restore

image

When you are effortlessly floating above the earth in all of its white fluffy cloud cover and pristine blue sky…its hard to imagine the ugliness that lives below.

By all rights and measures I should feel the restorative effects of the post-vacation stupor. But I am finding myself still restless with the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong, vacation was phenomenal. I feel more connected to my friends. I feel more connected to my Savior. I love that I can easily spend time with friends that I only see twice a year, with conversation and honesty flowing like we see each other every week. I feel completely blessed to have had time off, and to be in this place for 4 days.

But…

There is still something that isn’t sitting right while I return back to the place I sleep and back to the desk I sit at during the week.

It’s like being on vacation gives you time to be above your normal life and every thing that is driving you crazy. Pardon the French, but you get to set the shit aside for those precious days of escape.

Then vacation is over, because it can’t last forever. You come back to emails you been able to set aside, and back to juggling a million different things.

Back to ‘normal.’

But the ‘normal’ makes me restless, and honestly anxious, for God to just come on back already and straighten this world out…restore it…

But I need to channel that anxiousness toward productive areas. We get the honor and privilege of working toward that Kingdom. Bringing others God’s story, working for justice, soaking others in the ocean of his grace and living compassionately with confidence of Jesus’ resurrection.

I am restless. But because of what I am restless for, God has restored the part of me that has been lethargic with excuses of busyness. I have been too complacent with where I do his Kingdom work…and God has a ton of work to be done in KC and abroad.

It is incidental how beautiful the clouds are or how perfectly blue the sky is when what lies underneath is waiting for God to restore it to rightness…and I am a disciple of Christ who is committed to working toward it while I wait…impatient, yet restless for good things.

Advertisements

home

Home.

I struggle with this.

Home is technically just a place I sleep if you prefer the ‘normal’ definition of the place you live.

But home is also halfway across the world every time I step into an orphanage in Kirov region.

Home is at a friends house every Thursday night when my little buddy meets me at the door.

image

Home is also in Park City this week while I hang out with college friends who share the same passion for March Madness, Jesus and being outside.

Most think about home in terms of where they always come back to and spend the most time…where they put down roots.

But my roots look different.

Home for me is mobile. I don’t have roots set down in one place…my roots are more spiritual and relational than stuff and place.

I keep parts of myself in so many places. I feel my heart is fractured and I’m indecisive at times as to where I want to be, but when it comes down to it…what I need most is the relationships around me more than the stuff.

Granted…I’ve got plenty of stuff that I need to go through. And I have a healthy addiction to art. My mom actually calls it my ‘dowry.’ But all the art is how I appreciate the beauty in the world around me, and I don’t ‘need’ any of the stuff. I do, however, need the relationships God has put around me.

My relationship with God has a huge impact on my views of where my true home is. I’ve told this story here before, but it always serves as a good reminder.

In Haiti last summer, I was very moved by our translator, Joseph, and his view of where Haitians find their real hope. They have no hope for a good future, no hope for their kids to rise above poverty or their country to become self-sustainable…he said. So Haitians have no choice but to put their hope in the life after this one…to put all their trust and faith in God making heaven come to earth. No poverty. No pain. No injustice. Just God restoring his creation and setting everything right.

Perhaps I struggle to put down roots because I came to a place where I know this world will not last. That there is something so much more beautiful and stunning than this one to come…

Or maybe it just doesn’t make sense for where I am at in my life.

image

In other news…I’m moving to Park City, Utah. Its fun and beautiful, and one of my best friends is having her baby here.

Just kidding. Well, kinda kidding, lately I’m just waiting for God to help me know where he needs me next. And I know that I will be at home wherever that might be.

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’]

silence

**Forewarning: this blog post completely changed from ‘Silence is beautiful and we need more of it…’ following a really ‘happy’ blog post, to what you read here. Beware, it wasn’t me…it was the one I serve. If you are looking for beautiful silence, probably find a different blog…because the silence you read here is a bit dangerous.**

Amos. He’s in the Bible, I checked. It helps when God keeps bringing scripture forward from this obscure book everywhere. His name in Hebrew also means ‘burden’ as in lifting or carrying a burden. Appropriate for a prophet I think, because with the words they are burdened with from God…they cannot rest in silence.

Amos is the book of the Bible right after Joel and before Obadiah.

Who the hell is Obadiah?!?! I said the same thing, and he only had a page in my Bible, so I felt a better about not quickly recollecting his words. Bible fact of the day: Obadiah is the shortest book in the Bible with 21 verses.

Have you heard of minor prophets? Well, they weren’t minor because they were less important…they are just smaller books. Isaiah had to be wordier, he was predicting Jesus…a lot!

We blogged about prophets earlier in our Lent journey, but it is important to note that God called prophets to speak, and to not follow the beliefs and ways of the nations they were calling out. Then they had the beautiful opportunity to proclaim the message of salvation and coming glory…the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Amos’ carried a message for God’s people to return to his ways…instead of their current perverted sense of religion and complete lack of justice.

Amaziah, priest at the shrine at Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos is plotting to get rid of you; and he’s doing it as an insider, working from within Israel. His talk will destroy the country. He’s got to be silenced. Do you know what Amos is saying? ‘Jeroboam will be killed. Israel is headed for exile.’

Then Amaziah confronted Amos: “Seer, be on your way! Get out of here and go back to Judah where you came from! Hang out there. Do your preaching there. But no more preaching at Bethel! Don’t show your face here again. This is the king’s chapel. This is a royal shrine.”

But Amos stood up to Amaziah: “I never set up to be a preacher, never had plans to be a preacher. I raised cattle and I pruned trees. Then God took me off the farm and said, ‘Go preach to my people Israel.’ [Amos 7:10-15 MSG]

Acts 18They wanted to silence Amos’ message against greed, injustice and self-righteousness.  Their society was incredibly materialistic to the point that the wealthy were setting themselves way above the peasant class, and only using their wealth to improve their own gain.

Amos gave a message with absolute clarity that God hated evil and was going to punish injustice.

Thinking of anything familiar?

Our culture has pigeon-holed us into a corner that makes us feel like our beliefs might offend someone. That we should be quiet and that we have no business forcing our beliefs on others. Even when those beliefs include setting right the wrongs in this world.

I had lunch with some students today, and one was sharing that she wasn’t going to Tweet during the showing of the Bible Series anymore. When we pushed her for why, she said, ‘I lost 4 followers because I was tweeting about the Bible.’

If we live in a world where God’s message and conversation are no longer welcome, are we really okay with not push against those enforced boundaries? Do we let it slide and decide we shouldn’t use social media to spread the message and truth of God? Do we sit in our buildings, our homes…in silence?

Let me just say, it’s against my nature to let it slide. It is, however, in my nature to push against boundaries and has been since I was a toddler. Just didn’t grow out of it, I guess.

And I am definitely not perfect, by any stretch of the word.

But when it comes to my beliefs, who I serve and why I serve Him…I’m sure as hell going to push back on anyone who says I shouldn’t be sharing.

I believe in being in relationships with others, and that God created us for community.

To learn from one another. To share our stories with one another.

I am not intrusive with my beliefs. (At least I don’t think I am…maybe I really am one of the crazy ones others find intimidating.) But you could say I am intrusive with my actions, because I am going to care about people that no one cares about. I am going to love people that some say I have no business loving. I am going to talk about the reality of God’s Kingdom. I choose to embrace my God given missional impulse. And I am going to fight against the injustice in this world, because things in this world are really screwed up and God never intended it to be this way.

Stand up. Do not be content with silence. Speak God’s message through relationships that matter. Choose to see the world through God’s eyes, instead of the eyes that are conditioned to our culture.

Amos called out God’s people for not caring about the things that mattered and I think we can learn from his lack of silence.

Care to join? Think wisely…you might just be told you shouldn’t.

no

I have a problem. No surprise to many, but for others…it’s confession time.

Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I have a problem saying ‘No.’

It’s simple really because I view everything through the lens of God’s Kingdom work. And most everything easily falls under that umbrella. Not counting how many loop holes it took to get it there, of course.

But for some of the time it also gets filed under…I don’t like to disappoint people. I like to be liked. Who doesn’t? I put so much value on relationships that when I disappoint others…or get hurt by damaging relationships…I try to fix everything by saying ‘Yes.’ See the cycle I get stuck in here?

But when I get stuck in the never ending cycle of ‘Yes.’ I lose too much God, no matter how many well meaning things get shuffled under the Kingdom work umbrella. It’s still just me saying ‘Yes’ to not disappoint others, instead of saying ‘Yes’ for my own God reasons.

Example…I work at a church, and there are a lot of amazing, valuable and Kingdom things to say ‘Yes’ to around there.

But I get lost, unfocused, hopeless and snarky when I don’t have time stop my brain, rest and chill out with my Savior. And sometimes just a day off doesn’t cut it, because I need to HEAR God and FEEL his presence.

God has created this beautiful thing that some folks call margin. Think of the white space on the sides of a written page. Top, bottom, and both sides all free of text. What if our lives had that excess? Space that is created to intentionally make room for random, restful and spontaneous God moments that refill you. And it is only found when you start to use ‘No’ more often.

God speaks in your margin. Through quiet, through rest and through those around you.

We cannot expect our Savior to only meet us at scheduled times. Read that again…it sounds ridiculous, right? But that is exactly what we all do.

‘Ok, God…I expect to hear you at church service…I’ll be there at 10:10 Sunday morning.’

Or.

‘God, I will be at Bible Study with 40 other women at 9 am on Wednesday morning…see ya then.’

I am not discounting how God speaks through church or community Bible Study, because those are great tools of discipleship. What I am pointing out is how we ‘schedule’ our time with God.

When we make room for God to work in our margins…incredible Holy moments happen. A random conversation with a neighbor that is struggling. You feel nudges during prayer to go on that mission trip you’ve been thinking about. You discover you have things in common with a barista, and a new friendship blossoms.

What if…just what if our ‘no’ was a way for God to pave the way to a ‘yes’ for his Kingdom cause?

image

shadow

IMG_8292

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.

leave

There is one place on this earth that rips my soul in two to leave.

It is a palpable sound to God’s ears because after all, he is the one that sends me.

The echo of that rip haunts me when I leave. A good haunt though, a reminder that things are not right in this world, and that I’ve been chosen to make a small difference for the life of a child. A reminder that God is working long before me, all around me and staying after I leave…that it is never about me, and always about him.

I never would have imagined my soul would be so closely tied to an orphanage…let alone one in Russia. It wasn’t too long ago that I couldn’t even deal with being around kids. But to speak God’s love, worth, hope and community into the life of an orphan is the greatest privilege there is in this world.

It used to be the hardest thing I’d ever done to leave the orphanage on the last day. The emotion of leaving is overwhelming to even the hardest of hearts. We would lose whole days to the kids acting out or withdrawing. We eventually amended trip schedules so that we went back for a ‘last’ morning so the kids wouldn’t be as emotional on the last day. It helped everyone take the leaving part in slower steps.

Some trips the kids would hang on to the back of the bus, it didn’t matter how seriously we told them it was dangerous. It was as if they were clinging to those last precious moments, too.

What I love most, though, is it rarely happens anymore. It isn’t as emotional when we leave as it used to be. Why? They know their friends, or friends of their friends, are coming back. We’ve crossed the line of dismay and sorrow into this beautiful place of deep love and trust. It’s amazing the strength of the ties that God creates in his mission fields.

image

But this is what happens when you surrender your heart…soul…life…God leads us to unimaginable, beautiful, Kingdom places.

The hardest part for me is leaving those places, and holding on to that Kingdom life.

The beauty of it is the places God sends you is where you find the person he has created you to be. The best of you and worst of you collide, and his heart is ignited in yours. Your soul finds itself overflowing, all because you willingly surrendered.

And when that happens, no one wants to leave that behind.