Out of My Comfort Zone

He will give me the strength I need for every step of the journey, even those residing outside my comfort zone..png

This weekend brought in a flurry of wintry weather in my area. The rain/snow/sleet mix began Saturday evening and continued until late Sunday afternoon, turning to rain overnight. According to the forecast, the rain is supposed to continue all day today (Monday). Our first winter storm of the season!

I didn’t mind the weather. It allowed Jason and I to have some quiet time together and to decorate our house for Christmas. And since we were fortunate enough not to lose power, the precipitation didn’t affect us much otherwise.  

Barnabas, on the other hand, was not a fan of the wintry mix. He didn’t appreciate the howling wind that kept him awake. He didn’t understand the constant tapping of the sleet against the windows. And the white blanket of cold, icy snow covering the ground mystified him. But the worst of it was the crashing of the sheets of snow and ice as they melted and fell from the roof, causing our confused canine to run from window to window barking at some unseen enemy. “Danger! Danger!” Bless his heart!

The poor pup was out of his comfort zone. Way, way beyond his comfort zone. I get it. I understand exactly how he felt. For him, the discomforting circumstances only lasted a few days, but for me, the process seems endless. I am thrilled that Jason and I have been called to the mission field in Wales, and part of me is excited about this new leg of our journey. That being said, there is also a large part of me that is running from place to place “barking” at some unseen enemy.   My normal has been turned upside down, and I no longer recognize my life.

The previous portion of my journey included being an integral part of our church services and enjoying the weekly fellowship with my church family. I worked on books, devotions, and videos. I poured my heart into my weekly Bible lessons for my Ladies’ Sunday School class. I made a difference in the lives of others. And it felt good. I enjoyed using my talents for the Lord and doing all I could to make others feel blessed and encouraged. I appreciated the sense of belonging I felt every time I entered our church. It was my home away from home.

But now, everything has changed. We are in a different church every week (often every service), and while many of those churches have been friendly and inviting, they weren’t my church. Because of our schedule, I have little time to work on my books and videos. I am still writing my daily devotions, but the number of unsubscribes and unfollows over the past few months causes me to question if I should even bother. My days consist of housework, paperwork, and schedules, and frankly, I’m bored. There’s more to accomplish than I can get done, but none of it is bringing meaning to my life or helping me to feel like I’m bringing meaning to the lives of others. It’s not that life is terrible. It’s just not what I imagined it would be. I’m out of my comfort zone, and my unease has opened the door to many spiritual attacks from the enemy.

You would be amazed at the junk Satan has been telling me. And unlike his usual tactic of whispering his lies in my ear, this time, he’s downright yelling at me.

“Nothing you do matters. You’re worthless.”

“You are unloved and unappreciated.”

“You are making so little of an impact on the world right now that no one would even notice if you were to disappear.”

“You’ve tried for years, and look where’s it’s gotten you. Face it; you’d be better off to quit while you’re ahead.”

“If God were calling you to the mission field, do you really think you’d be so miserable? That doesn’t sound very loving of you or your Father.”

I thought I was fighting off the lies fairly well until I had a complete meltdown this weekend (and I’m not talking about the snow and sleet). Suddenly, all the lies came crashing into my soul at once, and my calm facade crumbled. I couldn’t put on a happy face anymore, and I sobbed like I haven’t sobbed in years. Hopelessness and helplessness oozed out of me with every tear as I realized I hadn’t been dealing with the lies of the enemy. I had merely been sweeping them under the rug—ignoring them in the hopes they would go away. But they didn’t. And while under the rug, they had turned my heart bitter and my attitude sour. I was suddenly at the point where I could understand if no one else wanted to be around me because I didn’t want to be around myself.

And now, here I am. Spent. Broken. Discouraged. But somehow better. I’m thankful God allowed my attempts to run from the enemy’s lies to unravel and opened my eyes to the truths of His Word. I’m relieved (and a bit stuffy) after crying out all the frustration that had been festering in my heart and mind. It’s almost as if a wall between the Lord and me has been torn down, and I can finally see Him again, reach Him again.

At the same time, I feel like the baby bear in a video I recently saw on social media. The mama bear climbed a steep, snow-covered slope, and the baby followed in her wake. But time after time, the little one stumbled and slid down the hill, losing ground. At one point, the poor thing slipped so far down, he descended past the point where the two bears had begun their ascent. Determined, he started again, retracing the steps he had previously taken until he finally reached his mama who had been anxiously looking on from the top of the slope.

Yep, I’m just like that baby bear. I have stumbled, slipped, and slid, and right now, it almost feels like I’m at the starting point of my Christian journey. I can sit, whining and complaining about how I should be further along, or I can keep climbing. It worked for the baby bear, and I have an advantage. While his poor mother couldn’t do anything but watch helplessly from above, my heavenly Father can help me climb. He will give me the strength I need for every step of the journey, even those residing outside my comfort zone.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.
— Psalm 37:23-24

Are We Ashamed of Christ?

I’m going to take a short break from our study on the negatives in the Bible.  We’ve covered about a dozen instances of the word, “nothing,” and when we come back to the study, we’ll be looking at the word, “never.”  In the meantime, I have a few other thoughts to share with you.

As Christians, we have the responsibilityto speak the truth in love..png

This morning, I listened to an interview with the rising Contemporary Christian singer, Lauren Daigle. Before I go any further, let me say I enjoy some Contemporary music, and until now, I appreciated many of the songs performed by Lauren. I wanted to make that clear, so no one misunderstood my intentions with this devotion. I am not condemning the music or the person, but I am very disappointed with Lauren’s response to a particular question.

The interviewer asked, “Do you think that homosexuality is a sin?” This was the perfect time to speak out for her faith and proclaim the Word of God, but instead, Daigle answered: “You know, I can’t honestly answer on that because there are too many people that I love who are homosexuals. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God. So, when people ask questions like that, that’s what my go to is. Like, I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out, let me know because I’m learning too.'”

Seriously? I appreciate she recognizes that she’s not God and doesn’t have all the answers, and in a way, I respect how she pointed people to the Bible, but I have to say my respect and appreciation end there. If she can’t honestly answer whether homosexuality is a sin, she has not studied the Bible much. It’s so obvious! It’s right there in black and white. And with that single interview, my admiration for this talented singer is gone. How can I admire someone who won’t stand up for the very thing she sings about?

This topic has flooded social media, and the comments vary. Some, like me, are disappointed by how Daigle chose her fame over her faith. (She made her stand clear in the interview when discussing her recent appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. When the interviewer remarked on the possibility of saying “no” to the invitation because Ellen is an outspoken homosexual, Lauren Daigle replied, “And that would be a surefire way to end your career.” To me, she betrayed in that statement where her loyalties lie.) Anyway, others are defending her answer by justifying that if she stood up for what was right, she could ruin her career and then she wouldn’t have the opportunities she now has to reach people for Christ. Are you kidding me? How can she reach others for Christ if she’s not willing to stand for Him? And who in their right mind would honestly believe the Lord would condone such tactics?

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
— Mark 8:38

Friends, we, as Christians, need to find some balance. On the one hand, we shouldn’t shun the lost and refuse to interact with them. How will we reach them? Jesus regularly spent time with those who needed a Savior, and we should follow His lead. On the other hand, we shouldn’t water down our faith to make it more palatable for those around us. Jesus never did that. He spoke the truth, even when it hurt, and generally, those who were offended by it were the religious crowd (not saved, just religious). The Bible urges us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Don’t belittle or be cruel and unkind to those who are lost but don’t hide the truth either. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong, and it’s our responsibility to say so. Not because we are God but because we know what God has to say about sin. And if the Bible clearly says something is a sin, then we need to point that out.  

I can’t say how I would have answered the question had it been posed to me unexpectedly like that, but I hope I would say something like this: “You know, it really doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters is what God says, and He has made it clear in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin. And if God says it’s a sin, then it must be because God doesn’t lie or make mistakes. I know that statement may offend some, but as a Christian, it is my responsibility to represent my Lord and Savior to the best of my ability no matter what it cost me.”

Oh, dear friends, we live in a wicked world, and it’s easy to go with the flow, but as Christians, that’s not what we’re supposed to do. We’ve been given the duty to stand up for Christ and His Word, but too many of us are falling down on the job. Let’s beware. 

I know this comes across as harsh, and I don’t mean for it to. Again, I am not condemning anyone. That’s not my place. That being said, I can be disappointed, and I am. My prayers are with Lauren Daigle. If she is saved, I hope the Lord will convict her heart and help her to see clearly what she claimed not to know. If she is not saved, I pray she will be soon. We all make mistakes, but we must guard against allowing fear of loss or rejection to make us ashamed of the One we claim to love.  Let’s allow this interview to be a reminder to us.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
— Romans 12:2

The Story Behind the Scars

Scars tell a story,usually of a.png

As big and tough as Barnabas is, he has the most delicate skin I’ve ever seen. It’s even more sensitive than mine! If he gets scratched, scraped, or bitten by a bug, the mark is noticeable for weeks after, and, if not treated properly, will eventually scar. He already had some ugly scars when we rescued him from the animal shelter, particularly the two deep gouges on either side of his neck, but I am horrified by the idea of him having scars while being under our care. The problem is, Barnabas is a happy-go-lucky, run-wide-open boy. He’ll crawl over, under, and through just about anything. And when it comes to hiking, he doesn’t give heed to briars or sticks; he crashes through them.

After one of his last forays which left scratch marks all over his belly, I applied his special salve while telling him how I felt about the situation. “You can’t keep doing this. It will leave scars.” At that point, Jason—who was holding Barnabas still so I could apply the medicine—spoke up on the dog’s behalf, “Oh, come on, Mom. Chicks dig scars!”

Well, Jason would know. He has so many scars I can’t even count them all. There are a few from his head-on collision with a dump-truck about a month before we met. There are a couple from the time he slid down the alpine slide without the cart. Oh, and there’s the one between his eyes where he ran into the pool ladder while swimming over at my sister’s house. That’s just scratching the surface (no pun intended) of the scars he’s gained over his lifetime of manual labor, boy recklessness, and general clumsiness (sorry, darling). But, despite the scars, I love him anyway. I don’t know that I would necessarily say I “dig the scars,” but they’re a part of him, and each one tells a story.

That’s the thing about scars. They tell a story, often of a lesson learned. For example, the scar on my lip reminds me to not run near the coffee table. And the scar on my arm reminds me to be VERY careful when putting wood in the wood stove because the metal opening will burn the hair (and skin) off. Scars often remind us of times we acted impulsively or without caution. They tell stories of danger and survival, fear and courage in the face of it, and so much more. Though I don’t know the story behind the deep scars on Barnabas’ neck, it helps me understand why he balks at anyone but Jason and me trying to put something around his neck. When I see those deep gouges, my heart aches for what my poor pup had to go through before finding his rightful home with us.

Imagine how the disciples must have felt that night in the upper room when Jesus entered and showed them His scars. What a story behind those scars! The story of the God-man who suffered and died for the entire world. The tale of One who died yet lived again to tell the tale. The account of the Son of God who marched through the gates of hell and set the captives free. A story of love. Of sacrifice. Of grace.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
— John 20:19-20

(Before I go any further, let me point out that I am aware “scars” is not the most accurate term because blood is required to create a scar, and Jesus presented His blood on the mercy seat in Heaven. I’m using poetic license here by using the term “scar,” so please bear with me, okay?)

If my heart aches to see the scars of Barnabas—injuries that happened before I knew him, wounds I have no responsibility for—then how must the disciples’ hearts have ached to bear witness to the scars which were a result of their sin (and ours, of course)? Did it pain them to know they were responsible, in part, for what happened to Jesus? Were they overcome with love for the Savior who was willing to pay such an awful cost? Are we?

While we haven’t seen the scars, we know the story behind them. As the old gospel song states, “It’s all in black and white, and it’s covered in red.” It’s written clearly in the Bible for all to see. The greatest love story ever told, yet sometimes we treat it like old news. We sin willingly without ever thinking about the price of that sin. We take for granted what Jesus endured that bittersweet day on Calvary.

Oh, dear friends, may we never get over the cross. May we never forget what Jesus did for us in bearing the weight of the sin of the world. I know that my sin today does not cause any new scars for Jesus, but in my mind, it helps me to think about it the same way I feel about Barnabas. Not on my watch! Yes, Jesus died for all my sins—past, present, and future, but if I remind myself that every sin is contributing to the scars of Christ, I pause and reconsider. Is it worth it? Am I willing to sin knowing what it cost my Lord?

I can’t keep Barnabas from crashing through the forest, but I can keep myself from falling into sin. And so can you. It’s a matter of choice. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is possible. And it all begins by remembering the story behind the scars. Regarding Jesus’ scars, they do not serve as a reminder of a lesson He learned but a lesson we are learning. His scars prove just how much He loves us! And like all good stories, for those of us who are saved, we will live happily ever after!