Pearls of Wisdom: Pressure Is Good Medicine

My first born, Salem, began her college adventure on Saturday. I have to tell you, as some of you mamas already know, this whole season of packing and preparing has stirred my heart on so many levels. I feel like a kaleidoscope of emotions. Turn the wheel ever so slightly and my emotional mosaic shifts into another beautiful picture of memories, regrets, sadness, excitement, pride, and hope.

I find myself remembering the smallest details about her childhood.
I find myself grading myself as a mom over the last 18 years.
I find myself recalling my own teen years, and college years.
I find myself missing her in the oddest of ways.

Walking in her empty room, still takes my breath away.  (Yes, I smell her pillow.) But there is, deeper than all these feelings, an overwhelming sense of joy and gratefulness.

God is so big. So kind. So amazingly faithful. He will continue to be that. To her. And To me.

Believe it or not, I didn’t cry as we drove off. We didn’t understand it necessarily, but we were ready.  All of us. And there was a very real peace that passes understanding.

Before the big day, God laid on my heart to capture some of the pearls He had given me. I kept getting a holy ping of  “have I told Salem _____ yet”?  It would wake me up at night.

These deposits, these  pearls of wisdom, are aptly named since pearls are something very beautiful created out of great anguish and agitation. They had come at a high price. And although most teens get tired of hearing  “one more thing” from their parents, I wrote her letters anyway.  Smile. But then, I felt compelled to share with you the modified versions. His pearls are for us all.

The first Pearl was about our gifts poured out on the feet of Jesus in the same way the woman poured out her best from the alabaster box. 

The second pearl is about Pressure. imgres

When I was in college I was broke. And alone. And eager to please an incredible professor. I am not sure which of these factors clouded my judgment. Maybe it was the combination of all three. But I took on the formidable role of the editor of the yearbook, the editor of the newspaper, taking full time classes and working at least 30 hours to keep my tuition discount. Don’t be impressed. The story doesn’t have a happy ending.

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Why Bruce and Caitlyn are Both Welcome at God’s Table

I want to begin with a couple of disclaimers. No Christians, I am not judging. Yes gays and lesbians, I have homosexual friends and love them just the same. More importantly God loves us  all the same. That’s why Bruce/Caitlyn is welcome at God’s table.

And.

God gave us free will. Pastor Danny Silk wrote “freedom is the language of heaven.”  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up.” (1 Cor. 10:23) This is a scandalous statement. It gives us all the sobering responsibility of choosing our lives and living with our choices. Free to choose, and free to produce results that have implications, good or bad.

And.  If Bruce/Caitlyn calls on the name of the Lord, he/she will be saved. End of story. That is the beauty of grace. Was he/she a Christian already? Still saved and fully loved. That is the beauty of grace.

There is a charge to all of us.  Either the blood of Jesus frees us from all sin, or it doesn’t. God does not part and parcel forgiveness. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.

And.

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There is a confusion about the person and the action. Every person deserves dignity. Every action has a reaction. I can love the person and disagree with the choice or action.  In fact. I must be able to do both, or I have no freedom to love at all.

Let me bring this home.  One of the most damning lies that held me captive was the idea that because I had aborted my child I must agree, endorse, promote abortion. Yes I chose that. But my choice had very, very real consequences beyond what I could see in the moment.

After meeting Christ, I could not, would not, be an advocate of such a horrid thing. In every way possible, Jesus washed me clean. I am longer bound by that sin. And yet there are consequences. So grace for the person and consequences for the action. This is not judgement. This is reality. I may forgive you for shooting me in the foot, but my foot still has to heal and I may have a limp for the rest of my life. In His goodness, God will even grace me in my limp, but there are ongoing implications.

May I challenge us to separate the person from the movement?

Think of the woman who represented Roe vs Wade.  The powers behind that movement used her story, her wounding to advance an agenda. She is a person, who made a choice, who was used for cultural influence.

When people of that time protested, the argument centered around mean people judging a person. But that’s not true. There was an outcry of the social implications.

Think of Martin Luther King. Many denigrated his personal choices of infidelity. His choices had consequences. But as a movement, no one questions that he was after a collective social change.

All this to say, be wise in what you are standing for and arguing about. There is a social movement in progress.

Yes. Jesus saves. Jesus loves. Jesus forgives.

We are called to love as he loves. But while we are quoting verses about “not casting the first stone,” remember that Jesus told the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more.”

Just because Jesus paid for sin, doesn’t mean He endorses it. He calls us all to holiness, or,  “His way-ness.”

Sure many people do not believe in God or His standard. They think they get to decide what is male, female, marriage, God’s sovereignty. I get it. Everything permissible, but not beneficial. Remember?

And.

Scripture speaks often about “doing what is right in our own eyes.” Every culture that has veered off to this path of Self reigning as final authority has not ended up so well. “There is way that seems right to  man and in the end it leads only to death.” I am not talking about wrath of God. I am talking about how we break our own souls by our self-centered choices.

Finally, I have been around long enough to learn a few things worth repeating.

1) Just because there is a “ism” or phobia or disorder slapped on it, it doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want. It doesn’t mean hands off. “Earth has no sorrow, that Heaven can’t heal.” Christians, are you praying? On earth, as it is in Heaven? Earth doesn’t tell the Maker how things roll. We hold the cure for every heartache.

2) Just because everyone else is jumping on the band wagon, doesn’t mean God is wrong, irrelevant, or mean.  A lot of harm is done by people who have more concern about fitting in than seeking Truth. Are you willing to stand alone if that means standing with God’s opinion? Are seeking His opinion more than Twitter or Facebook?

3) Just because you go public, doesn’t make it right. I have a lot of compassion for people who go into the public eye. Scrutiny is a maker or breaker of character. You and I both have seen people lose their way because of their fear of the public’s approval. Either gaining it, keeping it, or losing it.

I literally pray peace for Bruce/Caitlyn, now in the feeding frenzy, but also in the coming months and years from now when the implications become known.

I pray the peace of Christ on our culture that is so confused, self centered, and often deceived. We are making it harder than it has to be.

I pray for the endurance and stamina of the saints to stand firm so that their hearts will not grow cold. Now more than ever we must hold out the truth and hope of Christ. For everyone.

Come one, come all. Come to the table of the One who makes all things new. No plastic surgery required.

 

The Launching…when God shows up

There are just these moments when other people’s stories collide with my own.  And when they do, it gets so crazy “coincidence” that you know in your Knower that God is up to something big.

I have had this ember burning in my soul for months now. It has been a mystery, a wonder, a prayer. And I have hardly been able to even speak it out and  be coherent. But every time I tried to release in the physical what is happening in the spiritual, the ember would flare up into golden flame.

And then I would hear comments about hunger, and restlessness, and even eagerness.  “I am never going back,” is a phrase I have heard not once but three times from women who have gone beyond the bible study, the church going, who have gone into the deep places of God. My heart beats with theirs. So much so, that I feel like now there is a rolling fire in my soul.   We can’t go back to okay, God is wanting to more for us.

And thus. “The Launching.”

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God is gathering women who are hungry,  even desperate for more of Him.  There is a rising ache and groan among women who have really tasted the beauty and closeness of Jesus. And we want more. But how?

So this event is to help women soak in His presence. Really. To impart revelations that we need to stay centered in the middle of our lives.

Rest. Dependence — which produces peace and confidence. And so much more. Continue reading

Do you want to be free, or not?

So yesterday morning my cat, Dante, brought  in a full grown chipmunk.

I heard the scrambling and the screeching and I ran to see it just in time as the poor chipmunk leaped from the cat’s mouth as Dante fumbled down the stairs.

(Why the cat felt the need to bring it downstairs is unclear and absurd. Getting in the cat door with a full grown animal is impressive enough, but down the stairs? Anyway…)

Immediately the other cat, Leonardo, and the dog, Lucy, were on high alert, sniffing and running after the poor creature who is also on high alert. The chipmunk is panicking and smelling and trying to find someplace to hide quickly. With a lunge, it ran behind the piano.

I am too am now on high alert. I put one cat in the bedroom and closed the door. I put the other cat upstairs. And closed the door. I put the dog in the crate and closed the door.

For the chipmunk…I opened the basement door. Wide open. Empty room with a open door

It did not budge.

I got a broom and tried to gently push it out from behind the piano so it can see the open door. See the freedom.  But the broom was too short.

And so we stood there. The chipmunk and I.  It was hiding and cowering. I was standing there waiting, hoping it would smell the scents of the freshly rained on morning and peek around the piano and see freedom.

“Okay buddy. It’s all on you. I have done all I can.”

I removed the obstacles. I opened the door. The rest was on the chipmunk.

Freedom is choice.

For the chipmunk. For us.

We can cower in fear all our lives. We can hide in dark places and feel sorry for ourselves.

Or we can peek around the corner and see that God has already bound our tormentors and has opened the door to freedom. Wide open. The rest is up to us.

Choose freedom today. Freedom from anxiety,  anger,  self pity and even sadness. There is a fresh newly rained on morning awaiting. All you have to do is go through the open door.

The chipmunk finally did. So can you.

 

Photo Credit: tellthemisaidsomething.com

 

 

New Season, New Class, New Event— Just New!

Hello Friends!
Do you smell that? No, it’s not Pumpkin Spice lattes. It is the aroma of anticipation. God is moving and shaking so much that I am eager to begin this new season.

We had a great “Saying Yes to God” Class. I am still meeting with new women who are doing just that, saying yes, and I love watching their lives explode with more of Him.

Here is a quick update of things on the horizon.

“I Need More…”  is a new class that begins September 15 through November. We will meet every other Monday night at Greenbrier Club House, from 6:30-8:30. The address is 1505 Greenbrier Ridge Way, Knoxville, TN 37909.  Very convenient at the Papermill exit off I-40.

What you can expect: soaking worship, the presence of the Lord, other hungry women who want more of God, and real life topics. It’s for women who have that yearn in their gut for something better, deeper; for women have gone numb; for women who need some freedom finally; for women who are ready to go to the next level. Dang. I am SO excited!!!

Little Teasers about what’s Coming Soon
The Yes and Amen at the Beach sold out really quickly.
So guess what? I am planning another! And, we are scheduling a Yes and Amen in the Mountains for folks who need one closer by. If you are remotely interested, please email me at Jana@janaspicka so I can get you on the details list.

Fresh Revelation…God is stirring in me to do a new event this Spring. I have the location but I need a team to help me get the ball rolling. If you have any desire to love God and love on others by serving on a volunteer team, I will let you in on the secret handshake (wink) and we will get busy! Email me or find me on Facebook.

I hope you will connect with, or pray over, or spread the word about all God is doing. My heart is so full. And I am thankful for the opportunity to let it pour out.

Grace and favor on you and in you!
Jana

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God is Not Ashamed of Us, Part 2

As you recall, we are talking about living “from” the expression on Jesus’s face. (See Part 1) How you see Him looking at you is paramount to your intimacy.  Allow me to tell you two stories to put things in perspective.

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I was a bewildered new mom fumbling along the parenting path when an older dad gave me this great piece of advice. “When your toddler falls down they will look at you. Make sure you smile. If you panic, they will panic.  If you smile, or clap your hands, and tell them they are okay, they will react the same.  They may cry for a minute, but if you don’t make a big deal out of it, neither will they.”

(Thank you, Michael Patrick!)

So sure enough, Salem would fall down and look for me or daddy. She would search our faces and we would smile really big, and say in a happy voice “Hey baby, you are okay. Get back up!”  And she would whimper a moment and get back up.

This also worked with getting the girls out of their cribs. In the morning or at after nap times, they searched my face to get a temperature of their world.  So I consciously tried to smile and welcome them, regardless of my own inner reality.  Spills and messes? Same technique.  We wanted them to know mistakes were okay. They didn’t have to be skiddish or fearful but to simply get up and begin to clean up.  It really created peace in the middle of momentary chaos. In all these situations, we set the tone for our children. Do you get it? Our expression of love and devotion directed their actions and reactions.

However.

I would love to say I carried that idea into my whole of parenting.  I did not —particularly as they got older and were “in trouble.”  When they blew it big, so did I.

Often, I lost the whole notion of how my expression impacted these little learning human beings. And of course, they learned to watch my face when they got in trouble at school or church, or with their friends. Only it wasn’t a good thing. It was a fearful thing. They anxiously approached me because, “Mom, I was afraid you’d get mad at me…”  In their greatest moment of need, in their sin, they were afraid of me.

Does this sound familiar to you? To the way you approach God?

God did bring a parenting breakthrough  but that’s for later. Here is another story of watching someone’s expression.  It’s a familiar story but let’s zoom in on a few details.

Jesus predicted that Peter would deny even knowing him three times before the rooster crowed. While Jesus was being tormented and tried, Peter stood outside in the courtyard around a fire.  Three times Peter cursed at people who claimed he had been with Jesus and Luke 22 says, “Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”

In this story we often focus on Peter, his failure, how he “wept bitterly.” We can relate to Peter.

But God. I want to focus on the expression on Jesus’s face…

Was he surprised? Disappointed? Shocked?  Clearly not, since Jesus told Peter in advance what Peter would do.

Was he angry? Ready to punish? Clearly not, or he would have betrayed Peter and had him on trial as well.

Was he — merciful? Full of the same love that He was getting ready to pour out on the cross? 

Let your mind imagine His holy expression. Jesus was devoted to his mission, Even in this moment, pre-crucifixion. His mission:  To close the gap between God and man. To remove once and for all the shame that stained the soul of the whole of creation. To display the overwhelming love of God.

Can we handle the Look of Love in middle of our failure?

God understands, more than we do, that we most need mercy when we fail the most. Some powerful moments of healing happened with God in the middle of my sin.  One time the Lord told me, “Jana don’t try to hide your sin from Me anymore. I would rather be with you while you sin, than you running away and pretending like I am not there. Stay with Me.”

In the garden, the man and woman sinned and they hid.  For fear of punishment. And they were indeed banished. But all that has changed. “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied ”

Now in Christ, through the redeemed garden of Gethsemane, we don’t hide when we sin but we run to the Father.  We look for the expression on His face. We know that just as Jesus looked on Peter with love and mercy, we find the same loving Eyes looking on us.  We are not banished, but our fear is. His perfect love  banishes, drives out, the fear in us.

So for today, consider where you go when you blow it? Do you hide? Run? Do you turn away from God and go outside and weep bitterly? Ashamed of yourself so God must be too?

Perhaps, one of the greatest things that ever happened to Peter was his ultimate failure. I think it was an incredible gift to us all. Why? Because after his failure, Peter realized what Jesus knew all along.

Jesus’s love was not based on Peter’s actions, but flowed from His Father’s endless, merciful, gracious Heart. Hallelujah.

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5

More to come…

Art by Salem Spicka

God is Not Ashamed of You…Part 1

“God is not ashamed of you.” Ryan Wyatt said at Fuse Church on Sunday. The comment hung in the air — as if suspended by our deep longing and yet our persistent unbelief — as if we all collectively held our breath at the boldness of the notion.  He repeated the phrase. This time a declaration.  “God is. Not ashamed. Of you.” 

You could tangibly feel the relief. We exhaled our corporate breath and Truth laid over the congregation like a warm blanket, comforting and covering us all.

God really is not ashamed of you. Nor is He disgusted, disappointed, embarrassed, or fretting over you.  Imagine it. God in heaven wringing His hands over your latest goof up, saying, ‘Oh my, oh my, what ever will I, the God of all creation, do about this creature of mine?”

Get it? Not gonna happen. Ever. Infinity.

If you think you have that much cosmic power, you might need a bigger God. I’m just saying.

I want to belabor this point.  It applies to all: the couple living together, the businesswoman who cheats on a deal, the unfaithful husband, the screaming mom, the binging teenager, the person who swears to do better with his selfishness and yet repeats it daily…God is not ashamed to call all of us His children. How can it be?

It’s called the grace factor. While we are made in His image, there is a huge difference in God’s emotional capacity and ours. Thank you God. ThIMG_4791is is really good news for people who are still running from God, or holding Him at arms length, or won’t look Him in the eyes.

Perhaps, you are afraid He will act like you act. Or how your mom, dad, pastor, friend, or spouse acted.  Perhaps, you are afraid of the expression on His face.  You think He is thinking about your sin and you want to hide from Him. But this is one of the greatest deceptions in the Christian life.

If you belong to God in the name of Jesus, then your sin is gone. Period. It’s paid for. It’s not that God is in denial. But that He lives in fulfillment.  The law has been satisfied. Death for sin.  Jesus for you. Done. You now live in a too-good-to-be-true-but-is-true reality of Grace.

Which brings us to a much bigger and better conversation.  If God is not ashamed of you, and He is not talking about your sin, then what IS He talking about?  What IS the expression on His face?

I want to take a few blogs and talk about living from the look on Jesus’s face. Selah.  Living from…the look on His Face…

But for today, will you take a moment just to still your heart, and your world?

Let your spirit see the expression on Jesus’s face. Even now, close your eyes. Take a deep breath and just look and listen for Him.

I trust once you let him remove the veil of shame from your eyes, you will see something, Someone, better than you expected.

More to come.
“My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord I will seek.” Psalm 27:8 

 

Photography by Salem Spicka, “Veiled Woman” from Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Farewells, Hellos, and Thank Yous

Dear friends of mine, friends of WGR and friends of Jesus,

Wow!  My first reaction coming off of Sabbatical is— Wow! This has been the hardest and best year of my life.  What a God! What a Lover!

It’s been so impacting, in fact, that it will be the source for my next book.  There have been so many visions and revelations, so many holy hushes, so many Re-directions. I am hoping to have it finished by fall, please pray with me.  (Hint: You might get sneak peeks through my blog and FB posts.)

Now comes a season of “new wine” and  “new wineskins.”  It could be summed up in a few words. Abandon. Worship. Write.

He has released me from the Drive to be so “productive” that I neglect myself, my family, or even Him! It is a greater work He is after. Therefore, you will likely see less events this year, but you will see more in-depth writing and more opportunities for focused teaching.

Honestly, I am eager to teach. And yet, He has made it clear that it will look very different. Something has shifted even in my outpouring. I  felt it when I taught a recent youth retreat and I spoke at a Pep Moms retreat. We went to incredible places with God. I am so grateful He is refining my gifting.

What’s next? Writing and Waiting on Him to open doors. Our conversation went something like this: “Jana your job is to refine the message, I’ll take care of the audience.”

Thus, my next teaching opportunity is April 25-26 Fascinate Women’s Gathering at Fuse Church.  I will be one of the keynote speakers! I am so so excited!!

(It’s an open event so you can register at www.fusechurch.com)

An 8-week intensive course to follow up that event called, “Saying Yes to God.”
Location Claris Networks Conference Room, 6100 Lonas Drive. (right off Papermill exit at I-40)  Registration is required and space is limited.

Many of you have asked? What about Beautiful, or the marriage retreats? What about Unhindered, Sweetly Broken Abortion retreat, or Yes and Amen?  What about church or small group retreats?

Yes and Yes is my answer. I am so willing and available as long as someone else bears the weight of the event. I have LOVED doing the many events hosted by WGR. We had a blast and I am forever changed by what God did in our midst.

Going forward though, I am to be a speaker/teacher. Not an event coordinator.  God has made the transition so clear that He moved the incredible women I served with into new adventures. Ahem.  We call that “pruning.”  Therefore, I am eagerly waiting for an increase of harvest of women who will be rescued, restored and released… smile.treewomansmall

I was at the beach on the close of the Sabbatical which was the exact date of the first Unhindered Encounter in 2007. I stood in complete awe as I considered all that God has done in the last seven years. Really it takes my breath away to consider what he has done for me as well as for many of you. We are different. Our relationships with God, with our friends and family, in our marriages—they are different. Better. Deeper. God has been doing an amazing work in us all.

Will you allow me a few Thank You’s?
I offer a heart felt shout out to:

The Girl Group and the Dream Teams: (you know who you are…)
I look back on all I have learned, all that we did together, all that God taught us and I am humbled beyond words.  You each brought such joy to my life. I loved walking that stretch of the road with you.  I am forever changed. Your hours invested in the events for other women are mind blowing. Only me and Jesus know how much you gave on their behalf. Thank you.

Lyschel Burket:  You were the first insane and brave soul to come along side and “assist” the vision of rescuing and restoring women. I will be forever indebted and grateful for your organizational skills, your deep friendship and encouragement, and your steadfast belief that all the volunteer work was worth it.

Heather Terflinger:  When the baton passed from Lyschel to you, I had no idea that the roller coaster was getting ready to speed up.  What a ride!! Your laughter and energy took us to new dreams and possibilities.  I have enjoyed every minute working with you.

Volunteers:  Although that sounds broad and impersonal, I can see your faces as I write.  The courage it took for so many of you to step into serving others, the cardboard testimonies, the hours of blood sweat and tears…How do I say thank you?  When I did that first conference with 5 dear friends, I had no idea that God would raise up an “army of Friends” to take it from there. Especially you Laura Jones and Beth Hungerford. God bless you and bless you all again.

Mentors and Prayer Warriors: Betsy Michalik, Kate LeBoeuf, my faithful Board, John Dee, the intercessors — thank you for  your wisdom, insight, and deep concern for me. I am so blessed by you.

To my husband and children:  You are my most important ministry of all. Thank you for your investment, patience, and sacrifice.

Does this sound like a farewell?  It is.  And it is not.  We have all crossed paths out of His goodness. I still ardently pray for harvest to come out of holy seeds that He planted. And my eyes watch and wait for all that He is bringing forth in days and years to come.

I am confident of His calling and His plans.  “Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” Romans 4:20-21

Thank you for being a part of this ongoing work of God.  Thank you caring enough to read this. May we press in to know Him more with “ever increasing glory.”

Jana

The Missing Ingredient for Breakthrough

“I’m stuck.”     “I can’t.”       “I don’t know how.”

I have come to a real epiphany around these phrases. As a warning, you may not like my revelation, but it is in the Word.  So I guess you’ll need take it up with the Author and Finisher of our Faith instead of with me. Smile.

I’ve spent a lot of time telling people how to get well.  Some respond and some don’t. No problem. But I have also spent a lot of time trying to talk people into getting well. Most don’t.  This is a problem on both our ends. It’s not a counseling issue, it’s a repentance issue.

Why?  Because, while God has forgiven us completely of our sin and no longer counts it against us, there is still a spiritual principle of repentance that is for OUR good health. Let me explain.

Repentance is like a spiritual thermometer. It checks the tenderness of our hearts, our willingness to see with spiritual eyes, our openness to hear from the Lord. When I get in a wad, it is repentance that invites God to redirect my heart and mind. Otherwise I continue to harden—defend — isolate—blame. These heart conditions always lead to stupid actions. Always. That’s why we want our “repentance reflex” to be very quick and strong.

So what is repentance?  To turn back. To return. To agree with God.

It is like Google Maps saying, “Re-routing.”  Somehow we have gotten off the blue line of wisdom or truth so repentance, or returning, helps us get back on God’s blue line of direction. And with repentance comes a promise.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” (Acts 3:19-20 NASB)

This makes my heart beat faster. Have you ever felt this burden? The sheer weight of the bitterness, confusion, anger, disappointment, unbelief, sarcasm, shame or accusation?

As soon as we confess it, agree with God, turn our faces back to His, He wipes it away and we are given a fresh breath of His loving presence. Again and again He does this. His mercy never fails.

People who love to repent do get well over time.

But what about those who scoff or ignore or despise even the idea of repentance? Here is my epiphany.

So much time is spent on God’s people who are Clearly lost and yet they act like they are not. This is denial, or worse, pride. I am finding it is better to let them soak in the hard place rather than to give hours of unheeded counsel. Here’s why. I believe our good intentions hamper their healing. People want to talk about their problems and they should. We all need it. In fact the Bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another that we may be healed. (James 5:16)

Yet here’s a dividing point. Danny Silk has this beautiful phrase, “You don’t have a solution for anybody on the planet that doesn’t have a problem.” People who want to massage their problems are not repenting. They want to feel better for the moment but they never want to get right with the Lord. They rarely ever want to confess that they are the problem. And more importantly, they never want to believe that Jesus can or will heal them. Even Jesus asked, do you want to get well? (John 5)
He didn’t ask, do you want spend endless time arguing, blaming, defending, explaining why you are sick and why I should feel sorry for you?

He asked a crippled man, Do you want to be well? When the man started giving his list of excuses, Jesus gave a clear instruction, “pick up your mat and walk.” It was completely counter to what the cripple expected. Here is where choice is a life or death matter in healing. The cripple had to respond to Jesus’s instruction in order to be healed.

Everyone has the freedom to choose life or death. God or drama. Free or stuck. Worship or numbed out.  People have to choose to go to God. To listen and respond in repentance. They need to feel the squeeze of their choices in attitudes and actions. We call this beautiful phenomena “being led by the Spirit.” And we all have to respond when the Spirit tells us to get up and walk.

I think it’s important for us to tell people about the incredible love of God and then get out-of-the-way. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. Not our begging, enabling, cajoling, controlling. Only the Holy Spirit can bring conviction and only the Holy Spirit can empower healing. Our job is to tell them what’s available, love them either way, and then let them choose their own path. Life or death. Healing or addiction. Conquering or quitting.

May we all work on our “repentance reflex.” There is so much more life available in God. I believe repentance is the key that unlocks the door.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 
Psalm 42:5

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. 
Proverbs 28:3a

Our Awkward Lovely Selves

Why is awkward such a curse?  Why is being in human contact so painful that we will vie for just about any alternative to escape. Enter:

  • Food
  • Porn
  • Smartphones
  • Texting
  • Gossip
  • Avoidance
  • Sex
  • Shopping
  • Drugs
  • Work
  • Shall I go on?

I wonder if Awkward is a symptom instead of a cause. I heard a story once about the power of the photograph.  Read that again. The Power of a Photograph.  The story goes that a group of people were interacting, sharing, relaxed and comfortable in their own skin. They were even “unaware” of personal flaws until…the introduction of the photograph. One woman was said to be quick to smile, full of laughter and joy— until she  saw her face for the first time in a photograph. IMG_1970

Try to give yourself time to envision this.

Our children are INUNDATED with images of themselves. From newborn photos in the hospital, to annual growth pictures, to school pictures, to now Facebook and Instagram postings, our children are constantly seeing themselves captured in time. They are constantly “on display.”  I even remember seeing a great shot on a school field trip of one of Charis’s friends.  I said, “Hey, let me get your picture.” She immediately straightened her back, threw her shoulders back, cocked her head to one side, and then gave me a perfect cover girl smile. Obviously, my original shot of her was ruined, but her “photo coaching” was evident.

So try hard to think of life without the constant evaluation. No concern of whether you are with makeup or without. No selfies. No Kodak moments. Just living life as a fluid experience.

Back to the laughing woman. She saw her own captured image for the first time and for the first time she became self conscious. Conscious of her self.

The wrinkles when she laughed, the gap in her teeth, the way her eyes squinted unevenly, all these unique attributes were, before this moment, simply part of who she was and blissfully un-critiqued.  But no more.

We live in an age of Self Conscious.  How do I look? How do they look? How do I look compared to them?

The temptation is so strong. Case in point. I am in Nashville today having joined Chuck on a business trip.  We got up at 5 a.m. and had a three hour car drive.  So I washed my face, brushed my teeth, pulled my hair back in a ponytail and headed out the door. I was completely at ease until Chuck dropped me off at the Starbucks near Vanderbilt.

I went in the bathroom and saw my reflection. Without even “thinking” I compared my appearance to the college, preppy, professional, cool lookers I had passed on the way in.  Wow, I thought, I look awful.

Really? In a span of walking from the front door to the bathroom, I went from completely at ease to completely self critical.  That, my friends, is the curse of Self Conscious. And, may I go further? I believe this root produces a nasty offshoot called Awkward.

We get in social settings and our fear of conflict or failure or criticism chokes our hearts and emotions to such a degree that we seize up and morph into this ball of Awkward. We’re so concerned about what to say, how to say, should I say. It all comes back to looking to each other for definition and approval.

I tell you there is freedom. And that freedom comes not by winning the game of perfection, or isolation.  No one wins when there is only one standard of beauty. No one wins when we resort to emotional shut down to avoid the tension.

Freedom comes when we acknowledge the fear of being less than and allow Perfect Love to have His say. That is what transformed my Starbucks moment.  “I belong to my lover, and His desire is for me.” (Song of Songs 7:10)  Oh yeah, there is a bigger story being told here.

It really is the diversity, the collage, the imperfections of humanity that make us truly alive. It is the beauty expressed in each of us that lets us truly see the beauty of God. It is the love of God that helps me love me and thus love you.  Why? Because if He can love my crazy, psycho self with all my inconsistencies, I am confident He can love you too.  Understanding the “Level Ground of Love” that we all stand on really does change our need for approval from others.

Freedom comes when God’s compassion for the human condition becomes our standard instead of our own self conscious assessment.

And the whole awkward business? It is uprooted when we shift off Self. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone blows it. And NO one knows how to glide through this life thing without an occasional crash.  Therefore everyone can relate to the need for grace.

We need a bigger view. The pressure’s off. Just be you.  I’ll be me.  Let’s just laugh and love together and let go of the Kodak moment. We are more than a snapshot. We are more than just awkward.

Photo Credit by Salem Spicka