Struggling to Surrender


My high school Latin teacher Mrs. O’brien used to stand at the front of the classroom and read a devotional each day before class. (Note: I attended a Christian high school.) Her favorite was a devotion called “Let Go, Let God.”

She was sincere and at times seemed to be pleading with us to grasp the concept of letting go and letting God.

I didn’t get it.

I still don’t, not completely at least.

As a teen, I didn’t even know what she meant. It seemed like the sentence was missing something. Let go of what? Let God what?

Now, I at least get that I’m to let go of my life, my wants, my selfishness, my _____ and my ______ and my ______. Let go of the word “my” even. And I’m to let God handle it.

But finally getting that what Mrs. O’brien was trying to teach us was surrender doesn’t mean I have any clue how to actually successfully do it.

Years ago a Bible study teacher talked about taking all of our mess, our sins, our worries, our everything and laying at Christ’s feet. That’s part of surrender. But  as this teacher pointed out, what a lot of us do is pick it all back up and keep carrying it around with us. That what’s I do, apparently.

I’m struggling right now with surrender, with truly surrendering my preferences, my expectations and my wants into God’s hands to do as He pleases. I want Him to do what I want Him to do and I want to help him do it. He doesn’t need my help, and really anything I do outside of what He tells me just gets in the way and messes things up even more.

I often come up with things I can “do” or “say” to help God do what I want. I’m a fixer; I want to fix it rather than wait for it be fixed. And I’m constantly feeling his Spirit tell me “no,” “wait” “let me handle it.” When I don’t listen, things get all squirrelly and I find myself thinking shoulda listened, shoulda waited, shoulda, shoulda, shoulda ….

Surrender is hard, thus why I’m struggling with it.

It sounds so simple, summed up in four short words — Let Go, Let God — and it’s a good thing when I make the choice to do it and stick with it. So why then is it no easy to do.

In the Civil War, at the Battle for Fort Pulaski, Confederate Colonel Charles H. Olmstead, surrendered the fort to the Northern troops in the interest of saving the fort and saving the lives of himself and his men. He had the wisdom and intellect to know he couldn’t win and to know that a loss would be more devastating than a surrender. What he gained with surrender was greater than what he would lose if he didn’t.

Now if only I can put that consistently into practice in my own life.

I’m trying. I’m struggling, but I’m trying.

Book Review: Faith and Other Flat Tires


Read all the way to the bottom to find out how to enter to win a copy of “Faith and Other Flat Tires.”

There’s PKs and there’s MKs.

Preachers’ kids and missionaries’ kids. And some like to throw in DKs too — deacons’ kids.

I was a PK. Andrea Palpant Dilley was an MK. I suppose that was one of the things that initially attracted me to Dilley’s book, “Faith and Other Flat Tires.”

While there was commonality in our growing-up experiences, what I wanted most to read about in Dilley’s book was her crisis of faith. She had questions and doubts and things she couldn’t make sense of.

“I walked out of the church sanctuary one morning and started into a two-year journey away from Christianity. My faith had a flat tire. … Years later, I returned to church with a changed faith. But I didn’t know that at the time. The day I left, I set out on a search having no idea where I would go in my wandering and or how I would find my way back home.”

I’ve not experienced a crisis of faith in the same way, but I’ve had questions and my beliefs have been challenged. I didn’t respond like Dilley who was open-minded and sought “truth.” I pridefully and stubbornly defended things that I had no basis for other than “that’s how I was taught.” That doesn’t mean what I was taught was wrong; it just means I had a pitiful reason for believing how I did. I lacked depth.

Dilley ripped the Jesus fish off her car, and when she did an interesting thing happened.

“The glue had left a light fish-shaped mark on the aluminum bumper. I did the best I could to remove it, but some of the residue remained.”

The removal of the Ichthus and the mark it left behind is symbolic for the rest of Dilley’s journey during which she couldn’t shake her Christian heritage and experiences. Instead of doing away with them totally she sought to make sense of what remained.

At some point in her story she had a literal flat tire, which also was quite symbolic to what was happening with her faith.

“[T]hat flat tire in  a very strange way foreshadowed the failure to come on my pilgrimage — the slough, the mire, the getting stuck on the side of the road trying to find a way home. And although failure was a first and necessary step to getting back on the road, at the time it just made me feel like a total wreck.”

Yeah, I’ve been there too, both with a literal flat tire experience that had symbolic meaning and in a place where I simultaneously appreciated the necessity of failure and yet felt miserable in the middle of my mess.

I kept reading and waiting for Dilley’s “aha” moment, the moment where it all came together for her and faith made sense again. With only 100 pages left in the book I thought, “It’s gotta happen soon.” But chapter after chapter and no “aha;” just more journey and more questions and then a slow draw back into “the church.”

I finally realized when there were only a few pages left: there is no “aha” moment. Yes, Dilley returned to church but not with all her questions answered. In fact, I think she came back with more questions than when she left. But the answer she found is that it’s not the answers that matter but the seeking. She also discovered it’s OK to question; not only OK but questioning is good and necessary.

“God is only looking for a seed of faith, a small simple thing.”

To enter to win your own copy of “Faith and Other Flat Tires” leave a comment telling about a flat tire moment of your own, either literally or a time when you just felt deflated. Enter before midnight Friday, June 29. This is my first giveaway so help me make it a good one by commenting! Thanks!

Hero Worship


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Priscilla Shirer was one of the speakers at the Lifeway Women DotMom conference, which some friends and I went to this past weekend (more on that in another post).

At one of the conference breakout sessions on how to parent boys, Priscilla Shirer was there. She was not leading it — although she has three sons, so I’m sure she has much wisdom she could impart — but she was there to listen and learn like all the rest of us.

I had the idea to tweet something like this:

@PriscillaShirer is in my #dotmom session. Not leading it but IN it. That’s so cool!!

I didn’t do that. Just as soon as that crazy thought ran through my head I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit sweep over me for making (or almost making) an idol out of her. My attitude reflected that I thought of her like a big celebrity. And … well … she kinda sorta is. She has made God has made a pretty good name of her. She’s written numerous books and studies and video series, and was part of Deeper Still with icons Kay Arthur and Beth Moore.

But she’s also a mom just like me and all of the other women at that conference this weekend. She is a mom whom God has specially equipped and called to discern Scripture and share what she gleans with others just like herself, but that’s it. I’m not making light of that — that’s a huge calling and commitment and sacrifice. But we shan’t think too highly of her — of those like her — either.

I had a dream that night that I was in the conference exhibit area. I rounded a corner to go down the next row of exhibits and there stood Beth Moore at a table with books and other things just talking to people as they walked by. I saw her and gasped in surprise, and my gasp caused her to gasp and open her wide eyes even wider at me. She was surprised that I was surprised, and I believe that was yet another warning to not place these teachers on too high of pedestals.

I like how one of the speakers put it — she was just like all the rest of us in the audience, just a little closer to the stage.

Fasting


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Photo: The Melting Pot

My pastor is teaching through the book of Luke on Sunday nights. A few weeks ago he was in Luke 2, a popular passage at Christmas time for it’s beautiful telling of Christ’s birth.

But after the birth, and after the angels, and after the shepherds, Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the temple to be consecrated (Lk 2:22). Simeon sings a song and then Scripture mentions the widow Anna.

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

She was married only 7 years when she became a widow. After that time she stayed at the temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying.

Pastor said he wanted to, for the next Sunday night service, briefly step out of Luke and teach us about Biblical fasting. It is oft misunderstood and thus not often done. One element of fasting, he said, was being desperate and hungry for God to speak. He asked, “Are you desperate to hear from God?,” and my heart said yes.

Two weeks later he taught on fasting, particularly walking us through fasts in Scripture looking at who fasted and the reasons for their fasts. I lingered around after — Ok, Bro. Steve, how do I do it? What do I do? Water only? Can I eat crackers? How long do I do it? etc.,

My two biggest questions was what do I eat/drink or not eat/drink, and how long should I fast? As to how long, the answer is a question: how desperate are you? Biblical fasts range from one meal to one day to 3 days to 40 days.

One meal or one day didn’t seem like long enough for me, although after the first day I was tempted to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew (pun intended) and wanted to rationalize stopping after day 1.

I went home after church that night and read more about those who fasted in the Bible. The Campus Crusade for Christ International fasting guide also was an excellent resource for some of my questions.

There are four, 40-day fasts recorded in the Bible — Moses, who did it twice, back to back; Elijah and Jesus. For many reasons, these fasts are considered supernatural. I wasn’t feeling called to a 40-day fast.

Our mission teams at church fast one day a week in the weeks leading up to their trips. That was an option, but I was feeling called to something a little more drastic than one meal but not quite as large as 40 days.

My fast was for three days. Things happening for three days and three nights in the Bible have special significance pertaining to the will of God. Christ was dead/buried for three days. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days. Saul/Paul fasted for three days after his conversion experience.

There’s no right or wrong answer on how long, and there’s more than one way to do it. Fasting is very personal, between you and God, so let the details about how long be worked out between the two of you. Because the point isn’t about going without food, per se, but about taking the time and energy spent on meals and giving that time and energy to God. Instead of eating three times a day, spend that meal time with God in worship and prayer.

My fast was … so many things. Good. Hard. Eye-opening. Exhilarating. Fresh. One of the best things was journaling the experience. I kept a notebook with me at all the times and wrote everything I was thinking, feeling, questioning, hearing, reading, pondering, singing and so on. The journal was my place to document what was happening between God and I and sometimes to write to Him and to myself.

At one point I penned in my journal, “You (God) knew when I bought this notebook what it would be used for and every word that is yet to be written on every page.” There is such hope and comfort and rest that He knows.

So much in the details of what God showed me in those three days is personal but I hope to share bits and pieces here over time. And I’m still digesting it (that pun, also, intended). I’m still journaling and the closeness with God from that time is still with me.

After it was over, I wrote a wrap-up in my journal. Looking back, I noticed that I had put things in terms of “my first fast,” meaning there may be a second or more to come. I believe that once you have been called and are obedient to a fast, you recognize the spiritual benefits and applications and look forward to when God calls to doing it again.

Finn Baptized


A year and a half ago at the Christmas Eve communion service at our church, as the “bread and the wine” (aka flat cracker and Welch’s grape juice) were passed Finn took a cracker bit and tiny juice cup just like the rest of us. When I leaned over to tell him not to do that, that the Lord’s Supper was only for believers — and in some schools of thought baptized believers — he said to me “It’s OK. I already have Jesus in my heart.”

What’s a mom to do with that? OK. If he’s that confident who am I to question him. Now, I suspect he wanted to eat the cracker and drink the juice. However I also feel that he at that moment believed whole-heartedly that Jesus was in his heart. And that’s all it takes, right? The faith of a child.

Ever since then he’s been trying to figure out. By “it” I mean salvation and what all the different components mean. Sin, repentance, forgiveness, grace, the Holy Spirit, etc. and I and others at church have been helping him by answering his questions when he has them and affirming what he’s learning.

After a friend of his was baptized a few weeks ago he said to me in the car on the way home, “I want to be baptized soon.” OK, I replied. Well, we need to talk about the things you need to do before baptism, which is primarily ask Jesus into your heart, meaning that He is your Lord and Savior and you give your life to Him. To do that, you need to understand sin and that Jesus died for your sins … and so forth. He seemed pretty confident to me so I told him we needed to talk to one of the pastors at church and we could also talk to his preacher/pastor Papaw.

We did that and decided we wanted Papaw to baptize him at Papaw’s church. My dad has baptized myself and Finn’s dad, all three of my nephews and my brother-in-law. The only ones he didn’t get were my mom and sister who were baptized before dad was a preacher. We joke that they should have to do it again just so they can be like the rest of us.

So that’s Finn’s journey to salvation and to baptism.

It was sweet, as his mom, to be there for him as he was asking questions and to be there to direct him in the next steps and to be there back stage to witness his baptism. Now I just hope I can continue to be there for him spiritually and to be a good example and to support him as he learns and grows more in his Christian walk.

Also, we both think it’s kinda neat that he was baptized the week of his 8th birthday.

The Blame Game


The sermon Sunday was titled “Loving the God Jesus Knows: Trusting a Good God When the World Goes Crazy.”

The Scripture was John 9 where Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus who’s sin caused a certain man to be blind — was it the man’s sin or his parents’ sin? Jesus answered it was neither. Some bad things happen for reasons other than sin, specifically in this case Jesus said it was so that the work of God could be shown in the blind’s man life.

What I got out of it: It’s not always somebody’s fault.

The other thing I got out of it: Blame is an attempt to make things make sense.

Sometimes thing just don’t make sense.

And that’s OK.

In Another Woman’s Shadow


One of the first ideas covered in Beth Moore’s study “It’s Tough to Be a Woman” is the idea that it’s tough being a woman in another woman’s shadow. Esther was coming in under the shadow left by Queen Vashti — the shadow of her beauty, her reputation, her royalty, her actions, and so on.

Honest to goodness — at the time — I felt like I couldn’t really relate. Me? In another woman’s shadow? Not me. I’m strong and independent and confident. That’s how I really felt, too. I believed it.

I was naive.

The group kicked around ideas for the women whose shadows we were in — our moms, our mother-in-laws, first wives/ex-girlfriends, women we work with, supermodels, society’s “ideal woman”, other moms, etc. OK, ok. As the list grew I could see the concept Beth was getting at a little more, but I still didn’t see it as a problem for me.

You know what? Some things are problems but we don’t even know it because living life around our problem has become “normal.”

Sure, I can see myself feeling like I am in my mother’s shadow, wanting to be as good as a mom as her, as good a wife, as good a cook, as good a working mom as she was, etc. Early on in my marriage I was in my mother-in-law’s shadow too. I didn’t cook or clean house as often or as good as she did. I was in the shadow of the woman my late husband was with before me — he was with her for three years and they were engaged to be married. A relationship that long and that close left a shadow. There are the shadows of the women in David’s life before me — his wife of seven years and fiancee from two years ago.

The thing is this: I can’t let any of those shadows get to me, and right now they do. I have to be me and be OK with that. Not even just be OK with that. I have to own being me. I will not mother the same way my mom does or clean the same way my mother-in-law did. I read a blog post yesterday about owning things, like owning how we feel and not being sorry all the time. I want to own my own mothering style and my own cleaning style as opposed to feeling inferior by comparing myself to how someone else does it. I want to own my relationship and be me in that relationship and not be someone else.

Being able to do that means having self-confidence. I have to like myself — love myself even — and right now I don’t. Right now I’m stuck thinking that I’m not as good, not as attractive, not as smart, not as funny, not as fun, not as free, not as _____.

I wouldn’t be able to say “I’m not as _____” as someone else if I wasn’t comparing. So that’s got to be the first thing to go. Stop comparing myself to others.

Like I’ve been talking about with the posts about lovely things, I need to see myself differently. See myself as pretty and smart and funny and fun. Because I am. David once said in a conversation about this that it’s insult to him for me to say negative things about myself because I’m putting down the person he loves and adores. Well, he may not have said the word “adores.” I may have thrown that one in there. But I’m trying to think more positive about  myself, so if I want to think he adores me, that should be OK, right? ;)

I’ll be honest and say it’s hard for me. It’s very hard, in fact. I struggle. A lot. David can testify. I desire to be the best and the prettiest and the first, yet I feel the worst and unattractive and inferior.

It’s a problem.

It’s a problem I’m trying to tackle. Writing about it here is helping me do that. So thanks for your patience as God continues to make this big ol’ lump of clay into something beautiful and something he can be proud of and use.