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Archive for the ‘God’s will’ Category

Last night, our pastor challenged us to learn to live wisely, to make the most out of every opportunity.

Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (Colossians 4:2).

This morning, during the church service, I met my first opportunity since receiving the challenge.  Strange isn’t it? That sometimes our greatest opportunity to serve isn’t sitting in a chair at church absorbing the teachable moments of a sermon, or even, to be beside our brothers and sisters in a state of worship…

I have called you into relationship with me and to draw others into relationship with me, says the Lord.

My first opportunity? To calm a sister’s anxiety as she and her husband depart from our church, move to another state, and begin their search for a new church to claim home.

I never realized how clear of a process I have in searching out and claiming ‘this is right’ at a church–developed through my traveled friendships, years, states, and countries.

The framework.  Since the first week of dating, Stephen and I have used a triangle as our framework for our relationship and for everything that flows into, through, and out of our relationship.  The inner triangle symbolizes submit, surrender, together, and the outer triangle symbolizes the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In every decision we make, we check ourselves and one another:

  • Are we submitted to one another?
  • Are we submitted to Christ?
  • Are we surrendering our own will to the will of God?
  • Are we acting in the best interest of our togetherness?

Each of which requires us to die to self, believe that what God has for us is far better than what we could claim for ourselves, and lean into what He has together. From there, we are then able to elaborate in our discussion:

  • Are we favoring a Person, attribute, or characteristic of God and neglecting the whole being of God?
    • For instance, Stephen experiences Christ as His Teacher and example most.  Whereas, I experience God’s presence through the Holy Spirit most.  Our Spiritual giftings even support the development in us by studying Christ Jesus and by sitting with the Spirit of God.  But in making decisions, in pursuing ministry of any sort, we must be mindful of the growth we will pursue in honoring who God is in all 3 Persons and in what He does through the people around us?

Once the framework is set for making decisions, the discussion should be relevant to what honors God and relationship with Jesus and other, rather than meeting our own preferences.

We hear, or at least I’ve heard, a lot about the dangers of preferences in selecting churches.  This worry is twofold.  On one hand, God designed each of the 7 billion people walking on this earth with unique characteristics and desires.  We have God-given, God-honoring desires.  The second part is that our desires can be self-fulfilling desires in which we seek to act out our own will, not the will of God.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:13).

If we truly are surrendering what is in our interest and pursuing what is the will of God, AND we are truly submitting to Christ and our spouse, AND we are pursuing a common goal together, preferences should exist no more.  The desires relating to preaching, worship, fellowship, and all aspects of ‘church’ end up being about honoring God.  For different individuals and different couples, the answer to their search will be different.

Why? God has created and called each of us in unique ways to unique places, people, and opportunities.

Keeping the framework in mind and in remaining prayerful, consider these next steps…

  1. Reach out to pastors and church associations that have challenged you, grown you, and minister well to their direct and global communities.  Be bold enough to ask for help.  Allow others to guide your journey.
  2. Do the research.  Online we have access to sermons, connect opportunities, ministries and mission opportunities, missions and beliefs of the church.  Through your research, narrow down the list of possibilities to 5 churches.
  3. Listen, study, and pray. Allow the ministries to minister to you.  Begin to really recognize is this a church, a leader, a ministry that seems emotionally healthy or unhealthy?
    • Notice–in the sermon archive–how many church leaders preach throughout the year.  Is it the same man every week? If so, does he take a sabbatical and allow other leaders to rise up in shepherding and teaching the congregation?
      • Burnout is dangerous for leaders, the church who follow, and the community they minister to
    • Is Truth being preached?
      • We have capital T Truth and lower t truth.   Theology is the study of God.  God does not change; He remains the same.  Theology continues to take shape with numerous perspectives, helping us understand who God is in the vastness of His expression.  Theology should bring us to our knees in awe of who He is, not be a blade to dismember our brothers seeking after knowledge, awareness, and experience of God’s relation to them. We must be careful to enter a church examining the presentation and application of God’s Word by what is True rather than man’s opinion of truth.
      • The Gospel message–capital T Truth–should always be clear and preached often. If you are alarmed by how a church speaks about salvation matters, it probably isn’t the right church for you to grow or minister, but if the preacher simply has different opinions about what is not explicitly said in Scripture, there is room for compromise and discernment within the congregation.
      • Is the pastor speaking of his own accord or from God’s Word?  Are small groups a time of gossip, catching up, or is there also a deep reverence for growing in understanding and application of God’s Word?
    • Pray. Pray. And pray together.  Narrow your search to three.
  4. Attend.  I have a biased toward churches which utilize spiritual gift inventories in their Next Step meetings so that each member serving the congregation is in a position to strengthen the Body.  Again, if each of the 7 billion people on earth is unique, we have unique distributions of who God is and His abilities in each of us.  Still, it remains a bias.  The truth, and the areas to consider in your initial visiting a church are as follows…
    • How does the body function as a whole? 
      • Spiritual gifts. The Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another, the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.  He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have…But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11,18).
        • We have no need for a prophet to serve in a capacity where we would benefit most from someone whom the Spirit gifted the ability to give wise advice; likewise, we would not want to limit our church body from the urgent truths the prophet has been gifted to share.
        • Closer to home, it would seem as though my giftings of faith and intercession would provide the confidence of faith to pray for the supernatural to occur before my eyes when I pray, nonetheless, I do not have the gifting of miracles.  Others in my church serve us better in praying with belief in supernatural occurrences amidst our body.
        • Administrators are gifted with the ability to see needs and find resources to meet the needs.  Are they functioning to keep the church leaders from doing too much?
        • Are there intercessors praying that God would be revealed through the pastor’s message, that His healing would be made known in worship, and in fellowship, are His children delighting amidst God and His family?
        • Are there apostles and wise counsel overseeing the pastor (and other pastors)–is he held accountable to other church leaders?
        • Are their faithful givers in the church empowering ministry through their offerings?
        • There are twenty-five or so spiritual giftings divided into four categories-sign, communication, leadership, and practical– are they utilized in the functioning of the church body?
      • Family.
        • God calls us children. See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
        • And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).
        • My dear brothers and sister (James 5:7,10,12,19)
        • Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results (James 5:16)
        • As you look around and hear the conversations around you, are brothers and sisters amidst the body sharing life with one another, inviting one another to pray through their trials and celebrate in their victories?  Are the members real with one another and with depth?  Is it clear that Family gets messy, but that through the mess, they stick together?
    • What else to look for?
      • It may sound indecent but look for signs of vulnerability.
        • I don’t consider volume in worship or the knowledge of the pastor or the lifting of hands to be indicators of the health of a church.  All of those are conditions of thinking and behaving that can be practiced and ‘perfected’ to mask the real condition, but they can also be conditions of thinking or behavior surrendered and practiced to honor God.  There is little way to tell at first.
        • Rather, I look for such evidence of transparency amidst the congregation as an influx in the voice and tears–which indicate sincerity, as the expression of inner workings is visible to others in the church and may be an invitation for other to walk alongside, pray with, and celebrate individual deliverances.
        • Where is the pastor’s family? Church plants have a set of limitations, often requiring the pastor’s wife to be serving in children’s ministry, perhaps.  But if you’re visiting a prominent church, watch for the wife and the children.  Does she seem to have a voice in the relationship? Does he take the time to lead his family before he leads the church?  Do his kids seem to respect and know their father–an indication of his presence and intentionality with them in the home?
        • Diversity. Who is welcome at the church and who stays?  Consider ages, nationalities, genders, marital status, socio-economic status, any and all populations represented in the community the church serves.
  5. Remember to submit, surrender, together as you abide in God the Father, Christ Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit.
    • Don’t give up.  Remember God wants you in relationship with Him and with His children.  Remain persistent in the search, in the prayer, and in the commitment.
    • Pray and together discern what God has purposed each of you to do–the action involved in honoring God with your living.  Consider the purposes of each of the churches you’ve experienced and make the decision that best honors self, other, and God.
    • Practice allowing needs (what God asks you or your spouse to) to outweigh wants (preferences) in your decision making.  And consider, if the church doesn’t meet a need right now, “is God calling us to bear this burden and bring ____ to the church?”  If it isn’t an ask from God, it’ll most likely be a burden to heavy to bear without His strength, and a church to remove from your considerations.  If the answer is yes, include your inner circle in praying for humility and connection as you begin with the church, patience to see the ___ added into God’s workings of the church, strength to carry His ask of you, and to remain with hearts of joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to express His presence in you in such a way.
    • Invite your praying friends, family, and former church members to pray with you as you transition into a new body of Christ.  This should never be done alone–live as a child of God, along with your brothers and sisters.
  6. Commit, dive in, join the Family, and serve God and His people through your giftings.

I hope that the framework, steps, and tools prove to be helpful to you in your present and/or future ventures in seeking out a sanctuary where God plants you.  In all of your pursuits, may God be clear in allowing you the understanding to apply His Truth to the Way in which you go.  That none of us wander too long, for we truly find ourselves in community with others who know us and work to share God.

My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20).

And may we always live lives of love.

 

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Prayer of Acceptance
Gracious God,
I give thanks for the gift of your love and mercy which knows no end. I
give thanks for Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again that I may know true life in his name. Today I confess my sins, all the actions, and attitudes that keep me from loving you and loving others.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have said and left unsaid.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have done and left undone.
In the knowledge of your mercy, I confess Jesus as the Lord of my life and my savior.
I turn my life over to You today.
Please make me a new creature through Your Holy Spirit and change my heart.
Help me walk in Your ways as You reveal yourself to me.
Thank You, Jesus, for dying for my sins.
I accept Your gift of salvation today and confess that You are Lord.
Amen

“Said and left unsaid…done and left undone…”

I have readily considered laziness a sin and its’ association with “left undone.”  I have also known cursing and pain-causing language to be sinful–“said.”  The “left unsaid” I’ve considered the times when I coward from what the Spirit asks of me to speak.  The “done,” I’ve considered the busyness that distracts me from what God asks of me, or actions that are defiant to Him.

Today I realize, sometimes God asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.  But the counter can also be said, sometimes the enemy asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11)

We must learn to discern the voice which directs us–an awareness and ability that grows from knowing the love of God.

This lent I have devoted myself to the discipline of simplicity–offering myself, especially, in words said and unsaid as clay to be reformed by the touch of Christ’s redemption.

This past week was midterms.  In the past weeks, we have cared for friends who are mourning losses in their immediate families.   Last week, we met our month’s financial pot for the month.  This week finally seems to be the end of months-worth of frustration to change my name, join bank accounts, change health insurance plans, and meet many other adult-newly-married responsibility tasks.  And we have begun to truly shape one another as man and wife in discussing points of growth and affirming opportunities met in beautiful ways.  We’re being shaped in the tension for sure.  But I must also admit, there have been too many moments–lasting much more than one moment–where I spiral, allowing tasks to get the best of me.  I have been overwhelmed.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Overwhelmed… Simplicity… These appear to be two sides of the same coin.  Makes sense that one who battles feelings of being overwhelmed would be challenged to stewardship and surrender in the act of simplicity before the Lord.  So here I am in the midst of remodeling.

You are sovereign Lord! And You will always be sovereign, Lord.  There will never be a time when You are not sovereign.  You are and will always be sovereign above all things.

Being overwhelmed means that the doing becomes unbearable.  There is too much to do, we simply cannot be.  Peter Scazzero challenges us to self-reflection, confession, and acceptance of the process of sanctification as he admits–to which I am also guilty (p.58):

We attach our wills to the belief that someting less than God will satisfy us.  We think if we just accomplish that one big goal, then we will really feel content and good about oursevles.  We will be ‘finished’ and able to rest.

It is out of being that our doing has purpose.  Being, then doing.  Being becomes doing.  In being with God, we are moved to action–doing for God–and not the other way around.

Overwhelmed is to be overpowered with an excessive amount of anything; overcome, especially with superior forces; destroyed; crushed; covered or buried beneath a mass of something as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerged; or, overthrown.

Ever felt overpowered by an excessive amount of responsibilities calling out for your attention–tasks that keep you from simply being, that beckon you to ‘finish’ before you can rest?

I sure have.  I know the tools that I teach others, yet, sometimes the tasks seem to be relentless prison guards.  Sometimes they even disguise themselves, claiming to be the very thing that would honor God, yet, in my obedience to the task, I find myself distant from and desperate for God.

“There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” – Jesus Culture

God may challenge us, but He would NEVER lead a child to suffocate or drown on their own.  Separation from His children is NOT God’s desire.  Doing and being overwhelmed by the doings can lead to separation from God–where we are no longer attuned to His voice but are commanded by the perceived need to complete tasks.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus says, “You will be able to bear the load I have for you.”

God, I do not wish to drown.  I do not wish to suffocate.  If I am overthrown, may it be that I am overthrown by You–humbled by Your reign.  If I am overwhelmed, may it be by Your presence.  If I am overpowered, may it be by Your strength, Your power.  If I am submerged, may it be in Your Word, Your Truth.  God, I surrender.  I want to know You more. 

I know that when I am overwhelmed I have either consciously or unconsciously chosen to prioritize tasks, the doing, over my surrendered being with God.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians2:12).

We can examine what is according to His good purpose by knowing God and knowing God’s Truth as it is written in Scripture.  Anything that is not according to God’s good purpose we can then distinguish as not from God working in us.  If it isn’t God who is working in us when we choose doing, who is it?

 God is not a god of confusion.  Who would want to inspire confusion in us? Satan and his army. Remember: God is omnipresent and can be with you wherever you are and with all people where they are.  Satan does not hold such power nor authority.

That means as we are made in God’s image, standing as God’s children we can choose to bow our knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and as we do, we submit ourselves to God, aligning our will with His, and surrender to God working in us “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:9-12).

  • What does my life show? I do more than I be right now.
  • What do I desire? I desire to know God and to do only which pleases God.

My life does not show the desire of my heart… perhaps, then, it is not my heart that dictates my actions, but my mind…

“Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Dr. Caroline Leaf discusses the neuropsychology behind taking every thought captive.  She suggests it takes 21 days to replace the thought.  Let us feed and be filled by Your Word, God. That we would have the strength to persevere, to endure as we begin this process of sanctification in our minds.  I hope to be able to discern, to choose ‘God work in me, so that You may do in me that which is according to Your good purpose’ over what seems convenient or stressful and needs relieving.  Remind me, God, that You are all I need.

 The process of renewing our minds:

For twenty-one days…

Admit: Acknowledge the toxic thought

Quit: Eliminate the toxic thought by focusing on the healthy replacement thought, denying the unhealthy habit

For the following forty-two days…

Beat: Stabilize the strength of a healthy replacement habit to beat and remove possibility of regrowth of the eliminated toxic thought

The result: The natural choice in our unconscious stems from our restructured healthy habit, NOT the toxic thought life that once was.

Steps to take with honest reflection…

  1. What do I prioritize?
  2. What does God prioritize?
  3. What keeps me from being with God (admit)?
  4. Sit with God and learn the surrender of those very things that keep us from Him (quit)
  5. Allow God to renew Your mind, that His Spirit may be known and adored by Your spirit–rejoicing always and praying without ceasing as you make choices to live a life of love–honoring God, self, and others (beat).

Let’s be the Bride of Christ–doing from our being.

God, I want to live an uncluttered life.  Simplify what is of me and what is of the enemy.  Rebuke his grasp.  Overwhelm me with Your presence that all else may fall to ruin.  You are all I need Lord.  I believe in Your renewing power.  Cleanse me, O God.  Make me more like You.  Might my image of You grow to be truer and truer each day I spend with You.  I love You, Jesus, Amen.

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We’re All a Little Bit Broken

This past weekend, my husband and I got out of the city we live in for a few days of reflection, prayer, and rest. We’re just over five months of marriage at this point.

On our way home, we stopped for coffee at a quaint house turned coffee shop overlooking the beach.  The morning had been incredibly wearing on the both of us as we laid our selfish selves before the Lord and both chose to selflessly care for the marriage–and the ministry marriage is itself–above other demands in our current life stage.

Outside the coffee house, dozens of butterflies fluttered around one flowery bush.  One captured my attention.

We’re all a little bit broken….just some show it a little bit more than others.

“When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus” (Mark 2:1-4).

My husband broke it down and reflects…

that dude who got let down through the ceiling by his three friends definitely didn’t have his crap together. broken in paralysis but in humility, he stayed on the mat and allowed his friends to lower him down and bring him to Jesus. this is me. man, i don’t need to come to Jesus with my performance but rather trust the process. transformation is from the inside out. only by Jesus my sins are forgiven. only by Jesus i can rise up and walk.

So for all of us who might be showing our brokenness a little bit more than what seems to be the societal norm, let us pray together with Christ who has and continues to be constant despite changing circumstances.

My heart is confident in You, O God; my heart is confident.  No wonder I can sing Your praises! Be exalted, O God above the highest heavens, for You, O God, are constant, and no circumstance wavers Your foundation. There is no quake You feel, nothing is ever new or unexpected to You.  Be exalted, O Lord.  Lord over our circumstances.  We follow You, and You alone–be the voice we hear, the path we see.  When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.  Now I walk in Your presence, O God, in your life-giving light. You listened when I was overwhelmed by my troubles.  You have restored in me the joy of Your salvation.  Continue to make me willing to obey.  Continue to defend me with Your might.  Please, also continue to lead me through Your Word, that I would reflect back to You the power and Truth of Your Word as prayers–that my will would become Your will, O Lord, and that Your will would also be my will.  I am awake, O God, my loyal spirit seeks after You through Your means of being near to us, Yahweh, praise be to thee, the ever near God.  Your life, Christ Jesus, is transforming.  By Your example, I shall walk.  With Your watch, I shall rest.  And by the power of Your name, I shall rise and see Your purposes administered here on earth as they are in heaven.  

Jesus, in Your precious and powerful name we pray.  Amen.

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This weekend I attended “Equipped to Care,”  the first conference held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary focused on equipping parents, prospective parents, students, and professionals on how to best care for themselves and the orphans of our country through foster care and adoption.

This is my heart. A healthy burden I intend to act on.

Within a few weeks of Stephen and I sharing life–truly sharing the life the Lord has revealed would come of our commitment to ministry–I opened up about my heart for foster-adoption.

Already, I  knew that my beloved Stephen traveled to Uganda on a short-term missions trip this past summer with a married couple expecting to bring home a Ugandan orphan, a dear sister of Christ who is newly engaged to his best seminary friend, and others from the seminary community.  He brought back the vision for multiple tattoos to commemorate what God ignited in him during his time serving, but also the injury that left him forced to humbly submit to the care of his sisters.

The time he spent with these sisters ignited his commitment to pray for a wife who cares for the orphans and widows of the nations.  In our dating relationship, he even joked that these two sisters would have refused him dating me if it was not my heart.

That’s the backdrop.  Over the past months, I shared about how I committed to adopting a homeless gal’s baby if he were born 4 years ago, and then, my intent to foster while living and studying in Charlotte.  Both huge commitments, lost.  And I had only realized the need to grieve their loss just months before meeting Stephen.  I am burdened for the children of God who are not receiving His love through the compassionate hands and hearts of His people.

As I shared my past experiences and known commitment in the future, I thought he got it.

When he praised God that I was a woman who cared for the orphans and widows I thought he was also making the commitment, saying “I am also burdened for the children of God who are not receiving His love through the compassionate hands and hearts of His people.”

Communication.  I am a visionary by design.  Future minded while enjoying the present adventure.  Stephen is innately present always, and can glance into the future with joy as he faithfully believes in the Lord’s provisions.   A glance.  And for me, a nearly whole picture.  Two different perspectives requiring exchanges of words to make sure the picture described is truly being viewed by the other.

There have been several conversations this week on the topic.  Beautiful times of unveiling one another just a bit more.  He sees who God has made me to be, what life has brought me, and what the future shapes me to aspire towards.

But in these conversations, it has been made known, he had no idea what I was expecting him to understand, to sign up for in those initial conversations.

I asked him this week.  A few conversations with times to rest and reflect in between after he sat in a conference session with me, “When you began praying for a wife who cares for orphans and widows, is this what you meant?”  Really, I was realizing that I had basically just thrown my boyfriend into what seemed a bit like a parenting class and asking “is this too much for you?!?”

For me, it was an invitation to see what I study on a regular basis, what I intend to do professionally and personally.  He was grateful for the invitation and he understood my intent, the material discussed, and the impact of such knowledge in caring for America’s orphans.  But it still led to a hairy discussion.

Conversations can be difficult.  It is vulnerably putting out what my heart weeps for and faithfully believing that this is the man who God so elected to partner with me in this ministry, and He will therefore, grow Stephen’s burden for foster-adoption.  But it cannot turn into something I hold over him either.

Stephen shared with me a little about a friend’s marriage.  How difficult it is on their relationship as the wife dreamed of international missions and is now planted firmly in the states supporting her pastor-husband.  They spoke briefly of passions and desires, but it was never boldly proclaimed, “I want to follow the Lord’s call on my life and live overseas ministering to families of different ethnic origins,” and the response would have been, “I can’t offer you a life abroad.  I’m called to stand firm in a church right here.”  As beautiful as their ministry is together, perhaps this difference would have prevented their nuptials; perhaps then, she would be partnered with a male missionary and her pastor-husband would have the support of a wife called exactly to the role of pastor’s wife in the American south.

These are scary conversations, but they cannot be feared.  It is faithfully believing in the Lord’s sovereignty in growing the partnership, equipping both parties for the mission, and uniting their hearts in their ability to serve Him as He so leads.  This is the purpose, the foundation for speaking boldly of what God has planted and how He reveals your particular ministry call will continue to grow.

I believed before that Stephen is the man I intend to partner with in a lifetime of ministry, but after sharing this call to parent and to counsel foster-adoptive children as a “will you commit to praying this call into your own life as you lean into God to teach you how to father kids from hard places?” his response has affirmed it once more:

i really love you. and i really love that God is moving in our relationship.  to deeper things.  seeing the real and the unknown but yet, hand in hand.  100%. and i definitely started praying. you didn’t bombard me at all. maybe call it a burden.  but it’s a good one.

precious woman, i wouldn’t of asked for your hand that day six days in if i wasn’t taking this partnership seriously.  i love your words. sinking deep in my chest.

Our difficult conversations have very much been in person.  The above two messages were sent via text as an affirmation of where he is at currently, while taking the day to rest on his own.  Stephen uses only lower case letters in text in respect of God’s name, hence how I have written his words above.

Please commit to praying with me for the burden I have shared with my love.  And also, commit to praying for the burden you share and your love or future love shall share with you.  Let us be the Body, moving with God as He paves the way.

And the light of Christ shall be known.  We are an extension of His grace, His love to all the peoples of every nation.

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I find that most days we hear songs, read books, or continue in conversation hoping in tomorrow.  We ask God for breath in our lungs so we have the opportunity to delight in another day.  We want to have enough days to earn our dream job and experience its’ benefits, to marry our partner in crime, to then see our kids grow up, and be present for their weddings.  We ask God for life in order to treasure that very life itself.

I know this is over-arching, but it is a message of conviction I hear today.

If breath being in my lungs, this very day, is truly better for those around me, then what am I doing?

Paul writes, Philippians 1:23-26:

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

You may expect that my conviction today (based on the afore-mentioned narrative) to be one about “store your treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21), but it is not.

Rather, I am convinced, that I have fooled myself in believing that for the time being, life on earth is better for myself than life in heaven.  I do believe I will witness all God has promised me for the retreat center before my dying day, but that does not give me the privilege of living every day for myself, nor my own ambitions (that appear God-honoring).

No, Paul clearly says, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”  Or, “I live because it is better for you, if I were pursuing my own interests, I’d prefer to leave this earth and be with Christ in heaven” (my translation for all intents and purposes).

I’m under the impression that Paul’s words are not meant to comfort his family, his dearest friends, but to suggest God’s usefulness in speaking, in acting through his living.

Christ is not finished with me yet.

Heaven would be better for me.  I would have a new body, not brought down by infection and disease, but one that serves as a pure and beautiful temple in Christ’s presence.  There will be labor as we attend to God’s Kingdom, and I will physically be able to successfully honor God properly through such work.  There would be no need to cry, for there will be joyous reunion as we dance and sing, ceaselessly.    There is no shame, no guilt, no condemnation.

That is better for me, but Paul tells us what is better for the people.

How does life look if we are truly living in a way that is better for Christ’s people?

For me today, I have taken a commitment with one other.  We notice a language of sarcasm that plagues our church.  Our prayer is to witness God’s restoration of communication amongst this specific family.  Our action is to commit to removing sarcasm from our lips and model gentle words of encouragement–without giving the impression of judgment towards others for their continued use of sarcasm and demeaning language.  We will wait on the Lord, if He ever does call us to, to bring this to our congregation’s attention, but for now, we will work on ourselves and be kind to one another, and intentional in our use of words and silence with church members, alike.

We desire to have a voice.  We all want to know that we are heard when we speak, instinctively.  So we will work to not become manipulative; to remain humble, not seeing ourselves as better for this movement away from bettering ourselves by bullying others with our words.  Our voice, we pray is heard when it is meant to be heard, and that the words are clear with purposeful meaning.

Words.

I also was reminded of the power of words today, and take a personal vow to name it, always.  Whatever my fear, whatever my sin–my desire, my foolishness, my pride, my arrogance, my lust, my laziness, my cowardice–I will call it what it is.

There is God’s Will (which is perfect), my will (which I often think is best), and my flesh (which I often foolishly allow to lead me through the day).

As I press the snooze button and remove the possibility of following my will (3 hours of prayer before work), I succumb to my flesh (disobeying the call to ceaseless prayer, God’s Will).

“There is a fleshy taste in my mouth,” my friend said today as she spoke poorly of another.  She labeled it and it lost its’ power.

I sometimes wish sin, our “fleshiness,” had a distinct smell.  One that would make conviction and one another calling us out so simple, so evident, so obviously required.  Perhaps though, we would all avoid one another as though each person were a leper, infected worse than ourselves, and we’d flee each other’s presence and feel abandoned, as we abandoned those we supposedly loved before.  There is reason, this being my small-feeble-minded reason why God did not permit fleshy desires to disgust our senses, nonetheless I pray we acknowledge them and work to remove them from our lives, with the accompaniment of conviction and accountability from Christ and His Bride.

I do believe sin loosens its’ grip on us when we rebuke Satan’s hold on us.  When we call the light that is within us to shine greater than the darkness that seems overwhelming we often find such freedom.

The only word I can think of that has power in itself is JESUS.  There are other names for the Trinity (each member of the Trinity) that are glorious, I recognize.  But calling out “Jesus” in the midst of darkness, I gain strength to endure.

Therefore, I shall say “that was wicked of me to think, to say.  Jesus, enlighten my way” or something of the sort.

Jesus, I come to You today.  I ask You to reorganize my thinking.  May we truly delight in the purpose that You have for our being here, speaking into the lives of others, serving them, loving them as You love.  Demonstrate how Paul encouraged others to progress and be joyous in their faith.  Might Your Truth continue to sink into us.  Might our very skin no longer reek of such fleshy-disgust.  Might we practice rebuking Satan’s grip on us.  Might we identify the spiritual warfare in us, around us, and call upon Christ’s strength, His sight as we endure and triumph over it all for His glory.  These requests and so much more, as You know ponders through our heads, we lift up to You.  Amen.

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And you wait, keep waiting for that one thing
which would infinitely enrich your life:
the powerful, uniquely uncommon,
the awakening of dormant stones,
depths that would reveal you to yourself.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, a Czech poet

This summer has been tough.  Today, I found myself saying “This isn’t wilderness.  Whenever I find myself in a wilderness I’m sick, stuck, made to be still before the LORD for extended periods of time.  The wilderness is a time of preparation, of separation from the chaos of life to be renewed, to dig deeper and to fully lean on the LORD.  This, this is waiting.  Oh shoot…this is wilderness.”

I began an intensive class today, and in our introductions my professor responded, “that doesn’t sound anything like what you planned for this summer.” And she was right, is right.

India…Missions…Mentoring…Advocating for at-risk and foster youth…

“I’m a secretary…oh wait, and I volunteered at an intercity kid’s camp.”

My “profession” this summer doesn’t begin to illustrate the frustrations, the challenges, the brokenness, the tantrums I felt like throwing in resistance towards God’s lessons for me.

And yet, in the midst of that brokenness, I am reminded that God hears our cries.  Every day I felt my worst, the days I could not see the reflection of Christ in myself, the most beautiful psalms came out of me.  Praise inspires a heart of gratitude, which makes us recognize the fullness of our days as we see how God’s presence was made known throughout each moment, every turn.  When we worship, we attune our hearts to His.  When we sing His name, we enable His power to run through us, His compassion to wash over us, and His kindness to be offered to those around us.

I do not think my mind matched my heart on many of these days, but I do know that God had purpose in them, even when I could not sense it.

For in the midst of tears streaming down my face, disguising the sadness in my voice, it clicked.  And with a friend on the other line, I chippered up and shouted, “this is my answered prayer!”

I came into this city and soon after grieved an adoptive child, never adopted.  Then I approached my Court Appointed Special Advocate Swearing-in Ceremony, and pulled out.  Being surrounded by foster and adoptive families makes me so happy to know that there are Christians who truly care for God’s children, for the orphans of this earth.  But it also makes me so eager to be involved.  It is my heart’s desire.

I read probably 1400 pages in 4 days.  I was captivated by the material.

There has been an email hanging out in my drafts for 6 months now, often the content adjusts ever so slightly, but still it sits..

I’m not sure what my role will look like for the present, but I know (at least, I think I know) once I am trained I will have the opportunity to care and train parents to better empower, connect, and correct their children once a child has been placed in their forever-home.

And this, I have hope in.  My hope remains in Christ alone, but I rejoice knowing that with every breath there is purpose in how He enables this creature He’s formed, to serve His mighty children who crave His merciful love.  Their pain is deep, but His love is deeper.  Their reach is high, but He soars above and comes along, beside.

LORD, as we approach Your children, as we are Your children, we ask You to continually use Your rod in guiding us to love them with great compassion, to respect them as Your own, to appropriately discipline them, and to always be kind and near as You are to us.  You offer us Your home, and we are grateful.  We thank You for Family.  May we come together with eagerness to express Your love for these children, and to invite them into our expression of Your life that is within us.  Be watchful, You promise not to slumber.  We trust in You.  Teach us, too, to be watchful so they may trust us. 

Forever and always, Your children.

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Does your ear ever ring at the sound of that word…the one word you so desperately long to hear?

Mentor(ing).

I still find it comical, when answering, “So how did you go from California to a Baptist seminary?” or “How did you end up here?”  It was one conversation, one utterance of breath really.  A need for servants in this city to care and encourage women to fight, leave, and overcome the ties of human trafficking.

Did I stay? Yes.  Am I involved? No, I pray for and with friends who are, but am not personally fighting for the abolition of human trafficking in this city, in any official role.

Rather, I jumped in, advocating for the voice of foster children.  A beautiful thing, truly, something I will always be prayerful and passionate about.

This too, I was never led to pursue.

Round 3…

“Okay, God, I get it.  I love serving you by discipling your children.  It was going to be the women, the girls, I thought.  But then, it seemed it was going to be a foster child.”  “Not now, not here.”  “Whom then, Lord?”

Within the week, I was offered two opportunities.

Both sounded the alarms in my ears, “………MENTORING…..” and “….MENTORING….” I heard little else.

I missed out on necessary information and ended up in situations I had not anticipated.  I didn’t want to call it what it was, but I grew bitter quickly.

“Mentoring, disciplining requires people Lord.  Where are these people?”

My tongue, again, that of a fool speaking when it shall remain still.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.   As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 6:5-7).

If I love to say, “I am free from my slavery to sin, and I have become a slave to righteous living, for I have chosen to obey Christ and the will of God” (Romans 6:16,18), then I must do just that, obey the will of God and work with enthusiasm as though I have the privilege to bow at Christ’s feet and wash them myself.

These files are not the mundane, these files are documentation of the will of God!

They aren’t faceless, sparse depictions of people, they are relationships forming, children of God joining together for the sake of His glory, discipling one another.

I might be the administrator of it, and not be a participant, but still God is being graced by this work.  I am His servant.

No more wasting time just sitting around. This girl is a servant of the Lord, work is to be done.

Week 3 in this position, still without a present employer, and now I see a glimpse of what God has orchestrated.  Yesterday I was given the place, the hopes, the kids, the timeline of opportunity.   Connecting with individuals around this city, leading them to invest in a mentoring relationship with kids (little ones) and remaining with them through graduation.  Committing life to one another, as we have in Christ.  The vision was shared, and now I get to see it through.

I am advocating the need, and mediating the formation of these relationships.  This seems to embody each role, I previously sought, as one united theme.

This dreamer has been given the fingers to type, the ears to hear the phone ring, and the car to go into the churches and make this happen.

So, rather than rationalizing how I am removing myself from a position I did not see coming, I have a thankful heart with an appearance of gladness as I am able to pull resources in both roles and see this city come before Christ as His bride.

Disciples make disciples.  These are more than words, this is life opening up before me.

LORD Jesus, I want to plant seeds of sweet tasting fruit, of flowers that ooze with perfume.  Might my tongue be struck when it smites You and the work You are doing.  Lord, I know that I do not always know.  I recognize that I am still gaining understanding.  But I have no excuse to question You.  There is no such timing as perfect as Yours.  Thank You, for I hear the instruments, there are children everywhere shouting Your name in glee.  I pray for Your Family, Lord, might we come together as One Body, separated by nothing, joined by the blood You have already shed.  You are patient, my God, thank You for not giving up on this stubborn fool.  You continue to inspire the work that is produced by my living breath, and as Your servant, this work will be used in beautiful ways.  Glory is forever Yours!

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