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

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.”

 

A ‘Yes’ is a Yield

 

Most of us truly, deep down desire to fully yield our lives to God, surrendering all–all our hopes, dreams, failures, actions, etc… We try to “accommodate” God by adding Him into our lives and trying to do what He wants us to do. However, in that process I have found in my life that I end up trying to push God in a direction instead of yielding to God’s direction.

I have had a journey with God asking me to do things that are difficult for me to say “yes” to. Difficult because of my lack of confidence, fear and insecurity. When I do say yes to God, I usually still try to make it happen my own way, find a way to make it feel less risky, and maybe even attempt to control how the whole thing goes. I am learning in these processes that I am pushing and not yielding.

When we say “yes” in obedience to God,that yes is yield and not a push. Saying yes to God doesn’t mean we have to jump in and start making things happen, and telling God what we want Him to do. Its yielding. It’s praying, “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done here Lord.” It’s praying for what He wants, and not necessarily what we want. And sometimes it doesn’t make sense to us. Even when it doesn’t make sense, yielding is allowing God to lead instead of trying to take over, or push our way.

God recently showed me how I do this pushing-what-I-want-thing while I was dealing with Chloe getting ready for school one day this week.

We had five minutes to get out the door to head to school. Which meant it was time to put her coat on, then backpack, then pick up the lunch box and water bottle. This sounds fairly simple, but no. It never is. This time she really wanted to wear this Mickey Mouse scarf/hat thing.  She was really focused on wanting that. I knew that should be the last thing to put on. I knew where it was. It was by the door on the way out.

We were in the kitchen and I needed her to put on her heavy coat first, then her back pack, then pick up her lunch and water, then I would lead her to that last step. As we stood in the kitchen, I kept saying, “Please put your coat on.” To which she would say in desperation, “BUT I WANT TO WEAR THE MICKEY THING.”  It kept going back and forth with, “Yes, you can have it, just put your coat on,”  “but can I have the Mickey thing now?!”

I had a process in my head that would lead her to what she wanted, but she wouldn’t take the first step. Finally I said in a slightly (or majorly) frustrated tone, “Chloe just put your coat on and I will lead you to the scarf and hat. It’s at the backdoor and you have to have your coat and backpack on first before we leave to get it. Just do this first step, and I will take you to what you need.”

Literally as those words came out of my mouth, I began to chuckle because it was as if God was saying them to me. I realized at the moment I act like Chloe was acting all the time with God. He is leading me step-by-step to those desires HE has put in my heart, to the dreams HE has called me to, but I want to skip steps. I want to be in charge. I want to tell Him that I don’t want to do this specific thing right now, I want that. He is whispering, “Yes I know what you need, but just take this step right now, and I am leading you to that.”

Just like I had the plan mapped out in my head that was best for Chloe, so God has the same mapped out that’s best for me. I can’t see it all the time. I don’t know the all steps He has planned, but if I will just take each step as He put it in front of me, He will lead me to what I need.

God is so gracious to be patient with us–to walk us through step-by-step, helping us to obey. Even when we act like our children at times.Image-1

The struggle with timing…

 

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven….

Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 “What do people really get for their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet, God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I have concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. 

And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken away from it. God’s purpose is that people should fear Him. What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.

Discontentment has already made an attempt to sink in a little bit. It’s really hard to pray those big prayers, dream big with God, and allow Him to drop those God-sized dreams in your heart to build His Kingdom, and not get disillusioned waiting on His timing. It’s exciting to yield your mind, your heart, your schedule and plans to God’s purposes, but it feels dissatisfying, restless, and unfulfilling to wait, and wait, and wait.

If we are being honest here, it’s really hard to continue to wait expectantly, and joyfully, with increased faith when you see nothing new happening.

Psalm 5:3 says, “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I lay my requests to You, and wait expectantly.”

The struggle and balance between laying down your life daily for God’s plans in your life and getting frustrated with waiting on God’s timing is real. We want to tell God what to do and when to do it (or at least I do). I do it all the time — not on purpose or with intentional disrespect — but it happens. As I was talking to God about all of this today (and maybe complaining a little), He led me to the book of Ecclesiastes to gently remind me that to everything there is a season in life. And He makes those seasons beautiful in His own timing. And not to get all worked up and impatient because He can actually handle it all and is, most definitely, still in charge of all my stuff.

The most interesting part of that passage in Ecclesiastes to me was the end of chapter 3, verse 15 that says, “God makes the same things happen over and over again.” I have read that before, but today it made a great impact. Nothing is new to God. Nothing is hard for God. He has done it all in the past before, and already knows what He is going to do in the future. He’s got it covered. Sure, its hard to wait, but I am learning (and will continue to have to learn this) to hold onto His mercies that are new every morning to guide me, and give me peace, patience, strength and grace when the waiting is hard.

And as I struggled with all of this today, God brought me full circle by reminding me that those who wait on the Lord shall be renewed in their strength (Isaiah 40:31) Funny how just talking to God a little while, dwelling in His presence and letting Him into our thought processes separates truth from feelings, and brings exactly the right Word at the right time.

“Lord, continually help me each morning to lay my requests out to you, and enable me to keep waiting expectantly with an open heart, full of faith, knowing You are working on our behalf. Help me to keep trusting fully that Your ways are best.”

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Perfectly Weak

 

Sometimes we do something we don’t want to, or think we can’t do, because God asks us to.  2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear/timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. I often find myself leaning on my own nature of fear and timidity and not operating out of that power God’s nature gives me. When He asks me to do things that I think are scary, I have to choose to operate in His strength and not in my weaknesses. I have been so keenly aware of my weaknesses each time God asks me to take a risk and step out in obedience so much so that I have shrunk back from obeying Him.  I have decided to stop letting fear dictate what I say yes to from God, and rest perfectly weak in His Strength that is perfected in my weakness.

As God has asked me to begin writing (which I think I can’t do) and then sharing the writing (which is really scary for me) I have resisted and put it off. So much so, He has nudged and pushed so hard that I can no longer say no. He has even revealed to me, through a study of the book of James, that it is sin to know what I ought to do, and not do it (James 4:17). It is not humility to tell God that I can’t do what He asks me to do because I am too weak, untalented or afraid. It is disobedience. So, with great trembling, I have begun this blog. I am writing from a place of weakness that I might spur someone else to do the same in their life with their own gifts. I am writing from weakness to produce God’s strength in my life.

I have a passion to help others develop their gifts God has placed in their lives to use for Him and His glory, yet I have been dragging my feet using mine. I find it funny, and ironic, that the verse right before 2 Timothy 1:7 (saying I have do not have a spirit of fear) then instructs us to fan into flame the gift of God.  God must’ve known that it can be daunting to step out into obedience and fan that flame, so He had to follow that up with reminding us we can do it with His power, love and sound mind. He must’ve known that Satan would try to use his scare tactics to prevent us from obeying God and taking risks for Him. So I launch this blog to fan the flame of the gifts God has entrusted into my life, I encourage you to do the same. In this culture of self-promotion, and the building of our own kingdoms, I seek to make myself smaller and myself less known, so that HE can be bigger in my life, and more known in what I do.  I do not start this blog out of self-promotion, but in God-promotion. I truly desire to share what He gives me to share, with the intention to push us all towards serving God with our gifts in such a way that we are stretched way out of our comfort zones to make His name famous and change this world. I do this to serve God with all that I have –  to be full on committed to do what God asks me to do even if it scares me.

My usual pattern is to care what others think, and then shrink back from the task. And recently we had a women’s event at our church that was way bigger than what we had planned for. That is amazing, right?! My husband kept saying, “not enough seats and not enough food is a good problem to have.” Well, one morning driving in the car I wasn’t feeling that was a good problem to have. I started whining to God that this had gotten too big for me to do and that I was overwhelmed. After the long whine session, He said to me, “How many times have you asked me to be a part of something bigger than yourself?”

That’s when I said, “I’m in God.” And I am. I am in for allowing God to do things that are bigger than I can accomplish in my life by myself. So let’s do this together. Let’s be full on committed to fan the gifts of God into flames in our lives and not be afraid or held back from taking the God-sized risks to be obedient when He calls us to step out in faith. All of us together, using our own unique gifts and abilities fearlessly can become a great army for God.

Ezekial 37:1-14 says, ”

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!  I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I spoke this message, just as he told me. Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons. Then as I watched, muscles and flesh formed over the bones. Then skin formed to cover their bodies, but they still had no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’”

So I spoke the message as he commanded me, and breath came into their bodies. They all came to life and stood up on their feet—a great army.