Showing posts with label encouragement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label encouragement. Show all posts

November 5, 2013

When You Need to Receive

They have all come today: questions, requests, needs, tasks demanding attention. The emails pile up unread, the kids need three different things in their backpacks for school tomorrow, and I have to make dinner but forgot, as per usual, one key ingredient on my weekly trip to the store. I scribble another note on the to-do list before my mind darts off onto another thing, before I forget the ingredient that I forgot the first time.

Some of the needs and concerns of friends sit heavy on my heart and mind. They are squeezing out any mental space that goes toward remembering without a to-do list. The needs are of the kind that a meal or a note won't solve, the kind that are met only through prayer and fasting. And, of course, lots and lots of time and lots and lots of wading through doubt and fear and hurt to get to Truth.
The thing is, I want to give. I want to pour myself out for the Lord and for others. I want to love people and have those conversations that need to be had and be with others in the messiness of life. But sometimes I get so heart weary that I'm bone weary too. Unloading the dishwasher feels like climbing Mt. Everest, and I can't for the life of me find the energy to change out of my pajamas. Is it really better, Lord, to give rather than to receive? My flesh cries out to just get what's mine and plug my ears to everything else, to take generously and give stingily.

This is where I really struggle in ministry, and it makes me wonder if I really know how to love and serve like Jesus at all. He served without any expectation of return. I think about myself way too much, and I want people to serve me, and I sometimes want to plug my ears and close my eyes to all of the needs.

This morning, with my Bible cracked, all I could think to pray was, "Lord, I'm desperately weary." It wasn't a request, just a statement, but He answered me through His Word as if I had asked something more--"Lord, I have such need. Who will serve me?" I have been reading through the Psalms, which, or course, are so rich with God's character. And today He drew my eye to one specific characteristic. He said, "I am a Giver." Not just a Giver, but He a rich Giver toward those who love Him.

Is there any need I have that He won't give toward?

Weariness? Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest...

Heart desires? Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart...

Physical needs? I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and His descendants are blessed.

Lacking strength to face what is? He gives strength in the time of trouble and the Lord shall help them and deliver them...

Of course, we could go on. He gives us a Helper in the Holy Spirit. He gives us all things we need for life and godliness. He takes our concerns and gives us a peace that passes all understanding in return. He gives us the very life we live, both physical and spiritual.

He is a Giver, a good Giver. I never need to ask, "Who will serve me?" And because I can go to Him to receive everything I need, I can take what I receive and then go and give, pouring out my life just as Christ poured out His life for me. He serves me (what a thought!) and I serve Him in response by serving others with the very love He's given me.

And perhaps I can even find the strength to unload the dishwasher.

October 14, 2013

With Joy

A friend told me about a new little resale boutique, and since the weather around here has announced it's time to pull out the fall clothes, I popped in to see what sweaters and boots I could find to fill out my wardrobe. Though the store was neatly arranged with racks of seasonally assorted clothes and shelves showing off shoes like the house-sized closets I've seen on tv, I was the only customer.

The woman behind the counter greeted me, and I knew instinctively that she was the owner of the boutique.  Locally-owned boutiques make me nervous for this very reason: the owner is usually standing behind the counter, there are typically only a handful of customers coming in and out, and I feel an instant kinship with the owner and a strange compulsion to rally behind them. I find myself internally cheering them on, because I want them to succeed at something they clearly feel passionate about. Which means I usually buy something.

I browsed the racks, tried a few things on, and noticed everything. Because I also do this weird observation thing in small boutiques: I think about how they chose their displays and how they lay out their stores. I imagine the owner making decisions about everything from fitting rooms to merchandise to marketing.  I almost enjoy this part of shopping--the noticing part--more than I do the actual shopping for clothes. I suppose I love seeing other people's passions being pursued. It's an artist appreciating another's art, a joy derived from another's joy, my passion feeding off and growing from another's passion.
I, of course, bought something from the lady behind the counter--a cute tangerine jacket. Tangerine, the color of joy and passion. And I left thinking about the lady. What was she doing in her empty store after I left? I imagined her tidying the racks, placing the clothes back that I had tried on and not wanted, preparing shoes for the glamorous tv-shelves. I wondered what she thought about as she stood in her empty store, waiting for customers. Was she discouraged? What made her feel like things would work out after all? Probably, she has moments of sheer panic and emotional flailing, but then she goes right back to prepping clothes and thinking of marketing strategies. Take that, discouragement! She returns to what she loves to do, because she loves it and she can't not do it. She goes back to the joy of pursuing her passion.

Because it's not likely that anyone is coming in and exclaiming, "I'm so glad you're here! I've been waiting for you to sell second-hand clothes in this space all my life!" It's not likely that anyone is affirming her passion or holding her hand through the moments of sheer panic. I'm also pretty certain that people aren't stampeding to her door to say thank you or to make spirit tunnels for her to run through at the end of the day after she's vacuumed the floor and locked up for the thousandth time.

This is what I'm getting at: Joy isn't in the response of others based on what we do. Joy is in doing what God created us to do and has given us to do. Joy is in pursuing with faith and abandon the passions God has laid in our hearts, and doing them in His honor. We serve for the smile on His face.

And joy begets joy. When we serve God with joy, we in a round-about way encourage others to serve God with joy. Artists appreciate another's art, joy is derived from another's joy, and passion feeds off and grows from another's passion.

So whatever you're doing--homeschooling, event planning, cake baking, medical research, substitute teaching, diaper changing, sermon preaching, p.e. coaching, putting words out into the world, or, yes, running a small boutique--do it with joy as unto the Lord. Don't look for appreciation from others or a spirit tunnel at the end of the day as an indicator of whether or not you should enjoy what you do. Look to God, who created you to be a creator that flings tangerine passion and joy into the world. He is smiling as you do what you do for Him. 

October 9, 2013

Think This, Not That

When we first entered ministry, my mom relayed what my childhood pastor's wife said when she heard I had married a pastor: "I will always pray for her." I thought this was an odd and somewhat deflating reaction and that tells you everything about the misconceptions and romantic ideas I had about what life in the ministry would be like.

After 14 years in ministry, I now know why she responded that way. Ministry is rewarding, and I saw that through my pastor's wife ministry and influence in my church growing up, but in ministry, I've discovered, you're also doing constant battle with discouragement. It's just kind of always there, ready to pounce through criticism or complaints or through internal insecurities and feelings of fruitlessness. You're forever fighting to remember the joys and rewards of serving the Lord and to live by His encouragement.

As I learned in the early days, I can't live for a minute on romantic ideas of ministry or even by giving myself a little pep-talk in moments of difficulty or apprehension. I must live and minister by faith or I'll simply wither up from discouragement.
I've learned to combat recurring thoughts, whether true or untrue, with the Lord's encouragement as given in His Word. So taking a cue from Eat This, Not That, let's apply it to our thought life and find some encouragement in the Lord today:

Don't think this:
I can't do this thing called ministry. I'm not a good pastor's wife or a good partner for my husband.
Think this:
I am not adequate, but God has given me the Holy Spirit, who empowers me and makes me adequate for what God calls me to do.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency (competency, adequacy) is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant. 
2 Corinthians 3:5-6

Don't think this:
I am alone. No one understands or can relate to my life as a pastor's wife.
Think this:
I never walk alone. And the One who walks with me understands sacrifice and service way more than I do.

Let your conduct be without covetousness [of other people's lives]; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5

The heart knows its own bitterness. And a stranger does not share its joy.
Proverbs 14:10
(for how this verse applies, please read this post)

Don't think this:
I am not making an impact. My ministry is not significant.
Think this:
I can't always see the impact of what I'm doing, and this is often a very good thing. But just because I can't see it doesn't mean God isn't currently watering the seeds I've sown. Results aren't my responsibility, but faith is my success!

But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 
1 Corinthians 12:18

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

Don't think this:
I am a disappointment to other people, or my husband has disappointed people, and I am crushed and paralyzed because of it.
Think this:
My goal is to please God. If I am being faithful with what He's given me, I am pleasing to Him.

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin [of people-pleasing] which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the [specific] race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus....who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.
Hebrews 12:1-2

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

Don't think this:
I should be doing more. (said while breaking out the checklist of the perfect pastor's wife)
Think this:
My job is to abide in Christ and follow His leading, not to set my own agenda or play some role I think I should play.

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Don't think this:
This is too hard. I want to quit.
Think this:
Because of the mercy and grace of Christ, I can endure. And there is reward for enduring!

Therefore, since we have this ministry [through the power of the Holy Spirit], as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.
2 Corinthians 4:1, 16-18

Don't think this:
I'm discouraged. Nothing good is happening.
Think this:
God is always at work! He's never sleeping, never stopping, never discouraged or weary. And He is at work in my life and in the lives of others around me.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
Isaiah 40:28

The one who called you is faithful, and He will do it! 
1 Thessalonians 5:24

Your turn: What are your go-to verses when you're discouraged in ministry? Let us know in the comments so we can all build our arsenal for combatting discouragement!

September 26, 2013

Continue

This past Saturday was the fifth birthday of our church. Ten of us (five with the last name Hoover) gathered in our living room on September 21, 2008 to sing, open the Word, eat cookies, and talk of what we hoped God would do in our city. To see those hopes realized and to have been a part of it from the beginning is a joy and a difficulty-wrought blessing.

It was fitting, I thought, that during the service yesterday, one of our pastors told us to look at those sitting around us and say, "Happy Birthday!" We are the church and, as we have held fast to our Head, from whom our whole body is nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, we have grown with the increase that is from God.

It was also fitting that my husband soberly reminded us that we are only five years old. A five-year-old can write her name and say her ABC's and perhaps color within the lines, but a five-year-old has a lot of growing and maturing left to do.
It's true what he said, and I'm glad he said it. He put to words what I sense regarding our church. We've come so far and seen God do so much, and He truly has knit hearts together with Him and with others in our Body. But we are still finding our places and figuring things out and welcoming new faces into the fold and discipling one another and learning how to love our adopted family. The journey of faith and the journey of a church are the same: moving and changing until the end.

In some ways, I didn't want to be reminded that we're a five-year-old. In my opinion, church planting can be counted in dog years. Five years feels like at least double that, and it's added wrinkles to my face and gray hairs to my husband's head (which I love by the way). If I'm really honest, as we've approached this five-year mark, I've found myself considering the possibility of coasting from this point forward. The hard work is done, so I'll just kind of settle in and enjoy the spoils.

I don't believe coasting and ministry go hand-in-hand, at least if we're discussing biblical ministry. I do believe, however, that perseverance and ministry make a very fine and fruitful couple.

That's what I gather from Paul at least. This summer I read through 1 & 2 Timothy and I'm seeing now that it was important reading for my soul. In those books, as you likely know, Paul wrote to Timothy, a guy he left in charge of the church plant. It seems, poor guy, that Timothy was in need of some encouragement and direction, and perhaps also a little boldness. Paul, never one to mince words, is like, "Yep, you're probably experiencing some difficulty and people are probably leaving the faith and there are all kinds of things that are discouraging and wearying you." Because that's the way it goes. He doesn't say it, but you get the sense that he wants to come out with it. Because that's the way ministry goes, Timothy.

This part wasn't good for my soul, other than to affirm that, yep, there will be discouragement and weariness. What made my heart stand at attention was this: Paul's choice of words to encourage him.

Endure.
Continue.
Persevere.
Go forward.

Specifically, he says this:

Continue to be faithful with the stewardship God has entrusted to you.
Endure like a soldier endures on the battlefield.
Persevere in sound doctrine.
Be diligent with the Word and with your work.
Continue in the things you've learned and been assured of.
Continue to go forward with boldness, remembering that God has given you everything you need to fulfill this ministry He's called you to. 

Here I am standing at the five-year mark and I think to myself, "How did we get here?" We took a step forward. We continued. And then others joined in with us and, as a group, we continued in the Word and in the working out of the Word.

How will we get to year six and year fifteen? How will be able to follow the Lord in faith if He calls us to do this again? How will we see the Holy Spirit produce fruit and bring lives to salvation? How will we reap a harvest?

We continue with our eyes on Him, our finish line, with steadfast hope in our hearts.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:9

August 21, 2013

No Need for Discouragement

Do you ever get discouraged in your ministry? I certainly do. In fact, it pains me to say it but, throughout the past year, my eyes were too quick to see holes, my own failures, what disappointed people (whether in reality or in my imagination), or what I felt was lacking in our church. If that's not a recipe for discouragement, I'm not sure what is.

In my season of discouragement, I had forgotten that there is a bigger story being written and that I am just one character--a blip on the page really--in a plot beyond my comprehension. By forgetting, I walked around with the weight of the world on my shoulders, thinking that the transformation of our city, the hearts that dwell here, and the healthiness of our church had so much to do with me.

This summer, I remembered that I am not the central character of this story and how good it is that I am not.
My tunnel vision expanded when I sat in different churches of different denominations in different cities. They held different kinds of people, different styles of worship and preaching, and different types of leaders. One preacher rapped in the sermon. One service was heavily structured by liturgy. One church met in a high-rise building. In one, we sat on couches, while in another we sat in old, creaky pews. But in each one, we heard the gospel. We heard Christ exalted in cities where many do not know Him. We participated in remembering Him through the bread and the cup.

Several times, sitting among brothers and sisters I didn't know, I cried uncontrollable tears. It was just so unbelievably freeing and life-giving to be among the Body and recognize the Spirit at work.  I recognized in a profound way, sitting on those pews and couches and set-up chairs, that the Church is God's. It's not the pastor's who is leading or the pastor's wife who is sitting in the front pew (or couch or folding chair). Of course, I knew that to be true and would have said it to be true, but to experience it anew, that's a different story.

It's the bigger story, that's what, this story that God is writing all across the world, this story that our alive God is working out even now. He is drawing people to Himself in different ways and through a variety of people with differing styles. He is sustaining His Church.

This summer, I met and interacted with many of the characters in the greater story that God is writing. I read about them in books. I heard how they've put a stake down in the places God has called them to and committed to be faithful to Him there. I met people who are simply saying, "Here I am, Lord, send me." I received from those who are laboring diligently in the ministry of the Word, and I was privileged to encourage and pray for those who are my co-laborers.

I tell you this because this experiential recognition crucified my discouragement. There is no need for discouragement when we know that the Spirit is moving and that there are faithful laborers scattered all across this globe. I am one, but I am one among many in our church and community, my husband and I are two among countless pastors and pastor's wives, and each of us are one part of a great, great story that is still unfolding.

There is no need to be discouraged, sisters. The Spirit is moving. Christ is sustaining His Church. We have co-laborers faithfully sharing and living the gospel. We are not alone.

Only let us be faithful with the one part of the story we're in. Only let us remember the true Author of the story, and that He is writing it even now.

April 10, 2013

How To Encourage Yourself in the Lord

There are seasons in life, it seems, when the world is closing in and all hope seems lost, times of utter loneliness, almost irrational in nature. What is going well? What am I doing right? Nothing, as far as my emotions can see. We got no food, no jobs, our pets' heads are falling off. That's the kind of language I use to convey my state of mind to my husband, because he can instantly relate to Dumb and Dumber quotes.

I make light of it, but there really is no lightness to times like these. It's all darkness and confusion and heaviness, times when you just need to know that you're on the right track, that your kids will actually learn to love anything other than video games, that you have a friend in the world, and that you matter.
Before my offline friends start beating a path to my door with meals and concerned faces and tissues (because that's how wonderful they are), I'm not in one of those times. But I have been. And I find that in those times, I crave encouragement from other people. I'm not talking the healthy, Christ-community kind of encouragement. I'm talking an almost insatiable desire for approval, for someone to say something to me that proves my worth and value as a person.

I know this isn't healthy, and I also know that God is dealing with me in this area because He continues to withhold what I desire in times of discouragement, and He continues to show me that no amount of human encouragement will meet the deepest needs of the heart. He is my only hope. His words are the true words of life. His approval is all I need.

Knowing this struggle of mine, I am amazed every time I read this verse: "But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). Do you know the story? David and his men have come back from battle to find that their homes have been burned and their wives and children taken. The men turn on David, preparing to stone him. If anyone could quote Lloyd, it's David: We got no food, no jobs, our pets' heads are falling off. But David seeks no man's encouragement about the type of leader he has been. He runs immediately to God for wisdom, his worth, and encouragement. He asks for direction from the Lord, for some discernment in the midst of the grief and confusion. And God gives it to him.

This has given me a framework for learning to encourage myself in the Lord. Of course, it begins for me with recognizing that I must allow God to kill any unhealthy desires for words of approval and worth from others, even my husband. This is always the beginning: confessing sin, confessing when I am frustrated by unmet expectations, and confessing that God is enough. When I recognize and acknowledge that my hope is in God and acknowledge what He's done and doing in my life (that all hope is not lost), I find that He urges me to ask for what I need. What is at the root of what I'm feeling? What truth from the Word speaks to what I'm feeling or thinking? What characteristic of God do I need to recognize and apply to the situation? Do I need to share my struggle with others who will pray for me and speak truth to me?

This process typically has to happen over and over and over for days until the light of hope and grace and truth start to shine in my heart again.

Until, yes, there it is...

I am encouraged in the Lord.

How do you practice the discipline of encouraging yourself in the Lord?

July 23, 2012

Trying to See

Sometimes it seems as if the view is blurry. How are things going in my life? I'm trying to be faithful, but is God doing anything in and around me? Am I on the right track? The only think I can see clearly are my weaknesses, stumbles, faults, and failures.
I found myself in this blurred haze last week, doing what we all do when our vision is impaired and we can't make out the shadow from the light: smashing everything in life up to my face for a closer (and critical) look.

The problem is, I discovered, when one gazes intently for too long with a critical eye at the details, nothing else can be seen. Instead of the big picture, instead of overarching grace, I only see my weaknesses magnified tenfold and, in my pursuit of God and the fulfillment of the ministry He's given me, it feels as if I'm on the wrong track entirely. In addition, when my vision's blurry and my obsession is with the fine details, I have an extremely difficult time diverting my gaze away from irrational feelings and ungodly thoughts.

The fact is that in those times, I'm looking at circumstances or measurable results to gauge how I'm doing. I stare at a checklist full of unchecked boxes. In my blindness, I grope around in the dark for anyone or anything that will assure me that I'm on the right track, that everything is all right. The more I do this, the fuzzier it all becomes.

When I fight to divert my gaze to the truth of the gospel, I find that what I'm being is much more important than what I'm doing. There is no need to obsess about the minute details when my approval in Christ, because of Christ, is constant and unchanging. As my Shepherd, He will let know when I'm off track. I have to trust this.

Ah, the gospel: the process of sanctification, the unalterable love of Jesus, the complete lack of condemnation. I must walk in faith through the blurry haze days that feel off-kilter, not try to see with my eyes or evaluate where I am based on external circumstances. If I walk in faith, eventually the haze fades, and I see the big picture coming into focus once again, a picture of grace, of being in Him, of Holy Spirit fruit-bearing, and, best of all, soul-satisfying peace.

When you are struggling with irrational emotions or feeling discouraged in motherhood or ministry, how do you fight to set your gaze on the gospel?

July 12, 2012

Keep On

Sometimes I feel bad for non-church leaders that Paul, Luke, and the rest of the New Testament authors direct so much of their writings toward church leaders. Or perhaps that statement betrays our modern sensibilities that create such a distinction between professional Christians and everyone else. Or perhaps I just read Scripture through my pastor's wife filter, grasping for nuggets of wisdom that will enable me to persevere and finding that most everything applies. I think the truth is that we are all ministers and evangelists and leaders in the name of Christ and that Scripture speaks knowingly about the difficulties and rewards we face as we seek to speak and live the gospel.
When I read Paul's writings about his personal ministry experience, it just about slays me. In comparing my heart to his, I suddenly am aware of all the selfishness and resentment I'm collecting and hoarding, and I can do nothing else but throw it onto the cross of Christ in confession. This is the power of the Word and it is so necessary for life and ministry.

In regards to ministry, my favorite of Paul's writings are his final words to his protege Timothy. He speaks from the end of life perspective, practically walking to the executioner. He is certain about what's important and is intent on sharing it with those behind him. Let's listen in because it certainly applies to us:

From 2 Timothy, Chapter 1

  • Use and persevere in the gift God has given you and has been confirmed by others.
  • The Spirit of God is what enables a person to be effective, loving, and of sound mind.
  • Share in the sufferings for the gospel by the power of God. Persevere.
  • This is a holy calling. It's not about paying God back, but about God's purposes being fulfilled.
  • Persevere in sound teaching and sound counsel. Do this by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • People will turn away but be thankful for those who are faithful and who encourage you.
Chapter 2
  • Your strength comes from grace.
  • Disciple others. Give your life away to faithful people who will do the same.
  • As a disciple, you will endure hardship. Endure.
  • Your work is similar to a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer. It's hard work.
  • The Word of God cannot be chained. Rejoice in that!
  • Our work and, especially, our endurance, is for the salvation and sanctification of others.
  • Be diligent in your study of the Word.
  • Do not stray from the solid foundation of God.
  • Don't look longingly at your youth or feed selfish desires that you had when you were young. Instead, pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace in community with others.
  • Do not become argumentative. A servant of the Lord is gentle, patient, and humble even when they must correct someone or call someone to repentance.
Chapter 3
  • Don't be surprised that there will be many in the last days that don't want anything to do with God and will resist the truth.
  • Imitate men and women ahead of you who are faithful to God.
  • In your pursuit of godliness, you will experience opposition. Just continue in the things you know to be true, continue in your salvation in Christ. 
  • Scripture is true, essential in your being equipped for ministry, and essential for your sanctification.
Chapter 4
  • At every turn, speak the gospel.
  • Be on guard, persevere, evangelize, and so fulfill your ministry.
  • Sacrifice.
  • Remember that the ultimate victory is faithfulness.
  • A reward awaits the faithful.
  • The Lord stands with you, strengthening you to speak to the gospel.
  • All of this is for His glory.
You can tell from my bold highlights what my heart needed to hear: to persevere. There is so much in ministry about just putting one foot in front of the other and walking on, about continuing in the calling despite what fruit we are or aren't seeing. Paul knew it and expressed it every which way to Timothy: Continue. Fight the good fight. Keep on.

Today, by the power of God, keep on!



June 19, 2012

Where Did We Get This Idea?

Where did we get the idea that Jesus is unapproachable, judgmental, and merciless toward us?

We have no problem imagining the man Jesus that walked our earth, our roads, and our temptations as compassionate toward the diseased, at ease with the untouchables and the outcasts, or merciful toward the prostitute on the street.

But toward us? We bring our adulterous hearts before him, and we imagine He responds to us like a Pharisee: dour, nitpicky, unmoved, uncaring, merciless. We stand at a distance from Him, unsure of what He thinks of what we've done or what has been done toward us. Certainly, we assume, His love is only for the elite, the clean, the select insiders.
Where did we get this idea that the man Jesus--God With Us--is different than the One we walk with today? And where did we get the idea that we must perpetuate this Pharisee Jesus to others, requiring their cleanness before they can come near?

The same Jesus who touched the rotting flesh of the leper, delighted in the faith of a loose woman washing his feet with her hair, wept over hearts gone astray, dined with the hated outcasts of society-- this same Jesus dwells with you today, ready to heal the deepest wounds of your soul and take care of your needs with tender love.

Alot of people walking with the man Jesus didn't see His heart. They were confused and often frustrated by the extent of His compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. His grace went too far outside the bounds of religion and proper behavior.

But the children got it right. Jesus even made a point to tell the adults that the children were getting it right about Him. As children do, they pushed their way through the adults and threw themselves wildly onto His lap, begging Him to play, looking directly in His eyes, touching His face and hair, all the while flitting and wiggling about. They instinctively knew that, with Him, they were loved, welcomed, accepted, safe, protected, secure, and free.

So where did we get this idea that we can't fling ourselves wildly at Jesus? Why do we think He can't handle our uncleanness? Why do we think we're on out the outside of the super-spiritual elite? Why do we believe He wags His finger at us like a Pharisee? Why do we stand at a distance when we could be at His side, touching His face, basking in His delight?

Clearly, the man Jesus rejoiced when people threw themselves at Him in faith. He must certainly delight in those who have not seen Him but believe, who fling themselves in the air trusting they'll be caught, who see Him for who He is: one who makes crooked paths straight, who receives the unclean and makes them clean, and who brings the outsiders into His family.


And One who gleefully loves to do so.

May 2, 2012

May God (on this day in May)

An ancient Franciscan blessing on you today. Will you receive it?

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart where God's Spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don't think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you'll have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you so that you remember we are all called to continue God's redemptive work of loving and healing in God's place, in and through God's name, in God's Spirit, continually creating and breathing new life and grace into everything and everyone we touch.

February 13, 2012

Supply and Demand (For The Weary)

I am a mom to three boys, ages 8, 6, and 4.

Aside from my persistent battle with poorly-aimed pee in the bathroom and their constant running (mostly into each other), wrestling, light saber fights, and laying on top of one another (preferably naked), the major distinction of mothering boys is supplying their ravenous bellies with food.
All day long, it seems, I am pestered for food and/or drink. Just after a meal is completed, but just before I am finished cleaning up in the kitchen, there is a boy at my side asking for a snack (or a complete second meal). I dream of installing a Jetson-like machine in my kitchen that dispenses a fully-cooked meal with one press of a button. At some point, in between making the second sandwich and tearing off the third banana from the bunch, I put my foot down: "Kitchen's closed! For the sake of us all, I must ration the food for the rest of the week! Come back at breakfast!" I'm like a circus lion tamer trapped in a cage with hungry, prowling animals, fending them off with a kitchen stool.

With boys and food, it is constant demand, but limited supply.

But it's not just with boys and it's not just with food. Is there any area of life not characterized by constant demand and limited supply? Parenting, ministry, housework, marriage, work, relationships--these demand our attention, time, effort, patience, love, persistence, and commitment. In the end, however, we can only give so much. According to our human limits, as we give out to others, our supplies must be replenished. If they are not replenished we become like a lion tamer fending off weariness, discouragement, dryness, or emptiness. Or perhaps anger, bitterness, or feelings of being unloved or alone.

Where can we replenish our supplies so that we might give to others? Where do we turn when so much is demanded of us, yet so little is given in return? Who will care for us?

The Lord, who never grows weary of demands, never needs a break, never sleeps, never takes time off, will.
The Lord, whose love, grace, mercy, and patience are endless, will.
The Lord, on whom we can cast all of our cares, will.
The Lord, who is an endless supply on whom we can ravenously feast, will.
The Lord, who never leaves us to fend for ourselves, will.

This is how we thrive. We go to the Source, tell Him our needs, fill up on Him, let Him live in us, and then rise up to meet the demands of life.

He never says, "Kitchen's closed. Come back tomorrow", for His supply is unlimited and freely, joyfully given.

Now if He could only help my boys with their aim.

February 1, 2012

Good Gifts


Remembering this today, still just as true as when I originally wrote it...

I like to think. I need time to think or I go a little batty.

Good ideas or interesting thoughts flood my mind in the shower, or when I'm driving my kids to school, or when I'm blowdrying my hair. My best ideas, however, come at night as I'm trying to fall asleep. On good idea nights, I keep myself awake for hours trying to remember them or chasing little what-if rabbit trails. My best ideas come then, it seems, because I am free from reality and unmoved by fear.

Then, in the morning, I chain myself to reality once again. I talk myself out of my great idea or my bold move. I list all the reasons why not and dash my own surely-they-are-silly dreams to shreds.

Then I go do the laundry. Always the laundry.
But last night, in the final moments of awake, I thought about God holding a Mason jar with my name on it. The jar is full of little puffy, polyester hearts, each heart representing things I hope for or wish to be.

Some of them remain from when I was little, scrunched at the bottom of the jar: thoughts of being an astronaut or Miss America.

Some of the hearts are big and bursting. They are the realized dreams: a husband, children, a full ministry, great life experiences. Better than I imagined.

Some I did not put in there myself, but He lovingly chose for me: the surprising gift of a child with special needs, a knowledge of loss, a life-altering change in ministry. He enlarged the scope of my dreams.

There are the unrealized hopes. The little hearts waiting in the jar, those I take out, handle, and rearrange at the top of the jar so He won't forget. What does He think about those, I wonder? 

Oh, I see, He whispers.
He points to one and says, Not yet, child. But I see him watching it carefully like fruit needing to ripen.

He reaches into the jar and takes out a heart, turning it over in His hand. It's a silly little heart that I gave Him long ago, around the same time I let Him have the jar. I'm surprised He remembered it and how much it meant to me. I thought it was destined for the bottom of the jar with the astronaut heart. 
Silly. 
Childish.
He places it in my hand. A God who sees. A Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

Remember? Now's the time. Don't be afraid. Go. Create. Pursue. 

It's going to be alot better than you imagined.

"He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

December 15, 2011

Read My Lips

As a newlywed, I did not fight fair. My MO was simple: turn on the water works, speak before thinking, and, when all else fails, use the silent treatment. Kyle called this--my mute, comatose state--System Shutdown, but he (wisely) only called it that when I was no longer in it, when the skirmish had ended and all had been settled between us.
Sometimes during System Shutdown, he'd try to talk to me: "What's wrong?" 

"Nothing," I'd say, clearly lying, with my arms crossed and eyes glued to the floor.

Silence.

But there wasn't silence in my head. The angry monologue played: I can't believe he doesn't know what's wrong. It's so obvious. Ooooh boy, that just makes me more mad that he doesn't know. If he really loved me, he would know. 

I was certain he could read my mind, he should read my mind. My poor husband, newly trapped in a marriage with a mute wife holding impossible expectations over him. 

Gradually, I learned to stop equating true love with mind meld. Too, I saw Kyle's earnest, genuine desire to meet my needs. To help him, when I grew frustrated, I learned to pinpoint what was truly bothering me and calmly and specifically address it with him. I learned to directly ask for what I needed from him. I quit the silent treatment cold turkey.

System Shutdown is completely and forever shutdown.

Lesson learned.

Or so I thought. 

Although I no longer expect my husband to read my mind, I realized recently that I often expect other people to do it. 

Like my children. Do they know how proud I am of them or how I am delighted by their gifts and quirks? Do they know what I hope for them or what I pray for them? Do they know how valuable and special they are to me?

Or my friends. Do they know how thankful I am for their encouragement or how much I appreciate the things they do for me, liking keeping my kids or remembering my birthday? Do they know that I couldn't make it without them or that I see God using them in powerful ways? 

Or my mentors. Do they know that I thrive on their example? Do they know that I appreciate their leadership and service? Do they know they've made a profound impact on my life?

Or the people hurting around me. Do they know that I care about what they're going through or that I am challenged by their faithfulness to the Lord? Do they know that I am praying for them and thinking of them? Do they know they aren't alone?

And maybe even still my husband, but in a different way than before. Does he know that I respect his leadership in our home and in our church? Does he know how I honored I feel to be his wife? Does he know that I think he's funny or that I appreciate that he makes the bed every morning? 

My presence isn't enough. They aren't going to know these things by osmosis.

Generic thank you's or I love you's aren't enough. They aren't going to know the depth of how I feel unless I'm vulnerable and specific. 

Thinking it and feeling it isn't enough. They aren't going to know unless I speak the words.

They can't read my mind.

So they must read my lips.

February 24, 2011

Jar of Hearts

I like to think. I need time to think or I go a little batty.

Good ideas or interesting thoughts flood my mind in the shower, or when I'm driving my kids to school, or when I'm blowdrying my hair. My best ideas, however, come at night as I'm trying to fall asleep. On good idea nights, I keep myself awake for hours trying to remember them or chasing little what-if rabbit trails. My best ideas come then, I think, because I am free from reality and unmoved by fear.

Then, in the morning, I chain myself to reality once again. I talk myself out of my great idea or my bold move. I list all the reasons why not and dash my own surely-they-are-silly dreams to shreds.

Then I go do the laundry. Always the laundry.

But last night, in the final moments of awake, I thought about God holding a Mason jar with my name on it. The jar is full of little puffy, polyester hearts, each heart representing things I hope for or wish to be.

Some of them remain from when I was little, scrunched at the bottom of the jar: thoughts of being an astronaut or Miss America.

Some of the hearts are big and bursting. They are the realized dreams: a husband, children, a full ministry, great life experiences. Better than I imagined.

Some I did not put in there myself, but He lovingly chose for me: the surprising gift of a child with special needs, a knowledge of loss, a life-altering change in ministry. He enlarged the scope of my dreams.

There are the unrealized hopes. The little hearts waiting in the jar, those I take out, handle, and rearrange at the top of the jar so He won't forget. What does He think about those, I wonder? 

Oh, I see, He whispers.
He points to one and says, Not yet, child. But I see him watching it carefully like fruit needing to ripen.

He reaches into the jar and takes out a heart, turning it over in His hand. It's a silly little heart that I gave Him long ago, around the same time I let Him have the jar. I'm surprised He remembered it and how much it meant to me. I thought it was destined for the bottom of the jar with the astronaut heart. Silly. Childish.

He places it in my hand. A God who sees. A Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

Remember? Now's the time. Don't be afraid. Go. Create. Pursue. 


It's going to be alot better than you imagined.


"He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

August 20, 2010

All Dried Up

After my last post, I heard a chorus in my head saying...

What if I'm "all dried up" because my husband doesn't encourage me?
What if that source of encouragement is not there because I'm not married?
Should we then seek after the approval of men?

Women, whatever our situation, if we are in Christ, God has given us fellowship with one another. How do we participate in this fellowship? We should be consistently engaged, seeking out opportunities to bless, serve, and encourage our sisters. What if we looked for that opportunity in each interaction and actually spoke the words we often think, but don't say?

Friend, I see that you are gifted by God for such a time as this.
Sister, it is challenging to me how you are trusting God in your singleness. Don't give up!
Your children are a joy. I see your love for them.

Instead, what I find is that sin creeps in my heart and the good that I see in another turns to envy. I dwell in comparison, not only passing up an opportunity to encourage a sister, but then subjecting myself to insecurity and discontentment.

Celebrating one another is precious to the heart of God. When my children happily play together or celebrate each other's accomplishments, my eyes fill with tears of joy. How much more joy God must feel when we encourage each other!

Thankfully, even if we are "dried up" because we don't receive encouragement, we are in a relationship, through Christ, with a God who offers encouragement. He is not a God who says Come so I may demand from you but Come so I may listen and offer you my love. Cast all your cares upon me because I care for you.

Should we seek encouragement from others? No, that is an empty pursuit. Should we seek it from God? Yes, because His is full and satisfying.

I think of David in I Samuel 30-- that while he led his men into battle, their wives and children back home were taken by their enemies. His warriors became enraged with David. He was grief-stricken and overcome. There was no one there to offer him wisdom or encouragement.

But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. (vs 6)

And he received both.
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