Confession 445: Because God Doesn’t Do Redo’s

Let us take time to meditate on our blessings

Image happily created with Canva. Scripture courtesy Bible Gateway.

Awhile ago, I was driving and praying. The car is often a sanctuary spot for me, a time to turn off the noise around me, decompress, and check in with both myself and God. Apparently I was having one of those days. You know those days. You get out of bed off-kilter and the day just keeps turning in the wrong direction. Maybe you forgot to get milk and let your ten year old eat a cookie for breakfast. Perhaps you forgot to sign a study guide and your child lost a behavior point. Or, an unexpected medical bill might surreptitiously arrive in your mailbox and send your budget into a tailspin. You get the point…stuff happens.

So, as I was driving and praying on this particular off-kilter day, I said to God, “You know, I just need you to give me a redo.” Honestly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask of the God who stopped time for a full day so the Israelites could defeat  the Amorites in the book of Joshua. If the Earth could stop on its axis for a day of battle, surely I could get a do-over.

Alas, it was not to be. As I pondered the idea of a redo with God, this thought came to me. God doesn’t do redos. God does restoration.

God doesn't do redoGod restores

Think about that for a minute. If you’ve ever watched one of the bazillion house flipper shows on HGTV, you understand the difference between a redo and restoration. A redo involves demolishing everything and building from scratch. You get rid of the existing structure, tear out the old foundation, and build a completely new structure out of new materials. In restoration, however, the goal is to bring the structure back to its original glory. This involves some demolition. If the plumbing is rusted, it needs to be replaced. Systems need to be modernized so they can be functional. However, the basic bones of the original structure are still there. And, when possible, original materials are repurposed into something useful once more.

A restoration takes a lot more time and effort than a redo because he goal is to bring something that has faded back to its original pristine condition. A painting that has lost its luster is restored to brightness. A crackly, old recording is made crystalline once again.

God doesn’t give us a redo because he loves us as we are. God knows our mistakes. He knows our faults and our weaknesses. He knows the things we’ve experienced, and he wants to use them in his restorative process. God’s not going to obliterate our bad days, he’s going to use them for a greater purpose. If, of course, we let him. We must be active participants in God’s restorative process. We have to put on our work gloves, strap our tool belts to our waist, and dive into the depths of our being with God.

It’s a painstakingly tedious endeavor. We don’t become the person God has designed us to be overnight. There’s some demolition involved, some pipes and wiring to replace. There’s also the refurbishing that has to be done, as we clean up the messes within our hearts so that God’s love can shine through us. But, in the end, if we give God time and space, we will experience the beauty of God’s restoration in our lives.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

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Confession 444: Trusting the Author

Stay in and

Graphics happily created using Canva at canva.com.

The past few weeks, I’ve been reading a novel by Wiley Cash called The Last Ballad. It’s a novel based on a true story about a woman with the courage to fight for herself and her family during labor strikes in North Carolina in the late 1920’s.

Cash’s writing embraces the Southern narrative tradition. Meandering prose unfurls a long yarn that seems simple on the surface but is, in fact, calculated and complex. At one point in the narrative, I found myself wondering where on earth this tale was going. It wasn’t a bad thing–I wasn’t straining toward the finish, eager to put this novel aside and pick up something different. I wasn’t concerned or holding my breath in suspense. I just couldn’t see how the pieces were going to fit together. Normally, I must confess, this irks me. As a reader, I want to know that the author can resolve the conflict in a manner that is satisfying. There’s nothing worse than coming to the end of a book and being disappointed. That’s why I often skip to the end of a book to ensure that the resolution will be worth the journey there. But, as I pondered the ultimate resolution of events in The Last Ballad, I realized that I didn’t need to read ahead. Somehow along the way, Wiley Cash gained my trust as an author. I knew I could faithfully follow his narrative through to the end, even if I didn’t know the exact route it would take.

I think there’s a similar trust that needs to exist between God and the Created. God is the author of Creation. As such, he knows how the story ends. While the journey to resolution can seem long and winding, we must trust that God will make it satisfactory. Indeed, God has promised us a satisfactory resolution. God sent Jesus to triumph over death. Jesus forged the path of salvation and perfected it within us when he took the mantle of sin from our shoulders and carried it to realm of the Dead. God, through Jesus, brought restoration to our souls.

And yet, the journey doesn’t end there, for Revelation promises restoration for Creation.

Look! I'm making all things new.

Graphic happily created at Canva!

When it comes to God as Author, it’s not a brand-new story. We know the end, because God told it to us long ago. And yet, so often we still struggle to trust our journey to God. We don’t like the detours, the introduction of new characters, the meandering through desert places. We want a clear-cut path from point A to point B. But, my friends, that path is uninspiring, for it’s in the detours and desert places that we come to know God’s strength. It’s through the introduction of new characters that we come to know God’s love. God is a trustworthy Author. He is invested in his Creation, more so than we are, and he knows how the story unfolds.

This week, I encourage you to stop trying to come up with a plan. Instead, embrace the journey you are on, and trust in God’s ability to lead you through.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 443: Cut Some Slack

I know the one-3

A couple of years ago, my husband, parents and I took a trip to London. It was amazing. We fell gloriously and unabashedly in love with this vibrant, diverse, historic city. The sounds, the smells, the tastes, the sights…it was a feast for the senses. I wanted to bottle it up and carry it home with me, but there’s no way to bottle up a city like London. You can’t ship it home in a box, or fold it into your suitcase. It’s impermeable. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to take some piece of the city back.

I like necklaces–not the shiny, polished, gem-encrusted pendants you find in jewelry stores, but the simple, enameled, stamped, or even carved necklaces that represent a specific time, place, or opportunity. In London, at a gift shop in Buckingham Palace, I found a necklace that symbolized just a tiny fraction  of our magnificent London adventure–a crimson, enameled English rose locket.

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I scooped it up as quickly as possible and snuggled it deep into my overflowing suitcase for the long flight home. I’ve worn the locket several times since I first bought it, and each time the clasp on the back of the necklace slides closer and closer to the pendant itself. In most necklaces, this is an easy fix. One simply pulls the chain through a loop at the top of the pendant until the clasp and pendant form a perfect, parallel line. Yet, the chain links on my crimson English rose are completely dysfunctional. Instead of slipping easily through the loop at the top of the pendant, they get stuck inside. It’s infuriating. No matter how hard I pull on the chain, the links stubbornly refuse to dislodge themselves from the pendant’s upper loop.

Recently, I decided to perform a thorough examination of the loop and links to see if I could correct the problem and bring the necklace back to its original alignment. I twisted the links nearest the loop to try and force them through the circle. I pushed on the link lodged in the loop with my fingernail to try and get it to budge. Nothing worked, until I released the slack on the chain. With the pressure lifted, the link collapsed and flowed easily through the loop, link after link after link. I pulled the chain taut once again. Sure enough, the gentle flow of link through loop came to a grinding halt. The pressure on the chain caused the links to rise perpendicularly to the loop, thus preventing any movement from taking place. The links needed some slack.

IMG_3506Often, in our own lives, we hold on too tightly. We rigidly refuse to bend our will, our wishes, our way of doing. Because of this, we get stuck in negative patterns of thinking and being, telling ourselves that if we work harder we’ll be able to put our lives back into balance. My friends, this is a lie. When we try to shape our lives by force, it often ends in dissatisfaction. This is because we’re relying on our own power, our own insight, and our own will rather than on God. Instead of pulling tighter, stretching ourselves thinner, and holding on for dear life, we need to cut ourselves some slack. We need to accept our own humanity, embrace the fact that life is messy, and look to God to order our days.

Last week, I let my ten-year-old each chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. We had an abundance of them, I wanted them out of the house, and breakfast is not the time or place for a power struggle. He washed them down with skim milk, and I made sure his lunch included whole grains, fruit, and a veggie (like, one mini pepper). I could beat myself up about this. I could berate my parenting abilities, buckle down, and offer some sort of repentance to the faceless online parenting judges. But instead, I cut myself some slack. I accepted the fact that sometimes, the day-to-day minutae of parenting is going to be messy. I’m not always going to make the right decisions, and my kids will sometimes eat cookies for breakfast. However, I trust that God and I are working through this parenting thing together. I lean on him when I don’t know the answers, and he helps me see the path to take.

Just as we need to cut ourselves some slack, we also need to extend that slack to others.  Everyone deserves grace, and we need to engage in the practice of offering it. If we want balance in our lives, we need to seek peace in our interactions and relationships with others. We need to follow Jesus’ example of love and hospitality. And we need to accept the fact that others are human, too. That’s so much easier said than done sometimes. We can’t love as God loves on our own, but only as an outpouring of God’s Spirit within us. When we are focused on God, when we trust and rely on him, his Spirit fills us up from the inside, so that we may share his love and grace with others.

When we let go of our own need to control and perfect, we are better able to focus on God. God is able to bring our lives into balance, but we have to cut the slack and let him have control.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

The Beauty of Community~A Forward from Michelle DeRusha

Today,I choose tobe happy!-2

One of my favorite blogs to read comes from Christian author, Michelle DeRusha. She always manages to put beautiful, grace-filled, God-breathed words to issues of life and faith that I am pondering or struggling with. So often, when I feel overwhelmed by an event, issue, or even theological principle, Michelle’s words give eloquent voice to my thoughts and feelings.

Today, I’m sending you over to Michelle’s site to read a hope-filled message about the power of community to transform the world, one meal at a time. In an age where we hear so much talk of division, Michelle’s words remind us that we, as Jesus followers, are a people of togetherness, not separateness. Would you please take a few minutes to read Michelle’s words? Would you challenge yourself to live a life of community in the face of so much negativity?

Here’s the link: Community as a Courageous Act of Peace

P.S. It also includes the opportunity to win a new book!!

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 442: Light it Up!

Today,I choose tobe happy!

“Mom! Come look at this!” my twelve year old called from the living room. I sighed and set down the peanut butter knife, disrupted yet again from the task of making lunches.

“What?” I snipped as I made my way around the corner into the living room. In lieu of a verbal response, my son pointed to the masterpiece of innovative technology you see below.

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“Wow,” I said, feeling a little guilty at my initial irritation. “That’s really impressive.” And indeed, it is. You see, these blocks only light up if they’re connected to the bottom blue rectangle. They don’t have to touch the blue rectangle, but they must be aligned in a way that the energy from the blue rectangle can flow directly through them. To be honest, I don’t understand all the sciency stuff behind it–I’m better at deconstructing Shakespeare than electricity. I just know that if the blocks aren’t aligned to receive energy from the blue bar, they don’t light up.

So, the fact that my son was able to build a non-linear lighted column with the blocks is pretty impressive. Somehow he figured out a way to connect the blocks to the energy source without relying on traditional construction methods.

I think these light-up tetris blocks are a great metaphor for our faith life. Jesus, of course, is the light at the bottom of the tower. When we are connected to him, then we shine his light into the world. When we are disconnected, our spirits are darkened, and we cannot project what we do not have. This is why it’s so important to stay connected to Jesus.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I am passionate about the study of Scripture. I believe that the study of Scripture is paramount to faith development. In Scripture, we see the heart and mind of God. We learn of his faithfulness, mercy, forgiveness, and love. We understand our place in this world, that we are called to be disciples to all the nations and share God’s message of salvation. In Scripture we find our hope, as we read time and again of God’s promise of reconciliation and restoration for all his creation. In Scripture, we gain strength and confidence, as we see the faithfulness of those who have gone before. In Scripture, we learn of God’s triumph over death, and claim our own victory as God’s children and heirs.

Scripture is one of the most important tools we use to stay connected to our spiritual power source. When we take the time to be in God’s word, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit grants us wisdom and understanding. The Spirit helps us see the big picture of God’s great love. The Spirit moves us to act on God’s word, and to share God’s message of hope with others.

Scripture connects us to God and gives us light. Jesus tells his disciples, in John 10, that he is the light. When we follow Jesus’ words and example, we will not be stumbling in the darkness of a world that seems to be continually in chaos. Rather, we will be walking in and carrying God’s light. When we walk in Jesus’ footsteps, we connect others to the light as well. And so, we build a glorious tower of multi-colored light reaching out into all the world that is rooted in God’s eternal and brilliant glory.

This week, ask yourself how connected you are to the Light. Are you placing yourself in a position to receive God’s Spirit? Are you actively working to bring God’s Light to others? Are you connected to your power source?

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 441: Exhale

Today,I choose tobe happy!

In Missouri, you never know what September might bring. It’s that weird transition period between seasons; warm days gradually give way to cooler nights. This year, however, September brought a heatwave. Just as people were turning their sights and activities toward Fall, near-record highs brought sweltering, sweaty, stifling summer right back into their faces. I must admit, the heatwave made me miserable. I was cranky, snappish, tired, and unmotivated. I wanted to be outside, hiking and walking and just enjoying Fall. Instead, I was holed up inside our house which, in spite of air conditioning, was warm and humid, too. I could have gone outside. I could have gone hiking and walking. But, I chose not to because, quite frankly, I was tired of being hot.

Hot dry winds blew all day yesterday, banging our back screen door open and shut, open and shut. A cold front was pushing the winds, and overnight the cold front forced the heat south and ushered in some truly Fall-inspired temperatures. Standing outside as I waited with my boys for their school bus, I closed my eyes and turned my face to the cool breeze. And then, I exhaled.

As I stood basking in the glory of Fall, a weight seemed to lift from my spirit. Summer (fingers crossed) had gone. The Earth exhaled, and beauty and peace fell upon us.

Lately, I’ve been talking to a lot of people who are struggling to exhale. Many of us are in places in our lives where we just hold our breath. We hold our breath as we push through our overextended schedules. Get the kids to school, go to work, get the kids to an activity, go to the grocery store, get the kids to bed, go do laundry…The litany of busyness leaves no time to exhale.

Others hold their breath waiting for healing. An unexpected diagnosis leads to doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, medicine regimens, and uncertainty about the future. The pain and unknown path ahead leaves no time to exhale.

Still others hold their breath through emotional upheaval. Changing relationships, anxiety over loved ones, loss, and sometimes betrayal cause us to hold onto worry, doubt, and anger. Juggling these emotions leaves no time to exhale.

I think our nation is in a state of holding its breath, too. Healthcare costs are rising. Violence seems to be increasing. The gap between rich and poor is widening. Ineffective national leaders offer nothing but divisiveness, bringing out the worst in our human nature. We go from one national disaster to the next: fires, volcanoes, hurricanes, and floods. The constant state of chaos leaves no time to exhale.

The problem with holding our breath is that we keep all of the negativity within. We internalize the sorrow, the fear, the anger, and the frustration until it becomes our entire world. We become trapped within ourselves, within the negativity of our own emotions. We become hardened and cynical, unable to see or experience the beauty of life around us.

My friends, this is not the life God wants for us. God doesn’t want us to just hold our breaths. Rather, he wants us to exhale, for when we exhale, we push out all of the negative and leave room for his life-giving Spirit.

Today,I choose tobe happy!-2

God wants to cleanse us with his Spirit, but we can’t experience that cleansing of the soul if we’re holding our breath. We need to exhale. We need to exhale the constant need to go, go, go. We need to exhale the fear of the unknown. We need to exhale the worst case scenarios of our lives. We need to exhale our fear of failure. We need to exhale all of the hurt that’s been heaped upon us. We need to exhale our sorrow and despair. We need to exhale the anger and resentment we’ve nurtured by holding on too long. We need to exhale mistrust and cynicism. We need to exhale self-doubt and self-consciousness. We need to exhale the desire for more, more, more. We need to exhale.

We each exhale in different ways using different methods. The key to exhaling is to be mindful of the practice. Find a quiet place and still your mind. Focus on your spirit. Invite God to show you the places inside yourself where you’re holding your breath. Then, ask God to help you exhale. Some people find it helpful to utter a meditative chant. As you exhale, say “I release _____”.

After you exhale, consciously fill your lungs to mass capacity and imagine yourself breathing in the Holy Spirit. Picture God’s Spirit moving from your lungs throughout your body–into your limbs, your fingers, your toes, your head. Again, some find a meditative chant useful. As you breathe in, you might say, “I breathe in _____”.

Take some time to exhale this week. Slow down, be conscious of your breath, and make room for the Holy Spirit.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

 

Confession 440: How a Pro Golfer Reminded Me About the Importance of Kindness

Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? Romans 2:4 (CEB)

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This summer, my boys had the opportunity to attend the PGA Championship. Our youngest son spent nearly a week walking the course with his dad, grandpa, and uncle. He met lots of professional golfers, got signatures and pictures, and even picked up some tips to improve his golf game. While he walked away with a new enthusiasm for golf and a better understanding of the game, perhaps the biggest lesson he learned over the course of the week was the importance of kindness. And that lesson came from a European golf champion named Matt Wallace.

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My son started following Matt during the practice rounds. Although he was impressed with Matt’s abilities as a golfer (Matt hit a hole-on-one during one of the rounds), the real reason my husband and son joined Matt’s team was because of his kindness. You see, Matt took time to interact with the people around him. He was gracious to his fellow players and the tournament officials. He came over and spoke to the fans following him, taking time out of his busy schedule to interact with total strangers. He let my son come under the rope (a big deal) and gave him an autograph. He always made it a point to say hello to them throughout the tournament. And, on the last day when it was hot, and humid, Matt gave my son and husband water from his own stash. After the tournament, he called my son over to him and pulled a golf ball from his bag. He signed it and took a picture with my son.

When all was said and done, my husband asked our son what he got from the tournament. Our son responded, “I learned about kindness from Matt Wallace.”

Kindness is important in our house. Our boys’ school has kindness as their focus each year. My youngest even got to participate in a kindness leadership training course last year. So, he’s pretty familiar with the concept. And yet, none of the teachings about kindness had near the impact on him as did witnessing kindness in action at the PGA Championship. And that, my friends, is why practicing kindness matters. We can talk about kindness all we want, but it is the practice of it that makes a difference and transforms lives.

So, what is kindness? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, kindness is “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” On the surface, kindness doesn’t seem like a lot. But, consider the process involved in being “friendly, generous, and considerate.”

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  1. Kindness notices others. Being friendly implies interaction with others. In order to interact with others, you have to first notice that they’re in front of you. Sometimes, the simple act of noticing someone else can be life-saving and life-sustaining. When we notice others, we show them that they’re not alone. When we notice others, we’re more inclined to engage with them on their journey. When we notice others, we understand that we are not the beginning and end of creation. Rather, we understand that we are part of a vast network of humanity, and that we share many of the same experiences, joys, struggles, and sorrows as others. Kindness notices others.
  2. Kindness practices generosity. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” What do you think of when you think of the abundant life? Our consumeristic society tells us that abundance has to do with wealth and the accumulation of things. But, Jesus’s economy has a different definition of abundance. In Jesus’s economy, everyone has enough. There is enough food, enough shelter, enough peace, enough justice, enough contentment. We see this lived out in the early church. The book of Acts tells us that the disciples gave generously to each other so that everyone had enough. Abundant living wasn’t about getting more, but making sure everyone had enough. When we practice generosity, we are ensuring that others have enough. We are sharing Jesus’s abundant life. Kindness practices generosity.
  3. Kindness thinks about others. I like the word considerate. The base comes from consider, which means to think, or ponder. When we are considerate, we thoughtfully think about others, their struggles, their needs, their experiences, their perspectives. Being considerate changes us, because we no longer see the world primarily from our own perspective. We are forced to look outward, not inward. Jesus’s entire ministry was outward-focused. He considered the needs of those he met, and he did what he could to meet those needs. He healed. He taught. He gave his life. Jesus put us first, so that we might be reconciled to him. Kindness thinks about others. 

This week, let’s stop thinking about kindness and put it into action. Let’s notice others, whether it be at the cashier at the check-out counter or the homeless veteran on the side of the road. Let’s practice generosity–finding ways that we can give of ourselves, our time, our talents, and our money so that everyone might have enough. Let’s think about others, consider the perspective of someone else, and allow new understandings to guide our actions.

Kindness matters.

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 439: Keeping the Message On Point

Later King Zedekiah sent for him and questioned Jeremiah secretly in the palace: “Is there a word from the Lord?”

“There is,” Jeremiah replied. “You are going to be handed over to the king of Babylon.” Then Jeremiah asked King Zedekiah, “What have I done wrong to you or your attendants or this people that you should throw me into prison?” Jeremiah 37:17-18 (CEB)

As a writer, I often skim through articles, blogs, and books about marketing. Truth be told, I can’t stand marketing–the whole process smacks of disingenuousness and manipulation. I prefer to be straight-forward; here’s my book, you can read it or not. In all of the marketing literature I’ve studied and ignored, there are two key points:

  1. story matters
  2. your message needs to be on point

ballet shoes and pink tights

Part of developing a successful brand is maintaining a message that is “on point”. This means that the message is consistent, regardless of how it’s delivered. Successful brands clearly articulate why their product matters. And, that message stays the same over time. Take Apple computers, for instance. From the very beginning, Apple’s message has been that Apple products combine innovative technology and quality performance for a superior technological product. And, consumers totally bought into the message (me included!). Why pay more for an Apple computer? It’s state-of-the art and top-quality. Why pay more for an iPod? It’s-state of the-art and top-quality. Why pay more for an iPhone? It’s state-of -the art and top-quality. You get the idea…consistency and continuity matter when it comes to messaging.

Jeremiah understood this concept. His message was always on point, even when he was chased, beaten, and falsely imprisoned. In fact, his message was so on point that when King Zedekiah sent for him in the middle of the night for a “secret” meeting, Jeremiah delivered the message in a seemingly offhand fashion and moved on to a different subject.

“Is there a word from the Lord?” Zedekiah asks.

“Sure. You’re going to be overthrown by Babylon. Now, about my unjust imprisonment…”

Jeremiah had delivered this message so many times it was old hat. I imagine his annoyance and impatience at being asked the same question over and over and over again. It’s the same way I feel when my boys ask me what time it is…every ten minutes.

Jeremiah’s message was the same day-after-day, year-after-year. This is because God’s message is unchanging. God’s message is always on point. From Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, God’s message is clear and consistent. God created us. God loves us. God wants to redeem us.

In a society that continually rejects the idea of truth, it’s important to remember that God’s message has (and will) always been the same. Therefore, as followers of Christ, we need to take a cue from Jeremiah. Our message, indeed, our faith walk, must be consistent with God’s message. While we might differ on the finer points of faith (baptism, communion, worship style) we must maintain clarity and consistency on the key points: God created us. God loves us. God wants to redeem us.

There are a lot of mixed messages about faith in the media-verse. Christianity is a multi-billion dollar industry, after all. So, how do we know if a message is truly from God? Scripture is the ultimate litmus test. I’m not talking about proof-texting–pulling random scripture passages out of context that support an opinion about faith. I’m talking about the overall message: God created us, God loves us, God wants to redeem us.

It’s important to ask ourselves the following questions when discerning messages about and from God.

  • Is the writer/speaker/musician’s message on point with God’s overall message in Scripture?
  • Does a writer/speaker/musician’s claim about God ring true with Jesus’ message in the Gospels?
  • Is my understanding of this message consistent with God’s overall message in Scripture, especially the Gospels?

Keep in mind, you might not always agree with everyone’s theology, worship style, faith traditions, or even political stances. However, that doesn’t mean that believers with opposing viewpoints are wrong, as long as the message itself (God created us. God loves us. God wants to redeem us.) is on point. There are several Christian evangelists, writers, and even musicians who have opinions and positions on topics I don’t agree with. However, if their overall message is on point with God’s message in Scripture, I can respect that.

This week, consider the messages you are sending and receiving about God. Are you living in a way that shows others God created us, God loves us, God wants to redeem us? Are you using Scripture to discern messages about and from God? How can you work to make sure your message, like Jeremiah’s, is on point?

Blessings and Peace,

Sara

Confession 438: Of Mountaintops and Restoration

I will strengthen the weary, and renew those who are weak. Jeremiah 31:25 (CEB)

IMG_3348“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.” These are the words I quoted to my boys on our first morning in Breckenridge, Colorado. They politely ignored me and continued building a complicated structure of dominoes and Jenga blocks along the floor of our condo.

Basking in the glow of the mountains, I shrugged and walked to the porch with my Bible in hand, completing the Psalm silently as I gazed at the snow-capped peak in the distance.

I’ve always loved mountains. I find their firm presence comforting–a sign of quiet assurance, strength, and changelessness in a world that is often chaotic and unpredictable. When I was in college, I spent a summer working as a camp counselor in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each night, as I closed my eyes to sleep, I felt secure knowing that I was enclosed on all sides by mighty rocks that had been there for millennia.

A few weeks ago, my husband, two boys, and I took a road trip to the Colorado Rockies. We stayed in beautiful Breckenridge, but took day trips to the Royal Gorge, Garden of the Gods, and Pike’s Peak. Before we left on our trip, I was a mess. Lots of deadlines meant long hours of writing. I was sleep-deprived, my muscles were tight, and my emotions were all over the place. My anxiety issues kicked into overdrive. I went to bed each night feeling worried and awoke each morning feeling dread. I was in deep need of some restoration.

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As we started our ascent into the mountains, I began to feel my anxiety falling away. I looked around at the great beauty of God’s wondrous creation. There was the vibrant cornflower blue sky contrasted with the deep green of the fir trees. There were the subtle shadows of puffy gray-white clouds falling over the mountains. There were even foam-topped mountain streams plunging down steep slopes as the snow continued to melt high above the tree line. It was glorious.

Peace came to me in the mountains like a soft breeze that cuts through the heat on an oppressive summer day. For the first time in a long time, I stopped doing and allowed myself to just be. I stood on a mountaintop and felt exultant, even though I was gasping for breath and covered in sweat. I listened to the wind blowing across the peaks, swelling  in a wonderful crescendo of timeless chords through the trees and falling still once more. I spent twenty minutes staring at an ugly goat, enthralled that it could thrive so far above the tree line where there are only craggy rocks and shrubs. And I gazed down at a world remarkably small thousands of feet below.

In those mountaintop moments, standing on rocks that were present long before humanity and that will remain when humanity is gone, God reminded me of my own insignificance. While it sounds strange, there is something greatly restorative in that knowledge. When you stand atop the mountain that was born millions of years ago, you understand that while the world focuses on this moment, God focuses on the eternal. There are processes and plans in place that reach into infinity, and we have a place in those plans. God’s eternal is our eternal, too. Our present moments don’t define us in God’s eyes; rather, he sees the bigger picture. He sees us as he created us, and he sees what we will be in his eternal kingdom.

Since we’ve returned from our Colorado adventure, I’ve tried to be more intentional about restoration. I sit on the dock and watch turtles swimming. I try to give all of my attention to conversations with others. I sit and read and think without feeling guilty about it. Sure, the anxiety is still there. Sure, there are still deadlines to meet. Sure, there are still the usual struggles, both internal and external. But, I’m working more intentionally on restoration and renewal.

This week, I would challenge you to consider finding some space in your schedule for restoration. Maybe you don’t have time for a mountain hike, but a walk through a park or rest in a quiet place can do wonders for the soul. God wants to restore you, so let him work to restore and renew your strength.

Blessings and Peace,

SaraIMG_3325

Confession 437: Dandelion Weeds

He removes any of my branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit. John 15:2 (CEB)

dandelion 1

On a sunny, muggy, Monday morning, I looked out over our front gardens. The flowers were blooming nicely…vibrant purple, orange, white, and green. However, the weeds were growing nicely, too. They tend to do that, especially around our yard, as neither my husband nor I possess much gardening ability. Every so often, we go out and work for a few hours digging up weeds so that the plants have more room to grow and shine. But, inevitably, the weeds return.

As I looked at the weeds eclipsing the flowers, I decided it was time to pull. Most weeds come out with a firm twist and tug around the base of the stalk. But dandelion weeds…they grow deep. Dandelions are the perennial flower of spring and summer. They’re pretty and colorful, but they’re also invasive and pernicious. They grow over, under, and through other plants that were intentionally placed within a garden bed until they’ve overtaken the entire garden. In a sense, dandelions are the schoolyard bullies of flower beds.

Dandelion weeds are impossible to pull by hand. They’re roots are too deep and too strong. Usually, I have to dig them out, either by hand or with a small trowel. (Okay, I don’t have a small trowel because I’m not really a gardener. I just get the big shovel from the garage to dig them out.) They’re very resistant to removal, and they always find a way to come back.

dandelion rootAs I was hacking away at dandelion weeds, it occurred to me that we all carry dandelions within our being. You know, those anxieties, hurts, insecurities, or even negative patterns of behavior that persist even after we’ve pruned our hearts and grown as human beings. Our personal dandelion weeds are rooted so deeply within us that sometimes, we don’t even remember how they got there. And, removing them requires so much time, strength, and energy we sometimes feel it’s easier to just let them be. However, letting our dandelion weeds continue to grow and fester can suffocate the good fruit God is trying to grow in us.

For instance, one of my oldest and most stubborn dandelion weeds in insecurity. I’m constantly battling a litany of negative thoughts and feelings telling me that I’m not good enough. Some days, it’s body image. Other days, it’s decision-making skills. Still other days it’s worry that my own failures as a human being are going to somehow negatively influence my husband and children. These weeds wreck havoc in my life, causing me to feel anxious and depressed, and tempting me to just withdraw from the world around me.

God and I have been working on this particular set of weeds for decades. It’s a lot of mental and emotional work. It involves actively searching for the cause of my insecurity when I feel vulnerable, and making a conscious decision to either let the feeling go or do something about it. In other words, I have to actively burn the weed or turn it into something useful. Either option requires effort and a lot of help from God.

I share my own struggle with you not so that you’ll sympathize with me, but so that you’ll see we all have dandelion weeds that impact how we think and act. We all struggle with things buried deep within our souls. But, continuing to let those things grow is detrimental to the work God has called us to do. We can’t do what God calls us to do when we’re weighted down with weeds. If our soul is rooted with weeds, there’s no room for God’s good fruit. And God’s fruit is SO good!!

harvestGalatians 5 tells us that the fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Imagine a life where these nine characteristics thrived within us. Imagine what we might do, what we might say, how our relationships might flourish, how much kingdom work might be done. This is what God wants to plant within us, but we have to make room. We have to prune. We have to self-assess. But, we can’t do it alone. We must ask for God’s guidance and revelation. We need to seek his wisdom and soul-tending expertise. And then, we need to use the tools he gives us to dig out those dandelion weeds so he can plant

the seeds of love,

the seeds of joy,

the seeds of peace,

the seeds of patience,

the seeds of kindness,

the seeds of goodness,

the seeds of faithfulness,

the seeds of gentleness,

the seeds of self-control.

This week, let’s commit do doing some soul-pruning. Together, let’s ask God to help us identify and begin the process of removing our dandelion weeds. Then, let’s ask God to give us his fruit for the glory of his kingdom.

Blessing and Peace,

Sara