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Love (Is...)

Original Published Date: February 7, 2018

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….all you need. Or so the song says.

But is it really? Because in this place of fragile hearts colliding with chaotic brokenness, sometimes it feels like we need a whole lot more than the love those songs are promising. We need more than sweet sentiment and romantic gestures and flowers. They fail us in the face of the realities our lives meet- Divorce, addiction, sin, abuse, poverty, injustice, failure, rejection. No box of chocolates or butterflies in the stomach can make these okay.

So maybe we need something else.

Something fierce and wild to protect and keep us safe from all the dangers, even the ones we create. Or something so steady and solid it could settle our worried souls from the roller coaster of unknowns and uncertainty. Or maybe we just need a glimpse of breath taking beauty to help lift our spirits out of the muddy mess we see all around us.

Or maybe we just need Someone.

Because when those hard and heavy things happen, we really need safety and steadfastness and beauty all together. And maybe they can’t be found the way we shop for the newest and coolest at Target. Maybe they are best discovered as parts of a whole. That there is One who is so completely sufficient He carries all those and more facets of this thing called Love within Himself. Maybe he cannot really describes himself outside of the context of Love because He is, in fact, Love.

He says “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”

He proclaims “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

He promises “I will fill you with an inexpressible and glorious joy”

He whispers “I laid down my life because I considered you worthy, when you didn’t even care I existed.”

His love is so strong it compelled him to leave actual paradise and join us in the chaos and broken and it is so strong it held him to a cross. To protect us from the pain and suffering we created with our sin, he took the pain and suffering on himself. He is the hero every story is echoing- the one whose sacrifice is so beautiful it changes us as we see it.

All you need is Love. Love is a three letter word.

God is Love.

Love (is not...)

Original Published Date: February 10, 2018

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Been thinking a lot about Love lately. Of course Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and there are chocolate hearts everywhere, and all that has me considering how confusing and inaccurate our picture of love has become.

Love is not an emotion. Love often carries many emotions with it- some pleasant, some not- but love is not a feeling we have. It is a decision to seek the best for another. It is at times gentle and soft, when that is best for the other. It is also direct and challenging, when that is best. Sometimes love offers a gift and other times it sets a boundary.

It does not fade- feelings fade. Commitments stick. You can choose to love when you don’t feel like loving because love is a decision. Decision can always trump desire. Desire is what we want, what we “feel like doing” and you know what? You may want to hold a grudge, shut them out, shut down, lash out, pout, judge or leave. But you can decide to love anyway. To stay, talk, pray, humble yourself, apologize, serve, forgive.

It is not easy but ultimately love, because it is from God, leads to good- for us and others. But sometimes you have to walk a hard journey to get there. But if it is real love, the kind God has for us, it will always be worth the sacrifice. This is true in parenting, friendship and marriage. Don’t let this world cheapen the beauty of power of love in any relationship by reducing it to how you feel. Love is the most powerful force in our world and it is what the Bible says “compels us” who are followers of Christ to die to ourselves and serve others. It is beauty and power to see love in action and it’s available to every person to receive from God and offer to others- and not just on February 14.

An Open Letter to Weary Women

Original Published Date: February 16, 2018

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Dear Weary Soul,

Stop and breathe. This world doesn’t want you to know there is a place of rest and peace. It wants you to keep striving and beating your self up for every flaw and weakness. It wants you to cover up all your sin and mistakes and vulnerable places with success and pretty eyelashes and clean eating and bible studies completed. It wants you to never stop trying and working and pushing because you just know deep down- you aren’t enough. You don’t get it right and you’ll never measure up.

Take a big deep breath. Inhale all that oxygen and then let it out. Notice how good it feels to take it in and fill up and slow down. Because just like the air around you doesn’t ask you to be enough for it to offer itself to your needy lungs, God’s grace isn’t holding back from your needy soul until you impress Him. His creation offers so many metaphors for us to see who He is and who we are. But so often we flip the script and try to fill His role- provider, controller, perfector, sufficient- and then we wonder why we are so incredibly tired….

There is some really good news, sweet sisters. God is not waiting for you to do great things for Him. He wants you to keep remembering the great things He has done for you! His love is not based on how hard you work or how right you get it any more than the oxygen asks how well you have cared for your lungs before it fills them! His love and grace is always free flowing and present, if we just quit holding our breathe and let it in.

All the performing and striving and work has been accomplished for us- in Christ. The words of the beautiful hymn beg us to believe….

In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground- firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love- what depths of peace! When fears are stilled, when strivings ceased. My comforter, my all in all- here in the love of Christ, I stand.

Takeheart! We are free to not measure up. We are free from constant working to be better. God not only promises to love us exactly where grace finds us, but He also promises to slowly reshape us as we focus on His love and grace seen in Christ. He won’t ever leave us, and He won’t leave us where we are. His grace not only meets us freely, it changes us entirely. The more we fill up on that truth, the more we are transformed to run and work and play and love and create and repent and be fully alive in a way that all our hard work never achieved.

So breathe grace in deep. Exhale gratitude and peace.                          

Come to me all 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 souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Life is Weird

Original Published Date : July 4, 2018

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If there has ever been a photo that captures accurately how it feels to be a technology challenged, fledgling writer while also trying to use my talents for God’s glory and to bless others- this is it. I saw this picture a few years ago and immediately thought “I feel you little penguin.” I died laughing. The expression on this woman’s face as she looks at little penguin on the steps is exactly how it feels like people look at me when I try to explain how and why my blog has been inaccessible for 4 months due to some technical glitch I cannot navigate. Also, a little backstory, I once told my children that I felt like a penguin was a sort of a mammal and well, all hysteria broke loose as OBVIOUSLY MOM, a penguin is a BIRD. But for real.  Don’t they kind of seem like mammals with the mating for life and Morgan Freeman voice overs in their big movie a few years back??

So, in a miraculous turn of events the blog is back in working action and this little counselor who sometimes feels like a writer and other times feels like a mammal penguin in a world where everyone knows she is a bird, is back to writing. In my hiatus I have been reading. A lot. I am half way through the Bible thanks to my read scripture app! (And shout out to thebibleproject.com videos for helping me finally GET so many things I was missing in the big picture of God’s story) I have also read a few fun fiction books and some stuff on the brain (because in my fantasy life as a non penguin I would have liked to have been a  neuro scientist because our brains are so AMAZING!) I also got to speak at the Women’s Retreat for my church on Functional Faith and that was just delightful and a joy.

Sometimes the weirdness of life is a reset and sometimes a shift in direction and other times it’s just weird. I have no idea why the ability to share my blog went MIA for most of this year, but I have gotten a lot of reading done and I feel energized about writing and sharing all the goodness and beauty and truth that the Lord has been revealing to me lately. And for those of you who have encouraged me to figure it out and get back to writing, thanks! Overlooking each other’s obvious limitations and seeing the potential and gifting instead- well that is a gift to offer a person and I am grateful to have received some of that this year.

The Big Picture- How Reading the Whole Bible in a Year Changed Me

Some people set goals in the New Year, that if I’m honest seems impossible, too ambitious and over the top. I’m not that girl. I am a progress over perfection person. I value relationship over task. conversation over reading. So imagine my surprise when the Lord laid it on my heart at the end of 2017 to read the entire bible in 2018. I would have resisted, but I knew it was from Him. I had total conviction that He wanted me to do it- and frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I had never read the entire bible. I’ve read lots of it, but not all of it- and certainly not in a year! It turns out, as many people shared with me last year- I am not alone! Apparently lots of us Christians read the same parts of the bible over and over, and avoid entirely parts that are confusing or seem irrelevant. I’m looking at you Leviticus. As I went through the year long journey from Genesis to Revelation and ended on December 30, I was so encouraged by how the Lord taught me through the process. And I assure you, if somehow you could time lapse the internal part of my spirit that was effected by the process- it would encourage you as well! If on the other hand you had a secret camera watching the external process of daily (mostly!) reading, you would be entirely underwhelmed. It does not make me look impressive in the least- as there were many days I was “not into it” and felt like it was a chore to get through. What the process did inside me was slow- and as most lasting changes are- indiscernable day by day. Yet, as I reflect on my year, it is impossible to deny it- reading the entire bible last year impacted me and changed my perspective permanently. Here is what I now know:

Daily bible reading is generally anti climactic. In a world full of Instagram’d moments, we often believe time spent in God’s word should feel monumental and emotional and inspirational. Do you know what it felt like 75% of the time I read? Nothing. It felt like nothing. It was something I did and moved on with my day. I learned an extremely important lesson though- daily time in God’s word is much more like taking a multi vitamin that eating your favorite meal or taking medicine when you get sick. When you take your mutli vitamin in the morning, you presumably do not expect a tasty or fulfilling experience. You just swallow it, believing it is making you stronger in ways you cannot feel. How often have I gone to God’s word expecting an experience only to be disappointed and less likely to read the following day? It’s not that we don’t have those moments- there were times last year where a passage hit me deeply. It was the exact encouragement or clarity I needed that day. But many days it was simply ingested, believing it was changing me from the inside out. Think of it this way: if you only took vitamins when you were sick, how effective would they be? Sure, take them when you are sick, but mainly take them every day to make you stronger so you don’t get sick as often! I think many times we go to the Bible when we feel we need it based on a sin or a trial in our lives, hoping for something to make us feel better quickly. I no longer think reading the bible will create a specific feeling in that moment- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t- but I know it is making me stronger by renewing my mind with truth (Romans 12:2) and revealing my heart and confronting sin (Hebrews 4:12) and keeping me from being blown around when trials come but rather being grounded in truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Knowing this keeps me coming back to it over and over.

The Bible is not really about me. After reading the whole bible, I realized it actually is a story. And like all great stories it sucks you into characters and plot lines and literary devices. It rises and falls with victory and defeat, great love and great loss. But one thing is abundantly clear- the whole thing revolves around one character and one theme: A good, faithful God who lovingly, relentlessly and patiently pursues people. Including me. This bible is God’s story. It reveals who He is, what He does and why He does it. And as I read all the stories of what God has been doing in the world he created for millennia before me, it made me feel small- in a good way. I am truly part of a much, much larger and grander story than just my own. Like one little thread in a tapestry of beauty and grace, my life has been woven into this giant narrative of God pursuing relationship with people. My life matters deeply to God yet it is all part of something bigger. Seeing all the people who have lived and died before me helps me keep an eternal perspective. This life, thankfully, is not the end of the story and so i can endure suffering and stress and hardship knowing God will use it- weave it into the big story- and that one day it will all be finished. As Jonathon Edwards said “All the bad things will be undone and all the good things will not be lost and the best things are yet to come.”

Reading the Bible is both task and relationship. I started by saying I value relationship over task. As I read this year, I experienced how learning who God is through His word is a very relational thing. I see God differently now, know Him better. This makes perfect since as all relationships grow through communication and the Bible is God’s main way to communicate with me. Rather than seeing it as a task anymore, I understand it is a time to spend with God. And of course, the natural response is prayer- me sharing myself with Him, as He has shared Himself with me. A truly personal part of the year was the way God and I interacted in the mornings. I knew I needed to make a commitment- the bible wasn’t going to just download into my brain while I was sleeping! So I committed to God He would get the first 15 minutes of my day. I told you, watching me would not have been impressive! I know 15 minutes seems short, but it made the whole daily process feel manageable. But I also made a deal with God (is that theologically sound- I don’t know, God works with me as I’m wired is all I can tell you- take it up with Him!). I told Him, if He knew I needed more time with Him than 15 minutes, He could wake me up and I would spend the extra time with Him. And guess what? He did it. Not every day, but lots of times I would just wake up earlier than my alarm and know, God must have known I needed more of Him. It became a very sweet part of the year, wondering if I would wake up to my alarm and spend 15 minutes in the Word, or if the God of the universe was going to wake me up to spend more time together. Can I prove it was God doing that? Nope. But I don’t have to. I know it was. And it was just part of He and I building that personal relationship.

Many friends asked the resources I used last year- www.readscriptureapp.com and www.thebibleproject.com were my tools. I would love to hear how your bible reading has impacted your life or what great resources you are using to dig deeper. The bottom line is this: plant your heart and mind regularly in God’s Word. He is faithful to use that time to change you and heal you and grow you.