It’s Not About Them

Why am I different?  Why do I always have to be the odd man out?  Why am I on a different path from everybody else?

Of course why is irrelevant.  I’ve already talked about that. But I seem to always end up on a different road.  And sometimes that’s uncomfortable.

It’s so much easier to be seen doing the things God calls you to do.  When your calling matches up with what church folks expect, it’s pretty easy.  You get to talk about it and share it with the people around you.  You don’t get funny looks or the “What are you doing for God?” kind of questions.  It’s so much harder when you’re the one God called to abide.  Harder when you’re called to a solitary activity.

I’ve been hearing a lot of noise around me lately.  Noise about what everybody’s calling is and what they’re doing.  My church preaches relationship and obedience to God.  No matter what that looks like.  And yet when you know you’re being obedient, people still expect you to be something else.  In my church lately it’s been all about creating extended family through home group fellowship and study, becoming a prayer servant who prays for healing, and hearing the Father’s voice and giving prophecy to others.  These are all great things and I’m so happy that there are so many people participating and building family and reaching out to the community.  It’s awesome.  But I do not feel called to any of that at this time.  In fact, the Father has been quiet lately.  And that’s okay.

That’s okay.

And yet, I have all this static around me saying that it’s not “acceptable,” not good enough.  Everybody’s got all these stories, experiences, words, and they feel they have to share every one of them.  And me?  I don’t have anything to share because what God has for me right now is intensely private and quite frankly, no one’s business.  What right does anyone have to tell me that’s not good enough?

I feel like obedience is being lost in a sea of goals.  Life isn’t a video game.  Gifts of the Spirit are not levels to be beaten.  Your growth should never be measured against anyone else’s journey.  You are where the Father wants you.  Turn your eyes to Him, not to your friends or the church leadership.  Don’t join something just because your friends think you should.  Don’t do something just because the leaders preach it from the pulpit.  It may not be for you at this time.  And if that makes you different, then so be it.

Make obedience your goal.  It’s about Him.  It’s not about them.

“He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’”  Luke 11:28 (NIV)

Deep Water

Back in December a friend of mine suggested that the members of our church group ask the Lord to give us words for the coming year.  Mine were growth and friendship.

Now, I knew better than to try to predict what the year was going to look like based on two words.  But I admit I thought it would look something like God calling me to serve somewhere in the church and I would build deeper relationships with my friends at group.  My dog died in March so I thought maybe that was a sign God was going to send me somewhere. Or send me someone.  I wouldn’t have any strings.  I could go anywhere and do anything.

After seven months of 2016, I feel more isolated and alone than I think I ever have.  I feel distant from my group.  I don’t feel any call to serve at the church.  I haven’t been on a date in over a year and I feel really rejected.  All I want to do is read and write and sleep.  I’m moody, snappish, fatigued.

And somehow, I feel like I’m exactly where I should be.  When I read, I feel like me.  When I write, I feel like I’m moving forward.

I can feel myself changing.  It’s almost like gears and cogs moving around inside me, making me into something new.  It’s very hard to describe.  It’s like I’m becoming a hybrid of my hard, surly teen self and the much more loving and compassionate twenty something self.

I know I’ve been chosen for a different path.  I’ve always been different from everybody else.  I’m getting better at appreciating that.  He’s leading me somewhere.  I know it.  I just can’t see it.

This is deep water.  This is where a lot of Christians fear to go.  It’s much easier to go to church and visit God than to bring Him home with you.

But this is where you find out who you are.  When it’s hard and uncomfortable and you can’t see any point in it.  When the water is over your head and you have nothing but Jesus’s hand pulling you up and Him saying “Oh, ye of little faith.”  This is where you let Him pull you out.

This is where you walk on the water.

I’m That Girl

I’m that girl in class who never raised her hand.

I’m that girl who was never invited to the party.

I’m that girl who didn’t get drunk with you.

I’m that girl in the photos from the Maymester.

I’m that girl in the sorority you never really knew.

I’m that girl you didn’t call to catch up.

I’m that girl you didn’t think was good enough.

I’m that girl who solved the problems.

I’m that girl who always gets it done.

I’m that girl who used to go to your church.

I’m that girl you passed over on EHarmony.

I’m that girl you went on one date with.

I’m that girl who’s only funny if you’re drunk.

I’m that girl who takes the punch.

I’m that girl who gets back up.

I’m that girl who listened to you.

I’m that girl who forgave you.

I’m that girl who still prays for you.

I’m that girl who has Faith.

I’m that girl who Hopes.

I’m that girl who Loves.

Because the greatest of these is Love.

Yeah, I’m that girl.

The Problem of Why

About three months ago, my dog died.  She was only six years old.  She got sick, she was in pain, and she had to be put down.  I only wrote about Patti on this blog once, about how it took me a long time to really love her.  She was stubborn, frustrating, difficult.  I struggled to train her and worked really hard.  I had to improvise a lot.  You couldn’t follow the rules of the training methods with her.  Patti made her own rules.

I started calling her my “little lesson in acceptance.”  I wanted a Westie because they’re adorable.  I really wasn’t prepared for her energy and her strong will.  She wasn’t a lap dog and wouldn’t sleep in the bed.  She always wanted to be in the middle of whatever was going on.  She wasn’t the dog I hoped she would be but I grew to love her and accept her for who she was, a loud, high-spirited, loving, sweet, adorable, playful terrier.  Despite her anxiety and refusal to be groomed, we had a good time together.  She would “tap” your leg when she wanted something and growl at you when she wanted to play.  We spent long afternoons sitting on the swing outside and evenings throwing the ball around the living room.

Her death hit me hard, a lot harder than I expected.  It was the middle of tax season so I had to get on with the work, get on with life, but I cried nearly every day.  There were holes all through my life where she used to be.  The dining chair no longer sits under the window in the living room so she can see out.  Her blanket isn’t on the left seat of the couch.  Her bowl isn’t in the kitchen.  And I was angry.  I asked God, Why?  Why take my dog?  She was still so young.  It wasn’t her time.  The Bible says you’re good, how is this good?  How is this grief, this hole in my life, this pain, good?

He didn’t answer why.  After a few weeks, on my Saturday morning drive to work, He simply said, “It’s My will.”  You see, He is the sovereign God of the universe.  When we sign up to walk with Him, we sign up to play by His rules.  And we don’t get an explanation.  We are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  I don’t see why as a question anymore.  I see it as a problem.  Every time I ask why He does something, I’m lacking faith.  I have to cut “why” out of my vocabulary.  Because the why doesn’t matter.  What matters is that He is good.

Do I still cry for Patti?  Yes.  Does it still hurt?  Yes.  Is He still good?  Yes.  Patti taught me a lot about dog ownership and myself.  Her death taught me about faith.  It taught me that even when the storm is raging and the pain is so bad that it’s like the world is ending, I still know God is good.  Because three years ago I chose to pick up my cross and follow Him.  Where He wants me I will go, no matter what it costs.

When the God who made the universe said, “It’s My will,” I said, “Okay.”

Under Control

A couple days ago a co-worker and I met with the daughter of a client. The client is older and has lost mental capacity and cannot manage her affairs anymore. The daughter had brought us the information we needed to prepare her mother’s tax return. She explained that she has had to get a power of attorney and get permission from different banks and brokerage firms to handle her mother’s assets. After the meeting, my co-worker expressed concern over the mother losing control of her affairs. She said she couldn’t imagine not being in control of her life. I could tell this was a real fear of hers. And it got me thinking.

Control is a funny thing. We think we want it. We want to control every detail of our lives. We don’t want anyone or anything dictating what we should do or how we should live. Once we have control we feel safe, confident, everything’s going to be okay because I’m in control of my destiny. But is that really security? Does that really make us safe?

One of the biggest hang ups people have about submitting to God is control. God asks us to trust him. The word trust comes up many times in the Bible. But to truly trust God with our lives means relinquishing control, taking our hands off the wheel. This is hard for many people because we’re taught to be independent, to make our own decisions. Relying on others makes us weak. We have to take responsibility. Asking for help makes us inferior. But these are lies, lies from the enemy.

Do we need to live our lives and make decisions? Yes. Do we need to take responsibility for our actions? Of course. But grasping for control and putting undue pressure on ourselves is not the way to do it. People think giving up control makes you a slave. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Submitting your life to God’s plan gives you freedom. The freedom to stop beating yourself up, to stop being paralyzed by indecision, to stop worrying.

So much of the time worry comes from a feeling of helplessness. There will always be situations that are beyond our control. We worry because we think we have to change it. If we can just get control of it, it’ll be better. I’m the only one who can do it. All the pressure is on me. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone who could take that burden off you? There is. His name is Jesus. He said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Letting Him take the reins means you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to do it by yourself. And there is serious freedom in that. Let Him take control of your life so you can start living it.

Opposites Attract

“Repent” is a word that gets misused a good bit in the Western church. It has led many to preach the idea of “turn or burn.” It’s all about admitting you’re a sinner and you need Christ to get to Heaven. Yes, you do need to accept Christ so you won’t go to hell but there’s a lot more to repenting than getting a ticket to Heaven.

The Greek word for repent is “metanoia.” It means “change the way you think.” Our perspective comes from the world we live in. But the world is broken. I’ve been noticing lately that there are so many things the world says that the Kingdom contradicts. The world and our earthly minds say one thing while the Word says the opposite. For example:

The world says believe only what you see. The Word says live on faith.
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

The world says God is a taskmaster. The Word says God is our Father.
“Our Father, who is in Heaven.” Matthew 6:9

The world says take control of your life. The Word says trust God with your life.
“Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

The world says take credit for the things you do. The Word says give God the glory.
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

The world says you earned everything you have. The Word says it belongs to God.
“LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.” 1 Chronicles 29:16

The world says when you are full you stop. The Word says when you are full you overflow.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

The world says the supernatural is unusual. The Word says the supernatural is normal.
“The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Matthew 11:5

The world says you are its product. The Word says you are from Heaven.
“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16

The world says works bring you to your identity. The Word says walk in your identity and works follow.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

Changing our minds about these things brings us closer to God and deepens our relationship with Him. Learning to live from God’s perspective and accepting the opposites attracts us to Him and Him to us. Once you accept your identity as a child of God, you become full, you overflow, and you walk in power. Don’t let the world tell you otherwise.

The Unglamorous Mission

Let’s face it. To many of us in the Christian faith, missionaries are rock stars. They go off to foreign lands, risking life and limb to do God’s work. They come back with amazing testimonies of healing and miracles and if we’re honest we get a little jealous. At least, I do. That’s because I would love to do what they do. I want to serve God in a big way. Being a missionary seems big and everything else seems small to a human’s way of thinking.

But we need to look at it from Jesus’s perspective. In Luke 15:4 Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” He shows us that God cares about all his children individually. He doesn’t care more about the poor in another country than he does the rich person in America who doesn’t know Him. Missionary Heidi Baker has said, “Missions isn’t about where you are. It’s about where He is.”

Last summer I read Heidi’s book, Compelled by Love. It really got me interested in missions and I longed for an opportunity to do it. I wanted to travel to another country and minister to the people there, to pray for them. Little did I know he had an assignment for me right here at home.

I’ve written about my assignment at work on this blog. I know it was an assignment because He specifically asked me to do it. I was asked to pray and be a conduit for the Holy Spirit in my office. I prayed for Him to change the hearts and minds of co-workers and I worked to promote communication and team work at all levels, to support the ones who were discouraged, to show that respect and love work so much better than intimidation and manipulation.

It has taken me awhile to realize that this was a mission. God gave me the testimonies of international missionaries to prepare me for a spiritual fight in my workplace. It was difficult, it got ugly, but I continued to pray for all of us to pull through it because God loves the people in my office just as much as He loves people in other countries.

Nobody is going to write a book about it. I’m not going to get on stage somewhere and give the testimony. To us it seems so small, but to God it’s huge. When we change our perspective on what’s “glamorous” and what isn’t we see that even the smallest thing done for the Kingdom really isn’t small at all.

Put Up or Shut Up

Last week, I went to a conference at my church entitled “Naturally Supernatural.” My church has a healing ministry where “prayer servants” pray for anyone and everyone who comes through the doors every Monday night. This workshop was to teach both members and leaders from other churches how to pray for people and to do it in a way that isn’t off-putting to those who might not be comfortable with the supernatural.

“Supernatural” in this case refers to hearing directly from God, receiving prophecy, and praying for miraculous healing. Now, this is not something most of the Western church is down with. There are many people and, in fact, entire denominations that run from this idea. We base our theology on the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, especially John 14:12 (NIV), “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” What did Jesus do? He taught the Kingdom, healed the sick, and delivered people. He told us to do the same.

That being said, I have been hearing from God for two years so I figured it was time to take the next step and learn how to pray for people. Sitting there I didn’t feel like I was ready and I didn’t think I was really getting much out of it. I was even regretting signing up for it. Was I just wasting my time? Was this what God wanted for me?

Turns out the answer was an emphatic yes. This week one of my co-workers was in a minor car accident. She was rear-ended and it hurt her back. Nothing’s broken but she was really sore the next day and in pain. Late morning, God told me to go pray for her. I admit that I didn’t really want to. I’m not a person who seeks attention and I wasn’t sure I was ready to be labeled “that girl who thinks she can heal people.” I tried to ignore it and he told me to be bold. I realized that I made the commitment to surrender my life to the Holy Spirit and to be obedient and if I didn’t go pray for a co-worker’s back then I was really just all talk. That is unacceptable. So I went and asked her if I could pray for her. She thought I meant in general until I told her I meant right then. She let me and I prayed for healing for her back. Nothing flashy, just a quiet simple prayer commanding the pain to go. She thanked me but seemed a little skeptical. I know she’s a Christian but I don’t know how she feels about this kind of stuff. It didn’t matter. I was obedient and that’s what matters. The next day she thanked me sincerely for praying for her and said her back felt much better.

I may be looked at as odd in the office now because of it but I’d rather be weird with God’s works than just plain weird. I didn’t know what God was planning for me when I signed up for that conference but doing it was a step in faith. Like our pastor said last week, “The Promised Land only becomes visible as you walk.” I’ve talked the talk. Now it’s time to walk the walk.

Recreation vs. Sleep: A Tax Season Dilemma

Okay, so you may have figured out that it’s tax season and that’s why I haven’t really written anything lately. Tax season means I’m spending long hours at that hellhole my office and my brain hasn’t been able to handle much outside of itemized deductions and balance sheets.

But I’ve made a discovery this week. I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve been tired all day no matter how much caffeine I consume. I’ve been going to bed early to try to overcome it but to no avail. I still toss and turn and wake up cranky and blurry-eyed. So last night I tried something different. Instead of turning the TV off at 9 and heading to bed, I decided to stay up an extra hour and get caught up on “Agent Carter.” Amazingly, I stayed asleep for longer periods and woke up feeling less like the walking dead.

This experiment has led me to conclude that what I need is more recreation not more sleep. Sleep is good but it’s not the only thing that rests your brain. Doing an activity you enjoy and getting the focus off work can do even more to help. I believe I already knew this on some level but I put it into practice last night and had good results.

It’s my anxiety that brings me to the dilemma part. How am I supposed to add enough recreation time to my already overloaded schedule and still get the amount of sleep my body and mind require? My anxious, mushy brain says, “There aren’t enough hours in the day. There are too many tax returns piled on your desk, too many clients calling, too many demands and not enough Kim to go around.” All these things are true but isn’t it also true that God is the God of all things and that includes time?

It has become increasing clear to me that God has placed me in this job for His purpose and I know that every day He strengthens me for the tasks at hand. And this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been through five tax seasons and half of this one and I know the stress doesn’t do any good. My battle is the lie that I’m not good enough and I still need to prove myself.

This tax season, amid the extra crazy of a dysfunctional office, the task is not the returns or the planning or a sleep regimen. The task is trust. Trust in Him to make the time for it all and trust that now, finally, I am good enough.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Leave No Woman Behind

I didn’t really have grandparents growing up. I mean they existed but they lived far away and I didn’t establish close relationships with them. My grandfathers died when I was very young but both my grandmothers are still living. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know my mom’s mother, Gramma. She lives in Florida with her husband and we’ve gone down there several times to visit with them and my mom’s other relatives.

Let me explain something about Gramma. She has not had an easy life. There are a lot of reasons my mom moved a very long way away from her family. She likes to keep at least two states between her and them. God has been doing great things for all of them in the last several years but still. And Gramma has made a lot of progress with the Lord and forgiveness. She has been attending a Lutheran church with some of her friends.

The last time she was at our house was in 2001 for my brother’s high school graduation. A lot of big moments happened between then and now. I graduated high school and college, my brother graduated college and got married. Those are things grandparents usually attend. But Gramma couldn’t come for various reasons, one of which being her nerves couldn’t handle traveling that far. It’s 10 hours by car on the interstate and navigating an airport at her age and her anxiety level would be a nightmare. So I just accepted that Gramma would never visit us, we’d just visit down there.

If you think God isn’t in the miracle business anymore, think again. Back in August, my 84-year-old grandmother and her 89-year-old husband did indeed navigate airport security and fly to my house. It may not seem like much but, y’all, that was a miracle.

And it doesn’t stop there. We got to take Gramma to our church, something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. Now, the church I attend is not everyone’s cup of tea. We believe in miraculous healings and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Some people would call us crazy. During the service they asked the twenty somethings to come down front and then they asked everyone over sixty if they’d come down and pray for us. When we were finished and I turned around to go back to my seat, Gramma had come down and she was praying for a girl. I admit, I never thought I would see that.

We had a great visit and I’m so thankful God made it happen. She got to see my brother for the first time in 13 years and meet his wife. I thought that was the extent of God’s miracle for us but as per usual, He gave more than was asked. My mom talked to Gramma a couple weeks ago and she mentioned that the little Lutheran church she attends just isn’t doing it for her anymore. She wants something more.

Y’all, let me tell you something about the Holy Spirit, He leaves no one behind.

“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 (NIV)