In What Shall I Boast

Saturday, February 15, 2014  ::   4 important comments

My soul feels bound up today. Tears wait on the edge of my eye lids while the lump in my throat grows big enough to burst into yelling.

If God is real then...

I've struggled with this question since I first read about the IF: Gathering. The ability to answer the question for myself eluded me. By no means was it the intention of the leaders to create a question that would spark doubt, but for me, deep in my guts I questioned my own motives, years, purpose. All of the sudden I wondered. Too much.

The wondering birthed some unwelcomed cynicism in my heart. Several of my closest friends agreed together to engage with IF and to host a small group through Second Mile. As time grew closer to the event, I felt more and more unsettled. I blamed it on the ambiguity of the conference, the gathering, the whatever it was/is, but it was only today that I finally put my finger on the spot in my heart that birthed the cynicism.

Before I reveal that spot, I want to say I really loved IF. In the moments of each speaker, each song, each story, engaging with 20 or so dear women whom I greatly value, we were refreshed, refilled, reunified. We sang loud. We got on our knees together. We laughed. We shared deep parts of our hearts. I was continually reminded throughout the weekend that we are part of an extraordinary church that challenges one another, that retreats together, that shares life together, that longs for Tucson to know Jesus together. We often take for granted our courageous church. It was not lost on me that only a few short weeks earlier many of the women who gathered for IF had gone without food for an entire week in order to seek Jesus together as a community. These things have become normal to us. Refreshed from the week of prayer and fasting led beautifully into refreshment from the IF leaders who were used by God to speak to our hearts. Beautiful.

If God is real then...

For me, God is real. Was I supposed to still doubt? If I can believe he is more real, then will it change my life more? Will it help me do more? Will I have more insight? Will I then be able to do some crazy humongous thing that will receive Christian world-wide acclaim?

Cynicism. Darkness. Smallness.

It seemed to hide its identity from me until the first discussion time. I drew my question out of the pile available. "What is holding you back?" I asked my group to come back to me because I wasn't sure of the answer. As each woman answered her own question it became so very clear. I was cynical. I confessed to my friends, and said a prayer of repentance to Jesus, but oddly enough, the understanding of it all only became clear today.

When I was 18 I came to the place of realizing I didn't want to live my life without Jesus. The teenage years worked me over like a rag doll. Opting out of floppy limbs, a floppy heart, and a floppy mind, I went straight into battle mode. Praying, reading, learning, and growing in knowing and loving Jesus became an obsession. I wanted to do big things for God!

I went on trips, met with any leader who would talk to me, talked to strangers with passion while standing on tippy toes and smiling about how much he loves us, married a crazy, yet level-headed, passionate guy who also wanted to change the world. We went to another country, shared our love for God, met God-fearing people who showed us God was much bigger than the American God I had created in my mind, studied a language, adopted an amazing kid... all before I turned 25.

We returned to the States telling God we would serve him in specific ways, yet he took us on a completely different path, we had more kids, lived in other states, discipled college students, decided we should start a church with ten amazing friends... all before I was 30.

We began a church called Second Mile, labored with sweat and tears, we've given around 1500 gifts to strippers, parented eight kids, partnered with people who love Tucson, walked with women towards freedom...all before I was 40.

Doesn't it sound braggy? Oh, but I don't mean it to. I'm reminded of the passage that Paul shares all his accomplishments and then so beautifully says, "If I must boast, I boast in the things that show my weakness." In Galatians he says, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yes. Boast in Jesus.

The cynicism was birthed out of my own soul boasting. How could they ask me, a 40 year woman who has been trying to bust her butt to serve Jesus If God is real then...? Come on, people! Look what I've been doing the last twenty years? Who are you to ask me IF I am living as IF God is real? I. Am. Trying. Can't you see that?

Defeated. Disheartened to think I haven't been doing enough. Too exhausted to consider doing more. Unable to answer the questions of those I lead about what God would have us do.

The truth is I do believe God is real. I see his activity all around me. Sometimes by his grace I get up and join him. Sometimes because of my fear, or stubbornness, or ignorance I watch the marching go by without me.

If God is real then I will press into him in order to be more like him when I'm 41, when I'm 48, when I'm 50, when I'm 67, when I'm 70, when I'm nearing my finish line.

If God is real then he knows my cynicism and wants to right my heart towards his statutes and not toward selfish gain.

If God is real then I will not demand to be used by him, and I will get on my face and dwell his holy presence, delight in him as he sings over me, allow myself to just be.

If God is real then I will realize that Jesus didn't start his public ministry until he was 30 which means he waited 30. long. years to go big for his Father. We've only been in Tucson for not quite 10 years. Easter marks our tenth year of taking gifts to dancers in men's showclubs. Ten short years. Am I willing to wait for 30? If God is real then I will stay the course.

If God is real then my faith must believe that God is who he says he is! Faithful, merciful, kind, just, loving, good, unrelenting, pursuant, almighty, jealous, with us, I Am.

If God is real then I must believe I am who God says I am! Daughter, redeemed, beloved, forgiven, worshipper, entrusted with talents, co-heir, laborer, door holder for his kingdom.

If God is real then I must run my own race and not look towards other leaders and assume they don't know the trenches. My gaze must be fixed on the cross. Run my own race. Run my own race. Run my own race! Run well with my community, cheering one another on, sharpening each other as we go, carrying each other as we need, pointing each friend to Jesus.

Through the week of prayer, through IF, through so much soul searching this week, I've surrendered my cynicism. It is an ugly recurring theme in my heart. I'm asking God to remove it from my stoney heart through his kindness and grace and give me a heart of flesh that fully believes Him. He has mapped out a trail run for me that I fear has twists and turns, drops and rocks, and peaks and pits. As I keep my gaze on him I know he will make my path feel straight and narrow, secure, and enable me to keep both feet on the ground, rooted deep into the Rock that is higher than I.

Will you run with me? If God is real then he gave us to each other. He doesn't want us to run alone. I need you.

What is your If God is real then statement? Let's share together so that we may fix our gaze on Jesus, and together, boast in nothing but the cross.

A Read Your Way to Superstardom Giveaway

Tuesday, February 11, 2014  ::   46 important comments

Many thoughts are swirling around in my heart and mind today. The week of prayer and fasting mixed with the IF:Gathering mixed with Chad's message Sunday night make me feel like I've consumed five energy drinks while carrying a loaded semi up the hill. Energized, heavy, and a little crazy...that's me.

I can't really make sense of it all today. Some of those blog posts will come out in the days to come. There were three specific burdens rekindled through the above mentioned experiences. One of them is to blog more because I actually enjoy it. Another one was to stick to my clearly defined boundaries in other areas of ministry which, incidentally, will afford me to opportunities to blog more. Do you see that little circle of convenience? If I don't meet with all the people in one week then I can blog and do some other things I love. By the way, this is not a commentary on any of you. The problem/awesomeness is I love to meet, invest in, and talk with women. I have to be the one that says, "I would love to get together, but I can't this week because my schedule is full." That isn't your job. It's mine. I own my issue of boundary ignoring.

An area of atrophy in my life since my stroke is reading. You know I've already lamented on my blog about the difficulty of reading. My broken brain just wouldn't cooperate. It usually left me sad, frustrated, and exhausted. The fantastic, wonderful, fabulous news is that my brain continues to get better and better and stronger and stronger. My ability to read longer and retain what I've read is a tangible example of healing.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't have the super power of reading like some of my friends do. (I'm looking at you John W., Steph K, Alisa W.) Some people can blow through a book in a minute or two, but that's not true for me. I would love to classify myself as an avid reader, but it would be a lie. However, I do aspire to be a disciplined reader.

A few years ago I read a quote by Harry S. Truman. "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." It deeply resonated with my desire to grow in leadership. It fortified a disciplined determination to read.

found on pinterest
Whenever people tell me they don't read because they just don't like it, I'm left a little shocked. Guess what? I don't like it either. I like baking and sipping iced tea, but if all I do is bake cookies and drink tea I'm going to be a fat old lady with brown teeth. Reading will make me stronger, smarter, more influential. If you don't want to influence anyone, then fine. Don't read. As for me, I'm going to will myself into turning as many pages as my brain will allow and after a good rest, I plan to turn some more.

To just blab on about reading, but not help anyone in their journey is lame. Therefore, to encourage the beauty of reading, I'm hosting my first blog give away. You are about to have the chance to win not one, but two prizes.

I don't want to just tell you to read, I want to help you, so the big prize is a $30 gift card to Amazon. You can pick out some books that have been on your wish list. Side note, if you don't have books on your Amazon wish list, change that today. It is an easy way to keep a running list of books you hope to read in the future, even if you don't purchase them from Amazon. Of course I realize someone could take the $30 and buy this or this or this, but I'm hoping you won't.

The second part of the prize is Shauna Niequist's book Bread & Wine.  Many of you in my circle of friendship that hope to win have already read the book. If you win, give the book to someone who will enjoy it as much as you did. I love the way Shauna tells the story of her life. She weaves her words beautifully. I feel calm and inspired when I read her books. That, my friends, is a good combination of feelings.

To enter I'm getting a little fancy pants on you. I honestly couldn't figure out a more fair way to do this thing. Excuse me while I feel a little awkward about it. The first time I taught a step aerobic class I felt quite silly, especially since I was wearing awesome hot pink leg warmers (not really.) There will be no leg warmers for this, but a rafflecopter is about to make its appearance and I'm going to ask you to do things like "follow this blog" and "share on Facebook and/or Twitter." Feels an awful lot like my first step class as an instructor. In that class and in this give away I may feel a little like this:


Anywho, you can enter to win by leaving a comment about what book you are reading or want to read. You can leave a comment with a verse you are memorizing because you all know how that makes my heart sing. You can click on the little follow this blog button on the side for an extra entry. If you already follow it counts as an entry. Finally, you can share this give away on Facebook or Twitter. You can enter six times. There ya have it!

I will do the whole post the winner and stuff on Tuesday the 18th. One week.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm looking forward to reading your comments already!