Tag Archives: religion

He never stops giving

I was resting in bed tonight, head spinning with excitement knowing that our newly decorated tree and Christmas-a-fied house was on the other side of the bedroom door.

Finally I could stand it no more so I returned to the living room, opened all the windows, and now I sit facing the glow of tiny white lights while the rustle of palm leaves outside competes with the symphony of crickets (and a few guest appearances by the odd frog).

Gosh, I love this time of year.

Cliche? I don’t care. I love it. I so, so love it.

Today was a storm of a million emotions. Amidst the merriment of the holidays and the buzz that I get from the decorating kick-off, there’s so much going on in our little world right now that’s vying for headspace. Most of it good, but some uncomfortable.

At one point this afternoon I sat down for a few moments scrolling quickly through emails that I knew I’d not be responding to until later. But curious, I read a few anyway.

The first one I opened had some disappointing news. Understandable, and yet disappointing, deflating.

The second one was from a stranger. A woman who belongs to a people I’ve fallen in love with (PNG) who now lives in a place that I once called my own (USA).

We’ve been writing back and forth this last week and I teared up a few days ago when she told me her family thanked God for me and my family around their Thanksgiving table last week.

I don’t know her. But she knows Him.

And then today her email – the second email I opened – contained news so sweet and so personal and so unexpected I couldn’t control those big, hot tears, from rolling quickly down my cheeks.

You see, He is faithful. He really is so faithful.

And sometimes you think everything’s just fine and then grace comes in a million forms and you realize how much you really did need it after all.

I had grace in many different forms this week – friends arriving at my doorstep to mow our lawn and clean my floors, another bringing us dinner one night, another offering childcare, and now another (who’s face I can only imagine, and voice I do not know) with an offer so simple and lovely it makes me close my eyes and shake my head and whisper, “What did I do to deserve this kindness from a stranger? From anyone?”.

But it’s not a matter of “deserving” anything at all. I receive because they give. And they give because they want to. And they want to because they also know what it is to receive.

Because He never stops giving.

And that’s it – the way I want to start December and the preparation of my heart to celebrate – really celebrate Christ’s birth: I want to see Him around me, recognize Him as he weaves worlds together, hear Him through the noise, and breathe deeply of His of goodness.

I want to receive Him, all over again.

Thank you, dear grace-givers, for helping me to see Jesus. You represent Him so well.

STOP.

 

Q for you: How has someone’s kindness been grace in your life lately? 

 

Love,
A

p.s. Forgot to use the timer tonight. Definitely blew the five minutes… probably doubled it, but who knows, who cares.

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The pull

 

Some days the pull is heavier than others.

If I’m honest, most days heaven never even crosses my mind.

But lately, there’s been death. Illness. Struggle.

And also less dramatic things like the gentle bent toward sin that you can feel when you’re really, really honest with yourself.

I’ve felt it lately – that bent.

It’s not the “big” things that are hard. (I’ve never had a genuine desire to murder someone or steal the Queen’s crown jewels or run a big insurance scam.)

It’s the little things – That small tug of jealousy in your heart. That tinge of desire to gossip. That undercurrent of pride. That hint of dishonesty. That pull to judge. That appeal of self-righteousness. That tendency to be critical.

And that’s when I really long for heaven – for that place where the tug of sin no longer has any grip, anywhere to latch on, any hold whatsoever of my heart.

I recognize my frailty. I’m still so weak, even in my holiness, even in my right-standing with Him.

There are areas yet unsanctified.

It’s only in him that I’m truly home.

And so

my heart

continues to long

for heaven.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Do you think about heaven much? In what way?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.

 


I’m convinced that He is able to guard what I’ve entrusted to Him…

“…because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12b

God guards – keeps, protects, covers – that which is entrusted to him.

If you’ve been a Christian for more than… oh, a nanosecond, chances are you’ve had to entrust things to God over, and over, and over again.

And then you think you’ve done it once-and-for-all only to realize somehow you’ve picked up that burden/worry/sin yet again.

Sometimes it’s not even a bad thing that you have to entrust to him – it could be a very precious thing – but that doesn’t mean you should carry it yourself.

(Did you know our good stuff can become idols too? Our spouse, kids, ministry, etc?)

But Paul tells Timothy in his second epistle that he (the Lord) guards that which is entrusted to him.

So it’s making me think, are there any areas in my life that I’ve not entrusted to the Lord right now? Are there areas where I’ve once trusted but have stopped?

A “small” but current area came immediately to mind as I asked God to search my heart related to this issue.

And just like that, I was able to acknowledge it and entrust it to him. Again.

I’m so glad he’s the one keeping and protecting it now.

Pretty sure he’ll be doing a better job than me.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Do you have any areas you need to entrust to him? (Don’t you want him to guard them for you anyway??)

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.


Every time we take up our cross

“Every time we take up our cross — we take weight off someone else.” -Ann Voskamp

How often do I view the “taking up of my cross” as a burden to myself? And yet really, it’s not a burden but a blessing.

Jesus said, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

Anyone who’s ever been a part of a Christmas celebration can attest to the truth of his statement.

And so taking up my cross so that I can bare the weight of someone else’s? It’s not a burden. It’s a gift given to another.

Which is ultimately a gift given to me.

And all of it is a gift given to HIM.

So hard to remember when we allow the daily grind to blur our vision.

I want to take up my cross, so someone else won’t have to.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Have you been challenged to take up your cross lately? Did it feel like a burden or a gift?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.


To my gay and lesbian friends who feel excluded and alienated and discriminated and rejected:

I am sorry. We have failed you.

We have not represented him well.

We have not taken seriously our calling to be ministers of reconciliation.

We have ignored peace and mercy and opted for justice (at times narrowly defined by our current political systems).

We have sought morality above love.

We have been proud when we should have been humble.

We have defended our rights when we should have laid them down.

We have picked up our knowledge of good and evil instead of picking up our cross.

We have picketed when we should have been washing feet.

And for that I am sorry.

The way of Jesus is always tender. His mercies are new every morning.

His reach is not limited by any human definition.

I love his Church–fiercely–and I am a part of her. But I recognize her reflection of him is still being polished.

She is still learning, growing, being made into his likeness. (And I, along with her.)

Please know that Jesus is infinitely more good than what you see through us.

There is nothing about him outside of good. Good, good, good, good.

Pure, unadulterated, goodness.

(And we–his Church–are good too, but only in him, and because of him.)

We are weak and growing up and in need of his grace too.

We are beautiful and flawed and holy and human.

And you may not always believe it, but we really are trying our best.

As much as you need grace, we need it too.

From each other, but most of all from him.

Help me as I learn to love more completely.

Help me.

Help us. (Oh God, help us.)

STOP.

Related post: What if compassion moved us? (Thoughts on gay marriage and the church.)

 

Love,
A

P.S. I went over my time limit on this post. Please also note that I will delete any comments that I deem as unkind or disrespectful. (You are free to agree or disagree with me in the comments – that is not the issue. Just know that I will not engage in on-line debate or tolerate slander in my little space here.)

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited


What if compassion moved us? (Thoughts on gay marriage)

It landed in my inbox and I couldn’t not read it:

A Christian Debate on Gay Marriage from Relevant Magazine featuring two “experts” on either side of the issue.

The article itself wasn’t even that good. (No disrespect intended.)

But the comments…

The comments are what drew me in.

I read pages and pages of comments, one after the other, from people in either camp of the gay marriage debate.

Some appeared to be written with much thought and intelligence.

Others seemingly rattled off out of haste and unbridled emotion.

Some quoting scripture and some quoting experience.

Many out of context.

All on both sides.

The tears began to well as I realized that what I’ve been fearing really is true:

We are more known for what we’re against than for what we are for.

Why aren’t Christians known for mothering for orphans, caring for widows, assisting the elderly, including the outcast?

Why aren’t Christians known for embracing the refugee and the alien?

Why aren’t Christians known for being accepting and gracious and abounding in love?

Why aren’t Christians known for bringing healing to the broken-hearted?

Why aren’t Christians known for being slow to anger?

Why aren’t Christians known for addressing poverty and engineering clean water and reducing childhood mortality?

Why aren’t Christians known for befriending inmates and serving the homeless?

Why aren’t Christians known for improving health care and education?

Why aren’t Christians known for diffusing discord and being bringers of peace?

Why aren’t Christians known for loving gay people? Any people? All people?

Why?

It breaks my heart that we are known for deciding who are sinners and who aren’t. Who gets into heaven, and who does not. What sins should be legislated and which sins shouldn’t. (As if that “right” belongs exclusively to us.)

Because don’t we all need Jesus?

Isn’t the ground at the cross a level place?

Wasn’t his sacrifice sufficient for everyone?

Have we not all been made in his image?

Does he not delight in his children, whether they know him or not?

Aren’t we all worthy of his gift?

Is there not room enough in his heart for all?

Is there not room enough in mine?

So I closed the screen as my lap became wet with heavy tears.

Forgive us Lord. Have mercy. Draw near. Show your face.

I wept as I prayed.

And then I wondered, what if we prayed more than we lobbied?

What if we practiced more than we preached?

What if we served more than we sought protection?

What if we asked for more of God’s heart to help us navigate our times?

What if compassion moved us, instead of anger, fear, and judgment?

What if we loved, expecting nothing in return?

STOP.

Related post: To my gay and lesbian friends who feel excluded and alienated and discriminated and rejected

 

Love,
A

P.S. I went over time limit today. And please note, I will delete any comments that I deem unkind or disrespectful. (Whether comments are in agreement or not is not the issue. I will not engage in online debate or tolerate slander.)

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.



He will make your paths straight

“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3

I’ve been rolling this verse around my head a lot today as Ryan and I began our teaching on the DTS.

We’re teaching this week about making Jesus Lord – surrendering to him as Lord – and from my perspective the basis of that teaching is to first trust that he is good.

How can you give him your life and your future if you don’t believe he’s good? (And has the very best intentions for you.)

The amazing news is that as we trust him, he aligns our paths to him. We don’t have to struggle to find our way (or back to) somewhere on that one mysterious path that we lost. He just aligns us begining right where we already are.

A miraculous thing actually.

Funny how I preach on this stuff adn then am challenged by it all in the same day. Yeah, “funny”.

I’m certainly trusting God right now in new ways and new areas.

And I’m certainly not able to lean on my own understanding – because the understanding just isn’t there.

It’s a beautiful thing – knowing that I can depend on him and his care of my family.

Because certainly, he is good. And completely trust-worthy. And amazing.

So glad I can relax into him and that he’ll carry me even (especially) when I don’t understand.

Q for you: Trust is a weighty subject. Do you trust God? Or do you find it difficult? Why?

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited


Soap-boxing and mouth-shutting

My heart is weighed heavily right now about big things:

Parenting, marriage, politics, the church.

And how it’s all wrapped up together.

I have strong opinions on most things in life – always have.

But I realize opinions must be carefully shared.

Sometimes social media (public broadcasting at our fingertips) tempts us into soapboxing before we really know what we’re soap-boxing about (or why).

Dangerous.

This is why I’m being quiet for the moment, even on things I feel passionate about.

Because it’s not just about the speaker, it’s about the hearer.

And sometimes words just aren’t good enough to convey.

STOP.

 

Q for you: Are you voicing your opinions publicly about the “hot issues” of today? Why? (Or why not?)

 

Love,
A

p.s. Have you noticed I missed two days this last week? Yeah, 3500 birth kits have kept me busy. Last night I realized I hadn’t written here as my head was hitting the pillow. Wisdom told me to skip “discipline”, and even be relaxed about it, so I did.

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited

 


A note to US voters

My friend Jim tweeted this today:

@jimastephens: Note to US voters: The Messiah is not among the candidates for election. Nor is the Anti-Christ. These are politicians.

Genius.

Every time an election rolls around it amazes me how so many of us get swept up in the tsunami of religious rhetoric surrounding the candidates.

As a believer, of course I think that the beliefs of the candidates are important. (But so does everyone else. That’s not a “Christian” thing.)

I want to know what people stand for. I want to know how they vote. I want to know where they will channel their efforts. (Or at least where they think they will. We all know wars and natural disasters and economic downfalls tend to derail things a little.)

But for the love, why must we go about deeming so-and-so the “Christian” choice (or not) and then villanizing anyone else that opposes?

The polarizing effect of elections is so disheartening.

Every time it rolls around people say “let’s work together” and then in a heartbeat we get busy defending our own issues and opinions and deciding the “other guy” is the devil.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have opinions. Even strong ones.

But how about we try and act like grown-ups, do our research, and lend our support in a way that brings life and hope and intelligence into the conversation?

And in the meantime, how about we quit with the anti-christ comments. (Cuz they make us all look like weirdos anyway.)

STOP.

 

Q for you: Do you love or hate American politics? As frustrating as they are at times, I’m definitely of the “lover” category.

 

Love,
A

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited


Spring cleaning, house and heart

It’s autumn here but there’s this urgency growing beneath my skin to do some spring cleaning.

Behind cupboard doors sit unused things, taking up space, collecting dust.

Some are just too hard to reach so they’re forgotten.

Drawers in disarray feel fuller.

Closets that looked bare only months ago now seem to burst with a sea of cotton.

At a glance things look fine, but behind closed doors Mess lurks.

It’s driving me mad and I’m having brutal impulses to Purge. All. This. Stuff.

I’ve realized that I get this way when I’m tired or stressed. (Or extra “this way” when I’m tired and stressed.)

It’s suffocating and stiffling and whereisthespacetocreateandenjoy?

I want to simplify. Reduce. Get rid of fillers and noise and things that make me feel stuffy.

I want to open the curtains and let the breeze in.

I want to lift lids and move rugs.

And maybe it’s not really about things being clean or organized.

Maybe it’s just me wanting to gain some sort of sense of mastery over the chaos. Reign it in.

I never thought I had control issues. Until I had children. Children who have minds and clocks and opinions of their own.

They will not be controlled. They fit in no boxes. they respond to no formulas. (I’m glad for that. Mostly.)

But they make me realize that I have to let go. (MOre.) I have to create more margin. I have to find breathing space.

Life is too full to be full.

And maybe it’s not even a negative thing to want to reign in the chaos and restore some order. Maybe it’s the creative process starting all over again. God brought order out of chaos, right?

So when this sort, sift, clean, organize, purge, open-up-the-doors-and-let-the-good-green-earth-come-in thing starts to happen to me, it makes me stop and think:

Is it hte house that needs tending? Or is it my soul?

Perhaps we both need to open up the windows a bit wider?

STOP.

 

Q for you: How does your physical environment influence your mental/emotional/spiritual realm? (Or the reverse?)

 

Love,
A

p.s. Admittedly, this post is a bit scattered tonight. I suppose that’s just going to happen occasionally when writing in this format with no structure or editing. I suppose also that’s part of the God-getting-in-the-cracks process. And the humbling-me process. Sometimes it truly is hard to hit “publish”…

 

Click Clink Five | Five minutes a day, unedited.