Growing Pains

“It’s the heaviness in the air from the warm front” she explained. Yet it’s awfully hard to comprehend; a spring storm bringing such a layer of doubt over my quaking heart. And the weight suffocating caused me to call upon her for prayer. “I just want to fix it Mama. Want the depression to be gone.”

Knowing full well that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my weakness but believing it is another mindset entirely. How do you believe when the weight of all that is wrong in the world crushes your spirit like a landslide and you. can’t. fix. It?

“Yes, I will pray.” And her assuring words bring some comfort but her unusual prediction of a storm bearing the weight of the world to come sweeping right over our grace filled home leaves an impression that clings to the back of my mind.

“Grumpy.” That’s the description of my mood and mindset from the concerned husband. And I don’t even argue. But that the heaviness that suppresses my soul is a correlation of a spring storm and knowledge of all the intense pain that goes on among us people is more than mildly disconcerting.

Because I. can’t. fix. it.

And I lay, face down on the floor with baby girl softly cooing to herself unaware of my inward turmoil of soul and I search for something I must be doing wrong – something separating me from my God because where is He? And faith is not an emotion, not a high, but I need something to cling to, to believe in. And the first thing Satan attacks is your identity.

I am founded, grounded, rooted, and inscribed on the palm of Jesus Christ and that truth requires something far beyond emotion to stabilize a shaking heart and a quivering lip. And God I really just need to hear You. Speak.

But what do you do when God is silent? I know His presence because I know the lack of it and that… is a terrifying place. He is here with me.

Get up. Move on. Still shaken but by what I don’t know. But this I do know and have full confidence in: He will never allow pain without bringing growth.

Growing pains. You can’t see them but they hurt so bad like a seizure inside a muscle tearing, sewing, ripping, healing, growing. Bigger, stronger, and suddenly there is more to you than there ever was before and people notice.

They notice how you change and they see the gait with which you carry yourself and do you dwell on the memory of the muscle spasms and rubbing and rubbing till hands are raw or do you walk taller, confident that you are somehow more than you were before the pain?

And that spring storm it comes and with it angry torrents of rain ridding the air of the awful pressure, dissipating clouds to bring forth the light!

His light shines in the darkness and the night is like day to Him.

And with it the dawning realization that there is nothing you can do but hit your knees and kick the lie that you must be doing something wrong, that maybe there would be no guilt if you did more, were more.

And behind every awful self condemnation is the tell-tale shadow of a cleverly orchestrated scheme to rob you of your God-given security and the devil himself is behind your misery.

Well that changes things doesn’t it? When your battle isn’t with the weather or your own faith. The battle is against the devil who claps his hands in giddy delight at your face down on the floor…until he realizes to whom and with whom you are conversing and it’s his soul that will feel the chill when the trumpet of your God sounds. And the declaration “I will rescue my child” overthrows and overpowers and overcomes satan’s plan for your despair.

Hit your knees, beloved, but don’t you stay there. Because “there is a God in heaven” (Dan. 2:27); and there is nothing weak about our God. Rise and count your joys – they are numerous.

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An Honest Lie

You know what it is. It’s that burning hot feeling spreading fast over your chest and your heart beats. Breathe quick and it dances around you – taunting, whipping, stabbing fear. F.E.A.R. You want it gone, oh, you plead with it to go; but as it leaves you think “maybe”. Maybe there is something there? Does fear have something that I need? So wait, don’t go… not just yet.
And it looks over it’s shoulder – smile wicked with empty promises of security and justice. The things that demon promises makes your heart beat. “Not this time” you think. Distract yourself. But he will wait. Shrouded in a sickening cloud he will wait for you to ask him: “Is there? Is there something that I need to know, something hidden that God hasn’t made known? Is there a sin to be revealed, a twisted act unknown?”

“Has God really said that you will die if you eat of this fruit? Surely you will not die.”

So just this once. Allow him the pleasure of usurping your stronghold built up by months of prayer. No, it won’t kill you. It will torment you. Do you know the meaning of torment? Freezing life paralyzed in a world of your imagination simulated by none other than yours truly. He is an expert marksmen, Fear. His jagged daggers slide skillfully into the part that hurts most pleasing. Because he just might have something you need. Maybe a better body? Maybe knowledge of betrayal: he doesn’t love you – did he ever really? Your daughter – will she be ruined under your care? Your failures cut bone deep. Fear suffocates and all the while fills you with an aversion to oxygen. You poor, starved creature biting the hand that heals in the name of self-preservation. You. Are. Secure. Secure and dead to peace. “After all”  he lies, “what is truth except a false sense of security and now you have both”. Gifts from Fear.

See, what Fear didn’t tell you about truth and security is that they aren’t attainable without Trust.
And you can’t survive on vaporous fumes of old truths. Security comes not with a return policy but with an eviction notice. Evicted from your own peace-starved soul you will stand to hold your shallow evidence, your knowledge so longed for. And taking his departure, Fear bows out with one last, honest lie; “Isn’t this what you wanted”?

So, God-daughter, Fear does not give you truth, he incinerates your hope and leaves not the slightest inclination of the peace you sought. Bright and bold the world will be and vague, your God given ownership of dignity. What did that man say? “All is vanity and grasping for the wind.” And the things hidden by God are for God. What is made known to man is made known to all. If you play God, you inevitably lose. Your demons come in the form of whatever it is you most fear. You white-knuckle love and twist it for fear of losing it and that demon will strip it from you lightening fast.

We are called to trust Him. To lay back in the down of His goodness and mercy as He guards us. He is a Lion, our God. A force to be reckoned with and He does not take lightly the tempting of His children. But you have caged Him. God can not rescue she who will not be rescued.

Fear is natural. God created natural. God controls natural. What if God held your loves and your fears as He holds you? What if when that demon comes with his appealing message of infinite security you step aside and allow him to reckon with your God. A gazelle laughs at a lion caged but an uncaged King will shred a gazelle before grinding its bones to dust. Allow God’s power to be un-caged in your life and demons will become dust before Him.

 

The Art of Mentoring

In a sudden moment the words that came from her mouth dealt me a speechless hand.

“What do I do now that my chance to be her friend, to maybe have saved her, is gone? How do I find closure?”  And a hurting heart formed tears of guilt much to heavy for a fourteen year old girl that slid down her cheeks.

And I realized all too late that perfectly planned lessons and well-written books are not preparation enough for the art of being a mentor. Sitting cross-legged in front of me three beautiful, young junior high girls all waited for me to answer the dazing question regarding the suicide of a school acquaintance.

This was not in my plan. But it was in God’s. So thoroughly engrained in my head were d-group meetings and Bible reading and sharing prayer requests – what do you do when a prayer request is a life altering moment? When something buried deep within the soul of God’s daughter brings her pain and she brings it to me, it’s humbling. And the fear of inadequacy threatens to rise in my heart. While I am on the verge of yielding to the temptation of offering some scripted answer about how bad things happen and that’s the way of the world, God shoves that tempting answer down back to Sheol where it came from and says to me – “YOU take care of her”.

And my heart gets involved. Attaches to the hearts of these girls with strings of steel refusing to leave them at the mercy of a scripted answer.

I’d be lying if I said then and there God gave me words and I spoke truth to them. In all honesty I can’t remember what I told her. What I do remember is we prayed. We prayed.

Hands clasped because a cord of four strands is not easily broken, we begged God for healing. Entreated Him to some way somehow be glorified in this tragedy.  And carved the memory in our minds – forever etched so as to not forget the compassion of the Father. Pleaded that we would not become numb to pain but in strength would rise up through it. Grasping for some glimpse of hope that can not be obtained by earthly measures. We prayed.

Discipleship suffers under the expectation of perfection but it thrives under the expectation of glorifying God. It takes place when a text is sent and received during days apart – inquiring about school, family life, friends, temptations, joys. When prayers for one another are lifted up together and apart. When growth is measured not by perfect church attendance but by the vindication of sin and the presence of the Holy Spirit in each life and is God being glorified in every circumstance?

It happens when they look out from the stage or up from the court of their musical or athletic event and see you there – proud of them, cheering them on because your heart is now connected and your support speaks volumes. That kind of encouragement has insurmountable effects on their identity and time you invest beyond bible study will have the greatest impact.

Take them out for coffee or froyo (that’s frozen yogurt) just because. Ask them to share their story. Set a time aside to share your story – even the ugly parts but always always connect it to your relationship with Christ. They know you are human – but you must be their source of strength. Your source of strength must come from God or you will burn out. Your time with your “mentees” is not your time to share in depth about your struggles. Save that for your own small group. NOTE: If you are not actively involved in a small group of  your age – develop one. It is vital for your spiritual growth.

A good size for a mentoring group is 2-4 students per 1 adult. I would not advise including more that 4 as a good amount of energy is needed to effectively minister to them.

This next point may sound cold, but it is not without good reason.  The purpose of a small group that is led by an adult is for the girls (or guys) to be able to share their hurts, disappointments, and maybe eventually long-kept secrets. For these reasons, a small group should consist only of students who maintain a solid level of maturity and all girls must be comfortable with the presence of each other. This will require some awkwardness at first, asking each one (privately) if she is comfortable with the other girls; it is a necessary step.

As with all small groups privacy is key. It may take weeks, months, or a year, depending on the mentee, before she is comfortable sharing with the group. And it must be made known before the fact that all things shared are kept within the group. And nothing about what is shared is discussed -even among group members- in the absence of the one who shared it.

With that in mind, a dangerous promise you want to avoid is secret-sharing with a compromise. ie: “I’m going to tell you something but you have to promise not to tell anyone.” I would advise you to never take this offer. If a student uses this approach, I would respond with, “I am honored that you think I am trustworthy, but if what you are going to tell me has the potential to be harmful to you or anyone else, then I can not promise that I will remain silent.”

Thus far I have assumed mentoring is same gender. I am stating it now in case there is any confusion: Your mentoring MUST be with the same gender. For obvious reasons. One on One time, sharing struggles, (it would be vastly inappropriate for a young boy to discuss a pornography issue with a woman) etc.  Just – don’t.

And finally – prayer. For yourself as a spiritual leader. For your girls who are looking to you. Cover your life, saturate it, drown it in prayer. Realize that God has placed you in your position for such a time as this. Allow Him to cultivate your successes and failures into a grace-embracing life. God willing, your small group will continue on for years to come. Loving and learning together and growing in Christ.

So remember: 4 key elements of mentoring

1) Weekly time set aside for Bible Study and prayer

2) Texts throughout the week. Not a stalker-ish amount; I usually shoot for once a week to each girl.

3) One on One outings. These have the potential to be especially personal or very laid back. I have used this time to discuss future missions trips, family struggles, testimony sharing, or simply catching up.

– Also included in this category is attending sporting events, musicals, or anything else that your small group students are passionate about. Support her in this!

4) Prayer, prayer, prayer.   Ann Voskamp puts it brilliantly:  “The prayers we weave into the matching of socks, the stirring of oatmeal, the reading of stories, they survive fire.”

A Quick Response to the Anti-Abercrombie Bandwagon

America took great offense at the appalling declaration of Abercrombie CEO that A/F would not be distributing sizes above large.

Okay.. so maybe it hasn’t made National news, but in the world of facebook, ambitious people are defiantly posting their thoughts on the recent quote from Jeffries. And one young man took it a step further and cleaned out the local thrift stores of the brand and distributed them to homeless people. Bravo.

But stick with me… here is what entered my head soon after mentally applauding this young man’s creative protest:

Aren’t we, as Christians, exclusive? Do we not preach from pulpits everywhere that

1) There is a Heaven

2) The only way to “get there” is through Jesus Christ?

If that’s not exclusivity, I don’t know what is. But hear me out – I am not associating Christianity with Abercrombie and Fitch. I am not here to undermine the truth of John 14:6

(Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me).

Considering that God has made every individual in His image, you should be disgusted at exclusivity based on physical weight. But really? Boycott Abercrombie?

Here is my question:  Why only Abercrombie? Why so infuriated with one man making a comment about his desire for his company? Jeffries’ comment stems from a lie we’ve accepted as a culture: You are only as valuable as you are beautiful.

You know who those rejected people are in your life. Yes, you do. Compliment them. Every day.  You’ll make a bigger difference by complimenting a heavy person(or ANY person) than you will buy re-posting the story.

Why not buy the .99 t-shirts and hand them out to the homeless? Why have you not already gone through your closets and given up your name-brand clothing?

If you care so much about people who are in need, give of your time, money, and clothes for the heck of it.

Not to make a point. Do it because it’s the right thing  to do. Do it because people are made in the image of God, and deserve to be loved.

And when you do, don’t post it on facebook.

To Be Needed

You look up at me with your mohawked cowlick and your eyes wide with wonder. When did you grow so big?

Because it was yesterday your father drove anxious to the hospital and I birthed you out red faced into a world in desperate need of the warmth you brought.

I pushed you out cold and you gave your warmth to my whole, trembling soul.

My baby girl.

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And they bled your foot and my heart bled more until I had you back in my arms – all wrapped up like a baby burrito.

And no one ever tells you that a child is really just your heart walking around outside you, exposed to the elements and it’s not the last time your heart will bleed for them.

They told me to let you “cry it out” but never said how my ears would pierce until my arms soothed you back to sleep. And you slept just fine, so peaceful that I couldn’t even give you back to your bed until your breathe steadied me.

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You don’t own one comprehensive word in your dialogue but I understand your unspoken need for me for the fourth time that night and utterly exhausted as I am, I need you to need me. Because I have aches and nightmares too and your daddy holds me and traces my skin and needs me to need him and we all need Christ.

They told me to “just wait” until it gets worse. At church, in grocery stores, in the neighborhood.

Like the ominous advice of the world is to enjoy what I have now because it won’t last forever.

“Enjoy being single cause men are animals.”

“Enjoy not having kids cause you don’t have a life after them.”

“Enjoy your kid while she’s young cause in a few years she’ll be a terror”.

Well I’ve heard enough “enjoy it nows” and not one of those fallible prophecies has come true and God’s got this.

My life is joy. Not constant happiness; but always, always joy. And yes, I think I will “just wait” and when the next comes I’ll just wait and keep on basking in the brilliance of my moments with you.

Now you’re eleven and a half months and I wont wait for you to be one whole year old to realize I only have seventeen left.

Because love is patient. I count every laugh and the only memories that keep are the ones I grow from and love from and live for.

The moments of God-struck wonder at all His goodness and why should I be so blessed when third-world mothers can’t feed their babies one egg a day? Too many hours of pointless status updates, too many pins are wished for and anyone would wish for my life.

What brings me to my knees when I have no crippling pain to lay before Him? Goodness. Pure, resounding mercy. Overflowing from that vats of all He has to offer.

Little One, in all it’s gravity and unsurety, pride and insecurity, your heart must be His to be anything. Every success attributed to Him with every failure embracing His grace and all glory rising up.  Will yourself to give when it’s hard and deflect the enemies lies because comparison thieves joy.

Brought to your knees in trial, raised off your feet in victory. Our God, Your God, is able to do all that you could ever ask or imagine.

Drawn

“Do you see little Scout? Do you see what God made?”

Her little fist pushes into my shoulder, her neck cranes to see the newly fallen snow. Curtains drawn, sunshine bright still not breaking the cold. Billions of miles away it’s fiery inferno does nothing to warm the ground. Image

Stand at the window, will the sun just a little bit closer.

Little One grasps at blueberry muffin crumbs pincer style. What am I grasping for? In my perfect, undeserved life, with no current worry to bring me to my knees, what draws me to Him? Image

The golden words of C.S. Lewis ring in my ears, “The created glory may be expected to give us hints to the Uncreated, for one is derived from the Other and, in some fashion, reflects it.”

Hers is the face of created glory. Her watching eyes do not see life as merely good or bad but as something to discover and dissect.

Untrained. Uninhibited. Beautiful.

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When did I quit discovering and begin judging? Life categorized via pleasure and displeasure. When morning coffee became injected energy instead of a calming enjoyment to accompany a devotion. Seeking to be good instead of becoming good.

I am drawn to His glory by its very reflection.

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When goodbyes are rushed and lack touch.

Smile first. Hug back. Stop grasping, start embracing.

“Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live Truth. Give Thanks. Become the gift.”                                                                                                                  ~ Ann Voskamp

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“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways Your ways                          declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than yours.”  ~ Is.55:8-9

Well it started out as a Game of Thrones rant.. and turned into this.

I wrestled for about an hour over whether or not I should post this. Here goes nothing.

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May I admit something painfully honest? I cried today. Not the few tears that are shed during a touching moment in a movie, not even the somewhat harder crying for the pain of a friend. But I wept bitter, merciless sobs. My heart felt a very literal sense of pain as I cried into my pillow. Even now as I’m typing my fingers are trembling.  I am confused and I am furious.

So as to not scare you into not reading another word, I will explain the circumstances which caused my sudden emotional wreck and inability to form words or even think straight.

I read a review of a TV series and watched about twenty minutes of one.

I know you’re thinking “that’s it?”. And you are probably forming in your mind an image of a girl with crazy hair, wild eyes, and bullhorn that is shouting condemnation upon the world. While my hair may be a bit messy today, I assure you I am not the bullhorn guy. But I may perhaps be a bit crazy. See, I read a review of a TV series that some of my guy friends have gushed about being a great show. The 20 minutes I watched and the detailed review that I read however, broke my heart.

Really, I think of piece of my heart is missing now that guys that I am friends with, that I had respect for, have stooped themselves so low. Men who are married. Men who are leading the men of the next generation in churches. Men who call themselves Christians.

I will not go into detail of the show, but it involves nudity in every level from brothels to bedrooms to dancers etc. And horrific violence. The depravity in this show is in my opinion comparable to my version of hell. Perhaps most painfully obvious of all is the extent of which it is so far from God. So far from anything good. It is so… dark. And the same people who would shun pornographic images, are openly condoning it.

There is something wrong here.

When did engaging in this type of sin purely for entertainment become acceptable? When did a movie rated R for language, violence, and nudity become common among those of us who represent Christ?? Do not misunderstand me, I thoroughly enjoy the movie Braveheart. But the type of entertainment I am speaking of is a whole new level of sin. Somehow the enemy has convinced us that as long as our physical actions are pure, then what we watch on the screen does not affect us. People, hear me now… this is a lie! It is a lie carefully constructed by Satan and seduced into our lives while we choose to remain blind to it’s existence. Why do we wonder why the people outside the church often laugh at the church? Because we have become no different than them!

Where have the men gone that I once knew to turn their eyes from lustful images? Where are the girls and women who used to hold their heads high and be proud of their purity? It would be easier for me to say we sold it. But we have not sold it. We have given it up. As a generation, we have succumbed to the temptation of worldly pleasures! And this… this is why my heart has gone far beyond being hurt to something of a righteous fury. Please please please hear me now, I am very very far from perfect; I am far from wise, and the good that is in me is because God has overtaken me with His love. I do not write to you as one who is guiltless, rather I plead with you because I have seen the same problems that you probably have, only I have decided to do something.

Yet even as I write that last line, my heart sinks within me. What. What can I do? I am so tired of feeling like the only one who cringes when God’s name is abused. I do not feel supported by anyone in my quest for purity. I often become disheartened and choose to ignore the wrong. Until the Holy Spirit convicts me again that we were called to be something so much more than what we are settling for.

I might as well be yelling now for my fingers are hitting the keyboard so fast and hard that the paint will soon be wearing off. I do not mean to yell at you, neither can I hide the passion that is aroused in me when I see the kind of immorality that is so easily accepted! We are children of God for crying out loud! If you do not want that kind of responsibility then what are you doing calling yourself a Christian?

Part of me wishes now that I could pull off that intense whisper that many pastors use to drive their point home; but I have never been comfortable in front of people, I have never felt that my words were eloquent enough to be shared. But though what I am saying is somewhat scattered, what it lacks in coordination it makes up for in importance. God is a God of love. He is a God of mercy and there is no sin so great that He can not forgive. But God is just. And He is holy (Isaiah 6:3). He cannot, in His perfect righteousness, accept lukewarm Christianity (Revelation 3:16).

After all this I am reminded of Psalm 27:13-14: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord;
be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart!”

My beautiful three month old baby girl is laying on the floor next to me. She is innocent. No hurtful words have come from her mouth, no evil thought has entered her mind, no lustful image has crossed her eyes. She is a perfect, sinless human being. While I can not recall the images of the show to my mind without burning with anger, the Bible tells us clearly that we can not live life being angry, not even angry over sin. We can not let the world cause us to hate.

With that in mind earlier this evening, I packed Hayden up and went for a walk in the crisp, fall weather. Trying so hard to understand why God would lay this conviction on me then tell me to love. It didn’t make sense. How are we to walk in enemy territory and claim it for God while not being affected by it? And it occurred to me that although the rest of the world may live in their ignorance of what is evil, we must live in acute awareness of what is beautiful. And the sin that so severely stunned my heart, it was merely that – a stun. And you know what? Now, perhaps more than ever, I am burning with the desire to make integrity something that it has not been since the beginning of the earth – universal. What would it take? To set the world ablaze with our resolve?

Recognize the evil in the world friends, do not ignore it. But do not let it make you bitter. Take heart that one day good will triumph over evil. You are called to a higher standard of purity. When did our faith become un consuming?