truth

Note: I’ve felt led to share an open letter to my community of Jesus’ loving, sarcastic speakin’, community driven and radically living ladies who laugh with me and love me despite my inherent ability to sometimes be an asshole. Friends, three years ago this month I followed a crazy whim that the Holy Spirit had put on my heart to experiment with a small group Bible Study using the Tangible Kingdom Primer. Since that moment, we have had so, so many crazy adventures together, intense prayer and read some books we know we don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole again, as well as some we keep recommending to others. But best of all we have waded through the muck and fell headlong into God’s heart for his Kingdom to be realized through loving others and genuinely caring about those around us every day. The unique thing about our DNA is that our focus has consistently been grounded on the perfect cornerstone of Jesus Christ. He is our launching pad into incarnational living that is creating each one of us into storytellers who perpetuate the stories of The Storyteller. We have seen friends sit among us and then move on by their own choice. We have seen family members pass away. We know each other, and not just know in the general sense, but known in the way God has created us to be open and honest with each other within community. We have countless crazy Kingdom stories. We have become excellent listeners. We have struggled through so many aspects of life together, responding each time by encircling our friend while carrying, motivating and loving them through the shit this world throws around. We have celebrated victories in life, jobs, friendship, marriages…because if a group who calls themselves Fondue Crew doesn’t know how to celebrate, who does? I know we all realize this…but I think it is important to remember where our roots are, and how we have been grown together with Jesus at the core in order to see where God is leading us. So many times as groups grow, they get to a point where they think they have learned all they will be able to learn from each other and feel they need to move on. Other times individuals believe that they don’t really belong any more. Sometimes the group gets too big and someone gets a brilliant *sarcasm* idea to multiply and grow new groups, only causing division because it was an idea of man not Spirit. Other times the ‘B’ word slides in and convinces us we are too busy for that weekly check-in and storytelling. When our group had just formed, I bought a book, ‘Community is Messy,’ but I never read it. Mostly, because I knew our foundation was built of the power of the one who reigns over the entire universe and if it got messy, we would draw on that power to figure it out. I’d never felt as intense discernment as when I felt the pull to start this group stubbornly centered on Kingdom life and living incarnational lives, telling Kingdom stories with a commitment to only do studies or activities pulling us deeper into that sent life. God was doing a lot in my life and redefining what I thought mission was into what God meant it to be, and he was calling me to share that ‘doing’ mission was not his heart and that Kingdom vision was right at the center. The one tie that truly binds us is our deep, passionate, loyal love for the One whose grace saves…the Master Storyteller. The stories we tell point to his Kingdom and without those stories to glorify God we are not living the lives God has called us to in this world. I am in a dual state of extreme gratitude for how we encourage each other, but also a feeling of disconnect, which goes against why God formed our community. We are strongest together when we are weaving our lives into His Story. What I do know is the world we fight for puts us in direct conflict with the forces that fight against that world being realized. It makes us susceptible to so many things. We cannot ever let ourselves believe the lie that we are separated from the community God has brought us into. We must believe the truth of God’s heart, the truth of his Holy Spirit leading and the truth that there is a purpose for our community. When we start listening to the lies that we don’t have time, it’s been too long and it will feel weird to be back or you feel uncomfortable with someone in the group…we allow ourselves to believe the lie that we are better on our own and we don’t belong in community.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12, NIV]

For months I’ve been allowing myself to believe the lie that my voice doesn’t have the right to speak alongside your voices. Allowing myself to hear I’ve been gone for too long. Without time spent with you, without knowing what is happening in your daily lives…I’ve allowed myself to believe that I am too far away, I am not needed and I am separate. Within those thoughts, I’ve been holding on to some things I felt God wanted us to hear. But it is time to share God’s truth… Friends, we have failed to fortify ourselves against spiritual attack and we are getting picked apart. We are digressing into our own minds and not being honest about where we are at right now. Myself included. We are loved by the giver of life, so intimately, that we are chosen. We must embrace this truth as a community, but also individually. You are chosen.

“As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…They stumble because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” [1 Peter 2:4-9]

We need to trust each other explicitly and know that while we first trust Jesus, we without a doubt we have each others’ back. That means honesty and not hiding away when things get tough. We need to actively communicate our struggles with each other and know we are supported. We need to hold each other accountable to telling Kingdom stories and living Kingdom lives through blessing others, listening well, being present, committing to prayer and seeking growth in God’s word. We need to realize how uniquely we each are made, embrace those differences and celebrate how specific our gifts are as we use them to fit together into God’s perfect puzzle. We need every single one of us.

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” [Ephesians 4:11-16]

We are uniquely called to love deeply all those around us, yes, we will be assholes, but our intentions remain pure. It means conversations with people at work, school and on long drives that we wouldn’t normally jump into. It means spending money a different way. It means being outside our comfort zone. It also draws on a willingness to surrender ourselves to allow God to use us. It means transformation. It means we will sometimes get hurt, but it also allows us to love and encourage each other through that pain. We need to commit to reconciling our relationships with each other through love, and live gracefully. We need to shelf excuses that keep us secluded from community. We need to stop the busy, acknowledge boundaries and know that God seeks to use us everywhere we go…while discerning God doesn’t mean for this community to be sacrificed on the altar of busy. Everything we have been through, read and learned has led us to this specific time and place to be what God needs from us…BUT we are asked to listen and filter out the busy to hear. We have served side-by-side in various aspects: Harvesters, Russia, Haiti and Spofford. We keep seeking the voice of God on where that ‘one thing’ is in this world for us to dive in together, but we are truly a beautiful image of God because our eclecticness is unique. How many times have you looked around our group and thought, ‘How did we all end up here?’ What God has brought together has meaning, and it is special. We are all different and each called in a different way, and I am convinced God will make us strongest when we use our differences. I am convinced that it isn’t that we have one thing for us all to be about, but God has made each of us about different things within a common passion. We each have an innate passion to champion those in this world that are forgotten. It looks different with each of us, but each of us is doing this within our own calling. I could look at each of you right now and call out that area where you are living to champion those the world forgets. We are called to community, and that community is called out as individuals…to then come back to community to heal, share and love deeply in a safe place. This world is hard. God knows it is drowning in sin, but he also knows there is an end with his victory and he has given believers a place to retreat back to and feel safe until he has healed this world.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord and in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” [Ephesians 2:14-22]

The truth is, friends, I need you in my life. I need you to keep reminding me that God has built us together to be a dwelling for the Holy Spirit. I need you to point to the Kingdom when I miss it. I need your stories. I need our community, because I know I cannot do this life alone…and honestly, I really don’t want to, even if you are two plane rides away. Community is messy, but we are called to life lived together. I am beyond blessed to have you all in my life cheering me on and championing who God has called me to be.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same king of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” [1 Peter 5:6-11]

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simplicity

Every time I get back from a mission trip, I wonder how I look to other people.

Sun scorched? More freckles? What do they see in my eyes? Am I more serious? Do I laugh more? Less? Do they mistake my ‘tired’ appearance for the real struggle of transitioning back to the selfish culture we live in? Do I look like God has marked me?

I should.IMG_1139

Because every time…every single time I surrender to God and follow him, he marks me in the global mission field.

It does look different every time, because God needs to change me differently every time. And sometimes I’m not even prepared for what he has in store. Last year in Haiti, I was definitely not prepared. This year…I knew what I needed, and thankfully for once, God and I agreed on my opinion.

Simplicity.

Community.

And hard, sweaty work to make me forget all of the things that I need to do, are expected of me and distract me from my calling.

I needed the simplicity of no cell phone, no internet/email and no one needing anything from me…immediately. The only agenda I wanted was playing around in God’s Global Kingdom work and being with my team, my community, for 8 solid days without any of the add-ons we think we cannot live without.

Honestly, I needed a time out. And I’m starting to think it was not long enough.

That first day in the back of a pick-up truck on the way to a worksite…I took a deep breath for the first time in months that was actually healing. It cleared my brain, my heart and washed away the sticky cobwebs of frustration that like to weave into the corners of my soul. The colossal amount of sweat cleared my eyes, and flooded out the tension and stress that had gathered in my muscles.

I felt free. Finally.

Free to be me.

And I pray in the midst of that freedom those our team was around saw the joy of God in our community, instead of wacky Americans. Or maybe both. But that we shared a piece of ourselves with them, as they did with us.

217391_672439952772791_558712428_nToo often we let our culture and those around us dictate what we think is right and wrong. Too often we silence the voice of God to listen to the things that attract our attention. Too often we tie our joy and contentment to things instead of the One thing. Too often we allow ourselves to get lost in the shuffle of this blip in the timeline of the world, in an American culture that has no depth or richness of character. (Yes, I just said that, and I meant it.)

The arrogance of the American culture saddens and frustrates me. We think ourselves so much higher than ‘third world’ (I hate that term by the way) cultures simply because we have everything we could ever ask for…and more. I mean, honestly, just compare bathrooms, right? *sarcasm* It drives me insane when people rate the standard of living by bathroom standards. Get over it, people. Count yourself lucky that you even have running water, and squat once in a while.

When we let our arrogance for American culture lead our opinions of other countries, we miss out on the beauty, community and amazing ways God is moving. We miss out on the simplicity of living only for Him.

I desperately needed God’s simplicity to take over, and strip off the barriers that had been pushing me into a box to see again the reality of how God has built me.

IMG_0873God built me as a missionary. God built me to be flexible. God built me to be comfortable in other cultures…with languages that are not my own. God built me as a passionate woman who cares about those that others ignore, and who knows what it feels like to draw others to God’s Kingdom work. God built me to be stronger as a part of a team, a community, instead of alone. God built me to be stubborn so that something inside me would withstand the pressure of this world. God built me to cherish how he speaks through scripture, even in the moments when I completely geek out.

God built me with a long memory so that I would know his heart for long-term restoration and transformation. God built me to love relationships so that I would see the tremendous value in discipleship and pouring your life into another.

God built me to love in radical ways because it makes no sense for God to have an ounce of love for a sinner like me…but he DOES and it is UNCONDITIONAL. Period.

This is who I am. It’s not complicated. It’s simple. It’s a work of God.

Marked and called by the living, universal God who asks us to follow him wherever he may lead.

This is who I am.

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.

image

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.