Category Archives: Faith

Fat, Fat Christian

Flashback Friday. I wrote this in October of 2007. 

We have become spiritual consumers. Perhaps we have become so steeped in the notion that we are consumers in all areas of our society, that it was inevitable for it to invade our spirituality. Nevertheless, we have become spiritual consumers.

 

Just look at your local Christian bookstore. Not only can we buy Bible studies on every facet of our lives, but we can buy Christian fiction that reinforces the things we learn in our non-fiction Bible study and self-help books. We can buy coffee table books with artwork based on scripture. We can buy t-shirts with our favorite Bible verse emblazoned on them. And we can buy every sort of Bible imaginable — old-fashioned translations, modern translations, hip paraphrases, the Bible in a sing-songy poem for our children, and the Bible in a magazine format for our teenagers. We can buy Bibles in soft leather, pastel suede with pretty butterflies in coordinating pastel suede, or in studious black hard leather that cracks to show how much it is used. As one missionary friend of mine said, we can even buy scratch ‘n sniff Bibles.

 

I’m not so sure about the scratch ‘n sniff, but it really is quite obnoxious how consumer-driven even the sale of the Bible has become. Especially when we consider that millions of people in the world don’t have one word of the Bible in their language, but that is for another posting on another day.

 

We gobble up books about our own spirituality and line our shelves with books about theology. We fill our iPods with music that expresses our spiritual beliefs and we fill convention centers to hear our favorite authors and musicians. We fill ourselves with teaching and exhortation and blessing. We consume, consume, consume.

 

We choose our church based on what we’ll get out of it. We tell our friends they have to come to this Bible study with us because we’re learning so much, getting so much. Rarely have I heard someone say, “I just love my church because I have so many opportunities to serve and give and spend myself for Christ.” Rarely have I heard someone say, “You must come to this Bible study with me. You have so much to offer there. It would be a great way for you to help groom someone else’s faith.”

 

No, we consume, consume, consume. Until we’re fat, fat babies, like that old song Amy Grant sang way back on one of her early albums. And to what end are we filling ourselves up?

 

My pastor said once that most of us are knowledgeable far beyond our obedience. We are hearers and studiers and even memorizers of the Word, but are we do-ers? Or do we just fill our minds with all sorts of knowledge — Greek meanings and cultural context and nifty facts? Do we hang up beautiful artwork from the Christian bookstore and listen to the latest Christian top-40 and wear the newest Christian slogan on our t-shirt? Or do we actually live out our knowledge? Do we obey that which we have learned?

 

And those of us who do not stoop to the base culture of wearing Christian t-shirts and hanging up pictures of the Last Supper can certainly quote C.S. Lewis and Ravi Zacharias. We can tell you all about church history and debate 5-point Calvinism and describe the difference between a Zealot and an Essene. But do we put all this knowledge to good use?

 

I don’t think there is anything wrong with Beth Moore Bible studies and Women of Faith Conferences and books by Karen Kingsbury. I don’t think there is anything wrong with going to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert or buying the newest Casting Crowns CD. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Christian t-shirts or Thomas Kinkaide paintings or that cute mug with butterflies and flowers and a Bible verse painted on it. I just think we ought to be more than Christian consumers. I think that sometimes my stomach turns when I get a CBD catalog in the mail and see how commercialized my faith has become.

 

And, to be honest, I do get queasy thinking about a Purpose-Driven Life money clip or a WWJD day-planner. Somehow, I just don’t think God is all that impressed with all the Christian stuff we buy when we could be buying a slave’s freedom or buying an eleven year old out of a brothel or supporting a missionary who is translating the Bible into a language that didn’t even have an alphabet ten years ago. WWJD? I think Jesus would buy less bracelets and send more money to World Vision or International Justice Mission or New Tribes Mission.

 

So, for starters, I want to examine my heart — what is my attitude? my mindset? Am I consuming Christian culture the same way the world consumes secular culture? Am I fattening myself up with learning and exhortation just so I can be a spiritual couch potato, doing nobody else any good? Am I grooming my own faith just so I look good for the sake of looking good?

 

Or do I have a greater purpose in mind? Am I studying the Bible so that I can take that knowledge and go do something with it? Am I learning so that I can, in turn, teach others? Am I asking God to fill me so that my overflow can bless others? Or even better, am I trying to empty myself only to find God filling me as quickly as I pour myself out?

 

 

#TBT ~ Distraction

A ThrowBack Thursday post for you. I wrote this in October of 2007

soccer4This was just before a game, but it happened in the middle of games too. 

Soccer season is winding down. We’ve had four children playing for the past month. The girls play on a team on Mondays and Wednesdays and two of the boys play on a team on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those Tuesday, Thursday games are quite entertaining. Kindergarteners and First Graders. If you haven’t had a good laugh in a while, go watch 5 and 6 year olds play soccer.

Last night, I stood next to a mother and father and we laughed for most of the game. Some of the children spent more time rolling around on the ground than standing up playing. At one point, three kids kicked at the ball. They kicked each other, but none of them made contact with the ball. One little boy is fascinated with the chalk lines on the field. He spends the majority of each game walking the lines, stomping and watching the chalk fly. Occasionally, he bends over and rubs the chalk with his hands, covering his palms in white chalk. One little boy was standing on the sidelines, waiting for his turn in the game when the ball came near. Quickly, he ran on the field and picked up the ball with his hands. He was so excited to touch the ball that he completely forgot the rules, nevermind that he wasn’t even supposed to be playing at that moment.

 

soccer3It’s important to stop for teammate hugs in the middle of a game. 

It reminds me of my older son’s, Caleb’s, first season. He played defender, which really means he stood around near the goal and his coach hoped he wouldn’t do too much harm while a couple little boys actually played soccer around him. Caleb loved to play in the dirt. He dug so many holes in the field that first season it looked like a groundhog had made his home there. Ever the class-clown, Caleb also loved to make his teammates laugh. So he fell down often. On purpose. Just to get a laugh. His favorite part of every game, though, was to lift his jersey up over his face and wave his arms wildly while screaming, “Who turned out the lights?” It was a sure-fire way to make his teammate Max double over laughing. All while the opposing team was racing past them with the ball ready to score a goal any second. Max’s competitive parents weren’t Caleb’s biggest fans.

Watching these little kids get so totally distracted from the game can be very funny. It does make me laugh to see the goalie climbing the goal posts or waving to his sister when he should be ready to defend the goal. They are little and they’re still figuring out the game. Their distraction is cute sometimes.

silassoccertotal cuteness

But I’ve been thinking. I tend to face life and my relationship with God the same way these little guys play soccer. And it’s really not funny or cute at all.

I have a tendency to get distracted. I watch the sidelines; I watch the other players; I obsess over whether my teammates like me. I focus on something totally unimportant, like the dirt or the chalk. I don’t keep my head in the game, so to speak.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul maintained his focus. He pressed toward the goal. He didn’t stop to play in the dirt or compare himself to his teammates. He didn’t stop to wave to his mommy on the sidelines or stare at the big dog somebody’s dad brought to the game. Paul did not approach life like a Rookie League soccer game. (I know, it’s a very deep, profound, theological thought. It will probably shock you that I haven’t been to seminary.)

I don’t want to approach life like a Rookie League soccer game. I want to maintain my focus. I want to keep my eyes on the prize. I want to press toward the goal. I want to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12) I want to press forward to maturity and perfection. I want to keep my focus on Christ’s Kingdom.

How about you?

 

 

The Ripple Effect ~ Jodie’s Story

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I recently told you our house story. And I told you that the huge things God was doing in bringing us to this house don’t end with our family. I love how God ripples out the blessings when we tell other people what He’s up to in our lives! Throughout every step of finding this house, making the offer, and signing the contract, I was calling and texting my friend Jodie. In her own words, here is Jodie’s ripple-story —

This is a BIG day for our family! Husband sold his private eye care practice! It was such a beautiful, “only God could do this” blessing.

We opened this private practice when I was pregnant with B. Husband had been working at a Walmart near there on and off for several years, and had a client base established, so he decided to go for it and get a taste of private practice. It has been a lot of hard work, but has been very successful. We have learned a lot about running a private practice throughout our time there. But it’s been hard — it adds two hours to his day every time he works there, because of the drive.

We began praying about selling it and getting him off the road and home more often. A month or so ago, when the Hatchers were praying about their new home, I saw how God opened the doors so wide and blessed them in abundance in only the way He can.

Exhausted and stressed one morning, I prayed, “God, please do something BIG for our family. I mean like Hatcher Overhill House BIG! Something needs to change for our family.” I giggled as I prayed this as I’m sure it sounded hysterical. Well, Honey Child, the Lord not only heard me, He answered my HOHB (Hatcher Overhill House Big) prayer that very day!

Husband had called a few of the local doctors there about buying his practice. He had lunch with one who is known as a very shrewd business guy. He seemed interested, asked several questions and said he would get back to us. We never heard back. We thought that meant he wasn’t interested. Another doctor called him the morning I prayed and said he wanted to swing by and look at the office. He is a very nice man there who has 6 kids and somehow runs two optometry offices and farms! He walked into the office, asked Husband a few questions and said, “I’ll take it.” Say what?? Just like that. You want it?? Crazy! As those words were literally coming out of his mouth, Husband looked down at his phone and the other doctor was calling. He didn’t take the call then, but finished up with the doctor who was there. That man walked out, and then Husband immediately listened to the voicemail from the other doctor, who said “I talked to my partners and I want to buy your practice.” HELLO! Two offers in that same day. The same day I prayed my HOHB prayer! I felt God whisper to my spirit, “Was that big enough for you?” HA!

We were both thrilled, but panicked, because who the heck should we sell it to? The first doctor he met with expressed interest first, but we never heard back from him. The second doctor came in and said he wanted it on the spot. Husband didn’t want to burn a bridge with either one. They said they wanted it at exactly the same time. I said to Husband, “We just have to pray God will make it clear and give us wisdom. Just be very honest with both of them. People like honest.”

I prayed my heart out as he called both doctors. In our hearts, we wanted the 6 children dude to have it. Husband called 6 Kids Dude and told him the situation. He told Husband he wanted it and would have financing secure that night, if necessary, so he could buy. Whoa! Husband then called Shrewd Business Dude, who is not known for being the nicest guy in the world by any means, and that guy said, “You know, I have so much going on right now. Just let 6 Kids Dude buy it. If for some reason that falls through, call me and I will buy it.” WHAT? SHUT THE FRONT DOOR, PEOPLE! Unreal! Shrewd Business Dude then went on to give Husband a few really good tips about selling a practice. Hello!

The extra cool part is that 6 Kids Dude told Husband, “I just felt in my spirit I needed to come this afternoon.”

Jesus, you are so good to us. You hear us when we pray. I could just weep at God’s goodness and how He chose to show Himself to us in such a BIG way that day and throughout this process. It has been very smooth. They close today at 2:30!!

So, girls, if you have something in your life you are wrestling with. Something you need BIG answers to, just shout up my HOHB prayer and watch Him move!

I LOVE Jodie’s story!

So what BIG thing are you asking God for today? Just shout it up – “God, I need You to do something BIG! Like Hatcher Overhill House BIG!” And then come tell us your ripple-story.

 

The House Story

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You guys! I have been anxiously waiting to tell y’all this story for a while now. This is the house story. Oh, I love telling stories! And I am so glad God gave us a fantastic house story to tell for years to come. But if you know me, you know this won’t be a short story, so grab some coffee or a snack and settle in.

First of all, let’s back up a bit. Way back in 1999, we bought our first house. I was pregnant with Rachel, and Patrick had just started a brand-new job. We bought a much smaller and less expensive house than we were approved for because the job was so new and, besides, we just didn’t want to be house-poor. So we got this cozy little 1200 sq. ft. home that needed some work and had plenty of quirkiness. And y’all, we lived in that little 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom house as our family grew and grew and grew — until 2007, when we had 6 children. We had just never had any peace of mind about moving to a larger home. And besides, I was having a baby every 15-20 months, so who had time to move!?!

Then we felt God’s directing us to move to Florida to serve with an international mission organization there. So we sold our house and moved to an 1100 sq. ft. apartment in Florida. But we had 3 bathrooms there, so there was that benefit! I’ll tell you the truth — because we had been in that tiny house, it was easier to move to the apartment. If we had ever gotten a larger home, I may have thrown a bit of a temper tantrum about giving it all up to move to that third-floor apartment.

So after 4 years in Florida, we felt drawn to leave the mission organization and come back to Virginia. We rented a large home in a nice subdivision with double the space we had had in Florida. It was a pretty home, but there were things we didn’t love about it. When the owner wanted to sell it and we didn’t want to buy it, we had to find another rental home. So we ended up renting this older home we’ve been living in for a year. It has a little more square footage, like 2600, and it’s in a fantastic neighborhood.

Back in February, we talked with our property manager about purchasing this home. The owner wanted to sell, so we started the process of buying it. We knew about some repairs we would have to make, but we were shocked when the inspection showed MAJOR foundation issues. We cancelled the contract with great disappointment.

That was a Thursday afternoon. Right away, I started looking for other homes for sale. And right away, I was discouraged. Early Friday morning I looked at the listings online again. After scouring the lists of all the houses for sale in our school district, I explained to Patrick that we just were not going to find the space we had here for the price we wanted to pay. We had an upper price limit, which would keep our mortgage payments about the same as our rent has been, and we were not going to go above that price. So I doled out the dose of realism, “Look, we just aren’t going to find a house with a living room, dining room, den, AND basement space for the kids in our price range. Let’s get our minds settled on that, and we’ll find something that we can be content with.”

As I was looking online that Friday morning, Craigslist Rentals kept popping into my head. Each time, I thought, “No, I don’t want to rent any more. I want to buy,” and I did not check Craigslist Rentals. Finally, after the thought had entered my head 3 or 4 times, I actually said out loud to myself, “Fine! I’ll check Craigslist For Sale!” But there were no homes there that were large enough and in our school district. So I continued to refresh Realtor.com.

When the Craigslist Rentals thought came to my mind another couple of times, I thought, “Hmmmm. Maybe there is a house on that listing I need to see. (sigh) Ok, I’ll check.”

Right away, I saw this house for rent one street over from where we are living now. The picture showed this smallish-looking brick ranch, but the description said 3800 sq. ft. “This has to be a typo!” I thought as I clicked on the pictures. But the pictures just kept going on and on and on.

You people need to know – I am not a bargainer or negotiator. When I go to a yard sale, I pay the price that is on the sticker. I don’t ask, “What will you take for this?” I don’t ask people to throw in this box of stuff with this other box of stuff. I just am not a wheeler-dealer. But that Friday morning, before I could think long enough to talk myself out of it, I called the number on the Craigslist Rental listing. When the man answered, I said, “I’m calling about the rental. Would you want to sell that house instead of renting it?”

He sort of stuttered around a bit and said, “Ummm, uhhh, well, no. Not really. I have a different house I am planning to sell this spring, but well, no, ummmm, no, I hadn’t really planned to sell that one. Ummm, well, why do you ask?”

Later, he would tell us that several people have asked him to sell this house, and he always said no. He didn’t even know why he asked me that question, the words just came out of his mouth!

I told him that I lived in the neighborhood and it wasn’t working out for us to buy the house we’ve been living in. I explained that we love this neighborhood and absolutely need to stay in this elementary school district. We chatted about the school because his daughter went there for a while and they loved it too. We talked for probably 20 minutes. Somewhere during that time I mentioned that we had moved here from Florida and that we chose this part of town because a very good friend of mine, Julie, taught at that elementary school. As it turned out, he and his wife know Julie. She had taught their daughter and they had become friends with her.

“Wait a minute!” he said, “You have a bunch of kids, don’t you?! Julie tried to get me to rent to you when you first moved back here, but I had a renter already. And she tried to get me to rent to you last year, but I still had a renter. I can’t believe this! Yes, you and your husband can come look at this house. I’ll talk to my wife. Now, I don’t know for sure we’ll sell it, but you can look at it.”

And that Friday evening, Patrick and I spent an hour and a half looking at the house and talking with this couple. We fell in love with the house immediately. The owner had completely remodeled the inside and finished the basement. Everything looked new and clean. We couldn’t believe it had been a rental for several years!

At some point, the wife looked at my husband and said, “Hey, did you have some health problems in Florida? I remember seeing on Julie’s Facebook page some prayer requests for a Patrick in Florida who had a bunch of kids and was really sick.” She had prayed for Patrick and our family four years ago, never knowing we’d be standing in her house wanting to buy it.

Finally, the man said, “Ok, tell you what. Y’all guys go home and talk about and think about it and if you want to buy it, make me an offer. We’ll go home and talk about it and decide if we really want to sell.” And we shook hands and got in our car. Make him an offer? Well, based on the prices of homes in the neighborhood and the style of the house and the size of the house, that left a realistic window of about $30,000 from low offer to high offer. That was a big window!

It was nearly 7:00 on a Friday evening. We knew this house would be a higher price than the loan we were already preapproved for, so I texted our friend at the mortgage company and asked when we might know for sure if we were preapproved for more, so we could know when an offer might even be possible. She texted back right away that she’d email me later. Within half an hour, she emailed the worksheets saying we were preapproved for our upper price limit of what we wanted to pay. It was 7:30 on a Friday evening!

Patrick and I talked and prayed that night and the next day. We agreed to meet the couple again on Sunday afternoon to make an offer. On Sunday, after we chatted a little Patrick told them our offer. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper saying, “Well, we talked about the amount we really would like to get out of this house, and earlier this morning I wrote down the amount on this piece of paper.” He unfolded the paper and it was the exact same amount we had offered! Exactly! Not one dollar difference! Out of all the dollar amounts in the $30,000 window of prices, we had come up with the exact same amount.

All four of us stood there with our mouths hanging open. Finally, he said, “Well, shucks! We don’t even get to negotiate and that’s my favorite part!” She said, “I guess we’re selling y’all this house.” They had been praying that if they were supposed to sell us the house, God would make it really clear to them. And He did.

The week I called to ask him to consider selling it, they were in the middle of installing a new roof. After we signed the contract to purchase the house As Is, they continued to make some improvements to the house because they thought it was the right thing to do. They wrapped the wooden window frames in white aluminum; they added more insulation in the attic; he installed some lighting; they mulched all around the house. Their teenage daughter even planted pretty pink flowers in a couple planters beside the front porch as a housewarming gift to us! Seriously, who does this!? What seller makes the house even better between contract and closing?

Every little detail lined up perfectly. Conversations and friendships and Facebook messages from years ago all played a part in this house becoming ours this week. And it doesn’t even end with us — because they are selling this house to us, they are most likely going to buy some land they have wanted for more than ten years. Because a friend saw God work so incredibly and obviously in this house situation for us, she prayed and asked God to do this same kind of huge thing for her family, and He did that very day!

I have learned to be content in whatever size house we have. I have learned to make whatever space we have a home for us. But oh what a treat that we get so much space and that it’s ready for us to move right in!

When the first inspection had that awful, bad news, I felt such despair and disappointment. But I had no idea that God had something so much better planned for us. So. Much. Better! And He’s been putting all the pieces in place for years – long before I knew we’d even be moving back here! Isn’t He amazing?

My heart is full and overflowing with gratitude.

 

 

 

Love – with all your broken, tattered heart, LOVE

This-is-my-command-LOVE

Jesus was pretty clear about what he wanted his followers to do — love God and love other people. Over and over and over in the New Testament, we’re reminded to do everything in love, to be rooted in love, to bear with each other in love, to put on love like clothing, to spur each other toward love, and to love in action, not only in words. Paul even says the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. And just in case we may not understand what love looks like, Paul spends a lot of time in his letter to the Corinthians describing what love is and what love isn’t — love is patient and and kind and protective and hopeful, but it is not envious or boastful or self-seeking or easily angered.

I know all this. I know that my main job is to love people. And I do love people. Or at least I try. But I’ll be honest with you – sometimes it’s just too much. I know loving people means my heart is supposed to be tender toward other people, but sometimes I feel like my heart is a big piece of meat that is constantly being beaten on by a heavy metal tenderizer. Because loving people means hurting with their hurts. And there is just so much hurt.

Right now, people in my circle of love are fighting cancer and nursing sick parents and looking for jobs and trying to hold broken marriages together. People in my circle of love are recovering from past hurt and learning to forgive. And some people in my circle of love are not recovering, not learning; they are hurting themselves and flailing and floundering, and I am praying enough life preservers are tossed so they can grab onto one. And loving all these people pounds and pulls at my heart until I feel so raw and ripped up.

So I pray and lay bare my broken, shredded heart before God. And when I am alone with God, I don’t even have intelligent-sounding words to pray. You know, sometimes my prayers are more like suggestions to God of how to fix the problems. But when love has made my heart so tattered, there are no words, no suggestions. There is only Oh, God, please help. I don’t even know. I can’t even imagine. Please, please help. 

In those groaning prayers, I find a little peace, a little comfort that God draws near the brokenhearted. Being near God fortifies me so that I can get back up and love some more.

There is the temptation to toughen up, to harden my heart a little, barricade it, protect it. There’s that self-preservation thing in me that suggests maybe I should keep people a little more at arm’s length, that maybe I could care and help and be kind without loving so daggone much. We’re afraid to love any more because it’s just so exhausting and painful and messy. But you know how things are always so upside-down with God? With him, the more we receive his love and then love others with his love, the less afraid we’ll be. Because perfect love drives out fear. So if I resist the natural urge to protect myself and go against my instinct and keep on loving, the fear will get smaller.

And loving people may keep my heart raw and broken, but if God is near to the brokenhearted, then broken is OK. It’s better than OK.

And so I pray for strength and stick-to-it-tiveness to keep on loving. I ask for help to not grow weary in doing the right thing, in keeping his command to love. And then I love. With all my raw, stretched-out, tenderized heart, I love. Because the only thing that counts is my faith expressing itself in love.

The Sunrise of Grace

 

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I love Easter. Resurrection. Hope. New life. Beginning. Overcoming. Love. All of that. I love all of that. And Cadbury eggs, I love those too.

I love that Easter is the sunset of Working hard and doing it myself and the sunrise of Jesus did it all for me. That’s it. When I wake up to the Easter sunrise each year, I am reminded all over again that it’s not up to me. And what a relief that is!

I know myself. I know the deepest, darkest, most unattractive corners of my heart. I know that no matter how many times I tell myself Today, I will not lose my patience. I will try hard and speak kindly no matter what grates on my very last ever-lovin’ nerve, I still lose it and feel annoyed and often, I act and sound annoyed. I know that no matter how many resolutions I make to do better, act better, be better, I fall back into old patterns and habits. No matter how many times I turn over a new leaf, my old self turns right back up. If it were all up to me, if a relationship with God or an address in Heaven were all up to me, then I would have no hope. No way would the good I do outweigh my every mistake and bad thought and selfishness and outright, willful sin.

That is what I so love about Jesus! He is all about loving people like me. Jesus knows we could never be good enough. He knows that no matter how much I try, I just can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps and get my act together. And so Jesus came to be perfect and die and come back to life again. For me. As a totally free gift. Grace. Sweet, sweet grace.

The cross is the death of my working hard and trying to earn God’s approval. The cross is the end of my own efforts. On the cross, Jesus did for me what I couldn’t do. And Easter is all about giving up and receiving Grace. Easter is all about this new life, this living in Grace. Resting in Jesus, trusting that He is enough.

If you’re exhausted from all the hard work of trying to do it yourself, maybe you’d like to let all that die this Easter. Maybe you’re ready for the Easter sunrise of Grace, a new life of resting in what Jesus has already done. Or maybe you just need a reminder – stop trying so hard, as if it all depends on you; we’re living in GRACEland now, Friend.

Happy Easter!

My King & His Amazing Love

*originally posted March 25, 2013 

Yesterday morning I stood in church singing, “You are my King. Jesus, You are my King.” As I sang, I imagined people lining a road into Jerusalem, laying down coats and palm branches for Jesus to ride over. I imagined their voices rising, “Hosanna! Blessed is the coming kingdom of David!”

I imagined they too were singing, “Jesus, You are my King!”

For a long time I was baffled that some of the very same people who lay down their coats and shouted, “Hosanna, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” would, just days later, shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

Yet there I stood on a Sunday morning singing with all my heart, “You are my King. You are my King. Jesus, You are my King.” And hours later those same lips would be stretched tight in anger, shouting to my sons to put the mattresses back onto the beds, to stop trashing their rooms, to stop disobeying me. And later, that same heart that overflowed with praise for Jesus would ignore His Spirit’s promptings to calm down. Instead, I’d go right ahead and speak angry words to my husband.

My own sin would cry out my need for His crucifixion. “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 

And that’s not the first time. Many times – an uncomfortably embarrassing amount of times – my heart has filled to brimming over with praise for God and His goodness. But then, He doesn’t perform as I expect. Circumstances don’t turn out the way I plan. He’s not the King I anticipated. There’s far more suffering and pain and blood and gore and sacrifice than I ever imagined. So my heart fills with disappointment and anger. I move on to Plan B, figuring I’ll just take it into my own hands because I could probably do a better job.

So, I understand. I get it. I can see how even good people could stand alongside a dirt road in Jerusalem and shout “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David. . . . Jesus, you are our King!” I can believe they meant it with all their all-too-human hearts. And then they watched as their expectations crumbled, their hopes were dashed, their plans fell through. I can understand how they’d think, “Wait! . . . He’s not the King I anticipated. This isn’t the way I planned for it all to work out.”

And though I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been one of the many screaming, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I know chances are I would have either been shouting with the crowds or hidden away in fear with the disciples. And whichever the case, my own sin would necessitate the cries, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

But the beauty is — Jesus knows this about me. He knew it about me before I was even born. He knew it about that crowd in Jerusalem that day when He rode the donkey and watched them hail Him as King. He knew the truth about His disciples, that they’d run and hide and deny Him. He knew it as He taught them and poured into them and loved them all those three years. He knows we’ll fail. He knows we’re capable of praising Him one minute and cursing the next.

That’s why He came. That’s why He died for us. That’s why He rose again. To overcome our sin. To overcome our failures.

“Amazing love, How can it be, That You my King would die for me? Amazing love, I know it’s true. And it’s my joy to honor You. . . . Jesus, You are my King. Jesus, You are my King.” (*lyrics by Chris Tomlin)

 

Repurposed Pain ~ My Messy Beautiful

This essay is part of the Messy Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn more about this project, click HERE.  To learn more about Glennon Doyle Melton’s bestselling memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, click HERE

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No pain is ever wasted. Years ago, one of my mentors told me the story of losing an infant son. She said one of her friends had told her those words as they wept and grieved together. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. And He didn’t. Again and again, throughout the years, this woman comforted and encouraged grieving young mommas with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain.

I never forgot that story. And in my hardest, most trying days and weeks and months, I have remembered those words. That promise – God won’t waste this. God won’t waste this. God never wastes a thing. – has reverberated through my soul, weaving a web that holds me together even if everything around me seems to be falling apart.

The messes of life, the hard, hard times, the things we would never in a million, jillion years choose to endure – those messes can transform into amazing beauty when, later, we receive an opportunity to help or encourage someone going through a similar mess.

Five years ago, my husband nearly died when his heart decided to go a little berserk. What an emotional earthquake that was! For a couple years, the medical battle was intense. The hospital stays and expensive diagnostic tests, the information overload, the medication and surgeries – all of it was frightening and formidable. But the emotional battle was even worse. My young, strong, seemingly healthy husband suddenly confronted his own mortality. This independent, active man abruptly became dependent and unable to do most of the things he had always done. He was angry and depressed — understandably so, but still anger and depression are not much fun to live with. I shouldered the burden of extra work and extra care-taking and quickly grew exhausted and gradually grew resentful. Resentment isn’t exactly fun to live with either. Or so I’ve heard. His emotions, my emotions, the children’s emotions, the fear and stress and constant presence of the potential for death. It was a mess!

A few weeks ago, a friend’s husband had a stroke. And just like that, the emotional earthquake shook their lives. Rocked their world. Through a quickly-typed Facebook message, I shone my little light into the debris. My friend crawled to that light. And our shared pain yoked us together, my friend and I. Kindred spirits. Warrior wives. God never wastes a thing. My pain, my mess, beautifully recycled into hope. No pain is ever wasted. The other day my sweet friend wrote, “Thank you for going through this before me.” Well, it was not my pleasure. That’s for sure! But knowing that my messy dark days have been repurposed into a beautiful comfort for her – well, that is a pleasure, a strange kind of joy deep in my soul. None of it was wasted.

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Today, I’m typing this from a hospital room. Yesterday, my Silas, my 11-year-old boy, tried to go sledding down our basement stairs in a giant cardboard box. Because somehow in Boy World, that seems like a good idea. In the doctor’s words, “He broke the heck out of his arm.” What a mess! He snapped both bones in his forearm. One of the bones was an open fracture. Do not Google up pictures of open fractures. Trust me. You can’t un-see those images and you don’t want to hurl all over your laptop.

At midnight last night, some people in green scrubs and cloth shower caps wheeled my little guy into surgery so he could get some titanium rods inserted into his arm. I might have gotten three hours of sleep last night on the green, industrial, plastic couch in his room. My husband stretched out in the vinyl, floral print reclining chair. Relief from the pain medicine has come up just slightly short of the allowable dosing times. When Silas isn’t sleeping or engrossed in a television show, he is ranging from very uncomfortable to near-writhing in pain.

While Silas was getting a dose of morphine today, his friend Sierra was shopping for gifts for him. Two weeks ago, Sierra fell off a horse and broke her arm. In this same hospital, a doctor inserted rods into her arm and Sierra’s parents stretched out on this same vinyl furniture. Within the past 24 hours, Sierra’s mom has prayed for me and texted me, comforting and encouraging me with an empathy born only of enduring a similar pain. In that first text, she shone her light into our debris. And I crawled to the light. God never wastes a thing. No pain is ever wasted. Their mess has been beautifully transformed into a consoling help.

This is one of the cycles of life – we comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received. My mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, then her mess metamorphoses into beautiful salve for someone else’s mess and pain, and on and on and on. Beauty drawn from the midst of mess. A beautiful mess. A messy beautiful. No pain, no mess, is ever wasted. God never wastes a thing. He won’t waste your pain. Let this refrain reverberate through your soul, falling together and weaving a web that holds you together when your messy beautiful life seems to be falling apart.

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We Are Weak Together

You know, I appreciate the idea that in my weakness I most see God’s strength manifested. I do. I appreciate the notion that I am completely dependent on God, totally reliant on Him to accomplish anything worthwhile. Those are good thoughts. They come straight from the Bible. I know those principles are true. Set against a lovely sunset and worded in sing-song verse, they make the perfect To Encourage You greeting cards.

But honestly, the reality of living those thoughts pretty much stinks. It’s not fun to feel weak. I don’t particularly enjoy feeling utterly dependent on God. Do you?

No, I prefer the times God seems to say, Hey, Jenn, I made you naturally talented in this area, so I’m plugging you in here. Now shine! And there are times God works like that. I LOVE it when He works like that! When I’m doing those things I believe I was born to do, I feel confident and grateful and so alive!

Sometimes, though, God intentionally puts us in a place of dependence on Him. He makes it so obvious that I need Him. And, of course, I know I do need Him. I just prefer not to feel so desperately dependent on Him. I prefer that underlying theoretical I need Him because He’s God and I know any strength I have is because He gave it to me, now watch me keep these plates spinning on my own! 

I was talking with some friends about this the other day. We have all been stretched beyond ourselves this year doing a ministry that seems so much bigger and harder than anything we should be leading. So many times we have raised our eyebrows and looked at each other, laughing, like  Can you believe anyone let us be in charge of this?! Shouldn’t they have picked the real grown-ups?! And other times, we have floundered and cried and felt foolish and frustrated because Really, God? Really? Did we misunderstand You? Was this really Your idea? Because we don’t want to insult you, God, but we would have thought You could plan this all out better and find someone capable of actually doing these jobs well! You know, seeing as how You are God and all. 

And I’m not going to tie this all up with a pretty little Christianese ribbon. I just can’t. I’m not in that place. I just want you to know, friends, if you are feeling weak and bucking against that, you are not alone. If you are struggling to lean into God and give in to that feeling of full reliance on Him, I’m right there with you. I’m here, acknowledging that you are doing a hard thing. It’s hard to own your weakness and trust that God is strong. We are doing this hard thing together, friends. We are holding on to Him, hedging all our bets that He is Who He claims to be and that He won’t let us down.

I’m here, holding on with you, weakly grasping onto His hand and your hand. We are weak together. And somehow, it’s going to be OK.

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Profound Love or Deep Hurt

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Andy Stanley says there are two categories of people who influence us and form us into the people we become, “those who hurt you deeply and those who loved you profoundly.”

In the past ten years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, speaking and writing about how we can make a positive impact on the world, or at least on our own little corner of the world. I’ve also attempted to use my own strengths for good – to practice what I preach. I’ve thought about our strengths and passions and great delight and the world’s deep needs and how those things intersect. And I wasn’t wrong.

But then I go and hear this thought by Andy Stanley and everything within me says, Of course! Yes! Of course, that’s true! Yes, yes, yes! 

We are influenced and shaped by the people who hurt us to the core and by the people who love us from their core. I have made the most impact on the people I have deeply hurt and the people I have profoundly loved. I’m sure of it.

As I’ve thought about this for the last few days, I’ve lamented, mourned over, the times I have left my mark with deep hurt. I don’t want to influence others by the damage I leave in my wake. I want my legacy to be one of love.

If we want to positively influence this world, if we want to make a real impact, we must do everything with profound love. Radical, unconditional love. Yes, our strengths and passions and deep delights are involved. Yes, we can consider the needs around us and match our giftedness with those needs. But in order to most fully influence, to really leave our mark, love must be the undergirding force.

There are some things in my community I’m trying to change. There are some people I’m hoping to influence. I’m praying love will be my guiding force. If I’m going to shape my world, I aim to shape it with profound love.