Who We Are in Light of Who He Is :: And a Giveaway

Tuesday, May 23, 2017  ::   23 important comments

Through the years I've grown in self-awareness and understanding. I believe it is good, wise, and honorable to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can better serve God and love people. For example, how can I love people in the way they need love if I'm not aware that I can be an 'energetic' nurturer? (Some say smother, but I say mother.) Or if I am unaware of the intensity of my faith, maybe I sound like a raving lunatic instead of a compassionate, bold Jesus-follower? Knowing who we are and what we believe increases our ability to love and serve.

However, a main point of contention I have with those who seek self-help, self-improvement, and even self-awareness is what or who is your plumb line? If I only grow and measure myself against myself, my awareness is nebulous and/or self-serving. If I grow and measure myself against others then I always succeed or always fail, and the measurements result in self-gratification or self-loathing. 

What are we to do? 

Theology, the study of the nature of God, is the answer. In the last 20 years, I've surrendered to the fact that knowing who God is enables me to know who I am. His grace to us tells us in his Word that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that he will complete the good work he started in us, and that he is transforming us into his very image. Whether we seek to know what this means or not, he will work in us because he is faithful and he doesn't break his promises. But, if the Creator of the universe is changing you into his image, don't you think it would help to know who he is? Hence, theology. 

Here's the truth, friends. I'm not an intellectual. But, I am a learner, child-like when I get excited about a new to me concept, and a reader (a slow reader, but a reader nonetheless.) I am not someone who can sit around and debate theology. Heck, I can't really debate anything. I feel deeply about God, life, and love. I can most certainly tell you what I believe and why I believe it. However, I continue to need help in learning deep truths about God in my head and heart. I've read quite a few theology books all the while weighing what I'm learning with scripture and talking them out with Chad and friends. 

Good theology books will be full of scripture, and not just one off verses to support their claims. I'm continually on the search for strong-willed, intelligent, fierce women who love God and his word. You all know I love Beth Moore. I recently finished Entrusted, her study on 2 Timothy and it blew my mind. If you choose to do this study, please, please go through the video teachings, too. Many of you also know mentoring relationships for women in Second Mile begin with Wendy Alsup's book Practical Theology for Women. (I have copies in my office if you'd like to buy one.) I read her blog regularly. The woman knows her Bible. 

A year or two ago, I discovered Jen Wilkin. She's quickly become a woman I respect and wish I could know personally. Two of her books were on my shelf for awhile, but my reading list was so long I never got to them. At my suggestion, Morgan, Carah, and their friend, Nevaeh, recently started reading None Like Him with their youth leader, Corrie. I wanted to know what they were reading and be able to discuss with them as they read, so I picked it up, too. Jen had me at the first sentence of the introduction: 

"If you had told me five years ago that I would one day write a book for Christian women that led off with a quote from Proverbs 31, I probably would have punched you in the face." 

Doesn't that sound like someone who could be my bestie?

In the book, Jen describes ten attributes that only belong to God and shows how we humans seek to mimic these attributes. I'm reading this book slowly, devotional style, so I can take it all in. As I read each chapter, my awe of who he is increases and my own conviction grows as I see how I try to put myself in his place. Do you want to truly know yourself? Then get to know God! Do you want to find comfort in his magnificence? Then know how to name these attributes and what they actually mean!

I had no idea how much I would love this book, but I certainly do. Also, it's super easy to read so that's a bonus. Jen takes deep concepts and writes about them in a way that isn't alienating and/or frustrating. This book is for everyone. Men, it's for you, too. I recently read a comment by a pastor who is taking his whole staff through it. Jen also had this to say about a different book she wrote, but it applies here, as well: "FAQ: "Is there a book like Women of the Word aimed at men?" Not that I'm aware, but the concepts aren't "pink". Just rip off the cover, bro." Wisdom and sass make me so happy. 

Do you need a fresh perspective on who God is and who you are in light of him? Do you need to freshen up your time with your mentee? Are you wanting a good summer read? Would you like to go through a good book with some friends or your community group? Are you curious because I keep telling you it's that good? I've got some good news for you! I believe in this book so much that I bought 20 of them. For eight bucks, you can pick one up this Sunday or make arrangements to stop by my office to pick one up during the week. (I'll order more when the time comes. I plan to keep these on hand.)
I would love for many of us to be mulling over these ten characteristics that only belong to our great God. It will deepen our faith which will deepen our conversations which will deepen our relationships which will deepen our church which will deepen our desire to talk about him to people who don't yet know him. Beautiful. 

To make things interesting I'm going to do a little giveaway. Leave a comment below with a chance to win a copy of this book AND a $30 gift card to Amazon. Obviously, if you win I don't want you to use the $30 on a new swimsuit or cardamom, but I can't control your purchases. Just remember, I love books. I can easily recommend ways for you to spend $30 on great books if you don't know where to start. Leave a comment and I'll choose a winner in a week or so. 

Let's spend the upcoming summer slowing down a bit, reading a good book or two, and getting to know God more and more so he can show us who we are in him. Self-awareness at it's finest. 

Tripping around the Sun

Thursday, April 20, 2017  ::   3 important comments

The gray wings above my temples continue to spread like no one cares. But secretly I care. Some days they look like wisdom to me and some days they look like the dirty pigeons that hang out on my fence I want to pop with a BB gun.

The laugh lines around my eyes prove I'm experientially learning what it means to be clothed with strength and dignity and to laugh without fear of the future. Last year I didn't feel much like laughing, but the depth of learning that took place in my heart certainly wrapped my drooping shoulders in unknown strength. Maybe the gray wings and laugh lines visibly expose the depth of dignity God sows into my life with each trip around the sun. 
The photos in this post were taken on the various hikes I took over this last year. 
Thankfully and humbly, God wired me to perceive the needs of others. Sometimes he even allows me to see ways in which I can help. My love for God and for people runs like a raging river. In times past, I've been able to stay on the Holy Spirit raft with a few trusted people who help me navigate the relational rapids. Unbeknownst to me, my raft had taken on too much water of meeting all the needs of all the people in all the world. 

Last year at this time I bailed out of the flooding raft with an angry vengeance. Expectations plagued me. Of myself. Of family's. Of other people's, perceived and/or real. Even of God's, or at least, the case I had built on his behalf

Words can't express the suffocation I felt. (I know some of you know the feeling.) Not only could I not meet all the expectations, I resented everyone, who I believed, thought I was failing. 

My false perceptions were thick, but what kept me under water was my inability to perceive they were false. 

I couldn't keep up with Chad's ministry pace.  

I couldn't help women understand God's love for them, let alone my love for them. 

I couldn't change people's wrong perceptions of me in "having it all together."  

I couldn't meet my own expectations of what I thought I should be able to do. 

I couldn't even meet your expectations, whoever you are. Believe me, I thought about it. 

All the things I knew to do in "counseling" myself seemed to fail.  
In a last ditch effort to gain some perspective so that I didn't torch my life and all my relationships, I went to see an actual counselor. I spent much of the year pouring over scripture, asking God to help me believe. I hiked many miles in solitude and silence, pondering expectations, shoulds, woulds, and coulds. Chad and I had long, crucial conversations. I forced myself to bail water out of my raft, and in humility, gave a bucket to a few people because I needed help. 

It actually began to work. Honestly, I was shocked because I had tried to fix it all by myself, but couldn't... the ugly, revolving door of self-expectations. But, He didn't lie when he told us that he will be faithful to complete the work started in us. What a relief! 

Through pruning and abiding in Christ, my 43rd year of life took me on a journey to a deeper understanding of what I already knew to be true. I am finitely finite, unable to meet my own or other's expectations. To walk in it is freeing. To trust the people closest to me when they say their expectations of me are to love God, to laugh, and to have fun with them: Easy. To let go of the expectations people have of me that I can't meet is also freeing, but it is a difficult choice I continually ask God to help me make. 
I've discovered a few things: 

Chad doesn't want me to keep up with his ministry pace, whatever that means. He wants me to love God with my whole heart and to be his companion. He cheers for me as we live out our lives side by side. He's secure so he never feels threatened by me when I'm full throttle zealous and passionate. He's kind and compassionate so he encourages me to rest, disengage, and even take naps. We make a crazy good team. 

I can't take women by the face and force them to look at Jesus' love. It may surprise you but this is an ineffective strategy for mentoring and discipleship. I can point to scripture, but I can't make anyone read it. I can tell you I love you and I'm doing the best I know how, but it may still hurt us both from time to time. Whether or not women I lead allow me to fail sometimes is not mine to hold. Because I'm surely going to fail, but it doesn't mean I don't love. 

I can't make anyone believe or accept my apologies when I screw up as a leader. I can't make people stay and work out relational reconciliation. All I can do is walk humbly, love wholly, and apologize when necessary. People's expectations can be fair and unfair, but I can't bend either way. I must keep on my raft with scripture, truth, and love. Right, wrong, or crazy. I will be all three on any given day. It's not about me or you. 

Here is one of the hardest lessons of all for me: It's not always my fault. Do you know how easy it is for me to get out of conflict by simply taking the blame so we can move on? I'm asking God to grow true humility in me which means getting rid of the false humility of being the relational doormat. 
The heavens declaring the glory of God. Psalm 19
The deeper sense of strength and dignity with which I am starting out my 44th year feels content, joyful, and hopeful. My gray wings and laugh lines point to a journey up some serious mountains. I have a better understanding of who I am. God truly wired me to intuit people's emotions, needs, and sometimes even their motives. I'm grateful for this gift. With this gift, I'm surrendering with greater trust that he is the Need Meeter, the Life Fixer, the People Lover. I'm a jar of clay that carries around his all surpassing power in my life through the Holy Spirit. I used to say that I know it is his power and not mine. After this year, I know this more fully. I'm believing next year I'll know it even more. And the next year. And the next year. And the next year... 

I laugh at the days to come with courage. 

With each trip around the sun, deeper still, faith, hope, and love. 
The sky above proclaiming his handiwork. Psalm 19 
 What are you learning? How are you being pruned as you abide? What is your favorite passage of scripture right now? Can you guess mine?

Preparation and Expectation

Wednesday, January 11, 2017  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

My good friend, Nate, gave the message during Second Mile's weekly gathering this week and challenged us all to prepare our hearts for the coming Week of Prayer and Fasting (January 22-29.) I wanted to cheer when he read Proverbs 24:27, saying he was asking God to build a house of prayer out of our body.

"Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house." Proverbs 24:27 (emphasis added)

I hunger for God to build our church into a house of prayer, and I also want to be a watchman waiting and ready for him to do what he will do. If I am going to be ready, then I must prepare and strengthen my weak knees and drooping hands.

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:12-13

All of Hebrews chapter 12 is worth a read in terms of preparation. Here are a few highlights:

  • We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that have run before us. 
  • Throw off sin so you can run with perseverance. 
  • Look to Jesus who is perfecting our faith. 
  • Consider Jesus so you do not grow faint or weary. 
  • Discipline produces endurance to pursue holiness.  
  • God's kingdom can't be shaken.
  • Offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. 
  • He is a consuming fire. 

Apart from reading Hebrews chapter 12, let me share a few more ways I'm preparing for the coming week of prayer and fasting with the hope of helping and challenging you. Sometimes I'm practical to a fault, so when leaders tell us to do this or that, I'm often left wanting someone to tell me how. Let this encourage you in the how. 

Here is a list of ways I'm preparing my heart for the week of prayer and fasting: 

~ I'm regularly reading Isaiah 58 to remind myself about the type of fast that God desires. If you aren't sure where to start, use this passage. It shouldn't surprise you much that I'm telling you to start with God's word. Why in the world would we ever begin with our own thoughts or someone else's thoughts? 

~ Nate talked about spending time searching our hearts to "get rid of our junk" which is necessary. I know I'm only scratching the surface of my heart at this point. In the past, going without food inevitably makes me more hungry for God which makes me more open to hear from him which is when the inner scum really comes to the surface. I consider these next few days the tidying up of my heart so I can be ready for the deep cleaning I don't even know I need. I promise it's way better than it sounds. Even in a deep heart cleaning, his kindness leads us to repentance. 

~ As a church we spent 41 weeks of the last year in 1 Corinthians. The prayer guide is being written with 1 Corinthians as a backbone, so I'm reading over my notes to remind myself of the richness of what we learned as a body and what I learned as an individual. 

~ I'm reading Prayer by Timothy Keller, an excellent book. I highly recommend it. In the book he refers to many psalms of prayer. I'm trying to read them and take them in as I go. 

~ This step is very practical. I've started to shrink my stomach. A friend of mine posted something about leaving "the eating season" which perfectly describes November and December for me. Instead of going cold turkey, I'm lessening portions and snacking which may not necessarily make it easier to not eat, but it is making me mindful of what it means to prepare. 

~ I'm also asking God how long he wants me to fast. Have you ever considered asking God point blank how many days he wants you to fast? What if you've fasted the whole week in the past, but this year he would like you to add a day or two? Or what if you are hell bent on the rules and status quo of a literal week and he would like you to fast for only part of the week? If you ask and don't hear a specific number, have no fear. Trust the leadership of Second Mile and fast for the set aside time. 

~ Finally, I'm asking God to prepare my heart. Simple as that. As I pray for preparation, I'm also asking him to fill me with hopeful expectation of his kingdom come and of eternity with him. Make no mistake, I'm not laying any demands in front of God. I'm simply asking him to come and commune with me, Chad, my kids, and my friends (you) in a beautiful, life-giving, himself glorifying way. This is all for him after all. It isn't about us, although, in his goodness, we certainly benefit. I pray he increases my hunger for him and his return above all things. 

Have you started the preparation process? Do you have any other ways you are preparing? I would love to learn from you. 

On your mark, get set... 

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