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 fa├žade. 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.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Yep. I'm SO going there...

When I first read the below article, I thought "oh snap". Not because of a strong opinion of my own one way or the other, but because I knew the fall out would be swift and harsh and so very, very unfortunate.


http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-why-hiring-gay-christians-same-sex-marriage.html


This is exactly the type of hot button issue that often gives Christ-followers a bad rep. Because let's be honest - the topic is a perfect opportunity to bring out our inner self righteousness, pride, and spirit of judgment.


A few years ago, maybe even less time back than that, I'd have jumped on the bandwagon with flags a-wavin'. Now, my stride is slower. My gate is hitched with a limp ala Jacob's famous wrestle. (Genesis 32) And my heart has a compassion that can only be birthed from brokenness. I've been through a personal hell and back, and my perspective is so very, very different now.


I don't have a flag anymore.


I do have an opinion. Don't we all?


But here's my bottom line and why I'm even writing this instead of letting the topic die down before too many casualties ensue.


IN THIS INSTANCE it doesn't matter what you think about gay marriage. It doesn't matter what you think the Bible says about gay marriage or how you interpret the Bible in general or whether your best friend is gay or whether you're gay or whatever.


The question that's important right now comes down solely to this: Do you sponsor through World Vision, and if you do, will this change in policy make you offended enough to remove your sponsorship?


AND IF YOU DO - who suffers for it? The company? Not really. The children you were sponsoring? ABSOLUTELY.


I'm not taking the easy way out here, and I'll prove it. Watch.


1. Do I believe that homosexuality is a sin? Yes
2. Do I believe it is one sin listed in the Bible, along with a thousand other sins listed in the Bible, many of those of which I am guilty of myself? Yes
3. Do I believe all gay people are going to hell? No
4. Do I believe I need Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for my sin just as much as gay people do for theirs? Yes
5. Do I currently sponsor through World Vision? Yes, and have for over a decade. I'm on my third kid now, because the first one I saw all the way through until she turned 18 and the second child's family withdrew from the program.
6. Will this adjusted policy make me cancel my sponsorship? NO
7. Will this prevent me from taking on additional sponsorships in the future? No. I don't see a correlation. Kids are being helped in numerous ways through World Vision, and are being given the Gospel of Jesus. Nothing else matters but Jesus in the long run. Nothing.


Here's something else to think about - how many employees did World Vision employ before this policy change that lived this lifestyle in secret, anyway? Does it really matter now that it's "allowed" versus behind closed doors? What does that actually change? Were kids being given Bibles through World Vision? Water? Education? Gifts? Support? Yes.


Are they still, now, on the other side of this policy shift?


YES.


Think about this, too. How many companies and organizations that you frequent possibly have policies and allowances in place that you just don't know about because they're not public or spotlighted right now? If you knew, maybe then you'd boycott, like maybe you did Starbucks or Disneyworld or wherever else. Again, that's your choice. I neither respect nor disrespect that choice. It's yours to make. But if you never drink a white chocolate mocha again or take a photo with Mickey & Minnie, no one suffers. If you withdraw a sponsorship because of this principle, then kids suffer.


Just. Think. About. It.


Please, I beg you - think before you do anything rash. If you choose to remove your sponsorship through World Vision because of this, that's your decision, your choice, your prerogative. But think it through. Pray it through. And talk to the organization on the phone about finding a replacement before you leave a kid high and dry for something they have NOTHING to do with, and ZERO control over (like everything else in their poor lives).


Please.