Vanity, Vanity…

I’m struggling today.

I’m struggling to assimilate my life with the reality of the world.

I’m struggling to be okay with it all, with accepting the things the Western world calls “important”.

I’m struggling with the judgment coming from health food advocates towards families who eat McDonalds, while they ignore the starving children in African slums.

I’m struggling with the natural birth advocates who cast judgment on moms who use epidurals, and choose to vaccinate their children, while they ignore the baby girls being literally thrown in the garbage in India, or the millions of people dying from treatable diseases in third world countries.

I’m struggling with Christians who complain about the praise and worship band singing music that’s not quite to their liking, or whining about not getting “enough” out of last weeks service, when there are men and women being shot down for gathering in simple prayer meetings.

I’m struggling with the fact that I want to spend more money than hundreds of thousands of people see in a year, on a three day vacation.

I’m struggling with the fact that I’m complaining about my family of four being cramped in a three bedroom house, when a few thousand miles away there are a dozen people sleeping on the floor in one 75 square foot shack, stomachs digesting nothing but air.

I’m struggling.

And I’m angry.

And I’m hurting.

How can we, who have so much, do so little?

I’m struggling with understanding how can we sit in church with our venti macchiatos, and say a few amens, maybe do devotions at night, and believe we are walking like Christ — I’m struggling with how I can be okay with this.

I’m angry for thinking that writing a few posts in a blog once in a while makes a difference in a world where those who are most in need of these life words cannot even read.

I’m struggling.

And I think I need to do something about it.

Live for the spirit you want, not the spirit you have.

When I was pregnant with my girls we encountered a lot of complications. It was my first viable pregnancy after two that had ended in miscarriage years before, and at our 12 week appointment when I saw two still beating hearts and babies that were growing, I was elated. Everything was going to be perfect, I knew it.

But it wasn’t. About a week after that appointment we found out that there was a minor size discrepancy between the twins, it could be nothing more than the ultrasound tech’s miscalculation, but to be safe we were told to go back in for a second look.

It wasn’t a miscalculation. My twins were growing at different rates – and continued to throughout the pregnancy. Doctors speculated and diagnosed, and almost every single appointment after that was filled with fear and anxiety. We were told more than a few times that it would be in our best interest to abort baby B – Evie – to hopefully save baby A – London. We refused, were challenged and chided, but went out on a leap of faith that God would save both of my children.

Only, at the time, it didn’t feel like faith at all. I felt stubborn and argumentative. How DARE they tell me to kill my child, how DARE they suggest murder on pure speculation (which turned out to be inaccurate, by the way. Had I taken their advice I would have murdered my child for absolutely no reason whatsoever). But I didn’t have very much faith. In fact I left every appointment filled with fear and tears and doubt. I all but begged God on a daily basis to spare my daughters, all the while bracing for the bad news.

During this time, though, I was on bed rest, which meant plenty of internet and Facebook time. I began posting bible verses about faith in the Lord’s deliverance, trusting in Him, believing His promises, but they were only words. They were the things someone of faith would say, and so I said them, less than half heartedly believing them myself. At first. Then a strange God thing happened. The more I posted these verses, the more I searched for them, the more I began to believe them. Eventually when I posted Psalm 23 or Jeremiah 29 I was speaking out of confidence and belief, instead of desperation and pleading.

Our faith is like any other trait, in order for it to be strengthened it must be pursued. Imagine someone trying to lose weight and build muscle. Every day they go to the gym and lift weights and run on the treadmill. They don’t really believe in their weight loss though, because in those days they can’t see any evidence that it’s working, but they trudge on anyway. Even in their doubt they would begin to see changes reflecting their obedience to working those muscles, until eventually they would see the reality of a changed body and believe in the method that got them there.

Our spirits are the same. We cannot expect God to make us more like Him if we don’t actively try to be more like him. We need to work our spiritual muscle. I did, unknowingly, and His word held true;

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:31-32

Jesus knew that there would be times when we just don’t feel spiritual. It happens, our emotions are fickle and carnal, and if left to their devices we would all be as stable as men on stilts in an earthquake. But He says that we don’t need to feel it for it to be true, we just need to be there. When we choose to be in the word, and to fill our minds with God’s commands and promises, it is impossible not to grow.

Right now my song of the week is “Your Heart (David)” by Chris Tomlin, which you can find on the album Music Inspired by The Word, and there’s a line at the end that always sticks with me.

“Unashamed I will dance, in Your name lift my hands, until my heart looks like your heart”

I love the wording here. Not “when”, or “if”, or “after”, but until. If we sit around and wait for our spirits to magically transform into creatures of holiness, we’ll end up in eternity with little more than we began our walk with in this world. We are to press into Him until we look like him, seek him so that we find Him. It’s the way our minds and bodies work, what we continuously put in is what we get out. So if we put words of faith in, in, in, I encourage you that soon you will see faith growing out, and what you merely spoke about, you will have become. Just try and prove me wrong, I dare you!

Open Doors

It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “open doors” and “close doors” in a congregation of believers. It is usually in regard to a certain issue or petition that a person has or is placing before the Lord, seeking His will on. In fact, non-believers even use the phrase “Where one door closes, a window is opened”, as it feels like life (or in truth, God) carefully guides us down the paths He has destined for us by closing off one route and opening another. When we are desiring confirmation on an issue we’re not sure of, we send up a prayer that sounds something like this:

“Dear Lord, I feel like maybe I might like to go on a missions trip to Africa; if this is Your will, please open the door to this opportunity” and then sit back and wait on the Lord to work.

But can I suggest to you that this process is ineffective and misconstrued? That the Lord’s opening or doors doesn’t really have anything to do with us at all? That it is spiritual laziness?

If the above prayer means, for instance, that the pray-er needs God to “open the door” to financial provision, it doesn’t mean they get to sit back and wait for two thousand dollars to drop out of the sky and into their bank account. Quite the contrary; it means they work over time, sell things they don’t need or use – or simply feel they can give up for a better cause – it means they go before their church and ask for sponsors and donations, or that they host bake sales and car washes. And that God would use that work to successfully lead them to their destination. Now to be certain, God DOES do all the work at times, but I have found it’s usually when He is closing doors.

When we are asking God to open doors, it does not mean we can let God do all the work, that He will allow us to glide effortlessly down the path and through widely swung doors that have been prepared for our entry. It is not enough to stand outside the door and wait for it to magically open to us; many times, indeed most, we will have to knock, beat, or kick some doors to get them to open. Remember, doors open from the inside, and THIS is the truth behind a prayer for an open door.

What we’re supposed to be asking, what we should be asking, is that God would open the door from the inside. That whoever’s door we knock on in pursuit of spreading the Word of Christ would be opened to us. That the person or people who are standing before us would truly hear, that they would open the door of their heart to Christ. That our witness would not fall in vain.

Sometimes He will not allow the doors to open, but that doesn’t mean we are not meant to try. Sometimes God knows that this path is not meant for us, but it is our obedience He is looking for. He wants to see if we will listen to His still small voice, if we will have the faith to put ourselves out of our comfort zone. With God, sometimes the end is not the goal, but the means themselves.

If there is something you’re struggling with, something you think God might be wanting you to do, ask for Him to open that door and then step out in obedience and faith, because no matter if you’re received or not, obedience is always the heart of the matter anyway.

Manna for Today

I want to share with you today something that the Lord has been sharing with me over the past few days, and it’s about provision.

The Lord provides for His children, we see His faithfulness time and time again throughout scripture. He meets His children’s needs, whatever they may be. He certainly did for the children of Israel during their time in the wilderness.

“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God’ – Exodus 16:12

Different foods for different times of day, different needs met based on the season, the Lord addressed their needs as He saw them, even more than they knew their own needs themselves.

And when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, He said “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily bread. Not bread for tomorrow, or this week, or this year, but just today.

And that is how God provides for us – day by day.

This has been especially relevant for me lately, not only because we’ve been in a place of financial purgatory for a few weeks, but regarding knowledge, and the revelation of it.

See, God doesn’t just address our physical needs, but He takes care of all of them. He knows what we need to understand at different seasons of our lives – sometimes God doesn’t reveal “the big picture” to us at once, because we need to have different experiences at different moments. This is true even with people and relationships.

I have a friend that I have “known” for a little while now, but the way I know her now is very different from the way I knew her back when I first “met” her. In the beginning I knew her as only someone of inspiration. I knew her from a (very far) distance. To me she modeled perfect obedience, honestly, purity, and Godliness. She was the picture of a Proverbs 31 woman, she was set apart, and she embodied the strength of Christ. And I needed that. I needed it desperately. I needed someone to challenge me, someone to motivate me, someone to show me that there is a way to live like that, and she’s doing it, so I can too.

But that was just one side of her. Lately God has allowed me to see multiple facets of who she is, just when I needed it. I needed a friend who wasn’t perfect always perfect – but was always honest and God-seeking, who sometimes melted down – but who melted into the arms of her friends, and allowed them to minister to her, I needed someone who was real and relatable; I no longer needed just a role model, I needed a friend.

And God has worked relationships the opposite direction as well.

In the beginning I saw of other relationships what I needed at the time, but as I’ve grown in Christ and as I’ve moved into different seasons, He is allowing me to see things in a different light, revealing things to me in a way I never saw them before, as a way of helping me close certain doors.

Today’s grace is sufficient for today, and tomorrow’s grace will be sufficient for tomorrow. So today, instead of struggling with your “need” to know more, to see the bigger picture, to look further down the road, simply ask for (and thank for) your daily bread.

Trust that His manna will enable you with everything you need for today, for this season, and let Him bring you tomorrow what tomorrow will need – because doesn’t he know that better than you ever could anyway?

These are a few of my favorite things…

My relationship with Yahweh

Watching (the new) Pride and Prejudice with a big bowl of beef soup

Running to the grocery store, right around sunrise, in my pajamas to pick up freshly made donuts

Snuggling under a blanket in front of the lit Christmas tree, listening to piano Christmas music

Having heartfelt conversations with sweet friends throughout the night

My daughter’s hands cupping my face as she laughs with me

The stillness and peace of Christmas Eve

Watching my husband read wearing his glasses

Playing board games with my family and laughing until our cheeks hurt

The house, freshly cleaned, lit with cinnamon/cider candles

The crunch of fall leaves under my feet

Walking in the park during a bright sunset surrounded by colorful autumn leaves wrapped up in a sweater

Homemade tender chicken pot pie

Finding our family Christmas tree

Worship sessions around a camp fire

Professional kitchen equipment

Disney Movies

Disneyworld

Disneyland

Disney Music

Reading Disboards Trip Reports and Dining Reviews

Have I said Disney?

Blank books of lined paper

The smell of old books and the feel of old book pages

Hans Zimmer

The book of James

Writing fiction

Blogging from my heart late at night while cuddled up on the couch next to my sweet husband.

Yes, my friends, these are the things the good life is made of.

If Seasons of Life Have Themes, This One is Death.

Have you ever had a season in life where you felt like God was just reiterating things to you, over, and over, and over – but you just didn’t get it for the longest time? I’m in one of those seasons right now, but at the end of it it would seem, because I can see that the lesson has been etched in my heart.

This is a story about death. But don’t worry, this is actually a fun story and the truth is it isn’t even mine. (Sorry Disney, got off on a Tangled tangent there 😉 )

But really. It’s a lesson about death, and it is a pretty fun lesson, and the honest truth is that it isn’t mine, not really.

I have a story to tell you soon, not today, but suffice it to say that lately I have been struggling with certain finalities in life. God has been using examples around me as a way of reaching my heart on this subject, and I want to pass them on to you – whoever you are, reading this right now, that needs to hear what I’m going to say.

Death is not final. Not with God. The end is never really the end, unless God says so, and even then it’s simply a new beginning.

I’ve probably heard those words a thousand times in my life, but never seen it lived out the way it has been in the past few weeks.

As of a few months ago I cyber-met a group of ladies who, quite frankly, blow me away. They are the most loving, the most inspiring, the most encouraging, the most honest, and the most Godly women that I have ever met. We’ve come together on Facebook through the brilliance of a certain Kingdom Mama, and while we chat and banter here and there most days, we also meet a few times a week in our little corner of the internet to pray. That’s right. We sit down behind our computer screens and we dedicate an hour or so to simply typing out prayers together. The creator of this group said she believed that through our faithfulness to pray we would see miracles, and I think she’s right. As I write about these moments I’m getting shivers, just like I always do when we pray – and only when we pray. It is a time of sweet holiness. We lift up each other and our needs, we pray for our country, for our children, our husbands, our jobs, and everything in between.

Lately one of the prayers we’ve been laying before our God was for a sweet lady in our group and her business. There was a goal she was desperately trying to meet with her team; she had miraculously made the previous deadline, and we prayed fervently for her, for her business, and for her home of Colorado Springs, which as you may recall was burning rapidly over the past weeks. We  prayed and prayed and prayed, and by the end of July, and her deadline, she came back with the news. She didn’t make it. Between the canceled appointments from those who were dealing with the fall out from the fire and a few other set backs, she just barely missed the mark. I wouldn’t have blamed her for voicing her disappointment or hurt, she worked hard for this, we prayed earnestly for it, and now it was done and over. Months of her hard work and effort had come to finality. But there was not a trace of disappointment to be found – only praise. She thanked God for his goodness. She blessed His name. Not a single complaint came from her lips, only sweet words pouring from a thankful heart.

A few days ago she came to report that, in a completely unforeseen turn of events, the director of her company had decided, because of the fires, to extend their deadline by an entire month. He resurrected her journey back to life. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33) I believe with my entire heart that God worked a miracle because of her faith, and to show (me) that end of the line is not the end of the story with God. He works beyond finalities.

Sometimes God allows things to die, only to break the barrier of death – solely for the purpose of resurrection.

Our dear, sweet, Kingdom Mama is going through a heart-wrenching death of her own. I (we) believe in resurrection for her too, and I believe that God is using her story to teach me that death is not the end, and should hold no power of fear over me.

It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not end in death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples,”Let us go to Judea again” – John 11:3-7

If you haven’t read this story, I’m going to give away the ending, so consider this your spoiler alert.

Lazarus dies.

Not for a minute. Jesus doesn’t show up and save him just in the nick of time. He completely, fully, dies. For four whole days.

I am afraid to say that, had I been in Mary’s shoes, I would have reacted exactly the same way.

But You said this wouldn’t end in death! Why didn’t you come?! We begged you to come!

But He hadn’t come – not in their time frame. And despite their grief-stricken interpretations, He never promised that Lazarus would not die, only that it would not end in death.

Here’s another spoiler alert for you – that wasn’t really the end.

Because Jesus brought him back to life.

Completely, fully, back to life.

Sometimes we have to walk through the valley of death before we cross into our promised lands. But this death is simply a means to an end, not the end itself.

Right now in the middle of my life I am facing what feels like finality. The door closing on friendships, on dreams and aspirations. And I can’t help but wonder if it’s simply my Lord asking me to let things die, to give them up, so that He can resurrect something beautiful from the ashes through my faithfulness and obedience.

Whether it’s relationships, friendships, jobs, or even lives, death is an opportunity to give Him praise and allow him to resurrect life more fully. Even if that death means the end of our lives here on earthm He is working in my heart to show me over and over and over, that for me, and all those who accept Him, it is only another season.

And I think I’m finally starting to get it.

The Problem with Patriotism

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave; we host freedoms unlike almost every other part of the world, and in our land convenience is king. We are incredibly proud of our country, and if you asked, many would agree that they feel the United States is superior in almost every way, they would tell you that they proudly label themselves as patriots. Thanks to a few “European/American History” intense semesters of college, I know that Nationalism is nothing new, nor is patriotism exclusive to America, but for the sake of this immediate conversation (?) that will be the platform for my rhetoric.

The dictionary describes patriotism as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty”

I know more than a few Christians who are incredibly patriotic, fulfilling that definition to the T (and then some). But there’s a problem with this, friends; patriotism is exactly the opposite of what Christ preached.

Now, I am by no means implying that we shouldn’t be grateful for the favors that living in this country has afforded us, or that we shouldn’t be thankful to the men and women who protect and serve us; gratitude is something different entirely. I will be the first one to admit how BLESSED we are in this nation that our God has given us, and I absolutely unequivocally do not believe we should downplay the gifts we’ve been given in any way. But again, appreciation is not the subject at hand. It’s the exclusivity.

As children, most of us recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day, which serves to mold us into patriots from the beginning, so that once we are grown it is deeply ingrained.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

But listen, friends, there is only ONE power to whom we should be pledging our allegiance, and that is Christ the Lord.

Turn to me and be saved,  all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness, a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” – Isaiah 45:23

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. ” – Matthew 6:24

We cannot be fully loyal or fully devoted to two masters. We just can’t.

When I shared this post in its draft phase, I received some loving but challenging feedback from my sweet friend, Danielle.  She asked (and I’m paraphrasing here) “But don’t we declare our loyalty in our lives? We promise to be loyal to our husbands, and to our friends.”

Of course she’s right. I have devoted myself and pledged my loyalty to my husband above all other men on this earth. However, I believe (as I know she does) that our marriages here on earth are meant to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His church. This is something sacred, and apart from marriage (both mortal and supernatural) there is no other relationship like it.

As for my friends? Yes, I am loyal to them – but not at the expense of another. If I had two dear friends, and I knew that one of them was gossiping about the other, my loyalty to that friend would not outweigh my moral duty to rebuke them and protect the others heart.

The same is true with national loyalty. I love our country for all that it is, and all that it was, and all that I pray it might be again – but not at the expense of another people or another nation.

And as for superiority? We are measuring by all the wrong metrics. We boast of our freedoms – freedom to live whatever lifestyle we want, to pray to any god (or not) that we choose, freedom to fight against authority. We boast in our money, in our houses, in our cars, in our vacations, and in our clothes. These things are of no eternal value, though, and God tells us they are not worthy of boasting.

Thus says the Lord : “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 8:23-24

I cannot help but feel that this kind of patriotism serves as a hindrance in furthering the Kingdom of God.  When we choose to serve our country above all others we are separating ourselves and become respecters of people. When we declare ourselves the best we are then in the same breath, albeit usually unintentionally, declaring that all others are beneath us.

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” – Acts 10:34

If I may be so bold, I would suggest that along with unrelenting patriotism one can, not uncommonly, find a sense of prejudice against “opposing” countries. In America the most obvious places that come to mind are the Middle East, China, and North Korea, but each person has their own background that develops these prejudices. These are places we fear or don’t understand; they are places whose governments may have animosity towards our own, or vice versa. But as individual people, and especially as Christians, we are not our governments. We do not always usually stand for the things they stand for, their policies most often do not align with our own.

It seems as though we’ve forgotten that America, despite what the politicians want you to believe, is not the chosen land. Through the holy covenant provided by Jesus’s sacrifice we have been adopted into the family, but since the time of Abraham it is Israel that the Lord has declared as His chosen land.

I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there” – 2 Chronicles 6:6

Not to mention the Lord Himself completely ignores our physical and biological differences.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – Galatians 3:28-29

And He sets the expectation that we are to do exactly the same.

Our commission as Christians is to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” – Mark 16:15

And that, loved ones, is the point.

Go into all the world – without a separatist attitude, without prejudice, simply with open hands and hearts.

But not out of pity or sympathy; do not open your hands to the needy because you feel yourself above them and are therefore obligated by position. Meet them, friends, eye to eye and heart to heart.

Cast aside everything that adorns your world aside of Christ, reach out with true eternal love, and clasp their hands in prayer as equals. After all, the only difference between us and them is that they are still lost, and we have the key.

The people of this world are broken, hurting, and hungry. They are children of God just like you and I; inside them lie souls exactly like yours and mine, souls that are still undeclared and in desperate need of a savior. We need to look to the people of these countries through eyes of grace and compassion. We need to realize that, for all her wares, the United States is incredibly flawed and broken, but because of the comfort that the Lord has provided for us here, almost all of us are in a position to utilize those plentiful resources for good.

We can feed the hungry, we can embrace the hurting, we can save the lost one at a time, if only we choose to look beyond our borders.