A Bruised Heart Full of Sprap

sprap = spam + crap

Bruised Heart

My heart is bruised. It has a specific cause rooted in the actions of others. I thought I was fine; turns out, I’m not. It hit me as I stood in a church to sing:
      Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
      Holy, holy is He
      Sing a new song to Him who sits on
      Heaven’s mercy seat
In the past when I sang this, I could always recall a new work I’d seen God do that week. I’d think about it and effortlessly praise Him with a ‘new song’—but not this time. I felt flat and disconnected. I couldn’t sing…but the song kept going. I couldn’t sing, so I prayed. “Lord, all I can tell You is I’m aware my heart is bruised and I know it has nothing to do with You. I love You, but the hurt is making me numb.” I’m not sure what I expected God to do…but before I tell you what He did, let me unpack a little about a bruised heart.

“You’ve Got Bruised Mail”

See if you can relate to this: You’re going about your life. Over time, you become aware that truckloads of junk you know you didn’t ask for are getting deposited into your life-inbox. Feeling strong, you scroll through, select and ‘delete’ that junk. You don’t open it or look at it. Out of sight, out of mind, you think you’ve cleared it away. The next day, however, the crap reappears looking exactly the same. With irritation, you take a peek, but then quickly close and trash it all.  However, it won’t go away. Crazy as this sounds, the following day more junk just like it starts to infect your mind/heart-inbox because you made the fatal error of looking at something in that sprap.

SPRAP - Spam + Crap = unwanted junk deposited into our life-inbox

facepalm

You looked at the sprap, and now you can’t shake it. The ridiculously ugly content has gotten into your head and has bruised your heart.

 

What the sprap bruised your heart?

I know the nature of my sprap. Is yours within this list?

*Degrading words
*Family dysfunction
*Abandonment
*Being overlooked
*Made to feel inferior
*Betrayal
*Broken trust
*Abuse of power
*Death
*Addiction
*Deception
*Rejection
*Prayer that seems unanswered
*Low self-worth
*Your pride alienated others

The list of human-to-human ugliness is unending.  While it’s awful, God has the power to bring something beautiful from it. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph—who could put a check mark by most of the hurts on the above list–saw God’s mighty hand at the end of many bruising years. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Our bruises, too, have the power to help others if we’ll deal with our sprap and let the Holy Spirit begin the healing.

Healing a bruised heart
Some hearts are more than bruised, they’re broken. Healing may be a long process and require professional help before the pain can connect to God’s promised good.  Psalm 147:3 is a sustaining hope for the journey, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” My heart is saddened thinking of how uphill that path is for the deeply wounded because I’ve been there, too. What I can tell you is that those I’ve known who’ve opened their sprap and done the hard work to heal are some of the most interesting and dimensionally profound people I’ve met. Their ‘new songs’ are powerfully moving.

For me, God began healing this bruise on my heart in that worship service. When I couldn’t connect to singing a new song because my bruised heart was too numb, the Holy Spirit met me there. As the music played, I suddenly had this understanding: You are singing Me a new song. This is the first time you’ve sang to Me with a bruised heart. This is a new song and now you know what it sounds like. I receive your praise in this new song. That assurance was the beginning of my bruise fading; but it’s just the beginning.

His love gives us courage to keep moving toward healing. That’s my new song. I’m praying for all who read this—whether bruised, broken or healed. May a new song rise up and may that song point people to God’s love.

 

Breastplate Covering Exposes Light! – Armor Up Part 5

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

God's light coming from heart covered by His breastplate of righteousness

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…Ephesians 6:14.

definition of breastplate, righteousness

Typically, if something is covered, it’s in darkness. However, in a holy-flip-move, God’s breastplate of righteousness is in place so that its covering produces light. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to share what happens if we don’t have this armor in place.

OUR DARK SECRET PLACE

Cathy Ncube

Take off the ARMOR OF GOD!
   Remove the BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS!                 
     Throw away the SHIELD OF FAITH!  
         Forget the TRUTH OF GOD’S WORD!

Let’s do what we want to do
        in our dark secret world,
           at our dark secret place,
               at our own selfish pace.

Let’s make our own choices.
Let’s listen to our own voices.     

Let’s act by the power of
    OUR might.
It doesn’t have to be right.
Let’s do it anyway.
Let’s go astray.

And when we leave that darkness and
   face family and friends,
They’ll never know about our dark place    or of our dark secret sins.

We will not worry about the
         consequences.
We are fully protected by
         Satan’s fences.

And if we die in our
    sinful state,
Hell has an open gate.
Our “hearts” are the spiritual part of us that connect to the world. What we intake becomes what influences us. Out of the overflow, our hearts flex and we output words and actions. These demonstrate what we believe and value to those around us. If our hearts are not covered by God and His ways, darkness resides in the place of light. It’s often a slow fade, but it starts with the word “no”.

CRACK IN THE BREASTPLATE

crack in armor

At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through.1  These are the most deceptive of moments because they often feel good. It’s easy to think that ‘this’ is a good thing—especially if it is relieving pain, loneliness or hurt. If the breastplate of God’s righteousness is not in place, we may even think that ‘its’ arrival is a light to pierce a dark season of our soul. The guiding question we need to ask ourselves is this: Does what I’m doing align with God’s Word? If not, it’s not from God.

It can be tricky, but remember:

…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14

God, on the other hand:

God is pure light, undimmed by darkness of any kind. If we say we have an intimate connection with the Father but we continue stumbling around in darkness, then we are lying because we do not live according to truth. If we walk step by step in the light, where the Father is, then we are ultimately connected to each other through the sacrifice of Jesus His Son. His blood purifies us from all our sins. If we go around bragging, “We have no sin,” then we are fooling ourselves and are strangers to the truth. But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done. 1 John 1:5-9

BREASTPLATE IN PLACE

If we’ve left our hearts exposed and darkness has taken up residence, God stands ready to help set our breastplate of righteousness in place.

Check out this sermon illustration I recently heard:

Imagine you bought a house. You have all new furniture loaded on a moving truck and you’re ready to move in. On a dark evening, you drive over to the new house to start setting some furniture in place. The key works and, in a minute, you’re in. Walking to the first room, you flip on a switch and, unbelievably, you see the former person’s furniture is still there! Your shoulders droop because you had hoped to get started right away setting up your new life. Now, you see there is unexpected work to do. Before the new furniture can get moved in, the old is going to have to go. Overwhelmed, you know you’re going to need help…and a Helper arrives. This is the Holy Spirit coming to do the heavy lifting. He walks you through the darkened rooms of your heart and shows you what needs to go so the new can come in. He doesn’t leave you to do it alone, He is there to do the work in you. As soon as you’ve partnered to clear out one room, the Lord tenderly puts His arm around your shoulder and says, “Now: Let’s walk to the next one.” Chris Malone @ChrisMMalone

May God’s breastplate of righteousness cover us so well that His light cleans our rooms and shines from our hearts.

 

1GotQuestions.org. “What is the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)?” GotQuestions.org. N.p., 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017. <https://www.gotquestions.org/breastplate-of-righteousness.html>.

 

Loving God with your mind when you feel like you’ve lost it

In bible college, I was assigned J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. In it:

Moreland explains the importance of using your mind not only to win others to Christ but also to experience personal spiritual growth. Moreland challenges you to use logic and reason to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation.

Moreland highlighted that Western Christians are often not respected intellectually because they’ve pursued the experience of God and disregarded pursuing the knowledge of God. I was inspired by the book and its invitation to engage my mind as an act of worship.

That said, this week I’ve been looking at Matthew 22:37 in a new light.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

As a pastor, mom, wife, sister and friend, I’ve walked with people as they’ve experienced brokenness that sent their hearts and souls reeling from the pain. These soul-shattering faithquakes often release anger and blame—many times toward God. Even more concerning, faithquakes can open cell doors to a numbness prison where self-sentenced, devastated people lock up to escape the pain.

During these dark seasons, many people report they cannot feel God. In the grip of overwhelming hurt, they can mistake that lack of feeling as a sign. Is God not there? Has He gone away as a form of punishment? How does all this relate to Matthew 22:37?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

When the parts of us that are made to feel and experience God—our heart and soul—are locked down or consumed by our situation, God offers a way to keep hope strong through loving Him with our minds. We can do this by:

  • Remembering how He has transformed our reality. Former situations in our lives may not have anything to do with what we’re currently experiencing. However, using our mind to recall how God showed up in the past is basically saying, “God, I don’t know how You’re going to work in this current mess, I just know that You’re going to” (1 Samuel 17:37). It isn’t a magic prayer that will immediately change things. It will, however, allow us to stay connected as we’re navigating the mess. Loving God with our mind in this way prevents the spiritual attacks of doubt and anger from getting a foothold when our circumstances are the most intense.
  • Using words of faith not fear. Words matter (for more on this in a former post, click here).When we speak the truth that we know God is working (Philippians 1:6)…that God has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11)…that He will work this mess for something good (Romans 8:28)…we are loving God with our mind. Even though we have no idea how He will do it, even though our heart hurts and it isn’t well with our soul, loving God with our mind means speaking words of truth anyway. The alternative is to speak words of fear and freaking-out which will block our minds from receiving God’s creative way forward. Here’s a powerful truth: Our words become our world.
  • Trusting past the pain. We will most likely not understand why God is allowing so much pain. In the space between the initial shock and some understanding of “why”, we need to limp toward trust. God is in control and is holding everything together (Colossians 1:17). Trusting keeps hope alive that good is on the way.

It takes time to rebuild after a faithquake. As we’re navigating it and healing, the last thing we need is to feel condemned because we’re not being a good Christian. Loving God with our mind when our emotional and spiritual self is bruised or broken keeps us connected and growing through the pain.

I’m praying for all those who are hurting and reading this. While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I pray you can relax into loving God with your mind and have grace for yourself if the feelings aren’t there right now.

 

Turn your “OW” into a “WOW”

When life is hard, that pain = ow.

I’ve always equated hard times to giving birth. If you, as a couple, knew exactly how long labor pains were going to last, you’d pace yourselves. Let’s say you knew that in exactly 14 hours and 36 minutes it would be over. Even at the 12-hour mark, you could pant, “Only 2 hours and 36 minutes to go! Hanging in there!”. However, when labor pains transform a normally lovely woman into a sweating, red-faced mess of “hee hee hoo”, the unrelenting agony can trigger a loss of perspective. The only goal is to get it over with.

Difficult seasons in our lives feel this intense. Emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually it can seem as through we’re drowning in the Sea of Ow. During these times, we’re not able to see when–or if–there will be a guaranteed end to the pain. We can be so consumed by the situation that it’s hard to see any point to the “ow”.

Many people know the story of Job from the Bible. He is the poster child for suffering through a ton of unfair circumstances. In every way possible, Job was afflicted. In Job 30:20-22, he’s had it.

I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
    I stand up, but you merely look at me

You turn on me ruthlessly;
    with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
    you toss me about in the storm.

Have you ever felt like that—maybe even feeling it now? Everything you wanted…everything you hoped…everything you worked for – gone. Perhaps, like Job, you have called out to God and told Him how you think He ought to handle the situation. And, as in Job’s case, maybe God didn’t do things the way you wanted them done.

When the ow is overwhelming, we can lose perspective. Yet, the most inspiring people are those who share their story of surviving a crushing challenge. But honestly…? It’s easy to be inspired when the pain is over. Think childbirth again. Labor stories are about intense pain that lead to the wonderful “wow” outcome of holding a new baby. Rather than waiting for life’s situational agony to pass, is there a way to help our “ow” become a “wow” as it’s happening? Let’s consider Job again and take some cues:

  1. Don’t waste your suffering. To be blunt: You have to deal with whatever is happening to you, so you might as well suck it dry for every lesson it can teach. As you open your eyes in the morning and the reality that the “ow” is still there washes over you, convert that pain to prayer. Ask God to show You what you need to learn. Job mostly wallowed in his pain and spun his wheels—not a great role model for this point. Ask yourself: Am I praying as much as complaining?
  2. Understand there is purpose to your suffering. Like Job, you would never intentionally put yourself into a hard situation. However, certain things can only be learned in the hard, dry, dark places of life. The most interesting people are those who have walked through a pit, come through and now share what they’ve learned. I say all the time that while I wish I hadn’t had to go through the ugly times, I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything.
  3. Take strength that it’s a season. After the Lord gave Job the equivalent of a spanking, He restored Job’s life (Job 42). Sometimes, there is no way to “go back” to how things were. Loved ones die, families dissolve, homes are lost, relationships are severed. I’ve discovered a simple truth that has allowed me to handle hard times with peace. God never wants us to “go back”. He always invites us to move forward. As we stay close to Him in prayer, take comfort from His Word and His past faithfulness, He’ll begin to gift us with a glimmer of the “wow” that could be ours because of the current “ow”.

Are you in the middle of an Ow? I’m praying that you’ll be able to suck it dry and see that this season will lead you to become more than you thought possible.

Have you survived an Ow? My prayer is that you are actively looking for how you can help someone else who is currently hurting.

The only difference between “ow” and “wow” is that first “w”. Let that “w” = a win in your life.

 

Jail Break Alert – get free from sin

Jail Break Alert

Someone you love is being held prisoner and you have the power to set that person free.

The biggest challenge to your mission–if you choose to accept it–is that the prison is invisible and mobile. There is a way to penetrate its security measures, but instead of commando tools, it requires a different, specialized set of skills.

Galatians 3:22 (WNT) But Scripture has shown that all mankind are the prisoners of sin…

We all have the potential to be locked up, in the slammer, nailed & jailed, in the tank. Some are in the prison of sin for pre-meditated acts, yet many find themselves imprisoned simply because of acts they commit while living their everyday lives.

Humans sin–that isn’t a newsflash. The headline that should be screaming is this: We don’t have to be imprisoned to sin.

When you–a prisoner to sin–place your faith in Jesus Christ, an advocate is immediately appointed to your case. This advocate is the Holy Spirit, and He will work tirelessly to set you free.  However, you can hinder your pathway to freedom to the degree by which you block the work of the advocate. The way to freedom is to give complete power of attorney to the Holy Spirit and be guided by His counsel and power.

There is a sad epidemic in the Christian world.  Many have decided to believe in Jesus, but their lives don’t look much different than pre-decision; their lives don’t seem much different from other people who don’t supposedly have the Holy Spirit as their advocate. If being a Christian is supposed to lead to a power-filled life, why do so many Christians continue to feel powerless?

Gal 3:22 (WNT) …in order that the promised blessing, which depends on faith in Jesus Christ, may be given to those who believe.

While I don’t share all of John Piper’s convictions, I do see the missing link to this power-filled freedom in what he shares here:

For [many] the Holy Spirit [is] a fact of experience… a fact of doctrine.  It is easy to imagine a spiritual counselor saying to a new convert today, “Don’t expect to notice any difference. Just believe you have received the Spirit.” But that is far from what we see in the New Testament.  In Acts the Holy Spirit is not a silent influence but an experienced power. Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is a real, life-changing experience. Christianity is not merely an array of glorious ideas. I sometimes fear that we have so redefined conversion in terms of human decisions and have so removed any necessity of the experience of God’s Spirit, that many people think they are saved when in fact they only have Christian ideas in their head not spiritual power in their heart. if you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit — [you will experience] a new desire to magnify God in worship and a powerful disposition to obey God in everyday life.

Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is a topic that can lead to polarization in Christian camps. Ideas such as:

  • There is no such thing as a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit – there is only water baptism.
  • Every believer has the Holy Spirit in him/her upon conversion.
  • A sign of being baptized into the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in tongues.
  • Speaking in tongues ceased with the age of the apostles.

…and on and on.  It is yet one more ploy of our enemy, Satan, to confuse the source of power for believers in Jesus Christ. Get the believers fighting about doctrine and they will lose track of how to live with peace, power and purpose.

If you are a believer in Jesus and are struggling to live with freedom from habitual and debilitating sin–if you long to live a life marked by the power to face every situation, then look to Acts 2 to see how.

Peter was preaching to the crowd that gathered after the Holy Spirit filled the believers at Pentecost (vv 1-36).  After hearing what Peter preached, the people wanted this power to come into them and they asked, “What should we do?” (vs 37).  Peter gave them clear instruction that reaches through the ages to modern-day Christians. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (vs 38)

They had to repent of what they’d been doing that wasn’t God-honoring– how they’d been living — past patterns and behaviors that were holding them down.  Too many Christians today want Jesus to be their Savior but not their Lord.  They want to hang on to their right to do what they want–to handle life their way–and they want God to somehow bless their mess.

Look what happened to those who listened to Peter, repented and were baptized. In verses 42-47, their lives were RADICALLY CHANGED.  They no longer lived for themselves, they lived for things that had God’s kingdom values at the heart.  They.were.changed.

In what area(s) of life are you continually defeated and worn down because of not doing things God’s way?

If you are a believer in Jesus and find that you are spinning your wheels locked in a prison of sin-patterns that defeat you and wound others, the question is this: Are you willing to repent? Are you willing to say, “Lord, my ways are not working. I lay it down and I make room for the Holy Spirit to be my guide. I want to be changed. I want to be free. I am done with my ways and I want to turn from them and do things Your way.”

Super easy words to type and read, but it requires tremendous courage to pray them.  Until we do, we are the ones who walk into jail cells and shut the door behind us. No amount of talking, crying or counseling will have the power to set us free.  It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and He stands ready to move in power.

Will you let Him?

 

What if we SHUT UP and prayed?

Within the past few months, my husband and I were sitting on our deck when the phone rang. As I listened to what was shared with me on the other end, my head began a slow, disbelieving shake and my mouth almost couldn’t form words of response.  I was hearing the sort of next installment in a drama that had already aired too many episodes.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so high on the “Are you kidding me?” scale that I quickly hit the speakerphone button so my husband could listen in. After a few minutes, we reached an uncomfortable way to move forward with the caller and hung up.

Now, historically, when this kind of thing crops up, my husband and I immediately start talking about it—and by “talking” I mean dissecting how things went, how things are going wrong, how so-and-so needs to do this, how the sky is falling, how this may usher in the end of the world as we know it…on and on.

I don’t think we are alone in this reaction.

My experience with most homo sapiens is that when something is not going the way they want, they search out other homo sapiens and start “talking”.

This particular night, as soon as the call disconnected, I knew the USS Talk was about to sail.  Before it could, I grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “Let’s pray”.  Honestly, the situation was such a mess, that I just didn’t trust that we knew how to “talk” about it.

We prayed – one of those prayer times birthed from desperation.  “Lord, if You don’t do something, nothing of any good can happen.” It was the kind of prayer that is stripped away of everything but humbled hearts interceding to the only One who has the power to redeem the mess.

As we finished our verbal prayer, we sat in silence and just listened.  The night was still. The lack of wind amplified the sound and song of every invisible creature that was around us.  I listened because I was too in shock to think.

And into that space, I received this from God. “For the rest of this night, you two are not allowed to “talk” about this situation unless you are speaking to Me about the situation in prayer.” 

Wow – that took a minute to process. How do I know it was God?  Because who in their right mind comes up with something like that?

I told my husband what I had received.  We’ve been together for 17 years, and this has never been the way we’ve handled a difficult issue.  Like most people who pray, we usually “talk” until we’re exhausted with the mess and then we pray about it.  Or, we pause and pray and then talk until we’re exhausted with the mess.

But this silent night, God wanted to teach us something.

For the rest of the evening, a thought about the situation would occur to one of us. We’d open our mouth to “talk” but then convert it to a 3-way prayer conversation. We’d still share what was bugging us, but it wasn’t just so we could talk to each other about how messed up we thought things were.  This night, we were still laying it all out there, but we were also actively engaging God in the dialog.

Proverbs 10:19 says this, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” NIV.
In the NLT it’s worded this way, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

Look at the practical applications of this:

  • Words matter. When a situation is at an incredibly tender state, the words you speak are contributing, spiritually, to the situation.  They will either be a blessing or a curse.  You may think that if someone can’t hear the ugly things you’re saying that it doesn’t matter, but there are spiritual forces that do. They will take those words and use them to cause harm—either to the one you’ve got an issue with or to yourself by robbing you of peace and the ability to receive direction because you’re so eaten up with the words you’ve spewed.  For another blog post about the importance of words, click here.
  • The more you say the more opportunities you have to say something stupid. Enough said.
  • Sin is not ended the more you talk about it.  Even if you’re in the right, talking about it outside of talking directly to the people involved doesn’t make what they did move toward correction. Know how I know?  Because God said, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”

 

To the one reading this who says, “This is unrealistic. I just need to vent sometimes. I need to process.”  OK.  I’m not suggesting that you stop processing – I’m sharing with all of us what God shared with me: Process with Him. You can do it in the company of others if need be, but take it Up before you take it out.

As that long night progressed, we had peace even though we didn’t have resolution.  That’s what God offers.  As we do things His way, we are available for these kinds of blessings in the midst of our struggles.

So to a world that needs to hear:  Let’s shut up and pray.

 

 

 

The “Achoo, Bless you” thing, because words matter.

It’s allergy season in Tennessee, and religion is getting a boost. Someone’s head explodes and you hear—what I call—the “Achoo, Bless You” chant. There are more “bless you’s” flying around now than in the off-season, so we have that going for us….or do we?

I’ll spare the history lesson on the origins of the “Achoo, Bless You”. But, is anyone tuning in? When I get “bless you’d”, I often want to say, “Do you mean it? You’re really blessing me? What blessing are you giving me?” Yes, yes, I know: I’m over-inflating the “bless you” thing, but it highlights something deeper.

We’ve lost understanding that words matter—every word.
As I listen to the casual way words are tossed around in our society, I’m often struck by the fact that we’ve lost this foundational truth: Words matter—every word. They are either a blessing or a curse – they bring life or they usher in death. Too often, I hear people calling each other names and then quickly following it up with, “Just kidding”. And don’t get me started on this one: Parents say, “Oh, she’s 4 going on 14.” AAAAGGGHHHH – let her be 4 or stop wondering why you have to put up with a teen’s mouth on a tiny tot. Parents label their children; spouses label each other as their behavior. “You are a liar. You are so lazy. You are disrespectful. You are selfish.” Words matter, and when labels are assigned, people sink—or rise—to the assignment.

We’ve lost understanding that words spoken cannot be unsaid.
Genesis 27 makes no sense in our modern world. If I told you that a guy cheated his brother out of getting a verbal “blessing” from his father, would it matter much? What’s the big deal? It’s only words. That dad could go back and tell everyone he made a mistake and transfer the words to the other guy. Call a do-over. But our way of seeing it underscores another thing we’ve lost: Once words are spoken, they cannot be unsaid. When anger rules our tongues and typing/texting fingers, we spew poison. A Verbal Poison Control Hotline doesn’t exist, and an antidote to undo the damage isn’t a phone call away. If the poison-source isn’t cleaned up, the slow-drip of verbal venom into another person’s soul will destroy their sense of self.

Do we understand there is a way to control our words?
How can we change? It’s not about our will power. It’s not about just saying “no” (more about that next week). It’s about knowing you are powerless to do better. How many times have you spewed and then sorry’d all over yourself? It’s exhausting and embarrassing. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can change poison into positivity. It starts by telling God what you need. You need His help over your words – and your heart. Sound too easy—too much like a cop-out? “I just tell God I need His help? That makes it sound like it’s all on Him to change who I am. “ Exactly.

Your part? Keep it simple: Make “space” for Him to do the work. Praying and asking God for help is one way to make this space. Instead of standing on your thoughts and ideas, you are opening up room for Him to give you His thinking and new deposits of faith. The more faith God deposits, the more you trust that He can do this good work of transforming poison into pathways to love.

Pause and pray. Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
My favorite verse in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 10:5. It’s my favorite because it has been the instruction from God that has helped transform me the most. “Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”. When I only speak words that Christ would approve, I will not speak poison. When I’m tempted to spew, I try to say God’s words instead of my own. Pause, pray and take the poison captive before it escapes. Let the Lord do the cleansing work. He’ll either give you the self-control to be silent or a productive, cleaned-up way to speak.

Words matter – Lord, I need you to help me choose words that bring life in situations where it’s easier to breathe fire. Help me to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. In this area of my life, I need You like breath, God. Thank You for loving and leading me. Amen.

Plant a New Seed (Part 2) Plant a new seed – and release the outcome to God. Peaceful parenting … even while it’s not perfect.

seeds

Plant a new seed – Part 2

As I was reading Proverbs 4 – reflecting on how fervently I wished that all the wisdom I had imparted to my offspring had stuck and born fruit, I continued my reflecting by thinking, “At least I can relax into knowing that I planted good seed all those years.” After all, in another spot in Proverbs, the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Pvb 22:6). Again, that’s not a promise, but the principle stands that if I teach my child correctly, then at some point, said child will recall the training and live according to it.

But in one of those awesome moments where the God-who-loves- you-enough-to-tell-you-the-truth-when-you-hang-out-with-Him-decides-it’s-time-to-take-you-to-the-next-level-of-right-thinking, I gained a new insight.

Power Lesson #4: The seeds I planted may not still be there.

At first, I was like, “What?!?!?!”

The Lord took me to Mark 4:3-7:
“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.

For a long time, I’ve been resting in the misguided thinking that all the seeds of wisdom I have scattered over my offspring will one day spring to life. What the Lord showed me was that during those hard years when I was “training” with good wisdom, the soil o’ my offspring was so anti-wisdom that either those seeds never connected with soil, got “ate up” or they “withered away”. So much of what I imparted may simply not be there.

Interesting…very interesting, Holy Spirit.

We stayed in conversation, and at the end, He brought me to this:

Power Lesson #5: You don’t know the current state of the soil. Sow a new seed so that when the soil is “good”, the seed is fresh.

For me, I take that to mean that I cannot relax into “I did all I could back in the day.” “It’s all in there.”

Don’t misunderstand: I have lovingly continued to share with my offspring over the years, but I get a different understanding when viewing it through the lens of “What is the current state of the soil?”

I have no desire to beat my offspring over the head – I want said little blessing to see–by the way I live and love–that God loves that precious soul and is waiting with open arms. I “assume” my offspring knows this because I’ve said it so often. Yet, the Lord is encouraging me to plant a new seed because:
*The seed may not have actually fallen on any soil – plant a new seed.
*The soil may still be rocky – plant a new seed.
*The soil may be full of thorns – plant a new seed.
*One day, that soil IS going to be good soil, and when it is, the “new seed” will flourish – plant a new seed.

I know going ahead of God is worthless, so I’m praying, reaching into my seed bag and looking tenderly at what I hold in my hand. What if — what if — that little seed is the one? What if? I have no power to make that seed grow, but I can, as the Lord leads, put that seed out there and see if it “takes”.

Plant a new seed – and release the outcome to God. Peaceful parenting … even while it’s not perfect.

Plant a new seed (Part 1): Did your kid come with a formula book? Yah – mine didn’t either.

Plant a New Seed – Part 1

“Yah, God, but what about when the stuff I’m reading in Your Word doesn’t exactly go like the Bible says it will….?”

I’m reading Proverbs 4 on this gorgeous Tennessee morning. It’s chock-full of wisdom encouragement: Parents – share wisdom with your kids. Kids, listen and apply and your life will go well.

Ok – so, I’ve done my part over my 19+ years as a parent, and – truth be told, it’s isn’t quite the clean formula that it appears from first read. I’ve taught and modeled wisdom and I’ve mournfully watched as my offspring rejected it to the glory of wasted years and a wandering wilderness. So, did I do it “wrong”? I mean, all good Christian parents know that if you apply the formula: Prayer, raise your kids in church, teach them bible verses, do VBS (even at home when they’re little), show them what it means to put God first, your spouse second with them a close next….then everything will be great. But, we have walked through years of “not great”. What the heck? Hello, Condemnation, welcome to my spirit. I must have done something wrong. And yet, every professional we sought gave us the unwavering truth, “You’re doing everything right.”

Hmmmm: Power Lesson #1: You can be a good parent but not be getting good results…yet.

Sorry, Condemnation, you need to go. Turns out, you’re a lie and a distraction to me praying in power for the great and glorious day when all these trials will turn into trails to greatness. See Ya.

Proverbs isn’t a book of promises; it’s a book of principles. The underlying principle is this: IF you do things God’s way, THEN you will see great and Godly outcomes. However, in relation to children, here’s a sobering truth:

Power Lesson #2: Our kids are not us. We cannot make them choose to follow God’s ways even when we’ve served them up on a delicious plate of “Here you go”.

In the weirdest way that only makes sense to those who have the guts to follow Jesus no matter what, I’m actually grateful for these hard years. If not for them, I would have been that pastor who taught the CPF (Christian Parent Formula): If you do all the right things, you, too, can have perfect kids like mine.

I’m not saying that formula doesn’t work – I’ve had great results with other offspring who have chosen to apply it and are enjoying the fruit of it. What I am saying is this:

Power Lesson #3: Don’t trust the formula, trust God.

Christian Parents: Let’s be willing to trust our kids to God and not rely on our own, exhaustive efforts. Can you enjoy your child even while he/she is completely ignoring wisdom? Can you live in hope while you wait for him/her to stop screwing around with evil and begin dancing with the God who loves him/her? Can you show your children God’s love more by the way your live out your relationship with Him than by the things you “do” or the places you put your kids? Can you not take credit when your kids turn out awesome because you have the space to admit it’s by God’s grace–not you–that they have?

Anyone with an ounce of honesty will admit that parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love.
Pray like crazy and keep planting seeds…more on that later.