As I last shared, we had an epic summer full of rats, bats, lice, dislocated elbows and other adventures. I honestly realized that what often beats people down is the continuous trials. It is the seasons in life where when it rains it pours and when it pours it feels like slow torture. It’s not so much that the things happening to us are even thaaaaat bad, it is more the slow drip of disappointment that causes deep discouragement.
This is where I was at this summer. Just bummed. I had regrets I couldn’t even blame myself or anyone for. I was let down by where we were at in relation to where I had hoped we would be. I was living on the edge of empty wanting to be filled and yet too empty to chase the fill. I felt alone surrounded by people. I started spinning negative beats in my head. But I kept thinking, it could be worse, I could have cancer. I think a lot of people downplay what they face and put some horrid disease on a pedestal and as long as they don’t have that, they tell themselves they are fine.
Our whole family was in a rough spot. And it struck me that something had to give. And three things happened that I feel inclined to share.
One: We had a come to Jesus meeting one night at dinner. Our heads laid low in whatever it was we were eating. Even the kids were quiet and the air was thick. And that was when Rob just bust open with a sermon and for a guy who doesn’t preach, we all listened. He said something like “We have got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves! There are people who live with lice. It never goes away. Here we are and we have access to medicine and the ability to be freed from it and we are moping. Some people never get rid of lice. And you with your elbow dislocation. There are people in other countries who get injuries like that and they don’t have access to anesthesia or doctors or physical therapy and their arms just stay that way. We are so blessed and we should be thankful.” It was a moment to think about the people who live what we are passing through.
Now sometimes when people give you these kind of speeches about first world problems, you still want to say “But this still sucks.” But Rob brought the truth. And sometimes you have got to look at TRUTH square in the eyes and get over yourself.
If nothing else, we came out more grateful for left hands and clean hair and showers and medicine. And even more, compassion. I cannot even sit by a door now and see someone elderly open it themselves. When pregnant people are picking things up I cringe. And people in wheelchairs who aren’t passing through a handicap, that just kills me now. I saw a guy with an amputated arm and almost drove off the road because I don’t see people the same anymore. And maybe God wanted to get us to a place of gratitude and compassion. And sometimes that place can only come in pain, but even more it comes when TRUTH is spoken in PAIN.
Second: The very passionate woman who led me to Jesus called me up when the final straw apparently came and she said she wanted to abduct me the next day and have a bunch of pentecostal, spirit led women pray over me because she said it seemed like I was being hit with the plagues. Everything in me wanted to say no, but I had finally gotten to a place in my spirit where I knew I needed help. I said yes. I showed up to this luncheon with white table clothes, homemade mini key lime pies and about ten women of all ages.
As soon as I sat down I saw a woman who was present the day I handed my life to Jesus nearly 20 years ago. She had lost her hair. Oh no, I thought. Oh no, something is wrong with her. She must have cancer. I hadn’t seen her in years and I asked her how she was doing. She began to explain that she has cancer and it has hit her hard and fast. She said “I am standing tall on the inside though.” I will never forget that. This “Standing tall” that she speaks of is not how I was feeling. I was bent over on the inside and yet she faced something way fiercer than me.
And how was I going to let them pray for me? We needed to pray for her, the woman with cancer, not the lady with lice and bats and rats and a measly sling. It was honestly so embarrassing because my issues felt like nothing to even utter a complaint about in the presence of my old friend who faces a severe battle.
The women asked me to share about Collide and what God is doing. Then they asked me the worst of all questions, to share what was going on in my life and how they could pray for me. I looked at the woman who was standing tall and I said “Honestly, I feel silly having you all pray for me. What I am going through is nothing in comparison to cancer. We should pray for…” pointing to the woman with cancer. And I truly wanted to pray for her. She is a kind, caring, compassionate woman who I hurt for and who I long to be healed. And I didn’t want people to pray for my dumb, pansy, first world problems.
And they insisted. In fact, the woman with cancer insisted all the more. She pressed in with great desire to pray for me. The women stood over me and these woman, most of whom I didn’t know prayed in power begging the God of the Universe to strengthen me. They prayed protection over my family and my kids and my house. They prayed for Christ’s power to be unleashed in my ministry. And I had this weird mind game happening while they were praying. I wondered if I should pray. I was uncomfortable. I felt stupid. I wanted to leave as soon as I could get out of there. And in the midst of a bunch of praying women’s voices, I heard God’s. He said very loudly one word: RECEIVE. Just receive.
Sometimes, we have a really hard time receiving what God has for us and what He wants to do for us. Sometimes its because of pride. Who wants to be the weenie chick who needs prayer for lice and cold sores? Not me. Sometimes receiving puts you in a place of need. You have to be needy and that makes you vulnerable. To stay in a place and allow people to literally surround you with their bodies, their time, their words, and their prayers all means you need something. There is possibly nothing that comes as close to being naked as receiving. Receiving is often hard because we find our identity in giving. Because if we give, people will like us and they will see our worth. What will people actually see in us if all we do is sit and receive? Some of you know have no idea how to receive like I have no idea how to receive . And that is why you find yourselves feeing alone surrounded by people. That is why you feel empty but want to be filled. You are in need of receiving just like I found myself.
I opened my hands and held them palms up toward the heavens. I will receive Lord. I need you. I am tired, I am worn thin. I am disappointed. I am worried. I am broken. I am here to receive.
Would you let a woman with cancer pray over you?
I did. It wasn’t about comparing pain like we so often do and letting someone who takes the cake win out. It wasn’t about being told my pain was insignificant because there was way worse to be had. It was a pure moment of God inviting me to humble myself and receive what He had for me, personally. I cant begin to tell you how beautiful it was except to say that I walked away changed.
Will you allow yourself to receive what God has for you today? And will you allow it to come through others? It might take vulnerability. It might take humility. It might take being bent over on the inside first before you can stand tall.
Thirdly: I sat my kids down one morning. I could feel God beckoning us to face this slow drip His way. I asked Aidan to read Philippians 4:8 which says:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
I basically said “Kids, we have been thinking about everything that sucks, everything we are upset about and disappointed by and God calls us to think about these things.” I wrote each word on a sticky note and put it up on the mantel. We each got our own stack of post its and we took time to write things that were TRUE or NOBLE or RIGHT or PURE or LOVELY or ADMIRABLE or EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY. And then we shared them.
The kids wrote things like “Dad having the kid over who lost his mom.” and put it under admirable. They wrote “friends bringing us meals” and put it under praiseworthy. They called the good out in each other. They wrote out answered prayers and blessings and things they were grateful for. I thought this exercise could have died a quick death but instead it kept going and going and going. I literally had to stop this sweet time after an hour.
We came up with an acronym to remember this charge from God to think upon these kinds of things. It is:
Now you can see how the Weston’s think. The naughty red pretty labradoodle ate everything poopy. Now when we spin negative beats in our heads we remind each other of what is true. And what is true is that we are loved. What is true is that we are alive. Now when we feel sorry for ourselves we remind each other of what is lovely. And what is lovely is that God paints sunsets in the sky that strike us to our core. Now when we feel overwhelmed we remind ourselves of what is admirable. What is admirable is when people around is live not for themselves but for others. And so on and so forth…
We will think upon these things and when we forget to do so, we will keep pointing each other toward the One who has such beautiful desires for us in the midst of our pain. He is a God who wants within us a deep compassion for others. He is a God who wants us to humbly receive what He awaits to hand out. And He is a God who calls us to think about all that is good in the midst of all that isn’t.
I hope today you will receive what He has for you. Palms up friends.