You gain consciousness just in time for another grenade to explode. Clods of dirt spray your body as you clamber up and straighten your helmet. The smoke begins to dissipate, and you can see enemy lines moving slowly but steadily forward across an open field—straight toward you.
Make no mistake about it: we live in a war zone. Peacetime is coming, but it is not here yet. For now, we engage the enemy with all we’ve got, and when all we’ve got is gone, we maintain our position.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a stronghold as “a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack.” In The Lord of the Rings, it looks like Helm’s Deep. In my life, it looks like social anxiety.
Yup. Strongholds can be personal—shadow castles we’ve built and defended against the King who sets His face toward our freedom.
I’ve spilled the beans about my hangup with community: every social situation feels like walking into a war zone of judgment. Much of this could be projections rather than reality (though ministry life is called a fishbowl for a reason). My brilliant solution thus far: run away and hide. Super mature, right?
Confession: I struggle with an addiction to judgment.
On the giving end, I am plagued by opinions about e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. While Southern manners and a fear of conflict keep roughly 98% of those opinions unspoken, they constantly light up my brain like a superhighway. Much of that mental activity is spent declaring myself either guilty or innocent. (You can guess how that goes in the mind of a perfectionist—the ‘Never Enough’ song from The Greatest Showman sums it up nicely.)
On the receiving end, my heart is marked by a desperation to see approval reflected in the faces around me. Have I impressed you? Disappointed you? At any given moment, am I smart/good/involved/________ enough? How worthwhile do you think I am? Due to the fear of actually finding out, I don’t ask; I assume the worst, turning every bystander into a frowning inspector.
“It is an item of faith that we are children of God; there is plenty of evidence in us against it. The faith that surmounts this evidence and that is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually the root of holiness … We are not saved by the love we exercise, but by the love we trust.”
It was a Tuesday afternoon, and my dad’s voice rang out clearly through the phone receiver.
Springtime! (And day number 34,928 of quarantine, but who’s counting?) Even though we’re still mid-isolation, God refuses to let hope die; just cracking the window lets in a symphony of birdsong, bloomy aromas, and a lovely breeze. So rebel against the voice that groans bleakness over the world—vibrancy is bursting out all around us! There are tons of ways to pour Miracle Grow into each aspect of our lives. Here are a few, hand-picked just for you.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”
One of the odd quirks about my personality is the cognitive distortion of all-or-nothing thinking. Because I thrive in a predictable environment, it tends to show up in special splendor when my routine gets knocked out of whack. “What? The power’s out? Looks like I’ll be spending some quality time on the couch with Pinterest.” “Uh-oh. A home project has taken over space in my brain. Cleaning the house at all will have to wait until the whole thing is finished.”
The little one struggled to form the name of his diagnosis. He watched his mama say them one more time, those two immensely difficult words for a four-year-old mouth to wrap itself around: cystic fibrosis. Suddenly, his eyes lit up with dawning recognition. “Oh! Sixty-five roses!” As pride swelled in his tiny chest for conquering yet another obstacle in his daily adventure, he couldn’t have known he’d just coined a phrase.
Half a century later, you can still find #65roses accompanying posts about this life-altering disease.
The day of giving an account to our Maker is coming.
This fact used to terrify me, paralyzing any movement for fear of getting it wrong. Standing firm in the gospel, though, that same fact can spark the most joyful, free, effective, wholehearted living available, and yield an incredible harvest. Don’t believe me? Just review the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.
Few stories in Scripture can affect the heart as profoundly as that of the prodigal from Luke 15:11-32. Despite the parable’s fame, I find it sad that we so often limit the cast of characters to two rather than three. (I tend to identify more with the guy usually left in the shadows—the older brother.) Ready to immerse your senses in this gospel-shaped tale? Gather around the feet of Jesus. Instead of, “Once upon a time,” He opens with, “There was a man who had two sons.”
Fun: (n) Enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. Antonyms: boredom, misery.*
Do me a favor—flip through your catalog of memories to the one saturated with the most fun. Was it a childhood birthday party? Christmas morning? An amazing family vacation? Just sit there and bask in the happiness for a minute.
Time for a personal confession: fun is a struggle for me.