From then to now-Grace

Random shot--beautiful leaf on my driveway

Random shot–beautiful leaf on my driveway

The past couple of days I have been ridiculously dramatic—in some ways approaching the time of mother martyrdom I wrestled so much with when my kids were very small. This time around, though, I’ve given into it with greater abandon and even a bit of flair, and deep down I’ve known what I was doing.

I attribute the difference to Grace.

I’ll explain, starting with the past first: When my children were toddler-stage, I believed that “good moms” loved being with their children 24-7 (along with a host of other bad beliefs). Therefore, I rarely took my husband up on his offers to let me “get away.” Despite his offers, in a deep down, hidden place in my heart, I blamed HIM for my sense of duty, for my unhappiness. But I didn’t come right out and say all this. I was prim and proper in my martyrdom, quietly convincing myself that I truly was right to see myself as the “martyr” who “willingly” (hmm!) took up the slack in her home, in her husband’s busy life, with their children, with her friends, in her job…

I saw that as saintly.


It was truly a miserable time. I was locked in a pious, tight mold of spiritual smugness. It was constricting. It stifled true life.

When God began tugging the log out of my eye, I began to see my “mommy martyrdom” more clearly, and I began to battle it. Not a pretty process! It was tooth-and-claw, hair-pulling, nail-scratching. I remember thinking—wailing at times—“I will NEVER be free of this!”

Fast forward to the present: I’m not going to claim “complete victory in Jesus” over my martyrdom tendencies, but I do have a far greater freedom from it than I did (which leaves me “free” to battle other monsters in my soul.)

So during the past couple days, as I’ve gotten irked with my kids for cluttering up the house (“I’m not your slave, you know! My job is not to clean up after you. I’m not doing you any favors if I do for you what you can do for yourself!”) and with my older daughter for asking me to run her here, there, and everywhere (“She has no consideration for my time,” I’ve thought.), things have been different. I didn’t hold back as I ranted in my journal yesterday about feeling invisible to my children, like a “non-entity.” I let it loose, and I didn’t try to couch it as a prayer for God to change my children’s hearts. And as I was doing it, I KNEW deep down that I was being a bit ridiculous.

After all, just the night before, Dave and I watched a documentary on REAL slavery, about the 27 million people around the world who live in bondage. Just that day I’d read about the Nepalese workers dying at the rate of one per day in Qatar because they are being forced to labor in horrific conditions on the stadium that will be used for the 2022 World Cup.

So I knew I was being dramatic, but at the same time I also knew I was getting a little closer to the honesty that makes me cling to Christ in real desperation. He sees right through my politely expressed prayers of grievance to the far grittier issues in my own heart, and THAT is what He wants to expose. So when I vent to Him (and not to every other person at random—that’s just complaining), I am coming like a little child, without pretense, admitting that I need…something! and I’m coming to Him because I may not know exactly what I need in that moment, but I know HE is the source of ALL I need, and I go running to him.

So, though my rant wasn’t pretty and it will never, ever, ever be published, I’m leaving it in my journal.

Because the difference between then and now is GRACE!

*Here are the links to the End it Movement website (lots and lots of great videos and info on human trafficking) and the news story on Qatar.

Africa devos: Desperation

My daughter, Emily, and her friend, Rita, whom I have known since she was around four.

My daughter, Emily, and her friend, Rita, whom I have known since she was around four.

How do we learn to be desperate for God when we live in abundance? Katie Davis wrote that during her semester at college in the States, she missed this most of all—the constant recognition that she needs God. Perhaps on this trip, you are realizing you “need” Him more than usual—or at least you recognize your need more easily. Most Christians acknowledge that we cry out to God most fervently when they are going through difficulties and trials. Could this mean that Africans, in one way of looking at it, are more spiritually blessed? Think of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and (if you have the book Kisses from Katie), read Katie’s words in pages 25-27.

Let me put a twist on this: though I “see” more physical need when I am in Africa (and that pushes me to pray and weep more), the spiritual need is just as great–perhaps greater–here in the United States. I meet almost no atheists in Africa. Many are not following Christ, but they DO believe in a powerful, Creator God. That is in great contrast with our spiritual culture in the U.S.

Many years ago I went on a trip to Argentina. One of the team members was a believer from Latin America. I was blown away with his ability to share Christ–lovingly, passionately, yet gently–with people he’d only just met, with people he’d approached on the street. “How do you do that?” I asked him.

“I see dead people,” he answered (this was well before The Sixth Sense came out, so he wasn’t trying to be funny).

He explained. “If I truly believe that people without Christ are dead–are separate from Christ–and will eventually spend eternity without Him–then my desperation for them increases. I see them as dying people–in as great a need as if they were bleeding or starving–and I am motivated by that to help them.”

If we could see spiritual need as if they were physical–like great gaping wounds or skin pulled tight with starvation–we would have greater desperation. We would see our own spiritual need–that without Christ, we, too, are in a state of decay.


Questions for thought/discussion:

  1. Read page 131-132 of K from K. How does this relate to Paul’s statement “When I am weak, then I am strong”?
  2. Is wealth a blessing or a curse?
  3. In what way is it potentially easier to depend on God in difficult circumstances or in places of physical need?
  4. How do we begin to understand and then see our spiritual needs as greater than physical needs?

Please, NOT more of myself!

An hour after I posted last Friday’s blog entry about wanting “more,” I got more.

More of myself!

My brain ran a Negative Thought Matinee all throughout Friday afternoon. “Frustrations, you’re up first. Then we’ll have the Comparisons. And rounding out the program are the Complaints. We have a full show here today, ladies and gentlemen. A full show with not a single positive thought to spoil it!”

“This is more?” I wondered. “When all I see are my faults driving me to find faults in others? I am on self overload! Didn’t I just write and pray that I ‘want to walk like a redeemed person, made new and whole’? What happened to that? Ugh!”

Well, really, what did I expect? That “more” comes easy? That simply wanting it is enough? That a desire for more of Christ wouldn’t bring some spiritual opposition?

But, boy, did I feel like I was resisting the very “more” I wanted! It was yet another illustration of what Paul said in Romans 7: “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong” (NLT).

Very true. So I struggled, yet again, with my own flesh and its selfish desires.

But in the middle of my battle, God reminded me that last week I had prayed for desperation. After writing about it, I’d asked, “Lord, how do I stay desperate for You when things are going okay–when nothing really big is driving me to my knees?”

Aha! Suddenly I realized that my Negative Thought Matinee was actually an answer to my prayer!

I had forgotten how helpless I really am and needed reminding that even in the “good” times, I am completely inadequate for the tasks set before me. My wily, sinful nature cannot accomplish anything truly good.

And with that understanding I was able to stop battling my negative thoughts and simply cry out “I need you!”

And there it was—the desperation I’d asked for!

God delights in revealing my weakness to me.

This would seem cruel, except that there is MORE. He does NOT do this to make me feel horrible. NO! His purpose is to get me to the place where I cry out for Him. THEN He reminds me that His power is made perfect in my weakness, that when I acknowledge my inability, the power of Christ rests on me.

In Ezekiel 36: 9, God says, “I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will cause many people to live on you—yes, all of Israel.” Another version translates the first phrase as “I am for you.”

Please understand I’m taking liberty with the textual application here. God is speaking to the land of Israel itself, but since Christ compared receptive hearts to fruitful soil, I think I can apply it to my own heart. In Ezekiel 36:9, God is essentially saying to me, “I am for you, and I WILL make you fruitful, so I will prepare you to bear fruit. I will plow you and till you and dig deep in you to plant seed. I will cause you discomfort so that you will bear fruit for others.”

If I want and ask for MORE, then I have to understand that I will be plowed. Sometimes that plowing takes the form of outward hardships; sometimes it is simply being forced to face my deep, tangled roots of sin so I will cry out for help.

So, eyes a little wider this time, I say it again: I want MORE!

More of Jesus,

Less of me.

Less of me,

More, more, more of Jesus.

I want to see

Bartimaeus the beggar was sitting alongside the road when he heard a great crowd pass by. “Hey,” he asked someone nearby, “what’s going on?”

“It’s Jesus!” they said.

Now Bartimaeus may have been blind, but he was in the know. He had heard of Jesus.

And Bartimaeus had no shame!

I love this about him. He understood his great need, and he let go of inhibitions and the desire to please people.

“He shouted, saying, ‘Jesus, Son of David, take pity and have mercy on me!’

But those who were in front reproved him, telling him to keep quiet; yet he screamed and shrieked so much the more, ‘Son of David, take pity and have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18:38-39, Amplified version)

This past Sunday night our church held its monthly prayer/worship night. Philip, who is from Uganda, led the service. “We must realize how desperate we are for God. Only then will we really seek Him,” he said. “People in my country are desperate because their needs are obvious, as basic as food, medicine, jobs. Great needs and loss surround them. Here in the U.S., we are not so desperate for physical things. But if we want to really follow after God, we have to realize that we are just as desperate spiritually. Then we will seek Him.”

It reminded me of something I heard a pastor from Ghana say. He was asked what advice he would give to U.S. believers. “You have a decision,” he said. “Will you seek God out of desperation or devastation?”

Bartimaeus recognized his desperation. It was easy for him to: he was blind; he was a beggar.

We, too, are desperate. Appearances may testify otherwise, but Scripture tells us that without Christ, we are blind, lost, and imprisoned (Acts 26:18). We are sick and injured (Jeremiah 17:9). We are walking dead—true zombies (Ephesians 2:1).

It just isn’t easy for us to realize this in our culture. If we’re not in a place of being devastated, it’s really easy to forget that we are desperate. We distract ourselves with stuff and activities and media, and our desperation stays hidden.

But when we don’t realize our desperation, we don’t cry out. We politely ask for growth and help. We share requests and sometimes remember to pray for others.

But desperate prayers are different. Bartimaeus is a good example of that. Out of desperation he cried out! More than that, he screamed and shrieked! He was NOT going to let anything keep Jesus from hearing him. Even when the crowd “reproved (him) and told (him) to keep still, … (he) cried out all the more” (Matthew 20:31).

Jesus, of course, answered Bartimaeus’ plea for mercy and pity.

“Then Jesus stood still and ordered that (Bartimaeus) be led to Him; and when he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ (Bartimaeus) said, ‘Lord, let me receive my sight!’”

Jesus will answer our pleas, too.

But we have to ask. Really ask. Desperately ask–because Jesus knows our hearts. He knows when we’re simply going through the motions, mouthing prayers, checking devotions off our to-do list.

We MUST recognize our desperation to cry out authentically. Desperation is an absolutely necessary step. All other steps follow it. Again, Bartimaeus serves as an example: out of desperation, he cried out; Jesus met him and healed him; and then Bartimaeus followed Jesus. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has healed you” (Mark 10:52). But because Bartimaeus realized he been saved out of desperation, he saw with greater than physical sight. He knew his way was now with Jesus. “(He) began to follow Jesus, recognizing, praising, and honoring God; and all the people, when they saw it, praised God” (Luke 18:43).

I often want to skip right to the following part and the praising part. I want to be a witness to others.

But an acknowledgement of desperation is a prerequisite for all of it.

God, I need you desperately—and I need to know that I need You.

Help me, please.

I want to see.