Monday, January 27, 2014

For Ladies Only: True Beauty

Proverbs 31: 30 ~ Favour (charm) is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

Putting on make-up takes ten minutes, but developing inward beauty takes years.  It's easy to cover up an outward blemish, but it's hard to cover up what's on the inside.  People try.  All the time.  But, ultimately, what's in you shines out of you. 

So what's shining out of us?  When you look in the mirror, who do you see?  Not what do you see, but who?  When is the last time you actually stopped to think about it? 

We are more than a slab of flesh, however well-crafted. 

Too often we focus on how to better the outward appearance with little thought about how to unleash our beauty within.  I see it all the time.  I don't just mean with physical exercise, face lifts, and what have you, but with careers, too, or having the picture-perfect family.  Obviously, it's good to look and feel good, to enjoy career success and to have a wonderful family.  Problem is, too often I see cracks in that picture frame, fear underlying the pursuit of career success and physical exercise as a feeble attempt to keep from losing one's youth.   That's not freedom, that's desperation.  And sometimes it's a fine line.

I must be clear:  family, exercise, and career success are all good things.  I just want them to be real things in my life, and not a mirage.  Let me put it to you this way - if your life is picture perfect on the outside, but you're ugly, broke and alone on the inside, it won't do you much good.  That foundation has cracks, and I don't mean your make-up. 

1 Samuel 16:7 ~ For the Lord sees not as man sees: for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.   

1 Timothy 4:8 ~ For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 

What do we do if maybe we've spent more time maintaining our outward appearance than our own heart?  You guessed it!  It's time for a make-over.  It starts with two simple steps:

            1) Identify your make-up.
            2) Restore the foundation.

Start by identifying your make up.  And by that, I mean, discover what you are truly made of.  Knowing who you are starts by knowing Whose you are.  You were created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27).

1 Corinthians 7:23 ~ You were bought with a price.  Do not become the servants of men. (Not just "male" men, but mankind).

Secondly, restore the foundation in your life by putting first things first.  When we put God first place, we don't have to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear.  (Matthew 6:25). 

Matthew 6:33 - But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you

What mirror are you looking into?  Are you trying to conform to the image of this world, or are you beholding the One who reflects the real you?

Romans 12:2 - Be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

James 1:23-25 - For if any man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what manner of man he was.  But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues in it, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ~ Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass (mirror) the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Into what image are we transformed when we behold the glory of the Lord?  Freedom.  When we look into the perfect law of liberty, when we behold our Lord rather than our own selves, then we are changed into the image of Freedom.  Let your true beauty shine through today.  Look into the perfect law of liberty (God's Holy Word), follow its precepts and watch yourself transform into a lighter, brighter you. 

Challenge:  Spend (at least) as much time today studying scripture, in prayer, or fellowshipping with God as you spent making yourself presentable for the outside world today.  Watch what happens.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just Kidding

Just kidding:  two of the most dangerous words in our vernacular today.  Think I’m joking?  Check this out: 

Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking! ~ Proverbs 26:18-19.

I heard myself say recently: “Every bad idea starts as a joke.”  The words flew out of my mouth before I ever considered it.  As I’ve meditated on those words in recent days, I’m starting to realize the truth of that statement.  Jokes make bad ideas palatable. 

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. ~Proverbs 14:13

A terrible idea would not be well received if it were said seriously and soberly, but disguised as a joke, people say and do stupid things all the time.  The “if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” scenario comes to mind.  Do you know how often people actually jump off bridges with their friends, with serious consequences?  People make light of the idea at first.  Then, after a few beers (or a few dares) their senses are dulled.  Suddenly, what once seemed like a laughable idea becomes a serious idea.  Some people jump off bridges and never come back, or get seriously injured in the process.  Now I don’t mean to be morbid, but I do hope to shed light on this pervasive deception. 

Here’s another one:  take the often used phrase “I’m going to kill (insert who), for (insert what).”  A joke disguised as hyperbole (exaggeration).  Starts out innocuous enough, doesn’t it? 

“Just kidding” is a license to say whatever we want.  “You are such a jerk…just kidding!”  “I hate you…just kidding!”  “Go “fight” yourself….just kidding!”  “You’re not very good at that, are you?....just kidding!”  It’s really weird when you start to think about it.  And yet, how often do we say (or hear) things like that without even giving it a second thought? 

Sarcasm says one thing, but means another.  It is the opposite of integrity.  It’s foolish, it’s jesting, and it’s everywhere in our society today (including, until this writing, in my own mouth).  What we joke about ends up being what we talk about.  So what are we saying?  What do we say that’s not really funny? (A lot!)  What do we joke about that secretly really bothers us?  What’s really at the heart of our jokes?   

The truth is: words are important! 

Ephesians 5 implores us to be followers of God as dear children and to walk in love as Christ loved us.  Ephesians 5:4 warns us to avoid....filthiness… foolish talking…coarse jesting, which are not convenient, but encourages us, rather, to give thanks.

You may be thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding.  Get a sense of humor!”  I, too, would’ve scoffed at this post with you just days ago.  But the more I study this, the more I see that I don’t want anything to dilute the power of my words.  Here’s the reality:  we don’t know what the people in our lives are going through.  They may be dead serious when they couch something in a joke.  If we respond with foolish talk and coarse jesting, then we miss a golden opportunity to speak the truth in love.  We miss the opportunity to see someone set free from what binds them, because we missed the opportunity to speak one fitly spoken word (Proverbs 25:11).  That, my friend, is no joke. 

Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. ~ Ephesians 6:16.

Whether you’re slinging those arrows or receiving them, I hope we stop and take stock of what we are saying and hearing, take up the shield of faith, and start speaking the truth in love.  Now this is not a call to forgo a sense of humor.  I would hate that!  This only means to put away foolish talk and coarse jesting.  Foolish means “lacking good sense; unwise.”  There is an entire universe of humor outside of foolish talk and coarse jesting.  I pray we employ a little creativity and explore the depths of good humor.  And rather than defending ourselves against those flaming arrows with a “nu-uh” or “no, you are!” we can start disarming people with our love.  After all, no one has a better sense of humor than our God:

He who sits in the heavens laughs...  Psalm 2:4

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.  Job 8:21

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!  Psalm 32:11

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6

But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.  Psalm 37:13

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  Psalm 4:7

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.  Zephaniah 3:17

Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Luke 6:21

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.  Proverbs 29:9

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end (a future and a hope).  Then you shall call upon me, and you shall go and pray unto me, and I will listen to you.  And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, says the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity...

This passage reveals the Father's heart.  

As I write this, I sit upstairs in my "en suite" (so affectionately called) in the home where I grew up.  Never did I think after college, I would be back.  I fought against it.  'What would the world think?  What would my parents think?  What would I think?'  And then, sad to say, after I considered those other voices first, I finally thought: what would God think?   

At the time, it didn't make any sense. I had no future to speak of and no dreams on the horizon.  I was fine, if "fine" means "leading a life of quiet desperation," as Henry David Thoreau put it.  But I knew deep down, home was where I was supposed to be for this season.  So finally, I obeyed that still, small voice and I went home.  It was here that God imparted to me a vision for my future so stark and so clear that I never had dreamed of before and I never would've guessed.  He, in fact, captured my heart again. 

Of course I didn't know that then, at the time when He called me home.  It was a giant leap of faith for me then, to defy the world's stereotypes and my own pride.  But in my heart I knew that God had something more in store.  I had taken some time away, but it was time to come back and make peace with the past.  After all, every hero has a homecoming (that may well be the only thing I remember from reading Homer's aptly named "epic poem," the Odyssey, in AP English class in high school).  It's been a time of restoring the foundations of my life, where cracks had seeped in.  Learning how to love my family and realizing that I have a role to play here.  That suddenly my dreams somehow only take on meaning in the context of other people's lives.  That I'm not an island.  As I've spent three years in pursuit of my professional degree, the most important thing I've learned has been how to love my family and to love others.  Suddenly, the next generation has become exceedingly important as I watch my beautiful niece and nephew grow up before my eyes.  My life is not my own.

I love America.  (Some of you are chuckling right now at the understatement of the century.)  God bless the United States of America.  But one thing her people need to learn is how to live as a family.  I don't just mean your genetic family, I mean as a people.  To love one another.  Our lives matter in a greater context than just we ourselves.  I see the subtle, insidious pull that calls us to strike out on our own as rugged individualists, to make a career and a name for ourselves.  To cut ties with our past and families.  To make a dream all our own.  I've felt that pull on my own life.  But as an observer of hearts and people, I've seen too many people make it to the top of their careers, so young in the scope of eternity, only to find that it's lonely at the top.   Realizing much later on that maybe people mattered more than previously thought.  As my dear friend reminded me yesterday, we can learn these lessons now or at age 60 (or older).  Our choice. 

Join me in forgetting that rugged individualistic mentality for a moment.  

Where is God calling you?  “Home” may be on the other side of the world.  The geographic place matters not.  Whether God calls you to the outhouse or the White House, or anywhere in between, I pray our hearts are willing and obedient to say "Yes, sir!"  Where doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we are smack dab in the center of God’s will for our lives.  Why?  Because He has the best for us.

When we step out and take that challenge, He will make your dreams come true.   (Shhh...listen in... I've got a secret for you: when He makes our dreams come true, His dreams come true, too - because He's the one who gave us those dreams!)  We know God is gracious and giving.  Whenever we step out in obedience to Him, He will not only let us have our cake, but eat it, too (Isaiah 1:19).  After all, He is the one who does exceeding abundantly beyond all we can ask or think.  (Ephesians 3:20).  

By God’s grace, I see my own dreams unfolding before my eyes every day.  Looking backwards, I'm beginning to see where all the pieces fit.  I am convinced that God's a smart dude and He knows what He's doing.   I'm the one who needs the perspective shift.   

Praise the God who makes our dreams come true.   Don't be afraid to take the next step with God, wherever that may lead.  He has plans for your peace, not your harm, to give you a future and a hope.  Peace, be still, and know that He is God. (Psalms 46:10). 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Love: The Antidote to Fear

Love.  That word gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean?

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.  (One translation puts it this way: 'he who fears has not fully experienced His perfect love.')  ~ 1 John 4:18

A friend loves at all times... ~ Proverbs 17:17

For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  
~2 Timothy 1:7

...God is Love ~ 1 John 4:8. 

Love in this context means "agape," or unconditional love.  Agapeo is used to describe the Love of the Father toward us.  The same word is used in John 3:16 ~ For God so loved (agapaō) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

YOU are loved!

Love: the Great Commandment

But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.  Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. ~ Matthew 22:34-40. 

Interesting aside:  Did you know that the same word, agapaō (unconditional love) was used in a very different context in scripture?  Yes, that word is also used in John 12:43 ~ "For they loved (agapaō) the praise of men more than the praise of God."  Also in John 3:19 ~ "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved (agapaō) darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."  Interesting, huh?  That same unconditional love with which God loved us and with which we are commanded to love others, can be twisted and misapplied.

Guess that's why 1 John 2:15 says, Love not the world (world systems), neither the things that are in the world.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For additional study on this topic, click here.

1 John 4:19 ~ We love, because (God) first loved us

I can't help but think of this song whenever I think of the Father's love for us.  I also think of this song, Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love."  


The beauty is Christ really did go to the ends of the earth for us. 

My prayer for us today is that we fully experience His perfect love, so that we may reach out and touch the lives of others with that same love.  As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "God is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted by God."

As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:14-19, so I pray:

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell (remain) in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love (agape!), may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love (agape!) of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Amen.  Know that you are LOVED today!  God and I love you.  Until next time, the peace of Christ remain with you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Financial Peace

Isaiah 55:11 ~ So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

If we trust in our job or our paycheck as our only source of income, then we will only have one source of revenue and we will never have more than our labor can make.  If we trust in God, and lean not to our own understanding (Prov 3:5-6), then our resources are limitless.  We enter into God's rest and He takes care of the rest.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34:

Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on (what you shall wear); Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than clothing?  Behold, (look at) the fowls of the air: for they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much better than they?  Which of you by taking (worried, over anxious, very careful) thought can add one cubit (length between your elbow and middle finger) unto his stature (helikia: meaning maturity)?  And why do you take thought for clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, o ye of little faith?   Therefore, take no thought, saying, what shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or how shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Financial pressure got you down today?  Maybe you don't see where the finances you need will come from.  Good news for us right now: when it looks like our supply line is running out, God's supply is running over.  He promised to supply our every need, and His promises never leave us empty-handed.

David the Psalmist writes of God's provision in Psalms 37:25: 

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread. 

How much more will He feed and clothe us? 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Breaking Script: Take 2!

Finish these lyrics:

So bye-bye, Miss American Pie, drove my ______ to the _______  but the ______  was ______. (Click to hear)

And I think it's gonna be a long, long time ‘til touch down brings me round again to find I'm not the ______they think I am at home, oh no no no, I’m a ______   ________.   (Click“hear” for the lyrics)

Wake me up before you ________, _______.  (Click “hear” for the lyrics).  This one’s for you, Lazamataz!

Ok, we all just got a window into my soul and my knowledge of not-so-current pop culture.  What was the point of that exercise?  Chances are, your brain could fill in at least one of those three sets of lyrics without even hearing the song.  How often do we do that in life?  We think “this scene looks familiar,” so we act accordingly, based on past experiences.  We fill in the gaps before the scene ever plays out.  It's like deja vu all over again!

Sometimes we get into ruts by allowing our brains to fill in the gaps with information that's not really true.  So how do we get out of those ruts?  I'm going to share with you today a revelation I received a few years ago: every time like the first time.  Treat every situation as if it were the first time.  By this I don't mean you should put up blinders.  Don't ignore what you've seen, but recognize what you really see. 
Imagine you go to the grocery store and you run into someone you don’t want to see.  Picture that person.  You awkwardly shuffle away, or turn your head, pretending not to see them, because you assume, based on past experience, that the encounter will be awkward or unpleasant.

Now imagine that you break script.  Imagine that, instead of high-tailing it out of there, you stop.  Pray for that person and ask, "God, what would You do here?" and "What should I do here?"  Oftentimes, we will be surprised by what we hear in response.  We know that God is love (1 John 4:8) and He would never ask us to do anything outside of love.  The beauty of being led by the Spirit is we experience better outcomes than we would if we wrote the script.

My challenge to you today, when you find yourself in the grocery store or wherever you may be, is to break script.  Stop.  Pray.  And Listen.  Then act accordingly, and see what happens.  From my own experience, I think you'll be amazed by how quickly your day improves. (But I don't want to fill in those gaps for you! ;-)  Let me know how it goes for you personally.)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Breaking Script

Our lives are a story, but what happens when we break script?  Let’s take a look at someone’s life who did: Jesus Christ.  Picture this: 

Scene 1:  Crucifixion
So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). There they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle.  And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.  ~ John 19:16-19.

(The soldiers divided his garments.  As Jesus hung on the cross, His mother and others looked on.  From the cross, Jesus told His Mother, Mary, to take John the disciple as her son, and He told John to take Mary as his mother.)

Scene 2:  Death
….After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop (a plant used for ceremonial cleansing), and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.  ~ John 19:28-30.

Scene 3:  Burial
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulcher, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus…

Cut!  Great job, folks.  Let’s call it a night.  End of story.  Right? 

Or is it? 

Scene 4:  Resurrection Life

The world left Jesus in His grave, but the life of Christ didn’t end there.  There was a final scene, that didn’t make the cut for most people in the world today.  Most people still think Jesus is in the grave.  If you’ve tuned into the uncut version, however, you know that Christ is alive today.  How did that happen?  Jesus broke script.  When the world declared Jesus Christ dead, God raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in heavenly places.  Ephesians 1:20-21 says God seated Jesus Christ “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come.”  Ephesians 2:5-6 says “and when we were dead in sins, God quickened (made us alive) together with Christ and raised us up with Him and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 

The good news is our story doesn’t end after 80 or even 120 years.  Because Jesus Christ broke script, our story never ends.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Love Is Strong As Death

The search for Love has turned lives upside down.  I’ve seen love make fools of the most “together” people.  I’ve seen rejection from love turn people into drug-addicts and alcoholics, into people who consume an excess of food to cope with their depression and into those who deprive themselves of nourishment completely.  I’ve seen love-spurned people bury themselves in their work and cease from work all together.  I know suicides have been committed, Romeo and Juliet-style, for love lost and never found.  I’ve seen people searching themselves to death and never finding fulfillment in the one they’re looking for.  This is beyond tragedy.  It’s just flat wrong. 

Let me be the first to admit that I’ve been there.  Hello, my name is Allie, and I’m a recovering search-aholic. 

What the heck are we looking for anyway?  Comfort?  Joy?  Peace?  Purpose?  Fulfillment?  Hope?  A better future than our present?  Physical gratification?  Someone who understands us?  Someone who knows all of our faults, our strengths and weaknesses and is still consumed by their love for us? Someone who, of their own free will, chooses to love us in LIGHT of - not in spite of - who we truly are?

Most people don’t chase after magical, ocean-dwelling purple sea urchins who belch gold. 

I mean if people didn’t think that true love existed, they probably wouldn’t spend so much of their time, effort and idle thought chasing after it.  Even the most rational of thinkers have put on their scuba equipment in search of the one they could not find.  So are we crazy to think that authentic, non-selfish love exists?  And naïve enough to believe that we “just haven’t found it yet”?  

Perhaps.  Or maybe we really are just “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  If Love had an address, where would it reside?  (I like to think it would live at 777 American Way, but alas, I have yet to find it).  Maybe the answer is as simple and as common as the breath we breathe: Love lives with us. 

So many of us have been on the inside looking out, peering out the window and hoping that Love will someday find us.  It already has.  It's time to open our eyes right where we are and see that Love abides with us now - in all things great and small.  Your treasure is where your heart is, not in some far-off, distant land you’ve never traveled.  The truth is, the road less traveled by is the one that leads to your own doorstep.  If what you sought were in some distant, uncharted territory, then as soon as you lived there awhile it would no longer be distant and uncharted.  It would be familiar and demystified.  And Love certainly couldn’t live among what's common to you, could it?  That would be far too boring or far too threatening.  

Or endlessly exciting.

It would require us to face ourselves in the mirror, to look at the good and the bad and to love who we are anyway.  Authentic Love would require that we love ourselves enough to be unselfish, non-judgmental, devoted, unfading and endlessly faithful to someone else.  Authentic Love would strip all the layers away and leave our hearts exposed and vulnerable to breathe freely and experience a life fully lived. 

None of us are just down on our luck and “not good enough” or “too good” to find true Love - in romance, in friendships or family relationships.  But we just might be afraid that discovering true Love right where we live is too much of a risk.  After all, it might turn our lives upside down and change us forever. 

So is authentic Love really worth the adjustment?  I think so, since so many people seem willing to live and die in search of it.  As for me, I think I’ll put my scuba equipment to rest and quit searching for something I already have.  But if you do happen to find any magical purple sea urchins, do put me at the top of your Christmas list.


Several years ago, my lady friends and I each made a list we called "the avocado scales" (don't ask me why).  The scales were individually named after whatever guy in our lives had sparked our interest at the time.  The scales were hand-crafted with love despite gleeful protests.  "Whatever, I do not like him!" my voice elevated to a higher pitch, through the strain of a spreading grin I could no longer hide.   "What if he sees this?!"  The scales were designed to predict the trajectory of a prospective relationship.  For the sake of confidentiality I won't throw anyone else under the bus, but my scale started out something like this:

1.  Not even friends
2.  Acquaintances
3.  *Sparks*
4.  Religious discussions over coffee :-)

And on and on....

Perhaps needless to say, the scales never worked.  (Or at least mine never did - one of our friends is happily married now).  Nothing ever went exactly as scripted.  How bizarre would that be if it had?


If you know me, you know I like The Price is Right.  (Who in America doesn't, really?)  Everyone is always happy on The Price is Right.  Even losing is a win if you get on the show.  The models glamorously present prizes that contestants never knew they wanted.  The show is a throwback to simpler times.  But what really makes the show for me is the unscripted moments.  The moments where overly excited prize-winners plow over an unsuspecting host, when a pricing game goes awry, or when an older lady spins the big wheel only to be floored by its momentum.  And then there are moments like this(Gentlemen, this is NOT a hint, by the way.  I find this entertaining to watch in someone else’s life :-)  On the Price is Right, and in our lives, not every unexpected turn is a bad thing. 

How we react to the unscripted moments in our lives reveals what's really inside.  

When I was a kid - okay, when I was a teenager - I used to write out a script for every phone conversation before I dialed the number.  (Yeah, it was weird - but don't judge me just yet.)  As you could imagine, things got a little dicey as soon as the person on the other line broke script.  When the conversation turned, I didn't know what to do!  I would get nervous and fumble through my words.  I'd flail through the conversation and get off the phone as quickly as I could.  I was extremely shy about talking on the phone.  (Some of you find that hard to believe these days!)  Thankfully, God delivered me from the fear of public speaking (and He can do the same for you). 

Today I don't use a script to talk on the phone, but how often do I live as if life should go exactly as I planned? 

How about you?  Do you ever get frustrated when things don't work out exactly as you'd planned?  As a kid I thought life was supposed to be like Crosby, Stills and Nash's song, Our House.  I've since learned life doesn't work that way, but that's not a bad thing.  As the Good Book says, our God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.  (Ephesians 3:20). 

I have two questions for you:     
            1.  Has life ever gone exactly according to your script?
            2.  Will it ever?

If you answered "no" to both of those questions, as I did, then that's good news for us both.  Life rarely, if ever, goes according to our plan, and it probably never will!  That can either be aggravating or endlessly freeing.  I find it freeing, and I hope you do, too. 

We've set up too many false, regimented expectations about how things are supposed to be.  When things don't work out exactly as we think they should, we walk away disappointed and self-condemned.  These things ought not so to be.  Half the time I think we miss what God has for us because we're looking for something so specific that He never promised.  All the while, His real promises are closer than we think.  My prayer for us today is that we let go of the scripts we've written for our own lives so that we may take hold of God’s exceedingly better plans for us.  

It's time to break script and stop worrying about future job prospects, health care, how we're going to pay for (insert here), where we're going to live, who you're going to marry (throw out "the scales," please!), fretting over the past or tomorrow.  It’s time for a paradigm shift, my friend.  Unscripted is a good thing.  What God has for us is far better than we could ask or imagine.  It's time to rip up our script and start trusting in His.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9.

...Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.  
~1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Something worth saying...

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them without signification.  
~1 Corinthians 14:10.

So often I hear from people, "I don't write, because I don't have anything to say."  That may be true, but more often than not I think it's not true.  

Everyone has something to say, but not everything people say is worth the listening.  What we say is influenced by the voices we hear and engage.  So the first key to finding our voice is to step back and discern to whom or to what we are listening.  There is a cacophony of voices in (and outside) of this world.  The question is: to what do and should we give our ear?  

If we give our ear to God, then we are no longer solo artists, on stage, performing for a world-wide audience.  We perform instead for an audience of One, who becomes the center of our focus rather than our own selves.  Jesus lives this way:  

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting:  whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
 ~ St. John 12:49-50.

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 
 ~St. John 5:19.

In other words, we can listen to the Father first.  Then, we can speak what He speaks and do as He does.  Otherwise, we can listen to the world and act accordingly.  When we start trying to find our own voice it's important to discover which voices have our ear.  

Take a look at this passage from Matthew 14:22-33 and see if you can identify which voices are speaking:  
22  Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24  and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.  25  Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  27  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  28  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29  “Come,” he said.  Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  31  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  32  And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

There are a number of voices speaking in this passage, including:  the wind, the waves, the disciples, fear, Jesus' voice, the Father's voice as spoken through Jesus (see St. John 12:49-50), Peter's voice, the voice of faith, the voice of uncertainty and doubt, and the voice of Love (1 John 4:8, St. John 12:49-50).  

Here's another voice I missed during my first read-through of the passage:  the boat.  The storm-tossed boat, far from shore, was the one physical thing seemingly keeping the disciples out of the drink.  The disciples lacked confidence in the boat's ability to keep them afloat amidst the thrashing wind and waves.  And yet, we see through this passage it wasn't the boat that kept the disciples safe.  It was the voice of the One who calmed the wind and the waves, the One who bid Peter "Come" in the midst of a violent storm, and the One who caught Peter's hand when he was sinking.  The voice of the One who still asks us today, "Why did you doubt?"  

In this passage, and in our lives, we find a cacophony of voices.  Oftentimes the loudest ones are designed to distract us and strike fear into our hearts.  They may be the waves of financial pressure or the winds of changing times.  It may be sickness, fear, doubt, or uncertainty about the future that has our ear.  What "life boat" is seemingly keeping you afloat today?  What things have you put your trust in that suddenly don't seem as secure, amidst life's stormy waves?  

Maybe it's time for us to silence those other voices, and choose as Peter chose, to listen in to that still, small voice.  Today, let's step out of whatever worldly safe haven we put our trust in, defy the thrashing waves and trust in the One who bids us "Come."  

Hence, this post.  I write this blog not because I feel like I have something to say, but because I believe God has something to say to you, and to me.  My hope is that day by day, post by post, we can discover together the zoe, more abundant life that God desires for each of us, that we may come to know Him more, and learn to live and to love like He does.

If we want something worth saying, it starts by heeding something worth the listening.