Sweat Equity

I was reading recently in Matthew 20 about the land owner who hired all the day laborers. As I read, I felt the familiar chaffing in response to the “unfairness” of the last workers receiving the same as the those who’d toiled all that livelong day in the vineyard.

It has always bothered me that those who had barely broken a sweat received the exact same wage from the landowner as those who had sweat and labored from sunup to sundown in this parable. And then it hit me –

Have I lived my entire adult life as if my eternal abode was earned with good old fashioned sweat equity?



I’ve been pondering this for weeks now.

On the one hand, I do not believe sweat equity has a place in God’s House. I believe the moment we begin to think that any thing we can do will earn God’s favor in any way, we have missed the point of grace. And God is ALL ABOUT GRACE!

On the other hand, the chaffing I receive every single time I read that parable is undeniable proof that some part of me clings to the idea that I can earn God’s grace. That I can behave my way into Heaven. That I can do enough good works to change God’s mind about my sin. And I can’t.

No one can. And that’s good news!

The saint that’s been raised in the church (ie. me) is offered the same grace as the death row inmate walking to his execution (ie “real sinners”).

That is what I’m beginning to truly wrap my mind around as I read the Word this year – G R A C E.

How about you?

I’m embracing feedback this year. Please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent. I’d love to hear from you.




Purpose in the Pain

“Joseph Arrives in Egypt” (c. 1869) by artist Owen Jones
Can you relate?

Joseph seemed to struggle with feelings of bitterness (anger, too?) toward his brothers for the way they treated him in his youth. And why not? Their behavior was nothing short of abysmal! To be honest, I can easily relate to Joseph’s struggle with his emotional response, his desire to “keep it together” in front of those who mistreated him – even years and years after the fact. And to add insult to injury, they were Joseph’s own family!

Let’s back up.

Joseph’s life began pretty cushy. Dear ol’ dad loved him most. Everyone knew it. He gave him a showy coat. He trusted him as his go-between with his other sons. Even Joseph’s unconsciousness seemed to bless him with dreams of greatness. What happened? His brothers sold his blessed life for a few coins just to be rid of him.

Skip ahead in Joseph’s biography. He’s now a slave in a well-respected Egyptian’s home. He’s kind of a big deal in the man’s house, a position he undoubtedly both deserved and earned. He was living large, for a slave. What happened? The guy’s wife began making eye babies at him and eventually lied about Joseph making a pass at her. And our guy Joe, who had done no wrong, had to exchange slavery for imprisonment.

Fast-forward to Joseph’s life in prison. Eventually even his jailers saw his integrity and rewarded him with elevated status, though he remained imprisoned. By and by, he did a couple of fellow prisoners a solid by interpreting their dreams and all he asked in return was to be remembered when they left the slammer. What happened? Absolutely nothing. He was forgotten.

Time passes. Cue Egypt’s #1 being plagued by dreams even his most trusted advisors couldn’t interpret. What to do? Only then did Joseph’s cup-bearing friend finally have a light bulb moment and remember the one whom he so quickly forgot.

The skinny of it is this.

Joseph so impressed the Pharaoh that he was released, elevated to  2nd in the land and basically not only saved all of Egypt from the ensuing famine, but “as fate would have it,” also his own family.

Speaking of which, those brothers who so altered Joseph’s pleasant life all those years ago – the brothers responsible for his slavery, the brothers whose actions led to his imprisonment – yeah, they showed up on his doorstep in need of a favor. They were starving because of the famine and needed help. They didn’t recognize their brother, but their brother sure did recognize them. And the emotion of all of his years of slavery and imprisonment seemed to wash over him when he stood face-to-face with them. He wasn’t sure what he felt toward his brothers and continued to struggle with his emotional reaction to them after so many years after their hurting him until he realized

“…it was not you who sent me here, but God.”           Gen. 45:8

It seems at that very moment the Tetris pieces fell into place in Joseph’s heart. He realized that it wasn’t his brothers after all who had sent him to Egypt so many years earlier when they exchanged his freedom for slavery, pocketing the coins. In His sovereignty, God had orchestrated it all

“…for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life!”    Gen. 45:5

Ponder this.

Joseph wasn’t delivered from the prison of his own bitterness until he realized every event, every wrong done toward him was a part of his sovereign God’s plan for him. And God’s plan was bigger than Joseph’s feelings or comfort level or preference in the matter. When he shifted his perspective from horizontal to vertical – when he quit glancing to and fro at the hurt inflicted upon him by his brothers and instead focused his gaze on God – that was the moment he was truly set free.

“The Messiah has set us free so that we may enjoy the benefits of freedom. So keep on standing firm in it, and stop putting yourselves under the yoke of slavery again.” Gal. 5:1

Are you in a prison of your own bitterness toward someone who has hurt you? Perhaps a family member, coworker, neighbor or longtime friend has wounded you? What do you feel the Lord saying to you today in light of Joseph’s life?

I’m embracing feedback this year, so please leave yours in the comments – the good, the bad, the indifferent. I want to hear from you!

A Sneaky Enemy

I removed my review of a Bible-themed movie from Facebook this morning. Yesterday when I wrote it, my goal was to give a thorough, thoughtful and clever review from my Christian perspective to help believers who were on the fence about supporting it financially. By last night, it had become all about me.

One person in particular criticized and belittled me for my opinion – not just once, but repeatedly. I felt marginalized, my perspective somehow rendered invalid by his comments. By the time my head hit my pillow, I was angry. I prayed until I fell asleep.

I awoke this morning with cleared vision. What had caused such inner turmoil last night wasn’t the other person’s opinion. It was my pride.

Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16:18

Pride is a sneaky enemy. It manifests itself many ways – complaints, anger, being consumed with what other’s think, defensiveness, impatience, jealousy, disrespectfulness, an unwillingness to forgive. I displayed them all. Pride pushed God off the throne of my heart and sat myself down in His place, arms angrily crossed.

PONDER: How does the sin of pride manifest itself in your life?

PRAYER: Father, I desire to have less of myself and more of You interacting in this world through me. I want to be a conduit for Your love instead of my own agenda. I want to be a means through which You bring healing and restoration to a sick and lost world. Please forgive me for choosing self over You.

Help for the Hurting Heart

Because of what I shared here on Monday, I wanted to follow up with some encouragement for those who are currently experiencing brokenness and are “feeling the feels” today.  Know this – God loves you and there is help to be found in Him.

Please feel free to share and print this graphic.
Please feel free to share and print this graphic.

Brokenness & Butterflies

Photo Credit: Kathy King Capehart
Photo Credit: Kathy King Capehart

The butterfly emerged as the symbol of the Women’s Retreat I helped plan last year.  Our theme was brokenness and the butterfly’s life cycle beautifully illustrated that.

Some types of brokenness are like the caterpillar who molts, or sheds its skin and grows from the experience into a larger caterpillar who will at some point be broken again and grow from the experience into yet a larger caterpillar who will at some point be broken again…and again…and again. For a caterpillar, this is called molting. For all of us, this is called life. Experiencing this kind of brokenness is as universal to human beings as it is to that growing little caterpillar – a failed test in school; not getting that promotion at work; hurtful gossip whispered behind your back; feeling excluded from a group that you desperately want to fit into; unreturned romantic feelings…

There comes a point in every caterpillar’s life when it will go through something it has never gone through before! Instead of the brokenness it is used to experiencing in its life, it won’t be able to struggle through it and come out on the other side a bigger, better version of itself. Instead, it will become completely enveloped; it will be penned in, immobilized by something beyond his control, entombed. If you asked the fat little caterpillar if it would choose to be entombed in the chrysalis, it would undoubtedly say ‘No!’ It would prefer to keep to its cycle of manageable brokenness. It was used to it. While it caused it pain, it could handle it and it was bigger and stronger on the other side of it. This new thing, this new brokenness, is confining, painful, scary. Unknown and unsearched for, it is woefully beyond the butterfly’s management and personal control. It feels alone, unable to see outside its own pain.

Many of us have experienced these immobilizing types of brokenness – widowhood; divorce; miscarriage; cancer; long-term unemployment; depression; wayward children. Like the caterpillar inside its chrysalis, we were morphed and changed into something new altogether. We were transformed through that painful process and finally broke free, becoming unshackled from the constraints of life as a mere caterpillar to soar on the heights as a new creation, a beautiful butterfly.

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory.
They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.
(1 Corinthians 15:43 NLT)

Perhaps you have felt that type of brokenness, but haven’t yet emerged from your confining chrysalis. You haven’t experienced a breaking free moment and the pain is all you can focus upon right now.

Research verses that speak to your brokenness. Compile a list like the one here. Highlight them in your Bible. Use them as prayer prompts until you are raised in strength like that broken butterfly.

You are loved, beautifully broken friend, and there is hope to be found in Jesus.