Juxtaposition is not just a position. In fact, it’s like having multiple positions all at one time but in their polarity, everything fits together.
Merriam-Webster defines juxtaposition as: the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect[i]
During my Jesus time one morning, I read Acts 9:31 where two opposite emotions of comfort and fear were held together – creating the effect of growth in the church. “And walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit, it (the church) multiplied.” (Acts 9:31b, ESV, emphasis mine)
Fear of the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit, two emotions held together, allowed the church to grow and multiply. The contrast between the two is quite possibly where stretching and growth occur, and probably not without a bit of discomfort. I’m certain the early churches’ fear of the Lord was a healthy fear, established from experiencing God’s overwhelming authority in love.
Just like that early church, we can hold a healthy fear in the Lord and comfort from the Holy Spirit in the same open hand. In that juxtaposed and safe space, our faith can experience a healthy growth in the Lord. Our Creator is about growth and expansion; we are a reflection of Him, thus meant for growth and expansion. Based on Matthew 17:14-21 with Jesus’ words of “faith like a grain of mustard seed” – I’m convinced that faith is meant to grow!
I’ve often found my faith grows most when I’m stretched between the comfort of standing on the promises and steadfast character of God, and stepping out into the unknown. How about you?
Mint. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Spearmint – I love the smell, taste, texture, and hardiness; and, I hate its aggressive hardiness. Thus, my conundrum.
I enjoy doing some personal gardening as a part-time job. Arriving on the job one morning, I began in the front yard. After pulling weeds, digging up unwanted iris, pruning and fertilizing, I moved around to the shaded cutting garden around back. My friend had added some new plants to the area, so I walked about checking things out before getting started. Roudning the last corner of the raised bed, my eyes bugged out. Mint. Without thinking, and without regard for the planter, I reacted and yanked the entire thing out. “Nooooooooo!”
A split second of regret popped into my heart; I had clearly undone what someone else had planted with care. My regret didn’t last long. You see, mint has a way of completely taking over a garden space. We had diligently been working to create a space for a cutting and vegetable garden. Mint would have taken over and undone all of our hard work over the past couple of years. Had the mint stayed and taken root, the only thing stopping it would be concrete or multiple applications of herbicide.
As my mind had the opportunity to process my feelings about this plant, yes I have feelings about plants, I began to equate mint to strongholds. One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of stronghold describes a stronghold as a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.[i] I tend to think of strongholds with a negative connotation, like an addiction or challenge in one’s life. A stronghold may be something I struggle with in life and find it hard to experience freedom from, such as unforgiveness, anger, insecurities, food, believing lies you tell yourself, a physical activity, etc.
Strongholds can be hard to root out. (Thus, our mint analogy.) Why don’t I react to personal strongholds the way I treated that mint, ripping it out without thought or question? Because it’s hard. It requires a deep, honest heart and mind work. It requires me to be really uncomfortable and intentionally practice self-control. Often, it’s hard to just acknowledge the stronghold, let alone root it out. Like the mint, we may have a love-hate relationship with it.
Personally, I feel that God has been revealing strongholds in my heart. They aren’t huge, obvious ones. But they are strongholds none-the-less. While taking complete responsibility, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians are a good reminder in the process of doing some hard work.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)
Can I encourage you to join me in asking the Lord to reveal the strongholds in our hearts? Our strongholds may not be “big,” but they can make deep roots – they are still strongholds. To me, this can be a scary prayer. But with a willing heart, we can do all things through Christ because He strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13) Let’s suite up with the armor of God – we’ve got this.
My daughter, Alex, received a bundle of flower and vegetable seeds for her birthday this past January. As spring arrived, we couldn’t seem to get ourselves together enough to start them early in the season, so Grandma (the gift-giver of said seeds) came over a few weeks ago to help out. Together, Alex and Grandma sowed hundreds of tiny seeds into pots. A few short days later, the fruit of their labor was evident as her birthday gift sprouted.
Watching these little seedlings has been fun. Growing plants is nothing new to me, but growing them with my daughter has brought a new element of joy. It’s caused me to step back, slow down, and really think about the what and why of growing plants – especially from seed. Answering questions and being patient when her interest wavers has offered ample opportunities to practice grace and enjoy a laugh or two.
As some of Alex’s seeds have grown, it came time to transplant a few into larger containers. We quickly figured out that she enjoyed filling the container with soil as I gingerly teased the seedlings apart. We quickly had nearly one hundred little pots filled with tiny new plants.
Sitting on the deck and untangling tiny roots, I found it fitting that the word ‘roots’ had been prevalent in recent weeks. Looking at those tiny, life-giving roots, it was amazing to me that these delicate things were so vital to their survival. In appearance, these roots weren’t pretty, they didn’t seem to have order, and it was hard to believe the significant role they held in each plant’s growth. Yet holding them in my hand, I was keenly aware that this was just the beginning. Treating these tiny treasures with care, we firmly pressed the soil of their new home around young and tender roots.
As our plants grow, the health of the roots, now hidden, will be evident through the foliage and fruit shown above. The hidden always manifests itself, somehow. Alex’s newly transplanted seedlings will bear purple flowers, given time. Roots anchoring them to the earth, they will take up water and nutrients, bearing new seeds for the next generation.
What roots are you sending down? Where are you sending them down? I believe it’s important to be mindful of this. Sometimes we’re so focused on the outward, visible portion of our life that we forget to tend and care for that which keeps us anchored and fed. For me, it’s making time for prayer and God’s Word. I desire to bear fruit for the Lord, it will require deep roots that are planted firmly in Him.
We frequently want the fruit but are unwilling to take the time and energy towards developing a root system that provides what it takes. Growing deep roots takes time, and it’s dirty work. Its doesn’t look pretty and often the work goes unseen. Roots are delicate, but their quiet power has the ability to get through the toughest of soil and draw nutrients from places unseen.
One of the most infamous stories of the New Testament is represented in all four of the gospels – when Jesus feeds five thousand. And that number, five thousand, was just accounting for the men. Think of all the women and children who would have joined in as well. Jesus knew how many were there that day. He knew the story within each heart sitting on the green grass with hungry bellies and parched souls.
I love how each gospel provides slightly different details of this story, but they have a common thread of Jesus feeding the people who are present. Recently, what stuck out to me is how Jesus fed the people. I love feeding my family, but sometimes it’s just a chore that needs to be done. It’s tempting to throw something together so they stop hounding me, so we can move on to the next thing, or so we can call it a day and all go to bed. Guilty. Based on Jesus’ response, I don’t believe this meal was a ‘chore’ for him.
Jesus wasn’t about shutting them up so he could move on to the next town. He didn’t miraculously make food appear on their laps so he could quickly withdraw to a peaceful place. Jesus saw the great crowd of people coming and knew the hunger in their souls and bellies. (Luke 6:1-5) When he saw them coming, He had compassion on them. (Matthew 14:14) Jesus saw they were like sheep without a shepherd, He knew they needed to be fed (Mark 6:34), and He welcomed them. (Luke 9:11)
The people were seen. And not only were they seen, but Jesus welcomed them with compassion. He welcomed those seeking Him with curiosity, faith and illness. Those who sought after Jesus were not turned away as he met both their physical and emotional needs. He healed the sick, and I’m sure He probably mended some broken hearts.
All of the people were accepted and brought into the fold, fed and cared for. And not just enough to get by, but abundantly. After each belly had been filled, there were enough fragments gathered to fill twelve baskets! Nothing went to waste, not the food or the journey of the five thousand. I imagine each person on the hill that day felt a personal connection to Jesus as they reached into the basket, and received provision.
When you seek Jesus, you will be compassionately welcomed. He knows the journey you’ve been on. He sees you, and knows you need a shepherd. He knows you need to be fed and rest on a soft patch of green for a while. Jesus knows, because he took on the form of man so that He could compassionately welcome you into His heavenly arms.
Can I encourage you to seek Jesus? And not just today, but each day. Jesus fed those who were present with Him. Seek Him honestly, and with faith. Can you trust Him to provide a soft place to fall, to rest and be fed?
Scripture for feeding the five thousand :: Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15
The theme of ‘small’ has been surrounding me for the past several months. This week I simply cannot escape it, so now you get to join in the contemplation. I was talking with a sister-in-Christ a few months back, how it’s often the small things that make big impact. It’s the tiny pieces of gravel that make up our driveway and the road home taking us to and fro. One piece of gravel doesn’t seem to make a big difference, but together they become a force to be reckoned with.
In 1888, a surveyor marked the headwaters for the fourth longest river in the world, the Missouri River. It began at a spring in Montana. A spring. One small spring kept flowing, converging with small rivers along the way to create something that would have huge impact within the United States and our world. This river would become a boundary for states, a source for great discovery, and an avenue for commerce. That one small spring would ultimately lead to being a part of a much bigger picture, an ocean.
So often, the culture of today focuses on the big. It’s the latest trend going viral, big houses, big churches, big followings. And I’m not saying all of that is bad. However, we often lose sight and forget that so much of the big and amazing things are first made up, with the small. Some of the moments carrying the most impact, when dissected, began small.
Small can be little bits of love we show and share with others, through a smile or holding a door. The ten or fifteen minutes in the morning which partner us with Jesus, and a much bigger story. These are moments which join Him and pave the way for the love of Christ to flow through us throughout the day.
Small acts of love and mercy, for myself and others, over time make an impactful difference. Those small moments also help me to practice for the larger, more demanding opportunities for practicing grace. Each moment doesn’t feel as if it will ever make a difference, but after a while – you have a gravel driveway, and then a road connecting your house to mine. Then, we can actually get somewhere.
I’m all in for dreaming big, but God is moving my heart to focus on what is right in front of me in the present. Small pieces together, consistently practiced, create the dream, impact, and relationship. For me, living focused on the Big dream usually means living in the future, or the past. (As in it’s already happened, too late.) I’d rather live in the present, choosing to show-up and be connected. Being faithful with the small things, what I have in front of me, seems to be those pieces of gravel. The small bits often seem mundane, but they provide opportunity to practice being grateful in the present. And that is powerful.
I had a moment in church this past Sunday when my Pastor played Josh Wilson’s song, Dream Small, at the close of service. With all these frequently surfacing thoughts over the past few months, I became overwhelmed with all that the Holy Spirit has been whispering to my heart.
Along with myself, can I challenge you? Take a listen to Josh’s song, be encouraged, read Matthew 25:14-30, and really focus on some small things over the coming days? When you read that piece of scripture, it’s not about how much they start and end with, it’s being faithful with what is right in front of them. Small things, with a heart of gratitude.
Growing up is hard. Heck, being an adult is hard! My daughter has wrestled her way from Kindergarten to third grade, navigating the social bits of being a young lady. Girls can be so mean. As a mom, it’s hard to coach from the sidelines – especially when it’s similar to what you experienced. My heart breaks, knowing it’s likely she may wrestle with these same struggles for years to come, if not a lifetime. Recently we’ve talked about how God makes us all unique, and it’s hard to fit in when we’re all meant to stand out, being uniquely accepted in love together.
We want so desperately to fit in, to belong. Yet with the ‘fitting in’ to one group, we’re excluded from another. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was old enough to have an awareness about it. I’m guessing you have too. It’s not been until my mid-thirties that things started to fit within me. Oh, there have been inklings all along, but it felt a bit fuzzy and incomplete. Some days, it still does.
This week I began reading Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness. I love the work she’s doing. I’m not deep into the pages yet, but have already had so many ‘YES!’ moments. And one really big Ah-ha. One of those moments came when Brené brought attention to a quote from an interview with Maya Angelou done on public television with Bill Moyers, 1973.
“You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya Angelou
Yes. That quote may be hard to wrap your head around, but for me it spoke truth. Our daughter had been struggling with her enjoyment of space, friends thought she was weird for it and excluded her. But should she abandon that desire, based on reasons and opinions other than her own? That’s a high price. We are meant to hold tight to those dreams and desires placed within us upon our creation.
God has created each of us with a necessary and innate sense to belong to something more than ourselves, while being who He created us to be. It’s part of what causes us to seek Him. Yet, we sell out to the world around us in order to fit in and belong. We are each unique; therefore, we will never fit perfectly into anything other than the creation we are meant to be. We are meant to be unique and authentic, placed on the Creator’s timeline and fulfilling a unique purpose, designed specifically for each creation (you and me) – thus fitting perfectly. Denying who I am – who I BE – is denying the Creator of His creation. It’s living a life that’s not congruent or authentic to that which is within.
Being that which we are created for is imperative to ourselves, those around us, and to the Lord. He leads by example with His first direct revelation of himself in Exodus 3:14 as he appears to Moses in the burning bush, calling Moses forth to be his purpose. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.” That ‘I AM’ can be translated from the Hebrew, I BE who I BE.
I believe striving ceases when we rest in our real and authentic self, a true reflection of the Creator’s Creation. I’m not sure about you, but I want to be that – a true reflection. Striving tends to wear me out, gets me turned around, and unhappy. I’d rather be happy, and rest in my Creator. Exploring who I am as a reflection of the Creator will take a lifetime, and I’m okay with that process.
I am a complete and powerful woman, made of God’s love. How about you?
I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog lately, but I’ve missed you! Any time for writing is being focused toward the study on Joshua. I’m so ready for it to be completed and be able to share it with you – it’s getting closer. Re-writing and edits!
For now, I’ll try and keep it short rather than quiet. That seems doable.
The verse God has me focused on and challenged with right now is Psalm 5:3, here are three different translations.
“Oh LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (ESV)
“In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch expectantly.” (CSB)
“In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will prepare [a prayer and a sacrifice] for you and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. (AMP)
In the morning. As in first thing – the Firstfruit of my day. In the morning, before I give my attention to anything else, flooding my mind with the waiting demands and welcomed distractions. And why wouldn’t I want to give my heart and thoughts over to the One who hears my voice? The One who is expectantly waiting for me, in relationship.
What can I possibly offer as a sacrifice? Prayer? Worship? My thoughts? Glorifying Him, rather than myself or others? My heart? Gratitude?
I want to challenge you with this verse. What does it mean to you? What can you prepare as a sacrifice to the Lord? And then watch! Watch expectantly.
What do you think about when you hear the word ‘glory’? What about ‘God’s glory’?
Really. Take a minute – What do you think of?
Glory can carry a sense of renown or fame, praise and worship, brightness and splendor. That’s a broad range. Glory can be used to describe God, but also to worship Him in the sense of giving Him glory.
In the Old Testament, God’s glory appeared to the Israelites on their journey in the wilderness (Exodus 16:10) and in a devouring fire upon Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24:16). In the New Testament, God’s glory shone as the shepherds received word of the King’s birth (Luke 2:9). Jesus was also described as being God’s glory in the flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
Just as God’s glory appeared to the Israelites, I believe it can be seen today – every day. When the sun rises and sets, painting the sky with irreplaceable beauty. I believe it’s an expression of God’s glory. “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8.
There’s something about God’s glory that intrigues me. Perhaps it’s because, for me, glory seems to be something that’s impossible to grasp and fully understand. It’s something that can be seen, but challenging to embody with just words. It can’t be contained, except by one – The Lord. He is glory.
But not only are we able to witness God’s glory, we are also meant give God Glory. “Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory! Rise and shine and, give God the glory, glory, children of the Lord!” I’m guessing by the second exclamation mark, you were singing. Do you remember this song from your childhood? (If not it’s okay, a quick google search will get you there.) More than just a children’s song, it’s what we are created to do.
“I will say to the north, give up, and to the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:6-7
Even the heavenly hosts give glory to God. In Luke 2:13-14 the heavenly hosts shout and reveal God’s glory, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
Glory is something to behold and witness; and glory is something to give away, to God.
Praise is powerful, and just like the heavenly host it’s one way we can give God glory. How might you behold and give glory to God this day? It doesn’t have to sound like a chorus of angels, what matters is where that glory is directed. Rise and shine!