Defenseless But Defended

I have no defense but I have a defender #christian #lionofjudah #christianinspiration

I want to be good.

I want to be objectively a “good” person, and sometimes I wander into a headspace where I think I am. Based on my own measurements, I am “good.”   

I measure against my perception of others, I measure against who I used to be, and I measure against my own definitions. 

So when an accusation comes, an accusation that I am less than good, less than holy, less than righteous, less than perfect – I balk. I rally the defenses. My mind becomes filled with reasons I measure up to some concept of “good.”

I rail and I cry and I pound my fists against this injustice and finally, because I know it is the only place to find the peace I need, I fall to my knees and I let my Father tell me how it is.

And he takes away my measuring tools. He reminds me HE is good.  

For my own concepts of what is good and right, I can mount a defense. I can reframe and pile up evidence and create a list as long as my arm for why I fit the definition.


But I have zero hope of measuring up to Him.

I am completely defenseless. I fall so short of the standard, short of what humanity could be, short of what I could be. There is an enormous gap between myself and my God, a chasm between what I am and what is good.

I am defenseless. 

But I am defended. 

Jesus stands in the gap, lays over the chasm. When determining my righteousness, I won’t be measured, my “goodness” won’t be measured – He will be measured instead. His righteousness will be credited to me.

The mountain of defense, the reframing, the pile of evidence, the list of why I am good – these might as well burn. They would never be enough.

I don’t need them. I don’t need anyone to think of me a certain way. I don’t need proof I am “good,” I don’t need to defend myself against any accusations.

He is enough.

I don’t need a defense.

I am defended. 

It's All For Nothing, The Voices Say

A poem about dying to self #christianpoem #poet #poetry  #eternalperspective

It’s all for nothing

The voices say.

It’s all for nothing anyway.

The pain remains

From what has passed

The moments of peace

They fail to last,

It’s all for nothing, the voices say.

When you finally reach the end,

You’ll leave the same as you began.

It’s all for nothing, the voices say.

And you’re lucky to hear them,

To see the meaningless here then.

Much is for nothing, you say.

The scraping, the striving, the scavenging and buying,

Much is for nothing, you say.

You sell all you have for the one thing you need,

And you pour out the proceeds on your savior’s feet,

And you leave as you came, naked, empty-handed,

But the best thing can’t be taken, now that you have it.

Much is for nothing, you say.

FIND MORE POETRY HERE

Dear Kid: I Hope People Don't Like You

I hope you aren't everyone's cup of tea #christian #parent #writing

Every day I watch your character develop. I watch as you try on different personalities, as you try new ways of speaking and acting and being. 

I have a front row seat to this show – a front row seat to the singing and dancing and wardrobe changes. I am witnessing a real life character arc taking shape.

You're discovering what kind of son you will be, what kind of friend you will be, what kind of man you will be.

I have hopes for that man - I hope he will love Jesus, I hope he will be kind, I hope he will be happy. 

And I hope people won’t like him.

I hope you rub some people the wrong way. I hope you are not everyone’s cup of tea. I hope the very core of who you are irritates at least a few people.

Because I want you to be you, and you can’t be you without ruffling feathers.

You can’t be real without rubbing a few people the wrong way.

You can’t be authentic and be everyone’s cup of tea.

You can’t be you without irritating somebody somewhere.

See, it’s possible to spend decades on this stage without ever saying your own lines, for the lights to dim and the curtains to close without you ever singing your own songs. It’s possible hide behind masks and painted-on smiles and brilliant costuming. It’s possible to make a lot of people think they like you without anyone ever really knowing you.

I don’t want that for you. I hope you are known. I hope your songs are heard. 

I hope you run around this stage of life being your whole dang feather-ruffling, spicy tea flavored self. 

I hope some people don’t like you.

A Retelling of Jael

Scroll down for the written lyrics!

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A few things I found interesting in my study of Jael but did not include in the spoken word:

  • When Joshua died, the Israelites had not yet taken the promised land. They cried out to God to ask who would fight for them against the Canaanites and God said the tribe of Judah would lead this fight. As part of describing the movements of Judah against the Canaanites, Judges says the Kenites (Jael's people) left the City of Palms to join the men of Judah near Arad. So not only were the Kenites allied with the Israelites, they also moved with the very men tasked with fighting the Canaanites.

  • Scripture says Jael covered Sicera with a "Semikah" when he lay down. The Hebrew word is translated as "mantle" or "rug" or "blanket" or "curtain" or "coverlet" or "cloak" or "quilt" depending on the translation. It is the only time this word occurs in the entirety of scripture. It is called a "hapax legomenon," or just "hapax" for short, when a word only occurs once within a context. (This was fun new info for me!)

  • Most assume from the text that Heber took his metal working skills to the Canaanite side and told the enemy King about Israel's plan to attack for self serving reasons. However, Deborah prophesied even before this that God would lead Sicera's army to the river Kishon. When Heber tattles about the plan, heading to the river Kishon is exactly Sicera's response. Much like the actions of the traitor Judas, Heber's betrayal played right into the plans God already laid.

  • Midrashic sources contain more tradition about Deborah and Jael both. I haven't dug into these much yet, but I found a couple of interesting things. One speculated that Barak may have been the husband of Deborah. Another holds that Jael was an incredibly beautiful woman and speculates that Jael may have slept with Sicera prior to killing him in order to make him tired. There is a phrase in the song of Deborah (Judges 5:27) which some Hebrew scholars believe leads credence to this speculation. I may or may not get a chance to look further into other sources on our girls in this story, but if you get into it - share what you find!

Lyrics:

When Joshua died, a succession of judges marked peace in between periods of oppression for the people of God.  And during that time, Israel spent 20 years under the heel of King Jabin the Canaanite and his 900 iron chariots ready to fight under the mighty warrior Sicera.

Israel endured twenty years of tears under Jabin the King before God answered their cries and Deborah said bring me the warrior Barak - And she, Deborah, the leader, prophet & judge said "Come. Gather ten thousand men and God will give Sicera's army to your hand."

But Barak was afraid, or he didn't trust enough, or a bit of both, but he just wanted Deborah the judge to go with him.  He wanted her there to be sure of his victory.  The prophet agreed but she prophesied that because of this - his insistence she come along - the honor song would not be his  and the enemy commander Sicera would fall dead, not to his hand, but to a woman's instead.  So Deborah went. And an army ten thousand Israelites strong prepared to meet Sicera's troops at the Kishon river.

Now a man, Heber, was of the tribe of the Kenites who'd been allied with the Israelites since Moses married the daughter of the Kenite Jethro years and years before.  The Kenites were metal workers see, and you remember that Canaanite King Jabin?  He had those 900 chariots of iron.  So the other side of this coming war might have more need for a metal worker like Heber.  

And in what might just have been one of the earliest instances of war profiteering, this metal worker Heber, this Kenite, left his home for the enemy of the Israelites and cozied right up to King Jabin of the Canaanites.  And he tattled - he told them the Israelites were coming for them and he pitched his tent.  He picked his side.   

And with him was his wife Jael who we will find was not quite of the same mind as her husband.  Maybe she didn't approve of his new friends.  Maybe she'd been an Israelite who'd just married in.  Maybe she felt loyalty toward the people she'd lived among her whole life.  Whatever it was, this wife of Heber's was not a believer of him.  Though her tent was pitched on the side of the Canaanites, Jael's heart was with the Israelites.

But Sicera didn't know this.  So when Barak and his ten thousand laid waste to Sicera's army of men and Sicera abandoned his chariot and fled, he thought he'd be safe in the tent of Jael, wife of Heber, the King's friend.

"Come with me," she said "Come my Lord. Come right in.  Don't be afraid."  And she let him lay down, gave him cover.  He said "Stand at the entrance, don't tell another soul I'm here and be a dear and get me some water?"

She brought him curdled milk and waited as he drifted off to dream world and then Jael the tent dwelling wife of the Kenite Heber looked upon the sleeping leader of Jabin's enemy, perfectly exposed, thinking he's with a friend and she drove a tent peg right through the hospitality rules of the nomads and through the temple of Sicera where he lay on the floor.

And when Barak came by looking, Jael was waiting "Come," she said, "I'll show you the man you're looking for."

Do You Want To Be A Real Boy?

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Do you want to be a real boy?

Don’t give 50 people strings to hold,

To pull you in 50 different directions.

Don’t dance to the most stylish rhythm,

Or sing the everyone’s-doing-it song,

Or bathe in the praises of puppets,

Or win races you don’t want to run.

Don’t paint on one single expression,

Pretending joy, faking happiness, beaming confidence you don’t have.

Be imperfect. Because that’s what you are.

Because real boys are never perfect.

With their embarrassing moments,

With their hurtful mistakes,

Because real boys hurt people sometimes with their imperfections,

And they don’t rewrite it, or reframe it, or pretend it didn’t happen,

They feel it.


Do you want to be a real boy?

Listen to your own thoughts.

Not the should’s but the wants.

What do you want?

How do you feel?

Listen.

Know the spinning wheels in your mind,

Know the cause of every spine tingle, every bubble of anger,

Every choked down tear, know your own self.

Do you want to be a real boy?

Be with people. Not to impress them,

Or to get something from them,

Or to impress someone else,

But to know them.

Because life is short and not worth a single moment if you’re nothing but a porcelain doll on a string.

I hope you’ll be a real boy -

Offering yourself to other real people - and even fake people,

People who need so badly to be real.

Because real boys help others cut their strings,

Wipe off their painted-on emotions,

Hear their own thoughts,

Break through the porcelain to the vulnerable skin beneath.

Do you want to be a real boy?

A Formula For Getting More Of God

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A SPOKEN WORD ABOUT TAKING A BREATH
I hope you love it!

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The first few times I fasted, I experienced amazing God moments. I told everyone - you've got to do this, you have GOT to do this fasting thing. It's amazing. It's life changing.

Now, years later, I can't remember the last time a fast resulted in any amazing word from God. No crazy connection. No huge heart change. No big prayer answered.

And it isn't because fasting isn't a good thing. It isn't because God doesn't respond to a fast anymore. 

It's because He wants me to know and trust in HIM.

What I did was incredibly human - I did a thing (fast), God moved (yay), I connected the one to the other and made fasting prescriptive in my own heart (oh, humans.)

"Want more God? Easy! All you have to do is fast!" said my precious little salesman heart. 

But God doesn't want me to trust in methods or prescriptions or rituals - He wants me to trust in Him, in His voice.

The how is less important - scripture gives us so many varied exchanges where God speaks. My takeaway is not a list of ways God might speak to me - instead, my takeaway is that GOD SPEAKS.

He speaks, and He is creative and complex and personal in the way He does it. 

Specific stories can be helpful. Rituals can be helpful. Methods can be helpful.

But they can also be a distraction. They can become an idol even.

Know He speaks, expect Him to speak, listen when He speaks, and share what He spoke in your gatherings.

Trust His voice, not your method of hearing it. Trust Him, not your ritual for feeling His presence.

Enough

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All around me I see people saying “enough.”

Enough of consuming.  Enough of seeking things to fill me up when there are so many who exist on the tiniest fraction of what I already have.

Enough of spending time on myself when there are people around me who need something tangible – someone to sit with them, talk with them, pray with them, advocate for them.

Enough of conversion amounting to little more than fire insurance, self-righteousness, and some good feelies.  Enough of filling my life with “good” things to the exclusion of the best things.

Enough of doing things to impress people.  Enough of wasting precious minutes striving to be something which in the scope of eternity doesn’t even matter.

I am saying it too.

But God is teaching me to say it again, in a different context.

Because, unchained, I will rush out into the world like a freaking typhoon.  I will give everything away and judge you for keeping your stuff.  I will move to a war torn country, dumping every last bit of energy I have, and I will throw it in your sweet privileged American face.  I will scream about injustice and live frustrated when the world is not bending to my will.  I will rage against entitlement and consumerism, forcing me to swallow a large helping of guilt with every Pumpkin Spice Latte (because you’re crazy if you think I would give those up willingly).

So He says “YOU are enough.”

I am enough.  I could sit in this little room across from this computer, or with my nose in a book, for the rest of my days on earth.  And I would still be enough.  He loves me as I am now, as I used to be, and as I will be.  Because I am enough.  Nothing I can do will make me more or less worthy of anything He offers because He has already decided I am “enough.”

And then He says “I am enough.”

He is enough for me.  I need nothing else.  The world needs nothing else.  Anything I do apart from Him will be worthless, but anything I do with Him is priceless.

So I have had enough.  Enough of living selfishly, with a consumer mentality instead of a servant mentality.   Enough of trying to fit in at church instead of just being the church. Enough of doing what I think is right instead of resting in the Father, following His lead.  And I will change. Today, tomorrow, and the day after, I will be changing and growing.

BUT I am also remembering I am enough right now.  And He is enough for me.

I hope I can wake up each day, or 7 out of 10 at least, believing this with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole strength - I am enough, and He is enough.

I Do What I Want

I do what I want www.stevieswift.com

Years ago, I took a last minute trip to Iraq. It was two weeks away from my two year-old and it was traveling to a country perceived as dangerous, which made the trip selfish in the eyes of some.

In hindsight, it is easy to see God’s hand in the entire process, but in the middle, as I prepared to leave, I worried whether I was doing the right thing and acting with the right motives. 

I wanted to go.  I wanted it badly. 

I wanted to travel back to the country I last saw as a soldier. I wanted to be a part of something positive there.  I wanted to meet the people under different circumstances. I also wanted adventure.  I wanted to get on an airplane and do something exciting. I wanted to do this thing – go to this place.

I told a friend what I was feeling, how I was scared this was a selfish act, a selfish decision. He responded, “How many people do you know who ‘want’ to do this?”  

And something clicked for me.  A big something.

A life-giving, freedom-giving something.

Wanting to do a thing, wanting to be a thing, wanting to go to a place – these do not poison an action.  They are a part of every poisonous action, which is why I was confused, but wanting is not the poison.

If I am walking with God, abiding in Him, listening to the Holy Spirit – if I am ready and willing to stop when He says to stop, to go when He says to go, to stay when He says to stay – I don’t need to be afraid of my own desires.

If I am seeing Him for who He is, if I am daily giving my life to Him, I don’t need to stress, to strive, to stumble over every decision.  

For six years, I have been doing more and more of what I want to do. Mostly, I avoid doing things because I think I should. Mostly, I avoid doing things because other people think I should.  

I do what makes sense based on my circumstances, my strengths, my weaknesses. I walk closely with my God, so that my desires align with Him and I do the things I want to do.  

I am a servant, but I am a servant to a freedom-giving God. I’m not a slave to my own expectations, nor a slave to the expectations of others. I’m not a slave to God’s expectations either – I could never meet them, they’ve already been met for me, and there is new grace and mercy for me every single day. 

And for you, too.

You are free. Are you living free?

What Moana Taught Me About Calling

How Moana Inspired Me Toward Calling

I don’t cry much, but I fight tears every time I hear this song. This is why:

It’s because I have purpose in this life, appointed purpose, purpose which calls to me and the closer I get to it, like Moana staring out at the water, the more alive I feel.

It’s because there are people who love me who have a path in mind for me, a good path, a worthy path – but it’s not God’s path.  

It’s because when I chase my calling and stumble and fail at points, there will be people who love me ready to tell me “See? That isn’t the way. Come back to this path over here.”  

It’s because the desire to be the perfect daughter, mother, friend, sister, sometimes feels like it contradicts the calling. Because sometimes going out into the water is going away from them, away from what they want for me, for themselves.

It’s because we don’t know the whole story. Those people who love me don’t know the whole story. I don’t know the whole story. But the path-maker – He knows the whole story.  

It’s because He didn’t give me the calling to take me away from the people or set me against the people – He gave me the calling FOR the people. Moana left her people, defied her father, snuck away and took a path lined with waves instead of sand. She felt alone. Her people felt abandoned. But at the end of the wave-paved path she saved the whole dang world and she set her people free – reminding them who they were.

If this is you, feeling pulled toward a path – a path with an uncertain ending, a path with an uncertain middle – remember who marked out the race for you. Remember people are great guides and mentors and running mates, but they are not the path-makers.  

If this is you, staring out at the edge of the water – I hope you will go.

If this is you, and you went, but the waves pushed you down and spat you out coughing and choking - I hope you will dust yourself off, find soul refreshment on your face before God, and go again.

If this is you, and you’ve gone, but you’re looking back because things are hard and the path they laid is starting to sound wonderfully simple compared to the path He laid – I hope you will turn, turn to look at the line where the sky meets the sea, turn to look toward your calling, eyes on your race, eyes on your prize.

Because “they said” and “they did” and “they wanted” will fall flat as excuses for why you stared out at the sea, but never got on the boat.

Why I Don't Pray For My Son's Future Spouse

I stopped Praying For My Son’s Future Spouse

I used to pray for my son’s future wife, but I don’t anymore. I stopped when I realized something - I have no idea if he will ever get married.

I don’t pray for his future college or his future career as a doctor because I don’t know or care whether he goes to college. I don’t know or care what he will do for work.  

And I don’t know or care whether he gets married.

In my five years of being intentionally single and navigating American church culture, I have learned my desire to be single gives me an “oddball” label in the culture. Scripture encourages singleness, but Christians tend to look at me sideways.

I have been pitied, frowned upon, and disbelieved. I have had people go to my friends to see if they could uncover the mystery – is she really single on purpose? Is she really happy? Apparently, it’s baffling.

The curiosities don’t come from scripture, or from a Kingdom perspective, because scripture explains the joy of being single and having more headspace to devote to God (1 Corinthians 7).
So, why the questions? 

I think they stem from 1000 little things we do as a culture. I think the ways we talk about marriage (good, defend it, support it) and the ways we talk about singleness (sad, just a season, fix it) send people into a funnel toward marriage.  

Maybe most people would choose marriage anyway, but I bet a lot more would choose singleness if it was presented as a viable choice – a good choice – rather than the pathetic lot of those not lucky enough to find a mate. 

I have one life and I don’t know how long it will last, but I know I’ll look back and it will have been like a breath. Right now, I don’t want to fill any of that breath with a marriage.

I have the great joy of observing my friends’ marriages and it’s cool to see how they partner together through life. But it is also hard, it is work, it takes time and energy. As of today, I don’t want to spend my life and energy on that particular work. 
It is good to be single.  

This is what I teach my son. Marriage is good. Singleness is good. And he has a choice. 

So I don’t pray for a particular person who will someday, maybe, be his spouse if he someday, maybe, chooses to marry. 

Instead, I pray he has great relationships with peers and mentors and disciples, because he will need these to live a fulfilled life. I pray he learns God’s voice because he will need this to live a fulfilled life. I pray he knows the joy of giving everything to God and following Him no matter the cost, because this he will do to live a fulfilled life.

And he’ll know it is possible to live a fulfilled life without a spouse because he’s been watching me do it. 

**Praying for your child’s spouse is sweet and loving and, especially in our generation, your child IS likely to have a spouse. This is what I do because it is reflective of what I value most. This writing is not meant to be a criticism of the practice, but an invitation to examine the purpose. You do you, moms and dads.**