Tuesday, December 14, 2004
I’ve been thinking about family and what that word means a lot lately. On Sunday morning a couple told the story of how God moved them to adopt a 4 year old little boy from another country. It was so moving to hear how an independent and happily childless couple began the journey to adopt someone of a completely different language and culture into their lives. As they spoke of Brian, their son, it was evident that God had expanded their hearts so much to accommodate his presence; the love they felt for that little boy spilled out of their voices and onto ever ear that heard their story. It reminded me of Bill and Kim, my own brother and sister-n-law who have adopted their own baby boy from Russia. Konnor officially entered our family on the day that Noah was born. Soon, he would enter our hearts as well, just as he had already become deeply woven into the hearts of Bill and Kim. It has made me realize how powerful family ties are, and how family is born of love, not simply born.
Certainly the word “family” echoes more deeply in my own heart this Christmas season. As I look at the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament hanging on our tree, I marvel that just one year ago our hearts were filled with the painful ache and longing to have a child of our own. And now Noah announces his presence in our lives in the most amazing ways: with coos, and laughs, and cries, and lots of dirty diapers! I am constantly surprised at how easily I miss him when we are apart. Last Friday night, as we made our annual Wesley Foundation road trip to Nashville to see the lights, I kept looking into the eyes of passing children wishing Noah could be there with us, dreaming of that day when he will be old enough to enjoy all the decorations of the Opryland Hotel. And while I walked around that winter wonderland, I was poignantly aware that this longing to see my son had to be like God’s longing to see us. I could feel a new awareness of the miracle of Christmas dawning in my heart; because Jesus lives there, that constant communion with my Heavenly Father is always there. God sent Jesus because He wanted to be close to us all the time. I knew being a mother would change me. I just never could imagine the power of that love. While it is the most urgent and powerful feeling I have ever had, it pales greatly in comparison to God’s love for us. His love is unlegislated. Which is to say that it simply comes to us and keeps on coming.
I know this is true because I feel His love move through me for each person He has placed in my care as a pastor. And as I enter into God’s love for you, I am deeply changed. I will jokingly say sometimes that before I had Noah, I had the students at the Wesley Foundation. But in a very real way it is true. The love of Christ that dwells in my heart for this ministry and for each of you is purely unlegislated. We are not related by blood, but the bonds certainly are as lasting. We belong to each other. Because of this calling on my life, I belong to you. It breaks my heart that anyone could live their entire lives without knowing this kind of love. It breaks my heart that there are those on this campus who don’t know this kind of belonging.
If I could give anything in the world to people I cared about, I would give them the experience of the Wesley Foundation. What this place did for me years ago as a student, it is still doing. It is a place where the love of Jesus Christ becomes real in the most amazing, funny, and meaningful ways. Nothing else tops it. Especially for those who really need to belong. We belong to each other in the miracle of becoming Christ’s body. We are family.
Christmas is really an adoption story. It is the story of a loving Father who reaches out to His estranged children through His Beloved Son. It is the story of an eternal adoption, by which those who were far away from the Father’s love are brought near by a tiny baby boy who would one day lay down His life for us. It is the story of that glorious reunion of our hearts rejoicing in the love of our doting Father, who gives us His all so that we can have all He is.
This is the miracle I experience everyday at the Wesley Foundation. Come experience it with me.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
I just put up pictures on my walls. On my message board is a card that says Enjoy the Journey. Underneath the caption is this quote: “Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life.” As a friend of mine from seminary would say, “That’ll preach!” So many people are so miserable. It’s like they live their lives thinking, “if I could only have . . . .” And then they get that golden egg, just to discover some other void or obstacle that keeps them from being satisfied. I love the wisdom that Paul shares towards the end of his life: “ . . . . I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:11-13).
Not exactly a scripture we hear a lot at Christmas time, but it is so appropriate and so needed. As a child I rated Christmas on how good the gifts were. And even the old clay-mation specials seemed to equate happiness with getting toys. But what is beyond the stuff? I mean, stuff breaks; it gets lost or misplaced; stuff eventually gets old and boring. The “if I could only have” mentality is only a cruel illusion. We are all searching for that something to fill us up. This is natural. But that longing we feel was put their by our Maker. It is a longing to know and be known by Him. This is what Christmas is all about. God gives Himself to us in a way we can understand. The God of the universe, who cannot be seen by human eyes, came to us as a human child, living in the world we live in, growing as we grow, struggling as we struggle, knowing intimately what it is to be frail and human. This is Jesus, the only one who fills up that ache that keeps us up at night. Know Him, love Him. He already knows and loves you. And when you receive the One who offers Himself to you in all His fullness this Christmas season, you will never again say, “if only I could.” You will know happiness, not as a fleeting feeling, but as the true joy that is a method of life, a gift that never leaves, that never breaks, that never gets lost or misplaced, that never gets old and boring. You will have discovered the true meaning of Christmas.
This is my prayer for you. You are all the best gifts. I praise God for the opportunity to know you and serve you.
Friday, December 03, 2004
I was standing in line at Sears today waiting to purchase some things, when I overheard others in line complaining about Christmas because of the lines. Of course I had Noah with me, and he began to need some attention. As I knelt down to find his pacifier (hoping to postpone all out wails for a couple of minutes), I overheard the gentleman behind me say, “Now that’s what Christmas is all about.” Isn’t though?
Christmas is all about a baby boy, and a new mother, crazy crowds, and crowded inns. Over the summer I spent time musing about what it must have been like for Mary as I walked uphill during my last weeks of pregnancy. I imagined her discomfort riding a donkey (the car was bad enough for me once I had been there more than half an hour). And I can almost hear the sound of her voice saying, “You want me to have this baby where!?” After 2000 years worth of idealizing it, our nativity scenes have become somewhat sanitized. We quietly sing, “All is calm; all is bright.” Try telling that to a woman who just found out her delivery attendants can only moo, bahh, or bray.
So Christmas is chaotic. The truth is that it always has been. Jesus’ birth was not idyllic. It was real. He came here real, covered with blood, peach fuzz, and vernix. The clean, smiling six month old we see gently cooing in the hay on our mantles is a bit overdone. However, there is some good theology in the real life drama of Jesus’ birth. The good news is we don’t have to clean up and sanitize our lives before we invite Him in. The best Christmas gift did not arrive on this earth neatly wrapped in a ribbon. He probably was red-faced, squirmy, fussy, and could really use that set of lungs His heavenly Father equipped him with.
I’m so glad that Jesus is right at home in the midst of crazy, chaotic moments. There are so many of them that we would never survive if His blessed presence wasn’t in them. I am so glad that somehow Jesus makes His home in the realness of our lives, but then begins making real the peace of His presence. I am so glad that inviting Jesus into our hearts has a way of settling down those things within and without, so that we are transformed by His calm love, becoming catalysts of transforming love wherever we happen to be. Oh He is so great and awesome! I am amazed at His incarnation, that He wanted to join the human race and that He still wants to join us where we are.
We can feel guilty about the chaos in our lives, guilty that there is more of the season than there is of us to go around, guilty that once more time slips away and we failed to experience that picture in our head or the scene on our mantle. Or we can stop right this moment and pray, “Even so Lord Jesus, quickly come.” This is my Christmas prayer. There is not enough of me to make life something other than it is. Sometimes I just have to shrug my shoulders in apology, and invite Jesus into, not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly.
Funny thing. He’s always happy to enter in.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
In my office I have this ceramic angel lamp that is made in such a way that she is always looking upon you, no matter where you are in the room. It kind of reminds me of the Amy Grant song that came out while I was in Jr. High “Angels Watching Over Me.” Amy would fervently sing, “Got His angels watching over me, every move I make. Angels watching over me. Angels watching over me, every step I take. Angels watching over me.” The only verse I can remember goes something like this: “God only knows the times my life’s been threatened just today. A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my. Near misses all around me; accidents unknown. Though I’ll never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home. But I know they’re all around me, all day and through the night. When the enemy is closing in, and I know sometimes they fight. To keep my feet from falling, I’ll never turn away. If you ask me who’s protecting me, then you’re gonna hear me say. . . .”
This morning I was reading in Acts about Paul’s trip to Rome. He was a prisoner being taken to see the emperor. The ship he was sailing on encountered heavy storms that threatened to kill them all. And yet in the midst of the turmoil, Paul continues to pray and seek the face of God. One day he says to everyone on board with him, “I urge you now to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For last night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before the emperor; and indeed, God has granted safety to all those who are sailing with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:22-25).
Looking back over the past year, I see so many reasons to keep up my courage. There have been so many people who have been angels in my life. I think of chance encounters with people of faith who had just the right word of hope I needed to hear. I think of the perfect timing of events where things just fell into place with a precision that had God’s fingerprints all over it. I think of those unanswered prayers that, had they been answered, would have been disastrous. God’s help for our circumstances is always close at hand. One of the angels in my life I am especially thankful for right now is Becky, our intern. For those of you who don’t know her, she really is worth getting to know well. The timing of her becoming a part of our ministry here at the foundation is such a blessing. I know that once again God’s hand is at work.
It is so easy to be in the midst of a storm, with the ship breaking up all around, and forget that God’s providence and provision are close beside us. We look at our losses and feel devastated. We forget those miracles that bring us safely to shore so that our lives may be restored. Sometimes it is helpful to simply recall all the ways God’s grace has saved the day in our lives. From the very beginning, remembering God’s goodness throughout the past puts a new perspective on our present and our future. Like Amy Grant says, we rarely see with human eyes the hands that lead us home. We only recognize the grace of God’s help by its results.
As you travel this coming week, as you eat turkey and dressing, as you share the love of family and friends, remember that God’s grace is with you. As invisible as air, and yet sustaining you just as much as your next breath. God loves you. God hears your prayers. God sends His mighty help.
Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
There is this really great episode of “Friends” where Phoebe and Rachel go running in Central Park. Rachel runs like everybody else, but Phoebe has a special way of running. She just lets loose and throws her arms and legs everywhere while she runs as fast as she can, the way she did when she was a little girl. Phoebe simply explains that if she is going to have to run she is going to have fun doing it. After being very judgmental about Phoebe’s “form,” eventually Rachel gives in to that childlike delight in running at breakneck speed with arms and legs flailing in the wind.
How about you? When was the last time you gave in to the simple delight of being alive? I love going shopping for the Wesley Foundation with Becky, our campus missionary intern, and whoever else happens to be there. It is always an adventure. And something about the delight of being out of the office and in a place with lots of cool stuff sets in. I’m worse than a kid in a candy store. Funny, it’s not as fun shopping by myself. There is no one to share the joy with. No one to show all the cool stuff to. No one to be a witness to the silliness that is part of my childlike delight.
I believe that Jesus was, is, full of delight. I believe that He takes great pleasure in the simple things of life. I believe that He regularly laughed out loud on earth, and I believe that He regularly laughs out loud in Heaven. We have heard the scripture that says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” But how seriously do we take that Word of the Lord? Maybe this is why so many Christians are so “not strong.” It seems we have gotten so serious about belonging to God that we have left the parts of God that aren’t “serious” out. Those are important parts! The JOY of the Lord is my strength. Not the discipline of the Lord, not the rules of the Lord, not the determination of the Lord, not the power of the Lord, not the wisdom of the Lord, but the JOY OF THE LORD.
My prayer for you is that you experience the Lord’s joy. It is a precious, precious thing. It “takes a lickin’, but keeps on tickin’.” God’s joy cannot be taken away. It is the gift of His presence which is with us always. Only we can squelch it. Only we can put it out of our lives and pretend it is not there. So many Christians live a miserable existence, but this is not, and never has been, the Lord’s intention for any of us. So do something harmless and crazy and fun. Fill your life with delight. Let the Lord show you how to really laugh again. Allow Jesus to give you His strength.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween. The Halloween party we had last Thursday was so much fun. Once again Jason wins best costume. You should ask to see the pictures. He makes a good Jesus. I can’t help it. I love Halloween. Ever since I was a kid I have loved dressing up in a costume and going from house to house to get candy. I loved singing the songs of the season: “Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!” Even though I don’t go trick or treating now, I love to be the first one to answer the door when the goblins, ghosts, and ladybugs come by. (Yes, we had an adorable lady bug stop by.) I so enjoy the fun of seeing kids all dressed up and the joy of giving away treats that make them smile. Lord knows I can’t wait till Noah is big enough to go around the neighborhood.
I think the fascination for me has always been the opportunity to pretend to be something or someone else, to exercise my imagination in creating a fabulous new identity. It was always so much fun to dress up. One of the things I have learned over time is that many of us expend a lot of energy playing “dress up” everyday. I know I have. It’s not that we put on costumes before going to class or work, but we do make sure we project an image of ourselves that we want others to find attractive and believable, or at least an image that is acceptable to ourselves. I used to do this with a smile. My motto was, “always be nice, never be mad, and always look happy.” People would comment on how I was the happiest person they knew. In reality, the smile I wore often hid my real feelings. It was easier to put on a smile than to admit to myself and others that I didn’t have it all together. That’s just an example. People hide all kinds of things about themselves for all kinds of reasons.
I think of Mr. Rogers. When I was in seminary I would come home everyday from class and watch his show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I think it was therapy for me. I was finally having the mask of happiness peeled away and was very uncomfortable with what I was seeing in its place. But everyday I would hear those words from Mr. Rogers, “I like you just the way you are.” I was learning that it was okay to feel sad, mad, and drab. It was okay to need help. And I was also learning that while not everyone is like Mr. Rogers, some people are.
I like to think of the Wesley Foundation as a part of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. We’re not fancy, but everyone who comes through our doors is important. It is a place where “Just As I Am” is more than an altar call song, it is the invitation to the family. Come just as you are. Come and share your burdens. Come and share your boredom. Come and share your real self. Because once you don’t have to spend so much energy pretending to be something you are not, you miraculously find the strength to really experience true joy.
By the way, the real Mr. Rogers is Jesus. In His neighborhood, or shall we say Kingdom, everyone is important and highly treasured. Every person’s feelings are respected. And each one of us has the space needed to learn how to be like Him. There are no unreal expectations of us in the Kingdom of God except the ones we bring with us.
I pray that today you will feel the joy of being accepted for who you are. I pray that you will experience the freedom to just be yourself. I pray that you will know you have a home you can come to where you will be liked. If you don’t come to the Wesley Foundation, I pray Jesus will lead you to another place that is also part of “the neighborhood.”
Friday, October 22, 2004
Now I know that life demands its share of busy work and things that we would rather not do. But is there some space in our life when we focus on the good stuff? Have you hugged your cat today? Have you called your best friend just to say hi and tell him or her thank you for being there? Have you told your mom and dad that you love them? Have you let the Lord smile on you? It’s a pretty neat thing to just sit there and feel the pleasure of the Lord dwelling upon you. God gets the biggest grin when we will just be still and let Him love on us. When was the last time you let the good stuff have part of your day?
No regrets. That’s what I would give each of you, a life with no regrets. Of course this isn’t in my power, but it is in God’s. So we’ve wasted time. So we’ve given too much attention to non-essential stuff and not enough to the important things. The forgiveness that comes through Jesus Christ wipes that slate clean. He gives even our missteps meaning. And then He shows us how to grab hold of REAL life now. I want to challenge you (and me) to spend some time this weekend keeping Sabbath, doing those things we wish we had done if we were to die unexpectedly, nurturing those things that go with us beyond death.
Jesus loves you so much; and I do too. Keep hanging in there.
Monday, October 18, 2004
What mundane things can you invite Jesus into? How can the mundane things in life teach you about a Heavenly Father that is actively involved in every detail of your living? I look into the face of Noah, hoping and praying that he loves me, that he knows me. And then I wonder if God looks into my face wondering the same thing? What about you? When you climb the Hill do you imagine Jesus climbing with you? Do you imagine how Jesus helps you climb the mountains of adversity and challenge? When you ask questions in the classroom do you consider how the Lord welcomes your questions about faith and then helps you to find the answers?
Returning to the Wesley Foundation has helped me connect with that part of life beyond diapers and spit-up, helping me appreciate even more the gift of diapers and spit-up. My prayer for you is that you will find a place of serenity within the ordinary, that Jesus will be real to you every moment: the serious ones, the boring ones, the challenging ones, the funny ones, the tedious ones, the frustrating ones, not just the spiritual ones. Please know how precious you are in His eyes and how thankful I am to be sharing the mundane with you!
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
When we got to the ICU at Greenview (before being transferred to Vandy) there was a wonderful nurse who put her arm around me and said, “I want you to repeat after me: I will not blame myself; I’m here to take care of Noah; and I’m here to learn.” She would make me repeat these three things to her every time she saw me. As a friend of mine from seminary would say, “That will preach!”
Sometimes in life things happen that are beyond our control. My mom says we each do the best we can at any given moment. And sometimes our best still comes up short. It is so easy to look at the difficulties of our lives and meditate on “what might have been” or “if only . . . “ But looking backward that way just seems to heap more heartache on top of what we already have. I like what the nurse said to me: take care of what you can right now and learn what you can right now.
Maybe you are in the middle of the hardest semester of your life. Maybe you are having relationship problems. Maybe you have regrets. Maybe you’ve made mistakes. Maybe you are at .the hardest point in your entire life, and just need someone to put an arm around you and say it will turnout all right. Maybe God sent the words of that nurse to encourage you too. We cannot change the past, but we can seek the Lord and entrust to Him the present and the future. In the meantime we can take care of what we can now and learn what we can. From my experience I have learned that God is there even when we feel most alone and forsaken. I know that God loves you and is with you right now. Just keep holding on to those words of hope. Soon you will see they really are true.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
If this summer has been less than stellar, if you are bored out of your mind, if you can’t wait to get away from home and a grueling summer job, know that what awaits you is full of the promise of God’s joy and awesome wonders. I want to challenge you and encourage you to be more than a by-stander this year. Step in deep with us. God is going to continually blow us away with His gracious and wonderful works of love and power. But you might miss it if you just stay on the side-lines. And more importantly, you might miss an important part of God’s plan for your life as well.
If you know a new student or returning student who needs to receive our e-letter, send me their address. I would love to welcome them personally and add them to our list.
Have a great week! Can’t wait to see you soon!
Monday, August 09, 2004
As time has gotten closer for school to start, I have really seen the hand of the Lord moving on behalf of this ministry. This is how much Jesus loves you. About two or three weeks ago, one of the members of Broadway United Methodist Church approached me and shared how her Sunday School class was looking for a service project. She asked if she could bring our campus ministry before them as a possibility so that they could help us get our facilities ready for school. Well, of course I said yes! When she brought it before the class, they voted overwhelmingly to come and spiff up our buildings and yard. Let me tell you what kind of miracle this was. Last summer Tim (my husband) and I spent a lot of time cleaning, organizing, and making things ready for the new school year. This summer has been a totally different story. Being in my last trimester of pregnancy has made it next to impossible to do some of the simplest things. There are days that I can’t even put my shoes on without help. I can’t even get up out of a chair without help. And with the increasing size and weight of my belly, I have come to have quite a bit of sympathy for turtles and bugs who get stuck on their back, finding themselves laying there helpless with arms and legs waving in the air. This offer of service from the Unity Sunday School class has truly been a God-send.
And so, last week they came, men and women, and even some children. They even brought their own equipment. They washed, organized, gutted, rearranged, sweated, and still came back to finish everything. They mulched, trimmed, pressure washed. They even cleaned out our fridge! They worked hard. And at the end of the day they were still asking what more they could do to help us. It moves me to tears when I think about it. It is one of the few times that I have seen the Body of Christ shine forth with the full radiance of the Holy Spirit. I don’t even have words to describe how much they did for us, and how much they are still willing to do.
Let this thought be with you this week as you get ready to start classes: God loves you in mighty, mighty ways. God brought a whole group of people, who have never even met you, to pour out His awesome and powerful love for you. Part of our mission statement is “to put a human face on God’s love.” God did that for each one of us in a very tangible way. So go into this semester fearless, knowing that God is working mightily on your behalf. Go into this semester expectant, knowing that God is ready to use us in mighty ways just as He brought His servants to work on our behalf in mighty ways. Go into this semester with hope and faith, knowing that God’s provision is bigger than your biggest need.
I am so humbled by our Lord’s generosity. I am so overcome with gratitude for these very ordinary, everyday people who have served so completely and given extravagantly from their hearts. I pray that the Lord will continue to do mighty things through them, will bless them in ways they cannot even imagine, and that the seeds of their obedience will yield a mighty harvest for God’s Kingdom through us and others they are touching in Christ’s name.
Know that each of you are precious in the Lord’s sight. Jesus loves you so much. I know because sometimes I think He will burst my heart with the fullness of all the love He wants to show you. Have a great week!
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Remember that just because it is summer break, God is still up to some wonderful, clever things. I want to challenge each of you to seriously pray about how God is using you this summer. It’s almost like you have a short-term mission assignment, wherever you are. Y’all have each touched my life in a specific and special way; I truly believe that God intends to use each of you to touch someone else’s life this summer in a similar way. Where is the need that really tugs at your heart? Is there someone you see often who just needs some extra encouragement? Maybe you are working in a gloomy environment and God has injected your zany sense of humor at just the right time to brighten things up.
I think of my dear friend and mentor George. He was the Senior Pastor at the church I first worked at. During those two years we worked together he really took me under his wing, taught me how to have fun in the midst of the craziness of ministry, and kept encouraging me to find ways to connect with God so I wouldn’t get burned out. After those first two years he retired. He always said that when he retired he wanted to focus on doing the 30% of ministry (Bible Studies and teaching) he loved full-time instead of the 70% of church business, politics, and administration that he hated. He always said that retirement didn’t mean retiring from ministry; God still had special things for him to do. And boy did God use him in a special way. Perhaps the most significant ministry he ever gave happened in the last three years of his life, during his retirement. He was able to step into a bad situation at a church that was really hurting to provide stable leadership, loving compassion, and wise support as they healed. His legacy blows me away, and reminds me that we are never really off-duty when it come to the Lord.
That is not to say that you shouldn’t enjoy your break. This summer break is one of God’s gifts to you. He has already planned for your refreshment. In fact, you will be refreshed and renewed even as you serve Him in your new environment. It will be a joy to your soul.
I am so proud of each of you. I am so thankful for your presence in my life. Know that you are greatly loved by Jesus. I know because He has put His love for you in my heart.
Have a great week!
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Today several students and I handed out the care packages that everyone helped put together on Monday. Man, I love doing that stuff. It is such a blessing to help God bless others. We delivered popcorn to all the houses on our street down to the stop sign, and then we had lots left over! So we went to Cherry Hall to give away bags to pedestrians. I never knew how hard it could be to give away popcorn and kool-aid. I guess now I know what God feels like when He is trying to give away His heart. He just wants to bless us, and sometimes we say “No Thanks.”
But then I think about everyone who accepted our gift, and the look of surprise on their faces. Some asked us why we were doing this. They seemed really shocked when we simply told them God loved them and we really just wanted to provide them with a study break during finals. I pray that someone was blessed in a special way.
You know, that’s the thing about God. I think about the parable of the sower. If I were sowing seed, I would only throw it on good soil, so I would know my efforts weren’t wasted. But not God. Knowing there will only be a 25% success rate, He throws seed everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE: the road, the thorns, the rocks, places where that poor seed doesn’t even have a chance!
Yet there is always a deeper, more significant truth to God’s stories. God shares His blessings with us with reckless abandon. Every little opportunity to show us His love, He gives, whether we notice or not, whether we receive it or turn up our noses. He sends little love notes in every way possible. When I step outside on a spring day in Bowling Green, I feel it the most: sun gently warming my cheeks, soft wind mussing my hair, the sweet smell of flowers making everything nice.
What love notes has God given you lately? Are there some that you might have missed? I pray that in these next couple of weeks (especially next week during finals) God will give you the special grace to see every little way He is trying to love on you, and also that you will be blessed extravagantly because of it.
Our Lord loves you so much. I can’t say it enough. You are a masterpiece creation in His eyes. You are precious beyond your wildest imagination to Him. Somehow, when we realize the beautiful truth of who we are to Him, it changes everything.
Here’s to the revolution of God’s love.
Thursday, April 22, 2004
God really got my attention today in my quiet time. I was spending time with Psalm 19:12-13: “But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” What caught my eye was the note in verse 13 which indicates that “from the insolent” may be read “from proud thoughts.” So I went back and read it with the new phrasing. Check this out:
But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from proud thoughts; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Amazing how two simple words change the meaning of the whole thing, huh? I think proud thoughts are the most hidden kind. We are least likely to think we are being obstinate at the times when we are being most obstinate. Being dominated by the need to always assert one’s rightness sure can get us into all kinds of messes. We can even turn our good living into something yucky when we start to get proud of ourselves, patting ourselves on the back for our own good behavior. I love the way David takes the time in this Psalm to ask God to do for him what he cannot do for himself, see where the hidden hang-ups are. It’s like initiating our own spiritual virus protection program. It’s a virus scan of the soul.
And the Holy Spirit is so much more thorough than Norton or McAffee or whatever thing you use for your computer system. While it can be painful to see what the light of the Lord uncovers, being made clean is as painless as quarantining and eliminating bugs from our computers. It is as simple as admitting to our Lord Jesus that the blemish His loving eyes have found in our character really does exist, and we need His help to get rid of it. And He does. We are forgiven, no questions asked, the moment we request His forgiveness to clean up our previously unseen sins and faults. We are made clean and beautiful once again. What is painful is when we never allow the loving eyes of Jesus to show us where the problems are. Then it is like those worms from the internet that can strike when we are most unprepared, wrecking our whole system.
I want to invite you to join me in making this prayer our own: Sweet Lord Jesus, show me where the hidden errors are; forgive me, cleanse me, and live in me more and more. Amen.
Hope you have a great rest of the week and a wonderful weekend. Y’all are such a blessing from the Lord.
Thursday, April 08, 2004
In the crunch and rush it can be so easy to lose yourself. I often find this is true when I am driving. I will be rushing here and there, saying things under my breath when someone cuts me off that I shouldn’t. Sound familiar? By the time I am completely stressed out, I take a mental and spiritual look in the mirror. The person I want to be is often unrecognizable from the harried, crazy, very cranky woman staring back at me. (Of course, maybe that’s just pregnancy hormones.)
Does this experience sound familiar right about now? In the midst of the stress of deadlines and looming exams, I want to encourage you to remember you are more than just someone who produces academic output for someone else’s perusal. You are a child of God. And those sweet Heavenly Hands that formed you and gave you life want to embrace you even in this time of stress. Jesus wants to hold you so you can still hold onto the abundance of life He died to give you.
What am I saying? Don’t let this time of deadlines rob you of the who-ness of who you are. Meet your responsibilities, but remember to laugh. Remember to tell jokes. Remember to be a friend. Remember to spend a few moments with God everyday. Remember, you are not your grades. I am not saying stop studying and writing and working. But I am saying remember to say hi to your real self in the midst of the craziness. Do your best, and then offer that into God’s hands.
Sometimes I think of how I allowed my academic ambition to rob me of the joy of living. In the long run, nobody really has cared about anything I did in school (and it wasn’t all that long ago that I was there). Learn, by all means. But don’t forsake learning for the sake of performing. Know that God loves you no matter what your grades. God just loves you. Jesus is crazy about you. When He lives in your heart, the Holy Spirit abides with you. And if you do everything as if for Him, it all falls into place.
By the way, I love you right along with Jesus too. You are all great.
Thursday, April 01, 2004
Isn’t life just like that? Sometimes in the midst of the yuckiest, most uncomfortable stuff God is doing a new thing in us that we aren’t even aware of yet. Sometimes, God even requires that yucky, uncomfortable stuff as the raw materials for making the new thing. Kind of like trees. Just when we think they are dead, the palest green snippets of vegetation appear. We even have to rub our eyes to make sure we are seeing correctly. The good news is that winter never lasts forever. This is the good news of Jesus Christ. Those times in our lives that are difficult, distressful, arduous, confusing, defeating, discouraging DO NOT have the last word. Hope always perseveres in revealing itself in our concrete circumstances, even when things seem darkest. We may have given up. . . . on life, on ourselves, on our circumstances, on our hopes, on our dreams, on our future, resigning ourselves to just get used to business as usual. But God never gives up on being God. And when we least expect it, Jesus brings new life to the most desolate places.
So cheer up. You and I have a Savior that goes with us into every moment. In fact, He is already waiting for you in your tomorrows, just as much as He faithfully walks with you today. Oh, you are so precious to Him. So get out your magnifying glasses and look for the little green stubs of new life growing up around you and within you. The redemption of Easter’s promise is drawing near.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
In light of the stress of this week, and the ending of the semester, I wanted to send some prayers your way so that you may be encouraged this week. Here’ goes:
You are so sweet, and so good. I come before You in the name of Jesus. I lift up to you each and every student who needs some extra help this week. Lord, You know intimately the stress each one is facing. You know how difficult it can be to juggle all of the class-work, the jobs, the relationships, and everything else that piles up. Lord, in the midst of the pressure, I pray that each person who reads this will experience Your grace and power revealed in his or her situation in a special way. I pray that You will grant added strength, wisdom, motivation, and help where it is most needed and least expected. I pray that somehow each one will experience Your special touch that lets them know You are with them, helping them to face whatever comes their way.
Lord, where the exhaustion seems to overwhelm, I pray that You would provide rest. I pray that You would calm nerves and give a correct perspective when worries threaten to rob them of peace. I pray that You would give them a sense of joy that pervades every aspect of their lives, not just this week, but everyday of their college experience, so that this special time in their lives will bless them, so that they won’t miss the blessing it holds. I pray that You will wrap each one in Your love, that Your Divine arms will carry them when they are too tired to walk. Keep them healthy, keep them safe, watch over them in every way.
And for all of the travel next week, I pray that this Spring Break will be everything they need it to be. Refresh their minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits. Help each one to rest. Fill each day with special joy and new discovery. And in the midst of it all, reveal Yourself to them in a way that draws them closer to Your heart. Help them to understand more clearly Who You are. Be with us each mile that we travel. Send Your Holy Spirit ahead to prepare the way. Keep everyone safe and protected under Your wings. It is in the sweet and precious name of Jesus that I pray. Amen.
So y’all take it easy, and know that you are loved and prayed for. I want to hear all about your wonderful Spring Break adventures. Let Jesus go with you wherever you spend your break.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Today I spent quiet time with the Lord, something I’ve neglected lately. Seems there was always something else that pushed God’s time out. It was just so good to be quiet, to open up a Psalm (notice I said “a” Psalm), and ponder what it means for God to be described the way David describes Him. Afterwards, I just sat in my (now peaceful because I rearranged it) office. I just was. I probably even fell asleep for a little while. I just rested.
Why is it that we think to be close to God we have to do a bunch of stuff? Like read a whole book of the Bible. Recite long prayers. Journal for pages on end. Today I didn’t do much except be quiet, and I feel closer to God’s presence than I have in a while. And very refreshed too.
Sometimes it’s hard to get quiet because we lack a good environment. Rearranging my office, creating more open space, and cleaning it up really helped it become a place where my spirit could rest. I realize dorm rooms and small apartment are not always the most conducive places to be quiet with the Lord. Now that the weather is nice, how about a refreshing walk outside? Sitting under a favorite tree? Relaxing on a quaint bench in a public park? Finding a favorite chair in the Library?
I know, sometimes finding a quiet, peaceful place takes a LOT of creativity! Have you ever considered coming and sitting in the Wesley Foundation chapel?
I want to challenge you to rest in the Lord, to simply be quiet in God’s presence, to not focus on what you want to say, but to allow God room to say something to you. And God may not even speak. God may just say, “Take a nap.”
Isaiah 30:15 says this:
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
Isaiah wasn’t kidding, and neither was the Holy One of Israel. If you want to kick your life into super-gear, try resting in the Lord. Allow God to be God of the universe for awhile. Take a few moments off from being in control.
After my time of silence with the Lord, this is what I learned: The silence restores my trust in the Lord; it puts my worries to rest.
Hoping you have a rest-full afternoon.
Friday, February 20, 2004
I hope your semester is going well. May seems to be approaching sooner and sooner. While that fact can cause a lot of stress, as people of faith we have a unique stress-buster that literally works miracles. I know that as Mid-Terms and Finals loom closer, many of you use access this de-stressor quite a bit. What am I talking about? Prayer, of course.
Early this afternoon I received a phone call from my Mom sharing about how God miraculously answered prayers for one of our family members. This is a situation that seemed hopeless, that has lasted for over a year, and that we have been praying about ceaselessly as a family for a long time. Just when things seemed most impossible, God came through. And in an instant, a terrible trial was over. Praise the Lord! This is something ONLY God could have done.
Just this morning I felt led to e-mail a prayer to this family that is so close to my heart, encouraging them to TRUST in the Lord, to TRUST that He has heard ALL of our prayers, and that in His mercy, no matter the outcome, He has answered in love. And then two hours later I get a phone call from my Mom confirming that God had moved in a mighty way.
Today, I want to encourage you to take inventory of your prayer life over the last few months. What have you been praying for regularly? Where has your heart been moved the most? Where is your spirit most involved and most actively petitioning God’s help? When days, months, and even years pass without seeing any “visible” answers to our prayers, it is easy to give up. But be encouraged. The One we are praying to stands alone. No one else is as loving, merciful, or WISE. Things that we may not understand He has a perfect grasp of. And He is working in ways that we cannot see. Know that every prayer you have prayed is a precious treasure in His sight. He honors and values each one, because God LOVES to hear from you. He may redirect it; He may postpone fulfilling it; He may even seem to reject the outcome you are laboring for. Yet in every case God is giving you His best. He is giving you His heart, His presence, His peace, if you let Him. Know that YOU are precious in His sight, and He hears and answers EVERY prayer you send up.
If you are struggling in prayer over a situation that hasn’t seemed to budge for a long time, know that you are not alone. My heart goes out to you. There are some prayers in my own life that I continue to hope for, even though years have passed since I began praying them. Let us labor together. Let us continue to encourage one another. Let us continue to hope, not so much in the prayers themselves, but in the One that we are praying to. God’s answers may tarry, but in the end there will be no doubt that God hand has been powerfully at work.
In the meantime, I am doing an anticipatory happy dance. God is so good; I’m going to thank Him ahead of time.
Blessings and love,
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Hope everyone everyone survived last night’s blizzard. I woke up this morning pretty amazed. Isn’t that just like life? In the matter of moments the landscape of our lives can change drastically. If you’re like me though, it’s hard to imagine that kind of upheaval when the monotony of ordinariness keeps repeating itself everyday. Sometimes it’s even easy to get lost in the monotony, to lose one’s bearings, one’s sense of direction, ones’ sense of self, even one’s sense of God’s presence. Jeanie Miley describes this experience in her book Creative Silence:
Where are you, God?—My struggle didn’t end just because I wanted it over with in short order. It seemed to me that God had left me and I could not find Him. As I walked about, carrying on the daily responsibilities, but searching for guidance and battling my self-will run riot, I carried on the inner dialogue with this God who seemed to be hiding.
The questioning for me usually falls along the same lines, and at the core of the question is the issue of whether or not I am going to let God run the world. I question the direction I am to take. I wonder if He is going to take care of things and provide. I wrestle with Him as I work through relationships and conflicts, and yet in the struggle, I find Him and new depths of His love.
Underneath it all, the quiet abiding presence of our Lord is always with us . . . regardless of how we feel. One of the things my father told me as I was trying to figure out my future during college was that, “If we are absolutely committed to seeking God’s will, then God is absolutely committed to revealing it. God may not reveal it ahead of time, but God will always reveal it just in time.” In some ways those endlessly stagnant seasons in our lives are moments of testing and strengthening, when we discover how deep our faith really goes. It is as if our circumstances reveal how willing we really are to follow Christ, not just through the good times, not just through the exciting times, not even just through the difficult times. It leaves us with the question: Do I love Him enough to follow Him, even through the boring times?
As time has passed in my own life, I have learned a vital truth that serves to strengthen my own resolve in dry seasons. It is this: the boring times are really not boring at all. They are seasons of great growth and action, but all of it is unseen to the human eye. From God’s perspective, we are being seeded with the newness of His plans and purposes for us. It is like the trees in winter. The look dead above ground, but below the surface their roots are growing more than at any other time of the year. The same is true for us. In the monotony, in the boredom, in the middle of those days where nothing seems to be happening, we are being transformed in ways we could never imagine. The promises of God are being planted in us, fertilized and nurtured, so that at an appropriate Spring-like day of the soul they will burst forth with reckless and beautiful abandon. But it never happens without the waiting.
Keep the faith. You are all precious. God is doing awesome things in you.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Tim and I are having a baby!
This is truly an answered prayer.
So far no morning sickness. I just eat A LOT. And sleep quite a bit too.
Maybe there’s something in your life that you have been praying for for a long time. You might have been praying for weeks, months, or even years. What I have learned most in the past month is how important it is to not give up. God’s timing is perfect. There are so many good things that come from persistence in prayer.
It keeps us in relationship with God. This is the most important thing in our lives. If we are not in relationship with God, nothing else really goes well.
It clarifies our true needs and heartfelt desires. If you can pray just as fervently (or even more fervently) for something after time has passed, then it is a good indication that it comes from your heart. Particularly if you ask the Lord to change your heart if necessary along the way and the request still persists in spite of the transformation God begins in you.
It keeps us humble. Persisting in prayer reminds us that we cannot manipulate our circumstances, life, or even God. It truly helps us to know that it is God from whom all blessings flow.
It strengthens our faith. When we persist in praying, even when it looks like God is not answering, it gives us practice in walking by faith (that God hears, cares and answers no matter how we feel) and not by sight (the tangible results that we can see and feel).
I know the heartache that comes when a situation seems hopeless. Just know that you are not alone. There are other people who share your pain. However, there is also a God that walks beside you and knows your heart better than you do. And in your darkest moments it is God who most understands and is most able to quench the heartache. It is always safe to relinquish your heart to God’s hands.
I am so proud of each of you. Keep on keeping on. I know that you can do all things you need to do and are called to do, as you walk with Jesus.