The spiritual one-two punch

And there it was, the under-utilized secret weapon we often overlook. 

Sometimes, I think, we forget that or spiritual journey is an all-out war. There is a battle raging, not just on Sunday mornings when we’re trying to get the kids in the car (the struggle is real!), but all the time. The war is never called-off, there’s no cease-fire, and battles don’t pause when we’re on vacation. Certainly, there are times of respite and times where the intensity increases, but for the most part, we’re always fighting.

But we forget. We intercede in emergencies, we plead and pray when our plans fall through and cry out when crisis hits, but most of the time we just bob along down the river, floating and forgetting that arrows are whizzing past our ears and territory is being won (or lost) often without us even knowing.

I have been reminded, afresh, of this battle. Surprised in fact. In a very real way, this past year, I realized that Jesus was not just using dramatic metaphoric language when he said the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

Jesus was being completely literal. 

I realized this year that Satan wants to steal the promises of God, specifically by killing our future children, and destroying our family. And it’s not that we’re special — the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy you too.

I’m sorry to start the week off with such bad news.

But. There is good news!

I’ve always known that faith is key to seeing the supernatural work of God. For the past four years I have camped out on the importance of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, see God, know God. Jesus often says, let it be according to your faith. To the extent that we believe, that’s the extent we will see God move. Our faith is more precious than gold. It’s all about faith.

At the beginning of the year, when I sensed God saying this was the Year of Promise, I wrote the following verse in the front of my prayer journal:

“And blessed is she who BELIEVED that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45

Below it a ways I wrote:

“Oh woman! Great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” Matt. 15:28

Faith is key.

But it’s only half the story. Faith is half of the spiritual one-two punch that deals a death blow to the devil. Faith is important, but it wasn’t until last week, re-reading about Abraham, that I noticed the other half, the part that’s often over-looked and hardly ever touted for its importance.

Patience.

Hebrews 6:15 tells us,

“Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.”

The promise of God didn’t just fall into Abraham’s lap. He obtained it. That tells me there was a struggle, and I’m quite sure the enemy did NOT want Isaac to happen, he did not want the holy seed to continue and eventually bring forth the Messiah. 

But Abraham believed. And not only did he have faith, he employed the spiritual one-two punch, the combo of faith and patience.

Earlier in Hebrews we read the same thing:

“And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness and to have the full assurance of hope, until the end, so that you may be not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through FAITH & PATIENCE inherit the promises.” Heb. 6:11-12

See it? How did all the great men and women of old, the heroes in the Hall of Faith, how did they obtain the promise, how did they gain victory in the spiritual realm and get to see God’s good word come to fruition their lives.

The spiritual one-two punch: faith & patience. 

See, sometimes we see faith as a quantity–like a certain-sized stick of dynamite, and the bigger it is, the bigger the big boom will be, meaning the result will be sudden and spectacular.

But what is faith is a quantity, not like a stick of dynamite but like a tank of gas? What if the size of our faith isn’t meant to make a big boom, but to take us the distance

The question, then, isn’t How big will your faith-bomb be? But rather, How far will your faith take you?

How long will it last? Will it take you the 25 years that Abraham’s took him, from the time God gave the promise to when it was fulfilled? Will it take you all the way? 

I’m now less concerned with how much time has passed. I’m not stressed out about how long it takes, or how many winds or turns or bumps are in the road. I’m trusting God that He will supply the faith to go the whole way.

Let’s calmly and quiet deal a death-blow to the enemy by simply employing our spiritual one-two punch: faith & patience. 

Amen? Thanks for reading. 

So that we may comfort

I hesitate to write more about grief, only because I don’t mean to belabor things or draw attention to myself, but I keep feeling like God wants me to be transparent about my experiences, so I will.

So often we think that our ministry, our service to others, flows out of our strong places, our joyful places, the places where we feel confident, secure, whole. But recently, I’m realizing how much of ministry flows out of our weakness, brokenness, the places where we haven’t arrived or been made completely whole. So I wanted to share just a few more things God has been ministering to me this past week.

~

In January, I was unpacking a box of things that had been overlooked during our move. As I pulled out items, I found this card (above). I’d never seen it before, and the inside was blank. I was struck by the picture, and felt so clearly, sharply, that somehow this was a picture of my year, the year ahead.

I didn’t like that picture. All I saw in it was pain. Besides, God had also given me the phrase YEAR OF PROMISE for 2017, so it didn’t make sense.

Was this a year of promise or a year of pain?

Yes.

As the year has gone on, I see why he showed me that picture, but now I see it differently.

Now, when I look at this picture, I don’t see pain, I see comfort.

He’s holding me. He’s holding you. And 2 Cor. 1 tells us:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Jesus promised us that in this world we would have tribulation, BUT, in our tribulation we will experience the comfort of God, the Father of all mercies, so that we may comfort others. Every ounce of comfort that we receive from God is meant to be poured out on behalf of others who are aching as well.

~

As some of you saw on IG, last Thursday I had an experience where all the waves of grief seemed to come at once. Grief is weird like that. It lurks there under the surface, and you’re totally fine, skipping along, and then some small thing triggers and it rises up, overwhelms, swallows you whole.

That happened when my kids’ beloved cat, Max, went missing and we slowly realized he was gone. My kids were completely devastated, and I think just all the cumulative sadness came on all at once, triggered by the disappearance of Max. In just over a year we lost three family members, three pets, and two unborn babies, and I think it just all added up for my kiddos. So of course, my mama heart broke for them. 

Then that morning a memory-photo popped up on my FB feed, photos of my mom. I won’t go into it, but the timeframe and the memories, and all that they represented, and all that is and all that isn’t, and all I’ve hoped and prayed and fasted for and all that sorrow and grief surrounding my mama, it all just rose up like an ocean wave and dashed us all on the rocks. All of it. The news headlines, the sorrow of this world, the division, the pain, the brokenness, plus issues of my own sin and brokenness that I am working through, all of it just rose like a flood and seemed to swallow us whole.

But then.

I took Heidi to a friend’s house, as she already had plans to play for the day, and I decided to let Dutch have his first ever time staying home alone. He was happy to have time to himself, and I was too, so after dropping Heidi off, I had an afternoon alone, free. Normally, when I’m feeling my usual energetic, productive self, I would have run errands or studied for a retreat or accomplished as much as possible. But all I could do was sing worship songs at the top of my lungs and sob, wracked, heaving sobs. I texted Jeff to see if I could come see him at work, and good man that he is, he dropped everything to sit in my car with me and hold me while I cried.

After I finished crying, I considered what to do next. I could go straight home, but I was in no hurry. Very clearly I had the thought that I should go visit my old neighbor, who I haven’t seen in 18 months, and give her a copy of Sacred Mundane. She’s a dear woman who has gone through many hard things, and I just had a feeling it might bless her if I went there while I myself was a bit broken. Sometimes letting people see you weak is a gift you can give them. Plus, I’m never in town alone, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity.

We had a great visit, and while I was there, I remembered another neighbor, who I’ve only talked to a few times, but whose husband died suddenly, tragically, this year. She’s now raising her five kids on her own, and I cannot imagine the sorrow and pain she’s experiencing. I wrote her a note, sharing some of the encouragement and comfort that had been shared with me from dear church family members, and left her a copy of my book. It felt good to take my own tears and turn them into words of hope for someone else.

But I was amazed when, an hour later, she texted me that it just happened that that day, that very day, was her daughter’s 16th birthday and her husband’s birthday (who had just passed away).

This was the first birthday since he passed away.

I had no idea.

I sat there in awe, how God took the comfort which he had given me, and passed it on to her, who was walking through something immeasurably more painful. I had been ministered to by dear ones from church who had also walked through pain, and the comfort was being passed on, and on, and on, and on.

Just like His Word says.

The greatest comfort to me, through all this, was that He loved me enough to use me as part of His loving plan. Despite my failures, shortcomings, weaknesses, He was still letting me be part of His grand scheme of redemption, of comforting a hurting world. He was still leading me, guiding me, loving me. And I knew that I had been able to pass on the comfort I’d received.

Now, someone else knew that they were held in the hands of God, just like me. 

Nothing’s wasted.

{If you are walking through some sort of grief, perhaps there is a way you can pass on the comfort you have received from the Father of all mercies. I pray you find the joy of passing on that good comfort and being part of the healing of this world He loves. Thanks so much for reading…}

Beating blind men

I recently saw a FB post by an outspoken Christian leader. It was politically charged, oozing contempt for those of a different political party than his own. It was meant to be funny, but it revealed a lot about his attitude toward those different from him.

I recognized myself in it. My own tendency toward “righteous anger” against those whose shortcomings I find most personally distasteful. Sure, there are the Ten Commandments, but what really rubs me wrong is when others break the Kari Commandments.

Right?!

Our response to injustice speaks volumes. It is so easy to despise certain sinners while swaggering in our own savedness. 

My friend Jess describes it like this: It’s as if we think it’s “Jesus and me” over here on one side of the line, and our job is to critique the rest of humanity. Ha!

The truth is, only Jesus is on the one side. The side marked PERFECT

The rest of us — all of us — are plopped down in the group marked LOST

The group marked BLIND.

AND, marked MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. 

Yes? Truth, yes?

Thankfully, despite us, some of us have been saved by His grace. Rescued from the burning house where we were sleeping, completely unaware of the danger. 

But sometimes we forget. We think that just because we’ve been dragged out of the burning house, that somehow we deserve the medal of honor. We despise those still lying unconscious in other burning homes, standing with our hands on our hips, full of “righteous anger.”

There is only One who deserves the medal, the One who dragged us out of the house. And our job now is to earnestly pray that this Great Savior would reveal Himself to others.

To the Left and the Right.

To Democrats.

To Republicans.

To our Presidential Cabinet.

To gays and trans and straights who are sleeping with someone else’s wife.

To abortion providers.

To those addicted to meth and those addicted to shopping.

To black and white, rich and poor.

To every tribe and tongue and nation, to every people group on every square inch of this globe.

And even to the smug self-righteous dude on FB who totally rubs me the wrong way.

Right?!

There are atrocities being committed, to be sure. We cannot cover up indifference by calling it love. We should be grieved, deeply grieved.

But I believe we should fast more than we Facebook. We should weep more than we whip out one-liners. We should PRAY more than we post and I was convicted of that myself. I actually wrote this several days ago but sensed God wanted me to PRAY more over these issues before I SAY more about these issues. 

America, WE MUST PRAY. WE MUST LOVE. WE MUST REPENT. 

At church on Sunday Jeff shared this from John Newton, the slave-holder turned hymn-writer, the one who penned Amazing Grace:

A company of travelers fall into a pit: one of them gets a passenger to draw him out. Now he should not be angry with the rest for falling in; nor because they are not out yet, as he is. He did not pull himself out; instead, therefore, of reproaching them, he should show them pity …

A man, truly illuminated, will no more despise others, than Bartimaeus, after his own eyes were opened, would take a stick, and beat every blind man he met.

Why are we beating the blind?

Why are we not broken, pleading with the God of heaven for mercy, imploring Him to open eyes and save lost souls and set free those confused by the diabolical agenda of the devil.

I know many of you are. But these words are for me first and foremost. Writing to my own soul here, and letting you listen in, just in case this resonates just a tad with you as well. Thanks for listening. Let’s pray and act in meaningful ways that foster reconciliation, not further division. 

Thanks for reading.