Throne

As children we play pretend princess, sending younger siblings to serve us juice and crackers, fanning us as we sit on a throne of pillows and blankets in our make believe castles.  Twirling in our dresses, making the neighbor kids into our subjects, and ruling our empires of the backyard with delight and imagination. It quickly dissolves once one kid questions our authority, but for a moment, we get the taste of the power and the throne.

No one has to tell us that this type of position is better. No one has to teach a child to order other people around.  No one has to tell us that a tantrum in a middle of a store is going to get us what we want.

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The idea of a throne, ruling, and reigning is entrenched into our DNA.  We are born with a desire for power or control, but also with the need for worship, the need to be lead by someone or something.  

We often question how people get themselves into bad relationships, pyramid schemes, a terrible job or even cults.  It’s because, unchecked, we are looking for something to lead us somewhere. We are looking for someone to tell us who we are and where we belong.It’s in us.  And maybe not everyone gets sucked into a cult, but it could be way less extreme than that.

There is a throne of our heart, and we are constantly trying out all kinds of things to put in that place. There is a place of control, reign, ideals, values, that drives us to act and live out as we do.

And this isn’t surprising, humanity has been this way for a long time. Throughout the old testament, you see the rejection of God as the true ruler, King over their hearts.

After God led his people out of Egypt, slavery and through the wilderness.  He gave them the promised land. But they weren’t happy, the strayed away, they followed after other gods.  He provided them Judges and Priests to try to bring them back, but when the Judges and Priests either died or didn’t follow after God.  They cried for a King, like all the other nations. They were warned what an earthly king would do.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” -1 Samuel 8:6–9

Friends, let’s be honest.  We aren’t more evolved or better than those in the Old Testament world.  We are quick to run from idol to idol. We can even church those idols up and lie to ourselves that they really aren’t idols or all that bad.  We may not have altars with foreign bronze or gold statues in our houses.  We don’t go to a temple and offer burnt sacrifices.

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But we lay ourselves out on the altar of social media presence and notoriety.  We put up white fences and shiplap. We sacrifice time for financial security, entertainment and independence.  We step up onto the throne worshiping self-empowerment and heroism. When set up our lives to celebrate things and experiences like festivals and feasting driving us to live for the present moment more than anything else.  We chase after relationships and false loves, giving our hearts to things that will crumble under the pressure of the crown.

We reject God’s authority when it gets too uncomfortable, or means that we are vulnerable to lose everything we worked hard to attain.  We reject God’s reign of our lives when it means having a hard conversation. We reject God as King when get that ring on our finger, worshipping the gift instead of the giver.

Friends, may I even plead that we struggle with God as king, because it literally means that we are more lost than we thought.  We are more helpless and inadequate than we want to admit. No one wants to feel weak. And when God rules and reigns in our life as the true King, we have to face the facts.  We are in desperate need.

But it really is good news.  

Such good news.

ashton-mullins-138190-unsplashI need to hear that it’s not up to me.  The crown is too heavy. The pressure is too much. I can barely handle keeping my kitchen clean, let alone being sovereign over my days.  

In our current day, so many more people are struggling with anxiety, depression, unhappiness, than statistics will ever show.  We can’t keep up. But we don’t have to. No, our Father in heaven, sent Jesus as the true and better King, to establish his reign and rule here on earth as it is in heaven.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdomto establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”  -Isaiah 9:6–7

It’s on his shoulder and he will uphold it.  We don’t have to.  We can live in peace and rest because He is on the throne.  He came, bore a crown of thorns, not just to sit on a golden throne here on earth, the throne of our hearts forever.

 

Photo by William Krause on Unsplash

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

Photo by Ashton Mullins on Unsplash

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Invited to the Party

Simply laughing, letting yourself in to the present moment, like you opened the door to the party that is happening all around you.  To lay down the weights you have been carrying, and let your shoulders drop in comfort and relaxation, feels strange but sweet.

Joy sparks joy, producing a lightness, both in level of gravity and brightness.  The bright light causing the darkness to scatter away like critters in a dark room.  

Joy gives way to breath and clarity and deep belief and faith.

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I write a lot of about struggles and hard things, perhaps because I am trying to find the words that accurately describe where I spend a lot of my head space.  However, in this year of seeking out the abundance of God, I want to also name the places of joy in my life. Seeking to laugh and step into a space of gladness.  To experience the fullness of joy that God promises in his presence.

I wrestle to stay in the glad things, to remain there.  Maybe I feel some happiness at the surface but it feels fleeting.  Maybe I see it as superficial and irrelevant when there are bigger things happening.  However, finding what brings you joy, finding ways that God delights YOUR heart is so essential.  

It is a part of discovering who God made you to be, just as much as figuring out your talents and your calling.  It is just as important as digging into your past and present memories or struggles.

Joy in the Lord, is about experiencing all of who God is….God is full of gladness.  

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You can see that in how Jesus loved children, how he enjoyed the company of many different kinds of people.  He hung out with twelve dudes, they had have cracked a joke or two, right? All over the Psalms it talks about gladness.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. – Psalm 16-9

What does it look like when your whole being rejoices? Think about David dancing or celebrating.  David sang and wrote poems, not just when things were hard but he was glad in the Lord. Think about the celebrating that Elizabeth did when she figured out she was expecting after years of barrenness in Matthew. 

I used to think having joy was all about having everything go super great, that life was just as you expected, and every day was perfect. It was about being happy and content. But if that is all that having joy is, then I miss out on the deep joy of seeing the good in a day that is really crappy.

I miss out on the deep laughter that can come after a dark day.  I would miss out on the joy of smiling with tears in your eyes after praying with a friend.  I would miss out on community surrounding you when life isn’t at all what you expected.

By expecting life’s joy to be a certain way, you miss out on the unexpected.  God showing up in ways you didn’t know that you needed.

That is often how God shows up, in the unexpected and unasked for ways.  We didn’t even know that we needed to ask for that friend or extra $5 in our pocket.  We didn’t ask for that affirmation at work or that encouraging conversation at the grocery store.  We didn’t know that we needed to slow down and having a sick toddler actually provided that.

These days, for me that looks like running into a friend in a coffee shop. It means a sweet text from a dear friend, or even extra space to be with God on a Friday night.  Or spending my weekday evening giggling with middle school girls.  And even though life doesn’t look at all what I expected, God shows up to bring me into his joy.

I just have to choose to see it.  I have to slow down and name it. I have look behind the curtain of “this isn’t what I wanted” and step into the joy party.  

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Being in the joy, changes me.  It changes my heart reflexes. I am quicker to see it.  Maybe it’s like any other muscle that needs to get stronger, maybe I need to do more reps like I do with my core and hamstrings.  

So friends, where is it that you can see the joy in your life today?

I hope that you take a moment and counting the joys, the places of gladness, how often you smile.  And let it change bring brightness and lightness to your heart. 

Picture Credits:

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Ethan Hoover on Unsplash

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

God Had a Different Plan

God has a different plan than I do.  (#storyofmylife)


He turns things out in a different way then I anticipate.  Always for the best.  Always for the better.  I used to interpret this as him loving me less because he didn’t fulfill my plans in my ideal way.  Oh, how wrong I am.
God works like this.  He works out his story, his plan, in the way that is best and for the good of those that he loves and for his glory. And OH….how this paints the most beautiful picture of the way he loves us.  

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:8-9
Stories throughout scripture, Abraham and Sarah, Abraham and Isaac, the Exodus from Egypt, Joseph. All of these stories, he made a promise and fulfilled it, but not in the way that was expected.  
God is a God of the unexpected.  Maybe because he is all about the dramatic twist or he is all about the March madness type of ending.
This what makes Easter so powerful.  It is the ending that no one expected. 

Except God himself, he knew, he planned it this way.  
As I read and ponder this story today, I can’t get over what the disciples must have been thinking as they watched Jesus die on the cross.  They probably couldn’t fathom what could or would happen next.  They were in total despair and hopelessness.  

If they were anything like me after a big disappointment or heartbreak, they wanted to crawl in a hole and watch Netflix all day, trying to escape that feeling of despair.
They were in mourning, not only over his death, but what his death seemed to mean to the story they thought was unfolding in their world.  They thought he was supposed to come and save them on chariots and horses.  They thought he was the great leader that would help them physically rise to power and overtake their oppressors.  They thought he had come to free them physically from this life of oppression they were experiencing.
They didn’t see, they didn’t completely understand. They didn’t understand that Jesus came to free them the greatest oppressor that they would ever know, sin and death.  He came to give them a new live of freedom and oneness with their heavenly Father. 
As write these words, I am struck by the fact that I don’t think I fully understand this at times.  The prayers I pray; the things I hope for are all for things that would change my physical circumstances or relationship status.  I pray for God to free me from this situation I am in in this world, not spiritually.
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  —Luke 24: 45-47
Friends, often, we water down what Jesus and scriptures say to fit our needs of the day, to encourage ourselves, to fill our cup a little more.  We look to God to answer our prayers for physical needs, and to help us in our circumstances.  We get frustrated when God doesn’t answer in the way we think he should. (Not to say that he doesn’t care about those things, because he certainly does.)
However, we forget that God’s primary goal in sending Jesus was to free us from our sin, to bring in the light and to spread the light in the darkness of the world.  

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Our primary need isn’t physical circumstances, but a spiritual one.  And because He love us, he isn’t going to address our physical needs without first dealing with our spiritual needs. We are in the dark and he has come to let the light in.  At the end of the day, all the other prayers could be answered but we would still be in need of something that WE cannot doing anything about, the darkness.  But the good news is that is exactly what he came to do.  In the 1stcentury, they didn’t get it and often we don’t either.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” –Isaiah 60-1
Friends, some of you may be in a very dark place, goodness I know how that feels, I know how it feels to want to hide under covers, to avoid happy people, to live in fear of what else could go wrong.  The darkness sometimes is overpowering and debilitating.  The darkness is all you can think about.  You feel trapped, paralyzed and utterly destitute.
But there is GOOD NEWS…..he has come. 
He has died the death that darkness wants us to die, and he came back.  
He overcame death, so that we wouldn’t have to.  
He came to bring light into our lives so that the darkness would not overcome.  
He came to save us from the darkness.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  BUT TAKE HEART; I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD.” –John 16: 33
He came with a different plan in mind.
He came with a plan that was there from the beginning.
He came to save us from something that we couldn’t never be able to save ourselves from, sin and death.
He came to give Himself as a sacrifice, so that we could live free of death and condemnation.

Friends, on this Easter Sunday, there is GOOD NEWS. He is risen, and he conquered death, so that we wouldn’t ever have to, so that we could live free and in the light.  The darkness will be always be there on this side of heaven, tempting us, calling us back, but…..we he made the way, he died to give us a different and better option.

What if I don’t know?


It is mapped out for you.  It seems simple….right?
 
First, you finish high school in 4 years, and then you go off to college for 4 years. (Maybe 5, if you are lucky!) Next, you find a job in your chosen field.  Perhaps in that job, you move up and get raises and promotions.  
After college you might get married if you have found someone to tolerate you, or within the couple of years outside of school, you maybe meet someone and get married.  A couple of years into marriage you might have kids.  You have the family, you buy a house.  You settle in.  You take vacations, spend Christmas at the in-laws.
It is mapped out for you.  It seems simple….right?
However, perhaps if you are like me, it started in the right direction.  But now your reality is different than the fantasy.  You are in a place of waiting.  You don’t have a next thing.  The marriage didn’t happen, the kid hasn’t been born, the house fell through.  You didn’t get that promotion or you lost that job. What is next then?
Maybe like me, you made choices that you thought were the next thing without really thinking about them and now you are in limbo, waiting to figure out if you made the right decision or just wasted years of your life.
 You fret and toil over what is next.  People ask you, and you don’t know. And you start freaking out “I DON”T KNOW!” Your next thing doesn’t look like those around you and everything seems a little more uncertain.
For me, it is a horrifying feeling to not know.  The uncertainty has me up at night, weeping tears of fear and anxiety.  It isn’t clear.  The future is uncertain and just darkness.
The road map has forks in the road or the road just ends, wilderness and untamed weeds stand in front of you. 
Perhaps if you are like me, you have always been certain, you speak with confidence.  You make decisions and make choices without hesitating.  And to be uncertain seems like a failure.
For me, the road is unclear, the next step isn’t mapped out for me and I have choices to make.  Choices are paralyzing, I don’t want to make a choice, because…..what if I am wrong? What if I make a decision that sets me back on the path?  I sort of imagine it like a board game, that if I make the wrong choice, I have to go back to Start, and roll the dice again.  Suddenly this game of life is a competition, and I am losing. 
Here is the truth though, we don’t have to know.   
We don’t have to know the next step.  Because we have a God that has the road map. 

In fact he made the roads, he made the plans.  He knows the next steps, and will not leave us here. 
This deserves repeating: He will not leave us here. 
If I am honest, as I write this, right now I have a really hard time believing that.  I certainly don’t live or think like this all the time.  I struggle with God, I doubt that he won’t leave me in this uncertainty.  I doubt that he cares.
Often times, this is a truth for other people, not for me.  God will fulfill his plans for others, but not for me. So now, let me preach to myself for a bit.  
 
He is a God that has fulfilled his promises.  He didn’t leave his people in their sin.  He sent his son to atone for those sins.  He promised he would send a way, and he did.  
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.” (Is. 43:10-11)
He also promised that he wouldn’t leave us or forsake us. He gave us the Holy Spirit.  
“ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)

Even more, let’s remember the others who didn’t fully believe God’s promises: 
 
He promised Abraham and Sarah, and he did fulfill it.  Even if they messed it up and doubted him and made wrong decisions.
He promised David, and David ran. 
He promised Joesph, and Joesph had years and years of trouble and unfulfillment. 
What I love about looking through the stories of the Old Testament is the fact that story after story God is fulfilling promises and dreams in the most unexpected ways.  
So why do I look for God to make the path or the next step clear in an expected way.  Why do I look to God to give me all the run of the mill signs?  Why would I look at the road map, when I need to be looking to him?  
When we don’t know what the next step is, we don’t have to panic, we don’t have to fret.  It is actually the most amazing opportunity to trust God and run to him. And for us to expect great things, and unexpected answers.  And even if we are wrong, God’s plans are not thwarted by us.
Where do you need to expect great things from God?  Where to you need to trust in His promises? Can you be okay with not knowing? 

You Don’t Know My Life!


We all have that friend, that posts the millions of baby pictures on Instagram or FB!  Or that couple who is constantly taking cute couple-ly pictures and sharing them with the world. Can you say unsubscribe?
 
For those of us, who perhaps are waiting on God to intervene in our life in dramatic ways, those people are our worst enemies.   
They don’t mean to be,  but that is the way it seems.  
So are the people that ask you those awkward and slightly personal questions.  For some reason, some people think it is okay to ask people personal questions, like about when a married couple is going to have kids, and if I am dating someone or “Don’t you WANT to get married?”.  (Okay, maybe I might be talking about my Grandma!) 
For those of us that are waiting on God to act in our lives in a big way, these questions are hard to swallow.   

We avoid family functions or people in the grocery stores, just so we don’t have to answer those hard questions.  We easily become cynical and bitter about those people in our lives. 
People mean well, I know this.  People are curious……people are nosy.  People don’t always know what is going on in our lives.  They are interested.  Maybe because they care, maybe because they are gossips.  Who knows, but they don’t always know what their questions do to us. 
However, we cannot deny that it hurts. Sometimes like a punch in the gut.   It could hurt like a slow tumor, spreading throughout our heart and soul, causing anger and weeping. 
People don’t know that the woman looking at baby clothes Target is actually just looking for chocolate and comfort food, because she just started her cycle again and she isn’t pregnant, again. The baby clothes are tempting but as she looks at bows and little shoes, she is broken on the inside.
They don’t know that all the weight you have lost, wasn’t actually intentional but from a disease that is destroying your body, and you can’t help it.  
They don’t know that the girl showing up to the wedding by herself, spent 20 minutes crying in her car before walking in, bravely facing the reminder that she is still single.  She still came because she wants to be happy for her friends.
They don’t know the guy in the coffeeshop day after day isn’t writing the great American novel, but is continue to job search, even though he hasn’t found anything in 2 months. The questions about his job search, now are beginning to hurt and make him feel like a failure. 
They don’t know that the million baby pictures they post on the Facebook and Instagram actually make you cry, and make you delete them as a friend.  Those pictures are further reminder of what they have that you don’t. 
People don’t know, so they ask.  They ask those seemingly harmless questions, not knowing that you already have been asked about this 4 times already this week.  The questions sting as dart of a reminder of this thing you try not to think about every hour, every day.
We are skilled at hiding these facts, these thoughts, these feelings.  We try to remain strong, and not let ourselves jump on the bitterness train.  We fight hard to be happy for those people.   
We want to share in their joy, but sometimes it is just too painful.
But….doesn’t the enemy make that difficult.  The enemy wants us to remain in pain, in isolation, trying to fight this on our own. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” (Eph. 6:12) 

It isn’t our grandmas, and well meaning neighbors we are fighting against.  It is the one, who is working to draw us into the darkness.  He wants us to hide the pain, the torture, because we can easily blame others for our pain, we can harbor that bitterness and anger towards others because they don’t know our lives.  We can easily do that.   
We can hide away from the world and keep our pain close, letting it fester and grow. 
But thankfully we have another option…..we can share it with others like ourselves.  We can find those that have experienced this pain at one time and gotten past it. We can find those that are still in it and lock arms with each other, speaking words of life and light. 
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:17)
More than anything, we should be pushing each other toward the one who has our days written in his book. The Creator of life, the Provider, the Sustainer, the Redeemer and the Light.  We need to be holding fast to this truth together.
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isah 40:31)
Even in hard days, we have not lost hope that our worth and future do not lie with our ability to procreate, marry, or even find the perfect job or have the perfect family.   
Our worth and hope abides with the one who gave us life in the first place.   
When we have this in mind, those questions do not have the power to control us, destroy us or push into darkness. We can look those that ask in the eyes, and answer honestly and either chose to let them in or simply answer with truth and move on. 

Moving Forward in the Wilderness

“I keep thinking, if I could just get back to where I was with God a few years ago. But, I don’t think that is possible.  I need to move forward and find a better place to be.”

She said it somewhat off hand in the middle of a conversation about a million other things.  However, it struck a chord in my heart.

Most of this year, I have been thinking and perhaps saying the same thing.
If I could just get back down to that weight.
If I could just go back to that point in my relationship with God.
If I could just have those moments with my friends back.
If I could have that group of students back, then maybe I would love teaching again.

I have been trying to solve this mystery all year, getting back to where I was. 
I tried using the same tricks, doing the same things, spinning my wheels in a sense.

Her comment though, was actually a break through for me.  The moment when I realized that I was very much living in the past, living in the memories and not living in the moment or living for the future. 

Isaiah 43:18-19
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. “

As I read that verse, it causes me to shake in my boots a little.  It is so easy to let fear tell us that the future is something to be afraid of.  If we are trusting our Father, our Creator, the one who holds the universe in his hands, we shouldn’t be afraid, right? 

Right.  We shouldn’t be afraid.  We should rejoice and look to the future with hope. We can’t look back and hope to go back to the safe and the comfortable. 

Even in the midst of a desert, the wilderness of the unknown, he can and will make a way. 
 We may not be able to plan it or know exactly what is to come, but we can expect him to act.

I don’t know about you, but that water to my dry and thirsty soul. I want to etch this verse on my soul, so that I am continually reminded that God doesn’t want us to live in fear of his plan, but in joyful anticipation. 

I can move forward with hope because I am cared for by the one who loves me the most and knows me the best.

What prevents you from moving forward?  Fear? Or something else?  

Crushing Disappointment

People keep telling me this:

Disappointment just means that God has something better for you.

I hate that.  It frustrates me.  It makes me want to throw something.  However, my anger is not at God or at the person saying it to me, but at myself. (If I was angry at God, he could probably take it.  I imagine me being angry at God is like throwing rocks into the ocean….not going to hurt it.)

I am angry that I let myself start holding tight to this expectation that was not yet real or had come to fruition.  I am angry that I am weak and choose to rely on the words the world and not on God’s Truth.
I am angry that I am so impatient that I let myself get to this point.
I am angry at my little faith that I have in God’s promises. He has good things planned, why can’t I just trust that.

Disappointment might mean that God has something better for me, but right now it doesn’t feel like that.  It feels hard and lonely.  It feels raw and vulnerable.  It is scary and unknown. 

Disappointment makes me want to build a fortress around myself, my heart, my life.  It makes me want to crawl in a hole, not interact with anyone and be alone.  It makes me more afraid.

HOWEVER….I know that, hiding is not the answer.  I know that in the end that hiding is not what God wants for me nor is it what I really want either. 

What do you do when you are disappointed?  What are some ways you come back from it?