“I will lead them down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.” – Isaiah 42:16
I will be the first mom to say that mommin’ ain’t easy. I have been blessed to be able to be a step mom for almost three years and now have the privilege of raising one of my own as well. Both roles are difficult in different ways but both are beautiful as well. They don’t tell you about the difficult times and the sleepless nights. Maybe they do but in your mind you imagine different. They don’t tell you about being so worried about either of them or praying for their future. They don’t tell you how deeply and completely your heart will belong to them.
If there is one thing I’ve learned these last three years and these last two weeks, it’s that being a mom should be hard because being a mom means sacrifice. It means giving when you are empty. Loving when you are hurt. Praying when you don’t know what to say. And hoping that through it all you can be a light in the darkness and a refuge from the storms in this world. God has reminded me that it is a blessing to be walked out with Him. Time with Him is crucial to not lose your sanity and patience. Prayer is our biggest weapon against the enemy and love covers all.
So while there are many days I have cried over these last few years, there are many prayers that have been answered. God continues to guide and show me how to walk along this mom path. Sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it’s just really hard. But at all times, He is God and He is with us. He gives us the strength we need for each day if we let Him.
I’ve blogged off and on for years now. I’ve written commercially about fitness, how to grow your gym, and how to motivate your clients. Somehow when it came time to write this blog (my first for #ThisIsLiving) I lacked the ability to motivate myself to do it. I’d write a few sentences here and there that I’d quickly go back and delete. I’d stare at my computer screen with the cursor flashing, daring me to write something. I even got a whole paragraph in comparing the spiritual pursuit to running- something that has way more parallels than you can imagine. Yet, I still found every excuse under the sun not to write a blog entry – something I had volunteered to do. Why?
After staring at the blank page for the better part of two months, I came to realize the reason I couldn’t write this is that I feel inadequate to impart any type of spiritual wisdom. I am in no stretch of the imagination what you’d expect a Christian to be. I am tatted up with a half sleeve, live in yoga pants, I curse more than I’d like to, I’ve been divorced, and I loathe the societal stigma that has somehow attached itself to being an Christian. So, who am I to write to you about anything to do with holiness?
…I came to realize the reason I couldn’t write this is that I feel inadequate to impart any type of spiritual wisdom.
On Sunday, the message at church was on Jonah. During which it became abundantly clear that like Jonah, I had been running from doing something that I feel God has called me to do. Don’t you hate that? When people say stuff like that? “God told me.” I used to hate that, too. It sounds totally cliché, but I assure you it is also totally legit. When I say that God called me to write this, I don’t mean I audibly heard him say it. It is more like something on my mind and in my heart that I can’t quite put into words. Obviously, it wasn’t something of my own creating. I’ve fought hard against it. Where is all this leading you’re wondering? Don’t worry I’m finally getting to the main idea.
Like Jonah, I was afraid and I had taken hold of a pagan idea and pretended it was true. I was afraid to put myself out there by writing and being vulnerable. I had taken hold of the pagan idea that Christians are supposed to be perfect. Since I don’t fit that mold, I felt I had no business in writing this. Then I recalled how Hebrew literature depicted some of the best of the best: David, Abraham, Jacob. None of these men were painted to be holier-than-thou and perfect. God used them in their imperfectness, and with their many sinful blemishes, to do amazing things. They knew what I’ve come to realize in writing this and through the message I heard…what I hope you’ll explore as well: “We can keep trying our plan, or we can yield to God” and “Sometimes, the thing you feel uncomfortable doing is the thing God’s called you to do.”
God was there in the beginning and God is Love, but I wasn’t there in the beginning…and I don’t feel that love right now. There are days when it’s hard to love others, but God says that those are the most important days to do just that. I stand with this reality in front of me on those days, and it’s difficult to say yes to a love that I do not see in action in others. I do not exist seeing the fullness of time knowing the eternal insignificance of my anger and the importance of love. I don’t want to see the fullness of time because the momentary affliction is too strong for me to wrap around my mind.
It is not easy to be the one sitting on the inside trying to look out at these issues. When the ones that I am called to love are fighting me at every opportunity they get, how can I be expected to love then? Sometimes I sit and wonder if it wouldn’t just be easier to not love at all. I wonder if I could exist in a world of solitude knowing that I don’t have to be hurt when my brother in Christ turns to me and looks me in the eye and lies. I wonder if it’s easier to exist in a world without commitment and accountability when he takes that advice I give him and spits it in my face. I wonder if it’s easier to love without covenant when my loved ones and I fight to the point where it gets too personal and too direct. When the resistance gets so strong I can’t stand, where is God’s teaching of love?
When the resistance gets so strong I can’t stand, where is God’s teaching of love?
What exactly am I expected to do? I turn to the books and I re-read them, but what I’m reading has lost its meaning long ago. I flip through the pages of my bible looking for the answer but the Spirit sends me back only with the commandment to, “love as I loved first.” These words sting in my ears because they are the very reality I am fighting against. Love. What a word to come from someone I have cursed out in my prayers and yet He stays there. Am I expected to understand the depths of love from Someone who knew my every action while sitting on the outside of time and said yes? How can I stand in between the pain of my brother and the ones I love with this knowledge in my brain and say nothing?
I come back to the depths of my mind and ask, “Where am I to go?” God sends me back to the beginning and asks me where I am. I look into the depths of Him and see myself there. In the beginning of time. When God was love, and I was on His mind. He loved me first, and I chose to fight Him every opportunity I got. He loved me first, and I looked Him in His all-seeing eyes and I lied. He loved me first when I cursed His Spirit as He called my life and made it personal and direct. He loved me first when the resistance got so strong and I said no to the forgiveness of His Son, and yet He still called me back with those three words. Love Me first.
Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.’ Jeremiah 9:23-24
I toed the line at the annual Toronto Marathon that I had trained many months for. I wrote verses on my shoes, prayed about my upcoming race and goals I had set and gave it all over to the Lord as we made our way to the start line the morning of. Some people don’t understand running, and that is ok. But for me, running is a way that brings me closer to God. I feel His love and heartbeat for me in moments of pain and find His joy and protection in the moments of simplistic beauty that surround me on each run. To me, running is my unique time spent with Jesus. My own special way to worship Him.
On this particular day, I felt complete peace about this race. Usually, I am very nervous and can’t seem to keep food in my system. But this race felt different. I knew I had given the long months of training my all. I had worked hard, struggled with injury and enjoyed every moment. Even if I didn’t meet my goal, I had peace.
Every one of us longs to be a hero. God has engraved this in us. We know that we are made for more and long to accomplish the biggest of feats for Him and for His glory. Sometimes along the way we lose sight of the One who we are serving. It feels good to succeed and to do it all “for His glory.” As we begin to excel, flattery can so easily creep in and seeds of pride can be planted. But what about losing for His glory? What about not accomplishing what you hoped you would, for His glory?
Continue reading “The Unusual Hero”
A few weeks ago I spent several days in a city known for its extreme tolerance, a place where the outrageous isn’t really all that outrageous. After a week of startling observations, I began to wonder what the Gospel looks like in a place where every appetite can find what it craves. I asked God how anyone lives for Jesus there, when success is the norm and wealth abounds, where sex is glorified, and youth and beauty are worshiped. How do you share about the need for a Savior when people seemingly have everything they need or want, and then some? Continue reading “Living Out Faith in a Post-Modern Culture: a Lesson from My Über Driver”
ORLANDO, FL – JUNE 12: Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
In the aftermath of the shooting in Orlando, my heart grieved for the men and women who in their final moments of life experienced the kind of terror that is of nightmares. I cried looking at the faces of every person who won’t be home for the holidays, the voices that won’t ever again wish a “happy Mother’s Day” or “happy birthday.”
It made me wonder if I was ever to find myself in a situation where a shooter was on the hunt for me and for my friends, if I could hear him coming, if I knew my life was moments away from ending, whose voice would I want to hear? What would I say? What would my parting words be?
In asking the questions, the humanity of each face came into focus. The people who died in the shooting in Orlando were sons and daughters. They had inside jokes with their friends and insurance payments to make. They liked spaghetti and sunsets and going on fast rollercoasters. They had favorite colors and bad days. They wanted to be loved and to grow old. Continue reading “Orlando: June 2016”
I can’t remember a time I didn’t think of myself as a Christian. Now granted, at my age, there are a few things I don’t recall all that clearly—but I’m pretty sure I have never been a Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian or member of any other non-Christian religion. Like many, I grew up in a middle income home with parents that made sure I went to church and Sunday School most of the way through high school. Following a small period of revolution tied to my college years in the ‘70s, my wife convinced me to return to a mainstream “Top 5” Protestant church where I dutifully sat through Sunday sermons and adult Sunday School classes. I tithed. I volunteered for service projects that fit my busy schedule. By comparison to many of the people I knew at that time, I wasn’t just a Christian—I was devout!
In fact, I was deluded. About two years ago, a crisis in the leadership at that Top 5 church convinced us to shop around, and Two Rivers Church changed my life. I now know I was living only in the Word, and was largely dead to the Spirit. I had ignored the Holy Spirit dwelling in me for so long, I think the boredom had put Him into a coma! I didn’t talk to Him, and therefore, He didn’t talk to me. I didn’t ask Him for help, so He respectfully didn’t help. As a result, I routinely messed stuff up and wrote it off to “we all sin” or “God will forgive me, after all, He made me this way” or “I was saved as a teenager, so it’s all good anyway.”
Continue reading “Holy Spirit in a Coma”