Thursday, March 26, 2015

the one thing I really don't want to tell you this Easter {and the one thing I do}

It's always said with an undertone of criticism - maybe a tad bit of belittling.  At the very least it is bossy.  I know because I said it once, a long time ago, and it tasted so bitter on my lips that I never breathed it again.

God helps those who help themselves.

First of all, it's not in the Bible.  Let's just clarify that.
Second of all, there are a lot of profound and true statements that are not found in the Bible - this is not one of them.

Oh, people try to pass it off as some type of tough love or twisted form of encouragement, but it's really just a plain old lie, a falsehood.

From all I've read in the scriptures,
from all I've experienced in my life,
from all I've watched unfold in the stories of those around me,
I know the truth is this -
God can not help those who help themselves because 
there is no room for God when you're doing all the work.  

Instead what I find over and over again is this -

God helps those who surrender themselves.
Those who say -
I don't know what to do.
I can't figure this out.
I'm not strong enough or smart enough.

And while 'surrender' seems like such a passive and simple word, those who have tried it know that it is anything but.  Particularly for those of us living the affluent North American life, surrender is a complete reprogramming of our heart, mind, and soul.  But Jesus made it clear a long time ago, that was what it would take to follow him -
heart, mind, strength and soul...completely reprogrammed.

Helping yourself means
maintaining control
calling your own shots
doing what the culture around you is encouraging you to do
not asking for help
avoiding the appearance of weakness
defending your little army of one at all costs.
Yes - helping yourself is exhausting but it is also well-supported by the status quo and so we keep after it.

Surrendering looks completely different.
Surrendering yourself means
releasing control
having someone call the shots for you
going against popular opinion
asking for help
confessing unashamedly that you are weak and dependent
and stepping onto the battlefield alongside other desperate warriors who completely trust their Leader.
It sounds like it would be immensely easier, but having people look at you like you are a crazy fool foreigner in a land of self-made men makes any endeavor difficult.

A surrendered life looks much more unusual to the general population than a life of 'helping yourself' and so we prepare ourselves ahead of time that this surrendering will meet resistance both from our own misguided thoughts and those of the world around us.

That's why Jesus told us up front that he came to do a new thing.  He came to show us how to live a life that was completely counter-culture - and still is.  To live that life, something must first die.  Surrendering is about death and that is why it is so terribly difficult.  It is also why Jesus came and did it himself.

It's Easter and maybe you're like me, celebrating the resurrected King for the umpteenth time.  And yet I want it to be fresh and new somehow - something that never ever gets old.  This is how God has made Easter new for me this year.  He has whispered this realization to me -

When the world was in desperate need of help,  
when it was full of unrighteousness and darkness,
I did not require that every human being show up in a dusty courtyard to receive their lashings.  
I didn't decree that every last person would press a crown of thorns into their heads, 
be mocked by a crowd, 
drag a 300 pound cross on their back, 
and willingly allow themselves to be hung from it until their very last breath was taken from them.  
I did not ask a single person to help themselves.  
I did it myself.  

Surrendering means admitting you need the kind of help that you could never provide yourself.

God did not require us to help ourselves that first Good Friday on the hill at Calvary and he doesn't require it today.  In fact, he discourages it.

Just to clarify - I am not endorsing sitting on your couch all day doing nothing.  There is much work to be done in the kingdom of God and there is no time to waste.  But if the focus of all the work - all the helping - is on ourselves we will miss the greater charge we have been given to help others.  

When it comes to yourself - surrender.
Surrender yourself, your life, even your dreams, to God and his sovereign plan for you.
When we trust completely we can surrender completely. 
And friends, I promise you, since the beginning of time God has never, ever proven to be untrustworthy.  Test him on this.

When it comes to others - help.
If we are too busy helping ourselves we have no time for helping others.
And yet if we are busy helping others we have no time to obsess over helping ourselves.  You see how this works?  Have you found evidence in your own life?  I know I have.

Four years ago I was driving down the gravel driveway to my parents' farm neck-deep in a season of  'poor me'.  Life had become legitimately hard for my family and I had become completely absorbed in it.  For months I had been spinning my wheels trying to figure out how to help myself out of a painful situation.  I parked my car on the side of the drive and felt a strong urge to call a friend and fill her in on how desperate I was.  I would let her know how bad things had gotten and how hard I was working to try and figure it out to no avail.

Before I could breathe a word of my pain to her she breathlessly said this to me -
     I'm so glad you called.  What perfect timing.  You will never believe what I found out today.  

And then she proceeded to tell me about the devastating blow her family had just taken.  I had experienced something similar and had much wisdom and encouragement to share.  We cried and talked for nearly an hour.  I prayed with her before hanging up the phone and not once did I mention my own need for help.  In his mercy God had allowed me the gift of helping someone else to reset my misguided heart.  Over the course of the the conversation he had slowly turned my focus off of myself and on to the helping work he had given me for that day.  I wondered how many missed opportunities to help others had passed me by during that season when I was so wrapped up in trying to help myself.

We all walk through difficult times.
We all need help.
But God created a world and a people who do much better helping one another than helping themselves.  When we trust that our own needs will be met in God's perfect time and space we are free to shift our focus off of our own needs and to the needs of others.

When I know God's focus is on me, then I am free to set my focus elsewhere.

It's that simple.  And that difficult.  And it is worth every bit of effort.

Be still, cease striving, and know that He is God -
     the one who sent help,
     the one who set out on a rescue mission that cost him everything.

It's not just that he will help you, it's that He has already helped you.  And he has deposited in those of us who surrender and believe a permanent helper that has our back for all of eternity - the Holy Spirit.
So be still, cease striving, stop helping yourself and start surrendering yourself instead.  It's the only way real help can be found.

What about you?  Have you found yourself in a situation you can not help yourself out of?  If so, know that God is not punishing you, He is providing for you.  He is allowing you the gift of recognizing that
God does not help those who help themselves.
God helps those who surrender themselves.

May we all be brave enough in these final days leading up to Easter to completely surrender our lives to the one who surrendered his for us.

I lift up my eyes to the hills,
   from where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord...

Monday, March 16, 2015

the beauty of bare branches

My South Carolina backyard seemed to burst open with color overnight.  Golden forsythia and fragrant white pussy willow are in full bloom which means the rest of the woods are not far behind.
I. love. spring.
But despite my longing for warmer weather, there is a part of winter I will miss -

Monday, March 9, 2015

advice for your renovation {of home or heart}

Home renovation is not for the faint of heart.
We signed the contract on a 1950's ranch on Christmas Day and here we are two months later still dreaming of being settled in our new home.
We are getting closer.

Just this week the giant, rusty dumpster was removed from the front yard.  The pink toilet and rolls of old carpet gone along with it.  Dust that was an inch thick everywhere is slowly being vacuumed, swept, and mopped clean.  I have a kitchen sink.
Hallelujah.  Praise the Lord.
I. have. a. kitchen. sink.
Don't ever take your kitchen sink for granted, people.

Friday, February 27, 2015

when your mess is exposed

I rode behind the truck for at least five miles before I realized it.  The conversation with my friend on the other end of the phone had me so captivated that I wasn't paying attention to what was happening.  When the wet streaks began hitting my windshield I turned on the wipers assuming it was the snow they had predicted.  It sure was messier than any snow I remembered, but...whatever.

When I finally noticed the giant sprayers on the back of the bright yellow truck directly in front of me, it dawned on me - this might not be snow.  And, in fact, it was not.  It was salt.  And by this point the entire front end of my minivan was covered.  Good grief.  I am an idiot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

we are the people of the cross

My 5 year old loves to complain.  If we're going somewhere other than exactly where he wants to go he crumbles at the knees and tells me
it's SO far
he's SO tired
his legs hurt SO bad
and I just have to laugh and roll my eyes and sarcastically say - I know, it's such a long hard road isn't it buddy?

Friday, February 13, 2015

{when} five-minute-friday

{linking up today with a few friends for five-minute-friday}
When will this be over?
When will I heal?
When will I finally get an answer?
When will this dream come true?
When will it stop, start...

If I'm not careful all my 'whens' are
a bitter little voice asking impatient questions
stealing the joy that could be found here and now
setting my heart and mind on what I want instead of what I already have.

I'm like a child asking over and over from the backseat of the car - When will we be there!?  
Or from the aisle of the store - When can I get more Star Wars Legos!?
Or from under the covers - When will it be morning!?

But God loves this childish, misguided heart of mine anyway.  A child who doesn't know what is best for her.  Lovingly he withholds answers we don't need and turns us back to the ones we already have.

We find freedom and peace when our 'whens' become something different.
Grace-filled statements instead of grumbling questions.

When I was still a complete mess of a person he didn't just say he loved me, he showed me.  

He proved it by taking the weight of this broken-down world on his shoulders until it crushed him.  He did that - for me and for you.  When there was nothing - in this world, in our hearts, in our hands - he made something.

That is the the one 'when' statement that answers all our 'when' questions.
And the answer is this - He already has...
And it's more than enough.  It's everything.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

a tuesday morning pep talk for you {and me}

You were created.
You didn't just 'happen'.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your birth, you were thoughtfully made before you ever took your first breath.

You possess a unique

That sneaking, lying, no-good voice will try to tell you
There are already plenty of people doing 'that thing'.
Lots of people do 'that thing' better than you ever could.
You don't have enough time or enough talent to do 'that thing'.
You've missed your chance.
You're too old, too young, too busy...

Thursday, February 5, 2015

when the breath has left the room {and my hormones step in}

Breathing room.
I've been thinking a lot about it,
writing a lot about it,
talking a lot about it.
I've basically been beating it like a dead horse {in the most graceful way}.

I think it's helping because I am finding my own breathing room more and more these days.  But then again, sometimes