Justice Calls

When we first started the church planting journey about two years ago, I learned a hard important truth.

It was very simple and incredibly painful to find surrender in it.

Surrender, obey, release the outcome. We hear and sense God leading us - we obey - and almost immediately we start determining or controlling the outcome of that obedience.

So, God, if I do this or that - then this or that will happen. And once that happens, I will do this. And once I do this, I will see these results. And when I see these results, I will know...

I think you get the point.

We see it in the scriptures, it hits painfully against us. We do NOT control the outcome of our obedience. The results are in His sovereign hands. Ours is a process oriented faith. It has to be. Full surrender requires it. Otherwise, we are disappointed because what WE wanted doesn’t pan out. Then we blame God, frustrated. Thinking we made a wrong decision or that He isn’t trustworthy.

Trust me, I am quite friendly with this whole thing.

For example, we say yes to church planting. Okay, let’s do this. And within a few months, we have an entire plan and strategy built to perfection. Except it didn’t go that way, and we had to slam on the brakes fast. We learned we take one step, and WAIT. Then He leads us to another.

Of course, plans, systems, strategies are important. And, yet, we must walk them sensitively - treading carefully between our expectations and His purposes. Regular surrender, daily obedience.

God is starting to show me - it’s in EVERY part of following Him. Our entire faith encompasses this truth of releasing the outcome, that its process oriented, that we have no control over the results, and that we are only responsible for our faithfulness and choices in the process.

In one way, it’s incredibly freeing. In another, it makes it painful. Especially when it is related to our “enemies” or related to the brokenness of this world.

There have been some things over the last several years that have happened to me, happened to friends and family that have broken my heart and crushed my spirit. They are all unrelated and yet, horribly related. Different offenses and disappointments, but related because they occur not just in the world but

in the Christian community.

Forgiveness has become an issue - and I have desperately wanted justice. I. Want. Justice. I feel the pain of my own offense. I walk with friends and family in the pain of their offenses. And I want justice.

Related, but unrelated - the stories of bias, abuse, prejudice, and more - it’s not some distant news story where you shake your head and say a prayer and move on. We can shut off the news, turn our heads, and try to pretend it doesn’t happen. We can give excuses, make up the reasons why to help ourselves not feel the pain of a broken world and sometimes Christian culture that looks nothing like Jesus. But it’s real, and it’s happening every day. I have encountered it on personal level, with friends, and have counseled fellow Christ followers through it.

God has called me to the most painful of positions. Really, he calls us all to this place of balance. Positioning of experience, positioning of opening my eyes to it-insisting that I don’t ignore it, calling me to speak to it, and finally, THE MOST DIFFICULT, to do all of this with the surrender of justice and healing to Him.

It IS possible for me to do all of the things I listed above while releasing the outcomes to Him. I know it is. Man, I have fought it though. I resent it. It makes me angry. I openly confess I have been so angry. Moments of hatred have filled my heart towards some of the offenses and the people or systems responsible.

And God has been so good and kind to let me work through this. My anger from offense has turned to anger towards Him. The ONE who can take care of all of it. And, yet, His mercy and compassion has been mine as He has graciously with the utmost patience awaited my surrender. Surrender to His sovereign purposes, surrender to His ways of justice - even when I don’t like it or understand it. 

And, He is entrusting me with something so sacred as He has tenderly placed the burden of this world’s brokenness on my shoulders. He has asked me to be a part of His process of loving humbly, walking justly, and showing mercy. He has called me to be a voice in the wilderness saying, this needs to stop.

But to walk this out in true grace and love, I have to surrender the need for justice. It has to be placed in His safe hands.

Since I was small, I wanted to change the world. I would see injustice, problems with systems, and more. I wanted to change it all, make a difference. There are two parts. One is mine and the other is His. And when I start trying to take over His, it gets messy. I’m realizing that when I can release the outcomes, justice and mercy, change of systems and people to Him, the anger settles in its rightful place of healthy anger. In my anger, I don’t sin because I’m trusting Jesus to deal with His part. I find I can speak to things when He requires it, and then I can release any result because my only responsibility was that - to speak.

I can see things and be called to simply watch and pray and not get in the middle of it, because for that particular minute I was called to do just that - watch and pray.

He didn’t call me to right all of the wrongs, but He did call me to build a bridge to Him. That means I have to get dirty and build. I have to sweat and experience the pain of hard, slow work. BUT, I can trust the finished product to Him. He has His part, and I have mine.

When I’m hurt or offended either by personal experience or by what I see and hear in this world - I CAN trust Him for justice. He makes all things new including the heart of the broken. He will pick up every broken piece. He will defend the crushed in Spirit. And one day, all will be made right. Until then, I will unapologetically do my part. That means I will insist on feeling the pain of injustice in this world (either my own or others), I will not ignore and I will say and do the hard things as He leads me.

He IS trustworthy and good and capable to hold the whole world in His hands. 

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The War of Obedience

 

I am sitting in New Hampshire about to speak at 1 of 5 women's conferences over the next 6-7 weeks. And, Sunday, we launch Essence Place. Pray for me. I am crazy. Others probably think I am crazy. But, God. Because I am deeply confident that this is where He has me even if it has thrown me worlds away from my little box of comfort. Even if I don't have a lot of confidence in myself to keep up - I have confidence in Him. I have learned to not put God in a box.

I keep having these moments where my breath catches, I close my eyes - giving a slight shake of my head, I realize the graciousness of God. 

My salvation has been worked out in new and hard ways this last year or so. 

Is it worth it? I have asked this question over and over again. 

When my parents died many years ago, I went through something similar. The heartbreaking question of - is this for real? This faith, this belief of mine. And if it is, is it worth the yes that I keep saying over and over. At that time, God came in like the most gentle and tender surgeon. Removing and cutting away these parts inside that contributed to a lack of overall spiritual health. I was forced into a storm of loss that proved to be the redemption of my soul. 

It changed me forever, those years of sorrow. The old cliche - what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger rang true as I said yes to God, and no to giving up. Here I am some years later, and the yes that He is asking for is not faith and trust in the midst of unexpected loss and tragedy. I was not forced into this season of yes.

I chose this. On my own accord, on my volition. He asked and I said yes. As much as I want to blame someone - my husband (no offense, Brad), friends, mentors, my faith...in reality I blame God and I blame myself. But I blamed God more.

You asked, and you knew my level of willingness to surrender. And you asked for the hard, the painful. You asked for the uncomfortable. You asked for sacrifice.

Yes, He did. And I said yes. 

My obedience in this season has not always been trusted or faith-filled obedience. There has been resentment. I have wrestled and fought - surrendering over and over as I question over and over. Is.it.worth.it?

The gentleness and tenderness of this surgeon has given way to a gracious precision that is targeting new places - places that need to desperately be cut away. And as much as I want to jump out and scream in distrust - sign myself out and run. His eyes still shine with the same tender love. A love of like a father. A father who deeply desires the best for His child. A father who desires that His child be filled with a greater capacity for love. A wider capacity for caring and serving others. 

In His love He disciplines. 

There are places inside of me that are so selfish. Places that wreak of my stubborn desires to have things my way. Unsurrendered parts of my soul that still are driven to perform - a drive to measure up and gain approval of not just the world around me-but gain the approval of my Father. Even though He insists grace and unmerited favor.

Obedience is so much more than a yes. And faith and trust is much more than “doing” the right thing. Our obedience and purpose lived out is most fruitful when it flows from a grace-filled willing heart. A willingness to lean into what God is doing through your life as His child, I believe, represents true obedience.

It’s all part of the journey, though. 2017 was a year of wrestling. Pushing, pulling, and finally settling. I had to. It was necessary for my journey. The pain, the wrestling, and even the anger are all parts of my story in this season that under the redemptive hand of my God are just beautiful. 

I am not ashamed. I don’t have regrets. Through all of the mess, through all of my frustrations, doubts, and questions - I am sitting a little closer to my Father. Confidence rises up within me as I experience for another time, His compassion and grace. His willingness to go with me to that broken place. 

I am walking out of that season of wrestling now, leaning into what God is doing. I am fully engaged in heart-willing obedience assured that He is with me. And I am reminded again - this why we allow ourselves to be vulnerable before God. This is why we open our heart to Him even when we might fear He will turn away. This is why reach into the pain, and we deal with it. Because waiting on the other side is redemption, and it’s another level of living and following wholehearted after my faithful God. 

Is it worth it? Yes. Emphatically yes.

Ps. Don't judge my mismatched socks.

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When the Curtains are Drawn

I have gone silent for a bit. Literally and figuratively.

I have withdrawn and I have shut the door. I have closed the curtains, the blinds, and forced closed the windows. I have drawn in within myself, within my mind. My soul is torn and battered. Much like the season after losing my parents, depression has clawed its way through and now rests squarely on my shoulders.

Unlike that previous season, I am fully aware of what this is. Although I do not always fully understand it, I know the triggers. I know their names. The enemies that taunt my soul. I know them, and I hate them. And, yet, here I am with darkness as my companion.

God has not been absent. In fact, He has gently and compassionately been waiting. As I wrestle through what I now know and recognize as anger and resentment towards Him-He waits compassionately. I question a lot of things about God’s sovereignty and His purposes, but I don’t question His kindness and compassion especially in our sorrow, anger, and sin.

The thoughts and doubts I wrestle with would be considered foes of a righteous God, and yet I know that in the greatness of who He is - He simply waits and continues to draw me.

He is not scared or overwhelmed by my doubt. He doesn’t get insecure and He does not lack any confidence. He doesn’t have to compensate for any sort of insecurity or lack of confidence. He doesn’t need to rush me or push me - He simply fights for me and He waits.

Yes, I am angry and I am resentful. In my surrender to His purposes and in my yes, I have found myself overwhelmed with inadequacy. Never before have I been living and working so outside of ability, temperament, or experience. Never before have been stretched and pulled and yanked to move in a foreign world that I don’t seem to fit in. And, yet, I am so certain this is where God led me. It wasn’t a mistake on my part. It wasn’t a misunderstanding. He took me out of my well manicured garden and threw me into a field of wild flowers.

This phrase was spoken to me by someone who does not know me and is not really aware of what is fully happening in my life. Her words were, God wants to tell you. I have turned that phrase over and over in mind. In the moment, I knew exactly what she meant. And, yet, in my wounded soul - I said no. Even though I have always believed that God can speak through people this way - I said no. Simply because doubts are big. And because I just didn’t want to hear it.

Do not tell me that this is part of God’s great purpose. His sovereign plan for my life. The struggle is so powerful. And I am tired. He is asking for too much. He has always asked for more than I could give. He up’d the anti and He begin to ask for more and more.

I’m tired. So very tired. Everything in me wants to be like the prodigal son - leave everything - forge my own path.

And, yet, one thing stops me. For the longest time I believed it was because I like to play it safe, be the rule follower. I could never really leave my faith in God. I could never fully walk away.

And maybe that is a little part of it, but I’m beginning to realize the fullness of my hesitance.

It’s because of the characteristics of the God I have served my entire life. The one I have given everything for...I have seen Him and known Him.

And, although, sometimes I hate His purposes and His plans. His compassion, love, and kindness brings me to repentance and trust. It moves me to surrender every time. It moves me to comfort and solace. And when nothing can assuage the wounds in my soul - when no one understands or “gets me” - He has and He does.

I am so angry and I stubbornly refuse to let go of this anger. But I am fully aware that in my anger, He is patient. And He is fighting to break through, to tear down every lie, to kick down every wall - to storm through the anger and resentment to draw me back to Him.

This Pastor, this leader, this broken and normal person reminds you today that God is greater and can fully handle your mess, your sin, and your brokenness. I am reminding you He is slow to anger, rich in love, compassionate in all He does. He is fighting for you and with you. Don’t walk away, don’t run, and don’t give up. He will continue to as long as it takes for you to wrestle and fight through all of that mess and brokenness. He is and always will be fighting for you, and patiently waiting with open arms.

 

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