Monthly Archives: October 2012

when candy isn’t enough . . .


It all comes back around to people, at least it should. When we speak of ministry outreach and harvesting the fields, we’re talking about people—men, women, and children created in the image of God and deserving of the good news of the kingdom. When we put our focus elsewhere . . . on growing our numbers, our influence, and our bank accounts, then we’ve missed the mark.

Yes, we need the bean counters and the fiscally gifted to take us forward in our efforts to fulfill our responsibilities to the kingdom of God, but without a vision to anchor our well-intentioned purposes, people perish. They die never knowing that they could have had a share in the kingdom inheritance . . . that eternal peace, certain hope, good grace, and unconditional love were meant for them.

We are the bringers of God’s eternity to this world, the carriers of an extraordinary kingdom. Because of Jesus Christ, we are his righteous reconcilers, the blood-bought bounty of Calvary. Accordingly, we cannot allow the vision to perish. We must press on and push forward with the message of priceless redemption. Without the message, then all of our efforts at reaching the lost vanish; they remain hidden and buried beneath the left-over scraps of a really good program or a well-planned event.

I don’t want God’s message to be lost on the people who gather around me; I want the message to be evident within me. I don’t want to get so tangled up in the planning and the particulars of ministry that I miss the pulse of Jesus pounding loudly through his people. If I cannot see him there, in their faces and through their eyes, then I’ve missed an eternal opportunity. I leave the fields empty-handed with nothing more to show for a day’s hard laboring than a pocket full of lint and a head full of confusion.

How could it have been more? Why doesn’t good programming always result in great ministry? How do we bridge the gap, sew it altogether so that one leads to the other . . . so that both—good programming and great ministry—are the norm, not the exception?

This is where I am today after a wonderfully, successful, on-paper ministry event that took place at our church this past weekend. By all accounts, it was a win. Everyone had fun, and everyone went home with enough candy to last until Valentine’s Day. And while there is some satisfaction in my spirit for a job well-done, there is also an ache that cannot be tempered by chocolate or left-over cupcakes.

There is pain inside of me that wells over into tears. They drop into my lap, because I don’t know if it was enough, this sharing of candy and cupcakes. Yes, I am certain that seeds were planted and that I’m not always given the benefit of holding fruitfulness first-hand; time will bear out the witness of this ministry event, and I am certain there is more to the story than meets the eye.

But in this moment, I feel the heaviness of the greater good and of wanting to do more for Jesus. I want to love more and extend the reach of eternity to the hearts of the people I meet. No more games; no more fluff; no more pretending it’s all enough. My all will never be enough if it stops short of realizing that people are not the means to an end but, rather, that they are the end. People are the final product and sum total of God’s creative genius, and he never intended for them to miss out on his eternity.

Today, I pray that God will awaken all of us from our spiritual slumber, burn his message of redemption into our awareness, and enflame our spirits for the greater, most excellent work of kingdom building. It begins and ends with people. They are his agenda for us.

Look around you, friends. Who’s near? Who’s close? Who’s waiting for the reach of grace? Reach forward, reach further, reach always in the mighty name and love of Jesus Christ. It’s the best you can do. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

the man I’m voting for . . .

If they could be like him, then I’d be feeling better about casting my vote in a couple of weeks. If President Obama and Governor Romney would spend a day with him, they would learn a lot about life, about truth, and about how to walk humbly through this world with their God. If they knew him—really took the time to stop, look, and listen to this man—then they would better understand the human condition.

They would know that governing the United States is a privilege, not a right. They would understand that no one person deserves to hold so much power.

They would humbly and gently make their declarations, realizing that no one person has all the answers.

They would find their knees every day, knowing their limitations and reaching out in prayer to the One and Only God whose boundaries are limitless.

They wouldn’t be afraid to touch the unlovely. Instead they would reach their arms into the mangled mess called humanity to offer hope, to extend courage, to present faith, and to bestow love.

They would worry less about their clothing and, instead, relinquish their threads to the naked, the exposed, and to those who cry out for the covering of mercy.

They would stop taking our money and, instead, buy us dinner on occasion.

They would value life instead of taking it. They would give up their own lives so that the one entombed in the womb might have the chance to live and breathe and make his/her own pilgrimage of grace.

They would stop lying and start confessing, knowing that what has been done in the dark has not been done in secret.

They would stop patting themselves on the back. Instead, they would lend their backs to the broken road and carry the bricks and mortar of restoration.

They would easily forgive, because they have been forgiven much.

They would speak less and listen more.

They would laugh more and smirk less.

They would sit on the porch swing instead of sitting at fundraisers.

They would create make-believe stories with good endings instead of creating real stories with bad endings.

They would ask deeper questions and be content to live with some mystery.

They would make each day count, each encounter significant, instead of planning for the next four years.

They wouldn’t hide behind the Oval Office. They would run to the front lines to protect my freedom.

They would give, give, and then give some more, because they would realize that all they’ve ever had was never really theirs to begin with.

They would work late, play less, pray more, and God-bless.

Yes, if they could be like him, then I would feel better about casting my vote in a couple of weeks. If his name were on the ballot, then I would feel safe and secure when pulling the lever. Instead, I feel sad, disabled, and removed from the process. I’m no longer confident that my voice will be heard and that my vote will be tabulated. The corrosive nature of what we’ve become . . . what we’ve allowed, saddens my spirit and has me longing for a season from my yesterdays.

A time when the greatest fears I held were based on the imaginary, mysterious creatures lurking underneath my bed. A time when the greatest peace I felt was when my daddy came through the door, checked under the bed, and prayed my fears away.

No, I don’t suppose Mitt and Barack will ever have an occasion to spend some time with my dad, but if they could, I have no doubt they’d walk away from that encounter wanting to be more like him. I know I do.

Chuck Killian for President! Now there’s a man deserving of my vote. Somehow, just thinking about him today brings peace to my soul.

I love you, Daddy, and for the record, I’ll take a ride on the porch swing with you any day over a state dinner at the White House. You’re the real deal. I trust your heart, and no matter the results of the upcoming election, I will always feel safe with you in my life.

the woman I no longer need to be . . .

Siix years ago in my dreaming, I didn’t plan on my current reality. The life I’m living today wasn’t the life I was dreaming about in my yesterday. Six years ago . . .

  • I had just written my first book / Bible study about the prophet Nehemiah and was sure it would be an instant best-seller (it’s currently collecting dust on a shelf alongside two other unpublished works);
  • I was knee-deep into Beth Moore Bible studies, both as learner and facilitator;
  • I was enjoying the idea of free time, “me time” (child #4 had entered the world of Kindergarten);
  • I began a speaking ministry beyond the boundaries of my local church;
  • I was strong (physically, mentally, and spiritually);
  • I was deeply and “holy” motivated for the future.

Six years later, here I am . . . less of all of these.

  • Less writing;
  • Less Bible studying, both as learner and facilitator;
  • Less free time, “me time”;
  • Less speaking;
  • Less strong;
  • Less motivated.

And mostly, I’m undisturbed by the transformation of my dreaming. Why? Because I no longer need to be the woman I once dreamed about being. Instead, I’m making peace with the woman I am . . . right now, today, no strings attached to an agenda that stretches me beyond reasonable, God-ordained limits. No lofty expectations that push me much further ahead than these next twenty-four hours.

Six years ago, maybe even six months ago, I was caught up in an uncontrollable current of need—needing to matter; needing to be needed. Today, it seems as if I need my “need” to a lesser degree. I just want to live in and with the truth that all I have ever needed is the “all” that I currently hold in my heart.

Today (not six years ago), I’m living my dream in proportion to my need, and it is enough. At forty-six years old, my need is being tempered by truth, and the truth is: less is more in the economy of God. Less is freedom. Less is faith.

Oh for the wisdom and strength of God to finally be able to release the need that cripples us and keeps us from knowing peace . . . from living free!

Are you there, friend? Are you caught up in a long-standing dream that makes less sense to you today than it did six years ago? Are you fighting the current of your need—needing to matter, needing to be needed? How long have you walked around and within the parameters of your plans, refusing to consider God’s plan for your right now? Has tomorrow’s focus become too broad, too cumbersome, and too consuming so as to overshadow today’s sunshine? What dreams are preventing you from fully and completely living the life in front of you?

Are you willing to let go of what’s in your hands in order to take hold of what’s in God’s?

I’ve spent a lot of years holding on to dreams that have yet to breathe, a lot of time striving to be more—to be that woman who lands a spot on the stage, in the magazines, in the headlines, on the best-sellers’ list. She seems just out of reach for me . . . that woman. Accordingly, I’ve made a decision. I no longer need to be her. Today, I’m letting her go. Today, instead, I’m opening up my hands to the Father and allowing him to fill them with the glorious witness of this moment . . . a moment of less that feels a great deal like more.

Go live your life, friends. Right now. Don’t waste another minute. I’m not asking you to throw away your dreams; I’m simply challenging you to live the dream that is currently on deck. It’s called today, and it won’t last forever. Let it be enough, and let the truth of who you are be enough.

You are God’s. Be at peace.

when seasons change. . .

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” –Eccl. 3:1

The changing seasons. A new one is arriving to replace the old.

Fall has always been my preference. Color. Coolness. Breezes and releases. The heat of summer is being swept away by the wind, and I am ready for flannel and jackets. I’m ready for the cover-up of fall. Time to wrap up, go in, let go, and go deeper with Jesus. Time to hide-away with him and to unwrap the treasures of this seasonal shift. Yes, an autumnal embrace is a good fit with my heart. It refreshes my soul.

What about you? What season cradles your steps? What season is currently challenging your heart? Fall? Winter? Spring? Summer?

A few thoughts from Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit:

“I don’t know what season you’re walking through, but I do know that each one bares a worthiness all its own. As you trace the heart of King Solomon, I imagine that you, along with me, are able to find the lines of your story tangled up with each line of his. There’s hope to be found there, to our realizing that we live a seasonal faith and that, with that living, comes a time for every thing—every joy, pain, frustration, surrender, sorrow, and celebration. Nothing in our lives is exempt from the cyclical process of our winter, spring, summer, and fall. We can choose to walk through them with little or no effect to our hearts, but we cannot deny the possibility of growth extended to us because of them. Each season of our lives is rife with eternal possibilities. The soul shift happens when we bow low and lean into those possibilities.” –F. Elaine Olsen, Beyond Cancer’s Scars, pg. 137.

Maybe today, maybe sometime this weekend, you might take a look at King Solomon’s heart via his pen, found in Ecclesiastes 3? Maybe, like me, you’ll be able to pinpoint your current season to one of Solomon’s. In doing so, I pray your heart refreshed, encouraged, lifted up, and strengthened by the truth that (regardless of whatever season you’re walking through) you’re not walking it in isolation from the Almighty. God is hunkered down with you in the midst of your steps, and he sees clearly the marked path in front of you.

Trust in that abiding, friends, and stick close to the Father.

Wrap up; go in; let go; go deeper.

God has something more for you than currently meets the eye. Most certainly, that something will stretch your faith and shape your soul. Keep to it. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

To learn more about you might receive the witness of Beyond Cancer’s Scars: Laying Claim to a Stronger Spirit, click here.  Also, for those of you who live in the Goldsboro, NC, area, Pine Forest UMC is hosting a book signing Saturday morning, October 13th, from 10:00 AM until. Feel free to contact me for additional details.

authenticity . . .

Authenticity. Being authentic. Not fake. Genuine. Real. Threadbare and exposed.

Are you authentic? If you answered “yes” then allow me a further probe. Who decides what’s authentic? How do you determine the boundaries for the definition, or does the definition (in and of itself) require that no boundaries be put around it? Does being authentic mean you just throw your “all” out there and hope for the best—take me or leave me, this is who I am?

It’s getting a lot of buzz these days . . . authenticity, especially in our “Christianese”—the vernacular of us religious folk. There’s something to be said for our exposure before one another; truth-telling can be a crucible for holiness. We can’t move forward in our faith by faking it. But I’m wondering, if, perhaps, our version of authenticity stops short of being a productive, spiritual discipline.

What’s the point of keeping it real, if keeping it real becomes an end in itself rather than a means to achieving an end—holiness?

Case in point. I’m about to expose myself. Hold on. You might not be ready for this one.

Yesterday, I canceled my appointment with my general practioner . . . for the 2nd time. It was scheduled for 3:45 PM. I called (actually I had my husband call) and cancel around 2:00 PM. Why?

  • I didn’t want to weigh in.
  • I didn’t want a repeat lecture about my cholesterol being too high.
  • I didn’t want to weigh in.

My decision was based on an earlier encounter with the bathroom scale—my husband and my twenty-three-year-old son’s throw-down, weigh in. They bantered back and forth about who weighed less, who ate more, and who would be thinner the next time around. When I heard their numbers, I was crushed and loudly pronounced my angst.

“I’m the heaviest person in this family. I weigh more than the rest of you. Call the doctor, Billy, and reschedule. I’m not going in today.”

He complied; I cried and continued to wrap myself up in the enemy’s shame regarding my appearance. Nothing’s fit right since cancer. Nothing looks right, either. It all feels wrong on me.

There, that wasn’t so hard. There’s some real and authentic truth for you. I’m not proud of it; I should have put “my big girl panties on a dealt with it.” Problem is, the big girl panties are too big, and I’m not keen on exposing them to others. Just keeping it real, friends. But here’s the problem: it’s not enough to tell you about it, throw it all out in front of the world while shouting, “Take me or leave me, this is who I am.”

This isn’t authenticity, not according to God; this isn’t transformation. This is defeat; this is refusing to do the hard work that follows personal disclosure. That hard work for me?

Well, it’s not just about my moving more and eating less. Greater still, it’s about exposing my pain before Jesus, about moving more into his Word, and about eating less of the enemy’s assessment regarding my body.

This is authenticity . . . not being afraid to fully disclose the pain and truth before the mirror of God’s Word and before God’s heart, knowing that with reflection will come greater understanding, greater strength, and greater exposure to the only truth that has the power to transform me rather than to judge me. If I’m willing to do this—to go all in with Jesus and with his assessment regarding my appearance—then I can boast about personal authenticity. Otherwise, I’m just living a lie, kidding myself and trying to kid the world into believing that my big girl panties and me are here to stay; take us or leave us, this is who we are.

Authenticity. It only comes to us as we are willing to come to the cross and expose our nakedness, our wounds, and our truth to the nakedness, wounds, and truth of Jesus Christ. He is the standard-bearer for authenticity; he defines it, refines it, and mines for it in each one of us. He is the means to our holiness. He is the end of it as well. When we go to him and pour out our reflection before him, he begins to pour out his reflection into us.

This is how we can make peace with our flesh and live in peace with God’s people. His truth over-powering and replacing the enemy’s lies. His estimation overtaking the mirror’s assessment and bringing forth new life from woundedness. More of Jesus reflecting authentically through less of us. Accordingly,

Take us, don’t leave us, Jesus, this is who we are, and this is why we so desperately need your hand of grace in our lives. Amen.

Sassy Granny has also written a post about authenticity. You can find it here.

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