Altered Ambitions: When Your Pursuits Leave You Stressed Out


altered ambitions original

I wonder what I would have done back then.

Would I have heard the counter-cultural Man as He promoted turning away from ritual and embracing a repurposed heart? Laid aside the security of rules, clinging to repentance and grace? Grasped the new Gospel so tightly it changed my ambitions and my relationships?

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” He challenged.

And He’s still right here — warning against materialism and daring me to release anxiety over what others think.

And I’m still here wondering if He really can be trusted.

“Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body… Consider the lilies of the field and how they grow. They do not work or weave or sew, and yet their garments are stunning

Do not consume yourselves with questions… Outsiders make themselves frantic over such questions; they don’t realize that your heavenly Father knows exactly what you need.”

He sees right through me, for I’m the one consumed with questions. I’m the one who over-thinks. I’m the one slipping into that frantic state He warns against.

To ignore my insecurities, I rank myself and those around me. I question His goodness in creating me and writing my story, and I numb my heart with what will not last. I wonder if He’ll really be my Provider for the deepest, most secret needs… Wonder if He’ll really be my Protector, shielding me from all that’s not tangible.

Have you been there?

In that frenzy, when I’m ranking and questioning and doubting, I feel the shame taunting me. I know this can’t be the plan. And then I remember them — the first people whose shame drove them into hiding and made them frantic. With trembling hands, they pieced together the very first articles of clothing to cover their darkness, the very dark He was still warning against in AD 30.

“So if your eye is well and shows you what is true, then your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is clouded or evil, then your body will be filled with evil and dark clouds. And the darkness that takes over the body of a child of God who has gone astray—that is the deepest, darkest darkness there is.”

Do you see the irony? The first item humanity created to cover our shame has become an object of worship. Am I so far removed from their utter regret that I forget I’m in the dark?

For some, yes, it’s clothing. For others of us it’s achievement… and travel… and the right body… and control… and sarcasm… and kids who make us look good… and anything that numbs us to the reality we can not face.

Will you brave the dark of your own heart?
Will you pick up your anxiety and worry and misguided pursuits?
Will you throw the mess into the shadow of the cross and wait for healing?

I promise you — He’s right there offering rescue. He’s ready to redeem the darkness in the crevices of your mind and heart that you see no way around. He’s waiting to alter your ambitions, alter your focus.

“He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay. With a gentle hand, He pulled me out to set me down safely on a warm rock; He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.” Psalm 40:2

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ…

All unidentified scripture in this post is from Matthew 6.
Photo by Drazen Biljak on Unsplash

Without Prejudice

“Jesus’ human lineage teaches us that the unconditional love of God is limitless
and without prejudice.” Tom Ricks @gtccmo


Next week my girl will play Rahab in a Christmas musical. I’m not kidding. Gone are the years of being an angel with a sparkly halo covering her white-blonde hair. Instead, my sweetie is Rahab, the prostitute.

Do you know her story? Take a look. Besides my Rescuer, Rahab just might be my new favorite nativity character…

Her wandering mind — a pathway to her aching heart.  In the daytime while trying to do regular life. At dusk while anticipating another job. In the night when her work seemed to last forever.

Rahab. The prostitute from Jericho. God’s choice to help His people redeem what was once theirs before slavery. “That woman” with an unprotected heart was about to play the role of protector.

(Bear with me, friend. This really is an Advent post.)

Who would have imagined it?! Our counter-cultural God. He woos me out of judgements and man-made religion.

She hears a knock and welcomes two spies from Shittim, the very town where God’s people began to “whore with pagans” years and years before being enslaved in Egypt.  Yes, Moses really did write those words. The Rescue is all the more beautiful when we get honest about our messiness. How absolutely mysterious Joshua chose two men from Shittim — the memory of Israel’s physical and spiritual harlotry — to recapture their hope. Recapture their Promised Land. Recapture their hearts. Again.

Rahab. She had the perfect job for this plan to unfold.  Two men entering her home looked rather commonplace in her doorway.  But her future of redemption and purpose was anything but ordinary.

“We have heard how the Eternal held back the Red Sea,” she admits, “so you could escape from Egypt on dry land … As soon as this news reached us, our hearts melted…  The Eternal One, your God, is truly God of the heavens above and the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11 Aching for truth Rahab was.  Fashioned for something greater than man’s empty lust, her purpose found her.  Practically stumbled upon her doorstep.

Can you see the woman captured by shame? Can you see the spies — the former slaves — captured by consequences of their ancestor’s mistakes? Can you see the Maker choosing people with heaps of baggage? Can you see Him bringing together diverse people taught to hate and mistrust one another as He writes His Rescue Story for generations to come?

And what a radical ending… The scarlet cord used to lower the spies from her window served as her protection upon their return with an army. Joshua 5 & 6 The rescue tool she provided really saved her. She married an Israeli and bore a son named Boaz… a son who would later be known for his sacrifice and deep commitment and care for an immigrant, one of society’s outcasts.

What a proud mama she must have been! The one who had been given grace saw her adult son extending grace to a foreign outcast. Without prejudice.

It doesn’t get much better than that. But actually, it does…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:1-16

Yes, next week my daughter will be Rahab in a Christmas musical. You see, generations after Rahab taught her son, Boaz, to love without prejudice, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger. Jesus, the Immanuel, was from the line of Rahab. God With Us was from the human line of a scorned woman redeemed by grace.

The Gospel message, well, it’s different than what we’ve sometimes made church out to be. The Gospel extends beyond masks of perfection, beyond man-made communities still segregated by race and class, beyond our enslavement to what others think of us. God intentionally wove people into His ancestry whose aches led them to choices we hope our children never make.

When tempted to harshly judge others, challenges Darrin Patrick, remember that all of us violate our own convictions with embarrassing regularity. @darrinpatrick

Merry Christmas to you and yours. It feels different this year, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if you have choose to ignore or choose to engage in deep self-reflection.

Examining our own heart feels more like Good Friday and Easter rather than Advent. But the cross is here now, too. And really, it’s our only hope.

Limitless love. Without prejudice. I dare you. I dare me.

photo source

When You Want to Hide Your Family History


I read through His Words — unravel the ancient stories — and I’m uncomfortable.  More and more.

There’s relief knowing my spiritual ancestors avoided the perfection game… ignored the game I unsuccessfully played for years.  But sometimes, when I’ve had enough of this modern drama,  I dream that things might not have always been this way.

But they have.

From the first moment woman believed her Maker didn’t fully love her, we’ve danced with brokenness.  We avoid it.  Run after it.  Ignore it.  Foster it.  At least I do.

I wish I could find an anchor of strength from the ancient men and women.  Instead, I find lessons in their raggled and wrinkled stories.  Lessons are hard to learn when your magnifying glass is really a mirror.

I struggle to reconcile my Maker’s lineage is born from Jacob.  Jacob, the Deceiver.  Jacob, the favorite son of his mother.  Jacob, the man who married Leah only to marry her sister a week later.

Ponder Leah’s pain.  Ponder watching your younger sister love your husband.

Ponder physical intimacy with a man who didn’t love you in the least. Imagine the embarrassment and shame Leah knew when alone with her husband.

Ponder welcoming your younger sister into the marriage. I’m sure Leah tasted resentment. Probably choked on it every day.

This is Leah’s story. This is the awful truth.  God didn’t edit it out of His Word — out of His family tree.  I really wish He had.

No, instead, the Author keeps the brokenness right there to reveal a coming Restorer.  He knew we’d need to be reminded of that.  Knew our pain would drive us deeper into searching for Someone.  As my spiritual ancestors seem less and less like heroes, less like role models, the Love Story becomes about Him again.

The story we are to live and write doesn’t truly begin until we face what we have lost and then turn to see the horizon of uncertainty ahead, Dan Allendar writes.  Our story will gain momentum and depth only to the degree that we honestly embrace both loss and fear.  Whether it be our own flaw or the sin of others, God uses the raw material of sin to create the edifice of his redeemed glory.  This point cannot be overemphasized: your plight is also your redemption.

So I reach out my fragments to Him as an offering.  It almost feels like a dare.  “Take this, God, and restore this.  Redeem this.”  But it’s what I’m wooed to do.  It’s what’s been modeled for me — dwell amidst the mess and brokenness and then look to the One who can heal it all.

It’s a painful way to worship.  But the healing might be all the more beautiful.

(To study the full mess, read Genesis 29-30:24.)

When You Want to Reconcile the Drama


I remember the struggle during my first pregnancy.  September 11, 2001.  The due date of my son was just three months away.

What are we thinking bringing a child into this world?  Into this brokenness? I pondered, feeling inadequate.  Foolish.  Fearful.

But he came, and his sister followed two years later.  And brokenness still rages outside our home.  It rages inside our own walls sometimes.  But redemption is big.  And my babies are a part of it.  Already.

Thousands of years ago, Christ’s ancestor carried twin boys.  Rebekah was no fool.  She had heard stories of pregnancies, but she knew — she knew — something bigger was going on within her womb.
She didn’t run to the midwife.  Or to her friends who’d tell her what she wanted to hear.  Or to the current philosophies of her ancient world.
No, she knocked on the Door of Wisdom.  And, oh my goodness, He answered her and trusted her with news of Israel’s future.  God trusted her, a woman, a pregnant woman living in the ancient Middle East.
My God — He’s so counter-cultural.  He was even back then.

But the children she carried struggled and fought with each other
until, in great pain,
she exclaimed, “What is going on? Why is this happening to me?”  In frustration she inquired of the Eternal One why this civil war was occurring inside of her.  Two nations are growing inside of your womb, and the two peoples will be divided in the future.  One will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. 
Genesis 25:22, 23

Heavy stuff for a pregnant woman to ponder —
two children, struggling against each other already.  And the future looked all the more complicated.

Bless her.  Bless Rebekah’s little hormonal, emotional, nesting heart.  Her present struggle foreshadowed even greater drama and family tension and messiness. (Take a moment to consider: the Eternal Rescuer came from this family line, from this shame.)
And I want to escape the drama of today, but He pulls me back to it.  I was made in His image.  I was made to redeem.  I was made to restore.  Made to know Him who calls me His own.
Yet I run again to idols to help make sense of it all.  I grab books off the shelf and read man’s self-help wisdom.  I scan social media for tips on creating and restoring and making beauty in the world.  I try to fix the messiness by seeking that which isn’t so threatening.  But really, I’m just disengaging with what should truly hold my attention.

I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be liberated, will go in and go out, and will find pastures. 
The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy;I came to give life with joy and abundance.”  John 10:9,10

So I follow Rebekah to the Door.  To the Giver of Answers.  To the Giver of Peace when there are no answers.

I don’t even have to knock.

When You Forget What It’s All About


God said.  And there was light.  Promise born from void.  Hope rising over fear.

God said.  And there was sky and water —  reminding us  the world is much, much bigger than ourselves.

God said.  And there was land, dirt, earth — the very canvas on which His Love Story would unfold.

God said.  And there were trees and plants — forever fostering life.

God said.  And there were sun, moon, stars — the eternal promise of morning for those that weep.

God said.  And there fish, birds, animals — reminding us we are more complex, more cherished.

But with man, and with woman, the Master Orator becomes the Master Potter.

Up close and personal, He fashions man from dust and breathes life into him.  Breathes purpose.  Breathes hope.  Breathes the Love Story right into him.

He gives him rest — deep rest — and then intentionally forms another one in His image.  Woman.  With bone, He creates and opens her eyes, beaming into her face.

The first image she saw was her Maker, not Adam.  God planned to be alone with her.  Eve’s first page in her story was the Redeemer she did not yet know she would need, the Rescuer that would save her from her own mess.

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you.  He will quiet you with His love.  He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zephaniah 3:17 esv

Go back there.  Go to the One who wants to be with you.  Go to your Rescuer.  Go to the One who delights in you.  Go to His peace, His quiet, His rest.  Go to the one who  celebrates over you.

Return to the sacred relationship when life seems to get the best of you.

Return to intimacy with your Maker when the drama becomes too much.

Return to that place when all you can see is your Rescuer, your Redeemer, your God who delights in you.

Believe the truth of the One who got up close and personal, forming a Love Story with His hands after a week of speaking Creation.