Monday, August 12, 2019

Getting Back Up

My boys are fans of the Marvel superhero movies.  This summer we decided as a family to start watching through the movies from beginning to end, in chronological order.  The first movie in the list (although it was one of the most recent to be released) was Captain Marvel.

My favorite scene is near the end.  Carol's enemy is trying to keep her down by reminding her of all her failures...all the times she was weak, defeated, fallen.  But then Carol's perspective shifts.  Instead of focusing on the falling down, she remembers what happens afterward....how she gets back up.  This is what gives her strength and empowers her to fight.



As I was reading my Bible this morning, this verse stood out to me.  In Mark 9:31 Jesus said "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and after three days he will rise."  The disciples did not understand.  A Savior that would be killed?  That doesn't make sense.  And in the first few days after Jesus was crucified, they were only able to see the loss and feel the sadness and disappointment.  They had forgotten the second part of this statement....that after three days he will RISE!  That is when God's power and promise are revealed and understood.

In the moment, we tend to only see our failure or loss.  But people of faith can look back and shift their perspective from seeing the failure, to recognizing the moment that we got back up.  We overcame.  That is what gives us strength and hope.

As my boys get older (now 12, 14, and 16) I have to lessen my control and allow them to take on more responsibility.  This is hard because I want to protect them.  I don't want them to fail.  I want to keep them safe.  Yet I also realize that the way they will learn and gain strength is THROUGH this process of failing and getting back up again.  When I start to worry "What If...?", I need to remind myself that God is faithful.  I now have a child driving!  What if...?  How do I control that fear?  By reminding myself that whatever may happen to knock us down, God is faithful, and we will eventually rise.

My challenge to you is to look back on your life as Carol did, by focusing not on your failures and heartaches, but on how you overcame them and got back up.  You can do it again.

"At the bottom of the deepest, darkest what-if imaginable is a faithful God." -Steven Furtick


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Yoked Together



As common as this verse is, I frequently need reminded about what a yoke is, and what this verse is saying.

Yoke - A wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.

This verse tells me two things.  First, I am not meant to work alone.  A yoke is given for TWO animals to SHARE the load.  Secondly, the burden is light.  If it's getting heavy, I'm either taking on more than I was meant to, or I'm trying to go it alone.

Check out this fact: "Farmers used to yoke the young ox with the old experienced ox to train them.  The old ox will take the major load and the young one will be walking along and learning from him."

When I asked Jesus into my life, I became yoked with Him.  I am to work alongside Him to spread his love and truth, learning from Him along the way.  What a beautiful picture.

"Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light."-Matthew 11:28-30


Friday, June 21, 2019

Small Groups on Mission


Over the years I have been a part of many small groups.  They are a great way to connect with other people.  By meeting frequently, you can keep up with what is going on in others lives and care for each other.  By discussing spiritual topics and sharing insight I have grown in my faith.  But the one area that we have failed to implement on a regular basis is to serve together.

Maybe this is why small group attendance starts out strong, and then slowly loses priority.  I was really struck by an excerpt from Jen Hatmaker's book Interrupted.   It's a bit long, but good food for thought...

"Obviously, geographic small groups are not new, but their purpose has often been limited by exclusivity: "This is our group for us to do life together." "Our six families have been together for four years." As small-group pastor for years, Brandon observed that community groups structured mainly for the benefit of their members have about a three-year shelf life.  At this point, the ties dissolve or the fellowship wanes, and they usually disband.

I believe more than simply losing interest, small groups like this evaporate because they aren't on mission, and frankly, that gets boring and unfulfilling.  How long can we sit in the same living room or Sunday school class with the same people talking about the same stuff?  How many discussions can we have about Sunday's sermon?  How long can we sacrifice a night a week for a basic repeat of the last gathering?  It runs out because we weren't created to serve ourselves; we're not wired to take the role of master, but slave.  Blessing blessed people eventually leaves us empty, and despite a church system designed to meet our needs, these words come out of our mouths: "I'm not being fed."

I believe the largest factor in feeling unfed is not feeding others.  It has less to do with your pastor's preaching style or the curriculum you're studying.  We have an innate craving to live on mission with God in the dangerous, exciting world.  Out there is where we come to life, get over ourselves, are fed.  Fulfillment exists in becoming a slave to everyone in order to win someone to Jesus.  Discipleship was never simply about learning; it was constructed on living...

If an endless array of Bible studies, programs, church events, and sermons have left you dry, please hear this: living on mission where you've been sent will transform your faith journey.  At the risks of oversimplifying it, I've seen missional living cure apathy better than any sermon, promote healing quicker than counseling, deepen discipleship more than Bible studies, and create converts more efficiently than events."

She goes on to explain how their small community groups function.  Two weeks a month they meet for traditional fellowship and discussion, one week for serving together in the community or with a nonprofit partner, and one week apart to intentionally live on mission (inviting neighbors over for dinner, hosting a game night, etc...).

There are obviously more opportunities to serve near a big city than a small town like I live in, but with some creativity I think this missional component could still be included.  It may just be the piece that's been missing.


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Verse Images: My New Tool

As much as I love routine, I like to change things up a bit sometimes.  What I've started doing this past month is creating a verse image after each time I've sat down to read the Bible.  It goes like this: I pray for God to speak to me through His Word, and then I open it up and start reading until a verse gets my attention.  Then I open up the YouVersion Bible App on my phone and look at that verse in a few different versions.  I pick the one I like the most and create a verse image through the app.  Doing this creative process helps me commit the words to memory, and gives me verse images on my phone that I can flip through.  It's also my plan to use them as a revolving background on my computer so that I'm reminded of the things I'm learning.  Now, before you put me on a pedestal, know that this does NOT happen every day.  It's just a new tool that I'm trying out - using technology to aid my spiritual growth.

Here is the image I created today.


While I chose this version for the image, I really like how The Message worded it the most.  This is a  paraphrase of what Jesus was saying to the woman at the well, "It's who you are and the way you live that count before God.  Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth.  That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship."

Worship in Spirit.

The first thing that came to my mind was church...the "worship service". Am I just showing up and being a warm body, or is my spirit engaged?  Honestly, I have a difficult time engaging in worship during church.  That's certainly not due to the music, because our band knocks it out of the park!  I just get distracted so easily.  Half of the time I run the tech during the service so my mind is focused on cameras and lyric slides.  When I am sitting down in the chairs, my mind is all over the place.  I see my teenage son picking at the callouses on his hands,  the mom with the cute new baby,  the drummer getting into his rhythm.  If I'm upset with my husband - the worship leader - that can be a major hindrance.  And I'm just so self-conscious thinking of how I want to be the woman with her hands raised, singing out for all to hear, but that simply isn't me.  So what do I do with that?  I use it as an opportunity to pray.  I pray for what's on my heart.  I let my eyes wander to the couple who I know is struggling in their marriage, and I pray for them.  I pray for the mom with squirmy baby, that she would find time to rest and connect with Jesus.  I pray for the woman who is grieving, the one who is struggling with addiction, and the one who seems to have it all together.  The beauty of the music is more of a pleasant background to my conversation with God.  My spirit is still engaged, just not in the way that it is when I listen to music in solitude.

What if you don't feel like showing up? If your spirit doesn't feel like worshipping?  Show up anyway.  God has a way of speaking to us when we least expect it - through a song, a sermon, or a person we cross paths with.  Show up in obedience with the knowledge that your feelings could very well change.  Come as you are - you may just leave different.

Worship in Truth.

Worship does not only happen in church or when listening to music.  We are worshipping God whenever we are living a life in obedience and pursuit of Him - in pursuit of truth.  

I think this includes being truthful about ourselves - being authentic.  When we are truthful about ourselves before God, we are led to repentance and dependence on Him.  When we are truthful to others, they feel comfortable enough to be authentic too.  

I'm reading a book that I've heard talked about a lot recently - it's even on the #1 New York Times Bestseller list.  Maybe you've heard of it.


You know why I think this book is so popular?  Because this woman is so authentic with her experiences and life lessons!  We are so hungry for people to be real and tell it like it is.  Forget the Facebook feed highlights - we want truth - we want to know others have the same failures and struggles that we do.  Yes, it takes talent and a way with words to create a book worthy of reading.  But for a book like this, it also takes courage.  

So that's a few of the places this verse took my mind wandering to this morning.  May we worship in spirit and truth.  


Monday, January 28, 2019

Friendship

When it comes to friendships I find myself at both ends of the spectrum. 

Part of me wants connection with other women.  I want to be known and to enter into relationships where we can learn from and encourage one another.  I think it's an important part of a life of faith...having someone to speak truth into your life and remind you that you are not alone.  Being able to learn from those who are more mature, and also help lift up those who are struggling.  More than just simple conversations - I want friends who can stop pretending to have it all together and can simply come as they are.

The other part of me is content to just settle in at home and focus on my family.  It's comfortable here.  I have my books and podcasts to keep my head on straight.  I don't have to risk rejection, deal with drama, or trust anyone with my "stuff".  For an introvert, it's a safe place.

I switch between these two extremes often.  Sometimes I'll get in the mood to connect with others and will make plans, but then when the time comes I'm not so enthusiastic about the idea.  I've led women's groups both in person and online.  They are great for a time, but then attendance plummets and so does my self-confidence.  So it's been easier to just not reach out.

Yesterday morning, my head was filled with all sorts of ideas.  I was going to find some women who were in the same boat as me (I mean, I can't be the only one, right?) and be intentional about getting together twice a month and sharing our lives.  Different names were coming to mind, some people I know well, and others I've just met.  I was going to reach out and it would be great!  By yesterday evening I had talked myself out of it.  And then I read this...

"Fear will present an option that keeps you protected and safe instead of inviting you into the risky unknowns of God's will"- Priscilla Shirer

Ugh.  Seriously? Why didn't I just watch TV instead of reading a book that would convict me? But here I am...called to obedience without knowing the outcome.  Time to jump!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Hero Maker

"When it comes to accomplishing great visions, it's never the dreams you dream but the small decisions you make." -J.D.Greear

My husband was invited to attend a church-planting conference near Chicago.  Did I want to go with him?  My first response was to say no.  It was going to be a quick trip: drive 6 hours, sit in a conference all day, share a hotel room with women, and drive home.  Not very appealing.  Plus there were logistics of finding childcare for our kids.  It was easier to say no.  But God had other plans.

I began to feel guilty, as if I was letting an opportunity slip away.  An opportunity to connect with my husband, to create memories, to open myself up to something God may want to teach me.  So I decided to put in the effort to make the trip memorable.  Through the help of our family, my husband and I were able to drive up early and explore the city of Chicago!  It was fun to sight-see and enjoy time alone together. 

A few days later, we met up with a group from church to attend the conference.  I was looking forward to hearing the speakers, but to be honest I was not expecting to gain much from it.  While I am involved in church leadership and am all for people spreading the love of Jesus, I wouldn't say "church planting" is one of my passions.  My heart is in helping people walk in obedience and strengthen their faith, not in starting new churches.  So when I'm at these conferences, I constantly fight the feeling that I don't belong.  The theme this year was Hero Maker.  The basic idea being that instead of us being the "hero", we should be Hero Makers - investing in and empowering others and thereby multiplying our impact.  I took what was said and began applying it to parenting and leadership in general. 

Out of all the amazing speakers, there was one line from a video that spoke straight to my heart.  A man was talking about the last words his father said to him, which were "No matter what happens, don't lose your vision."  Those could have been God's words to me.  I had been sitting there thinking that my vision was too small, too selfish.  That my vision should be something else.  But I was reminded that it wasn't meant to be.  My vision to take two people who have been given a legacy of family brokenness and redeem it.  To empower our boys to be heroes who can carry that forward.  I truly believe that healing the world begins with healing the family.  And it starts with me, with us.  It requires making intentional choices and does not always come naturally.  I want to do it right, and influence other couples along the way.  In that moment I felt the approval of my heavenly Father and knew that I was where I should be. 

Looking back I realize all that I would have missed out on if I would have taken the easier route and simply stayed home.  I feel incredibly blessed. 

*****

It's hard to believe that this is only the 3rd blog post I've written this year!  I could use the excuse that my boys keep me busy (which they do), but I'd like to be more consistent.  If there is a topic that you would like me to write about, please feel free to share. 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Very Next Thing

"To dwell in the place I have been given.  To do the things I have been given.  To love the people I have been given.  This is not mysterious or far reaching, yet this is the truth of a God-ordained life.

Slowly, I was beginning to understand that it wasn't my productivity that God desired; it was my heart.  It wasn't my ministry God loved; it was me.  God was glorified, is glorified, when we give Him our hearts, give Him ourselves, and faithfully do the thing right in front of us, no matter how small or trivial."

These words were written by Katie Davis Majors, a missionary in Uganda.  Her story is much different than mine, as is the place God has called her to.  But what we share is our struggle in motherhood.  The struggle of wanting to be used by God, yet feeling like we are caught up in the ordinary and mundane routine of life.  Whether we are making meals, changing diapers, breaking up arguments, cleaning up messes, or carpooling all around town, being a mother takes a lot of effort and is often unappreciated by our children.  But did you know that in all that activity we have the opportunity to grow in faithfulness?

Katie describes faithfulness as what we repeatedly do, whether or not we see the results.  "Faithfulness is when we pour into hard people over and over, when we continue to serve in difficult situations, when we intentionally choose to lean into Him in our troubles as well as our joys.  Faithfulness is a habit formed in our hearts when no one is looking, when the day is done and the stars creep out and our call isn't easy but we don't turn away."

I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the things I feel that I should do.  I want to eat healthier, exercise, memorize Scripture, do regular devotions, invest time in other people, spend quality time with my kids, strengthen my marriage, keep a clean house, serve others, and the list goes on....  And quite honestly, when I get overwhelmed, it seems nothing gets done.  These are all good things, but what is it that God really expects of me?

What I keep coming back to is that God just wants me to do the very next thing, the thing right in front of me.  He wants me to be in relationship with Him and then simply to walk in obedience.  Being a task-oriented planner, this is sometimes challenging.  I get so focused on what's to come, that I have a difficult time just being present.  My goal now is simply to be faithful to what is right in front of me...or to whatever He puts on my heart.  When I think a compliment, I try to speak it.  When I feel a burden for someone, I stop to pray or reach out.  When my kids want my attention, I try to stop what I'm doing and give it. These things may seem small, but I believe God is glorified through them much more than me going through my schedule on auto-pilot.

What is the very next thing that God is asking YOU to do?  Be present.  Be faithful.

We're in this together.