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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Finding Satisfaction

So. I’m supposed to be cleaning my house and doing some studying today, but I was really hit with the Word, and I wanted to write it down for future reference… so I thought I might as well blog it, since I haven’t done it in a while…

You know that story in the Bible about the rich man who comes to Jesus and is like “what do I need to do in order to inherit everlasting life?”, and Jesus tells him he has to give up all his worldly belongings- and he leaves sad because he can’t do that… and all of us reading that story are like, “what a greedy jerk!” (ok, maybe not ALL… but definitely not just me)

Well, I was eating lunch, complaining about all the food I’m being told I need to cut out of my diet. I DO want to be healthy. I DO want to lose weight. I DO want to feel better and have these weird symptoms stop popping up all the time. But… I DON’T want to cut out: Grains, Dairy, Fruit, Caffeine, Sugars/Sugar Substitutes and Red Meat. (Most current list of things my doctor has told me to limit or eliminate completely from my diet.)

And that made me think… do I REALLY want to be healthy then? If I’m not willing to give up these things to get what I want… how badly do I really want it?

And the line “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Mark 10:22) came to mind.

I asked the question, “What do I need to do to live a healthy life?” and my doctor gave me the answer. In my mind, I’ve already given up a lot for the sake of my health. But apparently it’s not enough…

And I can only imagine what this rich man was thinking after he heard Jesus’ response… because at the beginning of the story, he tells Jesus that he has kept all of the commandments his whole life- since he was a little boy. Wasn’t that enough? And wouldn’t those of us today argue that all it takes to be saved is to confess our sins and declare and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior? This man addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher” and Jesus replied to him ” Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” So this man  basically already confessed before men that Jesus was God.

So now what? This man did everything he was supposed to do – but then Jesus tagged on one more thing. I feel like almost every Christian who is earnest and honest in their walk has experienced this. “God, I prayed and I fasted and I believed, but You have not healed me… what ELSE do you want from me?” “God, I have repented for my sin and read my Bible and go to church… WHY am I still struggling with the same issues over and over?”

We all come to a place where we are comfortable with our effort in our walk with God… we just set the cruise control like it’s auto-pilot and are surprised when we hit a wall at full-speed… But God is always going to ask just one more thing of us… usually something we think we cannot do. Some will walk away sad- like the wealthy young man.

But maybe there’s a better option.

The verse Philippians 4:13 is so overused it’s almost cliché. And it’s often misused because we as humans have an odd way of making everything about us. Obviously God had Paul write it to reveal to us that we are all amazing and capable of doing everything we’ve ever imagined we wanted to do, right?

The verse is not about accomplishing amazing, super cool, death-defying feats… “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” is about finding contentment in any situation. Paul LITERALLY was like “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (emphasis mine)

So many times we hear this verse used when someone is struggling or striving towards a personal goal… but this verse is about finding contentment. It’s about finding comfort and contentment in Jesus. Not in religion or the things of this world.

So back to the original text, what Jesus was really asking of this rich man was for him to trust that He would be enough to sustain him. I do not believe that Jesus was demonizing wealth. I believe He was revealing a hurdle in this man’s journey to the everlasting life that he sought.  I believe God still does this, for the simple fact that many times I have had people tell me that they fell away from God because He asked something of them that they believed they could not do, or do without.  More and more, we are becoming accustomed to a comfortable life. We still have minor worries, but in the grand scheme of things, many of the things we think we lack, we lack only in our minds. Like my diet… when I started writing this, I felt like I had no options left… but then I realized I have so many more options than the Israelites who were stuck with just manna every day… but at least they had something… and not just something, but Someone. (And they would have had something better had they not been terrible complainers who whined about how good they had it as slaves… ungrateful wretches!… but that’s a story for another day, I think)

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

Isaiah 41:10

 

 

 

 

What Are The Chances?

God is so cute.

That’s a phrase the worship pastor at my church likes to use when God does something unexpected… and not seemingly in a good way, but in the end, it’s better than you first thought it was going to be.

I’m sure there’s a better way I could’ve written that last sentence, but I’m heavily medicated from having major surgery. So cut me some slack, yeah? Because I’m going to tell you an awesome story.

Remember that post… the one where I was yelling at God… yeah. That was fun. And probably pointless for anyone reading, but very therapeutic for me to write. Who knew 4 months after the post, and 8 months total of waiting… I would finally have a praise report about my stupid, dumb, deteriorating ankle.

But I do.

Because I did not want this doctor. I wanted my doctor that I’d had for the past 11 years to do my surgery. Not someone new who I didn’t know and didn’t care how highly recommended he came.

But apparently- this doctor is one of the top in the world for this procedure. And you know what? He said my surgery was the best he’s ever done and he’s the most excited about my recovery than he’s ever been. And he wasn’t just saying that…

Because I apparently not only had a deteriorating ankle bone, but it also is deformed (go figure) in that it has a very odd (unique, maybe) shape…

And two months ago, when they called and said they had a donor, only to call back 20 minutes later to tell me it wasn’t viable, turned out to be a good thing, even though I was upset at the time…

Because the donor bone I got, had the exact same deformation in the bone, and fit perfectly, kind of like Cinderella, but more gross and kinda creepy if I think about it too much (but I am very grateful for the donor and hope to reach out to the family if that can be done with a bone… it’s not really the same as an organ… but just as life changing for me).

And I can’t stop asking myself, what are the chances?

There is no way for all this mess to come together in the end, and have an outcome far exceeding any expectation I ever had.

There are so many unexplainable things in my life. Things that are just too good to be true, and too good for me to have even imagined. I know there are probably some who would look into my life and still see all the mess… but for me, I’m choosing to see the blessings and praise Him while I’m waiting for the rest to catch up to the promises He’s already declared over my life.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose.  For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters –Romans 8:28-29

Casualties of Change

I took the long way home the other day, and it brought me past my childhood house. I didn’t have a Miranda Lambert moment and knock on the door, but I did notice I dropped below the speed limit (probably to the annoyance of the driver behind me) and took in the view.

Everything about the exterior is different. The fence is now made of wood, not the low wire fence that my basset hound used to be able to jump… well, not really jump, he would lean on it until it bent down for him to step over. They painted the house brown. Not a nice brown, but this kind of gross tan. And they tore out the lilac bushes and Asian pear trees that my mom had planted. They probably replaced the front doorknob that didn’t even lock… neighbors and friends always just came and went, and sometimes the wind would blow in a squirrel… or a bird… and that dang basset hound did nothing about it… he was still a good dog, though.

I don’t blame the new inhabitants for making it their own. It’s theirs now to make memories in. They are unaware that the improvements they made to their house would make someone passing by feel a little bit sad… And the neighbors that used to barge right in have all moved, so it’s probably best if they got a doorknob that locks… who knows who’s living in that neighborhood now…

I’m not reminiscing for the sake of reminiscing… this was just one more thing lately that reminded me of the cost of change.

Maybe it’s just the visual changing of the seasons, but it’s beginning to dawn on me how much has changed… in the last month…year…decade… 25 years I’ve been on this earth… The funny thing is, most change in my life, I haven’t been consciously aware that I’m changing just as much as the people around me…

I don’t know if this is going to sound weird, but in my head, I’ve always felt like a stepping stone for other people… like I’m always there to take the weight of their latest problem, and then they just walk away… But lately, I’ve had a new way of looking at people as stepping stones in my own life, not in a “I’m gonna walk all over someone” kind of way, but in a “people in your life help you make it to where you are going and it doesn’t have to always be forever” kind of way…

I guess for me, I just have always seen people as cornerstones, foundational parts of my life that aren’t supposed to move or walk away… but things change. Lifestyles change, relationships change, needs change…

And it’s taken all this time for me to realize that I’m ok with being a stepping stone in someone’s life, and it doesn’t have to make me feel small or unimportant… Because I can’t be anyone’s cornerstone… and I don’t want anyone to be mine… except for Jesus… because after all, He’s the only one who is never going to change, and never going give up on me. He’s the safest choice to build my life around.

But even though I’ve come to this revelation in my own heart, it doesn’t mean I still am not sad when things change… when people move on… when I move on… Change always comes at a cost, even happy change means we are leaving something behind… pushing someone aside… And we’re not always aware or concerned with the “old” parts of our lives, apart from the fun stories we tell around the table at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So I guess there are really two reasons for this midnight blog…

1. To recognize that there are casualties of change, and that they often go unrecognized, so I should remember to see the value in each person in my life today, because tomorrow one of us could be pulled in another direction…

2.  To remember that even when someone walks away, that it doesn’t have to shake my whole life… because they were never supposed to be my cornerstone anyway… and if I treated them as such, I need some repentance and time in the Word…

 

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
    a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
    Whoever believes need never be shaken. —
Isaiah 28:16

 

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

Scars.

For a girl who has had 8 surgeries in the past 9 years, I’ve accumulated a few scars.

I’m not  one of those people who are like “scars are beautiful and are the marks of survivors” blah…

They’re hideous and I wish I didn’t have them, but when I look at them, I am reminded that I’m not hurt or broken anymore. That pain is a part of my past that I no longer have to live with, and I’m thankful I get to just move on.

With Easter approaching, I started to think about Jesus’ scars. His scars mean more to me than any of the ones that mark my own body. The scars on Jesus’ body are kind of like a receipt of the transaction that occurred on the cross. His life paid for our sins. In an uneven exchange, we gave Him our worst, and God gave us His best.

As someone who is very logical, it was really hard for me to believe in Jesus… But then I encountered God in a way that left no room for a single doubt in my mind.

Kind of like Thomas… (some of  you may know him as “Doubting Thomas.”)

In John 20, he’s the one who was all “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

Psh! Oh ye of little faith, Thomas! Shun the nonbeliever… shuuuuuunnnn

Oh… but that didn’t happen.  (Also, side note about Thomas: He might have doubted that Jesus was resurrected, but he was the first one to be ride or die for Jesus. Check out John 11:16 “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” BOOM)

Instead, Jesus said, ““Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” So Thomas did and was all like “It really is You!”

First. Gross.

Second, Jesus didn’t want Thomas to remain unbelieving. He wasn’t offended by his skepticism. Jesus was happy to reveal Himself to Thomas, and gave him the proof he needed to believe. That’s what I love about God. He isn’t afraid of our questions or doubts, and He’s willing to reveal Himself to us when we need Him to.

One of my favorite Bethany Dillon songs is called “The Way I Come To You” and the bridge goes:

“You loved me when I was Your enemy, and You chose me when I didn’t believe.”

I love that line… because I wasn’t always so sure about Him, but God always knew and loved me.  And He has the scars to prove it.

 

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

The F Word.

Before I begin, I would like to just clarify that becoming a Christian has been the best decision I’ve ever made, or will ever make, in my entire life and I never want to go back to my old life…And this post is mostly me kicking myself in the butt…

But being a Christian is sometimes the worst.

Before I became a Christian, I thought a lot less about my behavior and feelings. Ignorance is bliss, like all clichés, was birthed out of truth. I was happy to hold grudges and feel justified when I was hurt or wronged. I wasn’t all that interested in forgiving people. If you messed up, it was “have a nice life” and I was done with you. I wasn’t heartless, I just liked feeling right. I didn’t care to see the hurt in others when my own ego was bruised. Who isn’t like that?

Then Jesus called me and was like “Hey, I’ll forgive you.” and I was all like “For what?”

…He had a pretty long list…

And so  I was so relieved He was willing to forgive me and that there was nothing that He could not forgive me for (unforgivable isn’t even in his vocabulary!)… but then I found out that His forgiveness was conditional.

Get ready for a buzz kill…

 Matthew 6:14-15: “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (emphasis added…obviously)

UGH!

Knowing that, it makes it really hard when someone wrongs you… because you have passages like “turn the other cheek” and “forgive or you won’t be forgiven” popping into your head. After going through the Bible, you find out that unforgiveness is the root of bitterness, and bitterness will eat you alive and keep your heart hardened so you can’t receive blessings… that’s the hardest part for me… knowing that I’m wrong, even when someone else was wrong first, and knowing that I’m standing in the way of the blessings God has for me.

But what about the big things? The horrendous, gross, malicious actions of others intentionally inflicted upon people for the hell of it? Are those so easily forgivable? How can that make for a just God?

I’m always amazed at stories of people who have gone through horrendous ordeals and can still willingly forgive the people who wronged them. Many people know Joyce Meyer’s background of sexual abuse at the hand of her father as a child. Another woman, Shelley Hundley, had a similar story of abuse as a child, but she was assaulted by a pastor while her parents were serving as missionaries in Colombia. She has an amazing book called A Cry for Justice: Overcome Anger, Reject Bitterness, and Trust in Jesus Who Will Fight For You. In the book, she talks about how every wrong will be made right. We can either say that it was paid for on the cross, or we can trust that Jesus will come back one day with one thing on His mind: Justice.

That sounds super intense… but if you’ve read Isaiah 63… it kind of IS intense… He comes back with His robe all stained with blood, and He’s all like, I didn’t have anything clean to wear… ALL my clothes are this stained because I’ve been too busy kicking ass and taking names to go to the dry cleaner’s. (I’m the worst Biblical paraphraser… go read it yourself!)

So it basically boils down to this: Forgiveness isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision. You can decide that Jesus died on the cross, not just for your sins, but also for the sins of others that have hurt you… or you can decide to hold on to it simply because you want to be “right.”  Sometimes making that decision is hard because your feelings are hurt and the person didn’t even apologize! I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve sat on the floor and just cried bitter tears waiting to “get over it” and thinking that there are so many worse things out there happening that it isn’t even a big deal…

That’s why I say being a Christian is sometimes the worst. Because you know what you SHOULD do… but it doesn’t make it any easier. That’s why I love this passage:

 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.  I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. — Romans 7:18-25

In it’s own little way, this verse is my justification when I’m feeling upset or angry and can’t really find the motivation to let it go just yet… Not that it’s OK, but that it’s not a struggle unique to me. If Paul, who is a million miles ahead of me in his walk with God, struggled to do what he knew he should do, maybe I’m not doing as bad as I feel I am in the moments when my feelings overtake me, and I’m not acting “very Christian.”

Anyway… I think only like 5 people even read anything I write, so I mostly only write things that I need to hear myself, and sometimes try to give you a little pep talk at the end, just in case you’re a lot like me…

So just get over it. And forgive, even if no one has said sorry yet, because it’s for your own benefit…and if that doesn’t help, just remember how much you have to be forgiven for…which is fun to think about…not (Can you tell I have some forgiving to do?).

Or remember that Jesus is coming again, and if you just pass that hurt along to Him, He will make it right, and maybe He’ll let you ride shotgun and you can pound your fist into your hand while saying “someone’s gonna get it…”

(I’m just kidding, you probably won’t be invited because Jesus says vengeance is His… but it’s fun to think about sometimes…)

The end.

 

 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”  — Luke 6:37

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

The Time In Between

Waiting is the worst. I like to think that I’m a patient person, but this past week has been a struggle. I feel like my brain and my faith have been playing a game of tug-o-war. It’s sad how quickly I can be so sure of God’s goodness one minute, and afraid of bad news from the doctor in the next.

I think the time we spend waiting on things is when we get into the most trouble. Like, when I’m really hungry between meals a big mac starts sounding like the most delicious thing in the world. Or when I’m waiting on my sister to get ready so we can go out together, I start over-applying my eyeliner until I look like a hooker. Bad decisions come in the in-between moments.

There’s a song by Francesca Battistelli called “Time in Between.” I included the link so you can listen to it and so I don’t have to break it down line by line for you. I’ll just touch on a couple things that I like about this song.

For one, I like how it starts off talking about the time between Jesus was born and the time He died on the cross. I think a lot of Christians forget about this time. Yes, it’s important to remember how He died to save us, but it’s also important to remember that He lived and walked on this earth the same as we do. He knows our struggles and He can feel our pain.

Another part that I liked in this song is when she talks about how easy it is to be robbed of our peace. Peace means nothing is broken and nothing is missing. So when we feel like we’re missing something, we give a foothold for the enemy to attack. There is no better time for satan to strike than when we are moving through a valley in life. That’s why it’s important to always be alert when things feel like they’re going pretty good. It’s in those moments when we feel the most betrayed by God because something happened and we want to know why… when the real reason why is that we weren’t looking.

The part in the last chorus really hit me It says, “It’s the time in between the middle of two thieves that says everything.” For me, it really does say everything. Jesus went to the cross to die in the most painful, disgraceful way imaginable just for me (ok, and you, too). That kind of love is unimaginable.

 My pastor often says, “Salvation isn’t just having the knowledge that you get to go to Heaven. Salvation is having everything that Heaven has here on earth.” I think it’s easy to forget that, even though some people recite the Lord’s prayer on a daily basis. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on EARTH as it is in Heaven…

Sometimes we don’t always see the big picture. Sometimes, the times while we’re waiting for a certain event to happen, we miss out on all the other things that God is doing. Sometimes, we’re like Esau. We give away our birthright for a bowl of soup while we’re hungry. If we could just see that time we spend waiting is making us stronger for the next trial,  or if we could just see that there’s a purpose for the things that happen to us. How many times have you gone through something, that while it was happening you thought you weren’t going to make it, but afterwards, you were thankful for it? I guess what I’m taking a long time to say is that we only know in part, but God knows everything. He’s got the foresight to know that things are happening so that we can get to the end goal. So even though I’m waiting on results from the doctor, I’m going to spend my time looking at God and holding onto His promises in the time in between.

 

 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.

                                                     –1 Corinthians 13:12

Line In A Song

“Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity”

We sing this in church every few weeks when Hosanna makes the rounds in the worship run. It sounds really nice, and it’s probably my favorite worship song, but what does that really count for? How can I takes these lyrics and turn them into a lifestyle? What does it look like when a line in a song becomes a way of life?

Our society is getting more and more selfish. We don’t like to watch the news because other people’s problems depress us. It’s not that they move us into action, they just make us feel sad, so we choose to ignore them. But at the same time, people get into political activism over trees. One of my favorite CCM Artists, Jimmy Needham has a song that says “The city closed the shelter down the street, we’d rather pay to save a tree than give our brother something warm to eat.” How sad is that? In Seattle, we are no longer allowed to feed the homeless out in the community. Apparently many people subscribe the to “you feed’em they’ll flock” school of thought. No one cares about the well being of our fellow man, just the unsightly inconvenience that they bring to the neighborhood.

Last week, while I was watching Glenn Beck’s radio program, I was crying over this story out of Rose City, Michigan. If it wasn’t enough that their son was molested by a teacher at age 13, the mom now has cancer and it is spreading, and they have been the victims of violence because they want the teachers who are standing by this sicko to be fired. Not only that, but the CHURCH posted bail for this guy. I am so heartbroken over this, which I guess is a good thing, because I have been driven to my knees in prayer.

Loving people and doing good always costs something. Sometimes it’s money to help out someone in need or buying lunch for someone. Other times we pay in time, like volunteering or even taking the time to pray for people. Love is a sacrifice, but I truly believe that the cost is not an issue when the price has already been paid. Jesus paid the ultimate price for us to live free from condemnation, worry, fear, doubt, sadness, even from our past… He has redeemed us and he can redeem all aspects of our lives. That is what love looks like, that’s the kind of love that can move mountains.

So what’s the point? We need to keep watching, even when it’s painful to see or hear. We need to love one another, whether we feel like it or not. We need to do what we can, even if it’s inconvenient. We need to keep going, even when we are tired and discouraged. Why? Because if we really want to live out the songs we sing every week in church, it’s going to mean that our lives are no longer about doing what we want, but they are about doing what is right.

When I started writing this, I had thought about weaving in lines from different songs that have moved my heart, but maybe I’ll just ask you to think about a song that has moved yours. Think about it, and then act on it, and maybe little by little, the light we shine will save the world.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16