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Someday, after I make the team.  Someday, when I have that job.  Someday, when I lose that weight.  Someday, when I make more money.  Someday when I have a different boss.  Someday, when I’m no longer renting.  Someday, when I have a dog. Someday when I don’t have a dog.  Someday when I have a better car.  Someday when my prince has come.

It’s such a wonderful thing to dream about, isn’t it?  Someday?  It’s magical.  You think about “Someday” and it sparkles like a toddler’s glitter-covered masterpiece (who ever thought it was a great idea to give toddlers glitter?  At least it comes out the other side.  Which makes me wonder about the stuff that gets stuck somewhere on the journey through.  Sparkly toddler innards.  Hmmmm – okay, I’m done now).  As I was saying, someday is a fun place to dream about.   A whole lot more fun, often, than enjoying today.

The thing is, it’s a trap.  If you are constantly focused on “someday”, you’re missing today.  And when that happens to me, anyway, I tend to miss the lessons I’m supposed to be learning (or those lessons are a whole lot harder than they should be), and I don’t enjoy the experiences that make up life as it is today.  I’m so busy dreaming about the future that I miss the awesomeness of what’s going on now.

And I get it.  I mean, I’m really enjoying school and life right now, but there is part of me that is very ready to be done with school and onto whatever else is next.  I want another adventure, a different challenge, something sparkly.  I don’t want to wait.  I don’t want to “waste” the next two years.  Because everyday – normal, boring, everyday – can seem like a waste when Someday glistens and beckons ahead, just around the bend.

The hardest part, for me anyway, is when other people tell me about Someday, and how wonderful it’s going to be for me when I have sparkly bling on my left ring finger, or I have a diploma on my wall, or I can fit into jeans three sizes smaller, or my car can climb mountains or get better gas mileage, or whatever.  The thing is – their words are only hard or distracting if I let them be.  Usually such things are said with the best, most encouraging of intentions.  And if I listen too closely, or give their kind words too much power, I can begin to think that my life has no value or worth, or I don’t have a valid opinion until mystical someday happens.  So I have to keep in mind that really and truly, they’re being encouraging, and go about my daily life from there.

Because now, because Everyday, because Normal can be magical too, if I pay attention.  It’s a harder skill to learn, a slightly more nuanced flavor to develop an appreciation for, but it’s worth it.  After all, today, every day, is where you live.  Normal is where the lessons happen.  Normal is where the magic actually happens.  Here and now is when you grow.  Day to day is incredibly valuable and necessary.

Don’t get so lost in Someday that you lose the magic and wonder of Today.  Someday will come soon enough, but if you’re so used to looking for someday out in the future, you’re not going to notice when it takes the sly appearance of Everyday.

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I wish…

This is not the weekly blog post, it’s just something I need to get out.

There are days, like today, when I deeply, intensely, passionately wish that God and His love for me would capture my imagination, my emotions, and my mental world to the extent that so many other things on this Earth do.  I wish that I could dream about God as passionately as I do my future, my friends, my experiences.  I wish that I could be satisfied with the wonderful, heart-filling proofs He does give me all the time (if I’m looking) of His love for me.  I wish the world hadn’t been broken, so that He and I could walk, side-by-side, hand-in-hand through one of the lush, green forest gardens He’d recently grown.  I wish I could long for Him the way I do when I miss my friends.  

I want that sort of connection with Him. 

To say I long for that day isn’t expressing the depth of my desire, but the words don’t exist to express it.  So, I’ll simply say:

I deeply, passionately, intensely, long for the day when all will be made right again.  And I don’t know what it’s going to be like when the world is made new, but I pray that I’ll still have a body, so that I can know what it’s like to feel Him hold my hand.  

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A = B, but that doesn’t mean B=A

A couple years ago one of my youth group kids made the statement “God is not love, LOVE is God”. At the time I’d never heard that before, and while I instinctually didn’t agree, I hadn’t thought much about why up until then.
I came across a meme on Facebook the other day that said the same thing, and so now thoughts are flowing. Careful, they’re a bit mind-bending. Feel free to respond, please.

I have an issue when we say Love is God, because that statement makes it sound like the only characteristic God has is love; also there is the implication that Love is the end all. And while most Western Christian culture seems to agree with this statement, I think we’ve missed the mark.

God isn’t JUST love; we modern, Western Christians have a huge problem with forgetting this. “Well, if God is love, why is this happening, why is that happening? Why is there pain and hardship, etc etc etc? A loving God wouldn’t do that.” We forget that God is just and righteous, Creator and Ender (or “Changer of seasons and chapters” might be the more accurate title). To say He is only love sells who He is short. And while yes, all of His other characteristics are affected by His love, this does not necessarily change those characteristics into love. To say He is ONLY love takes away a good deal of His incomprehensible God-ness; it takes away quite a lot of His majesty and power. Not that love isn’t powerful, we all know it is. But it’s a different sort of power than God occasionally displays.

Also, to say Love is God, changes worship. If love is God, than worship is merely loving others – whether in a friendly way, in a family way, in a romantic way, in a taking-care-of-you way. If love is God, than all we have to do to be right with God is to love others. And yes, a great deal of Christian worshipping God should be loving others. Many people who are not Christian do a pretty good job of this. (I’m not going to get into whether or not people who are not recognized by the church as Christian are going to heaven; someday I might)
But loving others is not our only act of worship and is not all we are called to do. Christians are to actually love God. We can’t love God if Love is God. That would be loving love…which yes, people do. But rarely are those people happy or well-balanced people. These are usually the desperate and red-and-wild-eyed people in your life who tend to be hard to be around. They leave you emotionally empty when you’re done hanging out.
But let’s get back, briefly, to how Love being God changes worship. There is no reason to live to bring God glory, and the biggest purpose in life you have outside of yourself is to love other people. Which, again, don’t get me wrong, is a HUGE purpose (it’s in the Bible over and over)…but if your purpose in life is to merely love other people and not love and serve God, nor is it take a part of the story He is writing, your life has so much less meaning than a Christian’s should.

Love is not God; Love is the means to show others all of the intricate facets of just exactly who God is.

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I sit on my bed, a puppy curled up next to me, my laptop on my lap, a thunderstorm rolling in (which, if I didn’t live in Colorado, I might worry about interfering with the fireworks later on, but the storm’ll be gone in a couple minutes here), a familiar ache in my heart (again, don’t worry – I’m used to this one, the pain will also pass in a few minutes here), and I’m rather uninspired to write.
Which is sad, because I’ve had an awesome week.  Camping with teenagers, getting to know some new friends a bit more, finally sumitting a 14-er (an over 14,000 feet above sea level mountain), some relaxation time, some good ministry, sensing God moving, and just so much.
I could talk about the necessity of community, or how God loves each and every one of us, how His grace really is sufficient for each of us every day, how, with God, our history does not necessarily dictate our future, just…so much.
But the familiar ache is rather overwhelming in this moment.  And none of the above feels right.
So, instead I’m simply going to tell you to enjoy your 4th of July.  Enjoy the family and friends, the food, the crowds (somehow), the fireworks.  If you’re odd like me, go buy a pack of black licorice and eat it as you watch the fireworks explode in gorgeous colors above your head. Enjoy the deliciousness.  Enjoy these moments.  They are priceless.
And while you are enjoying the summer holiday, I challenge you to be “real” with one person.  Let one person see the mess you are (because, be real, we all are messes).  God uses messy people in awesome, powerful ways – especially their stories.  So go share your story.  Experience the freedom in letting someone really know you.  Be willing to open up, that God might use your story to reach into someone else’s heartache moment and heal or encourage or free them with what He’s done in you.



PS – I have a new tab up there. It’s meant specifically for any teenage girl reading this blog, but feel free to go check it out even if you’re not!

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Time Treasure

It is late, and I have had a very long day, and I am in the middle of saying “good-bye” to two very special people who have been a huge part of my over the last five years and “hello” to two others who I suspect will become incredibly special to me as well.  I am in the middle of a whirl-wind of emotions.  Planning a sermon and parties and photo books on top of “normal” life.
I’m ready for things to slow down.  I’m ready for this craziness to end.
But not really, because when it does, I’m that much closer to saying good-bye to my two dear friends.
I’m learning how incredibly precious each and every moment I am given is.  I am realizing that I need to get better at simply enjoying and treasuring life – the crazy times, the heart-wrenching times, the tired times, the wonderful times, the every-day times.  I’m not good at this.  This is something I need to get better at, a gift God has given me that I need to learn to treasure.

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Easter freedom

It is Easter in a few days.  I love Easter.  Perhaps that is because of all the fond memories I associate with this time of year: the hats and white gloves and orchid corsages and new dresses when I was a little girl, the egg hunts, the bunny-baskets full of candy, the family gatherings and good food.

coconut-macaroons      As I’ve gotten older a few of those traditions have fallen to the wayside – like the hats and white gloves and orchid corsages.  (I should’ve kept the hat one, but I don’t have time to find the perfect Easter hat these days).
But, I HAVE  picked up a few other traditions along the way – like watching the movie Chocolat and making coconut macaroons.  I love me some chocolate and coconut…and somehow those flavors work best together around this time of year.  chocolatAs for Chocolat, I love the reminder of grace and mercy that the movie subtly speaks of.  For that is what this holiday is all about, is it not?  Through Christ’s sacrifice, God extends us grace and mercy.

I think, often though, we get focused on simply Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is a big deal.  Without His death and resurrection, we would still be in an insecure state as to our relationship with God the Father.  Because of sin, God could not interact with us humans in the way He originally had intended and desired.  But, because of Jesus’ death, or more accurately, because of Jesus life and resurrection, God could.

13.06.03 - Celtic Cross               And that’s where we stop.  We forget to apply Easter to our lives.  Because of Easter we are covered by Jesus’ blood. Because of Easter, our sins no longer interfere with our relationship with God.  Because of Easter, God’s grace and mercy extend over, around, through, and under us.  We are accepted.  He loves us (not that He didn’t before).  Because of Easter, you don’t have to be perfect, or even mostly good.  Jesus’ blood covers all the gunk in your life, so you don’t have to sit there, covered in it,  and focus on it. You no longer have any need to be reminded of the gunk and sin, you can get up and walk away from it.  God will clean that up; God will clean YOU up.  Sure, He’ll ask for your help, but He’ll do it.  You don’t (you CAN’T) do it on your own.  And THAT is what Easter is about: Jesus taking on the responsibility of cleaning up your mess.  (Now…if only He would clean up my chocolate-and-coconut-covered kitchen….)

You are free, my friend.  Because of Easter, you are free indeed.  Now, go and live as if that were true.  And treat others as if that were true as well.  Because it is.  But most Christians forget that.  We have to live our life a certain way, maintain a Christian Culture standard, and if you don’t…well then…  But that’s NOT why Jesus died.  He died so that all might come and hang out with Him – no matter their past sins.  I think so often we forget that when Jesus was on Earth, He hung out with the low-lifes, those no one else wanted to associate with because they were the misfits, the thieves, the prostitutes, the betrayers, the less-than-smart, the unclean, the social definitely not accepted.  And He invited them to be His friends, to be part of His earthly story.  Which means there is hope for each and every one of us.  That He’s inviting you to come and sit at His table.
Now, don’t get me wrong.  There will be a price to pay.  While Christian Culture turns its back on those who aren’t clean enough, or say the wrong things, or do the wrong things, Secular Culture does the same to Christians.  But, if you are willing to deal with that, if you are willing to accept what Jesus did for you – and live in that freedom (and I’m not talking about the rule book that many in Christian Culture say you must live by), than this day – Easter, is truly a life-changing day worth celebrating!

He is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!
(Now, go LIVE that way!) 

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Faith Like Why

If someone were to ask you why you believe what you believe, what would you say?  Would you take them down the Roman Road?  What if they knew nothing about the Bible?  Than the Roman Road is just a bunch of cobbled-together random sentences from one thick book.  Can you do the same thing with the Harry Potter Series?  Does he point to God?  Or would you point to a few science articles that indicate an intelligent creation?  Or talk of tales from your personal life experiences?  Seriously.  Why do you believe what you believe?

And how strongly do you believe it?  Would you die for your beliefs?  Are you willing to enter into discussion with others about why they believe what they believe (and actually HEAR them)?  What would happen to your faith if somehow it was brought into question?  If you were shown discrepancies within the Bible? Does that make it any less true?  Or if you were told that most of the stories were actually just that – stories, good stories, to teach us lessons.  But nothing more.  Maybe they were even “borrowed” from other surrounding religions during the time the Bible was being written.  What then?   And what do you do when someone shows you a picture of an adorable little girl dying of starvation in Africa, or a woman caught in the sex trade?  How do you tell them that God is a loving God who “knows the plans [He] has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you”?  Or what about the people who tell you that “as long as you believe something  – that’s all that matters”?  Or the people who call you arrogant because you believe your scriptures, which say that Jesus is the ONLY way to heaven?  What about the little children who never have a chance to believe in Jesus?

How strong is your faith then?

Can your faith stand up against messy life, heartache, deep pain and everything life will throw your way?

Why do you believe what you believe? 

This is a crucial question.  YOU HAVE TO KNOW.  If you are living your life right, someday someone will ask you.  And you better be ready with an answer.  Or you will run across people who have been hurt by the Christian religion, and you will need to know how to answer their probably-angry questions with a great deal of grace and love.

And, as a little caveat, if the foundation of your faith, if your answers to hard questions are sort of wishy-washy (“well, I think…  “or “somewhere in the Bible it says….”), or come from Sunday morning sermons, (“Well, Pastor Peter says…”), or, worse, come from “biblical” movies (like The Passion, or Veggie Tales, or so many more) your answers aren’t going to hold up.  That being said, if your answers are ONLY from scripture and the person asking you questions isn’t from the Christian faith, or a religion that values a main instructional book like the Bible, you scripture references aren’t going to mean much…yet.  I mean, as Isaiah 55:11 says, anytime you speak scripture (with the right intent), God will use it. So, by using scripture you’re potentially planting seeds…but you’re not necessarily going to be helpfully answering the questions they have right at that moment.

So then, how do you defend or share your faith?  A whole lot of listening for wisdom from the Holy Spirit.  A whole lot of living a life that points toward Christ.  A whole lot of owning your weaknesses.  And a huge amount of confidence in how Christ sees you.  Knowing what the Bible says, knowing what science says, and being willing to share your life story.  And patience, a whole lotta patience and humility.  And a huge helpin’ heap of depending on Christ.

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Where Your Mind Goes, So Go You

It started out as a feeling, which grew into a hope, which then turned into a quiet thought, which then turned into a quiet word, and then that word grew louder and louder until it was a battle cry.
– “The Call” Regina Spektor

                Sitting in the movie theater, my eyes adjusting to the lights that had just come up at the end of the movie, I knew I loved the credit song.  It didn’t hurt that it was sung by one of my favorite song artists, but I would have loved the song if it had been sung by someone else.  I loved the words and the instrumentation.  It was gorgeous.  Breath-taking. Magical.  And the lyrics of the chorus haunted me, hit me deeply, because I knew they were true.

Our thoughts are incredibly important.  They lead to actions.  And, apparently, actions are the fruit, or product of our hearts. But if actions are the product / fruit of our hearts, than our thoughts, are  the food of our hearts.

We have many sources for our thoughts – life itself, school, movies, music, friends, parents, T.V., the list goes on.

But it is the thoughts themselves that are our heart’s food.   It is our choice to focus our thoughts on what we want (or don’t want) from those movies and music.  What you choose to think about from the conversations you have throughout the day, from the subjects in school you’re learning, from the TV shows you watch and the songs you listen to, affects you.

It’s kinda like a dinner buffet.  At a buffet, you have many options of food to eat.  And you get to choose what you want to eat, or not eat.  You can choose from spaghetti or lasagna or some sketchy-looking Chinese meal, the salad, or the roast beef.  Well, the world is the same way with our thoughts.  You have the choice to think about stuff from movie last night, or from the book you’re (supposed to be) reading for Language, or from the conversation you had with your friend, or from the song that’s overplayed right now on the radio.  It’s your choice.

But here’s the thing, just like if you chose healthy food to put in your body your body functions more along the lines of its originally intended plan, so your heart functions in a healthier manner if you feed it healthy “food”, or thoughts.

From your thoughts grow actions.  Which might be why Jesus goes all strict-bun-in-a-tight-bun-steel-rimmed-glasses-ancient substitute teacher on people in Matthew.  He’s rather tough when it comes to such things.  He says it’s just as bad to lust after someone as to actually have sex with them.  It’s just as bad to hate someone as to actually murder them.

Maybe because if you continue to think those thoughts of lust or anger, they grow, and then …there’s a chance, should you be given the opportunity … you’ll ACT out of those thoughts.  And even if you don’t actually ever murder someone, or sleep with a man who’s not your husband, or say one nasty comment to your mother, those thoughts are still causing you to treat the people around you in ways that are not honoring to God, or honoring the fact that they were made in His image.

And God’s a pretty big stickler when it comes to how we treat each other.  He highly stresses treating each other with love and respect.  It’s a huge deal.  Love God and love your neighbor.  It’s incredibly important to Him – in fact, that’s how the world is supposed to know we love God – by our obedience to Him (which causes us to live differently than the rest of the world) and by how we treat others.  And if your thoughts aren’t reflective of that, your actions (and words and facial expressions) won’t be either.

So, be careful what you allow your thoughts to dwell on, what you focus on.  Your thoughts feed your heart.  And out of your heart spring actions.  Your thoughts have a great deal of power over how you treat others, so be careful what you think.

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A Long Time Healing

A year and a few days ago I broke up with my boyfriend.  And I’m still healing from it.  Which, to me, is crazy.  It wasn’t like we were dating long – only almost three months (which, for an adult is SHORT – for a middle schooler, this is almost an eternity). But it was fast, intense, passionate, and over

And today, almost exactly a year from when it ended, I still have no doubts that it needed to end.  But I also am still working through hurts and memories and lessons that I received during my time with him.  And this astounds me.

Because I’m supposed to be over it by now.  I’m supposed to have worked through it all, and not need to spend another second thinking about the past.  But that’s not the case.

The thing is, I know I’m not the only one in this situation.  Somehow, in our modern world, we tend to think people heal from stuff fast.  They’re supposed to get over some major emotional injury quickly and not bother the rest of us about it.

But healing doesn’t work that way.  Healing is a slow, painful, HARD process.  It takes a great deal of effort (healing demands you actually work through stuff, not just ignore it) and a great deal of time.  So. Much. Time.

When I was a very little girl (like, 4 years old) I fell down and scrapped the palm of my hand.  It bled and I had a nasty red and yellow scab for a week after.  It only took a second to be wounded, but exponentially longer than that to heal.  And while this particular wound was a physical one, the same is true of our emotions.  Healing takes so much longer than the wounding.

So be patient with yourself.  Give yourself the permission to take the time to heal.

The thing is, the same is true of our friends.  They might be in pain from something so much longer than we’d expect.  Please, please sit with them in their pain.  Sure, encourage them to heal, but don’t rush it.  Allow them the time they need.  Someday (or month or year or lifetime) they might be sitting beside you while you heal.

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Not Life-Threatening, just Life Deepening

There is a man who found out he was going to die of cancer soon.  Very soon.   Friends expected to see him falling apart emotionally.  Or going through a mid-life crisis times a thousand – buying a boat and living on the lake for the rest of his life or something along those lines.  But he didn’t.  He went about normal life, doing normal things, like having coffee with friends, spending time with God, enjoying the simple things.
When someone asked him about this, asked him about his life threatening disease and how he was choosing to live the remaining parts of his life.
He responded with that his disease wasn’t life threatening, just life deepening.  His days had already been numbered, long ago, by God.  The disease was simply a reminder that his days weren’t unending.  That the days he had been given were precious, he needed to spend his time living deeply.
His disease was not life-threatening, simply life deepening.

So, this weekend before New Years, as the Western world thinks about making New Years Resolutions and about how to make themselves better, keep that in mind.  What would it mean to live deeper?  What would that look like for you?   More time with coffee with friends?  More prayer?  More reading books instead of watching TV? More artsy homemade gifts instead of quick, thoughtless bought presents (not that all presents are that way)?  More getting up early to watch sunrises?  Mostly, these ways are mine to live deeper.  What would yours be?

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