Kings entered towns with proclamations and grand processions of their riches, power, and splendor. Yet, Jesus, the King of Kings, chose a donkey for his entry. A young, humble donkey, never ridden before, specifically chosen by Jesus (Mark 11:3). A donkey born for a purpose- to work and serve a master. What an honor and task this young donkey was given, to carry the King, through a crowd of joyful people waving palm branches and praising the Messiah, who had come to rescue them from the oppressive society in which they lived.
Jesus journeyed through Jerusalem to celebrate, to proclaim peace and love, to serve, and save the lost. He came to give his life for those cheering, sinful spectators, and to pay the penalty of our sins too. In doing so, he may a way for us to be restored in right relationship with our Heavenly Father. His sacrifice offers us forgiveness and freedom in trusting in Him.
The donkey had a small, specific role in the grand love story of Christ. And we have roles in His story too. As followers of Christ, we are born with purpose. Chosen specifically by Jesus to serve in His name. We are carriers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and we are to deliver His message of hope and love through our words and actions.
Yet, some of us are still tied to the post outside the door (Mark 11:4). Tied up by our fears, insecurities, doubts, and exhaustion. Tied with things holding us back from fully living, freely serving, and fervently loving.
Let this be a reminder, you have been chosen.
You have been chosen to be the mother or father of your children. You have been chosen to be a friend to another. You have been chosen to be in the right place, at the right time. You have been chosen to lead and love well. You have been chosen to feed and clothe the hungry. You have been chosen as an ambassador of peace and proclaimer of love. You have what it takes because He chose you and He believes in you!
This Passion Week, I am praying we rediscover the passion and purpose of our callings in our lives. I’m praying we refocus our gaze on Jesus, seek Him out, ask Him for help in all circumstances and free us from the things that keep us bound. On Sunday morning, I pray we will praise Him as a large crowd of people who are no longer spectators but participants. Who truly, deeply know what it means to be forgiven and loved. And I pray we will embrace our roles with fullness of joy and peace of heart knowing we have a role in His story.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. John 15:16
Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:26–29.
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:10-11
It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal.”
Our “normal” life had been turned completely upside down. It’s not “normal” to be isolated from loved ones, to have to talk to our parents and grandparents from driveways and through open windows. It is not “normal” to be forced to adhere to rules that limit the number of family members who can say a final goodbye to a loved one in the hospital. It is not “normal” to have to stand six feet apart from others in a store while trying not to give or receive suspicious glances.
Jesus knows all about “normal” turned upside down. Fully divine, and fully human. Jesus, Son of God, came to earth and turned the world upside down by his words and actions. He treated the downcasts, outcasts, and those suffering in ways that shook up, derailed, and challenged norms. Jesus met people where they were. He did not minimize fears, worries, pain, or situations. He did not ignore people’s realities; but he joined them in their present circumstances, often turning a life upside down, and right side up. He asked questions and listened. He invited and he provided. He loved. And loved. And loved.
The same Jesus that walked the earth thousands of years ago, is the same Jesus that lives today. He is the same Jesus who is very aware of our fears, worries, pains, and situation. He is aware of our struggle to find a new normal. He doesn’t minimize our feelings, but wants to join us in our circumstances. He sees every tear shed. He hears every cry for help. And he wants us to turn to him, and say to him, “This is not normal. I’m not okay. Please help.”
And when we turn to Him, Jesus answers us with love and his word: It’s okay! You don’t have to be not okay alone. (Joshua 1:9) It’s okay to be scared, but I am will be here with you. (John 14:27) It’s okay to be sad, but joy will come again. (Psalm 30:5) It’s okay to be anxious, let me help you with your worry. (1 Peter 5:7) It’s okay to be confused, let me give you understanding and guide you. (Psalm 119:169) It’s okay to be angry, but let’s talk about it. I want to help you forgive and find safety and security in me. (Colossians 3:13) It’s okay to be tired, come to me and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28-30) It’s okay to want things to go back to “normal,” but maybe try to see that I am doing a new thing in your life. (Isaiah 43:19)
Jesus wants us to cling to him in all our imperfections, weariness, abnormal and “not-okayness.” He wants to help us. He wants to lead us to places where new “normals” might be found. And he wants to love. love. love us.
Take heart, dear one. It’s okay to be not okay. Just keep taking the next step.
What motivates you? Are you ego-driven or purpose-driven?
An ego-driven person is motivated by self-preservation and self-seeking satisfaction. They have a high sense of self-importance and chase after goals for external validation. They spend most of their energy comparing themselves to others and blaming things outside of their control on their shortcomings. They like to dwell in the past, and have trouble seeing beyond the present. The ego-driven person has mistaken what they have or what they do for their identity. 2
Purpose-driven people are motivated to action by a purpose greater than themselves. They take responsibility for their actions and recognize failures and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. They are determined and confident, grounded and fueled by their mission to grow, help, give, and serve. Their identity is based in their purpose and have their sight set on the future.
As followers of Christ, we are not only purpose-driven, we are God-driven. The cross is our motivation. And our purpose is to worship and love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30) We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. (Mark 12:31) Deny ourselves of selfish ambitions and selfish ways, and follow in the footsteps of Jesus (Matthew 16:24.) We are to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. (Micah 6:8)
In this pursuit of our purpose, we are not to go on our own. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who empowers and reminds us of what we are to do. The Spirit leads us to seek God, his strength, and his presence continually. (1 Chronicles 16:11)
This week, whatever we do, let the work on the cross be our motivation. Let us work with purpose and heart, and do it for the glory of God. (Col. 3:23, 1 Cor. 10:31)
Too often we view the cross only as a past event that secured our eternal destiny, and we fail to see how it can motivate daily choices and activities. Stop to contemplate all that God is continually accomplishing in you though the cross. Let it be your motivation to live wholeheartedly for Christ.- Charles Stanley
It started six years ago as a small whisper in the quietest
spaces and most protected places of my heart. A call into a deeper ministry for
Jesus and in service to others, to grow in love for, learn more about, and to
be equipped to teach the Word of God by pursuing a seminary education. I
thought over what I believed I had heard from God and considered what it would
mean for my life, our life as a family already busy in ministry.
I wish I could say I was like Mary who answered the Lord’s call with “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled,” Yet, I was more like other less confident, less qualified, less-everything characters, and rattled back a lot of questions and concerns, “Me God? How God? When God? Really, God? I am not so sure, God.” And then I would silence the whisper with wonderful other things and noisy distractions. Yet, the whisper persisted.
Over the next four years, I was prodded by a continuous
nudge and pondered the call that was growing louder. I wasn’t able to shake it
off as easily as I had before. Everything I thought about and worked on led me
back to this passion for Jesus, for women, for families, for the Word of God.
Fear kept me from sharing things aloud, but God kept sharing with me in
personal, quiet ways. He gave me many signs, opportunities and encouragement to
be stretched and challenged. I received each of these things as individual, separate
blessings, but now looking back I see them as a cumulation of stepping stones
in a path of trust and faith.
I cannot remember what happened first- the dream I had of
jumping into unknown, murky waters- or blurting out what was on my heart at a
MOPS Training event. But after that dream and sharing my deepest thoughts and now
a true desire, I felt like the doors of my heart were flung opened and sunlight
flooded in. Each time I shared with someone, I felt a fresh breeze of
confidence and excitement fill my heart. I had no details or any idea how all
of it was going to work, I was a bit apprehensive about stepping into this new
thing, but I trusted that if it was from the Lord, He would provide the way and
His will would be done. I sought wise counsel and asked others to pray for
discernment as deciding what the next steps would be.
The next steps came in the forms of essays, recommendation letters, transcripts that translated into an application to Gordon-Conwell Seminary. Pressing the final send button on the application after so many years of praying, conversations and counsel, tears and “wrestling” with what exactly was I was being called to do, was both scary and exhilarating. I gave it all a rest, handed it over to the Lord confident in the fact that I had done everything I possibly could do. A few months later, ten days before my birthday, I found out I was accepted. God and my supportive family worked out all the details and I started classes this semester, six years (or more) since I first heard the whisper.
It’s only been a few months, and already seminary has been an incredible, humbling experience. Seminary is helping me develop better listening skills- listening to the Spirit and to others. I’ve been discovering treasures that have been right in front of me, but with new background and contextual information I’ve been able to find them. I’ve been working through preconceived thoughts and ideas that I’ve previously accepted as truth, only to find there are other thoughts and ideas that might line up better with God’s word and His ways. I am dwelling in the incredible redemption story of the Bible, soaking up grace to new levels, reveling in the steadfast love and patience of Creator God, and trying to take in as much as I can.
So, if it’s quiet here in this space and on my blog, know I am still here. I’m just taking time to listen and study, feeling so incredibly grateful for the way God speaks and the way He waits. It’s often in the quiet places that He speaks the loudest. It’s often the least confident and least qualified that He calls. The wrestling, the suffering, the questions are often an invitation to trust and follow Him to places and things that are greater and far better than you might ever have imagined.
Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.
I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!
About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!
The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.
How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers?
Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over
the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store
several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed.
I needed help.
It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.
Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.
Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my
contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the
other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a
phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,”
he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility.
The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and
we all went on with the rest of the day.
This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.
Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.
If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.
“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.” Calvin Coolidge
In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.
The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.
When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .
My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest. I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.
By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace
and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open
wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to
feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen
to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their
stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in
those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming
and highlighting their lives.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.
Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?
Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.
I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it. I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!
Last week, I was rereading Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke. Mary, a young virgin, engaged to Joseph, a man of good lineage. Her engagement was part of socially acceptable plans, plans that would provide her security in life. She might have thought of her future often, preparing herself to be a wife, dreaming of what it might be like to be married. Every day that went by was one day closer to those plans coming to fruition. Then something happened that would change everything. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary with an incredible message that would challenge her plans and replace them with a new calling from God.
I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through
her mind as she tried to process the impossible things the angel was saying- “You
will conceive. You will give birth. You will name him Jesus. He will be the Son
of the Most High.” Although, the Gospel of Luke does not tell us her exact
thoughts, it does records one of her questions. A question I think we can all
relate to, “How can this be?”
Mary’s first response to this overwhelming information was a
question. And her response is similar to many other people in the Bible who also
had their days, their plans, their lives interrupted with what seemed like unimaginable
missions and impossible callings from God. Callings that would be difficult, go
against social standards, and change the trajectory of their lives in order to fulfill
the plans of God. In many of their stories, their immediate response to overwhelming
information was a “Who am I?” “How can I?” “I am only a….”
I think many of us have similar first responses to when God calls us to Himself or to His work. While, our circumstances and our callings might be different, the heart of our responsive question is the same- doubt.
“How can this be, since I am a sinner?
“How can this be, since I am unqualified?”
“How can this be, since I do not have the resources?
God’s answer has been, is, and always will be the same. The
answer is- “I am with you.” (Exo.3:12; Joshua 1:5, Luke 1:28) We can do the
things God calls us to do because of Emmanuel, God is with us. Often, God’s
callings come at times that interrupt our carefully crafted plans. They ask us
to replace our doubts and fears with faith. He knows your past and your future.
He knows where you are lacking and wants to equip and use you in those places for
His glory. He knows you don’t have all the resources because He wants to be the
One to provide them and He wants you to trust and obey in faith that He will.
God fully knows, and has no doubt,
that you are the right person for the mission, the job, the good work that He
is calling you to do.
Mary didn’t have all the answers or all the details. She
didn’t have a spreadsheet, a timeline or a budget. But she did have faith and was
told the Holy Spirit would come over her to make this impossible, miraculous
thing happen. And because Jesus, we also have the Holy Spirit to encourage us, empower
us and remind us- God is with us.Nothing is
impossible with God. Anchoring ourselves in those truths and answering God
out of a place of faith, our second response can be one of trust and action. We
can respond in the same as Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you
said about me come true.”(Luke 1:38)
The cool, salty spray was fresh with hope. Freedom danced in the air and adventure whipped in the wind. The ferry plowed confidently through the rolling waves, moving steadily closer toward to the small island- my new home. Things had happened very quickly in the last few days. It felt like a dream but this was very real. I looked back at the mainland, straining to see the only life I had ever known. A life of safety and security in family and home; and more recently a life marked with deep regret, painful shame, and shattered dreams. My heart was broken in so many ways. I was lost wanting to be found.
This was the beginning of a season in my life etched by indescribable grace, raw and challenging growth, and sincere gratitude. The slow tempo of the Island offered me a sanctuary for reflection. It was a place where freedom bore new dreams upon windy, high bluffs. Grains of inspiration were discovered on long stretches of sandy beaches. Revelation was abundant and overflowing in every bit of natural beauty.
I spent hours and hours walking. Every step seemed to beat out the pain of the past and moved me forward in a journey of healing. Jesus was undeniably close, patiently waiting for me to acknowledge Him again. And when I did, He met me right where I was- no judgment or condemnation. He quietly listened to my questions, stood by me as I let loose my anger and grief, and didn’t turn away when I bared my shame and surrendered my guilt. He comforted me with love and made me feel like I was the only one who had His attention. From the deepest places of my clouded heart came drops of appreciation that turned into storms of praise.
For the first time in a long time, I was able to hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice over the clanging lies, taunts, and distractions that I had given my attention to for so long. The Holy Spirit burned away unwanted things and brightened a flicker back into a flame. He gently guided me through acceptance, helped me turn back to God in repentance, and gave me help, power and protection in the process. I was wanted. I was found. And my response was gratitude and praise! The more I praised, the more I moved forward. The more I moved forward, the more my heart healed. The more I healed, the more I realized who I was and what that meant.
There is a story in the Bible about a battle in which the Lord helped the Israelites to win. In the place where their enemy had been routed, the prophet Samuel set up a “stone of help,” an Ebenezer, saying “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12) The “stone of help” would be a reminder of God’s promise, power and protection, always serving as a prompt to praise.
Sometimes through the battles, discouragement, and troubled times it can be hard to be grateful, yet I believe, it’s during these times that our practice of praise and gratitude brings about the richest, most genuine, most powerful praise. Powerful praise that God turns into hope, freedom, and renewal.
Gratitude doesn’t need to be perfect- it’s a process. It doesn’t have to be elegant words- messy emotions from a sincere heart work too. With each step of the journey, wherever God may take you- to windswept islands or a third-floor apartment in an inner city- set up your “stones of help” and use them as a prompts of praise. For the more we praise, the more we realize what we have and the more we have we realize what that truly means.
Although, every day, in every season, in all circumstances, is a time to be thankful, November is a special month of reflecting on what it means to thankful. I like to take this month to think about how I can better cultivate a heart of gratitude, not only in my life but in our family’s life as well. This month, I am looking back at the Ebenezers I’ve set up in my life. I’m using them as prompts of praise, to tell my story of where the Lord’s help and protection have covered me and where His power is taking me next. Join me!
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