Beck Wattier

What I’m Reading: Gladys Aylward, The Little Woman

Jul
01

Gladys Aylward
Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman

Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) left her home in London in her early twenties to pursue service in war torn China. Although fairly uneducated, having no ‘missionary’ training, and lacking any financial support, she felt God was asking her to go and teach the Bible and she simply went. This book is an autobiography of her story. From riding trains in the middle of a battle zone in China, to being held captive in Russia, to taking in Chinese orphans, to being approached by government officials to be a Foot Inspector…there is not one page in this book that will not consume your full attention. There are many spiritual elements and things to learn but at its core, her story contains all the elements for, well, a good story. This is probably why it was made into a film, The Inn of The Sixteenth Happiness in 1957.

I found myself greatly challenged by her life and her faith. She truly found what was worth investing in and she spent her life on it. We often think that doing this means taking on something large and grand. Reading this book you may be tempted to think her life was just that but as you read you see that she never set out to live a life that was book worthy, she set out to be faithful in each day and to each person she came across. We often don’t ‘go’ if we have to go alone. Gladys is a great example of someone who counted the cost and was willing to pay it. I couldn’t help but to think of the missionaries I know who are now on the field and how they need people to be behind them with encouragement, resources, and prayer.

Practically, at a hundred and fifty (small) pages, this book is an easy read for anyone; I read it in one sitting (about two hours). I would especially recommend it to anyone that is in a rut and needs a little heart stirring, to anyone who is in the middle of faithful serving and is feeling alone and weighed down, and to anyone who has heard God’s voice clearly but doesn’t see how things could possibly work out that way.

 

It’s Been A While

May
07

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If you go back and read my last post, you will find it ends with this paragraph…

Maybe there are some things you are holding onto…some things that you just havent let Jesus clean up yet. Maybe it’s an outright sin, but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a fear that you’ve been too scared to confront. Maybe it’s a very old wound that is just too painful to let Him touch so you keep it covered up in the dark. Maybe it’s an insecurity that you don’t trust Him to overcome. Maybe it’s a lie that you bought into years ago that has slowly infected the rest of your heart till you just can’t breath. Maybe it’s a relationship that has been broken for so long it’s just easier to cover it up- like putting a new shower curtain in a bathroom full of mold…We tend to think ‘Oh it’s just this one thing, it’s not affecting me that much.’ And He is repeatedly whispering to us- ‘let me at it, it’s got to go’. If we don’t let Him take it, it will slowly grip onto us and choke us to death.

That was almost exactly four months ago. I haven’t been able to type out a word since. There are many reasons, and I wont try to elaborate on all of them, but let me just say I am a different person than I was even just four months ago.

When I first decided to follow Christ and really lay everything I had on the table for His namesake, I counted the cost. It was a process of several months, wrestling and thinking things through. I told Him I was in but I couldn’t do things halfway. If He could use me, He should use me, but if I was giving Him my life, I wanted it to count. I know how crazy it sounds when people say “God told me” but God told me…He said clearer then anything I’ve ever known that if I would trust Him it would be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but He would use me in a way that would impact the world.

Looking back over the last five years in particular, He has allowed me to be apart of seeing great things happen. I have travelled the world. I have spoken in front of thousands of people. I have been a part of saving lives and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have seen the craziest things take place and seen Him work in ways that still blow me away.

I had this vision in my head of how things would continue to progress. It made sense, it looked great, I was full steam ahead with it. And then it all fell apart. The plan was ripped out of my hand and I was left with no explanation, no further instruction, no assurance of what was to come.

There is a purpose in every single step, and if you know me at all, you know I believe that. Part of the purpose in this was to show me where my identity lied. It’s very easy to be the girl that goes to Africa, or the girl that’s involved with that church, or the girl that is heading up this project…fill in the blank with a hundred other titles. I can do that. Give me a role and I can fill it. I can fill it very very well. Give me a goal and I will make it happen. I am gifted in that. Take away all my roles and leave me with nothing to cling to…I freak out. I realized I didn’t know how to relate to God without ‘doing’ something for Him. I realized I didn’t know how to relate to people without introducing myself as my ‘role’. I didn’t know how to let God ‘know’ me, deep down. I didn’t want Him to, deep down held a lot of junk that I didn’t want to uncover. Deep down was a lot of confusion, hurt, anger, and every other feeling you could list, and it all seemed so much better if it was kept ‘down there’. That last post I wrote about letting Him ‘gut us out’..that’s been me, and is me, and will probably continue to be me for quite some time.

In this process of gutting out, it’s so much easier to grasp onto outside things. It’s so much easier to cling to a new role and get busy doing really great at being that person all the while avoiding the deeper work that He is wanting to do. We can do really good at many things for years and years and never stop to work on the one thing He is trying to get us to work on. This whole writing thing quickly became that for me.

Within weeks of publishing this site I was getting thousands of reads on my posts. I had writing gig offers from several online sites. I had people asking me to do guest posts and book reviews and all kinds of incredible things. All these are things I want to pursue, and I believe are signs of His grace and favor in my life. People dont just get handed these kind of opportunities. But I felt myself gravitating towards the ‘writer’ role. I had to stop and step away while I could still see clearly.

He was and is wanting to do a deeper work in me, and I could very easily take the writer thing and run with it for days and weeks and years, and keep myself busy and distracted and sharing good things..all the while neglecting what He is really speaking to me.

It’s very easy to follow the ten steps to a succesful blog list and do fairly well. It’s very easy to look at all the popular Christian bloggers and copy the style and tone and topics and fit right in. It’s easy to write what people want to hear. But those things arent me. I struggle with this. I struggle to not cling to a role, or a theological camp, or a social class, or a circle of people. I struggle to not say what everyone else says, and do what everyone else does. I struggle to stand on my own and hear what He is saying and to share just that. I struggle to just be me. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s vulnerable. And honestly? Sometimes I just want to fit. I just want to cover up everything and I want to blend in and belong. But I always find myself somewhere awkardly in the middle, and He has always worked most through me when I get real.

So this is real.

This is me.

I didn’t plan for my life to look anything like it does right now.

I go back and forth from doubting the decisions I’ve made in the past to feeling the best is yet to come.

I am broken, and restless, and confused and struggling to make it through most days lately without tears of frustration.

I am daily feeling the tension of pursuing safety and security and knowing that He has put in me a desire for things that require safety and security to be sacrificed.

I am afraid to dream and hope because I’m still wounded from the crushing of past dreams and hopes.

I don’t know what in the world He is doing in me but it is beautiful and painful and scary all at the same time.

I don’t know what is ahead, and I am struggling to hold out hope that there is purpose here.

I am on a journey that all of us are on, if we’re being honest.

 

He keeps reminding me of His promise to use me for great things, and His word that He’s not done with me yet. I don’t know what that means. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know how that will play out or if I’m just crazy and making things up in my head….I don’t know what you’re looking for, and I can’t promise you will like what I have to share here. But I can promise from here on out, it will be me and it will be real. I have a feeling that’s something you can relate to.

 

Jesus In A Tyvec Suit

Jan
14

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In 2008 there was a massive flood in Iowa. Hundreds of historic homes were ruined and hundreds of families were without a place to live. Me and four friends rented a car and drove the 19 hour trip up to spend a week working with Samaritans Purse disaster relief efforts. The main thing we did that week was gut houses- ripping out everything but the basic structure and then bleaching it to kill mold. We had to wear masks, gloves, tyvec suits and the whole spread to protect ourselves from the mold that had so quickly set in.

We learned that when a house floods, mold begins to infest. The woodwork, the floor, carpets, posessions…EVERYTHING has to be ripped out and thrown away except the basic structure and then even that has to be bleached. If even one bit of mold is left, then it will spread and eventually contaminate the whole thing again.

While working on our house that week, one of our project leaders was trying to convince the home owner that we had to take out the bathtub, the sink, and the toilet. The home owner wanted to keep them. They tried to explain to him that if he kept them he would be exposing not only himself but everyone else to mold every time they came to his house. They tried to explain that even though you couldn’t see it, there was mold residing in these things and slowly, over time, the mold would spread and infest the rest of the house again.

I will never forget this quote…

“Mold isn’t content to just live under the toilet, mold isn’t content until it has infected your lungs, and then it begins to choke you.”

 

Picture Jesus…all geared up in a Tyvec suit…respirator mask on…heavy duty gloves…rubber boots…ready to come in and gut us out, purify our moldy inner lives. Some call this process sanctification but the visual of gutting out a moldy house just hits me so much harder. Think about it. He comes in and pulls out the carpet…we let him hammer out the sheet rock walls. He’s shovelling up piles of dust and gravel. He pulls up the floors and scoops out bucket after bucket of bacteria infested mud…things are shaping up, we’ve come a long way, but when it comes to the toilet we tell him he can’t have it, we tell him we want to keep it.
Grasp the analogy?

Mold isn’t content to just stay in one little corner, and sin isn’t either.

We may be a Christian, we may have been purified by the blood of Jesus, but this process of gutting out, this process of sanctification, is a continual process of Him moving in just a little bit deeper and getting rid of some more junk.

Just when we think we’re good and everything is spiffy and nice, Jesus calls to our attention that we’re hanging on to the toilet.

You see, we can surrender almost everything and obey for the first one hundred times He tells us something, but if we don’t let Him get into all the little corners and clean us out- if we try to hold on to one little thing that He asks us to surrender-then the darkness in our hearts will begin to fester, and spread, and infect. Sin isn’t content until it has infected your whole heart, and then it slowly begins to choke you.

Maybe there are some things you are holding onto…some things that you just havent let Jesus clean up yet. Maybe it’s an outright sin, but maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a fear that you’ve been too scared to confront. Maybe it’s a very old wound that is just too painful to let Him touch so you keep it covered up in the dark. Maybe it’s an insecurity that you don’t trust Him to overcome. Maybe it’s a lie that you bought into years ago that has slowly infected the rest of your heart till you just can’t breath. Maybe it’s a relationship that has been broken for so long it’s just easier to cover it up- like putting a new shower curtain in a bathroom full of mold…We tend to think ‘Oh it’s just this one thing, it’s not affecting me that much.’ And He is repeatedly whispering to us- ‘let me at it, it’s got to go’. If we don’t let Him take it, it will slowly grip onto us and choke us to death.

Today is the day to let Him in and let Him do His thing. He’s standing there ready with bleach in hand…let go of that toilet…let go of that bathtub…let Him all the way in.

What ‘toilets’ are you hanging on to? Do they take the form of fear, hurt, sin, shame, insecurity?

If you need to talk or need encouragement you can message me at BeckWattier@gmail.com or text my cell at anytime 251-518-3021

So You’re Angry With God?

Jan
02

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This is one of those posts that I edged into very carefully. It’s easy to throw some good sounding words together that hold no real benefit. It’s even easier to attach words onto my own emotions and twist them around to seem super deep and spiritual. Coming out of my last post I really didn’t know what to write next. I feel pressure to guide you into what’s next…you know, you’re supposed to pray and the next day everything’s better, right? But life isn’t always like that, is it? Sometimes the dry seasons are very dry and very long. The expectation is to quickly pick yourself up and say ‘Oh yeah, I’m fine now, thanks’ but the reality is it takes time, a lot of time.

Many people responded to my last post and said they felt like I had written from inside their head. The most common thing people identified with? Feeling angry towards God. As believers we claim to serve a God who is sovereign and in control of all. We say that nothing that comes our way catches Him by surprise, and we say He has a purpose in every detail. It’s no surprise then that we would feel angry towards Him in some of the situations we find ourselves in. Sometimes life is just plain not fair. Sometimes it seems like we have gotten the short end of the stick for the tenth time in a row. As believers we are supposed to have this unwavering faith in God’s goodness-we all know the bible answers, and we’re supposed to sing praises as the ‘waters crash around us’. But I wonder how many of us internally are doubting, hurting, and angry, and not able to admit to it? The feedback from this last post has really shown me that it’s more of us than we would expect.

With all this in mind, I’ve been wrestling with what to write next. How real do I get? I don’t want to post one big journal entry full of emotions. At the same time I don’t want to hand you a bunch of fluffy feel good words that aren’t coming out of my heart. I’m still wrestling with some heavy stuff. But as I’ve been wrestling, He’s been leading. And as I learn, the words always come.

So, you’re angry with God?

Have you told Him?

No, really.

If He was sitting in front of you and you were looking Him in the eye like a real flesh and blood entity, what words would you use to express how you’re feeling?

Do it. Right now. Tell Him. Use a few profanities if you feel like it. Stand up. Pace the room. Raise your voice. Get it out. All of it.

I read this verse last night:

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him, yet I will argue my ways to His face.” (Job 13:15)

I’ve read this before, and I’ve said this before, but God is not afraid of our doubts. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make is feeling doubt, fear, or anger concerning God, and allowing those feelings to separate us from Him. It’s like we think we can only go to Him when we have something good to say (as if He doesn’t know our hearts and minds already). We feel like we should take some time away until we’ve cooled down or found our faith again or whatever it may be. Do we realize how silly this is? In my struggling with anger towards God, I seek counsel from friends..I go to people to talk about how I should be feeling about God, instead of just talking to God about how I’m feeling about God. Would this work in any other relationship? We’ve all had moments in our relationships where we have to say ‘I love you, but I’m angry right now, and this doesn’t make sense.’ Or, ‘This really hurt me and maybe there’s a miscommunication here but I’m confused.’ Why do we lose that honesty when it comes to talking with God? What if we started arguing our ways to His face?

I’m challenged with this. I’m learning as I talk out my anger towards God, with God, it is always a surface level anger that is tied to a deep-rooted fear or hurt. We tend to cover up fear and hurt with anger because fear and hurt make us look vulnerable and weak. Anger on the other hand makes us seem strong, like we’ve got it together, we know what should be and everybody better step out of the way. So instead of saying ‘God, they left me here and I feel like You’re going to leave too’, or ‘I have given up everything and I’m scared to death that You wont come through’, or ‘I am not strong enough to push through all of this’, or ‘I feel so alone here’, we just get angry.

He can handle our anger. I’ve found He is very quick to put me in my place, and eventually to comfort me in my hurt, fear, and confusion. That’s the thing about being in the presence of God- everything falls into perspective. It doesn’t matter if your situation is fair or not, you see God for who He really is, and you are filled with peace.

This is my favorite verse of all time, from my favorite prophet, Jeremiah:

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him, or speak anymore in His name’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

I relate to Jeremiah so much. Ever have days where you say ‘I’m done. I have tried to be faithful and I’m just done’?  It reminds me of a relationship between two lovers. You have that one person that can irritate you more than anyone else, and yet, when they walk into the room their beauty leaves you speechless. They could do absolutely anything to you and you may get angry but you will keep coming back because you have never encountered something that makes you feel the way they do.

In the seasons when I am so upset with Him, when it seems like He is just messing with me for fun, when I have begged and pleaded and He has not answered, when He hands me things I do not want to deal with, when I try to walk away…I always come back, because He has set a fire in my heart, and even when I want to, I cannot hold it in.

How could Job say though He slay me, I will trust in Him? How could Jeremiah not keep from speaking of His name even when he tried? How can I continue to seek a God who doesn’t stop hard circumstances even though He could? The thing is, even knowing that He allows my greatest pains, He is still the source of my greatest joy. In my anger I may turn away and seek out peace and comfort in other things, but nothing will ever satisfy like He has.

What Job knew, and what I am learning, is that once you have tasted of the love and faithfulness of Jehovah God, it doesn’t matter how hard things get, you will always come back.

 What Jeremiah learned, and what I am learning, is that you can try to keep your lips sealed with everything you have, but once you have encountered the living God, your body is going to burn with restlessness to testify to His name.

Nothing else compares.

So, you’re angry with God? Tell Him. You can try to walk away if you want, but it’s only a matter of time till you come back. Go ahead and dig deep into a discussion with Him about why. Call Him out if you think He’s done you wrong. I cannot promise you will find the exact answers you’re wanting, but I can promise at the end of it all you will find a reason to keep going.

Footprints In The Sand

Dec
27

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We’ve all seen or heard the ‘Footprints’ story, haven’t we? There is one pair of footprints along a stretch of beach, and to make the story short- the man asks God why He left him alone and God responds ‘those are my footprints, I’ve been carrying you.’

The moral of this story is supposed to be that when we feel most alone, that’s when God is most with us. He carries us through our rough times.

Most of us would agree with these statements on most days. I would confidently encourage you with these words on most days. But I can’t write about them like that today.

We say that even on the days when we can’t see God at work or feel His hands on us, they’re still there.

We say that even when it seems like our world is falling apart, He is still totally in control.

We say that every detail has to go through His hands first, so every detail must have a purpose in His plan.

We say we can find comfort in that.

Today I don’t.

Today I don’t see Him.
Today I don’t feel Him.
Today I don’t want to.
Today, the thought that all of my circumstances have passed through His hands and He didn’t stop one of them makes me very angry.
Today there is fear in my heart that I have trusted too much.
Today there is hurt. I simply do not understand. The one person who can bring me comfort seems to be the one allowing the pain.

I debated over these words for a long time because the bigger this platform of mine gets and the more people who have begun to tune in to my words, the more responsibility I feel to make sure my words are worth tuning in to. I don’t want to lead anyone into doubt. In fact, I hope that my words will help doubting people find answers. I’ve been thinking a lot on how to do that. I want to point people towards the truth. But can I be real? I don’t always know what the truth is. Can I be realer? Sometimes life gets me so down that I don’t even care to try to figure it out.

I’m not giving up, I’m not walking away, but things are not okay.

This life is still His to do whatever He wants with, but today I am struggling to feel love for Him.

More than my desire to help people find answers, is my desire to create a safe place for people to wrestle with their doubts. The answers always come, but the wrestling can be brutal.

I’ve been wrestling this week, and it’s been brutal. No one should wrestle alone.

I can’t point you anywhere today, because I’m stuck myself and I don’t know which way is up. But I can tell you you’re probably not alone, even though I myself am having a hard time feeling not alone. I can’t in good conscience share the high points and not share some of the lows. It’s way too easy to create an online presence that is everything I wish I was and not enough of real life. This is a part of my real life. Some days are full of fear and doubt. Some days I just don’t know.

Can you relate?

“Emmanuel”

Dec
20

Victoria’s Secret and the Proverbs 31 Woman

Dec
11

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Last night was the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. I don’t have to explain the controversy surrounding this event every year, or even go into detail about the strong points from different arguments. Most of us have heard all the same opinions debated over and over. 9.3 million viewers tuned into the show last year, and between the 18-49 age bracket, twice as many women were watching as men. (I wanted to post links to these stats but every article also contains numerous pictures of women in their underwear). I found this particularly interesting as many people paint Victoria’s Secret, and this annual fashion show in particular, as a sex-crazed parade out to capture young men’s attention. Obviously, there are plenty of guys giving it their attention, but in the big picture, it’s the ladies that are tuning in. Why?

We like it.

A lot could be said here about how our culture promotes a false sense of beauty, and how we market superficial values to young girls who end up having body image and self-worth issues. Again, we’ve all read those articles, we get it. Most of us know the false messages our culture promotes. We know the whole spill about fashion and photography…how pictures get edited and super models never get to eat, how it’s not real life and we shouldn’t judge ourselves by that standard. We can judge the guys for being attracted to those things, but at the end of the day, we are too (in a different way). We may not continually put ourselves down, or think less of ourselves when we wake up in the morning and do not look like a super model (hah), but we sure do feel better and think higher of ourselves on the days we look and feel great. It’s like ‘Yeah, that’s a stupid standard for beauty that no real people can reach…until I get a step or two closer to reaching it and then I’ll silently pat myself on the back.’ We may not openly strive for this high standard of exterior beauty, but we sure feel insecure in showing our true selves don’t we? In our Christian circles especially, girls will talk all day long about modesty and how true beauty lies inside, but we still have those situations that make us feel a little too ‘real’, the times we feel we need to give an excuse for why we look as ‘rough’ as we do. We say we don’t care about our outward appearance but have someone give you a compliment and your heart does this little leap of joy thing. We know what we’ve all agreed to be true- beauty has nothing to do with our outward appearance, but inside of us is still this notion that we are more valuable when we are closer to the standard that has been set.

In response to the airing of the fashion show last night, social media was full of posts saying things such as ‘I’d rather be a Proverbs 31 woman than a supermodel’ or ‘I’d rather marry a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret super model.’ (I’m writing a whole separate post on how the actions of Christian guys really shows what they really mean- they would rather marry a Victoria’s Secret super model that loves Jesus, hah). There are entire ministries around the notorious Proverbs 31 woman, encouraging ‘true’ womanhood…inner beauty, godly characteristics, a love for family and children, a servant’s heart. I did a quick podcast search on iTunes and there are a ton of sermons and messages on how to be the Proverbs 31 woman, how to not fall into the standard the world sets but to cling to what scripture says, and on and on and on.

I’m going to share some thoughts that you may be uneasy with, and I’m very open for discussion on any points that I may be wrong on. BUT- the “Proverbs 31 woman” isn’t a real woman, and the Proverbs 31 chapter wasn’t written to women.

If we look at the context of scripture, and honestly, if we just read the first line in this chapter, we see that this was ‘an oracle’ (a wise saying or answer) given to King Lemeul, ‘taught to him by his mother’. This was written by a woman (the Queen) to her son (a single, younger, guy). The first several verses are used to warn him against misuse of sex and alcohol. She urges him to care for the poor. THEN she starts listing qualities he should look for when choosing a wife. It’s almost like she’s saying, ‘Don’t mess around with these women that will lure you into doing what they want, spend time caring for the poor and spend time with women who do these kind of things.’ It is also an acrostic, meaning each new line is started with a succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Acrostics were used as an easy way to teach things because they were easier to memorize. Almost like an extended nursery rhyme, or the ABC song-put a little tune behind an acrostic and you’ve got a lengthy concept in an easy to recall form. Some modern writers have suggested that this particular acrostic may have been memorized by men and recited to praise women who were worthy of honor. Somehow, somewhere down the line, we took these words that were meant to direct single guys away from dangerous women and made them a standard for good-hearted women to work towards. Somehow we took this piece of literary praise meant to celebrate honorable women, and turned it into a list that women in the church need to reach in order to be honorable.

What gets me the most is this- We are so quick to call out the world’s standard of beauty as giving us a false sense of reality but in its place, we in the church suggest an equally unreal standard. We say ‘A person’s self-worth cannot be measured by ___________, now let’s look at scripture and see a list of things we can look at to measure our self worth!’ We don’t say it like that of course, but that’s the underlying feeling. Just as we don’t outright hate ourselves for waking up a little less than super-modelish but love our selves a little more when we look extra good, we don’t hate ourselves for not succeeding in all the characteristics of the perfect Christian woman, but we sure take a little pride when we seem to be getting most of the list down. It’s the same concept-“Of course I’m not perfect, of course my value is found solely in Christ, but if I can just work a little harder and do a little better at this list of things I’ll feel better.” When we say “I’d rather be a Proverbs 31 woman than a super model”, what we’re in essence saying is “I may not be physically perfect, but I can be spiritually perfect and that’s better anyway.” Both miss the point. 

Here is what the Victoria’s Secret super model and the Proverbs 31 woman have in common- they both need Jesus. You can excel in physical ‘beauty’, you can excel in inner ‘beauty’, both are worthless without being found in Christ. You can nail the physical beauty steps list, and you can nail the spiritually healthy activities list, both will stand as filthy rags according to scripture. Our standing in Christ does not depend on anything except for the work that Christ did on our behalf. We say this, we know this, but there is still this underlying feeling that we can achieve better or do better or somehow earn favor or disapproval based on how we’re measuring up. We’re so prone to the comparison game, whether physically or spiritually. We judge ourselves based on the people who we’re surrounded by, and we judge ourselves by these false standards that we are bombarded with all the time.

What if we start reminding ourselves that we are loved and cherished because we are created in the image of our Creator and we have been ransomed and redeemed? What if instead of substituting one list that we deem as ‘worldly’ with another list we deem as ‘spiritual’, we pull away from the lists altogether and get back to locking eyes with our Savior. What if we stop telling the world that they are following the wrong list and instead point them towards life and community where there are no lists because our King has set us free. As women of the church, we are a part of a Kingdom where we are free. We are warriors with our brothers and sisters in this great task of declaring the Kingdom of God. How can we focus on the task at hand if we’re looking around comparing armor and weaponry? We need to drop the masks and stop the comparisons- the ones inside of the church. We need to stop holding each other (and ourselves) to a list and a standard that is anything other than love for Christ. We need to take our eyes off of each other, we need to help each other take our eyes off of ourselves, and we need to gaze on our King.

The Lamb We Couldn’t Afford

Dec
06

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A few years back I had the opportunity to write a ladies bible study for my church. We took three to four weeks and studied the lives of different women in scripture. One of these was Anna, found in Luke chapter two. While studying to write on Anna’s story, I came across a small detail in the story of Christ that I hadn’t seen before. After researching a little further, I was (and still am) deeply moved and humbled.

Luke 2:22-24  (This is after the birth of Christ and Mary and Joseph are going to present him at the temple.) “And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.'”

Growing up, I heard this story of Joseph and Mary bringing Jesus to the temple many times. It was always kind of tacked on to the end of the birth story and then you kept going further on to the life of Christ. I assumed they simply wanted to go show off their new baby at church and have him prayed over. You know- like the baby dedication services we have these days. But there was a lot more going on here.They were going to honor the covenant that God had made with their people by dedicating their first-born to the Lord, as well as bringing a sacrifice for Mary so she could be atoned for and once again considered clean and righteous.

Stick with me through some little details:

In Exodus 13:1-2 God gives a command concerning the first-borns of the nation of Israel, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.'”

In Leviticus 12, we are given the Old Testament law pertaining to purification of a woman after childbirth. After a woman gave birth she was considered unclean for a certain amount of days depending on if the child was male or female. At the end of that set amount of days, the woman had to bring a sacrifice to the temple and the priest would offer it on her behalf, to atone for her uncleanness and make her clean again. In verse six we are given more details about this, “And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her.” Keep reading through verse 8 and we find,  “And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.” (Keep all this in mind as we keep trekking forward.)

In the passage in Luke we are told that they came “according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”. Putting this information alongside the passage from Leviticus, we can conclude that they must not have been able to afford a lamb.

Don’t miss this. Mary could not afford a lamb for her atonement, so she brought two turtledoves or two pigeons as an offering instead.

Mary could not afford a lamb to offer as payment so she could be considered clean and pure in God’s sight….yet in her arms was the lamb of God, who would eventually offer himself as payment for not only her sins, but the sins of all God’s people. Christ entered into this system where people tried their best to atone for their sins, their uncleanness, but would never succeed. In this world where his own mother was required to make a sacrifice that she could not pay, he didn’t do away with the law, but he fulfilled it, and in doing so made the final payment for all people to be made right with God.

With all of our religious systems and all of the ways we have structured to ‘be right with God’, we will never be able to afford the proper sacrifice. Being good people, loving, forgiving, reading our bibles, going to church, prayer, missions, even sacrificing our own lives….Nothing we can do or say will be enough to atone for our sins. But the great news is, just like Mary, we don’t have to afford a lamb. Our lamb has been provided, and his sacrifice was enough for all of us. Our hope is in his righteousness-that we get to partake in his right standing with God.

These thoughts are heavy on my mind as we enter into this time of year. This is Christmas. God made man. Emmanuel-God with us. The lamb that came to be slain. The lamb we couldn’t afford.

I Don’t Know, But I Know I Need You

Dec
04

TMertonStudyThomas Merton (1915-1968) has become widely recognized as an important 20th century thinker.

He was a Catholic priest, a mystic, a poet, heavily involved in social activism, and a Trapist Monk. He authored over seventy books before his death and wrote on spirituality, social justice, peace, and the practices of prayer and solitude. I hope to post in the future with more details of his life and the things I have gleaned from him. His thoughts and words have influenced me greatly, because of that, I wanted to share this prayer he journaled. It has brought me great peace when I have found myself doubting and has (on more than one occasion) given me the words I needed to say what I didn’t know how to express.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But, I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadows of death. I will not fear. For you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

I think we often wait until we have the perfect words to approach God with our problems, thoughts, and feelings. We almost want to have it figured out and have a plan in place, eventually presenting it to God as an update to what we are doing with our life instead of a seeking after His guidance. I think it is okay, and even beneficial, to go to God and simply say ‘I don’t know, but I know I need you.’

He is always waiting and faithful to hear.

Here’s To You

Nov
29

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Here’s to you. You know who you are. God has shown you a glimpse of what is to come, and He has asked you to trust Him and step out to a scary place. Maybe He has given you direction, maybe He has asked you to wait when you want to move, maybe you’ve walked a ways with Him and now it seems He has stepped away.

Here’s to you. You’re the one holding on to a promise He gave you long ago. The one refusing to give in to the doubt. The one still believing even when the odds seem unbelievable.

Here’s to you. You’re the one that has more inside your heart than you can share with anyone around you. They just wont understand. You sometimes feel something must be wrong with you, you sometimes wish you didn’t think the way you did.

Here’s to you. You’re the one that’s been praying for that one thing for what seems like forever. Sometimes you wonder why you care. Sometimes you want to throw your hands up and walk away.

Here’s to you. You’re the one pouring everything you have into what you believe in even though you aren’t guaranteed any results.

Here’s to you.  He has called you further, He is calling you deeper, the burden that you carry is changing more than you know. Beauty comes from the struggle. Our tears often fertilize the soil that we have been planting seeds in. You are a fighter, and this fight is worth it. Don’t you dare quit now.