Saturday, October 18, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
Saturday, August 2, 2014
I'm on staff at a church that exists to set captives free. All the power required for freedom, healing, and restoration is found in Christ, and we are resolved to communicate this through every thing we do as a body. Naturally, these things find their way into many of our conversations throughout the week.
Nearly every Sunday, I hear things like this:
I want to step up and be a leader, but every time I do, all I can think about are all the ways I failed in the past, even if I know I'm forgiven. I know Satan wants to keep me focused on my old junk, so he's really stepping up his game.
I want an amazing marriage, but every time we disagree I get so angry and blurt out hurtful things to my husband to cut him down, just like my mom did to my dad. I know the enemy wants me to do the same thing, so the closer we get, the more he brings those thoughts.
Every time I walk into church, no matter how badly I want to be here, I just want to run in the other direction! I can't sit here without thinking about all the ways I was hurt by the Church as a child- but I know that was wrong and this place is good, so I'll keep coming anyway!
As I talk with Christians struggling with the presence of warfare in their walk with God, I find myself encouraging them with a few key things over and over. Here are some ways we can encourage one another in the face of enemy resistance:
This is a battle.
We are in a battle. We have an adversary, we are opposed. Sometimes that opposition is from the outside; but often the war is within. The enemy does want to remind us of every way we've failed, every insecurity and struggle. He wants nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy in any way he is able. And Jesus prayed not that we'd be removed from this, but that we would be protected from the evil one (John 17:15.) As we obey God, as we pursue him and choose him and let his love transform us, we will notice these kinds of attacks.
We will certainly face opposition of many kinds, but know that to be made clearly aware of the presence of darkness in your own heart and life is a work of the Holy Spirit. This is God opening your eyes and allowing you to see the methods of the enemy, the places you're broken down or wounded. It is evidence of your growing sensitivity to the voice of God and the voice of a liar.
Dark devices want to stay hidden in the shadows, but you are a child of light. You were bought with a price. Jesus brought God glory on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do (John 17:4) and now he is seated in heaven, the work to set you free completed on the cross. Jesus Christ is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. The same power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you (Eph. 1.)
With that kind of light in you, how could the darkness possibly hide? That perfect light expands, exposing and driving out every presence of darkness as we choose to walk in the truth.
When we say yes to God, his love moves freely in us, bringing to light any thing that contaminates the connection between our heart and his.
Love is winning.
Your holy heart is a supreme threat to the enemy. As we pursue God, awareness of opposition is not an indicator of the enemy's increased strength, but of his growing weakness.
When I hear Christians talk about warfare, the discussion is nearly always framed within the presupposition that as we pursue God, the enemy steps up his game to stop us. This is where we need to be wise and discerning, asking God to give us clarity. Many times, increased temptation to sin, or increased struggles with old feelings of worthlessness, anxiety or fear are not a sign that the enemy is advancing stronger than ever in our lives, but rather that love is winning. The darkness within us is being driven to the surface where it's exposed and ready to be called out, cancelled, and cleared away.
Don't assume this is the enemy gaining ground. When God reveals weak spots vulnerable to attack, it's an invitation to get healed, whole, and free.
As the Holy Spirit lovingly reveals those sharp, sensitive places, take those hurts to him. There very well may be places in your heart that are not yet completely healed. The enemy attempts to keep us stuck in those places, avoiding them, afraid to ever bring them into the light. These are the places in our lives where we know the truth, but just can't break out of old cycles or habits, where we want to forgive and let go, but just can't somehow. Satan would love for God's children to stay trapped there; saved and knowing the truth, but not completely free from entanglements.
If you resolve to walk with God, the enemy would like you to walk with a limp. But this is not your inheritance. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Gal. 5:1.)
Awareness of the work of the enemy in your heart is not the power of darkness, but the power of light! This is an invitation to rest safely in the arms of your Father, to bring him every wound and splinter, and to let love set them right.
Monday, July 21, 2014
I am spilled over with love for you. As you grow before my eyes, I see you now and at every age you've ever been.
As I watch, I see glimpses of the women you're becoming as you challenge yourselves and this world, as you create and chase your passions.
Never worry to define what you will be when you grow up. You are alive and here now, bringing beauty to the world. You're brilliant and open. Your hearts are strong and full. You've arrived and you'll keep arriving.
What a wonderful thing to see you loving people, making new things, doing good work, filling your minds and running your bodies; living it all up. What a mighty thing to live as a woman without fear. That's my prayer for you today, every day.
Monday, July 14, 2014
I've spent the last week in the middle of a huge house project. My kids at camp, I took a vacation as well. It was a retreat full of solitude and physical work, mess and creative chaos; a labor of love.
I listened to music and my favorite books; an introvert gorging on seclusion.
I arrived at the end of the day satisfied with all the good, hard work I'd done, my mind at rest; until I'd see one more thing I could accomplish. Rather than call it a day, I'd find one more thing to finish up. I'd stay up late, my mind no longer clear and open, but tense and cloudy. Working too-tired, I would paint one more bathroom, or spend two hours on a fruitless internet search for something we would end up not needing in the end.
The magic gone, it was all labor, no love. A wrecking ball of a night cap, I'd fall into bed ragged and edgy, too tired to sleep. I'm very sorry to say I indulged in this practice nearly every night. I would wake up the next day, enjoy it completely, then ruin it in the end; like a too-big bowl of ice cream after a good meal had already filled me up. I know better. I know better, but still I sometimes find myself obeying the impulse to resist rest, to keep achieving, producing, racking up points.
This is the lure of one more thing. Accomplish one more thing and you'll really be done. One more thing and you'll feel better. Real peace is on the other side of just one. more. thing. Keep going. One more thing will be enough. It's never enough.
It's an impulse that seems to appear exactly when I am meant to close up shop for the day, to rest and be done for now. When I am sharp, I recognize it; I know it's time to quit and I do so. When I'm sloppy, it's my undoing.
I love work. Good work and productivity bring me alive- until they kill me. This shift from life to death seems to occur at the precise moment when God says stop, and I say no. He says enough for today, and I say not yet.
God is good to contrast himself with the noise so I can know his voice and follow it. So I know what to savor and what to throw out with the trash. He shows me my limits, gives me peace when I surrender, rest, and reflect. He promises that tomorrow we may do even more incredible things, but for now, let's stop.
Monday, July 7, 2014
As I've spent the last several months navigating new ministry territory, I've relied heavily on what the last 10 years have taught me. Here are a few things I've learned along the way:
Be all in.
Jump off the cliff, make an irreversible choice, and own it. If you haven't agreed completely that this role is worthy of everything you've got, it doesn't have all of you. And until you're all in, you'll encounter an exhausting amount of resistance.
Life offers constant competition for your most precious resources: your gifts, your time, and your full attention. Many of these opportunities (or distractions) will be lesser things, which are easy to spot. It gets difficult, though, when you encounter good things that aren't the best things.
When you've made a rock solid choice, you know exactly where you are committed, and what (and who) will get the best of you. Solidarity in purpose is essential. Without it, things get hazy, cluttered, overwhelming. When you have clarity in your core roles, you're free to say no when you need to, to see which opportunities will bring life, and which ones will slowly suck it away.
When I'm consumed by all the good work I've been called to do, I'm not anxious or irritable that I'm too busy. I'm free to enjoy the ride; I'm right where I need to be.
Choose it every day.
These roles are a very precious gift. Receive them every day. Regardless of the details of the day, of what your roles demand of you, welcome it all with open arms. This is what you're here to do, and love is the driving force.
Expect mess and embrace it. Don't get angry when things need your constant help and attention; that's why you're here, that's why giving all of your self is essential, why it matters so much. Don't get exasperated when you need to repeat yourself or do things over and over; you're called to teach and disciple daily.
Meet every opportunity with gratitude. Let the people you serve know that you not only love them but want them, and there is nowhere else you'd rather be. If you don't feel that way, be honest about it. Whatever you do, don't take it out on the ones you're here to love. Take a step back and ask God for fresh perspective.
Understand who you are, how you're wired, what you love. Incorporate these things into your daily rhythm and pursue them. Know how you're best fueled. This is fundamental to long-term health, especially when you're pouring yourself out to others.
This practice is important, not only because it fuels me, but because it equips me to better love my people, and protects me from harboring resentment against them. When people need my energy, time, and focus, I have these things to give; I'm not at the end of my rope. I'm filled up and ready. My acts of service flow from a place of love and health. I'm not angry they interrupted me, that they seem so needy and demanding. I'm thrilled to do what I'm here to do, I'm not afraid I'll fall apart.
I'm fueled by solitude and beauty, so I make it a priority to get some every day. I know I am healthy and living well when my productive, achieving abilities are complemented by daily times of Sabbath rest, good food for my body, and for my brain. I'm doing well when I'm carving out time for nature, art, photography, music; for books and words, for creating meals to share with the people I love.
Regardless of how busy I am, when the beauty of life regularly stops me in my tracks just at the wonder of it, I know I'm healthy and taken care of. If my journal isn't full, my heart is probably sick. If it's been a while since I've stopped to just be- alone or with the people I care about- that's a red flag, and it's time to hit pause.
These things don't come easily, remember, because the stuff of lesser things competes. Feeding ourselves is an essential discipline.
Sleep when the baby sleeps.
Living a life of service is unpredictable. People happen. Need happens, and it doesn't care what time it is. Set healthy boundaries around your time to protect what matters most to you, because ministry isn't simple and can't be packaged in neat boxes. Your days will be full. Much of what you do will not be planned. Embrace that.
But sometimes, you'll get an unexpected break. It will probably catch you off guard. And while the baby sleeps, sleep; or, do the thing you need to do.
If a meeting gets cancelled and your afternoon is free, discipline yourself to know how best to use that time. Don't immediately jump into a project that will fill your afternoon with busy work, but don't waste your time being idle either.
When life gives you a break, stop for 10-20 minutes to do something that restores you. Everything will be waiting for you when you get back, and you'll return filled and ready. Then get your butt in your seat and get something done while you can.
It's everything and nothing.
I know that my influence has everything and nothing to do with the perceived success or failure of my ministry. I will give everything, lavish time and energy and the best of myself into my family, into the places I'm called to serve- and how I do so matters very much.
I'm pursuing God, and I want him to use me. Amazingly, he does. I care very deeply about how things get done, that they're done with excellence and heart. I'm invested, I'm showing up. No detail insignificant, I want to be effective in every role I'm called to fill.
My influence is profound, and the impact is eternal. But I know all these things are completely disconnected from the will of the people I serve, from their individual choices and experiences that shape them, from the myriad random details of life that I cannot control or predict. I will serve wholeheartedly. The results are completely out of my hands. This is all a work of the Holy Spirit; the God I surrender to is in complete control. This means I can pour out my life in absolute freedom.
When things outside my control are not going well, it's not on me. I'm not responsible for saving the world. I won't fall apart. This isn't where my identity is found.
If things are going well, it's not on me. I'm free from any sense of pride or self-congratulation, and released to enjoy the things God is doing around me, through me. I can simply agree that it is wonderful, and tell God again how good he is, how amazed I am, how grateful I am to be here to see it.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
I am a creator. Sometimes when I look back at something I created years ago, I cringe. Perhaps I wrote a blog post that I completely disagree with now, or maybe it’s a poorly exposed photograph. And that time I painted my kitchen red? Mistake.
Though I cringe, I smile. I smile remembering the joy and passion I had in creating the thing. I’m grateful because I can see how much I’ve grown, how my work has evolved. I can more fully appreciate the rich experiences that have brought me here. In his book Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer says, “Change is one difference between life and death.” At least I’m moving forward.
Honestly, it’s this obstacle that keeps me from writing more. I’d rather not press into something I might hate someday, something someone else might hate now. I also struggle to believe I have any words of value to put out into the world. It’s valuable to me, of course, and that is enough. But I don’t want to write things that have been written better elsewhere. I don’t want to contribute to the general noise, and I’m afraid I’m not good enough to rise above it. I don’t want my writing to become a validation machine, my heart rising and falling with the tide of your opinion. It’s safer to stay away from this space altogether, to keep it just for myself, to never work at this in earnest.
You know what gets to me? When someone is straightforward, honest, and vulnerable. Vulnerability disarms me; it’s courageous and incredible and it makes me want to be brave too. Perhaps I should get some of that for myself.
In ten years I might look back on my words and cringe a little. I will regret some of the things I said and wish I’d fleshed out my ideas better. I hope I can look back with gracious eyes. Time will prove what I got right and what went wrong, and I need to just do the thing.
So I will work harder, write more and better. I will write about our everyday life, our food, our moments of glory and sorrow, our dinner parties. I will flesh out the things I journal early in the morning, and tell you about what keeps me up at night. I will write whether I feel like it or not, whether you read it or not.
We are a family like so many others, but these stories are ours, these words are mine, and they do matter.