Hurricane Irma – The gift that keeps on giving

Weeks after Hurricane Irma blew through our city and we cleaned up all of the fallen branches and debris, I came home from my walk to find a large branch in my yard. It had been snapped during Irma, but on it’s descent from the tall tree, it’s branches latched on to others and it hung, dying. This morning I broke off the dead branches and hauled them to the curb.

branches

As I was walking back and forth from the large branch to the curb where are yard waste is picked up I began thinking about my previous post about Irma and the storms of life. Because we had just moved into this house, had not yet pruned everything back and prepared for the storm, Hurricane Irma dropped quite a mess in our yard – revealing our failure to plan.

This morning my thoughts quickly pointed to another dead branch in my life that I thought was cleaned up and hauled away, but my recent birthday proved otherwise. I’m a twin and, as explained in my book (Resurrecting the Wrong Life), I spent most of my childhood in her shadow, wanting someone to acknowledge me. Being a twin, you’re oftentimes grouped together in everything – as if you aren’t your own person (at least that is how my mind painted it for me. All. The. Time.)

So, two days ago was our (see what I did there?) birthday and, as usual, my mom posted on Facebook a joint “Happy Birthday” post to her twins. On that post, many of my sister’s friends and some of mine commented with their birthday wishes. My twin also posted a birthday wish on my page, where many of my friends and some of hers commented their birthday wishes. (Roll your pants up, honey, it’s getting petty quickly in here.) Only a handful actually posted a birthday wish on my page – and to me alone, even fewer.

petty

As petty as it was (and yes, I recognize it was petty), it put me in a bad mood on my birthday (on OUR birthday.) Add to that, I had told my husband I didn’t want a gift for my birthday, just for the family to spend time with me (that’s my love language.) So, what did he do?

He didn’t get me anything.

<Increased pettiness and pity party balloons hung>

So back to the branch that fell weeks after the storm.

branch

Here is what I learned this morning – Sometimes in life, the storm will come and drop a mess in your life that you’re forced to clean up. (I did that when I wrote my book.) However, sometimes a couple branches (issues) are held back from falling, only to drop later – revealing they still exist.

I discovered on my birthday – actually the day after when my sister, who is reading my book, pointed out that I was upset because I hadn’t really dealt with feeling like ‘leftovers’ and not being my own person growing up. Another branch just dropped in my yard that I thought was long gone.

Storms are messy. They can leave a mess in our lives that is visible to those around us for days, weeks, months, and even years. (#PrayingForPuertoRico) But they can also lodge a couple branches of our past out of sight, long enough for us to clean up the initial storm, but later drop them onto the scene so we can deal with them.

 

Shake your trees, honey. You may  not be over something from your past that is lodged in your high branches. It just takes one strong wind to bring it crashing to your yard for the world to see. Are you ready?

 

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Acknowledge then Reconcile

To deny something exists because it doesn’t

1) affect you,

2) move you to action, or

3) sit well with you as truth

is self-centered, prejudice, and a sin. Racism in America exists and I, for one, apologize as a white person to my black friends, neighbors, and fellow countrymen. I am very proud that my ancestors refused to own slaves, but I am very ashamed that my race – the human race – instituted, allowed, and benefited from such an atrocity. My family chose to move from the state they lived in rather than own slaves… but that is just walking away from people who need you, so it’s still a part of the problem.

2 Chronicles 7:14 says that God will heal our land if His people will humble themselves, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways. That does not just mean the ones we choose to recognize in our individual lives. It also means the ones that we as a collective body (The Body of Christ) have committed. When one person sins, we are all responsible – Either call them out, intercede, or take action, but doing nothing is a sin.

Joshua 7 shows the perfect picture of what God considers corporate sin. Joshua and the people of Israel had just conquered Jericho and were told not to keep any of the plunder. But Achan was greedy and took a robe, silver, and some gold, then hid it under his tent. (He knew he was wrong, that’s why he hid them.) Because of the sin of this one man, the entire people suffered during battle with the city of Ai. In the end, he was found out and guess what the people of Israel did?

They spoke harshly about him on Facebook.

No.

They tweeted how wrong it was what he did.

No.

They took up stones and killed him, his family, and his livestock. They made an example of him and ensured the other people of Israel learned that what he did was unacceptable.

There IS racism still in America and there IS such a thing as white privilege. Because if you can go throughout your day, week, month, and year without thinking twice about the color of your skin – that is a privilege that not all of our brothers and sisters have. And until we all start acknowledging the sins of our forefathers – whether they personally had slaves or not, whether they turned the other way and ignored the racism, or whether they benefited from the presence and system of slavery – we cannot begin the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18)

Because if you can go throughout your day, week, month, and year without thinking twice about the color of your skin – that is a privilege that not all of our brothers and sisters have.

Whether you ‘Stand for the Flag and Kneel for the Cross’ or ‘Kneel to bring awareness to social injustice’ – if you are only trying to satisfy the cry in your heart that YOU are right and THEY are wrong – you are a part of the problem. It is only when we come together and understand that THEIR pain is MY pain, and injustice to THEM is injustice for ALL because we are all the BODY, that we will be able to heal from the wrongs done generations ago – whether it was by your ancestors or not is irrelevant.

Yvylyn Lawson #WeAreTheBody #Singular #MinistersOfReconciliation

Why I want to Leave my Family

I don’t know when it began. From the beginning I remember being happy and carefree because of my family. I loved them. And I mean nothing-compared-to-them type of love. The way the house flowed – everyone doing their part; the dinner menu was always on point – and tasted so good (all my favorites, if you can believe it!); and I didn’t even mind the ‘chores’ – if we can call them that, because when everyone is doing their part, it felt more like my contribution to a winning team.

So when did things go south?

Wrong Way

I think it all began when I noticed the menu started changing. We weren’t having my favorites anymore. In fact, I didn’t even know what some of those foods were – which is a annoying, right? To have to learn something new when you’re used to what you want?

Then there was the fact that I had always sat in the same chair at the dinner table for as long as I can remember. I remember that Sunday, when I was a little late to the table because I had been scrolling through Facebook, which made me late to washing my hands, and as a result, arriving at the table ten minutes past dinner time. And there she sat – my sister – in MY seat!

baby

Next thing you know, I’m being asked to do extra chores because of our family growth. (As if that was MY fault!) “Please take out the garbage.” “Can you make dinner tonight, I have a meeting, so I don’t be home in time?” “We need the house vacuumed before you leave for the day.”

Small changes led to bigger disappointments. Plus, one of my friends was telling me about her family and I could tell mine just wasn’t going to cut it for me any longer. She invited me over one weekend and I was shocked! It was beautiful and I asked to move in.

They said yes!!!

So, I left my family and moved in with my friend’s family. I loved the food, was happy to help with the chores, and I felt right at home. It was great and naturally I was happy.

But then my other friend started telling me about her family and the fun things they do every weekend. I am starting to think I need to leave my new family, too!

Heb1025

Sadly, I’m talking about church. And even sadder is the fact that so many people do this very thing when it comes to where they worship. They are ALL IN, contributing, not complaining, and growing in their relationship with the Lord. When all of a sudden, the devil plants a seed of complaint in them when the worship leader changes the songs; or sings too many worships songs and not enough praise ones; or the media department doesn’t change the words on the screen quick enough, you don’t know the song, and you can’t even follow along.

Next thing you know, you’re noticing you have other things to do in the mornings that are making you late (like respond to your Facebook or Twitter feeds or get more than one child out the door on time) and someone has the audacity to sit in your seat.

ONSD

Or… the list goes on and on. The bottom line is, we start thinking church is about us. We want to hear the songs we like ( or hear a message from the Pastor, who is that and why are they preaching? ); we want our seat, music that we like, the temperature right, a quick escape from the parking lot, our children to be entertained, our egos stroked, and

“Don’t you dare say something across the pulpit that offends me!”

Church was never meant to become a place Christians are entertained, have their beliefs and opinions affirmed, or a check block on the ‘Five Musts to Get to Heaven’ list. Church is place for the broken, the sinner, and the student of Christ – where we serve and have all things in common so those on the outside take note.

What? The Church is supposed to look different than the rest of the world?

Our family moves every three to five years, which means we are looking for a new church home that often, as well. And one thing God told me when we were looking for a church (and writing our ‘pros and cons’ lists) is:

“When you stop judging churches by your wish list for a church, I will lead you to where I want you to attend and serve.”

Yeah… ouch!

As silly as the beginning of this blog sounded – someone wanting to leave their family because Mom stopped making their favorite meals and they were expected to contribute more due to growth in the house – would you not agree that many are doing the same thing in church? And that truly is our family if we are a believer.

The Hurricane is coming

Hurricane Irma, downgraded to a Tropical Storm by the time she reached us in Georgia, was my first experience with this type of disastrous weather. Growing up in Southern California, I have experienced earthquakes. My first duty station when I served in the US Army was at Fort Riley, Kansas, so of course I experienced a couple tornadoes. There are similarities and differences with all three of these and I learned something from each, as well.

During my first earthquake, I remember my dad was taking a shower and thought my sister and I were running up and down the stairs. As the light hanging from the high ceiling of the staircase swung, my sister and I just looked at each other with mouths agape. Nothing broke in our house, but it left my nerves on edge. Strong earthquakes leave you feeling shaken the entire day.

When I was first married and our daughter was six months old, my husband was working the night shift and I experienced my first tornado. Unlike Dorothy, we didn’t end up in the land of Oz, instead I ended up with a new destiny as I cried out to God in the midst of the din and gave my life to the Lord. Tornadoes, like hurricanes and tropical storms, are loud and also test your nerves.

When Irma arrived in Georgia, she had already dissipated and her gusts topped out under 70 miles an hour. Regardless, I learned what mattered when it came to the destruction and mess she left was what surrounded your house.

The house of the left is ours – surrounded by tall trees on every side. The one of the right is the neighbor’s across the street you see in the first picture. He has two lone trees, both have been cut back recently, and neither are very close to his home.

During the storm, he said it was quiet other than the wind. He and his wife went about their day and just kept safely inside. On the other hand, my house sounded like a concert that should have been canceled with tree limbs and nuts falling on the roof in a terrible beat. We hadn’t really done anything other than mow our lawn and sweep the walk since we moved in a couple of months ago. As you can see from our curbside-pick-up pile versus our neighbor’s – the clean up requires more labor when you’re surrounded by trees, as well.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

As I walked around our neighborhood this morning, grateful that we only experienced the little mess we did in the house we are renting, I noted how many other houses, like ours – surrounded with trees for shade in the summer – had a larger clean up than those whose trees were recently pruned or fewer in number. And the Lord spoke to me and said, “That’s the difference with some of My children. They surround themselves with the shade of this world, to avoid the heat of my refining fire, only to put themselves in the position of destruction when the storm comes.

3

The storm is coming, too. Whether it comes as an earthquake – where an event shakes you to your core and all that’s left standing is your faith, however small or large that may be; or as a tornado – sweeping in and blowing the facade off your blessed and highly favored life that you purport, covering up the sin and shame of a weak relationship with your Creator;  or as a hurricane or tropical storm – beating vehemently at the life you’ve built, surrounded by shade trees of this world or landscaped by the Designer of the Garden. The storm is coming.

1

I would recommend you allow the Great Gardner to come in and prune back those trees – of idols you’ve placed before Him (anything that you give more attention to than God is an idol); of watered-down Scripture (it is the whole truth that sets you free, not the pieced-together-because-it-supports-my-sins version you choose to meditate on); of reluctant obedience to what God is telling you to do (delayed obedience is disobedience and without following God, you’re wasting your energy and time in this world.)

2

Your clean up from the storms in your life is dependent on the landscaping of your heart. Allow God to come in and cut back the branches (you might have to lose some friends), pull the weeds (the devil is scattering seeds daily, that’s why you need to always put on the armor of God), and water your yard (as you draw the water of wisdom from His Word and time with Him – it is in those moments you grow, new life begins, and your foundation is strengthened. Otherwise, you’ll line the curb of your life with the debris of your storms for all who drive by to see – and that’s not a good witness to His Presence in your life.

final

~Blessings and shalom,

Yvy

 

A Door that Swings Both Ways

Let’s talk about purpose.

revdoor

A revolving door is meant to be entered and exited.

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (John 10:9)

Jesus is the door to the Father and He is revealing to us His purpose now that He is seated at the Father’s right hand – our way to enter in to the Presence of God. It is by our faith in Him and what He did on the cross that gives us access to the Father.

It’s not about sitting on Santa’s lap.

Santa, Santa Claus, Child, Boy, Lap, December, Xmas

Our access to our Heavenly Father is about fellowship, worship, and growth. Jesus says we are to go in and out. So, let’s start with go in.

I’m not going to give you ‘3 Keys to Entering the Presence of God’ (partly because I believe you should enter in according to your heart and if I attempt to paint what that looks like, chances are you’ll follow the directions instead of your heart.) Instead, I just want to point out that the purpose of entering in is to learn from God those things you will need when you go out.

Going out is the second purpose of our lives (the first being fellowship with God – going in.) We are all called to go [out] into all the world and share the Gospel – the Good News about what Jesus has done to redeem us. (Mark 16:15)

So don’t just go in and fellowship, worship, and grow in the Lord. Be a doer of the Word, as well, and go out and preach the Gospel to your world – your area of influence.

It is only when you go out and give that you will have room to continue to receive more from God when you go in. Don’t be a waterlogged Christian – give what you learn and earn and you’ll see God blessing through you!

Blessings and shalom,

Yvy

Emoji’s, “Cool”, and Hallelujah

Have you ever scrolled back through your messages with a ‘friend’ and discovered that the majority of your conversation was quite lopsided – you did a lot more talking while they gave you an occasional “Cool”, “Yep”, or applicable emoji?

convo

My son was recently sharing with me his discovery that his ‘great friend’ that he has considered his best friend since high school had been quite delayed in his responses lately. Where my son looked forward to his conversations with this friend, we’ll call him Jack, Jack was barely responding within a week.

Now, if they were seeing each other every day or even once a week, sure this would be a ridiculous observation because text messages, e-mails, and Messenger aren’t a good substitute for face-to-face interaction and, truth be told, not everyone is on social media as much as everyone else. However, these boys are separated by thousands of miles and have been since my son moved away right after high school. So their entire relationship is now dependent on these mediums. For the first year, their conversations were that of best friends – sharing important events with one another shortly after they happened with a close-to-immediate response from the other; messaging each other daily just to keep the convo going; and the obligatory “Happy” this or “Merry” that on special days.

Those interactions grew fewer over the years, though, and mainly on Jack’s side. My son said he began to scroll up on his message feed with Jack and noticed something. For the past couple of months, there was only the occasional “Cool” or “Ok” responses to his 3-4 sentences of sharing. Once every couple of days, it was just an emoji response.

I asked him, “How does that make you feel?”

He responded, “Unimportant in [Jack’s] life.”

sad face

Yeah, I think I’d probably feel the same way. You see, we give attention to what is important in our lives. I’ve heard it said that you can tell where your heart is by looking at your calendar and your bank statement. I can’t say for certain, but I am pretty sure Jack has deemed something or someone else more important that his relationship with my son.

So, here’s my question for you – Does God only get an occasional “Yes, Lord”, “Ok”, “Please help [enter family or friend’s name and their need here]” from you these days? During church do you only quietly offer an “Hallelujah” or “Amen” when everyone else does?

Where is your relationship with God? Does He only get emoji responses or prayer requests or do you share your day with Him (and let Him share His with you)? Prayer is a two-way conversation, but many Christians are like Jack – giving God 5 minutes of their day to keep the conversation going, but their hearts are clearly focused on something else.

Make a new habit (one that is life changing) this week and decide to put down the phone or laptop, turn off the TV or game console, or even stop for at least an hour every day from accomplishing your reading list for the year, and invest in the greatest relationship you have- the one where the Creator of the universe and Savior of your soul is emphatically in love with you. Or will you continue to just shoot off your smiley faces at Him and give more attention to something else until a crisis arises and you need Him?

praying

Going into Battle

You know that part in the Bible where God tells us to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our paths?  Do you do that?

I was thinking about that this morning when I was reading through Exodus 13-15, the passage about Moses leading the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. What stood out to me in Chapter 14 was that Pharaoh followed after them in chariots.

Assyrian_war_chariot

This work was published before January 1, 1923 and it is anonymous or pseudonymous due to unknown authorship. It is in the public domain in the United States as well as countries and areas where the copyright terms of anonymous or pseudonymous works are 94 years or less since publication.

Now, you need to understand that these chariots gave them major advantage. Not only did it speed up their pursuit, but it allowed them to save their energy to fight, put them in a guarded platform above their opponents, and often times had weapons attached. So this seemed like the best plan at the time. (I’m sure he looked pretty sweet riding in with such an army, as well.)

However, if you read chapter 14:23-25 you’ll see that those very vehicles of choice were what caused them to get stuck and, ultimately, die.

Now, Pharaoh obviously wouldn’t have acknowledged God when preparing for this chase because he was god to himself. What about you, though? Do you stop and ask God what you should do before you pursue something?

Maybe it’s a job, a boyfriend/girlfriend, a business idea, or adopting a new pet. Whatever we have before us, if we just stop and ask Him what we should do (and listen), He will direct our path. And when that happens, you can’t compare the peace you have with your decision. (I always say, let Peace be your Umpire.)

So instead of getting trapped in mud, stuck in a bad decision, or ruined by a wrong assumption – acknowledge that God is right there, waiting and ready to provide you the direction you need. When you allow Him to be God and you to be the follower, you won’t get swept under the crashing waves of the world’s chaos.