It took me better than a year to lose 40 pounds. But for better than a year, I’ve kept it off. Yes! Did everything from the Beyoncé lemonade cleanse to three days of fasting a week. I started out walking up-and-down the street and swimming between docks. In the end I was swimming across the lake and back 3X a week, and walking 5 miles with 8 pounds of added weight. Still, it didn’t happen overnight.
In our younger years it seems we can eat whatever we want without tipping the scales in the wrong direction. But as the years rush on, so do the pounds. And the worst part? It takes more time and work to get rid of them. Yuck.
Can’t say that I’ve exercised much discipline in my life prior to the last four years. I spent much of my time formulating complex solutions to simple problems. Hindsight generally left me snickering at what turned out to be a futile attempt to rewire grace, the only outlet that was actually working on my behalf. Silly girl.
We stay so busy attempting to find balance when the areas of life that require the most attention can only be found in stillness. Balance produces an active amount of self-reliance that leaves us drained and unsuccessful. Fact is, we aren’t designed to carry the burden of formulating our own plans. Not our job. We’re weak-minded, easily-influenced humans, created for dependence on a higher source.
Know Your Role
Don’t be confused. There’s work to be done but it can’t be calculated and will never be accomplished in our own strength. The key to living a life of fulfilling purpose is actually found in gaining wait. Becoming fat with patience, that is.
We live in a busy and demanding world. It’s easy to get caught up in the latest greatest technology. There are thousands of self-help books and goal-accomplishing packets to purchase, but few things are written about the discipline, exercise, and reliance that comes with waiting.
Train Your Brain
Sounds like such an easy task, but as you try it you’ll discover it doesn’t come naturally. Dedication, repetition, and certainty are required if you hope to achieve supernatural dependence on a God you can’t physically see. Giving up our way and opting to obey an unfamiliar and unexplainable alternative is not such a comfortable experience.
I’ve had two jam-packed weeks this month. No complaints here; I was able to connect with many influential people who can take my ministry to the next level. Getting out and mingling is never hard for me personally, but waiting… now that’s a different story.
Here’s how it goes. I’ve done my part and now I must wait in confident expectancy for God to work His plan in a way that only He can. Like I said, it’s not the easiest thing, but the alternative is my way, and I wrote an entire book about how well that works. Not!
It’s difficult to be patient when questioning or doubting. Realizing this will help you remain in the place where why and how are irrelevant. If I have the answers then I’m the one in control. This is a heaviness I’m incapable of handling. Not questioning, and waiting with an attitude of confidence, takes me to a new level of trust that makes life easy-breezy.
God has a beautiful way of orchestrating every event so we’ll gain the perfect amount of wait. This is the only time when the outcomes happen the way He’s intended. When I’m operating in dependence, God is free to accomplish His will His way. He can then repair, restore, or revive any bum part or inefficient application. Learning to wait on God keeps our focus off the numbers on the balance scale, and keeps our eyes fixed on the Man with the Plan.
I remember when we moved to Naples, FL. Such a beautiful area, not like anything I’d ever seen. It kinda made me feel like a grilled cheese sandwich that had wrongfully been placed on a five star menu. Awkward!
My trip to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando, should have been a similar experience. Instead, it was completely amazing. I made some wonderful connections with people who are way above my pay grade. That was great, but what impressed me most was watching the Master Chef work His magic.
If you know me at all, it’s not hard to calculate that I’m not the starstruck type. Matter of fact, I’m oblivious to the Who’s Who in the world of broadcasting. That made this week’s adventure exactly what I want my life to remain—a huge red arrow pointing to Jesus.
Let It Happen
Never went through the NRB brochure and only attended the opening session. I knew I was there to meet folks—so that’s what I did. When the trip was over I flipped through the event guide and realized I’d made personal contact with four people who were pictured in the Proclaim 17 brochure. Wow!
“I’m in no position to be giving away books, so unless you’ll promise to read I’m keeping this.” That’s what I said before I handed my book to Jerry Johnson, the president of the National Religious Broadcasters. Same thing forNick Hall, who I later discovered was the founder and chief communicator for Pulse, an organization that’s revolutionizing college campuses for Christ.
I’m not name dropping. I want to show you that obeying God’s whisper will take you to the exact place you’re intended to be. And for me, there’s no place I’d rather be.
I don’t long to be rich or famous. Wealth and attention could add terrible burden to my beautifully contented lifestyle. All I seek is obedience.
I can tell you stories of interviews I drummed up with various reporters. I even told Eric Metaxas, (the biggest name in religious broadcasting) “I’m sorry, but I have no idea who you are. Just felt led to tell you about my memoir.” We talked about a few issues and really hit it off. So much so that when I walked by his show later he smiled and nodded at me. Cool!
I prayed over Erwin Lutzer—that his friend’s son would be free from heroin addiction. Not because I knew he’d been the pastor of Moody Church for more than three decades and written 38 books. Why? Because the Spirit of God that lives in me instructed me to do so.
Even when he told me who he was, I was unimpressed. Then I looked him up and was impressed, but not with him—with what God was doing. Mr. Lutzer bought my book and donated $10 to my ministry. What?
Wait For It…
The most astounding connection I made didn’t happen in Orlando. My daughter Azlynn attended a speaking engagement in Fort Myers on Thursday evening. After hearing the message she got in line to purchase a book. She considered leaving several times because it was a school night and her boys were in Naples.
When Azlynn got closer to the booth she felt she should give this gentleman a copy of my book. Asking the lady behind her to save her place, she shot to the car and back. When her turn came she smiled and said, “My mother wrote a book and I think I’m supposed to give you one.”
The man sprung to his feet, “I met your mother yesterday. Isn’t this book about drug addiction? Man, I’m supposed to read this book, I’m supposed to read this book!” Then he asked, “Did your mom send you here?”
Azlynn’s reply came, “My mother doesn’t know I’m here, and trust me when I tell you, she has no clue who you are.” And I didn’t. Not then, or even when I’d handed him a book the day before at the convention.
What’s funny to me is that he happens to be the only person who I wasn’t sure would read it. I even saw him later in the hallway where he thanked me for the book. I waved and said, “Have you read anything yet? Get to reading.”
DeVon Franklin,that’s his name. He’s the President/CEO of Franklin Entertainment. He’s produced many big-name movies and is personal friends with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry— two people I’ve always dreamed would read my book.
Who knows what will happen from here, and to be perfectly honest, who cares? God is obviously up to something and that guarantees the perfect outcome. I’m so happy to be free from drugs, and living on purpose, that everything else is a bonus.
Guess I’ve finally reached that warm and toasty place in my life where I’ll gladly be a grilled cheese sandwich on the finest menu—as long as God’s the Head Chef.
Tomorrow the feature film The Shack will be released. And already the backlash is there. On the one hand, the comments cover warnings that it’s “the greatest deception foisted on the church in the last 200 years” to “I would… be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.” On the other, we read, CBN’s op-ed “The Shack‘s depiction of God is an interesting portrait that isn’t meant to be taken literally as much as it is meant to capture many of the attributes of God that we read about in the Bible.”
Is It Heresy?
To be sure, The Shack is an anomaly. A book that was rejected by various Christian publishers for obvious reasons, it has sold more than 25 million copies and has been printed in 40 languages. It has been on the top of several bestseller lists for years. It must resonate with somebody!
Of course, Eugene Peterson’s quote may not impress you if you’re one of those who believe The Message translation of the Bible is heresy. Belinda Elliott had this to say about her search for heresy in The Shack.
As a work of heresy, however, I was sorely disappointed. I just couldn’t find much in the book that I would consider heretical.
Discern for Yourself
Whether our recent presidential election or topics such as this one, many of us allow others to decide for us what we should believe and do. Most of us are too busy or lazy to research things for ourselves so we let others dictate what to believe. That, my friends, is far more dangerous that The Shack will ever be.
Here’s some facts that may help you decide whether to read the book, see the movie, or at least made an educated statement to others.
The Shack is not a story targeting the mainstream Christian audience. It’s written to reach those who are spiritually hungry or curious, but disenfranchised with church programs and the current Christian culture.
It is not meant to be a theological treatise on the Trinity. It’s a novel. A story. A way one man saw Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in his journey to process a horrendous grief.
God appears in many forms in Scripture – a burning bush, a dove, a cloud of smoke, a pillar of fire, a still voice, a man in a wrestling match. (Spoiler!) Why would we be offended if He chose to appear as an African-American woman.
God is a spirit and is neither male or female. He created us in His image (male and female) so part of God’s image is female. The tender, nurturing part of God’s personality is the Mother side of God. We tend to only see the Father side of God, but the Scriptures portray Him with two sides.
The author, collaborators, and publisher are all committed Christians who worked hard to keep the ideas presented in the book true to Scripture. However, it is a story of fiction and not meant to be taken literally.
Paul Young’s story and the way he presents God has opened untold numbers of conversations over dinner, in coffee shops, between Christians and non-Christians about who God is. Isn’t that a good thing?
And last of all, the main takeaway from The Shack is how personal and intimate the love of God is for us. It deals with the hard question of suffering, showing a God who is always present and loves us through the worst of times.
Every person’s reconciliation to God is intensely personal and unique. God knows exactly how to reveal Himself in a way that connects with our soul because He designed us. Don’t we do the marvelous beauty of the Gospel, the Good News, a grave disservice to imply that every person’s journey has to fit within some preconceived boundaries of our own making?
Whether or not you decide to go see the film is between you and God. My aim is not to influence your decision, but to present some facts to help you decide for yourself, rather than let someone else tell you what you need to do.
May God’s love, as presented in this movie, impact a broken, hurting, and desperate world that cries out to know there’s Someone who truly cares.