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Finding Brave.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about stories.  How we each have common threads or challenges throughout our journey.  & Sometimes, as it did for me, only in telling our stories or journeys can we truly see that thread.

About a month ago in of my Sermon Challenges, I encouraged people to think through a “I once was, but now I am” statement that represented their journey   This was my simple way of encouraging people to begin telling their stories. (If interested, here’s the link to the SERMON and CHALLENGE).  And the statement God led me to was, “I once was fearful, but now I am learning to be brave.”

Pretty quickly, God used this sermon/challenge to in return challenge me (this happens more often that I would prefer). Joy.

But here’s what he (very clearly) revealed… my common thread of FEAR.

Fear to take the steps God is calling me to do take.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear to fully trust in the Lord and where it is that he might leading me. Fear.  Fear has caused me plenty of anxiety, frustration, and anger.

It has allowed me to forget who I am and Whose I am.  It had made me believe my work/good deeds solely hinge on my ability to hold it all together so that I can accomplish all I am required to do.

I’ve stood still far too many time crippled by the questions of “what if,” “how,” and “are you sure God” only to be reminded time and time again that it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the God I serve.

And I’m starting to wonder if the sooner I believe that (really believe that), the sooner I would find this BRAVE thing people keep talking about.

& Yet again, Timothy and Kathy Keller, in their book The Songs of Jesus kicked my spiritual butt in their simple prayer for courage.  Here’s their prayer:

“Lord, give such a sense of your living reality in my life that I live a more fearless life.  Fear is just thinking of myself and my abilities instead of having my mind focused on you.  Give me enough love for you to be brave. Amen (Keller & Keller, October 12). ”

Add that prayer with a side of the song, No Longer a Slave by I Am They, & you have my weekly challenge and conviction on finding brave.  Love (& hate) it when God does this.

But seriously, I love how Keller describes fear as thinking of ourselves and abilities MORE THAN our focus on Christ.  The simplicity of the statement, “Give me enough LOVE for you to be brave,” gets me.

How differently would mine, would our, lives look if we spent LESS time focused on the wind and waves and storms surrounding us and MORE on the creator of the wind and waves and storms?

How incredibly simple but yet profoundly difficult to live.

& So my challenge is this… to fix your gaze on the creator not the chaos that surrounds you. On the spirit & not your ability. On the power of God & not your lack of it.

Because the more we accept how small and significant we are, the more we can embrace God’s strength and power.

I want to leave you with the lyrics of the song No Longer a Slave by I am They and hope they challenge and inspire you as much as they did me.  And side note, if you have time I strongly encourage you listen to their song.  & yes, it will 100 percent be in a sermon one day;)

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen microsoftcouponcode.com shop me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I am no longer a slave to fear// I am a child of God

I am surrounded
By the arms of the Father
I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance
We’ve been liberated
From our bondage
We’re the sons and the daughters
Let us sing our freedom

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
and I will stand and sing
I am a child of God

(Listen HERE if you’d like.)

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Losing the Weight.

Last week I had one of those “ah ha” moments.

I was quietly sitting at my cozy little desk working on a sermon I had coming up.  Hagen was napping. Delle was quietly playing with her princesses on my bed.  It was one of those once in a million, totally quiet moments in the house. It was glorious.

Then, out of the blue, Delle crawls up on my lap, snuggles, and began asking a MILLION questions about what I was doing on my computer.  Honestly, my first reaction was to be little annoyed… I was trying to finish up a few last minute touches on my sermon and really needed about 10 more minutes of total (uninterrupted silence).  But then a still voice whispered to me.  It reminded me to include Delle, to explain to her, to open up to her all that I’m doing.

And so, I did.

I explained to Delle what I would be teaching on.  Who I was teaching to and why I felt it was important.  And as I was explaining all of this to my little wide-eyes, princess crown wearing three-year-old… It hit me; these are the moments.

These are the moments to soak in. To readjust your plan. To let your three-year-old into your world for just a moment.

That sweet moment quickly left and was filled with questions mostly revolving around how to press keys on the computer and why Delle wasn’t allowed to do so.

But for those few, precious minutes I had a conversation with Delle (which is still crazy in and of itself) about what I do for my job, about why I believe it’s important, and how I am sharing the gospel to those who need it.  I was allowing Delle to be a part of my journey, my job, my mission.

The irony of this situation was the topic of my sermon… identity. On embracing who we are and who Jesus has called us to be.  Why is that ironic?

Because, I fought the whole “working mom+ pastor” identity plan God had in mind.

I didn’t like that God was calling me to seminary or ordination or to be a pastor.  My plan was to work, get married, have kids, and then immerse myself into motherhood. Nope.

Apparently, that was NOT God’s plan. I fought it, gave in, and fought it some more when I wound up studying for ordination exams during most of my second pregnancy and then completing the exam… at 9 months pregnant.  That was a low point for me.

Truth be told… I wanted to fail that exam.

I wanted to find a reason to put off what God was calling me to do. Nope again.  God made it very apparent to me that THIS was where I was suppose to be. Working. Mom. Pastor. Speaking. Teaching. All of it.

So that beautiful moment with Delle… I worked really hard to avoid that.

To avoid the tension of working AND being a mom.  To avoid the fear that came with whether or not I was (or wasn’t) spending enough time with the girls, desiring more of it, and if I really was suppose to be making this sacrifice. I fought it.

I fought writing sermons.  On whether or not I should really be a (woman) pastor and if I had it in me to do the kind of job I felt God leading me to.

The call to motherhood is a weighty one.  And the call to pastoring is equally weighty. 2 weighty calls on one, little ole’ me.  It scared me to death.  The fear of letting people down. Of letting my family, my friends, my people, my church, God down. All of it freaked me out.

The pressure of sharing God’s word— in a relatable, exciting, authentic way (in front of hundreds of people).  Also weighty.

But here’s the thing I’m learning about IDENTITY…

MORE THAN simply being a mom, wife, believer, friend, daughter, pastor… I am a child of God. Period.

The difficult thing to admit is, THAT source of identity is the first one to get quickly misplaced or forgotten.  Far too often I fill it with something that gives me temporary hope, fulfillment, affirmation, and approval.

& far too often God has to remind be to be STRONG in my weighty callings.

To be strong as I live out (& live in) the tension of being a working mom and pastor and wife and friend and whatever else I am.  To be strong (and courageous) as I seek new opportunities and push the limits on what I think I can do.

& beyond that to…

LET GO OF THE WEIGHT.

Yes, there is a weight of motherhood, pastoring, wife-ing (I decided that should be a word) that never goes away. But there is also an additional weight I place on top of that.  The weight of being a PERFECT mom, a PERFECT pastor, a PERFECT wife… the weight of pleasing everyone.  Keeping all people, at all times, incredibly happy.

So, I’m learning to lose the weight.

To drop balancing all of my different hats and callings PERFECTLY and embrace the tension that exists.

To live in that tension. Be honest in that tension. & be strong in that tension.

We fight tension and discomfort.  But Jesus so often encouraged it.  He challenged people to live outside of the easy, expected life and pursue him with every fiber of our being.

Sometimes I wonder how differently my life would look if I really dropped the additional weight I carried (really dragged) around.  If I actually EMBRACED the tension of my identity and kept my eyes FIXED on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).  If I really clung to his words and commands as my lifeline. And (truly) believed it wasn’t about how great of a job I’m doing at balancing all of this extra weight but instead about just losing it. About laying it down at his feet and clinging to the cross.

& so that’s what I’m striving to do, to…

>>> lose the weight <<<

& Stay fixed on the author and perfector of my faith.  On the one who endured the cross & yet still calls me his child.