Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Reason...

I know some people feel strongly in saying things like "Jesus is the reason for the season" or "Keep Christ in Christmas".  But to a world that's perishing, those just seem like semantics.

In this day when people are leaving the church by the droves and renouncing the faith of their parents and grandparents because it seems binding and irrelevant in the world that we live, sentiments like this just smack of religiosity to me.  

And when I think about how we "do" Christmas as we set holiday precedents and traditions with our young children...these really are not the points that I want to focus on with them. 

Instead of characterizing Christmas as a "religious" or "Holy-day", I characterize it more as a day that is generally accepted by most as a season of celebration, gathering together, feasting, and gift giving.  But for us, because we know Christ, He is always the reason we celebrate.  Every celebration, every good gift, every blessing, comes from Him.  Anything that is worth getting excited about points back to Him.

Christmas is a time when we often spend more time reflecting specifically on the miracle of Christ's birth and we celebrate His birthday with a special party just like we do for all those we love.  But it is not because of some religious obligation or duty.  We celebrate because we are thankful, because we are free, because we are blessed.

"Christmas" may mean a great many things to a great many people.  To some gifts and parties, to some pain and loss, and still others a consumer-driven holiday, but to those who have known the sweet taste of freedom in life with Christ, every time we celebrate we will always remember Christ, because He is the reason for every celebration.  He is the reason we are alive and we are free.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wake Up Call!

Gosh, sometimes this walk of faith is humbling.  I find myself awkwardly making my way down the path, bumbling, stumbling over my own feet from time to time.  My walk of grace is not always so graceful.

I feel like I am a pendulum swinging back and forth from Grace and Truth, trying to find the right balance, often overcorrecting to reach middle ground and swinging too far the other way.  But God is faithful.  The thing I am reminded is that most come to Christ because of His grace.  He is forgiving, gentle, kind, and patient.  He is good.  And as we freely accept and bathe ourselves in His grace there comes a time of accountability, a time where we must accept also His Truth.  In those times we must look into the mirror of the Word of God and say, "Do I match up?"  And at each of these intersections we have a choice to press into Him to help us align with His Truth and Righteousness because we are thankful for His grace and we trust Him, or we can choose to reject or ignore the Truth.

If we choose the truth, and we seek to discipline our flesh to obey Him, sometimes we swing too far...thinking that somehow this obedience saves us or makes us righteous.  We become to stringent, we try to bind others, and we fall.  Because pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)  Then we must fall back again on His grace...another swing back on the pendulum.

It's sometimes hard for me to find this balance, but I saw this interview tonight with Carl Lentz, and he just articulated this balance sooo well.  Katie Couric asked him how he felt about tolerance and specifically on the issue of homosexuality.  He said that their principle is "Love everyone.  Have conversations about everything else."  Katie asked him if he felt a moral obligation to take a stance.  His answer shocked me.  He said (paraphrase): No, because we try to be like Jesus, and Jesus did not talk much about morality.  He looked at issues of the heart.  We are concerned about heart condition and souls, and there are conversations based on individual situations for everything else.

This comment pierced a dagger through my heart.  In the Old Testament, even in the law, you can find God looking at issues of the heart.  God is concerned about our hearts and about relationship with him.  This is how we love others, and how we let Him love us!  God is so good.  His burden is light.  We were never meant to be perfect so we could come to Him - we cannot be - we come to Him because we are broken and hurting, and let Him heal us...in walking with Him, every second of every day we become perfect in that moment.  Ah...Jesus is so good.

http://katiecouric.com/videos/who-is-carl-lentz/


Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Father's Daughter

Growing up everyone always told me I looked just like my dad.  Well, I'm a girl, so I didn't really like that, but my mom told me that growing up everyone always told my dad that he would have been a pretty girl, then she would say, "and they were right"...that one always makes me smile.

And even now, I'll meet people who know my dad and as soon as they find out who I am they are shocked at our resemblance.

I love it when you can start to see traits of their family in kids.  Like my little Mason man - well he really is the spitting image of my dad at his age.  It's nuts!  But his personality, oh my gosh, just like Scott (my hubbie)!  That boy will talk your ear off, and he is quite the little ham.

It has me thinking...do I look like my Father?  Not just my dad, but my Heavenly Father.  Do I sound like Him?  If you had seen Him or knew Him, would you be able to tell that I am His daughter?  See the thing is, like babies, we don't often look much like anyone at first (except a fat old man), but the older we get, the clearer our resemblance becomes.  And the more we spend time with our family, the more we catch their mannerisms and phrases, the more we sound like them and think like them.

I mean I was born with a head full of jet black hair and dark eyes - a year later my hair was white blonde and I had blue eyes, and by the time I was five you could pick me out of a crowd as Doug's daughter.  These days I find myself often wearing my hair like my mom without thinking about it, and picking styles that she likes.  My mom my sister and I sound sooo similar on the phone, and even though Kati and I are eight years apart some people would swear we are twins.

So my question is - Am I looking more like Jesus?  Am I talking with the Holy Spirit so much that I sound like Him?  Can you tell I am my Father's daughter?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They will know we are Christians by...our rules???

In trying to draw nearer to God, I am often seeking - "What does He want from me?"  I find myself reading certain verses of the Bible, reading books, and searching the internet for answers to questions.  It's often here that I begin to find a lot of arguing over details of scripture and specific Jewish laws.

Can we get a tatoo?
Should we only eat certain types of foods?
Is it ok to celebrate Halloween?
Is it ok to wear makeup?
What kind of music and media can we consume?

Etc...and most people have their opinions...many strong convictions and scriptures to back them up.  I have strong convictions about a few of these things too...but they are areas that between God, myself, and my hubbie we have determined the best way for us to please God is...or what we feel He is calling us to in that season.

I see this on facebook, oh my goodness, every single day!

And the thing is - no good comes from it!  Jesus said that all the law and all the prophets hinge on these two commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul says that those who attempt to be justified by the law live under a curse, because unless you can keep all of it, you are condemned by all of it.

And a very wise man once told me that he would rather be known by what he loves than what he hates.  Think about that - as Christians...how do we want to be known?  How should we represent Christ?

You know what God wants?  Relationship with us!  Relationship with each person on this planet.  And it is through THAT RELATIONSHIP that God will transform us into who we need to become...not arguing over issues and trying to convict one another.

Titus 3:9-11 sums it up nicely

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned."

In John 13:35 Jesus says:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

This is how people are to know we are disciples of Christ - by our love.  They will know we are Christians by our love!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Declaration


I have renounced the hidden things of shame by manifestation of the truth.

For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness to the glory of God.

(See 2 Corinthians 4:1-6)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Oil

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately.  What it means, what it looks like.  There are a lot of definitions, and historically it can be a pretty broad term.

You hear a lot of people say that a good friendship (or any relationship) requires that both give 100%, or some say 50/50, or it goes both ways.  And in many cases that is true...but I think this is mostly talking more about peer-type friendships or partnerships (like husband and wife).

In Psalm 133 David sings about how wonderful it is when the brethren (the church - the people of God) dwell (settle down and continually remain together) in unity.  Then David gives this metaphor - it is like anointing oil poured over Aaron's head, running down his face, down his beard, onto his shoulders and garment.  Ok, that might sound super weird to you, but a wise friend/mentor of mine said that "Love flows like anointing oil, from the top down" - and in context of this verse - it makes total sense.

I guess, for a while there, I was feeling like maybe I/we (my hubs and I) missed the mark somehow because we don't have a lot of friendships that might look like the peer friendship that the world tells us about - both give 100%, or 50/50, or it's going both ways.  Some people might say that in most of the relationships that we have there could be an imbalance of "power" or "influence"...and all this time I've been feeling like maybe I was doing something wrong...

...like maybe I somehow needed to step it up to be a better friend to the woman who are 10+ years my senior...but the thing is...I don't have the same life experiences and wisdom yet, and I can't offer them what they are able to offer me, because time has not given it to me yet.  But I can pour what they have given me down on those walking the steps behind me.  Those that I felt like maybe I needed to try not to be so advice-givey (yeah, I know that's not a word), so they feel more "equal" to me somehow.  But that's not it either.

Unity in God's people is like anointing oil - love is like anointing oil...it flows down from those in leadership (by way of appointment or age or personality or experience or whatever) to those a step or two behind them, and from them further down.  The more you can receive from those who have gone before you, the more you have to pour on those who are coming up behind you.

So while there is great beauty in peer-type friendship and partnership - these aren't necessarily the only types of relationships to pursue or that have value.  Actually, if you look at the body of a person there are only two arms or two legs, there are 10 fingers, so maybe you are lucky to have 9 peer-type friendships (just kidding, it's not an exact science, just a metaphor), but the relationships that really show the beauty of unity and life with Christ are often those where one may have little to offer the other, other than gratitude.  Or like a child with their parent, they really can never know the sacrifices and love their parent poured into them, and the only way they can return that love is by pouring it back out into their own children.

So just remember this - peers are great and important friendships, but mentors and mentees, those who have gone before you and those who'll need your wisdom as they are coming up the rear, are the relationships that this life is made of...love flows like anointing oil, from the top down...so fill your cup and pour it out.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Good friends won’t demand that you accept them the way they are…healthy, confident people either.  It doesn't mean that they will change at your every passing whim, but that they can accept constructive criticism, own their own failures, and allow you the freedom to accept or reject them.  

It’s a pretty vulnerable thing, actually, to be honest about who you are and not demand acceptance.  But - it is totally possible when you realize your worth and value in Christ.  And once you get that, you are solid, yet flexible enough to bend and weave to make room for the needs of others without losing your own nature.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Offense vs. Defense

 of·fense

1.     a breach of a law or rule; an illegal act.
·      A thing that constitutes a violation of what is judged to be right or natural.

2.     annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself or one's standards or principles.

3.     the action of attacking.

“A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.”  - Proverbs 18:19

          Offense is a funny thing.  It’s like this seed planted in your heart, trying to grow, and each time you think of it or see that person it’s like watering the seed.  And offense, it is a hardy plant, growing best in the most frigid of climates.

          But once we are in Christ, and have known His great and powerful mercy, we must learn to utilize this resource to overlook offenses.

 “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”  -Prov. 19:11

          We are human however, and offense is sure to come!  People will let us down and hurt us, and whether or not it is intended; we will be tempted to be offended.  The first definition of offense is literally that someone broke a law or moral code – it is an offense.  But the outcome of that offense lies greatest in our response.  Whether or not we respond like the second definition and become annoyed.  Most of the time, choosing to pluck out that seed immediately saves our own life more than any other. 

          The other reason to overlook an offense, especially if you are a Christian, is because when you become offended, you are literally on offense (think sports) – just like the third definition of offense.  If you are on offense, then the other person(s) must be on defense.

de·fense
1.     the action of defending from or resisting attack.
·       attempted justification or vindication of something.
·       a means of protecting something from attack.
·       fortifications or barriers against attack.
·        (in sports) the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition.

2.     the case presented by or on behalf of the party being accused or sued in a lawsuit.

3.     one or more defendants and the counsel in a trial.

The problem with you being on offense and them being on defense is that you are now on opposing teams; there is no unity.

 “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  -Ephesians 4:2-3

Not only is there no longer unity between you and that person, even if you are initially kind to their face, is that soon after the offense takes root, it sprouts a growth that tempts you to tell others about how you feel.  Offense is like a weed, it’s seed spreads like wildfire.

 “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”  -Proverbs 6:16-19

The Lord HATES one who sows discord among brothers.  It is an abomination to Him.  How often are we tempted (and act on it too) even just to knowingly roll our eyes with our girlfriends about someone else who really gets under our skin.  We are literally sowing discord, tempting others to separate and alienate someone else.

 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; ...”  -1 Corinthians 13:1-13

          We are commanded to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (all the law and the prophets hinge on these two things), and love is not irritable or resentful. 

 “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  -Leviticus 19:18

 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”  -Matthew 7:1-5

          Offense will come.  Other people will do things that are wrong, and it will hurt.  Other people will do things that we do not care for, and we will feel irritated.  But God commands us to choose to humbly seek for unity in the body (the church), to strive for peace, to cover one another in love, and overlook irritation and choose not to judge.  No small order, it seems.  But the longer I walk with Christ, and the more I see of my own humanity and the more I see how much He overlooks and covers with grace for me, the more I am able to extend that same grace to others.  And when I struggle, I pray for Him to help me see them as He does. 

          But NO ONE gets to claim that it is just their personality to be easily irritated.  And definitely claiming that they are just honest is a great big lie.  Think of it: how high must one think of themselves?  How prideful must we be to think that we get to decide the rightness and worth of someone else?  And think of how our offense can hurt others, especially those who are trying to grow in Christ.  When we in the church allow our hearts to get offended, we often push out others who are trying to find their way in Him. 

          Let it go, my friends, just let it go.






Saturday, November 2, 2013

Words of Life

A few weeks ago I saw this blog post (sorry can’t remember exactly who, but it was an author and speaker) – anyway she was writing to women who feel compelled to write, specifically a book or a blog.  She was encouraging them to do so, and to begin now.  And in closing she shared a thought that has really stuck with me.  Many people feel compelled to write, and although they may never be a NY Times best seller or even ever be published, their words will touch the hearts of those they love and especially after they are gone from this earth, share wisdom and hope and what God has done to inspire those they leave behind.

The book that I am currently reading, one in a series of fiction novels by Karen Kingsbury, shares the impact of a particular woman’s letters on her husband and children after she has passed away.  Her husband finds wisdom, hope, and peace in re-reading her words.  Her children find wisdom and guidance at just the right time, and her memory stands stronger with them for her words.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” –John 1:1

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Then God said, ‘ Let there be light’; and there was light.”
                                                        Genesis 1:1-3

Words are a pretty powerful thing.     We often forget their impact, especially today when words, thoughts, texts, ideas, and images are so carelessly thrown at us like a whirlwind from every direction. 


The Word literally brought forth life into this world.  God wrote His Word and transformed our lives, and gave us insight into His ways, His Truth, His redemption story.  So even if it’s just a few words, or a note here and there, or even just being more conscientious about the words we speak – remember that our words can literally bring light into darkness, they can birth new life.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Don't Judge a Book by It's Cover

William Butler Yeats said to, “Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.” Wisdom is useless, knowledge is useless, understanding is useless, unless it can be shared and applied.  And God loves to use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27).  Often wisdom, knowledge, and understanding are wrapped in packages that seem perhaps shallow or even unpalatable.  It is God’s pleasure to just such a thing.
In spite of all the times that God has shown me how while education and background and personal interests have little bearing on whom He chooses to bestow His wisdom, I can still, at times revert back to a less “evolved” time in my life, surrounded by academia and “proper breeding” when I was assured that the way one spoke indicated their own level of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. 
I was not even aware that I was slipping back into old habits until recently a very precious woman shared her teaching and book with me.  I began reading it rather tentatively, sure that there would be little more than sticky gumdrop Christianity, womens’ issues that I had matured weeeell past, of course.  And as I began reading, I was stunned.  I could hardly finish a page for all the depth and meat.  I had to keep putting it down going back to the Bible to study more and understand what she was saying.  I have highlighting, underlining, notes in the margins, notes in my journal - I can't put it down, but I have to, because my brain is still downloading all the depth from just a few pages.  In this precious woman, with this delightfully girlfriendy personality, is a depth of wisdom that astounds me. 
Guess the old adage is still true: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

So thankful that God has proved that to be true in my own life, and convinces me again and again that He is the author and finisher of our faith, the only True Wisdom, and that without Him, we are all really nothing, and with Him we are an altogether more beautiful creation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preparing for Battle

          I have often been tempted to believe that life with Christ is nothing more than dull religion.  A life of quiet prudence.  Prudence – ugh – don’t you just hate that word – it makes me think of all the times I dared to turn something down I knew was not right and my friends called me a “prude”.  In the times I ran from God it was mostly because I was seeking adventure; I wanted a life of bravery and excitement, not being a quiet, goody-goody prude.  Ha!  Did I have it all wrong!
          Proverbs 8-9 discuss that the House of Wisdom has cut out seven pillars to build her house that is filled with riches, honor, and righteousness.  What are those seven pillars?
1.      Prudence (H6195)
2.      Knowledge (H1847) and Discretion (H4209)
3.      Fear (H3374) of the Lord
4.      Counsel (H6098)
5.      Sound Wisdom (H8454)
6.      Understanding (H998)
7.      Strength (H1369)
You may notice that after many of these words I have the letter H and numbers in parenthesis.  This passage of the Bible is written in Hebrew, and there is a Bible Study Resource called Strongs Exhaustive Concordence of the Bible. Each word written in Greek or Hebrew is catalogued there with its passage in the Bible.  For instance, though we may find the word strength written in our modern translation throughout the Bible – it’s meaning in this Proverbs 8 passage and another could be a little different.  So when studying the Bible, it’s good to get to the root of the words. 
          That is just what I did here – I looked up the root words and meanings, because the word prudence just chaps my butt every time.  It represented a quiet church mousy type person and felt that I would have to put back on some chains to attain.  HOWEVER, BOY WAS I WRONG!
          I began looking up prudence its Hebrew root word ‘orman – and it means a shrewdness, craftiness type of prudence.  Knowledge and discretion refer to skill, cunning, and plots!  The fear of the Lord refers to reverence for an awesome and terrifying presence.  Counsel refers to advice and seeking purpose.  Sound Wisdom lends to finding knowledge that leads to abiding success (tried, tested, passed). Strength is referencing power, might, valor, bravery, force, and mighty deeds.  Go ahead, look them up – google search strongs and their numbers and see for yourselves.
          Not one of these pillars of wisdom lends to a life lived in dull quiet corners.  There are times to get back to the quietness, but these pillars lend to a life of adventure – of battles fought with the right tools, of cunning acts, and crafty plots to destroy the enemy of our souls and this time! 

          This encouraged me today to remember that even though what my daily life may look like today may seem rather uneventful, God is building these seven pillars within me, so that I am prepared and armed for the days ahead…for an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Learning to Drive

          I don’t know that much about driving a standard, but I can get by.  A few months ago one of our pastors shared a story about building up momentum and he used the example of driving a standard.  Once you get to a certain speed, you don’t have to keep switching gears, and your vehicle doesn't have to work as hard at 60 miles an hour as it did at 10.   The momentum has been built, and highway driving is easy.
          But if you drive through a town with many stop lights, you have to learn to shift down so you don't burn out or run over townspeople. The stop and go is difficult and complicated on the car and driver.  This is where I struggle most in a standard…I have had a few of our vehicles die out on me at this point…not super fun. 
          Growing up I took dance classes and in high school was in competitive cheer-leading all four years.  In all that time, I never was a quick learner when it came to routines.  Other girls seemed to watch a performance a time or two, and then music would kick on at full speed and they would jump right in…not me.  If I tried to keep up full speed before I could do it all slowly, I looked like some sort of spastic monkey.  I had to carefully stop and go slowly, mastering each motion, then trying to put just two or three that I had mastered together, then trying the next before moving forward. 
          Once I understood each movement, then I could put them together, when I could put them together then I could move with the music, and once I had that down I made it my own and my performances went well.  But building momentum took a lot longer for me, a lot of extra hours at home at night that no one saw, but it was worth it!
          In strength training, especially with weights or resistance bands, it’s a lot easier to move faster – to let the momentum carry you quickly through the sets…but it is not really building strength.  What really builds strength is taking the time to slowly move each weight or band, allowing the muscles to tear down at each spot so they can rebuild – giving you a long, sound muscle structure, a secure and trustworthy foundation for use.
          I’ve been thinking of these things as it relates to my life.  My tasks at hand these days are greater than I’ve ever known, and getting it all done seems monumental.  But God has been showing me how to balance principle, focus, strength, and momentum – how to leverage them to my advantage.
          Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.”  I’ve been meditating on it for a week or so.  When I seek Him for what work I most need to do, what to do first, what to prioritize, and commit to working things His way – things run more smoothly.
          But the thing is, I have two young children, a husband working a LOT, and in general life just happens.  Weekend trips, sicknesses, storms, financial issues, and general laziness all come and attack my ability to work and keep up my routine.  But the thing is, when a week of sickness knocks us behind, and each day after that we recommit our works to the Lord and get back on the horse, we keep building momentum.
          Each time we are knocked down and we get back up, we build strength.  We build real strength; the kind that builds commitment and makes it easier to get up and move forward faster than the time before.  The strength allows us to build momentum faster, like the shifting gears of a standard truck.  And this strength and momentum that we have built helps us to establish our thoughts so that we are not tossed to and fro by the crashing waves of emotions (ie: whether or not I feel like doing laundry today – hello – never), by the unavoidable interruptions (like every family member cycling through some wave of stomach bug leaving our home a disaster), or more challenging seasons. 
          And other times we are not knocked down, but we must learn to down shift any way for the sake of those we love and our own sanity.  Nomatter how great my momentum is tackling my tasks, my children need me to be mentally emotionally available to them, often at a moments notice.  My husband needs my head and heart available in our stolen moments together at the end of each day.  This is sometimes hard, because I fear losing the momentum for the tasks, but again the Lord reminds me...trust Him, shift down and let it go.  Tomorrow, I will take it back up again, and each time will build a greater strength to shift gears more quickly and smoothly because the strength I have is there.  
          The many hats and tasks we must wear are often a delicate balancing act, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways.  But if we will resurrender ourselves to Him, and continue to seek Him; He will produce good fruit in our lives if we let Him.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Books can be a great many things, but books cannot be your friend.  Movies, television, music – entertainment of any sort – none of these sources can satisfy the need for relationship in our soul.  Like sugar laden fatty treats they can soothe the hunger for a while, even provide a euphoric high, but trying to substitute for the real thing will only momentarily delay the hunger and later leave you more ravenous and more difficult to please than before you began.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Uniquely Feminine

Female friendships are so often wrought with biting jabs, carefully calculated insults, and sharp zings all while smiling and kissing each other's cheeks.  I saw a post on pinterest that was an older man telling his son not to try to understand women, because only women can understand women, and they hate each other.  Ugh!  Why???!!!

I was sharing some struggles with a wise girlfriend the other day, and she shared with me some wise insight.  We must seek to pull up the roots of jealousy, comparison, criticism, and insecurity lurking beneath the surface of our carefully glossed smiles.  We must seek the Lord to heal these areas of our hearts for the purpose of intimate female friendship - it is essential, which is why it is under attack.  Girlfriends, there is an enemy of our souls, and he would love nothing more than for us to never have true female friendship.  He would love for our insecurity and jealousy to keep us guarded from each other, and throw daggers cloaked as jokes when we come near.  

God created woman strong, innovative, nurturing, fiercely loyal, protective, and kind...we are essentially needed.  We need one another.  Why do we allow the enemy to gain ground by tearing one another down, especially when we so well know the trials and challenges of womanhood full well?

Thank You God for these beautiful women.  Please show them the roots of insecurity, jealousy, criticism, and comparison or others that are driving a wedge between their female friendships.  Bring them to light so that they can be uprooted and the holes healed.  Help them to sow in loving kindness, compassion, confidence in their own identity in You, and Truth so that they can reap intimate, life giving friendships to hold them up when they become weary or tired, to celebrate at the joys of life, and to cry on one another's shoulders in times of pain.  And thank You God, that You have created us in Your image, uniquely feminine, and that we are Your precious daughters.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hello World

Facebook.

It is so present in our lives, isn't it?
I still remember when facebook first came out of hiding from Harvard and made it's way to Baylor University.  It was spring of 2005, and I had just transferred to Baylor.  I remember the night my roommate introduced me to this new thing everyone on campus was into, and her showing me how to set up my account.  I still remember her helping me pick a picture and us cropping it together to look good on my profile.   

Eight years later and facebook is nearly a cornerstone in our relational lives.  Crazy to think.  Don't get me wrong - I most definitely do not hate facebook...actually that is where my husband and I sparked the relationship that led to us becoming best friends, then dating, then engaged, and now wonderfully in love and married for nearly seven years now.  (If you don't know our story - it's a good one - we went to high school together with less than 500 people in our school and all the same friends but never spoke to each other...God has a sense of humor, my friends, so feel free to ask about the whole story some time.  We love to tell it!)

Anyway, back to facebook.  It's just crazy how when I think about something or something happened good or bad or when I need help - I think "Facebook!"  I go there to post my thoughts, to post my pictures, to "keep up with friends", and in less mature moments to stalk "enemies".  

There are so many great things about it, like it's easier for me to keep up with what is going on in the life of one of my besties who lives eight hours away, and my group of girlfriends can message each other all together at one time to set up playdates and share struggles.

Facebook is not an enemy.  But lately, it's become my frenemy.  Don't laugh.  I know you did,but hear me out.

I'm a stay at home mom.  I just began homeschooling my young children and had to pull back from a lot of other commitments to make time to take care of them, myself, our home, and of course my sweet hubbie who works 90+ hours on a regular week.  So let's just say adult interaction is sometimes sparse.  

It's ok, though, I know I am right where I am called to be, and I have a wonderful friendship with God.  I also know that to be healthy and whole I need to specifically schedule social interaction on many levels to ensure that I can function and remember how to converse with other adults.  My kids need it too.  

But this last month, we were all sick.  Cycling through colds and stomach bugs and the like, and I really did not have time to get together with friends or go to church.  So facebook was sort of my connection to the outside world outside of conversations with the person who bags my groceries at HEB.  

That's great!  Just like the fact that I can watch church online when I'm home sick, so I don't feel totally isolated!  The problem is, if you read my last post, I have a tiny fear of intimacy.  And facebook, well, facebook is a great way to "feel connected" and paint a pretty picture on it, without having any true connection at all.  Unfortunately, I fell into the habit of letting it be my connection with friends.

I realized I felt so lonely and I didn't know why, I was talking to friends daily and they were posting response to my thoughts and pictures.  But the truth is, no one even knew we were sick and out of the loop for a month!  Yikes!  So, I took a brief hiatus from good old fb, and if I needed more proof that I was using it as an unhealthy crutch I felt like I was going through withdrawals.  I felt more lonely than ever, and I did not know what to do with those few minutes of down time when I sat at my computer...what, check my email again?

But taking this breather from facebook has given me room to talk more with God, to actually call friends, to take the time to write a letter to an old friend (shocker - I know!), and generally gauge how connected I really am and how often I think of something and my first thought is to make it my status on fb.  It's made it much easier to know who my real friends are - the one's who know what is going on in my life if it is not posted on fb.  (Ironically they are probably the only ones reading this post)

It's been nice.  I know it won't be forever, but it's worth fasting from every now and then to get some fresh perspective on the real connections in life.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Intimacy

Intimacy.
I still remember studying this term in undergrad Interpersonal Communication, and our professor telling us the definition and saying “into – me – see”.  Closeness, familiarity, the ability to predict one’s behavior – all staples of intimacy.
And it terrifies me.
Does it scare you?  I don’t know about you but I have been burned, my friends.  Burned badly.  And I pray and beg God for close friends, for close mentorship relationships, and as soon as they get close I feel terrified and I run!  I begin impression management, and trying to seem busier or more together or less interested so I’m not “too much” or this or that – the list could go on and on.
Especially if I gain respect for someone…whew, that is a rough one, because I am afraid that if they see who I really am, they might not respect the me who does not have it all together or has made some mistakes or is not always holy or not always kind or mature.  What if they see that I am sometimes lazy, sometimes controlling, often insecure…what if what if what if???
And I don’t even realize what it is at the time, it’s just like I feel this pressure and I run or withdraw or hold up an impression, and it isn’t until later when I realize I am dreading contact with certain people that I realize what happened. 
Time and time again I have taken this to the Father.  Lord, I am so afraid of being hurt, of being rejected, but also of being lonely and without friendships to turn to and wise counsel to seek.  Over and over again, He comforts me, and the answer I keep hearing resounding in my heart is to just be real. 
Don’t try to water down my affection for them or inflate who I am or my abilities.  Be sincere in how I feel, and be the kind of friend I want to be, not hold back because I am afraid they will reject me.  Be the kind of friend I want. 
And when I have done this in the past, the relationships that are with unsafe people flesh out quickly because of their issues and not mine, and then God can heal my heart and move on, but the people who are safe and mature and healthy accept me, accept the real me, and we build connection and intimacy.  Safety, security, real intimacy. 

Intimacy.  It scares me.  But I have a choice to make and so do you – loneliness, a life of insecurity and doubt and no one to hold you up and help you when you fall, or risk intimacy, perhaps fall a few times, but find true and lasting friendship and full life.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I am tired.  I just feel weary, you know; too many irons in the fire.  But the thing is, they are good works, serving and helping and tending to those in need - service to the church.  But I neglected to care for myself and for my family.  And God is not honored in that.  After hearing of another Godly couple, ravaged by loss in their marriage, I am reminded again to come home.  Come home.

Service, especially to the church and neighbors and the community is so good, so so good.  But if it flows out of your own effort or out of order from God, Family, Church - it is just a ticking time bomb.  It's just a matter of time.  Service in God's Kingdom keeps your sword sharp, not beats you to a pulp.

I sat down to post a tweet and skim my feed; this message from our pastor seemed emboldened across my computer screen.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would rather have my life full of His presence, then simply with His strategy for our church.

I clicked the link for his blog (JoeChampion.com), and read his post with tears streaming down my face.  He talked of the shield of faith and how it protects us, and how a shield in this day was not made of iron and steel like we think of, but rather of leather.  Leather must be bathed in oil, the process takes days for battle, otherwise it will shrivel and crack, leaving you defenseless.  Our shield, our shield of faith, our time in the presence of God, in His word (really in His Word and His presence) must be protected so that we can fight the good fight.  Pastor Joe said:

I truly believe that death (in ministry) is the result of a process, not a single event. When a leader sacrifices his worship time with God, and gets carried away with all kinds of other priorities, we become dry and brittle. And produce dry and brittle followers and churches.

And I look in the mirror and see that I have sacrificed time with God for "serving" in areas that while they are good areas cannot produce fruit without Him, and I have neglected to serve the way He told me to, when He told me to, in His grace.  I am tired, and my family has not been cared for well.

I neglected my shield, and failed to recognize the honor it is to be the caretaker of my husband and children, and to be the person that nurtures them into the people God intends for them to become.

It's time to oil my shield.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Buried with Christ in Baptism, Raised to Walk in Newness of Life


There are these moments in life when you are so changed that you know there is never any going back.  Many of these moments for me were knowing that I was “ruined” for Jesus; I had tasted life with Him and I could never again be satisfied without Him – at times I’ve tried, but everything is dull, pointless, and lacking luster without Him.

It’s been coming to a head for quite a while, and I’ve thought I was already there, but this week, a change happened in my heart that can never be undone. 

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made you free, and do not be entangled again by a yoke or bondage.” –Galations 5:1

Do you know what kind of bondage Paul is talking about in this passage?  Religious and legalistic bondage, and friends, I was bound.  I had all these rules and rituals, and even though I had a relationship with Jesus I couldn’t seem to measure up and do the “right” thing.  I felt guilty all the time and would try to hide from God because I didn’t want to try and I felt guilty for failing.  And then when I did feel strong enough to do the right thing, I felt like I needed to preach at everyone else because I didn’t want them to make me fall backward.  Sometimes I would isolate myself because there was no one perfect enough to measure up to this standard I had set for myself.  I was exhausted.  I felt defeated. I was wrong.

Thankfully, God has placed people in my life that know Him and serve Him and are able to accept others right where they are…they somehow walk in truth without having to talk about it all the time.  For years I have been observing, trying to figure out what it was that was different.  How could they be around other “sinners” without stumbling?  How did they have so much freedom and life and joy and still follow the Bible?

I was so wrong about what life with Christ looks like.  I was so wrong about how to approach righteousness.  I was so wrong about how to reach the world.  How could I know our God and be so wrong?  I don’t know, but thankfully He broke through to my heart and He has set me free, there has been a transformation and friends, I think I might be baptized again!

Life in Christ is all freedom, and when you walk with Christ you ebb and flow as He does.  If you chose to do something or not to do something it is out of complete confidence in the betterment of your life, not out of some “duty”.  And even better, when you walk with Him, He will literally change your desires to line up with His, and you can walk in peace and confidence. 

My friend, who has spent the last week in Greece, learning and being a voice for those in human trafficking, shared this quote in her blog about the trip.

“Preach the gospel always!  When necessary, use words.”

I looked up this quote and it is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.  I thought about my friend, who most definitely lives out this quote.  She is characterized by her generosity and service.  And there are many people that are nice and help others, but a time or two God has opened the doors for us to have conversations, and I realized the spiritual depth that she has as well.  But she lives out her faith, and loves on people so that they want to know what is different about her, and I love that. 

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for this hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.” -1Peter 3:15

God just rocked my heart this week, that I have the freedom to do anything – He has given it to me, and I choose Him!  In Him I have freedom, and I want to love on others.  I want to live out the love and joy that life in Christ offers, not preach about condemnation if you don’t measure up.  We can never measure up, but thankfully Jesus died on the cross to atone for our sins, and God raised Him to life for victory over our sinful nature, and when we accept Him we receive the Holy Spirit – a spirit of power and wisdom that produces kindness and strength and gentleness and patience and we are literally changed from the inside out to become who we were meant to be – He transforms us into His likeness. 

I just want to shout it from the rooftops – God is so good, and I am free! 

Monday, April 1, 2013

R-E-S-P-E-C-T


R-E-S-P-E-C-T 

Respect is a funny thing.  It seems like everyone expects it’s given to them, even demand that they deserve respect, but hardly anyone seems to be giving it out.  Some people think it’s earned, some people think it is an entitlement by position, and some people think it’s out dated.  This word has been so battered and abused; respect is so foreign to our modern American culture.  Would we even recognize it right before our eyes?

Definitions of Respect:

1. esteem: a feeling or attitude of admiration and deference toward somebody or something

2. state of being admired: the state of being admired deferentially

3. thoughtfulness: consideration or thoughtfulness (pay due attention; avoid violating something)

4. regards: polite greetings offered to somebody

 

I think respect has much to do with what we honor and value.  

The Bible has this to say about it…

 

Ephesians 5

The Message (MSG)

Relationships

21 Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.

22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.

Ephesians 6

The Message (MSG)

6 1-3 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.”

4 Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.

5-8 Servants, respectfully obey your earthly masters but always with an eye to obeying the real master, Christ. Don’t just do what you have to do to get by, but work heartily, as Christ’s servants doing what God wants you to do. And work with a smile on your face, always keeping in mind that no matter who happens to be giving the orders, you’re really serving God. Good work will get you good pay from the Master, regardless of whether you are slave or free.

9 Masters, it’s the same with you. No abuse, please, and no threats. You and your servants are both under the same Master in heaven. He makes no distinction between you and them.

 

The way I see it – when you are in a “position” or “title” of authority – like a parent, a boss, a pastor, a mentor, political leader, etc – your job is to humbly lead recognizing that you are accountable to God.  If you demand respect from those “below” you, you may seem to get it, but God is not pleased.  When you are in authority or esteem, work to be worthy of respect, not to get it, but to please the God who openly rewards the pure hearted.

 

When you are in the lower ranks – children, grunts, entry-level employee, group attendee, average citizen – it’s easy to be frustrated with those who are in charge that just really don’t seem worthy of respect. 

Romans 13:1 says, “ Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

It really doesn’t matter what you think of the person – if you are living to please God you choose to respect the authority and position of the person because you want to please God, and you trust that He openly rewards those who obey Him with pure hearts.  And the Bible says that you reap what you sow – someday, you will also be in a position of authority, and when you have sown in humility and proper respect, you will also reap in such.

 

When you spend your life demanding that others earn your respect before you give it to them and demanding that others respect you because of your position, you’ll often find that respect eludes you.  But if you will live in such a way to be worthy of respect and respecting others to please God’s heart, I think you’ll find that this bring a harvest of respect and honor back in your lap.