You Are Fully Known

We were created to be known at a level we have yet to experience on this earth.

“You have searched me Lord, and you know me.”

Has someone ever assumed something about you that was totally off? I’m sure they have. 
Have you ever been misunderstood by someone because of your actions or words? Probably.

This is discouraging because we want to be known for who we truly are. Yet when we see ourselves for who we truly are, it is frightening. Our carnal mind is tempted to turn to condemnation.

“Because God knows my truest nature, He is disappointed.”

And yet…

Before we were formed, He knew. 

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place…

…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…” Psalm 139

Before we lived with this nature, He chose. He gave up the Son knowing we would betray him. He chose us ahead of time. He knew you then. He knows you now. He still offers grace.

And the only way to experience this knowing is through the Holy Spirit. He woos us to Christ, where we find a new nature. A new kind of longing that can be met. 

Every deep desire at its core is a desire for God. 

A longing for trust. A hope for a mate. A desire for friendship. We were made for community because we were created by the Triune God. Our best relationships are a picture of what the most important relationship can be. Yet they are dim in comparison. Like a negative sitting in a dark room and slowly developing over time, the picture will come forth the day we are privileged to “know as we are known.”

Though we know Him only in part on this earth, that part is more than enough to steady our hungry hearts. 

Even part of God is far superior to the whole of anything else.

No matter how close we are to another, there will always be a hunger for more because Christ is the reason we were made. 

“All things have been created through him and for him.” Col. 1:16

In our hunger to be loved, to be understood, to be known- we strive and search and grasp until all other sources fall short. And then, we look. We see a glimpse. Though dim, it warms our heart like nothing else. He beckons us- come near.

And in Him, we find a love that surpasses our knowledge. He is all-knowing AND completely loving. 

We invite him, “search my heart and know my anxious thoughts. Show me if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way that is everlasting.”

And He does. Beside still waters, He leads. 

Hand in hand we will walk with Him, fully known. 

10 Catalyst Conference TakeAways

Don’t you give your life to something small. –Andy Stanley

Andy is telling the story of the man who would walk into the room every Tuesday and ask him, “Watcha workin on big?”….and I’m dreaming for my own children. Because story does that.

We weren’t meant to think small, dream small or settle. When we dream in the image of a BIG GOD, small stays at the drawing board and we walk out into the mystery of miracles.

Doubt dies unborn if it’s never spoken. – Christine Caine

Your mouth, believer! Your mouth. What power resides there! It’s not question of IF doubts will assail. They will. It’s about what we do with that doubt. What faith will we give life to today? What will we speak forth about our family, ourselves, our city, our church? What are you saying? Do you believe? Let’s shut down doubt at the door of our minds and say, NO – if my God said it, He can do it. We are well able to take the land.

Stir and Disturb. – Andy Stanley

Leaders are called to stir up the dreams within the people they serve. Are we disturbing the status quo enough to make a lasting difference and cause others to dream again? We must keep wonder alive in the hearts of those we love. Who knows but what dream they have that will change the world.

Awakening starts with thanking. –Chris Brown

To awaken our world to the crisp morning joy of our Lord, we must be grateful. We take light into the darkness of despair when we rebuke the lie that He is not enough. He cannot inhabit praise we never bring forth. But when we do, walking through the doubt, the darkness and the thoughts of lack – we find a new song. It’s a song the world needs to hear. To give thanks is to bring Him glory right where we are. It’s why we were made. And it will awaken the wonder of those around us to the God we worship.

Be a student, not a critic. – Andy Stanley

Because if you are a critic before you are a student, you shut down the wonder. What if progress is disguised as a different you don’t like. What if you don’t have the entire background story of someone’s life or theological stance. What if the church thought well of each other first.

Impossible is where God starts! – Christine Caine

If you were sitting in the room with 11,000 people and your spirit didn’t jump, you missed it. THIS can stir and disturb and rock your maybe into a big wide open YES for His call. But it starts with HOW we see what is right in front of us. When  you hear impossible, will you know God is about to enter the circumstance? Why do we pray for miracles and then live within our own power, giving Him absolutely no room to bring a miracle. If your dreams are small enough to accomplish on your own, they are not big enough. If what you are asking for is just NOT done, that’s the realm God has room to move in. Recently, I came against a statement about what could not happen with prayer – and guess what? God answered. He specializes in impossible. Don’t miss it!

Replace how with wow.  – Andy Stanley 

Ideas make the world go round. Details come later. When we shut down an idea because it feels TOO BIG, TOO UNDOABLE – we miss the opportunity to display the power of God to the world. What if we responded first with “WOW” instead of I just don’t know how that will happen. Let’s choose to wow the world with the dreams stirring within. Be the one in the room that says, “What if God did this for us, through us?” What if…….

If you are in Christ, you are always on the other side of the Red Sea. – Trip Lee

He HAS rescued us. He HAS redeemed us. He HAS moved on our behalf. How often do we talk about what prayer He has not seemed to answer instead of counting the miracles lined up behind us. Perhaps our nighttime ritual should be to count the miracles. Remember – God created the heavens and the earth with his outstretched arm. NOTHING is too hard for Him.

Here’s my job: when you’re drowning, I find you and bring you to the surface. – Brene’ Brown

We are family. It starts at home and moves into the church. When we see someone drowning – we reach down. We get down on their level and pull them up. None of my stuff matters when my husband is drowning in life. To flourish best, we flourish together. If one is weak, we are all weaker than we are strong.

Remain suspicious that God is up to something good. – Margaret Feinberg

In the midst of it all. Right there. Right now. He can make something good spring up. Are you making room for Him. Are you on the edge of giving up today? Call someone. Reach out. Pray again. Don’t you give up on a God who is out for your very best.

Kumbaya, Fertile Ground & The Forgiveness Echoing From Charleston

He was walking casually through the house singing the words so naturally, playing with a few random toys. I caught the words and I asked him, “Josh, where did you learn that song?”

“From the chipmunk movie,” he responded.

“Something good from a movie,” I thought.

My husband got home and I told him. He pulled the boy close to him and said, “Do you know what Kumbaya means, Josh?”

“No, daddy.”

“It means come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

I read recently that Kumbaya was written by Robert Winslow Gordon in 1927. When he later had it recorded it was sung in Gullah (a creole language) on the islands of South Carolina, reportedly between Charleston and Beaufort.

Charleston. “Come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

How many angels have come near just recently, only Heaven knows.

——–

We sat in the small prayer room, the five of us, today. We reported on illnesses, needs, praises. And we turned to Charleston – this church, these people of God thrown into the spotlight. The whole world watching.

Then a friend in the room mentioned a miracle. A man she knows who has struggled with racism, maybe all his life. He lives in Charleston. He drove by multiple churches on a day following the shooting and the parking lots were overflowing. And then the Spirit did what the Spirit does best – He touched that man. The man said he broke down. He wept. He apologized. He asked forgiveness. In an unexpected moment, no words from another, no preaching, no condemning – he was touched by the love of God. He has reached out to ask forgiveness for those he has offended in the past.

One story in a cloud of stories moving across the land.

All that we hope for, strive for and pray deeply for, the Spirit can do in one short moment with one simple touch.

The Bride of Christ has been tested, and the family of God in Charleston has responded with grace. When forgiveness is the most common word being used, Christ is being glorified. And all over the world, in hearts and cities and small towns, there is fertile ground. Because when trials produce authentic worship, souls are intrigued. Hearts are made pliable again.

In prayer, the Spirit spoke to me about fertile ground today.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

There are souls, people we have waited upon, perhaps prayed long years for. Many seeds have been planted over time and, like Apollos, we are being called upon to water the seed of faith. It is time.

There are many hurting hearts around us. In Charleston and perhaps across the street from our home. Is there unplowed ground in which we need to offer the work of love and forgiveness.  Ground that has been dry for a long time. Is there a seed we need to plant or water?

Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision! Even now! Who needs our encouragement to persevere? Who needs our courage to share Christ? Who needs our forgiveness?

Forgiveness – as we’ve seen in Charleston – has a ripple effect. Oh, grace, grace be upon the hurting, the grieving souls. And love lead us as we take our place in the ripple and walk in the Spirit of Christ. May we be sensitive and obedient to nurture the seeds of faith in the souls we know and encounter.

Kumbaya, My Lord. Kumbaya.

Remembering the Hungry in a Week of Bounty

The man had the usual cardboard sign and I had the usual problem: I never carry cash. I try to keep a stash in the sunglass pocket of my car – just for this reason, but I’m bad about replacing it.

My four-year-old son, he asked why. Why does that man stand there with that sign? I told him some people are hungry.

“Why,” he repeated. It’s the hourly word in our home.

“Well, you know how I told you we get money by working. Some people don’t have work, so they have no money. They can’t buy food.”

He was quiet for a few minutes before he used the skill he’s been showing off ever since he climbed a toy car and undid the bolt on our back door to get outside at the age of one: problem-solving.

“Mama’s house! Lots of food at Mama’s house. Lot’s of people come!”

Me: “Yeah, we should have them over, huh?”

Josh: “Pleeease. All hungy people.” (I spelled it right. Again, he’s four.)

He just may save the world yet.

——–

The results are in for the latest Feeding America study, and the news is not good. From surveying thousands of clients and food partner agencies, Feeding America has found that:

  • 89% of households with children are food insecure
  • 69% of households had to choose between utility bills and food this past year

My state, the state of Oklahoma is in the top ten states with the highest hunger rates. According to a Gallup report in 2012, 21.2 percent of people in Okla. reported that there was at least one time in the past year that they could not afford to buy food.

I overheard one of those families excited about splitting a hamburger four ways. One burger. Four people.

I’ve been writing about prayer lately. Here’s the deal about prayer: it seems to be the catalyst to obedience in all the hard places. The eye opener to what real justice looks like.

Prayer is the connecting line between the God we love and the people He loves. When we really commune with God, we can’t miss His heart for the broken and needy.

And I just plain can’t seem to miss that the Jesus I’m talking to made it pretty clear about the poor and the hungry. I just can’t seem to say that softly to the lady struggling with giving the man five dollars in the parking lot, so I just keep my mouth shut. She says she doesn’t know how he will spend it.

It’s true. We never do.

So we keep trying to control how and when and to whom we give.

A truck passed me yesterday advertising a business. The slogan read: Designing the Bathroom of Your Dreams.

What I may not have thought twice about before made my stomach turn. We pay more for tile in the U.S. than it costs to feed a family for a year in Tanzania.

Tile. We walk all over it.

I grew up quite privileged. I’ve had it quite well. Yeah, they run baths for you at the Ritz in Boston with rose petals. They serve champagne to you on a silver platter in the Olympic Restaurant of the Celebrity Millennium. I like nice things.

Then over the years, bit by bit, chunk by chunk, the Word began to mess with my life. Designer bags bothered me. Not other people having them. Just me. See because when God messes with you, it’s not about judgment. You just realize you really do want more. Something deeper, more real and lasting. The comfort doesn’t feel so good anymore. Most of my nice things now are gifts, and I appreciate them.

I also find myself asking every single Christmas how much every family could change the world if we redirected our spending and found joy in just being together. The great thing is so many loving people are making a difference.

The painful truth is that so many are still hungry and homeless and alone this Thanksgiving week. What I think really matters is this: will our empathy give birth to action?

There are a million different needs out there. But there are also millions who can help. If every one does ONE thing to love ONE person or ONE family – we really can make a difference, together.

“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.” Prov. 19:17

 

 

 

 

 

The Wall of Hostility Has Come Down: Peace, Berlin and Loving Our Brother

He drove by in the limo once…. slowly enough, just so my Mom could brag about seeing her favorite president roll by with a wave. No matter your party, you respected the man. And no speech of his is more memorable than one given outside of his home country.

Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, President Reagan proclaimed that “the German question is open as long as the Brandenburg gate is closed.” Building up to it, with hope and promise and all the words we need today…he challenged the world and he challenged one man, and we all remember it.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

berlin wall

It will fall, he said, because it cannot withstand faith…and truth. And who knew what truth really seeped through in those words. What walls of injustice we all would fight and climb and beat against.

Years later we watched men and women and children dance on that wall, and jump over to a life of complicated freedom. Freedom isn’t easy.

One of those women, Angela Merkel, jumped over the high stone wall into a future of leadership. She will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that date this Sunday as the Chancellor of Germany.

We never know who we are saving. What leaders we are raising. What presidents we are tending….when we reach across the walls of indifference and demand justice. When we act.

Dr. Ellen Charry knows about these walls of separation. The tension between Jews and Christians and the walls we construct when we don’t understand. We are always most afraid of what we don’t know. Fear breeds hate.

She challenged us, infusing her native Hebrew language with our own….our small group in our small town, to look across the walls and see what Christ has done. That if, in fact, we are in Him, we are ONE. As a Jew, she found Christ, the warrior and the lamb, the ONE who forges through walls and ushers in peace. Mighty, strong and gentle.

It’s this call we struggle with today: being gentle and fierce in conviction. Offering love and living in truth.

He’s the only ONE who can handle a government sitting on His shoulders.

“Remember….you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11 –>)

We’ve all been far away. He brought us near – to God – to one another. It’s that one another we seem to fight most. Seems we think we can marry into the family of God and choose our relatives.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier ——————–> the dividing wall of hostility, ….”

What if half the walls we erect are built because we wrongly identify the enemy? Because different looks wrong and unsafe. Because blame sticks better on the other side.

We only have one real enemy. And he’s not human.

Sure can look human, though, huh? A lot like me. (I’m thinking back to that freedom isn’t easy word) What we do with our freedom, our responsibility, to love our brother – even when our brother loves not —– will define our lives.

Will we build the wall again when it gets hard to live together?

See Christ, He put to death hostility, in order that we might be reconciled. In order that – we might be. We still get to choose.

Reconciliation to God calls for us to live side by side with our brother. 

I watched a short film once that made my stomach twist and my dreams heavy. A boy, young and idealistic, full of love, chose to crawl under the fence of a concentration camp to be with another boy he befriended. He intended to help that boy find his dad. It took great planning. He did so courageously. It just happened to be the day the Germans decided to gas the entire camp. We watched the Jews walk in a naked line to a small chamber and die. That boy died befriending the “enemy.”

Loving will cost us. Freedom will be hard. It is. —– But living within invisible or actual walls of hate and separation is just as costly.

I don’t fully understand it. I watch from the outside. Or maybe the inside. I see the hurt from a distance. I’m the one who must decide whether or not I will crawl under the fence, cross the tracks and do something costly myself for the gospel.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭5‬ NIV)

Our transgressions. Our iniquities. How often the gospel we try to make so personal is actually quite communal.

Can we apply the peace He offers us to the wounded beside us? What if the wounded is far away? Will we reach them?

Dr. Charry challenged us with this: “The rubble is at our feet. The wall has come down. What will you do about it?”

7 Ways to Live Intentionally in Your Places

live grace

 

Ask for Names

There is just something about hearing your name. It’s personal. You are named. So is every other person you meet or see. They need to hear their name. Watch the countenance of a waitress change when you ask them their name instead of yelling, “hey, you.” Watch the checkout person smile when you read their name tag and ask them how they are. Names matter, and it matters when you acknowledge…and then work to remember names. For those you will see again, write down their name when you get to the car. Keep a notecard in the car….so you can say hello to them again when you see them…by using their NAME. See what happens when you love people this way. My husband taught me this. He lives it well.

Pray on the Go

The most Spirit-empowered prayers I have whispered happened off the cuff. When you drive through the neighborhood, pray for peace and God’s kingdom to reign. Circle your child’s school and pray for guidance and wisdom and favor. How many times have we missed opportunities to see into the needs of others by not asking the Father to speak to us? Pray for your mailman as he drops by. Ask a friend, “how can I pray for you today?” When prayer becomes your intentional daily practice with people, you will go through your days differently. Don’t wait for open hours to pray; it may not happen today. Talk openly and listen intently. Think of the 3 Keys: Look, Listen, Speak. Look beyond what you see with your eyes. An angry person is hurting. Listen to people talking. They often are saying something different than the words you hear. Speak life. People need it.

Then Tell Them About It

People don’t know you are really praying for them until you tell them. Consistently, genuinely and intentionally. I’ve found a great way to encourage teachers (who need so much encouragement) is to write a series of notes over time. Make one simple statement to people: “I am praying for you. Then follow-up and follow-through. Let them know weeks later, “I am still praying for you.”

How often do you think most people receive a note specifically asking them what someone can pray for them about? Choose someone in your life today who needs prayer and decide to let them know – in different ways on different days – that you will be standing in the gap for them.

Give an Unexpected Gift

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to offer a gift. Kindness is most noticed when it is unexpected. Gift gifts to your child’s teacher when there is no holiday obligation. Send a basket to the owner of your local store thanking them for serving you. And when we do this for very small things – showing people we care that they are in our lives – they remember it.

Follow Your Holy Discontent

That issue in your town that causes the most frustration can actually ignite the most fuel in your spirit – when you choose to act. What grabs your heart the most just might be the one place God is calling you to serve. Serve there. Don’t be afraid to say no to other things when you are willing to give a BIG yes to God in at least one area. Choose to do one Big thing REALLY well. Your town needs your voice, your service and your heart.

Acknowledge the Unnoticed

I wrote a note to an assistant to the director of the bus routes for my childrens’ school. The next time I spoke with her over the phone – not knowing her at all – she spoke to me like a close friend and told me how much it meant to receive that. Some people NEVER get thanked. Find them. Look for the people who sit by themselves. Have you ever tipped the water boy at your restaurant? It’s one of my favorite things to do. Ask your waiter who cleans the table and get a tip to them. The people in the background help run your town, your church, your business. They are not in the background to God.

Carry Your Pass Card

Most days, everyone just needs a pass. We need a do-over. That person who pulled out in front of you probably is not your major enemy. That rude clerk needs grace like you do. And on some days, those closest to us can be out of character – just like us. We are all works of progress in need of redemption. How much frustration could be released if we chose fewer issues to fight. How many mountains are we really willing to die on? Most things that cause so much frustration are very small indeed. Someone in your path – today – needs a pass from you. Offer it freely and with love. Let someone be angry. Check your judgements at the door of your mind and hand out your pass card. Say in your mind, “Me, too, brother. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Above all, LOVE each other DEEPLY, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8