Month: May 2019

  • Get Back Up, Girl!

    Ever since I was a kid growing up in Washington, DC, I’ve been a bit of a scrapper. My earliest scuffle that I can remember was in kindergarten. A kid took my crayons and wouldn’t give them back. At recess I asked for their return politely, several times with increasing intensity, but still no crayons. At this point, playground rules in 1980’s DC dictate that we throw down. It was either stand up to this punk kid, or never again illustrate beautiful pictures with my favorite cornflower-colored crayon. He leaned in to push me, so I shoved him to the blacktop hard enough that he dropped my crayons. I scooped up my Crayolas, looked down at him and repeated with my best street tone, “I said, GIMME MY CRAYONS!” Then I turned and walked away the victor, with my rightful belongings restored.

    I was always a strong-willed child. My mom tells me stories about me when I was two years old, literally daring her to “go ahead and spank me” for my persistent defiance and disobedience that day. She is probably relieved that my stubbornness led me into ministry, instead of becoming the leader of a gang.

    Growing up, I approached most of life with that same undaunted tenacity. I would try to first handle things peacefully and with some grace, but deep down I always knew, that if I needed to, I could take life’s punches and still get back up.

    What I quickly discovered however, is that it is much simpler to get back up when you’re on a playground and it’s only crayons at stake. You don’t have to be an adult long before you start weathering blows that sting a whole lot more. Maybe it’s the time-stopping phone call that brings news of serious illness for yourself or a loved one. It could be getting the next round of bills and having to decide which ones not to pay so that your family can buy groceries that week. For some, it’s hearing the doctor say, “We can’t find the baby’s heartbeat, we’re so sorry”.

    Life can be mean and so very hard. It’s not fair and I get it. It’s the awful kid on the playground all over again, only this time you can’t push the bully named “grief, stress and anxiety” to the blacktop in self-defense. It can begin to feel like you’re fighting a battle that you can’t win, just swinging away at thin air until you feel exhausted and defeated.

    All of those scenarios I listed above are my own. I have lived them. I have taken those hits square on the metaphorical jaw, and yet somehow, I’ve gotten back up. It is not through sheer determination of the will or by some rare form of strength that I get back up. It is the power of Christ in me and around me, that pulls me up out of the mud, and sets me upright again on solid ground where I can stand.

    I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”

    Psalm 40:1-3

    Time and time again, I have found myself in over my head, facing a fight I can’t possibly win on my own. It happens so often in my life that I actually started wondering if anyone else has this many problems. I found myself asking in my pitiful state, “Why me? Why do I have to endure all this?”

    As the last part of Psalm 40:3 says, “Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in Him.” As a Christian, a woman, a mom, an employee, people are watching to see if I will get back up when life knocks me down. How I walk through crisis, big or small is a testimony to God at work in my life and in the world around me. While I can’t control what trials will come my way, I can control how I choose to navigate those challenges.

    Sometimes God grants me strength to fight the good fight like in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.” Other times, God is lifting me out of the mud to set me on solid ground again, like in Psalm 40. In every situation, God is always working on my behalf, allowing others to witness how He is at work in my weakness. It is only through Jesus that I am the “Get Back Up Girl”.

    My job is not to engineer my success or come up with plans A-Z of how I will avoid painful situations. My job is to ready myself and stay connected to the One who strengthens me and never, ever lets me down.

    In Ephesians 6:13-18, we hear about the armor of God that equips us for everything life can throw at us. We can put on the belt of truth to keep us thinking clearly and a breastplate of righteousness, so that we don’t have to be ashamed—we are made righteous through Christ. Our feet are fitted with the good news of peace and the best part, we get a shield! When we are weary from the fight, we can rest secure while the enemy’s arrows glance off of us. On top of it all, God gives us a helmet of salvation that gives us hope, along with the powerful weapon of His Word.

    We have all of this from God, to equip us to get back up. My friend, if you are battle weary and worn out, let Him pull you back to your feet today, place you on solid ground and give you peace. If boldness and strength are what you need, our God will supply it. You are loved beyond measure! I know in times of hardship that can be hard to believe, but God loves you so very much. Hear Him cheering you on, “I’ve got you! You can do this!” Now, get back up girl!

    Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to get back up. – Ephesians 6:13

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  • Stepping Forward in Faith

    Have you ever been driving at night and encountered a dense fog–-a fog so dense that you couldn’t see much past the road right in front of your car? I remember a time in college when I was on the home stretch from a long trip when I encountered this situation. My pulse quickened and anxiety started to creep in as I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. A road that normally was very familiar to me, now was a complete mystery. I couldn’t tell where I was or what was in front of me. I just had to keep driving (albeit slowly) to get to the next sign. Moving forward didn’t feel safe or secure, but I had to keep going. I found myself praying hard and asking God to get me through safely.

    Recently, I have found myself in a similar prayer to God. I wasn’t driving through a dense fog this time, but I was walking through what felt like a figurative fog before me. I was struggling with a bunch of big life stuff and not really sure the best way through them. The way in front of me was unclear and I didn’t know which way to step forward.

    I was filled with anxiety, and being a “fixer” personality, my mind immediately went to the things I can do to fix my situation. I wanted to solve it and run to the first thing that felt like security and resolution. I have learned over the years though that this is my panic mode and not my trusting God mode.

    I deliberately took a moment and called out to the Lord, “God, I’m scared, I don’t see a way through this. What should I do?” Even as I prayed, my mind was still trying to solve the problem and fix it in a million different ways, but in the midst of that prayer, God spoke to my heart to keep walking forward in faith the path He has already put me on.

    Even though hopping off to take a short cut seemed like the safer route, I heard Him encouraging me to keep stepping out in faith, one step at a time, and He would make the ground beneath my feet secure. I could feel Him reassure my heart, saying “I’ve got you!” As I leaned into this assurance from God, His peace washed over me, and these Scriptures came to mind.

    The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” – Psalm 37:23-24

    “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” – Proverbs 4:11-12

    Sometimes the way through our situation isn’t the way we would choose, because it isn’t always the one that seems the most secure. We often gravitate towards the steps we can control because we know what they look like, and avoid the path that is new and uncharted.

    Each day we must choose to trust and keep walking forward in faith the path before us. Even when we cannot see much further than the very step in front of us, we must believe that God has already gone before us and knows what’s ahead. He is in front of us, directing our steps and helping us walk forward–-He makes the path firm and secure.

    My friend, if there is something scary you’re facing or your next step is unsure, seek the Lord and He will guide your steps forward. With each step, trust that God will make the ground beneath your feet solid and secure.

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  • Made New In Christ

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

    With flowers popping up, and more blue-sky days in the week, the optimism of a new season is all around. Especially coming out of dark winter, the light and new life of spring offers a welcome reprieve, full of promise and hope.

    I have been inspired by all this newness to do some spring cleaning. I opened up the windows to let in the breeze, and aired out the all stale corners of the house that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. I even dusted the hard to reach places.

    Personally, there are parts of my heart that could use the same treatment. There are hidden corners in my soul that haven’t seen the bright light of day in a while. Parts of me that are still holding on old ways instead of walking renewed in the light of Christ.

    I sometimes forget the power that we have through Jesus. His story did not end at the cross, yet often I live as though it did. The comfort of consistency quietly draws me back into old familiar ways, even when I know there is a better way. Whether it is a lack of self-control, being short-tempered, or even just a bit lazy, if I am not intentional about letting the Holy Spirit renew my mind, I miss out on the freedom and joy of living in the light.

    What if we all believed in and lived out the truth that the cross was not the end, it was the plot twist? Jesus overcame death, the grave, and rose to life again. When we choose to follow Christ, and clothe ourselves in His righteousness through baptism, the old ways fade away like snow in the early spring. We can throw open the shutters of our hearts and breathe deep of new mercies, not just once, but every morning. We are released from the slavery of sin and are made new by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. In Christ, we are raised to new life–to walk in new ways, running toward new hope.

    There’s a great illustration of this in one of my favorite movies, the Coen Brothers comedy, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Three escaped convicts, Everett, Delmar and Pete are on the run and have just narrowly escaped the sheriff and his hounds. They pause for a moment in their journey to build a fire, eat and rest, when they hear some faint singing. The three men stand bewildered, as they watch a church congregation walking toward a nearby river for baptisms. The moment Delmar sees a chance for redemption, the draw is irresistible. He runs as fast as he can to the water, confesses his sin to the preacher, and is baptized. He looks to his companions and calls out to them, “Well, that’s it boys, I’ve been redeemed…It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting is my reward. The preacher says all my sins have been washed away! Neither God, nor man’s got nothing on me now! Come on in boys, the water is fine.”

    As strange as it may sound, I can’t watch this scene without thinking of my own baptism and tearing up. While I didn’t “knock over a Piggly-Wiggly” like Delmar did to earn his jail sentence, I have had my share of mistakes. I had sin in my life that I wanted washed away. I longed for the ultimate spring cleaning of my heart to lead me to the freedom of a new life in Christ.

    What works with this scene is that throughout the rest of the movie, Delmar’s sticks to his promise. He is a new creation. While the company he keeps continues to be a little rough around the edges, the film culminates with his friends’ ultimate repentance and an allusion to their salvation. O Brother, Where Art Thou is not a Christian film, but Delmar’s response in this particular scene reminds me of Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT):

    “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

    We have an opportunity every day to throw off the old ways and run toward new life in Christ. With a childlike faith, we can lean into the love of Christ, take hold of the redemption offered to us, and live empowered by the Holy Spirit, being continually renewed and made to look more like Jesus every day. What spring cleaning needs to be done in your life? Come on in darling, the water is fine.

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