teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name... psalm 86:11

Friday, April 27, 2012

for the days I feel incompetent...

As a child of God, we are qualified and we are competent to be used to spread His grace and His truth. So why don’t we believe it? Why do we live in timidity and self-doubt? Why do we still listen to the voice that tells us we’re not enough, we don’t have anything to offer, we aren’t the type of person God uses to do His kingdom work…

I think this is a battle more of us are fighting than we realize. This is why I love 2 Corinthians 3- because it’s a pep talk for the likes of us! Paul reminds fellow believers that God is writing a letter to the world through their lives… reminds them that their stories matter, that THEY matter… And to put the exclamation point on his rant, erasing any and all self-doubt they might be struggling with, he makes this statement:

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“Not that we are competent (fit, qualified, sufficient in ability) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (power, ability, sufficiency) comes from God. (It is He who has qualified us) He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…”
~2 Corinthians 3:5-6a (niv & amp)

I don’t know about you, but I need to be reminded of this. In my life, especially my life in ministry, I’ve been surrounded by amazing people… super dynamic, ridiculously gifted, dreamers unafraid to pursue big things for God. And then there’s me. I’m more of a background role usually, the supporter and cheerleader but not really the ring leader. I’m not the passionate speaker, but more of a listener… I am way too practical and methodical to dream audaciously… I’m becoming more introverted and awkward the older I get (really, I am!)… and I’m more of a connecter than an influencer.

Usually, I’m fine with the behind the scenes help- I don’t get jealous of the amazing people around me because we’re all working towards the same purpose of connecting this world around us to the living God. But something will happen… an opportunity arises, I find myself in a conversation, a need is presented… and I start to doubt… not necessarily what God is capable of, but what I am capable of for God. Doesn’t He know that I’m not the right girl for the job?

That’s when I so desperately need to be reminded of these words:

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…”

What new covenant? Grace… God has made me qualified and competent to extend His grace to others. Period. His power is at work in me and through me and no matter how much I doubt myself… He can use me. It might look differently than the way He uses other people to be ministers of His grace, but the fruit is the same.

That’s just incredible to me.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

God's ways are not our ways...

Although circumstantial faith is not a healthy thing, I think it’s ok to acknowledge that God definitely uses our circumstances to get our attention, and to grow & shape our understanding of who He is…

I see this in two ways in Exodus 7- where we see God intersect history to simultaneously teach the Egyptians and the Israelites, two groups at two very different places in their knowledge of the divine…

First we read about God’s plans for revealing Himself to the Egyptians. God explains His purpose in what He’s about to do- “The Egyptians will realize that I am God when I step in and take the Israelites out of their country.”

The signs God performed may have shook them up and gained their attention {giant flying grasshoppers will do that, ya know!}, but it was only in removing the entire population of Israeli slaves that would really show them the omnipotence of God. Why? Because removing the slaves meant removing their comfort, their status, their illusion of power… and it is only in being stripped of these things that they would realize there was something bigger than themselves at work.

They “will realize that I am God”… not just a nice addition to their lives along with the other gods- He alone is God and He alone is what gives us our very existence and value and purpose. Sometimes we, like the Egyptians, need to be stripped of things to show us our need for God as Lord and not just an accessory or option.

Then, we read God’s purpose in what He’s about to do with the Israelites. God’s order to Pharaoh was to “Release my people [the Israelites] so that they can worship me in the wilderness.”

The Israelites believed, but had grown weary and discouraged in the many years of slavery… they thought that maybe God had forgotten them, maybe He wasn’t going to keep His promises after all. Their knowledge of God hadn’t waivered, but their spirit of worship perhaps had.

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The wilderness in scripture is always a place of testing, waiting, and wandering… God knew that before He could elevate them into a nation, He would have to win their adoration by a transition season in the desert wilderness. It’s in this barren place where He can show His leading, His provision, and His presence- which leads to leaning on Him and worshiping Him. The testing, waiting, and wandering probably weren’t what they would have picked to be rescued into, but God had a holy purpose in it nonetheless.

Sometimes, if we’re honest, we come to a place of questioning God’s means and methods of grabbing our attention. It seems a little cruel and unfair to use loss, suffering, wandering, and waiting to gain our affection. What kind of a God would do that? But it’s in these moments we must remember the very thing we just celebrated- that more than anyone, He Himself knows loss and suffering, being stripped of comforts and glory...

I‘m reminded of Natalie Grant’s song “Alive”… “What kind of king would choose to wear a crown that bleeds and scars to win my heart?”

Whether we identify more with the Egyptians or the Israelites at this point in our journey, we have the comfort of a Savior who relates to where we’re at and understands… and a reason to hope because the power that raised Him back to life is the same power that is at work in us and in our circumstances.

May we rest in our knowledge of Him, come what may…

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

let's blow the lid off...

For some reason, I always go to John.

The week or so before Easter, I re-read this gospel with a prayer that it would come alive in a fresh way… so that Easter wouldn’t pass by as just another holiday, so that I wouldn’t get consumed with all the activity at church and miss what exactly it is we’re celebrating. John brings me back, centers my thoughts on Jesus. It reminds me of the passion, of the sacrifice, of the hope… and that we all need resurrection in our life.

Yesterday I was reading John 9 and was struck by Jesus’ interaction with a man who had been born blind. It’s interesting to watch this man’s progression of faith as Pharisees and neighbors question him regarding how it was he could suddenly see after a lifetime of darkness. And while this whole story is incredible, it was really the first 3 verses that I couldn’t get away from.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

Jesus’ response is a powerful enough statement as is, but if you look at what the word “displayed” means in its original Greek, it’ll paint an even more dynamic picture of Jesus’ intentions for choosing this exact response.

The word phaneroo means to make visible, to show openly. It’s synonymous and often used with another word though, apokalypto, which quite literally means to remove a lid. In relationship with each other, apokalypto must precede phaneroo... all that rambling to say- we have to remove the lid we’re keeping shut on our lives so that God’s incredible power can be put on show for others to see.

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How often do we restrain the power of God- keeping a lid on what He’s able to do in and through us? We keep Him in a safe little box, confined within the parameters and space that we’re comfortable with. We give in to our limitations, circumstances, status quo because we’re so quick to settle for ordinary.

But Jesus is able to radically transform our ordinary into something incredible.

God wants to blow the lid off of things and use US as demonstrations of what He can do… but that’s not going to happen if we hide out in our perfectly comfortable, predictable, controllable worlds {and trust me, I’m mostly saying this to myself… as I am an undeniable control freak for sure!} With the lid gone, there’s no barrier stopping the overflow of God’s grace and power.

I wonder what this once blind but now seeing man would think if he knew that his story would still be echoing two thousand years later, helping others to see what God is capable of?... How’s that for blowing the lid off of what we think is possible!

May we all allow God to strip us of our lids and barriers so that HIS works might be displayed in us too…

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

living with open hands...

Oh the truth in this statement… although living in the reality of this truth just doesn’t come naturally for most. Losing something we value isn’t easy. We are a people who live with clenched fists, holding tightly to what we deem is ours, protecting what we think should be. We don’t easily let go.

Learning to live with open hands is counter-intuitive… but then again, isn’t most of our spiritual life? Our instincts say make a plan, take control- but Jesus says to be still and trust in the unknown. Everything in us screams to try harder and earn approval- but Jesus says his yoke is easy, his burden is light and his love is complete.

Living with open hands makes us vulnerable to losing things, letting good slip through our fingers… but it’s a heart that trusts in God’s goodness that is able to say, “It’s ok, a better blessing is coming to fill my hands again.” CS Lewis understood this, but I have to say, I have a hard time with this sometimes...

We read that every good and perfect gift is from above… and that the Lord wants to prosper us, not harm us… and that in all things He’s working for our good. Sometimes I fear, though, that claiming these promises for myself means I’m buying into a prosperity gospel that values health, wealth, and happiness above true communion with our Lord. I never want to be in a place of choosing the gift over the Giver of the gift.

I'm learning that in the context of these promises, we need to redefine blessing, favor, prosperity, gifts… shatter what our world has made them to mean, and see them through the lens of how God intends them. Blessings don’t always come easy. Sometimes the blessing is in the struggle, the loss, the season of waiting, the act of surrender. We live in an instant gratification society- we want something so we go get it or we make it happen. But when I look at my life, the most meaningful things that come to mind are the things where there has been tension of some sort, or things that have emerged only when I allowed God to have His way rather than trying to do things my way…

When I’ve chosen to live with open hands and a heart of trust. These are the times I’ve learned that when I lose one blessing, another is just around the corner.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

let us love...

I’m not a writer, nor do I pretend to be… but I do have an appreciation for words. Words have a way of stirring the soul and putting a voice to what is brewing within. Words have power. And every once in a while I come across words that strike deep… words I want to never forget… words I want to adopt & tattoo on my heart…

That happened the other day.

I don’t even remember how I got there, but I stumbled across a website and found this poem… a prayer, really, for us women… to live lives marked by the Lord’s authentic and genuine love. So, I’m sharing in hopes that others will be encouraged with me…

Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.
Let us be women who Love.

 Let us be women who make room.
Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.
Let us be women who carry each other.
Let us be women who give from what we have.

Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things,
the unexpected things and the necessary things.
Let us be women who live for Peace.
Let us be women who breathe Hope.
Let us be women who create beauty.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.
Let us be a garden for tender souls.
Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.
Let us be a womb for Life to grow.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us RISE to the questions of our time.
Let us SPEAK to the injustices in our world.
Let us MOVE the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us SHOUT down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us FILL the earth with the fragrance of Love.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us LISTEN for those who have been silenced.
Let us HONOR those who have been devalued.
Let us SAY ENOUGH with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.
Let us not rest until every person is FREE and EQUAL.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart and wise.
Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.
Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.
Let us be women who say YES to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.
Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.
Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.
Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.
Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.
Let us be women who Love.

My soul screams amen as I read this… seriously, every line has a challenge and an encouragement in it… could you imagine how radically different the world would be if we lived this out? How radically different the Church would be? The part that really gets me is the part about singing the songs in our hearts, saying yes to the unique purpose God has planted within each of us, and then inviting others to do the same.

I’m realizing, especially as I’ve recently started a new chapter in life and ministry and friendships, that I often get excited for the song in other people’s hearts- for celebrating and believing in their callings, their gifts, their dreams… all the while turning the volume down on my own song, avoiding the process of discerning the unique purposes God has intended for me. And I love being a cheerleader for everyone else- my heart wants nothing more than to encourage others in their spiritual journey. But I’m realizing that one of the best ways I can boost and inspire others, is by living a passionate life in tune with the “beautiful, unique purposes seeded in [my own] soul.”

So… to whoever might read this… which line speaks to you?

May you find boldness and power to let it be so… and together, may we as sisters in Christ learn to be women who love like this.