Why does God have me around all the people-pleasers?

Since I have moved about a month ago, I have met the overwhelming power and presence of God over my life. Through a series of events and daily encouragements, I am so convinced that the Lord is with me, and it is certainly his will that I am here, learning to be a teacher. Overwhelming, nearly inexplicable strength has come over me despite having moved to a new city, making new friends, setting new habits, etc. I have found a wonderful church. I have people I am supposed to care for. I am being groomed for ministry through working with children and other people (and their parents). If ever God lays something so thick on your heart about the direction you should go but doesn’t explain it, listen. I would have never expected that the best training I could receive for ministry would be in a Master’s degree program for Early Childhood Education. The Lord knows all the details. I don’t yet, but it’s so obvious that this is his will that it’s hard to worry about all that.

For the past year or so, the Lord has brought friendships in my life with people who instinctively try to make everybody happy. Which to me, is madness. I am direct. I am decisive. I don’t mince words but I’ll go miles out of my way for a friend. I get the feeling that I’m supposed to learn something through all these people, and I have. I get the feeling also that I’m meant to strengthen people somehow, and model/teach about what healing is and the freedom available in Christ. It isn’t always easy.

When you are made aware of people’s needs by the Holy Spirit, that can be a heavy burden. It’s hard watching my friends struggle to parse out how to meet what they need. I often watch people pursue all sorts of paths that I can tell you from my own experience won’t serve you for nothing. I can often tell you why those paths are false, both from scripture and personal experience. I can even tell you what it feels like to be in that specific situation, because I remember. It’s maddening to know what people are going through and only be able to tell them what I know about the truth: That Jesus came and rose again so that we would not just have life, but have it to the full. That Christ is strong enough. That literally the only thing that is going to fill that hole is Jesus. It sounds crazy. It is crazy. It’s also true.

When people see where God has brought me but weren’t witness to where I’ve been, they just have to take my word for it. If you already have a hard time believing, that may be a stretch. I’m just trying to keep the same steadfast behavior and even become more kind. Shifting your heart attitude to a place to where you’re willing to believe that there could be a God takes time. You can’t rush it.

Which is maddening. I know what could heal you TODAY, but most people aren’t ready. I have to patiently wait and continue to show grace until the day comes (if it comes) where you’d be curious or desperate enough to seek Jesus. That’s hard. My soul mourns and cries out watching all of these people killing themselves for a grace that can’t be found where they’re seeking it.

God has honored me by teaching me these things while I am still young, but that’s also difficult. So few people have found God at this age. So few people of my generation believe that Christianity could be genuine. We are scattered in 1000 different directions because of the lack of integrity in the generations before us. We are desperately pursuing authenticity wherever we believe it might be, despite all of these bitter old people who want to act like we’re the most shallow generation that’s ever lived. When you criticize Millennials, you basically admit that you aren’t willing to help us, and you aren’t actually invested in growing the next generation of the kingdom of God. That’s selfish.

Lord, please teach us to bear with one another, ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. We are a people in need of healing. We believe that you are powerful. That you’re strong enough. Please come and heal us through your own name. Amen.

Spiritual slavery to false idols

Reflecting on Luke 8:26-39. In this passage, Jesus cures a man of many demons. Upon leaving his body, these demons (Legion) rush into some nearby pigs and drive them off the side of a cliff. Upon seeing a man previous naked and insane clothed and in his right mind, the people of this village beg Jesus to depart from them, in fear. Jesus tells that man to return home, and declare all that God has done for him.

For my mature Christians in the room, how often have y’all shared the gospel with someone, and because of past or present addictions, someone is afraid to receive the truth? How often do we let the demons in our lives that we have been worshiping continue to enslave us, after encountering the one true God? Maybe our hearts aren’t ready to receive it. I’ll say it again.

The spirit of the Enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy. The spirit of confusion, disorder, death, and chaos will try whatever it can to take your peace, your joy, your faith, and in faith, your grounds for boasting in the power of God. If even demons (like Legion) beg not to be cast out, can anyone doubt the power of our God? So what keeps us from believing in his power? What present or past slavery still enslaves us?

With any kind of idolatry, there is a transaction being made. Unlike the free gift of grace, worshiping false idols costs you something. Whether it is worshiping self-image, substance abuse or other addictions, lies about the man or woman you were called to be, or other forms of false worship, you sacrifice God’s gifts in your life in order to believe more in the sin than in those things you surrender. For example, those of us who venerate our own image sacrifice the promise that there is a God that loves us just as we are, that we don’t need to perform to please him, that there is nothing more (or less) we could do to receive love from him, that his love is the most important. As debt racks up and we add sin to further sin, the Devil delights in casting us far away from God. His goal is to mislead as many people as possible, and his wages lead to death. We may enjoy attention we get from other people, but it’s a shallow joy. It’s being seen versus being RISEN. There is a power in Christ that can resurrect people from the grave, and resurrects all of us who believe in him in every weak place we surrender to him. So what stops us from surrendering our hearts?

Part of the issue is that a slave runs around thinking how she/he can do more to pay debt back, instead of slowing down long enough to comprehend the forgiveness of God. If Christ really loves you, then his love is absolutely free. Busyness is not godliness, but incites chaos that serves as an effective distraction. If the Lord’s peace is our strength, if his promises are certain, if his justice is sovereign, then who will slow down long enough to learn about the goodness of God? Who is willing to be a Mary and not just a Martha?

If there is a light in us, then it comes from Christ. Goodness is a spiritual goodness, not a man-made goodness. We have the image of God, but we need the light of Christ to illuminate that image of God in us, and give life to the places that are far from him. God can transform every area of your life if you are willing to submit to him. How many people are willing to accept that the good things in their lives are not their own? In order to become wise, are you willing to accept the limitations of your own understanding? Are you willing to be made a fool so that you might live?

The world doesn’t believe in spiritual activity unless we define it to be neutral. You talk about the Devil or the divinity of God, and immediately you piss off people who want to remain comfortable, because they are so afraid of the ways that oppressive spirit will move against them. On our own, there is no freedom. Only in Jesus is there resurrection. If you really want to break free, you have to submit to Christ and exchange the freedom you have on this earth for a spiritual freedom that transcends just what you can see, know, and hear. If you are willing to believe, freedom comes at no cost.

Lord come quickly

Trying to sit in the silence. Like a steady gaze, the need to just breathe and be seen by God is all I can manage. Trying to believe that there is a reason for the things that happen in my life, that God understands the ins and outs of this life, the sorrow, the death, the joy. When the whole world seems fragile and so quick to point out one another’s flaws as we speed forward towards a land of few solutions, I just want to be still.

I can’t give up hope that the Lord will do something. There are children looking to me to remain steady, giving up isn’t a choice. If we let our fear distance our hearts from the Lord, we accept defeat on behalf of the next generation, who is looking to us. We are still alive. There is still work to do. In a time where simple honesty seems to stir up everyone’s emotions, where we have the sacred right to destroy ourselves and others, and when abandoning the need to prove something makes you into a martyr, at least we have meaning. That our lives are actually valuable to God, and are capable of being useful. Where we can actually know God’s spirit, and trust him. I am not a fan of everything God does, but he is God. Who can disagree with him? Who can question his ways?

When I was younger, I wanted to pursue wisdom. I grow older only to find that most people have abandoned it. Running off in ten thousand different directions, trying to find a way to be less hungry, bitter, and cold. Has your senseless idealism bought you anything? Have you gained wisdom in all the places you know you should be happy? The truth is passing through our fingers and are throats are so thirsty. Who will be bold enough to drink? Who still believes that God owns these things: the things we take for granted, the things we do not recognize, the people we often forget? It’s terrible, but I find myself hoping that he would judge even to wrath with his coming. May he destroy our foolishness. May our clever words and actions be dashed to pieces.

I cant think of a single member of my family who isn’t broken, crying out for things they don’t feel like they could ever accomplish, let alone, find. I can’t think of any of the families I have come to know that value each other even most of the time; and even of those that do, in this life they are defenseless. A marginal minority trying to make a difference in overwhelming apathy and disillusionment. I realize that now is an excellent time for people to believe in God. Unique shades of sorrow, conflicted emotions, and confusion speckle the news. Why does it have to take disaster to have something beautiful to share with people? Why does it have to necessitate famine, or war, or illness, or death to get anyone’s attention? If God is just and trying to get to know everyone all of the time, unsuccessfully because of our mixed interests, how can so few people come? We are beginning to cannibalize one another from the depths of our need. Truly, we all want to believe we ourselves are the most broken. We starve our children for affection because each of us is the most hurt. We ourselves are broken children crying out for an answer.

I believe so much in honesty. Like looking in a mirror. But who likes what they see, anymore? When we examine ourselves, are we satisfied with what we have done? Are we happy with the choices we have made? The things we have accomplished? If we don’t allow ourselves to drink in this honesty, we will never find peace and never need to move. We will sit pretty in these rusted seats until the day where each is called to account for it. There could have been hope for you, if you just were willing to take it. There could have been peace. There could have been life. There could have been family. There could have been wholeness. There could have been sanity.

May God finish it quickly. When he’s tired of giving options, when he’s tired of reaching out to us and the last group of people are finally offered the choice to believe or to disbelieve it, it will be finished. We will be home. I wish I were already in that place. There is still work left, but I just see bitterness and chaos all around me. Come quickly.

Though bucket 6/23/16

  • Without repentance, we are not fit to grow in our capacity to hold God’s love. As sacred vessels, if there is no intentional acknowledgement of the way we still fall short, our usefulness to God’s plan is limited. We cannot bear the good things he has for us if we allow ourselves to just coast.
  • Believe in who God is and his promises regardless of whether you feel happy with what he’s chosen to give you. There will be times when trusting God can’t be dependent on feeling happy with him or your present circumstance. Being confident in the Lord can’t just be about our feelings.
  • Do most people have good social skills? These days, I don’t think so. I’m not convinced that it’s bad to have some room to grow in how we relate to other people. It’s like beauty, or perfect physical appearance. We all want to be well liked, to be good looking, to be able to make other people like us, to fit in. It’s probably more important to be respectful and thoughtful than free of social mishaps. So long as you are trying to model Christ’s love for the people around you and do the little you can well, I think it’s okay to leave perfection up to God. God already loves us all more than we can imagine, even if only some of us decide to allow him to care for us. It’s okay to be imperfect and trust God to help compensate for your weakness.
  • Judgmental people are afraid to lose God’s love because they’re living their faith like it depends on their performance. Trust God. Pray for those people. Show them that the grace of God doesn’t depend on their performance, and set somebody free of bondage. Deep down, nobody really wants to wound others. We make decisions trying to compensate for what we are convinced that we need. Pray that people who make others feel condemned for minor flaws would realize that God’s love extends past their own character and past other human’s collective weaknesses. Pray that they encounter the abundance of God. People only judge like that when they are spiritually hungry and don’t know where to eat. Repay judgment with grace and kindness.
  • It’s good to have blessings large enough that they feel like burdens sometimes. Depending on whether you are grateful and trust God’s Holy Spirit, a gift will be good, neutral, or bad. It’s okay to have to take time to grow into the gifts God has for you, and to learn to steward the ones he’s already given. If you are actively trying to pursue Christ, becoming a better steward of what you already have is natural.
  •  A society where Teachers don’t parent and Parents don’t teach is doomed. A good Father teaches his children, and a good teacher cares for her students with a mother’s love.
  • I’m going to do the best I can with the little I have for as long as I can until it pleases the Lord to increase it. He who is faithful with little is faithful in much. Like the parable of the widow’s giving, we should aim to be faithful with what we have instead of feeling overwhelmed by what we don’t have. It’s more useful while you are waiting for certain life seasons to embrace God through the things you already have, than to be disappointed that it’s not here yet. Faith is based on what is unseen, not what is easy.

Why is it just now that people are valuing my questions?

Not everybody gets to that point of actively pursuing positive cycles, but for those of us so blessed, what a gift worth living!

When I was a kid, I was so full of questions. I wanted to know and see and explore everything. Turning up rocks for rollie pollies (bugs) in the backyard, spending time outside to examine different insects, playing devil’s advocate when it wasn’t fun, asking questions when I detected difference.

It’s wonderful to finally be old enough to know that asking questions is a part of resilience. Having curiosity leads to having grit and passion, and both things can help us pursue meaning in life. It’s nice to know after all that time that it was worth asking questions. Not just that the questions set me apart, but that they’re good for people.

If you’re the weird kid at school, you don’t have meaningful ways to talk about being different. People always told me that it was good to ask questions, but like a swollen birthmark, it’s nothing I ever chose, but something I couldn’t get rid of.

Being curious helped me through some terrible seasons of life. I never realized that being curious universally helps others, too. When you feel isolated, it’s really hard to identify what makes you different. It’s even more difficult to feel as though those things that make you different are actually worth something. Even when you have older and wiser people who notice such traits and appreciate them, it’s really hard to know what the hell they’re talking about until you’ve gathered some perspective. As a teacher, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a student who questions and is curious is often more fruitful than one who is complacent or is afraid to learn. Despite all those people who didn’t appreciate my questions and all the teachers who tried to resurrect them, it has been really difficult to understand the value of curiosity in myself.

It’s nothing I asked for. I think that oftentimes, you get punished for being curious, just like you get punished for being honest with people who legitimately do not want to know better. When a child tells you things that are terrible or brings up something legitimately insightful, there is often a power struggle. Denial. Lack of willingness  to listen.

Even in college, you get punished for having questions. I truly believe that you have to be in a role where you can gather some leadership for people to not attack any willingness to learn. The fact that we make our children wait so long to do things that are meaningful makes me angry. Would we have fewer high school suicides if students were more actively involved in creating their own knowledge? Would we have stronger relationships that help traumatized children overcome the past if we encouraged self-directed learning? If you empower a child and teach them that their questions are valuable and that they are allowed to ask them, you meet them where they are at in a way that reflects God, and doesn’t punish them. Learning doesn’t have to be so difficult.

And so I’m older now, and I’ve still got my questions. But I tell you, I’ve been asking the same questions for years, and only now that I’m old enough am I finally getting some answers or people who actually respect me. Why do we have to age into getting some respect? The notion that you have to qualify to matter is nonsensical for a creation made in God’s image. It really sucks that people couldn’t just listen to me as a kid when I gave them these opportunities to learn with me, instead of finally esteeming what I say now that I’ve become an adult. They are the same exact questions. How many years were wasted? The only thing that has changed is that people have started to view my life as though it has some sense of opportunity. Why don’t we already view our children like that?

Trying to do my best

Even if nobody appreciates it, is it worth it to be kind?

I feel like there are so many middle aged women who are self-made martyrs. On the playground, it’s always, “I wont give him a turn because he didn’t say please!” We refuse to pick up our toys until the playmate who helped make the mess starts helping. Kinda reminds me of Martha getting mad at Mary.

I have this friend. Well, ex-friend. One of those people in your heart, you can’t help but hold onto. Swallowing my foolish pride, I’m trying to make the best of the situation. I want the best for her. I’m going to do what I can to just be nice.

Sometimes, my sister tries to provoke me to wrath. I swear, she’ll bring up memories from high school that I cant even remember. The depression stole those memories from me, and for whatever reason, she tries to make me feel bad by citing instances where I made a fool of myself. The jokes on her, because I legitimately can’t remember. But for the most part, I put up with it, because I know that she makes fun of me to feel better about herself. Taking the bait would be to lash out at someone who’s already wounded. Not classy.

There was this one time in the last week of kindergarten where this little girl I work with strongly reprimanded me. We were all headed to the magic carpet to do the next activity (aka where they sit) and I can’t remember what it was even about. She had been sassy for a while, but because she’s a lot like me, I think she was just testing limits. Our main teacher made her apologize, and told her that it really wasn’t nice to speak that way to a teacher. She apologized. I said it was okay, and that I wasn’t mad. The next time I was there, when we were cleaning up between centers, her little arms tightly wrapped around my waist in a hug that lingered. I understand where she was coming from. And that’s a hug I will definitely remember.

I recently asked another friend from a good while ago if she would forgive me. I’m kind of a hard-ass, so being willing not just to apologize but to ASK FOR FORGIVENESS was a whole nother…well. But I did it, and you wanna know why? If I didn’t have the balls to do it then, I wasn’t gonna do it at all. So I did. And I’m glad. This friend really doesn’t have a good impression of Christians. I was just trying to show her better than she’s used to.

We all have choices to make. One of the most common lies that bothers me to no end is that people only deserve the kindness they show you. Like a Frankenstein’s monster of the Golden rule. Some how generally social niceties become excuses not to be kind to one another. If she said then I said then she said, then she’s the one who wasn’t nice to me!

But friends, is that really the best we can do? Is that your best?

We all make choices.

I don’t want perfect justice. I want grace. I want forgiveness. I want it to not be about me. Shouldn’t good things be free? Don’t we have the power to control that?

You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to be willing. You don’t have to be perfect, but it’s good to try. Better doesn’t have to come today, but maybe it’s possible? Isn’t it just good to want better, even if you can’t yet achieve it? Isn’t it better to work at humbling ourselves than to be okay with complacency?

I think we can do better. There is a people alienated from the Church that want to believe in God, but we give them no evidence. Jesus is naturally appealing. The way he cared for people. The way he loved. If we woke up and allowed the Lord to change us, maybe a few more skeptics would buy into God. I for one thought believing with your whole heart was batshit crazy at one point, but I guess somethings have changed. I think that there are people out there that need us to be flexible. If church was a lot more about getting out of God’s way and a lot less about us, then we’d all be better off.

Falling

Some time in the middle of last night, I woke up from a dream where I was encouraging people to follow God. Trying to explain that the Lord is always faithful, I gradually woke and continued to say similar stuff being half-awake. It was kind of strange because most of the things I realized in that semi-conscious state are entirely valuable to the stuff I’ve been struggling with lately. I had fallen asleep thinking, “Some people die without ever knowing that the greatest needs they’ve ever had could have always been met” and woke up knowing that the power of God really is the most high, he really is the greatest authority, and if I trust him, things are going to turn out fine.

I’ve been quietly worrying and wondering about moving to Washington, DC this July. I haven’t consciously been disobeying God, but as doubts have come up, I’ve dealt with them. In that moment of delirious trust last night, I recognized that I had been feeling this sense of falling, and wondering if God really would catch me. I of all people should know that he follows through, given where I’ve been in life before. But still, with this big move (that symbolizes so many things I cant control), I needed to remember that all that is required of me is faith and obedience. If I believe, the Lord will show up. I just need to trust God, and he will do the work through his spirit. Everything is going to be fine. Still, it helps to acknowledge that I had been feeling afraid. Moving for the first time from college is definitely stressful. Still, I know the Lord will provide.