The Pantsuit Missionary

1 May

They say not to dwell on the past, but to constantly be looking forward to what lies ahead. And I must say that on the whole I tend to agree with this widely applauded sentiment. But there are times (like tonight) when you’re hurdling forward at such record pace that it’s more than appropriate to look back.

It’s been two years and three weeks since I first embarked on my life-changing missionary journey and much has changed since then. A marriage, a dog, a new career and a house later I find myself more readily identifying with “landlord” than “missionary.”

In my current title of property manager today is the worst day of the month – the first. Rent collection. It seems I am never more hated than this day. And it comes around every thirty days bringing the same sad stories of people who just can’t scrape it together and the same maddening brushes with the ugly sides of the entitlement generation month after month. Today was no different. Today I had the pleasure of meeting with my supervisor and a particularly disgruntled resident to try to come up with a solution that would please his insatiable desire to be a constant thorn in my side. This resident has made a formal complaint against me to my corporate office because I have denied his (unreasonable) request that I inform him in writing no later than 48 hours prior to my staff using any form of any chemical (from paint to Windex) anywhere on the property. He is a super granola type and has an intense aversion to chemicals. I can totally respect that, but to inform him in writing every time we clean the laundry room on the other side of the property from him is a bit extreme. Anyway, that is neither here nor there… The meeting between the three of us was a well-meaning attempt on our part to please this gentleman. But that’s not at all how the meeting went. He wanted my job sliced up and served to him on a silver platter. He spoke about me with such hatred and looked at me with total disgust.

Now I don’t take these moments personally anymore. I can’t. Managing an apartment complex is like being the mayor of a small city, and with approximately 600 residents to look after I am certain that I could never make all of them love me. But I would be a liar if I said that the accusatory comments don’t occasionally cause some introspection.

I got to keep my job today (one of the benefits of being a notoriously hard worker is the favor of your employer), but I also did some thinking. Who am I? A landlord? That’s such a nasty word. People HATE landlords. It got me remembering a time when I was a preacher, a missionary, a truth-seeker, a traveler, a justice bringer… And as I looked over photos of those bygone glory days I smiled smugly.

This resident has no idea who I am… No idea who’s I am. Your beliefs may define you, but your experiences root you. My memories strengthen me. They serve as a constant true north. They remind me that I haven’t “lost it” or somehow sold out because I’m now thriving in suburbia. I am so thankful to have tasted and seen the reality of our God; so blessed to have spent those 6 months on the mountain with him. As I war on in this new battleground, I know I am still a missionary, just as glorious as ever… I just wear a suit now.

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Lukewarm Coffee… Who can stand it?

17 Feb

I’m not much of a coffee drinker. My husband is (and most of the world). I much prefer tea, but whatever your beverage of choice you either order it iced or hot. There isn’t a medium warm option. That’s because it’s gross. It just doesn’t taste right, because it’s not the way it was made to be. Coffee beans have a delicious and powerful aroma when they are hot. Tea is refreshing and thirst-quenching when set on ice. It’s what they were made for.

Similarly, the Lord is equally disgusted with lukewarm believers. I believe we have all fallen into this category at one point or another (or at multiple times) in our walk with Him. It’s easy to get distracted. Even some of life’s greatest joys can be a distraction. I was wildly distracted by our wedding planning process last summer, and now my job consumes a huge portion of my day. It’s easy to say we love the Lord, to keep His commandments, and attend church once a week, but then forget to really bask in His presence and communicate with our King. It’s something I am completely guilty of, and something that He has been talking to me about lately. He’s just so sweet about it, though.

“Erika, I miss my girl…”

How could we deny Him? How could we forget the Slaughtered Lamb that paid the ultimate price for our deliverance? Jesus, I am sorry. I repent. I’m coming back to my first romance with the Lover of my soul… I want to be ablaze with His glory. A refreshing life-giving water to this valley of dry bones. I was not created to be lukewarm. He told me so this morning.

What’s on my heart this morning… A random collection.

16 Feb

During my Discipleship Training School at YWAM I was required to read the book Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian by Dean Sherman. The principles I learned in this book and during my DTS have stayed with me, but the importance of the practical application of these principles often gets lost in the shuffle of day to day life. One such principle is that of moving in the opposing spirit of darkness. In his book Dean says, “Living in the opposite spirit means that when we see greed prevailing in a situation, we become generous… It also means that if we encounter depression, we decide to praise God and rejoice in all things. If we live in the opposite spirit, providing the opposite influence, we will break down these opposing powers. God is not calling us to act occasionally in response to powers, but to daily live whole, complete lives of spiritual warfare. By continually living in the opposite spirit before the powers of darkness and before people, we break through and change what’s there.” (pg. 109)

We are called, as believers to live our life in constant opposition of the works of the enemy, proclaiming the prevailing Kingdom of God in all situations. In despair, we hope. To slander, we compliment. To gossip, we are silence. In poverty, we declare provision. To sickness, we proclaim health. To death, we breathe life. To immorality, we are purity. To lies, we speak the truth.

This will not happen on accident. We are in a battle, and the greatest battles of history were not won on accident. They were won through preparation, strength, courage, and intentional strategy. We must be prepared. Our strength is gathered in the preparation. Our time in the quiet place trains us and fills us for battle. A warrior on empty is powerless. I, honestly, have neglected this lately. I have been living my spiritual life on past acquired knowledge, trusting this to carry me. It doesn’t. Your past experiences with Jesus serve as wonderful roots to plant you deeply in the soil, but no passerby ever admired the beauty of roots. Roots alone do not produce fruit, nor do they grow. In fact, they are rather ugly on their own.

This morning I spent some much needed time with Jesus. I had really missed Him. It’s amazing what a good friend He is – the kind that you just pick right back up with, like you never ever neglected them to begin with. He refilled me for battle. He steadied my hands for His work. He reminded me that we must live our spiritual life on fresh revelation, not on past knowledge. Past knowledge doesn’t touch your heart.

Back to the point…

When you’re running on empty it’s possible to “follow the rules”, but never to powerfully oppose the enemy. Gossip gets to you. Slander hurts you. Foul language you hear will infect you. Poverty overwhelms you. Sadness has a leg up on you. We were never meant to live this way. We were created to be overcomers. The children of the King proclaim His territory wherever they go. They, bear His name, His seal, and His power. And as we again remember this truth, we can literally feel His Spirit rise within us. The roaring Lion of Judah stands proudly. Our eyes become bright with the fire of His presence.

Watch out world. It’s going to be a powerful day.

Come to Me

16 Feb

Check out this song by Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music, “Come to Me”. It is incredible!

Osama bin Laden and The Heartbreak of God

2 May

Today I am mourning the loss of the image of God stamped into the heart of a man that the world never saw.

Every creation bears the signature of its Creator on their heart. As you and I both were handcrafted by the one true and living God, so was Osama bin Laden. He had the image of God within him, yet he never came to know the truth that he was a child of God. Since he lived his life in deception, he lived out the destiny the enemy had for his life rather than the beautiful plans that God had for him. I’m saddened that we never got to see what Osama was created to do here in this world.

Though I do not condone his actions, support his beliefs, or think he should go unpunished, I find it hard to celebrate when I know that my Abba Father is mourning not only the death of His child, but also the eternal separation from him.

Throughout scripture the loving character of our God is revealed countless times.

Matthew 5:43-48 says, 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus tells us we must love our enemies. But the Bible goes further than that.

In Proverbs 24:17, we are commanded, 17 “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; 
   when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice.”

Ezekiel 33:11 reads, ‎”I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”

While I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in our nation due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the following war on terror in the middle east, and I can’t image the pain they have experienced, I can also see the faces of others suffering. Surely Osama has a mother, a brother, a sister, a friend… Their hearts must also be shattered. I don’t want to tell anyone they are not entitled to grieve. This whole mess is tragic. I just think that we must not forget to be honorable in the face of dishonor.

I think this beautiful quote articulates my feelings more clearly than I ever could:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

The call is clear. The Lord has raised the bar for His people. We must love, even when it is hard. Jesus died for Osama bin Laden. Jesus loved him and called him His child. And so will I.

Mercy

21 Dec

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

she cries, she cries so silently.

Muffled by shame, her spirit exclaims,

but from her mouth not a sound escapes.

Jesus, Son of David, it’s mercy she needs,

the fight much too rough on her own.

It seemed yesterday she was doing just fine,

but her monsters, oh Lord, they have grown.

And her hands they are weak,

and her eyes they are heavy,

she’s weary from all her striving.

Jesus, Son of David, it’s mercy we seek,

the victory won in your dying.

And as she cries out, on her floor, face down,

prepared to be punished for sin,

Your mercy pours out, oh the floodgates are down,

Your love, oh Lord, always wins.

-Erika Earl

The Plan

4 Nov

It’s always amazed me how the tiniest concepts in Christianity make for some of the biggest revelations. During my time with YWAM, we studied numerous different concepts that greatly impacted my Christian walk, none more important than that of the character and nature of God. In keeping with my usual M.O. of nerdy overachiever, I spent some of my downtime listing some of the main characteristics of God and finding correlating Bible references. The exercise proved fruitful, and the Lord really revealed so much of Himself to me as I sat on my bunk bed, devouring scripture in search of a greater understanding of Him. As I began to understand more and more of who God is, everything I believed about life began to change. One of the biggest changes was highlighted recently when speaking with a friend about the ever controversial subject of “God’s plan.”

This particular friend has been through a lot – financial struggles, betrayal in relationships, estrangement from family, and even the loss of a loved one. Through it all, my friend remained faithful to the Lord. Now that she is coming out of her hard times and entering the land of promise, so to speak, she told me that she was thankful that the Lord gave her all of these trials to refine her and bring her to the place she is at today. Instantly, I felt my spirit reject what she was saying, and sadly I believe that a majority of the modern church lives under the same impression as my friend – that God hands out metaphorical crosses to break our spirits into submission of His will and that He actively brings sadness, trials, and difficulties our way to refine us into better people, all in the name of love, of course.

That is not the God I serve.

The God I serve is for us, never against us, and it is His greatest delight to bring us through the trials that come our way. These trials, whether they are direct attacks from the enemy, come as consequences for sin (ours or others), or are circumstantial based on us living in a fallen world, are not premeditated by our loving and gracious God. Our pain breaks His heart, but in His great wisdom and love He knows just how to use these hardships for our good. In Romans 8:28 scriptures tell us that, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.” Your pain was never a part of His plan, but He is the great Redeemer and He makes all things (death, pain, betrayal, hardship…) work out for the good of those that love Him. He takes our garbage, and makes it a masterpiece.

So wherever you are right now, whether you are in a mountain top or a dry valley season, know that God loves you. Know that God is for you. Know that He never ever delights in the pain of His children, but rather in their redemption.

Truth changes the way we see things. Let this truth change the way you see Him.