Monday, March 14, 2011

Go BIG or go HOME?

AJ and I have been hoping and praying that through time and trust, God will show us how he wants us to specifically live out his love together, not only to each other, but to the world around us. How can we make a difference? How can we gear our lives to do significant, kingdom works?

Growing up, and especially in my adult life, I've heard several different perspectives, both Biblical, about living out a life that "runs and finishes the race." One message is that of radical trust. Seeking to do big things that are out of the norm, requiring much sacrifice, and great trust in God to come through. I'm sure you've heard it: something like- "Pray for things that only God can do." or "God equips the called, he doesn't call the equipped." This idea would really ring strong in my ear during times of missional service, conferences or seminars, or while reading an article which broadened my world view or awareness. My heart strings were pulled. I'd see examples of people using their creativities, or just a dream, and plunging into uncertain situations with nothing trumping their surrender. I would think, "I can't live my life without finding one of these causes and doing something about it. These people get it. I want to get it, and not lose sight.

There's also the semi-opposite perspective. It is one of steadfast endurance and submission to the Lordship of Christ in daily situations and relationships. Seeking to make an impact in the "mission field" around you. Seeking the humility of day-to-day opportunities to serve and respond, rather than the "platform" of a rare and noteworthy way of life. I've heard people say that this best models the ministry of Jesus as a whole. Maybe the big and radical thing is more the Potter trying to make His clay soft; to make us do something rather than nothing. Who knows.

We visited a church last week where local and North American missions were being emphasized throughout the service. Statistics and ideas were being shared. Several video testimonies were shown of young couples who had decided to invest in local causes, specifically local orphan adoption and another couple, foster parenting. Both couples shared that after much prayer, this was the way God was leading them to build the kingdom in "East Cobb." I was encouraged because this seemed like a perfect balance of the big and small. It's a pretty BIG thing to adopt a child, locally or internationally. It's also crazy big to begin to foster parent without children of your own. But it's SMALL in this way: they didn't start a business, or a non-profit. They didn't sell all they had to go to a new place. They found a system (in reference to foster parenting) that is full of opportunity. A broken system sometimes, but a system set up to achieve a great purpose. And they joined it. They are going to love and keep children and raise them up in the training of the Lord. Super cool.

Even though the speaker at this church left us with the "do BIG things, or your life won't be remembered" spill, I left with a heart that just wants to be willing. A little confused on which side I lean on? Yes. Curious as to which type of picture my life will paint? Sure. But I talked to my heart: I don't have to have a clear picture of how we will impact the kingdom as a couple, a family. I do want to pray a willing prayer on a regular basis. I want to be ready for God. I so don't want to miss what He is doing!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Polar Express Analogy

Polar Express is one of our favorite Christmas movies. I got to watch it again at school this year on Polar Express day, and I realized some neat parallels between the Santa character and Christ. That alone may sound cheesy if you know someone who is constantly making spiritual parallels and stretching situations just to do so. But for me, it doesn't happen as often as for some. I have to pray for God to reveal himself to me in day to day situations. It's just one of those things. So I got excited when I started putting some pieces together. :)

The scene that got me thinking was when the boy (nameless), after being skeptical and full of questions, decided to simply believe in Santa. Up to this point in the movie, he hadn't tried to pretend to believe. He stayed fairly quiet and soaked up everything he saw on his "journey" that started with the train ride. In this moment, though, he had seen enough, and wanted to experience what the others got to experience-- hearing the bells and getting to see and interact with Santa. He saw a bell on the ground, picked it up, closed his eyes tightly, and said, "I believe." At that moment, the scene jumps to Santa, who all of a sudden, in the middle of the noise of the elves and the music, seems to hear what the boy says. He makes his way through the crowd, and approaches the boy from behind. Meanwhile, the boy discovered that he could now hear the bell when he shook it. As he stilled his bell, he saw the reflection of Santa's smiling face behind him. From that moment, Santa reached out to the boy specifically. He had the elves escort him to the sleigh in celebration. He sat with the boy on the sleigh and asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and then sent him on his way with the conductor and the other children on the train. In response to a small step of faith, Santa pursued the boy and welcomed him into his world. He communicated with the boy. Both this, and hearing the bell, affirmed the boy's step of faith.

At this point in the movie, I was wishing Santa would have let the boy stay on the sleigh, so he could enjoy the ride, which would make for a good parallel for Christ being with us here on earth until we meet him in heaven. The crazy "ride" of the Christian life of trusting God and letting him lead us in the midst of tragedy, uncertainty, and disbelief.

But Santa leaves the boy in the trusted care of the conductor to take him home. The conductor, as each child boarded the train to go home, punched a word in each of their tickets- something that they could either improve in-- "Humility", or something they were good, "Leadership" was the little girl's word. Or something they could grow in or do more of-- "Believe" was the little boy's word.

It seems as though the conductor is sort of acting like the role of the Holy Spirit. He lead the boy to Santa, just like the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus- not only in our initial realizations that lead to accepting and believing, but over and over when we run from Him and try to live self-reliantly. The conductor also didn't answer every question directly. No explanation needed there. :) And when he took the boy home from his journey, he encouraged him specifically. He affirmed some, and convicted others, according to what they needed at that time. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit does for us. One experience shared by others in the body of Christ can teach many unique lessons, personal lessons and encouragements from God to remind us that we are known and cared for.

When the boy returns to his house, he opens a special gift on Christmas morning. It is the bell which he lost at some point during his interactions with Santa during the night. This gift reassured him that Santa was real and he wanted the boy to continue to believe. Just like this, the Lord gives us little reminders that He is still real and alive in the middle of a world where disbelief and mockery are more popular than faith and discipleship. Specific conversations with other believers, tears shared over a common struggle, scripture brining peace to a situation. These are all our little gifts from God to keep trusting Him.

All of this happened for me while sitting in a squatty student chair in the middle of a 1st grade classroom. It was one of God's ways of receiving glory in the middle of the season which so easily gets clouded and busy before our intentions of stopping to adore Him first can become realities.

I hope for more of these little analogies throughout my days. It's quite refreshing, and definitely a gift from above.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've been able to take some time this week in the middle of wedding planning to do some leisure reading, and it has done my mind and heart good. (I sat in on a video bible study recently where the point was made that if our minds aren't engaged, they become bored, and are more likely to think sinfully, or turn small things big, being destructive to ourselves and those around us. Great point. I want to keep my mind active.)

In reading some challenging articles in Relevant, and humorous paragraphs from Stuff Christians Like, I began to think about how often we live in "extremes" to avoid being perceived as whatever it is we don't want to be. I'm pretty passionate about noticing when people go to the "extreme" because I feel like deep down, it is a fear issue, and a crowd-pleasing issue. I'm also passionate about it because it is personal to me. I have a tendency to BE this pleaser, this person who has, many times, tried super hard to not be "seen" as one way by going the total opposite way. These thoughts are not to criticize as much as they are to question why and ponder the effects of this "image preserving" strategy.

The crowd could be your fellow church-goers, the person you want to notice you as a pursuable mate, or any number of people or people groups whose approval you seek. Here are some personal examples, and then some spiritual/church culture examples.


You don't want to be seen as needy, so you put up walls and don't know how to depend on someone.
You don't want to seem bossy, so you over-apologize in case someone has been pushed around a little too much by someone that day.
You don't want to seem inconsiderate, so you verbalize total willingness to rearrange your plans to accommodate someone else when they are the ones who can't keep their plans.
You don't want to seem thoughtless or passionless, so you engage often in intense conversation about current topics (but don't plan to do anything about your strong opinion.)

(Honest insert: I'm pretty aware that these fears come from the fact that when people do these things to me, I judge them and think wrongly of them, so to avoid those judgments from others, I run hard from what I quickly judge. One thing I've learned about myself is that being a pleaser stems from being a judger. To say I am a pleaser is a nice way of saying I am a manipulator of reactions perceptions so people don't have room to be as critical as I typically am.)

Church Culture

Don't want an empty salvation prayer, so you do away with altar-calls or invitations all together.
Don't want the worship of your congregation to be strictly emotional (lacking in truth or conviction), so you keep the drums light, the hymns frequent, and words like "Hillsong" or "lights" or "new song" make you cringe.
Don't want to be a distraction in worship, so the thought of allowing our body to reflect our heart's response to God is so squashed (through extreme/cautious upbringing) that lifting a hand actually DOES seem intentional rather than a response because of how stifled you've been.

(It's the debate: How would we worship in Spirit and truth if there were no limitations or expectations put on us from day 1 until now? Aside from heaven, I don't think we'll ever know. Would we be MORE weepy by nature if emotion wasn't so criticized and viewed as a sign of immaturity or lacking spiritual disciplines? Would we dance freely and naturally to worship music if it wasn't associated with charismatic experiences where scripture wasn't obeyed? Would we speak in scriptures and songs more often if we didn't have TV, movies, radio, i-tunes, blogs, secular self-help books, that define and decide our norm of spoken language? (That's an easy one.) Would our prayer-closet worship look different, therefor our corporate worship? Has the latter shaped the former?)

Don't want to seem cheesy in the beginning of a dating relationship, so you avoid talking about the things that matter, like boundaries, testimony, life goals, and values?
Don't want the youth group kids to lose interest or stop showing up, so you cut your teaching time to 8 minutes, and keep it on topics like "Friendship" and "Obeying your parents" rather than the gospel.

As I ponder on why we act this way (FEAR of being misunderstood, misrepresented, or judged, or fear of misrepresenting Jesus and the joy He gives), I can only conclude that it's a selfish, narrow-minded way of approaching the world around you. It's not leaving any room for others to make a decision based on the truth (or for God to take our efforts and flaws and turn them into His glory). It is only allowing them to make decisions or opinions based on a manipulated portrayal, which sits on a shaky hope of being taken as the thing you are acting out so diligently. :) There's so much room in the middle of it all to forget who you are, and the motive seems hardly justified.

I think the only thing that will cause people (or churches) to find the balance in the middle of the extremes is to be just as hurt or frustrated by the opposite extreme as you were from the idea of the extreme you did not want to be.

I know this because it's happened to me. It's happened through steady, intentional relationship with people who see how hard I work to not be something, that it destroys who I am in the process, and insults the way God made me, and the process he's taking me through to make me holy. It shows a huge lack of trust in God's ability to love and provide for me in my weakness.

I'm trying to let God be the potter of the clay. It's difficult. It's scary, because your clay may not look like someone else wants it to. Or like you think someone else wants it to look to approve it. But it has been and can be liberating.

What extremes are you living in, and what are their motives? How can you crack them?

Friday, January 1, 2010

when in doubt, remember well

i've wanted to update my blog for a while now. my last one was written in june of 2009. lots of life has happened for me since then--many great things, many awesome and unforseen changes, and many joys that i feel are definitely worthy of expression. one of them is that i am engaged to be married to the most amazing man of God i know. :) aj and i are planning a wedding for june of this year and are so excited and thankful for God's sovereign hand in bringing us together in the special way that He did. i reckon we may start a blog for our wedding (or for our life together!) some time soon, though he is not much of a blogger. a writer, expresser, communicator? yes. an excellent one. but he doesn't feel the need to share his ponders with the world like i do. and so....we'll see how that goes. :)

so back to wanting to write. i've tried to analyze and figure out why i haven't taken time, or even had a slight urge, to blog through some of my big and joyous moments over the last six months. i've come to the conclusion that i write best, and desire to put it on paper (or on screen) way more when i am going through a trial or difficulty of some kind. the difficulty hasn't always been the topic of my writing, but it leads me to write. i think that is the only way i can explain to myself why i haven't written in some more recent times. not that there aren't challenges placed before me during these times: they're there.....but not the kind that cause my heart to need a release.

switching gears a little bit (but it all relates in my mind, because i'm true to the stereotype of a 'all things run together like spaghetti' woman), i like that i can look back through my journals and blogs and be reminded of what God was teaching me and how He was changing me. i was listening to a sermon online this morning by Brent @ In Focus Church and his main point was how important it is to REMEMBER the things God has done, and specific things about who He is, to carry us through difficult times when we may easily feel tossed by the wind, confused by emotion, mislead by "signs" and assumptions, or just plain discouraged and down. i find myself sometimes quickly forgetting the specific workings of God's spirit in my life, the specific ways He showed His faithfulness during a time of doubt, and i like Brent's challenge to actively remember God and remember truths about him to keep us grounded in what's important when we think through decisions or respond to hardships.

as 2010 begins, i want to actively remember God and His unwavering friendship and guidance in my life.
i may or may not blog about what i'm going through, or what i'm learning throughout this year. i'm not sure why i actually buckled down today to even write this one, but we'll see.

i am ok with not having a plan. :)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Lately I've noticed how much our culture (or maybe just those who are around 30 and under) is content with the illusion of company. For instance, I'm bored sitting at home by myself, so I decide to twitter and let the world know what I'm doing or thinking. All 40 of them. :) Or I'm waiting at a doctor's office, and I'm not interested in flipping through magazines. So I get online on my phone, read an email, read a blog, check my facebook notifications, text a few people I haven't heard from in a few hours, and I feel a little more content with the time I've had to wait. As if I've spent my time actually interacting with someone.

But the truth is, I have not. I have only been occupied (not interacting) with something that is not alive, breathing, emotional, feeling, or loving. I have allowed its substitute, a mere representation of a person (if on a social network) to be enough. And I have allowed the exposure and expression of my own self to take the place of real scheduled encounters with people I call friends.

Is there a healthy guilt that should come with recognizing this substitution? I think so. We all like to find justifications for it, claiming that we spend as much time on the phone or in person with those who really matter to us as we would without these networks, but I'm not sure that is true. I'm pretty sure my phone would be ringing more, or I would be calling people way more to find out about their lives, if the world wide web didn't already provide us such an easy way to stalk people and stay in-the-know, without them ever knowing.

I like how Brent makes points and gives truths in his sermons by saying what things are NOT, and then what they ARE. So I'm going to list things that are NOT company, they are only an illusion. Just something to occupy our time. Think about how often we are tricked.

Things that don't make great company (how rude):


Things that make great company:


Sunday, June 21, 2009

far from home

Lately my heart has been comforted by the fact that this earth is not my home. We know it, we sing about heaven, but I know I'm one of the ones who doesn't usually live like it. My heart typically responds more passionately to the things that I will be leaving behind instead of the One I will be with forever. And I have been challenged lately to reverse this way of responding to life and to circumstances.

I wanted to post some lyrics to two songs that have spoken true of this fact: that our existence on earth will not ever be fully resolved, and that is how it is meant to be. 1 Peter 2:11 refers to us as "aliens and strangers in the world". On days where I have felt a longing for more, a discontent with the way I am, or the way sin affects our existence, I have embraced this part of God's plan, with these lyrics helping me.

If I find in myself
Desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude
That I, I was not made for here

If the flesh that I fight
Is at best only light and momentary,
Then of course I'll feel nude
When to where I'm destined I'm compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
As I wait for hope to come for me

C.S. Lewis Song by Brooke Fraser

Soon and very soon my King is coming
Robed in righteousness and crowned with love
When I see Him I shall be made like Him
Soon and very soon

Soon and very soon I"ll be going
To the place He has prepared for me
There my sin erased, my shame forgotten
Soon and very soon

I will be with the One I love
With unveiled face I'll see Him
There my soul will be satisfied
Soon and very soon

Soon by Hillsong United

Friday, June 12, 2009

how far i haven't come

i realized, recently, that much of my spiritual turmoil, 99% of the time, can be traced back to eve and the original sin.

reluctance, fear, impatience, hesitation, and manipulation are things (i've started to notice) i portray when it comes to my response or approach to God and decisions that present themselves to me. big and small. i also portray these things in relationships around me and as it is being revealed to me, i relate to our first lady.

these things are all rooted in sin. the very sin eve committed: wanting to KNOW. eve wanted to know good and evil. she thought that knowing these things would make her like God in her knowledge.

i'm not sure i consciously have thoughts of wanting to be like God (in the way eve did), but i definitely am way too driven by thoughts of wanting to know. wanting to know... WHEN? WHY? WHO? HOW? WHAT DO I NEED TO DO? HOW CAN I HELP?

the frequency in which these questions arise demonstrates that at least part of me thinks that God needs my help. that i need to be in charge. and if i'm not in charge, i somehow am driven by the desire to at least know something until i can be in charge. sick.

God has been teaching me submission lately. that it really is part of His plan for me to never fully know His plan! sometimes it's painful to see areas where i am the most weak, and need the most help, and this is one of them. i can't submit to friends, family, authority, wisdom, and a future spouse, if i am not actively submitting to God in my daily worries, decisions, and aspirations. roof off (me and God). walls down (me and others).

it's no coincidence that Brent preached Sunday on the topic of "the art of waiting." it was so timely and convicting. as i aspire to be more purposeful (and less anxious) in waiting, i know that God will continue to guide me and give me humility to submit and trust.