Huffington Post Blog: On Bedside Baptist

I can’t remember how many times I’ve learned – and relearned! – the lesson about the pitfalls of busyness. (Check out one of those times here.)

But a few days ago I found myself in that space again: suddenly realizing the toll overcommitting was having; this time not just on me, but my family as well.

Head on over to the Huffington Post to check out my latest post on my membership-in-good-standing at Bedside Baptist and, most importantly, the liberty I found there.

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Huffington Post Blog: On Being A Dictator

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

For the past few months, the Lord has really been working with me on one simple, yet significant, principle in my walk: trust My promise, don’t worry about My plan.

You see, my husband and I have been believing God for some very specific things and I found a few weeks back that what had began, for me, as bold, expectant faith, had somehow morphed into anxious, obsessive lusting after this thing.  So much so that I began trying to orchestrate for God how He could deliver said thing.

Needless to say, my plans never came to fruition.

But even as I continue to learn this lesson – the importance of guarding your focus when you’re waiting in faith – the Lord encouraged me to share it with you all, too.

I pray my latest contribution to The Huffington Post, “On Being a Dictator,” blesses you! (You can also just scroll down and check it out!)

And you can always check out my other posts here.

BeRadical. ExpectMore. ™

Things not going the way you expected? Stop looking at the HOW and return to the WHO.

 

 

Huffington Post: On Being a Dictator

You’re a bit of a dictator. And I am, too.

The Holy Spirit gave me the revelation one day as I lamented why the blessing the Lord said He’d give me wasn’t coming the way I thought it would, or should.

Imagine that: I was trying to tell the Gift Giver how to give the gift.

It happens much more easily than you might think. The Holy Spirit confirms to you that indeed the Lord heard your prayers for a new house, a new car, a way out of debt, peace about that child, or whatever.

Excited, you begin looking at your circumstances trying to figure out how He’s going to do it. And that’s when the enemy slides into the conversation.

Well, Lord, I know you said I’m the lender and not the borrower, but I don’t make enough to pay off all of these credit cards.

My God, you know I need a new car, but with a credit score like this, it’s never going to happen.

I’ve been praying for a new job for weeks, Jesus, but they gave that job to someone else even though I interviewed. What gives?

Just that quickly, your focus has shifted.

Instead of keeping your eyes on the One who is your Source and Provider, you’re looking at what He wants to give. Instead of fixing your gaze on and pursuing the face of God, you’re inexplicably fixated on His hand.

Unavoidably, when what you see in your human life doesn’t look like what God has promised you in the Spirit, you then get downright depressed and indignant.

You question God, you wonder if it was really His voice, and you quickly lose the sense of peaceful and patient expectation you once had.

How did we get here?

God’s word is clear: we are to trust God.

In fact, the Bible says in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

When we presume to know how God will bless us or deliver our breakthrough, we go from asking of God to demanding of Him. We move to telling Him how to be God, instead of through faith trusting Him to be God.

And there are many risks associated with taking our eyes off of God.

First, we run the risk of making a little-g god of the very thing God intended to be a blessing.

Second, for the God who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we think and imagine, we also run the risk of limiting His move in our lives when we confine Him to blessing us in the way that makes sense to our human logic.

And, third, trying to force God to work within the boundaries of our plan can ultimately cause a delay in us receiving the very thing we so badly want.

It’s a no-win situation. I mean, why would we even allow ourselves to go down this path of trying to play God’s hand for Him?

We know from Isaiah 55:8 that His ways are not our ways, yet we somehow still try to plan exactly how and when He will move in our lives.

Well, as a recovering faith dictator, I share this word of hope: there is a way back.

Simply readjust your focus.

When you find that you’re obsessing about this thing, always trying to guess how and when God will deliver it, actively choose right then and there to offer praise to God for simply being God.

As your praises go up, your focus will be returned to the Gift Giver and away from the gift; and most likely your peace about that thing will also be restored.

That space – inexplicable peace in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds – is where God wants us to stay, to live. He sent His Son to die for us so that we might have eternal life and unlimited access to the peace and joy that comes with not having to worry about anything.

Do you need to check your focus? Are you now consumed with the how of God’s blessing, instead of with God Himself?

If this is you, cut yourself some slack and decide to put your eyes back on God.

And if you aren’t sure if this is you, here’s a quick test: does the idea of how God is going to do that thing for you cause you anxiety? Do you feel like you’re obsessed with getting that thing, and you find it frustrating that the way you thought it would happen didn’t come to pass?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, welcome to FDA (Faith Dictators Anonymous). We’ve saved a chair for you.

Huffington Post Blog: On Being Radical

I’m pretty sure my latest piece for the HuffPost is going to piss some folks off. I’m almost certain of that.

But, it had to be done.

I get so tired of Christians crying victim, living and walking a “woe is me,” “I’m just getting by lifestyle.” The reality is that God has more for us, gave us the power to get more, and wants us to expect more. Period.

The simple truth is: believing and asking God for small things isn’t noble or humble. That doesn’t honor the God who created everything. So do you really want to insult Him in the name of humility?

So, check out my latest post, “On Being Radical,” and share your thoughts with me. (And while you’re there, read all of my HuffPost pieces here).

You can also take a look below.

Huffington Post: On Being Radical

Timidity doesn’t honor God.

There, I said it.

I’ve given a lot of thought to how often followers of Christ find themselves – or more accurately, place themselves – in the role of victim.

Text messages change our moods. What someone said about us ruins our day. We pray fervently the same prayers, pleading with God to bless us in some area of our lives. Or, we allow ourselves only the most modest of dreams in a misguided attempt to be humble.

Yes, the Bible talks frequently of the blessings of humility. And Jesus Himself extols the virtue as one of the most desired traits of those seeking to live like Him. But nowhere have I seen a verse that says, “Think small, dream small and pray small. These things make God happy.”

In fact, I would venture to say that the opposite is accurate: big, bold prayers and dreams honor God.

On the basest of levels, followers of Christ, those seeking to model their lives after His example, must admit that our Savior was radical.

He flipped tables. He preached and healed on “forbidden” days. He hung out with the outcasts. I mean, come on: Jesus was our first maverick.

Yet somehow, centuries later, many of us have accepted a role of inferiority. We’ve come to accept mediocrity and “just getting by” as the life we should lead, and happily.

I disagree.

The Bible clearly states that the riches of the wicked are stored up for the righteous. In Psalms 35:27, we’re told that the Lord delights in blessing His children. And Mark 11:24 explicitly says that if the children of God pray, believing that they have received, God is faithful to do anything they ask in Jesus’ name.

Where in those scriptures does it say “accept whatever the world gives you”? To the contrary, we’re encouraged to command our day in Job 38:12, and we’re told that have authority over all the power that the enemy possesses in Luke 10:19.

Time after time, God reiterates through scripture His desire for his children to be bold, to have divine confidence, and to walk open to and expecting abundance in every area of our lives.

So, it’s far time those of us who aspire to be like Christ accept this simple fact: to be radical is to be like Christ.

Yes, be humble. Seek God’s will for your life, and walk that path with love and temperance. But don’t make yourself, your dreams or your abilities smaller than they are to make others comfortable; out of fear; or because you think that pleases God.

God knew what you’d be capable of when He made you. He knows your personality and the dreams He’s placed in you. He formed you with the express intent of fulfilling the purpose and dreams He placed in you.

So do it. Do you.

Be confident in your uniqueness. Embrace the big dreams God’s given you, and the great ministry He’s placed in you.

Accept that you’re different (Heck, we all are. We were made that way: to stand out, to be a remnant). Love you for you, and then live your God-given life out loud.

It’s what God wants. It’s honoring God by being and doing and dreaming all that He wants you to, the way He wants you to.

Last year for the Lenten season, I read “Draw The Circle,” a prayer challenge authored by Pastor Mark Batterson. I still remember the entry for day 31, “What Do You Want Me to Do For You?,” which talked all about praying and believing God for big, explicit prayers as an act of honoring how great and powerful He truly is.

That very day I decided I would seek God and write down (just like they tell us in Habakkuk) all of the visions He’d given me. And man, they were bigger than anything I’d allow myself to think of.

Almost a year later, I remain determined and passionate about living each day as radically as my Savior did: confident in who I am and what I’m gifted and called to do. It has given me a peace beyond my understanding and freedom previously unattainable.

The season of mundane Christian life is over. Be bold and be radical in whatever God’s called you to do. Evangelize with passion. Work with divine confidence. And live with Christ-like love and humility. Expect good things in your life daily, and decide right now that yesterday was the last day you’d take whatever this life gives to you.

You are an heir to the King. Walk in that power. It pleases God for you to do so.

Huffington Post Blog: On Keeping the Faith

Recently I was asked to pen a guest blog post for another Saved Mama, Wife and Blogger that might inspire others.  After writing that post (details coming soon!), I thought long and hard about what would most inspire people whose lives look like mine, or who aspire to have a family and career.

When I really boiled it down, the greatest truth I discovered was that often walking out my faith is less about insurance on my eternal home and more about just keeping me sane today, right now.

So, I’d be honored if you’d check out my latest Huffington Post blog on just that: the sanity that comes with being saved.  While you’re there, check out my two other HuffPost Pieces, “On Millennials and Faith” and “On Not Ruining Christmas.”

I’d welcome your feedback, and greatly appreciate your likes, shares and Tweets.

Be blessed and keep keepin’ on!

On Keeping the Faith

I’m not sure if it was between my first and second child, or my second and third, that I literally thanked God for Jesus.

Sure, I’d heard church mothers say it before, but somewhere along my journey of parenthood I realized that without faith I’d most certainly lose my mind.

Before our first child arrived, my husband and I sat down at our kitchen table with pen and paper to plan our family.

We would have four children (because I like even numbers).

We wouldn’t speak to our children in “baby talk.” Instead, we’d speak to them like little people. Accordingly, we’d also empower them to disagree with us — respectfully! — and express that disagreement in the spirit of raising confident little people.

We wouldn’t teach about Santa Claus, choosing instead to teach only the story of Christ’s birth as the reason for the season.

And, before we broke our huddle, we agreed that we’d have our children back-to-back, because only then, we deduced (with all of the wisdom that two 24-year-olds could muster), would we have any shot at having a life together after the kids were out of the house.

And that was that.

But, when our first child was delivered by emergency C-section, my husband and I quickly realized the true meaning behind that trite saying, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.”

Despite all of our best-laid plans, my husband and I have come to the realization that the only way we are still “clothed and in our right minds” is because of our faith.

It’s faith that keeps us from releasing blood-curdling screams when our son trips down the stairs or falls off the bed.

It’s faith that opened my tightly clasped hands the first time we saw our little ones off to preschool.

And it’s faith that helps me hold my peace during the never-ending chorus of “MaMa” that has become white noise in our home.

Truly, if it weren’t for my belief in a higher purpose, I’d question who thought it a good idea to allow me to parent at all.

After all, we are our worst critics. For every mistake, bad choice and misstep I’ve made in my life, I nary think I’m worthy of the air I’m breathing. But God…

I’ve done things I’m not proud of. I’ve said things I’m not proud of. I’ve gone all-in on bad bets and taken risks I should have avoided. But God.

Even now, I raise my voice at my children more than I’d like. I’m not always patient. Sometimes I wish I could close my bathroom door without seeing little fingers wiggle beneath its jamb. And there have been times when the most I could find the energy to offer my family for dinner is microwaveable pancakes or oatmeal.

But God.

Or, is it because of God?

Because of God I know that all things work together for my good. Because of God I know that there is no weapon (nor tantrum, fussy baby or explosive diaper) formed against me that will prosper. And, most importantly, because of God I know that His grace is sufficient to get me through any and everything I will face daily.

Parenting is tough. Being married is tough. Running a household — whether solo or with a partner — is hard work. But I believe that I was created to do exactly what I’m doing right now. And so were you.

There is no one alive who could love your partner the way you do; care for your kids the way you do; kick butt in the office the way you do; or walk in your shoes. Period.

The same God that blessed you and I with the spouse, the kids, the home and the careers knows what it takes to keep everyone of those balls in the air. He knows our limits and He knows our every shortcoming.

And in spite of all of this, He keeps blessing us, pouring out His favor and grace and mercy on us every day.

This is why we keep at it. This is why we don’t throw in the towel. Because at the end of the day, we know in our hearts that we were built for this. We know that God made us specifically to overcome every obstacle that comes our way.

And He made us to win.

It’s not going to be easy. It almost never is. But, just in case no one has told you today, you are a freakin’ rock star. You are kickin’ butts and taking names as a parent, a professional, a friend, a servant and in whatever else you’re doing.

And thanks to God, you’re doing it all and making it look like a piece of cake.

So, parents-, spouses- and professionals-in-arms, hold on to your faith. If nothing else, it’s keeping you sane, keeping you motivated, and helping you keep it moving.

Huffington Post Blog: On Not ‘Ruining Christmas’

Yesterday, I was pleased to know that The Huffington Post published my article.

The piece, “On Not ‘Ruining Christmas’,” talks about recent conversations I’ve had about my husband and my decision to not teach the Santa Claus myth in our home. We’ve chosen instead to focus on the reason for the season – celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Well, as you might imagine, the dialogues grew quite heated, with some parents going as far as urging me not to “ruin” Christmas for those who believe.

You can read the piece on The Huffington Post (along with my other post on Millennials and faith) or below. I welcome your thoughts and feedback!

Thank you!

On Not ‘Ruining Christmas

My daughters came home a few weeks ago and asked the question my husband and I knew was coming but never wanted to hear.

“Is Santa Claus real, Mommy?”

I’ll admit that the first time my five-year-old popped the question last month, I panicked and deflected, “Oh, why do you ask, baby?”

“My friend at school said he is.”

Moments later I spat out, “Ooh, listen! Our favorite song is on the radio.”

The reprieve was short-lived. A few (short!) weeks later my younger daughter, three-years-old and every bit of a precocious middle child, blurted out on our way home from school one day, “Mommy, Santa isn’t real.”

I’d like to say that this time I was ready, that I had a well-thought-out response. The truth was very different.

Although my parents allowed my three siblings and me to believe in Santa Claus, my husband and I decided before we had children that we would not support the Santa story in our home.

Instead, we decided that we’d teach our little ones the truth of our faith: Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, God’s son and the best gift any of us could and have ever received.

We decided that we’d tell them that in the spirit of celebrating God’s gift to us, God blesses us to buy gifts for those we care for in a symbolic expression of love.

We opted not to tell our children that Santa was not real… we just focused on what was more important to us — the story of Jesus’ birth and why it remains such an important gift.

But, as beads of sweat peppered my brow in the silence that followed my daughters’ statements, was that all of the planning in the world quickly falls by the wayside when tested by the persistent, inquisitive questioning of children.

In the days that followed, I took to Facebook to poll my mommy friends, motivated by one fear-inducing thought. I don’t want my kids to be those kids.

As you might imagine, the feedback I got on Facebook was mixed. There were many parents in my boat — “We aren’t promoting the ‘man down the chimney’ myth either,” one father responded.

But I also got a number of “passionate,” (read: angry and snarky) responses from other parents instructing me to “fix it” so that my kid didn’t “ruin Christmas for everyone.”

I was struck by that term, “ruin Christmas.”

How could I “ruin” a holiday established to celebrate the birth of Jesus by teaching my children that — gasp — the purpose of the holiday is to celebrate Jesus?

Sure, I understood what they meant, but I simultaneously felt bullied in a way I hadn’t expected. I somehow had to go along with this myth to protect the practices and beliefs of other families while de-prioritizing the beliefs my husband and I were endeavoring to instill in our own.

How is that fair?

The answer is that it isn’t. People of faith the world over are daily grappling with how to both walk boldly in the divine confidence of who our Creator has purposed us to be and to not make others uncomfortable. It is a tightrope one never quite masters but never quite quits either.

So while my husband and I stuck to our script, we added there are also families that celebrate the spirit of Saint Nicholas, a man who lived many years ago and gave gifts to orphans during this same time of year.

And we closed by saying that, ultimately, we are all believing the same thing: it is a much greater blessing to give and love on others than it is to receive.

My husband and I realize that “Santa” is inescapable (He knows when we are sleeping for goodness sake!). But we are undeterred, perhaps like Joseph who walked countless miles looking for a room for his pregnant wife to stay in and birth the Savior of all people.

We’ll keep affirming our family truth fully expecting that our perseverance will birth great faith and a different — yet equally beautiful — type of wonderment in our children.

Just like the birth of baby Jesus has continued to do for generations.

We’ve chosen to stay on our tight rope and, we respect everyone else who walks the other.

In doing so we, I suppose, are giving a gift of understanding in a season where an appreciation for our fellow man is all that really matters.

Huffington Post Blog: On Millennials and Faith

I had the great honor of being published on The Huffington Post last week.

Speaking to the prevailing rhetoric that the Millennial generation is less religious than previous ones, I offered a different view to what my generation may be looking for in religion.

Take a read.  Leave a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/safiya-jafari-simmons/on-millennials-and-faith_b_4193964.html