In Opposition? : Humility and Boldness

1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

Hebrews 4:16

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

 

Just prior to everything that’s currently happening and telecommuting began, I was sitting at my work desk and caught sight of the two Bible passages above written in faded ink and taped to one of my monitors. They are two of my favorite and most encouraging passages in the Scriptures, and it suddenly struck me that they seem to encourage what appear to be opposite traits – humility and boldness. I sat staring at them and thinking, “Can you be both humble and bold?”

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines humility as “freedom from pride or arrogance; the quality or state of being humble.” Further, it explains that “both [humility] and humble have their origin in the Latin word humilis, meaning “low.”” Suggested synonyms include meekness, lowliness, and down-to-earthness. I particularly like that last one. None of this is popular in today’s culture – the “let me step over your still warm body so I can succeed where you failed” culture.

Then I looked up the definition of boldness, and it was defined as “fearless before danger” and “showing or requiring a fearless daring spirit.” Some of the synonyms are confident, intrepid, adventurous, and gutsy. Intrepid was appealing to me as it is defined as “characterized by resolute fearlessness, fortitude, and endurance.” This is a prized character trait in today’s “you only live once” or “do what makes you happy” culture.

How do we make the two fit together and still uphold the teaching to put others before self? How do we practice humility before God and yet approach Him boldly?

The last couple of years, I’ve been trying to remind myself of the true power of God. I’ve been trying to stop boxing God in to my narrow-minded view of the world. I’ve been knocking the walls down to see just what God can do instead of keeping God in a small, tight space. This requires humility on my part – the acknowledgement that God can do things that I can’t even begin to imagine – the acknowledgement that I am just one tiny piece in the workings of this life – and that’s okay. All I can do right now is take care of the space where I am, but it’s something in God’s plan even if it’s not what I had expected.

In the midst of writing this blog, I was listening to an older sermon from Crosspoint Church in Nashville. Pastor Kevin Queen did a sermon in 2019 on “Sacrificial Living,” and I was thankful for the God-wink.

He said some things that got me to thinking:

“To deny yourself is to die to self every single day…to die to what we want…to die to our selfish agenda…to love God and serve others. […]

If you want to follow Jesus, you have to attend about a thousand funerals a day, and they’re all funerals for what you want. […]

…we find that the blessing and the benefit of the life of following Jesus comes when we make the sacrifices, and it’s counterintuitive to the way of this world. But it’s the way of the kingdom. […]

Romans 12:3 (HCSB)

For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.

Romans 12:16 (HCSB)

Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Christlikeness begins and ends in humility.”

How does this leave any room for boldness?

I’ve been muddling this concept over in my head for a few weeks almost afraid to complete the blog, but then I picked up my pen (yes, the old-fashioned pen and paper) and started to write again.

Even as I wrote about humility, I had to ask myself why a humble person can’t be bold, fearless, daring, intrepid, resolute, courageous, confident, or enduring? Why can’t a humble person exercise fortitude? The answer came to me that there’s no reason why a humble person can’t be those things. I went to BibleGateway.com and searched for references on boldness and confidence, and there are no shortage of them in the Bible just as there are no shortage of references to humility and meekness.

Here is what I realized. Humility is about keeping our perspective on God in proper alignment. God comes first, and all our actions should stem from that. Consequently, we can move forward with boldness, confidence, fearlessness, resolution, courage, endurance, and fortitude. It is all about how we frame God in the process. He always needs to be at the center of our humility, or we won’t be truly practicing Christlike behavior. The same applies to our boldness. If we move forward in boldness or confidence without maintaining God as our center, we’re doing it for our own selfish reasons. In other words, we’re just living like everyone else.

So what does humble boldness look like? It looks like Ruth believing in her new faith and God as she went boldly to ask Boaz to protect her and her mother-in-law. It looks like Esther humbly accepting that she may be executed for boldly asking the king to save her people. It looks like Daniel humbly and boldly praying to God and entering (and exiting) the lions’ den. It looks like Rosa Parks, tired from a long humble day at work, boldly deciding she wasn’t going to give way in the face of racism. It looks like the boss of a small business who cares about his/her employees in a pandemic and boldly decides to keep paying them even when he/she doesn’t know from where the money will come.

Humble boldness is keeping your eye on the right ball even when several are being thrown in the air at once. It’s knowing when to say yes and when to say no, when to accept and when to walk away, when to stop and when to keep going. Keeping my faith in God at the center of my being points my compass in the right direction. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get where I’m going, but I always get there in the proper time.

Let the Light Shine

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”
~Harry Dixon Loes 

Last year, my pastor started a project – named “Project Light”– at our small country church to encourage us to bring things every month that could be donated somewhere in need. Each month we were encouraged to bring a different item, and those items included everything from shampoo and soap to socks and reading glasses. I still remember the look of surprise on the face of the cashier at a store when I rolled up with a full shopping cart of items that April. I was three months behind, and I wanted to make up for lost time.

I’m not telling this to pat myself on the back. It’s just that it was exciting for me to be able to afford to buy a cart full of things for someone else. You see, I had just started a new full-time job after having been a part-time worker for two years. While I had definitely learned how to live on a shoestring budget, I had been unable to buy much for other people over those two years. I went through that store grabbing all the things that we had chosen for the first few months of the year. I was excited about this project because, while I was still working up to having time to volunteer, I could at least help provide supplies where they were needed.

I wanted to inspire myself for the project so I grabbed a journal that a friend had given me two years prior for Christmas. This was one of those journals with a quote printed on the cover and individual Bible verses pre-printed at the bottom of each page. I opened it to the first page to begin recording Bible verses on light, and I was surprised to find that the verse printed at the bottom of the first page was Proverbs 4:18 (KJV): “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” I was pleasantly surprised, and I went ahead with my original plan to record inspiring verses on light. I turned the page and kept writing and then looked down at the bottom of the second page, and lo and behold, there was another pre-printed verse on light! Isaiah 60:1 (KJV): “Arise, shine; for they light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

By this time, I was beginning to feel the occurrence of a “God-wink.” I don’t really believe in coincidences, but I do believe in the term coined by SQuire Rushnell called “God-winks.” In my definition, these are positive moments of God-influenced events that are like puzzle pieces falling into place. (As a side note, I recommend reading Rushnell’s books where he describes some of these moments in more detail. The one that inspired me was When God Winks at You.)

Being a person who loves the written word, these events really inspire me when God uses words unexpectedly to minister to my needs. At that moment, I was seeking inspiration for the project at church, and God used a two-year old journal to push it along. That unexpected but delightful moment helped keep my enthusiasm up the whole year for the project, and I was so pleased when our pastor, our youth leader, and our youth traveled to deliver all of our donated items.

The following Sunday, all five of them shared their perspective on the mission. Our pastor chose a church in our state that operated a food bank in a small town with a serious drug problem. The community had declined with the local industry, and the church had seen the negative effects as well. They were (and are) in the process of learning the “new normal” for their congregation that no longer consists of the cream of the town’s residents. Instead, they are finding that God has sent them an entirely different congregation to minister to by way of a hot meal and the food bank. Our small mission group each came back with a different observation.

Our pastor shared how she had doubted the whole day before the trip as to whether she had chosen the right church to help. She felt that she had prayed and chosen the right place, but she said, when they arrived at the nice church that was so much larger than our own, that she began to doubt that she had understood God correctly. However, once the true circumstances began to emerge, she knew that they were exactly where they needed to be. The nice building was a relic of the previous (wealthier) members that no longer attended. The now wealthier church across the street used the now empty parking spaces for their own overflow parking. (I couldn’t help but think what a pity it was that the churches couldn’t cross denominational lines to operate a food bank together.) Our little church hadn’t gathered a huge amount of stuff, but it was enough to help expand the food bank for that day. Apparently, the reading glasses were a huge hit because they had never been offered as an item before. I sat there thinking about the prescription glasses I wear every day and how much I pay for them and prescription sunglasses to wear while outdoors. The people entering the food bank were excited about inexpensive reading glasses, and it humbled me in that moment to realize how blessed I was and how a simple pair of reading glasses could be an inexpressible blessing to someone else.

All three of our youth reflected on how the people who entered the food bank were so appreciative to them. They were hugged and thanked as they oversaw the distribution of items. They were humbled themselves by the joy that simple things like shampoo, toilet paper, and canned food items could bring to people in such desperate need. In their own ways, all three of them said that the trip made them realize just how blessed their own lives were.

Our youth leader shared two stories in particular that have stayed with me. First, she told of a woman working the kitchen who had lost part of her leg which meant she used a wheelchair. In our youth leader’s words, this woman worked circles around everyone, and most beautifully, she knew the names of every person who entered the church for a hot meal that day. Second, (and this story squeezed my heart) she told of a tall, slender teenage boy who came in to eat. They were serving hot dogs, chili, chips, shredded cheese and other toppings, dessert, and drinks. This young man came through the line once and got one of everything including an entire bowl of shredded cheese. After a little while, he came back and asked if he could have a second serving, and he proceeded to eat the exact same meal all over again. Then he came back for a third round, but this time he decided to skip the chips. Working on a college campus, I often look out at the students, and I wonder how often some of them go without food just so they can pay for school. Her story about this young man suddenly made me so grateful for the life my parents worked so hard to provide. I never missed a meal as a teenager or college student unless I just forgot to eat. I was humbled again.

My two takeaways from this were the following: 1) None of the things were given to the people with a dose of religion to pound them over the head. There were no tracts or Bibles forced upon anyone. The hot meal and all the items from the food bank were simply delivered with love which, from my own perspective, is the greatest sermon one can give. 2) I know from personal experience how easy it is to become jaded when giving to other people only to find that they squandered what was given – be that money, goods, or even well-meant advice. However, we don’t give our time, money, or goods to see the end result the way we believe it should be. We give because it’s what we are called to do for others. What is done with it on the other end is often out of our control, but the intent is what we can control.

I can control whether I let my light shine brightly or dimly even if I can’t control how others receive or use that light. This day-mission trip for our youth inspired them and our church, and it reminded me one more time that even the smallest things can have the longest lasting influence.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Here are some more of the verses that I used to inspire myself to be a light — especially on those days that I don’t feel like shining at all — and in parentheses are the pre-printed verses from my journal because some of them seemed to go hand-in-hand with the verses that I wrote in the journal. I prefer to use Bible Gateway to look up verses but whatever you prefer to use is awesome.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (Proverbs 4:18)
Matthew 5: 14-16 (Isaiah 60:1)
John 8:12
II Corinthians 4:6
Isaiah 42:6 (Proverbs 18:10)
Philippians 2:14-15
Psalm 27:1
Psalm 43:3
Psalm 97:11 (Matthew 5:8)
Psalm 112:4
Ecclesiastes 11:7 (I Peter 3:12)
Micah 7:8
Luke 8:16
Luke 11:33-36 (Psalm 128:1-2)
Acts 13:47
Romans 13:12
Ephesians 5:8
I Thessalonians 5:5 (Psalm 145:9)
I Peter 2:9 (Philippians 1:6)

My personal favorite is Psalm 119:105 (KJV): “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

 

What I’m reading right now: Winter by Marissa Meyer, The Power of Kindness (10th Anniversary edition) by Piero Ferrucci, Simon Peter by Adam Hamilton, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: Expanded Edition by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

Listening to right now: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer (I love listening to Richard Armitage narrate basically ANYTHING!), Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Books of the Bible I’m currently reading/studying: Isaiah and I Samuel

Back Again…

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” ~ C.S. Lewis

I won’t make any excuses for where I’ve been all this time. I’ll just say that I didn’t follow through on what I started, but now I’m determined to keep up a regular post. The process will be cleansing for my soul, and I hope some of my situations will inspire someone else.

On that note, I thought about going back and re-reading my old posts, but instead I’m going to let my thoughts be what they were. No point in wasting time lamenting what I felt or wrote in the past. It’s probably how I felt, and I feel no need to hide it from anyone or myself.

Anyway, I am currently sitting at the computer doing the exciting job of cleaning out old emails while watching my Nashville Predators play. LET’S GO PREDATORS! (clap clap clap-clap-clap) As I sit here reading and deleting and reading and deleting and reading and deleting and did I mention that I’m reading and deleting? It occurs to me that technology has not eliminated my clutter. No, technology has only changed the form in which I have clutter. Instead of physical clutter, I now have digital clutter, and it’s all over the place.

  1. Email – This really goes without explanation. You give an email address for EVERYTHING, and you get an email from EVERYTHING.
  2. Pinterest – I LOVE Pinterest. I love finding things that make me laugh, recipes to try, crafts I want to do, and so on and so on, but sometimes I find myself drowning in pins and wishing I had time to do it all.
  3. Facebook (and any other form of social media) – Someone’s always posting an update that they want everyone to see, and I’m learning not to feel compelled to ready all of them.
  4. Texting – Most of the time, this is a handy development of technology, but sometimes I have pointless, time-wasting conversations with friends.
  5. Game apps – I am guilty of spending way too much time on my favorite hidden object game (Hidden City Hidden Object Adventure). It is fun, but what else could I be doing instead of playing it?

All I’m saying is that reading and deleting emails is encouraging me to simplify things. I don’t have a fail-proof plan for this. No step-by-step procedures to accomplish my ultimate goal. I just know that I don’t want to keep missing out on what’s happening right in front of me – ya know, this thing called LIFE?! I would rather be living in the now than living in the digital ether. Maybe that’s my goal for this year: more real life and less non-human interaction. Maybe that’s what ‘back again’ means.

What I’m reading right now: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard and Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Listening to right now: Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Books of the Bible I’m currently studying or reading: 2 Timothy, Revelation, Zechariah

I Am Lost. I Have Gone to Find Myself.

“I am lost. I have gone to find myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait.”

~ Author Unknown

I would love to say that life has been too busy, and while it has been busy, it hasn’t been that busy. I would love to say that I’ve had writer’s block and not one word would make it from my brain to my fingertips. That would also be untrue. I would really love to say that I’ve been out of the country on some really mysterious adventure that involved intrigue, romance, amazing food, and exotic locales, but anyone who knows me would find that excuse completely laughable. No, I can use none of those excuses as to why there has been no blog post since the fall of 2016, but I can honestly tell you why.

Two words: Writer’s fear. Yep, that’s right. I’ve not been suffering writer’s block so much as writer’s fear. I’ve been terrified for the last few months to put fingertips to keyboard to write another blog post out of sheer terror. Instead I used the holidays, cooking, family visits, and the like as an excuse NOT to write. The volume of my writing cowardice concerns me. I’ve been more worried about judgment than I have with my original goal.

My original goal was to write something that helped, entertained, or informed someone else in a positive way. I try to stay away from bashing anyone because I feel that only creates a pattern that someone else will reciprocate. I believe in holding on to my beliefs while letting other people hold on to their beliefs. I cannot change what someone else thinks, and I would never attempt to force someone to see things my way. However, I have a very strong opinion that no one has the right to change my beliefs either.

On that note, the current political and social climate in our country frightens me, and I’ve had great trouble putting a positive spin on things in my own mind. I’m not taking up for one side or the other as my beliefs tend to be somewhere down the middle of both main parties, but I do believe in freedom for anyone to think or say what they believe whether I agree with them or not. Nonetheless, I find myself living in fear from the repercussions of BOTH sides of the spectrum. Will I be too liberal for some and too conservative for others?

Probably.

The last several months I have attempted to hear people out on both sides of the political spectrum, and while I cannot agree with everyone, I have slowly come to understand why some people pull one way and some people pull the other way. The one thing that concerns me is that I no longer feel that I live in a country where I can say what I believe. I feel like I can only think what I believe, or someone will be rushing to court to sue me over the fact that I don’t see things his/her way. When did it become okay to sue someone because they don’t believe what you believe? Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am approving prejudice. Never!

All I know is this. There are a lot of people who feel that they are right about what they believe, and they will be damned before they let anyone disagree with them. The problem with this attitude is that you can’t force people to believe what you want them to believe. Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”? This is a completely valid point in a lot of situations. Now I’m not saying to stop protesting or expressing your First Amendment rights because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing out of fear for the last few months. What I’m saying is that you must let others do the same. The moment we encroach upon the rights of someone else we open the door to the same treatment for ourselves. What I have witnessed in our country lately is a lot of angry individuals (on both sides) set on making other people see things their way. Intolerance is not what I’ve always felt our country represented, and it’s a dangerous path for us to find ourselves on now.

The reason that I write this now is because that fear has kept me from writing over the last few months. I know that the online world makes it easy to anonymously (and cowardly) attack another person. I could be fearful or apathetic and choose not to write, but I don’t want to cower down anymore and give in to the fear of hate and its evil. We’ve seen that happen too many times in history when good people didn’t speak up for the rights of the weak, the abused, the abandoned, and the defenseless. I have often avoided serious and heavy topics in the past because I wanted to bring something lighter to the table, but we can’t avoid the serious and the heavy in our daily lives if we’re living at all. Therefore, I won’t avoid the topics which I feel like I need to write about, and I’ll let the chips fall where they may while hoping the good people respond in kind and knowing the cowards will probably rise to the anonymous occasion to attack. At least I have warned myself.

No longer feeling lost…and ready to WRITE ON!