Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ… Continue reading “Failure Loses Its Sting”

The Ocean Floor

Music is an incredible gift that I don’t entirely understand, but I do embrace.

Just now as I was trying to start this post several different ways, I realized that I often link thoughts with songs in a conceptual way that doesn’t always involve matching words. My last attempt at an “opening” sounded like something banged out on a harmonica in the Appalachian Mountains.

Noting this, I then realized that the whole purpose for sitting down to write a post was because God gave me a cool gift last night through a series of songs and this is what I wanted to share.

Maybe I’m not making sense?

Okay, so this weekend I was sick. Weird sick. A combination of several things that piled up and kept me in bed sleeping for many hours. Monday I was still not well, but I decided that if I couldn’t work, at least I could spend the day with God in a purposeful way. I sat in a cozy armchair for many hours with my journal, a big bottle of water (still sick, remember) and a roll of toilette paper (for my nose). I listened to Rich Mullins, I asked God real questions and waited for his response… Continue reading “The Ocean Floor”

Let Down Your Nets

This weekend I was really wrestling with the feeling that I am not up for the job I’m doing. I had all kinds of questions about how much stress is healthy and leads to growth and how much is unhealthy and leads to deterioration. It’s not as straight forward as setting boundaries for when I work and when I rest because sometimes when it’s time for me to study my brain won’t engage… and sometimes when I feel like I need rest I do actually have to be at that meeting.

Often people will say that if God calls you to do something he will give you the strength to accomplish the job. Thinking along these lines, if I look back at the last school I staffed, I see that it took a while to get the swing of things and until I

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“got it,” I was really wrestling – similarly to how I am wrestling right now.
On one hand it gives me hope that there will be a tipping point when it stops feeling like there’s an ogre sitting on my chest. On the other hand because there is a lot more work with this school, it feels like maybe it’s just more than I would ever be able to handle… Continue reading “Let Down Your Nets”

Be Still My Soul

I just received a beautiful email from a friend. It read much more like a hand written letter and I’m tempted to copy and paste it into a document and print it on paper.

Besides sharing her struggles and joys, she ends her letter with a very simple statement which left me stunned for a moment while salty liquid rushed into my eyes.

“I pray for you, Peggy, that your faith would not fail.”

I sat up late last night trying to write a different blog post and then trying to write something for just myself to make sense of life right now. One metaphor that seemed fitting was that of being out in choppy water on a small pontoon. Just as I think I’m grasping what it means to be still inside, the scenery changes and I’m sliding toward a metal railing with pinwheel arms. Three things I forgot to do and seven things that need to be done right now, and several questions I’m not completely sure how to answer slam into me at the opposite end of the boat…. Continue reading “Be Still My Soul”

The Etymology of Identity

I went to the bank the other day to change my name with them. One of the ladies who was helping me asked for the reason I was changing my name and I simply said, “Divorce.” She related with me that she also recently changed her name because of divorce and we talked a little about the joy of returning to our maiden names. As we sat down to go over some other things with my account, she was open and really friendly. A compatriot.

Then somehow it came up that I worked for Youth With A Mission. At this news she ever-so-slightly stiffened, both in her body and in her banter.

When this is brought up with strangers, I look for the most non-threatening way to explain something that is so far from what is normal and also far from its stereotypes. I try to stay focused on things that make sense like how I love to teach and travel.
Sometimes I have to walk people gently through this and often it actually makes me happy to confess that I’m a Christian and proceed to be different than I know they’re expecting.
Telling people I’m a “missionary” is a bit like telling a boyfriend, “we have to talk.” They start to sweat a little and blood rushing through the head causes their hearing to decrease…. Continue reading “The Etymology of Identity”

Worthy

Two things have been standing out to me in the last week and they are connected.

At the beginning of the week, my friend Angela taught the students an overview of the Bible. She went from Genesis to Revelation to give them a big picture look at the whole story right before they jump into the moments and details of this epic Book with the inductive methoWhen Angela got to Jesus and how he fulfilled so many things spoken in the Old Testament, she showed a video clip of him in the garden of Gethsemane from The Passion of The Christ. What struck me as I watched the clip was how truly he struggled with doing what he knew the Father sent him to do. It wasn’t just a little hard for him to go to the cross. It made me think of Hebrews 12:3-4 which says, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” I had not really connected those verses in Hebrews with Jesus because I had never considered Jesus’ struggle in the garden as one of temptation to sin… Continue reading “Worthy”

God In My Homework

The School of Biblical Studies was both the most difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Because I had not had a positive experience with school in the past, I had never wanted to do the SBS, afraid it would just be another opportunity to fail. And so when I felt like God might be calling me to do the school

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(just about 3 weeks before the school started) I wrestled hard to be totally sure I was hearing him correctly. To be honest, when it came down to it, I made the decision based on who God is and not upon what I feel I’m capable of accomplishing successfully. I took a dive because I would rather fall on my face in pursuit of God than be “safe” and miss what he has for me.

What I discovered during the SBS, was God himself… Continue reading “God In My Homework”

Terrifically Specific

This weekend our School of Biblical Studies staff took a retreat to the charming vacation town of Pagosa Springs. Our training goes for 6 weeks before the students arrive and so far it is a lot more fun than I usually picture myself having at “work.”

We ate together, prayed together, hung out, made plans,  held the baby… There’s one thing we did in particular that I would like to share. Each of us took a turn giving a “devotion.”  The general instruction for the devotional time was to share something that God has been teaching you recently. Something I love about God is his willingness and his patience to teach us on an ongoing basis. I loved that each of us had something different to share.

What I shared with them I want to share with you now. This is something I began learning at the beginning of the last school I staffed and I feel like it’s a good thing to revisit.

…Expectations… Continue reading “Terrifically Specific”

Boundless Joy

I’ve been really into this song lately called Up In Arms.
The lyrics that hit me the hardest are;

So here I am,
Your love has got me up in arms again,
And this hope won’t let me go
My joy is boundless,
My soul knows its worth
In arms stretching wider
Than my heart could ever fall

Joy is something I think about pretty regularly, as I have experienced a lot of sorrow. Some of the sorrow came from circumstances, but much of it came from an inner sense of emptiness or worthlessness. I admit that even after I started following Jesus I experienced that second kind of sorrow. It has taken much, much longer than I would have liked for me to grasp my value as a daughter of The King. There were so many lies to contend with…. Continue reading “Boundless Joy”

For What It’s Worth

Where does our value come from? I have seen a couple of posts on facebook today that posit that we have value if we value others.

For myself, I have often felt as though my only worth came from what I did for other people or how much I could “produce.” This has been made more pronounced by the fact that I grew up in a pretty works-oriented church and have always had close friends who were REALLY organized and productive. My mom is the first born of 7 and loves to clean and raise her hand when responsibilities are needing filled at church. Most of my best friends over the years have been efficient, get-er-done kind of women. Since I do not operate that way (I’m very relational but not very productive) I have always felt something lacking within myself…. Continue reading “For What It’s Worth”

Satellite Heart

Tonight I wrapped up a very mini series with the program staff here at Warm Beach Camp on Intimacy With God. What God gave me to give to them was pretty basic, on one hand, but also felt hard to execute. The two main things that I felt I was supposed to talk about were the spiritual principles of intimacy with God from Psalm 63:1-8 told through the lens of my own story with God.

The four spiritual realities that I found in those verses were these:
Continue reading “Satellite Heart”

As You Loved Me

Do you ever wonder what Paul was like in person? Until I actually studied the New Testament as a whole I pictured him so pious and judgmental. After reading all of his letters and really considering what his life looked like, it’s impossible to remember how I got to those assumptions about him.

I do remember being vastly comforted  by the book of 2 Corinthians. I felt he must have been writing to people like me. When I discovered that the Corinthians were actually super critical of Paul, the humility with which he wrote becomes a hundred times greater. Standing in the face of those who say you are weak and explaining how much deeper your weakness goes than they could ever know… Well.. it has shown me what a deep trust and love Paul had for Jesus; how much his identity was based not on what men thought of him, but based solely on what the Father had done for him…. Continue reading “As You Loved Me”

Dating in Antiquity

I’m in the middle of a study on the book of Exodus for a teaching I hope to give at a kids camp in July. I discovered this fascinating book called The Pentateuch As Narrative. Although my roommate informs me that it’s not a universally intriguing title, I was drawn in by it. Here’s why- I love stories. I love stories of all kinds: true, fiction, short, long, funny, disturbing or serious. I came to discover, last year while doing the School of Biblical Studies, that the Bible is chalked FULL of true and interesting stories.

I see that yawn/eye roll. But don’t give up yet. In studying about Moses, I found a treasure that I want to investigate with you. All throughout the Bible (from cover to cover) are themes and connections. The connections are sometimes too big picture for us to catch and certainly too subtle for a cursory reading.

Here’s what jumped out today: this book about the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible, written by Moses) points out that Moses met his wife by a well (Ex. 2:15-22). Not only that, but she was not a Hebrew (not so shocking for us, but for the original reader, this would have been noteworthy). This is a pattern with many of God’s chosen men preceding Moses. Isaac (Gen. 24), Jacob (Gen. 29) and Judah (Gen. 38) also met the mother of their children (all foreigners) at a well. These are not just men, these men are the ones through whom God promised to get the whole world blessed (ancestors of Jesus).  Although Moses is not an ancestor of Jesus, he is a foreshadow of Jesus in that he delivers God’s people from slavery into the land of promise (The book of Matthew shows the parallels between Moses/Israel and Jesus in detail)…. Continue reading “Dating in Antiquity”

Inner Healing, Outer Armor

This week the students are learning about spiritual warfare. Their speaker is a power house of a guy named Wes Tullis. His teaching method is much more circular and story oriented than our Western minds are used to, but it’s also kind of blowing my mind.

In my own DTS (in 2003)  the speaker used the book of Ephesians to teach on spiritual warfare. Things like knowing the truth about who God is and who we are in Christ. There was more to it, but her basic message was about living from that place of truth to stand against the enemy because it is God’s power which has already defeated that enemy.

Secular humanists would say there is no spiritual realm and Spiritualists (or animists, Buddhists, Hindus, etc) would say there really is no physical realm but only spiritual. As a follower of Christ, I believe that both physical and spiritual are real. Whatever your beliefs are about angels and demons, the spiritual realm is real and is intrinsically linked to what happens in the physical realm- both directions.

There are two things I want to share on this topic… Continue reading “Inner Healing, Outer Armor”

The Space Between

There is this space between confusion and understanding that is difficult to handle.

Yesterday I watched a fictionalized account of the end of the apostle Peter’s life. He’s telling a Roman soldier about the days before Jesus died and I was struck by the last supper in the upper room. First, Jesus tells them that someone is going to betray him. Matthew 24:22 says, “And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” This part always gets to me. In our deepest hearts we stand before God and know the treachery we are capable of committing. For some reason Jesus allows them this time of reflection as they wonder what he knows that they do not.

Then Jesus has the disciples drink the wine and eat the bread. He tells them that it symbolizes his blood and body. Then, this Messiah about to be king gets down and washes their feet…. Continue reading “The Space Between”