Browsing Category

soul care

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

 

faith, fortitude, soul care, strength, trust

The Perfect Storm

August 10, 2016
Sometimes it takes a storm to get you to the other side of the lake

Sometimes it takes a storm to sweep you to the other side of the lake.

It was the perfect storm, a collision of two air masses with rapid change in wind direction and violent gusts that blasted me off my feet. Howling winds and furious squalls picked up debris as it raged; I bent my head into the gale.

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.”  So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

I cried in the nights, “Jesus, don’t you care that I’m drowning?”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”  Mark 4:35-41

There are times when storms crash and dark skies will open to pour out a deluge. Sludge may muddy your path and rock your faith in the Creator and the created. No one is immune. This is when it’s most important to hang on, because sometimes it takes a storm to put you exactly where God wants you…anchored in His presence in ways you’ve never known before.

It was actually this perfect storm that rescued my soul.

I was hurrying to catch up to who I was becoming, but the hurry made me become who I was not. I began losing myself in the whirlwind…adapting for someone else, and succumbing to the rushed expectations of who, and demands of what, others said I am and should do in the midst of a fast-paced world.

Christian philosopher Dallas Willard wisely warned, “Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Cutting through the vicious wind, Jesus’ rebuke whispered to me, “Silence! Be still!”  I heard His sweet voice urging:  “Quiet your life, unhurry your soul…submit your will, settle your thoughts, decelerate your body and stop doing what others expect of you. Rest child, and wait, I’m in the boat.” Suddenly the wind stopped and there was great calm. Shipwrecked, yes, because the storm swept me to a different place, but anchored in His love. Jesus restored my faith and breathed abundant life back into my soul.

If a storm blasts you, invite Jesus into your boat. Rebuke the darkness, and assert your authority in Christ over the wind and the waves. Remain steadfast in spirit, keep your heart focused on Him, get to the back of the boat and rest with Jesus. It’s all grace.

You keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3

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, leadership, soul care, strength, trust

Do you really need a title?

March 10, 2016

A title isn't needed to lead. Leadership is a posture not a position.

Clever quotes from leaders about leadership abound; my personal favorite is John Maxwell’s:

“Leadership is influence.”

It doesn’t matter where your ‘position’ is, and you don’t need a title. You might be brand new to a team, in your first week on a job, maybe a college student, or simply attending a connect group…God’s positioned you for leadership. But it begins with your posture. If your mind is bent on title and recognition, your influence will not get very far. But if your heart is set on seeing present and potential growth in others, and yourself, your influence will lead you higher and higher.

The first person to influence and lead is You. Paul boldly wrote, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)

  • Are you a leader worth following? Would you follow you?
  • Are you allowing people to invest in you? It’s especially important to have people who are willing to invest in you one-on-one and face-to-face, and second to that, also important that you are allowing people to invest in you in other ways…phone, email, books or blogs.
  • Are you open to the influence of wise counsel around you…or do you tend to ‘drop’ people who don’t buy into your influence, to replace them with yes-people, those who will agree with you?
  • Who are you accountable to? Who has permission to ask you any question, any time, about any area of your life?
  • Are you intentional about building good character, making good pre-decisions, and have personal values that you’ve committed to sticking to?
  • Can you be counted on?

The disciple Paul was not arrogant when he said with confidence: imitate me. He ran strong and courageously after Christ, and his assurance came because he was pressing hard to lead well by following Jesus’ example. Leadership requires character, integrity and studying/imitating Jesus…and that takes personal work. There is effort in becoming a leader, and more effort in becoming a leader worth following.

After you lead yourself well, your next step to leading is ‘sideways’ out of integrity and positive influence. Leadership is not telling people what to do, nor holding them at a distance, nor withholding information for power. I was in a business meeting this past week for the purpose of strategically developing an environment (and hopefully a culture), where it’s “safe” to speak up. Those environments are somewhat rare. The person facilitating the meeting happened to say, “You can’t manage a secret.” Brilliant insight! At that moment it occurred to me: Far too many in leadership and ‘influence’ use secrets, or withhold information simply to gain personal power. And many positional leaders shut meetings and teams down, unwilling to allow different perspectives or problems to rise to the surface for dialoging, out of insecurity or offense. Whether leading ‘sideways’, ‘up’, or ‘down’, influence is best gained by seeing the validity and potential in others around us, creating culture that provide others’ voices to be heard, and creating impact out of an individual’s own confidence in Christ.

Leadership is maintaining a generous and loving posture towards others, desiring to see them succeed and reach their God-given potential. It’s also shepherding and giving them opportunity, or even protecting people like Jesus did when they’re hurt or broken. To lead well, from any ‘position’ gain your own ‘posture’ of:

  • LOVE: love God, love people, love yourself. (Matthew 22:36-40)
  • PRAYER: express your dependence on God, not yourself. (Ephesians 6:18)
  • LISTENING: communication is essential to leading, and listening is the key to communication. (James 1:19)
  • HUMILITY: safe teams, groups and environments are a result of humble leadership, which fosters truth, trust and creates healthy self-awareness. (Ephesians 4:2, Phil 2:3, Proverbs 11:2)
  • AUTHENTICITY: God created you as you, uniquely and beautifully made; be yourself and all He created you to be! (Psalm 139:13-14, 1 Peter 2:9, Psalm 119:73-74, Isaiah 64:8)
  • ENCOURAGEMENT: help people see themselves as God created them…as images of Himself. (Genesis 1:27, Romans 15:4, Ephesians 4:29)
  • CONSISTENCY: follow through on what you say, and your promises; consistency demonstrates integrity. (James 5:12, Matthew 5:37)

What’s your next step towards becoming a leader worth following?

soul care

Are you tired? Worn out?

February 1, 2016

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:27-30
The Message

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?