When victories don’t last do you still hope in the Lord? Linking to an article that I wrote for Christian Woman Magazine.
The virus circulating the globe has been a source of unity and disparity, depending on who you ask. For every voice that tries to put a positive spin on what’s happening in the world, there are five more that make it their mission to tell you that we are prisoners of this disease, that there is no hope of ever returning to normal, that those of us who are “privileged” have no idea what it is to struggle during a pandemic.
I have no interest in fighting to be the loudest or most relevant voice. But I do have my own experience to catalog, and plenty of questions–in fact, I’ve had questions throughout the entire month that myself and my fellow North Carolinians have been told to “stay home.” My questions have come and gone, some have remained the same and some have evolved. Today, our state is no closer to “normal” than we hoped we would be when we were first told to stay put, but I now realize that a complete return to the way things were, the normal I knew before COVID, would be a mental, emotional and spiritual step back for me.
Do I really trust Him? Do I rush to find information and solutions that will assuage my concerns and satisfy my mind instead of practicing the art of waiting? Am I humble enough to truly accept that I can’t fix it all, know it all, be fulfilled at all times? Am I ready to see that without the extraneous events, errands and lists in my life, I’m left with a void that only He can fill? Do I understand how to practice joy in Christ, to make choices to live an abundant life when the rest of the world is telling me to mourn? Do I know how to communicate the joy and peace of Jesus to a lost world that is hurting and searching for answers themselves?
I have learned through the reality of COVID that these questions will continue to sit with me, although they will likely be pushed into the recesses of my mind if I allow my life to resume the same hectic pace as before.
So I don’t write to communicate that I have all the answers or know whether we’ll see a return to the comforts of the days before COVID. But I know what I and my family have seen to be true for us.
We understood that there were rules and laws we would need to follow as citizens, but we also know there was tremendous societal pressure to behave a certain way based on fears of the unknown. Both my husband and I have been victims of tragedies–he lost both parents suddenly with no warning; I was abducted and raped at 21. We are no strangers to terrible things happening without warning. Because of these events, and our witnessing Jesus sustain and redeem us through grief, we’ve made conscious choices not to live fearful lives.
Notice I did not say that we never fear–I said that we don’t LIVE fearfully, big difference. When fear and uncertainty come, which they regularly do, I make decisions based on prayer, the leading of the Holy Spirit, logic, common sense and love for others.
For those buckling down–web chats brought a convenience and connection that brightened our slower days. For those willing to stop by and chat in the front yard, smiles and chatter were a taste of community. Still, there were others who considered quality time worth the risk, who came over for 6-feet apart cocktail hours in the backyard, or cookouts in great weather when the kids could run and play–and with these friends, the time together was life giving and almost seemed unaltered.
I have no answers, and I probably never will. And honestly that’s okay with me, because despite all the medical, scientific and political information out there, you and I were never meant to have all the answers. But we were designed and meant to know the One who does, and He is always good no matter the mystery. I am so glad that I answer to Him.
The novel coronavirus has revealed to me that we have more in common with our Christian heritage, more lessons to learn from the past than I would have anticipated. May we all ponder what the Lord is doing in our lives and hearts as we celebrate Holy Week from home this year. Linking to an article I wrote for Christian Woman Magazine, please enjoy!
Hi guys! I’m linking here to my latest article in Christian Woman Magazine. It’s all about this wild understandjng of the Gospel Gos has been teaching me lately. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
For your Saturday reading–my newest article on Christian Woman Magazine on the simplicity of Christmas, and the One who came with nothing to give us everything.
Hi ladies, how are you? I’m saying “ladies” because with a title with the word “beauty” at its center, it’s likely that there aren’t any guys reading this. But, who knows, there could be. So. For you random men checking in, perhaps you’ll stick around until the end of this blog post and gain some insight into the psyche of your wife/girlfriend/fiance/adult daughter.
Beauty is one of those polarizing, controversial topics these days. It’s something that women, that people, aren’t supposed to care about anymore, but one glance at YouTube, Etsy, Pinterest, the check-out line at your local supermarket or pharmacy, the plethora of products on the shelves at Ulta and Sephora tells you that we still REALLY do. Not only do we care about beauty, we worship it, we strive and spend to prolong it as long as possible.
Yet we aren’t supposed to discuss it. Women are not supposed to care about or comment upon the beauty they see in another woman, lest it portray them as petty or competitive or insecure. Men dare not admire or remark upon a woman’s beauty, lest they be labeled lascivious, patriarchal or shallow. Women are privately maligned or criticized for either not doing enough with their looks, or for paying them too much attention. And this is one area that all women eventually migrate to in their focus, regardless of their age, ethnicity, career path, religious affiliation, economic status, political preference.
One has to ask WHY that is? Well, as a woman who believes very strongly in a loving and wise Creator, I think one reason is because God enjoys beauty. I think it brought (and brings) Him great joy to see the beauty in His creation–in the hues of the sunrise and sunset; the intricate design of each snowflake falling from the sky, of each sand-dollar washed onto the beach; the colors of the trees across a mountainside in the Fall; the regal feathers of the peacock; the patchwork of fields and swirl of mountaintops beneath you when you’re flying in an airplane; the sinewy body of a wild horse, and in the people He has made to carry His image.
Now, this is the part where I usually include some scripture that backs up my opinion. But this time, I actually couldn’t find anything in the Bible to support my theory that God loves beauty. I only believe that He does because of what I’ve observed in nature and in my opinion that the design of the human form is inherently beautiful because it reflects the image of God.
If we look carefully, we can see God’s intention in His creation of beautiful things, and the deliberate omission of attention to beauty throughout scripture. In avoiding the topic, He is making a point: beauty is all around us and is a marker of His glory, it deserves our admiration as it points us back to Him. But it is not to be worshiped, idolized, or to become our obsession or place of value. Conversely, it is also foolish for us to pretend that beauty has no place in society when God himself invented the concept.
But we’ve cheapened it. I’ve cheapened it. And in doing so, we’re hearkening back to the very thing that got Satan in trouble and bought him a one-way ticket out of Heaven in the first place. He saw that he was beautiful and he began to worship his beauty, to identify with it and to imbue it with a false power. (Ezekiel 28: 12-19)
And when I read every scripture passage about beauty since the fall of Lucifer, I see a warning. I see warnings about the focus we place on beauty, the time we spend praising it, seeking it, desiring it, then mourning its loss, denying it, vilifying it, pretending it doesn’t exist. The warning is repeated throughout scripture, because whether we paint beauty in a positive or negative light, the space and attention it gets in our female minds is space and attention that we are not giving our beautiful Lord. So that’s another reason I think that we all tend to hone in on beauty–because the enemy tends to use it as a distraction to turn our praise away from the Creator.
And listen, I am guilty of this. It’s why I’m writing this post, and it is not easy for me to be vulnerable about this topic. Vanity is a true struggle for me–there, I admitted it. There are parts of my body that I’ve been proud to have throughout my life. There are parts of my body that have been the source of much complaining, that I’ve wished weren’t there. And in recent years I’ve begun to see a change in the physical attributes of mine that I would call “strengths.” And the change has not been welcome. As this year marked my 41st trip around the sun, I am seeing the orbital pull on my skin–that it is not as tight, taut, smooth or spot-free as it once was. My hair is not as thick. My muscle takes longer to tone and more easily hides behind fat. My nails are becoming more brittle and my stamina is flagging. When I was in my teens, 20s and early 30s, I think I secretly believed that I would never show signs of aging. The realization that it really is happening to me, that the appearance that I have become so familiar with and grown to appreciate is wavering and fading, is a pivotal point.
Here is where I, and many women, grapple. Here is where I begin to understand the message that Paul preaches about contentment in Philippians 4:10-13. The world would try to persuade me to prolong my youth, to not let my beauty suffer because of aging. It pushes medical creams, organic serums, and various aesthetic treatments to try to sell me the lie that I can retain my youth, that I can improve upon something God has designed according to His will. It turns something God inhibits in Himself into a sinful distraction of discontentment. (And you can hear that the world also tries to convince us that beauty means youth, not maturity). But, my choice and my challenge is to listen instead to the Lord, whose message, although I struggle to accept it, is that I’m still imaging Him as I age, in my peaceful acceptance of the order of His design. The gradual loss of young beauty reveals the condition of my heart and the strength of my identity in Christ.
I did not write this blog post to fish for compliments. I wrote it to acknowledge the question that every woman asks, either out loud or to herself: “am I beautiful?” And to answer this question and close this blog post, I think it’s worth our time to turn our attention to the creation story in Genesis chapter 1. When God created Adam and Eve, the crown jewel of His creation, they were described in this way:
“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1: 27, 31).
That should be enough, for you and for me. To carry the honor of imaging God in exactly how He made us, knowing that when He sees us, He thinks that we are very good. We carry His creative fingerprint in the gender that He has assigned to us, the hair we have, the tone of our skin, the sound of our voice, and the natural changes that occur in our bodies as we grow. To try to downplay or exceed His work is an act of rebellion itself, yet enjoying and appreciating how He has crafted us is an act of praise.
So yes, ladies, you are beautiful because you were beautifully made. Rest in that fact, but when you begin to doubt, trust the One who made you to reassure you of the wonderful beauty that He sees in you when it seems that the world has turned its gaze to lesser things.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14
I bought a huge bag of oranges from Costco a couple of weeks ago–mostly for school lunches, healthy snacks at home, and soccer games. I pulled a few out of the bag for our tabletop fruit bowl when I got home, then stored the bag with its remaining oranges in the pantry. Then I kind of forgot they were there.
So when I decided to reload the fruit bowl, I was disappointed to pull the bag out of the pantry and find that at least four of the oranges had turned–they were mushy, smelly and coated in this brownish-green dust that was rubbing off on any good orange they touched. I managed to salvage some, but even those had to be scrubbed after resting in the bag with the bad fruit. It was discouraging to carry that bag, and a good portion of oranges that were too far gone to consume or just too near the mold, out to the trash in our driveway. I thought of the money I was throwing away, the fruit that had gone to waste, and realized that I could have prevented it all if I had been just a little more careful about how I stored the oranges.
As I stood there slightly disgusted, a parallel formed in my mind between the oranges and the life of a Believer, specifically in regard to where and how we rest, spend our downtime and “store” ourselves, and how these choices impact our lives and the lives of those around us.
I have heard pastors in various churches preach their ideas of what it means for Believers to be “in the world, but not of the world”. This exact phrase is actually nowhere to be found in the Bible, but is a summary of a section of scripture from John 17, where Christ is praying the night before His crucifixion.
“...I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it…As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17: 14-16, 18).
And then in Galatians, Paul explores the “fruit” or byproducts of walking closely with Christ and in step with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)
That Christians are called to be a part of the world, rubbing up against non-Christians, living a life that reflects Jesus by the fruit of the Spirit is not ground-breaking. We all know this to be our God-given role and responsibility. The struggle with this is often in the how we do this. Just how do we represent Christ while being relevant to our culture, our demographic; how do we maintain that “set apart” aspect of walking as a Believer while forging relationships with people who can have a vastly different world view?
I believe the key is found in not our action, but in our inaction, in our rest. And specifically, the kind of rest and relaxation to which we habitually turn.
In Matthew 6: 33, Jesus said:
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
And then in Matthew 11: 28-30 He continues:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Even when He preached these words thousands of years ago, Jesus was timely and relevant for today. His audience wasn’t plagued with an overabundance of information, a competitive job market or endless fundraisers. Yet, they needed rest, and although the advancements in technology have made our lives easier in some ways, so do we! We 21st Century Believers have so many choices for how we can spend our downtime–at our fingertips this very moment are, more than likely, 15 things we can do today to unwind. But if you think about it, most of them are simply distractions.
I have been learning this year as my children have gotten older and become more involved in things outside our home, forcing me to become a part time taxi driver (without the pay), that it is so important what I do with my free moments and where my stores of peace lie. I’m learning to be wary of the things that my flesh thinks it NEEDS to relax. If I reach for my phone, I’m bombarded by images and sounds that could be drowning out the voice of God. If I habitually reach for a beer when I’m sitting alone on the sofa for a rare ten minutes, I’m filling my body with a substance that offers a counterfeit joy, and possibly feeds an addiction. If I turn on the TV and zone out, I’m surrendering to the fantasy of escapism.
After reading the paragraph above, some may assume that I’m labeling each of these things as evil in and of themselves. Not true–all of these examples, and others, are indulgences that can be perfectly harmless when relegated to their proper place or occasion. However, I think it’s worth paying attention to where and how we habitually rest. If we run to the Lord when we need filling, respite, and peace, we’ll be fresh and ripe for the harvest, much like my oranges would’ve been if I’d stored them properly in a temperate refrigerator. They would’ve stayed delicious and pleasing, enjoyable to everyone. If we begin to depend on these created things that weren’t meant to fulfill us, the things that offer a counterfeit “rest,” they start to eat away at us and spread rot in our lives. What grows in the darkness in isolation and out of God’s ideal climate can never be healthy for us or for those with whom we come in contact.
If you know the Bible well, you’ll notice that I omitted part of the passage I quoted from John at the beginning of this article. It’s worth noting at the end here:
“Sanctify them by your truth: your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
We can never forget this crucial nugget of Jesus’ prayer to His Father the night He was betrayed and sent to die for us. It is ever so reassuring to me that Christ knew that we would struggle in this world, that it is important for us to know the truth in the midst of our struggles, and that we would recognize the Word (i.e. another name for Jesus) as the truth. And it is only when Believers are resting in Jesus, seeking Him as our means of true escape, that His essence begins to permeate us to the point that we no longer have to try to image Him to our world–like an essential oil, He anoints us with His fragrance which is easily noticeable to those we rub up against. May we not succumb to the false fillers of the world as our means of rest, but run to the One who offers rest in its purest form.
I’m linking to my article on forgiveness on Christian Woman Magazine. Enjoy!
This post is not for perfect people or those unwilling to get real.
I’m always grateful when the Lord gives me an object lesson to share with you guys. If you saw my story this morning, then you know I had a confrontation with a nasty little critter, a roach, that I had to chase down and kill and dispose of on my own. And it got me thinking about sin. (And I’m using this photo because I figured it’s a little better than a photo of a roach, and also, because sin is black-and-white, serious business).
Sin is an unpopular word today. Non-Christians don’t want to acknowledge it because they don’t believe many things are really “wrong” but a matter of perspective, human nature, or the fault of others. Christians don’t like to talk about it or face it in themselves because it forces them to confront that they still battle it. It makes them vulnerable and reveals how, even with salvation, they fall short of perfection.
Much like the roach that surfaced in my hallway this morning, sin is insidious. It lurks in the darkness and festers where ugly things grow. It’s always around, looking for an opportunity and space where there is no protection or guard to invade your life, catching you by surprise, threatening to spread its disease in your home, life and relationships.
The good news is here, and it really is black-and-white: that all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), that He has provided a way of escape for us to stand up to temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), that if we confess and turn from our sin He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), and that we are no longer burdened under a yoke of slavery to sin (Galatians 5:1), but are set free in victory.
What this means for you and me is that all the struggles in emotions and relationships that drag us into dispair, that make us feel guilty, that threaten to swallow us—have no true power over us. When I recognize sin in myself, it makes me angry, it repulses me. I can’t ignore or deny it, because it doesn’t belong in my life and doesn’t represent who I now am. Instead, I call it what it is and reach for the weapons that God has given me to fight it (Ephesians 6:10-18). I can’t give in to it and let it bring disaster and decay upon my life, because God has promised me abundant life (John 10:10), so I have to face and fight it, even if I don’t want to, and do what’s necessary to remove it.
But whereas this morning there was no one home but me to chase down, kill, and dispose of the roach, when it comes to sin, I have a Helper. I have someone I can ALWAYS call to fight it for me, because I have to recognize when some enemies are too big for me to battle alone. He never laughs or belittles me when I have to run from the room in disgust. He never shakes His head and rolls His eyes when I come to Him groveling and in shameful tears. And even when I come to Him with a blind and haughty spirit, He lovingly changes my mind, my heart, breaks down my self-worshipping pride and shows me how much I need Him.
So for those who have made it this far—my hope for you is this: recognize the little creatures that attempt to infiltrate your spirit. Be on guard against “roaches” that fit through the cracks in your heart and try to turn it from Jesus, to harden it to His voice. Listen for the “roaches” that creep across your mind and make you doubt His word and His promises (2 Corinthians 7:1). He has fitted you with the power to chase them down and rid them from your life.
Linking to my new article on Christian Woman Magazine. This one is on chivalry–it’s not dead, just different today and hopefully looking more like Jesus.https://www.christianwoman.co/the-new-chivalry/