I’ve known for a very long time that I’m different. Not “better” different. Because, really, “better” is relative. Better than what? The comparisons are limitless. and I’m thinking at least 50% of them wouldn’t be pretty. “Different” can imply too much trouble. too much work. weird. tiresome. exasperating. I don’t deny those adjectives. They’re not my favorite, but they’re not untrue.
I’m not a kid anymore.
I’ll be 49 this month. In 4 days actually. Time for (another) hard look in the mirror:
Retin-A prescription. check.
paralyzing self-doubt. che…WAIT.
WHAT THE H3LL is THAT DOING HERE?
no no no no no. That has got to GO.
Somehow, somewhere, some way, the idea that I’m “doing it WRONG” had planted itself smack in the middle of my writing path, taking me on a multi-month detour that led straight into a dead end. I stopped “doing it” altogether and focused instead on the WAY I was doing it. Which again, I
perceived believed was WRONG.
Ironically, the thing that triggered the paralyzing self-doubt was the exact same thing that knocked me free from it.
~ Someone telling me my blog posts were selfish made me forget that a blog, by definition is an online journal. So, by definition, MY blog is about what I think and how I feel and how I process. It’s not a place where I write one-size-fits all articles directed at the masses in exchange for money. I intentionally don’t monetize this blog because I want to say what I want to say without outside censorship. Almost overnight, internal censorship resulted in words that were so restricted and appropriately vanilla that proofing them was like reading something written by a complete stranger. A boring stranger. KMN. I forgot that clicking – or not clicking – a mouse button is a choice every single person who reads my blog is free to make…or NOT make.
~ Someone telling me they don’t read my blog because I tend to ramble on, somehow made me count my words – instead of considering the fact that maybe they just DON’T WANT TO READ it. I took the “ramble on” feedback to mean that I needed to learn to write more concisely – instead of considering the possibility that maybe – just maybe – what I have to say just flat out doesn’t interest them.
~ Two different people tell me they sometimes have to read something I’ve written twice and I focus on the one who tells me I lost them instead of focusing on the one who wants to have coffee to explore what I said and talk about what she took away from it after the second, slower read it required and the deeper thinking it led to.
~ And most frustrating and challenging of all, there were widespread tangential comments from, and conversations with, multiple people about both my Christ-centered church and my search for joy blog posts which didn’t seem to be related to the content of what I had actually written. I had written extensively about the why and how we do things and the feedback was all about what we do – or about something else entirely. I was overwhelmed and grieved with the heartbreaking realization that we were suffering from a fatal illness and the feedback I was hearing was all about how dedicated we are to our health and how hard we work to eat right and exercise. It was a disconnect I couldn’t reconcile.
and so I shut down. no more writing until I could learn how to do it with more clarity.
Finally, after months of being unable to even open my book draft, and after finally identifying exactly WHY (a lack of confidence in my ability to effectively encode ANYthing I wanted to say), I began asking people to restate, in their own words, what they thought I said. One after another, multiple people made it crystal clear to me that my encoding was spot on. The message was clear. It was understood.
It was just rejected.
wait. that’s probably just a different kind of bad.
BUT IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE EFFECTIVELY!
I’m used to rejection. Being dismissed is old hat. I’m SO much better at respectfully agreeing to disagree than I’ll ever be at pretending to agree.
But being an educator and believing I had become an incompetent communicator? That was paralyzing.
This feedback led to a significant pivot point. These people were able to succinctly restate my message. They had a very clear understanding of what I wrote and their ability to precisely restate what I said – along with their rejection of it – was just the epiphany I needed to break free from this quagmire. In that pivot point moment, I saw it. I was suffering from toxic levels of avoidance. I couldn’t write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because by NOT writing, there was absolutely ZERO chance I could create selfish, rambling, rhetoric that loses people. I had spent weeks re-reading previous blog posts with the eye of an iron glute professor armed with textbook communication theory and a psychological red pen that could berate Dr. Seuss for lack of clarity and nonsensical vocabulary.
I’m not saying I’m going to insulate myself from honest, yet sometimes negative feedback because it might derail me again. I understand the dangers of a steady diet of rainbows. I’ve paid a therapist and a voice teacher to tell me the truth. I’m going to keep seeking feedback. And NOT only from people who believe every kid who plays should get a trophy. I just need to REMIND MYSELF of ONE thing EVERY. SINGLE. time I process a word of it:
I’m a square peg.
and I LIKE being square. I think round things are inefficient uses of space. And I know the look I get when I say that out loud to someone. It goes with the eye roll you just gave me. Nobody thinks or cares about the the spacial efficiency of square objects.
except maybe me. because I’m different.
It’s taken me months to nail down the problem. WHY did I shut down after publishing my “Christ-centered church” series?
Anything I had to say was pointless. recycled and contrived. self-important rambling. vomit from my fingertips.
my confidence wasn’t the only thing that was shot. my credibility was in a crumpled heap:
Who did I think I was? If God has a message, He does NOT want me to share it. As a matter of fact, if He wants anybody to actually hear a message, He really needs to find someone else to share it. seriously. look at the history. I suck at this.
Not only did the message of the Christ-centered church series get vehemently rejected, it was so vehemently rejected, people rejected stuff I didn’t even SAY. Those posts shut down conversation and built unscalable walls of defensiveness that are still impenetrable today.
Vehement rejection aside, there seem to be just as many people who didn’t understand what I was trying to say in the first place. Not even a little. Then there are the people who are convinced they understand, but when they comment or talk to me, it’s clear. Not even close. I hadn’t succinctly explained what I was talking about. I sometimes wondered if I would have been better understood if I had written those posts in pig-Latin.
Am I dismissing the relatively few people who did understand? who identified with what I said? who responded positively?
of course I am. It’s what we humans do. In an employee review, we will dismiss the 9 “excellents” and obsess over the one “needs improvement.” Because the next review? We want that “needs improvement” to be improved. significantly.
For months after that series, I was convinced I couldn’t put words together in comprehensible sentences. I couldn’t write. I stopped the “conversations with a born-again athiest” series. If what I said about my faith caused CHRISTIANS such confusion and anger, I had NO business talking to an atheist. seriously.
I was paralyzed by a complete and total lack of confidence in my ability to discern ANYthing. God’s will, God’s prompting, God’s movement. Wisdom?
It was months of paralyzing doubt…no – paralyzing conviction – that I had nothing of value to contribute to…anyone – and even if I did – I was incapable of articulating it with any clarity at all.
I threw myself into physical labor. I can’t screw that up, right?
I began asking God for a mentor. To send someone wise and blessed with discernment. Then, just two weeks ago, I had coffee with a new friend. A deep thinker. We read the same authors. She took the time to listen and dig. She’s a question asker. It was a short four hours. I put my finger on it:
and I already KNEW it. I mentioned it in the middle of the Christ-centered church series, in a post entitled ““Christ-centered Church.” I do not think it means what you think it means.”
“Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message…it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation”
I went back and read the Christ-centered church series again. and again. and again.
Was WHAT I said inaccurate? no. and I do NOT answer that question lightly. More than 6 months later and I’ve got even more and detailed reasons for believing it’s true. Hard. heart wrenchingly hard. but true.
So. Was HOW I shared the message ineffective? I shared personally and chronologically. I stepped through what I believe God was revealing to me in the order He revealed it. I explained how He revealed it. I read the series again. I went over and over it. I read my prayer journal entries from that time. I couldn’t see any other way to do it. Should I have left myself completely out of it? Excluded my thoughts and feelings? Should I have just stated facts and stuck exclusively with movie clips and metaphors, like dominoes? Was all that personal stuff just a self-indulgent, cathartic purge? If I had just stated the premise of the message up front, would it have had more clarity? Or, as I suspect, would the message have been rejected even faster? Having already decided I was wrong, no one would have come back to read any more; there would have been absolutely NO reason to hear me out.
And here’s the gist of it: If I did such a phenomenally poor job encoding a blog series, how in the world could I possibly encode a book?
I was a communication major. I should be able to structure and articulate a message. Supposedly, I’m an educator. What I came face to face with – what paralyzed me – was that it doesn’t matter a flyin flip WHAT I have to say if I’m incapable of saying it in a way it can be understood.
And then God reminded me of Balaam’s ass.
I don’t believe in coincidences. God led me to this book, and this passage:
“As the final song was sung before I was to be introduced, I leaned to Boneface and out of fear and desperation [I] blurted, “I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why God would send me here to speak to these people, Why me?” Without hesitation, and with a big grin, Boneface turned to me and said, “You are here because the donkey was busy tonight.”
He was making a not-so-veiled reference to the prophet Balaam’s talking donkey in the Old Testament.
I got the message. God uses anything or anyone He chooses.”
Elijah, Steps to a Life of Power by Bob Saffrin
If God can speak through an ass, He can speak through me.
and it has not escaped my attention that Balaam beat the crap out of that donkey THREE times before he understood what the donkey was trying to tell him.
I just need to keep reminding myself of one thing:
“…Balaam replied. ‘But I can’t say whatever I please. I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.’”
specifically, providence and coincidence.
coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection
I can’t ever remember believing in coincidences. My husband on the other hand, is a big believer in them. He believes some things – LOTS of things – just…happen. I believe some things happen randomly too. But I also believe that God takes each and every one of those random events and circumstances and, in His sovereign will, wrapped in undeserved and unearned grace and mercy, purposefully works them for His good.
Every. single. one of them. Because He is that good. He’s all powerful, all knowing and ever present.
When we find ourselves smack in the middle a seemingly random happening, both my husband and I agree that God has given us the freedom to choose. We are to be guided by wisdom (Bible, learned knowledge, prayer, experience, wise counsel, reason, etc.), but we get to choose how we respond. We both find loads of scriptural support for this belief.
The big difference between Hubs and I on this is that I tend to assume God’s hand in nearly everything – big or teeny, obvious or not, whether I ever get to know how or not. I’m not saying I believe God MAKES everything happen in this fallen world, although I believe He could. Again – He is that good. I’m saying I don’t find scriptural support for the extreme, exclusive idea that He makes EVERYthing happen. Sure, some things He makes happen. But some things He allows to happen. His sovereign will is unknown to us. In all cases, I believe the promise of Romans 8:28.
Who am I to determine what is meaningful or insignificant? The Bible tells me nothing is insignificant to God. The Bible tells me the hairs on my head are actually numbered.
Even being “in the dark,” as it were, I intuitively look for deeper meaning. What is God doing? Why did He allow something to happen? I immediately start thinking and praying about how to respond, whether it be taking action or figuring out what God wants me to learn or take away from the situation.
Last week, I had a friend remark to me “You see God in EVERYTHING.”
Not sure I ever consciously thought about it before, but she’s right. I do. I can’t imagine living any other way. To me, it’s completely normal. The fact that I see God in everything is probably one of the reasons I don’t believe in coincidences.
This might be a chicken or the egg kind of thing.
Either way, over the last few months, I’ve seen more of my own fingerprints than God’s. My life was one of the smudgiest sliding glass doors you’ve ever seen. And all the fingerprints were down low. Where I could reach.
To drastically summarize 16 “hard look in the mirror” blog posts: God has been silent in my life for a few months. I don’t like it. At. All. I feel like God the Father has taken His hand off the bicycle seat of my life to teach me…what? To be confident He is there even when I don’t feel the security of His hand? I researched the theology of “the dark night” and came out of all the reading grounded in one of the metaphors. I was going to stop swimming and float. Not drift – with no intention. FLOAT – in the current of God’s will. I wasn’t going to fight the current. I was going to stop swimming in the direction I thought God wanted me to go. I was going to FLOAT.
In the silence.
Seemed like a reasonable plan.
Until the silence became unbearable. I wrote last week, that I came to a breaking point. If you didn’t read that, “CLICK HERE” to check it out.
okay. so that Monday night, I went to sleep having intentionally chosen this season of silence and whatever God is teaching me over tried and true past remedies for finding Joy in God. I called it my darkest night.
Tuesday morning, I woke up to an email in my inbox. The local school where I’ve recorded for more than 3 years had two cancellations for that upcoming weekend. Could I cover two vocal labs (recording sessions)? (If you didn’t do it a minute ago, you’re gonna have to read “two steps forward. one step back.” to get the full impact of that “coincidence.”)
and remember. I see God’s hand in EVERYthing.
So, in the spirit of floating, I said yes.
I spent the entire morning looking for two songs to sing. Given that I had less than four days to prepare a lead and at least two harmonies for each song, I focused specifically on songs I already knew. Song after song – one obstacle after another. No track. Background vocals already on the track. Wrong key. just…wrong after wrong after wrong.
I left the house for the afternoon and when I came back, someone had posted on my facebook wall:
“Hey, so you know the song ‘He is with You” by Mandisa? I think you should sing it at church. Take a look….’”
I immediately thought: “Mandisa? I can’t sing Mandisa.” But again, in the spirit of floating, I responded:
“I’m gonna call that a God thing. LocalRecordingSchool called me today asking me to fill in two cancellations this weekend. I struggled to select tracks all day. One down. one to go. Thanks, friend. If the rough cut is any good, I’ll give you a copy.”
And then another facebook friend commented:
“‘There is a God’ by Lee Ann Womack?”
Monday night I had broken down, wimped out and asked God to let me/help me sing again, then almost immediately took back my request, choosing the lesson of the dark night over the temporal blessing that would have come with the singing.
Then all that happened on Tuesday. The fingerprints on my sliding glass door were MUCH bigger than my own.
and they weren’t anywhere near my reach.
and no. I’m not talking about Holy DARK KNIGHT, Batman.
I had never even heard about the dark night until I started reading about finding joy and delight in God, spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness and the silence of God. I first stumbled upon the term while reading “Prayer” by Philip Yancey. He said:
“I take some comfort in the fact that virtually all the masters of spirituality recount a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it persists for months, even years. I have yet to find a single witness, though, who does not tell of going through a dry period.”
Is a “dry period” necessarily this “dark night”? Are these terms interchangeable? Both have been so eclectically described, I can’t lock down a globally accepted definition. People who have attempted to describe their experience have trouble articulating it. I’ve read John of the Cross, who is the originator of the term “dark night.” I’ve read Teresa of Avila and an unknown monk. Those three were not easy or complete reads. Thankfully, Thomas Green wrote extensively about the dark night and interpreted for me. C.S. Lewis, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Henri Nouwen and a number of others have written about dryness and/or the dark night.
It would appear that one dark night does not fit all.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version, courtesy of Eric Sammons
“Unfortunately, “Dark Night” has become a term used very loosely to designate any difficult or depressing time in life. But this is not the meaning St. John of the Cross gives to “Dark Night.”
…not brought about by external events, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. Instead, they are brought about by God alone, who uses the Dark Nights to purge the soul of attachments to the things of this world….”
“…God becomes the primary initiator of prayer, not man…the soul experiences dryness in prayer. It is a painful state that tests the soul to see if it desires prayer for the consolations or because it desires God Himself. At this stage, the ability to meditate becomes difficult, even painful, as no fruit comes from it and the Holy Spirit wants to move the soul from meditation to contemplation.
I have to ask. Is there scriptural basis for this?
Make no mistake. I’m a strong believer in the “dry spell” of it all. I’m a witness to it. I KNOW it happens. and I know first-hand how devastating it is. How it can rock faith. I’m smack in the thick of it.
and it. SUCKS.
My skepticism is with the surety and scriptural foundation of the dark night as the reason.
I’ve seen a commenter on another blog ask about the scriptural foundation of the explanation of the dark night and he was effectively dismissed. The general assumption expressed by those who responded to him was that he didn’t understand and obviously hadn’t experienced it. It didn’t occur to anyone that the reason he didn’t understand was that their explanations were vague and weak.
and I find myself thinking of an emperor in his underwear.
offended? If the invisible shoe fits, wear it.
It would be so much simpler if I was just smack in the middle of disobedience and I could repent, claim the promise of Romans 8:1 and move forward. Instead, I’m compelled to keep reading….
“Why is this painful stage necessary?…It is necessary so that the soul can be purged of defects that still exist within it, defects which prevent the soul from being passively receptive to God’s grace.”
purged of defects?
I have defects. I reek of defects.
“…a person might flee from the Dark Night and regress into lower levels of prayer. The proper response to this temptation to regress, however, is renewing your trust in God, continuing to utilize acquired recollection in prayer, abstaining from seeking consolation, and seeking counsel from a good spiritual director.”
lower levels of prayer?
lower levels of prayer. like with consolations and meditations?
and the “proper” response is to
(1) renew my trust in God
(2) continue to utilize “acquired” recollection in prayer
(3) don’t seek consolation and
(4) seek counsel from a good spiritual advisor.
(2) I think that means remember what God has done in my life in the past.
(3) Don’t try to pray the way I used to pray. Because those prayers are “lower.”
(4) God, if you want me to have a spiritual mentor who’s experienced this before, you’re gonna have to send me one. Break the silence.
SEND. me. one. PLEASE.
I admit. I’m torn. Between
(1) wanting there to be such a thing as this dark night and
(2) thinking it’s just a scape goat for people who need to rationalize whatever spiritual obstacle they are facing.
Faaaarrrr more likely, I’m grasping at straws to rationalize failing.
I started this journey because I wanted to find joy and delight in the nature of who God is without the crutches of circumstance or experiences. This is the scripture that comes to mind right now:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
count it all joy.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
If you read my last post, “growing pains” you know I’ve been having trouble seeing God’s hand in my life over the last few months.
God has been silent.
When I first became aware of the silence, I immediately assumed sin was separating me from God. I confessed all the sin I could identify. I raked through my life and identified the sin I had been rationalizing or been numb and oblivious to. I asked God to reveal to me anything I hadn’t found.
Be careful what you pray for.
I let go of some things in my life. Good things. One thing in particular that was responsible for actually helping me to discover how to worship God – to praise Him – for who He was instead just thank Him for what He did for me; for the blessings He afforded. This was something I had never understood or been able to do before. That’s what made leading worship a good thing. a very good thing.
I let it go because it had morphed into a crutch I had become dependent on to facilitate that worship.
I let go of other “good” things too. They had become obstacles in my relationship with Him.
But if you are one of the handful of people who actually read this blog regularly, you know all that.
Since then, God has been silent.
I’ve been seeking God every day. Relentlessly.
that’s an understatement.
Still. God has been silent.
After more than 6 years of sensing God’s presence and movement in my daily life, it took less than two months for me to become resigned to the silence.
Not seeing or sensing God’s hand in my life, I stopped looking for it.
I expected the silence. It became my new normal.
I began reading everything I could about finding delight and joy in God. About spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness, the absence of God and the silence of God. C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Philip Yancey and authors new to me, like Thomas Green, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. People who experienced and wrote about the “dark night.” Some of them talked about the dark night lasting the rest of their life.
I stopped writing in my prayer journal.
I had nothing to say.
I began abiding.
I threw myself into the mindless work of purging my environment and my life of superfluous things.
I began learning how to “pray without words” as C.S. Lewis would say. I stopped filling up the space between me and God with my voice. my incessant talking. I shut up. and I listened.
And God was silent.
In the beginning, I hated it. It was unsettling.
I was brokenhearted. I don’t say that kind stuff about myself. But there’s really no better way to describe it.
C.S. Lewis described it this way:
“We can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. In other words, our faith can survive many refusals if they really are refusals and not mere disregards. The apparent stone will be bread to us if we believe that a Father’s hand put it into ours, in mercy or in justice or even in rebuke.”
from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
After a few weeks, there was peace in the quiet. Like sitting with a close friend. The kind of friend you can ride in a car with, not talking, and feel no need to fill the void with spoken words. completely grounded. no need for a stealth “#awkward” tweet from the passenger seat.
so, there was peace.
but not joy.
In my last post, I said that I hadn’t been able to pray any specific petitionary prayers because I didn’t trust my motives. I said that last Monday I had hit bottom. The silence had become unbearable.
I asked God to let me sing again. In my weakness, I instinctively reached out for the one thing that had allowed me to experience true JOY in God – regardless of my circumstances.
Singing to Him. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it since June 30th.
I went to bed that Monday night, the silence ringing in my mind. Disappointed in myself for caving. For chickening out and turning my back on whatever God is trying to teach me in this time of silence. Instead of trusting in the process of this journey, I reached out for old, tried and true, comfortable habits.
I wimped out.
I was convinced God was teaching me something. Something important. Although I had no idea what and I had no idea how long the lesson would last. It seemed that, at what appeared to be the hardest part of the lesson, I was asking God to give back what I had given up. I was going backward. I was turning my back on what He has for me now.
As I fell asleep, I took back my request. I told God that I didn’t want to settle for temporal blessings of comfort and happiness in exchange for this new relationship. Even if the new relationship meant years of silence.
Last Monday night was my darkest night.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
yes. I did just sing that to the tune of a Cheap Trick song.
But I’m talking to God:
Lord, I want to wake up every morning aware of an innate desire for intimacy with YOU.
but I don’t.
I call myself a Christian.
but I can’t remember ever, in my entire life, delighting in ONLY God.
In my memory and conscious understanding, I have always…
tied my delight in the giver
to the gifts He gives.
I’ve tied the protection to the protector. The blessings to the one who blesses.
And most recently, not only have I tied the art with the artist, but I’ve placed my desire for that art in front of the artist.
I’m really starting to hate my mirror.
the view ain’t pretty.
Have I always tied my delight in Him with the delight I experience when I serve Him by doing something that satisfies, assuages my insecurity or bolsters my ego?
Have I ever simply delighted in the giver? Without experiencing the delight of a gift?
Have I ever delighted in the artist? Without finding delight in the art?
Have I ever found delight in the one who blesses, even when the blessings are disguised as trials?
but if I have, I can’t remember it.
If I have, it was fleeting and subconscious. Never sustained or intentional. Don’t remember ever being aware of it.
And now? Now that I’ve intentionally chosen to stop doing the things that fill me with delight, when I’ve intentionally decided to find delight ONLY in Christ….
Go ahead. ask me how that “decision” is working out.
It would seem I am as completely incapable of deciding to delight in God as I am in sticking to any other goal I’ve ever set for myself.
This another one of those times where I’m extremely thankful for my belief that I am not special.
Surely I’m not the only one who has failed at this particular goal.
I headed straight for the book that introduced me to the idea of delighting myself in God in the first place. John Piper, don’t fail me now. You better show some personal ugly in the middle of all that theology and lofty vocabulary. I need to see some Jack in you, JP.
God must have led me to it, because I have no idea how I found it. I immediately loved the title: “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy“
3rd sentence in the Forward:
“When all is said and done, only God can create joy in God.”
Sentences 5, 6 and 7:
“To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people. By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself. Therefore this book calls for deep and radical change-which only God can give.”
My inclination was to head straight for Chapter Twelve “When the Darkness Does Not Lift” but I’m gonna hold off skipping to the end.
Instead, I’m jumping to the chapters on prayer because I’m still wresting with with petitionary prayer in light of my overwhelming awareness of just how selfish I am.
Stay tuned. This could be kinda like watching NASCAR, but for Christians. Either I’m going to crash and burn or there’s an epiphany and a straightaway ahead.
Meanwhile, still listening to this:
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
If you’ve been following along for the last week, you’re probably wondering what the heck is wrong with me.
My husband and a friend have both referred to it as me being “refined by fire.”
I should probably be happy about this.
I’m sure one day I will be.
You may be wondering. Where did this come from? Was there a trigger?
yes. yes there was.
AtypicalAtheist posed the following question to me in an email:
“If you didn’t believe that there was some higher being able to influence the course of events, of what possible value would prayer be?”
and immediately, I found myself asking the same question, but going deeper. Do I really believe prayer changes GOD? If God has a sovereign plan, why pray? If He already knows everything, why am I telling Him everything? He doesn’t need reminding. He doesn’t forget. And why do I pray like a widow?
The generic Christian reply is “We pray because Jesus prayed.”
thank you. thank you very much. that clears it right up for me. I’m better now.
Thankfully, I know I’m not that unique. I know someone has asked themself these questions before. I was betting they had written about it.
It would seem I am in good company. Everybody from Pascal to C.S. Lewis to Yancy, to name just a few.
Philip Yancy in his book, “Prayer” said
“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”
A second thing happened within a matter of days of receiving AtypicalAtheist’s email. God opened a door for someone I know. He provided a phenomenal opportunity. Out of nowhere. Total “God thing.”
And I remembered something I used to say all the time. “God can do ANYthing.” Beyond what we can ask or imagine.
I realized that I couldn’t see God’s hand in something I was pursuing. Tunnel vision pursuing. And none of what I was pursuing was beyond what I could ask or imagine. It was all “reasonable.”
me. me. me. me. me. I wanted what I wanted. the way I wanted it.
and I wanted it now.
Holy Veruca Salt, batman.
The absolute LAST thing I want is to find myself in a “successful” situation and say, “Look at what I did!” instead of “Look what GOD did!”
but I saw it clearly. that’s exactly the direction I was headed.
Not a good look in the mirror for me.
I was a mess.
You combine my inability to reconcile praying petitionary prayers to a sovereign God with a sovereign plan and not seeing God’s hand in what I was pursuing and you’ve got someone who came face to face with hopeless selfishness.
not a good place.
I couldn’t pray.
What does faith look like when you can’t pray?
It’s not pretty.
it’s a pit.
In my last post, I said that my husband had suggested I re-read Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper and Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen
I said they were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.
It appears I’m at another pivot point in my faith.
When I first read these books, the basic premise each of these guys set forth resonated with me.
In a teeny, tiny nutshell?
Piper – Serving God does not have to be sacrificial. It can be – sometimes it is – but it doesn’t have to be. There isn’t some sort of causal, yin and yang relationship between how much I sacrifice and how much God is pleased with my service. I can serve God by doing what I love and I can find joy in it. God wants me to find joy in serving him with my gifts. The passion I have for doing so was given to me by God. Sacrifice is not the marker of mature spirituality. Enjoying what I do does not mean I am selfish.
Friesen – God doesn’t have a predetermined, detailed individual plan for my life that I have to discover. A plan that is derailed if I make a wrong choice. (THANK GOD. Because if so, I veered off course a long time ago. multiple times.) Friesen’s premise is that the idea of God having a specific, detailed, individual will for each person’s life isn’t supported in scripture. That God has a sovereign will and it does not change. God has a moral will that we are to strive to stay within. Within His sovereign and moral will, God allows us to choose. He gives us the responsibility to choose. He gives us the wisdom to choose. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust Him to work it for His good. Within His sovereign plan.
again, I agree with Piper and Friesen’s basic premises. But some of what they say…
was seriously screwing me up.
I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomies in what I was finding.
Why is it that I can read C.S. Lewis and call him Jack when he gets all puffy and full of himself, but with these two guys I had trouble actually separating the wheat from the chaff?
And I see the chaff.
next time. this post is too long. I wouldn’t have read this far.
and like I said in my last post, if you know me IRL, don’t weird out when you see me. Like you’ve never seen a hot mess when you’ve looked into the mirror before.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
My husband is scared right now.
happy. but scared.
Happy because of all the stuff I’m getting rid of. And I’m getting rid of a LOT of stuff. a LOT of stuff.
Scared because of the honey-do list that goes along with ordering my environment.
I’m so thankful to God for him. He is my density.
In the middle (and at the bottom) of stirring this mess in my head, he said: “You really need to work through this. I don’t recognize you. It’s like you’ve given up. I don’t know whether to encourage you or give you a swift kick in the butt. You’ve lost your mojo.”
mojo. is that another word for faith?
It was bad. I couldn’t even pray.
What does faith look like when you can’t even pray?
it’s not pretty.
I needed to think. I need to think.
And so I clean my house. I paint my house. I purge my house. of books even. over 100 so far. I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.
GONE I tell you!
physically and metaphorically.
But in the middle of all the thinking I’m reading two books right now.
I know. But yes. These two are thick.
and not in a benchpress them kind of way.
FirstHusband suggested I re-read these books. Smart guy.
I’ve read both of them before. But I was younger then. Not that much younger. But still.
They were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.
In all my thinking and purging, I need to go back to bones of what I believe and why.
Messy deep digging blog posts ahead.
Even so, if you know me IRL (in real life), don’t weird out when you see me in person. If you’re at a loss about what to say, we can talk about the little blond girl’s face at the end of this commercial. cracks me up every time.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]
Four years ago, I was content to sing by myself. in the seclusion of my mini-van.
Leading worship never crossed my mind.
Four years ago, I was content to write a blog. about recipes and how to use a neti pot.
Writing a book never crossed my mind.
Four years ago, I was content to lead a monthly psuedo-Bible study. sitting in comfortable chairs in the living rooms of friends.
A speaking ministry never crossed my mind.
Why did you allow me to go 4 years in this direction if it’s not the place you wanted me to be? How long do I have to stumble around in this mess I’ve made? How long till I figure out how to climb out of this pit? And how long after that will it take me to turn my face and feet towards next?
I have NO sense that these things I’ve been pursuing are from You.
I have NO confidence in my ability to figure out where to place my foot.
so I find myself unable to take a step.
I’m standing still.
by the nagging thought that I have to let it go.
all of it.
And every time the thought crosses my mind, I cry.
dammit. dammit. dammit.
I do NOT cry.
and it’s really starting to tick me off.
Crying is a flippin WASTE of time. When I’m done, nothing has changed.
Except that I have a headache. and my mascara is shot.
And so I take the chicken walk.
If these desires are not from You – if they are, in fact, selfish – I’m asking you to TAKE them.
TAKEthemTAKEthemTAKEthem. I don’t want them.
LET. THEM. DIE.
Painlessly would be my preference.
That I need to be satisfied in YOU, Jesus.
I need to find joy in YOU.
Leading worship isn’t enough.
Writing about You isn’t enough.
Telling people about You isn’t enough.
YOU are enough. You should be enough.
Part of me wonders.
That You’ve allowed me to go so far down this path because You needed me to be this wrecked about being so selfish.
Some say I’m under spiritual attack.
if so, Satan’s doing a damn good job.
But I have to ask myself.
Am I being disciplined?
Am I being pruned?
Are these thoughts from You?
I can’t discount the possibility.
I can’t automatically assume that Satan is attacking me with doubt and discouragement.
Because You are sovereign, I believe nothing happens to me that You don’t allow.
Is that what I’m being?
Right now, everything I see about this ministry I’ve been pursuing is about me. What I want. Me trying to manufacture something. If this is true, the hours I’ve wasted are incalculable. If this is true, I need to turn my back on this self-indulgent disobedience. And if this is true, it completely sucks. Because even after looking straight in the face of this possibility – even knowing I need You to be enough – without these dreams – I’m still mourning the death of them.
Lord, if I’m wrong, you’re going to have to show me.
Smack me upside the head.
because I don’t trust my judgement.
and I am SICK TO DEATH OF THE WHINING.
and seriously. I’m OVER the crying.
It is NOT working for me.
I don’t want to do it anymore.
“To say to Him that something else satisfies you more is the opposite of worship. It is sacrilege.”
Desiring God by John Piper
CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series “the search for Joy.”
I’ve been telling a story.
My mistake was that I started at the beginning. I should have started by stating my premise and then worked my way backward.
I attempted to chronicle what God had revealed to me and how. Telling the story in the order the events took place was not a good idea.
The only people who understood what I was getting at were people who already recognized what I was describing.
A few people who didn’t understand what I was getting at – and wanted to understand what I was getting at – either asked to meet with me or sent me a personal message and we talked through it.
Thank GOD for them. They have been a blessing and an encouragement while providing accountability.
But there have also been a few who didn’t understand. There have been some who summarized 10 blog posts with “she criticized the pastor” and/or “she wants there to be an invitation at the end of every sermon” and tawked amongst themselves, spreading unfounded gossip.
That’s unfortunate. and sad.
I can’t fix that. It would wear me out to even try. Instead, I’m praying the people hearing that summary won’t take someone else’s word for it and will want to see for themselves. I’m praying that those people will seek out my blog for firsthand information and that, as they read the posts, the Holy Spirit will guide them as they form their own individual thoughts about what I’ve written.
There are some people who are reading, taking it all in and are quietly pondering. I love me some thinkers. I’m praying that the Holy Spirit moves in their lives to draw them into an even deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ as they work through what they themselves believe about all that I’ve said.
Some people don’t give a flying flip what Julie Mills thinks.
I expected all of those responses. But some things I didn’t anticipate.
I didn’t anticipate that assumptions would be made about what God had revealed to me before I could get to that part of the story.
I didn’t anticipate that those assumptions would be so far off the mark.
I didn’t anticipate that the preconceived ideas of some of the people reading would so completely envelope and suffocate my true message.
I didn’t anticipate that people would disagree so strongly with me without understanding what they were disagreeing with.
I didn’t anticipate that I would get so sidetracked by the task of explaining what I was NOT talking about.
I didn’t anticipate that I would get completely derailed by tangents.
So I’ve made a decision. Forget my story. If I get back to it, I get back to it. If not?
I’m grateful for the lesson learned. If God leads me to tell this story in the future, I will start at the end and work my way backwards.
Me, lamenting to FirstHusband: “It’s like I started out talking about oranges, but before I could even finish describing one, some people assumed I was talking about apples. And not just apples, ROTTEN apples. Now, somehow, I find myself not only talking about apples, but clarifying in painful detail the difference between rotten apples and fresh apples. I have no idea if and when I’m ever going to get back to describing the orange.
(Here’s how to crack that Julie code: Oranges represent abundant life in Christ. Rotten apples represent fire and brimstone turn or burn evangelism and fresh apples represent being open about what Christ has done and is doing in your every day life with the people in your every day life.)
So. For those of you who give a flyin flip, I’ve got another post, or maybe two, about fresh vs. rotten apples coming up and then I’m gonna start peeling an orange.
“If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—how shortsighted to refuse correction!”
“A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.”
Kenneth A. Wells
This is the 11th post of a series. CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
This is the 9th post of a series. CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
oh, go ahead. click the youtube video. It’s 7 seconds.
Lemme ‘splain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.
When I talk about “preaching Christ”
I am NOT only talking about preaching
“everybody is a sinner and they need Jesus or they’re going Hell.”
This is something we need to get out of the way before I continue. Purge this assumption from your mind. It is an obstacle to the actual message I’m trying to convey. A misleading tangent. A stumbling block. A wrong assumption.
So I need to say it again, louder.
When I talk about “preaching Christ”
I am NOT only talking about preaching
“everybody is a sinner and they need Jesus or they’re going Hell.”
My point, from the very beginning of this blog series is this:
THERE. IS. MORE!!!
and I WANT IT.
Is that whole “preaching Christ means preaching about getting saved” thing gone?
okay, lemme ‘splain.
I’ve gotten some very eclectic feedback on this blog series. One of the reasons I held off hitting the publish button for as long as I did was that I knew that what I had written was filled with the potential to confuse, discourage and tick people off just as much as it had the potential to wake up, inspire and encourage people.
I wondered. Would I hear crickets? Would anybody even read it? Would anybody want to talk to me about what I’d written? Or would it make people so uncomfortable around me they would avoid eye contact and walk the other direction when they saw me coming? Would something I’d written hurt someone? Make them angry? Would people tolerate my ideas if they were different than their own? Would I be dismissed with the silent treatment? Would ANYone identify with me? Would ANYone agree with me?
But one thing I didn’t expect was that some people would think that by saying I wanted a “Christ-centered” church and that I wanted my pastor to “preach Christ” I was saying I wanted every sermon to be like this:
or worse yet, like this: (be sure and read it with a southern accent and yell the one syllable words that have morphed into two syllable words ending in “ah.”)
“EV-ER-EEbody IS A HORRIBLE, SINNER!!!! IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT JESUS CHRIST-tah, IF YOU ARE NOT BORN AGAIN-nah, YOU’RE DESTINED-dah TO BURN IN HELL-lah FOR ETERNITY. DO I HEAR AN AMEN?!”
That is NOT what I’m talking about.
and yet, in spite of everything I had written, that’s what some readers were coming away with.
I’m telling you. It was driving me nuts. I went back over my Christ-centered posts again and again and I didn’t SEE it. I could NOT find it.
WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? WHERE DID I SEND THAT MESSAGE?
Kudos to my friend “Flutterby43” for reminding me about decoding. Sad, really. I was a communication major. I should have remembered this.
Encoding is, to simplify it, the words and pictures I use to convey my message. DEcoding is how that message is interpreted. The constant here is that the encoding of my message is the same for everyone who is reading my blog posts. The variables are the personal filters that my message has to make it through as people interpret (decode) that message. The discrepancies in those interpretations are due to the fact that sometimes my message isn’t making it through the decoding process unscathed by those personal filters.
Translated? We all have baggage, people. And sometimes, that baggage leads us to interpret – or decode – messages in messages that aren’t really there. I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. We’ll all do it again.
But this time, I got some feedback about this message.
Here’s the conversation that finally led me to figure it out:
Flutterby43: “My quiet, introverted nature gravitates toward a more contemplative worship style, and I would be overwhelmed and, yes, SCARED by fire and brimstone – but I totally get where you’re coming from.”
Me: “Your comment “fire and brimstone.” Where does that come from? You’re not the first person to take that away. What did I say that caused you to think that? I can’t find it. I don’t see it.”
Flutterby43: “You didn’t use the term – That’s just my phraseology – honestly, if I had a pastor telling me every week that I needed Jesus, because I’m a hopeless sinner, it’d get old. (Again, that’s just my interpretation of what you’re saying) I know I need Jesus. I know I’m a sinner. But I’m just not an “in your face” kinda gal. I tend to beat myself up on my own – if I heard that every week, I’d come away from church feeling so bad about myself, I’d probably just crawl into bed and never leave the house!” (emphasis added)
Me: “ahhhhhhhh. Thank you! That was driving me crazy. I think I get it. “Preaching Christ” gives the impression that I’m talking about evangelism. and it appears evangelism means “fire and brimstone” and “turn or burn” to some people. I REALLY need to finish this series. I still haven’t gotten through what I mean by Gospel and preaching Christ. I thought I clarified that I wasn’t just talking about evangelism, in my post “the gospel is more than evangelism,” but I need to hurry up and explain – more and better.
There’s more to Christ than salvation.”
I knew when I started posting this series that it was long and that it would take me a while to get through it, but I didn’t think through how the drawn out nature of the process could lead to premature and incorrect assumptions about my point.
The fact is, some people are going to run my message through their personal internal filters and think I am saying:
“I want to hear fire and brimstone turn or burn sermons every week. And every chance they get, I think everybody in my church should tell all their friends (and strangers) that if they don’t repent they’re going to hell! And when they don’t, they should feel really guilty about it. It’s just more evidence that everybody is a horrible, hopeless sinner and bad Christian.”
That’s NOT what I’m saying. Thankfully, from the feedback I’m receiving, I’m confident that some people are identifying with what I actually AM saying – my true message is resonating with them.
But here’s the thing, now that I know there are some people are going to interpret the words “Christ-centered” as “fire and brimstone turn or burn evangelism”, it’s MY RESPONSIBILITY TO MODIFY MY ENCODING in an effort to clarify my message and minimize any misinterpretation.
So, I’m holding off on my story for a little longer. I’ve got some encoding work to do.
To read the next post in this series, click here: F5. How many people like me? F5. How many people like me?
“Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ . . . and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd.”
The Pursuit of God (free on Kindle from Amazon)
by A. W. Tozer.
This is the 9th post of a series. CLICK HERE to view a page listing all the posts in the series.
Here’s how PinkGirl’s volcano science project turned out yesterday:
If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember FavoriteSon’s volcano project. Here’s an excerpt from that blog post:
We end up at Michael’s craft store with four packages of quick drying clay, a terra cotta pot and . . . a rocket engine. Yes. Michael’s sells rocket engines. FirstHusband is smiling and FavoriteSon is explaining how there really IS a type of volcano that explodes like that . . . The boys spend all morning Saturday wiring and soldering. Then they go into the backyard to test it before they make a terra cotta pot LOOK like a volcano. It works. It explodes. I look at FavoriteSon and say, “When you get sent to the office on Monday, give them your dad’s work number so he can explain how that’s perfectly safe.” . . . Then it’s tested again, this time adding sand to the top of the volcano so it shoots dirt up into the air and looks even more realistic . . . either FavoriteSon will be suspended or he will get an “A” on this project. (postscript: he got an “A”)
So. This time, explosives are NOT an option. PinkGirl has the same science teacher FavoriteSon did. No playing the “I had no idea” card. But PinkGirl wanted “a BIG explosion.” How to do that without ignition? FirstHusband wanted to buy a portable compressor, but his attempt to justify the expense by coming up with other things to do with it after making a volcano explode?
So my father (SuperPappy) suggested the shop vac reversed. The lampshade idea came to me during a severe allergic reaction to crafting after my husband said the words “paper mache” to me. We picked out a dirty, torn lampshade and got a 25% discount. Final Sale. No returns.
No problem. Crafting avoided.
As you can see, the explosion was a HIT. The ash went higher than the fence.
Here’s the written report PinkGirl wrote to accompany the volcano shown in the video:
“Volcanoes are amazing things of nature and only God can create them. Still for my project I tried my best and I also had fun while doing it. From deciding what type of volcano mine is or what type of eruption it will have it was a fun learning experience that I would love to tell you about.
The First thing I did was paint the lampshade (which is my volcano). It was actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be because I had to mix paint to find the right color. The second thing I did was cut a hole in the box big enough for the pipe. Then I cut the top of the lampshade out with bolt cutter. (It was awesome!) After that I measured and cut the pipe to the right size with a hack saw. (My dad helped a little for this part but I did cut with a hack saw.) Next I glued the pipe to the adapter and cut the small pipe to the right size and glued it to the adapter and the elbow of the other pipe. Then I put another hole in the side of the box and put the side pipe in it. Next is my favorite part. I put coal in a bag and crushed it with a hammer. After that I poured the ash and coal in and covered it with saran wrap. Then I painted the box green and put the “Snow” on the volcano. The last step was decorating it with little touches to make it look better.
During the process of building my volcano I learned all about Composite volcanoes and plinian eruptions. Composite volcanoes are made out of ash, tephra, and lava. Plinian eruptions are violent and have lots of ash and poisonous gasses. Mt. Saint Helens was a composite volcano and had a plinian eruption.
I always thought a volcano just meant lava and smoke but I now understand that volcanoes are much more complicated than that. God must have had fun designing and creating volcanoes. He is a very creative God who has an amazing imagination. Volcanoes are dangerous magnificent things that create new land, give us dazzling treasures, and really open our eyes to show us how marvelous our world really is. I can only imagine what other planets are like.
“God can do anything.”
Luke 1:37 (NIV)
Lord, I pray for revival, filled with doubt that You will stir it. Not because You can’t, but because You won’t. I believe You can do anything. But I also know You don’t force yourself on anyone. And the people I’m praying for are very comfortable right where they are. They see no need to change. They see nothing wrong except for this Jesus Freak who’s rocking the boat.
So I ask you Lord, not for anything specific, because I have no flippin idea what to ask for. You know. You know exactly what is needed and exactly when. Your plan is perfect. Your timing is perfect. I know You don’t need me, but pray that You can and will use me. I’m asking You – I’m begging You – to move. Move in the hearts and minds of individuals. I pray that they will be DISsatisfied with an assumption of Christ. I pray that they will, from their soul, cry out for Jesus. I pray they won’t be able to stomach any substitute.
Almighty God, I’m begging you for a miracle, no matter what it looks like. No matter how much it hurts. Because You are my comfort, my peace, my strength and my hope. I trust You, even when I don’t understand what You are doing.
“He [God] specializes in solutions that have no explanation other than Him.
Don’t get discouraged by the long, unyielding situations in your life. God has solutions for them. He may not have revealed those solutions yet – He let many people in Scripture endure long periods that required faith and patience – but He is never late with His answers. Wait, believe and hope. Nothing is impossible with Him.”
The One Year Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional: 365 Daily Encounters to Bring You Closer to Him
by Chris Tiegreen
I’ve been MIA for the last two weeks because I’ve been serving as the co-chair of my church’s annual gymnasium-sized rummage sale called the WHALE of Sale. It’s been mostly 12+ hour days for two weeks and I’m on my way back to normal life, albeit covered with multiple bruises from moving furniture and hefting boxes of everything from clothing to books to VHS tapes. The official numbers aren’t in, but we tipped $25,000 this year. For most people, that’s for two weeks of work, but for my co-chair and I – and our families, and our right hand woman and her family, it’s been months. Even with all the exhaustion, ibuprofen and Epsom salts, we love it.
I’ve got some posts coming up that were inspired by my experiences the last few weeks and I’ll tell you right now, the first one is long – about 4 pages – so if you have the gumption to read it, bring a cup of coffee and a comfortable chair.
If you want to catch up on what happened in my life over the last two weeks and what my pedometer reading was every night, check out the two facebook pages I was posting on during that time (Mine and the Whale’s – both public – facebook membership not required to view, just close the “do you want to join facebook” screen that pops up).
In Kari Jobe’s album version of Revelation Song, the fourth verse builds and the word “mystery” is held for about 18 seconds. (It starts at the 4 minute mark)
I couldn’t do it.
And I really, really wanted to do it. For over a year, the worship leader didn’t even go near it. Then, one night at rehearsal, when I didn’t know it was coming, we held it out the extra beats.
I was hooked.
I rehearsed the rest of the week, and that Sunday, just before we were supposed to lead Revelation Song, the pastor lost track of the fact that we had one more song to do and began speaking.
It was scheduled again on a week with a guest worship leader. It took me THREE breaths to get through it. THREE.
I had taken it to my vocal coach and worked on it for weeks. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how many times I vocalized and repeated those particular voice lessons along with a CD, I couldn’t master those stupid 18 seconds. I achieved a whopping 50% success rate. On a good day.
Time and time again, I ran out of air after 15 seconds. If not sooner.
I took Revelation Song to the recording studio and was relentless. In the end, I was able to hold it every time, but only by holding my hands straight up in the air as far as I could reach. Whether it was physical or psychological, I seemed to make room for more air that way. But I held it. Made me lightheaded every time. And it had no building power. It actually got softer.
A thought occurred to me and I pushed it aside. For two weeks, I ignored what I believe now was God trying to tell me something.
Finally, two days ago, I told God that if I was trying to hold “mystery” out of pride, I wanted to fail.
Haven’t held it since.
Of course it’s possible that I’m freaking myself out. But more likely this is an ego smackdown straight from God. This is one of those failures I can’t overcome by working harder. Have to let it go. Counter-intuitive.
I told two other people on the worship team this ugly little truth and one of them immediately came back with this verse:
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Colossians 3:5 (NIV)
ouch. That’s kinda harsh, dontcha think?
I like this one better:
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
Isn’t that prettier? I told my husband that it kinda felt like putting lipstick on a pig. His response?
“It’s a cop out if you ask me.”
Ugly but true.
Colossians 3:23 is a goal. Something to strive for. Colossians 3:5 is about acknowledging sin. Big, fat, ugly, lipstick covered sin. And who wants to see that? I certainly didn’t.
So ugly I didn’t even want to put that pig picture on this post.
But there it is.
I’m leading Revelation Song on Sunday. And I’m planning on taking a breath in the middle of those 18 seconds. If God doesn’t think I’ve been humbled enough, I asking him to make me need TWO.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)
Lord, there’s something liberating about an unresolvable situation. It forces me to remember that on my own, I can do nothing. YOU can do anything. So, when I reach an impasse with another person, when I face the undeniable fact that there’s absolutely nothing I can do to resolve a situation, the only thing I’m left with is prayer. Thank you for helping me realize and accept that all my own human efforts will pale in comparison to what YOU can do. If you choose to. Talk and actions may result in temporary manipulation, but long-lasting, fundamental change will come when YOU speak and move. Thank you for reminding me that while Romans 8:28 promises you will work all things for good, sometimes, in my own life, that looks like failure. Thank you for helping me accept that sometimes, in my own life, giving grace means walking away, even if it means walking away from something I love. Please comfort me as I let go. Please encourage me as I seek your will to fill the void this loss will create.
“Jesus washes our feet for two reasons. The first is to give us mercy; the second is to give us a message, and that message is simply this: Jesus offers unconditional grace; we are to offer unconditional grace. The mercy of Christ preceded our mistakes; our mercy must precede the mistakes of others.”
JUST LIKE JESUS by Max Lucado
“So who says he’ll forgive you? And says that he’ll miss you? And dream of your sweet memory? God does. But I don’t. God will. But I won’t. And that’s the difference between God and me.” (what? cut me a break, I’m still working on it…is this better?)
God Will by Lyle Lovett
“Well I find that I’m just not agile enough, to balance the weight of all of this stuff. It’s a cumbersome task that demands too much and it’s gettin’ me nowhere fast…As far as the east is from the west, these are the things that I must forget. I’ll lay down my anger before the sun sets, I will forgive. I will forget. I will remember not, I will forgive. These things that tear my heart, I will forget. I will forget.
Remember Not by Susan Ashton (click HERE to listen)
Back to yoga class this morning. I’m paying for taking the summer off.
PinkGirl: “WHAT is that SMELL?”
FavoriteHusband, working on my shoulder: “your mom calls it ‘stinky hot’ but it’s really called BENGAY.”
PinkGirl: “it’s GROSS!”
A few minutes later:
FavoriteSon: “Why do I smell Pepto-Bismol?”
Me: “It’s stinky hot.”
FavoriteSon: “Smells like Pepto.”
Mr. Miyagi could fix my shoulder without stinkin up the place.
Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.
When I was in college, one of my friends, a member of the same singing group I was in, angrily told me it wasn’t fair that I got so many solos “just because I sang better than her.” She said she “couldn’t help it that she couldn’t sing as well as I did.” She said “God had just given me a better voice than her.” She had been shortchanged and she was disappointed. And ticked off. At me. And she let me know it. This particular time she said it out loud while looking glaring me in the eye, but most of the time the message was sent through her sulking body language and mopey facial expression every time I got assigned a solo or actually performed one.
Fast forward 20 years. I joined our church’s praise team and after a few months, all the vocalists were put on a rotation. The theory was that it would be easier for the musicians if they didn’t have to make a weekly commitment. Less burnout. I told the worship leader I didn’t want to be on a rotation. I wanted to sing every week. Why?
- I needed the accountability; preparing for a mid-week evening rehearsal and Sunday morning service forced me to sing EVERY day. If I didn’t work every day, I wouldn’t be as prepared as I wanted to be.
- I needed to build up my stamina, increase my vocal range and improve my breath control. Consistent daily work – on all three – was the only thing that was going to get the job done.
- I was being exposed to, and challenged by, a new style of music that I was instinctively gravitating toward.
- The mental challenge of memorizing a boatload of lyrics was exponentially increasing my memory skills. I was being forced to employ abandoned memory techniques I had learned years ago.
- The weekly exposure of being in front of a large group of people during the praise and worship service was slowly nicking away at the stage fright that had crept in during the 10 plus years I had taken off as a serious vocalist. I was once again becoming comfortable, more at home on stage.
- The worship leader’s easy dismissal of my screw-ups was leading to more self-confidence and as a result, I was taking more risks vocally and stylistically.
- I was experiencing emotion when I sang and I was gradually allowing myself to feel it. Rare for me to experience it. Unthinkable to actually allow it. Inconceivable that I didn’t feel compelled to retreat.
Every week I was gaining experience and growing stronger. I began asking for a DVD of every service and I watched the “game film” every week. That DVD is unedited; the vocals are unmixed. I heard what was going into the microphone, not what was coming out after I got a little help from the sound guys. I heard THE HARD TRUTH. Every week, I meticulously listened to the quality of my voice, my harmonies, and whether my phrasing and breathing matched the worship leader’s. I forced myself to evaluate my appearance and my stage presence. I relentlessly critiqued myself. I was determined to identify my weaknesses and work on eliminating them. I found a vocal coach and started working with her regularly. I was rehearsing 10 to 20 hours per week and I came to rehearsal as prepared as I possibly could. I had to make some hard choices to give up some good things in my life to fit in those 10 to 20 hours.
I was working my butt off.
And then another vocalist caught me off guard with a simple question: “Why are you so special?”
I was dumbfounded. “What?”
They said, “Why do you get to sing every week?”
I heard, “It’s not fair. You get to sing more than me.”
I was stunned. Since it wasn’t a real question, they didn’t really expect an answer. They just wanted me to know I was getting undeserved special treatment and they didn’t like it.
I learned a long time ago that when I’m faced with criticism, I really need to strip away all the emotion and acrimony and bravely look for a grain of truth. Special. Was I getting special treatment?
Yes. I sang every week. I was excluded from the rotation.
I found myself thinking about these two interchanges from my past multiple times today, and it led me to this video. Check it out. Only 1 minute and 2 seconds.
As soon as I watched that commercial on youtube I knew it was true. Both of these people from my past were making excuses. Both of them assumed that my voice was just a God-given gift and that I didn’t have to work for it. I was their scapegoat. Their guilt-free pass to rationalization and self-delusion. It was easier to blame me for hogging all their opportunities than to work hard for what they wanted.
Neither one of them came to rehearsals prepared, having learned their own individual parts ahead of time. Neither one expressed interest in voice lessons. To my knowledge, neither one recorded and listened to themselves. Neither one made adjustments to their commitments or schedules to allow extra time to work on their vocals. Neither one sought out and encouraged honest feedback about their vocals, instead depending on the polite comments of friends as justification that there was no room or need for improvement. Both of them garnered support through whispering campaigns, resulting in high tension and drama. I spent a LOT of time with my college friend and I never, ever heard her rehearse or vocalize outside of our weekly group rehearsal.
Each of those two people, because of their unwillingness to strive for continued improvement, prevented each group from rising above their lowest common denominator: Them.
Is it possible these two people might have put a tremendous amount of work and effort into becoming stronger vocalists only to discover they don’t have enough core talent? Possibly. But neither of them will ever know. They had dreams, but dreams without action are just wishes, not goals.
Wishin don’t make it so.
And fair isn’t when everybody gets a turn. Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.
But I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair. And these two people from my past are by far not alone in their belief that fair is when everybody gets a turn. They are by far, not the only people who feel entitled to opportunities they don’t earn. And those opportunities are continuously provided to people who don’t work for them because it’s easier than having the difficult and honest conversation that will most likely hurt their feelings.
It’s not limited to music, it’s everything. Everywhere. So when an opportunity I continue to work so hard to earn is given to someone less qualified in the pursuit of fairness, I’m left with a choice.
Take my ball and go home because it isn’t fair? That fits me worse than pink clothing.
Be less because someone else can’t or won’t be more? Not gonna happen. I refuse to give God less than my best. I refuse to stifle the gifts He’s blessed me with.
I will be the best steward I can possibly be – of all He’s given me, even if that stewardship leads to resentfulness and jealousy and leaves me with significantly diminished opportunities.
My kids are paying attention to how I handle this. I’m not wavering from what I’ve been teaching them their entire lives: “sometimes, we have to do what’s required.“
. . . when you realize you have nothing to contribute. When you realize everything that can be said has already been said, that there are literally countless people who can do what you’re trying to learn to do – and they are already phenomenally better at it, and that you should give up this fantasy you’re chasing and get back to real life . . .
. . . and then you come to your senses and say, “Get thee behind me Satan! I am so unbelievably sick of you and your lies.”