Tag Archives: faith

We serve a loving God.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Kids these days, am I right?

We’re expecting them to do more than they ever would have needed to ten years ago. We’ve been pushing them harder to act older, testing them more often than ever before, and exposing them to more than they should see or know about, years before they’re probably ready.

Recently, my kindergartener came home to tell me a girl in her class (who she’s buddies with, by the way) had a mom who just went to jail. At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond. When I didn’t say anything, she continued on to tell me that it was because the mom had talked to bad guys, and bad guys were sneaky. I could hardly disagree. She also said that the girl would be coming to school with her grandma from now on.

What conversation could I have with my kindergartener about jail? About why people went, how long they stayed, and what would happen after they got out? How could I ever explain to her that this could alter her little friend’s life? Did I keep my daughter on a “need-to-know basis”, and not discuss it further, since she clearly didn’t need to know? Or did I use it as an opportunity to enlighten her on a subject she shouldn’t have to know about at age five? I couldn’t protect her from what she’d already heard; I didn’t want to lie to her, either.

What I ended up saying was that she might take this time to be extra kind to her friend. The girl might not talk about her mom, and that was okay. She might talk about her, and my daughter could just try to be a good listener. She might try to be a really good friend, because the girl might be sad. But most of all, I reassured her that sometimes bad things happen, and we talk to Jesus about them. We asked Jesus to be with the girl more tangibly, and asked Him to tell us what we could do to help her in her hard season. Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”. More and more, I find that children possess those qualities already, and we just need to help them develop. We can call it “character building”. We can call it “education” or “challenging” them. But what it really is is showing them that we live in a broken world, and teaching them to lean on Jesus while they’re here. It’s showing them that bad things do really happen, but that we serve a loving God, who will take care of us, even in the mess.

Holy Week

It’s Holy Week. Passion Week. A week full of preparations, where all the believers are preparing their hearts, homes, churches, and communities for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For someone who works in a church, it means a lot of extra hours on the clock, organizing, preparing, checking and double-checking. But after a wonderful Palm Sunday service this morning, I was obviously exhausted (because Sunday) and sat down to pray about the week ahead.

You might think I was praying that I wouldn’t be stressed out or that I’d keep my eyes on the prize of a gorgeous Easter Sunday together with the congregations of our church. But no. What I was led to pray was this: I ask not for help with earthly preparations, though they are certainly important, but instead for a heightened awareness of You.

A heightened awareness of a God who has drawn near, a Jesus who has taken away my sins, and a Holy Spirit who leads me and nourishes me in my day-to-day. I prayed to be floored, taken aback, mystified again by the willingly-given sacrifice. I prayed to be constantly reminded of why we celebrate this week, going through our motions of beautifying and preparing the way of the Lord in our own church buildings and services.

He has indeed given us more than we deserve – a holiness we could never achieve, but one we have been granted through Jesus. Any praises we bring to the table this week could never be enough to truly merit what should be given – and yet! AND YET, the beautiful conundrum is this: they are absolutely, entirely, perfectly enough because we have been predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:30) by a Savior who was all of those things in our place! Bring your tired, weary, unworthy selves to the altar on Sunday morning with CONFIDENCE because He will be there as He is each and every moment, doling out grace and mercy with LOVE (Heb. 4:16) and without requiring anything of us but faith in Him.

May we go through this week with a heightened awareness of the God who sees us as holy – as holy as His Son, Jesus, who rode on the donkey through a crowd singing, “Hosanna in the highest!” As holy as Jesus who healed the blind and the sick, pardoned promiscuous women, and opened his heart and his lap to the meek little children. As holy as Jesus who hung there, on a terrible cross, proclaiming that He would do the Father’s will, no matter how much he suffered, and still asked for our forgiveness.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who has given much and loved much.

 

 

If you’re local (to central NC) and you need a place to be on Easter Sunday, feel free to comment or email me! I’d love to have you at my worship service.

A Year of Being Thankful

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, just before my children woke up from their naps, I sat down with my journal and silent but bubbling glass of prosecco. I had seen a few people on Instagram talk about how they made lists of things they were thankful for and ways that God had shown up over the past year. Naturally, I latched onto that idea immediately; how better to be in a positive mindset and a thankful posture to begin a new year?!

So I sat, pen in hand, and wrote down twenty ways God had blessed me, our family, and worked things out for His glory and my good. I hadn’t predetermined twenty as the number, but it just worked out that way. The things are quite varied: some about our family, some about me personally, some about the kids individually. There were big things (my eldest starting – and loving – kindergarten) and small things (learning about the Enneagram). There were specific things (successfully transitioning our youngest to a “big boy bed”) and more general things (how often we were able to host our beloved friends and family in our home last year).

But what it did, even more than just posture my heart toward thankfulness, was make me SO. DARN. EXCITED. for what He could do in our lives in 2018. Lots of people are saying that 2017 was a dumpster fire, and in some ways it was. But I’d be willing to bet that at the end of every year, if you sat down and listed the crummy things that had happened, and the things that went wrong, that only thing you’d accomplish is a horrible mood at the end of it. But when I sat down to think of things that were successes, heartwarming memories, and things I was joyful about, I got a glimpse into God’s heart towards my family, His love for us, His protection over us, and His desire to build us up, not tear us down.

In this same vein, I just saw (again) a post by a fellow writer friend (check out the original here!) about how to daily shift the perspective from one of worry or stress to one of thankfulness. Cliff notes: each morning, she and her kids think of a thing or two – however small – that they’re looking forward to that day, and then she asks how she can be praying for them while they’re at school. Just a little shift to positive thinking, and a covering by mom of prayer over things they might not be as excited about. I love this idea so much, and I think that you can take that idea on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, and totally run with it. God blesses us with so much; we can bless Him with our gratitude and prayers! When we do those things first, before asking for stuff or airing our concerns and “needs”, our hearts begin to change, ever so slightly each time, to become more like Jesus’s.

What Is Worship?

This post originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

Worship. What does that word call to mind when you hear it? The songs that you sing at your church on Sundays? An organ and a choir, donned in jewel-colored robes? Your friend playing an instrument in the praise band? Perhaps you attach the word worship to the entire service on Sunday morning. Or maybe it’s something more.

Worship can actually be something we do day in and day out. It can be a heart posture. It can be an offering of praise. There is corporate worship: what we do when we are gathered together, in God’s name, singing, praying, reading/hearing scripture, receiving God’s word through a gifted preacher, and taking communion. There is personal worship – and it’s much more vague, or all-inclusive, depending on how you look at it. Worship is our response to our Creator, a dialog between us, a celebration on our part of all He has done. Worship is how we ascribe to Him (as it suggests in several psalms, and in 1 Chron. 16) the qualities of such a perfect, loving, forgiving, worthy God.

Worship can be asking Him to open our hearts and minds to be in tune with His will. Worship can be confession, and finding forgiveness. Worship is an expression of awe, wonder, and love. Worship can manifest in many ways; we aren’t all musical. Worship can be resting in His presence, praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17), shouting from the rooftops, or being silent. Worship combines exalting Him (Psalm 99), exulting before Him (Psalm 68:4), and offering our bodies as living sacrifice to Him (Romans 12:1).

Worship is heart work. It isn’t just singing the words, or even raising your hands. Isaiah 29:13-14 says this: The Lord says: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”  The worship God desires from us is communion with him – letting our hearts be open to His bending and rending. He wants to give us His kingdom! To “acceptably” worship Him with reverence and awe should be our natural response (Hebrews 12:28).

So when you wake up in the morning, or as you go about your day today, or when you walk into church on Sunday, take a moment to turn your heart to Him. Take a moment and ask Him to help your every move be worship. Truly ask Him to open the eyes of your heart. Let yourself see His wonders, see how He is working in your life. Thankfulness and acknowledgement of His goodness are acts of worship that you can do anytime.

Here’s to shedding some tears.

This post also appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a mom of three. I’m a wife. I’m a friend, sister, daughter, writer, singer, colleague, and foodie. Which of those things says I should cry a lot?

Apparently all of them.

Recently, I’ve found that I cry at almost everything. Things my friends say. Books I read. Podcasts I’m listening to (I’m looking at you, Annie F. Downs!). Songs I sing, or hear on the radio. Literally every time I crack open my Bible. It’s a lot. Am I too emotional about some stuff? Maybe. Am I going through something difficult? I don’t know. Probably. Aren’t we all?

Recently, my boys (ages 3.5 and 2) got their first “official” haircuts. They went to see my dad’s barber, in my hometown, as my parents’ house was literally going under contract that afternoon. It was a lot – an emotional day. There were some tears involved, and rightly so. My 11-year-old self was looking around, appreciating the house I’d grown up in for the first time. My 15-year-old self was remembering sleepovers and cramming for exams and late night ice cream sundaes. My 20-year-old self was wondering why I came home from college for the summer, because it was a little boring comparatively, but actually loving the slowness. My 31-year-old self (at present) was wishing my kids would grow up vacationing to that pool and huge front yard forever, and wishing that we had been able to come “home” a little more often.

You see? Tears flowing, even now, weeks later.

Call it hormones. Call it motherhood. Call it “too soft”. But I’m a crier now, more than I ever was. But I know that it just means that Jesus is softening my heart to some things that I haven’t been softened to before… Relationships with incredible women in my life. Shoes that are quite big that it’s my job to fill. My headstrong daughter with ideas all her own, my sensitive middle child with a need for a schedule and some sugar, and my baby, who I equally want to rush into independence and coddle forever. I am torn, in limbo between the already and the not yet, unsure of how to proceed. And then I sit and cry.

I’m not ashamed. I’m really not. I joke about it a lot – and you can call that my coping mechanism. But I really don’t feel bad about the tears I shed. Because it means that I care, I feel deeply, and I love big. I’m okay with those things, because it means I got those traits from Jesus. He cared. He felt deeply. He loved big. And if, in me, it manifests as tears, I’ll take it.

Podcasts

Recently, I’ve started listening to some podcasts. I know, I know; I’m a several months (years?) late to that party. With young children constantly around me, it’s sometimes hard to listen to spoken word (you know, something that I actually need to pay attention to if I want to comprehend what’s happening), and that’s most of the reason I’m late to the podcast-listening idea. I can’t just turn one on when I get in the car because I usually have several people communicating wth me at once. I don’t need another voice added to the fray. But I’ve really enjoyed getting recommendations from friends about what podcasts are making them think, which ones are encouraging them, or even affecting heart change. So naturally, I’ve started putting in my headphones a little more often, and, you know, crying while I mow the lawn or fold the laundry. It’s almost like reading a book, but I can work on something else while I’m doing it.podcast

It been so interesting to me how God has ordained things in my life, right down to which podcasts I’m listening to. Ever think He doesn’t influence the small things in your life? Just look for connections between your struggles and an innocent book or podcast suggestion made by a friend. I know He is wooing me through different ways every single day, pursuing me by letting me hear from Him even in the oddest of places.

That all being said, I’ll tell you about these podcasts I’m checking out. I started with The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. She brings another person (often one of her friends) onto her show and they talk about real life and I have LOVED it. It’s often a faith-based writer or speaker and I can get choked up just hearing them have real conversation about their lives. It’s so fun listening in on a conversation that feels like it would’ve happened the same way, even if they weren’t recording. After I blasted through several episodes of Jamie’s show, I got turned onto That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs. She has similar guests and conversations, but she has a cool perspective, too. Basically what I’ve realized is that these two hosts are writers, they have writers on their shows frequently, and I am totally inundated with books I want to buy/read because of it. And these aren’t usually novels that I can get on my Kindle and just blast through in a few days because they’re easy reads. These are the sort of life-changing books that I want to dig into. I want to have my own paper copy because I like underlining and circling and reading them again and again. For instance, I’ve already ordered Annie’s Let’s All Be Brave and one of her guests’ (John Mark Comer) books called Garden City. I want to hear the Lord speaking to me, I want to learn about Him and others’ experiences with Him and His goodness. Wouldn’t you?

Now don’t think I’m all crazy – I don’t necessarily think that God ordained these people to say things that are meant just for me. But I do think that there is knowledge we can glean from hearing about others’ journeys. I think we can hear from God when hearing someone else talk, teach, preach. I think we are more in tune to His voice than we think, but we often don’t give Him the credit when He speaks to us through the words of others.

Do you have any podcasts that you think I’d like? Please comment with them! I’m LOVING listening to them!!

Musings About Prayer

How do you pray? How often? Whose words do you use – yours? The Bible’s? Those of a trusted pastor? These are questions I struggle with every time I try to pray. I think all answers are valid, and ones that I haven’t thought of are, too. I think prayer is something that evolves as your relationship with the Lord evolves, and that’s a good thing.

I find that oftentimes, when I remember to pray is when I am asking for something. I’ve just heard that someone is sick or hurt. I’m having a hard time being patient with my kids. Or, I’m praying to stave off difficulties or issues in an upcoming situation. Either way, I’m asking the Lord to do my will. Or asking Him to help me with something. Or I’m just plain hoping that His will and my will are the same.

Why would I ever put the Lord in a box like that?

I am all about giving the Lord my honesty: all of my feelings, my fears, my hopes. He’s a big God, and he can handle those things. I can pray continually – without ceasing! (1 Thess. 5:16) – and I can pray about anything and everything (Eph. 6:18). But what I want to pray more often is for HIS WILL to be done, not mine (1 John 5:14). I know He has a plan more wonderful than I can imagine, and while it seems trite to only pray for that, that’s what He loves to hear! “I trust You! Your plan is perfect! I want for me and mine what YOU want for me and mine!” There is nothing greater we could tell Him than how awesome He is, and how we trust Him.

In alignment with praying, I think that worship (all kinds of worship!) can be prayer, also. Taking the sacrament is an act of prayer, communicating with God, a covenantal practice. Musical worship can be prayer; the words and melodies sung and played are indeed a prayer, especially when we know we need to connect with God but don’t necessarily have the words we desire to say.  I love James 5:13 – “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” Prayer and praise often go hand in hand. Don’t just pray when you need something (I’m talking to myself, here!) but also pray when you are happy, pray when you are sad, mad, glad, tired, and full of joy. Pray without ceasing, depend fully and always on the Lord.

For me, to pray without ceasing is an act of submitting my will, my words, my actions to Him. This is me saying, “Lord, I can’t do this (anything!) without You.” I know I’m flawed, I’m a sinner, I need and desire His grace and mercy. As in Psalm 40: Come Lord, and pull me out of the muck and the mire; set my feet on solid ground.