Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

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Forgiveness & Reconciliation

MBA

A few weeks ago, I was sitting through our weekly small group meeting.  We took a bold step and decided to tackle Authentic Intimacy’s Passion Pursuit.  Dr. Juli Slattery began to discuss the importance of forgiveness in healing and improving our marriages.  She also delved into the need to forgive past hurts in order to move forward.   Something she said jumped out at me:

The acknowledgement that forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. 

As she waded through the waters of forgiveness, the words FREEDOM were key.  Forgiveness leads to freedom because what ever that wrong was, it no longer holds on to us.  However, reconciliation may not be possible.  Perhaps the other person hasn’t apologized, hasn’t repented because they do not believe they were wrong.  Or, perhaps they took ownership of their wrong doing but for your own safety you can not resume a reconciled relationship with the person.  In some instances the person may have died, moved away, etc and there isn’t a way to even reach out and start a reconciliation process.  However, we can still forgive them and more forward.  This forgiveness does not free them from the CONSEQUENCES of their actions, it does however free us from being held captive by that person or situation any longer.

I walked away that evening reflecting on several situations through the years that cause me distress.  I thought of the scriptures that call us to forgive and reconcile.  I felt like a failure in many ways because even despite my willingness to forgive, there were relationships that were not reconciled.  I had sold myself to believe that I couldn’t more forward until reconciliation had happened.   I resolved that those relationships wouldn’t necessarily reconcile to what they once were, but that to at least be on “civil terms” would be enough.  When that couldn’t happen, I felt like I failed.

Now, that burden was lifted.  I had permission to walk in that freedom of forgiveness, even I was walking alone and the other parties were not ready to join up yet.  Today, I watched a video from The Gospel Coalition on forgiveness without repentance.  One of the things I took away from the video is:

Reconciliation requires repentance and forgiveness from both sides.

It can’t be both sides saying they are sorry, and no one changes.

It can’t be a change of behavior by both sides, without anyone actually apologizing.

It can’t be an exchange of apologies, modified behaviors, when one or both don’t truly forgive.

Forgiveness, repentance, and reconciliation may not come in that exact order & not all at one time.  It may be a process that can span days, months, or even years to complete.  Reconciliation may not even come this side of heaven. 

If we have chosen to forgive, and if we have identified our own mistakes and repented… we may have to be okay with reconciliation’s slow arrival.  If it even comes at all. 

For each of us lies the responsibility of our own actions.  Have we come to God and asked Him to reveal if we are part of the problem?  Is there more to this than being sinned against?  Are we too guilty of sinning against the other person?  If you have a trusted mentor, have you shared the situation with them and sought their counsel and guidance? 

Once you have taken an honest look at yourself, if there is a need for you to apologize then you are responsible for taking the step of repentance and seeking forgiveness.  Then you can also extend your forgiveness to the other person and work toward reconciliation, should both parties agree.  However, if you are truly the only one who was sinned against and the other person is unwilling to repent and ask for forgiveness… you can still choose to forgive as Christ has forgiven.

All of our sins are against a perfect God, who has done nothing wrong to us.  Yet He is able to forgive our sins and cast them to the oceans depths.  If the Lord can forgive me, how can I not forgive those who sin against me?  Reconciliation may not happen, but that doesn’t mean that forgiveness is impossible.

The scriptures state that as much as it is possible, and is up to me, to live at peace with everyone.  Reconciliation isn’t entirely up to me, it takes both parties to happen.  But forgiveness is a choice I can make to bring peace into my heart, life, and relationships.  Then we can lean into trusting the Lord to do the work in the other person, and if reconciliation is possible it will happen under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

When we forgive, we can live in the freedom of Peace.  I choose Peace.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

badmoms.jpg

First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Avert Your Eyes

MBA

Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

Swept Away Retreat, Honoring God

As I stated in my previous post, I love conferences and retreats because of how they allow us to pull away from life and focus on God and fellowship with our family of believers.  If you’ve never been to one, they are often based on a theme for the general sessions.  Then, there are often breakaway sessions where you can get a little more personal in a smaller group. These sessions may be related to the theme, or offer additional topics.

I am a person who likes to take full advantage of these events, and soak in as much information as possible.  But, you can usually only sign up for a few topics and will have to pick and choose wisely.  When you are a presenter as well, then it means you have even less options.   This past weekend’s event included topics like coping with loss and sharing your faith, as well as personal testimonies.  I presented on a topic that is dear to my heart, the pursuit of knowledge.   The session I attended was about honoring God with our words.

sweptawayretreat

This couldn’t have been more perfect timing, since just last week I was reflecting on my propensity for sarcasm.   So, I’m going to start my personal recap on that session first.

Honoring God with Your Words

The first thing I wanted to point out, and I think this something we all need to hear, is that our speaker spoke from her own struggle. Too often when we have an opportunity speak on a subject, we will begin to disqualify ourselves based on our personal failures.  Yet, the best speakers do not speak on subjects that they never had trial with.  NO!  They speak on the subjects they overcame (or are in the process of).  Our speaker shared how this was an area that God had been working on in her life.  What I also appreciated is that she quantified that statement with the fact she had struggled with it for YEARS, God had been working on it in her for YEARS, and she still had more work to come.

The second thing I wanted to point out is that her presentation was almost entirely based on scripture.  She put the effort into finding the scriptures on the subject, and even shared how she went about it.  She was pointing us all toward the process of seeking God’s word on a subject, over our own opinions or how the world wanted us to view the subject.

We were given a two sided paper, each side had four columns.  On one side the columns were the ways that we use our words in a God honoring way, but on the other side were the ways we use our words in a way that does NOT honor God.  I don’t think there was a single woman in our session that didn’t feel the sting of conviction.    We began talking about the dishonoring ways.

Lies:  Proverbs 6:2, Ezekiel 13:8, John 8:44, and Proverbs 19:5

Gossip:  Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 16:28, Romans 1:29-30a, Proverbs 20:19

Quarrels:  Psalm 64:3, Psalm 55:21, 1 Timothy 6:4, Proverbs 21:19

Long Winded Speech:  Proverbs 10:19, Ecclesiastes 5:3, Ecclesiastes 6:11, Job 11:3

I couldn’t help but recognize how conditioned we are to lying, that society has created acceptable levels of lying.  Or, how prone women are to get caught in gossip or quarreling over ridiculous subjects.  For myself, I noticed that I am prone to sarcasm in ways that do not honor God or my relationships… or an inability to know when better to stay quiet.  I also realized how threaded together each of these categories are when our speaker pointed out how women have difficulty with awkward pauses or silences.  We tend to speak when we shouldn’t, to fill the void.  The words we speak to fill up that space are often peppered with lies to be relevant, gossip to make conversation, sarcasm or inappropriate humor or harsh words about our husbands and children.

There is a reason so often in the scriptures we are warned to guard our mouths, that the tongue is referenced as a weapon, or that we need to avoid foolish quarrels….

Words cut, and they cut deep.  Words betray our heart.  We can put on a mask, an illusion of who we are… but when the words start flowing it’s really easy to begin to see the real person and their intentions.

We have a responsibility in how we use our words, our words should be pleasing to God.

After the sting of conviction, we were able to turn the page and begin to find freedom and comfort in His Word.  God tells us exactly what He wants our words to be.

Words of Praise:  Psalm 34:1, Psalm 71:23, Psalm 35:28, Deuteronomy 32:3

Words of Wisdom:  Proverbs 16:23, Proverbs 12:18, 1 Peter 4:11, Proverbs 17:28

Words of Encouragement:  2 Corinthians 13:11, Job 16:5, Acts 15:32, Job 4:4

Words of Commission:  Matthew 28:19-20a, John 4:41, 1 Peter 3:1, Philippians 2:11

When our words honor God we are blessing Him, and those around us.  Our words are beautiful, and reflect the heart of a daughter redeemed by her King.  They are uplifting, prayerful, thankful, intentional, purposeful, do no harm, sincere, put us in our place in His plan, open doors, and put Christ first.

How much greater is our testimony when we speak of love over condemnation.  How great is our witness when we are lifting others up instead of our own self?  How perfect is our love, when we choose to see the best in others and encourage them as they walk forward?  How many doors do we open when our words are welcoming instead of divisive?

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks.”  —- Luke 6:45

You can view our speakers hand out here: Swept Away: Honoring God with your Words

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This weekend, I will conclude this recap with my presentation on Pursuing Knowledge in Changing Tides, from the Swept Away Women’s Retreat.

A Word for 2016: Refined

MBA

Recently, I was made aware of an idea that instead of making resolutions for the new year, we should instead select a word to define our year.  Some people are picking the words themselves, others are praying for a divine revelation of the word.

I decided to select a word that would represent completion of the events from the past few years.  I’d consider it partial divine revelation and partial selection on my part.  I  know that the Lord has been refining some areas in my life for the past few years, and it has been tough.  Really tough.  Pain. Tears. Loneliness.

However, as 2015 drew to a close many of those situations were heading toward resolution.  And, a I have just a few things that are going to end this year.    While I know that God is not entirely done with me yet, and that the future will definitely be a continuation of a refining process… I still chose for my word this year to be REFINED.  Past tense, because I believe this current season of refinement, the trials I have been going through are coming to an end.

When we are being refined by God, He will use circumstances to strip away everything that is not beneficial to us.  He will use circumstances to teach us and prepare us for future works.  He will also discipline us as a way to guide us toward His calling and direction in our life.  Refinement is not easy, but the result is always good.  There are also byproducts of our refinement, including being able to share our testimony to others.  This gives them peace in knowing that the trials they face are part of God’s refinement of their life.

Refinement is a gift, even if it is a tough one to receive.  I am eager to see how God will use this gift in my life in the coming year.

Standing in the Gap

brokenangel

I am an optimist.  Most days, regardless of what the world throws at me, I see the good.  I don’t even try hard.  I give the benefit of doubt, more than I should.  I forgive things that  others would hold onto.  I choose to focus on the good in the world, instead of the bad. 

Occasionally though, that bubble of optimism is burst by the harsh stings of reality.  It comes when real tragedy comes too close to home.  I arrives when I hear something on the news that goes beyond what I can comprehend.  When my optimism is challenged in such a way, it is quite honestly hard to shake.  It is where I find myself as I write this, my head spinning in circles.  I am unable to wrap my head around the things that happen in the world, and when I look to God’s word for answer… logically, I get it.  In my head I can understand why the world is what it is.  However, my heart doesn’t and seems completely incapable of understanding. 

I spent several hours on a phone with a mother who is in crisis, and it isn’t a crisis that can be counseled away.  I could hear the the desperation in her voice.  I believed every word that came out of her mouth about the recent events in her life.  She was scared, and she felt hopeless.  The tone in her voice was not something I have ever heard in my life.  She is angry at the system, specific people, and even God.  She is walking a road few understand.

Since our phone call, I find myself in a place where my heart breaks for this woman, and those who are impacted by this situation.  Something that never should have happened in the first place, let alone affect her family in such a way.  I am blown away by the lack of support she has gotten from those whom she felt closest too.  People who were at one time her biggest cheerleaders, became her greatest critics.  So, not only are people like her walking roads that others can’t understand… they find themselves walking them alone.

The reality of her situation isn’t something that can change without some sort of miracle.  People are praying for this miracle to happen, but to day… things are just getting worse.  Things are becoming more difficult.  She is becoming more broken.  She feels more hopeless.

And here is the clincher, there is literally nothing you and I can tangibly do to help in some of these extreme circumstances.  Our encouragement and advice sounds great, but we truly have no clue what we are talking about.  We can rely on the Bible verses that we cling to during times of trial, but these verse seem so very far from her right now.  We can have faith that God is working out something good, but for her things are getting worse.   We feel like we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, when she feels like the tunnel is closing up on her.

It is truly heartbreaking.  When I asked her how people could support her, she said:

Listen.

Believe me.

And if you can, relieve me or the family.

When people are in true crisis, they tend to keep things close to the chest.  They find themselves confiding in those who are closest to them.  But, and I know I am guilty of this, we often attempt to problem solve instead of just listening to them.  I once read that the biggest problem with communication today is that people are listening to respond, they are not listening to learn.  When that person in your life is in crisis calls and they just need to unload, let them.  Shut your mouth, open your ears and listen.

People who are living in incomprehensible situations are often accused of making things up, exaggerating how bad things are, or treated as if they don’t know what they are talking about.  Good intentioned people give advice or guidance over a situation they truly have no experience in.  I too am guilty of this, but nothing in my life can even remotely compare to what this woman is dealing with.  Who am I to even think that solutions I have to my everyday common life issues would even touch the extraordinary situation she is facing?  Instead, what we need to ask is “What can I do?” or “How can I help”?  We can ask the person what their options are, and then evaluate if we are in a position to help them.

There are some situations where the person in crisis is in desperate need of relief.  Relief can be something as simple as coming in and doing her household chores or preparing some meals for her freezer (so she has one less thing to deal with that day).  Relief can be taking her kids for the weekend, and giving her some peace and quiet.  It could be sending her and her husband on a weekend getaway to a local bed and breakfast, and keeping her kids.  Or, it may be finances.  Maybe you have been financially blessed were you can reach out and offer a financial relief to medical bills that have added up, or that unexpected expense that popped up at the worst possible time.

For those we love, who are going through the trials that test their faith… when their loss and grief becomes so much more than they can bear, that their pain turns to anger toward God…

Stand in the Gap.

When she cannot pray, we will pray for her.

When the Throne seems so distant to her, we will stand before the Lord on her behalf.

Please, right now, take a moment and pray.  Pray for the men, women, and children who are walking through crisis.  The Lord knows their names, He knows their situation.  God knows their prayers, their needs, their wants, and their desires.  Pray for His hand to intervene.  Stand in the gap for those who’s voices have gone silent from all of the screaming and crying out.  Be the voice.  Be the intercessor.

Whenever I write, I take a break to read before I come back to proof.  It’s a way to freshen my eyes to my work.  Like when you sniff coffee beans between smelling perfume samples.  I’m not the only one writing on this subject today, and it reminds me that there is MORE hurt out there than we realize. 

Article from A Holy Experience