Living Over the Objections of Others

“Most come here over someone’s objections…Some of you are living over someone’s objections as you struggle to find your God-given identity and your place in His kingdom work.”

These words spoken today by Dr. Richard Mouw penetrated my heart in a profound way and with no warning the tears poured from the deep rivers my heart had dammed up for years.

I have thought about, dreamed about, prayed about, yes…even avoided, Seminary for at least 15 years. But today it became a reality.  With it came exhilaration, expectation…and fear.

What Dr. Mouw articulated is the tension I live with every day.  I possess a desperate desire to be equipped and empowered for ministry.   However, like a scarlet letter, the little letter ‘f’ for ‘female’ must always be checked on every inventory I have ever considered for the place I hope to play in God’s kingdom work.   I am painfully aware that to be who I believe God has called me  to be requires I “live over the objections of others.”

I hate that I believe the lies about gender limitations more than I trust the truth that God has spoken to my heart.  I hate that I care more about what others will say about me than treasuring God’s approval.  I hate that to walk the pastures He has promised to lead me through will probably mean that I will be required to walk through the valley of shadows experienced by misunderstandings, ended relationships and loss.  All things I hate; things that keep me up at night; things I fear more than anything else.

Today my heart consented to what my head already knew and tonight they are consoling each other with the truth that living to God’s approval is better than never doing anything bold enough of which others could object.

What are you not doing because you are afraid of others objections?

Dogs, Pool Guy, and Early Morning Image-Management

Do you ever feel like your sanctification is on parade for other people’s entertainment?

Mornings like the one I had today have caused me to consider its possibility.

In order for my story to have any meaning, you must understand three important facts:

1. We own three dogs…three very badly behaved dogs.  They don’t listen when they are called.  They run away when you attempt to ‘capture’ them.  They bark at everything and everyone.  They possess absolutely no common sense.

2. On Thursday, our pool cleaner comes to service the pool.  He usually leaves the gate to the front yard open while he is here.  Our dogs hate the pool cleaner.  Hate.  When dogs become possessed by hate, they become even worse behaved.  Today is Thursday.

3.  We live on a quiet street.  Very little traffic, EXCEPT for school mornings between the hours of 7:30 to 8:30.  During this hour, affluent parents–the kind that you might find pictures of in magazines–drive through our neighborhood to drop off their children at a small private school.  You get the picture, right?

So, with those facts in place, the story begins with me enjoying my last cup of coffee, in bed, still snuggled in my pajamas, clinging to my last string of peace and calm.  Then I hear it; the unmistakable bark of the dogs cornering our poor pool guy.  The last time this happened, one dog was so overcome with panic he ran into the pool and yes, I had to jump in for the rescue.  At this point, I’m figuring said pool guy is setting up the tripod for his camcorder so he can capture the circus and share it with the world on YouTube.

There’s no time to put on clothes, so I grab the first jacket I can find as I run downstairs for the dramatic rescue.  By the time I reach the patio, the dogs are in a full force attack.

I call their name.  No response.  I call again.  The pool guy looks at me and his face says everything, “Oh my goodness, what is this woman wearing???!!!” Then the dog with the fastest legs and the least intelligence looks at me, possibly scared by my attire he makes a bee-line for the open gate.

I’ve no choice but to pursue him.  As I reach the front yard, what I have feared my whole life comes upon me: I am back in 7th Grade, sitting in a class of Vogue-ready peers and I am in my pajamas–not the beautiful, Ritz-Carlton variety, but the ratty, worn, unflattering, you-should-have-ditched-them-years-ago-but-you-love-them-too-much kind.

As the dog dodges in and out of luxury cars driven by perfect people, I chase him wondering, “Just how tall is my rooster tail? Will it cause an eclipse?”  “Are my underwear darker than my pajama bottoms?  Oh my gosh, what underwear AM I wearing?”   “How much is this jacket actually covering?”  “I don’t need shoes.  I took a redneck class on how to go barefoot and be beautiful.  The chipped nail polish is part of the appeal.”  “Oh, fabulous.  Fancy meeting you here, long lost friend.  Yes, let’s do catch up over coffee.  I’ll be dressed in a hour.”  “Oh no, I don’t need any help.  You all just sit there in your cars enjoying the show.  Can I bring you some popcorn to increase your viewing pleasure?”  “Please take note of my car in the driveway.  I didn’t park it in the garage so that you could all take note of me in the weeks to come as I drive around.  Remember this moment.  Relive its joy!”

And in one moment, I come face to face with how much pride still resides in my heart.  I am ashamed of how much I value my image.  Mind you, not the image of God in me that has gone completely unmarred by this event.  No, I’m undone by the image of man which I so tightly manage with composure and ill-fated attempts at perfection.

…and I’m wishing I didn’t own dogs.  But then who knows what God would have to use to humble me.

How about you?  What brings you face to face with where you are resisting God’s work in your life? Not sure?  My dogs are for rent.

Living Hymns

It has occurred to me that part of the difficulty in the church today is that too many of us are singing hymns, but far too few of us are living our lives as one.

Hymns are songs or anthems of praise or adoration. (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hymn) Is it possible that we’ve narrowed the context down too little, reserving hymns for old-fashioned church services?  What would happen in our homes and communities if we started practicing the virtues we’ve espoused  inside the church building?

I know this is not a new conversation…It’s one I’ve been having with myself for the last, oh say, 20 years of my life.  Most likely, you’ve been having it with yourself too. I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around the incongruent nature of our worship:  We praise God with words on Sunday morning, but curse the NFL ref by mid-afternoon.  We pray for the needs of the community, but walk callously by those we pass on our way home.  We say we want others to know of God’s greatness, but we live in such a way that conveys we’re not wholly convinced.

We need to be reminded that the Psalmist’s exhortation is for us today:

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.  Serve the LORD with gladness, come before Him joyful singing.  Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and now we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name.  For the LORD is good; His lovingkindess is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations”  Psalm 100.

What would change today if I lived as a hymn?

1. I will spend my time thinking about God.

2. My words will be shaped by God’s greatness.

3. My actions will be reflective of His goodness.

4. I won’t grumble and complain.

5. I won’t be judgmental of others.

6. I won’t be proud.

How about you? What will be the theme of your hymn?

Do You Have a Mentor?

This last week in a staff meeting we had a “Godilocks and the Three Bears” inspired prayer card.  We were asked to fill in the answer to three columns:

Column One–“Too Big” These are the things in life that are overwhelming.  When we “sit in this chair,” we feel hard-pressed on all sides.  These are the painful challenges in life we all probably wish we didn’t have to deal with–a health challenge, a sick relative, a difficult relationship, a rebellious child.

Column Two–“Too Small” These are the areas in life where  we know we’re being soft on ourselves.  We’ve become comfortable…maybe even lazy.  No example is needed…if you’re like me, three areas of discipline in which you’ve slacked off just popped into your mind.

Column Three–“Just Right” These are the areas where you stand before the Lord with a clear conscience.  They are the areas where, for the moment, you’re walking in the perfect balance of God’s empowering grace and your own hard work.

I’ve been nagged by the “Too Soft” column since I completed the card.  The things I wrote down were all accurate…I have those areas where I know I need to step it up.  But the thing that keeps nagging me is what I didn’t write down.  So for accountability sake: I’m writing it here and then maybe I’ll have some peace of mind.

One area where I have grown easy on myself is in mentorship.

I have had some incredible mentors in my life.  People who have invested in me in profound ways. I’m always my best me when I let myself be an open book with someone who’s not afraid to take a red pen to my story.

I need an editor…we all need an editor.

Scripture makes it clear that we need the other members of the body to speak the truth in love to us…that we’re to be committed to building one another up…making disciples.  Jesus had twelve. Timothy had his Paul.  Who has you?

So I am going to be getting back in the hunt for a new person to speak into my life what I am not able to hear on my own. I’m not sure who it will be yet…I know it won’t be a friend, family member, or someone with the gift of mercy.  I’ve had enough mercy…I need a truth speaker.

What do you look for in a mentor?  Do you have one? (I mean a true one…the one that catches you on the line and reels you in to the truth of who God is calling you to be no matter how much you flip and flop!)

If not, it’s time for all of us to get moving until we can say along with Godilocks, “It’s just right.”

Shade

He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”             Psalm 91:1.

It’s been a hot week in Los Angeles.  The weather has been discomforting and the heat of relationships, health challenges, work strain, and life responsibilities has reached a new intensity. I am in need of shade.

Finding shade without shadows is a challenge.  As Christ-followers we are called to live as children of light.  We are to have nothing to do with darkness.  But let’s face it, when life is tough we all want to find a dark, little corner in which we can hide away.

I’ve been actively resisting the shadows of darkness for dwelling in the shade of Christ.

I don’t remember the origin anymore, but it is said that the essence of God is goodness, truth, and beauty. Yesterday this truth was called to mind in a conversation with a friend who is walking through a rough patch.  My comment to her was that in the intensity of tough times, we can recall God’s goodness, truth and beauty as a means of tuning up the strings of hope.

I believe this is what the psalmist had in mind when he penned Psalm 91.  Life is going to be tough. Our worship of God can easily get disrupted by life.  Thus, we are encouraged to ‘dwell’…to sit, abide, take comfort in God.  We can choose to find a dark corner in which to escape, or we choose to divert our eyes from the intensity of our circumstances to the immensity of God’s love.  We can recall what we know about Him,  consider His greatness and worth, and recount His magnificence.  As we do, the branches of His goodness, truth, and beauty spread out, enveloping us with His comforting shade.

May you, my friend, find yourself today lounging with a lemonade in hand, finding comfort and relief in the shade of God’s goodness, truth, and beauty!