But what about the sheep in wolves’ clothing?

In Matthew 7:15, the Lord tells us to Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

In this day and age, the warning is more judicious than ever.

It’s getting harder and harder to find a religious program on tv that doesn’t end with the promise that God will absolve your mountain of debt if you just send $1000 to the televangelist.

THIS IS NOT BIBLICAL.

But that’s not what I want to discuss today.

Today we are going to talk about sheep in wolves’ clothing. You know, those lambs of the world that have been so defeated by the devil that they’ve tried to put on the wolves’ clothing to protect themselves.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work.

I know. I’ve tried.

You aren’t fooling your family. You aren’t fooling your friends. And you certainly aren’t fooling Satan. In fact, the only person getting fooled is yourself.

Yesterday I talked about reaching that stage of life where you realize you have likely already lived more than half your life. (That Turning Point in Life)  This is a time of noticing how much time and energy you waste on inconsequential things. It’s also a time to realize that all of the walls you’ve put up and masks you wear have not protected you at all. Rather they’ve turned you into a prisoner of your own making.

Once you’ve lowered the walls and removed the masks, you discover a freedom in life you never imagined. There’s a vulnerability that is ever-rewarding.

BUT DON’T STOP THERE.

Help others tear down walls. Lend support as they remove their masks. Share your own stories of freedom. But most of all, notice the pain around you.

Sometimes it’s covered with a smile.

Or a busy schedule.

It may be as obvious as the photo above. A scared, hurting person aggressively attacking those around him. Just a costume of sorts.

Sometimes it’s a little harder to detect.

I heard the song Does Anybody Hear Her? a few years ago. I remembered that feeling of looking around me at church searching for the freedom I could see etched in the faces of the women around me. I wanted that hope that was tucked away in them.

I had no idea how to get it. I wasn’t even sure where to start.

But the Lord knew exactly what I needed and how to make it happen.

My oldest had just started a part-time preschool and I was working on getting my teaching degree. My hours were varied and I needed occasional help with picking her up. I went to church with the mothers of three of her classmates, three godly women who I equally admired and envied. These women had not gone down the rabbit hole of addiction and destruction like I had so they were the embodiment of the grown-up woman I had always aspired to be as a child. I was enamored.

And I was shocked when they invited me to join their carpool. I wasn’t even close to being in their league, or so I thought.

But over the next year I got to know these women well. Through play dates and long summer swim days, I discovered that their lives were not top-shelf-china-doll flawless; these were real women with real struggles and diverse pasts.

Because the truth is, it’s not where any of us came from but where we are that matters.

That was when I received my first glimpse of hope.

It didn’t matter where I’d been. It mattered where I was. And where I was going.

The first time one of these ladies told me she admired ME was the day I got my first wrinkle of freedom in MY face. It was then that I began to think that maybe I, too, had something to offer other women.

For them, that year may only be the year their firstborns started preschool. But for me, it was a new beginning. It was the year God sent three beautiful women to show me the essence of a godly woman and to let me know that I was one as well.

Build someone up.

Let someone know you believe in them.

Help them become free.

Listen to DOES ANYBODY HEAR HER by Casting Crowns…

 

That turning point in life…

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My girls took me to New Orleans last week-end to see the touring Broadway production of Aladdin at the Saenger Theatre. I had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed their company, something I appreciated far too little when they still lived at home.

After the show, in between playing games and comparing the movie to the stage show, we discussed current events.

And I became painfully aware of the generation gap.

You’d have thought that I had an advantage. That very evening I’d gone on my first-ever Lyft ride AND we were staying in an Airbnb, another first for me.

So I was feeling all hip and, what’s the word? Woke? Yes, I was woke.

But they were a mixed bag of tricks, those girls.

The oldest is more socially aware than I am, and she won’t hesitate to tell you if she thinks you are wrong.

The youngest is a true millenial and gets her daily news feed from America’s First Family, the Kardashians.

And the middle one, the perennial peacemaker of the family,  will agree to all sides of opposite views to keep everyone happy.

So, we had some lively discussions!

But one conversation left me flustered as I couldn’t defend my point but knew I was right in what I was saying. It took another two days of reflection before I understood the logic.

We were talking about maturity, changing priorities, and mellowing out.

I said that there were a lot of things that used to bother me that don’t anymore. I attributed the biggest change to age. My oldest daughter insisted it was experiences that changed a person, regardless of age. I agreed with that statement because I have had some seismic shifts that changed me greatly at various ages of my life.

But there was still something that came with age- I couldn’t define it- but it caused another great shift in thinking.

The Lord had changed me, no doubt about it, but if I wanted to, I could pick up that old anger, or guilt, or blame and tote it around awhile.

But somewhere in the last couple of years, I didn’t even want to LOOK at those old buckets.

“So, you’re telling me I’m going to have a birthday and magically be changed?” The child definitely inherited her snark from me.

The two younger girls fell into fits of laughter. They probably had a bet on which of us would win this debate, their know-it-all mother or never-wrong sister.

It was a draw as I refused to concede and she ruled my assertion utterly ridiculous but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Why DID it change? And, gasp, could she have been right and it was just coincidence that it happened in my late 40s?

But the answer was in the question.

It WAS an age thing. At 45, you become an expert mathematician. And you are infinitely more aware that you have likely already lived more of your life than you have left. We joke about being OVER THE HILL at 30 but the true meaning of OVER THE HILL is that half your life is over.

You start becoming aware that time stops for no man, dreams not pursued will never come true, and life is too short to waste on things you can’t change.

That includes the past, other people, and even signs with misspelled words.

It scares me a little.

Not death, as I know that my death is only the beginning of an eternal life with Christ and all my loved ones who have chosen Him as their Savior.

But that I’m never going to reach that place, or BE that person God wants me to be. Every time I think I’m close, I realize just how far I still have to go.

And I want to arrive at those pearly gates knowing I did everything I ever wanted to do, everything He wanted me to do, and that I didn’t waste another ounce of energy on things that didn’t matter.

 

 

Literally loving someone to death…

I knew it would happen.

It broke my heart but I wasn’t surprised. In truth, we expected it before now.

Jake’s mom first called us three years ago. She was at the end of her rope. Again. Jake had just gotten out of jail, was in a local residential motel, and needed help.

We went to see him. Charming and charismatic, it was hard not to like him. He wanted to get a job, get involved in church, change his life. Sure, we heard this every day from people on the streets but we weren’t jaded. We took everything at face value and gave everyone a chance.

He did better than most. He DID get a job, on his own, and rode his bike from the motel to work daily. I picked him up for church on Sundays and he seemed to be staying sober.

It concerned me a little that his mom called us to check on him every day. He was 30, after all, and twice-divorced. During these calls she would tell us what she thought he needed. Polite but firm, we told her he seemed to be exactly where the Lord wanted him to be.

After a couple of months, the opportunity arose for him to get an apartment near his work. He’d been saving up for a car and this move, with the expenses paid for six months, would allow him to earn the money for the car as well as to be in a safe neighborhood. He was excited.

His mom, however, was so excited that he was doing well that she talked him out of moving into an apartment and had him move back home instead. A pattern that had been unsuccessfully repeated many times in their relationship.

That was the last time he came to church.

He quit his job a week later.

Two months after that he called in the middle of the night, terrified. He’d been jumped and stripped of all his belongings. He wasn’t allowed back home and he had nowhere to go. He wanted money for a hotel room.

There was nothing we could do. The Lord had opened doors for him and he blatantly slammed them shut. We gave him resources for shelter for the night but we didn’t bail him out.

His mom had done that already, one time too many.

They repeated the process a couple more times before he did one drug too many.

And then it was over. This time his mom couldn’t fix anything.

I don’t understand.

Actually, I do understand as I’ve seen it time and time again. Even in my own family.

We get a lot of calls from family members wanting help/rehab/counseling for their grown children. It’s when I’m having more of a conversation with Mom or Dad than the one needing help that I get worried. God can’t fix things when we get in His way. And sometimes, a person needs consequences to learn valuable lessons.

What feels like love for another often becomes love for your own self, as it becomes more about how YOU feel than the person needing help.

This is where faith comes in. You must trust in the Lord because He can do exceedingly more than you can for that loved one.

Don’t love them to death…

I know Jake’s mom would agree.