Enough, already.

I had an epiphany today.

The book, The Broken Way, by Ann Voskamp was in my Amazon shopping cart. Unpurchased.  I was debating several things.  First of all, I have 697 unread books on my nightstand.  (I may or may not be exaggerating.)  Second, after the year we have had, do I want to read another book about brokenness?  (As in, life is hard but God is good…yada yada yada.)

So imagine my surprise when it showed up on my kitchen counter.  My man had bought athletic wear for our oldest and didn’t take the book out of the cart so, there it was.

And here it is.

I spend too much time on social media (confession, here) and often have three or four books going at the same time so it takes me forever to get through a book these days.  But this one kept calling my name, so to speak, and I began to read.

Six chapters in and I am just amazed at the depth in Ann’s words.  I was a huge fan of One Thousand Gifts and have read it twice along with listening to it on Audible.  I have a gratitude journal with entries topping four thousand and I believe with all of my heart in the power of giving thanks in all circumstances. The Broken Way is like a beautiful continuum, putting feet to faith and trusting God when everything within me screams “impossible” or “not enough!”  As I have read her words and resonated with her struggles I realize that, for a very long time, I have believed a lie.

I have written blog posts for over ten years, but so many things I have wanted to share I have kept to myself because I felt that you, my dear reader, would think that I somehow have things figured out.  Because of my struggles and nights of wrestling with God I felt unqualified to share my thoughts with you.  It’s easy to write about kids.  I did that faithfully for a long time and did it well.  But I no longer have cute toddler stories to share, I have young adults who are on social media and are not ok with me using them to score readers.

So what’s left?  Well…me.  And what do I have to offer?  The Liar has told me that I have very little.  That until I have my act together I have no right to tell you anything.  I’m an expert on nothing and an authority on little…or so I believed.

But today the story of Peter penetrated my heart.  He is walking on water with the King of the Universe.  He is standing because his eyes were fixed on his Messiah.  Then his eyes shift…he looks around and doubt creeps in and the next thing he knows he is sucking seawater and screaming for help.  Why?  I always though it was because he didn’t believe in Jesus, but after today I think the problem was deeper.  Peter did not believe in himself.  (Page 85)

That is me.  That is my struggle.  Do I believe God can do great things in and though me? Yes, of course!  But I have also, deep down in my spirit, believed that my flaws have held Him back, limited His power because I am so unfocused and inconsistent.  But what if Ann’s theory is true?  What if God believes…in me?

What if God still uses imperfect, cracked pots?  Did He not choose twelve flawed men to bring about a revolution of Grace?  Hasn’t every great hero of the Faith stumbled and fallen and still been used mightily by the King?  When the voice sneers in my mind, “Who do you think you are?  You are not qualified to do/say/write/teach anything.  You are a mess,” does not God remind me that I am a daughter of the King, chosen to do good works before I was even born, qualified because He has called me and it is HE who qualifies the called?

I am enough.  In and because of JESUS I am enough.  Jesus is in me, therefore I am enough. He never asked me to have it all together.  Like Peter, He simply wants my focus.  If my eyes are on Him, He will keep me afloat.

I am most certainly an imperfect, cracked pot.  But I do, with all that is in me, want to be bold for the Kingdom and make a difference in the sphere of influence in which God has placed me.

One of my favorite quotes is by Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.

Yes and amen.  I am full of cracks so shine away, Lord.  Shine away.

Eucharisteo, cruciform, gratitude, Jesus, Peter, walk on water, enough, Leonard cohen
Thank you, Ann. I’m in.

Autumn

Yesterday I took the garbage down to the curb, as usual on Tuesdays.  In my own world, thoughts and lists swirling, I almost missed it.

Autumn.  

Now, it doesn’t feel like Autumn at all.  Not yet.  It’s hot and sticky and the trees just look so tired.  But this morning I happened to look up at just the right moment when the sun was at just the right angle and the morning mist was just barely hanging on.  The tall trees that line my street took on a sudden magic that caused me to stop and stare.  Subtle oranges and golds overlapped as branches released their bright offerings on the morning breeze.  Dry leaves danced and leapt down the messy road littered with leaf piles and shrub cuttings.  

Autumn in all its glory, clearly evident to anyone with adequate vision…Yet, still, it doesn’t feel like it.  Not at all.

The cold snap is coming, though.  According to the weather experts it should arrive tomorrow.  Not a moment too soon if you ask me.  The brightest colors are yet to come, expected to peak in late October and fade quickly.  

“If you plan to drive around and see the Fall colors you will want to do so early because the season will be short this year,” says the DJ on the radio.

Thanks for that.

Always I anticipate this, my favorite season.  Always it teases and finally arrives only to move into the cold of winter too quickly for my taste.  

And there is not one, single thing that I can do to change it.  No amount of watering or pruning or fertilizing will extend the life of Autumn’s glory.  It comes when it comes and it goes when it goes.  

So I have two choices:  I can complain and wish for what I cannot have or stop, breathe in the sweet scented air, listen for the rustle as my children conquer that “epic” leaf pile, and gaze at the beauty of the colors changing all around me.

Bitterness or gratitude.

Frustration or delight.

Envy or acceptance.

Anger or joy.

Autumn comes, regardless.  The glory is there, whether or not I choose to stop and look.  

I choose to stop and look.

Finding Grace.

fog, foggy, smoky mountains, trees, black lives matter, blue lives matter, darkness

It’s a season of life where it is difficult to see clearly.  I easily feel as if I am walking blind, barely able to make out the shapes ahead and, too often, nearly stumbling over something that I once would have seen coming a mile away.

I nearly succumb to fear, my heart pounding and hands shaking as worry sinks its talons into my mind.  I am raising kids in a world that is so different from the one in which I grew up.  Not only is every tragedy easily broadcast from screen-to-screen and phone-to-phone, but so is every embarrassing moment or stupid teenage failure.  There is no room for grace in a world that judges you by your profile picture and the number of likes on your Instagram post.

Or is there?

Hard news came twice this week.  A baby left motherless due to a terrible car accident, her father struggling to figure out how to do this without the beautiful nurturer by his side.  A young woman widowed because of cancer, a father and mother grieving for their only son.  Once again, it is easy to be brought down and doubt the goodness of God.

Where is the grace?  Where is the hope?  We have to search, sometimes, but if we do it can be found…

It is in overhearing my child tell a heartbroken friend they are praying for them.

It is in the story shared of how he saw angels before he passed away.

It is in the gathering of God’s people to be the hands and feet of Jesus for a daddy who is trying to figure out what is next.

It is in the Bible Study where, instead of a bunch of church ladies who are there to showcase their knowledge, there is a room full of women who beautifully admit their brokenness and need.

It is in the answer to my prayer for help resulting in my precious ones who struggle with learning finding a place where they are celebrated and loved and encouraged but never labeled.

It is in the sweet reminder that this is not my home…and neither is it yours, my friend.

We so quickly forget when the stress clamps down like a vice.  Determined to find our way out, we forget that we have no strength apart from our Father.  He stands with His hands wide open, offering Himself in all His fullness, yet we refuse to reach out.  Sure, we like knowing He is near and “He has a plan” but what if there is more?

What if God is not satisfied with our shopping list of prayer requests and is trying desperately to draw us deep, to allow suffering and tragedy to shape us because death is not the end, sin is not the final state of of His children, and we were never meant to become “Church ladies?”

What if, in brokenness and the admission of our desperate need for grace, is found the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the hard dirt of a field that must be dug up with blood, sweat and tears in order to be cradled in our hands and gently polished to shining?

We want it easy.  At least I do.  I hate hard and I try everything I can to avoid it.  So often I want to shake my fist at God and yell “I didn’t sign up for this!  You picked the wrong person!  I am not equipped to handle what you are laying on me!”  If I am completely honest, I don’t just want to say those things, I actually do say them.  But God is not deterred nor is He surprised.  In love, He refines and polishes and will not stop until Jesus is reflected in me.  I didn’t sign up for it, but He did.

One of these days, I pray I learn to stop striving and allow Him to be strong for me.  I pray I quit depending on earthly knowledge and let the Holy Spirit teach me from His infinite knowledge.  And I pray that I stop asking Him to help me do what needs to be done and allow HIM to do it.

I pray that I can be like the young widow, who in an act of incredible faith, will not be wearing black to her husband’s funeral.  She has seen the Lord’s mercy in suffering, she has seen the face of her husband as he got his first glimpse of eternity, and she is going to turn her eyes upon Jesus and celebrate through her tears.

Refiner’s fire, my heart’s desire is to be holy…set apart for you, Lord.  ~Bryan Doerksen

 

For the Sake of Our Children.

fog, foggy, smoky mountains, trees, black lives matter, blue lives matter, darkness

I have been hesitant to write.  So much has been said already, thousands of article written, millions of memes and status updates shared that I really didn’t know if I had anything new to add to the discussion.  But over and over words keep forming.  Tears spring to my eyes and my heart aches as I watch this world spin and falter.

But, before I move on, I would like to give you some background:

I grew up in a very small, mostly-white town. The only non-white residents were Hispanic.  I also grew up hearing and, unfortunately, laughing at racial jokes.  I bought into the stereotypes sold to me by my ignorant little town.  Slurs were common and I knew nothing different.  It was the norm and no one ever challenged it.  But when I was a sophomore in High School the first black family in my lifetime moved to our community.

Their oldest daughter was a grade behind me, so I didn’t share classes with her.  But she was nice, smart, and very, very popular.  As the only black kid in the entire school, she was fascinating.  Everyone wanted to be her friend.  But I remember the whispers of the adults around town…you know, the “there goes the neighborhood” discussion.  I wonder if she knew.  I liked her and would have loved to be her friend.  But I was not remotely popular, so that pretty much knocked me out:)

Back then, nearly thirty years ago, if you had told me what kind of life I would be living now I would have thought you were nuts.  I was going to have 3, maybe 4 biological kids.  My wedding would take place under an arch of pink and teal balloons (It WAS the eighties!) and my husband would probably be someone I grew up with, work in our little town and I’d be a teacher.

So here is my reality.  I have five beautiful children, none of whom came from my womb.  I married a handsome son of a Colonel who whisked me a good thirteen hour car ride from my hometown and I love it here.  I homeschool four of our children.  We live in a community that is beautifully adoption-friendly.  Trans-racial adoptive families are incredibly common.  Interracial marriages barely turn heads.  Show Hope and 147 Million Orphans are just around the corner and even the local coffee shops support adoption and orphan care.  I go to a church that is not as diverse as I’d like, but we are working on it.  (If you are reading this and are looking for a church home, please message me!  We need you!)  Our church family loves my kids and my kids have a great variety of friends from every race and socio-economic background.  We have dear friends on the police force and in the Black community…some of them are members of both.  God has blessed us.

So when the horrible events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas took place this past week my stomach knotted up and has stayed that way ever since.  The “either-or” camp keeps yelling but a few of us are trying to overcome with our “both-and” perspective.

What am I talking about?

As the white mother of five children of color, I feel like I have a unique perspective.  Though I never experienced racism or the fear resulting from being targeted for my skin color, I have had to learn to navigate this issue for the sake of my children.  I have had to have the same talks with my 16 year old son who just got his driver’s license as every black parent out there has had.  I have had to pray harder while my son drives his brother to basketball practice…praying he doesn’t break any traffic laws or get stopped by the “wrong officer.”

You see, I have had to face the hard, sickening reality that racism is not dead in our country.  As a family, we have witnessed very little of it in our community but we have had a few incidents.  But now, as my kids near adulthood and are not always with me…don’t always have my “whiteness” to act as a buffer…I have to prepare them, educate them, yet not instill fear.  My goodness, that is so hard.

I have spent their entire lives teaching them about how police officers are their friend.

Which they are.

I have taken my beautiful ebony boys and walked up to the police officer in the bank or at a restaurant just to say hello and shake their hand.  I have worked hard to teach them that police officers are trustworthy and here to help us and protect us.

Which they are.

But what is making me sick these days is that there are a few that are not.  99.9% of them are wonderful people, but all it takes is one with evil intent to ruin or even end someone’s life.

But isn’t this the flaw in all of society?  In any institution there is the potential for corruption.  Most teachers are wonderful people, but there are those who have sex with their students.  Most truck drivers are good family men working hard to provide for their families, but there are a few who participate in human trafficking for their own sick pleasure.  Most people sitting in our church pews are there to learn, to have questions answered, and to serve God.  But not all pew-sitters are Christians, much less mature ones.  As a pastor I once knew used to say, “Sitting in church does not make you a Christian any more than walking into a gym makes you an athlete.”  Our churches have hidden snakes, pedophiles, porn addicts, etc, which is why we have to have background checks on the nursery workers and safety plans in place to protect our children.

The same goes with our police force.  Racism exists, even there.  It lurks, even there.  I have to teach my children that, yes, you must always be respectful to the police.  You do exactly what they say and always answer “yes sir” and keep your hands on the steering wheel.  I teach them the names of our friends who are in the police department.  Why?  Because, though, 99.9% of our bravest men in blue are wonderful, selfless protectors of society, we have absolutely no way of knowing which ones are not.  So am I teaching my kids to assume the worst?  I hope not.  But maybe, just maybe, that is what it boils down to when my firstborn son gets pulled over for a busted tail-light or going 5 over the speed limit.

Launching black children into the world is terrifying.  If not for the promises of God and the words spoken over their lives from the time He brought them into our family, fear might just take hold of me.  But it will not.  I trust God.  I trust Him with them.  I trust that He does, in fact, have plans for good and not harm.  And I trust that any suffering they may endure is filtered through His loving fingers, serving to chip away anything that does not look like Jesus in order to conform them into his image.

And one more thing:

To my precious, priceless black friends…

I need you now more than ever.  I need your wisdom, your experiences, your stories.  I need you to tell me what to do, how to say what needs to be said, and pray for my kids as I pray for yours.  The house of the black community is on fire, and I want to join in the crowd of friends running with buckets of water…running into the fire, pulling out the survivors, comforting those who grieve.  I want to hold your hand and kiss your babies and see our kids figure out who they are and what is their role in this diverse community that is comprised of every nation, tribe and tongue.  I don’t want to see the news and think “how sad that this is happening to them.”  I choose to believe this is happening to “US.”  Because in Christ we are one family.  Your house is right next door to mine and if yours is burning I will not sit and watch through my window.  I will pray for and demand justice.  I will speak out in defense of those who are unfairly targeted and, though I cannot understand from the perspective of experience, I will listen and learn and try my very best to pass on to my black children what you are teaching me.

kids, black kids, black lives matter, protecting, field, flowers, spring
An oldie but a goodie. My babies.

 

Blackberry Winter

It’s the kind of weather that I’m convinced will be the norm in Heaven:  Cool evenings accented by a warm fire and just-warm-enough days that allow us to wear a light jacket when the skies are overcast and shorts when the sun is out.  The pansies still bloom happily, peeking their cheerful heads over the rims of pots and dancing brightly around the hanging basket on the shepherd’s hook.

Though the tomato harvest will likely start later because of these cool temperatures, I can’t complain.  This is my weather.  This cool breeze as I sit alone on the porch swing is what makes me absolutely love life here in Tennessee.

Today I drove out to the farm where my middle daughter has spent the last twelve Wednesdays doing what she loves:  Art, sewing, and playing with the colt and the chickens and the lamb.  The farmer’s big dog appears to be pregnant and lumbers about in the tall grass as the children run wild and play “Tree.”  It was bittersweet for me, as I love the drive out there every week and today is her final day on the farm.  Next year she enters the 6th grade and we have found a wonderful tutorial for her and the younger two.  It is also out in the country.  There are chickens and a garden to dabble in while the children take breaks from learning.  They will love it.  They would start tomorrow, if they could, but it is always hard to say goodbye to something that has been a blessing.

Change.

God is always moving us towards the next thing, isn’t He?  I tell my kids He loves us too much to let us stay put, and I believe it.  Contentment is good, complacency is not. Change keeps us on our toes and reminds us of our dependency on Him if we will allow it.  Change is a good teacher.

Though I am enjoying this Blackberry Winter with all that is in me…this cold snap that I didn’t expect yet am relishing while it lasts…change is inevitable.   I know the heat of summer will come soon and we will all be sweating and jumping in the pool for relief from the sun.  The trees’ bright green will grow tired and the grass will trade it’s delightful lime hue for a deeper shade in order to toughen up and survive the August that is to come. Some change we expect, some is thrown at us.  But, again, if we are teachable we can see the purpose in it.

Am I teachable?  As I prepare for this next season, homeschooling 4 of my 5 children (one in HIGH SCHOOL) and diving into a tutorial with the three younger ones for the first time, what is God going to want me to learn?  As the seasons of life pass by and my teenagers prepare to grow up and drive away, can I appreciate the good and pick it out from amongst the thorns of the hard?

I struggle, sometimes, to enjoy now.  I look back on the years when we were younger and life was simpler and I miss those long, sweet days.  Then I remember Paul’s admonition in Philippians 3:13…to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead.  I think I sometimes make an idol out of the past, especially the good parts.  I want that sweet time to last forever, but it didn’t.  It can’t.  Like this Blackberry Winter, it was a beautiful season of respite and joy.  But the season ahead, though heated and full of struggles and growing pains, is beautiful as well.  I have to look up, stop and breathe and take in the sunrises and sunsets of each day and remember that God is on his throne and every part of this season of life is being used to bring about His will, not mine.

Goodness, that is so hard.

So today I did what I have said I would do all throughout this spring but never had.  I stopped and pulled over into the parking lot of a little country church and took a photo of my girl with her handmade quilt with a field of wildflowers behind her.  I breathed in the scent of spring and didn’t hurry to drive home.  Then I planted that white rose by the mailbox and stuck my nose into a magnolia blossom, nearly fainting from the beautiful perfume that filled it.  And then I sat here, on my porch swing, to write because I just haven’t taken the time to do much writing lately and tomorrow is our last day of school for this year.  There are leftovers in the fridge and my son drove his little brother to basketball practice, giving me this time to do what my heart needed.

My boys, alone in a car.  What I wouldn’t give to be privy to their conversations.

Yes, there is sweetness in every season.

 

The Long Haul

Endurance has not always been my strongest virtue.  I have a long history of unfinished projects and half-read books in my wake.

I remember when my oldest child was born.  In the joy and anxiety that surrounded his adoption I had the realization that this was for life.  There was no bowing out and handing off to someone else to finish.  I was going to be a mother and motherhood is forever, for better or worse, through teenage years and beyond.

And here we are.

He just turned 16.  He just got his drivers’ license.  As I was warned would happen by so many well-meaning strangers, time flew.  Now, dinner at home with all seven of us together is a treat because it is no longer the norm.    When he comes home after watching “the game” at the local wings joint with his buddies I am often lying in bed, glasses on, book in hand.  “Give me a kiss,” I smile and inhale his scent as he leans forward.  This boy, this ornery, funny, stubborn, sweet boy is almost a man.  Part of me is so excited for him, part of me grieves the beautiful childhood he had and wishes it could have lasted longer.

We have endured some hard days, he and I.  Hard days are fewer now, but still part of our story because he IS a teenager.  The younger ones coming up behind him are watching closely and there are those days when my endurance fails and I am just so tired.  Just want to check out.  Just want someone else to DEAL with whatever the drama of the day is.  But the drama passes and peace returns and I find myself contemplating this season of parenting.

It is hard.  The hardest season I have ever lived.  Two teenagers live in my house and they stretch me in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I stink at parenting them at least half the time (I was SO great with toddlers, y’all.  SO great.) and yet they forgive and even give me a side hug on occasion.  The age in which we live does not lend itself to raising Christian kids and the battle we fight is an uphill one to say the least.  But fight, we must.  There are so many things I would change if I could (like when social media was introduced into their lives…totally would have put that off for a  few more years) but introduced, it was and it is part of their experience for better or for worse.  My younger ones will suffer (or enjoy, depending on your perspective) the consequences of our first and second-born guinea pigs’ teen years because there are just certain things we will do differently with them.  I guess, in a large family, that is probably not abnormal.

So…endurance.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  So once-upon-a-time I ran a few half-marathons. This turtle learned a lot during those years of training before I hurt my dumb knee.  (But I digress.)

When you are running long distances, you don’t start out at top speed.  If you try that, you will never finish.  No, you start steady.  You pace yourself and reevaluate as you go.  You take in water when needed in order to accomplish the goal of crossing the finish line and getting that shiny medal.  Sometimes, as the race drags on and the miles tick by, you realize something is not working the way it should.  Maybe your shoelaces are too tight or a muscle is trying to cramp.  Maybe the elastic on your shorts is rubbing and chafing or your headphones are irritating your ears.  You may have run this distance in these exact clothes with this exact equipment many times but, today, something is off.  So you make adjustments.  You take out the headphones or retie your shoes or hitch up your shorts a little to relieve that sore spot.  The goal for those of us who are not elite athletes is to cross the finish line and be able to live to tell about it, not kill ourselves in the process.

Such is raising children.  I have five of them.  I went into parenting with all the right books, all the right methods, all the right “influences” in place around my children.  For years things were very smooth, but then we started hitting bumps.  Mama’s shorts were chafing, if you will.  (Ok…I think panties in a wad is more accurate. YOU KNOW where I am coming from, right?)  Burnout is around the corner and peace at home is elusive.  Chaos creeps into the home because something just isn’t working the way it used to. In these seasons we have a choice:  Keep doing what we have always done or make changes.  Plod forward on the bumpy path (because this philosophy of parenting worked for “them” and, therefore, it should work for us, right?) or seek the Lord for MY kids, MY situation, MY race.

Here’s the deal:  When I seek Him, He is so faithful.  He shows me where we need to make changes.  He reveals mistakes and gives grace to cover them.  He reminds me that producing godly kids is NOT MY JOB, but HIS.  I am a tool He may use, but my job is to love them.   That is all.  Everything I do as a mother, when done from the overflow of the love of God in my heart, will produce spiritual fruit that brings glory to him.  (This does not mean my kids will do everything right! Far from it!). He lets me see what bears repeating with my younger ones and what should be done differently with them.  This marathon of parenting is for the long haul and “fair” is not always an option.  Sometimes a kid will get away with something for the sake of peace, sometimes not.  But the final result is all on God if I will just back off and stop fretting and get on my knees and fight.  I must choose to step back and give the Holy spirit full reign of everything I do as a wife and mother.  My decisions may appear crazy or unwise to my peers but only God knows the hearts of my children and only God can give me true wisdom in raising them.

So, I have a question for you.  It is actually for me, but if you are reading this I assume you are in the stuggle, too.

How many hours have you spent reading parenting books, blogs, and articles compared to how many hours you have prayed and fought spiritually for you children?  How often have you compared your kids to the kids at church who seem to never give their mama a moment’s trouble?  Guilty hand raised high over here. But, let me tell you, when I get to the end of myself and go into my closet and lay it all before God, He comes through every single time.  EVERY. TIME.

I kid you not, something breaks in the supernatural as a result and I am always wondering why the heck I didn’t give it to God sooner.  I am so hard-headed.

What is our goal, as mothers?  To be given all the glory for these perfect kids we raised in our own power?  To be able to retire from parenting with a martini in hand and children who come home for Christmas?  Or is our goal one that is so much more difficult…to partner with God in raising up a generation that has endurance.  A generation who has weathered storms and walked through fire and maybe even fallen away in order to find Jesus to be exactly who He promises to be…a savior, father to the fatherless, and strength when we are weak.  Am I willing to admit mistakes and change my methodology in order to better entrust my children to God?  Am I able to go against the grain of society in raising my kids because the ultimate goal is not kids who “fit in” but kids who know that God is faithful and will see them through the darkest days and hottest fires that life has to offer?

Am I willing to stop and let God do what He does best, ensuring that I get absolutely NO credit for the success and/or failures of my children?  If I want to endure to the finish of this parenting season, that is the only way I can guarantee not to burn out.

And it is the only way I can let my babies drive away. Without me.  

“Jesus take the wheel” has never had more meaning.

teen, driver, babies, letting go, drivers license, car, new car, Nissan, Sentra
…and there they go!

Wholehearted.

Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 3:10

 

Jeremiah is a book that is filled with what feels like doom and gloom.  The prophet lived during the reign of evil kings and undoubtedly witnessed great atrocities during his lifetime.  He spent forty years sharing the messages God had given him and calling the people of Israel to repent and return to the One True God.  During this time, Judah made a show of repentance.  It was not a heartfelt brokenness over her sin, only an outward removal of it.  But inside, deep down, Judah still desired the idolatry that so angered the Holy One.  She was a hypocrite.

So displeased was the Lord that, in verse 11,  He declared faithless, unrepentant Israel to be more faithful than Judah in her outward display of false humility!

Today’s society lends itself to this all too well.  In the church culture we are able to mask our sin in many ways:  church attendance, Bible studies, wearing the “right” clothes or hanging out with the “right” people.  We can also mask our own sin by throwing ourselves into service, especially that of a public nature.

But God is not fooled.

Our attempts at outward spiritual cleanliness do nothing to mask the dirt that is clouding our hearts and minds.  Refusing to admit sin, weakness, or unbelief does not advance us in God’s kingdom, nor does it make those things “go away.”  The sin takes root, grows and infiltrates.  It steals, kills and destroys lives, marriages, relationships, and joy.  We become hypocrites and, when the awful truth comes out, our witness is ruined and the Kingdom is wounded.

God is not looking for outward perfection.  He does not want us to be sparkly, happy clappy Christians who appear untouchable.  That is not real.  It is not spiritually healthy.  It is toxic.  No, God want us to return to Him with our whole heart…even the sinful part. He asks us to admit to the ugly, confessing our weakness, begging for Him to restore the years the worm has eaten.  He wants us humble and only then can He enable us to live holy lives.  Contrived obedience, which is an effort to mask sin and avoid the confession of it, is like filthy rags…in the Old Testament the word translated “filthy rags” was actually referring to menstrual rags.  Our works are disgusting when they are the attempt to mask a divided heart.

Isn’t it freeing, on this Easter weekend as we await Sunday morning’s promise, to be able to turn our faces to God and offer up our whole heart in the warmth of His loving gaze?  Friends, He knows what you have done.  He has seen it all.  Yet he beckons you to run to him, throwing yourself into his arms and receiving His beautiful Daddy Love that is yours for the taking.  Return to Him.  Take off the mask and shed the chains of works-based religion.  Your Abba awaits.  He loves you so.