As our sin affects others, so does grace-filled obedience. I reap the benefits of others' faithfulness very day. Of seeds sown long ago. Lost in the drama sometimes, are the quiet faithful ones whose love of Christ is lived out daily in unspectacular ways. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit. And that actually is quite spectacular.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26
Not the hypocrites, with puffed out chests, doling out law and judgement from fists of pride. Or doing things for selfish gain. Yeah, I see them, too. But those who follow the most important commandments and lead by example day after day, year after year. They are Joshua, living "long obedience in the same direction" (credit to Kari Way, who led a heart-opening walk through that book).
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40
They live disciplined lives in small things and large.
Not seeking attention or glory or possession.
Jesus' lordship is evident in watching these beauties over years and years. The tendency for comparison used to leave me in a pile of defeat. But, the gracious example so many of my friends have been has turned into hope. Hope of being a steady. Not just a quick and dirty dressing up in the guise of one.
The truly faithful, whom I thought I would surely scare away, have been the most enduring lovers. God's word is in their hearts and on their tongues. Truth comes from their lips with gentle kisses. All the small things that root faith deep slowly make for strength to grab a hold of in times of trouble.
They cry real tears.
They do not stir up strife.
Their words and actions line up.
When I'm ready to throw in the towel because I've not reached a place I think I should be already, I remember them. As with enduring friendship, so this faith is grown over years. Consistently choosing to honor God. Giving without noise or fanfare. Those I know will actually pray when asked. Who'll speak honestly about their hearts and struggles. Gossip doesn't leave their lips, not out of rules, but out of love. They are safe and we need safe.
Well done, good and faithful servants.
There is abundant grace for the prodigal and much of it comes from these priceless ones. Putting an arm around my shoulder to walk me home.
God, build me the faith of a steady with patience, one day at a time.
See also Rock Steady from #write31days
Some years simply need to settle into the soil like so much fertilizer.
Hibernation for the winter sounds pretty good. But 'tis the season for reflection, right?
The nuclear dust has settled. God has given good gifts. And continues to. I just wish it had been someone else's mess of a manure pile.
A quiet depression has come in holding hands with resentment. No cause. No event. Just regret turning in on itself. I have let it sit too long without remembering God's promises. As if saying, "thank you for this long list of miraculous changes, but..."
Perhaps my expectations have returned. Of being a good mother. Being a wife. Being a sister, daughter, friend. With what I think that means. Being useful. And my patience is no longer my strong suit. That feels strange. Christmas is upon us and I can't seem to pull it all together, yet. The drive is gone and that's a little frightening.
So, patience, patience, patience, lest I become stuck.
It's been a year unlike any other.
Facing demons in the mirror. The absolute horror of my selfish heart. Imploding under all my expectations. The kicking and screaming of a spiritual temper tantrum. A lifetime of bottled-up rage exploding on those around me. Fear. A lot of fear. A letting go of all control and learning to trust God with all the uncertainty, even as He pried my hands off, finger by finger. Fighting death. Fighting destruction. Fighting to even want to fight. All of the miracles along the way. The unexpected grace from friends who demonstrate Christ's love without blinking. The balm of fears unrealized. Renewed relationships once thought unretrievable. Learning to practice loving enemies. (let's be real.... still working on that one, folks) Watching the new creation that my hubs has become. Wrestling with what that means about my own spiritual walk.
And a lot of fumbling.
Knowing I've chosen to give things up for a purpose, I still sit in feeling useless.
I fight resentment. I still feel out of place. Wibbly-wobbly.
Here's me, blogging all the things I've tried so long to hide
"Ask her, she has nothing better to do.....," is what I hear. Silly and childish, I know.
Funny how easy it is to slip back into this mindset. To let that depression wrap around my heart like a warm blanket, until it chokes the truth out.
So, back to remembering what is true.
God, will I ever get it?
Asking, because I already know the promise in the answer.
"As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8:15
Patience as the rain finally falls. The soil is stinkin', but has been readied.
Maybe I just need to go see Star Wars again.
Or listen to a little Queen.
Oh, the brave, brave souls who answer to "friend."
Authentic friends have mad grit.
Friends whose hearts draw from a well of trust in the Lord.
They are the courageous ones, who ask tough questions. Because they really want to know your heart.
And share a piece of theirs.
Confronting and admonishing with lips of kindness.
Lips that honor God.
Chancing a defensive lashing. Or great sorrow to wade through. Or simple awkwardness.
Speaking truth in love. Truly from love.
Not to pass morsels around for the hens to gobble up.
Not to bolster presuppositions.
But to love and guide with the cross as their compass.
Lips that are sealed with the sweetness of discretion.
They are the risk-takers, who stand in the sun with a broken one. Under all that heat.
No fair-weather, here.
Not hiding nor retreating. Risking discomfort in order to give comfort.
Embracing in the open. And all those knee-aching prayers.
Avid protectors and lifters of the soul.
Facing fatigue, they grab ahold of the weight you carry and quietly walk the road in togetherness. And trudge on.
No gain to be had. No networking to be checked off. Their love is sacrifice. It's sweat and pain and relief.
Awash in Christ's love, they do not cower. Sharing a generous portion of grace from their plate.
Fed by a steady hope.
They are the brave ones who risk their hearts with humility in friendship.
Bless you, with all your guts.
You gift this worm a million ways.
Keep on, valiant teachers.
"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." Acts 7:51 (KJV)
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Acts 7:53 (KJV)
Why the rage? The truth was too much for the heart. Is too much. The law is written into it and pokes that finger of Guilt over again. Bruising. Damaging. Killing. Truth approaches and the desire is to lash out from the pain. I don't rage because I'm innocent. I rage because I'm not and can't stand it. I want an excuse. I want the accusations to stop.
I'm a baddy
She's a baddy
Wouldn't you like to admit you're a baddy, too.
If I'm not that bad, why does the pride leap out of my chest in defense? All claws and teeth. Ready to strike.
Stay away, Spirit. Nothing to see here. Go away.
No, no no.
I am totally justified in my action, word, thought.
Do not come closer.
I'm good. I'm good. I'm good.
Have ya looked at the sin over there?
Pshh, this is nothin'
Seroiusly, don't come closer.
The law squeezes. Condemns. Holds a mirror, saying, "You've got a lot of something on that stiff neck of yours."
It's a hard thing to want to see.
But the gospel comes in.
Stops us cold on the road.
But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Acts 9:1-5
Revealing the other side to our need. The cure. The Savior. The freedom.
It hushes the heart. Be still. Over and over, be still.
But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.
From Rev. C.H. Spurgeon (via spurgeon.org)
'And now, lastly, poor sinner, has sin made thee unfit for heaven? Grace shall render thee a fit companion for seraphs and the just made perfect. Thou who art to-day lost and destroyed by sin, shalt one day find thyself with a crown upon thy head, and a golden harp in thine hand, exalted to the throne of the Most High. Think, O drunkard, if thou repentest, there is a crown laid up for thee in heaven. Ye guiltiest, most lost and depraved, are ye condemned in your conscience by the law? Then I invite you, in my Master's name, to accept pardon through his blood. He suffered in your stead, he has atoned for your guilt and you are acquitted. Thou art an object of his eternal affection, the law is but a schoolmaster, to bring thee to Christ. Cast thyself on him. Fall into the arms of saving grace. No works are required, no fitness, no righteousness, no doings. Ye are complete in him who said, "It is finished.'
Relief flows in tears, not rage.
Apologies to Benji Magness for leapfrogging off his tweet today.
Natalie, I covet. Debbie, I covet.
Annie, I covet. Siouxsie, I covet.
For the millionth time, I heard this phrase leave my mouth yesterday,
"Agh, I wish I had her voice." (and looked like her and had total awesomeness like that)
I say it all the time.
It seems like such a silly thing, but they aren't simply words. They have slowly rooted in the heart.
I've worshiped at many altars. I've asked the gods for favors.
Her take-no-prisoners, kick-all-the-doors-down badness.
Meanwhile, bending, contorting, and sweating the wishes right out of my pores.
To be someone else.
To fit in another's mold.
To absorb all that I am not.
To disappear into something brighter, bolder, and meaningful.
To not be this bland, nothing of a gal.
A life full of "if only."
You look like you've got something there. I'll just sit here like an abzorbaloff from Doctor Who, trying to digest a bit of your brilliance.
Why can't I be you?
Straining to find the secret to shape-shifting instead of fixing my eyes where they belong.
Instead of spending energy on what God has made my own. Reducing others down to pieces of who I am not instead of simply enjoying who they are.
All those, "if only" wishes seem so harmless.
But a life built on their unsteady foundation, not so much.
Discontent, impatience, greed.....a pile of covetousness in front of a jealous God.
A pile of "Thanks, but no thanks. I can't work with this. It's not enough. I'll be over here trying to mold myself into one idol after another. You don't mind, do you?
No, no....not Christ's image. This person's image. That's a better look for me."
I covet. And coveting leaves a consuming hunger that destroys more than the host.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. Timothy 6:6-10
So help me remember and worship in thankfulness for this:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
...and stop singing, "why can't I be you."
...apologies to Mr. Smith.
Forgiveness and reconciliation.
More than lip service.
Especially as weaponry is being fired from those lips.
Poison darts of punishment.
Come to the table and I'll serve you up a cold plate of revenge. With cold looks and cold stares. The venom dripping from the corners of my mouth being the perfect compliment to the meal. Feeding me and making me taller and stronger, while you shrink and shiver. Allow me to pour you a cup of coffee brewed through my filter of hate. God, there is such sweet satisfaction in being right and never letting you off the hook for being so wrong.
Hey, would you mind wearing your transgressions on you sleeve? Maybe post it on "What I Wore Wednesday" and every day ever after. Yeah, yeah. You're sorry.
Never sorry enough for me. I'm not wrong about you.
Shhh. I don't care to hear you. Not listening. I already see your heart in my god-likeness. Vengeance is mine sayeth......wait, how does that go again?
Feel the pain you've caused with every pass in the hall. With every seed of discord I plant among the peeps around us. With my gossipy lip service.
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:33-35
"I forgive you" but I don't.
"I believe in mercy" but I don't want to give it.
"I believe in reconciliation" just don't ask me to participate in it.
Let me pay lip service to and keep my unforgiveness in my pocket for a rainy day. A little morsel to feed my belief that I really am better than you, filthy one.
"I believe I'm a sinner" in theory
"I believe Christ died to cover sins" lucky you
"I believe in humility" because it's my job to keep you low
"I said I forgive you" because I'm the bigger person, now pay up and pay up and pay up.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Old foe, I'm trying to let you off the hook. I'm suffocating on the same one.
Can we lay downs our arms? God laid His down.
The rainbow that I have put in the sky will be my sign to you and to every living creature on earth. It will remind you that I will keep this promise forever. When I send clouds over the earth, and a rainbow appears in the sky, I will remember my promise to you and to all other living creatures. Never again will I let floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the sky, I will always remember the promise that I have made to every living creature. The rainbow will be the sign of that solemn promise.
All the pain and the scars
Could you lay down your arms....
It might be easy for another man to see
But I think you still look a lot like me
Old Friend Lyle Lovett
A very good listen:
When God Put His Weapon Down (and When He’ll Bare His Teeth) | Benji Magness
Any one else think I sound like a broken record, yet? Put the needle on the record, put the needle on the record........and dance! Together.
People who stoop low to offer their hand as a lifeline as the tar pit of failure, shame, and despair threatens to swallow you whole are a soothing balm. When you've made an absolute mess of everything. They are not afraid of your mess. They are not shocked. They get mud under their fingernails by digging in. They are love. They are a picture of Jesus. I want to be those kind of people. Bearing each other's burdens is sometimes dirtying. So was dying to cover those burdens.
Our first instinct may be to run the other way in fear. Of exposure. Of reputation. Of rejection. Of threats. Of humility. Of grace.
Hiding is not safe. Retreat is not healing. Hurtling at full speed and collapsing into a body of believers is protection.....or it should be. It comes at great risk to the giver and receiver.
In having arms of grace and Christ's love, I have been humbled over and over with the realization that perhaps I've offered reserved grace and lived out of a prideful version of forgiveness. My love and mercy had limits until the waves of Christ's love and mercy came crashing on my shore. It's almost too much to recieve. But I now know how to better give it. For real. For Christ.
I shudder at the ways that perhaps I haven't been a safe harbor for the hurting.... for those living in fear. Isn't that all of us at one time or all the time? Show of hands. God, forgive me. I want to offer bear hugs of mercy unreservedly. Without a thought of the blood, sweat, and tears that may transfer. Offering life to someone shackled and staring at hell. I've been grabbed from that brink by loving, determined hands.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
Let us also be an example of coming to our brothers and sisters with confessions of our weaknesses. Walking through our fear of man under the covering of God's redemption through his son. Remembering that we are His, and in obedience, we bring glory to him. Especially in our weakness. Right, Paul? He is given the floor. Though the scenario may not go well, it may leave a seed of remembrance for that brother or sister in the future. God strengthens us to give strength to others, whether we know they need it or not.
And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:15-16
By grace, I am still learning and stretching. Let's dig in to the mud together and turn it into a dance of joy as we pull each other up. Who's up for a game of mud football?
And you know how I roll...... The Prayer Chain DigDug for your listening pleasure.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
When a random thought is not random at all, it's a zapping of the Spirit.
..So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:7-11
While going about a few errands this week, it struck me. Pow! Jesus does not say to the woman, "throw the stones back at your accusers." He let the weight of conviction speak to them in the silent spaces between words. The woman had no stage for defense. No excuse or justification. And though her sin was being used as a cover for their plotting hearts, she was no better than her accusers. We, the redeemed, do not shout "love" by repaying evil with evil. Because there is enough evil to go around and around and around.
What are all the ways we are called to show love to each other as the church, the family of God? It isn't just the service or ministries we participate in. Not just the meals to the hungry and house-ridden. Nor just comfort to the hurting. But in the obedience to his word. All of it. Through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, turning the other cheek and loving our enemy. Laying low under the covering of the Christ. Leaving our pound of flesh where it belongs. How does our undeserved forgiveness and trust in an all-powerful God shine if we get into a stone-throwing contest? Be humbling, all the time, humbling. Because we are all humbled before Him. None of us can stand in His presence. In fact, the passage from John 13 comes after Jesus washed his disciples feet and tells them, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.."(vs. 15) He demonstrated meekness and love. He is the king! He is washing their dirty, dirty feet. For those of us who are not the perfect son of God, to whom much GRACE has been given, much GRACE is expected. When all my feistiness and snark and haughtiness come bubbling up this week, I'll remember, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." At least, I know the Holy Spirit will remind me.
Love the Lord by loving His children. All of them. And they will know.
Of course, there's so much more truth to be found in John 13. Go read the whole thing here.
“[Repentance] means unlearning all the self-conceit and self -will that we have been training ourselves into... It means killing part of yourself, under-going a kind of death.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
As the ripping apart of the dual-souled man, should anything else be expectable?
choosing every day,
sometimes every hour
choosing not to anesthetize
praying all the way through panic attacks
fighting fear with Truth
waiting on the Lord and
waiting on the Lord and
waiting on the Lord
one foot in front of the other
choosing to walk in obedience
choosing love for God over love for self
hard, hard, hard
Spirit-checking your motives with every thought and every breathe
sorrow and submission
handing out grace upon grace
listening for when to speak and when to be silent
handing God your desire for control
stumbling and getting back up
new eyes, new love
choosing faith through the uncertainty
choosing to trust God with all the what-if's
choosing His will over yours
choosing His word over your emotions
remembering Christ's love for us
resting under God's covering
thanking God for his relentless pursuit
"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." James 4:6-10
A few recommendations to ride along with:
Sometimes the dead do speak to us. Check out The Doctrine of Repentance by Thomas Watson here.
And you really should buy The Story of Our Lives. Near-perfection from The Violet Burning. Get it here.
Want a listen first? Click here for a Change of Heart.
And a sermon speaking to God's grace, love, and all the "yets" and "buts"? Listen here. Seriously good stuff.
Eyes closed, ears open.
I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God." @johnpiper