Friday, August 31, 2012

12 Years

An interesting thing is happening to me these days.  I have my little brides and grooms ask me often how many years I've been married.  And when I say 12 years, their faces light up.

I think somehow my little marriage has become a thing of hope.  It's so easy not to make it past year 1.  Or 2.  Or 5.  We treat each other as disposable commodities now.  If we don't fill each other up we move on.  It's a little scary to be young and say forever to someone else.

I was taking some engagement pictures over the weekend in NY and the bride to be asked me if I have any advice.  I dodged the question in the moment, but I have been thinking about it.  If I was to dare to give anyone marital advice it would be this:

Cherish your love.
Commit to commitment.
Play with each other and have fun.

So there you have it, Jeffrey. :)

I by no means have a handle on how to be in a great relationship.  But I'm happy to be celebrating 12 years of marriage tomorrow to my Ryan.  We have made a lot of mistakes.  We have hurt each other a lot.  But we still love each other 12 years later.  And I'm excited to go spend a whole day with my man.

That's a thing of hope for me. :)

The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Isn't that a catchy title? ;) 

It hit me the other day that I have no instructions anywhere concerning my funeral.  Now understand that I have no immediate plans to be needing a funeral, but I wrote out my heart's desires on a post it note just in case. :D

Leading a large group of women is kind of rough sometimes.  I may or may not want to put them all in time out on occasion.

My friend and I are playing matchmaker.  Mwwuuahahahahaha. 

This morning I sat in the car for an extra 5 minutes to finish the song I was listening to. 

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil are comin' at me.  Good thing I have a superhero on my side.  I'm just gonna sit back and be the damsel in distress and let Jesus kick ass. 

Oh. Snap. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Offensive Grace

Grace is a great churchy word.  Almost all churches that claim Jesus in some form talk about it-- a lot.  It feels really good to talk about it.  Grace that covers all our sins.  Grace that saves us.  Grace, grace, God's's even a hymn.

Which is why it's kind of surprising how terrified we are of truly living in it.

Living in, and accepting the radical grace of God means that we have to accept some truths about ourselves.  Who we are and what we can do.  You ready?  This is a terrifying list.

Doing good doesn't make us good.
A conservative is not better than a liberal in the eyes of God.
We can't save ourselves.
Giving to charities won't give you spiritual life.
Achieving great things doesn't impress God.
Humanitarian and social causes can't cleanse our souls.
Power, money & beauty only last for a lifetime.  80ish years. 

The Scripture says it this way, why would you want to gain the whole world, and still lose your soul?

Which brings us to this uncomfortable point.  It is possible, even probable, that if you gain the whole world,  you will lose your soul.  

The lie that we can be enough for ourselves started at the very beginning of our existence. When we began to desire to be our own fulfillment:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  ~Gen 3: 6.  

John puts it this way:  

For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. I John 2:16

Here's a dirty little secret about the church.  All of that stuff...the cravings, the lust of the eyes and the's all up in the people that claim Jesus.  It's especially in the places and the people that deny that they suffer from this affliction of pride.  How many times have we heard boasting in the church?  About what Bible we read, about what clothes we wear?  About the worship?  About the amount of people attending?  About the amount of good we do?  It's easy and natural to us as humans to take pleasure in our righteousness.  To talk about it.  To look down on those who don't quite measure up to our levels.  To crave admiration and approval.  To hide our lust and sin. 

God doesn't really like righteous people.  Jesus told this story:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

At the end of the day, the most righteous one of us is the one who tells the truth about the state of our souls.  We need grace.  The best of our best is filthy and disgusting before the holiness of God.  We need grace.  We are self deceived by our goodness.  We need grace. 

But, I've had people say to me. that's just tolerance.  You're just leaving the door wide open to sin and get away with no consequences when you talk about grace.  Not at all.  Sin gives birth to death.  If you sin you will at the end of the day die.  Whether that's spiritual, emotional or physical death, it's still gonna happen.  That's a law of action and reaction.  The consequences of sin will happen whether we preach grace or not.  Grace in fact is the antidote to the law of sin and death.  Jesus is the Light of the World, and we as his Body, his Church are supposed to be that Light in the present.  Here's what Jesus said about who He is and what His purpose is:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
So where does that leave us then?  If we are not the judge and jury of the world.  Not the righteous ones. If we are just one of the many with issues, what do we have left?  Grace that saves us.  Grace that covers all our sins.

A purpose.  To stand in grace.  To live in it.  To be merciful as our Father is merciful.  To tell the truth about who we are and who God is.

A purpose for me.  I acknowledge that I am nothing good and do nothing good outside of the Spirit working in me.  I cannot save myself.  I am full of cravings and desires that do not fill my heart.  I am proud of my small achievements often and to the detriment of my relationship with God.  My patient, loving God who calls me back to him with kindness.  Who lavishes his grace on me.

I cannot live without it.  This offensive grace.  This saving grace.

God.  Have mercy on me.  A sinner.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Since It's Monday

And I was perusing some unfortunate ads at breakfast, I think I'll share a little to brighten your day.   Take for example this ad targeting women:

Notice with me a couple of important things here:

* This is one hard working piece of gum! 
*  PMS is on there twice, so if you hadn't already figured it out, men clearly created this product.
* World Peace isn't listed, which is surprising because I feel like their target market would be into that as a side effect.
*  Increased Vaginal Secretion?  EWWW!  Who wants that?  Who? 
*  I would like to say that this is what's wrong with America, but it's a Japanese ad.  Haha.  Good luck my Japanese friends! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Power of the Positive

Today I received a text from a friend of mine.  Her lil daughter is working on becoming a photographer and she's about 17, I think.  Anyway, I liked one of her pictures on facebook and her mom texted me saying that she was so super excited because I'm her favorite photographer and thanked me for paying attention.

Now friends.  This was a half a second decision on facebook this morning.  And it impacted my young friend.  A lot, apparently.

One of the messages in Nica was about the power of words.  Of how they hold life and death in them for the people around us.  I know it's true in my life.  I remember who invested in me when I was younger.  I still feel the power of the love in my friends and family when they are affirming and I've been crushed by words uttered in anger or contempt.  And remembered those things for years.  And sometimes believed them about who I am.

It's a little terrifying to think about how much we can truly help or hurt the people around us.  In this whole discipleship journey God has me on, it's been a rollercoaster of feeling really fantastic and holy or in moments of honesty being afraid to fail these precious women.  Because I know the sin in my heart.  If I say follow me as I follow God, I better be damn sure I'm following God. 

God has been so good this week in reminding and correcting my heart.  In my life the power for good comes directly from the Source of good.  It doesn't come from Crystal.  It doesn't come from my heart.  It comes from the heart of God and it flows through me as I obey Him.  And that's my prayer and my deepest need.  That I would not wander away or get caught up in pride, but that I would follow on so that God can use me.  My little life.

So that in the small things and in the big ones there is positive affirmation.  Movement toward God.  That I would not cause hurt.  But help.  

That I would not cause hurt. 

Psalm 70:4
But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
    “Let God be exalted!”

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