Just Receive

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

IMG_7065

“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

freedom in truth

back in elementary school, i took algebra and i loved it.  solving problems, working with variables and using the quadratic equation was so exciting to me.  i know, i know, i’m a first-class nerd… i can remember learning the transitive property of equality, which states that if A = B, and B = C, then A = C.  it makes perfect sense.  it can be proved.  it is rational.  it is truth.

i’m in a bible study where i recently was reminded that part of God’s character is truth.  He speaks truth.  His Word is truth.  but to take that one step further, He IS truth.

to put this into algebraic terms:

God = Truth (A = B)

Jesus said so: “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life.” – John 14:6

Jesus calls the Spirit “Truth”: “But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.” -John 16:13

John makes reference to Jesus coming from the Father, “full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Jesus also says that the truth will set us free (John 8:32):

Truth = Freedom (B = C)

thus, using the transitive property of equality:

God = Freedom (A = C)

this fact dawned on me this morning while i was reading outside.  the weight of it fell on my spirit like a ton of bricks and warmed me inside more than the hot Florida sun warmed me outside.  this is the message of the Gospel.  Jesus proclaims time and again that He came to set the captives, broken, and hurting free (Luke 4:14-19, Luke 13:12, John 8:36).  He is Truth.  Truth sets us free.  He sets us free.  we are all captive, broken and hurting to one degree or another, but in Him, there is freedom.  if you don’t know this freedom, ask me about it!

in honor of veterans day, i am thankful for the men and women who sacrificed and served and who are sacrificing and serving to maintain our country’s freedom.  but, i am more thankful for the One in whom there is true freedom.

“now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” – 2 Corinthians 3:17

hipster armor of God

on twitter i follow Come&Live, which is basically a non-profit made up of Christian musicians who want proclaim good news of Jesus and model generosity, love and genuine faith.  they blogged yesterday about standing firm – taken from Ephesians 6:13, which is the passage about the armor of God.  it was such a great reminder of a simple phrase that has resonated in my life for the past year and a half.  we need to be completely suited up so we can stand firm.

it also reminded me of my commencement speech from ocean’s edge.  a spin-off of the armor of God, i spoke about the hipster armor of God.  for your reading/reminiscent enjoyment, my speech is below:

Good morning staff, family members, friends, and Ocean’s Edge class of 2011.  Thank you so much for allowing me to address you all on this very special day.  It is truly an honor.

So, Wednesday night I started packing my stuff up, taking down posters, going through papers, and putting away all of my clothes.  As I was folding and boxing everything, I was inundated with memories from this past year.  I reminisced about that first day when I walked into the offices after driving 22 hours from NJ, arriving 3 days late, and was greeted by Jessica’s sweet face and then you all… the entire class.  I was so overwhelmed and stressed out, but I can still remember what I was wearing.  Julia thought my sister and I were in a strange conservative Christian cult because we were wearing matching skirts.  I can also remember Lindsay’s bright yellow shirt.  Think back to your first day.  Can you remember what were you wearing?

Then I thought about how some of us have changed this past year.  Some of the guys bought their first pair of skinnies, debuting them at ensemble performances and Not So Silent Night.  The girls downstairs set the bar high on fashion, careful not to repeat outfits all year, which caused me to think twice before I reached for my standard t-shirt and jeans most mornings.  Our class slowly evolved from American Eagle models to Christian hipsters.

One of the passages of Scripture that has resonated with me this year is Ephesians 6, which talks about putting on the full armor of God.  That got me thinking, “What would the hipster musician version of the armor look like?”  I now present you with the hipster armor of God.

First, there’s the belt of truth, which I’ll adapt to the guitar strap because most hipsters don’t need belts… Their skinny jeans are tight enough.  With straps, there are so many different patterns and designs, customize-able with nicknames, favorite gear brands, graphics and colors.  They are buckled tightly to guitars, especially if they are secured with strap locks, and slung just below the waistline so the hipster’s hands are free to shred and melt faces.

Then comes the breastplate of righteousness, the v-neck t-shirt.  It all starts with the crew cut shirt, but later evolves into the smaller v, the “virgin v” if you will.  Then the hipster gets bold, and the v gets lower and lower until, if you were a girl, you have to wear a cami underneath so you don’t make anyone stumble.  In actuality, the true hipster’s chest is completely exposed because the V is so deep, thereby negating the usefulness of the breastplate. 

Next, the Christian hipster would put their feet in the readiness that comes from… Toms shoes.  That is, if you can find them…   (Will).  Who knew that shoes that are made of canvas, cause extreme foot odor, and fall apart after a few months of wear could cost so much money?  But hey, they support social justice because with every purchase of Toms, the company gives shoes to a child who needs them in a third world country.  I’m ok with that.  Hopefully they hold up a little better there then they do here, though.

In addition, the hipster takes up the shield of faith, their instrument.  They have spent days, dollars, and their social lives investing in that one 16-bar lick.  Whether it’s a guitar, keyboard, drumset, or macbook (because Ableton loop fire-rs are musicians too!), the hipster’s instrument is positioned in front of him or her, so would take the hit if they were attacked by flaming arrows.  Let’s be honest though, it’s more likely that the hipster would sacrifice his or her body to protect their Gibson Les Paul, hand-built pedalboard, and Marshall amp. 

After that, the hipster puts on the helmet of salvation, the beanie.  Hanging precariously off the back of the head, the beanie is worn on days that they woke up a little too late to wash their hair.  It also looks like it could have been knitted by your grandmother and given as a gift at Christmas along with the matching pair of socks and mittens for those chilly days in… South Florida??? 

Finally, the hipster takes up the Sword of the Spirit –the Word.  There is no substitute.  Let me tell you, I have fallen in love with the Word of God this year.  But honestly, it has taken almost 25 years.  I used to read my Bible as a good little Christian girl, almost out of obligation.  It wasn’t until last year, when I read through the whole book chronologically, that it changed my life.  I have found so many answers to my desperate cries in those pages.  God uses the Word to speak to us, if we would only discipline ourselves to read what He has to say.  I don’t think we realize the power that we have in our hands, not to mention everything we learned this year in Apologetics and Doctrine about it.  I encourage you to read your Bible!  Develop a reading plan.  Read it every day.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly and deeply your relationship with the Lord will grow.

After you put on the armor, we are instructed to pray in the Spirit on all occasions and with all kinds of requests.  This is another thing that I’ve learned this year… The power of prayer.  I have asked God for very specific things and He has answered my requests.  I prayed for unity and saw us bond in ways I never thought were possible.  I prayed for my finances and was amazed at how He provided a job leading worship for me when money was tight.  I even prayed over my car and it was fixed.  These are only a few my cool God stories, but I know that there are so many more that you all can share.  Please, don’t stop praying and sharing how God has listened and answered.  Be encouraged that your Father in heaven knows what you need, but wants you to ask!  When your will aligns with His, He will give you the desires of your heart.  I am walking proof.

We can laugh about the hipster armor, but like I mentioned earlier, in Ephesians 6 we read about the real armor that we’re supposed to put on daily, so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes.  I truly believed that the devil has been and will continue to fight against us.  He is the Father of Lies and wants to kill you, not just hurt you.  But, there is hope.  The victory is already ours!  God has won!  He promises us that if we put on the armor, we will be able to stand.  As Paul so eloquently spoke, “Stand firm then…  Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

fighting for you

life as a nanny has been teaching me things about Father God that i know i wouldn’t have learned otherwise.  i’ve heard it said that being a parent completely changes how you see God as the Father.  even though i’m not a parent, i am thankful that i’m learning these lessons now and almost feel privileged to get a “sneak peak” at what’s to come.

being a nanny makes you do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.  for example, a few months ago i was outside playing with the two-year old and his grandma, who was planting tulip bulbs.  we were looking for bugs and worms, and when we found one, the little boy shrieked back in terror.  to assuage his fear, i offered to hold the worm so he could get a closer look and see how harmless it is.  i wanted him to be able to face his fears.  inside, i was shrieking, especially as the little creepy crawler got a little more restless and began to wiggle enthusiastically on my palm.

never would i pick up a worm if it wasn’t for my little buddy.

then there was the time last week where i had to extricate a toy from a toilet on which sat the four-year old.  she had just finished doing her business and then got bored, so took a toy and hid it behind her back… only it slipped from her tiny fingers.  i had the honor of retrieving and disinfecting it and my hands.

never would i reach into a used toilet if it wasn’t for my other little buddy.

and finally this past week i took the four-year old and the eight-month old to a birthday party at a place that was filled with blow-up, bouncy things.  you know the kind.  the kind that draw children of all ages out of the woodwork to climb, jump, roll, run, and squeal their way into sweaty necks, red faces, and a solid nap when they’re finished.  this particular place had a giant slide that towered loomingly over the 40-inch tall humans running around.  fear was crippling the little girl and she gazed up at me with glassy eyes and pouty lips, pleading that i ride with her.  all around me parents were casually chatting, gently scolding the obnoxious ones, and enthusiastically cheering on the brave ones.  none of the other adults were being asked to revert back to their childhood, climb atop this beast of a slide, and fly down it with grace and ease.  i wouldn’t let that deter me.  i knew that once my little one experienced the thrill, she would find an inner courage and be able to repeat it again and again with her newfound friends.  so i climbed that slide.  i sat down at the top.  and i enjoyed my ride down.  in fact, i went two more times because it was just that great.

never would i ride a giant slide in public if it wasn’t for my little buddy.

all that to say that i was reminded of the Father, doing things for us all the time.  He is on our side, always.  He is fighting for us, all the time.  do you think He wants to see us paralyzed by fear?  do you think He wants to see us struggle?  do you think He’s going to “hold the worm”, “stick His hand in a toilet”, and “ride a giant slide” if you asked Him to?

i think so.

whether you’ve just been diagnosed with something horrible, or you’re wondering about how you’re going to pay this month’s bills, or you’re stressing about that next exam, or you’re praying that your loved one makes right decisions, God the Father is fighting for you.  even if you don’t think you can fight any longer, you can just stand firm and trust that God’s not going to leave you.

therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. let nothing move you. 1 corinthians 15:58.

do not be afraid. stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. exodus 14:13

the light

lately i’ve been obsessed with the Light.  i want to see the Light of God in everything i do.

it started a few weeks ago, when a man, who happens to be a scientist, shared an interesting fact about light at a small group i visited.  *nerd alert: physics explanation coming.  einstein proved in his theory of relativity that as you approach the speed of light, time slows down.  in fact, if you travel at the speed of light, time stops altogether.  if you were to take two twins and send one of them to the closest galaxy outside of our solar system and back to earth at the speed of light, he would be younger than the twin who stayed on earth.  make sense?

now in 1 John 1:5, it says that God is Light.  there is no darkness in Him.  and this totally made more sense to me.  we know that God operates outside our space time continuum, but i never really understood how that is possible.  the theory of relativity explains it perfectly.  God is Light and light is infinite and exists outside of time.  wow.

i want my life to operate in the light. (cue dcTalk song)