Social Media Killers

   

When Facebook first came out, it was almost like a socially elite club.  Beyond the walls of Harvard, they protected their membership by only letting you sign up with a university email address, and it wasn’t every university. Only the universities that signed on and let its students have access to this up and coming way of connecting with others could have students that did the same.  In the early 2000’s, as I plugged away on MySpace and Xanga, I heard of this Facebook thing from one of my friends from high school. Her university had signed on. Mine had not. I wanted a Facebook account, but I couldn’t get one. Well, until Facebook opened it up to anyone with an email address. In that moment I could get an account and be a part of this great beast.  

Over time and since the early 2000’s, Facebook has evolved.  As technology has progressed and gotten further and further into realms not yet explored, Facebook has paved the way.  But here’s the thing: just because the road is paved, doesn’t mean it’s the one you should be on. Facebook has allowed people to connect in ways our grandparents, or even parents, could never have imagined.  I can at any moment meet someone from the other side of the world as easily meet someone at my local grocery store. We are more connected to the world than ever before. We have a larger audience than any arena.  We have a platform that can proclaim thoughts and ideas, no matter if they are based on fact or not.  

I have kept my Facebook account throughout the years, keeping touch with those I have met along this path of life.  This social media giant has been used for good in my life to stay connected to friends and family all over the country and world.  It can be a wonderful tool for doing so. But, I have been the one who chose to use social media in a positive way. There aren’t laws or rules to keep me from being sweet or a complete jerk.  I have to practice self-control as to what I do on the internet. To be honest, there are basic general rules and standards as to what can happen on the internet, but beyond that, it’s a free for all.  Almost like an anarchy of sorts.  

This was clearly displayed on a Facebook LiveStream.  Steve Stephens allegedly shot and killed a 74 year-old Robert Godwin Sr. who was walking home from an Easter celebration with his family.  Robert was alone. Mr. Stephens had recently had a string of bad circumstances in his life, so he decided to randomly murder a man in cold blood all while streaming the event online for the world to see.   Steve murdered on Facebook.  

Mr. Stephens had a platform for everyone to see.  He had a larger audience than the Roman Colosseum could ever hold, where thousands of Christians were murdered in the ancient world.  He was connected to millions of people, yet felt completely alone in his struggle. He murdered another man on the internet who never saw it coming. 

I don’t take this lightly.  I don’t think what Mr. Stephens did is in any way right or acceptable.  I think it was evil and cowardly. He didn’t have to see the faces of those who saw his actions.  He didn’t give anyone a chance to tell him to stop, to get help, or to speak truth of the situation during his rants before he murdered.  He just listened to his own thoughts and ideas, acted on them, and allowed the world to see.  

During the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew, Jesus speaks about murder.  It’s a pretty much understood thing that murder is bad and that we shouldn’t do it.  Jesus states starting in Matthew 5:21,

 

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement.  Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

 

Pretty strong words.  The listeners were thinking He was talking about actually killing someone, and Jesus switches gears and talks about being angry.  What’s the big deal with being angry, Jesus? Well, anger when it takes root can grow into hatred and bitterness. God wants us to get rid of anger before the sun even sets (Ephesians 4:26)  In First John, he writes “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murder has eternal life in [Jesus].” In our house, hate is a strong word. It means that you can’t find one nice thing about a person or thing.  We don’t use that word lightly because it carries so much to it. Hate and love are both strong actions. Love can move mountains. Hate can destroy lives.  

Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (emphasis added).  On social media, it is easy to post hate, just as it is easy to post love.  However, when we post hateful things about people or things different from us, we are committing murder on Facebook.  The thing is, verbal murder has become accepted in our culture. Jimmy Kimmel even pokes fun of it on his bit “Mean Tweets”.  It’s where celebrities will read to millions of people what one person has posted on Twitter about them. Some of them are really hurtful.  Most have horrible grammar, but they are all meant to be hateful. According to the Bible, they are meant to murder. Which is not Jesus. It’s the enemy (John 10:10).  

So, now what?  I might be totally sweet on social media, never speaking ill of anyone or anything.  Great! The Bible wasn’t written in the technology age. It was written when people didn’t have Facebook but actually talked face to face.  Weird. My mouth speaks what’s in my heart. My words can murder and gossip or bring life and uplift. James writes in chapter 3, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both freshwater and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

I don’t want to be like Mr. Stephens and murder on social media.  I don’t want to murder, thinking I’m one of the socially elite, while drinking coffee with my friends.  My words are the product of my heart. May the words of my mouth be uplifting to those who hear it and praise my God who gave me the breath in my lungs to speak the words and energy in my fingers to type them out.  Because, let’s face it. Sticks and stones do break bones, but words cut to the heart.  


photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

My Brain Tumor

I have a brain tumor.  

I went to see my general practitioner back in March because I had been having migraines quite frequently, about 2 a week.  Basically, every time the barometric pressure would change in the atmosphere. Typical of most doctor’s appointments, I was asked if anyone in my immediate family suffered from migraines. Answer: yes, mother.  Was anyone in my family diagnosed with a brain tumor? Answer: yes, maternal grandfather. Why are you here today? Answer: I have migraines and I’m hoping it’s not a tumor.  

Well, my doctor, being the wise and medically educated man that he is, ordered an MRI for me which showed a hard mass on the back of my brain, at the base of my skull.  Oh crap. Bring on the concern that I have something like my grandfather. The MRI showed that SOMETHING was there, but it didn’t say WHAT was there. It was the size of a large blueberry, about 1cm by 1.5cm round. I then had to go get a CT scan of my head to try to figure out what was going on.  

By this time, it was April.  The CT scan came back and indeed showed that there was not just a hard mass, but indeed a tumor at the back of my skull.  My general practitioner referred me to one of the best neurologists in the city of Detroit, but it wouldn’t be until June 4.  May was a rough month, but it was a month that I spent time praying and reflecting on God. 

A lot can go through your mind when you have a month to process what could happen.  What if I have cancer? What will happen to my kids? Will my husband be able to handle it all by himself? (because I have to go immediately to morbid) Thankfully, through this time, my Bible study group was reading through the book of Proverbs, which is packed full of Godly wisdom.  When I started to look at my brain tumor through God’s perspective, I began to think, what if God just heals me? What if He doesn’t and He uses this journey to bring Him glory? Turning the “what if I”s into “what if God”s. Through all of it, God reminded me of one simple truth:

My circumstance does not change God’s character.

Just because I was going through something hard, does not mean that all of a sudden He was cruel.  God was and is still good. He doesn’t have to answer to me or anyone. Yes, I have a brain tumor, but that doesn’t mean it changes who He is. 

Back to the tumor… I went and saw the neurologist.  After looking at my scans, the doctor told me yes, it is a tumor, which just means it’s a mass in my head.  The mass is not living, meaning he believes it is filled with dead blood, due to a childhood injury, since the tumor seemed to have grown along the side of my brain and with my skull.  Basically, he believes that when kids get a head injury, the body will attack the brain bleed, calcifying the blood, to prevent further injury. However, where it is located, it has nothing to do with my migraines.  We just happened to come across it in the process. Crazy right?!  

In this scrolling mindset that we have in our culture, we quickly move onto the next thought and next idea.  We don’t take time to remember. I easily forget the faithfulness of God when the next thing comes along, and I turn it all into, “woe is me!” Kind of gives me perspective to the Israelites in the book of Exodus.  One minute they are like, “God is our redeemer! He is so good!” The next minute, “Moses is taking too long. Let’s worship a golden cow.” How quickly we also forget the goodness of God.

I still have the tumor.  It’s not going anywhere. I still have my God.  He’s not going anywhere. God didn’t get rid of my tumor, but He did give me peace and reminded me of His character when I could have easily been freaking out.  The tumor is a blessing. The Lord reminded me of His goodness, and I hope I don’t forget the next time something happens… because let’s face it. It will. 

 

***The injury we believe caused the tumor: When I was 10, my family had about 35 pine trees cut down on their one acre of land in Texas.  Pine trees in the south are about 6 feet in circumference and 2.5 stories tall. They are big. Any way, it was summer, so my two older brothers, and I were inside watching international sports.  We see the Scottish log rolling competition. If you aren’t familiar, it’s where two men get on opposite sides of a log, which is in the water, and run in an attempt to get the other person to fall off.  Think king of the mountain, but with a log. Well, being the geniuses that we were, we were like, “we have all these trees in our yard until the lumber guys pick them up… we can totally do this.”

My brothers, who are 3 and 5 years older than me, start running backwards, moving the log down the slight decline in our backyard.  It moves faster and faster, when I start yelling for the boys to slow down, slow down, SLOW DOWN!!! All of a sudden, my feet fly out from underneath me, and I landed with clunk head-first into the log we were running on.  The next thing I remember, I’m waking up in my room a few hours later. Apparently, I hit my head so hard I blacked out. Hence, the calcified blood on my brain.  

 

Photo used by permission by Richard Elzey

When Mother’s Day is Hard

Mother’s Day.  A day set aside to celebrate all the sacrifices that moms have made over the years for the benefit of their children.  For many, this is a joyous day filled with flowers, brunch, and memories of how mom has been and continues to be amazing.  Usually, mom “gets a day off” from moming, but still ends up having to put out some small fires or disagreements within the family unit.  At least that’s how it goes in my house. Kids gonna fight and nothing squashes a disagreement like mom counting to three. Nothing.

My husband, kids, and I celebrate my mothers day on Saturday.  The actual day can be a little painful for me, so Dennis (my hubby) takes the day before to do whatever I want to do with no interruptions.  The actual day of we go to church and spend the day with my mother and father-in-law. It’s great to focus on her and not to check the constant Facebook statuses of how everyone else has the world’s best mom.  Like I said… Mother’s Day can be a little painful.

Somewhere along life, my mom and I drifted apart physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I had to guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23) from destructive behavior, which means I had to set some boundaries between the two of us, which didn’t go over well nor was it well received.  Since then, I have written my mom letters with no response, sent cards with no acknowledgement and reached out with no return. Though we are both physically alive, the relationship is very close to dead.  

I scroll through my Facebook feed seeing posts of my peers saying how blessed they are to spend the day with a loving mom.  I’m happy for them, but I mourn my own loss. I do realize that I chose to set up the boundary, but I honestly thought it would turn out differently.  I thought by some miracle of the Lord that eyes would be open, both hers and mine, and our relationship would be restored. All would be great. All would be healthy.  However, it hasn’t happened. Well, at least not yet.

For others Mother’s Day is hard because they are mourning a mother or child who has physically passed or a child who never came to be.  They mourn the child who walked away from them, which I imagine is how my mom is interpreting my actions but it isn’t the case. This day can be quite painful for many for reasons no one can understand or comprehend.  As I heard this morning from a dear friend, “Mother’s Day is one of the hardest days because there is so much emotion attached to being a mom… and having one.”

So when it comes to Mother’s Day, I choose to take on the words of Paul in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”  Some days I will need a shoulder to cry on, and other days my shoulder will be soaked with tears. I may not be able to choose my circumstances, but I can choose my disposition and attitude.  To those who also have a hard time on Mother’s Day, you may be silent in your heartache but know that you are not alone. It’s okay to be sad and ask why, but don’t stay there. Find the joy. Guard your heart, and allow God to restore in a way that only He can.  There’s hope. Hang in there, little mama.

Writer’s Block

I sit down in the usual spot, with my usual yoga pants on, and my super comfy shirt ready to write my next blog post. The Bible verse is ready and the thoughts that I want to get out on the tip of my tongue. I put my hands on the keyboard and…

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing comes to mind as to what I should write about. Granted, throughout the week I’ve had the Lord show me many different things that will be wonderful for me to share my blog. But when push came to shove, and the time to write actually came, I had nothing to write. How could this be? How could I not have a single thought running through my mind that was worthy enough to put on to the screen? Did I run out of things to say? Was I done with my blog experience that I was so sure I was going to be doing for a long time? What is the meaning of this writer’s block?

Now, I know I’m not the first writer that ever endured this, and I know that I’m not the last. There will be times in life when I’m on able to get the words out. Most of the time this happens whenever I’m deep in an argument that I feel like I should be winning, but for some reason I’m unable to come up with the words. These arguments usually happen with my husband when I feel like he’s outsmarting me, which he does quite often, but I also know there’s times when I have good points but I can’t seem to find them.

Ever had one of those times when you think about the right words to say hours after the actual conversation? “Man, if I only would’ve said XYZ maybe I would have my point come across more clearly”… “ I wish I would’ve said something more debonair, or at least more flattering to myself in that moment.” I honestly think that people don’t pray out loud for these very reasons.

The fear of saying something stupid or not saying the right thing at the right time for the right reasons paralyze us to not say anything at all.

Whenever we have to do corporate prayer people say things like, “I don’t know what to say… I’m not that good at praying out loud… I’m not one of those professional prayers.” Now, I’ve never been a professional prayer, but I think that would be a really cool job get paid all day just talk to Jesus. Pretty solid gig if you ask me since there is always a need.  

Back to writers block. As you can tell I’ve kind of overcome my writer’s block, and I’m just sitting rambling on and on about how I don’t have writers block at the current moment. But there’s times when ever I really want to communicate something, but I just can’t seem to find the words. As I said before, I like to write and at times I don’t know the words. I don’t have the words in order to communicate the points that I want to get across. The same is true whenever we pray.

The Bible says that when we don’t know what to pray that the Holy Spirit will pray on our behalf (See Romans 8:26-27).  

When we have spiritual writers block, God himself will pray on our behalf and write our narrative of what our hearts really wants to say.  

On those days when you’re sad and you just don’t know why, just cry out to God because He’s going to pray on your behalf. In those moments when someone’s hurting, and you don’t know how to pray for them, ask the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf. What better person to pray on your behalf than the One who knows everything about everything and everywhere. There’s no surprises to God. There’s nothing where He’s like, “oh, I didn’t see that one coming.” Nope.

There are times that I’m just in a funk. Not like a 70s funk where everything is groovy and disco balls are spinning around, but the type of funk where I’m not really happy I’m not really sad I just kind of just… am. In those moments, when I don’t know what to pray and I don’t know why am in a little melancholy state, I go to Jesus, and I say,  “You know more about me than I know about me. I need for You to do what you do best which is be God because I am not.”

When I don’t understand why things are happening the way they are, I pray for the Holy Spirit to pray on my behalf because I don’t know what’s going on. How much does God want to communicate with that first He teaches us how to pray and then even when that fails He prays for us?

There may be days when you have spiritual writer’s block; when you don’t know what to say to God; when you don’t know what to say to others; when you don’t know what to say to yourself. In those moments, when you’ll be content with just having on the right comfortable pants and the right loose shirt and hope that you’ll make it through. Pray to the God who knows all things about everything. He will speak, on your behalf, and intercede for you.  Why? So, you can grow your relationship with Him and He can do amazing things in you. Yoga pants and all.


Photo courtesy of Gregory Gill

 

 

Why do we say Amen?

I’m venturing into podcasting, and answering questions that we might have about Christian sub-culture. Let me know what you think, and leave a question you or a friend might have in the comments.  Enjoy!

 

Music courtesy of Lee Rosevere; “Wandering” from Music for Podcasts 2   2016

Photo courtesy of Catherine Todd

Fear of the Missed Exit

 

I realize that it has been a while since I have posted.  It’s not because I had nothing to share.  Plenty was happening in my life.  Honestly, I have been going through a bit of a dry spell when it came to hearing the voice of the Lord.  He has always been there, but maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t in a place to hear from Him.  I’m guessing the latter is the reason.

I recently attended a women’s conference at my church.  It was a time set aside to have an ugly cry, a broken heart, and a life restored. Let’s just say that when you offer the sacrifice of time before the Lord, He will honor that sacrifice and meet with you, no matter how ugly you cry.  (If you want to learn about the conference click here)

Going back to the dry spell… Why?  Why did I have such a long time of not really hearing from God?  Not that He didn’t speak, but my spiritual ears were filled with so much junk that His voice was blocked.  The honest reason for the blockage?

Fear.

Fear that I missed my calling.  See, the suburbs of Detroit were no where on my radar when I was dreaming of all the adventures God was going to lead me on, but here I am.  In Michigan with the two kids, a dog, and a mortgage; teaching music in the local school, married to a smokin’ hot husband, but feeling like I missed it.  Insert Belle singing on the side of a hill about adventure… #DisneyChildhood

I felt called in one way from what I was told in the past, yet I find myself in a different place than what I visioned in my early years with Jesus.  It’s rather confusing and seems complicated.  Am I supposed to do something else?  Am I supposed to stay a teacher? I really feel like being a teacher has developed my skill, but is that where I am supposed to stay?  What if people don’t affirm what I thought was my calling?  What if my husband doesn’t want me to move into that roll?  What if the roll I think I’m supposed to be in isn’t it?  Maybe I should look for some castle in the woods of France instead of living a provincial life?  No, wait, that’s Disney again.

So many what ifs.  So many unknowns.  My brain and soul get wrecked trying to figure it out, fearful that I will miss my exit and never live up to some calling on this road of life.

I sat before the Lord this weekend, weeping ugly tears, my face looking red as my mascara ran down my face.  I hid in the back corner of the sanctuary, angry with God that everything I’ve been doing is for nothing because I made some wrong choice decades ago.  I made a single mistake and messed up God’s entire plan for my life.  Very powerful of me to do such a thing, right?

Then in the midst of the music and hiding in the corner, God whispered His truth to me.  The thing is, all of my efforts of me trying to navigate the route is really me wanting to be God and drive the car.  Me trying to hold control or gain control when I should be in the passenger seat enjoying the view, admiring the wildflowers and vast creation along the side of the road.  And when I’m trying to drive it all myself, I can’t hear from God because I’m trying to BE God, which is the sin of idolatry.

The driver tells me which exits to look for while He is driving, and I joyfully seek the roadsigns because it is His roadtrip that I GET to be a part of. But when there is no exit in sight, I sit, enjoying the conversation with the Driver.

Past “missed opportunities” are not missed exits, but rather not MY exit.  Not where the driver wanted me to go.  When I do grab the wheel and force the exit, like Google maps, I am directed over and over how to get back on route to where I need to be.  I’m never kicked out of the car or given up on because I’m not there yet.

My calling? My calling is to get in.  Get in and enjoy the ride.  If it’s through the treacherous mountains or the foggy valleys.  Get in and enjoy the neighborhoods of white picket fences or the projects of those cast to side.

Get in.  Trust the Driver.

Don’t worry about the missed or even next exit.  Wait for the Driver to tell me to look for the sign or opportunity, look for the turn, look for the next rest stop, wait in the traffic, sing His praise with the radio, but never abandon the car.

Get in.  All in.  Buckle up because THIS ride is the adventure.

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Photo “Highway 101, Ventura California” courtesy of Wendell.

A LETTER TO MY CHILDREN

To my babies,

If I were to talk to my college-self, I never would have imagined being a mom.  Daddy and I got married later in life, and by later, I mean late 20’s. In southern timeline, that is way late. I should have already had both of you before I was 30.  BUT, I didn’t. So, there. Since I didn’t meet Daddy until I was out of both college and grad-school, I honestly thought I wasn’t going to get married, ever. However, God knew that I needed a man like Daddy who is kind, patient, and extremely good-looking.  Never settle for less than what God has planned for you, kids. Never settle.

Being your mom is the biggest blessing and the biggest struggle I think I’ve ever had.  Not that you are bad kids; you’re not. The Lord has used you to show me parts of my heart and soul that I didn’t know existed… both good and bad.  The character traits that I aim to have or show, you easily show to others around you without bias or reservation. You always give hugs at the exact right time and know how to bring a smile to my face and those around you.  Then, there’s the other side of the coin. The things that I can’t stand about myself you at times do. I’ve never taught you these attributes, but somehow you managed to pick them up. Great.

There are many days when I feel less than perfect.  When my parenting looks less like Proverbs 31 and more like a Pinterest fail.  It’s messy, but it’s made with love and probably tastes good. My honest to goodness fear is that I will lose my temper or yell too much, make too many mistakes, say too many wrong things that you will want nothing to do with Jesus.  Not wanting to be around me, I can understand. There are times when I don’t even want to be around me, but to turn your back on the Lord because I sucked as a parent is too much to swallow. Way worse than any Pinterest fail.

In those moments of doubt, God has reminded me that if I was able find Jesus when I was a teenager, there is always hope for you.  Through Christ, I beat the odds and have kept my faith. I’m not perfect. As you know, my sweet babies, I mess up. I mess up a lot.  I am quick to tell you sorry and to ask for your forgiveness because I need you to know that I’m trying.

I sin and mess up like all people, so I apologize to you because you get caught in the crossfires of my failure.  

I pray everyday that you will do more for the Kingdom of God than I ever could.  I pray that God will reach entire nations through your faithfulness, especially when I’m struggling to see beyond my own situations and hurts.  I want more for you than I want for myself because I desire for Jesus to make your life an adventure that only He can write.

To my son and my daughter, remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Nothing in your life is a surprise to God. No freckle or scar goes without purpose or plan.  You have never been forgotten, nor will you ever be forgotten. God thinks of you more than I could ever dream, more than the grains of sand on all the beaches, both fresh and saltwater combined (It’s a Michigan thing.) There is no place you can hide from God’s love, even if I mess up as your mom.  Jesus is bigger, His thoughts are deeper, and His commitment to you is stronger than anything I could muster up. (Psalm 139)

I love you more than I will ever be able to express into words.  You are a blessing to me and Daddy, even on the days that are hard.  I write this letter, not only for your benefit, but to remind myself that you are not really mine.  You are God’s. He made you; I merely got to be a part of the process. So, no matter how many rough days we have or times I feel like the worst mom in the world, know that you are loved.  I never thought I would get to be your mama, but I couldn’t imagine my life any other way. Thank you for your patience as Daddy and I are figuring it out. Thank you for your love and forgiveness.  

Thank you for calling me “Mom”.

GARDENING

Spring is a wonderful time in Michigan.  The snow is melting. Warmer weather is finally emerging.  The world turns green again instead of a mixture of mud and snow.  As the heavy jackets are being placed into bins and light sweatshirts are coming out, residents of Michigan begin to come outside too.  Winter is long here in the mitten state, so as soon as the temperatures are above 40 degrees, people tend to come out from hiding in their homes to begin yard work.  I grew up in the south where things grow year round. The idea of plants waking up from a season of slumber is new to me, but I look forward to it every year. It amazes me each spring how one day the trees are barren, and the next day little green leaves appear.  They are only followed by full on leaves by the end of the week. In a time period of seven days, my neighborhood goes from empty wasteland to abundant life. Every year the trees just know to come back.

Trees are not the only things that comes back.  Flowers and greenery start blooming, filling the air with the sweet smell of new blooms. I have tried to grow these flowers, but I do not have a green thumb.  Not. At. All. If there is a 1% chance that I can kill something in the garden, I will. I will follow the instructions to the letter, and it still doesn’t manage to work.  Last year, I thought I would try to plant a fool-proof garden. I tried the wildflower mix that only requires spreading the seed, a little water, and sunlight. I tilled the flower bed, sprinkled the seeds, gave it some water, and the Lord provided the sun.  It seemed like I would be enjoying wildflowers in 14-21 days as the packaging suggested. However, like any spring in Michigan, an unexpected frost came and prevented my flowers from growing. I failed the fool-proof seeds. Again, I do not have a green thumb.  My wildflowers didn’t make it. However, the weeds in my garden came up nice and strong.

Weeds have a way of doing that.  The things that I want to grow don’t, yet the weeds will grow without any care or effort on my part.  I even have an area in my yard that it is covered in rocks and nothing grows… except weeds. Those buggers will push past the rocks, find any opening they can muster in order to make their way to the surface.  I have a garden of rocks and weeds. Great. We have hired professionals to fertilize our lawn in order to get rid of all the weeds, but we always manage to find a few dandelions in the lushness of our grass. My neighbors on either side… well, let’s just say they have not utilized the same services for their yards.  I’m pretty sure that one neighbor’s wild yard has caused a slight contamination of my yard. I don’t have direct proof, and it’s not like I’m going to do anything about it, but I’m just thinking in grass terms, my yard is guilty by association.

My son, who is 5, doesn’t understand why weeds are bad.  He doesn’t get that dandelions are bad for the lawn because all he sees through his eyes are pretty flowers.  Though we tell him time and time again that we want grass in our yard, he still doesn’t get it. The weeds look nice because they come across as pretty.  Little does he know, that those cute little yellow flowers are choking out the good lawn. Weeds choke out what we really want: life and lushness.

We all have weeds in our lives.  If you have a yard, you literally have weeds growing in your life in terms of your front yard or garden.  You get down and pull the weeds out of your garden, but if you don’t get the root, those suckers are going to come back with bigger roots and be even harder to get rid of.  You can be like me and put rocks over your weeds, hoping that the lack of sunlight with just drown out the weeds, but they will always find their way to the surface, exposing your lack of killing the root.  If you don’t attend to your front yard, it will run wild with weeds like my neighbor, and can cause neighboring lawns to stumble into weed-dom.

In our personal lives, weeds have two names: hurt and sin.  Hurt is sin that is done to you. Sin is actual sin that we commit whether to ourselves or someone else.  We can try burying it under loads of better looking rocks like appearance, nice things, being super friendly, etc., but it will always come to the surface.  Through my reading, I came across Ephesians 5. It says starting in verse 12:

“For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.”

Sin in secret and hurt that we shove down will ALWAYS come to the surface.  Not maybe. Always. The tricky thing is secrets can come out in different ways.  I have an emotional weed that I am in process of pulling now. I have for many years had a difficult relationship with my mom.  We have different religious beliefs and views concerning life, which causes a lot of strife on our relationship. I didn’t realize how much it affected me until I had children of my own.  I would get angry at them for the dumbest things. I’m not talking a little frustrated. I’m talking grit my teeth, yelling, with everyone in the house (including myself) crying. My kids didn’t know why.  I didn’t know why. To get to the root, I started going to a Christian counselor, and we figured out together it was a weed from my poor maternal relationship that I never pulled the root on. I just tried to ignore it and hoped it went away, but it didn’t.  Weeds that are left untamed will go wild. It’s in their nature, and it will destroy the good things you are trying to grow, like healthy relationships. I still keep a loose relationship with my mom, but I have to set clear boundaries for myself and my children.  I have to guard my heart, for it’s the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), and no one wants weeds near their wellspring.

Playing with similar weeds in the lives of others can cause our demise.  Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians in chapter 15, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” Just like my neighbor’s yard flows into my nicely fertilized grass that we have spent time and effort making beautiful, the association of another can cause downfall.  Does this mean I’m going to build a bubble around my yard and let no one’s dandelion seeds fall on it? No, but I shouldn’t be surprised when I see weeds coming up in my lawn. What it does mean is that I can’t just assume that I can work on my lawn every once in a while, and everything is going to be okay.  If a friend was a struggling alcoholic, you wouldn’t want to see her at the bar. If my sister had a porn addiction, I wouldn’t want to leave her alone with my computer with no internet filters. You can have the best intentions, but if we are trying to live a life of holiness but our biggest influences aren’t, we aren’t going to rid our lives of anything but good character.  Simple as that. (Note: I don’t have a sister; this is just for example. Carry on.) The next verse Paul writes is, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.” We can’t know what God is about for our whole lives and pursue Him if we don’t maintain our lives rooted in His Word (the Bible) and stop trying to live a life of sin.  Just like my son doesn’t know that dandelions are weeds, how can we know God’s ideal plan for us unless we read it in His Word. My son’s lack of knowledge doesn’t change the fact that a weed is a weed, no matter how pretty it looks; and our lack of knowledge doesn’t change the fact that sin is sin, even though culture says it’s pretty. To God, sin is detestable, and secret weeds come to the surface. Always.

Spring is a beautiful reminder of God’s grace.  Yes, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have to pull the weeds in our lives, but God is the ultimate gardener (John 15:1).  There is no way we can rid our lives of sin without Jesus. Just like each year the world comes back to life, we are given opportunity to see life emerge out of our mud and that which seems to be dead.  We can take off the layers of past experiences and hurt and be made new in Christ. Life blooms and smells sweet to the Lord. Like the flowers and trees, as Christ makes our lives new in Him, what seems like small buds today can be lushness by the end of the week.  Praise the Lord that He doesn’t want the weeds to run wild in our lives, but wants to get to the root of it all so we can live and bloom for Him.

SENIORITIS

Hello.  It’s me.  Not to sound like an Adele song, but I feel like I’ve fallen off the wagon of consistency and into a pit of busyness and to-do lists.  I’m sure none of you have EVER felt like this, but it seems that inconsistency is the only constant in my schedule. That and my kids waking up long before the sun comes up.  “Today’s new phrase, kids, is sleeping in.  Let’s put it into practice. Especially on Saturday.”

When I was in high school, I had no problem sleeping in.  I could easily sleep until noon, but I would choose to get up between 9:30 and 10:30, so I didn’t feel like I wasted the whole day.  Now, I just wish I could sleep past 6:30. High school, in all of its glory, wasn’t too bad. (Side note: I chose to follow Jesus Christ and became a Christian my sophomore year, and life changed drastically concerning my mindset and purpose in life.)  With all that sleeping in, one would think that I would have endless amount of energy and drive to do my best work all the time and put forth the most amount of effort in everything I did. Right? Well, I did until the second semester of my senior year. That’s when it hit.  The mental setback of senioritis. Pronounced senior-eye-tis, this condition typically occurs when you know what you are doing after your graduate high school, so you no longer feel like you have to provide your best work at or even finish your senior classes. It’s so daunting to go to class and write papers or do math when you know where you are going to college (which is dependent upon graduating)? You already know that you have the scholarship to go to school (which is based on your GPA), so why keep busting your tail to keep your grades up?  The struggle is real.

Not to be contained to your last year in high school, senioritis can also manifest itself in other avenues of life.  You already got a new job and put your two weeks notice in with your current employer, so you don’t put forth your best effort as you wait out your current employment.  Senioritis rears its head and you start doing non-quality work. You have been on point with your decisions and personal ethics, always having an answer ready if the situation ever comes up, so you can get out or stand up.  Until you don’t, and you start making decisions based on emotion instead of morals. You’re making bad choice after bad choice. Senioritis takes you places you never intended to go. You’ve run an entire half-marathon and all you have left is the last mile, which for some reason seems to be the longest mile of the race.  Your body is telling you to quit. Your mind is telling you no one will care if you don’t finish. Your senioritis is reminding you of a taco stand back on mile 12. Senioritis lets you settle for less than your original goal. You can see where the Lord is leading, maybe a new direction in life, but He wants you to finish the work that you have already started and wait it out.  Senioritis makes you want to abandon where you are currently and jump into the next thing or just plain quit, though God says to wait. It’s like jumping into the pool when it’s a hot day even though it isn’t filled with water. It feels like the right place to be, but that place is still being prepared for the right time. Instead of feeling refreshed, you end up with a broken leg in a cast keeping your from swimming all summer.   

I’m at a crossroad right now.  The Lord has shown me a new project that He wants me to pursue, alongside with everything else.  I want to jump all in and go for it, but I know there is a lot that I have yet to learn. Also, God doesn’t want me to abandon every other project at this current moment.  I’m a little nervous but also excited. I’m reminded of Psalm 27:14,

Wait patiently for the LORD.

Be brave and courageous.

Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

It’s easy to come down with senioritis and not see through what you have been called to do, but as Paul said in Acts 20:24 “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”  We are to finish what God has called us to do. Complete the task of where He has us. Don’t let the senioritis of life keep you from finishing the last mile of the race God has you in right now.  You can sleep in later, senior. Right now, you’ve got a race to finish.

 

STAGE LIGHTS

Every few weeks, I volunteer at my church and help lead Sunday morning worship.  Meaning, I sing with the praise band.  I enjoy being a part of a musical group, and it is a place where I can just be.  I don’t have to think about saying the right things or having the perfect explanation for thought-provoking questions.  No, I get to hold a microphone and worship my Lord.  Some people would be terrified at the idea of singing in front of one-thousand plus people any given Sunday, but it doesn’t bother me.  Since I was a music major in college,  I’ve sung and played instruments in front of thousands of people over the years, so I can just be when I’m on stage.  What is casual for me may be the worst nightmare of others, and that’s okay. On the weeks I don’t serve, I enjoy sitting with the congregation singing to the Lord.   

This past Sunday, I felt the Lord telling me just to sit back and watch.  Not watch the people in the room, but rather, He wanted me to watch the people on stage.  It’s easy to think that those in leadership or on stage have it all together.  They look so polished; they speak or sing with such conviction.  In the Christian realm, it may seem like they know God more or even that God loves them more.  When it came to gifting, those leaders were at the front of the line getting the good stuff.  This is not limited to church-life.  At work those in leadership seem happier.  On Facebook, our mom friends actually do the Pinterest crafts, and they turn out great.  We look at our own failed attempt and jokingly say, “nailed it”.  We get mad at ourselves for losing our temper with our mini-me’s, and try to reason if we are saving for college or therapy for our kids.  We say to ourselves, “If I could only be like the person standing in the stage lights, then, I would be so happy… If I had her career, then I would have it all… If I was a better mom, then my kids would be well-behaved.”  It’s the if/then statements we tell ourselves over and over.

Here’s the thing, those people in the stage lights, or any leadership position, have the same junk in their lives we all have. Like I said, I help lead at my church, and I also lead two Bible studies and serve on planning teams.  On paper, it looks like I have it all together, but I don’t.  I have a lot of pain that I have to work through, and I have remind myself not to believe the lies.  I struggle with feeling like I’m good enough…good enough for anything.  I’m not sharing this for pity, but I want to communicate that if you are feeling inadequate, you aren’t alone.  

I have had a pretty emotionally and verbally unhealthy relationship with my mother.  She does not live for Jesus.  In fact, she is a practicing Wiccan.  She has invited demonic spirits into her life, though she says she is a good witch.  Her words, not mine. As a child, when my brothers and I would misbehave, as children do, my mom would lock herself in her room and threaten to harm herself.  As a 10 year-old, I would sit outside her door and promise to be good, as to stop my mom from carrying through with her plan.  Other times, my mother would fabricate stories about my siblings and me in order to contribute to a conversation, causing us kids not to know what part of our childhood was real or just a way to get attention.  There are more stories, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.   When I became a Christian at the age of fifteen, warfare entered into our home.  From that point on, nothing I could ever do or will do will be good enough for her.  The demon in her hates the Holy Spirit in me, so we fight… a lot.  Any time we do talk, it’s me reaching out to her, and the conversation turns to her complaining about someone or something for 30 minutes before hanging up on me.  All of this is to say, I am insecure about relationships and friendships.  I have trust issues.  I mean, if the relationship with my own mother can be broken, why not those who aren’t related?  The first voice you hear in your life can be the loudest one as you grow older, so good or bad, that voice can be the one that speaks to your core.

Through prayer and professional counseling, I have come to peace with my past.  Satan still likes to throw things in my face, but I remember that Christ has the ultimate victory.  I don’t want to say that because I have Jesus my life is sunshine and roses.  The sun can still burn and roses have thorns.  I can still be broken.  I can still have hurt.  I can still cry late at night or in the shower because I feel rejected or left wishing I had a better relationship with my mom.  Those who only know me through the stage lights don’t know the hurt.  They only see the polished.  But the scars from years of torment and tears can be seen only when you are up close.  

In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about how he will not boast in his accomplishments, though he has every right to.  Chapter 11 starting in verse 21, Paul shares how he has endured great suffering for the sake of the Gospel.  He doesn’t want to proclaim how he has suffered more for the Gospel; rather, he shares as to show that in spite of his great weakness and hardship, God still used him for the glory of Christ.  Paul continues speaking about his shortcomings until chapter 12 verse 9:

“But He [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Paul boasts in his weaknesses, not his strengths.  I will boast in my weakness because through weakness, not pride, Christ is exalted. Don’t let great lighting or speaking fool you.  Don’t allow the glitz and glam of a performance make you think that those on stage have it all figured out.  If I didn’t have mess off stage, I could NEVER truly worship the Lord in any sort of leadership.  I would have nothing to be saved from.  Jesus is my Savior because He saved me.  I was going to die.  I didn’t have hope.  The chances of me knowing the Lord based on my upbringing were slim.  I am saved from my depression.  I am saved a life of insecurity, because I am secure in Him.  I still have scars, but scars are proof that something has healed.  Can those wounds be opened back up by a horrible phone call or misunderstanding?  Yes, but my Jesus is in the healing business.

I am thankful that I can share part of my story, so others will know that they aren’t alone.  Like Paul, I still have thorns in my life that keep me humble and remind me that my service in the Lord is not of my own doing.  Just remember that stage lights and platforms do not equal holiness.  They are only places God allows people to serve, even if there is junk off stage.  


Photo courtesy of The Woods Church – Warren