Sunday, November 18, 2018

I am strong enough to carry Jesus

"I am strong enough to carry Jesus." This was the claim made by a sweet young boy as he walked down the hall in Church today. He then showed me a picture of Jesus he had tucked into a neatly folded piece of paper. "See, I put him right here where he's safe like this, and I can carry him with me all the time."

It was a sweet exchange that made me smile. But his first statement stayed and caused me to ponder the layers of it. "I am strong enough to carry Jesus."

Image result for mary carry jesusIt conjured up images of the man carrying Jesus' cross, or those that carried His body to the tomb, or those that, no doubt, offered Him food and shelter during his mortal ministry. I think of Mary, who carried him in swaddling clothes, and an angel who comforted Him in the garden the night before His death. Jesus alone could do what He did, but He was surrounded by many who had the strength to help Him, even carry Him. And I ask myself, would I have been one of them?

I also think of what it means to carry Jesus now. Though He is resurrected and perfected and His mortal sojourn done, He is still very much alive. He has feelings and emotions deeper than we can imagine.  Not only does He feel perfect love and joy, but He feels perfect sorrow and grief. Is it possible that I, here and now, can do things that can lighten His load or offer peace?

I think so. And the way I think I can do that is by “carrying” Him with me. Meaning—take His name upon me. Think of Him. Emulate Him. Learn of Him. To be a disciple. All the things we so often hear.

But, in reality, this all means that I want to be His friend and Him to be mine. The kind of friend I am proud to admit I know and love and want to be like. The kind of friend I’d follow to heaven.

It’s hard sometimes to be a disciple. We can be mocked by others. The adversary can attack our faith. Our own reasoning, the creation of false personal narratives and expectations, and surrender to fears and doubts can cause us to put Him down as if having faith in Him is too heavy for us.

Are we strong enough to carry Jesus?

I think we are.

I think He is lighter than the lightest of our sorrows and grief. He is easier to carry than our anger and grudges. And I think we are stronger than we realize we are.

They why does it seem, sometimes, hard to ‘carry Jesus’ in certain times of our lives?

I wonder if it’s where we are carrying Him.

Image result for hold a glass of waterThink of holding a full glass of water. Imagine you’re holding it in your hand at the end of an arm extended to the side. How long could you hold it there? Five minutes? Fifteen? 

Now think of bending your arm and bringing your hand close to your chest. Now how long could you hold the glass of water? Twenty minutes? An hour?

I wonder if sometimes we carry Jesus, but we do it at arm’s length, keeping Him at a distance. Whether it’s because we struggle with certain points of doctrine or are unwilling to follow certain commandments, we keep Him close to us touch but far enough away to not draw Him in. Close enough to call in Him when we need help, but far away enough to let doubt weaken our hold.

But, if we were to pull Him in how different would that be. How much easier could we carry Him if He were the closest thing to our heart? Would we be strong enough then to carry Him in a world of changing values, in the face of persecution, and in the sparks of our own searching and doubt?

Do we have a place, carefully prepared by purposeful decisions and holy habits, where we can carry Him with us all the time?

I love the thought path this sweet boy led me down to. I love where I ended up today.

I have a refreshed determination to draw my Savior in. I want to boldly, and with love, say, “I am strong enough to carry Jesus.” Because I know He carries me.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Just because we can do it well doesn't always mean we have to do it.

Aside from my current full-length inspirational nonfic and women's fic projects, I've been trying out different writing short things in different genres lately, just to see what I can do and what I like.
I've dabbled in doing interviews for an online magazine, informative articles, sci-fi, poetry, and now, as of last night, a creepy short story. I didn't mean to do it. It just . . . happened. Like, it has a good message, but it's so creepy it creeps me out. Which doesn't say much because I get creeped out easily. Lisa Mangum can tell you that.
But it's good. Surprisingly. good.
But I don't want to write creepy things.
But I've discovered I am good at it.
I've thought about my experience and have asked myself a question: If this is good, then shouldn't I write more of the same genre? I mean, if I discover I am good at something, isn't there some moral obligation to pursue it?
And the answer I've come to is a resounding "no".
I am allllllll for working outside our comfort zone. That's where growth is.
And yes, we are told not to bury our talents.
But, we are not told to take every talent we have and use it in every way we can.
Just as we pick and choose what is good, better, and best in our lives, I think we should do the same with our talents and what we do with them.
And just because we can do something well does not mean we have to do it often. Or at all if it's not healthy for you.
I'm not saying writing creepy things isn't good or healthy. For some, like Mercedes Murdock Yardley, who is a lovely, lovely soul, it is one of the best ways she uses one of her best talents and it fills her and others.
I'm saying that each person is different. What is best for Mercedes makes me need to wear Depends.
What I'm saying is that we shouldn't feel obligated to use the gifts and talents we have in ways that do not make us healhy or happy.
If you have a gift of working with small children but you don't love doing it, then don't do it.
If you have a gift for counseling others but you don't want to be a therapist, don't do it.
If you have a gift for baking but you don't love being in the kitchen all day, don't do it all day.
Yesssssss, I believe we should reach outside of our comfort zones and discover gifts and talents and push ourselves and grow. And yesssss I believe God will ask us to do some things we don't want to do. And yessss I believe that God has given us gifts and talents to discover and use for His glory.
BUT, we are stewards of our time and energy. And it is not a sin to discover/recognize we are good at something we don't particularly enjoy doing and choose not to do.
I've always jokingly told my kids, "Use your powers for good."
If what is in my power isn't good for me or others, I don't have to use it that way.
I think God has given every one of us more talents and gifts than we can nurture and perfect in our lives. He did this, I believe, to allow us to choose the gifts we love and use them for good and to bring us joy, and for His purposes.
Yesssss, there are times God will ask us to use our gifts for things that will be difficult or we might not enjoy. He has His reasons.
But He also expects us to be good stewards of our time and talents. Times and seasons. Choices and accountability. And joy.
So often we focus on alllll the things we can't do well that I think this issue of what to do with alllll the things we can do well gets overlooked.
And lemme just say, it's okay to acknowledge you have talents and gifts and skills and be grateful for them. That is not arrogance or pride. Arrogance or pride is when you use your talents, gifts, and skills to make yourself feel better than others, or use it in any way to compare yourself with others. (insert EZT Benson talk on pride here.)
It is gratitude and love and joy to recognize the gifts we've been given and the things we can do. Humility isn't downplaying how awesome we are because humble people can't be really awesome, or heaven forbid, admit they are. Humility is recognizing where the awesomeness comes from and partnering with God when deciding what to do with it.
I discovered I am good at writing creepy things. This surprised me and even tickled me a bit. I mean, I wrote something REALLY COOL! And it's good. Creepy good. But I don't want to do it more. I've talked with God about it, and after a good conversation with HIm, I'm gonna take this certain talent for this genre, acknowledge it, tell it it's been fun, pat its head, and tuck it into bed. God's good with it and so am I.
Now onto more writing about things that don't make me want to wet the bed.
(Of course, I am going to submit my creepy short story to an online magazine. I mean, just because I don't want to write more doesn't mean I'm going to waste what I've done. That's like realizing you don't love baking after baking a batch of delicious cookies so you don't eat the cookies you just made. Makes no sense.)

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