm that he already knows us.  So much more deeply than anyone else ever could.  We cannot keep any part of us hidden from our creator.  Even more so, he loves us.  Despite everything, he loves us. God loves you, he loves you.  Can we let that sink in….
Psalm 31:7
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,

We so are loved by the God of the universe, what do we have to fear of men. God knows every bit of muckiness in our heart, and yet he still sent his Son to die for us.  
When we rest secure in that, what do we have to fear?  What can others do to us.
 
Really it comes down to the fact, do we believe what God says about us? That we are adopted into the family, that Christ has covered us, that we are now righteous in his eyes.  Do we rest secure in that?  Do we believe that to be true?
If we do believe that then we can do as Detrich Bonehoffer says: 
 “Because Christ stands between me and another, I must not long for unmedi-ated community with that person .. , ‘Christ between me and an other’ means that others should encounter me only as the persons they already are for Christ … Spiritual love recognises the true image of the other person as seen from the perspective of Jesus Christ. It is the image Jesus Christ has formed and wants to form in all people.”
We can fully love others, and let others fully love us, when we know that God fully loves us, and fully accepted us.  We do not have to fear rejection, because we have been accepted. 
Friends, take heart, we are fully known and fully loved by a God who sees us and welcomes us in, under his wings, into his family. 

6 Truths about Change

For a long time, I used to fear change. (No not the dimes and pennies, I love those!)

No, I feared the way everything could suddenly be different than it was before.  I love to be able to count on things happening when they were supposed to happen, people to be the way they have always been. (You could probably attribute this to my excessive need for control and my idea that my way was right all the time.

This past year, I tried to fight it, I tried to hold on tightly to the things that were changing.  I ended up being bitter, angry and sad for much of the year.   
I ended up being worried that I had done something wrong with all the change. I was anxious and worried that I had somehow messed up my life plan.  



While processing all that has changed, I thought about some of these simple truths about change.  

1. It adds up.- The small things can suddenly be big.
In the 5 years that I have spent as a teacher in a public school, I have to had face change 5 times.  Every year is something different.  Every year we have new teachers, new policies and procedures.  Every year, I have something totally new to do in my classroom.
Sometimes all these little changes can get extremely overwhelming and exhausting, because learning new things is not easy.  It is hard, it requires work and dedication. It requires being uncomfortable for a short time or even a long period of time. Perhaps it means you have to step outside your comfort zone, embracing something you don’t initially like or understand.
However, sometimes…..sometimes those little things can add up to something good.  Like for instance, when I made little changes to my eating habits and physical activity and lost 90 lbs.
Then suddenly you realize one day that you/life/relationships are different than they were before. And you are thankful!
2. It always seems to happen at once.(Am I right, or am I right?)
Last year, I had a lot of changes coming up in the new year.  Not only in work but personally.  I was moving, living with more people.  I had to establish new routes to work, new running trails, new rhythms.  And I did it about the same time as the beginning of school. Last year, was a hard year, for many reasons, but mostly because of all the change all at once.  
Once the season of change passes, you are able to breath again, and look at things from a different perspective. Many times some of those changes are good ones, and when things slow down you can enjoy them.  In the end, you come out the other side different, changed, usually for the better.
3. The big ones hurt the most.  
Sort of like if you threw a handful of actual change (cents) at someone, the quarters would probably hurt the most.
Seriously though, the big changes (marriage, kids, moving, new jobs, loss of jobs) always seem to throw you like a giant wave crashing on you.  You don’t know if you will survive.  These are the ones that seem to shift your life course dramatically.  In these times you might begin to question and wrestle and even doubt your life choices.
The moving part of me was my big thing.  I got hung up on this change, suddenly it felt like moving into a house with 3 other single women was a giant step back from where I wanted to be. This sent me into a tail spin of questioning and doubting and rethinking what was next for me. 
The blessing that I didn’t forsee is that I did begin to rethink and question what was next for me.  I began to dream different dreams and uncover hopes I didn’t know I had. 
4. It won’t destroy you. 
Oh you think it will.  You think that this change, will be your death.  Many times, I dramatically would exclaim to my mother that my life was over, because this and this had changed.  
For example, when I was overwhelmed with graduating college and moving on, I was sad to leave my community of friends.  
“You will make new friends.” She would say.
“I…don’t…want….new friends!” I would sob into the phone.

But she was right. (I would never admit that.) I did make new friends, and dig into my old friendships in deeper ways.  
Much like how God promises to refine us by fire, to prune us so that we may grow. (Ps 66:10-12; John 15:1-6) But it is all so that He can make room for something else, whether that be so we bear fruit or to live in a place of abundance.
 
5. You need an anchor.
Much like a ship, when times of trouble are rolling in, you need an anchor.  You need something to keep you grounded, from drifting off course. 
Change sometimes can tap into our deepest fears, can cause more anxiety.  We want security and comfort, change threatens both of those things. So much like a ship in a storm, we need to rely on our anchor to remind of our true security and comfort.  
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,” – Hebrews 6:19
When change is whipping you around like the winds of a storm, remember the one who is your anchor of hope that doesn’t change.  He is our constant, our comfort, our security. 
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

6. Sometimes you just have to roll with it.
I have a wonderful, beautiful friend, who I admire greatly because she takes many changes in stride.  Something unexpected happens, she just rolls with it. She walks in grace for herself and the situation.  “It’s life.”- she says. 
(I imagine that is one of those qualities I skipped over in my frenemy Proverbs 31) 
We have to be able to sometimes just jump on a surfboard and ride the waves of change.  We have to see where it takes us and choose excitement  instead of fighting it.  (Now, I am sure that is in a surfers instruction manual somewhere!)

What about change is hardest for you? Do you roll with it or fight it? Or do you have anthem or motto that gets you through?
photo credit: Tom Gill. via photopin cc
photo credit: AGrinberg via photopin cc

Is fear winning this round?

Put on your boxing gloves. Step into the ring…and face your opponent.

Fear. All gloved up and ready to go.  He has some good ammo, he has been training, looks pretty fit.

As you stare at your opponent warming up, dancing around, getting the crowd all pumped up.  Already psyched out, you prepare yourself to just to take punch after punch.

Fear loves to talk trash….and is pretty good at it. He is going to find your weak spots.

Dancing around each other as the the bell rings for the round to start, Fear starts in….

….bringing up those nagging feelings of doubts and misgivings about your choices.
.reminding you of the should’ves and could’ves that haunt you. 

….whispering that thought that you are wrong about who you are and who God is.
….taunting you that you will always be on the outside, and you have to work to earn favor. 
….claiming that you will not accomplish all the things that you want to accomplish.   
….declaring that it is no use in working hard or sweating it out.  Fear says that you can’t do it.  
But really….. fear doesn’t want us to try at all. Fear wants to deliver punch after punch, disarm us with everything he has, and  make us ineffective and declare us the loser not a second after the round starts.
Fear is pushing us to hide and cower away from God.  Because when we hide, then the enemy wins the round.  When we second guess ourselves and doubt, then fear wins. 

When we let ourselves believe all the lies and trash talk, we are letting fear win.  We are forfeiting the game. 

We are backing down from something that has already been beaten.    

..”But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

We are letting the loser win, when we have the power to win.

 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 

We are already on the winning team. We are already in the circle and welcomed in.  

 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Then why do we get in the ring and suddenly start to cower away from Fear?

Perhaps we know what we are getting when we choose fear instead of courage.  Perhaps we want to be sure and fear gives me the sure thing.  We can count on fear, because we have seen it work time and time again.  (We like things we can count on, like snow in Colorado and sunburns in Cancun.)

We continue to forget, fear has already been beaten.  FEAR is defeated. Fear has nothing left.  All Fear has left is trash talk, nothing, words and lies that have no merit or truth. 

AND we do not want what fear has to offer.   
Fear only offers darkness and death.  Fear only offers misery and hopelessness. 

And the good news is that we have to settle for that!

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” Colossians 1:13

Ready to put those gloves back on and claim the victory already won? Go ahead! Jump into the winners circle. 

photo credit: M Glasgow via photopin cc

Fear is sitting in the LazyBoy

Fear. The nagging feelings, the overwhelming emotions, the constant worry.

A past acquaintance. Recently a constant guest.  All too familiar

It claims the comfy seat in my life.  Not just standing in my doorway, but plops down into the lazy boy. 

You might call it cautiousness or timidness, but I have always lived afraid.   
Sometimes it manifests itself in fear of calling people, fear of being left out, fear of being lonely,  or fear of not having any friends.  

This “friend” that sits in the lazy boy of my living room,reminds me everyday that I am insignificant, incapable, and a failure.  It feeds on lies and rumors and negativity.  It breeds like rabbits too.  It is like a mold of my heart and mind. 

It is nothing but a fungus on my soul.  Just growing and breeding.  My fears compounds on everything that I am feeding myself.  Negative thoughts, negative experiences, friends, relationships, the humidity of life. 

AND instead of going Ghostbusters on that bad boy, I just let it sit there, like it belongs, like it is welcome.
Today, I write to remind myself that fear doesn’t belong, fear isn’t welcome, and it isn’t productive in the creative process.  Perhaps that is why I haven’t done something creative in so long.  I am afraid of making mistakes, of producing something terrible.
Fear whispers to me that making mistakes is a deadly thing, that making mistakes makes me a complete failure, but that is a lie.  Fear doesn’t let mistakes turn into a good thing.  God all makes things good. 
I write to remind myself that it is never too late to go after my dreams.  It is never too late to do something amazing. 

Again, I write to sing the refrain “fear is no longer welcome.”

It is time that I kick him out, that I get out the bleach and the mold killer.  It is time that I clean that fungus out of my soul and breath deeply.  I need to breath deeply, let the clean air of possibility in to my soul.  

So friends, breath deeply. Perfect love casts out fear and God has given us perfect love in Jesus.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18 ESV)
 
Have you let fear into the living room of your soul? 
 
**Over this next month I will be writing on fear. Join in the discussion and share your thoughts!

But if not…

Never have I thought of myself as an anxious person, someone riddle with worries and doubt. (Perhaps maybe prideful!)  However, as I am experiencing changes and uncertainties in my life currently, I am struck at how anxious I really am.  Worries of the now, the future, and guilt and condemnation over mistakes of the past. 

Anxiety is a daily fax to God saying ‘I don’t think you have my best interests in mind.’
 – Tim Keller

What makes me think that I know what is best for me, I can barely manage to get to work on time or budget my money, what right do I to say that God doesn’t know what he is doing, that he doesn’t care about my life. And really, I can’t decide what sort of shampoo is best for my hair, so what do I always know about my best interest.

Plain and simple, my anxiety says that…..

I don’t trust that the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE is sovereign over alll.
I don’t trust that HE who created me probably knows what is best for me.
(I need an alarm clock that yells that at me in the morning.)

However, I am not talking the “Trust God” that sometimes so flippantly slips off our tongue like so many else Christian phrases.  I am not talking the “Trust God” that people say when they fly on a plane or go on a road trip.  Or even the trust that sometimes people call on when they hope everything will turn out good for them, to get that promotion or that the guy they like will ask them out.

I am talking the trust that involves dropping your anchor in the only hope that is eternal, no matter what his answer is.

I am talking the trust of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
I am talking the trust that the original 3 amigos had in God when they were about to become BBQ.  

Daniel 3: 16-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They had a lot to be anxious about.  They were captured and taken to Babylon.  Their friend Daniel had refused the king’s food for them and they were eating vegetables and water. (Not the best kind of diet plan.)  They were studying witchcraft and sorcery.  They were away from their families and friends.  They had to learn another language.  They were given new names.  God gave them favor in the eyes of the king. He put them into positions of power and stature.

And then…..the king told them to bow to his god’s idols.  They didn’t.  Things probably won’t end well when you refuse someone that isn’t used to the word, no.  He then threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace if they didn’t.

God had provided for them up to that point, he had given them everything, he had protected them, they believed down to the core that if anyone could deliver them it would be their God. 

But if not….that line gets me. 
Even if God didn’t deliver them now, it wouldn’t be the end.  They knew that even if all the horrible things that were about to come, actually came, all would not be lost.

Do I think the same?  Do I believe that?  In my anxiety, where am I putting my hope and trust? 

Their hope wasn’t in the favor of the king, it wasn’t in their stature in Babylon, it wasn’t in the food they ate, or what they studied or even what language they spoke.  Their hope wasn’t in the temporary life of this world.  Their hope lay with the God of this universe that given them everything up to this point, why would they stop trusting him just because the king threatened their life.

Why do I stop trusting God when things seem uncertain and scary?  (It’s not like I am being threatened to be thrown in a fire.)  Why do I quickly jumped to my own rescue or trust in my own devices before God’s?

And even if he doesn’t answer my prayers and my uncertainties in my life don’t change. Will I choose to trust Him then?