I care; You share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

I had coffee with a friend today. I thought we were getting together to laugh. Turns out, we got together for a lesson.

During our conversation, she shared a profound truth, and I asked her to write a guest post on my blog. For you to fully grasp the power of her message, please allow me to share the highlights of what my friend is facing:

  • Her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, has cancer
  • Her 17-year-old son has been dealing with the legal system all year. He was recently released from a psychiatric hospital stay. After a 3rd violation of his probation, they have court soon to determine if he will stay in the home or be placed in the system.
  • Her father-in-law lives with them. In the last month, he has been hospitalized twice with mini-stroke symptoms.
  • Her mother lives with them and, in the last month, has also experienced health issues.
  • My friend has her own mental health journey that is challenging to navigate with all these stressors.

…and we think we have problems? But wait: Capture that thought. My friend, Amanda Meers, has a word regarding that ‘thought’, and I believe we all need to hear it.

Amanda’s insights

I tell you these things, not so that you will feel sorry or have pity, but to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like God gives us a triple plate of life. Most people would prefer these things to happen on individual plates at different times in life (if they have to have them at all). Some people, like me, get all of the plates at once. I have a nickname amongst some of my friends, Jobina (the female Job).

I am often told, when reaching out to different people in my life, that what’s going on in their world is nothing compared to what’s happening in mine (whether they know all of it or only about Sarah’s diagnosis). This is a huge pet peeve of mine!!!

Let me explain:

Yes, everything happening in my life (taken individually or all together) is a lot for anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that the trials happening in your life are any less important or significant than those happening in mine. It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges. If you or someone in your life is going through a hard time—whether it’s a cold, the flu, a baseball bat to the face, strep, issues at school or work—it’s all hard, it’s all scary, it’s all traumatic, and it’s all life. We are in this life together. We are supposed to share so that we can lift each other up in prayer.

Going back to the fruit example (apples and oranges): We are all fruits picked by God. We’re all different—whether you consider yourself an apple or an orange. We have different sizes, different colors, different bruises. When God picks us, we are placed in the fruit truck, all headed to the same place—but our journeys are so different.

Sometimes when people tell me “Well, I know my stuff is nothing compared to what’s happening in your life,” it feels like this means you think that I can’t or won’t or don’t want to pray for you. Praying for you and what’s happening in your life takes the focus off my life. I want to be other-focused. I want to pray for you. So many have been faithful to pray with and for us. By not allowing me to pray for you, you are denying me a blessing. Even if you factor out the friendship and love I have for you, we, as Christians, are meant to pray for each other. Praying for others is my job. If you are not sharing your prayer needs, you are depriving me of the opportunity to do my job. I can pray for you (and I do), but if there are specific things I can be praying, I want to know so we can go to the Father together in prayer. We are not meant to carry our burdens alone—no matter what they are.

We're all fruity. Let's show we care. Let's share.

Great job, Jobina. Thank you for permission to not compare my apples to your oranges. Thank you for praying for my apples as I’m praying for your oranges. Thank you for the invitation to be fruity together. 

You can reach Amanda at ameers2002@icloud.com

Shield-Butt: The New Head-Butt – Armor Up Part 3

Shield of faith

Shield of faith

All my growing-up-in-church life, I consistently heard there is only one piece of God’s armor that is offensive: the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Let’s challenge that by expanding how we view the shield of faith.

When life is hitting hard and attacks are coming from all directions, Ephesians 6:16 assures us that we have protection if we pick it up: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. So, the shield of faith is given to protect us from attacks. However, if we know more about the way shields were used during the time Paul wrote Ephesians (AD62), I think we’ll see there is more we can do with our shield to operate in power during life’s battles.

Roman scutum shield and boss
(left) Scutum shield from Roman invasion of Britain (AD43) with missing boss (right) Another boss, made of bronze and decorated, found in Britain.

At the time of the Roman invasion of Britain (AD43) most Roman shields were rectangular and curved, like part of a cylinder. This shield is called a scutum. In battle the shield was held with the arm straight, holding a grip in the middle. The grip was across a hole cut from the middle of the shield. This hole was protected by a metal boss, a hemisphere of iron with an iron plate around it. The soldier could push this boss into his enemy to knock him off balance.1

But(t) shield…what?

You’re familiar with a head-butt, yes?

Head-butt definition

What if we learned to spiritually “shield-butt”?

When we feel like things are falling apart/are out of control and we don’t see how we can move forward, understanding that we have the ability to shield-butt is empowering. When circumstances are hard, we can either cower under our shield of faith or we can rise up under its protection and operate in power during the battle.

But(t) shield…how?
  1. Remember to pick it up. 2 Samuel 22:31 “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in him.” This God stands ready to be your defender and protector. By faith, call to Him—not your family, your friend nor Facebook—before doing anything when an attack hits. God will set your shield in place. You will feel His strength transfer to you.
  2. Realize its power. 2 Samuel 22:2-3 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.” You are being protected and guided by the all-powerful God. Stand up with that shield and push back at the attacks by stating in your mind and out loud that you are more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). You will feel equipped to deal with whatever comes.
  3. Recognize that shields come in all sizes. 2 Samuel 22:36 You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great.” As you continue, by faith, to reach for your shield every time an attack hits, your spiritual muscles will continue to develop. You will be able to grasp and wield shields of greater size.

During a particularly tough time when I was on staff at a church, I was crying out to God. He showed me some of the spiritual attacks that were being leveled at the church. I remember being on my knees and saying, “I’m raising my shield over her [the church], but I’m only one.” That’s when God taught me that shields come in varied sizes and that He had given me a big one for this battle. When I got off my knees, I felt empowered with His strength, equipped to handle what would come and knew I was continuing to build my spiritual muscles as I gave the mess a good spiritual shield-butt in prayer.

Don’t cower; take up that shield!

1North, Tony. “Roman Shields.” Time Trips. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <http://www.timetrips.co.uk/rom-art-scutum.htm>.

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.

 

Predictable schmedictable

I hate to be called “predictable”.

I much prefer to think of myself as the lady pictured above…slightly mysterious, always thinking, the kind of person who makes people laugh due to the quirky, unexpected things that spill out. Ah, my true inner self.

Of course, there is only so much unique discourse a ‘slightly mysterious’ person can have on hand at any given time. And when said person lives with a man who loves to be the first one to figure out how things work and is gifted at sifting through all possible outcomes to arrive at the most obvious one…well, let’s just say, it can be a trifle challenging to maintain the mystery. All it takes is that word—usually in a text conversation—to make me not want to talk to him for at least the rest of the day. In my mind, that text conversation looks something like…

 

This week, however, I got to see being predictable in a fresh way. That same husband texted me that he was “thinking” about doing something that was a bit uncomfortable and outside his comfort zone due to not knowing how it would be received. Here is a snippet of how I replied in that actual conversation:

 

I hadn’t thought of this before, but, yes—I want to be known for being “spiritually predictable”. When people approach me needing a safe place to explore the deeper/harder things in life, I want them to find consistency. (btw: My awesome husband immediately followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and put into action what he’d been thinking.)

How can we become people of spiritual predictability?

  1. Choose a filter and live it. We must know who we’ll be before deep/hard stuff hits. When it falls on us, we don’t have the bandwidth to try to figure out how to be grace-filled because we’re in survival mode. To do minimal harm as we’re navigating difficult times, we need to have in mind the type of person for which we want to be known. Most likely we won’t feel like being that person in the moment, but if we’ve chosen a filter, it will guide us in saying things that fit that filter and quiet in us the things that don’t.
  2. Know who Jesus is. Speaking of spiritually predictable… Jesus never made a mistake, so the more we read and study how He handled the hard stuff, we can know the perfect way to deal with whatever life hands us. Daily Bible reading is off-season preparation for when we’re thrown into the game. It’s not something we “have to” do. For those who want to handle life with grace and style, it’s a gift.
  3. Ask God for strength to be spiritually predictable. On our own, we don’t have the required wisdom nor the strength to be this consistent. James 1:5-8 says:

    If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

What’s your filter? Do you want to be known as “spiritually predictable” or would you rather be blown and tossed by the wind when a storm hits?

I’m a work in progress in becoming as spiritually predictable as I’d like. However, as this is my chosen filter, I’m predicting that God will continue to give me the wisdom to live it out.