On Trophy Wives and Victory

I have discovered something this week.

I am a trophy wife. And you may be too.

Now, to those of you who know what I look like, stop laughing. And, no, it has nothing to do with my husband, or anything like that. And no, I didn’t gold-plate myself this week.

According to Google, a trophy is

“1.a cup or other, decorative object awarded as a prize for a victory or success.
2. The weapons and other spoils of a defeated army set up as a memorial of victory.”

I fit both definitions.

For the first, Jesus died for me, specifically, along with everyone else. (Which makes us the Bride of Christ) He went through all the horror of an imaginable death (I’m sorry, but Passion of the Christ doesn’t come close to the reality of it), plus whatever He went through while dead before raising back to life, plus the humility of encaging Himself, the hugeness of God, into a human frame, for me and for us all. We are the prize He fought for, the award He gains for His success on accomplishing and overcoming faithfully. Does that mean we are only decorative objects that He hangs on the walls of heaven like a bunch of shields or sit around in heaven eating chocolate cupcakes and looking pretty like it’s the playboy mansion? No- I believe strongly that we are meant to work, to choose to become, or remain, a dust free trophy, instead of one that just sits around. (This does not mean I believe we can earn anything. That is a totally different subject. When we chose Christ, we are saved “made into the trophy”, which we can do nothing to make ourselves into, but it’s our responsibility to attempt to attain, through Christ Whom we cannot do anything without, holiness, or a “dust-free” exterior.)

This brings me to the second part of the definition to being a trophy – the defeated army part. I am also that, and constantly trying to become more of that. I don’t know about you, but I am constantly fighting in my mind and body to overcome all my junk, to maintain my focus on Christ and what He says about me, regardless of the thoughts in my head or the people around me or the mirror that tells me that I can never be a prized trophy. It is a moment by moment choice, a sacrifice to choose to be defeated by Him and still know that I can stand, humble and strong before Him. Part of this trophy part is for us, too. When we look back on our life or our day, we can see where God has taken us and the victories He’s brought us through- we have a memorial of victory.

Allelujah Lord!!! Thank You for who You make us to be!

On a Surprising Find and Running Whales through Colanders

I have been struggling what to write in this blog. It seems there’s a hundred things bound up in my heart, with all the words trying to come out at once but none actually succeeding, like a hundred whales trying to swim through a pasta sieve. And then, I heard this pastor speaking while I was driving my car and flipping through the channels. And he says everything that my heart is crying out for, desiring to know, to give, to understand, to put into words. Especially after the 9 minute marker, or the last 7 minutes, if you are in that much of a hurry.

Seeking Only God’s Approval (pt2)

I highly encourage you to take about 30 minutes to listen to this, especially if you seek help and encouragement on “how to die to yourself daily, live for Christ and develop a passion to reach the lost and dying.”

Of Overwhelming Love and the Possibility of Creating More Frogs

As I’ve been reading through Isaiah and Jeremiah this week, the concepts of love and forgiveness keep blowing me away. God states all these things that were done by Israel, and that we all have done- not trusting Him even when we have seen so clearly that He is real and trustworthy, turning our backs on Him after He has provided everything we can imagine ever wanting plus some more, looking right in His face and denying that he exists or matters. And, understandably, He is upset about it. Like very upset. He is betrayed, denied, lied to, hurt, used.

Just like any of us would be in similar circumstances.

But He has the power to totally destroy us or turn us into frogs or make our lives horribly miserable or basically whatever He wants. And is totally justified to do so, and sometimes does. (Not the frog part though, I think….lol) And both Isaiah and Jeremiah are full of His threats to do so.

And there a lot of people stop, seeing only the “God of the Old Testament” (who is no different now, by the way….), lots of vengeance and war and things. And they totally miss the point.

Both books are at their heart, a call to repentance and a note of love. I cannot count how many times both books say
“I will restore you”
“Repent and I will enable you to overcome”
“I want to bless you”
“Your country will endure forever and all people will flock to you”
“I love you so much”
And that idea overwhelms me.

Think about it. You have an extremely close friend whom you care for very much. And they go through a hard time. So you give them everything you have- all your food, your clothes, your home. Not just to stay in or borrow. To own. Then they tell you they hate you. Things get bad for them again, and they come back to you, hoping you will help them. So you do. You give them all your savings, even that 401(k) you’ve been fighting to put money in for the last 20 years. They take it, of course, and run off. You don’t hear from them for two years. When you do, they just want more from you and don’t bother to even ask how you’ve been since they last saw you.

And you look at them and say, Yes, I want to help you and I will give you everything I can, but please tell me thank you. I love you, and I want to give you more. And I desire to be closer to you. And I forgive you.

Like that. How can you not love a God like that? How can you not be drawn to someone who will love you despite your open using and abusing of them, who still desires to be with you despite your failings?

Oh, God, how You love us!

When I first started this internship at Hope City, I was wanting to learn how to help others without enabling them. And I am learning that, it’s not about enabling someone or not in their problems. (Of course there are boundaries that need to be maintained. Don’t get me wrong. But I am becoming more convinced that those boundaries are more for that time period when the individual is seeking to overcome their difficulties. ) It’s about enabling someone to love. And the only way that can be done is by demonstrating love, lots of it.

Thank You Lord for the massive love You’ve demonstrated to us in the death and resurrection of Your Son, and the love that You continue to share!!! I am so humbled by all that You do for me.
Enable me to show that love better. Wake us up to our lethargy and wanderings from You and enable us to give as much as we have received from You.

On Borderless Oceans and Frozen

“Spirit take me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters,
Wherever You would call me.”

(Oceans, by Hillsong)

Lately God has been teaching me more and more about following Him, no matter what it looks like to me. It’s Him I’m following, and, as long as I can see Him, why should I worry about what’s in front of Him? To do so takes my eyes off of what’s really important and puts them on the things I can’t control anyway.

To walk where there is no borders. In a move that was very, very far from anything I had planned, I signed up for another three month internship at Hope City. While this was something that I did not really have a lot of personal desire to do, it has been made extremely clear to me that this is where God wants me to be for the next several months. For example, Bryce and I worked and saved for over a year to get the money for the first track of the internship, and still needed to raise support. This track, thanks to the generosity if a few people, has been totally paid for- both the internship itself and my expenses while I am here.

Speaking of provision, my husband and I just had the opportunity to attend One Thing, a year end conference and celebration put out by IHOP in Kansas City. Through a string of events that I can’t even begin to understand other than God providing, we were able to get our entire hotel stay and conference tickets and a very good meal for free. Without asking for any of that. While we could have paid for them if needed, it is a huge blessing, as it helps his budget stretch just that much further. Thank You God!!! He cares about even the little things!

I find through these experiences that I feel like my fear, my worry, my timidity is breaking off like shedding a stone cocoon. Or like Elsa shedding her queen finery in that famous scene in Frozen. (Yes, you may now sing “Let it Go” loudly, unless you’re in a public place. Then scream it :) ) I feel like I am being reborn, exposed for what I really am. And that has lots of both good and bad things. But, I am willing to face the humiliation and the joy, in order to be closer to my Savior.

To walk on water, on a great expanse. With no concept of where the end point is, of where the next step is beyond the one that brings you closer to the Beloved. Is there any greater joy?

Lord, draw us ever closer to You!!!

On Maturity and Exploding Sharks

Let me start off with that this blog is not meant to be condemning, but merely something I think is very important, for myself if no one else, and something to think about. You may do with it as you desire.

There are many different images that get associated with the Christian life- a warrior, clad in shiny armor; a fruitful branch, covered in grapes; a victorious army rising up to oppose the darkness; a quiet, peaceful bride awaiting her redeemer, etc. While these are all awesome, here’s my question. Are we really ready?
Are we really walking in a life that prepares us to be these things? Are we these things?

Or do we just think we are?

As American Christians, we have access to a vast amount of learning from those who have studied before us, as well as churches everywhere. We have the freedom to talk about Jesus everywhere, to have deep discussions about Christ in our small groups, to read books from generations of Christians. We have the ability to read the Bible in freedom, and, many of us have multiples of them, while even having a part of a page of one is both a priceless treasure and a death sentence is many countries.
This kind of freedom, this access to knowledge and the writings of the past is unprecedented in history. There has never been a time like this.

So, what are we doing with it?

Are we maturing as Christians, getting up, fighting, learning, clothing ourselves in the armor God provides and becoming a great, fruitful vine? Or are we taking all this stuff for granted and living off of the anointing of the pastor who spoke in church last Sunday, or the book we read two years ago? And, even more, are we relying on that preacher’s sermon or bestselling book or website to feed us, instead of praying, reading the Bible for ourselves, searching for the truth for ourselves, as God leads us?

All those things are great, but, if we are not letting it change our lives, if we are building what we think we believe or know around the latest big name (or no name) person or thing, what happens when something gets messed up and the person or author has an affair or embezzles a bunch of money or murders someone or simply says something we don’t agree with?

That castle we built our faith on crumbles.

We must make sure that our foundation is Jesus and Jesus alone.

And, (the main point I am trying to get to in a very long way {sorry}), we must mature.

American Christians have access to so much in the way of spiritual development, but we are, as a whole, taking these great wonderful things and watering them down because we do not think we can understand them. Like a Korean landscaper I worked with this weekend who talked about how he has a horrible time teaching many American kids how to rake leaves, because they just seem unable to learn how to do it well.

I’ve felt very much these past several weeks, and particularly this one, that God is saying that the time for being immature is over. The time for maturing is growing short! We must grow up quickly! We cannot afford the time to sit on the simplest little doctrine point and argue about it or not understand it. We cannot afford to doubt and question god anymore. How can we be that great army we like to sing about in church if we cannot follow the Leader? And we cannot follow Him if we are questioning Him about why He says this or that or wants us to do this or that. A disorganized army will not stand. We must know His Voice, and our faith must go deep. We must learn humility, to humble ourselves with Him as our Director, our Ruler.

We must couple the knowledge we have with love. We are drowning in knowledge, but do not have enough love. If I know that every person has a unique tongue print and that orcas kill sharks by making them literally explode (both true, by the way…), what’s the point of just this random knowledge? It needs to affect my life. Not sure how either of those could, but those were the first random facts that popped up in Google….

We cultivate love by choice. By choosing to serve others, by choosing to see God in others, by choosing to glorify God with our lives, instead of glorifying ourselves.

Help us to mature quickly, Lord, so that You do not find us unprepared when You return! The world in melting down, falling apart, and only Your kingdom will stand! Help us to go deeper, to not be shallow, and to love You more, even when it’s unpopular, even when it hurts. Help us to value what we have and to seek more of You. Don’t let us sit still while the world around us burns, taking comfort in Your return, but being unaffected by what is going on around us!!! Forgive us for being like Nero, God. Forgive us.
Give us a heart for the hurting, the lost. Compel us to minister to them, to be humbled because You humbled Yourself for us. Let us cleave to You, not the world, and teach us how to bear more fruit for You. Mature us quickly, Lord, so that we can serve You better, for a greater part of our earthly lives. Amen.

Of Pyramids and Sliced Bread

(continuing my blog of things I’ve been learning at Hope City)

It is a struggle to hold on the truth. Sometimes it seems like everything is yelling at us, telling us that whatever we are doing at the moment is stupid or meaningless. That our lives are wasted, or will be wasted if we do not perform such and such an action. It feels like we need to create a huge, lasting monument of sorts to have any meaning or worth.

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with that. Even when I was a little kid, I felt like I had to be remembered, to leave a mark on others or on things, in order to matter. That if I didn’t build a pyramid, no one would remember me, and I would therefore be meaningless. After all, we all like sliced bread, but who invented it? (For the record, I looked it up, and Otto Fredrick Rohwedder from Davenport, Iowa [shout out to my Iowa friends!] invented the bread slicer, but that doesn’t mean he was the first one to slice it into slices instead of tearing it….) And, who did build the pyramids? The Hebrew slaves? Egyptians? Aliens? Really industrious desert cats? I know which one I believe, but it is a matter of debate I will not go into here.

And even the pyramids are crumbling into dust.

Does anything last?

Is God the only eternality?

I believe that humanity is created as an eternal being. That all humanity is eternal, whether Christian or not. If this is true, our lives have to have a point, right? What would be the point of living on the earth for the 6 months or 110 years we have if that wasn’t so? Is the point just to consume lots of sliced bread and build a pyramid that will crumble in six thousand years, to reproduce ourselves and try to care for-or not care for as the individual chooses to-the earth or the animals or other people? That whole “Be fruitful and multiply” thing in Genesis?

All of those things fade away.

So, there has to be more.

If the only two things that really last forever are humanity and God, it points to the relationship between them being what is eternally important.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” We are commanded by Jesus to love Him and each other.

Loving requires building a relationship. It requires giving of ourselves, not just throwing a bunch of money at an organization, or buying our kid a Christmas gift, or taking the wife out on a date once a week, or reading our Bible every day, or any other action.

Love is a heart posture. A giving over of oneself. A willingness to bleed out all our compassion and hope and help for someone else, again and again. And again. And again.

And, if we love God and man like that, we are building an everlasting meaning for ourselves by not focusing on ourselves, but by focusing on someone else; not caring about the legacy but building it incidentally. Building something that will last forever. “Love never fails”- love is eternal.

And that is even greater than sliced bread.

Of Beautiful Things Hidden in Plain Sight

(Continuing my weekly blog from Hope City, on the things God is teaching me)

“My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places of the mountainside, show Me your face, let Me hear your sweet voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.” Song of Songs 2:14

We are doves, hiding in the Rock of Christ, our protection, our shelter. A dove looks ordinary on the outside, (the Hebrew for in this instance is more accurately translated into what we would call a pigeon) but inside, they are all unique. Take a closer look at any pigeon. See beyond the outward annoying messy bird you may see at first. Look at its feathers, with the pretty iridescent effects, the brightness of its eyes, the beauty of its wings, the softness of its voice.

If the pigeon believed only what the world says about it- nuisance, messy, overpopulated, gross, whatever- it would be unable to see those things. It would not see the great speed and skill which it can fly with, the individuality of it, the greatness of what it really is.

What is your identity rooted in? What the world says, or what Christ says about you?

Hide in the rock of Him. You are safe there, firmly rooted, and will gain the strength to see clearly, to see yourself as He sees you, to see Him with clear, bright eyes.

But, as you do that, make sure that you are speaking to Him, looking to Him. He wants to hear your voice. He cares what you say. The simple trust of a child in your eyes for Him, the ability and humility to ask Him for whatever you need. Those are precious to Him.

As precious as any dove or sparrow.

May God bless you throughout your week, and may you grow in knowledge of the brightness of Him within you, and the humility to be content to look plain on the outside, knowing that He sees your heart.