Sufficiency in Christ

Why do some of us see the world so differently than many Christ followers we love and respect? My heart feels so weird, alien, set aside, different, and often lonely. God has impressed this deep longing in me to look like His Son, Jesus. Jesus’ love for me convinces me that there is no other feasible option. If Jesus is my Lord and Savior, how can I not surrender to daily follow?

Please do not misunderstand, I am not trying to say the hundreds around me are not wanting to follow Jesus. What I don’t understand is why do I see the world, and our purpose in it, so differently from so many? And why am I called to live so differently than those around me? Looking different than people who do not know Jesus makes sense to me. But why do Christ followers look so different from one another?

Some would argue, “you have the gift of poverty” or “the gift of serving.” Maybe those are gifts and maybe I have them, but I believe Jesus called us to a lifestyle of dying. To know Jesus, we surrender. To grow in Jesus, we live in a constant posture of “not our will, but His.” His word seems no nonsense to me, explaining the life He had planned for all of us as His followers. The Bible is our instruction book so isn’t this straight forward? Do what it says.

Yes, I agree, I am not good, I am not better than you. But Jesus is good and 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 explains, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

So we have this full, amazing, sufficient life in us through the Spirit of God. We can live like Jesus because our competence is from Him and not us. Apart from Jesus, none of us are good enough. Apart from Christ, we will not choose the right way. Apart from Christ, we will wander and we will fail.

We settle. We blame our cultures and justify everything. Many decisions are even haphazard, made on a whim, without prayer and without consideration. Our kids deserve this and that. We have to spend the money because of our tax bracket. We work hard. We need downtime because of everything else we committed to this week. We had to eat out four times this week because there was no time to cook. We saw the lady, sitting on the bench crying, but we had to be some where.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

– 2 Timothy 3:16-17

As children of God, we are called to read His Word and do what it says. Why is that interpreted as so radical or unusual? Why does a striving after God look so different from the masses that say they follow Him too? My mind can not wrap itself around this phenomenon. So many questions and no real answers.

Why is waste so common among believers, but my heart is so passionate against it? Sometimes it feels like people mock simplicity, terming it as “hippy” or “green living.” Get your to-go box. Haha. Don’t throw away that half eaten piece of chicken. Call it whatever, but how is it honoring to God to be so flippant with resources. I remember how convicted we were about cable. We never watched television, but we had been paying a monthly fee to have it for years. Why? What a waste of God’s resources. These are not our resources, but rather an entrustment to us from God.

What about our over-commitments and our jammed up schedules? Did we share Jesus this week? Were we around hundreds of people at school events, extra activities and social gatherings, but we were “too tired” to notice anyone around us? Did we talk about nothing and never truly listen? What is the point of all that?

Did we listen to another Jesus lover share how they experienced Christ this week? What about us? Did we share our own lessons with someone else? If not, why? What is the point of complaining about the weather, our limited resources or how busy we are? Static. Pointless noise. God stories are everywhere, but we have stopped noticing. Complacent. A wasted life. Oh, how I don’t want that life.

Someone once told me that contentment without godliness is very dangerous, often creating character traits of apathy, selfishness and laziness.

The Bible says:

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. – 1 Timothy 6:6-7

Life is temporary. Why is that such a prevalent focus in my mind, but others do not seem to think about it? I feel so odd. And how can I even talk about it? As far as I know I am not “dying” of a terminal disease and I am not yet an old lady, so it seems like my words will go unnoticed.

But yet, I feel the effects of “dying” everyday. Every day dying feels easier and harder, all at the same time. Jesus has giving me this good exceptional life, but it feels like I cannot talk about it to the majority of the people I know. How messed up is that? Again, I do not understand why our interpretations are so different. If I talk out loud, I feel misunderstood or “they” interpret me as critical or fanatical.

My life is full of miracles. I catch myself holding my breath, but why? My God is gracious and ever-present.

What if every person who takes the time to go to church on Sunday lived differently the other six days? Or used the time they would sit in church to live like Jesus for two or three hours? Can you imagine what would happen in the world if all church attendees were sold out to Jesus for an entire week? What about a year of people trusting Jesus and living a life of “dying to self” and living out what the scriptures say? Now dream about a lifestyle of an army living only for Jesus and not for themselves? Oh how the Kingdom would advance! Oh how different we would all look!

What if all those people asked questions and really listened? Oh amazing. God would be lifted higher and higher. We would know His faithfulness and His love more and more. Our decisions would be different. Our desires aligned with His desires. Our time, money and stuff would not be “ours” anymore.

Please Jesus, help all of us (the ones who go around talking about how we have surrendered our lives to follow you) to be different, alien, strange, not earthly; more like YOU. Please teach all of us to live your word in 1 John 2:15-17…..

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Will we say yes?

We hear sermons, we read scripture verses, songs play on our radios and iPods. We read books, educational, motivating and true life. We watch movies and listen to testimonies. Our hearts feel conviction, inspiration, and love. We want to take action, to change, to be better. But, we lack discipline. Or action. Or obedience. Maybe the lack is faith, courage, love? Maybe we even fear what would happen if we started doing what Jesus says. What will it cost? Will we lose friends? How will our time be affected?

Could our goals be too overzealous that they paralyze us? Or too vague that they never mobilize us? How will we have time for memorizing the book of James when we cannot learn one verse? We feel shame because our children haven’t learned the books of the Bible. We want to pray for hours, but our minds wander or we don’t have time. We keep meaning to practice hospitality, but its been six months and we still haven’t invited anyone for dinner. The cashier at the grocery, she always looks so sad, but we haven’t had time to ask her any questions or write her an encouraging note. Someone invites us to a game night, but we are tired so we decline again. We want to teach our kids how to give, but we never make a plan. Our friend’s marriage is shattered and we look her in the face, tell her we will pray, but we never do it.

What is stopping us from living moment to moment with Jesus? Why do we keep signing up for more Bible studies when we have never practiced what we learned at the last one? How do we say our hearts are broken for the lost, but we do not meet them where they are? We say we love others, but we are still making decisions based on ourselves. We say we want God to “mess us up in a good way,” but we set up “safeguards” to self-protect.

How do we abandon everything for the sake of the Gospel?

A simple YES.

We stop saying no, and we say yes.

The other day I was spending time with Jesus and He showed me something so profound, but simple. To obey Jesus is to simply say yes to the next opportunity He puts in front of me. Not to try to figure it out, to create some perfect moment, or to think of how to say something in some eloquent way.  Be me and say yes.

When do I miss God? When I make decisions through the filter of “what I want” and forget, dismiss or ignore the direction of what God wants. We like no. No is an insulator, a protector, the great escape. No gets us out of hard.

Sometimes, we need to say no to run from temptations, distractions and time wasters. But, that is the no we often, ironically, say yes to. We are asked to watch a compromising movie and we say yes. We laugh at the inappropriate joke. We say yes to negativity, insults and gossip. We eat too much food and three desserts. We judge others. We drink too much alcohol. We say yes to social media and no to sleep. We say yes to more work and no to time reading His word. Our no’s and yes’s are backwards.

Jesus is showing me, to be used by Him is not difficult. He will give us the opportunities. Our part in the equation is YES.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” – 1 Corinthians 1:20

Every day we will have the opportunity to say yes. Some of the yes’s may be more challenging than others, but they will be a variety pack of hard and easy. If we take the risk, we will see God work. We will know Him more. He will grow us up to be more like Him. We will learn how to love. He will show us every step. We will be fully equipped.

Hug that friend. YES.

Invite that friend to dinner. Play games. Laugh. Listen. YES.

Another person comes to mind in the shower. Pray for them. Send them a Facebook message that you love them. Encourage. YES.

Go for a walk. Talk. YES.

Loan your car to that family that needs one. Share a car with your spouse so the other family has a lifted burden. YES.

Cook, cook some more. Give all that food away. YES.

A friend had surgery. Another friend’s grandmother just died. A friend has a new foster baby. A friend works two jobs. Another is battling anxiety. Stop by and pray. Take a frozen meal. YES.

Share this scripture with that person right now. Text sent. YES.

Listen. Ask questions. Listen some more. YES.

Give away clothes, furniture, money. YES.

Go mow their grass, rake their leaves, clean their toilets. YES.

Don’t send the phone call to voicemail. Answer it. YES.

A family is struggling to pay their mortgage payment or their car payment. They are short on money. A crazy thought comes to mind that you should pay it for them this month. YES.

Most of the scenarios are not complicated. The yes is usually relational, time investing moments, where we put action behind what we say we believe. We could write a list of hundreds, hundreds from the ones we ignored, we were too busy to deal with and the ones we (let’s be honest) did not want to do. But, that sounds depressing. So, instead, we can choose the option to start a lifestyle of YES scenarios and watch what God does with our, not much effort, (or all out effort) simplicity of YES.

780,000 minutes

We were given 18 months. Around 540 days. Almost 13,000 hours. The time was our opportunity to love this one person in our life well. Now silence answers the other end of the phone. Gone. We may never see him again.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:27-29

We have the very hope in us that our friend is refusing to cling to, to trust. He testified he had this hope of glory, that Christ lived in him. I don’t know what he would say right now.

But I know my God, He does not leave or forsake us. He’s steady when we are chaotic. He’s faithful. He’s true. His nature does not change because we change.

Lost and wandering. That phrase I hate that humanity uses, “I need to find myself.”

We are commanded to proclaim Jesus. And the truth is we don’t need to find ourselves, we need to find Jesus.

Flesh wants. Flesh lies and flesh says “we deserve this or that.” Flesh is never satisfied. Flesh indulges, but never gets enough. Everything is temporary. Flesh wants a numb for the pain and succumbs to whatever will give the high, buzz, adrenaline rush, “what about me” momentary fix.

Me. Focus on me. No one else matters. Me kills and destroys. The destruction is fast or may be a slow fade. But me will die with no joy, no hope and no purpose.

What a lie to believe anything else but Jesus will satisfy us. Nothing will ever satisfy us. Not philosophy, traditions, sex, alcohol, shopping, food, drugs, people, cigs, entertainment, money, coffee, nothing. Oh, it may feel good for a temporary pleasure, but it will never be enough. We will only want more and more and at the end of the more, there will always be emptiness.

For Christ I want to toil, not with my energy, but His, that He powerfully works in me.

Did our friend hear our warnings or our teachings? Did he know all we wanted was to present him mature in Christ? We never wanted his talents, his time, his money, his resources. We wanted him to give that goodness to Jesus, as an act of worship, as a life of maturity.

We want for him freedom. We will always be a slave to something, to sin or to Christ. We have this hope of glory and we know it is worthy of surrender; worth the life of a servant.

Did we articulate the warnings in a way he could understand? Did he hear the teaching in the meals we shared, the laughter, the moments we screamed at each other in the pouring rain?  Did he notice our tears? Did our life give him any hope or did we present Jesus as so dismal that it wasn’t appealing? Could he not feel joy or see abundant life? Did our words and our lives not match?

We may not have another day with our friend, or even five minutes. Our ears may not hear his voice and our phones may never ding a text from him again. Our eyes may never see his beautiful smile or our arms wrap around his skinny self to hug him one more time. Our hearts may always ache because our boy has wandered and he is lost. But we will never forget the time God gave us and we entrust him safely into our Father’s grasp. Maybe we will never again be close in proximity or heart, but God will. He’ll be there, in the nasty, foul, train wreck moments and in the shame, guilt and fear. He won’t leave. He will be in the dark places and He will wait silently on the child He adores. He will keep knocking, but He won’t be a pest. Jesus will never force Himself. He will wait and He will woo. He will keep loving even if He is continually rejected. He will sit there, in all that pain, but He won’t force a rescue. He will always give that choice, accept Me or reject Me.

This I know, many more will cross our path and it is worth the toil. We will keep striving with His energy. Ours is used up. His energy will give us the power to keep going. We will love from Jesus. We will listen, pray, and share from Jesus’ power in us. Grace and more grace, that’s what we will give because we have experienced a life of grace upon grace, the hope of glory! CHRIST.

Because He Loves Us

Dear sisters,

I miss you. I miss hearing what God is doing in your life, your hunger for the Gospel and your crazy obedience to Jesus. I don’t see you anymore, and being so, I don’t know how you are. How is your heart? How is your obedience?

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” – Philippians 1:27

How do we do that? How are we spending our days, our months and our years? Do our lives have this manner that is worthy of Jesus? Do we live with the power of His presence in us and His love flowing out of us?

Only. This one thing. If we don’t do anything else, is our way of life worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

We can have a great reputation of being alive, when we are dead inside. Are we remembering to fan into flame the gift of God that is in us?

As one body of Christ, with many different functions, as individual members, we belong one to another. Our gifts differ according to the grace given to us and Romans 12:6 says, “let us use them.” Prophecy, serving, exhortation, giving, leading with zeal and acts of mercy are different gifts that belong to each of us.

But, we hold back. We forget the other members need us as much as we need them. We fail to contribute. Maybe it is apathy, inadequacy, fear, failure, time or some other excuse. Our holding back creates disconnections and disappointment from our disobedience of belonging to one another. Our contributions are used as growth for the body of Christ because we are one in Christ. How can we profess our faith in Jesus and not live as one with one another?

Jesus wants to change our hearts. To change our focus. We have been concerned about the wrong things. We have lost time to encourage one another and care for one another in the name of Jesus. We are missing the fullness of the treasure Jesus prayed for us. When we do not live as one, we miss experiencing how Jesus is one with the Father.

If we love Jesus, don’t we want all of it?! How can we live in a mediocre way? Why are we not starving for Him and sharing His goodness every single day? Why would we waste any moments?

Romans 12 shares marks of a true Christian:
• let love be genuine
• hate evil
• cling to what is good
• love one another with brotherly affection
• outdo one another in showing honor
• don’t be lazy in zeal
• be fervent in Spirit
• serve the Lord
• rejoice in hope
• be patient in affliction
• be constant in prayer
• contribute to the needs of the saints
• seek to show hospitality
• bless those who persecute you
• bless and do not curse
• rejoice with those who rejoice
• weep with those who weep
• live in harmony with one another
• don’t be haughty and associate with lowly
• never be wise in your own sight
• repay no one evil for evil
• give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all
• as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people
• never avenge yourselves, leave it to God’s wrath
• if your enemy is in need, care for him
• overcome evil with good

Sisters, this is the life I want to share with you, the place where we belong to one another and we are one in Jesus as His body. Hold me to His standards and help me live a life that demonstrates the marks of a true follower of Christ. I don’t know how to do it and I need His help through you.

Can we make time for one another? Can we trust one another so deeply that when we hear from Jesus, we can share with one another, even at the risk of wounding, because we believe that wounds from a friend can be trusted? Can we risk contributing our gifts because we believe God wants us to grow from one another? Can we push each other to love Jesus so much that we are comfortable being different from the world? Can we stop caring about things that don’t matter for eternity and expose our blind spots to one another for the things we are caring about that do not matter?

How do I explain? I want to be crazy for Jesus with you. I long to lay down my life with you and for you. I want you to know that you belong to me and I belong to you. I want to share Jesus,with people, with you. I want us to grow together, walk through the refiners fire together, suffer and endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus beside one another.  I want to serve with you. I want to learn everything you are learning from Jesus and I want to tell you what I’m learning. I want to sacrifice and obey together. We can be more effective together. We can hold up each other’s arms when we are weak. We can spur each other on when we want to quit. We can speak truth, in love, to one another. We can pray together. We can see God do miracles because we believe together. We can grow our faith, hope and endurance together.

Our future may be one more day or 50 more years and I want to journey it with you. I want to turn grey with you. I want to give my life away with you. I want us to care for one another. I want to see more people come to know Jesus. I want us to baptize people. I want to see us look less and less like this world. I want us to look more like Jesus tomorrow than we do today. I want Him to use us completely so that when we go we’ve given everything for the sake of His name. I want you to challenge me to live more simply every day. I want you to push me to pray without ceasing and hide the Word of God in my heart. I want you to expose my yuck and push me behind Christ when I try to get in front of Him. And if ever I start to walk away from Jesus, for the cares of this world, I want you to tackle me to the ground and wake me up.

I love you sisters. God has more for us. Let’s go for it. He has called us. He has chosen us. He has a purpose for our lives. He has given us gifts from His grace. Please, let’s keep running.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.”
– 1 Corinthians 16:23-24

My Jesus Glue

When all the world crashes on my head, hope stands. Life is a trust rope and hope is the courage to walk on that rope; to risk living a life dependent on Jesus. Jesus is hope whether the rope is taunt or wobbly, frayed or crisp. Even if evil yanks the rope right out from under me, unties it or cuts it apart, Jesus will catch me. Hope is choosing to trust Jesus, to expect with full confidence that He always does what He promised.

Do my actions create a delight for Jesus, obedience to His word and faithfulness to His leading? When a friend tells me “there is never going to be hope, so why hope?” I wonder… how I could have demonstrated hope differently? How could my life somehow impact a friend’s belief system so no matter what horrid comes, hope does not disappoint? Hope endures. Hope never fails.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:18-21

How can a friend know my Father and come to the belief system of no hope? Jesus is hope. Hope, in the flesh, came for us. Hope died to demonstrate death could be defeated. Hope sat up and breathed, walked along the road with friends and showed the scar in His side. Hope lives. Hope waits for us. Hope promises that this world is not our home. Hope is coming for us.

Our life is filled with trials and difficulty, but for anyone closely associated to me to believe that hope is “no more” breaks my heart. I feel crushed and despondent wondering how in the world can I prove hope endures. Does my life not demonstrate hope? Do my words not explain it?

The tire on our car keeps going flat.
A trailer is stolen.
The co-worker is disgruntled.
Money is tight.
Friends abandon.
Relationships have drama.
Anger is heaped on my head.
Food runs through me.
Work compounds.
A child is sick.
On and on…

“Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” – 2 Corinthians 1:9

Peace is not some feel good moment, where our hearts beat with delight, and everything feels right in the world. A fruit of the Spirit is peace. Peace is an evidence of Jesus working in our lives and developing His attributes in us. Peace demonstrates that we have killed the flesh, burying what we want or wanted for all Jesus has for us. Peace is trusting and hoping in Him when we cannot see the solution, when our hearts still ache and our emotions are undone. Peace is way past our fears to a deep knowing that Jesus is not leaving us, not now and not ever.

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” – Galatians 5:5

The all of the Spirit leads us away from the satisfaction of the flesh. The Spirit kills the flesh of money, possessions, power, emotional highs, entertainment, self. We forget ourselves because we become so enamored by the Spirit and it’s attributes. We want to want the Spirit over our own flesh wants.

No more catering to my flesh…
– for coffee ice cream
– “deserved” vacations
– profitable jobs
– easy friendships
– glasses of wine
– weekend entertainment
– quiet
– extra money in the bank
– freedom from trials
– people who appreciate me

What my flesh wants is about “me” and walking in the Spirit is not about “me,” it’s a life about HIM. Even if what my flesh wants isn’t perceived by the world as “bad,” it does not mean I should “get” what I want. My flesh is not a safe barometer to gauge what I need. To walk in the Spirit is to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit.

How do we manifest the fruit? Our focus is no longer about ourselves. We focus on walking by the Spirit. Am I gentle? Were my actions kind? Did my response show patience? Do I experience joy anyway, even if nothing “works out” like I wanted? Do I have self-control with my attitude, tongue and body language? Am I faithful to Jesus and to the people around me?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:22-24

Nothing about life is easy, but ease doesn’t give me hope.

Nothing about life fuels my worldly expectations, but my desires don’t give me hope.

Nothing about my life focuses on me, but “me” doesn’t give me hope.

Nothing about what I want supersedes the circumstances and life my Father has for me.

Hope is like Jesus glue, holding my fragile mess together, teaching me I can trust Him, growing my perseverance, stretching my heart to love more and deeper, and waiting for the One who is faithful.

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12

For what is to come, in Jesus I hope.

A Love Hate Life

Hey, life, I hate you and I love you.  How can that be possible?! But seriously that’s how I pretty much feel every single day. A love hate relationship with this thing I wake up and face over and over again.

One thing I hate is a whiner and I sure don’t want to be one, but if being real means being a whiner, then I guess, call me out.

I hate getting out of bed. Every morning I feel tired, panicked and overwhelmed that I have to do another day. But, every day I am thankful I can breathe, can see my kids, love one more person and experience one more God story. So many times I quote scripture to get myself pumped up to even come out from under the covers, already afraid of the “I hate my life” portions that day may bring. Trouble finds me. I don’t have to go looking. Grace and mercy finds me too and heaps itself over me every single day.  Maybe grace and mercy is why I feel so safe under a blanket because I am wrapped all up in one whether you can see it or not.

What I love – Jesus. How He shows up and surprises me constantly. We have coffee and our rigged up grinder still works. Last week I really wanted to take my kids to a play, because if I could give my kids a fine arts education I would. Something about creativity through music, art, dance and drama is so beautiful to me. Anywho, this week they won free tickets to a play. Really Jesus? You care that I want to take my kids to plays? His love blows me away. All His provision gets me. Yea, I talk about it a lot, but wow, doesn’t it still blow your mind too when He provides more than we can hope or imagine. Maybe different than we hoped or imagined, but definitely more. For us, it’s never been more than we can hope for or imagine as far as money or possessions, but in appreciation of beauty, sunsets, quilts, flowers and basic necessities. It’s the more energy, more endurance, more courage, more sticktoitiveness than would have ever been possible without Him. Jesus has this crazy ability to expand our hearts and equip us to love one more person, whether they receive us or reject us. What I love is that Jesus is with me through every step.

What I love – my family. They see every bit of my awful and love me anyway. They make me chai tea and stop what they are doing to run me a replacement tissue roll. They tolerate and even ignore all my anxiety and flip outs, giving me more grace than I ever deserve. They help me vacuum the floor, pray with me, cuddle with me and listen to me. They are the best people in the world.

What I love – seeing God work, every single day. It’s insane really. He’s always working and He lets me see some of what He is up to ever single day. I’m spoiled in the God stories.

What I hate – sin. It seriously screws up everything. Mine and everyone else’s. Sin is the wild card of every one of my days and I hate it. My anxiety can make me the grouchiest person on this planet. I hate that about my life. It sneaks up and it steals my day, paralyzing me and internally destroying me. The thing about anxiety is I walk around trying to hide it and I’m so zoned out and distracted, lost in the stress of this situation, plus this one, plus another one, until it is a heap of so much uncontrollably scenarios that I want to be in my bathroom in the fetal position right now.

What I hate – money. How can sheets of paper make me so crazy? But it drives me batty, the little or the lack there of. Listen, I’m not trying to get rich, just pay the bills. And guess what, we have done just that for years. But it can still get me, distract me and discourage me. What a waste of time!

What I hate – drama. Life is full of drama, it just is. If we wake up and talk to another human being, we are likely to experience some variation. Talk to 25 people in a day and then we might feel like we need to not speak, move very slowly, or stay seated in one place to counteract the chaos around us. Sitting there doing nothing only contributes to the drama, so we have to open the door, answer the phone and eventually read the emails. Dang it.

And then there are the love and hates simultaneously that are busting up inside of me.

I love being around people and hate being around people. Doesn’t that sound so jerkish?!  But it’s real – l love laughing and listening and dreaming and then I hate noise and chatter and ideas. Stimulate my brain and quit talking to me all at the same time. Give me a hug, but please don’t touch me. Invite me for lunch, but please cancel before I have to come. My feelings are hurt and I am relieved. Please give me silence. Don’t call me, write.  Maybe this is how every introvert feels? I love you, but do we really have to get together? I promise, I’m not going to cancel on you even when I want to.

I love to preserve food and I hate to preserve food. I love to preserve because our family has food to eat and it’s usually amazingly healthy. And usually when we preserve, we laugh a lot.  I hate to preserve because sometimes it takes forever and makes my back feel all jacked up. The other thing is when you deal with food all the time you can forget to eat. I should take better care of myself than I do, but I forget.

I love to experience new things and I hate it. Mainly I hate it because experiences take energy and I’m fresh out. Oh, and often new experiences mean new people.  Which means talking and listening to more people. I love new experiences because I appreciate the world and all the goodness of it and I can have fun taking a Zumba class in the middle of a park or riding a boat down a swampy river. Someone is really good at everything I am not and I find that reality so fascinating and encouraging. The someones get to be good at that and that and that and that so I don’t have to. It’s how the body of Christ works and I love that. My friend’s kid plays the violin and this other friend of mine is a seamstress, both pretty amazing gifts, that I never have to learn, because I know people.

I love observing people’s passions and sometimes I really hate observing people’s passions. The cool ones are the love for children, special needs, old people, serving  and Jesus. Watching people love other people is the highlight of my day, the way someone goes to the store for a stranger or makes a friend laugh that is hurting. The hate ones are the passions where people are stuck in their phones, their distractions, their interests, all in front of the line to the people who are longing to me loved.  When people come over to spend time with us and spend time playing games on their phone, I want to scream “get out.” In those moments I feel so unloved.

I even love sleep and hate it. Sleep takes time, time I don’t have, so I don’t get enough of it. I love sleep while it lasts and hate when it ends. I love to receive the rest. I hate to battle through nightmares and stress. Sometimes it’s really good and other times it’s awful. If I could sleep on the couch in the middle of every day I would.

I love that everyone is my neighbor and sometimes I hate it. I love that as followers of Jesus we have the opportunity to love everyone and to lay down our lives for our best friends, strangers and enemies. I hate that people despise me, feel guilt and stay away from me because my life makes them feel bad. Sometimes it really hurts that the choice to love your neighbor means losing people you deeply love. How my life can inspire you one moment and repulse you the next is really confusing to me. Could you maybe quit analyzing my life and love me as your neighbor?

As I beg You to help me get up today, I feel like I cannot breath. Every bit of me wants to stay in bed. Fears within, troubles without. I’m scared of today. My life freaks me out. But, in a minute I am going to love today and love my life. I’m gonna remember how rich I am, the silence is going to be precious, or someone is going to text me an amazing God moment, and I will remember why it is important to trust another day to Jesus.  All that remembering, noticing and experiencing of HIM will remind me, one more time, how much I do love life more than I hate it.

Living open wide

Food impacts us more than we want to realize. It’s necessary. We have to consume at some point or we will die. Do we have enough for a sack of millie meal? Can we afford veggies? We calculate the cost. Or we don’t.

We “have” to have food so we justify our careless expenditures. We buy what we want and feed this insatiable desire for more. For variety. We are experts at justification. We don’t think to pray about our food costs or if we should grab something quick from the little truck vendor.

Restaurants smell good and beckon us with a wide variety of delicacies. Fried food. Homemade tacos. Fresh seafood.

Holidays find us indulgent with braai’s, turkey feasts, and more food than we can eat. We find the celebrations joyous. The air is filled with the laughter of friends or family.

The Bible mentions lots of feasts, some to celebrate the goodness of the Lord and meditate on His faithfulness.

Is food wrong? No, we must eat to live. Food is a necessity. We can survive for a while with no food and only water, but eventually we must eat or we will die. Food is sustaining and life giving.

We can easily distort it. We can find ourselves eating because we are happy and because we are sad. We binge eat and some even make themselves purge afterwards from the guilt. Food can be the legal drug, an escape from our anxiety or a friend in our loneliness. Over consumption puts our health at risk and could kill us. God’s word calls out gluttony as sin, on the same playing field as lust, worry or gossip.

How do we have a healthy response to food in the midst of our desire to be satisfied? How do we decide how much money we will spend on food this month or how much we will visit the local restaurants?

Could it be possibly that we should pray about everything? Is that an insane notion to involve the God of the universe in our trips to the grocery? Should we ask him about going out with friends on Friday night? Does He care about what we eat or how we spend our money?

Here’s a few scriptures for us to think about…

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

– 1 Corinthians 10:31

When we partake from the table, is our eating and drinking for the glory of God? So many times I’ve sat at the table and haven’t considered the glory of God. His glory hasn’t crossed my mind as I’ve eaten chips and salsa or a pan of brownies. His glory isn’t my focus when I open the fridge and say “we don’t have anything,” when in reality, we have plenty, just not what I want.

Every holiday I think or say outloud, “I feel like I am going to throw up.” I eat too much. And don’t talk about bar food because I like all of it and want some right now just thinking about it. How many times have I gone for dinner with friends for “the experience” and dropped several days worth of wages on one meal that lasted a few hours.

God is merciful people. All my eating and drinking has not been for God’s glory. I want that to change.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

– Psalm 81:10

He gives us everything we need. Everything. I find this amazing. We haven’t bought food in years and we’ve always had enough. He does fill it. He keeps our fridge, freezer and pantry full and overflowing. And here I am, just as much a wanderer as those Israelites. Sometimes maybe He is saying to us like He did them, “slow down, pray, trust me.” The modern equivalent of “open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”  If I could only remember tomorrow the clarity I have right now that He is my God and He has my life, my next steps, my meals, and everything else. Maybe it’s irony, but food is teaching me to trust Him.

Leftovers have this new, beautiful meaning to me. It’s His preparing for the next meal before we’ve finished with the one we are on. Leftovers are extra to share and an opportunity to bless others. Leftovers make room for hospitality and having someone to dinner at the last minute. We don’t have to gorge ourselves as the same yummy can be a delight from Jesus the next day.

Remember the people hungry for Jesus and listening to Him teach on the mountainside. They were learning so much spiritually, when He realized they were becoming physically hungry. He performed a miracle with the little boy’s loaves and fish and even had the disciples gather the leftovers when everyone was done eating. Do you ever wonder if that extra provision is what He and the disciples ate for their next meals? No matter, He was teaching them to be a good stewart of His provision and to save it for later. Seems simple and little, but maybe Jesus does not want us to waste either. If food goes bad in our fridge because we bought too much or we forgot to serve the leftovers, I wonder if we are forgetting to “do it all for the glory of God.”

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

– Matthew 4:4

My heart hears Jesus reminding me, want Me more than milkshakes, fried potatoes or raw oysters. Want Me more than a night out without kids. Want Me more than My provision. The delight of sushi, steak and seafood should pale in comparison to Jesus.

Unfortunately that’s not always been my story. I haven’t always listened for His voice, read His Word with eagerness, or been desperate for a touch from Jesus. But, He is changing me. He’s changing my desires. He is opening up my mind to things I’ve never considered. He’s giving me a desire to bring glory to God with what I eat, drink and do.

“Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

– Acts 14:17

He is satisfying me, deeply. He provides me with gladness. I praise Him for the warm potato soup and hot tea on a cold day. Every meal we have a witness of His faithfulness. I want to eat with that delight… for the blessing said, before the consumption, to mean something! Gone need to be the days of my picky choices and ungrateful attitude. He’s changing me and I want to praise Him. I want to tell of His goodness in the land of the living. I want to delight in trusting Him for cereal and milk. The acorn squash has never tasted sweeter.

Thankfulness cannot be my November fix. He’s calling us to live moment to moment with gratitude, praising Him for the right now. So, I praise him for the pickled cucumbers, the red skinned potato salad and the bag of yellow onions. Every bit of it is good and from His gracious open hand. Let’s take the gift with delight, being wise, caring for our bodies, in moderation, and with great joy.

Everything brings us back to worship. Meals are for His glory, it’s not about comforting ourselves, indulging or wanting. My mind can hardly understand all the “nooks and crannies” of such a life where EVERYTHING is for His glory. Maybe the point is not trying to understand, but seeking from His strength to go for it!

All for His glory.

Why Toil?

“For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.” – Colossians 1:29

This is Christ, the hope of glory. And for Him,  we (our Jesus family) will toil, struggling with ALL His energy that He so powerfully works in us.

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Why toil? Why work until our bodies are ready to collapse? What is this purpose of giving out every morsel of energy that He is working in us?

Oh to realize a life of Colossians 1:28 in which the deeds and truth of our lives will say: “Him (Christ) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

The toiling is growing us. We are better for the paint that hasn’t yet made it off our fingers, the aching joints, and the exhaustion of giving more than we’ve got. His energy kept us awake and fully present during the late night phone call, the time we needed to pray and reflect, and for the hours we needed to sit still and listen. He is working maturity in Christ, in all of us, through our loving toil.

The toiling is costing us. Our bodies ache. Our hearts rejoice with some while simultaneously grieving with others.  The time is precious sweet and we are learning in the toil to share it freely, without regard of how it impacts the rest of our day, our responsibilities and the duties that still must be done. We are being pushed, with a Holy Spirit presence, from an energy not our own. We, our fleshly power, gave out years ago, but the well of delight seems to run deeper and deeper still. Somehow we sweep the floor one more time, make another meal and go so used up that we forget to brush our teeth before we fall into bed. The reserve is near empty, but yet somehow it keeps giving out water.

See, we embody the source of true and never ending living water. Jesus is the living water, the source of all power and strength.  His attributes are freely at our disposal. Our privilege is our toil. He gives us work for works sake. We can look past the provision and the accomplishment to His glory. And we can rest and bask in what only He could do.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” – John 6:63

Our lives are portraying a living hope, a courage that goes farther, longer and deeper than our flesh ever could. The Spirit settles into us in ways that seem incomprehensible and changes us to look more like Jesus and less like ourselves. Nothing about it makes worldly sense, but we feel the life welling up inside us when we meet Jesus. He starts infiltrating every little part of our lives. We start to really believe that this Jesus life will allow us to live forever, because Jesus came to give life to the world. No longer do we have to find ourselves unsatisfied. The riches of the Lord take up a holy residence in the depths of who we are and we start to live by its power. We have a reservoir that never runs dry.

The toiling is stabilizing us. Our foundational life is from the power in us. God is doing the work. We are the vessel He is graciously using. He’s taking us into harder places and what we were once afraid of starts to seem so easy. What we previously termed as sacrifice, we realize was never sacrifice at all. We keep toiling because we realize the power of God is working out our faith. We are growing from this hard and He is making all the rough places smooth in us. We are weak, but our Spirit is willing. And the more we surrender, the more level the ground is beneath our shaking feet.

The toiling is our refining exposure to vulnerability, fears and weakness. The Spirit is opening up our eyes to the things we didn’t see in ourselves. The raw is healing us. The stretch is breaking us out of the mold we tried to create for ourselves and transforming us into the people we were destined to be. The sanctification will take all the days of our lives, but we are committed to run the race and keep the faith. Trusting. We will keep toiling and daring nakedness, before our Father, as we know our flesh is no help at all.

The toiling is for Jesus. He is our very life and we delight in His promises. The toiling brings the promises alive. We see His power manifested in our weakness. We believe more and more that Jesus is real and we will proclaim him, warning and sharing everything we learn, anticipating the day we will together be presented mature in Christ. He is the hope of glory and He lives in us through the Spirit. We have been given life and so we toil to learn how to live this life He has given us.

Until we Lived Poor

When I was a girl we had Oreos in the cupboard, blueberry muffins every morning and fish sticks waiting in the freezer. Luxury foods that I didn’t realize were luxury. On Saturdays we ran errands. I went to the grocery, the beauty parlor, to the shops for new clothing, and to the movies. We fed cows, sold rocks at a mercantile store, and rode horses or ATV’s.

When I was still in high school, my parents gave me a paid for, beat up truck to drive and then upgraded me to a “granny” reliable car. Two cars, paid for, given to me, before I graduated from university.

My first job paid relocation costs, sent me to an all expense paid training for three weeks, provided a company car, benefits, a hefty paycheck and matching funds. Education “proved” to be entitled. My own badge, desk, stapler, computer, and a shared secretary. I’m not even kidding.

Married. Secure. Money. Travel. Fancy food. My palette desired the finer things. Entertainment. Theater, dance, movies, golf, biking, camping, exploring, museums, jazz. Cultured. Photography, wine, cheese. I liked it, I loved it. I wanted more of it.

A home. Decorating, renovations, tile projects, painting, hardwoods. Dinner parties. Steak. Strawberry shortcake.  Pool parties. Fireworks. House guests. Bible studies. Movie nights. Games. Bonfires.

Kids. Miscarriage. Kid one. Kid two. Epidural wimp, give it to me when I’m dilated to four centimeters. Breast feeding. Stay at home mom.

Work as ministry. Life turned upside down. All for Jesus. What does that mean?!

Faith. Living by faith. Are you serious God? I can’t do this. I met that one woman once that prayed for everything. She saw God in everything. Cool stories. She kept Christian music playing in her home. Somehow her kids went to private school.  A stranger gave her a van. Right before she ran out of food, she would find a bag at her front door. No way that was about to be our story. Really??

Eight years of marriage, and then we became poor.  Only money poor, the paper stuff. But poor, according to the poverty chart, and in comparison to our friends.

Eight years of ease, hardship had to come before we began to experience rich.

We started the adventure of poor. We shared a car, instead of having two. We walked our kids to school. We prayed for food. We wore the clothes our friends no longer wanted. All our entertainment had to be free. We began learning how to live without spending money.

And our poor has always been an underlying secret. We can’t worry our parents. The business and ministry require obedience when the money is low and faith has to hold us. Our kitchen is open and one of our greatest lessons in open-handed living. We have never fed more people or had more food. 100 meals served every week, easy.

Until we lived poor, we didn’t understand rich.  Today, we are God rich. We are learning dependency on the One who is faithful. We are learning to trust Him in all things. And the trusting can be very hard. We are out of control and that out of control gives us a longing for Him to be in control. We need Him and we want more of Him. He’s our hope and our song. He’s our salvation, not only from hell, but for every day. He’s saving us daily and every day we are falling more in love with Him.

Now, we have no idea how to relate to other people, the ones we look like on the outside. We don’t live like them and for us to be real with them is to be different from them. For them to be real with us is to be different from us. If we can focus on Jesus, we have a common denominator. But often, the focus is on the temporary and our temporary clashes. Man that makes me sad, but we can’t and we won’t go back to what life use to be.

As we spend our lives ministering to the poor in our community, it is amazing to personally relate to them. We work long days, but it does not get us ahead. We eat expired food. Our clothing has holes.  We learn the urgency of self-control and sharing. Errands no longer occupy our time as errands require resources. We learn the free – parks, libraries, festivals, museums. We enjoy worship music, listening to stories and reading.

Travel is luxury which demands fuel, lodging, and meals. Travel requires transport, time off work, luggage. Sometimes God gives us free. Amazing stories. Humbling. Leaves me in tears. Prayer and waiting on God. He is full of surprises.

Limited resources teach us how to say no to good for what is best. To survive on little is to find contentment in little, to have joy in the pleasures of ordinary or what others may view as lack. Limited resources delight in the gift card for a cup of coffee, learn the enjoyment of leftovers, use the shampoo that makes our friend’s hair dry, and enjoy the comforts of a warm fire. We learn to treasure people over possessions, leaving the bushes half trimmed to listen to a friend, loaning our car to someone which leaves us at home, or visiting a friend in the hospital which makes dinner late.

By the way, meals take a long time because limited resources omit convenience. Drive thrus are too expensive and inexpensive, healthy food always takes prep time. The pinto beans have to sit in water for hours. Veggies must be chopped. Meals require creativity because we rarely have all the ingredients that a recipe requires. The complication of meals bring the family into the kitchen. The prep work can involve everyone, we can jam to music and have fun.   We don’t eat meat a lot and eating only green beans or only popcorn can be very normal. When a friend invites us for dinner and they serve a meat, three sides, bread and dessert the delight is all ours. We treasure the treat and feel like royalty.

School requires many trips to the library and watching for what we can learn from the free. The adventure is finding the free and learning to experience the opportunities to the full. Field trips can be done through career exploration, nature and friendships with all different cultures. Relationships are our most valuable asset as every person we know can teach from their own lens of influence. We learn to notice what others excel in and glean from their wisdom and expertise. Living without teaches us the value of learning from all. Education becomes a way of life, more than a school project, spelling test or math worksheet.

Work often takes longer hours, with less financial results, but the privilege is to work as worship to Jesus. We must learn to fight against comparison and delight in the work God has given us. We all have a duty to contribute to the world, whether we receive compensation or not. Our investment in community should never be contingent on what we get. Many in poverty travel hours to get to a job and hours to get home. They collapse from exhaustion every day, but they do it again and again. Survival is a powerful contributor, but even if resources or circumstances can not afford us compensation, we still have the privilege and duty to contribute to the body of Christ. As the Word says, we are trusting our contribution will meet another’s need so that in turn another’s contribution will meet our need. (2 Corinthians 8:14) God is changing our perspective.

As our lifestyle has changed, the differences have become our normal. I don’t feel poor, deprived, slighted. Nothing about me wants to go back to carefree days; those days of depending on ourselves and not Christ. The entertainment, indulgence and ease always left me wanting more. I didn’t know what the more was until I realized… I wanted more of Jesus. I couldn’t hear His voice when we provided for ourselves. I couldn’t see His work when I was focused on mine. I couldn’t feel His embrace when my heart wasn’t fragile. I couldn’t toil and strive for the Lord until my hope was set on the living God. I couldn’t taste His provision when I believed we did it for ourselves.  I couldn’t share in His glory if I didn’t share in His suffering.  I couldn’t really love others until I experienced more of His love for me. I couldn’t be rich until I became poor.

Equipped with Everything Good

Praying for fruit – blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, pears, apples, oranges and bananas. Praying for veggies – kale, spinach, beets, zucchini, squash, ginger, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Here describes the life of a juice fast when you don’t have money to buy any food and your husband has committed to an indefinite juice only fast.

The commitment is to God, not man. God knows what we need before we ask, so we wait in hope. Trusting the God that owns the cattle on a thousand hills, will provide us the food we need for another week. Maybe it seems audacious to assume God will provide fruit and veggies, but why wouldn’t He if He called a man to such a thing.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Hebrews 13:20-21

If God can bring His Son back from the dead, why would we question His ability to equip us with everything good for doing His will. But we do. On Friday, eighteen extra people stopped by, fourteen of which needed to eat lunch. The bananas, the tangerines and most of the apples disappeared, gone into the hungry bellies of little kids and tired mamas. And that was the right thing to do.

As I prepared a Friday juice lunch, I counted what we had left, about two meals. There I was at the kitchen sink, cleaning the juicer, and praying “please God send us some fruit and veggies.”

Then, a friend opened the back door, ready to give in abundance from the abundance given to her. In walked a handful of apples, limes, a sweet potato, cantaloupes and some spinach. A few more meals covered in this juice fasting trust.

Did the people following Moses want to trust God daily for the manna He consistently provided? Probably not.  They probably preferred to have some stored up, wanting a little control, with the knowledge they could survive another week, not just one more day. Isn’t that more how we live? We want to know that we have enough money for the bills we have this month, and enough in reserve for the next six months, in case something happens. We want our kitchen to have enough for several meals, not one meal. Many of us have overflow in a cabinet or a freezer. We could probably survive on what we have for a month, maybe longer. But what if??

What if what? What are we afraid of?

We are afraid of waiting, of feeling hunger, of experiencing want. Maybe we are afraid we will have to eat something we don’t like or even something that has gone bad because we’ve stored it too long. It could be pride, the thought that our parents may stop by for a surprise visit or our best friend from primary school. Irrational really, but real. We like control and term it “prepared.”

What if we played a trust game with our family and lived on the food in our homes and just watched how long it would last. Maybe more than a month, maybe some of us could make it half a year. Yea, we would have to eat random things together, and maybe some of it wouldn’t be our favorites, but Jesus would sustain us with the can of fruit cocktail, the bag of popcorn and the green beans.

Why do we eat? Is it more than sustenance? Does food provide some comfort for us for a few moments? Or is it some experience to get what we want?  Is our consumption from selfishness, the desire of special treats, variety and taste. Is food an idol or an escape? Do we have other motives besides living?

Food seems so simple, but often it becomes complex too. We find ourselves grouchy when we are out of milk or the lettuce seems a little wilted or the chips are stale. Our nastiness can be exposed in meal moments, in the need to prepare when we want to eat right now, and when we realize someone else ate what we wanted. Oh that it would have no hold on us, that I wouldn’t keep looking for something “I feel like” and that my heart would be full of gratitude for what is. Maybe this has never happened to you, but I’ve opened the fridge, full of food, and said, “we have nothing to eat.” The real is… we didn’t have what I wanted.

Contentment. A longing in my heart for more of it. Contentment to use the little square napkins when we are out of toilet paper, because God did provide, that was the toilet paper. Contentment for the waiting and praying for the money for the kids school test, found in the console of our vehicle, the night before the registration deadline. God brought the manna.

How does He do it? There are millions of us and somehow He hears my prayers and all those others who are praying at the same time. My mind is blown every time I think about it. He hears me and He loves me. He hears you and loves you too. Ahhh, that’s good!

He gave me life today. My heart beat without me thinking about it. My eyes blinked incessantly, as He intended, and I never noticed. When I stood up to walk, my legs moved and I didn’t think to instruct them. My kidneys worked and told my mind when I needed the restroom. My fingers typed and my hand held a mug. My ears worked today and I heard music, stories from friends and laughter. I never considered that today I might not hear or taste or feel. For another 16 hours my body was awake and it all functioned without me considering if it would.

Friends came over tonight and they wanted juice. So we shared. Others asked for oranges and we said sure. How could we not? We have enough for tomorrow and the next day too. The fruit and veggies keep multiplying. Enough to share the rutabaga, kale, kiwi, strawberries, apples, oranges and lime.

Nothing about me has mastered this trusting. If God can do food, He can handle money too. But money manna, dang that still scares me, even after ten years. It can feel so foolish, maybe as foolish as it sounds to trust for food. Yet, He did the money manna so many times this past week too.  When I woke up at 4am in a panic, He wasn’t finished.  When the check made it to the bank only 30 minutes before it closed, He never fretted, that was only me. Call me an Israelite, I’m still scared of the “give us this daily bread” phrase in that prayer Jesus taught us to pray. He’s talking about trusting for the manna, trusting for today. Oh humanity get out of the way.

One thing I know, every time it’s last second and He does it, I’m reminded our life is for His glory and not ours. Please God receive all the glory because it’s all Yours. We are powerless, with nothing but a desperation for You to do what we can’t, which has proven time and time again to be everything. We cannot sell the next project, buy the next apple, pay the next bill. We really cannot. Without Jesus we are nothing and we have become fully convinced that Jesus is everything.