Natural Reality, Spiritual Maturity

She’s very spiritually mature, but in her life, not so much.

These words, spoken by a dear friend as she shared a recent experience, fell with a thud into my heart. I found myself aching with the Father’s heart.

If spiritual maturity is not expressed in your natural reality, it is not spiritual maturity.

This is hard to hear, but wisdom offers us the kind invitation to bring our tangible into the eternal. Otherwise we are double-minded and unstable, because our words give testimony to something that our reality denies.

It is good for us to take a moment together and examine: the Father I give my words to—does He really have permission to be Himself in my life?

If you really believe what you say you do, it will bear fruit.

False maturity is easy to learn by observing, like all behaviors. Additionally, we can accidentally mislead those coming behind us, because they trust our example as a good one. Our lives either point to the standard of Jesus, or offer excuses for falling short of it.

This is the call of sonship in the kingdom: follow me as I follow Christ. When Jesus said to pick up our cross, it was a very sobering invitation to become very aware that our lives will affect those around us. Everything truly matters. Everything. All of it.

  • We cannot value the kingdom and neglect to financially sow into it. If we have money for excursions and cable but not for the Father’s work, it is possible our finances are by flesh, and not by Spirit.
  • We cannot truly honor our fathers and mothers and neglect the batons they hand us. If they are still consistently doing for us the things we have been equipped to do for ourselves, we are displaying entitled laziness and are dishonoring their seed in us.
  • We cannot believe our identity and neglect work. Those consumed by the Father’s heart are consistently discovered to be in faithful, creative motion. This is not only the work of ministry, but also the industrious labor that produces income, employment and livelihood for ourselves and others.
  • We cannot expect abundance and increase if we are not treating the things we already have with value. If we have been given a small portion, and it is in disrepair, immaturity is giving evidence that you cannot handle a little, much less a kingdom. What you do have, take care of it. It is all His already—are you proving your maturity in excellent stewardship of what you have been trusted with already?
  • We cannot value unity and family if we are neglecting the one at home. Your spouse—are you giving them your heart as frequently, tenderly and transparently as you offer it to us? Do you extend forgiveness and compassion easily to the ones you do life with? Do you take the time to hear them, or is your family time predominantly centered around the television or a cramped calendar?

Let us be willing to look inside and allow true spirituality to produce lives that are fully interwoven with the Father’s standard. Let’s not stop short, content with a smokescreen spirituality that leaves us a desert reality. Let’s not close off any part of life to real Life—let it be alive and growing and bearing fruit.

…Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… (Phil 3:12)

So that every part of who we are gives testimony to His grace-filled reality.

Did God Really Say

But if the question demands an answer, still your heart from all temptation to frantically paw at the water as one who fears drowning.

I think humanity has been hearing this question since the beginning of time.

“Did God really say…?

I was sitting there with my coffee and I heard it whisper subtly into my soul. But it was aimed poorly, pointed at a piece of my heart that had no longer had roots in the flesh, and was therefore immune to collapse.

But I recognized it, like an echo or reflex. My soul responded to that question, that quietly offered thief, as a familiar face at the gates, as though it came from a neighboring country trading cheap but inferior grain.

It was so sharp a moment that I almost flinched physically, clutching my mug in my fist.

I realized it was a one-size-fits-most template, a lazy dart able to find the shallow, vulnerable roots of weak faith. If the tree was rooted in an emotion-driven relationship with the Father, this dull axe would sink deep.

I saw that most days, it takes very little effort to rob the forward motion from heaven’s heirs. Yet, truly, I believe we often start our days and months and years armed with good plans and brave ideas.

But the question always comes, driving straight to the intersection of our confidence in the reality of our Father. The core of the question is unspoken: is He real and do you believe Him? 

To stop a prince in his tracks, all a liar has to do is make the King seem weak.

Did God really say He would give you His inheritance, His fullness?
Did God really make that promise in your life?
Did He really say that, or was that your imagination?
Did God really put that in your heart, or are you wrong again?

Did He really seat you among these flawed people and call them your family?

Did God really say that thing is forgiven?
Did He really ask you to overcome this hard thing?
Did He really ask you to take this risk?
Did He really heal your heart?

Did He really create you for this time in history?
Did He really say He loves you?
Did He really call you His own?
Did He really give you that idea, that personality, that strength?

Did He really call you His son?

There comes the question, the invitation of doubt, at the gate of your heart, at the seat of all forward motion. From this place every word you say will spring up. It dawns quietly and surreptitiously, wanting not to draw attention to itself, but to quietly invite a bride to infidelity to her Beloved’s heart.

I could provide chapter and verse of precious biblical content to build redeeming, encouraging answers as proof of hope to each of the accusing questions above, but in this place, in these questions, it is not enough to hinge our answers on scripture, apart from His eyes and Spirit. It will leave us short of the goal, and has not yet succeeded in building a fully resurrected church. Scripture is precious; but each of us must take our place in manifesting His words by life. No, until our belief and faith is in the person of Jesus, built on actual personal encounters by faith, with His Spirit and reality– we will remain weak and immature, easily dissembled by foolish questions, scrambling for references detached from our hearts, building a case with evidence instead of growing into a crown.

Scripture is not a law to be argued in court, and our hearts are not judicial ground. May our love for scripture, and the dawning of its strength in our depths, always be driven by our love and hunger for the Father.

I say the questions are foolish because in the light of the Father, these questions mock the basic essentials of His thoughts toward us, powerful thoughts that are likely the smallest building blocks of His grander ideas. The questions reek of inferiority, doubt, and mistrust, and deal more with flesh than spirit. If they come, and if they gain an audience with our attention, that is not an indictment for shame. It’s such a beautiful invitation to go deeper into His character, eating the fish and leaving the bones on the shore.

Allegiance to flesh fuels questions that ought not to exist. But if the question is there, and demands an answer, still your heart from all temptation to frantically paw at the water as one who fears drowning.

Instead, in your imagination, in your spirit, look for the Father and find Him. Imagine His eyes, His affection. Remember His patience, His goodness, His faithfulness–every experience of the full range of love in your life–and let your heart fill with His love and strength. Cause Yourself to walk boldly into His presence for help and focus and courage.

Behold Him. Fix your eyes on Him. Hold His gaze in wonder and power. It feels like fire and freedom.

As if you’ve never heard it before, ask Him: Father, whose am I?

The voice is low, as though mountains sit upon it, and His eyes sparkle as though it’s His favorite thing to say: You are Mine.

From far away, like a whiny echo, the question persists: Did God really say you’re His?

You smile and your bottom lip trembles. Joyful tears gather at the corners of your eyes. You answer around a lump in your throat:

Yes. Yes, He did. And I believe Him.

Recovering From Try

All I can do is open me. That goes against the Code of the Tryer. But it is exactly the heart of the Lover.

I am a recovering Try addict.

Truthfully, I don’t know if I’m in recovery yet. Most days I still feel like my Try mechanism is still very much stuck in gear.

But the good news is: my Try is wearing out, like a tire that is nearly bald. So perhaps a crash is still in my future—but I’m no longer afraid of it.

In fact, I would book a ticket for the nose dive if I could.

For a while, my response to the death of my Try was clinical: simply Try Harder. I haven’t met many life circumstances that couldn’t be overcome by iron stubbornness. But please don’t confuse stubbornness with faithfulness. Faithfulness is of the Father’s Spirit and is sustained by trust in His Spirit; stubbornness is what happens when the flesh must kick in to prevent death.

My stubbornness is often fueled by fear.

Faithfulness is altogether different. It feels like lions blood in my veins. It lives unto the manifested passions of Jesus in my heart.

The spirit by which I began is the spirit in which the thing must be maintained. And I meant well.

But the end is in sight, and it must end if I want to begin again, properly.

 

I love my Father’s Spirit.

...the one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is now saying…

A surgery has begun, and Jesus is discerning the seed of each thing within me. Many things are being severed, too weak to bear fruit or carry weight. They must be reborn.

Sigh. Again.

 

These days, anything that requires Try depletes my tank almost immediately. And I’m thankful for this. I think my Father is doing it. I asked Him to teach me. If not for the instant, draining sinkhole within, I would never stop. I would Try until my knuckles bled and the bones showed through. But Try has been a lonely place. Usually, Try is how I muscle through doing something alone, trying to prove what needs no proof.

 

…the Holy One, the true one, who has David’s key, who opens doors that none can shut and who closes doors that none can open…

If Jesus hasn’t opened the door, it isn’t open. No amount of pounding and pleading or trying will melt the lock or change a mind. If Jesus has opened the door, it is open. No power on earth possesses the ability to close it.

All I can do is open me. That goes against the Code of the Tryer. But it is exactly the heart of the Lover.

This might suck a little. Again.

 

…I know all that you’ve done. Now I have set before you a wide-open door that none can shut…

Try is not the same as Work. Work is a valued tenant in my heart. I love work. I love to give my minutes to things that grow. I love to lay down spent on worthwhile pursuits.

Try is incompatible with genuine self love. It means I lay aside my core preferences, expressions and desires out of a motivation to earn what can only be offered. Try attempts to sell me to buy you.

Try is based in flesh and only lasts as long as human energy can sustain it. It results in loneliness because it reeks of insecurity.

 

Honestly, I have no idea how I am going to unlearn this. I have been trying as long as I can remember.

 

Holy Spirit has laid ahead of my heart a door–an opportunity, a call, a place–that is is truly mine. It exists for me. It wants me. It is why I am here, and I don’t have to contend for it.  I only need to fill it and give myself to it. There are wide-open spaces of heart and purpose to be explored. I can feel them in my spirit.

Or at the very least, I’m really hoping I’m not crazy.

 

…so cling tightly to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown of victory. For the one who is victorious, I will make you to be a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, permanently secure…

There is a “peace, be still” invitation of faith in that for my heart, for the recovering Tryer who is flat on her back, wiped out from years of pounding and whining at closed doors.

There’s no more time to mourn the things that are closed. There is only time to celebrate and enjoy and pursue the things that are wide open.

Starting with me.

 

 

All Scripture taken from Revelation 3—one of my favorite spots in all of scripture.

Kendal’s Horn

Answering Kendal’s horn became our code. We’d pause conversations and mouthfuls of dinner to reply.

My friend Kendal and his precious wife live on our street. Maybe 20 houses sit between theirs and ours.

Kendal is in his sixties, I think—not that anyone could ever believe it after spending more than 10 seconds with him. Jesus is a fountain of youth in Kendal’s mystic heart. He is the oldest kid and youngest adult I know.

I have a lot of favorites, but Kendal is one of them.

I don’t remember exactly when Kendal began the habit of briefly tooting his car horn when he drove by our house. But over time it just became part of our normal: at any hour of the day or night, a friendly honk as the hum of his car passed our street-nested home.

Our kids loved it. We’d hear the beep and you’d hear Helman voices from all over the house hollering, “Hi, Kendal!”  It was Dax who one day added the “Hi Kendal and Mary!” upgrade.

Answering Kendal’s horn became our code. We’d pause conversations and mouthfuls of dinner to reply. You’d hear “Hi, Kendal and Mary!” over the soundtrack of a movie and in the echos of the bathroom.

It became so special in my heart.

A few months ago, I heard Kendal’s horn while in the kitchen and I felt my heart answer before my mouth could even process the response. My inaudible heart reached out affectionately: Hi Kendal. And just as quickly, I felt our hearts connect, like somehow Kendal felt my love for him in that moment. I mentioned it to him a few days later and his response to me was so normal, as though my perceptions were obvious: I felt it, he said.

That’s how I’ve been answering Kendal’s horn for a while now–in my heart. He passes our home with his signature horn (we all know its tone apart from every other horn) and my heart responds.

Tonight, Kendal’s horn sounded as he passed by, and my heart expanded again: Hello Kendal. I love you.

And I don’t have to ask if it’s true that I heard him in reply. I know I did. I had a real moment in the heart of my brother, who I love, and who loves me.

I can’t describe the deep respect, affection and strength in those brief seconds.

Kendal’s precious, habitual horn has had a surprising side effect. What began as a simple greeting has developed into a training ground for my spirit. When Kendal beeps, I began to imagine him saying: Hi. I’m here. For me, this became a breadcrumb trail of sorts in teaching my heart to recognize the moment of opportunity.

To recognize the sound of Kendal’s heart inside the Father’s Spirit. Imagine responding even more powerfully: We bless you! We are with you! or maybe another day, we might sense a burden and be able to immediately be in action: We see your heaviness. We will carry it with you today. Father, here in Kendal’s heart, may your grace overflow…

Jesus asked the Father to help us become one. Literally ONE like the Father and Jesus are. That’s an extremely interwoven existence. Imagine the resources of love that will flow between us as we become knit like that. Growing up into Him who is the Head, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. Operating in submission and honor of one another in every moment. One body, one spirit, one hope, one faith, one Lord…

I want to find other “car horn” experiences by which to train my heart to communicate in this way more regularly in other relationships. To find little connection points that help me begin to recognize their heart when they pass by.

And in passing by, connected to.

Until we no longer need the car horn at all.

Wave Walks and Victory Laps

I needed to be able to feel and yet unwaveringly trust, so that my faithfulness and unity would never be vulnerable to my pain. I needed to be my Father’s daughter when I didn’t feel like it.

Last night, I was awake too long.

I saw midnight….1am…2am… until I finally turned on a baking show on Netflix so I could shut down my mind long enough to roll over onto my right side and fall asleep.

I considered staying up all night, wrestling like Jacob, praying through my pain, but I remembered my morning glory children and Dax’s 8am dentist appointment—and stubbornly drew a boundary line on my fretting.

I could probably employ some great word-smithing here to paint a dramatic picture of the emotional vortex I was working through, but honestly, there’s just no value in it. After a long while, maturity has taught me to put all the frayed pieces of “miscellaneous angst” in the Jesus fridge until He pulls them out and shows me their origin, flavor and purpose.

We women like to dive into the details of the feelings, but let’s avoid that particular ditch, shall we? There is a higher thing to see here.

I laid there, knowing I was stranded between too much caffeine, too many unchallenged vain imaginations, too much winter and a little too much loneliness. I knew I could awaken Nick and he would listen, but I just couldn’t make myself nudge him. He’s always available, but if he woke me from a dead sleep to talk about his feelings, I would probably (definitely) slug him. It only feels right to respect his sleep accordingly.

So I laid there, swirling.

I prayed and I slowed my mind down as much as I could manage. I took inventory and sorted, piece by piece, all the different fragments inside, knowing the truth of Jesus in each place would establish peace. I turned my heart toward difficult relationships and opened myself to thinking past what was obvious or convenient. I shut down every lie I found. I got a midnight text from a night-owl friend and opened my heart just enough so she could see a glimpse and be in prayer with me.

But I was tired, and the climb was uphill. So like I said, eventually, I ended the spin with an iron-fisted distraction, and fell asleep.

And when I woke this morning–for the first thirty seconds–I felt clear. My rested morning mind felt foolish to have spiraled so sloppily in the dark. I chuckled, bemused and relieved to leave the fuss as memory. But within moments, all the storm came spinning back and I felt my heart sink.

I fought tears for the next two hours, in pain and exhausted from the battle within.  Eventually I overcame, and gained enough perspective to dismiss the storm.

Upon reflection tonight, I was reminded of the weekend. Our family was in the van together and Nick was talking with the children about life skills that take a lot of focus and failure to develop, but eventually we can do them without really even thinking about it.

Example: walking. He told them how they had been as toddlers, with their pudgy, faltering steps and frequent bottom-down thuds. But do you think about walking now, or do you just do it? he asked them. We just do it, they replied.

I thought of the storm I had so recently walked through, and I marveled.

I don’t have nearly as many of these emotional storms as I used to. There was a time when I was volatile and easily tossed around by my emotions. Several years ago the Father planted me deep in a place designed to challenge and call up my identity, forging my sonship from theory to reality. And that process triggered what was easily thousands of blinding blizzards of emotions and struggle. Back then I had countless nights in front of this computer screen, weeping and writing and feeling, without any sense of what was real, what was imagined, what had to go, and what could stay.

Truthfully, I didn’t know up from down for years. Had I not been well-loved, I never would have persevered.

Disciplining my emotions in those days was a deeply difficult skill to learn. Especially for myself as a woman. I needed to harness the emotions that would sabotage my identity without deadening the instincts that empowered my femininity.

I needed a real knowledge of my Father that superseded anything I felt, so that His actual Personhood–His real voice–could instruct my heart clearly and powerfully in the middle of opposing evidence.

I needed to be able to feel and yet unwaveringly trust, so that my faithfulness and unity would never be vulnerable to my pain.

I needed to be my Father’s daughter when I didn’t feel like it.

It has taken experiencing and then rightly leading my emotions–every emotion–for a long time. It took a lot of silence, submitting to the fire of letting all of it get rearranged and challenged. It took wanting to be free more than I wanted to be validated. Honestly, it sucked.

But I looked and saw that I didn’t plunk down on my toddler backside this time.

But last night. Shouldn’t I have been able to shut down the storm and skillfully walk on top of it? Should I have been able to show up in my heart and tell it to be still? Should I have been able to do that faster?

Yep. Sure. That would have been good.

But I couldn’t, at least not right away. It was a big twisted mess, and I’m still growing. And that’s OK. I’ll get more chances to get stronger, to grow in the elegant grace of a unfretful daughter. But I’m choosing to celebrate the areas of victory, because there were some:

  • I did not send fretful, dramatic texts that inflated my emotions, nor did I try to rationalize or spiritualize my emotions into something holy or intercessory, when they were not.
  • I did not let them keep me awake all night, draining energy from the next day.
  • I did not have any self-righteous conversations with people who were not in the room, projecting them as villains and myself as a victim.
  • I did not fight by flesh, neither with control mechanisms nor by temper tantrum.

These are all things I have done so often, in the past, the panicked survival strategies of a heart afraid to break. Habits that broke when Love healed my fear.

I realize this might sound like a weird victory lap, but here’s what I think is important to remember, because we are all growing:

I think it’s important to see these times well. To celebrate the wins, to embrace the growing pains, and to humble ourselves to where we still have so much room to grow. If I don’t look well at the things He walks with me through, I’ll miss realizing how big His grace was. I’ll overlook the marvel of Him, and the unique, personal way He walks with me.

This isn’t just about knowing the Father, in theory. It’s about building something with Him that is unique to me, that capitalizes on every imagination He has of us together. It’s about becoming a powerful and personal manifestation of Who I have experienced He really is.

When we see well, we become so consumed with His goodness. We heal deeply. Our hearts worship and marvel and grow. We get bold and our faith increases.

We stand higher, we see further, and we do not fall down as quickly. We have wins to celebrate. We write a testimony. We write a victory story that can be offered as hope for those still learning to overcome.

I don’t care if it takes me five minutes or five days or five weeks or five years to finally find my feet on top of the waves. Every inch of that climb taught me about His heart and showed me the progress we’re making together.

Anything that serves to show Me His face has my attention, my fascination, and my joy.

I Came Here For You (an Essay about Facebook)

I know why I came to Facebook originally. I came for you. I came to hear your voice. That is why I’m still on it, and why it’s worth trying to stay.

When I joined Facebook, I did so to participate in an online community. I marveled at its ability to connect people. And I still believe at its core, it is a good tool (current media, data security and market volatility not withstanding.)

But I feel we have become lazy with it. I feel it has been hijacked by marketers, fame-grabbers and noise.  I take personal responsibility for allowing too many empty or distant connections that, because of Facebook’s messy algorithm, really clouded my experience. I see entirely too much of what I do not care about, and not enough of what I came to be a part of. I cannot begin to understand why I am not shown the new posts of my dearest friends until days later, or why my newsfeed is filled with the chain-linked activity of people I nearly never interact with or worse, do not even know.

Because of this and other frustrating aspects (such as being forcibly stranded in the cacophonous shouting match of news media, politicians, entertainers and advertisers), Facebook is losing its place in my life. It has become ridiculous. I’m not completely sure how to restore it back to a useful tool, but I do not want to give up on it yet.

I’ve pondered this thoughtfully, reluctant to simply disappear from a platform that affords such incredible power. I am going to try a few ideas, to see if they help. For now, I am slowly unfollowing those who do not share their own words, or those whose primary Facebook activity is in sharing the content of other pages. I am also hiding/unfollowing those who participate with clickbait links, like quizzes, “you’ll never believe what he did next!,” sensationalized videos and celebrity opinions. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but for me, it’s just enough.

We’ll see if that helps, or if more drastic action is needed to discipline Facebook back into a valuable experience.

Maybe I’m weird, or in the minority, but I know why I came to Facebook originally. I came for you. I came to hear your voice. That is why I’m still on it, and why it’s worth trying to stay.

I say unfollowing because I’m not deleting. I still love these people and want to be connected and available. But I have not yet thought of good argument for why the clutter of their Facebook experience should have equal weight for my attention with people I am closely invested with. If I unfollow someone, but they come to heart or mind, I can go and look in on them. I can reach out, and I remain available.

I don’t have interest in downloading filtering tools or spending more hours simply overlooking the chaff. It’s not likely an exaggeration to say I have cumulatively spent hundreds of hours mentally filtering Facebook fluff, skimming hundreds of empty posts a day to stumble upon the handful of real ones. This is time I could be tuning into life, and into real flesh-and-blood relationships. It’s not that I don’t have time—I obviously did. But I feel it is being misspent, and irresponsibly so. It would be more accurate to say: I don’t connect with much of it—and am not interested in trying to any longer.

I’m serious when I say I came to Facebook to be part of people. The real ones, not posts sculpted to seduce, or the tone-deaf echo chamber of the internet. I remain in pursuit of the original idea: a platform by which we can build community and exchange communication and ideas.

I can’t force Facebook to change, but I can change how I interact with it.

 

I realize it is ironic I didn’t post this on Facebook. To be honest, I just couldn’t deal with the noise.

Cycle of Sabotage

At the very least, I did not want to be the instigator.

I hadn’t really ever noticed it before, but now it was really starting to bug me.

I looked at the text in my hand, and noticed how she had phrased it. I laid my phone down and pulled out of the parking lot, still puzzled by what I suddenly wanted to say, and how strong it was. I waited at the red light, turn signal blinking.

I knew I was hearing the Father, and I knew I needed to say something.

Suddenly, I saw something else in my own life I had never seen before. A roadblock I had always felt but never understood.

In the past, when my heart saw something standing in the life of another that concerned me,
something I wanted to call out and speak to,

I would freeze. Spirals of insecurity would start twisting inside of me.

I would ponder for weeks, stewing. I was immobilized by fear that I would get it wrong. Sometimes I would go to others with my concern, trying to validate myself by building an mental army of mutual opinion.

Before I had begun, I was convinced it would end poorly. I guess I was convinced I was the first person in history for which His grace was too small. Eyeroll.

Sometimes I would be too full of judgment to see the root of the thing, too caught up in the storm of their life to see the fragile part of them that needed His love in me, stripped of its prejudice and gently offered.

He offered me things of His Spirit, and my flesh blinded me.

To be honest, there was a time that a delay between my impulses and my actions became necessary. I had a sharp tongue and an arrogant heart, and I once tried to merge them with my sonship.  It was a car crash. So for a time, my patient Father trained me with silence and fire and terrible inner combat.

But that time is over—it ended when I met Love—but I did not renew my mind and became stuck. He faithfully resurrected my identity like a phoenix, trained me in humility and compassion, and most importantly, taught me to love people. The time came to try again and I flinched, afraid to hurt people I now loved. The risk seemed too great.

My heart was now soft but the walk of love was incomplete, lacking the power and fruit His reality and identity in me would bring to it.

This cycle has sabotaged my identity a million times. I have swallowed my tongue and choked on its bread, manna that spoiled because I did not serve it. It sours in my belly, stealing from me what it would have provided to another.

Mark tried to tell me.  He’s modeled it with me over and over. When you truly love someone with the Father’s heart, love makes way for the thing you need to say. Grace meets you there. Holy Spirit Himself does the work.

But because I knew the storm of flesh and struggle such encounters have sometimes caused in me, I wanted to spare others that process, or at the very least, I did not want to be the instigator. I avoided dealing in the Love that has transformed me by contending for me, when it did not spare the pain I needed to walk through.

So here I sat at the red light, suddenly truly seeing the wall I kept investing in. I knew Love well enough, and trusted my own heart enough, to see myself at the roadblock. I could turn to the side, ponder this thing longer, stew over it with frustration and angst, push it to the side of my mind and ignore it with any number of the distraction techniques I have mastered,

Or I could look straight ahead, into and through the eyes of my Father and ask, Why is this coming to me now, and what is in my heart to do with it?

Imagine letting our Author help us turn the page.

The light turned green and I hit the gas, turning right down Main Street, posing this question in my spirit to my Father. Like a huge morning sky, my heart filled with love, such deep love. I no longer feared delivery, motive and failure.

In fact, I didn’t see myself at all. I saw how more freedom and power could be opened up to someone I love so much.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Eph 4:15-16)

I now ached to go to her, to share what I was seeing, gently and openly, without concrete declarations that left her out of her own story. I wanted to offer my identity to another, to show up for His body, to be the piece I am–not for me, but for my whole Jesus family. I saw how my words could cause her to feel seen and deeply loved.

And she is.

A Stage and A Seat

The applause dies down as I take my place, facing down the warped thing that looks like me
but sounds like death.

She wore a dress that costs more than my student loans.
He owns five properties free-and-clear, and I’m underwater on my house.
They said it only costs $30 a month, and I wanted to slap someone.

I hang my shoulders, turn my pockets out and make a pitiful face.
I feel small, and I hate feeling small.

In an effort to feel better, I think like a fool,
and I believe what I think.
I step onto a stage, and deliver my speech:

“Here, let me criticize your wealth.

Especially when you have more money than I do.
Somehow my poverty is holier than your success.

I detest your joy and I resent your adventures.
I fear and yet long for your freedom.
I hate how it makes me feel, to see you live how I do not.
I don’t see your work or the cost you paid, only thornless roses.”

My heart delivers this speech blisteringly
with eloquence, with cadence,
like a player on a stage delivering his monologue
to an audience of the destitute.
There is a weird, tarred blackness in my throat.

“Therefore, I will stand in gross judgment,
chest puffed with empty wind,
pointing a finger of ignorance and entitlement.
That you would live like I cannot offends me.

That you would make me feel like this means
you must be cruel and oppressive
and I am the defenseless victim of your success.

That you do not politely sink to the level of my comfort
makes me angry!”

I give a deep bow with feigned humility to thunderous applause.
My defeat is neatly delivered in indignant self-pity.

But the scene is not done.

As though a twin of myself,
I walk onto the stage from the left.
Stepping up five golden steps,
I take the elevated seat.

The applause dies down as I take my place,
facing down the warped thing that looks like me
but sounds like death.

The place is silent and slowly,
water begins to trickle from my chest.
The Seated Me begins, more by faith than feeling,
Quietly, but without hitch.

“Indeed, the voice of a queen will reset this place,
for it is buried in death and twisted in lies.”

The ground trembles a little as authority secures it.
The trickle flows a little faster, and the front of my dress is covered in light.

“I call up the divine, powerful blueprint from His heart in me,
the seed that knows I am worthy, capable and purposed.

Why have I decided to malign the one I could be learning from?

When did I cease to believe in my own capacity to build, to earn, to succeed?

When did I hold sure-things and safety closer to me than wisdom and failure?
Has not failure been my great teacher?

Is my Father, the Might of All Creativity, so small in me,
that His inspiration is so drowned by an orphan’s whimper?
Does not everything of Him belong to us?”

The water is flowing quickly now, down across the stage and onto the feet of the crowd.
It rises quickly.
Everything it touches is as though black mud dissolved into gold.
Sinews glisten and black eyes turn to blue crystal.
Hearts begin to pound like a drum,

and one voice becomes many,
so powerful that the walls of the theatre evaporate.
We start to echo, like a wind.

“Here, we see feet and hands!
We see eyes and mind and courage!”

There is a great rumble.

“Here, feet, flex and stand and climb!
Here, hands, pick up and lift and carry!
Here, eyes, see open doors!
Here, mind, think with wisdom, freedom and power!

Here, let us build the tangible and the intangible.

Let us be filled with honor for every weight. Let us encourage and respect the bearers!

Water pours out of us all,
and we cover the earth.

Here–here, let us build together! The Might of All Creativity is alive. Here, He is in us after all!”

More of us need to sit on our golden seat and take back the territory inside our own minds.

This one’s for my brothers.

My brothers have been instrumental in helping me discover my place as my Father’s daughter.

I grew up with sisters. I didn’t even have many male friends growing up. But in the last five years or so, I have somehow collected a huge assortment of brothers.

I have smart brothers and goofy brothers. I have philosophers, teddy bears and gladiators. I have visionaries, rock stars, fathers, geeks and globetrotters. Some of them make me laugh so hard that life has become much less serious. I have one brother so tall that when he hugs me, my arms go around his waist like a literal kid sister. Another one of my brothers always seems to show up at my shoulder right when I need him. Every time, no fail, there he is.

Like a kid sister, time in a circle of my brothers does something inside me that has changed me. Some of them push me past my comfort zone or mock when my girlishness is obviously hypocritical. Some of them literally carry me as part of their heart. Some laugh at my over-emotional processing, roll their eyes at my long writings, are sometimes deliberately gross, and push my buttons just because they know where they are.

But at least once a month, I’m overwhelmed when I think about them: Jesus, thank you for all my brothers.

See, here’s the thing. My brothers, in all their variety and style, brought a lot of fullness and dimension to my life. For all their torment, they also really love me. They listen to me, value me, and fiercely protect me. They are bad-ass and they’re puddles. They trust me enough to lower their shields and let me see, really see, their soft gooey centers. They sharpen their swords at my side, never reducing me or condescending to me.

I’m telling you, my brothers have been instrumental in helping me discover my place as my Father’s daughter. My brothers are the steel His love is built of. They lay a foundation of authority and strength to every single thing I do.

But sometimes I see how hard it is for them to be strong in a world that wants them to be feminine. All too often, I see their power rejected and their authority shamed. They are constantly doing battle with judgments that they’re despots, misogynists or dispassionate. Any time they want to rein in drama, mete out justice or reset cultures, they are charged. When they want to do war, they are criticized that their swords are too sharp. I’ve seen their command resented and their discipline ignored, hamstrung at every turn by society’s broken understanding of masculinity.

That’s hard for them, when they really just need someone to believe in them and tell them to get in the ring and land some punches.

Mixed metaphor aside, I’m ready to see more of my brothers bloodied from war without the steady whine that they be diplomats. I’m ready for us to give them some room to truly rise up well, without cutting them down every time they fail. I’m ready for them to fight, to roar from their chests. I want to see Jesus enter the room in their strong shoulders and righteous hearts. I’m ready to see the shadow of evil fade in their light. I’m ready to see them walking home from the field with their spirits fully alive and flying. I’m ready to see what comes out of them when we actually trust them, fighting with them instead of resisting them.

This weekend, a friend of mine prophesied over the men among us and I felt these words: prime the pump.

And so I close with this, for my brothers, and I’m almost begging: Prime the pump. I really need to hear more of you. When you speak, when you take your place, when you fearlessly stand, when you hold your throne, it empowers us. It gives me open opportunity for my femininity. Your power in the Father is important and we need it. It is critical.

I realize you’re maybe out of practice, unsure what that looks like, or afraid of the cost, but let me be frank: too bad. We need the kings. The queens need you. I need you, and sisters get to be bossy. What first comes out of you might be rough or ugly, but what will come after is worth that practice. Prime the pump. Open up and let your power flow out. Take your places.

Don’t wait for permission any more. Don’t wait for invitation or to be nominated. I really can’t wait to see what it looks like. I really can’t wait for you to see how important you are, to understand how strong you make us, how much security and power you give us.

I love you a whole lot. Thanks for being my brothers. My brothers are mighty kings, in the light of the King. (And I trust you.)

Aly and the Half-Truth

Aly stood there, entrenched in her story. I looked at her, feeling the cool strength of my resolve engage her. “This is not the whole truth,” I said.  And then, honestly, I sent her upstairs for a shower because I needed a hot minute to think.

When Nick and I first became parents, we were given a piece of sound advice: There are two pillars in parenting: first-time obedience, and honesty. Start early and allow no grey areas: your children are to respond to your first instruction, and they are to tell you the truth. 

And it didn’t take long for us to realize how high a standard that wise soul had offered us.  We were stunned how quickly we had to engage little people–toddlers!–to contend against cute ignorance.

Over time, we identified a few other issues that we treat with the same sobriety….  But obedience and honesty are two of the strings we seem to have to play with frustrating consistency. Just when we think we’ve laid that foundation firmly, a crack appears and we feel like we begin all over.

Like all people, all three of our children express themselves differently, value different things, and struggle with different challenges.

Aly struggles to tell the whole truth. Over time, I realized she just really wanted me to be happy with her, and so withheld details she felt might trigger hard conversations. I experimented with softer approaches (wondering if I had been too hard on her at some point) but still, the problem was ongoing— Aly was telling half-truths, or omitting telling me anything she felt I might not want to hear (which, for our family, is a lie in a different color).

When I watched the same thing happen at a school event with one of her friends, I realized it wasn’t about me. Aly preferred to write her version of events–omitting any personal failure or embarrassment.

Our number one goal with Aly–really, with all our kids–is relationship. It is key to everything. Her ability to communicate the unfiltered details of her heart will safeguard her and strengthen her against some of the things girls so easily succumb to. It allows her daddy and me to build her well, minister to her intimately, to guide her thoughtfully, and call her up. It makes it possible for us to truly know her. Without training up in her a heart that tells the full truth, a part of her would always be unreachable.

For us, that’s a dealbreaker.

So when Aly told me her third half-truth in as many days, I recognized a troubling trend: Aly was hiding. She was calculating what she said and measuring to me whatever parts of the truth she thought I’d believe or celebrate. These omissions weren’t serious, but it wasn’t the facts I was after–it was her heart, and I saw fear trying to teach her survival skills.

Aly stood there, entrenched in her story. I looked at her, feeling the cool strength of my resolve engage her. “This is not the whole truth,” I said.  And then, honestly, I sent her upstairs for a shower because I needed a hot minute to think.

I spent most of that time cleaning the kitchen and pondering: what does Jesus do when I lie? What happens when I try to sell Him half the truth?  I knew that answer would inform my parenting.

Any time a lie–even a partial one–gets between me and Jesus, I feel Him get very serious, and I sense a righteous grief. He is patient but gets closer–and movement stops, in a full, ominous expression of love that is ready for war. I have been to the edge of his grace, where it turns into full-blown discipline. When a lie gets between me and Jesus, He stands really tall and reminds me Who He is, jaw angled and chest high. He is the Truth. Anything in me that is not in Him is brought into repentance, or into rebellion–into life, or into death.

The way Jesus has responded to lies in me is one of the reasons I know what it is to fear Him. He subdues lies like David subdued enemies. There is no storm like when Jesus overcomes a lie. I knew my response to lies needed to be weighty, because they are so deadly. But also, I still didn’t know what to do or say.

Aly took her time upstairs, and finally came down, quietly murmuring the part she was most interested in: “Mommy, what is my punishment?”

I took a seat on my kitchen stool and she faced me, pulling spaghetti strands off her dinner plate. I took a leap, feeling totally inadequate, really needing Holy Spirit to meet me where my heart intersected with my mouth.

“Aly, I feel like I need to tell you a story.

Aly looked confused, resenting any delay between this moment and clarity on what her consequence would be.

“In the bible, there’s a story about Ananias and Sapphira. They lived after Jesus returned to God. At that time, the Holy Spirit and the unity of the believers was so strong that they were really passionate about taking care of each other. Jesus’ love in them was really strong. They were even selling things and bringing the money to the apostles.

“Ananias and Sapphira had land, and they sold it. I don’t remember how much they got, but let’s say it was $5,000. (Her eyes grew wide.)  They decided to keep some of the money for themselves. So they took $4,000 to the apostles, and kept $1,000 of the money.

“When Ananias took the money to the apostles, they asked him Is this the full price for the land you sold? and he said it was. (Aly immediately disapproved–they were lying!) Peter had the Holy Spirit in his heart and knew Ananias was lying to him.

“He asked him: What has happened in your heart that you would lie to the Holy Spirit?  And Aly, right there, the Holy Spirit struck down Ananias and he died. And they carried him out.”

I continued with the story, scraping it clumsily from memory. I was pretty sure I was missing pieces, but I just trusted the Spirit. I hadn’t planned to tell this story, but it had just come up and out of me. So I kept going…

“Sapphira came in, and did not know Ananias was dead. The apostles asked her the same question: Is this the full price of the land you sold? and she also said it was. But Peter had the Holy Spirit and he knew her lie. He asked her the same question: What has happened in your heart that you would lie to the Holy Spirit?  And the Holy Spirit struck her down too. Men carried her dead body out and buried her.”

Aly drew close and settled at my feet.

“Aly, I have told you from the day you were born that you are very important. I believe your generation and my generation is really important! I believe Jesus is coming back, that we are going to see His face. I know the Holy Spirit is in you. Remember how I am often asking what you see and feel and dream? The songs that come out of you, the pictures you draw, the things you see and feel–Aly–you are really important!  Jesus is coming back–in us!”

Tears sprang to her eyes and I knew the Spirit was laying upon us both. I was suddenly fully examining my own heart, all over again, as I spoke, convicted toward my own holiness as I contended for my precious daughter.

“That’s why our standard is so high. And we aren’t perfect, and we’re learning. Aly you are strong, and smart, and pure, and holy. You are a truth-teller. You are brave. You are kind enough to be honest. The truth is the only way that the Holy Spirit communicates. Jesus IS the truth; we must be people of the truth. We can’t be really close to Jesus, to be intimate with His Spirit, when we have lies in our hearts. Even half-lies. They’ll make us weak and feed the fear we feel. But Jesus makes us wise with the truth.

“You are surrounded by people who probably don’t think much about telling half the truth. At school, I’ll bet you get used to hearing half the truth, or playing games about lies. And I understand. It is hard to tell the whole truth when you’re afraid. You worry how others might respond, or if they’ll be mean or misunderstand you. The world likes half-truths. But Aly, in our home, we are people of the truth. You are a lady of truth.

“Lies in us are death. That isn’t how Jesus wants our hearts to be. He came so we’d have life in us that never ever ends. Lies tie us up inside. The truth makes us free inside.

“Daddy and I love you. Jesus loves you. Feed on that love and let it make you brave enough to tell the truth, even when you’re afraid.”

She began crying softly. It was just so precious as Jesus met us there, mother and daughter, in His sanctuary, in our kitchen, in our hearts, in His Spirit.

I urged her, “Dear, do not cry. This is a talk of love and hope. It’s because you are so important that I cannot allow you to lie. Mommy’s job is to help make sure that everything inside of you is revealed. I will fight for you in this. We will do this together. It’s that important. You are that important. Our family is that important!”

 

She’ll need that lesson again. We both will. In a different form, with varying measures of gentleness and wrath. This one is hard for Aly and I understand, because I’m not much different from her in many ways. But Jesus is returning. THAT IS REAL. Father, help us make every stride we can in ensuring our hearts are strong and mighty thrones for His reality.

And if there are lies alive in us, the Truth Himself can only ever be to us as a dark mirror.  No!  Truth is a person..soon we shall see face-to-face!