Love Everlasting Ministries

Love Everlasting Ministries

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

This is Not My Life: Confessions of a Life-Worn Woman

                “This is not my life.”

“Those are not my children.”

“That is not my husband.”

Have you ever looked around at your life and thought any of these things?  I mean, this isn’t what we signed up for, right?  No one told us the day we walked down that isle or the day we graduated from school or the day we heard our child’s first cry that things would one day take us to the brink of despair.

That’s someone else’s life.  That’s not mine.

But then one day it is.  One day you wake up and all those women whose lives were battered by unfaithful spouses or lost children or sickness or death are suddenly not just remote prayer requests.  No longer can you abstractly look at those sad and torn lives and feel sympathy.  Now you are smack in the middle of empathy.  You’re living it, and the only thing you can do is look around and wonder, “What happened?”

The truth is that if you’ve been an adult woman for longer than three minutes, you will have experienced these emotions, and you’ll experience them more than once.  We were never promised a rose garden in this life, and for the most part, we realize that.

But sometimes it’s not just a weed-infested garden that we find ourselves in the middle of.  It’s a pool of sticky, slimy toxic waste, and we think, “Nope.  This is not my life.”

What are we to do in those moments?  What does a Christian woman do when even getting out of bed seems abundantly out of the question?

I have recently experienced yet another of those seasons in my life as a woman, wife, and mother, and I was struck with these thoughts in rapid succession.  Huddled in the corner of my bedroom, lights off, and curled up so tightly on the floor that my joints ached, the despair caught me almost off-guard.  I wasn’t even crying correctly because I couldn’t breathe well enough to make a sound.  I just rocked and gasped for air.  And then my thoughts changed from “This is not my life” to “I have to fix this!”

Isn’t that the way we are?  That’s how God created us women.  We manage things.  Paul referred to women as the “managers of the house” in Titus 2:5, and managers manage things.  Consequently, our first instincts are to manage our situations.

It only took me a few minutes, however, to realize that I couldn’t manage anyone out of anything this time, and instead of moving from that realization toward Christian resolution, I moved toward anger with God.

“I know You think I’m this strong.  I know You think I can handle this, and I know You said I wouldn’t be given anything more than I could handle, but I’m not this strong!  This is too much!”

Of course, I didn’t actually yell these things out loud, although I have before.  No, this time I screamed with boldness in my head.  I really was confounded by God’s apparent misidentification of my supposed strength.  I needed Him to reconsider.

Have you ever felt this way?  Are you feeling it now?

I am ever amazed at our Father’s grace.  I’m in awe of His constant and abiding love and patience toward us.  He could have yelled back at me right then.  He could have struck me down completely for my irreverence.  That would have been warranted.

However, what He gently did was fill my head with these words:

Debbie, I do not ordain these things in your life to point you to your own strength.  I ordain them to move you toward Mine.

You see, it will forever be our propensity to try and make things about us.  It’s my knee-jerk reaction to bolster my own fortitude and figure things out, and then to be angry when I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or tolerant enough or when I feel forced to do things on my own.  This is unfortunately an anger that when harbored will quickly turn into bitterness.

Indeed there are a lot of bitter women out there, and among them is no small number of bitter Christian women.  Why?  Because we simply aren’t strong enough, and truthfully, that was never God’s point.

Everything is about Him, and these times are meant to bring attention to Him, to His strength, His love, His mercy, His care, His tolerance, His grace, and His perfect plan.

What do we do as Christian women in moments of such complete despair that we can’t even breathe?

I was pouring out to a dear friend in the middle of this—which, by the way, I highly encourage you to do—and she reminded me of exactly what we are to do when we look at the life we now live and wonder how it all went so wrong so quickly.   She reminded me of Psalm 121,

                                                I lift up my eyes to the hills. 
                                                From where does my help come?

                                                My help comes from the Lord,

                                                Who made heaven and earth.

When you are on your bedroom floor and the pain is beyond your ability to bear, you do the only thing you can do, you do the only thing you should do, and you lift up your eyes.

Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

There are going to be moments in these lives as pilgrims in this foreign land when we are nothing less than confused by the things that happen.  We can become downcast in our souls over the heartache inflicted on us by the ones we love the most, and we will gaze at our circumstances with a sadness that feels insurmountable. 

What do we do?

We lift our tired, tear dimmed eyes toward heaven and unto our Father.  We rest in His divine and loving purposes.  After all, we have a hope that the world does not share, a hope and an assurance that we do not serve a God who is an “absentee Father.”  Our Lord is fully involved in the lives of His children, and He has promised us that He has a plan, a plan that will not harm us but will bring us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)  He has promised us that all of our lives are purposed for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)

So, my sisters, lift up your eyes to the hills.  From where does your help come?  Your help comes from the Lord, the very Maker of the heavens and the earth.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Theology Driven Womanhood

I was speaking with someone the other day, and he, when speaking of Christian women, very accurately said, “Theology must drive their uniquely God-ordained lives.”

How true.

However, that is often not the case for Christian women, and that is devastatingly sad to me.  It’s sad, and it’s a tragedy.

Our Christian society has been inundated with “women-centered” curriculum and topics-based conferences, which are good in and of themselves.  We, as Christian women, have probably never before in history had so many resources at our unique disposal that guide us and encourage us in our lives.

As I said, this is all good.

What alarms me is that oftentimes, theology is not the driving force behind most of these resources.  Womanhood is.  They’re driven by questions such as:

·         Who are you as a woman?

·         What kind of woman are you?

·         How do you live as a fulfilled and successful woman/mom/wife?

Of course, Christianity and the role of being a Christian is many times peppered into these topics, but theology…not so much.  What has consequently happened is that womanhood drives our theology, instead of theology driving our womanhood.

The results have been watered down studies or situational encouragement, all with their foundations in what it means to be a woman who happens to be in Christ.  Skimming through any online Christian resource or walking through a physical Christian bookstore, the “Woman’s Studies” section is fraught with books like Coffee with Jesus, or Living a Stress-Free Life, or Friendships of Women.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not bashing these sorts of books.  They are helpful and certainly have their place within the life of a Christian woman.  What I am concerned about, though, is that we have placed the proverbial cart before the horse.  How can I possibly know how to live a stress-free life or have correct friendships, even if the premise of these things is Christ, without having first immersed myself in the doctrine of Jesus Christ?  How can I live practically without first understanding the theology that must drive these things?

I am not a woman who happens to be in Christ.  I am a Christian who happens to be a woman.

I most certainly believe that there are Christian men and there are Christian women, and they are both called to live their lives as Christians in uniquely male and female ways.  God created us differently for a reason, and those reasons most definitely extend to how we live as men and women.  But what I also firmly believe is that there are common, distinctive theological truths that must drive both male and female lives as Christians, and if we try to live either of those paths without the foundation of this theology, we are simply spinning our wheels or even worse, spinning off course.

As I teach many woman’s seminars, workshops, and conferences, one thing I stress long before I teach on whatever woman-centered topic I may be covering is that all Christians—men and women alike—are called to first and foremost be theologians.  Know on Whom you have believed and in what you have believed.  Without that firm foundation, everything shifts uncontrollably, no matter how many times you say the name “Jesus.”

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

Too many Christian women are feverishly trying to live their lives in the best way they possibly can, ways that will bring peace and contentment to their families and themselves, but they are doing so to the detriment of knowledge first.  Without the foundation of accurate, God-honoring and God-glorifying doctrine, all of our efforts at living the successful and contented Christian life are ultimately weak and ineffectual.  As John Piper once said,

            “Wimpy theology makes for wimpy women.”

Does theology drive your womanhood, or does your womanhood drive your theology?  Sometimes a deeper consideration of where we begin will result in the success we are looking for in the first place.



Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Measure of our Words

I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!”  In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me.  I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others.  Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.

However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words?  Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss?

The truth, of course, is yes.  As believers, we know that God’s Word is very explicit when it comes to the importance in how much we say and when:

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)

As I see it, we struggle from both aspects of using our tongues to uplift and edify those around us.  Either we are so busy talking and saying what we think that we don’t measure our words against the situation into which we are thrusting them, or we aren’t saying enough, instead protecting ourselves or our feelings from the inevitable threat of pain in exposing some part of us.

It is vitally important that each of us look at this issue, not only as it pertains to our relationship to our Father, but also how it pertains to the issue of our relationships with each other.  After all, Jesus plainly told His disciples in John 13:35,

            By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Yes, we are to display love toward others, but love cannot be trusted if it is not first given in the family, both the immediate family as well as the church family.  It’s very difficult, dare I say impossible, to love our families if we don’t have relationship with them.  Learning to use our words will go a long way to facilitating those relationships and thereby give us ample opportunity to show love.

Relationship requires pretty much one thing—taking one’s self out of center and being willing to place someone else there.  Sometimes that is going to mean putting a muzzle on our mouths, recognizing that saying everything we think is neither loving nor wise.  Even if what we are thinking is correct or valid, love takes the other person’s feelings into account.  Speaking our minds is often the most loving thing to do, but just as often, keeping our thoughts to ourselves is the best way to show love to another. 

On the flip side of that coin, we many times are in protection mode when it comes to communicating.  Having conversation with another person in regards to feelings and accountability requires vulnerability, which consequently means taking the chance that our own feelings may be hurt.  It’s not easy to communicate when we may have to sacrifice the protective barrier so many of us have painstakingly erected around our hearts.

Additionally, sometimes we don’t communicate simply because we don’t think to do so.  We’re too busy, or we’re too devoted to our jobs or our studies.  The truth is that when we fail to build relationship with those we are supposed to care about because we are too busy with anything, then what we are really preoccupied with is self.  Essentially our “busy-ness” is being consumed with self.

We can come up with all sorts of justification for keeping our words to ourselves, but at the end of the day, relationship is nigh impossible without it.  Marriages collapse because of a lack of communication.  Parent/child relationships are non-existent because one or more aren’t talking.  Churches split and friendships are severed when no one communicates.  Even corporations have dissolved when executives don’t communicate with their employees or vice versa.

Relationship requires communication, and communication requires more than two people who are essentially taking turns talking.  James wrote,

Know this, my beloved brothers:  let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.

Relationship also requires commitment, commitment to another person and that person’s needs outside of what we perceive as either ours or something more important.  Would Jesus have ever seen Himself as too busy to communicate with those in His family? One situation in particular comes to mind that demonstrates our Savior’s propensity toward relationship over even ministry and His job, for lack of a better term.

Remember when Jesus was teaching His disciples and the ruler came and bid Him come and bring his daughter back from the dead?  Jesus was on His way to raise this dead girl back to life—a fairly important task by any standard.  But when a woman touched His garment who had suffered for twelve years with hemorrhaging, He stopped everything to speak to her. (Matthew 9:18-22)

Even His mission to save and heal and bring life to the dead could not thwart His devotion to relationship with His children. 

If our Savior sees relationship as this important, and communication within relationship as vital, shouldn't we do the same?

Are there people in your life to whom you haven’t selflessly given loving communication?  Is it a spouse or a child or a friend or a fellow brother or sister?  Take the words of the psalmist to heart and meditate on them:

-When you are struggling with saying too much:

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. (Proverbs 17:27)

-And when you are struggling to remember to say something:

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

After all, how can we say we love our family if we don’t know them, and how can we know them if we don’t both talk and listen to them?







Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Plague of Isolation

It’s kind of funny that we live in such a streamlined society where everybody is connected to everybody, and yet for the most part, we are utterly and completely alone.  Even conversations at tables in restaurants these days are neglected in favor of checking your Facebook status or email or texts or Twitter.  I’ve sat and watched two people sit together for dinner and never even look at one another, their attentions fully given to whatever handheld device they own at the time.  It’s never been more hazardous than now to walk down the street for fear of any number of passersby running right into you because they’re looking down at their phone instead of where they are walking.
This plague, though commonplace in mainstream society, has unfortunately permeated our Christian lives, as well.  Some of us may live in extremely populated areas, but for some reason we feel nothing but loneliness and isolation from those around us who share the most amazing gift of all time—Jesus!
I recently traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe, to speak at an Easter conference, and I was overwhelmed with the words so many of the women there spoke to me.  Had they not been speaking Shona, the native language of most of Zimbabwe, the words they were saying would have been exactly the same words I’ve heard over and over again here in America: “I’m so lonely.” 
It’s not that they are alone.  Few of us are ever alone, but the pain of loneliness is rampant among Christians.
How very sad that is.
So I began to ask myself why that is the case.  Why are members of an eternal family, truly those who are now the bride of Christ, suffering from such a condition?  I mean, I can almost understand how unbelievers might feel lonely.  After all, what do they share with others but a constant desire to figure out how to be happy or content or joyful?  We, however, have been given the key to such things, and we share that key with millions of other people, many of whom live right in our neighborhoods.  If not there, at least there are those with whom we attend church or bible study.
Why are so many of us, all over the world, still so lonely?
I’m convinced that it’s not loneliness that has plagued our existences, but isolation.  Most of us have a tendency to isolate ourselves, either in our sadness or our sin.  We might reveal some things, but for the most part, we live under the misapprehension that our suffering or our sin is somehow more extreme or more dire than anyone else’s.  Either that or we delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t want to burden anyone else with our problems, so we keep them to ourselves, simmering just beneath the surface of the smiles we paste on in public.
Consequently, many of us who have reason for the most joy experience pain that is both unnecessary and unwarranted, which is just the way Satan wants it.  If he can convince us of this lie, then what we should be presenting to the unsaved world—peace and joy that surpasses all understanding—is buried beneath a mountain of misery that lives inside of our heads.
This is precisely why we are to be who God intended His children to be, and that is relational.  We are to belong to a body of believers, not so that we fill a square in the account journal of our sanctification, but so that we can build one another up, hold one another accountable, and fellowship together.  We need our brothers and sisters and we need to seek them out.  Living inside of our own heads is exactly what Satan wants because there is no relationship there. 
My heart hurt for the women of Zimbabwe, just like my heart hurts for every woman I meet who suffers from this plague.  It hurt so much that the focus of my work with Love Everlasting Ministries has streamlined and is now going to be finding ways to break the barriers of isolation, primarily through discipleship and relational connection between women all over the world.  This is a plague that should not be, and all of us must do what we can to extinguish it however we can.
What can you do to either break out of this isolation or help others do so?  I pray that all of us seriously consider the ramifications of a body of believers who segregate themselves from every other part of the body in horrible isolation.  Move toward relationship with your brothers and sisters.  After all, heaven isn’t going to be a lonely place.  God meant for us to seek relationship with each other and the beauty that comes with that while we are here on earth.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:12-16)