Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A New Year - A Revolution

In 2011 I felt little motivation to blog. It began to feel very useless to me – the scattering of one's thoughts out into cyberspace. So many words spoken and written over the course of even one minute. So it just seemed pointless in my mind to add to them.

I was weary of all of the posturing and arguing - dissecting politics and theology. I became extremely weary of religion in general because it's like a weed that crowds out the very best in us – crowding out God himself. Religion suffocates. Strangles the very life out of the soul who was truly designed for so much more than vain arguments and power plays.

So I took a big step back and just began to watch life play out with new eyes – a brand-new perspective on God and the relationship I have with the One who created me. It's been quite a journey. God has become extremely expansive and intimately near. He is the greatness that orchestrates every facet of this amazing planet – the Divine Choreographer of what we call life. Sadly his Symphony was drowned out by my own internal noise – the longing for success, the desire to measure up, and perpetual need to sound like I had answers.

Today I rest peacefully in the tension that exists between the question-and-answer. I'm witness to the beauty of the chaos of life. Especially a life of active, intentional faith.

I've used a lot of words in my life – I'm a real talker. And sometimes I think when you lump all of us Christians up together there's a lot more jabbering than action. All the while a world looks on – in a perplexed sort of way – wondering what we are really up to. I've wasted time debating when I should've been doing. Serving. Giving. And I've missed the point Christ was trying to make while he walked on this planet Earth. I'm to follow what he taught – looking to his example and living it out.

For the last seven years I've walked inside a women's prison every week. They have been my teachers. Showing me how to love with patience while leaving the rest in God's hands. The noise of religion – the perfectly engineered answers and legalistic expectations – has been silenced. And the beautiful sounds of authenticity in God's presence have brought such liberty to this captive soul.

I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. Why waste my time as I know myself better than that. But I do want to begin a revolution in this New Year. I believe a simple smile can start a movement. Kindness, when it's least expected, becomes a powerful weapon. I believe looking like Christ is far better than sounding like a Christian. And I want to be about the business of looking more and more like Him. He was, and is after all, a revolutionary!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Surprise!

Other than starting thirty minutes late, this past Tuesday night seemed pretty typical at the prison. We arrived and made the chapel ready for the girls to come down. We waited and looked out over the prison yard. Soon they were filing out of the pods and making their way toward us with hurried feet.

Loads of hugs.
Lots of "I've really got to talk to you..."
Many "I've had the worst week ever..."
One "My sister (sobs) has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (more sobs)" and more hugs.

Each week is filled with the highs and lows of over 60 women. Then came the surprise... I didn't see it coming. Didn't have enough faith to think it might be possible.

BUT - after 6 years of sharing the love of Christ with one particularly hard-headed, God resistant and wall building woman - it seems that Love has broken down walls. I learned this woman, who has not been a choir member for over a year, wants to talk to me about... CHRIST!

Now, you could have punched me in the face and it would not have phased me in this moment - I was stunned. Shocked. And the lump rose in my throat and the tears crept into the corners of my eyes... and I let it dawn on my soul - the impact of such a request. I just never believed - and God reminds me that I need my faith to grow more...

Sadly, the officers would not send her down this past Tuesday - Ahhh - but in a few days we will talk. Pray for her as she is so close to crossing the line of faith. I am thrilled at the thought!

We love.
We love when people shove back.
We love when people say - NO.
We love when people shout - NEVER. Keep on loving them.
And one day - Love might surprise you!

Galatians 6: 9-10 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Echo

When you stand at the edge of a gorge the size of the Grand Canyon and shout out "Hello!" you will hear a response. Someone will call back "HELLO! HEllo! hellooooooooo"
The familiar echo of your own voice.

So maybe I am typing on my computer keyboard and hoping I will not simply hear an echo this time around. I hope someone is on the receiving end of this delayed message and will shout back!

It has been a long time since I blogged. Why? Well... can I shoot straight with you? Get real with ya? Here's the deal -

If there is such a thing as soul searching - then I have been on an intensive hunt. My soul wasn't missing, but my passion has been. I put out an all points bulletin to seek to locate the passion that escaped. It has made me scratch my head and interrogate my heart for answers - minus the need for a bright light and an officer who smells of a blend of cigarettes and strong coffee.

I am still asking questions and God is never afraid of a single one of them. And if anyone is listening anymore - then I'm glad you're here. Really, I am . Maybe we can compare internal war stories.

Could it be this comes with turning 40 and coming to the realization that I am, in the best case scenerio, in the middle of life's journey? Maybe so. Whatever the case, I am looking at where I have been and asking God for wisdom to increase in my life so that I can make the most of each breath on the road to where I'm going.

For a time I lost sense of my own voice. My echo started to sound like other great women of the faith. I felt compelled to recreate what was already working in ministry. What made perfect sense. What looked logical from the outside. BUT I was failing to be the AUTHENTIC woman God created me to be. To fully run the race maked out for my own size 8 feet. I wasted a couple wonderful years trying to squeeze my size 8's into a cute and trendy size 6. God forbid that I continue down this dreadful path. That any of us are anything less than the real thing God meant for us, as his unique child, to be. Christendom already has an Ann Grahm Lots and a Beth Moore. God is in the one-of-a-kind business. The world has enough copy cats.

But it will never have another me. Another YOU. And we need to embrace the real me - the real YOU - that God made and God loves and God called.

So, forgive my silence while searching. I am still at work. God and I are wrestling together. God is racking up all the points in this match, but I am being shaped. Redefined. Strengthened.
Transformed to mirror only One - Him.

So Hello! Hello! Hello again! :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My son shared this song with me. The lyrics are AMAZING!
Thought I would share them with you!
The Church
Elevation Worship

We are the change
the world is waiting for
We've got a love
the world is desperate for
We will lead
and take to your streets

Now's the time for us to rise
and carry hope and let love shine
and show this world that mercy is alive

Now's the time for us to rise
and carry hope to hopeless eyes
and show this world that mercy is alive

We're not afraid
we will abandon all
to hear your name
on lips across the world
we will run
in the wake of your love

Fill our hearts with your compassion
let our love be active here
Fill our hearts with your compassion
let our love be real

Friday, January 7, 2011

Love Response

When I was in high school, I made every effort to ostracize anyone who was different than me. Chalk it up to ignorance and a large dose of legalism in my home, but I made a point to choose only friends who held my beliefs. Anyone outside my world view was kept at arms length. I viewed them as little more than people I would attempt to persuade to my line of thinking.

I was the girl sitting in the bleachers telling kids how they would go to hell. I was the girl murmuring behind the backs of promiscuous students. Full of judgment, hellfire and brimstone. My bubble was designed to keep my comfort level satisfied and prohibit unsavory people from entering my safe haven.

Bubbles burst and reality comes swooshing in like an Arctic wind. We shiver and resist - but in all honesty, some of us need to feel the chill because we are too snuggled under our protective blankets to make any difference in the world around us.

Jesus NEVER played it safe! Jesus did not conduct ministry while insulated and isolated. No bubble for the holy King of Glory.

He was among the people. Touching the leper. Sparing the adulterer. Having lunch with the cheaters. And he spoke to them as the PEOPLE they are. The beautiful creation made in God's image. And the powerful truth is this: Because Jesus was so connected to the Father, He never compromised who He was when He loved others. Jesus Christ was a sharp pin in the religious bubble of the day and a soft embrace to the rejected and despised. He turned heads. He stopped people in their tracks!

When I experienced a season of selfish choices in my life that nearly destroyed me, I found my husband reaching down into the mud pit to offer me his hand. I expected rejection and received love in stead. The reality of Jesus living through my husband crashed over the walls I built. I was undone because of loving acceptance and forgiveness. Those unexpected responses changed my life. It changed MY LOVE RESPONSE to people around me.

Thankfully, God's love restored my marriage. Healing has been to the marrow. And my world expanded. I have a group of women who battle in the faith with me, but they are not the only people I "do life" with. Today, I am blessed with a diverse group of friends. Inmate. Atheist. Gay. Transgender. Prostitute. Addict. And they are not an agenda for me - they do not make up a human check list. They are truly my friends. I listen to them and love them. When I have lunch with my gay friend who wears more makeup than I do - complete with his leather pants and studded shirts - we turn heads. It may shock a few religious folks who know me from the church platform, but I am PASSIONATE about LOVING PEOPLE right where they are.

My marginalized friends will tell you - this is not the response they expected from a Christian. Their walls come down and love invades. The amazing conversations we have teaches me more about Jesus' love and life than any modern day sermon I hear piping from pulpits today. Sermons have their place - but the Bible comes to life when you live it outside the walls of the church, too. It is honest and raw and very, very real.

Living as Jesus means choosing to love ALL. Without strings attached.
Love is NOT BASED on people's response to us. Love is based on OUR RESPONSE to Christ. When the world sees believers LOVE... they will see the face of Christ. And the LIGHT of LOVE leads the way.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I John 4:7-12

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Advice to a Son

Forgive my silence in blogland. I am spinning more plates than usual these days!

Today is an unusual post.

Our middle son, who is a senior this year, brought home a request from his English IV teacher. They are studying Hamlet. Early in the play a fahther offers advice to a son who is about to leave home. The teacher thought it would be great to offer advice to our children who are about to head off into the big world. Thought I would share. I took out the mushy, personal things that remain sacred, but left the eight advice points. It was a great exercise for me to define this on paper as well and might inspire you to do the same for yourself or your children.

1. God – His Will. His Ways. His Word. His Wonder. Never lose sight of these things. A friendship with God is what life is built upon. He will fight for you and love you even when you fight with Him.

2. Family – The second layer life is built upon. Stay connected with your parents. Your brothers. And then choose wisely who you will build your family with.

3. Faith – Live out your faith by serving in a local church to remain connected to the bigger family you are a part of. The church is God’s body moving in the world. His hands – His feet.

4. Friends – Choose them wisely because they will make or break you. Have some that will call you up higher. Have a few that you have to reach down to pull up. Have the courage to befriend those who are different than you – but remain strong enough that they don’t change what you believe – only how you live what you believe.

5. Career – Seek God for His plan. Obey and follow Him in the now and with each step He will reveal your next step. The doors of opportunity swing on itty bitty hinges called obedience. Be prepared when opportunity rises up to meet you on your road of hard work and discipline.

6. Love – The girl you date is the potential mate. This should bring harmony with God and if God is in harmony with her, then your family will be as well. Pray for her. She should love Jesus more than you and be in passionate pursuit of God’s plan for her life.

7. Money – can be the root of all evil or the fruit with which you nourish the world. Spend some on yourself, save more for a rainy day and share with those in need. Money can buy things that should never define you, but things do not last into eternity. Make more eternal investments than temporary ones.

8. The Poor – serve the poor. Stay connected to people who have little in this world because it will always keep you in an attitude of gratitude about what YOU have.

9. Remember the BIGGER PICTURE. Your story is all woven in HIS STORY and PLAN.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Freedom!

She emerged from the metal door grinning ear to ear. Shouts of well wishers filled the air. Her only belongings rested at the bottom of a large plastic bin that screeched and rumbled as it rolled over the asphalt. An officer met her at the expansive, metal gate. More creaking sounds as the gate, surrounded by razor wire, opened wide. She turned and waved one last time to her friends who remain behind the walls. She promised to write. Promised to send money for cookies. Assured them she would be alright.

Obeying specific orders, I remained in my car, overcome with emotion. I could not jump out and welcome her with open arms, so I remained still as she made her way to me. In six years, I had never witnessed this scene. I was transfixed on her every move and in awe of how in seconds she walked from incarceration to freedom.

Other officers who were working outside the gate greeted her. They wished her well. Cautioned her about this new freedom and not messing up. She loaded her possessions in my back seat and made her way around to the passenger side. We hugged and laughed, holding back tears. She was actually sitting in my car! From sitting in the chapel inside the prison during choir practice to sitting in my car! It was surreal to say the least! It had been over four years of life in confinement and punishment. And now she is free.

As we drove away and reached the exit of the prison I stopped the car.

"Look back." I told her.

She spun around in her seat. Chocking back tears she says with conviction;
"I'm not coming back here again unless it's to do something good!"

And I believe her. I watched her find the true God in prison. For years He has been making Himself very real to her. After years of running from Him, she's running to Him with willing surrender.

How many days does our God watch as His children march into captivity? It's a scene He's witnessed for centuries. We put ourselves behind bars of sin all the while holding the keys to freedom.

Now just imagine with me for a moment how beautiful it is for the Father to see His own child step out of bondage and into freedom! And He isn't just waiting outside the gate for us to join Him. He sat in the cell with us singing songs of deliverance over us until we actually listened to His voice.

We were not created to waste away in a cell of our own making.

Freedom!!!

He died so we could have it.
He lives so we can know it.
He loves so we can share it.

Step out of the cages... into Freedom.

* Please pray for my friend who just left the prison on Monday. She will be moving to my town and attending our church. She has never chosen to surround herself with godly people and moral people. Housing has been secured. She is looking for a job and wants GOD's best for her. Pray for T.F. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

RUN!

Twice today I discussed this verse with friends. And I decided to share it in the blog.

We each must endure - and God is gracious enough to let us glipmse the finish line so we have the courage to ENDURE the race!

Now just read this slowly... My comments are in (bold).
Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, (all of heaven is watching) let us throw off everything that hinders (the opinions of man and our own critical self-talk) and the sin that so easily entangles (sin keeps us from running because it wraps itself around our feet), and let us run with perseverance (consistant moving forward - not giving up) the race marked out for us (YOU have a race marked out for you... each of us - our own race!) . Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, (hold your stare - locking eyes with HIM alone) the author (HE wrote your story from the beginning) and perfecter (HE is in charge of helping you become fully equipped to live out your story) of our faith (YOUR faith), who for the joy set before him (Jesus looked at the finish line first) endured the cross (Jesus was willing to suffer and lay down his life in order to get to that Joy - which was redeeming mankind) , scorning its shame (putting up with the mocking and the dishonor associated with dying on a cross) , and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (He FINISHED HIS STORY) . Consider him who endured such opposition (pushing, shoving, attempts to stop Him) from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So, you aren't dying to save the world, but you ARE living to make a difference in it for God. If GOD has opened a door for you - then fear of man and your own personal fears are the things standing between YOU and living out your story. You won't be perfect - only Christ is - BUT you can most truly keep your eye on the PRIZE while all of heaven cheers you on! These are the decisions that lay a foundation for your own journey.

Eyes on Jesus - then RUN.