Friday, April 4, 2014

The Not-So-Great Commission

Can We Talk?  ............. No, seriously.  I need to get this off my chest and be free of it. It's not flattering and it's not pretty, but it is in fact, where I'm at. And, where I'm at...... is caught- caught in a lie, caught in sin and caught squarely in disobedience.

Can We Talk? .......... We need to talk about this.  Or at least, I need to talk about this. And, what is "this" exactly? Ughhhhh.  It's evangelism.  Sharing the Good News, the Gospel...... You know, that whole "Going into the world" thing?? Taking the truth of God's word, the message of salvation, into a lost and dying world??  "This" is that.  And, "that" has turned my little ordered world upside down.

I have the distinct privilege of going to a church that cares about the lost and not just cares, in a "Dang, I wish they weren't all going to hell" kind of way....... but, in a "Let's organize, mobilize and evangelize the whole world" kind of way.  And, I love it!! I really do! From the top to the bottom, our church is filled with people who are more than a little passionate, about sharing the Gospel........ passionate about seeing lives, families, communities and yes- THE WORLD,  transformed by the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And, so it is in this environment, this active and vibrant- Gospel sharing environment- I find myself, caught. Completely and utterly, caught.

You see, I thought I was already doing "this".  I thought "this" was one area of my calling that I could feel comfortably good about........ after all, I love Jesus! Really, I L-O-V-E love, the LORD! I talk to and about Jesus all the time, most of the time, in fact.  I go to church, I teach bible studies........ I read the Bible........ I mean, I got "this" down! Don't I? I sure thought I did. I thought I had moved well past the "knowing" and was knee-deep in the "doing" of scripture.

And, I was so close, really I was.  As my dad says " Close only counts in horseshoes."  Close only counts when absolute, right or perfect is not necessary..... when no score is given or winner is declared- close is just fine. But, close doesn't often count in life and if you don't know it yet, let me be the first to tell you- close doesn't count with God. You either are or are not; sinning or not or cold, obedient or disobedient- there are not degrees to this stuff. What do you call someone who is "kinda saved?"  Lost.  Now, I know that seems harsh and abrasive in our "everyone who participates gets a ribbon" culture........ but, when it comes to taking up your cross and following the Lord Jesus Christ and walking out BIBLICAL obedience, partial obedience is disobedience. Incomplete, delayed or almost obedience.......... is disobedience. You either hit the mark or you don't, and I had missed the mark and found myself in the area of obedience but, not in actual obedience........ and that, is disobedience. Friend, I was circling the block, but didn't have the address. I was knee-deep in "knowing" but, "not doing" and the real kicker is I didn't know I was not doing. But, boy do I know now.

It all started in January, the Lord was calling me out and into new and deeper waters- waters of obedience.  It was so clear and everywhere I turned, the Lord confirmed this call to uncomfortable and radical obedience.  And, I felt so ready for the challenge!  I was feeling like God was just showing off for me, answering some prayers and petitions that I'd been making for several years.  He has given me some of the greatest opportunities lately....... put people and purposes in my path that are just what I need. And, little by little, calendar square by calendar square, I could see how God was being so faithful in equipping me, leading me and really filling in some of my many gaps......... helping me become the more well-rounded teacher, writer, speaker and disciple that I long to be.  I am getting to be around people who are sooooooo much smarter than me, be around teachers who are way, way better than me, women who have more Bible knowledge and Godly wisdom than I ever will. I wake up every morning and praise Jesus, that I am entirely out of my league in most everything I'm doing right now.  And, that should be enough, shouldn't it? Genuine love of the Lord, genuine growth........ seeking obedience and surrendered to the process.......... those are good things, that's not falling that short is it? Isn't this exactly where we hope our walk leads?

If only God would leave His clay pots alone long enough to dry. But, what kind of Heavenly Father would He be, if adequate was enough for His children? What kind of creator, would stop at day 4 and reply, "Mehhhh- Maybe not perfect, but certainly good enough." Not my God, my God is the God of faithful completion, of exceedingly and abundantly more.... the God of fulfilled purpose and accomplishing all that concerns me.  It's mostly my fault, I guess it's entirely my fault, really....... I did the asking,  "Lord reveal to me areas of my life that are lacking, areas of disobedience........ open doors to sin." What was I thinking?!?! I would have been totally content to just keep doing what I'm doing.  Totally content to keep my busy little schedule of things I love.  If it wasn't for conviction........ wet blanket, gut-check conviction. Killjoy. 

It started one Sunday morning, harmless enough.  Our church was about half way through one session and getting ready for the next session of CWT.... or Can We Talk? Can We Talk? is a 6 week- Wednesday night, evangelism strategy that teaches a believer to share the gospel and to equip others to do the same- an absolute core value of our church.  I've seen the classes, heard the commercials and testimonials and every time, I think, "Praise God! I'm so glad we (the royal we) are doing this, I hope a ton of people go!" I feel nothing but excitement every time it's mentioned, I've even spent time praying on Wednesday nights over their efforts.  I'm a part of this, right?!?!  

   Pastor asked how many people have had someone share the Gospel with them in the last year...... chirp, chirp.  Not to worry, that can happen........ our life is church, our friends are church friends, we talk about church....... at church...... with people..... from church. That's not a bad thing, that's just the circles we run in........ right?  Then, he asked who had shared the Gospel with someone in the last year. I honestly couldn't tell you if anyone raised their hand, I'm sure many did, but I was oblivious- I felt like a white hot light was shining on me. Aw, man!! I know that invisible light, it always accompanies a stirring in my spirit that means, "Hey You! Don't look around, I mean you Sara! This is for you....... It doesn't matter what anyone else answers- "HAVE YOU,  SARA JOHNSON, SHARED THE GOSPEL WITH ANYONE RECENTLY????" Man, I really thought about it. I try to share the Gospel when I speak to a group in some form or another...... I talk about it all the time....... I wanted so badly to see a face come to mind, but I knew there would be none. And, that is how I got caught....... caught on a Sunday morning, caught with my hand down....... caught in what I recognized, and wanted to reject immediately, but knew without question was sin. I started to question, "Why, Lord? I am bold, I'm not afraid of talking about you with anyone, even when it's the hard uncomfortable stuff. Why do I feel so convicted? Why do I have the sneaking suspicion, I might be very wrong?"

One of those Sunday afternoons, I was looking on my Facebook page and it just struck me how many people are doing multi-level marketing stuff......... becoming distributors, ambassadors, independent consultants, life-changers..... whatever you wanna call it- selling stuff.  And, it's good stuff....... skin care, vitamins, fitness stuff.........weight loss, all natural cleaning, make-up, shakes, the occasional spatula....... and on and on. I thought about how many times I've done the very same thing, signed up to sell something or talk about something, and my one criteria? It has to work. How eager we are to proclaim to the world, "This will change your life! This works, it's guaranteed. I've tried it and just look at the results!" Man, I tell you what, I love to share a good deal or a good product. You want a restaurant recommendation? Got it! Doctor, hairdresser, yard guy? Got it, and wait just a sec, 'cause I'll give you a card! And, you can bet your life, if I tried something and actually lost weight, I'm putting up "before's", "during's" and an obnoxious amount of "after" pics!!! And then, I'm selling it to you friend, and I'm going on vacation!!! Personal experience is pretty motivating, huh? "Guaranteed to work," makes us pretty bold, doesn't it?

But, how boldly and confidently am I passing on the name of Jesus? How quick am I to share the name of the one person who is 100% everything, all the time? He never disappoints, you would never be dissatisfied, never regret it..... He only, always makes better, improves the quality, health, performance and beauty of absolutely everything. He has NEVER had a bad review....... He offers a satisfaction money back guarantee and never once, has had to fulfill it.  He keeps every promise He's ever made, IN ALL OF TIME, and it can be proven throughout history. He is always on time, eternally consistent..... he doesn't just deliver...... HE IS THE DELIVERER. And, customer service? Oh, does He ever care about people!  HE GAVE HIS VERY OWN LIFE, FOR PEOPLE- FOR YOU.

And, you wanna talk about "before's and after's"??? Wow, now that is the really exciting part! Darkness to Light, lost to saved, hell to heaven; dead to life, filthy to clean; alone, unwanted and unworthy....... to loved, desired and redeemed?? I was thinking about this that Sunday, I don't have any "before" pics from before I met Jesus. I don't have any pics of my despair or defeat. I have "before" scars, "before" wounds..... now healing nicely,  I cried "before" tears and hurt from "before" pain, but didn't take time for any selfies. Nothing to run through Instagram and add an artsy filter or snappy caption to.  No pics of what lost looked like, it looked mostly like everyone else, anyway. I don't have "before" pics of my depression or disappointment....... I don't really have any good pics that show just how insecure, afraid or broken I was, how in need of a Savior I was......... but, praise Jesus, I have the "after's".  Friend, I am the "after." My "after" wakes up every morning glad to be alive, blessed with a husband and family, a calling, hope and a peace about every day before and every day to come.  My "after's" aren't on a wall secured or held by a pin- they are living, breathing..... in my heart and home, secured by my Savior and held in HIS hand.  Oh, I absolutely have the "after's," friend; my "after's" call me Mama and Babe and prove that God is the gracious, JOY GIVER every day.  My "after" is what motivates me to stay in the Word, share everything I possibly can, tell every single thing the Lord does for me.  I could "sell" this standing on my head based on my "before and after!"  Given the time and opportunity,  I could convince anyone to buy into this- and not based on my ability, but my God's reality.

But, where's my website, where are my recruits and converts?  Where are the people that I have shared my treasure with who are now walking in their "after" and multiplying around me? Where is the fruit of the love, I thought so loud?  Maybe I'm not as bold as I'd like to think.

The more I prayed about this, the more I began to question my boldness, my obedience.  In fact, the more I prayed about Can We Talk? the more confused, convicted and uncertain I became.  How can I feel so convicted to do something that I'm already doing?  I love the Bible, I love to teach it and talk about it. I love to share my faith and what the Lord is doing in my life.  My goal is to be a disciple and disciple maker....... what am I missing, Lord?  I shouldn't feel this way, I should feel great about my efforts to share the Gospel, I should feel great about my great commission....... I mean as good as anyone who's not an evangelist should feel.............
   "You see, evangelism is not really my gift. Some people are evangelists, some are not and I am not.  I am a teacher (I use the term loosely)....... I want to expound on God's word, be a small part of someones discipleship process.  I love evangelism, I value and support it, but it's not my calling. And, you should really identify your gift and then serve in that area or you become frustrated........... "
    As I write that, I am embarrassed at how ridiculous that sounds, and not because it's incorrect-it's not........... but, because I incorrectly applied it.  I had used spiritual gifting, or lack thereof, to excuse myself from doing the most important thing God instructed His church to do:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

    I thought, in my "wisdom," I had identified my strengths and was going to focus on just those.  I thought sharing the gospel, literally telling a lost person about Jesus, was the work of an evangelist- one who possesses the necessary boldness, language and skills to do this- skills I don't have.  I thought rather than "mess it up" I should leave it to those who "do it right, who get it right," this most important conversation.  You do your thing and I'll do mine...... and when you put them together........ Ta da!!! The great commission!  It's not that I didn't want to be a part of the great commission, it's that I thought I already was. But, the reality is that my great commission is not so great, after all.

You see, those powerful directives, "Go and make disciples...... Share the good news...... Be fishers of men...." those weren't instructions given to just pastors, evangelists or the apostles, but the church- the whole church.  Me..... and YOU. But, I wasn't "going" anywhere or "making" anything- I was very much "staying." I had stepped out of the boat altogether and allowed myself to simply help in the cleaning process, from the safety of the shore.

And, here is what the Lord convicted me of: 
*Encouraging other believers in their faith...... is not the same thing as sharing the Gospel. 
*Leading a Christian lifestyle and letting that be my testimony.... is not the same thing as sharing the Gospel.
*Teaching at church, Christians who are already in church, about a God they already believe in....... is not the same thing as sharing the Gospel.
   This world is dark and growing darker, it does not need my color commentary on Jesus- it needs my Jesus.  Personality, blogs and wall plaque religion do not bring the dead to life or set captives free. This world needs a Savior, not sympathetic scribes.
And, my words, when compared with the supernaturally empowered Word, are insignificant....... unless my words are His Words.

   Now, please hear my heart, this may seem like semantics and subtleties- but, there is a difference and it's one we simply must understand.  These things are Biblical, good and valuable- they are a necessary and important part of making disciples- but, they are insufficient without sharing the Gospel.  And, my zeal for, and commitment to, the disciple making process is in vain, if I'm not in fact........ making disciples. These are steps in the same process, but steps 2-5 are irrelevant if step 1 is not done first. It's like saying I am passionate about building homes, about seeing them built correctly, beautifully and to their fullest potential....... but, I care nothing about their foundations. Am I really that passionate about building homes, if I do nothing to ensure they stand?

You cannot disciple the lost.  You cannot help someone who has no faith, grow in their faith.  You cannot instill the truths of scripture to someone, if they do not know the God who inspired them. You cannot build upon which, there is no foundation.  And, our God is in the foundation business, solid rock, in fact.  So, we my friends- must be in the foundation business; the first step, ground floor, square one, back to basics business of.......... Sharing the Gospel. 

My name is Sara Johnson. I am the wife of a worship pastor. I am called to ministry. I have served in ministry for 13 years and while I have tried to encourage and challenge other believers, tried to minister to and meet the needs of the lost or hurting, I am guilty of allowing others to fulfill MY great commission.  I have shared the Gospel as a counselor at camps, a speaker at retreats and a volunteer at altars. But, the only stranger I have ever met and asked point blank- "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is Lord?" was a homeless man in New Orleans named Jose Ferrer, and he asked me first. A homeless man who stood on street corners with Bible verses scrawled on cardboard and a Bible degreed, Bible teaching pastor's wife.......... And, who was more obedient in their call to share the Gospel?  No need to respond, I already know the answer and it breaks my heart.  I am guilty of pursuing and accumulating knowledge and then withholding it from those who needed it most, guilty of waiting in my sanctuary for you to wander in- instead of going into your darkness to find you.

   Imagine someone on fire and you encounter them and you just happen to know something about fire, in fact you were once on fire, too.  And, what a small world this is, such perfect timing! You not only know all about fire- how the fire started, different kinds of fires and why they burn differently......... how frustrating, hopeless and painful it can be; but, you know how to put the the fire out! You know how to end it, begin healing, how to prevent future fires...... in fact you know how to undo the damage entirely, like it never happened! Wow, that is so great that you know all that and you just encountered someone clearly engulfed in flames.   And, as you walk by you have such a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction that you know all you know.......... but, you don't pour water on them. You don't put out their fire.  
    You find yourself thinking "Man, I hope someone helps them, I hope someone more comfortable or gifted than me, comes along to put out their fire........ and if they do, I'll faithfully teach them all I know.  Come see me at church......... and I'll tell you how to recover, heal and avoid matches.

Isn't that exactly what I've done? Whether I intended to or not I omitted the most important, relevant piece of information. What I have said with my great commission omission was, "I hope someone tells them about Jesus, so I can tell them how to walk a little closer with Him."

That's a difficult thing to digest.  It's upsetting and disappointing to realize you have fallen short in an area of such significance. But, the precious thing about our Father, is that He reveals sin for our good. I don't feel condemned, I feel convicted. I don't feel charged, I feel challenged.  This process and journey has led me closer to my Savior, not further away.  When the Holy Spirit and the Word correct, growth and obedience follow.

I signed up for Can We Talk? We are two weeks in and though it makes me nervous and a little scared- I'm all in! Some people are truly gifted evangelists and I may never be one of them, but my responsibility as a believer is to be equipped, prepared and willing. This session of CWT has 286 people signed up for it. That's 286 people, seeking to be equipped to boldly share the Gospel...... 286 people getting into cars on Wednesday nights and going into enemy territory, to be light in dark places.  This Wednesday, the Gospel was shared 90 times to 137 people and saw 24 pray to receive Christ.  24 people that didn't know freedom, now do.  24 people who had not just their day changed but, their eternity changed.

I've been practicing my outline on my kids........ at first I can tell I'm mechanical, awkward and seem silly to them.  They watch as I show them with my hands what Jesus did on the cross and I find myself wondering, will it be me who leads my children to the Lord?  I pray for their salvation everyday,  I have entrusted it to the Lord and have begun to praise Him for it, in advance.  But, I also understand it may be a Sunday school teacher, a friend, their daddy or Papa who leads them to the Lord.  I've begun praying for whomever that person may be, praying they are somewhere walking through scripture; being obedient, even if it's uncomfortable, to their great commission calling. 

I've also started to pray for those whom I'm being prepared for.  There are people in my territory and I'm not sure how or when our paths will cross, but I'm certain they will........ and I will be ready with Step 1 of Disciple-Making: Sharing the Gospel.  

Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Jericho Wall

I’ve known and existed with you for more days than I can count. In the morning you are there.......before my feet take their first steps, the reality of you shapes my day- what I will and won’t........ or can’t do. And, in the evening you bid me good night, a gentle reminder of your painful and undesired consistency. You have been my faithful companion of doubt and fear. When the sun shines and light bounces off your frame and in the darkest of night....... even in shadows, I can make out your borders. I’ve seen you from a distance, I’ve even run towards you, into the wind and full of what I thought was courage........ determined to overcome. But, the closer I got the more imposing you became, until my run slowed to speed and determination, left somewhere on the ground behind me. And, we stood face to face again- as we have so many times and it’s always me who turns first, who bows my head and shrinks back. So tired of disappointment, so tired of’s become less painful, to never endeavor.

For so long, I thought you were there for my protection, a boundary to help me identify my territory, my lot.  A barrier to teach me to be content with what you have deemed is enough. But, the days are increasing in number when I find myself restless within your limits. I find myself wondering what your absence would be like........ wondering what is on the other side, what is it that you hide from me? You see, I’ve been listening to the words of another. It started as an occasional whisper, but the voice grows louder and more insistent, He begs my attention and demands my action. And, even though what He proposes seems impossible...... it’s illogical, even dangerous...... I find that it awakens something in my spirit. And, I think I’d like to see what impossible looks like. My life will never be entirely free of disappointment or pain, and it may indeed be marked by man’s defeat...... but, I will accept my defeat struggling to ascend and no longer in the ground, never having climbed.

You have filled my horizon and blocked my vision, you obstruct my light and distort my direction. Your very presence meant to intimidate me and remind me of this truth- I AM INADEQUATE. Everyday you remind me that I am not enough, that I am not fully free or fully able. Everyday you mock my efforts as I attempt to move forward, everyday you encourage me to give up, to be satisfied with my dissatisfaction.  Everyday- until today. Whether kept in or kept out, I’m growing tired of being kept. And, so I’ve come to tell you that today- it ends. Today, is the end of our story together. And, not because I have become any greater or more able, indeed I am as you say- inadequate. I possess no greater power or wealth, knowledge or wisdom, above all or even any other....... But, I am reminded there is one who does........... and it is not you.

I met a man on this road between us, a man greater than other men, ready for battle and empowered by the Lord, a man who has seen victory over principalities and kingdoms of darkness. He reminded me that this ground, this very ground- where you have towered and I have cowered, is neither mine nor yours- But, God’s and God’s alone.    Whether it held my wilderness or your vastness, this ground is His- and it is Holy. So, I am done begging you to relent or show me mercy, I am no longer bound by your defeat. Now, I petition The One who is greater than us all.
Out of His loving-kindness, He responds to my cries. He has been with me all along, ever-faithful, ever-loving....... for many days He’s been my Comfort, my Protector and Shelter. He has led me in truth and grace, My Good Shepherd- Jehovah-Rohi. It is my Shepherd’s voice I’ve been hearing, it is to Him I respond. He speaks to my brokenness, to my weakness and fear and He reminds me of His fidelity, His Word and pledge........ and even when I have nothing else, when I am tired and afraid, I can rest in Him. But, the time to rest is over.

He declares, it is time to move forward...... not in my strength, but in His alone. He is my Banner, Jehovah-Nissi, the battle belongs to Him and His victory is already won. I am not a great warrior, but I serve the Lord of Armies and the only weapon He asks me to carry is that of obedience and I carry it gladly. I have been circling you, silent steps of faith for 6 days. He has quieted the voices of fear, the voices that taunt and discourage, the voices that remind me of past defeats...... He has silenced them all. I only hear the voice of my Savior, He guards my mind and commands my steps, each step walked out- building quiet courage...... but, today we shout, today we roar!

Do you hear my steps today? Do they sound differently than before? It is not me you should fear, but The One who walks with me and we are kicking up dust today. Today there will be shaking and quaking and trembling..... and for the first time in so long, it won’t be from me. Today the trumpets will sound and the shouts of His children will fill the air, as the Presence of the Lord comes to tear down walls...... comes to subdue this land. He has come to give access, where everyday before it has been denied. He has come to bring freedom and life to those who’ve been in chains. He has come as my defender and covenant keeper. Today, He has come to reduce my boundaries and limits to dust, to call me out of wilderness and into promise.

I once had a wall. But, my God traded me for a city.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


  The issue of RED DOORS  is what I thought about all week long and it really convicted me. As though the role of being a good parent isn't enough to intimidate, I now carry more fully, the responsibility and weight of knowing that in days of leisure and days of stress, in days pulled together and days undone, in weariness and silliness....... I am ALWAYS communicating something about Christ, to whomever is around, especially little eyes and ears. I am always shaping and contributing to my kids perception of life, love and what walking with Christ looks like.

   Here is how I see it- My actions and the heart behind them, can either create a hedge of protection around a garden growing, one that has variety and life, one that has roots running deep, bearing fruit and welcoming growth........ OR my actions can create a different barrier altogether- one with thorns and snares, that less protects and more limits and confines, one that keeps nourishment out and creates a dry, hostile land....... a place that wounds and bruises as you try to navigate it, a place that encourages fear. And it is my children who trod there, wherever it is- and it is I, who have placed them there. Makes you think of land management a little differently, no?

   And, now we get to the part that some may hate, but you really shouldn't hate it............ This is NOT condemnation or criticism. I repeat, THIS IS NOT CONDEMNATION.  And, if what you take away from this is condemnation, make a conscious decision to reject it - because THAT is the enemy.  This is an invitation for us to think about things, discuss things and evaluate what we want to do with it........ Maybe we make some changes, maybe we don't........ either way is fine, but I'm warning you right now, be prepared for his attack. He HATES it when we pause to reflect, when we press in and welcome the Holy Spirit to challenge us........ just as humility delights our Father, it enrages the enemy.   As much as our Father wants His children to be humble, teachable and wise- our enemy wants us to be puffed up and superior, beyond reproach or correction, excused from consequences, unwilling to acknowledge that we could be wrong...... about anything.  He wants us to be so busy being offended that we couldn't possibly have time for improvement, we couldn't possibly slow long enough to yield ourselves and our motives, to examination by HIS gracious gaze.
    Satan doesn't want us to feel challenged, he wants us to feel criticized. Criticized means you're being attacked and when you're attacked, you have no choice but to be defensive. But, in Christ we are not walled-off, wounded victims in need of defense- we are warriors, overcomers and victors in Him- who pursue wisdom and welcome truth. So, here we go- ya big winner!!

We are going to talk about Black Friday, at least we are going to start with it.......... and it's going to be okay. It's going to be be okay and as pointless as it sounds, it matters.

  Let me start with this statement, and then I will repeat it many more times:  There is nothing wrong with shopping on Black Friday or even Thursday. Let me prove my sincerity in saying that. The first, and one of the few times, I ever shopped early on Black Friday, was the year Berkley was born. Talk about time away from your kids! She was in the NICU........ and me spending a few hours out was healthy, helpful and entirely fine.  She was born right before Thanksgiving and I was discharged late in the afternoon, the day before. I went home tired, emotionally and physically exhausted, from being in cardiac ICU all week, and with no baby....... and that was my first Thanksgiving with a daughter. Everything had happened so fast, there was none of those weeks of nesting or decorating, no wandering Target stocking up on onesies or diapers. It was just over, and though we made it through the worst, we still had months of waiting and watching ahead, and I knew it. We had our lunches and dinners, and about 5 AM I met my mom at Holland Gardens- for you West Texans- and I got a great price on sweet baby girl ornaments. And, it completely delighted me.  I had such heart trouble, I hadn't walked in about 7 days and it felt so good to be out in the cold morning air........ it felt so good to be around smiling people, scurrying around. I had a chai latte and the whole experience was completely cathartic for me. I don't regret it and I'm not embarrassed about it.

    I haven't had much opportunity since then for Black Friday snooping, mostly because we are usually on the road traveling or otherwise obligated, but I too, often hear the call of super discounted Sonic toothbrushes from Kohl's, the mattress toppers I didn't know I needed or...... "What's that?? A sale on graphic tee's?!?!? Um, Yes Please!!!" I really am quite a pro at waiting for the one store to do the coupon, that you can combine with the bucks, PLUS the additional discount when you use your card....... and just like a wild cat of the Serengeti, I circle.... wait, circle more ( in the parking lot) and pounce!! Fleeces (polar, not biblical,) jammies and jeans for the babies!!!! How P31 of me, right?!?!  It's in the Bible, you know?  

"She is like the merchant ships,  (I have an inactive ETSY account that I never sold anything on, but I have fully intended to knit, make bows, explore my non-degree area of graphic design and chalk art...... and the pallets! All those stupid, pallets!!) bringing her food from afar." (I know where a Marketstreet is and occasionally purchase high end probiotics from Whole Foods.)
   "She gets up while it is still night (because Walmart's 24 hours and grocery shopping with children is like taking un-caged, ruthless and hostile monkeys- who develop sensory issues, before you pass the Redbox outside- into a carnival....... and I die a tiny bit inside every time we go as a group) she provides food for her family (true, it's kinda required and my meals do meet sorta, halfway-ish, semi-rigorous standards, but they're sure nothing to photograph or compile an heirloom cookbook over) and portions for her female servants." ( yeah, my female servants........ cause I've got 'em...... in my alternate reality on the Abbey)
   "She considers a field and buys it; ( Did I mention I'm from Lubbock, folks? I've considered a field or two....... and a stockyard....... and a feedlot when the wind blows....... I'll leave that to people who have a clue what to do with it, it's what's best.) out of her earnings she plants a vineyard." ( I committed 90 days to growing herbs from seedlings, so the children could see life in all of it's phases and I could end up with copious amounts of basil......... Day 70- Princess and the Toad decided to play Robin and Batgirl near my special "growing window". I vacuumed up ridiculous amounts of organic dirt and about 5 wicked small, barely visible single leaves. The only thing they saw in all of it's phases, was Mama.  NEVER. AGAIN.)
    "She sees that her trading is profitable (because there's an app for that) and her lamp (back-lit glow of my candy crushing oracle, I mean phone) does not go out at night." (because that's when I have my "quiet time"....... or what I sometimes refer to as "Sara, Get It Together" time)

   So yeah, I'm pretty much nailing that life like a boss. I bet Ol' Miss P31 doesn't salivate like Pavlov's dog every time there's a ding in her inbox alerting her to doorbusters, online blitz sales, coupons, bucks or BOGO's. That is a whole different conversation, check your inbox friends, what does it say about you? I'm currently working my way through about 200 things I need to unsubscribe from. It's a journey.

   So this year, I had no real need or desire to shop, but even if I had, my whole house was sick with the flu and I was exactly 55 minutes from even sub-par shopping, or I probably would have found my way somewhere. But, as I watched all the cell phone videos roll in, I was grateful to be home. Did it seem different to anyone else this year?? For whatever reason, hearing all the reports of people fighting over stuff just broke my heart. It was probably exactly the same as years prior, but somehow in my spirit it looked and felt more desperate, more frantic......... and it made me deeply sad. I was sad for our country, sad for our families, just sad that this is our state of affairs.
    Can anyone relate to that? I saw someone comment on FB how ironic it was and how only in America, would we celebrate a time of thanksgiving and being grateful for what we have, with going out and literally fighting over getting more. That is a sad thing. The more I saw, the more convicted I became about what my actions say to my children about my priorities. What if I had gone out shopping? What if I had taken them with me? What if I had to explain people yelling and elbowing each other over toys?

   I kept seeing on Pinterest these cutesie little homemade plaques, that someone had expertly manifested in their craft room (gag me) ((totally jealous of crafty people)) I think I may have just invented a higher level of punctuation! I just parenthe-sied my parenthesis, giving insight into my insight!!! Brilliant! (not brilliant) ((near illiterate))   I digress....... cutesie little signs that said "Gratitude turns what you have, into enough."

   All day long I kept thinking, what does that say to my kids if I spend 30 days telling them how grateful I am for all that we have; how as long as we have our health and each other...... we are rich, how we have plenty and there are some with nothing and how satisfied and blessed we should feel......... until midnight tonight, when all of that changes and now we need more. What does that say to my kids, if I tell them all of that, the whole month of November, and then the during the few days that we have to relax and enjoy time together, I leave them and choose to be with strangers? Remember that new phase my kids are in? That one, that is more aware and watching me and their daddy to see what's important to us and what will one day be important to them? Yep, that's the one. Totally cramping my style.

   I am the quintessential hunter-gatherer, wielding my smartphone and groupons like weapons, highly skilled, highly dangerous....... but I find the role I'm most concerned with right now, is that of shepherd- and I'm just terribly consumed with the welfare of my precious little lambs. And my little lambs, could care less if I got a deal. In fact, there's a lot that I buy, that they could honestly care less about........ but they care about our family time. They will remember our family traditions at holidays. They will remember how we lived out Thanksgiving.

    Let me say again, there is nothing wrong with shopping after Thanksgiving. This is not taking a jab at people who did. This is not a call to believers to boycott something.  I am simply telling you what I am struggling with right now and how I got there. Me staying home this year was NOT because I'm wiser, or deeper, or love my family more....... it was mostly lack of initiative and opportunity. But, I won't be out on the next Black Friday and it will be entirely on purpose.  Maybe not for everyone and maybe not even every year for me, but I know right now- for me specifically, God is calling me out and away from some things, asking me to lay down some things that are not necessarily bad, but maybe not beneficial.

  You see, we all have free will....... and just as the lost either choose to follow Christ or choose not to, the believer must sometimes choose what we can do in freedom and what we should do in freedom.  Does this ring true for anyone else?  Here's a terrible example, but it works: I used to really love scary movies growing up, love them all- suspense, mystery, crime, paranormal...... you name it.  Something about having kids changes that, I'm not sure why, it just does. But beyond that, the Lord really started dealing with  me about fear........ in my life I've had more than my fair share of fear- fear of dying, fearing of my kids dying, fear of ruin, fear of failure and on and on. The more the Lord began to heal me from fear, the more convicted I became about what I watched. As silly and insignificant as it seemed, I knew the Lord was calling me to lay these things down. And, He began to show me through His word, that I was not made for fear, it's not an emotion that my mind or spirit is designed for and it's not something that I should be seeking out or enjoying.  He has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind...... and if I wanted to to be a courage filled warrior, then I needed to detox thoroughly- so that when I did feel fear creep in, I could identify it, know it's the enemy and reject it.  Now, are scary movies or 20 years of Law and Order reruns bad? Nah, probably not. Am I bound by biblical commandment to avoid them? Nope. But, has it benefited me to give them up? Absolutely! Would I trade the freedom from fear for the freedom to do what I want? No way!!!

In my stumbling walk through faith, I have found that the more I really know my Savior- the more His Word is hidden in my heart, the more I really "get" the freedom I have found in Him and the grace required to provide it........... the more reverent I become........... the more reverent I become, the more willing I am to accept boundaries.  And, not just accept boundaries, like a child who has no choice........ I WANT THEM, I need them and I know it. That seems like a great contradiction doesn't it? More freedom = more rules? It's not though, and it's the most beautiful picture. You see, it wasn't just my salvation and eternity that was bought on Calvary, it was my FREEDOM. Let that sink in for a minute.  Colossians and Galatians tell us that God has purchased our freedom with His own blood. But, it's a different kind of freedom, one that is pure and absolute, and entirely opposite of what the world tells us it is. Christ's shed blood bought our freedom from the bondage of the law- a life that required ritual to have a relationship........ His blood bought our freedom from the curse and condemnation of sin, He became the sacrifice to pay my sin debt and to save me from death- and His covering allows His blessings to fall on me, instead of the curses I deserve. That just overwhelms me to even think about! That is freedom! That is life changing, attitude adjusting freedom.
    Freedom is not just an idea or word for the world, or believers, to throw around as something we should pursue or are entitled to. Yes, even believers......... Christians love to remind the world and other Christians of our "freedom," usually in the context of why we are or aren't doing something we should,  we get into competing with each other to see how "not under the law" we are.  We think that freedom in Christ is free will without consequence, an excuse to do what we will and it's not...... it's so much more.
    Freedom in Christ, is not being consumed by guilt and despair at the end of each and every single day because the weight of sin is so great. It is being given the promise of healing and deliverance from everything that seeks to keep us in chains. It is knowing with absolute certainty, that in EVERY trial my ultimate victory remains secure. I am free from worry, fear, insecurity and doubt and it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with HIM! I can't earn it, I can't lose it!
It's this amazing gift, that when we fully understand the breadth and depth of, we want to protect and preserve it.  I don't ask the Holy Spirit to convict or prune me because I'm glutton for punishment, I ask because I "get it!" I get, that my freedom and life is blood bought, by Love- a gift that is highly treasured and I want to guard it and use it fully and wisely. Going back to Red Doors, my desire for obedience, or serving God with my life is not because I'm in bondage, it's because I'm BELOVED! Freedom is not my reason to do what I want, it is my reason to do what HE WANTS.

   Have I said yet that shopping on Black Friday is not bad?? Or whatever day your bargain hunting little heart desires. It's not....... and I am all about walking in real freedom, I hope you see that. If I had my way, we'd be standing in Macy's at 4 AM, eating only fistfuls of bacon, getting tattoos and preaching the Gospel just because we can, Hallelujah! But, Satan is a cunning adversary and if he can't lead us into blatant corruption or temptation, he is just as satisfied corrupting the benign things we enjoy. Wanting to love on your family or buy gifts for loved ones is not bad, wanting to be a good steward of your resources is not bad, those are good things. But, Satan takes our healthy desires and appetites and turns them into unhealthy obsessions and next thing you know Pap-paw has got a knife in someone's leg at the WalMart! What in the world, Pap-paw?!?!?!

   We may not be actively seeking out harmful, hurtful or dangerous things....... but, our foe has come to steal,  and sometimes he steals things that were once fun or harmless......... and he twists it and distorts it, until it starts to reflect more of his heart and less of our own. Forget Black Friday, I doubt the Lord cares much at all about the actual act of shopping, on a particular day........ but He cares about the heart behind it......... sub in anything that was once okay, good even........ and now more and more, seems to be disappointing and messed up.  Is there anything that can't be taken to a less wise, less beneficial extreme?  
   Make no mistake, you will never hear of Satan saying, "Nahhh, I'm just gonna leave that one area alone. Let them have something fun to do. I've got my hands full what with wars, robbing and discouraging people...... Betty send a memo, to the principalities and dark rulers of the world.......... No one messes with holidays, kids select sports, gift giving, social media or prime-time programming." Anyone see the last big holiday parades????  Did you ever think you'd have to encourage your kids to watch Disney because you couldn't be sure what they would see in parade??    Are you kidding me?!?! There is nothing sacred to Satan, he's not sentimental about our traditions. That totally goes against what scripture tells us of his nature. He is unrelenting, malicious, creative and appealing........ and he wants it all.  He wants every moment, every treasure, every habit....... HE IS NOW THE DARKNESS ROAMING THE CITY, seeing which door welcomes him in and which one is hidden in red.

   I don't know........ maybe someday, Berkley and I will be out prowling around with our Starbucks alternative, conservative coffees (lol), shopping for the boys........ and the boys will be looking at gadgets or some other manly things together and we'll meet up for pancakes and that will be our tradition. But, it's not right now. Right now we hang back, even though it would be fine if we didn't. We hang back because things are changing and though I can't adequately verbalize why,  my spirit is resisting it. And, I feel my spiritual foot drawing a line in the sand.

   And, I wish the line was at something a little more important, a little weightier and less ridiculous than Black Friday- a tad more Gladiator and a tad less Clueless.  I'm way more comfortable going all in on principle, the black and white- the wrong and so clearly right. Those hills you spot a mile away, and though you dread the walk up, you've steeled your nerves....... to make your stand. I've lived there. I've died on those hills. And, it's not like the movies- there's no anthem blaring or glory there, no applause from the crowd............ no crowd at all. Let me tell you from experience friend, standing on principle, stepping out in faith and surrendering to obedience.......... trading free will for freedom........  most often looks foolish or crazy, or both. It's rarely recognized, rarely applauded and rarely done in a crowd- and though it always has a price, in our experience- is always worth it, because God always honors it.

  But, not every opportunity for spiritual or moral greatness is very grande, sometimes it's silly or secondary, gray and subtle..........  Not every chance to reveal the strength of our character, the guts of our guts- is played out in a crowded coliseum, in fact those moments are quite rare. But, I think the truly great must have honed their skills on a thousand of the mundane, daily grind kind of victories- the ones that no one was watching, the ones in front of their kids or family......... in the car and in the yard,  the ones that seemed silly or irrelevant, the ones that were nothing until they were something......... over boundaries and rules...... or GQ interviews.  Sometimes even foolish things, require principled people. We don't get to choose every teachable moment, every opportunity where words and actions will matter more than normal, but day in and day out, we choose how we will respond.
   I bet countless parents have been mistaken for sticks in the mud or prudes.......... until they came face to face with a lion.......... and the audacity of their courage was truly revealed.

   Our world IS changing, the incorruptible is being corrupted, the sacred is now secular, wisdom is rude and the meaningless- exalted. And, while we may be a ways off from the impending destruction of Sodom, that doesn't mean God is not calling us to leave the city.  Now, that's metaphorically of course, unless you want to move to the country and that's totally awesome, if you do. Better said, we may not be fleeing the city as fire rains down, but I believe as Christians, we will continue to be called to "leave" with our hearts and minds, our habits and actions. The more the "city" falls, the more we have to keep taking a step back from it, evaluating how close we want to be to the fire or rubble, evaluating what we are doing and why.  It will be harder and harder to be a people set apart, especially, if we are willing to give up nothing.


Do we look like a nation who is accepting the reality of our changed economy? Do we look like a nation who is adapting to a thriftier lifestyle? Do we look like people who are becoming leaner, wiser and more focused in this dangerous world, people who have learned from their chastening?  I don't think we do. I think we look like people who are scared....... scared that if we don't have the stuff, and the stuff doesn't define us anymore, we don't have anything else that does.  I think we look like weary exiles, clinging to our crutches and our spiritual flesh-  who'd rather stay in bondage than walk to freedom empty handed. I think we look like people who've confused trappings with truth.......... like people who are desperately, frantically trying to hold on to the life we once had, the comforts, the freedom and stuff, we once had. Always looking back......... well, helloooo salty lady!

Shalom Y'all