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Contentment vs. Complacency

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is an interesting read. He’s nearing the end of his life and he’s in jail in Rome. There are all sorts of discussions out there about “how do you want to be remembered?” or “at the end what will you say was most important to you?”  These are Paul’s last recorded words that we have. And while the letter as a whole is fascinating it’s what he says at the end that really stands out to me.

Philippians 4:8-13

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Over the years I’ve struggled with his statements about being content. Seriously, Paul, couldn’t you have given us a bit more info about what you mean when you say you are content?

The Image of God

I somehow made it through both middle school and high school without a random guy slapping my butt in an inappropriate attempt at humor and attraction. I was in my twenties before I realized this was a rarity among women and in my thirties before I seriously started to think about the intersection of my faith and of my gender. Just as importantly, I started to think about how society viewed those two, sometimes disparate parts, of my whole self. Now in my forties, I am closely observing how the church handles the ripples from sexism, feminism, questionable leadership, the #metoo movement, toxic masculinity, and other controversial topics- stones thrown onto the seemingly smooth surfaces of often patriarchal modern American church culture. One of the most frustrating aspects of this experience is that it seems impossible to engage in any kind of healthy dialogue without the discourse becoming entangled in a web of political extremes and biases that result in angry hackles being raised, ending the conversation before it can even begin.

I think that the tension surrounding these topics make us pause, hesitant to engage, hesitant to speak our minds, perhaps even hesitant to know our minds to begin with.

Thankfully Jesus had no such qualms, even though challenging gender norms held far more serious consequences in His time than they do now. He waded into danger, confident in who He was as the Savior of all and confident in the never changing character of God – Holy, Just, Loving, and Truthful.

Because He is my Refuge

Over the last week or so, I have been in observation of the Lent season in preparation for Easter Sunday in April.

Lent was something I always grew up around, but I more saw as a time to maybe shed a few pounds before the summer if I gave up sugar, gluten, or some other type of food that is considered to be “bad” for you. Lent, as of recent years, has become much more to me. It is a time to be present with the Lord, to grow in my prayer, and to be in relation with Him as I prepare my heart for Easter.

This year, I decided to take it a step further and I purchased myself a $1.99 daily devotional on iBooks to do in preparation for Easter Sunday. I am currently on day six of this devotional (written on Monday, March 11) titled Lasting Hope: Devotions for Lent 2019. We have begun this devotional by reading scripture from Psalm, one of my favorite books in the Bible.

The scripture for today’s devotion was Psalm 91:9-10 “Because you have made the Lord your refuge, and the Most High your habitation, no evil will befall you, not shall affliction come near your dwelling.”

Prone to Wander: A Comparison Driven Life

If I’m being completely honest with myself, much of my misery comes from wanting to live out someone else’s story.

Yes, I am a single woman, living on my own, with a job I enjoy. I have a terrific sister who allows me the latitude to play a large role in my nephew’s lives. I like that I can play the piano and worship God through music.

But comparison seeps in and the lovely aspects of my life lose their luster. What gives me life and light grows dim in the looming shadow that is Comparison.

It’s more than comparing my life to someone else’s. The comparison that gets to me are the “what could have been” and “what should have been” narratives.

I should have been more loving.I could have been a lovely wife.
I could have been a great parent.
I should not have to carry this burden alone.
I could have been more if I had more money, time, space, etc.

Sometimes I want to be all of these things, have all of my wishes, live my best life. And in the depths of my desperate thinking, I protest God because I don’t like the story he’s writing for me.

And I audaciously ask for different one.

Stillness After the Storm

I’ve lived in the Northwest nearly all my life. In this place where the weather is typically a bit on the boring side, our responses to anything out of the ordinary can be truly dramatic. I love the way we embrace sunshine like it may never come again and treat snowstorms like hurricanes. And this year’s snowstorm did not disappoint. The snowflakes arrived at almost exactly the moment they were supposed to, piling up inch by inch just as predicted.

Most years, when February rolls around, I am in full-on hibernation mode. If I could join the bears and sleep from Christmas until Spring, I probably would. Once the Christmas tree comes down, the long, slow wait begins. I never learned to appreciate the short days, mud, and general dampness that accompany our Northwest winters, and last year was no exception.

When the Storm Rises

Photo Credit: Sara Sandefur

In January 2018, I was promoted to a new position at work. It came with a nice raise and exponential increase in responsibility. Last winter flew by in a fog of long hours, countless meetings, thousands of emails, and long, sleepless nights. My fear of getting it all wrong was completely overwhelming. I constantly replayed each day in my mind, second guessing most of my decisions and wondering if I was even coming close to what was expected of me.

A Time to Mourn

To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn…

I grew up in a household where I recognized those lyrics by the Byrds before I knew them as words from scripture. It’s a catchy tune that is fun to sing along. But the reality of what scripture tells us isn’t so soft and sweet.

The writer of Ecclesiastes starts off telling us that everything is meaningless. Many of us have felt that way at times. But when tragedy strikes, that’s not the answer we’re looking for. We want to know that there is some meaning to what is taking place, what we’re going through.

And the writer continues on with this at the start of Ecclesiastes 3: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Pretty words. But too often, that’s all they are. Words alone are not very comforting.

Even the Gentiles

I remember the first time I saw a confederate flag in Tacoma, fixed to the back of a pickup truck and driving down 6th Ave without a care in the world.

I gasped of shock. It was during the 2016 presidential election and this memory crystalizes the division for me. The Other. The Right Christian and the Wrong Christian. Unfriending online and in reality. Everyone says, “We’ve never been so divided.” Perhaps we have never been this divided as a country (although the Civil War might beg to differ), but as a group of faithful following the teachings of Christ, we have certainly been this divided.

So then, even to the Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life. ~ Acts 11:18

Peter is speaking to Jewish people here, assuring them that Gentiles (anyone who was not a Jew) could experience the gift of the Holy Spirit as well and should be treated with the same respect as fellow Jews. But it’s not really this verse talking about inclusion of people who were from different ethnicities and backgrounds that tells me there was division, it’s the word even.

Even the Gentiles. . .

That little phrase says so much to us about the conflicts of the time.  It invokes a little shock, the idea that the original listener was going to be the tiniest bit horrified and would need some reassurance. Yes,

Even the Gentiles.

Quest for Generosity

How do we become generous people?

Some people make it look so easy, like they do not even have to try. It is like they have generosity hardwired into the forefront of their mind.  For others, it does not come naturally and they need to work at it in order for generosity become more natural.

I am definitely in the latter camp.

Whether or not we are in the first group or the second group, like all things, generosity is a choice.  However, as striving followers of Christ, when we look and see what God has to say about generosity, generosity becomes a pretty easy choice.

The Practice of Plugging into God’s Word

Last Sunday, Pastor Jon challenged us to unplug from our distractions and plug into God’s Word.

So, how is it going?

If you’re like me, sometimes reading the Word is life-changing. Beauty drips from every verse, fills my heart, and leaves my soul in peace.

And then there are the days when it’s just…dry.

Sometimes reading the Word of God is a time when I remember all that we say that He is and discover all that I am who He says I am.

But what about the times, the days, the seasons, the years, when life is hard and difficult and the last thing I want to do is open a book that reads like a text book instead of the Living Word? What happens when God’s Word falls on the dry ground of my heart?

We read any way.

As I write this, tears prick my eyes. My heart is so tender, bruised, torn, bleeding. All the words that describe: wounded.

How am I supposed to read the Word of God when I feel nothing but pain?

Keep Reading.

What He Says of 2019

As what happens at the close of every year, we begin to look back on the 365 days we lived and we reflect on what that year held.

We think about the highs, the lows, the mountains, and the valleys. And in more recent years, our social media accounts, which begin to reflect those things as well. Our Facebook accounts pull up memories from three years prior. Our Instagram show us our “top nine” photos of the year. Spotify tells us our most streamed genres, artists, and songs.

I personally enjoy seeing these year-end round-ups; my Instagram top nine included photos of my 21st birthday, my transformation photo after losing thirty pounds, and photos when my best friend from Boston came to visit me after the tragic loss of twelve lives in our hometown. It truly showed some wonderful mountains and some really low and dark valleys, but in the end, it reminded me of some wonderful milestones that 2018 held for me and made me excited for what is to come in 2019.

My Spotify account reflected a similar round-up: a mix of songs that got me through some serious waves of grief, a tough break up, and a multitude of other events of 2018.

You Say

I was not surprised to see my top song of 2018 was “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.

If you haven’t heard this song, drop everything right now and listen to it. I discovered this song in August when I began my senior year of college, a year that I truly did not think I would make it to, after the hardships that 2017 and 2018 brought to me and my family. As I went through the first semester of my senior year, I was constantly bombarded with questions, doubts, and anxieties about things in daily life, things from the past, and the unknown of the future.