As we begin the Advent season, I wanted to share just a thought as we anticipate Christ in each day.
As we begin the Advent season, I wanted to share just a thought as we anticipate Christ in each day.
I don’t normally read many biographies or autobiographies. I tend to lose interest in them quickly I have found at least from what I have picked in the past. I have read a couple of sports biographies, as well as a couple of comedians’ penned works.
But I was a huge Full House fan as a kid. I was around the same age as DJ Tanner, and felt like we could be friends. So when Candace Cameron Bure’s book Dancing Through Life: Steps of Courage and Conviction rolled around I thought I’d give it a read. Let me say I do not watch Dancing with the Stars right now. It’s not my cup o’ realitea. Never has been, but I know many who love it.
This book was all about Candace’s foray into that world of reality television as a celebrity dancer on the show in a recent season (I believe two seasons ago). She did however dance with the guy whom I loved from So You Think You Can Dance many moons ago when I watched that show religiously, Mark. The “Bleeding Love” dance…that’s all I can say.
This book is great if you 1-watch the show and want a ton of behind the scenes glimpses of the stressors you see on the celebrity dancers in the process, or 2-if you are looking to see how a believer who steps into the spotlight of celebrity life battles within constantly. For me it was nice to see that side of the struggle, to know that she wages war about convictions much like many of us who aren’t in the limelight walk out our faith too.
One thing that struck me on her book was the community she chose to be in consistently, how they lifted her up and supported her throughout-even when brothers and sisters in Christ were tearing her down for choices she was making.
Side note: Personal preference is different from Biblical standards y’all. Show love, be about His business and not tearing down one another, k?
There were times in her book where I felt she was reaching a bit too far to link up a Biblical context with the competition-but this is her story and not mine therefore she gets to share how she desires. I have to admit I went in thinking it might be a bit more than it was actually as far as talking through the competition and her surprising (her words) length as a contestant. I did appreciate the lessons she shared along that way that went beyond celebrityism, or being in a dancing competition.
One instance was how she needed an attitude change, as she became frustrated in the midst of the competition. My favorite line to now recall and apply in my own life is this:
When we are frustrated or discouraged or sad or anxious, how do we respond like Jesus did? (from Philippians 2:6-8) Sometimes we just have to choose it.
That one hit me right between the eyes, as I get the choice in my frustrations and sadness, in my despair or anxiety about how I respond. Do I do that as Christ would? Or do I live into the lies fed me, the flesh that so battles and wages war within? Do I respond like a slave in bondage that I once was, or the free child in Christ that I am?
A great lesson to glean from the book, as well as many more in the face of having convictions challenged, managing motherhood and submissiveness to your husband. I truly enjoyed the book and would pick up one of her other books as well as it allows you glimpses into the work of her life, what she is called to do by God even in the face of what many see as a sinful profession.
Light and momentary.
That is what our present troubles are to be viewed as in our lives.
I wish I viewed them that way. I wish I had the perspective (and encouragement) that Barnabas had when he looked at the disciples they were making in Antioch. Upon returning he shared with them that they “must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (emphasis mine)
I think many believers could echo that sentiment today. You are going through a hardship that doesn’t seem to be ending. It’s all-consuming, debilitating and crushing. But Barnabas shares this as a one-off, to continue on in the faith they have been sharing throughout the area they were in.
Then I come to Paul’s words, a companion of Barnabas on that exact trip, that tell us how he considered suffering. How he viewed it with a lens that is not easily applied. Paul tells us that our present sufferings-from medical issues, to depression, to loss, to heartbreak-aren’t even worth comparing in light of our future that is being revealed in us. “It’s not even worth mentioning” is how one text translates this.
For me, that’s hard to rectify. Suffering, and I am talking true suffering here, is shared and talked through. I don’t believe Paul is saying we keep quiet on our suffering, our brokenness and hurt, our pain and loss. I do think he’s pointing to a new perspective on it for ourselves and for others. That we shouldn’t dwell too long in it at any given point. We shouldn’t live in the hopelessness of it, the defeat of doubt, fear and anger that can overwhelm our thoughts.
But when we look through the lens of eternity-the glory and goodness of it-this suffering isn’t a blip on that. When we see what is revealed in us and through us about the God we love, it’s hard to bring the suffering up to the equal footing of comparison.
Paul isn’t making light of suffering, for he knew it’s history all too well as he wrote this at the end of a his third missionary journey. He knew of what the Romans were experiencing, and to what lie ahead. Yet he rounds out this section with the assurance of the Spirit. He helps us in our weakness, even as we groan inwardly in our suffering. The Spirit knows, even when we don’t. And as Paul wraps up the present-nature of suffering with the future-state of glory, he gives us this gift that things (all things in fact) work for the good of those who love God.
Yes our suffering, whatever it may be and where it may take us, works for good when we allow it, when we view it from the rose-colored glasses of eternity.
“The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8
For the longest time I couldn’t quite understand this verse. Simply put, why would an ending be better than a beginning? Beginnings are exciting twinged with a bit of fear, and a whole lot of anxiety for some. Endings are sad mostly, laced with regret and pain for others.
It wasn’t until recently that I discovered just how grateful I am for endings. While I haven’t written much on this I do want to be transparent and share how coming to gratefulness in an ending is worth it.
You see in June I lost my job.
Actually it was more than that, it was my calling, my profession, what I poured my life into. It was my livelihood. It came unexpectedly and it was wrongfully executed. To put it plainly, it was just wrong. What would happen over the next six weeks while I searched for a job was life changing for me. I found myself, who I actually was, once again and who I am in Christ.
This was something I had lost somewhere in my job-because that is what had become of me. I was my job, my job was me. Every bit of it was wrapped up in me and who I was. I found I welcomed anxiety, stress and insomnia as friends all too easily. If I happened to be with friends when I wasn’t working rather continuously, I was talking about my work. I became hard to be around simply because I had allowed my job to become my life.
Someone recently said we make our own idols out of the things we desire to give us that only God can. I believe wholeheartedly I made my work, the busy of it, and the immense strain of it my idol. I could easily say I was pushed and pulled into it by those around me, however I made that choice. And I chose it again, and again, day in and day out.
As I come upon the five months since that occurred I had to stop and put it into perspective of this week. A week of gratefulness acknowledged in every aspect, of life and love, of truth and beauty and of what God is doing in me and through me. I was brokenhearted over the loss of my job in June. But as I sit here in November I am grateful for that ending. An ending I would not have crafted and I firmly believe was not by God’s design, but one that He knew I would weather because I would be fully in His hands. Endings are worth it and are better than beginnings because we are able to part with something or someone.
We gain perspective we didn’t have at the beginning, we are older, wiser, stronger and better than we were at the start. We can boldly come to the end of something and choose gratitude for it having been complete. When we have weathered an ending we see patience lived to it’s fullest. Pride is no longer our banner as humility rings true.
Being grateful that a thing is over can be difficult to see at the present of it, but soon you realize that all along you were navigating to an end. I know I would not be where I am now, having experienced and met some of the most godly and amazing people I have had it not been for that ending. I am grateful for that, because it’s allowed me to see the beauty in people in action not in word. It’s opened my eyes to possibilities and paths I had long-since pushed aside for other people’s goals for my life. More than anything, it’s given me the grateful heart to bid adieu to a chapter of my life that I wasn’t truly writing. This ending is truly worth it even in the face of beginning again.
“It’s not about who you are trying to find, it’s about who you are becoming.” -Louie Giglio
I wish I had those words tucked away earlier. I wish I could look back at my 18 year old self, my 22 year old self and even my 30 year old self and whisper what Louie says so well.
I even wish I had these words the other night as I was in a conversation with friends about a budding interest between one of my friends and a guy. I saw her getting emotionally invested so quickly because there’s an overwhelming fear of aloneness she is wrestling with presently. I think as singles, we all wrestle with those from time-to-time. With the holidays fully thrust upon us I can say this time of year is always a harsh reminder to us as well if we aren’t in relationship with someone.
As I discovered this quote from Giglio I kept going back to my friend. Her words and heart that is seeking to find someone for life. In singleness though I am seeing that it’s about who I am becoming, not who I find-to affirm Giglio in his message. Because I am becoming someone who desires after what God desires for me. There have been times in prior years when that wasn’t the case, where I was pursuing selfish things (and find I still do) but now I am recognizing it all the more in me and my heart wants to be after what God’s after.
Who I was at 25 was not who I was at 30 and it’s not who I am now. I am ever becoming who it is God has designed me to be. When I put finding someone ahead of becoming someone then I put fleshly pursuits ahead of Godly desires. Do I think finding that one for your help mate is a bad thing? Absolutely not.
But sometimes the things which are good are deceptive in drawing us away from our focus of seeking who God is making us to be. Who we need to be, not for someone else, but for us and God. If it draws me from Him then it’s an idol. It’s something I am choosing to place in front of me rather than God. Even when it’s a good thing, even when it’s something He desires for me. He doesn’t desire me putting someone else above Him. That I know for certain.
And who I am becoming in Him means I am a better version of myself than I was yesterday or the day before. When I am turned and focusing on Him and who I am becoming in Him, I don’t worry about finding someone because I have found Him.
And He found me.
“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV
I was listening to a podcast recently that was focused in on this piece of Scripture. With the recent terror attacks and debate on refugees in America, it caused me to look once more at the words of Christ here.
You see my neighbor isn’t just the one living in proximity to my home. It’s the people I work with, the people I hang out with, it’s my community, my town and all those I come into contact with. As I listened further something caught my heart. We can only love others as we love ourselves when we in fact do love ourselves.
That’s where I think most of us find the hiccup on this loving others command. Because loving ourselves comes from the overflow of God loving us. It’s us seeing how we are loved by God that we cannot help but love ourselves with that same love, which spills over into loving others as well. But I’ll be honest, I don’t love myself very much.
And I most certainly don’t love as God loves me.
I’m my worst critic and the first to jump out at myself for mistakes and blunders. I will critique things about myself that I would never do to anyone else. But I think we are in this context of viewing that if we love ourselves, as believers, we are being in the flesh and selfish. We are choosing to put ourselves above others. But that’s not what Christ is pointing out here. You see He first points to loving the Lord with every bit that we have-mind, heart and soul.
We love because He first loved us. We didn’t have the capacity to love until He loved us with a love that has no ending-it’s an all-consuming, holy love that flows deep into us. A love not based on performance or looks, not based on intelligence or athletic ability. It’s a love that doesn’t seek anything but to give us value and worth. That same value and worth that we demean when we cut ourselves down through unloving words and thoughts, actions and sentiments.
There are days when I find it incredibly difficult to love people but as I dig deeper into His Word and what He says about me, I am finding that it’s on those days that I haven’t been loving myself well either. You can’t fake love, and you certainly cannot conjure it up…but you can lean into His love and let it flood you when you aren’t feeling lovable. Because that’s when He reminds you of the love He has for you, love that is true and right. Love that is there waiting to fill so that you in turn can love others with that same unwavering love.
Loving your neighbor becomes a commonplace, just as loving yourself does. Give yourself space and grace to love yourself the way He loves you. Then you’ll see yourself loving others in the same way.
I was not an obedient child, at least not instantaneously. Oh I would eventually do as I was told (mostly by my mom or sister, because I was a good kid to everyone else), but not without some fussing and fighting on it. There were tears, there were hurt feelings, there were defiant stances and stuck out lower lips. I was not one to go quietly, nor easily when it came to obedience.
I think the same holds true many times in my relationship with God. I will war and wrestle with Him on what He has asked me to do. After much struggling, and lessons learned I will go obediently about His business. As we study God’s Unfolding Story at church I was drawn into the small narrative of the Passover today.
I am familiar with the story, and the significance it has within the larger context of both the Jewish and Christian faiths alike. It is a ritual that reminds us of the captivity, bondage and saving grace of God. But I had missed parts of this story before as I dwelt in the meaning of the Passover within the confines of the story of Moses and the slaves.
Moses has just gotten Word directly from God. It’s a good word, but it’s also very specific in instruction. They are to go and bring a lamb into their home to slaughter. The blood is to be drained and then painted upon the doorposts and lintel of the home. This will save them from the destroying angel. They cannot leave their homes until morning. They were to share the story with their children, as they performed the ritual each year then. But nestled right after all these words is two sentences that have wrung me out…
So the people bowed down and worshiped. Then the Israelites went and did [this]; they did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.
After being given instructions to save their first born males, after being told specifically to paint in blood on their homes they accepted and submitted-worshiping God for His command. They fully accepted His word as truth, going forth in obedience and did. They didn’t argue, they didn’t wrestle with the decision, they didn’t try another way before giving in to that way as the answer.
\No, they are the picture of what God wants from us. When He speaks (and He does, we choose other things to hear many times) He desires for our hearts and minds to follow Him. That we would openly submit, worship, and obey. Until seeing that the Israelites worshiped in the midst of their obedience, I hadn’t thought of it being significant.
But it is y’all. Worshiping is submission and obedience too. It is giving God His glory back, pouring back our praise on Him for His goodness towards us, His love outpouring on us to guide us and lead us in every aspect of our lives. It’s saying we are lesser than, recognizing that He is greater….than any and every thing else. When we worship in our obedience, we are submitting to Him who we are and asking for Him to use us for whatever means and whatever ways.
When we accept obedience without pouting or fighting, we are praising Him for His sovereignty and goodness. We are faithfully obeying a God who will do whatever He needs to do in order to save us, and that to me is worth accepting and obeying all that He asks of me.