Lessons in Little Things

All posts in the Lessons in Little Things category

Doctor Recommendation

Published October 4, 2018 by Dawn

I have now gone to the chiropractor two Mondays in a row. A vertebra in my lower back had slipped and there was a visible tilt in my trunk as well as a ton of pain. I could hardly walk for an entire weekend and called the chiropractor seven minutes after he opened the following Monday. The effects of his first adjustment were immediate and amazing. But as the week wore on, I could still feel a problem. My shoulders felt really weird, there was a twinge of pain that kept coming and going between my shoulder blades, and I had pain radiating up my neck. I walked into his office for a second time the next Monday and mercifully, he squeezed me in. After my second adjustment, I was finally pain free.

My mom and I were at the gym the next day and I said to her, “You have no idea how good it is to not be in pain. I feel like I’ve been in pain forever.” You might say, “Sounds like you were really only in pain for two weeks.” That’s what it sounds like, but I didn’t mention the constant pain from tight hamstrings or the fact that this vertebra had been working its way out of place for a while. It has literally felt like an eternity. To not feel any part of my back or legs is not normal for me. I am usually very aware of my body because it’s almost always screaming at me.

The thought occurred to me that there are people all over the world who share this experience. People who feel like they’ve been hurting for an eternity and have no idea if there’s a cure or if it’s just something they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Some of these people hurt physically, and some of them hurt emotionally. If I knew a specialist who could help them find relief, I’d tell them about it immediately. I can’t stand the thought of people in pain! I am too intimately acquainted with constant pain to leave people to suffer.

So why am I not talking about Jesus like he’s the Great Physician? I know He can heal and restore. He’s mended my broken heart, healed my deep wounds, nursed me back to life and given me newness. He saved me from devastation and gave me a testimony. He literally pulled me away from my own obsession with suicide and given me reasons to live. He’s replaced all the brokenness in my life. People should know about this! If a person with back issues asked my recommendations, I’d give them the number of my chiropractor because I have experienced his expertise and think he’s amazing. Likewise, I took a lot of emotional turmoil to the feet of Jesus and found that he is most amazing! I recommend Him to anyone based on my personal experience!

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A Single Heartcry

Published August 27, 2018 by Dawn

A friend of mine very recently got engaged. She’ll marry into a family, with children, and reap an abundance as God promised her many years ago. The reactions have been nothing but gracious and loving; some have proclaimed God’s goodness, others His faithfulness, and still others, His miraculous abilities. Thank God, she’s about to be married!

I’m super excited for her. I’ve shared her secret anguish, holding onto a promise for so long. Having an unfulfilled desire and having to lean into God in weak moments of despair. Biting the lip and fighting back tears while others rejoice at God’s faithfulness at the altar of matrimony. Always wearing the bridesmaid’s dress and dying inside. I’ve lived there for a long time myself.

I stood in the kitchen with my 15-year-old daughter last night, making burgers and talking about heart longings. She asked me, “Why does the church make marriage seem like the ultimate thing?” I knew exactly what she was asking, even before she poured it out for discussion: why is marriage such a big deal to the church? Why do you only get validated in the church when someone’s ringed you up? Why are people so impressed by that ultimate validation of worthiness in another’s eyes?

I’ve recently been invited to join a singles’ group online, which I swore I would never do, but suddenly, it seemed like a community of believers I wanted to be a part of. They get me. The silent despair. The loneliness. The pressing in. The feeling of isolation, and being overlooked all the time. I joined and found that most of us feel this deep pain because we have fed into the lie that marriage makes us complete. That when someone else chooses us over all others, it’s because finally, there’s something about us worth choosing.

In response to the news, many have exclaimed, “It’s such a miracle!” I know that my friend will agree that God has been working miracles in her life through all her sojourn of singleness. She gave her singleness to God and He used it to the fullest. He took her places she might never have been as a married woman and mother, and used her in the lives of many children while her heart pined to hold a child of her own making. The miracles didn’t start with this one, church!

She gave her time to God and He blessed her with His presence. She was never alone. Just saddled with a feeling of loneliness because Satan knows it’s an effective way to derail a single Christian. That woman became strong in solitude, held onto God in desperation and got to know her Savior as her Husband and Friend. She’s been strengthened to know where her help comes from, should her earthly husband fail her. She’s held the hand of Jesus in dark places and He’s brought her out.

Someone else proclaimed, “God is so good!” Hadn’t He always been good? Wasn’t He good even in the trying times? Have we learned nothing from Job? God was good to this woman despite her suffering. He was good to her despite the times she lashed out in frustration during the wait. He continually did good for her, even if it didn’t feel good at the time. She’ll agree that although the wait being over is the best feeling in the world, God has always been good to her.

We have to stop glorifying blessings, Church. We need to start glorifying God. Despite our experiences, God is good. He’s always been good. He is miraculous, working in ways we can’t even perceive. There’s a world out there that’s not experiencing only wonderful things. People are broken. They need to know that it’s ok if God is the only one who sees you or calls you worthy. We do a disservice to the lost and dying world around us if we only acknowledge the greatness of God in our blessings. Wouldn’t they love to be held in the pain? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they knew how to lean into God while they suffer? Isn’t this of great worth in our walks with God? Shouldn’t we tell them? Shouldn’t we be proclaiming God’s goodness while the world comes down around us? If we can’t worship while we suffer, we’re in a relationship with God’s hands, and not Himself. Doesn’t He deserve more of us than that?

This is my #sorrynotsorry moment: we especially have to stop glorifying marriage as the ultimate “thing” in life. Especially in ministry. God used many single people in the Bible. They were not less than and they were not used less. God has given some a ministry of marriage and others a ministry of singleness. Both are precious in His sight and He can use either situation equally effectively. The church is hurting single people, it’s true. But God is holding them. For this, we can praise Him in our suffering, thanking Him that all this pain makes us cling to Him.

Be encouraged, single friends, you are being held by the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He knows your name. He’s pressed into your heartbeat and that kind of validation trumps any eye-catching moment here on Earth.

The Pharisee Within

Published August 22, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

The Pharisee Within

Published August 13, 2018 by Dawn

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you” (John 14:37)

All four Gospels share this exchange. Peter vowed to Jesus that he would go with him to prison and even death, rather than disown him. What a friend, right? Of course, we all know what happened just a few hours later. In what must have been the scariest moment of his life – and probably the most disappointing as well – Peter watched Jesus be lead away in chains and then tormented in every sense of the word. He no doubt felt the loss of every hope he had of seeing Israel restored to God’s favor and liberated from the tyranny of Roman rule.

What exactly was Peter getting at when he said, “Even if all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29)? Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when, later in John 21:15, he asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Allow me to share what I felt the Lord laid on my heart a few weeks ago in regard to these scriptures.

There was something undone in Peter that had to be exposed and removed before he could effectively do what God had purposed him for. His question, “why can’t I follow you now?” was a foreshadowing of the hindrance God was about to uncover in his heart. When Peter told Jesus, “Even if all fall away, I will not,” what he was baring for all to see was the Pharisee within. Peter thought there was something in everyone else around him that he could never be guilty of. He thought his devotion to Jesus eclipsed that of his partners and friends. In essence, he thought he was incapable of falling in the same way everyone else was destined to do that night, per the prediction Jesus had made. Christ gently affirmed Peter’s eventual course, which Peter again refused to acknowledge his propensity toward.

Peter couldn’t avoid the falling away. He was destined for it. His weakness was about to be exposed. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). How wonderful that Jesus knew his failure before it even occurred and had already interceded for him!

I can’t imagine how painful the next few days were. Peter had to live with the guilt of his betrayal while he mourned the loss of his best friend. They had met eye-to-eye as the rooster crowed. Peter had wept bitterly knowing that Jesus hadn’t missed the sign he’d spoken of. The guilt must have been very burdensome, because when the disciples saw Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the resurrection, Peter jumped overboard and swam to Jesus while the rest of them rowed the boat back in. He was miserable, I’m sure, until he could repent at Jesus’ feet. Later, they walked side by side and Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” I never understood that question before, but now I think I do: Jesus was addressing the original thought in Peter’s heart, where Peter thought he loved Jesus more and that was why he believed himself utterly incapable of sinning in such a way.

Peter was hurt. Ashamed. Still comparing himself, as he nodded toward John and said, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus simply said, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me.”

I believe it’s true that many Christians are really good at watching their lives and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16), and that’s scriptural. Nothing wrong with that. But I think we can also become so focused on our own efforts and our perceived goodness that we look at others and think, “Oh, I would never do that.” This attitude can be a hindrance to our ministry to love others because it’s not humble, and just as surely as Peter had to get that out of his system before he could see thousands respond to the Gospel, we will also stumble on all the things we are certain will never trip us up, until we hang our heads in shame, seek forgiveness and walk in humility among the people God has called us to minister to.

We can take heart in the fact that Jesus is never disillusioned about us. He knows what we are capable of far better than we know ourselves and intercedes for us according to his foreknowledge. He’s never surprised. There’s incredible comfort in that!

Ultimately, we must acknowledge the truth of Galatians 5:17, that the spirit and the flesh are at war and we are fallible to our fleshly nature at any given moment that the Holy Spirit is not leading us. But thankfully, there is redemption written for every failure because Jesus was victorious. He prayed for us so that we can be strengthened in our areas of weakness. God loves the humble, and these failures bring us nearer to the heart of God rather than further away, if we are willing to be guilty before him, as Joshua was in Zechariah 3. There are so many tremendous examples of failure followed by God’s forgiveness and redemption. The Christian should be relieved to know this, as the Pharisee within must be removed before God can use us like He used Jesus. Lift your head, friend, redemption draws nigh!

Jesus is a dog person

Published July 30, 2018 by Dawn

Remember that one time Jesus low-key insulted a woman? It was actually a very beautiful exchange, but it is quite shocking on the surface. Jesus was hiding out in a house in Tyre, failing miserably to keep his presence there a secret. As soon as this woman heard about him being nearby, she goes to the house and throws herself at his feet (this part of the story is recorded in Mark 7:24-30). Her daughter was being tormented by an evil spirit and this mother brought all of her hope to Jesus and begged him to release her little girl. Matthew 15:21-28 tells us that the first time she asked, He ignored her. Then, she kept pleading incessantly until his disciples had enough.

“Send her away, Lord! She keeps crying out after us!”

I don’t know how the next part came out. Was it apathetic? Cold and distant? Weary? He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” She was a Canaanite and I’m sure knew how to read between the lines. She was not on the VIP list. Instead of turning away, which is probably what I would have done, she knelt at his feet and implored, “Lord, please help me.”

Surely that got him, right?

“It’s not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Bruh. Did you hear that? Jesus just called her a dog. This momma bear was undeterred and quipped back, “Yes it is, Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

This whole conversation is marked with grace beyond belief. It fell into my remembrance the other day as I made my way to the living room with a snack. My dogs were getting a knee here and a toe there because they weren’t moving with me while I walked. They were doing their best to be as close to my food-hand as possible. When I sat down, Hoggie (full name Mahogany, but Hoggie makes sense …) crept behind my knees and wound herself up around the back of my leg to peer up at me from the center of my thigh gap so she could catch any and everything that fell from my mouth. I was beyond annoyed. Ruffles, the other pup, was sitting on my toes at a safe distance from Mahogany’s jealous jowls, watching in anticipation. I remembered this woman’s response and the power of her words finally hit me; no wonder Jesus commended her for her faith and answered her plea.

I don’t know about you, but at my house, eating is kind of a robotic thing. We don’t worry about food and we eat on schedule every day. The kids don’t beg for food, they simply respond to it. Food appears, they eat. They don’t say thanks, because it’s a given that they’re going to eat. It’s an expectation and they aren’t ever disappointed. Well … sometimes. Let me rephrase that: they aren’t ever hungry.

My dogs, however, would prefer the food from my table over their own. When we’re eating, they are as close to us as they can get (Ruffles is always sitting on someone’s feet and Hoggie is always edging her way into a thigh gap). They eagerly salivate at the thought of someone sharing and jump out of their skin to be closest to the ground when a crumb falls. A crumb. It’s ridiculous the tidbits they find worth their time and effort.

I wonder if Jesus’ attitude was a set-up. Did his disciples know how awful they were being? They were children and heirs who had become flippant about Jesus’ purpose. They were self-righteous snobs who knew they belonged at the table. The children of Israel were God’s people, but they were entitled and I think Jesus wanted them to see that. After all, they had free access to what she needed most desperately. Would they really deny her pleas just because of her heritage? Seems they would, but would He?

It gave me chills to parallel this story to the behavior of my dogs when food is involved. It seems like Jesus is insulting her, but once again, we find him in irony. This woman is desperate. She carries on the analogy and equates him to her owner. She tells him she is willing to take even the crumbs – the offal from the table – because she considers even the tiniest morsel to be worth her time and effort. The children would never do that! Suddenly, I wanted so badly to have that kind of devotion. Not the devotion of a child, because I find that children have a blind devotion and a common lack of appreciation. No, the devotion of a dog. Dogs are such loyal, loving and zealously devoted creatures and they abandon themselves in their displays of affection for their “masters.” They love to eat, most especially, the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.

I bet his disciples learned something that day. I know I did when the full weight of that conversation hit me. No wonder dogs are known as man’s best friend! And no doubt, Jesus is a dog person.

 

 

Bewildered Parent, Please Read!

Published July 24, 2018 by Dawn

So, I met someone …

It was most unpleasant and such as it was, I decided almost immediately that this wasn’t for me and I didn’t ever want to do it again, for sure.

My son introduced me. I didn’t understand exactly what was happening at the time. I’m a little clueless like that, but in hindsight, I understand full well what was going on, and thank God for that! Otherwise, I would have taken the whole ordeal personal for years to come.

I met my son’s … sin nature. It’s silly, isn’t it, that after years of being in youth ministry, I wasn’t better prepared for the moment when my son really came into his own. Being fully aware that we all have a sin nature, how did I not immediately recognize what was happening? How did I not immediately run to God in faith that He can deal with the sin nature? Instead, I freaked out.

I did everything within my power to protect my kids as they grew up. Fifteen years single, celibate … 24/7 mom with no other goal in life but to raise two happy, healthy, well-adjusted kiddos into adulthood. No cable, nothing but Christian music on the radio, church three times a week … I had a list of credits that made me feel really good about their future selves. Then I met someone … the inner sin nature of my unbridled and foolish teenage son. I looked at my list of self-righteous accomplishments and threw my hands up in bewildered defeat! What now, God? How did this happen?!

It was bound to happen, and I should have known that. After all, WE ALL HAVE A SIN NATURE! Turns out, I can talk about that in ministry, but it hadn’t sunk in. I was doing a lot of things to avoid what would certainly surface anyway, and needs to because here’s the truth: how can we understand grace and the depth of sacrifice Christ made for us if we never face our sin nature? Do I want my son to not see himself in light of the word of God and the truth of Christ’s forgiveness? Absolutely not! Before the cross on Calvary’s hill can astound him, he must first know his own inability to attain righteousness on his own. And I can’t take this part of his walk with God personal!

I shared this for the parents out there who are blaming themselves for their kids’ behaviors. I’m not going to say you had nothing to do with it, but you haven’t nearly the fault you hold against yourself. Sure, you see yourself in that kid. You recognize your own past and recoil. But it’s all just fodder for the revealing of a sin nature that Christ will soon destroy. Our kids cannot ride to heaven on our coat tails (or apron strings). We must allow God to do a work in them, and it’s painful to watch. Rest in this, friend: God is a good Father. He is our Abba Daddy. He’s my son’s Abba Daddy too. What He has done in us, He will faithfully do in our children. Trust Him! Pray for your kiddos and allow God to work in them. You need to let God take control while they are in your house, so you can encourage them in that transition. Don’t fight it, and don’t fight your kiddos. Love them. Guide them. Pray over and encourage them. Correct them in love. This is how God has dealt kindly with you, and your wayward kiddos need that same kind of support. Trust God to deal with the things you cannot deal with. He must become greater; you and I must become less.

How to Fall From Grace

Published July 9, 2018 by Dawn

It turns out a sense of humor is something of the Divine. God’s got jokes. Don’t believe me? Listen to this …

Keep in mind that what I am about to tell you happened in a matter of nanoseconds. All of it. It was rather instantaneous, which makes it even more comical. It’d use the word “impactful” but that’s a pun that hurts a little. You’ll see why …

I was less than two minutes into my run this morning when it happened. I looked up to read the sermon sign at this church along my route: “How to Fall from Grace.” My sense of comical irony kicked in as I thought to myself, “Who would want to know how to fall from grace?”

BAM! The sidewalk took me for a kiss out of nowhere. I fell hard … right in front of the church sign. Stupid comical irony … wasn’t dead yet. I looked up after feeling the hurt and laughed out loud. God had put the smack-down on my sense of humor to remind me that falling from grace is no laughing matter. Lesson learned?

No one in their right mind plans a fall. Falling hurts. It also tears you up a little (or a lot, depending on how far you fall). The aftermath of falling is open wounds, constant pain and a desperate need to heal a bit. Thankfully, I am just a little scuffed up. My hands, wrists and right knee took the fall and I’ll be better in no time.

Sometimes, we just get tripped up in life. Little did I know there was an uneven bit of sidewalk that I’ve never had a problem with until today. I didn’t even know it was there! Likewise, there are pitfalls in life we don’t see coming because we aren’t paying attention, or we aren’t expecting them. We get tripped up because Satan sets a snare and we step into it just the right way to cause a fall. I have stepped over that part of the sidewalk and avoided that fall for several years but today was the day it took me down. It’s like that when Satan sets us up. That’s why we have to be vigilant while running this race. Because he’s set snares everywhere.

The fall might hurt, but Satan isn’t victorious because we fall. He’s only victorious if we turn away or stop pursuing God after the fall. In spite of the pain, we have to get up and keep going. I did that this morning, which is so abnormal for me. I like my couch and a hot tea, and since I was two-tenths of a mile into a two-and-a-half mile run, turning around would have made perfect sense. I could have nursed my wounds, taken it easy, and excused myself from working out. But it was just a fall! I poured a little water over my palms to clean the dirt and blood off, put my earbud back in and kept going. I had to keep pressing on toward the mark, and so do you, friend. Take time to rest and heal, but get back up and keep moving forward in your walk with God. Satan is only victorious if you quit!