I know now what it smells like… sin and shame. It smells the way my VW smelled this week when my cat piled out of it after having been trapped in there two days. Or at least I imagine if you could smell foolishness and fear – that’s what you’d get. This idea of the “smell of sin” crossed my path during a devotional I found on YouVersion. Timothy G. Walton writes, “One early American preacher traveled from town to town preaching the gospel message. It was witnessed that as he approached the outskirts of a town he would pause and say, I smell hell!”
The funny thing is, we can’t smell our own sin so well, even while we are keenly aware of the shortcomings of others. My cat certainly didn’t realize the gifts he left behind in my car would make our family hold our noses in disgust. And I’m thankful that I could shower the smell off of me, and shine myself up all pretty again before heading to work. Imagine the questions, “whoa girl, where have YOU been?”
But sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feelings of ugliness and brokenness inside me. Let’s face it, I’ve made far more mistakes than I care to admit. And the worst of it is, I’m certain to make more. But I didn’t always realize it while it was happening. I didn’t recognize my behavior as selfish, lazy, or judgy at the time. And I’m thankful that Jesus is so patient with me. Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us.”
This is such good news for you and me. Because it means Jesus loved me before I could do anything for him, or do anything to hurt him. And it means there is hope for us all to live UNASHAMED.
If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I like to recommend books that have helped me work through some of my own gremlins. Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame, and especially her book “Daring Greatly” has been huge in my understanding of the things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life.
Brown writes in the book’s opening passage, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”
So here I am. Admitting my shame, foolishness, and fears. Asking Jesus for forgiveness, and accepting his free gift of grace. As I do this, I feel lighter. I’ve given Jesus the only gift I can give him, and he accepts it with joy. Jesus turns my fear into faith so I can live unashamed. That’s genius.
Occasionally to keep myself from giving up on this personal blog writing thing I link up with other writers across the nation for something called “Five Minute Friday.” We write for just five minutes from a one-word prompt. Today’s word is “Gather.” GO.
Recently I’ve been asking those in my closest work relationships to share with me the results from their Strengthsfinder assessment. It’s a great tool to build teams and help team members understand and work together better.
According to my test, my top strength is INCLUDER. It means I’m instinctively an accepting person. I don’t want anybody to feel left out, and I want to “stretch the circle wider.” It means, when I’m having a meeting or a party or a group function of any kind – I want to GATHER up everyone I know and help them feel included and important.
This kind of behavior I’m finding can drive some people crazy – including my husband and some of my closest colleagues. Thankfully we gatherers have learned how to get along with our hunters and learn and grow together. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to work together with those in our church to make everyone feel welcome. If you’re an INCLUDER, too, you’d probably enjoy working in outreach like I do, or maybe you’ll find your sweet spot as a greeter in church.
No matter what your strengths, I hope you’re getting involved so you can feel the warmth of the group. Everyone is welcome.
Their strained, angry voices would wake me from sleep in my basement bedroom. When I recall them now, though – I hear the fear.
My dad was afraid he couldn’t provide for our family. He was afraid he couldn’t measure up to my mother’s unspoken expectations. He was angry because she asked the wrong questions or looked at him with confusion, hurt, or despair that he perceived as dishonor or disrespect.
My mom was afraid dad would leave us for the friend he met at the bar. A part of her wanted him to go. But the other part was terrified she couldn’t survive without him. I remember she always wore a pained look on her face, even when she was smiling.
I remember her look of helplessness so clearly. I learned to despise her desperate cry for mercy. There was this hint of judgment in it – that somehow everything in her life that was wrong was everyone else’s fault. Her face said, “Help me, please don’t hurt me.” But it also said, “It’s all your fault.”
Their middle of the night outbursts made my little girl self feel afraid, angry, confused, and desperately helpless.
Though I’m all grown up now, I still have to daily remind the little girl in me that I am not helpless, I am strong in Christ.
John 15:5 gives me hope in these helpless places. God’s word reminds me how much I need Jesus, and how if I can remain IN HIM, he is right there with me to help.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Apart from me you can do NOTHING. At the start of this year, our church spent five weeks learning this chapter of scripture, and I want this one line “apart from me you can do nothing,” planted deep in my heart. The series is called “The Power of Same” and it is so powerful.
Would you join me this month leading up to Easter as I seek to replace the lies in my head with God’s truth? I’m coming to realize I’ve been wrong for so long about how best to approach the daily problems I face. I cannot defiantly push through any more. My patience runs out. My joy turns to despair. My faith turns to fear.
I can’t blame others for my problems. If I don’t like something in my life, I have the power to change it. It may not be easy. But it will be worth it. What kinds of changes have you made this year that help you work through feelings of helplessness? I need all the help I can get. I promised myself I’d give up despair for Lent.
For more on how to be a stronger, wiser woman, my friend Lysa TerKeurst preached on making wise choices in the midst of endless demands during our Elevation Church series “The Best Yes.” The book is amazing. Her message is called, “One Wise Woman.”
The phrase arrested me. Two words strung together in a sentence that don’t really seem like they should go together.
Fierce: Intense or ferocious aggressiveness OR heartfelt and powerful intensity.
Happiness: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction.
I’ve been having great conversations with ladies lately about the things I love about Jesus.
His patience. His consistency. His grace. But I’ve been searching for something else in my understanding of who He is.
And there it was. It jumped out of my phone and into my heart like God speaking straight to me. I started thinking of friends who exhibit “fierce happiness.”
My friend Mary Catherine Garrett who co-leads the inner city youth ministry One7 with her husband, David. Ultra endurance athlete Meredith Dolhare who founded RunningWorks, a non-profit investing in the health and well-being of homeless neighbors. My pastors Steven Furtick and his wife, Holly. Suzanne Spantgos and her husband George, great leaders in our church on outreach, tech, and eGroups teams. Tony and Christine Schmitz who lead at our Weddington location. Christy Baker who leads at our non-profit partner Charlotte Rescue Mission. And I could go on, and on.
Each of these people has known deep sorrow and on the other side have come to a place of fierce happiness. If Tim Keller is right in his book, Prayer – Fierce happiness is found in the perfect truine relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It seems it is found in truly knowing someone and allowing oneself to be deeply known.
Somewhere along my journey with Jesus, I think I’ve both gained and lost some of who He is. Before I really knew him I’d mastered a sort of fake happiness. I didn’t entirely realize I was faking it. I felt happy, mostly. I gave up the fake me as much as I could. But I’ve traded in something fierce in me for a sort of abstract tranquility. I want my fierce back. But a new kind of fierce that’s grounded in who He is inside me. It’s a different kind of grrrrr… Let’s see if we can find it together… in letting ourselves be deeply known.
My apologies for the morning blog publishing blunder. I was working on this piece over on the Elevation Outreach blog, and accidentally published the lovely Jay and Brandi Rabon photo (by Sean Lyon) here a bit early.
From the outside looking in, with their beautiful smiles and cheerful, helpful dispositions, you’d never know they were going through a difficult season in their lives. Their once very active, spunky 10-year-old Addison suffers from two rare medical conditions. You can read details in this local newspaper article.
We are believing in total healing for Addison and we believe her story will bring God glory. You can give her spirits a boost by voting for her in the “Rare artist 2014″ contest.
Do it. Tell everyone you know about it. You’ll be inspired.
So I look at a a few things that inspire me. Jeff Goins blog for writers is great. Christine Caine‘s new digital women’s magazine Propel makes me smile, too. Anything Elevation Church or Proverbs 31 are also great go-to’s. And then I also enjoy Slate, Good, and Design Milk.
But one of the things that helps me open up my brain and push out the things that clog my head the most is to take a drive. I started racing go karts when I was twelve years old, so this is likely how this all got started for me. One of my favorite recent drives was the one we took to Elevation Roanoke along Route 221.
There was this beautiful 30-mile section that twisted and turned along Bent Mountain Road. It took about 15 minutes longer than the main highway route, but it was worth it. Sometimes, I need to take a few literal twists and turns to unwind the knots in my head. I’d love to hear about your favorite drives, and the things that inspire you.
This post inspired by the Five Minute Friday writing community. This Friday’s prompt was the word TURN. It took me more than five minutes (confession) because I’ve got two boys and a dog and a husband and old episodes of SURVIVOR are blaring in the room with me. And I love it.