Sunday Rest #5

 

“Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:5-8 (NIV)
photo credit: I’m all right . . . I just got the wind knocked out of me, that’s all. via photopin (license)

Learning the Language of Love

As many of you know, I am reading one book per month as a personal growth goal for 2016. (See the list of books I’m diving into HERE.) February’s selection was an amazing book by Bob Goff called “Love Does.”

love-does-goff

This book had been recommended to me atleast a dozen times before I actually got around to reading it. Now I know why! Here are a few things I learned about love from this life-changing book:

  1. Love is personal. Each chapter gives the reader a story from the author’s life where love was shown to him or through him. I was in awe of the many different ways he was able to recognize God’s love on his behalf. Goff has a natural knack for story telling and leaves us in a place where we are motivated to look for God’s ever present love in our lives as well.
  2. Love takes risks. Every story Goff weaved brought a level of challenge and adventure with it. He claims that “Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way.” (p. 130)
  3. Love doesn’t need a mission statement. You don’t have to join an organization that claims they are in the “love others” business in order to actually love others. He calls people who don’t flash their love around “secretly incredible people.” No capes to show off your love. No signs to promote your love. Just loving for the sake of loving.
  4. Love isn’t afraid of failure. In fact, love thrives off of going after our dreams even when the probability of success seems low. Goff says that failure is just an opportunity to think differently about some things.
  5. Love is audacious. It goes to extravagant measures to ensure others know that they are, in fact, loved. It doesn’t matter if people think you’re going overboard or caring too much. Love is more concerned with loving than with what onlookers might have to say about the way you do the loving.

I hope these reasons encourage you to check out this book. I know it is one that I will read again. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the story he told about his beloved, yet beat up JEEP:

“I know it sounds goofy, but I want to be like that Jeep. I want to leak from having been hit by Jesus. From having something crazy happen to me, something that flipped my life upside down. I’ve met people like that, people who leak Jesus. Whenever you’re around them, Jesus keeps coming up with words and with actions. I don’t suppose everybody gets hit by Jesus, but those of us who have talk about Him differently. We start steering funny; we start leaking where we stand. And it’s because we got thrown from our lives in a terrific collision.” 

 

(To see January’s book review, click here.)

If the Church was like Walmart…

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Everyone would be allowed to come inside.

The rich. The poor.  All races and cultures welcomed. Diversity would be applauded.

The handicapped could work alongside those that are well. Single moms with a baby on their hip could walk in at 2 am and find food. Senior citizens would be honored as greeters by the front doors.

We’d stay open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Loud, rambunctious teens from the wrong side of the tracks might cause a ruckus in the parking lot. Shady characters would loiter out front. But they wouldn’t keep consumers away.

What’s on the inside is worth the awkward company and irreverent glances: Food.Drink. Community.

Sure, we’d be teased for our colorful clientele. We’d even be teased for our ragamuffin staff. But lives depend on us to keep offering necessities at all hours of the day or night without regard to economic, religious, or educational status. This is the secret to our success after all.

We appeal to the masses. 


 

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God is waiting for His church to be like Walmart to the world. Open door policy? Check. People with unattractive baggage allowed to enter? Check. The sick can serve too? Check.

After all, we are here for the lost. NOT the FOUND. We offer something the world can never give them: A man named Jesus. Bread of Life. Living Water. Friend of Sinners.

I don’t recall Him turning anyone away. He sure as heck didn’t have any conditions on who could come in. In fact, he hung out with those that were on the bottom rung of societal class. He even called them friends.

Like Walmart, the Church was meant to appeal to every single person. That’s scary to our very safe, westernized Christianity. There might be some thugs in the parking lot making shady deals on the side if we do this. But they’ll only be able to resist the pull to come in for so long. Eventually they will see why everyone else chooses to walk through those doors.

Like the woman at the well, these typically ignored hooligans will be among those that drink from the well of eternal life. In their new-found freedom, they will go and tell everyone they know about this man named Jesus. About a place to come where satisfaction is guaranteed.

Church, can we be like Walmart? Not here to make our outside glamorous or attract attention through flashy signs. Here to look like Jesus. And if I remember correctly, He wasn’t too concerned about appearances. (Hence, the Cross.)

 

“Is anyone thirsty?

Come and drink—

even if you have no money!

Come, take your choice of wine or milk—

it’s all free!

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?

Why pay for food that does you no good?

Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.

You will enjoy the finest food.”

Isaiah 55:1-2 

 

photo credit: Walmart via photopin (license)
photo credit: Historic city hall and the church of St. Nikolai in Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany via photopin (license)

Rise Up

This past week has been full of tears as I have reflected on the 34 years of memories that I have with my dear sister, Melody. She fought a 3 year battle with breast cancer and it took her life last Sunday.Who she was as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend speaks volumes to the brave and beautiful warrior spirit that God had placed within her.

As I was watching television with my husband last Friday night, the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day began playing at the end of one of our favorite shows. I had never heard it before but something in me needed to hear it. I did not know what was to come within the next two days but it’s like God gave me an opportunity to be prepared through this song.

I listened to it non stop before I found out about my sister, on the flight home as I let the sad news sink deeply into my heart, and throughout the following week as funeral plans were made. And I can’t get past the meaning of the words.

You’re broken down and tired
Of living life on a merry-go-round
And you can’t find the fighter
But I see it in you so we gonna walk it out
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousands times again
For you

When the silence isn’t quiet
And it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we’ll take the world to it’s feet
And move mountains
We gonna walk it out
And move mountains

And I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you

All we need, all we need is hope
And for that we have each other
And for that we have each other
We will rise
We will rise
We’ll rise, ohh ohhh
We’ll rise

Melody has risen up PERMANENTLY. She is alive and well in the presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ. No more falling down for my sweet sister ever again. How grateful I am for this truth. The lyrics are also a call to action for the rest of us here on this very lost and desolate place called earth. We have a mandate to rise up against all odds and testify to the goodness of God no matter what. We have an opportunity in the middle of pain and loss to stand tall on the foundation of God’s unfailing love. To speak out above the noise of chaos in a voice that resonates with hope.

So, I write this from a place of honor for my sister and the legacy of faith she left for others to follow. There is no other option than to rise up. I will not let earthly sorrow keep me from having a heavenly perspective.

Until we meet again, my lovely sister… #riseup

(photo credit: Sunrise Yabucoa, Puerto Rico via photopin (license))

Song Review (“Fierce” by Jesus Culture)

I have been a fan of Jesus Culture for years. They are such an anointed worship band with a huge heart to help young people enter into God’s presence. JC’s newest release, “Fierce”, is off their 2016 album entitled Let It Echo which will be released this Friday, January 15!!! (Can you sense my excitement?)

Chris Quilala is the lead singer of this song and, as always, leads the worshiper into a beautiful experience with his smooth voice and guitar skills. Kim Walker-Smith joins him on the chorus with her powerhouse pipes and rounds out the sound with her amazing vocal talent. Both worship leaders are so gifted, not only in their musical ability, but in the way they choose to fearlessly praise the Lord with abandon.

My favorite part of the song is the bridge which says,

‘You chase me down

You seek me out

How could I be lost when You have called me found?’

And that, my friends, is what worship is all about. Jesus being the focus, the center, the reason why we sing. Jesus Culture has always given credit where credit is due and their ministry has touched millions of lives. I’m forever grateful to them for being true examples of sold out Christ-followers!

Let me know what you think in the comments below. And link up with Kat on her blog to find more great music reviews! http://katblogs.com/2016/01/11/music-mondays-15/#comments

Song Review (The River by Jordan Feliz)

“The River” is the frequently played single off of Jordan Feliz’s debut album entitled, Beloved. 

I have been playing it on repeat lately. It’s just so full of truth and the catchy beat makes me want to dance. What a great way to start the year with an engaging reminder of God’s saving grace.

Jordan Feliz has a voice that is thick with quality and substance as he effortlessly glides across the notes with ease. He has a contagious element to his singing that invites the listener to not only bop their head but really feel the music in their very soul.

And that, to me, is what makes a great artist. Especially if you are representing Christ in your craft. Does it present the message of the gospel well? Does it bring the audience into an experience where they are not just entertained but moved to respond?

This song does both of those things. So put it on and get ready to bust a move. God is good and we were created to praise Him!

<The idea for this song review came from a fun post I read on http://katblogs.com/2016/01/04/music-mondays-14/ . Check out her page! >

 

LOVE- A word that’s overused and underrated.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/55999734@N00/13398445813">Late Winter cross</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a>

Love. It’s a word that is misused, misunderstood, and mistaken for all the wrong things.

“I love that song!” – misused (Love can’t be reduced to a pop culture fad.)

“He just loves me because I’m pretty.”– misunderstood (Love isn’t conditional.)

“I only did it because I loved her.” – mistaken (Love never exploits or abuses.)

How would you define love? For me, there is only ONE definition:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”                1 John 3:16

True love requires sacrifice. Jesus is the perfect example. He gave His life for all humanity because He loves us so much. Nothing we can do could even come close to that kind of love. We as humans aren’t even capable of fully understanding it.

But sacrificial love also shows up in other ways (because how many of us are really going to die on behalf of someone else?) It shows up in my willingness to give up a bad habit because my friend, spouse, or child asked me to stop. It shows up when I lay down my need to be right in order to save a relationship from dying. It shows up when I choose to give my husband the last k-cup of coffee instead of hide it for myself (I’m still working on this one!)

Because that’s what love does. It’s not even dependent upon if you like the person. Love crosses over whatever barrier is in it’s path to be, to do, to give, to serve, to show up, just to lay it all down, for the sake of one person.

Sound difficult? Well, it’s really a lot harder than it sounds. Especially when we trivialize it to being sentimental mush with no depth. Love is deep. It’s definitely not limited to a shallow feeling. No sentimentality or emotionalism can replace the bloody truth of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. It was messy. It was controversial. The Cross set the highest standard for pure love. 

And our lives are meant to be a representation of that love: sacrificial, messy, controversial. The crazy thing is, when we live our lives this way, choosing to love despite how we feel, we inevitably provoke a reaction. LOVE doesn’t just sit still. When it’s shown in it’s truest form, love beckons a response. And yes, it may be smiles and laughter. But it also may be tears and yells. Because love doesn’t ask your permission. And that may be hard for some people to take.

So, in the name of Love, let’s actually live our lives in a way that causes others to look at us in wonder. Because no matter how vulgar and offensive the Cross was, no one can deny it’s incomparable beauty.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33859208@N00/2354408182">Snowy Post</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Christmas is a time of joy and hope. It’s an occasion when everyone is willing to go the extra mile to help others. Most of the world is incessantly smiling and overwhelming excitement fills the air.

However, a sense of anxiety and pain comes with this season as well. There’s a knowing that I can’t stop the radio station from playing 24 hours of holiday music. To them, it’s ratings. To me, it’s reminders of good times that are gone forever. I feel like they are just trying to force the Christmas spirit into me!

I’m just trying to find a balance. How can the two worlds coincide with one another? Can joy and hope really be found in the middle of anxiety and pain? Can I remember the old times with fondness while enduring the agony of present hardships yet looking to the future with expectancy?

I don’t know. It’s hard. Does anyone ever really get to a place where they are truly ok with whatever life throws at them? Truly at peace with the forgotten yesterdays, here-then-gone todays, and quickly approaching tomorrows?

I’m not sure I know how to do that. But what I am trying to do is keep an eternal perspective through it all.  If we could really know how long we have on this earth, would we even want to know? Eventually, hopelessness would set in and the sense of urgency that beckons us to live each day like it matters would be gone because of our known expiration date. Knowledge isn’t always power.

Actually, I’m realizing more and more that the less I know, the happier I am. Oh, being aware is vital to living a responsible life, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to enjoying my life, there’s only so much I really want to know.

Trust is a battle. And I’m in the thick of it at this moment. To really trust in the One who is good despite the whirlwind of despair that surrounds my life right now is difficult. To really trust that He sees it all and hasn’t overlooked me or forgotten about me despite what my eyes are telling me is just plain excruciating.

Yep, I’m in a battle alright. A battle that won’t end this side of heaven. And every single day I have to choose to look up instead of right in front of me at the wreckage. Did you know that none of us make it out alive anyways? The thing is, that doesn’t depress me. It’s the living in this fallen world that is so darn depressing.

So I guess I’m being real and giving you permission to feel whatever it is you need to feel to make it through this Christmas. The truth is still the truth no matter what we feel, isn’t it? God is still on the throne. Jesus is still the Savior of the world. Heaven is still our forever home.

So feel it. Then put on your gloves and fight for your right to live a joyful, hope-filled life. Don’t lay down and take it. You are armed and dangerous through the power of the Holy Spirit. This life is worth living because of the One who lives in you. And it ain’t over ’til He says it’s over.

I think I’m going to put on some Jingle Bell Rock…

 

A Heart Like Mary

photo credit: Chicago in the Christmas mood II via photopin (license)

Today, I was blessed with the opportunity to be a contributor on the wonderful blog, FLOURISH! I was asked to write something relating to Christmas and the holiday season so I chose to write about one of my favorite women in the Bible, Mary.

Here’s a tidbit:

Mary’s whole perspective on the news that she would be carrying the Christ-child was seen through the eyes of gratitude.  Instead of viewing nine months of pregnancy as an inconvenience, she saw it as an opportunity.  There was a chance that she could have been shunned by society by her unmarried status but instead, she chose joy.  In fact, Mary is so aware of her lowly state that she recognizes the importance of God noticing her by declaring that she is blessed.

(Read More Here…)

Morning Mindset

photo credit: Once morning via photopin (license)
photo credit: Once morning via photopin (license)

Take a minute and focus your heart this morning.

Focus on the good things that God has done for you.

Focus on the truth instead of the lies.

Truth like:

God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) 

You are never, ever alone. (Joshua 1:5)

The mercies of God are new every single morning. (Lamentations 3:23) 

You are a son or a daughter of God. (John 1:1)

There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) 

God’s perfect love casts out all fear. ( 1 John 4:18)

Let these promises wash over your heart today. Let them invade your thoughts with the good news of the gospel.

“Jesus loves YOU 

This I know

For the Bible tells me so…”

NaBloPoMo November 2015