Sunday, August 24, 2014

He Doesn't Leave Me {Sabbath Bread}

Some Red Letters for your Sabbath today.
They didn’t know he was speaking about his Father. So Jesus said to them, When the Human One is lifted up, then you will know that I Am. Then you will know that I do nothing on my own, but I say just what the Father has taught me.  He who sent me is with me. He doesn’t leave me by myself, because I always do what makes him happy. While Jesus was saying these things, many people came to believe in him. -John 8:27-30 (CEB)




Oh Lord,we choose to trust Your unfailing, divine, everlasting love more than our fears. Thank You for never leaving us alone, though at times it does feel lonely here. Now. In this. You speak truth, Jesus, truth from the Father on human lips that once kissed Your mother and once kissed Judas too. Because You became a person we could see and hear, we now know who the Father is, and the truth of salvation by Your grace. Make me more like you, Jesus - I want to do what makes the Father happy too. Thank You for being with me, Spirit, and for carrying me when I'm weak. Thank You for making me strong to say what You have taught me. I choose to lift You high in my life, and dedicate my attention to learning how to do that even better. May You be honored today. And every day. Until That Day when You come back to rescue us. So let it be. 




photo credit: Vishal Patel via flickr creative commons




Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Minute Friday {change}

Good Afternoon, my Lovelies!



We made it together to the end of another work week, and now it's time for some writing before we start the week-end fun!

If you're new to the #fmfparty, check out all of the details here and get those fingers typing and linking up with Kate.

This week's prompt is CHANGE. No editing. Just writing. Five minutes.

GO

People change, days change, routines change. Lives change.

Soft baby skin becomes rough and wrinkled by years and tears and sunshine. My skin has changed in recent years, to my chagrin.

Funny how the measure of change is always a source of my complaining. I'm sure He wonders if I'll ever be content. "I need something different - I'm so bored with this same old life!" has become, "Oh, please, just let me settle down for a minute. Too much change, too much adventure, too much unknown!"

Really, Robyn? Get a grip.

But grips don't come if I keep these hands clenched around a facade of control. Hands have to open, change must come, adaptation will happen.

Change is the power verb in the serenity prayer, and I suppose I agree that some things can change and others cannot. I don't always get to decide.

Which is fine, because I'm no good at being sovereign, anyway.

Change me, Lord as I crave or reject the change that ebbs and flows all around. Make me more like Your Son. That kind of change is what I'm really after. Whatever it takes, however long. You're worth it. You are Worthy. 

STOP

Happy writing, Friends. And Happy Friday #fmfparty!!





photo credit: Nigel Wedge via flickr Creative Commons

Sunday, August 17, 2014

When You Feel Hopelessness and Doom {Sabbath Bread}



"The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
    because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
    pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
    a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
    and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
    give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
    a praising heart instead of a languid spirit."  

                      -Isaiah 61:1-3 (Msg)






O God, what can we say to this love that draws us to Your Son with irresistible magnetism? Nothing can separate us from this love that rescues us from our prison cells and darkest pits. When all hope is lost, You pursue us and announce Your love that brings joy and freedom. Deliver our hearts today - from every scheme and trap the devil deceives us into thinking we're stuck in hopelessly. Thank You for this restoration You offer me every day - You redeem me from the evil of this world, the attack of my enemy, the despair of my circumstances, and the sorrow of death and loss. We need your beauty to replace these ashes, Lord. Only Your love can restore our hope.




photo credit: Terry Foote via flickr creative commons

Saturday, August 9, 2014

As Awful as Women Can Be to Each Other...

I've had those kinds of girlfriends, if you can call them that. The kind who compete and degrade out of the wells of insecurity. The kind who hug you only to find the soft spot in your back for their knife. The kind who laugh at you behind your back because mercy is harder than gossip. The kind who reach for you with greedy hands instead of giving ones.

God has asked me to love those kind of friends. I may or may not have failed. Several times.

And He has also given me in extravagance a different kind of woman. The kind of friend who covers my multitudes of faults with grace. The kind who looks into my heart and really listens to it. The kind who talks to my face and to my soul rather than behind my back. The kind who seeks to be generous with wisdom, compassion, and laughter.




Even in the Church, where we assume people will be nice to one another (after all, Jesus was nice, right?), kindness seems to be endangered among women. Water cooler office gossip has become altar-talk and "prayer requests," and what was it Jesus said about being set apart?

I suppose I'm here today in the nest to give a few hurting girls some hope. Because I know you've been stabbed too. Thrown for a loop and left shaking your head. You had someone cut you down with her words and insults, and sweep you under the rug like yesterday's dirt and you were left wondering if there were just a few good women among our gender at all. I suppose I'm here to say, "Yes, there are. So pick yourself up, dust off that shame, and try again." Because as awful as women can be to each other ... we can also be delightful. I should know - some of my life's best gifts have been in the form of girlfriends.

Like *Shelly, who stood by me in honesty, loyalty, and truth when lies were slung like mud and I couldn't even find my own face. She calls and texts just to find out how I'm holding up and she cares. I mean she really cares about me and the condition of my fragile heart. She's been with me in hellholes and on foreign soil and she shines sunbeams of His glory from a stage. When I moved away she came to say good-bye with tears, even though her words were few.

And like *Liz, who has walked through hard lessons of insecurity with me, who has known me before I was this me, and who protects me with a fierceness I haven't known elsewhere. She listens to my heart and makes eye contact and soul contact and is trustworthy. She also offers her own flaws with trust, and honors me with honesty. We never hide doubt or shame from one another, and when we meet - it's safe there.

And like *Judy who poured out her stories like coffee at her table - warm and energizing and hopeful. I call her a mentor, but she really just loves me well, as an abundant verb and with generous time. If I need a rebuke she'll offer it gently, and her wisdom is a treasure beyond what any bank holds. Her encouragement is always spot-on and the pick-me-up I need when I can barely get out of bed.

And like *Michelle, who prays for me - and I'm talking real intercession. She bound her heart to mine in prayer the first day she met me, and when we prayed together every morning she taught me what it means to pour out tears as offerings. She approached me with honor and humility, though she owns more years of experience and wisdom than I. She let me lead her, though she was quite capable of leading us both. She let me give her pedicures and loved my children like they were her own. Together we learned more about God than we would have alone, and isn't that what God's daughters were destined to do?

And like *Victoria, who is the twin sister I dreamed of when I was in second grade, but didn't meet until my late twenties. A day older than me, we hold more in common than sense would lend. And yet we never put one another in any kind of conformity box. She knows me well enough to read my face or my voice, and speaks comfort when I'm a broken heap. A cheerleader in Christ, she never gives up on me and has been the definition of faithfulness if ever faithfulness had skin. She wears her heart on her sleeve and occasionally puts a foot in her mouth, and that is what I love most. Her words and drawings delight my heart like treasure, and I could never thank God enough for the privilege of calling her my sister.

I could go on and on - my high school friend who cries with me across an ocean, the treasure of a woman whom I mentored and loved fiercely, the newly rekindled friendship over coffee this week who offered validation, vulnerability, and wisdom. 

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend
    is as sweet as perfume and incense." - Proverbs 27:9 (NLT)

Of course, I've made mistakes in foolish insecurity too, and I've hid my heart behind walls from women because I was afraid or proud. And I've paid the price. Women have issues and hormones and anxieties and we can be downright evil. We use our swords to fight each other when we ought to defend against our common enemies. We all build walls and fire arrows and pass judgement at times. I've been awful too. 

When that happens, Dear Heart - know this: We can also be wonderful. As wounded as you have been, you can be just as much healed. As shocked as you have been, you can also be delightfully surprised. As awful as those girls have been, God has wonderful sisters for you in store. 

Let's not block off our tender places, jaded and shy and bitter. Let's be confident enough in who we are in Christ to offer friendship and receive it. Because we're worth it, and we need it, and our souls cry out for it. He made us to be wonderful, though we have experienced the awful.

That's just what the Redeemer does. 


*names changed for privacy. you know who you are to me.
Photo Credit: Jacob Splinks via flickr creative commons

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Characteristics of Excellent Followers

I woke up ready to write this morning, so I jumped over to Lisa-Jo's to see what her prompt was. You can jump over there too, and in light of her transition, I'd like to choose my own prompt today (woohoo), and we'll link up with Kate soon.

This year, Jesus and I picked a word/theme for me to work on and learn, instead of making an insane number of resolutions back in January and feeling like a failure in February. I've done My One Word now for almost three years and here's my conclusion: focus is the key to lasting change. 

So, this year's word is Follow, and wow, can I just say that God has so much to say to me about this one. I'm learning content I didn't know that I didn't know, and all because my soul is in tune to awareness of this theme. 

I'll briefly share my process of how I do MyOneWord, but it definitely varies, based on your personality, learning style, and personal development. If you've never tried it before, I encourage you to check it out and begin praying about a word for 2015, because sometimes it takes a while to hear what God is telling you. That's a whole other issue, an entirely different prompt and post. For now, here's my approach:

  • I pray about the word God wants for my year and ask Him what He wants to teach me.
  • Once the word is chosen by Him and revealed to me, I make a creative piece to have on visual display, so I see it (pretty) every day.
  • As I read the Bible, I ask God to show me verses that apply to the theme of the year, and I write them down (on pretty paper, of course) as I work on committing them to memory and applying them to my life.
(that is the fat stack of follow verses I've collected so far, on top of my Spurgeon devotional and my Bible, pardon the blue duct tape *blush*)
  • I continue to ask God to change me, making me into the sanctified woman He envisioned the day I was made. Without this surrender prayer, I honestly don't believe change would be possible for me. I'm just that stubborn.
  • I journal about what I'm learning, taking notes as if from the Master Professor. Have I ever told you how much I loved being a student? Well, I absolutely cherish learning, especially from a fabulous teacher. And believe you me, He's a dynamo!
  • I talk to others about what I'm learning and bounce ideas off of them. I especially ask my mentors and those close to me - the ones I trust with my soft places - if they see change in me, if they can tell how the Potter is working on this clay. And I let them say a hard word, even if it stings for a minute. I can't tell you how crucial this part is.
  • I seal it with gratitude. If I learn, apply, or practice any of the change God is bringing to me, I'll take note of it in my gratitude journal, and that not only brings thanks to the Source, but it helps me remember my progress.
So with that laid out, let's explore a bit about what God has to say about followers, shall we? I've learned that we have a chasm right now between our American culture which overemphasizes the value of leadership, and Jesus's counter-cultural approach which emphasizes following and serving well. Nowadays everyone wants to be a leader, everyone wants control, and everyone thinks the leader is the best. If you're not the leader, you're just not as important, right? Which is just a breeding ground for power grabs and control issues. And believe me - I'm the worst when it comes to control issues. The problem is that I want it. Control, that is - all the time and over everyone, especially myself. Unfortunately, I'm no good at being Sovereign.



Control is not God's plan for me. Check out these verses from my stack and you decide:
  • Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. - Leviticus 20:8
  • Since you are my rock and my fortress,
        for the sake of your name lead and guide me. - Psalm 31:3 
  • May I wholeheartedly follow your decrees,
        that I may not be put to shame. - Psalm 119:80
  • Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” - Isaiah 30:21
  • Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." -Mark 8:34-35
  • Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”  “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God  will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” -Luke 18:28-30
  •  However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. -Acts 20:24
I've noticed that when the breakdown in a company or institution or organization happens, it's often not a lack in good leadership, though that's want we most often assume. It's often the breakdown in good follwership. And yes, I did just make a word up. Work with me here. Followers are extremely valuable, and I've noticed that tons of people are great leaders (or at least they think they are), but not very many people pride themselves in being an excellent servant, a high-quality support, and a great follower. And maybe, just maybe, that's what's wrong with us. With me. Maybe I'm looking to move up in this world when Jesus needs me to simply move forward behind Him.

From my observations, from what I've been learning from the Teacher and attempting to apply to my own heart and actions, though it's tough, here are what I believe are five characteristics of excellent followers:

1. They choose their leaders well. 
If you're going to be able to follow well, you need to believe in your leader and the direction she/he is going. Choosing a leader ought not to be a hasty matter. Before swearing allegiance to anyone, including Jesus (He'll require that you pick up a cross, after all), observe them, listen to their vision, and figure out if where they're going is where you want to end up too.

2. They know their role.
Every time I've observed division (okay, maybe not every time, but just about) I've noticed that it was a matter of the followers being confused about their role as followers. "Oh," I would say to myself, "That's the problem - he doesn't know that he's the follower, not the leader here." As clear as day I saw it, and yet to say it would be to exacerbate the very issue of ignorance. And every time I've observed an organization or business running smoothly, I've also noticed that the people following are secure in their role and identity as a follower. It's almost like they know who they are and they like it. It's beautiful, really.

3. They know how to confront their leader without slandering him or her. 
We can blindly follow Jesus without ever questioning Him or doubting His guidance, but He's really the only One we can do that with. And most people don't even do that - most of us DO question Him and doubt Him sometimes. My hands aren't always open. Sometimes I shake a fist at heaven, too - but I'll tell you this - only when I'm alone with Him. I believe it should be the same with the people who lead us. We should question them to their faces, not behind their backs. We need to confront their short-comings sometimes (and by sometimes I mean very rarely), but only in private, and not in front of others. This is classic Matthew 18 teaching, but we as Americans are not good at this in any way, shape, or form. Excellent followership will include the occasional disagreement with your leader, but it will never include gossip. And here's the definition of gossip, in case you were wondering (Strong's Hebrew and Greek): talebearer, whisperer; prating, talking foolishly, babbling. 

4. They put forth excellent effort without the need to be seen.
This is one of the most difficult for me, because I really do like to be noticed. I covet the attention of people and it gets me in trouble often. God is really dealing with this sin in me, because He doesn't want me to live a life that glorifies myself - He wants me to live my life to glorify Him. So why is that so hard? Well I believe it is a flesh vs. Spirit battle we all face and I believe Satan uses it every chance he gets because of how effective it is to distract us from worshiping God. But here's where following becomes counter-cultural once again. "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -Colossians 3:17. Excellent followers work hard whether or not people are watching. They have a big picture in mind - a vision and purpose of the big things cooperation can accomplish. They aren't out for attention or accolades, which are fleeting; they're out for the good of the organization, institution, company, or family. If they get noticed, they appreciate the gratitude, but they don't feed off of it. If their hard work doesn't get noticed by others, they take comfort in knowing God sees, and they let that be enough. Yes, I need to get better at this, too.

5. Excellent followers positively influence their leaders.
Playing second fiddle isn't usually a positive phrase, but I like it anyway. Unless we're talking about Jesus, all of our other leaders will need to be led as well. And just because we follow them, doesn't mean we don't have influence in their lives. When a servant earns the trust of his master, the master will eventually learn to listen to the wisdom of the servant also. This doesn't come instantly, and that can be problematic in our microwave culture, but it will happen: and if you are following well, don't be shocked if you gain more "power" than you once expected. Think of Aaron and Hur for Moses. They lifted his arms, and because of their support and encouragement (with God's power) God's people won that battle. Leaders need support and guidance too, and if you are an excellent follower, it will only be a matter of time before you find yourself in a position of far more leadership than your title denotes. 

How about you? What characteristics do you observe in people who are good at followership? Please slip your thoughts in the comments box below. And in the spirit of Friday - Keep Writing! 

Photo credit: Yuri Levchenko via flickr creative commons

Monday, July 21, 2014

Guerrilla Lovers {Book Review}

It's been a little while since I did a book review here, but rest assured I haven't lost my love for books. Reading (especially pages, not screens) is still one of my favorite ways to spend my time. Today I'm reviewing a book I recently re-read, and I'm excited to share it with you, because you know if I read something twice, it's gotta be good!

The first time I read it was with a mission team before we traveled to Haiti, and I recently saw it on my shelf as I was packing and once again wanted the challenge and encouragement I found the first time. The book is called Guerrilla Lovers by Vince Antonucci .



The author's comic and witty style was one of my favorite aspects of this read, and I enjoyed his satire even better the second time around, which is really saying something.  I found myself laughing out loud in public places while reading it, and then glancing up sheepishly to see if anyone had heard me. The premise of this nonfiction from a hip pastor/church planter is that followers of Christ can be part of a revolutionary movement to share our faith that is similar to guerrilla warfare in that we ambush people with love. He argues effectively with examples and personal testimonies these new and refreshing methods to infiltrate our world with love and use God's grace for generosity and hope among the hopeless in our communities. With thought-provoking personal and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, as well as online testimonies and interaction opportunities throughout, this is one book that could actually start the revolution we need.

If you know me at all, you already know this is my kind of thing, so it probably won't surprise you that I liked this book and highly recommend it. What may surprise you is that I find it difficult to apply his concepts. Swimming against the current is never easy, though.

To write about befriending intimidating people, giving away large sums of money for individuals in need, hosting a church service in your back yard for your unsaved friends, or wearing a cape every day to remind you to be someone's hero - well that's easy if you ask me. But to DO those things? That's massively complicated and downright hard. I admire Antonucci's courage to write about his efforts for a guerrilla revolution among the Church, but even more, I respect that he's there too - on the front lines and in the rear guard and infiltrating the enemy's tactics of evil with God's love. I'm pretty convinced that's what Jesus was talking about when He said, "Follow Me. I'll make you people-fishers."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book, and I hope you'll read it too. If you have read it or do in the future, I'd love for you to comment and let me know how it impacted you, too.

"What if we actually obeyed God? What if we took him seriously? What if we viewed our excess as God-given resources to meet people's needs and fund Jesus's revolution? What if we shared in a way that drew others into the revolution?"

"... perhaps the first thing we need to do is restore people's humanity."

"God's dream is of a people whose lives have been revolutionized by love. Jesus died that we might go out on mission to share his love with everyone. But instead we've become Christian consumers who keep our distance from the rest of the world by bunkering down in our churches, which are more like country clubs without pools, and that's tragic."

"What if re redefined 'greatness' and believed it comes through serving? And what if we viewed church not as something that brings in people from the community for services but as people who go out into the community to serve?"

Happy reading, and happy guerrilla loving!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Belong {Five Minute Friday}

On Fridays we write together and I'm linking up today with Crystal on behalf of Lisa, and so can you by clicking here.

Our word prompt this week is Belong.

GO!

Transition is a thief of belonging.

As I stand (okay, I'm actually sitting right now, work with me) I don't have a permanent residence and although my family all have beds and a roof right now, I'm sure some might consider us homeless. All of our stuff is sardine-packed into the garage of a place we own but no longer inhabit. We finished a two-week painting project on another house we don't live in yesterday, and return to the home-away-from-home we have here at my in-laws'. We're always welcome here and I'm thankful, but the back of my mind reminds me again that as good as this feels, it's only temporary. We're not settled yet.

(that's my Guy there on the top of the roof; and that's my heart pounding, my soul praying he won't fall there behind the lens)


Looking ahead I know God will plant us again in a new garden, but seeds blowing in the wind must take captive fluttering anxieties every moment if they want to abide intact and have any grain worth pushing down into the soil. Transition breeds unrest, worry, and anxiety faster than rabbits. And I know that I don't want to worry but worry finds me out. I wasn't playing hide and seek with it. Seriously - leave me alone already.

When I wonder where I belong on this earth, there's an answer. I'll always have a place with this guy.


He's the gift I didn't know I needed, but Someone gave him to me 18 years ago, anyway, and it seems so strange that I've known him now longer that I haven't. Who knew that little ignorant girl would find all the belonging her flailing heart needed in him, and that for decades he would calm all of her flutters in the strength of his arms and the clarity of his eyes, the flash of his smile? Her Maker knew, knew how much she would need to belong to someone. 

I still sign notes to him this way: fyg. Forever Your Girl. And when I don't belong anywhere I still belong to him. His love still amazes me. The way he still only has eyes for me. That's rare, you know. Even last night as I drifted off, I was struck by how he still looks at me. Still wants me. Still turns his eyes from other prettier things back to my eyes. Still offers me treasures like strength, time, kisses, devotion, words, balance, dreams, and hands.

I don't know where I'll be sleeping next month, or cooking or working or going to church - those kinds of things offer belonging. But I do know that whatever may come, my hand will be in his. And even though my citizenship is of a different Place, I will always belong with him.

"My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped." -Psalm 17:5 (ESV)

STOP

Your turn!

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