Archives for March 2013

Weeping Forward {It’s Time to Move Out of Suffering}

This is the week.

The week the Savior of the world rode into Jerusalem on a colt.  The crowds spread out their clothing and palm leaves, welcoming him, shouting Hosanna!

But, in one short week, these shouts of Praise God in the highest!  Hosanna! became Crucify Him!

What a difference a week makes in the hearts and minds of man.

The human heart can be swayed and steered so easily.  We stand strongly one day and fall weakly the next.

And as a result of this humanness, falling seems inevitable.  Beliefs we once proclaimed loudly and held tightly become whispered and slippery as we find ourselves influenced by the crowds and circumstances.

We live in a broken, sinful world, hurting one another all too easily.  Shouting Crucify him! when we should be shouting Hosanna!

It’s not IF we will fail Him and hurt others, but WHEN.  It’s not IF we will suffer or experience trials – it’s WHEN.  In fact, throughout God’s word we are warned that trials ARE coming…

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2

So be truly glad.There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. 1 Peter 1:6

22They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:22

I’ve suffered in this life; I bet you have too.  I’ve also stood alongside friends and family as they’ve endured hardship and heartbreak.  In these times, conversations with God often sound like this…

What now?  How do I move forward out of or away from this heartache?  Lord, I feel stuck – unable to move from this spot.  Yes, I love you.  Yes, I know you’re working all things together for good.  I know your promises.  Still…my heart and life seem paralyzed. I want to move, but I can’t.  I am simply too broken to serve you or proclaim your name or lead again. 

Does any of that sound familiar?  You’re in the midst of or recovering from life-altering suffering.  You feel God is in your heart, but He’s just not showing up; He’s not moving you, directing you out of or away from the pain.  You’re still mourning your sin, your failure, a loss. Some days smiling; other days weeping.

What in the world do you do?

You weep forward.  Away from what is or was and toward God.

I wish I could take credit for this idea of weeping forward. I can’t.  I am participating in a Bible study on Ruth, and my thoughts on being “stuck” in or after suffering were forever altered when I read this in Kelly Minter’s study this week:

My friend wept, but she wept forward… It’s possible to cry and walk.

Naomi’s husband and sons had died.  She was left with two Moabite daughters-in-law:  Ruth and Orpah.  When Naomi decided to return to her home in Bethlehem, she didn’t expect these gals to go with her.  She thought they’d remain and try to marry a Moabite.  Besides, an Israelite arriving in the Promised Land with two Moabite women in tow wasn’t all that appealing since God forbade intermarriage between the two groups.

But on the way, Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go back to your mothers’ homes. And may the Lord reward you for your kindness to your husbands and to me. May the Lord bless you with the security of another marriage.” Then she kissed them good-bye, and they all broke down and wept.

10 “No,” they said. “We want to go with you to your people.”

11 But Naomi replied, “Why should you go on with me? Can I still give birth to other sons who could grow up to be your husbands? 12 No, my daughters, return to your parents’ homes, for I am too old to marry again. And even if it were possible, and I were to get married tonight and bear sons, then what? 13 Would you wait for them to grow up and refuse to marry someone else? No, of course not, my daughters! Things are far more bitter for me than for you, because the Lord himself has raised his fist against me.”

14 And again they wept together, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-bye. But Ruth clung tightly to Naomi. 15 “Look,” Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.”  Ruth 1: 8-15

Orpah wept and turned back.

Ruth wept and moved forward.

Both experienced great grief – loss of a husband and family.  Both were clinging to their mother-in-law as all they had left.  Gut-wrenching weeping.

One wept forward into the new, and one gave in, returning to the old.

Ruth promised Naomi:  Where you go, I’ll go.  Where you stay, I’ll stay (verse 16)

We can see evidence of weeping forward toward Kingdom gain and backward toward Kingdom loss throughout God’s word.

In Acts 20, Paul weeps with the church when it’s time for his departure.  He must go; he’ll never see them again. But, God’s called him away for Kingdom work.  Paul weeps forward.  In the pain and heartache of goodbye, Paul recognizes God’s call and honors it, crying as he walked away from what he knew and loved in route to fulfilling God’s plan.

In Mark 10, we meet a rich man who asks Jesus, What must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus responds, Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.  Either way – selling and following OR keeping and walking away – caused weeping.  The grief could either move him toward Jesus – or away from Him. This man chose not to weep forward.

In your tears, sorrow, grief, and loss, I pray you decide to weep forward – toward Jesus, seeking His face and doing His work.  Whether the suffering occurred yesterday or years ago, it’s time to move forward.

Act.  Take a step forward toward Him.

Don’t stop. Don’t turn around.  Don’t give up.  By all means, cry.  Mourn. Weep.  Hurt.

But, weep forward toward the only One that makes all things new.  The only One who gives joy – Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hannah is a Teenager {Parenting Confessions}

In June 1999 I sat in my office at West Virginia University.  I’d been experiencing migraines and had an MRI scheduled.  But, I was sick.  So sick.

I couldn’t type one more word…I needed help before I passed out.  I went to my friend Robin’s office, describing my symptoms.  We agreed I should go to the hospital.

I was 23 years old.  Steve and I were about to celebrate our one-year anniversary.  I loved my job at the University and had enrolled in a master’s program.  My life was planned daily, monthly, and yearly. Or, so I thought.

As I sat in the emergency room at Ruby Memorial Hospital, I made deal after deal with God.  Please don’t let this be a tumor.  I’d been checked before.  If you make me well, God, I will…do anything for you.  Anything.

The doctor entered smiling from ear to ear.  I will never forget the look on his face, and he said…

Mrs. Farish, you’re not sick.  You’re pregnant.

Pregnant?

Huh?

Was God kidding?  Me? A mom?  It just didn’t seem I could be or should be responsible for another life.

On March 22, 2000, I gave birth to that precious gift from God – Hannah Grace.  After 27 hours of labor, she entered the world weighing 8 pounds and 15 ounces, with a smile on her face and barely a wimper from her lips.

And, that’s how she’s been.  Smiling always, quarreling never.

Most days I look at her and think…could this be my child?  God, what did I do to deserve the gift of Hannah?

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Tender-hearted.  Loving. Smart.  Funny.  Graceful. Sincere. Honest.

She loves Jesus more than anyone I know and lives out that faith in our home and community by loving and serving well.

We are blessed to share our world with her.

You may remember that all Hannah wanted for her birthday was yarn for Hats of Hope– a ministry she began to provide hats to those who have lost hair due to illness.  As of yesterday, she had almost 80 skeins of yarn.

The plan was for me to deliver the hats to hospitals in Honduras when I go in June.  Until…Hannah shared with me that she’d been praying and thinks God’s calling her go.

No.  Not happening.  Too dangerous.  Too expensive.  And, too dangerous. Yes, too dangerous.  And, what might she see there?  The hungry bellies and homeless hearts that leave me despairing when I’m there?  Do I want her to know about that?  Do I want her to see what I’ve seen?

Poverty. Injustice.  Despair.

And…

Hope.  Joy.  Love.

Hannah wanted to respond to God – to our teaching of Him.  And, I was saying no.

No was the WISE answer, right?  It’s crazy to take my sweet, innocent child to such a dangerous country.  Crazy.

Weeks of prayer alone and as a family ensued.  To say I wrestled?  Understatement.  Steve and I know THIS decision is huge.  But, we know…

God calls us to crazy.  Noah built a boat when it had yet to rain.  Fisherman dropped everything and followed a man teaching things that many said were crazy.

God was answering all the prayers we’d uttered for Hannah since her birth. So, in honor of her 13th birthday, we are giving her a letter today, honoring her request to accompany me to Honduras…

After much prayer, we have decided you should join mom in Honduras this summer.  This is our commitment to pray for your trip and help you raise funds.  We are proud of you for seeking God and answering his call to a country that is in desperate need of those like you who want to love and serve well.

And that moment in the emergency room when I looked heavenward, saying to God…Me?  A Mom?  Huh?

I still live that moment much.  I daily feel unequipped and inadequate as a mom.  Hannah loves cooking, scrap booking, and sewing.  I love…well, none of that.  Most of all, I want to shepherd her well, instilling a deep faith that won’t collapse at the first sign of trouble.  Steve and I know we can’t do that alone.

I asked 13 women to step into Hannah’s world over the next few months.  Each of them wrote a prayer for Hannah and made a promise to her.  I am so thankful for each of these ladies who have committed to sharing their gifts from and heart for Him with Hannah.

I made Hannah a Prayers and Promises book on behalf of these amazing ladies…

prayer promise book

While I love being your mom, sharing your dreams, praying for your heart, and shaping your faith, I realize that I can’t and shouldn’t do this alone.  In Titus 2, God tells us it’s important for older women to pour into younger women.  So, as you become a teen, I have asked 13 amazing women to write a prayer for you and make a promise to you. 

As you read each prayer, picture her saying those words to you and to Jesus on your behalf.  Having these ladies intercede for you, praying for your life and future is a priceless gift.  I hope you cherish each prayer, reading them again and again. 

With her prayer, each gal also promises to give you the gift of her time…Elaine and Shelby will teach you to bake; Jen W. will teach you about Honduras; Ashley will teach you about health and fitness while Amanda shows you how to mother well.  Jen I. will take you to ride horses and paint.  You and Emily will do crafts; Angie will teach you to cook while sharing some of her favorite worship music.  Sue will teach you to knit, and Lisa will teach you to study God’s Word in depth.  Aunt Dawnna will continue to be your second mom, loving and caring for you.  You and I will also plan a fun day with Sarajane, Kylie, and Maggie while Kay covers you in prayer. 

And, I promise to love you well, praying for you each day.  As you grow and mature, pursuing your dreams and your God, please know deep in your heart that I love you more than words can express.  I thank God for the gift of you. 

Today we celebrate the gift of Hannah and the young woman she’s becoming.  We look back and see God’s faithfulness.  We look forward expectantly with Him as our hope – and Hannah’s hope.

From the emergency room “I am going to mother a child” panic, to the moment we go through customs in Honduras this summer, there is one thing I know…for sure.  He is sovereign over us.  God is in control Hannah’s life.  He has a plan for her life that far surpasses anything I could dream for her.

And so I pray, giving my teenage daughter to Him, trusting the One who fearfully and wonderfully knit her in my womb.  Trusting the One who knew the number of hairs on her head before she was born.  Trusting the One who holds each breath she takes in His hands.  Trusting her to Him.

Happy 13th Birthday, Hannah!  You are loved.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.  Proverbs 31: 25-26

I Want to Live Like That {Lent} {Distance from Him}

I am struggling to write today.  When I struggle with writing, it almost always means that I am struggling with God.

And, I am.

It’s day 36 of my Lenten journey.  Not long now until I will be “finished” with my diet-soda fast (woohoo!;)

And within these 36 short days, God has shown up.  Again and again.  Never how I thought he would or should, but he’s exposed areas in my life and heart that aren’t authentic and for Him.

For a recovering perfectionist and steadfast rule follower, it’s been difficult to take.  To hear God saying that some of my “rules” are faulty.  All of my life doesn’t point to Him. Tough.

In some ways, I am not living what I believe.

If I (or anyone else) look closely at my life, then my beliefs will be…should be evident.  In the words I say.  The choices I make.  The statuses I post.  The places I go.  The words I write.  Not perfect, but reflective of my life at least.

And sometimes, they’re not.

The perfectionist, people-pleaser in me gets caught up in towing the party line, fitting in, and pleasing others.

All at the expense of making Him known.  I protect my image.  I find myself slipping into roles as culture defines then, not as God has spoken to me about them.   I give in, going along to get along.

God reminds me of the song Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets…

I want to live like that.  And give it all I have.  So that everything I say and do points to you.  If love is who I am, then this is where I stand – recklessly abandoned never holding back. I want to live like that.  I want to show the world the love You gave for me…I am longing for the world to know the glory of the King.

I do.  I want to live like that.

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What would this life look like?  A life in which everything I say and do points to God? Am I living for God or man?

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

If love is WHO I am, then I live recklessly abandoned, never holding back when it comes to Him.  Because, ultimately, there’s an urgency within me to show the world the love HE gave for me.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I desperately want the world to know the glory of my King.  The one who saved me and works within me for His glory.

Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory.  It was I who created them.  Isaiah 43:7

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

To live a life that always points to Him, we have to stay connected to Him – always seeking His face. But we can’t stop at knowing, as I am often guilty of collecting knowledge and doing nothing with it.

When we know and choose not to follow, the result is a tension that separates us from Him.  Making us feel distant.  Disconnected. Without purpose.

Are you feeling distant from Him today? Disconnected?  Are you having a “what’s the point” moment?

I pray you sit at His feet, asking him what’s creating the distance.  Open His Word, seeking his promises and faithfulness.

He will answer when asked according to his will:  14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5: 14-15

And when He answers, obey.  Step forward into all He has for you.  Never holding back, showing the world the love He gave for you and the glory of your King.

Dealing with Different {Prejudice}

Mom, I find it awkward to interact with the homeless community.

We were praying for a local homeless shelter during family Bible study when Owen uttered these words.  I’d ask him if he’d like to volunteer with me there; that was his response.

Awkward.

I understood Owen’s heart.  Different can be awkward.  Uncomfortable.

Still, I made Owen go with me the next night.  Not in a mean “you will go” way, but in a “I want you to give it one more try” way.  He went.  He played with the boys staying at the shelter and gave them some of his clothes.  As we talked on the way home, he said  it still felt weird knowing all he had and how little they had.

Still awkward. But, the boys were just like him.

They liked coloring, race cars, and Legos.  They didn’t like school so much.  And, I reminded him – most of all, they want to be loved.  They want to know they matter – just like you, Owen. 

I can see that.  Sure, Mom. 

I now work at the shelter; Owen’s been back a few times with me. He was there last Thursday with me, and I noticed…awkward was almost gone. Owen seemed at home there, walking in, saying hi, and settling in.

Perhaps familiarity stamps out awkward.

In February our family began praying about allowing Hannah to join me on a mission trip to Honduras in June.  Every time she’s watched me board a plane since 2007, Hannah’s wanted to go.  I always said, when you’re 13. 

She’ll be 13 this week. But I know the realties of Honduras, so this decision hasn’t been an easy one to make.

As we’ve prayed and discussed the trip, I’ve asked Owen a few times, “Do you want to go?”

Owen has always responded with a quick no. Never. 

That answer has always been ok with me.  Just because I love Honduras does not mean my kiddos do or should.  I want them to love missions, but it doesn’t have to be in the same way I do.

Still…I wanted to understand Owen’s quick NO.  So, I continued asking and discussing the trip with him.  He revealed that he’s scared of the people there. They are different from him.  Life is different there.  Armed guards protect Dunkin Donuts.  It’s not everyday you pull up to get a donut and have to walk by a rifle or machine gun.

In my heart, I’m thinking…Here we go again…dealing with different.  This time I realize that awkward is rooted in fear.  Fear of different people.  Fear of different places, customs, cultures, languages, and beliefs.

I get fear. I should probably have more than I do.  I have no problem with Owen’s (or anyone’s) fear. It’s healthy to fear.

But, I don’t get prejudice:  preconceived judgment or opinion; an adverse opinion or leaning formed before sufficient knowledge.

And prejudice is what I read between the lines of Owen’s concerns.  To be fair, Owen is 10.  Yet, his fear of people who look different and speak a different language broke my heart.   That’s not how we want to raise our children.

In our home, we teach that every single human being is an image bearer of Christ – made in His image.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

We emphasize loving others…

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-38

We strive not to box people in, making sweeping generalizations about who they are or what they believe. 

WE strive to love regardless. 

So, we started having conversations about the people I’ve met in Honduras.  We started showing him pictures and videos of some boys his age that live there. This was in a no way an effort to get him to go on a mission trip or to love Honduras  – this was an effort to help him love people.

All people.  Not just the people like him. 

And, when I say love, I mean love.  Not that fake “oh, poor child” crap that we spout right before we sign a check.  I mean care deeply for the child in such a way that your heart aches for his plight and desires to sacrifice in order to help.

A love that at the very least intercedes for the other in prayer.

I began to pray for this change in Owen’s heart, and I continued to include him in all Honduras conversations.  He voiced concerns that Hannah would be kidnapped or killed – all valid concerns when traveling (to Florida or Honduras).  Because let’s face it – life is risky.  I could die driving to Wal-Mart. Not as likely, but possible.

Owen continued to hold fast to his beliefs that the trip is too dangerous and scary.  That he wouldn’t really want to get to know or serve anyone there.  He finally said to me…that’s just how it is, mom.

Sigh.  Ok, my work wasn’t done, but I appreciated his convictions even if they weren’t in line with my theology.

Last week I was FaceTiming my friend, Jen, who was in Honduras. Owen was curious and joined me for the call. My friend had four little boys with her – all Hondurans – so I talked to each of them.  Then, she introduced them to Owen.

Me Owen and Antonio Owen and Mario owen and Mario muscles

Owen looked on skeptically.  I could tell he was unsure and a bit nervous.  Awkward. The boys spoke some English, but Owen liked listening to their Spanish.

The conversation centered on …What’s your name?  How old are you? What grade are you in?  What games could we get on Jen’s iPhone?  What’s your favorite game? What do you call football? What do you call soccer?  How are they different?  What’s your favorite sport?  Do you play soccer? 

Owen’s asking.  Jen’s translating some.  The boys were answering.  It was so cute.

The boys would like Owen to visit so they could play together.  Owen says he’d love to come play with them.

It was as if I watched a light bulb appear above Owen’s head.  He’d just said he wanted to go to Honduras.  What?

The call ends, and I ask Owen…what did you think?  His response…they’re just like me.

Yes, Owen, they are.

We are all the same.

 We are all image bearers of Christ doing our best to find purpose, to love, and to live in this world. 

No one is better than anyone else.  No one is more loved by God than anyone else – God doesn’t love America more or less than Honduras.  He is love and loves all the same.

It’s so dang simple.  Love one another:  So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. John 13: 34

Owen grew to love FaceTime with those sweet boys.  They even showed one another their muscles, and Owen asked if they were enjoying the games he recommended.

Owen’s heart changed because “Honduran” now had a name and a face.  Instead of “boys who live in Honduras,” Owen knew Mario, Antonio, and Francisco specifically.  And, suddenly, all Hondurans weren’t dangerous anymore;  some are  just regular kids like him.

Often, that’s what we all need – a name and a face – a real person – to replace our detestable stereotypes and judgments. To break the walls of our boxes.

Familiarity and love stamps out awkward and fear.

That’s what Owen needed – to know a real person, not a statistic.  And from that, God transformed Owen’s little 10-year-old heart, helping him to see that we are much more alike than we are different.

Most of all, God loves us all…equally.

Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:26

We Need Each Other {Although It’s Risky}

We stand in a beautiful sanctuary.  It’s a place I could stay for hours.  From the moment I walk through the doors, I feel His presence.  My soul sighs in peace.  A peace I’ve not known in years.

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We stand in a circle linked together, heads bowed. My hands wrap around my friend’s arm.  Someone holds my right arm and another’s hand rests on my left shoulder.

One by one the ladies in the circle pray over my friend and me.  I am here simply as a friend.  I have no role or responsibility, but they’re praying over me still.  Their prayers come from genuine hearts, revealing their love for Jesus and one another.

I am soaking in each prayer, holding back tears as they intercede on behalf of their sisters, asking God to clear distractions and open hearts.  They LOVE their sisters in Christ.  I know this deep within me as I listen to their pleas.  In this moment, I feel they love me too.

One of the sweet ladies prays for me…referring to me as my friend’s “Aaron,” supporting her as she leads.  There’s a chorus of amens as if all in the circle agree…I am like Aaron to my friend.

I intuitively know it’s true although I’ve never before considered the parallel.

These ladies don’t know me.   They don’t know my heart or current season of life.  So, I know as I listen to them pray that God is speaking to and through them.  The way their prayers meet my heart?  Amazing and somewhat scary.

God is so real to me in this moment.

And, I am undone.  By their prayers.  By their obedience.  By their love.  By their reference to Aaron and Moses.

I’m holding back tears overwhelmed by their love and God’s faithfulness.  One stray drop creeps down my cheek as I breath deeply and say amen.  They’ve connected to and touched my heart in ways they’ll never know.  God’s reminder of His goodness and grace.

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So began a beautiful evening with Jesus.  Reflecting, praying, repenting, and sharing.  I thought I was just along for the ride, but we all know how THAT goes – we think we’re going to bless another and they bless us tenfold.

And I am left thinking of Aaron and Moses.

I know it’s not coincidence that I’ve been studying Exodus with my friend Elaine, and I know this story well.  God definitely used his Word and my study time to get my attention.

Aaron and Moses are brothers, but they didn’t grow up in the same household.  Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses and raised him in the Egyptian palace while Aaron worked as an enslaved Hebrew.  As an adult, Moses murders an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew slave; Pharaoh wants Moses dead.  Moses flees to the land of Midian, where he’s a shepherd for 40 years. (THIS is the Cliff Notes; I highly recommend reading through the first four chapters of Exodus and Stephen’s address in Acts 7 if you’d like the full story. It’s awesome.)

From brash prince to humble shepherd.

And, then, God calls from a burning bush, instructing Moses to lead his people out of Egypt into the promised land.  After making excuses to God, Moses says in Exodus 4:13 “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”

14 Then the Lord became angry with Moses. “All right,” he said. “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks well. And look! He is on his way to meet you now. He will be delighted to see you. 15 Talk to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with both of you as you speak, and I will instruct you both in what to do. 16 Aaron will be your spokesman to the people. He will be your mouthpiece, and you will stand in the place of God for him, telling him what to say.  Exodus 4: 14-16

God owes Moses nothing, but is gracious in giving him Aaron to help shoulder his burden.

And Aaron shows up…again and again.  He makes his share of mistakes, but he steadfastly loves and supports Moses…

10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle. Exodus 17: 8-13

When Moses’ arms grew weary, Aaron held them up.

Moses needed Aaron; Aaron needed Moses.

We need each other.

While God has to be our center always, we also need Aarons who will hold up our arms when we can no longer hold them up ourselves. And, ‘holding up” occurs through intercessory prayer, listening ears, encouraging words, loving hearts, serving hands, and sharing tears.

I pray you choose to be an Aaron to at least one other sister in Christ.  Pray, petitioning God – send me.  Send me to serve another sister in times of joy and in times of suffering…in the valleys and on the mountains.

In Exodus 4, Aaron is already traveling toward Moses as Moses travels toward him.  God set this plan into motion before he ever appeared in the burning bush.  God set both on paths that would intertwine in the wilderness.

Looking back, I was already on the path to the wilderness and wasn’t even aware.  The one I’d meet there?  She’d been traveling too.

Perhaps God already has someone traveling your way, but in order for you to meet her, you must travel at least halfway.  You must step out in faith and travel toward the wilderness…the unknown.

That first step may be difficult, especially if you’ve been betrayed or hurt in other friendships or relationships.  (THAT was my issue.) It requires trust and honor beyond most of our comfort zones.  It requires us to stand in the gap for another, risking our hearts.

Still, God commands us…

Don’t just pretend to love others.  Really love them.  Hate what is wrong.  Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  Romans 12: 9-10

Don’t just pretend.  Really love and honor another, spilling Christ’s love to her.

Seek to be an Aaron.

Coming Back to a Heart of {Redefined} Worship

I am continually amazed at how God wastes nothing.  He often shows up in the oddest ways.  Our conversations, our trips to the grocery store, our interaction with co-workers, our drive to the bank…a group text before church on Sunday.

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One friend wasn’t responding to the text, and I reminded my other friend that church was about to begin and she was leading worship. I had to go too because I was leading worship in the kid’s area at my church.

My friend’s response was a funny…me not so much…wink.

I responded with…well, you lead worship for sure.  You just do it with a hammer.

I meant that while my friend isn’t going to stand on a stage at church on Sunday and sing, she leads “worship” as she serves.  This week she’s swinging a hammer in Honduras, building houses.

That’s worshipping our Creator too. 

This definition of worship isn’t a new concept for me.  I’ve always been taught that “worship” isn’t just a time slot in the service order at church.

Worship should be the posture of my heart.  Always. 

As I lead 50 precious kiddos in worship Sunday, my heart could not quit thinking about, well, worship.  God wouldn’t relent.

After I finished in the kid’s area, I went upstairs to the “big” service for communion.  Again, God’s whispering…worship.  And, I am saying back to Him, I know what it is, Lord.  What’s with the disquiet in my heart?  Help me to see what you want me to see. 

I stood for the closing song:  The Heart of Worship.

These are the moments when I want to look around…as if someone is reading my mind.  Really, God?  THIS song?

God wastes nothing.

 

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

 

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

 

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You,
It’s all about You, Jesus

 

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much You deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath

When everything fades and all is stripped away, I simply come.  Just me…the girl He fearfully and wonderfully knit together.  I long to bring something that’s of worth.  But, He requires more than a song…more than my outward works.  In that moment, He requires more of me than to stand in the church and sing along.  He searches deeper within- past the way I appear.

He looks into my heart. 

And what does He find?  I wanted him to find a heart of worship.

A heart that’s all about Him.

But, I knew…THIS is what he’s after this morning…repentance for the thing I’ve made it.

Somehow I had shifted to doing without a heart of worship.  I wasn’t necessarily wrong. But, my heart wasn’t one of worship.

I am sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about You. 

Thankfully, though I am weak and poor – and disobedient and prideful – he forgives and extends grace – again and again. All I have is His. Every single breath.

And when I live as if every single breath is truly His, I live with a heart of worship.

Cooking breakfast for my family.  Helping my son with schoolwork.  Working at a homeless shelter.  Crying with a friend.  Conversing with my husband.  Decorating a friend’s house.  Sharing a word of encouragement.  Writing an email to some sweet sisters.  Praying with my family. Swinging a hammer in Honduras or at my neighbor’s house.

ALL is worship.

We simply need to ask God for a heart of worship. A place where it’s all about Him; a place where He motivates all we do.

1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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. Romans 1:1-2 (The Message)

Worship is giving God is His breath back. Louie Giglio

Each breath I take, each word I say, each text I send, each time I serve – all in my ordinary life – I want Him to find a heart of worship.

Our Words…Who’s Listening?

Today’s post was supposed to be my weekly update on Lent  – still no diet soda – which is a miracle for sure.

But last night and this morning, I have sat with a dear friend in a big ‘ol mess. I’ve listened carefully, murmured prayer after prayer as she described years of pain, and looked heavenward asking God to help her see grace and understanding in my heart, not judgment and condemnation.

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I understand suffering. I bet you do too.  I have suffered greatly over the past six or so years, and I’ve learned through the suffering to extend grace beyond measure, for in the midst of my suffering all I truly wanted was a listening ear and grace to keep going.

So this morning as I considered her suffering and my own…how my suffering has enabled me to feel her pain to the depths of my soul…God reminded me that we’re ALL sinners in need of a Savior.

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3: 23-24 The Message

Me, my friend, you – we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us.  We. Can’t. Do. It.  And, out of sheer generosity – a pure gift – God lifts us out of the mess we’re in whether we created it or have been an innocent bystander.  He places us in right standing with Himself, restoring us to where He always wanted us to be.

We all have baggage and messy pasts that can cause us to feel both guilt and shame – heaps of it.  But, he doesn’t want us living there amidst the rubble of broken hearts and promises…it’s for freedom He’s set us free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm,then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

He wants us to be free in Him. 

I want that for my friend.  I want that for you.  And while that work begins with Jesus – at the cross – the work continues with us and through us.

We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves.  And part of that love is watching how and when we spew our opinions, especially about hurtful, hot-button topics.

A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.

This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!  James 3: 5-10 The Message

Sometimes I am amazed at the insensitivity of loving, faithful Christ-followers to those who have sinned differently than they have sinned.  As if the sin of another is worse or more repulsive than their sin.

As believers in a risen Christ, we have to stop making blanket statements about others and sin. We have to stop throwing self-righteous opinions around when we don’t know who is listening. We are hurting people who have repented and are healing.  Our matter-of-fact words and disengaged hearts wound them again and again.   Our words confirm within them “I am a hopeless mess” and can often send them back into the shell that they were finally beginning to peek out of.

You might say…but I didn’t know. I didn’t know her husband had cheated three years ago.  I didn’t know she’d had an abortion as a teenager.  I didn’t know she was abused as a child.  I just didn’t know.

I “didn’t know” just yesterday.  Before I knew my friend’s secret, I had made a sweeping comment – during a discussion about the Bible of all things – about her sin.  I didn’t know what I’d said because I didn’t know her story.

No, I didn’t know and you don’t know often.  And that’s my point.  We should always speak boldly for Christ, standing up for his will and ways.  We must confront sin in love.  There are consequences to sin and we must live with and in those.

But we must, must, must speak in love and grace always.  Angry words…all encompassing generalizations…self-righteous ideals – these hurt people.

Deeply.

Today I am hurting for a friend – and maybe a bit for myself- for all the times words empty of grace were spoken – not pointed at me, but stabbing me like a knife, highlighting my situation, my sin, and the sin of those I loved.

Yes, we’re human and make mistakes. I get all of that.  I truly do.  I am simply praying, asking, begging you to consider who might be listening when you decide to stand up on your soap box and proclaim “right” for everyone. While you may indeed be “right,” the way in which we convey our hearts and convictions makes all the difference to a hurting heart.

Please honor others always, speaking the truth in love with heaps of grace and mercy.  Because they will know we are Christians by our love…

34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13: 34-35