Thursday, September 18, 2014

For the tempted...

Temptation knocks. 

Sometimes rather politely. Tap, tap. "Won't you let me in?" Sugar, spice, everything nice. Sweetness personified. The equivalent of offering homemade cookies. The big bad wolf, dressed as grandma. 

Other times temptation doesn't bother knocking at all. Rather, it simply wafts, under and around and through the barred door, an enticing aroma promising comfort. Pleasure. Relief. Distraction. It doesn't have to knock or try to trick you into unlocking the barrier. It knows you'll willingly go to it, will remove the barrier yourself. 

And then other times...temptation doesn't knock at all. It assaults. It doesn't just wave a hint of a red flag in your peripheral, rather, it tosses an entire crimson curtain over your head and attempts to smother. Accuse. Drown. The equivalent of a battering ram beating in a door and jarring lose the lock. Bashing in the frame. Determined to gain entrance. It doesn't whisper promises, no it shouts the lies in full volume.

Oh, at times, the enemy is very subtle. Floral kerchief covering pointy teeth and "what big ears you have", lying in bed waiting to snare. Other times, the enemy is enticing, putting on the disguise of light and goodness and drawing us to him, rather than coming after us. 

And then, there are nights...there are nights when he doesn't hold back, at all. Rather, he yanks and strains and snarls until the leash snaps and he rams against our barricades and guardrails until they're right dented in. Obvious. Full out invasion. No time for subtlety, he's going for the throat. 

And we're in the fetal position, watching the door shake and quake and shudder, knowing our resolve is weakening, knowing its just a matter of time until it collapses and we're done for. 

But God.


What the enemy doesn't know is sometimes God's fiercest warriors come in semi-short packages, wrapped in friendship and toting weapons of Chex Mex. That sometimes, when our fingers ache to call darkness, we force them to call the light instead, and that light brings Coke in frosty cans and instruction and Truth. The enemy doesn't know that sometimes, when we can't pray for ourselves, we can depend on our fellow warriors to hold our arms, or even hold back our hair, and we are covered. 

What the enemy does know, because it's Scripture, is that God's most effective weapons of warfare are not carnal at all, but rather, they wage war through the tears on our cheeks and the silent prayers we can't quite make verbal  (2 Corinthians 2:10) 

AND, that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) 

So its okay if that door bends and contorts and dents. It's okay if the guttural snarls on the other side are drowned out only by the whimpers inside our hearts. 

That door isn't opening, in Jesus name. 

Because the Bible tells us the Word is our Sword. Sharper than a two-edged blade, piercing even to the division of bone and marrow, soul and spirit, rightly discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. We fight with God's word. 

And God's word tells us we as believers are more than conquerors in Christ. 

Psalms 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept your word.

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

1 Corinthians 10:13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Hebrews 2:18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him.

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.

Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Isaiah 40:31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Psalm 28:7-8 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.  The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

So when you're tempted, when that door is bowing and the wolf is lurking and you know you're weak, speak Truth. That barrier WILL hold under the name of Jesus and the word of God. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Confessions of a First Time Salsa Dancer

There's moments of being found.

Do you believe that?

When you come to, or become aware, of a situation or a circumstance or a progression forming before your eyes. An awakening, of sorts. A "moment".

I had a moment like that last night. I found myself at a beginner's salsa class. Me, the girl who has less natural rhythm than Elaine from Seinfeld. Me, the girl who struggles to just do Zumba every other Thursday for exercise without keeling over, found herself salsa-dancing with a talented instructor.

One two three. Five six seven.

One two three. Five six seven.

Our small group learned the basic moves. Then there were more girls than men, so we paired off and rotated. The instructor kept calling a reminder to the other male dancer to help him remember to count. "Seven is the magic number!"

Seven. The number of completion.

Well, there were definitely moments I was certain my humiliation was complete....

We kept practicing. Kept dancing. One two three. Five six seven.

The instructor taught us to follow the man's signals as to what step was next based on the slight pressure applied to our joined hands.

Then we added a more advanced step. Then a turn.

The woman next to me panicked over the idea of adding anything more complicated to the mix. After she had tried a few times, the instructor told her with a smile, "But don't you see? You're not worried about the basic moves anymore. See how far you've come? Ten minutes ago you were still trying to count to three. You were worried about the basics. Now that's all muscle memory and you're only thinking about the turn. You'll get this too."

I think that truth blew her mind.

Because it was true. We were learning. What was hard a few minutes ago was now a non-issue. We were pressing ahead.

We kept dancing.

Basic. Sideways. Basic. Sideways. Cuban Open. Cuban Open. Basic. Turn.

I warned the instructor I might step on his toes.

One two three. Five six seven.

I kept staring at my feet. Yet my instructor kept smiling, tapping my chin. Reminder. "Eyes up."
I'd forget, and watch my feet again. Watch His feet. "Eyes up." Oops. Try again.

I stumbled. I faltered. I hesitated. Then I'd nail it perfectly. Stumble. Fail. Succeed.

We learned a new step, and this time he said the women had to close their eyes. Let the male lead do the leading and just feel it. Trust it.

One two three. Five six seven.

This morning, I was struggling in my heart. Why were some of the things I've died to still haunting me? Why was THIS still so hard and why was THAT still in the back of my mind and how come I couldn't shake free of THIS that I wanted to so badly? Why was the battle to be free so constant? What steps were I doing wrong? What was I missing?

And Jesus said eyes up.

He reminded me I've been watching my feet. Focusing on the steps. Trying to get it all down perfectly. Trying to force what should be natural and flowing. Trying to dictate a formula to freedom that didn't exist.

Sometimes there aren't steps. There's just music.

I was so worried about stepping on Jesus' toes I'd forgotten that He simply wanted to dance with me. "You're going to stumble. You're going to falter. You're going to hesitate." And I sensed Him smiling. "But then you're going to get it."

He's there, keeping rhythm. He's there, leading. When I'm weak and unsure, I can close my eyes and trust and feel it. And I can open my eyes and appreciate His nearness and the fact that He has me and lean into His signals. I can stumble and falter and hesitate or perform a flawless turn, and it's all the same to Him.

He just wants to dance with me.

Eyes up.

One two three. Five six seven.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Learning to float...

I'm not the best swimmer in the world.

A fact which is possibly quite evident in the way my daughter (six-years-old) somehow managed to teach herself to swim underwater, yet panics and sinks when she attempts to swim above it.

The analogy there could drown my heart in equal measures of faith and doubt.

I went to the lake last Monday.

Labor Day.

Time to rest.

Spent several hours burning off deadline stress, work stress, single-mommy stress, emotional stress, creative stress.

Just me on a boat, with good friends and good food, floating under a periwinkle sky littered with cotton
ball clouds--and a little lizard stowaway we dubbed Marcus.

I realized something while swimming in that dirty lake water, the kind that splashes grit in your mouth and stains your toenail polish and squishes solid between your toes - I realized I am most at ease in the water when floating on my back.

A little odd for a not-so-strong swimmer. I can hold my own in the water, but it takes effort and concentration. I'm not naturally good at swimming. I was never taught professionally through lessons. I tend to get cramps really easily. It's not that I'm regulated to doggie-paddling only, but I get tired easily, and don't like being in over my head without something nearby to grab onto.

But when I'm floating on my back, I can relax. Cease striving. I can let the water do the work, and carry me with ease. I don't get tired. I don't fight cramps. I'm not spitting water out of my mouth or feeling anything unwanted between my toes.

I can let the water embrace me. Hold me up.

And I can rest.

When you float on your back, the most vulnerable part of a person - their belly - is face up. Exposed. Our stomachs hold life, our most important organs, the core of who we are as humans. It's considered the ultimate sign of trust when a dog rolls over and offers his belly for a good scratching.

Again, the analogies here threaten to drown me with equal waves of faith and doubt.

In the deep water of life - in those deep waters of deadline stress, work stress, single-mommy stress, emotional stress, creative stress - I can float.

If I stop fighting the tide...let it embrace me...carry me...

I can rest on top of it.

If I surrender my vulnerability and my exhaustion and my gifts to that overwhelming tide...

I can rest right in it.

Who controls the wind and waves?

I know Who.

Who controls the tide that laps and tugs and pulls?

I know Who.

I've got to stop fighting the stress, fighting the current of obligation and responsibility and duties, and consider it my resting place. Everything I stress over is actually a gift. Because that list would include my daughter, my finances, my job, my source of income, my friendships, my relationships, my home, my ministry - all gifts.

What am I even fighting?

It's time to stop fighting. And float.

As I said - I'm not the best swimmer in the world. A fact which is possibly quite evident in the way my daughter somehow managed to teach herself to swim underwater, yet panics and sinks when she attempts to swim above it...

When I try to rise above my obligation and responsibility and duties, when I try to master them instead of going with the flow of them, I panic and I sink.

When all along, all I had to do was float.

Let go. Relax. Trust.

The wind and waves still know His name.

And so do I.