Monday, May 21, 2012

Anything But Gracious

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love." -Psalm 145:8

What does it mean to be gracious?

Being gracious means being gentle, being forgiving, being slow to anger, merciful, and compassionate.  It means cutting the other person some slack.  It means not reacting even if you're justified in doing so.

It means being like God.

I admit, I often want to throw temper tantrums. I want to freak out and melt down and scream and cry and pound on the floor with my fists.  I want to cause a ruckus until I get what I want, you big meanie!

If I did, though, I think my life would look vastly different, and definitely not in a good way.

I'm just going to come out and say it:  my Daddy, God, prevents me from doing a lot of stupid stuff.

A couple Saturdays ago, when I was sitting alone during my lunch break at work, God reminded me of a moment about six months ago when I wanted to throw a temper tantrum the likes of which the world has never seen.  It just kept coming back to me, this moment, like it was yesterday.  I was hurt and angry and upset and I wanted to demand that the car I was in turn itself right around and go back again.  I wanted to pick up my toys and go home and that would be that.  How dare you do this to me?!

I really wanted to.  I almost did, in fact.  But I knew - with God's help, I remember that somehow I knew - that I wasn't supposed to behave that way.  Not now.  Not this time.  I wasn't supposed to throw the temper tantrum.  I literally, no word of a lie, was not able to.  Instead, I had to be gracious.  And with my Lord's very real help, I was.

God reminded me of how that moment, that hour, felt.  I remembered all the feelings of hurt and how I wanted to just throw in the towel right there.  And then He whispered, "Aren't you glad you didn't?"

My breath caught.  Sitting there at one of the little tables they have for us to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine amidst the concrete of the corporate call center where I work, I realized what could have been if I hadn't listened to God.  If He hadn't physically prevented me from throwing the tantrum I wanted to.  How different things would be.  How much I would have missed.  How much of God's will would not have been done.  How much of a tragedy it would have all been.  I honestly nearly cried right there thinking about it.

How much does being gracious really cost you?  Your pride, for a moment?  Is pride really worth it?  Not for my money.  Pride in being indignant, superior, offended...versus being kind, forgiving, and loving?  Being known as gentle rather than tough?  Being real with someone rather than putting up a wall of "protection"?

When I realized how much God had saved me from myself that day six months ago, it was all I could do not to kneel down on the ground right there in the middle of my workday and praise Him.  I probably should have, to be honest.  I did later, when I drove home from work and stopped at my church, kneeling at the altar in humble thankfulness.

I want Daddy to continue to keep me from my temper tantrums.  They don't accomplish anything.  Grace is what moves relationships, ministries, and God's will forward.  And if I'm known as gentle rather than tough, well, that's just fine by me.

Because in my experience, I can't afford to be anything but gracious.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


If you didn't already know, I live in North Carolina.  Last night during the primaries, Amendment One was passed.  If you don't know what Amendment One is, you can find it here.

Now, since this is not nor will it ever be a political blog, I am not going to discuss my opinions on Amendment One or how I voted.  That's not the point - because, honestly, my opinions really don't matter.  Amendment One passed and now, regardless of how you voted or what you believe, it's up to us to deal with the myriad results.

However, the passing of this amendment has caused a lot of people, including some very close to me, to become quite upset.  They've got a wild hair.  They're frothed up.  They're kerfluffled.  And that's a feeling I'm very familiar with, and about which God continues to work with me every day.

Being kerfluffled isn't fun.  It's kind of awful.  It's like flapping your arms around in the deep end of a swimming pool when you're trying to get to the other side.  It's posturing and pontificating and wailing and doing everything but what you should be doing in the situation.  Doesn't matter why, or what it's about - your relationships, your work, your ministry, your friends, your family, your state, your country, or even the world and everyone in it - ultimately, being kerfluffled in and of itself does absolutely nothing except make you look silly.

Bottom line: being kerfluffled is getting over-the-top upset about something you have absolutely no control over and expecting that to make some sort of difference.  It won't.  Trust me.  I do it a lot.  And I've spent weeks and months and years flapping my arms around at God wailing and frothing at the mouth while He's been watching me with a divine raised eyebrow waiting for me to tire myself out like a toddler and then just go take a nap and let Him do the work He's been wanting to do all along.

So then, what can we do?  What happens when things aren't working out the way we want or what God told us seems impossible or nothing is going according to plan? Well, here's a bit of what my Lord has been teaching me, if you're interested.  (Keep in mind, God lovingly but firmly beats these into me nearly every waking moment, so I'm telling myself all this just as much, and probably more, as anyone else.)

1. Pray. I could and probably will write a whole blog post (or 100) on just this.  Pray.  We often say, "All we can do now is pray," but prayer is actually the most powerful thing we can do.  It is harnessing the divine power of God, the supreme privilege of doing that which has been given to us as Christians when we pray faithfully and believe our prayers have meaning. And yet we so often overlook it, thinking we can handle things ourselves.  Go to the power source first - it's right there!

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." -Ephesians 6:18

2. Calm down and trust God.  Quit. Just stop.  No, seriously - sit down and be quiet.  Stop being indignant and angry and riled up.  Tame that wild hair.  You are not a martyr.  You are not the Only Person Who Can Fix It.  In fact, you can't fix it at all - only God can.  Things will go a lot faster if you just let Him.  Stop looking at the problem and start looking at The Solution.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13

3. Be an example of Christ.  No one is going to listen to you if you are acting unloving, belligerent, defensive, and immature.  Do you reward a child who is throwing a temper tantrum?  The way to surprise people and to do God's work is and will always be to be an example of Christ.  That means being sacrificial, giving people the benefit of the doubt, and loving unconditionally.  It's really hard - believe me, I know.  But it's what God commands us to do.  What's the alternative?

"But Jesus called them unto him, and said, 'Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.'" -Matthew 20:25-28

4. Don't give up.  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatians 6:9, emphasis mine - I couldn't have said it better.

Stop being kerfluffled.  Calm down, pray, trust God, and don't give up - in whatever situation you are facing.  Also, know that you're not alone - with God's help, I am endeavoring to do the very same.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Living Gratefully

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I haven't been posting much in my dear little blog lately, and for that, I'm sorry.  I have about six posts started, though, so hopefully there will be more reading material here soon!

What I have been doing instead of posting, though, has been incredible.  I've been living - living in the fullness of the incredible blessings God has graciously showered on me in the last eight months or so.  It is an amazing season in my life - one in which God is being glorified in ways I've been praying and believing for since I spent my year in the wilderness with Him in England in 2006.  That year when He took me, molded me, pounded on me, worked in me, softened me, and began what I didn't know would be a five-year process of turning me into Who I Needed To Be for that next step.

I can hardly believe it, but that next step is now.

Ministry.  Partnership.  Art.  Inspiration.  Edification.  Leadership.  Love.  In 2006, God spoke to me about all these things, telling me that in the future He would bring me together with someone who would be a leader in ministry and with whom I would share many passions about art, theater, writing, and faith.  We would work together in active, powerful ways to bring others closer to our Lord - work we couldn't do alone.  One would be strong where the other was weak.  One would be faithful when the other struggled.  He dragged me into that place of isolation to work on me and gave me glimpses of the future in order to help me get through the desert.

Some of the things God told me during that time were, "You can't do it.  I have to do it. Let Me do it,"  "It will be hard, but it will be worth it," and "Your future life is going to look completely different from anything you could ever imagine."

Oh my, but how true that all was.

Seven months ago, I walked into a local coffee shop and met a smiling young man after a week of exchanging long emails and deep thoughts.  That night, we ended up sitting in his car until after 2 in the morning talking about God.  And we've been talking about Him ever since.

Our relationship didn't happen overnight. (That's another story - or several - for another time!)  But it has so clearly been God's will this whole time.  He spoke to both of us individually, many times.  He spoke to us together - and still does, every week when we go to two church services together.  We ended up building our relationship on deep friendship and mutual faith, and the strength of the foundation we have is something I praise God for every day.

Now, I am proud and honored to call him so much more than my boyfriend.  He is my ministry partner, my inspiration, and quite often my spiritual leader.  We are working in ministry together in ways I never dreamed of or thought possible.  We are bringing people together in supportive faith who would never be so otherwise.  With God's help, we are walking out His will side by side.  Even more, I am watching everything that God spoke to me in 2006 become reality.

I wake up every morning praising God for His blessings, and spend every day praying about all that He is doing.  As so often happens in life, things are uncertain right now about our ministry and our future.  If I choose to let myself, I could get completely stymied in fear and not be able to keep going with what I know needs to be done.  It's a real temptation for me - but I know that would not be Respecting the Blessing, or the God who has given it.

So I am choosing to live gratefully.  God deserves praise and honor and glory for everything He is doing.  He also deserves my respect and trust to take care of everything according to His will.  It's not easy for me (though it should be, after more than 20 years of knowing God), but I am choosing to trust Him.  "Chill out, sweetie - just trust Me!" is what He has been saying this whole time.  And that has proven, obviously, to be the best thing indeed.

"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" -Numbers 23:19

It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true. -Rascal Flatts

Stay tuned - there will be more to come!