Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hi, my name is blondie

Siestas, ladies, gentlemen, and fellow-lurkers,

Let me invite you into my mental state and life right now. In case you haven't figured this out by now, I'm a nerd at heart. Which means, bless me, I tend to not be the sharpest box in the crayon when it comes to common sense. I love biochemistry, but couldn't tell you how to convert a basic measurement if my life depended on it. It's pitiful...really pitiful. So, this is my first Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary 'I am a first year student' embarrassing moment. You know the kind where you dream you've fallen down the classroom stairs or walked into the wrong room on the 1st day? Well, classes haven't even started, and 'blondie' here has managed to start the season of embarrassing first year moments.
It went something like this:
On my first day here, I received this to be able to access my dormitory room:

Yes. That's right. The 2 keys, the plastic item that says 'To Mailroom: Return to Campus Police," and the key ring which they were both on.
I have spent much of my time the last day and a half getting lost while trying to find this room or that room that I needed to sign this form or that form in. I have dropped off paperwork, picked up paperwork, and gone to and fro through the office buildings of this campus. So, on my 'to-do' list today was to kindly return this little plastic item on my key ring as it had so kindly suggested. I was a little confused if I was to take it to the Mailroom or our Campus Police seeing as that is where it seemed it would eventually be returned to. Soooo, I decided to be the nice girl that I am and save the sweet Mailroom employees the hassle of having to send it to the Campus Police (that just didn't make much sense to me anyway).

Off I go to return this plastic item to the Campus Security Office. Bummer...their office is closed. Oh well, I can just go back to the Mailroom and turn it in to the two sweet young men down there.

I return back to the Mailroom where I've already made my 1st year self obvious seeing as I had to ask them where the outgoing mail drop box was. And here is where it got worse (in case you haven't gotten it at this point).

Me: (in my nicest Southern charm demeanor because it's about all I have left at this point): Uhmm....Excuse me sir, I think I'm supposed to turn this into you. I...uh...guess y'all need them because it says "To Mailroom" on them here (points to the plastic item).

This is how I have walked up to this Mailroom Man. With this in my hand...
Young Mailroom man: (takes the plastic item from my hand and starts rotating it in his hands a bit)....(stares back at me a little confused).
Me: (not sure why he looks so bewieldered....hmm....)
Me:Oh! Sir, I'm so sorry. Mmm...You probably want the key-ring that the plastic item was on too don't you?! (begins to work on removing the key ring from the other set of key rings I have). I'm so sorry.
Young Mailroom man: (now just staring back at me trying to understand). What????
Me: (he's clearly confused) You see sir, I received this (holds up the key ring paired with the 2 keys and plastic item) the 1st day that I got here so I could move into my dorm! But I've moved in now almost and figured I should return to you the plastic item as it says 'To Mailroom' on it and it makes sense for you to have the key ring too! Give me just a second to finish getting it off my other ring, it's no problem!
Young Mailroom man's buddy who's been listening walks up by this point because clearly I'm creating a scene...
Young Mailroom man:
(in his most nice voice) "Uhm...well...You see...I think that - uh - you actually keep that on your key ring - in case - you ever loose your keys. Because then they'll just - be returned - 'To the Mailroom' - and the Campus Security can uh - get them back to you."
Me: (then immediately realizing the purpose of the plastic item on my keyring and feeling the heat of embarrassment come to my face). Ohh... (barely making eye contact now) Riiiight. M'kay. Yes. That would make sense. Well, clearly I have just experienced my first year new student embarrassing moment for the week, so please be sure to tell your buddies because I am sure it would really be worth laughing over. (turns and quickly leaves the room).

All the southern charm in the world couldn't redeem this 'blonde' moment. I went and told my bff Mandy immediately after it happened. After we had nearly fallen on the floor from laughing, she said "Shelly! That is the stupidiest thing I have ever heard!" LOL...I think I have to agree.

So now you know why I have yet to post anything about my word from the Lord here lately. I would be the biggest stumbling block to His voice in this current mental state that I'm in, I am sure that I would be citing the NT when I would need to be citing the OT and I would leave everyone in a tizzy! Here's to seeking Him first straight through His living and active Word; Here's to the incredible mind-blowing privilege of sitting before Him and waiting for Him to speak without reading about Him through another's words. Go to Him siestas - He is sitting right in front of you :)

I'll get back with you soon. When I can remember to use an umbrella during the rain outside :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dorm rooms, finished travels, and LPL

My siesta prayer warriors,

This will hopefully be the last of my blog posts about my transitioning to South Hamilton, MA, but I thought it only fitting to close with a few more pictures. I cannot believe that the Lord would allow me the blessing of having you on my 22+ hour journey drive here through your divine prayers. I am forever marked by your gracious hearts towards me.

I have found internet access, so will return to you in the next few days with some Jesus :) But for now, I wanted to let those of you who had asked, know how I was doing.

1) I was an absolute vegetable all day yesterday. I needed it in a desperate way though. If I sat still for more than 5 minutes without anyone talking to me, I was going to be on my way to a la-la nap land in no time.
3) It's 75 degrees here today and I feel like I need on jeans and a fleece. Seriously...I've been used to weather above the 100's lately, so this feels cold! Bless me! If anyone has any winter items/shoes/clothing that they care to get rid of, I will gladly take them off your hands. I'm going to have to redo this GA wardrobe I've got.
4) The walls of my dormitory room are so naked it makes me want to cry. I haven't had a chance to unpack yet, and even when I do, I'm not going to find any wall decorations unless Jesus threw some in my bags when I wasn't looking!
5) I keep looking up when people walk by me. And then I remember that I'm not going to recognize any of them, so I emotionally rock between getting the giggles at myself, or getting sad.
6) One of the girls left me a note saying that she had "moved my pop" to another refrigerator. I just stared at it for about 30 seconds trying to figure out what in the world "pop" was. Ooohhhh yea. (Sigh...doesn't she know that everything is called 'Coke.')
7) I met the president's wife of the school my first morning here, which was the sweetest and coolest thing ever. Except for that whole factor of my not having showered yet, still in my pj's, groggy demeanor, stumbling down the stairs, and trying to remember what state I was in at the moment (I'd been through 10 different states in the past 48 hours - it was only fair.) Yea...it was a 'cool' moment for sure. lol
I end with these:

This was one of the three moments of my drive where I sat in traffic for a very long time. I thought this was hysterical. Clearly, you can see that we weren't moving very fast since the sign wasn't even picking up our speed. I think I was hitting 5 mph every once in a while on this one. I applaud their sign efforts for trying.

I got to meet a fellow blogging sister at the RI LPL conference - Darla! How much fun is that!? She and her 15 year old daughter have been two of the many prayer siestas for me, and it was nice to at least be able to hug one of them in person and say 'thank you.'

Sarah, Mandy, and me at the RI LPL

Y'all. This little fellow (praying mantus) was on top of my car when I was leaving Hartford, CT for my last 3.5 hours of driving. I just stared at him, and stood in humbled shock over my sweet Jesus. I knew He was being my Rear Guard. And I know I had the covering of all of your prayers on this new upcoming season. I do not doubt that He was trying to make me smile and give Him His due praise that last morning. So of course I clapped for Him. I 'ooh'ed' and 'awe'd' over my dear Jesus, and felt the lump in my throat over thinking about His visual reminder of the sacrifice of your prayers for me. Know that He loves you dearly - He wanted to give you a praying mantus to say thank you :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

22 hours later

I'm here in South Hamilton, MA...finally.

I'm tired.

I'm not fully mentally alert.

My heart is full.

Everything is terribly unfamiliar.

I had to hold back tears at my 1st meal in MA because I realized I could no longer order sweet tea.

And I am already very aware that I am going to get to know my Jesus in ways never before imagined...

Love you siestas...I'll post more soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Edited with Day I AND DAY II below:
Sweet siestas,
Why the Lord would bless me with the spiritual sisters that you have become to me leaves me humbled on the floor. It is the least I could do to give you a brief update before I leave tomorrow!
The life of Shelly Bland lately:
1) If I have to tell one more individual 'goodbye,' I honestly don't know that I am going to make it. The words would probably refuse to leave my mouth. I don't like goodbye's. My El Olam has set eternity in my heart, and it's just stinking hard. So, if you need to tell me 'goodbye' anytime soon, I probably will run in the other direction and start making weird noises of denial!
2) I am leaving tomorrow morning sometime (aka - as soon as I can manage to get myself out of bed, load up the car, and get to the nearest Starbucks.)
3) I sat outside with my doggies tonight. My feet touched the newly cut grass, I was staring up at the stars, and I had on shorts and a t-shirt. I then got this disturbing ache in my heart when I realized I would not be able to do this when I got to Boston. Well, actually, I think I got a little mad too. I am already going to be having to put on long sleeve shirts and toss my flip-flops aside when I get there. People, I think 60 degrees is cold. No joke. It is going to be just as much of a miracle for me to survive the cold as it has been for my Jehovah-Jireh to financially get me there. Lord bless me!
4) I am actually driving to Providence, RI before I get to Boston, MA (they're not very far from one another). Mandy and one of her seminary buddies are meeting me in Providence for a LPL event. Being with some siestas, praising Jesus, and being in the Word - seriously - what better way to start off my semester?
5) I have had so many people lovingly tell me to 'be safe,' 'drive safe,' etc. that I am just about moved to tears over it. Either that, or I'm a bad driver and they are concerned for any human being that will be on the I-95 path from Georgia to Massachusetts in these following days :)
6) I have done the essentials before I left home: got my nails done (thanks to gift certificates), eaten at every possible restaurant I could fit into these 5 days (thanks Mom),and gone to the beach. This tan has to last me for uh...err...3 years, so I decided I should probably go :)
7) I have more laundry to do, things to pack, and it's almost 11 pm. Shh! Don't tell my Mom. She's got enough Mama anxiety knowing that her baby girl is going to be driving to Boston by herself in these next few days and she would probably have a Mama fit if she knew I were still up. So, because I love myself and I don't want to be drooling on my steering wheel tomorrow, I'm signing off. My heart is full. My mind is full. And I am so looking forward to my first hotel night. I am hoping it will have internet and I can talk more about Jesus with you sweet women instead of my traveling agendas! lol
Always a Georgia Peach

This was my first state line I crossed. I thought I could keep myself entertained by taking photos of the rest of them. However, when I crossed the North Carolina one, the sandwich I was stuffing in my mouth inhibited me from grabbing the camera at my 70 mph speed and snapping it. So this is all I have! The rest of the state lines that I crossed, I did so on back roads, so I missed out on the fun signs :(

I really wanted to be this guy's new bff, but we had to part ways. I'm sure that we could've been good friends though.

Y'all. I pulled over at some random exit in SC, and saw THIS roller coaster at a park. I just nearly died. In case you didn't know this, I LOVE roller coasters. It was all I could do to make myself get back in the car. I really considered that 3 hours at the park would be just fine. But then I remembered the 17+ hours I had left to drive. So I pouted just a little bit and got back in the car like a big girl.

I spent many hours driving along the Blue Ridge Mountain path and I have been completely breathless at the beauty of His majesty displayed in creation. Clearly, my picture through my window at 70 mph doesn't do justice...but girls! If you could've just seen the way His sun beams danced and cascaded over the pines on the mountains. He stole my breathe away...again.
Too many hours in the car could, theoretically speaking, also cause one to:
1) Use bath foam mistakenly as lip balm and wonder what the intense lip-plumping (err...burning) sensation must be.
2) Talk to, and then began answering, oneself.
3) Make one think they sing just as well Darlene Zschech or Nichole Nordeman.
4) Cause one to be engaged in a new form of walking known to be similar to that of the Tin Man or your friendly penguin.
5) Beat one's head against the steering wheel at the gigantic size of the state of Virginia.
And PS - I have felt your prayers ladies. Seriously...I have thought about it almost every hour that I've been on the road today. I have been amazed at the thickness of His presence He has allowed me to feel and I know it is because of you. From a humbled and grateful heart, thank you...thank you sweet siestas.

1) Well ladies, I've made it to Connecticut tonight and am about 2 hours from where I need to be tomorrow in Rhode Island for the LPL conference.
2) I was speaking with a couple of friends earlier and told them how much I felt your prayers and the thickness of His presence guarding my coming forth and going out.
3) So...THANK YOU! Thank you so very much. I have just smiled back at my Jesus multiple times today telling Him how much I love the adventure. And how humbled I am to get to be blessed by the obedience of your hearts. It leaves me overwhelmed.
4) Y'all. I need to confess something. I stopped in a total of 4 (or was it 5) Cracker Barrel restaurants today. It's not that I'm obsessed, it's just that I know that there are none in Boston and I was really trying to hang on to the thought of lima beans, chicken & dumplins, and corn bread for as long as I could. I knew when I reached one in northern Pennsylvania (near NY)that I needed to take my heavy heart to the Lord because the atmosphere had changed. I wasn't sure if I could order sweet tea, or if they would look at me funny if I said 'mam.' I bought some Buckeye chocolates for fear that I wouldn't get them again for a long time, and returned to my car (aka - looney bin by this point in the drive). I took a deep holy spirit breathe, lifted my head to the heavenlies, and told Jesus I was ready to embrace the northern part of the Mason-Dixie line :)
5) My weary body is telling me to go to bed. So I am :) I'll be at a LPL conference until Saturday, and moving in my dorm after that in Boston.

I love you dearly siestas. Jesus has captured my heart with a love for you and I cannot wait to get connected with you in the spirit again soon. Thank you for your grace over my life in my not being able to post anything about His Word to me lately. Keep seeking Him siestas. He Himself is the Greatest Reward. Hugs

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Getting my feet wet

"The priests will carry the ark of the Lord. He's the Lord of the whole earth. As soon as the priests step into the Jordan, it will stop flowing. The water that's coming down the river will pile up in one place. That's how you will know that the living God is among you. So the people took their tents down. They prepared to go across the Jordan River. The priests who were carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. The water of the Jordan was going over its banks. It always does that at the time the crops are being gathered. The priests came to the river. Their feet touched the water's edge. 16 Right away the water that was coming down the river stopped flowing. It piled up far away at a town called Adam near Zarethan. The water that was flowing down to the Dead Sea was completely cut off. So the people went across the Jordan River opposite Jericho."

Dear precious sisters,

I hate that I can't be as involved in blog-land right now as much as I normally am, but moving is keeping me busy! And when I'm not busy, I need to be with my Jesus! I arrived home (where there's very limited internet access), and have been catching up with friends and family for more 'goodbye's.' My car is packed, bulging at the seams, and I am intending to leave for Boston this upcoming Wednesday.

In the past 48 hours, I have had two dear couples bless me financially (and love me), and received a letter from my Atlanta home-church (Northpoint Community Church) explaining to me that they have accepted my request for seminary assistance to help with my tuition. I sat on my floor, so overwhelmed, that the only emotional expression that decided to express itself was that of tears. I wept like a little girl. Wept - and my two small doggies came to make sure I was okay and help clean up the tears. The thought that the Lord would use others' obedience to bless me has knocked me off my feet and made me fall in love all over again with my Heavenly Father. I do not deserve one iota of His blessing or grace. But I never have. And yet He comes whispering His love to me - again, and again, and again. Girls - He is just too much for me. He is too much. But I love Him for that. I love that He is the unending 'more' for which my soul cries out.

Financially, I am still far from even being able to buy textbooks. (I wonder if they're really necessary anyway? Hehe. I'm kidding!) But I am still feeling the Lord calling me to step foot into my 'Jordan River', and watch Him part it. As New Testament priests (1 Peter 2:9) who carry the very Presence of Christ inside of us (Col. 1:27) , you and I are called to step out in faith to get our feet wet before He'll act sometimes.

So I'm standing on the banks. The heat is a little intense. The crowd behind me with whom I've said goodbye is mixed: some are cheering me on, some are thinking I've probably lost my mind. (Praise the Lord I have...I needed the mind of Christ in a desperate way!). And the waters are roaring a little ahead of me. Oh, but the hope of His glory (Col. 1:27). The privilege I have to lift up one foot, and then another, trusting that He will part the seas. Because then my sweet sister, I get to take another step, and another step until my feet start splashing into a dance of praise for the only One who would have been Able.

I have been moved to tears at each of your prayers, blessings, encouragements, and caring questions over this next step of faith. I hear your loud cheers ringing in the Heavenlies. And I cannot wait for you to get your feet splashing in praise with me in just a few short days. I trust my Jehovah Jireh to provide all that I need. For He is the "living God is among us..."

I had dinner tonight with some friends that I've known since elementary school. I'm thankful that these friendships will never really be a 'goodbye!'

Monday, August 13, 2007

Leaving my Atlanta loves

Can I get away with telling you about my entire weekend through a series of photos? Because that's the only possible way I can catch you siestas up on this journey! Know that my brief blogging disappearance was a result of this being my last weekend here in Atlanta (aka - need to be party). Since Friday, you could have found me: at a pre-conference Women of Faith day with Beth and squealing over getting to meet some blogger friends, shopping, eating Maggiano's, and 3 different going away dinners, and soaking up as much Chaput family time as I could before leaving. My weekend photo album:

I met these two precious women months prior in Boone, NC. They ended up being seated right behind me! I jumped up and down when I got to hug their necks again. God had so knitted our hearts together...
My Carole and the necessary cup of Starbucks required for all LPL events. Words don't come close to the unspeakable privilege I have had to sit at her feet in the Lord.

Y'all! Jennyhope and I got to meet up and sit next to one another! And, darling Emmy found us too! They were true siestas indeed - hugging and talking like we'd been long lost friends. And if you're looking for notes on Beth's teaching, give Jenny a big shout-out and go here. Did I mention that Beyonce Knowles sat right next to Jenny and I too? Okay, well...not really. But the lyrics "You must not know about me" from her song Irreplaceable started playing as the woman's cell phone ringer in the middle of Beth's teaching, and it was all Jenny and I could do to keep from slap out falling in the floor with the giggles.

And you have to have at least one non-blogging friend with you right? Because otherwise people might think I only have imaginary friends (from the www). Krissy is the real deal :)

Travis, Travis, myself and Nate at lunch, because everyone should have Maggiano's before they leave Atlanta.

Going-away dinner at Casa Grande (because I'm a bit of a chips/salsa addict).

Going away dinner at one of my favorite pizza joints - Fellini's

Top: Birthday party and all the girls. Bottom: the Chaput boys who steal my heart everyday

I will miss you all...
And PS - For those who asked, I'm still awaiting a withdrawal from the spiritual bank regarding seminary. I'll keep you posted! Countdown is about a week and a half! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Call me Bitter?

"She said to them, "Do not call me Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me." Ruth 1:20

Ruth has just lost her husband and two sons. (See Ruth 1:1-22 for the context of this story). Surely, if anyone has reason to be a little bitter, it would be Ruth. Yet we are commanded to keep a root of bitterness from springing up, causing trouble, and defiling many (Hebrews 12:15, etc.). Note that it defiles many. It is not merely a 'Pity Party for one please!,' but others in our lives are inevitably affected by our sin.

Naomi pleads with the residents of Bethlehem to call her Mara, meaning 'bitter.' Can't you just hear it? 'Just call me Ms. Bitter!' Sounds a little rough doesn't it? And somewhere, covered in the web of insecurities and unmet expectations over our hearts, I believe we may have whispered the same plea for a name-change. Oh sure, we may not have sent all of our friends an email asking for them to please change their address books to match our new name, but the cry of self-pity could be there nonetheless.

Naomi's heart touches a tender area of my own. I've not lost much in comparison to countless others, but I know what it's like to have joined in the suffering. My beloved Dad passed away when I was 20, our material possessions were depleted, and even now, someone I love dearly is facing extended jail charges. And my heart aches. It aches for the loss, while it simultaneously swells with anticipation because I know that I have the opportunity to know my Lord more.

Naomi continues, saying, "I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?" (Sigh ... ). Our finite minds distort our vision. Our limited concepts of the Holy One paralyze us.

Have we not all in some manner, at some point, been a Naomi? We stay fixated on our specific 'loss' so long that we are blind to the 'gain' offered in Christ. We mope, pout, and keep our arms crossed at the foot of the cross in outright anger at the One who has seemingly "brought us back empty" and "afflicted."

hear me. There is a season, even a long one sometimes, where you are meant to count your losses. You cannot wholly discover your 'gain' until you face, embrace, and have a girlie mourning fit and hiatus over what is 'not' anymore. There is nothing healthier than crying out to your Father at times.

But, when you refuse to go through the process of counting your loss, He cannot direct your wounded heart to the Truth of Himself. If all we gained in our loss was more of Christ, I promise you sister, He would be enough (Ps. 63:5)

Who do you say that you are? Maybe a more eye opening question is the following: who do you desire others to acknowledge you to be out of self-pity, self-protection, self-importance, self-loathing and more? Can I be brutally honest with some of the name games I think we women play?
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me afflicted one. (Girls, you need to know that if you sit in the sympathy pit with someone past the God-appointed time, you could be enabling them to stay there and hindering them from 'taking up their mat to walk' again!)
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me not skinny. (Because when we finally get that boyfriend, husband, or friend to agree to our thoughts that we aren't as 'thin' as we may desire to be, we can then lash out in anger over our physical insecurities. All the while the LORD has been begging you to open your eyes to the most beautiful creation He has ever made - you. Psalm 139).
  • Do not call me (insert name), call me unworthy or unable. (Once we've believed the lies that we aren't good enough, we accept the accusations of the enemy. Thus, the next time we fall into that sin again, we hear the enemy say 'I told you so,' and we nod shamefully, in agreement. Then, we permit ourselves to live in the vicious cycle of defeating strongholds, excusing ourselves from repentance or the seeking of victory, because remember, we are unworthy to even try to be different, or considered able to be anything but what we are in our flesh.)
  • Do not call me accepted, call me rejected. (He has made us accepted in the beloved. Ephesians 1:6).
  • Do not call me called of God, call me useless. (But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9).
What is it sisters that keeps us going around to others with our empty cups, seeking their approval or rejection to confirm what we already may think about ourselves? Quite possibly, it may be fear, pride, or false humility. Because if we are not the afflicted, non-skinny, unworthy, rejected, or useless ones that we may feel to be, we have to accept the Truth that we are disciplined out of His love, beautifully created, worthy, accepted, and chosen children of the Most High God. Can you receive that? Because you must. Do you have the courage to actively walk in the person He has already named you?

God shouts His names of love for you throughout the entirety of the Old Testament and the New. He displays it from the beginning of creation with a 'very good' all the way to His merciful redemption on the cross. You are who you are because of Him. To deny who you are, is to deny who He is. Next time you have a Naomi occasion, take your validly wounded heart to your Great Physician. And ask Him who you are. I suspect if you ask Him to please not call you 'such and such,' He will stoop down, impress His nail-scarred hand upon your bleeding heart, and gently remind you of your identity - His beloved, and the apple of His eye.

Count your losses. Weep. Cry. Give heed to the brokenness. But do not let your circumstances define who you are. Your El Shaddai calls you by a name rooted in His unconditional love for you. You bear the Name above every name - that of Christ - and nothing could be more wonderful...

Do not call me bitter, He calls me blessed.
Do not call me unclean, He calls me holy.
Do not call me not good enough, He calls me more than able.
Do not call me victim, He calls me victorious.
And do not call me unlovely, He calls me beautiful.

I love you girls. And I know the God of the Universe loves you with an even more tenacious love of perfection. He desires you to believe Him about who you are.

PS - Danny, Carole's sweet dog, refused to leave me alone during my Bible study time. He kept plopping on top of it while I was trying to read. Apparently, He has a heart for the Word. I mean really; He was fighting to get Himself on top of those pages. I finally got up and decided to capture the moment!

Friday, August 3, 2007

The call to an 'again'

In Judges 20, Israel goes out against the wickedness of the men of Gibeah. (Read Judges 19 to obtain further background on this story). Israel seeks to purge the evil out of the tribe of the Benjamites by killing only the men of Gibeah. "Now then, deliver up the men, the worthless fellows of Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove this wickedness from Israel. But the sons of Benjamite would not listen...(20:13)." This marks opportunity number one that Israel seeks to remove the wickedness.

Because the Benjamites refuse to give their men over, the LORD calls the rest of the Israelites to battle against their brother tribe. On battle number one, the men of Gibeah kill 22,000 Israelites.

"But ... the men of Israel, encouraged themselves and arrayed for battle again in the place where they had arrayed themselves the first day".

The Israelites inquired of the LORD, wept before Him, and then followed His command to return to battle. The second day of battle, the men of Gibeah kill 18,000 men of Israel (20:25). The result? The men of Israel return back to the LORD, with weeping, fasting, and offerings only to follow His command to return to battle once more; this would be their 3rd time in battle.

The Israelites have followed the LORD's command to join this fight three different times and have nothing to show for it at this point but a loss of 40,000 men. Sounds like defeat to me. Looks like defeat to me too.

What has grasped my heart and brought me to my knees in this story is the fact that each time the Israelites lose men, they return to the Lord, only to follow His command to return to battle again.

How often have I not returned to the battle? How often do we walk in the practice of what psychology would call 'learned helplessness?' Learned helplessness is essentially the effect of inescapable negative reinforcement. We participate in a conversation we shouldn't have, but we think we had no choice over our involvement. We maintain an unhealthy relationship because we have (wrongfully) accepted it, seeing that there is no way out. We choose to believe lies about ourselves or the way we view our Merciful God because we do not destroy the self-destructive thoughts that have molded us far too long. We sit back denying our sin. All the while, we are participating in the sin of omission. We do nothing. We say nothing. So we accept. We are blinded by the fact that our acceptance is keeping us bound to a life of defeat because we have chosen not to return to battle again.

Sister, simply because you may have lost on the first try, second try, or even third try does not mean the LORD has released you from that battle, nor the victory. Simply because your losing is more than your current gain does not mean that He has turned in His title as Conqueror and Redeemer. Simply because the 'wickedness' or 'sin' in your life has you in defeat right now does not mean that God has politely regarded your weary state and no longer asked you to remove the evil from your life.

It took 3 battles and the death of 40,000 Israelites until the LORD gave them victory. Why should it necessarily be any different for us? We need to cease dropping our swords and accepting the lie that things 'can't,' 'won't,' or 'don't.' Cease practicing helplessness sister, and return to your battle post. Next time there is defeat, follow the example of the Israelites: inquire of the LORD, weep, fast, and bring to Him the pleasing offering of your surrendered heart and will. But do not accept the status quo - your life is meant to be one of victory. You are meant to be complete in Christ, whole, holy, and free. I have worn the chains of a helpless victim so long that I made them spiritual necklace accessories. Newsflash: They're really not in style anymore! We are not called to be a victim, but we are called to be victors. Greater is He that is living in you than He that is in this world. Go, and walk in your 'again'.

"For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith." 1 John 5:4

In what area does unbelief keep you practicing in an area of defeat, rather than rising up to an 'again' battle with the Lord? I love you all so dearly. I cannot let you miss the blessing of the again, because it may very well be the last one before He delivers you from it. So I leave you with the question that He has stooped down to ask me countless times during my own paralytic defined times of life: "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6).