Lord, you’ve short-changed me

From Return to Your Rest.

Reservoirs photo

© Verity Cridland

Ages ago, a shepherd-turned-king named David sang,

The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing. (Ps. 23:1)

Centuries later, Jesus echoed and enlarged on David’s words. He said:

I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. I am the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1011 MSG)

In other words: “I am the Lord your shepherd; you lack nothing. Quite the opposite, actually.”

Peter the apostle affirmed that it’s true:

By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory. (2 Peter 1:3 CEB)

Ages ago, the tribe of Joseph sang a very different song. I’ve sung this song on occasion – okay, on a lot of occasions. Maybe you have too. It goes something like this: “Lord, what you’ve given us isn’t enough.”

Joseph’s descendants were numerous, but no more numerous than some of the other Israelite tribes. Yet, when Joshua divided up the land of Canaan in the way God specified, Joseph’s clan complained that their allotment was too small. In reality, they despised the good land they’d been given because: (a) it had hills, where crops wouldn’t necessarily thrive; (b) it had lots of forests, which would take lots of work to clear, and (c) it had plains, where Canaanites with iron chariots lived.

Joshua told Joseph’s tribe (my paraphrase): “You lack nothing. The area that you can easily occupy may be small. But that should motivate you to rise up and work. And because you have strength and numbers, and because God himself has given you this land, you can clear it and possess it” (see Josh. 17:14-17).

Always, these three things create deep unrest:

  • a sense of lack,
  • the feeling that God hasn’t treated you fairly,
  • the fear of not having enough.

So, I ask you: What do you think you lack? In what areas do you fear not having enough? What has God done that makes you want to shout, “Not fair!”

With those things in mind, which song will you choose to sing? The song of Joseph’s clan? “The Lord has short-changed me. I don’t have what I need.”

Or, David’s refrain? “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” (NLT).

Return to Your RestToday, I remind myself once again: When the Lord Who Shepherds is your keeper, protector, nurturer and provider, you lack nothing. You have all you need to be who he created you to be and to live out his purpose for your life.

As you rest in that truth, he shows you what you do have. He teaches you how to use it. He multiplies what may seem small. He empowers you to possess the abundance that Jesus gave everything to provide for you.

Adapted from Return to Your Rest, © 2016 Deborah P. Brunt

Waiting for hope

Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.

roller coaster photo

photo courtesy Ryan DeLaney

Life’s a mess. One minute you’re up, the wind on your face. You’ve been voted most likely to succeed. In cap and gown, you receive the diploma. You get the job, the promotion, the raise. You master that skill that’s been eluding you. Your life’s love slips the ring on your finger. The baby’s a girl – and you can tell by the cry that she’s fine. The person you least expected is giving you a compliment. You’re laughing with a friend. You’re cuddling with a child. You’re singing as you work. All’s well with the world.

The next minute, you’re down. You can still feel the wind, but now it hits against you, biting, cold. And the drop has come so suddenly you feel you’re going to lose your lunch. You flunked. You’re laid off. The other candidate got the job, the promotion, the raise. Your fiancé wants to break the engagement. Your spouse wants a divorce. Your baby’s sick. Your teenager hurls stinging words to your face. Your “friends” say hurtful words behind your back.

Your car breaks down. Your washing machine breaks down. Your life breaks down. You’re tired. You’re sick. You’re angry. You’re depressed.

Then, you’re up again. The loan comes through. A new relationship buds. An encouraging letter or phone call arrives.

Life’s a mess. One minute you’re going a certain way. You have a plan. You have a dream. You’re sure the plan will get you to the dream. The next minute you’re jerked around 180 degrees. Without warning, you find yourself barreling at top speed away from what you hoped to accomplish, who you hoped to be.

You’re still single, though you intended to be married by now. You’re single again. You can’t get pregnant. Your baby changes your life in ways you hadn’t imagined. You leave the workplace. You enter the workplace. You switch careers. You relocate. Your youngest starts school. Your youngest leaves the nest. Now 20-something, your youngest moves back in. You become caregiver for a sick or aging relative.

And about the time you get oriented to each new course, your life takes off a different way. Up, then down, then jerked around, you’re frightened and more than a bit queasy. Like a roller coaster rider at a fair, you hear yourself scream …

Long before you and I were born, an Old Testament poet rode life’s roller coaster. He faced as many ups and downs and hairpin turns as we. When barreling where he had not planned to go, he yelled too. It’s what he yelled that is so very interesting.

Ratcheting upward, he cried, “Put your hope in the Lord” (Ps 131:3). Plummeting downward, he cried, “Put your hope in God” (Ps. 42:5).

By hope, that ancient poet did not mean wishful thinking. He meant confident expectation. He urged us all, but first himself, to reach for the good hope that springs from looking toward and resting in the Lord.

At times, the poet laid hold of that hope. At times, even in chaos, he could declare, “I have calmed and quieted myself” (Ps. 131:2). Literally: “I make level and make quiet my soul.”

Other times, even when the poet looked to God, he did not immediately find hope. Those times, he admitted as much. “My soul is downcast within me,” he confessed. And, repeatedly, he cried: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Ps. 42:6, 5, repeated in 42:11 and 43:5).

Still today, the God of that Old Testament singer remains sovereign, stable, good. Intimately present, he rides the roller coaster with all who hope in him. Ever faithful, he promises to make even the most crooked places straight, even the roughest places smooth.

In desperate times, it’s incredibly challenging to lay hold of that assurance. It’s incredibly rewarding when you do: It feels wonderful to find yourself waiting in quiet hope and encouraging others to do the same. It feels dreadful to seek the God you thought you knew while hope continues to hide. It feels like a betrayal on God’s part, or a failure on yours, or both.

Yet George Matheson, a Scottish minister who lived more than a century ago, offers a new perspective to our hurting hearts. He wrote:

Waiting with hope is very difficult, but true patience is expressed when we must even wait for hope. I will have reached the point of greatest strength once I have learned to wait for hope.[i]

Life’s a mess. When yours feels like a nightmare amusement-park ride that never ends, look to the one in whom hope lives: Rivet your gaze on the Lord your God. Appeal to him. Cling to him.

Then, as hope rises up, cooperate with it to calm and quiet your soul.

And if hope doesn’t appear? If it delays so long you think it will never come? Then, dear one, do not bail on God. And do not beat yourself up. You will yet praise him. In the meantime, summon the strength you do not know you have – and wait for hope.

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© 1996, 2005, 2017 Deborah P. Brunt. All rights reserved.

[i] George Matheson, quoted in Jesus Today (Sarah Young, 2013, p. 14). For more by Matheson on waiting for hope, see Christy Foldenauer, “15 years of inspiration (and counting) from George Matheson.”

An undivided heart

You want to know Christ, to love him and to serve him with an undivided heart.

In seeking to follow Christ, you’ve been blindsided by violent spiritual assault. Worse yet, it’s come from a place you would not have dreamed.

Elijah Blessing cr2If those two statements describe you, I may have a word from the Lord for you. It’s something he’s said to me too:

You’re not alone, my beloved. Others are out there, seeking to know me intimately and to follow me fully. You may have trouble finding them. You may be slow to recognize them. They may not look as you have thought. On days when you feel desperately alone, know that you are not. But even if you were, do not quit this pursuit. One undivided heart matters more than you can dream.

Equally important, I may have a warning from the Lord for you:

Beware of Ahab and Jezebel, my beloved. They hate you. They’re determined to own you or destroy you – and they do not look as you have thought. In me, you have more authority than they. But to walk in that authority, you have to see past strong deception. You have to walk in the blessing of an undivided heart.

The prophet Elijah has proven incredibly helpful to me in the so-very-challenging quest to be wholehearted. Elijah lived in a culture that echoes today’s Western church culture in ways we may not have seen. In that setting, Elijah laid hold of the blessing: He cultivated an undivided heart. His life beckons us to do the same.

 

Meet a man who followed God fully

Elijah lived among a people whom God called his own, yet whose hearts were deeply divided.

Long before Elijah’s birth, a king named Solomon made a very tragic, very public journey to a divided heart. Solomon’s life made it seem that God’s people can worship the true God and other gods of their own choosing, indefinitely, without consequence.

Following Solomon’s lead, generation after generation in Israel served false gods, yet assured themselves that they remained the people of God.

Then, Ahab and Jezebel rose up to rule where people’s divided hearts had made the way. Like a two-headed snake, the couple worked in tandem toward one venomous end – to take out all wholehearted worship of the one true God.

In that impossible place, Elijah lived before the Lord with an undivided heart. Repeatedly, he stood before the face of God. Day after day, he went out from there to love fiercely and live fully. In the end, he left behind a miracle legacy: He give away exponentially more than what he had.

 

See a culture trying to go both ways

Still today, wherever the people of God decide they can live indefinitely with divided hearts, Ahab and Jezebel wield great power and work great evil. Usually, we have no clue what’s happening, because:

  • We don’t know our own hearts, yet we adamantly insist that we do. We think that we in the evangelical church culture worship Jesus only. We do not recognize how deep and pervasive our collective double-mindedness is.
  • Ahab and Jezebel have fooled us too. We may see them as long-dead Bible characters. We may use their names to label people today. Yet we may totally miss their working in our midst, because Ahab and Jezebel do not look as we have thought.

 

Receive the blessing of an undivided heart

The God who loves us, who embraces us in his Son and breathes life into us by his Spirit, can clear the fog and show us what’s happening. This God invites us to stand before his face, to see him as he is, to see our own hearts and our church culture in his light. He can work mightily in us so that we love fiercely and live fully, as Elijah did.

You don’t need a book to experience that. You don’t need a book to be wholehearted in following God. But sometimes books can help, especially books that offer testimony from a survivor of the very thing you’re walking through.

The Elijah BlessingI wrote The Elijah Blessing: An Undivided Heart after being blindsided more than once by vicious spiritual attack. The attacks came as I tried to follow Christ fully. They came from Christians who I had thought were seeking the same thing. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what in me kept allowing it to happen. I didn’t know how to overcome what seemed intent on taking me out.

Over time, as I’ve continued to press in to God, he has entrusted me with much. I wrote The Elijah Blessing to encourage and affirm others in pressing in to follow God fully. My prayer is that this book will help you in your journey, by offering:

  • New insight into lives lived long ago. New insight into the spiritual battles you have faced, or will face, in seeking to follow Christ.
  • New understanding of the surprising things that can divide our hearts – and the simple but profound ways we can cooperate with God to be wholly his.
  • Greater discernment in recognizing Ahab and Jezebel at work, even and especially in our church culture. Greater wisdom to avoid and/or overcome the venom of the two-headed snake.
  • An opportunity to walk in authority and blessing, in that very place where you’ve walked in confusion and defeat.
  • Another step forward toward an undivided heart.

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Visit TheElijahBlessing.com

A call to cultural humility

Pondering Privilege 230x350I’m a white woman from the Deep South. Yet if I had seen Pondering Privilege 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I personally needed to read it. If I’d seen the book 10 years ago, I would have thought, “White privilege? You mean, there’s a name for what I’m just starting to see and learn?” Now, still having much to learn, I’ve read and highlighted and reread Pondering Privilege, and have started on the rich list of follow-up reading/viewing that author Jody Fernando provides.

This book is a call to cultural humility by a woman who writes with a lot of humility. It’s a call to us who are white – but who never think in those terms – to press in to see what we’ve been afraid and ashamed to see. It urges us to respond to the rest of the multi-racial world by listening, learning and valuing. It teaches us that what we count “normal” may not be others’ normal at all.

If you’re white, and trying to get a clear picture as to what in the world “white privilege” is, this book may be a bit frustrating. If so, keep in mind: Explaining white privilege to a white person is kind of like trying to describe colors to a blind person. The author defines the term more than once. She gives several examples of how white privilege can look. She asks questions that can help each of us identify our own white-oriented perspectives. She points out the primary way for a white person to begin to understand white privilege: Begin to truly listen to the nonwhite world. She references numerous places to start.

White people who are still trying to decide if such a thing as “white privilege” even exists – but who are willing to find out – may want to do as the author suggests: Skip to the appendices. Read/watch some of the other suggested resources. Listen to voices that are not white. Then, return to ponder with Jody Fernando what in the world to do.

For those who are beginning to see, and to uncover the defensiveness, fear and shame that accompany unacknowledged white privilege, this book is a gentle call, an I’ve-been-there-and-am-still-there call. It’s also a cry. It gives us a compelling reason to press in to the pain of facing what may seem so much easier to deny: What we white people don’t know about our whiteness is hurting everybody.

Pondering Privilege can help us in the scary and complex process of overcoming our white blindness. It can help us replace shame with humility, the crucial virtue that white privilege tells us we do not need.

I found Jody Fernando’s website, and then her book, during my own journey of recognizing white privilege and trying to understand what to do. We Confess! The Civil War, the South, and the Church describes my awakening to white privilege before I ever knew the term.

Light is breaking through

I saw the painting high on a back wall of a thrift store. Immediately drawn to it, I bought it for next to nothing, planning to hang it in the study where I write.

It’s a seascape, but an unusual one – and I could tell my husband did not see the appeal. “When you look at that picture, what does it say to you?” he asked.

I could understand the question. A sky of brick-red clouds hangs over foam-capped ochre waves that crash against mahogany rocks. To him, the scene may have seemed dangerous, tumultuous, bleak.

I can’t recall what I answered then. But today, looking across my study at that painting, I’m still drawn to it. And now, I can put into words what it tells me.

Breakthrough seascape

In that place where everything looks brown, murky and decidedly unsettled, there’s movement. There’s life. And the light is breaking through.

I choose light

Hi. I’m Deborah, and I have been so blind.

Blind to what was really going on in my family as I grew up.

Blind to the roles handed me early in life – roles that, in adulthood, I continued to play.

Blind to who I am, apart from those assigned roles.

Blind to whatever the people close to me profoundly denied.

Blind to the things their behavior revealed, when their words and actions did not match.

Blind to my own unmet need to be affirmed as a person – and how very unsafe, the places I tried to get that need met.

Blind to the many, and oh-so-predictable, ways I’ve let others pull my strings.

Blind to the false responsibility I’ve constantly carried.

Blind to the false guilt I’ve kept agreeing to take.

Blind to the difference between religious and godly.

Blind to anything going on behind a convincing Christian façade.

About a decade ago, I began to see. It was marvelous, like a veil lifting, and such an astounding change that I didn’t realize how very much still needed to come into focus.

I didn’t know then how hard it would be to face each new revelation – or how many good Christian people would fight to keep me from it. I didn’t know how confusing it would become when people I loved and trusted hated my every movement toward the light.

I didn’t know how much my identity in Christ would be compromised as I tried to go forward with God – and also tried to please people who really mattered to me.

The more the Lord showed me, the more I found myself fighting against the FOG that author Susan Forward first described. A cloud of fear, obligation and guilt swirled just below the surface of my understanding, while a chorus of voices relentlessly shouted, “No! Don’t see that! Don’t go there! Change back!”

I’m Deborah, and I have been so stuck.

A decade has passed, while, time and again, I’ve taken a few steps forward and then, lost in the fog, fell down and back. Stuck is depressing. Stuck feels hopeless. It keeps you going in circles, while whispering, “There’s no way out.”

I got stuck because I wanted to follow God fully, and I wanted people to understand that’s what I was doing. Thankfully, some did. But some people, that I really, really, really wanted to get it, still do not.

It costs to say, “Though none go with me, I still will follow.” It costs more to do it. But now I realize: By getting stuck on that cost, thinking it too high, you set yourself up to lose everything.

  • You don’t please the people who desperately want you to stay blind and bound. And you do them no good, no good at all.
  • You forfeit living in the fullness of the identity Jesus died to give you. And you do not honor him.

Thank God for his grace. As I stumbled around, stuck in the fog – confused as to what was good and what was evil, what was true and what was not – my Lord knew I wanted to see. And he kept showing me what I needed to know to be free.

Embracing what he’s revealed has required a fight every inch of the way. The latest battle, the hardest and by far the most intense, has lasted more than two years. While God has worked to strip off blinders, I’ve tried to process the emotions; the anger and sorrow, the guilt of not seeing sooner, the shock of what I now know.

The people whose approval I’ve tried the hardest to gain still withhold it. The loss makes me sad, but now I see why validation from certain quarters has mattered so much to me. The lie I’d unwittingly embraced since infancy said: “If they disapprove, I don’t count. At all. I’m not even an actual person. Just a place for people to dump their trash.”

At last, I know in my inmost being what I would have told you I knew all along:

I’m created in the image of God and made new in the Lord Jesus. I’m accepted in the Beloved. I am fully me in him. No one’s disapproval cancels that, and the only person who can hinder my living it out is me.

The fog hasn’t completely dispelled. Sometimes, it still gets really thick. But now I recognize what it is and what in me opens the door for confusion to roll in. Now, I can cooperate with God the Spirit to blow the fog away.

Several situations in my life remain difficult and distressing. FYI: That’s an understatement. Repeatedly, God shows me not to lean on my own understanding as to what might help or hurt. He leads me to choose the light – and to say no to what would deter me from it. In this new forward movement, as I dare to go with God where fear, obligation and guilt forbid, I rediscover hope. Once again, I taste joy.  

No longer blind, no longer stuck, I’m embracing the light, and pursuing the God who gives it.

I’m Deborah, and I am choosing life.