Friday, October 23, 2015


I love this scripture in the Bible--

". . . . for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29).

I like to let it wash all over me, to flow through my insides and wash clean the places of doubt.  I hear the immense Mercy in those words.  And Mercy is a word I have sat with a bit this week.  It is where I want to live, and it is what I want to extend because God has drenched my life in it.

I had been chatting with some of the ladies I work with, a couple of whom have children at the very beginnings of their college journeys.  One was explaining how excited her daughter was to discover a college with a major in the field she is interested in.  It is a bit of a rare find, and it is great that the school is close by.  As we talked I couldn't help pondering my own educational and vocational journey. 

The past year I have made peace with the place I am.  It is not where I thought I would land twenty some odd years ago.  But it is a good place, filled with much joy and deep meaning.  Everyday I come away with a sense that I am living my life purpose, just in a completely different form than I anticipated.

When I was still in college I began to sense God calling me into ministry.  So I finished up my undergraduate degree and packed myself off to seminary.  Tim and I married; I accepted my first ministry position as an associate pastor in a large church in Florida.  It was a bit like Abraham going off to a far and distant country not knowing his destination.  I had no idea how this ministry direction could change so quickly. 

What I thought would be a carefully designed path became a rollercoaster ride.  I began to discover that even though I certainly have the gifts and graces for ministry, I don't have the temperament that easily orders the life of a congregation.  So when I should have received my ordination as an Elder, and perhaps an appointment to my own church, I was instead working through a deferral process trying to figure out what shape ministry was supposed to take in my life.  I found relief and release as a Deacon, someone called to specialized ministry within the church who specifically connects the world to the church and the church to the world. 

And from Florida Tim and I packed up and followed God to a new destination--home to Kentucky and campus ministry. 

Campus ministry was great and awesome for nine years.  Everyday I would wake up loving my work.  During this time Tim and I added three more Wilson men to our family.  I soon discovered raising three boys is a full-time job on its own, and God once again uprooted me to a place where I could give my whole heart to being the wife and mother my family needed me to be and God was calling me to be. 

So He plopped me down in the middle of pre-school ministry.

The humor of it all is that my parents secretly thought I didn't like kids because it took Tim and I so long to have them.  I didn't spend hardly any time around small children growing up.  Honestly the best preparation for being a preschool teacher was the nine years I spent on campus. 

I am in my fifth year of serving Jesus by serving the smallest of the small.  It is a joy-filled place full of adventure.  I can never predict what my day will be like each morning:  I am never bored, and I'm often surprised by joy and the kind of  laughter that makes my face hurt. 

The shape of this ministry is so different than what I anticipated ministry would look like as a twenty year old.  However those same gifts and graces that were growing in me as a young associate pastor are alive and strong now.  Tim and I were having an honest heart to heart a couple of weeks ago.  He told me that I keep introducing myself as a preschool teacher, and I'm not.  I'm still very much the woman God has called into ministry and has intentionally placed in a preschool to serve as His minister.  I am still a pastor at heart.  It's just that my congregants are about three feet shorter than the ones I used to serve.  I am still preaching, I am still leading worship, I am still teaching the timeless truths of God's Word.  And I am still a shepherd to the most vulnerable in God's flock. 

Who knows how long this part of the journey will last.  God is always upending things and moving us to new places and spaces, teaching us new ways of living in to the call on our lives.  But no matter where I go, I take the song God sings over me and through me with me.  It is the same kind of song I have been singing from the beginning, only now I have guitar that He is teaching me to play so I can give it music too. 

Lately I have been wanting a guitar strap.  Mostly because I'm getting better at playing, and I really want to play for the kids when I do chapel at the preschool.  Since I'm a crafty girl, I kind of set my heart on making my own.  As I lay awake one night thinking of how I could make that happen, God reminded me of the Elder's stole that had been a gift when I served my first church.  It is a tapestry filled with the faces of children from all over the world, "red and yellow black and white," each one precious in His sight.  Just like an old stole can become a new guitar strap, the heart of this ministry remains the same, even when its shape changes.  And one more thing.  God also showed me that the shape of ministry now was always a part of His original design.  I didn't miss it or mess it up.  It was always in His heart for me.

So this is Mercy--that God would never forget or repent of the call He places on our lives.  He never turns His back on us or His hopes for us.  We may get side-tracked or side-lined, but God never changes His mind about us.  And no matter at what point we remember who He called us to be, it's never too late to accept His invitation to live the life we were created for.  It is never too late to say yes to God's call; just like it's never too late to start learning how to use those gifts He has entrusted us with.  For all those who have given up and given in (for all kinds of reasons, some of which may not have been our own), it's time to get back what we let go of.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Divine Serenade

Music is my true language.  Not that I'm great at it.  But it moves me.  When nothing in my life makes sense, the right song can make sense out of me. 

Over the last six months music has taken on a new dimension in my life.  I've picked up a guitar I laid down years ago. Now words and chords have woven themselves around the vibrations of my heart, leaving songs scratched on paper that speak order into the lovely mess I live in.  I love the feel of the guitar resting against my chest cavity, filling me with sound as I work the strings.  When I am numb to everything, the music reaches into my deepest heart and brings forth the springs of life.

I hear the echoes of God's love in the music. 

Over the last few weeks I have pondered this.  The image I keep coming back to is the one Zephaniah lifts up:  "The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will renew you in his love; He will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival" (Zephaniah 3:17-18). 

We have got to get over ourselves thinking we have God all figured out.  The day I first really had a heart experience with this verse I was in campus ministry, having a really difficult day.  I think I read that scripture with a "yeah, right" sarcasm smeared across my heart and mind.  I was discouraged and weighed down with burdens I could not shake, yet I had to put all of that aside because our evening worship service was coming fast.  I couldn't show up defeated.  When I walked into our small sanctuary that evening, one of our young men announced that before we started there was something he wanted to do first.  He sat me down and proceeded to do a rap he had written in my honor, a humorous tribute he wrote to show his appreciation for me.  When I couldn't feel the presence of God, God literally sang His song over me in a way I could never have predicted.

Feelings never tell us the whole story.

These last few weeks God has been showing me that His songs for His people never sing themselves out; they are continuous streams of music that emanate from His heart for His Beloved Bride.  He always has a song for us.  I believe that true transformation happens when we begin to listen for those melodies, and allow our hearts to reverberate with the music of Heaven.  I believe that when the Holy One invites us to sing a new song, He is asking us to stop trying to force our song into His ears and instead sing the song He is already singing over us.  When the discord is gone, our lives come into a resonance and power that is hard to describe but a force to be reckoned with. 

I want that.  I want my life to be a song that makes others want to sing and dance and shout and rejoice.  I want my life to amplify the songs of Salvation, resonating with power and new life and love.  I want the healing Love of our Savior to ripple out in waves of restoration, and this clay vessel I am to simply be a speaker of His Grace and Redemption.  I want His Resurrection Story to be resplendent within me, so that those who hear will become His Resurrection Story resplendent too.  I want to join with all creation in the unending hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord.  God of power and might.  Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory.  Hosanna in the highest, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

God Is In The Fire

Last week I was in the middle of Chapel telling the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when God spoke to my heart.  It kind of took my breath away.  I was standing before our smallest children at the pre-school where I work, and I was choked up in the worst kind of way.  I had gotten to the part where King Nebuchadnezzar had thrown the Hebrew children into the furnace because they refuse to bow down and worship his golden statue.  And he looked and, lo, there were not three people in the furnace.  There were four.

And the words get stuck in my throat--GOD IS IN THE FIRE.  The tears gathered, leaking out.  My words catch as I speak them.  But I am certain God wants me to know this, as much as He wants these little ones to know the story of His faithfulness.  He wants me to know the story of His faithfulness in my life.


I have been in the fire the last few weeks.  It has been hard.  I have felt every insecurity, every doubt from the very beginnings of my life, each one creeping up with the taunting audacity to suggest that doubt and insecurity can never really go away.  The lies have felt so true, the ones that suggest my life doesn't matter, my brokenness cannot be mended, my truest self will only scare the people I love away. 

One of my favorite songs from the 80's is Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire."  It's true, the fire is the tool of the enemy sent to destroy--to steal, kill, and destroy.  It was true when the enemy prompted Nebuchadnezzar to heat up the furnace and it is true now every time the enemy causes or piggybacks on misfortune, whispering lies to the vulnerable heart, keeping his prey defeated, discouraged, and despairing.

God doesn't cause the fire.  But God is faithful to meet us there.

I'm thinking of people I know who are surviving difficulties that are hard to imagine and explain.  Grief that rends hearts with the velocity of hurricane force winds.  Tenuous circumstances that isolate.  Unwieldy messes that seem impossible.  I peek into difficulties other than my own.  I tremble to speak the truth even there, but I know it is still true.  God is faithful to meet us in the fire.  If we are courageous enough to seek Him, to not allow the lie of the enemy to deter us, we will find Him.  He will walk with us through the fire.  He often does not keep us from the flames, but He finds a way to keep us within them.  And He is faithful in finding a way to lead us out of them too.

He has been keeping me. 

A dear friend of mine likes to remind me that the only things  burned in the fiery furnace were the ropes that bound the Hebrew children.  I also know that the Hebrew children were willing to face the fire regardless of whether God saved them or not.  It was worth it to them to worship God only.  Either way, they found freedom in the fire. 

Through the years I have found it too.  God has used the fires in my life to set me free, to show me that He alone is worthy of my heart's trust.  Anything else will destroy me.  But resting in Him, even when I feel everything consumed around me and within me, I come out on the other side sturdier, purified of things I couldn't get out of my system any other way. 

I don't mean to glorify the fires in our lives.  And don't go looking for them!  Just like I said to the smallest of the smalls in my care that day in chapel, fire burns; it is dangerous!  Do not touch it!  But any encounter I have had with God in the fire has changed me.  Not necessarily the fire itself, but the encounter with God.  It's like I don't have the energy left to protect myself from God anymore.  I'm more willing to be clay in His hands.  I'm desperate even for the help only He can give.  And that help changes everything.  His help changes me.  I would never choose to walk through fire.  But I treasure every gift of God's touch that the fire afforded.

So I guess this is my way of saying we don't have to face the hard things alone.  God is with us.  Especially where no one else can be.  And God's power in a surrendered life can do amazing and remarkable things.  Let us encourage one another with this truth.