Growing through your past

On Wednesday of this week, I had the opportunity to speak to our moms group on anything I wanted to talk about. I chose the topic of our past, and how it effects us in the here and now.   The 3 books that I relied on as I prepared were: Making Peace with Your Past (Wright), The Wounded Heart (Allender), and Instruments in the Redeemers Hands (Tripp).

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Instruments:

“We aren’t just struggling with the horrors of our past, but with how we deal with them. If sin is part of our nature, we will always be dealing not only with our personal history, but with how sin distorts the way we handle it. Help will only come as we deal with our past and our own sin. This is essential because sinners tend to respond sinfully to being sinned against. This is why the only hope for us is a Redeemer. We cannot step out of our sinfulness. We need more than love and encouragement, information and insight. We need rescue. Anything less will not address what is really wrong with us.

“Sin complicates what is already complicated. Life in a fallen world is harder than God ever intended, yet our sin makes it worse. We deal with much more than suffering, disease, disappointment, and death. Our deepest problem is not experiential, biological, or relational; it is moral, and it alters everything. It distorts our identity, alters our perspective, derails our behavior, and kidnaps our hope.

“The good news of the kingdom of God is not freedom from hardship, suffering and loss. It is the news of a Redeemer who has come to rescue me from myself. His rescue produces change that fundamentally alters our response to these inescapable realities. The Redeemer turns rebels into disciples, fools into humble listeners. He makes cripples walk again.

He changes us, he allows us to be part of what he is doing in our own lives.   As you respond to the Redeemer’s work in your life, you can learn to be an instrument in his hands.” That’s the goal in the Christian life, I believe—in the here and now—to be an instrument in the Redeemers hands. But the work that it takes to make us USEABLE instruments, can be hard work. And we simply get too comfortable with our own “sin” patterns, to want to give them up. (paraphrased)

These are my thoughts as I remember Dan Allender’s threefold process for healing your wounded heart:  

We say, Jesus is the answer, and He is – but what does that looked like fleshed out?

How do we “put on Christ” – how do we unite with Christ in his suffering? How do we work out our salvation with fear and trembling?”

  • Honesty
  • Repentance
  • Bold Love

Without Jesus, it is impossible to get truly honest. Our hearts will continue to deceive us.

Without Jesus, there is no one to repent to who has the power to cleanse our minds and hearts and souls.  Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we will feel no need to repent.

Without Jesus, we will never figure out how to love others well.

So, with Jesus, what does this threefold process looked like?

Honesty, with Jesus: I think this looks like taking responsibility for the way we sinfully respond to adversity.

Sin destroys right-thinking.

Repentance, with Jesus: We go to him and confess and ask forgiveness for the way we sinfully respond.

Repentance is the most freeing act! We repent, He cleanses. He restores. We may still live with consequences in some measure – but he restores – he doesn’t want us living under the yolk of condemnation. Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

The main consequence for not dealing with your past is this:

A stunted spiritual growth.

When we continue in this role of victim and blamer, – we can’t see past our noses. It doesn’t just stunt our spiritual growth – it stunts our emotional growth as well. You can possess all the knowledge in the world and still be incredibly UNWISE. Wisdom and smarts are 2 separate things, and without getting real with who you are and who Jesus is, wisdom will not happen. Wisdom comes from the Lord.

When we get honest and repent, we are met with bold love. We are met with mercy and grace and forgiveness.

You are learning “to respond differently not out of your strength and ability alone but through his power and presence. Jesus believes in your ability to accomplish a new way of interacting with others. He wants you to be a new person, to develop the potential God has endowed you with, and to be more effective for the cause of Christ.” [Wright]

“Wounds limit you. They diminish your capabilities.  But they will heal if they are treated correctly.” [Wright]

Wounded people are overly sensitive.

“The gospel makes it possible to escape over-sensitivity, defensiveness, and the need to criticize others.” (Tim Keller)

So!

The question to ask ourselves daily, as we are confronted with hardship and suffering and being sinned against is this:

Am I living in light of the gospel of Christ? When the answer is often no, its time to get honest, repent and love boldly.

at 100+

i saw this on pinterest this morning… it came to my email… i’m glad that pinterest thinks i would like it … cuz i do … very much … if i make it to 105, i hope you will find me at my wheel most days … and if i make it to 105, i trust my “theme verse” will say:

I Owe It All To Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Another year older

About this time 58 years ago, I was born.  I hear it was an easy birth.  My mother reminds me that I was an easy child.  No wonder my theme song is “I’m Easy,” by the Commodores. You could take that wrong.  But don’t.

So, while my dearest husband on the planet has a prolonged snooze this morning – I’ve been reflecting on the year.  It’s been wild and crazy.  Yet beautiful and glorious.  I’ve had to pause a few times during my “writing the Lord” and write a few humans just to say thank you.

I wrote my old boss, Ric, who hired me 23 years ago.  I wanted to tell him how much of a God-instrument he has been in my life.  You see, he “ordered” me to take care of two international women – one that came a few years back – and to this day – we are still beautiful friends.  The other came this past spring.  She came from Indonesia – and I  think my former vocation lasted just long enough to bring her into my life.  Both of these women are coming over tonight to help me celebrate 58 —  bringing dinner and a chick flick.

I wrote three friends thanking them for last night.  I enjoyed last night.  I’ll back up a bit:   I had the desire to preach on “holiness” as being God’s will for the life of his daughters.  And my new ministry leader gladly accepted my offer to lead the evening mom’s group.   Now, I thought my birth date was a secret to this new group I’m a part of and I was  prepared to preach my heart out – with the help of God and his prayer warriors.  But then my G’town BFF – being part of the plan – delayed my walk over to the ‘birdhouse’ – where we found it pitch dark.  That should have given it away – but I can be dense.  This new group, that I have grown awfully fond of,  surprised me with singing and cake and silliness.  Our group leader – a former youth director – is filled with silliness.  I turned into my Aunt Vic (I noticed this after I saw the video of my reaction) and was delighted by their thoughtfulness.

But can I just tell you about this group?  They have filled me with joy in the presence of God.  It has provided me with some true intimacy among women this year and has allowed me to be fulfilled in one of the overall desires of my heart – which is to be used in ministry by Jesus.  I’ve written all their names down in my God-letter this day.

Then there’s my church!  Often we humans can focus on how un-Christ-like “the church” can be.  But not my church.  In this season of transition – I can’t begin to tell you how gracious and loving they have been.  To me.  And, to my husband – who still claims “staff status.”  All the pastoral and parishioner visits have brought joy into our home.

Then there is this saint who was in my life back in our St. Louis days. I haven’t written her yet, but I will.  I can’t even write this without tears flooding my face.  She has been to me an instrument in the Redeemers Hands this year.  She stepped in to a tragedy and turned it into a cup of gladness.  She was the one who personified “who can make trouble when You send me peace.”   She showed me that the God I serve is a God who sees and takes notice – and longs to be lavish with his children.

And then there is my studio.  I get to sit at a wheel for several hours every day if I desire – and discover what it means to be a potter.  This week, the Lord showed me one of the biggest requirements/attributes that is needed for a potter.  And it is ‘gentleness.’  I am not gentle.  I ding my bowls with my carelessness  – it happens too often and too quickly.  But it has made me ponder this week just how gentle God is – and has been all year with me.  He has turned my sorrow (over losing a vocation that I loved) into rejoicing.  He has brought me to higher ground.  He has given me a ministry where I am made to feel loved and valued.  He has put a new song in my mouth – that I get to sing and dance to daily in my studio or in my morning sanctuary (which is my living  room).  He has rejoiced over me with such goodness and mercy – and I rejoice in him with thanksgiving and worship.

 

 

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Talent Show – a prayer-filled review

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photo-32Oh Lord. Lo davirm indeed. Thank you for last night. The joy that now floods my soul for an evening of community. And love. And fellowship. And delightful children and adults with talent.

It was an evening to remember. And perhaps before I forget anything, I should give a record for the joy that is in me—beginning with my newest Gastonia BFF Alex, who writes music and sings so very beautifully. Yet she began with a belly button song that was priceless. She’s adorable. Thank you for giving me Alex this year. May you continue to flood her soul with your joy and wisdom. She is indeed a soul sister.

Then Ana. (Aaaaah-na to me). She has a beautiful voice! It reminded me of Lily’s. Oh so soothing. She is fun! Lord, thank you for bringing her to us. Prosper her so that she may have a dynamite ministry in your name one day. Yes, she also closed the show with a seminary Spears number that was so fun and clever. She’s gifted. Thank you for gifting her.

And then came a new talent that I knew nothing about until a couple weeks ago – Keith & Olivia Ginn. Oh so very beautiful – and fun (Ikea! Ha!) – and talented! Lord! That was such a pretty song (Blessed Be The Tie)! I could listen to it in eternity. Such a dear couple who truly added grace to the evening.

So, now it’s going to get fuzzy.

Because I can’t remember the order.

But the Lee children! Oh my! What discipline and talent. What a family. Lord, they are beautiful and adorable and excellent. Whatsover is pure, lovely, admirable … surely Hann and Hazel are teaching them such things. I’d love to witness their family life.

And Lucas! Now with his brother Caleb – doing an adorable skit. Makes me giggle remembering them. Lucas is a treat for every show. Thank you for giving me the Browns for a long time. They are forever friends and I never want to lose that. Lily’s voice is perhaps my favorite voice in all the world – and you gave her to me for a long time. She sang an Easter song that silenced the hollers. Amazing how we can go from nonsense to reverence when Lily sings. Prosper them and bless them beyond their wildest dreams. That’s the thing, holy God, the people who participate in the show are truly exceptional in character and not just talent – that is what I see. There is this humility to their talent that impresses me greatly.

Then Elihe and Erin! Oh my. They are growing in grace and talent before our very eyes! Lord! That was incredible! And beautiful and difficult – and then the duet along with cello & violin – lo davrim (that’s no words in Hebrew) – I’m glad they love this show as much as I do. I can always count on them to step it up – and they did so in abundance last night.

Milling! Oh so adorable. Milling is a new pianist who played a number called Say Cheese. It was delightful, which matched her smile and enthusiasm and personality. Oh I’d love to be friends with this delightful girl. I think I’ll work at making that happen!

And that back table! Pedro, John, and Travis among others! Cracking me up! Because they hollered and rooted for them all with great zeal.   And what a Student Council!  Many of them showed up at 4:00 to help with the meal and twinkling décor. I’m going to enjoy this council. They are truly servant leaders, who desire seminary community, and are willing to make that happen.

Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit for gracing my vocation with such joy and blessing.

 

 

#40 Anxiety

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Three days from now I will finish a Philippians study with a few fabulous women at seminary. I’ve known most of them for only three short months, yet in that time they have become forever friends—friends I plan to spend eternity with—an eternity that hopefully involves downhill snow skiing—at least occasionally.

The topic for Monday night is twofold: anxiety and contentment. I taught it this summer to an older group of lovely women at my church. In that group I was the youngest—in this group I am the oldest. I am having a little anxiety of my own trying to decide how to teach on the very same subject that I taught on three months ago. Because, our anxiety and contentment issues are surely different when we are in our twenties, than when we are in our nineties. (Yes, I had two ninety-something year old women in Bible study this summer, who I also hope to snow ski with in eternity).

I plan to start our evening by asking: What brings you anxiety? I’m curious to see what they say. For when I asked this question to the older group, they gave answers such as: the health of my husband, my children don’t know Jesus, friends or family members out of work, and living with chronic pain. These are all legitimate, anxiety-producing issues. If I’m to be honest with myself and God, I have worried over these same issues in various seasons of my own life.   And, yes, there is some tinge of anxiety every time I lead or teach a group of women.

But all anxieties are not created equal. Some are debilitating and some are just annoying and evaporate quickly. Like this “chronic pain” issue—that one stays with me. But after I teach—whether I think I’ve done my Savior justice or totally floundered in my words—my anxiety is over.

My husband thinks I have no anxiety—ever. He wishes I had just a little—the kind needed to keep yourself safe from danger—or a wife who cares just a little about what others may think of her housekeeping abilities.

But for many, anxiety is a very serious issue.  And because I have little to no anxiety, perhaps I’m not the one that can speak to this subject. Or, I could flip that around, and say because I have little to no anxiety, I am the perfect person to bear witness to anxiety-free living. Personally, however, I attribute my anxiety levels to being a gift from God. And I am certain that the minute I was to take credit for a lack of anxiety, I would become a very anxious-ridden soul.

Expert or not, here’s what I think perpetuates an anxious heart:

We think too much of ourselves, and too little of God.

So, if I may elaborate …

One, we navel gaze … in other words, we worry too much about what others think of us and how we come across to those we think are thinking about us.  (My husband loves to remind his clients–and me as well–that people really aren’t thinking about you nearly as much as you think they are.)

And two, we think we know what’s best for our lives.  We think we have life figured out and know what we want. Yet we often want the wrong things, and when we don’t get what we think we want, we pout or become mad at God or others. So, when we rely on others to make us happy instead of relying on God and his infinite wisdom for our lives, what we get is an anxious heart.

I think our biggest problem is that we still haven’t discovered how incredible, mighty, lavish and holy our great God is.

We know what our wretched self is capable of—yet we care little about trying to fix the serious flaws that render us ineffective and unproductive toward lasting change. And we know way too little about how mind-blowing God can be in our lives IF we would  surrender EVERYTHING into his powerful hands. He is in the details. He does know that we hurt. He does know that our children are still very far from him. BUT the fabulous truth is that he not only knows, he also cares and he is also near. He has never left you or forsaken you, not for a minute. But sadly, we stay ignorant of this knowledge, and continue to run our own agendas, inviting God into the mix when things aren’t going our way.

I think Calvin was right to start his Institutes with “knowing ourselves and knowing God.” For when we are honest about who we are—with a repentant heart—and seek—with that repentant heart—to know God as he reveals himself to us—in His Word, through Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit—in the smallest details of our everyday lives—I do believe we will get smaller, He will get bigger, and our anxieties will diminish.

It’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. But it surely wouldn’t hurt to try.

p.s. I greatly appreciated the wisdom from two books on these topics:  Tim Lane, Worry Free Living, and Bill Barcley, The Secret of Contentment.  I read them this summer in preparation for Philippians chapter four, and I thoroughly enjoyed them both.  I whole-heartedly agree with their godly perspective on the topics of anxiety and contentment.

#39 Tom’s Boots

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tom bootsMy husband, Tom, has a pair of genuine cowboy boots. His former cowboy boss and dear friend, Rex Dunlap, personally measured his foot in his office about 40 years ago. Yes, they are custom made. Tom’s initials are embroidered on the sides and at least one reptile lost its life in the making of these very cherished boots. I’ve witnessed the wearing of these boots. Once. We were with Rex and JoAn, walking a trail (more like a gravel road) in the mountains of Arizona 32 years ago. That’s the first and last time I’ve seen my husband put these boots on. That night, I had to peel them off his feet with as much strength as I could muster, thinking, if I ever get these off his feet, I hope he never tries to put them on again.

I’ve been trying to pitch these boots for over 20 years now. I hate clutter. I hate hoarding things I know will never be used again. Things just don’t carry much weight for me.

But they do for Tom. He loves to look at stuff from his past, and remember. They bring him back. He has a cowbell from his cheerleading days; bottles of stuff that remind him of his sales manager days, medals from his army days, pictures of his dance band, pictures of him dancing, awards from his time at Family Preservation, a bowling trophy, Indian Guide vests, and all sorts of soapbox derby memorabilia. That’s my husband. Yes he’s quite the collector. A collector of things that mean the world to him and only him. I think one of the things that keeps him going at 81 is the fear of what will happen to all these things when he departs this earth and enters eternity.

I walk past most of these things every day and just see clutter.

But not yesterday. Even though I don’t identify, I think I’m starting to get it.

And here’s what I got today.   My very dear and precious husband is still going. And not just going, he’s finishing well.  Even though some part of his aging body hurts every hour of every day – he hasn’t given up.

Yesterday, when i saw those boots sitting on a shelf in our garage – the garage I’m ready to turn into a pottery studio – my heart didn’t just see clutter.  It reminded me of a life well lived and still being lived, and remembering a past filled with the mercy of God.  You know that old saying: “He went out with his boots on.” While my husband may not be able to fit into these cherished boots at the moment, for the first time in 32 years I’m thankful they are still here. Because you know what, if he dies before me, I’m going to make sure he goes into the ground with his boots on (or at least in the general vicinity!)

#38 Generosity

I just noticed something I do. Often. During times of study. Or in my morning God-Time.

I keep reading until something so explosive in thought invades my entire being and then I stop. What follows next are combinations of jumping, dancing, hands lifted, feet kicking. That’s the physical part. Internally my mind is being renewed, my heart is becoming strangely warmed, and burdens are minimized to disappearing levels.

At this point, I’m done with my God time – I just can’t go any further – as I simply want to bask in that thought and moment – really feel and experience what I just read – and not let it go away as quickly as it came.

I was there just now.

Without further ramblings here it is: Joy + Poverty = Generosity.

It’s based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 where Paul is referring to the Macedonia churches.

They are joyful and they are impoverished – YET they are generous.

I’m not so sure why this resonates so with my soul at the moment but it does. Perhaps because just this morning I was reading Luke and this passage jumped off the page: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Or, perhaps because I was watching Fox News last night, and hearing Donald Trump speak about his run for President. I don’t know.

But something tells me that the opposite of this beautiful equation also rings a little too true in our present age: “anxiety + wealth = stinginess/never having enough.”

I agree with the liberals and a few conservatives – the divide between the rich and the poor in America is becoming increasingly wide – even though we claim to be a Christian nation – we “Christians” have no qualms about fattening our 401Ks and accumulating “stuff” only to be auctioned off at $2 a box years from now when we are dead and our children are trying to get rid of said-stuff. Can you tell I recently went to another auction? Perhaps that too has something to say about this current track that is running in my head.

These are the messages that make me want to not only declutter – but also repent. I pray they strangely warm your soul as they did mine. And not just warm us or convict us, but also cause us to go out and do something generous for someone who needs to experience Christ-like generosity.

#37 Camp

Scavenger Hunt find: A Shopping Cart in the Woods

Scavenger Hunt find: A Shopping Cart in the Woods

If you could have any vocation on the planet what would it be?

That was the question my husband and I were contemplating just before I graduated from seminary. He assured me that wherever God called me, he would follow too. Just as I had followed him to his beloved state of North Carolina over a decade ago when he graduated from seminary, he was ready to go anywhere the Lord called—preferably near an ocean.

So, in the presence of my husband, and out of the overflow of my heart, I blurted out, “I’d run a camp.” Knowing me all to well, Tom said, “You couldn’t run a camp – you like the city too much.” Again, without much thought, I said, “Then, I’d run an urban camp.”

That conversation took place over 10 years ago. A conversation that God took notice of – a conversation that went into my heart as a pipe-dream desire. And yes, several years after it was flippantly verbalized in the parking lot of the Red Lobster restaurant – my ultimate vocation became a reality.

Now mind you, in His mercy, God indeed put his own spin on the desire of my heart to run a camp. For what He gave me was Brookstone Camp in Charlotte. The camp runs for six weeks in the summer, led by one of my heroes in the faith, Kristy Davis. Kristy could run a camp full time. And after one week of running and planning a camp with a team of friends, I realized quickly, one week was as much as I could handle. But what a week! It’s the best week of my year.

The children are gracious and wild and loving and moldable. What’s not to love about that!? Every night during that week my heart is filled to overflowing.

We sing and we dance,

we listen to godly men speak the truth about God into their lives,

we make joy boxes and write character words on stones,

we teach them how to say Jesus loves you in other languages and to sign the twenty-third Psalm,

we have tea parties and etiquette lessons over scones,

and end the three hours over cheese sticks and cookies while having whole group Bible trivia.

And that’s just some of the things we’ve done over the past three camps we’ve been blessed to participate in.

brookstone

The Little Girls in the Craft Room they decorated

Our week this year is July 20.

Not even a whole week.

Monday through Thursday.

Not even a whole day. 1:00 to 4:00.

I need help. While I love doing this, God did not equip me with all the skills to run a camp. It takes dancers (thank you Kim!), and preachers (thank you Matt!), and story tellers (thank you Aynn & Kristy!), and crafty ones (thank you Wendy!) and organized ones (thank you Julia!) and silly ones and athletes and those who simply love children and love to serve God in the most delightful way.

I need prayer. Even if camp is not your thing – or you are too far away to trek to Charlotte for four days – prayer is essential to pulling off a Christ-centered Fun Camp.

Would love it if you’d consider joining us for a day or more.

The team from year one on Purple Day: Salvation

The team from year one on Purple Day: Salvation