Audience of One.

Three years ago, around June 2014, I felt 6 little words stamped right on my heart by God.

“You have an audience of One.”

I even thought about writing a blog about what those words meant, but every time I began to write it, I would get distracted and never finish… A majority of this post was written 3 years ago, and looking back now, I think it’s because I hadn’t fully understood… and maybe I still don’t have a full understanding, but I feel like I understand well enough to put it into words.

So I’m going to try to tell you the story without sounding like a crazy person, which I’m sure many of you who have read my previous posts already assume I am one, so here goes nothing:

Around the 4th of July 2014, I texted my friend who I had worked on the Christmas play with the previous year, because after like 3 nights of staying up until 2am and saying “next year, we’re starting in July” I just wanted to check in and see if we were going to be doing the play again…

And she said “Uhh… no, I need a break.”

And I said “lol”

Fast forward 2 weeks, I had a message on my voicemail

“Hey Sam, when are you available to meet to talk about scripts for the Christmas play.” Bwahahaha…

So, after 2 weeks of looking, but not finding a script that was “Christmas- but not cliché,” we decided to take a story we loved and had considered for the previous year, and adapt it into a Christmas play…

The story is Max Lucado’s “You Are Special” and I’ll let you look up the full synopsis somewhere else, because someone who is better at summing up things than me wrote one somewhere. But basically, it’s a story of how a little wooden doll learned to drown out all the voices around him, except for the voice of the woodcarver who carved him, to find true peace, love, and acceptance.

Now if you think this is the moment I caught on to the “audience of One” message from June, you’d be wrong… because I didn’t make that connection until much later.

So, I got busy with writing and making schedules, and my friend handled a lot of the actual work: asking for things and getting things approved, because I’m shy and don’t do well with talking to people on the phone… And we both were thrown for crazy loops beginning around the end of August, all the way through to the night of the performance, but somehow we got everything done… and by “somehow” I mean by the grace of God… because there was literally no other way… I mean, the week before the performance, I was on crutches with pneumonia at the same time, we had no props painted and zero costumes made… #Miracle

Anyway, in November, I was at a ladies’ bible study/training and one of the ladies was asked to share some of her experience after serving in ministry, and for some reason I decided to record what she said on my phone… and do you know what words came out of her mouth?

“I’ve learned that I have an audience of One.”

Whoa! I remembered the words written on my own heart five months earlier and… then finished eating my bowl of congee…

I’m not a total dunce, I knew then that those words had significance… I just was worn down from months of being in a season of constant change and heartache… so I thought “well, my life isn’t really a show worth watching, so You should just change the channel or get a refund for Your ticket.”

It felt like the next month was on fast forward up until Christmas Eve… The night of the performance… I was excited and nervous and I’m pretty sure I had an ulcer and lost half of my hair. I was understandably going a little nuts so I decided to head down to the church 2 hours before anyone else was scheduled to get there. I needed quiet. I needed to be alone.

Since we were a few stars short for the costumes,  I was sitting at the soundboard and listening to worship music, cutting out these little fabric stars… except, I wasn’t. I mean, everyone who knows me, knows I’m not the craftiest person… so these weren’t stars… they were some sort of quadrilateral blobby things… and after the tenth star that had one point completely lobbed off by my unskilled, useless hand, I just stopped and said “Why can’t I do this simple little thing? It’s not like it’s even that hard. Any idiot should be able to handle this.”

And if you were wondering, this is the moment when I finally understood why we had chosen this play, and why God had written those words on my heart 6 months before… because in that moment, I felt like I had done my best, and it still wasn’t good enough. I felt like the fact that I couldn’t cut out stars, somehow made me… less…

In that moment, I had an honest, desperate desire to hear what God thought about me…  not what great plans He has for my future, or if He’s had time to think about cluing me in on winning lottery numbers … I just wanted to know if He thought I was as useless as I felt, surrounded by those 4-point star-things. And as clearly as I could hear the music playing on my phone, I heard God say  “I would never think that about you.”

And so I cried for while, and got back to cutting out stars… that looked a bit more like stars this time… at least they seemed to look ok from the stage… (You can watch the performance here… it’s just a cellphone recording, so you might need to turn the sound up)

And now it’s been years since then, and most days, I can’t even claim to be any less of a mess… but if I hadn’t fully grasped the fact that God is not only keeping an eye on me, but He’s cheering me on, I probably would not have made it through the trials of the last few years.

But God already saw my future, and He prepared my heart ahead of time, so that even when I’m limping along, I know that the only voice that is allowed to speak in to my life is His.

The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand.

– John 10:27-28 AMP

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Windows.

Heartache. Grief. Loss. Pain. Fear.

I think a lot of times, people think that upon accepting Christ they receive an immunity from these things. The reality is that there is nothing that makes us immune to feeling the full spectrum of human emotions. And frankly, there are plenty of places in the Bible that basically say “life is going to suck” (We’ve already established my paraphrasing of scripture sucks, go read your Bible.) But right after those places where it says life is going to be hard, God says “Hey, chin up! I’m still right here and when you get to the end, you’ll be fabulously skinny.” Or maybe that’s what I tell myself to get my butt on the treadmill…  The point is Christians simply have faith that there is a purpose for the pain.

But that doesn’t always make it easier to handle the moments when the shock wears off and your stomach is churning and it feels like your lungs are shriveling up and you can’t get enough oxygen to breathe, let alone cry, which you know you should be doing but you simply can’t.

It doesn’t stop your mind from racing and trying to process every single scenario of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” at the same time until you feel like a medically induced coma sounds like a delightful vacation.

Knowing there’s a purpose doesn’t always mean you can  keep from shutting down and shutting out the world.

And sometimes,  it starts to feel kinda good to be away from everyone. When you just get to be sad without having to hear someone say “it’s going to be alright.” … because sure, they mean well enough, but let’s be real… you’d like it better if they just shut up. Words aren’t going to fix what’s broken or bring back what’s been taken from you.

But then, it happens.

Someone takes a chance and cracks a joke. The corners of your mouth betray you, and you can feel it. Your first smile. It feels a little bit foreign and even a little wrong.

But instead of just cracking a joke, it’s like they’ve cracked a window into the dark room you’ve shut yourself into. And once that little bit of light breaks through, you realize that the dark room doesn’t feel as cozy and nice as it used to… you realize you don’t want to stay there forever…

And maybe you’re not quite ready to walk out the door yet, but slowly you start letting more and more people open windows until you can finally look out and see that things are going to be ok.

That’s what my faith is to me; a window that lets light into the darkest situations in my life. I can’t always see exactly how things are going to be ok… but I know that they will be.

 

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” — Hebrews 11:1

 

 

 

Run.

I don’t run.

Like, you know those shirts that say “I don’t run, if you see me running, you should run too because something is chasing me”

… yeah… That’s me.

But when people come to me for advice, I usually tell them to run. To Jesus. Or Mama.

Obviously Jesus has more to offer than a human being, but I’m pretty, pretty sure God gave extra portions of grace and love to mom’s for when their kids can’t lift their heads. And I’m convinced that there is nothing stronger on this earth than the prayer of a desperate mother.

I heard a story on the radio about this guy who was super depressed, everything in his life had gone wrong. He grew up with a Christian mama, but never himself really believed… but when he was so low and feeling suicidal, something always stopped him and he had a sinking suspicion it was divine intervention. Eventually he cried out to God, “Will you just leave me alone?!” and he said God spoke to him in that moment, “I can’t. Your mama won’t leave Me alone.”

Life has been tough the past month or so. It’s put me into a funk that I’ve never quite experienced. Usually, I am the one who people call when they can’t hold it together anymore… so I’ve convinced myself that I can’t fall apart… that if I talk to people about how I’m feeling, I’ll lose some of my street cred as being the one who you can turn to… and that’s probably my pride… and by probably, I mean definitely.

But back to my advice about running…

I took it.

My mama has been listening to this sermon series by Jim White. When I walked into the kitchen, this was what was coming through the speakers:

But I’m sick. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But I’m about to go bankrupt.  Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But my wife left me. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

But I hate the president. Doesn’t Matter. Get Up.

And when I heard that… it reminded me that even when everything sucks, the decision to get up or stay down is in our own hands… and it’s funny how my brain works, but I was suddenly reminded me of last year’s fall retreat for my campus ministry.

I really didn’t want to go. It was cold. It was rainy. I’m not particularly social, and there was this awful suspension bridge that separated the yurts from the bathrooms… But I went. And if I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have gotten to hear my pastor’s friend Bill’s story about life on a submarine. Which sucks. He said if you tried to put prisoners on a submarine and kept them down there for 72 days at a time, it would be considered cruel and unusual punishment… yet these men went not only willingly, but did it over and over again… and he said, “The difference is the mission. If you believe in your mission, you will go through hell and back to see it accomplished.”

And I really want to live my life like that. From now on. I want to look at my life as a mission, rather than just moments and memories that I’m collecting and will ultimately disappear when I do.  We don’t get to decide when or how we go, but we do get to decide how we live. And I’m going to live my life running from here on out.

 

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

—  1 Corinthians 9:24

Fit.

It’s that time of year again (it’s still January, right?), when we all look at our lives and get real about where we’re at. The gyms are filling up and the amount of sugar being consumed is going down. Last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to look at all the bad habits I needed to change, but rather would look at my good qualities and do what I could with them. I don’t know if that was a better way to go or not, because it’s always harder to think of our own good qualities (unless you have narcissistic tendencies). In fact, we did an exercise in one of my Bible studies, where we had to go around the room and name one good thing about someone else, one thing we’d like to change about ourselves, and one positive thing we see in ourselves already. The first two were easy and we went around the room in under 3 minutes. The last one took us about 15 minutes for everyone to say something. I don’t know if it’s a learned skill in our culture, that we can’t say nice things about ourselves. Maybe we think we look like we’re bragging or something. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to see good things in yourself, as long as they don’t keep you from examining areas where you need a little more work.

Anyway, I would say overall, the good outweighed the bad this past year. There were days when I woke up and wondered how it was that I was so blessed. There were days when I had to drag my butt out of bed. But lately, I’ve been feeling just a little bit off. For a while, I thought I was just in a bad mood or hormonal. I would look at things in my life and just feel… dissatisfied. Maybe someone would look at my situation and just say “first world problems” and roll their eyes. For a long time I thought I was just being ungrateful or uppity. Sometimes I would just tell myself that I was being tested by God, and that it would all go away if I just stuck it out… but I don’t think that’s what’s happening anymore… I think I just don’t fit into my life anymore.

That sounds weird, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I can fake a smile and pretend like I’m enjoying myself in the same surroundings with the same people I’ve known for years, but not for very long, and not without going home and nearly having a break down. Even when I’m with my family, I feel like I’m somehow on the outside. Not that I’m being excluded… just that I don’t really fit there anymore, either. I don’t understand how I can feel like this, even with my own family… but I do.

I think that because I made the decision to change my heart this year, rather than my habits or my body I outgrew the life that I had been living. The past 5 years have been a huge leap in my spiritual growth. I went from a crawl to a full-on sprint in my walk with God in a very short amount of time, and for the most part have kept that pace. I don’t feel like I’m tired… I just feel like I’m not going anywhere. Like I’m wasting time and energy on something that doesn’t change.

Nothing ever changes.

But I need more.

If God has promised me a hope and a future, and has plans for me beyond just plugging holes in the sinking ship I feel my life is becoming… I need more.

So how am I going to fix it?

I don’t know… but maybe I don’t need to know.

Stick with me.

When Abraham was still Abram, God called him to “go to the place I will show you (Gen 12:1).” God gave him such a big promise, to make him the father of many nations, if he would just start walking. I like this story for two reasons. 1: It reminds me that I don’t have to fully understand what God is doing in order to be fully obedient. And 2. that God reveals Himself when we are actively walking with Him, not standing around looking around for something to happen. Maybe I’m completely missing what He’s trying to show me… Maybe I feel like I’m walking in circles because a wall like the one around Jericho needs to come down around my heart. Maybe I’m on lap six, and I’ve just got one more to go before something happens… until I’m no longer a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

Ultimately, that’s what it means to have hope, to believe that what you are doing today will make a difference tomorrow. As Christians, we talk a lot about faith, but not so much about hope. I think sometimes we think if we have hope for something down the line, it means that we don’t have faith for today… but in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 the Bible says, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

So whether you are hoping to fit into a new, smaller pair of jeans, or you’re like me, and trying to figure out where the heck you fit into your life anymore… don’t lose hope. Keep walking (both figuratively and on the treadmill). Lap 6 might be where you get tired, but Lap 7 is where God hands you the victory.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9

Burn It Down

King Josiah is the ish, guys. I used to dread reading the Old Testament (don’t act all high and mighty on me). The genealogy especially bored me to tears. I was like, “who cares about who was whose son?” … But then I realized that the whole time, it was keeping record of the coming of Jesus to the earth. I get excited now. Like maybe God’s got this whole crazy world under control afterall and I can truly be free of worry.

Anyway, this is about King Josiah.

Josiah became king when he was only 8. When he was 16, he began to seek after God. When he was 20, he crushed and burned the idols of Baal. He even burned the bones of the priests on the alters they worshiped at. When he was 26, he began to rebuild the temple of God. And then he heard the Book of the Law for the first time and he was so distraught that he tore his clothes and wept. (You can read 2 Chronicles 34 for more reference).

When I was asked to lead a caregroup (that’s what my church calls a small group Bible study), my first excuse to not do it was that I was the youngest person in the group. My second was that I had been there the least amount of time and it was weird that someone else wasn’t picked. My last resort was that I was afraid. But then halfway through my first year of being the “leader”, my friend and I wrote a lesson together about Josiah. He was young, but he was faithful. And he was chosen.

I feel like even though I am “young”, I have an ancient soul. I have always mother-henned my friends. I have never wanted to do what the world thinks is “fun”. I don’t smoke, don’t drink, never saw the appeal of drugs. I’m not promiscuous and I don’t listen to a word that the media-crazed culture tells me about how I should live my life. I sometimes feel like I would be happiest to have been born in the 30s, raised my babies in the 50s, and died long before we ever got into the mess we are in now.

I would have preferred that, but if I believe that God has always had a plan, then I must accept that there is a reason for me to have been born, here and now, in this city.

I think I like King Josiah so much because he didn’t compromise. He lived to please God. He recognized that he was insufficient, but he knew the Sufficient One. He knew that his generation was crumbling, and he did everything in his power to turn it around. He lit a match and set the world on fire. But if you know how the story goes, you know that it wasn’t enough, Judah got their stuff together too late.

I don’t want it to be too late for this generation. I don’t want to labor in vain. I want to know that what I am doing matters. If I’m called to speak to this generation, I’m going to make every word count. If I have to lose friends because I’m unwilling to give up this ground, well, no war was ever waged without casualties. I’m not saying I’m going to be a belligerent, miserable person, or that I’m callous enough to drop people like they’re hot. I mean that I don’t want to take my eye off the prize. I want to wage spiritual warfare against the lies of the enemy that this generation has clung on to for far too long. I want to fight, and I want to win.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14

Hope.

Disclaimer: I don’t know if I’ll cross the TMI threshold in this post, I’m going to really try not to.

I was that little girl at kindergarten graduation who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, replied “A mommy.” I had a baby doll who was quite literally loved to death. She’s somewhere in storage now, but if I find her, I’ll snap a photo. She has been sewn up many times and is even missing an eyeball. Someone put nail polish on her head (Rachel!). I never went anywhere without that doll. I “fed” her, burped her, and even would swaddle her and rock her to sleep.

Fast forward to my junior year in high school. I had surgery on my ankle from a volleyball injury. A bone and cartilage graft, two metal pins, and 35 stitches left me out of school for 2 weeks. I was really behind and feeling overwhelmed. I had really bad stomach pain and thought I was getting an ulcer. I told my mom about it, but she told me I just needed to calm down. But finally one morning, I asked her to drive me to the ER. I got there and had to do all sorts of uncomfortable tests. The only thing they found was a tiny cyst on my left ovary, so they sent me home and told me to wait it out to see if it ruptured or not. Cool.

So, I sucked it up and went back to school… but a few days later I was back in the ER. They did an ultrasound to see if the cyst had ruptured… but it hadn’t. It had grown and basically swallowed my left ovary. They told me to follow up with the OB/GYN who had been on-call asap to talk about “options”. I made an appointment for Friday, where I  was told I needed to have surgery and they could fit me in on Monday.

I remember arriving at the hospital on Monday morning, freaked out and really thirsty. The doctor was telling me about all the complications (removal of the ovary, total hysterectomy, colostomy bag, all those fun things)  and then had my mom sign away on the dotted line. Then I went to sleep.

When I woke up in recovery, I was told that the surgery was a success, they would biopsy the cyst just to make sure it was benign, but they weren’t able to save my ovary like they’d hoped. I remember crying and asking them to just bring my mom back, but they said she couldn’t come back until I was moved somewhere else. I cried alone for an hour before my mom was allowed to come see me, and then we cried some more.

I spent 6 days in the hospital. On Wednesday night they had to move me because of construction in the med-surg floor, so I ended up in the maternity ward. It was kind of funny because I woke up Thursday in the same maternity ward I was born in 17 years before. Yes, I spent my golden birthday in the maternity ward. Ha! But it was also kind of cruel, because I didn’t know if I’d ever be in there again, for a more joyous occasion.

A few months after my surgery, I was diagnosed with PCOS. There are many stupid symptoms that are more inconveniences than anything, but when I read about infertility, the little girl who dreamed of being a mommy died. I read about how many women suffer from it and even if they conceive, there’s no guarantee they’ll make it to full term with a live birth. My heart broke and instead of pressing into God, I pulled away. I didn’t care. I never did anything “bad” but I made a lot of dumb decisions with my life. I stopped caring in school, I was distant with my friends and accused them of using me. I quit trying to play volleyball. My mom noticed how bad it was getting, so she bought me a puppy (a golden retriever for my golden birthday).

It will be seven years ago in November. It hasn’t gotten easier to deal with, I have to always have check-ups to make sure my hormones are normal, and my doctor keeps telling me that I need to “baby that ovary” every time she sees me. Just this past week I had to have yet another biopsy, which if you have read my previous posts, you know was a testing of my faith.

When I was 17, I thought that God was punishing me. I wasn’t a “good” Christian. I liked to sleep in on Sundays and if you asked me about people in the Bible, I might have been able to sing a Sunday school song to remember who they were. This time around, I felt like God was asking too much of me. I kept hearing the Jesus Culture song “You won’t relent until You have it all.” I thought maybe the dream I have always held of being a mom was maybe getting in the way of God’s plans for me. Maybe I was wanting too much… But today when I got the call that my biopsy came back cancer-free, I was so happy. I remembered Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” So maybe I don’t have to give up that dream, maybe I just need to put my priorities in order. 😉

So why am I writing about this? This isn’t about my personal sob story (well, it is, but it’s not the point). This is about having hope.

Even though the doctors can tell me that there is no “cure” or sure treatment for PCOS, I’m still going to ask God to heal me. Even though there will be moments like this past week that will come again, I’m going to have hope. I believe that if God can open Sarah’s barren womb in her 80s, He can certainly work with a much younger one to yield the same result. Now, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, I mean, I don’t even have a husband yet…  But I know who my God is, and I know that I can trust in Him. There’s a book called “Trusting The Shepherd” by Haddon Robinson. It’s based off of Psalm 23, and one of the things that really stuck with me was the imagery of the shepherd breaking the wandering lamb’s leg. He does it so that the lamb has to learn to stay near to the shepherd. Sometimes I feel like that is what is happening when I go through something particularly scary or painful. I like to think that God is just teaching me how to stay close to Him.

I hope this post hasn’t grossed you out or had a little too much info into my life. I hope that this post can renew your hope for whatever battle you’re facing. There’s a lot going on these days, both on a global scale, but also in our own personal lives. But God is always right there, waiting for us to call on Him. Sometimes it’s hard to see that glimmer when our eyes are full of tears and our heads are too heavy to lift up, but I pray that you will never stop searching for it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

P.S. I was so blessed by my friends on twitter this week who prayed for me and made me smile when I thought my world was about to crumble. #TeamBuckLadies for life! ❤

James

I like the book of James in the Bible… It’s probably in the top 5, outside of the Gospels. It’s one of the books that sorta just flips open automatically now because I’ve read it so much. I love that it’s a book about doing the Word, rather than just knowing it. Today I didn’t even have to open it, I already knew the verse I needed to act out. James 1:2.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”

I don’t know about any of you, but that’s not my first reaction when I face a trial of any kind. I like to complain or worry or cry. Giving into the natural response to hardship somehow makes me feel… justified. I used to tell people that I love the rain because it’s the only type of  weather where you can ever just feel how you feel. If it’s sunny out and  you’re sad then you look like a jerk. If it’s rainy and you’re happy, you look like an optimist. But if it’s rainy and you’re sad, it just fits…

Well, it started raining this week.

I started another post on Sunday night, expecting a different outcome to some routine tests at the doctor I was going in on Monday for… But then on Tuesday I had to go back in for a biopsy. (I know this sounds vague, but I’m still hoping to post the other blog shortly). I have to wait a whole week to hear back from the lab.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I’m a hypochondriac. I worry and I let my imagination run wild to the point where I’m wondering what people will say at my funeral… ok, I’m not THAT bad… but close. When I am attacked physically, my faith hits a wall. I guess satan knows me pretty well, too.

So when James told me to consider it “pure joy” when facing this trial, what does that really mean? What does that look like? Well, for one, it means to lay hold of the promises of God. The Bible says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” so I guess I have to remind myself what God has promised me, which is to have perfect health, and to be the head and not the tail. But more than just knowing those promises, I can have pure joy in the fact that I know who holds the victory in this battle. For every trial I’ve ever faced in my life, when I give it over to God, He’s batting 100. I also know that ultimately, satan doesn’t win.

I called my campus pastor on Tuesday afternoon, almost in tears, and explained to her what was going on. I told her that I was sure I was going to be fine and that I just needed prayer for the faith to take captive every negative thought. All she said was,  “Even if it’s the worst, trust God.” She knows me well. Even if it’s as bad as my wild imagination thinks it is, I still need to trust God… and I’d even go further and say I need to praise God. Maybe that makes me sound like a crazy Christian, or some kind of fake Bible-thumper that’s always telling people what they should do, but never doing it themselves… and maybe that’s true. I know the Word, but how often do I do it?

If I’m honest… not until it’s “the worst.”

Maybe this next week, waiting on the results, is God’s wake-up call for me. Maybe He is using this time to see what I’m going to do. Am I going to be like Job or like Job’s friends? Am I going to face this trial with the joy of the Lord in my heart, so that I can grow to maturity in my faith? What good is it for me to know God and what He can do, if I never have to trust Him to actually follow through? Isn’t that when we get into trouble as Christians? When we become hearers of the Word, rather than doers…

So tonight, I’m deciding to be thankful for the opportunity to test my faith. I know that I can smile because I already know who holds the victory.

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

                    –James 1:2-4

 

Shy as a Shark

Ok, I’ll bite. It’s shark week, and even though I am so confused about why it’s so cool, I guess I’ll use it as a tag.

My mom has super long hair, and I spent most of my childhood holding onto it like a lifeline or hiding behind it to avoid talking to people. My dad used to say that I was “shy as a shark” because I had to circle a few times before I’d go in for the kill. I think all the times my mom brought me to the fire station for their “stranger danger” presentations really made an impact on me. Or it could have been the fact that I didn’t talk until I was 3. I didn’t have the need to. I had 3 older siblings who did enough of that for me.

So, no one was as shocked as I was when I started being an outspoken Christian conservative. For one thing, I’m shy, and for another, I live in Washington. I think when I made the decision to withdraw from school, I started educating myself and realizing I had been lied to. I was so mad about all the time that had been wasted while I was being indoctrinated by the public school system. It wasn’t fair. I was also ashamed at the time I had spent fearing people’s opinions rather than God.

I watched this really great movie called, “Beware of Christians.” In the film, these four bros get out of the social culture of going to church and find out what it really means to follow Jesus. It’s a really good film, it’s on Netflix, so if you have it, I recommend it. One question they asked that wrecked my heart was if it was worth it to deny Jesus just so you can “fit in.” If you had asked me that in high school, I would have said yes. Even though I have always believed in God, I would have given anything to fit in. One of my sisters is not much older than me (22 months) and so I kind of grew up in her shadow. She was beautiful and popular, and people wanted to be my friend just to have access to her. I was on the total opposite end of that spectrum, so I coveted her position on the high school totem pole. I held on to a lot of unhealthy relationships because I thought I couldn’t afford to go any lower. I learned how to keep quiet so I didn’t upset people, even though I knew what they were saying was wrong. So instead of listening to what the One who made me said, I listened to the ones who broke me down.

Again, I’m rambling because I’m blogging at midnight, but my point is this: I circled around who I was made to be for a long time, but now I’m ready to go in for the “kill” and step out in faith. Now, I am more concerned about what God thinks of me, than what people think. I have a burning passion to pursue liberty and justice that takes away the fear of being criticized or ostracized. I don’t want to be anyone else because I finally know who I am and what my value is. People may not listen to me or like what I have to say, but they don’t have the power to stop me from saying it anymore.

Your hands made me and formed me;
    give me understanding to learn your commands.
 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
    for I have put my hope in your word.

                       Psalm 119:72-74

Sides.

I heard someone say “The Christian side of me is leaning this way, but another side is going the other.” This really got me thinking today, because we all have sides, don’t we? We are completely double-minded in our thinking. To me, it is just a lack of faith, or having an “out” in case things with God don’t work out. That little bit of protection in saying, “Well, I never REALLY thought that was going to happen.”

But what if having “sides” is what is keeping you from experiencing all that God has in store for you? What if that doubt is stealing the things that faith has promised?

I have told my friends many times that for me, there are no “gray areas.” Things are either black or white. It’s only been recently that I’ve discovered why this has always been a solid truth in my life. It’s the simple fact that to make gray, black and white have to mix, and if God is represented by white, then He can never, ever mix with black. He is perfect. It’s like He is coated in NeverWet. Darkness cannot touch Him or mix with Him.

Gray is a cop-out color. It’s the “well, let’s just agree to disagree” color, that puts important issues on the shelf. What good has that ever done? At dinner on Friday, I mentioned something political, and a girl disagreed with me. She said, “Well, let’s just not talk politics at the table.” I wanted to ask why people never seem to want to talk about things that matter because it might be uncomfortable, but I was cut-off. Nothing got resolved, no one came out of that conversation changed. It’s really sad.

I don’t want to be someone who has “sides.” I want to be fully committed in everything I do. I want to not be consumed by emotions, but driven by the Holy Spirit. I want “me” to be taken out of the equation, until it’s just God using this vessel to further His Kingdom, for His Glory, for His purpose.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” — 1 John 1:5

Fallen.

Life is hard. It’s a truth we all think we’ve accepted, but sometimes we forget that life is hard for other people, too. Over the last school year, I had the privilege to serve as caregroup leader. It is probably the most eye-opening experience I could ever have at the age of 23. I’ve had the opportunity to see people’s potential through the eyes of God. I’ve had to see people struggle. I’ve had to learn grace and forgiveness, even when I was right and should have been on the receiving end of an apology. I also had to learn how to answer tough questions.

A few years ago, I picked up a copy of “Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Toughest Hour.” by Gayle Haggard, the wife of Ps. Ted Haggard. Before I read the book, I had actually never heard of him or the scandal. I don’t know why I picked up a copy, the title just kind of spoke to somewhere down in my heart. After reading the book, something changed in me. I always thought that if my (future) husband were to ever cheat on me, I would walk away. I would hope that would never happen in the first place, but having read this book, I found a new level of grace.

I am more willing to accept that people are just people. We all fall down, some of us just do it more publically. We all would hope that the leaders of our church were immune to the temptations of this world, but the simple fact is that they are not. I had someone ask me if they should still listen to Benny Hinn’s sermons even though he and his wife had marital trouble. Instead of answering, I asked them this question: Does this trial in his life negate the truth of the words he has spoken? After all, isn’t that what they wanted to know? If a person does one bad thing, does everything they have ever done go into the garbage?

As humans, we love to hold grudges and keep the upper hand. To tell you the truth, I really had a hard time listening to people sing the praises of Joel Osteen after I heard some remarks he made on Larry King Live. I thought, as a pillar of the Christian community, the fact that he could say that he doesn’t know if Jesus is the only way to Heaven is just crazy. But then God reminded me about Peter denying Christ in a moment of fear, and I realized that I could forgive Joel Osteen.

In the same way, we treat our political champions like they are God. We love when they say things we like, but if they go off of our agenda in even one way, we drop them like we’ve been burned. But I have to tell you, Americans, that people are just people, and there is no one out there who will agree with you 100% of the time. No one is going to always make you happy. I have done it. I loved Chris Christie when he was yelling at the teachers union thugs. I loved Marco Rubio until he joined a gang. I loved Rand Paul while he was filibustering against drones. But they all have their faults, and I was ready to leave them in the dust. Maybe I don’t want them to be president anymore, but I definitely want them on my team. I don’t want to put them down just so that I can feel like my opinion is better and more “right.”

I don’t want this to seem like a “you have to settle” post. I really don’t like being told that conservatives need to change their core values to get more people into their camp. I agree that there are more outreach opportunities, but to change who you are to get what you want will never end with satisfaction. I just want people to realize that we don’t have to be 100% in agreement with everyone in order to stand beside them. We are all going to say things that sting a little, or rub us the wrong way. We need to learn how to react better, then maybe things will start to change.

“The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19