One Word and God’s Word

As you read this I’m in Florida for a long weekend.  Ostensibly for a fund-raiser for World Vision, but let’s be honest, I’ll be with friends and the temperature will be above 30 degrees farenheit.  I’m not suffering for Jesus here.

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“Choosing life” is easy with beauty all around you.  Vibrant color, warm pavement under bare feet, up-lifting conversations.  But this week, living in the left-hand picture hasn’t been all Bougainvillea, sunshine, and Calamari.  Some experiences felt dismissive, some choices by others that felt unjust.  Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but a little bumpy nevertheless. The kind of thing many, many people experience daily for years and years.

How can we not deny the “death” parts, but still choose life in healthy, non-Pollyanna ways?  Still keep perspective? Continue reading

Voices

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and if you are reading this, chances are you’ve resisted the urge to rise before dawn and scrape and claw through Walmart for the “best deals of the season”. (#walmartfights is trending on Twitter.)

You’ve said “no” to Black Friday, or perhaps you’re still just in a turkey coma and are calling it “contemplation”.  You’re reflecting on yesterday, or you still may be with family navigating dysfunctional dynamics feeling as tense as Jack Bauer defusing a bomb with 3 seconds left.

You may be with family members whose voices can strengthen you, reminding you of your inestimable value (like my mom, and basically everyone I’m related to does), or stab you in the back like the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones.

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Last week I wrote about the power of words and the Word as we move into the holidays when there’s more emotion, more stress, more people, more…family.  So today, on Fearless Friday I thought I’d just post this video that’s a reminder of Whose voice is the most important to hear from.

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The Words that Matter

Our friend Sharon always reminds us “Words matter!”

The truthful, timely word, the encouraging word, the destructive one.  They are all composing the story of our life.

Like a mess of Christmas lights though, we often get tangled up in the fearful words.  The “not enough”, “failing grade”, “grim prognosis”, “overwhelming odds” words. Continue reading

Two Questions When You’re “Off”

Last week is was sunny and cool with big, fluffy white clouds pushing each other around in the blue sky where we were staying near Windsor in Great Britain.  (The weather was a tad different the day I took this picture).

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I had just gotten back from a run during which I asked for directions about 492 times in tiny boroughs, at pubs, hoping to find a park. I kept getting pointed different directions.  I felt a little like I was on a perpetual rural British roundabout.

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Finally a woman said, “Well, there’s a moor down that way, but I’m afraid you’d get lost on it.”  Good bet.

I turned around and shuffle/jogged back to the hotel where I jumped into the shower and realized I’d been using body lotion instead of conditioner on my hair for the past few days. That could explain a lot.  (Don’t laugh – it could happen to you.)

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All that to say, I’ve been a little …“off”.

Eating too much, sleeping too little, not paying attention, and getting lost.  A little out of my regular rhythm, both physically and spiritually.

When you travel (or when you have anything “extra”going on, or a sick kid, or out-of-town guests, or a project due…) it’s so easy to get knocked off-stride and out of your spiritual rhythm.

In these times I tend to get to the end of the day and think,

“Where am I?  Who am I?  And how did I get to the end of this day totally missing God?”

Two questions can make all the difference as to whether my day is purposeful and life-giving, or a blur of empty activity.

1.  Have I filled my mind with anything of the Spirit?  Have I sought the mind of God to orient myself?  Especially when I’m busy or in a new environment.

Ok, let’s be honest here.  I don’t mean reading and taking notes on a chapter of Ezekiel every day.  I mean anything.  Truly, I’ve found God can use even the tiniest morsel to feed me if I give Him a chance.  If I’m clueless, any part of Psalm 25 is a great “go to” at the beginning of the day.  Anything is something.

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If I listen to God in the morning, there’s a much better chance my ear will be attuned to Him during the ordinary stuff and relationships of my day.  I also have a different grid through which I experience life.

2.  Have I made Space to process with God what He’s been showing me about Himself and myself throughout the day?  Where have I seen God and where have I missed Him?

Space, margin, silence…whatever you want to call it, it’s become rare in our 24/7 world of more news, more activity, more noise (especially for extroverts like me who can easily be sucked into the “more”.

Like Mary, I need to say “no” to the good in order to  choose “what is better”.  Whether it’s journalling or taking a prayer walk, I may need to limit accessibility to the world in order to be accessible to Jesus, prioritizing time to reflect on His activity.

What about you?  What helps you to reorient and pay attention when you’re “off”?

#SOTM2013 and Whatever is True…

I am about as good at memorizing as the Kardashians are at staying out of the news.

Basically, terrible.

I didn’t grow up with Awana, but I hear rumors about gold stars or badges and “sword drills” and I imagine competition is involved which I usually love, but in this case it scares me and makes me think if I had Awana-ed I might have more issues to deal with than I already do.

However, God is incredibly gracious and a miracle-worker to boot.

So when I was 23 years old on a mountain path in the Swiss Alps at dusk one evening, all sobbed out and at the end of my faith rope, it was Scripture I knew that God brought to mind to speak to me.

“God is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

“I will never leave you or forsake you.”

As clearly and as lovingly as if He was holding me and speaking, those were the words I heard.

Miracle-worker indeed.

Could I have given you chapter and verse?  No.  But that wasn’t the part God wanted to use.

Over and over again in the years since that crisis of faith, God has brought to mind just the right words from Scripture at just the right time to convict, encourage, guide, reassure.

It’s so easy to decide if we can’t do something perfectly, we can’t do it at all.  I mess up chapter and verse, I get words out of order, but somehow God makes it right.  Like songs you listen to over and over on the radio…you may not remember the artist or all of the words exactly, but the chorus?  Or a key line?  They keep coming back.  Maybe they shape us.

I figure it’s hard for God to bring to mind what we haven’t put there in the first place.  So no badges or stars, but when our kids were growing up we tried to memorize Scripture as a family.  At dinner we’d go around the table, each person saying one word of the verse we were trying to memorize.  It would usually go something like this:

Katy: Whatever

Maggie: is

Laura: true

John: ….??  nice!?? helpful!?? interesting!?? Rats!

Katy and Maggie would crack up as their pastor father was most often the first family member to mess up and need a hint.

This week, my friend Lynne, admitted that her New Year’s resolution was to memorize Matthew 5,6, and 7 – the Sermon on the Mount – in 2013.  But as of the end of March, she hadn’t gotten started and needed some accountability.

A few tweets later (@lynnehybels) and there’s a whole movement of folks committed to memorizing this chunk of Scripture with the hashtag #SOTM2013!  

No, I’m not a great memorizer, but if some small essence of God’s Word becomes more a part of me through this discipline, who knows what He might do with this…what “kingdom come” transformation He might want to do in and through us?  Like Lynne writes,

Maybe we can become givers of mercy and pure-hearted peacemakers. Maybe we can become lights in the darkness. Maybe we can embrace a vision of righteousness that looks more like Jesus than the Pharisees…

I’m in.

And in spite of the fact that both Lynne and I threw John under the bus for his comment about just committing to the Beatitudes, I think I’ve got him hooked too.

Oh, and the verse our family was trying to memorize above?

“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent, or praiseworthy.  Think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)

John got so frustrated, he came up with this pneumonic device: Two neurotic Roman priests lost and eccentric pope.

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for three whole chapters in SOTM13.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Scripture memory.  And join us in memorizing the Sermon on the Mount!

Spiritual ADD

Often people ask me for suggestions of good devotionals or Bible studies.  It happened again this past week after John preached on the Bread of Life and it got me to thinking.  I’m delighted to share what’s been helpful to me, but with a few caveats and a request to hear from you too.  I am so grateful for my relationship with Jesus but…

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Ilegal Bible Reading?

Here’s the rest of the post from Wednesday.  We’re talking about avoiding Bible Boredom…

When we were little, my cousin Karl had some weird ideas about road signs.  And one of them was that this was the only place deer could cross the road legally.

Somehow he thought deer would understand (maybe because of the picture of themselves that they’d recognize) and line up to cross only where they saw that sign.

Over the years I’ve had some weird ideas about what was “legal” Bible reading…you know…what “counted” on the cosmic scoreboard of spirituality.

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