What’s your platform?

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I’ve been wanting to share something for a while now. It has to do with the “platform.” But circumstances and timing delayed the message. Now, though, I can’t help but wonder if Thursday had to happen first. Because that’s when I snapped this shot of my little Annabelle…

And surely God provided me with a picture of my younger self through this image. Oh, I may not have looked this way outwardly when I took my stand some four and a half years ago, but undoubtedly, it’s how I felt inwardly.

For I was full of vim and vinegar when I chose my platform. Passion and fire and zest. Woefully, I was full of some other stuff, too. Mostly myself. I was full of me and what I knew…

I just didn’t realize that.

It was just as my daughter’s shirt proclaims. I thought I was Ms. Smarty Pants and I wanted everyone to know it. Starting with my church.

 

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Little ones learn quick, that’s for sure. Like in the pictures above. The first time Annabelle saw that mister she grabbed a hold of it and started singing into it like it was a microphone… as if her voice would be amplified.

And Thursday when I told her to put the lid on the Rubbermaid box, she resisted. No, she said. “I need somewhere to stand.” And that’s when I stopped my cleaning and reached for the camera. Because this little girl of mine decidedly chose a platform for herself. Somehow, she already knows that to be seen and heard, you need a place from which to stand and a means to get your voice out there.

And this is where I was not that long ago. And it’s where I continue to find myself. Subconsciously, I am seeking a platform. A place to project my voice. A place of visibility. But more importantly, it’s a high place a seek. Because the higher I am, the easier it is to be seen.

And so much easier to be heard…

Platform: 1. A raised level surface on which people or things stand. A raised floor or stage used by public speakers or performers so that they can be seen by an audience. 2. The declared policy of a political party or group – an opportunity to voice one’s views or initiate action. 

Four and a half years ago, I wanted to share my heart. And I thought my motives were pure. I did. I never realized my true intent, which was to showcase newly acquired knowledge. As I said, I believed myself to be Ms. Smarty Pants.

However, I was at a new church and barely known. So it mattered naught that I was full of fire and passion and determination. I just couldn’t find a niche. No foot hold available as there were no women’s Sunday school classes, just mixed groups. And no women’s Bible studies, only children’s activities.

So there was nowhere for me to open my mouth. I couldn’t release the pressure built up within…

Thus, I felt stifled. And though I exhibited a smooth exterior, inwardly I rolled with anger. White-hot rage, really. And before I knew what had happened, I developed a platform. A cause for fighting. My hook?

Women’s rights.

Especially the right for a woman to be heard. Because I felt like we weren’t. Not where I found myself in the Winter of 2013. There just didn’t seem to be much opportunity for a woman. But finally, a Women’s service gave me the chance I was waiting for. That’s when I was asked to share Scripture.

It was a simple task, really. Just pick a Bible verse or two and read it. But me being me, I was driven to do more. I wanted to tell everyone every thing I knew. And I thought the time had come to do so. Thus, I took my stand upon the platform of my choosing. I issued the call.

To women.

Open your mouths and speak.

The Lord speaks; many, many women spread the good news.

This is probably one of my most humiliating memories. And without a doubt, this is the beginning of my fall. Oh, it’s exactly as Oswald Chambers says… “sudden elevation frequently leads to pride and a fall.”

Because this is the moment my heavenly Father began to discipline me for prideful behavior. And this is where He began humbling me. Lower and lower I descended. It just took me some years to figure it all out.

See, I took a stand. I started with Psalm 68:11…

And because my speech wasn’t motivated by love, I was nothing more than a sounding gong when I pointed out how the King James Version, along with other versions of the Bible, omit women from this text.

I wondered why and hoped they would to.

Next, I went so far as to backhandedly insult our Sunday School class. It was a couple’s study and I mentioned how I’d heard multiple times, “Now, this part is really more for the men…” I voiced my dissatisfaction. I implored, “But what about the women?”

So, I exhorted the women who sat in pews to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. I reminded them that Jesus appeared to Mary first. A woman. And He gave her a charge. One of  “Go and tell.”

Do you think I resembled Annabelle in that picture… I wonder if I made wild gestures throwing my arms wide, hoping to draw the crowd in to my argument. Hoping they’d see things my way.

Afterward, I was pleased with my performance. Thought I’d done well. Had no clue it was a spirit of divisiveness and gender rivalry that motivated my speech. And that what I’d really done was stir things up rather than build people up.

No, I was much too caught up in the excitement of it all. Thrilled I was able to use the platform to further my cause. Hopeful I’d initiate some female action. Because I extended the call.

To women.

Take your stand and be heard…

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

I’ve written about this before. I’ve shared about my haughtiness prior to speaking, telling a couple of gals I couldn’t just sit still for two years. This upon hearing of the church’s rule. A person could not lead a study till they’d been a member for two full years, and that was my heart’s desire… to lead women’s Bible study.

I previously shared about the WMU Director asking me just before the service if she should ask the invited speaker what Scripture I should read. Oh, the shock my face must have registered. No, I said. I’d already prepared…

The woman had no clue I’d typed up a full page of notes to which my husband inquired days before, “How much time do you have?”

But there’s more to it. The most humbling side of the story. And it’s what I haven’t told before. Not to this degree. Because it goes to the heart of what my Father has been trying to teach me all along.

About womanhood and a woman’s right.

And more importantly, about my role in His kingdom.

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It’s about my kids. It’s always been about them. And my role as mom. Even this women’s service from February of 2013 was about that. See, my son had been so sick the night before. His fever had spiked to over 103. And I sat up with him and worried and cried and called people. Because it just wouldn’t go down.

And in my pride, I felt it was a spiritual attack. Just the devil trying to keep me from church.

Thus, when morning came, I left Levi home with his daddy. The fever was gone so I thought it was okay. Moreover, I believed I had very important business to tend to at church. I had that sermonette to preach. A platform to ascend. My face to show and my voice to project.

In effect, sadly, I chose platform over my child.

When the preacher asked where Jason was, I felt ire. How dare he question me! Didn’t he know I had an important task that morning? In defense of my husband staying home with my child, I told him I had to read Scripture.

And I did. Afterward, I heard my first teaching on the Titus 2 woman. But her words didn’t register with me…

They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers… Titus 2:3-4

I do recall an uneasy feeling. But also, I remember feeling justification when she spoke of the Titus 2 man. Because when she read the portion about his being worthy of respect, she posed the question to the men of our congregation, “Do you demand your respect or do you earn it.”

Inside, I did a fist pump. Yeah, I thought, you tell them! Because the truth is, I was so angry. I was filled with rage with several of our male members. Men who wore suits and appeared arrogant and haughty to me.

And yet, I never saw my own arrogance and haughtiness. I never realized God was posing the question to me. Through that speaker’s mouth, He was inquiring …

“Pam, are you demanding respect or are you earning it?”

Well, I was demanding it. I was in a new place, virtually unknown, and it wasn’t God I was pointing to when I read Scripture. I was pointing to me and what I knew. And that’s exactly what I used my platform for.

Hear what I have to say and respect me for my knowledge. Me. A woman.

Thus, I missed the Titus 2 lesson altogether. The one about being a good homemaker and loving my children…

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I’m ashamed to say it took some time before the lesson took. Because the picture above was taken at the ER last May. Just over a year ago. Know where I was? Not there.

See, I had an important task to attend to. Let me just say it had to do with being known, furthering my circle, and developing my platform. And just as before, I felt attacked. Thought it was the devil trying to keep me from something I needed to do.

So I sent my son to the hospital with his daddy.

I didn’t go.

And today, I know the truth. It wasn’t the devil and it was not a spiritual attack. It was a test. Pure and simple. Would I choose me? Or would I choose my children. Unfortunately, I chose wrongly…

I chose my platform.

a quiet and gentle spirit…

God brought me to this phrase weeks ago. It stood out because it doesn’t describe how I’ve been acting. See, I’ve been seeking a platform. A place from which to be heard. And growing up, I wasn’t heard. No, I was much too quiet and shy. Thus, I thought one should be bold and loud and aggressive to garner attention.

So, I made it my aim to be that way. So I’d get noticed and heard. And I tasted a bit of that. However, I later found myself in a church where I was literally put into a corner. I didn’t like it.

So, I looked for ways to raise myself up. Blogging helped. That got me the notice I desired. So I ascended a tad higher through that venture. My platform broadened. But you know, this is not the way of Jesus.

And what struck me recently is…

Jesus did not seek a platform!

He did not seek an audience. Instead, the crowds were drawn to Him by His gentle and quiet nature. It was His lowliness that appealed to the masses.

The gentleness possessed by Jesus is the opposite of self-assertedness and self-interest. His humbleness means He did not rise far from the ground. He was assigned to a lower position and devoid of haughtiness. And that quiet spirit? It means to properly keep one’s seat.

And that speaks loudly today. Because I don’t think I’ve been keeping my seat. Instead, I’ve been seeking elevation. Exaltation, really. I wanted to be lifted up on high, raised to dignity, honor and happiness (definition of exalt).

And Jesus was that, too. Indeed, He was raised up. However, when He spoke of His raising, He referred to His death.

As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw people to Myself. John 12:32

Yes, seeking a platform made me so unlike Him. The exact opposite, really. Because I tried to raise me higher. And Jesus, He allowed Himself to be lowered down from the heavenly realm, emptying Himself of His majesty by taking on the form of man. And lower still, he descended into the depths of the earth to taste death.

For us.

So we won’t have to. Not ultimately. And why?

For love. For God so loved…

And that’s Jesus’ hook. It’s the platform on which He stands. Love. And it’s this that draws man, and woman, to Him. And it’s His love – for us – that causes us to want to hear His voice.

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” Andy Stanley

It’s true I chose a platform over my children more than once. My heart was, and it still is, for God’s women. I want to encourage them to open their mouths boldly to proclaim His word.

The thing is, though, by embracing the woman’s right to speak in the Winter of 2013, I inadvertently ignored my first and most important womanly role. That of mother. How ironic is that?

And in a way, it made my stance pro-choice. For undoubtedly, I had a choice that February day. Stay home and be mother to my son, raising him properly and tending to him as he mended.

Or I could raise myself…

She opens her mouth with wisdom and loving instruction is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26

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No doubt, God has a sense of humor. Because He revealed to me that the above is my platform. At least for now it is. Oh, it garners enough visibility, for my daughter sees me clearly. And when I open my mouth, I am heard.

“Do you need to pee-pee? Do you have to poop? Wipe yourself. Hurry, now” And God reveals I have other platforms…

 

The bed from which Annabelle calls to me, “Mommy, come lay with me.” There, I soothe her with sweet whispers and kisses. The chair in which I make amends with my son when I make a mistake. Just this week, I pulled him onto my lap forcing his eyes to mine as I admitted my error.

The table where we have devotions. My voice rings out and my children listen. The fuzzy pink rectangle of my daughter’s rug where we play house. The flat of the ottoman where we do puzzles…

All these are very necessary platforms for this season of my life. Because I have kids. Oh, I am woman, that’s true. And I have a voice. But first and foremost, I am mother and they’re mine. My first audience. The most important one.

If anyone sees and hears what I have to say, may it be her…

 

And may it be him…

 

So, what’s my platform? That’s the question I’ve been pondering for weeks and weeks now. And I believe I already have the answer.

It’s shown in the pattern of Jesus’ life, but also, it was confirmed through a children’s movie (Moana) this past week. Within one scene, I comprehend what the foundation of every platform should be built upon. No matter the cause.

A demi-god was worried about his hook being destroyed. He was angry and yelled, “Without my hook, I am nothing.” My spirit awakened in that moment. Know why? I heard Scripture…

If I speak the languages of men and angels, but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2

This is truth. Unless a platform is motivated by love, it will be faulty and unstable. A platform not worth standing on because ultimately, it will fall. This is the lesson God teaches me today.

He shows me that without love, my platform is nothing. All my words and all my faith and all my works. Nothing. All my talking just the noise of a Ms. Smarty Pants.

But love. Well, that changes everything. And so, I begin there. My platform built upon love. His love.

Because my words aren’t forever and prophecies will end. As for languages, they will cease and knowledge will come to an end.

But love never fails. Thus, a platform built upon it won’t either. It’s stable and secure. One I won’t fall off of…

Just like the one I find on my kid’s bathroom floor.

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More than these.

IMG_1798Give her of the fruit of her hands… Proverbs 31:31

I thought I’d get a chance to watch TV last night. At least that was my plan. And in truth, I relish those precious moments at night. I savor sweet moments of quietude when the whole household is asleep. Not a soul stirring. Not even a mouse. No, it’s just me. My time to veg out. And read a book. Or perhaps watch a mindless sitcom. Life on pause as I catch my breath. Yes. As a busy mom, I long for moments of respite. They usually come at night. And despite what looked to be a promising evening of solitude, my plan was thwarted early on.

My son was in bed just after 9:00 pm. I read a chapter of Levi’s book, said a prayer over his head, turned on the fan and lava lamp for white noise and comfort, and gave him a peck on the cheek. And then, out the door I went. A bag of 220 calorie popcorn beckoned me. I eagerly split the cellophane and punched in one minute fifty seconds on the microwave. And in the ensuing minutes, I went to the potty, fed my cat and checked our doors to make sure we were secure. And then, after the beep, beep, beep, I sat down to a steaming bag of bliss and my eyes became glued to Law & Order. Finally, I rested. The breath I’d been holding came out. I exhaled. And an hour of me time stretched out before me…

By 9:20, I was completely engrossed in SVU and popped corn. However, within minutes a rustling from my son’s room vied for my attention. Yes, sure enough Levi was up by 9:25. He said he couldn’t sleep. After I vehemently told him to go back to bed no less than four times, I employed more threatening measures. My voice escalated as I asked, “Should I go get Daddy?” All to no avail, though, because Levi simply wouldn’t budge. His size three’s firmly cemented to the center of my living room. Finally, he told me the truth. My son was scared. His tears were real. Still holding tightly to my plan, though, I tried to up Levi’s comfort level. I placed a red t-shirt over his lamp in order to create warm glow and hurried back to the couch. Alas, extra light didn’t work.

By 9:30, my son cried out… Mama, will you please come lay with me. And so, my evening plans slipped through tightly clenched fists. And I did the only thing I knew to do. I turned off my program and threw out the popcorn bag. Instead of indulging in me time, I rose to the occasion and fulfilled my duty. As mom, nurturing and comforting fall to me. So I unfurled curled fingers and lay my hand over my son’s trembling body. There I went to sleep. Holding my son.

… do you love Me more than these? John 21:15

The words of Jesus came to me as I roused from sleep this morning. Do you love Me more than these? He posed His question to Peter, but He inquired the same of me just before daylight. Do you love Me more than these? Instantly, I thought of my children. It’s because of what my son said. As we lay in bed last night he said my life would be easier without him. Because he’s too much trouble. And he echoed his insecurity this morning just before boarding the bus… Your dream is coming true, Daddy’s going to work and I’m going to school. What???? Let me repeat that. WHAT???????

Before you think too harshly, let me explain. My son and I had words yesterday. More than once. And I was stern. He got in trouble. And this was on his mind last night. Nevertheless, his remarks make me sad today. I am his mother and yet somehow I’ve conveyed to my child I want other stuff more than him. Like preferring to snuggle up with popcorn and the couch instead of with him. I believe this is what Jesus wanted me to take note of this morning. Being alone a few minutes at night, or food, or TV are things I want. And come morning, it’s sleep I crave. The sleep that holds me. And I cling tightly to all these. I love these me things. But Jesus says, “Do you love Me more than these?” I have to say yes. Sure I choose Jesus over popcorn. But the real question before me today is, what about my kids? Do I choose them over popcorn, too?

After saying this, He told him, “Follow Me!” John 21:19

I dreamt about my hand last night. It was wrinkled and looked so old with my shiny ring upon it. It caused me to stir. And before drifting back off, I thought of how they’ve changed thousands of diapers. And how they’ve wiped little noses countless times. I thought of all the meals and games and projects and baths and sports and washing I’ve done. I thought about this season of my life and what it really means to be mom. Because it means sacrifice. It means laying down my wants and desires in order to put the little ones first. That’s what momdom looks like. It means loving my children more than these whatever these may be.

IMG_1797 It means toenails with polish all gummed up and eaten away by lake water because you don’t always have time to tend to your own toes.

IMG_1800 It means cracked, dry heels imbedded with the black from your Teva sandals. Because showers are faster than baths. And you just don’t have time to slough off or loofah unsightly feet.

IMG_1799 It means legs covered with bruises because you’re usually moving one hundred miles an hour.

IMG_1802 And it means you usually look like this. Because you’re doing well just to get the shower in.

This is my life. It’s where I’ve spent the past nine years. In the land of momdom. And oh, how hard it is to continually lay down my life and my wants. It’s a constant struggle for me to put my desires last. To put others first. Because I can become possessive of what I consider to be mine. Like alone time at night. And a mindless show. And a bag of popped corn. Because sometimes I just want to put me first. If only for a little while. Like say an hour… But Jesus says otherwise. He said, “Follow Me!” And so that’s what I try to do.

Yes, I did my best to comfort my boy last night. I told him my life would be empty without him. That him and Annabelle and Daddy mean the world to me. That I wouldn’t trade anything for them. And I meant what I said. I really did. Shortly thereafter, Levi drifted off.

The thought that comes to me today, though, is that last night was more than me taking care of my son. And only in looking back can I see what really took place. See, there was transformation. Because as my hand rested upon Levi’s waist, it began to take on the appearance of Jesus’ own scarred one. Because I crucified my wants. In a sense, I laid down my life as I put my son first. And all I did was turn off the TV. I chose Levi over the alone time I so desired. And you know, this is exactly what Jesus wants me to do. In this season of my life, it’s how I can follow Him. It’s how I show Him my love. Because truth is – in the land of momdom – when you love your little ones more than these, you’re really loving Him, too.

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Jesus was a Handyman

I‘ve been working on a flyer for a ladies’ retreat my friend and I are planning. It’ll be a half day event for women. A little time for revival. Refreshment. Reflection. And rest. Maybe rest more than anything. It seems to be what my heart yearns for more than anything here lately. Peace and quiet. Anyway, inspiration for the occasion struck six months ago after watching a video. “A Day with Beth Moore.” Someone suggested I mention who she is on the flyer, though. So I did what I usually do. I went to Wikipedia. And for some reason, I was surprised to find the word evangelist. Author. Yes. Bible teacher. For sure. But evangelist? I’d just never seen Beth Moore in that light before. So I opted to leave evangelist out of the description.

If I want to be truthful, I’d have to say evangelist is a word I shy away from. And to be blunt, it can sometimes leave a bad taste in my mouth. Evangelist. Probably because I can put a face with the name. An oily one with slicked back hair. Or I can recall a Bible thumper who thumped me on the head just a little too hard. And frankly, there have been some television evangelists who’ve inspired me to turn the TV right off. So I didn’t want the word to deter any potential attendees from the event. Nope. I decided to leave off evangelist. Author and Bible teacher seemed safer.

However, the word came back to me today. More than once. Evangelist. So I wanted to find out if it’s in the Bible or if it’s a title we later created. But it’s there. Turns out it’s not such a bad word after all. Used twice in the New Testament. It means “a bringer of good tidings. the name given to heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles.” So that’s not so bad. An evangelist is simply one who brings a message. Good news. According to dictionary.com, a herald formerly referred to a royal messenger. Especially one representing a monarch in an ambassadorial capacity during wartime. And I just loved that. Because I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. Who He was. Royalty. And who He came to represent. God. And the condition of our land. War. And the words He spoke in His ambassadorship…

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

Though Jesus technically wasn’t an evangelist, He evangelized nonetheless. Because He brought good news. Moreover, He was the good news. But it was another portion of Isaiah 61 that resonated most. Something I heard echoed by James Taylor today. When the familiar intro to Handyman filled my living room, I just wanted to savor the words. More so today than ever. So I told my son to hush (perhaps not so nicely – patience running thin). And in the listening, it was almost as if Jesus called out to me. He said, I fix broken hearts, I know I really can. And it connected. All the dots. Jesus being a carpenter. His coming to bind up the brokenhearted. Revelation dawned. Seems that Jesus was a Handyman. A fixer of broken things.

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I just have to say, I may be in need of a little fixing right now. I’m feeling a little broken down. Because I’m tired. I’ve been burning both ends of the candle for weeks and weeks and weeks. Staying busy till close to midnight most nights. My son out of school and awake till at least 10:30 or 11:00. My infant daughter waking through the night (again). Up by 6:15 and as soon as my feet hit the floor, I iron clothes because the basket is full and the closet is empty. So I’m missing something I used to have. Because with the end of school, routine has gone out the window. Along with peace and quiet. And I miss it. Or more specifically, I miss Him. And the time we used to have.

“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I couldn’t help but notice all the moms at church this morning. Several stuck out in particular. Mainly the ones with the toddlers and babies. “Littles” as my cousin calls them. One looked exhausted, one harried, one continually on the move. And me. I spent most of the morning pushing Annabelle back and forth in her stroller. And it was a good morning because she let me do it. But it’s these mothers I think of today. I wonder if they feel broken down like me. Worn thin. Stretched tight. Pulled too many directions. Perhaps their hearts are in need of repair, too.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. John:4:28-30

Yeah, I’m preparing for this women’s event. There’s the video. Food and drinks. Decorations. And music. So in the planning, it was “Come to the Well” by Casting Crowns that came to me last night. Or was it the night before? Honestly, I can’t say for certain. Time blurs together now. But the song put me in mind of the Samaritan woman. And Jesus’ interaction with her. See, she was broken, too. She needed some fixing. Basically, He came to her. He brought good news. And offered living water. Refreshment. A picture of evangelism.

Afterward, the woman left her jar. Her worries and her busyness. She went and said, “Come see.” And I just can’t help but think this woman had to be one of the first evangelists. Because she went to tell about a Man she met. His name was Jesus. She became a herald of good news. And because she did, many came to meet Him.

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

I think about this event. About Beth Moore being an evangelist. And now I know that’s exactly what she is. Because basically, she brings good tidings. Seems that long ago, her heart needed mending. But there was a Man named Jesus. A Handyman who came to bind up the broken hearted. And after her heart was repaired, she told others about Him. About how He healed her. And after He’d whisper sweet truths in her ear, she’d share what she learned. And all her friends came running. To Him. It’s like the song by James Taylor. And like Jesus’ words in Isaiah. A Handyman.

So I second guess the flyer. Perhaps I should have left evangelist in the description. Because that’s what Beth Moore is. And what the Samaritan woman was. And really, I guess I am, too. Because though I may be going through a rough patch, stretched a little thin, I did meet a Man. My heart was broken and He fixed it. And He’ll mend it again. As often as I need it. That’s just what He does. See, He’s busy 24 hours a day. And this women’s event is really my way of sharing that good news. Seems that I’m doing the work of an evangelist after all. Telling all my friends about a Man who knew everything about me. And healed me. A man named Jesus who came to bind up the broken hearted.

Yes, I’ve been planning this 1/2 day event. And it’s the moms I watched this morning. And countless others out there. They’re who I think about. Who I hope to see. Because I can tell. They’ve been so busy. Tired. Stretched thin. And maybe their hearts need a little mending today. A few minor repairs for fixing. Like mine. Good news is, I found this great Handyman. I’ve seen His work. And He does wonders.

 

The Lesson of Rocky Raccoon

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“Rocky Raccoon, Rocky Raccoon, he was a fool unto himself. And he would not swallow his foolish pride…” Paul McCartney

I’ve been thinking about something quite a bit lately. Or more accurately, I’ve been thinking about someone. And through ruminations of her, the tune of Rocky Raccoon came to mind. This morning, though, I realized I didn’t even know the lyrics. So I googled it. And after watching a video of the Beatles, I just about fell over. Well, I would have fallen over if I hadn’t already been down. See, I’ve been feeling pretty low. And therein lies the significance of this song. At least to me. In my eyes, the lesson of Rocky Raccoon is how he fell down… pride going before his fall. But more importantly, it’s how Rocky would manage to get back on his feet. See, there was a man named Dan, who stole Rocky’s woman. But rather than swallow his pride by letting things go, Rocky planned to shoot his rival. However, he’s the one who ended up on the floor. Rocky collapsed. And the thing that could restore his life? Why, it was a Bible left by Gideon. The Bible would help with Rocky’s revival.

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Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

I actually have a Gideon’s Bible. And though I didn’t open the cover of a Bible for years, eventually I did. And as time wore on, I began to love the words inside. The above verse is one of my favorites, comforting in that God’s word is a lamp and a light for my feet. And ironically, I just wrote about my son finding his feet. But not long after, I discovered it’s not my son’s feet I need to worry about after all. In reality, it’s my own feet that need help. For Levi’s not the one who stumbled, I have. I’ve fallen down and it seems I can’t get up. And though it may be true God’s word lights my path, the thing is I have to choose to go the way He directs. But for some time now, I’ve refused. As always, pride took precedence and preceded my fall. Like Rocky, I just didn’t want to swallow it down. I even voiced aloud, “I don’t want to take the high road.” And so, belligerently, I didn’t.

Pride is surely one of my pitfalls. And when I think back to the shy girl I once was, I’m amazed I can be that way now. So arrogant. So self-righteous. And that’s how I felt Monday. See, after writing, I always feel good. Purposeful. And after meeting with a ladies group Tuesday evening, I felt even higher. However, my demeanor changed within hours of returning home. And by Wednesday morning, darkness fully set in. One, my writing didn’t elicit the response I expected. In fact, someone quite close to me called to advise me. Or shall I say counsel me. And later, I was led to Hagar of the Old Testament. Her story so much like mine in that she was prideful for she looked down on someone. And when she ran away from home, the Angel of the LORD asked her two questions as she journeyed through the desert… Where have you come from and Where are you going? I felt God asked the same of me. My reply? Pride. As always, coming from pride, and more importantly… I wasn’t going anywhere. Because pride tripped me up, I was stalled in my journey.

Oh, there’s more to Hagar’s story. See, she trod the desert once more. The second time with her son, only he was in trouble. Ishmael lay dying under a tree but Hagar had nothing to offer him. She herself was low. At her most desperate hour, God appeared to her. He said, “Get up, help the boy up, and sustain him…” And so yesterday, I heard God loudly. Clearly. And He was firm. He told me to get up! Because as long as I remained down, I couldn’t help myself. Much less anyone else. And my medicine? The thing that would restore my health? Pride was my pill. Unless I choked it down, I would never be able to stand. And if I couldn’t stand, how in the world could I help another to?

Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. James 5:16

You know, I call this blog the Truth about God & me. And I hope to do just that… be truthful. And though I write hoping to lift up others, most of the time I think the words are for my own benefit. For I see the truth through writing. But today, I can’t help but wonder if there can be too much truth. Because I’m going to write about that someone I’ve been thinking about. She’s someone I love. Fact is, I just love women. I want to be around them and I want to help them. Honestly, I fancy God will use me in women’s ministry someday. I believe He’s the One who placed the desire within me. In fact, it’s why I felt so good Tuesday night. Because I’m leading a women’s Bible study, I felt like I was finally moving forward with God… that someday was in reach. And yet within hours of returning home, darkness blinded me. Today I know why. See, it’s that woman I love. Because despite our building up a rock solid friendship through the course of many years, it seems the foundation has been shaken. And though we shared everything for so long, now, we hardly speak at all. The weird thing is, neither of us has said anything or acknowledged a conflict. And yet, it’s there. I feel it… tension. Is it real? Or is the wall that separates us imaginary and constructed only in my mind? So, for me – a woman who desires to be used by God in women’s ministry –  this just doesn’t make sense. Even more so, it makes me hypocritical. Because if I have such love for women, why not her? Why can’t I just pick up the phone…

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:22-24

Fact is, I’ve refused to budge. In fact, I’ve closed my heart to her over something silly. I feel justified in something I did even though I’m pretty sure it hurt her feelings. But is that ever okay? And rather than acknowledge it and talk about it, a wall was erected. That’s why I said… I don’t want to take the high road. No, instead, I chose pride. I trod the dark path. And so, I fell. But there is a lamp. God’s light seeps through and I see what I’ve done. I tried to serve Him Monday and Tuesday, but today I know that I can’t do that. I can’t offer Him a gift when there’s something between me and my friend. And so, the verses above light my path. He shows me the way I have to travel if I want to move forward. It’s my choice. I can take the high road, which leads to life. Or the low road, which leads to death. For that’s exactly what my prideful path is leading to… the death of a friendship. Something, or someone, has got to change… And today I know that’s me. Today the hardness of my heart has been breached and light spills in. And I so I swallow my pill. And more than anything, I want to be reconciled to my sister. I long for harmony in our friendship once more.

For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. Ephesians 2:14

Illumination began this week. It started with my son. And consistent with how God teaches me, He led me through my children. First, Levi’s little feet led to my own stumbling size nines. And then, there’s my baby girl… Annabelle. Today I thought how happy she is when she spends time on the back side of the house. See, that’s where the morning light streams in. Oh, how she loves to lay on our bed or on her changing table cooing and smiling in the bright sun. But on the front half of the house, where we spend most of our time, it’s dark. So much so, there’s always a lamp or two on. In fact, Levi so loves lamplight, he’ll turn on three or four when he’s home. And finally, between the dark and the light of my home is a wall… a load bearing wall. And this particular wall seemed a revelation to me this morning. It leads me back to Rocky Raccoon.

You know, the woman I’ve written about likes Rocky Raccoon. Years ago, she picked it for us to sing at karaoke. Back then, we stood side by side. Arm in arm. We were best of friends. But recently, it feels as if there’s a wall between us. And all this? Well, it’s my attempt to knock it down. I want to replace a wall of hostility with another kind of wall… a load bearing wall. One we can construct around the two of us as we stand side by side once more. A wall we can build together strong enough to bear the heavy weight of life. And a wall that will keep her and I in the light of God’s word, while keeping darkness at bay.

And so, may I apply the lesson of Rocky Raccoon. It’s true he fell, but he had Gideon’s Bible. God’s word would bring about his revival. And there’s hope in that word. For revive means to come back to life. To live again. To be quickened. To be restored to health. And though my pride knocked me down for a time, I won’t stay there. And though I’ve been clinging to the dark, light beckons me forward. Because today, I want to live. I want to be healthy. And in order for that to happen, our friendship must be restored. It must be revived. It has to! And so, I choose life and swallow my pill… I choke down pride. And that’s when it happens. I’m able to rise to my feet. That’s when I ask for her forgiveness. Because I want healing. And you know what? I think she does, too.

Oh, the ways of God. And oh, how He illuminates what He wants me to see. From my children. To His word. And yes, even through Rocky Raccoon… that man who was a fool unto himself. But see, Rocky had hope. For he had Gideon’s Bible.

My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my sayings.
Don’t lose sight of them;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and health to one’s whole body.
Guard your heart above all else,
for it is the source of life. Proverbs 4:20-23

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Like a drum!

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Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Corinthians 3:3

It was yesterday that I felt it. I went to a women’s Bible study and watched this hour long video. I was captivated by every word spoken. And then, at the very end, my heart began to beat. I felt it. It thudded in my chest and throughout my limbs. I could hear it in my ears. A loud, steady pounding. It lasted about two or three minutes. Thud. Thud. Thud. Just like a drum. And I had to sit there choking back tears. I was thankful for that heartbeat. Because it’s one I haven’t felt in quite some time. And this type of beating is not one that merely proves I’m alive… that I exist. No, this sort of pounding reminds me of what I sometimes doubt. It tells me that I’m really His. And it tells me that He hasn’t forgotten me. That He still has purpose for my life. No, I’m not as dead as I thought I was… for there’s life inside me. It’s my heart beating just like a drum.

You know, I just celebrated my 41st birthday last month. I’ve now roamed this earth over 14,965 days. But this month, I celebrate another type of birthday. For it was seventeen years ago (sometime in February) that I officially became a Christian. You know, I said a prayer and hoped for the best. I was moved then, too, for I remember the tears. But you know… I don’t I recall a heartbeat then. So much time has elapsed and I didn’t journal so I can’t say for sure. But I wonder today… did my heart beat like it did yesterday when I said some words I thought I was supposed say? Did I feel a thud, thud, thud in my chest and ears all that time ago? Like a drum beating?

After becoming a Christian, I did all those things I thought I was supposed to do. When asked, I said yes to working with teen girls although they knew far more than I did. Most specifically, they knew God. When I moved away from North Carolina, I tried to be good but failed miserably and lived under a cloud of guilt. It was not till 2004 that I attended church once more. But you know, despite knowing all the right words and all the right actions, there was something so fundamental I had missed along the way. Although I appeared to have it all together, and seemed to be a spiritual person, I was far from it. And so, bypassing a relationship with God, I began to serve again because I thought it’s what I should do. And because I thought I should work, I did what was comfortable to me. I worked with kids. And over time, I became bitter and resentful about what I was doing. Because although working with kids is a good thing, it wasn’t my thing.

And then one day, out of the blue, something extraordinary took place. It had to have been January of 2009 when I felt something inside me. There was movement. I was at church and a friend of mine spoke of a women’s service to take place in February. She wanted someone to share their story. And then the first beat. Quietly at first, but it grew louder and stronger with each thud. The steady rhythm echoed throughout my whole body reaching through the ends of my fingers and filling my ears. This had never happened before. And so, after the service, I knew I had to do something. Perhaps inspired by God for the very first time, I dared to approach my friend. I told her… I think it’s me. This foreign beating of my heart coinciding with my friend’s request was of God. He wanted me to speak in front of a crowd… completely out of my comfort zone.

And I did speak, as I should. But afterward, nothing changed. When the next opportunity arose, I volunteered to work with kids once more. Because they were comfortable. And so, resentment piled upon resentment and bitterness grew in astronomical proportions. Until the late Summer of 2010. Something came up. And I couldn’t sit still as the passion ignited in me. There was to be a Bible study for women. And my friend and I were to lead it. And so we did. But alas, I moved and joined another church. And when asked… I said yes to working with the children.

And so today, I realize something incredible about that heartbeat. Because it occurs to me that perhaps the heartbeat has always been there. Is it possible that I’ve been so busy doing what I shouldn’t be doing, that I just couldn’t feel it? Is it possible that during the winter of 2009, God awakened within me my true heart? Just maybe that beating in my chest was God stirring me. He knew I was trying my best to serve Him. But He also knew it was out of a sense of obligation. Perhaps He was telling me what to do then. Was He gracing me with a glimpse of His plans, but I just didn’t grasp it? Was it five years ago that God called me to work with women? Was it in January of 2009 when the passion I have for His daughters was birthed within me? For I know there are many women who quietly die in church pews every Sunday. I know that they cannot feel their heartbeat… just like there are times I cannot feel mine. And I so long for them… just as I long for me.

And yet, here I am today. I am still working with children. But yesterday, in a women’s Bible study, I felt it. It was like a drum. My heart thudded in my chest and through my limbs. I heard it in my ears. Bump, bump, bump…. loudly, steadily. And I knew. God awakened my spirit once more. He reminded me that I’m His. And He reminded me of my passion… of a calling. Through that thudding, I know He has work for me. But this work isn’t duty bound. No, this work has something to do with the resurrected heart that pounds within me. It has everything to do with a spiritual beat. For that thump, thump, thump I feel only occasionally… that beating I feel throughout my whole being… that’s really His heart. For what pounds like a drum is God’s heart as it beats in mine.

This year I can see. I realize that January and February are times of celebration. For these are my birthdays. I was physically born in January and spiritually born in February. But now I see there’s another birth to celebrate. For it was five years ago that God awakened my true heart. He gave me a passion for His dying daughters. It was five years ago that God called me to serve… but not children as I’ve been doing for so long. No, my heart… and His… is for His girls.

Oh yes… there’s a heartbeat. Steady and thumping like a drum. May it never stop.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 26:36

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Bitter Fruit

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Youth

I’ve been duped. Deceived. And oh, how crafty he is. For he first introduced himself to me when I was tender and naïve. Young and awkward and so incredibly shy, I would hide behind my mom’s skirts avoiding eye contact with most people. Money was not flowing, so my clothes were hand-me-downs or from thrift stores. My home was an apartment on the backside of the store with a cow pasture as my view. And at first, none of this bothered me. But as I grew, shame set in. It was when I began school and saw all the other kids that the serpent planted his seed deep within me. It was then that he smiled at me, offered me his hand along with a taste of his bitter fruit. And I eagerly placed it to my lips swallowing it down whole. All of it. For he knew what would hurt me the most. And so, he told me his name. I first came to know the evil one as comparison. He peppered me with lies as I grew and I consumed every tidbit.. You’re so shy you can’t even talk. That means you’re stupid! You’re so ugly… look at your friends. How much prettier they are. Look at how she talks and laughs and attracts other people. You’re so dull, I don’t even know why she’s your friend. Look at your clothes… You can’t even afford nice ones.

And so, the sly one knew just when to introduce me to another of his attributes. For when I was a teenager, I encountered him in the form of desire and craving and ambition. Another of his lies gobbled down and tucked away into my heart. Deeply entrenched. I hated myself. I didn’t want to be me anymore. And so, because I didn’t really know what else to do, I joined the military. I got as far away from my home land as I could. I wanted a fresh start. Perhaps there, I would become what I was not. Perhaps elsewhere, I would become successful and desirable and knowledgeable like the friends I grew up with. Anywhere would do as long as it was as far away from my humble beginnings as I could get. Shedding my family and my mistakes and my old skin, I set out for adventure. I set out to be more than I was. I set out to become a new person.

Who is wise and understanding among you? He should show his works by good conduct with wisdom’s gentleness. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and lie in defiance of the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where ever selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. James 3:13-16

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The Garden

Oh, his tricks are not new. It was deception he used in the very beginning and still works like a charm today. He knows how to speak and he covers up the truth. For although wisdom calls out in the streets and she raises her voice in the public squares, the deceiver’s smooth voice silences godly instruction. And he uses a language that God’s creation readily identifies with. He’s fluent in the tongue of desire. His speech tickles the ear…

God took man and placed him in the garden of Eden to work it and watch over it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” But, the serpent! He was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God made. He spoke to the woman. “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden?'” And the woman knew God’s command for He had instructed His creation. But the serpent lied. He deceived. And so, the woman saw that the tree was good for food. It was delightful to look at. And it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and she ate… (from Genesis 2 and 3)

Not only did Eve swallow the serpent’s deception along with the fruit, but she offered the same to Adam. The deceiver interjected a lie into the garden and it spread. And after both ate what they were commanded not to, their eyes were opened and they knew what they didn’t know before. Nakedness. And shame. And fear. For they ignored God’s commands. Rather than hold to His instruction they embraced foolishness instead. For when they disobeyed the LORD, they left wisdom in the dust…

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

Adulthood

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I’ve been duped. Deceived. And oh, how crafty he is. And his tricks are old ones. For deception is the language he’s used from the very beginning and unfortunately, it still works like a charm today. And when the serpent speaks, he covers up truth. I’ve been reacquainted with the sly one recently. He subtly interjected his voice into my thoughts. And increasingly, it’s him that I hear over all other voices. Even the voice of truth.

I left home at nineteen and indeed, I came home a new person. I am not who I once was. But in truth, some of my insecurities remain. And incredibly, over the course of the past few months, I’ve allowed myself to dialogue with the devil. He reacquainted himself to me through the form of one of his greatest tools… Facebook. And there, comparison speaks loudly. For it’s there I see images of happy, beautiful people. It’s there that I see women making tasty treats for their children and ruing the day their kids set off to school. It’s there that I see friends linking with friends. And so, an old familiar voice whispers in my ear. He offers me a taste of his bitter fruit… and I eagerly place it to my lips and swallow it down whole. Not only do I listen to his lies, but I believe them… Look at you! You’re a horrible mother. Other women can’t bear to let their children walk out the door and you do a happy dance when you get a few minutes alone! You’re awful! Why weren’t you invited to that? They must not like you. In fact, you don’t have any friends. You’re too dull. A prude. Why would anyone want to spend time with you. Not only that, you’re overweight. And boring.

And his lies are endless… his fruit inviting. And so, I fill up on its bitterness leaving wisdom behind. I embrace folly as I leave God’s wisdom in the dust. And as I compare myself to other women, I feel less and less and less. And the more I believe I am less than, the more I remove myself from a world I was once a force in. I hide away in shame. In guilt. In fear. And the serpent dances with glee. For he’s won the game with me.

It’s incredible. I cannot believe I find myself here today. And honestly, I’m a bit surprised. How could I let myself get back here? But you know, I’m also thankful. Because today, I see it. I see the truth. I’ve been feasting on the bitter fruit of the deceiver. But God offers me another fruit. His fruit. His peace. His truth. For wisdom calls out in the streets and she raises her voice in the public squares. I find that wisdom in God’s word. And there, I find His voice. In time, if I allow it, His voice will silence the lies.

Today, I turn to God and His instruction. And as His voice becomes entrenched in my heart and mind, the slippery one becomes more muted. As his lies fade, I gain strength. I decide to shake hands with the devil no longer as I instead cling to God’s outstretched hand. But it’s up to me. Every day the choice is mine… His hand or the serpent’s hand. The voice of truth or the voice of lies. Wisdom from above or wisdom from below. My choice. Because the fruit is there for the taking.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without favoritism and hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17

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Trash to Treasure

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the east arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went on their way. And there it was-the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure. Entering the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother, and falling to their knees, they worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11

The wise men offered gifts to Jesus. And so, the focus of Christmas shifts from what God gave men, to what men can offer Him. The Magi opened up their treasures to pull out gold, frankincense and myrrh. But what about us regular folk who don’t have a surplus supply of these highly valued substances lying about. Where, then, shall we find treasure fit for a King? And so, God’s word sheds light as Matthew 12:35 tells us where lies our treasure… a good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things.

What then, shall I say to this? Because at least once a week you’ll hear me mutter “crap” when things do not go accordingly. Does this mean that my heart is filled with crap because of what comes out of my mouth? Why doesn’t a song of praise fill my heart and bless the ears of all those in my company? Most likely, there’s no song of praise because it’s been covered up by the refuse (or crap) that surrounds it. For more often than not, complaint and bitter and other various negative feelings permeate my heart. And unfathomably, despite all that God has done for me, it appears my heart is a storehouse of trash, rather than treasure.

What then, shall I offer the King? If all that I contain is trash, would my gift be acceptable? And contemplating this, I have to think yes. Because Christ came for everyone… especially those who have trash. If I turn to the King in all sincerity, and offer Him all that I have, which is trash, I believe He would receive my gift. And because He is in the business of transforming souls, why, I believe He could take my trash – the baggage, the mistakes, the flaws, and the imperfections – and make something beautiful out of it. I think He could turn my trash to treasure. If I dare let Him.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

And so, I dare. This year for Christmas, I offer myself to Jesus. Because I have a heart full of belief that He will make something beautiful out of the mess of my life.

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This is what I look like on the outside. It’s how I look before I cover up with make-up. I’m not happy that my nose is crooked or that my skin is flawed and beginning to sag. In truth, I have never been satisfied with the way I look. Honestly, I’ve felt ugly more than pretty, and have always struggled with feeling less than, insecure, insignificant and second-rate. And so, I do my best. I usually overcompensate. Before walking out the door, I cover up what I can.

Then, there’s my inside. I have more bad days than good, and am usually a mess. I fight depression, which I now know to be the side-effect of perfectionism. My house stays nice one or two days a week, but usually resides in a state of chaos. Yes, sometimes my counter is covered with dishes and laundry is heaped to the ceiling. Like yesterday. I overeat. I let curses fly at least once a month when my computer acts up. I let things totally, utterly consume me and I care way too much about what people think. I get completely frustrated with my son at least once a day. Raising him has been a struggle, and overall, I feel like a failure as a mother. I can be bitter. And this is just what I can think of right now. There’s more… so much more. And this? This is my treasure? This is what I can offer Him?

Yes. If it’s all I have, yes. Because what will Jesus do with gold and frankincense and myrrh? For those substances are already treasure. And He who is our treasure hardly needs more. No, what He desires is someone who is imperfect. Perhaps a woman with a crooked nose on the outside and bitterness on the inside. And that’s me. Flaws and all. For when I come to Him and lay myself at His feet, He accepts me. When I finally have those moments when I can’t stand myself another minute, and try to turn… from me and all my trash to Him… He takes me. He accepts my gift. He takes my trash. For it’s all I have to offer.

You know… I don’t step out of the house until I take certain measures. I use make-up to cover up the things I don’t like about me and use a hot curling iron in an attempt to coax my hair into unnatural waves… and this takes time. The end result isn’t great, but to me, I look better than I did.

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And so, I realize that it will take some time for my insides to get ready, too. For it’s Christ who’s being formed in me. And ever so slowly, over time, I rid myself of such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language. I try not to lie to another soul as I take off my old self with its practices. And I put on my new self, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created me. I clothe myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, and bear with others as I forgive, for Christ forgave me. And above everything, I put on love, which binds all these together in perfect unity (from Colossians 3). And then, I am ready to face the day.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7

Me alone, I don’t house much treasure. But because He lives in my heart, there is something of value. And over time, more of Him begins to shine through for the heat of His light coaxes my insides to form curls of virtue that at first feel unnatural. And then, as Christ is formed in me, I become more and more beautiful in His sight…

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The Magi offered Jesus treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh because they were able to do so. And Christ accepted their gifts. Me? My treasure is different. And as His light begins to burn brighter than all my darkness, my trash diminishes leaving behind only treasure… my gift to the One who is treasure already.

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History repeats itself… or so I’ve heard.

History repeats itself, right? A popular saying that originated from I don’t know where, but I’ve heard it from more than one person. So it must be true, right? Yes, history repeats. The newest saying I’ve heard more than one time is insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but hoping for a different result. Well… if that’s true, then quite clearly, I’m insane. Because after reviewing my journal from 2010, and comparing it to where I am today, I am doing the same thing again and again. And no surprise, the end result is always the same. The most damning piece of evidence was laid bare yesterday morning. The truth is, I hurt my son. It wasn’t a big hurt, but when it comes down to it, a hurt is a hurt – big or small. It happened during the mad dash of getting ready for school. Time just got away from me, and I cut it so close that I had to dress my son. Because bless his little soul, he only moves at one speed called “taking his time.” As I hastily pulled up his jeans, I felt resistance but tugged anyway. Well, his little foot was caught and it hurt him. And so, because I neglected to manage my time, I caused my son pain in the ensuing madness. And honestly, I think his feelings were hurt more than anything. Obviously, I felt like the worst mother in the whole world. And do you want to hear the most awful part? It was a couple of hours later as I perused through my old journal notes of September 15, 2010 that I realized this wasn’t the first time I had done this.  I read my own confession: “rushed and hurt my son.” It’s a fact that I had the same encounter with my son two and a half years later. Thus, it is a proven truth… history does repeat itself. I felt like a terrible mother then, and I feel like one now. And because I am doing the same thing over and over again (rushing in the morning, but hoping for a different outcome), some would classify me as insane. And I would have to agree with them.

If I’ve learned anything in my journey with God, it’s that there are no coincidences.  And when He wants you to see something about yourself, He’ll bring it right to you. He’ll show you a picture of yourself that you cannot deny. My reflected image came by way of a piece of pottery of all things. It’s the bowl I described in “A Bowl Girl.” I realize that I am the bowl. Just not as it is in its present condition. In no way do I resemble that bowl as it rests on my countertop reflecting rays of light. No, I resemble the bowl as it looked some months ago… when it was high and lifted up on the top of my fridge, collecting so much dust that even if the light had reached its surface, it wouldn’t have glimmered at all. Yes, I am just like that bowl when it was on display… just like a Pharisee. And so, I cannot say I was too surprised when I found notes in my old journal that could have been written by my own hand today. Everything that’s happening in my life today is mimicking what took place then. Again, it is proven… history repeats itself. Because I am struggling with the same thing over and over again. As always, same outcome. This is insanity.

Yesterday morning, I wondered about my being a Pharisee and a hypocrite. Because I had confronted that particular issue last year. And through reviewing my very old journal, it appears it was my struggle two and a half years ago, too. And until this past week, I didn’t really think I was a Pharisee… again. And as I ponder my past, it becomes clear how I arrived to today… to insanity. See, I am a legal assistant and work for a lawyer. The law is important. I’ve always been a rule-follower at heart. Even as a teen and young adult (when I got into things I shouldn’t), deep down I had fear because I knew there was a right and wrong. My fear was that I would get into trouble for breaking rules. And so years later, after I became His and when I finally came to a point in which I was desperate to know God, I sought knowledge. Basically, I wanted to know what His rules were. Because rules I could follow. And although seeking God’s law is not a bad thing, it can be dangerous for someone like me… a rule follower. Because acquired knowledge can cause someone like me to become arrogant and a know-it-all. It can cause someone like me to be prideful. From experience, I know one can begin adhering to one’s own set of scales of justice. And woe to anyone who falls short, because judgment will follow. I know, because this is exactly what happened to me then, it’s what happened to me a year ago, and apparently, it’s happened to me recently. I cannot deny my own handwriting. And so there’s no denying that I am a modern day Pharisee, repeating the history of Pharisees (religious leaders) from long ago. My attitude no different than theirs, and this is insanity!

Pharisees knew the law better than anyone else, and they followed it to the letter… but, their heart’s were unmoved. Pharisees lacked mercy, and when they came face to face with Jesus, they didn’t know Him and His righteousness. Because they had their own self-righteousness. And this is what Jesus had to say to or about them: they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, they despised others, they exalted themselves and thus were abased, they were those who justified themselves before men (but God knew their hearts), they were lovers of money and turned their noses up at Jesus, and they held to what was highly esteemed before men (but was, and is, an abomination before God). A Pharisee knew God’s greatest commandment was to love God above EVERYTHING, and to love his neighbor as himself… but he wanted to clarify and dispute and test Jesus and justify himself. The Pharisee said, “And who is my neighbor?” It’s evidenced that he knew the correct answer when Jesus asked “who was neighbor to him who fell?” The Pharisee said, “He who showed mercy on him.” But head knowledge does not always reach the heart.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men-extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14

You know, in Jesus’ day, the Pharisee lacked conviction. Because in his eyes, he did no wrong. And it was two and a half years ago when I asked the question within my journal, “Am I a hypocrite… a Pharisee?” One of the most condemning phrases I found to confirm my suspicion was “lack of conviction.” At that time, I knew I judged people. And yet, rather than feel bad about it, I felt justified in my thinking. Because I thought they didn’t measure up. Remember… the Pharisee adhered to his own set of scales.

Like a Pharisee, I know God’s commands and can follow all the outward rules. I can appear very devout, but what about my insides… what about my heart? Like a Pharisee, I am often unmoved, unloving and unmerciful. I’m just like that bowl I kept way up high on the fridge. It was there for display only… cold and hard to the touch. The bowl didn’t know it was useless up high. The Pharisees didn’t know they were useless to God either. And until now, I thought I was. But, history repeats… it’s insanity.

When I was a young girl, my grandfather, Eddie, used to call out to me, “Whoa, Pam!” Sounds similar to what Jesus called out to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Maybe Eddie wasn’t simply calling to me after all… perhaps God gave him insight as to what my future held, and just maybe he was calling out warning instead, “Woe, Pam!” The good news is, whether then or now, I’ve been warned. Because today is the day I see. And the truth is, it’s not at all about history repeating itself… or being insane. Quite frankly, it’s called lack of repentance. It’s called choosing to live in sin. Because to him who knows to do good, and doesn’t… it is sin. In His mercy, God showed me then, and again today. I can no longer deny the truth of what I am… a hypocrite and a Pharisee. This was true two and a half years ago, it was true a year ago… and it’s true again today. I’ve been doing the same thing again and again, hoping for another outcome. They say that’s insanity but today I know better. And the good news is, history does not have to repeat itself. He gives us the choice. And so, I know what I must do… it’s time to stop the insanity… it’s time to REPENT.

A Passionate Fool

Being a child of God can be an emotional rollercoaster. Because the deeper you go with God, the more ups and downs you can have. I can only speak for myself here, but I would venture to say there are others who feel the same. Because when you go up a mountain with God, you eventually have to come down. With me, the decline began on Friday afternoon. It was then that I felt like God disciplined me. As Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Since I had been taken down a notch, I wasn’t feeling so great by the time Saturday evening rolled around. And because my confidence level was at a low, I felt vulnerable. Thus, my over-analysis of the things I said that evening. I began to fret, and wondered what people thought of the words that came out of my mouth. That’s where I found myself Sunday morning… feeling uncertain, feeling misunderstood, and feeling foolish.

I’m pretty outspoken. It’s because when I care about something, I just can’t shut my mouth. So I guess that would mean I’m passionate. Not about everything, mind you, but I’m definitely passionate about a few things. I am passionate about food… I always have been. If I’m eating a good meal, there will be sound effects. And I’m passionate about music. I love to hear it… especially classic country. Man, can I belt out Johnny Cash and John Conlee. I’m passionate about my family… when they hurt, I hurt and I cry when they cry. But most importantly, I’m passionate about God. I love His word. Sometimes, I think about it off and on throughout the whole day. Truly. There are times when I think, “I don’t know how to be normal, anymore.” There are times I feel that I no longer know how to carry on with a “normal” conversation. Because now, I view everything in light of God. But it’s not always been like this. Mostly, my line of thinking has completely altered over the course of the last couple of years. God is transforming me, and the change is coming about because of His word… the very thing I’m most passionate about.

It was Saturday night when I used the word “passionate.” But a little while later, I began to feel foolish. I was embarrassed because not everyone talks like that. I felt like an oddball. I wasn’t sure if people felt the same as I did. And so, it was Sunday morning that I said out loud, “I feel like a fool!” My husband overheard me, and wanted to know why. I told him about using the word “passionate,” and that I just wasn’t sure if people understood me. But you know… God understood. And I think He wanted me to know that He heard me. Because He used my pastor to speak directly to me about this foolish word on Sunday morning. One of the first things I heard was that it’s Passion Week. The pastor went on to say that we should be passionate about what Jesus did. Not just once, but three times (if I counted properly), the pastor used the word I said the night before… passionate. It was like God gave me a little pat on the back. He heard me…

And so, a little confidence was restored. I felt a little better for being passionate about God’s word. And then came yesterday. I was absolutely crushed when I came across 1 Timothy 2:11-12, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” What? It had just been established that I am passionate and outspoken about God’s word. I got a “pat on the back.” But then I saw, “be in silence.” I was confused… what did this mean? What was God trying to say to me? I felt so sad. Like I said, an emotional rollercoaster… up and down I go. But wait, I’m coming to the best part.

Because it’s Passion Week (Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday), I’ve been reading a couple of books about Christ and the crucifixion. And it’s through today’s reading that I was reminded of something so important… something I was completely impassioned by just over a month ago… but I forgot. And what I remembered is absolutely the best news for me. As a matter of fact, what I was reminded of this morning is the best news for any outspoken woman who is passionate about God and His word.

Yes, it’s true, Jesus died. They arrested Him, hung Him on a cross, and then buried Him in a tomb. But where were His disciples? As Jesus was arrested, one young follower took off so fast, he left his linen cloth behind and fled naked! One of His closest companions denied even knowing Him. And later, the disciples gathered behind closed doors and mourned and wept. But there were some women. It was the women who went to that tomb early Easter morning so many years ago. It was the women who were given the charge, “go and tell His disciples.” It was the women that Jesus first appeared to. And it was Mary Magdalene who Jesus first spoke to. Jesus Himself said, “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

This is the Gospel… this is the good news. God sent His only begotten Son to die a torturous death as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. Why? Because He loves us. They tried to kill Him, but death could not hold Him. God raised Him up from the dead, and the tomb was empty. After Jesus arose, He appeared to many people during the forty days He walked the earth. But, He first appeared to a woman. He first entrusted a woman with the good news. He said, “Go and tell…” And I’m thankful for that today.

I’m not sure why it happened the way it did. And I certainly don’t want to throw off on the disciples. Because although they fell away for a brief time, they rallied and were faithful till the end. I’m simply recounting just what I read in God’s word. And over 2000 years later, His word speaks deeply to this woman. See, He tells me He has great purpose for me. He’s created me to be just the way I am… passionate and outspoken about His word. And He gave me His good news… He gave it to all of us. He wants us all to be passionate and outspoken about His word. And you know, if we’re going to feel foolish anyway, we may as well be fools for Him! Because in the end, all that’s really going to matter is what we did with what He gave us. And He gave us His Son. He gave us His good news. So then… will we keep it all to ourselves? Or will we do what Jesus said to do? Will we go? Will we tell?

What we do here matters. It’ll soon be Easter. The tomb was, and is, empty. Let’s go and tell…

But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me… She has done what she could… Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the whole world, what this woman did will also be spoken of as a memorial to her.” (taken from Mark 14:6-9)