Wednesday, December 4, 2013

New Live Blog

Hey, everyone! I'm now writing over at:


Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Black Friday Beast + Social Injustice


The most exciting and ridiculous - yet undeniably entertaining - shopping day of the year is among us.

Black Friday. {Enter Twilight Zone theme music here.}

There were a few years where us sisters and cousins got out with our moms along with all the other crazies of society to do a little post-turkey coma shopping. And what a sight it was.

We heard there was a big sale on boots at Belk. We were laughing, cutting up, and hanging out in line with our Starbucks waiting on the store to open at 3 am. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

As soon as the doors flung open, you would have thought that we had all been drowning for days and Noah had kindly chosen to open up the entrance to the Ark.

So the doors to Belk flung open and I realized if I didn’t break out into a full-out sprint, I would be trampled under the feet of boot-hungry women. A few minutes later I found myself all alone in a sea of people, faux leather, and tissue paper.

Women were crawling under tables to try on shoes, then yelling out to their friends
that they needed a half-size larger in the Steve Madden shoe. And there I was yelling, SIZE 10! I NEED A SIZE 10 IN THESE! HEY LADY ARE THERE ANY ON THAT TABLE????

I ran out of that store exhausted from my fight to find a $19.95 pair of knee boots to make me look like a valuable contribution to society. But there is something much more sad about this situation.

I fed into the American way of self-promoting materialism, regardless of the injustices someone else suffered for my gain.

Did you know that there are 27 million slaves in the world today? The horrific events of the African Slave Trade hardly touch the massive extent of humans using other humans in the modern world.

You don’t have to look far to learn about nightmares happening in our own backyard. It’s been estimated that a typical American town of about 30,000 people has at least 15 young ladies hidden in basements being used as sex slaves. These girls serve an average of 16 or more ‘clients’ per day.

Remember the garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh this spring? Millions of people are laboring in unsafe working conditions in order to supply our demand of cheap clothing.

How’s your coffee tasting? What about the diamond on your ring finger? Love the bananas you had for breakfast? Is there a large TV you’ve spotted for your Christmas wish list?

A large part of the luxuries we consider everyday necessities were bought with a price: some man, some woman, or some child’s dignity.

This issue is multi-faceted, complicated, and too deep to even scratch the surface in one blog post. I’m not going to encourage anyone to stop buying products made in Taiwan or suggest that we revert to an agrarian society.

But I will point you in a few directions to become educated about the topic. It’s never too early or too late to start learning what goes on outside your comfortable commercial shopping experience.

Start here: Take this quiz to see how many people work to resource your lifestyle.

Then go here: You don’t have to read the fine print, but the graphics are pretty jaw-dropping. That’s right…the United States consumes 7 PLANETS worth of resources, trash, and energy each year.

Download this app: Free2Work allows you to scan barcodes of products you are interested in by using your smart phone. You can see what kind of reputation the manufacturer has in the world of human rights protocol.

Buy gifts that give to others: Here are some of the causes that make it easy to bless multiple lives by your purchases. I even found some cool man gifts to share with you!

I don’t want to write some gut-wrenching post that turns everybody all anti-Wal-Mart. There is a small positive aspect of contributing to the enterprise of third-world countries.

Still, it’s time for me to stop knowing about things like this without doing something about it. I am writing this because I want to share a commitment with you. I will be using this Christmas to practice giving beyond my friends and family.

It’s going to hurt my pocketbook because this means I can’t run to TJ Maxx and pick up a $30 scarf that I buy for only $6.99. This also means that I won’t be Black Friday shopping in the department stores.

Please don’t hear this as a way to make myself sound like Mother Teresa. Don’t you dare say, Wow! You are so good! And I’ll vomit if you thank me for my sacrifice of spending a few extra dollars to buy fair-trade items for the people that I love.

If anything, you should chastise me for using the vulnerable people of society for years just to live a little more comfortably. Tell me how pitiful it is that I bring home a decent paycheck and then refuse to pay a fair price for a quality product.

If you wish to join me this holiday season, I would love to have some company. I’m always looking for an accountability partner. I don't have this figured out. I continue to buy products that I am sure contribute to unethical practices.

Maybe you’re not ready to totally give up your favorite Folgers blend. That’s ok. But keep reading and keep learning. Seriously, this post doesn't even touch the wealth of knowledge the Internet has on this topic.

Let’s just open our eyes. Let’s recognize that we are living in a culture that is disgustingly materialistic. Let’s commit to living within our means and using this season of giving to give to someone besides ourselves.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Divine Silence and Prayers Unheard

If you have ever felt like your prayers weren’t being answered, this post is for you.

I had the honor of spending last weekend with an incredible group of ladies. We focused our thoughts and time together on the One who brings us unnumbered blessings: The Joymaker. As I prepared to speak about talking to this Incredible One who gives us such joy, it was blaringly obvious that joy wasn’t the consistent emotion among my faithful Sisters.

This life is such a buzzkill sometimes.

I know a teenager who is tired of school because of a nasty rumor. A friend heartbroken because her best friend’s marriage is in shambles. A servant heart who has been diagnosed with cancer. A young mother frustrated with playing church.

There’s a friend grieving over the loss of a pregnancy. A daughter disappointed in her parents’ life choices. A girl who is lonely from a lack of a relationship. A handful of people exhausted from battling depression. A wife hurting because her husband is not fulfilling his role as Spiritual leader and companion.



If you fit into any one of these categories and you are a believer, I know what you’ve been doing.

You’ve been praying.

You’ve been begging God to stop the madness. Asking Him to heal the hurt. Pleading with Him to relieve the weight of a tormented soul.

Seriously, God. Just give me a break!

Have you been there? Are you there now?

Sometimes it’s hard for us to get real with God in our prayers to Him. If the words we speak don’t sound just like, God is great, God is good, we’re not always confident He will hear them.

I think it’s time we took a lesson from Lamentations {I know, where all your favorite memory verses are found…}.

I’m fascinated by this book. Here’s the skinny on what’s been happening in Jerusalem.

God's people were slaves in Egypt. 
He rescued them.
He brought them to a beautiful land that He had promised.
They wanted a king.
He didn’t want them to have a king.
He gave them a king.
The kings turned wicked.
Jerusalem forgot about God.
Babylon was powerful.
Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon.

Guys, this was not a good time to be in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar comes in, takes treasure from Solomon’s temple, and forces 10,000 of the richest, smartest, got-it-together men into captivity in Babylon.

After ten years of wickedness in the city, he comes back and surrounds the city for two years until everybody runs out of food. The king tries to escape, but they capture him, kill his sons in front of him, and then claw his eyes out. Not pretty stuff.

The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, and the temple was burned down. Basically, God’s chosen people have been placed in a less-than-let’s-praise-Jesus situation.

Starting to relate?

If you can, stop and read Lamentations 3:1-18. I’m imagining an ugly cry from Jeremiah. He writes about a funeral of a city. Here’s a quick picture from verses 7-9:

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; He has made my chains heavy. Though I call and cry for help, He shuts out my prayer;
He has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; He has made my paths crooked.

Have you ever talked this way about God?  Actually admitted that you feel like He has shut out your prayers?

It can be scary to admit you feel like your prayers aren’t being answered. We are Christians, and we of all people should be encouraging prayer and talking about its awesomeness.

But when we keep on praying and God is unresponsive, it makes us think that He doesn’t listen. That He doesn’t care. That our sin is blocking His blessings.

I remember my first year of marriage quite vividly. I moved from a large house and a family of six to a 600 square foot apartment with a man who talked about as much as a sedated hermit crab.

Ok it wasn’t that bad. But it felt like it.

We had no internet, no TV, and no entertainment budget. I was dying for a little excitement.

I asked Gavin for a baby, but quickly realized that was a joke. So I focused on begging for a cat. I probably brought up the subject once a day for several months, and each time he reminded me that we had no money, no space, and no time to be responsible.

So I sat in the floor and cried my eyes out, asking, Why don’t you want me to be happy?????

Yes. Totally practical.

But isn’t prayer like this sometimes? We think we know what we want or need to be happy. And God doesn’t deliver it on a silver platter. So we turn things around in our heads, believing that He just really doesn’t care.

Maybe it’s because we teach our kids to sing songs like, The blessings come down as the prayers go up! And the prayers go up but no blessings come down. And our whole belief system crashes as God remains in Divine Silence.

I’m starting to believe that God’s silence is meant to help us outgrow the inferior reasons for praying. Maybe prayer is less about getting relief, and more about coming into communion with our Joymaker.

Pain makes us incredibly honest, doesn’t it? When you stub your toe, you don’t dance around singing, Oh, my Jesus!

Well, you may say that, but it’s probably not followed with a praise song.

We can’t view prayer like a vending machine: prayer in, blessing out. Cha-ching. If we continue in this pattern, prayer can become an idol. It can become a way to manipulate God instead of simply being in conversation with Him.

If God immediately responded every time you prayed, you would begin to think the power lay within prayer, not within HIM.

Even Christ didn’t get what He asked for in the garden of Gethsemane. It’s fascinating to me that He knew this and still He told His followers, Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

I’m comforted in the fact that my conversation with God can be real. It can be questioning. It can be truthful and whiny and pitiful. But this honesty brings about a realization.

God is in control, and He can only do good.

In Lamentations 3:19-33, Jeremiah turns the tables a little. He brings joyful confidence to an otherwise bleak situation. He writes that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. That God does not willingly grieve His children. And proclaims it is good to wait quietly for God. Here’s verse 55:

I called your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea,
‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you; You said, ‘Do not fear!’

I’m not saying that it’s bad to ask God for what you want. There are plenty of passages that encourage this concept. Ask, and ask in faith! Read this passage and know that God cares about what you care about, especially if you are persistent in your asking.

But if you’ve been asking for a while and you’ve not been granted your wish, maybe it’s time to lament. Drag your cries out before God and let Him hear your anguish. Soak up His silence and petition His power.

Maybe He’ll respond with, Not yet or In My time. Maybe He’ll just flat out say, No. You ask wrongly.

Have faith in the fact that He works in every dark time. My prayer is that everyone reading this will soon experience a time of relief, of joy, and of healing.

But for now, sweet friend, draw near to your Silent God. Find comfort in knowing that He understands your hurt.

Lay at His feet and experience how it feels to be completely out of control before an all-powerful God who seeks honest communion with you.

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Disclaimer: Many of these thoughts are a product of sitting and learning at the feet of my wise husband, who also learned at the feet of a wise Bible scholar, Dr. Kevin Youngblood.

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What does God’s silence lead you to believe about prayer? How can you practice being more honest with Him?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

For When You Don't Feel Saved


I remember sitting in a living room full of recovering addicts this time last year. We were teaching about Spiritual gifts and the ‘deeper’ things of Scripture (ha), when one woman simply looked up and said, “What is grace?

What is grace? Are you kidding me? That’s like Christianity 101. I thought every American knew about God’s grace….Has she not seen those fake billboards from God?

I left a run-down house that day smelling like second-hand smoke, shaking my head in disbelief. There was someone I had been speaking about God with for months who couldn’t even talk about grace because she didn’t know what it was.

It was then that I started to really dig into what God meant when He said I was saved by grace. In teaching these ladies, who had been to Hell and back on Earth, I started to see how much I, too, needed to be redeemed.

The world told these women that they could never be good enough. They had stolen from their parents for drugs. They had sold their bodies for money to merely buy a meal for that day. They had shot poison into their veins after vowing they would never stoop so low as to use a needle to get high. But God was telling them that He was waiting for them to stop worrying about trying to earn His favor.

He was freely giving it to them.

So how could I, a goody-two-shoes church girl on her way to save the world, have learned so much from these ladies? Well, I know exactly how it feels to think that I can never be good enough for God.

Growing up, my church taught a 5-step solution to salvation. It was well-intentioned and was meant to be measurable and easy to understand. The problem is, it was measurable and easy to understand. You either do it, or you don’t.

So I did it. I heard, I believed, I repented, I confessed, and I was baptized.

Ding! The angels in Heaven rejoiced! One more saved soul coming right up!

But there were days I didn’t feel saved. There were times I knew I wasn’t living good enough to earn the salvation I thought I had to work for.

And there was this constant frustration every time I heard of wonderful people doing amazing, God-filled things. I wrestled with thoughts like, Did they follow my five steps? If they didn’t, can I accept their faith?

I can honestly say that I lived for 23 years in fear that if I started to accept that God could save someone apart from my personal plan of salvation, He would snatch my own salvation, too.

Somehow, in my twisted mind, no one was good enough to earn God’s grace unless they came to Christ just like me. And what’s worse, I started to believe that I was somehow a blessing to God. Wasn’t He lucky that I was so obedient?

Guys, I was so, so wrong.

So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, WRONG.

God wants to save the church girl just as much as he wants to save the heroin addict.

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I stumbled upon a new passage tonight in reading more about the idea of God’s grace. Here’s how The Living Bible translation puts it, for those of you like me who struggle with fancy language:

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn; he will never go back on his promises. Once you {Gentiles} were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his gifts God was merciful to you instead. And now the Jews are the rebels, but some day they, too, will share in God’s mercy upon you. For God has given them all up to sin so that he could have mercy upon all alike. (Romans 11:29-32)

I thought Satan was the one that caused us to sin. I still think he does. But God made my body, and He gave me my spirit.

Hang with me here. Things are about to get crazy.

God could have chosen to design us any way He wanted. Had it been me, I would have made sure everyone that I made knew just how powerful I was, just how in-control I was, and I would have also required hourly compliments on my looks and a large Sonic sweet tea on the side.

But God didn’t do that. He made us in such a way that we could live for ourselves if we wanted. He gave us the freedom to choose righteousness or worldliness. And WE ALL CHOSE WORLDLINESS. All of us.

And what’s even crazier, maybe He’s glad we did. If we didn’t need a Savior, then how could He possibly show us how much He loves us?

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! (Romans 11:33)

I’m still soaking all of this up. I’ve had to read these verses again and again, and then wash some dishes and read them again.

But I am so thankful that God cared enough to let me go so that He could welcome me back with open arms.

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So why did I care so much to share these thoughts? One of my best friends from college called me yesterday. We share the same faith background, and our roots run deep in our fellowship of believers. We also share the struggle to hold onto our heritage while making Jesus our end-all be-all.

So she described her bondage of perfectionism, and how it overflowed into every aspect of her life. Her marriage, her job, and specifically her walk with God.

And then she said something that I have replayed in my mind over and over.

Lauren, when you lay your head down at night, do you feel like you are saved? Like you are going to Heaven?

Because I don’t.

Oh, how I have been here. Oh, how I have longed for the freedom to admit my imperfections while thanking God for my salvation in the same breath.

And what if Jesus just happened to decide to come back right as I finished saying the words ‘bless her heart’? {That insinuated that I was gossiping about someone, if you’ve never lived below the Mason-Dixon line.}

Can I really spend eternity with Him if I haven’t prayed for forgiveness after every little sin I commit?

And my heart aches because I know there are so many who have joined me on this journey.

Some of us have done things we would never dare speak inside the walls of a church building. Some of us can’t imagine the idea of someone outside our denomination being pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Some of us may have such low self-esteem that we don’t even think God cares enough about us to extend His grace to us.

The good news is, that puts us all in the same boat. We just don’t understand what God wants to give us. Or why He wants to forgive us. Or how we can accept His gift.

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I’m a firm believer that time in Scripture is incredibly transformative in molding Christ-like people.

I want to share with you a Bible study method that has completely changed my faith walk. This 3-column study is based on writing scripture, drawing discoveries, and committing to obey.

Anyone can use this strategy to study. Here’s a visual of what it looks like:



If you are struggling with believing that God has saved you from yourself, or if want to quit believing that you could somehow earn God’s favor, try spending time in His word.

There are so many passages that refer to God’s grace. I’ve chosen just a few that I thought would be most helpful. Pray over these scriptures. Dwell on the words. And spend a week on each passage allowing yourself to be obedient a little step at a time.

If you need an accountability partner, reach out to someone you are close to and ask them to join you on this journey. Reach out to me! I will share my “I will” for the week right alongside you.

May He bless you as you continue becoming the humbled, redeemed, sanctified person He designed you to be.

Grace and peace.

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Have you ever studied Scripture using this 3-column strategy? What are your favorite verses about grace?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Pinterest Complex...(and the guilt of womanhood)


This post is dedicated to all you ladies, mommas, teenage girls, {and I guess effeminate men} who have a love-hate relationship with this logo:


 
Guys, seriously. I love social media. And when my sister told me a few years ago about a new website called Pinterest, I immediately made an account.

A place where I can store all my favorite bookmarks in one easy-to-get-to location? And I can organize it by themes? And all of the unbelievably beautiful things from the Anthropologie and beyond are at my fingertips? Sign me up!

And then it happened. The lives of every tech-savvy woman with a hint of hospitality and an eagerness to impress were changed forever.

Tablescapes” became a real word used in party planning vocabulary. Weddings turned into massive outbursts of regurgitated creativity. Enter: Mason jars, cake pops, and miles and miles of burlap. Am I the only one that feels like Pinterest threw up on every baby shower and holiday party I now attend?

{Hear me out…I’m just making a point to get to a better topic. No offense if you drink out of Mason jars while serving cake pops tied with burlap bows.}

Every pin I have is pretty and perfect in every way. And if something is extraordinarily perfect, I “like” it instead of “pin” it so that others won’t find it on their newsfeed. I want that particular pretty all to myself. Yes, I’m a snob. And don’t ask me if I “saw that on Pinterest”…of course I fabricated the ideas for that birthday party theme all by myself!

Ha.

I think all that perfect prettiness has given me a false sense of reality.

I see all of these people pinning organic, paleo, gluten-free recipes and think, Wow. I eat like a Paula-Deen-Cream-of-Mushroom-Soup-and-Ritz-Cracker fanatic.

I watch my timeline fill with house plans and whitewashed kitchens and think, Great. I have a one-bedroom garage apartment and my daughter sleeps in a pack-n-play in our bathroom. Not winning a motherhood award any time soon.

There are others who post links to 7-minute ab workouts and daily cleaning calendars for their homes. I’m not EVEN going to tell you what I think when I see these. Got to keep my Christian image up, you know?

So, this is all veeeeeery Pinteresting (see what I did there?).

We are taking in all of these images of perfect homes, perfect children, perfect food, and perfect bodies. It’s like a fast track to comparing ourselves to others and feeling inferior once again.

I knew I had a problem today when I walked into the baby section at Target. I’m standing in the formula aisle, and see that there is an off-brand that is twice as large as the Similac container for the same price. So I read the ingredients and percentages of vitamins to compare. Yep, exactly the same.

And the mommy guilt set in. Because I let my wandering eyes take me to the organic formula container. That’s what good mommas who shop at baby boutiques and wear their Moby wraps buy, right?

Finally, my practical, third-world-conscious side kicked in and I bought the Up & Up off-brand formula. I can honestly say that I was embarrassed to put that container on the conveyer belt at the checkout counter. Was the clueless teenage guy scanning my items thinking about how I should have bought organic???

And what’s worse, that guilt followed me all the way to my next stop. I was taking lunch to a friend, and Eliza was hungry. I needed the formula I had just bought, but I didn’t want my dear friend to know I had bought the crazy Up & Up brand. So I refilled the formula divider out of the trunk of my car before I went inside so that I would be more confident making my baby’s bottle in front of her.

{With all the nursing and breastmilk storage tips on Pinterest, I’m already feeling guilty enough admitting to the world that I have to feed my four month old formula.}

Here’s the skinny: My life doesn’t look at all like my Pinterest boards. I don’t always have a cohesive meal to serve my family for dinner. The headbands I made for my daughter honestly look kind of dumb. I can’t afford half the clothes I pin as “my style.” And I definitely haven’t performed any ab workouts lately.

The good news is, we weren’t designed to be materialistically perfect. We’re not even expected to be good! Only God is good.  

But Matthew 5 tells us that we ARE supposed to be perfect at heart, just as our heavenly Father is perfect. Not with a trendy, chevron-painted outside, but with a captivating, unselfish, submissive inside.

I guess if Jesus had a Pinterest board, he would post things from this chapter like:

Blessed {perfect} are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed {perfect} are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Blessed {perfect} are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed {perfect} are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed {perfect} are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed {perfect} are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Blessed {perfect} are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Blessed {perfect} are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Stop worrying about whether your life looks perfect. It’s okay if you are wearing a skirt from the clearance rack to Bible class. It’s ok if you let your child eat half a gallon of Halloween candy. (That was meant to be extreme – Bless your heart if you did.) It’s okay if you would rather claw your eyes out than learn to run a sewing machine. IT’S OKAY.

But pretty please start worrying about your heart. Let’s work together towards the attributes Christ desires for us so that by His grace He will one day call us perfect.


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Am I alone in feeling the pressure to appear like I’ve got it all together with a designer handbag on top? How are you practicing the Spiritual Disciplines of Matthew 5?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

8 Things You Need to Know about Extroverts



We’ve been taking a lot of personality tests as part of our overseas training, and you better believe I know every color, animal, and candy bar I could be compared to. Gavin always lands on the “friendly, kind, compassionate, reflective, green” side of the personality wheel.

My results always seem to shout, “Spontaneous! Competitive! Impulsive! Enthusiastic! YOUR LIFE IS LIKE DRIVING A FIRE TRUCK AT FULL SPEED WHILE EATING A HOT CHILI PEPPER AND APPLYING RED DEVIL LIPSTICK!”

So how many ways can you say extrovert?

On one of these particular tests, we had to respond to a list of statements according to how well they described us. You know, statements like, “There are people hiding who watch me closely.” [Often true.]

[Kidding.]

Gavin and I were laughing after this test because our responses to the statements were polar opposites. Once he threw a rock at a car when he was five years old, so Gavin responded with Sometimes True to “I have been in trouble with the law.” Guys, this man flosses daily and always cleans his plate. Seriously not a threat to civil society.

The statement I really wanted to tell you about, though, was worded, “I have a lot of great ideas.” Of course humble, honest, sweet Gavin responded with Never True. My answer? ALWAYS TRUE!

Call me narcissistic. Call me prideful. But doggonit, I am just sharing the truth about who I am! And maybe this list will help you understand other extroverts like me.

_______________________

1.    We think we have great ideas. This does not mean we always have great ideas. But we are eager to tell you what we think and try to help you solve your problems.

2.    We have some attention issues. Don’t hear this to mean we aren’t interested in what you have to say. Maybe you should just wear a shinier shirt next time you want to talk for extended periods of time. Or for more than 30 seconds. 

3.    We like to multitask. We probably have more than one project going on at the same time. I just counted fifteen tabs open in my Firefox screen. FIFTEEN, people! It’s a sickness, really.

4.    We have good intentions. We may come off as arrogant, opinionated, and downright uncaring. But we love you. We just want to see you DO something.

5.    We are insecure. As confident as we sound in one breath, we can feel just as uncertain about ourselves in the next. We are worried that others will think of us as arrogant, opinionated, and downright uncaring.

6.    We have a lot of friends. Extroverts love to develop relationships with new people. If we don’t call you every day once we’ve moved to a new city, we love you and value your friendship just as much as we did before. But we’ve probably made a new friend.

7.    We think we can conquer the world. It’s hard for us to feel like we’ve “arrived.” There are new challenges to tackle, and uncharted waters to explore. We appreciate your vote of confidence, too.

8.    We wish we were a little less extroverted. It would be great to know what it’s like to sit in a classroom and not feel like we have to share something. We would love for our brains to stop working for One. Hot. Second. But let’s face it…we have a lot of great ideas.

_______________________

If you’re an extrovert, rock being an extrovert! Go plan something. Go dream about something. Go promote something. It’s okay that you are excited – others are drawn to your energy and passion! Just be self-actualized with it. Recognize when you are exhausting others around you with your incessant optimism.

If you’re an introvert, do yo thang! You bring an incredible balance to our whole world of crazy. Be patient with us but continue to encourage us (as much as it seems like we don’t need it).

Extrovert: your skill set and dynamic personality are a joy to witness. Just remember your good neighbor the introvert. He’s great at keeping you grounded and practical. Make sure you keep one of these close to you at all times so that you don’t decide that your next great idea is a hot dog eating contest at the nursing home.

Yours truly,
An outgoing, restless, over-sharer who is finally comfortable with being just that.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monotony of the To-Dos



I’m exhausted. There. I said it. There are four laundry baskets with unfolded, clean clothes in my bedroom. The washing machine is full of cloth diapers. There’s a good solid layer of dust on all my shelves. I can’t remember the last time I actually made progress on my grad work.

I have a mound of bottles in the sink. There’s a stack of bills waiting to be paid. Who knows when I will get to the food in the refrigerator that needs to be thrown out.

My list of to-dos is always glaring at me with accusation, smothering me with guilt until it’s checked off.


Is there ever an escape from the mundane?

Here’s a confession for you: I made three different lists on the back of visitor’s cards during the sermon on Sunday. I hope my preacher doesn’t read this.

I can’t even escape from my agenda during a sacred time of worship. What. In. The. World.

You know that person that always responds to “How have your been?” with “Busy, busy!”…? And you kind of want to roll your eyes at her?

Well, guilty. That’s me. Ask me about my schedule, and it’s almost like I feel entitled to beat my chest and say, “I am a woman – hear my ROAR!” (Oh hey thanks Katy Perry for writing a song about me.)


I might accomplish a lot in a single day. A lot of earthly, monotonous, seemingly important tasks. I finish writing cards to people who need to be thank-you’d just in time to make out my grocery list for the next potluck. And when I get home from the potluck I rush through a few email responses that have been hanging out in my inbox. I feed the baby so that I can put her down for a nap and move on to the ironing.

I get to the end of a week or two or three like this and even though I have accomplished SO MUCH STUFF I feel nothing but emptiness.

Maybe I’m missing something.

My dear precious husband takes my daughter to work with him once a week. We laughed this morning because he said it was the least he could do if it meant he would come home to a clean house. I’m surely blessed with a wonderful baby daddy.

I’ll get to the floors and countertops today, I’m sure. (Or I’ll at least light a candle to make it smell like I got to the floors and countertops.)

But this morning I just enjoyed soaking up the quiet. I made some oatmeal and coffee and sat with my Bible and list of blogs. I hid my to-do list and breathed.


I’ve been thinking a lot about the Samaritan woman lately. I didn’t feel inspired to write about how scandalous it was that Christ spoke to her, or that she was who you would least expect to be an evangelist. Been there. Heard that.

What has struck me this week was her blasted water jug.

This woman had a lot of things to do. I mean she was a woman for crying out loud. Even if she wasn’t doing something she was probably talking about how she needed to be doing something.

So on this particular day in John 4 she went to draw water from the well. She probably had a load of laundry to do herself. But her agenda for the day was totally wrecked by a man who told her everything she ever did.

Her encounter with Christ took her so off-track that she even left her water jug behind. The whole reason she traveled to the well that day lost its purpose once she was exposed to something Greater.

We all have a list. An agenda. But God interrupts that. His Living Water sustains everything that our daily duties can’t. And how often do I neglect that quiet time with Him?

I’m reflecting today on my own water jug. What is it that I need to leave behind in order to gain Christ? What can I say “no” to so that I can say “yes” to God?

What is the water jug that you need to leave at the well?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spiritual Idling

Last summer, I spent six weeks in a tiny village called Kawai in Maasai Mara, Kenya. If you asked me what I learned, I would ask you what I didn't learn. I gained such a rich cultural experience, and soaked up so many experiences from the Maasai people.

The women of this village were the doers, for sure. They cooked, watched the children, made jewelry, and tended to the animals. The men...well, they did a lot of sitting around.


That is, except for the male teachers. These men saw potential in the children at the school where I worked. They were so convicted about giving young boys the opportunity to make something of themselves. There was one word they always used to describe an unproductive person asking for trouble, and it really stuck with me: IDLING.

"Mr. Sankale, why isn't Thomas at school today?"
"Oh, he's just idling. Always idling."

"Mr. Nelson, what is the biggest problem in your community?"
"Idlers. Nothing gets done while you're idling."

I'm not sure how to warm you up to the statement I am going to write next.

One of Satan's greatest weapons is a massive amount of idlers in the Lord's church

For years I have watched herds of people walk into church buildings, talk about a lot of stuff, and then walk out. Business meetings are held. Agendas are passed out. Long-range plans are discussed.
Budgets are finalized. And finalized again. 

Then, once our projects are fine-tuned and perfectly orchestrated, we sit around and consider how everyone in our church and our town may react. So we tweak them and get rid of the parts of our plans that may raise some eyebrows. 

Finally, we hold another meeting to discuss whether or not God is "calling" us to do such a project. We might even pray about it for a while. At this point, the need that we originally intended to meet has either been met by church down the road...or perhaps by Uncle Sam himself.

Is this considered thoughtful planning? Or should I just call it out? Spiritual Idling.
 

Francis Chan wrote in his book, Crazy Love:
     "Most of us use 'I'm waiting for God to reveal His calling on my life' as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear God calling you to sit in front of the television yesterday? Or to go on your last vacation? Or exercise this morning? Probably not, but you still did it. The point isn't that vacations or exercise are wrong, but that we are quick to rationalize our entertainment and priorities yet are slow to commit to serving God."
Is there something in your life that you have wanted to do, but haven't? Several conversations I have had recently let me know that most of us are holding back from truly surrendering to Christ's work in our lives. Perhaps we are afraid that others will think we are too "radical." Maybe we are concerned we wouldn't be able to shelter our children. It could be that we don't want to move away from our families or live off of less income.

But may I ask you: Is it possible to live in complete peace without entirely submitting to God?

I'm blessed with some good friends, Matt and Charla Cook. In a sermon recently, Matt told a story about a nurse in New Zealand who was assigned to caring for patients during the last few days of their lives. Bronnie Ware began to ask these palliative care patients about their greatest regrets before leaving this world. You could guess the typical answers, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends." But the most frequently occurring answer was interesting to me:

"I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

I don't mean to rant, but there is so much untapped potential in our fellowship of believers. I am convicted that the Lord's church is the single-most powerful force at work in the world, and one that has not even begun to broach the realm of its possible impact.

Please don't hear me incorrectly: I'm not saying that we shouldn't be thoughtful and prayerful about our plans. I'm not saying we should act impulsively. 

But I am saying that we should stop wasting time and start acting on sharing the Good News with all who need it. Just say "Yes!" to whatever it is God is leading you toward!

Stop waiting on someone to ask for forgiveness - just call them up and tell them it's done.

Stop questioning whether you will have enough money to get by - just give a little more and watch God bless you in return.

Wondering whether you are right for adoption? Call the agency today and let them decide. 

Are you considering overseas missions? There are so many lost people who will thank you for sharing Jesus with them.

Whatever it is, please stop idling. If every Christian was serious about living an intentional life, we might just start winning more souls. 

If you're a leader, start leading. If you're a follower, start following. Christians, start doing. 


"But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deceiving yourselves..."

James 1:22
-lp