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."
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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."

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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.

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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.



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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.
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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."
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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?

This 
 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.
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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! 

Late but still Thankful

Friday, June 05, 2015  ::   6 important comments

I apologize for the delay in posting this. Many of you know the last two weeks in May were less than convenient for the Haynes family.

A good thing is Esther graduated from high school!
The not so good thing is our plumbing broke.
I'll write more about both experiences soon. 

To be honest, all of it kind of took the wind out of my sails, which is ironic since the last moxie memorizers post I wrote was about not giving up. For the last two weeks of May I didn't think or care much about my little memory packet.

But I'm not stuck, thank you Jesus.

I finally finished the 2 Timothy 3 passage about not being a weak-willed woman. The list of ick still gives me trouble, but I've got the important parts of not letting it worm its way into my heart and home, so I'm moving on to a much happier passage.

Psalm 77:11-12
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 

Isn't that inspiring? There is something about this passage that puts my spirit at ease, builds my faith, and causes me to simply rest in the assurance of His faithfulness. I want to be a person who is full of thankfulness, and a sure and true way to build thanksgiving in my heart is to remember all He has done, is doing, and will do.

What are you memorizing/meditating on currently? Comment away, my friends. Thanks for being patient with my delay in posting this accountability avenue. I'm glad we are in this together.

Many blessings to you as your heart is filled with remembering!  

Don't Give Up!

Tuesday, May 05, 2015  ::   9 important comments

Recently, I read an article about memorizing scripture being an outdated idea. The author basically said it was an old-fashioned discipline limiting our ability to dig deep into scripture. Poor thing. I think he's altogether missing the point.

Listen, if you are still memorizing bible verses to get a star on your chart, then you'll be sad to know there is no chart. (Side-note: Don't teach your kids to memorize scripture for a prize. Please.)

If you are memorizing verses to check a to-do list box, then a check mark will be your only profit.

If you are memorizing scripture without deeply pondering what the words mean, then you are just being religious.

If you are memorizing scripture to puff up your big old fat head with knowledge, then you are only acting like a big old fat pharisee.

I've had my fair share of people tell me that they really see no use for taking in scripture in this way. When I was younger I would argue with them, hoping to compel them into submission. But now, I nod my head and pray they will come to the end of their excuses.

You've heard me say about a jillion times taking in God's word through memorizing and meditating throughout my college years transformed my life. The Spirit used it to remove the shame I walked in (Psalm 3:3), quiet my loud mouth (Proverbs 10:19), show me that he loves me deeply (John 15:13), and teach me that nothing compares to knowing and following him (Philippians 3:8).

I hope you know I don't believe this is the only way to take in scripture, but that it is one part of the whole of allowing God's word to be in you, to be part of your heart, mind, and soul. (Psalm 119:11) Please read, study, listen to, meditate on, and even sing about scripture. The reason we share the verses we are memorizing with each other on this blog is to encourage accountability, commitment, and togetherness. To be honest, some of you are so disciplined that it doesn't matter one little bit if anyone else is on the journey with you. You'll just keep forging ahead. But then there are people like me. I may be able to make myself stay disciplined for awhile, but when I want to quit, or I'm lazy or tired, it helps me to know I'm not alone...even in scripture memory.

In January, I announced that we would be memorizing two verses a month together and more than a dozen people jumped on board. (Women AND men, btw. Drives me crazy when people call this a woman thing.)  But, in April, just four short months later, less than half of the original group posted their verses. Now, I'm not going to assume this means you've fallen off the wagon. Are you still reading and taking in God's word? Yes? Good. Take it one step farther. Are you still training yourself to memorize two verses per month? Yes? Good. It greatly encourages all of us if you will kindly share with us what you are memorizing. It challenges me/us to keep going. It gives me/us ideas of what to memorize next. It allows me/us to pray for you in your own disciplines. It shows me/us that we aren't alone.

As for me, I'm still working on the 2 Timothy 3 passage. Honestly, the list of destruction in verses 2-4 is still hard for me to remember, so I've moved on to the real meat of the passage, so now I'm solidifying 6-7.

2 Timothy 3:6-7 
For among them are those that creep into households and capture weak-willed women, burdened with sins, and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. 

Which is why I want us to be people of the Word of God! I don't want to be a weak-willed human led astray, learning a bunch of stuff that the world shoves in my face. I plan to continue to use God's word stored up in my heart and mind to arrive at the cross of Christ, considering everything a loss compared to the greatness of knowing, truly, experientially, knowing Him.

It's time. Please post your verses! Let's do this thing together!

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Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good for in the proper time we will reap a harvest 
if we do not give up. 

Let me encourage you with this disclaimer: all the references and verses shared in this post are from memory. This is not a prideful brag, but a loving encouragement of 'look how God has shaped my mind.' 

Blessings through God's word to you as you keep up the good work! 

Participating or Spectating

Monday, April 27, 2015  ::   5 important comments

In Chad's message on Sunday, he talked about the importance of living out our faith with community. Hebrews is full of instruction for believers to encourage one another, to be hospitable to each other, to love each other like family members. The DeSoto family is all of this and more for my family. I love all of them so much. 

For my readers who don't live in Tucson, Angela is on staff with Second Mile as our very gifted worship leader. The woman can sing like nobody's business. But her beautiful voice pales in comparison to her heart to see Jesus magnified and glorified. The Spirit of God has gifted her to lead people musically to worship him, but also in working out their faith in their everyday lives. By all good definitions, Angela is a leader. I'm blessed to call her friend and privileged to work with her in ministering to our church. 

Not too long ago during our staff meeting, Angela began to share with us how she was challenging the people she leads to use Chad's message series through Hebrews to deepen her personal bible study. I loved what she was sharing so much, so I blurted out, "Would you be willing to write a guest post about this?" But, then we never really talked about it. This week she emailed these great words to me. 
If there were anyone Angel could’ve asked to write on this topic that would feel completely inadequate, it would be me.  Couldn’t she have asked me to write a post about how to style hair? I would knock that one out of the park. However inadequate I may feel, I am willing to share my experience and hope that for someone out there it will encourage you to approach the word with refreshed resolve. 

Over the last couple of months I have had several conversations with women within Second Mile on the topic of studying the bible and daily “quiet times” (how did that name ever come about? I think it’s dumb). The concern these women were having was that it was hard to know where to start, how to connect their study time with other areas of their lives, and how it felt daunting in light of receiving so much great content on Sundays from Chad and not always digging as deep as they could there first. Beginning another study in the bible seemed overwhelming.

On Sundays we come and participate in taking in the word. We don’t allow someone to spoon-feed us. We have to be active participants to fully grab all that we can out of it. That’s why we don’t call our Sundays a service, it is a gathering and there is a call to participation that can’t be ignored. With that, if we want to really dive into the depths of the word we have to be note takers. This is not a judgment towards anyone who doesn’t do this, but I personally would only get out a fraction of what I do if I didn’t take notes – again, I am a participant, not a spectator. What then do I do with those notes? Wait until an hour before community group starts to crack open my journal again so I can conjure something up before discussion starts? No. There is so much more to dissect there. We are truly missing out if we are limiting our study of the message to only Sunday and community group. 

What I have been trying to make a discipline and have been encouraging these other women to do as well is to take the chapter we are going to study on Sunday and read it through before Chad teaches on it. I read it multiple times. Then after the teaching I read it again. I read through my notes and my questions and read the chapter once more. I cannot tell you how much I get out of the scriptures when I develop meaningful repetition.  There is light shone on areas of scripture that I otherwise would’ve overlooked until I slowed down and chewed on the scriptures this way.

One night last January, John and I awoke to our 12 year old telling us there was smoke in her room. We couldn’t find the cause, called 911, and waited outside. While waiting we could see the amount of smoke slowly increase. When the firemen arrived they went through their routines to do an initial assessment of the situation. They went into the house, came out and reassessed. They did this several times and then got on the roof and decided whether or not they would have to go through the attic. They worked intensely but strategically until they found the root cause. They didn’t go in and just start spraying water everywhere assuming they knew what was going on because they know fire. Nor did they wait outside too afraid of the unknown inside. They are trained to be strategic and planned but to also not miss anything. This is how we should approach the word daily and use the incredible teaching we have been given to plan, strategize, dig in, read again and again, and find every nugget of truth out of it that we can. Is this done all in one day? No, take the time to move throughout scripture through the week with patience, eyes to see, and ears to hear. 

The last point I want to encourage with is how much I have enjoyed pulling verses out of the chapters we are studying in the gathering to memorize for the month as I am involved with Moxie Memorizers. This has been incredibly enriching and beneficial and I look forward to continuing this approach for a while.  

What is your approach to studying the word? Do you find it easy to compartmentalize what the Sunday teachings are with what you are studying on your own? Or have you found a rhythm of going deeper throughout the week in the study offered us through Chad’s teachings? Whatever your approach I pray the word continues to be living and active and sharp in your life. 

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Thank you, Angela! I pray God uses your words to push us all to know Jesus more through actively participating and engaging in his word! 

Please leave some comment love for Angela. Answer her challenging questions with your thoughts. 

I pray you experience great blessings through God's active and alive Word! 

Sweet Contentment

Tuesday, April 21, 2015  ::   12 important comments

I'm a little late to the Bob Goff party. But, from what I know about Bob after hearing him speak, meeting him a couple of times at the IF: Gathering, and reading his book, I don't think he would like me saying, "The Bob Goff party," and then I think he would tell me I'm right on time.

Many of my friends have read Love Does, and they've told me how much they enjoyed it. But, I'm not sure I would have been able to say, "I enjoyed it" if Bob hadn't wrapped it up beautifully in the end. It was an easy read concerning his style of writing. His stories made me want to turn each page. The way he strings words together creates beautifully organized whimsey. But, I have to say the actual content was getting to me, stirring me up a bit, making me ask the question I often ask myself: What in the heck am I doing with my life?!?

Jumping on planes to teach his kids about leadership and friendship, inviting John Ashcroft to be part of changing lives, starting schools in another country, freeing children from wrongful imprisonment, and so many other cool things. Bob Goff has been a busy man! Now don't get me wrong, it is apparent he is a humble leader and an excellent story teller. He would never have written these anecdotes to guilt anyone into doing anything. He simply wrote out some beautiful life experiences to challenge us all to love people like Jesus loves people.

But, I have a problem. I've written about it so many times on this blog. Reading books by people who are changing the world in huge ways, or watching a TED talk by Gary Haugen, International Justice Mission's president, or reading biographies of people like William Wilberforce creates a fuzziness in my heart, and I start to lose focus on what God has asked me to do. I even had a teary conversation with Chad about it at lunch today. I say things like, "If violence is the cause of poverty, what in the world can I do/am I doing to help break the chains of oppression??" Chad is so patient with me and my passion.

Tonight as I finished the last chapter of Love Does, my heart beat the words in my chest, "What do I do now?"

Bob Goff must have known I would ask that question, and in the second sentence of the epilogue he said he would be asking the same thing if he finished reading a book like this one. And then he told me to figure out the next step, and then do that. Do you know that is the exact same thing I heard at the IF: Gathering in February? My big picture mind and heart can so easily get lost in the forest, meanwhile, I need to remember I've been on a rigorous, beautiful hike in the trees investing in women for quite sometime. I would like to believe I've learned great things about loving people the way Jesus loves people on this hike he's mapped out for me. It's funny really. In reading/watching great work like this, my heart and mind swell with zeal, passion, and fervor for charging the hill. And then God whispers in my ear, "Keep going, don't quit, take the next step." These sweet words destroy the let down from the potential lies I tell myself I'm not doing enough. Instead, I'm given sweet contentment and direction.

"However, I consider my own life worth nothing to me, if only I can finish the 
race and complete the task the Lord Jesus given me, the task of testifying to the gospel 
of God's grace." Acts 20:24 

I've got some big direction at this point. Bob said the next step is as easy as a phone call, an email, or just showing up and then things will start happening. That's what I'm going to do. And good news! One next step is to get this book into your hands. Isn't it fun to read a book that is easy to read, yet is full of rich content? So, I'm giving a copy away. If you already have this book, but would like to win one to give to a friend, feel free to enter. (I actually purchased the second book for my pal, Andrew Ling, who so very much reminds me of Bob Goff. But Andrew has been at the Bob Goff party for awhile, so I'm giving a copy away in honor of Andrew. I think he would want you to read this good stuff.)

To enter, leave a comment about a next step God is asking of you in your journey of faith. Be specific or broad, but make sure it isn't too 'Christian-y'. I want to hear your real words from your real heart. I'll draw a winner in a week or so.

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In what ways are you being challenged to put action to your love for people? What is the next step you will be taking in your faith journey? Do you plan to read this book? Do you want to win this book? Leave some comment love. 

Many blessings to you as you pour out the love of Christ on those you encounter today! 

Worn Out

Thursday, April 02, 2015  ::   8 important comments

I've been pretty out of it this week. I told Chad I felt one of three possibilities may be happening.

     1. My 'bucket' (what I pour out of to do all the stuff I do) is empty.
     2. Hormonies were making me fuzzy and weird.
     3. Residual stroke effects (Dr said it would happen) could be causing fatigue.

Or what if it was a combination of all three? Or what if it's been allergies or I'm catching a cold? Or what if I was just being a wimp?

Bleh. That's it. Just Bleh.

Do you ever feel that way? I wish I could just go, go, go sometimes but I can't. And guess what...God knows I can't, that you can't, that he didn't create us to go, go go all the time.


Come to me all who labor and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  ~Matthew 11:28 

Even youths will grow tired and weary, and young men will stumble and fall. ~Isaiah 40:30

For I will satisfy the weary soul. ~Jeremiah 31:25

My soul finds rest in God alone. ~Psalm 62:1 
Sometimes I just need rest for no explanation at all. It's difficult for me to admit, mostly because I may not have anything to show for what is zapping my energy. However, I'm continually needing to grow in the area of resting in Jesus. Reading a book that is just fun. Taking a nap in the middle of my day off. Skipping exercise for the day. Baking cookies to give to some friends. Rest.

A friend of my shared an excellent verse with me yesterday that encouraged my soul. I'm going to commit it to memory. Does anyone else need to meditate on this?


I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I went about the king's business. ~Daniel 8:27 

Yes! Exactly! Worn out and lay exhausted for a few days. But then we get up and go about King Jesus' business.

I haven't been very productive in output this week. But I'm simply taking a break, getting ready to go about the King's business.

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What are you memorizing right now? What scripture is God using to speak to your heart lately? How are you feeling right now? Ready to go or needing rest? 

May your heart, mind, body, and soul find rest in Jesus! 

Claw Foot Bathtubs and K Awards

Sunday, March 15, 2015  ::   18 important comments

Third grade ate my lunch. I spent my kindergarten through second grade years in a small school in the thriving metropolis of Kermit, TX, population 8,000 or so. My family was blessed enough to move into a bigger house across town (a whole mile or so) which meant I would have to transfer to the other elementary school, Purple Sage, aka Purple Prison. I don't know why the kids called it that because I'm sure it was a lovely school with lovely teachers, but I was convinced. I would begin the third grade in prison away from the friendships I had obviously worked diligently as a 5-7 year old to cultivate, and by cultivate, I mean sharing my crayons and chasing boys on the playground.

To be a little braggy, I was a top dog my first three years of school. I know for a fact I was one of Miss Lemon's favorite little first graders. She had an awesome claw foot bathtub full of pillows in her room, and if you got the most papers on the board for a week you could take your rest time in the tub. It was so fantastic. (Sometimes I wonder if she ever washed those pillows. Can anyone say head lice? *shudder*) I received so many awards my first grade year that she started coming up with new, exciting ways to treat me, such as drinking a coke out of the bottle while sitting in the school office. Let me tell you a first grader in 1980 felt pretty darn awesome with a reward like that.

I didn't, however, receive the title of teacher's pet in second grade. With Mrs. Riley probably no one did. We sat in rows and dared not utter a word. I'm convinced she's started me down the track of my fear/hatred of math. Let's just say she didn't really want to help me understand how parenthesis work in an equation, but that's for another story. However, in Kermit, TX in the 1980s at the end of every school year, teachers passed out these beautiful certificates called K Awards, and Mrs. Riley thought I deserved the best handwriting award plus a couple of other acknowledgments. In first grade, Miss Lemon gave me a stack of K Awards. So, in first and second grade my desire to achieve for recognition was born.
Can't you just imagine how funny and cute it must have been seeing me belt out "I AM A PROMISE" at the top of my lungs during the talent competition of the Miss Cinderella Pagent? I think my mom may be the only one on the planet that would defend how amazing I actually was.
2nd Grade, I think, but maybe 3rd grade based on the awesome pair of grown-up teeth that seem to be making their debut.
But, this surely is 3rd Grade, maybe. But that short suit... don't be jealous. 
Third grade, however, was a whole new playing field. "Thankfully" (kind of) I had a "friend" (kind of) from church in my class. Truth be told, I was pretty much jealous of her because I fully believed she could do everything better than me... roller skate, sing in our kids' choir, memorize bible verses, all the important little kid things. And "thankfully" she sat right in front of me in our row on the first day of third grade. She thought it would be a good idea to turn around and tell me all the things, and therefore, our teacher thought it would be a good idea to write our names on the board as a lesson to the whole class that chatty brats would not be tolerated. And I cried. I had never in all my life been in trouble in school. Purple Prison lived up to its name on the very first day of school.

In third grade, I struggled to make friends, didn't win any class competitions, rarely had a paper put on the board, peed my pants in class, and didn't receive a single K Award. I most definitely thought I deserved something. I mean, I had achieved in first and second grade. How could I have been so overlooked in third grade? It was a rough life for a 9 year old. The struggle was real, folks. Do not doubt it. 

Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Austin for the IF: Gathering. In the first session, one of the speakers prayed very strongly for God to speak to all of us, "to give us a word." Simultaneously in my heart, I was telling God that if he had something specific I would listen, but that he owed me nothing and I would be content to be in his presence. But do you know what he did for me? Gave to me in very specific, personal ways. He is a good, good Father. 

Throughout my life I've been a hard worker, sometimes for the sake of hard work and sometimes for the sake of what I could gain, whether an award or a friend or a pants size. But, God showed me during IF that through the years of my life, what seemed to be an independence or an indifference to people's response to me was actually a wall of protection I had built because of life's disappointments. 

You see, I believe it's all connected. What happened to us as children certainly affects how we interact with the world as adults. God showed me that as a nine year old I began to believe the lie that I was overlooked. One would think that something so seemingly insignificant wouldn't affect me, but one would be wrong. As God was gently revealing this to me, I saw glimpses of how I responded to situations in middle school, high school, college, and even now, of how I played off being "overlooked" like a cool cat. I had let a corner of my heart become hard and stoney. 

The ironic truth is that I am overlooked by people quite often. As God was working in my heart during one powerful song, he was revealing to me that through all the overlooking, I had begun to believe that he was also overlooking me in order to use other friends, other leaders, and other churches. Through his kindness he was breaking the chains on my life by whispering to me that I belong to him, he knows my name, he uses my gifts, he has me in the place he chose for me. 

Please know I haven't been walking around for the past 33 years trying my hardest not to be overlooked. The rotten fruit of this lie recently showed up in my life by way of a discontentment in wondering if I was doing enough or even if I was enough. I found myself constantly looking to the left and to the right to see what others were doing, and to see if anyone was looking at me. It was exhausting, and most definitely robbed me of contentment and joy. What he showed me that day in Austin is that he is enough. Now I've known this in my head for years. With my hands lifted high I could honestly and loudly sing all the songs telling him that he was enough for me. But the beauty of rich, God-revealed living is that he not only wants us to know his truths in our heads, he wants us to experience them in our lives. Through the power of his Spirit, he was moving this grace from my head to my heart, so I could live it, believe it, and proclaim it. Such sweet relief.   

To wrap up the weekend at IF, we each wrote our step of faith (where and what) to show how we would respond to what God spoke to our hearts. I wrote: My place is Tucson, and my step is to believe that I'm not overlooked and to lead my people with as much love as I can give. Honestly, I think I've been loving them strongly for a really long time. But, I also know that I've reserved the stoney part of my heart for self-preservation for when someone leaves, or gives harsh critique, or chooses someone else over me. And guess what! People will leave. I will receive harsh critique. Others will be chosen over me. But as much as I know I would not overlook my children for someone else, I know God doesn't overlook me. And as much as I know my children aren't meant to do everything all the time, I know God does not mean for me to take on responsibility that he hasn't given me. And as much as I want my children to find their niche and be filled with such great joy while maintaining soft, pliable hearts, God wants me to love where I'm serving, love the gifts he's given me to use, and to allow him to mold and make my heart more and more like his. 

Interestingly enough, when I returned to Tucson, I heard from my women that I love to lead, that they missed me. They, too, wrote on rocks while engaging in the simulcast of IF, and they left their pile of rocks on my desk which was a beautiful display of their love for me. I use the words on their rocks to pray for them by asking God to give them strength, perseverance, and joy as they take their faith steps. 

Friends, even if the people around us, people we think should see us, people we long to know can't seem to even remember our names, God never ever overlooks his children. He doesn't seek to give us a job or a platform or a best friend or a spouse or the perfect house to prove he remembers us. He has already given Jesus and his Spirit to prove that we've not been overlooked. He is fully available to us. We no longer need to look to the left or to the right to see what others are doing or to see if they are looking at us. We only need to look to straight ahead to the face of God. 


So, if you made it this far, congratulations! This lengthy thing is more like a chapter of a book than a blog post. Thanks for hanging with me until the end. As a reward (ha, see what I did there?) I'm doing a little give away. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment. Answer one of the following questions and then at the end of the week, I'll draw someone's name. 

I'm giving away Donald Miller's new book Scary Close. It is so, so good. I read it in a couple of days, and if you know my slow reading abilities that should tell you how good it is! Mr. Miller will challenge you in your ideas of vulnerability and relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I will read it again.

Leave comment to enter because you want this book. I promise.  

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What have you been learning lately? Did anything I shared resonate with you? In what ways do you see you are God's beloved? In what ways have you seen the connectedness of your life? 

Many blessings in your faith steps! 

Determined Discipline

Sunday, March 01, 2015  ::   10 important comments

Through the years I've started and not finished many hobbies from photography to learning to play the bass or the banjo. You see, I'm an ideas person. I can have ideas until the cows come home. Lately, my mind as been swimming with so many potential good visions. Sometimes I wish I could simply put the ideas in a bowl, add some sugar, flour, and eggs, pour them into a pan, and turn them all into completed accomplishments.

A couple of the ideas I've had I really want to see through. But they are both BIG ideas. It will take so much prayer and discipline. And I'm a little scared. Actually, so scared that I don't even want to tell anyone about them because I'm afraid I can't accomplish them, and then I will feel flakey or worse, like a failure.

But, at the same time I'm so thankful for new thoughts and plans. When I was in my 20s, I heard someone say that most people stop learning new things when they are in their 30s and just coast to the end of their lives living off the few years of accumulated head knowledge they've managed to gain. It alarmed/pushed me into determined discipline to position myself as a learner for the rest of my life. Notice the words: determined discipline. Learning can sometimes begin accidentally, but it must continue with effort and intentionality. Continued ideas, vision, and direction are some sweet fruits of learning.

As you might have guessed it, I believe learning for a follower of Jesus begins with time spent in the Bible. Reading it, hearing it, studying it, meditating on it, and of course, memorizing it. I hope those of you that are joining in this accountability group are not just spending time memorizing verses. You will be one lopsided person if that is all you are doing. You must take this one ingredient and mix it will all the other aspects of taking in His Word to grow into an accomplished learner full of vision and ideas from Jesus.

Do you have the notion that all of this should be easy? Were you hoping that taking in His Word and obeying would come automatically or naturally? Did you know it would take effort? Listen, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But the truly challenging and changing stuff of life takes real work. The gate is narrow, not just for the Kingdom, but for many good things in this life. So keep up the good, hard, soul-changing work! You will continually reap the fruit of learning, my friends. I know it to be true.

I'm still working on 2 Timothy 3:1-7. I have verses one through four down, but five is still tripping me up, so I'm going to keep working on it. I'm hoping to have the whole passage down by the end of the month because six and seven will be easy for me to remember. If you've been around me at all, you've heard me get preachy about these two.

2 Timothy 3:6-7 
For among them are those that creep into households and capture weak-willed women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. 

Which that last phrase puts a whole new aspect onto being a learner, doesn't it? To be a faithful-to-Jesus learner, we must fix our eyes on Him or we "learn" all kinds of things but never arrive at the knowledge of the TRUTH! That makes me shiver. I don't want the ways of this dark world to worm their way into my mind, heart, or home. I want to be a learner with ideas, vision, and direction from the Spirit of God!

Now it's your turn. Please post the verses you are memorizing and/or studying.

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Do you see yourself as a teachable person? In what ways do you learn from God and from others? What have you been learning lately? 

May your life be enriched through determined discipline, my friends! 

To Build Up or Destroy, the Choice is Yours

Wednesday, February 11, 2015  ::   5 important comments

**trigger warning**

There is so much from the world that comes against purity and holiness and marriage. I spent some time reading through the stats of how many people have read 50 Shades of Grey and how many people are expected to see the movie and my heart and head just hurt. To live in a time where women and children are sexually exploited, where children are abused, where story after story of rape on college campuses with very little done to prosecute and punish abound, yet books and movies like this become best sellers absolutely astounds me. I cannot for the life of me understand why any women at all would want to subject herself to such insidiousness.

I can already hear some of you asking why I would have such a strong opinion without having read the book. Well, first, I'm not stupid or naive. I've read the reviews and anything that promotes the domination of women in sex is not uplifting or treasuring to us which I know is not God's design. Second, I do not have to drink arsenic to know it will kill me. Third, I've been married to one man who deeply treasures me for 20 years. The intimacy between us is far greater than anything the distorted world has to offer. There you have it: I'm not stupid, I don't drink poison, and my marriage is healthy, which I believe, gives me a voice you should heed.

Friends, please, please do not be weak-willed in your faith and understanding of who God desires for you to be. Do not give into filling your heart, mind, and soul with this movie.

Marriage takes real work. It requires honesty, integrity, communication, commitment, selflessness, understanding, compassion, diligence, and much, much more. What's interesting is so much of what happens in a marriage can be viewed by friends, neighbors, family. How you keep your house, how you parent your children, how you spend your money, even how you bicker and argue can be observed by others. But, there is one thing that is for you and your spouse only, one private aspect of your marriage that should include absolutely no one else.

Sexual intimacy was created for two people who have covenanted together to spend the rest of their days living life in such a way that displays and gives witness to how Jesus Christ loves the church. 

Because marriage was created to show the world how much Jesus loves us, Satan (the DLB), a very real and present enemy absolutely hates marriage. He continually shows how he seeks to destroy us. If genuine intimacy was created to be experienced between one man and one woman, he is doing his best to steal, kill, and destroy it. Again, abuse, exploitation, perversion in the form of pornography all set themselves up to be the exact contradiction to what intimacy is meant to be.

And, the DLB is cunning. He knows that many of us believe we are strong enough to withstand abusing someone or becoming addicted to porn, so he creates subtle distortions through stories that appeal to humanity, to our thirst for relationships, attention, fantasy. A racy make-out scene here, a Car'ls Jr/Hardy's commercial there. A TV show where 25 single women make out with the same guy here, or a mall store with boobs and underwear in our faces there. It is everywhere and we buy it hook, line, and sinker... but slowly, not knowing that we are being boiled in our own pot of hypocrisy, numbness, and smut.

One verse that has been so wrongly used in the Christian sub-culture world of dating is Proverbs 4:23. Come on, finish it for me: Above all else guard...  Yep. I know you've heard it. Maybe you've even quoted it when you were dating someone, or about to break up with someone. Or maybe you've thrown it in the face of your friend when you felt like they were loving too much too soon. But let's reclaim it today for the sake of what it truly means.

Proverbs 4:23 
Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 

Whatever you put into your heart, mind, and soul, will eventually come out. (Luke 6:45)

If you put humility in your heart, serving others will spill out of you.

If you guard your heart with thankfulness, your well will not run dry with entitlement.

If you fill yourself up with patience, you will flow with kindness.

Likewise,

If you allow gossip to enter your heart, you will soon think of yourself higher than you ought.

If you engage in political hatred, you alienate people Jesus asks you to love.

If you shut yourself off from community, the well of your soul will feel isolated and alone.

Deeper still,

If you take in content through the internet, books, or movies that does not lift your soul, you will crave more, lust for more, soon be ensnared.

If you do not guard the sexual intimacy of your marriage, you will grow dissatisfied with your spouse and distance between you is inevitable, and you will seek it in other ways.

If you are not married and you seek to satisfy desires for relational intimacy apart of Jesus and purposeful community, you will become a target for the DLB to fill your heart with lies of entitlement, shame, rejection, and regret.

People, let us guard our hearts! Why exchange the truth for a lie? Why believe unholy thoughts that set themselves up against the knowledge of God? Why continue to learn about the stuff of this world but never arrive at the knowledge of the Truth?

Guard intimacy in your marriage. It is the only thing that is just for you and your spouse. It is a gift to be treasured and guarded, the point at which you can come together, recalibrate, refocus, refresh. Do not let anything in this world come into what was meant for just you and your life mate. If you need resources to help you grow in your understanding of intimacy with your spouse, email me.

If you are not married, guard your heart. The drive for sex can only be fully quenched in marriage. Love satisfies. Lust craves. Love gives. Lust takes. Love enables true intimacy. Lust kills true intimacy. Love protects. Lust destroys. Love builds your heart. Lust destroys your heart. Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

If you are a follower of Jesus, do not watch or read 50 Shades of Grey.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, guard your heart, too! Fill your mind and heart with life-giving, humanity-lifting wisdom. Do not watch 50 Shades of Grey.

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Many, many blessings to your heart! May Jesus satisfy your deepest needs to be known, loved, and treasured.

The Daily Battle

Saturday, February 07, 2015  ::   10 important comments

He did not do many mighty works among them because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58

These words have chased me for the last few years. Three years ago I began to ask God to increase my faith, teach me not just to believe in Him, but to believe Him. Like so many people who pray that prayer, I did not know what the cost of asking for more faith would mean for me. Soon after begging God for more faith, my family and I faced a health situation that would require me to quiet my fears, trust Him with my family, and take a year sabbatical to heal and to learn to just be with God.

I learned good, rich lessons of resting, and being with Jesus, of trusting Him, obeying Him in the day to day walk of life.  But, let me be honest with you, as the time between that sweet rest grows, there are more and more days when I wonder if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, wondering if I should be doing more. The funny thing is I know what I'm passionate about, investing in women and teaching them to do the same. I love telling people about Jesus and experiencing life transformation with them. But sometimes. Oh those sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if I am enough, if there is more, if I 'm missing something.

Yesterday Jennie Allen started the If: Gathering by challenging us with faith. There was so much passion and urgency erupting out of her. As she talked of Joshua and Caleb's faith the story was building in my heart again, am I doing what I should be doing or is there more? And then the answer came.

This faith, this life, our lives are to be spent for the Gospel, for the souls of men!

"We are at war and the prize is faith! There is nothing more damaging to hell! If God is real then let's go take the land. It isn't in the measure of our faith. It is in the measure of our immeasurable God!" -Jennie Allen

Friends, this is the stuff of daily living! This is not only the big adventure to do big things in the eyes of people. It is opening your mouth to your co-worker, your classmate, your roommate, your mom, your brother, those with whom you are in contact every day. Every normal, mundane day of your life is the actual battle!

I often believe the lie that my life is small, but I am living out my faith with my family and church in Tucson, AZ where 90% of the people are unchurched. Another level of freedom came to me during Jennie's message yesterday. The battle is for the souls of the people in my every day life. In head knowledge I know this truth. Now I'm asking God to make it a reality in the experiential knowledge of my soul. If I am not willing to fight the daily battle then I am no true warrior. Ann Voskamp summed it up at the end of the night perfectly for me as she led us in confession. Forgive me for wanting a calling bigger than my character.

Jesus, help me, help us be faithful with the few. Help me battle in the everyday. Let my character run deep. Let me long for you so much more than I long to do work for you.

Increase our faith. Please do many mighty works among us because our faith pleases you!

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What challenges your faith? Who do you need to tell about Jesus? Have you considered the measure of your character compared to the calling you desire? 

May rich blessings of faith grow in your heart as you do what He's asked you to do!