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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Waiting

"Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" Psalm 27:14

Wait. That has often been one of my least favorite words. Who likes to wait? Not many of us. This is why we shop Amazon Prime, get Fast Passes at Disney and eat so much fast food. Waiting is no fun! Ask any child who is waiting for a birthday or a holiday. Waiting stinks!

But, as much as I hate to wait in the midst of everyday circumstances, God is teaching me a lot about how we learn and grow in the waiting. My natural tendency has always been to push ahead, forge my own way and make my own plans. Oooh, I love a good plan. I like to make things happen.

When God called me into full-time ministry in my early 20's, you better believe I had a plan. Guess what? My life pretty much looks nothing like the plan I had back then. Guess why? Because, God's plan for my life is so much better than even the best plans that my type-A self could come up with on a spreadsheet. 

During the last 5 years of my life, I have spent a lot of time in waiting. I'm still sitting in a time of waiting. I would like to say I've waited well. But, let's be honest, most of the time I've whined while I've waited. And when I whine and pout and complain, God is quick to show me that He is with me in the waiting. And, not only is He with with me in the waiting, He is growing me as I wait. If I would have accomplished my own plans on my own timeline, I would not have grown into the person He wants to use in the ways He wants to use me in the future.

I have no idea what God has for me next and many of you might feel the same way in your own life. But, there is one thing I do know, He wants to be present in our waiting and He wants to use the waiting period as a preparation time so that when we get to the other side, to the next thing, we will be fully trained. My prayer is that I would be found faithful in times of waiting and times of action. Lord, let it be so.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul “therefore I will hope in him.”The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him." Lamentations 3:24-25 (ESV)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Supplies



Confession time- I love new school supplies and school supply shopping. I love everything about it. I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and new, unused crayons. I love notebooks that are clean and have no writing in them. I love organizing new binders with beautiful dividers. Call me a nerd, I don't care. I've had an affinity for school supplies since I was a child. I always loved the week before school began when we would get new supplies and I would spend hours organizing them. I would smell them and enjoy the newness before they would be defiled by school work over the next few months. To this day, outside of book stores, office supply stores are one of my favorite places to linger. I love a new pen and clean notebook. And, now that I have school-age children, I get to live vicariously through them as they school supply shop. Of course, we have piles of half used pencils and stacks of partially written in notebooks at home. But, I wouldn't send those to school with my kids the first week. No, they have to have brand new supplies. The new school year needs to begin afresh. There is plenty of time for them to use supplies that aren't new as the year progresses. The first week of school is the time for new supplies.

I'm going somewhere with this if you were wondering. Jesus also had something to say about newness and the use of new supplies. Listen to what he says in Mark 2:21-22, "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (ESV)

Let's talk context for a second. Jesus has just healed a paralytic which awed the crowd and then He called a sinning tax collector to be one of his disciples. The Pharisees (Jewish religious leaders) are starting to get a little annoyed. Who does this man think that He is? Healing people in the name of God? Inviting sinners into His ministry? They decide it's time to approach Jesus and tell Him how wrong He is and how He's not following the law. They do this by trying to trap Him. They ask him why His disciples don't fast as prescribed in the law like John the Baptist's disciples. They try to pit the Son of God against the law of God and against a prophet of God. In typical Jesus fashion, He turns their questions and accusations back on the Pharisees. 

The Pharisees were so entrenched in the law and how things were supposed to be done according to tradition, they couldn't see the new thing Jesus was doing. They were so stuck on following the law and convincing themselves that they could make themselves righteous through their own efforts, they couldn't see the grace and new covenant that Jesus was ushering in through His ministry. They were trying to make Jesus conform to the old ways of tradition and how things "should be done". They were blind to what God was trying to accomplish.

And, Jesus calls them on it. His new ministry and the new convenant He was activating could not be sewn or poured into the old cloths and containers of the law and tradition. It was brand new. What He was ushering in needed to be put on new garments and in new wineskins. 

When we begin our new walk with Jesus, the old has to be put away. Our old thoughts, worldview, behaviors and practices have to be done away with so that we can start afresh with Jesus and be the people He's called us to be as His ambassadors. We can't start this new life with old supplies. Everything has to be made new. We can't try to infuse the new with the old. No, a main aspect of the Christian life is to continually, day by day, with God's help put away our old self so that we can walk in newness of life with Christ. Only then, can we be the men and women He's called us to be and minister to others in the ways He's designed for us.

As you enter this new school year or new phase of life or whatever new thing God has called you into, remember that we can't put new ideas into old mindsets and we can't get new results with old behaviors. As we replace the old thoughts, behaviors and patterns with God's word and the love of Christ, we will be able to walk in a manner that reflects that we abide in Jesus and our life won't be able to be anything but a pleasing fragrance to those around us. 

"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:9-10, 12-17 ESV)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home

Before I sat down to start writing and working this morning at my favorite coffee shop, I decided to take a walk around my town of Smyrna, GA to clear my head. I was immediately struck by thoughts of what the term home means to me. I love my current town of Smyrna. It has a small town feel while sitting on the edge of the very large and bustling city of Atlanta. Even though Smyrna is growing rapidly, it has managed to keep most of it's small town charm. 

This got me thinking about "home" and all the places I've lived. Last week we were in Texas visiting family. Every time I go home to Waco, I feel homesick and consider that maybe we made a huge mistake not staying in Texas. It will never cease to feel like home.

But, during my walk today, I realized Smyrna/Atlanta is home, too. And, when we lived in Cambridge, MA I loved it so and it felt like home as well. How can all these places feel like home? Isn't just one place supposed to feel like home? At that moment it struck me, home is wherever we are that is exactly where God wants us at this time in our life. God chose for me to grow up in Texas and He called us to Atlanta and to Boston and back here to Atlanta. This is exactly where He wants us and sitting in the center of that is where home lies. 

Acts 17:26 says, "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live..." (NSRV)

God, even though my parents grew up in New York, planned from the beginning of time, the plan for my life and where I would live. He had a reason for me growing up in Texas and He had a plan concerning all the moves I've made in my life, and He has me here, in Smyrna, GA, for a purpose. He has a will and a plan for you where you live, too. And, whenever we are in the center of that plan and His will, where we are will feel like home.

The Bible also tells us that even though God has set up the places where we will live on this earth, this is not our ultimate home. A sliver of our heart will always long and be homesick for our ultimate home which is heaven. Yes, we are called to live at home in the world where He has placed us. We are called to bring His kingdom to the place where we've been dropped at this moment in time by His sovereign hand. But, we are also called to live as one who longs for our eternal home. 

Hebrews 11:16 tells us, "But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." (ESV)

So, to answer my earlier question, yes, we can feel at home in multiple places at the same time. That is our calling as Christian sojourners on earth. We make a home here in the world, encouraging His "kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven", while at the same time longing for that day when we will live in our forever home prepared for us by God Himself.

Oh, that I would find that balance- how to live in the here and the not yet. God, help!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Shield Still...



This Saturday will be our son Nathan's 4 year "cranioversary". Four years ago, on July 1, Nathan underwent an endoscopic craniectomy because he was born with a condition called craniosynostosis which means his head was born fused together so that his brain could not grow normally. A couple weeks post surgery, I wrote the following blog post. I was in the weeds then, but the fact that God is my shield has not changed. I pray that it will be an encouraging read for anyone who needs to hear this message today. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Jars of Clay



If I had to pick a chapter of Scripture to be my "life chapter" (is that a thing?), it would be 2 Corinthians 4. That fact might seem obvious to you if you've hung around my blog for some time. I mean, the title of my blog is Extraordinary Treasure, Ordinary Girl which comes from 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 which says,

"But we have this treasure in jars of clayto show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every waybut not crushedperplexedbut not driven to despair; persecutedbut not forsakenstruck downbut notdestroyed.." (ESV)

As I prepare for an upcoming writing conference where I will get to propose a book idea, discuss my blog, etc. there is pressure to redefine the purpose of my blog, revamp my look and define my audience. But, as I pray for direction in these areas, these verses and that chapter continue to jump out at me and speak to my soul. 

I write because I truly believe that God reveals to me extraordinary treasures as I live my ordinary life. And, I can't help but share what He teaches me. My audience, honestly, is whoever wants to listen, whoever wants to join me on this adventure of discovering the nuggets of truth He show us in His Word.

In Paul's time, clay jars were created by artisan potters who would take raw clay and though the skill of their hands mold the clay into a precious vessel. After the clay was molded and baked, they would beautifully decorate the jars using paint and glaze. The jars would be decorated based on the value of the items they would contain. Sometimes they would be decorated beautifully because they would hold precious items such as scrolls of scripture and law. Other times they would be minimally decorated because they would have a more basic function such as holding water. But one thing all clay jars had in common was that they were breakable and they would not last forever.

We are just like those clay jars of old. Our physical bodies are "jars" that hold precious treasures. Our bodies were created and molded by the Potter with a specific purpose in mind. Our bodies are beautiful, functional and breakable. They are also temporary. They are a temporary, functional container that hold precious, eternal treasures.

What are some of the treasures God entrusts us with? 

* 2 Corinthians 4:6 says that God has shone the knowledge of Him in our hearts. We have the privilege of housing the knowledge of Him in such a way that it shines forth into the world around us.

* Scripture also teaches us that we are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Even though I've known this truth for some time, it's still so hard for me to truly comprehend that my ordinary body is a TEMPLE for the Holy Spirit. Sit with that truth for awhile. Are we living like people who house the 3rd person of the Trinity? Eek!

* We also have the opportunity to digest His Word in a way that it becomes written on our hearts. His Word doesn't just live on a page bound in a Bible I purchased on Amazon. If I spend time reading it and meditating on it, it becomes engraved on my heart and I can carry it with me wherever I go. 2 Corinthians 3:3 says, "And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (ESV)

So, the question for you and for me is this- do we live like one who walks around as a container of extraordinary treasures?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City of Stars (Be Brave, Part 5)



Okay, okay I finally watched La La Land last night. I'm sure I'm the only person on the planet who hadn't seen it. I loved it! And, a discussion of the main themes of the movie seems a fitting close to my Be Brave series.

For the few of you who haven't seen it, the story centers around two inspiring artists trying to make it in LA. Emma Stone's character, Mia, leaves the small town where she grew up to try and make it as an actress in Hollywood. Ryan Gosling's character, Sebastian, is a jazz musician that dreams of opening his own jazz club. The movie is a progression of their walk together and separately as they navigate the failures and successes of pursuing one's dreams.

At first glance, it would seem that the bravest act performed by Mia is leaving her home town to pursue her dreams in the big city. But, as the movie progresses, it's clear that the real bravery and courage is found in pushing through the rejections and the fears. She ebbs and flows between fearing failure and success. In the end, you also see the reality that is realized that sometimes success and the path to achieving one's dreams doesn't always look as one expects.

Some people think that pursuing the dreams God has placed on your heart is foolish and only for the young. And on one hand, those thoughts are true. But, I truly believe that God places dreams and desires in our hearts so that He can use each of us in unique ways as we live our lives. Yes, doses of reality are important. We can't blindly follow our dreams. We have to release expectations and know that following our dreams includes heartache, rejection and it certainly never turns out exactly as we plan it out in our heads. But, that's true maturity- pursuing our dreams with a healthy dose of reality. It also requires tremendous bravery to pursue our dreams in spite of the loss of expectations and in the face of failure and rejection.

My 7 year old daughter struggles with a lot of fears and anxiety. This weekend we went on our yearly lake trip with dear friends. She really struggles to jump in the lake and enjoy all the water sports that the other kids do readily. But, this weekend she pushed pass a lot of her fears and tried things she's never tried before. I was very proud of her. But, it's hard not to feel sadness sometimes as I see all the other children try new things with such willingness and trust. Every time she approaches something new, she has to push through so much fear and it's so hard to watch. It's easy to look at the other children and label them as brave while labeling her as fearful.

But, my sweet friend made a very profound point this weekend that I will never forget. Myla is actually the bravest one. The other children are being children and living life as most children live life- with reckless abandon and trust. Myla has to push through so many fears and anxiety in order to do the same activities. And, that's true bravery- facing your fears head on and conquering them victoriously.

I'm not so different than my daughter. I have dreams that God has placed on my heart and I want so desperately to pursue them. But, I also have so much fear and anxiety. As I pursue my dreams, I have to face head on my fears of failure, success and rejection. The easy route would be to push away those dreams and live complacently day in and day out. But, God is calling you and me to be brave. And, to live bravely means naming our fears and with His help, conquering them so we can be the men and women He wants us to be for His glory.

A look in somebody's eyes
To light up the skies
To open the world and send it reeling
A voice that says, I'll be here
And you'll be alright

I don't care if I know
Just where I will go
'Cause all that I need is this crazy feeling
A rat-tat-tat on my heart

Think I want it to stay

City of stars
Are you shining just for me?
City of stars

You never shined so brightly 

(City of Stars, La La Land Soundtrack)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Story of Jarena Lee (Be Brave, Part 4)

Because it's the last week of school, I haven't really had time to blog. But, God keeps bringing me new stories of brave Christian men and women. I couldn't help but share this story of Jarena Lee. As the first African American female preacher of the Gospel, she bravely broke down so many barriers in order to be used by God in His Kingdom. I am so privileged to know her story and pray that I can be half as brave as her as I follow God in my own life.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2017/may/jarena-lee.html#storystream