Going Through the Motions

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My original plan for this post was to share my goals for the year and the steps I planned to use to meet those goals. As I have had a couple of conversations and then read a few posts and articles on social media, I decided honesty and vulnerability in a New Year’s post would be better than only showing my Type A, goal driven, anal retentive tendencies. You know what I mean, the “Here is the polished, I have it all together side” kind of post. This morning a friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook which states “We need more women who are willing to say, I’ve been there and I’m here. You can always talk to me without judgement.”

So here’s the hard truth. 2016 was a wretched year and I was thrilled to see the clock tick down to midnight and welcome in 2017. Last year the Lord took me through a breaking process and reality is He is still breaking several things in me. I am stubborn as a mule, so this process may take longer in me than in another person. Even though there were times I could see the Lord at work, I spent a great deal of last year simply going through the motions. Many things in my faith that I hold dear either went by the wayside, or I simply marked them off on my to-do list like the obedient, Type A personality I am. I put on a mask with a fake smile and simply did what was expected. There were times last year when I didn’t feel like praying and my Bible became a little dusty. I never stopped believing in the Lord, but many times had to rely on my logic and go with what I knew to be true verses what I felt.

I let a situation a friend had zero control over pretty well ruin that sweet friendship I came to value.I let frustration and jealousy build a wall between us. Truth is that I miss our almost daily conversations/ text messages and spent a good part of last fall feeling lonely. Because this is a friendship at church, it only added fuel to me going through the motions at church. I pray that I can make things right with this friend again and that she will find a way to forgive me.

Last fall when I knew the Lord was calling me to teach a ladies’ life group class on Sunday morning I didn’t understand, especially given where I had been spiritually. Leading a class “forced” me back into The Word. Funny how that works, right? My class is small, but I have come to appreciate spending time with those ladies every Sunday morning. I like having a “need” to be in The Word. Yes, I acknowledge that as a believer, we are called to be in The Word on a regular basis and the Lord speaks to us through our Bible readings, but this class put me back into regular study times.

Through out the course of the fall I was also having conversations with a younger lady in the church, as well as conversations with the person over our groups. Talking with both of them I argued with the Lord over what I was hearing. There was NO way I was going to lead a D-group. I would feel like a complete and total fraud. I appeared to have it all together, but inside my faith was room temperature at best. I knew our church was going to be going through the “Foundations” book and my Sunday morning group had already decided to follow the church’s lead and walk through it with our pastor and other groups.  I had been invited to be a part of another D-group, which would have put me sitting under a lady I have come to have a great deal of respect for and knew I would gain a great deal in that group, but there wasn’t room for me and the other young lady I had been talking with. I prayed the Lord would make it crystal clear as to what I was supposed to do and He did. Around the first part of December, the young lady I had been talking with walked up to me with two other ladies and before I knew it, I said “yes” to leading a D-group.

In our Bible reading for week 2, I came across a verse in a familiar passage that jumped out at me and I’m not sure I ever really paid any attention to it before. “So she named the Lord who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “Have I really seen here the One who sees me?” Genesis 16:13. Do you see what it says? “The One who SEES me.” Through all of the things that happened last year, the Lord saw me. Even when going though the motions and feeling invisible to those around me, He saw me and He still sees me. I’ll be honest and say tears came to my eyes. I sat with the verse for a while and it renewed a spark in me that has been missing for some time now. I don’t have everything worked out at this point in January, I do know the Lord is moving in my life and by December I am certain I will be able to see the Lord’s hand on many areas of my life. I see this as a year of change, I also see that this is going to be a year of renewal and restoration. I also feel like the Lord will be opening doors for me I never would have imagined possible. I’m still not sure what this looks like, but I’m ready. I know He sees me and sees what’s inside of me.

Why do I share all of this? For one, I think too many times we feel guilty for pretending like everything is fine and going through the motions. Second, there tends to be shame when we hit this point in our walks with the Lord and lastly, we are pretty sure we are the only ones who feel this way. We let our pride get in the way and we are too afraid of admitting we feel this, which in turns keeps us from reaching out and allowing the Lord to use another person to be His arms. Guess what? You’re not alone. You’re not a failure as a Christian for walking through a faith valley. I am telling you I have been there and am slowly coming out on the other side. Please feel free to be honest with me. Don’t walk that road alone. Find a person you can be completely honest with and let them know where you are. Connection with other believers can renew your spark and put you back on the right track.

God, Friendship and the Election

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To state this election has been tumultuous would be an understatement. While the past couple of elections have been heated, they have nothing on the one we are currently experiencing. Hateful words have flown from both sides of the aisle. Insults have been hurled. Morals and values have been tossed out the window. Friendships have been damaged or destroyed. It’s an election where most of us feel we could use some healing and some breathing room to cope. It’s also left us wondering if God is anywhere near us?

When I look at our two major party candidates, I’m still a little shocked they were the last two standing. The prospect of one of them sitting in the Oval Office is enough to send chills up my spine and makes me wonder what it means for our kids and their futures. I have honestly felt a great deal of fear over the past several months. There seems to be so much riding on this election and so many decisions will be made based on who wins. It’s hard to know for certain what will happen.

One of the major phrases flying throughout this election has been “If you are a Christian, you can’t vote for ______.” People have turned this into an election of shaming others and demeaning them for choosing to stand by their candidate. I wonder how many believers walked away from the polls and wondering if the Lord could really love them or consider them His child because of how they voted? Is it theologically sound to question the salvation of another based on their vote? Is it correct for us to sit in the judgement seat based on a person’s vote? The answer is “no.” There is no vote that will cause the Lord to love you less or for you to lose your salvation. By the time you read this, the votes will be in and we will have to find a way  to move forward as a nation. This also means looking at those sitting on the opposite side of the aisle remembering the Lord loves them and many of them have a personal relationship with Christ.

My pastor has been in Ephesians for a couple of weeks now. As I read chapter 1, I couldn’t help but think about where we are as a nation. Yes, this may be seen as a stretch, but hold on with me for just a minute:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ;
4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love
5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will,
6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
8 that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him
10 for the administration) of the days of fulfillment-to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.
11 In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will,
12 so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.
13 In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation-in Him when you believed-were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

14 He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

The passage has a great deal of us and them in it, then as it nears the end it jumps to “our.” Technically, this passage is talking about the Jews and the gentiles and then the body as a whole. I think if we’re honest we have been throwing out us and them throughout this whole election, when in reality it is about “our.” Just as Christ died for ALL of us, our president sits in office for ALL of us. No, I am not making our current president or president-elect out to be the savior of our nation, but under our president we are one nation. I think the sooner we adopt the “our” mentality, the better off we will be.

This post is a little weird because I started it as Americans headed to the polls and am completing it the day after. It was a long night. Many of us rode the crazy roller coaster. We waited until the AP called it a little after 2AM and then waited another 15-20 mins until Fox had called it. For better or worse, Mr. Trump is our next president. As I have scrolled through social media today, my heart has been broken. This is not necessarily because of the outcome, but be because there really is a line in the sand between the left and the right. Insults are still flying and the division appears to be even greater. We have 2 choices. We can choose to repair broken relationships with those on the other side of the aisle, or we can allow the line to become the great divide. How awesome would it be to work together and then at the end of the next 4 years to look back and realize we came together in unity and put an end to the hatred?

My challenge to you is this, reach out. Talk to the person who has polar opposite views from you and really listen to what it is they have to say. I’m not saying you have to agree with them, but let them know they’ve been heard and you care. In the areas where you can, find a way to compromise. Create ways to extend the olive branch and build bridges. I think this will go a long to repair relationships broken through this process and create the nation of unity we all so much desire. I also encourage you to remember that God is The King of Kings and The Lord of Lords. Regardless of how the next 4 years play out, HE is still on HIS throne and we are still His children.

I See You

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Towards the end of spring I had the privilege of attending the Sandy Patty Farewell Tour Concert and then hearing Christine Caine speak at an event. There were similarities in both events. One of those was the worship. All I can say is the Spirit was moving in both sanctuaries. Lights were turned down low and they gave you the time to be “alone” with the Lord. The second thing both had in common was they talked about how the Lord says “I see you,” “I found you,” “I know you” repeatedly through out scripture.

“I see you.” How amazingly wonderful is that? Back in Genesis the Lord asks Adam and Eve “where are you?” It’s not that He didn’t know the answer, but the Lord was letting them know that He knew. No matter where we are in life, He knows. No matter the amount of running and hiding we try to do, He sees us. He sees all of us and knows everything there is to know about us. There is no thought or action we have that He doesn’t already know. The things we are the most scared others may find out, He knows and loves us anyway.

“I found you.” Like the parable of the lost sheep, the Lord comes and looks for us when we walk away, or are trying to run away. He sees us valuable enough to come looking for us and then rejoices when we are found. Personally, there are days when I want to run and hide. I may not necessarily want to run from the Lord, but circumstances in life cause me to want to run away, never to be seen again. The thing I find most comforting in those moments in life is that I know the Lord loves me and will never leave me.

“I know you.” That’s right. There is nothing the Lord doesn’t know about us! He knows it all because He created us. The deepest pain and biggest dreams we don’t dare to share, He already knows. Those things we long to say to another person, but are too afraid to speak, we can tell Him, because it isn’t a secret to Him. Those things we dared to speak, but no other person wants to believe, He does! He knows every single movement we’ve ever made, every thought we’ve ever had and saw every tear that fell in private.

As I reflect on all of the craziness in the world today, I take comfort in knowing the Lord sees all of us. So many times I think that’s what people want. We want to know that someone sees us, not just acknowledges our presence, but really sees us, the good, the bad and the ugly. We want to know to someone cares enough to really listen to what it is that’s on our hearts and minds. We want to know we are valued. We want people to below the surface and see into our hearts. Even when it seems not a living soul around is capable of this, the Lord is.

What would happen if we followed the Lord’s example on this? What would happen if we really took the time to see the person/ people in front of us who may be driving us crazy and even causing us to be angry? What would happen if instead of muttering under our breath when we encounter that one person/ group of people, we took the time to really listen to what it is they want to say without trying to rely on an auto response based on what we think we know?

What if we really took the time to look deep into the eyes of our friends to see what is beneath the surface. Too many of our friends put on a brave front every day. They work so hard to keep their hurts concealed, while hoping and praying someone loves them enough to see the past the mask. We have friends we interact with on a daily basis, but don’t take the time to have deep heart to heart conversations with. These friends not only need to hear from you that you see them, but more importantly that the Lord sees them. They need to hear the Lord loves them and took the time to seek them out, even if they can’t feel His presence.

Who in your life needs to hear their seen, found and known? I challenge you to take a look around you and find the person in your circle who needs to hear this message. Take the time to be the voice and the hands of Christ.