LASTing Peace, God I Trust You For Eternity–Just Not Today

I wonder if it’s a common malady among modern Christians to assume that Christ’s only interest in us, or benefit to us, is eternal life. Do we live that way?
That’s not the Jesus of the Bible.

Drop the Golden Rule!

Throw out the Golden Rule!

Yep, I mean it. God doesn’t want you to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now, before you run off and start pulling your sister’s hair, stealing your friend’s clothes or yelling at your parents, consider the fact that Jesus wants you to do so much more.

In Mark 12:29-31, a rich, young man approached Jesus and asked Him what was God’s most important commandment. Jesus answered him straight from the Ten Commandments:

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.’”

It’s true, God did say that. But the rules changed when Jesus came to earth to pay for our sins by His death and resurrection.

In fact, later in Jesus’ ministry, only days before He went to the cross, He sat in an upstairs room for one last special meal with His disciples. There, He shared His heart. He told them that He had a new commandment for them.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

(John 13:34-35)

Under the old commandment, in order to love your neighbor properly, you had to really love yourself. You’ve probably even heard someone say, “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”

There are many times in our lives when we don’t really love ourselves. We can be upset with ourselves for a little while, or perhaps even struggle with depression. Sometimes, we even hate ourselves. When that happens, how are we supposed to obey God and love others?

This is where it gets really good! In the new commandment Jesus gave us, we are told to love others as God loves us. That sounds even harder! But the truth is, in order to love this way we have to learn, understand and believe how much God loves US!

The next time someone tells you, “You have to love yourself before you can love others,” tell them, “No, in order to love myself or others, I have to know how much God loves me!”

The way Jesus wants us to love forces us to stop looking at ourselves and instead to look at Him. As we receive His love for us, then we are able to be obedient and love others. At the same time, we will find peace and joy in who we are because we know how much God loves us!

Who or What, Why It Matters

Have you ever tried to tell someone about your faith and been blocked by the question, “But how can God be good when bad things happen?” Or, “Can you explain why things like miscarriages, natural disasters, world hunger and other terrible things happen?”

Maybe you’ve asked those questions yourself, and you wonder if what you believe can really be true. If it is, how do you explain some things?

The apostle Paul had every reason to ask the same questions. He wrote the book of 2 Timothy to a dear friend while sitting on the floor of a jail cell. He’d been arrested for preaching about Christ. Paul should have been asking, “Why?”, and “Is what I believe so important?”, but he wrote instead, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able…”.

Did you catch it? Paul wasn’t trying to figure out what he believed, and he wasn’t telling Timothy about any thing that he believed. He had been obedient to God; it was difficult to explain why God was letting him suffer. But Paul knew Who he believed. That’s the answer we must always come to when we cannot explain the things that happen in this world. We must know Who we believe and we can know that He is trustworthy.

Walking in Season

hdr-autumn-1252757-mIt used to be, when I was “well”.

Then it was, “When I’m am confident.”

Next came, “When I discover what God wants me to do.”

Then, “When I’m finally brave enough to  do what God wants me to do.”

Next came, “When God blesses what I am doing.”

And then He did.

Now, I’m feeling topsy-turvy in the chaos of all His goodness. Oh not that He wasn’t good before, but only in this season am I finally appreciating the cultivation of the earlier ones. Only when I am caught in the fear that this season provokes do I recognize the beauty of seasons past.

Not so many months ago, I spewed random words on a page, of interest to no one. I collected sheets of private musings, pedantic stories, journal entries and heart murmurs. I posted them in obscure places, submitted them to a few magazines, folded them up in Christmas cards, tucked them into “love you” letters and sent them out to everyone brave enough to be in my address book.

At that time I was between the seasons of, “When I discover what God wants me to do,” and, “When I’m brave enough to do what God wants me to do.” But that’s just the thing, I kept looking for, chasing after some nebulous goal that I believed God had hung in my foggy future. I imagined God standing just behind me, a fatherly hand on my shoulder wondering if I’d ever try hard enough, peer deep enough, have enough faith to strike out in that darkness and unveil my life’s purpose.

In the very first book of the Bible, in the very first chapter, God intentionally created seasons. Isn’t that staggering? It’s not as if He’s pacing upstairs waiting for me to reach the climax of my life. He’s not wondering when I’ll discover my purpose and get about the business of pleasing Him. That was, THIS IS my season.

I told you about not so many months ago, but if I’m honest, not so many hours ago, I was fretting my hands about this season. I’m feeling snowballed with all of the tiny things to do in the process of publishing and publicizing a book.

I prayed for this, right? I determined that God wants me to be an author and declared that I’d honed in on my calling, facetiously deprecated myself for taking more than 30 years to find out what God made me to do. And now?

I’m worried about not having enough creative juices or time to write for all the opportunities. I’m concerned about not having enough hours in the day to speak life to, and receive encouragement from, the relationships that God is giving me.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about nature’s seasons? Is it the crunch of lifeless leaves when you walk down the park trail? Is it the beckoning, long shadows of summer when you walk to the mailbox late in the evening? Is it the deep impressions lingering in the snow when you walk your dog in the winter time? Is it the cacophony of indiscernible, sweet fragrances when you walk through the garden in springtime?

I always see myself walking when I think of seasons. Slowly meandering through their measured window of time, experiencing each one in all its splendor, beholding it from every angle, walking.

Soon after God designated seasons, He placed man in the Garden of Eden. And do you know what He did? Every single evening, He invited Adam and Eve to come walk with Him.

There’s no rushing seasons. Sure, sometimes the lines seem blurred and winter keeps a firm grasp on the thermometer a little longer than we prefer, but it gives way. And then, when we’re tired of resting in the folds of spring, like buds held closed by an invisible hand, there’s still nothing to hasten summer. It’s a steady walk through these seasons.

And there’s bounty in every season, bounty and cultivation. When my options seemed few and my creativity abounded, God was cultivating excitement in me—ideas for the words He would share through my fingers. The bounty then was rest and time and freedom. Now, the bounty is opportunity to bless others, wide doors to use the gift and treasure of writing that He has given me. Now, I am cultivating trust, recalling rest and realizing confidence as I see the beauty behind each door He opens.

Simply, I worry when I need to be walking—steadily, following Christ. He’s the one who opened once invisible doors and He will show me which ones to enter and which ones to pass by.

The Answer to Your Heart’s Cry

When thankfulness heaves dry,
And prayer is stillborn,
Listless lips, somber heart
Percussion of praise halts,
And the Army halts,
The prayer warrior falters…

Daughter, glory in My verdancy,
Marvel at Me.
How is it that you could be lonely
in My presence?
Hear Me speak in the rush of rain,
The charge of damp angel feet through the balsam trees.

I have come, in response to your prayer.
I have heard and answered.
I have come for your joy and My glory.
Both complete the other and find permanence there.

I have never needed you,
But I chose you,
And love you as sister, daughter, bride, friend.
Find your hope, inhale My faith for you.
Sit back, rest and watch My glory.
And let all your longings be fulfilled and overflowed.

The banks of your loneliness will
Erode in the power of My Life-giving flood.
Watch Me. Behold Me. Taste Me.

Be still and know that I am God.
Taste and see–
I, The Lord, am good.

Verses for further study and encouragement: 1 Chronicles 14:13-15, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 116:1, Matthew 23:9, Hebrews 2:11-13, Isaiah 54:5

Why I NEEDED My Anorexia

rural-decay-1429230-mI needed my eating disorder.

Shocked? Good.

Now stoke the flames of confusion for a minute because I’m not going to answer that question right away.

Remember game days in high school? On the day of a big basketball or football game, the halls buzzed with fervency. It was the only day in most public high schools that anyone wore a uniform. Football players wore ties and button-downs. Cheerleaders wore their skimpy skirts all day long.

The night before, Coach had informed them of the dress code. Following those rules gave each member of the team or squad a sense of identity and belonging.

That’s why I needed my eating disorder.

One of the most obvious ways that anorexia manifested itself in me, was a long list of self-imposed rules.

I must never run less than I did before.
I must never workout for less than 90 minutes.
I must never have more than X fat grams in a day.
I must eat only X calories.
I must never eat restaurant food.
I must never let people see me eat. 

That last one was a biggie and in effect was the king of rules. By rigidly keeping that rule, I set myself apart from everyone else. My private list of do’s and dont’s gave me shape in this world, carved out my unique niche and proclaimed to everyone that I was not just one of the crowd.

Growing up in a godly home, I was told “you’re special”. I’d made paper snowflakes in Vacation BibleSchool and memorized cute songs about how no two snowflakes or people are alike. “God so loved the world,” was part of my earliest vocabulary. But I needed so much more than John 3:16. For me, the critical turning point from self-starvation to life was coming to not only pay lip service to my individuality, but to internalize that truth.

It doesn’t always help me to believe that God loves the world, because I don’t want to be lost on the globe. I don’t want to be one of the crowd. I need a God who counts hairs (Luke 12:7), I need a God who calls one single Chaldean out of the masses (Genesis 12:1), I need a God who selected 12 uneducated men to be his best friends, I need a God who knows my name (Isaiah 43:1). I don’t only want to only be loved. I want to be seen!

I needed to believe that I am special, unique and exceptional outside of my tightly structured cage of rules, that I wouldn’t disappear when I relinquished the disorder I called my own.

I love the story of Hagar, a little, despised, slave mother who had been thrown out by her jealous mistress. And as she lay panting in the desert, watching her only son wither away, God found her. God did a miracle that day. He provided for Hagar and her son. But after, she didn’t rejoice so much in that He loved her, she rejoiced that God had seen her. (Genesis 16:13)

That’s the a God I needed. That’s the God who found me. That’s why I don’t need an eating disorder anymore. I am seen!

In the Wake of the Storm–Protecting Our Own

I write as one blooming in puddles the aftermath of a tempest. In the wake a horrific storm—the kind that turns the sky sallow, rips roots from the ground, lifts homes and drops them in strange places, I am watching it. I am watching the clouds recede but know they are merely bearing their cruel chaos forward to other homes and lives.

My readers here know my story. For more than a decade I was caught up in the storm of anorexia. Some could see it happening; those close enough could see the toll taken by, even feel the gusts of metaphorical winds. Others, a bit farther way saw the storm as one watching it on the horizon. It looked menacing enough that some took shelter, took precautions to guard their daughters and loved ones from this tsunami.

It finally dropped me. A bit ragged—worn, but whole. And in it’s wake, there are huge puddles, inches of water and the sun has come up and a rainbow welcomes me to life again. And so it’s from this place of awakening, this place of stretching wide in the clear blue of freedom that I now watch the receding clouds and wonder of the havoc they will wreak on someone else.

Storms have varying impacts. Growing up in Oklahoma, on more than one occasion we saw side-by-side homes—one left the other taken. Winds vary and shift; what struck from the north may swing wide and assault from the south next.

And so when I read this story, my heart shook. The memories of shame, fear, confusion, anxiety and loneliness are fresh enough that I empathize with a broken heart.

I was 14 when insecurity and shame overtook me. In response, I constricted my entire being hoping to control at least what remained of me. But this little girl, this little Fern, hasn’t yet taken first steps. She has not yet said, “Mama” or beheld her own face in a mirror. She hasn’t picked a favorite food or color or experimented with a hobby and already the vicious storm that is our world is assaulting her. Already, the cacophony of personal opinions, thoughtless remarks and ignorant stereotypes are pounding on her tiny doorstep. Already the mold has been cast into which she will never fit.

The storm against identity, individuality, sacred life and undefinable beauty was already raging when she arrived—has been raging for all time. From the day Satan persuaded Eve that she was not created with all that she needed for a full, God-intended life—since then we have been searching, sure that God’s design of and for us is deficient.

Let this not be our legacy. We cannot control the weather; no more can we control the ebb and flow of societal opinion and cultural paradigms. But, within our homes, beginning within our own hearts, we can practice, preach and promote the truth that God has done all things well, every one of us is exquisite in His Creator-eyes. Who is the world to say otherwise?

I love the words of Fern’s mother:
“She is not abnormal. She is not normal. She is individually her and as she grows into a girl, a teen, a woman, she needs to always know to her core that she is exquisite and indefinable by the words of people and by the standards of this world.”