awake

I strongly dislike mornings. If I am awake early, it is purely strong black sludge in a mug that makes me appear human.

Which means I am a night owl. I love the quiet of night, and if you look at the time stamps of when I post you will notice a pattern of time of day when I get my inspiration to write.

There are times that I have the best intentions of going to bed early, then the next thing I know I am still awake past midnight.

I watch TV. I listen to music. I read. I pray. I write. I ponder…a lot.

My brain tries to process the day and who I was with, who did I not see that I need to check in with, what needs to be done tomorrow…the list goes on and on.

But one of the last things that play through my mind while I am still awake are the places that have made a mark on my soul, and changed me.

They take turns. China. Russia. Haiti. Liberia. College. Friendships. Arguments.

Tonight I find myself doing the math as to what time it is in Russia. Right now, the kids are probably studying and it’s almost lunch time. How was their morning? How much snow did they get last night? (This thought is normally followed by a quick check of the weather, which is a snowy 17 and feels like 7 during the day while it is 11 and feels like -3 in KC overnight.) Did they wear the hats and gloves they were so excited about last month? It’s banya (bath) day, who will try to skip and not get caught by caregivers? Sergei is the best bet or maybe Dima S. Is Valya still in the hospital with pneumonia? Has Danil decided to not be as psycho today? Did someone tease Lena and make her sad? Who made Gera smile today? What has Vika drawn? Was Larisa more of a kid or mama today? What new poem has Stas memorized and did the superhero cape get pulled out and worn? Have the boys seen the soccer world cup groupings that came out? Has Dima kept control of his anger issues? Which Americans wrote a letter that might get delivered today by Yulia, our discipler?

These are orphans I know by name. They struggle with most of the same things our kids struggle with, but with the added scars of not being accepted by their culture and living with abandonment issues.

I was being obedient in my calling to international mission when God woke up a huge part of my soul in a small village orphanage with 50 kids, and he’s kept my passion alive for justice ever since.

One of my favorite songs is ‘Wake Up’ by All Sons and Daughters, and it always reminds me of this verse in Ephesians:

‘Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”‘ [Ephesians 5:14]

The chorus of the song is ‘Wake up all you sleepers. Stand up all you dreamers. Hands up all believers. Take up your cross…’

When you lie awake at night, what are you thinking about? What has God made you awake for?

Or better yet…what is God trying to wake you up to…or have you been choosing to press snooze?

The truth is this world is waiting for a lot of believers to wake up. Whether you have believed in the truth of the universal reign of God for an hour, a day, a month or 50 years…too many believers are asleep to the mission impulse God put in each one of us.

It’s there. Dig deep. Maybe chisel down to lay some of your scars bare to find it.

Because this world desperately needs your compassion, discerned words, unconditional love and faith in the world beyond this one.

Choose to be awake.

This post is part of a blog series using the Rethink Church Advent photo-a-day word. If you use Instagram follow #rethinkchurch or #rethinkchristmas.

sing

This week is literally kicking my ass. I feel like I should be walking around wearing a sign that says, ‘Pre-apology: If I snap at you…it has nothing to do with you.’ Then I apologize a LOT. For being late. Snapping at people. Messing stuff up. My ‘in the zone’ look makes people think I am angry…which results in more apologies.

It’s a vicious cycle that can only be fixed with one of two things: coffee or iced tea.

Completely kidding…kinda.

After a Mach 5 kinda week, how do I refocus and align back up with my Savior, who is constantly recreating my asshole-self into something better than sinful me.

Prayer. Study. Mission…worship.

Be forewarned if you ever travel long distances with me, or really any distance…the music will be LOUD. I’m known for it, just ask my friends. And some of the best worship I’ve had at times is singing at the top of my lungs in my car.

I grew up singing. I remember being about 6 years old, hiding out in our duplex basement singing Whitney Houston songs at the top of my very young lungs. Some of my best memories of high school are being in choir with my friends, quickly followed by a worst memory of the choir teacher telling me I wasn’t any good, and I was lucky he was letting me stay in choir.

Then with joining my first Christian community came this beautiful awareness that together we sing, and that is worship to our Lord.

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We sing. Alone or together. And God moves among his people. His Spirit speaks. We are one with our Savior.

All because we lift our voices, our souls and sing.

Not sure where to start? I have this spectacular tab at the top bar for worship that God has been using to speak to me, and help me realign to his vision for me on the weeks that kick my ass.

I also leave you with lyrics from an amazing song by All Sons & Daughters called, ‘Called Me Higher.’ There is another one that is alternating with this one by Jordan Howerton Band called ‘Move Me.’ And yes, these songs I sing at the top of my lungs like God is deaf. Sing it like ya mean it, people!

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all your goodness
Hope to feel your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am and hope to feel you
Hope to feel something again

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home
Never let these walls down

But you have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you will lead me Lord
You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I will go where you lead me Lord
Where you lead me
Where you lead me Lord

And I will be Yours
I will be Yours for all my life
So let Your mercy light the path before me

Now go sing, friends. Sing at the top of your lungs like God is deaf and worship your guts out! Because I guarantee that a few moments of worship will change the week from kicking your ass to you completely kicking its’ ass.

alone

Water swirls around me as I catch a breath then tuck my head back into the blissful quiet of the pool.

Stroke. Kick. Stroke. Kick. Breathe. Stroke. Kick. Stroke. Kick.

All alone.

When I am swimming it is one of the most peaceful times for me to decompress and clear my head. Second only to hanging out in God’s glorious nature. I may be outgoing, but God doesn’t speak through my outgoing moments. His presence is felt and he speaks through the times I am alone. Quiet. Dreams. Rest. I have to be disciplined to grab onto those moments, or suffer the separation from my Savior. Not good for me…ever.

This morning I woke up with a random song in my head, and while I was swimming the chorus was on a loop…breathing in and out of my soul as I was catching breathes between strokes.

Sometimes I need something to run like a mantra through my head for it to truly sink in.

I am set free. It is for freedom that I am set free.

I actually couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics. But this mantra of my freedom associated with ‘it is for freedom I am set free’ was continuous.

As I mulled it over, losing track of laps…freedom to bring others freedom or freedom for me to rest in after being set free.

When we got back from the pool (and after the Duke game…priorities…) I hit the iPod.

You mend my life with your holy fire. You cover me with grace.

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It takes time alone with God for me to feel that mending with his Holy fire. And oh how it can be a raging Holy fire at times…

What this freedom, and mending, means for me is to be free of the shackles of the expectations of others.

Freedom is not suffocating in the sin my Savior willingly takes from me.

Free of the chains holding me to a person I am not.

Freedom to proclaim what I am called to and what I am not called to, and being set free to be that person.

Freedom to bask in the Holy Spirit fire that guides me, restores me and draws me to the heart of God.

Freedom to grasp with my last dying grip to the peace that Jesus freely gave in John 14:27.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

It is being alone with God where I feel the most clarity in my spirit, his peace and where I see most clearly my past, future and the now. Free of distraction, and my mind empty for God to fill…a woman in process and mended by his Holy fire.

(Lyrics from ‘I am set free’ by All Sons and Daughters)

dream

Sometimes I feel like Christianity is taking a nap…a super long, hibernation-type nap. And those of us that are not involved in hibernation are misunderstood by all of the extreme views that make it in the media, while our good stuff of helping the down and out goes on without notice. Think about how excited you get when you see a news story on that is a ‘feel good’ story. You get excited because you don’t see it very often!

Mar 19 - dream

Wake up, wake up all you sleepers

Imagine if every believer ‘woke up’ to the mission Jesus began in our world. Imagine if every believer started following what the Jesus actually said in the Gospels. Imagine if we were all moving in the same direction instead of arguing. Imagine if every believers’ eyes opened to how God sees this world, and were ignited to being more for him.

Stand up, stand up all you dreamers

We have lost our imagination for the ways we can participate in God’s Kingdom. Folks have gotten themselves trapped into a corner of what ‘church’ is and how ‘service’ should look. The only picture God paints through scripture is that we are supposed to be pouring into the orphans and widows, the poor, the naked, the hungry…the list goes on. But the point is we need to dream again. I think some need to feel like they have permission to dream God’s dreams for this world. Then they would find that their eyes could burst with life and color and purpose again.

Hands up, hands up, all believers

Take up your cross and carry it on

When Jesus talked about taking up your cross and carrying it, do you think he was foreshadowing his own suffering and resurrection? Or was he literally telling us to pick up a cross and follow him? Does it even matter? We should be living each day as though Jesus was resurrected. When Jesus was prophesied, then fulfilled that prophecy…no one imagined he would actually come back to life. But he did. We follow a God that has woven so intricately his story into the story of the world. Our lives are still being woven into the story of the world, but will you be a believer that stands up? Or will you  be a believer that just thinks about it?

Here we stand, our hearts are yours

Not our will, but yours be done

My heart is firmly planted in the hands of God…my life…is his. Every day I need the reminder to rise up and act as though Jesus was really resurrected, because it is getting harder and harder for people in this world to actually believe it happened. Here’s to us living as followers of the resurrected Son, hands raised high, dreaming God-sized dreams to do Kingdom work and waking up all the sleepers we come across.

[Song lyrics from All Sons & Daughters’ ‘Wake Up’]