sanctification

All posts in the sanctification category

Sacred Service

Published August 29, 2013 by joypatton

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I stood at the back of the room dressed in a tuxedo shirt and bow tie with black pants. The emotions caught me by surprise. As I looked around the room, I saw familiar faces. I looked at the person on stage. I used to be that person, the one standing on the stage in the front of the room giving the keynote address. I wanted to be that person again. But today I was standing in the back of the room wearing an apron and cleaning up dirty dishes. It was a painful reminder that I was not where I used to be.

To me, it felt like a giant demotion. Being there as part of the catering staff felt like a declaration of my failure. I guess the book thing didn’t work for her, so now the poor thing has to wait tables. The voice of the accuser haunted my ears. “See, you tried too hard, you went too fast, you pushed too hard and you ruined it. Now you will never have it because you messed it up. Everyone else knew you weren’t ready, that you were too young, but you didn’t listen. You kept pushing anyway.” All of his words confirmed to me that I was an Orphan, unworthy and abandoned…unloved.

But I kept serving and smiling. I texted my husband to ask him to pray. He knew what it felt like. He had friends show up at concerts where he was working security and not the green room. He reminded me that we were doing what we had to so that we could provide for our family. I hated that. I hated doing this to provide and not the things I loved doing, that I was gifted to do, that I was called to do. And then I became the Accuser. If God wanted to, he could have made it so. He could have made our efforts successful. But he didn’t. The proof was as plain as day… he must not love us after all.

And in my desperate prayer for help, I heard his voice. “Well done, my good and faithful servant. It makes no difference to me whether you are standing on a platform in the front of the room or standing with the catering staff in the back of the room. It’s all service. All of it is serving me and my purposes for my glory. I don’t care where you are standing; I care about your heart.”  I asked him to forgive me for putting him in the wrong.

He is lovingly teaching me what it means to serve. I’m learning to be content serving in the back. I’m finding joy in serving others and helping others’ dreams come true. God, in his amazing grace, has even given me friends to serve alongside. Last weekend some friends who were in Bible studies with me years ago came and worked at my catering job too. What fun it was to serve together again! So we weren’t planning a women’s retreat or doing a weekly women’s Bible study. But it was still sacred because we were doing what Jesus did when he took up the basin and the towel.

Recently I was filling out another job application, and it asked where I saw myself in five years. I used to be able to answer this question easily because I was very goal-oriented. However now I’m in a place I never planned to be, and my goals are completely worthless when matched against God’s sovereign plan.  I’ve learned that I am and will always be a follower of Jesus. And Jesus had no career goals or plans. He simply did whatever the Father asked him to do; he went wherever the Father asked him to go; he said whatever the Father asked him to say. And everything was overshadowed by two words: loving and serving.  By his example, Jesus made all service sacred.

I don’t know where my “career” is going, but I do know that wherever the Father asks me to go, I will be loving and serving others, hopefully just like Jesus did.   I serve at the pleasure of the King, and I will go wherever he asks me to go…to a tiny back room to make jewelry, to a marketing firm as a PR assistant, to my family at home or standing in the back of the room in a tuxedo shirt and apron.  Some day I may even stand on a platform again delivering a keynote address, but it will still be about loving and serving people, and it will be no greater or more significant or more important than where I am serving and loving today.  It’s all loving and serving people. It’s all pleasing to the Lord when my heart is the heart of a Princess.  Just like Jesus, I serve at the pleasure of the King.

 

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Good vs. Bad

Published July 16, 2013 by joypatton

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I’ve been realizing lately that I have two columns running through my head all day long. One column keeps all the good things I’ve done and one keeps all the bad. Mostly it’s good mom vs. bad mom. I have been realizing how often I tell myself I’m a bad mom in one form or another. (See last week’s post.)

For example, this morning started off with the good mom column. I spent time checking my kids “work boxes,” giving points for yesterday’s chores and loading them up with chores for the day. I even included “fun chores” like playing UNO Attack together. But this could turn out to be an item in the bad mom column if they actually attack each other during the game. You see, I’m a bad mom because I haven’t taught my children how to play together without fighting. Then at work I realized I didn’t have my phone within ear shot. Bad mom. Fortunately when I checked it, there were no urgent messages, so the work boxes must be working. Good mom.

This afternoon I came home and the girls wanted to go to the pool. But I couldn’t take them because I had to take Connor to the doctor. This is bad mom because I let him play in the woods, and he got poison ivy because I didn’t make him shower when he came in. Every time he gets poison ivy it takes over, and we can’t get rid of it until he gets a steroid prescription.  Bad mom.

While at the doctor’s, my dear husband texted to say he was taking the girls to the pool. Bad mom because he had to stop working to take care of the kids. When I got home, I made a good mom choice…I think. Andrew stayed at the pool with the kids and I mopped the floor. It could be bad mom for not choosing to spend time with the girls or it could be bad wife for not spending time with the husband.  But it could also be good wife because he came home to a clean house.

Tonight the boys went to a baseball game, so I was trying to find something fun to do with the girls. We decided to go to the mall and ride the little train. Bad mom for teaching my girls that shopping is what girls do for fun. Bad mom for not being content to spend the evening at home. Good mom for spending time with the girls.

When we got there, I had no cash. Bad mom. After the train ride, I let them pick the restaurant in the food court. Of course, it was pizza again. Bad mom. I picked the salad. Good choice. But also ate a big helping of pasta. Bad choice. I did have a diet Pepsi that I split with my daughter. Now this one could go in either column depending who you talk to. Bad for the caffeine and letting my daughter have it and that all diet drinks are just bad for you and you should just have water. Good because it was diet and had very few calories?? So confusing. I realized that pasta was a really bad choice when I went to try on clothes and everything made me look fat. Very bad choice.

Then we went to the playground at the mall. Good mom. And I just removed the sucker from my daughter’s mouth so as not to worry other moms that she would get a sucker stick through her brain. Good mom. But then again, I’m sitting here typing a blog instead of engaging with them. Bad mom.

Maybe your columns are different. maybe your day is measured by smart vs. dumb or cool vs. lame. Do you think that God keeps this kind of record of your day? If he did, would his record match yours?

As I have considered it, I think the answer to both of those questions is no. When God looks at me he doesn’t see two columns. He has no cosmic scale. When he looks at the chart of my day, the current of his thought is love. His abundant, free-flowing grace covers my day. His mercy is new every morning. He keeps no record of wrongs. It has all been forgiven. He is far more concerned with my heart because when my heart is turned toward him, the choices that matter fall into place. My heart turns toward him because of his great love for me, not because I’m trying to keep points in the good column. I also don’t avoid him because I’m afraid the bad column will bring his wrath, which is completely deserved. Instead I turn toward him because of his steadfast, everlasting love.

When I judge my day according to columns, it also affects those closest to me. They get columns too: good kid vs. bad kid, good husband vs. bad husband, good friend vs. bad friend. But when I learn to accept the grace and mercy God pours on my day, I am free to pour out grace and mercy on those around me. And they feel loved.

Consider this question: how many checks in the bad column could your child have before you stopped loving him or her? This is a ridiculous question because I simply can’t come up with a number. No matter how full the bad column was this good mom would always love her kid. So then if we know how to love our children in spite of poor choices, how much more does our Father in heaven?

I’m learning to replace two words, good and bad, with one word… LOVE. To receive it from the Father and to give it to others.

What are your columns today? Will you believe in and accept the Father’s love?

 

Free Advice Friday: I need more patience.

Published March 22, 2013 by joypatton

I’ve heard a lot of people say this.  I recently even heard Jeff Probst admit that he wasn’t a very patient person on his show.  (This, by the way, is what I love about the show.)  Inevitably when someone realizes they lack patience, they next phrase is “I need to be more patient.”

However I would argue that this isn’t really what you need.  More patience isn’t something you can order off the cosmic menu and have show up at your door.  Neither is being more gentle or being more joyful.  I’ve found from personal experience you can’t will yourself out of  depression, nor can you will yourself to be more patient.

One thing that is helpful is getting to the root of the issue.  I bet that if you dig deep enough you will find that the behavior you are trying to prevent begins with not acknowledging your heart.  Your impatience with your husband comes out because you lack compassion for whatever he is dealing with.  Your impatience with coworkers who have bad ideas comes from the pride in your heart that your ideas are the best or your unwillingness to be honest with them about how you feel about their ideas.  My impatience with my kids comes because I think that guarding my reputation and being on time is more important than their hearts.  Often I find an idol or an even uglier sin that needs to be confessed and brought into light.  And when you do, confess it.  It’s just that simple.  Confess it to God and then if needed, confess to the people affected by your actions.  Yes, true repentance is painful, but it’s that pain that ultimately helps change my behavior.

The second thing is to realize that you can’t be more patient.  Do you know where patience comes from?  In Galatians 5:22, patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  Fruits grow because they are attached to a tree that gives them what they need to grow.  God grants sun and rain to grow the fruit.  The fruit doesn’t decide in which season it will grow or how big it will get or how sweet it will be.  The best thing the fruit can do to promote its growth is to remain attached to the tree.

How do you stay attached to the tree that produces the fruits of the Spirit?  By believing that Jesus died on the cross to cover all your sin, including my impatience and whatever ugly thing is driving it.  Paul also encourages us to “keep in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  To me this also sounds a lot like the “abiding” Jesus encourages us to do in John 15.  It sounds a lot like how a fruit grows in a tree.

So instead of needing more patience, we really need more Jesus.  He is the source of all of those things.  Truthfully I have no ability to be more patient on my own apart from him.  If you see me being patience with my kids, giving my husband grace or being joyful on a bad day, it’s because of the Spirit at work in my life.  And on the days my abiding is less than stellar, you know what I need to do more?  Confess it.  And it all leads to more humility, more grace,, more patience because I realized that Jesus was humiliated on my behalf and has given infinite grace and patience to me on my worst days.  How could I withhold that from anyone else?

What would it look like to “abide more” today?

Lessons from the Wasteland: The Ache

Published February 26, 2013 by joypatton

The Ache is the gap between how life is and how I think it ought to be.  The gap between Eden and reality.  The longing for perfection and justice that is never fully satisfied this side of heaven.  No matter how much I hate it and want it to disappear, the ache never goes away.  I tell myself if this happens, then life will be good.  If my life were better, then it wouldn’t hurt so much.  But the Ache never goes away.  In so many moments and situations, the Ache remains.  Will ever stop?  Is its defeat even a legitimate goal?

In the life of Jesus it seems that the Ache was constantly with him from the very beginning to the very end.  He was born in a stable and his mother felt the ache of wanting a warm, safe, clean place to bring him into the world.  And yet God’s provision was a stable.  The Ache of wanting the whole world to know, but his arrival only known by a faithful few.  Everyone in the story instinctively knew that this was no way for a King to be born, and yet it was exactly how the King was supposed to come.  The Ache is the gap between how we think it should be and how God made it to be.

As he chose his disciples, the Ache of knowing that Judas would be the one to betray him.  And yet, he chose Judas.  He walked with him.  He ate the Last Supper with him.  We see this gap in John 6.  He asks his disciples if they too would turn away.  Peter makes a beautiful declaration of belief, and yet Jesus feels the ache of knowing that one of them is a devil.  The gap between good and evil.

And how does Jesus deal with the ache?  Does he run away from it?  Does he pursue happiness hoping to remedy the ache?  Does he exert his power to force people to change, to make them right?  Does he cut off and cast out those who add to the ache?  No.  Instead he pushes in.  He stays consistently true to who he is and what he is called to do.

This is so contrary to everything inside of me.  I chase happiness and peace and perfection.  I cut off anyone who threatens that.  I run away from hard relationships and hard conversations because it’s just easier to ignore the ache.  I am satisfied with moments of happiness from my favorite escapes that take me out of the present: shopping, television, movies, and fancy parties that make me feel important.

And yet Jesus seemed content in sadness, chaos and imperfection.  He is at peace because he has submitted all things, including himself, to His Father.  He asked Judas to be one of the Twelve because that’s what the Father asked him to do.  He knew the Father had a purpose for the ache: His glory.  The Ache is what makes Jesus beautiful, unfathomable, supreme over all.

Jesus shows us that we don’t have to be afraid of the ache.  We don’t have to run away from it or try to fix it.  That the pain of life is mixed in with the joy.  Like the joy of sharing a good meal with good friends and the pain of knowing that it will be the last time.   The joy of feeling life in your womb and the pain of knowing it will be short lived.  The joy of being who you were made to be and the pain of being rejected and misunderstood.  Both exist in life simultaneously.

It is because of Jesus that the biggest ache, the biggest gap between God’s righteous perfection and my unrighteous imperfection, has been bridged by the blood of Christ.  Every other ache is temporary.  Every other ache will be remedied in His eternal Presence.  This is the hope we have: that because of Jesus, it won’t always be like this.

But for now…it is.  Like Jesus, I must trust the good hand of the sovereign God who is working all things for good.  In the ache, I remain true.  I pay attention to my heart.  I push in to hard relationships and hard conversations to know Him more, to follow in his steps more closely.  So rather than run from the ache, try to fix it or change it, because of His example, I embrace it.

Lessons from the Wasteland: Sell everything

Published October 15, 2012 by joypatton

“You have found a treasure: the treasure of God’s love.  You know now where it is, but you are not yet ready to own it fully.  So many attachments keep pulling you away.  If you would fully own your treasure, you must hide it in the field where you found it, go off happily to sell everything you own, and then come back and buy the field.” – Henri J.M. Nouwen – The Inner Voice of Love

When I read this, I realized that in the wasteland God was asking me to sell everything.  This feels so counter-intuitive to me.  When you find a treasure, you don’t hide it and then come back.  Don’t you want to show everyone?  But the truth is that this treasure is so precious, so personal, so profound, that when you find it, you hide it.  Not because you are ashamed, not because you are afraid, but because you are not yet ready to fully own it.

I don’t like not being ready.  I don’t like it when someone tells me I can’t have something.  It often spurs on my Ice Queen to take it by force.  I have talked to women who have what I’m chasing after.  It’s so maddening to me when they tell me that they don’t know how it happened.  That the opportunities just fell out of the sky and the doors magically opened.  This is not the answer I want to hear.  I want to hear how God called them to it and through diligence, hard work and perseverance, they obtained the prize.  This is how my flesh wants the story to go.

But that is my story, not God’s story.  God’s story takes me through the wasteland.  The land of nothing and no opportunities.  The dry and weary land of knowing the treasure is there, but not being ready to fully own it.  The pain of now and not yet.  In the wasteland, I’m tempted to believe that God has taken these things from me by force.  In a jealous rage, he has ripped away everything I have.  But this is not truth.

Rather he has invited me to sell everything.  This past year I thought I owned a position.  It was a position I thought I deserved, that I earned, that was rightfully mine.  In my wisdom, it was a logical next step for where God was taking me.  After all, it all made sense on paper.  To me, this position was exactly what I needed.  And yet, it was taken away.

I believed that God took it, that he forced me out.  But honestly, he gave me the perfect opportunity to sell it.  To let go of the attachments that have kept me from knowing Him.  I could have gone and asserted myself and demanded my proper position.  I could have gossiped and taken my complaint and my hurt other places.  I could have fought to hold on to my precious position.  And yet, God was asking me to sell it, to let it go.

There are other things I’ve had to let go of this year.  I had to let go of some friendships and my desire to be justified, right and loved by all.  I’ve had to let go of micromanaging my teenage son and learn to let him rise and fall on his own as a man.  All the publishing and speaking doors I knocked on were closed.  I had to let go of my self-effort to get to where I thought I was going.  I have “sold” these things so that I could have one thing, the pearl of great price.  The treasure more valuable than all other treasures: Jesus.

Henri Nouwen goes on to explain, “This is often a painful enterprise, because your sense of who you are is so intimately connected to all the things you own: success, friends, prestige, money, degrees, and so on.”  The wasteland is painful.  It looks and feels like everything is being taken away.  But the truth is that he is asking me to let go.  He is also giving me clear direction about what needs to be sold.  It is the painful process of dying to self.  This is not something we do once, but something we must do daily.  Jesus himself said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  Deny self and follow.  That’s what it means to sell everything.

But as it has been said before, living sacrifices tend to wiggle off the altar. I want to wiggle out of the pain.  I want to get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness.  But that is my story for my glory.  I want His story to reveal His glory.  This is why we need the Holy Spirit.  In his mercy and perfect timing, he shows us what we must sell.  Invite him into the wasteland to show you what possessions are keeping you from knowing and trusting Him more.  In His perfect love and full of grace, he will show you.  “Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44)

What is God asking you to sell?  Will you do it joyfully?

Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

Published September 21, 2012 by joypatton

It’s the first ever Free Advice Friday on my blog!  Every Friday I’m turning this blog into an advice column.  Ask me anything from dating (didn’t date much, but have lots of interesting opinions), marriage (been married 15 years), parenting (have 4 kids), friendships (have had some good and some bad) or spiritual life (I have one).  I’m not sure that I will have great answers, but I know Someone who does.  My hope is that together we can carry our burdens into His presence and lay them at his feet.

Last week a friend texted me this question and I thought it was a good start for Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

My favorite worship album right now is Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark.”  I bought it because I heard the first song “Remind Me Who I Am” on KLove Radio in Nashville.  “In the lonely places when I can’t remember what grace is, remind me who I am to you.”  This is my new theme song.  When I get stuck in my Ice Queen and Orphan thinking, I need him to remind me that I am His Princess, his beloved.  “I’m the one You love.”

Another one of my favorites is “I Will Find a Way.”  In the beginning it talks about a woman is who so broken and afraid that she has shut the door of her heart.  “How should I come to the one that I love?  I will find a way.”  He loved her so much that he found a way to reach her and come into her heart.  I’m reminded how much the Father has loved us to send His only Son.  My other favorites on the album are “No Thief Like Fear,” “Nothing is Wasted,” and “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard.”  You can see why this is a great album for all my Orphan girls out there.

Another song that must be on this list is “One Thing” by Kristian Stanfill. “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  When we sing it in church, it sounds almost like a chant.  When I’ve messed up, I need to believe that his love is there, no matter what.

The problem is that when I mess up, it’s really hard to believe that God still loves me.  This exposes the lie that I believe that God loves me because of what I do.  Because I obey him or because I serve him or because I read my Bible and go to church.  None of those are the reasons that he loves me.  He loved me before I knew how to do any of those things.  He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  So now that I’m “righteous,” has his love grown or changed?  By no means!  God’s love has no levels, no more and no less.  It has always been and will always be 100% plus infinity.

If Satan can get me to believe that God doesn’t love me, he can keep me from the cross, the ultimate sign of love.  When I doubt God’s unconditional love for me, then I am slow to repent because I don’t believe he even wants me back.  Eventually I stop repenting all together.  I stop going back to ask forgiveness again.  I stop bringing the things I did in the dark into the light.  And then I’m right where the enemy wants me, isolated, alone, in despair because I have no remedy for my sin.  This is the place where he is able to steal, kill and destroy this little lamb of God (John 10:10).

But when I am reminded of his great love, that his love for me remains, then I am free to run back to the cross and repent.  When I confess and agree with God that I messed it up again, he is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  I can agree with Satan that I am all those horrible things he has called me, “weak, pathetic, unworthy of love and disgusting.”  BUT GOD loves me!  I don’t know why, and I know I don’t deserve it.  This is the great mystery. But I do know that he loves me.  Because I know his love, I can trust that my sin is forgiven.

When I mess up and repent, I invite God in to be the solution.  I can ask him to show me the patterns that keep putting me in tempting situations.  I can ask him to show me the root beliefs that drive my sinful behaviors.  I can invite him in and ask him to heal those wounded places that I keep trying to heal myself.  I can live in the light and be in relationship with others because I know that I am deeply loved.  There is power in repentance because I admit that I am powerless over my own sin, that I cannot save myself, that I need Someone bigger than myself outside of myself to rescue me.

So my beloved, dear Princess, beautiful child of God…know that you are deeply loved today.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

What songs have helped you when you have messed up?

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, email me at joy@joypatton.com.  If I answer your question in my blog next week, I will send you a copy of my book The Myth of Enuff.

Why I won’t be going to see Batman

Published July 24, 2012 by joypatton

The tragedy of what happened in Colorado last week was a sobering wake-up call to me.  I don’t think I will be going.  Not because I’m afraid.  Not because of the swearing and other not-so-pure images in the movie.  Not because I don’t like “those kind” of movies.  In fact, I have seen a lot of the comic book, fantasy movies.  My son Kyle and I have been catching up on the Avengers and Spiderman.  And lately he had been asking about watching the Batman movies, and I was considering whether I was comfortable with that.  Everyone I talked to agreed that the Batman movies were darker than other superhero movies, but no one could pinpoint why they were that way.  One person suggested that it was because the fictional city of Gotham was more evil than other settings for other movies.

Last week I heard that the gunman had dyed his hair orange and told police that he was “the Joker.”  That people who were in the movie theater were confused about what were real gun shots and what were gunshots from the movie.  We see guns in movies all the time.  We see people getting hurt and being shot in movies all the time.  But when we are confronted with the reality of what this does to people, violence stops being entertaining.

I wondered what I would be teaching my son about what was “fun.”  We as a culture have glorified violence by putting it on the big screen in the context of a comic book fantasy.  “It’s not real” is what I tell my children.  We have become numb to seeing violence in a movie.  I have participated in this by choosing to buy tickets to movies.  I pay to see it; therefore the business thinks I like it; the business makes money.  They want more money, so they make more violent movies for me to pay to see.  And I do.  This is how the cycle continues, and when will the cycle stop?

Do I naively believe that if you or I choose not to pay to see this movie that the movie makers will be so upset that we didn’t go that they will stop making these kind of movies?  Trust me.  They are making money even if it’s not mine.  Lots of it.  I believe the movie had a record-breaking week last week.  I just know that I don’t want to be a part of making this movie profitable.  I would like to find another way to not “let terrorists win.”

We won’t change our society by boycotts or new laws.  Our society will change when people change.  The only way I know how to change people is to give them the gospel.  Jesus is the only person who can change hearts.  So if we really want to change things, we must be about the business of preaching the good news.  That we are sinners loved by God who made a way through the sacrifice of His Son for us to be in relationship with him.  Preaching the gospel to ourselves and others is much harder than organizing a boycott or trying to change laws.  It’s the kind of change you can’t quantify by the numbers.  The best way for me to preach the gospel is to live the gospel every day.  To admit when I mess up and run to the cross.  I’ve found a lot of people in the church who do not truly understand all that they have received from the cross: forgiveness, justification, adoption, sanctification.  They might understand it with their heads, but it hasn’t made it to their feet and affected how they live.  When I began to understand how much God loved me and how much of a sinner I was, I heard the music and not just the words.

The more I hear about the shooter and his increasing isolation from people, the more I realize how dangerous isolation can be.  I wonder if he knew how much God loves him or if anyone in his life showed him love.  As a Christian, I am beginning to understand how important the law of love is: to love God and to love others.  This is what I want to use to fill my time.  God invites us into his work of changing hearts and changing lives.  Will you accept his invitation?

Question: Are you going or not going to see Batman?  

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