LASTing Peace, Beyond Belief, Week 1c

Are rules and laws obsolete for mature Christians? If so, what takes the place of the rules and boundaries?

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Interruption Applied

I’m finally getting somewhere.

Thanks goes to Jen Hatmaker for keeping me up not just one night, but several nights. And thanks, too, for not simply revealing straight away what God’s message was for me in all of this (I guess that’s not fair. How could she know?). Instead she let me sit and percolate the truths in her new book Interrupted. It was a slow process; she saved the best part for last.

It was this quote, near the end of the book, that started stirred me:

“I used to reside exclusively in Christian subculture: I read James Dobson to learn how to parent, studied Dave Ramsey to learn how to budget, sang Third Day for inspiration, went to Women of Faith conferences for encouragement, consulted Christian Coalition voting guides to see how to vote, and read Tim LaHaye for my fiction fix. This was the controlled bubble I lived in with a few hundred of my closest friends…When your running in the middle of a herd of buffalo, everything looks identical. What we see becomes our reality.”

Jen meant this to explain the shallow, sheltered life that many Christians live in, the safe bubble that gives us our “sanctified buffer” such that we hope others see us doing godly things and are impressed by our “awesomeness” to come to Christ without us having to actually associate with the “worldly ones”. Truthfully, I’ve been one of that crowd, part of the herd of buffalo. But that began shifting a few years ago. This time, God is after something different in me.

This morning, a strand of light broke through. God began highlighting similar messages in Scripture and through a few different pastors I’ve been reading and listening to: Steven Furtick, John Piper, John Bloom and Ann Voskamp.

Truth is dawning, albeit slowly, but I’m getting it. It has much to do with maturity–not confusing it with growth, moving beyond the milk of the Word, the testimony of my recovery from anorexia, my easy obedience to Christ and my walk in the Spirit. Moving past the parameters (read: safe bubble), I’ve established, where I know “what works”. 

For all of my life, I’ve sought my “calling”, what I’m supposed to do, and sought to settle in there. My writing has been accepted by publishers and editors–that’s all I have to do now, right–just write about Jesus? Surely, God’s plan was to develop my testimony. I’ve shared it. Now I can sit back as one of the “stories with a happy ending” and continue to follow my calling?

And now we’re full circle back to Interrupted. God’s been interrupting my sleep and peace all week. He’s been overlaying Jen’s testimony on my own life to reveal a personal correction and gentle admonition: Move on. You’re growing, now continue to mature.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19

An Invitation

Hi Friends!

I have something new for you today…an invitation.

Your kids are headed back to school. Most of your life is narrowing into a straighter line, a tighter tunnel. Not so much less busy as it is just more focused: classes, ball games, practices, lessons, homework. Monday through Friday – wash, rinse, repeat.

So, I’m wondering, are you headed into deeper study of Jesus? While your kids are learning the fundamentals of arithmetic, literature and history, are you studying the one and only thing that will fundamentally prepare you to face each next chaotic day, each next difficult relationship, each new phase of parenting or married life?

Several months ago, a very dear friend introduced me to Good Morning Girls, a groud-breaking group of women who have harnessed the Internet in order to internationally declare Jesus and to bring to women everywhere a feeling of community as they study God’s Word.

I am finishing up the training to become a leader/facilitator for the next Good Morning Girls Bible study that starts on September 2. We will be studying in the book of Luke, following the theme, “Loving Like Jesus.” I’m inviting you to join me in this study!

The simplest of explanations: The study is conducted on Facebook. We will have a secret group once all of our participants have joined. Each day you will individually “SOAP” (Scripture, Observe, Apply, Pray) a passage of Scripture. Then, beneath a heading on the Facebook page, everyone will leave their comments about that day’s lesson. There will supplemental, short reading from Good Morning Girls and the authors of the study. The FB group will become interactive as we read each others’ insights, talk on a personal level and share our lives. I’ve done four studies like this now and I love it!

Again, the study starts on September 2, and enrollment, which will allow you to have access to the materials (reading guide and printable book) is from August 19 -September 1. Please let me know here by a comment or email that you would like to participate in my group and I’ll keep you informed with the details.

In the meantime, I wrote this poem today, an overflow of my study in Good Morning Girls, “Women of Influence.”

Faith is an unlikely thing,
In the trembling hands of a prostitute, a crimson cord.
Faith, unlikely in an ancient man to wait another year,
nine months, youthful years.
Faith, unlikely in a puny army,
To route the enemy at the hand of a woman.
Faith, unlikely in the sands of Egypt, the hungry woods,
After nine plagues, after forty years.
Faith unlikely, is an untimely thing.
Forever tardy, slipping in on the last cool breeze,
The dying breath of hope.
Faith untimely after 400 years of Heaven’s stony silence.
Through generations of sunrise, sunset.
Waiting on. Baited breath.
Past a wish. After hope. Often after life.
Faith slips in on the last cool breeze,
Hope’s dying breath.
And grips with one last talon,
The shred of light remaining.
Faith clings till sunrise, one more time,
And sees just a little farther, over the horizon,
And waits…

In living color

All of me is wrapped up in you, and
all else fades away.
Like shedding skin,
Cover I’ve been in.
butterfly27The world I know escapes my grasp.
And slips beyond my vision.
Raw for seconds, I lay in quiet fear.
Open, wounded, at death’s mercy.

Then Glory’s shadow falls over me,
And all my effort dims.
A chrysalis, enveloped me
I woke to fairest Son.

Curled to face a different day
Fetal in pain and fear.
“Raw sores,” I cry, “Raw wounds.
One broken such as I.”

But where the pain?

The Son warms, He does not burn,
Merely struggling to breathe, I wait.

It came in gulps, cold and deep.
I fought to crawl ‘neath gossamer wings
Strange, new in brilliance above.

What’s this now? How this change?
I lay to cry and woke to sing.
I lay to die and woke to life.
I lay to resign and woke to
no rule but love, 
no law but need,
No need but Him.

How this rest, whence comes this peace?
In His eyes, my soul returns and weeps
with joy.
In His gaze my wings unfurl
In His breath, my wings catch flight.
Oh, and in and through Him
Comes this peace I own.
And fly daily free, unhindered
Round His great and loving throne.

Finding and Recognizing Truth

Just today I “met” Amy Hunt through Emily Wierenga.  I am so ecstatic, thrilled, elated, warmed, touched – HUGELY HAPPY – to find my heart interpreted in her words!

There is no other way to share what I have read with you, than to allow you to read it for yourself. No paraphrase. Enjoy the pulse of Father’s heart in the words she shares.

This truth is hard to admit, yet I’m believing my obedience to telling is a must for me. Worship to Him. 

I’m a writer. I have a lot of work to do yet to improve this craft, but at the core of who I am is a writer. I also have a passion to encourage people. If I were to get paid for what I feel called to do, it might be different. Though, I fear it might feel awkward and expectation-like. I don’t write to meet deadlines and I don’t follow the steps on self-marketing to increase an audience. I write because it’s a must do for me. A living obedience. Writing is my worship.

The image, as well as the quotes, are a  re-post from Amy’s blog: A Rock 4 Him

Pelting Life

See a flower, pelted by rain, scarred by hail. See

A bloom whipped by slicing winds, scalded by unquenched mid-day sun.

Yet it yawns wide, breathes and stretches, unfurls. Delicate, indestructible arms

Reflecting glory.

Then time and age, waste and days, then longer days and rain no longer

Revives. The scoff of storms yields no more growth. A season dies and she sleeps.

Peace beneath muddy crust till a new season of trial and storm,

Growth again, of new glory,

new color, deeper roots.

Day Two: Is It Good To Go Beyond The Basics?

In a novel, it’s important to start the story with a “hook,” a a sharp, compelling lead that insists the reader finish the book. In a work of nonfiction, the hook is just as important, but it has to assure the reader that he will get what he came for. In The Good News We Almost ForgotKevin DeYoung delivers the goods, starting with the foreword.

“A catechism is not a man-made add on to the Bible; it’s instruction in good theology derived from the Scriptures.” That’s good to know, because one of my first excuses to avoid the catechism is that I insist on the Bible alone. Who needs additional truth? God’s word is sufficient in itself. DeYoung promises that the Heidelberg Catechism is no more and no less than explanation and affirmation of the Bible.

Early in the book, DeYoung offers a general outline of the Heidelberg Catechism. Suddenly, it’s not such a long, disjointed document; for me it became a simple, cohesive and relatively compact way to digest the essence of the gospel.

The Heidelberg’s 129 questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, making it easy to preach from weekly. DeYoung uses each Lord’s Day as the material for a chapter. A brief scan of the table of contents reveals a logical progression: man’s misery, man’s deliverance and man’s response. DeYoung offers a simpler description: guilt, grace, gratitude.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so rich and infinite, that we can never expect to master it in our humanity. At the same time, the Gospel is so simple that even children can grasp it’s great value and enjoy a personal relationship with the Father who loves them enough to sacrifice His one and only Son. Until DeYoung linked those three short words together: guilt, grace, gratitude, I had never considered how concise the message of redemption is.

Guilt, Grace, Gratitude. They provide a framework not only for the catechism, but for the Bible. In the example of Israel, God firmly establishes man’s guilt and inability to save himself. Through the giving of the Law, depravity is confirmed. Following a 400 year silence, Grace slips quietly into the picture in the form of a baby. Effusive Gratitude spills over the pages of the Epistles as the authors joyfully proclaim the excellencies of God’s salvation.

DeYoung confesses in the introduction that the catechism has been good for his own life and ministry. It narrowed his focus on the gospel. Even in the first 9 Lord’s Days I have found the same thing.

Try as you may, Christian, you can’t out grow the gospel. And if for a moment you think you have reached beyond the basics, I challenge you to pick up this book. Sparks get smaller, cooler and extinguish as they float past their birthing flame. Lay low and close the coals, let the fire of your faith revive as you discover The Good News You Almost Forgot. 

The Three “E’s” of rElationship

Friday, my husband I returned from a two-week-long adventure. I had told you that the third week of January, I would share with you what God has been faithfully teaching me especially in regard to my marriage. I figured that our 40 hour road trip would be a fishbowl-view, magnifying all the issues and instances of conflict in marriage. Dousing one’s self and one’s spouse in extreme family situations, bookended by 20 hours in the car in each direction has unlimited potential to round off rough edges and polish one’s personality and patience into perfection or oblivion.

With the utmost humility, I am pleased to announce that due to the Holy Spirit’s intervention, the Son’s intercession and the Father’s grace, we have emerged stronger than before! Thanks be to God. God taught me numerous things over these past two weeks but I think I can best sum them all up in three words: Esteem, Endurance and Empathy.

Let’s start with Empathy. I just discovered the primary difference between the friendships that I really enjoy and those that are peripheral to my joy and personal growth. Imagine a conversation that goes like this.

Person 1: HI! I’m so glad I caught you! I’m going to be driving for the next three hours, so I thought I catch up with you.

Person 2: That’s great, thanks for calling.

Person 1: So tell me, how are you?

Person 2: I’m great, blah, blah, blah…. By the way, what’s going on in your life?

Person 1: Oh nothing. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go.

That may not be a self-explanatory example, but what if that conversation repeats itself every single time Person 1 calls you? They are minutely interested in your life, knowing your struggles and daily details, but as soon as you seek reciprocation, they curl into a spiny little ball and roll desperately away from you? You just bared your soul, or at the very least, shared from your true self, and yet they repeatedly prove that they don’t trust you enough to do the same.

I have a couple of friends like this. Then, there are the relationships that go both ways. When I pour out my heart – full of joy or sorrow – they respond from their very depths. Empathy. They know how I feel. Even if they have never experienced my exact circumstances, they are comfortable wearing my shoes for the course of a conversation.

I have always prided myself (ooohh… that’s a no no) on being a good friend. I love to listen to people. I long to help bear their burdens. I’ve even joked that I must have the phrase, “Talk to me,” written across my forehead. But that’s not enough. We’ve all heard that, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Very true, but is there such a thing as too much listening?

Where do the ears meet the heart? Can the heart express itself through facial expressions or words of self-divulgence?

It’s easy to sympathize; to let someone poor themselves out in the space between us and then respond with, “I’m so sorry.” But, I submit to you that your friendship will go deeper, your words be heard more clearly and your own heart be more buoyed by joy, if instead of sympathizing, you Empathize.  Be vulnerable. Share your joys and pains. Let the cards away from your chest. Relax your poker face. Be willing to be known.

After all, isn’t that what Jesus did?