Liberating Submission

I love writing to you all every week. But I have to submit my excitement and just directly offer you the thing that has been working in my heart recently. I hope you check it out if you’re married, or if you ever hope to be married.

Go to: http://www.familylife.com/site/c.dnJHKLNnFoG/b.6235823/k.809F/FamilyLife_Today.htm

Then click on the podcast Liberating Submission, part 2, from September 7. Let me know what you think. And hopefully, I can share with you more soon.

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Exhaustion Takes Over

One of my biggest joys in life is getting away and heading out to retreats and conferences. It is probably one of the nerdiest, religious, most stereotypical things I do, and I’m absolutely unapologetic about it. As I said, it brings immense joy. I find that when I am totally depleted, that heading to a conference is like an emotional B-12 shot.

Well, I’ve been exhausted for quite some time now.  So this past weekend, I went to my second Beth Moore conference (put on by LifeWay). I wasn’t sure what to expect. I never know what to expect from Beth other than spiritual depth and an absolute refusal on her part to allow you to get a “spiritual high.” She doesn’t want you to get “high;” she wants you to get free and to live in sound mind with the Lord.

Her topic was Psalm 31:26 “She speaks with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Now, I’m a mom of three. As a mom of three young children, one of them with sensory disorders (read: daily meltdowns) believe me, I needed to be reminded that it is wise to be kind when I open my mouth. But Beth isn’t about condemning you. She’s like Jesus, she wants to show you what’s hurting you.

As she laid out eight points about what applying the law of kindness can do, I was captivated. But at point three, I just found my heart on the floor. Point three was “Kindness Wears Down When We Do.”

I think we can all say that’s a true statement. When we’re exhausted, bitter, stressed, or tired, we just don’t have it in us to choose patience and giving others the benefit of the doubt. We get sharp with our words. We’re not even kind to ourselves. We slip into believing thoughts like “you’re so stupid.”

The problem is that our world tells us that when we’re exhausted, we need to isolate. Now, as someone who absolutely needs sleep, I completely advocate having some time to rest and to be quiet. But Beth reminded me of a fundamental fact.

Every single time there’s the words “build up” in scripture, it’s always in the context of the corporate community. When we’re exhausted, we’re supposed to go to each other and let each other build us back up. Sometimes that’s going to mean letting someone pray for us. Sometimes that’s going to mean letting someone listen to us as we lay it all out there, bare, even raw. Sometimes that’s going to be swallowing our pride and letting someone take our kids so that we can get a date with our husbands or so that we can get our heads together. But it’s always a matter of being transparent with others.

My heart aches as I write this because as someone who’s become exhausted, I don’t want to go to anyone else. I have a lot of fear about telling people where I’m at because there’s a lot of people who will want to slime me with so-called wisdom. But I’m not just supposed to go to just anyone. I’m supposed to go to the church community. I’m supposed to go to true believers (not the pharisee type Christians) that I normally do life with. If needed, I’m supposed to go to my pastor or my woman’s ministry pastor. I’m supposed to go to the people who have the spirit of God living inside them so that they can share Jesus with me. As I was reminded yesterday, God doesn’t dispense encouragement like a prescription. He gives us Himself. And in Him is strength. In Him is rest. In Him is renewal. When exhaustion takes over, I need somebody to bring ME back to Jesus. Not bring me back to prayer. I pray multiple times a day. Not bring me back to my daily devotional. But someone who will remind me that I’m part of the body, and it is His body.

Sure, it’s going to be a bit embarrassing. It’s like showing people that I have holes in my underpants. But if my God has told me that it’s the thing to do to be the best I can be — to live life abundantly — then it’s the thing I need to do.

It’s All About You

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts. -Psalm 139:23

I’m not someone to promote selfishness or self centered thinking, but have you ever stopped to realize how much your relationship with God is all about you? About your choice?

I feel like a lot of us say “I can’t hear from God right now” pretty frequently. I realized tonight that maybe when we can’t hear from Him, it’s because we’re supposed to invite Him in to take a look at things. Maybe we’re not talking because we’re not supposed to. And He’s not talking because it’s not going to help.

Now, I don’t mean that we need Him to look over us like we’re merchandise, but I do mean it in the way that we need to have time and space to have Him go eye-to-eye with us. We need to know that someone cares to check in. That someone can handle the answer to the question, “How’s your heart?”

And, really, that moment is so vulnerable, so humiliating sometimes, that really, only God is fit to do it.

Get in a quiet space. Read through Psalm 139 tonight or tomorrow. Really OWN these words:

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

5 You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to [b] me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Lead me to you.)

This is the God that loves you. This is the God that has called you friend. The God that stretched out His hand to measure the universe has made you a co-heir of His kingdom. Surely, we can get real with Him.

Take Care of Me

Italian families are known for their outpouring of love…and food…and loving on you with food. It’s just how it goes. So when we got sixty-plus Italians in one room at Maggiano’s for a reunion on Friday, there was fullness of both belly and heart.

I’m extremely blessed that I have a crazy, dramatic, and yes, extraordinarily wonderful family. (And yes, I know how rare this can be.) Gathering together with this family is something that I cannot put into words. However, I think my brother summed up the experience of being a member of this family quite nicely.

In his speech, he thanked everyone by saying, “Since I’ve been <really litte>, you’ve all taken care of me. And it’s paid off, since now, every day, I take care of others.” (He’s both a paramedic and a firefighter).

You see, in our family, we’re taught to take care of each other — no matter what. You don’t give up on family. My family knows that if we take care of each other, then we’re free to be there for other people in the world. It’s a lesson that I’ve learned my whole life,  but I’ve also learned it in church.

When I came to my church about 5 years ago, I was a mess. First time in my life that I could say that I was just a wreck. But people loved on me. They gave me space. They didn’t criticize me for taking too long to get my act back together. I was able to say that life was hard, every week, and that was okay. They nursed me back to health. And being healthy and whole, and reconnected to God, I eventually just started paying it forward.

And now, when I have a tough day or week, I go to those people, and they pray, and they encourage me, sometimes they just offer an “out,” so I’m freed up to love others better.

Take care of me, and I’ll take care of others. It’s just something basic. Something that we “get.”

It’s not easy to do. It often costs us. But it’s where our blessing lies.

I challenge you to press in to others this season. Give people your all. Give ’em what you don’t think you have.  Show up when you’re tired. Remember, each of us belong to the other (Romans 12:5). See if your life doesn’t change.

On the Worst Day…

When my “little” brother graduated from paramedic school this summer, I thought I would be attending his graduation to celebrate him. Instead, as I listened to his teachers talk about him and his classmates, I got a lesson
myself.

As I watched his class of 100 students walk in, all in their paramedic and local firefighter uniforms, I have to admit that I got choked up. Seeing 100 men and women of sheer honor, 100 men and women who have made the commitment to save another’s life at the expense of their own almost every day of their lives, was absolutely moving. But what came out in their speeches took my admiration for these kids to a whole new level.

Both the instructor and main student speakers acknowledged that they have the best job in the world.

Why?

Because they get to be with someone on possibly the worst day of their life and help them.

They weren’t celebrating a promotion or more money or more power. They were celebrating that they are finally free to use their talents and giftings and calling to serve someone else more.

Their attitude, their servitude, reminded me of Jesus. No pride. No arrogance. Just a pure desire to rescue people from the brink of disaster…no matter what it takes. Because, for Jesus, like these men and women, it’s an honor to be with someone on the worst day of their life and to bring life back to them. It’s something that blesses Him.

A lot of us avoid God when we’re at our worst. Sometimes, it’s because we can’t talk to Him — there’s literally nothing left. Sometimes we’re just plain overwhelmed. But the words of Nahum 17:8 put things back in perspective. “For the Lord is good. A stronghold in the day of trouble. The Lord protects those who seek refuge…even in a rushing flood.”

When the flood is overwhelming us, maybe, just maybe we need to seek some refuge. Maybe we have to call for the Paramedic and surgeon of our souls, and invite Him in even more. Ask Him to be with us on one of the worst days of our lives. Ask Him to be with us in the worst season of our lives. His love will keep us together until His love can heal us completely. All in His time.

And if we’re not hurting? If we’re not at an ah-ha! moment? Then our job is to be a paramedic. Let’s get people to Jesus. Not fix it ourselves, but get them to Jesus. Be a paramedic and get people to the healer. No matter what it takes.

The Guarded Heart

I’m just going to come out and ask the tough question:

Where has your heart been broken?

I think a lot of us avoid that question. Part of the reason why we avoid it, is that we think that if we get to talking about how our heart was broken, there’s this immediate feeling that we should be able to get over the hurt. Talking about our broken hearts — places where we’ve been betrayed, where we’re lonely, times that hurt us — doesn’t heal our hearts. In fact, talking tends to expose the wound. Which many of us have learned. So, in a “only the strong survive” world, we don’t talk about it AND we’ve learned, that we have to guard that thing.We have to put it under lock and key and put some of our strongest mental capacities to the task of caging the thing.

But today, I’m just wondering, is a wound worth guarding?

See, from what knowledge I glean from biblical teaching, in order to detach yourself from the hurts, you have to withdraw emotion. For a relationship, that means that you can maintain devotion — you can stay the person’s “friend” — but your heart towards them is never the same. You’ve withdrawn your love along with your trust. And you’ve pretty much assured that the potential for the relationship will never be reached from that point on.

For a memory, you have to erase the good things that you recall, the things that made your heart leap, because they remind you of the bad. And so many of us walk around with self-placed white out over the timeline of our lives.

But we render ourselves even more damage than lost potential and a pity-worthy memory of events. When we withdraw our love, we’re left powerless. Even though we have that person, that relationship, that memory “in control,” we’re not free. Not even close.

So we may have guarded the threat, but we’ve become a prisoner to too. We’ve committed ourselves to staying in the cold, dark dungeon with the memory that we fear will destroy us.

Which is why I wonder if it’s worth guarding.

What if we didn’t fight the thought when it rose up in our mind? What if when we saw the person that hurt us, we didn’t put on a layer of emotional kevlar and showed ourselves as we really are. What if we actually break that relationship? Delete the person from Facebook? Walk on without the baggage? Leave the past to the past? And in exchange, we get on with life?

We use bible passages like Proverbs 4:23 –“guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life” — to justify our actions. But darlings, if our guarding these broken places isn’t bringing forth life, then we’re not guarding the heart. We’re guarding something else and our heart is under attack. Isn’t it about time that we start guarding the thing that matters?

Which begs the question, “how do we guard the heart?” Well, fortunately, the bible does have an answer for that. Philippians 4:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Let me do a translation for you. Remember who God is. He’s going to restore the years the locusts ate — i.e. He’s going to bless you abundantly for what you had or have to go through. It’s who He is. It’s what He does. Remember that He’s also a God of justice, and He’s not going to let the fact that you got hurt slide. He’s also bigger than you can possibly fathom, so He is capable of clearing things up, of restoring your character and reputation, of hiding what really needs to be hidden — or burried. Retain your sensitivity. You don’t need to harden up. You really don’t. It’s not going to help you. Heck, you can even let other people see you’re sensitive. He’s not going to allow it to hurt you. Remember, He’s near to you. He’s promised to be near to the brokenhearted. Don’t be worried. Talk to Him. He’ll keep assuring you. He’ll bring a peace that will guard you. Don’t resist Him and you’ll be amazed at the freedom you’ll be given.

My friends, love God and love yourself enough to let God in. He’s a mighty warrior. He really can guard that thing. And He’ll allow you to partner with Him in guarding the thing that really matters. Your heart.

Love,

Pam