Side Eye Scriptin’

This, my friends, is the side eye.

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Monkey being dropped off for her first day of daycare. Ever.  Major side eye happening here.

Those that know me well are aware of the fact that I have perfected this particular glance.  And apparently I’ve passed it onto my offspring.  God bless her.

I love it because it’s so multifaceted.  This facial expression can reveal a lot about one’s feelings towards a person, situation, or unsolicited opinion.  It could mean many things but should only be taken in context.

For instance, if you see your significant other texting THAT girl – audacity side eye.  Or when the person in front of you misses the super short green light that only allows 2.5 cars to go because they’re taking selfies – angry side eye.  Or when that person you can’t stand at work says hello to you in the elevator – suspicious side eye.  Just kidding.  You should be a nice Christian, smile real big, and bless them all the way up to the 30th floor.

Or when you read Isaiah and all you see is the doom and gloom.  Here comes my personal favorite – the ‘oh, really’ side eye.

Come on now.  I know I’m not the only one who’s read the fire of God’s wrath and had a moment well deserving of a side eye.  But once I got outside of my feelings, and read between the lines of eternal damnation, I began to see beauty in the ashes of what God had chosen to destroy.  I know, right.  Enter confused side eye.

For those who are unfamiliar with Isaiah, here’s the quick and dirty version:  The worship of the people in the Kingdom of Judah had grown empty – their hearts just weren’t in it.  God isn’t happy with this, so Isaiah warns of His judgment.  They give him the whatever side eye.  Isaiah tells them of the salvation that is to come despite the side eye action.  Hope in the midst of the downfall.  Mercy in the mess.

One of my favorite verses in Isaiah is 26:7 which reads “But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough.  You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.”

Have you ever been walking a path (metaphorical ones, not real ones) and the way was rough?  It seemed like you had to climb mountains, run through obstacles, slay dragons, and kiss babies to get there?  And not only that, but your mind wasn’t at ease.  For some reason, you felt a tugging or just something pulling you in the opposite direction.

But these verses confirm that when you are walking on the path God has made for you, the way is not steep and rough.  That’s not to say you won’t  have trials, or that it will be the easiest thing you’ve ever done.  Because many of us can testify to the fact that living righteously is anything but easy.  I mean, you are literally and figuratively going against the grain of popular and common sense.

However, what I’ve learned in my walk is that God’s way may not be logical and His sense is not common.  That’s what makes him God.  Would you worship a God who did everything according to what you and everyone else thought made sense?  Who bent his will to match our every whim and emotion?  I didn’t think so.

But even if you are the only one swimming upstream and against the current, at least you’re swimming peacefully.  You are swimming without worry.  You are swimming without fear of what you’ll run into as you go upstream.

And wouldn’t you rather swim upstream than be carried downstream towards destruction? 

If you’ve ever seen a movie in the last 100 years you know those scenes where some beautiful but slightly naive character gets caught up in the downstream current?  Then the camera cuts away to the super scary Niagra-like drop off and massive waterfall up ahead?  Yeah, they usually don’t make it.

But with your efforts (and I emphatically emphasize the effort needed here) to go against the grain comes peace that only the Lord can grant and the comfort of knowing that all you have accomplished is really from Him (Isaiah 26:12).

So I’ll take holy ashes over worldly creation any day.  No side eye.

 

Happiness for Sale

 

You know what I think?  I think happiness is a trick.  I think we’ve been bamboozled.  Hoodwinked.  Lied to.  Made fools of.  And we’re all falling for it.

fake-happiness

It’s like that fake rabbit at the race track that greyhounds chase after and never catch.  They run around and around in circles, faster and faster, in pursuit of the ultimate prize only to have the race just…end.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of running around in circles for no reason.  But isn’t that what life is like sometimes?  This world and the enemy has us sold on the idea of happiness for sale.  The scheme that you can’t quite have enough of ANYTHING.  If you work more hours, pay a little more, lose that pound, try a little harder, model your life after that Instagram account, and believe in yourself a little more, then you will finally be happy!

Take it from me.  There ain’t no pot of gold at the end of that lie.  I worked more hours and all I got was tired, less time with my family and friends, and a jerk-like attitude.  I ate a little less and all I felt was hunger pangs and anger at the daydreams I was having about steaks and cakes – and more jerkish behavior.  I tried a little harder and all I got was failure and feelings of inadequacy.  I compared myself to others and all I felt was misguided jealousy and doubt about why God didn’t bless me like He blessed them.  I paid a little more and all I got was more debt and those annoying envelopes in the mail as a ‘friendly’ reminder that bills were due.

Side note:  Getting mail as an adult is so not as fun as it used to be.  I used to be so excited to get mail growing up.  Now mail just gets tossed on the counter to lay unopened out of fear.  Because you know what it is.  You KNOW.  And it isn’t going to be a letter from your pen pal with hearts above the i’s in glitter pen.  End side note.

My point is that in the pursuit of happiness, we start to rely more on ourselves and created things and less on the One who can bring us true joy.  Because happiness is conditional and dependent.  It depends on our feelings, the weather, the latest thing trending, comparisons, our love lives (or lack thereof)…and all of these things are fickle, at best.  It is composed in Hallmark phrases, idealized in box office hits, squashed in the pages of best selling self-help books, and sold in pill form only to be destroyed by the next person, place, or thing that kills our vibe.

a-happiness-for-saleBut joy – true joy – is not situational.  And it does not depend on anything but Him.  Because when our fulfillment comes from a never-changing, never-failing God, joy comes right along with that.  And joy is just that.  Fulfilling.  It fills and satisfies the very core of our being that was designed by God to be a place where only He dwells.  It overflows into the areas of our lives where we might be ‘unhappy.’

There’s a (pretty long but well worth the read) quote by CS Lewis that I adore and so beautifully and simply describes the differences between joy and happiness:

“Joy has indeed one characteristic in common with them (happiness and joy); the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again.  Apart from that…it might also equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief.  But then it is a kind we want.  I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world.  But then joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.

You see, true joy comes from finally surrendering to the fact that we are not in control and that our happiness is not the ultimate prize.

Is this whole surrendering thing easy?  Heck no.  For all you control freaks out there, letting go of anything – especially something important, like, I don’t know, your entire life – is an unfathomable feat.  But like I said before, I’m not a fan of running in circles.  And relying only on myself and trying to ‘produce happiness’ through the lens of this world was a never ending cycle of frustration (and jerkish behavior).

Does this mean I don’t work hard, eat healthy, have role models, or pay bills?  Um, no.  That would not end well.  This does mean that I don’t look to my career to fulfill me, other people to complete me, or my financial situation to play puppet master to the strings of my life.

Does this mean I don’t ever get sad, feel unhappy, act like a jerk, or even doubt?  Again, no.  But when I do find my feelings are attempting to overshadow His glory, I find peace and comfort in the Creator, not the creation.  Even in my darkest moments, I can look ahead, victorious, because all things are working for my good (Romans 8:28).  And if I happen to be unhappy in that moment, that season, or even that year, I can rejoice knowing that God’s promises outweigh my present troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  You’ve heard the cliches and pretty phrases about joy before.  Well, you don’t have to believe me.  But you should believe that aching emptiness you feel despite the riches you’ve amassed, the success you’ve achieved, and likes you’ve collected on Facebook.  I’ve felt it.  And that ain’t joy.  Heck, you can’t even pretend that it’s happiness.

But what would happen if you allowed God to fill that emptiness with His enduring love for a broken person; an everlasting peace that overwhelms every sadness; and an unrelenting grace that covers every flaw?  That is joy.  And it’s not for sale.  It’s for the free-ski.

So don’t believe the hype, kids.  Happiness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39

Slim Pickings

“When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Abel also brought a gift – the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. ‘Why are you so angry?’ the Lord asked Cain. ‘Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master’.” Genesis 4:3-7

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Genesis – The First Book of Morgan Freeman Moses

Have you ever really read Genesis?  I mean like really read Genesis. If you haven’t, maybe it’s because you can’t stand that fact that Morgan Freeman’s voice so perfectly narrates that opening line of “In the beginning….”  Maybe you doubt the story of creation.  Maybe you’re like me and think the most fun parts of a book are in the middle.

Well, recently I decided to read Genesis again.  I mean like really read it.  As in read it multiple times in a row in the same week.  Some parts were boring. Like those verses where everyone begat everyone else. Other parts were Jackie Chan action packed and chock full of wisdom nuggets, like the verses written above.

Moving on…

With our lives and the world being so ‘busy’ nowadays, we can be caught up in giving God our ‘slim pickings.’ For you non-Southerners that means ‘not your best’ or ‘the leftovers.’

He gets the quick prayer right before I go to bed.  The scroll through my Bible app like I’m swiping through creepers on Tinder (and I can’t speed read). The passing thought as I go through my day – “Oh, hey God. It’s me.  Whaddup.”  I’ve even calculated how little I can tithe to be able to afford something else incredibly less awesome – and less free – than his grace.

Then I somehow still expect God to bless me, hear my measly prayers, and have the audacity to question his existence when I get the silent treatment (even though I wasn’t listening in the first place). But if I’m not seeking him without abandon, leaving nothing, why would I be angry if he didn’t do anything else for me?

Now out of his incredible grace and mercy we should all be wiping our sweaty little foreheads that this isn’t and hasn’t been the case.  God moving his pinkie finger in my little life is more than you or I could do in a million years. But that doesn’t mean we give him pinkie finger efforts in return. God wants our best, expects our best, and loves us through the inconvenience pain extremely great circumstances that require our best.

And then something strange happens.  I’ve found that when I go above and beyond the slim pickings, when I stretch my faith muscles outside of my comfortable, little Christian bubble, I experience more joy. More pleasure. More peace.  Not more stress, less money in the bank, or less time with framily (my friends are family – framily – which I guess makes them frams?).

I digress.

You see, God doesn’t need me.  He doesn’t need my prayers or my tithes or my woeful attempts to keep him first.  He can accomplish what he needs to accomplish without me.  I mean, he’s God. But I need him and he wants me.

So give your all and watch how you become one of those annoying ‘glass half full’ people.  After all, the cup that runneth over with God’s love leaves little room for the enemy.  Stay thirsty, my friends.

“If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on him? If you are good, is this some great gift to him? What could you possibly give him? No, your sins affect only people like yourself, and your good deeds also affect only humans.” Job 35:6-8

“I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6

“…I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24