Friday, September 13, 2013

Infertility

I really don’t like writing about infertility. It’s just too deep, too personal, too real, too painful, too embarrassing. And I just don’t want it to be a part of my story.

But then again, none of us want suffering to be a part of our story.

I’m so thankful for those of you who have loved me and encouraged me through this. And, I can’t believe how many have pulled me aside to tell me . . . they’re walking through it too.

It is crazy how many women are experiencing this deep pain, and hiding.

We’re not hiding because we want to. We’re hiding because we don’t know a safe place to come out and talk about it. And it’s not because people don’t mean well, people think they’re safe . . . but they’re not.

The journey itself is so painful, so confusing, so devastating, and so discouraging. The last thing any of us want to do is open up to someone, who quickly shuts us down.

Because sometimes, people say really hurtful things. And they don’t even realize it.

Two weeks ago, a new coworker asked me if I had kids (which automatically makes me feel like I’m less than when I have to say “no”). Our conversation literally went like this:

Her: You have kids?
Me: No, we don’t.
Her: You trying?
Me: Oh yes we’ve been trying. For years.
Her: Well, it’s called adoption. You know there’s a lot of kids out there that need a home.

And she walked off.

The conversation was that brief, that short, and that blunt. It felt like I was stabbed in the heart and left there to bleed out. . .

I can give lots of examples of painful things people have said to me, not even realizing the hurt it may cause.

“Well you know, God has a plan.”
“If you had kids, you wouldn’t be able to do all that you’re doing.”
“You know, kids aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.”
“Oh I know, I tried for 3 months to get pregnant with my first.”
“Just stop trying. Once you stop trying you’ll get pregnant. That’s how it goes.”
“You can take my kids for a day, maybe then you’ll rethink it.”
“Have you considered going gluten free?”


I know people mean well, but trying to solve the problem or fill in the gaps for God is just not helpful. In fact, it’s hurtful.

Sometimes you just need a friend to sit in it with you, no judgement, no cliche, no fix-it plan or advice, just compassion.

Infertility is not black and white. It involves two people, a broken body, broken dreams, lots of decisions, grieving, praying, hurting and seeking.

It is just hard. It’s hard on you. It’s hard on your body. It’s hard on your marriage. It’s hard on your relationship with God.

For those of you walking through this, please don’t feel alone. You don’t have to hide. Find someone, a small circle of people, who can encourage you and pray for you. It can feel so isolating, but it doesn't have to.

And for those of you who know someone walking through infertility, please read this: Infertility Etiquette

Please be sensitive. Listen, love, sit, ask. Don’t try to speak for God, don’t tell them what to do, make snarky comments, complain about your pregnancy, etc. Just be aware, there is a dull ache always there that can be soothed more by what you don’t say, than what you do.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Just Say No


There are so many good things out there. Good things to be a part of, good bible studies, good friends, good social activities, good good stuff.

And I want to be a part of it all.

I want to be a part of every bible study I’m invited to.

I want to serve with these great non-profits in town.

I want to go to that book club.

I want to have dinner with these people.

I want to say YES to everything!

All the good things!

But if I say YES to everything, then I’m good for nothing.

Spreading myself too thin, and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing (but want to be doing) lead to feeling defeated, deflated, discouraged, and exhausted.

So I’m saying NO.

You know who else had to say no to a lot of good stuff? 

Jesus.

He could have healed more, taught more, discipled more, prayed more, but He didn’t. He could’ve gone to more synagogue studies, but he didn’t.  He could have healed more sick & helped more of the least of these, but he didn’t.  He could have studied with the Pharisees, he could have had more dinner parties with tax collectors and sinners, but he didn’t!

He knew when to say “yes” and when to say “no”.

His gaze was so fixed on the Father, He knew what was for him to do and nothing more.  He was so busy about His father’s business, He didn’t have to worry about everyone else’s business.

So I learn from that . . .

In a world that is constantly asking more, I will learn to do less. I will learn to be okay with saying no (even when it’s really really really good stuff).

Because the more I do FOR Him, the less I feel connected TO Him.

I don't want to be so busy about the Kingdom, that I forget to spend time with the King.

I will say no to busyness, to say yes to fruitfulness.

I will say NO to good, to say YES to best.

I will say no to your business, to say yes to my Father's business.

I will say no even when it's hard, to say yes to the yoke that is easy.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

"Be still, and know that I am God. . ." (Psalm 46:10)



Friday, August 9, 2013

The Art of Pruning {Abide}

“1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.


Just happen to stumble across this article while browsing Pinterest this week: The Art of Pruning Fruit Trees

So much insight into what it means to prune and how to prune to produce more fruit.

You will be pruning to make a healthy, more productive tree as well as to produce larger fruit.
{Pruning seems painful, but it is necessary for health and fruit production.}

Limit the branches to the number that produces well for that species. Remember that too many branches will result in smaller fruit. {Know what you're capacity is and thrive in that. If you're spread too thin, your fruit will be small. Better to have fewer branches with better fruit, than spread all over the place with little fruit.}

Different trees need a different type of pruning. You have to prune differently according to the age of the tree, making sure you give it time to grow into it's space.

So many analogies here in regards to discipleship . . . Worth the read.
Click here: The Art of Pruning Fruit Trees

Monday, August 5, 2013

Abide {What My Earthly Father Taught Me About My Heavenly Father}


When my father was alive, one of my favorite things to do with him was just spend time, quality time together, talking. He was funny, and smart, and loving, and sometimes feisty, and I learned so much from him.

I can remember being a little girl on road trips, and he would point out different trees and crops during our drive and teach us what they were. My father taught me.

I can remember watching Tommy Boy and Seinfeld reruns with him as teenager and laughing hysterically with him. I laughed with my father. My father delighted in laughing with me.

I can remember when we first went to elementary school and he told us if anyone ever tried to pick us up from school that we didn’t know, even if they said they were a friend of our parent’s, we were to ask for our family “code word” and if they didn’t know it, to run and tell an adult. They were lying and trying to kidnap us! (Not even kidding we had a code word for instances like this. We also had family fire drills.) My father protected me.

I remember the time when I got busted for doing things teenagers shouldn’t be doing (ie sneaking his beer into my purse to go to a graduation party). I got grounded and didn’t end up going to what I still believe to.this.day was the “best graduation party of our year”. I begged him to ground me the following week, because I just had to go to this party. But no. My father disciplined me.

And every Valentine’s day, he would bring us all flowers and make us feel special. My father loved me.

And I can’t help but think of the example my earthly father set for me and how much he exemplified what a Heavenly Father is like.

I haven’t heard the voice of my earthly father in nearly 11 years, but I can hear from my Heavenly Father daily.

Through His word, I can hear His voice. His word is so much more than information or a list of rules and commands. For me, His word is a place that I go seeking to hear the voice of my Father. His word teaches me, guides me, protects me, comforts me, encourages me, nourishes me. It’s how I know my Father delights in me and loves me.

Often we view spending time in God’s word as a chore, a task, something we “should do” and we end up feeling guilty about it.

What if we viewed abiding in God’s word as spending time with your Father? What if it was about more than just information? It was about letting your Father speak to you, guide you, comfort you, discipline you, nourish you?

What if we approached God’s word that way? As a gift? As time with your Father?

I am convinced that chaos and busyness are a cancer to the spiritual life. It breeds a hard heart. And I know that if we slow down enough to connect to the True Vine, to abide and delight in our Heavenly Father, the rest of our life will seem less chaotic.

Let’s stop filling up our schedule to the neglect of our soul. Let’s slow down long enough to hear from our Heavenly Father. Our Father loves us and longs for time with us. It's His greatest desire. Let’s stay connected to the True Vine and abide in Him.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10)

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fighting Sex Trafficking in a Small Way

A news headline released today reads “FBI rescues more than 100 children, arrests 150 pimps in sex-trafficking raid

And another:
Fresno girl rescued in national child-sex trafficking sweep

That’s right. Today's headlines: Human & sex trafficking literally in our backyard.

Heart breaking and gut wrenching. But can I be honest? I am paralyzed with what I’m supposed to do about it. Or at least I was . . .

Last year I read that majority of sex trafficking victims are between the ages of 12-16. 80% are from foster care homes. SO my response to my husband was “let’s buy a huge house and foster as many young girls as we can”. Because that will solve the problem, right?

I realized that there are many non-profits out there fighting to help victims of modern day slavery. But what about me? What am I supposed to do? And I literally asked the LORD “What If I never start a non-profit, will I still be able to help? What if I help in a quiet, small way, will you be pleased? Will that be good enough?” It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true!

Because in today’s Christian Culture if you’re not doing something big and loud, your challenged with the feeling of not doing enough.

And that’s when the LORD opened my eyes to the need right before me, right where I already was.

I teach in South Central Fresno. I was working with a lot of 6th graders toward the end of this past school year. I was standing before a class of over thirty 11-13 year olds when I realized, THIS IS IT. THEY ARE THE STATISTIC. I’m looking at a group of kids who are entering the age when most children become victims of sex trafficking. I’m looking at children who already know school is hard, failure is an option, and the opportunity to take the bait is just around the corner.

Or quite frankly, already in their neighborhood. Young men starting to groom young girls. Girls craving the attention. And no one to watch out for them. And I’m watching it all happen.

I realized I may never start a non-profit or foster every single girl between the ages of 12-16 in Fresno County, but I can do something. It’s no accident that I work where I work, with whom I work, and I know I was put in these kids lives for a reason.

So here’s my little part I’m doing to help fight sex trafficking in my city, prevent teen pregnancy, high school drop out, etc.

I’m spending time with six 12 year old girls about to go into 7th grade.
That’s it.

One day a week, I hangout with 7th graders. All my former students. I pick them up on Fridays and we get lunch, or grab Jamba Juice, or go to movies, and talk about life. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing big. Just 6 small relationships that take up part of a Friday afternoon.

I may never start a non-profit organization, but I will be intentional right where the LORD has placed me. I will be a friend and a mentor, I will show them a different way of life, and be a listening ear. And I will PRAY FOR THEM, A LOT. They’re going into 7th grade, with more freedom and less supervision. And I want them to know God wants more for their life than what the world (or the hood) has to offer.

Some of these girls don’t have father figures, some have parents who work long hours in the fields, some are being raised by older siblings. I don’t know who influences their life, but I DO know I want to be one of them. I want them to have a different kind of life. And I certainly don’t want to read about these girls becoming a statistic in a newspaper article.

I write that as tears well up in my eyes, because it could happen. It is happening. And I want to be faithful to do my little part to stop it.

Have you ever considered your part? Are there things around that you can get involved in today? Are there burdens on your heart and injustices that you want to fight? Do you get overwhelmed, feeling like you can’t do enough? Whether it’s big or small, have you considered doing something?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It Never Starts There . . .

I’m sitting here preparing to teach a class tomorrow for ladies who are a part of a program called “Samaritan Women” through the Fresno Rescue Mission. Samaritan women is a program for women who are coming out of incarceration or drug addiction and are trying to get their lives back on track.

And to me, there is no greater place to start, no better 3 chapters of the bible to teach when talking to women who have messed up, than the Sermon on the Mount.



In Matthew 5-7, Jesus lays out his longest sermon, his most detailed lesson, on what a disciple is and how to inherit the kingdom.

Many of these women in the program have done terrible things in the past (which is how they ended up in jail). And many of these women have had terrible things done to them. So when they first enter this program, much of their heart is unlearning things they’ve been taught all of their life and relearning God and His kind of life.

You can see the struggle to embrace forgiveness. You can see the unbelief in their hearts to hear about a Redeemer who is strong and a Shepherd that is good. About a God who is sovereign, and grace that is offered freely, and an abundant life that is given.

They know their past. They know God has seen them on their best day and on their worst day. And the offer of free salvation seems too good to be true. Until you start showing them the upside down Kingdom of Jesus.

It occurred to me as I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus never tells us to start our relationship with Him in perfection.

He tells us it starts in poverty.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

He never tells us eternal life starts with our own righteousness, but by seeking Him and His righteousness.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

He doesn’t tell us it starts by keeping the law, He tells us He fulfills the law.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

It can’t be in keeping the law. Because his law tells us not to murder, and Moses, David, and Paul were all murderers! That’s right! Men who wrote majority of the bible, some of my favorite authors, were murderers. Murderers who inherited the Kingdom.

And I can’t wait to tell them that! If you think what you have done is too far for God to forgive, know that not only does he let murderers into the kingdom, he lets them write the Book ON the kingdom.

These women have not committed murder (though one did stab her husband in the face, and somehow he survived) but they did do things that broke the law. They understand what it’s like to be broken beyond repair. They understand what it’s like to be bound by shame, guilt, and sin.

And I can’t wait to tell them they don’t have to be for one minute longer.

I imagine these women hearing that for the first time. YOU ARE NOT TOO SINFUL TO SAVE. YOUR PAST DOES NOT DICTATE YOUR ETERNAL FUTURE. YOUR ARE VALUABLE AND LOVED BY A HEAVENLY FATHER.

And just as Jesus told his disciples during his sermon that day, you do not have to be “good enough” to inherit the kingdom. You just have to be poor and humble and repentant.

"For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Not All Christians are Homophobic



Not all Christians are homophobic.
Not all are moral police.
Not all are republican.
Not all own guns.
Not all are right wing. Or left wing.
Some don't even have wings.

Some are just as appalled by the big church buildings too.
Some are writers, artists, and thinkers.
Some are beer drinkers. (#rhyme)
Some have tattoos.
Some even let their kids go to public school.
A few are even liberal vegetarians who long for immigration reform and social justice.

Unfortunately, the news just portrays the loudest Christians like the ones who protest people’s funerals and write words of hate on posters and yell at people.

And I realize that because I call myself a Christian, I am immediately labeled that way.

Intolerant
Judgmental
Arrogant
Ignorant
Hateful

And so I’m asking from any of you who think that way of me, please don’t.
Please don’t label me, just as I won’t label you.
Please don’t place me into a box of a few big and loud voices, when there are thousands of others who I really associate with but their voices are just quiet and small.

I’m sorry for the way others have portrayed Jesus and the church.
I fear the voices you may hear most often are those who call themselves Christians without really following Christ.

Please give us grace as we try to follow the Greatest Teacher that ever lived, who had compassion on us, rescued us, and renewed us. We are not perfect, we are just followers. We are figuring things out along the way.

We are learning what it’s like to love without condition.
And sometimes we mess up.

That's why we are so fond of grace. And ask for some from you too.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why I Never Used to Read Women Authors


Until recently, I really didn’t read any women authors at all. I just couldn’t. I’m not the kind of gal who would read a book written on how to “get it all done” or “be a better housewife in 5 days” or “dieting for Jesus”, etc.

I just couldn’t.

I couldn’t read topical stuff about homemaking, baking, laundry, self-help, positive thinking, or “how to organize your life” books that were disguised as “Christian literature”. And that’s what I thought a lot of women’s Christian writing was all about.

And I wanted the meat! (Which is ironic because I’m a vegetarian).

I wanted the good stuff. The stuff that makes me think, study, seek, move, act, and love God more. I want to read stuff that makes me understand the bible more, that deepens my understanding of God, that refines me, shapes me, challenges me, and encourages me.

And it seems like there is a rise in Christian women who write well beyond the daily grind of life. They write UP. They write about God. They write about theology, knowing Christ more. They write with honesty about trust, doubt, fear, insecurity, joy all in relation to their greatest relationship, Jesus.

And.I.Love.It.

Women writing about Imago Dei, leadership, teaching, biblical literacy, doubt, fear, discipleship . . . THE GOOD STUFF!

See for yourself. Here are some of my favorite women writers and bible teachers sharing their gifts and spurring other women on to do the same.

Jen Wilkin (on biblical literacy) “The Next Beth Moore”

Sarah Bessey (on women in leadership) “In Which Jezebel Gives Way to Deborah”

Jennie Allen (starting a new movement of women who want to change the world)
"If Gathering"

Jen Hatmaker (on social justice and reaching the lost) “And Then the Conference Uninvited Me to Speak”

Kelly Minter (on serving Jesus in the quiet and small) “Quiet and Small, It’s Okay”

Ann Voskamp (on women rising up to live like God is real) “The Esther Generation”

Lisa-Jo Baker (on comparing, competing, and insecurity) “The [un]Truth About Cliques”

Jo Saxton (on women leading in the church) "You Can't Be What You Can't See"

Enjoy!

Monday, June 10, 2013

From the Bars to the Pews

{I am a Woman of the Well}

If you had told me 10 years ago, I’d be working for a church someday, I would have laughed. In your face. SO HARD.

Because 10 years ago, I was the girl all you “church girls” were praying for.
10 years ago I thought Christianity was boring and narrow-minded.
10 years ago, I was really only consumed with one thing, partying.
10 years ago, the greatest joy in my life was going out, having fun, drinking, dancing, whatever! Sure I made time for work & school, but that wasn’t what my life centered around.

Until God gripped my heart.
Until I lost my earthly father.
Until I wandered into a place called “The Well”.

A place where I could sneak in to the back of the dark church, sit in the last pew, try to go unnoticed by others, and hide.


Only to be found in Christ.
A place where someone invited me to hear the Truth I didn’t even know I need to hear.
A place where my sin was confronted and His grace was made real.

The story of The Woman at the Well in John 4 never gets old. She was just going about her business in the middle of the day, filling up her jug of water at the Well. Scandalous past, naïve about her faith, not sure of the man she just stumbled upon.

Only to realize as He began to talk with her, He was the real deal. He was the Messiah! He confronted her sin, he corrected her theology, and revealed Himself to her. She understood and was so excited, that she left her jug right there, and ran into the village to tell everyone who she just found!

He offered her Truth & Grace.
She responded in gratitude and obedience.


And as a result “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony. . .” (John 4:39)

May that be true of us.
May we be brave enough to listen and hear.
Brave enough to believe.
Brave enough to repent and be saved.
Brave enough to go and tell.


10 years later, I am a church girl. The Well is my home.
10 years later, Christianity is the biggest thrill of my life.
10 years later I am still consumed with One thing.
But that One thing is knowing God, and making Him known.

I am thankful to know what it means to be a Woman of the Well (literally and figuratively). I’m grateful to have had my sin pointed out, because it showed my need for a Savior and led me to His love and grace. I am thankful because I’m no longer living in bondage to alcohol, living in shame, living lost.

And there is no other place I’d rather be found . . . than in Him.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44)

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ…” (Philippians 3:8-9)



Friday, June 7, 2013

Failed Miserably

Hey, remember that one time 90 of us women set out to read the Old Testament and we failed miserably?



We tried really hard.
We started off really good.
We met together, encouraged each other, felt proud of ourselves when we finished the first few books.

And then things got real.
It started getting harder.
Overwhelming.
Too much.
The task was too big.
The goal was too far to reach.
Life started happening.

We stopped reading.
We stopped meeting.
We stopped trying.

And then we started to fall off, one by one.
We were left feeling defeated, deflated, and well, like failures.

But wait . . . is that really failure?
Isn’t the whole point of the Old Testament to show us our need?
Our need for a Savior?
Our need for a Helper?
Our need for something more?

If you felt like you set a goal you just couldn’t attain this semester, good.
If you felt like you fell short, then good.
If you felt like you couldn’t do it in your own strength, good!

Then you understand.
You understand how we can’t do things in our own strength.
Even good things.

You understand we can never live up to the text.
It’s too much.
Too overwhelming.
Too far.

We can never fully reach God. And that’s why He came down to reach us.

So maybe in this place of feeling like a failure, in feeling like you fell short, in feeling like you just couldn’t really measure up, you’ve actually found success? You’ve found the foundation to the Christian faith!

Not being good enough.

So don’t look at this as a failure. If you set out to read every single chapter of the Old Testament, and didn’t, good. That means the taste of salvation is sweet to your lips, because you know. If you set out to read every chapter, and didn’t, but read more than ever before, then great! That means you’ve tasted and seen what is good and know God more!

I hope that for those of us who didn’t finish the reading this semester, we can begin to see just how beautiful His grace is instead of how awful our inadequacies are!

“23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Journey through the Old Testament

This year, our church is teaching an overview of the bible in a series titled “Generations”. 15 of us ladies from life group decided to read along with the teaching team and set a goal of finishing the Old Testament by June!



It was a lofty goal, and we were far from perfect, but we did it! We met every week to discuss the reading and/or sermon. I don’t know if any of us read every single chapter, but we certainly completed more bible reading in 5 months than we’ve done in the past 5 years!

Most of the women in our life group have not read through the entire Old Testament before (especially not at such a rapid pace). It’s not my style to read so quickly through the bible, but because it’s a big picture/overview, I learned some new things along the way.

Some major themes I picked up on reading through the Old Testament like this were:

Idolatry
Throughout Israel’s history, you see them constantly looking to “other gods”, other things for fulfillment. Over and over they kept offering sacrifices at the “high places” to Baal, and ALSO worshipping YHWH. Finally, in 1 Kings 18 Elijah calls them out! “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

The people were not living distinctly. It was not obvious to the surrounding nations/people groups which God (or god) they served. Sound familiar? What in my life confuses people? Where do I say I follow YHWH, but also worship other things? Materialism? Success? Selfishness?


Partial Obedience
Another big theme in the OT is partial obedience. God over and over instructs the people of Israel to “destroy completely” a certain people group, nation, high places, etc and they only do so partially. And we learn right away that partial obedience is not obedience. As a result, you see certain nations that remain a thorn in Israel’s flesh.

Where in my life have obeyed some of what God has asked of me, but not all? I’ll surrender 9/10 of things to you oh LORD, but oh this ONE, this one I’ll keep?

Repentance
Our God is a relenting God. He provides many opportunities for His people to repent, to turn and follow Him wholeheartedly. He sends prophets to His people who have one message “repent and be saved!” and they don’t listen. God desires us to repent and follow Him with everything so much that He will wait as long as He possibly can before judgment.

Remnant
Though much of the nation followed after other gods, or only partially obeyed, or did not repent . . . there was a little population that did. The remnant of Israel. We read about it in Isaiah 4 and other places. Probably the most beautiful picture of this is in the book of Ruth. The book of Judges is full of darkness, sin, and depravity. It describes what happens when everyone does “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). And then comes Ruth. A picture of this family who is faithful to follow YHWH and serve Him and Him alone.

I want to be a part of the Remnant. I want to know that in the midst of darkness, chaos, sin, and depravity in the culture around me, I can keep my eyes fixed on the LORD and follow Him and Him alone.

Needless to say, we were all desperate for some HOPE after reading through the Old Testament. Story after story of sin, and judgment, and baals, and high places, and wicked kings . . . we were all weary by the end and eager for a Savior!

Isn’t that the point? We should read through the text and wait eagerly for a Messiah!

I love how one of the gals in our group put it . . . “If you had told me the bible was this salacious and scandalous, I wouldn’t have believed you! It has some REALLY good books. The bible is totally underrated.”

Couldn’t agree more. What a joy to journey through the Old Testament together, now on to the NEW!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Sin that God HATES

Do you know what sin God hates?

All over scripture you see this sin mentioned over and over. God aggressively opposed to the one who commits it.

This was the sin that the religious people just couldn't repent of that eventually nailed Jesus to the cross. This was the sin that kings committed that eventually led to the demise of kingdoms. This is the sin that all of us commit when we think we know what's best and have all the answers and follow our own ways.

Do you know which sin?

Leviticus 26:19
I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.

2 Chronicles 26:16
But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God . . .

Obadiah 1:3
The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”

Psalm 10:4
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

Proverbs 8:13
The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 16:5
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:18-19
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.

Proverbs 18:12
Before destruction a man's heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Ecclesiastes 7:8
Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

Isaiah 2:11
The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.


(And that's just some of the passages from the OT)

Pride:
A high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority.
Pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself


Pride leads to destruction. It leads to distance from the LORD. It leads to discord among others. It leads to disgrace, and eventually it leads to death.

Pride was the reason Satan was cast out of Heaven . . . He wanted to make himself like the Most High God.
Pride is the reason Adam & Eve sinned, they thought they knew better than God. They thought their understanding was higher than His understanding.
Pride is the reason the Pharisees had Jesus crucified. Their law was higher than God's law. They couldn't stand the thought of not being declared righteous by their own doing, and couldn't stand Jesus opposition to their self righteous ways.
Pride is the reason for our sin too. We think our way & understanding is better, that we know more than God.

It can be subtle & secret or loud & public. It can be committed blindly or knowingly. It can sneak in our be found out. It is committed by the churched and unchurched alike. It is prevalent, relevant, and cancerous.

Do you have pride in your life?
Do you always have the right answers?
Is your way the right way?
Do you make decisions based on what you feel or think?
Are you self righteous? Do you feel superior to others?
How much of your thought life is consumed of self?

Pride separates.
Pride destroys.
Pride devours.
Pride grieves God.

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:3-5)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is There Freedom in Choice?

As a woman who cannot bear children there is no bigger issue to me than the issue of abortion.



There is a huge trial going on right now for an abortionist who not only performed abortions, but actually killed babies after they were born. It’s horrifying. The stories, the details, the pictures are just horrifying.

And I just can’t understand.

How is it we value the sanctity of life for abandoned animals, but not for children who are alive in the womb? We live in a time where the abandoned baby whale gets more compassion than the aborted baby human. It is strange to me how the people who will fight to protect the environment, animals, even chain themselves to trees to prevent them from being cut down, are the same people who support the choice to abort human life?

And I find myself saying “How could they? How could anyone consider abortion the right thing to do? I long for a baby and yet women are just killing theirs left and right. How??”

And then I remember . . . I remember having the same feelings as those women in high school/college. I remember walking through the aftermath of abortion with friends. And I remember FEAR.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had an abortion or walked with someone who has, but I can tell you that the women I have walked with were left with every other feeling besides “freedom”. The women I know, who for whatever circumstance, have had an abortion, are left with feelings of guilt, shame, fear, regret, etc.

Many abortions stem from fear. One bad choice that leads to conception and a 16 year old feels like she has no other choice but to abort because her parents would disown her. Or the college age student who was taken advantage of, ended up pregnant, with not place to turn and no support from family, felt she had no other choice.

And I hurt for that.

We have provided a “choice” for women in these situations that in reality is no choice at all.

We have fought for the right to vote, the choice to get and education, to be a career woman, when to have sex, when and if to raise children, and when to keep or kill children.

Ladies, we fought the good fight for equality, freedom, choice, liberation, and now I wonder if we’ve gone too far?

I just wonder in our fight for freedom . . . freedom of choice, have we actually found ourselves in more bondage?

The bondage of pain, shame, guilt, and regret.

We have the freedom to choose and yet the choice is costly.


The woman (Norma McCorvey of Roe v. Wade) who originally fought for the right to have an abortion, has since denounced her position and is actively pro-life and is no longer in support of abortion. And I can’t help but wonder the reason? Perhaps there is more to it than the immediate choice made from fear?

I beg you women who would consider themselves pro-choice, to count the cost. Seek counsel, talk to women who have gone through abortions and listen to their heart afterward. Don’t let fear drive your decision. Consider listening to that baby’s heart beat just once. Consider adoption. Consider abstinence. Consider the grief you will experience. And consider Christ.

For the women who have gone through with the abortion, for my dear friends that I’ve walked with, consider Christ. He is the true liberator, the true place of freedom. He wants to provide healing for you and doesn’t intend for you to remain under the bondage of guilt, shame, fear, and regret for all of your life.

And for those who are pro-life, consider the women in these situations. Have you considered what they are going through? Have considered the fear they’re walking in? Have you considered that they feel they have nowhere else to turn? The condemnation we heap on them in church leaves them feeling like they have no other option.

Being pro-life is doing much more than protecting that unborn baby. It’s helping the mother through this difficult time. If we are truly “pro-life” what are we doing for that baby’s life? The mother’s life? Fostering? Adopting? Supporting?

It’s a painful mess out there. I fear that in our fight for choice, we’ve gone too far. We’ve chosen what makes sense to us, but our understanding is limited. We’ve thought the path to freedom is ending life. In reality, that is only the beginning of a life of bondage to pain.

Thankfully, the LORD is near, He can restore, heal, and redeem. It’s not too late, you’re not too far. There is one choice you can make that will provide true freedom. Choose Christ.

“13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)

“8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)


Friday, April 5, 2013

To Be, rather than To Seem

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this phrase:

Esse quam videri

It is a Latin phrase meaning

"To be, rather than to seem”.

To be: who you really are
To seem: who you want people to think you are


Because let’s face it, don’t we really want our yard to appear like this:


Not this?


Or if you’re a mom, don’t you want to seem like this?


Not like this?


But I wonder . . . if there’s freedom in BEING instead of SEEMING? Seeming to have it all together is too exhausting. And at the heart of it is discontentment, competition, comparison, guilt, fear, and shame.

I asked you ladies a few weeks ago why we compare? Why do we struggle with comparison so much? And pleaded for all of us to stop. Because all it does is make us live in competition with one another instead of true community. It makes us more worried about appearance and how we seem, than who we truly are created to be.

And sometimes the place we want to seem the best is at church. We want to seem the most spiritual, the most knowledgeable, the most faith-filled, the most put together, the most Proverbs 31ish.

Instead of just being. Being tired, being someone who is in the midst of hard, being exhausted, being real, being teachable.

We studied hypocrisy this week in Academy and it just hit me. If we are more worried about how we seem, we are missing who God created us to be.

If we are more consumed with being seen, we’re missing the point.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)

You don’t think God knows what’s really going on that heart of yours? Mind of yours? Home of yours?

I would rather be in right relationship with the LORD, than seem like I am. I would rather be a disciple, than seem like I am. I would rather be a branch connected to the True Vine, than seem to bear fruit.

I would rather be a good neighbor, than seem like I am. I would rather be a good wife in secret, than seem like I am in public. I would rather be the woman God created me to be (thinker, writer, teacher) than seem like the woman Pinterest wants me to be (crafter, baker, Susie homemaker).

I would rather be honest in the struggle, than seem like I have it all together.

I would rather practice my righteousness in secret to be seen by my Father in Heaven, than practice my righteousness in public to be seen by others.

I would rather be than seem.

Let’s put away our appearance of holiness, and be true disciples.

“Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)


Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Monday, Now What? {The Call to Discipleship}

We remembered Friday. We celebrated Sunday, the Resurrection of our Risen King! But what do we do with Monday? Tuesday? Next month? Next year? The rest of our lives?

Somewhere along the way, the answer became “we celebrate, then we sit down, buckle up, get comfortable, and coast until Jesus comes back again.” And we have called that “being the church” or "Christianity" or "following Jesus".

Pump.the.brakes.
What?!?!

That’s it!? We celebrate the power of a God who raised a dead man to life by . . . sitting and listening to a sermon once a week, or in most cases once every 3 weeks????

If we truly understand Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, can that really be it? Can we really encounter the Living God and then live life as if nothing has changed? How are we misunderstanding the call on our life?

How long can we ignore this? How long can we go on pretending that we’re satisfied with “sit and stay” instead of “go and tell”? How long can we go without taking the Great Commission seriously?

When you read through the gospel accounts, take note of the disciples response and some of Jesus’ first words in Matthew 28 as the Risen Savior.

8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

They had FEAR and JOY, and RAN to tell of the good news! As they were doing that, Jesus met them and they WORSHIPPED Him.

“Do not be afraid . . . go and tell”.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This is it you guys. This is the reason why we are left on earth as believers. This is the plan for the kingdom. God using fearful, joyful, worshipful, inadequate, ordinary believers to tell others about Jesus! This is our mission.

TO.MAKE.DISCIPLES.
TO.BE.THE.CHURCH (Not just go to church).
To proclaim the good news until His return.


THE TOMB IS EMPTY SO THAT WE WOULD BE FILLED.
God has given us the same power to go and make disciples. Not to rally around political causes, or post things on Facebook, or sit in a pew, or slap Jesus on around Christmas and Easter. But to risk, to abandon, to follow Him, and make disciples.

He invites us to a thrilling life where fear it’s conquered with joy, and doubt is replaced with faith, and the adventure of the unknown is rewarded with friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, encountering the Living God!

There is nothing more thrilling in life than seeing someone understand Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday for the first time.

Have you considered the Great Commission and the call on your life?
Wherever you are, wherever you “go”, to make disciples?
Do you pour into people and help them mature in their faith?
Do you spend time with people who aren’t Christians?
Do you share your story? Do you hear theirs?
Do you invest time with new believers?
Do you invite them into a life worth living?
Can you say “follow me as I follow Christ”?


Now is the time, today is the day to take the Great Commission seriously. If we truly understand the Resurrection, we have a responsibility. We will be accountable for the truth and grace that has been entrusted to us. I pray we’ll examine our time, talent, and treasure and use them generously to ‘seek and save the lost’.

Let's move from sitting to standing. Then let's use our feet to go and tell, to go and make, to go and love.



"Extraordinary things happen when ordinary disciples, start making disciples."
–David Platt

Friday, March 29, 2013

You Don’t Go To Hell for Being Gay

I feel like I’m living the Chick-Fil-A nightmare all over again.

Remember that? When hundreds of people went and stood in line for hours to buy a chicken sandwich to protest against homosexuality?

And I remember thinking “I wonder how many of those people will actually go and talk with someone who is gay this week? This month? This year? This decade? Hear their story, welcome them into their life? Love them? Share the gospel?” I’m guessing not a lot. I don’t know? I didn’t stand in line. If you did, tell me . . . how many of you have engaged in a conversation with someone who is gay since standing in that line?

Then this week, I scroll through Facebook and I see this:



VS.



And I just wish it would stop.

Because every time I see it, I think we keep dividing, we keep judging, we keep hating, we keep pointing the finger, we keep drawing the line in the sand of “you’re in and you’re out” and it breaks my heart.

I sat with a friend just a few weeks ago who is considering the things of Christ and asked her “what is the biggest obstacle preventing you from taking that step and placing your faith in Christ?”

Her answer: “I guess I just really struggle in knowing that Christians believe you’ll go to hell for being gay.”

And my heart split in two.
Because you know what Church?? That’s what people see. That’s where we’ve drawn the line in the sand. And it grieves me.

Because that’s NOT where Jesus drew the line in the sand. I struggled even writing this post today, on Good Friday, because I don’t want to take away from what we should really be meditating on.

But the reality is, today changes everything. When you understand today as a gift, a sacrificial gift, a death that we should’ve died, everything changes. Jesus becomes our hero!

God is a Rescuer. The reality is we’re all headed toward an eternity apart from our Heavenly Father because at some point in our life, we’ve rejected this gift.

When I understood that message for the first time, everything changed. I didn’t care about my sexuality, my possessions, my relationships, my career, my status, my looks, etc. I cared about knowing my Hero, my Savior, my Sacrifice, my King. I realized that I had my own understanding and my own way of doing life against the LORD’s, and that is the sin that leads to eternal separation from God.

And we still do the same today. We reject Christ by choosing our own way. By thinking that the God shaped hole in hearts can be filled by something else (sex, drugs, relationships, money, stuff, etc.) We’ve rejected it by exalting our understanding over the Living God’s. “I don’t like it so I won’t believe.”

So what if we started viewing the line in the sand that way? Not us vs. them, or gay vs. straight, or Muslim vs. Jew, but mankind vs. God, and God wins. He breaks the barrier down with The Cross and invites ALL to come. He invites us to His side through His death, the sacrifice of His son, the blood of the Lamb, and welcomes us freely.

That’s what today is all about. I used to be offended when people told me I was a “sinner” or “don’t you know Jesus died for you?” because I didn’t understand. I was a “good person” and who are these churchy people telling me I am going to hell?!

It wasn’t until I stopped listening to “churchy” people and started to get to know Jesus that I understood. I read about who this man was, the historicity of His life and death, and couldn’t deny the evidence anymore. And realized what they had been saying was true (though probably could’ve been said in a much better way).

So on this Good Friday, I hope you consider why this day is good. Because it’s the day when Love changed everything. It’s the day that represents ALL of the lines in the sand becoming a blur, all of our sin being blotted out, and the Door being opened to walk in right relationship with our Creator . . . forever.

To the broken, the lost, the hurting, the outcast, the confused, can I encourage you to look to Jesus? He is the answer.

To the Church, can I encourage to stop drawing lines in the sand and start building relationships with people who are not like you?

If there’s any stance I want to take for my faith in Christ, it’s the stance of LOVE. The stance of surrender to Good Friday, freedom to walk in the Hope that comes on Sunday, and a life that openly proclaims that message to any around.

"Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)


Because really that's the gospel. The good news is that we don't have to live in torment, loneliness, guilt, shame, struggle, or oppression. Jesus died and conquered all of that. We just have to embrace it. We win by losing.

"Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26)


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ladies, Why Do We Do This?

Lately there has been a gnawing, a stirring, a thought that I just can't get over.

And I think I can sum it up in one word:

COMPARISON

Ladies . . . why do we do this??

Why do we feel like if we don't measure up to Sally, Susie, or Sandy then we're lame, less than, or losers?

I promise there is no place I feel more insecure and inadequate than in the kitchen. I feel like to be a REAL woman you have to cook instagram worthy dinners and bake "just for fun".

I don't speak that language. I would be happy eating bean burritos every night for dinner. I literally overcooked chicken by an hour (on accident) 2 days ago and have baked maybe 5 times in my whole life (and by bake I mean dumping the brownie mix in a bowl, cracking an egg, and throwing it in the oven).

Or I get the "Oh you'll see once you have children." or "You can't really understand the love of God until you have children." Really?! Dang. Stuck on junior varsity I guess. And I compare and feel like less of woman because I can't bake or don't have children.

But it doesn't just happen in the kitchen. It doesn't just happen at work, or in the neighborhood, or at the gym.

It happens in church. And this is where my heavy burden comes in.

WHY???

Why do we compare clothes, families, husbands, cars, homes or whatever and let it place value or worth on our lives?
Why do we compare ministries and feel better than or less than?
Why do we compare giftings and callings and exalt one over the other?



And then Beth Moore & Jennie Allen go ahead and write the words that have been stirring in my mind and breaking my heart these past few weeks:

Living Proof Blog
Jennie Allen's Blog

I have felt such a burden lately because I read great challenging books that call me to reject my comfortable, Christianity is just for Sundays, type of life. But then afterwords, I'm not left with a challenge, I'm left with guilt.

When I first heard and understood the gospel, you know what words came to mind?

FREEDOM
GRACE
LOVE

When I'm done reading some of these books, you know what words come to mind?

GUILT
SHAME
JUDGMENT

I have felt such a judgment for living in the suburbs, driving a nice car, and having granite countertops & stainless steal appliances lately. Literally an author quoted that "stainless steel appliances and granite countertops". Why?!?! And the sad thing?? I love the LORD, His word, His people and every.single.day I feel like a "less than" Christian because of where I live, stuff I have, and what I drive.

And I feel broken over this. And I wonder . . . when did that creep into Christianity? When did all the comparison for how to do church, disciple, live, and love start? When did all the slander against Megachurch pastors become okay? When did the stay at home mom in the suburbs who love's her neighbors become "less than" the mom who is doing the same downtown? When did fighting for a CAUSE become more important than loving CHRIST?

And yes, some of this needs to be said. Some of the ways we do church or spend our money is not glorifying to God. There are children dying of hungry every day and we're spending money left and right on stuff we don't need without blinking an eye. But a lot of it is spoken out of pride to slander and cut down others, to feel better about self. I listen to John 17 and hear Jesus praying "let them be ONE" over and over. Because He knows . . . we will be different, have different opinions, have different callings, live in different neighborhoods, look different, and love different. And that's good! As long as we have unity.

We NEED our ministries to look different, in different places, in different ways. I need my friend who lives downtown to remind me of God's heart for the poor. I need my friend who is in the process of adopting her 5th child to remind me of God's heart for the orphan. I need my friend who loves God's word to remind me to spend time abiding and meditating on truth. I need my friend who loves the outcast to remind me of God's love for the marginalized. I need that! But I don't need to take on their callings and passions as my own if the LORD isn't asking that of me. Perhaps my calling is different?

If we all live the same, look the same, and reach the same people how is that carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples wherever you are???

I wonder if there's a reasons God's commands say "Love God and love your neighbor" without a specific neighborhood. OR
"Go and make disciples" without a specific formula?


Perhaps because we as "religious" people love to turn this into (as Jennie Allen would say) the "new legalism". Adding to God's word, expecting other people's walk with Christ to look just like yours, otherwise they're probably not even a true disciple. We play the game of who can be more "radical" and then judge each other and compare.

Man that must grieve the LORD . . . when we are constantly looking at one another comparing and feeling defeated rather than looking at Jesus and feeling humbled and thankful.

I think about the Great Commandment, The Great Commission, and Jesus words in Matthew 6-7 & Matthew 11 and I find rest and peace. I fight DAILY to live for an audience of ONE and beg the LORD to help me keep laser beam focus on Him and His Kingdom. And it's a battle.

So I hope that wherever the LORD has you, you're living on mission. I hope whatever he has you doing (changing diapers in the suburbs or starting ministries downtown) you're doing it faithfully and with joy.

Most of all, let's find a way to stop comparing and competing, and find a way to challenge without condemning and love without judging.

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 6:1)

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:36-38)

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)





Friday, March 8, 2013

Why I'm Selling My Possessions

If you’ve been to our house, you know we don’t have a lot of “stuff”. Our house is clutter free, pretty clean, not a lot knick-knacks, etc.

We’re secret minimalists. If I could have it my way, our fridge would always be empty, the closets clean, and we would not have one item in our house we don’t need or use. I love the philosophy of simple living, and have been trying to convince Santino that we should sell all of our stuff and move into the trailer park near our church to REALLY simplify. You can imagine how that conversation went!

Last year around this time, I learned that Americans waste about 40% of their food. Meaning we throw out leftovers, we buy produce that rots before we use it and then throw it away, etc. That statistic frustrated me! I started examining our grocery bills and food waste, and saw that we were part of the problem. I stopped buying food we didn’t need, started making our own granola bars for breakfast, wouldn’t cook a new dinner until all the leftovers were gone, etc. (We even have survival week in our house sometimes- I don’t go grocery shopping and we have to make dinners based on the food we already have in our house! I could write another blog on some of our very weird (and creative) dinners!).

And most people I talk to have said “oh I could never do that. We don’t really like leftovers. I like variety. Don’t you get sick of eating the same dinner 3 nights in a row? Well sometimes, yes! But I started thinking about every time I threw food away, it was like throwing $$ in my trash can. It was wasteful and bad stewardship.

Needless to say . . . I hate wasting food. And I hate having things in my house that I don’t use, that others might need or use. So, recently a friend added me to a local Facebook resale page (thanks Layla for starting this!) where you can post items and sell them to friends or friends of friends, and it’s my new obsession!

I absolutely love cleaning and purging things in my house! I have sold left over wedding favors, baking utensils I never used, home decor I was using but didn’t need, bedding, books, clothes, etc. Really if it’s something I haven’t used or worn in the past year, or something I didn’t need, I listed it for sale.

And in just 2 1/2 weeks, I’ve made over $700! My finance/budget minded husband is loving my new hobby! You see, I took a huge pay cut when I stopped teaching full-time, and started to work as volunteer staff at our church 20 hours a week. Not only did I take a pay cut, but my spending went up because I meet people for lunch/coffee nearly every day of the week. So each time I sold an item for $5 I thought, I just made $$ for another coffee date!

(*Bonus side note: we've racked up medical bills through doctor visits/surgeries in trying to find answers for our infertility, and God has provided and covered our bills this month and more!)


All of that to say, we are selling our possessions most of all to simplify. We just don’t need 8 cocktail glasses that I registered for when we got married that have been sitting in our cabinets for almost 7 years, never used. We don’t need to keep that hand mixer around “just in case I need it” in the future. We certainly don’t need 3 vacuums, or 5 table runners, or 22 pairs of earrings, or 10 purses, or 5 dresses I haven’t worn in 2 years . . . see what I mean?

So I’m selling because it’s stuff we don’t need. We like it, we may even be using it, but we don’t need it. I'm not selling because we're hard up for cash, or we want to buy a boat, but because we can do with a lot less.

I’m selling because I want to be consumed with treasures in heaven.

I’m selling to live in simplicity.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

“She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.” (Proverbs 31:18)


PS I do have a small investment idea that I’m thinking about based on Luke 19, but I’ll share that with you guys on another day . . . stay tuned. {The Mina Project}



Friday, February 8, 2013

Glory on Display

What if our suffering was meant to be more than just enduring?
What if our pain was supposed to lead to His praise?
What if our brokenness was meant to display God’s glory?


I can’t get through the book of Job without believing there is more. I can’t read through this book without asking that question.

I write this in light of remembering the sting of death.
I was 19 and crazy and living a typical party girl college life when my father died suddenly and unexpectedly.
And it turned our whole world upside down.
I don’t think that happened just to sober me up and make me rethink how I was living.
It happened so I would know Christ.
Because it’s in pain that we meet God.

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings" (Philippians 3:8-10)


I write this in light of experiencing the heartache of infertility.
I don’t think I am experiencing this just to hurry through it, just as the Israelites weren’t wandering in the wilderness to hurry to their destination. The LORD had them (and has us) wander for a purpose . . . to be humbled, to depend on God, to deepen our relationship with Him, and see Him in a new way.
Because it’s in the wilderness that we are humbled to hunger for God and look to Him for guidance.

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5)

I write this in light of ministering to my neighbor who recently became a widow and a single mom of a 6 & 3 year old. When I stand at her doorway as she is weeping asking why and searching for the reason, I look at her to say “there is a reason friend . . . we just may not see it with certainty this side of heaven. But I can say with certainty there is a God beyond our understanding who loves you more than you know.”
Because it's in the unknown, we search for Him.

Because in reading Job, in experiencing my own pain, and walking through it with others, I know that this is true of the LORD
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
 and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I know that like Job we can’t see the WHY.

He didn’t know about the conversation between God and Satan. He didn’t know that his reward for faithfulness and righteousness would be suffering.

But . . . he.did.know.God.

And I can’t help but think of the lesson here. When we don’t understand the WHY, do we look to HIM? The One who formed you in your mother’s womb? The One who numbered the days of your life? (Psalm 139) Do we seek Him, depend on Him, and grow deeper with Him?

I think that’ s the only way we can “rejoice in our sufferings” as James 1 tells us to do.

We can rejoice in our sufferings because our suffering brings us closer to Christ. Our suffering helps us know HIM in a deeper way. Our suffering helps us to lay down our Kindgom and pray for His Kingdom.

Suffering helps us, just as it helped Job, to grow up.

If the rest of our Christian life is really about becoming more and more like Christ, are we surprised when we encounter pain?

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

If this verse is true than we must believe that our pain is meant for more.
Our pain is meant to grow us up.
Our pain is meant to display His glory.


So . . . go ahead LORD. Display your glory through my life. Shine your light so brightly through the broken parts of me that others might know You and be found in You.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Our God Can {Journey through Infertility}

I don’t usually write about infertility.

Too deep.
Too private.
Too dark.
Too hard.

But then I sit with someone who has shared their journey and I’m comforted. Through their brokenness and their pain, I find hope and encouragement.

And I realize that’s thing with the Body of Christ . . . we’re meant to share our stories with one another in order to encourage one another. We’re meant to enter into each other’s pain to help “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

God does not waste pain. No matter what the circumstance.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

If anything being real and honest in our pain and in our weakness gives the LORD even more room to shine through us.

So . . .

Go ahead LORD Jesus.
Shine through.


We have been on this journey for 2 1/2 of years of trying, hoping, waiting, and longing to have a baby.

We went to doctors hoping to hear good news about our chances of getting pregnant . . . We were told we have a 1-2% chance of conceiving.

We did more tests.
We were hoping that everything is working properly and I found out
I have:
Endometriosis
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
Blocked Tubes
Hormone Imbalance
Tilted Uterus
And I don’t ovulate often


So . . . not one or two things to work through, but A LOT. The odds and complications are stacked against us. I wrote this all down I thought WOW . . .

You would God.
You would let me see all that is “wrong” with me, you would show me how broken and weak I am, only to show YOU ARE STRONG. Only to prove You are the God who is SUPERnatural.

You are the God who is beyond circumstance.
You’re the God who created the Universe.
You’re the God who parted the Red Sea.
You’re the God sustained the Israelites for 40 years in the desert.
You’re the God who comforted Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah in their longing for a child.
And you’re the God who blessed their womb.
You’re the God who created me and formed me in my mother’s womb.
And I long for the day to say YOU’RE the GOD who worked through ALL of this to bless my womb.

So I say . . . GO AHEAD GOD. BLOW OUR MINDS.

I know that OUR GOD CAN.

I know that you have a plan for our family, and whatever that may be, I trust that YOUR way and YOUR plan is better than mine. Should this journey end next month, next year, or different than we think . . . I trust YOUR way and YOUR plan.

And I wait expectantly in HOPE and excitement seeing what you have planned for us.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jesus All Over

My best friend from Jr.High School was Jewish. I remember her family celebrating things like Yom-Kippur and Hanukkah. I remember them praying and singing in Hebrew, fasting, and making weird food on Friday nights. I remember going to temple with her, and feeling so religious, so close to God even though I had no idea what their Rabbi was saying or why they read their bibles in the wrong direction.

Now I study through Leviticus and I see. I see how devout they were. I see why they practiced their traditions so closely. I see what Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur meant to them (it wasn’t just a funny word or weird holiday). I also see why I was allowed to watch and not fully participate. I was there, but not really invited.

You know what else I see?

Jesus.
All.
Over.
Leviticus.


I see Christ and I recognize that through the cross, as a Gentile (not a Jew), I not only get invited in, I get grafted in.

I read through Leviticus with new eyes . . . eyes that appreciate what my Jewish friend’s family showed me, but eyes that see beyond just tradition . . . eyes that see Jesus, the Holy root. The one who came to fulfill the law. The One whom these traditions, celebrations, feasts, offerings, all foreshadowed.

See for yourself. Look at the words that were repeated or stated in this book:

Offering
Male
Without blemish
Atonement
Pleasing aroma
Firstfruits
Portion
Sacrifice
Kill
Blood
Anointed priest
Guilt
Sin
In place of
Bear his iniquity
Restore
Become holy
Flesh
Unclean
Washed with water
Holy crown
Tabernacle
Consecrated
Sanctified
Glorified
Purification
Cleansing
Holy place
Inside the veil
Mercy seat
Redeem
Blessing
Covenant

Do you see Him too?

Jesus is all of these things. He is our High Priest, He is our offering, His blood is our atonement, a pleasing aroma, God’s firstfruits, He is our sacrifice, His death is in place of ours, He bore our iniquity, our flesh was unclean, He washed us with Living Water, restored us, consecrated us, sanctified us, invites us to dwell in the Holy place, tore the veil, redeemed us, blessed us in the New Covenant.

Jesus is all over Leviticus. Thankful to see, and thankful to be grafted in . . .

“Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26)

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.”
(Romans 11:17-18)


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Exodus

{The Birth of Israel. Power of God. Laws & Worship. No Other Gods}

God cares about His people. He provides freedom for the people of Israel in powerful ways, and within chapters the people are grumbling. He gives laws and rules to worship, and the people are so impatient they create their own worship service to a golden calf.

And again, our God is just, but also relents and shows grace and mercy.

I can't tell you how much I relate to the people of Israel in this book. Sadly, how often has God done something huge, amazing, or wonderful in my life and within moments I've taken my eyes off of what IS and focused on what is NOT instead?

Why? Why can't I remember? His goodness? His grace? His power?

Instead I become impatient and ungrateful.

Oh God, help me . . . help us. We are too often like Israel who is impatient, ungrateful, proud, and sinful. Save us from ourselves, oh LORD, and help us meditate on your goodness instead.

Application Questions
1. Ch.3-4: Moses is called by God, for God’s purposes. Instead of accepting the call he lists reasons of insecurity, inadequacy, and fear. Are there things you know God has called you to do that you’re not doing because of insecurity or fear?

2. Ch.7-12 You see God do miraculous things and Pharaoh continues to harden his heart. Are there areas of your heart that are hardened, despite all the things God has done to prove His power?

3. Ch.14-16: God shows His power by parting the Red Sea and destroying Israel’s enemy. And just 2 chapters later, the people are grumbling again. When have you grumbled against God?

4. Ch.18: Moses gets counsel from Jethro, his father in-law and does what he says. Wise men seek counsel from other wise men. Who do you seek counsel from? Is there someone in your life discipling you in the ways of the LORD?

5. Ch.20-31 Over and over you see God bring up the Sabbath in his law. There is pattern of work and rest. Do you honor the Sabbath? Do you regularly slow down to delight in the LORD and rest?

6. Ch.32: Moses is getting specific instructions from the LORD on how to worship properly. Meanwhile, Aaron and the people are creating their own worship service according to their own desires. Are their things in your life you do according to your own understanding/desires, not God’s way? Do you go to God’s word for instruction, direction, and guidance in how you do church? Life?

7. Ch. 33: Moses intercedes for the people and prays that God would not destroy everyone. God relents. Do you regularly intercede for others? How often do you pray for God to intervene and save lost friends, family members, neighbors?

8. Towards the end of the book, you see the people of Israel contributing their time, talent, or treasure to help build the tabernacle. Do you contribute to the work of the LORD? Where are you giving your time, your talents, or you treasures for His kingdom?


To hear the sermon on Exodus & download the chart, click here: The Well Community Church

Genesis

Theme: Israel's Roots

When I think of Genesis I think origin, creation, or beginning. GREEN

Genesis can easily be divided into 2 parts: Planks & Patriarchs

Planks: The foundation of our faith {Ch.1-11}
God
Man
Sin
Redemption
Civilizations
Judgement
Nations/Races/Religions

Patriarchs: The fathers of our faith {Ch.12-50}
Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Joseph

Often when we read through the Old Testament we think of God as being a God of wrath and judgment, not grace and mercy.

Mercy: Not giving what you DO deserve
Grace: Giving what you DON'T deserve


Genesis 3
God speaks.
Satan tempts.
Adam & Eve sin.
God gives mercy and grace.
He told Adam & Eve not to eat of the fruit . . . they did anyway. God told them it would lead to death. While sin does ultimately lead to death, Adam & Eve did not die right there (mercy). Instead, you see God sacrifice animals on their behalf and God gives them coverings (grace).

I continued to see this pattern throughout the book . . . mercy & grace everywhere. All the way until the end, the story of Joseph. His brothers sell him to slavery and when they're finally reunited, Joseph not only withholds judgment (mercy) but lavishes his brothers with love and goods (grace).

I think one of the most powerful verses in this book is in Genesis 15:6. God makes a covenant with Abraham, promising land, seed, and blessing. “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Before any of this is fulfilled, Abraham believes. And it’s His belief in the promise of God, the character of God, that makes him righteous.

And.in.the.very.next.chapter. Abraham sleeps with Hagar.
He believes first, is made righteous, and then sins.

This is so POWERFUL for us to remember! It is not our actions that make us right with God, it is our belief. Abraham was made righteous at the point of belief. He was not chosen because of his actions (good or bad) but because of his faith.

God moved first. God called Abraham. God made the covenant. God declared him righteous.

As you watch the rest of the story unfold . . . you see this pattern over and over.

God doesn't choose the “good one”, the better one, the first one. He chooses whom He chooses. And often they are not the one we would choose.

Why would God choose Jacob over Esau? Because then God gets all of the glory for making Jacob a new man.

Why would God allow Christ to come from the line of Judah, a hypocritical adulterer, instead of Joseph a faithful, gracious servant? Because God gets all the glory for choosing the scandalous, the sinful, the shady lineage and making it righteous through Christ.

That’s our God. Here in Genesis. The God who chooses relents, who is gracious, who is merciful, who is just, and who keeps His covenant.

Through Genesis, God has made it clear:
In the beginning, God . . . (Genesis 1:1) it starts with Him, through Him, for Him, by Him. It's all about God, the Creator and Sustainer.

Christ was the plan from the beginning (Genesis 3:15)

God chooses, God calls, God promises. (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob)

God is Creator, Initiator, Redeemer. He is just, merciful, and gracious.

Application Questions
1. Genesis 15:6 God declared Abraham righteous at the point of belief. How does this change your view of attaining righteousness? Sin? Grace?

2. Sarah laughs at God in disbelief. Has there been a time when you’ve laughed at God in disbelief?

3. Isaac, the son laid on the altar to sacrifice was Abraham’s prized possession. Are there things getting in the way of you loving God the most? Things you need to lay on the altar to make God your most prized possession?

4. Jacob wrestles with God through the night. It is then that Jacob finally encounters God and God gives him a new name Israel. When have you truly wrestled with and encountered God? Have you truly accepted your new identity in Christ?

5. Joseph was beaten, thrown in a pit and left to die, and then sold into slavery by his brothers and yet he was able to forgive and lavish love upon them. Are there people in your life you need to forgive for much less?



Visit our church's website to hear the sermon & download the chart: The Well Community Church