Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cloudy with a Chance of Holy; or How I Started Praying for My Country

Tonight the Star of Bethlehem, Venus and Jupiter converging in the sky to create the appearance of a double star, was supposed to be visible. Maybe it was for some, but here in cloudy central Ohio, I missed it. I missed the holy because of the clouds.

Several weeks ago I started feeling like I should be praying for America. I didn't do it. I talked about it, I pondered a prayer schedule, I asked my friends if they did it. But I didn't do it. A couple weeks after that nine of my brothers and sisters in Christ were killed in a prayer meeting. That got my attention. I stopped theorizing, and I began to pray.

Like a locomotive with an engine stoked too hot, the following week or two took me on a a wild ride into divided America. My window to the world is Facebook. I'm a stay-at-home-mom and we've recently moved so I'm pretty disconnected here. Facebook is where I 'see' people. And you know what I saw? You probably saw it too. A lot of squabbling, name-calling, political posturing, and judging. And that was before the SCOTUS decision to rule in favor of gay marriage.

Excuse me while I choose to NOT comment on gay marriage. Over the last few days enough has been written on it to level a decent-sized forest. Go ahead and read that stuff, and share it out the wazoo. Some of it is quite good. I just don't feel obligated to add to it.

What I do feel obligated to do is talk about all of this *noise*. You know what I mean. You hear it too. If you're on Facebook or not. It's there, always droning. Like the neighbor you had in your first apartment that played his music just a little too loud all.the.time. Constant noise so you can't think straight. Sometimes it gets so loud you can't hear the person you're talking to. That noise. You know what I mean.

There's a lot of running around, flapping of arms, and insisting that the sky is falling. Maybe it is. As an evangelical fundamentalist, I do believe there's a second coming and there will come a day when Chicken Little is right--the sky is indeed falling. And there's a lot of, 'oh Jesus come quickly!' and 'this garbage will only end when Jesus comes!' Both statements I agree with. I do not agree with the tone and attitude with which they are said. It's a defeatist attitude. It's throwing hands up and saying that evil is winning and we just need to sit at the bus stop and wait for Jesus to roll in.

I am fully aware that the Bible makes it clear that things will only get worse before the second coming. Like the forest scene in The Wizard of Oz, it'll get darker before it gets lighter. But let's take our cue from everyone's favorite Scarecrow, Tin Man, lost girl, and little dog, and let's keep moving forward in faith that the light is coming.

Be dressed ready for service
and keep your lamps burning....
It will be good for that servant whom the master
finds DOING so when he returns.
--Luke 12:35, 43

Many people believe we're in 'end times'. Perhaps we are. I'm not 100% sold, since every generation since the Ascension has believed they were in end times. Then again, I'm not saying we're not. The evidence is stacking up at an alarming rate. But whether we are or we aren't, our job as Christians is the same. Do the work. Share the gospel. Feed the hungry. Love one another. And if we are on that overly stoked locomotive headed for the end, I argue that we should be working with more fervor and more urgency.

To be perfectly honest, I am deeply burdened and troubled. Primarily I am grieved for America because I am an American, it makes sense that my troubles would start at home. But I am also grieved for the world beyond. There are atrocities and horrors I wish I could close my eyes to, as I've done for the first thirty years of my life. But I asked God to show me, knowing full well I wouldn't like it. And now that I've seen just a sliver of what he sees, I am sick in my heart. Yet, I have no answers. I'm still waiting for the exact thing I'm supposed to do. A friend of mine learned about foster children who have no personal belongings, so she and her husband organized a campaign to get the duffle bags and a few things for in them. Other friends of mine are burdened about free trade and the workers who fuel the western world with coffee, so they started a coffee business that speaks to that need. Gosh, I admire them and I envy them. They saw the need, they did something about it. I see a huge gaping hole, and I have yet to figure out how little old wimpy me can fill it.

But I know where to start. On. My. Knees. Remember, that's how this journey started for me a little over a month ago. That still quiet voice that prompted me to pray for my country. And I would urge every single professing believer to join me. Stop talking about it. Stop sitting in pews and listening about it. Stop clicking on links and reading '5 things Christian should do to be awesome'. Stop talk, talk, talking about all that's wrong with the world. Stop flapping arms and squawking about the sky falling. Stop being apathetic. Stop being bored. Stop being too engrossed with everything else. I get it. I get it one-thousand times over, because that has been me. But if evil is going to be checked in this country, it starts with the Spirit being unleashed in the hearts and souls of every professing believer.

I'm an idealist by nature. I'm an ENFP, look it up. So I'm doomed. I see the brokenness, and yet I say we can fix it. I know that it'll only get darker before it gets lighter, and yet I say, if we all shine together it'll be pretty bright in here. I can't help it. I can't get on board at the bus stop and just wait for Jesus, and let evil run a muck because the sky is falling. I just can't do it. I have to believe that "hope does not disappoint us." You want a reference for that? Okay, it's a long one but it's worth reading. Slowly. 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom we have gained access by faith 
into this grace in which we now stand. 
And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, 
because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 
perseverance, character; 
and character, hope. 
And hope does not disappoint us, 
because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts 
through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
--Romans 5:1-5

Alright. I'll put my soapbox away. For now. The moral of my long-winded story and tirade? Pray. If you're a Christian American and you are not on your knees praying for this country, then you don't get to complain about how it's all going to ruin. That goes for me too. If I get lazy, then shame on me. And I want someone to print this off--all 37 pages of my wordiness--and slap me in the face with it. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic. But seriously, PRAY. And then do the work the Spirit leads you to do. Pray. Do.

Oh, and the next time a glimpse of something holy comes a long, I hope I don't miss it for the clouds. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Burdened With Glorious Purpose

"I am Loki of Asgard and I am burdened with glorious purpose"--The Avengers

In all of villainy Loki is one of my favorites. Then probably Magneto. Frankly, I think they should pull their resources and get therapy together. But I digress. I like Loki because he's complicated, there are reasons for his villainy. Unlike the Joker, for example, who creates chaos just to create chaos. Loki is driven. He's compelled. He's burdened with glorious purpose. Where that burden comes from is a post for another person on another day. What I want to talk about is the reason Loki actually inspires me to be a better Christian.

Say whaaaat?"

Yup, you heard me. Loki, god of mischief, inspires me to be a better Christian.

Before he's on our planet five minutes Loki has started moving towards his end goal. And he says who he is and what he's about right away. Everything he does, every move he makes propels him closer to his goal. I want to be that driven in my pursuit of Christ and the glorious purpose he has for my life.

Let's break down Loki's catchphrase here. First, he is burdened. He feels it necessary. It weighs heavy on him. It's something he must do. There are no options here. Loki is compelled.

I am compelled by God to [preach]. How terrible for me if I didn’t preach the Good News!... So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
--1 Corinthians 9:16, 26

I want to be burdened like Loki, I want to be compelled like Paul for the cause of Christ. I want to be driven forward, ever forward, always forward in my pursuit of Him. I want to feel that it is something I must do, not should do, will get to someday, or sounds like a good idea. Something that if I don't do it I simply won't know what to do with myself. 

Now turning back to our Asgardian self-serving god of mischief...Loki is burdened with glorious purpose. So many people seem to drift through life unsure of their purpose. Loki does not have this problem. He knows exactly what he was created to do. He has an end goal and he pursues it with dogged tenacity. Loki stands in stark contrast to so many of us riding the current, apathetic to where it may lead. But here's the catch. We were all created with a purpose. Everyone of us. And it is a glorious purpose.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations...You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you....I have put my words in your mouth."
--Jeremiah 1:5-8

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.--Ephesians 2:10

Our purpose is determined before birth, still hidden in the safety of the womb. We are created anew when we're born again through faith, and then our glorious purpose unfolds. 

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.--1 Peter 2:9

Is it just me or is the language of that verse thrilling? A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Loki's glorious purpose is to be king, to be served, to subjugate others. Our purpose is to be part of something so much larger and grander than ourselves. Loki's glorious purpose is only for Loki's glory; it begins and ends with Loki. Our glorious purpose is for God's glory; it is eternal. 

When I live my life in accordance with the glorious purpose God appointed for me in my design, then I am part of the reconciliation of God and mankind. I write, I teach, I share the words God puts in my mouth, I proclaim the wondrous works he has done in my life and throughout history. My purpose is to glorify God, to spread the good news far and wide. To speak in 21st century terms, my goal is to have the awesomeness of God go viral, from hashtag to hasthag. I want God's glory to blow up every newsfeed on Facebook and dominate the Twittersphere. Every Christian carries that burden although it will manifest differently in each life. To borrow from The Avengers analogy a little more, we're all Avengers, each with a different skill and a different story to tell, but we work with a singular glorious purpose. 

Truth be told, I don't feel Loki's burden. I don't live my life compelled by grace and God's glory. I'm guilty of being taken by the riptide of apathy into the mainstream current of our culture. I'm just riding the waves sometimes. It's safer here. But I want more. I want to be absolutely burdened with glorious purpose. Here's the good news, when what I want lines up with God's design on my life then I get the desires of my heart. 

Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires.--Psalm 37:4

So...are you burdened with glorious purpose? Are you living by design or drifting in the riptides of apathy? Let's be a little more like Loki this week and live with our glorious purpose in mind. Our efforts and sacrifices will not be in vain.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

That's The Point

Regina: Focus. Concentrate.
Emma: It's kind of hard when you're talking in my ear.
Regina: And when the wind blows, or it's raining, or someone's shooting arrows at you. Yes, concentration's hard. That's the point.

--Once Upon a Time, 'Ariel' 

Alright, I'm going to attempt to combine some of my favorite things here...a tv show and the Bible...the secular and the sacred...Brace yourselves! 

But in all seriousness, my favorite tv show these days (perhaps of all time) is ABC's Once Upon a Time. I love the reinvention of familiar stories and characters. I appreciate the depth and complications because it feels like real life...you know, minus all the magic and dragons and sword fights. The emotions are real. 

And when I use my 'theory' skills that I learned as a lit major (the art of using a lens, so to speak, when watching a film or reading a book that highlights a particular theme/value/concept...i.e. marxist theory, feminist theory, etc) I can't help but find gems of Truth embedded in the show. Now, I'm in no way saying that Eddie Horowitz and Adam Kitsis, the creators of the show, have set out to make this a religous or Christian show. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't still have His fingerprints in it. I think if we're looking we can find the Sacred all over the place in the secular world. Not everywhere...because God is holy and He won't be associated with true darkness/evil...but He has overcome the world...and we'll find him when we're looking. So my personal faith becomes a filter for finding God's Truth in the show. Call me crazy, it's okay. I feel a little nutty and kinda weird blogging about a tv show as if it is important.

But maybe a tv show can be important if we're able to glean something valuable from it. And judging by the rather extensive list of topics/themes in the notepad app on my phone...maybe there's something more to learn from Once Upon a Time than what life would be like if fairy tales were real...

And so let's get back to that quote I shared...it's from an episode a couple weeks back. And I didn't really notice it when it happened. Instead, this quote came back to me as I was praying a few days ago. 

I've been reading a book by Mark Batterson called The Circle Maker (highly recommend it, good stuff). And the idea is circling your dreams and your fears in prayer. Or maybe it's circling your prayers in faith. It's kinda both. And so I've been thinking very intentionally about what my biggest dreams and strongest fears are, and trying to put circles around them. To declare to God that I won't move from these prayers until He's answered them as He's promised to do. 

Frankly, that's easy to do in the middle of the night when I have my quiet time. Because...it's quiet. In the middle of the night, I can concentrate and be sincere and profound and righteous and it's awesome. It feels great. But in the middle of the day...in the chaos and the noise of having a strong-willed eighteen month old who can't tell me what he wants/needs/feels...it is hard. And all those wonderful feelings of 'I got this prayer thing down!' just flies out the window, taking my sanity and stability with it. In the middle of the noise, all the promises I circled, all the prayers I prayed, everything I asked for, everything I committed to do...just disappears. 

And so I said to God, this is hard in all the noise. 
And he said, that's the point. 

If it was easy, I wouldn't need prayer. I wouldn't need my Bible, His Word which brings clarity, truth, perspective into my life. If it was easy, I wouldn't need Him. 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.--John 16:33

Living the life isn't easy, it is hard. It takes faith, it takes trust, it takes commitment. It takes perseverance. I have many quailities, some of them even good or godly...but perseverance is not in my wheelhouse. I tend to give up when the going gets hard. But Mark Batterson says in his book that too many times we give up when times are hard and we forfeit the miracle. And he uses 'counterfactual' history to make his point...what if Daniel hadn't prayed through? What if Elijah had given up? Major miracles would've been forfeited. 

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.--James 1:12

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.--Galatians 6:9

So in my quiet time now I ask God to give me a promise to circle, something to stand on from His Holy Word. His word never comes back void, it always produces fruit, it always makes a difference. And the only way to achieve my biggest dreams (incidentally, my biggest dream is to be a blessing to my husband and a godly mother to my son) is being infused with His strength, power, and hope in my biggest moments of trial and weakness. So the first night I asked for a promise...this is what I was given:

He is the one who gives you power to be successful in order to fulfill his covenant...--Deuteronomy 8:18

And the next night...

Your pattern of worship will change.--Deuteronomy 12:8

God's covenant is that I am an overcomer because Jesus has overcome the world! I am made new in His image by the daily renewal of my mind, my heart, my soul, even my body with His redeeming power. I have strength that isn't mine to propel me through the noisiest, most chaotic moments. And when I realize that true worship is living a life that is pleasing to God, not just singing on Sundays, then my pattern of worship will change. I worship with my whole life, my whole heart, mind, body, and soul. And it all somehow works together to glorify God. 

In the interest of full disclosure...I make it sound great, but I'm not there yet. The leap from rhetoric to reality is much larger than the spaces between the words. Every day has the possibility of failure as well as success. But as one of my favorite bands puts it I am 'free to struggle but I'm not struggling to be free.' You see, I may still be struggling to become that blessing to my husband and a godly mama to my son (among other achievements I pray for) but because the Spirit lives in me, I have been set free from the consequences of sin. I don't have to struggle to be free from sin's claim on my soul, just its grip on my habits and mindset. 

So yes, it's hard to concentrate on the promises in all the noise. That's why intentional quiet time is so important. It lays the ground work. And the daily input of promises will build a wall, layer by layer, day by day, to help shield me from the arrows, wind, and rain that breaks my concentration. Perseverance in prayer and in deed is a must. Regina is right, concentration is hard, practice is essential. That's the point. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

What's The Story, Morning Glory?

What do you think stories are for? These stories are classics. There's a reason we all know them. They're a way for us to deal with our world. A world that doesn't always make sense.--Mary Margaret/Snow White, Once Upon a Time, Pilot

Do you know why Peter Pan would fly to the nursery window of the Darlings' house each night? It was to listen to the stories. In fact, this is why Peter brought Wendy to Neverland with him in the first place. He wanted to hear her stories. Wendy even spends some time on the Jolly Roger regaling Captain Hook and his pirate crew with her stories. The most dastardly of villains and the most impish of boys both softened by stories. 

In the book A Little Princess Sara Crewe becomes the most popular girl in her boarding school. Not for the many lovely gifts her father sends her, but for the stories she tells. When Sara loses everything upon her father's death Sara copes with her loss and her poverty by spinning marvelous stories to believe in. Her stories give her hope and comfort. 

Everyone favorite red-headed orphan, Anne Shirley, (did you really think I was going to say Annie, puh-lease) survived lonely days and lonelier nights with stories. A voracious appetite for reading and a verbosity only a lonely little girl can have made Anne a masterful story-teller. Anne could even imagine away her carrot red hair and her plain name. 

And many of us have fallen in love with their stories. We all love a good story and lean in close to soak it in. Stories are our common language. Like music, stories cross cultural barriers and give us a common experience. Even the simplest stories tackle something of the human condition. 

Hope, grace, redemption, faith, commitment, second-chances, true love, rescue...this is the stuff of good stories. From Cinderella to Les Miserables, from The Brothers Grimm to Charles Dickens, stories are full of emotions, fears, and desires we can relate to. This is why we love stories, we see something of ourselves. Or something we hope to be. 

Our church recently started a series called 'The Story'. The concept of this series that there are two stories constantly taking place, the Upper Story and the Lower Story. The Upper Story is God's plan for all of creation, his utmost desire for us, the ultimate goal. The Lower Story consists of the individual narrative for each of us. We all play a part in God's plan, whether or not we acknowledge it or cooperate with him. Even in our rebellion, we are never out of his story. The Bible tells us, and I believe it to be true, that the best way of living is in tandem with God's plan, aligning my story with His story so that we're telling the same story. 

This idea of 'The Story' is an appealing concept. After all, who doesn't love a good story? And maybe this is why God thought it was fitting to relate to us through stories. He knew that we could understand a story and that we'd come back to it time and again. His Word is full of stories, I believe true stories (yup, I'm one of those evangelical fundamentalist kooks, you caught me!). Stories of loss, worry, fear, and failure. Stories of hope, faith, adventures, and fulfillment. Every story lined with grace, redemption, and second-chances. No one falls too far, too hard, or for too long for God to save them. The only people who are truly lost are the ones who harden in the light. The Bible is full of the human condition. There isn't a single aspect of human life that isn't addressed in some way. Oppression, vengeance, retribution, forgiveness, liberation, loss, loneliness, hatred, exile, victory...

Who knows better the human condition 
than the One who created us? 
Only one. 
Emmanuel, God With Us. 

Literature is full of heroes--Byronic heroes, tragic heroes, super heroes, ordinary heroes, unlikely heroes, even heroines. But only one Hero can really save us and only one Story really tells his tale. 

We all love a really well-crafted and expertly told story. This is what drew Peter Pan to Wendy's window, gave Sara Crewe her friends, and allowed Anne Shirley to survive. It's what packs movie theatres, tunes DVRs for that "can't miss" show, and fills bookshelves. And it's what makes the Bible the number one bestseller of all time. Of all the stories in all the world, it's the one that rings most true (because it is) and brings the most hope. Its Author is our only hope. 

"For I know the plans [the story] I have for you," says the Lord...--Jeremiah 29:11

Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...Hebrews 12:2

Friday, October 18, 2013

Do Everything

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people--Colossians 2:23

Steven Curtis Chapman has a song called 'Do Everything' which I fell in love with the very first time I heard it. When I was working, I really struggled because I kinda sorta really hated my job. Well, I didn't mind the actual part when I worked with the kids--kids are alright. But there were some other issues made me flat our miserable. The song was encouraging to me in those days because it helped me keep my perspective. I was working for God's glory, not just for a paycheck. Oddly enough for as much as I liked the song, I didn't know what it was called until just a couple days ago. I was listening to some of his albums on Spotify and noticed the title for the first time. 'Do Everything.'

It stuck out to me because I just read in a book that one of the leading Women's Rights activists of the 1800s had a motto which was 'Do Everything'. This was a liberating idea for 19th century women. That they could do more, be more, have more. For these women it was about better education, social reform, the right to vote, equal pay/respect in the workforce, and protecting the sanctity of the home. This is how they dreamed a of a better life.

But I feel that 'Do Everything' is no longer full of glittering possibilities. Instead, it feels more like a prison sentence. It's not about the betterment of lives but the idea of having it at all, doing it all. Whatever this illusive 'it' is. Our 19th century foremothers wanted the right to choose what their lives could be. Ironically, I think we somehow missed the mark and ended up in the same boat. So many women I know don't feel as though they have choices to do this or that, but instead the choice is to deciding when to do this and that. And we're buckling under the pressure of having to do it all. Our schedules are loaded with things to do and places to be. We're supposed to be organic, from scratch, DIY women who also work full-time and still look beautiful for our husbands. 'Do Everything' is no longer about liberating women, but exhausting them!

So how do we simplify? Do we simply hang up our business suits and go back to the kitchen? No. And I'm a stay at home mom, so I sorta feel like I'm betraying my own kind with that answer. I don't think the answer is to put every woman back in her home and make her stay there. For some of us, that's the answer. It was for me. For right now in this season of my life, God wants me to be a homemaker and that's what will bring him glory. He calls me to serve him at home and in the church, and as long as I'm faithful to do that, then I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing. That's my 'Do Everything'.

Which is what brings me back to Steven Curtis Chapman. The man has a knack for putting some pretty strong Biblical wake-up calls to some catchy melodies. It just sticks with you. And his song says that we should 'Do Everything' for God's glory, big or small, glamorous or simple. Our purpose is to do the work God has designed us to do. For example, God knew before Solomon was even conceived that he would be the one to build the temple in Jerusalem. So God equipped Solomon to do the work so that he would be glorified. David encouraged Solomon in this task by telling him:

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the workDon’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly.--1 Chronicles 28:19-21. 

God will help us succeed at the work he has asked us to do. If we're crumbling under the workload, it's because we've piled on more than what he ever designed us to do. So the answer to the 'Do Everything' dilemma is to do the work God has set out for you to do. And then as you 'Do Everything' you're called to do, do it for the glory of God. You don't have to 'Do Everything' to do everything for God's glory! 

You're picking up toys on the living room floor 
For the 15th time today
Matching up socks
Sweeping up lost cheerios that got away
You put a baby on your hip
Color on your lips and head out the door. 

While I may not know you, 
I bet I know you wonder sometimes, 
Does it matter at all?
well let me remind you, it all matters just as long...

As you do everything you do 
To the glory of the One who made you, 
Cause he made you, 
To do
Every little thing that you do 
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make

And every little thing you do

Monday, September 16, 2013

Mother of the Year? No Thanks

And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than you soul? 
--Matthew 16:26

If you've read my blog for any length of time you're aware that I struggled through a time of infertility before being blessed with my precious son, Dayton. And I feel that since I begged and pleaded and wept innumerable tears for this child that I should be the absolute best mother that I can be. Of course, there are countless resources and influences competing for my attention in the instruction of how to achieve this goal. Everything from newsletters filling my inbox, to magazines crowding my end table, to Pinterest and Facebook filling up multiple tabs on my browser. And of course, the good ol' fashioned advice from friends, family, acquaintances, and people I've never met before in my life. Oh, and not to leave out pediatricians, nurses, and other professionals of varying backgrounds. It's an information overload and it results in immense pressure. Especially for someone hardwired for perfection.

You see, I can't look at a list of the 25 best activities/habits/learning concepts to do with your toddler and choose just one or two to start with. I have to try the whole 25 because that's the best way, the perfect way, the 'mom of the year' way. But since that's impossible, I end up doing none of them and feeling like 'crummy mom of the year' instead. I can't possibly use all of the advice I'm given, I can't possibly live up to the standard of every best practice, I can't possibly do all of the ideas of Pinterest. But the perfectionist in me says that I fail if I don't and that has left me frozen in inaction.

Truth be told, I've been drowning under all this pressure---mostly imposed upon by my own self, I willingly admit. Drowning, and yet dying of thirst. You know, water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! I get that. I totally get that.

But this weekend I was given an opportunity to wade knee deep in the Living Water. O, how it watered this parched and weary soul.

Twenty-four of us from my church convoyed over to Cedar Point for Point Fest, their annual Christian music festival. I debated for a couple of weeks whether or not to go--the money & leaving my son ALL.DAY. being two main reasons holding me back (it's hard to spend money on yourself after having a child--it just is!). But as this dry feeling began eroding more and more of my joy, my resolve, my drive, my sanity it became clear that I needed this badly. I didn't know what God would give me but He always shows up when I go looking. Always. And so I prayed for something, anything, that He wanted to give me, I said I'd take it.

Four bands, each giving a different message, each one profound, powerful, and of God. But the one that hit me the deepest, the one I'm holding on to and declaring for my truth from the Almighty Himself, came from Toby Mac at the end of the night. In a song I've had on my iPod for years and have listened to many times but that night I heard it with fresh ears. It struck me like a bolt of lightning, the floodgates of heaven opened in my soul and the water came rushing in. It'd be trickling through all day, soaking in slow and steady, but in this moment, I was drenched in the Living Water.

'I don't wanna gain the whole world, and lose my soul'. 

I don't want to be mother of the year 
and lose every semblance of grace in the process. 

I don't want to spend time reading about mothering while ignoring the one who needs mothered. I don't want to waste time talking about mothering while the one who needs mothered is trying to get my attention. I don't want to be supermom, that mom, a Pinterest mom, and end up with a child that had 'perfection' but no modeling of grace, joy, and redemption. I don't want to be the best mom anymore, I want to be the mom who does what's best for my family.

You see, I've been striving after the wrong things. I've been chasing someone else's standard, even chasing my standard is wrong. It's God's standard that matters. God's standard is grace, but I've been living in un-grace. No grace for myself, no grace for the ones around me. God's standard is love but it's awfully hard to love when you're living in un-grace. God's standard is joy, praise, gratitude, but un-grace will suck that out of a life at warp speed. Un-grace is the offspring of perfectionism bred with disappointment.

But as a redeemed child of God and a divinely appointed mother of my son, I can live in grace. I can model forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. I can praise and worship with my heart, my attitude, my words, and my song. I can show Dayton that it's okay to be imperfect, to mess up, to struggle (because I don't think for a moment the struggle is over just because I had an a-ha moment), because God is bigger than our biggest messes and His grace never runs out. I want to show Dayton with my life, not just teach him with my words, that gaining the whole world is worth absolutely nothing, if you lose your soul in the process.

If were to somehow meet every standard I've encountered in the world, to teach Dayton everything he's supposed to learn right on schedule, to prepare every meal with creativity and perfect nutrition, to do it all, it would mean NOTHING, nothing, nothing, NOTHING, if were to also lose my soul to un-grace in the process. Heaven forbid it. I'd rather lose a whole lot of the perfect and keep my soul alive in grace instead. Hallelujah! Amen.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Do The Work

Wherever you set foot, you will be on land that I have given you...Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.--Joshua 1:3, 9

Then David continued, " Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don't be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly."--1 Chronicles 28:20

But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God's entire house. And we are God's house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in Christ.--Hebrews 3:6

Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?--1 Corinthians 6:19

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!--Psalm 84:1

In the last couple of months my dream has shifted from inspiring youths to choose the straight and narrow, to ministering to women. While I have a list a mile long of things I want teenagers to know, things I wish I had known or understood better or understood at all, I have no such list for women. Fact is, it terrifies me. I'm young, I'm a bit awkward and nervous when it comes to teaching, and I feel that I have no authority to tell anyone anything. My dog barely listens to me and my son rarely does...although I blame that on the fact that neither of them as a real great grasp on English yet.

But I was fortunate enough to hear a sermon several years ago about Joshua--the man and the book. Using the first chapter of Joshua as his text this preacher explained that if the man had only trusted God, every single step he took would've been blessed. It says so right there in black and white. And then the famous, be strong and courageous, be strong and courageous, haven't I commanded you? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS! I think God wanted Joshua to be strong and courageous.

But if Joshua was anything like me, his next question would've been: how? How can I be strong, courageous, not terrified, not discouraged? Because quite frankly, taking the promised land, chasing down a dream, is daunting, especially when you feel unqualified.

So I've done a little word study using my brand spanking new Bible and it's wonderful concordance. I've never had a Bible with such a good concordance and I've made good use of it! I've read every verse with the words strong, strength, strengthen, courage, and courageous. I've written down all of them that made any sense out of context and I've tried to draw some conclusions.

I'm not quite there yet, so I won't waste your time with my fragmented throughts. But I did notice something. Something I'm still mulling over but felt ready to share. Re-read those verses I put at the very beginning of this post. Do you see how they connect?

Be strong and courageous. Don't be afraid or discouraged. Do the work. God is with you. (David is telling Solomon the same things that Joshua was told way back in Joshua 1). Why? How? Because God won't fail you. HE will see to it that all the work is finished. The work on the temple. And not just Solomon's temple, but THE temple. The church, the body and bride of Christ. And more intimately, me. I am a living temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit. And I am lovely, or being made lovely, complete, perfect.

Do the work...even when you're tired and it feels like a big floppity failure. Do the work...even when you can't think a straight thought. Do the work...even when you feel unqualified and nervous and scared. Because God is with you and God will see that the work is finished. The work in me, the work being done through me.

The Spirit of the Lord of Heaven's Armies dwells in me--whom shall I fear? What shall I fear? Failure, exhaustion, inadequacy. Ridiculous.

Here's the thing...right now, the work ahead of me is not just women's ministry, that's just the dream. To write like Beth Moore, to teach like Kay Arthur, to instruct like Lysa TerKeurst, to encourage like Angela Thomas. One part of the work for right now is to lead a women's Bible study and to teach the youth Sunday school, however bumbling. But the other part, the greater part, of the work in my life, the one I really feel unqualified for is that of wife & mother. Somehow, I didn't feel like such a hapless wife until I started feeling like such a helpless mother. Funny how insecurities can unravel you like pulling the wrong thread in a sweater. This, however, is my calling, my true ministry, my most important work. And I must do the work of mothering and help-meeting, and nurturing the men I love--my husband and my son. Even when I feel like a big floppity failure. Because it's GOD who is seeing that work will be finished on HIS dwelling place--me, my house, and my family. And no matter how I feel about myself in any given moment on any given day, He already dwells in me and therefore, I am already lovely.

And this is my verse, the one I'm clinging to in order to do the work and see it through each day...

The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him--2 Chronicles 16:9

If I am wholly committed, all in, not holding anything back...then He gives me His strength to do the work, to forge on, to see it through. For His glory and for my good, and for the good of the lives I touch. And that's a promise worth clinging to. Standing on even. Standing on the promises of God, my Savior!

And I promise...once I round out some more of my thoughts on this whole strong & courageous thing, I'll share. Because there's some really great stuff there, some wonderful patterns and promises. But in the meantime...do the work...

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