Last week was a pretty intense week, for us all.
I don’t like drama and confrontation, but it was just one of those weeks, for like, everyone in America. To cap it off, I left for Washington, D.C. on Thursday to visit our nation’s capital and pray for a turning of hearts and minds to God. It’s at least an annual event for me, and this time it was four days of prayer, worship, and conversation over the issues that affect our American culture and the upcoming election.
Also, it was hot, and very tiring.
I came home a ball of frantic words and stories – to a husband who simply… missed me.
But I missed that, somehow.
All dressed up in his (my) favorite plaid shirt, grunge jeans, and newsie hat, my sweet chauffeur arrived at the airport with heart expectant, eyes blue, and lips ready.
Mine were flapping and yapping, sans lipstick, and I smelled like 6 hours of airplane and had the mood to show for it.
At some point in a pause for breath during my half hour monologue about all the prayers and messages and times with friends and talks with people about oh-so-very-important things that are super-freaking-urgent, I noticed his silence.
His extreme… silence.
And his forward-focused stare into the distance.
And his hand on my leg in between shifting gears as we rolled down the road toward our humble abode.
“Why are you so quiet? Are you ok?”
“Yeah. I just really, really missed you.”
“Oh, ok. I missed you too baby. Anyway… yippity yap yap yap…”
“Sure, sounds good. And then… yippity yap yap yap… ”
And more silence.
“What is wrong? Why are you being so quiet? Did I say something wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong. I just really, really missed you.”
“Do you not want me to go on these trips anymore? I’m not feeling very supported here. You don’t seem very interested.”
“That’s not it, at all.”
My turn for silence now.
We walked into our apartment and I set my bags down. He had cleaned the house and done the laundry.
And then it hit me.
He had sent multiple text messages over the past few days – a lot more than normal. Called me to read the Bible one morning. More text messages. Dressed up to come get me at the airport. Picked up dinner on the way home. And not a dish, dirty laundry item, or anything else was out of place.
And I, for once in my life, had out-thinked the thinking-est man I know. I had out-talked, out-cared, out-run his (well above average) barrier of concern for all things political and cultural and run right past his romance. And with every moment of chatter, I was back on another plane, headed far away from him.
I had been that wife.
The loud, annoying, talkative, self-absorbed one. I swore I’d never be that wife.
He turned me around and kissed me. “I don’t want to talk about anything that matters. I just want to be with you.”
Tears filled my eyes as I melted into his embrace. And I came back to myself, a little bit, and back to who matters most.
Sometimes, in a world of intensity where it seems like everything is on fire at all times, the most holy thing we can do is stop caring. Just for a little while.
Put to me this way, when I was single and never stopped, a friend and mentor frequently told me “sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is sleep.”
If what our nation needs is strong families and righteous leaders, it starts at home, with love, romance, and spending time on who matters. This is the righteousness we seek for our nation, manifested on an atomic level. The family is the fabric of our culture, and strengthening it really is the most important – even patriotic – thing we can do sometimes.
We ate Chinese food on our white comforter. And I didn’t even care. He chose a monster movie from 1989 on Netflix. And I was happy about it – interested, almost.
I have a man whose heart is captured by love for me far above any other cause it could beat for. I couldn’t be more loved, honored, and blessed among women. And it’s not just because we’re still newlyweds. I look around me and something in me knows Heaven has graced us with a cadence that will keep our union in step in a way that many a marriage may never know. It’s not pride. It’s because we stand on the shoulders of giants who have taught us how to love, and 10 months into this ocean of marriage, we are knee deep in the rewards for it.
It’s the way things ought to be.
Holiness has never felt so good.
Question from a newlywed: What are some things you do to keep your marriage strong, when the higher calls on your life seek to rise above it in importance?
August 6, 2012 4 Comments
Today I’m giving the best perspective I can offer on my feelings… the morning after Chick-Fil-A day. This is taken from a comment I made in reply to some very well spoken questions I received on Facebook from a Christian sister who has a heart of gold. I very much appreciate the conversation this recent uprising has spawned among my friends and me, so I wanted to share a bit of it more publicly. Her original thoughts are posted as a comment on this post.
I think you are addressing some very legitimate concerns for Christian Americans. As it happens, I’m answering you from the airport because I’m on my way to DC for a four day prayer conference for our nation. I’ve been doing this and thinking about these issues for 12 years, with a very open mind, and I completely agree with you on many of the things you say. I absolutely affirm that Christians should be involved in the affairs of our nation. I think every thinking person of other beliefs would say the same. My questions and comments about the CFA saga have not been intended to infer otherwise.
I have simply been asking if, at every opportunity, we should always speak up, especially in situations where people already have a good idea where we stand on a topic.
I’m simply saying I think we need to be more careful and really think about whether speaking up is going to produce fruit. I think it gets easy for us to feel attacked, or to engage culture wars with a rally cry that doesn’t really do anything to change the state of our nation. I think if this had been a situation of actual persecution, Dan Cathy should have spoken up.
I still affirm his American right to do exactly as he did, even though it wasn’t persecution.
I’ve just been trying to ask if we can stop and think, every time it’s easy to give the Sunday School answers, is there perhaps a better way to approach it, when you know you will be alienating a portion of society with your words. It was the Baptist Press who asked the question of Dan Cathy, and by virtue of the fact that they are the “press”, Cathy knew it would be published; it wasn’t an opportunity they were taking to make a difference. It was an opportunity they were taking to make a statement.
And, in the wake of his perhaps simple statements, many Christians took it to a new level, making demeaning graphics, comments, and taking opportunity to blurt out what are TRULY offensive and hateful remarks, that absolutely do NOT help our cause.
I’m asking, if we could just take a minute, as Christians, to consider the maturity level of some who would follow us, and evaluate whether THEY can handle they controversy we’re about to create? I have seen well known leaders in my stream of the Church post some things that are absolutely shocking and that they must be getting a real kick out of saying, but fly in the face of who Jesus was toward the lost. They’re acting like Old Testament prophets whose only method of dispensing truth was pre-grace.
Jesus made remarks to Capernaum (New Testament city where Jesus called his disciples to him), that if Sodom & Gomorrah (Old Testament cities known for their gluttony as well as their homosexuality) had been given the same opportunities to see the love and miracles that Jesus showed Capernaum, then they would have repented.
As it stands, the things I’ve been seeing on Facebook are nothing more than an expression of fear and carelessness and laziness toward the lost, and they clearly haven’t done the diligence of forming relationship outside their belief set in a long time. So if we continue acting like Old Testament prophets in the New Covenant era, we can expect modern day Sodom & Gomorrah not to repent.
I think as Christians, we have to be really careful about too closely identifying our nation as a Christian nation.
We were founded primarily by believers, and we were founded on principles of freedom that survive best when men rule their own hearts and keep them from darkness. But we were definitely not founded to be a nation of Christians only; we were founded with the right to worship as we wish. I know you know this, but it’s good to remember, our forefathers were running from the fact that the Anglican church had become too intertwined with their government, to the point that they were indistinguishable.
When government becomes theocracy, ultimate power is in place because those who govern now have place to make into law their brand of morality, AND bear the sword, and oppression ensues.
It’s a dangerous combination for any people, and many Christians probably think it would be wonderful, because really, how unsafe can Christianity be? And maybe their personal expression of Christianity would be great. But how does that play out over a few presidencies? After a while, when theocracy is corrupted by its absolute power and adopts doctrines contrary to scripture for the sake of the king’s convenience, then we’re all up a creek.
The truth is, enforcing Christian morals on a nation (by way of law) would still not change hearts, and if hearts are not changed, we are still a goat nation, no matter what our law books and courthouses say.
This nation may have at one time held innocence and been primarily a Christian nation. I wish it were so again, but I would only want it if people truly wanted God in their hearts. God does not want our “worship with our lips, if our hearts are far from him”. Our nation did not come to this place overnight, and it is going to take a good amount of digging in on relational levels to allow God to work through us to reposition the hearts of men.
My point is, this is not a problem that gets solved from the top down.
We who are Christians, should definitely put on our American citizen hats, and should engage the political realm. We should vote, we should defend our rights when they are truly being attacked, and we should defend the rights of non-believing groups when they are being attacked. We should ALWAYS work to decrease the influence and size of government. We should also put on our Christian citizen hats to engage the culture, but with those hats on, our brains should be on kingdom growth. Our citizenship is first in heaven, second in America.
We should really think about the outcome before we engage the culture, each and every time. We should count the cost, and see if our return on investment from a harvest standpoint is going to leave us in the red or not.
I know many friendships between atheists & gays and Christians were broken on Facebook, for the world to see this week. That breaks my heart far more than it pleases me to see people “standing in lines together”.
I fear that we are deeper in the red as a result of this week. If we have produced lasting fruit, it’s likely been for the darkness.
Because I’m friends with a lot of different kinds of people, I see this from a few more angles than what would just be comfortable for me as a Christian who would love it if we could all agree about issues like gay marriage. It’s so much easier to just bury our heads in our Bibles and stick with our Christian friends, but it’s not obedience.
I think your thought that “some are called to this” and “some are called to that”, is accurate on some level, and I think both are necessary. I think we should put equal amounts of energy, as Christians, into both commissions that Christ left us with, which is discipling men and discipling nations.
I don’t think you get to disciple a nation with much progress until you’ve done what’s needed to disciple men first.
And I think since we have let that slip, for a number of generations, since the 60’s on a moral level and since the 30’s on an economic level, we gotta go back to the hearts of men and educate and love. But we all share some degree of both callings. The ones, like myself, who desire to deal in both realms should be seeking a rule of law where the government simply decreases. I think its reaches into American life are gruesome. I think its reach into the freedom for parents to educate their own children is tragic and completely offensive and wrong. I think those things should be fought, tooth and nail, as you do.
It is my prayer as I board this plane that we can be effective in creating one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice… for ALL.
August 2, 2012 9 Comments
A few months ago, I came to a personal crossroads of sorts.
I had recently married, we’d scored a cool loft for our first home together, I had an awesome job, and was just generally livin’ the 30-something life in the great city of Austin, TX, with the sky set as my limit.
Everything was fine.
The only thing was, there was this nagging voice in my head telling me my life was so cliché. Nothing rang with passion. None of what I was doing had my DNA in it anymore. And the best hours of my day were invested in the dreams of other people. There just wasn’t much of me left over, for me.
And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, it really hadn’t ever bothered me before. Investing in others’ dreams without reserve is almost a rite-of-passage for knowing what it means to sacrifice and serve, and I’ve been doing it faithfully for years in different environments. There is nothing quite like experiencing the pure joy of advancing another person’s destiny, and learning from them along the way. You tend to learn how to pursue your own with fewer mistakes that way.
But right after I married, there I was, and… unbeknownst to me, my season had ended.
There’s never a time when your season for service is entirely and forever over, but there does come a time when your season for vision begins.
And that’s where I found myself. Seedlings of dreams in me – even seedlings I had planted and watered for a while, only to watch them wilt or be plucked up by my own lack of tending – had fallen to the ground and died, and come back to life again. They were still there and were taking root in ways that were starting to jut into other spaces in my life.
I began to resent everyone and everything who needed or took anything from me, even if I’d offered. It was a horrible place to be, for me, and for others I’m quite certain. I felt hypocritical for once serving freely and then feeling reticent, and even angry in some ways.
I remember thinking, “My life is just in need of a revolution. A very slow, careful, thoughtful, revolution. I need to understand how I got here, and be careful to never come back this way again.” I was so miserable.
And that’s when the name stuck. Thoughtful Revolution.
In the process of this discovery, I quit my job, and started my design firm back up, and renamed it Thoughtful Revolution. See, a seed that had been in me for a while was the freedom of business ownership. I have always wanted a design firm, and ran one for years under another name. But I had walked away. For shinier things. And maybe rightfully so, for a season. My new firm is focused on helping people rethink their brands for their markets, particularly start-up business owners, and writers, needing e-commerce and blog related solutions. It really hits the spot for me, because it’s all about empowering freedom for my clients, and I’m learning to trust my own leadership again.
That basically solved the career crisis, but this crossroads was more than about just business, for me.
There was still something more.
And then the concept of a Thoughtful Revolution became spiritual revelation to me.
I’ve been in ministry in some form or fashion since my teen years. And during that journey, I have come to know a few things. There are basically two types of Christians. There are those for whom life is a constantly unfolding, thoughtful revolution, rooted in revelation and the voice of God, and marked by sacrificial and stretching efforts at growth. We are bent on becoming better lovers and friends and proponents of freedom. And then there are those for whom Christianity never grew beyond personal salvation; it is a rigid fortress of mindsets, values and beliefs behind which we stand firing doctrinally sound bullets to save ourselves and our very similarly minded friends from any who threaten to encroach.
I say “we”, in both instances, because I identify with both.
The truth is, we are all, at one time or another, both of these kinds of Christians. And the war in our spirits, daily, is over whether we will embrace the difficulty of growth and living outside our comfort zones, both in ourselves and in the Kingdom at large, or resort to fortress defense tactics (that could be called lazy if they actually worked) which attempt to conform the minds of others to the rules of our comfort zones without the love of God working through us to achieve that in their hearts. In short, we want everyone to behave righteously, even ourselves sometimes, without the grace of the revelation process we’ve often been privileged to undergo.
Before I go any further, let me be clear. Life is full of constants. Gravity, caloric intake, the rules of biology. These are reflections of the fact that Truth is constant. What love is. What purity is. What holiness is. What moral laws, laid out in our hearts by natural law, and illumined by Scripture are. We all, both the believing and the unbelieving, have some awareness of this. (Romans 1:20) Some things don’t change. Relativism ultimately leads us to a very bland, neutral, everyone’s-the-same kind of society, if you follow its logic. Moral relativism, inclusionism, and other forms of “ism” are not what I’m talking about when I talk about openness to change. What I am talking about, is being a student of culture, and learning best how to interact with people to produce the most spiritual fruit.
Simply stated, Thoughtful Revolution is about this: I’m sharing my revelatory process to help bridge the gap between the two types of Christians we all vacillate between being, and hoping you will do the same in the form of conversation with me here. I make mistakes. When I do, I’ll admit it. I’m doing my best to present the parts of the Truth I know well, with humility and honor for all, because I believe the dialogue is necessary.
Part of my own thoughtful revolution has been mustering the willingness to clear my long silent throat and step up to the mic.
Just as we read the Bible more than once, multiple times, for an increased unfolding of revelation, so should we intentionally live our lives among people. We should actively seek common ground with our unbelieving counterparts in the world, to seek their ear, their trust, and their hearts. Our perspectives are shifted and finely tuned in direct proportion to our willingness to stay pliable in the hands of a loving and very protective and thoughtful God. He will place people in our lives that will allow us to look at new situations… situations in which God not only wants us, but expects us, to be successfully winsome with the Truth. He entrusted us with Truth, not so we would use it primarily to protect ourselves or our rights, but so we would be fearless in the realization of its saving power in our lives, and go make disciples with it. If we do that, He will help us move more into his likeness, and we don’t have to fear being overtaken. Light, after all, clears out the darkness every time.
Living a thoughtful revolution is for the hungry and the adventurous.
God will unfold himself to us as much as we ask, and often, in no greater measure, than we ask. He promises us this: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5). Similarly, Jesus was given the Spirit without measure, and as co-heirs with Him, we also are given the Spirit without restraint from God, when we ask. “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” (John 3:34). God wants us to seek him out. He wants us to want more. He wants us to rack our brains for His truth. He has hidden mysteries for us intentionally. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2.
Could it be, that with the culture wars’ lack of productivity, there is more to God that we need to seek out to carry out his Great Commission? Could it be, that questions should abound more than answers as long as we are on this side of eternity?
The internal revolution that’s happening inside of those who allow it, when we speak about it, causes conversations and interactions that fulfill Proverbs 27:17 which says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
As a lifestyle, it’s vulnerable. Even scary. It’s transparent. It sometimes leads to conflict. It’s not always pleasant. But it’s always helpful, as long as honor is the standard for discourse.
In those environments, the most amazing gems of wisdom and revelation are revealed to us, and they become our own, forever changing us more into His likeness. It’s how we grow. It’s why Jesus instructed us not to give up meeting together.
So that’s what a thoughtful revolution is to me. It’s God, giving us wisdom, refining us as people, refining our messages, refining our churches, refining our relational styles, refining our mannerisms, to offer the world around us the most tangible Jesus Christ we can.
So here’s to you, living your thoughtful revolution, and to me, living mine, and to us, thinking and talking it out together.
A sincere thanks to you, for reading, for sharing, and for talking it out with me. As the host of this conversation on this particular blog, I probably stand to benefit the most of anyone for your feedback.
[ Photo by Meshali Mitchell Photography ]
August 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Today I’m taking part in a one-day blog series about travel, hosted by Prodigal Magazine. Do you have a travel story? Feel free to post them on your blog throughout the week and link back to our host page!
It was 1998. I was 19. It was the summer after my freshman year in college.
I. Knew. Nothing.
It was at a BSM lunch (Baptist Student Ministries), that I first heard about the opportunity to go to Ukraine. It just sounded so exciting to go somewhere, escape my small hometown and taste the world.
With all the strength a live-at-home college kid could muster, I informed my parents I’d been “called to go to Ukraine” for two weeks, and hopped over to the post office to start the pre-911 no fuss, no muss passport process before they could find a reason against it.
It was my first time on a plane, my first time in NYC (won’t stop to tell you about the 2 hour, $200 taxi cab tour through NYC I took on a four hour layover – rookie!), my first time overseas, even a couple of nights in Vienna before the real trip got started! My heart was just exploding with excitement and expectation!
This trip went as mission trips go: airport mishaps, belabored conversation through translators, visits to homes of church members who have cooked all manner of unknown delicacies in honor of your presence, long days, no sleep, impromptu Bible teaching, hospital visits, street preaching in the town square, and children’s ministry. It wasn’t anything phenomenally out-of-the-ordinary, but for my fresh young heart, this was ministry on speed! I was beside myself with all the action!
One evening after we had just finished a time of crafts with the children, the children’s ministers, Anatoliy Taranenko and his wife, started telling me about a children’s camp they were trying to set up for the summer. Anatoliy told me that he saw that I enjoyed playing with the kids, and he wanted to know if I would extend my trip and stay for the summer. He shared with me that the church wanted to hold this camp as an opportunity provide a time of rest for all the children in the villages surrounding the Illichivsk area because they were schooled year-round and did manual labor with their parents. During that time we would share the gospel with them so they could one day become Christians.
I asked him what he meant by “one day”.
He explained to me that their church would only baptize people and recognize them as believers after a year of watching a person bear fruit and that they had to be at least 18. He must have seen the confusion on my face, because he then asked me if I thought a person could really understand salvation before adulthood.
I shared with him that my own salvation occurred at the age of eleven, and after that moment, I sang the entire night as I lay in bed trying to sleep. I was filled and whole, and my heart had been chasing God since then!
It was then that he said, “Well, it is settled. You must come.”
I had no idea what I was getting into by agreeing to these plans, but I knew my heart was pounding out of my chest and whatever had to be done would be done.
The Americans who had helped plant this church and invited me on the trip agreed that it was wise, and offered to help cover my extra expenses, with a few conditions:
1. The rest of the team on the trip was going to be leaving, and I’d be the only American there for the summer.
2. They couldn’t afford a translator for me all summer, and I was going to have to “figure it out”.
It freaked me out a little, but I was on an adventure, and anyway, life was always awesome.
So I stayed.
All the Americans left, and we began preparing for the camp. We planned plays, and games, and I learned to play some songs on my guitar that had learn-able Russian lyrics. Things were going well. Anatoliy and his wife and a few helpers that were coming with us spoke broken English and we all started carrying sketchbooks to explain ourselves in pictures when we needed to. It was really kind of fun. We laughed a lot!
In the course of preparing for the camp, which was, by the way, called Precious Diamond, I also learned some history. I learned that Ukraine was only 7 years into her liberation from Russia, and I learned that the church had been restricted from building, holding meetings, or planning the types of activities we were planning unless done by the government-approved Russian Orthodox Church. So the frenzy of ministry was just as fresh and real to these leaders as it was to me. And slowly, the leadership of the church had been moving away from Russian Orthodox traditions that were only tradition, and not Scriptural.
It was a season of change for all of us, to say the least.
Just before we left for the camp, I got a phone call from my Dad. He hadn’t planned to call me on this trip (pre-cell phone days!), and he must have gone to a lot of trouble to find a phone number to the apartment where I was staying, so I knew this had to be something important.
“Sweetie, your granddad’s passed away.”
“They found him at the car lot (that he owned), and we don’t know what caused it, but the funeral is in a few days. You don’t have to, but you can come home if you want.”
A long pause. A blur. I sat down. “Uh… wow. is Mom ok?”
“She’ll be ok, sweetie.”
More pausing. Staring at the wild pattern on the wallpaper. A tear formed in the corner of my eye.
“Do I need to decide right now?”
“Yeah, sweetie, I need to get you a flight if you’ll make it.”
Another tear pushed the first tear down my cheek. I thought about my granddad, and how he’d taught me some of the chords I’d just been strumming on my guitar as I learned these songs for the Russian kids. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
“Dad… is it ok if I stay?”
“I think you should if you think you should. We want you to do what God wants. The family will understand.”
I was weak with shock.
I had no idea what kind of prayer life was about to take root in me.
As we arrived at the camp, we traded bathrooms with indoor plumbing for a gigantic cement building with about 20 holes in the floor and a basement full of human waste. We traded tubs for group showers. We traded the amazing cuisine of the Ukrainian housewives for the camp slop, which was the same everyday. We traded air conditioning for the moods of the sun and wind. I traded my excellent city adventure replete with city parks and art and translators, for a field on a beachfront miles from civilization.
This trip was starting to cost me something.
The kids began to roll into the camp, and week after week we played soccer, built sand castles on the shore of the Black Sea, and each morning I led worship on my guitar and sang the Russian version of “Soon and Very Soon” (we are going to see the King). Ha! I hope that song’s in your head now.
Without anyone to talk to, and with the knowledge that my family was hurting, I was growing lonely. I began to question my purpose in being at this camp. I was certainly not able to speak much to anyone, or in what I deemed to be an effective way. I just played soccer all day and swam, and tried not to be asphyxiated in the bathroom, and ignored the stares of the Ukrainian women as I wore my bathing suit to the group showers.
I certainly didn’t feel like I was “ministering”.
Then God began to pull on my heart in a way I had never experienced. Since I had a whole summer ahead of me, I knew I needed to figure out how to survive, so I began to pray when I felt this pull. At first for myself. For emotional survival. Then, I realized I should also pray for the kids. As I began to pray for them each by name, I began to feel such a love for the kids. Holy Spirit began to move on me in ways I had not known. On occasion my heart would just burn with the burden to pray, and words would not come to me. Only one other time had this happened before, but I began to pray in tongues. I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t advertise it, but it felt right.
This was fulfilling and all, but camp just seemed to be dragging on.
Then one night it happened.
Every camp has them. The bold, cute boy, the class clown that all the girls swoon over and all the other boys emulate. The one that challenges authority at every turn and is always having to be put in place.
After a gospel service, he marched right up to the front, knelt down to receive prayer, and waited. In the Russian Orthodox practice, the minister would normally go lay hands on the head of a person who did this and pray for them, beginning the official recognition of their salvation and Christianity. The only problem was, this was a boy, not an 18 year old adult.
No one knew what to do.
Anatoliy looked over at his wife. She looked over at me. I shrugged. We looked at the boy.
He was crying. This was real.
What I witnessed after this will go down in the top ten moments of my life, no matter how many other moments I have.
Anatoliy walked over to him, laid his hands on him, and began to pray.
This was the first time I witnessed the overthrow of a tradition in favor of the Spirit of truth. Anatoliy, who is still in leadership at this church today, risked his entire ministry “career” for this kid who had been the thorn in his flesh all summer. He stepped out and took a risk, and he changed the rules right then and there. I knew him to be a man under authority, and even in my embryonic understanding of church government back then, I knew he could be in some hot water if the church back home didn’t approve of this step. But he did it anyway, because the movement of the Holy Spirit was palpable and undeniable.
And because this kid was who he was, almost all the other kids in the camp came down to the front, and it turned into one big mass salvation service.
What we all learned there that night, was that when the structures of man get out of the way, the Holy Spirit will move and God can build his Kingdom.
This was the moment I learned about revolution.
It was an appropriate first lesson in ministry for me, and it has proven to be a starting place for a strong theme in my life. Interestingly enough, so far I’ve discovered that the price doesn’t change. There is always a personal cost: some overcoming of fear, some humbling circumstances, and maybe some loneliness, but it is always, always, always, worth the trouble to watch the Kingdom of God grow in size and strength.
How about you? Have you ever been on a trip that changed you? I’d love to hear your story.
June 25, 2012 7 Comments
I was so fiercely independent, I didn’t know if I’d ever marry.
I’d heard so many horror stories of perfectly capable women marrying men who needed to box them in to feel like a leader, or hero, or conqueror, or something. I just couldn’t let that become my story. Better is no love at all than a bad love for this chick.
I’m the choleric type. If I want it done right, I prefer to do it myself.
I always preferred to hold the rail over a hand outstretched when stepping down from a height.
I’m strong, creative, unafraid. Don’t hold me back. DO NOT tie me down, and definitely do not suffocate me with grabs for constant attention.
Not all of these things are the right way to be; not all of these things remain true about me.
But never, was I ever, going to turn my life into a bachelorette show with intentional gaps of weakness left in my character so a man could rescue a damsel he’d eventually find out wasn’t really in distress after all.
If he was afraid of my strength, he was wrong for me anyway. If he needed to be needed, he needed a sissy for a wife instead of me.
I was almost convinced I’d never marry because I could never become a petite chirpy little thing with fluttery eyes and question marks floating around my head.
Then I met him.
Unafraid of my strength, proud of my ambition and happy to give me room to move.
The phlegmatic, methodical type, quietly doing things right while I bark about what’s wrong.
Creative, unique, and strongly intentional about becoming untethered from the systems of man.
He came complete with his own high aims at turning life into an open field where dreams get planted and grow strong and bear great shade. With desires for his life to be a place where soil is enriched with Truth, where he can help others plant their own dreams.
He’s not independent, just freedom-minded. For everyone. Including me.
He said he’d thought a lot about a wife, and what he wanted in her, over the last 30 years. And a lot about being a husband, and what that meant for him, as well. He said he’d been looking for what I had to offer.
His quiet spirit and calm posture quickly showed me he was stronger than me. And maybe smarter, too. I could also see he had no need to prove it, one way or the other. He despises competition.
This kind of scared… but excited… me.
Nothing I could say about who I am and want to be deterred him. In fact, it only seemed to draw him in.
I really tried to shake him, but Something wouldn’t let me.
And with these things cleared up, magically, there was a hand that enticed me to hold it. Because I thought perhaps it might always be there, and it might be ok to become conditioned to a little help. I might not need the rail again after having held this much warmer and softer support.
I might like to see where this was going.
Had all this independence even been real? Was this about security after all?
For me to trust a man, I needed a man who wanted all of me. Who agreed with God about my kind of beauty, and didn’t want to inhibit my strength. I needed a man who wanted to combine our powers, unify our vision, and press me to pursue new heights of my own already existing gifts. I needed a man who was proud of what I had done with myself so far, who would take his place as my equal+leader, and who wanted to add his strength to mine to make us both better.
It’s not that our relationship is all about me, but for trust to be given, you have to know the other person shares your vision of who you are. It doesn’t get past “being about you” until that barrier of trust is crossed.
As marriage grows on, I am learning some things about who I thought I was.
I wasn’t independent, or at least not as much as I thought. I was afraid. I was afraid of losing myself. I was semi-conscious of the goodness in me, but I didn’t think anyone could see it but me. So I protected myself from love, because it looked like more of a threat to my value than a promise to increase it. And my value was fragile enough as it was.
I’m not sure that’s something I could have learned without living it out.
But I do know this – the kind of trust I never thought possible between two human beings, is growing more real and tangible every day to me.
And now, because of that trust, I have someone who can help create boundaries for me. Who even tells me “no” on occasion, and can explain why that’s really what I want anyway. Who helps it make sense when I need to wait, or stop and get my timing right. I’ve come to welcome it, because it’s all said with so much love in his eyes, my heart held carefully in his words.
For the first time, I’m experiencing the freedom called commitment, and it’s the most powerful sense of liberty I’ve ever had.
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.” – Psalm 16:6
June 14, 2012 10 Comments
This Spring I participated in Pray 40, a forty day prayer campaign for our city.
This is an annual initiative of the Austin Bridge Builders Alliance (ABBA), in which we simply pray for God to bring more redemption to the Greater Austin area. I threw my hat in the ring to help promote the idea of a city-wide prayer campaign by hosting a 40 day video blog series on this site and my YouTube channel.
For my participation in the campaign, I marked out what I felt were 40 key locations in Austin, and planned to go on site and pray. Each day, I took my iPhone and shot a 2 or 3 minute video where I would release a spontaneous prayer for that part of the city and uploaded it to YouTube for others to join in and agree with. It was a lot of fun and I really grew in my love for the city and my belief for her redemption.
If you are like me, as people of prayer, we don’t often get to see the direct results of our efforts. In fact, much of the time, if our prayers are effective, there will be no real circumstantial evidence to prove it so. Your friend will have a safe trip, your parents’ health will be well, your marriage will stay strong, etc. Praying for good things to stay good is one thing. But when we step out into faith a bit more and pray for evil to be overcome by good, we open ourselves up to the opportunity to see some things happen. Cancer goes away, jobs are found, and relationships are restored. Even greater risks of faith are taken when we pray for a city or nation, where most things we’d like to see change are outside of our personal reach to do anything about.
It’s a real treat when we get the opportunity to see the answer to our prayers manifest in a tangible way, but, maybe to my discredit, it’s not something I often actively expect, and I didn’t hold those expectations for this campaign.
On Day 12 of the video blog series, I had Dan drive me down to Austin’s Sixth Street, an area renowned as one of the city’s hot destinations for young people because of its many bars and live music. In general I don’t see it as a huge problem for a city to have a street like that, where entertainment and celebrating life is the goal. But where much alcohol and partying happens, the darker angels of humankind tend to tread, and celebrations of life can quickly become doors to death. Opportunities lay waiting for those who get out of control to step into a new realm of darkness. As a result, Sixth Street, to the locals, is also known for its extreme problems with drug dealing, violent crime, and homelessness. There have been, over the past few years, attempts by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and city officials to establish a new presence composed of businesses and upscale restaurants to attract a bit of a different crowd because of these problems.
In my prayer, which I considered at the time to be a bumbly mess of free-form thinking without much direction, I simply prayed, among other things, that righteous business models would spring up and a blessing would visit the streets. Check it out:
It’s not very impressive, is it?
It wasn’t a long prayer, or prayed with much gusto, but, I did mean it.
About a week after the Pray 40 campaign was over, I came across an article on the Austin Statesman website that lit me up with excitement. It was one of those rare moments where something in you knows that God just let you in on being a part of something bigger than you. In this case, something that would bring redemption and righteousness to Sixth street.
What I read was that investigators had linked an Austin nightclub owner and his associates to drug deals, weapons purchases, ties to a prison gang and a militant Islamic group (Hezbollah), and even a potential link to an unsolved homicide. In the course of this investigation, 9 nightclubs, many of them on 6th street, and all in the same area, have been closed down.
Righteousness had visited the streets, and the answer to my prayer was in the news.
I’m obviously not the first person to pray for this part of our city. I can’t take sole credit for this small victory. And clearly, a lot more prayer is needed, because this is not full redemption. But it’s undeniable that something happened to open the eyes of these investigators, and evil has been overcome with good. I got to tip a bowl that happened to be full, and it was a super huge treat for this kid!
It’s not in God’s nature to rejoice over the downfall of any of His children. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and love does not delight in evil. Mercy always wins over judgment, and redemption is my heart toward the individuals involved in this case. But this was a necessary removal of evil from our city, and it had a domino effect of uncovering the answers needed to bring justice in several important scenarios in our city, including an unsolved murder.
I share all of this with you because it’s my hope that the next time you pray for a city or nation, you will have just a little more faith to believe for victory over a darkness that can often seem intimidating and too powerful to be overcome.
Your prayers need not be eloquent or overstated to be effective. They just need to be released from your heart, where faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
It’s fun when you get to help tip a bowl of heaven’s justice out upon the earth, and it’s important to keep filling the bowls if we’ll see His Kingdom come on the earth, as it is in heaven.
June 13, 2012 2 Comments
“If you live in your memories, you’re already dead.”
Yesterday I went with a few friends to see For Greater Glory. You really should go see it – not only will you be emotionally challenged, you’ll learn some (probably) overlooked history from Mexico’s heritage that relates pertinently to today’s political drama between the Catholic church and the current White House administration. It’s a very intriguing flick with many points of inspiration, and this quote about memories is just one of the many potentially life-altering lines in this movie.
It’s had me thinking a lot for the last 24 hours about how much energy I can often subconsciously give to the weight of a memory, and how effortlessly I can find myself looking in the rearview at my life.
Whether I am trying to right a wrong gone by, looking for the words I should have said to make a point that’s past, or reliving a victory from another day’s triumph, I nearly always return to the present feeling that I’ve just been taken for a ride and wondering how I got there. More often than not, I am either angry about the past or discouraged about today, and that’s compounded with annoyance at myself for wasting time feeling that way! You know what I’m getting at? Surely I’m not alone in this.
It’s not that I think all reflection is bad, but I wonder how often we are re-examining the past through the eyes of self-respect and with the inner tone of voice that wants to build us up? How often are we the ones in charge of these little journeys, intentionally digging through some rubble to find a treasure that will help us in the present, versus being ushered unwittingly back through a shameful moment with the great chance that upon our return we will be less certain of ourselves (and the day’s plans)? How often are we strengthening character and actually learning from mistakes, versus returning with doubt about our good qualities?
Are they devil or angel hands that hold ours as we walk down memory lane?
The war over our minds is a very real and present battle. There is a real enemy, with real power, and with very real intentions on making us doubt the good we are and want to do. He wants us uncertain of ourselves, lacking identity, and feeling powerless while he throws his weight around in the form of our own mistakes. If he can make us think less of ourselves, then he can make us think less of our mission, and ultimately less of our God. Then we will fail to make and execute the plans that make a difference – the kind of difference where we overcome evil with Good.
Proverbs 25:28 says,
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit.”
Being in control over our spirit is a full-time responsibility. We often think of self-control in terms of staying out of lust, controlling our budgets, eating better, and generally telling ourselves “no” when our Mom would applaud it.
I don’t think we often measure self-control in the form of staying on topic with the Holy Spirit’s work and message in our lives.
We have such a twisted view of humility that we don’t raise a finger to protect ourselves from mind-trips that weaken our capacity to be used by God as messengers of hope and truth and light to the world. Because the enemy has been able to make us doubt God’s opinion of us, we often cooperate with him and welcome any opportunity to feel like crap about ourselves.
Somehow we’ve become convinced that is a holy posture.
Our memories can either be weapons used against us, or kept under the blood of Jesus, only accessible when the Holy Spirit, our teacher and counselor, wants to bring forth the fruit of lessons learned so they can be used to strengthen us. He’ll only put that fruit on our plate if we can gain nutrition from it and it will give life to our bones in our present battle. The Bible says in multiple ways that God does not hold our sins against us if we’ve asked for forgiveness, and in fact He’d like to keep us as far from them as He can. Why on earth would He want us reliving things that He’s died to omit from our lives? That would be counter-productive to His mission.
Our memories either yield shame or strength, depending on who brings them up.
Take it from Psalms 103,
“As far as the east is from the west, so I have removed your transgressions from you.”
Or 1 John 1:9,
“If you confess your sins, he’s faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from unrighteousness.”
Or Hebrews 8:12,
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
Perhaps my favorite: Acts 2:38,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins and you will receive the Holy Spirit.”
The Re-Mission of sins… mistakes that can be used for good. And the gift of the Holy Spirit… who will aid us in standing guard over our hearts because without His help, it would be impossible to keep a clear head.
All of this because of Love, and because He wants us to live in our present, where His presence gives us life abundantly.
All of this so that we frail beings can spend our energy on believing the best about ourselves, loving our lives, and being used for the heavenly agenda of convincing our friends they, too, are worth something.
Are you struggling with an old memory today? Throw it in the fire and build a memory of triumph out of this day! Be about the good He’s made you to do.
June 12, 2012 5 Comments
1000 Days was a very basic look at the life of Christ. I am thankful that books like this are written to familiarize people with the One Life that can save all lives, because our culture can always use a little more Jesus.
Unfortunately, I hesitate to rave about it.
While it provides a great Cliff’s notes version of the gospels, I was hoping for a deeper dive into the details. I wanted more of Jesus than I already have. I realize that’s a tall order sometimes, but I was hoping for a second-generation pastor’s insightful revelations from the nuances of Scripture, or the science of language to be brought into my already strong foundation on who Jesus was and what He did.
I can forgive that, but I was a bit perturbed as I read on, and I began to see what appears to me to be some additional layers added to scripture that… really aren’t in scripture.
My first slight disagreement came in the first chapter when Falwell states that Jesus didn’t need to provide the ministry of 1000 days, but He did anyway. My antennas went up, wondering, “If he hadn’t provided us an example of how to live among our culture, he’d have a hard time commanding us to make disciples and all that great commission stuff, since we wouldn’t know how.” As I continue to ponder that today, I have to wonder why we only consider these three years to be the “ministry” of Christ. It seems to partition ministry from everyday life, which takes me to the ongoing issue I hold with the division between clergy and laity. There is no priesthood… but I digress.
As the book progresses, Falwell applies what I consider to be his own filters to the beatitudes, such as “blessed are those who mourn over sin, for they will be comforted.” It’s not a false statement, but, really, the Bible just leaves it at “blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” He narrows the Scripture down to only one particular type of mourning, and I take a bit of exception to that, since it is perfectly worthy of God’s comfort if you’re just… mourning… innocently.
These pockets of opinion are all over the book, and it stacks up to what amounts to me as a very slanted view of the ministry and expectations of Christ, so, I can’t really recommend it as a pure read.
My honest opinion is, if you want to know more about Christ, read the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding. You’ll likely come away with less opinion and more truth.
Jonathan Falwell on the Web:
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
June 11, 2012 Leave a comment