A Man Brought Me Psalm 126

I’ve got debt. It mostly represents a buildup of sin from my past – most from before I was even a believer. Before I became a Christian, I tried to save so many people because if I didn’t, who would? So I sunk money, time and resources into people (out of a distorted understanding of what love is) in ways that’s often ended up costing them and me more than either of us could afford financially, but also emotionally and spiritually. Then I became a Christian, but there weren’t major changes to how I viewed money until the last couple months.

I feel like God has been showing me how I had recognized my inability to “work” my way into righteousness in so many other areas of my life, and gratefully accepted His grace. In those areas, I’ve seen God work crazy miracles, redeeming parts of my life I thought were goners. But when it came to finances, I was trying to do it without Him. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but it was the one area in my life where I felt I couldn’t receive grace, because if He helped me financially, I felt like it would be taking resources from someone far more deserving than me.

I had failed to see I was viewing God through the lens of how money in our world works, not how Gods grace works! I DIDN’T “deserve” any of the grace I’d received thus far – why would this area of my life be any different? But I hadn’t been acting that way, I hadn’t surrendered this area of my life and heart to Him and so He couldn’t redeem it, it was not yet time to make that part of my life His testimony, because if He had I wouldn’t have recognized it. I wouldn’t have been able to give Him the glory. And so we’ve spent these years with Him giving my unrepentant heart just enough to get by.

So anyways, I’m working through all of this internally with God and feeling like God is saying that HE is the one who will do this work. I was reminded of the seven year cycle in the Bible in which debts are forgiven, and that my seventh year with God begins this December. I am feeling overwhelmed by this revelation and fearful to write it somewhere, let alone speak it…

So I go to a work meeting with a man at Panera with all this on my heart. As he opens the meeting, he decides to read me a psalm he felt was for me, in this season. Needless to say, I cried:

Psalm 126 NIV

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed.

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.

Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the Negev.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

I Sang a Song

You are my rock and my salvation;

To you I’ll always cling.

I am not invisible or unknown

But hidden in the shadow of Your wings.

You set a table for us

Before all our enemies

and when I cry out to You, Lord,

You always answer me!

My rock and salvation.

You always answer me.

You always answer me.

You say to me, “Seek my face.”

Oh Lord, Your face I seek!

You bring me Peace and Hope;

Only Your praise will I sing.

You are my rock.

I’ll cling to You.

You are my salvation.

All You speak is Truth.

And You always answer me.

You hear my cries.

You always answer.

My rock and salvation.

What is my Responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?

This is a question I ask myself often. What does active faith look like in this particular time and place? Justice has always mattered to me, but my understanding of it has changed substantially over time. Growing up, my biggest hero’s were Harriet Tubman and Robin Hood. My fairly simplistic (and flawed) moral code could be summed up thusly: those with power should leverage it for the benefit of those with little or no power.

Around age 13 or so I stopped believing God. To understand my world better, I began studying atrocities. The Holocaust, the Irish Potato Famine, the North Atlantic Slave Trade, the Trail of Tears, the Rape of Nanking… these events led me to two conclusions:

1. Atrocities supported my hypothesis that God is not real

2. These terrible capabilities sit in the hearts of nearly all people

It provoked me to ask myself: Do I possess the courage required to fight evil at any cost?

The desire in my heart for justice and to be on the side of the righteous did not die with my faith, but it got twisted. In attempting to set my own standards much of my moral compass became compromised. What didn’t change was my belief that racism and oppression are evil. But make no mistake: I’ve said things and behaved in ways that are unquestionably prejudiced or biased. My heightened awareness of mankind’s history of racism, oppression, abuse and prejudice didn’t alter the fact that my entire life is one of default power and privilege.

I grew up in a world of systemic racism which both benefited me greatly and kept its sins largely invisible from me. Right now, I think of my growing awareness on this issue along the same lines as I do sanctification: it is an ongoing process in life rather than a place one arrives. Undoubtedly, some of the very things I write at this moment will embarrass me when I look back on them in the future, but I must have the humility to make imperfect progress. Unfortunately, I can’t get “there” without being “here.” So I must humbly ask for grace I don’t deserve.

The topic of race and justice in the USA has only risen in importance to me during the process of transitioning from an atheist to a Christ-follower and reading what the Bible says about how His people should treat and love others. I also find myself embarrassed that those who continue to pay the highest price in a society designed for me find themselves in the position of explaining and revealing to me how it benefits me and costs them.

I struggle with the number of indifferent white Christians in the USA who point at “progress” and council “patience” to people who have spent generations being oppressed, marginalized, silenced, beaten, killed and shackled by (predominantly) WHITE Christians. I have heard with my own ears the argument by white Christians about how they didn’t have slaves, or support Jim Crow laws, etc. It’s not their sin, after all.

I think of Jesus, who we believe took OUR sin and laid it on himself. Then he looked to the people who called themselves His followers and asked them to do the same thing.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 ESV)

I don’t believe that any white person in America can really say they aren’t tainted by the sin of racism. We have benefited from privilege at the cost of the marginalized and that feels out of alignment with Luke 9:23 (and the rest of the Bible). I struggle to believe that we won’t have to answer for our complicity-I don’t believe God will accept the excuse that we were insulated or unaware. How can we be for the things God is for and calls us to (both in the New Testament and the Old) in the US right now without seeing and knowing?

I don’t know if there’s a “right” answer to the question, “What’s my responsibility as a White Christian in the USA?” But I do know I will keep asking the question, seeking God’s answer, and attempting to align myself in thought, word and action to His Will. I work to make a difference and to be an ally. I pay attention to my words and actions as I seek to grow more aware of my privilege and the presumptions inherent in belonging to the dominant culture. And I remember that even in this place, I have a privilege many in my community do not. I have the privilege of choice. At any point, I can opt out of being an ally. I can say I am weary and need a break. If the road gets hard, I always have the option of retreating into a culture of whiteness and choosing not to stand or speak in difficult places. It is not a privilege I want to exercise but it is a choice I get to have. And as a white Christian in the USA, I believe God cares deeply about what I choose and why.

Sometimes, I Forget

From December 6th, 2016

 

Sometimes I forget, God.

I forget that You come close when we find ourselves sinking.

I forget You loved me when I was darkest.

I forget that You love us so much, you sent your Son and the Advocate to help us.

I forget You are the God who humbled Egypt for your people.

I forget You are a God who gives children to the barren.

I forget You spilt your blood for us.

I forget You gave us rulers because WE insisted.

I forget all the ways You have been faithful to a faithless people.

I would rather be anywhere with You than in paradise without you. You are my paradise.

Two Questions

“Who is this guy?”

”Do I trust him?”

These two questions sat at the heart of our service today. They were talking about God and Scripture. Discovering who “this guy” is through the Word and asking us where we have stepped out in faith. Where we have trusted Him. To illustrate this, the woman speaking shared a story from her own life when she found herself trusting in a group of strangers.

And as she spoke I felt conviction about this lie that I’ve treated as truth for so long, I didn’t notice how it had entangled me. This lie that said I can’t be trusted.

It is rather unfortunate that I’ve been through some pretty dark seasons. Seasons that most often involved me looking at a boy or man and believing I knew him and I could trust him. And then being proven very wrong. Although I have forgiven them and found healing around those things, today I realized I hadn’t forgiven myself. After discovering over and over how wrong I was about so many people, I started to believe I could not be trusted with my own well-being. That if someone wanted a relationship with me (dating, friendship, etc) it was because they were deeply broken. And if I was attracted to someone, it was a sure sign to run. Literally. All sirens went off internally and I would flee.

Ultimately though, this story isn’t a story about me, but about God and God’s desire to redeem, restore and reconcile. A God of Truth certainly cannot abide this lie I have been somewhat unknowingly agreeing with.

When I began to seek God, one of the first things I discovered (and one of my favorite attributes) about God is how available God is to me. God gives me complete and total freedom to explore who God is, to know God’s past and future. To seek God not because God isn’t already here, but because the breadth and depth of God is so vast that I am able to become totally “lost” with God.

God and I have been through some good times and bad, but the characteristics of god I read in the Bible are present in our relationship today. I am confident I can trust God.

But I couldn’t trust me. I couldn’t trust the people around me. I couldn’t take that risk because I thought my judgment was impaired. It wasn’t. The problem was that I had tried to discern through my own humanness, my brokenness, my wounds rather than through the Spirit that God gives me and the wisdom God blesses me with both through our relationship and the Word.

So I repent. I repent of believing that God could not equip or protect me, of not trusting that God would continue to shepherd me. And I bless this space, that I would move forward confident in that I am covered in the armor of the Lord, who is my stronghold and my rock in difficult times. I pray that the rest of my story would be a testimony to the kind of Love God extends to each of us. I pray that I would be able to step with the confidence of one who is led by the King of Kings. Amen.

Lullaby

Oh, my sweet one

I shall sing a song over you

A song of thanks

For you are a promise delivered.

 

I call out to my God and say,

I hear You and trust in Your promise

for You are a living God

who works miracles far beyond me.

 

I sing a song of Love,

I sing Your praise all my days,

I sing blessings over you from above,

My little act of my God’s grace.

My Love

My love is deep and beautifully reckless when it moves. It is a force against which nothing can stand.

It is a love that does not ask about conditions, but assumes the eternal.

A love that deepens not in spite of your flaws but because of them; that delights in your humanness and celebrates your growth. A love that sits with you in the struggle.

Those who know love the least draw the closest to Mine. They proclaim the impossibility of such a love as this, all while dwelling in its midst.

This is not a passive love; it is a love that transforms. It moves broken hearts to wholeness; it plants seeds of compassion in a barren field of apathy.

The sweetest of fruits are yielded from my Love.

Reflection on Helen Keller (from October 19th)

I believe that life is given us so we may grow in love, and I believe that God is in me as the sun is in the color and fragrance of a flower-the Light in my darkness, the Voice in my silence. -Helen Keller –

Abba, there are times when I grow weary

Of seeking to understand and feeling misunderstood

Of loving without being loved

Of knowing without being known.

But I push ever forward God

Because I know of no other response

That would honor your love, your mercy,

When I am fully known only by you.

Help me, Abba, help me.

I don’t know for what I plea

But you do, and so I ask

Help me, Abba, show me.

I am but a child, wholly ignorant,

I give you my heart, my life

To do with as you wish

For nothing and no one is so good as you.

Reflections from a Waterfall

From August 18th, 2017

Look, see how calm and still the waters are? Yet right on the other side of that is a rushing waterfall. God, what is the significance of that?

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate (solitary) place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35

Abba, what do you have to say to me?

Peace, like a palm pressed firmly against your chest.

Every creation, every life, is Mine, created by Me, with intention. Have I put any less thought into you, child of Mine? Trust me. Trust in my timing. For different works require different efforts. How long must water flow to cut paths through the earth and shape the land? How patient must the seed of a tree be to reach maturity? Is it any different with you? And how much more am I invested in the work I do in you than the water or the tree? Be confident in My love for you. 

Dating Part II

I am beyond thankful for the responses I received to my recent blog on (Christian) Dating (link to read). I wanted to do a follow-up to address some of the items that came up in discussions, calls and texts. I also wanted to thank the men who reached out about introducing me to some good Christian guys. I love it, I’m thankful for it, and I hope this kind of networking continues not just for myself but for the many wonderful single ladies I know. Let your matchmaker self free, friends.

First, I get that it might have sounded personal when I listed “How awesome I was,” and perhaps even that, “I was upset with my own singleness.” I’m actually the happiest I’ve ever been. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to a relationship, but I don’t feel this great emptiness or anything. I was merely using myself to illustrate a point: I’m pretty cool in some ways, and not a single Christian guy has ever asked me out. And this is the same story of friends much more beautiful and amazing than me. I didn’t have approval to share their stories, so I shared mine. Part of that is sharing that sometimes, even when we’re in a good place, we can feel discouraged and ask ourselves if the criteria we are using in dating is right (for example, Christian).

That being said, I have been on a long journey to understand what kind of guy I should keep my eye out for, and I have taken many other women on similar journeys. I got a whole lot of “Amens,” and “I’m glad someone finally said something,” from so many ladies regarding the lack of boldness from men, but I want the gentlemen to know that I recognize that this is a two-way street.

To be blunt, there’s a whole lot of ladies that discount a man long before they ever make it to a date. There’s something to be said about being equally yoked, but there are some I know that seem to think the man should BE Jesus (but taller, and obviously financially sound, with a good career but, you know, has work/life balance, takes care of himself, loves kids and God…).

Here’s the list of things I OFTEN hear from women (before we spend weeks or months on the list):

Their MUSTS

Financially stable

Taller than me in heels

Takes care of himself

Likes to Travel

Plays ___________

Loves God

Loves kids

Good career

Owns a car/house

Good teeth

Nice Eyes

Full Head of Hair

Healthy

Intelligent

Charismatic

Thoughtful

Handy-able to fix things

Funny

Affectionate

Pursues me

Close to his family

No kids

Not divorced

Dresses well

Likes to dance

Plays an instrument

Active in the church?

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God

Has male friendships (some Christian)

Kind/Compassionate

Sense of humor

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp)

A Little Adventurous

Ready to be in a serious relationship

Depth of Conversation

Enjoys community

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards

Substantially shorter, but no physical attributes. Why? Time to be a little bit uncomfortable but say something I think is necessary. I’ve dated a lot of very different types of guys, and (before I became Christian) I was intimate with some of them. One thing I learned is this: if you’re both motivated to have good sex, you have good sex. And it keeps getting better. This might SOUND crass, but my point is that sex with almost anyone can be good, and if you’re having good sex, you become more and more attracted to the person. So I’m not as concerned about the physical embodiment of the guy… hair color (or lack of hair), height, size, etc. Also, I become more attracted to a person based on their brains and personality (or if they are fixing a car or doing plumbing… weirdly attractive). This is a startling idea to some people but it’s true. So, let’s consider my list again:

My list of MUSTS (currently)

Has a growing relationship with God The trajectory of a man, where he’s been and where he’s going, are far more important to me than mistakes from his past or where he is presently.

Has male friendships (some Christian) I’ve dated guys who have no guy friends, or no friends at all. It’s very telling of their ability to maintain relationships. And guys need guys; I can’t be your everything. You need a community of brothers to do life with too.

Kind/Compassionate I’ve dated cruel and/or apathetic men. Although I’ve healed from it, it’s a vulnerability for me. I need to see that he will consider me in his decision making and behavior. This is a fruit of the Spirit I need to see manifested in his character.

Sense of humor Sex is great and a gift from God, and I hope to have a lot of it in my marriage, but there’s a lot of time we will need to spend together NOT having sex. And I want it to be filled with laughter. It’s so important to me and it’s such a great place of closeness and joy.

Active (nothing major; can hike/camp) I want us to be active together, and model an active lifestyle for whatever family we have.

A Little Adventurous I don’t need a rock climber or skydiver, but I also don’t want to have to pull teeth to try new things, and I want someone who will continue to push me to try new things too.

Ready to be in a serious relationship Because I’m not 22 anymore.

Depth of Conversation Its actually just super sexy to me. A guy who can hold a convo about something meaningful? 😍 Work on a motorcycle at the same time and you’ll have my heart forever.

Enjoys Community Likes people and understands I need more people than just him to be happy. Is cool with building community in our home.

Has some kind of vision he’s working towards I’ve dated men without vision and it sucks. Because it’s so important to me, it becomes a point of contention. They don’t need to know what they want to do for the next 40 years or be career obsessed; they just need to be moving towards something (also, it’s kind of sexy).

My list has changed a lot the last couple years and I’m confident it’s not perfect. It’s what feels right for me. Mine didn’t used to have the things I listed for what I heard from a lot of Christian ladies, but there were some misguided items. Really dumb things like “at least 2 years older,” “a bit of a bad boy,” “eyes that make me melt,” or “plays guitar or drums.” But spent some time in prayer and reflection looking at what I NEED vs. what I WANT. And let’s not discount the importance of sex. After looking at the Bible, as well as seeing how wrong I was getting it doing things my way, I decided to stop having sex and save all that fun for my future husband. But if the guy has the attributes on my list? I think I can be pretty confident we’re going to have something pretty stellar. Because we’ll make sure we do.

In summary: guys, I hear you saying you’re trying to be Christian brothers, etc. but coffee is coffee. Just get to know someone and be clear about your intentions. That’s really all there is to it. Girls will appreciate it and it’ll save everyone a ton of time. And both guys and girls should examine every item that’s on their list and ask themselves if their really using the right things to recognize “the one.” Because we could all be missing out on something AMAZING for a really unimportant reason.