Monday, December 12, 2011

So What?: a Lesson in (Christmas) Giving

Recently I read on a friends blog about a woman who had stumbled into their church on sunday. Alone and upset, she had heard about this church plant and wanted to experience it for herself. Her husband had recently been laid off and about 2 miles away from the church, she runs out of gas. In tears and in cold, she walks the remaining 2 miles, only to get to the church as service is tearing down. She asks my friend, the pastor, if he had a little gas money, so she could get home. Without reason, without question of "how much more does she need", without definition of her (true) intentions of this money, people began opening their wallets, cleaning pockets, and giving to this woman in need. All she needed to do was ask.

As I read through his blog, (100 Foot Jesus, ) I was incredibly touched by their outpouring of love on this woman. I thought to myself, that's what it's like to love with reckless abandon.

Often when we give, we don't give freely as Christ commands. We give if we've seen the business plan. We give if we know the vision statement. We give if they have outlined which orphans will be getting which shoes and which meals for how long. We still consider it "my money" long after we have proclaimed it "HIS money". We still keep this hold on it, as though it's not worth giving until we can confirm the cause as worthy.

What if we just gave for the sake of Giving?

How many times have you passed a bum, a vet, a stranded driver asking for money, and your first thoughts are "He's just gonna drink this away..." "You have a social security card, right? Go get a job!!" " They don't look homeless at all! Probably just a prank for cash." (yes, because it's easy to go roll around in the dirt, load up a backpack and stand in the freezing cold or blistering heat seeking handouts on the side of the highway...way easier than flipping burgers in a warm McDonalds...)

I wonder what would have happened to us, if Christ thought that before giving his life for our sins...

"What am I doing on this cross? They're just going to deny me anyway?"
"Im not dying for them until I know they're committed to my Plan".
"Why should I provide that job they're praying about. What have they done for my church lately? I mean, look at these scars! I have holes in my wrists!! I don't know if they deserve it."

The bottom line is...when you give, it's not about whether they've earned it, or they deserve it. Its about giving freely, because freely, He gave to us.

Try a little giving this may suprise yourselves with how good it feels once you kick those inhibitions to the curb.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Parent's Prayer and a Mother's Heart...

When Gavin was born, I used to stare at him, the shape of his little mouth, the curve and intricacies of his ears, the deep, vibrant brown of his little eyes...and I would be amazed every time at the tremendous responsibility and love God had given our family in this child. Every lesson, every reaction, every perspective was ours to instigate, to give him the best foundation in life. One of the key responsibilities we feel as parents is to instill in our son the importance of a lifelong relationship with Jesus.

Our church is undergoing an epic building project for our home and future location as a congregation. I was walking through it with my husband last night and realized for a moment where we were standing. We looked down, and according to the map, we were standing in the kids area...In the exact spot where our son would learn and grow and play and sing and ultimately, fall in love with Jesus...and I asked my husband to do something weird...

As we stood there in the quasi-darkness, I asked him to take my hands and to pray for us, for our son and for this spot. (Im sure we looked like a couple of teens looking for a "dark corner", but I promise, we were praying! :) In that moment, I was overcome by tears and emotions at how much this spot would mean to Gavin and to our family...and how all the other spots in this place would have meaning to him as well.

We prayed that he would grow to be a man of God, a man who makes his choices with integrity. We prayed that he would have friends who would care about him, ask the tough questions and would offer counsel that was God-centered. We prayed for the youth ministry and the future of his leadership. We prayed for the memories, friendships, relationships, choices, soul-stirring convictions and God whispers that would happen in this building.

Then a fear clutched my heart. What if, after all these prayers, dedications and hope, he doesn't choose follow Jesus?What if he chooses another way...what if? And it only took a moment for God to remind me of some truth.

1. Just as it is unseen where all the funds will come from for our new building, I won't be able to see, know or be there for all of Gavin's choices. I have to rely on God to grow our little man from the foundations planted.

2. Just because it is unseen doesn't mean it is unprepared. Someday, my husband and I will have to stand before our Lord and account for our parenting. I want to be able to look at him and know I did everything I could. Every little thing matters...every time he says his own little prayer and asks "Mama, wha's the next 'fing' I say?" and when he prays and thanks God for his toes and his Kitty and his Cars...Every Bible story we read and discuss, explaining how God can whisper to his heart, just like he whispered to Samuel...Every time we say "Good Morning" to the sun and "Good Night" to the moon and he asks me "Who made 'dem' ?" I want to infuse God and His awesome power and love into every interaction.

Gavin is going to fail and make mistakes...even now, I feel like I say his name 50 times a day.... But, truth is, his daddy and I mess up all the time. I know we're not going to be the perfect example. But I want to give it all I've got, so in the end, our little man will know that the relationship his daddy and I treasure with Jesus and the freedom we have found in Him can be his's there for the taking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Real Community and the Church Face...

For many of us who grew up in the church, there were times where it felt like we were there more than anywhere else...Sunday Mornings, Sunday Nights, Youth Group, Wednesday Nights, (then changed to the not-so-different, but trying-to-be-cooler) Tuesday nights,..for a kid whose greatest relationships, friendships (and a few boyfriends) were found at church, I never really had an issue with it. The hardest part though was putting on "the face..."

You know what "face" Im talking about...Someone would be ticked at someone else over something, either serious concerns or ridiculous drama (with 2 girls in the house, ours was often the second) You would fight and argue and tear down all the way to church in the car, but the minute those minivan doors slid open, you had your Church Face on...the face that said, "Nothing could possibly be wrong with me or in my life because I am a Christian...and we are a Christian family...". And on those occasions where the secrets slipped and the face fell off, you were mortified to think what they were all *gasp!* thinking of you...and I had to this Real Church? Real Community? Or are we just putting on faces? And when we come to our church is it to make others lives fuller or is it sometimes, just adding checkmarks to our attendance books?

A funny thought hit me recently...There isnt a day that goes by that Im not experiencing real life...real community with someone from my church family. Whether it's a facebook comment, phone call, text message, or small group conversation, the interesting thing is, we're doing life together. There have been times when my "face" has fallen off and they didnt care. They talked with me, prayed with me, cried with me....Even in moments of personal frustration, when I may have contemplated going somewhere else for church, I knew that I couldnt because my community...would come for me. They would pursue me, and want to know if I was ok. They would ask me the tough questions, have the deep conversations, tear back the patchwork bandage I had on my spiritual wounds and pour the healing salve of love onto my self-inflicted spiritual gashes, caused by keeping my struggles and secrets locked inside. Its this thought that has reminded me time and time again this week, how much I love how our church loves on people. We pursue deeper relationships, just as God pursues our hearts.

Picture for a moment a mountain...a large, snowcapped monstrosity waiting to be overcome. I've never been much of a climber myself, but I do know that they have strict regulations about anyone going it alone. Climbers go in pairs or groups to help one another along the way. When the one leading gets tired, another will carribeen up to relieve them and offer support. They are all usually tethered to one another, sharing in each victory and each difficulty. They are experiencing this life, this moment together...

Sure, it's totally possible to fade in and out of church, just like anyone else...but if your heart is there for the right reasons, its impossible to ignore the challenge and call to community. It's how Jesus did's how we should do it...let your "Church Face" fall off and be real with those in your community...because the mountain Life was not meant to be overcome alone.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Wedding Vows...Remixed

Today is my 4th wedding anniversary...I look back on my marriage and see how far we've come...through feast and famine, love and heartache and back to love again...I love to see how we've grown and changed...Here is a letter I wrote to my husband back on the second still rings true today...

i take you to be my lifelong husband, in good times and bad, in leaky roofs, past due medical bills, credit card issues, parking tickets and keys locked in cars...during pregnancy, c-sections, hydropoos on the couch, I take you during spontaneous laughter and floods of tears...for netflix nights of sporadic chinese movies with subtitles and true blood and chinese sundays...for the Naked Chef evenings and the serving ways you show your love to me...for I take you for xbox 360 and how you look like an adorable little boy with your headset on...for peanut butter pancakes... for the smiles we share when our son does something that is so much a part of both of us, we fall deeper in love with each other in a moment...for the father you are and the one I know you will be...i take you for secret conversations only we know...the moments that make sense only to us...for jam sessions, worship music and finding my perfect harmony...for frustrations beyond belief, first time celebrations and a deeper joining faith that God really does have a plan for us...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Oh You Can't Get To Heaven..."

If you grew up in a Christian home, went to church (and sunday school and wednesday night service and church camp and...) on a regular basis, you probably have heard this little diddy...

" Oh you can't get to a Mini Skirt....Oh you cant get to a Mini Skir-ir-rt..." The tag line for why, you, oh mini-skirted one, can't get to heaven, is because "God Don't Want No Little FLIRT"....then it proceeds (rather contradictally) "All my sins are washed away, I've been redeemed...."

While a blast to sing along with around a campfire...the lyrics are kind of terrible, because the truth is...God does want you...all you little flirts in mini skirts, all you little snots in Kleenex boxes...God wants YOU. God LOVES YOU. and at this very moment, He is passionately pursuing YOU. (Let that sink in for a moment)

There's a huge misconception about church and having a relationship with God that says you have to be perfect before you can darken his have to clean up, spit-shine, comb your hair and yes, while those are all good things (in fact, the guy in the pew next to you would probably prefer it if you came to church showered...)those are not, in any way requirements to receive the love of God. The unconditional, overwhelming, intrinsically pure love of God. God wants you, the broken hearted, the worthless feeling, the attitudes-seeking-adjustment, the chips on your shoulders, the messed up, the cheaters and liars...He wants you, and wants to love on you with all He is...

Then He gives you the choice to fall back in love with him...and that is where the change comes in. You realize that He wants good things in life for you, because of His love for you...and that the choices you make, out of love (or sometimes hate) for yourself, are worthless, because you now want to please the God you love. You realize the modesty is worth it, the change is for the better, the life is more rich without the bottle in it...

So you, with that mini skirt, don't listen to some silly song about what God doesn't want...just focus on that last line...when you seek the grace in the gift of Jesus and his sacrefice for your sins, they are all washed away and redeemed...We'll talk about that little modesty issue later...just get in here and get loved.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Weight We Carry

I have recently embarked on a fabulous (and altogether frightening) journey to get myself healthy. Recently with some dedication (and the world's greatest accountability team, you know who you are-love you lots!) I have seen the success of losing my first 8 pounds...and it feels great. Feels I could run a marathon now...(which I can't...but I will!) it's such exhilaration. One comparison that people do within the weight loss and nutrition communities is they compare the weight they were carrying to various objects in life. My current loss is about the size of a sack of potatoes or a newborn baby...I just lost a sack of potatoes...And my brain has a momentary euphoria where I also think, "Wow, potatoes seem really heavy! What a relief to not carry them around anymore!"

Spiritually, I think we do this to ourselves as well. There are weights that we all carry on a daily basis, not even realizing how much they bring us down. and marriage drama...relationships issues...inner demons and battles within ourselves....How exhausting they are to our soul to exert on a daily basis. We just get used to carrying them, not realizing the damage they do to our soul, much like the damage being overweight does to a body. We carry them because they are comfortable, they are familiar, and it seems easier to do nothing than to do something.

I want to encourage you today to lose some weight. Whatever you have weighing on your heart, your mind, your soul, give it up...let it go...put it in the hands that are bigger than your own, because HIS hands were meant to carry it...not ours. The freedom will be exhilarating and you will be amazed at the things you can do for Christ that your "weight" held you back from before.

What is "weighing" you down?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

You Never Forget The Road Home...

This one has been brewing in me for a few days, but I had to gather the words to get it out right...This past weekend, I experienced a bittersweet reunion of some of the best friendships in my life, as we gathered to celebrate the life of our mentor, Paul.

Paul was the kind of man who could make you feel like you were the only person in the room, that when you asked for a minute, he gave you could laugh hysterically or cry unashamedly in his office, no matter how much of a "grown up" you assumed yourself to be. Paul was a great man of truth, love and, it went as no suprise that 40+ of Paul's "kids" whom he had impacted over the years took a screeching halt to their lives and journeyed "Home" for Paul's memorial, and to honor him by lifting their voices to the Lord he loved and served wholeheartedly.

It was the kind of weekend Paul would have loved. Filled with laughter, hugs, and inside jokes that could be resurrected 6 years later and STILL be funny. Some of us have grown older, lost and gained weight, lost and gained spouses, lost hair, gained child (ren)? Some friendships, that were beautiful in college, have simply aged like a fine wine, growing sweeter, deeper and more robust over time. It was the kind of reunion that was healing for the soul...

Reunions always scare people...they sit in the parking lot, fidgeting with this shirt that they are pretending they didnt just buy for the occasion, that stray hair, that smudge of eyeliner...worried about what people will think...that was not the case. I can say I proudly sped all the way to get there, and when I got there, it was like 6 years had never happened...Each hug, each welcoming and open set of arms held me just a little longer, and with each hug, I felt more and more healing renewal enter my soul.

We waste so much time in our adult lives, attached to work, email, and rushing. We fight and struggle so hard to pay those bills and make something of ourselves, that we push to the side who we were. What we used to be. What really used to matter...Our core selves, a broken and haggard compilation of who we really want to be, when we are free to be. Sometimes, you just need to give your soul moments of healing and rebuilding.

I remember when I left for college, my mother hugged me and said "This will always be your home, but I know it will never be home again." It confused me for the longest time, until I had the chance to go "Home" this weekend, and be embraced by the friends, mentors and family who had helped to shape me to who I was and who I need to remember to be.

Sometimes you need to go Home to get back to yourself again...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Heal Me: Interactive Worship

Have you ever had one of those Sundays (and come on, you all know you have) when you catch yourself just "phoning it in" during church? I busted myself on this a few weeks ago during worship.

Everyone has their own worship mom, for example, is a hands-up kinda, on the other hand, wants to makes sure he blesses anyone in a 10 foot radius with his voice, because that's just how he is...My husband varies...there's days when, for him, it's deep and personal and he keeps both hands clenched in fists close to his heart. There's other days where his Penecostal is showing, and you had better watch out, 'cause he's a mover! I think for me, I vary as well...sometimes I would be a "jumper/dancer" and can't be still (maybe some of that husbandly influence!) Other times, I am more of a reflecter...I literally stop singing and just read the words, taking them in and making them my prayer...

And yet, on this particular Sunday, for some reason, I was a million miles away. Maybe it was thoughts of some stress at work, or maybe it was some sleepyness still lingering, but whatever the reason, I found my soul shaking myself awake, and screaming "Do you even know what you are singing?! Or are you just repeating words on the screen?!"

After the thorough butt kicking that myself gave,..myself, I zoned in on the lyrics of the song the band was presenting. We were singing one of my favorite songs and yet I wasn't connecting to it. There was a particular lyric that is repeated in this song: "Heal Me..." and it struck me... how many times have I sung this and it has been nothing more than a pretty tune? And how sad that is, when there are people crying for healing all around us? There are people, in our very own church, struggling with various diseases, like the monstrosity that is cancer. There are others dealing with wounds in their marriages, scars of past mistakes that keep reopening...maybe for others they are suffering from a temptation they do not want to give in to, and yet find themselves locked into every time...It made me think, what are the healing prayers of those around me? The lady two rows in front of me, what is her healing prayer? the guy three rows back, who snuck in when nobody was watching...what does he need healing from...What is driving their passion to sing "heal me" with tears on their faces and hands reaching up, prayers of desperation on their lips...and it caused me to drove me to pray for those around me whose prayers of "Heal me" are so much more desperate than my own. It caused me to wake up and realize that these words aren't just words, but cries from one soul to the ears of the drove me to remember that worship is not one sided, but interactive...

Worship, in a sense, means to give praise to one that is worthy, but there is also a response...a stirring, from the heart of the Father to the ones who give the praise...and if we find ourselves phoning it in, we may just miss the true message He wants us to see...

Make your worship interactive...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fast Food Jesus

Have you ever wondered what Christianity would be like if we could get our Jesus at a drive through? " yeah, um...i'll take the Trinity combo number one...light on the Holy Spirit though, I don't want to feel that guilt for the rest of the day..." " Does the kids meal still come with one of the twelve disciples? Im really trying to collect them all and Peter always seems to be out of stock!" " Today has been rough...can I get the BIGGIE size Jesus?" Doesn't sound quite right, does it? And yet, this is how we try to create a foundation for our Christian faith. We take Jesus in convenience sized portions, when it works for us, and rush ourselves through the motions, never stopping to enjoy Him and truly take him in. Think about eating your take out in the's a rush, it's a balance, and if you're like me, you end up with hiccups, and lets face it, you really didn't taste a thing while you hoovered it in. Some of us do that with our time with God. We head off to work, turn the car into the "Rolling Confessional" with some Casting Crowns in the background, but are we really honoring God with that bracket of time we give Him, inbetween driving, pretending we aren't texting while we drive and making it to work. Yup, sounds like a quality Jesus meal to me. Do you even remember what He spoke to your heart? Did you even hear it? Life is crazy, no one can deny that. As we get older and the generation of multi-tasking becomes more and more prevalent, we try to multi-task the most intimate of relationships. But that, is not, in it's true beauty, how God wanted our relationship with him to be. Think about the last time you really enjoyed a meal with your family. You sat down, smelled the food, saw it all laid out before you, took your time with the bites and portions, maybe even came back for seconds and after all the coffee and conversation was over, someone brought out PIE! You laughed, you maybe even cried, or cried while you laughed, but those precious moments lock in your mind as memories of a treasured experience. That's how it should be. God wants us to sit with Him, take in all he has for us, get excited about what's to come, and when it has passed, grab a cup of coffee (if that's your thing) and talk about how amazing this time with Him has been. He wants us to give Him those moments, not because He is selfish, but because when we take time to really breathe Him in, He in turn gets to pour out His goodness for us, His plans for us and get us pumped about His future (PIE!!) to come. Take a breath and have some Selah with your Father...Calm your heart and get excited for the things He has in store for you. ...and there might even be "Pie"...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spiritual Anorexia and the Junior High Dance

Weird Title I know...but it got you in, right? =)

God and I have been doing a weird dance around each other lately. It's almost like a junior high dance where He has courageously asked me to dance with Him and Im afraid to touch him, so there we stand, in the middle of the gymnasium of life, me keeping Him at an arms length distance.

I have this strange churning in my soul every week at's called, Pick Up Your Bible and Read it...(or, more appropriately, dig your bible out of your husband's trunk, because it's there for who knows why, and crack it open!) Every sunday, I sit in the service, I get moved by the worship, I sing my heart out (hopefully to the blessing and not curse of those around me) and feel refueled by what our Pastor has to say. Every week I think, "Yup! This is gonna be the week! Im gonna get up early, me, God and some coffee, and take time with Him every day..." And where do you think I am next week? In the same emotional spot I left behind. And it's not like He hasn't tried. He whispers to me through relationships, He shows himself in random scriptures I come across in Facebook and on blogs, and yet, here I am, snubbing Him, because there's always something else I am doing.

The situation reminds me of my son and his current eating patterns. (i know what you're thinking...keep reading =) It'll make sense)..moving on from baby and toddler foods and trying to enter the world of deliciousness, this has not been easy. Here we are, as his parents, offering him delicious morsels of food...and yet he snubs them...he pokes at them, plays with them, makes towers (of hot dogs) out of them, feeds them to the cat(no, kitty cannot eat your Spaghetti O's...)...Our new resolution has been, when he is hungry enough he will eat, and we will be sure it's the good stuff...but then, oh then, the moment of glory where he actually tries something and *gasp* realizes it's amazing...this moment of clarity and happiness gushes out of him. Like he's renewed by having it for the first time and now, suddenly, I have got to stock up, because He can't get enough of this new flavor!

The Bible tells us that there are moments between our soul and God when our soul will actually defy us and cry out to they are having a conversation on our heart's behalf...I think I actually got to eavsdrop on that this week....With resounding clarity, I remember my mind looking up and shouting (inwardly) I am STARVING!! The thoughts that fill my head, the lies it has chosen to listen to, the hurtful things that have filled up the voided crevaces where God used to fill them, ...this is the Starvation of my soul taken to the point of insanity...Literally, my heart has reached the point of starvation in putting God off. We need to turn this Junior High Dance Pose into a full on Embrace!

So this week, after much debate with myself, the snooze button, and the cozy spot next to my husband, I got out of bed, before anyone else and spent some time in the quiet with God...and let me tell you...our make-up was glorious! I felt led to read this verse in 1Timothy 1:5...

"The whole point of what we're urging is simply lovelove uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven't the remotest idea of what they're holding forth with such imposing eloquence. "

Sometimes I feel like I have had this counterfeit faith...I have been listening to the gossip (wantering into the cul-de-sacs of...)and lies of my human nature and not LOVING. Think about a Cul-De-Sac...It's one big circle until you find your way out again...

1 John also talks about "Perfect love drives out fear". The lies my heart believed were all based on the fear of them being true, but when I love perfectly, fear goes away. When I love certain situations in life I am faced with, even though I don't necessarily like them, they become less of a hurdle and more of a lesson to learn.

I have a responsbility to my heart and soul to feed it spiritually. Climbing out of my spiritual anorexia has kicked off to a great start...and I can't get enough...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Misunderstood 2's...

As a parent, I kind of like to feel like I have some kind of a routine with my we have an understanding of one another and we can communicate. I like to think that...but sometimes, that's just not the case...

We all know the phrases and the scenarios...Toddler turns from loving, amazing, snuggly self-entertaining joy of life to screaming, throwing, crying monster. Everyone looks at toddlers with knowing glances and says the same terrible phrase..."Oh, He must just be hitting those terrible two's!" (I relate this to when a woman loses her temper and those who don't understand, a.k.a. usually guys, use the phrase, "Oh, she's just PMS-ing...") But really, can EVERY child be "terrible?" Sometimes, yes, but sometimes, I think they are just misunderstood.

Picture with me, for a moment, this scenario. You are in a foreign country. You've been there for a while, so you generally feel happy and comfortable, but you are still getting down the language. For the most part, you can get around, carry on conversations and make do, while building those relationships. But a few times a day you experience "the frustration..." You know, when you are intellectually trying to explain a situation and nobody around you gets it? You know what you're saying, they know what they "think" you are saying, but really nobody understands what you are trying to, wouldn't that be frustrating?

Sometimes I think my son and I go through this circle. He is clearly a very intuitive and smart little guy, but sometimes when trying to express himself, he just plain get's frustrated that Mommy doesn't know what the "boo ogert"( blue yogurt??) one is or where "moo cow" went. He doesn't understand that when we get home late at night sometimes, that he has to put on his jammies, because it's bedtime, when usually we get to play with choo choo, have a snack and watch a little Spidey. He knows that the boogies in his nose bother him, but can't seem to get them out, but he really doesn't like it when Daddy has to get them....So what's a toddler to do? Have a mini-meltdown, of course.

As parents, my husband and I try very hard to teach our son the difference between right and wrong, but it's also important to know that it's not what you say, it's how you say it...and how you understand it. So, maybe the so-called "Terrible 2's" are not in themselves always terrible, but mostly misunderstood. I know there are times when my son can be deliberately disobediant, but more often than not, I think he's trying the boundaries of communication. It takes us as parents, having the maturity to look around the situation, around the tears and angry words of toddler frustration to see what the real problem is. It is our job to bring them to that spot of calm and encourage them to use their words...and when they can't find the right words, help them to discover them.

Sometimes in parenting, we don't just parent them, we parent ourselves...