The Patient Savior

My place of work is a hospital and my job title is medical social worker. No, I’m not here to take your children. My main duties include assisting the patient with a safe discharge by arranging needed services, addressing social needs, and combating bureaucratic obstacles. All in a day’s work. I absolutely love my job, but with it comes the responsibility of jumping into a mess, a trauma, or just pure suffering. I see the stories of individuals unfold everyday, and I feel blessed to make a brief appearance, hoping to lighten their load. But like always, whenever I make the effort to help another, I always walk a way with a full heart from what they gave me.

I am particularly fond of one elderly couple I see every few months on my hospital floor. The husband is always sitting outside his wife’s door with a newspaper in hand, never sitting inside the room but always present. Unfortunately, his wife no longer knows who he is and his presence is unwanted. She screams out for help in her unending confusion, but when he answers her call, she lashes out in anger fearing this unknown man. He returns to his chair and waits for the unlikely opportunity to be accepted by the one he will never leave. As I approach him to complete my assessment, he responds with a friendly smile to my sympathetic gaze. It lifts my Spirit to see him greet an outsider (me) with kindness as I peer into his world of tumultuous love and rejection. He ends our conversation by telling me, “I’ll be here if you need me!” As he reopens his newspaper, I have no doubt in my mind that he will be.

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This marriage painfully reminds me of my relationship with The Lord. Although the wife, through no fault of her own, cannot recognize the man who sits and waits to love and help her, I, on the other hand, am choosing blindness over pursuit of my savior. When I stray and follow the world, become enmeshed in vanity, and lose all sight of my call to love, I am like the confused woman in the hospital room. My Lord is waiting at the door and often enters to pull me out of my stupor, yet I lash out and act like I have never known him. Yet I do know him, he saved me, he has seen me in most intimate and humble moments. He knows me better than anyone, and I, once upon a time, promised him my everything. Despite my rejection, he waits, Despite my harsh words and my ugly sin, he holds out for me, knowing I’ll return.

One day this woman will remember her husband and see his face with complete clarity in heaven, which gives me and her husband indescribable hope.

I hope one day I can consistently set my eyes on my maker. He will always be there waiting to receive me right outside my door, ready to pour out love and forgiveness I so desperately need and undoubtedly do not deserve. I am so thankful that the Lord showers grace on the needy, the sick and the undeserving.  In the end we will all see and understand, but until then I hope to live in grace and sight provided by my patient savior.

 

What’s In A Name

The name my parents gave me is “Lauren”. The name my nephews call me is “Aunt Lo”. My husband usually calls me “babe”. All these names for one little me signify relationship, love, and a deep connection. I treasure the sound of hearing my name called out in love from my family and friends. How much more beautiful is the name my heavenly father calls me: Daughter.

When I think of all the names the Lord called his children: chosen, anointed, uniquely created, strong, forgiven, the one that most deeply touches my heart is that I am His. God adopted me into his family, allows me to experience unending grace, and now calls me daughter. I can never lose Him. His love is without end.

Even with the knowledge of my permanent bond to the God of the universe, I name myself in relation to temporary circumstances or worldly perspectives. In much the same way Naomi, (meaning pleasant) renamed herself Mara (meaning bitter) as a reaction to her circumstances (Ruth 1:20), I change my name tied to love into one of self-shame. When I fail, I call myself stupid. When I am the object of teasing, I call myself “too fat,” “too skinny,” “too fill in the blank.” When I run out of money I become poor, broke, or unsuccessful. Whether the origin of circumstance is due to my own lack of effort, the intentions of another, or the position The Lord has put me in, I change the way I refer to myself. I don’t believe this reflects a faithful spirit because I don’t believe my name ever changes with the one who matters most. According to the Gospel, I can (and will) sin and even receive punishment without losing the title Child of God. The Lord loved us so much that he sent his son to die a tragic death for our salvation. Who am I to call a divine creation (me & you, because that’s what we humans are) a mistake or unworthy or ugly?

The choices of man can turn into sin and sin deserves to be named, but the name of a Christian never changes from one who belongs to The Lord.

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God is sovereign over my sin, my good works, my position in life, my career, my health, and everything in between. It is time for me to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over my name. I am His. I am covered in grace. I am beautiful. My heart feels buoyant just penning these words. How much more fearless and sacrificial would I be if I believed them everyday? Only God knows, and I hope to find out too.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear son.” Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

Exposure

 

I’ve been on a hiatus lately. I have largely neglected the realm of Christian music, Christian literature, devotionals, and the like. I have a lot of issues with the American Christian sub-culture, but that is not necessarily my reason for recent aversion to “Christian” things. Honestly, I would attribute it to complacency and possibly distraction. Now, I am not one of those Christians who believes we should ostracize ourselves from mainstream culture. In fact, I truly believe we should interact with popular culture because 1. we are people and people create culture and 2. Christians should be in constant relationship with those who don’t believe.

My personal hiatus, however, is not based upon purely temptation or pleasure. I believe I slowly habituated myself to what is easy and available rather than seeking out Christ-like, lovely and pure forms of media, entertainment, literature, etc. It simply became easier for me to devour what is spoon-fed everyday by the masses versus pursuing the intimacy of Christ.

I get into moods (I think everyone does) where I just want to  be numb. So, I engage in “numbing” activities and watch “mindless” tv or read “empty” articles about something vain and meaningless. I get used to this type of empty stimulation until my soul is exposed to God’s interaction in the world, and I begin to turn my head in His direction again.

It’s astonishing how this cycle can perpetuate in my life, yet I find myself retracing my steps again trying to run back into the arms of Christ.

When I am operating in the phase of constant secular input I produce very little meaningful output. My mind is not creating words or wisdom or even prayer when I’m on my mainstream binge. I have no inspiration. I’m surviving on “junk food” if you will and my creative hub is in dire need of some Christ-inspired veggies.

Recently (as in yesterday) I was surrounded by some generally awesome, God-loving people which inspired me to read a Bible verse or two which in turn led to All Sons and Daughters playlist session which caused me to begin an Annie F. Downs book. You get the picture. It’s only “Day One” of my exposure revival and I already feel the impact of loving words, holy scripture, and even the intimate conversation with my Lord again.

I am once again learning how my sinful self so easily falls into chasing things of this world rather than the Creator of this world. It scares me how so easily distracted I can become; something as simple as repeated exposure can alter my well-spring of praise and  passion. As I continue building my relationship with God and his church, I am learning the importance of : “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.” 

 

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How do you balance exposing yourself to the lovely things of this world without being enclosed in a “Christian bubble”?

3 Verses

My Bible Study leaders recently challenged all the married couples in the group to choose three Bible verses to pray for their significant other. I thought this was a fantastic and challenging dare, not to mention  a new way to look at Scripture.  Applying these verses to my spouse, not just myself, allowed me to (re)recognize the power of Scripture and the power of prayer. I was reminded to never underestimate the God who inspired these words and who is able to grant the desires of your heart.

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The three verses I chose for my husband:

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.” – Proverbs 3:13

I pray for wisdom to infiltrate my husband’s being, not because he is foolish, but because he is young and growing in his faith. My spouse loves the Lord and desires to know as much about him as possible. I pray God grants the desires of his heart and fills him with understanding, thereby, empowering him to lead and teach me as well.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” – Mark 12:30

My husband is FULL of spunk, wits and compassion. His personality is dynamic and this verse embodied what God has blessed my husband with and the potential he could have for Christ. I pray my husband is able to use strength and energy to praise the Lord in action and word fulfilling this command in Scripture.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32

This verse is specifically for our marriage relationship and my husband’s familial relationships. My spouse is gentle-natured, and quite frankly, he’s an overgrown kid. He is already wonderful at forgiving and being tender towards me (more than I can say for myself). So, I thank the Lord for this blessing and pray God continues to supply my husband with his gentle, peaceful demeanor.

What three verses can you pray over your husband, sister, friend, mother, brother, etc?

The Newly Married Devotional

Marriage is like walking in the door to your brand new home to find two deer heads mounted on the wall. On one hand, you are shocked the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with would think it a good idea to hang dead animals on the wall without consulting you, meanwhile you are telling him to scoot them closer together for the best aesthetic appeal.

Sharing a home is the tangible representation of two lives colliding into one. For example, one room in our house is decked out in Jimi Hendrix posters, Gibson guitars, and surf motif while the common area bleeds Nate Berkus and geometric patterns. Decorating our new home has been a clash of styles (if you can call my husband’s 14 year old boy theme a style), but even more, the interactions and words spoken inside our home have created a far more significant juxtaposition of two previously separate lives.

My husband is slow to speak, calm, relaxed, self-proclaimed lazy, gentle, and hilarious. His personality is that of a California surfer and redneck combined who happens to love Jesus as well. I am just as happy of a person, just tinged with more anxious, controlling, and diligent attributes. We make a great combination, honestly. But our personality styles have caused a significant readjustment in our conjoined spiritual lives. I am the “go-getter” and the typical one to lead the conversation, start a new book series, and have question and answers pertaining to our subject matter. My husband doesn’t really even like to read. Yet, my husband has been called to be the spiritual leader in our marriage.

The question I have been toying with and we, as a couple, have been conducting experiments based upon, is how do we embrace our personalities and our seemingly opposite roles simultaneously?

I am a natural born leader and my husband loves to support me, but we both know the husband leads. So, what does that look like spiritually in our marriage? We don’t really have a firm answer on that yet, but we have a couple of attempts in the works. Here are our tips to other couples who may find themselves in a similar situation of traversing through spiritual leadership in a new marriage:

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1. Communicate. It was no mystery that I wanted to drive, steer, and navigate our time with God as a couple, and I was not blind to my husband’s desire to lead me spiritually. What it took was a conversation. Speak openly about what you understand about scripture, what your expectations are for your spouse, and your needs from one another. You will find differences and similarities in opinion which may come as a surprise. It was crazy to think I have been dating/married to this man for seven years and I am still learning new things about him! But it took us a while to have this conversation as a newly married couple. Honestly, it was a little intimidating because my time with God has always been very intimate and personal. Bringing another person into that relationship can be scary-even when it’s your husband. This first conversation was truly half the battle to get over the hump of awkwardness in having a spiritual relationship as man and wife.

2. Start Simple. Sometimes I dive headlong into things, but my husband reels me in. He suggested a plan of reading a devotional chapter and scripture together twice a week as a start to our time with God. I would have written out a monthly reading plan with homework included- retrospect makes me thankful for my husband. He knew we had to start somewhere and habituate this faithful aspect of our marriage before we could become the Christian couple we may idealize in our minds. Starting simply has allowed us to become acclimated to each other in the presence of God while providing plenty of room to grow. I know the Lord is not berating us for starting small, but rather smiling down because we are choosing to seek and grow with Him.

3. Pray. This may seem obvious, but the only way to truly become more like Christ is for Christ to make you more like Him. This involves husband and wife praying for grace, mercy, and blessing to be poured into their relationship. We cannot be righteous on our own, we have acknowledged this is not a “seek and conquer devotional boot camp” for married couples. My husband and I need to pray for our marriage to become Christ-centered with Christ. It seems so simple, but often I find myself leaving  the most pivotal person out of the equation. To admit to weakness and surrender your marriage will be  your greatest sacrifice for spiritual change and a marriage bursting with unconditional love.

We are on quite the spiritual journey complete with compromises- like when he uses the “Sean Connery” audible voice app for scripture reading versus actually reading it (which makes me laugh every time). Despite our seemingly opposite personalities and interior design preferences, my husband and I are slowly finding cohesion in our time together with Christ. We have been enjoying this new time with God and each other tremendously and recommend all Christian couples to start somewhere with willing hearts! 

What works in your marriage?

Thanksgiving

I want to write the masterpiece of inspiration. The piece that tells of glory, nature, and beauty or adventure, fear, and victory. I want to feel the upsurge in my heart to write that very thing that is drowning my emotional hub. 

I want to describe that sunset, that kiss, the romance. I want to give to others the story of a life well-lived, even at least to entertain my audience. 

The fault in my story is the lack of material. The age old cliche, “write what you know” is, in this case, my curse. How can I write of something I have never experienced of something I’ve never felt? My material is lacking because my experience is still a dream.

So, I write about what I want, what I’m eager for, what I imagine, but this is lackluster. My words lack the gumption of reality. The rawness of personal perspective. So I type and I wish my life was more inspired. Inspiration takes money, time and sacrifice. 

How do I capture grand stories of life and travel when I cannot afford to get to the destination? 

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Answer: I make my little life magical.

 

My mundane, average, non-climatic tale is full of stories to be told, yet undiscovered by my blind eye. What takes true talent is to write about the norm and inspire others to hold their own day-to-day in higher regard. If I can find the inspiration in my self-proclaimed boring life, can I not propel another to see the glory in the homes, streets, and workplace they see everyday?  

This is a grand hope for a momentous change in personal perspective with no outside change. Which is why I must pray to the Father of Inspiration. I pray to have eyes open and heart unguarded to the boldness of color, the emotion in a glance, and the adventure of surviving each day.

 

How to make the mundane magical is just the act of thankfulness in every moment- the awareness I am surrounded by creation, relationship, and a world beyond the physical. All the inter-workings to the perfect masterpiece. To be thankful is to see what’s right in front of you.

Faith and Emotions

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Being a female, I sometimes get accused of feeling too much. I tear up during commercials, okay. This not only makes my husband uncomfortable, but it also isn’t a joyride for me when I am having intense feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, revenge, etc. Of course the pay off is I often have moments of all-encompassing joy and freedom!

After finishing reading the Bible one morning, I had a thought cross my mind. If i can’t help that I am a woman, that I have emotions, and that I seem to feel them more intensely than the average person, why not align the emotions to the one who created them?

Maybe, if I feel sad and can’t seem to find the light, then I should think about what makes the Lord sad. I  imagine the Lord looks down at children starving and men without shelter and feels intense sadness for his creation. What if I could direct my sadness into a type of “holy sadness” in which I aligned my heart more closely to God’s? Because most of the time, when I feel sad, I feel sad about myself or my body or my dysfunctional family. As a believer, shouldn’t I sacrifice my all to follow Christ, even my emotions?

And when I am consumed with anger. Would it be wrong to redirect my anger to the injustices of this world caused by selfish man? Instead of getting angry about a rude client at work, I could get angry for the women who are trafficked into this country under the guise of a better life.

Surely not every human emotion is justifiably related to a holy perspective, but what if I could turn my emotions into a corresponding action of love or an inexhaustible will to fight for the vulnerable?

Could I take on the burden of the cross while giving my emotions over to the Lord? I imagine the result would be less discontentment for my own life and an increased compassion for the creation God so intensely cares for that he gave his only son.

It may just be that my girly emotions could be the perfect fuel for a passionate faith. 🙂

Love Dare: Words

A Love Dare: “Say Nothing Negative to Your Spouse”

From the book, The Love Dare, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

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Ironically, this issue of words is the first dare, and one of my weakest areas of sin. I am critical and verbal. These two characteristics can be a harmful combination- especially in a marriage. The day I attempted this dare began well with a deliberate drive to speak only positive words to my husband. I believe I was working off the “Idle Hands” theory, but rather avoiding an “Idle Mouth.” For a while, it felt wonderful to shower my husband with sweet, honey-dripped words, but then something I didn’t expect happened. He said hurtful words to me; this is not his area of weakness so it came as quite a shock.

What was this; the ultimate test? Apparently, it was.

As my emotions boiled over, I restrained my tongue and lips to claim victory over the unwanted verbal warfare. To honor my dare, I kept my mouth shut, said nothing, and cried. This got his attention. He apologized, and I was able to explain why his words were so hurtful. His forgiveness was swift and his attitude turned gentle- yet another lesson I needed to learn. Unfortunately, my husband cries far less than I do, and I imagine he swallows his pain in bitter silence when I attack with words.

This dare led to a situation where I became the victim of my most common mishap in love. The tables turned, and in the moment I realized, this is how I speak to my husband. I throw criticism and condescending statements out like yesterday’s trash. I am unloving to my spouse- the man I am required to live out the gospel with, and yet day to day I am unaffected by my sin. It was only until I was attempting righteous behavior were my true colors shown through my husband’s reflection of my all too common actions.

Any time I learn a divine lesson, I am engaged in the most unexpected way. I guess that’s why they are divine- and effective. Otherwise, I would have just given myself the praise for conquering a dare in love and become filled with blind pride. I’m thankful the Lord opened my eyes to the destructive nature of my words. In this love dare and in my marriage, I am now certain that the Lord intervenes, loves, and redeems.

Quote-Ragamuffin Gospel

Honesty before God requires the most fundamental risk of faith we can take: the risk the God is good, that God loves us unconditionally. It is in taking this risk that we rediscover our dignity. To bring the truth of ourselves, just as we are, just as God is, is the most dignified thing we can do in this life. – Gerald May

Intimacy

Be careful not do your acts of righteousness in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. -Matthew 6:1-4

Recently, the idea of intimacy has grabbed ahold of me. I say “idea” as if intimacy is not the cornerstone of my faith, and I think that’s the ironic point. After reading this verse, I became distinctly aware of 1. How little I was doing this with or without fanfare and 2. The intimacy this would foster with those you serve.

Imagine, you volunteer at a local women’s shelter and no one knows. Pictures are not taken, statuses are not updated, and, because of the lack of publicity, this isn’t an “event”. Rather, you serve and you speak with people, not causes, but actual individuals with stories and personalities. Without the announcement of your good deed, you become casual and genuine. You form real friendships; you do what Jesus did, and you are equal with the ones you serve.

I can’t help but think, this is what Jesus had in mind when he commanded followers to serve the poor in secret. He knew our tendency to become prideful even in such humble circumstances. So, he made himself clear; he provided a way for us to experience the human counterpart to relationship with him.  The secrecy of service inherently begets an open heart and room for love to grow. In the same way he asks us to serve in secret he also asks us to pray in secret, behind closed doors. The level of intimacy and personal relationship is undeniable in Jesus’ words, and the legalism falls away.  Sometimes it’s hard to grasp what it means to be “close to God” but Matthew 6 appears to be a good place to start. Go to God in the quiet and provide for the poor in secret, maybe then the noise of the world will fade and we will experience the closeness Jesus promises believers.