A Beautiful Mysterious Cycle

Tuesday, November 24, 2015  ::   2 important comments

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Ephesians 1:16

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and strengthen in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

A little over a month ago, I taught about some verses in Ephesians chapter one at Retreat de Moxie. On my knees, I begged and begged God to do deep, rich work in the lives of the women with whom I would journey to the mountain. Now, I imagine him smiling at me while I prayed, whispering, "Just wait until you see the deep, rich work I'm doing in your life, dear one." 

During the retreat the theme "Continually thankful, continually prayerful" came up over and over again. I can't begin to express what these words have come to mean to me. 
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. The one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!  Psalm 50:23

I've questioned the meaning of thanksgiving as a sacrifice since I memorized the verse over a year ago. What could it mean? How is being thankful sacrificial? Sacrifice means to give something up that you especially want to keep. What would it look like in my life to be sacrificially thankful in order to glorify God? 

Bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition sometimes taunt me. James 3 uses these words to describe the wisdom of the world that is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. Comparison, hurt feelings by not being considered the way I hope to in friendships, frustrations as a leader, or even simply wanting to be included rob me of experiencing wisdom that "comes from above." 

As the Holy Spirit worked in my heart over the last few months, I'm experientially learning deep in my guts that thankfulness increases wisdom. 

          Wisdom in how I respond in relationships.
          Wisdom in keeping my gaze on Jesus and not on the world. 
          Wisdom in joy as I journey this life. 
          Wisdom in thankfulness as I pray for anything and everything that pops into my mind.

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 

Offering thanksgiving consistently, sincerely, and continually teaches me to give up to God what I hold most dear. Thanking God for my family reminds my soul they are his. Being thankful for the ability to run, cook, host, mentor, and do all I love to do reminds me that he created me and I belong to him. Offering thanksgiving for the people in my life, the people I pass day to day, the bagger at the grocery store who talks with me each time he sees me reminds me God loves people more than my mind can fathom. Thanking God for the times of great difficulty in my life reminds me he works through adversity to make me like his Son. 

The sacrifice of thankfulness continues to acknowledge all we have is his. He gives to us out of his goodness. He takes from us out of his goodness. When we are thankful it is an act of acknowledging apart from him, we have no good thing. And then, all he gives to us, we freely sacrifice back to him as a worshipful act of thanksgiving. It's a beautiful, mysterious cycle that glorifies God. 

Is it beginning to make sense? Are we thankful for the sake of gaining our own warm fuzzies or are we thankful in order to testify to his benevolence in our lives and our sacrifice of all things we hold dear to follow him? 

In my experience these few months, as I've been more thankful, prayer has increased. As gratitude increases contentment increases. As appreciativeness grows I'm more open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit. When contented thanksgiving fills my heart, I feel peaceable and gentle. The fruit of his Spirit increases, and bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition in my life decrease. 

Thankfulness grows, prayer grows. Prayer grows, thankfulness grows. And the fruit I didn't anticipate in all of this is wisdom from above which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."
How are you growing in thankfulness? When you find yourself frustrated with someone or something would you be willing to try to spend a moment being thankful instead of hurt? In what ways have you grown in your ability to be continually thankful and continually prayerful? 

I'm so thankful for you, dear one. It blesses me richly when you read my words. 

Static Stories Die

Tuesday, November 17, 2015  ::   1 important comment

A few months ago my good friend, John DeSoto, preached a message at Second Mile about the power of story. As an Emmy award winning camera man, he continues to cultivate his craft of story telling, mostly through video. John's temperament is gentle, compelling, warm, and engaging. When I'm around him I find myself calm and content. His videos of the story of people's lives create the same calm, content response in my heart and mind. Here is one of my favorite examples:

ADVENT 01_HOPE from John DeSoto on Vimeo.

One sentence from John's message endures in my mind:

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."

I'm constantly a walking paradox, and in this instance the truth of my inward battle rings true. On one hand, the thought of a life, a family, a church that lacks movement and vitality makes me nauseous. Stagnant water stinks, therefore, I believe a stagnant life also stinks. On the other hand, I often balk at change because of fear of the unknown or lack of control it creates. But, at the end of the day would I rather swim in a mirky, green, smelly pond or a beautiful, clear, fresh water oasis?
The answer should be obvious, but the truth is I often desire to choose the stagnant life.

As my family grows and changes, the unknown freaks me out as I obsess about the future.

As my relationships grow and change, insecurity rears its ugly head.

As my marriage grows and changes, difficulties in learning to communicate effectively challenges me to my core.

As my church grows and changes, fear of 'can we even keep up with it all' overwhelms me.

I know I'm not alone in these sentiments. Change is so very difficult for some of us. It threatens our sense of belonging, our entitlements to how we've always done things, our desire to be in the know, and our perceived importance and rank.

But, thanks be to God he did not leave me as he found me.

Philippians 1:6 
Be confident of this that he who who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion unit the day of Christ Jesus. 

Isaiah 43:19 
Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wildness and streams in the desert. 

1 Corinthians 6:11 
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God. 

He calms my soul in the midst of great change as I rest in the fact that he never changesHe is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he never changes his mind.

Rest assured, dear ones, change is good. If relationships and circumstances go static, the story dies. Let's link arms and celebrate change in each other's lives as it is the goodness of God working and acting in us to make us more like Jesus. Let it be so of me!

Here is an incomplete list of good, difficult, refining changes happening in and around me:

  • My kids are growing more and more independent.
  • Kyle is about to be driving.
  • Esther no longer lives under my roof.
  • Our house is in constant renovation.
  • Chad and I have been married for 20 years and our communication, especially in conflict, provides opportunity for growth.
  • Friends move away.
  • New friends come into my life.
  • Old friends leave my life.
  • Second Mile is growing in people, in responsibility, and in depth.
  • Second Mile has its own building which provides great change in so many areas.
  • Learning to lead in the big picture and not only in relationships stretches me.
The list could go on, as I'm sure your list of life changes could, too. And, by all means, my heart and soul eagerly hope for the fresh waters of change, but the weakness of my heart and flesh often jump in the murky waters of sameness.  Our only hope is to trust God who wills and acts in our lives according to his good purpose.

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."


How do you deal with change? Do you embrace it or flee? How do you train yourself to get out of the stagnant waters and embrace fresh water? What changes are you facing now, personal or otherwise? What character trait of God do you cling to in times of change? 

Comments are my love language so feel free to jump in and add your two cents and/or answer one or more of the questions. 

Many blessings to you as God brings change in your life to help you depend on him more deeply! 

Bandwagons and My Crazy Flag

Wednesday, November 04, 2015  ::   5 important comments

For twelve years I sweat my way through teaching a wide variety of fitness classes. Step aerobics, weight training, spinning, and even chair classes. Engaging with people and learning their stories was my favorite. Helping people grow in physical health by kicking their butts in class gave me great pleasure.

Every January I had a love/hate relationship with the various clubs in which I instructed classes. To see so many newly resolved exercisers bearing down with grit, determination, and focus created the best kind of fitness energy. But, I also experienced loss when all my new bffs fell off the work-out wagon in March.

It's all too easy to jump on a train bound for personal growth. However, when you realize the train is actually only going around the corner to drop you off with some gloves, a shovel, and an instruction manual detailing the fact you have to work it out, grit disappears, determination turns to dreariness, and focus blurs to indifference.

A month ago, 80 of us retreated to the mountains for our annual getaway. For a few months leading up to the retreat, God stirred in my heart a desire to spur women towards deeper intimacy with him through scripture, prayer, and community. To be honest, I had pulled way back on my wearing sackcloth and eating locusts in the desert raving lunatic way of life. I feared I was wasting my breath, getting on people's nerves, or worse, wounding people who struggled deeply.

Thanks to the work of God in my life and to my good friend, Beth Moore, I'm over it. I've put my itchy prophet clothes back on and I'm out waving my crazy flag again. Aren't you so glad?

Through the teaching of Beth, God reminded me that loving people isn't enough. Truth is an important part of the equilibrium of investment. Without truth, love becomes an idol, an excuse, and even an enabler. Truth is not oppressive or crushing. Truth and love bring restoration and rest for our souls.

So, friends, let me say it again with fresh fervor: discipline results in growth, health, contentment, and freedom.

As you know, I believe scripture memory is a key discipline in taking in the Bible. When you use it in conjunction with reading, studying, hearing, and meditation, your life will be transformed. I know too many people for whom this is true, so you cannot argue with me. You can try, but I won't listen. Make all the excuses you want, but while you're wallowing in the mire, I'll be over here beckoning you to get out of the poop and into biblical life/mind/heart transformation.

At the retreat, around 50 women shocked me by showing up to a little side seminar to learn my scripture memory system. Yesterday someone told me that a young woman is still at it, and has jumped to two verses a week because I said if one was too easy, add another! Yes!

When you are sitting around with a bunch of friends, the scripture memory bandwagon beckons. But, being back in your job, studying for exams, taking care of family quickly jumps in front of the importance of caring for your own soul. Like all my bffs in my fitness classes, let me compel you to keep at it. Don't give up. If you are tempted to give up, memorize Galatians 6:9 this month. The train has dropped you off with your gloves, shovel, and instruction manual. Don't be surprised. Just get to work. I'll be right beside you. We can cheer one another on.

Are you still at it? How's your grit, determination, and focus? How many of you still need a packet? Does anyone need more cards? Do you need help? I love to help with this because I can't do it for you. It's all you and Jesus, the very best teacher and only true life-changer.

Through November I'm memorizing a couple of verses. I took my own advice after the retreat and memorized an extra one in October because my brain was up for the challenge. Maybe I can do the same in November. We shall see. Here are my November verses:

2 Timothy 4:7 
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

I so want this to be true of my life, so I'm writing it on my heart to focus my hopes into discipline and determination.

Acts 2:17 
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 

I often focus on the last days being difficult times, so I'm memorizing this as a reminder that the God gives us everything we need for life and godliness through his Spirit.


What about you? Let's encourage each other by posting our verses. Comment here or leave a comment on Facebook. Again, please let me know if you need help. 

I'm so continually thankful and continually prayerful for each of you. I'll keep asking God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts! 

The Shakes

Thursday, September 03, 2015  ::   3 important comments

The ache in this world overwhelms me. Scrolling through my go to news sources so often leaves me in tears.

I cried many times today as I thought of little Aylan losing his life in the Aegean Sea. I could hardly contain myself as I read the words of his father on how he tried to save them. Truthfully, I wished I was alone while I read so I could weep and pray for him unashamedly. Ann Voskamp stirred my heart with her words as she so often does. Please read her post.

What do we do? How can we move forward when it has been documented that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts of aborted humans? What does sleep look like when I close my eyes and see Aylan face down in the sand? What can we do to help the droves and droves of people being pushed out of their land by the vile and abhorrent ISIS? How can we walk around knowing children are continually sold and used for sex over and over and over? What do we do in our own country when black people and police officers are being gunned down almost daily and peace seems impossible?

I'm at a loss. My heart aches.

I've been teased that I'm a woman with a cause whether there is a cause or not. But, when I look around there is cause after cause after cause after cause after cause after cause...

The above list doesn't even include what is happening in the lives around me. Abused kids, women struggling to find worth, men full of shame and self-loathing, people isolating themselves, people oversharing in ways promoting potential harm they can't yet see.

Last week during musical worship, my dear friend led us to "sing out to God whatever is on your heart." The only thing that surfaced was a giant lump in my throat. All I could think is, "I only know a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the pain in this world, but you know it all. How can you bear it, God?"

And today, I'm struggling. Why doesn't he come back? What is making him wait?

My faith shakes sometimes.

It's hard for me to believe while the world burns around me. But one thing age affords me is the ability to choose to press into Jesus even when I don't feel like it.

Even when my faith shakes, I choose to lift my hands high in surrender and worship.

Even when my faith shakes, I continue to beg him to hasten his return.

Even when my faith shakes, I go to my knees to groan for the relief of my fellow humans.

Even when my faith shakes, and I want to tuck and run, I stand my ground. And after I've done everything my small, finite self knows to do, I stand. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

And for the record, my life banner bears the name of Jesus. That probably surprises exactly no one.

Do you struggle with the world around you? What do you do when you feel the weight of it all? What do you do when your faith shakes? What do you do to stand? 

If you are still memorizing scripture with us, feel free to post your verses here. I will be focusing on passages that I've memorized that speak of hope, faith, and soul rest. 

May God move us to active compassion and prayer!

Hope-Filled Sleepless Nights

Wednesday, August 05, 2015  ::   6 important comments

I had trouble sleeping on Saturday night. The last time I looked at the clock before I fell asleep it mocked me with a bright "1:30." Crimson numbers stared at me throughout the night...3:00, then 4:00, then 5, 5:15, 5:30, 6:00... I stayed in bed until 6:30 as my mind whirled with thoughts of possibilities, anticipation, and hope.

Does that ever happen to you? Do life events affect your sleep? You're a lucky duck if you can sleep through the night most nights. I often tell people that I'm not good at sleeping. One can't be good at everything, after all.

Thankfully, while I was laying there on Saturday wishing for sleep, my mind space wasn't wasted with worry and fear which is sometimes the case.

I envisioned Second Mile's new gathering space. I prayed for the chairs to be filled. I imagined what it would be like to sing together. I asked God to give Chad good, challenging words for us to hear. God graciously responded to me, too. My soul lifted as I heard His very words in my heart and mind.

"How good and pleasant it is when God's people dwell together in unity." Psalm 133:1

"I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord." Psalm 122:1

"Unless the Lord builds the house, the people labor in vain." Psalm 127:1

"So in Christ we form one body, and each member belongs to the other." Romans 12:5
His assurance to me throughout my life through his Word is indescribable. I'm glad the time I invest in memorizing scripture turns into meditation which leads to continual transformation in my life.

Friends, I'm telling you, the fruit of your investment into taking scripture into your life is sweet. Be faithful in your discipline. Be joyful in your discipline. Be full of hope in your discipline.
Once again, month eight in 2015, what are you memorizing? Do you experience joy and hope in your spiritual disciplines? Why or why not? What specific way can I help you as you continue to seek after Jesus? 

Blessings of joy and hope to you today, dear one! 

Laying Down Your Everything

Wednesday, July 01, 2015  ::   8 important comments

Hey, hey, hey! It's July 1, 2015 which means Chad and I are celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss!
Twenty years of love, ministry, fighting, making up, raising kids, moving to different countries and different states, opening our home, crying and laughing, deep conversation, cheesiness beyond imagination, and so so so much more. I'm so blessed by this man. He loves me well. I can't express to you the fun we've had over these 20 years. I pray God allows us at least 20 more years together.

We are also starting our two week vacation today. The timing is perfect and somewhat stressful. As I mentioned in the last post,  a house remodel was forced upon us. But good news: the finished bathroom is amazing! Chad's goal was to finish everything before we left so we could come home and not have to pick up the hammers and paint brushes right away. Perfect timing.
It is stressful because we are in crunch time to move into our new church building. For my readers who do not attend Second Mile, we are calling our new facility El Centro. For ten years, we've benefited from the generosity of other Tucson churches, so our body experientially learned that we are the church, not a building. We don't want to lose this deep truth in our ethos, so we are choosing not to call our new space "the church" because the people are the church. Our first Sunday at El Centro is August 2nd, which means work needs to be accomplished...and we are leaving for two weeks. Oh man, stressful timing. The good news is we are a group, a body of people who work together, and we have leaders and lists in place to make the next few weeks efficient and effective. Have I ever mentioned that I love my church? So, so much.
The front of our new space. Photo taken by my good friend, Nate E. 
If you are still checking in for scripture memory, let me congratulate you on staying the course for more than half the year. Great job! You are working to make this a true discipline.

When I come to a transition in my own personal bible study and I'm not sure what to do next, I head to the gospels to hear from Jesus, so I've been reading through Matthew. As you all know, this world is no easy place to live. As a follower of Jesus, I want to make sure I'm pointing to him in my actions and in my speech. "Love wins" is all over the place right now, and every time I see it I think of John 15:13. "Greater love has no one than this, than someone lay down his life for his friends." Love that truly wins is about laying down your life, your agendas, your ideas, your rights, your self-righteousness, your contempt, your stubbornness, your status, your everything, the way Jesus did. His love wins because it never fails. I want to be more and more like him in how I love people in this life. This is not meant as a slight towards anyone who uses "love wins." This is a caution to my fellow followers of Jesus to be sure you are showing Whose love is the ultimate winner.

I'm familiar with this passage so I'm hoping it will be easy to memorize. I want it to be a reminder of how I want to live in our ever evolving culture. Far be it from me to be a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, but have no love.

Matthew 5:13-16 
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Please share what you are memorizing. It would also be encouraging if you would share how you decide what you will be memorizing. Do you have a system? Do you randomly choose passages? Do you go for single verses or whole sections? 

Many blessings to you as you seek to know and show true, steadfast, winning love! 

Leaking Pipes :: A House Renovation

Sunday, June 21, 2015  ::   3 important comments

Second Mile finished the Hebrews series with a bang. Several people shared with us what God spoke to their hearts through Chad's teaching and their own study. We worshipped as a body and lifted Jesus high. Chad and I sat on the couch when we got home that evening to rest in what God breathed into our community through 36 weeks of in-depth Hebrews study.

And then our sweet Morgan came into our living room to tell us there was water all over the floor. It was quite a jolt to the peace we were enjoying on the couch.

Therefore, we started out the week of Esther's high school graduation with a forced, major remodel. We were told our house needed a total re-plumb which meant we would have no water for awhile (two weeks.) We had floors ripped out, our guest bathroom gutted, and two feet of sheetrock cut out in much of the house. We had industrial dryers and dehumidifiers set up to prevent any funk from growing in our walls. Lovely.

In the beginning of the flood, my heart was so, so sad. You see, I'm a planner, and a celebrator, and a mom. I love tradition and ceremony. I enjoy stopping in moments to make memories. (I mean, I literally stop in moments to take mental pictures to create memories. My mind and heart have some awesome shots I've collected through the years.) Considering these "special" qualities I possess, the plan I've been concocting for Esther's high school graduation week was quite grandiose and impressive. From the breakfasts I would make to the balloons I would fill, from the family dinners around the table to the open house we would host for all our friends, I had some serious plans!

But when your house has no water or walls, plans have to be changed. Friends, it was a real struggle. Not the kind of "the struggle is real" stuff with which people hashtags their annoyances. The kind of struggle that I had to wrestle through to come a point of surrender. I would love to tell you my heart and mind are so sanctified that it was a quick, easy, painless process, but alas it would be a lie.

I cried.

I schemed.

I fumed.

I dismayed.

Then on Wednesday, Chad and I went to lunch and decided to take hold of our circumstances and celebrate Esther with our family and friends to the very best of our abilities. It was a turning point for me. I went home, cleaned as much as I could to create space for us and welcome our extended family, decorated for Esther, and wrote down the schedule and plan for the remaining week of graduation.

Our community rallied around us beautifully. Because my friends know how important hosting is to me, we were given gift cards to take our extended family out for dinner. So many people offered to open their home to host Esther's graduation party. Many people gave sacrificially to us to help begin to pay the bills for the renovations. The church family who learned good things through Hebrews about being the church fully stepped into love and care for my family. I could never express how much I love these people. Through seasons of great difficulty for us, from foster care to stroke to our current house discombobulation, we are deeply cared for.

**Thank you, Second Milers! You guys are the best!** 

Chad has been working so hard everyday, trying to finish the renovations before we leave for vacation. Did I mention he's doing most of the work himself so we can get the most bang for our buck? This "disaster" gave us the opportunity to make our house awesome. Yay, us?

 Turned to this
 And then turned to this 
I'll share a photo of the completed bathroom soon. It's going look awesome! 

When it is all finished, maybe we will host an open house so you can see what we've been up to. For now, here's a little sneak peak at the new and improved laundry room. 

All in all, I know it's small potatoes compared to the suffering in the world. I asked God to increase thankfulness in my heart through this ordeal and he's been faithful to do so. Don't get me wrong, I can't wait for it to be finished. But, I'm thankful for a house, for a husband who knows how to build and fix stuff, for resources to restore our home, for friends who provided and care for us, and for the coming days when this project will be complete.
What about you? Do you struggle sometimes to be thankful in all circumstances? What have you been thankful for lately? Do you enjoy house projects? Are you working on anything major right now? 

Many blessings in the trials, my friends!