how far?

Have you ever had an estranged family member? Many of us have one, or remember a conflict in the past that resulted in a period of estrangement – maybe including a crazy uncle or something. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you probably know at least one person who has. I have experienced it before, but right now I’m in the thick of it, as I have an immediate family member who has estranged the rest of the family.

The pain of this is probably best exemplified if you’ve been through it.

If you’re anything like me, you might be a problem-solver. In my mind the question is: what solution is there when there is a misunderstanding or clear wrongdoing?

“Common sense” or logic presents a multitude of options: letting the divide stand for fear of upsetting them further, or feeling that they are being completely wacko, staying angry with the person/people who have wronged you and casting all blame on them, telling them that they have to meet a condition (going to counseling, apologizing to you)… I think that I have experienced all of these feelings in the past few years.

Misunderstandings, fights, hurt and pain happen to everyone, no matter who you are or what you believe. We all have choices to make regarding how we will deal.

Personally, I feel like these family issues have been very cyclical problems that aren’t going away, and I’ve been in pain over them for years. Nothing I’ve done has made them any better.

Here’s how I’ve decided to deal: I am not leaning on myself anymore. All that I know logically has failed me, and every time it has failed, the pain is refreshed, another brick is added to my burden, and I feel despondent.

And I forget the work of the Lord [in my own life] – which is really the key to overcoming it all.

[2 Corinthians 5] 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I love that: “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” – we are to speak reconciliation with our lives. It’s something I’ve been realizing in my own life for awhile now: if I have been given grace, then I am to extend it to others.

Summed up: Jesus saves us, can love others through us and can speak a message through our lives that gives people the exact love/ forgiveness/grace that we have received from Him.

There’s one more aspect to “how far” we must go to reconcile, and we also have to base that in Christ. Because Christ laid down His life and sacrificed Himself for us, we have to lay down ourselves for reconciliation to happen.

Writer Ann Voskamp says that “Love is not passion. It is the pulse of sacrifice.”

Whether it’s saying, “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you,” or “I love you,” or driving hours upon hours to speak the truth into someone’s life, God wants us to be willing to go with the message. He wants us to stop looking at things in a way that demands respect and fair treatment for us. (I will add that these are things in which we will find freedom in doing, and they aren’t to be done without a genuinely loving/gracious spirit. Our goal must be reconciling in a Christ-honoring way, and not “doing my duty” or anything that would meet a requirement of man versus doing it with guidance of the Spirit.)

How far did the Lord go to meet you and become reconciled to you? He willingly died so that you could be His friend. How many wrongs have you done Him or others, days have you forgotten Him, times you have failed Him, and yet He loves you, hears you when you call on Him, and has saved you from death, hell and yourself?

I have committed to the message of reconciliation because my life is His, and without being reconciled to Jesus, there is no way I can hope to be reconciled to anyone else. You cannot give what you have not received. Lord, give me grace to love others as you love me. I want to be like the father of the prodigal son, who stood waiting and watching for his son when he came, and then gladly celebrated his return. For it wasn’t about what His son had done to him, but that the son had returned. And for that love to be shown in the moment of the son’s return, it had to have already existed beforehand.

I can’t wait for that day of reconciliation with my family, and I pray even now that grace and love will be cultivated in all of our hearts so that it will be fully abundant when the time comes.

one who follows through

I want to be one who follows through. But I’m not, usually.

I’m the kind of person who always has grand ideas that don’t come to fruition. Or worse, the beginning happens, but nothing else does.

Here are a few examples:

  • I learned to knit awhile back, but have never learned how to do anything besides scarves. At this point, all I know how to do is cast on stitches and knit and purl (two kinds of stitches).
  • I’ve tried to get in the habit of running multiple times, but always end up quitting because of the weather getting colder, not wanting to get up when it’s dark, or just plain being lazy/uncommitted.
  • Attempted to learn multiple instruments, but have nothing to show for it because I didn’t want to work at it and ended up just stopping.
  • We currently have lots of empty picture frames sitting in our house that have never been filled with wedding/other pictures.
  • I am the world’s worst photo-documentarian, letter-writer, and present-sender. It just doesn’t happen until it’s incredibly too late… and then it’s too late.
  • Being honest, I was a really lazy/bad student a lot of the time.

I know I’m not the only one who does things like this, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am aware of how weak, imperfect and lazy I can be. I don’t have solid answers to why I am this way, but I do know that this habit perpetuates itself.  My non-committal, stubborn self tries to assert itself whenever possible, unless I try very hard to change.

That said, I don’t like being this way. And I want to be different. But it takes time, especially because there are long-ingrained habits that have to change, bit by bit. It’s pretty much impossible to make a 180-degree change overnight, but I am working to think differently and act different than I have in the past.

The current habit that I’m working to change, forever, is how I treat my body. I want to be at a healthy weight and have healthy eating habits. Here are ways that I’m working on it:

Eating –

  • Eating less than I used to. Not eating seconds almost always, unless it’s a special meal or I still feel pretty hungry.
  • Not eating emotionally and keeping foods out of our house that will influence that- high sugar desserts, snack foods like crackers and chips, processed foods in general.
  • Eating out less.
  • Limiting myself on “treats” – coffee, sweets, etc., and not finding excuses to consume them.

These are ways to maintain a healthy weight – something that I haven’t experienced in a long time – but ultimately I have to lose weight to be healthier. I am currently doing a program called P90-X that consists of video workouts that you use in a rotation for 90 days (6 workouts a week) in order to achieve results. I am hoping to stick it out for as long as it takes to make it through 90 days of exercise. Even if it takes longer than the allotted time period, I am determined to finish, and then figure out how to incorporate regular exercise into my life.

I know that I can only really change and learn how to finish with God’s help, because that is what He does. It says in Phil 1:6 that “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The meaning here is spiritual, but I believe that He can and will complete any good work in us that we give over to Him for His glory and ask Him to bless. Therefore I ask that you would join me in praying this for ourselves, that we would not live in condemnation of who we used to be or who we are, but realize that in Christ we are made new and are ever-changing into the image of Christ.

Is there anything I said that resonated with you? I would love to know so that I encourage you and pray for you. There’s much more that could be said on this topic, so please share if you like.

Be blessed!

In what should we put our hope and trust?

I think that getting older provides opportunities to either get more bitter and discouraged with the state of the world, or to draw closer to Christ, putting our hope and trust ultimately in Him, believing that He is good.

Life can really feel hard though, you know? If I’m not bothering to focus on the blessings I have in Christ, and instead choose to feel sorry for myself and lose my focus, things can seem so crazy, chaotic and unfair. To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’ve been carrying a burden for years now. Family discord, spiritual workings-out, job dissatisfaction and changes in friends and my relationships with them are things that hang over my head some days, and it makes me not want to get out of bed. I had a recent day where I just needed to bawl.

I realize, though, that the difficulties I encounter need not be overwhelming. I am forgiven and given grace by Someone who loves me more than anyone else can, and yet knows me better than anyone else will. Let’s think on that: Jesus, the person whose grace we need the most, is the one who gives it to us most freely, though we don’t deserve it at all. And we still think we need, want or deserve more in this life than that?

Things that are life-changing, heart-changing and worthy of our hope and trust:

1. The fact that Jesus Christ, a real person, died for me–for you– because He individually loves you as His bride.
2. We don’t have to be scared or worried if we really believe this (the above).

I know that for myself, I don’t consider this the way that I should. When I wake up in the morning, it is not always my first thought. Instead I get wrapped up in myself, MY feelings, MY perception of things. And that’s why life seems hard. Because I’m thinking about what I think I need to do to have the life I want, when He’s already given me everything that I need.

I pray that Jesus will be your thought and my thought when we sleep, when we wake and when we go about our days.  Just think about Him, and tell Him that you want to hope and trust in Him. And if you struggle even to say that, just ask that He’ll help you believe in your weakness. Because He will.

The Lord is good.

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.

28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.

31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.

–Lamentations 3

grooveshark+ihop=blessing

Are you familiar with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City? If you’re not, you should be. (And yes, their acronym is IHOP. moving on…) With the leading of the Lord, they have been holding a solemn assembly of worship and prayer 24/7 since 1999 – around the clock praising God! They have a variety of ministries that are doing amazing things in KC, the US and around the world. Our former campus ministry directors, Jason and Kara Kelly, are currently on staff there and Willy and I have visited there twice and been blessed by what God has taught us and challenged us with.

One of the things that I appreciate about IHOP is that the worship is different than anything I’ve ever heard growing up in church. The cool thing about there being 24/7 worship and prayer is that God really births songs in that atmosphere that are in Him and through Him. I have long struggled with listening to contemporary Christian music because it seems to often be either monotonous, uninspired or meant for radio play. I don’t think that IHOP is perfect by any means, but I always feel the spirit of the Lord there in an intimate way. Their emphasis on an intimate relationship with the Lord, seeing ourselves as His Beloved and His Bride, has changed how I worship and even my understanding of the point of worship.

I posted recently about Grooveshark, a great online music listening and sharing site. I discovered not long after that it is a great source for listening to music from IHOP. IHOP puts out “limited edition” releases every other month, featuring new content from the prayer room. You can buy these directly from IHOP, but Grooveshark also has many of them available! Some of the artists that I really like from IHOP are Laura Hackett, Misty Edwards, Justin Rizzo, Luke Wood and Jaye Thomas. You can also just search for “IHOP” or “International House of Prayer” and you’ll get plenty of results.

There’s a song I want to share in particular that I’ve gleaned from Grooveshark called “I Will Praise – Ps. 34” by Jaye Thomas. I am so blessed listening to it because it reminds me what my posture as a child of the Most High should continually be. I should always be remembering the Lord, worshiping Him, acknowledging Him, and when I am weak, He picks me up, and He ALWAYS restores us and looks at us as His Beloved. He does not condemn us or see us as others do. He sees us as no one else does (or can).

I’m telling you, I’ve listened to this song at least 10-15 times, and every single time God’s love for me literally moves my heart and makes me want to cry. He wants to encourage you too so listen to it! 🙂 (link below)

I Will Praise – Ps. 34 by Jaye Thomas & team

You can also check out the Prayer Room live:

IHOP Prayer Room webstream

a statement of faith:

I believe that the thing God wants of us the most in this life is our hearts being turned toward Him.

David, said to be a “man after God’s own heart,” phrases it so beautifully and perfectly in Psalm 27:4:

One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

David clearly narrowed down what is important: dwelling in the presence of the Lord continually and seeking Him out. He could have asked for greater power, earthly treasures, whatever, but it is clear from this passage that what he valued most was following after the Lord, not creating a better world for himself or for others.

God isn’t part of the systems of this world. He did not create politics, business, economics, church denominations or any other system that we use to make order of and understand how things work. He created the world, gave us bodies and breathed life into us; therefore He is not bound by anything that man has created.

If we are trying to know God by leaning on man’s systems, we are at the very least wasting time, and at worst, failing to know Him at all. Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and Searching For God Knows What, has a great quote that I’ve probably already used sometime: “I believe the greatest trick of the devil is not to get us into some sort of evil but rather have us wasting time. This is why the devil tries so hard to get Christians to be religious. If he can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging God.”

If we are to be like David and seek after the Lord wholeheartedly, basking in His presence DAILY, we have to be willing to put aside systematic thinking that can just end up being a huge time-waster.

I’m not saying that systems of the world are completely irrelevant, but if we view God through a lens influenced by the world, we will never see Him clearly. If we instead look at our own lives and reflect on how each moment is an opportunity to let Him in, we will see a profound change in our hearts instead of seeking out a profound change through the systems the world wants us to believe in.

I hope that my point is clear and encouraging. In my own life, I have gotten caught up in trivial matters and wasted time instead of using my days to allow God to change my heart to be more like His. Even things done with good intentions can distract us from the ultimate prize: knowing Jesus (Phil. 3:7-16). For a while, I was distracted by how corrupt the world is, and what needs to be done to fix it. I was getting really frustrated by things that I saw as huge problems, and the worst part was that I have absolutely no power to change them. (Things like social equity, corporate corruption, management of US food systems and production) But I understand now that the biggest change that I can make in the world and the way that I can help restore things to the way God intended them is by turning my heart over to Him so that I myself will be changed. (And let me say now, lest anyone think differently, this is naturally a difficult process, even when the desire is strong.)

I just want to remind you that no matter who you are or where you feel you stand in your relationship with Jesus, He wants to change you further, put a new heart in you still, and make you into a reflection of Him. We are encouraged in scripture over and over to “seek the Lord” and that is truly what He desires. He does not desire for you to be a conservative right-wing Republican, He doesn’t care if you are stock-savvy and street-smart, and I personally believe that He is not keeping a tally of how many people you’ve invited to church this year or tried to witness to.

All He cares about is if you’re seeking Him or not. Yes, He calls us to certain things at certain times and seasons in life. But that is the only commitment He requires of you, and the only judgment He will make of you.

As for me, I WILL seek the Lord.

I pray that you will too.

joy and peace.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Yesterday Willy came down to my office so we could walk home and found me in a very pleasant mood… which is sort of out of the norm. Normally I let the frustrations of the day get to me, and by the time we leave I am either worried or frustrated about some random thing that’s going on in my office or in our lives. But for some reason, I had a really good day. Neither of us could figure it out.

I think the only explanation I can come up with is that I’d been reminded all day of God’s love and the transformation that we can have from His love and forgiveness. I want to continually be full of joy and peace – and when other people ask me to pray for them, it’s one of the things I usually end up really requesting of God.

I think I always ask it of God because it’s something that He really wants us to have – it’s listed as one of the fruits of the Spirit – and something that we can confidently ask for. There are times when I don’t know what to pray; I always want to pray in the will of God, and don’t want to just ask for what I would see as fitting. But I know that God always wants us to walk in His Spirit, being full of joy and peace, aware of the hope we have in His return and of heaven and the kingdom He will establish on the earth. A new heaven and a new earth! (It may sound cheesy, but I think that sounds incredibly amazing!)

Put simply, God loves me and you. He forgives us and does not treat us as we deserve, or as other people might treat us, or as we even think we should treat ourselves. He doesn’t want to punish us; He only wants to grow us into a reflection of Him so that His beauty will be shown through us. He is always loving, always merciful, and always our friend. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but be joyous, peaceful and hopeful knowing that the One who made me and knows me is also my friend. Thank you Jesus! You are GOOD!

pay it forward Jesus-style

The current disaster in Haiti calls out to my heart and reminds me that God wants us to give to others and share our lives with them. Jesus was sent to share God’s love and die for us, being that we are completely broken and fully deserving death.

It’s interesting to realize that Jesus’ love was a new kind of love; this love was completely selfless. He died for our own good, and He had nothing to gain. I have been reflecting on this for the past few weeks, believing that God has laid it on my heart. It is easy to view our lives as a series of inputs and outputs, believing that “I input ________, therefore I will receive _______.” Even in Christian circles this idea is enforced, though it is not what Jesus taught. For the purpose of an example, I will use money: I grew up believing that if I gave 10% of my income (tithe) to God, it was a) what I was supposed to do, and b) a way to get blessed by God. This all sounds okay and logical until one realizes that the love of God is supposed to fuel all that we do (Luke 10:27), and that His love is all about serving someone else, not getting something out of it (Phil. 2:3). Therefore, a tithe is an offering to God, all about realizing that we can do nothing to save ourselves from our own wickedness, but that by giving everything we have to God, we can ensure that He lives and works in us and through us. (And the 10% guideline is probably debatable/not as important as we think)

God reaches out to us in His mercy; if we really are to let His mercy extend through us, then we must give when we see need. I struggle sometimes with knowing if God is “telling” me to give, but really, it’s not so confusing as that. It says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.” When Christ returns, will He find the fruit of His Spirit on the Earth? I want to be one who propagates the manifestation of His Kingdom, and this can only happen by stepping out in faith – in this case, trusting Him and giving with a sincere heart, knowing that I have already been blessed beyond earthly physical measures through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus.

a couple links:

Crisis Response International – being that I share many of their values, I’m considering donating to this organization; they’re a non-profit based in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about them on their site

The Kelly’s Adoption Blog – these are good friends of mine and Willy’s who serve at the International House of Prayer. Read their post “Redemption;” it inspired my thinking on selfless servanthood