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.

How Deep is Your Faith?

Some of you may recall that back in June I experienced quite a bit of delays trying to fly out to a conference in Indianapolis.  The benefit that came from those delays was the amount of time it gave me to dig into this book without many distractions.  I had no idea how much that reading was going to impact me while in a city far from my own, and would linger since returning home.

amwbook

In the beginning I thought this was going to be a book about deepening my faith.  In many ways I was right.    Exposing shallow faith, where law becomes an idol, and the wake we can leave behind when we are not walking in love and grace.  Recognizing that we have to do more than go through the motions, and that there will be times our faith will take out out of comfort zones into the deep end of the waters.  Pushing ourselves to a deeper understanding of the scriptures and what the Lord expects of us as a response to His Word.

What I didn’t expect to happen was the deeper convictions I was going to feel about how I interacted with this world.  Who was I serving?  How was I serving?  Was it easy, comfortable?  Did it require much of me?

I was great at serving those in my church, but what about the “least of these”?  What real needs have I been engaging?  Was I limiting the Gospel?  Was I limiting my service?  Was I talking a good talk but not walking along with it?  These questions were bouncing through my mind, as I sat in the airport… waiting.

Having a ministry position where I train other leaders, my biggest burden at that point was…

Am I training leaders who are going to go out and serve their people well … or are we just learning how to put on another successful event?  Are we playing ministry or living it?

Had I allowed the Gospel to be too small, was I not seeing the big picture?

This is where the book took me on a new journey about serving, loving, and living the Gospel out in real tangible ways.  Where it becomes more than talk.  Brandon Hatmaker’s words were reeling in my head, as I was walking back to my hotel after the conference let out for the evening.  It was late.  That is when Gregory made eye contact with me.

Gregory walked up to me, tears in his eyes. He was a homeless man, and he was hungry.  I don’t carry cash on me, but directly behind me was a restaurant.  It wasn’t fancy, but it was a better meal than a fast food place.   In Indianapolis, I met a man named Gregory who was from my home state.  I could smell the alcohol on his breath.  I wasn’t sure if I believed his story about being mugged and just needing a few dollars for some food.  It didn’t matter, I knew the man was hungry.

As we walked into the restaurant, Gregory was still crying.  He was sorry for bothering me.  He was sorry for asking. He was sorry for taking our time.  He asked for very little, but I told Gregory to order whatever he wanted.  He first asked for just a sandwich, but I told him to order more.  He gently asked my friend, “Do you think she’d let me have fries too?”.  She smiled and said absolutely, and immediately followed that up with inquiring what he wanted to drink.    In the end we had two sandwiches, french fries, and a large drink for Gregory.   He was grateful, his tears and slurs made him almost inaudible at times.

We prayed over Gregory before we left to return to our hotel.  It sounds like a beautiful moment, doesn’t?

What I neglected to share until this point, was the response of others.  The manager, saw Gregory walk in with us.  She approached us, looked right past my friend and I.  To Gregory, she spoke directly… “Looks like you convinced these nice ladies to buy you a meal.  You can wait here for it, but you can’t eat it outside.  You’ll need to take it and go.”

Her response was as if my friend and I were naive out of towners, taken advantage of by this con-man.  It was insulting to our intelligence and demeaning to Gregory.  He was now a paying customer, and should have been treated as such.  Gregory didn’t leave our thoughts for the rest of the trip, and quite often we prayed for him.  We didn’t see him again before it was time to leave.

Layovers and delays on my return flight home, I kept reading.  Over and over again, I found myself writing in the margins (next to a piece of text)…  Gregory.

From the book:

“It’s true that giving a sandwich to a homeless man on one day is not going to end hunger on the streets of your city.  But it will bless that man today.”

and in another passage:

“You see, after Jesus taught the most significant sermon in the history of time, Jesus didn’t make his way to the next sanctuary to meet  with the religious. He made his way to the next street corner to meet with the outcast. 

By meeting him in his greatest need, Jesus restored more than the man’s health; he restored his dignity. “

Gregory.

A Mile Wide opened my eyes to see so much more than how deep my own faith was, but my willingness to go the distance for my fellow man.  It changed my vision and scope of how ministry was supposed to look, and how I was going to change the way I approached our ministry work of training leaders.  It inspired me to a bigger Gospel.  A global Gospel.  A Gospel that feeds the man on the corner, that restores dignity, fights for justice, helps the Great Commission with feet on the ground.

Lord, I pray for Gregory tonight… where ever he lays his head.  I pray Lord, when I return to Indianapolis next year… I see his face again and we can break bread together.  Keep him safe, bring him to healing, and if I can’t see him again… let it be because he has returned to his family.  I pray for the hardened hearts that have forgotten that Gregory and those who are like him… are human beings made in your image.  Let us treat them as you would.  Amen.

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.

A Fixer of Things

MBA

Some people are just fixers.  It wasn’t until a very recent conversation that I realized how much I fall into that category.  I love solving problems.  I appreciate seeing something that once functioned poorly, now working effortlessly.   I have fixed the dishwasher, saving my husband from having one more thing to do when he gets home (or money in parts, replacement).  I have fixed organizations and systems, friends problems, etc.

I also realized this is something I have always been fairly good at doing.  In high school, I helped fix our dwindling Drama Club.  In college, I wrangled in a campus club that was off kilter.  In my career in retail sales, I would be moved from department to department & store to store, solving problems that others couldn’t.  I prided myself in my ability to see the problem, find the solution, and execute that solution in an expedited fashion that would save money.

I didn’t realize it, but my affinity for fixing things is quite like a hunter on the prowl.  He looks for his prey, I look for problems.  He locks eyes on his target, I come up with a plan.  He brings down his game with grace and precision, and I execute my solution effortlessly.  The hunter walks away with the satisfaction of a “good kill”, and I pat my back with the satisfaction of a “good job”.  However, we do not linger in that satisfaction.  Instead we already begin to set eyes on what comes next.

In recent years, big game hunters get a lot of heat on the internet.  The reason?  People don’t see the need for the hunt.  We have plenty of food in this country, so what reason could someone possibly have for wanting to kill big game animals?  They see it as unnecessary.  Not everything needs to be hunted down for the sake of hunting.

What finally hit me, as I was enjoying serious conversation with a very wise friend, was that not everything needs to be fixed for the sake of fixing things.  We have all heard that phrase:  “don’t fix what isn’t broken”.  Which is totally something that I deep down believe.  I’m not one for reinventing the wheel, or trying to make something better that is actually functioning well and doing it’s intended job.  That didn’t prevent me from being on the hunt to find something to fix.

After solving one problem, I needed somewhere else to put to use my gifts and talents.  I wasn’t content not having some sort of project to work on.  So, I would find my next target.  However, I’ve learned a new phrase:  “not everything that is broken wants or needs to be fixed”.  Even more convicting is the phrase: “not everything broken is supposed to be fixed by me”.  Let’s unpack those thoughts a bit.

Not Everything That is Broken WANTS to be Fixed:

This scenario often deals with people more than things or projects.  You may be watching a person spiral out of control, personally or professionally.  But, unless that person truly wants help any attempt to fix it is going to be pushed away.  We can talk until we are blue in the face, throw suggestions and solutions in their direction, but none of it will matter if they don’t want to hear it or change their lives.

A friend who is struggling through addiction, who has begun having an affair, who is blowing all of their money shopping, etc… are all REAL problems.  But if the person is not at a place to desire change, you can’t fix them.  And, it’s not our job to convict their spirit to desire those changes.  That is up to the Holy Spirit, which is a job that none of us are qualified for.  This doesn’t mean that we don’t pray for them, and even make ourselves available for when they are ready.  It does mean, however, that we are not going to beat a dead horse.  The more we push, when they are not ready, the more they are going to distance themselves.

Even in ministry work, if you see that the ministry is dysfunctional… but you are the only one that seems to have a problem with it…. then it may not want to be fixed.  You have to be willing to step back.  We must pray that the Lord would put His hands on the situation and bring about the desire for change or repair.

Not Everything That is Broken NEEDS to be Fixed:

Many years ago I was lamenting to my husband about a problem I was seeing in an organization that I was volunteering with.  I could see the writing on the wall, if these issues were not fixed the ministry was going to fold.  It broke my heart to see that happen, because I believed in the potential of their work.

My husband, in his wisdom, pointed out that perhaps God didn’t want it fixed?  Even though the work they were doing was good, it may not be Kingdom work.  If it’s not Kingdom work, then the Lord may have better use of those people and resources.  I had to be willing to let it die, so that something better could be born.

We can spend many hours super gluing a shattered plate back together.  Carefully piecing it together, using the best of our tools to get the job done, but the second it gets the slightest tap… it shatters back into pieces.  There are times where things are broken beyond repair, to spend so much time trying to fix it becomes a waste of our time, resources, and the gifts the Lord has given us.  We must seek God’s discernment on whether something is worth saving.  Just because we can save a ministry, program, church, event, etc… doesn’t mean we should.

There are times where a group or project is not functioning well, but getting the job done.  We can see the hundred ways it could run better, and even the greater potential that is being overlooked.  However, those who are overseeing it may not desire anything greater than what it is currently doing.  It may not need to be fixed, because the job is getting done and the details of the “how” are really not important.  We need to seek God’s wisdom in knowing when something doesn’t need to be fixed at all, or when it’s simply not my job to do it.

Not Everything That is Broken is MY JOB to Fix:

Quite some time ago, I was involved in a ministry project.  Each team member had a very distinct role, and I was fulfilling my part.  However, I was seeing that another portion of the project was struggling.  I offered my opinion to the person in charge.  It was dismissed.  I offered my help, I was turned down.  In my arrogance, I tried to assert myself more.  This resulted in a come to Jesus meeting, and I was the one invited.

The fellow leader was brutally honest with me.  “I know this isn’t coming along perfectly.  I know that you could do a better job.  If you want my job, just tell me.  Otherwise, I need you to let me do this my way. Right or wrong.”   She was absolutely right.  She never asked me to come in and fix it, she wasn’t even in denial that there were some problems. It simply wasn’t my job to fix it.  It was up to her, to do the job she was entrusted with.  I apologized immediately, and I learned a tough lesson.

What I find almost humorous about this, as I reflect, is that one of the things that gets on my nerves the quickest is…. unsolicited advice.  But, there I was… dishing it out.

Occasionally, everyone can see the problems in the organization or project.  You may have all the answers, but in simple terms… it’s not your job.  The Lord may have someone else who is going to work those problems out.  The Lord may need the ministry to stumble in your absence to draw attention to the bigger issues.  Or, the Lord may have a greater plan that what you can imagine down the road.  He may be trying to get you out of the way, so that He can do something beyond comprehension.

Because no matter how much you think you can do to fix the problems, hiccups, and hold backs… HE CAN DO GREATER.  We need to be in prayer that we would not only get out our own way, but even more so that we get out of God’s way.  Let Him do the work, open the doors, and work out the miracles.  All you need to figure out is if you are going along for the ride, or if He is directing your gifts and talents to another ministry.

In the end…  generally speaking… if something is broken and we have the capacity to fix it, we should.  This piece isn’t about standing back and doing nothing.  Instead, this piece is a reminder that all the things we can do need to be in surrender to God, His glory, and His plan.  If we seek Him before we act, we will understand our role.. to fix, to pray, to let go, or to step aside.

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.

Who Me? God has to be kidding…

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The Lord has a very weird sense of humor, when it comes to the ways He chooses to work through my life.  I also find that when I am at church and our Pastor issues some sort of a challenge…

… inevitably I am about to be moved out of my comfort zone.

The interesting thing to me, is that the more I look at what He is doing the more I realize that it is not something He was suddenly doing in my life.  Instead, the Lord was preparing for me it long before I even knew what IT was going to be.

But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  Let’s start here….

My Pastor began a series called “If I Wasn’t Afraid” (you can watch each of the messages on vimeo from the link above).

In the course of the series, we were challenged to “Be Brave, Don’t Cave”and:

  1. Accomplish a personal adventure.
  2. Have a God honoring and needed conversation.
  3. Take a step (or leap) toward a God honoring commitment.
  4. Make a God honoring contribution.

Those who know me would hardly consider me as someone who is afraid.  For the most part, I’m not.  As you get to know me though you’ll realize there are many things I can do… there are many situations I’m bold in… there really isn’t a conversation that I won’t have.  I’m not afraid to share my opinions, to try new things, and to even have difficult conversations.

I am, however, terrified when it comes to talking about my personal life.  I can share about how I struggle in my walk as a Christian.  I can share my parenting difficulties and whatnot.  Yet, there is a line.  When we get too close to talking about it… I get uncomfortable.  I’ll change the subject.  I’ll make a joke.  I’ll find an excuse to duck out of the room.

This would be the exact subject that God would call me to conquer in the challenge our Pastor issued.  You see, this will be a personal adventure for me.  I’m about to enter a world that I am terrified of… that one area that has been off limits.  It is going to require me to have a God honoring conversation with myself, my husband, and with women just like me.  It is going to take a commitment to see this through to the end, no matter how many times I want to run and hide.  And, it is going to be a contribution that will hopefully help other women.

By now, I am sure you are all waiting with bated breath for the big reveal….

Ya’ll the Lord has called ME of all people to talk about S… E… X…

Sweet cheese and crackers.

So this week, I’m going to be reading the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon).  I can’t lie… this is the only book of the Bible I have avoided.  However if I am going to stand before anyone and claim the authority of the Word of God… that all parts of it are God breathed for instruction and correction… it must include Song of Songs.

All of it… every word… is important.  Whether I ever wanted to admit it or not, God cares about our sex life.  It is no wonder we live in a world of sexual brokenness… when we are afraid to talk about it’s holiness.

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At the beginning of this post I shared that I realized the Lord had been preparing me for this long before my Pastor issued the challenge.  Did you know that the Lord does this quite often.  In the book of Nehemiah, there was a lot of preparation going on between the time the Lord burdened Nehemiah’s heart and when the Lord actually said “GO”…

For me, this process started two years ago when a book called “Pulling Back the Shades” came across my lap.  It was a simple book review, that would have profound impact on me.  A book that would cast off some scales and force me to take a hard strong look at my own past and beliefs about sexuality.  That review would lead to me becoming a part of a launch team to promote the book as the 50 Shades movie was about to release.  Thus, establishing a relationship with @AuthenticIntimacy that would lead me to volunteering for a women’s conference, launch teams for two more books (25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Sex, Surprised by the Healer), another live event, and then a leaders training.  It would put me in touch with a network of women who have become amazing friends, and sisters in the battle to take back this ground.

I would find myself sharing with women things I never imaged I would share with another human being.  Then, the Lord pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the point that I would be leading a study on sex in marriage… IN MY CHURCH.  Having candid conversations with women in my church about how important this is (and how broken I am) and quite possibly the most awkward email I have ever sent to a Pastor… IN MY LIFE.  Why?   Because, my Pastor recognizes how important this subject is.  For our church.  For our community.

I am afraid, terrified of this subject.  I know that in short order this last hidden part of myself is about to become absolutely transparent to the women who attend the study.  The Lord has a lot to say about being afraid too.

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Isaiah 41:10

It is ok that I am afraid, that I am scared, that I am even terrified.  This means that I am going to be leaning and relying on the Lord more than ever.  Please pray for me, and the women who are going to be walking this journey with me.  Lord, bring healing. Redeem the broken.  Heal marriages.  Amen.

#Write31Days – Post 11 – Waiting on the Lord

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A little bit of truth here, I am NOT the world’s most patient person.  I really hate to wait for anything.  It’s not from a space of instant gratification either, it is actually everything else.  I don’t like to wait because I feel like time is being wasted.  There are other things I could be doing in that time, that are important and need to be accomplished.  Or,  on the other side of the coin, I don’t want to waste another minute not doing the thing I have been called to do.

When my daughter went to the DMV to get her learners permit, it was tortuous.  I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of things I could be doing instead of sitting.  Just sitting.  Her number gets called, but it is just to prepare her paperwork.  Then we have to sit again.  Then she takes the written exam, and we have to sit again.  She is then called back up for the eye exam, to answer a few questions for her license and take her photo.  We sit again, waiting for the license to be printed.

SO. MUCH. WAITING.

There have been times that I could see where God was moving me, long before I actually got there.  Waiting would be so hard, because I knew that we were just wasting time.  If I could get there NOW, so much more could be accomplished.

GOD SAYS WAIT.

But, waiting is hard.  Ask any three year old who is waiting on mom to get off the phone and fix the thing that she broke for the hundredth time that day.

WAITING IS HARD.

Our world of increased technology has created in us a spirit that we shouldn’t have to wait, not for long anyway.  We have information available to us at the touch of a button.  An oil change on our car can be done during our lunch break.  Meals are ready and waiting at drive through windows.  We do not have to suffer through life due to infertility we can adopt, we can have medical interventions, and surrogate mothers.  Anything we need, we can just go right out and buy.  We no longer have to wait for things to be constructed or manufactured.  Thanks to flight, I can leave my home and go anywhere in the world in a day’s time.

All of this progress has made waiting all that much harder.

But the Lord, He waits.  Bible account, after Bible account…. He waits.

He waits long enough for Noah to build an Ark.  Israel wanders the desert for forty years while He prepares a place. He waits for Lot to flee. Nehemiah waits four months while God makes provisions for the task ahead.  Even after Christ is crucified, the Lord waited three days for him to rise.

We have all heard and said the cliched response of “In the Lord’s timing….”.  We know the scriptures say that His ways are not our ways.  So we know in our minds that His timing is not our timing…. but the flesh doesn’t like that answer.  Waiting is hard.

This is where we begin to make our biggest mistakes.

As a wife, I may have come to a decision about something I feel God is calling us to.  My husband doesn’t agree.  I rush him to a decision in my favor by manipulating him, as I walk through the home depressed and crying.  I withhold affection from him, yell and demean him, make him feel guilty.

As a ministry worker, I see the direction that God is leading our ministry.  However the things we need to get there are slow in coming.  I take it upon myself to make things move faster.  I work in my own strength and ability.

I feel called to move to another state, but I don’t know the rhyme or reason, I sell everything and pack the family up, and we move.  I have no clue why, or what for.  I am following blindly.

The thing we have to understand is that when it is something God has willed for us, we must be patient and allow him to unfold it in HIS timing, not our own.

When we rush God, we will often shortchange our blessing.   God had a bigger picture in store, but because we were foolish and couldn’t wait… we get something smaller.  The reason this happens is that we are incapable of seeing or knowing all of the things that God is moving around in the background.

In every piece of scripture God’s people waited because God was doing something.  God was giving Noah the time he needed to construct the Ark.  God was PREPARING a place for Israel to call home.  God was PROVIDING the necessities Nehemiah would need for his task.  God was CHANGING the hearts of men.  God was PROTECTING his children.

God goes before us, and he comes behind.

As we sit and wait, we feel like God is doing nothing… but in reality GOD IS DOING EVERYTHING.  Everything that is necessary to get your from point A to point B.  He isn’t being still, ignoring your prayers, nor has he forgotten the calling He put on your heart.  He is making the arrangements for it to happen.  He will move people into place that you will need to learn from or will assist you.  He is making sure the financial provisions are met, or the supplies are provided.  If you are to fill a vacancy, he must first make it vacant and move that person to their new calling.

The good news is that waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time.  There are many things we can be doing, actively, while we wait.  I look at “waiting on the Lord” in the same way as a waitress will serve a customer.  A good waitress (servant) doesn’t just seat her patron (God) and never return to the table.  NO!  She welcomes the patron to her table (life).  She may compliment (praise) him.  She will offer to get a drink while he is making his decision (service, offering).  She will take his order (receive his calling).  She will check in with him to ensure everything is to his liking (prayer life).  She will present His bill & He will pay that price (Christ).  She invites him to come back (willing to continue to serve).

In the time that it takes a customer to place an order the waitress is never WAITING, just wasting time sitting around.  In fact, while He is considering the menu… what is she doing?  Rushing around and serving other people.  No time is wasted.  Her waiting is not passive, but very VERY active.

When God told Noah that He was going to flood the earth, Noah was given the time to construct the Ark. Noah was actively working while God was preparing.  When Moses wandered the desert with Israel, Moses  was actively ordering the nation’s laws, societal structure, and people.   When God called Nehemiah to return to rebuild Jerusalem, there were four months between when God planted the seed and when God called Nehemiah to move.  In the four months, Nehemiah was praying while God was putting things into order.

These men were not sitting under a tree, like lumps, waiting for God to deliver them to their calling on a silver platter.  NO.  They were working, they were building, they were shaping, they were serving and they were praying.

If you are waiting on God,  it is time to get to action.  This doesn’t mean moving mountains to make Him move faster in your desires.  It means that while you are waiting on God to answer your prayers or his provision… you are:

Serving God in the ministries of your church or in your community.

Serving God’s people through hospitality, generosity, use of your gifts and talents.

Praying, faithfully, every day.  Not just for yourself, but for others.

Praise God as you reflect and share with others how He has moved in your life in the past.

Pray for discernment that God will direct your paths for today, and you will not worry about the days to come.