Archives for October 2015

Oh, Mercy! {A Concept Fully Against My Nature}

Mercy. It’s concept far beyond my human nature. If I am extending mercy, then you KNOW it’s God through me and not me. Because I am a justice girl. A fair girl.  One who thinks what you put in is what you get out. Nothing is free; all must be earned.  My parents raised me not to take handouts, but to work hard for what I have. I am a type-A achiever. An ENFJ (Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Judgement).  I read the parable of the workers in Matthew 20 and think…that’s  just soooooo UNFAIR!  Those who worked a half day received the same pay as those who worked a full day – what in the WORLD?  

Oh, Mercy

So, mercy?  It’s not my nature.  It’s my struggle. 

What exactly is mercy?  Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.  Kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; an act of kindness, compassion, or favor.  

It’s not getting what you deserve.  

According to my handy dandy Bible study tools, “several Hebrew and Greek terms lie behind the English term ‘mercy.’ The chief Hebrew term is hesed, God’s covenant “lovingkindness.”  The Greek term behind “mercy” is most often eleos: compassion, pity, to show mercy.”

It comes from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, price paid, wages.  (Yeah, I see where this is headed!)

R.C Sproul calls hesed “loyal love.”  Hesed wraps love, mercy, grace, and kindness all up together. In fact, it’s my favorite characteristic of God – a kindness borne from love- a loving kindness.  If someone is going to be kind, wouldn’t you rather have their kindness  rooted in love?

So, this word – mercy- sounds lovely when it’s coming from God, who has told me that ALL have sinned and fall short of his glory (Romans 3:23) including ME. It’s a great word when another extends her hand toward ME when I do not deserve it. When she has EVERY right to be mad as well as the position to punish me.

But, then…there’s mercy I must extend.  Loving kindness that must flow from me to others. And as soon as I consider it, my head says things like…

I am NOT a doormat!  I will not allow people to just walk all over me.  I must stand up for myself!  {Ask my momma about my mouthy teen years!} I can hear myself saying the same to my kiddos:  Stand up for yourself!  Blah, blah. 

They deserve it!  Bad choice after bad choice.  They will just have to suffer.  Or...actions have consequences and these are his/hers.  

I have even played God a bit…God is allowing this because of all they’ve done.

Have you thought these things?  What goes around comes around?

Friend, there are consequences to sin.  But, they’re not mine to dole out.  There’s wisdom after you’ve been hurt again and again.  I get that, and it’s between you and God.   But, when I look at Jesus – at his MERCY toward me and you – I don’t see a man standing before Pilate, proclaiming, “I am NOT a doormat!  You will not spread these lies!” I don’t see him calling down angels, which he could have done.  You know what? Jesus could have ended it all, gotten revenge on all of those shouting, “Crucify HIm!” with just a few words.

But, He didn’t.

They bound Jesus, led him away, and took him to Pilate, the Roman governor.  Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”  Jesus replied, “You have said it.”  Then the leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise. Mark 15

WHAT?  are  you kidding me!  He said NOTHING!  Come on, Jesus. TELL THEM.  Explain!  Bring the hammer down.  (That’s what I say in my head as I read this – oh, the INJUSTICE!)

Jesus said nothing.

Shew.  I have read that over and over.  Because that girl in me that does NOT want to extend mercy.  Or grace (unmerited favor).  The one who wants what SHE thinks is fair…that girl can’t believe: Jesus said nothing.  

Friends, Jesus does not subscribe to my idea or your idea of fair.  He is  just. He is merciful.  He has the power to sentence me to death.  He has good reason to send me to hell.  I sin every day and fall short of His glory.  

But, mercy. Price paid.  Hesed. Loving kindness. Compassion and forgiveness. Kindly forbearance.

He extends his mercy to me, for while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). He who knew no sin died so he could become MY righteousness.

And I am worried about my “rights”?  And standing up for myself and being heard?  

PLUH – EEZZZE.  

I am reminded of the Egyptians pursuit of the Israelites in the book of Exodus 14.  Moses looks at the Israelites and says, “the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I am claiming Moses’ words today.  And that’s big because I can be the mouthiest gal in the room. But, God has been whispering mercy over my heart.  And all those hurts and those “that was so mean’s” and “why did you do that to me’s” are passing.  I feel my heart releasing them as I say over and over, Lord, have mercy.  And it is only by Him and through Him that I can extend mercy.  

Thank you, Lord, for your mercy.  I am ever so grateful.  May I remember that mercy is not just a feeling.  It’s an action.  It’s how I respond in thought and deed. I am to be merciful.  Always.  May it be so.  

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

Amen.

———————————————————————————————

My nudge toward studying mercy has come via a daily devotional by Paul David Tripp:  New Morning Mercies.  I highly recommend this devo.  It’s so so good!

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Don’t Miss the Wonder {By Being Wrapped in Self}

In 2009 Alece Ronzino, created One Word 365.  The goal was and is to forget the new year’s resolutions and focus on One Word.  I began choosing “one word” a few years ago; my words have included hope and abide. And this year: wonder.

After praying and begging God for a word (for almost three months!), I found my word tucked in a paragraph in Common Prayer: May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever He may send you; may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm; may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you; may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our door.

After a few difficult years I felt ready for WONDER.  Doesn’t that word seem exciting?  It means…a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable; to feel admiration and amazement; marvel; rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience; a feeling of doubt or uncertainty. EXCITING!

I looked forward to a year of admiration and amazement. Little did I know that God was beginning with the last definition: a feeling of doubt or uncertainty. Boo.  As the year progressed I began to doubt.  Doubt God, doubt church. Doubt who I am.  Doubt if I really knew and loved Jesus or if I just desired to be good.

I began picking apart and analyzing every single area of my faith.  It wasn’t all “wonder” and “amazement” – at all.  There was ick and bad theology – unforgiveness and selfishness – misplaced motives and bitter roots.  I actually stood in “wonder” of what I found (guess I’d been a bit delusional).  I’d been wrapped up in religion so long that I was unaware of how I listened so much to others and so little to my Father.  My faith had become so rigid and ruling that I had missed…. the wonder.

Isn’t it awesome how He works?  He began with wonder and led me to wonder.

Don't Miss The

At the wonders He has shown you...I began noticing ordinary things more and more. The holding of a Daddy’s hand.  The sunset over the river. The twins in front of me at a football game. The way my son’s brain works. The grace of my daughter.  The loyalty of a friend. Wonder everywhere…Jesus everywhere.

All obvious and available as soon as I took the first step toward wonder and chose to look outside of me.

I just read that God created our brains to engage on the right then left.  We engage our creative and wonder side then our logical side…until we are educated not to.  That is, until we are culturally conditioned to be logical first.

I’d lost my wonder. I’d thrown out my “right brain” in favor of the left brain – in favor of safe and “wise.”  I’d forgotten the amazing of Jesus, of Creation, of Father God and His Holy Spirit.

God caused me to wonder, so I’d seek. Seek so I’d find Him.  Find Him so I’d stand in wonder and amazement.

On this journey to knowing Jesus and delighting in Him – and Him alone – I am overwhelmed with wonder, and I pray you are too.  My life’s song has become…

May we never lose our wonder

Wide eyed and mystified

May we be just like a child

Staring at the beauty of our King

Fill us with wonder…

Cause you are beautiful in all your ways

King of Kings

You are beautiful in all your ways

Just close your eyes, you’ll see him

Open the eyes of our heart to see you God

May we never lose our wonder…

We give our lives to sing

Cause you are beautiful in all your ways

You fascinate us with who you are

You fascinate us with your love

You are beautiful

You are glorious

Yes you are…

May we never lose our wonder  (from Bethel Music)

I read these words – I sing these words back to my Creator – and I know that I want a heart that beats to know Jesus.  More and more and more.  Not to keep rules or have right behavior. Not to serve out of obligation.  Not to love because He says so, but because it flows naturally from my love for Him.

To live in wonder and to stand in awe. To live with a desire for more and more Jesus – loving Him and all His people.

Friends, today I pray you live in wonder – that you stand in admiration, amazement, and astonishment when you think of Jesus and the cross.  When you consider what He did for you at Calvary and how He continues to seek you – to pull you closer and closer to Him.  Throughout scripture we see God wanting to dwell with his people – with YOU and IN you.  How could we not marvel at a Creator whose love never fails, who never gives up on us, who died and took our sin and shame and condemnation?

Wide-eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child staring at the beauty of King Jesus, giving our LIVES to sing His praise with fascination. Lord, open our hearts to see you today.

With Wonder,

Lean on Your Lord {Day 6 of Sorry, Not Sorry}

It’s awkward to find yourself at odds with God in the midst of writing for 31 days.  

About a week ago I began research for posts on pride and humility.  I’d heard a sermon on “being small”  (ie humble) and that message began to reverberate in my heart and throughout my life.

Smallness.

You know how when you get a new car or color your hair purple, it seems that suddenly EVERYONE has a red Prius and purple hair?

I hear this sermon on smallness, then I’m invited to write a book on the topic, then I hear it in the talks as I stream Catalyst.  And in the book I am reading (Wherever the River Runs). And then in another podcast – from MARCH 8 – that I “happened” upon.  Then, I am listening to an online interview with Glennon (Momastery) yesterday and…yes, you know it…SMALLNESS.  I open the Bible…

Jesus and the woman at the well – Jesus and the woman caught in adultery – Jesus riding into town on a donkey – Jesus born in a manger….small, small, more small.

WHAT’s with all the SMALLNESS, Lord?

(Don’t ever ask God a question unless you want HIS answer, not your own answer.)

He begins directing my research on humility and false humility.  He sheds light on my character and its flaws.  I read this from my friend, Ali, and feel my heart inching toward understanding and surrender.  It feels equal parts freeing and scary.

So.  I remind God.  I am supposed to be writing this series for 31 days. I can’t write until I figure all this out.  Until I understand what parts of me are humble, what parts are prideful, and in what ways I am simply displaying false humility.  I need to understand smallness.  I need to surrender more fully.  I need my motives checked and rechecked. HELP!

And He reminds me…Sarah, it’s in the writing that I speak to you.  It’s in the process of preparation that you find me and hear me. It’s here on the page that you learn best.

Noted.

So today, I am putting fingers to keyboard, and sharing post six in the midst of this tension with God that I can’t shake.  And you probably won’t be surprised to know that every single post for 31 days has been titled and Day 6 just so happens to be Lean on Your Lord.

Day 6 of 31

Yes, He has me right where He wants me.  Leaning. Just leaning a LOT more than I had to lean last week, or the week before, or the week before.

But, what is leaning?  What does that even look like?  How do we “lean into” or “rely on” Jesus?  I am sure you’ve heard people say those words. I can think of songs and hymns that encourage us to lean on the everlasting arms of our Father. (Thank you, Methodist Church!)

Which is also akin to “giving it all over to Jesus”  or “surrendering.”  This is another phrase I’ve sung and relayed as advice.  Yet, recently, when someone told me to give my weight issue to Jesus, I sat down, looked heavenward, and said, “what does that even mean?”

{If you have some help here, would you comment?  We’d love to have your insight!}

When  you find yourself self-focused on suffering.  When you find yourself needing to rid yourself of…yourself. {AHEM, that’s me.} When smallness and selflessness become your prayer, there is no choice but to lean and surrender.  And to me, leaning looks like…

Prayer.

I am new to prayer.  Yes, I’ve prayed all my life first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But, I am new to the War Room, “I will pray until the cows come home” prayer.  Kelly Minter says the Amazon jungle pastors call it a prayer campaign; you pray hours and days if you have to.  You gather everyone you know to join you if you have to.  I’ve not prayed hours or days for anything, but I am moving toward it.  I want to.  And I have asked some close friends to come alongside me in praying, and I am being intentional about coming alongside them.

Right now I lean through prayers of surrender.  Often I don’t have the words, so I pray his scripture.  I just read it aloud or to myself over and over, asking God to help it sink in, take root, and grow.

And pray for opportunities to burst my bubble of safe.  I pray for God to place me in a context in which I need him.  One in which  – without Him – I will flail and flop. And while I know God sees the timidity and insecurity of my heart when I utter these words to Him, this is part of leaning – bit by bit – He gets it.

I also lean by reading His Word.  I know, nothing new or profound here.  But, I ask him for new insight and depth as I read his breath on a page.  I need a new heart that believes bigger. Eyes and ears – hands and feet – that are braver.

Leaning also requires confession and repentance. Not fun, this leaning business.  It’s hard to look at your friend and say…I am just selfish in so many ways. My motives aren’t pure here. Why do I do this?  Is it for my gain or His glory?  Why do I do that?  My gain? His glory? And then ask the same questions to Jesus and beg him for revelation…

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51: 10-12

I confess my love of comfort and safe to my friend, Marla, in Cambodia.  Because she’s emailing me about Buddhism and Angkor Wat and spiritual warfare, and I am like …WHAT??  And I know her and I know Him – and I know this is all so very real…

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

She’s seeing Jesus in ways that I never ever have, and I don’t dare ask God:  Hey, why can’t I see you like THAT?  Not that it’s “fun” – it’s suffering and it’s hard).  But, I think Kelly Minter says it best:

Though I loved and served the Lord and had for many years, my Christianity seemed pale in comparison {to the Amazon jungle pastors}. Even if I set aside the material differences {between herself and those in the jungle, between me and my friend in Cambodia, between me and those I meet in Honduras}, it was the joy they had that I so envied.  I couldn’t bear to leave so much joy on the table any longer.

I want to be part of “interceding for people and seeing lives unequivocally changed and healed. That my heart would well up with love that would drive me deeper into prayer, and that I’d be more willing to put myself out there…”

It’s leaning. It’s seeing God at work and knowing that you know who He is and just what He can do. It’s a closeness with the Creator that I don’t know.  Joy I’ve left on the table.

Because if I dare ask God why I’ve not seen Him like Kelly, the jungle pastors, and Marla, I imagine that He will roll His eyes, look down at me, and say Sarah, where have you ever stepped into a context outside your comfort zone?  A context in which I could make myself more and more evident?

See? God and I – we both know the answers to these questions.  Dang it.

And so, we are at odds right now. A tug of war of sorts.  Me leaning in and then pulling back in fear. Me basking in comfort and Him saying, You need to be ALL in. Me praying for smallness and greater humility while He’s saying quit placing limits on how and when I can work.  It’s all or nothing, child. Me leaving joy on the table and Him offering it freely.

It’s deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.  Because if you’re not denying yourself, carrying your cross, and following Him, then you’re heading somewhere else, carrying something else, and engaging in your own desires.  (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23)

Ouch.

Today, I lean.  I pray, I read His word, I confess and repent.  I pray, Lord, help my unbelief.  I argue with Him a bit. And I know this is the only way to Him – the only way to discarding the self-focus of suffering – the only way to witness his life-changing and life-giving greatness.  His peace.  His joy.

Leaning in,

Self-Focused Suffering {Day 5 of Sorry, Not Sorry}

Pain, injury, illness.  Unpleasantness, defeat, loss, damage.

If you’ve lived on this planet for more than a few days, you’ve experienced one of these to some degree. You’ve know pain or loss. You’ve known illness or endured injury.  Perhaps you feel damaged.

You’ve suffered.  

Day 5 of 31 (1)

And before we even get started, don’t compare “suffering.” Do NOT let Satan win the day by feeding you lies about how your suffering is worse than or less than so and so’s suffering. Don’t even let yourself travel down the path of “oh, I’ve never really suffered compared to those living in poverty.” That might be true.  Maybe you and I do not know TRUE suffering by the world’s definition, but this is NOT about what the world says.  

This is about you.  Your pain, injury, illness. Your defeat, loss, or damage.  

What story would you tell me if we were to sit down for coffee?  Cancer treatments. Husband’s infidelity.  Friend’s rejection.  Daily depression. Unending infertility.  Dad’s death.

Loneliness.  Loss.  Betrayal.  Illness.

Whether physical or emotional, suffering is suffering

If you’re in the midst of the pain now, acknowledge it. Say aloud to the room or to a friend – this stinks. I am suffering. {Again, none of the “I don’t really have it that bad” stuff. Name the pain.}

If the pain lies in the past, take a moment to reflect on that time.

Whether now or then, just sit in the struggle for a moments. Acknowledge it. Admit how you feel about the suffering and the people you feel caused it.  And if you feel God caused it or allowed it, and you’re angry at Him, say so.

I have done this a few times.  I am the girl who says…oh, my “suffering” is nothing. I’ve been to Honduras, I read Humans of New York, I see the news.  My suffering can’t compare to the Syrian refugees being whipped in the town square because they shaved their beards.

And, friends.  My suffering can not and does not compare to that.  But, if I do not acknowledge my pain and its legitimacy, I may be stuck forever  – and not even realize it.  

I won’t share the details of what my heart deemed “suffering,” but life was hard for a few years.  I don’t care which side of a divorce you are on, it is hard.  

And you know what I noticed in the season of suffering?  While I was going through heartbreak and transition?  It was so very hard to focus on anything or anyone but myself.  I didn’t realize it at the time or while in the process.  I did my best to love others, keep serving, keep caring.  But, in hindsight, my heart couldn’t seem to move away from my trials.

If I had spare time alone, I’d think through the what-ifs and the unfairness.  Someone would be sharing their heart with me, and I’d hear myself telling them about me.  I saw my pain in everything. 

Being so self-focused lead me to apologizing – over and over. Because I was so stuck in my own head and my own pain, I felt sorry for myself and that spilled as apology for everything – my parenting, my messy house,  my lack of discipline, my inability to lose weight.  

Apology permeated my life.  

Thankfully, Jesus did not leave or forsake me.  He (with the help of friends) slowly began to point out the self absorption and the resulting apologies.

And, I realized:  My focus HAD to change.  Instead of mucking around in the mire, I had to move forward – move my focus off self and onto Jesus.

{Day 6: Lean on the Lord}

Prayer {Day 4 of Sorry, Not Sorry}

During this series, every third post will be a prayer over the two previous posts. Prayer has become so much more to me over the past three months, and I want to be intentional in seeking HIS help – not thinking we can change our hearts, minds, or habits on our own.  Join in prayer…

Day 4 of 31

 

Father, we thank you today that we do not have to walk in guilt and condemnation.  We thank you for the forgiveness and freedom you offer to those who confess and repent.  You are a God of infinite love, mercy, and grace, and for that, we could not be more thankful.

Lord, reveal to us the places that are legitimate, need-to-be-dealt-with guilt, and that which is comfortable and familiar. Help us to see when we are hiding behind guilt and when we truly have reconciling work to do for You.  We apologize to you for dismissing who you made us to be with our unnecessary apologies. We ask for your revelation, your understanding, and your forgiveness.  May we fully comprehend that we are not made to give up the guilt alone.  That we can do all things through you as you give us strength. May we embrace the girl you made us to be with her flaws and flair. May we use our uniqueness and gifts for You, never apologizing for who you knit us in the womb to be.   

We ask in Jesus’ name, Amen. 

**I urge you to write your own prayer, naming and surrendering each area of guilt – legitimate or perceived – to your Creator.  This is the first step in moving forward.

Give Up the Guilt {Day 3 of Sorry, Not Sorry}

Guilt.  

A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc. – whether real or imagined.

Do you know that feeling?  The one deep inside that says…it’s all your fault. Even if you’re not willing to admit this feeling to another single person, you know it’s in there, sitting and stewing.

You feel sorry for how “it” happened or turned out.  Maybe you didn’t even mean to – or maybe you did.  Maybe you knew your reply or action would be cutting and callus, designed to strike back against the one who had hurt you.  Who can blame you, right?  {sarcasm}

She started it!  He is so mean!  

You feel justified.  You feel right.  But you also feel…guilty.  And maybe you should.

Because deep inside you there’s some niggling notion that perhaps this isn’t how life should be.  You shouldn’t be avoiding so and so because you can’t face her.  You shouldn’t have to avoid that topic of conversation or that section of the Bible.

Whether it was something you did – and should own {go do that now before reading any further} – or something you did NOT do and carry anyway, ask yourself…

Why do I still feel guilt?

Day 3 of 31

{If the feeling is conviction  – you know you’ve wronged another and truly need to repent and apologize- then that’s different. Go do THAT, really.  Even if you have to swallow pride, even if it makes you look foolish, it’s worth it.  Trust me.  Better yet, trust Him and His Word.}

If you ask yourself this question and respond with…I owned that. I apologized to and reconciled with the other person as far as it depends on me (Romans 12:18). I know I had nothing to do with it.  

Then ask…why is the guilt lingering?  Or, why do I KEEP apologizing for the thing that’s been owned and reconciled?  And – the hardest of all – for the THING I had NOTHING to do with?

You’ll have to do some self-reflection and honest soul searching here.  I can’t answer for you.  But, I can tell you why I held on: Humility.  Comfort.  Excuses.

I embraced my guilt because it seemed the humble thing to do – take responsibility.  Even if I was 10% responsible to the other person’s’ 90% – even if I had worked through the issue with the other as much as I could.  It just seemed like the Jesus-y thing to do – show how humble I was to keep apologizing and “accepting responsibility.” (More in that in future posts.)

The guilt was also comforting.  I knew what guilt looked and felt like. Being guiltless was unfamiliar.  Guilt gave me an excuse to stay right where I was and not move forward. And its presence in me poured out as apology after apology, which also seemed a bit noble.  After all, I was not blaming others or shirking responsibility, I was owning my stuff, your stuff, any stuff I knew of.

This guilt was evident when I spoke of my parenting: I am divorced, single, living on one income, so I can’t ________ or ________ – and I feel guilty about it. I can’t pay for as much dance as I used to with this  tighter budget, and I can’t be present at all my kiddos activities because I can only be in one place. I used to feel so guilty.  Why should any of that make me feel guilty?

Guilt was evident in my friendships: I am not good at relationships – I mean, you know I am divorced and have little to none of the same friends I had when I was married.  So, I’d feel guilty that you had to try to be the friend of someone who failed at relationships.  Or guilty that I was so needy in this season, taking and not always giving.  Or guilty that you (good Christian wife) had to associated with someone “divorced.”

I could go one, but you get it: Guilt took root and permeated my being, and I allowed it to stay and grow because it was comfortable.  A good shield to keep me from having to really surrender to God, live out of who he made me to be, and walk in freedom.

So. I gave up the guilt.  Well, I am giving up the guilt.  I default to it sometimes, but I can hear it and catch it now.

How?

I considered all possible causes of the guilt.  I prayed/pray over those situations or people.  I rest in knowing…

If I confess my sins, He is faithful to forgive. (1 John 1:9)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove my transgressions from me.  (Psalm 103: 11-12)

I can cast all my anxieties on him, because he cares for me. (1 Peter 5:7)

I am fearfully and wonderfully made by Him and for Him. (Psalm 139:14)

Once I’ve repented and sought forgiveness.  Once I have reconciled as far as it depends on me.   My Father does not want me simmering in the past, stewing in the guilt, and apologizing over and over for who He has made to be.  Or what He has allowed to occur in my life.  Or even what I have caused by walking out of step with Him.

He wants me to walk in the freedom of his forgiveness.  He wants to me to live as one whom He has made righteous through His death and resurrection. He wants me to give up the guilt and live out of His joy and love.

And, sister, He wants the same for you.  This is not 31 days to helping yourself become a better you and arrogantly deciding never to be sorry again.  This is 31 days to living in and through your Savior. To embracing your title as one he loves and walking like her. To not apologizing for what he’s brought you through or called you to.  To being the “uniquely you” that he fearfully and wonderfully made.

Give up the guilt.  Be her.

Garden Greed {Day 2 of Sorry, Not Sorry}

Imagine this.  

God moves you to the beach – or the mountains – wherever your “paradise” is.  You spend the rest of your days reading books by the crashing waves or taking walks along the trickling stream.  Your favorite person(s) is with you.  God walks and talks with you.  Your health is perfect.  Not a care in the world.

But.  God makes ONE request.  Don’t go near the spotted shells on the beach or the yellow vine along the streams.  That’s it.  Keep your perfect life as long as you avoid one shell or one vine.

What a deal!

I am guessing most of us would take God up on this offer.  Busy lives – gone.  Overloaded schedules – gone.  Cancer – gone.  Stress – gone.  No weight to lose or clothes to buy.  To dinner to make or expectation to meet.  And all in exchange for following one request.

Sounds like heaven, huh?

That’s because it was.  Eve had it all.  Perfect life in an unfathomable garden (Genesis 2). Spending her life with one she loved and walking with God. The only expectation?  Do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Day 2 of 31

Do you ever wonder…for Pete’s sake, Eve!  Could you NOT have just listened?  It was ONE tree!  You had so many trees.  So many flowers.  No concerns or worries.  No stress or schedule.  

And I wonder if Eve felt the same as soon as she heard this from the God with whom she’d been so lovingly walking….

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” Genesis 3:13

Imagine that.

Your Creator seeing and knowing your transgression.  Your weakness.  Your sin.  And calling you out on it.  Not with a chastisement, but with a question that He expects YOU to answer, showing that you will own your sin and acknowledge your fault before Him.  He doesn’t make it easy.

It’s here, friends, with this one verse tucked in Genesis, our apologies began.  Suddenly, we’d done wrong and been wronged.  Our eyes were opened to all the ways in which we can fail…we had knowledge of good – and now evil.

When we know our wrong – our evil – we apologize for it.  That’s good.  Necessary.  Right. But, then we reminisce, remember, regret.  

We live guilty for what we’ve done and who we are – because somewhere along the way, our sins become your persona.  People associate them with us – the adulterer, the glutton, the liar, the thief, the addict.  

Even worse – when someone else’s sins become our being.  When you get to carry something you did not do, but something that was done to you (and you could spend the next 20 years squabbling in your heart about how much or how little of these incidents you should own.)

And when this becomes our being – who we are – we carry it like a massive backpack filled to the brim with guilt.  Guilt bought by our actions and choices.  Guilt by association.  Guilt founded in wasteful what if’s.  

Because of Eve’s garden greed, apologizing for self began and continued.  While the Bible doesn’t say if Eve kept apologizing over and over to her offspring and her husband, we know we do.  Even after we own what’s ours to own.  Even after we say sorry and explain our behavior, asking for forgiveness.  The transgression – or self-perceived deficiency or negligence – roots itself in our soul.  And from that moment on, we carry the garden’s weight.

Sisters, as you read this post and this series, please understand and know: I am not saying you never have to apologize.  That you shouldn’t feel sorry or sorrow.  If you’ve sinned, I pray it breaks your heart.  I pray you are sorry and repentant.  But, I also pray you don’t live there.  And I find, more often than not, we apologize for things that simply aren’t things.  We didn’t do anything.  Perhaps we’re a victim or misunderstood.

Regardless.  This penchant for apologizing began in the garden with greedy choice by the very first women, so we should not be surprised that it’s our tendency today.  But, you don’t have to keep apologizing, chalking it up to DNA or tendency.  

Instead, you can begin moving forward by giving up the guilt – tomorrow!  

Sorry, Not Sorry,

Sorry, Not Sorry {Day 1 of 31}

In May I wrote about a defining moment in my post-marriage, single-mom, almost-40 life:  I stopped apologizing for myself.  

Friends would say…Sarah, why are you always apologizing?  I had no answer. No clue.  And then I asked, Jesus:  Why do I always say ‘sorry’ about EVERYTHING?

Sorry I can’t help.

Sorry my house is messy.

Sorry I can’t be there at that time.

Sorry I don’t feel well.

Sorry I didn’t get to the store.

Sorry I exist.  (Or, at least, that’s what it sounded like.)

I’d preface most conversations with an apology.  I’d ALWAYS apologize to my kids for all the major life changes.  And, yes, some of the apologies were /are necessary.  But, I am not talking about the “owning my junk” legitimate apologies.  I am talking about the self-deprecating, feeling bad for nothing apologies.

Suddenly, I realized: If I keep apologizing for the what has been, I may never know what will be.  I can’t live a new, whole hearted (thanks, Brene Brown) life if I am allowing the past to linger in my present.

After that moment, I began to work through my penchant for the apology with Jesus, and over the next 31 days, I’ll share what He is teaching me.

31 Days to

{OK, let’s be honest…I’ve joined this challenge four times and only made it the whole 31 days ONCE!  But, trusting Jesus for words, perseverance, and time.  Also, welcoming grace;).}

My posts will come in groups of three: a reason I found myself apologizing, a “help” God provided through His word, and a prayer. {First up: Garden Greed (yep, this is rooted in Eden), Give up the Guilt, and prayer.}

After ten groups, it’ll be November!

I pray this series speaks to your heart in some way.  And I hope you’ll walk alongside me and discover that you’re not sorry for who your Creator made you to be.

Sorry, Not Sorry,