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.

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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.

May we receive what we did not purchase

Who will believe what was spoken to us? Who will take up this sacred offering?

I see the song of my life, an anthem of your forgiveness in the face of certain death. I watch you redeem my every plot twist, and give me a new name. Who still believes in the intimate love of God, that transcends sex, transcends human intimacy, transcends the limits of our own forgiveness?

Who would believe in the audacious love of God, and the promises of his Son? Who is willing to hope so large and so wide that the love of God is with us to acknowledge the divinity of the Son?

Who has need of resurrection? Who among us has tasted the fruit of the world, and found it to be bitter?

The love of God rolls out like waves we haven’t wanted. We resist the very fiber of what gives us life to insist on our own choices that don’t sustain us. We plead with each other and sculpt individual credos of morality, without every encountering the Almighty who made us all. Ignorant of religion, ignorant of sin, ignorant of fulfillment, devoid of peace. We act as though each one of us being judged separately means that there is no love, no judgment, no justice. We long for justice, but don’t believe in it. We ache for God’s love, a love we’d never believe in.

Who is capable of becoming less, so that he might be more? Who among us is wise enough to hear him calling her by name? All the works of his Kingdom acknowledge his divinity and obey, but we resent it. How could you love us after that? Is there really grace?

May my generation realize that the love of God always triumphs over your attempts to outrun it. May the church actually believe in grace, as we look around and realize that all have fallen. May we testify to the truth that is in us, and this amazing love that was and is and is yet to come.

On my own, I will always be disappointed. Only when my sin was nailed to the cross and my righteousness is defined through the Son of God can I truly be free. Yet who will have a heart to know what he has heard from us? Greater love has not been known than the all consuming love of God.

In a non-white classroom with Jesus

Spending time reading before I start my Master’s degree program in Early Childhood Ed, I often feel overwhelmed. There are so many pieces of information and gritty lessons that veteran teachers have cobbled together for our benefit. In a time where teaching affords you little prestige, little respect, and little political immunity, I am continually impressed by the teachers on the front lines. The sheer amount of responsibilities that even terrible teachers have makes you wonder how anyone stumbled into this profession. I wonder how many people are like me, who wonder if they are really up for the challenge. God will give me the strength.

I am reading a book called “Multiplication is for white people” by Lisa Delpit, and it’s phenomenal. In reading this book, I seriously wonder if my best efforts, genuine care, and previous life experience are enough to overcome any demographic differences between me and my students. Students of color or students living in poverty have such a hard run in today’s educational systems, and it’s overwhelming to think that it’s up to teachers to make up the difference. As a white woman with too little experience with latino, black, or native cultures, I’d be a fool not to seek out help where I can find it. I’m grateful that I have to be thinking about cultural differences before I start co-teaching, and I really hope God will create opportunities for me to learn from veteran teachers of color. I know that being bold in Kansas is not the same thing as being bold in a bigger city. To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I have the stamina or enough hope in anything greater than myself (even God, sometimes) to fight for students in the ways that they need. A lot of my faith has to do with grit and just getting by in hard circumstances. Do I have enough radical hope to give all I’ve got to try to make a difference? Right in this moment, the answer is no.

It’s still the beginning. I still haven’t learned much of anything, and I know that in my program, there will be many chances to learn. It’s just a lot to realize that as a teacher, you are responsible for so many people’s dreams outside of yourself. I am in a position of enormous responsibility in teaching other people’s children, and more often than not, I am in a role that a lot of parents cant do for themselves. Whether it’s time, money, skill sets, or just different life experience, for whatever reason, I am the one responsible. Outside of the white middle class where most of America’s comfy cultural conscience lives, people have various home traditions and relate to their kids in non-white ways. Unfortunately, the system is set up to undervalue and attack the personhood of non-white students. There are remarkably fewer opportunities for students of color to feel valued within our public education system.

As a white woman, can my teaching compensate for my “otherness”? For real. Is there a way to teach kids who are not from my own background in a way that demonstrates God’s love, and partners with their parents to prioritize their children’s learning and happiness? Every parent wants the best for their children, even if not all parents (regardless of demographic, white included) don’t pursue that “best” intentionally. Teachers don’t just provide help to students, but they provide a lot of support and good to student’s families. Given the generational way childhood trauma is passed on, my work as both a Teacher and a Christian is for my students AND their families. I believe God’s love can heal anything, but even if nobody knows why I teach, I can still show it. Teachers have the ability to influence students’ entire life trajectories, in ways that can often be even more powerful than what their parents can give them. What a good place to be a Christian.

Ultimately, it’s not about what’s easy, or what’s even possible. It’s about what God can do, through his spirit. I believe that the Lord desires that every family would be healed, that all people would come to know him, and that all people are able to trust in his name. If there isn’t help and healing for people’s families, why come to Christ? If he isn’t powerful enough to heal our most pressing wounds, is he even powerful? We need people willing to be pillars of strength in our communities, so that we know what the love of God even looks like. My job is to love in a way that shows God’s goodness. Even if it’s not enough, I trust him to make a way.

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?

“that’s not respectful”: God’s tenderness and a conversation about honor

In the school where I worked in the role of a classroom tutor, we had a five-point strategy to encourage good citizenship and kindness in our students. Different goals, such as “soaring to success” (academic excellence), “act responsibly” (good stewardship), and “be respectful” provided our classroom the words and benchmarks to encourage one another forward.

As a grown woman, I wonder how many people know what it is to be respectful. But not just that. Apart from complacently neutral, past the boundaries of pleasant contempt, who knows what it means to honor others?

If respect is the bare minimum allotment of honor, what does it mean not just to respect, but to honor our elders? To honor our husbands or wives? To honor our family and friends?

If love bears all things and believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, how can we ignore this requirement?

The Lord does expect us to love one another. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells us “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” To be perfectly honest, I have not yet researched what the word “honor” means in this context, in Paul’s letter. Yet from what I do know about God, it sounds a lot like Ephesians 5:22-33, which commands husbands and wives to love and submit to one another. Out of abundance instead of hunger, we are called to build one another up.

The love of God is tender as much as it is kind. As God will glorify his children in the second coming, and vindicate his family on that day of judgement, so he gives us reason to be still because of himself. There are many angry people these days about the state of our families, marriages, and civic institutions, but few fulfill what it means to love one another.

In a perfect relationship, it is not a burden to be a woman. The man that loves his wife as he does himself honors her, and makes her happy to be married. He takes care of their children. He does not act as though he himself were a child. Instead of seeking his own interests, he seeks the welfare of his family. Like Jesus being willing to go so far out of his way for us and sacrifice for what we could not do on our own, the equipped man of Christ has everything he needs to fulfill his calling. God is able to equip each of his servants (male or female) for the love he has set before them. Contrary to popular ideology, marriage really is a blessing.

Historically, I have held many strong opinions. I get angry, though I try to contain it. I have been one to feel hopeless. I have been one to feel alone, and the Devil certainly used that in seasons where I was convinced nobody wanted me.

When you go to the Lord with your full heart and he restores those empty places, a funny thing happens. It’s not that your opinions become less valid. Or that you start to feel bad for holding them. It’s that you have less need to insist in your own way and be right about everything. Love does not insist in it’s own way, and as we become more satisfied, being right is no longer the priority.

There are some people that become bolder through the love of God, but I am not one of them. As a kid, I was prepared to raise hell at all times. In all my classes, I have never been shy to share my opinion. I am not often afraid in an external sense, but fear hits me internally.

I know that each person is different. In my case, the love of God made me rest more. It made me happy. More peaceable. Less alone. It gave me words to express mourning and hope for better. It gave me the sense that God does not abandon us when we are angry, but provides us the tools through faith to fight for justice. His love helped me make sense of my life, and use it for better. He constantly provides for me out of my need, and gives me very practical help in times of trouble.

God helps in unexpected ways. For example, making the decision that I will start tithing with my first paycheck this August gives me a sense of stability. This year will not be living off of abundance, but giving God my best gives me the peace of knowing he will provide for me. God also strengthens my body when I give thanksgiving for the food I receive. I have seen it happen, and I have seen this act of thanksgiving radically change my mind and body through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, when we live in relationship with him in thanksgiving. I am well aware that my last claim sounds crazy, but I invite anybody willing to thank the Lord for your food on a consistent basis and see if he doesn’t strengthen you (I’m talking physical strength).

So many good things are already prepared and provided to those willing to allow Jesus to change their hearts. You don’t have to live in bondage forever. To live enslaved long after you’ve been paid for is to miss the entire point.