The Most Important Armor

I have struggled this past week to put into words how I’ve felt since news broke of the tragedy in Aurora. I had a blog post in the makings last week about how to show mercy toward those who offend or violate us directly (sparked by my iPhone getting stolen – which now seems so irrelevant) and while a lot could be written about mercy in this situation, I don’t feel equipped to go there today.

I was so strongly reminded in prayer this week that we are living amidst a battle between good and evil. We spend most days unaware of the war waging around us. Then evil wins a round and the tragedy jolts us (momentarily) out of our ignorance.

There’s been a lot of discussion about gun control and the right to bear arms following the Aurora tragedy. People store up weapons with the idea that someday we might have to rise up and defend ourselves against a corrupt government. But what about the corruption that wages on today? What are we arming ourselves with to fight against the kind of evil, hate, isolation and anger that lead to murder and destruction?

I’m not interested in having a conversation about gun control. Handguns, assault rifles, rounds of ammo… that weaponry will not help us sort out the tragedy and suffering we see in the headlines, our communities and our own families. How do we find healing and restoration in the midst of evil?

God asks us to put on a different kind of armor:

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:13-18

What would our world look like if we put this armor on every day? What if, instead of putting on masks to hide our insecurities and false selves, we deliberately armed ourselves with truth? Peace? Prayer? What if we stood confidently in the armor of God, prepared to fight for good?

Out of tragedies like Aurora, stories of community, resilience, healing, mercy and even miracles emerge. Every day, people choose peace over war and prayer over denigration. It’s not easy, this is not heaven. We must recognize this reality. Evil pervades.

But it does not prevail.

To believe in Christ is to know that good ultimately wins. So let’s put down our weapons and put on the armor that matters.

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-58

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A Prophetic Perspective

A month or so before we got married, Tyler and I both had a strong sense that something big was ahead. We didn’t know what; it felt really vague. But we both felt it. Something was stirring. As the months went on, we thought it must be related to our professional careers or a big geographic move.

Around this time, my small group (of wonderful women in their 20s and 30s) was focusing on prayer and specifically learning to listen for God’s voice through prophetic images, words, etc. One night, we took turns praying for each other.

One of the rules in our small group was that you had to share whatever you saw, even if it seemed outrageous, because you never know how God might be speaking to someone through that image or word.

When it was my turn to be prayed for, I had a very vivid picture of a hot air balloon. Weird, right? It was sailing high above in a blue sky. I had no idea what it meant.

We finished praying and everyone started to share whether they had any images or words. There were a few very interesting images and then one that shocked me.

The woman sitting to my right began to share that she had this very vivid picture of a hot air balloon.

!!!

I could not believe that someone had the exact same (seemingly random) image as me.

When you get an image for someone, you’re supposed to ask God for more understanding of how that might apply to the person. A prophetic word is supposed to encourage, affirm or bring discernment. They are not omens or fortune telling. (Still sound crazy to you? email me!)

The woman who saw the hot air balloon said she felt like it was about Tyler and I being together in the basket of the balloon, high above the ground, and that it was possibly about gaining perspective.

At the time, I really had absolutely no idea what this meant. We weren’t even married yet and while I would end up changing to a different position at my current employer, we weren’t looking for huge career shifts just yet.

But 9 months later, I get it.

It hit me at church last Sunday during worship. Through this whole ordeal, Tyler and I have both felt that we have been carried above with a supernatural grace. Even today at Tyler’s post chemo appointment, the doctors and nurses said several times how we have handled this in a remarkable way with wisdom beyond our years.

But it isn’t because of who we are. We were just up in our balloon with God.

And sometimes we would look down and get scared. But others times, we would look down and say, “WOW.”

God has blessed us with a new perspective on life.

People have praised us for how we have handled this ordeal. Please don’t. Our only praise is that we have chosen to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Everything else comes from Him.

Thank you Jesus for affirming Your vision for our lives. As we come back to earth and to normal life, we pray that Your gift of perspective is something we share loudly and widely.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Amen!

To Love Mercy

Living in a big city for the past 5 years, I’ve found how easy it can be to disconnect from the humanity of others. Riding public transportation is especially desensitizing. Day after day you are squished into a packed bus or train or subway car with crowds of people who are usually tired, cranky and sometimes quite angry. I’ve certainly had my moments of disgust at fellow commuters who push to the front of the line or refuse to move to the inside of a seat or won’t move to the back of the bus to allow room for others.

One day, shortly after Tyler’s diagnosis, I was standing on the bus heading into work and suddenly thought, “No one on here has any idea what I’m going through. I look like a normal commuter heading to my job yet inside I’m crumbling.” It hit me like a ton of bricks as I looked around at the other passengers.

I, too, had no idea what these strangers might be dealing with in their lives.

When I get wrapped up in myself and my own problems (and let’s face it, don’t we spend most of our time thinking about ourselves and our own agendas?), I tend to forget that the people around me may be struggling, too. The woman next to me on the bus, talking loudly on her cell phone, could be dealing with a sick child or a cheating husband or a dead-end job that doesn’t pay the bills. We just don’t know.

God instructs us to have compassion and mercy for each other and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our neighbors are not just the people we have relationship with or who live next door. Our neighbors include everyone we come in contact with, especially those who are different from us.

I’m humbled by the way others seem to show mercy and compassion much more readily than me and ashamed by how poorly I live this command in my day to day life.

So I’m incredibly grateful for my crumbling moments in the presence of others because that’s where God reveals to me the power of mercy and compassion. In my own brokenness, I can more clearly see the brokenness of others. And how desperately we need kindness from strangers.

If we are willing to let it, suffering can soften our hearts and deepen our desire to see the wonderful value God sees in others, regardless of how much they anger or irritate us. And in recognizing this humanity, God will show us all the opportunities we have to bless others with compassion.

We have so much power in how we treat others. Our words and actions can heal or they can hurt. Let’s walk in the example of Jesus and choose to be healers.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8