Acknowledgements

I rarely read the Acknowledgments.

You know – those pages at the beginning of the book.

When I open a new book, I’m hankering for a quick-connect to the content I was sold on when I made the purchase. The author’s personal relationships don’t generally figure into my decision to read, so I am apt to flip pages until I land at chapter one. That’s just how I tend to roll.

Until yesterday.

Sitting around the table on the first day of a new small group study season, I broke my own previously unspoken rule as together, we read the Acknowledgements.

What followed was an outpouring of the most beautiful stories about people whose lives have forever influenced our own – a veritable mosaic of faces and names and memories – accompanied by laughter and smiles. And tears.

Our Acknowledgements.

Friend, you are here! What I mean is, today you are breathing and moving, expending energy and employing God-given gifts as you do the business of your normal, everyday…

And there are people who helped you get here. People you may not have acknowledged.

You don’t have to be an author to have your own Acknowledgements page! There are men and women and children and grandchildren who have surrounded and cared for, encouraged and challenged you, ensuring that you would be here – wherever that is and whatever that means to you – today.

You didn’t get here on your own, no matter how incredible you are!

So pop a piece of paper into the typewriter (LOL) or pull out your smartphone and make a list. Call it Acknowledgements.

Call it cultivation of a thankful heart.

Call it curation of a precious collection.

Call it whatever you want, but don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t hide it at the end of your story – in an appendix your readers may or may not see when your final chapter ends (seriously – who actually reads as the credits roll?).

There’s a reason those pages come before chapter one!

So, before you turn another page, stop and acknowledge those in your cloud – that great cloud of witnesses whose love and faith in you have brought you here. Today.

Leftovers

Leftovers salad

Leftovers

I walked away from the conversation with face still flushed, pulse still elevated, thoughts still racing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was a necessary conversation. One which I would have regretted not having, despite the intensity and confrontational nature of the thing. One which was brought on by something so deeply seated that I didn’t realize how strongly I felt until the words started flowing.

You recognize the feeling. You’ve had this conversation, too.

In the car, on the way home, I sorted through my thoughts about the matter…

  • What had been accomplished?
  • What had been resolved?
  • What had been aired and not settled, and can I be okay with that?
  • How had things been left, as we parted?
  • Is the relationship intact even if the differences remain?
  • Are there any leftovers?

You know, LEFTOVERS… Unsettled feelings. Unresolved issues that will resurface again. And again. Pin-pricks from words that were meant to be hurtful. Emotions still swirling, and the uncertainty as to where they will finally land.

Leftovers.

Like those leftovers you keep in your refrigerator; the remnant of a meal, perhaps a meal shared. Or a meal enjoyed. Or a functional meal – one that met your caloric needs without any extras or frills.

You see, the thing about leftovers is that they do serve a purpose, but it’s a limited purpose. A purpose with an expiration date. A purpose with a deadline. Leftovers are destined to be disposed of.

If the ‘meal’ is the conversation I had today, it was something I needed to eat. I will absorb that which my body needs to maintain health, to give me strength and to increase my energy to cover the output I will inevitably be required to produce. This ‘meal’ served its purpose, whether it was fun to eat or not. Maybe the company at the table wasn’t choice. Maybe the food didn’t taste quite like it should have. Maybe it wasn’t the most delicious feast I’ve ever consumed.

In the car, driving home, the meal is over. It’s time to decide what to do with the leftovers.

I might throw it all in the trash now – I’m not very good at using leftovers wisely (or it just wasn’t that good the first time).

I might save it all for later – it was more than I could digest in one sitting.

I might save just the parts I want more time with – the stuff worth chewing on again.

I might put it in the frig, which means I’ll have to reheat and revisit it sooner than if I place it in the freezer to preserve it longer; to extend its impact on me.

Regardless of the choice, the fact remains that leftovers go bad. Keeping them around too long results in things like ugly, smelly (greenish) growths or less than appetizing separation of ingredients. Consuming leftovers that have been left over too long can make you sick. Really sick. Even if they appear to be okay, your leftovers can make you miserable inside.

Holding onto leftovers which have passed their safe usage date is never a good thing. Even if you have no plans to reuse or rehash them, leaving them in the frig takes up space you could be using for the good stuff and might even taint the rest of what you plan to use for another meal, another day.

Why take the risk? Use your leftovers while they still have value and can still be put to good use! And remember – every leftover has a shelf-life. Some shorter, some longer than others, but no leftover is good for you forever. Pay attention to what you’re allowing to take up space in your frig. In your freezer. In your head. In your heart.

Eventually, all of our leftovers stink.

By the time I reached the driveway and found the key to my front door, I had settled on a few leftovers worth keeping. For awhile.

But I don’t intend to hold onto them too long. I don’t intend to wait until the leftover goes bad, gets rancid, grows fuzzy green hair and is transformed into something I don’t recognize. I will reheat them, chew on them, use them up and then dispose of my leftovers when their contribution to my life has been exhausted.

Trash the stuff that will only serve to make us sick and stain our Tupperware.

We’ll be healthier for it, my friends.

Kingdom-Mapping 101

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like… yeast that a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matthew 13:33 NLT)

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

A small amount of yeast is mixed into the dough, where the yeast acts on the fermentable sugars, turning them into the gas – carbon dioxide. This causes the dough to expand – or rise – as the gas forms pockets or bubbles. When the dough is baked, those air pockets ‘set’, giving the loaf of bread a soft and spongy texture. Yummy, right? 

And a beautiful picture of the Kingdom! I have always thought of this parable as fairly simple to unpack… God’s Kingdom, though small, is powerful! And it is meant to be added to the stuff of the world – not kept in a jar on the counter, or holed up in a church building somewhere. That’s how it does its work! It acts on the stuff of the world and changes it! God’s Kingdom stimulates growth and changes outcomes. Instead of coming out of the oven crispy & flat, that which is touched by the Kingdom of Heaven rises and grows and emerges soft, fluffy and fragrant! A delight to the senses! Something we can enjoy and share. Can’t you just smell it?! 

But, friends… there is much, much more to yeast (and the Kingdom of Heaven) than bread alone!

Did you know that in the baking process of bread, once yeast has converted the sugars into gas bubbles and caused the dough to rise, the yeast dies. Its work is… Finished. When that loaf comes out of the oven, the yeast is gone, but its fingerprints are all over the loaf. What does THAT say about the Kingdom of Heaven?

You don’t have to go far in a Google search on yeast before you stumble onto what is perhaps the most compelling Kingdom insight yet. I was a few web pages into yeast when I came across this quote from a researcher named Dr. Francis Collins – a name that rang a bell for me, by the way.

He said: The yeast genome is closer to the human genome than anything completely sequenced so far.” 

What does that mean? Well, a genome is all of a living thing’s genetic material. It’s the entire set of hereditary instructions for building, running and maintaining an organism, and for passing life onto the next generation. 

Francis Collins was saying that the yeast genome – the DNA of yeast – is closer to human DNA than any other organism studied up to the point of this quote, in 1996. Because of the similarities, studying the genome of yeast has opened up an entirely new area of science in which yeast and its genetic structure offer valuable clues toward understanding the workings of more advanced organisms, including humans.

Yeast models are being used today in the study of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Yeast is being used to test experimental drugs and is helping scientists learn more about cellular processes.

When I heard Francis Collins speak at a conference about seven years ago, I was struck by his childlike enthusiasm for genetics. I know – it’s as weird as it sounds! He spoke for almost an hour and a half to a group of youthworkers whose attention spans are – I promise you – NOT that long! He was actually giddy as he told the story of his experience as the lead scientist on the Human Genome Project – an effort that led top genetic scientists to ‘unravel’ and map human DNA in the same way he had done with yeast in the 1990s. He even took out his guitar at one point and sang us part of his talk! He was actually pretty awesome!

Dr. Collins, it turns out, has been appointed by President Obama as the Director of the National Institutes of Health - this is his current base of operations. But perhaps most interesting is that Francis Collins is as giddy about his faith in Jesus Christ as he is about genetics! His studies into yeast and human genomes changed his life – and his heart – and he write a book called The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief so that others who struggle with reconciling science with faith might have the benefit of his insights.

All of this is to say… What if?

What if the Kingdom of Heaven, here on earth, is like yeast from Francis Collins’ perspective – possessing the entire set of instructions for building, running and maintaining life; even passing life onto the next generation – when we, like yeast, have finished our permeating work, leaving only fingerprints on the loaves we’ve left behind?

What if the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, offering valuable clues to the full workings of God’s plan – beyond what we can see with our eyes?

We can’t fully grasp the entirety of God’s Kingdom – heaven and eternity are beyond our understanding – but… the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast! And yeast is close enough to human DNA to shed light on what scientists seek to understand. Maybe yeast is close enough to the Kingdom of Heaven to shed light on what we seek as well.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve often wished that God would give you a map for understanding life. Some of us have even tried to read the Bible that way, hoping for a MapQuest kind of experience, where we can see our origination and destination points – point A and point B – and with a click of the mouse, we can have turn-by-turn directions from today to eternity (complete with audio, if you like – and she can even have a British accent)!

Let me know if your experience has been different, but God hasn’t mapped the Kingdom of Heaven for me in that way. My experience with Kingdom-Mapping looks a lot like what Dr. Collins and his cohort have done with, yes… Yeast. Not so much a road map; more like a genome map.

A genome map is a set of landmarks that tell people where they are, and help them get to where they want to go. But where road maps chart well-known territory surveyed with incredible precision, a genome map is a map of a new frontier. Some parts of a genome map include great detail while other parts are relatively uncharted territory. It may turn out that a few landmarks appear in the wrong place or are the wrong distance from other landmarks, but over time, as exploration continues, the map becomes more accurate. More detailed. A genome map, like your life and mine, is a work in progress.
(http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org)

What if Jesus’ teachings are meant to be landmarks on a map of the Kingdom of Heaven? Not as much road map – precise and measured – as genome map – experiential and in-progress?

For example, from  the parables in Matthew chapter 13, we learn that:

The Kingdom of Heaven starts small – like a mustard seed – but once it takes root, there will be no stopping it! Landmark #1

The Kingdom of Heaven is growing at God-ordained speeds and in God-selected shapes, sizes and colors! No one but God knows what the seed will produce – you can’t tell by looking at the seed. Our work is simply to watch it grow. Landmark #2

The Kingdom of Heaven, like yeast in the dough, is acting on people and in systems and situations to make them better. To help them rise above. Landmark #3

And… the Kingdom of Heaven is diverse and filled with variety in people and personalities, all with different histories and gifts and crosses to bear. It isn’t our job to decide who’s in and who’s out… God has a plan, and it all gets worked out in the end. For today – for you and me - it’s enough to be caught in His nets! Landmark #4

In this way, using Jesus’ teachings as landmarks for Kingdom-Mapping, the Kingdom of Heaven really is like yeast - giving us new ways to learn and connect with realities we have yet to begin to understand. With each newly discovered landmark, the detail on our Kingdom map grows, leading us into a clearer picture of what God Himself must see.

A quick scan of related websites can provide a sort of yeast-mapping crash course; in a sense, Jesus’ parables and the whole of scripture comprise a life-long course of study – call it Kingdom-Mapping 101. Biblical teachings and our own experiences become landmarks on this Kingdom map of ours.

Some landmarks, like the parables in Matthew chapter 13, may show up on your map and on mine, but depending on how we each understand the teachings, we may place them differently on our own maps. My Kingdom map isn’t exactly like yours, because I also have personal encounters with God and the Holy placed on my map that you don’t know anything about! And my experiences with people and challenges in life also produce landmarks unique to me, which exist on my Kingdom map beside the truths I’m learning from God’s inspired Word.

When you tell your Kingdom stories, some of those end up on my kingdom map, too – because you help me learn when you take the time to share.

I have to wonder whether Jesus’ listeners were telling the truth when Jesus asked, “Have you understood all this?” and they answered, “Yes.” But what Jesus says next sounds just like yeast and brings the work of Dr. Francis Collins to mind:

“He said to them, Therefore every teacher and interpreter of the Sacred Writings who has been instructed about and trained for the kingdom of heaven and has become a disciple is like a householder who brings forth out of his storehouse treasure that is new and [treasure that is] old [the fresh as well as the familiar].” (Matthew 13:52 AMP)

May the yeast of the Kingdom produce treasure for you – the fresh as well as the familiar – and give you eyes to spot that pearl of great price, and the wisdom to do whatever it takes to hold onto it.

And may your Kingdom map reflect the work that is in progress inside of you: tethered to the landmark-teachings of Jesus, moving boldly into the new frontier of God.

Beautiful Things

Unique,_snow_flakeMy church family recently welcomed a new member to our staff. As Adam was introducing himself to us, he said something that lodged in my brain and hasn’t stopped pinging since.

He said that God creates order from chaos.

Now, I don’t know what you see.

What I mean is, when you look around your house, your workplace, your neighborhood, this world… I don’t know what it is that YOU see…

But last week’s headlines read like this:

  • Mom Accused of Fatally Poisoning Her Son
  • CDC: 75 People Possibly Exposed to Anthrax
  • Executions Resume Amid Lingering Questions
  • Is Iraq War Today’s Vietnam?
  • Fear Among Sri Lanka Muslims After Mob Attack

And those are just a sampling from the media.

You could add your own headlines, couldn’t you?

  • Diagnosis: Cancer. Stage 3 Cancer.
  • Couple Accrues $8000 in Legal Fees Over False Charges
  • PTSD Keeps Families From Embracing Returning Vets
  • Addict Not Welcome at Home
  • Family Feud: It’s Not Fun & Games Anymore

I don’t know what YOU see, but the word chaos is a pretty apt description of much of what goes on around us on any given day. The prophet Jeremiah saw this, too, and he used words like ‘violence and destruction’, and ‘terror is all around’ to describe it (Jeremiah 20:7-13).

It’s tempting, when we find ourselves inside a swirling mess of disorder, to feel powerless. To feel hopeless. And it’s common for people to give in to the chaos and become victims – because sometimes it’s just too hard to do anything else. And yet Jesus speaks to us today, in the midst of our own, personal chaos and He says ‘Do not be afraid.’ ‘Do not fear.’ (Matthew 10:24-39)

Now, these are not band-aid words Jesus is speaking!

Call me crazy, but I’m pretty confident that Jesus’ words are actually intimately linked to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics! (I know – I said ‘call me crazy!’)

Any engineers or scientists in the house? You will already know, then, that the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that:

The natural progression of the universe is from order  to disorder.

Think about that for a minute.

Here’s another important part of this natural progression:

In the same way that nature moves toward disorder, nature’s tendency is to move toward lower energy.

Order requires energy – to stack a pile of blocks takes much more energy than to crash that same pile, right? To organize a deck of cards by suit takes more energy than a game of 52 card pick-up! Order requires energy, but nature tends toward that which requires lower energy, SO… nature tends to move toward disorder. This is also called ‘entropy‘.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it? It explains why diets almost always fail – because it takes a lot more energy to order our lives in healthful ways than it does to reach for a bag of chips from our favorite spot in front of the tv. It explains why self-help is often no help at all, because our physical nature leans towards inaction when left to our own devices.

As complex as we humans are, we will fall prey to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics every time, as long as we rely on ourselves to initiate change. This is why disorder and chaos are more likely to occur in nature – and in the world as we each see it – because nothing in nature is able to create or maintain itself. Without an external influence, we will land in chaos and disorder every time. It’s the LAW!

This is exactly what Jesus is talking about when He says that there are those who seek life in THIS world – a life of fulfillment for themselves, HERE and NOW – in a world where the most probable state for any natural system is one of disorder. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that all systems degenerate when left to themselves. And Jesus says those who find this kind of life will end up losing it in the end.

Unaided by God, human beings are no different than any other natural system. Left to our own devices, we will follow the path of our addiction, affection or greed every time. Want life in THIS world, Jesus asks? Wrap your arms around entropy. 

Are you ready for some GOOD news? Well, buckle up! Because entropy can be lowered and disorder can be affected by external action – by the transfer of energy from a source OUTSIDE itself!

This is where Romans chapter 6 comes in and bridges the gap between chaos and order, between the laws of nature and the Laws of the Kingdom of God.

Hear this good news, but try thinking of sin as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – a state of mindlessly doing what the world wants us to do. Going through the motions. Apart from God.

Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did. (Romans 6:6-11 MSG)

Do you see it NOW? Jesus is the energy source that pulls us out of the chaos and into a life that doesn’t end in death! When we are willing to let this earthly life go, for Jesus’ sake, that’s where true life is found! That’s when we experience FOR OURSELVES – firsthand – that God is at work, creating ORDER out of chaos!

This act of Jesus, his death and resurrection, his transfer of energy and life, WORKS because we are LIVING SYSTEMS… And living systems are OPEN systems, meaning that energy can transfer in and out. In living systems, this transfer of energy is called HEAT!

And this makes SO MUCH SENSE of Jeremiah’s cry, that ‘within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in and I cannot!’

God’s presence works in us to counteract our natural tendency toward cooling off, toward randomness, toward chaos, disorder and sin. 

Oh my gosh, think PENTECOST! Ever wonder why the tongues of fire? Pentecost was God’s own object lesson in heat transfer ! His Spirit’s energy moved in, burning off the ties to this physical world so that men and women could finally live free from the laws of sin and death! Amen?!

As citizens of the physical world, we are obligated to follow its laws – including the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – the universe does tend toward chaos, and we tend to fear what we can’t control. But don’t forget! We have become part of Jesus! What died in our baptismal waters was our allegiance to the whims of this world, the natural tendency for us to do the easy thing, the desire to look only to our own selfish interests and to isolate ourselves out of fear or even laziness

ALL of which constitute SIN, by the way.

Romans 6 says we are no longer slaves to it!

We are no longer slaves to this chaotic, disorderly world because the power of God has acted on our very existence, transferring HEAT! FIRE! ENERGY! Empowering you and me to see and do and become well-ordered, beautiful things in Christ Jesus!

 

Click here to view a beautiful music video of Gungor’s ‘Beautiful Things’

Make Every Bean Count!

The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance.    John 10:10 (The Voice)

JellyBellyBeansConsider… the JELLYBEAN. 

Colorful. Tasty. Festive. Fun.                                                I wonder if you’ve ever stopped to consider what JELLYBEANS can teach us about LIFE…

Click to watch:  The Time You Have (In Jellybeans)

Jesus said, in John 10:10: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

In all its fullness.

Till it overflows.

Life that is full and good.

What if we were to borrow from our descriptions of the JELLYBEAN in order to add texture, color and flavor to this idea of ABUNDANT LIFE? After all, the word LIFE means something different to each one of us and is often colored by the season we find ourselves in and the difficulties we are currently facing. If we can agree on a description of LIFE, perhaps we would be more likely to LIVE IT – and to encourage others to live it, too.

So, what if LIFE = JELLYBEANS?

What if Jesus came so that we would have life that, like a jar full of JELLYBEANS, is…

Filled with color! These are no Hot Tamales (all red) or Lemon Drops (all yellow)! JELLYBEANS come mixed with black and white and pink and red and green. Each handful contains a rainbow of possibilities – and so does each new day of this abundant life we’ve been given!

Like JELLYBEANS, life comes in a variety of flavors, and if you’re anything like me, you don’t necessarily LIKE every flavor equally well! I happen to love black JELLYBEANS, but many people don’t. My family always picks out the black ones and gives them to me.

The popular Harry Potter series made famous a line of jellybeans called Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans, which are described like this:

“Delicious ‘normal’ beans mixed with crazy, creepy flavours like: Black Pepper, Booger, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm, Earwax, Grass, Rotten Egg, Sausage, and Soap.”

Life is sometimes a lot like a package of Bertie Botts Beans – you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting into until you bite. But every experience, every decision, every opportunity and choice is undeniably full of flavor.

JELLYBEANS remind us of Easter. In baptism, that old life and all of our sin are buried in the tomb with Jesus – but it doesn’t stop there. The abundant, rich and full life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10 is ours in His resurrection! Today we say YES to the holy mystery of baptism and its connection to Easter morning at the tomb. He’s not here! He is risen! And family, SO ARE WE!

JELLYBEANS are festive and fun, and that makes us smile – sometimes in spite of how we feel at the moment. The life Jesus gives always has a jellybean edge, because in the midst of even our darkest days, there are glimpses of heaven and hints of joy teasing us to look up from our pain, dancing around in our peripheral vision, reminding us that the hunt is on and there are JELLYBEANS and smiles to be found if we will simply open our eyes and LOOK.

JELLYBEANS, and the life that Jesus gives, keep us feeling childlike – because, as Jesus said, unless we become like a child, this abundant life – this heavenly citizenship – cannot be ours.

And children love JELLYBEANS!

They don’t read the list of ingredients.

They don’t tally up the number of carbs or grams of sugar in a serving.

They don’t count calories.

Those are things that grownups do! And just as our appreciation of JELLYBEANS can be diminished by nitpicking and overthinking, well… our appreciation of life can be warped and tainted, too.

You might even say that our abundant life can be stolen or destroyed by being overly zealous in attention to details.

By being concerned with quantification – to the exclusion of everything else.

By choosing to focus on small-picture thinking and short-term costs instead of long-term effects.

By dwelling so much on the proper way of doing things that in the end, precious little actually gets done.

In the business world, we call this being a BEAN COUNTER.

BEAN COUNTERS are concerned with QUANTITY, but the abundant life that Jesus came to give is more about QUALITY. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were religious bean counters. They were more concerned about keeping records of their holiness than making the very most of every moment they found themselves in. Jesus had many sharp words for these small-picture people.

So, when it comes to LIFE and JELLYBEANS, don’t be a bean counter! Instead, be like a child and MAKE EVERY BEAN COUNT! 

Abundant life is more than the number of our days, more than a list of completed tasks. As tempting as it is for us to quantify our lives by hours or dollars spent on this good project or that worthwhile investment… DON’T! Don’t do it!

Don’t be a bean counter… MAKE EVERY BEAN COUNT! 

The health of the economy of the Kingdom of God doesn’t rely on the diligence of accountants and bookkeepers! The currency of abundant life isn’t money, or good works, or how well we follow the letter of the law.

What spends best in God’s Kingdom is LOVE!

So – when it comes to deciding what to do with this day

Don’t be a bean counter… MAKE EVERY BEAN COUNT! 

It doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it. It isn’t about measuring and keeping track and dwelling on the short-term costs, because the Kingdom of God doesn’t operate like a business! 

Some of us desperately needed to be reminded of that today. 

The bottom line is this: When it comes to LIFE and JELLYBEANS…

Don’t be a bean counter… MAKE EVERY BEAN COUNT!

 

 

 

 

 

Motivate and Inspire (reflections on writing a personal mission statement)

220px-Leonid_Pasternak_001Several weeks ago, I asked one of my Bible study groups to consider writing down a personal mission statement. Jesus had a mission statement – it’s found in the Book of Isaiah and it goes like this:

The Sovereign Lord has filled me with his Spirit. He has chosen me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to announce release to captives and freedom to those in prison. He has sent me to proclaim that the time has come when the Lord will save his people and defeat their enemies. He has sent me to comfort all who mourn, to give to those who mourn in Zion joy and gladness instead of grief, a song of praise instead of sorrow. They will be like trees that the Lord himself has planted. They will all do what is right, and God will be praised for what he has done.” (Isaiah 61:1-3 GNB)

When I sat down that week to write my own mission statement, a phrase popped into my head… I remembered preparing my very first, post-college resume – and at the time, a resume was supposed to begin with a one sentence objective – basically, a statement that summed up your goal in life.

A big assignment! I didn’t really have to wrestle with it back then, though, and I still remember the exact words that came to me as I typed my objective (on my typewriter, by the way): To motivate & inspire…

I realized last week, as I worked to sum up my life’s mission for Bible study class, that those same words are still true for me today. My mission statement, then, came out sounding like this:

To motivate, encourage & inspire others to become their God-created, gifted selves, powered by the Word and the very real & present teachings of the Holy Spirit; to create space for God to move His people into closer communion with Him.

25 years later, I am realizing that it was God Himself who spoke these words into my resume and into my life - that’s why they haven’t gone away. And by faith, I believe that God speaks words of vision and life over each of us that cannot be taken away – not by the tragedies we face, not by the lies told about us, not even by our own failures along the way.

I believe that God’s dream for me is bigger – MUCH BIGGER! – than any idea or goal or objective I can come up with on my own. He has a plan to use the good stuff, the bad stuff, and even the ugly bits of my life in order to grow His kingdom all around me – and He speaks that dream over my life along with words like: Beloved. Daughter. Bride. 

My faith grows every year as I watch God speak His dreams over you – my friends and family, students and teachers. Thank you for giving me another year filled with beautiful glimpses of God-at-work, and for making room in your lives for Him to motivate and inspire YOU!

What’s in YOUR Faith Chest? (a PINK Tuesday post)

Originally posted on Pinkshoesministries's Blog:

Box 1 -Wooden Chest.

Image by ~Brenda-Starr~ via Flickr

My home church has a beautiful tradition of encouraging faith development in our youngsters. At baptism, each child is presented with a meticulously hand-made wooden chest. We call them Faith Chests, and when we give them to our children we explain that they are intended to house the items of faith that they will acquire as they grow.

I was recently looking through my son’s Faith Chest, searching for a medallion with his baptism date on it. While in there, I found such a variety of faith-related things that I had to laugh out loud. Among his faith items I found…

a small New Testament (gift from VBS)

a handmade blanket (gift from the quilters at our church)

a photo frame made out of craft sticks, holding a picture of my son at VBS

a poster with faith-facts about my son, created in Sunday School

a set of…

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Pray Like This… L4L.29

Originally posted on Pinkshoesministries's Blog:

The WORDMaria_Magdalene_praying

“Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (New Living Translation)

Such familiar words deserve yet another hearing…

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from…

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Getting it SDRAWKCAB L4L.28

Originally posted on Pinkshoesministries's Blog:

Grain in the field

Grain in the field (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The WORD

“Then Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’” Mark 2:27 (New Living Translation)

“Then Jesus said to the Pharisees, ‘The Sabbath day was made to help people; they were not made to be ruled by the Sabbath day.’” (New Century Version)

God created. Land, sea, stars, moon, trees, flowers, animals, humans. After a survey of the work of His hands, He found it all to be very good. He heaved a holy sigh of contentment and took a day off – to appreciate His workmanship. To enjoy His surroundings. To reinvigorate His creative energy. To rest.

And He calls us to do the same.

The APP

Forever looking to discredit this Rabbi of the rabble, the Pharisees seem to have spent a good deal of time…

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Pneuma & Alētheia L4L.27

Originally posted on Pinkshoesministries's Blog:

File:Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Holy Spirit.JPG

File:Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit.JPG

The WORD

“But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (New Living Translation)

“But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.” (Good News Translation)

One more time, so as not to miss the riches contained in these words of Jesus:

“But the time is coming – it has, in fact, come –…

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