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Mindful
  • Everything I know about 15 minutes

    I find myself with little 15-20 minute increments of time. I give myself a little longer than I used to in order to get out the door on time, but it usually means either right before or right after I've gotten myself and my Little One all ready to go, I have a little time to spare.

    I wish I could be pious and say that I've mastered using those 15 minutes, but honestly just today I found myself with 3 of these chunks of time and I began to feel this nagging sense that I ought to make something of the time. It wasn't guilt as much as the feeling that I'm not being a good steward of my main resource right now, which just so happens to be these little pockets of time.

    Most often I whip out my phone and check out what you all might be doing on Facebook or Instagram today. Or I loiter in my own home, wandering from room to room making a mental checklist of what I COULD be doing "when I have the time."

    -I could pick up my bedroom [how do I always have a pile of something somewhere?]
    -I could load/unload the dishwasher. 
    -I could go through Marylane's clothes AGAIN, because who KNEW a little baby could grow out of and into so many darling clothes so freaking fast?!
    -I could clean off the dining room table or the kitchen counter, because heaven KNOWS how long those piles have been sitting there.
    -I could read a few pages in the latest book I've picked up.
    -I could spend time with God.
    -I could play the piano.
    -I could "Miracle-Gro" my wilting plants.
    -I could decide what to make for dinner.
    -I could write a note to someone.

    I could do any number of things that would keep me from doing nothing at all with my time, but I mostly choose to waste the precious resource I have. Let me tell you, it's easy for me to justify doing nothing with that time: I'm tired, I just want a little break, it's only a few minutes anyway...

    But I don't want to get used to wasting little bits of time, because before I know it, I'll be wasting big bits of time. For me, it comes down to being faithful with little and perhaps later on having the privilege and opportunity to be faithful with much.

    What resource do you most have at your disposal? How do you choose to spend it?

  • Adam and Eve: Prophecy-Advent Day 2

    To begin to uncover the prophecies surround our Savior and Messiah, we must turn to the very beginning, the creation of the world. 

    Genesis 1 tells the story of creation, and of the first man. God called all things He created "Good" and gave the man the responsibility of ruling over all created things. 

    Genesis 2 tells of God's rest, the beauty and gifts of the garden, and the need for a partner for the man, and finally the solution for him in Eve.

    Genesis 3 is where the prophecy comes into play. You know the story well. Adam and Eve are having the time of their lives communing freely with God and cultivating the gorgeous earth He just created. The devil visits Eve in the form of a "crafty" serpent. He feeds her all the lines her heart has wondered at before, and with very little work, he's gotten her to partake one thing that God has kept from her. Eve wants company in her sin so she coerces her husband to join her. He does. And from that moment on, there is fear and hiding. God does not leave them in their disobedience, He seeks them out. They now feel the need to cover themselves. Their eyes have been opened and they know they have destroyed God's plan for them.  

    Here's the prophecy from Genesis 3:

    14 The Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;

    15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

    16 To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

    17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.

    18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field;

    19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

    20 Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

    All of it is a prophecy of proportions Adam and Eve had no way of understanding. But the beginning is what I want us to look at. Verses 14-15. In these 2 short verses God declares the reconciliation of His broken people back to Himself. No sooner had Adam and Eve taken the bait did God create a way to draw them back to Himself. He announced to the devil that 1. The animal he used to seduce God's people would be cursed, but greater than this: 2. God would crush the devil's head. It would cause the bruising of God, but it would ultimately result in the reconciliation of all things back to Himself.

    After their sin, the first words from God's mouth were words that ultimately would protect the people who ruined perfection. What grace. What a promise. 

  • Day 1 of Advent

    Today is the first day of Advent. If you happen to go to church this morning, you might notice a wreath of 5 candles. They may even light one of them. The first candle of advent is the Candle of Hope. It might also be called the Candle of Prophecy. 

    God promised our Savior the moment our sin separated us from Him. He wasted no time in His provision of reconciliation. Scripture shares the stories of many prophets who couragously shared the prophecies of God: the hope of our Savior. Hebrews 11 gives a beautiful overview of many who walked with God. It closes with this:

    Hebrews 11:32-40 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

    And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.

    I can't comprehend the sacrifice of the prophets who risked their lives to declare the promises of God. I have little sacrifice involved in following Jesus. My walk with God is mostly joyful and filled with God's presence. I've never needed to shut the mouths of lions or escape the edge of a sword, but with all the joy involved there is discomfort sprinkled in at times. It's discomfort that points my eyes to the promises of God. The promises He's already fulfilled, and those He will be faithful to fulfill when His timing is right. 

    The courage of these prophets and the prophecies they spoke, give hope through discomfort that God is still working to reconcile all things. He's given us a future and a hope.

  • It's Time To Celebrate [With You]

    God asks 2 important things of us in Romans 12:15. 

    Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

    How are you at these two things?

    WEEPING
    Last night Jason and I had an extensive conversation about this verse. We were talking about how when someone is weeping, it can come pretty naturally to weep with them. We often don't know what to say in the midst of another's pain, and the most helpful thing to do is to keep our mouths shut tight and weep with them. It's easier than finding words anyway, and most of the time the words we come up with are of little help in the process. People need to know we are WITH them in their pain. We might not be able to empathize fully, there's most likely nothing we can do to fix it, but we can certainly take on a bit of the pain and feel it with them. And that is comforting. It counters feelings of "you could never understand" or "you don't get it," because the very words that lead to those accusations were never spoken. Instead, what is communicated is, "I'm with you." And what is more comforting in the midst of pain, than to know someone is walking with you in it. Whether they can understand or not, if you don't have to trek through the pain alone there is comfort found. 

    REJOICING
    But the verse doesn't lead with weeping. The verse leads with rejoicing. Celebrating the victories of others: the wedding of good friends, the birth of a child, a promotion at work, finishing a hard earned degree, the growth of a friends' church, finding community, a flourishing business. These things are all worthy of rejoicing, and often those experiencing them rejoice openly over the good, but for YOU and for ME as we watch their celebrations, how do we respond? 

    This is harder. Jason and I were talking about why this might be. Why do we find it difficult to celebrate others' successes?

    You might have other reasons to add on, but Jason and I believe it might be about 2 primary things:
    1. Pride.   2. Jealousy.

    1. Pride says, "I'm deserving." It tells us, "I have worked hard enough to have earned something good." Pride tells me what I ought to receive while discounting the worthiness of those around me. Pride arches it's back, ready to pounce out the joy in other's successes. And let's be clear: Pride is not an alter-ego, although I wish it were. It's me. It's any time I believe I am more deserving than someone else. Yuck. If it were an alter-ego, I could strike it down and kill it once and for all. I could banish it from my house and lock the door against it. But it's not just in my house; it's in my heart. And sometimes it feels as though killing it would be the death of me too. 

    2. Jealousy says what's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine. It stakes a claim on what my pride has told me I deserve. It reaches out to try to snatch what someone else has been given. It's like trying to steal someone's Christmas presents. They were a gift to another, but I want it for me. NO ONE readily admits to jealousy. Somehow every single person knows how gross it is. I can't tell you the last time I've been willing to admit that I'm JEALOUS of someone. No way. That's an ugly character trait and everyone knows it. Everyone would turn their head in disgust if I were to say it out loud. 

    Pride creates jealousy, yet jealously wounds our pride. How vicious they are. Pride and jealousy feed each other, yet despise one another at the very same time. To admit my jealousy tells my pride that maybe I'm not so deserving after all. Maybe I'm not who I thought I was. 

    In the story of the Prodigal Son the older brother displays pride and jealousy perfectly at the celebration for his younger brother. You can read the account in Luke 15. In his pride, the older brother believed that HE was deserving of the party. He was jealous of the celebration for his punk brother, when he had always stayed. That party should have been HIS.

    Look at the verses before the story of the Prodigal Son, though. Earlier in Luke 15 a man loses a sheep and a woman loses a coin. When finally they're found, they both do the exact same thing! They invite others to rejoice with them! The Prodigal Son does the same, but plays out how the request to join in another's success can happen: either you can enter into the joy or you can remain outside of it.

    Who in your family or community is rejoicing right now? How can you enter into it? Not begrudgingly, not to further build up your pride, not to get a better look at what you think you deserve, but to open-heartedly, unabashedly, unreservedly, all out CELEBRATE another's successes? 

    Your time will come around too. Someone will join you in your celebration. There will be people who laugh with you with the same free-spirited rejoicing. And we'll all experience the exhilaration of rejoicing in the way of the man with the found sheep, the woman with her recovered coin, and the father over his returned son. 

    [The picture is from my bachelorette party, where the best friends a girl could have all came together to celebrate in the most amazing ways possible. They show me on a regular basis, what it looks like to rejoice with those who rejoice!]

  • Single Hang-Ups That Have Followed Me Into My Newlywed Bliss

    I've heard of newlywed bliss before, and kinda rolled my eyes at it. It was hard for me to imagine that two people joining their lives together could actually be THAT happy. And I think that I didn't want to think about missing out on something as a single person. 

    Today is Jason and my 1 month anniversary. This morning before Jason left for work he gave me a gigantic hug and said that this was our first tiny milestone in a whole bunch of years of celebrating being married to each other. He's so sweet. This and fixing me breakfast or bringing me coffee in the morning are just a few sweet things that keep affirming just how real the newlywed bliss thing is! It's amazing!!

    I started reading a book on marriage yesterday.The book is fantastic so far, but I have to be honest. As I'm reading it, I am realizing that I have a bunch of hangups from my single life that have followed me into my newlywed bliss. Here are a few things I get stuck on both that the book talks about, and just a typical Sunday in church bring up in me.

    -When we talk about marriage being the only picture of God's relationship to the church, it can be isolating. Being 33, and just getting married, I have spent a lot of years feeling slighted when people said this. It made me feel that my picture could never be complete because I wasn't married. Or at best, was only one I could concieve of as I pieced together how other people's relationships might relate to the church's relationship to God. I just can't see why God would hold out on single people when He has a deep desire is for us to know Him and His love for His church. I DO think marriage is "A" wonderful picture of God's relationship to the church that Scripture affirms, but it is not the ONLY one. The church is also a "living stone," a "body," "God's Possession." 

    -I heard a pastor say, "you can't understand the love of God until you have your first child." I was attending a singles group at the time. So basically, he told every 90% of the people in the room that they couldn't understand the love of God. I get what he was saying. I just think he was sort of wrong. People without kids actually CAN understand the love of God AND in incredibly intimate and powerful ways. It's why the Gospel is powerful: because God loves us!! Our language matters. It's one thing to use our experiences as an example. But no where in Scripture does it isolate in this way. Analogies are meant to increase our understanding. If our analogy drives people further from understanding God, then the analogy isn't working.

    -I cringe in church when announcements are only applicable to married people with families. As though widows and single people have no resposibility or place in the church when Scripture very clearly met the needs of ALL. Take a look at Acts. Single people are assets to the body and also have needs to be met. Church isn't ONLY for family. It's also for people seeking to find a family in the body of Christ. This can be anyone: single, married, with kids, without kids, widowed, divorced, those with homes, those without. Child care isn't the ONLY need of the church, but you might miss that based on announcements. If you're wondering why there are no single people in your church, it might be because no place has been created for them. So how about nurturing the few that you have. I bet more will come. Jason and I were SO impressed with a church we visisted here in Minneapolis because they raked the leaves of widows and single people in the church. Woah! What a concept! They served the single people of their church. I bet those single people and widows understood God's love for the church in a brand new way by being served in that way! If single people or people without kids see that their needs are being met within the church as well as family needs are, they might be more willing to meet the needs within the church. If when they walk in the door people are asking them ONLY to serve, and not asking how their needs can be met, they might not want to stay.

    I have more, but I'll stop here for now. I want to hear the voice of God in contexts that I have fought against before. I want to share about what God is doing in me authentically and in ways that are not isolating to my brothers and sisters around me. In some ways, I hope my single hangups never leave me because I want to remain sensitive to how I present the Gospel and myself in the context of church. I want to seek to serve ALL of the body of Christ. 

    How can we present the Gospel in a way that is accessable to others? Who might be overlooked right now that we could seek to serve?

    [Disclaimer: I am sure there are other people in the church who fall under other categories who also feel overlooked. The "single" category is just one I am the most familiar with. I also don't believe church is merely about getting our needs met. I just think the love of Christ in us seeks to meet the needs of others no matter what their station in life.]

  • Taking 40 Days

    Never in my life have I not had a job to go to. This is the first time ever. In my last post I wrote about "earning my keep" and how God is at work in me showing me that I'm worth something to Him even if I'm not contributing in a typical fashion. 

    I've been writing a Bible study about John the Baptist and Elijah. It's been a stretching year for me digging into their lives, and the lives of those surrounding them. I'm going through my final edits now, and I am struck with a passage of Elijah's story and my perspective nearly a year ago writing it. It's from 1 Kings 19:5-8. 

    He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, “Arise, eat.” Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mountain of God.

    I wrote a year ago:

    "I know it’s not possible for me in my present situation, and you might feel the same as I do, but maybe God is calling you to a time of rest. You may not be able to swing 40 days wandering the wilderness. And maybe Elijah felt like that time was ANYTHING but rest. But I think we can be assured with the history of Elijah up until now, that it was 40 days spent seeking the Lord."

    I won't spoil the rest, in case you read the study one day, but I'm blown away by this, because today I sit editing this portion of the study, and I realized that God HAS given me 40 days. It was 40 days ago that I worked my last day at Plywood People, on September 26th. 40 days EXACTLY to November 4th! And today I edit this section of my Bible study. This is no mistake! God is such a wonder! He knew that today, one year later, He would work out this tiny miracle for me. That I would see that He is giving me my own wandering time to seek His next best thing for me. 

    Wow! What a gift! He's given so much, and continues to generously give and give and give. How could I ever doubt that He knows JUST what He is planning for me next. He is so good and gracious. 

  • Everything I know about Earning My Keep

    It's 7:15 AM. Jason and I are making a habit of waking up with each other so we have a few moments before our days begin that we can spend with each other. A couple mornings I've gone back to bed, but most days I've stayed up and worked on the house, chatted with friends, and gotten things on my list crossed off. When I started getting settled 13 days ago, the length of the list made me think I had enough to do to fill a couple months. But starting on Monday I started recounting to Jason these feelings of not "earning my keep."

    Settling has come a lot easier than I had thought it might. Nearly all the boxes are unpacked and put away. I have walls of pictures hung, with just a few more to go. With Social Security Card, Driver's License and Car Registration all checked off, guilt is starting to settle in. 

    How am I earning my keep? I feel the need to justify the moments of my days to ensure I've done enough to account for the hours. I've even started selling stuff on eBay to try to earn a few bucks. This morning Jason and I were spending time with each other and the focus of our time together was about relishing the presence of God. We talked about being still before God.

    God tells us, "Be still and know that I am God." I know this is true, but it is difficult in a culture that thrives on production to believe that God could be ok with me regardless of what I'm earning. But He functions on a different pay scale. It's one that is filled up with time with Him, sincere prayers, and love for Him and others. I don't want to receive grace like this. I want to have to earn it, but I get the distinct sense that in these weeks it takes to find a job in Minnesota, that He has different work for me. Work that is centered on learning to trust Him and rest in whatever His good plan is. 

    To date He's proven that He has a masterful timeline and beautiful plans for us. I'm praying my heart will soak in this truth and take full advantage of the gift of stress-free and uninterrupted days. I'm working on trusting that He is orchestrating a job that will be fullfilling and the provision that He wants to give to us. And it will have nothing to do with me needing to "earn my keep."

  • Strength and Sacrifice

    Moving is a fun and arduous task. There's a lot to do, but all the boxes are officially unpacked, which today, caused me to wake up and wonder what to do with my time. There's a Bible Study I've been working on that I want to finish writing. I'll probably start inquiring about jobs next. And I don't want to neglect serving. But how can I serve when we don't yet have a church home and Jason and I are still getting to know each other's passions?

    All this thinking has caused me to ask this question: Do we serve out of our strengths or out of sacrifice? Is it service if I'm not sacrificing anything to do it?

    Serving friends, serving others in need, serving my church, serving my family, volunteering, knowing my neighbors.

    I believe we have the most longevity of energy in service, when we find ways to serve where we have strengths. When we can use skills and disciplines we've already developed in order to serve those around us, our serving feels natural almost. There might be a little going out of our way to notice where our skills can be used, but aside from the time it takes to do them, the work comes naturally, from a place of deep knowledge.

    But if we DON'T have the natural skills to do the task at hand, are we off the hook from serving? I don't think so. I think in many cases our sacrifices become the gateway for others to see a glimpse of the ways God gave of Himself for us.

    I've been thinking of the story of the death of John the Baptist. When Jesus found out his cousin was gruesomely murdered at the hand of Herod and Herodias, He was grieved. He jumped on a boat with His disciples because He wanted to get away. He wanted some time to Himself to, I don't know, reflect, grieve, pray, ask God for strength...but instead what happened when he reached the other side of the water He'd been floating on, there was a crowd of 5,000 people there waiting. They heard Jesus went away to grieve the loss of John the Baptist. The people went to meet Him in His grief. The disciples wanted to send them away. They knew the crowd would get hungry and would need food to eat. I think they also knew their master was grieving and they wanted to protect Him from having to serve a bunch of needy people.

    But Jesus stops them. He tells His disciples “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!” [Matthew 14]. This results in the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. It's one of the stories we first hear when we're studying Scripture. It's often taken out of the context of Jesus' grief, however. Rarely anyone talks about how He went away to grieve and was interrupted and asked to give.

    Jesus serves them. They were needy. He was empty. They knew Jesus was grieving and they came to meet Him in His grief. Maybe they came to meet Him because they knew if He was grieving, He could certainly understand their grief too. He could understand their heavy hearts. And He might do something about it.

    Jesus fed their hungry bellies. He served them out of a grieving and broken heart. He didn't take Himself out of the way of pain because He himself was in pain, no He stepped smack-dab in the middle of it. Instead of turning from it, He walked into it. He met the people in their pain and performed a miracle, YES, but the greater miracle I see, is He gave when He had nothing to give. God used His Son even when He might have felt like He would rather not be used.

    And the same goes for you and I. We serve not because we have the perfect skillset or knowledge. Not because it's convenient or comes easy to us. We don't serve because we "have the gift of service." We don't even serve because it "feels good." No, we serve because there is work to do, and God needs our hands and our willing hearts. We serve because there is more work to do than laborers to do it. We serve because God longs to show the sacrificial work of His beloved Son through the sacrifices we make for others. 

    My heart is heavy with conviction. God, point me in the right direction and open my heart to the needs of those around me, whether it suits me or not. My heart longs to be your laborer. Use me. 

  • Anxious Excitement

    Have you heard that Anxiety and Excitement are the same emotion? I mull over this often. In moments of anxiety I'll try to tell myself, "Don't worry. This is JUST what excitement feels like." Or when I'm excited beyond all explanation, I'll sit in the moment relishing the feeling and explain to myself that I best not mess up my moments by remembering the depth of anxiety I've felt before.

    I'm in a time of life where I'm teetering very close to both extremes at any given moment. 

    I spent the weekend in Minneapolis last weekend and Jason and I took walks, made meals for friends to share with us, piddled around the house. We got a feel for life together. I am so excited!!!

    When I boarded the plane to leave Minneapolis on Sunday evening after an amazing weekend together, I felt anxious leaving Jason, and at the exact same moment, excited to get back to Atlanta, to see friends, go back to work, and see what wedding ceremony items might have arrived at home while I was gone. 

    Tuesday night I sat shrink-wrapping my book crates and lined up the packaged up, plastic covered boxes against the wall and felt anxious knowing there are so few days left to relish my Atlanta life and what if I mess it up or don't make the most of it in some way?

    There's no pat answer to explain my teetering emotions, but I am reminded of Romans 8. I love this entire chapter but I think this portion perfectly explains anxious excitement. [I like using the New American Standard version.] 

    18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

    19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 

    20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

    21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

    22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 

    23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 

    24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 

    25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

    I feel with him as Paul describes the anxious longing, the eager waiting for what is to come [I read this as excitement]. Paul is describing enduring moments of suffering, all with the end goal of experiencing the glory of God. His anxious excitement comes from enduring both hardship and from knowing that one day God will make all things new. He can't wait for the new.

    Now obviously, I'm not comparing Pauls struggles and hardships to mine. The only suffering I am doing right now at this moment, is over loving people all over the United States who I wish I could be with at all times. But I know others who can experience the suffering of Paul in a very personal way. Paul experienced hardship beyond what I can conceive of and I'm sure at times you have too.

    One of the beauties of Scripture, is that God seems to delight in illuminating passages to us at just the right time. He's not making comparisons. He's concerned that our hearts are in right relationship with Him, and He stops at nothing to hold tight to us.

    He feels my anxious excitement with me, and is far less thrown by my teetering than I am. It's centering to know that in the waves of my excitement and anxiety, He sees the smoothed out places that are coming. He's anticipating for me the moment I take hold of the peace He's offering.

    With Paul I can exclaim, "With perserverance I wait eagerly for it." And I can't wait for all that is to come of all this anticipation.

  • Hurting and Healing

    I moved to Atlanta in 2004 when I finished college. I moved to help with a new church in Little 5 Points. I invested deeply in the community for 2 years, and then for a lot of complicated reasons, the church closed the doors. It was devastating. There was a lot of guilt involved, and certainly, heartbreak.

    I started attending a little church in my neighborhood to work through the hurt and loss. Every Sunday I would sit in the back right corner, far away from other people and cry. I wasn't resentful. I wasn't even that angry. I mostly just needed the space to be sad over what had been lost, and let the presence of God comfort my hurts. I sat in my little corner for a year. I would drink my coffee with my head down, crying inconspiculuously through communion every week, as the flesh and blood of Jesus worked in my heart. I found God and healing here.

    I still worship with this body of believers. There have been a lot of good and hard moments. Things have happened that I have not understood. Friends have left and friends have joined. The church has injured some of its own, and healed many others. 

    When I have wanted to leave at times, I've been prompted to stay. When I've wanted to quit serving, I've been given tasks to do. When I didn't know if I'd be able to use my gifts, I've been asked to serve in ways that are meaningful to my soul. I've found love, friendship, healing, and grace in those seats. It is downright miraculous.

    I've been thinking a lot about how God built the church with no Plan B in mind. The Church is THE way God chose to continue the incarnate work of Jesus in the world. If you're like me, there have been times we are tempted to call it quits when it comes to church. It's hard and we want another option where it might not be quite so hard. We are hurt there, so in our pain we want to walk away. We want to find some place where they might not hurt us. And there are even times we would be justified in doing so. It's possible that the people of God have treated you in ways you're certain God never would. 

    It's the wonder of the Body of Christ. We're a crew of people blundering through life. We make the best decisions we know how, and some of them turn out to be absolutely dreadful for others. Yet somehow, as we take time to remember the gift of God, in Jesus' blood, we find healing and wholeness.  In that very place of injury and healing, God still chooses to visit and perform the work that pleases Him. I can't comprehend it.

    It's not a coincidence that God asks us to remember His body through communion and then to practice it each week with the body of believers He's surrounded us with. We need His Body and the grace found there in order to nurture His body of believers. It's impossible otherwise. We all make massive mistakes along the way that can turn believers away from our Father. And that is a reason to grieve. And miraculously, that is also the hope and wonder of the body of Christ, because He heals us in that exact same place.

    It's been 8 years since I first sat in All Souls Fellowship. I sat there this Sunday, in that same healing and hurting church, crying through every song, through the body and blood of Jesus, and through conversations with friends who have felt a lot like family. I sat in my seat with the deepest gratitude, too meaningful to know how to name.

  • Untraditional Family

    Matthew 19:5 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’

    I thought 10 years ago when I left my father and mother and moved to Atlanta that this verse would never apply to me if God ever blessed me with a man. I figured I was clinging to God's best for me, and as I did so, I was leaving and cleaving, just in a new way. And I was.  But this week I began learning how wrong I was about not having to face the reality of this verse. 

    The concept seems archaic and so much so, because of our new age of independence. It's rare that adults who marry older feel this in the most traditional sense, of actually separating from their immediate family. If you're like me, we did that long ago. As our own immediate family started families of their own, we became extended family. So we sought out adventure and new stories. We left our family and created families of our own in a far less traditional sense.

    Our family became fellow church members who we learned to worship with and be honest with in ways we never imagined we would with people who didn't share our blood.

    We made family of neighbors, co-workers, like-minded, and non-like-minded because we found those relationships to be some of the richest of our lives. We've spent holidays with people even when it was a little uncomfortable celebrating intimate Christmas mornings with people we don't have memories with. And over time, these strangers became friends, then family. 

    I have the best of both worlds. I have my family who raised me to be who I am. Who share all my childhood memories, and who I can be entirely who I truly am with. I see their faces in the faces of their children, and we have a bond that no one can ever come between. We have our inside jokes and understand the idiosyncracies that make up each family member.

    I also have the family created in times of intensity, who saw me through my adult years when I was far from my blood family. They have grown me up, made a Southerner out of this Midwestern girl, taught me what it looks like to be a woman who seeks the Lord with people who don't look like me. They have made me full and complete. They have accepted me, challenged me, and loved me. We have our own inside jokes. We have a million stories together of the good, the bad, and the unsavory. We know all these things about each other and love unconditionally. 

    Yesterday Jason and I sat talking over a bowl of queso and cherry cokes and began processing the reality of me leaving Atlanta. My queso consumption slowed down as the reality set in and I begged myself not to cry. This is what it means to leave and be united. I thought it wouldn't apply to me. But it does. In God's grace and kindness to me, He gave me a second family I could have never contrived on my own. And I've officially begun the grieving process of leaving them to be united to my amazing soon-to-be-husband.

    This is not going to be easy. I've never been more sure that this is the right next step, but it's not going to be an easy one. 

  • When my time does not reflect ALL of my values...

    Several years back my brother-in-law had me write out my 3, 5, and 10 year goals. He became the keeper of the goals. He checks in with me periodically about them to ask if I am still on track with them.

    [It's an incredibly helpful practice, if there is anyone in your life you could ask to do this for you, I highly recommend it.]

    One of my goals is to read 2 books a month for the rest of my life. If you're familiar with my love of reading, this doesn't even sound like a hard one. I typically exceed this on a monthly basis. I even have publishers who send me books so that I will read them and write reviews about them. For me, 2 books a month is do-able by barely even trying. That is, until a couple months ago. And now I haven't finished a book in 2 months. Not One.

    The goals on my list reflect my values. But this week as I was perusing the list again, I discovered that my values haven't changed [not one bit] but they've grown. They have grown so immensely that I am having to rework how I prioritize things that I sincerely value. And contrary to what I've always believed before, I CAN value things that I can't prioritize. 

    As my values grow, time and money and effort have to shift around at different times to accommodate the values at hand. Right now, the majority of my resources are going towards finishing strong at work, investing in relationships, and planning a wedding. It means that a few of the other things on my list are going to have to hold off for a few months while I allow my priorities to change for just a little while. I am also certain that adding a husband into my life will force me once again to have my values reflected in new ways. 

    I know I'll finish a book again. I know other goals on my list will become priorities again. But for right now what I value the very most, makes my other values look a tiny bit less valuable. 

    [Other learnings from 2014]

    A Morning for Gratitude

    Untraditional Family

    Everything I know about Control

    Hurting and Healing

    Anxious Excitement

    Pride, Humility, Receiving Help

    Strength and Sacrifice

    Everything I know about Earning My Keep

    Taking 40 Days

    Single Hang-Ups That Have Followed Me Into My Newlywed Bliss

    It's Time To Celebrate [With You]

  • A World Full of Things I've Never Done Before.

    I’m not a very adventurous soul. In fact I’m frequently given a hard time for making an “Adventure Spreadsheet” in Google Docs [This says more about my personality than I'd care to admit]. I have a tab for adventures I want to go on, adventures I HAVE gone on, and the dates I was adventurous. You might think the process of all this kills the spontineity of adventure, but for me my little spreadsheet keeps me trying things I wouldn't be open to otherwise.

    To address my lack of adventurousness, I set out to experience things I have never done before. I wanted to get out of the rut of only doing what I know, so I set out to do something every month that was completely new to me. I called it “My Year of Firsts.” My parameters consisted only of doing at least one thing every month that I had never done before. It turns out I did a few more. It’s really much easier than I thought it would be.

    I learned through the process that sometimes I have fears that would be easily overcome simply by taking the first step forward. My year of firsts, was about acknowledging how much more I have to learn and experience, and inviting others to join me. I now value the unknown instead of merely fearing it.

    What are a few things you’ve always wanted to do, but never done?

    Next week I'll start sharing a few of the things I did. I hope you'll share with me what you've done that were completely new to you!

    First 3 Firsts

    4-5-6

    A different kind of funeral

    8-9

    The Break In

    Another first [a little out of order]

    A Weekend Alone in Savannah

    Kid Rock and Hunting

  • My hoardish heart meeting the Lord as my portion.

    I’ve always been a little anxious about money. I know that it’s worthless to worry over if I’m being responsible, but somehow when it comes to contentment, money is where my patience and trust runs thin. I worry over having enough to make ends meet [I always do]. Or that something will come up and now what I thought I had for safe-keeping will be doled out among car repairs, plane tickets, unexpected expenses, or whatever else that makes my savings dwindle. 

    One day I was driving and I was in this position of worry. My car started acting up. I knew the yellow check engine light was in my near future. I looked at my dash board, prayed to God, “Lord, you KNOW I don’t have much extra right now. If that little light comes on, the repairs are going straight on my credit card. And I’m going to trust you with that too.”

    And then the little light popped on. I got to put my trust to the test.

    Sure enough, it was a couple hundred dollars in repairs [It certainly could have been worse] and I had to put it on my credit card. It took me a couple months to pay off but I learned something important.

    Maybe God doesn’t want me to have more than enough. Maybe He knows the tendency of my hoardish heart, and wants to protect me from what the power of more than my portion would do to me. Maybe I’m in a learning curve of being ok with whatever circumstance I find myself in, and trusting Him that He being my portion is more than plenty.

    I love this section of Scripture.

    Lamentations 3:21-26
    21 This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
    22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
    23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
    24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
    25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
    26 It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord.

    Sometimes things don't go quite how I imagined them. Sometimes what I think is most important I find out, God values for me to understand something else. He values that I believe Him to be faithful. He values that I know His faithfulness is what gives me hope. He is my PORTION. I maybe have to wait for it, but salvation comes. At just the right time. In the exact perfect moment. 

  • Month 9: Boundaries

    boundary wall

    [You can catch up on the other months here]

    Month 9: Boundaries
    Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
    The Goal: Begin putting boundaries in place
    The Rules: **Say no to 1 thing every week. Work 45 hours a week. Structure my time outside of work. Begin being disciplined again, instead of allowing the chaos of others to influence my own internal peace.
    The Outcome: I did pretty good! I was happier at work, and have a different perspective. I'm battling a little guilt associated with it, but I'm enjoying the new boundaries.

    One year and 4 months later as I read through this, I have to admit feeling a lot of shame. In a lot of ways the good boundaries I put in place, I have compromised again. It feels a bit like divine intervention that this is what I've come to write about at this point in time, as it's something I'm struggling with all over again. I also find it interesting that the outcome of sticking with my boundaries was guilt inducing, BUT now that I've not stuck with them, I'm also feeling guilt and shame. 

    Isn't that the way it goes? I've noticed consistently through my experiences and really ANY time I set my mind on doing something, that I face opposition. It might be me self-sabatoging, and it might also be the enemy working against me to keep me from becoming who I want to become. 

    I told a friend of mine recently that sometimes sticking to boundaries can be as exhausting as just breaking them. It looks like this time I have broken down, and instead of fighting to stick with them, I've caved under the pressure.

    I'm sure this is a topic I'm going to have a bit more to say about, but for now, I'm going to sit with the reminder that sticking to boundaries leads to greater peace. It might be hairy getting into the rhythm of boundaries, but it is far hairier working my heart out of the frenzy of a chaotic life.

    And I'm hoping spending some time reflecting on the things I've learned in the past that it will begin to shape my present.

    Boundaries and Peace

    Everything I know about boundaries

    [Photo]

  • Choosing my Saturday

    It's Saturday morning, I'm sitting in my favorite chair with my favorite mug, drinking mediocre tasting coffee, and thinking about what I'm going to do with my day. This is a good moment, before any decisions are made and all the options are on the table before me. Will I clean out the fridge and finally tend to our terrible looking floors or will I make good on a couple writing commitments that I've made?

    Sometimes it's difficult choosing priorities when all I want is a day without any. But who lives a priority-less life, I'd like to know? And since when have I began believing that I'm deserving of it? Even when we're choosing rest, we are choosing a priority. The floors don't just get clean, the writing isn't just magically written, and I don't shut my brain down on accident. All of these things require intentionality. We CHOOSE the stuff that is important to us. 

    Today I am choosing to work on some things so tomorrow I can choose to rest. 

  • Asking for Help

    Help Wanted...

    I’m not gifted at asking for help. I’m also not good at delegating. They’re both something I’ve been working on, and struggling with. The fact of the matter is, I can’t do everything, and I certainly can’t do everything on my own. I hate admitting it. For some reason, I let this reality make me feel weak, instead of viewing it as an invitation to community. These “matter of perspective” things kill me sometimes.

    In the last couple weeks I’ve had several circumstances crop up that have made me realize how far I still have to go in asking for what it is that I need. And then overcoming my insecurities and fears to receive the help I need.

    There are a few reasons I am uncomfortable asking for help.

    I never want to owe anyone anything. I know it’s prideful and unrealistic, but I only want to ask for what I can repay. Before I ask, I tally if there’s a way I can pay the debt. One time I heard a refugee share about another refugee family who meant a lot to him. One day their 14-year-old daughter loaned the man a dollar. As he was remembering the story, he said he never paid her the dollar back, because he forever wanted to be in her debt. In this case, the debt became the way he could grant them the highest honor. He CHOSE to sit with the gift. It kept him grateful. I rarely sit with the gifts I’m given, because I haven’t learned how to receive well.

    I don’t want to be weak. Realistically, there’s no way ever for anyone to never need something. [Now THAT is the world’s most confusing sentence.] I know my need is not a description of what little strength I have, but I make it about that sometimes. If I were stronger, I wouldn’t need anyone. But through this, I miss out on countless opportunities for others to show me their love and friendship.

    I don’t want to be vulnerable. Giving someone the opportunity to say “no” to something I need leaves me feeling very vulnerable. And sometimes their “no” is very important. People can’t say yes to everything, so the times when others understand their boundaries well enough to draw a line means I need to respect their no by loving them regardless, and not letting it mean I’m unlovable. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when someone has clear boundaries, I make it about me instead of about them. I let their boundaries mean they must not think I’m worth helping, when really it means, they know they’ll be worth more to me and the world later if they say no for now.

    In the last week I’ve had to ask for a lot of things. Borrowing someone’s car, help buying a plane ticket, help carrying stuff to my car, moving, asking for kind words. It feels that every time I blink there’s another something I need help with.

    And you know what? People have been really generous and gracious. It’s not easy, and I’m no more excited about asking for it than I was a week ago, but I’m grateful for people who have made my asking less painful.

    This isn’t a new lesson for me. It’s one I have been learning for years, and I regularly have to refresh my forgetfulness about how to get on with my pride, and let someone help me.

    Are you good at asking for help? What is your perspective on it? Teach me. I’ll soak it in, I promise.

  • Birthday Words of Wisdom

    It is my birthday.

    My friends have a birthday tradition called “Words of Wisdom.” The friends who started it have spread it everywhere they go. No one is safe from the annual tradition. It’s simple; on your birthday you share your wisdom from the year.

    For me, my 31st year was pretty transformational. I had a near breakdown at the beginning that landed me with some time off work and talking to a life coach every week for 8 weeks. In those 8 weeks I learned something incredibly valuable and also a little vulnerable.

    The way I handle[d] stress was[is] sinful.

    I still cringe thinking about it. I feel shame when I reflect on it, and the way I spent year 30. My coach and I were talking about some new ways to handle stress [those are the stress questions in the picture] and at the end of our call she said, “Gisele, can I step out of my coaching role for a second and say something that I think I’m supposed to say?”

    I braced myself. I knew it was going to be hard and good.

    She said, “I think the way you handle stress and the way it causes you to relate to the Lord, is an area in your life in need of repentance.”

    I froze. The Spirit caught me red handed. In my stress I stopped trusting the Lord, I neglected relationships, I made the relationships I WAS still engaged in all about me, and I allowed little nothings to make me resentful.

    None of those things characterize who I wanted to be. But I was becoming a person whose character reflected negativity, judgment, and a lack of trust.

    I’m still a long way from having mastered any of these things, but as she and I ended our phone call she prayed for me, that I would allow the Spirit to transform my heart. For all of year 31 it’s been my constant prayer. And I’ve seen the beginnings of the Spirit’s transformation in me. Patient and loving friends and familly have walked through this year of figuring out a new way to function. 

    So my words of wisdom are simple: Stress is inevitable, my attitude is a choice, and the Spirit’s transformation is pure grace. 

  • Repentance, life change, supernatural transformation

    Before I move into my 3rd Month of experiences, I wanted to talk about something else that I've been thinking a lot about.

    A couple weeks ago I repented of something ugly in my heart and then I was approached with that same issue really soon after. Only this time it wasn’t nearly as hard to say no to.

    It keeps spinning around my head and I think the reason it stuck with me this time, was because I’ve repented of various sins a LOT. And then I fall into the same sin really soon after, even though I believe my heart was truly repentant. I’m sure there are 100 reasons for this. Someone might tell me my heart must have not been truly right in these instances, or whatever they might want to tell me to explain it away.

    But that’s not my point. 

    My point is, one time I repented and my life changed. And it felt miraculous. [In all likelihood it WAS miraculous.]

    When God chooses to do a work in us, when our spirit is open to the transformation of God, and when we get to see the fruit of the change, our repentance is turned from sorrow into rejoicing. God can do it. 

    My sister and I always read books together. We’ve done it for over a decade and we love it. It keeps us connected and gives us something in common to talk about regardless of the miles or different life stages. One of the books we read together was Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart’s Study guide. I only remember the first chapter, but I remember it powerfully. In it, we were asked to do something about what we learned in each chapter. In chapter 1 the author asked the readers to try something different when approached with sin. Instead of saying to the confessing person, “Oh, it’s ok. You’ll do better next time. I’m sure it was just a one time mistake.” What if instead we said, “I believe in the transformational power of God in your life.”

    It’s an acknowledgement of sin, and it’s an acknowledgement that God is the one who does the transforming.

    It’s become a mantra in my mind and heart. It was the mantra when this one time I repented of something ugly and the next time it became an option it was a little less enticing. And instead of it just being a mantra that I repeat to myself, it became a truth that the Spirit worked through.

    So for you, I believe in the transformational power of God in your life. And for me, I believe He will and does transform me too.

    And maybe if we truly practice repentance and dependance on God, who does the transforming our lives will change. And maybe our repentance will make us a little more gracious. A little less judgmental. And a little more open to His transformational power. Maybe we’ll get to see the miracle of a life transformed.

  • Happiness: the greatest compliment

    I received an unexpected compliment. I went out with a woman I’ve met just once before. She’s a roundabout acquaintance and she found herself in town for a conference. She remembered I lived in Atlanta, and asked if we could go to dinner. It was a wonderful time getting to know each other, finding out what we’re passionate about, and connecting. When I was dropping her off at her hotel, she paid me the highest compliment I have received in a really long time.

    She said, “Gisele, you’re really happy.”

    Isn’t that the NICEST thing you’ve ever heard?? I could have died. I smiled for days on end. I shyly told a couple friends because it meant so much to me that someone would SAY such a thing. And now I’m NOT very shyly telling you.

    The story is especially meaningful because of the roundabout way that I know her. One of my very dearest friends, Sarah, is her sister-in-law. Sarah and I have been friends since we were 6 years old, sitting in kindergarten learning our letters and how to sit quietly. 

    Sarah changed my life when I met her in kindergarten because of the kind of friend she became way back then, and she’s changed it several times since because of her love, compassion and honesty.

    One of those changings happened when I’d lived in Atlanta for about 3 years. I’d just gone through a devastating church planting disaster, I was terribly lonely, I was self-absorbed, and I wasn’t doing one blessed thing about fixing it.

    I was crying to Sarah on the phone for the 407th time, which was one [or a few] time[s] too many. She said, “Gisele, you’re the most miserable person I know.” I was silent. We agreed quickly we both needed to get off the phone. 

    3 weeks later when I was finally ready to talk to her again, it was because I wanted to thank her. There are few friends who are brave enough to actually say the hardest, truest things. I’m thankful for her and others who haven’t been afraid of saying the hard stuff because it’s nearly always transformational when coming from a source of love.

    Sarah’s honesty that day changed me. Not immediately. My immediate response was to bawl loudly wailing, “I’m the most miserable person I know.”

    After my bawling, I got busy. I didn’t want to be the most miserable person ANYONE knew. Her challenge kicked me into gear. I made friends. I got involved in a new church. I opened my heart to begin believing what God believes about me, that I’m Beloved of God [Ephesians 5:1], I’m known by God [1 Corinthians 8:3, Galatians 4:9], and I’m seen by God [Genesis 16:13]. In short, I got happy.

    Imagine then my surprise, when 6 years later, I’m hugging Sarah’s sister-in-law goodbye sideways in the car and she says, “Gisele, you’re really happy.”

    Hallelujah, What a Savior. I’m so thankful for his transformational power in the lives of His kids.

     

     

    Ephesians 5:1 - Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

    1 Corinthians 8:3 - but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

    Galatians 4:9 - But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

    Genesis 16:13 - Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?”

  • Money and a Tough question about Frugality.

    We reached the end of Month One on Money! Thanks for seeing it through with me. I really could go on forever on the topic because I’m so passionate about it. It’s not easy to pare back a budget, stick to it, remember to be generous, and to not feel suffocated. BUT I do believe it’s all possible given a little practice and grace.

    Through this month of thinking through, praying and learning more about money, the experience led to me ask another question that’s not an easy one to answer, and that I struggle with still.

    Does my frugality mean something not great for others?

    There are 4 areas that this really has an affect in my buying:

    1. I shop mostly at thrift stores. [I am not supporting local small business, necessarily].

    2. When I DO buy new clothes, I’m usually buying from inexpensive stores. [I don’t know the origins of my clothing, if they were made under fair working conditions or if there is any kind of good component built into the business model of the company]

    3. I’m choosy about when I go out to eat or experiences that are going to cost more than I have in my budget. [I sometimes have to forgo opportunities to build community in order to stick with my budget].

    4. I shop at cheapo grocery stores. [I’m not eating organic or helping out local growers]. 

    I have struggled with this question associated with frugality a lot. It’s one of the reasons I love shopping at thrift stores-It relieves so much of my guilt about not knowing the origin of my clothes. But I believe all of these things need to weigh in on my decisions about spending money. It might mean I need to save up a little extra long in order to support a business I believe in, or to make sure my purchase doesn’t hurt someone else.

    It might mean I have to practice a little extra self-control when I’m thinking through what I want/need and to what ends I’m willing to go through in order to get it. 

    Have you also thought about this question? What solutions have you found?

  • PREPARATION AND OBEDIENCE

     Hebrews 10:1-10

    For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,

    Sacrifice and offering You have not desired,
    But a body You have prepared for Me;
    In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure.
    Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come
    (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me)
    To do Your will, O God.’”

    After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law),then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

    What does it look like for God to prepare Himself for us? For God it meant pouring out the blood of His Son in order to make a way for us to even begin the journey of finding our way to God. Jesus poured Himself out so we could start on a path of bumbling our way to Him through the guidance of His Spirit. The preparation of my heart had to begin with the Sacrifice of God.  This is why my sacrifice could never reconcile me to God. It has to begin with the work of Jesus for my sacrifice to mean anything. And really, my sacrifice does nothing to reconcile me to God, but it goes a LONG way in turning my heart towards Him so I can see His life-changing grace and love. The purpose of our sacrifice is to make us aware of our failure. It’s a powerful reminder that I can do nothing to make myself right with God. God had to do the work first.

    Because the sacrifice makes me right by God, because Jesus made a sacrifice I barely can hope to understand, I can echo David and the author of Hebrews’ words when they said, “I delight to do your will, O God.” This is the sacrifice God is asking of you and I. He wants us to want Him, to delight in Him as He does in us.” Don’t DO things for me just to do them, do them because you LOVE me.” Of COURSE we DO things for those we love, but that’s not what God asks of us first. He asks for our love first. He asks of us to prepare our hearts to have them be turned upside down and inside out with the wonder of God’s great love, which transforms, enlivens, and instills hope. 

    There’s a Christmas song I LOVE. I remember being young and singing it at my parents house, and realizing the depth and greatness of my sin. I realized maybe for the first time what a separation there could be between God and me. I wept when I reached the line, “So wrap our injured flesh around you, breath our air and walk our sod. Rob our sin and make us holy, perfect Son of God.”

    In God’s preparation for me to come to Him, He robbed my sin. In my preparation to come to Him I receive the gift from Him, that he stole my sin. In my every endeavor after, my goal shifts to becoming more and more prepared to meet with Him.

    What sin am I refusing to allow God to rob me of?

    Am I refusing to forgive my family their constant irritations? Am I indifferent to the people rushing past me living their lives as I live mine? Is it small unkindness’s I won’t admit are part of my life, like gossip or ragging on co-workers when a kind word might go a bit further? What is it?

    And what might happen if just one time today I made a different choice?

    Lord God, in the quiet of my heart, and the chaos of my life I ask of you to show me today where I could make a choice of preparation for you instead of choosing myself. I ask of you to rob my sin and make me holy. I also ask you to transform my heart to desire holiness. As I learn to desire it, will you grant me mercy? Thank you for your sacrifice, which makes mine worthy of you.

  • Repentance and Returning

    Acts 3:19-21

    19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. 

    In this passage Peter is speaking to his people, the Jews. He’s just healed a lame man in front of the temple. The Jews standing around him are amazed by his act, and my guess is, both in the kindness he showed the man, as much as for the miracle of his healing. And then he begins to unpack for them how he’s able to perform such miracles. He says it’s through the power of God. He says it’s through the God of Abraham, who they’ve been spending their whole lives looking to come to save them. Then he says it’s through Jesus. The same Jesus they’ve just crucified. The same Jesus they threw before Pilot demanding His death. The same Jesus they’ve been denying, refusing, hating, and disowning. The very same Jesus who’s just risen from the dead.

    What do you take in from a passage of Scripture like this?

    What words make your hair stand on end?

    What words do you easily pass over?

    You can hear Peter’s frustration as he goes down the list of Jesus’ credentials juxtaposed with the Jews’ sin, and yours and mine. You can also hear the ache in his voice when he reaches verse 19. Read it again.

    Doesn’t it make you ache? Can’t you hear Peter’s pity?

    Peter knows as well as anyone the meaning of repentance. He himself has just denied the Lord and in a moment of deep darkness. When he could have chosen Judas’ path of self-pity and anguish instead chose to repent and return to the Lord. He’s no stranger to this path. He knows the brokenness and humility involved. He understands the mercy he’s just received. He’s freshly found himself begging for the mercy of God. And he asks and begs and hopes for his people that they too might repent. He longs to see them made whole in the presence of God. He longs to see them restored, but restoration must follow repentance. There has to be brokenness and recognition of sin first. We have to have the courage to stare in the face all that we’ve been clinging to, yet avoiding. We have to return to the Lord.

    So for you and me both, what sin am I refusing to allow God to transform?

    What am I hanging onto that God has asked me to release?

    Where I ought to be running full force into the embrace of God, what part of me is limping instead of sprinting?

    What sin am I holding back from God?

    What is keeping me from returning?

    May we Repent and Turn. May we release our stubborn resistance to holiness and may we be made whole. May we turn from our sin and meet Jesus. Be refreshed by Him. Be FOUND in Him. May we allow Him to restore and lead us. May we see Him as the Prince of Life.

  • SACRIFICE AND FAITH

     

    Genesis 22:12-1

    12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

    13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

    I’m sure you remember the story of Abraham. Anytime God or the prophets are asking Israel to remember God’s promises and provision they point to Abraham. They also point to Abraham anytime they want to remind their hearers of great faith. He did not withhold his only son.

    Only son.

    God promised Abraham He would make his descendants as numerous as the sands on the sea shore, and then gave him 1 [o-n-e] son. Abraham loved and cherished his son, yet when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham asked no questions. Scripture says, “Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.” He either believed 100% that God was going to provide another sacrifice all along or He believed 100% that God would fulfill His promise through another means. Either way, Abraham believed God 100%. Abraham’s obedience is not one I hope to be asked to duplicate. Because I don’t think I could do it. I don’t think my trust in the Lord [or lack thereof] makes room for sacrifices like these. I don’t think my faith believes God to this extent.

    But God DOES ask me to sacrifice. He asks me to take up my cross. He asks me to give back to Him what He’s blessed me with. And most of the time, I don’t want to. In the simple ways He asks me to give to Him, He’s giving me an easier entry point so I can learn the discipline of believing. He’s helping me to slowly loosen my grip on the tiny silver hands that I keep reaching for instead of reaching for His vast grip. He’s asking me to begin the process of working to let go of what I think I cannot live without. He’s asking me to practice trusting Him. 

    Our sacrifice can take different forms, and lent is not about comparison or about out-doing the next person. Lent is about taking a reprieve to realize what God sacrificed in order to reconcile us to Himself. Lent is about taking a long hard look at the things in our lives that God has given us, and determine which of them might enable us to know Him better if we would sacrifice them.

    Maybe the sacrifice this go around was just something you were hoping would ting your heart to remember God. Maybe you felt conviction to give up something bigger. Maybe it was to empty your savings account for someone in need. Maybe the sacrifice was to serve someone who has hurt you. Or maybe to begin the hard road of seeking help with an addiction.

    Maybe we feel that sacrifice to the point of fear and doubt. Maybe today you don’t feel like you can get up and load your donkey with that thing God asked you to give. Maybe God’s asking us to sacrifice it anyway. 

    “Because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son…”

    So what is it? What am I willing to stop withholding in order to experience God in a deeper way?

    Is the thing that I chose the thing that I really need to sacrifice or is God asking something more of me?

    Am I willing to stop withholding from God?

    God, would you open my eyes to clearly see your trustworthy nature? Would you help me to see what my hands hold onto instead of you, and begin the work in me to loosen my grip? Would you hound my heart until I must let go and cling instead to You? Would you show me compassion and grace in this process?