Tag: transformation (page 1 of 2)

A Selfie Gospel?

Living an authentic Christian life is just hard, isn’t it?

In a world of curated shiny “selfies” we want to be honest about our own mess and love others well in the midst of theirs. We don’t want to be the fakey judgey plastic Christians, banging others over the head with our Bibles, ignoring our own sin.

In the past few years I think there have been some brave, articulate Christians who have modeled vulnerability and authenticity well. It’s been a much-needed corrective to a Christian culture that just wants to show happy-clappy to the world and use the sword of Truth as a weapon of mass destruction.

These truth-tellers have been detailed and explicit about their mess, and God’s love, but sometimes I feel we’re in danger overcompensating – of making an idol out of authenticity and stopping short of truly grieving it as sin.

It seems like it has become more noble to talk about our sin than actually repent of it.

A pastor stands up or a writer writes “real” –  confessing motives, actions, thoughts, words – a heart that is darker than we’d guess.

We’re like, “Wow! That is so great! He is sooooo AUTHENTIC!!

We applaud their courageous honesty and breathe a sigh of relief. “Phew! I’m not the only one”, we think.

When we feel safe to show our rough edges, our failures, our missteps; we may celebrate grace. Yay! There’s NOTHING we can do to be holy, or good enough. I’m ok, you’re ok.

But have we translated Jesus’ acceptance of us right where we are, into an endorsement of whatever feels good to our culture? Has his patience in our minds morphed into tolerance of everything?

Does it mean we ignore God’s grief over our sin, or the price that He paid to rescue us, or the dreams that He has for our growth in character that is like Him?

Has “authentic” become code for celebrating sin under the guise of “Jesus is Love so it’s all good”?

Has love become all comfort and no cost?

Do we think someone loves us only if they endorse our behavior?

Here’s what I’ve been thinking… We get into trouble when we omit God from any Gospel equation.

You may say, “Well, duh!” but think about how inclined we are to do this.

Truth – Grace = Gospel – God  (pharisaical)

Grace – Truth = Gospel – God  (self-centered)

Both omit God from the equation.

 Do you take the kindness of God for granted? Do you see His patience and tolerance as signs that He is a pushover when it comes to sin? How could you not know that His kindness is guiding our hearts to turn away from distractions and habitual sin to walk a new path? Romans 2:4 The Voice

Clearly I’m not the only one thinking about this.

And…

fullsizerender-137

 

The church is where we as the broken and beloved come to receive grace and forgiveness, to place ourselves in God’s hands for His refining and redemptive work. This is not easy stuff! I’m thankful for grace AND truth… grateful that we’re on the way together.

 

What if You Don’t Like the Chapter You’re Living?

Last week I spoke to a large gathering of young moms. As I looked around the room of women seated at round tables I saw the fatigue of too little sleep, and the hopeful expressions of “please nourish me with something other than goldfish crackers”.

I know that most of them (probably with toddlers wrapped around their legs), stood in front of a mirror fretting about what to wear and how to camouflage a bulge here or there. I know I did too.

They worried about how much of their true story to reveal. They wondered if the chapter they’re living is important or impossible.

Each of us, married or single, parents or not, old or young, are living a chapter in the larger story of God.

You may not like this chapter you’re living right now. You may think it’s not important to the Storyline.

You see signs like this and you want to hurl something.

img_0666

But God’s story doesn’t depend on our setting.

How did Moses feel about his chapter in the wilderness when God was writing a chapter of character refinement?

How did John feel about his chapter exiled on Patmos when God was writing a chapter of encouragement for the future?

How did Peter feel about his chapter in jail when God was writing a story of salvation for a jailer?

How did Joseph feel when he was sold into slavery when God was writing a chapter of rescue for His people?

Or how did Elizabeth feel during the MANY chapters of her life when she was barren when God was writing a chapter of preparation.

In Exodus 3:21 God says to his people in slavery (READ: crappy chapter!):

“I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed.”

But this promise isn’t fulfilled until Exodus 12:36! That’s chapters 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 that the Israelites had to trust that God was at work writing a redemptive story even though they couldn’t see it! They had to trust that even in the midst of harsh punishment and plagues and Pharaoh’s hard heart, God was at work. And they weren’t very good at it. Like you and I are often not very good at trusting that God is working in ways we can’t see.

God repeated His promises to the Israelites in Exodus 6, “but they did not listen to Him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”

Sin is when we reject God’s script and try to write another one. We want to snatch the pen out of His hand and write ourselves out of a situation that God may be using for purposes we can’t see yet.

When we moved from Washington D.C. to Minneapolis, humanly speaking there was not enough time to sell our house in D.C. and close on one in our new state before John started work. We had two daughters under 3 years old, and I did not relish the idea of being a nomad wandering in the wilderness without a home (cue the violins). CLEARLY God needed my help with the script. I chose to snatch the pen away and try to write my own story.

And so I made an unethical choice. Before John had formally been offered the job, I whispered in the ear of a realtor friend that he could “unofficially” show our house on the DL while we were away in Minneapolis candidating.

When we arrived back in D.C. I called the realtor to ask if my plan had worked and he had a buyer. He said “Nope!”.

As soon as I hung up the phone, it rang. I picked it up and it was a different realtor who had no idea we were moving, but she had been in our house. She had a couple who had been looking for a home for a two years. She had described our house to them and they wanted to buy it sight unseen at asking price if we were willing to sell it.

And God said “HA!! I will ALWAYS be a better author than you. Trust me!”

If you’re living a chapter that seems like Egypt, seems impossible, it may be that you’re living Exodus 4-11, and like in chapter 12, a teacher recently pointed out to me that you won’t have to leave empty handed. Think about what you may be able to take with you from this chapter you’re living.

 

The T.V. Preacher and Me

Very early most mornings at Starbucks, my elderly gentleman friend Stan, walks over from his home in the neighborhood to buy his morning paper and stops by my “office” to chat. The other day he was telling me about a new t.v. preacher he had discovered who he really likes.

I asked the name of this guy and when Stan told me I gulped and bit my tongue as I continued to listen. I wanted to say “Stan! Don’t you know about this guy?! Don’t you know about what he DID back in the day?!! I would never listen to him!”

And then the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “What if you were judged by all your past sins? What if you weren’t allowed to grow and change?”

I thought, “Jesus is about forever tries and redemption and new life. Am I?”

It made me think about all the people I’ve “written off” with labels like “out-of-control”, “racist”, “addict”, “unhealthy”, “materialistic”, “victim”…

img_0602

I thought of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 and I wondered how Jesus’ grace affected her. Did she change? Did people let her become something other than the label, “adulterer”? Were they able to see the label Jesus gave her: “Beloved”?

Today there’s someone who comes to mind who I’ve given the label, “User”. I haven’t seen him for years, but today I’m praying for him and in my mind as I pray, I’m picturing that label being removed from him, and replaced by one that says “Beloved”.

Fitbit Faith

For my birthday I received the absolutely delightful gift of a Fitbit from a dear friend.

I LOVE it! John says they designed this little gadget with type A, goal-setting, competitive, rule-followers like me in mind.

This magical wristband tracks your activity, sleep, and may even make your breakfast for you (I’m still looking into that).

At least 10,000 steps a day is the target. John just shakes his head and laughs when I jump up and start walking in circles around the kitchen island after my wrist has tingled and a prompt has reminded me I have 75 more steps to go in order to make 250 for the hour. Whatever…It works for me.

img_0582

But I’ve found this little motivational marvel has some lessons for my faith as well as my physical fitness.

  • Things are not always what they seem. Facing the facts is life-giving. Before I had hard data, I assumed some activities were more beneficial than they actually are, and I discounted some that turn out to be valuable. In the realm of the spirit, Satan is the father of lies and will always be distorting, distracting, and discouraging. This is why it is so important for us to “bring every thought captive” to the Truth of God’s Word.
  • Intention is crucial. No one drifts into fitness and no one drifts into spiritual maturity. Discipline pays off. Every tiny step of obedience adds up. Evennnnnnntually it will pay off on the scale physically, but more importantly discipline pays off in spiritual transformation over time.
  • Intention CAN become legalism. I have been known to run up and down stairs at 11:30 at night just to get in my last hundred steps if it’s been a slow day. I’m such a rule-follower that I need to be careful that I’m more about the big picture than the letter of the law. When a goal, or a task (no matter how good) becomes more important than loving the person in front of me, I need a reset. I also need to be willing to LET IT GOOOOOO. God, our loving Father is all about grace, not shame.

As helpful as this might be for me, writer Chris Rogers points out that Spiritual discipline is more romance than formula.  Whatever is going to stir us to greater depths of love and devotion to Jesus is where we need to take our steps. Are you with me?!

Movies and Two Questions to Help You Live a Better Story

I, like 99% of Americans am bracing for my post-holiday diet.  This will include all the dis’s – discipline, discomfort, and disappointment that I let things get so out of hand.

I’ve been eating like a bear preparing for hibernation. But it’s not only food that’s been filling me up. With all the new holiday releases, we’ve had a bunch of titles on our “want to see” list.

We saw three movies over the past couple weeks and they filled me up in different ways.

In all three the main character faced pain, conflict, drama, and intense challenges.

I thought that all three were compelling stories well-told on the screen.

One left me sleepless – tossing and turning trying to process why I felt so sad and heavy from the watching.

The other two, although very different from each other, left me informed and inspired.  I walked away feeling stronger, more resolved to live a better story.

As we discussed the first movie around the dinner table I said I didn’t like the main character much. I didn’t like her values or her language.  Mostly I didn’t like the lack of redemption or the trajectory of her life I saw.  As I said this I probably sounded like uptight “Movie Mom” but it was honestly what I felt.

My twenty-somethings responded that this is real life.  This is the way most people live and talk.

Well, yeah, of course it is. I get that.  And I see value in authenticity and exposing ourselves to truth that may be hard to watch because life is sometimes hard to watch. We need to understand a world where not everyone grows the way we’d like them to.

But here’s the thing.  I aspire to something different than most of the “real” world.   Continue reading

One Reason You Shouldn’t Memorize Scripture

So, the other day I posted on Longings, Set-backs, and 3 Keys to Small Victories.  It was about goals and next steps and cheerleaders, but mostly it was about perseverance.

Perseverance is an ugly word in my vocabulary because it involves another “p word” I hate – patience.  Perseverance and patience are both “growing edges” in my life.  That’s the nice way of saying I stink at both, and God has His work cut out for Him.

This is where Scripture comes in. I’ve been trying to memorize a passage on patience and perseverance.

I think I’ve mentioned Scripture Typer before.  It’s a great Scripture memory app.  Lately I’ve been using it to help me memorize James 1:1-5.  Actually “lately” might be stretching it.  I’ve been working on it lately, but also for a looooong time.  Don’t mock, you mockers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 7.55.56 AM

In case you haven’t memorized this one, here it is:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Anyway, I’ve really been getting in the groove…my little fingers scurrying across the keys, typing THE WORDS, faster, faster, faster.

So today I’m blitzing along, trying to check “MEMORIZE SCRIPTURE” off my To-do list so I can get back to all the maddening REAL stuff I’m trying to persevere and power through.

Then Bam!  The Holy Spirit clonks me on the head. Continue reading

What I’m Not Reading

I’m home.  Home to my little house in my “Mayberry” neighborhood and my community filled with people who cheer and frustrate, and are broken and in the process of being put back together just like me.

IMG_2316

The past two months have been rich and stimulating and very, very full.  Full of new relationships and places and ideas, and stories and prayers and intense conversations.  It’s been wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.  And not the norm.

I love variety and travel and learning new things.  It’s a blessing.  But I need to get back to living my real life.

So…this is the pile of books I’m not reading.

photo-93

Don’t get me wrong.  They look really good and I’m excited about digging into them, but here’s where I’ve felt a pinch in the butt by the Holy Spirit.

I’m getting fat.

It’s crazy wonderful to be exposed to stimulating relationships and new information and great books, but the danger is we become obese – filled up with all of the deliciousness and getting no exercise.  Processing and applying nothing.  A holy hoarder if you will.

I think…”Oh that’s such a great IDEA!!  I should tell someone and they should DO it!”

“I will think more about _______________(insert anything I hear that I’m convicted or excited about) and how real that can be real in my life…someday.”

“I’m gonna Tweet that quote!”

We consume more, tweet more, Instagram more than we live into.

These days I need to do more living into.

I have a friend who used to say, “Start reading Jesus’ words in the New Testament and when you get to a command, stop, and don’t read further until you do it.”

And then there’s Jen Hatmaker who writes, “At some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided just to study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts.  We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the costly discipleship required after consuming.”

I’ll get around to reading these books and be glad I did, but not today.

Today I need to write a note of encouragement, take a walk and pray present, do laundry, and forgive that person who dinged me.  I need to create stuff and breathe deep and serve others in my real-life community.

photo-97

For you the challenge may be the opposite.  Maybe you need to stop doing and be still.  Or maybe you’re starving for more sustenance and need to fill up with inspiration from God’s Word and information about the needs in His world.

What are you living into today?

Jesus Stalker?

Bob Goff is one of my favorite guys.  He inspires, encourages, challenges, and cheerleads for Jesus. He reminds me of Peter Pan – a perpetual kid on a kingdom adventure filled with hope and joy.  He throws candy down to kayakers from a cliff above them. He helps orphans in Uganda.  I want to be his friend.

If you haven’t read Love Does, DO! (Check back in on Wednesday for an opportunity to win a free copy!)

Unknown-2

Bob spoke at the Leadership Summit a couple of weeks ago and asked, “Are we just stalking Jesus?  Have we just been learning more and more stuff about Him?”

I picture a psycho with a creepy room with a stash of Jesus pictures, and Bible verses with strings to cards with the Greek translations, and maps with arrows.  But then…maybe he’s talking about people like me who love to learn and can get stuck there.

Continue reading

A Salvage Mission

I love, love, love Christmas cards with the beautiful scenes of pristine snow and a lovely stable and winsome sheep.  I love to imagine the cleaned up version of Christmas.  Like I prefer the cleaned up version of me.

photo-3

I’d prefer not to face the reality of Christmas that involved manure and labor pains, sweat and body odor and afterbirth.  Jesus didn’t come into a Christmas card, but into a sin-filled dump.

We are fragile and broken and God comes into the junkyard of our lives not with a bulldozer, but with loving hands that sift through our shattered pieces and gently put us back together, better than new.

Recently I read this quote from The Drama of Scripture by Bartholomew and Goheen:

When his good creation was fouled by human rebellion, God immediately set out on a salvage mission.

He had created it, and it thus belonged to him by right. Now he would redeem it, buy it back for himself, so that it might be restored to what he had always intended it to be.”

I love the image of God’s “salvage mission”.

And then I saw this Youtube video that seemed to be a beautiful picture of people literally living out that phrase.

Continue reading

Books and a Give Away Because it’s Friday (fake title)

It’s Friday, and you’ve made it through another week.

Some of you have made it through “somehow”, hanging on by your toes, holding back tears, and wanting to hide in a hole.  It’s gonna be ok.  Be gentle with yourself.

For some of you it’s Friday and your stomach is in knots or in butterflies or in whatevers and you’re nervous or fearful because even though it’s Friday you still feel like Rocky going into the ring.  The hard conversations, or pressure to produce, or scary diagnosis doesn’t disappear for the weekend.  It’s gonna be ok. Be gentle with yourself.

And others have come to this Friday “triumphantly”, feeling like you want to high five the checkout girl and the barista and maybe even give a thumbs up to the person who cuts you off in traffic.  We’ll try to be happy for you. :).  Celebrate!

At the end of the week, what do you do to care for yourself?  What is most nourishing to your soul?

For me it’s getting outside biking, walking, playing – soaking up the beauty of the world, and relationships where there’s meaningful conversation and lots of laughter and hugs.

Reading is replenishing too, but lately I have felt a check in my spirit.  A caution that I need to live more than I read.  

I fear we (I!) get sucked into collecting sound bites, hoarding information, sharing pithy tweets, taking lots of notes and not allow any of it to seep into our souls and change us into people who look more like Jesus.

We read more than we live.

We quote more than we do.

We know more about praying than we pray, know more about serving than we serve.

I need to live what I know.

If I fasted from reading for a time, would my hands and feet and heart ever catch up with my head?

Note the title of this post.  I just added the parenthesis.  I sat down today, fully intending to share a couple book reviews and do a give-away, but I prayed and…well, this is what came instead.  Thoughts?

Older posts

© 2017 Laura Crosby

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑