Monday, October 14, 2013

The Greater Than's

Something has been boiling in my soul for a while now, and I just have to write it out. With the type-first-think-later world of social media in the forefront of our modern existence, I have to dive into new depths of self-control as I peruse the ridiculous things people say. Apparently, making ridiculous statements is the new black.

What bothers me (eats me to the bone, actually) is the way people (usually people who call themselves Christians) discredit and verbally destroy evangelists, leaders, preachers and other prominent Christians. Bad-mouthing the way they dress, nit-picking every word they say (usually out of context), and spreading misinformation like wildfire. Number one target lately in my newsfeed has been Joel Osteen. People love to rip him apart in their virtual realities, and it chaps my figurative hide.

Funny thing––I don't even listen to Joel Osteen on a regular basis. He's not one of the top voices of the day that I seek out for guidance and instruction in faith. But, I have heard him enough, read his writings enough and seen him on TV enough to hear his message: the message of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17). The message of training your mind on what is noble and right and lovely (Philippians 4:8). The message of making a positive impact on your world (Matthew 5:16).

When you or I choose to bash a leader over things we perceive as errors, issues or problems, our words don't actually do anyone any good.  Have you ever been persuaded to reconsider your own convictions by being ridiculed? By having your lifestyle criticized? By the buzzing crowd of naysayers that follows you everywhere you go? It's just not an effective strategy, and it's basically wasted breath. Or keystrokes. Negative statements have never produced positive actions.

If a Christian person has such a serious problem with someone like Joel Osteen, why not just change the channel?  Why not pray for him and trust God to deal with his heart on things? If you are legitimately concerned over someone's teachings and fear that he or she is leading people astray, pray for them!  Pray for God to be glorified and the truth of the Bible to shine out clearly! If you really trust in God, don't you think He can handle the situation? As we gripe and complain based on our preferences and our theological positions, we're missing the whole point.

Over these past 30 years of getting to know God, He has been chiseling away at my rough edges, and I have come to a point where things are pretty simple: God loves people. As in LOOOOOOOVES people. Which has brought me to the realization that people are not my enemies.  My enemies are the "principalities, the powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age..." (Eph. 6:12).  People are God's great treasure, His pinnacle of creation, His children and His desired friends. He loves people!  All people! His love was so great that He went so far as to sacrifice His perfect, spotless Son on behalf of all people throughout all time. He wants every person to know Him and be known by Him. People are not the enemy.

People are the purpose. God wants His kids back in relationship with Him. Sin separated us from Him, but Jesus broke the power of sin and paid our debt once and for all. And now He gives every person the choice to accept His gift or not. He paid the way for our freedom and it's up to us to go on the trip or not.

But people are never the enemy. 

Sometimes Christians get too "churchified" and surrounded by religion that we forget about real people living real lives who don't feel welcomed into our circles. Or, we become so insulated in our church culture-of-choice that we adopt a self-righteous attitude and fall into the trap of legalism. We proceed to measure humanity against a list of acceptable behaviors; except everyone's "list" is different...and no one can actually measure up.

What's my point? People are treasure. People are valuable. I need to see them and think about them the way God does.

God has been softening my heart toward His kids. I don't pretend to understand them all, but there are buds of compassion and love for them blooming in my heart. They are not my enemies. You are not my enemy. The TV preacher I don't agree with is not my enemy. You are my brothers and sisters. You matter to God, and you should matter to me. I should treat you well––with kindness and love. I should not tear people down with my words when I don't agree with them.  I will do more harm than good by spewing my distaste or my accusations. Don't misunderstand––I don't agree with everyone. I actually don't agree with most, but love compels me to cover people and not hang them out to dry. Agreement is not a prerequisite for love. God loved you before you could ever choose Him, when you were in complete DIS-agreement with Him.

Very simply put, I have realized some "Greater Than" equations that help clarify how I should treat people. How I should treat you. Living by God's Kingdom ways instead of this world's broken ways is so much more effective! In my mind, I can envision a little, ugly thing called Judgment being swallowed up by a much bigger thing called Mercy.  I see the fires of Hate being extinguished by the waterfall of Love. It is only when we operate in these "Greater Than's" that we can nullify the plans of our true enemy:

                                                            Mercy > Judgment
                                                               Love > Hate
                                                  Compassion > Indifference
                                                             Grace > Law
                                                   Affirmation > Defamation
                                                    Acceptance > Exclusion
                                                             Belief > Doubt
                                                               Faith > Fear
                                                            Giving > Taking
                                                        Positivity > Negativity
                                             Encouragement > Discouragement
                                                  Self-Control > Anger
                                                        Humility > Pride

And there are more. Everything about God's Kingdom seems upside down from the way the world thinks...but He already told us that (Is. 55:8-9)!  It is imperative that we don't buy into this fallen system of thinking and expect it to bring us life. We need the mind of Christ and the daily filling of the Holy Spirit in order to operate in Kingdom ways (Rom. 8:5-6).

This topic has been heavy on my heart and I have more to say...but for now, I'll just end with this:

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

I Corinthians 13:3-10, MSG


Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day weekend to all of my mama-peeps out there!  Please go check out my thoughts on the subject at Grace for Moms this weekend:

Blessings to you and yours!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Confessions of a Former Woman Hater

Yeah, I used to be a hater.

It must have had to do with some authoritarian woman teacher in my past…but however I got there, I HATED women with a passion.  (Strange, since I AM one, I know.)  I couldn’t stand the ways women would manipulate others to get what they wanted.  I detested when girls would “play dumb” to attract male attention.  And I absolutely abhorred large gatherings of women.  All the cackling and clique-iness happening under the billowing clouds of estrogen made me sick to my stomach.

Funny how so many other women I know have expressed similar feelings to my own.  What makes us hate our sisters so much?  It doesn’t really make sense, until you see what is behind the hatred.  Most women walking the planet right now have been hurt very badly by another woman.  Our mothers, our sisters, our teachers, pastors and friends have hurt us.  So most of us have resolved to avoid being hurt again…and have built up fortresses around our hearts.  “You shall not pass!” has been our standard response to any woman who dared knock at the castle gate.

I lived quite happily alone in my castle for a long time, just me and Jesus.  I didn’t need sisterhood.  I would smile and wave civilly from my window high above the masses, but never considered for a moment that I would ever let someone in.  Just me and Jesus.  Jesus and me.  I loved Jesus very much.  He was my everything and I was so satisfied with Him.

Well, somehow I found myself roped into playing guitar and leading worship for a small group of women from our church.  I loved worship and being in the flow of God’s presence, so I agreed to come to the group every week and “be a member” if it would allow me to lead in worship.  I thought I would go in and keep to myself, tolerate all the dumb woman-y stuff and just enjoy the worship part.  Week after week went by, and I began to soften a bit as I got to know the ladies in the group.  Some of them were very funny!  Some were deep in their walk with God.  But the thing that totally blind-sided me was the book Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge.  Our group was reading and discussing that book over the course of a semester, and I was kind of enjoying it.  It had some neat points and good stories.  But one day as I sat and read chapter 5, I felt tears roll down my cheeks and a fury rise up in my bones.  For the first time, I realized that it is Satan who hates women so much.  He has assaulted women since the dawn of time because they bear the beauty of God and because they give life.  That revelation rocked me to my core.  I felt the flip of a switch inside my heart and then everything changed.

Years before, my husband had a vision of me standing in front of thousands of women, ministering to them.  I actually laughed when he told me!  I could not imagine myself ever doing such a thing—I hated women, especially in large groups!  I dismissed his “prophetic vision” like it was no big deal.

Fast forward to the tears and fury moment of realization…and see me running down flights of stairs in my heart-castle.  I ran to my front gate, unbarred the door and flung it wide open.  My Jesus, who I loved so dearly, had finally gotten through to me:  my hatred of women had only aligned my heart with Satan’s agenda!  I wanted no part of that anymore!  At that moment, I resolved to be a lover of women, to shelter them from the assault on their lives and to stand with my sword drawn to defend them.  I pledged my life to storm into the darkness and bring as many women into the Light as I possibly could for the rest of my days.

I had to learn how to have real relationships with women again.  Since I had shut them out for so long, it was a little awkward at first.  But the more I surrendered myself to the Holy Spirit, the easier it became.  It was really just His love for women that I needed.  As I took baby steps in allowing women into my life and experiencing friendship, I began to notice strong, powerful women leaders.  In fact, there was one in particular who taught me how to love women in a way that could heal them.  I was entranced by the way she gave such grace and raised up the other women around her.  She was not self-seeking or prideful.  She genuinely loved other women and saw the best in them.  She loved me that way and called out giftings and destiny in me, and I have been eternally altered by her impact on my life.

Think you don’t need mothering?  Sisterhood?  Friendships?  You could probably make it through life without those if you tried.  But your life can be so full when you open yourself up to them.  Do you hate women because of something a woman has done to you in the past?  The enemy wants you to stay hurt and angry about it.  He wants you to stay barred in your castle and never come into meaningful contact with another woman as long as you live.  He wants to destroy you.  The castle you constructed for protection is really just a prison.  You’ll never see the fullness and vibrancy of the life God intends for you if you don’t open the door and go outside.

You don’t have to stay wounded, you know.  God can come in right now and heal that painful spot in your heart. 

Remember that vision my husband told me about?  The one I laughed at?  Well, since the storming of my own castle, I have actually begun stepping into that vision.  Satan wanted to keep me tucked neatly away, while God intended from the beginning that I speak into the lives of thousands of women.  You just never know what may be around the corner!  Don’t let the wounds from your past keep you from living out God’s amazing dreams for you! 

We, as women, need you.  You are valuable.  You are precious.  You are one-of-a-kind.  Is that a knock at your castle door?

                                                                         * * * * *

*The strong, loving woman I mentioned before has actually just written a book, and you need it.  It is available beginning April 15 at, and on iBooks (iTunes).  Get to know my dear friend and pastor, Jan Greenwood in her debut as an author: Women at War. She will guide you down the path to healthy, meaningful, life-giving relationships with other women.

**Want to experience healing in your heart in a large group setting?  Gateway Church’s Pink Impact conference for women is coming up!  You can still register for Conference A that begins on April 15!!!

Monday, March 25, 2013


“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”  Psalm 20:7 NIV

In the time when this verse was written, chariots and horses were the strength of the military.  Soldiers put their trust in the abilities of their horses and the construction of their chariots to carry them through battle and back out of it again.  The symbol of a soldier in his chariot was a symbol of strength and power.

I don’t have a chariot or a horse…but I know what it means to put my trust in THINGS.  I don’t mean a basic level of trust, as in trusting this chair will hold me without breaking.  I mean trusting someone (or something) with my well-being.  With my life.  In my heart of hearts, I want to trust God.  I say that I trust Him and I pray that I trust Him, but sometimes the evidence proves that I have put my confidence elsewhere.  What evidence?  When I look into my pantry and see plenty of cans and boxes and bags of food, I feel secure.  But on a day when I look in the pantry and see only a few undesirable items left on the shelves….and then realize it will be a LONG time until we get a paycheck from a client, I feel the fear sneak in.  Without meaning to, I can rest my sense of security on how full my pantry is.

Another body of evidence:  My husband has been a freelance photographer for most of our married life, so we haven’t been tenured members of the “regular” paycheck club.  Things have leveled off as God has blessed him and he has become more established in his career.  But there have been times—months even—when we didn’t get paid.  Those times reveal to me how much I actually rely on my husband’s job and money in our bank account to make me feel okay.

In the meager times when I don’t have much in my hands, I am so much more aware of how I need God.  I need Him in my life just so I can breathe.  I need Him desperately as my Savior.  I need Him to infiltrate every avenue of my life, inward and outward.  I believe this journey I am on is by His design, simply from the sweetness of His heart.  It is on this journey that I can see how He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.  I realize that in this process of needing Him and being made to lie down and receive, He restores my soul.

My soul wants to trust in things that are physical and tangible, but I must realign it.  I must constantly refocus my soul-sights on God, who is the Creator and Sustainer.  He alone can provide for all my needs.  No job is secure, no amount of money is certain, and some days, we run low on groceries.  But God never fails. He is TRUSTworthy.  Sometimes, the easiest way to see His faithfulness is to come to the end of your own provisions.

Are you there?  Do you need to realign your soul to come under the covering of the Sustainer? 

Lord, You are the Source and the Sustainer.  I thank You for seeing me and knowing my situation very intimately.  I invite You to come fill up my emptiness with Your goodness.  I am giving You all my nothingness and asking You to pour out Your provision and blessings in my life.  Cover me, Lord.  Thank You for Your word that goes before me and for Your protection all around me!  I proclaim to my future that You are Lord and You will sustain me! I WILL trust in Your name, Lord God!   In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

5 Things We Can ALL Do This Year

I'm a little slow at welcoming this new year, 2013.  I think the holidays bowled me over and it just took me longer to recover than normal, or something.  But last night, I finally caught the fire in my belly for a new season.  A fresh start.  A bigger push in the right direction.

A few days ago, I jokingly tossed out some "resolutions" via Facebook and Twitter  - some of which are actual goals....some just for laughs.  (switch to liquid eyeliner, get my CHL - that's a real one, replace my fears with faith, etc....)  But something clicked in my brain and ignited my heart as I worshipped with my church family this weekend.  My weariness was consumed by a passion to make a difference, to love people fiercely, to follow after Jesus Christ with all my strength.  I was reminded of my earlier manifesto, and a good reminder it was.  But I have to keep moving with the Spirit, even from good thing to good thing, better thing to better thing...glory to glory.  There is motion involved.  MOVE.  Get up and go!  (I love that our God is immoveable, yet always on the move.  Go think about that for a while...)

So, I think there are 5 things that we can ALL do this year - "resolutions", if you will -  to make 2013 one for the record books:

1.  Move forward.

Turn your face toward the front, and take steps in that direction.  Don't let the vortex of your past failures, regrets or traumas keep you standing still, or even suck you back into the past.  That chapter is complete, and you are no longer in that part of your story.  Write a new paragraph and keep it moving forward.  Introduce new ideas, new characters and new places.  Dream big dreams and start walking toward them!

2.  Choose joy.

Life is going to kick you in the gut, that's the simple, honest truth.  There is no way to avoid pain and loss as a human being.  BUT, you have a choice to make, friend.  You can leave your thoughts and attitudes to their default settings of negativity, depression and doom, or you can choose to grab on to the joy God promises.  He's not just tossing out a metaphor and hoping to trick you with a fraudulent feeling of ooey-gooeyness in your heart.  He is the fountain of joy, and when you invite Him into your life, you can choose to ride on the waves of Spirit-joy even in the middle of the most difficult trials.  It takes an act of your will - a conscious choice; but it really can be done.  There is a higher plane of existence in Jesus.  That's where I'm living this year.

3.  Gravitate to the truth.

Because I trust Jesus, I believe His word.  And He tells me that He IS the way, the truth and the life.  I can attest to all these things in my life as He has proved Himself over and over and over.  He really is truth.  When all opinions have been aired, blogs have been updated and news outlets have reported, the only bottom line I'm looking for is what God says on the matter.  It's a good thing He's still speaking and that He leads us when we listen!  Each one of us is built with a God-receiver and we can all hear God's voice.  Even if you have not yet opened your heart to Jesus, you can still hear God.  Listen for Him and learn from Him.  Respond to Him.  He is truth.

4.  Soften your heart.

I have felt more up-in-arms over the past few months than I have in a long time.  Politics, human rights, taxes, welfare, tragedies, injustice, hatred....our world is running amok, in case you hadn't noticed.  If I am not careful, I get caught in the trap of thinking in generalizations, missing the individual story, the precious person.  I must intentionally soften my heart and not let it harden from the outside.  I must keep it soft from the inside out.  And when I have trouble doing that on my own, I run to God who promises to "give a heart of flesh for a heart of stone."  (Ezekiel 36:26)  Each of us would do well to soften up a bit.  The key to a soft heart is humility - realizing that you are spiritually bankrupt without Jesus, and that only His transforming work in your life gives you a place to stand.  Realizing that you are a cherished daughter (or son) of God...and that every other person alive right now is one, too.  Some of them know it and some don't yet, but they are cherished by God nonetheless.  Political affiliation, opinions and life choices aside, each person is a treasure.  My only appropriate response to people is one of a softened heart.  I don't have to agree with everyone or condone every choice, but I will soften my heart and reach out across differences and grievances with love.

5.  Recognize a bigger story.

Your life is not just about you.  It never was.  If you can recognize there is something larger at work than yourself and your plans, then you begin to get a glimpse of the Kingdom of heaven.  God's Kingdom is not just somewhere up there in the sky...  it is carried inside you and me.  We can actually make His Kingdom bigger by how we live our lives.  We can establish His presence and His work in every place we go - if we walk with the Spirit.  There is a much bigger story, and therein lies the greatest adventure a heart could ever know.

Now that all the hooplah of the holidays is behind us, let's do something with this new year!  Be intentional about your days and don't just let them pass you by.  Make the most of your voice, your influence and your choices, because you matter.

Happy 2013!!!