Monday’s Grace: A Prayer for the Worn Out and Overwhelmed

A foggy morning on the OBX before the sun rises.

You tell us to come to You if we’re tired and carry burdens beyond our ability to bear. So here we are, bowing before you, letting you know that we have indeed grown tired of doing good. (Galatians 6:9) 

So what now?

We confess to You that our schedules are overbooked and our souls are underwhelmed. 

We confess to You that we’re exhausted both physically and emotionally. And dare we say spiritually as well. 

We confess to You that it feels like the next thing that breaks may be the thing that breaks us. 

We confess to You that life has become a series of one foot in front of the other, simply getting through the day. No peace. No joy. 

We confess to You that a busy day has turned into busy weeks and here we are months later wondering why we’re feeling depleted and defeated. 

We confess to You that somewhere along the way we buried you under the busy. That we lost site of you somewhere between the loads of laundry and running from one thing to the next.

So what now, Lord? 

Come to Me…here we are, schedules in hand, hearts laid out, weary souls at your feet. 

Take up My yoke…we admit that the enemy sure makes this sound even more burdensome but we will trust You, Jesus, when you tell us that your yoke is easy and your burden is light. Show us what this looks like in the practicality of our days so we can find rest for our souls…just as You say.

Learn from Me…help us to be ever aware of Your teaching, of Your nearness, of Your very presence. Teach us Jesus how to be connected to You in such a way that come what may, there is peace. 

Just a few minutes later of the same morning on the OBX.

Remind us Lord that we are not the sum of what we do but Whose we are. Help us to stop in our busyness and notice You in the small ways You show yourself. Help us Lord to find sacred in the simple.  

When Favored Doesn’t Feel Good

There’s a common misconception out there that God’s favor looks like multi-million dollar houses and BMW’s. That once you accept him as your Savior, you will gain his favor and all will be right as rain in your world with nary a care. Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car??

It’s kind of easy to do, to fall into this favored-means-favorite-so-God-won’t-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle trap. I can’t tell you the number of times I found myself knee deep in it and wondered what in the heck I was doing wrong. Was God angry with me? Did he care? Was I not faithful enough? Does it really matter? 

If favored meant a perfect marriage with perfect kids and a white picket fence, no struggles, no strains, no skeletons haunting you and you had more money than month then at times I felt like his most un-favored.

Somehow we’ve twisted the favor of God to be a golden ticket for a front row seat in the audience of Oprah’s favorite things. Walking away with all the booty and bling and none of the suffering. 

Last fall I started paying attention to the people in the Bible who are favored by God. It’s easy to wrap their lives in pretty packages and tie them up with a bow because we know the whole story. But everyone has a messy middle. 

Take Noah, for example, who found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8 NIV) He and his family were saved from dying in the flood. On the first boat ever made. With a bunch of animals. And no time-line. We have 16 chickens that make a lot of manure. I cannot imagine how much poo each of those 2×2’s produced. And remember it rained for forty days and forty nights but the Noah family was on the ark around 270 days. I’m sure he didn’t feel so favored at times. 

Then there’s highly favored Mary the Mother of Jesus who found favor with God. (Luke 1:28,30NIV) What an honor to be chosen to birth the Savior of the world. But we get blinded by the twinkling lights shining down on the trees stuffed with presents and packages underneath to remember how hard it must have been to walk the road as highly favored. 

A virgin who becomes pregnant also becomes the chatter of much gossip. Riding on a donkey for miles when you’re ready to give birth then giving birth in a cave among farm animals. Fleeing to save your Son’s life because some dude has lost his ever-loving jealous mind. Watching your Son grow up and do miracles and ministry only to be beaten and hung on a tree. I wonder if at any point Mary thought highly favored was over-rated? 

What about Moses who was leading some pretty whiny people through the desert and was just about ready to give up? His burden had become too heavy to bear, the people to burdensome to lead, wearied from dealing with it all he says to the Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes… (Numbers 11:15 NIV) God heard. God answered. But not in a way you might think.

Moses had indeed found favor in the eyes of the Lord but he still had to face the hard thing….just not alone. God asked him to bring seventy elders and officials with him to the Tent of Meeting so they could stand with Moses before God. 

They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone. (Numbers 11:15-17NIV)

Favor in all three scenarios is the word grace. 

God’s grace is what saw Noah through the storm. 

God’s grace is what allowed Mary to endure hardships and heartache. 

God’s grace is what enabled Moses to carry out his duties as leader. 

Each one was favored by God. Each one had been given more than they could handle but for the grace of God. 

No. The favor of God doesn’t always feel good. We will be asked to weather the storm and shovel some stuff that stinks. We will be chosen to minister from places of heartache and hurt, places not of our choosing. We will be asked to face difficult challenges, desert places and dire circumstances. 

But never alone. 

That’s the favor of God. 

Jesus said, I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20 MSG)

That’s grace. 

kw

Did God Really Say…Follow Your Heart

Follow your heart is a popular persuasion for people today. Its guidance is given when the meeting with a friend is over, your coffee mugs are empty and you still haven’t figured out a solution, a next step for the problem, decision or path you’re facing. So we ask, what’s your heart telling you? Just follow that. 

Is that the best advice? No.

Is it sound advice? No. 

Didn’t David say that somewhere in the Psalms? Definitely no. David followed his heart right into Bathsheba’s bed. 

Follow Your Heart:

To follow implies that something or someone is leading you. Your heart is then the thing that is doing the leading. According to Greek and Hebrew traditions the heart is the seat of our emotions, desires, and feelings. When we use the advice to follow our hearts, we are, in essence, allowing our emotions, desires and feelings to be our guides. 

I so want this “follow your heart” advice to be a sensible thing. I want my heart to be good, my emotions even keel, desires pure, feelings steady. But scripture tells me otherwise: It’s from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies and cussing. (Matthew 15:19MSG)

Are these the kinds of things we want to follow? Yeah, me neither. 

Our hearts are foolish. A wise man once said, He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26NKJV)

It’s what makes us think we know what’s best for us. It’s what makes us think we’re smarter and bigger than God. It’s what makes us think the grass is greener somewhere else. It’s what makes us puff up with pride, be unforgiving and draw a stubborn line in the sand. It’s what has us one decision away from destruction.  What feels right in the height of sweet emotion often turns bitter down the road. 

Our hearts are fickle. It can change from day to day or even moment by moment. In a split second we can go from happy heart to hurting heart, from heart of a warrior to way of a worrier, from brave heart to brokenhearted. An instant, a phone call, a look, a temptation….is often all it takes.

If I follow my heart and act out from a place of hurt, worry or brokenness I won’t make the decisions based on truth but on feelings. If I follow my heart based on arrogance and sheer stubbornness…well I won’t have many friends at the end of the day. 

Our hearts are fraudulent. Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9NIV) The deception is that we can live our truth. 

As adventurous and daring as that sounds, it’s a lie. Living our truth is code for following our own hearts into the foolish things that we later regret (if we ever admit it was wrong). Living our truth means leave me alone, I know what I’m doing, I don’t need your advice, let me be in my sin, MY truth

So what do we do? We know that following our hearts is bad advice that gets us going in the wrong direction. The good news is we can lead our hearts by doing these three things. 

Check your heart. This little ditty was made famous by comedian John Crist. Or was it David? Search me God and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24CSB)

If there is an offensive thing found? Don’t look to the culture to compare, to see if maybe it ain’t so bad as so and so. Admit it, turn from it and run. 

Guard your heart above all else because it is the wellspring of life. according to Proverbs 4:23NIV. 

Guard it from what exactly? From foolishness, falling for fickle feelings and fraudulent activity. Recognize the lie of living your truth. Our plumb line is not the world or social media or famous people or the person in the pew next to us. Ours is the Bible so…

Renew your mind.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2NIV) 

I love this bit from Romans 12:1-2 in the Message: 

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (emphasis mine)

Transformed minds make for hearts that do not easily conform to the culture or be beguiled by twisted truths wrapped in pretty packages. 

Follow your heart sure sounds romantic and noble and true but it’s not. It gets us into trouble. Every. Single. Time. 

Don’t follow your heart. Follow Me. (Jesus) 

kw

Did God Really Say…You Can Do Anything!

Sweet Jesus! What are you doing? Shouted my man on the phone after he heard loud sparking and me screaming. 

I plugged in the charger like you told me to! But now the cables are dangling and touching each other and sparks are flying.

You plugged the charger in first??

Yes…

You hitch up the cables THEN plug in the charger!!! DON’T TOUCH THEM AND UNPLUG THE CHARGER FROM THE OUTLET. 

I didn’t know that…

This was an actual phone conversation betweenTodd and I after I left the lights on in my daughter’s car and found the battery dead the next morning. (Who knew her lights didn’t automatically shut off like my car did?) I’ve never jumped a battery. I’ve never desired to know how to jump a battery. 

I will never be a mechanic because I have 0 (that’s ZERO) mechanical skills. None. Nada. Zilch. I don’t care HOW things work as long as they DO. I know. I know. I really need to know some basics or I will die trying to jump any machine with a motor in the future. 

When I hear the words, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING! hollered from the platforms of people who are motivational speakers, I giggle to myself, you have never seen my mechanical skills. 

My Granny had some mad sewing skills. She could quilt, hem, tear apart and put back together, make clothes, embroider…you name it in the material world and she could do it. 

Bangs? Not so much. This is me in about the fifth grade looking like she used pinking sheers to trim my bangs the DAY BEFORE PICTURE DAY!! If there had been alcohol allowed in the house, I swear she’d been drinking by the looks of those bangs. 

You guys. Seriously. We weren’t made to do anything and everything. In fact…

You can do nothing. 

How’s that for incentive? Anybody need a motivational speaker with this message of encouragement? Fortunately I’m not the one quoted here. It’s the very words of Jesus in John 15. 

As women of faith, there’s a key component we sometimes forget in our quest to do. That is staying connected to the Vine, Jesus, because apart from Him we can do nothing. (John 15:5NIV)  

That’s a far cry from Social Media’s mantra of You Can Do Anything! 

But isn’t this the exact opposite of what Paul is telling the people of Philippi when he says of himself, I can do all things…(Philippians 4:13NIV)

We sometimes take this verse to mean literally ALL things, as in everything. Paul knew that it was through Christwho gave him and us the strength to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11NIV) 

You and I aren’t meant to do anything and everything. We aren’t meant to do it all. No matter how hard you shake your pom-poms and tell me I can, I’m simply not meant to. It’s exhausting to think otherwise. So I won’t be working on your car any time soon! Aren’t you glad?

Can this blog post get any more depressing? Great way to start off the series Kim. So are we supposed to do nothing then? 

Of course not! We have different gifts according to the grace given us. (Romans 12:6NIV) My Granny was a fantastic seamstress who used her gifts to the glory of God by making clothes for people, quilts for auction with the money given to the poor in the community. My man is a fixer of things (said with hearts in my eyes because I am not!) and can use his gifts to help people. I often volunteer his fixer upper skills when there is a need because I know he can do it. 

Paul tells us the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. (1Corinthians 12:14-15NIV)

Bottom line? We need each other! 

There are women who are great teachers, rockers of babies, fitness instructors, IT people, data collectors, financers, real-estate agents, stay-at-home Mommas, cleaners, secretaries, organizers, gabbers, encouragers, noticers of the least of these, speakers…you get the picture…all manner of gifts and talents you were created to do. 

The church needs you and me to be operating in our strengths. The God-given gifts and talents you bring are important. When the church is filled with people who aren’t trying to do just anything and everything but THE thing he called you to then not only does the church benefit, so does the community and it glorifies God! 

Still not convinced? Two words. Home. Perm. 

Holly Dance Attendant 1982

Try as she might, my Granny was not meant to be a hairdresser. No one should be allowed to use a solution that can burn your skin and fry your hair without some serious training! 

Stop listening to the lie that you can do anything or even everything.  Stay connected to the Vine, glorify God by using your gifts and talents. The world needs who you were made to be. (Joanna Gaines)

kw

Did God Really Say…

We sounded a little off. The handful of men singing bass weren’t loud enough to bring harmony to the overload of women who could sing soprano. (That’s a whole other post right there. 🙂 ) The altos were doing their best but the Easter cantata was in just a few days. The one first soprano who could bring the dramatic crescendo to the song of all songs couldn’t hit that high note if her soul depended on it…allergies. This rag tag team of volunteer singers needed a resurrection miracle before Easter Sunday. 

I sensed our poor choir director/piano player/costume designer needed some encouragement so I said as I was seated in the sea of sopranos something about God seeing how hard we’ve been working and bad practice means good performance. 

Someone piped up from the alto section; God helps those who help themselves. We have to work harder or he won’t bless this mess. 

This said in her best Southern Baptist church lady drawl, and with such conviction and authority that I thought for sure it was Biblical. It sure sounded like something King Solomon would say from his book of wisdom, Proverbs. 

Nope.

Not only was it not a Proverb, it wasn’t in the Bible anywhere. But it sure sounded like it. I was too young to need hearing aids and too old to be duped by one-liners that sounded Biblical. Especially from someone who gave Saturday Night Live more material for Dana Carvey’s church lady act.

We live in a world of Social Media snippets, a maze of memes and Instagram images that resound as the very words of God when really they are twists of truth meant to trap and entangle us. 

Some of them sound so “for us”, like they are standing on the roadside with a banner that has your name on it, cheering loudly as you run your race. They hold up posters that say…

You can do ANYTHING! 

Do what makes you happy!

Follow your heart! 

Love yourself! 

Favored =favorite.

Dream big/hustle hard

You’ll never be given more than you can handle

You are enough.

And last but not least, written in my best southern drawl…

God helps those who help themselves

Have you fallen for any of them? I know I have. Just like I did in that choir loft many years ago, except that I’m not near as naïve now. I’m learning to hold what sounds good up against what I know is good…Scripture. 

I was texting a friend about this series and asking her some of what she sees women falling for. After some back and forth, I ended with this: 

These are exactly what I’m looking for! And YES to all of the above. I may not have any friends but Jesus after June but hey I’ll leave a truth trail sprinkled with grace anyhow. 

I’ve tussled with this series for a while now, afraid to offend. Besides that, I’m not an expert on anything or an uber popular writer with thousands of “followers”. I fall more in the category of chicken wrangler and weed wrestler. But the trap of half-truths and filtered frames are shouting our names more and more. We live in a world where we need whole truths and a panoramic view to see just what the enemy is doing. 

I hope you hang with me this month so you’ll see what I’m concerned about. I don’t want to sound like some grouch from the south that needs to get off her high horse…I was the receiver of such. 

But I want better for us women of faith! Don’t you? 

I can’t care if you like me because it’s not about me. I can’t care if the truth hurts because it’s what also sets us free. (John 8:32) I may never be a New York Times best selling author who needs to wash her face and I won’t apologize for speaking the truth. Though I will say to you (and me), Girl, Read Your Bible!

So with humor and grace, I’ll get the conversation started. Did God really say…

kw

What About Martha? (Sheology Part 4)

My sister and I are as different as night and day. She’s adventurous. I’m…well…scared of the carwash among other things.

We approach life much like getting in the swimming pool. She cannon balls. I enter slowly, step by chilly step. 

I’m more of a thinker. She’s a doer. 

Often times when I hear women talking about the sisters Mary, the thinker and Martha, the doer, they will pick one or the other with whom they feel a connection. 

Is that a bad thing? Must we choose between doing and thinking? 

***

The first time we meet Martha, she is hosting a party for Jesus as he passed through the town of Bethany. Dinner wasn’t the only thing steaming. So was she.

Babes ready to be born. New life is coming!

Her sister Mary (as we’ve already seen) was learning at Jesus’ feet instead of helping in the kitchen. Martha,boldly served up some roasted lamb with a side order of attitude. 

Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! (Luke 10:40 NIV)

Boy do I get this. If you’ve been involved in church or ministry work at all, then you know the 80/20 rule that says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. It’s so easy to serve with some Martha ‘tude. I’ve been her and also been served by her.

Jesus’ response? Martha, Martha, (whenever he says your name twice…oh dear!) you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

Only one thing is needed.

Jesus wasn’t drawing lines or categorizing women by personality type and interests, He was defining priorities for all of us, and more important, drawing Martha into a deeper relationship with himself.  (When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James pg 223)

Choose the better thing. 

I can get so caught up in the serving part that I forget the sitting part. Without the sitting part, the serving part can become a bitter thing I do, not the better.

***

Babes are here! Needing care, feeding, teaching.

The second time we see Martha’s boldness is when her brother Lazarus is sick and Jesus delays coming so long that he dies. 

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, bu Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been her. My brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:20-22 NIV) 

Martha’s daring drives her to the One who can calm her concerns. I love that Jesus doesn’t rebuke her but is ever the Teacher as he reveals a bit more of himself as the Resurrection and Life. He challenges her by asking, do you believe this? (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Some would call Martha brazen and brash, disrespectful. Mary’s response was perhaps much more appropriate. But we don’t have to put a lid on our wants and wonderings. We can be fearless in our asking of questions and laying out of our concerns. 

We can therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16 CSB)

Theology begins with doubts that make us dig. ‘Tude or not, he can handle us just fine. 

***

The last time we see Martha, she’s back at it in the kitchen minus the ‘tude towards her sister. There’s another dinner party being given in Jesus’ honor. It’s just six days before Passover and while Mary takes her pint of pure nard to anoint the feet of Jesus as an act of worship, John tells us, 

Martha served. (John 12:1-11 NIV)

Two little words with a powerful punch. We find Martha using her gifts as a form of worship and not to wage war with her sister. When we each bring our gifts and talents to the table, the church and ministry of Jesus is so much better. The world needs to hear the good news of the gospel and whether that’s washing dishes or feet, both are important. 

She’s learning and so am I. 

Empty nest means these babes have been nurtured and can fly on their own.

I am just as content teaching a Bible study on even given week or gathering dirty communion cups after Sunday service. Reading a commentary on the book of James or pulling weeds. Planting seeds whether in the garden or over coffee with a distraught woman. 

Theology doesn’t disconnect us from life or weaken our willingness to do the next thing. Knowing God, makes us mobile to do the very thing he calls us to. Those of us who know God find sacred in the simple as well as the sensational. As strange as it may seem, theology belongs in the kitchen just as much as it belongs in the classroom at seminary or behind the pulpit or in elder meetings. 

I don’t believe we have to choose between Mary and Martha, between being a thinker or a doer. I think we are meant to be a blend of both. 

Learning, leaning and loving make for some sound theology. 

kw

Worship is Never Wasteful (Sheology Part 3: Loving)

The babies have grown and flown….just like they’re suppose to. 🙂

I’ve never felt very courageous. I scored 0% in the category marked “Adventuresome” on one of those tests everyone takes. Like Walter Mitty in his secret life, I would daydream an awful lot…can you hear me Major Tom? 

But then again I have five kids, which takes lionhearted courage and I was the first of my big family to go out of the country to Zimbabwe on a mission trip. My pastor sent a text the day before I was to leave, You can do this Mrs. Mitty. He knew.

After that trip, every time something came up that would take courage (car wash anyone??) I would tell myself I could do this thing. After all, I’d been to Africa!

So maybe bold is a better word. I can speak to big groups but get a bit sweaty palmed small talking with folks I don’t know. I don’t mind being in the spotlight, the center of attention, but like to control when said light is turned on. 

I’m a nine on the Ennegram, a Peacemaker, doing almost anything to avoid conflict and choosing the path of least resistance. I like routine. I don’t like to be the center of controversy. Though I can debate and have an opinion different than yours, I need a nap afterwards. 

But sometimes you just have to be bold. 

***

The third time we see Mary of Bethany she’s at another dinner party, this one being given in Jesus’ honor. (John 12:2 NIV) It’s just six days before Passover and time is drawing close for Jesus to be arrested, beaten, put on trial and crucified. He knows it. 

I wonder if Mary senses it too? I wonder if she picked up something different in his teaching lately, an urgency, a preparedness, a warning of what was coming. 

The disciples were jockeying for a pristine position on his right and left in this new kingdom Jesus came to establish. (Mark 10:35-45 NIV) They’ve politicized Jesus’ ministry thinking he would become the new king of the country instead of King of Kings. 

Not Mary. While the others are eating Mary takes a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 NIV) 

This was a bold act for several reasons: 1.) Society expected her to be serving food not wasting time at Jesus’ feet. 2.) Touching someone’s feet was considered degrading (imagine the disciples surprise when Jesus washes their feet!) 3.) A woman was never to take her hair down in public…never. 4.) The perfume she poured out was more than a year’s wages and her dowry that she’d been collecting. It gave her value for a favorable marriage in the future. All poured out, wasted as some of them were saying. (Based on the book Insight’s on John by Charles Swindoll) 

The boys in the room didn’t like it. They thought it was a big waste and were vocal in their “concern” but Mary didn’t care. She didn’t just bust open a jar, she broke open the box society had put her in. She lived out the full life Jesus came to give her. 

***

Being a woman of faith can put you in a position to step outside your comfort zone and into the war zone, to do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do to take a risk and pour it all out there with a boldness you’ve not known before. 

We have to be ready. We can’t walk into battle armed only with what we learn from a person behind the pulpit on Sunday morning. We aren’t meant to fight with the men (they are not our enemy) or even in their shadow but beside them armed with sound theology from our own digging daily in scripture. This war zone is no respecter of gender. 

It is on the battlefield that a woman will discover the power and usefulness of her theology. Mary’s third portrait should have a profound impact on how we see ourselves as women, in the home and in the church. When we take this definition of ourselves seriously, the home, the church, and the men will only benefit. Conversely, to walk away from this hurts us all. (From the book When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James)

Mary shows us much about what it takes to be a theologian. She sat at Jesus’ feet and learned. She learned what he was all about and who she was because of who He is. But it’s so much more than learning.

She fell at His feet and leaned. We lean in to what we’ve learned; which enables us to endure those storms that could rock our world otherwise. It puts our faith to the test and helps strengthen and mature our theology.

She worshiped at His feet and loved. When we begin to understand who Jesus is and what he has done (and does) for us we want nothing more than to love him, to pour out our best for him. Worship is never wasted. 

Mary is such a great example for us to follow. But…

What if I’m more like Martha? I’m so glad you asked…

kw

If Only…(Sheology Part 2 Leaning to Live)

Strong roots begin with good theology but need some storms to help them develop and grow deep. (OSU campus)

I lay there curled in a fetal position, recovering from a DNC and replaying the last couple of weeks in my head. The excitement of the OB appointment. The look on the doctor’s face as he searched for that water-in-the-womb swoosh swoosh swoosh. The slim hope that the Doppler just missed picking up the tiny sound. The ultrasound techs somber expression as she too searched with her wand. 

I’m so sorry. 

Words I had not heard the previous four pregnancies. Words I didn’t want to hear now. We had already told everyone. How was I to face the looks, the questions, the sorrow, the sadness. Oh the grief! I now understood how one weeps for someone you’ve never met, someone not fully developed but fully human, a life not lived. 

In the darkness of night with my arms wrapped around my empty womb I cried out to the Creator of all things, where are you in all of this Lord?  

***

They sent for their friend, the one who could help them as their brother’s sickness took a turn toward the inevitable. They’ve heard him speak and watched him heal sicker people than this. Surely he would get there in time. Surely he would come quickly once he got word how sick their brother Lazarus had become. 

They waited and prayed while Jesus delayed….yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:6 NIV)

When Jesus got there (finally!) Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. (John 11:17 NIV) 

Mary stayed in the house until her sister Martha told her; the teacher is here and is asking for you. 

The Teacher. The One who welcomed her, invited her, taught her, discipled her, valued her, befriended her and loved her. The One whose feet Mary sat at to learn are the same feet she fell at to lament. 

Scripture tells us, when Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV) 

If only…

***

How many times have I said and heard and wondered the words if only?

If only you’d been there, Lord…

…in the darkest days of depression. 

…in the emergency room.

…at the doctor’s during the diagnosis.

…when abuse was happening.

…in divorce court.

…at the casket of a loved one.

…when my child died.

…in the middle of a panic attack.

…in the wondering and wandering and worry.

…in the confusion of identity. 

…in the wilderness

Anybody else have an if only you had…? Does he even care?  

***

Mary is sitting at a pivotal place in her theology. It’s one thing to learn, to know the lingo, the language, the churchy words. But living it out is something entirely different. 

What kind of theologian am I if I can use an intelligent system of words and ideas but have never experienced despair and confusion or wrestled with God and walked away limping while wondering what he is doing in the world around me. Those words will seem crass and uncaring. 

True Christian theology does not stand aloof from life but fearlessly gets its hands dirty in our everyday lives. (Carolyn Custis James) 

Most of us probably have not experienced the kind of miracle we see with Lazarus being raised from the dead unfold in our lives. The divorce happened. The abuse left some scars. The child is still gone. The womb still empty. The night is still dark. Hearts still hurt. 

Jesus is there. Right beside us. Weeping. Knowing there is a bigger story to be told. Knowing that if you believe, you will see the glory of God. (John 11:40)

I have to hold on to this. He can use our heartache and hurt, our pain for a purpose. My story is for his glory. 

We sit at his feet and learn so we can lean in and live during days that are hard. We learn of the goodness of God so when life is not good we know he is. We live in the presence of his peace when chaos abounds. We lean in more knowing he is our strength and help; a refuge in times of trouble. We fall at his feet and cry out our questions, our if only’s because we believe in Him, the One and Only. 

That’s sound theology. That’s good sheology. 

kw

Whirly Birds, Wheat Fields and a Wise Woman (Sheology Part 1 Learning)

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight (Jeremiah 15:16)

I could hear the chug of the church bus rounding the corner at my Mom’s house. It was a rare occasion that I got to spend Saturday night with her and go to the fancy big church in town as my Granny called it. No country church for me, where the wooden pews and people smelled of must and old age and the “facilities” were still outside. Not this weekend. 

They were having a contest and my younger sister asked if I could please come with her so she could earn her hat for bringing a guest. The special bonus, if there were X amount of kids that Sunday, the pastor, John Maxwell, would eat a live goldfish. We were all in. 

The kids were singing, as kids do, at the tops of their lungs We’re Whirly Birds for Jesus, we live for him each day… I soon caught on and wanted to be a Whirly Bird too. I wasn’t sure about this Jesus but I really wanted the cap these kids were wearing, a red beanie with a little helicopter on top. You could earn pins for it too (!), which filled my people-pleasing-award-winning-accomplishment-doing-soul right up.

I soon learned that being a Christ follower was more than donning a Whirly Bird beanie heavy laden with bling from winning contests. Souls were at stake after all. Mine included. 

***

I discovered a classmate of mine also went to the fancy big church in town and happened to be at movie night. (Movie night? At church! Fancy big church’s meter pegged to the right of cool.) We settled in with some popcorn and candy and sat beside each other ready to watch the 1970’s film called A Thief in the Night. 

Our popcorn grew cold, candy uneaten as Micky and I watched the confusion and mayhem of this woman who had been left behind. At the end of the movie the youth pastor got up and explained how Jesus was coming back and how we needed to be ready or else be left here to suffer. He read Matthew 24:36-51 to us. 

That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24:39-40NIV)

I wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant. We didn’t own a hand mill nor did we have fields but we did have a garden and canned a lot so maybe that counted. What I did know was that I did not want to be without my Granny and left in a place where the people were weeping and gnashing their teeth. (Matthew 24:51NIV) Obviously there were no Whirly Birds there.

So Micky and I went forward to accept Jesus as our Savior whatever all that actually meant. This movie scared the hell out of me but didn’t drive me to a place where I would come to really know Jesus. 

For two more decades I would wax and wane between singing with my beanie on and running to escape the fiery flames. Always working to be good enough, missing the mark horribly, feeling the shame of things I’d done and things done to me, asking forgiveness for things that were already tossed as far as east is from west. It was a vicious cycle of rinse and repeat, rededicate, renew, return to old ways. 

Until life spun me in a different direction and landed me in a place I’d never been. 

***

Tucked in the Gospel of Luke are five little verses that introduce us to two sisters from Bethany, Mary and Martha who find themselves with a dinner guest by the name of Jesus. While Martha is busy in the kitchen, we find Mary had managed to make her way to where Jesus was and took the posture of a student, a disciple, a learner at his feet. 

Whether by invitation or an act of bravery, Mary knew she wanted to understand more than the bits and pieces she put together as she went about her duties or heard secondhand from her brother and those that knew him personally. She wanted and needed to know Jesus herself. 

So she sat at his feet, listened and learned. 

This first female New Testament theologian will glean much from this meeting. While we don’t know what Jesus was saying, I wonder if she was beginning to understand that this Man brought a different message than the culture of her day. 

Jesus tells those who are listening, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42 NIV) In a culture where women are not invited to sit at the table and learn this changes everything. 

***

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We were going to church every time the doors were open. We served. We sang. We served some more. If a spot needed filled we were there. And yet my marriage was falling apart. My adult version of being a Whirly Bird was crashing fast. Those gnashing teeth were hot on my heels.

I soon discovered a foundation of theology built on service alone and the things I “do” is like shifting sand that soon crumbles when hard times come. All of my do’s are paltry compared to what has already been done. I needed to know the doer of done. Not just those bits and pieces I heard from the pulpit or Sunday school teacher. 

Sound theology starts with sitting and soaking at the feet of the Teacher Himself. Not just on Sunday mornings or even Wednesday nights. But every chance I get. 

Knowledge of his character, recognition of his voice, learning about his heart and compassion doesn’t keep us from walking through seasons of difficulty. Life happens and happens hard sometimes. But we weather storms differently when we know who is taking us through them. When we know the One who holds the compass.

Learning is the first step to being a sheologian. We wrestle with texts. We ask questions. We wonder. We wait. And then we are given opportunities to practice. To put feet on our faith. To live out what we’ve soaked up. 

There’s more to Mary’s story. And mine. As you’ll soon see. 

kw

Creeping People and Itching Ears

This reminder in nature that eventually we can’t rely on others to feed us. Instead we must learn to feed ourselves.

You could see the battle going on in the woman’s mind that sat across from me. Her husband had coercively, emotionally abused her for many years. While I could see her making strides toward gaining some confidence, she was struggling to answer the question I asked. 

What do you want to do? 

I really want to leave him….but I can’t. 

Why not? 

Because if I leave him, God will leave me. He hates divorce. 

While it is written, I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel. (Malachi 2:16NIVit also says this of God, Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5NIV)

My heart broke for her as she shared with me that she was told by “the church” God would rather she stay in the abusive marriage than get a divorce. She now recognized the affront for what it was but what was she to do? We talked, searched scripture and prayed for direction.

Unfortunately her story is all too common. Being duped, damaged and deceived by half-truths and truth twisting is a play by the enemy that is as old as the Garden of Eden. She knew just enough scripture to believe deception but not enough to refute it with truth. 

Anybody else been there? We may not be in an abusive relationship but there is a half-truth believed to be the whole truth. A twist to scripture you’ve never untwisted.  

Enter the creeping people:

For among them are those who creep into households… (2Timothy 3:6ESV)

Who are these “creeping people”? The Message tells us they look like this: 

People who are self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people. (2Timothy 3:1-5MSG)

That’s quite a list, yes? Instead of women being creeped out and recognizing religious fads that calls itself “truth”(2Timothy 3:7MSG) these people are creeping in and taking every advantage of us and many times we don’t even notice. Does this fire up anybody else?

These people prey on the weakness of women, the guilt of women and the passions of women. (2Timothy 3:6) Listen, it is not God’s desire that women be weak in discernment…theological, Biblical, and moral discernment…so that they are sitting ducks for creeps. 

What makes these women (and us) gullible and easy to deceive? Let’s look at the reasons in reverse order: 

The Passions of Women. The emphasis here could be sexual in nature but we women can be passionate about a lot of things. We can lust after…the perfect house, job, family, body etc…we are so intense with our passionate pursuits that we leave no space or place for sound Biblical study. 

We find our value in the stuff we have or the things we do instead of the One that’s already done it for us. We passionately pursue after our purpose instead of purposely placing our passions in the hands of our Pursuer. 

There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams, pursuits and passions as long as they don’t have you. 

The Guilt of Women. These are women who are loaded down with sin. This isn’t fun to talk about but here we go. We cannot surround ourselves with people who never speak truth to us, who let us do whatever we want. I have a handful of girlfriends who are my biggest cheerleaders, yes, but who also keep me in check if I’m out of line. 

This alignment keeps me out of the line of enemy fire and able to recognize his schemes. 

Paul warns Timothy about this a bit later when he says, For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4NIV) 

Don’t circle yourself in with best friends who scratch an itch with a feather. Surround yourself with grace full truth tellers. You’ll grow stronger and keep the creeps out.  

The Weakness of Women. The creeping people who are mentioned in Timothy are smooth talkerswho prey on women with every new religious fad that calls itself truth. Oh, it’s subtle and slick most of the time. There’s just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make it sound good and Godly but the underlying message is more like did God really say…as said by the serpent of old.  

What do we do so we aren’t misled? 

In a word: Theology. 

I know, I know. It sounds boring or maybe intimidating or too churchy. But theology isn’t just for the men. We will be judged based on what we ourselves know to be truth not what somebody else did or didn’t tell us to be true. We have a responsibility, as women, to become sheologians. 

It really isn’t as tedious or terrifying as it sounds…as I hope to show you over the next few blog posts. Theology isn’t just about reading textbooks like Lectures in Systemic Theology, trying to get a grasp on the knowledge of God. James tells us that even the demons believe that there is one God…and shudder. (James 2:19)

We are in a battle that is fierce. Carolyn Custis James says, Soft theology won’t sustain us on the battlefield. Marching into battle with superficial, false, and flimsy ideas of God is like going to war with a popgun tucked under your arm. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 95)

Theology is more than just knowledge. 

Sound theology brings a bazooka to the battlefield enabling us to keep the creeping people out and our itching ears scratched with the Truth. Sound theology grounds us when life picks us up and spins us around. Sound theology prevents us from believing half-truths. Sound theology helps us recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sound theology engages the intellect, leans in after a loss and warrants us to worship.

Are you ready? 

kw