Thursday, November 26, 2015

lessons and thankfulness...

It has been a day of good people, good laughs, good food, and remembering a good God. Holidays are hard for me (and a lot of other people), and I am beyond thankful that each year it gets a little bit better, more normal, more lighter. 

Ruth Simons over at GraceLaced wrote an amazing piece on thankfulness today; the truth of her words sank so deep into my heart places.

"Have you ever considered… every blessing we give thanks for seems to have an equally tender lesson in trust, loss, hope and sanctification as its context? The way of thanks is paved with a million little moments of doubt, fear, or thanklessness, but we often forget that it's so…" 
- Ruth Simons

The things I am most thankful for this year are the things that have stretched my relationship with God the most; the most precious things have been given to us to continue to prove His faithfulness, His goodness, His sovereignty. From my (new) job, my ministry, my friends who have become family, my singleness (this ebbs and flows, but today I choose to be thankful), and my writing… Growth and stretching has been great in these areas, but they are the things I am most grateful for because they are the places where God has made Himself most evident. Lessons in the hard things are what God leverages to grant us the good things; gratitude is gleaned from the lessons.

I pray that my thankfulness permeates my whole year, not just my one day; I want to be a faithful thanker, walking in light of the blessings I have undeservedly been given always. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

He Is Establishing Good Things...

Holidays are my jam.

I love spending time baking treats, picking out the perfect gifts for friends and family, planning and attending parties, going to church events, traveling, and Black Friday. I am a Type-A, list making, over-packing, what-if, always-be-prepared-like-the-girl-scouts kind of person, and the holidays bring out the best of that side.

But in the midst of all the hustle and bustle, something unaccounted for will always surface. You forgot your passport at home, you forgot your aunt is allergic to almonds, you forgot your best friend’s gift on your kitchen table, or you have been driving the north freeway for two hours and just realized you need to be on the south freeway (true story, people).

We can make mile-long lists and set alarms and make three trips to Target, but sometimes things just don’t go the way that we expect. This is true about life in general. Some of us thought we’d be married already. Some of us expected to be serving God overseas by this time last year. Some of us planned on the adoption finally going through. Some of us never planned on battling infertility or miscarriage or losing a child...

Join me over at Incourage (HERE) to read the rest!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

on Paris, refugees, and compassion...

***Disclaimer: I have stared at the publish button for 15 minutes. I still don't know if I should have pressed it. Please note, this is NOT a political post, this is not about letting the refugees in or keeping them out, it is about re-evaluating fear and faith, what it means to reconcile responsibility and compassion.***

Tonight, the wind is howling outside my window and all I can think about is the howling of war; the cries of the refugees, the cries of those in Paris, the cries of "what ifs" and political debates. 

Now let me tell you, if you know me at all, you know that I know about three percent of political things and I do not claim to be educated or know the answers. As a Christian, I should be more devoted to this kind of thing, I totally get that. I am not writing this as a political person, I am writing this as a Christian who is trying to reconcile it all; my heart is burdened, and I am trying to process it, and maybe you are too. It's okay that we don't know, because God does; it's okay that we feel a little messy and mixed up, because God is the foundation and the constant that we can lean into. None of us know the right answer in times like this, and I loathe seeing people debate over opinions on FB and other social media (which again, is why I am soooo hesitant to post this on the interwebs!) because we all claim to know more or be more right than one another. Friends, what I do claim is Christ and compassion, that there is love that rules out fear and a God who is in control, despite what we see as chaos. 

I read an article today from the Washington Post, it quoted Thomas Aquinas' brilliant words: "Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to 
take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts." #conviction

"Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to 
take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts…"

It is easy to be paralyzed by fear, by prejudice, by evil. Our world has plunged into Islamophobia and more so xenophobia; our hearts are rapidly callousing against humanity.

Fear cripples; it debilitates us and robs us of security, cultivating a sense of chaos, and I am going to guess that just like me, you don't like how that feels. Can I admit something to you? I am a little fearful of what is happening right now. I sit here, thinking and over-analyzing and wondering and reading and praying. 

Another article has been circulating among the inter webs with information of American states who are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. In it, The Council on American-Islamic Relations (which to be honest, I didn't even know existed) states that "defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world. Governors who reject those fleeing way and persecution abandon out ideals and instead project our fears to the world…" OUCH. I do not want to be known as a Christian who projected her fears into the world, but rather, projected her faith into the world, knowing that God's heart is for the refugee, and mine should be too. I want to be able to see Jesus in these people, just like in Matthew 25, rather than letting my fear blind me. Is it easy to see Jesus in the refugee, the broken, the poor, the terrorist? No. Again, it is easy to be paralyzed by fear, by prejudice, by evil. It is also easy for the wicked to marginalize and take advantage of the weak; this is what ISIS is beginning to do... They are leveraging the brokenness of others in order to gain strength. Again, I am not offering any sort of plan or answer, I am simply stating that we must have compassion and we must be aware.

To cast out fear is to acknowledge that this faith-work is costly and uncomfortable; it is to recognize that the Gospel is for these people, that His heart is for these men, women, and children, and to turn them away is to turn Christ and His ways away. I think that God is more about the saving than the safety; it's counter-cultural and it will look risky and scary, but that is what might be what is needed right now, in this very place that we are in.

The fight against terrorism and ISIS and human trafficking and the Syrian refugee crisis is not a war against flesh and blood or a war against a people group or a person, it is a fight against the evil of this world, a fight that exists in a place where we already have the victory; we are fighting and praying against things which find their defeat in Christ.

"...not a war against flesh and blood... we are fighting and 
praying against things which find their defeat in Christ..."

My heart is heavy and I am praying for our world. America is in the prayers, ISIS is in the prayers, Paris is in the prayers. But my prayers are not for America, they are for humanity, which includes all people; the ISIS members, the refugees, those in politics and law enforcement, those sitting in the pews of churches, those sitting in bars and brothels. 

My prayers today are not for or against or prejudice or one-sided or politically educated or claiming to know how to solve these catastrophic problems; they are for our faith to displace our fear, a cry for mercy, wisdom, redemption, and compassion.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I just feel stuck in certain places. I mean S T U C K. And, it kind of sucks.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I have been having very vivid dreams lately. Last night, I woke myself up from laughing. The night before, I had a dream that I had to bust a window and climb out, and in that process I got a HUGE gash up my calf and was basically bleeding out. Awesome. Awesome thoughts.

If we were on a coffee date, we would probably joke about the red cup situation. Honestly, it just takes a handful of Christians to make us all look like a bunch of crazies. My favorite commentary thus far has been from Candance Cameron Bure and Ellen Degeneres; Ellen said these new red cups are practically "Satan Sippers" and I about fell out of my chair. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you what God has been teaching you lately because I really want to know. It fascinates me how He teaches people different things at the same time. I would hope you would share your heart with me, the struggles and the joys.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I am actually excited for the holidays this year. Sometimes, I can be a real Grinch but you guys, I already can't wait to put up little things in my apartment, send out cards, and craft some stockings! 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about time and influence.

If we were on a coffee date, I would pull out my copy of "For The Love" by Jen Hatmaker and show you all the things I have highlighted. Jesus things, fashion things, hilarious things. This woman is my spirit animal in every single way.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about the idea of qualifiers and identity. You are qualified BECAUSE JESUS. Do not dismiss anything anytime anywhere because you think that you are not. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you to watch THIS sermon series by Matt Chandler. It is pure gold! (Shout out to Chris Hardy for that one!)

If we were on a coffee date, what would you share?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

when we choose love as a career...

The last few days, my heart has been restless with the idea of love. Lots of thoughts and lots of tears have greeted me each morning as this idea permeates throughout each piece of me.

Love is the fullness of God...

On Sunday, the story of Hosea and Gomer was spoken over our congregation. I love the story of Hosea and Gomer; it’s uncomfortable, gritty, raw, and personal. As a synonym for God and Israel, Hosea and Gomer paint the picture of a relentless, unconditional, overwhelming kind of love. Hosea and God choose Gomer and Israel every single time. There is no wavering. To love someone despite their choices, despite their harlotry, despite them not choosing you, is hard. And that is us as the church, as God’s people; God chooses us and we choose the others. We run hard to other things, and no matter who you are or where you find yourself at this moment in life, we all have a desire to run. We are prone to wander with every sunrise and every sunset.

Hosea and Gomer.
God and Israel.
There is love that came for us.

It is liberally given and left without condition. Love is the fullness of God and the currency of His kingdom, and we are to spend it frivolously on others. There should be no limits, conditions, or boundaries. Who are we to place limits, whether by my own fear or by my apparent standard of who is deserving. And I think that’s huge… Fear. It’s the biggest road block and hindrance not just for us as individuals, but as a corporate, collective people. My fear limits the way that I love; I am too scared to really love, to really risk, to really invite rejection in. I am assuming that you might feel that same way. We want to be the Hosea, but we fear the Gomer.

My fear limits the way that I love…

Love begets love. If you love others, it gives them permission, in a sense. When you love others, they believe that they are capable of being loved and capable of loving those around them. And, I think it is powerful to be the person that defines love for another; so many of us walk around with heartache and pain and fear because we have not been loved well by family, friends, etc.

Be interested in people because they are interesting. Ask people to movies and dinners because you want to include them. Take someone to coffee so that their cup and heart might overflow with warmth. Dig deep into people, support them, love them.

Love people relentlessly; it doesn’t matter if you are the first or the last or the friend or the person. Love them. Love them all. This must be my thing, this must be what I am known for; I need to make a career out of loving people well.

Let’s stop being so fearful to love.