Time Out!

Time out!  Yep, I’d like the world to take a short commercial break for me.  Not that I watch commercials, or TV for that matter, but I really would like everyone to just stop what they’re doing for a while so I can have a time out.  Send me to my room, tell me I’m grounded, tell me everything’s cancelled, I think I need a time out.  Do you ever feel that way?

It’s about the time of year when I get that feeling.  If you’ve ever lived in Michigan in the winter, and the long grey days, you’ll understand.  Everyday I find myself saying “I just need some sun!”   I  begin to scour flights and places to go to get me a little sunshine to get me going again.  I look ahead at my spring and summer calendar and realized it is already getting booked up making the hope of coming warmth and God-given Vitamin D to feel as if it’s already being used up before it actually returns to our cold state.  It’s this time of year when the fog sets in and I’m not sure how to accomplish it all on so little fuel.  I begin to wonder what am I doing, where am I going, can I just take a nap?

As I was reading in my study this morning I marvel at how purposeful life is without distractions.  I see how in spite of our feeling, we have a calling.  And how clinging to the balance of sheer life and death can bring clarity and purpose to anyone!  I’ve studied Moses, a lot.  I’ve always loved the example of God’s call and Moses’s answer to the difficult tasks he faced and the purpose God set him to accomplish.  But I don’t think I ever noticed how difficult it must have been just to survive every day until he even could recognize that call on his life.  When he was a baby, daily survival was a great big deal.  Because Pharoah had set to kill the baby boys of that day, we see the story in Exodus of how his mother made a basket to float him in the river just to hide him.  The questions in my mind swirled.  Did she float him between feedings and risk being seen with him every time he needed to be fed?  Did floating him sooth him so he didn’t cry and risk being heard?  For how long did this process go on?  How tough it must’ve been to get through the long days of praying this little boy kept living.  I’m sure Moses’ mom would’ve wanted to call a time out at this point.  “You all take your baby-killing decrees and go sit in your palaces while my baby and I have a timeout right now.”  She would’ve wanted to snuggle him and feed him in peace, and without the day to day struggle, never knowing if the hope for the months ahead was worth it.

God had a different kind of time out in mind though.  Moses was scooped up by Pharoah’s daughter, his life spared, his momma became his nursemaid, and he was raised in Pharaoh’s home.  God set in motion the plan for his life to free an entire nation from bondage.  He was set up for his calling in the dreary, fretful, dark days of ancient Israel with what looked like no hope in sight.  I was so deeply reminded that in the mundane, in the dreary dark days of the winters of our lives, (both literal and figurative), that if we yield to God’s will, we are being set up for His calling on our lives.   Fulfilling His calling IS the light that moves us forward into the next season of our purpose.

I’m still looking for flights!  But with the full knowledge that the next season is more about fulfilling God’s plan for me than it is about me escaping the mundane.  Are you in need of a time out too?  Let it be a place of being set up for fulfilling God’s purpose.  Dig deep and be prepared, be in communication with God, be ready!  God’s call is real and we don’t want to be caught taking a nap when it’s time to move!

Here’s a few practical tips to make it from the dreary winter days of your life to the light and warmth of your purpose being fulfilled:

 1.  When you can’t see very far ahead, keep your eyes on God and be reminded of what He has already done in your life. 

“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His presence continually and always.  Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles…”  1 Chronicles 16:11-12

2.  Be assured, God knows when you’re struggling to make it to the next season in your purpose.  You are not wallowing alone, grounded or set in a time out without Him knowing it.  

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

3.  Make sure your perspective is eternal not stuck in the moment that you are in.  If you only look at how you feel today from your own human perspective, you will never know where you need to be tomorrow and you certainly won’t be prepared for the day God moves you to the next place in your calling. 

“The Lord does not look at things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

4.  Be ready!  Be watchful!  God’s purpose for you may be building up inside you while you are waiting. And when it is time, you don’t want to be caught sleeping.  Get in shape!  You may have a big task in front of you.  You have to do your part! 

“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.  With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.”  Psalm 18:28-29

5.  When it’s time, move.  God will steady you, He will be your strength and He will be your guide, but only if you move!

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along.” Psalm 40:1-2

I hope you’re hoping, I hope you’re waiting, I hope you’re digging deep.  I hope you’re ready!  God never calls us to nothing and so the next season is coming!  The next season in your calling…your life…your purpose.

Un-destinguishable

After yet another long argument with a teen in my house, who I’m pretty confident argues to get out of work, not necessarily for her deep convictions, I suddenly am having one of those mom days that are probably a little closer to wallowing than they are to grumbling.  I sent her off to go do a study on “having joy” because I’m so tired of arguing with her about things “not being fair”, that she needs to understand that joy isn’t a circumstance, it an attitude!  I told her to come back with 20 Bible verses about  joy written down and five of them memorized.  I sick and tired of no one having joy!

As I type those words , I realize in the mommy process,  I think I’m losing my own!  It might just be because I haven’t had an hour of quiet in the last 29 years.  Or maybe because the only decent meal I have time for is usually when I finally get out and I’m really too tired to enjoy it.  Or maybe because the dog threw up, and the cat litter stinks, and the ink pen broke on my leather couch.  Or because yet again, the dishes are piled so high that I can hardly fill a cup of water from the sink.  Maybe it’s because the sock bin runneth over, or because the yard is full of dog poop and I have to spend time calling yet another insurance company or medical provider, which should never take as long as it does.    It’s so easy to lose our joy and so hard to find it again.  And it’s not like kids are working hard to help you find your joy!  They’re a little engrossed in their own self-satisfaction at this age.

While I explained it to my daughter, I realized that I am speaking to myself.  You see, everything I just listed, is a circumstance.  It’s not me, and shouldn’t be my heart.  If I can blame the loss of joy on everything and anyone else in my life, then my joy is dependent apparently on others, and that my friends, is not joy.  That is an unyielding immovable attitude.  I think of the Israelites when they were rebuilding the temple after gathering back in Jerusalem.  They were so happy to be building the temple once again, and Ezra 3 says they shouted joyous praise to God.  But, there were older Jews there who recalled what the temple used to be like, and it says they wept, and because the weeping was as loud as the praise,  no one could distinguish between the noise!

We have to be able to distinguish between the noise!  What is it, weeping or joy?  I can tell you that when we are grumbling and complaining, it doesn’t sound a lot like joy.   I’ve walked around for a couple of days with a pretty straight face counting all the pitfalls of the self-sacrifice in motherhood and being a wife as if I were filling out a score-card.  And although I’ve managed to say nothing aloud the last two days, my face and my actions have probably said a lot!  And it probably didn’t sound like joy, or if what came out of my mouth was still a form of Godly, it likely wasn’t distinguishable from my grumbling.

I’m pretty sure I need to go memorize five of my own verses on joy! Here’s a few if you’d like to join me!

  • “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy”  Psalm 94:19
  • The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.”  Proverbs 10:28
  • [Paul] know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, … .  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
  • “As servants of God we command ourselves in every way to great endurance in troubles, hardships and distresses; …in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;…through bad report and good report, …sorrowful yet always rejoicing; …having nothing and yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-9
  • “…God is my strong refuge. …He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights. …You have given me the shield of Your salvation …For you equipped me with strength for the battle.” 2 Samuel 22:33-34 & 36 & 40
  • “The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins. The good man does not escape all troubles – he has them too – But the Lord helps him in each and every one.”  Psalms 3:18-19

As I finish this, I realize the house is suddenly quiet.  I look outside, and in the finally blue sky and the muddy backyard, my children are running and playing, having escaped their frustrated mother’s homework and her grumpy smile while I stole the necessary minute away.  And I think, for the moment, in the pursuit of joy for all of us, I’ll just let them keep on playing  🙂

Love at First Look

I stopped at a bakery yesterday to pick up an order for my mom. The lady at the counter tapped the ring on my finger and said, “your husband must love you alot!” I smiled and said, “yep! He loves me that much!” But inside, I had quite the chuckle. My own cherished wedding ring has a broken prong so I don’t wear it very often as I don’t want the diamond to fall out. But a while ago at a rummage sale, I bought an imitation that is probably worth a couple dollars which I often wear in its place until I have a chance to get my own fixed. As I drove away contemplating letting my husband know just how much he doesn’t love me according the value of my ring, LOL, I was reminded just how unreal impressions can be. It was a huge reminder to me that when we meet someone and assume something about them, it may in fact not be the case. Someone who seems mean, or hurtful, may in fact be hurting. Someone may seem happy on the outside and be extremely sad on the inside. What a great lesson for me on the grace and love we need to offer to everyone we come in contact with, because what we see may not be who they are on the inside, and certainly not who they appear to be.  

How appropriate that nearing this day of love being professed the world over, we are reminded of God’s love for every one of us and that He truly does know who we are.  He doesn’t have a first impression of someone, He has the blueprint of their actual heart and soul!  He knows what each of us is really like, what each of us really struggles with, and His love for all of us is deep and steadfast and not measured by what He gives us or how we look on the outside!

God loves each of us the same, yet He knows us intimately! No other love story deserves such recognition as this one!  But it’s not uncommon for us to think differently of people based on what we se.  It’s happened for centuries.  In fact, in New Testament times, when Paul and Barnabas were busy sharing the love of Christ with both Jews and Gentiles, the council in Jerusalem, the Pharisees, were pretty preturbed.  They looked down on the Gentiles and felt if they were going to get the same grace and mercy that Christ gave on the cross, that the Gentiles should also have to look just like them.  And Peter, in all his wisdom, explained the love of God to them this way:

  • 6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15:6-11 – NIV)

Yes, God knows the heart!  And He has loved us all, equally and mercifully, just the same!  There’s no measure by the way we look, or what we wear, or how we seem to be that can affect His love for us! No man can judge what is happening on the inside or what our lives are really like.  God knows the heart!  And He loves us all just the same!

Now, I might be a little more conscious about the ring I wear.  I might one day work a little harder to get mine fixed, or even talk my husband into a new one!  It will never be the measure of how much my husband actually loves me.  But it will always be a reminder to me to love beyond what I see!  Because the perfect example of love, in all it’s purity and grace and mercy and redemption was poured out in spite of the condition of my heart!  And my Father in heaven, sees my heart, and yours, exactly as it is!

The Middle Ground

Sometimes when God begins that gentle nudge on my heart, I am only minutely aware of what He’s prompting me to think, or feel,  or act on.  But often, as time goes on, that gentle nudge becomes a nagging tug, and then my heart begins to be bothered in a big way.  I really believe this is how He causes us to take action on issues.  And recently, that tug has been giving rise to an issue I just need to barrel through.  It will not be settled till I do.

We are living in a world where compromise seems to be the key word.  Where negotiations and finding common good is important if anything is to be accomplished.  But I wonder sometimes, does common good, does compromise, or negotiating to meet in the middle leave us in a precarious position where we are neither right nor wrong and we find ourselves standing in the middle ground?

For what seems like a solid generation, I think the middle ground is eroding into the common ground, the place where many people find themselves.  In that world I was raised in, there was never any room for compromise.  For that, in some ways, I’m so grateful.  I have never doubted my relationship with an amazing and powerful God, ever.  As a teen, it sure wrankled my spirit though!  I thought there should be more compromise, more grace and less condemnation.  I thought there should be allowances and that surely God loved people beyond the rules and commandments.  Surely, there might be a middle ground.  A lot of my friends lived there, in the middle ground, and it was a struggle to not wander in that territory.  It was a few steps away from what I knew to be true, and the constant grace I wanted to live under  because I wouldn’t give up walking in the middle ground.

That place between truth and falsehood is sure a good looking place, isn’t it?  Everyone loves the vast acreage in the middle ground.  There’s no frustration, no anger, no condemnation and no judgement in the middle ground.  Legalistic attitudes go bye-bye in the middle ground and living there is so much easier.  But in reality, can you really live in the middle ground and still follow Jesus?  Maybe we need to define the middle ground a little bit, or better yet, maybe we need to define what is NOT middle ground to know if it’s real and if it’s fine to walk with Jesus in the middle ground.

I’ll tell you right off the bat what is NOT the middle ground.  Middle ground is not the issue you might think it is.  Middle ground is not the debate between to drink alcohol or not to drink it.  Middle ground is not the argument betweens “hymns” and “worship” music.  Middle ground is not the space between traditional or contemporary.   Middle ground is not the debate between raising your hands in church, or clapping, or sitting stoically.  Middle ground is not speaking in tongues, or “gifts for today” and “gifts of yesterday”.  Truthfully, none of that is the middle ground.  Those are the interpretations that we have of the one truth.  But truth still exists, and you are either in it or not, and these issues I assure you are not the middle ground.

Middle ground, in my opinion, is that point where you wander just far enough from the truths you actually do believe in, or that you know to be true, that you are no longer within the boundary of your own belief.

Middle ground is the point you indulge your heart just long enough to lose sight of the truth you do know.

Truth doesn’t actually disappear when you step into the middle ground, you do.

Middle ground is not on any real path at all.  In fact, it goes nowhere worthile.  You left a meaningful path when you followed your heart past the point of truth.

Middle ground is often referred to in a positive note.  It’s that place where we agree to disagree, it’s the place we compromise, it’s the place where no one is really right or really wrong, and we are much more comfortable in the middle ground than we are with all kinds of opposition on either side of it.  Middle ground is where we like to be if we are uncomfortable with being uncomfortable!

It’s easy to wander into this middle ground almost unknowingly.  Social media would have us believe that we’ve entered a new era, where no one is right, no one is wrong, and everything goes.  The middle ground is that spot where we say, “well, I don’t believe that’s right, but …oh well.”   So your belief is simply yours and there is no repulsion for what you believe is wrong.  We love the person, as we should, but we also let that cause us to stray from the love of the truth sometimes.   If your love for a person affects your love of the truth negatively, then you really don’t love that person as you should.

So why the tug? Why is the “middle ground” weighing on me so heavily?  Because the middle ground has started screaming.   We need to be so mightily steeped in the truth, that the middle ground just screams danger to us.   What we hear, what we watch, what we spend our time doing….if you pull it apart and examine it,  are you putting in your heart and mind the truth of God’s word, or is it screaming middle ground?  Is everything you watch or see or hear something you’d tell your child to do?  Does it line up with scripture? Or is it in the middle ground, while you tell them to live truth?

Are you watching a TV series where the characters or what they say, or the way they are living their lives is contrary to scripture?  Do you sing lyrics along your way into work that are contrary to God’s Word?  Do you eat like you shouldn’t?  Do you speak like the world?  Is what comes out of your mouth with one friend different from what comes out of your mouth when you’re with another?  You have entered the middle ground.   Do you believe in being pure outside of marriage, and yet habits get the best of you?  Do you keep the freebie in the grocery store because the clerk forgot to charge you?  Are you screaming at the driver in front of you?  Or hail your own salute when he flips you off and zags around you?  You have entered the middle ground.  What about laziness?  We know it’s wrong.  But what are we when we sit around for hours on our phones, scrolling, watching video’s, playing games…I know it.  I’ve done it.  But we are just “relaxing”  “Relaxing” is fine.  There’s a time for that.  The Bible says so…right?  Well…if that is really what is refreshing us and helping us rest up for the battle for people’s lives and eternity, then yes?  But most studies will tell you that screen time is actually not relaxing for the body, it’s not refreshing it, and we are not actually resting. Truthfully, we’re indulging ourselves and laziness is part of the middle ground.  Not actually doing something awful, but not really doing anything at all.  I’m guilty.  I know.  Are you lying to yourself by not answering God’s call on your life…telling yourself you are not qualified, or claiming no time, or no ability….then you are in the middle ground.  Because you either believe the truth of the call and God’s ability to empower and equip you, or you don’t.  The middle ground exists in our decisions to act and act within God’s truth, not within the truth itself.  Truth itself never walks in the middle ground.  All of this thinking about the middle ground of course recalled the verse about being lukewarm.  Couldn’t help it.  But I noticed something I hadn’t before.

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  Revelation 3:15-16

It was written to the prideful church at Laodecia.  Why on earth would the writer tell them that it is better if they were either hot or cold?  Isn’t a “little bit hot” better than all-out cold?  And I realized something must be horribly wrong with the middle ground for that to be true.  Something happens in the middle ground that is detestable.  It could be that it’s like any other hotbed of activity.  When so many wander from the truth and enter the middle ground, it becomes the place to be.  It doesn’t change truth, but more people are enticed to leave truth and check out the middle ground.

You see, the people who always stand firmly on the side of falsehood, well they are easy to negate, easier to keep away from.  They actually look and feel wrong.  But those who stand in the middle ground, those are the ones who don’t look wrong, don’t make you question if your action is actually based on truth, and they accept you easily.  When you step into the middle ground, you’ve become a land mind of complacency that is easy to suck others into.  You are dangerous not just to your own self, you are dangerous to others when you walk in the middle ground.

Considering the all important fact, that God will not co-exist with darkness, understand that when you step out from the light of truth, you are stepping into a darkness that you haven’t yet recognized.  I’d venture to say it also takes a whole lot of pride to stand in the middle ground.  Because you look over at the side of falsehood, and surely, you are better than they.  You look back at the camp called truth, and they seem to not have the love and acceptance of the middle ground.  Surely, the middle ground is better than that.  Unfortunately, we all know what happens to those filled with pride.

It’s time for the middle ground to be the empty acreage.  For far too long, it’s been the most occupied place on earth!  Don’t lose the truth you know by stepping in the middle ground.  Stay out of the middle ground!

If it looks evil, when then guess what, it’s evil.  If it doesn’t align itself with truth from the word of God, well then it’s falsehood.  If it dabbles in sinfulness….well then doggone it, it just isn’t on the side of truth.  There’s so much more at stake than acceptance and love.  There’s so much more ahead that requires we stand firmly on the side of truth and that the boundary between truth and the middle ground is abundantly clear.

“Those who keep their heads on straight will teach the crowds right from wrong by their example.  They’ll be put to severe testing for a season; some killed, some burned, some exiled, some robbed.  When the testing is intense, they’ll get some help, but not much.  Many of the helpers will be halfhearted at best.  The testing will refine, cleanse, and purify those who keep their heads on straight and stay true, for there is still more to come.  Daniel 11:33 (The Message)

With every move you make, look at the boundaries.  Are you in the middle ground looking back at the truth or standing in the light of the truth itself?