The things I won’t be packing

We sat in my kitchen talking about when my house will sell. We were trying to determine when that will be and whether or not the newest set of circumstances will achieve our long-awaited results.

Both of us “do-ers,” my sister-in-law and I discussed going into the bedrooms and packing boxes. After all, what else were we going to do with our nervous waiting?

We even discussed all of the boxes that are stacked in my mother-in-law’s house. I told her how WK and I have no desire to unpack and keep all of the things in those boxes.

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It is not punishment

I am waiting for a house to sell.

I have been obeying for over a year. So it must be that I have messed up something.

I’ve been obeying for over a year. So it must be that I am paying for my self-righteous past.

I’ve been waiting for over a year. So it must mean that I am not believing enough, praying enough, reading my Bible enough, serving, enough, or loving enough.

Maybe you are waiting too.

You are waiting for a promise. It must be all the cheating you did in college that keeps you from deserving a God who keeps His promise to you.

You are waiting for a healing. You must need to attend church or pray more.

You are hurting from a broken relationship. You don’t even know if working on it will restore it or shatter you into a million pieces. It must be that abortion when no one held you while you cried and offered you ANY other way.

You are in the middle of a thankless and soul-deteriorating call. It must be all of your selfishness or years that you turned to yourself instead of Him.

You are parenting a child who bends over backward to make you feel as ugly, useless, and evil (yep, she called you that). It must be all the times you didn’t obey your own parents or the times you judged another without knowing their story.

You face anxiety that greets you each morning holding its pillow of suffocation over the breath of your life. It must be the faith you lack. Certainly, if you believed like Susie, God would take this torment from you.

BUT…

I believe in grace.

I believe that I am forgiven.

I believe that all of this is about Him and not about me.

I believe that God redeems all things and doesn’t hold my sins against me.

SO…

Which do I really believe? What wins out in my heart and my head when it is quiet and I am stuck with my circumstances?

What if it’s not about punishment?

That’s right! I said it.

What if it’s not about punishment?

What if it’s for something else entirely?

I am going to be brave here and say it out loud.

“It’s not for my punishment. It’s for HIS presence.”

WAIT…

My waiting isn’t about what I am doing. It’s about what he’s doing.

Your promise is not about what you used to do. It’s about what he has planned to do.

Your relationship is not about a secret sin eating away at your heart. It’s about your need for the ONE relationship that can carry you through any darkness.

Your soul-killing tasks are not about you getting them right or wrong. It is about him trusting you to finish what He has placed in front of you.

Your little fighter is not a fighter because you don’t parent well. It’s about him giving you the task of parenting a soul worth fighting for.

Your anxiety is not because you don’t have enough faith. It is because you use that faith just to get out of bed.

All of these things are the things that bring us to him. They push us to our need.

Because God will never allow us to stay in a place where we don’t need him.

This thing in front of you. It’s not for your punishment. It’s for his presence.

Stay close to him. Let him hold you. Listen to him speaking in the pain. He’s there, and that’s the whole point.

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More than fables or fairy tales

As a child growing up my family had a book called, “The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes” by Kenneth N Taylor. You can find the version we had on eBay and Amazon these days. Even though they have a 2002 version selling today, it is very different than the one we had as children.

This book gathered very realistic oil paintings of Bible stories from artists over the years. The pictures looked more like photographs than the pastel cartoons that the other Bible story books we had. It was a lot of dark, warm colors that were in stark contrast to the fairy-tale-like stories I saw elsewhere.

The main point of the book was to give realistic illustrations and ask real questions about the account in scripture. It pulled no punches. I can still close my eyes and see the picture of the ground opening up to swallow the Israelites who did not follow what God had said (Numbers 26) or the ones with people escaping the death of snake bites by looking at the bronze pole God allowed to be their salvation (Numbers 21).

Old Testament is brutal at times, but there was grace in it too.

Each picture had 3-4 thought-provoking questions about the scene. One such painting had the story of Abraham sacrificing Issac. The question that will always remember was, “Do you see the lamb? Do you see the lamb hiding in the thicket?”

Now before you start thinking about how this must have scared me as a small child. Let me reassure you. Before coming to know Christ I was very sanguine and am still quite morbid, so it was right up my alley. It did something else too (the thing intended by my mother and aunt who found it in the first place). It made it more realistic.

Even today I view scripture differently. I can see the melodramatic escapades of the Hebrews. Or the real fear in the eyes of Peter as He is sinking into the sea he had just walked on. I still read passages and find myself asking real, hard, and truth-digging questions.

Now the question arises, when did we relegate the power of scripture to fables or fairy tales?

Maybe with our pastel story books we have viewed them that way a bit.

But for those who grew up in the church and could really picture the giant fall or the lame man rise, I ask, When did it begin to be just be a story?

When did we start reading these for the morals instead of for the powerful work of God?

When did we start reading the Bible like it was about us instead of about Him?

When did we start to water it down into fables for good people or fairy tales for people who don’t live in the hard circumstances we are trudging through?

I pray we can shift our focus, because it is a God who calmed seas that can help our difficult circumstances. It is a God who came for the Jew and the Gentile who can help us understand racial reconciliation and refugee help. It is a God-man who cried over the death of a friend.

Father, help us see your word with new eyes and teach it to each other with the bold power you began it.

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Obedience isn’t legalism

At my core, I am a rule follower and a recovering know-it-all.

I fight her daily… the old Christina. The one who thinks she’s in control of everything, and that if everyone did things the “right” way everything would run smoothly.

I will be the first to tell you that being anything like my sinful self is never where I want to be and wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone.

But I have noticed a trend. It is the idea that anything that is submissive to Christ is legalism. It is thinking that if God asked me to work on studying God’s word in a deeper fashion that this is in some way an expectation that I expect everyone else to do it, too.

The trend leads people to believe that if God calls me to a need for service that I am judging others for not doing it too.

I will continue to fight to make sure that I am not doing things for rule’s sake. Law is not my Lord, but I must intervene for those thinking that any form of following Christ is legalism.

As we follow Jesus, we will discover that there are both commands and convictions. The danger is in the either/or people. For them, it’s either all commandments or all convictions.

Old Christina would tell you that it was all black and white and that all things were commands. This helps the Christinas of this world feel secure in their legalism. It helps to have a clear measuring stick to see how much better I am than those next to me.

However, there is also a danger in thinking everything is all convictions and swinging over to moral relativism.

James hits the nail on the head when he says we are to be doers and not hearers only.

But obedience is not legalism.

Let me say it again… OBEDIENCE IS NOT LEGALISM.

Jesus filled ALL of the law without one drop of legalism.

Now sometimes obedience is following the law, but not because it’s the law or the right thing to do but because the Spirit is prompting.

Obedience at first glance has some similarities to following the law, but as we look closer we see distinctions.

Obedience is Spirit driven while legalism is self-driven. Obedience frees where legalism binds up. Obedience is following Jesus to be where He is while legalism is doing what Jesus did to get what Jesus got.

Let this picture help you understand. Psalm 119:32 says, “I will run in the ways of your commands.” Legalistic people don’t run because they are too tied up.

So RUN! You don’t have to obey the rules. You GET to follow Jesus.

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Jesus girls live Titus 2

Two years ago, as I started thinking about our 2016-2017 school year and all of the changes that a baby turning into a toddler brought. I felt God leading us to be a part of a homeschool co-op.

This is not something I had desired or felt the need for until this point of our journey. The shift happened when God sent us our surprise, Snickle.

As I began to pray I was nudged by the Spirit towards our co-op.

As most co-ops require, I had to apply and go through an interview process.

My sis-in-law was already a part of it and I had heard amazing things about it. (Once even from a hairstylist when taking Sonic in for a cut.) I really felt that this was the fit for our family.

Soon after our application was accepted.

It is an amazingly encouraging place, and a well-oiled machine.

These Mamas get it done!

Towards the end of the school year, they had a sign up for a moms retreat. I really didn’t know what to expect, but God had already shown me so much about these women and their hearts. So I signed up and made my preparations to go.

What I have loved about this group (from day one) is their authenticity. They were welcoming and real. This combination is powerful.

This weekend was no different. The authenticity during our group times was refreshing.

I am convinced (as much as ever) that there is no truer authenticity than a Jesus girl.

Church girls and religious girls are not the same as Jesus girls, but Jesus girls, MAN!

A lady who follows Jesus is powerful. She knows who she is. She steps out in faith. She does the hard work when sanctification comes along to sharpen her.

I didn’t sit at a table where the leaders acted like they had it all together or hid things. This weekend I SAW them.

I would imagine that people who do not follow Christ would have a much harder time sharing the truth. Since Jesus is the TRUTH, I would imagine it next to impossible to share the truth of yourself with even one person.

But I sat at a table crying for women whose hearts were just like mine. I watch their steps and envision my own one day. I pray that I am still loving my children, husband, and parents well. I pray that I will walk the road of release as honestly and as beautifully as they do. I pray that I am still putting myself in the perspective that God has for me when I am in their shoes.

It is their authenticity, the ladies at my church, and the ladies at Lunch with the Girls that answer the call of Titus 2. I have never known anything better than authenticity to help teach the younger woman to love her husband and children well.

President James Garfield said, “There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It really matters very little whether they are behind the wheel of a truck or running a business or bringing up a family. They teach the truth by living it.”

Thank you, God, for the hearts of women. Thank you, God, for the hearts of my friends.

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