31 Days of Brave: Presence

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Gentle Reader,

God relents. He will go to the Promised Land with the Hebrews.

So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” – Exodus 33:17 (NKJV)

Moses could have stopped there. God invited him into the process. He listened to what Moses had to say. He promised to go with the people. But Moses went a step farther.

And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” – Exodus 33:18 (NKJV)

Talk about bold! God could have zapped him. But again He honors Moses’ request.

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock.  So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.” – Exodus 33:19-23 (NKJV)

Can’t you just picture it? Moses has spent more time with God than anyone else in the Bible up to that point, with the possible exceptions of Adam and Eve. He knows what it is to be in the thickness of God’s presence. He knows what it is to receive instruction from the sweet, majestic, audible voice of the Lord. And yet that isn’t enough. It seems that the more time Moses spent with God, the more time he wanted to spend. The more he sees of God, the more he wants to see. The more he experiences, the more he wants to experience.

That time spent with God? That’s what made Moses bold.

Bravery craves God’s presence.

My journey to faith. (15)

  For all of the posts in the 31 Days: Brave series, go here.

31 Days of Brave: Andrizomai

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Gentle Reader,

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. – 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NKJV)

Bravery requires observation. Watchfulness. Discernment.

Charging blindly into a situation isn’t bravery; it’s stupidity. Courage calculates the risks and decides whether or not to take them, for sometimes the brave thing is to do nothing at all.

A heightened sense of alert is nothing foreign to an anxious person like me. If prompted (and probably without prompting) I could list hazards you never even dreamed of related to activities like brushing your teeth. Anxiety takes the idea of inaction as bravery and twists it on its head. Inaction becomes paralysis. Cowardice.

Bravery requires observation, but it also requires something else.

Andrizomai.

This is the Greek “act like men” in the NASB translation of 1 Corinthians 16:13 or “be brave” in the NKJV. The Hebrew equivalent is found here:

So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the LORD your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements, as written in the Law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go. – 1 Kings 2:2-3 (NIV)

We ladies might object to the male-oriented phraseology, but if we focus on that we miss the point. In the above passage, the emphasis is on walking in the Lord’s ways. Following His example. Doing as His says.

So bravery looks like promises kept. It looks like a word timely spoken. It rides through the storm to save the lost sheep. It extends a hand of mercy instead of a fist.

To be brave is to move from observation to action.

Bravery does what Jesus says.

My journey to faith. (15)

 For all of the posts in the 31 Days: Brave series, go here.

 This post also appeared on the Far East Broadcasting Company Gospel Blog on April 3, 2014.

There is Freedom

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Gentle Reader,

With Independence Day tomorrow, it seems appropriate to write something on the topic of freedom. At the same time, the political expression of my theology often leads to awkward or heated exchanges. (I’m a hardcore pacifist and honestly can’t see how the ethics of Christianity can lead to any other conclusion. A feminist of the old-school sort, meaning that men definitely aren’t evil but women should be treated with real fairness and respect. Against capital punishment. In favor of European-style socialized medicine. Against abortion).

So I’m not going to write about any of that.

I’m also not going to write about how the Revolution wasn’t this glorious, holy, just war that some think it is. I’m not going to write about how the phrase “Christian nation” has several layers of meaning may of which those Founding Fathers of ours may well have scratched their heads at. I’m not going to write about the lack of prayer in schools, how God’s purposes are somehow tied to our national interests or how legalizing homosexual marriage rips at the heart of all that is sacred (which I don’t believe, but that’s a big topic for another post).

And of course this is all completely tongue-in-cheek.

Looking back over the last year, even the last six months, I am…breathless. The Lord has brought me into confrontation with my fears and vices time after time. Occasionally He’s been quite blatant, such as when my mother spoke the words, “You can’t spend the rest of your life avoiding things that scare you” (or something close to that). Most of the time, He’s been more subtle. But I see, day after day, the way in which He’s been peeling back the layers. Taking down the wall of wrong-thinking and false-believing. Forcing me to confront things like:

Gossip

I’m not sue that we ladies realize just how many of our relationships are built on talking about other people. It seems that nothing bonds two women together faster than being snippy about a third. I’ve become more and more conscious of this over the last few weeks, and have resolved to avoid speaking about anyone in a non-honoring way. And to make it right when I forget that resolution.

Drama

While I don’t consider myself a drama queen, I have consistently chosen to forge relationships with those who are. Maybe it’s because I battle an overbearing sense of guilt and want to “fix” things. Maybe it’s because I’ve never believed myself to be worthy of healthy people. But over and over, I find myself getting sucked into places where I have no business being. No more. I’m done with that.

Confrontation

Yes, I have had to confront my fear of confrontation. Part of the problem is that I simply don’t have the first clue how to respond in many situations. I need time to assess what the other person has said or done, to decide if there was any sense or value in the words or actions and to formulate a response accordingly. Some call this being “level headed,” and I am grateful that I’m not emotionally explosive. But there are times when I need to say something, regardless of whether or not it comes out eloquently or whether or not the other person takes it well.

Friendship

My social circle has shifted. We’re not the same people we used to be. That’s a good thing; who wants to stay exactly the same, never growing or changing? There was a string of years where Chris and I were always busy on the weekends. Our tiny apartment and then our little house were usually bursting at the seams with people. I genuinely cherish those memories, but I’m ready to let it go. I no longer expect having relationships with people to look as it did in high school or college. And I’ve never had the desire for friends a mile wide and an inch deep. Give me a few people who know who they are and where they are going.

Work

I believe in libraries. I believe in having access to all sorts of information from all sorts of viewpoints. I don’t agree with all of those viewpoints, but I like being able to look at them and figure out exactly why I don’t agree. I threw off the last vestiges of shame about my job this year. If you don’t like that I work at a library, if you think that’s lame, then…well, you’re probably lame and that’s not my problem.

Work 2.0 

People who want to slack off can smell a good work ethic a mile away. This has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember. I was always the kid who ended up doing all the work in a group project. (Loathe group projects). Now I’m the coworker who will pick up the pieces and make sure it all gets done. I think it’s time to start letting things go. Letting others feel the pinch. It sounds mean, but it’s not. We’re all adults and we should all be able to take responsibility.

Writing

I’ve gotten really excited about the blog. I’m writing in my journal frequently. I honestly don’t think I have a book in me right now. Short bursts on wide-ranging topics are where I roam. And that’s okay.

Hair

I flat-iron less and less often. I only washed my hair once last week. Letting the curls go and do their thing is a BIG DEAL. I’ve always fought them. Always wished them away. Always wished I had thick, straight, red hair. I’ve got fine, curly, brown hair, and it’s developing a white streak on the right side. I can honestly say that I now love the curls just as they are.

Money

It comes. It goes. Bills get forgotten. Mysterious overage checks arrive in the mail. Stewardship is a fine thing, but, at the end of the day, I have to trust that God will meet all my needs. Most days I do.

Salvation isn’t just about Heaven, although I’m very much looking forward to being there. Salvation is for right here, right now. It does no good to know a lot about what God has to say based on the Scriptures and then never go that step further and try and live it out. Head knowledge doesn’t give you anything but answers to trivia questions. Asking the question, “Now what?” brings freedom. Allowing the Spirit access to all the secret, difficult places brings freedom. Submitting to His authority brings freedom. Obeying His guidance brings freedom.

Are you freer than you were a year ago? Six months ago? A week ago?

My friends, Jesus didn’t come to earth in the mystery of the Incarnation so we could keep on living in those same musty prison cells. No! He came to set us free.To make us into the people we were meant to be. He transcends race, class, gender and country. He extends that beautiful, nail-scarred hand to each of us and waits for us to let Him pull us out of the mire.

Whatever it is you think is keeping you safe probably isn’t. The thought that you have about God’s boundaries ruining your freedom isn’t true, either. The safest, freest place for you to be is not within your carefully constructed, sterile little world where you plan for every contingency. (As the possessor of four mental illnesses, I know what I’m talking about). If you want freedom, go where God leads. No matter how painful it is in the moment. No matter how scary. No matter how little you understand.

Take that hand.

Step out into the light of liberty.

My journey to faith. (15)

Awakening

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Gentle Reader,

I don’t feel free to share the details with you just yet, but an opportunity to share the Gospel with those who may never have heard it has come my way. Right now I’m praying, seeking to know if this is a path the Lord has steered me to. I don’t mind telling you this: I’M EXCITED. VERY EXCITED. And humbled. And amazed. If you’d like to join me in praying about this, even though I’m being excruciatingly vague, I would love that. I promise to tell you all about it when the time is right.

Meanwhile, enjoy this. Leeland has become one of my favorite bands over the last few months, and this song in particular stirs my heart. I hope it does yours, too.

My journey to faith. (15)