healing monkeys

My youngest son has this stuffed monkey. He has 3, actually, but for whatever reason, he has decided that the smallest of them is a healing monkey. Every day, often multiple times a day, he will ask me if something hurts. If it does (which honestly, lately, is daily), then he gives me his prized animal to heal me. If I have slept with said item, the first question of the following morning will be if I feel better. I know it is just a phase and that he truly believes in prayer, but for whatever reason, this stuffed animal, for the moment, has become his source of good things.

Much as I hate to admit it, I think we can all fall victim to such a bent now and again.

As believers, we know where our strength and joy comes from, and yet we can so easily begin to focus on the good things in our lives in a way that our faith can get a bit fuzzy. Believe it or not, the shift can be slow, subtle and literally undetectable. Unintentionally,  you and I can often idolize the very things that God has put in our lives to point our hearts back to Him.

Worship. Bible study. Small groups. Serving. Personal time. Marriage. Friendships. Children…

When we begin to shift from allowing God to move in whatever way He desires, to engaging in activities and relationships from the position that we are actually in control, or things must be done a certain way, we are actually giving in to idolatry. To function as though God’s Will must look or manifest under certain circumstances, is to begin to idolize the person or system originally designed to develop a deeper relationship with Him. When we have more dependency upon what ‘needs’ to happen, or how it should look, or we spend more time praying for our own plans and ideas of successful ministry, above the greater good of the world, and His perfect plan, we are idolizing (exalting, preferring), those things that we deem more valuable than what is actually on God’s eternal agenda.

For example, when we are praying fervently for more people in our small group, and miss the opportunity God has put into our hands by giving us intimate time with one or two because that is who He wants us to focus on, we are practicing idolatry. When we miss opportunities to minister to a group of people because we are unwilling to change the way we’ve been doing church, we are idolizing the system. To become so focused on our marriage that we forget our first love is Jesus, we are….

Being that we are created in the image of God, it’s very easy to begin to shift our true beliefs about who is really in control. We can say that it’s all God’s plan, but if our focus is not fluid, it’s easy to lose sight of what He wants to do above our plans and ideologies. Your bible study, breakthrough, small group and worship are only powerful, when you let God, be. He can use those things, to be sure, to bring about change and healing, but at the end of the day, without God in the mix, they are only magical monkeys.

May you find your own monkey today. And then put him back on the shelf where he belongs.

Shalom.

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.indelible footprints/sowing & reaping.

By the time my oldest two children were in 4th and 5th grade, I had experienced, or my children had rather, more than enough of the public school system. They learned that even though they were taught to use their voice, others were not. They experienced physical aggression from other students without the freedom to defend themselves. And I learned that no matter how well you try to go through the proper channels, sometimes such environments will not be moved to change.

So I did.

After picking my kids up one afternoon and hearing how the school decided to manage a situation in which my child was being victimized, I made the decision to homeschool. Being traditionally opposed to such measures, it was a giant leap of faith, but one I felt absolutely necessary to the emotional well-being of my children. So, into the next phase of our lives we went.

The short version is there was success, failure, and a lot of love and growth along the way. I absolutely loved having my tribe around me every day, while sometimes loathing the process of trying to parent and educate simultaneously. Having given them the choice to attend public high school, I admit I was truly grateful when both decided to go back to the public education system at that point. It seemed wise to allow them the opportunity to take the strength of character, and faith, they had had the opportunity to develop, into an environment where they could actively live out their values, while still being close enough to mama’s heart in the event that they fell now and again.

As parents, it can sometimes be a challenge to know what to do and when in any given situation. When I made the decision to homeschool, it was not necessarily cheered on and in some cases highly criticized. It was most possibly one of the most difficult seasons of my life with my kids, as well as personally, and looking back, I have absolutely no idea how I survived at all. But, we made it, and as I witness the amazing humans they are growing into, I feel so blessed God would lead me in such a way, and that I had the freedom to pursue what I felt led to provide for my babies.

Just a few weeks ago, in a conversation with my 17-year-old, I was blessed beyond measure when she made the statement that she was so glad she hadn’t attended public middle school. She reflected that as a 9th grader, it was more challenging to play catch up with some of the social circles and friends from elementary school, but that as she quietly observed over the next 2 years, she realized it had really been the best thing for her. Heading into her senior year, she is well-adjusted, making school a priority, and a very grounded young woman.

I couldn’t be more proud.

We may not always be able to experience the fruit of our labor in such an immediate way. Or ever. May never hear a thank you for sacrifice and labored over decisions. But do please know that even if our children, spouses, friends or family remain silent, our God will not. He sees every tear, feels every tug on the heart, and hears every doubt that nags in the midnight hour. Rest assured; every seed we sow, we will reap.

Be encouraged today that you are not unseen, and the choices you are making will influence the future. The bible says not to grow weary in doing good. Easier said than done, but a valuable lesson all the same. Press on, my friend! Never doubt that your carefully chosen footprints will leave their indelible mark on tomorrow…and today.

Shalom.

the path to relationship. & community.

I was reading through Romans 14 and 15 this morning, and was really struck by how it read to me today. Many of the scriptures are underlined, so I am confident I’ve read them before, but today the Spirit tugged at my heart in a very new way.

This past week I had the opportunity to fly to Vegas with my husband, who was on a business trip, and enjoyed a couple of days by the pool. One of those leisurely afternoons, I was blessed to meet a lovely couple from Ohio. Our conversation cycled over many topics, but quite possibly my favorite element was that woven into the entire encounter were references to spirituality, Jesus, religion and the like. The husband, having been raised Jewish, and his bride, and myself, while most certainly holding onto different opinions about such things, were all graciously aware of, and sensitive to, finding common ground instead of pushing personal agenda.

Delightful.

In Romans, Paul writes about the freedom we have as believers to adhere to those boundaries and standards we feel convicted to, while not holding others to the same expectations. He also, however, admonishes us not to cause another believer to stumble, and to not bicker over the non-salvation issues. Who Jesus is trumps any belief about what meat we can eat, how to prepare food, what to wear, tattoos, etc. Who Jesus is should also compel us to be sensitive and gentle to those who may perhaps struggle with, or could be offended by, those things which we are free in Christ to do.

Ah, community.

I honestly feel given the time and season we are in, that so very many of our societal struggles are rooted in our strong desire to push personal beliefs above a passion for living in peace. Liberals rail at Christians for holding to a certain set of values while screaming they are “open minded” (only to their own beliefs, however), while Christians disregard love and plow people over in their self-righteous need to convert the “sinners,” all the while missing the very essence of why we are all here in the first place.

Relationship.

re·la·tion·ship
noun
  1. the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected.
    “the study will assess the relationship between unemployment and political attitudes”
    synonyms: connection, relation, association, link, correlation, correspondence, parallel, alliance, bond, interrelation, interconnection.

We are all in need of relationship; it’s what we are designed for. Ironically, in strongly disagreeing with the how, to create relationship, we endlessly silence what it means in the first place.

There is no way to ever find peace if we do not first know ourselves enough, to honor others in the manner in which they, view themselves. With only a self-focused view of life, we find ourselves circling endlessly through argument, anger, disillusionment and a damaged perspective of our own intrinsic value. If we continue to set our sights only on that whichs we personally find valuable, disregarding the perspective of others, there can never be authentic connection, which in turn suppresses our capacity to feel fulfilled in our pursuit of purpose. Essentially, when we live from a position of self-first, we never find self-fulfillment because such self-actualization actually requires relationship, which can only be fully manifested when we consider others first.

God’s design is brilliant.

So I ask you today, what beliefs are you holding onto that are preventing you from walking in your greatest capacity and fulfillment? Is it unrealistic expectations from your kids? Unmet needs from your spouse? Disillusionment in your church or politics? Wherever you experience personal brokenness, you will often find it rooted in how you have connected with that area relationally.

What can you let go of today? In what way have you been seeking to be heard instead of choosing to listen? I believe that when we begin to allow ourselves to truly pursue understanding, we will find within ourselves all we were looking for in the first place. Or, at least begin down the right path…

Shalom.

 

.now.

When I was a little girl, I started having panic attacks associated with death. I had been raised with a general belief in God, but there was little practical reinforcement; mostly just thinly-veiled Catholic scare tactics. Growing up in a household where lots of stories of death and violence were shared by my police officer father, this little girl’s heart also worried. A lot. (More scare tactics?)

I remember one time in particular I was out to lunch with my grandmother. It was a beautiful sunny day, when out of blue, it hit me. An overwhelmingly dark shadow. Raw, unadulterated fear. I struggled to breathe, and it took everything I had not to run out into the street. All I could think about was being asleep forever. No heaven or hell or supernatural space. Just nothingness. It was personally terrifying.

As an adult, years after accepting Jesus as my Savior, I have still experienced these moments of anxiety. Never a trigger or warning; merely an unwelcome need to run away. It happened yesterday. Right in the mix of my lovely sunny morning, cup of joe and bible in my lap, I was once again swept away by fear.

I clung to the only tangible thing I could –  my faith by experience.

In crisis, we are faced with the big questions. Crisis is where the rubber meets the road and we face off with our spiritual positioning. Honestly, though, it’s daily life that can be the most challenging to our faith. It can be boring, tedious. People can hurt us and children can frustrate. Jobs can wear and world news derail. Complacency settles in, and it is in the mundane, where many of us operate outside of faith, in our own strength, that we can most easily discover ourselves spiraling. We can lose sight of who we are and what we believe. We are challenged to buckle down and choose the position from which we will operate. Such positioning perhaps, is most vital in the day to day. Without consistently setting our sights to live intentionally, with an eternal perspective, the waves of fear (inadequacy, anger, disillusionment) can quickly overtake our hearts.

I was faced with a loss by death a few years ago that challenged my truest beliefs to their core. Looking back, my own fear of death was trumped by my faith in Christ and eternity. In that split second, when looking at the reality of it all, I discovered that my faith wasn’t a mere shadow (as are my anxiety attacks), but is something strong and tangible that I could hold on to.

Today, I choose to cling to my faith as though I were in a crisis. I choose to view each conversation and chore from a bird’s eye view – an eternal perspective. I will select my words as though they matter, and remember always that today is a gift. I will refuse to allow my routine to overwhelm me and silence unexpected fear with the faith I know I walk in. No situation, anxiety attack, or momentary loss of perspective will overshadow me today.

I will no longer wait for tragedy to allow an opportunity for me to be reminded of where I stand. I’m deciding to stand there…

Now.

 

 

 

 

 

why we don’t need ministry

What is your place? Where do you fit? Are you in ministry? How is your faith played out in your daily life? Are you operating in your fullest potential and in your God-given calling?

If you don’t know, or said no, to any of those questions, I have a word for you.

You are right where you are called to be. You fit where you are planted. Your life IS ministry. Your faith is who you ARE. If you are breathing, loving, and actively pursuing the passions and beliefs in your heart, you ARE operating in your calling.

I think sometimes we over complicate this whole faith thing. We look at what other people are doing and think we need to be doing more. Or doing it better. We tend to underestimate the footprint we are leaving daily, and the vast influence we have on the people and lives around us. In the meanwhile, we can miss those daily opportunities to pour into those around us and to leave the legacy we long to in our hearts.

If we are intentional, we are already vital.

I have this friend whom I’ve known for several years at church. She is a lovely human, and we have had some very precious conversations, but truth be told, we don’t really spend time together outside of church. “On paper,” we don’t have a great deal of influence on one another. This morning, she sent a text that absolutely changed me.

Screenshot_20160803-093314 20160803_112249

I share this not to toot my own horn, but to say that I truly had NO idea that she felt that way. I share because I think it’s so vital that we fully realize that when we are living our lives of faith in such a way that is authentic and points back to His love, we can’t help but to minister to, encourage, and bless those around us. Even, and possibly especially, when we aren’t operating in a certain capacity or position.

It’s so important to remember that Jesus said to follow Him (do what He did). To make disciples (walk in relationship with others, showing them how to follow). To pray without ceasing (all the while never believing or practicing the false reality that we can do any of it in our own power).  It’s all so simple, really. And, it’s where the greatest blessing, life change and faith really occurs. In our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Today, step back and look at where your personal influence stretches. Who is in your life? Who are you called to pour into? To do life with? You don’t have to have a title to change the world. You can make a difference right where you are planted!

I am personally inspired by the community of people I have been blessed to be surrounded by – broken people like me who all just want to love better…That, in and of itself, is possibly the only ministry opportunity we need.

Shalom.