Saturday, February 7, 2015

Holding One Another's Hands: Strength in Friendship During Struggles

My heart ached as I hung up the phone. My friend's tear-filled pleas still filled my ears.

She was in an impossible situation and her world as she knew it was rocked. I felt helpless for her. I wanted more than anything to make it all okay, to fix it.

But I couldn't.

This problem was far beyond me. It was far beyond a long chat over coffee with some laughs and prayers acting as a bandaid. 

After I hung up, my own eyes filled with tears. I prayed out loud to the Lord to help her, to guide her, and to let her know He was with her. 

It still felt like such a miniscule contribution. 

I checked in wth my friend several times throughout the day over the course of the next couple of weeks. I listened intently to every update and every new development in her situation. I intervened continuously with prayers and asked other, close friends to do the same. 

For a hot second, I felt like what I was doing wasn't enough and even considered contacting a third party involved to help bring the situation to closure. I realized that wasn't a good idea and put the kabosh on that line of  thinking. 

All the while, my heart continued to ache. I watched as my friend suffered and struggled. 

And there was nothing I could do.

I sent her pins and scripture to encourage her and to bolster her confidence, to remind her that she is a child of the King and that He is walking before her and will fight this battle. 

With each pin I'd send, I'd shake my head at the seeming futility of it all. Here she was-- my friend-- watching her life systematically fall apart around her and I was sending a cleverly-worded graphic, hoping to mend her broken heart. 

It wasn't until I read a section in Genesis that the Lord put on my heart my part in my friend's situation.

Genesis chapter 17 talks about The Israelites (God's chosen people, led by Moses) fighting the Amalekites. God told Moses to hold his staff in both hands and hold his hands in the air. As long as Moses did that, the Israelites would be victorious.
As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up--one on one side, one on the other--so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword. (Genesis 17:11-13)
What a beautiful picture of support and friendship. I see two metaphors that fit my situation in this selection.

My friend is Moses in this situation 

Moses was key in the Israelites' success. While Joshua was on the field fighting the battle with the sword, Moses was an integral part since every time he lowered his hands the Israelites began losing. My friend is the key component in her own situation. It's up to her to keep her hands raised (in prayer and praise in her case) and allow God to do the actual fighting on "the field". My part in that? I am Aaron and Hur, holding her hands up and offering her a stone to sit on as she grows weary. As badly as I may want to fix it or take on more responsibility than I should, her part in this battle is clear and I am a support to that position. 

Moses had grown tired, no doubt, from both the physical responsibility of holding his hands in the air, but also possibly from the emotional toll it took on him to realize his grave responsibility. Perhaps Aaron and Hur offered to hold the staff for a while and Moses may have longed to take them up on their offer, but he realized this was his task alone. 

My friend is Joshua and I am Moses in this situation

Another view of this same scenario could be that my friend is Joshua. She is on the frontlines of this battle, wielding the sword while I play a key, but peripheral role. As she is slaying the enemy, I am on the sideline, supporting her the only way I can: By holding my hands in the air--praying, interceding on her behalf, and offering her my visible support and encouragement, I am doing my part. Enlisting others (Aaron and Hur) to pray along with me (hold up my hands) is also something I can do. 

The Isaraelites' victory relied on three facets of the battle: Joshua on the frontlines, Moses being obedient to God and holding up his staff, and Aaron and Hur offering support to Moses in doing so. Ultimately, the battle was the Lord's but those individuals all had a part to play. 

Do you have a friend who's hurting? Do you want to take the pain away and fix the problem for them? I understand. But I am realizing that God allows us all to go through storms so that we learn 1) to rely on Him and only Him for strength and victory, 2) To enlist the help of close, Godly friends to support us through prayer and their presence, and 3) To refine us and strengthen our faith. 

I pray that I will be the kind of friends Aaron and Hur were. I pray for the diligence and dedication to the Lord that Moses had and I pray for the courage that Joshua had on the frontines of battle. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

What If We Linked Arms Instead of Locking Horns?

I read an amazing post this week. I'm so mad I didn't write it.

If you don't click over and read the article for yourself, allow me to summarize (and probably totally destroy the writer's eloquence in the process.)

It's time to take our women's ministries seriously. 

It's time to dig in and study the Word of God with a voracious appetite, single-mindedness, and purpose.

It's time to get serious about being ministers of the Word and stop "playing church."

Not all churches or groups are guilty of this, but so many are.

So often we exchange depth and "meat" for comfort and entertainment. In the vain of "community" we carve out Jesus and add in fluff.

Last night I texted a friend this:
I'm so tired of these writers, speakers, bloggers, teachers, and leaders who write/speak a bunch of emotional fluff, sprinkle in some scripture, and create a catchphrase, and they blow up because women eat that up.
I don't want to be one of those writers or speakers who spins fluff and emotion with some scripture cleverly woven in. It's a dangerous mix. We were never meant to be driven by emotion. In fact, we were given a spirit of love, power, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

I see so many women leaders on national levels who have massive followings of those who will stare at blatant heresy and pump a fist of solidarity while saying, "I see your heart and I know you mean well..."


If you ever "see my heart" and it's not in line with the will of God, have my permission to address it with me.

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
Let's get focused. Let's roll up our sleeves and prioritize our ministries.

Do I enjoy getting together with women in a beautifully decorated venue? Sure I do! I enjoy well-thought-out and clever decor and good food, but if that's where the experience ends, I'm at a loss...and so are you.

If I leave the meeting/conference/study--one that is specifically heralded as a "church" event-- and I know nothing more about Jesus or His will for my life, I've wasted my time.

If more thought went into entertaining or creating an experience than it did sharing who Christ is, how the Bible applies to our lives, and equipping our attendees with God's Truths, then we've missed the point.

If we spend more time discussing the details of table decorations, wall hangings, and crafts than we do Biblical Truths and praying for those in attendance, I believe our priorities are misaligned.

Hear me: there is certainly a time and a place for leisure and activities that we enjoy. 

What I am addressing here is not that. What I am addressing here are those events that fall under the banner of "Christian" or "church."

I have this vision of women who strengthen one another and look for ways to celebrate one another in ways that glorify God.

I see women linking arms and joining together to complement each other's gifts and talents in a way that brings attention to the Lord...and not to ourselves.

Instead of gossip, I see connection.

Instead of back-biting, I see collaboration.

Instead of fluff, I see substance.

Instead of attention-seeking, I see humility.

Instead of surface, I see depth.

Instead of dissension, I see unity.

And at the center of it all I see Christ.

Each one of us is a puzzle piece.

We are each gifted differently. We each were formed in the Father's loving hands, and He breathed in each of us the breath of Life.

We each have a purpose and a calling.

We each play a different part in the body of believers (Romans 12)

With any one piece missing, the puzzle isn't complete; there is a noticeable hole.

Alone, we only hold part of the big picture. But together, when we are placed purposefully alongside the correct pieces, we form a whole.

When you put us together, each individual piece becomes part of a greater and the picture forms.

I wonder, if we took the time to really dig deep into scripture and figure out what our gifts are, and worked toegther to complement one another with our respective gifts, how amazing our churches and groups could be. How many women could we lead to Christ?

What kind of an impact could we have if we focused our energy and attention squarely on Christ?

Decor, themes, refreshments, and frills are fun...but if they take precedence over presenting Christ, they are misplaced.

I'm ready to steer the focus to Christ-centered ministries. I'm guilty of expending more energy on creating a mood, an experience or in creating "connections" between women than I am in sharing the gospel with them.

And that's shameful.

But my eyes are opened. I'm all in.

Let's commit to making and keeping our churches, ministries, Bible studies, relationships, and events centered on the reason for them all: Jesus.

Monday, January 5, 2015

When The Little Things Really Are The Big Things

And then you have one of those days when God keeps hitting you with one life lesson after another, in the most inopportune times and most unexpectedly. 

I was lucky enough to get two days in a row like that. 

It began yesterday when I was mad at my husband. About what doesn't even matter, but I was angry and felt like I had no voice in "the matter." 

The truth is that I had a voice, but Joe's voice made more sense than mine did in that situation. I went for a walk, huffing along like a toddler whose candy had been taken away. At the end of my tantrum walk, I sat on the steps for a while before going in. I had my ear buds in and was listening to some music and staring at the sky. It was dusk.

I love staring at the sky. It's often when God chooses to "speak" to me. I think it's because that's when I feel the enormity of who He is. Watching a never-ending sky roll overhead has a way of putting my SMALLness and His BIGness in perspective.

It was while I sat with my chin in my hand that I "heard" Him say, "You have to die to yourself,"

In the "big" things of life (salvation, the gospel, ministry, etc) I almost think it's easier to die to self than it is in the everyday things. At least for me. 

Want me to sacrifice personal time to lead this ministry? Done!

Need me to carve time out of my day to talk or pray with someone who needs a listening ear? I'm happy to do it!

I need to give up creature comforts to help out those less fortunate? Not a problem!

But when God whispers in my ear to let go of my stance on an issue that really isn't that important, I balk. 

"Are you serious, God?" I ask as I jam my fists against my hips. "Just give in? But I'm right!"

But yesterday I got it. 

Taking up my cross and dying to self is about everything...not just the big things. 

And tonight...tonight my world stopped when I was frazzled about a different situation and trying to send out necessary texts and messages while putting my kids in bed. I rushed everyone into their jammies, oversaw teeth brushing like a general, and then scooted everyone in bed. 

Apparently my oldest didn't get the memo that mommy had some business to attend to because before I could slink downstairs and breathe the bedtime sigh of relief, he had dashed into the bathroom and was poised over the toilet bowl, ready to throw up, complaining that his stomach ached. 

I wish I could say that my immediate thought was to comfort him.

But I'm going to be transparent here and tell you that I stood in the hallway and continued to send out the messages that I needed to send while coaching my little guy to calm down from a safe distance.

He didn't end up throwing up and I was able to tuck him in. 

(And if I may...he actually told me to leave him alone anyway. He is almost a man, after all, at 9 1/2 years old.)

The messages I was sending and the situation I was handling were pressing, in my defense, but not more pressing than my son. I should have put down my phone and attended to him.

My next wake up call was as I was checking on everyone before I finally did tip toe downstairs. My youngest daughter who is 3 was talking in her sleepy state. Most of what she said was garbled, but one thing that I definitely had no trouble understanding was, 

"Are you watching, Mommy?!"

And I knew instantly that she was dreaming about something she likes to do many times a day: run from our kitchen to our living room, pretending to be a horse, and show me how "fast" she is. Usually I watch to appease her, but lately I've taken to saying, "Oh, you've shown me hundreds of times how fast you are, silly!" and tune out. 

In that moment while her tiny little head was on her little pink, princess pillow and she was asking me with such excitement in her sleep if I was watching...I got it

I am her world. 

She is so excited for me to notice her. All she wants from me is to see her. My attention matters to her.

She thinks about it so much that she dreams about it. 

And when I heard her little voice say that, all the breath went out of me. 

Even now my eyes fill with tears.

I leaned over and pressed my cheek against hers and said, "I can't take my eyes off you, sweet girl." 

And I didn't take my eyes off of her for several, long minutes. I watched her little chest rise and fall as she lay bundled up in her blankets.

And as I walked out of her room, she called out, "I love you, Mommy." 

And my heart was so full. 

I had a friend tell me last night, "Don't let blogging create a false sense of urgency." 

And after the past 2 days of God-sized lessons in my tiny, everyday life, I get it

Loving and honoring the Lord in the big things requires loving and honoring Him in the little things. And even more often do I have the big things confused with the little things??

And, as is His way, God taught me BIG lessons just by stepping into my everyday, mundane life. 

May the Lord continue to speak softly to our hearts and point us toward what is really important.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Challenge for 2015...I PRAY You'll Join Me In It

This year, I'm choosing to focus on something different than most resolutions focus on. 

This year, I want to learn how to talk to my Father better, how to intercede on others' behalves better, and grow and/or heal my relationships and my community.

The Challenge for 2015 is a Prayer Challenge!

Praying is hard for me. I am NOT what you would call a Prayer Warrior.

In fact, I have "shiny dime" syndrome often when I am praying, especially if I am not praying out loud. 

This year, God has placed on my heart to accomplish many things in one fell swoop: praying for others, keeping daily, consistent communication open with God, and serve others. 

I so hope you'll join me in this. Imagine how beautiful it will be in Heaven as the Lord listens to His children flooding the Throne Room with prayers of Intercession! Imagine how moved He will be to hear our voices as we bring our brothers and sisters before Him. 

Imagine how our relationship with the Father will grow as we carve out specific, planned, consistent time with Him every single day!

Oh, I am SO excited!

Without further adieu:

I outlined the way this prayer challenge will work on Deliberate Women today.
Please join me by clicking HERE.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16
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