Nov 21, 2015

Be Radical... in Peace.

I love my family, my country, my neighbors... but I cannot live in fear. Jesus tells us 365 times in His Word "Fear not". A word for each day. 

"I told you these things so that you can have peace in me. In this world you will have trouble. But be brave! I have defeated the world!"  John 16:33

Be Brave - Fear Not.

My worst fear is not a radical attacking me or persecuting me. 
My worst fear is me not showing the radical love of Jesus to my neighbors. 

Who are my neighbors?
This feels like a moment of decision. Am I a Christ follower first or an American?
This is not my home.

Nov 18, 2015

What Is Your Harvest This Fall?


Growing up in New York State, within a stones throw of New Jersey, I should have pondered harvest. The word harvest conjured up pilgrims in my head. Really.
We were physically close to that history so it was a big deal... regardless of truth or fiction.
These two beautiful states rank in the top six in the country for corn, dairy, and tomato production. 
They celebrate harvest. 

There is nothing like an ear of buttery Jersey corn, or a slice of sweet, ripe tomato from same soil. 
People unfamiliar with New Jersey think of Housewives and those shore people. They are real... for sure, but it's also called the Garden State. 

When we moved our young family to Champaign, Illinois I thought we hit the motherlode of corn.  We did in many ways...  corn not being one of them. 
Illinois corn is mainly feed corn. That fact ended summers filled with corn on the cob, tomatoes and New York pizza, but that is another story. 
We grew tomatoes, but they never seemed quite as sweet as back east. 
Maybe it was the memories of my grandparents garden or my husband planting sixty tomato plants, from seeds, the year we married... and my grandmother walking the rows, shaking her head. 
The harvest would not be good without the thinning of the sprouting shoots. 
It was a bumper crop (farmer talk) that year and I asked that same sweet grandmother to teach me to can. 
Sixty quarts of tomatoes were "put up" (canned) that fall. 
I learned what Harvest felt like when I got my hands dirty in the soil, warmed from the prepared canning jars, my face often times splattered with bubbling tomatoes.

Living in the fertile midwest, I learned to appreciate the harvest in a literal way, often reminded of the fragility of our food sources dependence on weather.

I've watched Harvest many times since then, in the flowers we would choose carefully, planting, feeding, watering and then waiting. In friendships, neighborhoods, churches. In my children growing from little ones whom I read Sam I Am, and Little House, Big Woods, to adults who create and accomplish beautiful things... a rich harvest.  
I missed moments of harvest, too busy to see. 
Sometimes my harvest was rich, other times I watched it wither on the vine, unable to feed or water it enough to regain its life. Then winter would arrive, the crop dead. Thankfully spring always returned with new opportunities to begin again.

Last week I was invited to Creative Lectio. Nita Andrews is the beautiful woman who created this space. She opened by sharing her words of the The Harvest.
If these words were all I heard Friday morning, it would have been enough. 
My heart was calmed, my soul rested in that time. It had been a hard week. When we take the time to be still... lean in and listen, beautiful things grow inside our souls.

"A day’s harvest
A season’s harvest
The harvest of your life

Harvest is a state of mind as much as it is a literal field that you planted two seasons prior and must gather in.

Harvest is being conscious of where you are making purchase. Purchase of seeds, purchase of resources like sun, nutrients, and then collecting water.   Harvest is making purchase of a field one yard at a time. Slowly and deliberately. 
Harvest is stopping in the whirlwind of growth and asking:
Is this the crop I intended? 
Is this the yield I expected? 
Is this bringing the joy of hearing Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

Harvest is taking stock of the larder for the winter.
 Harvest is naming your surplus and sharing it with the needy. 
Harvest is leaving the corners of your acre untouched so the needy can nobly and anonymously be fed.   
Harvest is
a mindset.
Therefore, Harvest can happen at 10 pm for ten minutes (the conscious examen of your day)
on Sunday during the Prayers of the People
at midnight on New Year’s Eve
on April 15th as you hit send on your tax return.

Harvest is every graduation.
Harvest is every new birth and baby shower.

Harvest is a first cousin to regret and gritty trust. Harvest is being out of control regarding weathers.
Harvest is rejoicing and bringing in the sheaves.

Harvest is Jesus weeping over Jerusalem as he stood on the Mt. of Olives— because the harvest was in ruins. 
(an event known as Flevit super illam in Latin).
Harvest is Jesus saying, “Today you will be with me in paradise” to a thief.
Harvest is John being commissioned to care for Mary at the foot of the cross. 
Harvest is the big catch of fish after zero on your own.
Harvest is your tears kept in a bottle and your songs being recorded.

Harvest is standing in a field of stunted and dried out corn stalks as far as the eye can see.
 Harvest is stopping with a plan to see the field. To see what's there.
Harvest is seeing pew after pew full of worshipping families.
Harvest is seeing pew after pew of empty seats. Harvest is stopping with a plan to see the pews. To see what's there.

Harvest is the day the papers are served.
Harvest is the day you celebrate the 40 years of being married.
 A harvester is not made by John Deere, It is a man or woman made in God’s image that is willing to ask a question.
A question that requires courage.
What am I making with the raw materials I have been given?

Harvest is about something much bigger than numbers.
It is stories told around campfires of what life became because you were here and naming the ways life would have 
been impoverished if you hadn’t been here.

Harvest is giving alms in secret and knowing a private harvest of hope that erupted from your heart.

Harvest is an exhausted parent reading to a child at nine o'clock at night.
Harvest is writing till your vision blurs--Planting and plucking words until the lines sing
with the beauty of language.

Harvest is putting your thoughts in an envelope with a stamp to say you remember gifts given.
Harvest is having an abundance for October and canning a portion of it for February. 

Harvest is when you pop the waxed seal open in February and say “thank you”

Harvest is building relational capital and keeping it secure before you leave your day job.
Harvest is bringing all of your friends up on stage with you.
Harvest is weeping over the fullness of ice wine.
Harvest is saying, “next year” when the birds ate every grape in your vineyard. 
Harvest is saying. We will rebuild."  after a flood
Harvest is a photo album of 12 years of school pictures.
Harvest is complex management of faith, fear, risk and generosity.
Wealth management can be harvestbut most of the time, it is a fear-based clutching of bottom line number 
 socked away and out of sight for a rainy day.

Harvest stands in the rain and laughs."

Nita's words hit me deep.
Friday got harder and darker as the day went on. Tragedy struck our world again. Truth is, tragedy strikes daily in our world, but this happened in a country we were willing to pay attention to. One that mattered.
The opportunities for harvest are all around us...
 I have a choice as to who my harvest will embrace. So do you. So does the world. What will we sow? What will we harvest? Who will we embrace and who will we say no to?

I want to stand in the rain and laugh, fearless because I know Who holds me and calls me by name. My desire is for a rich Harvest, bountiful, overflowing with goodness and mercy.

Nov 10, 2015

Living The Dream... American Style

Live Your Dream | taijitumartini

As I sit down in front of the screen to open my blog, I spot my email. I see The New Yorker magazine my husband ordered for my birthday. 
When he told me, I pointed to the week old Sunday papers I had not read yet. He laughed and said, "You are a writer, you need to read this." 

Reality #1. I read, therefore I do not write. 
Reality #2. The more I read, the more I realize I have nothing to write.
 Agh, the dangers of not remaining totally ignorant.

Still my fingers continue clicking on emails, finding their way to the Festive Holiday Pillows from Kings Lane. If I continue down this rabbit trail, I will purchase six reindeer candles, balsam kindling for the wood burning fireplace I do not have and a fake fur vest, that I do not need. 
Living the American dream... it's hard to stay focused.

Yesterday I had breakfast with two wise women. We challenged each other to be vulnerable. To let God pull us towards Him, knowing the stretch would feel uncomfortable at times. To share real hearts, fears, challenges, directions we feel God is pulling us. 
We are women who are at a crossroads in life. We have the power, time and opportunity to be game changers. Will we... or will we go to Nordstroms and forget all this uncomfortable stuff.
 Stay focused.

We each have opportunities with new ministries we have spoken yes to. A prison ministry and Known_Nashville, which I began in April. 
As we shared, two famous (very) actors/singers sat on either side of us. No one approached them, made eye contact or acknowledged their presence. 
We all knew they were present...
Living the dream... American style. Some days it's hard to stay focused.

I go to a Bible study on Tuesdays. It's led by a women I could listen to all. Day. Long. She is a bad ass, single mama with an adopted daughter, that she is over the moon about. 
She hits me between the eyes each week and as much as I want to be her friend, the chances of that happening are pretty slim, and that's okay.
She is doing what God puts in front of her and so am I... when I'm not thinking about being her friend. JK. Years ago, my thoughts would have been that. Now, I am just so pleased with her. She is a game changer.
She is a sister, who teaches truth, shares wisdom and I am thankful to be in the presence of these women on a weekly basis.
She shared a recent trip to Greece. The purpose was support and encouragement for refugees entering the country.
She wept as she shared the faces of these precious people they greeted, in the cold, black night. They danced with children, handed out care packages with diapers and warm clothes. 
They asked if they could pray with the women.
 No one said no.
Sweet, broken, Muslim women.

When we are broken, no one turns down prayer. When we have watched our loved ones drown, half our group survive the journey, we accept prayer... and we beg it to be true.
This woman is forever broken from this experience, and to hear it straight from her lips I have the opportunity to be changed. Or not. 
It's my choice as I live my American Dream.

You see I am consumed with conversations regarding red cups. And if Blake and whats her name are really a couple. Trumps hair, his foolish words and before you know it, I know more about things that have no substance, rather than anything connected to the kingdom of God and eternity. It is all foolishness and I eat it up.

We continue this right through the church doors. We worry about the wrong things... because anything that isn't about building relationships with others, sharing this amazing Jesus we follow, is well... foolishness.

Each day my heart pleads for this ministry we are growing in Nashville. The weight of it some days bears down on me, making me doubt if we are enough. If I am enough.
When I look up, I am reminded of Who holds it and Who holds me. 
I don't have to be enough.
Who began the ministry and Who knows the plans He has for it. 
He is enough.
My roll, leaderships roll, the beautiful faces that show up each month, who volunteer, who come empty and hungry, who come full and ready to pour out.... our call is the same.
To trust the One who loves us. The One who knows our name.  
The One who takes care of every detail and promises to provide every need. 
When I remember this I am satisfied and I am undone, by a God so big, who loves SO much.

In these moments I see the path open wide that God has allowed me to walk. 
Whether in Bible study on a Tuesday morning, sitting in a prison alongside women worshipping, or these beautiful souls who gather on the third Tuesday of the month, because they believe being Known and loved matters.
The opportunity to grow among these communities, being undone by what God opens my eyes to in these moments. 
I'm living the Dream because I can think of nothing else that can satisfy my soul, that is apart from God's heart. He is in this because He... is in the business of transformation and every soul I see has the opportunity to be transformed...
 No matter what. 
Let's live this dream together friend!

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.