Walk Forward: sleep-deprived confessions and delighting in Jesus

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on…”

Philippians 3:13-14


I have always loved sleep. My husband’s relationship with sleep is a struggle. He is a light sleeper and often struggles to fall asleep at night. But not me. Sleep and I have a good relationship. I sleep deeply – often within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. Sleep is my superpower…unless I have a new baby. 

I have found very few things as stressful as the sleep deprival I went through after the birth of both our boys. There are few things I have begged for with more passion than that the Lord would help my baby to sleep. I have been super invested in sleep training, in sleep diapers, in rice cereal, in nap schedules. And when I have done everything in my power and the baby wakes up anyway because he has an ear infection or he’s teething or he has some other mystery reason I’ll never get to the bottom of, it. is. maddening. This month, I felt the Lord gently prodding me to dig into why I was SO determined to get the good night’s sleep that seemed ever out of reach. Beneath the determination, there was fear. And so the real question surfaced: Why does being really tired scare me so badly?

Well…it’s because I hate failure. I am wired to plan, to prepare, and to arrange my life with intention. It soothes me to have anticipated a need and adjusted for it ahead of time; to have a contingency plan mapped out and everybody on the same page for what’s next. Good sleep, I realized, is one of the ways I set myself up to avoid failure. When I’m rested, I can take a lot in stride. When I’m exhausted, my anger is so much harder to control. I get irritable, forgetful, and emotional. My threshold for overwhelm drops significantly, and I tend to react, especially in my closest relationships: with Cody and our kids. Poor sleep is a great humbler; it exposes my need for mercy. 

So good sleep had become, to me, the holy grail that would make it possible to get through my day without damaging my relationships, without failure, without regret. For as hard as I tried, as much as I begged the Lord to help me walk with the Spirit, I had not found a way to just nail it after a night of poor sleep. A screw-up was inevitable. And so I grew more desperate. If only the baby would sleep! 

But any time I hear myself say the words “If only…,” I know discontentment is at work in my heart. And whatever I’m wishing I had isn’t actually the solution.

“…be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”


Hebrews 13:5-6

Be satisfied with what I have. Right now. Even with the amount of sleep I’ve been given. Even when it doesn’t feel like enough. So instead of trying SO hard to get sleep so that I won’t fail and lose my temper when I’m tired and irritable, I started praying that I would grow in how I recover from failure. 

My main goal cannot be to perfectly set myself up so that I never make a mistake. That is just not real life. But maturity gets good at moving forward from mistakes, and that is a good goal. As I prayed for this growth with one of my friends, she prayed for me, and she thanked God for his mercy when we fail. 

It occurred to me that we recover well by shifting our focus from our failure to His great mercy. From our badness to His goodness. From our disappointment to excitement about the total covering we’ve been given in His perfect forgiveness. The blood of Christ is a completed shelter, and it has no leaks. 

“…But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

…For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”


Hebrews 9:26, 10:14, 22

We can confess our sin and at the same time lead our kids and our own hearts to delight in Him because He has made us free. And this, more than a mom who never shows frustration, may be just what their little hearts need, because I’m not the only one who needs to learn how to recover after losing my temper.

Lord, 

I am so thankful that you forgive me each and every time that I fail. Thank you for setting your love on me and for giving your life to pay, completely, for my sin. Teach me the art of acknowledging my disobedience while I rejoice in your perfect obedience. Let the weight of my focus not be these brief and passing faceplants on my part, but your goodness, your mercy for me, your unfailing love and preference for me, the perfection of your plan that anchors me securely to the end of the race, to your lasting victory, your once-for-all sacrifice, to the day when I have overcome it all and I am completely like you. 

May my sin ever point me to my Savior so that I do not wither in discouragement, but I overflow with

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus!

You did what I could not. You died in my place. You’ve anchored me to your new life. You’ve already forgiven me completely. Beautiful, understanding Savior. Thank you for looking on me with love and giving me your strength and your mercy to walk forward.”

Let Me Teach You: Called to more than grand gestures

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29 


This has been a humbling year. I came back from the mission field. I stayed in the ICU. I cancelled our plans and cared for a sick baby. Slowly, I’m laying down my version of God’s calling on my life for His. 

Cody has shifted into his role with grace and purpose. He’s meeting a clear need and they’re so thankful to have him. But my life is full of cycles. Unending dishes, diapers, bottles, interruptions, laundry, potty training, soothing fussy kids at night, grocery runs, sweaty walks, and going over letters and memory verses with a distracted pre-schooler who’d rather be playing in the mud. It’s not as easy for me to wade through the work and see what we’re accomplishing. I thought I’d be flying to the rescue and making an impact on the unreached peoples of the world. Those are good desires, but man, has it been brutal to lay them down and figure out who I am without them.

Pride says “Why would you bring us home? I’m more valuable than this! I have trained so long and so hard and I could be making a difference!”

Humility says, “Jesus is the one that makes the difference. He can position me wherever He likes and give me any job He wants.”

I’ll give you one guess which one my heart tends toward. 

Humility doesn’t grasp for significance and recognition or strive to be important. But I do. Humility doesn’t try to impress other people. But I do. Humility knows that God’s calling is not just to the grand gestures, but to the every-day choice to die to self and love the people He’s put in front of you. But I don’t want to die to self in the ways I’m being asked to right now. I want to tackle big and important work, but Jesus was happy to let his big and important work be interrupted by little children. 

I read a story by Paul David Tripp about his early days as a young pastor. He was over it. He had figured out a new plan for ministry and given his resignation. But an older man stayed after the service and challenged him: “We know you’re discouraged and we know you’re a bit immature, but we haven’t asked you to leave. Where is the church going to get mature pastors if the immature ones leave?” 

We get mature pastors when immature ones stick with it. We get mature moms, mature missionaries, mature believers, when immature ones keep at it. So here I am. Recognizing, left and right, the indicators that my heart is proud and immature. But I hear my Savior saying “Let me teach you.”

Ephesians 4:1-2 says this:
 “…Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”

I desperately want to live a life worthy of my calling. I just didn’t realize how often that means “Be patient with each other. Be humble and gentle,” that it’s a calling not just to do certain things, but be a certain type of person. Hard work matters. But it matters more that my work flows out of a heart that is patient with other people. Big sacrifices matter. But it matters more that I make the sacrifices because of how worthy Jesus is, not because I am trying to be worthy. It’s good to want to teach people about Jesus, but I cannot forget how badly I need to be taught by Him.

He was equal with God, but He didn’t cling to that. He was the most significant human being on the face of the Earth, but He didn’t flaunt it. How I need Him to teach me to be humble and gentle. How I need Him to teach me to value people so much that I do not turn away from the mundane, inconvenient, and tedious work of loving them and caring for them day in and day out. 

Here’s the sweet spot. Pride is the source of so much wrestling and angst. But Jesus said, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Not only is He ready to teach me, his teaching brings rest. 

Are you frustrated with where He has you? Are you weary and discouraged and reaching for something different and more fulfilling? Do you feel like what you really have to offer has been passed over? Are you trucking through your work, but growing impatient with your people?

Me too. Let’s go to our teacher. Let’s run to our rest. He can teach us to be like Him. He can quiet our hearts. He can remind us that we are here on purpose, and that every second is worthwhile. He can change us so that what we do flows out of who we are in Him, and it is full of life and grace. 

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4




He Remains Unfailing: Puny Strength, Patient God

“But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst of sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

1 Timothy 1:16

After months of praying and holding our breath, another brain MRI is in the books for Benaiah, and it looks like slowly, very slowly, his ventricles are shrinking. No surgery at this point. It is so, so rare that a case like his can be managed with medication alone. We begged the Lord to intervene and He heard our prayers. I should be dancing for joy. I’m relieved. But it feels like the kind of relief at the end of long, tense movie where the suspense would not let up for a second and you’re exhausted from the adrenaline when it’s over. I feel absolutely drained.

He’s okay. He’s going to be okay. I’m so glad he’s going to be okay. I wonder if I will be.

We talked through some of the challenges we’ve walked through and are currently facing with our mission’s member care team and they pointed out that I use the word “should” a lot. They explained that “should” tends to describe our expectations and that constantly comparing reality to our expectations sets us up to feel guilt, anxiety, and discouragement over things we cannot and do not control. “Yes, that’s about the sum up of it,” I responded. We laughed. I cried.

Man, I am hunting for some new “should’s.”

Dancing for joy? Not so much these days. Begging for joy while I drag myself out of bed after a night of getting up with the baby to make breakfast for a high-strung toddler that will demand to have his eggs cut just a certain way? That’s happening a lot more often. Groping for joy when I feel spent after working like crazy to get ourselves set up to serve overseas only to watch all we’ve worked for get pushed further and further back on the timeline? You bet.

Is it enough, when you don’t feel joy, to bring your request before the source of joy?

Is it enough to ask for new mercies this morning when my heart is tired and teary instead of thankful?

My heart often tells me, “You should be handling this better.” But I think it would be more helpful to tell myself, “You should take this to the Lord.”

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”

Psalm 37:5

He. Will. Help. You.

I do not have the promise that I will be strong enough. I have the promise that He will help me when my strength fails. When my joy fails. When my endurance fails. When my love fails. When my heart feels drained and I fall short of all the “should’s.” He remains unfailing.

“…For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!”

Lamentations 3:22-23

One step at a time, one morning at a time, we are going to get through this. And when we look back, we will not be impressed with how I did what I should have. We will be blown away by how God was faithful and merciful to me when my “should’s” gave out. How He crafted a story full of things I did not expect, and worked through every detail of my disappointments.

I’m still processing through having to step away from ministry in Papua New Guinea for a season, facing one health crisis after another, a car accident, the loss of our trailer, moving from house to house, feeling at a loss with my toddler, and finding myself on my knees for my baby. I want to be over it. With the good news about Benaiah, I want to dust myself off and move on full speed. But there is some brokenness that’s taking time to smooth out.

Here’s what I’m working to remember. People are not necessarily drawn to the Lord because I serve Him so flawlessly and my life is so exemplary and I move through difficulty so gracefully. My faithfulness to Him is not the point or the power of this story. It’s His faithful love to me.

Oh Lord,

Thank you for having mercy on me. May others see in me the evidence of your great kindness and patience, and so be drawn to trust in you. Remind my heart that I am not the hero of my story, you are. When I am disappointed and aching over how I fall short; over my weakness, my issues, my wrestling to believe you, my self-centeredness, pride, impatience, and anxiety – May I remember that you are patient with me.

You are steadily working transformation in my life – the things that are pleasing to you. However it looks right now, as I gaze on you, you will keep changing me. I can have hope. Not because I am performing well, but because I am your work.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For WE ARE God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

Not My Own: lifting my eyes to his worthiness, work, and power

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.

“People of Israel,” he said, “What is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.”

Acts 3:12-13

I’m going through a Bible study about parenting in the power of the Holy Spirit right now because I’m 8 weeks away from my second son entering the picture, and what I feel is: “Oh my word, there’s going to be two!!! Lord, please help me learn how to do this, quick!” 

The study has been going through examples in Scripture of the Holy Spirit working through regular, flawed people with the gentle reminder that what made their work actually work was Him, not them. And so it must be in our homes.

When we let the Holy Spirit do his work in us, we make much of Jesus to our children. But instead, we often end up trying to step into the role of Savior to our kids and then we feel absolutely overwhelmed by needs we cannot meet in our own strength. I have felt this a thousand times! In our striving, we may not even realize that we’re actually working to steal glory that belongs to Christ, to substitute our hard work for what He is able to step in and accomplish as we yield to Him and wait on Him.

The author of this study asked the question: How does Acts 3 speak to your role as a mom? I loved this question because it helped me to put into words this thought: I am just as helpless to bring about the change and growth in my kids’ hearts as I would be to take a crippled man by the hand and tell him to walk. If it’s going to happen, it will never be because of my own power or godliness. And that’s where relief enters the picture.

I could never, by my own power or godliness, do the work God has laid out for me: not in my home, not out in the world, not even in my own heart. But just as his Spirit changed everything for ordinary Peter, He is able to lead me with certainty and work through me impressively as I yield to him.  No barrier, hurdle, or limit is too much for him.

The minute I say “not my own:”

-power
-godliness
-righteousness
-wisdom
-will

“but yours alone, Lord,”

is the minute that opens the way for His limitless and awesome work. 

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”
Colossians 1:28-29

Oh Lord,

As I yearn to walk well in this confusing season away from our ministry and displaced from our home; as I long to teach my son about you and instill in him a desire to know you; as I wrestle with my own heart to trust what you are building with my life and to be faithful in whatever work you place before me, my inadequacy becomes very clear. May it lead me again to the cross. To your worthiness, work and power, not my own. 

May these moments strengthen my heart to run hard, looking to you and believing you whole-heartedly for all you are able to do in and through a life like mine.

Awkward: a new way to cut grass and do life

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love…let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

Ephesians 4:2, 23

Let me tell you a story about a missionary I recently got to visit with here in Papua New Guinea.

After years of living in the jungle, learning language and culture, and the excitement of presenting the Gospel in their heart language, he was preparing to teach the brand-new believers in his village through Ephesians chapters 4 and 5.  During lesson prep, he was considering God’s instructions for husbands and wives and how mind-boggling and challenging they would seem to these couples who have never, until now, even attempted to build a marriage based on Christ’s example of laying down every right for the sake of the other. He knew that trying this out was going to feel awkward for them; it would be totally different from the way things have always been. So he decided to use cutting the grass as an illustration.

This people group grows a lot of their own food, and they often prepare the ground for new gardens by clearing the grass. Except they have no lawnmowers.

They use a blade attached to a long handle. It’s shaped a little like a hockey stick, and in Tok Pisin, they call it a sarep. To use it, they walk back and forth, back and forth, forcefully swinging this tool to chop the grass right at the level of the dirt. It is hard, tiresome work, and there is definitely a technique to it.

The missionary asked this brand-new church: “What if you had been cutting grass with your right hand, year after year, your whole life, since you were a child?”

His lesson went something like this: What if, suddenly, you were told that you need to use your left hand instead? When it came time to cut the grass again, it would feel right to reach for your tool with your right hand. Every time you went to pick it up, you would have to fight that habit and remember to stop and reach with your left hand instead. It would take slow, awkward growth toward doing this work in a new way. That’s what it’s like to “throw off your old nature and your former way of life.” That’s what it’s like to “let the Spirit renew your thinking and attitude.” When you go to do the work of marriage, you are used to reaching for your own strength and understanding, and that’s what feels right. But you have to stop and choose to reach for something better. You have to let the Spirit teach you a new way to cut the grass.

This week, I was listening to a video teaching session on Colossians by Ruth Chou Simons, and I jotted down this quote, which I thought explained really well why we so badly need to switch hands:

“I thought it would be possible to have enough self-control to be the kind of wife I wanted to be…but I couldn’t make progress toward [it] because I was motivated by my own reputation, my own ideas of success, and my own ability to achieve. Love on the other hand is a greater motivator.”

I loved the insight that we often tackle good goals with weak motivations. Scripture calls us to be humble, gentle, and patient; to plan on each other screwing up, and to plan on making allowance for that. To look at our relationships, and budget for the forgiveness we will need to extend.

Why? To look good? To get my family to change by what a good job I do? To guarantee an outcome? To secure God’s help?

No. Because of His love.

As I become more and more like my Savior, and do the awkward work of yielding to His way of doing things, I start to speak and act in a way that is driven by love. Not by outcomes, not by lust for control or approval, but by a determined pursuit of what is best for someone else.

That is not my normal way of thinking. I am used to a different mentality and I slip easily into old thoughts and attitudes. So I need to throw them off again and again, to fight against old habits, reach with my left hand, and let Him renew my whole mindset.

“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”

Ephesians 4:21-22

So here I am, learning right alongside these brand-new believers, the uncomfortable, humbling work of exchanging my weak motivations for the compelling love of Christ and my flagging determination for a source of strength that never grows weak or weary.

Oh Lord,

Please do this in me this morning. Humble my heart, draw me to the place where I behold your love and I’m awestruck by it. Let it flow through me so that in all my interactions, I am gentle, patient, and ready to extend grace. Change me more and more so that, because of you and your work in me, I cherish others.

As I decide how to respond to whatever this day before me holds, help me to lay aside the old way of thinking and my self-dependence, and to reach, however awkwardly, for you.

When Mountains Crumble: a lifeline for the unexpected

“God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

…The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.”

Psalm 46:1-3, 11

We were so careful.

We delayed our travel. We waited for negative Covid tests. We wore masks for 3 days of air travel and airports. We finally made it to Papua New Guinea. We quarantined for two weeks. An enormous amount of effort and care went into avoiding any chance of spreading Covid from the U.S to our new home. But when we arrived, it was already here.

One day before our quarantine ended, Covid cases here had reached a point of such concern that all non-essential trips to town were cancelled. Imagine moving your family half the world away with only what you can pack into 9 suitcases and then finding out you can’t go to the store.

I cried.

We got through our first week of language learning, and two residents on our base tested positive for Covid. Classes were cancelled. Sports were cancelled. The market is closed. In order to keep from potentially spreading Covid into the community, we’re not allowed to leave the center. Our leadership is carefully navigating an extremely challenging situation, and they’re doing a great job. But the timing was hard.

When I think about why I came to Papua New Guinea, there is one main reason: to obey Jesus. The path up to this point has been full of so many unexpected turns. He has not landed us where I thought we’d be or in the ministry where I thought we’d serve. But I arrived excited, ready to start our life here, looking forward to what He had for us and how He’d use us.

All the unexpected changes during our first days here sharply revealed the other reasons I had for coming here: other hopes, hidden expectations.

I was excited to explore the beauty of the country.Ok Beka, what if you can’t leave the base? Was it still worth it to come here?

I was really looking forward to the sports.What if sports are cancelled and you’re back to running by yourself? Can you still be content?

I couldn’t wait to learn language. What if you can’t have contact with your language teacher? What if developing the ability to communicate here gets put on hold?

After moving from place to place for our entire marriage, I was looking forward to finally setting up our home. —What if you’re using a house full of things that don’t belong to you? What if settling in and making it yours has to wait?

If the other reasons are stripped away, is obeying Jesus a good enough reason, all by itself?

Can you obey Jesus whole-heartedly, even when what that looks like today is vastly different than what you envisioned? When you’ve prepared for 12 years, and then you get here, but it doesn’t look like what you prepared for – can you trust that God knew exactly what this moment would look like and that He has perfectly equipped you to step into it?

During our class introductions, one of my friends shared a verse from Psalm 16. It was a lifeline the Lord had used to carry her through loss, disappointment, and discouragement in a difficult season.

Set the Lord always before you and you will not be shaken.

Before this month, I would have said, “Yeah! I do that!” But He is starting to show me how often it is something else I set before me. And when that something else lets me down, I get discouraged. I believe that, in His love, my God allows those things to fail me. It’s not wrong to be excited or to look forward to good things. But it is crucial for my heart to re-center on the One who is the source of all those good things – the One who is enough even when all the other reasons are stripped away.

He is taking me to a place where I find my hope in nothing more and nothing less than Jesus Christ – crucified, risen, living in me, victorious, able, sufficient.

If I set Him before me. I will not be shaken. Though the mountains themselves crumble into the sea. Though earthquakes come and oceans roar and plans get cancelled and we lose any inkling of what to expect.

The Lord can use disappointment, difficulty and inconvenience to purify our dependence on him – to teach us the secret of joy. And in the midst of this, I would like to let him.

—-

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart sad?

I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God…

I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me.

And through each night I sing his songs…”

Psalm 42:5-6, 8

Not By My Own Effort: on blood, sweat, and tears and grace given freely



…We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us
. We put no confidence in human effort.

Philippians 3:3
 

I wrote a letter this morning, and as I worked to frame words that might lead to a resting place, my eyes burned. I realized that I was also pleading for myself. Maybe this morning, it’s a prayer breathed for your heart, too:

I see you and your desire to grow and to learn and to do such a good job serving and taking care of others. I see how hard you are working and how desperately you are trying. I’m praying this morning that you would feel settled in this truth: God is not disappointed in you or hoping for more from you.

So the question is this: are you hoping for more from you?

All that yearning can produce an unbearable amount of pressure, and it only helps us when we let it drive us to the cross and remind us that our best effort will never be enough, but because we have placed our trust in Christ, that longing and reaching are met in him. In him, we are perfect, well-pleasing, enough, praiseworthy, beautiful, satisfactory.

I want you to rest and to know that it is okay to be right where you are, offering yourself to Him, learning, and still finding some things difficult. 

Philippians 3:16 says this: “But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”

Our successes and our progress are gifts. They are not earnings. And that is hard to remember when we have been laboring hard. But our hearts are reassured and strengthened for the tasks ahead to the extent that we accurately identify grace and gifts given freely to us rather than marveling at what we claim our own hands have built. 

When we lay down the illusion that we have reached this place by our own blood, sweat and tears, we also lay down the pressure to tackle the next mountain short-handed.

Instead, we can look back and trace the path of his faithfulness. We can revel in gift after gift; each reflecting the generous character of a lavish giver. And we can have confidence that no matter what we face next, no matter how spent we are, we will continue to receive good things, and we will continue to be a channel of good things to others. Not because we’re trying so dang hard, but because our unfailing fountain of life will continue to be who he is toward us. 

He is ever able to keep giving as we look to him, as we keep asking for help, and as we keep thanking him for how far we’ve come. Not by our own effort, but by his undeserved grace.


…And what do you have that you did not receive?... (1 Corinthians 4:27)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

Lay Out the Welcome Mat: on how to take pleasure in weakness

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness…”

2 Corinthians 12:9

Here it is. The great, paradoxical secret that unravels the way I think.

God faithfully uses the gifting he has given me. He asks me to be a good steward of my strengths.

But his power does not work best in my strengths. His power works BEST in my weakness.


Last month, I had the privilege of contributing as a guest writer for one of Man in the Mirror’s monthly newsletters. I mentioned it (okay, I announced it with celebration and a happy dance) to my dad, who simply said, “Good. I’d like to see what you write reach a larger audience.”

I explained that I’d like to be published here and there, but I would sort of prefer that my reach stay small because I love attention and I’m doomed to become self-absorbed and inauthentic if I ever become well-known.

My dad said this:

“I’d like more people to read what you write because it generally carries a theme of dependence. And that is so needed.”

His words humbled me. It’s not about the writer. It’s about the message. And this is a message worth calling to the attention of as many people as I can possibly summon, because our souls so easily forget:

I need Jesus. I need him desperately. I must depend on Him. For my salvation and for absolutely everything after that.

“Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to impress others…We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort.”

Philippians 2:3 and 3:3

More and more, may this become my hallmark:

Dependence on the Impressive One. Awareness that without him, I have nothing to offer (John 15:5).  An ironclad grip on the truth that he deserves all the honor for anything good in my life (Romans 15:17-18), and that when I start to be impressed with myself, I have become enchanted with a sad lie; because I have absolutely nothing that I have not been given. (1 Corinthians 4:7)

May I learn to be at ease with my weaknesses and with my short supply of resources, stamina, and even the desire to produce what is good.

These are opportunities to invite him to step in, not set-ups for failure. My bad attitudes, short temper, and need for transformation are the canvas upon which he does his best work. And it. Is. Breath-taking.

May I refuse to hide my frailty. May I learn to humbly lay it out and take pleasure in it. It is the welcome mat for his grace to enter in. It is the holy place where my strengths bow out of the way and his power takes the stage. It is the starting place of every good story.

When I see my inadequacy and I decide to I call it what it is instead of hiding or posturing or striving to be enough, that is when his unimaginable endurance, creativity, hope, and light seep into the most desperate places.


Pray with me:

Lord,

You are the unfailing answer to my cry for help.

My inadequacy, my frailty, my weakness: these are your gifts to help a blind heart see how badly it needs you. They are ever more precious than the gifts I so often plead for.

Transform how I view weakness, hardships, insults. Paul learned how to lean into them and take pleasure in them. Teach me how this is possible for my heart, too, because my giving up place is your giving place.

So help me to lay out the welcome mat boldly.

“So now I am glad to boast in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Not I: a daily diagram for how in the world to navigate this crazy life

“…I do nothing on my own, but say only what the Father taught me. And the one who sent me is with me – He has not deserted me…”
John 8:28-29

I read these words and they flew up against a hard bent within me. The always-trying-to-be-enough bent that drives me to over-achieve and prove myself and never disappoint and never need help and never fall short.

But here it is from his own mouth. The One who calls me to follow his example in all things did NOTHING on his own.

That whole passage instructing us to stay in step with him, abide in him, draw from his strength, LET HIM produce his life in us instead of trying to conjure up the willpower to be good? He lived it before he asked us to follow.

This crazy life where he faced hunger and insult, homelessness and heartache, betrayal and abandonment, loss and enormous pressure to compromise, weariness and stress. He didn’t do any of it on his own. He spoke the words he was given and walked where he was led and received everything from his Father. And it was a day in, day out diagram for how in the world we are supposed do this life.


He does not want me to try it by myself.

He wants me to ask my Father for what I need. To call on my Savior for strength to take on each thing, big or small. To lean hard on his Spirit for the wisdom and guidance for each choice, as enormous or inconsequential as it may seem.

In big steps, tense discussions, inflammatory situations, choking grief, huge risks, daunting unknowns where I have no idea how to move forward. And also in just the challenging, stressful days where a crammed schedule and not enough sleep make me fear that I will give in to my irritable, selfish, harsh flesh.

May I not live in fear of the damage I might do or the damage I may sustain, but may I step forward in confidence that He is with me, giving me everything I need to face what this day holds, and He has not asked me to know all the answers or to handle one single part of it on my own.

I need to remember. I need to remember because when I feel like I’ve lost my bearings, I hang on tight. I cling to my ideas, my ways of doing things, my expectations of timing.

Ugh.

Those are the wrong things to cling to.

Lord, help me cling to you. When I feel a wave of confusion or frustration, may I reach for Jesus rather than trying to rally in my own strength.

You are enough. I don’t have to be enough for this or for what’s next or for anyone else because here you are with me, just as your Father was with you, never deserting or abandoning you.

You are enough for this. You are enough for me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

“…It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

“God has said, “I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”


Hebrews 13:5-6

Undivided Worship: on tearing down temples

“Hezekiah…was twenty-five years old when he became king…He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight…He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it…”

-2 Kings 18:1-4

My trust in the Lord is a most precious thing. Unseen wars are waged against it, constant messages seek to make it shift, even just a little. 

Reading through 2 Kings, I was struck by how many kings of Judah were godly leaders for the most part, but shied away from the bold actions their nation needed from them. They did not actively turn away from the one true God, but they allowed the worship of other idols alongside Him.

2 Kings 18 highlights one king who set things up differently. He stripped away and tore down any other receptacle of worship – even if it once served a good purpose (the bronze serpent), but had since become a replacement for God himself. 

The worship God seeks from us is pure of man’s ideas, methods, and supplements. 

Only Jehovah. Only his word. Only his way.

One king believed in his God enough to tear all the rest of it down, and when the most powerful empire in the world besieged his small kingdom, he was defended by the Angel of the Lord, who extinguished 185,000 warrior lives in the night and swept away the threat encamped outside his walls as easily as a breeze clears away the chaff. 

The massive Assyrian forces had poured across the land, conquering everyone in their path, but small Judah was impenetrable to them because Jehovah would not allow them to harm her. 

Hezekiah did not forge emergency alliances, come up with a back-up strategy, surrender to spare his people, or lay tribute at the altar of any and every god who might come to his aid. He went to Jehovah over and over and over as the situation became more dire. He held his ground and trusted his God, and his God was faithful to defend him. 

Lord,

In my life, may I be the Hezekiah, the Gideon, the Ephesian believers who burned their magic books.

It is not rare to worship you, but it is rare to worship you alone. And you treasure undivided worship.

Show me what else I add and give me the courage to tear it down.  Show me what else I point people to and teach me to use my voice for one message:
We need you, and you alone. Nothing and no one else will ever be enough.