Just Receive

*Warning at the end of this post is a semi-graphic photo of stitches.  If you are queasy, I apologize!*

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“I think we need to go to the hospital,” I heard as I looked up into the concern faces of my college-age students, who had just analyzed the damage I had done to my hand. “It looks deep.”

Those words shot through my gut like a sucker punch. “I’m the leader,” I thought. “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

I’m a teacher, mentor, and small group leader at Oceans Edge School of Worship.  I had my small group over to my home one Friday night to enjoy a meal together, hang out, and make fun memories. I had no idea that that night would create probably the most memorable experience of this school year.

Over dinner I felt led in my spirit to do what I call an “edification circle.”  As we ate, I asked the students to declare what they love about the person sitting to their right and their left.  It was amazing to hear what they had to say about one another, but as it drew nearer to my turn, I felt anxiety rise in my heart, not because of what I had to say about my students, but what they had to say about me.

I don’t like receiving compliments. I have a difficult time receiving feedback. I feel uncomfortable receiving gifts.  I’m not good at asking for help.

I’m a giver.

It was then that I felt God say to my heart, “Just receive.”  My eyes filled with burning tears, my cheeks blushed with embarrassment and my throat began to tighten as I listened to the students to my right and left edify me. Their hearts were genuine and their sentiments were true.  I heard their words, but was I really receiving from them?

Twenty minutes later, after we had finished eating, I was at the sink, washing the dirty dishes that indicated full bellies and full hearts.  Suddenly, the plate I was scrubbing slipped from my soapy grasp and crashed into the side of the sink.  My instincts told me to reach out and catch it, but I was too late.  The broken dish sliced my hand.

I’m not good with blood, especially my own.  All of my students rushed around me and the sink as I proceeded to squat down for fear of passing out or letting them see the tears that threatened to drop from my eyes.

“I think we need to go to the hospital,” I heard… “It looks deep.”

“I’m the leader,” I thought. “This shouldn’t be happening to me.”

Again, I also heard, “Just receive.”

I had no choice but to acquiesce. That night, I was escorted to the ER by two of my students who prayed over me and kept me calm amidst all of my panic.  The rest of my small group stayed behind and cleaned up my house, my broken plate, my blood.  My roommate met us in triage and relieved my heroes.  She stood by my side while we waited for hours, making me laugh despite the tears that rebelliously rolled down my cheeks and filling in as a nurse while the nighttime ER doc put six stitches into the web and ring finger of my left hand.IMG_6812

“You’ll have to clean the wound and change the dressing every 24 hours,” he counseled. “And then after a few days, put some Neosporin on it leave it open to heal.”

“Doctor, I’m a musician. Will this affect my ability to play?” I questioned.

He told me I wouldn’t be playing for a few weeks, and I began to panic.  I’m a worship leader.  My church and my team need me to play for them.  What was I going to do?

There was no way I could do it myself. I needed help.  And I would continue to need help as long as my wound needed time to heal.

Again I felt the familiar sting of tears forming in my eyes and the squeeze of the tourniquet around my throat. A million thoughts rushed through my head.  “How am I going to do my job if I can’t play music?  Just thinking about blood is enough to drain it from my face.  How am I going to take care of this hand?  My car is a stick shift.  How am I going to drive to work?  Or get food?  Or take a shower? Or… Or…?”

“Just receive.”

God was reminding me that I can’t do it alone.

I have a tendency to need to prove that I’m strong, independent and capable.  I don’t need anyone.  I’m a big girl now, living on my own away from home. My stony heart can take care of itself, thank you very much. 

But that’s not the truth.

We were very much designed for community.  Admitting we need help doesn’t make us weak or incompetent.  Receiving from others teaches us how to freely receive from Father God.  And while we are receiving, we are allowing others to practice giving.  My small group bonded in ways I never thought possible.  My roommate gently took care of my wound, drove me around, and cooked for me.  My worship team stepped up and some substitutes stepped in and filled the gaps that my 6 stitches had left.

The care, love and support I received from my small group and my roommate/chauffeur/nurse/chef and my worship team helped solidify this crucial lesson in my life.  It was a lesson I thought I had learned before, but must have forgotten.

The Father looks down on us and says “I love you. You don’t have to do anything.  You need me. Receive My love.

When I look down at the scars on my hand, I will forever be reminded of the lesson He gently chiseled into my heart of stone.  As I watched the wound on my hand heal, gradually, day by day, and unassisted by any conscious effort of my own, I also felt my heart soften by Love, engraved with a scar of its own:

“Just receive.”

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  Ezekiel 36:26

the “light up” reaction

have you ever seen one of those stuffed animals that lights up and plays music when you squeeze it?  a few of the kids i’ve watched have them and like to snuggle with them.  curious george’s head or glow worm’s face reacts endearingly to embraces by little arms and the song inside of them sings a melody to comfort the spirit of the little ones.

i just got back from spending a week in florida, visiting ocean’s edge and calvary ftl for their essential worship conference.  i had been looking forward to my trip for weeks beforehand, getting refreshed and equipped at the conference, relaxing by the pool or on the beach in the hot sun, and reuniting with the friendly faces of my oe family.  on my spirit air, $9 fare member seat, equipped with a straight back chair and approximately six and a half inches of leg room, a funny sensation swept over my body.

anxiety.

my mind slipped into dangerous territory as i began to worry what my time would actually be like down there again.  i started listening to the lies, “what if they don’t really like me?” “you’re really just going to be one of those lame alumns who go back to their alma mater to relive the ‘glory days’.” “they don’t need you or want you to come back.”  my spirit started sinking.  i wondered if i’d made a mistake in going back down and in my mind, i thought i had just created this fantasy with my memories of south florida.

then i arrived at the airport and was greeted by open arms, smiling faces, and warm embraces from two of my dear friends.  furthermore, when they dropped me off at the apartments, shrieks of joy and two more sets of arms wrapped their love around my waist.  the next day at the conference, the pattern continued all day as i reunited with more and more of my family members.  i literally felt their spirits lift mine and the anxiety i cultivated on my flight melted away.  i was foolish to believe those lies.

each one of those reunions was memorable and important.  i’d like to call these moments, the “light up” reaction…  you know, when the face of someone you love literally lights up because they see you.  think about what that does inside of you.  these reactions actually feed our spirits, because it’s as if someone is saying, “YOU!  you are here. you being here makes me better. you are valuable, you are precious, and you are loved!”  

our spirits, much like our bodies, need to be fed.  if they aren’t fed, they will whither.  you can feed your spirit by doing things you enjoy, listening to good music, enjoying nature, hanging out with close friends, enjoying a well-cooked meal, reading an inspirational story, celebrating a victory, or simply sitting in silence with a kindred spirit.  one of my favorite ways to be fed though, is through the “light up” reaction.   my friends in florida provided such good food to my spirit, as if they were human versions of the light-up stuffed animals who sing their soothing songs to the little ones who hug them.

be the kind of person who lights up when a loved one walks into the room.  you will serve the receiver a meal for their spirit that they won’t soon forget.

thanks @oceansedge friends, for feeding my spirit!

discipleship defined

recently i was asked to give my definition of what discipleship is.  it took me a moment to organize my thoughts, but it is a part of Christianity that is very important to me and unfortunately is overlooked.  so i prayed about it and i think it comes down to this simple definition.

a person is made of body, soul, and spirit, right?  effective discipleship is when Christians are connected in each of these areas.  physically, they are “doing life” together.  mentally, they are passing revelation from the Word and pearls of wisdom to each other.  spiritually, they are seeking Jesus and praying together.

if you look at examples from Scripture, you can see that Jesus’ disciples followed this definition.  all throughout the gospels we read stories of them being with each other all the time, engaging in everyday activies like fishing (John 21:1-3), eating (Luke 22:14), and evangelizing (Matt 10:10). 

they pass along wisdom and revelation, like through peter’s address to the crowd in Acts 2:14-35, which encouraged other brothers (and sisters, i think!) to repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised.  thousands were added to the Church that day and began their own journeys with Jesus.

finally, they pray together, as seen in Acts 1 and 2, seeking the Lord’s heart and the Spirit’s power.  this is important because if Christians just do life together and talk about their “revelations”, Christianity could just become a community of self-seeking religious people.  i fear that in some ways, it already has.  praying together and seeking the Lord’s face realigns our will and focuses our attention on what God thinks is important, not on what we think is important.

so discipleship is simple.  body, soul, spirit.  get connected to other believers physically, mentally, and spiritually and watch your relationship with Christ and with each other grow deeper than you could have ever imagined.

let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.
and let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another daily – and all the more as you see the Day approaching

hebrews 10:23-25