Be Assertive

bow headIt was 1987. I was wearing a big white bow in my hair, a cute denim jumper dress, and white Keds with bobby socks. I was 18 and crying in front of a class of 6th graders.

Something babbled out of mouth like, “If you knew me, you’d really like me.” I can still see one of the boys smirking at me as I cried.

This is my true and somewhat traumatic memory of being a substitute teacher at a Department of Defense school in West Germany.  Desperate for subs, they hired me fresh out of my freshman year of college.  Newly married and full of ideas and sweetness, those 6th graders ate me alive.

A week later, I was telling the cry story to my friend Carla Breeding, an experienced teacher.  She said, “Oh my word Lisa, you have to read this book”.  She pulled a book off her shelf called Be Assertive.

It changed my life.

I thought loving kids was about being sweet, being fun, and being a pal. But what I learned from that book was that loving kids is framed by healthy, kind, clear boundaries.

The next time I subbed, I remember writing on the board:  “If you get out of your seat without permission, you will go to the principal’s office.”  I was tested within 5 minutes by the most testing kid in the class, the smirker from my cry day.  I sent him straight to the principal’s office and then said to the rest of the class “who’s next?”  From that moment forward, it was a good day of learning sans tears from the sub.

I still have issues with boundaries, but I’ve read the Cloud and Townsend book. I still have issues with desperately wanting to be liked, so I often learn in the codependent circle at Shift that I’m not alone in this. But deep inside, my heart longs for people to know how much He loves us.  How that plays out in real life must be steeped in kind, loving, sincere, patient, assertive boundaries so that Christ is King, Christ is known, Christ is adored.

The sweet girl with the white bow is still learning.

xo Lisa

 

Advertisements

Thank you Lord for being here.

God has a great sense of humor, even if I don’t always agree. For the past several months I have developed a few friendships with the kids in the 3rd-5th grade room. I know I’m not supposed to have favorites but Varnelle is definitely one of mine. We always shoot around at the basketball hoops and I ask him about his week and he will usually launch into some of the favorite things he got to do. This week he received a new Lego play set and he was super stoked. After we played for a while the music started and it was time for programming. If you have never been to Flatiron’s Kid Ministry, it can be chaos.

During service a bunch of kids by the basketball hoops were talking and cutting up so I went sat over by them.  I handed Levi a can of thinking putty to open and play with as it calmed his mind and aided in his focus to what was going on the stage. There is something about using our hands to shape things that allows us to hone in more. Varnelle came and sat by me and showed me a gigantic foam popcorn box that mirrored the thinking putty. We passed it back and forth for a bit while listening to the lesson. He leaned over and whispered, “Remember that time you gave me a can of thinking putty? It was blue and changed colors to red and I play with it all the time.” We sat through the teaching of Jesus healing a blind man with mud and spit, and the boys around me cringed and giggled and wondered at the story.

Afterwards, I led a small group of thirteen kids in an activity where someone was blindfolded and had to have someone else lead them by their voice to find a bean bag someone placed within the circle. Kids ran and played and giggled as they took turns being blind and fumbling around the ground. I wrapped up the game and we sat back down in the circle as we discussed the activity and what we learned in the lesson.

I asked if anyone had any prayer requests and told them if they didn’t want to share out loud that they could write it on a card and hand it in so that I could be praying for them and their request throughout the week. Varnelle came up to me and handed in his request as I high fives him and told him thank you for trusting me with his prayers.

He ran off to play and  as I unfolded the paper the wind was knocked out of me, not because there was something insane written down, rather the simplicity and beauty of what he had written. “Thank you Lord for being here.”

IMG_0828

I swear that this little notecard was a hand delivered message from God Himself.

This week for some reason has been hard. My body has seemed to forget that it should be healthy and paired with that,  I’ve found myself in some sort of weird existential funk and everything feels heavy. There are times in my life that for whatever reason seems like a drought in the desert, no matter what I do, I just can’t seem to find nourishment. I feel like a blind man on the side of the road with no hope of healing.

I absolutely love what I do in kid’s ministry. I love all of the games and stories laughter that weave throughout the weekend. I love getting to build relationships with our kids and the leaders that serve alongside me. It’s also a place where I constantly bump into Jesus unexpectedly, just like the blind man in our story tonight.

Mark 8:22 And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to (Jesus) a blind man and begged him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” 24 And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” 25 Then Jesus[c] laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

It has always amazed me that Jesus used his own spit and dirt from the earth to use in healing the blind man’s sight.  There is something very raw about this that almost feels unnecessary. All Jesus had to do was touch the man, or even say He was healed for it to be so. So why lead him out of the village and use spit and dirt?   I’ll be honest, I have no idea why this event happened the way it did.

I do know that Jesus is in the business of leading us somewhere. That somewhere leads to healing.  I’d like to think that Jesus used this as an example to show us sometimes we have to trust him to where He is leading us and at times we are going to get dirty and it’s not going to look exactly how we thought it would.

In the moments when I feel like I can’t see, in the time when things are heavy, He is here. And I am so thankful for the times he uses things in the world around me to show me that He hasn’t left me. Tonight that came in the form of a note. I’m glad that Varnelle loves hanging out in kid’s ministry. I’m also glad that I have to spend my week thanking the Lord that He is here.

And for now that is enough.

 

 

Your word for 2018

beready for a growth in 2018! And maybe picking your word for the year will be a part of that.

Already this year, I’ve gotten a sweet surprise from heaven! Joining you, Flatirons, and Joseph Hoffman to serve as the Assistant Director in 3rd-5th Grade Summit Kids Ministry is the answer to my prayers.  I’ve been praying to be in a passionately Jesus-centered creative community.  I’m so very thankful today. 

A few years ago, God showed me something that I’m finally learning to embrace, and it is why I picked the word “be” as my word for 2018.

One day while praying, God showed me very clearly that my perceived value was wrapped up in what I did for Him.  He showed me that I felt worthy of His love and the love of others based on my work. That day in prayer, He gently told me that He wanted me to stay with Him and to stop running around trying to help everyone all the time.

From that moment in October 2015 until now, I’ve been looking for clues in God’s Word about how to “stay” with Him.

From Psalm 1 – Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

From Jeremiah 17 – Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in Him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear fruit.

And from Luke 10 – “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In that last passage, I had to look again to see what Jesus was saying is THE most needed thing.  What had Mary done that would garner such powerful words from Christ? In the verses before, it says she “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what He said.”  Just that.  Just sitting, just listening, just being with Him.  He said it was the one needed thing.

In typical Lisa fashion, I’ve been analyzing these thoughts and concepts for a long time, but this is the year I finally fully step in.  My word for 2018 is “be” because I’m determined to stay with Him, sinking down deeply into His love every moment of my life.

Your word for the year is like a vision statement for who you want to be by the end of 2018.  Please spend some time with Your Father this week and ask Him what your word is.  Just be with Him and listen.  And know that Joseph, Brooke, and I will be praying that you hear clearly.

with love – Lisa

PS: Click here for a wonderful website with tools to help you pick your word for 2018 from the author of My One Word, Mike Ashcraft.

Present it anyway

I have a confession. I’m kind of (okay, I am) obsessed with the Great British Baking show. It started innocently enough. I came home one day while my wife Lizzie was watching it. The thought of watching twelve people race against a clock to make fantastical doughy creations didn’t seem exciting at first, but my propensity for devouring sugary confections eventually overtook any objections the logical side of my brain had. Before I knew it I had binged watched six seasons of biscuit battles like it was a tower of doughnuts set in front of me.

I’ve always loved cooking and creating. My Mamaw Lowe taught me had to roll a pie crust at the age of four and my dad would catch me creating odd breakfast combinations at all hours of the night during high school. To this day I have no idea where I thought up habenero shrimp omelettes drenched in maple syrup but they need to make a come back.

In season six of GBB there was a phenomenal baker named Ian. He was just a normal guy that entered into the competition and wowed the judges over and over with his ambition and creativity. There was a point when the six bakers left were tasked with a challenge that required them to make a sort of ice cream cake with all sorts of bells and whistles. The day was particularly hot and as the challenge wore on and the clock dwindled Ian was panicked that his ice cream would not set. The sponge cake, filling, and everything else he had looked absolutely gorgeous. He went over to retrieve his ice cream from the freezer to find that someone had left his ice cream out when they took their item out. It had melted and there was no hope for it to set in time. In a temporary moment of outrage he grabbed his entire creation and through it in the trashcan and stormed off at the verge of tears.

man-throwing-cake-to-trash-bin-closeup-young-caucasian-topped-whipped-cream-91731775

As a viewer I was shocked. “How could he do that!?” He should just show the judges what he had made and explain what happened!” I shouted at the television frantically.

The time came for Ian to present his cake and he brought the judges the trashcan and said he had nothing to offer them. The judges asked him why he didn’t show them the work he had completed. He said something along the lines of “It wasn’t good enough, and it was missing what it was supposed to have and in my frustration I tossed it.”

“I would have liked to at least try it, it sure looked lovely.”

It wasn’t good enough. By who’s standards? Why was he willing to throw away hours of work because a small mishap? Sure he wouldn’t have won, but the judges are gracious and would have let him stay. Instead he threw it away because in his mind it wasn’t perfect.

That night I was infuriated by something that plays out in my life over and over. It also reminds me of a parable Jesus once told. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable of three men who were given talents when their master left on a journey. When the master returns he checks to see what each man has done. Two men made a lot of investments with what they were given and happily reported this. They were rewared. The third man came to the master and told him that he heard rumors of the kind of man he was and decided to bury the talent so he wouldn’t do the wrong thing with it. Needless to say the Master was not happy and the servant’s story didn’t end well.

This story and that moment on the Great British Baking show both speak to me.

There are so many times in my life that I let fear control the decisions I make. And this usually looks like burying my blog posts into my trash folder, avoiding the conversation I’m supposed to have, or even skipping the gym because I’m so afraid that what I have to offer won’t be good enough.

I look for excuses or stories to reinforce my belief and follow that instead of being vulnerable and trusting God with the abilities he has given me.

A friend told me last week that I have to become comfortable with the fact that not everything I do will be perfect, but it is still important that I create things and that I do.

He challenged me to sit down at my computer for 15-30 minutes, write something and publish it without overthinking it or over editing it.

So after about 30 attempts at sitting down at my computer I’m doing it.

Of all the things we do in the world, showing up is the most important. We will stumble and fumble around plenty of times, but our Good Father will be with us every step of the way. He can’t walk along side of us if we aren’t willing to take a step.

So hopefully in the future instead of cowering behind excuses that whatever I’m writing isn’t as good as what i’ve done, I will be diligent with my word and what the ability God has given me. And maybe one day that will turn into something beautiful, and wonderful. Right now it might be a melted ice cream cake but I will present it.

This week may we all have the courage to take the next step, write the next sentence, and finish what we have started.

Chosen

My wife Lizzie and I went to look for our first Christmas tree last night. We recently moved into our new place and after the chaos began to dwindle down into a neater puzzle, we decided it was time to add some Christmas spirit. Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I love the everything about it. I own a catalog of goofy Christmas sweaters, love every cheesy Christmas movie, have been known to eat my weight in homemade Christmas desserts and candies, and I’m absolutely enamored by Christmas trees and decorations.

My grandparents never had much, but every year my grandpa would miraculously find the most beautiful real Christmas tree. He had red Christmas bells that were his favorite and he would string up outside on the house, but my favorite was the tree.  I was always in awe at how immaculate it looked with each ornament glistening from the light streaming down from the angel so delicately sitting at the top. Peace and joy always overwhelmed me every time I looked at it. It felt like living Grace.

So last night when Lizzie and I went looking for a tree, I had in my head the perfect image of what I wanted to get. It would put Clark Griswold’s tree to shame when it was all said and done. We drove to a lot filled with all kinds of trees with beautiful titles; blue spruce, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir. They were surrounded by lights and decorations and Christmas music blasting throughout and it was magical. I kept dancing between the trees imaging how majestic it would look in our apartment, and then, my eyes caught the price tag and my heart dropped. The trees went from noble giants to towering green posts that would explode at any minute. We  thanked the attendant and continued on our search for the perfect Christmas tree.

A few miles down the road we stopped at a Lowe’s to look at fake trees we could keep for a long time, and after looking through them we just couldn’t seem to settle on anything. We walked around for a bit and saw that outside they still had some real trees they were selling and decided to take a look. We approached the trees and hope was sparked once again and my heart began to flutter. There were plenty of tall fir trees that were full, lush, and smelled of Christmas cheer.

We rounded the corner and we saw it, sitting in the clearance section, a scraggly goofy looking tree that completely stole our hearts. I can’t begin to tell you why on earth it captivated the way it did, the $15 price tag might have helped, but there was something about it that sparked a little bit of joy inside of me. Lizzie and I looked at each other and knew that this was the one.

As we were carrying it through the store to the checkout someone laughed at our tree when they saw and referred to it as the “Charlie Brown Christmas tree”. He looked utterly surprised and a little disgusted that we were so in love with this thing. We checked out, fit it into my car, and took it home where we hung ornaments on it, wrapped lights around it, and put it on display for all to see.

IMG_0616

It dawned on me then that this is exactly how God looks at each one of us. There are times in my life when I feel beat up and worthless and like I having nothing to give. I feel like a tree that is in the clearance been just waiting to be scrapped and thrown away. But Jesus comes along and picks me up, wraps me up in new clothes, in majesty and tells me that I am loved, I will not be discarded, and shows me off for all to see, and heaven celebrates. He does this with each one of us. God came to earth as a vulnerable baby in one of the lowliest places to show us that even the littlest of things can be majestic. He came to show us that all can be changed and redeemed and welcomed in His Kingdom.

He has chosen us and all of our imperfections, the things that others see and say are worthless or not good enough and instead says that we are loved, accepted, and puts us on display for all to see. That is the beauty of Christmas and and that is Good news.  

This Christmas season may we be reminded that we are loved by the Creator of all, chosen and accepted, and give that gift to others. Amen

 

1 Corinthians 2: 26 “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”d

The Ways of Hide and Seek

My heart racing as I ran down the hallway, I begged God, and everyone around the house to just give me a little whimper, a whistle, something, to let me know I was close. Frantically opening every door and cabinet, ripping all of the sheets off lived-in beds, I began to lose hope of ever finding anyone.

I crumbled to the floor, desperate, defeated.  Just as I had began to lose hope and started developing a foraging and hunting strategy for my five year old self to survive, I heard a slight tapping downstairs.

This was either one of my family members, our poodle Princess, or a terrifying ghoul, but at this point I was willing to welcome any other being of existence with open arms. I got up off the floor in my misery and began walking gently on tipped toes, creeping along the hallway and looking back and forth intently for the culprit of the taps.

The taps would happen intermittently. Surprisingly enough every time I would begin losing hope that I would never find my family again, they would start up lightly and gently, quietly reminding me not to give up hope.

The taps became louder as I got closer to the basement, so I rushed towards them! Just as I rounded the corner a hand zoomed around and wrapped me up.  I was lifted into the air and a low, but welcome voice growled happily “Got ya!!” There I was in my father’s arms giggling away the fear that had filled me, safe and overjoyed.

There are times in my life when I have the exact same feeling as I did playing the seeker. Lost. Alone. Hopelessness and helplessness permeating through the unknown. Knocking down every door I can find, frantically searching for even the smallest shreds of clarity or guidance.

hide_and_seek_by_bennybrand-d484hrkα

Unknowingness has a way of debilitating me. It wraps around me whispering lies that become all too true in my head. It creates noise and an alternate reality that is easily available and believable to me.  It paralyzes me from moving forward. I easily give up.

While this is happening God has never given up and will never give up on me. He gently taps against the walls of my heart, patiently waiting for me to tune in and listen.

Am I truly listening for Him, or am I caught up in the present circumstances, so focused on the fear and what is happening around me that I am deaf to the whisper of the spirit?

Psalms 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God.” God is with me just as my father was during hide and seek. My ability to hear Him is correlated to my stillness. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It is accessible, always.

This day may we still ourselves long enough to hear the whisper and have the courage to follow it. May we find the Father and allow Him to wrap his arms around us tight. In His arms we are safe. We are secure. We are full of joy.

 

Don’t Touch. Wet Paint!

 

DON'T TOUCH

Just last week I took my two stepsons to the batting cages. My youngest, Eli has been playing baseball for the first time this past fall and his older brother Scott of course get’s to tag along.  Scott and I had found a perfect spot where we could watch and encourage Eli safely behind the cage.  I leaned back on the cold concrete wall and firmly pressed against it while slowly sliding down until I was sitting on the floor.

Scott found a comfy spot on a really big industrial sized storage box with two locks on it. One was a lock that required a key, the other was the key box that required a code to unlock. For several minutes Scott messed with the key box taking his best guess at the possible passwords.

After a few minutes he threw the the lock against the box and with his hands in the air he exclaimed “I JUST WANT TO UNLOCK THE BOX!”

“Why?” I asked.  I could see in his facial expressions that he didn’t really know why. Feeling a little like the Oracle talking to Neo in the Matrix, I challenged him asking, “If there was no lock would you have wanted to open the box?”

He crinkled his nose and laughed. He knew that if there wasn’t a lock that he probably wouldn’t have even bothered with the box. It was the lock that made it interesting. It was the lock that sparked his curiosity.

I mean how many of you have seen a sign that says “Don’t Touch, Wet Paint” and in that moment you just felt like you had to touch the wall, just to see. Me too. It’s where you do one of those look over your shoulder make sure no ones watching and then quickly touch the wall. I know that if the sign wasn’t there in the first place I never would have considered touching the wall.

The Law out of scripture (including the 10 Commandments) creates the same tendency that the Wet Paint sign creates. Scripture points this out in Romans 7:8

But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.

In other words where there is law, there are more opportunities for sin to sneak in and cause us to stumble. However if we recognize that we are free from the law then we can have victory over sin.

Similar to the wet paint post this has also been the case with any kind of diet I’ve ever tried. I remember a few years ago I took the Whole 30 challenge. I prepared diligently and studied recipes that were “Whole 30” approved. When day 1 finally arrived something happened. I had the most intense cravings for things like Taco Bell, (which I never eat) Soda, Candy, and a bread bowl from Panera! These were all things that I never even ate regularly, but because I had laid down law, the cravings flooded my brain for several days.

I believe this happens when we decide that we want to repent and change and fix our lives. From now on I’m going to ________ in order to make me a better person! Whatever you fill in the blank with, when you make it law- you are setting sin up for a way to find opportunity in screwing up your plans.

Paul in Romans 7:5 reveals

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.

We can’t be saved by our behavior or our ability to keep the law,  because quite frankly it’s impossible to keep. But why then do so many of us thank Jesus for saving us by grace, and then insist on living by the law the rest of our Christian life?

I lead a group of high school girls on Tuesday nights and we were talking about their thoughts on if they think God liked them. Most of them had a religious answer on why they know God loves them. Then I asked them “on a scale of 1 to 10 how do you think you rank in God’s eyes?”

“2” one girl said. “6” another replied. “Depends on the day 5 usually, sometimes maybe an 8.”

How did they come up with those answers? How many times they read their bible? How many times they didn’t sin that day? Or maybe how many times they came to youth group and church this past month?

I giggled and revealed to them that whatever rating system they’re using, they can forget about it. God doesn’t save us by grace and then ask us to perform in order to be good behaving Christians. He gave us grace to save us, and then he heaped on more grace by giving us a new life, his life.

It’s true, the law was brought to us by God so that our sins would increase, not decrease.

The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. (Romans 5:20)

Have you ever considered that our struggle with sin might be directly tied to the religious shackles we place on ourselves?

So we can either exhaust ourselves trying to perform for God. Or, we can join Him and recognize what it says in Romans 7:8 as truth- that apart from the law, sin is dead! We can have freedom from sin if we choose to let go of religion. Once our problem of being spiritually dead is healed and we have Christ as our life, we are free from the grasps of sin. We are called Kings and Queens and more than conquerors.

Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

Who am I?

I remember the sweat dribbling from my forehead down onto my quivering lip as I stared straight into the face of a giant beast they called a defensive tackle. He was at least 4 and three quarters my size and I could tell he loved the taste of a small fourth graders blood.

Football players at line of scrimmage ready to snap football

I’m no football expert but I still have no idea why the coach decided to put a boy with the stature of Frodo Baggins on the offensive line across from the bloodthirsty, orc-sized humans on defense. What’s even more confusing is that I continued to listen to everyone around me, line up right of center, and get squashed on every play.

I enjoyed watching football with my dad and listening to him and my cousins talk about it relentlessly, but the truth is I had no business being on the football field. I wasn’t fast enough for running back, I was too scared of getting hit to be a quarterback, I had a 40 yard dash time reminiscent of a soaking wet sloth, and if I mustered all the strength I had, I might have been able to topple over a newborn calf, but nothing close to a living, breathing football player.

What I did love was reading and listening to music, spending hours practicing piano and writing stories of animals and people defeating dark forces. I would wake up before dawn and sneak into the kitchen to make a mouth watering concoction of whatever I could find in the cabinets, and then I would spend the rest of my day following people around talking their ear off about the most recent game I was playing or the plot points of my new favorite book.

So why on earth did I want to quit doing everything I loved to get repeatedly pounded into the ground?

I wanted to belong.

We moved to a small rural town in Oklahoma when I was eight and I was afraid the people who surrounded me wouldn’t accept me for the person that I was. So I became what I thought they wanted me to be.

I decided to choose “safety and comfort” in the the acceptance of those around me because I was afraid. I was afraid I would have no friends, or that if people saw the real and quirky me they would laugh and walk away.

Choosing the path of conformity seemed like the best option at the time but it was often at the cost of true belonging in God and who He created me to be.

There is a whisper (the Holy Spirit) inside of each us that speaks to our soul, that encourages us, that speaks to the good of who God created us to be.  When we choose to listen to this, to pursue this, to believe the whisper, it leads us to freedom, and living through it we can accomplish great things.

In competition with that whisper though, there is a mind numbing shout. That shout says things like “you will never be good enough unless you are like them.” “You won’t be accepted if you do this, so go and do that.” “You need to be this,  you should have done that” …. and the list goes on and on.

Shame lives in the words need and should. Shame lives in the thoughts and feelings of “not enough.” It feeds off fear and insecurity.

Shame has no place in the whisper. In fact, the more intently we listen to the whisper the quieter the shouts become. Shame does not thrive when we live out of a place of belonging, and it ceases to exist when we live out of the belonging that comes from being a child of the Living God.

I am so glad that I don’t have to continue to line up on a football field I have no business being at to find my belonging.

It has taken my whole life to realize that I don’t have to keep pretending to be something I’m not. God created me to be Joseph Hoffman and no one else.

There are good days and there are a lot of bad days. It’s so much easier to listen to the shouts then it is to truly hear and listen to the whisper.

The truth is God is overjoyed at who he created me to be and loves me for me. And the same goes for all of us.

Ephesians 2:10(NRSV) says this” 10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

What would happen if we chose to believe that God not only loves us but He likes us?  He is in love with what he created. Not just us at our best but in all of the goofiness and awkwardness, the falls, the triumphs and especially in the ugly crying.

I believe that we live our best lives when we truly see ourselves how God sees us, which is loved, redeemed, beautiful and belonging.

This week may we choose to listen to the whisper, and walk in the confidence that we are children of the living God.

 

 

Backcountry Provision

Back Prov

We were well above the tree line and I could feel my steps becoming heavy, as if I was trudging through cement. My husband several feet ahead of me felt like a million miles away as we slowly snaked up the side of a mountain. The cold bitter wind had chilled me to the core earlier on our trek but I was thankful to be hidden from it for now behind this hill.

Jason and I love to backpack through the Colorado backcountry and we try to make several trips a year if we can. This particular trip we had decided to do a loop through Indian Peaks wilderness that lead us right over the ridge that neighbors Sawtooth Mountain.

As we neared closer to the ridge the wind began to whip with a greater force. I pulled the hood of my jacket around my face hoping for some refuge. It took me back to the time I was about 5 or 6 years-old walking to school in the winter against the wind and snow in good ol’ windy Wyoming. I remember being able to lean against the wind with all my weight and still be held up by it, as if it were a physical wall.

The moment I stepped on that ridge I was met with such a force that it nearly knocked me backwards. I dropped to my knees. Jason squatted next to me and hollered instructions like “keep your feet wide,” and “drop your head and shoulder to cut through the gusts.” I attempted to take his advice, but ended up crawling over the ridge on my hands and knees. “One wrong move and I could die” I remember thinking, “I could blow right off this mountain.”

After we came down from the peak and began our descent I remember turning my head back over my shoulder and just being in awe of what I had just come over. I love backpacking, but sometimes I can’t believe some of the places I end up going.

I feel as though sometimes our life can be a lot like that. We end up going places that leave us feeling like we might die if we make one wrong move, or worse we’ll get stuck there forever. Sometimes those places make us hit our knees, and we may end up having to crawl just to get through.  And as we continue on we might even look back and be in awe of what we just survived.

What I’ve recently discovered within my own life is that sometimes God doesn’t want us to walk, crawl or wrestle our way through such seasons. Sometimes He wants us to sit through them. Now I certainly do not mean that He wants us to sit on the couch, numb ourselves, and ignore our circumstances.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11: 28 NIV

What I mean is that once we are believers in Christ we have his life and our spirits are renewed and filled with the Holy Spirit. When we walk and journey through the hard parts of life we are to let Christs’ life work in and through us. Not roll up our sleeves and try harder. One verse that hits this home for me is when Paul is writing his letter to Christians in Ephesians.

And God raised (past tense) us up with Christ and seated us (past tense) with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:6

So not only does the Holy Spirit reside in our hearts but we are seated IN Jesus IN heaven, and it turns out it’s already happened, this isn’t talking about going to heaven in the future. (Mind blown.) The point is, Paul is instructing us to know and believe that Christ has us seated. When you are participating in sitting you are relying on that thing of which you are sitting on.

We are seated in Jesus. Which means that we are called to be fully reliant on Christ Jesus to do the heavy lifting, and the navigating. In times of doubt or if we are not sure how he is going to pull it off, we can have confidence that he will and we can rely on his ability to do so.

We need to put away our belief that we must be self reliant and instead find rest in him. It’s much like when Pastor Jim says, “If we could fix it ourselves we already would have.” No matter what season of life you are journeying through, whether that be a windy mountain ridge or a peaceful valley, resting in Jesus only means a richer life.

Do you find it difficult to rest and be fully reliant on God? Why?

What are some things that you have learned and are reliant on in order to get life to do what you want it to do?  Are you willing to surrender these to Jesus?

 

Take A Leap of Blind Faith?

blind faith

 

There have been several times in my life when I have surveyed my current circumstances and thought to myself, how on earth am I going to get through this one?  This past January my shortly lived six month “grace period” ended after I graduated college and Sallie Mae began sending me emails about paying back on the atrocious amount of student debt I had acquired over the past five years studying and becoming a well-educated citizen.  I remember looking at the dollar amount and feeling so overwhelmed. At the time, my full-time job was paying me a below poverty line wage and my part-time job was demanding that I work late hours often getting home around 2 a.m.

I remember venting to a friend and her reply was to “have faith.” Have faith?! I’m sure she meant it as words of comfort but to me it sounded like, sweep your problems under the rug, cross your fingers, close your eyes and pray that one day good ol’ Sallie Mae would call you and say “Never mind we don’t need your money go on and live your life.”

This is a blind and terrible way to live your life, and yet I feel as though as believers we often walk as though faith means following God the same way, blindly.

I’ve been reading a book called Stomping Out the Darkness that compared some people’s perceptions to following Christ a lot like a scene out of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the film the last clue leads him to a ledge where he must take a “leap of faith.”

 

Is this the kind of faith that God desires from us? It is no doubt that faith is both vital and central to being a follower of Christ. In Hebrews 11:6 it says Without faith it is impossible to please Him. And in Colossians 2:6 Paul wrote “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” How did we receive Christ? By faith. How are we to walk in him? By Faith.

But what is faith? Is it a blind leap into nothingness as in the Indiana Jones clip? Not at all. Here are three main ideas around faith that might change the way we approach our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

  1. What are you putting your faith into?

Every day I drive by faith. I have faith that the cars in the other lane are not going to decide to take their hands off the wheel and run into me as I drive into and from work. I put my faith in my Husband that he’s not going to go home to another woman and that when my friend invites me to coffee that she’s going to show up. But what happens when our faith in an object fails? Sometimes it can take years to repair when our faith in a person is shattered. Other things are more reliable. We all have faith that the Earth is going to continue to rotate on its axis and that the sun will continue to rise each morning. Hebrews 13:8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.” He has been eternally faithful to us meaning that we can put our faith in Him.

  1. Strength of Faith is Determined by Depth of Knowledge.

I know that the bible says that Jesus never changes but He didn’t seem very reliable when my dad got cancer and still hasn’t healed him completely. He didn’t seem very faithful when my mom tells the story of her two-year-old sister getting ran over which eventually lead to a nasty divorce between my grandparents. He didn’t seem very faithful when my friend and her husband have had several miscarriages even though they keep trying to have a family.

It’s easy to look at God in these ugly circumstances and tell him to “get lost.” But we must know that our faith doesn’t get shaky because God is insufficient, but rather because what we think we know about God is insufficient. If you have little knowledge about God and his word, you will have little faith. The greater knowledge and the deeper the relationship, the stronger the faith in Him. It’s no different with my relationships in this life. If I don’t know someone very well, why on earth would I put my faith in them during my greatest times of need? It would be silly to expect that from anyone you barely knew.

  1. Faith Is A Verb

I’m sure we’ve all heard the verse from James 2:17-18. It says So also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.  I’ve never particularly loved this verse. Not because I don’t like service but rather because I’ve heard too many sermons on our performance earning God’s love and grace. I know that I can’t earn God’s grace or his acceptance or his love. That his love for me knows no bounds, but this verse still never sat well with me until I was shown a different way to look at it.

I have two step-sons with my husband their names are Scott and Eli. The youngest was four-years-old when I met him and typically was quite the adventurer. I remember one time we took them ice skating for the first time and I will never forget how white their knuckles were- clenching on to the side of the wall, wobbly knees shaking and barely standing on both feet. Jason took the oldest between his legs and grabbed his hands and skated alongside him with ease. However, Eli refused to let go of the wall. “Do you believe that I will hold on to you?” I asked him. Yes. How did I know that he believed me? Because finger by finger, he let go of the wall and put his hands out in mine and eventually we went skating together. Imagine that he would have said yes and then continued to clutch on to the wall. Would he really have had faith that I was going to hold on to him? No. Faith involves action. To have faith in God we must do what he says, otherwise do we really believe him?

During times of hardship do you push into your relationship with God looking to grow in your faith? Or do you question him or have a hard time believing that He is good? As a team, I challenge all of us to lean into Him. If we lived like this, and had such a relationship with the one who created us, how would your life look different?