Chloe is a young college student who has worked hard to earn a scholarship at a prestigious art school. She is struggling with her relationship with her mom, the pressures of producing good enough work to keep her scholarship, and the internal nagging that something is just missing in her soul. Life is not perfect, but it is what she knows. She is settled in her routine of going to class, working on her art, and going home alone. When the pressure of producing her final semester project increases, swirling images, voices, and blackouts converge on her. Her unknown, blocked-out past has decided to reveal itself at the most inconvenient time.
A barrage of voices shout at me.
“You just aren’t made for this.”
“You’re better at that.”
“I don’t know if you’re called to this.”
“Here is a list of things you need to change about yourself to fit here.”
“This just isn’t your gift set.”
I wasn’t sure what to do with all of these voices. They came out of nowhere, and it seemed that the rest of my life had spoken differently.
“You were made for this.”
“This is your calling.”
“God has called you and equipped you for this.”
When my last paid ministry position ended because I was “no longer a good fit,” I found myself battling more than just hurt and anger, but questioning who I was. The irony stung, as I had spent the previous year leading our women through an entire series on identity. I thought I knew.
The rain is drizzling outside, then pouring, then drizzling again. Our beautiful snow covered yard has surrendered to the downpour and given way to thick, sticky mud. Beach buckets, garden gloves, and basketballs reveal themselves in the places they were left before the snow, giving and eerie appearance of an abandoned village.
It is ugly, dreary, and sad.
I miss the snow.
Snow doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you have a well manicured lawn, or if you never finished raking your leaves. It doesn’t care if your roof is high and new, or low and flat. It doesn’t care if you’ve left a bunch of stuff in the yard, or if you carefully put it all away.
I walked into church yesterday and ascended the bleachers to our “regular” seats, like I have been doing for the last six months. I sit down, take a deep breath, and hope that today will be a day that I can worship….that church hurts won’t overwhelm me…that I won’t spend the next hour dwelling in my personal resentment and frustration with the men who may be pacing the stage that day. The music begins. I feel numb. Numb is usual these days. I wish it wasn’t, but it just is. After a couple of songs, I hear the music beginning to a personal favorite; but as the chords progress, I know something is very wrong. Her voice is beautiful and clear. The words should be true….but they aren’t for me. Not today. “It is NOT well with my soul.”
Like most of you, I’ve spent most of this week cleaning up after Christmas! It’s like a puzzle. Cleaning out old things, finding places to put the new, rearranging furniture, washing countless piles of bedding and towels, taking down the tree… You get the picture.
It got me to thinking. When you read the Christmas story, it ends with Mary and Joseph moving back to Nazareth with little Jesus, after they had fled to Egypt. Next verse: “…when He was twelve years old…”
Have you ever wondered how two people can go through pretty much the same trial and one lives the rest of their life in bitterness and anger and one conquers all, grows, and let’s the pain give birth to beauty? Have you ever wondered what makes the difference? I sure have.
Ray Johnston would say the difference is hope.
In his newest book, The Hope Quotient, Johnston reminds us that we are generally born and “pre-programmed” with our emotional and intellectual intelligence. We can work on things as we mature, and maybe increase our EQ and IQ some, but not much. However, our “HQ” can be developed to any level. Truth is, our HQ really has more determination over our success than our IQ.
“Nobody does very well in marriage, in relationships, at work, psychologically, or in life in general if they’re not buoyant. Getting down is part of life. Staying down is what will kill you. If any Christian tells you he’s never been discouraged, he’s lying. All of us are going to get down.
Last weekend we got to spend a few days with Josh and Sean McDowell, as our church was the second stop on their Heroic Truth tour. If you’re not familiar with their ministry, this father/son team has dedicated their lives to helping people discover truth and effectively communicate it to others.
The way Sean opened the first session was absolutely brilliant. He simply went into character as an atheist and allowed the audience to ask him questions…
I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to review Jennie Allen‘s studies. They just keep getting better and better! Restless is basically an eight week study, and you’ll want your participants to get the books and do the first week of homework before they come to your first session.
Several times a year our church hosts what is called Discipleshift, where churches from all over the nation bring their leaders to learn about relational discipleship. As a staff, we take turns hosting tables at lunch time for our guests. Attendees choose tables based on areas of ministry, if they are interested in knowing more about how we do ministry in that area. Today was my turn to host the women’s ministry table, and Vicki came to sit with us.
I asked Vicki to tell me about her church in Malawi, and the stories that began to come out of her were remarkable.
Vicki shared with me how she and her husband were both from Zambia. She had been a travel agent, and her husband a tour guide. They were leaders in their local church and getting their five children through school. But God began to stir in her husband’s heart. One day he told Vicki, “God wants us to go minister in Malawi.” Vicki asked how they would support themselves, and he said, “God will provide.”
Tucked in the Christmas story is perhaps one of the best outlines I’ve ever seen for women to follow in encouraging each other.
Elizabeth was old, she had been infertile her whole life, and was the wife of a priest. Six months before Mary is told she is carrying the son of God, Elizabeth’s husband is also greeted by an angel who informs him that his old, barren wife will have a son – a son whose life mission will be to prepare the way for the son of God.
There are so many applications in this story, that I find it very difficult to stay on track. We could talk about Zechariah, and his unbelief. We could talk about Elizabeth’s support of her husband. We could talk about the symbolism of Zechariah’s role, and the prayers they offered…but I’m going to focus on another aspect.