Doors and Pathways

notmydoor

A friend recently posted on her Facebook page that when God is making your path straight, He may cut off access to the other paths we are not meant to be taking.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot, since I read it this morning.

We’ve all heard that cliche quote “When God closes a door, He opens a window”.  This almost implies a certainty that the Lord isn’t going to shut the door to an opportunity without giving you an better one… and that it’s going to be obvious.  Closed door, open window.

When I think of that illustration, I don’t think of opportunity.  I think of escape.  We escape out of windows, we don’t just willy nilly walk through them.  They are not intended as an entrance and exit to a building.  No one would approve a building made up of entirely windows.  You can’t even get approval on a building or home with just one door and only windows.  There is a requirement for second door.  If you tell me to climb through the window, you are telling me that I am escaping… or in the terms of a teenager sneaking away.

You could argue that I am stuck on semantics, and that it implies the same meaning as saying “Where God closes one door, He’ll open another.”  Even there, there is an implication that God will not close one door without giving you an obvious exit.  I have another friend who insists that God will not call you from something until He is ready to call you to something else.

As I ponder these opinions, I realize my issue wasn’t with the details of the illustration itself.  Semantics or not.  Rather, my issue is that these cliche quotes and ideas of always having an open door neglects the times that the Lord calls us into a season of the wandering in the wilderness.  In the OT story of the Israelites wandering the desert, we know that their destination was not immediately revealed to them.  Yes, they knew that they were aiming for something; but they had no idea of when or where that would unfold.  They just kept walking.  Trusting.  And complaining a bit too.

I think that is why my friend’s words this morning were rooted into my thoughts, because this illustration seems so much more realistic.  That the Lord may close a door, may close off pathways we were not meant tread upon… because He is carving a path before us.  The other doorway may not be open yet, it may not even be visible yet. By faith, I keep walking. One step at a time.  The old door fading in the distance.

Perhaps there are times where God closes the door, and puts us on a journey that separates us from the old because He is preparing us for the new.  There may be times in our lives that we need to be severed, where our roots are pruned.  A new home is waiting for us, but in this moment we must wait.

I purchased some cuttings from a beautiful tree to plant at my home.  When they arrived, there was not a root to be seen.  You see, when you sell cuttings off of this tree… first you cut or break off the parts that you intend to grow into new trees.  Then you let them sit, not in any soil… nor are they watered.  You let them dry for a period of time, before you replant or ship them.  My instructions were then to take these dried up sticks and put them in small pots of regular dirt.  No fertilizer, no water, no direct sun.  I was to basically ignore them until I began to see leaves opening up from the top.  Only then could I put them into a larger pot and begin to care for them.

I was not neglecting these plants, but actually giving them the space to they needed to form new roots.  NEW ROOTS.

I believe there are times where the Lord will pull you from one thing without giving you a new place to go… at least not right away.  Why?  Because, He is giving you new roots… roots that are formed IN HIM only.  Not the place you serve, the ministry you lead, etc.  Instead, you are pulled out of everything that is familiar and put into His hands.  He is going to ready you in this time for whatever it is He has in store for your future.

Some roots need to be severed.

Sometimes we need new roots.

Sometimes there are no open doors.

We know that we can’t go back from where we came, but until the Lord is ready to reveal the path He is foraging… we may need to spend sometime in the waiting room.  Instead of running around trying to find out which door is unlocked, which window to escape from… we need to sit and wait.  Then in His timing, a door will open, and you will hear a voice that says “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isa 30:21)

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The Struggle: Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

uninvited

I’m going to be honest here, this is a tough book.  Tougher than I thought it would be.  Someone else who read it equated it to peeling layers off an onion.  Onions make me cry, and this book does too.  It has caused me to face some things square in the face.

uninvitedbook Sometimes people say things right to your face, quick little jabs or slips of the tongue that pierce you like a dagger.

Sometimes, however, there will be people who slay you with their words.  There is a reason that scripture refers to the tongue as dagger, and that words can be equated with murder.  They stand over you, piercing you over and over again.

Then, there are those occasions where you replay those words said once, repeatedly to yourself.  Opening old wounds, unable to heal.

uninvitedbook3Speaking for myself, I have a pretty high tolerance for such things.  I understand we are all imperfect, say things we wish we could take back.  I can extend quite a bit of grace.  I try to extend the amount of grace that I would want to receive.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my breaking point.  When it reaches that level of hurt, when I know this is more than just someone making human mistakes… I cut the head from the snake.  I can walk away completely in order to protect myself from further strikes.  Yet those words still left wounds.

I’ve gone through some very rough seasons in my life, and in a spirit of transparency… I did let them define me.  I know the negative words that I speak in my mind about myself were planted by others.  Every mistake I make is the proof that those words were true, and all of my ambition is probably rooted in a desire to prove those words were wrong.  Or, at least, no longer true.  Rejection in my past has certainly caused suspicion in my present.

uninvitedbook1What I have personally found to be pivotal in the last two to three years is that through a series of people who God brought into my life, and the influence of certain authors (including Lysa TerKeurst)… I am reminded about who I am in HIM.  My identity in HIM, the one who knitted me in my mother’s womb and knows the hairs on my head.

His love is not rooted in anything that I have done, but who GOD IS.  His Word, which I call truth, tells me that despite my character flaws… I am beautifully and wonderfully made.

His Word tells me that I am adopted, chosen, into His family.  The Scriptures describe me as valuable, worthy, wanted, loved, cared for, provided for, and known.  If I believe His Words to be truth, then that means I must believe what God says about me.  Rooting myself,  growing from, and living in His love.

While that sounds beautiful, and IT IS… what does that mean about those relationship that hurt so much?  What does it mean about the words that spin in my head causing self doubt and negative thoughts about myself?  It means that not only do I have to see those wonderful beautiful scriptures as what God feels about me… but also about how He feels about others.  It goes back to extending grace, to others and to myself.

uninvitedbook2The people who are in my life are just as imperfect as me, they have their own character flaws.  I must have a willingness to see past their flaws, and in doing so they too can begin to see pass my flaws.  These are the relationships that have potential, where our unity in the family of believers is important to us enough to push beyond problems and race toward reconciliation together.

Potential can only exist in fractured relationships when there is willingness from each side.  New relationships have potential because they are untainted, but we have to make the intentional effort to not allow the words of our past to haunt us and influence imagined hurt or rejection where there is none.

A friend of mine has read Uninvited twice already, and she says each time the Lord reveals new things to her to work on.  I have a feeling I still have a lot of work to do. Grateful for books like this that help pull back the curtain and expose the truths that are down deep.

Not only can you purchase the book Uninvited, but there is also a study with DVD.  On the Uninvited Book website there are also online resources & bonus chapter you can access!uninvitedbook4

The Struggle of Being Pruned

rootprune A few years ago, I had an opportunity to join a community garden.  My purpose was to learn about growing my own edibles at home.  Joining the community garden would give me access to workshops, learn how to tend to my plot throughout the seasons, treat any pest issues naturally, and keep a healthy garden.  It was a tremendous success.  During that process, I began setting up my home container garden space.  Since I was growing plenty of veggies in the community garden, I decided that my home garden would start with herbs.

I set up the various pots, planted seeds for some items and starter plants for others.  I took all the knowledge that I learned and ended up with a gorgeous garden that produced enough herbs for myself and to share.   A year passed and I knew that I would need to amend or replace the soil in the pots to restore the nutrients that the plants had fed off of.  I prepared the new soil, removed plants, removed some of the old soil, replaced it with new soil, returned the plant to the soil, and pruned it back.  Anticipating the plants would experience shock, I was careful to water them frequently and remove anything that died off so that the healthy parts would grow.

Two weeks later, my entire garden was dead.  I was absolutely stunned and headed off to the community garden I once belonged to.  It was time to talk to the experts.  I walked through all of the steps, nods of affirmation assured me that I was doing things correctly.  The owner asked me a few clarifying questions.  “What type of soil did you use?” , “Where did you get your compost from”…. and I answered satisfactorily until the final question.

Did you prune the top of the plants and the roots?

That would be a big NO.  I sure didn’t.  I didn’t know that I needed to.

You see in the community garden, at the end of the season, everything goes.  You harvest what is left and all the remains of your plants are chopped up and tilled back into your garden bed and new fresh amended soil is added in to restore the soil for planting.  In the fall, you start fresh.  New seeds and new starters that you had prepared during the end of summer.

I was returning my plants to their original (or bigger) pots, I was transplanting.  This is different than pruning the plants that are in the ground around my home, where cutting back the top of the plant encourages new and healthy growth.   In transplanting, the gardener must not only trim back the top of the plant but also the roots.  Even if you are putting the plant into a larger pot, the roots still need to be pruned.

I started to reflect on things in my own life, where it seemed like the Lord was pruning me for transplant into something new.  I realized that indeed the Lord wasn’t just pruning the stuff I could see, and tangibly feel, from my life.  He was also working at the roots.  He was pruning away the roots that I had allowed to grow into unhealthy soil.  Some of this pruning would even send me into shock (just like plants).  It was sudden, and I had no time to prepare for it  Or, it hurt deeply and I didn’t understand why it had to happen in such a way  It may even have been an area I was quite comfortable in but it wasn’t where I was going to flourish.

When I prune back plants, I cut them back to a point where they are often unrecognizable to the average person.  Very little of what they once were remains, yet I wait in anticipation because I know that what is coming is far more beautiful or abundant than previously experienced.  The Lord knows this about us, too.  He knows what the outcome will be, despite the heavy pruning.  He knows that He is continuing a good work in you that was started the day your heart turned toward him.  Each time He prunes our lives, He does so because it is GOOD FOR US and the outcome will be GOOD FOR OTHERS.

The healthiest plants provide food for the most people.

Being pruned is hard.  It is a struggle.  It hurts.  It is confusing.  It is sudden.  It can be extreme.

But it is a very good thing, when it is done by a Loving God.

He loved Judas. The Samaritan Woman,too.

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A few months back, at a Women’s Ministry Council meeting, one of the speakers shared something that I can’t stop thinking about. I’ve mentioned it before… but it is on my mind today. So, I’m guessing either I need to be reminded about it or someone needs to hear it.

Jesus knew the role Judas would play.
He knew that Judas would betray him for handful of coins.
He know that this betrayal would lead to his death.
Yet, Jesus never stopped loving Judas.
Jesus still poured into Judas.
Jesus taught Judas, broke bread with Judas.
Jesus had fellowship with Judas, and served in ministry with him.
Jesus kissed Judas and embraced him like a brother.
All the while knowing what Judas would eventually do.

Then I thought some more about Jesus and how He treated those He encountered. Jesus knew everything about every person who came into His presence. The good and the bad, their thoughts and their hearts.

Jesus loved them enough to call out the truth of what He saw, but never in a way that heaved upon them guilt or shame. Instead Jesus helped them to see their value and worth, and to choose a better path. He didn’t hurl degrading words at them, but instead challenged their accusers who were blameless to cast the first stone.

Jesus had more concern about people knowing who He was and His purpose in their life. He preached the Good News before we could even understand what that meant. He knew that the people having a relationship with Him and His Father would be the catalyst for transforming their lives. He knew that the closer He could draw them to Himself, the more they would desire to follow His ways. His thoughts would become their thoughts.

Instead of shunning the Samaritan Woman at the well… he actually went out of His way to spend time with her. He didn’t talk down to her or avoid her, like the townspeople. Instead, He intentionally chose her to reveal himself to. Through her many were saved.

Instead of allowing the woman accused of adultery to be stoned, He turned the tables on the accusers. Jesus reminded every one of them that they had their own sins to worry about, the planks to remove from their own eyes.

He allowed the broken, imperfect, sinning women… who had the faith of a mustard seed to wash his feet, anoint him with oil and perfume. To sit as His feet and learn, to witness miracles, and be healed.

If I am to be Christlike, then this is my calling.  This is what I am to do.  I am to love those who are broken, imperfect, sinning, with small doses of faith (if any).  I am not to shun them but invite them to see the glory of God by teaching, leading, and guiding them to the Cross.  My job is not to make these women feel guilty or cast upon them mantles of shame.  For Christ died for whatever it is they are in the midst of.  Instead, I am to remind them of freedom and God’s love.  I am to show them a better way, and introduce her to a loving God who forgives those who call him Father.

I seek out the lost sheep.  I open the door to the prodigal daughters.  I trust that I have trained them in the way they should go, and one day they will return to it.  I understand that I cannot dictate their path to salvation, nor convict their hearts.  I am not the Holy Spirit, I am not qualified for that job.  I do not murder them with my words or demean God’s handiwork.    I remember that she is created in God’s image and to insult her is to insult the one who crafted her within her mother’s womb.

She is HIS, and He loves her.  He says she is more precious than rubies.  He says she will be a jewel to her husband’s crown.  He says that she belongs to Him.

Peace in Difficult Times

peace

A few months back, a friend posted on her Facebook page the following question:

Where do you find peace during the difficult times?

Once upon a time when I struggled with things, I internalized them.  Playing the scenario over in my head, dwelling on what I can’t change, angry at the person who was at the root of it.  I knew, even then, that all of this worry or dwelling on things wouldn’t change the outcome.  It was, what it was.  In someways I think I was hoping I would learn something from the replay.  Catch where I made the mistake, or clues that would have alerted me to the person’s un-trustworthiness.  I could learn how to avoid that scenario or personality in the future.  I was relying on my own self to figure out the complexity of relationships and circumstances that were almost always outside of anything I could control.  As habits repeated, I learned an important thing… I couldn’t rely on myself and my own thinking to resolve every situation or deal with every person.  I was human. Flawed.

For a period of time, I tried to seek the counsel of others.  Guess what?  They are human too, flawed as well.  There were definitely occasions where I was given good advice but more often than not it was biased advice.  These were people who loved me, cared about me, and often sided with me.  They might give me a pass for something I should be accountable for.  Or, try to solve the problem for me.  They immediately blamed the other person, because they knew my heart and intentions.  They were on my side.  But not always on the side of truth.  I learned that I couldn’t rely on others to give me the truth I needed to hear.  Not because they were bad people, but because they loved me.

What I know now is that there is someone who loves me more than anyone else.  Someone who sent his Son to die for every sin I would commit.  Someone who took the penalty but at the same time was holding me accountable to truth.  Christ calls me to be honest with myself.  Christ compels me to forgive others, and myself.  Christ beckons me to his shoulder to cry out in my sin, speak truth to that sin, and set me on the path to reconcile with others (and myself).  I’ve learned that when the times are really difficult, I need to turn to Christ for truth.  What is the truth of this difficult time?  What do the scriptures advise me to do now that I know the truth?  What would God have me do in this situation or with this person.  I can rely on God because His Word is unchanging, infallible, and loving.  He loves me so much that I will face Truth and be better for it.

I find peace at the Cross, because there Jesus did exactly what He promised.  Just prior, he told the disciples that He was leaving peace for them so they wouldn’t be troubled.  He didn’t say that there would be no difficult times, but instead left us with the hope that we can persevere (Romans 5:1-5) until He returns.   When difficult times find me, I turn to the Cross for peace, hope, perseverance, and patience as I await the day… the glorious day… that the difficult times are gone.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.

John 14:27-31

A friend once told me, during a particularly difficult moment, “I am sorry you are in this, but I am so excited to see what happens when you are on the other side of this”.  Now when I face trials and difficulties, I go to the Cross and deposit them there.  Then I leave with excitement to see what the Lord is going to do with that trial, through me, or through those He will put in my path.  Difficult times become a learning experience where I learn how loving, faithful and true the Lord is.

A thought on Gossip disguised as Prayer.

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I think we have all experienced, at one time or another, a person who uses the prayer request time during small group to openly gossip.  Or, you get stopped in the church lobby by someone who has an urgent prayer request for you… and you know that their intentions are less than honorable.  I think gossip disguised as prayer is something that becomes more obvious, especially as you mature in your faith.

However, I’ve noticed another form of gossip and it’s absolutely unintentional.  I recognized it, even spoke to the person about it, and yet at the same times I was bothered by how it happened in the first place.  Only recently was I able to put my finger on exactly what the underlying issue is.

It was many months ago, when I was sitting in a meeting.  A woman came into the meeting, she was clearly upset.  She asked those of us in the meeting if we could pray for her neighbor.   As she left her home to get to the meeting, she became aware of a serious situation unfolding.  Knowing the neighbor’s background, this dear woman knew that prayer was something that was needed.  We were happy to pray for her neighbor.

However, it was how it all unfolded that made me uncomfortable.  As she explained the prayer request, she also went into a long description of the woman’s history, past issues she had witnessed, her concerns for the woman, etc.  I was uncomfortable because I knew that I didn’t need all of this information in order to pray for this woman. God already knew her details.  I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if someone in this room knows the woman?  What if they recognize her in the details?  What if they got a call on their way in about this situation, and here is someone putting it all out on the table?”   I also questioned whether or not this woman had permission to share these details with complete strangers.

After the meeting, my heart weighed heavy.  I recognized that I was in a situation that was a well intentioned, sincere, prayer request.  At the same time, it had the familiarity of sitting and listening to gossip.  I knew that our colleague was NOT the gossiping type, there was no question of her integrity in this matter.  It was clear to me that she had no idea what she had just done was really inappropriate.

I spoke with her directly, and then I shared a memo to our team about prayer requests in the future.  I made sure that I hit all the major points, starting with making sure we have permission to share details and clarity on which details can be shared and which cannot.  I stated that if you didn’t have permission to share, prayer requests for that person should be done in name only and leave the details to the Lord.  I reminded our team that it is a small community, and you never know who may actually know the person you are speaking about.  It may not be our place to share the dirty laundry they are struggling with.  I even pointed out that giving out too much information was akin to gossip and we must be careful.

We’ve never had a situation since.  However, I’ve not been able to let the situation go.  I really wanted to understand HOW that happened in the first place.  How did she not realize she was giving too much information & teetering on the edge of gossip?  Why did she not even consider that someone in the room may know this person?  What kept her from taking into consideration that she should ask for permission to share the details?  And, truthfully why did she even feel it was necessary to give all of this information in the first place.  These questions stuck with me for quite some time.  Today, I figured it out.

I was speaking with a friend about the difference between men and women.  My husband once came home with a handful of cash.  His boss’ wife was in the hospital, they took up a collection and wanted to send flowers.  He handed me the cash and asked if I could handle it, he gave me her name and the hospital she was at.  I began to ask questions.  What was the procedure?  When was she admitted?  How long would she be there for?  My husband thought I was being nosy asking for so many details.  However, that wasn’t the case at all.  I needed to know the details to determine if I needed to spend extra on next day delivery while she was still in the hospital, or could put the money into a nicer arrangement that could be delivered a day or two later.  Was she in a room/ward where should could have flowers or would a balloon arrangement be more appropriate.

Details are important to women.   Details help us to see the bigger picture, and understand the full scope of the circumstances.  We see the details as important particularly in areas where we have more experience, so that we can respond appropriately.  When we pray, being able to pray in detail can make us feel more productive and involved than a general prayer.

Recently, a friend reached out for help.  A pretty terrible situation fell upon one of her family members.  She needed prayer and she really needed actually help of donations of funds or physical items.  In honesty, her first few sentences were more than enough.  Anyone with a heart would have felt bad for the family and would help anyway that could.  However, as she explained the need, she gave a LOT of backstory.  It was as if she was trying to justify her request for immediate prayer and immediate help.  His current situation was bad enough, but she felt by sharing more of his history we could see that it’s been one thing after another.  She felt this information either helped to justify her plea for help or would illicit more response from us due to the urgency and severity of the circumstance.

The more details we give, the more we can connect with people on a mental and emotional level.  The more details we have, the more real something is.  The more details we have, the more urgent a need is.  The more details we have, the more we can justify our actions or help others to justify responding to our need.  When we express details ahead of a prayer request, we are attempting to get an emotional reaction to the request.  It is a way of indicating that this prayer is necessary, urgent, and needs to be taken seriously.  It can also be our way of justifying the request, especially if we are going interrupt something else happening to make the request.

As I think about my colleague, I realized this was the case for her.  From her perspective, it was highly unlikely that we would know this woman.  She wanted to interrupt our meeting to pray for her neighbor, and therefore felt as if she had to justify that interruption.  Her heart was so broken for this woman, that she wanted to make sure we understood the urgency and severity of her request.  She was using the details so that we would view the request with the same importance she did.

This heartfelt desire for compassion and urgency in praying is why my colleague was incapable of thinking rationally about how she was going about her petition for prayer.  It was her concern for this woman that kept her from seeing with clarity that she might be gossiping. Her intentions were noble and wonderful.  When I spoke with her about my perspective, and how uncomfortable it made me… she was apologetic.  In hindsight she could see what she didn’t see in the moment.

So, I ask this of you.  Before you accuse someone of gossip disguised in prayer, consider what you know about the person.  It could simply be a matter of their heart overthrowing their reason, because they love and hurt so much for the world and those who live in it.

Also, make sure you ask yourself before sharing any prayer request:

  • Do I have permission to share?
  • How much do I have permission to share?
  • Am I sharing these details because they are important or to justify my request?