Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is it worth it?

For all the hearts that have known breakage -- You've come to the crossroads and chosen life rather than bondage to the death of it all. You have not avoided or hidden away or forgotten the loss, but you have chosen to move forward and accept the new thing that He is doing before you, and have found that this is what is really meant by "moving on". You're getting acquainted with the new you, the one heart break + healing shaped you into. You're breathing again, dreaming again, ready to begin again. [cue up that hunter hayes song!]

The pain has been felt, lived, known. The ashes have been faithfully tilled into the earth of your heart by a redemptive Hand and shockingly beautiful things are springing up from it, just as He said they would. When the beginning comes, and it does, your heart pangs and stands still, conflicted, afraid. "What if I fall?" it gasps, and something behind it softly prods, "Oh, my darling, what if you fly?"

You've been here before, you know. Heart break is a result not of failure (which is only a result of something within your control) but of a risk ventured. Few things are certain after all. Most of life is a risk. "You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices." Before the dream died you dared to dream it. Before the child passed, it was brought into being. Before the beloved was lost, you loved. They were worth the risk, right? Yes sir, yes ma'am! You were betrayed? It was not a mistake to love the one who came to betray you. You made yourself literally sick attempting to handle too much? It wasn't a mistake to try. You didn't end up where you were headed? It was not a mistake to pour yourself into the expected end.

So here we are. There is a heart before you that you want to draw nearer to, there's a dream unfolding that you want to pursue... You must risk. To have the chance at this beginning you must take the chance of another ending. We've learned enough to know that hope is found in surety, and He is the only Sure thing. So when you're on the edge of the beginning and weighing the risk, the question is not "Is it sure?", because it is not, but rather, "Is it worth it?", for however long + whatever may come.

Friday, August 22, 2014

We Dance

You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway
Take the lead and I will follow
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That You won’t lead me where You don’t go 

When my faith gets tired
And my hope seems lost
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song
The one You wrote for me

And I’ve been told
To pick up my sword and fight for love
Little did I know that Love had won for me 
Here in Your arms
You still my heart again
And I breath You in like I’ve never breathed ‘till now 

And I will lock eyes with the One who’s ransomed me
The One who gave me joy for mourning
Oh I will lock eyes with the One who’s chosen me
The One who set my feet to dancing

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I'm ashamed.

My newsfeed and yours is filling up with video clips of friends and celebrities dumping buckets of cold water on themselves (a clever way to do a limitless fundraiser!) and image tributes to a man who made us laugh over the years. Its all well-meant yet I can't help but feel like we are all avoiding something even more important.

Ferguson. Not the facts of the incident, but the heart-hurt of our brothers and sisters brought to the surface by it. I have this dream of doing life and ministry with a multi-ethnic group of believers. It should be normal, natural, expected, that our lives and families and communities would be a wild and wonderful mix of cultures and skin-tones, in the Body of Christ yes, but especially in the beautiful melting-pot that is America. Why isn't it? How do we get to that point? I read a wonderful article today written by a black brother and in it he provided an excellent start to the answer to those questions. These pieces of his writing especially struck a chord with me:

"Over the years I’ve been challenged by my white brothers and sisters to just get over this. Their refusal to attempt to see things from my ethnically different perspective is a subtle, stinging form of racism. What’s more is that it hinders true Christian unity and fellowship within the beloved body of Christ.

I will never know what it’s like to be a woman, but I do know that when my wife comes at me with level four (feelings), and I stay in lawyer-land at level two, this never is a recipe for intimacy. I am not denying facts, but I’ve had to learn the hard way that if I am to experience oneness with my bride, I must drop down to level four in an attempt to understand, before I resurface to level two.

If you sense exasperation from we African-American’s over yet another news story of a black man slain at the hands of a white man, this is a wonderful opportunity to grab some coffee and seek to understand our hearts. I need my white brothers to know how I felt as I sat in the preaching classes in Bible college and seminary not once hearing examples of great African-American preachers. I need you to know how I felt when I was forced face down on the hard asphalt of Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, 1993 all because I was nineteen and driving my pastor’s Lexus, a year after the Rodney King riots. I need you to ask how I felt when I walked into a Target recently behind a white woman who took one look at me and pulled her purse tightly.

My gospel hermeneutic does not allow for a heartless apathy that shakes its head and says “white people.” I can never give up on my white brothers and sisters because God in Christ has never given up on me.

We followers of the Way have been afforded a wonderful opportunity to use the death of Michael Brown and the confusion surrounding Ferguson to show to the world love—true love. Love for the people there in Ferguson, and also love for each other. 

...a love that sits down over a hot cup of coffee and seeks to understand."
[emphasis added // to read the full article click here]

My eyes are opening to just how many subtle ways the white race is modeled as superior in this Land of the Free -- from the leads in almost every movie, made in this country brim-full of cultural diversity, being played by whites, or history books full of the history specifically of white people who made big strides in this country, or just the continued social norm of distrust shown to members of another race. White superiority. There's even the side of the coin where very well-meaning whites make every effort to fold members of another race into their community and families, or where they simply delight in being a good neighbor,  or choose to serve as a kind of "good samaritan" to underprivileged or lower-class individuals. But even there it's white superiority because, unless heart-motives are truly pure, it's a "white savior" mentality that drives this service. And I am ashamed of it.

I'm familiar with superiority in another sense, separate from race divisions, and its just as ugly. It's plain old pride, justified. For someone who is well-acquainted with pride its nice to think that I can be entitled to at least a little bit of it. That something I am or have done is deserving of esteem and favor is a cheery thought. But then I see it >> pride (n.): 1. a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired. It makes you squirmy, doesn't it? Then this truth rings out and sends hope vibrating all the way through me: Clothe (apron) yourselves, all of you, with humility [as the garb of a servant, so that its covering cannot possibly be stripped from you, with freedom from pride and arrogance] toward one another. For God sets Himself against the proud (the insolent, the overbearing, the disdainful, the presumptuous, the boastful)—[and He opposes, frustrates, and defeats them], but gives grace (favor, blessing) to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. // 1 Peter 5:5b-7 AMP

I've been in Him long enough to know that whatever remains of my self-made righteousness just needs to go. Letting Jesus open my eyes to and clean house of current heart-issues and parts of me that still need to see Who He is and be conformed to that image instead, is part of this life. Messy, sure, but just like the messiness of other relationships, and growth in general, WORTH IT. At the end of the day the fruit of our life sells us out, painting a clear picture of where we are at. And that's good. When we know Who we are made to look like and we see stark differences between ourselves and Him then we know where we can change and grow. We are made to love our neighbors -- love them AS ourselves. Love isn't proud. It actually thinks more highly of others than of self. If that isn't an accurate, not just in theory but in fact, description of your life and mine, we have some growing to do. "The Good News of Jesus comes for both the ones who are drunk on their love for themselves and also those drowning in their own shame." //

So I understand why we prefer to watch people get soaked with ice-water rather than be faced with our heart-issues, but for the sake of our dear brothers and sisters could we brave it, please? Let's get this plank out of our own eye so we can see clearly and consequently love one another better.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Meet Your Neighbors //

"The church doesn't have a short-term goal. The church is here to stay. The community trusts us, that we are here, with them, for life."

Watoto is raising up lives that are often passed over and forgotten. It's providing a second-chance at life, a place for orphans and widows to thrive. This week on Sevenly your purchase provides $7 to support Love146 as well as conversation-starter, awareness-spreading beautiful products.

Limited edition tees available this week only at >>

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Does not disappoint //

I have this Hope, in and out of season, that does not disappoint.
The season of international short-term missions, the season of home-schooling teenage siblings, the season of a serving as a church youth leader, the season of long-distance relationship, the season of independent move across country, the season of heartbreak and the season of healing.

Guys, seriously, this is so good! Because He does not disappoint. You have to understand, I was always the person afraid of change, who got bent out of shape when things that weren't expected happened, who felt incredibly vulnerable without being properly prepared for what was coming. But even the best laid plans can change. Security and hope that are found in plans, and other fleeting things we put our trust in, disappoint. The Spirit of God never leaves, He never changes, He enables me to walk uprightly in every situation, He is my strength and song in every circumstance, He is all I need -- and He never fails.

So whether your sacrifice is seemingly going unnoticed, life throws a curveball and it hurts you, or you're stepping out in faith into potential risk, all else may fail but He remains. He is the sustaining power behind your sacrifice and He sees what is done in secret. He is acquainted with grief and He picks up our mourning and, out of His uncontainable goodness, exchanges it for the oil of gladness. He honors faith and favors it with fruit all the while providing the lasting blessing of Himself through abiding in the midst of the process. I don't know what tomorrow brings, I just know (intimately) the One who does. This life is full of glorious joy and breathtaking tragedy, there is much to steward, but He is all I need. I just want more of Him. "When oceans rise my soul will rest in [His] embrace, for I am [His] and [He] is mine."

|| ...I found Him whom my soul loves. I held Him and would not let Him go...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet Your Neighbors //

"Love brave enough to stare down the darkness -- not look away, love that listens -- actually listens, love that rolls up sleeves and steps into gaps -- providing space to recover. Gifted workers and holistic care that goes beyond a blanket and a bed; a long-haul kind of love."

Love146 is an organization that is journeying with children that are survivors of child sex-trafficking as they heal and are restored into community. This week on Sevenly your purchase provides $7 to support Love146 as well as conversation-starter, awareness-spreading beautiful products.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Love in Action

Love in Action // Eau Claire, WI
During our break times at the Power and Love conference in Madison, WI last month we took the opportunity to walk out what we were learning.
Does someone tell me where to go during the “Love in Action” times?
No, “Love in Action” is simply you living out your life in Christ around other people and applying what you are learning. If you are hungry, find a good restaurant! If you need to buy a pair of shoes, go to a shoe store! We do not tell you where to go. We DO encourage you to step out to love someone with the Love of God!
// Power and Love FAQ page

We pray "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" but during these times I saw that. It was such a beautiful thing to walk around a shopping mall and ask people on crutches or at kiosks if we could pray for healing for them and have them say, "How many of you are there? This is the fifth* time I've been prayed for today!" (*the amount of times was different based on the individual touched) It was like a revelation to hear that from people over and over, to realize that it should be normal to hear from people everywhere we go because the Body of Christ is in the world and people encounter us all the time. How often when they do do they also encounter Him? It should be every time. It can be. He died to heal relationship with Him, to bring us near again, so He could be in us -- here and now -- as well as with us one day in heaven.

There was nothing to it, it wasn't organized outreach with training and a script to use, it was just knowing the Love of God and showing it to people. I met a young man at Power and Love named Dionta who came from Michigan. He leads a group of people from his church back home in practicing walking this out each week. We didn't get the opportunity to go out in the same group during any of our breaks but we talked on the final night, I told him I wanted to "bring this back to Eau Claire" and he was excited to help me do that. He prayed for me, and he hasn't stopped since. He's become a dear friend to me. He helped me brainstorm when and where to start to lead a group of Believers and kept me accountable through encouragement to go out and to invite others along consistently. He and one of the girls from his group back home are quick to pray for and encourage me, to cheer me on and then rejoice with me after I step out.

For four weeks now I've been going in to downtown Eau Claire to one of my favorite summer events, Music in the Park, and have walked around with no agenda just a willingness to be used to show Love. The first week I invited nearly a hundred people... and no one came along. I felt very small but I knew the power of obedience in faith and I wanted to be a vessel for love to touch lives that I would usually just pass by. So I went, by myself. There was no way of knowing who I would encounter, who the Lord would highlight to me, or what He would specifically want to do in or say to their life. There was no planning or preparing to be done, I just stayed present and aware and kept abiding in Him. The next week I had talked with a few people about the concept throughout the week and felt pretty sure that one or two of them would be going out with me for "round two". Music in the Park night rolled around again and I was going by myself, again. I went to stay consistent but it was discouraging to go alone again when I had thought I was going to be encouraging my brothers and sisters each week in walking this thing out, not just doing it myself. Week three came and again Believers had been interested in joining me but ended up not coming and I went alone. I was not feeling awesome on my way to the park. The Lord showed me what was going on in my heart and He ministered to it and I was prepared again to go and simply be love. Fourth week, same thing, just me, in spite of invitation to others, and my heart was burning in prayer.

See, He is doing something here. I'm being moved to intercession as a result. He is doing many things. Every week He has touched lives down at the park with His love through me. My satisfaction comes before anything ever happens (because its in Him), my faith is stretched as I wait and then I am encouraged by the fruit of it afterward. It is a blessing to be a vessel. Jesus is shaping and sharpening me through the process. He is planting seeds through me. He is stirring His people. I've had more encounters with Believers through Love in Action than non-believers. See, He loves to show His love to people who don't know it through me (and you!), but presently through my example He is stirring in people who do know His love to realize that we are to show love, not just know it for ourselves. I may not to be in Eau Claire for much longer but when I leave there will be a plethora of seeds already planted for the brothers and sisters, who rise up to take over leading this example and teaching others and encouraging them in walking it out as well, to water and see the Lord grow to fruition.

|| If you're in EC and you want to go out with me, you're very welcome! Just let me know. If you're not in EC but your heart was moved by this, remember me in prayer. I'm not truly alone when I go out alone, Jesus and I are walking the streets together. There is a lot going on in the spiritual though and things come against me every week. I'm always victor through the Lord's strength but your prayers are invaluably empowering and encouraging. I'm so grateful for you all. You're just fantastic and Jesus is crazy about you!


Vulnerability inspires and influences some, it unsettles others. 

God created unique and beautiful people and built them to grow and become and change. Sharing life, my story, isn't a finished-product, built-to-impress thing. It's a journey. We are all created beings who are changing with the journey of our own lives and there's something about sharing, about connecting with other stories, as we journey together but separate. The fruit of a life reveals what is building it. To be sincere and just tell it like it is is a vulnerable thing, very brave. Not kosher, maybe not appreciated at first, but brave. 

|| written in April when I began to write very vulnerably about the unfolding story of my life. Thank you for your grace-filled ears.