Writing and Calling

Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of our calling and how we practically walk that out.

I’ve known since first grade that I loved writing and wanted to be a writer.  It’s been a bumpy road to actually start though.  For so long I wanted to write, and not just write but fulfill the calling I felt.  I would feel like the Holy Spirit illuminated things to me in my time with him and I wanted to share with others.

What I was lacking was technical skills.  During my years in high school I was not a great student and went to an alternative school where we mostly just got credit for showing up.  I have zero college.

I just started though.  I had no idea how to set up a blog so I started writing little notes on Facebook.  Starting this blog was a big step as well.  Still, I’ve really struggled with wanting to just delete everything because of personal insecurity.  While I want my platform to grow, I’ll admit that I’m happy that I write in relative obscurity.  I really like to be real and authentic and I write from my heart…which is what I want but it also leaves me vulnerable to criticism.

I read a blog from a fellow INFJ recently that addressed our need to be validated https://ispeakpeople.com/validation/  Do I relate?  uh…yeah!  sallyI feel you, Sally.  The struggle is real!

About a year and half ago I joined a question and answer website (ah heck, it was quora)….  I was looking for answers on my then little pup and his biting.  I got sucked in.  I can offer advice online to strangers?  People care what I have to say?  People asking me for HELP!  Yes, please!

I went from having a few people read my stuff to thousands.  I was getting all kinds of recognition that I hadn’t gotten before.  It was dizzying and exciting and wonderful.

The approval went to my head and the entire thing became an idol to me.  I knew without a doubt it was coming between God and myself.  But it was so hard for me to give it up.  After months of tug and war, and becoming increasingly miserable, I did.

Now I’m back to writing for a very small audience.  I know that God has a call on my life.  I hope for more.  But I realized that all along I was seeking the dreams God had put on my heart more than God himself.  The dreams were all good.  I genuinely want to help people.  I genuinely want to write in a way that glorifies God.  But… do I want that actualization of my dreams more than God himself?

I got a mental picture today in church.  I’ve been feeling pretty isolated lately.  I feel like I’ve gone through a long season of giving things up but I’m still waiting for doors to open, you know?  It’s that tough place in between.  But God put in my mind a mental image during worship today at church- that it’s better to be alone in the desert with God than virtually anywhere else without him.

The desert is his training ground.  It’s sacred ground.  It’s the secret place where he can nurture the character until you can operate in your gift with grace and humility.  Your gift isn’t the be all, end all.  Your character is far more important.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well….” Matthew 6:33

Not going to lie, I know I still need more time.  I still have lessons to learn.  I realize I need to seek God first, and everything else (including opportunities for ministry work) will be like a cherry on the top of the sundae that is knowing God and walking with him intimately.

I also know I have a very (looonnngggg) way to go where I don’t need approval so badly.  It’s just a process.  There’s no way to rush it.  In the mean time I know there are treasures to be found right where I’m at.  Treasures I may not have noticed if I had more “going on” in my life.

 

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Devotion

When I get up in the mornings it’s usually just me and my dog for a blessed period of relative quiet until my kids wake up.

This morning was no different.  I got myself some coffee and gave my dog, Copper, a scoop of food and headed down to the basement to read my Bible.  My dog actually abandoned his uneaten bowl of food to follow me.  Which is hilarious, because we joke he has two great loves in life- eating and Mama (me).

I was really touched that he would rather be by my side than eat alone.

My husband calls him my “Hachi” because of his devotion.  On nights when I went to work he would refuse to leave the door until I got home.  This is him waiting (so sadly!) for me to get back. spudy

It’s an honor to have the love and devotion of a pet.  He wants to be near me because he knows I love him.

I wonder what are we willing to give up to be with our Heavenly Father?

A few minutes of sleep in the morning?  Our “channel-surfing” time?

How do we show our love and devotion?

This morning I just absolutely had to go to church.  We’ve mostly missed church since Gabe started TSW about 5 months ago.  This morning we went, though it meant rushing around and the kids eating snacks and having juice boxes for breakfast in the car for a makeshift breakfast.

It was so great though.  The worship and message were great, and exactly what I needed.  We went up for the altar call after the service.  Tim carried Gabe up.  An older couple prayed over us.  I just cried and cried and the older lady held me and it was very healing.

I’ve read about people going through extended dry spells where the presence of God seems to always elude them, but that has never been the case for me.  If I’m dry it’s because I’m not really seeking.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

I have always found him so faithful, so eager to meet with me.  When I put my phone down and instead spend those early moments in the day seeking Him, I find he is there waiting.  I’m so thankful for that.  That he isn’t far away, or hard to find.

“….though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27

“Father, thank you that you are so available to us, so near.  Help us to put aside distractions and earnestly seek you with all our heart.  For those of us who are seekers, please make yourself so visible and tangible.  Amen.”

 

The True “Message”

Waves of dismay and perhaps indignation swept through the evangelical community yesterday.  Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor and author of “The Message”, came out in support of gay marriage.

Coincidentally, I was just reading up on Jen Hatmaker and the fallout after she “came out” with similar views.

I really want to handle the subject with compassion.  It isn’t just a matter of theology or lifestyle choices.  This is incredibly important but potentially polarizing.

First, a little about my background- I’m a minnesotan girl so I grew up in the land of Lutheran churches and potlucks in church basements (you betcha!).  My parents also would occasionally bring us to conferences in “the cities” where we were exposed to a weird, amped up form of charismatic Christianity (I remember seeing people rolling around and barking).

As a young adult coming into my own faith I was very drawn towards a toned down version of charismatic evangelicalism.  I identified as a Pentecostal and my husband and I have attended various Assembly of God congregations over the years.  I personally like strong, biblical teaching with an emphasis on allowing the Holy Spirit to move and direct the service.

I view the Bible as the absolute authority.  It’s the plumb line of truth.  I believe the Word is living and active and that it holds the very essence of God himself.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Word is inextricably connected to Jesus, who in himself contains the fullness of deity (Col. 2:9).  All scripture is divinely inspired, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 2:16).

You can not separate Biblical Christianity from the Word of God; the Bible.

“But Sierra, there are different interpretations…”  Yes, there are.  Some verses and passages are difficult to understand.  But there are other topics that are incredibly clear.  One being Gods stance on sexual sin.

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men….” 1 Cor. 6:9

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1

I do believe we are living in the last days.  Popular, mainstream Bible teachers are beginning to turn away from the plain truth of scripture and embrace the Worlds stance.  Mr. Peterson even adapted the Bible for modern ears, conveniently rewording passages and dropping mentions of the sinfulness of a gay lifestyle.

Do I claim to understand everything in the Word of God?  Of course not.  There are things I don’t understand.  Things I’m still wrestling through.  But if I disagree, if I am offended by the Word- I’m the one in error.  The Word is eternal.  The Word will endure when everything else turns to dust.

Heaven help me if I use my (admittedly, much smaller) platform to teach contrary to the Word of God.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  James 3:1

I’m not hardened to the plight of those who want to follow God who also feel same-sex attraction.  All I can say is that we are called to be living sacrifices as we follow Christ.  Our whole beings, including our sexuality- is to be consecrated to God.  Each believer has to work that out, between themselves and their Creator.

I think the church should be welcoming to those from the LGBT community without losing ahold of the truth of God.  We can be compassionate but, like Jesus, full of grace and truth.

Otherwise, if we are start discarding scripture that doesn’t fit with our world view… where will we end up?  And who are we to argue with God?  Who are we to say that our vision of human sexuality is better, more evolved, than his?  “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?  Isaiah 29:6

We need to tell people the truth, or we could be “compassionately” losing hold of the Gospel, the very power of God unto salvation… in our effort to make the faith more palatable to a lost and dying world.  A gospel that doesn’t save isn’t the gospel at all.

The power of the Gospel drives life change.  The presence of God demands holiness.  “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16  We are either embracing the work of God, submitting to the death of our own sin nature, or we are not.  We can’t get to the resurrection without going through the cross.

Are people born gay?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that we are all afflicted in various ways because of the curse.  Romans 8 describes how all creation was subjected to this curse.  We all carry this death in our beings.  We are all warped and hopelessly broken. We all wait for the children of God to be revealed, when everything that is currently wrong will be made right.  In the mean time we have to rise above because- “we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12

How that looks for each of us is going to be different. My temptations and struggles are unique to me.  There are things I’m working out with God.  Parts of my flesh that don’t need to be rehabbed, they need to be crucified.  Just like every single person that would accept the message and chose to carry their cross.

In closing I want to specify that we can all do this thing because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrew 4:15 Jesus is compassionate to the struggles we face.  He does not judge the sin of homosexual acts harsher than any other sin.  He loves the LGBT crowd just as much as the potluck crowd.  There is hope for the gossip, healing for the addict, courage for the coward.

The transformative power of the Gospel is for all.  “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

As the Church, we need to be kind, loving, compassionate while holding onto the truth revealed in the Word of God.  We also need to be aware that the climate of culture is becoming such that we need to be willing to be firm in the face of being labeled as homophobic, bigoted, hateful, etc., in fact we should expect that.  We need to know where we stand, even if that means enduring persecution.

 

 

 

Irrevocable

Today I put the final entry in my journal of over 3 years.  It wasn’t a big journal.  It was something that I wrote in sporadically.  As I filled the final page I reflected over the past three years and changes I want to make.

I felt a general feeling of sadness.

I haven’t been as close to the Lord as I could have been.  I wasted a lot of time.

I wrote out my last entry with some pretty basic goals/hopes for the coming years.  I want to see my baby healed.  I want to be closer to God.

I opened my Bible to Romans 11 and read “….for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29  I love the word “irrevocable”.  The Greek word here is ametamelétos which means “about which no change of mind can take place”.

The call on your life, the gifts God has given you- those things are irrevocable.  Does that give anyone else a tremendous sense of comfort? 20170712_130709

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:30-31

Foreknew.  Predestined.  Called.  Justified.  Glorified.

I can’t type these words without tears welling in my eyes.  There is a destiny on your life that supercedes the things that bog you down, the pain that leaves you crippled, the sin that separates you from your Father.  His call, his choice…it’s irrevocable. 

“Lord, fan into flames again the dreams you put into our hearts.  Work in us the will, the desire to obey you.  Help us, Lord, to be courageous and to be more than overcomers through Christ Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, that you knew us before the dawning of time.  You chose us and your banner over us is love.  We love you and we trust that you are working all things out for our good, because we love you and are called according to your unshakeable, irrevocable purpose.”

 

 

Suffering and Heaven

18920650_10158894564500074_8516742202078951748_nYesterday I took just Gabe out shopping.  I don’t often get to spend alone time with him and I was reminded what an amazing kid he is.  He has such a tender soul.  He wants to run an orphanage when he grows up… but he also wants to drive a Ferrari, so… 😉

We had a fun time, just the two of us.  On the way home he kept asking me about Heaven and what it’ll be like when Jesus comes back.

I explained to him that Jesus will appear in the sky with great glory, riding the clouds.  That every eye will see him, even those that pierced him.  That we will rise to meet him and be changed, to be like him.  That there will be no more sickness, death, pain…

I got choked up and so did he.  He said, “Mom, I can see him coming.”  I said, “honey that’s the Holy Spirit showing you that it’s true.”

You see, just the day before he had been in a lot of pain.  In between tears and sobs he had asked, “if God loves me, why am I suffering so much?”

The conversation, and the sweet presence of God, was something we both desperately needed.  Something that I need more of.

In my own suffering I tend to turn away.  I feel like I can’t take anymore disappointment at times, without losing hold of my faith.  But yesterday, it was like He peeled back the curtain obscuring eternity and gave us both a glimpse of our future and the end of suffering.  I felt a glimpse of the eternity and wonder awaiting us, and looking over at Gabe’s tear-filled eyes, I know he did too.

I know that Gabriel is being molded in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend.  I know he has a huge call on his life.  Even at the age of 8, there is a level of tenderness, empathy and hunger for knowledge of God that is amazing…. probably as the result of all the suffering he’s had to endure.

We can got lost in the hardships we face but we need to remember that life here is short and eternity is long.  We can’t choose the trials but we can choose how we face them.  Our God loves us.

 

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Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.

Spring, Sadness, Hope

I watched this video yesterday and broke down crying.  It pulled on my heart strings because I know exactly how each of the moms feel.  You struggle privately and have to put on a brave face for your kiddo.

Going through TSW is incredibly isolating because it isn’t a well known condition.  People have never heard of it.  Whenever I post updates or pictures I always get people saying things like, “OMG!  That’s an allergic reaction!”  or “coconut oil took care of my small patch of eczema!”  Insert head-slap here.

Also not particularly helpful is reaching out to the mother of a sick child….trying to sell them something as a MLM distributer.  We’ve tried every lotion on the planet at this point, I’m sure yours isn’t going to be the magic bullet that will end his suffering.  But….um thanks for offering??

Or posting progress pictures.  I always point out that’s he still has a long way to go.  But still people “be like” Hallelujah!  He’s finally healed!!  Um…slow down.  He’s still very much suffering and going through this.  I just like to post pictures when there is any progress to encourage myself and let everyone else know how he is doing.

Speaking of that, he has come a long way.  When you deal with something like this it is easy to fall into hopelessness because it just goes on….and on.  He’ll make major progress and then flare again.  Our hopes will rise, then get squelched.  But I know every single day we weather brings us one day closer to him being healed.

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This was about 1 1/2 months ago.  Yep, RSS is that horrific.
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That’s him now.  Not healed but making progress!

At the moment he is flaring on his face pretty badly.  He doesn’t want to leave the house, because he is so embarrassed.  He’s lost weight off of his already very skinny little body.  In spite of seemingly eating 24/7 he is very thin and his clothes hang off of him.

I also believe he is healing on the inside too.  His organs became steroid dependent as well.  Every morning he has a hard time getting going.  We need to carry him out of bed, get him breakfast, and then bathe him.  I still need to wash all his bedding every single day.  Because every night it gets bloody and crusty and covered in his dead skin.

We are hitting this thing from every possible angle.  Probiotics, vitamins, homeopathy, bone broth, garlic, sea salt….just every thing we can do to help him.

That’s been our focus and it’s really brought us all together.  I feel closer to my husband than ever.  I thank God for our solid marriage.  He has been my partner in this 100% and is so quick to sacrifice for his family.

Most days we are doing pretty good considering.  When you’re going through a long term crisis everything else get’s backburnered.  We barely celebrated Easter.  We haven’t really been able to go to church in ages because it takes so long to get Gabe going in the morning.  I was ok with that until I drove past a cross with ribbons billowing in the wind the Monday after Easter.  I felt an unexpected tidal wave of sadness at not being able to celebrate my favorite holiday the way I would have liked.  It threw me into a bit of a depression for the rest of the week.

But I know that next year will be totally different.  Next year we will go all out for Easter.  Next year we will properly celebrate our Anniversary.

We know that our faith has carried us through this and also all the many prayers offered up for Gabe.  Thank you everyone for your continued support and prayers!!