For years, no, my entire non-child life, I have been challenged by what it means to be “content” in my singleness. You see, I haven’t just been single here and there between boyfriends; I’ve been single for…well, my entire life. The only relationship I’ve ever had wasn’t what God wanted for me so it was a disaster and shouldn’t have come to be in the first place.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately. As a result, I’ve been away from DespiteThat for a bit of time now. My absence hasn’t necessarily been on purpose, but it has been good for me. I don’t really have that many followers so I didn’t think ya’ll [my dear friends and family who do actually read my musings] would mind if I dipped out on this whole blog thing for a bit. Thus, I haven’t pressured myself to force the birth of a post that really just needed time inside to grow.
So, I’ve been thinking. Mainly thinking a lot about who I am and a whole lot about who I am not. I’ve realized a couple of things:
- I am a dreamer.
- I am NOT an obedient dreamer.
God has given my heart such a beautiful dream. And I, for so long, have failed to follow it.
[Enter the question that haunts my life: Why not?]
This question friends, is what got me thinking. Really thinking. Like the kind of thinking that goes into the innermost recesses of your mind and heart kind of thinking. I’ve never actually done this before, gone there with myself that is…maybe finally being done with school has given my mind some renewed mental fortitude to even be able to take itself on? [Believe me, it’s no easy task.] Maybe the sheer frustration of where I am in life currently brought me to this desperate-to-know-why-last-ditch-effort place that fueled the pursuit? Who knows? Nevertheless, I have been aboard a little submarine of self-confrontation captained by God and set on a course plummeting into the depths of my restless soul. Although startling, it sure has been a rather enlightening [albeit time-consuming] adventure.
Take a dip with me on my little submarine adventure for a moment:
I’ve always been an imaginative soul, a dreamer those closest to me would say. I find this component of my being quite the God-given gift; He formed me to be a dreamer in His image and for His glory. And, greater still, God has given my soul a dream to dream specifically to live out as a reflection of His image and to use for His glory. Awesome, right? However, not once have I ever run after this dream of my soul. I’ve definitely found myself a time or two running after what the world deems a “dream” to be, or what someone else has convinced me is a dream for me, but only to find myself running out of God’s will and into a nightmare. Nevertheless, I’ve never pursued my soul’s dream.
Let’s go a little deeper:
Now, in stark juxtaposition to my dreamers’ soul, life crafted me an extremely realistic mind. Thus throughout my life, while my heart is always wondering down a trail of dreams seeking after a life of abandoned purpose, my mind is pressing, “You got a map? We need a map. I’m not going one more step with you without a map. Get a map. God surely knows how directionally challenged you are. Show me the map first, then maybe we can see where you’re trying to take us and then I can decide if it’s worth going.” When my dreamers dream fails to present the best strategy of success and instead, merely beckons for a leap of faith into God’s trusted arms, my mind instantly overrules such a suggestion seeking, instead, to dismantle my dream’s credibility and demands only ever to move forward in the direction of worldly rationality. “Surely, that dream can’t be from God. You can’t do that with your life. You don’t have the right education, connections, money, look, talent, experience, faith… That dream won’t provide for you, take care of you, fulfill you, be successful enough for you! You’re just overall totally ridiculous for proposing to pursue that dream. Here, let’s go this way – this is a bit more realistic for you. This way makes sense; this way looks less challenging, less risky, less…scary. God certainly didn’t mean cast all your fears upon Him. He says He cares for you, but you also need to care for yourself, just in case!”
Good lawd is my mind obnoxious. Yet, I am deeply saddened to discover my history reflects a life more accustomed to listening to the orders of this loud, bossy mind of mine than one ready and willing to hear and act on my soul’s whisper of God’s dream for my life.
That is, until recently. The Lord has taken on my mind in my soul’s defense in an epic battle I can only describe as sanctification. Basically, He demanded my mind to take itself captive and submit to His authority…and boy has my mind put up quite the fight. But God is stronger [note: God is always stronger] and over this past year, He has given my mind a giant dose of “You best keep your mouth shut!” And then, because who can stand against God’s direct order, my mind has actually relinquished its control and shut-up. At the same time, the Lord has been deftly working to awaken my heart to His majestic voice. In the silence left by my mind’s divine laryngitis, the Lord has been whispering life back into my soul. When for so long, my soul was crushed by my mind’s realism and its God given dream cast to the wayside, now its dream has begun to emerge and make its presence known.
With an exquisitely empowered voice that cannot be ignored, this dream has begun to tell a story with blessed words written by God above to involve my life here below. He has deafened my heart to my mind’s lies while giving me ears to hear His story of promise; to hear His dream for me loud and clear. The Lord is speaking in my life with a clarity I have long believed impossible. This dream the Lord has placed in my heart has me captivated. It’s beautiful. It’s story grander than I could ever foresee. And I am so excited! God is beckoning me to step boldly forward. I’m a teensy bit scared, a whole lot overwhelmed but even more so, I’m really, really excited.
How ‘bout we go just a tad bit further:
I believe God has a grand Story He has been telling and retelling throughout all of time that gives reason, purpose and meaning to life. As the Bible tells us, this Story is a story about God – a Story that testifies of His love and intentionality. What is life all about? God.
Now, within this self-revelation, God has involved us. You and me! We’re a part of God’s grand Story. He created it this way and invites us to not only be a part of His story but to also share in telling His Story. Our lives are intricately involved in God’s Story – and He has invited us all to join Him for all eternity in declaring the glory of His self through a personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. When we welcome salvation into our lives and give ourselves to follow Christ into a restored relationship with God, our story becomes a beautiful retelling of God’s Story. And the lives we live are amazingly a part of telling this Story for the world to hear.
What does this have to do with me and everything I’ve just shared about my dream? I’m coming to realize like never before, I’m grasping hold-of and truly believing, that God’s Story really does involve me. All of me. My talents, my history, my likes and dislikes. It involves my everyday life, my education, my life experiences, my future…and yes, it even involves my dreams. If I neglect even one aspect, I fail to tell the complete story of who I am and who God is.
I think I’ve always felt a tension between my dreams and my “calling”. Being called to ministry from a very young age and pursuing that into a Masters of Divinity, I’ve looked at my life and my future life’s work in one flat way = pick a career in ministry. Period. But, recently, God has been teaching my heart that when He called me to ministry, He called All of me to ministry. That means He wants to involve with my calling: my talents, history, likes, dislikes, everyday life, education, life experiences, future AND [gasp] my dreams. And, this people, is what has blown my mind – specifically that part about my dreams being involved in my calling. Wait, what God? You mean I can do what I love…for your glory…even if it’s not considered “traditional” ministry? Yes, folks. I’m coming to realize that this is exactly what he means; my dream is my calling because God has given me a dream to live out my calling with. Sweet Jesus, this calls for some celebratory dance moves!
[enter random flailing of arms and legs with a little bit of holy hip action]
God’s given my soul a dream to dream. He’s given my life a reason to live. His Story is my story and my story is telling His Story. He formed me to be a dreamer in His image and for His glory. And, greater still, God has given my soul a dream to dream specifically to live out as a reflection of His image and to use for His glory. And, I more than anything, am ready to live that dream; to walk in the assuredness of my salvation and use my life, All of my life to tell His story.
“I am a dreamer, take me higher. Open the sky up, start a fire. I believe even if it’s just a dream.”
Things are changing, people. God has done crazy things in my heart and things are changing. In obedience to what God has done, some things in my life will also be changing. So, I ask you to pray with me, that I step forward boldly and humbly in how God is leading me. Also, I welcome you to walk with me through this! With that being said, I challenge you to evaluate your life in light of your heart!
- Are you following God with your whole self, or with just your mind?
- Have you thrown away your dreams to pursue everything but them?
- Are you living out of the faulty theology that your dreams have nothing to do with your calling?
- Are you letting God use All of you to tell His Story?
Let me know your thoughts! Share with me your dreams! Let’s proceed with reckless abandon and let God write away a masterpiece with our life that tells of the awe of His glory!
Ok, this website is awesome! If you’re obsessed with blogs but struggle keeping your web gems organized and convenient (like me), this site is exactly what you need!
Simply type the website for any blog you love into the bloglovin search bar and this site will find it and you can start following it. I love how easy it is to group my blog favs into convenient categories and get updates on my bloglovin homepage when a new post is posted.
I know there are a lot of other options out there that pretty much do the same thing, but I just love the simplicity and ease of this site.
Anyways, just wanted to share this little blog treasure I discovered today. That is all… For now!
[And, if you like DespiteThat ... Follow my blog with Bloglovin]
Personally, I am neither a fan of Obama nor Romney and after last night’s Presidential Debate, I am even more so not pleased with my options. Last night was a disgusting display of egotistical mud-slinging and to me, if that is how one handles himself now, it will most likely be how he will handle himself during his presidency.
An election serves the purpose of giving the candidates an opportunity to clearly present their leadership capabilities and proposed strategies for running the country. It is a time to demonstrate one’s ability to be the PRESIDENT OF THE USA in any and all situations – not their ability to bash their opponent. So, needless to say, I’ve been a little hopeless about our next presidential prospects.
This entire election season I have been arguing back and forth with myself about whether I would even vote. The problem wasn’t who I would not vote for; that was the easy part. I have never once waivered from disagreeing with Obama’s politics and his personal views especially in regards to abortion, marriage and healthcare. But, I’m not particularly fond of the other option either. I have seriously struggled with casting a vote for someone I do not necessarily want president just because I definitely don’t want someone else to be president. Is that even ok?
In seeking wise counsel on this matter, I have read many articles from people I respect and whose opinions I deeply value. This morning, I read an article John Piper posted on his desiringGod blog (check it out HERE) and his simple, gentle wisdom finally brought some clarity on this issue for me.
I have come to a decision, I’m going to vote. I’m going to vote because it’s important. I’m going to vote because I love my country. I’m going to vote because by not voting, I’m taking a passive approach to fighting against what I firmly believe to be a horrible, anti-God regime. While my decision for whom I am casting a vote is unfortunately reduced to picking between the better of two bad options, there is still one that is better than the other in the areas that I feel are of gravest importance. Furthermore, as John Piper argues in his article I have posted above:
The likelihood that both presidencies will be identical in the good and evil they do is infinitesimal. One will very probably do more good amid the bad, even if only a little. We can be part of that guess, or sit it out. God promises wisdom to those who seek it. So the likelihood that prayed-up, Bible-shaped Christians will tip the scales toward the incrementally worse regime is small. Therefore, the likelihood that we will waste our time voting seems small.
So people, it’s a done deal. I’m voting. Now, in preparation for my upcoming vote, instead of arguing with myself about whether I should vote or not, I’m going to be praying hard for God to bring His sovereign rule to reign through whomever, we as a country, put into office. And, you better believe, I will be begging God to grant me the grace and mercy to trust Him and His ways regardless of the person who will be the President of the USA.
OK. Seriously. This article…exactly.my.life.
Ed Welch, you wrote this article for me didn’t you?
You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”
You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.
- So scared, but it was so clear.
The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.
- Sure did.
Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.
- “I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul [down in my soul].”
And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.
- Yes. Splat.
I got the job. I moved away. It all just clicked into place. The Lord opened the door wide and all lined-up so divinely. Everything was new and insanely different, but it was so clear that the steps forward felt natural. I was deemed brave and courageous, to leave it all behind and blaze ahead alone on a trail that led into the unknown of grown-up land. I stepped boldly and firmly onto a “rug” of trust and obedience and immediately found myself taking flight on a magic carpet ride, soaring free and excitedly into “a whole new world”. I liked it. It was exhilarating. I had such blessed peace in my soul [down in my soul].
And then, splat. Blessed assurance flew out the window and peace like a river got all dried up. I lost my rug of comfort and trust and my magic carpet ride went ka-poot. My trail I blazed in the valor of solidarity became a pitiful reality of life lived in the clutch of loneliness. I became so frustrated because I had sought the Lord. I genuinely felt His direction, surrendered to His leading and obeyed. So, why now am I feeling lost and left alone? This season started well, almost too well, and then it took quite the tragic turn. Why?
Helloooooo. God, you still there? You sure this was right? I don’t mean to overstep my place here or anything but, would you mind telling me what you did with my rug?
And, then, welcome to the Silent Zone. God gave me nothing. Nada. Not even a snip-it of an answer. So, what does this girl do? I give me my own answers. I come up with any and every possible reason for why life was now, not the glory of what it was. Dr. Welch describes me to a T:
When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.
Misguided? Umm…excuse me, but, what? Wasn’t God the one guiding me? How can I be the one that’s misguided now?
All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. While my directional focus was in tune with God’s leading, my attitude fell prey to my sinful appetite for self-preservation and self-adoration. Yes, God opened the door and guided me into this new season with divine clarity. But, there was pride in my heart about my ability to discern the will of God in my life. Yes, God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that [I] ask or think” (Eph. 3:20) with my life. But, I was misguided in my assumption that God’s “far more abundantly” with my life is directly correlated to His blessing me in the way that I desire/think I should be blessed.
Dr. Welch draws from Paul’s life to drive the conviction home even more…
The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.
I sure do like to talk about how my life is not my own and I live for the glory of God. However, from the moment God made it clear that this was the direction He wanted my life to take, I made it all about me. So much so, that when life got uncomfortable, I questioned God’s will and my understanding of His will in my life. It’s so easy to welcome God’s will when it’s easy to do so and there seems to be a rainbow over our life that promises His grace and appears to be leading to a pot of golden provision. But, what about when the rainbow leads no further than the rainy clouds it shines amongst? Furthermore, since when did God’s will ever become about me and my comfort? The King does reign, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are very much still ripe for the picking…why isn’t that enough for me?
Likewise, the Bible certainly testifies to the fact that God gives specific directions in our life not for our benefit but to greater fulfill His will. This makes me think of the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. Whereas Paul welcomed God’s direction in His life for the benefit of the church, Jonah avoided it for the benefit of his comfort. We can all say Paul’s life was anything but comfortable or “blessed” as we’d define blessed; but look how he was used to bless the church at large! His life following conversion was always lived for the best interest of God and the church at the expense of his comfort and desires. Now, look at Jonah –God gave Him such clear direction: “Go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:2). What did Jonah do? He fled. He packed up his comfort and personal desires and high-tailed it out of dodge. God eventually got Jonah where He wanted him, and even used Jonah in a mighty way (because of Jonah’s preaching, Nineveh repented and was saved from destruction), but Jonah was only concerned with himself.
I think one thing (of manyyyy) that Jonah teaches us is we can know a lot about God and His will and yet, still not be in obedience. Obedience requires ALL of our being to be in submission to God. Just going where God wants us to go isn’t enough. Obedience isn’t just about doing, it’s an act of worship. Thus, our heart must also be aligned with God in our going, in our doing, in our feeling and in our thinking.
Furthermore, just like with Jonah and Paul, the obedience God asks of us is for His purposes. The more the Lord matures me, the more I am coming to accept that when God gives specific direction, it most often means blessing for the larger church and hardships for me. Hardships, then, are only to be expected. They grow us, they mature us, they mold us more into the image of Christ. Hardships, then, make us more effective to carry out God’s will.
God gave me specific direction to come here. I obeyed. BUT, I entered into this season anticipating blessing and demanding comfort. Whereas, God ushered me into this season (and each and every other season of my life) to grow me and to challenge me and to mold me more into the image of Jesus…to make me more effective for carrying out ministry, more effective for carrying out His Mission (Matt. 28:18-20). My hardship isn’t cause for questioning God’s will. My hardship is cause for rejoicing because, through it, God is bringing about His will in my life.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
The King does reign, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are very much still ripe for the picking and God is preparing me for His purposes…l think it’s time for that to be enough.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)
Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, la ta ti da la da.
Welp folks, I am now officially the big 2-6. I have waltzed out of the quarter-of-a-century twenties and catapulted myself into the just-round-me-to-30 twenties. 25 was a big deal–my year as a quarter-of-a-century ushered in many changes and much growth. It was a great year and because I am a sentimental sap, I thought it’d be fun to do a little project in memory of my days as a 25-year-old. So, my dear blog friends, without further ado, I present (in no particular order):
The Top 25 of Amanda’s 25
(My top 25 life-changing moments of my 25th year of existence)
1. Jesse Cole Rogers. I became an Aunt! My nephew is THE greatest!
2. Graduated from seminary with my M.Div. That was a big deal.
3. Got a big-girl job. Moved to VA. Went from full-time student to my first ever full-time job. Probably one of the hardest/most sanctifying transitions of my life.
4. Chaps (my precious dog) came back to live with me. (I couldn’t have him in seminary housing so he went to stay with my parents in Arizona for a little while. Our separation was almost intolerable. Our reunion, pure joy.)
5. Biggest life lesson learned: the God who called me to leave everything I’d known behind and take a step of faith into the unknown, is the same God who is asking me to sit in this unknown trusting His sovereignty.
6. Harry Potter movie marathon. My parents and I. Christmas break 2011. It was epic.
7. My Birthday party from last year that brought in the big 25. I went on a hay ride, played in corn kernel pins and carved pumpkins, then feasted on barbecue. All with some of my absolute favorite people.
9. Anna. And, any and all of our conversations about God and life.
10. Most profound personal discovery: I love to write…but only when it’s not for an assignment.
11. Passion 2012 – Atlanta, GA. My dear friends Lydia, Jennifer, Mary Ann and I rocked the Dome.
12. Favorite Book: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. An absolutely beautiful book about the depths of pain life can inflict and one’s journey of healing. (Thanks mom for sharing this gem with me!)
14. Needtobreathe Concert – Reckoning Tour – April 2012 with my co-workers/friends Christie and Kandice. Needtobreathe, my FAVORITE band of all time + awesome friends = one awesome night.
15. 1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
16. 9 Marks Conference, September 2012 at SEBTS. Topic: Conversion. Awe.some. To share in the awesome-ness, please click HERE.
17. Tall leather cognac-colored boots. Life changing wardrobe addition.
18. Lifeway Women’s Leadership Conference 2011, Nashville, TN.
19. Row 5B. Enough said.
20. Beach trip to the NC coast with Mary Ann and Jennifer (and her family). Fall Break 2011. We learned about birds. We wore glow bracelets everyday. We searched for Blackbeard’s house. We hunted seashells. We laughed really hard. We watched sunsets.
21. Mason Jars.
22. These friends:
23. This Bible Study:
25. Being 25 and still wanting to talk to my mom everyday. Because, she’s my best friend.
Looking back over this last year, I’m left with a profound sense of how blessed I am. God is so good. While, I miss my life as it was a year ago, I am fully aware, more so now than ever before, that this season God has ushered me into is good and is for my good. It may not be easy. It may be lonely at times. I may not be ready to grow-up and yet, I am already grown. My future is still as elusive as ever. But, I am blessed.
Who knows what 26 will hold for me. Maybe this will be the year I finally figure out what I want to be when I grow-up. Maybe I’ll meet the man God has for me to marry. Maybe I’ll finally figure out a way to pay off my school loans and discover financial freedom. Maybe I’ll start leading worship again. Maybe I’ll finally apply to a doctorate program. Maybe I’ll lose the weight. Maybe I’ll start that book I’m afraid I’ve been called to write. Maybe, maybe, maybe…
But, none of that happened at 25. And, it may not happen at 26 either. Nevertheless, I am still blessed and God is still good. My life, nor what happens with my life, determines the extent to which God is good and I am blessed. Even if I had not one thing to rejoice in from my 25th year of life, God would still be good and I would still declare myself blessed. The reason 25 was a blessed year was not because of the precious people nor the wonderful moments; 25 was a blessed year because God is good and is working all things together for good in my life for His glory and my sanctification (Romans 8). Not for my sake, but for His glory. “Good” doesn’t mean all things will be as I want them to be or always feel good. “Good” means a sovereign, awesome, Holy God loves me enough to call me, justify me and sanctify me. My life is not for my gain but His glory.
So, whether the Lord gives or takes away during the 26th year of my life, I know when 27 comes I will still be blessed because God will still be good. Of all the things that are to come, I pray above all else, 26 is a year for His glory and my sanctification; not for my sake, but for His glory.
My coworker and I were talking yesterday morning about all the posts that had overtaken Facebook referencing the 9/11 anniversary. In all honesty, I find the overdramatized, “I remember I was so and so when the world stopped turning and we all shed a tear” a tad aggravating.
Please don’t think I don’t have a heart and that I view this anniversary with nonchalance. September 11 was one of the gravest moments in the history of America and being a military kid, I am more aware of the impact that day had on our nation than most. But, something about our desperate need to place ourselves in the middle of the tragedy and describe exactly what we were doing, wearing, saying, thinking and feeling 11 years later - to make the day about us – just doesn’t sit right with me. In attempting to share my frustration with my coworker, I couldn’t quite express my thoughts well when she simply announced, ”You know, it’s not really about where WE were that day…”
Exactly. It’s not about us at all. 9/11 was a day that impacted us, affected us and changed our history and some of our personal lives forever, but this day isn’t about US. This day of remembrance is about what happened on September 11. We have an individual story to tell that is uniquely connected to, and intricately fits within, the grand narrative of the main events of that day, but our personal story isn’t THE story.
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’” And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Luke 24:1-9
The women in this passage of scripture had just witnessed arguably the greatest tragedy in history. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was blasphemed, unjustly convicted, beaten and mocked, then hung on a tree to die the loneliest, absolute worst death. A death in which the sins of the world and God’s full wrath of justice exploded into one another with a cosmic force that would forever change the world. A death that brought darkness upon the earth (Luke 23:44-45) as the Light of the world was extinguished and laid in a tomb.
These women, bringing forth their cultural reverence in the form of burial spices and fragrant oils, came in grief to the tomb of Jesus to anoint him in death. What they found, instead, was an empty tomb and two witnesses professing, “He is not here, but is risen!”
Reminiscent of the very words Jesus had testified Himself before his last days, this pronouncement triggered their memory and they recalled that Jesus had prophesied not only His death and burial, but also His resurrection (Luke 24:7-8). Allowing the complete evidence found in this moment to impact them, they realized that yes, in fact, the tomb was empty! That Jesus Christ, their Lord, had risen from the dead!! What did they do next? They ran to tell the story.
Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Luke 24:9).
What story did the women tell? Scripture doesn’t provide the exacts of the testimonies the women brought before the apostles but, from Peter’s reaction and the apostles incredibility, it is clear the women had to have told the story of what had just taken place; not their specific interpretations of what had happened, or what they were thinking and feeling when it happened. They shared the story that would most clearly communicate to those around, that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. The story that would most greatly proclaim: “He has risen!” They realized that the story they needed to retell wasn’t one about them, but one about HIM!
What these women exemplify in this biblical passage, that I noticed missing in many of the Facebook posts about 9/11, is the recognition that the story that needed to be communicated most was not one that focused on them. It is human nature to make anything and everything about ourselves. We are inwardly turned and innately selfish. My frustration with the 9/11 posts is they mirror a common tendency that is tragically present in the testimonies of believers. That being, that often the “testimony” or personal story one shares about their faith is more about themselves than it is about the object/reason of their faith, God. The danger in this is we are communicating more about who we are than who God is. The world doesn’t need to know who we are; the world needs to know God.
Our testimonies matter. The story of how God intervenes, impacts and changes our life is immensely powerful and effective. Our testimonies are our personal expressions that tell of our life with a deeply personal, present and involved God. They are important to communicate. Jesus even gives the command in Matthew 5:18-19 to “go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.”
However, our testimonies are not to be about us, but about what GOD has done in and through our lives. Our testimonies should make much of God and not much of ourselves. Our testimonies should only ever point to God and speak of who He is and what He has done. Looking back on the 9/11 posts, if I didn’t know anything about what happened that day, and all I had exposure to in learning about it was a story of how someone was in their homeroom class in 9th grade “when it happened” and they were so shocked and confused and everyone just stopped everything and watched the news all day long in fear and trepidation, I would have no idea what had actually happened. All I would have gathered from that personal account is information about the individual. As believers, we are charged with the responsibility to know God and make Him know. If all we ever talk about is ourselves, how is that making God known? Does our testimony, our personal story, tell the world more about us than it does of God? What’s the point in even sharing a testimony if all it does is tell the story of us?
I fear in today’s Church, we have placed way too much importance on the personal experience of the individual at the expense of the proclamation of God.
God gives us a personal story that allows us a unique opportunity to be involved in the greater Story He is telling. God reveals His story through the unfolding of His creative, providential, and redemptive activity in history. His Story is the disclosing of His glory and He shares this with humanity to manifest His glory among His created for the purpose of bringing us into proper worship of Him – to allow us to respond to Him with trust, love and awe. The main character of God’s Story is God. If He’s inviting us into His Story by giving us a testimony to personally communicate His Story through our story, then the main character of our story should be Him because ultimately our story should be retelling His Story. In simpler terms, it’s not about us, it’s about Him. Our story should not make much of us, but should make much of Him.
Why am I so passionate about this? Because I believe our purpose as Children of God is to know God and make Him known. Yet, I find in many approaches to Christian evangelism that are taught, encouraged, and practiced, there seems to be more focus and concern with the “me” of the story than the God of the Story.
What concerns me most about all this is I fear a self-centered evangelistic presentation will encourage a self-centered view of salvation. I love how Ruth A. Tucker, a professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, explains this in her work entitled, Come, Follow Me: Using the Bible in Personal Evangelism:
The Bible is above all else a book of stories—all summed up in one grand drama, consisting of four acts with scenes too numerous to count. This grand story is best told in vintage Reformed terminology: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. God is the main character in the Bible’s storyline. This focus on God flies in the face of the “me” focus of many evangelistic presentations. Such presentations easily focus the attention on a “wonderful plan” for the individual who is the target of our evangelistic enterprise. This is bad theology. True evangelism has a singular theme and focus—God: as Creator, Judge, Redeemer, and coming King. (6, 2005)
Furthermore, the focus of our evangelism is God and the content is the Bible because the Bible is the self-revelation of God to the world. The Bible is God’s Story. Without the Bible there would be no witness. We cannot share our personal stories without sharing them in light of the truths of Scripture. We cannot share the truths of Scripture without sharing them through the grand narrative of Scripture – Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. We cannot share this grand narrative of Scripture without knowing Scripture and its God.
Evangelism is not four verses or seven rules or twelve steps. It is the story of God and his great love for us. It is a story that is not only contextual-ized to our own culture but also woven into the multicultural fabric of humanity. To effectively tell that story we must immerse ourselves in the Bible, allowing it to shape our lives, and retell the biblical story both verbally and through our lifestyle. Our role in this drama is as complex as it is simple—following Jesus as a disciple in word and deed and calling others to come along. (Tucker, 7, 2005)
The point where our personal life meets the Word of God, is broken, changed, conformed and brought into obedience by it for God’s glory – where His Story becomes our story – may THAT then be the only Story the world hears us share.
Again, it’s not about us at all. For those of us who have accepted Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and chosen to live a life in relationship to God, God has impacted us, affected us and changed our history and our personal lives forever, but our lives aren’t about US. And neither should our stories be. If we agree with Paul that we have been crucified with Christ and profess that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” then may we also stand with him and use our lives, our personal stories, to tell the Story of the God who lives in us and whom we are living for (Gal. 2:20). We have an individual story to tell that is uniquely connected to, and intricately fits within, the grand narrative of God’s Story, but our personal stories are not THE story. Our life is about God and His glory and His Story.
We are His story, we are His song
A beautiful melody that shows the world his love.
When we’re on this journey, when we’re on this road,
We are a part of the greatest story ever told.
My Story, Addison Road
I genuinely feel like I am living the wrong life. And, this one I am living, I hate.
It’s freshman move-in day here at the university I work for and as I was fighting to get to work this morning amidst lost parents in minivans and overeager, underprepared teenage-adults clogging the pedestrian walkways, I was overcome by a desire to be 17 again with the whole world before me and enough immaturity to still believe it was mine for the taking.
There is a near tangible energy around campus of excitement and anticipation. These students have so many opportunities before them, so much to look forward to, so many resources at their fingertips…and I’m jealous of them. I wish I could go back and do it all over again with them.
However, I am not 17. And, I’m two degrees removed from that “just starting out” freedom. I don’t regret my college nor seminary experiences. In college, I learned to be an adult. In seminary, I learned to be a child of God. I worked hard for my B.S. in Psychology and just about killed myself for my M.Div in Biblical Counseling. Seminary was quite frankly the best thing next to Jesus that ever happened in my life. But, with that being said, there is a huge cavern between what I feel called to do with my life and the reality of what my life actually is currently.
Just to go ahead and get some things out-of-the-way: No, I am not depressed. No, I am not falling apart. No, my life isn’t horrible. Now, am I divinely restless? Yes. Am I wishing things in my life were different? Yes. Can I relate to Belle in the beginning of Beauty and the Beast when she sings: “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand, I want so much more than they’ve got planned” like never before? Yes.
When I say I hate my life, I really mean: I just want my life to be different. This current season is not easy. And, it’s not even close to what I want my life to be. One thing this season has offered me though, that I am thankful for, is a lot of clarity regarding what I do NOT want for my life and what I do want…and, I know it’s not this.
Here’s the thing people, I know God is in control. I know He has a plan for my life. I know He loves me. Let me be very clear, I am not questioning those truths. I am however, questioning how to resolve the inconsistency with what I truly believe God has placed on my heart to be and do and what I actually am and am doing. I’m asking the Lord much, He is answering me little.
Sometimes the Lord gives me words, other times He leaves me silent. This is a silent season.
My thoughts are not silent though – my mind is full to the brim of them! However, I have come to no significant conclusions nor feel settled with answers to these questions that I have been pondering before the Lord continuously.
I wish God would just tell me where to go, what to do, how to do it and give me someone to do it with. As a child, I was fascinated by inanimate objects that produced immediate answers. You know what I’m talking about: the magic 8 ball, that silly game MASH, those ridiculous quizzes in teen magazines that solved all of life’s toughest questions (aka. “Does he love me?”). Of course I never actually believed those things had any answer yielding power but, I fear I functionally treat God like a child with that magic 8 ball in her hands – like I can just shake Him and the answer to all my questions will just pop up amidst the murky unknown.
I love to know, I crave answers, I’m a glutton for clarity. Seasons of silence deprive me of all three. Such a season is anything but rare for one innately prone to over-analyzing and demanding of answers such as I. However, familiarity doesn’t mean I’m used to them; these silent seasons still catch me by surprise. And, I hate them.
But, maybe that’s why God has me here, in this season of silence. To teach me to love Him, to crave Him, to seek Him and not just use Him for the answer…to learn to see Him as the answer.
Three of my LEAST favorite things in life are being sick, doctors and gloomy weather. The sick and the weather I can do nothing about. The doctor I pretend to have control over and thus, attempt to avoid at all costs.
Unfortunately, my body has waged war against me and I am “unwell”. *Strike one Life* Due to the nature of my present “unwellness,” my mother has waged war against me and has [lovingly] held my life at ransom until I go to the doctor…so I have a doctor’s appointment waiting ominously for me first thing tomorrow morning. *Strike two Life* In addition, the weather has joined troops with my body and the doctor and has decided to also wage war against me and be gloomy. For THREE days straight. *Strike three Life*
Completely unfair Life, completely unfair! You are not allowed to play anymore!
Needless to say, from the moment Life took me captive and forced me to leave work early on Friday, I have been a pajama clad, prisoner of war in my little apartment.
So, to defend my sanity, I combated Life with a little sneak attack of my own. I made soup.
Soup to me, is the essence of comfort food. It is the ultimate defense against Life when it sucks. There is just something about soup that immediately makes everything a little better…or at least makes it more bearable. I firmly believe there is healing power to soup. I mean, think about it, all you have to do is just dump everything you want (or already have in the pantry) in one pot and a few hours later, WHA LAA, you have this glorious bowl of yummy. It’s magic.
If nothing else, making a huge pot of soup is the easiest, cheapest way to make 15 meals in one fail swoop. And that, my friends, is a splendid thing when you don’t feel well enough to even get out of your jammies.
As I was making my soup (AKA dumping everything into my crockpot), God began working on my heart in the simplest of ways. I had all these ingredients but no guarantee for how they would come together. But, I knew that with time, something would come out of the process that wasted not one ingredient and was worth eating. In that moment, God whispered to my heart, if you can trust a crockpot to make something out of a bunch of random nothing, how much more can you trust ME to make something out of what you think to be your random nothings? Umm, ouch.
I’ve been in this season of my life lately where I am having a really hard time understanding what God is doing. I feel like I have all these random ingredients and no idea how to give them over to God because I just cannot figure out what He wants to do with them…with me. But, how (and why) did I ever come to believe I have to know the final result in order to give Him the pieces? Furthermore, how (and why) did I ever come to believe I have to understand God’s ways in order to trust Him?
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5
God is in the business of making soup. And, it’s some really, really good soup. But, it requires us to take the random ingredients of our life, the things that we just can’t seem to figure out how to put together, and entrust them over to God. It also requires us not only to trust Him with the ingredients, BUT to ALSO trust Him with the timing and with the product.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11
God has promised He will make something complete, something wonderful. God has plans for me and for how all the random ingredients of my life will come together to bring Him glory. It will take time, it will demand sacrifice and patience but DespiteThat, I can trust Him. God is in the business of making soup; I think it’s time I let Him.
“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” Psalm 25:1-3
…I sure do love soup!
…And, just in case all this soup talk gave you an urge for some yourself, here is the recipe for the soup I made! It turned out great!!!
Feel Better Crockpot Soup
3 frozen chicken breasts
1 yellow onion chopped-up
1 bag of frozen corn
4 cans of great northern beans
2 small cans of chopped green chilies
6 teaspoons of the minced garlic you can get in the jar (OR 6 garlic cloves you mince yourself…if you want your fingers to smell for the rest of ever)
3 cups of chicken broth
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 ½ cup sour cream
½ cup heavy cream
~ Dump all (EXCEPT sour cream and heavy cream) in a crockpot and stir to mix spices in.
*If you don’t have a crockpot, cook in large stockpot on the stove over medium-low for however long for chicken to cook.
~ Cover with lid and leave it on low for 6-7 hours, just stirring whenever you remember (or feel like moving enough to go to the kitchen), until chicken is no longer pink inside.
~ When chicken is done, take chicken out and shred. Add chicken back in with its friends in the crockpot.
~ In a separate bowl, mix sour cream and heavy cream together. To this cream mixture, add a ladle full of the hot soup and stir together. Keep (SLOWLY) adding ladles of soup until cream mixture is no longer cold to touch. ***This is to keep the cream from curdling when it goes into the rest of the super hot soup pot.
~ Add cream mixture to rest of soup and stir…
~ WAH LAA, you’re done.
~ Eat, enjoy and give God the glory.
For thirty minutes straight, a child yelled these words at the exploding sky. He was probably no older than 6 and his favorite color was obviously purple. At first, it was funny and really cute. All of us around the family of this youngster chuckled amongst ourselves and some in the crowd even joined in with the color declarations announcing the thunderous arrivals of yellow, red and green. But, after each and every firework that illuminated the sky, the child would yell out, “Where’s PURPLE?!”
After several minutes of fireworks and the child’s relentless request, the cuteness of this kid kind of starting wearing off and, I’m not gonna lie here, I began thinking, “Jesus, please give this child a purple firework.” Finally, there was a pop, a hiss, a boom and then a blue-ish/purple-ish firework burst out of the blackness of the late night July sky. At long last, we had what we adults would consider a “purple” firework. I was actually excited for the little one who so desperately wanted to see some purple up in the night sky. I heard a man exclaim behind me, “PURPLE!” I’m sure, had this child been aware of his surroundings, he would have seen an entire crowd of smiling strangers turned to him waiting to see his triumphant rejoicing over finally getting his Independence Day dream.
BUT…to this kid, Blue-ish/purple-ish was NOT purple. And, he told us so by yelling loud for all us naysayers to hear, “That’s BLUE! Not PURPLE! Where’s PURPLE?”
No matter how many blue-ish/purple-ish sparkles burst forth, and no matter how hard his parents and the crowd around him tried to convince him a blue-ish/purple-ish firework was indeed a purple firework, his demand would yield not! This kid wanted purple. And, no matter what, he was going to keep making his demand known.
This morning, as I was getting ready for work, my thoughts were reflecting back over the events of yesterday’s independence celebration. It was a great day! That perfect mixture of rest and fun. I spent the first half of my day just hanging out with Chaps and appreciating a day off.
Then in the afternoon, some friends and I took a mini road trip up the mountains to watch an awesome fireworks display off a ski slope.
As I was reminiscing, the little kid yelling for his purple came to mind. And, I thought to myself, “That kid was cute, but I wonder if he enjoyed the fireworks at all because he was so desperate for his purple that never came…”
And then, the Lord hit me between the eyes with the realization of how much like that little kid I am. How often do I sit before God, stubbornly yelling out to Him the same request over and over, demanding for Him to satisfy me by giving me what I want? How often do I sit before God, so obsessed with my desires and wanting them met while the entire time, there is a grand display of His presence and blessing exploding all around me? How often do I miss the splendor and beauty of the fireworks show because I just want my purple?
Now, there is something to be said for making your requests known before God, Scripture even encourages us to (Phil 4:6, Jer 33:3). But, there is a huge difference in making our requests known, and demanding our requests be met. As the purple loving youngster so perfectly demonstrates, the danger of going to God with demands is we get focused on what we don’t have yet and then we miss the grandeur of what God has given or is giving us.
As I was processing this not so gentle conviction with the Lord, that little kid yelling: “Where’s Purple?!” once again resonated through my thoughts. Yet, instead of his child’s voice, I started to hear my own immaturity as my heart stirred and I acknowledged the childish demands I have sat yelling out to God to meet: “Where’s my husband?” “Where’s my better job?” “Where’s my money?” “Where’s my direction?” “Where’s my happy ending?” “Where are my dreams coming true?”
…have I enjoyed the fireworks at all while I have been so desperate for my purple?
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3
God is a God of abundance! Not only does He give us everything we need, but He lavishes us with Himself and His gifts. He has given us air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. He has given us an amazing and magnificent world to live in. He has given us eyes to see, ears to hear, noses to smell, tongues to taste and skin to feel with. He has given us hearts to love Him, a desire to be in relationship with Him and a way through His Son Jesus Christ. He gives us undeserved grace, seasonless mercy, and blessed salvation.
God forgive us for ever allowing our unmet desires to distract us from the riches we have as sons and daughters of God in Christ.
God wants us to bring before Him our hearts desires. Scripture calls us to “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present [our] requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). But never are they to rule our hearts. Once we let them rule us, we come to demand them, expect them and fail to see anything but the absence of them. And, let us not forget, Satan is endlessly waiting to remind us that our purple hasn’t come. Jesus says it this way: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10a). Satan wants nothing more than to steal our focus, kill our worship and destroy our love for God.
But, praise Jesus, the rest of that verse is: “I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10b).
Let us not allow Satan to rob us from seeing, experiencing and rejoicing in the abundance of what God has given and is doing in our lives. There may not be purple, but DespiteThat, there sure is an amazing night sky lit up with sparkles of God’s riches raining down on us!
The show is well on its way. I say it’s time to lay down that desire for purple at the feet of Jesus. Then, how ‘bout we kick back on a picnic blanket of peace and trust and watch those awesome fireworks of God’s handiwork light up our life!