Oct 2, 2015

Shaken... and Stirred.

 There are days...
You find yourself shaking.
Then the stirring comes... if you allow it.

One more school shooting. People pick up their fight for/against gun control. Meanwhile there are families shattered, parents crumpled on the floor, while we rant over our rights.

The pictures surface of children crying, hungry, afraid, parents fearing each moment as they try to begin a new life. They want peace, a little safety. 
Similar to what we expect in America...
yet so different.
The pursuit of happiness. We demand it.
They have not asked for 401k's, two weeks vacation or an upgrade to a suite instead of a double. 
They want peace... and a safe sleep for their babies.

At the end of a day I think of conversations of financial, emotional, spiritual battles... I look up and some days I wonder. I wonder why? Why, oh God do we battle, suffer, fear... and there are days I wonder what you think of us? I know you love us. That will always be enough.
Some days, the pain I see... my heart feels like lead. Heavy and cold and hard. 

I drive home in darkness last night and I watch the young boy in the hoodie duck between the church building and the parsonage. He saw my lights. Did he wonder who I was, the police maybe? He takes the path of least resistance. Be still in the shadows until the lights move on. 
I don't fear him. I fear for him.  
I repeatedly look outside. Is he home yet or out in this wet, cold night?
Home can be hard.

I don't know him, but I know others like him. They believe they will prove themselves on the streets with the very things that could kill them. 
His life is so different then the boy on my couch, yet they stand a few yards apart. 
How do we bridge this gap?
How do we heal this ugly scar in our neighborhoods?

I think of the messages shared between women, coming together... surrounding a sister who is walking a hard path. The willingness to share ourselves makes my heart pump again and I know... deep down, there is still hope. 
I look at these women coming out of the shadows, speaking up and out and for and with... and I am humbled. Humbled by the depth of courage and willingness to be known.

My door bell rings because God knows. A friend walks in and we share thirty minutes of gratitude in what God has done in us and for us over the years and then we remind each other of our calling. She pushes me to keep on. We know we must continue, never quit. 
I am grateful. God knew. 
My heart stirs.
In The Reason For God Tim Keller quotes C.S. Lewis, "They say of some temporal suffering,
 "No future bliss can make up for it,' 
not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory." 
I read this over and over... and I know it is true. I have lived it. I believe. 
Yes, there is hope, always hope.  
We are brave. We are warriors. We are conquerors.

John 16:33
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."

Maybe the key is to keep digging into the Word. To be vulnerable and even though my heart will break, trust that He will mend it. 
His Word will become bread and wine and life to my soul. 
The heart stirs.

As I shed my pride of rights, desires and self love.... I may see that conquerors and warriors and the brave, grow strong because of Him. It is His strength that grows us into David and Esther and those who are not afraid of being shaken and stirred.

Psalm 138:7
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.

There will be days where we are overcome with what He opens our eyes to see. Don't shut your eyes in these moments. He is preparing us to be used, to see what many will not see. Be over-comers, instead of overcome.
Trust Him and in that trust recognize He will provide all you need. 
Wait for Him and let Him do it. Not you.
In these moments.... Be still and know that He is God. (Psalms)

When we find our selves shaken and stirred, when He stirs that inner longing that wakens our soul, and reminds us that though it may break our hearts... He will be there. Grab a hold of it and never, ever let it go. It is what you were created for.

Sep 26, 2015

Choose It... Before It Chooses You.

 Dog tail

I chased It for years. I'd like to think if I did It over again I would change It. But I'm afraid history might repeat itself.

I wasn't sure what It was, but It wasn't where I was. It was usually the next thing.

It was more. It was better. It was fortune. It was popular.
It was... well you get It. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Hear me, I'm not talking about chasing a dream... think more like a dog chasing its tail. 

I wasted time looking for It when
I should have been looking for Who.
The One who had plans for me, people to grow me. People to love. The One who had His best for me? The One who knew the days in front of and behind me. 
 The One who was always calling out to me. 
The One I mostly ignored. 
Feel me?

You have an It...  think about It.
It's that thing you wrap yourself in, the facade, the way you present yourself, the thing you chase after, worship... that holds no eternal value. 
Yet It holds your heart captive.
 It's your idol.
You know what It is. 
You might hide It from others but that doesn't change anything. 
It's still running your life.
John 13:35. "By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another"... instead of the word Christian I see disciple. And I ask myself... am I?
I think I found my It.

Sister, only One thing deserves to be your It. 

Love God. Love People.  
What does the Lord require of you...
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.
Micah killed it!

I don't like the word Christian. Jesus followers never called themselves Christians... the other guys did. It wasn't a compliment. 
It still isn't unfortunately.
The word Christian is broad. Good and bad come to mind with that word.
I will leave it there.
Disciple though...  one who follows, learns from, then shares what they learn.

The original disciples died horrible deaths. All but one is the way the story goes. The odds are in your favor you won't share their story. At least their ending.
Stoned, hung, martyred, flayed open, brains beat out... and the one who hung himself after handing over his Lord. 
Then John, exiled to Patmos. Don't think Greek Island with white washed buildings, donkeys waiting to take you to the bottom of the steps. Think hot, lonely and hungry. 
Patmos means, my killing. It was a sterile land unable to produce anything. It was fruitless and yet God brings John the book of Revelation on that barren island.
Don't miss how God works.
For those of us who live in America I'm gonna bet the farm we probably won't face this if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus.

But how do we live?
Do we live like disciples or wishy washy, luke warm talking the talk but not really walking it folk?

Many of us live our lives in constant crisis, searching for It.
You're broke as a joke, but you keep buying. 
You date losers because you think that's the best you deserve.
You repeatedly say yes, when your life is crying for boundaries.
NO is not a four letter word. 

You have a limited number of days to shine your light on someone, so choose well... or it will be chosen for you.
You call yourself Christian because you surround yourself with people by that name. You go to church with them, you do life with them... heck, you party with them.
But are we missing something? Are we changing into the likeness of Jesus, in our words, actions, choices? 
If we are repeating the same things we did before we chose to wrap ourselves in the Christian snuggy... maybe we need a time out. 
Maybe check ourselves for a hot second. 
Something is missing.
Something big, vital, obvious. 

Just for a minute, let's exchange the word Christian for Disciple.
Disciple... One who accepts and assists in spreading the teachings of another.
A follower, a doer, a pupil, adherent to the teachings, dedicated.

Choose disciple...
How does your life change? 
What do you exchange the It for?
Father, Counselor, Messiah. God of heaven and earth.

Christ needs to be our It. Our Who.

Good Lord... no really, Good Lord, help us.
Help us see the truth. Help us choose well and draw boundaries in our lives. 
Throw out the old ways and live in ridiculous grace and mercy towards one another. 
Love as Jesus loves us. 
Love unrelentingly today.

Want to make a difference for the One you claim as Lord?
Be a servant.
Yup... humble yourself and be a servant. 
And be quiet about it. 

 Let's be freedom fighting women who fight passionately for one another. 
Let's break the chains of sin in our lives. Let's lift each other up, always wanting and believing the best for one another. 

If Christ is my It, my Who ... that means I get to love you unrelentingly, with grace, mercy and compassion.
"By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Choose It before It chooses you.

Sep 21, 2015

More Than Coffee...

My heart was full when my exhausted body hit the couch last night. It was only 9 pm.
I stayed for the after party, after Cross Points 6:30 service. A fall picking party of sorts, translation, fabulous music, food and fellowship after Pete's message.
The nino was doing some video and drone filming of the band... and it turned into a perfect fall evening in Nashville.
I considered the text from sweet friends, who after church were watching the Packers game at a local spot down the road. I love these friends and I knew it would be fun. 
I thought of the woman I call friend, who's husband is a coach for Green Bay. I was all in for rooting them on.

Yet, I had an early morning coffee with Nessa.
Nessa, whom I met last winter at a Cross Point connecting dinner. She sat at my table with friends and as we chatted, it was obvious she was glad to have found Cross Point.

As I was walking out the door later that evening, the parking lot mostly empty, I spotted Zach, one of the pastors sitting with Nessa. He called me over and shared that Nessa had just chosen to give her life to Jesus. 
I hugged Nessa as she explained she hadn't wanted to leave after the dinner. Instead she started cleaning up.
Zach spotted her and asked her what she was doing. He continued to pursue the conversation asking her if she was okay and then, "You want to sit and talk?"
"Yes" came her reply.
Zach is good at this.

Fast forward this morning. 
We sit on the patio at Crema overlooking the downtown skyline. The morning is crisp as the sun appears behind me. As we sip strong, hot coffee, Nessa shares her Buddhist background, in that it was a word associated with her name, her family, not a faith lived out. 
She mentions high school friends going to Bible study, talking about Christianity. 
She knew she wasn't one of them... pretty sure she was never invited to decide for herself.

When she found herself at Cross Point church she said it felt different. She felt different.
She didn't feel shame, instead joy.
The night of the dinner she told her friends to go home without her... as she remained standing in the large, now dark room where 350 people had gathered for a meal. She stood alone, feeling something stirring in her.
This room, a place to connect the Body of Christ. To grow community, disciple, transform. A place where new dreams come to life, and fears are laid down low, buried in the old.
She chose Christ that night and though the inward change came immediately, the journey would be continuous and daily.

She found herself driving to Cross Point some nights just to be close to where her life changed. Where she found hope.
The tears start for me as she speaks.
This girl drove to a desolate parking lot in the middle of the night.
She was pursuing her Maker.
I told her I was sorry I hadn't been there for her.
She reassured me she doesn't make this drive now, recognizing that He lives in her heart and soul.

The journey of faith is incredible and unique for all of us. I watch as the Holy Spirit is coming alive in Nessa as she shows me the Bible she bought. She is so excited.
She is hungry to learn and I realize I have a beautiful opportunity before me.
God is good.

Nessa is pursuing God, because He is pursuing her.  
1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us." 
When we give ourselves to The One who created us, a spontaneous, mysterious shift occurs. Transformation of the heart...

When I witness this, I feel an uprising in my soul that is hard to express. It reminds me of why I am here in Nashville, alive, breathing.
I have the sweet opportunity to walk beside Nessa as she dives deep into the Word, the love story God wrote to her.
I thought we would have some coffee this morning.
Instead we had some living water.

The opportunities are all around us, when we turn to the left and the right...we will see thirsty people, if we take a moment to look.
Offer that drink. Get that coffee with someone God has allowed you to know. 
Don't miss the opportunity.

Nessa is going to change the world with her faith. One drink of water at a time.
Thank you Nessa for listening to that longing, that pull... that was drawing you close to God.
All joy it is to my soul.

Sep 10, 2015

You Are Enough....

  She had followed me out of the store. I started the car, locked the doors, and checked my phone for messages. 

I looked up and saw her approaching, smiling. I put my window down. She told me she had seen me in the store, noticed my hair and wanted to compliment me. I was ready to share the names of Erin and Sarah, my stylists.

I thanked her and then she said...
"Can I ask you something personal?" I don't remember if I said yes, but she began a detailed, fast paced description of her marital situation. Honestly the words were falling so fast I couldn't keep up.  Separation, separate beds, back together, husband's desire to reconcile...

My first thought was, here we go, she is going to ask me for money. I figured there was a point to this one sided conversation. I have heard it all and sometimes even believe it, sometimes helping with some dollar bills.

Yet, that hadn't been my first thought when I saw her approach my car.
I listened and started to realize she was asking my opinion.
The opinion of a stranger.
She told me she had bought some lingerie and a candle and maybe she should buy some wine.
They had clearly been separated a long time and he wanted her back, all of her.

She was flustered, embarrassed really and said, "I don't know if this is enough, maybe I should buy a bottle of wine." Second time she mentioned the wine.

I looked at her, in her thrown together outfit and long, thinning dark hair, and I thought to myself, Woman, never in a million years did you think you would be standing here asking a total stranger about your love life. 

She doubted herself, was nervous about the intimacy aspect of reconciliation and was desperate for someone to speak into her. Even a stranger.

I looked her in the eyes and smiled. I said, "You are enough."
She mentioned the wine... again.
I said "You are enough. You are beautiful and you are enough."
She looked at me and started to tear up. She mouthed the words back to me.
You are enough. 
I said, "Don't forget that."

She backed away from the car and we said goodbye.
I caught my breath and felt my eyes water.

Later I wished I had done more. Made sure she was okay, invited her to KNOWN, here in Nashville. I wished I had given her a card... I didn't have any.

I wished she knew she was enough.

Friends, we are enough. Right where we stand this moment. Too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, too loud, too quiet. We Are Enough. 

You Are Enough. Never forget that and know that your Father God loves you... Just Like You Are.

Sep 8, 2015

Leading Well In The Polls And In Your Hood...

MTV VMAs 2015: The Best And Riskiest Outfits (Which Didn't Quite Pay ...

Leadership haunts me, wakes me up at night, reminds me of my words... usually where I've failed. 
I follow leaders, hang on their words, mulling them over, deciding if they equal leading well to me. 
We are all leaders in some form. 
The sooner we recognize that, the less opportunity to trounce on people's dreams and failures, realizing later the horrific damage we offer through our words and actions. 

We told our kids growing up, be a Jeter. Translation... be a leader. 
Any baseball fan, regardless of favorite team... i.e. hatred for N.Y. will acknowledge Jeter's leadership. 

Leaders are influencers. They draw people. They create energy. They build platforms. They change the status quo, the game, the direction.
Look at Kanye. Okay, maybe don't look. 
We can lead for good or bad, but we will all lead.
Trump is leading in the poles. 
I don't even have words for that. 
My take away... people are desperate for a leader to follow.
Many times, they don't know what they believe and will follow anyone with a new idea.
That does not a good leader make. 

It's just different and different does not equal positive leadership.  
It's just different. 
See above... Kanye and Trump. 
Now there's a team.
Notice, we did not say be a Kanye to our offspring. 
Not hating... just saying. 

The most important role in good leadership is to love your people. 

Leaders love. 
Military, business, pastoral, teachers, parentals... you have to love and care for your people in order to be effective. 
The saying, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care,"
is true... and people know.
I get that...
they may not be easy to love. 
Figure out a way.
See them as Jesus sees them. 
The same way He sees you.

Leaders initiate relationship.
Put your phone down, look around and recognize it's not all about you. 
Okay, none of this is about you. 
It's about the people around you.  

Leaders laugh at themselves. 
Have a sense of humor...
please for sake of the rest of humanity.

Leaders want to hear from you before they speak. 
This is hard, but just DO IT.
There are actually other good ideas besides your own.
Leaders understand that we must learn to disagree in healthy constructs, allowing others to speak without fear of retribution.
Listen to others and allow for tension. 
Tension is NOT bad. 
It is a process that can lead to growth.

Leaders recognize different personalities call for different approaches.
We are not a one size fits all group of humans. Take a breath and figure out what makes each of us tick. We will all get along so much better.
Instead of pushing people into our square box, 
recognize we actually all live under a circus tent and we all get a turn at being the clown.

Leaders are humble.
Write this ten times. 
And again.
But really, arrogance and pride are ugly.
I once had a boss... first time I met him was at a combined meeting of our thirteen centers.
He began by berating his staff, all women. 
I saw pride.
The words, "Pride cometh before the fall," fell from my mouth...
 almost out loud. 
I disliked him in five seconds and told my immediate boss that his time was limited. I could sense his arrogance and it stunk up the room. 
No one spoke from fear as he shamed with his words. I looked around at these amazing women, their heads down, crushed spirits.
I wanted to get up and punch him in the throat.

I didn't think that would fare well as our introduction, so I refrained.
Within a year he was removed, I will spare you the gory details. 
Leaders are humble.... I have never forgotten this.   

Leaders do not fight every battle.
I am a fighter for people. 
I will err on the side of love for people. 
 Do for them, feed them... every time you see them. Clothe them, fill them up. 
Love them too much.
Overdo it! 
That is what Jesus did! 
Because you know what????
You CAN'T overdo it. 
Not by His standards. 
I can't fight every battle, because I will lose the war.
 At the end of the day, I want to win the war.
The war for people.
So there are times you are going to do things I don't agree with, and somehow I am going to have to stick a sock in it.  
But I can still think it is dumb, and wonder why you don't get it. 
 I'll pray for you brother. 
Get on my level.
 But really, don't fight every battle.
Never lose the relationship with someone over proving a point. 
As one of my favorite Texan women (Jen H.) would say, that's just jackassery. 
At the end of the day, I am not so concerned that you like me, but that you respect me. 
So, I will try not to be a jackass.

Leaders desire others to reach their potential. 
Leaders cause others to rise up, becoming leaders. We hold this torch lightly, recognizing what we are creating will be held in someone elses embrace... sooner than later.
Leaders push and stretch others, causing a tide that rises, bringing new ideas and unlimited potential. 
We mentor. 
We release control, as we build new leaders. 
Hold things lightly... they are from above. 
You don't own them. 
God simply used a willing vessel. 
Stay willing.

Leaders are sensitive, yet strong.
Don't beat others up.
Don't be a wishy washy, people pleaser. 
Listen, validate, be willing to compromise....
but never integrity or credibility. 

Leaders have integrity. 
Be careful of your words and actions. 
One silly word or action will kill your credibilty.
There is NO substitute for your integrity and character.  
A leader is dead in the water without these. 
See the sharks circling.
Go home. 
Order a pizza and start House Of Cards on Netflix,
because your hand just folded. 
Game over. 

A leaders role is to serve. 
Not to be served.
Look at Jesus time on earth. He served in the humblest of ways.
He washed the filthy feet of men the night before he was betrayed by one of them, beaten and hung on a cross by all of them. 
We all are guilty of His death. Our sin put Him there, yet He chose to die for us, because He loves us that much.
Christ is our ultimate leader. 
Our example. Our goal. 
You can read all the leadership manuals you can gather in your arms, but unless you look to the Messiah you will miss true leadership. 

Leaders never stop learning from others. 
I always say,
"I never learned anything new when I was talking."

Leadership is for all of us. 
Because we keep learning, our list will grow.
What does your list look like?
Make me a better leader. 

And for the sake of our nation... pay attention to the leaders around you and don't vote for you know who.
Brought to you by concerned parents everywhere.