February 24, 2017
The Safety Outside of our Comfort Zone

The Safety Outside of our Comfort Zone

February 24, 2017

I recently spoke with a couple friends over coffee about feeling whole-heartedly unqualified for some of the tasks in my life.  Motherhood, ministry, writing, life in general.  Who am I to take on these tasks? Broken and bent, I felt beyond unqualified and way outside of my comfort zone.

And both friends, in different meetings, in separate coffee shops, listened patiently and quietly to my concerns and then offered the same wise response: "good."
They assured me that I was in exactly the place I needed to be.  That there is safety in being outside of my comfort zone, because I have no choice but to rely on God, and the team around me.  In over my head is a good place to be. 

I am not qualified for the life God has called me to.  I am a bible college drop-out.  Mentally ill.  A (recovering) drunk and drug addict.   I'm opinionated and bad at math and can't keep houseplants alive.  But the Lord has given me a passion.   He has given me the gifts of communication and compassion.   He has given me opportunities to use those gifts.  And he wants me to rely on Him. 

Friends, what if we are safest where we feel completely at a loss, because it is there that we have no choice but to rely on God?  It is there that we surround ourselves with a team and pledge to sink or swim together.  It is there that we ask questions and take advice.  It is when we are uncomfortable that we allow God to be God. It is in our weakest places that our eyes are open and watching for miracles.  It is there that we grow to rely on God's amazing power instead of our own power. 

If I am doing life in my own power, from a place of my own meager strength and flimsy qualifications, I am limited to achieve only the things that I can achieve.  But if I am living in the power and strength of an almighty God, there are no limits to what He can accomplish through me.  The power of the almighty God is revealed in our weakness. 

Friend, if you feel unqualified for that task before you, maybe you are.   Maybe your only hope is to call on the mighty hand of God to guide you, equip you, protect you.  Maybe you are exactly where you are meant to be.

That doesn't mean we don't work for it, that we don't study and learn and work hard.  But that at the end of the day, we rely on God.

The question is not am I qualified for this?  The answer will be a resounding no in every area of my life.  The question is, is God calling me to this?  Is this the next right thing for me to do.  And if so, will I faithfully do my best and trust him for the rest? 

We are weak.  And the Lord knows our frailty.  May we step boldly outside of our comfort zones and seek him there. 

February 22, 2017
15 Things I Know For Sure to Be True

15 Things I Know For Sure to Be True

February 22, 2017

I'm struggling today.  And the world as I know it feels frail and broken.  I don't know, from moment to moment what to believe.  But, as a wise friend of mine likes to say "We think in circles, but write in straight lines".  So I've decided to spell out the truest things I know today.

1. God is for us.  God is passionately, whole-heartedly for you and me.  He cherishes and treasures us.

2. We need one another.  And it is strength, not weakness, to know you need those around you.

3. Words always matter.  Choose them carefully.

4. Our pain is sacred ground.  It's okay to expect people to honour it, to take off their proverbial shoes before they enter our most fragile places.

5. People long for connection.  Most of us will say some pretty stupid and awkward things in pursuit of this.

6. It is pretty much always better to say something awkward than to avoid someone who is suffering.  

7. Forgiveness is holy work.  I don't have it figured out yet.

8. The surest way to suffer is to deny pain.  If I fight it, or refuse to feel it at all costs, I will hurt myself and those around me. But If I accept it, feel it, and release it, I can move on.

9. We are world changers, whether we like it or not.  Every one of us is going to change the world.  The question is not if, it's how.

10. Taking care of myself is not selfish.  Expecting the world to take care of me because I haven't taken responsibility for my own wellness is selfish.

11. It is well with my soul.   It's not well with my heart or my head, but it's well with my soul.

12. Sometimes people in our lives are toxic.  And it's our responsibility to stop drinking their poison.  And this is a painful, gut-wrenching process.

13. A good therapist is a smart investment.  Seriously.

14.  God will always meet me in my suffering.

15. The only thing I can change is me.  And that's more than enough to keep me busy for a lifetime.

February 9, 2017
The Thing Hollywood Forgot to Tell Us About Love

The Thing Hollywood Forgot to Tell Us About Love

February 9, 2017

When I was 19 I prayed for God to send someone to love me in a way that could make me believe in His love for me. To send somebody to make love seem tangible and true to this broken girl. And he did.
I met my husband a few days later. 

One day, when our relationship was new, after a fight that was mostly my fault, I turned to my husband-to-be with tears in my eyes and said "how can you love me?" and without skipping a beat he responded "Because I've chosen to love you."

Least. Romantic. Answer. Ever. Or so I thought.

I wanted him to tell me that I made his world spin. That I was beautiful and funny and that I completed him. I wanted a scene from a romantic comedy complete with the big kiss under a majestic tree.  I wanted him to love me because he couldn't help himself.

But 11 years later, can I tell you? He gave me the most romantic answer possible that day.

Because if love was a feeling, his feelings for me could change. If love was something we fell into it would be something we can fall out of. If love was a force that pushed and pulled us into passion against our will like it is in the movies, honestly, we probably wouldn't be married today.

Love as a feeling is terrifying. It's the opposite of safety and security. It's finicky, uncertain.  But love as a choice? That is freeing. It's powerful.  It accepts us where we are at and brings out the best in us.

My husband chose to love me. And I chose to love him back. He's the answer to that prayer I prayed,   loving me as Christ loves the church. Not because I have it all together or always act right or say the right things, but because he has chosen to love me forever, and I him.

Love is putting the other person above yourself. It's laying your life down for the other person in a million little (and sometimes big) ways. It's wanting their happiness and wellness more than your own. It's sacrifice, it's work, it's action.

Love is getting out of bed first to brew the coffee for your spouse (which he does almost every morning.) It's picking up the socks he left on the floor without complaining about it (I'm getting better at that).  It's being a good father to our children, or cooking rice and beans together so that we can pay the electricity bill on time.  It's laughing and weeping through life's twists and turns together.  It's forgiving, a lot.  Love is the small and big choices we make every day. These are not things we do because we love, these things are love.

Love is not warm feelings and grand gestures, although sometimes it will be.  Love is daily putting one foot in front of the other to walk through this difficult life with another human being.  Love is work, a sacred and beautiful and worthwhile work.

May we do the hard, sacred work of loving, and being loved, today.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebooktwitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.
February 7, 2017
How Would Jesus Debate Stuff on the Internet?

How Would Jesus Debate Stuff on the Internet?

February 7, 2017

When I was a teenager I wore a rainbow coloured hemp bracelet with the letters w.w.j.d braided into it. The idea was to wonder in all life's situations, What Would Jesus Do? And as cheese-ball-esque as the whole movement was, it shaped me. I still stop and look at my situation often and wonder What Would Jesus Do?

And I've wondered this lately as I've watched and engaged in heated online discussions about politics and world events. Am I answering with the same grace and love that Christ would show? Is the very spirit of God present in my words?

To be fair, I'll say that I'm not convinced that if Jesus had come 2000 years later that he would bother with facebook debates and twitter feuds. Maybe he would, I don't know. But I do know that we can glean a lot from scripture about how Christ interacted with people. Here is what stands out to me. This is how I feel Jesus would Debate on the Internet:

Jesus would honour the unique individuality of each person. He would recognize and treat each person as an individual. In scripture we see Jesus meet people with similar infirmities, similar attitudes or sins, and respond to them each in a unique way. We cannot lump together everyone who rallies for the same side in a discussion. Your friend probably doesn't believe in or support everything that's been said by those on the same side of the issues as them. We are all individuals, and the nature of polarizing topics is that when we unpack it all, most of us don't really land on either polar end.

Jesus would come alongside the person who feels weak, marginalized, and alone. I believe that Jesus would not contribute to someone feeling ganged up on or attacked by the masses. Yes, Jesus sometimes spoke harshly to pharisees and hypocrites (and we must be cautious because, unlike Jesus, we do not know people hearts!) but I do not see him anywhere in scripture shooting the wounded. He spoke tenderly to those who felt alone, abandoned and demeaned. Our goal as Christians is never to squash and humiliate our opponent, so we must watch to see that our friends are feeling empowered in the discussion and not abused.

Jesus would be for people. Passionately, powerfully, for people. Not causes, not issues, not political agendas, but people.  To be Christ like in this world is not to be against all the right issues, it is to be radically, sacrificially for people. For the feminist, and for the misogynist. For the prostitute and for the john. For the minimalist and the materialist.  For the babies, the mothers, and the abortionists. For drug addicts, business people, pastors and politicians. It means being for the liberal and the conservative alike. Radical, I know.

Jesus world love his enemies.  We have a Lord who healed his captors and prayed for his executioners.  That person you disagree with is a treasured and cherished being made in the image of his maker, and any truth not bathed in reverence for that fact is not truth at all.

Jesus would pray. I am so very guilty of diving head first into tricky conversations without first seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance, and this is folly and sin. Jesus set an example for us when he took the time to soak up his Father's will before engaging with people. I cannot engage in difficult, meaningful, intelligent conversation without the help of the Holy Spirit.  I just can't.

Jesus would flip some figurative tables. He would braid a whip and engage in holy protest and stand up against injustice. Nobody is asking you to sit down and bite your tongue. We must keep having important conversations and following those conversations up with creative, passionate, and peaceful social action.

You know what else? Jesus would also make scathing remarks that cut to the heart and leave the hearers convicted and angry. He called  hypocrites a “brood of vipers” or “white-washed tombs". But Jesus knew their hearts. He knew their intentions. We don't.  We need to err on the side of humility and kindness because we cannot see one another's hurts and hearts.

More than anything else, those w.w.j.d. bracelets reminded me, as I fell short of the ideal day after day, that I am not Jesus. I am a sinner, and God knows my frailty. He has made gracious reconciliation available to me through His sinless life, death and resurrection.  So the one thing we can do that Jesus didn't have to is make apologies and restoration where we have caused offense. It's okay to have been wrong, there is grace for that. But it's not okay to knowingly leave a friend hurt and marred by our words.

Can I tell you this thing that I've observed? In myself, in my friends, and in the media? We do this thing in christendom where we assume that the person who disagrees with our understanding is evil or wicked. Or, if we are feeling generous, we assume they are just stupid or uneducated. But when we do this we not only risk a friendship, we risk an opportunity to get outside of our own understanding and truly hear another perspective
That friend on the other side of the keyboard is not evil or stupid. They probably aren't even truly your enemy. They are a different person, with different hopes and fears and expectations, who is taking in the information and trying to discern the best answer just like you and I.

As usual, Brennan Manning hits the nail on the head:

"Jesus said you are to love another as I have loved you, a love that will possibly lead to the bloody, anguished gift of yourself; a love that forgives seventy times seven, that keeps no record of wrongdoing. Jesus said this, this love, is the one criterion, the sole norm, the standard of discipleship in the New Israel of God. He said you're going to be identified as His disciples, not because of your church-going, Bible-toting or song-singing. No, you'll be identified as His by one sign only: the deep and delicate respect for one another, the cordial love impregnated with reverence for the sacred dimension of the human personality because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian." -Brennan Manning, the furious longing of God

"Cordial love,

Impregnated with reverence.

For the sacred dimension of the human personality.

Because of the mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian."

Yeah, that. That's what I want to be known for.

This is the question I ask myself now, when my my mind is spinning and my heart is pounding because, oh my goodness, somebody is wrong on the internet: Do I want to be proven right, or do I want to be Christlike? Do I want to make my point, or do I want to honour the unwavering love of God for the person on the other side of these screens?

And if I can't do that, if I can't speak in cordial love, impregnated with reverence, for the sacred dimension of the other, then I must keep silent until I can.

Friends, I believe in us. I believe that we can be real and raw without being demeaning. We can make a case without implying that those on the other side of it are stupid or evil or lazy. We can humbly affirm that there are absolute truths but we don't always know the truth absolutely. I believe we can love people more than we love our opinions. Not perfectly, but increasingly. 

May we love each other well today, online and off.