For Those Who Battle with Winter Depression

Do you dread the winter months because you periodically find yourself in meltdown mode, hiding under the covers and feeling useless and defeated? You’re not alone. (Please forgive the background noise; it was breezy that day!)

We’re All Still Beggars

t13POC1446149027We human beings love to clump ourselves into categories. Depending upon what we feel is important, we long to be part of this group—but exempt from that one. This is why so many of us spent our high school years trying to snag a place with the cool crowd while maintaining distance from the not-so-cool crowd. Too often, we hang on to the “us-versus-them” mentality as adults—but as believers, we have no right to think in these terms. Why not? Because for all the differences between one Christian and the next, we all knocked on the same door to be saved.

Think about it: the unsaved philanthropist is no “less lost” than the unsaved sex offender.

No matter how noble a life he’s living, when a person first knocks, he does so alongside the shoplifter, the gossip, and the prostitute. And even after ten or twenty or sixty years of Christian living, apart from grace we’re all still beggars stumbling around in pitch darkness. This is what makes a joke of our self-importance: we start out side by side, and although we might spend our lives in a way that’s more pleasing to God than the next person, at the end we’re once again side by side—at the door of heaven only because of the blood of Jesus.Walk to the cross

“For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing” (Eph. 2.8-9, Voice).

Following Jesus into the Unknown

Lately, the Lord’s been prompting me to do some video blogs along with written blogs. I suppose the correct word is “vlog,” but I’m not entirely sure because I’m technologically challenged—which explains, I hope, the rather poor quality of this video. In short, I have no idea what I’m doing regarding the technology, but God’s Word “is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot” (Jer. 20), so it’s time to stop procrastinating and just do it!

No Place to Hide

Lately, God has been challenging me on almost a daily basis to decide what I believe and then stand up for it, no matter what others might think, no matter if I come across as radical or even foolish. He has allowed me to be pushed into corners where there’s no happy medium, so that I must either defer to unrighteousness or profess and defend the truth—and then live accordingly. He is eradicating the “middle ground” and challenging me to come out of hiding as far as who I am in Him.

Woman pulls pack page and reveals sunset.

For too long, with few exceptions, the typical American Christian has been able to tiptoe and dance around controversial topics; it’s entirely possible to go for years without having to stand up and declare what you believe regarding matters like the sanctity of life or the definition of marriage or the significance of sexual purity. In the process, we’ve bought in to the lie that there are no absolutes, that everything is relative. More and more, we’ve learned to live in the grey areas until we’ve forgotten that there is light and there is darkness.

We’re so desensitized to sin that we’re offended by the word “sin” rather than by the things that dishonor the Lord.

Not so long ago, it was understood that a wise man gave his allegiance to God. Now, it has become second nature to excuse, defend, and even celebrate the things that offend God. We’ve become compromising and spineless.

knightBut not for long. The tide is turning, light and dark are polarizing, and soon we’re going to have to choose, and there will be no grey area in which to hide. Lord, embolden us to defend Your honor, embrace truth, and obey You at all cost.

 

A Word About Fasting

7eWavS1442934673My husband is at a monastery for a few days this week. Those who know him would find this comical: he’s a long-haired, tattooed hippie with a disreputable past who loves his motorcycle and ragged jeans. Even so, when I talked to him last night, he said the monastery felt familiar. The reason for this is that Kenny spent a handful of years as a missionary in Nashville, during which he lived in a windowless room that he dubbed “the cave,” and fasting was commonplace. The monastery, designed to exemplify the virtues of fasting, silence, and poverty, has tiny dorm rooms, a Daniel fast diet (no meat, sweets, or other luxuries), and many no-speaking areas.

That got me thinking: there are elements of the Christian life that were meant to be commonplace for believers that have become completely foreign to most of the Church. But I’m not here to reprimand anyone—rather, I’m here to say that we’re missing out. Granted, I don’t want to live my whole life in a single, windowless room, but living simply, as unattached to the world and possessions as possible, allows for great freedom. I’ve experienced just one speech fast, which was intense and beautiful; I’ve been longing to do it again. As for fasting food, that’s almost never easy. In fact, I cringe at the thought. And yet there’s nothing like that spiritual buzz, which tends to set in after a few days as your perspective shifts. The emphasis we Americans place on food (and it’s far more than you’d think) suddenly seems ludicrous. The spirit wakes up and takes center stage. What’s truly important becomes important once again, and what’s irrelevant finally becomes irrelevant.

Here are a few paragraphs from my journal during a liquids-only fast:

I’ve been kinda living in the supernatural lately, and I don’t want it to stop. It’s Day 19 of a 40-day liquids-only fast. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. A mug of pureed veggie soup feels like a feast. I’ve been spending an hour in my prayer closet every morning, sometimes more, and it feels like ten minutes. I’m eating the book of Romans.

There are plenty of days lately when I’m nearly giddy “for no reason”—even right in the middle of working. Laughter comes easily. Hours go by and I forget to have my soup. I’m forgetting what it’s like to eat. I never want this to end.

Silhouette the girl jumping over the gap at sunsetI have energy, energy, late into the night. Mental alertness and productivity. Patience. Spiritual sensitivity. Contentment. Creativity, hope, and confidence. Affection. Groundedness. The absence of stress and anxiety.

Thank You, Father, thank You. I love You so much. I can’t for a moment wrap my mind around what it would be like to live without You. How would I survive a single day if I didn’t belong to You? To extract myself from Your grip, if that were even possible, would leave me with nothing. There is no me without You.

Why has the Church allowed fasting and other disciplines to go the way of the dinosaurs? Is it simply that they’re difficult for the flesh, or is it more than that? What do you think?

 

The Trouble with Hoarding

One of the things that the Old Testament manna represents is the basic necessities of life, which God provides when we seek Him above and beyond anything else. The Message puts it this way: “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Mt 6:33).

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 2.09.58 PMManna constituted the Israelites’ daily food; they would have literally died without it. To say it was a crucial part of their lives is an understatement, yet they disobeyed God’s instructions concerning it. His mouthpiece, Moses, charged them to make sure they didn’t keep the manna from one day to the next, yet they still tried to hoard it. It’s human nature to hoard, to make sure we have our “fair share.” We don’t like it when someone else has more than we do. Or perhaps the Israelites were lazy—hoping to avoid having to gather the manna the next day.

Or maybe they simply didn’t believe God, who promised to provide daily.

We’re a lot like the Israelites: we want our pantries and bank accounts and clothes closets full—and yet they’re quite never full enough to satisfy us, are they? We want our “safety nets,” our safeguards against not having what we want, when we want it. We loathe the thought of God stripping us of those safety nets because then we’ll have no recourse but to trust Him for each day’s provision, and that’s scary. And inconvenient. And uncomfortable.

And so we hoard.

When we fail to trust God for our basic needs, we fret and worry. We amass more than we need. We fail to abide in the heart of God and instead work so many hours that we become strangers to peace and rest. Worst of all, we miss out on the lovely, exhilarating sensation of belonging completely to Him. We forget that He is responsible and that we’re at His mercy. We turn our backs on His offer of sweet, fresh manna: “No thanks, I’m afraid You’ll shortchange me. Besides, I can manage on my own.”

Our culture insists that amassing wealth and possessions is synonymous with being a responsible adult. Are you brave enough to see that this challenges everything Jesus exemplified? Are you bold enough to trust that God will send the manna day by day?

In Defense of PDAs

We not only tolerate public displays of affection, we applaud them.
But we don’t stop there.

The filthier the better, we say.
We stop at nothing, we welcome everything,
no matter how deviant.
And yet—
When it comes to the greatest Lover,
the purest and most benevolent Lover—
We clam up.
We are paralyzed.
We even scold those who would dare to express themselves:

Contain yourself!
That’s not appropriate!
It’s okay to lift your hands (just not too high… think “princess wave”),
But retain your composure.
People are watching. 

And heaven forbid someone should be moved to emotion
or moved to laughter
or moved to dance.

You are just getting caught up in your emotions, we scold.

That’s right! says the lover,
I am in love!
I am lovesick!
And I cannot contain it.

I’m coming out of the closet.
I’ve been undone by my Jesus and I don’t care who knows it.
I can’t see my critics because I have eyes
only for Him.

So excuse my public displays of affection, but I have no plans to stop.
Happy Stick Girl RunningIn fact, I shall become even more undignified than this.

There’s No Such Thing as a Christian by Default

Sometimes we assume that if we aren’t actively serving the devil, we are serving God by default.

The most accepted definition of default is “a selection automatically used by a computer program in the absence of a choice made by the user.” We suppose that, since we’d certainly never choose to worship Satan, we are Christians by default—and that making a conscious, deliberate choice to follow the Lord (and then doinga it) isn’t necessary. And this is why we have multitudes of professing Christians who drift from one day to the next, year after year, with no passion or power. If you were ask one of these “Christians by default” why they burn with love for Jesus, they would stare at you like a cow at a new fence because the idea of love and passion in connection with the Lord is foreign to them.

As far as they are concerned, “Christian” is simply the category they fall into because they live a civilized life.

But God says we must choose: “Choose for yourselves today the one you will worship” (Josh. 24:15 HCSB). We do not gain Jesus by default. Christianity isn’t something we stumble into when we’re too lazy or busy to be deliberate about the most important aspect of our lives. To be a Christian is to daily choose, love, serve, and submit to a Person. To leave one’s spiritual identity to chance by failing to choose is to gamble with eternity.

Bigot or Not?

What an ugly word. Don't throw it around recklessly.
What an ugly word. Don’t throw it around recklessly.

*bigot (Merriam-Webster Collegiate): a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc.: especially: a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group).

I don’t understand why believing that a certain behavior is immoral is equated with hating those who engage in that behavior. How does one make the jump between “So-and-so believes that homosexuality is a sin” to “So-and-so hates homosexuals and is a bigot”? Where is the logic in that?

I believe that, according to the God I love and serve, sex outside of marriage or sex with a person of the same gender is a sin. But I do not hate people who engage in sex outside of marriage or sex with someone of the same gender (nor am I afraid of them, as the ridiculous word “homophobia” implies). I don’t hate, nor am I afraid of, bisexuals or transsexuals either—and if you know me at all, you know this is true.

So you say, “Well, if you think that what certain people are doing is sinful, you’re condemning them.” Really? How do you know this? How do you know where love and hate collide in my heart? Have you seen me act in hateful ways or heard words of condemnation come out of my mouth?

(And by the way, if you assume that I hate those whose beliefs oppose my own, does that mean you hate those whose beliefs oppose your own?)

“Well,” you say, “who are you to say it’s wrong? You probably had sex before marriage yourself.” You’re right. In my teens, before my first marriage, I fornicated with the best of them. And I knew it was wrong. (Like many other human beings, I often do, say, or think things even when I know they’re wrong.) But having engaged in sex outside of marriage in the past doesn’t remove my right and responsibility to hold a belief about it now.

Chain with heartBecause I’m a Christian, I answer to God. I don’t get to make up my own rules about life. If I were God, I’d allow for a free-for-all when it came to sex. I’m being completely honest here; I don’t always like what the Bible says, and I want everyone to be happy. So if I were God, I’d say, “Go for it. Have sex whenever you want, with whomever you want, and do it with gusto.” But I’m not God. I’m His child, and therefore I live according to what I believe His will is for His children… and therefore I must decide what I believe regarding sin. But I don’t hate you for holding to beliefs that contradict my own. Truth be known, I love you with my whole heart.

 

 

To Those Who Have Been Missing Their God-Time

“Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotions,“ said Brother Lawrence. He said this as one who knew how to “practice of the presence of God”—that is, to enjoy an ongoing, never-ending, easy lifting of the heart and remembrance to God, which invites and sustains His constant presence. He believed, as do I, that it’s not only possible but crucial that we believers settle down into God’s presence and stay there, not just during our morning devotionals but all day long, and all night as well.

Does this sound impossible? That’s because you complicate it all in your mind. You’ve learned that being in God’s presence must look a certain way… that you’re required to stop what you’re doing and kneel and open your Bible—wonderful activities, but impossible when you’re in the middle of a board meeting or chasing a toddler.

God the lordSetting aside a specific “God-time” is wonderful. If you begin (or end) each day by deliberately focusing on God in a certain place, with a certain book, don’t stop! But beware of falling into the mindset that if, for some reason, you miss out on this sanctioned portion of time because of an early doctor’s appointment or small crisis, you’ve “missed your God-time.” Beware of assuming that if you’ve neglected your God-time for that day you must wait until tomorrow to catch up—as though God is offended at having been stood up and won’t be available again until tomorrow because He’s all tied up for the rest of the day.

God’s presence is just as available as you wait in the doctor’s office or fold dishtowels as it was during your scheduled God-time. Lean your heart into Him; lift your thoughts toward Him as you walk from your office to the break room; say a quiet “thank You” as you sit at a stop light. You have not missed your God-time. Your God-time, as a believer, stretches into infinity. It continues after your regularly scheduled devotional time into the bulk of the day, even the chaos and frustrations of the day. It continues into the night. Even as you sleep, your God-time continues!

Years ago, I used to hear songs and sermons that talked about jumping into the river of God. “Why can’t I just live there?” I wondered. “Why do I ever have to get out of the river of God? Why can’t I learn to breathe underwater?”

I can. And so can you.

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