wise

We’ve concocted a beautiful little children’s story out of Jesus’ birth.

You have a barn, a mom and dad, and then there are some sheep, donkey, probably some goats and in my mind there has to be a rooster there somewhere. Of course, don’t forget the angel, they are very beautiful in the Christmas pageant every year. There are some raggedy shepherds too, naturally they smell awful.

The fact that Jesus’ birth can be brought into the lives of children in a visual way that makes them excited every year is wonderful. But as we grow older, I think we have a tendency to get too comfortable with that version of Jesus’ birth.

Some of the events surrounding his appearance in our world were life and death. Herod killed every single boy that was two years and younger in all of Bethlehem and its vicinity. It was a massacre. How the parents must have felt as the soldier forced their way through the town, killing as they went house to house.

It’s intriguing how God chose shepherds for the angel to appear in front of on that hillside. They were the lowest of low, the dirtiest of the dirty. People avoided them because they smelled of sheep. And they were terrified when an angel appeared to them, who wouldn’t be, honestly? Yet, they have the highest honor of an angel appearing with news of the Messiah.

Finally, my favorite part of the nativity scene as an adult…the wise men.

Somehow over the last several years, God has morphed that imagine of kings on camels majestically coming into the presence of the baby Jesus into this beautiful image of men so full of hope for God to restore the world and so full of faith to travel thousands of miles to see the Messiah in person. Men who were most likely proclaimed as crazy by those who knew why they were following a star to an unknown destination. They chose extreme risks in their adventure over continued study of the scriptures. They chose to hope with reckless abandon.

If these wise men were high and mighty where they came from, at the feet of baby Jesus they find themselves in complete humility and in awe of the honor of physically being present with the Messiah.

I see them as dusty and road weary. Exhausted, but supernaturally energized at the prospect of seeing the Messiah they had only read about in the scrolls of the prophets. They had traveled a long way to reach that point in the journey. How many different animals had they ridden? How many miles had they walked? How many new experiences had they had? How many challenges did the face? Or attempted robberies on the road?

The wise men put a lot of faith in hope in following their maps and the stars for thousands of miles. I could never imagine every challenge they faced on this crazy adventure as they crossed in and out of new cultures.

The star the wise men followed was hope that they carried with them for a new world, and a hope that carried them through a long journey.

That hope is just as real today as it was thousands of years ago. The wise men must have had so many questions and a million reasons to turn back, but they put their trust in how God spoke through the prophets. They remained focused on the one God who would send a man to redeem creation, and bring all back to the heart and grace of the one who sent him.

May you embrace the supernatural hope, extreme adventure and tunnel vision to Jesus today as you embrace inspiration from three wise (albeit crazy) men.

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life

Life is precious. Life is beautiful. Life is also undeserved, and most of us throw away the gift of life that was given.

Today is a day you have a new opportunity to grab life by the horns. Refocus. Renew. Center around a new purpose.

I saw so many faces at church today that blessed me. Some admitted they had been absent for too long. Others just reflected the same joy in seeing familiar faces.

It was a community coming together under the roof of their house.

But also let me add that its not about just coming to the community ‘home’ on a certain time every week…its about using that community to support you as you live out what God is teaching you through your community.

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My Chaco clad feet merged with a Haitian orphan.

I wish that I could better convey to people the joy, excitement, hope, grace, peace and adventure they could claim if they centered their life around Christ. But instead so many of us add him on to the busyness this world gives us, and hope that it all works out ok.

I can no more make that choice for them that God can. Because, Lord knows, he wants all to choose his life. We just let this world cloud our Kingdom vision.

What God has given each one of ua is our life story to share. Or struggles and pain. Our heart and what God has been teaching us. Similar circumstance that might draw someone’s heart closer to the Healer.

Are you sharing your life story? Are you living the life that your resurrected and eternal Savior has gifted you?

Today we are reminded that we are a resurrected people. The true question is…will you live your life with the hope and promise Christ has given you through his sacrifice?

blessed

I thrive on relationships. I have a lot of friends, and the stories about how we became friends are pretty awesome. But today as I am reflecting on being blessed…I want to share one of those stories, so hang with me!

Fourteen years ago..whoa…fourteen years ago, I had just lost the friend that I’d written about in ‘water.’ Following that loss I went on my first mission trip. Three of those who happened to be going I’d been leaning on throughout my emotional turmoil. I felt safe, 3 people knew what was going on and knew I was intensely struggling, but they would help me when I needed it. I’d be ok.

Until one night while I was waiting to talk to one of the guys after his shower. I was sitting on the gym floor and one of our other teammates walked passed me.

She was funny, yet quiet and we’d found out on the drive out that when she slept, her eyes were creepishly open. It really freaked me out. No one really knew her, but looking back we were both on that trip for a reason.

As she passed me on the gym floor, she turned around and said, ‘Are you ok?’

I gave the customary, ‘Oh, yah. Just waiting for someone to get out of the shower.’

Then…she gave me this look. She is quite good at it, and still good at it because I just got it last week.

A head tilt, coupled with a long look squinting from the corner of her of her eye. ‘Are you sure?’ she said. She knew, just knew that I was definitely not ok and cared enough to push me on it. She has cared enough ever since, and now we always say to one another ‘What haven’t I asked that I should be asking?’

Somehow, I found it in me to trust her. It had to of been supernatural, because I was all trusted out at the moment…but my story flew out of my mouth. When my friend got out of the shower, he stopped and said, ‘Everything ok here?’ And when I confirmed it was good, he left us alone.

As I was gushing fountain of words and tears, she sat there…just listening and nodding and offering words of wisdom and encouragement.

Once all my words were gone, she quietly said, ‘I’m having a hard time right now, too, because it’s almost been a year since my mom died.’

My heart dropped. Partly because I knew my problems did not exceed the lost of a mother. And partly because she was the first one I’d run across at college who would know something of where I was coming from. Someone who could walk with me through the most trying time of my entire life. Someone who would be loyal and carry all of my secrets with her. Someone who would listen, and someone who would call me out in a productive way when I needed it.

For the duration of our college years it was a foundation built on a gym floor that blessed me with the most amazing friend who would drop anything if I called or showed up saying I needed to go for a car ride. Which was our code for I am completely emotionally unstable, and I need to get away from people or I’m going to lose it.

Her Ford Taurus saw a lot of tears, and a lot of happiness. I will never forget hearing when it came out on the radio, MercyMe’s song ‘I Can Only Imagine.’ We were in the car on the way back from volunteering with our church youth group. We both ended up bawling because we could imagine what it would be like to be with our friends and family members we’d lost, and wanted it more than anything. For a while when we were going on separate road trips, it was, ‘No car wrecks, and no dying because we have to be in the same car.’

We both had trust issues. We both were not your ‘normal’ girly girl. And we both were trying to do our best to walk in the path of Jesus. And still are…

We did a Bible Study one year that now results in our sharing a knowing look, and laugh when it comes up. It was on female roles in the Bible, and you could say we like to push the traditional boundaries. But we did it together, and whatever we did together we were able to make it through.

We road tripped to Montana one summer…middle of the night, screaming lyrics at the top of our lungs to stay awake.

That gym floor was holy ground. No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise. God created a friendship on that floor that has lasted 14 years, and will continue to go on and on.

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The last several years have been hard, especially since I suck at talking on the phone. I live in Missouri, and she and her husband have lived in Florida and now Utah.

But every. single. time. Every time, we are together, it is as if we have been next door neighbors the whole year long. She is one of the few people who truly know me…from the whole Jesus start through the mission call to now.

We were sitting at breakfast on Saturday morning before I left and her husband said something about ‘Steph doesn’t ever get mad.’ She burst out laughing and said, ‘What? You’ve never seen her lose her temper? It’s ugly. She’s good until people keep pushing her, but once you’ve pushed her too far…watch out.’ And she is completely right about my temper, because she knows me.

It is an absolute blessing to know and be known. I thrive in being known, because I can be myself and know others can appreciate how far God has taken me. I consider all of our adventures treasured memories, knowing that we have so many more to tuck under our belts.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. [Proverbs 18:24]

I am blessed beyond imagine for a lot of things…and I’ve hit the jackpot multiple times in the friend department. And for that I am incredibly grateful to the Lord I serve.

live

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe…

Breath is life for our bodies. Without it…we are nothing.

Life giving oxygen, but as much as our bodies might be living…the world is a dull grey with foggy outlines without the love of God filling our souls turning our world into vivid colors and sharpening our vision into fantastic shapes.

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]

IMG_0717Living before belief should be drastically different than living after belief in Jesus. Things change. Vision shifts. Love becomes recklessly breathless.

I was hanging out with some Junior High students last Wednesday, and the question came up…how do you really live your life? LIVE it…not just taking in breath.

When I asked them, ‘How do you really LIVE your life?’ I was met with silence.

That’s a hard question for adults, and paralyzing for most teenagers who cannot see beyond the weekend. Yet a justifiable question everyone should ask themselves.

Maybe the more forward way to ask it is, how are you wasting the time you’ve been given to live, not simply exist…but to live?

Paul lived with no regrets…constantly urging his readers to live the same. But his version of ‘living’ didn’t include a bucket list or making a lot of money, and it certainly didn’t include the comfort we claim as necessity.

Paul lived an adventure. Paul lived freely the life God transformed him to live. He lived by the Spirit. More to the point…compelled by the Spirit.

 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. [Acts 20:22-24]

I fully recognize Paul lived for something unique, and for something that most consider ‘of the Bible’ not of our ‘time.’ But does that mean we completely dismiss his way of living?

Ultimately dismissing his way of living for his Savior?

I choose to live for my Savior, and while that means a lot of things…it does mean living spontaneously, sometimes even completely by the seat of my pants Holy Spirit spontaneity. It means living by radically loving others. It means people looking in confusion at choices I make. It means living with laughter that is too loud. It means living in community with others living sent lives.

Breathe in God’s life giving peace, joy, love, compassion, kindness…hope…

Breathe out God’s Kingdom breath.