If you’re in, be all in

Can I just be utterly transparent?

This year has been tough for me.

Personally

Professionally

Prayerfully

AND, it would be a lie if I said I’ve conducted myself as mature Christian woman.  Since it’s just us, I feel safe in telling you that I cringe every time I hear the “Glow in the dark” song by Jason Gray.  You know, this one:

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb1TTADzf9Y

Did it have to go viral now?

It’s like God’s saying, “Suck it up buttercup. It’s time for your game face.”

Game face.

  Ugh.

I’ll show you my game face.

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Here’s the thing.  The emotions I have experienced in this season are like navigating a fun house.  The likeness is distorted.  Shimmers of truth gnarled with fiction. I concentrate on the anamorphic images hoping something straightforward will emerge.

I come up empty every time.

So instead, I look for escape.  I don’t like it here.  Just show me the exit and I will be on my way, thank you very much.

But in this place where nothing makes sense, an exit does not appear.

In its place, a challenge.

Can you be all in?

Can you stop, for just a moment, to look for the reason you’re here?

Can you see the mission behind the madness?

Here’s what I know.

God wants his people all in.  All the time.  No exceptions to the rule.

Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Even when you feel alone.

Even when you’re sure he’s forgotten.

I, on the other hand, don’t always want to be all in.  It’s got to be my idea.

Here’s the thing about being all in.  The escape hatch closes. My focus shifts. I lay aside my two companions, compromise and conflict. I fix my eyes on God and step even when the path is chaotic and jumbled. I stop relying on emotions and instead, rely on the wisdom and discernment deeply rooted within me. The voice of doubt becomes silenced.  Courage and confidence squelch fear.

And when I feel I am about to quit, I am reminded that strength is best built in moments of impossibility.

In this moment of honesty, I can affirmatively say God will change me even when I can’t change my attitude. God can overcome my emotions and he can certainly take charge of the circumstance.

I just need to choose to stay all in, even when all out would feel much more comfortable.

Heaven only knows where this season of growth will take me.  All I can say is, “God, I’m all in.”

Whose story are you sharing?

I clasp the microphone as I catch a glimpse of the Star Wars band-aid on my thumb.  A deep breath calms the butterflies in my stomach as I scan the room.

I’ve given this speech hundreds of times.  But today is different.

Today, the man who built my company is sitting in the room.

He’s retired now, but 17 years ago he saw a vision for a low-income assisted living program and invested his time, money and energy into building an industry leading company.

Today, I get to talk about his vision while he sits idly among the crowd.

It doesn’t seem right.

I took this job, not necessarily as a career, but as a means to make ends meet.

An opportunity for advancement.

However, I fell in love with the industry.  I love placing low-income seniors into safe and beautiful surroundings, but I also love the fact that I can go home of an evening and spend most of my weekends at my leisure.

He built a company.  I receive the privilege to represent it.

But in his presence, do the words I speak even matter?

As a marketing representative, I spend time learning the industry.  The rules and regulations.  I study our competition and create ways to promote our strengths. I invest sweat, tears and sleepless nights into building a platform for our community.

Most importantly, I craft the fine art of telling our story.

Because there is power in a story.

But even more powerful than telling a story is living a story.  Telling the story you are living is far more powerful to the listener than sharing the experiences of another.

Which leaves me to question.  Am I telling my story? Or am I telling his?

Think about this carefully in terms of faith.

The stories are very similar.  We stand for the same cause, purpose and goal. But merely telling his story is a simple restatement of facts, not a living breathing  demonstration of a life affected and changed.

So today, are you telling your story, or his?

Telling my story through the power of my savior means I have surrendered my brokenness and traded my shame for healing happening at a heart level intensity. I have chosen to believe his promise that I can walk with courage and confidence in a savior who witnessed the disorder of my heart said “I’ll take your place. Just believe I am the only one powerful enough to take this all away.”

Life change transforms into an adventure.

Handcrafted testimonies are authored while comfort zones are challenged.

Seeds are sown into the circles we influence while  patiently we wait for a harvest we don’t labor to produce.

I push intimidation backstage as I begin to speak with hard-won authority and confidence. I’m honored to share space with a man who gave me this opportunity but I won’t let his presence affect the speech I am about to share. Deep down I know he authored a story nowhere close to completion.

I am merely a character, chosen in a time such as this, building on to a legacy.

So today, with a Star Wars band-aid on my thumb and butterflies in my belly, I will tell my story. And by authentically sharing my story, I too am sharing his.

 

 

 

Have I been overlooked?

The scene replays in my mind like a broken loop eluding me from a precious night of sleep.

How have I returned to this place?

Everyone around me called into the game as I stand on the sidelines and watch.

Haven’t I proven myself?

Do you even see me?

I have done everything to prove myself worthy. Yet I stand here, waiting.  Waiting for the opportunity to perform the thing I have worked so hard to prepare.

I’m recognized as a worthy opponent yet I have not secured my final place on the team. I wait for my hard work and integrity to speak through the chaos & clutter of the world.

Will my character be loud enough to penetrate the noise?

Have you, too, been overlooked?

A still small voice takes me to a man sitting in the cold confines of jail.  A man of integrity.  A man who never deserved to darken the doors of such a vile place.

And he reminds me I am never overlooked or alone. He reminds me the darkest night always bring the light of the morning.

He reminds me this moment is a small blip in time made large by emotion and likely not to matter in the grand scheme of my life.

He reminds me my attitude determines my avenue.

Genesis 40 takes me to Joseph, wrongly imprisoned by a scorned women, using his attitude to determine his avenue out of incarceration. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care as the lord gave Joseph success in all he did (Gen 39:23). Joseph’s composure in confinement allowed him opportunity for service.

Joseph’s attitude determined his avenue when the cupbearer and the baker were in need of interpretation of their troublesome dreams.  Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (vs.8).

The cupbearer two years later as Pharaoh found himself in need of  interpretation of a dream. Joseph is granted a position of authority, second only to Pharaoh, as a result of his service.

The comfort of sleep begins to come over me as I recall the miraculous faith of a man who spent much of his life seemingly overlooked.

He remained composed, even in confinement.

He remained open to God’s interpretation & wisdom.

He took advantage of every opportunity afforded him without expectation of gain.

Sleep wraps me in the promise of hope. Life may not work exactly the way I think it should.  Nor will I be able to control all that surrounds me.  But the Lord is with me.  I am not over looked.  I am not alone.

And my attitude will always determine my avenue.

Where is your avenue leading you?

 

Draining the Drama: Embracing my struggle

 

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly all believers.” 1 Tim 4:10 NIV

“Is it necessary to go the hard way?” I ask as I squeeze my size 16 curves through a size 10 passage of a rock wall.

“Mom”, my son states in a matter of fact tone, “you have to go the hard way until it’s not hard anymore.”

Can I get an Amen?

I ponder his statement as we attempt a trail filled with steep cliffs and cozy caverns. Each step is a reminder of the demands waiting for me when I return home. I am in a season of growth. Opportunity abounds from every direction. I send a small request to God asking for relief from the burden of responsibility he has placed on my shoulders. I long for a small glimpse of his presence as I grapple with how to manage all that lies before me. I’m overpowered by good in a season when I refuse to accept anything less than Gods best.

Lord, can’t you take this from me?

Did I say yes too soon? I just want to live simply and safely under the radar. I like my comfort zone.

Lord, I don’t want to mess up again! I desperately long to get it right this time.

In this moment of distress, I sense God directing me to embrace my deficiency while allowing the power of pain to bring perspective. To position myself in the shelter of his wings while he mends my brokeness, prioritizes the pieces of his promise and makes miracles of my messes. Owning my struggle brings humility while traveling the hard way develops resilience for the roads yet to come.

I learn to pray gut honest prayers. I expose every feeling to his healing light.

I learn to power through emotions threatening to overtake me by standing firmly on truth.

I praise God for what is happening before me and I praise him for what is yet to come.

God did not create me to live under the radar. His purpose is profound and it requires much of me. Hard work when I would rather sit down to break from my toils. Sacrifice my preference for easy. Surrender my beloved to-do list in exchange for his plan and purpose for my day. God did not create me for safety. He longs to purify my heart while increasing my passion for his people.

He encourages me to continue taking the hard road until it’s not hard any longer.

We are now standing on the highest rock far above the tallest trees in the forest. There is a big picture I cannot yet see. I know one day I will. I have chosen to own the struggle knowing the creator of magnificence is traveling right by my side.

Regardless of the narrow path, victory will be mine.

 

 

Draining the Drama: When Labels Limit Me

The heat of the day begins to evaporate with the setting sun. The announcer calls the crowd to her feet as the color guard raises our Stars & Stripes. As the band begins to play a young heckler complains, “Why do I need to stand quiet. I’m not from here.”  It’s all I can do to stay quiet.  I glance at the man standing at attention in front of me.  He has fought for our freedom while one who is clueless to the cost continues to run his mouth.

The game begins and we retake our 50/50 post.

“WHAAAAAA”, sounds from behind me and I turn around, alarmed by the sound.  It’s my heckler.  He catches my eye.

“What, I’m black! I can act like this if I want.”

I turn back to ignore his statement, disbelief covering me like a blanket. I will not engage, but goodness I want too.  He is too young to understand what I have to say.  But in this moment, my heart is breaking for a child who has much to learn about life.

A child who has limited his potential to a stereotype about his skin color.

The next morning, I catch up on Facebook. The war is alive between self promoted cop killers and the opposing side.  A county clerk in Kentucky held in jail as a result of standing for what she believes. A debate among friends which centers around a transgender boy being allowed to change in the girls locker room during gym class.

Hateful words exchange.

Opinions fire without consideration of the consequence.

The divide between right and wrong grows at a pace faster than I can process.

No longer are we a country embracing the freedom of diversity. In place we have become entitled, offended and bitter. Instead of taking the time to understand, we accuse.  Instead of evaluating the full consequence of our actions, we justify. We choose our team and fight until the bitter end.

But what if we’re both right?

What if we’re both wrong?

Regardless, at the heart of every conflict lies a human being. In the heart of the human being lies a real story and a real life that matters to God.

I can’t help but wonder if we limit ourselves and our ability to influence by the labels we wear.

Just because I’m white doesn’t mean am prejudice to one who is black.

Just because I’m Christian doesn’t mean I can’t help voice or brainstorm a resolution to a high school administration trying to do the best thing for their students while operating under limited budgets and facilities.

Being Christian certainly doesn’t mean I get to sit on a throne of judgement clothed in soiled human skin.

It means I remember this message from the Apostle Paul:

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[d] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.[e] 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.[f] 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.[g]

19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.[h] 20 I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

       Ephesians 6:10-19 NLT

At the heart of every conflict lives a human being.

At the heart of the human being is a life that matters God.

We are not at war with people but against evil rulers from an unseen world.

We don’t have to have every answer, we only need to keep our minds open to the possibility of love. Love is not an acceptance of sin.  My kids often behave in ways I don’t approve, yet I love them anyway. Love is merely the lens to the heart of the sinner.  (No one is free from sin, no not one). Love is the bridge dividing the gap between disbelief and motive. It prompts me to ask “why” instead of “how”. And when I arrive at “why” I begin to find a place in which solutions occur. I find stories demanding a voice. I find my jaded perception being focused into sharper detail based on fact in lieu of opinion.

“Why” allows me to live in the tension of a broken world ruled by one who has come to steal, kill & destroy.

One who operates on limited time.

People are not my enemy. Christianity is not my license to persecute. God’s passion is to call home every race and tongue. So what part will he have me to play today?

Is there a matter in which he has called me to speak, or is he requiring my silence?

How might my actions betray my belief?

How can I change me before I even try to change the world?

What labels prevent me from living a life of influence for Christ?

 

Lord, this life is hard. You don’t promise every answer but you do require your people to live in peace, humility, service and love. Lord, your love covers a multitude of sins, beginning with my own. Grant us wisdom when we feel threatened or persecuted. Help us not to live these days in a spirit of fear but instead to call on your power and wisdom for a sound mind. May we live a life that speaks louder than our words and labels ever could. Allow your people the wisdom, courage and influence to affect change_ in our homes, our neighborhoods and our communities. Lord, use us where you plant us today. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

Draining the Drama: Is knowledge power?

“I pay rent here and I know something is going on. I have a right to know what’s going on!”, she declares in anger.

“I understand your frustration but I am no more prepared to discuss your personal business with her than I am to discuss her personal business with you.” I say in reply.

Her anger deflated as she takes a deep breath and walks away.

Knowledge.

Don’t you just crave it sometimes?

To boost my image, I might flaunt it to those who aren’t quite in the know. For power, I might keep it to myself. To generate conversation, I might make a special prayer request or drop a baited line in the break room.

Indeed, knowledge is powerful.

I tell myself I need to know, but do I really?

The bible addresses knowledge in Genesis 3 when a crafty serpent approaches Eve and lures her from a place of contentment to curiosity.

“Did God REALLY say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” (vs 1).

She wonders if she heard God right. What did this Wiley serpent  know that God did not bother to share with her?

“God said we could eat from any tree, just not the one in the middle of the garden, or we will die.” Eve replies.

“You won’t die,” the serpent says, ” Your eyes will open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In her head, she wonders why God did not tell her this before. He must be a bit of a control freak.

The serpent baits Eve to take a taste of a life better than the one God has given her. He invites her to reject truth in exchange for the temptation of knowledge.

It is, after all, her right to know.

Or is it?

Eve sinks her teeth into the delicious forbidden fruit and immediately shares with Adam, hooking him in the havoc reaped by a mere snake in the wilderness.

They immediately feel ashamed and exposed, powerless to process the knowledge of God. They create a barrier of clothing to hide their nakedness and intentionally hide from God when he comes calling.

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from that tree?”

Eve, then Adam confess but lay blame, not willing to accept full accountability for their actions to gain a knowledge just like God’s. They receive a curse upon themselves and their land.  A life created for relationship & enjoyment replaced with a life of separation,  hardship and toil.

Is it our right to know?

Is this knowledge I am seeking threatening to take me from a place of contentment to curiosity?

Is this temptation or truth? Am I being baited for what I think to be better?

Am I hooking others into havoc with this new-found knowledge?

Will I be able to process what is on the other side? Or will I feel ashamed and exposed? Insecure in the information I so desperately longed to possess?

In this moment, do I need to continue in conversation or walk away?

Once I know, I can’t un-know.

Is knowledge powerful?  Indeed, it is.  It is not a power God created me to wield or possess. But, when I make an effort to know by engaging idle conversation, I am accountable to act in accordance to what I find on the other side. Attained knowledge cannot be fodder for gossip or leverage for power.  Knowledge is a call to act as Christ on this Earth. An opportunity to glorify him.  A responsibility to shine his light into the darkest places on Earth.

Lord, may I be responsible with the power of knowledge you give to me this day. Grant me the wisdom and discretion to process and the humility to act just as you would through my words, my hands and my feet. Lord, help to steer clear of the things I am not meant to know. Secure me in contentment.  Lord, keep me from temptation.  Lord, all you have for me is good.  Help me to keep my eyes set only on you. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Draining the Drama: Disengaging Emotion

She approaches me in a calm, confident manner. Her gate brisk as she see’s a long-lost friend. Yet I see the glint in her eye. She has news to share.  A juicy tidbit guaranteed to cause mayhem and distraction. She reaches me brimming with excitement.  As she speaks, my fear and insecurity starts to rise.

Could this be true?

Her story is well crafted yet I realize the flaws within the facts. Her concrete evidence is fissured by skewed investigations.

In this moment I realize it’s time to remove my emotion from the commotion.

What in her story is in accordance to fact or reality? What is true of the Story-teller? And what is true of the other side?

Real life is not composed of the good guys and bad.  Instead, broken people with broken judgment fill their places.

Am I impartial, or am I surveying this production with a cloudy lens of perception?

What in my past prevents me sound judgement? What about this calamity is tickling my insecurity and fear?

And what of motive? Am I missing a detail about goals, policies or procedures within the family, team or organization?

Do I hold a key to resolution or is this something in which I even need to involve myself?

Removing my emotion from the commotion allows me to hear her story with a sound mind.  A clear lens of perception.  A heart positioned to glean wisdom from God.  A mind protected in peace by my Savior Jesus. Character to act in accordance to Christ.

Removing my emotion from the commotion gives the courage to set my mind on Christ, ask courageous questions and walk away the moment I find this incident is not in my realm of control.