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hope

faith, hope, soul care, strength, trust, truth

Dear 20-someone

December 29, 2016

The creativity, fun and independence I pursued didn't conform to rules of religion. And then there was real God.

Dear 20-someone,

The recently silenced soundtrack of another 80s pop icon brought back realities and memories of my own 20s, prompting my letter to you. So many changes are going on in the larger world – and your own world too. I can’t speak how this right-now-crazy world will affect you with all its mixed-up changes, but I think I can speak to the life changes and confusion in your first quarter-life decade…the search for significance and purpose…hopes of making a difference…making your mark and the future that’s in front of you…surviving it all. I think too, that I can speak a little bit into the small world that’s right in front of you, that might matter a little too much than it should to you right now, the friends, the trends, the drama. Three whopping-fast decades ago, I’ve been there. And yeah, a lot has changed. But some of it remained the same.

Is every onramp to the twenties launched on a portion of luck, fierce independence and a small dose of angst…or was it just mine?

I entered college at seventeen, ran a fast pace through school and before my senior year, accepted an invitation to work in the field of my dreams and finish school at night. Before my twentieth birthday, I stepped into a pretty cool career not fully knowing how it all happened but whisked into the wonder of it all. The world of advertising handed a new rhythm of crazy-creative antics with people who thrived on fresh ideas and very big budgets, to this young designer who probably had more chutzpah than promise, but right-brained zaniness with left-brain practicality.

I audaciously adapted to working hard, and, at the end of our long days, playing harder. It was the decade of excess…music drove culture; drugs and sex drove music. Everything was at our fingertips or only a delivery guy away.

As I began searching for who I was, the beginnings of that quarter life decade brought a ton of fun as independence birthed new hopes and dreams, fueled on travel, relationships with the wrong people, relationships with the right people, champagne, frustration, loneliness, ways and means to numb it, preachy people, adventure, and frankly a lot of sin. I found myself in the middle of intense tension with heartache, on the edge of a future that I had never fathomed, and was convinced I didn’t want. Funny how you grasp at pleasure in the pressure, isn’t it?

But God…

I didn’t want Him. I knew what was best for me. God had rules in that book of His that I didn’t want anything to do with. The creativity, fun and independence I pursued didn’t conform to rules of religion. I knew about the God behind all the rules, the one I learned of in grade school religion classes, the one I was graded on. The one I put on the cross. The one who looked down on me with a painful-looking, accusatory scorn on his face, hanging from a crucifix against a two-story red velvet curtain as incense made me gag and sometimes throw up. The one who was stuck hanging forever in a cold, echo-y church that they wheeled dead bodies into in caskets and sang in Latin. That God was untouchable and mean…just like the hypocrites that followed him, and I didn’t want any association with them.

I bought into the lies when the world said there was no God. And if there was, I didn’t want him, her, whoever or whatever. I didn’t need God to mess up my life.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction… So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 and 20)

However, there was this subtle love that kept pursuing me in my own crazy mess and I didn’t quite understand it. He kept showing up. Annoyingly. In little, gentle ways. Until things got under my skin to the degree that I went out and got my own bible to actually read and to prove that it too, was hypocritical, outdated and biased.

But I couldn’t.

God continued to pursue me. In my fight for independence, I found freedom: Jesus, the real person. He wasn’t a statue who hung with scorn on His face, and He wasn’t something made up by a bunch of yahoos who continued a myth like Santa Claus. But instead I got to know the person Jesus, who, out of love, offered living, open arms to hold me.

Jesus is as real as my husband sitting next to me right now. He’s as real as the three children I have raised, and as the parents who raised me with my brothers and sister. He’s the friend who meets me for coffee every morning that I ask Him to, and He’s the gentleman who waits to be invited in. He’s not trying to hide. He’s just waiting to be noticed.

I thought I knew better. In acutality, I didn’t need God to mess up my life because I was able to manage that all on my own. Can you relate? On the crest of this new year, I challenge you to just explore Him. He’s pursuing you and simply waiting to be seen.

“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.

But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.

Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:21-31)

The world offered so much to me in the first part of my twenties. What it delivered though, was heartbreak.

But God…
He extended grace I never knew about through Jesus, delivered my life from anguish and remorse, and replaced it with peace that I can’t describe. I truly don’t know how I would have made it through the past three decades without Him.

Sure 20-someone, I know the church is full of hypocrites, and you don’t need the institution. The church has made mistakes and we’ll continue to trip up and make mistakes. But instead of looking at our failures and missteps, will you take a chance and look to Christ, whom we follow? We still have decades ahead to learn and grow in holiness in this lifetime…through Him, through His love, together. And we have so much to learn from you.

Follow HIM, He’s waiting quietly for you. You have so much promise ahead. And there’s a lot of fun, creativity, and freedom in Jesus; more than I ever found without Him. Encounter Jesus, and don’t go it alone.

Much love,
An Old(er) Friend

 

hope

Our Weary World

December 11, 2016

the weary world rejoices

 

A colorless, heavy sky touched my face as I stepped from the warmth of the car, suddenly jarring me into a heightened awareness of time. This was not the typical attention to my clock calibrating the hours or minutes between this and the next color block that filled my daily calendar, but the acute recognition of the speed by which pages turn. The moisture of the bitter wind slapped my cheek, stinging with the reminder that the hot sun on our backs and the warm river on our ankles as we launched kayaks, was not yesterday, but suddenly a full season ago. Now the winter bleakness served as a reminder of the tired feet held captive to thick socks stuffed in boots; a metaphor to the season, this next chapter I just woke to.

Trudging from the darkened covered garage toward the sidewalk path, I found myself walking to a slower tempo than my norm, aligning my steps with a handful of others following the columns of lights, heading in the same direction. Who was there for support, and who was there for them? A pleasant warmth of light in the gray morning beckoned each towards our destination, double doors automatically opening to usher us in. For an instance, I felt I was somewhat of an inanimate object on the conveyor belt of life. I followed, entered where they did and turned where they turned, then shared my name with the receptionist. Imagining to be a disconnected photojournalist, not part of that tribe, I took a seat, watching the others, searching for signs in their expressions that might provide clues to understanding this particular season, as well as where they were in this journey. But I am not a photojournalist.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, I heard in one ear as the other responded to the call of my name.

I was weary. The passing year felt like a moving river I was required to cross with bare toes gripping onto each stepping stone. Every step needed intentionality and effort in determining the stability of the rock to place my foot and hold my balance. And not just me, but we, the community I move with and love and cry and celebrate alongside, we were, and are, weary.

Losses, twisting, with unexpected bends in the river. There’s been sickness, lament, lies, surprise endings, shootings, doubt, suffering, mourning…we’ve experienced a lot of messiness this year. Like the confused young husband questioning his new bride’s growing belly and the gentle virgin who embraced the assignment, together, endured a long, dangerous journey to bring forth a child at the most inopportune moment, in a holding place for domestic animals…we too are tired.

But for the thrill of hope.

I scan the waiting room at the tired faces. Does anyone in this place have a thrill of hope this Christmas? Is the beauty of the season, halls decked and lights twinkling, made even more magnificent when the weary world allows the heavens to break through its gray skies and biting winds to provide a firm footing on the rock, the fortress, the deliverer, my God, the rock in whom I take refuge, my shield and horn of my salvation, my stronghold? I am never alone. Are they?

“Good morning”, I smile to the man with the shirt caught halfway up his back. “May I fix your sweater for you?” His smile grows large with gratitude as he explains an incision that is preventing the mobility to reach. “Thank you”, he replies and delightedly shares the goodness of Jesus. I too join in on the praises. Then another adds to our conversation. And for a few minutes this tribe, drawn by time and circumstance becomes a unified, fortified and strong body of Christ in the middle of a little messiness and a whole lot of hope.

Let the weary world find strength, wake and look up to the hope brought through that child laid down in the mess surrounding that manger, who chose to live, work and love in the midst of our fatigue, stink and grunge. It’s time we rejoice. He knows messy, and He’s here to redeem it.

 

 

hope, soul care, strength, truth

rest

May 6, 2016

Psalm 116.7

 

IF…your mind wants to believe, but your heart struggles to wonder if God’s promises are for you, and
IF…chaos is all around and it seems the only response you hear from God is, “I know”,

WAIT.

Just wait.
He hears, He loves, He knows every detail.

SEEK A QUIET HEART,

and rest in grace that’s coming…

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
 
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,
 for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.

I trusted in the Lord when I said,
“I am greatly afflicted”;
in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
 
What shall I return to the Lord
for all his goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
is the death of his faithful servants.

Truly I am your servant, Lord;
I serve you just as my mother did;

I will sacrifice a thank offering to you

I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord—
in your midst, Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord.
PSALM 116

equipping, hope, transformation

Moving Forward: Who are You?

December 31, 2015

God is Bigger and Greater

END OF YEAR REFLECTIONS…

assess the past, inventory the present and walk into the promises stored up and waiting for you.

Standing on the crest of a new chapter of your life, what do you hope for?
Is it love? Peace? Health? Faith? Influence? Patience? Trust? Rest?
Maybe just plain hope?

Grab hold of the fact that God is bigger and greater than anything you’ve believed Him to be last year. Take stock in your identity and figure out the areas of your life that you’ve boxed Him in, forcing Him to take on a smaller perspective in your life than He really is.

Figure out your purpose and God will surely grow larger, “exceedingly abundantly” beyond what you could ever ask or think. (Eph 3:20) And so will you.

  • Determine who you are (your identity/mission/calling/purpose) by tapping into Whose you are. To understand yourself, go to the Source who created you! You are made in His image, so, which reflections or characteristics of that Source are you reflecting into the world around you? Or how about this…determine a few characteristics of God that you most appreciate about Him. Those characteristics might be important to you because it’s part of His identity He embedded in you while He knit you together. So give it some thought…He’s patient, kind, unchanging, pure, merciful, all-knowing, gracious, gentle, creative, joyful, just, generous, compassionate, kind, loving, truthful…to name just a few. Pick two of your favorite to start.
    • How are you reflecting that character?
    • What steps can you take to mirror more of that character?
    • What triggers have set you off in the past that prevented you from echoing that character?
  • What have trustworthy people closest to you, past and present, said about you? Sometimes others can see our identities better than we can see them ourselves.
  • Think back to who you were as a child.
    • What sweet, joyous memories stand out?
    • What challenges did you face?
    • What did you dream about and pretend as a child?

Sometimes those dreams are the aspirations God stores inside us to be lived out in the future. Often, the experiences He provides along the way are tools to put in our tool belts for what we need in the journey.

  • Now, take inventory of who you are today. Clarity in your identity and calling is likely hidden just beneath the surface of these questions:
    • What brings you joy?
    • What makes you cry?
    • What makes you jealous?
    • What ‘things’ or issues do you notice all the time?
    • What stirs up justice in your heart?
    • Where do you see God working in any of those answers? Move in a little closer to that.
  • Do you have a life verse that God has given you? If not, pause now and pray. Go to the Scriptures and ask God to reveal it to you. Ask God who HE says you are through this verse or verses, and who HE says you’re not. Remove the pieces of stinking thinking that have lied to you and told you who you aren’t…and you’ll quickly learn to embrace who you are!

Live in His love, laugh in His favor, delight in His presence. Embrace who God’s created and called you to be in 2016. He is bigger than all you’ve believed Him to be last year.  #turningpoints

faith, fortitude, hope, strength

Here in the Power, I’ll Stand

May 3, 2015

In Christ alone My Hope is Found

 

“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.”
Isaiah 55:1-2 NLT

It’s our call to live in the Presence of God. Your call, my call: Drink. Eat what is good.

But what happens when the appetite wanes, when the hurt of the world makes it hard to swallow even a morsel? When the very sustenance that will keep you going, lies untouched and stale?

Despite your broken hallelujah, reach for the bread.

The bandages on my heels happened to catch my eye, suddenly flagging the metaphorically obvious. I’m walking through a season that my shoes don’t seem to fit. Daily, I put them on and try to cushion the pain of the blisters…and keep walking.

I see a beloved mama and children, survivors beyond a car wreck, bruised and broken. I sit across from my child with his heart split open in the reality of saying good-bye to a friend who gave in and gave up, never to hear her voice again. I visit a saint who stumbled, conversing through phone and monitor, distraught that her baby might not remember her when she gets out.

But the food is on the table. Reach for it.

Her playful laugh pushes through hurt in her eyes, my young grandma-friend locked her big dreams inside tiny caskets, yet a second time around. The A-student’s mother suddenly gets calls from the teacher after daddy moves out. The single mom breaks open, telling us it’s too hard, and fears for her child.

There’s a plate waiting and a cup full of goodness to fill you up. Eat. Drink and find satisfaction.

Some seasons are harder than others and like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, the journey into the wilderness can be a barren, exhaustive, lonely hike. But keep going. Be encouraged. The angel’s words to Elijah are my own inspiration when my mind says this road’s too hard:

“Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.” Isaiah 19:5-9

If there’s one thing that keeps me going and keeps me grounded, it’s digesting God’s Word…even when I don’t want to eat. When my broken hallelujah pours a morning cup of coffee and praises Him not with words, but expectation that my strength will be nourished in His daily Bread, I can walk the distance…even when life rubs blisters into my feet.

It’s then I am fed, truly fed with life and hope that comes only from the living, active Word of God. And Jesus Himself.

“And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

If life is challenging, return to the table and eat.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.
    Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name;
    they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.” Isaiah 55:10-13

discipline, featured, fortitude, hope, soul care, strength, trust

Who’s your hero?

January 31, 2015

The Father's Love cannot be explained, only Experienced.

His little legs tottered, yet he knew where he was going. In perseverance, he kept his heart aligned with the greatest hero he knew, fueled by love. He watched…studied him with diligence and the fortitude needed to overcome personal roadblocks, striving to imitate the man he saw with limitless potential and tremendous integrity. He stepped where he stepped and followed every motion, simply to stay in cadence with the man he adored: his daddy.

By age five our son Connor, born with low muscle tone, loose ligaments and a chromosomal anomaly, had only been walking just beyond a year. Until then he sat at his dad’s feet, and with smiling eyes sparkling, he tracked every move, listened to every word, mimicked gestures, facial expressions, and scooted after him as he could. The capacity of a boundless love tore down the barriers of his physical and cognitive limitations to become just like his father.

When his legs and core grew steady and stronger, he followed…tiny steps…colossal determination…to mimic my husband’s stride. No job was too big, nor personal agenda too important to stand in the way of being with his dad. Connor longed to be just like Chris and desired to show him the overflowing love and admiration he had for his father. When meals were served, Connor always invited his daddy to take the first and best “love bite” from his plate, innately understanding that giving back to his father was the greatest blessing he could grant…a generous gesture from a generous heart.

As I looked through a box of old photographs recently, I fumbled upon sweet memories of five-year-old Connor with my husband Chris. Connor, having an ardent love for his dad, exemplified the most beautiful example of what it means to follow Jesus. He put his daddy in his rightful place, dad was the father, he, the son. He watched what daddy did and then followed. In return, he experienced blessing.

In our faith journey, we’re not much unlike Connor. We arrive at the foot of the cross with so many of our own limitations, weak areas and even cognitive impairments (Isaiah 55:8-9.) Yet, as we sit at the feet of Jesus, watch what He does, and step where He steps, we begin to see the greater reflection of who we are in the Father (John 5:19)…our loving Dad. All propelled by trust and love.

What might the Chrisitanity look like if we intentionally pursued to love the Father in order to experience His love?

  • What if we put self-sufficiency aside and let Jesus walk in front of us?
  • What if we loved with an unabandoned child-like trust in God?
  • What if we hoped with unpretentious confidence?
  • What if we sat at His feet for hours, even years and soaked in His words?
  • What if we didn’t take our eyes off Jesus, hesitant to miss something/anything, He wanted to show us?
  • What if our conversations were seasoned only with the language He taught us and not the words and thoughts that the world shouts?
  • What if we jumped at every opportunity to go and be where He was working, just to be a helper, serve and bless Him?
  • What if we willingly and joyfully gave Him our “love bites”… the first taste of every blessing we received?