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

Into the Wilderness

Photo cred: Mackenzie Crumpacker

Sometimes you go. Sometimes you’re sent. 

Does anybody see you? 

Does anybody care? 

Is the Lord even there?

You didn’t choose this desert space, this wilderness place. 

Or maybe you did. 

However you land there doesn’t really matter, it can be horrible yet the most hallowed place you’ll ever be. 

In the last blog post, Forcing the Pieces, we met Sarah who desired to have the children God promised her and her husband. But God’s timetable wasn’t hers so she suggested they get the party started with a romp in the hay between her man and her maidservant. Alas, it worked and Hagar (AKA Fertile Myrtle the maidservant) does indeed get pregnant. 

Sarah gets angry about the whole thing, blames Abraham. Abraham throws his hands in the air and says you deal with it. So she did. 

Then Sarah mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. (Genesis 16:6 NIV

Hagar ends up in the wilderness of the desert.

Sometimes you have no choice but to flee for your own well-being. You choose to take a stand and with such courage and bravado say, Enough! Sometimes you have to leave behind the familiarity of community, a job, a home, drugs, comfort, provision, abuse, friends, tradition, others opinions. Walking away from what you know, all you’re familiar with and what makes you fit in can be one of the toughest and best things you do.

Sometimes it’s simply the season of life you’re in. You run your kids around like you’re an Uber driver at Kentucky speed way and you miss adult conversation. GNO? What’s that? Or you’re an empty nester who gave all your time and energy raising a family and now what do you do? You’re a student who lives, eats and sleeps studying, classes and tests…social life? What social life? Your child has special needs and demands time and energy, doctor appointments and round the clock care. You love them to pieces but could sure use a break. 

Dry desert air makes for a thirsty soul. Thirsty souls wander and wonder.

Flip over a few chapters and we’ll see Hagar had gone back (in obedience to an angel), had the child and once again, because of Sarah’s jealousy, got banned, this time….for good. 

Sarah said to Abraham, “get rid of that slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Genesis 21:10 NIV)

So Hagarwent on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:14 NIV)

Sometimes the choice is made for you. A husband walks out. Kids rebel. People distance themselves. A diagnosis is made. A death happens. And don’t think for a minute this century doesn’t have “Sarah’s” in it…using you for a means to an end manipulating and mean, then tosses your butt out like a rag doll. 

Either way, here you are. According to Brene’ Brown, The wildernessis an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand. (Braving the Wilderness)

The wilderness is full of uncertainty and certainly feels like you are the first and last one to blaze this trail. Surely nobody gets it. Or you. Check out my journal entry for January 18th

Twice Hagar found herself in the wilderness, the unknown, the scary place. The first time she was seen by God; the second He heard her cries. Both times He brought comfort and provision. Wilderness has wild in the word because it’s a crazy time of walking with the One. 

Hagar’s time in the wilderness, that time of searching and solitude, allowed her to experience things she never would have otherwise. She is the only woman, a slave woman at that, who names God. You are the God who sees me, for she said I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi, it is still there. (Genesis 16:13-14NIV)

He continues to be the One who sees. Now and forevermore.

Don’t be afraid. Keep moving through. 

You’re among good Wilderness walkers. It’s where the prophets and poets live for inspiration. It’s where the risk-takers and trailblazers thrive. It’s where Jesus beat the devil at his own schemes. 

He sees you. He hears you. Lean in and listen. Walk in the wild and be free.

kw

Forcing the Pieces

God promises Abraham kids and Abraham believed God would give him kids. So simple…God answers prayers. (Journal entry/January 16th/Genesis 12-15 )

I wish I could say I was like Abraham who trusted God to do what He said He would do, what He promised him He would do. No matter how long it took. Abraham set out on an adventure not knowing what the whole picture looked like, not knowing the when’s, why’s and where’s but knowing the One who was sending him. His journey of faith was simple: Abraham believed the Lord. (Genesis 15:6NIV). Period.

I fear I’m more like Abraham’s wife Sarah who got ahead of God. You see God had promised this couple children so they waited. And waited. And waited. It sure seemed like God forgot or was asleep or just didn’t care. Maybe, just maybe, she was supposed to do something, take action, to get this as-many-stars-in-the-sky-so-shall-your-offspring-be party started. After all, “God helps those who help themselves” right? (Anybody else use this line of thinking while telling yourself it sure sounds like a Proverb so it must be so? It’s not.)

The very next day, January 17thmy journal entry looked like this: Nothing good comes from getting ahead of God’s plan. Trust Him…even when it doesn’t look promising. 

Sarah ended up “helping the Lord” by having Abraham sleep with her maidservant. While we may look at this and think to ourselves wow! I would never ho my man out to another woman, which is probably true for the majority of us but what would you do/have you done when you’ve taken matters into your own hands? 

I liken all of this to putting a puzzle together. It’s a process to go from 2000 pieces dumped on the table to finding and assembling the edges, giving you a frame from which to work, to the buildings coming together to people’s faces and animals becoming whole to the field of grass and wildflowers making sense. 

Watching, waiting and walking away. 

My man stands in awe and wonder 🙂 of my puzzle putting together ability, as he does not have the patience for it. Every now and again he will try and then get frustrated. How can you sit there and look and look then pick up a piece and it fits? 

There are clues in the pieces but you have to be patient. A little piece of a foot here, a bit of flower there and the shape all matter but you have to look carefully. God gives us hints of hope in our situations too but we must be always aware, ever mindful and looking for Him. 

Sometimes when I can’t see it coming together I need to walk away for a little while. When I come back, it’s fascinating what I now see that I couldn’t before. Giving your mind a rest can be just what you need in order to see that God is working. 

We have what I call a “waiting well” issue in our culture today. Our attention spans demand instant gratification, quick points to an article, faster internet speeds, quicker service, microwave meals, instant replies on text messages, articles instead of books, okay Google information, short conversations and drive-through answers to prayer. We do not like to wait so we…

Force the pieces together. 

My four-year-old grandson was helping me put a puzzle together one Sunday but soon got discouraged at such a big endeavor so he tried this: 

Obviously this would make quite a different picture than the one on the front of the box.

Forcing the pieces together skews the bigger picture of God’s plan. I am in a current season of waiting on an answer to prayer and I want so badly to make something (anything!) happen. Desperate decisions don’t make for a pretty picture so I remind myself that God’s ways are not mine and He is working this thing out. I have to constantly…

Look at the bigger picture. 

I keep the lid to the puzzle box right next to me so I can look at it as I try to decipher where the different pieces go. I need that to be my guide especially in the beginning when I’m looking at a mound of pieces with no direction. 

We’ve got to be in His word, studying, learning and getting to know the character of the One who puts the pieces together. Praying to Him, yes but also listening for Him to speak to us. We can rest in Him, trust Him and put our faith in the process He sees fit for our situation. Being still and watching or moving forward with pieces as He sees fit. 

So how did Sarah’s story end? Was God angry with her for forcing the lineage He had promised to Abraham? There were consequences and it was a bit messier because of the move made too early but…

…the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. (Genesis 21:1NIV)

He is faithful. He sees you. He hears you. He will put the pieces together. 

kw

Women of Means

Platforms, performance and purpose. Competition, comparison and cattiness. We wonder. We work. We worry. 

Bigger is better. Faster is more fun. We fight our way to the top, scratching and clawing anything or anyone that gets in the way. That ladder of success is no longer just in the work world either.

We compare ministries, Mom styles and our mayhem. We compete with Pinterest perfect parties. Our purpose becomes all about virtual friends, follows, likes and heart emoji’s. Busy is a badge of honor.

Buying into today’s culture that screams “MORE” makes us manic with panic and may I go as far as to say..mean? There is nothing worse than a worn out woman whose worth is wrapped up in what she does rather than what’s already been done. 

It’s rather exhausting isn’t it? 

There is a different way. 

The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. (Luke 8:1-3a)s

I love this group of women who follow after Jesus!

There’s Mary Magdalene who has a past spent with seven demons. Seven is a complete number in the Bible and some scholars suggest she was wholly possessed. While you and I may not be possessed or never have had demons come out of us, there are a few of us with a bit of a, shall we say sordid, former life. She was no longer that person because of Jesus and neither are we. 

Joanna was the wife of a highly placed official in the court of Herod Anitpas. She knew people and inside scoops. I image there were dinner parties, dances and functions that kept her in societies eye. Once she knew Jesus, the rest faded away. The power and prestige paled in her pursuit for her Savior. There are those of you who relate to Joanna, knowing people in high places (maybe even being those in high places) but recognizing where real worth comes from…being a Jesus follower. 

Susanna is a bit of a mystery. Mentioned here and no other place in all of Scripture the one thing we know about her is she is a part of Jesus’ ministry and had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Maybe you are Susanna. Ever grateful of what Jesus did for you and in quiet adoration you follow and serve him. 

And many others…I wonder who among you reading this feel as though you don’t have a “big story” to tell so you don’t tell your story at all? You aren’t Mary M. with seven demons or high in the social scene or even mysterious but you adore Jesus and follow him with everything you’ve got. You count too you know. Your story with the Savior is a beautiful one. 

Why do I love this group of women? They are all so different and yet the same because they all recognize their need of Someone bigger than themselves. Each one brought something unique to the table. 

These women were helping to support them out of their own means. 

(Luke 8:3bNIV)

What if this was a group of mean girls instead of women with means? Mary wouldn’t have been allowed in for fear of what others would say about her shameful past. After all, Jesus doesn’t need that sort of reputation! Joanna would never “lower herself” to serve others nor wish to be seen with such people. Susanna would have nothing much to offer so nope, no average folks allowed. 

What a difference that would have made! How much would they have missed out on? 

Thankfully they were women of means and not mean women. They each brought their “something” to support the Savior so he could further his message of hope. 

What if we weren’t meant to be mean women but women of means? Women coming together with all manner of gifts and talents, backgrounds and family histories, stories of healing and adoration for the Healer. We would follow the One we love instead of loving the number of followers we have. We would cheer each other on and be the loudest clapper in the crowd. We would celebrate what has been done so we could stop chasing after do. All for the glory of God.

What if the world saw us women of faith rise up and become women of means? Just imagine it. What if…

kw

From Where I Stood

The view from my daughter’s house in New Mexico

What are you up to Lord? Ever asked yourself that question? Ever wondered how he would work all things for the good when all seemed lost? (Romans 8:28NIV)

That’s where I found myself a couple years back when a friendship was severed like an amputated limb. Hacked off. Gone. Replaced with phantom pains and confusion. 

From where I stood, I thought for sure God was messing up somehow or angry, trying to isolate me and take away things (and people) I thought was good for me. All I could see was destruction. All I could feel was hurt and heartache.

From where I stood the mountain seemed too steep, too rocky, too unapproachable, too desolate, too lonely. I was in need of too much faith to maneuver. I was all out of mustard seeds. 

North Crest Trail, New Mexico

From where I stood, the trail back to who he would have me be meant an uphill climb. Sometimes the path twisted in ways I didn’t want to go and seemed impossible to walk on. Tree roots tripping, forks on the path, rock-slides, thinner air. 

From where I stood I had to learn (again). Rest here. Walk this way. Be still. Listen. Trust me. One step forward. Inhale him. Exhale grace. Don’t look back. Look up child!

You see, God’s view is different. He can see further ahead because he can see from on high the mountaintop. Past the pain, the hurt, the heartache. He sees into the future, my future, and knows exactly what I need (or don’t need.)  

He is the Maker and the Shaker of every mountain that’s in front of us. He is the God of impossible climbs when we cling to him for our next step, our next breath, our next direction. 

He alone is trustworthy. 

I’m learning.

And when you get to the top. My, my, my, such a show off. 

On a plane in Utah

Sometimes he allows you to see that the purpose in the pain was for your protection. Not to harm you but to help you. Not to isolate you but to draw you closer to him. He showed me that recently on this particular adventure. What a different view than the one I had at the beginning of the climb. 

Three Guns Trail, New Mexico

Moses knew a thing or two about climbing and trusting, even when (especially when?) he could not see. One such time, the air was alive with thunder and lightning, the mountain was covered in a thick smoke. Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20:21) and climbed.

If the mountain before you is clouded over with darkness, maybe it’s to show you things he wants no one else to see. For you to walk by faith with your hand on his shoulder, keeping pace with his pace, trusting each step of the path like never before. 

He is there, in the darkest of places. He will teach you what you need to know. Trust him. 

I’m still learning.

I can’t help but think that each mountain is a preparation for the next one. As long as there are people involved, there will always be more mountains to climb because we are human. Frail, fallible and forever in need of a Savior.

From where I stood, the mountain seemed un-climbable. From where God stands, the view is spectacular. Trust him on the climb. He’s got this. 

My Man and middle daughter on the top of Sandia Peak, New Mexico

kw

The Grumpy Gardener

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It’s January 2ndand I’m already done with winter BUT I’m on track with reading the Bible through in a year. (Celebrate the successes, even if it’s only the second day!)

Day 2 was kind of brutal. Anytime God shows us the ugly in us it’s rough. My journal looked like this:

Read Genesis 4-7 God favored Abel over Cain and Cain killed Abel. Cain, the gardener, felt slighted, jealous(?) and perhaps not good enough. He wandered restlessly, apart from God. The familiarity is haunting. I am Cain and I don’t like it.

Things I’m thankful for 4. Revelation 5. Admission 6. Forgiveness

Anger. It can get the best of us, can’t it? Have you ever been there? I have. Dang, I hate being like Cain. But I’m grateful for this…

A Warning and a Way

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it. (Genesis 4:6-7NIV)

Why are you angry? Great question God!

There can be so many reasons (excuses?) to the question God asks. Some may even seem justified. I can be angry if I’m wronged or feel like I got screwed out of something that should have been mine. Anger can bubble just below the surface as a secondary emotion of hurt, confusion, rejection, insecurities, or insufficiencies.

I asked my man if maybe Cain felt the above things like hurt and rejection. His reply? He’s a dude. He’s pissed he didn’t get picked. So maybe you came out of the womb with a chip on your shoulder.

No matter the reason, when left unchecked it can cause us to do things we wouldn’t normally do; behave in ways we wouldn’t normally behave. React impulsively and lash out with no take backs available.

I know how restless I can be when all I want is to get my hands in the dirt but there’s another polar vortex in the forecast and spring seems years away. Maybe Cain was experiencing an extra long winter and he was just a grumpy gardener. Probably not.

It leaves us as a restless wanderer on the earth. (Genesis 4:12NIV)

God doesn’t tell Cain to not be angry but to check it before it gets the better of him. According to Carolyn Custis James, anger is a symptom not of how wrong God has gotten things but of our need to know him better. (When Life and Beliefs Collide pg 65)

 When we believe He is for us and not against us, when we know His character and the love He has for us then we can trust that He will work things out for our good and His glory.

The warning: check yourself before you wreck yourself. (Don’t even open the door a crack!)

The way: master your anger by getting to know Him better.

Giving In and Getting Even

Did Cain listen? Nope.

The very next verse tells us that Cain took him out to the field and attacked his brother Abel and killed him. (Genesis 4:8NIV)

He opened the door wide and allowed the enemy to waltz right in. I would love to tell you I have nothing in common with Cain and that God got it wrong that morning he opened my eyes to being just like him. But I can’t.

No, I haven’t killed anyone in a fit of rage but boy have I let my words wound out of anger. I’ve allowed anger to rise above my covered up hurt and insecurities to treat others poorly. I choose to hold back (love, writing, kind words, sympathy, forgiveness…) out of resentment. I’ve even done a couple of I’ll-show-them things; things I cannot take back and the damage is done.

Lord help me.

Mercy’s Mark and Grace Given

Cain recognized his punishment of being banished as too hard to bear on his own and is afraid for his own life so he cries out to the Lord. God put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (Genesis 4:15NIV)

That’s the mark of mercy. Cain did not get what he deserved. Grace was given.

There is another who, on a cross, bore mercy’s mark on His hands and feet, who keeps me from being destroyed by my enemy, who forgives my sins, who sees me, knows me and loves me in spite of myself. He provides a way so I don’t have to wander restlessly, apart from Him. Now that’s Grace.

Oh to know Him more and more so when anger rears it’s ugly head I can check to see where my theology is lacking, then thank Him for mercy’s mark and grace given.

I am Cain. I am forgiven.

kw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let There Be…Night

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Beautiful moon photo is courtesy of the gorgeous Dianna Dickson

Show me what I need to see today Lord.

This simple prayer is how I’ve started each morning since January 1st. It’s something I’ve never done…reading this ancient script in it’s entirety over the course of one year. Just me and Thee. Bible and heart open. Pen and journal in hand. (I say this with some sarcasm because, while this sounds uber spiritual, I’ve already thrown a couple fits, not liked what he’s shown me, and well, I’m getting ahead of myself…)

I’m 20+ days in and He has yet to disappoint. Granted I’ve not made it as far as Numbers and read those long genealogies but still. Some days there are more questions than answers but that’s okay. I’m finding the joy (?) of trusting that He will show me what I need to see today.

Take for instance the first few verses of Genesis 1….

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4 NIV)

 My journal entry looked like this:

January 1, 2019

Read Genesis 1-3 God separated light from darkness right away. *Live as Light*

  1. Coffee
  2. Quiet
  3. Rose Bowl win for the Buckeyes

I closed my Bible and my journal satisfied that Day One was in the books. The message was to shine bright…after another cup of coffee of course…because he saw that the light was good. So light=good, darkness=bad. Right?

Not so much. But we often equate it that way. Maybe it’s because we can’t see as well at night. Maybe it’s because as soon as our head hits the pillow our brains have nothing else to occupy the thoughts we’ve been too busy to think about all day. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe it’s because the moment we’re still, grief pours down over us.

He could have made the sun to always shine but instead gave us night with a dimmer light to lead the way. Often times when life is all sunshine I have a tendency to think I know where I’m going and get completely lost. My arrogance leads me down a path I wasn’t meant to take. Once again I’m reliant on the Maker of both day and night to put me back on the right road.

God shows us things at night.

Take Abram for example. He was discouraged in his inability to produce offspring and was talking to the Lord about it. So God took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:1-5NIV)

This offspring thing kept Abram up at night. God didn’t wait to address his concerns until the sun came up the next day. No. He showed Abram the stars so when the darkness of doubt set in again, Abram could simply look up and be reminded that the God who put the stars in the sky does what He says He will do. He was right there with him. And he’s right there with you and me. In the night. When the doubt creeps in like the shadow of death.

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Photo courtesy of Dianna Dickson

God likes to wrestle at night.

In Genesis 32 we see Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau. Esau is the brother from whom Jacob stole his birthright. They haven’t seen each other in years and Jacob is a bit…nervous shall we say. Jacob sends his family on ahead and…

a man wrestled him until daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Then a few wrestle moves and a name change later the man…blessed him there. (Genesis 32:22-29NIV)

I’m not sure what all Jacob was wrestling with God about but I do know it was night once again. That time when you lay your head on the pillow, exhausted from a full day of running, working, kids, husband, appointments. You can’t wait to fall into the bliss of sweet dreams…

Instead you start thinking about running, working, kids, husband, appointments. Worry, doubts, wonder, fear…

But instead of grappling with God we grab our phones and Crush some Candy or scroll through social media and wonder why everyone else has it better than you do. Other people’s families don’t seem to be falling apart. What will the test come back as? The list goes on and we get angry at God but we don’t engage with him. Our noses get out of joint instead of our hips.

Could it be that we miss the blessing because we run from the wrestling?

Living a life of faith is not lived in the light but discovered in the dark. While I don’t want to live in utter darkness all the time, I also don’t want to fear it. What can light mean if we never experience dark?

I do want to live as light like I wrote in my journal. But that may mean allowing Him to show me things by way of moonlight and stars with just enough light for the step I’m on. My light may shine brighter only after I grapple with God for the blessing in the darkest of night.

There was evening and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:5 NIV)

And what a day it was too!

To be continued…

kw

PS Disclaimer: the darkness I am talking about here is things that trouble or scare you or refers to a trial or hard time you are going through. I am NOT talking about the darkness of depression or other mental illnesses. Please seek professional counseling and take any prescribed medicine to help you. I have and there’s no shame in it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Hijacks Your Joy

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Can I let you in on a little secret? Sometimes I overcomplicate things. I think too hard, wonder too long, analyze to the point of paralyze and run a million rabbits of what-if. At the end of all those thoughts, wonderings and trails are holes that lead to nowhere but tired. Well, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes it leads to empty places, dark spaces that need Light.

This is where I found myself at the tail end of last year. Life had somehow hijacked my joy. Instead of an attitude of gratitude, I found myself wound up with worry. Oh, maybe not on the outside because I wouldn’t want the world to see my faith fading into fear like an ombre highlight at the salon…the subtleness soft, hardly noticeable until you take a step back and see the light to dark difference.

Even my word for this year is complicated. I had thoughts of Joy (the word, not my look on life at the moment) but it seemed inadequate. Gratitude seemed, I don’t know, lame (and so worn out with use. Really?) So in God’s witty humor he knew Eucharisteo was the other three-in-one I needed to get me out of this funk.

And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them…(Luke 22:19)

In the original Greek language, he gave thanks, is the word eucharisteo. The root word is charis which means grace. Jesus takes the bread and sees it as grace,  a gift from above….even in the knowing of what was to be.

This word eucharisteo, giving thanks, wraps itself around the Greek word for grace, charis but also holds within it the Greek word chara,meaning joy.

 Chara. Joy.

 James tells us to consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James 1:2NIV)

I hate tests. Pop quizzes are even worse! It exposes any lack of preparedness. (Amen?!) Gracious sakes how can you be fully prepared for what life can throw at you?  So this recent testing of my faith had me mad at the Teacher, the One who did the testing. But the test allowed me to see areas where my faith is weak and trust is timid.

Pure joy can be found in (not because of) trials. I’m learning.

 Charis. Grace.

Sharing my story, my thoughts and lessons I’m learning as this year of practicing Eucharisteo unfolds, reveals the certainty of the grace of God…how good he is, not how bad I am.

Grace, that unmerited favor, something we hoard and crave is often difficult to give and sometimes even harder to receive. Grace, at times, is challenging to recognize, clouded by our own thoughts and ideas of what life should look like or what the outcomes should be.

All is grace. I’m still learning.

Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.

Deep joy, chara and grace, charis begin at the table of thanksgiving, eucharisteo.

 And he took the bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. (Luke 22:19NIV)

He gave thanks before the trial of all trials that would send him to the cross.

For you. For me.

He calls us to remember…

By giving thanks I am remembering what he did for me. Remembering what he did for me reminds me that I can place all my thoughts, wonderings, what-if’s, empty spaces and dark places, fragile faith and wearied soul before him with thanks giving.

It’s that simple. And that hard.

Joy, Grace and Thanksgiving…EUCHARISTEO…a beautiful word called to live out in a brutal world.

To be continued…

kw