Why Life is Sacred and What that Even Means

Sacred. What does that word even mean? We hardly use it anymore today. It sounds like a vegetable. “Yeah, we just planted some sacred between the beets and the squash.” But it’s a very important word. Because life is sacred. When our hearts lose the truth of that last sentence, we descend into the very worst of humanity. But when we live that truth, we reflect the best.

Google says sacred means:

  • Connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration.
  • Religious rather than secular.
  • Of writing or text, embodying the laws or doctrines of a religion.

Wrong. That’s not even right! We totally don’t know what the word even means anymore. Sacred is not just a synonym for religious.

Wikipedia’s Sacred page starts with: “Sacred means revered due to sanctity and is generally the state of being perceived by religious individuals as associated with divinity and considered worthy of spiritual respect or devotion; or inspiring awe or reverence among believers. Objects are often considered sacred if used for spiritual purposes, such as the worship or service of gods.”

Wrong again. “Sacred means revered due to sanctity”? That’s a circular definition! At best, Wikipedia makes it sound irrelevant to everyday life. But nothing could be more relevant to life than an understanding, at the heart level, of this word.

Yes, both Google and Wikipedia capture the way the word is often used, but that’s not what it means. It is used in these ways because of what it means. So let’s find out what it really means.

Merriam-Webster reaches back a little further than the birth of the Internet. While listing similar definitions to Google and Wikipedia, Merriam-Webster also says this, which is the real definition of sacred:

  • Entitled to reverence and respect
  • Highly valued and important

Sacred is often used for religious meanings because we traditionally have considered God, and the things of God, worthy of respect and highly important. But sacred really means entitled to and worthy of reverence and respect, highly valued and important. Irreplaceable. Something you don’t mess with.

That’s your life. That’s my life. That’s our lives. That’s all human life. Human life is sacred, not to be messed with, because we’re created in the very image of God (Genesis 1:27). None of the animals were, only people. We alone are this unique blend of physical and spiritual life.

Human life is sacred. You don’t mess with it. When we forget this truth, or ignore it, we make devastating consequences for ourselves. We deal ourselves a huge loss.

During her American visit in the ‘90s, when Bill Clinton was president, Mother Teresa was asked by Hillary Clinton, “Why haven’t we had a women president yet?” Mother Teresa didn’t even blink, “She was probably aborted.” HRC was not amused.

Every life has a tree of life attached to it. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. And that’s just heredity. Think about impact. We all touch thousands of lives. That touch matters, for good or ill. Those lives will never be the same.

Who’s inspired you? Who has pulled you back from the brink? A parent? A teacher? A coach? An author? A friend? Where would you be if that life never existed?

It’s a Wonderful Life, the black ‘n’ white movie with Jimmy Stewart, is more than just a drippy Christmas movie. It’s an amazing example of this concept. You know the story. George Bailey, at the height of his despair over his own failed life, gets the tremendous gift of seeing what the world would be like without him. Turns out he’s not a failure after all. His life held back tremendous evil in his town, hugely affecting everyone in ways they would never know. Hundreds of men would’ve died on the other side of the world during WWII, because his medal-of-honor war hero brother wasn’t there to save them, because George wasn’t there to save him when he fell through the ice when they were children. Every life matters.

Life is sacred. You don’t mess with it.

The worst of humanity comes out when we lose sight of this truth. The Nazis. ISIS. North Korea. Stalin’s purges in the old Soviet Union. Abortion.

We’ve lost over 60 million lives due to abortion in America alone (which is a small number compared to the rest of the world). To put it in perspective, the Holocaust was 18 million. Our numbers are 3 times that, and counting.

If you count not just the deaths, but the devastation left in abortion’s wake, it’s at least 180 million. Because there’s a mother whose maternal nurturing identity was devastated with the death of her child. There’s a father whose paternal provider/protector identity was cut to the heart, replaced by a false identity of failure. And we haven’t counted grandparents or siblings yet, who also lost a family member.

The lie in the culture is about quality of life over sanctity of life. Do any of these lies sound familiar?

“It was for the best, she’s got three kids on welfare already.” It doesn’t matter how poor the mother is. Do we really believe only rich people deserve to live? I thought money couldn’t buy happiness?

“The ultrasound and amniocentesis show the baby has Down’s syndrome. You should abort.” Have you ever known a child with Down’s syndrome? I have. These precious children bless the lives of everyone who meets them. Yet some countries have aborted almost every one of them, to their great loss. The eugenicists of the ‘20s would be so proud. God forgive us and lead us to repent.

“She had her whole life ahead of her. She had to abort. Now she can go to college and her life can get back to normal.” Had to abort? That doesn’t sound like a choice. The truth is, her life will never get back to “normal,” whatever that means. Once she’s pregnant, she’s a mother. She can either be a mother who has a child, or a mother who lost one. But she will never again not be a mother.

All of these common excuses for abortion reflect quality of life, not sanctity of life. Life is sacred. You don’t mess with it.

If one life, especially the most vulnerable—the unborn who have no voice of their own to stand up for themselves—is not valued, then no one’s life is safe.

The culture of death does not stop with abortion. It starts there. Here’s the slippery slope:

  • Abortion
  • Assisted suicide
  • Euthanasia for the comatose
  • Euthanasia for the elderly
  • Euthanasia for the disabled
  • Euthanasia for the “undesirables”
  • The Final Solution

Sound familiar? Have you seen this movie? Haven’t we already had this nightmare? How many times do we have to stumble blindly down this road?

Let’s not let history repeat itself again. We can stop this.

Speak up for life. Support your local crisis pregnancy center. Help an unwed mother. Be the change we want to see. God will always strengthen us for this and answer that prayer. Perhaps we were born for such a time as this.

If you have had an abortion, or fathered an aborted child, get healing. Jesus loves you and has so much healing for you, but you can’t walk through it yourself. You need help, and it’s so available, just waiting for you. Here are some resources to help you find a Christ-centered, post-abortive recovery program in your area. And if you can’t find one, email us. We’ll walk through it with you.

http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/weekend/sites.aspx

http://hopeafterabortion.com

https://optionline.org/after-abortion-support

http://afterabortion.org/help-healing

https://www.healingafterabortion.org/mission–vision-statement.html

So who’s made a significant impact in your life? Where would you be if that person wasn’t there? Tell us in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless someone els

How to Honor Someone Else’s Identity

Most of you remember the free ebook I gave to our subscribers as a Christmas present, Midget: A Fable of Giant Inner Healing. I plan to sell it later this year on Amazon and wanted you, our subscribers, to have it first for free. (It’s available on the downloads page; click the “Free Stuff” link above.)

A friend pointed out that “midget” is a pejorative term among little people. So I emailed the LPA (Little People of America) and asked them (1) if that was so, and (2) for suggestions about how to fix it. I said I’m not averse to changing the title (and the name of the main character), but would prefer to include a disclaimer with their approved wording.

Cuquis Robledo, the Public Relations Director of Little People of America, sent me a very timely and polite response. She congratulated me on the ebook and thanked me for reaching out to them. I believe they were sincerely touched that I cared enough to ask.

They suggested a title change and a disclaimer educating people against using the word “midget” at all, which they call the “m-word.” The LPA is trying to remove usage of the word from our vocabulary in general; for example, working with the USDA to rename certain food products. I confess I originally thought this was a little extreme, but then I actually listened to them. I listened to why from their point-of-view. Here is what I learned.

The m-word was used in the Freak Show era to de-humanize little people. “Come see the bearded-lady! Come see the elephant man! Come see the midgets!” I think little people have a right to be angry over the use of this de-humanizing word. Working in post-abortive recovery, I feel the same anger when pro-abortion advocates de-humanize a child as a “fetus” or as a “product of conception.”

When my dad grew up in Oklahoma, Brazil nuts were called “n-word toes”. They didn’t mean anything bad by it, and my dad was not a racist. It was just the thing’s name as they were taught. But I think it’s good that today we no longer use that de-humanizing word. I never realized the m-word was in the same category, but it is.

So this is not about political correctness gone mad. This is about respecting real people and their identity. It’s about sensitivity to not hurting other people unnecessarily. (Yes, there are times when we need to say painful truth, but this isn’t one of them.)

Even if the term doesn’t hurt me, and I don’t think it should hurt them, the fact that it does hurt them should be enough for me to not use it. Especially a word that was used in the past to de-humanize them.

While there’s certainly no constitutional right to avoid offense, we as Christians answer to a higher authority. We can voluntarily choose to follow the moral compass Jesus laid out for us in, among other places, 1 Corinthians 13 and Matthew 25 (especially the sheep and the goats parable). We can choose to walk in love.

So, all that to say, I’m voluntarily changing the name of the ebook. The question is, To what? This is the exciting and fun part! This is where you come in. I’m asking for your help. What’s a good name? Here’s some guidance to think about:

  • The words “midget” and “giant” are clear opposites. In changing the title, I’ll also have to change the subtitle, “A Fable of Giant Inner Healing.” Help me also find a word for the subtitle that’s the opposite of the new name.
  • I veto “Dwarf” right out-of-the-gate because, with the popularity of LOTR, people will expect something quite different from an ebook called “Dwarf”.
  • It should be mildly disrespectful or snarky. When the “tall ones” call the main character by the m-word, they aren’t complementing him. They are limiting him and his identity. It was meant to be a mild put-down.
  • Ideally, it would still fit on the cover in a similar way.

So what are your ideas? Leave them in the comments! Let’s have fun with this!

To Be Right or to Be Jesus, that Is the Question

“To be or not to be, that is the question,” asked Shakespeare through his character Hamlet, in the play by the same name. That’s probably both Hamlet’s and Shakespeare’s most famous line. But the question is incomplete. “To be or not to be WHAT?” What are we going to fall on our swords over this year? Being right or being Jesus?

When I was a teen, I was one opinionated bugger. Why shouldn’t I be? I thought. I’m right! And often I may even have been right, politically, morally, and spiritually. I was a Reagan-Republican, after all. I knew my Bible backwards and forwards. But I was missing something. In my self-righteousness, even when I got it right I missed the best. I so often missed Jesus’ heart.

If just being right is our goal, then we get really angry because everyone else is just so wrong. Just spend an afternoon on FaceBook and you’ll see what I mean. Being right, as an end in itself, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It takes a lot of energy arguing with all those people who just won’t get it, no matter how right we are. Maybe there’s a better way to change the world.

The Pharisees were totally right. Always, just ask them. They were conservatives who knew the Law, chapter and verse. They brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11), who according to the Law of Moses should be stoned. That was the “right” thing to do. (BTW, adultery’s not a solitary crime. According to the Law of Moses, the man also should be stoned [Leviticus 20:10]. I guess they rationalized that bit away – first clue they missed something – selective application of the Law. Being all men, the Pharisee’s probably rationalized excusing the man.)

But, fortunately for us, Jesus isn’t after right. He’s after best. The best does not violate what’s right, it supersedes it. You know the story, Jesus saved the woman without violating the Law of Moses. We should, too.

Jesus talks about dying to ourselves. In fact, he says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). But wait, that means denying my rights! That’s downright un-American. Was Jesus a communist or something?

No, but he’s after what’s best, not just what’s right, something better than what’s right. Sometimes, often, love means dying to our right to be right.

In high school, a certain bully was going to beat-up my friend Don. After successfully evading the bully one hot summer afternoon, Don drove past him walking home carrying a load of books under the hot sun. Don could’ve honked and waved as he drove by in his air-conditioned car. But he didn’t. He pulled over and offered the bully a ride.

No one was more surprised than the bully. The guy almost fell over. It took him a minute to realize the offer was genuine and Don wasn’t just goading him. “Why are you doing this? Why would give me a ride?”, asked one surprised bully.

“Because it looks like you need one,” my friend Don simply replied. The bully accepted, and they became close friends after that. (And nobody dared mess with Don again or the bully would pulverize them.)

My friend would’ve been within his rights to pass by the bully. But he correctly discerned the Kingdom of God had something better in mind.

This doesn’t mean we don’t hold people accountable when necessary. It’s actually love to hold criminals and abusers and narcissists accountable (1) to prevent future victims, and (2) so they have the opportunity to get help (if they don’t take the opportunity, that’s on them). It’s also love to discipline our children.

But in the common everyday stuff of life, mercy triumphs over judgement (James 2:13). The best triumphs over the right.

What about you? Does this resonate? Have you shown mercy and had it be better than the “right” would’ve been? Or have you had someone show you mercy when you didn’t deserve it? Tell us your story in the comments, and please share if you think this post would bless someone else.

Why New Year Is in the Dead of Winter

It’s fascinating to me that our New Year here in the West occurs in the dead of Winter. I know other cultures’ New Year occurs at different times of the year, and that’s great. I’m sure God is speaking to all cultures with the timing of their New Year celebration, but I’m only qualified to write about my own culture. What is God saying to us in the West?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the New Year to be at the start of Spring, when everything’s budding and coming back to life? Maybe in some cultures it is; what an awesome time that must be. But God worked through our history to make our New Year when all the leaves are off the trees and everything’s dead. Why do you suppose that is?

I’ve heard a pastor say that leaves don’t actually change color in Fall. They reveal the true color they actually are when not getting overridden by all that green chlorophyll. The point he was making is, in the Autumn of your life, your true colors will show.

What are your hidden colors? Do they reflect the grace and healing of God’s empowerment in your life, or do they still reflect your wounding?

There’s nothing wrong, by the way, with being in a place of wounding. Acknowledging where you’re at is the first step to get healing. Run to God in those times, not away from him. The problem comes when we run away from God and to our chlorophyll of choice to hide our wounded colors, in our own strength.

What is your chlorophyll of choice? Control? Addiction? Entitlement? Performance? (Personally, I’m really good at performance, more about that later.)

Have you ever wondered why we don’t go straight from Fall to Spring? After all, why can’t the new leaves just push out the old? Why do we have to go through a cold, bare-root season first? Why do we have to get stripped down to nothing? Maybe there’s something necessary going on inside the trunk of the tree that’s getting ready for Spring. Maybe Spring couldn’t come without this time of preparation.

What happens when circumstances and struggles reveal our wounding and our chlorophyll of choice stops working? What happens when all the leaves are off the trees of our lives? Maybe when we’re stripped down to the bare trunk, maybe that’s when we hear God best. Maybe because then we have to and we don’t have any other choice. Maybe out of his great love and mercy for us, he’s stripped away everything that distracted us from his voice.

I think God considers that place the beginning. That’s where his New Year starts. Because when all the outside is stripped away, there’s nothing left but to work on the heart. And that’s what he’s always wanted, to heal our wounding and give us a new heart.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

I’m up for that. My hidden colors were worthlessness and rejection. The lie I believed was, “I am unlovable.” My chlorophyll of choice was being nice, being a servant to all. Dying to myself, literally, to a fault. My bitter root expectation was, “You’re going to reject me. So I’m not going to give you a reason. I’m going to be as lovable as possible, so that when (not if) you reject me, it’s on you.” We call this performance orientation, and I got really good at it, unfortunately.

God had to take me through a bare-root, cold Winter season. He had to strip away all the false leaves and false colors I used to protect my heart, in order to take that structure of lies and inner vows and bitter root expectations down.

Ironically, it’s when I started coming out of those lies that all disaster broke loose. My family fell apart and disintegrated. It hurt. But it was a season. It was only a season (a long season, several years), and I’m coming through it now. Sometimes the enemy’s greatest deception is to trick us into believing the painful season we’re in is forever, which brings desperation and despair. It’s not forever. It’s only a season. Trusting God brings hope through the pain.

He’s still working on me, but I’ve come a long way. He’s brought me into a fresh, bright Spring the last few years. He’s restored relationships I thought would never be restored, while others I still wait for. And he’s using his chlorophyll to work his colors into me.

How about you? What season are you in, here at the turn of the New Year? Tell us in the comments. If you’re in a cold, Winter, bare-root season, we’d love to pray with you. If you’ve come through such a season, please share your story; it will encourage others. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless others.

Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

Give Yourself the Gift of Not about You

The Christmas rush. Do I have all the presents? All the food? Are all the decorations done? I hate the crowds, the lines, the traffic, because when I’m scampering to get my last-minute presents, they’re in the way of accomplishing my goal. I do commando shopping: get in, get the target, get out. My focus is on my objective. And that’s my problem. It’s all about me.

My best shopping trips are when I go into the store intentionally focused on making someone else’s day better. Determined to be Jesus to someone, I look for that grumpy face that’s forgotten it needs to smile. I have to be uber-intentional about it or it won’t happen. As an introvert, I can easily and happily slip in and slip out without talking to anyone and be quite happy about it. But I sense the Holy Spirit has a different agenda.

I’ve seen grumpy store clerks completely change their demeanor when I just said something nice to them that built them up, instead of tearing them down (2 Corinthians 10:8). I try to say something both empathic and complimentary. Like how hard it must be to be nice to inconsiderate shoppers all day, and what a good job they do at it. Like how they’re the unsung heroes of Christmas, and we really do appreciate them. Sometimes I apologize for taking them for granted.

It always gets me a smile. That’s become my new objective – to get a smile out of someone who looks stressed, to make someone else’s day. And that’s the best gift I buy for myself at the store – the gift of making it not about me. Best of all, it doesn’t cost me anything but a little intentionality.

I don’t think Jesus is frustrated by the crowds, the lines, or the traffic. But I don’t think about what Jesus thinks about often enough. I look at the crowds and see obstacles. He sees opportunities. He yearns to be with them, while I just want to avoid them. He has compassion on them because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36).

Yes, Christmas is about the Father giving us his son. Jesus came to give us his life for our salvation, so we could have abundant life (John 10:10). But that’s only the beginning. He also came to give us his heart so that life would be worth living, by serving others (that’s the “abundant” part).

So, when you run out in a panic to get that last-minute thing, celebrate Christmas’ abundance by going out of your way to make someone else’s day.

Does this resonate? Can you relate? Tell us your story in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this would make someone else’s day. Merry Christmas!

5 Steps to Embracing the Intimacy We’re Both Terrified of and Longing for

Are you ready to go deep today? Because in this post, I’m going to talk about what we all want and desperately need, but we’re all terribly afraid of. Deep down, sometimes way down there, we all want intimacy. But how can we embrace the intimacy we’re simultaneously longing for and terrified of?

Intimacy == Into Me See

 

We all want to know and be known. We were created in God’s image, after all. God is a triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He’s in relationship with and within himself. We were created for relationship, with him and with others. And in relationship we reflect his image much fuller than we do individually (especially in a marriage, but in friendships, too).

We long to live out who we were created to be, but because of our wounding, we’re often terrified of it. We send conflicting messages like “come here, stay away!” Or maybe “come close, not that close!”

Because of our heart-wounds, often very early in life, we make judgements and believe lies about ourselves, about the world, and about God. Judgements and lies like:

  • “Men can’t be trusted.”
  • “People will reject me.”
  • “I’m dirty.”
  • “Emotions are bad.”

Then, in a desperate effort to protect our heart, rather than trust God with our pain, we make inner vows to protect our heart, in our own strength.

  • “I don’t need anyone. I will take of myself.”
  • “I’ll reject people before they reject me.”
  • “I’ll be what anyone else wants me to be so I’m accepted.”
  • “I won’t have emotions.”

Yes, we’re keeping ourselves safe this way. But we’re doing it by chaining ourselves into a dark dungeon of our own making. And living in a dark, dank dungeon brings its own pain, which we live with as the price for safety. Like a boat safely raised in dry dock, we never risk setting sail on the adventure we were created for.

How tragic is that! Fortunately, God has something better for us, and Jesus made a way with his sacrifice on the cross. Here’s 5 steps to escape from this prison we’ve made for ourselves.

1) Talk to your heart. We can discover these inner vows by, when we’re feeling afraid of a relationship, talking to our heart. Maybe the fear is masked by anger or rage or some other bad behavior to keep people away. But at the root, it’s fear, and if we’re honest with ourselves in a quiet moment, we know it. So find a quiet place, and ask yourself, “Heart, why are you afraid?” Then hush up and listen.

Now our mind, wanting to be helpful, will often jump in and answer the question with lots of rational reasons. If we’re getting words, rather than impressions or emotions or pictures or memories, it’s probably our mind and not our heart. You have to tell your mind to hush up, too. You can literally tell yourself, “Mind, thanks for trying to help, but I was talking to Heart. So just be quiet now and let Heart speak for itself.” Then listen. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart.

We’re not used to listening to our heart, so this can take a while sometimes. Maybe even a couple days or weeks. But keep asking your heart. And keep asking the Holy Spirit to help you hear your heart. Some of us have buried our heart pretty deep. And often our heart doesn’t speak in words, so it can take some effort to figure it out.

2) Identify the benefit. Once we know what the lie is that we’ve believed, and what inner vow we took to protect our heart, we need one more piece of information. What benefit did we get from the inner vow? Somehow it’s protecting us from the pain (although causing us worse pain). Again, ask your heart, and ask the Holy Spirit.

3) Get the opposite of the lie. The next step is to ask God what’s the opposite of that lie for us. If we’re familiar with the Bible, he will often pop a scripture into our heads. The Bible is a promise book, after all. Pastors and other spiritually mature mentors can be tremendously helpful with this. The game here is to replace the lie with God’s truth.

Now we have a choice. We can keep believing the lie, falsely believing we’re in control. Or we can surrender control to God and accept his truth. It’s up to us.

4) Forgive the person who hurt us. Nothing keeps us in prison like unforgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending they didn’t do evil to us. It’s coming to the place where they are not the evil they did to us. We know we’ve finished forgiveness (which is a process, not an event) when we can pray blessing over the person and mean it.

5) Replace the lie with the truth through repentance. Finally, repent of that vow and break it. We need to repent of the vow, and renounce the benefit we’re getting from it. Replace the lie we believed with God’s truth. Here’s a sample prayer. Use this as a template and make it your own.

Lord, I forgive _____ for _____. I repent of believing the lie that _____, and I repent and renounce the inner vow I made, _____. I renounce the benefit I got from that inner vow of _____. I’m now trusting you with my heart instead trying to protect it myself.

This is how we start living in freedom and embracing intimacy with God and others around us. But freedom can be scary, because we’re not in control anymore. We’re living by dangerous faith. Yes, it’s dangerous. Living this way will change us. But don’t worry, it’s good. It is so worth it.

What do you think? Does this resonate? Please tell us in the comments and share it on social media. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

How to Be Hopeful without Being Impatient

We all hate to wait. We live in a culture where we want the microwave to cook faster. And often we treat our relationships like that. Let’s just cut to the chase. But that’s not how relationships work. We can do grave damage trying to take short cuts in our impatience.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Sometimes other people just need to understand how right I am! And so I tell them, in love, of course. But it never goes well; I can’t imagine why. It’s almost like the Holy Spirit doesn’t care about getting to the right answer as much as he cares about the process of getting there.

And you know what frustrates me the most, the very most frustrating thing about the Holy Spirit? He’s not in a hurry. Doesn’t he realize my relationships are on a tight schedule, here? After all, I have in my planner that this relationship was supposed to be fixed by November.

The problem is, God is on his own schedule, and he doesn’t ask for my input. Of all the nerve! He acts like he’s God or something.

It’s kind of like Gandalf tongue-in-cheek rebuking Frodo at the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings movie (The Fellowship of the Ring).

“A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Neither is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”

God’s like that. Never late. Thank goodness. Always on-time. I can live with that. Never early. Now that’s just downright annoying!

Sometimes people have to figure things out for themselves by experience. This can be very frustrating, for example, for parents. We have all this truly great advice that can save our children a world of heartache, hurt, and bruising if they’d only listen. But I had a very wise woman tell me, “We have to let our kids live their own adventure.”

The fact is, my getting antsy and impatient is not going to speed God up. Truth be told, if anything, it might actually slow him down, because now he’s wanting to do something in me, to replace my impatience with faith. And so in his great mercy, he’s going to give me ample opportunities to practice faith over impatience, much to my consternation, and finally, if he gets his way, much to my surrender.

I’m not saying we sit back and be lazy and just wait for God to drop stuff in our lap. That’s obviously not how it works either. Clarity so often comes with action. We often have to do something, try and fail, and then try and fail again, to discover the destiny God has for us.

But I am saying this. We can take action and do stuff, but we don’t need to bring along the stress and pressure of our impatience. My stress and impatience comes when I take up responsibility for the outcome, instead of leaving it in God’s hands where it belongs. Taking responsibility for something that, deep down, we fundamentally know is out of our control is really stressful.

When we finally truly trust God for the outcome of the actions we’re taking, we can be hopeful without being impatient.

How about you? Are you more often impatient or hopeful? Tell us in the comments. And please share on social media if you think this post would be helpful to someone else.

Needy by Design

No one wants to be needy. But this one thing makes us needy and there’s nothing we can do about it, no matter how hard we try. And we try really hard. We pretend really hard. But the one thing that makes us needy against all our best efforts to the contrary is… God’s Design.

God created us, like it or not, with basic human needs like being loved unconditionally. Like being welcomed and wanted. Like being touched in loving, respectful ways. Like being known, heard, and understood.

God created us needy to draw us into community. We are his image-bearers, after all (Genesis 1:26), and the Godhead himself lives in Community within himself.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,” the Bible says in Deuteronomy 6:4. The word translated “one” at the end of that verse in the Hebrew is a plural oneness we don’t have in English. It is only used for God. The point is, the Trinity lives in community with himself. So if we’re his image-bearers, shouldn’t we live in community also? If fact, we reflect his image more when we’re in healthy community with each other than we do individually.

God created us to long for community with every fiber of our being, because it’s only with others that we find our completion, the fullness of our own identity.

But something’s gone wrong. We’ve been hurt by others. So we often decide we don’t want community. It’s too risky. It’s not safe.

So we hide from what we desperately long for. Hide ‘n’ seek is only fun when someone comes looking for you. If the person who’s “it” counts while we hide but then goes inside for a snack, leaving us in our hiding place, it’s no fun at all. It’s downright hurtful. It’s no fun hiding for long. Yet some of us have been hiding all our lives.

We hide with all our might while desperately yearning to be found. Sometimes we hide behind controlling everything and everyone. “They will only find what I want them to find.” Sometimes we hide behind perfectionism, behind being the good boy or the good girl. “I’ll be good so they won’t see who I really am.” Sometimes we hide behind bad behavior we know is wrong. “They’ll never come close enough to see the real me in here.” Sometimes we hide behind addictions to medicate the pain. “I won’t even see me in here. I won’t feel the pain.”

The only problem is, none of it works. And that’s the grace of God in our lives. He won’t let it work, for long at least. He keeps engineering situations and circumstances that undermine our best efforts to hide.

Like a loving parent playing hide ‘n’ seek with a child, he knows where we’re hiding. But instead of violating our hiding place, he’s standing in the middle of the yard saying, “All-y, All-y, all come free!” It’s safe to come out now. It’s safe to run to his loving arms. We have a choice to leave the false safety of our best hiding places, engineered to keep us safe by our own efforts but failing miserably. We have a choice to run to the true safety of his arms, a truly safe, but vulnerable, place where we’re not in control, but neither is our fear.

And that’s our choice, between fear or vulnerability.

So often God brings healing in the context of community, when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be loved to life by imperfect people whom we are called to love to life in return. Yes, these imperfect people will still hurt us, but what we do with that hurt is different. We embrace it and give it to Jesus, rather than hiding from it. And he heals it. Occasionally we need to change communities to a healthier one. But more often God gives us his heart for the other person, and shows us how to love them to life.

How about you? Are you hiding in fear? Or have you embraced vulnerability in a safe, loving, community? Tell us your story in the comments or shoot us an email. And please share if you think this post would bless someone else.

Fearful Control or Loving Confrontation

There’s a world of difference between controlling someone out of fear and confronting them out of love.

When we have to deal with someone else’s bad behavior, we have a choice. We can try to control the other person and manipulate them into doing the right thing. Control is hypocrisy because we’re trying, by sinful means, to get them to not sin. How do you think that’s going to work? God won’t bless that. The ends do not justify the means.

Or we can loving confront them, speaking vulnerably from our heart. We can say what needs to be said, as lovingly as possible, but still as directly as needed. Then we trust God to speak to their heart, and we give them the grace to be in process while they work it out with God.

Here’s an example.

Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He was afraid it would make him look bad. He was afraid she’d vent to someone else and her toxic spew would get back to the pastor, or worse, one of the church gossips. He was afraid she’d embarrass the family, and him most of all. He knew he had to do something about it. He had to take control, and out of his fear he tried to.

“Miranda, stop it!” he demanded the next time she started to spew. “I’m not going to listen to this! It’s wrong for you to spew like this about everybody! How can you even claim to be a Christian woman when this is what comes out of your mouth? You need to repent and stop talking like this right now!” Thomas knew he was in the right and his self-righteousness demanded instant change.

How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. But she was incensed more that Thomas didn’t even try to hear her heart. She wanted to change how she spoke about people, it didn’t make her feel good at all. But she didn’t want to be bullied by his control either. He made it harder than it already was for her to deal with her sin.

Ok, now, stop. Rewind. Replay.

Thomas had an issue with his wife, Miranda. She would spend hours venting to him about people in their church. It was affecting his relationships with those people. He got up half an hour earlier than usual (3:30 AM instead of his usual 4:00 for the commute). He fasted breakfast, giving that 15 minutes to the Lord. So he had an extra 45 minutes each morning to pour out the pain and fear from his own heart to the Lord. He was determined to do this for as long as it took to get God’s strategy for dealing with this, but it only took a few days.

Almost immediately the Lord gave him a concern about what pain was in her heart that she was medicating by talking like this. He knew he had to say something about it. He had to confront her, and out of love he tried to.

“Miranda, wait a minute,” he risked the next time she started to spew. “Can I say something? I want to be there for you; I’m so glad you talk to me. I want to listen. I want to hear your heart. But I know this isn’t your heart for these people. You like these people, they’re our friends, but you talk down about them for hours. It’s starting to affect my relationship with them, because I find myself seeing them through this negative lens. But help me hear your heart. What are you afraid of? What’s wrong?” Thomas then prayed silently and put her in God’s hands. He left her and her response to God’s process, knowing even if she responded negatively now, God wasn’t done speaking to her heart. His love allowed her to be in process.

How do you think that went over? Miranda was angry with Thomas. She knew the way she spoke about her brothers and sisters at church was wrong. And she was angry at him for bringing it up and calling her on it. It hurt. He was inviting her into dangerous vulnerability, which she desperately longed for but was also terrified of. But she knew he was right, that there was something deeper going on in her heart. Now Miranda had a choice. Would she go there, to that vulnerable place, or would she try to control and bully him back into listening to her vent without saying anything to her about it?

This post isn’t about Miranda. It’s about Thomas. The second Thomas above may not have done it perfectly, but he tried. He approached Miranda with loving confrontation, with the strategy he asked the Lord for, not fearful control. He left her response between her and God. He loved her enough, and trusted God enough, to allow her to be in the Holy Spirit’s process.

If something was wrong in your life, which approach would you prefer someone take with you? Personally, I’d prefer loving confrontation. I’ve had enough of fearful control to last a life time.

How about you? Have you been through this process on either side? We’d love to hear your story. And please share if you think this would be valuable to someone else.

The Power of Dropping Offenses

They could not have been more different. When Jack said “black,” John said “white.” When John said “black,” Jack said “white.” One drove a smart car, the other a hummer. One was rightly concerned about social justice, the other rightly concerned about government over-reach and losing freedoms. One loved the Washington Redskins, the other the Dallas Cowboys. What was God thinking when he brought these two men to the same church, working on the same committees? They both thought the other was really jacked up. They both passionately knew they were right in their convictions. They were both willing to die on their swords over being right. They could not have been more the same.

They were both offended. Offense is one of the greatest barriers to friendship in the church. Actually, offense is one of the greatest barriers to godliness in any sphere of life. For example, there is a huge Spirit of Offense operating in both political parties in America right now, playing us for fools against each other. But that’s another story. This story is about two men in the same church who can barely stand each other, offended, not over anything righteous like God would be, but over their own petty preferences, that only they valued so highly.

Whenever they got excited about something at church, darned if the other would show up too, and work on that same project. The other person sucked all the joy out of it for them, because they both chose to give the other that power over them. In fact, they ended up bumping into each other so often that they began to wonder what in heaven was going on. In fact, something in heaven was going on. Heaven had a plan.

God knew that one of these men was molested as a child by a family member they were taught they must respect. God knew the other had parents who demanded silent perfection. Neither had a voice growing up, and the pain of being treated as an object had traumatized them both. To one, something horribly bad had happened, and it shut down his heart. To the other, the daily lack of love, the daily lack of the necessary good thing, had slowly but surely sucked the life out of his heart. God knew these two stony hearts desperately needed each other.

Both marriages were about to collapse. Their wives were miserable, and neither of their wives respected them. One man was a servant with no boundaries, and his wife longed for him to stand up to her and lead. The other was oppressively over-bearing and his wife longed to be heard and have a voice herself. These men had much to teach each other.

In God’s economy, they each had something the other desperately needed. In such a friendship, they could speak hard truths to each other, within the safety of fraternal, brotherly love. God wanted to use those hard truths to work paradigm shifts in both men, bringing them into a new, exciting, and adventurous life they never dreamed possible.

There was only one thing standing in the way. Fear, manifesting as Pride, fed by Offense.

But God kept stacking the deck. John couldn’t worship without having Jack’s face pop into his thoughts. As God planned, it was beginning to drive John crazy. Jack couldn’t go to sleep without having some dream about John giving him something he desperately needed—the one person Jack didn’t want to be indebted to. God was on the move.

One day John bit the bullet and asked Jack for coffee after church. Much to his disappointment, Jack accepted. Jack wouldn’t let John be the righteous one by refusing the invite. Heaven cheated. God actually played their pride against them to bring them together. Whatever works.

During that first cup of coffee all hell broke loose. Literally. Lies and deceptions that demons had spent years building fell to the ground in moments, smashed into a million pieces as each man realized the other was not who they thought. Hell was quite upset. It was like Heaven had no regard at all for the years of hard work it took to stand up that delicate, but powerful, deceptive house of cards.

Letting their offenses against the other go in that first conversation over that first cup of coffee wasn’t easy. It was a blow to the pride of both men. They each had to consciously decide to drop their offenses, starve their pride, and risk being vulnerable. But, on the other hand, their pride hadn’t been working out so well for them lately, so they gave it a go. After a year, they were both enjoying a deep friendship so much more than they had ever enjoyed being right. It was worth it and not nearly as lonely.

How about us? Does God have a friend for us, whom we desperately need, that we’re too offended at to ask for coffee? Can we lay down our right to be right and be friends instead? Have you had this experience, on either end? Tell us in the comments and please share if you think this would bless someone else.