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.

faithful

Doubt. Anger. Questions.

We’ve all been there. Hell, I struggle with the whole ‘What’s happening here, God? What’s the point?’

Dreams that seemed like they were his. Decisions made that seemed like he was backing it all up and opening every door have not been what you thought it would be.

Ugh.

But every time. Every damn time…its not him. Its me. Sounds like a bad break up? Well, it really is a bad break up where we put our hands up and say, ‘Done.’

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But he’s a stubborn God and he refuses to break up with us.

He doesn’t go anywhere. I do. I venture off the path, true to my distractive nature…then eventually remember we were going somewhere and jump back on course.

What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. [Romans 3:3-4]

For me it’s not so much a lack of faith, but a lack of patience with the timing of his faithfulness.

It is also a matter of hearing his voice, and then when enough time passes that I don’t hear anything else on the topic…I doubt what I heard. I doubt me. I doubt my ears. I doubt my capabilities. I doubt my experience. Albeit experience he has given me for a reason.

All because my human ears get full of the opinions of others about me. Even the most optimistic can ignore it for only so long until their ears are dripping with negativity.

So I doubt my call. I doubt what I am good at, and I doubt what I heard from him for what seems like decades ago.

Let God be true.

God is faithful.

In the deepest part of your soul, you’ve felt it, too. He is faithful to you, his child, and he loves your dreams. He gave you the vision for those dreams.

I say this to not only myself, but shout it to both of us…suck it up, be who he has created you to be, rest in his faithfulness and go fight for something that counts.

And for the love of all things holy, stop trying to break up with God! ‘Cause he’s not going anywhere…

shadow

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It follows you everywhere.

It is the darkest part of you.

It is your shadow.

It can be hilarious to play with your shadow, and all it takes is some sun and a convenient flat space.

But what if we thought about our shadow in terms of what we trails us? By what we leave in our wake. Our shadow is the thing that is always trailing us, but our Kingdom work always leaves a wake spanning out and spreading ripples.

What do you want your shadow to say about you?

Acts talks about people believing healing could be found in Peter’s shadow…

Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. [Acts 5:14-15]

Wow! That’s some serious Kingdom work coming out of a shadow.

I’m not suggesting we start proclaiming to heal others, but we would be well served to let the faith of that moment digest…it is a tangible concept we need to grasp. Peter was so well known that people were lining the streets in hopes his shadow might touch them. That is invincible faith.

Lives changed…that is what Peter was leaving in his wake. Jesus truth embedded and Kingdom work advanced.

A shadow may make a funny silhouette for a few seconds, but your Kingdom work can leave ripples beyond generations.

Go! Live sent! Live Peter’s legacy! Be courageous! Now is not the time to put God’s word on a shelf! Now is not the time to wait for ‘someday.’ Now is not the time to pretend mission will happen once your kids leave the house…and then put off again until you retire.

It is not about making Kingdom work something else you do…it is about living for God now. Being God’s heart to everyone in your house, at Starbucks, to the boss that is driving you crazy…to the rude server at a lunch meeting…and absolutely being God’s heart to your kids at the end of a long day when those toddler or teenage attitudes like to rear their ugly heads. THAT is Kingdom work. Being God’s love for those around you.

It’s to live as though your shadow could transform lives and draw others to the heart of God.

evil

Evil.

Easy to despise. Easy to be put yourself on the opposing side. Easy to speak out against. Easy to hate the villain.

Also…easy to find yourself slipping into…

How many times have I said something hateful?

How many times have I done something mean?

So often I find myself amidst the struggle of more God verses more…not God.

It is easy to try and explain away…we are human and that struggle is real. It is sin, ask for forgiveness.

And the alternative gives credence to there being powers that work against us. That darkness exists in very real forms. And worse of all…that there is real evil in our world.

We want to believe everything is sunshine, rainbows and white puffy clouds.

And just to be clear, I’m not referring to the pessimists and optimists. I am talking about the guy who tempted Jesus in the desert. The one who possessed people and the disciples had to drive out. The one who convinced a disciple to betray Jesus. I hate even saying the name, but most have sensed the reality in some way.

Discernment…knowing the difference between good and evil. It is one of those gifts that is hard to explain, because if you have that gift it registers different for each person. But you sense there is something dark and ominous. Or maybe in your brightest most Holy Spirit moment…you know there is something that is working against you. To break you, and break your hold on God’s truth.

Because evil is not truth. Evil is lies.

Because evil is not good. Evil is bad.

Because evil does not want happiness for you.

It wants to destroy you simply because you love Jesus.

Paul even writes in several of his letters instructing and encouraging the believers to arm themselves. To be ready and not to give in to temptation that would tear them away from the light of God.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. [Ephesians 6:11-13]

TS2I have never felt so profoundly that I was walking with God, and there was an extreme power working against me than when I was in China for a summer. In a place than can have so much hospitality, beauty and beautiful people, we were most definitely making waves with good vs. evil. And when you think about it, God has been doing something incredible in China for many years. Missionaries have risked their lives to bring the message of truth to the Chinese who want to believe. When you look at it that way, of course the scale tips for good and evil wants to fight it.

So, how do you fight? How do you stand? Well, first you have to get seriously pissed off. Get mad that something is working so hard against the God we serve and loves us unconditionally, even when we slip and give evil a helping hand.

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Then…get on your knees. I know for a fact that prayer warriors get the job done. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen change through prayer.

Then…get in God’s word. I know the power of God’s word when you are grounded in it. I just wish I was all-around good at staying in scripture without some pissed-off motivation to send me back to it.

Then…get accountability. I know for a fact that I am stronger with others fighting beside me, and holding me accountable to the Christian life I have chosen to live. God’s word says that the devil prowls around like a lion waiting to devour us. Jesus said he was sending them out like sheep amongst the wolves. When we are separated from each other, we are weak. It is a really bad choice to be alone.

Then…have faith and hope, because God wins in the end. We just have to help him fight along the way.

Here’s to you winning a battle today.

settle

Jesus Culture has this song called, ‘I Won’t Settle’ by Nate Ward. Recently it’s been playing on repeat through my head…ironically, even before I started my Lent journey of blogging a word from Rethink Church’s 40 days of photos.

This word kept sticking with me, because I think we settle for things in this life that are comfortable and easy. Hard stuff is hard, and who wants to actually deal with the hard stuff?

We ignore our gifts. We ignore our calling. We ignore the mission impulse that God has planted in each of us since creation. We ignore our God in exchange for temporary satisfaction. Sure it may last a lifetime here, but imagine life with no pain, no tears, no anger…imagine life with our Savior…I ache for that life.

Honestly, many of us settle for this harsh world when our eyes should constantly be focused on eternal life with God. But it is so hard to see and understand what eternal life is compared to what we know here…

So where do you find your heaven on earth? In a cup of hot chocolate? In a child’s smile? Mountains or beach? Perhaps in a summer retreat spot?

Or if you are most fulfilled when you are reaching out to others…maybe your heaven on earth is in a little slice of downtown homeless shelters, abused mothers or hurting kids? Has God called and built you to minister across cultures and languages, so your heaven on earth is found in Haiti or Africa or China or Guatemala or Russia?

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My mind goes back to a screened in porch enclosed in a compound right on the beach as the sound of waves caressed my ears while wind blew through bullet holes littering the concrete barrier…giving proof to a country’s deep suffering. Such a strange place to experience heaven on earth…but it was for me.

Where ever you see God in this world…hold onto it. Cherish it. Remember it. Because it is there to guide you. God gifts us with just enough glimpses to know that we should not settle for this world, because he knows we should be placing our hope in the plethora of things to come…

“I Won’t Settle”
What do I look like
What do You see
What are the things that

You are dreaming about me
Visions of glory
I’m starting to see
Lord let the things

You’ve dreamed become reality
I won’t settle
I won’t settle for anything less
And I will hold on
I will hold on for greater things
What do I look like
What do You see
What are the things that

You are calling out in me
The light of Your Kingdom
Is burning in me
Lord let the things

You’ve seen become reality
Mark me as Yours
Set me apart
I want everything
All that You are

I won’t settle
I won’t settle for anything less
And I will hold on
I will hold on for greater things

sometimes

Sometimes God crashes into your world and you are caught completely by surprise. We see him. We hear him. Maybe even catch a scent of our Savior.

Other times…we ignore him. Content with our home, car, family, job, activities…we replace our beautiful Savior with the life we are living on this planet. Ironically, the life he has given us. We suffer every now and then, but rarely consistently to the point of discomfort for us Americans. If you feel differently, let’s talk…because the places God has sent me to and shown me in the last 10 years need to bust open your worldview.

If you missed it…over a week ago I left for Haiti…then came back.

Never before have I sweat so much, so often and been so physically uncomfortable than last week. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Because you see, sometimes I forget. I forget what I am fighting for. I forget what really matters. I get lost in details, and lose focus of the big picture. I fight for the small things instead of the true big thing. I get frustrated. Sometimes I feel like I am losing pieces of myself to what others want, and how they view me. Sometimes I feel like I am stuck…that probably more often than sometimes.

And then…God crashes in…and floods my soul with purpose.

Renewal.

Cleansing.

Sweet freedom of the Holy Spirit.

Kingdom reality.

If we lose sight of what we are fighting for…what’s the point? How does God use that?

Haiti brought me face to face with my Savior.

Haiti brought clarity to my calling.

Haiti kicked my butt.

But Haiti filled every part of my soul that had scattered with distraction and frustration.

There is so much I want to share…and I will, I promise. But there are still moments that I need to process and cherish before I throw them out into the wind. I honestly cannot wait to tell you about a precious kiddo who wouldn’t leave my lap, even when tickled. Or Joseph, one of the wisest men I have met with a Kingdom vision and hope mindset that rivals anyone I’ve ever heard. Or the sweet, wrinkly woman who jabbered Creole while kissing my cheeks…but the message was clear, ‘I am so glad you are here.’

Or about those I was with for a week. They blessed me in so many ways that I lost count within 24 hours of hopping on a plane with them. They are laughter. They are wise. They are cool. They are tough, and most of all they are truly my brothers and sisters in every aspect of the word. God created this team to serve him together, and we served with every fiber of our being.

Sometimes we need to listen…and sometimes we’ll actually do it.

Sometimes we need to act…and sometimes we’ll actually act.

Sometimes we need to love…and sometimes we’ll actually love others.

But what if sometimes turned into every time? What Kingdom work would we accomplish then? All around us, every day?

surrender

There is this word that has been drifting in one ear and out the other pretty consistently for a couple of months.

Surrender.

Ah…so much in a single word. I’m stubborn. Surprised, right? It goes against my very nature to actually surrender to something. I give it all the fight I have in me sometimes. I’m human. And definitely not perfect. But if I cannot trust God enough to surrender in my relationship with him, where does that put me?

Some of my married friends would have an interesting spin on this word, especially when you add in ‘submit.’ It can mean so many things…I was feeling out people on Facebook earlier today for what they thought it meant. I got a lot of references to music, and some great humor. And then I also got this from a young friend…

Losing control and allowing God to step in.

We all want control. But what if…what if in wanting control, we lose a large part of God moving in our lives? What if we lose our chance to participate in His Kingdom work around us?

We put into place parameters, strategies, structure, planning…all to maintain control over the situations around us. Are we limiting God’s movement in those areas we try to control? Not saying structure isn’t good sometimes, just asking the question.

Mission trips and investing somewhere locally are the epitomy of surrendering so that God can use you in incredible ways. Talk to anyone who finds words that come out of their mouth in just the right moment. Surrender is a willingness to allow God to use you where you are…it’s mission, right?

It’s also about trust and faith. Do you trust God enough with your hopes and dreams and timing? Do you trust that it will all be okay in the end? Are you willing to merge your will with His? It’s intimidating when it involves things that ‘society’ thinks is right and normal.

A true relationship does not shut out surrender. It’s in different contexts, but always has an element of surrender on both sides. Even more so in a relationship with Jesus…he surrendered his life…for YOU. No relationship exists without surrendering part of who you are and becoming part of something bigger. Christ serves as the perfect example.

Here’s the thing…surrendering to God is scary. It’s a willingness to lose a part of who you are. But truly, you are gaining who God has created you to be. It may mean giving up the American dream. It could mean giving up the dream you have for your kids, and letting them figure it out on their own.

It’s surrendering the part of you that needs to disappear so you are drawn closer to God.

Obviously, I am still wrestling with this. But the bottom line is you are not giving up or tossing in the towel…you are accepting that God has more in store for you than you have for yourself, because God’s love makes it worth it all.