Two years ago, (12/05/2014), I took a Facebook quiz that gave me probably the most accurate results I’ve ever gotten from any of the tons of hokey Facebook quizzes I’ve ever taken. The quiz was entitled “Which Justice League Superhero Are You?” Much to my husband’s great delight, I got “Wonder Woman” (he’s a huge fam). Normally, I am a fan of being associated with anything that my husband is a fan of because – ya know – it’s been 23 years and I like him and he likes me and, well, why not?! And besides, what girl in her right mind wouldn’t want to be Wonder Woman. But before I get too off-topic, or start “fan-girling” (as my kids would say), let me tell you: what got me most “excited” (thought I’m not quite sure that’s the right world) was the description behind the results. Here is VERBATIM what I was told:
You are an idealist and a mediator, able to see and respect different viewpoints and to encourage others to embrace acceptance and compromise. You have a deep love for people in all of their diversity and empower those who are underrepresented and less powerful. You are honest and expect others to be honest in turn, even if the truth is painful. Some people are intimidated by your ideals and consider you to be a radical, but you will never let ignorance and cruelty stop you from believing in what’s right. Others might consider you a naïve dreamer, but you are wise beyond your years and your selfless defense of other people is invaluable.
Now…who wouldn’t want that kind of description?! Right?!
Before I go any further, let me just say, for the most part (and I mean, like 99% of the time, the results I get from these quizzes are bogus. And I only take them for fun. However, I always answer the questions honestly simply to see how accurate an assessment is being offered.
This one is extremely accurate, of me at least. And in case you’re wondering, NO, I don’t think it’s accurate because I want it to be. But I have had many people come into my life over my 42 years and the ones I’ve had the time to get to know the best, and who’ve gotten to know me truly, have all said the same thing.
However, lest you think I’m about to break my arm patting my own back, I would like to tell you why I am sharing these quiz results with you.
For most of my life, I have wanted to be a part of the in-crowd but was relegated to the shadows. For just as long, I have known this was treatment NOBODY deserves. But because most people believe they are bound by stupid, societal, “supposed to” rules which perpetually feed an unfair and imbalanced caste system, we are all subjected to various forms of “ASSIMILATE OR DIE.”
However, I have not lived my entire life on the outskirts. In fact, I have been right in the thick of the in-crowd a couple of times in my life, and MOSTLY I was happy to be there. I felt like I had finally made it, like I had received all I had ever wanted. You know what I found? “ASSIMILATE OR DIE” is in full effect within the group too. While there are profoundly unbreakable rules in place designed to keep outsiders OUTSIDE the group, there are also just as many rules in place to keep insiders to the group in their place.
I never enjoyed being an outsider. I always thought people surely must not know what they were missing. Cliques were so stupid. However, as much as I couldn’t stand being an outsider, the constraints of being part of the in-crowd are worse FOR ME.
The safety of the in-crowd hinges on a willingness to jealously and zealously guard the borders of the group. But I could not do it. I would not.
People are people. Status doesn’t matter. In-crowd, outsider, doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is your story.
What’s more?! I’ve felt more accepted by outsiders more often than I’ve ever felt accepted by the in-crowd. And the kicker: I didn’t have to sell my soul to get it. Furthermore, I’ve learned some of my most profound theological and spiritual lessons from the outsiders.
You see, one of my closest friends was THE major outcast in the town where she grew up. Another dabbled in witchcraft in her youth. Yet another has tattoos the likes of which would have been looked down upon by many of my more “supposed-to” prone friends. And the man I’m married to is someone I’d have never been allowed to date. One thing they all have in common (besides me) is they all have a story I’ve seen many folks balk at getting to know because they are good, “supposed to” stories.
Being part of the in-crowd, too often, has required that I set aside such foolishness as thinking everyone’s story deserves to be heard. Maybe it is naïve of me, but I’ve always thought the passages in Scripture where Jesus healed lepers and touched the most untouchable ought to be our leading examples of how to treat people. If Jesus could minister to lepers, prostitutes, and tax collectors, surely those who call themselves Christians ought to be ministering to the addicts, prostitutes, homeless, etc.; to ask them to obey Scripture by not preferring the rich and giving them a seat of great honor in our temples.
If that makes me naïve or a radical so be it. If it makes me an idealist, FINE. If it’s intimidating, so be it. My only response is: if my way of thinking somehow threatens your way of life, perhaps that says more about you than me. Personally, I’ve spent enough of my life apologizing for believing what the Bible says and choosing to be obedient while good people go unknown and outcast for failing to live up to the fickle and arbitrary standards of a small group of “supposed to,” clique-ish folks who think they’ve arrived when really, we’re all still just trying to make it.
Seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God and see how many interesting but saved-by-grace outcasts He leads you to.
You’ll be amazed!
WOW! It’s been a LONG time! I feel like I should apologize for not posting so long but I know that’s just performance-based anxiety-guilt talking, so I won’t. I also won’t make any lame excuses about time having gotten away from me.
Truth be told, when I started this blog, it was in a desperate attempt to bring something of value to God and to be thought something special enough to have some very desperate prayers answered. He did answer those prayers and, immediately upon receiving my answers, my life entered a surreal tailspin. WHY? Well, the short answer is because God did not answer the way I wanted Him to. He didn’t even answer the way He typically had for most of my life up until that point.
What I began to realize – with the Lord’s help – was that I had been under a pseudo-assumption that God and I had entered into a type of contract. I say “pseudo” because, had you asked me if I believed that, I would’ve said NO. Because, of course, that is absurd. God wants it all, or nothing at all. There is no contract. No deal. No negotiations. No bargaining. But prior to that one fateful day in March 2013, my life had pretty much resembled a contract. To my mind, at least.
I did my part. I was the obedient, good little, Bible-study-attending, never-miss-a-Sunday-or-Wednesday-service, church girl. And God did His part and delivered me SWIFTLY – as promised – from ALL my troubles.
It was a pretty sweet deal. Until it wasn’t.
Because, one day, He said NO. And that no led to another no. And that no led to another no. Until the “no’s” were piled so deep I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever hear a “yes” again.
And just when I felt like I couldn’t possibly hear another “no,” Rejection came. Well-meaning, good hearted, people thinking they were helping (to shake me loose from an obviously-self-imposed rut; who thought I was somehow guilty of the sins of pride and sloth; or that I was refusing to help myself by not stepping out in faith, by trusting God) dropped my hand.
I suppose they felt like they were the only ones walking the path we were on and they were tired of carrying me or dragging my dead weight. I don’t know exactly.
All I know is what I was told: we simply do not have the grace to serve you and your family anymore.
BOOM! Another no! Only this time it came from Job’s friends and was paired with exhortations to get on with my repenting because surely I was sinning.
The damage was more than I could bear. AND, I was mad! My friends had hurt me and God had let them, and I couldn’t make anyone believe that the way there saw things was not how they really were. How could I continue to attend a church where a small – but very important – group of people (people who had walked with us from the beginning but now had not grace left to extend) would now turn their backs on me?
Did I put more trust in them than I had placed in God? The answer was obvious, given how devastated I was over something I had been certain for two years was inevitable.
People will always fail me. And God will let it happen whenever I start to trust in men more than I trust in Him.
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn many times and, sometimes, very painfully. And still, my first instinct is to ALWAYS try to figure things out.
It is with that in mind that I have chosen this year’s course of study.I am choosing to focus on Abba Father this year. What He says about me. What the Bible says about Him. His promises to me. And how His Love for me is based on His Goodness and not on my ability to do enough good often enough to feel worthy of that Love.
The plan I had before (the plan I had when I started) was all about me bringing something to God, hoping He’d love me. This plan – which I’ve prayed over since before Thanksgiving – has its roots in The Father, and not in my own pride. My goal is to draw near to God so that He will draw near to me.
I’m going to be blogging my S.O.A.P. notes for each scripture. I will also Instagram a shot of each page (if you prefer to follow me there: @pattyh29). I will be using the hashtags #gettingtoknowthefather and #iknowabbalovesme.
I would love for you to follow along with me and let me know your thoughts. BUT, I’ll be here, even if you don’t. Loving My Father and Letting the Father love me.
READ: Read the passage aloud slowly. Haman is upset because the king ordered all those at the King’s Gate to bow to him, and Mordecai the Jew does not (see Esther 3:3-6).
(9-13) Haman left the palace that day happy, beaming. And then he saw Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate ignoring him, oblivious to him. Haman was curious with Mordecai. But he held himself in and went on home. He got his friends together with his wife Zeresh and started bragging about how much money he had, his many sons, all the times the king had honored him, and his promotions to the highest position in the government. “On top of all that,” Haman continued, “Queen Esther invited me to a private dinner she gave for the king, just the three of us. And she’s invited me to another one tomorrow. But I can’t enjoy any of it when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s Gate.”
THINK: Read the passage again slowly.
How did Haman’s preoccupations affect him? What did those preoccupations reveal about the kind of person he was inside?
Haman was filled with hatred for the Jews. Any time Mordecai did something that drew attention to the fact that he cared less about Haman (or the government) than he did about God, Haman became livid. It’s no wonder that he was having a hard time enjoying the fact that he was about to go have dinner TWICE with the king, at the queen’s request. Of course, had he known the reason why he was going, he would’ve realized that he had need to be preoccupied with more pressing matters, seeing how his plans to annihilate the Jews was about to outed to the king by the queen.
What preoccupations have filled your mind for the past 24 hours? What do these preoccupations reveal about who you are inside?
Wow…this is a question. Considering I am typing this up about 2 weeks late, I think it’s safe to say that my mind has been extremely preoccupied lately. But, for the past 24 hours, I have found myself thinking about the classes I am about to start (the last 2 of my 4 intensives), missing my husband, needing a job, a few impending deadlines, the precarious state of my life come the first of the year, my sometimes overwhelming desire to FIX my life even though I am where I am because I trusted God in the first place. So….yeah….I’ve been a little preoccupied. What do these preoccupations say about me? Well….that I wonder (and sometimes worry) A LOT about what tomorrow is going to look like rather than trusting that the God who delivered me into my current set of circumstances will also deliver me to where I am supposed to be in the future. My preoccupations say that I miss my husband. They say that I have a hard time trusting God when life doesn’t make sense. They say that I have an even harder time trusting God when I don’t get my way. But…most of all, I think they say that I have a hard time trusting God because I have a hard time believing in His Love for me.
Now…don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that if I really believed He loved me that I wouldn’t worry at all. What I think is that I would not think twice about bringing all my cares to him and leaving them at the cross. One of the thoughts I had this past 24 hours had to do with the amount of things that I do not ever bring to God. I was driving to my intensives, a 4-hour drive, in the drizzly rain, on somewhat slick roads, and about half-way here, I thought: Maybe I should’ve stopped to ask God to keep me safe while I was driving. I did, right then. But my very next thought was: “Well, He’s either going to do it or He isn’t. But…what if I pray that he keeps me safe, and then something happens? I’m not unsafe now. Maybe I shouldn’t jinx it.
The conclusion I came to (or that I am coming to as I keep typing) is: my relationship with God looks like I spend a whole lot of time hoping that He is not as indifferent to me as I feel He is. As a result, every pray I pray is hesitant, like a baby learning how to walk, whose every step is halted and shaky. I think the major difference between me and the baby is that the baby doesn’t wonder if his feet are going to hold him up when he puts them back down on the floor.
But…the encouraging thing is: I know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). So what that means is that each step I take toward God, hesitant though it may be, is an act of faith. It has to be because I have to believe that He is a reward of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If I didn’t believe in the power of God and in the power of prayer, why would I go to Him at all?
I wouldn’t. And before all this “garbage” happened in my life, I wasn’t really going to him. I was not trusting God as if my very existence depended upon him. I wasn’t really having to trust him for much at all. As such, I never really came to a point of having a crisis of faith. I never had to. Of course, what that really means is that I really only had a picture of what faith should look like, rather than having faith itself.
What things would you like to be preoccupied with?
Hhhhmmmmm. At this present moment….NOTHING. I’ve had so much on my mind for so long, it’d be nice to have nothing to think about for a while. I guess, though, more to the point, I’d like to not have so much to obsess or worry about. I guess that brings me to the next portion of this devotional, as well as where I leave you for the day. Take the rest of the time to do what the rest of the devotional says. See where it takes you…….
PRAY: Pray this verse in your own words: “Set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2, NIV). Ask God for guidance in what kind of person you want to be and what to focus on.
LIVE: Dream about the kind of person whose mind is preoccupied with God. Contemplation is a time for receiving from God. Receive an image of yourself from him. Embrace the future you.
I am in Kansas (and sometimes Missouri) visiting my husband. As I was driving to my hotel yesterday, I was looking at all the perfectly manicured fields of crops. I was thinking that we’ve come a long way since the days of Little House on the Prayer when one man and a horse would plow a field. Now we have tractors with GPS designed to make sure that farmers can get the maximum amount of usage out of their fields as possible. The GPS directs the tractor and the farmer gets to sit in the sometimes-air conditioned cab checking Facebook or Pinterest (that’d be me), while the tractor practically drives itself. It is a model of efficiency. Albeit an expensive model. Any farmer will tell you that the equipment that comes with being a “for-profit” farmer (and I use that term fairly loosely) is quite expensive. That got me to thinking: what would I be willing to pay for someone to sit on high and direct my life so that I got the maximum amount of use out of it and precious little wasted space, all my rows would be plowed straight, and all I had to do is sit back and take direction. It seems it’d be priceless. Then, it occurred to me: I already have it. I just forget to turn it on.
How many times, as Christians, do we – as adopted sons and daughters, having access to all the power given to Christ – forget to appropriate that power as we go about our daily lives. All we have to do is go to God in prayer. And yet…we choose to see if we can do it on our own, and wonder why we live so much of our lives frustrated!
Today, as I was on my way to visit my husband, a song came on the radio I’ve never heard before. It’s called “Say Amen” by a group called Finding Favour (go check out the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRcvcF_0_9M). There’s a line in the song: Anybody here who’s walked through the fire – say Amen. It’s referencing the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel.
I remember when the ladies in our church did the Precepts Bible Study by Kay Arthur on the book of Daniel. When we did the chapter that covered this story, my family was still in the early stages of our current ordeal (we had not even been to trial yet). Anyway…I remember thinking, at that time, that we were sitting in the fire, and I was starting to feel scorched. HA! We were getting closer to the furnace, and it was hot. That’s for certain! We had not been thrown in yet.
Then, for the first year Rabbit was gone, I thought, for sure, that I was going to be consumed in the flames. Surely, it was just a matter of time. But, day after day, I got a little stronger, a little more determined, and started looking around, noticing that I was not burning up. I was no less mad about being in the fire, or at the insane miscarriage of justice that landed us there, but I was not burning up. Yeah…it’s hot. I’ve sweated plenty. But I’ve not been consumed. My family has not been consumed. My husband has not been consumed. Our spirits have not been quenched. Instead, we have been made to see that hat Satan really wants is to destroy the family. Our family. He hates the family. And he knows that if he can destroy the family then he will have effectively destroyed the church!
This whole time I’ve been thinking that we’ve been making it because we are just too stubborn to quit. And while I think that’s partially true, it’s not the whole truth. As my mom once told me, you can break a stubborn horse. But a strong-spirited horse will never be broken. It may appear broken for a bit, but it is merely waiting for the chance to break free!
I’ve been using the word surreal to describe how it feels to be walking through this and not feel like I’m falling apart. That’s not the right word. Supernatural is a better word.
There are marriages and families falling apart every day, and even more than normal amounts for inmates. Why should it be that our family has not only NOT fallen apart, but is easily as strong as before in most ways, and EVEN STRONGER in others if not for divine intervention, if not for the Grace and mercy of a Heavenly Father, and His Son standing in the fiery furnace with us?! It just doesn’t happen?! It’s just not logical.
Those are just a couple of the things that occurred to me over this last week that I thought I would share with you.
I don’t have all the answers to my own stuff, so I could not dream of giving you answers. But what I can tell you is who does. Turn on your GPS, folks. Let God’s Position System direct you in the path you should go. Even if it means you end up walking toward and into a fiery furnace. As the saying goes, “If He leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it.” But the best thing about God is that He goes before you, preparing the way. If you are in the furnace, trust that God was there before you, beckoning to you, asking you to endure the refiner’s fire, so that you can come even closer to bearing the image of your Creator. He wants to burn off all the impurities in you so that He can see His reflection in you! For that kind of work, He has to be right up there, at the furnace, turning you over and over in his hands, pulling you out, checking on you, looking to see if all the dross has burned off yet. If not, he’ll put you back. But not forever. But…hot or not, He’s still there.
Anyway…that’s all I’ve got for today. I hope you had a good weekend. Talk to you tomorrow!
READ: Read the passage several times.
2 Chronicles 30:1, 5-9
(1, 5) Then Hezekiah invited all of Israel and Judah, with personal letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, to come to The Temple of God in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to Israel’s God…. And they sent out the invitation from one end of the country to the other, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north: “Come and celebrate the Passover to Israel’s God in Jerusalem,” No one living had ever celebrated it properly.
(6-9) The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitation from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah. The invitation read: “O Israelites! Come back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria. Don’t repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on God, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin–you can see the ruins all around you. Don’t be pigheaded as your ancestors were. Clasp God’s outstretched hand. Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time. Serve God, your God. You’ll no longer be in danger of his hot anger. If you come back to God, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home. Your God is gracious and kind and won’t snub you–come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms.
THINK: As you read, listen for a new perspective on the way life is, or the way God is, that stands out to you today. Perhaps you will notice that God can have dangerously “hot anger,” yet under other circumstances he is tender and open to a people who have walked far away from intimacy with him. Maybe you’ll be struck by the pigheadedness that kept some Israelites from taking “God’s outstretched hand.”
PRAY: Study the perspective you’ve absorbed, looking at it from different angles and holding it up against different experiences you’ve hand. Do you ever fear approaching God because you worry he might snub you? Have you ever refused grace? Consider a specific situation. Then become aware of God’s presence with you. Tell him what was going on during that time. How does the God of this passage (offering his “outstretched hand” to the Israelites) compare to your image of God in that situation?
I have frequently worried that God might snub me and, many times, that fear has kept me from approaching him boldly. It has kept me from feeling like I could hold Him to His word. The Bible is full of promises. I know this. But it’s so much easier to believe that those promises will hold true for others than for me, especially when I’m in the throes of a pity party. I constantly have to remind myself of the verse that says that God is no respecter of persons. I know that verse was referring to judgment, but wouldn’t it also extend to his promises. If His grace is sufficient for you, then it must be sufficient for me too. If his provision, his timing, his love are always perfect for you, then, they must always be perfect for me, as well. So then…that means the problem is not God, but me. Refusing to reach out and grab hold of God’s hand because I fear He will snub me says more about me than it does about him. It says I have a faith problem.
A friend of mine once gave me an analogy that, I think, fits this situation perfectly.
Imagine there’s a chair in front of you. Do you ever wonder if the chair is going to hold you up before you sit in it? If it looks rickety, maybe. But if it looks new, if it looks sound, you just sit. You don’t stop and wonder. That’s faith. It isn’t faith until you place your bottom on the seat and let it have your full weight. It’s not faith to think the chair can hold you. It’s not even faith to know that the manufacturer says it can hold up to 200 pounds. Faith comes with the sitting and resting on the chair, trusting that it won’t crumble under you and let you fall hard on your backside.
I have to admit: for a huge chunk of my life, I have not had that kind of faith. I’ve had the dip-my-toes-in-the-water kind of faith. Yes, I can swim. But, yes, I could also drown. I’ve let fear of drowning keep me from plunging into the depths of this walk of Christianity. This time 18+ months ago, I was operating on faith. I took a plunge. A scary one. And for the better part of the last 18 months, it has felt like a sat on a chair that gave way underneath my weight. But I think what I’m finally starting to see is that I had constructed the chair that I tried to sit on. Jesus was not my foundation. No…my foundation had been the carefully constructed plan I had made for my life, and that had pretty much worked out the way I thought it would. Sure, there had been times when all I had to go on was actual faith. Many times. What I have discovered over this last year-and-a-half is that those time when I was operating purely on faith in the Lord were times when I was struggling, times when I knew there was no way I could help myself out of the situation I was in. All I could do was obey God, every day, and pray that He knew what was best for me and that His plan would work itself out. And it did. Every. Single. Time. That simple fact is the one thing that has kept me afloat since this whole thing started. Everything hard I’ve ever had to go through, for which I’ve had nothing to rely on other than God, has worked out just exactly the way it needed to. And, it was not over one second sooner than it needed to be, and it didn’t last one second longer than He needed it to.
Have I snubbed God’s grace? Sure. Who hasn’t? But the one area where I have not, the one area that I never really realized that grace was active and abundant in my life: perseverance. It takes grace to persevere. There have been many days where, by the end of the day, I was “SO DONE.” But the grace of God is that tomorrow does not have to be like today. And I can get up and do what I need to do tomorrow because I need to get up and do it. I have children at home, watching me. If I give up, what kind of example will I be setting? Do they see me low? Of course. There have been days when I have told them that I just need a “mental health day” and they have to go to their rooms and I go to mine, and “we” let me recover. My youngest is not fond of having to spend too much time alone, so this is practically punishment for him. This means that I have to use a lot of finesse when I am breaking this news to him. Lots of reassurance that he is NOT in trouble is often needed. So, I cannot take these days often. Besides, it feels indulgent. And not in a good way. I know, deep down, what I really NEED most on those days is to get up and do something for someone else. But sometimes, it takes me a little bit to remember that. So, once I do, I get up, get over myself, and get on with life. I think that is a measure of grace as well.
So, dear readers, I don’t know where you are in life, right now. Maybe you are going through a hard time and feel like nothing is making sense and like you are struggling just to make it through the day. Maybe you are a mom, living for naptime and bedtime because you feel like you are going to go crazy. Maybe you are a dad just hoping you don’t screw up your kids because you are the man of the house and there is more pressure associated with this job than you ever dreamed. I have just one prayer for you, just one word of encouragement.
Keep going. Don’t stop. God will meet you every single step of the way. When you find that He isn’t meeting you, or you feel like you haven’t heard from Him in a while, pull back from your “schedule” and see if maybe you haven’t run ahead of God. He has plenty of grace for the step you are on, but you have to stay on the step He wants you on. Otherwise, you are just running on your own steam. And, eventually, you are going to run out of steam altogether.
LIVE: Close your time today by saying the Lord’s Prayer. Speak the words aloud very slowly. Picture the righteous but compassionate God described in this passage, the One who is hearing your prayer now: “Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right, do what’s best–as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep up safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze with beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. (Matthew 6:9-13)
I pray you all have a blessed day! Take care of yourselves. And remember, God gives us EACH DAY our DAILY BREAD. We don’t get to keep yesterday’s bread. And he won’t lend us the bread for tomorrow. Trust that he has rationed you just enough bread for today because He loves you fully. Today. And because He wants you to trust Him for tomorrow’s ration tomorrow, He has set aside for you a ration for tomorrow as well. He is already there. He has a place prepared for you. So, walk today, trusting that today He’s got you covered; and tomorrow, He will too.