-psalm 33:6-

Month: February, 2016

wrecked.

The sin of your sister Sodom was this: She lived with her daughters in the lap of luxury- proud, gluttonous, and lazy. They ignored the oppressed and the poor. They put on airs and lived obscene lives. And you know what happened: I did away with them.  [Ezekiel 16:49-50 MSG]

When Jesus messes up your life, it is violent and harsh and so beautiful. I once read it put this way, “It’s one thing to acknowledge a different word view; it’s another thing to absorb it. I was frozen, attempting to get my head around the idea that I’d missed something so central. I was sitting on the proverbial curb by the wreck God had engineered, trying to catch my breath.” That’s where I’m at today friends, sitting on the curb, shocked at my own ignorance with adrenaline and conviction pumping through my veins.

If you’re at all confused (which you probably are) let me explain. I’ve been feeling a stirring in my soul, the presence of the spirit in a way I haven’t before. God has always felt like a gracious loving embrace. He has picked me up, held me, loved me, put me back together, and sent me on way. My life is a life changed by Christ and I will forever be grateful because I am so undeserving. But the more I walk this path the more I feel like this can’t be all it’s about. As  followers of Jesus we are called to be set apart, to be peculiar, to make people wonder why we would be willing to lay our lives down for our Creator. And yet, I see people all around me, myself included, whose Christian life looks just like the rest of the culture, with a little Jesus and church sprinkled in. This time God’s presence within me feels like a violent push off a ledge. I am shaken and my heart has been ripped open so wide for the world around me I can’t decide whether I want to cry or scream.

Let’s look at a couple statistics:

  • Of the six billion people on our plant, about 1.2 billion live on twenty-three cents a day.
  • Half the world lives on less than two dollars and fifty cents a day.
  • The wealthiest one billion people average seventy dollars a day (guess where that puts us y’all).
  • Someone dies of hunger every 3.6 seconds.
  • Last year twenty-two million people died of preventable diseases; ten million were children.
  • More than 143 million children in the developing world have been orphaned (equivalent to more than half the population of the United States).
  • About 1 billion people in the world do not have suitable housing, and 100 million are entirely homeless.
  • Roughly forty million people (the equivalent of about seven Jewish Holocausts) die annually from starvation, disease, and malnutrition.
  • 69 percent of US adults and 18 percent of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Some of these statistics are a couple years old, but I can tell you one thing, if they’ve changed it sure hasn’t been for the better. How is it that more than HALF of our countries adults are obese when someone literally DIES OF HUNGER every 3.6 seconds? And how does that not even register to most of us? Why don’t we care?

We have been taught that we are consumers, we are fed this message every day. We buy cheap clothes ignoring the fact that they were paid for dearly by people’s lives in Indonesia, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and so many other countries less fortunate than our own. We spend outrageous amounts of money on “convenient” pre-packaged, processed crap and we call it food. We ruin God’s precious earth with industry, building more factories to make more stuff we don’t need, and more buildings to sell it all from. We tell ourselves that busy is better and earning more and more money, climbing the ladder if you will, is the goal. You pay your bills, and then you die. If you’re a Christian, you tithe first, pay your bills, and then die. This is the American Dream, buy more, live comfortably, and take care of your own. It’s an easy sell, and we all eat it up.

For Christians, for true followers of Jesus the issue lies in what we’ve given up in order to pursue this “American Dream”. We have unknowingly given up the Kingdom of God. We have abandoned ship, aborted the mission, and ignored the over 2,000 verses in the Bible involving poverty, physical oppression, justice, and redistribution of resources. We have twisted and turned His commandments into sweet anecdotes about how God wants to just bless the blessed a little more. God’s word talks about poverty, widows, orphans, and hunger A LOT, and catch this, they are not metaphors! There are people who need to be fed, with actual food. There are tangible physical ways for us to extend Jesus to people, and it starts with generosity, kindness, and the courage to step out in faith and trust that God means what He says. Trust that He will meet you there in the mess, in the midst of the least.

Friends I have had enough of this “American Dream” that is being shoved down our throats. The ingredients are toxic, and it’s making me sick. I’m ready to reevaluate, I’m ready to welcome the destruction that must come so He can rebuild me. I’m ready to be emptied, recognize myself for the simple jar of clay I am, and let Him fill me up. It’s time for the Bride of Christ to rise, to live differently, to be eternity-minded. Let us recognize the Kingdom of God always takes precedence over our earthly dreams, it’s time for a change.

“yeah-buts live in the woods”

I am really good at excuses. I am good at justifying my actions, or lack thereof, and I am good at making you believe I simply have to or cannot do whatever the thing is I’m doing or not doing. Follow?

I am really good at excuses, but let me tell you, my fiancé can see through ALL of mine. It’s a bit unnerving to have the person closest to you see right through every excuse you have, and call you out on it. It doesn’t leave much room for graceful bow-outs or careful steps back when things aren’t quite going as you expected. Having someone close to you hold you accountable is painful, but it’s necessary. Accountability is like prime fertilizer for character growth. It encourages you, emboldens you, equips you to take just one more step, and then one more, and then one more. Accountability and I have a love/hate relationship because very rarely have I let people close enough to have that sort of influence on me.

Which brings me to my big point, my huge excuse, the elephant in all of my rooms. For years I have hidden behind a label. I have identified myself as introvert. I have told myself that is what I am, that is why I don’t want to talk to people, that is why I don’t put forth effort, that is why I don’t care and never will. My time is my time and I will spend it on my own quietly refreshing myself and binging on Netflix. I have pulled the introvert card on more occasions than I care to count in order to get my butt back home if there is any sign of uncomfortableness. A couple years before my son was born, this label had such an impact on who I was that my body began to physically react. I was wracked with anxiety, prone to panic attacks, I would shake and hyperventilate if things and people became too overwhelming.

I began to identify these things as normal, because they were part of “who I was”. I told everyone it was just my personality type, what was I going to do about that? Even up until recently it’s been something to lean on to pull me back into my comfort zone when things get messy.

The funny thing about messy is that God LOVES it. God loves discomfort and grit. Safe Christian bubbles are more dangerous than any street in a ghetto. Safe Christian bubbles provide us the space to pretend, to put on a show, but never to really step out on mission.  If we don’t step out, if we don’t power through the awkwardness and the straight up uncomfortableness we don’t get to see the glory. We step back from life changing conversations, we withdraw from embraces that could comfort a lost soul, we send the message to others that we are selfish, because it is all about us and our well being. It is about how comfortable we are while our brothers and sisters are freezing to death on city streets, or can’t afford to put food in their children’s bellies. But we can’t help, we can’t love, because we’re just so dang socially uncomfortable.

God has spoken some truth over my life lately, and He has messed me up. He has shown me quite clearly that this introverted personality is a lie. This label I identified with and have hidden behind is simply a part of my sin nature that I was born with, that I live with, and that I cannot save myself from. It is something I will now wage war on, because I know my Savior’s precious blood was spilled to rescue me from that lie and every other one the enemy has filled my mind with. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” My discomfort, my nervousness, my fear are NOTHING compared to what God is working out in me. NOTHING compared to what He wants to do with my life, and who He wants me to impact with abounding, unconditional love and grace.

My life is not about me, it’s not about what I can do, what I look like, how nice my house is, or any of that…my life about God and His glory. My purpose is to be a bright light, a life changed, a wonderful testimony to how good my Father is. When I responded and chose to follow God, the old me died. She is dead and buried, and yet the enemy still tries to fill her lungs with air so he can pump her full of fear, so he can hold her back, so he can watch her suffer.

Today I am officially killing the title “introvert” and taking away the power I have allowed it to have over my life. I will take each step forward, no matter how small, into what God has purposed for me, and I will do it with joy and gratitude, for I know my Father is good and He sees through all my excuses while drowning them in perfect love. Fear has no place here anymore.

 

-A.

 

Lord, help me get over myself!

Jen Hatmaker has ruined my life.

Okay let me rephrase that…she has put into words the violent silent wrestling I have been doing deep down in my heart and soul. She has ruined my life, by speaking authentic truth and honesty.

“Here are my hands. They are yours.

Here is my wallet. Take it.

Here are my powerful prayer words. Direct them.

Here is my comfortable happiness. Ruin it.

Here is my sin. Transform me.

Here is my heart. Break it.”

These words were shared on her blog years ago, and over the last few days they have been my constant prayer, a sobbing on my knees begging kind of prayer. The kind of prayer that reeks of desperation. There is too much hurt in this world, too much suffering, too much sadness and loss for me to sit comfortably in my life and not DO something. I can read all the scripture there is, be involved in all the bible studies, attend church without fail every Sunday and the emptiness will still exist. The emptiness that was meant to be filled by serving others, by self sacrifice, by dying to self, by giving my life for your life. Faith without works is dead in the grave y’all, and dead faith cannot save.

The hard honest truth is I am selfish, and I have been smacked in the face with that fact this week. Jesus has pulled that out of me, from the deepest darkest places, the places I didn’t want to go to, that held the things I didn’t want to confront. My reasons for not wanting to engage in the hard things, the get your hands dirty things, is because I don’t want to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is not a common American goal, it is not something people strive for, in fact our culture preaches the opposite. Our social media is flooded with lists on how to be happy and fulfilled, ideas for self-care, and material items you have to have in order to be the best you possible.

Friends, this may sound crazy, but I want you to know you ARE the best you. God has knit you together personally for a purpose. He knows you, in all your mess, and He loves you with a love we cannot even fathom. You were made in His image, there is no “flaw” within you that wasn’t part of His plan for you, and for the world you get the privilege to engage with every day.

I don’t want to be selfish. I don’t want to be so concerned with making the most of my life that I forget to USE my one life to make a lasting impact. I want to die and live for Him. I want my life to shine so bright it’s undeniable that He is within me. I want to love others well, regardless of who they are or what they do.

So right now I’m praying like everything I have depends on it (because it does), and I’m devouring scripture, seeking out patterns, getting close to the heart of God, reaffirming the call I cannot shake. I’m asking myself the questions Jen asked herself. What makes me truly angry? For whom does my passionate soul cry? What leaves my blood boiling, my heart aching, my belly rumbling for injustice? What prophetic story am I telling with my life? When it’s all over, what is my legacy in Christ? 

I hope these things matter to you, I hope you’re able to identify that hunger, that empty hollow ache within you, and I hope you will realize as I did that no amount of earthly accomplishment or accumulation will fill it. I hope you’ll examine yourself, and pray to be ruined by God (or by Jen, because He totally uses people to reach people).

How can I love you well? What can I do to lift you up? How can I encourage you? What can I pray over or speak life into? We we’re meant to do this life together, so let’s start now.

Courage is being scared to death…

…and saddling up anyway. -John Wayne

This is a promise spoken into my life for sometime, a promise I did not want to believe in or pursue because of one formative thing; fear. Fear of what people might think, fear of how my words may be perceived, fear that my Father’s favor wasn’t upon me on this journey, fear that I was following my own emotions and not His leading. Fear is crippling, it stops you in your tracks and kills the possibility of growth. Fear keeps dry bones dry, when God wants to breath life into them. God is in the business of adding sinews, bringing up flesh, and covering it all with skin. My God is in the business of making dead things come to life y’all, how wonderful and magical is that?!

So this blog is the living, tangible example of God breathing life into my dry bones. It is still raw, new, unedited, and imperfect, much like myself. It is a place where I can share about what it means to be a beloved daughter of the star-breather. It is a place I can be real, vulnerable, and humble. It is a place where I can encourage, empower, reassure, and speak life. It is an opportunity to carry His glory, regardless of my shortcomings, regardless of my fear.

I am terrified, but I am here.

I am trusting that God is fighting for me so that I can fight for others, so that I can pour myself out, follow His leading, extend grace, and love the lost with a fierceness and a fire.

This is a promise fulfilled, not FOR me but THROUGH me.

This is a promise for YOU, from your good good Father, from the one who breathed out the stars and hung them perfectly in the sky. Your Father who knows everything about you from the number of hairs on your head down to all the desires in the depths of your heart.

Won’t you step out in faith and join me on this journey?

-A.