Put It Down

When my husband, Justin, approached me to plant a church about ten years into our ministry and marriage, I was less than thrilled. In fact, after years of disappointment and hurt in ministry I was teetering on the edge of giving up. That is not the place in which I thought one should be to launch a church and become lead pastors. As I wrestled with this, and kept saying ‘no’ to God and Justin, I heard God gently nudge me saying, “If you will just be willing, I will do the rest.” God gave me the strength in that moment to say yes. And I have watched Him “do the rest” that I couldn’t do.
For the first three years of the church planting, I had been happy to sit back and let God “do the rest” as He promised to do. He had done everything we had not known how to do, didn’t have the money or resources to do, and hadn’t even thought of doing.

As I watched God do all of this, I should have been able to enjoy all He had done, but I didn’t. Instead, I became very aware of how far we still needed to go.

Rather than celebrating how far we’d come, I focused on all there was yet to do. In fact, it actually felt like there was more to do each week than there was at the very beginning of starting the church. I began to stress about how we were going to do all the things left undone. There was all this wonderful ministry growing, yet I was focusing on all that needed to be done—all the holes left to fill. I began to panic because we didn’t know how to get to the next level and complete what was incomplete. And just like that, I took the burden off of God and put it back onto myself, and the church staff, to accomplish God’s vision for the church.

It took a while for me to realize what I was doing, and when I put my focus back on God’s ability and not my own, He let me know, “I said that if you would be willing, I would do the rest. That doesn’t just mean in the beginning—that means permanently.”
God often reminds me that I need to let things go. I need to stop telling Him what I need Him to do, how to do it and when to get it done. There are many times I stop trusting momentarily that He will do the “rest,” and feel it’s up to me. That is a difficult balance for us to find.

We waiver back and forth between operating in our own strength and then stepping back and trusting God. We pick up the burdens and we lay them down, only to pick them up again.

Last week I was once again panic-praying for all the things I felt the Lord should be doing and He reminded me that I needed to surrender again. He said to me, “put it down.” In fact, He told that I need to actually be on my face with Him—like on my carpet—out loud surrendering everything I was holding so tightly to. So, every day I have been laying out (literally) all of those things I feel the need to control and offer them to God. I surrender my will, my plans, and my control over to His. The first couple of days I did this were hard for me because I wanted to hold onto some things and still ask for my way. While I continued to do this, God kept saying, “put it down.” To me, the tone in that came across like I would say to my girls when they were little to put something down they could break.

He kept saying it over and over. “Put it down.” He told me that I was surrendering daily and then picking it back up. As I listened, He began to remind me that He was telling me to put it down–not just because it was disobedient for me to hold onto all of the things, but He wants me to put it down because I can’t hold it. I can’t handle all of the things in my life. I can’t cause anything to happen. I can’t change situations, but He can. When I put it down, He can pick it up. And oh, when He picks it up, that’s when He can do far more than I can ask or imagine in all of the areas I am surrendering.
I share all of this because I don’t think I am alone. As women, in general, we tend to hold tightly those things so important to us. We hold our callings, our people, our plans very closely and tightly. We have so much to be concerned with, sometimes a heavy burden to hold—ours and for others.

I encourage you to put it down. If you have to, actively choose to put it down every single day because our nature is lay it down and then pick it right back up. And remember that when we put it down, our Heavenly Father picks it up and He can do miracles. He makes smooth our paths and gives life and peace.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

“Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

More than my story….

Have you ever felt eaten alive by a situation in life? Or felt like you might not survive? I want my recently launched book, Perfectly Weak, to be about more than my story. This is about all of our stories–how we can find healing in our brokenness and be infused with God’s strength in the midst of our weaknesses. We all have stories of broken hearts and wounds, and I love sharing others’ stories of overcoming! Please read my sister-in-law’s beautiful story of how God met her in shattering loss and she found Him faithful.

 * * * * * *

Creative, faithful, loving, forgiving, nurturing and so much more; I had learned those were characteristics of God. However, in December of 2000, I learned about the sovierenty of God. My husband and I were youth pastors expecting our second child. At a very routine check up, I abruptly found out I was pregnant with twins and that I had lost both children. Twenty-two weeks into a very normal pregnancy my world was shattered. The first question I asked was why? I knew God could have fixed this. As a matter of fact, I felt like He owed me. I had done everything the “right way.” And that night as I lay in bed I began to imagine a different picture of God. It was one the enemy was painting. With dark strokes of brazen lies, he began to color a very tainted picture of my situation. It was destructive and it focused on what God had not done for me rather than all He had done for me.

I continued to carry that pregnancy for almost a month, all the while knowing there would be nothing but heartache that would come from it. I found myself focused on the loss and darkness the enemy delights in. It was apparent I was walking in the valley of the shadow of death and was becoming more and more comfortable there — alone, angry, jaded, and broken.

It wasn’t until the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit reminded me that turning my mourning into dancing had to be something I chose to do. Reluctant and broken, I lifted my hands to Him. In an instant, Jesus met me and all of a sudden I realized that God was right in the middle of the pit with me. I guess I had always known that, but I FELT Him for the first time in what seemed like forever. The gentle strokes of His hand now colored over my broken heart and I began to understand His sovereignty. He knew all along I would need to go to a place I had never been, so I could know Him in a way I had never known.

When I thought I would not survive, Jesus showed up! Not only did I survive but also I began to grow with an intimate understanding what the prophet Isaiah penned in chapter 55 verse 8 when he wrote, “ My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, and my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” He is sovereign and sees what we cannot. After I lost those babies, in 2002 I gave birth to our son Jaden . His name means “God has heard.” In the middle of heartache He is still sculpting and designing. His fingerprints are all over every situation we face.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any & every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13.

There was a period of time in my life I did not think I would survive, but because of who Jesus is and what He conquered on the cross, not only did I survive but I thrived. Whatever may seem to be crushing to you today, please know you can survive it and come out stronger on the other side. With Jesus ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

More than my story…

As I am leading up to this book launch, I am taking deep breaths.  Those of you that really know me, understand how uncomfortable I am in putting myself out there. I have to keep remembering why I did this. I wrote this book to help others that are stuck, hurting, and afraid. God keeps reminding me that so many people feel these things, just like me, and it keeps us from fulfilling our purpose that God calls us towards. I shared my story in this book, but I want the focus to be on your story. My prayer for this book is that all of us can live perfectly weak–that each person that reads it surrenders more to God and says YES to what He is asking to do.  I am praying freedom to anyone stuck in self-doubt, brokenness and fear. I want to focus on others’ stories that have done that.

We all have a story, and this book is about all of our stories running after God and leaving behind what is holding us back.

I am highlighting some amazing women I know with stories of brokenness in which God has brought healing. This is a story shared by my good friend and missionary, Bailey Kuert.

When we were first married, I asked my Kenyan-born husband what the Kiswahili word for, “princess” was. He explained that there wasn’t one direct word like we have in English, but that, “kibibi” was pretty close and it usually means, “little lady”. Since then he’s called me his kibibi.

At the beginning of 2016 after a season of being labeled “sick” and feeling like I’d failed as a missionary, I felt God whisper to my heart to begin to dream again. I had sensed that so many dreams had died including being healthy again. It was within days of hearing this whisper that I began to dream of ways to help women in Africa without living there. This period of dreaming birthed something called, “Kibibi Design” where I’m selling handmade artisan designed goods from Kenya.

The products are hand-woven from natural sources like sisal. Sisal is a spikey plant in the agave plant family. The process of weaving sisal begins by pulling the spikes off the plant, and then a striping process occurs to separate the spike into many individual fibers. Then the fibers are often dyed and left out in the sun to dry and finally they are woven into different designs, which can take a week to complete one basket. The end result is stunning and it’s always a one of a kind product.

I feel like this sisal weaving process parallels my life. I’ve found that God often takes sharp and painful things and begins breaking them down working them for the good in our lives. He is able to weave all things together to make something lovely. Each individual fiber of sisal in itself is weak and can tear without much force. However, once all of the pieces are put together, it becomes something very durable and lasting.

This is the type of work that the Holy Spirit does in each of our lives. I’ve seen Him take broken, weak and extremely fragile places in my heart and begin to put them back together to complete something beautiful. 

God is always at work within us to move us on by His spirit even when we don’t see it. One of my favorite verses I’ve been studying recently is found in Genesis 35:21 where the first portion reads, “Israel moved on”. This verse is right after Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel dies in childbirth. Jacob has another son, but he has lost Rachel forever.

When I think of the loss and heartache Jacob would’ve suffered after losing Rachel, I can’t imagine how he ever left the place she was buried. It’s comfortable to stay in a place of sorrows and of pain. It’s easy to just fall apart and remain broken. It’s painful to move on, to go forward, and to regain strength. It’s challenging to allow God to come in and bring something new.

Yet I love that the Bible says, “Israel moved on”. It doesn’t say, “Jacob moved on”, which is significant because I believe this was speaking to who he really was, not what he was currently experiencing. Jacob received the name Israel after wrestling with God and learning to lean on Him.

God is capable to speak past the labels and names that have defined us in previous seasons. He is able to call us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

All you and I can ever truly do well is lean and surrender to God. We can lean upon our beloved One and let Him carry us while experiencing sorrow or even great joy. When we rely upon His strength, He can weave extraordinary things in our lives from our broken and weak places and use them to impact others for His glory. When we lean on Him, He makes us strong in His strength, He lovingly removes the labels that don’t line up with His words over us and He calls us His royal daughters, His Kibibis.

Welcoming Weakness

There’s a lot of pressure out there to be all things to all people, and to never mess up or make a mistake. Leading, in whatever capacity, puts you in the position to have all of your strengths and weaknesses on display. Putting yourself out there can put you on the ugly side of criticism and wounds that I have felt many times over the last 18 years—as I am sure you have too. Those kinds of wounds are not easily forgotten, and can cause us to step back—way back and hide. Hide from people to avoid the pain. I know I did that. About 10 years into ministry, I decided I had enough and I withdrew. As I withdrew, I dug myself into a pit and hid. Inside that pit I did not find safety and refuge, but I found fear. I found myself wallowing in all the hurt, and coddling the fear. After I allowed God back into my mess of hurt and fear, I had a lot of ground to recover in my own heart and mind. I had to begin to obey Him again, and step out and take risks as I put my heart out there again.

As I began to step out and obey God, I was keenly aware that I had so many weaknesses. My experiences in the past, and my new willingness to take a risk for God exposed all the areas in which I felt vulnerable. I felt like the least equipped person to do what God was asking of me, and still do at times. I was so focused on all the things I was not good at as a pastor’s wife, and I tended to be nervous and timid. I didn’t have that bubbly personality that commands attention when I entered a room. I could only see everything I wasn’t, instead of seeing all of what God is. While being focused on all that I couldn’t do, I was missing out on all the God could do in me. As I, ever so slightly, stepped out in faith and actually did what He’d asked me to do, He started showing me what He could do.

I continued feeling weak and fearful as God kept asking me to do the things I didn’t think I could do. I kept asking Him, “Why me? Why did you choose me?” Finally, God answered and said, “Because you said yes. Because you were willing.”

God doesn’t need our expertise. He needs our willingness to obey. To do what He asks us to do. He needs people who are willing to follow His dream even when that plan doesn’t seem like much of a dream at all. He does not ask us to be over-the-top talented, gifted, and confident. He just needs willing hearts.

See, I thought that if God was calling me to do all these things that I wasn’t good at, or afraid of, or that I was too weak for, that He would take away my weaknesses and make me good at those things He was asking me to do. That wasn’t what happened. He pointed me back to the verses in 2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 that I lean on so much, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I really love the first and last part of those words, but I was mumbling through and skipping over the part about “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties, because when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 9b-10)

I realized that I had to be able to step out in areas in which I feel weak, untalented, and not good at and allow God’s strength to be made perfect in my weakness. I had to learn to obey, even if I feel weak. Even if God asks me to do something that I think I can’t do. Even if I don’t know how, and it makes me scared.

When we step out in weakness, that’s when God’s strength kicks in. That’s when Christ’s power rests on us. That’s the perfect place to be with God—operating in His power and His strength, not our own. Each step I took, God caught me, held me in His hands, and let His strength carry me.

God doesn’t want a different you, or a different me. He made each of us, weaknesses and all, just the way He wanted us. When we yield all that we are to Him, weaknesses included, He takes what we aren’t and fills us with what He is. His call to us is an invitation to surrender everything. Our strengths—which really are no strengths at all—and our weaknesses—which really are no hindrances at all—and delight in how He made us to walk in His Grace and His Power. He won’t accomplish His will in our lives by making us different people. Rather, He will empower us to do His will through His grace and strength. He wants us to exchange our weakness for His strength. By stepping out in obedience, I learned to delight in my weakness and acknowledge that I needed Him in those weaknesses. I said to Him “I can’t, but I know you can. I had to learn to live perfectly weak.

 

The Ultimate Creator

I have been praying and ask God to Divinely create some things in my life today. After all, if we think about it…He is the Ultimate Creator. I never really imagined God as the artsy, creative type until I really took time to think about it. He is the first artist, the first sculptor, the one who created and painted all the beautiful fish at the bottom of the sea that only HE will ever see. He painted the beautiful sunsets and made the starts shine. He gives all the creative power to all of creation. Any creative ideas any of us have, He has inspired.

So, while I was focusing on needing some creativity today, I read this just by happenstance (or really by God’s perfect placement and timing):

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith, we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.”

My favorite part of that today—that what we now see did not come from anything.

He made something out of nothing. In fact, He made everything out of nothing.

If you are needing God to create in your life today, please be encouraged as I was, that God creates so many something’s out of nothing for us. Whatever you need, whatever I need, He can create it. He is ready to make something out of nothing in your life today. He’s done it before and is always working and creating in ways we cannot see on our behalf.

The Timothy Project: Let’s be sure…

 

Our church is studying the books of 1st and 2nd Timothy this month, so I began reading them again today.

I have had this blog mulling around in my head for about a month (its been a long time since I posted last) and I just couldn’t get it out on paper–or on the screen. As I read 2nd Timothy 1:12 today, it finally all came together in my mind. It says,

“For I know the One in whom I trust and I AM SURE that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.”

Wow. That is powerful. I have been studying about truly believing God at His Word and trusting that He will answer prayers and do what He says He will. Again, my struggle with that isn’t in believing that He can do the impossible. I know He can do the impossible. I am not scared of impossibilities. I am scared of His timing.

But that verse challenges me. First, Paul says ‘I know the One in whom I trust.’ He didn’t say he knew of the One, or about the One, He KNOWS the One. That is so powerful to truly know the character of God and know His love, His Care and His Voice enough to do the rest of that verse – TO BE SURE that He is able to guard what we entrust to Him. And we entrust the most valuable things in our lives to Him–our children, our marriages, our families, our health, our livelihood, our calling, all of it! There are not many things I am completely sure of in this life, but to counting on God is one of those things I need to be sure of.

As I read through the gospels for this Easter season, Jesus talked about belief and unbelief a lot. So many of the scriptures about deep-down-believing surround His ministry on earth doing miracles in people’s lives.

As He healed the paralyzed and the blind, He spoke to that belief.

Matthew 8:13 “Because you believed, it has happened.”

Matthew 9:28-29 “They went right into the house where he was staying, and Jesus asked them, “Do you believe I can make you see?”“Yes, Lord,” they told him, “we do.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

But still I waver. In the situation, in the prayer, there lingers a twinge of doubt. I was reading Mark 8:14-21 and I realized the disciples felt that way, too, at times.

The disciples had JUST seen Jesus feed over 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and some fish they found. They had seven large basketfuls left over. After this, they immediately headed out in a boat with Jesus.  They made a stop, and then crossed the lake.

They JUST witnessed a miracle with Jesus and bread. Then there’s this-

Mark 8:16-21 “At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.  Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all?  When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”

“Twelve,” they said.

 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

“Seven,” they said.

 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

I mean, when I read this, I felt like He was  saying directly to me, “Do we have to go over this again???” You can almost hear what I think was an annoyed parental voice of Jesus (not sure if He had that voice, just how I hear it directed towards me) at the disciples.  You know when you ask your kids, “What did I tell you?” and then they mumble the response while shuffling their feet. “Why didn’t you do it?” and then they mumble “I don’t know.” That voice. Right at me.  When I am acting like the disciples did, fretting over what perceived lack I have, even though I have the God of miracles right here with me, I am reminded that I am seeing things from a human point-of-view, and not keeping the One in whom I trust in my view, and definitely not being sure that He is able.

Just a short chapter after that incident, Jesus was healing a man’s son. The father asks Jesus to help him if he can. Jesus says, “What do you mean, IF I can? Anything is possible for a person who believes. The father says, “I do believe, but help me with my unbelief.” (Mark 9:23-24 paraphrased)

And there it is. I think its where most of us stay. In that mix of belief and unbelief. I love that the dad expresses that. It gives words to our wavering. It reminds us the grace that Jesus can extend when our weaknesses sneak up on us.

I want to be sure. I am sure, but Lord help me when I am not.

And as I read through the gospels, God solidified this journey of being sure, and believing whole heartedly by reminding me of this amazing truth.

Matthew 21:21-22 “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”

That is powerful belief. That scripture is not to be misconstrued that God is our genie that grants us all our wishes. But it’s truth that He listens, He cares, and He is on our side waiting to move mountains for us. And it goes along with a quote my husband preaches which says, “if I want what God wants, for the reason God wants it, then I am unbeatable and unstoppable,” and maybe, just maybe we can see mountains moved.

Team Up With Jesus

Luke 8:22-25 (NLT)
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. 23 As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. 25 Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?”

The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!”

This is one of those passages of scripture that most people learn in Sunday School or children’s church growing up. I, probably like you, have read this story many times. This week, as I read it again, the words “they were in real danger” caused me to pause. These men were in a boat with Jesus, the Son of God.  Which has always caused me to focus on the part where Jesus corrects them for doubting, or the part where He calms the winds and waves. Never focused on the part that says they were in real danger.

If the disciples were with Jesus all the time, in His actual physical presence and they went through a storm that caused them real danger, that translates to me that we will be in different types of real danger in this life.  It reminds me of the scripture, “In this life there will be trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We will be in real danger. We will hurt. We will feel overwhelmed, confused, angry. We will have loss. But Jesus is in the boat with us. He’s in my boat when I feel like I’m drowning, and when it feels like He’s not answering. He’s in the boat with me in the silence and in the stretching times. And He will calm my storm. The storm has to obey Him–and suddenly. He can respond suddenly in our situations just like He suddenly calmed the storm for the disciples. One word from Him can change our lives in an instant, and calm the raging winds. He’s always right there with us. Lately I have been adding the word suddenly to end the of my prayers. I know God has His own timing, and I have learned a lot through times of delay and waiting on the Lord. There have been many times in my life that God has not answered me immediately, or at all in ways that I wanted. And there is a season for that in our lives. There is a reason for the delay. God is not our genie ready to grant our wishes as we command. But the other side to that is that He can move suddenly. You need to know He’s in your boat and He can speak one word to bring peace and calm and provision into your life.

You know, as I kept reading that same day, I read Matthew 11:28-30:

“28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

A yoke is a wooden bar that allows two oxen to be TEAMED UP together and work as a team efficiently.

Wow. I want to be teamed up with Jesus. I want Him to take the lead, and carry the burden, and teach me, and show me how to rest. (Don’t we need Him to show us how to rest?)

And notice it says, “let me teach you.” Oh how often do we refuse to listen. Refuse to rest. I think the key to teaming up with Him is to be teachable and actually come to Him. Come to Him in the storm, in the busy, when we are weary, and when we are not. Just come to Him. Every day.

Team up with Jesus. Let Him carry your load and give you rest. He pushes the weight, He holds it all together. And He’s in your boat, and on your side.

Pick Up Your Mat

 

Ever want God to wake new things inside of you? New boldness, new vision — to just stir something more inside of your heart? And give you the capability to just go all in for what’s stirring? I was asking God to do that for me a couple of Sunday’s ago during worship. Nothing earth shattering, just asking Him expand my heart for Him and do more in me. However, when He does do more–like I asked, that usually brings back the struggle of feeling inadequate to follow through with the newness and the tendency to shrink back from the challenge.

That makes me so frustrated with myself. So, as I was contemplating these things while talking to God about the next day. Monday morning I open my Bible to my regular reading for the day, which happened to be John chapter 5. I had just written in my journal all that I just wrote above about wanting more from God and yet struggling with that “more” and the feelings of inadequacy, and then my eyes fell on this this story….

John 5:1-9

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days.  Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

“I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Jesus told him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!”

 Instantly, the man was healed! He rolled up his sleeping mat and began walking.

As I read that, I focused on the question pointed directly at me, “Would you like to be well?” YES! Yes I want to be well! It’s not that I am actually sick, but I am so tired of timidity and want to daily default right into operating in that promised Spirit of power, love and a sound mind. Yes, I want that!

As I was answering that question in my head,  I then read the next line, in which the man answers, “I can’t.” And I felt God nudge me with the questions of, “How many times have you said ‘I can’t,’ and how many excuses have you made?” And then the question came again, “Would you like to be well?” I thought “YES” again and kept reading. After the man told Jesus–the Son of God, Creator of the universe–“I can’t,” Jesus completely ignores the excuse he gave Him, and says, “Stand up, pick up your mat and walk.”

Pick up my mat. Do what He says. Who cares how I feel, and what my excuses are. If I want to be well, then pick up my mat. If I want to run after all God puts inside me to do, then just pick up the mat.

Sometimes I feel like I coddle my own self. I dwell on what’s hard, or things I think I can’t do, or excuses. Jesus pushes pasts excuses here and just says do what I say. Take responsibility for what I have given you to do and pick up your mat.

I looked up the word “mat” in the Greek language and it literally means a bed for sickness. God doesn’t want me to lay around on what hinders me and wallow in that.  He’s calling me to pick myself up–weaknesses and all– and walk in His freedom and grace.

That day I was reading this passage, there were several things I was facing that I was intimidated to do. Each time I was preparing for one of them, I just decided that I was going to pick up my mat. That’s kind of become something I say now. Instead of thinking anxious thoughts about something I just say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.” Instead of procrastinating because it’s difficult, I say, “I’m gonna pick up my mat.”

To me, that just means I am not making excuses to disqualify myself from something God has given me the power to accomplish. I am going to pick my mat and WALK.

Do you need to pick up your mat?

Take courage because He promises to go with us when we pick it up.

Deut. 31:6 “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and a sound mind.”

 

Hiding

I began last year by writing this goal for myself,

“Don’t be afraid of what people think. Don’t be afraid to look stupid for trying and failing, and don’t be stupid and let what other people think about me keep me from obeying God.”

That’s been in my journal over a year now, and guess what I still struggle with? Being afraid of what people think. However, God has really been chipping away at this in my life for the past year. I have not perfected this (as if perfection is attainable) but I am getting better.

I tend to hide. I prefer to stay in the background, to keep what God has put inside me quiet, and not seek attention. I also tend to think what I have to offer is less than, and not really noteworthy. So, with all that combined inside my head, when God asks me to put myself out there and use what He has given me for His Sake, my initial thought is to hide.

In the last several months, God has been increasingly confronting this in my life. He has revealed to me that this is not humility–it is disobedience.  (Ouch)

Not doing what God asks me to do because I am afraid of what others think or think I am not worthy to do it–is, in fact, disobedience. It’s hiding from God’s purpose in my life. It is allowing fear to hinder me from accomplishing my purpose.

Once I fully grasped that thought, it made me mad. How many times have I drug my feet obeying what God asks me to do because of these thoughts,

“Oh, I can’t do that.”

“What will people think about that?” (who are these “people” I am afraid of anyway?!)

“What if people think, ‘Who does she think she is for thinking she can do that’?”

“What if I stink at that?”

“What if I offend someone?”

I realized that all those thoughts are just roadblocks to true obedience.  I realized that line of thinking is inward focused and performance based. It’s a need to please.

God has reassured me that anything He asks us to do is to bring glory to His Name and to help and minister to others. People need what all of us have to offer. We are Christ’s hands and feeds and words of encouragement to those around us. We can’t hide that. We can’t let being afraid of what others think keep us from our purpose. Instead, we must care so much what God thinks and run after what He calls us to do, no matter what people think. Be God pleasers.

When God finds me hiding, the question I have heard Him whisper to me is, “Why are you afraid to be you?” Ever find yourself feeling that way?  I know we are all different personalities with different types of leadership qualities, so some of you might think that’s just mousy and timid. But we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) as God’s masterpiece created to do good that He prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

So again, this January I am going to write the statement that I started 2015 with and just go for it. Run. Create. Jump in and just obey God. Fearlessly running in the direction that He calls. Ultimately that means we don’t seek to get praise, but seek to give praise.

John 3:21 “But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

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