Monday, July 28, 2014

Converting truth


A good friend presented a theory to me the other day that really registered. And really helped my heart.


If we know the devil is a liar...and we do, because the Bible tells us in John 8 that he is the father of lies...then couldn't we also assume that THE OPPOSITE OF what he whispers the loudest and most frequently in our ears is what is true?


Yeah, read that again.


When she said that, my heart immediately latched on to it. Maybe not every time, maybe there are exceptions, and we always have to be on alert because the devil is not only a liar but a manipulator, and he isn't able to be summed up in one easy theory. Definitely not.


But just in general....


How powerful would that be?


Because then:




"Nothing is ever going to change" turns into "My breakthrough is almost here"


"No one values me" turns into "I am dearly loved"


"I'm ugly" turns into "I am a beautiful daughter of the most High King"


"I am never going to have what my heart desires" turns into "My blessings are on their way in God's perfect timing as I seek Him first above all else."


"Give up now!" turns into "Do not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, you shall reap a harvest if you do not give up"...


Maybe it's time we all converted a little truth.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Battle Weary: Satan's favorite lie

In the battle between flesh and spirit, a secret weapon lingers. One that has the power to completely disarm us, render us paralyzed, and hand us over captive to the relentless dictator named Resignation.


And that secret weapon the enemy wields so effortlessly is the belief that we are fighting alone.


This weapon brandishes the lie that we must master whatever sin has us ensnared.


That the struggle is real, and real hard, and in real time, and we are really alone in it.


This lie whispers that until we master what is trying so hard to tame us, God is removed from the frontlines. That He's rendered to the side, waving a flag and cheering us on, and anxiously waiting for us to just beat this thing already so He can be reunited with us in fellowship.


That it's all on us.


How perfect a deception this is! Can't you see the enemy patting himself on the back for this clever manipulation? It sounds so good and Christian-y on the surface. "I'm going to change for you, God. I'm going to get all this right so I can be close to you again. I'm going to fight and win this thing." Sounds holy and pure.


But it's dripping in evil.


Because it's voiding the cross.


If we have the power within ourselves, by ourselves, to wrangle the flesh and disarm our temptations, then why do we need Jesus? And why did the Holy Spirit ever come?


One of my catch phrases at work is "I've got this." Meaning - I've got this under control, I'm handling it, I'm on it, so don't worry about it, Boss.


Well, tell me, regarding this battlefield for the soul - if we've got this...then who has us?


Because we don't have it, we can't do it on our own. We think so at first. But after those few minutes when it seemed like we could do it, when we rallied and tried so hard and made effort - after that comes failure. Defeat.


And then resignation, one of the favorite weapons of the enemy. How do I know it's a favorite? Because it's the one he uses over and over again. And it's the most dangerous of all deceptions for the heart to believe.


Resignation = an act of retiring or giving up a position or the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.


If the enemy can get us to believe we can beat our temptations, sins, and struggles on our own, he knows that the undeniable "next" is going to be failure - and after failure comes the lack of will to continue.


It's the perfect trap, the perfect cycle to render us permanently on the sidelines. Permanently stuck in our rut, permanently bound and then just accepting it as how it is so we don't try again. We live with the addiction, we live with the pain, we live with the depression, we live with the hurt, we live with the chains because we have resigned ourselves to thinking that's all there is. This is as good as it gets.


From hell's perspective, it's truly genius.


But NO. This is false. This is a lie.


My pastor said something recently that really lingered - that God changes me, changes you, from a position of peace with Himself.


We are not at war against God until we master what we struggle with! No. He is on our side before, during and after the transformation, the change, the victory.


He isn't on the side. He's on the frontlines. He's wielding the Sword of the Spirit (His Word) and fighting not only with you but for you. He wants you to be free even more than you want it.


Isaiah 61:1 - The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me (Jesus) because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..."


You aren't alone in the struggle. His blood that dripped down Calvary's cross is the same blood that's seeped into the ground on your battlefield.


And if you're His, He won't let up until you are free.


You aren't captive to your sin. You're captive to His freedom.


It's time for your victory march.


2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Something you didn't notice in Maleficent

** Spoiler **
If you haven't yet seen the movie Maleficent and plan to, you might want to read this post after you view the movie. I'll be revealing some details that spoil the plot!


I saw Maleficent Friday night. And was blown away. I thought the previews looked a little dark for it to be a marketed "kid movie". But I quickly realized the reason why the darkness never suffocated or consumed.


Why? Because you were cheering for Maleficent the entire time. You were never afraid of her, rather, you were afraid FOR her. You hurt for her. You felt her wounds, understood them, related to them, and rooted for her to have exactly what she wanted. You "got it" and "got her"...because you've been there.


As an author, the characterization of this villain was phenomenal.


Because backstory is everything. In fiction, and in real life. Who we are and what we do, the choices we make, the way we view life, everything - is filtered through our backstory. Through not only what has happened to us, but how we chose to react to what happened to us.


Maleficent was burned - badly - by betrayal of the one she loved and who was supposed to love her.


I know that feeling. I know it well. My ex husband might not have cut the wings from my back but he cut the heart from my chest. It's the same.

The difference for me from Maleficent is that Jesus rescued me from the darkness of revenge that so easily consumed the fairy queen, and so easily - and even dare I say understandably - consumes all of us. All of us tend to get hurt and hide behind walls. For Maleficent, they were literal walls of thorns. For us, the walls might be less tangible but even more impenetrable. Walls of bitterness, envy, pride, lust, jealousy, revenge. Walls of "I don't need you" and "I'm better than you" and "You're going to pay" and the worst one yet - "I'm going to hurt you back".


It's a cycle shrouded in darkness, a dense fog of deceit and despair that never delivers its promise to fufill and Never. Ever. Lifts.


The saddest part of the movie came when Maleficent realized her heart had changed - because of the goodness of Aurora. So she tried to take back her curse.


And it was too late.


Been there?


Sometimes, the consequences and side effects of our lashing out in our hurt can not be undone. Words that drip poison can't be retracted. We might not cast literal curses like a witch or a fairy, but the words we speak DO bring either life or death.


Proverbs 18: 21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.


What have you spoken over your past? Over your hurt? Over your situation? Poison, or healing? Blessing, or curse?


Hmmm.


There was one powerful point of the movie that lingers still in me, the kind that sits in your stomach and twists and ties and tingles even days later. It happened at the climax of the movie, when Maleficent was fighting (in self defense) the man who had scorned her years before - Aurora's father. He had betrayed her once in the worst way. Hunted her for years. Tried to kill her and almost succeeded once she came to save Aurora. But now, finally, she has the upper hand. His throat is in her hand, he's backed against a crumbling wall, and she can destroy him with one action. Her long awaited revenge is literally in her grasp.


Yet she releases him, and with a loud cry, shouts "It's over!" And walks away.


Powerful. In many ways.


I'm going through a situation right now that has nothing to do (directly, anyway) with my divorce, but has caused me a lot of pain, a lot of confusion, and has required a fight of me that has exhausted me daily. Spiritual warfare like never before.


So in that particular moment of the movie, I burst into tears. Because I so, so, so wanted someone to grab the evil that's after me by it's horns and shout IT'S OVER. Grab the tornado cycle of lies and confusion and chaos that swirls in my heart and head daily, sling it like a lasso into an abyss and yell IT'S OVER. I wanted someone to save me from it.


To make it stop.


To. Just. End. It.


Needless to say, I left the theater a little heavy.


Until Sunday morning, sitting in church, our praise band sang a song they've sang before. Yet that morning, one of the lyrics assaulted me brand new like a physical punch. A Holy Spirit jab, one of those "hey, this one's for you." The lyrics talked about Jesus rising from the dead, and being our deliverer.


With a flash of understanding that can only come from Jesus, with a light that pierced the darkness as only the Sword of the Spirit can, He told me something I'll never forget.


You know how you wanted someone to fight for you and declare It Is Over?
I already did.


And I had my own Selah right there in the pew.


John 19:28-30 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.


He. Already. Did.


The fiercest warrior I could ever even imagine has ALREADY stared hell in the eyes and proclaimed "It's finished." He's ALREADY gripped death and sin and my demons by the throat and lassoed them back into the abyss. He's ALREADY declared the lies, confusion and chaos that has tormented me as finished.


Done.


Over.


What more could I want?


So I can sit on that crumbling castle wall, and watch my life fall apart unnecessarily around me...


Or I could get up and walk in the freedom that's already mine, already paid for.


And LIVE. Live as if I believe Jesus is actually enough. Live as if I believe He is a true warrior King that far exceeds any fictional character ever created. Live as if I believe it is actually finished.


And if I (we) don't believe that, then it's the equivalent of me (us) saying the empty tomb was in vain.


It is finished.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When God quirks an eyebrow....

"Mama, it's burning me."


My six-year-old's voice barely didn't even register as I parked in front of our new apartment.  It wasn't a panicked voice, more monotone than emotional. Head wrapped around my own emotion, my own stress, my own black cloud of fog, I heard her, but didn't. The Mommy-radar wasn't blinking, no emergency here. Just words.


"Mama. It's burning my fingers."


That earned a blip on the radar, and a quick look from the front seat, but the girl's white-toothed grin shut down the potential for upset. She leaned forward, wrapping her fingers around the metal spokes of the passenger headrest, that normally would have been very hot. Normally would have burned indeed.


Because July heat in Louisiana doesn't forgive. It offers no grace, is beyond relentless. Suffocating. Consuming.


Especially inside a car with black leather interior.


But hallelujah for quality air conditioners. Any metal in the car had long been cooled during our drive home. I wasn't feeling grateful though. Stress and exhaustion from the past week of emotion had gripped a vice around my stomach. Breathe. Function. Survive. Repeat.


I turned back around, gathering my things, a knot in my throat that would have put a Boy Scout to shame. Purse. Phone. Flip-flops that had stowed away on the floorboard the past month. What else?


"I tricked you Mama!"


The stress ball doubled, flipped. "No, you didn't." I tried to keep my patience. I'd been tricked, yes, but not by her. Never by her. I juggled my belongings. Just wanted to go inside and breathe. Function. Survive. Repeat.


She pressed on, bouncing in her seat a little, sing-songing her victory. "You thought it was hot and it wasn't! I tricked you!"


"NO, you didn't!" I erupted a little, then, volcano spewing over the sides. Not a full onslaught, but trickles of heat oozing from the dark pit within. "I know you were just trying to trick me. I knew the whole time."


"How'd you know?" Grace kept her from being offended by my outburst. Only curiosity blinked at me from behind pink glasses.


My frustration mounted. I climbed out of the car, arms loaded but not with nearly the amount of baggage still burdening my heart. I bit off my abrupt answer before I shut the door. "Because! You're a smart girl. You're not going to hold on tight to something that hurts you!"


The door thudded shut just as my heart thudded to a stop.


There are moments in life when you can all but visibly see God quirking an eyebrow at you. In that particular moment, the cosmos parted, the clouds reeled back, and that heavenly eyebrow lifted right up.


And I laughed. Bitter, at first, a "ha-ha" type of snort, one that rises from your stained insides. The stains of guilt, judgment, jadedness. Stains of smeared pride and leftover lies.


But then I laughed. Joyful, at first, a "a-ha" type of giggle, one that bubbles up from a well untapped. A well of living Water, satisfaction, healing. A well begging to quench a relentless thirst and rejuvenate a heart long parched.


And God whispered "I tricked you".


Because who would expect Gospel from the mouth of mischievous kindergartner, Gospel from the mouth of a twisted-up mama, Gospel to squeeze past the knots and unravel every frayed lie. Gospel to unload the baggage and help a burdened heart breathe. Function. Survive.


Thrive.


Repeat.


Because the knots don't forgive. The lies offer no grace, are beyond relentless. The burdens of baggage suffocating. Consuming. Thicker than the fog over a Louisiana bayou.


Until Gospel comes in, like a volcano wild, bursting and erupting and spewing not with the venom of a stressed-out-single-mom, but with the holy wildness of a God-man determined to save. And His forgiveness and grace is relentless, His fire consuming and burns 'til it heals right up.


And the only thing suffocating is the knowledge that it's all free. All ours. All we want.


Because He held tight to us, as the cross held tight to Him.


Even when - especially when - it hurt.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Avoiding my blog and other confessions...

I've been avoiding my blog.


Because of my blog theme "Confessions From Behind the Mask", anything I'd have posted these past several months would have been a lie. A façade. Short of remarking about the weather, gabbing about cupcakes or sharing a pointless quiz about shoes or Pickle Pringles, I'd have given the term hypocrite a glossy new definition.


Because I've been living these past few months with my own mask right cemented on.


You know one unfortunate, inevitable side effect of mask-wearing?


It blocks your words.


I couldn't have forced them out if I'd tried.


So I didn't try. I skulked past my home computer, avoiding eye contact, or sometimes shooting it sidelong glances as if it were a foe to be reckoned with.


Turns out I was the foe to be reckoned with.


Turns out you can't have it all. You can't have God and sin too. You can't surrender your heart and life to Christ while clutching your future in two fists clenched tighter than a coffin clutches death. You can't bow to Jesus while lifting your chin in defense. You can't justify the end without reconciling with your beginning.


And all that messy in-between stuff, that lives between the beginning and the end?


Grace only covers what repentance shears true.


It's not enough to want it. You have to be it. Live it, speak it, absorb it. Be poured into so you can pour out.


I dried up. I shriveled, my tears stifled, my body evaporated of feeling because I was so over pain. I stopped receiving, and then there was nothing to give.


So the blog dried up like a ghost town, my words dust, my motivations ash. It was all gone.


And instead of fighting for water, for Life, I smacked my dry lips and clung to the one thing that looked like it might be good. Only in doing so, I essentially turned my back on He who IS Good.


Not intentionally. Not directly. Oh, I tried every good-girl-gone-religious method I could scrounge from my childhood, in an effort to bring God into my plans, into my will, into my determined path through the wilderness.


Which is as effective as skipping down a shadow-strewn street, sing-songing, "I'm destroying my life, Jesus. Won't you join me on this path to death?"


He said no.


I can't even type that without crying.


He said no.


No, He wouldn't join me, and guess what? I wasn't going either, thank-you-very-much.


He stopped me in my tracks. Not with a stop sign or a flashing red light or a construction worker holding a simple "slow down" sign. No, nothing that subtle.


Dead. In. My. Tracks.

And He spun me around, before I could breathe, before I could see, before I could recover, and planted me feet-first at a crossroads.


Deuteronomy 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live..."


He made me choose.


He might have swung me over His shoulder and cave-manned His way to the crossroads, but once we got there, He did the hardest thing at all. He stood me up right and made me choose.


You know what? I think it was hard for Him too. Because Jesus doesn't make us pick Him. And in His sovereignty, He knew the outcome, knew my heart, knew my battle.


But I wonder if heaven held its breath a little just the same.


Not because I'm someone more special than anyone else. But because I'm a child of God, an heir of Christ, and because of Luke 15:10. "I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


You know my choice, because I'm here. Mask off, hair mussed, words flowing, tears dripping, here. And if you're here too, reading, accompanying me in this journey, I am blessed and honored and grateful.


I'm still recovering. One step at a time. But I'm walking - moving, progressing - down this path of Life, blood dripping, limping, hip sore from wrestling with God.


One. Step. At. A. Time.
Death in the rearview.
Only a filter of light ahead.


But He is going to make this path straight.


Walk with me?

Monday, March 31, 2014

It doesn't take a village. It takes an army.

You know the phrase "It takes a village".


I love this phrase, because it's so true. It does take a village to raise a child, or to accomplish anything crucial - be it in your career or ministry or family. We are not meant to do anything worthwhile alone. We need community, support, encouragement - we need HELP. We can't do it all, and if we somehow manage to for a minute, we're either deceiving ourselves or not doing it well. And we won't maintain it for long, because it's a farce. A façade. Equivalent to a newborn colt teetering on spindly legs before collapsing back in the straw from effort. Our efforts alone are feeble.


Ecclesiastes 4:12 "A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."


It takes a village.


But you know what's even truer?


It doesn't just take a village.


It takes an army.


It takes an army to thrive - when you're inept and outnumbered and overwhelmed and underestimated. It takes encouragement and words of life from fellow believers, it takes helping hands - hands that drive carpools and bake casseroles and write thinking of you notes. Hands that change diapers and cook dinner and clean toilets. Hands that do the work when your strength fails.


And it takes an army to survive - when your prayers fade weak and your vision fails and your faith flees, it takes an army of prayer warriors, sisters and brothers in Christ holding up your arms, seeing the truth in your blindness and believing louder than the doubts in your heart.


It takes an army.


Yet there are still some days when it feels like even an entire army of sisters and brothers against just one stubborn foe isn't enough. A foe named Fear. Failure. Sin. Rejection. A foe that whispers "you're too much" and "you're not enough" and "this is all your fault". A foe named Condemnation. Manipulation. Death. Divorce. A foe that shouts "you'll never do better" and "why even try" and "give up now".


I can easily picture the images in my head, can easily see my personal band of believers, swords drawn, strewn about a battle ground stained with blood - my blood - all fighting against one. single. foe.




So very out numbered, and yet it seems as if it so doesn't matter.


Because it takes more than one army. It takes the invisible army of the Lord surrounding us, the one we just don't get to tangibly see yet.


Yet.


Then Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!’ The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (2 Kings 6:17 NLT)


When you feel like you're fighting alone. Or when it feels like even the army you have isn't enough against the battle that rages inside you, look up.


Just look up.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The day I lowered my expectations of God...

There was a day when the pain of the past few years caught up to me, and stole my expectations.

I don't know when it was, exactly. Not sure which day it officially occurred. But it came, just the same, like a thief in the twilight, and snatched it right away--stole this lingering hope that had been driving me so very, very long.

Vanished.

I'd had it, and then I didn't.

It was a most unfair exchange - hope swapped for lowered expectations.

Because they go hand in hand.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8)

When you're waiting, you're expecting. Expecting and hoping are painfully and irrevocably entwined.

And when my threads unthreaded, my knots untangled--my hope stolen, I was left with expectations that were void. Useless. They left me numb and empty-eyed and staring at the dust crumbling through my fingers, dust that used to be something gold and shiny and full of light.

Now ash.

Streaming through the cracks in my hands and slipping off the sides and I was grasping, grasping - but there was nothing left. Nothing to hold to. Nothing to clench.

It had happened. Somehow, someway, despite my determination never to go there...I did.

I lowered my expectations of God.

I thought it all too big for Him. Too hard. Too much. Too time consuming.

Too impossible.

But...

But God...

And it was there I realized my expectations weren't in God in the first place. They were still in myself. In my ability, in my work, in my effort, in my striving. In my attempts. In my pleas and prayers. If I wanted it badly enough, prayed for it hard enough, reached for it far enough...

My expectations were in me.

So when that day came, and I fitfully and ashamedly admitted that I'd lowered my expectations of God, I realized another, larger, broader, truer-truth... I hadn't lowered my expectations of God.

I'd lowered them of myself.

And now God could get through.

Breath. Light. Air.

So here I stand, brushing my hands free of the last fragments of dust, and only one thing resounds in my soul--my soul that can hear and breathe and feel and think and see.

One thing. One truth remains here in this overly crowded, yet somehow barren place called my heart.

He still makes beauty from ashes.

HE makes.

Not me.

Isaiah 61:2-3 "...to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes..."


I make more ash.

He bestows grace. Beautiful grace.