Friday, July 31, 2009

VBS Final Day

This is the last post of VBS week. I have really had so much fun and God has proved Himself sovereign to me, once more. Despite our imperfect ways, knowledge and stumbling tongues, He has glorified Himself.

How great that none of my efforts can thwart God's will. The Great Commission is really all about our willingness to open our mouths. He will give the words. He wanted those kids and this week He took them for Himself, for His sake. It was so amazing to watch.

I almost saw the moment that the Holy Spirit made Himself known to one little girl. I just saw her face change in front of my eyes. She accepted the Lord and she will be baptized. That was my gift this week. There were five others that made commitments.

Today I was tearing down and honestly, I was a little bit sad. I know that God will give me another little nugget of Him, but I will be sad to see this one go. I had one goal, that our efforts would be God honoring. I think that they were. We loved on them and told them about Jesus. That is pretty good for one week.

I would not have been capable of this several years ago. I love to do new things and see how God has changed me, without my knowledge. I am sure that this was one of those things that was as much for me as for them.

I was also able to teach alongside some of the high school girls in my discipleship group. What a wonderful way to build relationships, doing ministry side by side. That is another great thing that has come out of this week. I love to see God's people working together, and enjoying it.

So, we will put the curtains down, the Egyptian archway entrance, the homemade Mt. Sinai complete with clouds, lightening bolt and the Ten Commandment tablets, and wait to see what happens when God calls the little children to Himself next year.

In the meantime, thank you Father for giving me an idea how I should come to a child. I hope that it is one of the quieter ones, but any of them would be fine.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

VBS Day Four - Revisiting Repentence

Today we presented salvation to the vacation bible schoolers...decisions were made, and lots of questions were asked. What a wonderful day to see God move!

I will not be applying for teaching jobs soon. I am sure that somehow you would learn how to pace yourself, but it has made my head numb. So, I will leave it to the experts and simply VBS during the summertime.

We gave the kids the words, grace and faith, today. We also talked about repentance. I am so grateful that there is a way that our fair God has chosen, to keep me with my Savior every moment of the day and throughout eternity. I know that I don't deserve it.

So, I continue to learn what grace, faith and repentance should look like in my life. I enjoyed this as I reread it today and remembered that each life that He calls His own is for His sake, as well as each sin that He forgives. It is all for His sake.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

VBS Day Three


Today we talked about the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, and the resurrection of Christ. Kids know SO many snippets of these stories. It has been such a fun week talking to them and hearing their funny little stories. I know so much dirt on their parents!

One thing that was surprising to them, today, was the sadness surrounding the death of Christ. It was hard for them to hear.

We read Matthew 27:27, “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

It is hard to stomach, huh? It should be.

There were children in the room with their mouths open and tears in their eyes when I read this. They thought it was so horrible that Jesus was treated like this. You know what? It was beautiful to watch.

Can you remember what it was like to hear this story for the first time? I have gone to church my whole life. I grew up on bible stories. Today, I regained some feeling where I had been numbed from repetition. I saw what it was like to love someone and then find out that they were hurt.

I encourage you to look at this story with fresh eyes. It is part of what drew us to Jesus in the first place.

Father, thank you for your Spirit’s power in scripture. Thank you for giving us the heart to read it with fresh eyes. Renew your word in us, Lord. Let us see it for the first time, today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

VBS Day Two

I am learning such new interesting theology in VBS (I have kids going into 1st grade through going into 6th grade). You don’t have to worry about telling the whole story because kids will just fill in the gaps. I have heard bible verses made up on the spot, and that is pretty hysterical. I have heard extra commandments. One thing is for sure, kids understand…you break a rule, you pay for it.

This is a valuable trait to work with when explaining salvation to them. I caught on to that one right away. We lose that as adults. We start to think that, somehow, we are naturally good. Scripture tells us that we are not. If I have to be honest…I know that I am not.

I had one little girl who kept telling me that she did not murder anyone. Then I gave her 1 John 3:15, “All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them.” She just kept repeating to me, “But I never killed anybody, and my mom and dad haven’t killed anybody”. This is good information to know.

Like my little lady friend, I know many adults who are much more concerned about the letter of the law rather than the intent of the law. Are we striving to please God’s heart? Have we looked at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), lately? They were and are our commandments for us to live by.

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol
  3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. You shall not murder
  7. You shall not commit adultery
  8. You shall not steal
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
  10. You shall not covet

How are we doing?

1. Is God first?

2. Have we given other things value that hinders our relationship with God?

3. Do we throw around God’s name in ways that do not reflect His holiness?

4. Do we take time off to focus on Him?

5. Do we honor our parents, not obey or respect, but really honor them?

6. Do we hate people and disassemble their existence in our minds?

7. Are we guarding our marriages from any stealers of our affections?

8. Are we taking things that are not ours, that belong to God and Him alone?

9. Are we spiteful and backstabbing? Do we say things that are not true about others?

10. Do we want what other people have? Are we content with what we do have?

All of these questions bring us back to God’s intent for our lives. Are we breaking God’s law? And, if so, are we asking forgiveness for it? These are laws to protect us and create a peaceful community of believers with the same focus. Our purpose is to bring glory to God. These laws point us to that end.

So, this is the next thing that I have learned from vacation bible school. Sometimes, we need to go back to the basics to remember who God is.

Today, we found out that we all break God’s laws…tomorrow, what God did about it. Pray for this because we have a lot of unchurched kids in our group.

Father, thank you for your commandments. Thank you for revealing these to us so we know how to live for your pleasure. In your grace, let us see where we are breaking your laws. Give us repentance in our hearts as we look for you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

VBS Day One

I started VBS, today.

I love the bible, and I love its stories. I thought, why not? I have always said that if you can’t tell a first grader what you believe then you don’t really know. Hmmm…well, I have told lots of first graders what I believe about the Egyptians today.

I hope that I can be coherent this week after my VBS’d mornings. All I can think about are those poor teachers who do this day in and day out. What are you thinking? Or, can you think at all?

Do you know what the children where the most amazed at? They could not believe that God knew them before they were born. He made them and knew them. Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

How do I understand that as a woman? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since my time in the womb. The kids looked at me and said, “I don’t understand”, to that part of the verse. Instead of explaining what a womb is, I thought it best just to say, “Before you were born”. My heart could not take that discussion.

So, I was formed in the womb. That is such an intentional act. I look at my gigantic frame, my big head, my cellulite, and I think, what is all of this? It was an act of sovereignty. Everything from my desire for quietude to my moles…all intentional.

Isn’t it interesting that God not only formed us, but He knew me? He knows me now. He knows when I need Him so much that I can’t even form the words. He knows before I am going to step back from Him and why. He knows how I try to take control sometimes. He knows what makes me laugh, really laugh. He knows how my heart has to trust before it can love. He speaks love to me. He knows me.

I am amazed at this verse, too. Isn’t that intimate? My husband and I are intimate, but there is an intimacy to someone forming you and knowing you before you were born that no one else has.

Not just that, but God is still forming me and knowing me every day. He made me perfectly, and every day He is pruning me back to that perfect creation.

Because I am His today, I am consecrated…set apart for God’s use. That includes vacation bible school storyteller. This verse refers to Jeremiah becoming a prophet to the nations, but our task is just the same. God doesn’t waste that intimate relationship with His creation.

I don’t know what I have been set apart for, yet. It seems to be a series of tasks now, but I know that He is preparing me for something. I can only hope it is not being a school teacher, after today.

Anyway, if you have not found your appointment, it will come. It is why we were formed, what we were consecrated for and appointed to. Let’s be amazed at our journey from womb to woman, today.

Father, thank you for still being with us. Thank you for giving us that same attention that you offered when you were forming us. Show us where you have appointed us, and make us useful to your kingdom.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's Race!

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NRSV, “Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.”

I would appreciate it, if those of you who know me would stop giggling that this is the verse to end the week with. I say this, mostly, because I am the girl that you want to have with you when you are happy or sad. I simply say, “Let’s have dessert, Congratulations!”, or, “Let’s have dessert. Here is a Kleenex.” What else is there to say?

The only thing that I have tried to enslave, recently, has been my time. I have been on a ‘get your life in order’ kick. No matter, I would not even call my interest in order a “punish my body and enslave it” kind of exercise.

And here is the point that I hit every day when I read scripture…I am not that kind of girl, but if I play my cards right, I could be.

Since I do know some of you, I know that you approach this verse with the same caution as I do. Should I start naming names, or should I use code like, Thai food queen? Take heart, ladies, we are in this together.

I am starting with an easy message, as I plan to dig further into this pit. I used to be awfully competitive. I love to exercise, although it looks completely different after my surgery. I can’t say that I have ever been the best runner, but I know what it is like to compete.

So, if I am to run in such a way that I will win, I have to get diligent because there are some fast runners out there. Some things that I know from training before:

If you don’t eat right, you have no fuel.

If you think, “I can’t”, you won’t.

Never dwell on how many reps or sets are left.

Remember that there are bouts of brief rest that will make you feel better.

Think about how you will feel after you are finished…aside from really tired.

These are all tips to just be in the race. If Paul had said that we just have to run, we would be off the hook. That would mean to try our best, which can be a sliding scale subject to the day in which we find ourselves. That is not what he is talking about here.

To win, it has to be our passion, our focus. We have to press on, even when we feel the muscle fatigue and our brains tell us that one more block is not possible. We are going for a medal here…an imperishable one.

Here is something funny. If I said, “If you get in training to WIN this race, I will give you a million dollars”, you would buy a new pair of running shoes today, wouldn’t you?

If I said, “If you get into training, your prize for this life is spending eternity with the Father”, there is kind of an ‘I have the rest of my life’ mentality. Our diligence is slowed and even stopped because we don’t have the same urgency with eternity…hmmm?

This is assuming that there are things that we could all do today for the kingdom that we are not currently doing. If this does not apply to you, please let us know how you did it.

I do know that the time is short. Things happen and we are promised nothing, less this prize. I don’t want to run aimlessly or beat the air. I do want to run this race as though I am winning.

Let me give you an example of a small victory in this quest for athletic self-control. I had a moment last night where I was feeling a little resentful. I knew that I had the potential to ‘forget myself’. So, I called to the Spirit to take over my thoughts.

I then got frustrated because during the rest of the night, I could not rebound. I couldn’t get my smile back. I remained a little distant and that bothered me.

When I read these verses, this morning, I realized that some of this race is happening inside our head. It is not only out in the world that we have to be diligent. It is in our thought life. This is some of the hardest stuff with which we deal.

So, when I thought over the events of last night, I finally realized that I had kept my mouth shut (this is no small feat). No matter what I felt like saying, I didn’t.

The Spirit did its job. It is so rare that I shut my mouth. Peace was at stake and I cried out. That is not an ‘I can’t’ mentality. That is thinking ahead to the prize. That was resting in the one who could act differently than I felt. Was I conscious of any of this? No.

Instead, I thought about my lack of smiling. Smiling is not resolution. Acting like nothing is happening is not resolution. Calling out is resolution, and it leads to peace.

The race gets easier. We get muscle memory. We know that when things get questionable, the Spirit will take over for us. How awesome is that! Half of our training is learning the skills to get us to the prize.

I say this to encourage you. When you think of punishing and enslaving your body, sometimes it is harder to shut your mouth at home than it is to share the gospel. Both are in the race. We have help…so we have to learn to ask for it. It will go far in our training for the imperishable prize.

Are we ready to race?

Father, thank you for the courage to keep running this race. Thank you for giving us ways to get to the prize which are beyond us. Instill in us the desire to keep going in spite of our flesh.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Own Personal Idols

1 Corinthians 8:7 & 8, “ It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.”

This knowledge that Paul is referring to is the oneness of God, the oneness of Jesus. Corinth is a city of hussle and bussle. It is a port city and everything that you can imagine happens there. It is like a historical Vegas. They have many gods and many lords. The idea of having only one was kind of boring for them.

When I was reading this, I was thinking about how this could apply to my little life. I will not be deciding whether to buy idol meat or kosher meat today. I will not see a statue of an idol on the grocery store shelves, or my neighbor’s lawn. So, what does this mean for me?

Even as Christians, we are accustomed to a divided loyalty. We do believe that there is one God and one Jesus, but our idols are nuanced. We have personal idols and cultural idols. You will have to define your own, which should make for a fun day. Here is a cultural example for women:

The way that I think about sex is different than God intended because of the world that I live in. Everything around me tells me that I should behave a certain way with my body and my attitudes, my sensuality. I am accustomed to seeing advertisements, billboards, teenage girls in the mall, and magazines that spell out my role. In our culture, sex is an idol.

There is the possibility that because I have been so indoctrinated with sexual definitions, that I could have a difficult time separating my role as a mentally healthy, and godly woman and wife from that which I have seen and been taught. Sex can remain something in my mind that is defiled because I am accustomed to seeing the idolatrous form. My understanding of sex is tied with my association to this world.

There are so many examples of this in the world. I could go on and on. How about one more highlighting individual idols?

I once led a women’s accountability group, which was a wonderful experience. One of my biggest lessons came because I underestimated my influence. I bought this expensive purse and it had the brand all over it. I really, really hate brands all over things. I refuse to buy sunglasses that has a brand all over the side, or bags that are decorated in the brand name. Just hate them. So, this purchase was really unlike me.

I noticed one girl, who really struggled with materialism, eyeing my bag. She touched it and liked it, and talked about it. This girl worked so hard, and was struggling with expenses, so this temptation was a true burden for her. The next week she showed up with a bag like mine. She walked up and showed it to me. I was so ashamed. I sent my bag to Goodwill. I can influence the weaker conscience, too.

Our culture makes it very easy for us to adopt idols, and adapt behaviorally for their incorporation into our everyday life. We do not have impenetrable shields as Christians. We have to be on our guard.

There are areas for all of us where we cannot say, “It is just a purse”, or, “It is just a car”. Some of us struggle with food, sex, alcohol or drugs…being a servant, being busy, or being liked. 1 Corinthians 8:4, says, “Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” I can say that about some things, but others…well, my conscience is weak.

If you heard my entire life’s story, you might see how some areas are weaker than others. You might understand why there is more temptation in certain areas for me. I can definitely say that I have my own personal idols.

I was sitting and praying about this, this morning. These idols, we embrace them, don’t we? We make room for them, even if it is only a crack. They are like caulk; they will just fill the cracks and solidify. They want to fill the gaps, leaving us feeling solid and whole…leaving us defiled.

I heard something important this morning. While I was praying God revealed that these weaknesses, these areas where my conscience lacks, are where He wants to shine. He literally wants to shake the foundation enough to crack the caulk and reopen the gaps. Sounds humbling. Here is my other option…as long as I want to pretend that I can handle the world and its idols, I will be left defiled.

God is a gentleman. He does not come in and take over the things that we call friends. He does not barge in uninvited. He waits for the offering. He waits for us to set our friends, our little idols, down on the steps of His throne and walk away. He can fix the cracked defiled part, then. He can change the way that we think about these former idols.

My work comes with putting, and keeping things in their proper mental space. We place improper weight on things in our environments because we lose sight of their true worth. The question to ask is, does this bring me close to God?

Are their areas in your lives where you confuse worth? Are their things that you are placing ahead of others that would bring you close to God?

Father, thank you for your intentional unshackling that you desire for us. Point out the areas that carry undo weight in our lives. Show us the things that bring us close to you and renew our minds with your priorities.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Superhero Cape

There is a problem that I see with myself and my lady friends. Perhaps it is generational, or this point in our lives, because we all have it to some degree. We, apparently, all have our superhero cape stashed in the front of our closets just waiting for any opportunity to seize it and fly.

Indeed, I do see this as a problem because when I pull this out of my closet everyone around me sort of cringes and backs up. They know that in order to do my new monumental feat, I have to go beyond myself and take on things outside of the natural realm.

Superhero thinking: In my mind, I am about to leap off of the cliff into a lovely glide, as I jet off to save the day. In everyone else’s mind, I am doing what does not belong to me. Thus, why I need the cape.

My cape is lovely. It has crystals…no, it has diamonds and opals (that is my birthstone). So, at a moments notice, I seize my cape and instill fear in the very ground I stand on, as I leave the earth behind.

Being a Christian woman only makes it worse. I have so many good causes around me, worthwhile ways to spend my time. It can’t be said that I am wasting my time. I am making meals or planning activities. I am teaching…what is so wrong with teaching?

So, today I found myself in 1 Corinthians 6 and 7. In these chapters, there is an underlying reason for everything Paul says, and it is a really simple message. We need to do what is good for us and what promotes peace. 1 Corinthians 7:15, says, “…It is to peace that God has called you.” 1 Corinthians 7:32, says, “I want you to be free from anxieties…”

Peace sometimes feels like a far off planet, which actually does require superpowers to reach. Paul tells us that this peace, this lack of anxiety should be found in our everyday circumstance.

1 Corinthians 7:21-23, “Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.”

Superhero thoughts: Reading this, I might think that my real obligations are in my current circumstance, without the superhero cape. Maybe I should just hang it up in the back of my closet for emergencies…it is pretty, after all.

So, what about the things that are in my ‘present condition’? Notice that Paul is speaking to slaves. So, could he be saying that being free is in your mind? You already are free. You already have the power to change the way that you think about your circumstance because of who you are in Christ.

I had a job, once, that I enjoyed on occasion. I viewed that I was chained to it. One day, I just looked around and saw that I was the only Christian there. That night, I stopped referring to it as my job and started calling it my mission field. It changed everything. In my mind, I had a different reason for being there. It made that time valuable.

Paul is telling us to take advantage of our situations, literally to avail ourselves of the opportunity inside of our circumstance. It might look like a ball and chain, but it is up to us to bedazzle it!

Let’s take this mental challenge one step further…1 Corinthians 7:29-31, “I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

What hinders you from thinking about your current circumstance differently? Our spouses should not hinder us, our sufferings should not hinder us, our euphoria should not hinder us, our possessions should not hinder us…and, certainly, this world should not hinder us. It is going to be over in a flash.

Does this even sound realistic in your home? My dishwasher has been broken for almost three weeks. I can tell you that I do feel hindered, and I am sitting here trying to think of a way to change this thinking to freedom. Help me out, here.

So, why should we live like it we are not really bothered by these things? Why should I bother to hit the reset switch in my brain?

1 Corinthians 7:35, “I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.”

There are two things that Paul gives us as reasons for this beneficial instruction. It leads to order, which is a good thing. My house is ALWAYS more peaceful when it has order. It, also, allows us unhindered devotion to the Lord. Our current circumstance needs to be defined as peaceful, so that we can completely be His.

So, let’s look at our lives for a second. I told you that I was trying to decide where the Lord was leading me to serve this fall. I realized that there are certain tasks that are so natural to me (ones that I think of peacefully)…and then there are the ones that require the cape (ones that make me anxious).

The cape makes my life stressful. It makes me levitate. It makes my husband retreat. It makes people look at me and say, “I think she might have too much on her plate”.

These verses in chapter 6 & 7, are Paul’s little instruction book that says, “Don’t sweat it. Be free”. They have been good for me to soak in, this morning. So, I think that I want to be free. I am going to have a cape burning. Want to join me?

Father, thank you for FREEDOM! Thank you for giving us a life which is not tied to our circumstance. Let us not be mastered by any human, or any thing. Show us where your freedom lies in each of our lives today.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Little Engines that Can

1 Corinthians 4:20, NRSV, “For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.”

Doesn’t that sound like an awesome audio clip? I truly love Paul. He follows this statement by saying, “What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21, NRSV)”

My translation (which is nothing like I learned in seminary), “Don’t make me come over there. I have a stick and I know how to use it.” I think that this verse can be quoted on a regular basis in every home in America. Children could learn scripture instead of random disciplinary tools.

Unfortunately, the church of Corinth is just like us. Even then, people just loved to belong to a club. They wanted to say that they belonged to the coolest church, with the biggest events and the best door prize. My cousin was telling me about a church that gave away IPods as door prizes to youth. I know, right?

Well, the Greeks belonged to their knowledge, and this is why Paul writes about this empty talking going on. They were too knowledgeable to adhere to the gospel. The Corinthian converts belonged to the people that baptized them, and this was causing a stink. I guess wanting to belong is natural. The Corinthians made their own cliques, complete with t-shirts. Now we meet in sports domes.

Well, Paul was not having any of it. Chapters 1-4, are essentially getting them to acknowledge that they all belong to Jesus. What the world says about wisdom is, well, foolishness.

Jesus is the focus, He still is. So, how do we keep that in mind as we carry on in our small ways, and all that we see around us is bigger and more intimidating?

The Power is in the Cross, Not in Us: What did Paul say in 1 Corinthians 1:17? “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.”

That’s right…that is what he said. Paul was well aware of what he sounded like. He even said that he came to the Corinthians in fear and trembling. Now that is someone I can relate to! I can’t tell you of anything God has told me to do that did not cause fear and trembling. I did it, but sometimes I thought that I would die in the process.

I am not naturally courageous. I do not have eloquent wisdom. I am not running the church with the IPod giveaway. I am small and insignificant, but I am willing. I am even willing to be uncomfortable. In ministry, I often feel like the little engine that could. The trick might be having more little engines out there.

The Spirit Works Through Us: Looking at our first verse (1 Corinthians 4:20). I really wanted for that to mean, “walk the walk”, but it doesn’t. 1 Corinthians 2:4 & 5, explains it, “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom,  but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

My words amount to nothing, but the kingdom DEPENDS on this power. All that we are at the very center should be power. Sounds good, right? We all have the power of the Spirit at our very core. We should redefine our bodily constitution by saying that we are mostly water, but all Spirit. I hope that I am the first one to say that…probably not.

What does this mean for us? Be courageous. Be uncomfortable. We belong to Jesus. We are entirely an offering to the Spirit, “who searches everything, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10, NRSV)”. Are you willing to take ourselves out of the picture? Are you willing to be uncomfortable?

I have come to find out that we, as women, are much more alike than different. I, also, know that God has a specific purpose for each of us. This is why we must see that no matter how we feel, we are no longer ourselves, but Christ living through us. Let’s strive to accomplish His purpose in us, with all of our weaknesses. Be brave, ladies!

Father, thank you for making us complete, in the way that only we can serve you. Make your purpose clear in us, today. Let us serve you, Jesus, and only you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Repeat Monday

Don't get too used to these repeats!

I am on the last day of my company being in town. I am so grateful for the time that God has given me with my family. It is a gift that they travel to stay with me, in my home. I have not lived in the same town as any of my family since I graduated at 17, so this time is seldom and precious.

Another thing, on the personal side…isn’t it funny that when you add one element to the perfectly balanced life...things are out of kilter. That is how I feel...out of kilter. While I love the time of escape, I am off balance and ready to face the norm. Here’s to “being” normal tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Repeat Friday

Well, I still have company and I am running to the museum today with my mom. How fun is that?

Due to a discussion that I had yesterday, I want to remember that I am a vessel housing the power of the Spirit, who longs to display His fruit. I pray for fruit today! This is a good reminder for me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Occasional Shipwrecks

Sometimes things just go wrong. Because we are not on this planet alone, we encounter people who get in our way, people who are wrong, and people who have bad intentions. The times that our paths cross these people, well, it makes our lives just a little more difficult.

I once was involved in this huge stink at a church because I had been nominated as a deacon. I was a single woman in my 20s. There were no deaconesses at this church, or female ministers. Turns out, someone had nominated me, but the committee had not understood that Tracy is the name of a woman until later in their process.

That is when I was visited by the senior pastor, which was one of the few times because the church was so large. I could just see that they anticipated some feather ruffling or something. I just said, “Ok”, and let it go. I was not prepared to be a deaconess, let alone a deacon.

This did not cause so much strife for me, but whoever nominated me put everyone in a very awkward position. These things happen. Whether big or small, we can be guaranteed that they will keep coming.

I can honestly say, though, that I have never been shipwrecked, lost at sea, or included in a murder plot; but it turns out, Paul was.

In Acts 27, Paul is sailing on to the emperor. For years, Paul was tried at the hands of the Jews, of which he was one. They are accusing him of crimes against their laws. They kept sending Paul to trial and he was found innocent, but new charges were brought to keep the trials going. This was, of course, in between plots to kill him. Eventually, Paul asked to go before the emperor, which turns out to be exactly where God wants him. Paul is to go and share the gospel with the emperor. What a calling!

Paul is in a ship filled with 275 other people. So, it is a big ship. From the get go, they had a tough time sailing. Scripture says that the sailing was dangerous. Paul went to the centurion who was in charge and said, “Sirs, I can see that the voyage will be with danger and much heavy loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives (Acts 27:10, NRSV).”

Paul is in danger, and he felt that it was time to advise the centurion. So, he makes a simple statement. He does not say go back, or find the life jackets. He just sends out a prophecy to the ears of the captain and lets it go. Unfortunately, the centurion is looking to the people that are paid to do this job, and they say...keep going.

I have been there. I have been standing there when bad decisions are made. I don’t care if it is your church leaders, country, spouse, parents or friends. There is nothing to make you feel out of control like someone making the wrong choice and you have to deal with the consequences.

I have never gone down quietly, though. If it is big, I just talk and talk until I feel heard AND agreed with. Little things can go a little smoother; but the big things, those are the hard ones. Paul was thinking shipwreck and lives lost. This was a big thing, and Paul gave just one statement. This is just where my amazement begins.

He doesn’t say anything to them again, until all hope of being saved was abandoned. In verses 21-24,

Since they had been without food for a long time, Paul then stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and thereby avoided this damage and loss. I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we will have to run aground on some island.

This situation is in crisis mode, and Paul stands up one more time. He is showing courage where others have none. The amazing thing that we see through out the New Testament is the acquiescence of the people. When Jesus or the apostles stand up and speak, people agree. This is also a man who could heal and bring people to life. His presence was powerful. Although it seems unlikely, they knew that Paul was right.

I wonder how much the fact that he only spoke twice, and was calm during crisis, helped him. Do you see where I am going with this?

How could Paul’s situation be worse? There are two plots going on. Some of the Roman soldiers try to escape, but Paul knows about it and has it stopped. And, little known to all of the prisoners, including Paul, the soldiers were planning to kill them so they could not swim away and escape. The centurion stopped them out of regard for Paul’s life.

Here is what I take away from such an adventure, although I am not sure that is what Paul would call it. I would like to claim Paul’s peace for my own. He only spoke once when he saw that bad decision coming down the line. Then, he sat back and lived with it. He was right where he was supposed to be.

Sometimes, we think that if we are obedient, God will send us from A to B as quickly as possible, because it is His idea in the first place, right? Some of my journeys from A to B have looked more like the eternity symbol. God had every intention of getting Paul to share the gospel with the emperor, but Paul had to commit to the journey first. Are we committing to our journey?

So, if we are committing, are we peaceful? Do we endlessly talk about what we would do differently? We can defeat the purpose of the journey, if we keep speaking our peace. Paul spoke once and was willing to go down with the ship. What if that was our mentality?

As we know, everyone ended up safe on land in Malta, where another adventure began. Let’s expect these adventures. Let’s be quiet and still in their midst.

Father, thank you for your journeys where you bring us along. Let us ride them in peace. Let us commit to your ways for us, wherever they take us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vanity at the Cosmetic Counter

I have shopped more in the last two days than I have in years. We have hit every store in town, it seems. Our current activities made a conversation naturally unfold between my mom and me. I will share it with you with my embellishments, of course.

One morning I was sitting and reading my bible, and my mom was sitting doing her study. I can’t remember why we were talking about this, but she asked me how fundamentalists choose their rules. This question, as all theological rabbit trails, appealed to me.

My answer was something like, “sometimes haphazardly”. It seems that you might never get two fundamentalist congregations to agree on a fundamental emphasis. Their specific emphasis reflects their experience as a community. So, really, how can you answer this question? People adhere to things that they think are important and those become central to their faith. We all have points that we stress.

Since I was reading Acts, I decided to go back to chapter 15 where these questions were being discussed by people I trust. These original patriarchs of the faith were bombarded with questions from the apostles, themselves, and the Jews about what would make these Gentile converts a part of this new body of believers. Verse 19 sums it up,

“Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.”

These three practices were the only restrictions that the apostles believed right to impose on believers without a Jewish heritage. The Gentiles should abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication and from improper killing and preparation of animals.The one that stuck with me was to abstain from things polluted by idols. Here, of course, they were talking about food. Really, I have to hand it over to Paul to describe what an idol is…1 Corinthians 10:14-22,

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Don’t you think that this definition can be applied to many kinds of idols? What is sacrificed to idols is sacrificed to something other than God. I don’t want to partner with anything other than God.

So…I have been shopping for days. I have witnessed so many ways that people partner with their altars. I have seen the temptation to offer sacrifice and honor to the altar of emaciation, materialism, elitism, drunkenness, crudeness and selfishness. It is unreal what you see when you are out where people spend their money.

Quite pridefully, I did not spend a dime until we got to the makeup counter. Then I looked at all of those pretty colors winking back at me and suddenly I had befriended my newest lipstick, Nectar. It made me feel happy.

While I am aware that Jesus does not care if I am wearing Crystal Pink or Nectar on my lips, it brings me back to one of my idols. I blame it on my upbringing in Texas, where big hair and lipstick are staples, but really it is something that is deep inside of me…vanity.

Enter my nemesis…I have tried to whittle this passage into something manageable for years, 1 Peter 3:3 & 4, “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.”

I understand that I should abstain from things polluted by idols, but my heart says to make it more personal than a discussion about meat. I have idols whose tentacles enter into the very woman that I am called to be.

They enter through the cracks of my sort-of-quiet-spirit and create longings inside of me. These idols cater to the desires of my flesh and the pride, manifesting itself in vanity. I no longer want to adorn my inner self, but I want to partner with the people in the department store to adorn myself outwardly…badly. It is so much easier to adorn myself outwardly. It feels good, euphoric. It can trick me into momentary satisfaction.

How to deal with this? I could be hyper-sensitive to all things about adorning myself outwardly. I could create fences and motes of rules that surround my physical appearance so that I do not have to make those decisions. I could make this my fundamental focus.

I hate rules and this seems like a lot of work.

Paul said something that has reformed my thoughts on my struggle, and this entire discussion of idolatry.

I want to do nothing that provokes my Lord to jealousy.

I do not want to share my spirit with cosmetics, or clothes, or attentions. I want for my obedience to be placed in my desire for God, not rules that protect me from His jealousy. I desire that my idols and their tentacles are crushed and that they never share the same space of offering in my heart that is offered to the Lord.

That is what my shopping days have taught me.

Father, thank you for your endless desire to see us free. Let us be satisfied only with you. Give us a quiet spirit as we go though this day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taking Off Tuesday

I am having a girls' day today with my mother and friend. I usually spend the first part of Monday-Friday at this computer, so this is a fun change for me.

I am leaving you my first blog entry on this site. My husband illustrated it and it has always had a special place in my heart. If you have already read it, I hope that it speaks to you in new ways. If you have never read it, I hope that it ministers to you for the first time.

Have a blessed day!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cost

Acts 19:18-20, “Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. 19 A number of those who practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly; when the value of these books was calculated, it was found to come to fifty thousand silver coins. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”

The cost. I look at this passage and I have to think of the cost of following Jesus. This passage comes from Paul’s time in Ephesus. Paul’s ministry, alone, can tell us about the cost to follow what you know is true.

I admire Paul, and learn from him when I see his testimony about the three years that he spent with the Ephesians in Acts 20. As I am thinking about cost, these verses say everything that I need to know. He says, “I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, (Acts 20:20)”, and “for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. (Acts 20:27)”

For three years, Paul did not shrink back. I am really convicted of this right now as I am trying to decide where God is placing me for ministry in the fall. Am I shrinking back? I am willing to give it all? I can already tell that the words “shrinking back” will take a permanent place in my prayer life.

I would say that the Ephesians met him in this boldness forward. I have been a Christian since I was 9. I have not always been a biblical or active Christian. I remember what it was like when Jesus wooed me back to Him. I had to make changes. I left my job, I moved, I broke an engagement, I went back to school, and started attending a new church. I started over.

When I was nine, I did not have so much to give up. When I was in my 20s, I had to turn it around. Mine was the cost of consequence. I was experiencing the consequence of my choices. I had to endure the heartache of removal. It was like God took a scalpel and expelled me from my life. Then he plopped me on a blank slate. I cried a lot, in sadness and joy, but the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. That is just what He does, prevail.

When I think about the people in this verse, I am elated for them, but I know the cost was extreme. They were professionally, personally and financially tied to a lifestyle. Now, they belonged to Christ. The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

God makes us want to change. He gives us value and strength, courage that we can’t know on our own. I remember explaining this time in my life as standing on a cliff and being told to jump. I just jumped. I knew that I could. For some reason the cost seemed higher if I didn’t jump.

When I remember these days, the cost was so obvious to me. It makes me wonder, what the cost is today? I know that there is one. Galatians 2:19b-20, is my verse, “I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” On my good days, I understand that this is the cost. Some days these words can roll off of our tongues. They are like little kids on a slip-and-slide, but should they be?

If we are truthful, these words stick in the back of our throats. Their failure to escape makes us linger on the taste of phrases like, “I have been crucified with Christ” and “it is no longer I who live”. The cost is so much more precious the longer we are allowed to sit at our Savior’s side.

The cost is, also, not as obvious as it used to be. The decisions that we once had to make were black and white, and now they are nuanced and carry such a privilege. They are in the way that we use our time. They are in the elimination of our comfort as we seek out the lost. They are in the choices that we make about our money. It is the way we speak to the people we love. It is not running away from intimacy but making ourselves vulnerable to this painful world.

The longer we are with Him, the more precious the cost. It is sweeter than we can imagine, and sometimes more bitter, as we disappear and Christ grows. It seems contradictory, but another way to speak of our disappearance is by using Paul’s phrase from Acts; we don’t shrink back. It is hard to not shrink back while being pruned, refined, but this is the task at hand. Refusing to shrink back reflects commitment and courage; just as me no longer living in this flesh deals with commitment and courage. As we fail to shrink, Christ is more powerful. When the cost is high, we press on.

Father, thank you for giving us the courage to press on. Thank you for letting us see the cost and know that it is worth everything to be at your side. As we grow in you, let us not shrink back but boldly live by faith in You.

Friday, July 10, 2009


1 John 5:4, “for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”

I remember growing up in the Southern Baptist church. Singing hymns are some of my fondest memories. We used to sing “Victory in Jesus”. You know the one that I am talking about, “…He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”

Yah, we don’t talk about victory anymore.

I know a girl in my church who is dealing with a specific area of sin. I know of it because I attend a human run church, but she has never spoken to me about it…yep, it’s gossip. I empathize with her, but I am hesitant to bust in and say, “Hey, I heard that you are committing a sin that I have a lot of experience with, just thought you might want to talk.” It usually doesn’t go over well like that. I will be praying for God to give me an opportunity to talk, so she will speak to me again.

I was thinking about this hesitancy, on my part. I used to be one of those people who excused my behavior because the bible did not specifically mention Neiman Marcus or dark chocolate. Unfortunately, this philosophy extended far beyond shopping and food, into moral territory.

The nature of sin tells us that our choices are circumstantial. When I was participating in this sin, I believed that I was unique. My situation was unique. In my mind, there were consequences that I was willing to deal with. You know that twinge of conviction that we feel sometimes? Well, there are times when it was more like two semi-trucks colliding in my heart. That twinge grows, as we burden ourselves with the weight of consequence.

Here is the problem…when facing obstacles and struggles, we don’t see the victory. The opposite of the situation that we are in might spell loss to us, not victory. If you tell your girlfriend who is living with a guy, that she is not making the best choice for herself, she will see loneliness as the alternative. She will not see victory.

So, how do we invest in victory? I think that we have to take areas that have been given to us in victory, even when were headed for failure, and without shame confess them, AND PREACH the victory. That’s it, preach it ladies…we have to make young women and peers understand where we have been, where we struggle, and tell everything about the fight and the victory.

Let’s make it even simpler…we can memorize this verse. This passage says to us, IF you are born of God (have accepted Jesus as Savior), then you are a conqueror. Period. If you are a Christian you are already a conqueror, meaning that you already have victory over sin in your life. Get your conqueror hat on and get to it. You have everything that you need to defeat sin because Jesus, through His Spirit, lives in you.

Think of your latest struggle. You are a conqueror… you have victory. And, yes, it is that simple. You might have to lay it down more than once, but you will have victory.

A few months ago, I had to offer up a sin that had shackled me for years. It was the two semi-trucks colliding in my heart. I knew that I had to hand over this fight because continually losing the same battle was crushing me.

That night, on the floor of my prayer closet (it is really just my closet, but I like to pray in there) God freed me from it. I have not struggled, again, in that area. Thank you, Jesus. He gave me complete freedom. Not long after that a girlfriend of mine sat with me and confessed the same sin. I told her of my victory, and she was freed from it that night when she went home. God glorifies Himself when we strip ourselves down and ask Him to fight on our behalf. Then, we are conquerors.

The most important component of victory is in the next sentence. It is up to us. Faith is like TNT. It is explosive and reckless. It surprises us and leaves sin in complete devastation because it speaks to the heart of a holy God. Faith takes us out of the equation. Faith simply says, “Jesus, I believe that you are who you say you are.” Then we let the God of the universe, the Victor, invade.

That is what God’s victory is like, in one second it can take over. We need to change the understanding of struggle to include the opportunity to prove that we are faithful, and the opportunity for God to invade.

We need to stop thinking of our struggles from the standpoint of defeat, of what we have to give up, as if God will leave a void as penance. He wants to fill us with Him, not leaving any cell without the invasion of His Spirit. We are not alone and we have the promise of victory, if we just believe that God is already the conqueror of every single moment of our lives.

This, ladies, is what we need to tell each other. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.

Father, thank you for your victory. Thank you for giving the very power of You, living in us. Show us places in our lives that You want to grant the victory and let us be willing to lay down our struggles to You.

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