This Little Piggy Went a Preachin’

A little story about a pig has wrecked me in a big way.

Never have I felt more understood than by this pig. Her story will preach.

I have shared openly here the tension I experience in being a woman called to ministry. I’ve never felt quite at home with my calling. It has simultaneously felt like it would destroy me to do it and destroy me if I don’t. It is a calling that is equal parts courage and cowardice. From this too, Jesus is in the process of saving me.

This weekend I will saunter my courage and cowardice up front and out in front of everyone to teach the church.  It will be my first time (well, from the “pulpit” that is). Everyone asks, “Are you excited?” “Are you nervous?” No. Neither. More like filled with the faith of a scaredy-cat chicken pig. On one hand, I’ve been told for so many years that I couldn’t or shouldn’t, that now that I am, I hope I don’t prove any of them right. On the other hand, the Word is beautiful and my confidence in His faithful ministry to the people is steadfast.

I’m feeling a whole lot of vulnerability. Showing up and being seen is always vulnerable. I will be less than perfect, but enough because of Jesus. Some people won’t like it, but I will still be fully loved and welcomed by Jesus. Inside I will probably feel like dying, but I’ll do it anyways because I am truly believing that these kinds of “deaths” are the only way to true living.  I’m believing that He who calls, equips. I’m believing that there are other women (and young girls) who need to see courage give a good left hook to fear and all the “girls shouldn’t…” rubbish. I’m believing that rejection (ironically the topic of my sermon) is a lesser truth than the grace and glory Jesus seeks to reveal through heartfelt obedience. I am fully convinced that wherever silence has felt like bondage, the voice of truth longs to bring liberty.

In the end, all that matters is not at all what I feel or believe; all that really matters is that Jesus will matter more to those who listen. To that end, this little piggy will preach.

A Beautiful Gap {2014 Reflection}

I’ve been immersed recently in strategic planning, something I both equally love and hate. I love the process: logic, analysis, innovation. It’s candy for my mind. But boy, can the outcome frustrate you; your mind builds this picture of what can be and it’s beautiful and invigorating, but then there’s reality. Thud. Rarely is the real world as neat, tidy, and efficient as plans shrunk down to flow charts and worksheets. 

A Gap Analysis is a tool used in strategic planning to asses the disparity ditch between what can be and what is. I’m a straight-up idealist. Louis and I are just hanging out, taking in our trees of green and red roses too. Disparity ditches are dangerous places for idealists. It doesn’t take much for me to crash a big rig of grand ideas into one of those babies, only to have it all go up in the flames of despondency and despair.

Last night Early this morning, I laid in bed saying goodbye to 2014. I thought of all the things that could have been, that weren’t. I could feel the wheels pulling toward the ditch, but then, in what I can only call a tug of grace, I thought of all I had for which to be grateful. I could see the snapshots of acceptance in my life–spaces of surrender that feel like victorious freedom. There were also portraits of promises hanging, inviting me to stand before them and discover their subtle strokes of genius.

Here I am on the precipice of 2015, with a new kind of G.A.P. analysis of my life: Gratitude, Acceptance, and Promise.

Gratitude | noun: the quality of being thankful; the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

  • I am thankful for friendships–I am loved by truly beautiful friends in the most generous of ways. They gift me with acceptance, faithfulness, and truth.
  • I am thankful for my family, those both near and far–Our family has experienced a lot of growth pains over the last year. We faced challenges in 2014 that I hope never to repeat, but the crucible exposed the treasures of character, commitment, and forgiveness we didn’t know we had. We are better for the wear and I am thankful for the way we have faced the trials together.
  • I am thankful for God’s provision–Finances were dreaded this year, but each deadline was met with manna from heaven: temporary jobs at just the right times,dollar stretching further than expected, and grace to find sacrifice not so hard as I imagined it to be. Additionally, God provided us with great health. Aside from a couple broken ribs, 2014 was a year of great health for me and the hubs found himself sickness-free for Christmas and his birthday for the first time in as many years as I can remember.

Acceptance | noun: the action of consenting. 

  • I accept I still have a long way to go. I’m imperfect. I don’t have anything to prove. In the margin where mistakes are allowed, grace is found.
  • I accept that not everyone is going to like me. Some people do not want to be my friend. I will survive. I release myself from having to earn other’s approval.
  •  I accept that the way of wisdom is a humble path. I will still seek wisdom, even it looks like foolishness to others and understand that this releases me from the need to have impressive credentials or accomplishments.
  • I accept that surrender is the most vigorous work I may ever do in responding to God. It isn’t giving up, it’s giving in to his way in his time in my life. Surrender is dying to self in every moment so Christ can live in me in every thought, feeling, and behavior. 

Promise | verb: give good grounds for expecting; give hope, herald, evidence of. 

  • I see God at work–it might not be according to my plan, but I see him inviting me into places and relationships that are rich with the evidences of his leading. I see transformation happening. I see the humility, righteousness, and peace of His kingdom doing its thing.
  • I hear God speaking–what I am being taught through the #likeagirl Bible study is filled with grace and giving evidence to God’s faithfulness to the calling he has placed on my life.
  • I see growth–In January 2011, at the recommendation of a mentor I picked up the book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. The first chapter of that book unraveled my life. The question of the first chapter asked, “What would it look like for me to lead more consistently from my soul–the place of my own encounter with God–rather than lead primarily from my head, my unbridled activism, or my performance-oriented drivenness?” Where I was at that time left me unable to answer this question. I couldn’t find God in the context of my leadership. Long story short, life screeched to a halt. Last week I found this book in a box filled with reflections that I had written during that very raw time. There were tears, a few tics, and then a deep awareness that God had done so much in my life since that time. There has been healing, chastisement, redemption, and a growing up. What hope this is! What joy and expectation it gives me for the new year. 

How about you? Have you thought through the G.A.P. places of your life? It’s a beautiful gap! 

In looking forward to 2015 I want to treasure this reflection and be faithful in responding to God’s presence in my life. I plan to write here more–no, really I do. This site was originally started to help capture my devotional responses to Christ and his Word. It is good for my soul when I write…you’re welcome to peek at what I am learning about his beautiful love and the gracious invitation to be his disciple. I’ve been preparing for the new #likeagirl study which will be on The Sermon on the Mount, so expect regular reflections on Matthew 5-7. (I will also update my Reading page with the books I’ve been reading as source work for this study.)

In closing, I leave you with my prayer for 2015–

O God of such truth as sweeps away all lies, of such grace as shrivels all excuses, come now to find us for we have lost ourselves in a shuffle of disguises and the rattle of empty words. 

Let your Spirit move mercifully to recreate us from the chaos of our lives. 

We have been careless of our days, our loves, our gifts, our chances…

Our prayer is to change, O God, not out of despair of self but for love of you, and for the selves we long to become before we simply waste away. 

Let your mercy move in and through us now…

Amen

~Ted Loder, My Heart in My Mouth

What Are We Doing and Why? {Mark Labberton Quotable on the Church}

I updated my Reading page today with the books that are currently occupying my time. Take a look. I’d love to hear what books are challenging and encouraging your walk of faith.

The Church is a burden that weighs heavily on my heart with both hopeful expectancy and frustrated irritation. I know you’ve been reading the blogs and papers; you’re aware of how  much our humanness gets in the way of our living as the people God intends us to be. You’ve heard about the big and little fallings of notable of leaders and of compromise in the ranks. It’s saddening. Sometimes it’s downright pound-your-fist-on-the table maddening. Often it is personally convicting–my house is made of thin glass.

I’ve been reading Called: The Crisis and Promises of Following Jesus Today, by Mark Labberton. It is both soul salve and a swift kick in the Levis.

Here is a quote from my reading today:

Sometimes the church is just odd: habits, speech, attitudes, potlucks, whatever. Every church is something particular, and you smell it the moment you’re on the premises. The point isn’t whether a church is odd, but whether it’s odd because it imitates Jesus Christ. Does the church live that vocation? Surely this plain and unadorned questions is the one that people inside, and certainly outside, the church want to have answered. If the response is anything but yes, we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing and why. 

Few outside the church measure it by a standard of perfection. What they seek is far, far more achievable: authentic people whose proclamation of their trust in Jesus is backed up by their ordinary but self-giving acts of grace, justice and compassion.”

What are we doing and why? I’m stewing on this answer. I hope you will too.

No Time Like the Present {For When It’s Time to Change}

I’ve been neglecting my blog while I’ve been busy attending to my soul. There are some things in life that aren’t done best as a multi-tasked action items. Souls needs sabbaths from routines; they need rest to listen carefully in the quiet of life.

But the season is changing and autumn ushers me back into the rhythm of doing stuff I always do.

In the listening, I have heard it’s time for a change.  The old has to go; the new is already present and invites me to attend to its possibilities. The quiet awakens hope and urges me to embrace change.

In the quiet I have heard three clear calls for life:

1. The composed life is cowardly. I have worked to near perfection my keep-calm-and-carry-on skills.  Sadly, I use them everywhere it matters the least. I’ve no problem freaking out if my sweet husband forgets something trivial or if one of the dogs brings mud in the house. Man, I am all over that piddly stuff. Real stuff though, like people who need an advocate or dark places that need a light bearer, yeah, those places will mum me up so fast. I don’t like the consequences, particularly the social consequences, of making waves. I’ve become an observer boring.

It’s fear and I know it. Crusaders get shot and I find all kinds of clever excuses to leave the leading to others. Falling in behind rank is just a deceiver’s way of using others as personal shields.

It’s stupid. It’s not me. It has to end.

2. Cool love is really not love at all. Circumstances over the last few years have forced me to be in some really uncomfortable and unfamiliar places. I’ve been mostly detached. It has seemed like a really safe strategy–safe that is for my heart; and I’ve been all about protecting that baby. But when was Jesus ever uninterested or cold to others? When did he ever leave the loving to someone else?

Again, fear has been winning.

This too is stupid. It’s not me. I’m over it.

3. The life that Jesus invites us into is really pretty crazy. It’s far from the ordinary little existence I’ve been living. It’s a life that’s bold and brave. It’s throws the status quo overboard and turns the boat straight for the water falls. I’ve been thinking so much over the last couple of months how often Jesus was getting crazy on the Sabbath and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many of his followers are I am so ho hum.

I don’t know if Jesus is calling me to some crazy “thing” or just to live a life that would actually require trusting him. I do know he’s calling me to stop ambivalantly following the prefabricated model of institutionalized, mostly white, male-directed, suburban churchianty. I’m hungry to be where his presence is pressing people to see his goodness and love. I’d say I’m even a little agitated with how sterile, disconnected and inconsequential we I have made following him to be.

I’m a little nervous about what these changes are going to mean for me. And by ‘nervous,’ I mean excited; I’m excited to trust Jesus more and to see him more fully known in my life.

How about you? Are you feeling like the Spirit is pushing you to leave the comfort zone and step out/up?

What to Do When We Can’t Agree {Spurgeon Quotable}

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From Spurgeon The rarest harmonies of music are nothing unless they are sincerely consecrated to God by hearts sanctified by the Spirit. The cleric says, “Let us sing to the praise of and glory of God,” but the choir often … Continue reading

Who’s the Boss? {For When Children Will Not Listen}

“You can’t push a string,” a favorite expression of my husband’s late boss, found its way out of my husband’s sales office and became a well-played line and prevailing philosophy in our home. It was our parental rallying cry against the psychological torment of two very strong-willed children.

I grew up in a different era of family life. My four sisters and I had standard-issue sass and sneak but when push came to shove the convicted resolve in our father’s eyes sobered us quickly to the path of least resistance. “Because I said so” were magic-filled words children dare not challenge.

If there is such a thing, my two boys entered the world without the authority-deferent gene. From the time they could talk, ‘no’ was attached to every phrase they said. It seemed they learned to walk only to run away from us. They were put to bed only to keep us awake. Like a surprised hiker meeting up with a bear I often postured myself to appear bigger than I am in order to hold my ground against the rebellion forces. Prior to children Dennis the Menace was a favorite classic of mine.…

I’m over at Pick Your Portion today. Join us there to read the rest.

A Prayer for Sunday Morning {A William Barclay Quotable}

William Barclay penned the following prayer–may it be yours today as you receive the ministry of Word and worship:

O God, our Father, you are Truth; give us your truth.

Help us to see the truth about ourselves, that we may see ourselves as we really are, and not as we think we are.

Help us to see the truth about life, that we may see what we ought to do, and not only what we want to do.

Help us to see the truth about you, that we may really know your wisdom and your love,

so that we may trust you wholly and obey your fully: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Advice for Disciples {Kevin Vanhoozer Quotable}

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From The Drama of Doctrine: The Method is all about avoiding mechanical acting. In Stanislavski’s words: “Never allow yourself externally to portray anything that you have not inwardly experienced and which is not even interesting to you” –an apt piece of … Continue reading