Monday, April 20, 2015

Make Disciples //

Because there is some raw skill, some biological hard-wiring, and some years of training, but you never actually know what youre doing completely. And thats really a good place to be. So we keep stepping into new territory, branching out a little, taking new routes to familiar places, going deeper, and growing together.

A child is a disciple [follower, student] being made. Children of God are disciples being made. And part of the purpose of our growth is to reproduce, to bear fruit, to MAKE disciples. No matter how you live you are an example, an influence. People who no longer live but Christ lives through them stick out as examples in the earth like a foreigner in any country does. This family is a melting-pot of races and cultures, a crazy mix of stories, so diverse and yet unified as one because we are His.

Walking in this new life, knowing our Papa more, and growing in sanctification by the Spirit as individuals engaging intentionally in community with the Body and all others around us, this is the making of disciples. A follower influencing another to follow, to become. A student being an example to someone else to come and know, to taste and see.

So an invite went out to the area, any who follow or want to, to gather together and become more like-minded and to sharpen each other. It wasnt about studying or about displaying knowledge, it was about meditating on truth and sharing what it stirred in our hearts. Calling forth identity and encouraging each other in the walk. "Its the best kind of competition", this pursuit of knowing Him and of holiness through His righteousness. Remembering Whose we are and living according to that joyous freedom and through that steadfast power.

The group that came together today was different than the group that gathered last week, I suspect it will continue to ebb and flow. I love the open-arms of it, the way life is shared through it, how seeds will get scattered and carried far and wide, and the opportunity to consistently water them week by week. Anyone who showed up today could have led this gathering. This unified gathering can continue with or without me. It needs only a coming together of family.

You dont even realize that youre making disciples this way everyday. Youre discipling your family by the example of Jesus coming out of your words and heart motives and choices. You disciple your friends when you listen to them and they see your life. Youre discipling the people you work around, shop around, drive around. Who you are influencing them to follow is what depends. There are only two kingdoms, dark and light. How you treat, think of, speak of your family, your leaders, your followers, your neighbors, the strangers, represents either Heaven's kingdom or the Enemy's. Remember Whose you are.

Youre no longer a slave but a child. You need no longer live as a slave but have been counted as forever free and granted bold access to all you need to walk free. The Blood was sufficient before God, we must count it as sufficient as He says it is, and remember always that any accusation of guilt the Enemy brings against us is answered by the sufficiency of His Blood. Hallelujah! Rejoice, Church! We arent surviving until heaven, we are living in celebration thats a stark contrast to all still living bound -- our freedom draws eyes and its our privilege to spread the Good News that freedom has been bought for everyone, not just me, that this celebration is for all who believe. "Silver and gold, I dont have, but what I have I give you: In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, stand up and walk."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Knowing Him More //

God, a community in and of Himself, three in one, desired a people to draw near to. Angels wouldn’t cut it. He made the pair, He walked with them, they made a choice that led to separation from Him. Two kingdoms now existed, for while the Lord had created all and ruled over all, His Enemy now had dominion over the people God had made for Himself and over their habitation. God is Love though, and Love doesn’t give up. His heart was still set on a people and He put a master plan to work in the world immediately to regain the object of His affection. 

While the Enemy reigned in the earth, taking all the territory in hearts and lands he could, sowing destruction in the unfolding of a reconciliation plan, God tirelessly and mightily worked redemption again and again through great mercy. When He had written His heart in the very dust of the ages, made Himself known, and foretold His mysterious coming victory, recording it all by the hands of a faithful few and preserving it for every generation, His Spirit entered into the body of a woman who had never been entered by the body of a man, and His only Son was formed and brought forth from that fleshy home. The only Son came to restore relationship with the Father to all in order that the "One child" might become the "first born of MANY". 

The kingdom of heaven had advanced on the territory of its Enemy. With the unjust death of one perfect Man, filled by the Spirit of God, three silent days of death over His still body, and the dawning of one morning that would forever mark the changing of the tides for humanity, authority in the Earth was transferred by perfect justice. Instead of “you shall surely die” looming ahead of every life from its first breath, humanity was now offered afresh: “eternal life; life abundant” and the “Holy Spirit without measure”. The Prince of Darkness has roamed and ruled defensively and ruthlessly ever since, knowing his thrown is promised to be removed, knowing that life can now be worked in any life he has effectively held in death, that light can drive out the deepest darkness he has surrounded or filled anything with, and that the call of our Father’s love resonates with our hearts more deeply than his most torturously rooted fear and it holds the key to release the tightest-wound bond from any soul. 

The King has reproduced after His nature and His children, filled with His powerful love, and given authority over all, walk the earth with the purpose of being fruitful and multiplying -- not merely by the flesh but by the Spirit. No longer living of ourselves, no longer children of the Evil one, but living by Christ alone, with everything that is available to Him available to us and subject to nothing His own Father didn’t subject Him to or that His Enemy claims to have authority to subject us to through lies and deceit. Secure in this identity, in Whose we are, as the Beloved and rightful children of God by the blood of Jesus which we profess -- having been baptized by the water signifying the recognition that our death was bought when He died and that His resurrection bought our birth into new life -- we live and move and have our being. Living as pleasing sacrifices in this most reasonable service to our King. Counting all other lives above our own, knowing we are seated in a place we can never be removed from by the Enemy or by man, and that the most fruitful way we can live is to die that others might live. We are marked by favor, by presence; known by love, by the very essence of Him. 

Is it possible for our fleshly life to continue without rest or nourishment or the strengthening exercise of its use? No. Is it possible for our spiritual new life to continue without the very blood and breath, the very Spirit, of God flowing through us, or without the communion with Him by bold access through prayer, or without the every word in every book of The Book He recorded for us to renew our every fiber in the truth of Who He is, what He did to make us who we were meant to be and tell us how to live? No. 

Did we free ourselves? Certainly not. But since He has set us free are we indeed free? Completely. Walking in freedom every moment of the day, all the old ways passing and the new ones replacing by the Spirit, as your mind is renewed by the Word... Can your mind be renewed any other way? No. So is it satisfactory or safe to rely on another to read and relate to you all you need to know from the Word? Was it not given to all because we need it for ourselves as much and as regularly as our very body needs nutrients? Isn’t His heart to know and be known intimately? Hasn’t He revealed Himself to us through His Word and indwelled us by His Spirit that we may experience Him as well as know Him? A true knowing, a real intimacy in the perfected freedom of covenanted-oneness between a Lover and His faithfully, relentlessly pursued Bride? So to search Him out and become ever more familiar with Him are we not meant to have our face in the Book? We are. We are! 

He is not far off, He has not hidden Himself. Quite the opposite. As soon as we had set ourselves far off from Him in the Garden, He was already pursuing afresh. As soon as the veil was draped between us to cover our faces from His, He was planning to tear it in two and restore our bold access to His presence. When we seek Him we will find Him for He is both available and more willing than we ever will be to be found. 

Can anyone utterly know another after one day? One year? One lifetime? Is it not a continual seeking to know, reading the heart of another as it is written out by their every move throughout their life -- even for a spouse with their spouse, the one they are literally two-made-one with? It is. It is! [Ive been through the Bible cover-to-cover twice in my twenty-two years, and thats more than many that make up His Body, but that doesn’t mean I'm through. Does my heart, mind, soul and strength know every word? Is my every fiber familiar with the Word's every piece and part? Do I KNOW it cover-to-cover? Not yet. So Im in it again; seeking His face afresh, newly familiarizing myself with His tone. One book per day, one day at a time, for sixty-six days. And were I to repeat that every sixty-six days for a year I would meet every page in the Book from front to back five and a half times over. If I repeat that every year for the next eighty years of my expected life, I will have seen His written heart in its full context four hundred and forty times. Perhaps, by then I would have a glimmer, a taste, of intimate, deep familiarity with Him. Is it worth the time? Is that a joke? To know Him and be able to make Him known is the point of the time that makes up life itself.] 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

UNITED Grand Rapids //

Meet Dionta Gray >> The fearless, passionate leader of UNITED Grand Rapids, a group of volunteers from area churches that come together every Tuesday to reach out to their community as one Body, with one Love.

I had the privilege of visiting Dionta over Easter weekend. The UNITED team goes out on Tuesdays and I wasnt able to be there to experience that but when D took me downtown to the areas they consistently reach we had the opportunity to minister to some people anyway. When youre willing to make yourself available to be used, you will be. 

I had paused to snap a photo of a building and while I did a man coming down the sidewalk said hello. We made introductions and Dionta led us in praying blessing over Jonathan's life. As we finished D saw a woman who had come up behind us. She asked for prayer and we were not only able to pray for her, D was able to hold her while she cried. He and I listened to her as she confided in us about what was going on in her life. We were able to take her to some places that could help meet her needs. It took about an hour of our day to prioritize Ashley's life and give her all we could. It wasnt in our plan for the day, but Im so glad it was in the Lord's and that we were willing to step into it.

Another day we spent the afternoon with one of the men that the UNITED team has developed a friendship with at the shelter downtown over the past few years. The team receives some donations to use in outreach but beyond that Dionta is very generous with his own resources. When you have relationship with someone you can meet their actual needs because you know what they are, you dont have to guess. Those needs can be very basic. Some clothes that fit the dress code of his job, a hair cut, lunch and coffee with friends. These are needs we help our loved ones meet all the time and Richard is one of those loved ones now thanks to the untiring intentionality of UNITED.

// summer outreach 2014 //

"UNITED is a ministry that is made up of different college aged men and women from various churches in the greater Grand Rapids area who have a heart to serve and reach out to the lost and broken in and around the city of Grand Rapids. We connect with, pray and love each and every person we come across and desire to be even more like Jesus each and everyday. 
It's a lifestyle that we are developing, not a once a week experience."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stitch Fix >>

Stitch Fix nailed it.
Every "fix" has been delightful but this one, "fix" #5, this one takes the cake. I wanted to keep every single item in the box. That's never happened before.

Mystree Hobart Sweater >> M
I cant even describe it, I just felt so at home in this item. I probably would never have picked it out for myself but I loved it. The fit was perfection, the style marvelous.

41Hawthorn Trinidad Chevron Striped Henley Top >> M
The stylists know that Im a sucker for henley top. This was my favorite one for fit and fabric style by far.

Mystree Andria Maxi Dress >> M
Ive been drooling over Anthro's spring line so when I opened up this maxi dress I did a very happy dance. It was the dress of my dreams!

Urban Expressions Trevor Woven-Top Hobo Bag >> brown
Seriously, how did they know that hobo bags just like this one are my weakness?

Honey Punch Wakeman Crochet Open Cardigan >> M
I have a cardigan very similar to this one but I like this one even better than the one I already own. The weight of the crochet is heavier so it falls nice and long.

There you have it. Hands-down my favorite "fix" yet. When you purchase all five items in your box you get a 25% discount. A really nice perk to falling in love with everything they send. 

not sponsored by Stitch Fix

Friday, March 20, 2015

naja >>

"Pretty panties make you feel pretty." Ever since I was little Momma and I have said that. Its no less true as an adult. I'm a single gal, no one gets to see what Im wearing but me, but I like knowing that pretty things are underneath. One day when I get to share myself with my future husband itll be even more fun. All that to say, there are lingerie companies that make quality pieces and that are fun and lovely, but they use slave or child labor, and Im just not cool with supporting that. You know that I believe we are either helping or harming people with every purchase. I've had my eyes open for a lingerie company that employed people in poorer areas of the world, giving them a leg-up instead of taking advantage of them, a place I could really get behind to supply my basic items as well as exciting splurges. I found one! Naja employs single-moms, teaching them to sew their gorgeous line of bras and panties. 

I would love to transition my whole undies-drawer from my Target "5 for $20" bin buys to all Naja. It'll be an investment. A very worthwhile one. To get it started I made my first purchase with a $15 off coupon you can get here: As if the products werent gorgeous enough, the packaging it comes in is totally drool-worthy. I can hardly stand it!

not sponsored by naja

Monday, March 16, 2015

What a year can change //

April 4th will be one year since a death of sorts occurred in my life’s circumstances. [If you have no context for my life a year ago you can catch up here.] A long awaited promise, a future full of hope and purpose, suddenly died. The Enemy kills. But I guess he still hasn’t wrapped his mind around the fact that Jesus has the last say in my life, not him. I will have trouble in the world, but my life is hid in the One who overcame the world — I live and overcome by the same power that raised Him up from death. Even in the confusion and distress of the loss, I knew I was held secure and that it wasn’t an end altogether. I knew joy comes after, I was assured that new life came next. Step by step, faith has prevailed and hope has been realized, the promise not undone, merely increased, doubled. If the Enemy thought he was crippling my ability to advance the Kingdom by his theft in my life, or hinder my love for the Lover of my soul, he was mistaken. The One who is in me is stronger. His resurrection power trumps the power of death. I literally experience it.

“Grand adventure and a happy-go-lucky" joy would return, I prophesied over myself last spring. Here we are. I live in a war zone. Every day is a wild, wonderful adventure. Seeing Jesus overcome, seeing impossible things accomplished in His name, seeing His glory proclaimed in the midst of enemy territory and His kingdom advanced there by the faith of the Saints. I operate on the earth, but I see in the spiritual realm -- more and more clearly all the time. On the outside the life I live seems ideal, probably quaint, but it is what I am called to and there is power working through it. Relationship, discipleship… doing life in community together, sowing seeds in hearts and watering them in others… Encouraging the believers, speaking life in places of death… Being faithful where I am, doing all I do with excellence… I came to serve. I came to invest in lives. I came to influence for freedom in Christ. I didn’t come to create a ministry, but I did come to minister. Im not an out-going person, quick to introduce myself and become acquainted with others, but Jesus is quick to reach out and He has done so so much through me that Ive gained a reputation for being in-my-element when interacting with and engaging people, whether acquaintance or stranger. 

Many know my heart for Milwaukee is especially focused toward the homeless, the poor, the discriminated, the prostituted, so it could rise as a question why my schedule isn’t marked by any devotion of time to peoples in these circumstances after nearly three months of living here. The answer is two-fold. First, that it is my intention not to build a great ministry organization around this mission but to simply operate in it in my everyday life, to embrace the opportunities that present themselves intentionally and to seek to make myself available by always challenging my comfort zone, not settling into a routine of isolated living. Second, as someone with little life experience in the acknowledged deeper or darker issues of the world, Im aware that I have need of knowledge and wisdom in order to fulfill the vision the Lord is shaping for my lifestyle of ministry, of Love in action, in this city. Faithfully proactive in this time of preparation and training, I am reading constantly, am in prayer individually and corporately, and am gleaning from born-again men and women trusted and respected for their service here. In due time the vision will come to life and many will see it. For now, ground work is being laid. 

I am incredibly grateful for the Body operating as the Father intended: together. The intense beauty of the great diversity of giftings and callings and personalities and tribes in powerful unity through Christ is a force to be reckoned with. No wonder the Enemy is so keen to stir up disunity among believers. Ive had the great joy of establishing true community and a partnership in mission with people from a number of different congregations in the area, several represented races, and all different seasons of life. It builds up and enhances. I get to serve many in little specific, personal ways throughout my weeks, and many others serve and bless me in specific, personal ways. Its awe-inspiring how our Father made His family to operate. He is all goodness.

I love my life here. I love the sights, the secret workings, the community, even the climate. I am not of this place identified as Brew City, but I am surely in it, I have called it home from day one, and its a privilege I take delight in to seek the peace of this city. Ive experienced the victory I foresaw, of life after death, in my life’s mere circumstances, and I know the same victory is available for the city of Milwaukee at large. The King is among us. #thebestisyettocome