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Sit on a Mountain.

Recently (like last weekend), I had a Presbytery meeting in Greeley, Colorado.  & For months Tommy and I talked about wanting to take Delle with us to Colorado, stay a few days after my meetings and spend some time celebrating Delle’s 3rd birthday.  Every time we looked, tickets were too expensive and so eventually we moved on from it. Until… this procrastinator looked online at tickets a WEEK before I was planning on leaving; $130 round trip, direct flight to Denver. Boom.  We got back on plan A and decided to take Delle to Colorado with us.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how amazing of a trip this was and how there was something so sweet about spending some one on one time with Delle.  But for the sake of this being way too long of a post about how much I am obsessed with my daughter, I’ll spare you the details.

But here’s what cracked me up during our trip; all Delle wanted to do in Colorado was to go find a mountain… and SIT ON IT.

It was the weirdest thing.  & for the life of me, I cannot figure out where she got this from.  But she was obsessed. Really… like every mountain we saw; she wanted to SIT on it.

Tommy and I died laughing over and over again when Delle would see a mountain, point to it, and say, “I want to go sit on it.” Where she got this, I have no idea. But she was convinced that we needed to find a mountain, climb it, and then SIT on it.

Here’s the kicker/lesson/reason I’m writing about this… my knee jerk answer was to say, “No Delle, you can’t sit on the mountain- It’s too high, too long of a hike, too big.” Or correct her- “No Delle, we don’t SIT on mountains, we just climb them.”

So, what’s the point (or really why on earth am I telling you this story)?

>>> Because, I want Delle’s bravery. <<<

The bravery to see something big and beautiful and want to go after it.  To accomplish it. To embrace it. And not just that… but SIT ON IT.  Embrace it. Live on it, rest in it.

& that’s not a word you hear much these days… REST. But sitting involves rest. It involves taking in a moment, experience, or accomplishment.  So I desire to SIT, to rest in the accomplishments I’ve made and be brave enough to go after more.

And I want this not just for me but for my daughters as well.

To encourage them to dream and to dream big, impossible things… not just the things that are easy, accepted, or normal.

In fact, I don’t want them to be or live normal, easy lives.  Actually that was a lie.  Yes, I do deep down in my heart, want their lives to be easy and normal. I want to protect them, put them in a bubble so no one will ever disappoint, hurt, embarrass, or discourage them.

But more than that deep desire to protect, I have a piercing passion for them to love the Lord with the kind of love that cannot be contained, understood, or quenched.

The kind of love that embraces a challenge.  The kind of love that is so brave and aware that when God says “Go,” they Go.  When God says “Climb,” they climb. And when God says “Sit,” they sit.

Bravery.  It’s not easy.  It’s terrifying.   And it’s the most exciting adventure you (or those you love most) can embark upon.

So, the point and my challenge… to go sit on a quickbustenhancement mountain.

That’s all. Now seriously… go SIT.

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Desiring Devotion.

Recently I wrote a post for the Moms at Hope blog & really loved how God challenged the mess out of me as I processed all I have been learning. Thought you all would like to read an excerpt of that post;) Here ya go….

Desiring Devotion.

A few years back Tommy and I decided to go on a European adventure before we began our journey as parents. This was one of my favorite pictures of that trip. I’m not really sure why. I have pictures of the Vatican and coliseum and those cute little gondolas you ride on a romantic “after dinner splurge”… but this picture has always stuck with me. I think it’s the simplicity… the focus and ease of it all. It’s just Tommy and I looking at the some pretty incredible scenery, on a random bench, while in Switzerland taking in our time together. Simple.

Actually, we almost didn’t get this picture. And to be 100 percent honest, it wasn’t even my idea; it was my sister-in-law’s. She’s got a good eye for photo ops. It just happened as we all were hiking, talking, and F U L L Y  taking in one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.  It was one of the most “fully present” moments of my life.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the early church. About how they lived, loved, and impacted their community.

During my time in seminary, one of my favorite classes was Introduction to New Testament. I partially loved this class because of the teacher– she was insanely gifted and really made the New Testament come alive for me. But really I loved this class because I got to look at the life of Jesus and the early church in a completely new light.

I saw how radically different AND irresistible the early church was.

I saw how the church was the ONLY place (during this time) where people, who had nothing in common, would come together, share a meal, and really just hang out.

And that uniqueness, that diversity, that love & respect– is partially what got people so excited and curious about the church. About Jesus. About the gospel.

I mean seriously, people couldn’t get enough of it.

There were tax collectors, rabbis, prostitutes, children, women, slaves, and fisherman who’s LIVES were being changed…. And they, in turn, were changing other people’s lives. It was an irresistible movement.

And not only was there excitement and diversity and unity… but there was  D E V O T I O N.

They were committed to the cause AND to each other.

I just love the beautiful depiction of the early church in Acts 2:42-43.

Acts 2:42-43

They DEVOTED themselves to this website the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 

The early church was DEVOTED to learning and fellowship and prayer. The word “devoted” literally means: “to concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, or cause.”

Meaning… the early church was DEVOTED, focused, concentrated on pursuing and maintaining knowledge, fellowship, and prayer.

They were DEVOTED to it.

So often I feel like I am more “divided” than “devoted.”

I am divided into a million little tasks and plans for the day. Divided into lunches and dinners; work schedules and nap schedules; meetings and grocery shopping and cleaning the house… divided.

And so the things that need my full  [D E V O T I O N]  get lost in the mix of my divided heart.

Things like being DEVOTED in my time alone with the Lord. Or being DEVOTED in my time with my girls & husband & family & friends. D E V O T I O N.

But what if I had a devoted heart instead of a divided one?

What if I took on less to be devoted to more?

In the Acts passage, right after it says the early church was DEVOTED, it follows it up with, Everyone was filled with AWE at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.”

Their devotion caused AWE. It caused miracles. It caused lives to be changed.

We live in a world that says “more is more” and well “less is less.” The more you take on, the better you become. The harder you work, the greater you’ll be.

The less you do, the worse you’ll become. A slow life is a boring life.

Busy is god and less is for the weak.

I’m starting the feel like “busy” is the new normal (and expected) response when asked, “how are things?”

But what if we were less busy and more devoted?

Less divided and more devoted?

What would our lives… our souls look like?

 

I can’t help but be challenged, time and time again, when I read the scriptures and see that God doesn’t use the greatest, most qualified people to do his work…. He uses the DEVOTED people.

The people devoted to seeking and following after his heart.

And ultimately that’s my hope and prayer every day… that God uses me. That he causes [AWE] through my simple, ordinary little life.

& So my challenge this week is this:

more devotion, less division.

I want to focus on devoting myself, my heart, to a FEW things and begin saying “no” to the stuff that divides, that distracts… that keeps my soul from tuning in to God & the life I so desperately desire to be devoted to.

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Practicing Gratitude.

So I’m just going to start by being honest… this week was T O U G H.

Like really tough.  Delle (my almost 3 year old) had meltdown after meltdown after meltdown.  Hagen (the 1 year old) was super needy, clingy, teething (the trifecta).  Work was crazy. Life was busy. You know this web the drill.

So here’s my confession…  I failed.

Big time.  Like lost my patience/temper/and sanity in the process.  According to Daniel the Tiger (which I also let Delle watch way too much of)… I needed to “take a deep breath and ask for help.”  That s&^* doesn’t work for adults. I took a million deep breaths, asked for help, and got nowhere.

But then, as I am sitting at our dining room table trying to cram in a few extra minutes of work in a quiet moment.  Delle is sitting accross from me, recovering from her epic meltdown.  And then, out of the blue, Delle gets out of her seat, comes over to me, and crawls in my lap.  She cuddles with me. Tells me how much she loves. And wants to be near ME (the impatient, exhausted, distracted, emotional mess of a mom).

These are the moments in life that get me.  The ones where I am so clearly shown such pure love and joy in the middle of my chaotic, emotional mess.  Yes, I know this seems minor.  And not really “blog-worthy.”  But here’s what happened almost as soon as Delle crawled into my lap… I was instantly flooded with an overwhelming peace and reminded of Psalm 118:24.

Psalm 118:24 (ESV); “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

I hugged Delle.  I soaked in our really sweet 5 minutes.  And was challenged on my gratitude.  On my “rejoicing” and “being glad” (or really the lack thereof) in the present moment.

Quite frankly, this was an odd time to be reminded of gratitude. But sometimes that’s how God works.  And if his subtle, peaceful prompting wasn’t enough, I opened my “The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms,” by Timothy and Kathy Keller.  This is is what they said:

“Actually every day that your heart keeps pumping, your country is not invaded, and your brain keeps functioning is wholly an underserved gift of God.  We ought to live simple, normal, uneventful days full of amazed, thankful joy (September 30).”

I just love that, “We ought to live simple, normal, uneventful days FULL of amazed, thankful joy.”  So God, hint taken.  I need a gratitude adjustment.  And am now striving to BEGIN (baby steps right?) developing a more grateful heart…  And here’s how:  5 things at the end of every day. That’s all. Just 5.

At the end of each day, I am writing down the “TOP 5” moments I am thankful for.

It’s a simple, small step that I know I need to take.  It reminds me to be grateful because everyday is a NEW day.  A new day filled with new opportunities, new trials, new tests, and new moments where Delle curls up on my lap and tells me how much she loves me.  And I want to remember those… not the stuff that wore me out.

It’s easy to get broken down by the tensions and trials and tests of this life (and especially motherhood).

And all too often that where my perspective stops.  That’s what my mind almost immediately get locked in on… the “hard stuff.”

But I’m finding that through the lens of gratitude my heart is softened and my emotions eased.

& That’s what I need more of.  A softened heart and a whole lot of “eased emotions.”

So that’s all for today.  Just a simple reminder to find ways to PRACTICE GRATITUDE, to thank God for the good and a challenge to begin developing a grateful attitude.

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Learning to See.

A week ago I spoke on Jesus healing the man born blind at the Stirring (you can listen HERE if interested;) & to be honest, it was one of those sermons where I felt like God was really speaking directly to me.

I felt challenged and shaped and pushed in my own journey and walk…. & I hated it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it when God works on me through the sermon preparation process… but deep down, I really hate it.  It’s tough and stretches me to apply the very words I challenge others to live by.

A while back I prayed a prayer (that I’m now partially regretting).  I prayed, “God never let me preach what I’m not willing to live.” Good prayer.  Good motto. Super tough to live.

But really, I am painfully grateful for this process.

God uses it to take me to the very depths of a passage or lesson or word that he desires to bring to the people.  & It forces me to be a part of the struggle and joy and pain. And for that, I am truly thankful and a better person.

And so- sometimes this process, this journey, these knock, down, drag out sermons leave me stuck on a verse or lesson that God is teaching me.

& Here’s where I’m stuck now >>> John 9:1.

 

John 9:1,

As he went along, he SAW a man blind from birth.”

 

This is a super short sentence.  Making a pretty simple statement.  With an incredibly profound implication.

Jesus SAW.

He saw a man overlooked, lost, forgotten by the rest of the world.  He saw a man who likely sat in the same place, every day, surrounded by the same community.

But… Jesus saw.

He noticed something everyone else overlooked. Passed by. Forgot about.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how a lot of my issues or challenges in life have less to do with the “stuff” that happens to me but more about the vision through which I SEE the “stuff.”

That it’s not necessarily about the “stuff” but about my perspective in the middle of the stuff.  It’s about my vision, perspective, and focus.

This past weekend I attended a moms conference in Nashville, TN.  It was great spending time with some leaders and being challenged by some incredible speakers and breakout sessions.

But here’s the one talk that really stuck with me…  It was simple. & short.  & incredibly profound.  It was the testimony of a young girl, Jen Barrick.

She told of how a devastating car wreck left her with a severe brain injury causing her to only have short term memory.  It was a pure miracle she was survived.  But here’s the kicker… she is using (and seeing) her tragic circumstance as an OPPORTUNITY.

An opportunity to live fully in each day.  An opportunity to share the love and joy and peace found in Christ.

How odd… a teenage girl finding such joy in such a challenging situation.  If it was me (a full on grown up)… I’d be angry, confused, hurt.  And if I’m really honest… I’d probably blame God.  Not Jen (a teenager!) and her family.  It has taught them more about living fully in each moment, in each day they are blessed with it.  It is teaching them to be thankful and find joy in the little things.

It has helped them to SEE.

See the thespyexpert.com joy and blessings and opportunity that surround each day.

Where I see difficulty, pain, & trials… Jen saw opportunity.  An opportunity to fully live and speak of the JOY she has.  Her injuries left with a clear disability and she saw it as an opportunity to be different, to embrace who she is and who God is calling her to be.

Her mother shared how often times when she is overwhelmed or confused about the challenges/trials/pain in life, Jen will jokingly tell her how her brain gets in the way and how she might need a brain injury to help her trust God better.

Jen can’t remember much about her past or present.  & that “challenge” seen by many has instead allowed her to live more fully in the very moment she is experiencing and more easily trust God each step of the way.

Each day is a new day. A new OPPORTUNITY for love, hope, and joy.

This was such an incredible challenge for me.  I too, like Jen’s mother, let my brain get in the way of trusting God.  I dwell on my past.  I worry about my future.  And I am so distracted by this worry and fear that I can’t fully live in the present.

This worry and fear and pain blurs my vision.  It keeps me from SEEING the opportunities that lie in each day, each person I am blessed to encounter.

So this is my current challenge and prayer: to SEE.

To see people, situations, challenges not as obstacles in my journey but as opportunities.  As the very things God is using in my life to mold and shape and form me into the person he is calling me to be.

However, learning to see isn’t easy.  It takes time and patience and lots and lots of change of plans.  So that’s also my prayer… for an extra dose of time and patience & patience & patience. Oh and did I mention PATIENCE;) ?!

 

 

writing

i’m not a writer.

I’m not. Really. I joined the spelling bee club in middle school solely because I heard they had snacks. It ended up being a bummer of an “after school activity” because I spent the majority of the time eating cookies and listening to everyone else spell words I had never heard of. Plus side, they let you eat cookies no matter how terrible you are… or how quickly you get out.

I am terrible at spelling. And English. And writing sentences (right now my computer is telling “fragment, consider revising”). Most of the time I’m not sure if I should add a comma or period or semi-colon. And so, when in doubt (or for dramatic effect), I just opt for the “triple period”…

But here’s the thing… ever since I can remember, I wrote. I wrote in journals. I wrote on paper. I wrote on windows, tables, walls… you name it- I probably wrote on it. I can’t help it. I have this odd obsession with desperately needing to process my thoughts, feelings, and experiences through writing.

Closing my eyes and praying always made me sleepy and distracted. I still struggle with it (if we’re being honest).

Writing, however, makes me focused, energized, excited. I feel in tune with God and what it is he’s saying or revealing to me.

Writing makes my world make sense.

But this was just between me and God. No one else. Then one day God started pushing me to write. To tell the world what it is he’s telling me. That freaked me out. Me? Jessica Morris? My major is in psychology and bible NOT writing or publishing or marketing or anything that qualifies me to write.

Ministry, yep. Speak, sure. Write…. no. I fought it. In fact, I’m still fighting it. I guess I just eventually gave up fighting God. I’ve learned 2 very critical facts throughout my journey:

  1. God ALWAYS wins.
  2. God ALWAYS wins.

So I gave up. & am now publicly expressing to you my defeat. But here’s what I love (and sometimes fight) about God… He doesn’t work like I want him to. He doesn’t always pick the smartest or fastest or prettiest or best of the best. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. He picks the nobody’s. The misfits. The ones who have been forgotten, neglected, overshadowed. The ones who can’t speak or write or sing or lead.

Think about it; Abraham constantly doubted God, Moses hated speaking, David was a nobody, Rahab was a prostitute, Paul was a murderer… I mean the list goes on and on. God is constantly using people who don’t fit the bill.

But here’s who God does use… obedient people.

People who are seeking and following and are obediently devoted to passionately living out God’s will. Do they do it perfectly, 100 percent of the time? Nope. Not even close. But they try. And they push. And they obediently press on even when it seems like God has called them to do the impossible.

So the point is this, yeah I wish I was more confident or poetic or faithful or intelligent or… fill in the blank and I wish I had more of it. But the thing I’ve learned along the way is that

God does his best work in my deepest insecurities.

& The more I let God use my weaknesses, the more I get glimpses into how big and mighty and powerful God really is.

So I guess, in a weird way, that’s what this blog is for me. Me putting aside my insecurities and doubts and inabilities and allowing God to speak through the words he’s placed on my heart. And that is something I am and can be confident in; God’s word.

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Preparing for New.

I love new beginnings.  I get ridiculously sentimental about the end/last pages of a journal, book, year… EVERYTHING.  But when it comes time for the NEW YEAR, I instantly become like my 3 year old daughter giddy with excitement, hope, and optimism.

So naturally, I am getting pumped about 2017.  I love new year’s.  I love the celebration, reflection, and excitement that takes place.  It’s just fun to me.  & As I was thinking and journaling about this new year and all it will hold, I couldn’t help but be filled with hope and love and joy for what’s to come.  What came out of this time with the Lord was some powerful challenges, encouragement, and inspirations for the NEW YEAR.

Here’s what I wrote down (and will attempt to live) for this new season in 2017…

[L O R D],

Prepare me for 2017.  Prepare me for the good, prepare me for the wait, prepare me for the hard/confusing/difficult.  Help me to be patient when I need to wait.  To be persistent when I need to push.  To let go when the answer is “no.” 

 Lord, keep me, my heart, my mind in tune with you as we walk and live and love every single day.  Teach me to say “no,” when it’s not best.  To say “yes” when I should.  & maybe when I just don’t know.  & In all things let my heart be your heart.  My mind be your mind.  My life be your life. Be my ALL. My source. My peace. My hope.  My guiding light as I navigate this new year.

Lord, I don’t know what 2017 will bring.  If it’s anything like 2016 it will be filled with joy and sorrow, hardships & celebrations, peace & struggle.  Help me to lean hard into the good, be persistent (& hopeful) in the trying, and patient in the mundane.  Help me to live each day defined not by my achievement, work, success but instead by your grace, mercy, love, and investment into PEOPLE… not things.

Lord, let this year be a year where we step outside out of the comfortable, easy, routine and push the limits on justice, love, & mercy through deeply (& actively) caring for those in need. 

Let 2017 be a year when the word BRAVE is lived more than it’s spoken,

HOPE is shared more than it’s thought,

& CONFIDENCE is found more in who you are than what I do.

Thank you for “new.”  For the beginning of another year devoted to serving & loving you with all I am.  All in all, let your will be done as I learn to let go of mine.  & So Lord, I thank you for 2016 and ask that you prepare me for 2017. 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Keep in step.

I’m on an Elijah kick. 

Sometimes in life I feel like God sticks me on a verse, person, or book in the bible & I just can’t get out. And so here I am… stuck on Elijah.

But first let’s get to the obvious, looming question… why has it been so long?! Why have I not posted in a couple weeks?

Well, I could list all of the crazy things in life that have happened over the course of these 3 weeks but let’s be honest… you probably had a crazy few weeks as well.  But here’s the root of why it’s been so long, and why I’m probably stuck on Elijah… my computer crashed.  It crashed when I was rolling on some sermons, blog posts, and feeling crazy inspired with ideas (which is hard these days with 2 littles and a job).

But it did- It just crashed. No warning. Nothing magical (or irresponsible) happened to my computer previously…  Just one day it worked, the next it just wouldn’t turn on. It was a sad day.  A day where I looked at this first world problem for what it was, smiled and nodded, knowing that “God works all things together for the GOOD for those who love him…”

Yeah, that’s not what I did.  Honestly, I let it get to me. It bogged me down. It discouraged me.  It made me unmotivated and irritated. & it began a series of events that just flat messed me up.

Now before you judge me… you know it happens to ALL of us. And it’s not my stupid computer that does it.  It’s the change of plans, the sudden wave of life’s full on craziness, or the series of circumstances that weigh us down and get us in a funk that we can’t get out of.

It happens.  It messes us up.  It gets us sidetracked, confused, discouraged.

But what does Elijah have to do with a computer crashing or being in a funk? Funny you should ask, check out this passage that God so conveniently led me to (don’t you just love it when God does that)…

1 Kings 19:1-3

When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

 

Recap: Elijah completely defeated the false god Baal.  He called rain down from heaven after a 7-year drought.  He killed the false prophets (single handedly), and he proved (in a crazy radical way) that GOD, is GOD.

And people were saved.  Lives were changed.  The nation of Israel was changing because of Elijah and God working in & though him.

Then, his computer crashed.

Elijah gets word from Jezebel that “I’m coming after you,” and almost immediately after he hears this..he’s shaking in his boots and wants to die.

So, what’s the point? What does this have to do with funks and being discouraged and God?

Elijah forgot.  He forgot in the WHO of who sent, called, and sustained him.  He forgot that God was and is more powerful than Jezebel or whatever enemy was hunting him down.

His computer crashed and it broke him down.

This hit me hard. So many times I have read this passage and thought, “Elijah how on earth are you scared of Jezebel after you just preformed all of these miracles and saw God work like he did- CLEARLY God is on your side?!”

But the reality is… so often I. AM. ELIJAH.

I see God do incredible things.  I witness miracles and healings and changed lives… and then my computer crashes.

At the slightest sign of hardship or persecution or difficulty… I get all “woe is me” and break down.  I get discouraged, defeated, and D O N E. & it messes with me.  It discourages me. It drags me down.

But here’s the hope I have in the crash.  The hope I have in the lesson or challenge or whatever it is you want to call it.

Remember.

Remember who you are.

Remember who’s you are.

Remember… the WHO.

WHO has led and called and shaped you thus far.

That’s where I’m at.  In in the remembering. The pushing. The renewing part.  Getting my mind right and letting my heart stay full.

But at the end of the day, here is my prayer…

To keep in step.

Keep in step with the God who has called and is calling me each day.

To keep in step in the big.

To keep in step in the small.

To keep in step in the “no steps.”

To simply walk with Christ day in, day out and trust that my crash will become a revival and renewal that I desperately needed.

It will be the time I needed to get focused.  To REMEMBER my purpose, my calling, my hope.

So keep in step & remember.

Day by day. Hour by hour.  Minute by minute.

Keep in step.

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A Christmas (eve) prayer.

So Christmas eve has almost come and gone…

The house is a mess,

Dishes are in the sink,

Kids are off (and refusing naps),

Kroger is chaotic,

Services are starting.

& I’m about to pray and prepare people’s hearts for God’s message.

 

I can sense my anxiety level rising,

My worries surmounting…

presents to be wrapped, rooms to organize, food to cook.

 

And almost immediately I am reminded of your words… that I encouraged OTHERS to apply.

Be still.

Embrace the tension.

Focus our heart and mind on matters most…YOU

D W E L L  on this moment, THE moment in history that shaped everything.

 

D W E L L  on…

Your truth

Your light

Your hope

 

Thank you lord for the simplicity of the manger and the Christmas story.

That your grand entrance was in a tiny stable,

Wrapped in rags,

In a foreign town.

That your story, my story, DOES NOT begin with the clean & pretty & organized.

That it wasn’t in a clean, perfectly decorated house,

with a 6 course (non-crock pot meal),

with cutes presents,

and perfectly behaved children.

Why do I fight for this (non- manger like) Christmas so desperately?

Why do I keep longing for a Christmas that  is clean and orderly and perfect?

One that has gifts overflowing in the perfect home where all is “calm and all is bright.”

 

Why do I tarry myself with the STUFF that doesn’t really matter all the while rushing through the small moments that do?

 

Oh lord forgive my heart.

Forgive my mindset.

Forgive me for making Christmas something you never intended it to be.

 

Remind me of your truth

Your reality

Your hope this season.

 

Help my heart move from the cleanliness of my house to the disorder or your entrance,

From the perfect present to the perfect savior,

From the dishes to the manger,

From the exhaustion to the stillness.

 

Dear gracious Savior,

Let THAT truth be the desire of my heart,

THE moment and gentle reminder that allows me to remain present on such a significant day.

Amen.

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Advent Week 4: Psalm 23

It’s hard to believe Christmas is THIS week.

That this month, this year, this advent season is coming to an end.  I always get sentimental about the end of… well, everything.  Seriously, I turn into a sap when I finish a JOURNAL. Who does that?! Apparently, me.  So get ready for a bunch of sappy, reflective, sentimental posts;) But in all seriousness, I wanted this week (the last week before Christmas) to be special.  To be a week filled with spirituality overdrive.

I had A LOT of grandiose plans… and then God gently reminded me to not overcomplicate things (something I’m pretty good at doing).  And immediately after this gentle reminder, I felt led to a verse I’m sure many have heard or read (myself included).  But this time when I read this verse I saw the perfect number of promises for the perfect number of days this week.  It was meant to be… & then I did my thing and overcomplicated life/blogging/work and didn’t finish this post UNTIL Wednesday.  Oops (& sorry).

But, hey at least I posted this right?;) Here’s the verse God brought me to…

Psalm 23 (NLT)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.

    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

Each day this week my challenge has been to read this Psalm and focus on 1 VERSE at a time.  Yep, you read that right…just 1 verse.  So often I feel like we get hung up on trying to read huge chunks of scripture & in doing so we forget to soak in words and phrases and sentences that can shape our daily lives.  Maybe that makes me less spiritual or elementary but it works for me.  When I find myself being able to meditate and focus on just 1 VERSE each day, it somehow becomes a part of me and shapes the way I think and live… day by day.

& So, I encourage you to do the same.

Small pieces of scripture.  Read them slowly. Think about them often. Dwell on the different words or phrases God leads you to.  Let God’s words soak into your soul and be the living and active, life-giving source Scripture has the power to be.

So today, just read ONE VERSE; verse 1:

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

How simple and yet convicting.  The Lord is my shepherd… I have ALL I need.  & What an appropriate time to be reminded of this.  This week we all will be bombarded by images, toys, stuff we “NEED.”  Things that others need.  That the church needs.  All the stuff you don’t have and need to hurry up and buy.

This week you will be reminded of everything you DON’T have.

& It goes beyond just gifts and “stuff.”  We are reminded that we DON’T have certain people in our lives anymore.  That we DON’T have the family we wish we had.  That we DON’T have the money, schedule, vacation, relationship, health, body, energy… fill in the blank, that we desperately desired/wanted/needed this Christmas season.

But what if we shifted our thinking to what we DO have?

That we DO have God, the good shepherd with us… & THAT is all we need.

Such a simple truth and yet it is extremely difficult to live.  How often do we abide in knowing and living in the grace and goodness of our shepherd king?  Our one true provider, protector, care-giver?  Our leader, shield, and strength.  Our source of life and hope and joy and peace?

And so, this week I shift my gaze and focus my heart on what I DO have- the Lord, my shepherd.

See, it’s only in resting in Him, His strength, His goodness, His presence, that I am truly (& deeply) satisfied and content.

All that in just ONE VERSE. 

That’s why I LOVE and hunger for the scriptures… they are full of life giving truths that keep our eyes fixed & our hearts focused on what matter most, our shepherd king.

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But I am…

Question: How would you complete this sentence?

“I am a ______.”

Would you say, “I am a….” woman/man, friend, pastor, father/mother, believer, searching, insecure, complicated, kind, compassionate…?

The list goes on and on of the things we could fill in the blank with… really the number of things we could identify ourselves as.

Recently, we had a company (Facing History & Ourselves) come to Hope Church and guide our staff through a series of exercises that challenged and encouraged us on how we see ourselves and those around us.  In one of the exercises we were asked to chart the most valued 6-7 characteristics we identify ourselves with. For instance, mom/pastor/lives & loves midtown was on my list.  It was a really interesting exercise.  

Ultimately, the purpose was to challenge us to take a closer look at the various characteristics that make up who we are as well as those around us.

Truthfully, I love those kinds of exercises.  I was a Psychology major and it comes out in my passion to understand people and what makes them tick.  But here’s the point for us— we can identify ourselves as a lot of things. Some good things; some “needs improvement” kinds of things.

The idea (or really challenge) is, what is it FOR US?  What do we value about who we are or who we want to be?

This has been my lingering (really nagging) question this week.  This question has challenged me on where I am (and am NOT) putting the time to be who I want to be.  & Honestly, what characteristics or traits I place the most value on.  & Here’s the verse God used to simplify all of this for me (AKA: kick my spiritual butt)…

Psalm 109:1-4

My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    BUT I am a man of prayer.

This is the verse I couldn’t shake.  & Honestly, at first glance, it’s an odd one (especially if you continue reading the chapter).  I mean, David is going on and on about the people who are out to get him.  In fact, he practically tells God what to do and demands he intervene. & Then, he says so simply in verse 4…  “BUT I am a man of prayer.”

See, David was a guy with a LOT of enemies.  Constantly people were out to get him.  They wanted his throne, his power, his reputation, his life, his God… his everything.  & Here, David is in crisis and crying out to God.  His circumstances seemed insurmountable, terrifying, and completely overwhelming.

& Out of these 4 small (somewhat odd) verses, here’s what God taught & challenged in me…

#1. David is raw with God.

He is honest, open, and real about the issues he is facing.  He challenges God (verse 1, “do NOT remain silent.”) to speak up, help him, advocate for him.  He is crying out to God for help AND he’s venting to God about what’s taking place.  I love this.

Does God know what’s going on in David’s life? 100 percent. And (I believe) David knows that as well.  BUT– he still hashes it out with God.

So often in my time with the Lord this is when God most clearly speaks to me… when I am raw and hashing out life with him.

When I open up myself to God.  When I tell God I am mad or angry or hurt or even feel betrayed by him.  It’s in these raw moments something powerful happens.  I am eased by the gentle calming of the spirit.  A verse suddenly comes to mind.  Or I am overwhelmed with the “peace that surpasses all understanding.”   Sometimes this doesn’t happen.  But most times it does.

& either way, I am left feeling a little lighter and reminded of my own humanity and God’s sovereignty.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard amazing, church going people say, “You can be honest with God- he can handle it.”  This is true and I completely believe God CAN handle the mess; my mess.

But the truth is, that isn’t what keeps me from being raw with God; It’s me.

It’s ME not being able to handle laying it all out in front of God. I know God will love me and accept me and pick me up… sometimes I’m just not ready to deal with the mess.  I’m not ready to deal with… me.

And that’s partially why I am always so drawn to David.  He has some of the most raw, real moments with God in the scriptures.  And I need that reminder to be raw with God.  To let him in every area/moment/mess of my life.  Yes, he can handle.  But more importantly, yes I can handle with WITH him.

 

#2: Where David places his identity.

Verse 4 is really what messed with me….

Verse 4; “BUT I am a man of PRAYER.”

He could have said BUT I… trust in you, BUT I… know your words, BUT I… have quiet times/go to church/teach others… fill in the blank. He could have said A N Y T H I N G.

But how did he chose to identify himself? As a man of PRAYER.

This got me.

Is this how I identify myself?  Is this what I would say to God when faced with trial after trial after trail… when people were seeking my life, ministry, and reputation? If I’m being honest, no.

Yes, I pray.  Yes, I have quiet times.  But do I LEAN into these times I like I should? Probably not.

So often in my prayers with the Lord my words are “help me to TRUST you,” “help me to FOLLOW you,” “help me to…DO something.”

But prayer… that helps us to BE something.  It shapes us, changes us, and transforms us to have the same mind and heart of Christ.

And this is where David’s identity and confidence is, in his PRAYER LIFE.

It wasn’t about the “stuff” he needed to fix the situation, to change his circumstances, or even to simply get through it.  David’s confidence is in WHO he is… a man of prayer.  A man who was constantly communicating with God; no matter the situation.

So, I desire to say, “But I am… a woman of prayer.”  A woman who fearlessly, boldly, and continually communicates with God.  Who is vulnerable and brave enough to be raw with God and to deal with the mess, WITH God.  Who doesn’t run from the trials but embraces them KNOWING…

>>> BUT I AM… A WOMAN OF  P R A Y  E R. <<<