I’m Not Ready Yet

Yesterday afternoon, we hop in the car and begin a slow decent down the street.  I gaze out my window at the landscape of suburbia when my husband presses the brakes. He snaps his head around and says, “Why do you only have one shoe on, baby girl?” Even though the kids spent inordinate amounts of time “getting ready,” Scarlett still managed to forget her shoes.

“I just wasn’t ready yet,” she explains with a shoulder shrug.

I’m reminded of the times I’ve told Jesus, “I’m not ready yet.”

Do you have those moments?

I’m not ready to kneel at your feet, I’m unworthy.

I’m not ready to do what is required, I’m not qualified.

I’m not ready to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, I’m scared.

But you know something?

God doesn’t mind if we’re not ready yet. He doesn’t mind the wretched condition of our heart, the stench of our sin. He’s much bigger than that.

God’s time is now and he enters into our messy-mama-carpool line, ready or not.

Now is where he calls us.

But we still manage to invent mushroom-like excuses, don’t we?

Some days we may feel sloppy and stoppable, unqualified and incapable ~ not ready for our God-given assignment. We say, “God, I’ll be ready to go but first I must clean the house, find that matching sock, plunge the toilet, pray a little more, seek more counsel.

But God says, “I’m here now, and I’m okay with the mess because I’m here for the messy, the unorganized, the weak.”

I remember when I wasn’t ready to start a ministry. I remember when I wasn’t ready to teach a Bible Study. I remember when I wasn’t ready to take the Gospel into unsafe places. I remember when the fear of being persecuted stopped me. I remember being afraid to enter homes in a slum community; a community that is now home to many friends.

But with a tear stained face and both shoes on, I can humbly tell you this. Not for one second was I as ready as I wanted to be. I may not have always been ready for God, but He’s always been ready for me.

I don’t know what the future holds for us Jesus girls, but I do know that he doesn’t need us to be ready for any of it, because He is ready.

And that’s enough.

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I’m Not Ashamed

Matthew 8:17 tells us “He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” Why wouldn’t we go to those who are both physically and spiritually sick and diseased? That’s exactly what Jesus did for us. “We received free of charge;” now we must also “give free of charge,” (Matt. 10:8).

And that’s what we are doing today.

We are taking the Gospel. We are praying. We are serving. We are providing basic needs for the people at the Castaway Motel. I’m so thankful for the beautiful women joining me today.

When I think about sharing the Gospel, I think of Paul. He, being courageous, sacrificial, and passionate about the advancement of the Gospel motivates me. When Paul shared the Gospel, he had no confidence in his rhetorical skills to overcome the human objections to the message, but he knew the power of the Spirit to change the lives of people as they heard the Good News about Jesus’ death and resurrection. People are saved by faith but faith isn’t the cause of salvation. The cause of salvation is the grace of God, the will of God, and the Spirit’s power working through the message of God.

I need to remember to take myself out of the equation. Sometimes frustration looms when I share Christ but don’t see shoots of faith. But God notices the seeds falling and he is faithful to turn them into harvest, into beauty.

John Piper is quoted as saying, “Overflow of joy in God gladly meets the needs of others. Scripture and prayer sustain our pursuit of ultimate and lasting joy in God; costly risk taking missions of love are efforts to double our joy in God.”

This is so true.

It feels true too… missions of love do double our joy in Christ.

Lord, I pray you will “Give them a heart to know you, that you are Yahweh,” (Jer. 24:7). Enable these people to see the marks of the cross in us and feel the love of the cross from us. I pray they will realize that the God who brought Jesus out of a black tomb is the same God who can deliver them from the blackness they find themselves in. I pray our words would not be our own, but yours, only yours.

Amen.

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Splashes of Hell

My heart thumps as I listen to her story.

Having had no outlet for her gritty words, they jumble together all at once.

She’s my divine appointment, someone God led me to minister to.

Her journey is like flipping through sheets of an old novel, tattered pages from the wear, compromised binding from the broken.

She’s frail and doesn’t parent perfectly. But I too am a needy mama who doesn’t parent perfectly. She is on and off drugs, but doesn’t want me to judge. Who am I to throw the first stone?

She’s lambasted by family, shunned from society ~ a society who rejects the least of these. Tears drip as memories roll across the screen of her mind. She hesitates in an attempt to hold away the floodgates. She’s tough but even more loving. “How are you today?” she’ll ask.

I think she needs Christ to lift the gauzy veil between the past, the now, and the still to come. She needs to feel the radical weight of smeared blood on splintered wood with words carved in red ink, “I love you.”

She thinks the parking lot we sit in, is the pit of hell. I tell her, even though God gives us tiny tastes of hell on earth, they’re merely splashes compared to the real thing. I think God gives us glimpses of hell so we might be awakened out of our spiritual slumber. Like an icy cold reality in our face. One that seemingly wakes us from the fleshly fire we find ourselves burning in.

But how?

How do I effectively share the Gospel to this woman sitting in my car asking, “Why?”

Effective or not, I do it anyway.

I share Jesus with child-like vocabulary.

I continue, slightly fumbling.

God gives himself, not a bunch of answers.

He is the answer.

He doesn’t give a bunch of words.

He is the Word, the Word made flesh,

nails gouged,

spat upon,

beaten bloody,

hatred hammering.

These aren’t just facts about Christ. This crucified love isn’t abstract or detached. The good news is up close, personal, and poured out like wine as strong as fire.

We hold hands and pray together in the middle of hell-fire parking lot downtown. I thank God for being good not because he explains reasons why, but because he explained himself on Calvary. The spotless Son of God, who in the span of nine hours, bore the sin of billions and made it over-the-top personal for us.

With a squeeze of the hand, “Amen,” we both whisper.

I drive away heavy.

But suddenly,

I find myself thanking God for my own splashes of hell. A drenching of what life would be like without him. I smile as reality shines. The pulses of pain that skip across the surface of my soul make me the perfect (or imperfect) instrument for His use… should He choose to use me.

I pray He always will.

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Understanding Ownership

The issue of ownership is filling the space in my mind.

We left our home in Reno nearly two weeks ago… the one we own and are trying to sell. And we arrived here at this home in Decatur, Alabama just four days ago. It is a beautiful home and some really wonderful people worked very hard to create this lovely space for us to live. I absolutely love it.

But… it’s not really ours.

Ah, it’s a strange struggle that I did not plan for before we arrived. Oh, and I planned for every-thing before we arrived.

But God.

He does that you know… surprises you with little mental detours… established specifically for our unexpected, yet completely advantageous growth. I love that about Him.

So, what is it He’s showing me?

Ownership is a bit of a deception.

When we “own” something we’ve taken the rights to it and grasped a hold of it proudly as OUR personal property. We puff up with the knowledge that it belongs just to us and no one else. While we do try hard not to rip it from the hands of the giver and claim it for ourselves… we seem to steal away with it none-the-less.

When the paper lists our names as sole owner we readily accept it and we revel in the sweet sense of security it offers us. False security- as it certainly is.

But, today I’m remembering who the great and generous Giver is: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

That speaks nothing of personal ownership that I can see. In fact, my eyes are opened that the idea of it is a lot more like the “shifting shadows” because it can change in an instant.

However, that verse does speak clearly of our true security in the “Father of the heavenly lights”. This kind of security offers provision in all things… beyond the paper that says… this thing (whatever it is) belongs just to me.

So, the issue of ownership is less of an issue and more of an understanding. One that I am only learning. The ownership we need to focus on is HIS ownership over us. That’s where we are safe. That’s where we are free to roam.

And that’s what is filling the space in my mind.

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Battling the Push-Up Bra


If you lean in real close, I’ll tell you something that crinkles my feathers.

I pop open my email today and there it is, Victoria’s Secret: “The push-ups of summer have arrived.” Now, I’m not saying I don’t buy the unmentionables at our girlfriend Victoria’s from time to time, and I’m not saying it isn’t lady-like to browse. What I am saying is that I’m tired of society telling me I need big boobs! Whoever thought it a good idea to misrepresent ourselves by making our chests look double the size, anyway?

Whoever it was, I have some string and a shovel. Anyone want to help?

Suddenly Proverbs 11:3 comes to mind on this topic: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” Upright, crookedness, bras…

Anyhoo…

I got the pink, shiny gift card recently. My four year old and I took a gander one afternoon amongst the satin and lace. Before I knew it, Miss Thang had an orange panty necklace and a double “d” push-up wonder belt. The color crimson stained my face as the sales associate asked, “Can I ring her up?”

Y’all… really?

The humiliation sunk way down deep to the depths of my mismatched undergarments. But being a determined mama, this would be a teachable moment…even if it did take place on Victoria’s turf.

I love the verse found in 1 Samuel 16:7:

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Seemingly, Victoria and the rest of the world focus on cup size and outward appearance. I’d like to let Victoria in on our secret: God focuses on what people look like on the inside, period. No amount of silky satin thigh highs will ever change that.

The question presents itself.

Are God-fearing women placing more time and effort into being pretty on the outside or the inside? As we get older, we will meet women who spend more time trying to find the perfect outfit, get the perfect tan, find the perfect lip gloss, and have the perfect body. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, we need to make sure it’s in balance.

Since this conversation is just between us, I’ll say one last thing. I think the God of the Universe would much rather see our hearts increase in size rather than our cups.

And they all said, Amen!

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Grief Distracts Us From Jesus


Have you ever succumbed to grief?

I definitely have.

When I divorced, I felt as if I’d been officially disqualified from ever being happy. Survival mode became the new norm. After months of brokenness, I began a new journey ~ only I brought grief with me, cisterns of it. I languished there. It led to pain-peddling in my heart and sin. The enemy used my grief like glue; it kept me stuck to a backdrop of pain. Not a fun thing, for sure.

Now looking back, my conclusion is…

Grief distracts us from Jesus.

After the dust settled, I realized grief blinded and distracted me. It caused a dismissal of all things positive. It pressed the pause button on my life’s story for far too long. Most importantly, it prevented me from seeing Jesus… clear and up close.

I’m in good company, though.

The disciples were also distracted by grief. Their grief kept them from praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Luke 22:39-46). It also played a role in their disbelief when the women ran from an empty tomb proclaiming Jesus was alive (see Mark 16). Grief paralyzed their minds and hardened their hearts to the reality of a resurrected Christ.

Jesus left behind great advice for his disciples and for girls like us.

Instead of passively wallowing in a puddle of pain Jesus instructs us to, “Get up {which is hard when we feel accused and defeated} and pray so that we will not fall into temptation,” (see Luke 22:39-46).

Did you notice that?

Prayer keeps us from temptation. It keeps us from being tempted to sit in suffering; tempted to grieve over things we can’t control; tempted to rely on self.

Years later I realized grief stunted my spiritual growth.

Grief wouldn’t allow me to mature in my faith, instead it suppressed it. Grief labeled Jesus as a mere acquaintance in my life rather than an intimate Savior. Like the disciples, I barely recognized a resurrected Christ in my life.

Sweet sister, I’m sorry if you are walking this path today. But don’t give up. Be intentional about abiding in His presence as often as you can. Decide from this day forward not to allow grief to keep you from Jesus. Instead, allow God’s glory to unleash itself as He reigns over your grief (see Ps. 50:15).

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,” (John 16:16-33).

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This is not the Olympics!

                                                                      

It’s almost here! The 2012 summer Olympics from London.  Our family enjoys gathering around our TV, obsessively engrossed in watching the victories and the near-misses.  Right now, the world’s best athletes are practicing around the clock, perfecting their craft, trying harder each and every day to improve their performance–pressing on hard with the goal of bringing home the gold.

In the Olympics, as in any sport, victory comes from practice, dedication, and from trying harder.

But what about us God-girls?  Where do we claim victory?  When was the last time you confidently thought, “God, I really got this Christianity thing down, don’t I?”

Two weeks ago I was blessed to travel to the Reno mission field with three other God-girls, where we brought groceries and the Gospel to a small motel downtown called the “Castaway Inn” (how appropriately titled, huh?).  We met with each motel tenant and after they chose which groceries would most bless them (TV dinners, mac-n-cheese, and Top Ramen were some of the favorites), we asked to pray for them and we took turns praying.

One of us walked away feeling somewhat defeated by her “prayer performance”, saying, “I didn’t pray very well that time, my first prayer was better”.  It’s as if she were competing in the Prayer Olympics, with the Great Almighty looking down on her with His score card ready, saying, “I give that prayer a 9.5.  But that first one, that needed some work—I give it a 4.8”.  I saw my dear friend becoming her worst critic, and I saw Satan loving it!

We must remember, Satan is the great accuser.  Scripture assures us that accusation doesn’t come from God.

In fact, listen to the good news Jesus offers…

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them (notice we will not give a perfect performance).  I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

My friend’s precious heart and her great desire to bless others and glorify the Lord were weighing her down.

She was trying to try harder.

And what followed was self-condemnation. Can any of you relate to the following self-condemning, performance-based thoughts?

Lord, I really messed up the day.

Lord, I’m not the kind of mother you want me to be.

Lord, I can’t seem to get it right!

Sometimes, in our desire to please God, we can actually turn conviction into self-condemnation.  In our effort to try harder, we end up worried that we will never overcome our sins and find victory in our life.

God has something to say about who He is and what He wants from us, and thank God He’s not expecting a perfect 10!  Renee Swope says in her book A Confident Heart“God’s spirit will convict you, but His heart will never condemn you”.

Jesus tell us,

“Then neither do I condemn you…Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:9-11).

And last, we are to find peace, joy, and God-confidence in the following:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)

So, for all of you who love a good competition, enjoy watching the Olympics this summer.  And remember, our Christian life is not the Olympics and our performance is not being scored.

Can I get an A-men!

Macedonia Moment

Friends and moving simply don’t mix.

The “we might be moving,” phrase chucks itself in the middle of too many conversations lately. However, one statement distinctively stands out, “I hope this is where God really wants us to go.”

I begin thinking…

Sometimes our focus is so concentrated on the destination that we lose sight of the One leading us there.

I muddy the pages of my Bible with my brown pen as I read Acts 16:1-10. “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Paul’s bags were packed, his journey calculated. But the Spirit of God had different plans. Scripture tells us the Spirit, “…kept him from preaching the word in the province of Asia.” Then, the Spirit prompted Paul to travel to Bithynia and share the Good News there, only to discover “…the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them too.”

Even though Paul packed light, he was no stranger to the frustrations of moving. The Spirit led him one place only to redirect him to another.

Could it be that the destination is deeper than Galatia or Macedonia? Maybe the destination isn’t a place at all.

Maybe the destination is God himself.

God could have used this “pin-ball” effect to shape and mold Paul as he went here and there. Maybe God wanted Paul to trust and enjoy Him in the midst of uncertainty. Perhaps a mixture of “yes’s” and “no’s” stirred up a radical Gospel in Paul’s heart enabling him to bring more glory to God in the process.

As Paul sang his availability to Jesus, God stooped to earth with a vision ~ one announcing Paul’s mission in Macedonia.

Oh how we pray for a Macedonia moment of our own. If only God would come to His girls in a vision and say, “I want you here for this reason,” that would be oh so conducive to our busy schedules.   

Like Paul maybe your daily travels aren’t about where you’re going, but how you’ll get there ~ kicking and screaming? or humbly submitting?

Whether we’re on foot or pulling a U-haul, we must walk in His ways and remain in His Spirit. When we do this, the destination suddenly becomes a “who” instead of a “where.”
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The Gospel In A Bathtub

I’m standing in the wings making my bed for the first time today. It’s about 6:00 ish in the p.m. and the girls are in the tub. Wondering if I’m messing up my kids, I pull the cotton snowman sheets over the mattress. Oh yes my sisters, snowmen and flannel in May.

That’s right, y’all!

Through the archway into the bathroom, I hear my daughter’s seven year old self conducting a baptism in the tub. Who is she baptizing you ask? My four year old, of course. Samantha preaches, “Do you believe in the cross? Do you understand the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?” I hear a faint, “Uuuggghhh, Noohh,” echo into mid-air. Just as I turn the corner where carpet meets the tile, “Splash and swoosh… full on baptism ensues.

I begin to think of the cross; and how it sometimes splashes outside the tub of contemporary Christianity. We as believers must be mastered by one thing; obsessed by one thing; consumed by one thingthe cross of Christ. If our lives aren’t mastered by this one thing, our lives will be wasted.

I want my life to count, don’t you?

The cross is important because it:

Confronts us with the reality of our sin;

Comforts us with the provision of our Savior;

Reminds us our safety is not in this world (Gal 6:12); and

Keeps us from wasting our lives on this world.

Oh how I want to add the words of Paul into my vocabulary, “I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me.” I want my kids to know the road paved with worldly security brings emptiness, while Calvary’s road brings perfect promise.

I may not do this mama thing right, but those splashes in the bathtub tell a different story. One that assures me the foundation we’re building begins and ends with the cross of Christ.

Unlike the snowman flannels, Calvary love that spills over wooden beams onto wretches like us…. never goes out of season.

“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross,[a] my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died,” (Gal. 6:14, NLT).

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Mortified On Mama’s Day…

Can I tell you something just between us?

This Mother’s Day seemed extra special.

In fact, things were going quite well.

I looked out the window to find my man engaged in much needed brow-wiping manual labor. He wrestled man-eating weeds. He planted sprays of floral delight. He even carried a toolbox around fixing stuff. A Home-Depot man so to speak.

The awe of this moment etched a blissful memory across my heart. Suddenly, a not so blissful reality strutted across the lawn. The “big man on campus,” our yellow lab, plopped a few earthly treasures on the newly planted sod. I guess the Spirit just moved, huh? It’s too bad the Spirit couldn’t have led him to the dirt patch, where he’s supposed to go.

Anyway and about that time the phone rang.

I heard the complaints of my very concerned neighbor. Apparently, my southern belles were at her house sharing the biblical terminology for a donkey (a**) with her two and three year olds. Yes ma’am. Not just sharing but helping those sweet thangs pronounce it just right. How thoughtful of them, right?

Ahem and heavy on the sarcasm. So much for trying to keep their fellow toddler from stumbling (see 1 Cor. 8:13).

I think of how the day began. The laminated church photos and hand-made cards that read, “Mama you’re the purple-est.” Then by mid-afternoon, the day suddenly swirled out of control like water in a toilet bowl.

Jeremiah 31:2-3 says,Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword (or the wooden spoon in this case) found grace in the wilderness (in the confines of their bedroom); when Israel sought for rest (when folks calmed down and fessed up), the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”

After the fog of embarrassment and anger lifted, I began to think of one word: grace. Grace means to get something you don’t deserve. I’m not gonna lie y’all~ they did get the appropriate discipline; however God who disciplines is also abundant in grace.

Maybe mine needed a little grace too.

I felt God nudge me in a one-on-one special kind of way. He said things like, “This is what I do for you; correct you when necessary; scold you when you’re wrong; mold you so you’ll learn; allow the desert so you’ll thirst.

Why?

Because I love you~ and that’s what a good and just Heavenly daddy does.

… and that’s what a good and just mama does too.

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