Sunday, November 24, 2019

To Jocelyn, on Your 14th Birthday

Dear Jocelyn,
             Happy Birthday! It is easy to celebrate all the wonderful things you are: Christ-like, talented, creative, loving, kind, smart, pretty. I wish that you could see in you what I do. I see the fears that are fighting to steal that light. I wish I could hide you from those anxieties and protect you from the things that try to steal your joy. However, that isn't truly my job. My job is to teach you to turn to the only One who can take away all your worries, and protect you from anything that comes against you.

      My job is to remind you that He alone can truly bring comfort and peace. My words can only be a poor imitation of His, but as long as I have breath my prayer is to point you to Him. In everything, big and small. I keep telling you that things won't get easier, not to frighten you, but to say that now is the time to fully trust Him. Your dad and I do our best to be a loving, safe haven for you, but we are flawed. We will let you down, frustrate you, at times we will even hurt you, because we too are humans. But if I only teach you one thing let it be this: You can trust Jesus fully. He will never let you down, He will never hurt you, He will unconditionally, eternally love you. He will always be there.

       Life isn't fair. Life isn't for the faint of heart. But Jesus can help you learn to live without fear-only imitate me as I imitate Him. My hope has never been to have a daughter that takes after me, but rather one that takes after her heavenly Father. Perhaps one day, instead of hearing that you are like me, people will say that I am like you, as you follow after Jesus completely, unashamedly, without any reservations. That would bring me more joy than anything I can think of. This is my constant prayer for you as you navigate the complexities that maturing brings:


"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Psalm 105:4
   If you can grasp this now, during these tumultuous, coming-of-age, times you will find true success. I could not care less if you are famous, or rich, or even happy. None of those things matter, what truly matters is knowing that you are worth so much to Christ that He gave His life for *you*. And you were created to "glorify Him and enjoy Him forever". You do not have to wait to be a "grown-up", whatever that means, to do those things. Christ is fully in you now-You have complete access to every promise in Him that you ever will. Don't wait to follow Him without reservations. Today is the day! And all I want you to know is I am behind you, cheering for you, praying for you, and at many times, learning from your example. Jesus is all you will ever need. And it is my honor to be able to remind you of that when you need to hear it. I love you.
                                                                                                              Love,
                                                                                                                       Mom

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Cardigans and Kindness

   
     Today is "World Kindness Day". And because Hollywood loves nothing better than a tie-in, they have co-opted this celebration by encouraging people to wear a cardigan, which is posited to be in memory of Mr. Rogers, but is really a promotion of the new bio-pic of his life. 

     Since I am a lover both of cardigans and kindness, I am willing to buy-in and, therefore, I have on a cardigan today. I don't really know that this particular "movement" will gain much traction, because here's the thing: wearing cardigans doesn't make you kind any more than it made Mr. Rogers who he was. And I want to say something else: it won't even be beneficial if it only reminds you to be kind. 

    I am quite certain that there are many who would argue that point with me. "Of course being kind is always beneficial!" "Why don't you want people to be kind?!" "What sort of monster are you?" Here is the thing: there is no goodness apart from Jesus. There is no kindness without Him. That is why I said, "only". Being kind serves no purpose if it isn't based in glorifying God, because apart from that, anything we do is only to serve self.

    I know that it seems that unbelievers do a lot of "good". They feed the poor, they clothe the naked, they visit the imprisoned. And all those things, on a surface level, are "good".

"'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good-except God alone.'" -Mark 10:18 NIV
"'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.'" John 15:5 NIV
    Those things that we perceive to be good, noble, perhaps even righteousness, are "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) apart from salvation in Jesus Christ. We can do no good thing apart from Him.

     So, as usual, I have taken something rather benign and made it heavy. I've dragged the Bible into something innocent and silly, right? I disagree. I am firmly convinced that every aspect of a believer's life, even the "little" things actually add up to something very important. And I am certain that even pertains to wearing a cardigan.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV

    If what I eat or drink is supposed to point other to God, then I think what I wear can, too. And that is why I am wearing a cardigan on World Kindness Day. Because Christ showed the ultimate kindness to me when He gave His life. When I placed my faith in Him I vowed to "do it all for the glory of God". So while others might be wearing a cardigan to draw attention to the latest Tom Hanks' movie, I am reminding myself that kindness is showing sinners the way to salvation, that true goodness only can be found in Christ alone, and that *any* "virtue" apart from Him is worthless.

    So wear a cardigan today, or don't, but whatever you do remember this:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." 1 Colossians 3:12 NIV 1984

   If you put on those things, it won't really matter what else you are wearing, because those suit  everybody and they are not a result of anything we can do apart from Christ. It's a good look for all of us.

   

Friday, September 6, 2019

Feeling Freaky

 

    I have been on an "oldies" kick. For many people that means listening to the pop hits of the 80's and 90's. For me that means Rich Mullins, vintage Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith. Old school Newsboys, Audio Adrenaline, Jars of Clay. My teen years soundtrack was these pioneers of Christian "contemporary" music. They shaped my understanding of myself and my world, and in many ways, they helped me understand what it meant to follow Christ.

    I still listen to Christian music, it isn't the same, for better or worse. I miss many of my old favorites that aren't around anymore (The Waiting, Geoff Moore and the Distance,  and more that I am too old to remember the names of!) but I especially miss DC Talk. I know that pieces of the band are still making music, and I am so thankful for that (Toby Mac still makes me turn up the radio!) but during my sophomore and junior years of high school you could find "Supernatural" and "Jesus Freak" on endless repeat.

    So today, feeling nostalgic, I requested that Alexa play DC Talk for me. She busted out "Colored People" and "What If I Stumble" and then it started playing: the one that everyone talked about: "Jesus Freak". I smiled as the song started, it brings back so many good memories for me. But then I started *listening*:

"What will people think when they hear that I'm a Jesus freak?
What will people do when they find that it's true?
I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain't no disguising the truth
There ain't no disguising the truth
No, I ain't into hiding the truth."

   A thought suddenly pierced me: what if they *don't* label me a Jesus Freak? What if all my long-hidden desires to be "normal" have finally been realized? Who in my life would say that Jesus has made me a stranger in a strange land? What if they look at me and see themselves?

"Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." 1 Peter 2:12 NIV

What if I'm not a freak?
What if I'm blending in?
What if I'm unnoticeable?
What if I'm normal?

  I've struggled with fitting in my whole life. I deeply desired to be accepted. To be a part of the group. To fit in. I was hideously awkward as a teenager. I didn't realize that in my decades-long fight to ditch those labels from my identity, I have accidentally shelved something that shouldn't have just been a descriptor of my character, it should, He should, be my identity.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

   What if I'm not any different?

"If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." 1 John 15:19 NIV '84

What if they don't hate me?

It's not good, man. It's not good.

But it isn't too late.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's might hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV '84

   We break those verses up so often, but read them together. I don't have to be anxious about my position, I can cast those cares on Him. I don't have to be concerned about fitting in, or finding my place. I don't have to worry about standing out, either. It isn't about me. It's about Him. I don't have to keep my eye on the clock, or on my social ranking. He has it all planned out, I just need to submit.

   And that's what will really make me a freak in today's world. Surrender control? Give up my "rights"? Stop trying to micromanage every teeny detail and forecast every possibility?! Get real! How much will I stand out if I am fully submitting to God? How crazy will I look if I quit looking out for number one and bow before the Holy One? I think that would be pretty darn freaky.

  "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded....Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up." James 4:8 and 10 NIV '84

   That all will look awfully strange. I am quite certain that it will stand in opposition to anything the world requires for me to fit in. And I'll be honest: it isn't all it's cracked up to be, this being "normal". I am ready to be changed, to be different. I'm ready to be a freak-because I really can only have time to care about what He thinks of me.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Beautiful Feet



My Dearest Daughter,

    I wanted to apologize to you for something: we tease you about your feet sometimes, and it isn't very nice. You, unfortunately, have your Dad's feet. We jokingly refer to them as "Hobbit feet" (although, just to clarify, yours are not hairy!). You often lament that you wear a bigger size shoe than I do, evidenced by that span of less than three months you jumped two sizes. Don't feel bad, I am definitely out of the running to be America's Next Top Foot Model, too.

    But I wanted to tell you something today: you have beautiful feet. (And not just because we got pedicures earlier this week.) And you are smart enough to know that I am not talking about the things that are at the end of your legs. You have the kind of feet that Isaiah was talking about:

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!". Isaiah 52:7

   I learned that verse in VBS before you were even a thought to me. The summer of my junior year in high school, a single year spent at my grandmother's, feeling adrift because I knew that my time there was fleeting. Frustrated, because I had big hopes and dreams but no way to give them...feet. Knowing so strongly that I was called, but only hearing a Voice, with no words.

    It would be many years before there was you. You and your beautiful, beautiful feet. You and your going feet. Finally, my dreams are starting to become clearer: it was you. You are my calling, to raise you up in the knowledge of the goodness of God. And while you may not have my feet, you do have your grandmother's: feet that love to take the Word to everyone. And your great-grandmother's: feet that long to share the greatest Gift to the ends of the earth. And maybe, just maybe you do have a little of me, after all. Because in knowing about those beautiful feet from Isaiah, all those years ago, I've spent all your lifetime praying to God to help me prepare your feet. Feet that are literally taking the Gospel in answer to this:

"[F]or everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"" Romans 10:13-15

    You are the beautiful feet of my dreams. You are living boldly-and I, along with the Body of Christ, am sending you and your precious feet. It is the hardest thing I have ever been asked to do, this sending. But, I know this to be true: the Good News that you and your feet are carrying is far too wonderful for me to keep here at home, no matter how much I want to. And I hope that in this, one day, my feet will be as beautiful as yours. I love you.
                                                                                          Love,
                                                                                                   Mom

Monday, June 10, 2019

Pressing On


(This is a five minute blog post.)


    We are hosting a home group Bible study at our house. If you have the gift of hospitality the following will probably not apply to you, however, I don't. Therefore, when someone new is coming to my house it is like the scales fall from my eyes and all I can see is every.little.wrong.thing. In stereo surround. Full color. Imax version.

    It's not fun. As I surveyed my un-mown yard this evening I reflected: I am far from perfect. You don't even have to look hard to see all the areas I can improve in, not the least is my less-than-persnickety housekeeping style. And my home is not the only area that could use a helping hand in the tasks to be accomplished department.

    Because just like with my home, my character could use some upgrades, too. I need some routine maintenance, but some things just need a straight up trip to the dump and total renovation. Just like my kitchen floor, there are more things that need replacing than I should keep.

    And I often think about how the world tells us that just makes us "real". Don't worry about those "imperfections"-they're part of your "charm"! You're not rude, you're "outspoken". You're not angry, you're "passionate." That we should tout our flaws like badges of honor. "You're doing the best you can." "Messy hair, don't care." "You do you."  The art of bragging about our shortcomings, and failings, curating an attitude of disdain for anyone striving to do better. To be better is viewed as a haughty "fakeness".

    But what does the Bible say?

    "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14 NIV

"[Jesus said] Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48 NIV 1984


   Yikes. Later in the same chapter of Philippians, Paul talks about unbelievers whose "glory is in their shame." What does it say when I am delighting in being a "hot mess momma"? Perhaps that my priorities are a little askew. It is equally as wrong to strive for worldly "perfection", but I should focus on daily "pressing on" to become more Christ-like. I should lean into the work that must be done in my heart and mind, I can never rest in anything less than looking and acting as my Savior would. Yes, He has given, and will continue to give, grace upon grace to us, but I can't use that as an excuse to revel in my shortcomings. Rather than seeing the places my home doesn't meet those HGTV standards, I should turn that laser focus to my heart. The best part about that type of self-improvement though? I'm never doing the work on my own.

"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

"[B]eing confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Philippians 3:14, 4:19, 1:6 NIV 1984

And that's just what Paul has to say about it!

"Father, help me to trust that you will continue to give me what I need to look more like You, including the ability to resist the temptation to laud my laziness and applaud ambivalence and mediocrity. Thank you for promising me that You will carry on the good work Christ started in my heart."

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