Not the Captain

Each morning I read from a book called, “Every Moment Holy.” It’s a collection of liturgies, and there is one particular one I like to read in the mornings to ground me and remind me of who I am and who HE is. The first two lines read, “I am not the captain of my own destiny, not even of this day, and so I renounce anew all claim to my own life and desires. I am only yours, O Lord.”

As I read that out loud this morning I had to stop. I read it again, but felt the pang of conviction in my heart. As I tried to move on and read the next few lines, I realized that I couldn’t do that until I sat in this for a moment or two. Yesterday had had some drama in a few different areas, and I spent a big part of the day stewing in that. I had been anxious over things I could not control but wanted to. I took on the responsibility of things that I had no real ability to do anything about rather than handing the wheel back over to the Captain who had made the stars to navigate and guide me. It had sucked the joy out of my day and made me feel like my head and heart were in a million places all the while feeling a myriad of emotions – most of which were negative. I was ready to allow the ship to go down as I gripped the wheel, white knuckled and insistent that I could figure it out.

As the Spirit gently helped me see (again) how often I want to be in control, I felt the grip that had on me start to tighten. The enemy does not want me to surrender to the One who has already defeated him, and my flesh insists that I can do all things in my own strength. But I rebuked those lies and spent some time confessing and repenting of my desire to be Lord of my own life and steal God’s glory.

Often I can see this quickly in my own life and circumstances. I have learned to trust God more with those things as I have seen his fingerprints on my life over and over again. But this particular situation had to do with one of my kids. I often want to swoop in and save them, fix the situation, take away the circumstances, make everything “right.” But when I do that, I am attempting to take away the chance for them to turn to God and see his work in their own lives, thus deepening their relationship with him and their faith in him. While I believe my place as a parent is to help them navigate it, the best (and only real way) to do that is to point them back to the one who loves them even more than I do. I try to be the Lord and ruler (and hero!) too often rather than breathe deeply, pray with them, and then pray continuously for them to surrender to HIS plan and allow HIS redemption to being good to their lives and glory to him.

So today I confessed and repented, doing so in the knowledge that the he loves me now, he loved me in the middle of it all, and he will never love me any less. I renounce anew all claim to my own life (and anyone else’s) and step into the day in the freedom and peace that comes from sitting in relationship with and under the reign of the one true King. No condemnation, just peace and joy because I am his.

I am Here

When one of my children was younger he struggled a lot with anxiety and fear. He comes by it naturally. Both Shawn and I have struggled with these things. It has come out differently in each of us – Shawn tends to shut down and internalize while I talk myself into a frenzy and speak the lies out loud. Neither way is helpful if you continue to sit in them and allow them to shape you and the way you react. When I realized this child was on the verge of a full blown panic attack I knew I had to get him back to reality as soon as possible. I physically grabbed his face, put it right in front of my own, and said, “Look at me, son. I am here. I am right in front of you. I love you. Nothing will ever change that. You are my child.” I kept speaking these truths to him and slowly he started to breath at a more normal rate. As I held him in my arms I continued to pray over him. This didn’t stop the fear from creeping in again later, but in the moment there was peace. He looked at me. I looked at him. Truth was spoken and the power of that changed both of us.

I’ve spent years (decades) in counseling all over the world. Some of it was not so great, but the counselors that I connected with changed me from the inside out. They knew the words to say and the questions to ask to help me see truth. I am all for counseling. But now as I am older I see that it doesn’t help just to know the roots of my issues, or even to pull them out, but I need to replant in this soil that has sat empty. I need seeds of truth to sprout so I can be a person who not only survives in this world, but thrives in the love of my Father.

I need God to grab my face and point me to him.

Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I’ve called you by name, you are mine.”

God will always love me. I am his. No matter what happens or how I feel, nothing changes this truth. I am sealed with the Spirit, redeemed and covered under the blood of the lamb. When hard, or even unthinkable, circumstances come my way, I can stand firm in this truth that is stronger than and brighter than any fear, circumstance, or trauma I face. Even when I don’t feel it in the moment, this truth is still truth. Thankfully my faith is not defined my me but by the one whom my faith is in.

When I feel like I am being swallowed up, consumed by the things of this world me and brokenness is all I see, I can look back to this truth and know that God – the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, unchanging from everlasting to everlasting, the Papa who calls me to crawl up in his lap and will cover me in the shadow of his wings, the warrior who defeated death once and for all already – that God love me, Heather. He knows my name, the number of hairs on my head. He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and already had my days planned out. My name is written in his book of life.

When everything around is out of control and I am dizzy and nauseous with uncertainty and fear, I can find this truth and focus on it alone. I can picture the Father grabbing my face and saying, “Focus, breathe. I love you, daughter, Heather. You are my beloved. Be still and know I am God. I am singing a love song over you that more beautiful and healing and whole than you can ever even imagine. I am fighting your battles. I am weeping with you. I am here. I am here. I am here.”

Feasting

Jesus answered, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes form the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4

As I do my devotions this morning, I am waiting on the coffee to brew and the smell makes me want bacon and eggs. I’m hungry! My stomach is growling, and I am looking forward to a hearty breakfast to start my day.

About six months ago I found myself making a deal with God that if he woke me up in the early morning without an alarm, I would get up and spend time with him. I hate alarms – they make me so grumpy, and I spend much of the night waking up and checking the clock, afraid that I am missing whatever I am supposed to be up for. I understand it’s a bit childish to make a deal with God, but I figured, I AM his child, so he would be ok with that.

And he has.

More often than not I find myself naturally waking up a couple hours earlier than most of my family and remembering, “the deal.” Sometimes I am a little grumpy about it still, doing it only out of obligation. But usually – more and more as I continue this pattern- I find myself waking up and anticipating this time with my Father before the day becomes busy and hurried. I pour my coffee, sit on my porch, and listen to the birds worshipping or the rain soothing, and I feast on the words of God.

Food has always been my addiction. Of course we all need food. But I have struggled over the years with the binging (and at times purging) of it to try to console, to celebrate, to mourn, to rejoice, to relieve burdens…you name it. Food was my go-to.

One day I realized, after pouring my heart out to God, that maybe I could use this impulse. God can redeem anything. As I find myself experiencing one of these impulses, I try to remind myself (and ask the Spirit to make me aware) that I might want to binge on the Word first. It satisfies me in a more complete and whole way than gorging on chocolate and eating a bag of chips. And because I believe God transforms our minds and hearts, occasionally I enjoy the chocolate after the feast of the Word. I think God likes desserts! 😉

Can I encourage you to figure out the rhythms that work for you to be filled with the life-giving word of our Father, who loves you and desires to make you healthy and whole? You won’t be sorry.

The Kingdom of Light

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Have you ever been in pitch-black darkness? The kind where light pollution does not exist and you literally cannot see your hand directly in front of your face? South Sudan was like that at night. Rural, no electricity for anyone except and occasional generator. We had solar, but when you walked far enough away from our houses, the dim light coming from them did nothing to dispel the deep darkness of the night. I had never experienced anything like that previous, and I have not again.

Often I would find myself walking back from the church office to our compound in the dark on just a tiny dirt path that had been hacked away by the man we hired to keep the “nature” of the compound under control. I knew there were snakes – lots of them and many of those poisonous. There we also scorpions and safari ants – both super small, yet excruciating if you stepped on them. Some of the other, bigger wildlife around were not things I wanted to see in daylight, let alone meet in the dark.

While I was usually on high alert, and I would use my phone or a head lamp for light, my view in front of and around me was limited. I would always feel a sense of relief as I stepped into the small beam of light coming from one of our windows.

We put up solar powered lights all around the house – hanging from the roof like little twinkling stars beckoning us home into safety. From a distance you could see them barely twinkling, but as you moved closer they looked like magic in the darkness. They were the talk of the town when we first put them up! Many people loved them and asked us to give them some!

I was walking in darkness- pitch black, inky, all-enfolding. Real dangers were all around. Sometimes I feel that way here – in the middle of the city or at camp – everywhere we go has dark spilling in and overtaking, it seems. Sometimes as I look at my kids and my loved ones I feel as though we might be in danger of being swallowed up in it, with no way out; all hope gone.

When I feel this way, I have one of two choices. I can allow the circumstances around me and the emotions they bring up to define who I think God is. I admit that this is often my initial response. It causes me to sink deeper into my anxiety and stay in bondage for much longer. Or I can believe his word. “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) If I choose this way, then I am turning it back around and allowing God’s very word to define who he is. Then truth starts to settle in, dispel the dark and the lies, and peace takes root. The circumstances may not have changed, but I am seeing the light in the middle of the darkness.

Sometimes that light is a little bit like the twinkling fairy lights in the distance of a dark landscape littered with danger. I keep walking forward knowing that I am heading in the right direction. Other times it is a bit like I’ve been sitting in a pitch-black room and a spotlight is suddenly turned on directly in my face. I am startled, blinded by the sudden brightness, but slowly my eyes adjust and I can see the reality around me. Nothing is hidden, and I am safe and there isn’t a speck of darkness anywhere.

“In him was the life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5) I am so thankful I serve God, who is the ruler of the Kingdom of Light.

Posture of Gratefulness

Recently as I have been praying for people, I have found myself in a posture of gratefulness. As I bring the tragedies and traumas before the throne, I ask God to let each person see at least a glimpse of the redemption and beauty that He sees at the end of it. You might say, “Yeah, that’s easy, Heather. It’s not your pain.” And there is truth to that, I understand. However, the understanding that this point in time, this moment of tragedy, is not the whole story comes from my own walking through the hard things.

And that’s really the truth of abiding in Jesus, right? There is no greater paradox than this life that we chose to live. One where the admission of depravity leads to sanctification; the surrender of self leads to the fullness of living in who you were really created to be; where death leads to eternal life. There is a fine line between grief and joy, between despair and hope. You really can’t have one without the other. How could I understand grace and mercy if I wasn’t first in a place where I was accused and condemned for my crimes?

It’s the biggest reason I am not afraid to call people to repentance – not because we are stuck in our sin and horrible people, but because I know when we repent we open the door to deeper relationships, to healing, and to peace as opposed to the destruction that comes from our refusal to do so. However, to repent means we have asked Him to truly reveal what is there; It means allowing him to put a new spirit within us and removing from us our hearts of stone. ( Ezekiel 36:26.)

Sometimes I hesitate when I pray. I see the broken darkness all around us, and I think “How long, Oh Lord?” But as I pour my heart out to him he gives the space for the grief, he allows for my words, and he weeps with me. At the same time, he is not a God who is closed into time – he goes ahead of us and prepares. He sees the way all of these things are being made holy.

Could I ever have true joy without the brokenness ? Could I really live in absolute peace without having battled anxiety? I would have known pockets of these things – a small taste of goodness, just a shadow of what could be. But like the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus because she truly understood the forgiveness she received, I realize that my own steadfastness, joy, and peace come not in spite of circumstances, but because of them. And so they become like a banquet rather than a small taste; like the whole picture rather than a tiny shadow. We settle for so much less than what He wants for us because we are so sure of our own needs.

God’s ways are not mine. He knows what it takes my stubborn heart to come to the point of willingly dying to self. As I seek him out and continually ask him to reveal my own heart and then make it like his, I can see his fingerprints all over my story. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

God on Trial

Have you ever been in a place in prayer where your own words just don’t seem to work. Maybe you don’t know what to say other than, “Help.” Maybe you have said the same things time and time again and there is something stale about the conversation? Maybe your own words just don’t seem adequate enough in the moment- not strong enough to express that longing and groaning that is happening in your heart and mind. Even as a writer I have experienced these times. These are the times that have drawn my heart into pursuing liturgies and prayers that others have written before me.

Yesterday a new friend offered up a book about prayer that immediately took me online to buy it. I have been hungering after books on prayer lately, and this one hit the mark with it’s rawness. The book is called, “Prayer in the Night” by Tish Harrison Warren. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I had to stop dead in my tracks when I read something she wrote in chapter two. She is telling a story of a friend who is sitting in the waiting room for her son to come out of surgery. This is what she tells her husband:

“We have to decide right now whether or not God is good, because if we wait to determine that by the results of this surgery, we will always keep God on trial.”

I have had a lot of conversations with people recently where I have walked away chastised (either gently by them in love or by the Holy Spirit) that I am accusing God of being someone he is not. I accuse him of withholding, of being distant, of not caring, and of playing games with my emotions. I react to a way I believe he is because I have experienced something here with my earthly relationships that I assume is true in my relationship with him. Maybe I put broken human tendencies on him rather than judge humanity against his Holy character. Maybe I did not get the answer to prayer that I desired, so I immediately named him to be a liar or I accuse him of being a dictator or tyrant. Whatever the reasons, I have found that I almost constantly have God on trial when it comes to my thoughts of him.

What would happen if I did it the other way around? If I chose to believe what his word says about him, and then looked at my life, my prayers, my answers, my circumstances, my interactions with others through that lens instead? What if, before the answer came, as I was sitting in the waiting room with my son under the knife, I chose to say, God IS good. God IS right. His ways ARE perfect. He DOES love me completely. PERIOD. Full stop – no question mark, nothing left hanging, unanswered. How different would my life be? How much more powerful would my prayers be if I prayed based on the foundation of his character and his promises rather than my own flimsy base?

Warren goes on to say this: “If the question of whether God is real or not – or of whether God is kind or indifferent or a bastard – is determined solely by the balance of joy and sorrow in our own lives or in the world, we will never be able to say anything about who God is or what God is like. The evidence is frankly, inconclusive. If the story of my short life and feelings determines God’s character, then he is Jekyll and Hyde…But we cannot divine such a sign from the circumstances of our lives or of the world. We have to decide what we believe about who God is and what he is like. We have to decide if anyone keeps watch with us. it is unavoidably – even irritatingly – a decision based on doctrine, the first principles we return to again and again, the story we define our lives by.”

I am at a crossroads. Will I choose to believe the doctrine of God’s character – who he tells us he is in his word? Or will I choose to believe what my feelings, so easily swayed, and my circumstances, which are marred and exist in a broken world try to tell me? Where will my foundational truth of God’s character come from? Will I stop putting him on trial – not because he really HAS proven himself over and over, but simply because faith in who God is is at the core of everything I believe and do?

This morning I choose to decide he is good.

Hard and Holy

One of the things I have found myself talking to my kids and others about in the last year is the fact that because something is hard, even painful and grief-laden, does not mean that it cannot also be profoundly beautiful and holy. While I prefer the times of sunsets on a mountain top where I can easily raise my worship, I often find myself most drawn into the arms of my father in a true, barley-able-to -breathe sacrifice of praise in the dark and painful times. I can see God in the eyes of another no matter the circumstances, but learning this is not easy.

We’ve been through our own share of grief, tragedy, and loss in our lives – just like all of you. No one’s story is void of it, and the longer we are on this earth diving into what He has for us, the more we see and experience it. I’ve see it in my kids’ eyes a lot over the last few years – that look of grief touching a part of their soul yet holding it in because they are not ready to process it. I saw it last night as we talked about a friend who is at the end of his life way too soon for our desire. Death became a reality to them sooner than I had wanted in their lives.

As I’ve asked God to help me walk with people better, I have often found myself unable to handle the amount of emotion that comes with that. “Rejoice with those who rejoice” is easy and full. But mourning with those who mourn is heavy, dark, and often triggers some of my own laments in life. Too often I have let that allow me to “turn off” emotion and not really feel. I can walk with people and help in tangible, real ways without being a vat of emotion, right? They don’t need the “extra” Heather, they need someone who can take charge and be in control.

What if it isn’t either/or but the true definition of walking alongside someone is actually both/and. You can be a person who, in one moment cleans the kitchen, makes meals for the week, walks the dog, gives the kids a bath, organizes grocery delivery, and gasses up the car. But in the next moment, as the person is sitting and tears are falling, you need to be the one who allows your own tears to fall and intermingle with theirs while possibly sitting in awkward silence and praying. I know I’ve needed both of those at the same time and couldn’t articulate it. I am thankful for Spirit-filled friends who listen and obey.

In those times – when the tears are falling, when there are no words and you feel helpless to do anything – because you ARE helpless to do anything – those are the times when the Father turns a hard, impossible moment into something holy. The things I remember most about the death of both my parents are not the flowers or the food received (though we appreciated those thoughts) but the times when people would call out of the blue and tell me I was on their heart that day. The times when they saw me crying and didn’t offer any words, just a tissue and their presence. When I didn’t feel as though I had to apologize months later because I “should be past it” and instead had them acknowledge that grief is a strange monster and my way of doing it wasn’t wrong.

Still, as I have helped carry the burdens of others, I have found my own joy being squished and compacted into this tiny, little space where I could not even access it anymore. How do I feel what they feel and sit in it with them and not be swallowed up in it myself? As a person in ministry, this is not only part of my “job description” but an honor and privilege. However, it’s not just for the professionals – all of us who profess to be followers of Jesus are called to do this.

Like with anything of purpose in life, we cannot do this in out of our own strength. It requires us to live in that daily surrender of self to Him. In the daily reckoning that we are dead to our selves and alive in Jesus because of the work he did on the cross. I can’t make more room in my heart and my emotions for the burdens of others. But I can offer my heart to the one who has already changed me from the inside out and allow his heart and life to be lived in and through me. It is in those times that we see how even the hard becomes holy.

Would you take time today to ask the Spirit to fill you and expand your ability to walk well with others?

Made in His Image

When we landed in Entebbe, Uganda to prepare for our trips to Sudan and rural Uganda with our mission, we were picked up at the airport by a taxi driver and driven to our guest house for the night. I had not been back to Africa since we left Malawi a few years earlier, and I was so happy to be back on the continent. I was also absolutely exhausted, already missing my kids, and unsure of and anxious about spending the next two weeks with strangers in places I had never been – essentially with it being a “job interview,” since we would find out if one or both teams would invite us to come do life with them. My mind was doing a million things and I had a hard time focusing.

But I can clearly remember driving through Entebbe and Kampala in the dark, seeing fires on the side of the roads as people hawked corn and pastries and whatever else one might want to stop and eat after a long day. Children ran everywhere – dressed in varying amounts of clothing. Some laughed and squealed, some cried with runny noses and flies buzzing. The diesel smell filled the air as the traffic buzzed and hummed all around. There were conversations being spoken in a language I was not at all familiar with. I couldn’t take it in fast enough.

As I drank it in with all my senses, I kept thinking, “I don’t know any of these people, yet they all have a story.” They have all loved (and probably lost.) They have desires for peace and family, love and happiness. They long for security, need money and shelter, do the daily tasks of living life. And, most importantly, each of them were created in the image of God, just like me. We couldn’t be from two more different worlds, yet we all had our Maker in common. God loved each of us.

The difference was that I knew this truth. It was one of the reasons I wanted to be in rural Africa – I wanted to be a part of spreading that truth to those who may not understand it yet. Yet as I sat in that taxi, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was one small, tiny, minuscule little speck in the tapestry of history. My own story and my life was important – so much so that I knew Jesus would have gone to the cross for just me. But it was not the only story.

One of our desires for living overseas was to help our kids see this. Yes, they were the most important people to US, but they were NOT the only important people in the world. Each person, made in the image of God, is unique, beautiful, and important. Each of us are also broken, wounded, and sometimes feel worthless. God knows every single person intimately. The Bible tells us he knew us before we were formed in the womb. He knows the numbers of hairs on our heads.

I couldn’t fathom that thought as I stared into the chaos of an African city street at night. Small houses with tin roofs; charcoal fires cooking foods that perfumed the air; layer after layer of houses and people and houses and people and houses and people – going far back into the darkness with millions I would never even see, let alone know.

But God does.

This year as I think about the verses and things God has laid on my heart, I want to continue to be aware of this truth: that each person I meet – EVERY SINGLE ONE – is made in his image. Whether in a developing country where poverty is in your face every day and the needs are obvious, or in a place like DC, where wealth, status, and influence seem to permeate everything in life. The truth is still that people living in all these environments are all made to have a relationship with their Creator. Nothing else can fill that void. No matter what color, culture, belief system, background, political leaning, education, sexual preference or identity, or gender. Whether or not they are “easy” to love, or if it takes a bit of intentionality. Whether I have the margin or I feel depleted on my own strength. Whether I believe it in the moment or not, it doesn’t change the truth. Each person I meet is made in his image and important to God – therefore, they need to be important to me. Their dignity, their desires, their needs are all things that I want to be conscious of. While I know I cannot impact and truly love every single person in the world, I can be aware of who He sets in my path each day and be an imager-bearer to them so they can meet Jesus where they are and truly know Love. As I set my mind on things above and surrender my heart to him each day, I believe that I will see him in ways that will make me more like him.

“Show me you in each person I meet, Lord.”

Chosen

“Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being.” Trevor Noah, Born a Crime

All of us have an innate desire to know that we are chosen, loved, wanted. We think of it often in the sense of a romantic relationship, and that certainly is an important one. But we only feel real fulfillment in any of our relationships if we don’t feel like we are a burden or we were forced upon someone, but that they chose us and want to be in our presence. My birth father never made me feel this way. I don’t ever remember having that type of relationship with him. There were times where he was filled with guilt and apologized, but it was very apparent quickly that it had more to do with easing his conscience than actually having relationship with me. My mom met my stepdad when I was in 1st grade. He and my future step brothers moved next door. By the time I was 8 they were married, and I really don’t remember my life without this man being in it.

As with most step-families, ours was complicated. I often refer to our family as the dysfunctional Brady Bunch since my mom had three girls and my dad had 2 boys, then together they had my sister. But one thing I always knew – though I was not his by birth, I was his by choice. I was never just a tag along or an addition because he loved my mom. As I sat on his lap around the time of their wedding I clearly remember the conversation about how he was my dad and I was his daughter. He was adamant about the fact that one day he would be the one to walk me down the aisle and give me away. I don’t know why that was so important to him – certainly an 8 year old wasn’t thinking in those terms. But the conversation stuck with me, and I equated it to meaning I was his to give away. Maybe an “old fashioned” notion by today’s standards, but one I was happy to live in. And he did give me away – all the while joking as we walked down the aisle that, “It’s not too late to turn around, kid!”

It wasn’t just Dad. His family welcomed us in with open hearts and arms. They are a large family with their own chaos and craziness. But there was never once a feeling of being on the outside. His nieces and nephews became my cousins and my best friends – the kind where every time you are together you plot to stay over night and be together as long as possible. I spent countless nights with all my new Aunts and Uncles, and never questioned their love for me.

I was chosen. Invited in.

I wasn’t just acknowledged, begrudgingly accepted or tolerated. I was wanted, loved, and immersed. My family tree suddenly had new roots grafted in deep and permanent.

It was healing to the soul of a little girl who didn’t feel wanted and loved by her birth father. But here’s the thing…If I had not chosen to allow myself to be loved and choose to love back, it would not have been a relationship. If I did not believe that their love for me was real, I could not have grown up with my huge group of family members and love and laughter and friendship. I had to choose back.

Despite the fact that my step father was far from perfect, and my new family and I all made mistakes, their choosing of me opened the pathway for me to think about the love of my heavenly father more. He also chose me. Before I was formed in the womb, before I existed. I was his. My name is graven on his hands. The Spirit lives inside of me. I am his masterpiece – wholly and dearly loved. He gives me good things, he knows what I need before I even ask (or I even know!). He took me out of slavery and fear and bought me with the price of his son’s life so that I could be his daughter, a co-heir with Jesus. I am adopted, wanted, desired, pursued, and loved.

My mother went to be with Jesus 12 years ago. My stepfather just died last week. Tomorrow we will celebrate his life and I will be with the family that took me in and loved me well. I am aware that in a physical sense of the word, I am an orphan. But I have family that loves me, and – even more so – a heavenly father who promises that he does not leave us orphans, but that he comes to us and makes us his. He has chosen us – we just need to choose back.

On Things Above

This morning I was cleaning and organizing around my house, burning off nervous energy. I was waiting to hear about a situation that was causing me stress, and so I was praying and taking control of the only thing I really have any control over – the closets. This has always been my go-to when I feel out of control. You would think I have the cleanest, most organized closets in the world. However, I also have 6 people living here, so that is just not true.

As I was cleaning and praying, I was fretting to God and suddenly I very clearly heard him tell me, “The only thing that changes when you take on this anxiety and allow it to rule you is the atmosphere of your home.”

Ouch.

While I know practically that it is true my worried attitude does nothing to help things, it always seemed like it was my “right” to have in the midst of struggles.

Many years ago as I was just getting to know my husband I spent some precious time with his aunt. We went through Colossians 3 and she had me memorize it. At the time I was doing it more to impress her and get in good with the family, if I’m being honest. But now, 28 years later, I find myself often repeating this chapter as I sort through how I’m feeling about things.

“Since then you were raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…you used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.”

Later it goes on to say, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

No where in that (or any other place in the Bible) do I see where God says, “It’s ok. Go ahead – it is your right to be angry, hurt, worried, etc.” Even if it is the natural response, my “rights” are gone as a child of God. They were put to death on the cross. My life is in Christ. And while he did freely express his desires and feelings to God – to the point where “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground,” he circled back around to the peace that came from being in tune and in harmony with his Father. And “for the joy set before him,” he endured the cross.”

Friends, you know I’m not talking about “fake it ’til you make it.” We can earnestly and genuinely come to the Father with our fears, concerns, tears, anxieties, and everything else we experience. However, what I was doing – falling into the pattern of allowing that initial response to govern everything I did and felt for the rest of the day- that falls in to the category of idolatry. I was putting my trust in myself, in my response, in my emotions, and allowing them to rule me rather than in the one who created all of those things. Even more so, I was believing the worst about God in the middle of it. My default was to disparage the very God I professed to worship and serve. That overflowed into my actions and my attitude, and changed the whole atmosphere of my home.

So as I confess this to my Father I am so thankful that he, in return, reminds me of his great and abundant love for me. I started to speak my thanks aloud, and recounted the numerous ways over the years he has provided – sometimes above and beyond and sometimes just enough in just the nick of time, but always completely. And I continue to set my heart and mind and things above.