Taking My Cues From Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne (Photo credit: Michael Heilemann)

These days, I’m thinking Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne knows what it takes to really go ‘off the grid’ and disappear. This is something I’m interested in, because I do it so poorly. I try to set aside time to study and pray, and my best efforts are sabotaged time after time. So… I watch Jason, and I learn.

Jason Bourne knows that technology is almost never your friend. Technology has ways of giving others more access to you than you really want to give. If smashing your phone to pieces seems a bit extreme in an effort to gain a bit of ‘quiet time’, you’re not alone. Really – YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Jason Bourne’s enemies used nearly every form of techno-gadget to track him down – don’t you believe for a moment that God’s enemy won’t do the same. A telephone ringing, a computer alert sounding… anything to shift your focus from what really matters onto something that, well… really doesn’t.

You may never have had a day where going off the grid was a life-or-death decision, but if you had, you would most certainly have bought a box of hair color. Changed your look. Chopped off a few pieces of hair. Because if you want to fly beneath the radar of the enemy, you don’t want to advertise. You want to blend in. I learned this from Jason Bourne, so when I know that I need to be avoiding the enemy, I lay low. I don’t make plans. I stick close to home and I try not to stand out. I humble myself and I do what I have to do. It isn’t glamorous, but one day it just might save my life.

Jason Bourne knows how to run. He doesn’t let himself become a sitting duck – he keeps moving – always at least one step ahead of the enemy. Some of us are easy targets – we’re predictable. We panic. We freeze up instead of turning up the heat. Some of us would do well to follow the example of Jason Bourne, who knows when to walk away and clearly knows when to run.

Like it or not, Jason Bourne also knows how to fight. I don’t really think it’s his first instinct, but he won’t hesitate to let the enemy have it when it’s his life that’s at stake. Some of us have been avoiding the fight at all costs. Some of us would rather pretend there isn’t even an enemy. Not Jason. He knows he’s a target. He knows that the enemy will stop at nothing short of taking his life. He knows, so he fights when he has to so that he can stay free.

I have to wonder what my own life would look like if I were to take my spiritual cues from Jason Bourne?

  • It takes time and energy to go off-grid – and it’s worth the effort every time.
  • Don’t sell out to technology – use it, don’t let it use you.
  • Nothing good comes from trying to stand out – you’ll get further with fewer obstacles when you forego glamour and embrace the humble life.
  • Don’t become an easy target – run in a zigzag motion and keep ‘em guessing.
  • Choose your enemy wisely and fight with your life to stay free.

(closing credits theme music)

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The Pentecost Prayer Marathon (a PINK Tuesday post)

Prayers

Image by Xerones via Flickr

A number of years ago, in the midst of a season of unprecedented awareness of the power and presence of the Spirit of God, I gathered a group of women together for what became known as the Pentecost Prayer Marathon.

A marathon, as you may well know, is an endurance race that measures out to be 26.22 miles long. It has quite a history, the marathon, going back to the Battle of Marathon and the Greek soldier Pheidippides – a messenger who ran the distance from the fabled battleground to Athens in order to proclaim their victory over the enemy (in a battle which he himself had also fought). A feat which he did, as the story goes, without stopping until his pronouncement had been heard (at which time he fell down and died).

More than 500 marathons are run every year. Athletes prepare for months for this race which, for many, emerges as a defining moment of glory and achievement in a lifetime of athletic endeavors. I’m not really sure where the connection between 26.22 miles of road and a miraculous outpouring of Spirit-presence came from, but I began to wonder about what it is that drives a person to such a strenuous undertaking as the running of a marathon. I began to marvel at the dedication and intense preparation of marathon runners. I pondered the fruit of such an athletic commitment – maybe a medal? Certainly feelings of self-satisfaction!

But I am not an athlete.

No matter how hard I try, I just can’t imagine enduring the pain and maintaining the focus and discipline needed in order to run this kind of race (as much as I admire those who can and DO)!

On the other hand, I CAN appreciate the value of the LENGTH of the marathon. Yes, it is long. But it also has an END. A finish line.

I find that people (myself included) often function better with deadlines. Can you relate? When I diet, I am a maniac at following the rules! I almost NEVER cheat, because I can see the results AND I know there is an END – a goal – in sight. When faced with a huge project (say, writing curriculum for a retreat), I ALWAYS do better work as the deadline looms larger. There’s a date when this work must be presented, and the closer that event is, the more efficient I am at staying focused on it.

Anything I want to do better CAN be done better if I assign a goal or deadline to it!

This may drive one person to successfully finish a marathon, another to lose those last five pounds, and yet another to finish a project that has been pending since 1992.

Can the same be true about PRAYER? Can I be more effective and focused in prayer if I designate a sort of ‘finish line’ for it?

My hope is that you will find, as I have year in and year out, that the answer is an absolute YES! Herein lies your invitation, then, to join me in my annual marathon – my PRAYER Marathon – purposely connected to the memory of the Spirit-bath Jesus’ disciples and followers received when His promised Friend arrived on the scene, thousands of years ago.

Be mindful, though, that this marathon of prayer isn’t about ME. It isn’t about what I can do, what I think I need, or what I think is important to God. This Prayer Marathon is about the power unleashed in the lives of believers when the Holy Spirit is given room to breathe His mystery and comfort and momentum into the very lives of those who seek Him. Today.

So… here’s how it works! The Prayer Marathon begins on Saturday, May 26th at 8:00pm. It ends at 10:12pm on Sunday, May 27th (the day we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit). In case you missed the connection, the Prayer Marathon lasts for a total of 26.2 hours.

For the sake of focus, there are four stations to pass through during the Prayer Marathon. Each one is designed to help us focus on a particular area of prayer/need. Designated times are just suggestions here, so don’t get too legalistic about them! Simply use them as a guide and allow God to move you through the Marathon to the finish line – the celebration of the arrival of His Presence with us!

Prayer Station #1: 8pm on Sat. May 26th

Focus your prayers on preparing your heart to receive all that God wants to pour out in YOU! Seek scriptures that connect the work of God in His people. Include times of confession in these early prayers. Invite God to move in your heart. Ask Him to show you what a life of discipline and focus on the things He cares about might look like. Ask Him to surprise you as the Marathon unfolds!

Prayer Station #2: Dawn on Sunday morning, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in your family, your church and your community. Make a list of those whose needs are greater than the resources you have to meet them. Take your time and ‘download’ any/all prayer concerns or requests you might have on behalf of those you know and those you love.

Prayer Station #3: Sunset on Sunday evening, May 27th

Intercede on behalf of those in our culture, our nation and our world. Bring to God your concerns for the people who live near and far, in familiar and unfamiliar places. Use a map or globe as a tool for your prayers! Consult websites for agencies like International Justice Mission, World Vision or Wycliffe Bible Translators. Identify specific places and people groups whose issues and needs tug at your heart, and lift them up in prayer. Light a candle on their behalf. Let your prayers shine light into their darkness as only God can.

Prayer Station #4: 10:12pm on Sunday evening, May 27th

REJOICE! Revel in the faithfulness of the God whose Spirit is ever-present in THIS DAY. In THIS MOMENT! Thank Him for His promises and celebrate His presence! Take note of what this Marathon has brought your way, taking time to write down your impressions and His responses to your cries. Ask yourself: what is the ‘medal’ He wants to lay across your shoulders, now that you’ve completed this Prayer Marathon? Is it a fresh awareness? A clearer vision? A deeper passion? Pay attention to the fruit of your commitment!

If you choose to pray this marathon with me, I invite you to pray these words from Habakkuk throughout the journey. Because the rushing wind and tongues of flame didn’t just come and then go. The Spirit of God is moving still, and something in me says that this is what our prayer should be…

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known.” -Habakkuk 3:2a

Literal 4 Lent: The Best Teaching Ever Heard

(Click here for the Literal 4 Lent home page)

Several years ago I attended Youth Specialties’ National Youth Workers Convention in the fall. I always LOVE YS events, and this one was no exception, with speakers like Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio on the main stage. I was especially eager to hear Shane Claiborne speak – his message the year before had seriously rocked my world, so I was hungry to hear what he would have to say this time, as thousands of youth workers gathered to be inspired.

Shane took the stage and proceeded to do a couple of carnival tricks, including fire-eating, which was weird but not altogether unexpected (have you ever seen Shane?). Then he took out his Bible and began to read from the Gospel of Matthew – the Sermon on the Mount.

He read chapter 5. And chapter 6. And chapter 7.

Not a short text, yet I was ready for what was coming next – Shane’s unique way of looking at scripture that would certainly lead me into new understandings and applications of the Word.

That’s not exactly what happened. As Shane read the final verses of Matthew ch. 7, he looked out at the crowd of eager listeners and prayed:

“God, give us the courage to live it.”

And he walked off the stage. Talk OVER. Total, stunned silence fell over the room.

From my journal, dated Nov. 16, 2007: “I admit to entertaining the question, ‘is this… IT?’ Yet even as I asked myself the question, I couldn’t believe I was asking myself if Jesus’ greatest sermon – in His own words – was ‘all’ that Shane was going to share… but I did think it.”

Sitting in the silent company of thousands whose mental gymnastics had to be similar to my own, I was MOVED from disappointment to the realization that this man, who clearly had the full attention of everyone in the room, had just leveraged his influence to lift up the words of Jesus as GOSPEL… TRUTH.

I was moved – to tears. “I am at once convicted and motivated; mortified and passionate; confused and crystal clear.”

The way this sermon of Jesus ends is the way I have chosen to begin the season of Lent, as it is ushered in today, on Ash Wednesday. Jesus makes it clear that His words are not just something to add to our collection of wise sayings, to be pulled out and comforted with in times of need. No, what Jesus says is something that I most desperately need to hear, and I suspect that you do, too.

“‘These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.’ When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying – quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.” Matthew 7:24-29 (The Message)

THIS was the BEST TEACHING they had ever heard. Because Jesus wasn’t just telling them what to do – He was showing them.

What if Jesus meant for us to do the same?

What if Jesus was serious when He said that the role of Bible study is to work the Word into the living of our lives?

What if He meant for us to take His teachings literally?

During this Lenten season that begins today and runs through Easter morning, I invite you to join me in asking, “What if?

Pink Shoes Ministries is going to experiment with being Literal 4 Lent.

Each week day during the 40 days of Lent we will be considering the literal application of the teachings of Jesus and their potential impact on our lives, our families, our churches and communities. We’ll take a daily look at the red letters in the Gospels, making the Word our primary text for this season of the church year – this Way of the Cross.

Each week day, here at Pink Shoes Ministries on wordpress.com, we will consider THE WORD (a teaching from Jesus’ ministry) and THE APP (how we might live it – today). On the weekends we will rest and consider the impact of this experiment in Kingdom living, taking note of what the Word has done as we gave it hands and feet and took it into our world.

What if people listened to what we have to say and responded, “It’s apparent that they are living everything they are saying – quite a contrast to the typical religious crowd.”

Let’s DO IT! Let’s pray for the boldness and the courage to LIVE the best teaching ever heard for the next 40 days – and see what happens!

It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be counter-cultural, but it will also be counter to the passive Christianity that appears to have its roots somewhere other than in the teachings of Jesus the Christ.

I realize that we are all over the place when it comes to our interpretation of scripture, but won’t it be an unprecedented undertaking to be Literal 4 Lent?!

In November, 2007 as I sat silent in the crowd, this prayer rose in my heart. May it rise in your heart, too, as we follow Jesus into a life LIVED for the glory of God…

“I am eager for what YOU will do NEXT, God! Bring it. I am ready.

I am yours.”

Click to return to the Literal 4 Lent menu.

The Great Efficiency (a PINK Tuesday post)

woman

Image by Alessandro Vannucci via Flickr

 

The Proverbs 31 woman is doing me no favors today.

While she was up before the sun, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day, I was nestled under cozy covers, recovering from another week of seeking that elusive state of being: The Great Efficiency.

What exactly is it that tugs at the heart of a woman, convincing her that there is no higher goal than to be eternally busy? Are we reading the scriptures correctly when we picture this industrious gem of a woman as she appears in Proverbs chapter 31 – the epitome of relational genius – famed possessor of The Great Efficiency?

We are told that she is trusted completely by her husband because of her goodness and generosity toward him. She is a bargain shopper and finder of treasures, both in the stores and in the real estate market. She is a gardener and homemaker who is never too busy to reach out and help the poor. She is moving from sun-up to sun-down, and apparently even then she’s in no hurry to call it a night. She wakes up ready to roll and burns the midnight oil, and somehow she always manages to face tomorrow with a smile.

Her words are filled with wisdom and her work is always worthwhile. She never doubts her usefulness or her importance in the life of her family. She is predictably kind, perpetually observant and possibly the most elegant woman who ever lived.

When our households – like hers – run like a well-oiled machine and our scheduled lives flow effortlessly from Sabbath to Sabbath, will we have arrived?

Is this how they will know we are Christians – by our smiling faces from behind sewing machines; the click of knitting needles in our nicely manicured hands?

Is this the woman God created ME to be?

Part of me wants to blame Ms. Proverbs 31 for the annoying Marthaic impulse that pulls me down this path. After all, wasn’t it Martha who inadvertently earned poster child status for the cause of The Great Efficiency when she made her famous scene during Jesus’ visit to her home, admonishing her sister Mary for an apparent lack of interest in the ways of the Proverbs 31 woman?

If Martha’s dedication to running an efficient household and making her guests feel at home was actually the best choice, the way to be, then how are we to take Jesus’ response to her temper tantrum?

“‘Martha, Martha’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:41-42

Who told Martha that it was more important to be efficient than attentive?

Who tells us that we can somehow be all and do all, for all (and still have something left over to offer at the feet of the Lord)?

You see, the problem with The Great Efficiency is that we come to see ourselves as capable. And equipped. And completely able, by our own efforts, to meet the needs of those around us.

As we master living efficient lives, the danger is that we will begin to believe that we are the solution to the problems around us. If we just work harder; if we just put in longer hours; if we just set our minds to it, we can not only do it, but we can do it all.

Every day I watch the women around me strive to live efficient lives. I watch them work multiple jobs to put food on the table in single-parent households. I watch them give up carnivals and cable in order to pay the rent and clothe their growing children. I watch them juggle To-Do Lists which, by virtue of their length, are disappointments just waiting to happen. I watch and I listen, and sometimes I hear words like these:

“I had been feeling frustrated and weighed down lately by society’s expectations of me: “Put your son in after school care and go get a job”, “quit needing charity and go get a job”, “work 9 to 5”, etc.

The reality of it is that I have a job. I have many, many jobs.  My first job is being a mother. The time and dedication and schedule that I am able to give to my child is not found in a larger paycheck… is not found in fulfilling my parents dreams… is not found by fitting into the box of society’s norm; rather, it is found right here in our home.  It is evident in that I am able to put his needs for consistency, structure, schedule, and routine above conveniences and material things… it is evident in his eagerness!

So it IS all a matter of perspective.  And it IS difficult to keep appreciating my gifts and joys when society wants to tell me I am poor, when society wants to shame me for having shut-off notices… I have a renewed perspective that each late notice is my reminder that I am staying true to myself and I am meeting my child’s needs.”

Whatever your wake-up call, it’s time to expose the lie of The Great Efficiency and embrace The Great Sufficiency of Christ.

I’m not enough, but HE IS.

I can never do it all, but HE CAN.

My light may go out before the day’s work is done, but even as I put my To-Do List to sleep, “He will quiet (me) with His love.” Zephaniah 3:17

His grace IS ENOUGH for me.

one hundred (a PINK Tuesday post)

One hundred is a big number. A sizable number. One worth noting.

If you’re a collector and you have one hundred items in your collection, it’s worth sharing with others (possibly worth investing in your own museum for proper showcasing)!

If you’re a cook, the day that your personal specialties numbers one hundred dishes is a day worth celebrating (and please, invite your friends who can’t cook to the party)!

If you’re trying to quit a bad habit and have made it one hundred days without doing that thing that you (don’t want to) do, embrace your newly-found strength (and pay attention to what makes you stronger)!

One hundred of just about anything can seem like a LOT (unless, of course, we’re talking money, in which case one hundred is a lot if you have nothing and not-so-much if you need a whole lot MORE).

When you have done something one hundred times, you’ve racked up a fair amount of practice, and repetition is one of the ways we learn best. Someone who is willing to repeat an action one hundred times is either dedicated or crazy (or, most likely, a bit of both), and this is where I come in…

Today’s PINK Tuesday post is the one hundredth blog posted here at Pink Shoes Ministries!

Looking back over the past eleven months (which have flown by like no other eleven months in my history), I am both grateful and a bit mystified. Grateful to our creative God for the variety of gifts He lavishes on His kids. Mystified as to what His purpose might be for these one hundred musings!

I try not to overthink things too much – maybe you can relate? Because when I do, these efforts become more about me and less about the One who moves me to action in the first place. And I’m serious about being moved to action!

Too often we are guilted into action, or roped into action (even in the church – I know you’ve been there). But when the God of the Universe moves you into action, something different happens than when our action is simply to fulfill some obligation or to get someone (or some ill-fitting expectation) off our back.

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the little wisdom book “The Four Agreements,” explains it like this:

“The best way to say, “I love you, God,” is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, “Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now.”

Paul says it like this, in Romans 12:1 (The Message):

“Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”

Sharing my heart here, with you, has been an exercise in giving my time, energy and passion BACK to the God who gave them to me in the first place. While it’s difficult (at best) to gauge the ‘fruit’ of an internet ministry, I trust that God will continue to use this effort in His Kingdom for the good of His people, for His redemptive purposes, and for the glory of His Name!

Ruiz notes that, “Doing your best really doesn’t feel like work because you enjoy whatever you are doing.” How many times can you honestly say that this is how you feel in a twenty four hour period? In a week? In one hundred days?

While I can’t say that I have loved every minute of the writing of these one hundred posts, I can say that it hasn’t felt like work.

My prayer for us, in the days and months ahead, is that we would seek to act in ways that GIVE us energy (rather than drain it), choosing to remain true to our God-given giftedness (saying ‘no’ to actions that don’t fire us up and which do not fit with who we are becoming as daughters of the King).

Thank you for being a part of what’s happening here, at Pink Shoes Ministries!

May you find, as I have, the one thing that (for you) is worth doing again and again; perhaps even one hundred times.

Life Together (a PINK Tuesday post)

Life is HARD (can I get an ‘amen’?).

Life TOGETHER can be harder.

I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but today’s topic is DISCIPLINE.
I know – we’re as crazy about discipline as a biting toddler or a teenager whose driver’s permit is burning a hole in the wallet.

Spiritual discipline, as with parental discipline, well – it’s part of being in the FAMILY!
Those of you with children know that kids NEED their LIMITS! Children need to know where they stand and what they can and cannot do, for their safety and for their well-being. Isn’t that what the child development specialists teach – the need for ‘healthy boundaries’?

It’s as if King David had just walked out of a seminar on discipline when he wrote the words of Psalm 119, saying things to God like:
‘Teach me your commands; help me understand your rules; lead me on YOUR path because it makes ME HAPPY! I WANT to follow YOU!’

We, like David, are children in God’s family. And we come together as a family of faith looking a lot like a collection of pottery, formed by the Master’s hands.
Only, some of us are cracked.
Others, chipped.
Broken.
Maybe just a chard or a piece of something that used to hold water; that used to be whole.

We come together AS A FAMILY and we know that LIFE IS HARD.
But LIFE TOGETHER, well, sometimes that’s even HARDER.

I imagine that this is what prompted Jesus to give His followers a ‘prescription’ for how to handle conflict in the church (Matthew 18:15-20). Jesus KNEW what all of us KNOW – that LIFE TOGETHER is HARD.

Any group of people can be a community. Jesus teaches us that the distinguishing factor – the MARK of togetherness in the Body of Christ – is that when we come together IN JESUS’ NAME, HE HIMSELF is here, with us! The idea here is not unlike what happened in the books of Exodus and 2 Chronicles, when the presence of God Himself came to dwell in the midst of His people. The Hebrew word for it is Shechinah, which means ‘the special presence of God’. When God Himself came down to the people, His presence (like a cloud) filled the worship space! His glory was so powerfully present that in these two stories, Moses & the priests couldn’t even enter the sanctuary because God had filled it UP with HIMSELF!

When we gather in His Name, Jesus’ own presence is like that! His glory is so complete that what we thought we were there to do is often consumed by HIS agenda, HIS direction, HIS energy, HIS PRESENCE! When Jesus comes to church, or to Bible study, or to a meeting where the common denominator in those attending IS HIS NAME, He makes our time together something OTHER THAN what we would have made it on our own.

And this is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 work – because when 2 or 3 believers get together in His Name, Jesus Himself is there. He fills us with His presence and we become part of what He is doing in the room. Two people who disagree CAN work things out when they both have Jesus’ Name on their lips and His Spirit in their hearts!

But this is not always the case, because sometimes we meet and we have some other name on our lips, some other presence in our hearts, like –
Jealousy. Anger. Fear. A problem or relationship or issue that we’ve allowed to take precedence over Jesus’ Name.

That’s why Jesus gives a Step 2 and a Step 3 – and even a Step 4 in our Matthew text; because even in the church, we sometimes forget why we’re here in the first place. We forget that this isn’t about me, or you, or even US. It’s about HIM.

When we make our gatherings about Jesus, His presence not only changes how we talk and what we find important enough to talk about, but His presence changes US. We’re somehow BETTER when He is here!

But Jesus’ presence goes beyond affecting our behavior toward one another. What Jesus DIDN’T DO is lay out a bunch of rules and regulations and then say, “See ya! Good luck with that!” and walk away. When the Spirit of God comes to live inside of us, He doesn’t coexist with our selfish needs and desires… HE FILLS THE TENT! And in filling us up, we’re left with the PROOF of His PRESENCE – the evidence that He is here and we belong to Him… and that evidence is: LOVE!

We might even go so far as to say:
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: and the MAIN THING IS: LOVE!

According to Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, LOVE fulfills the law. LOVE is the only debt we owe to one another. When we LOVE another person as we love ourselves, we can do them no wrong. When we wring out the details and get down to the nitty gritty, ALL of the commandments can be summed up in this word: LOVE.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing: and the MAIN THING IS: LOVE!
Right?

But I think that sometimes we use our incomplete understanding of LOVE as an excuse to avoid the commands of the Lord…

After all, Paul says all we have to do is love each other & it will be impossible to sin! Sounds great! Simple!

Tempting, though, to throw up the love ‘blinders’ and ignore, well, EVERYTHING ELSE.
And yet LOVE is nothing if not the manifestation of God’s real presence:
Where GOD is, LOVE is.
And where LOVE is, LIGHT SHINES.

Love’s light shining on God’s Word illuminates His teachings, His commands and His ways SO THAT we see the path clearly before us, like David prayed in Psalm 119.

God’s WAY is exposed by the light of love, and by the way – so are the obstacles and the temptations that threaten to trip us up and stop traffic on the road.

Love’s light shining in community makes us BETTER than we ARE!

And it’s BECAUSE of love that we don’t ignore the struggles we have with people. Otherwise, why would Jesus have given us tools to work through these problems with others?

As parents of earthly kids and as brothers & sisters in faith, we WANT each other to be well prepared for life, and we KNOW this means we will all make mistakes. If we’re to learn from our mistakes, well, we have to take responsibility for our part in those mistakes. In this family that is the church, when we excuse one another’s bad behavior and take on the burden of someone else’s poor decisions, we aren’t doing anyone any favors! Instead, we are called through voices like Paul’s to ‘lock in our empathy, love and understanding’ (Love & Logic) from the word ‘go’, BEFORE the consequences of our actions roll out. That way, when all is said and done, we KNOW that we are LOVED. No matter how clumsy we are. No matter how far we’ve strayed. No matter what harm may have been done.

We know – ALL of us know – that LIFE is HARD.
And let’s face it – there are times when LIFE TOGETHER IS HARDER.

But when two or three or more of us gather in Jesus’ Name, His presence can change all of that. And when we’re marked by the proof of His presence – when we are marked by LOVE – the light that shines from the Word into our lives has the power to clear up our confusion, to heal our relationships and to make us BETTER than we ARE on our own.

Now, that’s a message I don’t want to hear again.

I want to LIVE IT.

Listen to this message as recorded on Sunday, September 4, 2011: Life Together.

Wanted: Champions

Featured

RunnerI used to run in the mornings.

When I was (significantly) younger, I would wake up early and sleepily tie on my sneakers, pop a cassette tape into my Walkman (yup – just dated myself), put my headphones on (no earbuds, mind you, just a couple of generously-sized speakers that nearly covered my entire ear), and wander out onto the pavement.

My first steps were always labored and awkward (not to mention painfully slow). Often though, as my body warmed to the idea of motion, I would find my stride. The rhythmic thud of my feet on the street somehow managed to free up space in my head. Some days, I found myself lost in the music I was listening to. Other times, my thoughts were so loud that the music served only as a soundtrack for the stories and scenarios streaming through my mind.

But there were moments during these early morning jogs where neither the music nor the head games could compete with the drama emerging from the east. On these days, as the sun gathered its energy and bled its light into the fading darkness, I was nearly overcome by the power of the new day. Light and warmth intensified everything within eyeshot, exposing the world to me and me to it. On these days, when my run was over, I felt… different. As if I hadn’t just been on a run, but on a journey. That somehow, in 30 minutes’ time, I had started and completed something; that mysteriously, things had changed.

One thing I never experienced, however, was the sense that I was in any way/shape/form a Champion. I was just a jogger. A novice. A casual athlete. I wasn’t running to win any races or trying to keep pace with anyone else. I ran because I had a desire to move.

At a meeting I attended last week, this word Champion came up.

Not the winner/victor/title-holder kind of Champion, but the supporter/guardian/defender/advocate kind.

The kind of Champion who campaigns tirelessly for her cause.

The kind of Champion who will fight for what is right and necessary and true.

The kind of Champion who stands up for those who just can’t find their balance (or have been knocked out so many times that they just can’t lift themselves up off of the mat – again).

Not the noun-kind-of-Champion, who wears a medal or frames a certificate to hang on the wall, but the verb-kind-of-Champion. The doing/speaking/acting/stepping-out-of-comfort-zones-for-something-bigger-than-myself-ing kind. One who bravely acts on an innate desire to move.

The Psalmist noticed this need to move in the daily recurrence of the sunrise, comparing the sun to “a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Psalm 19:5

Having a very well-defined ‘course’ to run, the sun rises every morning and sets every night, only to rise up and do the same again tomorrow. And the day after that. And again, the day after that. Without the faithful, daily emergence of light and heat from the sky, all of creation would be out of whack. Out of sync. Unable to function predictably.

Without this Champion of the sky, darkness would prevail on the earth.

But a quick look around me confirms that, while physical darkness comes and goes with the day, other forms of darkness have fallen around us which aren’t so eager to be ushered out by the sun.

Emotional darkness. Depression. Lost hope.

Relational darkness. Betrayal. Discord.

Spiritual darkness. Confusion. Mixed messages.

I know you see it. I know you feel it all around you, every time you leave the house or pick up the phone or turn on the tv.

Champions are needed in this world that’s out of whack, to bring it back into sync with the Creator. Verb-kinds-of-Champions, whose goal isn’t victory but action. Whose course is met with patience and persistence and joy.

Whose first steps may be labored and awkward and slow, but whose faithful attempts at finding their stride produce rhythms of freedom and healing and possibility for those who haven’t seen the sun in a very, very, very long time.

Friend, move to a window and look up.

The One Who made the sun and set its course in the sky is the same One Who created you! You may not have noticed this before, but you have been given your own course to run. You are the possessor of energy and light, and there are people all around you whose lives are crying out for a Champion!

Not a competitive, gotta-come-out-on-top Champion, but one who is compassionate, looking-out-for-the-lost-and-the-lonely-and-the-least. Not sprinting to the finish, leaving the ‘competition’ in the dust, but faithfully and steadily following the course of a God-crafted life in a God-hungry world.

We need Champions!

Double-knot those sneakers, my brave friend. I’ll see you on the street.

The ‘C’ Word (a PINK Tuesday post)

The letter C

Image by Mel B. via Flickr

I know, I know… you’ve heard all of the quotes before:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

If you don’t create change, change will create you.”

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

 “Change is the only constant.”

We could go on, but we know the drill. Change happens. Ready or not, willing or not, it’s a-coming. For some of us, change is equivalent to a four-letter-word that brings with it a discomfort that only makes us wiggle and squirm and ultimately finds us fighting back in an effort to keep things the way they WERE (the way we happen to LIKE them).

For some, though, change is a necessary rite of passage that creates the momentum necessary to move us from here to there; from where we are comfortably seated now to where we need to be for our next adventure in life. Does it hurt? Yup. Is it hard? You betcha.

I suspect that some of you are anticipating the type of change I’m facing this summer – that of an (almost) empty nest.  Or perhaps your change is about 6 lbs. and wears diapers and cries every time you manage to fall asleep. Maybe your change is an empty chair at the dinner table or one less passenger in the carpool. Change can look like moving boxes or new neighbors or the ceiling of a hospital room, but no matter what your view, everything is (of course) always about to change.

Jesus deals with the idea of change in a way that you and I might consider a bit harsh. Listen to these words from Matthew 10:34-39:

“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut – make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Change in my own life has often been bloody. It’s often felt more like the work of a really sharp knife than, say, the warm hands of a potter and the whirring sound of a potter’s wheel. Yet Jesus clearly says that until I am cut free of what I consider comfortable, I am not capable of being joined with Him. My work, my family, my ministry are only that – MINE – until I yield to the severing that His sword came here to do.

Change is running rampant in my life this summer! I’m feeling the awkwardness, the discomfort, the brewing of what may very well become for me my own ‘perfect storm.’ Yet I trust the One who wields the weapon that ultimately makes me capable of giving more, seeing more, loving more and doing more than what I’m equipped to do today.

As this season of change runs its course in me, Pink Tuesdays are going on sabbatical! Vacation! What you can expect from Pink Shoes Ministries this summer is a more random expression of growth than the predictable Tuesday morning post. Expect CHANGE! The visual format of this blogsite will be changing! Who knows what future posts might look like as God re-shapes me for His service?!

In these months of change, please consider exploring some of the posts you may have missed in the past. I’ll be updating and organizing them by category in hopes of making it easier for you to find what you might need. And please take time to write me a note, letting me know better how to encourage and support you in YOUR static and fluid seasons of life!

As change unfolds, perhaps the ‘C’ word will emerge as…

Centering!

Catalyst!

Celebration!

CareFREE!

Spirit, I say ‘BRING IT!’

 

Faith EVOLUTION (a PINK Tuesday post)

Ichthys and Psalm23

Image via Wikipedia

This has been a season of wrapping things up for me – more so than ever before. Every year the school year ends. Every year a class of Confirmation students is welcomed into Church membership. Every year we celebrate our graduates and applaud their achievements. But this year has been different for me.

This year I am the mother of a graduate. The mother of a Confirmation student.

My children are growing up in front of me, over which I seem to have precious little control.

And this season has gotten me thinking…

It actually all started with a Confirmation class assignment. This assignment is issued every year to every student attending Confirmation at my home Church. Both first and second year students are to write a Faith Statement which is to be shared at the end of the season.

Several years ago I began to broaden the scope of the Faith Statement assignment, drawing parents and Mentors of the students into this personal exploration of faith. Now, on the final night of Confirmation class for each school year, we sit around a growing circle of chairs and take turns. We take turns sharing our faith in words that make sense to us. In words that describe the faith we claim to have today.

Sitting in this circle of faith two weeks ago, listening to the faith stories and statements and journeys of children, teenagers, young and seasoned adults, it struck me that our faith itself is anything but fixed. This was especially noticeable in the second year statements, where what was written in 2010 had to be re-written to fit the growing faith-walk of these beautiful people of God.

I noticed this in my own Faith Statement, having written one each year for four years running. I even tried to cut corners between years one and two, but I found that a mere 12 months had rendered my beliefs – touched. Touched by life. Touched by loss. Touched by knowing more and seeing more and trusting more. And I am completely convinced that until we take the time to put into writing what we think we believe, our faith evolution is overlooked. Underestimated. Neglected. Missed.

So today I issue a challenge to all of you whose faith has never been put into words that can be written out on paper and maybe, someday, read aloud to a trusted circle of friends. Because sometimes we don’t really understand what it is that we believe. We’ve never thought it out before. We’ve never had to make our case or tell our story or stand on our own two feet and pull off the Sunday morning mask.

On this PINK Tuesday, I challenge you to bare your heart and wrestle with words until what hasn’t been crossed out on the page is the truth about what you know to be true about the God who loves you more than you can fathom. I believe so strongly in this practice of the Church that I will even go first, sharing my own incomplete understanding of God and my faith evolution with you.

Brita’s Faith Statement  May 11, 2011

I believe that the God of the Bible is not only REAL, but that He has a story, He has a plan, and He has given us every opportunity to get to know Him better (through His Word, through His Spirit and through the people in whom His Spirit lives today).

While I may not completely understand everything about Him, I believe He is know-able. Not only that, but I believe that His heart’s cry is that everyone who breathes – everyone He has created – would know Him. He loves us ALL that much!

I believe that my own story – the situations and experiences in my life – fit like the pieces of a puzzle into God’s big-picture story. There are connections between my life and the work God is doing in the world! Some of these connections are things I’m aware of – relationships with people or the noticeable effects of my life on the lives of others – but many of the ways God is operating through me aren’t even KNOWN by ME!

God created me (and every person) as a unique, hand-crafted masterpiece with gifts and tools to be put to good use in the world around us. Not only that, but He has given me the energy and passion of His Holy Spirit in order to activate my gifts and motivate my actions for the good of others and for the GLORY of God!

My belief is bigger than the words I can find to express that belief to you. But that’s okay, because I don’t think God is as interested in what we SAY as He is in how we LIVE our lives in relationship to Him and to the teachings of His Word. There’s something mysterious in the way that God moves into a life and changes the heart of a person. I am different today than I was a year ago.

God has given me eyes to actually SEE Him at work in people who are genuinely seeking to know Him more, and this is a very beautiful thing. It’s what keeps me teaching and leading and participating in the life of the church. Watching people become more like Jesus IS the ‘work’ of the church! We don’t MAKE it happen, God does! But we share in the fruit of the spiritual growth of others when we choose to make God’s family OUR family. That’s why I love Confirmation so much – because it’s one of the ways that God connects our lives together in faith and calls us to actively LIVE OUT that faith as a family, united, in a world that is painfully divided.

God’s way of doing things is weird. Weird to a world whose focus is on ME and MORE. God calls me to live for HIM and OTHERS, and to be satisfied with LESS of the stuff this world thinks is so important to have, SO THAT I will have room in my life for MORE of what He is pouring into me through His generous Spirit of Life!

The scripture verse that sums this up for me and seems to be the call on my life is Psalm 116:12-16:

“What can I give back to God for the blessings He’s poured out on me?

I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!

I’ll pray in the name of God;

I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.

When they arrive at the gates of death, God welcomes those who love him.

Oh, God, here I am, your servant, your faithful servant:

Set me free for your service!”

Will you do it? Will you put pen to paper and spell it all out – what you believe about the God who believes in you?

Security Breach (a PINK Tuesday post)

Computer Space (1971)

Image by Laughing Squid via Flickr

I’ve just received the fifth email warning today, informing me that my email address has been pirated by an ‘unauthorized person’ outside of the Epsilon system. Epsilon is apparently a massive e-mailing machine, but I’m awfully glad I don’t own their stock today as I open email #5 from yet another apologetic company.

“We are confident,” my emails read, “that the information that was retrieved did not include any customer account or financial information.” And I’m shaking my head now, asking no one in particular if that’s supposed to make me feel better – more secure, more safe – now that some dishonest hacker has information about me from FIVE different sources?!

Are you kidding me?

How should one react when their security has been breached?

In the case of Epsilon’s failure to keep my personal information secure, I’ve been instructed NOT TO REPLY to requests for login ID’s or passwords. In fact, it is advised that I do not reply to ANY email asking for any sort of personal information, because now that security has been breached, I just can’t know who I can trust. Better to remain skeptical of everyone, reporting suspicious activity to the ‘How To Report Fraud’ hotline, right? At least that’s what the sincerely apologetic emails in my inbox tell me.

Honestly, this is what I tend to do when my emotional security has been breached, too.

Don’t reply.

Hole up in my own little world.

Be a skeptic.

Doubt everyone.

Trust no one.

A breach in trust may warrant such responses! After all, there isn’t a Fraud Hotline when it comes to the suspicious (and sometimes malicious) activity of people. If I’m to protect myself from further breaches, I have got to be proactive by sandbagging and boarding up the windows and doors. There is no way that I’m exposing myself to the elements of betrayal and dishonesty again.

So I change all of my passwords and shut down my operating system. No one gets in.

Dr. Roland Summit, a leader in the medical field and faithful advocate of the sexually abused child, had this to say about the effects of such abuse in children:

“The uncertainty of sorting out enemies from friends impairs the emotional security of victims and their advocates.”[1]

Whether our trust has been breached dramatically through abuse or more subtly through neglect or broken promises, the result is almost always impaired emotional security. Can anyone be trusted now?

On this PINK Tuesday, consider the security breaches you’re reeling from.

Who has broken your trust?

Who has betrayed your faith?

Who has failed to live up to your belief in them?

Where have you fallen victim to emotional pirates, who have taken your innocence as plunder?

These are difficult things you’re dealing with. Lost friends. Broken marriages. Runaway children.

God’s Word for you and me, and our words for those who seek to hack into our joy, sound something like Joseph’s response to his traitorous brothers in Genesis 50:20:

“Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.

Joseph lived his entire life sorting out enemies from friends.

He didn’t hole up in his own little world.

He fought the urge to become a skeptic.

He chose not to doubt everyone.

He overcame the temptation to trust no one.

In the end, he was able to redeem those who had breached his trust and discarded him, body and soul; to stand and say that God meant it all for good.

Will you?


[1]Murphy, Edward F.: Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996, S. 467