Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

English: School bus seats, photographed from b...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

I often think of the Christian life in terms of the classroom and the field trip.

Sermons, Bible studies, devotions = classroom.

Life in the real world = field trip.

Jesus taught that His words are not just to be “incidental additions to your life, homeowners improvements to your standard of living.” Jesus’ words are foundational words – words to build a life on! He has some pretty harsh things to say to those who spend all of their time in the classroom and never actually work what they’re learning into the living of their lives (Matthew 7:24-29).

The weekends during these 40 days of Want What You’ve Got are a chance to work out all that we think about during the week. Sundays during Lent aren’t actually counted in the 40 day season, because Sunday for the believer is always Easter! Always celebration! Always feast day!

This weekend, instead of going out and buying or doing something new, consider what you’ve got. Find one thing that you already have but haven’t used or enjoyed for a long time…An appliance that makes a special treat. An accessory buried deep within your closet. A movie you enjoy but haven’t seen since… forever.

Take it out. Dust it off. Want What You’ve Got!

While you’re searching for that one thing, keep your eyes open for something that you haven’t used or enjoyed for a very long time – something that you don’t want... An appliance. A pair of shoes. Something that collects dust in your spare bedroom or that you regularly trip over in your garage.

If you don’t want it, why keep it? Re-purpose or recycle by giving it to someone else or dropping it off at a local charity store on your way to the coffee shop (just kidding)!

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Trek to the Manger is on Kindle for Advent 2015!

Brita is excited to announce that Trek to the Manger: Advent Devotions for Women on the Move is now available on Amazon Kindle!

Whether you prefer the feel of a “real” book in your hands or the convenience of an e-reader, you can join with women everywhere for this spiritual journey, which begins on Sunday, November 29th!

Gather your girls and plan to kick-off a group Trek to the Manger this year! A reading schedule is provided here, at Pink Shoes Ministries on WordPress – just click the Trek to the Manger tab on the menu to access the downloadable pdf. Small group discussion questions will be available soon!

Trek to the Manger 2015 Begins on Sunday, November 29th!

Trek book cover

Trek to the Manger: Advent Devotions for Women on the Move

by Brita Hammit

Available here from Create Space

or at Amazon.com

Advent begins on Sunday, November 29, 2015

Get your copy of Trek to the Manger and join women everywhere who believe – like you – that Advent should be an adventure!

One that honors tradition without bowing the knee to retail-bullying.

One that embraces fun and gift-giving without breaking the bank.

One that engages more of me than just my schedule and my credit card.

The season of Advent may appear to have been hijacked by a relentless stream of commercial messages – but this year can be different!

Instead of plodding through another stress-filled holiday, women on the move are choosing a different route to Christmas morning.

Fire up your GPS and grab a traveling buddy or two! Not for another trip to the mall… for a Trek to the Manger.

Trek to the Manger is a daily devotional for the season of Advent. While you could take the Trek alone, traveling is so much more rewarding with a friend! Consider inviting your small group, co-workers, or family members to join you on your Trek to the Manger in 2015.

Stay tuned for a downloadable Small Group Discussion Guide (available here, at pinkshoesministries.me)

Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass

Glass icicle, through a magnifying glass (Photo credit: miletbaker)

Contrary to popular belief and common practice, shopping is not a spiritual discipline.

Even if this comes as no great surprise to you, in this season of commerce (even in Christian circles) what we DO tends to outweigh what we SAY about Christmas. We may SAY that it’s all about Jesus – His birth, the Incarnation, the arrival of God on the scene – but what we DO when we spend our precious time and resources at the mall sends a crystal clear message to a world full of skeptics…

Believers are no different than everybody else.

Our unremarkable witness to heaven’s advent here on earth has me concerned today (maybe because I shop-till-I-drop with the best of ’em), yet I’m confident that I am not alone in yearning for a different way to celebrate Christmas this year. It may be December 11th, but it’s not too late – it’s NEVER too late! – for us to steep ourselves in the very real presence of God (vs. the very real distractions of the season).

For those of us who are expecting MUCH of this holiday – and of every day during which we choose to celebrate Emmanuel – I’d like to propose the adoption of three spiritual disciplines. Three ways to keep our focus on the One who is God EVERY DAY – 365/24/7. Three ways to prop open the book of our lives for the Author’s eyes to see. No more cover-ups. No more propaganda. No more societal sell-outs.

Three Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant. Today we consider the first of these:

DISCOVER.

The spiritually expectant are watching for God to show up. Looking for signs of His presence. Fully expecting to SEE HIM here! The spiritual discipline of DISCOVER is for seekers only, requiring not only that we pay attention and both recognize and celebrate the times and places where God is with us, but that we actively seek Him out. In the world around us, yes, but also in His Word.

Those of us who wish to DISCOVER the realities of God are invited to sink ourselves into the pages of scripture, where God can ALWAYS be seen and heard!

  • Choose a word to focus on for the rest of Advent. Make it something that matters to you right now. Need help? Think power, light, promise or energy.
  • Look up the definition of your word in a dictionary and write it down. Be sure to include any synonyms or antonyms for your chosen word.
  • Open a concordance (or check out the online study tools at blueletterbible.org) and look up your chosen word. Write down every scripture reference that contains that word. How about your synonyms? Look those up in the concordance as well, and add those references to your list of scripture texts.
  • Over the next couple of weeks, look up all of the scripture references you’ve identified. Read each one, then read it again. Write down the ones that trigger questions or thoughts or ‘aha’ moments. Make notes about these trigger texts as you read and meditate on them throughout the day.
  • As you read to DISCOVER, ask yourself questions like these:
  1. How is my understanding of the word I’ve chosen changing or growing as I study it?
  2. How can this new understanding of my chosen word strengthen my faith journey?
  3. What can I do in response to this new understanding of my word/God’s Word?

Let’s choose to DISCOVER new meaning and create new energy for Advent! I hope you’ll take time to share your word with me (mine, in case you were wondering, is: buy). And be sure to check back on Friday for the second Spiritual Discipline for the Expectant: UNCOVER.

Until then Expect MUCH!

the SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? Bible Study

The study translation Bible 2009

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been around the block.

When it comes to studying the Bible, I’ve made my way through this method and that format, using these tools and those materials. I’ve studied with the help of this translation and that paraphrase. I’ve considered his detailed commentary and her in-depth workbook

After all, if you’re like me and you take God’s Word seriously, you’ll go around the block again and again for even a GLIMPSE of His truth in those sacred pages.

I’m beginning to wonder, though, if all of our methods for studying and approaching the scriptures can’t be summed up in two painfully simple (but potentially loaded) questions:

SO WHAT?

NOW WHAT?

SO WHAT? I’ve just read this story in the Bible – SO WHAT? What’s the big deal? What difference does it make? Why does it matter that Jesus said this (or that David did that)? Seriously – what’s the big whoop?

How many times have you read a biblical text and failed to think about the reason those words were written? How often do you open and close your Bible without pausing to consider why that passage on this day?

‘SO WHAT?’ is an invitation to dig down to the crux of the matter, to the root of the text, deep into the heart of a God whose words are important enough to have endured thousands of years in order to be spoken into your life today. It may not be the most scholarly approach to the study of God’s words, but ‘SO WHAT?’ cuts through the Christian-ese and pretense to usher you into an honest assessment of the impact of scripture on a very real YOU in a very real world. If we cannot figure out the ‘SO WHAT?’ there is simply no point in moving forward to the ‘NOW WHAT?’

Yet it is the ‘NOW WHAT?’ that separates the spiritual tweens from the wise and devoted gray-hairs in the Kingdom of God! It’s the discipline of asking God to move you from the classroom of Bible study into the internship of “doing the Word” (James 1:22) that determines whether your efforts at learning will ultimately bear fruit or die fruitless – its growth tragically stunted inside of your head.

NOW WHAT? Asks the question that the faint of heart will avoid at all costs.

NOW WHAT? Forces the hand to be played and the play to be made.

NOW WHAT? Puts skin on the bones of a passive faith, bringing Jesus to life again and again in our love-starved, faith-starved world.

NOW WHAT?’ is the question that burns Spirit-fire within the believer whose curiosity cannot be quenched. For if we faithfully ask the question, we have no choice but to join the Author in His work as it is being written on the pages of the lives all around us.

To ask ‘NOW WHAT?’ is to drink deeply of the living water offered by the Savior, and then to take buckets of that very same Water to dehydrated souls, wherever they live.

No study of the Bible is complete without the ‘NOW WHAT?’

Because the Word of God is not passive, but ALIVE with the power of the resurrected Christ! ACTIVE with the movement of the living Spirit of God!

The SO WHAT? NOW WHAT? Bible Study will cramp your style, make you look like a fool, get underneath your skin and make you squirm.

Doesn’t that sound GREAT?! I’m in!

Now what?

Hands of Blessing L4L.20

Food of Love

Image by Collin Key via FlickrThe WORD

The WORD

“The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: ‘Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.’ Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.” Mark 10:13-16 (The Message)

I’m picturing the children in my church family right now. The ones whose parents faithfully bring (or drag) them to church every week. The ones who spill things on the carpets. The ones who make paper airplanes out of their service folders. The ones who fill their plates with the choice snacks during Fellowship time. The ones who kick balls in the courtyard (and manage to get balls stuck on the roof, in the trees and occasionally hit an innocent worshiper in passing).

Get a picture in your head of the children in your life and read this passage again.

The APP

Why do we bring our children to worship if not in hopes that Jesus might somehow touch them?

The answer to that question is probably closely linked with our own answer to the same: why do we attend churches and worship services and Bible studies? Is it sincerely because we hope to get close enough to Jesus for Him to lay His hands of blessing on us? Or does it have more to do with obligation? Tradition? Ritual? Social circles? Appearances? Habit?

The parents in today’s Gospel story knew that a touch from Jesus could heal, restore and forgive. As eager as adults were to get close enough to touch the hem of His clothing, you can imagine how parents might have hoped to see their children blessed by being in His presence as well.

Be honest, though. You can also relate to how the disciples must have felt.

  • This is important ministry that Jesus is doing!
  • To be in His company is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of His teaching and healing.
  • They’re keeping those who need Jesus from being able to get close.
  • Where ARE the parents of these kids, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Their reaction isn’t unlike our own, is it? I can’t tell you how many times words like these have been spoken (or unspoken) by adults in the church, concerned that the distractions created by children are wreaking havoc with the ability of the grown-ups to worship and study on Sunday mornings.

  • This is an important meeting that we’re having!
  • To be here in worship is a really big deal – a privilege! A gift!
  • These kids are just goofing off and getting in the way of the Pastor’s teaching. They’re distracting the adults from their focus on Jesus!
  • Where ARE these kids’ parents, anyways?
  • Somebody get these kids a babysitter!

Smacks, doesn’t it? Yet this is often how our worshiping communities react to the influence of children on the adult-centered worship experiences we’ve created. We want to meet with Jesus in the sanctuary, so we send the children down the hall, in blatant disregard of Jesus’ very heated words:

“Don’t ever get between them and me.”

If children are, as Jesus pointed out, at the very center of the life of His Kingdom, how dare we lay hands on them to distance them from our encounters with God when what Jesus wants to do is lay His hands of BLESSING on them!

Hands of care and concern.

Hands of gentleness and protection.

Hands that render a touch filled with love and acceptancesomething that most of us (and most of them) are hungering for in our affection-starved lives.

Accepting the children around us, as messy and loud as they might be, is prerequisite to our participation in the Kingdom Jesus speaks of. Until we learn to see the ‘distractions’ that they cause as divine appointments with the Savior Himself, we will miss out on the richness of Kingdom life as it is lived in relationship to the lost and the least.

Until we remember that in the year 2014, the literal hands of Jesus ARE you and me; we are the ones withholding the blessing that He longs to shower on the children in our homes, in our churches and in our world.

I don’t know about you, but I heard the tone of His voice when He told them, “Don’t push these children away.”

I think He meant it.

Click here to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

 

HIJACKED by the SPIRIT

Just a few of the Tuesday girls!

There goes another Tuesday morning Bible study…

13 women armed with coffee cups (correction: 12 coffee cups, one tea cup) and Bibles were once again hijacked by the Holy Spirit.

This phenomenon, happening with increasing frequency, takes the entire circle of women in my living room on one WILD ride through a full range of emotions and subjects and stories that would make the faint of heart… well, FAINT.

Don’t get me wrong! We come into each session with a shared objective – to cover the assigned material of our current study – but as the conversation begins and the very real needs of the group emerge, our agenda is often hijacked for a GREATER ONE.

Sometimes there are CONFLICTS that need to be resolved, or at least understood so that we can move on (strained relationships with difficult family members; run-ins with people who try to derail our attempts at loving those on the fringes; threats made by our own selfish nature that are at war with the Spirit of generosity God wants to fill us with).

Sometimes there is COMFORT that needs to be shared (when we’re losing our homes to the bank; losing our kids to addictions; losing our minds to menopause; losing our loved ones to cancer; losing our focus to the mind-numbing busy-ness and noise of the world around us).

Sometimes there is COMMUNITY that needs to be built (reminders that we’re NOT ALONE, that we are part of something greater than our own tightly wound bundle of nerves & needs; opportunities to realize that we have something the others NEED and that we can’t be faithful AND continue to keep it to ourselves!)

This week’s hijacking was marked by TEARS, answered (and unanswered) QUESTIONS, hysterical GIGGLING and moments of awkward SILENCE. Climbing off of the ride and into the study at hand, we realized almost simultaneously that what we had already experienced/wrestled with/discussed WAS the topic of this week’s chapter.

The “lesson” had begun – it just looked so much like our real lives that we hadn’t even noticed.

Romans chapter 12 begins with these words:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” (the Message)

God’s plan is likely NOT going to look like what YOU have in mind for today, and trading in your ordinary life for a God-crafted one probably isn’t for the faint of heart…

It’s RISKY!

It’s CHALLENGING!

It’s even a bit UNNERVING!

But go ahead – give up your NORMAL for His distinctively COUNTER-CULTURAL and make like a Girl Scout (be PREPARED)!

A Spiritual hijacking is coming your way, and it has YOUR NAME written all over it.

 

Special thanks to Barbie, a Tuesday morning gem, who used this phrase to describe our women’s group to a friend.

My Pink Shoes

The summer before my daughter’s freshman year included one rigorous shopping trip for clothes and school supplies. It was all fairly routine until we found ourselves in the shoe section of a favorite store…

I saw these shoes, and I’ll admit to you that there was only a hint of attraction when I picked them up to show my daughter; it was her reaction to them that made the sale.

It was something like, “NO WAY! Don’t EVEN think about buying those, Mom.”

The word hideous was used, and I remember a comment about “not being seen in public” with me before she put up her hand, turned on her heel, and walked away.

How could I RESIST? Of COURSE I bought them!

These shoes have stirred up emotions and sparked lively conversations over the years. One friend wrote a sappy poem about them while another conspired with my daughter to make them “disappear” while I was on a trip out of town. Even when they are tucked safely away in my closet, threats of a one-way trip to Goodwill have been made by both family and friends.

I’ve also found I can’t blend in with a crowd while these beauties are on my feet. They make a STATEMENT when I wear them, in a language all their own; not unlike what happened in Jerusalem, at Pentecost (Acts ch. 2).

When God unleashed His Spirit on Jesus’ followers that day, He made them STAND OUT! What else could the tongues of fire have been for? They certainly weren’t going to “fit in” with any crowd while flames erupted on their heads!

God’s invitation to His followers at Pentecost was clearly NOT to a life of predictability and status quo. When His Spirit comes in power to willing disciples, PEOPLE TAKE NOTICE! In just one day at Pentecost, about 3,000 onlookers witnessed the unusual events, felt the power of the Spirit of God, and responded by putting their faith in Him.

Scripture teaches us that when God’s Spirit of truth comes in power to willing disciples, we will KNOW the truth, and that truth will SET US FREE (John 8:32). That truth does something else, too. Author Flannery O’Connor once said that, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you ODD.”

THIS I BELIEVE – just look at me! I sit at my computer today, a willing disciple of the risen LORD (pink shoes notwithstanding), and while you probably won’t believe that there are flames of fire on my head, I promise that those flames ARE HERE, in my HEART. I feel something like a Galilean these days, because although I’m equipped with a head (somewhat) filled with knowledge, I’m not formally “schooled” in religion – I’m simply a follower of Yeshua, like the first disciples were. An unlikely candidate to deliver a message that might affect, or even change, the world.

Yet the Spirit of God comes in power to set apart the lives of those who yield to Him.

  • We are MARKED by His glorious presence.
  • We are CLAIMED by the God who created and breathed life into us.
  • We are EMPOWERED to DO, in Jesus’ own words, even greater works than His own (John 14:12), putting God’s glory on display for all to see.

In the process of all of this marking, claiming and empowering, as with the disciples at Pentecost, these lives we live are changed.

Gone are the days of getting lost in the crowd; instead, let’s wear our uniqueness like a pair of pink shoes while the fire of God’s truth burns brightly in our hearts.

"Let's wear our uniqueness like a pair of pink shoes..."