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Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

I had been mentoring this beautiful young woman for some time when she asked the question “What is righteousness? You hear about it all the time but what is it really?” It felt like such an important question for a young person to ask and this post is based on a discussion we had.

It took me a long time to respond to her question and I think it’s because I needed to study and ask God; and to separate righteousness from religiosity. The bible talks a lot about righteousness and so does the church. As human beings, when we discuss it, I feel like righteousness and religiosity are blended together and it’s not right. Sometimes we talk about righteousness like it’s something that can be gained or perhaps earned…and maybe if you don’t have it you just aren’t that faithful. Somehow we cloak righteousness in shame. I think that’s where religiosity comes in.

Lori and I were talking about this awhile back, she says it better than I ever could so with her permission, I’ll quote her:

“Religiosity confines us and blinds us to a false state of submission because instead of submitting to God it causes us to submit to man.  Enrobed in the cloak of ‘fear of man’, religiosity also binds us and motivates us to do whatever it takes to keep a false sense of peace and harmony.  It holds us captive as victims in feelings of subserviency, inadequacy, doubt in our ability to hear God and trust what He is speaking to us, inferiority, false humility, helplessness and angst within our very core.  Religiosity cripples us and makes us reliant on the things the world (man) can offer to bring us comfort; to save us (if we DO this for that person we are going to get to heaven). It also makes us feel better about our own sinfulness by causing us to be judgmental and critical of others. It places man on a pedestal and dethrones the King of Kings totally negating what and WHO Jesus died for. “

Righteousness is something sacred and beautiful and pure – and to me, deeply private and intimate. God called Noah righteous, and David a righteous line. To me, one way of describing what righteousness is, is purity of heart…not to be confused with perfection. David sinned many times and yet God said he was a man after God’s own heart. See, it’s always about the heart with God.  He sees RIGHT to the heart and knows our motives for doing things or not doing things (long before we do). He knows all of our imperfections and our fears and our quirks – he has named every mask and wall we have.

He just longs for the heart.

This is why it’s so important to separate religiosity from righteousness because religiosity is all about performance and man pleasing. It’s all about doing right and being right.  Righteousness is a hidden gem within the heart that shines with a true love for God…it’s ALL about trusting God.  My most favorite scripture in the Bible (if I had to choose one) is in 2 Chronicles 20:12 “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you Lord.” It’s one of my favorite passages. It starts way back before Jehoshaphat’s story with two kings before him. Every time they walked in their own strength, there was war in their kingdom.  God uses war to bring us back to Him. Adversity is never wasted.  I always try to remember that when chaos threatens to overwhelm me and I’ve surrounded myself with friends who are willing to remind me. Back to 2 Chron.; when they turned their eyes to God and walked in His strength, there was peace. Righteousness is about the dedication of the heart. I don’t know if I’m able to get out to you what really fills my heart when I think of this…it’s intimate and between you and God. There is something about knowing our identity – truly knowing who we are and what we’re made for.

There is something woven tightly,
yet ever so gently into the
heart of each of us that calls out to God
and beckons us evermore towards Him.

It’s ultimately our choice which way we take. If we seek to know and be known by God in earnest, in the quiet moments when no one is watching…in the intimacy of our hearts we offer ourselves to Him – then our eyes are on Him even when we don’t know what to do. To me there is nothing more intimate than righteousness. It’s not something we can acquire or endeavor to gain.  It’s a fragrance and offering to the King as nothing else we ever could.  To me, when I look at all the men and women in the Bible called righteous, I see their hearts are towards God.  Yes they sin (we all do) but they offer even their sin to God with a love so deep that words can’t even hold it. It’s the ultimate willingness to open all of our hearts to God – even the nasty, sticky parts; the dark, hidden parts…it’s a willingness to let Him touch every part of us. I don’t know if there is anything more sacred than that.

When I asked my mentor about this, he responded by saying:

2 Corinthians 5:21 talks about where Christ exchanged His righteousness for our sin and we exchanged our sin for His righteousness. Romans talks about the imputed righteousness of Christ that is ours. That is in your words Laurel, something that can only be described as sacred and pure and beautiful. And then there is also the reality that while we do need to choose the right, in and of ourselves, left to ourselves we could do nothing right, so righteousness is something deeply intimate because it can only flow out of intimacy with Him.

I have been talking a lot about being vulnerable lately…vulnerable with God especially.  I just love that last statement by my mentor:

Righteousness is something deeply intimate because
it can only flow out of intimacy with Him.

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November was rough, I mean gut wrenchingly, crying out to God – what was I thinking, type rough (this happens from time to time)!  Do you have any idea how long it’s been since I have done Algebra?!  I was lamenting to a wise friend about school and she looked me right in the eye and said to me,

“Laurel, why is school so important to you?  Is it worth losing your relationship with your son right now?” 

WHAM! Just like that.

I went home and thought about that.  When I was a child, there were so many things I COULD NOT control…but school was the one thing I could control.  If I worked hard, I did well. Very well. If I did well at school, I was praised. It was the one thing I felt made me “good”…when so many other things made me feel “bad”. 

I look at Booker when he doesn’t know I’m watching. Those almost-man-shoulders have a slump to them that I recognize and the look on his face screams of discouragement.  The hardest part is the look in his eyes – eyes that can brighten any room now filled with sadness and hopelessness.

Is school really all that?

He talks to me about everything; long talks, deep talks.  He smiles at me.  He hugs his sister. He helps his Dad. He prays for his brother. He gets protective when someone swears around his cousin because he honors her & doesn’t want anyone disrespecting her. He stands up for his friends’ sister when his friend picks on her. He asks his friend’s mom before giving him music she might not like and if he hurts anyone’s feelings, he’s genuinely sorry and always says so. He’s not girl crazy. He’s not sneaky. He shows me his emails and his texts and asks me how he should reply to certain things; he’s thoughtful. He is a prayer warrior and an intercessor, a mediator and a leader.  He’s such an amazing young man. Would he die if he failed Science? No. He might even take something valuable away from the experience.  Would he be crushed if he thought I wasn’t on his side? Yes. Is anything worth that?

In the bigger picture of things, school is but a small slice of life…yet it has the potential to crush a spirit.

Today I will look at his heart, really look to see…
I will love him and offer him grace, knowing he offers me the same. I will teach to his spirit and imprint strength upon his heart. I am a Mama first…

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Do men change men?

Mr. Handsome and I were having coffee this morning; it’s something we purpose to do.  When we had our first baby we decided that we needed to guard our love so we committed to being “husband and wife” for at least ONE COFFEE before we went into the baby’s room to get him.  This became even more important as life got busy and we had more children. Even now, they don’t come out of their rooms until “Mom and Dad have been husband and wife for one coffee!” : )
This morning I  ask him…Do men change men?

I’ve discovered something, women change women!

THAT is the reason we have to be thoughtful and careful about whom we choose to share ourselves with!  Women really do change one another.  If the friends you spend time with are negative and constantly complaining about their husbands, guess how you’ll be feeling about yours?!  Don’t get me wrong, that does not mean we only spend times with people who are always up and cheerful. Goodness knows that isn’t really possible.  But if you are struggling in your marriage, the best thing to do is find someone who isn’t and spend as much time with them as you can, as a couple if possible.  If you are having a hard time with your teen, find someone who’s been through it, who has wisdom to offer and seek it!

I have this beautiful friend who was recently here visiting with her family…we had such a lovely time together. We cooked together, laughed together, and truly shared our hearts. We’re meant to impact one another; and believe me friends, we do!  I love how this friend is willing to embark on this grand journey she’s taking and how she loves her husband, and adores her kids.  I love that she encourages me, prays for me, walks with me.  I love that when she comes, I am filled with excitement and when she leaves I feel refreshed and truly thankful for her friendship (and family).

“Sure, I think men change men.” Mr. Handsome replies, “It’s not as obvious as it is with women because the dynamics are different but it can happen, all the same.”

I want to challenge you a little, dear readers.  We all have times when we need others to pour into us and walk along side us.  It’s important to allow others to do that. But we need to be purposeful about pouring into others also.  No matter where  you are in life, there is something you can give.
A gift doesn’t have to be something you buy.

Spend yourselves wisely dear friends!
Everything you give and take has an impact on someone!

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I mentioned in my last post that I am deeply impacted by Robb Nash and his story – but it’s so much more than that.  His story is just a piece in my own story and through it all, I’m discovering something. A great discovery.

I am not alone.

The more of myself I share, the more others open their hearts to share with me. And there is a common theme among us – pain…and love. We all possess a measure of both and we all choose carefully, how much of each we’ll share. I’ll be totally honest, most of the time here, I go through my pain, figure it out and then write about it! And to my utter amazement and surprise, you respond with kindness. My hope is to sometimes make you laugh, perhaps your heart cries with my own at times and maybe every now and again I can share a new perspective with you and get you to ask some great questions – of yourselves, of God. It started out as something rather selfish – just needing to get the words out…like a desperate cry of my heart, the freedom to fly and be heard…but I’m discovering so much more.

There is something wonderful about vulnerability – it draws us out, invites, inspires and gives us hope. Is there anything more powerful than hope?  It’s because of hope that we have faith. Because of hope, we find courage.

As I’ve given you a glimpse of my story, of my pain and joy and love – you’ve given me so much more. In hope I have dared, tentatively at first, to reach out my small hand…into the darkness I have reached. And dear friends, in hope, you have blessed me beyond measure, each of you in your own way – you’ve reached back. In the loneliness of my reaching, in the darkest hours of the past 3 years, a warmth overtook me as I realized that my small hand was filled with the warmth of yours.

I am not alone.

We really are meant to do life together. Out of respect for the depth with which you have shared with me, I commit to writing in a new way.

One of you asked me once, “What is the point of going back? Why do we have to drag out our stuff?!”

For me, it’s like I’ve lived life beneath a thick layer of ice…through which I could see in muted shades and hear the voices dulled. I could see the images, blurred and subdued. The terror of suddenly realizing I’m trapped beneath the ice…

I am alone in the dark.

But that still, small voice comforts me.  Over the past three years I have experienced an unthawing, slowly at first…I noticed that there were openings in my ice. I could see something new and odd – I moved closer to inspect and there they were…

Bubbles.

In the depth of the cold, dark water, nothing could get in to hurt me, but nothing could get out either. It’s through those small openings that I tentatively began to reach for you…It’s then that I noticed how the light struck the bubbles as they raced towards the surface to explode in a celebration of JOY.

Pure Joy.

I think this might be a revelation – an unveiling of what it means to experience Joy in the Lord. It means experiencing joy in the midst of hardship. Not ignoring the Hard. Not suppressing it. Not turning my back on it…but knowing that I can cry when I need to, I can laugh with abandon. And all the while I am not alone. And in my tears, my joy – I can share with you and it matters. Your sharing with me has mattered, it’s impacted me. It has touched me and changed me.

We can’t move forward unless we’re willing to look back and face the pain. If we try, we’re simply living a life, frozen by the constant, cold wind in the flurry of busyness. We’re meant for more than this dear friends! You have shown me that with your gentleness in hearing my stories, in walking with me, and caring for me.

Look to the right and you’ll see a new category called “Questions”.
All of this unthawing has given me much to look at. The colors are brighter, the sounds are sweeter, the fragrances saturate me and there are questions…

What is love worth if one never knows they have it?
What good does a smile really do if there is no one to see it?

So in my genuine desire to be vulnerable and real with you, I invite you to join me as I write – may it inspire you to dream, to write, to ask…

To seek.

There is more to come dear friends. We’ve only just begun…there is a whole new year ahead and discovery waits at every turn!

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