Purpose and Passion–A snapshot from the Pink WILD retreat

This weekend I am at a retreat in east Texas for WILD (Women in leadership development). It is an awesome program and curriculum created and presented by Pink at Gateway. The entire focus for the weekend is identifying your passions and purpose. It’s all about stirring up the pot of who God has made you to be and revealing those little gems that make you you!

I promised myself that I would disconnect this weekend. No Facebook updates, no posting pictures on Instagram, no witty tweets on Twitter. Even email is off limits. So far, so good–except this post. Whoops 🙂 I can’t help myself. I’m taking my free time this weekend to write and I just want to pose a couple questions to each of you for a bit of thought and reflection. Just two things to ask God, I promise. You ready? Okay, here we go:

  1. Show me who you are.
  2. Show me who I am.

That’s it. (I’m kind of laughing at that sentence just because the depth of those two points is rocking my world right now.)

But in all seriousness, take some time in prayer. Approach the throne of grace and ask God to reveal Himself to you. It has the potential to change everything.

Advertisements

Believing in the Impossible

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

I don’t think it will come as any real surprise but I consider myself a dreamer. I’ll play out an entire conversation of company pitches, possible speaking topics, and even conversations that may have the potential of taking a negative turn. I’ll imagine opportunities and dream of what our family will look like five to ten years down the road.

When I submitted my manuscript to WestBow press, I never imagined what may come from it. But when presented with the cover proofs, seeing my name actually gracing the cover of a book or the chance to have a full blown marketing campaign to promote me and my book to the world I find myself humbled to the point of dumbstruck.

It’s a quandary that I don’t know that I’ve experienced before. Essentially, I trust wholeheartedly in God’s ability to provide exactly what we need, I just don’t know what route to choose. To believe but to just not know what to do next is such a weird juxtaposition. The dreamer side wants to jump into the deep end and experience EVERYTHING. The logistical and (somewhat) practical side wants to take smaller steps within our means and abilities.

So when do we as believers jump in, trusting in God’s provision and when do we take baby steps, being good stewards of that which God has already blessed us with.

In the midst of my dumbstruck response the other day, I found myself on my knees in prayer. God directed me to a verse that He spoke to me about a month ago over a slightly different (yet connected) situation.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

There were some of the last words that Moses spoke to the Hebrews. He had just named Joshua as the next leader and knew that he would never step foot into the promised land.

Do you remember the story of the spies? When they first went into the land promised to them by God they saw a multitude of obstacles that were impossible to overcome on their own. They ran back, stirred up fear and lost all faith that God would ever allow them to enter into the land. All of them, except for Joshua. Joshua believed in the promises of God and in his first address to the Israelites following the death of Moses, he calls them to this same level of courage.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

I long to live a life of bold faith. I want to teach my children to not just go through the motions in their relationship with God but to trust Him and know that He wants an active relationship with each and every one of us. I know that God called me to finish the book, to seek a publisher, and to jump in, believing in Him every step of the way–including in the places that seem impossible.

What areas of your life do you need to step out in faith and trust that God will go before you?

I pray that each of you will experience the strength and courage that can only come from God. Trust in the promise that Moses shared with a terrified group of people, “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Sanctification does not equal sanitation

There are times that I believe that God is genuinely trying to wreck my little world that I am so content living within. The reality is that, well, He is.

When God gave us the direction to move eighteen hours away, we did it. When He told me to pursue my book further, I did it. Now He has given me this ideology that I just can’t seem to shake and know that it will lead me through a difficult, but ultimately honoring and humbling path.

As a believer in my late 20’s I’ve gained a little perspective. I have allowed myself to forgive my younger self for the (now) obvious mistakes I chose to make. I have grown in how I approach (and cherish) relationships with my friends and my family. I have learned to appreciate knowledge and wisdom, especially that which comes from God, whether revealed through spoken word or scripture or simply God whispering to the depths of my soul. It’s been a good journey thus far. But what if I’m missing the bigger picture of this thing called life? What if being a Christian is so much more that I ever imagined?

There is clearly a struggle in the post-modern society that America finds itself in today. The church is fighting to remain relevant and sometimes stumbles over its own systematic belief system that was created on different morals and values. What changes in light of the times and what do we stand firm on? Of course if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that if the church was built solely on the principles of Jesus, there would be no need for change. It would transcend beyond a political infrastructure and the logistics of organizational necessities. It would stand out from society as a “light shining on a hill that cannot be hidden.” So where have we so gravely miss-stepped? Where has my own life been shaped by a temporal church platform rather than the rugged and grimy truth that composes the Gospel in all of its beauty and splendor?

In one single misconception: we have created an environment where we believe that being sanctified equates to living a life separated from everything “dirty” in the world.

Oh, you don’t believe in Jesus? Ok, I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.

You don’t read the Bible in your classes? Ok, we need to find a new school.

You want me to do more than write a check to serve as my form of service? Ok, it’s time to find a new church.

Yes, I realize this might make some (read: many) of you uncomfortable. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable because it is forcing me to recognize the areas in my own life where my attempts at sanctification are more equitable to sanitation. Separating ourselves from the broken people of the world has created a false pedestal that we waiver upon, desperately trying to remain “holy,” all the while missing the point that down in the dirt and grime is where Jesus spent His life on earth.

Jesus said, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” (Matthew 25:33-40 NIV)

The more I read Matthew 25, the more I realize that I have so often missed the point. I go to church; I love Jesus; I even write a check to support missionaries serving and sharing the love of Jesus to others around the world. But I have missed so many opportunities to be the love of Jesus to others around me.

There is no way to misconstrue the fact that Jesus loves the broken and weary and down-right dirty. He cherishes them. And instead of loving and cherishing people, we sanitize ourselves from them, lest we become more like them.

Sanctification has nothing to do with separating ourselves from the broken. It has everything to do with allowing God to separate our heart from the desires of the world that it may be molded to love the broken as much as He does.

Simply because a person has money does not make them any more holy than those who have none. A person who sits in church every week is not more holy than the person who prays every night that they will simply survive another day on the street. Designer name clothes do not define status, a willing and serving heart does.

I long with my whole being to be sanctified before God. I long for Him to make me holy and set apart. I long to be more like Jesus, who is all of this and so much more.

In becoming more like Jesus, in becoming sanctified, my heart must break for that which Jesus’ broke for. His heart broke for all of us. It broke for the hurt and destitute. It broke for the ostracized and outcast. It broke for those who suffered at the hand of the unjust and self-righteous.

It wasn’t contingent on those people having the same beliefs or performing the correct rituals. It was a matter of the heart and even if they didn’t believe, Jesus still loved. He didn’t compromise who He was or what He did, but He still loved them right where they were at, in the midst of their dirty and unholy brokenness.

There is a way to remain steadfast and sanctified and still love as Jesus loved. There is a way to stand firm on our convictions and beliefs and still reach out genuinely to those around us who don’t share those same principles. It is through sanctification by service. It is through self-sacrificing our own preconceived notions and to hear the stories of those who live in the trenches of society.

Will we be known as a generation that left the church to die, or will we be the generation that allows our spirits to become sensitive to the leading of God to revitalize the church and create a new standard? Will we be the people set apart, never experiencing the wonder that comes from allowing God to “mess up” our life, or will we be the people set apart because we have allowed God to take over and guide into the mess that comes with loving people-all people, broken and all-the way that Jesus loves them?

It is a great challenge that has been issued, but I pray that we will be courageous enough to trust Jesus and dive in.

Rest.

Yesterday marked the second full week that we have lived in Texas.  Tomorrow will be the second full week since we moved into our new home outside of Fort Worth.  I was so grateful that we arrived several days before Kyle had to begin work.  I read a list of situations relating to their stress rankings, and moving (especially long distances) ranks toward the top.  By the end of the weekend, we had managed to get most of the boxes emptied.  Things still aren’t quite situated, but the moving company came and picked up the giant pile of cardboard and paper that had taken over our garage (I can actually fit my car in now!).  Some of our pictures are on the wall and at least one of the girl’s rooms is set (pictures on the wall, other decorations in place, you know, the stuff that makes it feel like your home as opposed to just someplace with a bed to sleep in).

All the while, I thought I was doing well in managing the overwhelming stress that threatened to crush me like a bug.  I thought  I was helping the girls adjust, serving my husband, getting into a schedule to keep the house clean despite have a Godzilla for a toddler (who has decided since we arrived that walking is so much better than crawling, and running-as much as she is able-is even better!) and a whirlwind tornado for a preschooler (everything needs to be as spread out throughout the house as humanly possible, and mom needs to know where everything is at a moment’s notice).  I thought I was doing well by getting my Y membership right away and intentionally making time to go and work out.  I’ve tried going to classes to meet people.  I’ve tried being overly chatty with the childcare people when picking up the girls to try to get to know them.  I even sent an email to the MOPS group at a church we’ve gone to the past couple weeks and enjoy and want to further see if that’s actually where God wants us.

I’ve done all these things and yet, the headache came.  The stress level reached it’s pinnacle and while I thought  I had things under control, the nausea and aching and light sensitivity that ensued assured me that I certainly did not.

Last week we attended our second service at Hillside Community Church in Keller, TX (mini shout out, though I don’t know anyone there yet 🙂 ).  They are working their way through the book of Mark and last week (and will continue this next Sunday as well) focused on the Sabbath.

I have always felt, well, conflicted about the Sabbath.  Part of me wants to be stringent about it.   When I was working, I always was adamant about not having to work on Sunday for religious reasons.  I even talked to Kyle at one point to discuss if we were “doing too much” on our Sundays which are our Sabbath days.  But, I love Jesus for so many reasons and one of those is his blatant disregard for “man’s interpretation of the law.”

Here’s what scripture says:

One Sabbath he was going through the grain fields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

The Pharisees had created laws upon the law of what was acceptable on the “day of rest.”  It was so extreme that they had even limited the number of steps you could take!  What was established as a day of rest became a day of stress.  No longer was it about taking a break, but it was about making sure you didn’t do too much and “break the law.”

When challenged about the disciples “breaking the law” by “working” (plucking the heads of grain), Jesus turns the Pharisees challenge back on themselves.  He challenges their knowledge of scripture (the story of David doing something that was “against the law” by eating bread that was reserved for the high priest).  Of course they don’t want to say anything against David.  He was the epitome of their past Kings.  He was the direct lineage of their prophesied Savior (who was in fact Jesus, but that’s a different discussion).  But that’s not even the best part.  Jesus continues in verses 27-28,

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

I LOVE THIS!  You see if man were made for the Sabbath, then the day would rule over us.  Think about it.  Because God created the Sabbath for man, he was telling us that he knows that we need to rest.  You see God rested on the seventh day, not because he was tired, but because he was finished.  We on earth aren’t done yet.  Paul tells us in Philippians 1:6,

he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

We’re here to serve and bring honor to God until the day of Jesus Christ (the second coming) or until we are called home.  In the meantime, God knew that we needed a break, so he gave us one.  In the Old Testament, it was the Sabbath.  It was a day to relax from the typical toil of everyday life.  It was a time to slow down and rest in God.  Jesus changes that (like much of the law).  The law still exists, but Jesus has fulfilled it.  In verse 28 he said,

So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath. (emphasis my own)

If Jesus is lord of the Sabbath, what does that mean for us?  That means that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath.  In Matthew 11 he declares to a crowd,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest

Jesus is our rest.  When we envelop ourselves within him, he carries our burdens and gives us rest.  It’s no longer about doing what is “right,” it’s about serving he who has made us righteous.

My stress may be high due to many things, from moving halfway across the country, to having to force myself to make new friends (something that is not easy for me), to being a new town and trying to figure out ways to best care for my girls away from all that I know–including drastically different weather that my Florida girls don’t understand (my kids don’t like shoes…or clothes for that matter, which is not really conducive to temperatures of highs in the 30’s or 40’s).  But because I serve the Lord of the Sabbath, I can find rest in him any time, any day.  When I take time to rest in him, the stress does lighten.  The migraine seems to lift a little.  The world doesn’t seem quite as overwhelming.

I love that my High Priest is sitting.  Before Jesus, priests never sat because their work was never done.  Jesus said it all as he dies on the cross, proclaiming, “It is finished.”  We don’t have to worry.  We don’t have to stress.  Instead, we get to rest in Him.  So each day, when I feel like this is more than I can handle on my own, I rest in Him.

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

Being complete in Jesus.  It’s more than just a nice idea, it is essential to Christian living.  You see, Satan has allowed society to tell us that there are an endless number of ways to feel “complete.”  Having a career, having lots of money, getting married, having kids.  Most of these are, in themselves, good things that add to life.  But none of them on their own can sustain us.  None of them can offer eternal life.

Jesus=Everything-Nothing

I grew up in a wonderful home, with a loving family and firm foundation for my faith in Jesus.  But somewhere along the way, I developed a fear of being alone.  At the time, I didn’t realize that this was in fact my fear, but several years (and many mistakes) after the fact, it became clear.  I had this fear that if I lost all the people close to me (family, friends, boyfriends), I would be lost.  But in fact, I had everything all along.

I adore my family.  They mean more to me than anything else on this earth.  But I know that if (God forbid) something should ever happen to them, I am not alone.  I can have everything that love torn away from me, and I still have everything because I have Jesus.

I love my family. I love the opportunities I have to work with youth.  I have great dreams of becoming a writer and a speaker professionally someday.  I have dreams of creating an organization that will serve as a resource for teenage girls in their faith walk.  All of it is nothing.  Solomon, said to be the wisest man who has ever lived said this,

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.

“Everything is meaningless!”
He had everything. Literally.  Wisdom, money, power, women…everything he could ever want and despite that, at the end of his life, he realized that without God, you have nothing.  Only Jesus can satisfy.  Only in Jesus can you find that complete satisfaction that your soul longs for.
Billy Graham said,
You will never understand who you are until you understand who God is.
Do you know who God is?  Do you know that he died for you, that you might live?
In the end, this is all that matters.

I am…

Over the past few weeks, my church has been doing a series titled “Irreligious.”  It’s one of those series that I imagine in the hands of another pastor, another perspective, it could be incredibly “PC.”  But one of the many reasons I love and appreciate my church (and its leadership) is the wisdom that they are able to use in approaching a topic like this.  The reality is that Jesus was “irreligious” by the standards of the “religious leaders” of his day, but neither was he “PC.”

I am grateful for series like this because I find that it challenges me in how I have approached my own faith.  My beliefs aren’t going to change, but how I present them to others or how I understand the truths that I know can grow and adapt as I learn what it means to be more like Jesus.  I can know what Jesus said.  I can know what scriptures tell me are true.  But am I living in those truths.  Do my actions show those things that Jesus said as how I live my life?

With that in mind, and with the inspiration of the skills and talents of my wonderful husband’s work, I have found myself writing poetry/spoken word.  It focuses around the concept of “I am.”  Who I am, who the I AM is, and how to live the life that represents him.  Below is a piece that I wrote a little while back.  Because it is written as a spoken word, I’ll try to record how I read it and post it as soon as I get it, but for now…here it is:

I am broken.
a mass of bones pieced together in intricate detail and yet,
it is dying.
in the same way a flower sprouts from the ground, reaching toward the light of the sun only to wither in it’s heat.
you see I am broken.
continually failing to achieve
that
next great accomplishment to
achieve that next great accomplishment to
achieve nothing better than sounding like a broken record.
I am broken.
living in a broken world where
broken people break.
but where I am not able to put these broken pieces back together
I AM can.
I AM made me
not to be broken, but to
look to he that formed me
in the depths of my mother’s womb,
unseen by man,
knitting together bone and flesh,
for his glory.
I am broken,  but I AM created a way to unbreak all that has been broken.
for I AM became man to live among his broken creation.
He broke bread and healed broken bodies.
he allowed his perfect body to be broken
to heal souls.
but in the same way that I am not enough.  I AM is.
He overcame death to reclaim the pieces of his broken world
to piece it back together piece by piece
put together with two pieces of wood and three nails.
put together with a love so strong that even death could not hold him in the grave.
I am broken,
but I AM has made me whole.

seeking true leadership

I find it interesting how often we in the church talk about leadership in great philosophical decisions and yet the Bible talks very little on the literal word of leadership.  Instead it focuses on phrasing like servant-hood and sacrifice.  These are fundamental elements of understanding leadership, but why is that our focus rather than the components that make up the definition of a leader?

Luke 22 records Jesus telling his disciples, “the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” (v. 26-27, NIV)

My husband and I made the painfully difficult decision to limit our involvement with the youth at our church for this upcoming semester (year).  We recognized that with two little girls at home, our priorities were, and should, be with them.  We acknowledge this and welcome the new stage that we have entered into, though our hearts remain inclined toward the youth, especially mine.

I can’t even really put the joy I feel when I work with youth and students into words, at least not ones that are adequate.  As much as it is a challenge and frustration, it is fulfillment and ultimate satisfaction.  I know that I know that I am meant to work (full time job) with teenage girls.  It is something I believe I was created to do and look forward to that day when I can manage it full time.

Until then, I still serve as a mentor to several amazing young ladies.

I’ve been reading a book on mentoring and have begun to recognize the differences in the relationships I have with each of the ladies I mentor.  Some need accountability and support.  Some need a listening ear and spiritual advice that a peer just isn’t able to offer to the same extent.  Some are looking for guidance and discipleship.  Each of the relationships I have with them offers something of a challenge to me in my own spiritual growth and leadership.

The other night, God spoke a word to me, saying

To lead well, you must be well led.

I’ve felt somewhat stagnant in my own walk (always a frustrating point to be in).  I haven’t felt great inspiration in what I’ve read, I haven’t gotten a word that I can write and share (which is why my blog has been so quiet).  Then this statement.  It struck a tender cord in my soul that I have had for some time.

I desperately want to be an effective leader, but I don’t feel (outside of my marriage and the large church setting) that I am necessarily in relationships that help to lead me.  I love the relational small groups that I am a part of, but I desire…I yearn for a true Bible study that will challenge and push me to grow and stretch in my faith.  I want to expound on my Bible knowledge and delve in head first to understand the original language that was used, what was meant and intended in the writing of passages.  I desire the wisdom of those older believers who can share their experience with me.

I don’t quite know what this will look like in moving forward from this moment.  But at least the thoughts have been completed in my mind (I’ve had this started for over a week).  One thing I almost hate to admit is that when I went for a run tonight (you know how I loathe running), I felt the presence of God in that unique way that I only feel when I go out on a run like that.  I despise the action, but I know I will begin to be more consistent again if for no other reason than to simply find myself wonderfully aware of that awe inspiring presence of my Lord.  I suppose that is step number one to moving forward.

Step number two would be to contact a friend and mentor of mine and see if we can begin a study together.

Step three is to continue my own growth that I can in fact be that better leader for the girls I continue to work with.

And by the grace of God, I will be able to lead better while being well led.