Submission and #NoFeels

I wanted to take a moment to share some powerful truth God has been teaching me. It’s life-changing and liberating. It’s simple and impossible without God. It’s the beginning of restoration and the realization of God’s promises in my life.

My submission has nothing to do with anyone else.

Did you catch that? I didn’t on the first pass. But I’m starting to and it’s creating a tsunami in my walk with God.

As a woman, a wife, a member of Church leadership, a daughter, a follower of Jesus (the list goes on, but lets end here) submission is a way of life for me. I am commanded by God in nearly every area of my life to submit to other humans. The order of said submission is sometimes blurry and the hierarchy I submit to is occasionally out-of-order, but that I am under human authority is ceaselessly relevant in my daily life.

Submission has meant many things to me, but what has marked my journey into submission more than anything else is frustration. Frustration that I cannot make all my own decisions. Frustration that although I’m an intelligent, capable person whose skills are readily called upon to make other’s lives easier, I’m somehow less intelligent and capable when it comes to taking counsel on decisions that will affect me and those around me. Frustration that no matter how I try, I never seem to be submitting well enough or properly enough or often enough. You see, I’m not very good at submitting at all.

Without getting into the finer details of my childhood, let’s just say that surrender was never my strong suit. Never. Meeting expectations for the purpose of furthering my own agenda? Yes. Oh, I excelled at that. I was also a master of quiet rebellion and a Machiavellian manipulator. But submission? The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person? No. Absolutely not.

You see my conundrum? How does one who has never submitted to authority of any kind without simultaneously scheming a way to get around it learn to yield? The Holy Spirit. As my sister and I say with all the sincerity in the world, “You slap some Jesus on that.”

I have recently stumbled into one of the most fundamental truths in the Gospel. If you have already found it, I’m sorry to have led you on so far. It’s quite elementary.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. – James 4:7a ESV

Let me back it up a few books to show you just what an “aha!” moment this should not have been for a Jew who grew up in Hebrew school.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.  – Exodus 20:2-3 ESV

The Jew within me scolds myself, “Were you paying any attention in synagogue!?”

It’s so simple, friends. When I submit to the Holy Spirit, truly accept and surrender to what He tells me to do, I am not in submission to man. I am in submission to God.

Don’t fret! It’s not heresy.

True submission is the seamless intermingling of several profound truths: I am an undeserving sinner. God’s grace saves me when I accept that Jesus died for my sins. I deserve nothing and have no qualifications to lead my own life. Without God’s wisdom and direction, I have no chance of doing what I ought. Yet, I will give an account to God for my days. All I thought, spoke, and did will appear before the courts of heaven and I will give an account for it. I am responsible for me regardless of what was occurring around me while I thought, said and did. There will be a reckoning. There will be no excuses. Jesus’ Blood will cover my sins, but the point at which I start in heaven will never be moved. I cannot redo my entry into eternity. Bearing all that in mind, I am aware of one obvious thing.

I better slap some Jesus on that.

If I live my life in submission to the Holy Spirit, I will rightly submit to everyone in my life whom I ought to. Furthermore, when things go wrong in my life, I can rest in knowing God has my back and I did what I was supposed to do. Not to mention, it lifts a huge burden in my relationships with those in authority around me and allows me to see them more as people, less like task-masters. God is my master. God is their master. My mastery of this life is dependent on my submission to Him. The same is true of my earthly “masters,” so to speak. We’re all in this together. Blame becomes less important. Guilt becomes a thing of the past. Feelings become immaterial.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. – Ephesians 5:22 ESV

Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. – Colossions 3:22-24 ESV

Submission to God leads to submission to men where it is right. It may also lead to taking authority of things you had let go of out of comfort or convenience. Submitting to the Holy Spirit isn’t easy or low-maintenance, but it’s life-giving. Furthermore, if I am in submission to the Holy Spirit, my feelings hold no sway over me. Why would I listen to my feelings, which often have no basis in fact and distract me from where I would rather focus my energy, if I can hear the voice of God? I am so done with all of my feelings right now. I say goodbye to them and their accompanying roller-coasters with nary a qualm.

When the Spirit of Truth is leading me in all righteousness it doesn’t matter what feelings I have, they are rendered inactive by the power of His sovereignty. The actions of others have little to no effect on mine. Feelings become significantly less ascendant in light of all the above. Who even invited feelings?

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

I’m in a world of chaos. My life seems to be constructed on minutiae. The more I listen, the clearer it all gets. Will I still mess up? Yes. Welcome to humanity. We live here. It’s messy. There’s only one ticket out and you better be ready for a heart-to-heart when you leave, so let’s start the conversation now. Who better to teach You than the Master Himself?

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. – John 16:13 ESV

Choose I a burden? With delight, I do. This cross is mine to bear and, with Him, my load is light.

Follow me here on my adventures!

Hurricane Irma Can’t Take This From Me

I walked into my room and grabbed the black duffel bag in the middle of the floor. I breathed in more uncertainty than oxygen. After joking with my sister the whole week about whether we would leave our makeup collections behind, I had reached reality. It burned my throat as I swallowed. It clouded my eyes as I closed them. In the past, I may have allowed myself to fall apart, but I did not have time to sweep up the pieces. So, I breathed. I believed.

God is good. God is here. God is all I need.

I want to say I steeled myself. My proud flesh wants to say I buckled down and did what needed to be done. That is not what happened. I was carried. God has carried me this last week and it was sweet.

Tears don’t scare me. Breaking down doesn’t scare me. Feeling alone doesn’t scare me. Being alone is daunting, but it is not what I most fear. I can say confidently after this last week, losing everything doesn’t scare me. Losing God does.

There are a lot of dreams I have held on to. There are prophecies and promises I have clung to with white-knuckled hands. I have dug my nails into my palms until they bled, but I didn’t let them go. I have carried them while He has carried me. He’s brought me this far and He’s going nowhere.

My greatest fear is losing Him the way a mother loses her husband when she forgets she’s a wife. Sometimes circumstances dictate priorities, but we pay a high price for losing sight of Jesus. He is closer than a spouse. He knows me better than any human could. I don’t want to lose Him. I don’t want to lose what I have with Him. If I had locked my mother’s house and come home to nothing, He would have been there. He would have been everything out of necessity, not out of choice.

So, I choose. I choose God. I choose my One Thing. Jesus Who saved me, You are my One Thing. Holy Spirit, Who never leaves me, nor forsakes me, You are my One Thing. Abba, Father Who gives good things, God, You are my One Thing.

There are more hurricanes in the Gulf. There are a thousand other circumstances that could separate me from my family, friends, dreams, life… There is nothing that can separate me from God except my choice.

Choose the uncertainty that surrounds Jesus and you choose a life of adventurous, unshakable love. The world can make you no such promises. The uncertainty of the world is cold and unforgiving. The uncertainty I live in today is persistent. It is, at times, overwhelming. But I am not uncertain of God.

For now, things are quiet. I am back to my routine, as normal as I can make it. Others are still suffering. Others were suffering before the hurricane and the world will continue to contain vast amounts of suffering until Jesus returns. But God is still good. God is still here. I still choose Him.

 

Wherever you go, there you are

One time in Barnes & Noble, my sister-in-law burst into hysterical laughter over the title of a book on display, Wherever You Go, There You Are. As ironic as I had always found the spine of this book as it had stared at me from my father’s bookshelf, it is becoming increasingly less funny as it increasingly describes my life.

On another more recent foray with her, I bought a small canvas which says, “Home is where our adventure begins.” At the time, I was about four months into my musical houses adventure. I arrived in the Sunshine state in June and am now preparing for my husband to return to Minnesota again for work. By the time he comes back, I will have been floating here for a year.

What I have learned is the following… Wherever you go, there you are. I’m not talking about being mindful, at least not in the sense that the book meant it. Then again, sensitivity to the Holy Spirit does require a kind of mindfulness, a willingness to be still and listen.

The Spirit of God hovered over the kitchen sink in my former house. I know, it sounds silly, but I tell you, that is where I’ve heard most clearly from Him. The few words God has given me about my life, I have received there, usually while washing dishes. I was able to go to California for a couple of weeks in October to clean out my house and say goodbye. Amidst the goodbyes that were too few and the packing that was never finished, God gave me my last word in my house.

I was washing dishes, as usual, looking at the tiles that my husband and I had picked out the day before I went into labor with my son. I looked at the window I never got around to decorating. I thought about how much I was going to miss this space where God had so often met me. I remembered how difficult it seemed to hear Him in Florida. I missed my quiet kitchen sink. As I started asking God, “What if I can’t hear You when I leave?” He interrupted my thoughts with an answer that reverberated in my mind.

“I will be with you wherever you go.”

His words filled the room. After a moment, I realized that what He had said was a verse, even several verses. This was the most ancient of promises. God had made this promise over and over in the Bible and He was making it to me as well.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18 ESV

Even as I continue to wade through the thick currents of confusion and waiting, God is with me. He steadies my feet and calms the waters, He lifts me up as I learned to walk closer to the surface of the sea. He knew where He was taking me when He told me we would be leaving California. I don’t even need to know myself. As long as He is with me, home will be where He is.

As if I needed one more reminder, my sister-in-law brought me home her latest find. A small jewelry tray with a verse written on it. Unbeknownst to her, I had been looking for one. She had bought one for herself and one for me. God knows just when our knees are buckling, He’s faithful to repeat Himself when He knows we are trying hard not to forget. Now, His words will be before my eyes every morning.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Service Requires Identity

I’ve been living in the Gospel of John for the last few weeks. I leave it playing on my phone during the day, I read it when I sit down with a spare minute, I’m even hearing my son start to walk around quoting pieces of it on occasion. I’ve been trying (because heavenly things can only be grasped in the Spirit) to immerse myself in His Truth. I want to better understand the Deity of Messiah – His love, His sacrifice, His humility, His adoption – I want to truly be planted in Him. There are many things that pierce my consciousness every time I hear them, but one in particular has been pulling at me lately.

Most Christians are familiar with the account of Yeshua washing the disciples feet before instituting the last supper. I never noticed that this account is only given in the Gospel of John. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all address the disciples’ discussion of who would be greatest in the Kingdom. However, the act of Jesus washing their feet is only in John. It’s not this account, per say, that I get stuck on. It’s the sentence immediately preceding the short account.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. – John 13:3-4 ESV

Why does John say this before going on to tell what happened next? There are many accounts in the Gospels of Jesus doing things that were just not done. Talking to the “unclean,” and even touching them – not done. What happened? They were healed and made clean. Talking to women – not done. What happened? They were healed, saved from stoning, lifted from shame, and given the ability to believe. Getting up from a table, at which you are the honored Rabbi and Teacher, to take off your outer clothing, tie a towel around your waist and wash dirt off of your students’ feet – definitely not done. So why does John make a point of saying what Jesus knew before He did this?

Yeshua knew who He was. Yeshua’s identity was not based in what He did for people, what He said to people, or who people thought He was. He knew Who He was. John wrote this (by the leading to of the Holy Spirit) for our benefit. We need to understand as a people consumed with image, what people think, what people don’t think – we need to understand that our identity comes from one place: God.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 ESV

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Romans 8:15-17

If I am a child of God, then I can do what God’s only begotten Son, Moshiach, whom I am to imitate, did. He was not afraid to lower or debase Himself in the midst of His disciples because it meant nothing to Him what they thought of Him. He knew Who He was.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand. Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. – John 13:6-8

Just a side note – I heart Peter. He makes me feel better about myself because, for as many people say they are Peter, I so am. Constantly jumping the gun with my mouth, making bold proclamations about what is right, what I think, what we should do – that is so me. I’m praying for God to move from pre-Holy Spirit Peter to post-Holy Spirit Peter. Another blog for another day.

If Peter could not accept Jesus as a servant who washed his feet, how would he ever accept Yeshua, the Suffering Servant Moshiach, Who would allow Himself to be cursed on a cross, hung on a tree, to bear the sins of the world? Peter and the disciples, people who were not used to being lifted up before others, thought that by standing with Jesus, expecting a reigning King who would obliterate the Romans at any moment, argued about who would be the greatest. Why? Because most of them were fisherman! They were not people of respect, not esteemed by their people, they did hard work and looked forward to being in the court of the King.

Paul, on the other hand, came from the feet of the Rabbi Gamaliel. He was all set up to be one of the most respected, paid-attention-to, everybody-listens-to-me leaders in the Jewish world. To be blinded, thrown off his horse and addressed by God, only to find out that he is persecuting the One who he professes to follow so zealously – his call was the embodiment of humiliation. He knew where he came from, he knew who he was and he knew who he served. His take on identity and service was very different than that of the quibbling disciples.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. – Philippians 3: 4-11

Yeshua said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35 ESV).  He said also, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

This is increasingly becoming my heart’s cry. Exactly what Paul, Shaul, said is how I feel. I want to know Yeshua HaMoshiach, Jesus Christ. I just want to know Him. And the more I know Him, the more I realize that my position in His Kingdom becomes increasingly irrelevant when I realize who I already am in Him.

I am a daughter of God. I am a servant of the One true God.

Who are you?

Happy Birthday Frankenmama

God is speaking to me through the shredded fabric of my son’s bear’s nose.

The little bear, affectionately dubbed “mama,” became my son’s bedtime companion after he spontaneously decided that he no longer wanted his binky. It fell on the floor at the store, I gave him a new one when we got home and he had already resolved to be done with binkies forever. He refused it and all other binkies after that day. It was shocking because he was “that kid” who ALWAYS had his binky in his mouth. I had no idea how I would ever get it away from him. A couple days after he  was all-done-binky, he got sick for the first time. He was inconsolable and without any means of coping. Then, I got the idea to give him the little bear. It was love at first bite. He started chewing the bear instead of the binky and refused all teethers. After about a month, I told my mom how attached he had become to the “mama”, to which she responded, “how many mamas do you have?” I proceeded to buy three of the now discontinued bears.

I tried to save the mamas and cycle through them evenly, but once teeth started coming in, their little organic cotton noses didn’t stand a chance. About three months ago, I started having to mend them every time they got washed. We cycle through a mama at least every other day, sometimes two or three per day, depending on the day’s disasters. You can imagine what the mamas must have started looking like. In case you can’t, here’s an idea…

frankenmamas - gittel fruma

Progression of the mamas from sheet-nose to frankenmama

The one on the left had been mended with fabric from a sheet. The one on the left had started losing cotton through the hole in its nose and reminded me of a very sad bear-pug. My son likes to pinch the thread on their noses, but also has a sensitive gag reflex, so every time he got the thread too far into his throat, he would gag. He would then come over and ask me to “fix mama” repeatedly, which usually resulted in some stitching or scissoring or something to temporarily rid mama of the unseemly thread. About ten minutes later, we would repeat this process. I realize this seems like really useless information, but that brings me to this morning.

I gave up on the “noses made of sheet” idea. The fabric just rips too easily and I don’t always have time to mend them before some crisis necessitates the immediate presence of a freshly-washed mama. I decided to rip one mama’s sheet nose off and try re-stuffing the actual nose with the sheet. I felt slightly creeped out by slicing the mama’s actual nose open, but it was necessary. As I sat there, using the point of my fabric scissors to stuff pieces of sheet inside the mama’s nose, I started thinking about the daily lengths I go to for my son. Here I was, sewing the first of four mamas that would need this procedure, thinking about how best to get the job done in an aesthetically pleasing way (pretty sure I failed…) so that my son would be happy with a nose well-sewed. I have spent countless hours chasing after lost mamas, darning their noses, cutting pieces off of them as they unravel and searching for new ones on the internet. Why the slight obsession with the mamas? Because I want my son to feel comforted, happy and secure.

Even through my best efforts, I will never be able to give my son what God can give him. I look at the badly stitched, blue-threaded nose of the mama and I think to myself, “this is so clearly my work.” There are times in life when we just need to commit our works to God and say, “Amen.” I will continue to give my best to my son. He is a blessing from the Lord and I love him more with each passing day. And yet, I will never be able to love him as much as God loves him. As I waited to meet him for nine months, God carefully crafted him inside my womb, down to the last hair that would someday be on his head. He loves him more than I’ll ever know or understand. He loves all of us that way. He desires to work in our lives in a deep and meaningful way. The Holy Spirit wishes to have a relationship with each of us. He leaves nothing incomplete. He restores everything. He shapes us into the people He meant for us to be. As much as we let Him, He will transform our lives. There is nothing that He cannot do. He wills for us all things for our good. If God had mended the mama, she would have glowed upon leaving His gentle touch.

While I am here, laboring for the cause of my Messiah, I pray that I would be found faithful in those things entrusted into my hand. Surely, my children will be the most precious things given to me to care for. My husband, my children, my sisters, my parents, my family in Christ, and all of those with whom God knits me together should be the constant recipients of my wisdom and kindness. I will invest all I have to give into the Kingdom of God and I hope to be a light in the darkness all of my days.

But my efforts alone will never be enough because they were never meant to be. I thank God that He sent His Son to be the sacrifice for my sins, and that He sent the Holy Spirit to be my constant comforter on earth. I can’t do it by myself. I can’t live up to my own standards, let alone those of the One, Holy and Sovereign God. Someday, all things will be made new again and all things broken will be made beautiful. In the mean time, I thank God for the work He does in our lives as we commit our paths to Him. This is the most important lesson I can teach my little son. When all else fails, including the nose of your mama, God will always be there for you. Happy birthday, mama. May your nose be ever-intact.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His Presence continually! – I Chronicles 16:11

He’s not the God of the half-finished

Some days, I take up my sword and run into battle. Then, there are days like these when it’s all I can do to hold my shield over my head. When the fight becomes the fray, it’s tough to stand on your feet. I’ve reached a point where I’ve been thinking to myself, “God, is it ever going to end? Will I have to wait for heaven to feel the light of your face again?” I’m telling you right now, Satan loves those days.

My God is not the God of the half-finished. Maybe you and I have difficulty bringing our works to completion, but God does not. Let me repeat that. God does not leave things half-finished.

God has made me promises. Not just promises in His Word, which are time-tested, rock-solid, unshakeably truthful, but He has promised me things that I will see in my life. Time to put my faith where my future is. I believe the harvest is coming and it will be glorious. I had been praying this month when I set up my handy dandy dry erase board for a verse to encourage me. When I found this one, I was amazed at how pertinent it was. Of course, all scripture is for each of us – but this just became my anthem.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  – 1 Peter 5:10 ESV 

When I’m not blasting For King and Country’s new song Its Not Over Yet (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maSQ3cgvta0), I will be singing this verse over my life because God will bring the work He started to completion. Praise God for restoration!