Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chaotically clean

Today I cleaned my room... my already clean room. My room that, besides a load of laundry that needed to be hung, was already clean. Why would I spend just shy of 8 hours cleaning an already clean room you ask? Who knows. Maybe the Lord knew that I would blog about cleaning my room before I knew I was going to clean my already clean room. I lay here in bed processing what I did today and I laugh at myself. I should have taken pictures. My room went from clean and mostly organized to a hard hat zone in which the floor and the bed could not be seen. I was falling over piles and piles of things (I didn't even know that I could fit so much chaos so neatly away!!) My little puppy, Stella, was having the time of her life climbing mountains of clothes, blankets, boxes, and more. And I got intensely overwhelmed somewhere in the middle. I looked around at all the chaos that once was so neatly organized and out of sight and panicked! I had no idea where to begin in the disaster zone I had created. I had no clue how I would get everything put back neatly. (Kinda like when you are trying to pack to return home after vacation and you aren't sure how everything fit in the first time...)

I sat down on the floor somewhere in the middle of all the chaos being brought back peacefully together and looked around and laughed. "Lord, what are you saying in this?"

My life was neat and clean. Everything was in place. I was the perfect christian. I led Bible studies. I mentored youth. I was at church every time the doors were opened. I didn't drink, cuss, smoke, or sleep around. Everything in my life made sense. Everything looked really, really nice. My room was clean.

Then I moved to the woods. Then I moved to Kansas City. Then I cleaned my room.

Here I am, surrounded by chaos. My life doesn't make sense. There is wreckage everywhere. Broken pieces, mud, dirt, chaos. I don't even know where most of it is coming from- my life was so clean before. I am overwhelmed at the chaos and wish I hadn't even started cleaning, reorganizing, rearranging. I don't know what to do about all the chaos that has exploded everywhere. I cry on a daily basis. Not just a couple tears, but a sobbing on the floor, freak my roommate out and make my puppy fear the worst, cry. Today, my roommate stopped what she was doing and brought her sobbing, snotting, heap on the hardwood floor housemate tissues and English tea. (Hot tea makes everything better.) I am a wreck. I had no idea all this chaos was inside, it was so neatly stacked away. Now it is every where. Being pushed around and tripped over. I've exploded.

But here I lay, almost exactly 12 hours after it all began, and my room is back in order. Did I get rid of anything? A walmart bag full of paper trash (including all the tissues I went through during my breakdown tonight). I didn't throw out old clothes. I didn't discard bad things. Everything that I have is good. I don't have junk in my heart to get rid of. I just rearranged everything. I have more space than I did before. My room makes more sense than it did. Yeah, I'll have to remember that my underwear are in the cabinet on the other side of the room, but it makes more sense. I even hung up some more pictures on my walls.

The Father has me in this season. It hurts like hell at times. Other times I have never had more fun in my life. I am making friends that I actually have fun with. I laughed through coffee with a friend this morning. Did we go deep and talk about real stuff? Oh yes. Wowzers yes. But we laughed the entire time. We had fun. Yes, I cry daily. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. The Lord is unraveling me. That's hard. But I have never felt more safe, loved, and beautiful. I am in good hands with Him.

You see, before I wasn't filthy. Jesus took care of that on the cross and I look like Him. But there were some things that were/are just in the wrong place. Right now, it feels like the chaos and unraveling will never end, but I know who is doing the work. I can rest secure in His loving, gentle hands. He knows what He is doing.

One last side note: I found a ring that I have been missing since September. The nail ring was lost, now it is found! Praise Him!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Wet kisses

I have many favorite bible passages, but my favorite parable in the entire New Testament is one that we are all familiar with. Pretty much anyone who has spent any time around Christians or the church has at least heard this one twice. It's that familiar. I'm going paraphrase it, I'm sure you will know the one I'm talking about within the first sentence. 
(If not, check out Luke 15) 

There was this really rich guy who had two sons. His younger son approached him one day and said, "Pops, I know you aren't dead yet, but let's pretend you are dead to me and go ahead and give me all my inheritance. I want all my half of what you got." The father, being a good father, obliged and let the teenager have his inheritance early to do with it as he pleased. The boy ran off and spent all the money on alcohol, drugs, sex, and the like. Basically he spent the money on filthy things that his dad probably would never have approved of. Finally, the boy found himself working for another man, doing the nasty work- feeding the pigs and cleaning up after them. He had spent all his money and had no food. He was so hungry that even the slop he fed the pigs looked delicious. The boy finally wises up and realizes that even his dad's hired slaves have it better than he does now. He decides to return home and beg his dad to take him in as a slave. 
The father sees the boy from way down the road, the bible says a long way off, and the father begins to run towards his son. He is sprinting, whooping and hollering from deep wells of joy and pleasure- His son has come home! 

Before the boy can even get a word out of his mouth, the father plants a big, sloppy kiss on his filthy, pig-crap covered cheek, throws a robe and ring (of authority) on him and hollers for someone to kill the prized calf for the biggest block celebration party in history. 
The boy's older brother got pretty ticked off at the father because he was faithful and loyal and did everything right but never got this kind of celebration before. The father reaffirms his love for him and tells him that he's great and has access to all his brother is getting and more simply because he's a son. 
And the party goes on. 

This story is referenced in nearly every altar call in the church. Everyone has been one of the brothers, well, really both of them, at one point or another in their life. It's a sweet story where the boy is forgiven, but I think we sometimes miss the big picture. 

The parable is known as the prodigal son. If you ask someone about it, they will tell you "oh, it's about this kid who wasted everything and then got back on track and his dad threw a party". 
But if I can change the title of this parable, if I can help you see that this parable isn't at all what we have come to accept it to be, please give me that honor. 

This story isn't about the son. 

It's not about the filthy son.
 It's not about the faithful son. 
It's not about throwing really rad parties. 

This story is about the Father. He is the point if the story. 

The story is about the Father's goodness, not about the sons' filth or faithfulness. 

Thank God! Thank God that our Father in heaven is that good Father! Thank God that when we were filthy in sin he ran down the road to plant a big, wet redeeming kiss on our cheek. Thank God that when we pout and complain that it's not fair that we have been so good while others have been so bad he lifts up our chin, and sings songs of delight and extravagant love over us and speaks to our identity as sons and daughters. 

Thank God that he is good-er than we ever imagined!!! 

The son thought he would beg to be a slave, but the Father surprised him big. The Father gave him the authority of his name. The son didn't have to earn the Father's trust back. He didn't have to prove himself. He didn't have to beg and plead. The Father was watching and waiting for the day that the son would carry his name, his identity, and walk in the authority that is his, simply because he is a son. 

So today, where ever we are, whoever we feel we identify most with, forget it. Forget who you feel most like.

Quiet your heart and mind. 


Hear that? 

That sound is the pounding of the Father's feet coming down the dirt road to plant a big kiss on your cheek. 
That's the rhythm of Him singing his pleasure over you. 
He is more good than you ever wished you could imagine. 

Step into your identity as a beloved son or daughter of a really, really, good, glad, kind, loving, dad. You dad is in a really good mood. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Real Gospel

I have been thinking the past few days about my life and the message of the cross in my life. I grew up knowing that Jesus loved me and died for my sin so that I could go to heaven. I was taught that day in and day out throughout my childhood.  I know that's true. Even if you don't believe it because the Bible says so, you can look through history and you can see that it is factual. A man named Jesus was crucified as "The King of the Jews". History meets Bible story.
But I think that somewhere the Church has gotten this Bible story wrong. I think they have missed the point. In my experience, the missing of the point created the opposite of what they were striving to do. I'll explain what I mean.

What is the typical Sunday morning gospel or cross message?
1. God is perfect.
2. You are a sinner.
3. God hates your sin and can't be around you because you are filthy.
4. You deserve to go to hell.
5. Jesus died on the cross so that you don't have to go to hell (a frustrated effort to fix your sin problem).
6. Now you can be forgiven and go to heaven because Jesus rose again.

It's been my experience that the Gospel presentation has emphasized my depravity and sin more than God's love.
What this has done is created a sin-consciousness in the lives of Christians.
Christians are all too aware of sin in the lives of other Christians, non-believers, and themselves. This creates really ugly condemnation and judgement. Both are the opposite of what God wants for humanity.
Romans 8 says there is no condemnation
John 3 says God didn't send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save the world because of His great love.
Sidenote: The law condemns (Romans 7), Jesus redeems.
 Romans 7:4 says we have died to the law 
so that we can belong to Jesus in love. 

So many well meaning believers beat themselves and others up with the law that is now powerless because of Christ's death and resurrection. Romans 6:6-11reminds us that we died with Christ- our sinful nature is no more. We are alive with Christ. Free from sin. 2 Corinthians 5:17 calls us a new creation.

Paul shared a really beautiful, truth in Romans- to sum it up, basically it's we do what we don't want to do when we focus on what we don't want to do. 

When I was younger 10-12ish, I hated saying the number "six" because I was always afraid that I would accidentally say the word "sex" (and that was a super dirty word! :-p ) It never failed though, every time I tried to not say "sex" and make sure I said "six" it always ended up sounding more like "sex" than "six". I did what I did not want to do because I was focusing on not doing rather than doing. 

Another example:
When people are studying to learn how to identify counterfeit money, they study the real thing. They do not study the counterfeit or what to look for in a counterfeit bill. They gaze upon the real thing. The learn the real bill. 

So many believers have gotten so focused on identifying lies they have forgotten to study the truth. 

Yes, Jesus died for my sin. 
But the reason He died was for love. The cross wasn't a frustrated attempt to fix mankind. It was the goal all along. Jesus was crucified before the foundations of the earth. It was His joy to die for us because He loves us so deeply! 

I haven't heard a sin focused gospel message in a good 4 to 5 months. I am not struggling with wanting to sin either. I don't desire sin because I have locked eyes with Love. I'm not saying I am perfect. Somedays, I really struggle with selfishness, which is sin. But I don't desire sin on a regular basis. I can't remember the last time that I had to make myself not sin and force myself to avoid temptation. I don't want the lesser loves when I know Love. 

Friends, don't focus on not doing, not sinning. Focus on the Man Jesus who loves you. Don't focus on the sin He died for. Focus on the look of love in His eyes. 
Behold the man name Love. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Values: Kingdom Family

I grew up with the knowledge the the church/Christians were brothers and sisters- that we were some sort of family because God was our Father in heaven, but I didn't really understand the fullness of that. I didn't understand what it really meant to be in a family and have God as Father. I still don't know if I fully understand it. But this one thing I am sure of- I will pursue the fullness of life found in Kingdom Family for as long as I live. I want to be known as one who lived and died for Kingdom Family. I want to be remembered as one who loved and was loved because of my understanding of what family is.

I am on a journey to Kingdom Family.

The first key to living in Kingdom Family is understanding who the Father is and what his plan for family is.
I'm sitting here processing through some things thoughts I have on the Father and His family and the first thing that comes to mind is this- If God wanted to call the Church something other than a family he would have called Himself something other than a Father. Every single one of us have a little child inside of us that is crying out, "I just want someone to see me and love me!" This cry is what sends us looking for lesser loves if we don't comprehend the love of Father.
When we know who He is and what He says about us we can confidently find our place in the Family.
The reason that Jesus died on the cross was to make a way for all of mankind to have a place in the family. It pleased the Family of God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- for Jesus to die on the cross so that I could be adopted into the Family. The cross wasn't a frustrated reaction to the state of mankind, it was the dream of the Father's heart to create family on earth.
Now that I am in the family, what does that look like? What does it mean for me personally to value Kingdom Family?

It is my desire to see the reality of the love that the Father has for the Son and the Son has for the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit for the Father spill over into my life daily in the way that I interact and love others.

Family loves deep.
It reads like romance but lives like sacrifice.
Family celebrates each other.
Family serves each other.
Family honors.
Family forgives.
Family shows grace.
Family welcomes others in.
Family is contagious.

I value family. 


The last week and a half or so have been unique. Last week there was a team from Houston here doing ministry on UMKC's campus. It was absolutely wonderful having them here. Sunday through Thursday nights we had worship nights at the Boiler Room which were nothing short of miraculous.
The Father is doing a lot in my heart the past week. I know that I haven't blogged daily, like was my intention, but I am still processing through things daily with the Holy Spirit, which was the point of all this anyway. Some of what the Father has been taking me through has be intensely personal, and not something that I want to post online. However, I can and will share some of what I have been thinking about a lot. I also will get back to the values that I mentioned before. To do all of this will likely require more than one post which I may post all in one day (today) or possibly save them as a draft and post them over the next couple days. (Or who knows.... I might back date them all!) The amount I write today will also depend on the battery of my laptop. I am sitting sipping delicious coffee in a coffee shop in Westport and left my charger in my car, which is parked down the road. Hang with me, I will fulfill my promises!

The Beauty of the Man

Jesus. Christ. Emmanuel. Son of God. Lily of the Valley. Savior. Redeemer. The Risen One. Bright and Morning Son. Advocate. Cornerstone. Great High Priest. Mediator. Rose of Sharon. Shiloh. Jesus.

The Man. Fully man, and fully God. Holy. Pure. Just. Righteous. 
He healed the sick, raised the dead. Stunned the religious while satisfying the sinner. 
His goal was dying on the cross. His desire was to receive the punishment of all of mankind. His joy was me. I am the joy that was set before him. He boldly and unashamedly declared that I am worth it. I am the joy that was set before Him. I am the desire of His heart. 

It was me. 
(okay, it was you too...)
He took my punishment. He took it all.
For me to believe that I deserve punishment or that I am not good enough is to say that I want to pay for something that has already been paid for. 

My parents bought me a car several years ago. They gifted it to me. It's my car. Paid for. It's mine. What if I decided that the price my parents paid for it didn't work, or wasn't enough, or that since it's my car, I should be the one to pay for it... so I paid for it all over again, or refused to drive it until I had paid the car dealership the total price of the car again? That would be absolutely silly. And it would break my parents' hearts that I paid the price of the car that they already paid for. 
(It would make the seller pretty jubilant though)

That's what we do when we wallow in guilt and try to punish ourselves... or worse, don't receive the forgiveness that is rightfully ours. 

It makes the enemy ecstatic when we let him punish us or punish ourselves. 

I don't know about you, but I don't want to make the devil happy. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Super short Lent post

Again, I'm super tired and just drained through and through.

In the next few days, I am going to begin to process through some values that I have in my life. The first one that I will discuss is Kingdom family. Hopefully, tomorrow I will have more emotional energy to process through it. I am headed to bed for the night. Praying for sweet dreams and restful sleep. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent post-y

This will be a shorter post than the past ones have been. Super tired.
Yesterday I took a sabbath from posting. Sunday was wonderful. All day long I had the song "What if His People Pray" by Casting Crowns stuck in my heart all day. I thought about the lyrics and the message the song presents and was challenged greatly to really pray. The Father moves when we pray.
Today I went to UMKC with a team from Houston to do some relationship building and ministry. It was lovely. I feel like I'm on the edge of some really great breakthrough in my life. Can't wait! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

When I grow up...

She is dressed up in a pretty blue dress with lacy ruffles on her white socks. Confidently, she walks across the stage to the little microphone stand in front of the big audience. With a sweet, enthusiastic joy in her voice she announces, "When I grow up, I want to be a swimming lesson teacher!"

Of all the things I could be, I chose to announce to the world... err, the parents of the kids at my Christian school's  kindergarten... that I wanted to be a swimming lesson teacher! All my classmates said things like "doctor", "fireman", and "policeman". Smart jobs. Good, sustainable jobs. I aspired to be a mere, slutty (but tan), swimming lesson teacher. Hey, at least I was original right?

Fast forward nearly 20 years later.

I walk into the counseling room of a clinic and there sits a 15 year old girl. She is looking intently with fear filled eyes at two little pink lines on a pregnancy test. She begins to feel her world crash down around her and she begins to drown in the shock, sadness and uncertainty that awaits her in the weeks ahead. She glances up at me with eyes brimming with tears and cries, "I can't do this."

It's my first day at a new job that I have eagerly anticipated beginning. I walk in, unsure if I really have what it takes to do it. Several hours later, the house is trashed, there is blood and tears, and the fire alarm that will not cease. The police arrive, as do the fire fighters, and the ambulance takes one of our own to the hospital. The fire fighter silences the alarm and the police man begins to take statements. No arrests were made that night. No one was injured beyond recovery, physically. Time would tell what damage was done emotionally. The police man looks at me and asks, "Did they prepare you for this in school?"

Today, my reply would be a resounding "Yes!"

I am a swimming lesson teacher.
The doctors, policemen, and fire fighters are definitely necessary, and I hope my classmates followed through on their dreams and aspirations. However, my call in life is to be a swimming lesson teacher.

I have acted as the life guard on many occasions. I have dove in and rescued and resuscitated the drowning. Immediately after the life has flooded back into their eyes though, I begin to teach them to swim.

Life is hard sometimes. Wind pushes you down and the waves pull you under. Lightening strikes, thunder roars, and people get scared. They dive in to pools that are deeper than they expected and panic when they realize their feet can't touch the bottom. The ocean has a way of making people feel really small and helpless.
Life is kinda like the ocean.

It is my joy to teach others to swim through the ocean of change, depression, insecurity, and divorce. It is my joy to swim next to them as they battle waves of addiction, anger, and anxiety. When a wave pulls them under, I am exceedingly pleased to be the hand that pulls them out from under the water. I am so honored to be able to hand others the life preserver of the Gospel and show them the way to Hope.

My name is Joy, and I am a swimming lesson teacher. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Lent- Day 3- Love Is...


Almost every person in America knows the Bible's definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. It is quoted at nearly every wedding by believers and non-believers alike. In fact, Bible Gateway did a study to see what verses were searched the most in the top 10 countries and 1 Corinthians 13 was #4 in China, #2 in USA, #3 in Brazil, #5 in Bangladesh, #3 in Indonesia, #5 in Japan, and #1 in Russia (these stats here). In 2009, 1 Corinthians 13 was the most- viewed passage on (this stat here). In 2012 it was number 8 on that list (look here). By the end of the year last year, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 was number 7 on the charts worldwide. 

As believers we have a really beautiful example of love to follow. In fact, we have the Man named Love, Himself. The Man, Love, fully lived out 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. How can we follow His example? I guess we can look at the definition of love and the Man's life side by side.

Love is:
Matthew 15:32-34- Even after Jesus fed 5,000 people His disciples still didn't understand that He could do it again with 4,000 people. They were doubtful and confused. Jesus was so patient with them countless times. This is just one time of many. 

John 5:2-9 Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath who had been sick a long time and had no one to bring him to the pool of healing. He has compassion on people.

Does not envy or boast
Philippians 2:6-9 He does not consider equality with God as something to be grasped. 

Not arrogant - Humble
John 4:7- Jesus asked a samaritan woman for water- This was unheard of in that day because Jewish men did not speak to women, and especially not samaritan women. But Jesus stepped down in humility and offered this woman life abundantly. 

Not rude
Matthew 12:19-21- even when He faced the greatest abuse man has every endured, He did so with gentleness and humility.
Does not insist it's own way
Matthew 26:39,42 in the hours before His crucifixion he chose to pray this prayer: "Not my will, but your will be done, Father."

Not irritable
Matthew 20:20-28- Jesus has every right to be irritated at this request, but he chose love instead. He lovingly spoke the truth. 

Not resentful
Luke 23:34- Jesus cried out on the cross, Father forgive the ones who have crucified me, they don't know what they are doing. Beautiful Mercy, Love chose forgiveness, not resentment. 

Does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices with the truth
Matthew 18:23-34- Jesus told this parable about forgiveness and truth.
Bears all things
Matthew 16:5-12- Again, Jesus was incredibly patient with his disciples through their immaturity and unbelief. 

Believes all things
Mark 9:23 All things are possible for on who believes. Jesus was able to do crazy ridiculous miracles because He believed. We have that same ability if we believe as He did. 

Hopes all things
Matthew 26:29- Jesus took the bread and the cup for the last time with His disciples on earth. He did so while holding on to hope that He would take it once again with them in Heaven. He held on to hope that His blood was enough and grace was enough to carry them to eternity. 

Endures all things
Luke 23- Jesus endured the worst possible betrayal, abuse and death imaginable because we were the joy set before him. Because of us, He endured the cross. He is the most beautiful example of endurance. 

Jesus is the most beautiful picture of love. 1 John 3:16 says: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for our friends." Is this definition of love considered when those three little words slip off your lips and into the ear of your most recent crush? Jesus, the Man who is equal with God humbled himself and became a mere human only to die a brutal death to show us His great love.

The words that echo in my heart from the lips of Jesus- 

It. Was. Worth. It.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent- Day 2

I've always hated doing laundry. There's nothing fun about it. However, it is a necessary evil. The more I do laundry, the more that I have to do it seems. Wash the clothes, dry the clothes, fold and hang them and oh, wait! by the time I get all of the clothes hung and put away, it's time to start the cycle all over again! It's madness, I tell you!! As I sit here waiting to hear the not so pleasant buzz of the washer telling me it is time to switch the clothes over I wonder if God ever feels this way about me. By the time all my mess has been cleaned and put neatly away, another crisis occurs thus leading to more laundry.
I sometimes feel as though my life has been one big crisis. Every time I turn around there is another pile of junk that I need to sort through with the Lord. Does He get tired of sorting through it all with me?
I'm convinced that he doesn't.
Philippians 1:6 says that He began a good work in me and He is faithful to carry it out to completion
Exodus 34:6 says The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Psalm 98:3 says He has remembered His steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Romans 3:3 says what if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
I am convince that He doesn't get fed up with my drama. I am convinced that He is more than willing and ready to work through it with me. I am convinced that even in the messiest part He longs to get down in the mess with me, pick me up, clean me off and love me tenderly. I am convinced that He is faithful and good.
When I have my doubts, I am reminded of His faithful love for Israel. How many times did they wander away only to be lovingly drawn back and cleaned up by a good, gracious, and merciful God?
He is close to the brokenhearted. He binds up their wounds. He isn't afraid of the oozing, gooey, infected mess in my heart. It doesn't turn him away. He reaches in and gently cleans out the infection and brings healing and life to every broken, wounded area. How beautiful is this God?!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent- Day 1

Ash Wednesday ushers in the Lenten season. With that comes people "giving up" an assortment of things for Religious reasons in hope to make themselves a better, holier Christian. They seek to mimic Christ's 40 days in the wilderness and prepare themselves for the resurrection of Christ.

However, I'm not sure how Biblical Lent actually is. Read more here.  I am still doing research.

Despite my questions about the roots and validity of this religious practice, I found myself wondering what I was going to give up for Lent. I've never practiced this before. I have always written it off as something that only Catholics do, since that's what I was taught as a child. Many people give up, or fast; meat, media, sweets, coffee, cursing, Facebook, shopping, or even other people/relationships. They give up something that takes up time, causes them to sin, or has been placed before God in their life. My search for something to give up led me to what I feel like is a beautiful challenge from the Lord. 

Our Father challenged me to "take up" rather than "give up" for Lent. 

"What does that look like?" I asked. His reply was odd at first. He lovingly spoke that my words have power and are good. He reminded me that I am worth being heard. The words of my mouth flow from my heart and they are good. He challenged me to rather than giving up something that I do, to take up something new to do. He directed me here. 

It is my goal and commitment to join Him in "taking up" sharing my thoughts, my words, and my heart for this season. I plan to post daily a few lines from my heart. What that looks like, I don't fully know; but I pray for grace to communicate clearly with vulnerability the things that are in my heart to share. I have a good, clean, pure, happy heart that pours out good, worthy, powerful, refreshing words from a deep, fresh well that the Father has dug and I have cultivated. 

Care to join me on this adventure?