“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Monday, June 20, 2016

You Have Stayed Long Enough At This Mountain

"...You have stayed long enough at this mountain."  
Deuteronomy 1:6

Preface:  This summer I am studying the book of Deuteronomy and I remembered this post I wrote six years ago.  I have moved on from that mountain... but for sure there I times I try to circle back!  Original post is here.

And that's when I felt the Lord say... 
You have stayed long enough at this mountain, Sheri.  
Time to give up that hope. 

For me, my bondage has been to affirmation.  Positive affirmation.  Now, please don't get me wrong.  Affirmation is a wonderful thing.  Very necessary and life giving.  We need encouragement.  But for me it can become an obsession.  I can't have affirmation from just some people.  It needs to be from all.  And there are some people who need to give me affirmation exactly how I expect it and if not I am distraught.  And nothing else matters in life.

In the Bible Study by Priscilla Shirer, One In A Million, I saw it as plain as day.  Priscilla was discussing when the Israelites were leaving Egypt and heading to the promised land.  They craved what they left behind in Egypt.  (Numbers 11:4-7) Because the Israelites had experienced the things of Egypt, they selectively only remembered the pleasure of them and not the bondage of them. They felt that what they knew would have to be better than anything else that could be offered.  They would stick with what they knew.  It worked for them.  And as I read the story I wondered how could you ever desire slavery over freedom?  But the truth be told... I do it all the time.

Early on I would find affirmation however I could.  I wanted attention whether positive or negative made no matter... just notice me.  I grew up trying to find affirmation through grades or guys.  It became addictive.  The Lord helped me to see that the ways I was trying to get affirmation were destructive.  They were not fulfilling.

Then I began to find ways to fill my need for affirmation in ways that were constructive.  Positive friendships.  Trying to change my expectations.  Affirming myself.  And yet, it wasn't enough.  There would always be one or two people who I felt should affirm me, but didn't... and I would be crushed.

I came to a crossroads.  As I began mentoring some of my younger sisters-in-Christ, the topic of affirmation would come up.  And I was stuck.  I couldn't help them.  I couldn't help myself.  Some of them were in the same situation I was.  What was I to do?

So, I decided to force the situation.  That didn't work.  I tried talking to others about it.  That became gossip.  I tried to read books on the topic... that helped... some.  I started to pray for that person to change.  That didn't work.  I started to pray that I would change... now... I began to see some movement... in me.

And I have felt much relief and freedom.  But when I was doing Day Three of Week One of Priscilla's study-- entitled, "Bound to a Memory" -- I realized I was not yet free.  Completely free.  Because I had exchanged my immediate desperate need for affirmation from a particular person into a future fulfillment of that need.  Meaning, I was finding comfort in the fact that one day that person would affirm me.  I was able to be content today with that person... and with that need for their affirmation, because I had finally resigned myself that one day... one day... they would truly see me... and they would affirm me.  And I could be patient... and wait for that.

And that's when I felt the Lord say... You have stayed long enough at this mountain, Sheri.  Time to give up that hope.  Time to not rely upon the hope that I would ever be affirmed by that person.  Not that they won't affirm me... but that I was to no longer cover my symptoms.  I still had that desperate desire to be affirmed by that person... but I had covered it up... and that was no longer good enough.

It is now time for me to stop looking back.  Stop looking longingly back.  Again, let me reiterate that affirmation in itself is not a bad thing.  Nothing is inherently wrong with it.  But I wanted it more than what God wanted for me.  God is offering me an abundant life in Christ... free from bondage... free from insecurity... free from the future hope of someone's affirmation.  Free from the dependence on someone else to meet my needs.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 
Stand firm, then, 
and do not let yourselves be burdened 
again by a yoke of slavery.  
Galatians 5:1

And although there will be times, the allure of someone's affirmation will tempt me... I have resolved to stand firm... and look forward to the promised land of abundant living that Christ has set before me.  And now... as I move from this mountain... I pray my testimony of God's faithfulness will encourage those I influence to do the same.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Take Easter With You" to Detox

"Take Easter with you."

I dropped her off for detox this morning.  She was anxious.  Shivering sometimes.  Sweating sometimes.  Tears one minute and laughter the next.  She couldn't stop drinking hard cider on her own.  And today was the day they had a bed open.  And so we drove to what she called the bowels of the city and chided me that she couldn't believe I would drop her off and leave her there.

The drive from her apartment seemed to take forever and she was grateful for that.  She spoke to me of how good God is.  And the different women who are in her life now.  She used to not trust women she said, but now she is receiving God's love through different ones.  We had been loving on her for years but now she was able to receive it.  Accept it.  Flourish in it.

Yesterday was Easter.  And she was so determined to make it to church that she invited her neighbors and a drinking buddy to church with her so that she wouldn't back out.  And she made it.  She was there yesterday.  Giving me a hug that probably covered years of huglessness.  A hug that signified that she trusted me.  A hug that meant she had hope.

When we spoke later that day she shared how the Easter message given by our pastor resonated with her.  Comforted her.  And not only her but her neighbors and her drinking buddy.  She said they had cried through most of the sermon.  And that her drinking buddy even decided to call his mother yesterday. 

She had asked her friends to come to church to assure that she went.  But here she was in the very midst of her mess bringing people to hear of the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And it made a difference to them.  She didn't have to wait to go to detox and get her life in order before she asked them... she did it in the middle of the mess.

On the drive to the detox center she got a text.  It read "Take Easter with you."  It was from her drinking buddy who knew she was on her way to detox.  Who wanted to encourage her.  Her phone would probably be taken from her in just a few minutes when she entered through the detox doors so these were last words she would be hearing from them.  And I about cried.  My heart leapt.  And I thanked God for His very goodness.

"Take Easter with you."  Four words that hold hope.  That are living water to a thirsty soul.  That mean the difference between life and death.  Our pastor had spoke these words to me, to her, to her neighbors, to her drinking buddy.  Words that signified what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means to those who believe.  That heaven and earth are adjoining spaces.  That Jesus is closer than we think.  That resurrection power will be a real possibility NOT just a future hope.  That what is dead can be resurrected.

Romans 8:11  
"And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, 
he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies 
because of his Spirit who lives in you."

Yes, "Take Easter with you" sweet little sister.  Let those words resonate in your ears.  And when I return to the bowels of the city to pick you up we will celebrate (with a Blue Star donut)
and we will know that Easter matters
and experience that what you thought was dead is now resurrected. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Is God Waiting For Us To Win The Lottery?

Lately, people have been posing the question, "What would you do if you won the US Powerball Jackpot?"  And most reply that they would whole-heartedly consider giving a large amount to charity.  But I wonder if we shouldn't wait to win the lottery before we become so generous...

 Darling Ethiopian Princess with Her Treasured Toy
November 2010

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.

Many rich people threw in large amounts. 
But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, 
worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 
“I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 
They all gave out of their wealth; 
but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—
all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44 NIV


I grew up in what I considered poverty. Some nights dinner consisted of cold cereal. No milk. Just cereal. And it was the non-brand kind. Bills would go unpaid. Eviction would be threatened. We would hide from the newspaper delivery boy when he would show up at the door requiring payment.

But in a few days or the next day, it would be pay day. And we would go to the grocery store and eat out for dinner at Gino's and get our hair cut and maybe go to a movie that weekend. And pay our rent. And a couple bills. But not necessarily the newspaper delivery boy.

My sis and I grew up with a single mom. During a time when dads could get away without paying their child support. We didn't have a car. I wore hand me downs. And there were even times we might "borrow" things (like toilet paper rolls) from establishments, but never repay them.

I thought we were poor. And compared to the American dream... we were.

When my mom married my step-father in my junior year of high school. I started receiving allowance. Weekly. $20. (And there was ALWAYS food in the kitchen... and clothes with tags still attached in the closets... and toilet paper. The brand name kind.)

And it was then, that I started tithing. I don't remember ever tithing before that time. $2 every week. Went right into the offering. And when I started working, I would tithe on those paychecks. And when Anthony and I got married and lived on his one paycheck a month... while I finished college (on scholarships and grants and financial aid)... and we would eat boxed Macaroni and Cheese for dinner, we would tithe. We tithed in what we thought was our poverty.

And before we knew it, we were living the American Dream. Paychecks would come twice a month. We could purchase meat to go with the Macaroni and Cheese. And we would tithe. But now our giving was out of our wealth.


We may think we need to be wealthy to be significant givers. We think... when I have money then I will bless those around me. I will be the one doing the blessing. But isn't that kind of the American dream? We think that if we are able to give more that somehow we are more significant. Or beneficial to the kingdom cause. As if God will be more pleased with us, if our gifts are larger than the gifts of others. Than the gifts of those in poverty. But is He?

Here we see Jesus take a seat where he could see (and hear) people dropping their gifts into the temple treasury. And then calls His disciples over to watch... listen... and learn. He didn't even ask them what they thought. He just went on ahead and told them. Wonder why that is? It wasn't even a parable. He just told them flat out... her gift is of more significance. Of more value. Seriously? She put in a fraction of a penny! And they threw in large amounts! Huh?

God is not concerned with the amount that we give. He is concerned with our hearts. Our hearts to give selflessly. Our hearts to give joyfully. Our hearts to give out of obedience and love for Him. He is not waiting for us to get wealthy or win the lottery so that we can give a huge sum of money to starving children or to Ethiopia or to pay off the church debt. He is not waiting.

But He is watching.
Watching His children learn how to trust Him.
In all things.
Whether in perceived poverty... or received wealth.
Will we give what we'll never miss... or will we give our all?

Sitting across from the offering box,
he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection.

Many of the rich were making large contributions.
One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—
a measly two cents.

Jesus called his disciples over and said,
"The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection
than all the others put together.
All the others gave what they'll never miss;
she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—
she gave her all."

Mark 12:41-44 The Message