Friday, November 30, 2012

For My Birthday Girl

Dear Precious Lucy,

You're laying in my lap as I write this. You're only still like this when you're asleep. We joke all the time about how busy you are. You really are something!  This time one year ago, I remember being so frustrated. We all were surprised that you were taking your time to join us. I had been at the hospital all day long!  I was trying so hard to deliver you without medication... I wanted so badly to have you naturally. I was doing fine, but I remember my biggest struggle was not knowing how much longer you would be.

But then you surprised us. As soon as we sent everyone home and accepted that you probably weren't going to arrive until the next morning, you decided it was time. At 12:22 AM, you joined us. I did it without that epidural, just like I wanted! It wasn't easy, but you were worth every minute of it. I'd do it the same way a thousand times. There's nothing I'd change. You were worth every contraction, every caffeinated coffee I skipped, and every meal I threw up. You were worth it all.

There's this saying: Let her sleep, for when she wakes she'll move mountains. I think the initial quote is a political reference, but I've seen it on many nursery items. I've adopted it for you. It captures everything about you. I don't know exactly what God has in store for you, Baby Girl, but I know that you are here to move mountains. It may take time to learn what those mountains are, but you have purpose here already.

There are two main themes that we tried to speak into your life before you were even born: the importance of faith and your privilege to be a light for all who see you.  You will be reminded a million times that you were named after two amazing examples of faith, one real- Hannah (mother of Samuel) - and one fictional- Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia). I can't wait to share their stories with you! I can't wait to show why faith is so vital to us as followers of Christ!

Faith is important, but we can't forget light. Your name, Lucy, means light. It's only fitting that your life verse should be Matthew 5:14-16:

"You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." 
We are called to be a light to the world. My prayer is that we can be a light for you and teach you to do the same for others.

Your first birthday is only minutes away. Later in the day, we'll gather with family and friends to celebrate you. We'll eat cupcakes (I baked 48 of them today!) and watch you dive into vanilla cake with whipped frosting. We'll watch you open gifts and get excited about Elmo, Minnie Mouse, or whatever catches your eye. We're going to have a good time loving on you and watching you smile.

In closing, know that your Daddy loves you so much. You have him wrapped around those sassy fingers. Your brother loves and adores you in every possible way. He will do anything to protect you and make you smile. I love you too, Lucy, more than words can say. I cherish you. When your mountains seem overwhelming, know that I'll always be here to help you. Lastly, it's hard for me to fathom because of the depth of our love for you, but our Father God loves you even more than we do. We'll do all we can to show you that love. You are loved more than you'll ever know!

For now, sleep tight. Tomorrow is going to be a busy, but fun day. Happy Birthday Lucy Girl! This world is better because you're in it!

With all my love,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 30: What now?

"Our world is hungry for genuinely changed people." ~Richard Foster

If you've taken the time to read any of these authenticity posts, chances are you're tired of the status quo of Christianity. You're probably tired of sitting in a pew and wondering how in the world you're supposed to apply what you hear each week to your everyday life. I don't know about you, but I've seen enough robots in my life to know that something has to change. Be the change this world is craving.  We have been charged to do so much more than sit in church twice a week and shake hands with fellow church members in the halls. That's good, but there's more.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly,
 to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" ~Micah 6:8

What do we do with all of this? The answer is simple, yet complex at the same time: we live authentically. We say goodbye to the monotony that we've known and we choose to live authentically, intentionally, and even sacrificially. We decide to do better and to make a difference. We have to do better if we're going lead others to Christ. Living with authenticity is a bold thing in this mass-produced, cookie cutter world.

It's time. We have more influence now than any society in history. In seconds, you can share a photo of your dinner with people all over the world. It's time to do more. It's time to share your story each time the opportunities arise. That's not just for social media, where you can hide behind a profile. It's time to be authentic and intentional at home, at work, at school, and everywhere you go. You aren't allowed five different versions of yourself. You don't get to choose who you're going to be based on your plans for the day. That's absurd and it's insulting to the circle of influence that's been entrusted to you. That's what the world would do; it's the status quo.

"Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." ~Esther 4:14b

The status quo isn't enough, it never has been. It's time to be about our Father's business. We've got to get our focus off of ourselves. It's all about Him anyway; it's time to start living that way. This is our for such a time as this.  It's time to rise up and be the light. There is no justification for secret church here.  It's time to show the world that we're real people, living in this real world, serving and living each day for God.  Let's do better; the world is watching. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 29: Living Intentionally

"But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name be declared in all the earth." ~Exodus 9:16

We've talked about love and forgiveness. We've talked about being transparent in the good and the bad. We've talked about identity and acceptance. We've talked about intentional relationships, both to benefit ourselves and to benefit others. We've talked about leadership and mentoring.  We've talked about serving and having purpose. It all comes down to this: living intentionally.

Living intentionally is living life "on purpose." It's choosing to live each day for God's purpose. It's living with His plan in mind 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mary Crowley writes, "Being a Christian is not doing certain things, but doing everything a certain way." That's what it's all about: doing things in a certain way because of God's purpose, not only His purpose for your life, but the lives of others.  It's going beyond yourself and looking at the big picture. 

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." ~Matthew 5:14-16
Living intentionally, and authentically, is realizing that you are that light and that you have responsibility to shine, no matter what.  It's choosing to shine in the good and bad. It's being a leader,  holding out your hand, and showing all the way. Living intentionally is allowing His purpose to guide your words, behavior, and decisions. It's being more than someone who attends church and reads the Bible from time to time. Living intentionally is being committed to authenticity in your walk and being so in love with God that you are changed and new. Living intentionally is being in this world, but not a product of this world.  Our challenge today is to live intentionally; choose to shine.

Monday, November 5, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 28: Leadership

Definition of LEAD

transitive verb
a: to guide on a way especially by going in advance
 b: to direct on a course or in a direction
c: to serve as a channel for
We're nearing the end of our 30 Days so these last couple of posts will build on and reiterate some things already discussed. Today we're talking about leadership and how it's required of all of us as Christ-followers. For some reason, we often think that we're supposed to leave the leadership to the professionals, or the ministerial staff in this case. This is such a huge misconception!  God has given you circles of influence for a reason; with those circles come responsibility to use them wisely and use them to lead others by example. Don't let anyone let you believe that you aren't called and equipped to lead others! 
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." ~1 Timothy 4:12
We've already looked at 1 Timothy 4:12 here in our Authenticity Journey, but we can easily see that this example we're setting is definitely a form of leadership.  Regardless of age, we're called to lead others through our speech, behavior, love, faith, and purity.  We've also looked at Titus before when talking about influence.  The entire chapter of Titus 2 commands us to lead others, to show them the way.   
"But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in  perseverance.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you."
~Titus 2
Here, we see that we are to teach young and old(er) men and women alike; we're to take our walks with the Lord seriously so that others can trust our guidance.  John C. Maxwell writes, "Leadership is not about titles, positions, or flowcharts.  It's about one life influencing another."  I'm so encouraged by that reminder.  I've never chased a title, but I know all too well what it's like to be pushed out of serving because of man-made rules.  Titus 2 reminds me that I've got something to offer to others and I'm to be a leader, regardless of any legalistic regulations that have been set .  Whether you're a paid minister or not, you're called to lead.  Regardless of any layperson's church position you may or may not hold, you've got a ministry of your very own.  If you are a believer, then you are a leader.  Take ownership of that today.  Use your circles of influence wisely.  Make a difference in the lives of others.  Be vocal, be humble, serve and teach.  Be authentic in all that you do and be the example that others need.  Lead.     

Sunday, November 4, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 27: Made to Worship

“God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. This is what it means to be created in the image of God.” ~John Piper

The topic in our Sunday School class today was that we were made to worship God. We talked about how worship is so much more than music and so much more than a church service. We are to be in a constant state of worship. We established that worship is a lifestyle; it's who you are 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, how do we get to that point? First of all, we've got to stay in The Word. Secondly, we've got to take time to talk to God. Christianity isn't about rules or religion; it's about a relationship. Relationships with one-sided communication or no communication at all don't last. We can't expect to see God moving in our lives if we're not spending time with Him. We also can't expect fullness if we're not spending time with Him; it's just like any other friendship we have in that sense. Our closest friends are the ones we actually spend time with. If He's merely an acquaintance, we can't live in an authentic state of worship.
After we focus on the relationship, we can add the music to the mix. I simply cannot imagine living without music. There are songwriters out there who express my exact thoughts and feelings much better than I ever could. There's just something about music. Isn't it funny to see how different your day is when you've got a song in your heart? When you've got a song of praise, a bad day doesn't seem quite as bad and a trial doesn't seem quite as difficult. When you've got a song of praise, a good day becomes great. When you've got a song of praise, you're contagious. It's an amazing thing.
We could look at hundreds of scriptures on worship, but today I encourage you to find a song that reminds you to be in a constant, authentic state of worship. Find that song and fill your heart and your life with it today. Let it spill over into your thoughts and your attitude. Let it guide your conversations with God. Let it guide your Bible reading. Although Chris Tomlin actually has a great song about this very topic --"Made to Worship"-- my song is "How Can I Keep from Singing." When I hear this song, I'm constantly reminded of my many reasons to live in an authentic state of worship. My hope is that it blesses you the way it blesses me.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 26: Finally Accepted

"Few things will wear you down like trying like to control your image in the eyes of other people." ~Pete Wilson

We are relational beings. We crave relationships and interactions with other people. It's natural to want friendship, it really is.  The problem with this intense need for acceptance and friendship is that we can lose ourselves. It goes beyond peer pressure. It's so much more than doing something to fit into a click. We're talking about being so desperate to gain acceptance that we drift from peer group to peer group.  This is longing so desperately to fit in somewhere, anywhere that we drift from thing to thing, the next group, hobby, job, or place, that could be the one.

It's hard enough to watch someone desperately searching for acceptance, it has to be miserable to be the one searching for it. It's even harder to watch someone on that journey if they're a fellow believer because you're watching someone look for something in all the wrong places.

"So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you." ~Romans 8:8-9a
"I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God?" ~John 5:41-44

"For do I persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." ~Galatians 1:10

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." ~Colossians 3:23-24

It's okay to want acceptance, but we've got to remember that approval and acceptance from God is all that matters.  We're not here to to impress others or gain legions of fans.  If it happens along the way, that's fine; however, the point here is that we're not here to be accepted by the world or to be superstars.  We are here to lead others to Him and we were created for His glory, not ours.  We're accepted and adored by Him.  How is that not enough?  Are our egos so big that having God's approval isn't important enough? 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
~Ephesians 1:3-6
Blessed.  Chosen.  Predestined.  Adopted.  Accepted in the Beloved.  We are loved by God, and not only accepted by Him, but chosen by Him.  Stop trying to put on a show for others; rest in the knowledge that you are chosen.  Stop this song and dance and be who God has created you to be; know your worth in the eyes of The Almighty.  If we're going to be authentic people making a difference for Him, we've got surrender this need for worldly acceptance.  After all, we're not here to please the world; it's all about Him. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity-Day 25: Purpose

"You are certainly under the guidance of the Holy Ghost or you wouldn't have come to where you now are." ~C.S. Lewis

Many of the things we've discussed in our Authenticity Journey are the very culmination of today's topic.  Today, we're talking about purpose. We hear the term thrown around a lot, but we sometimes we don't consider what having purpose really means for us.  If you are a fellow believer, you've probably heard many times that God loves you and has a plan for your life. Sounds a little cliché, right? That phrase may be "overused," I suppose, but the promise can't get lost in the phrase. God loves us with an unequivocal, unfathomable love. I believe it because I feel it every moment of my life. It is what drives me, sustains me, gives me clarity, and gives me worth. With that amazing love comes purpose. I'm so honored and humbled to know that God uses me. I'm imperfect, I'm flawed, I have hang-ups, I fail, and fall, but God uses me anyway because He has plans for my life.

"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." ~Proverbs 16:9
 "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will." ~Ephesians 1:11
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.
~John 15:16

We see lots of passages in God's Word that tell us we are here for something important.  We're not just roaming around this earth for no reason at all.  However, we have to keep in mind that purpose doesn't just fall into our laps.  Our last passage to look at today is Jeremiah 29:11-13. Verse 11 is labeled by many as the ultimate verse for purpose, while verses 12-13 are often left out.   We have to seek God and we can't seek Him without personal Bible study or communication with Him.  Sitting in a church for a few hours each Sunday isn't enough; if we want to have the peace that comes along with purpose, we have to pursue God. 
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.'"
~Jeremiah 29:11-13
I love knowing that God has plans for me and I love knowing that these plans weren't just mapped out yesterday.   He has purpose for me --this girl who was born and raised in Alabama, who  walked to church as a child. He had purpose in my after school job --to lead me to my husband. He had purpose in my ministry. He  established those steps for a reason and he continues to do so each day of my life. I know the key is truly seeking Him, trying my best to know Him more each day, and doing the best I can to live authentically.

I love to look back at the seasons of my life and see how God has used my past to orchestrate my present and my future. I love seeing how He uses this mess that I've been --and often am-- to keep me moving forward and working for Him. Purpose is a wonderful thing: it gives me accountability, inspiration, and a reason to keep going when it seems overwhelming. Thank you God for using my life and giving me purpose!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 Days of Authenticity- Day 24: Try Harder

"It's time for us to rise up, get out of the rut and routine, and begin to take our Christian faith seriously." ~A.W. Tozer
It's not easy following Christ.  Let's face it, there are lots of examples we can give here.  It's easier to give into temptations rather than resist them.  It's easier to tell someone off rather than show them authentic love in a time of discord.  It's much easier to let influence of sex, violence, and drugs lull us into a media-induced coma than to make smart media choices.  It's much easier to spend our hard-earned money on the things we want rather than tithing.  It's a thousand times easier to be served than it is to serve.  Sometimes it's just hard to be a Christian, right? 
If we want macaroni for dinner, we have two choices.  We can round up our cream, butter, salt, pepper, and cheese to create a sauce while our pasta is boiling.  Then we can mix it all together and bake it for 30 minutes.  Our second option is to open the packet, add water, mix, and microwave it for four minutes.  We live in an easy, instant world and many believers drop out of the race because it takes more time than they want to sacrifice.  Some drop out because it just gets harder than they expected.  Maybe they haven't stayed in The Word, maybe they haven't been encouraged enough, maybe they haven't seen it modeled before, or maybe they just don't see any of it making a difference quickly enough.  Being a believer isn't easy in a just-add-water world.  We often don't want to finish the race simply because it's hard and it takes effort.  But we've got to keep going:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
~1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." ~Hebrews 12:1-3

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 3:13-14

There are also those who know what is asked of them, but they just don't care enough to do it... even though they are "Christians."  Their Facebook profile sure says they're Christians, but you wouldn't really know it if you had never read their profile. Before the "death" of Myspace, my James dubbed this type of person a "Myspace Christian."  I've got to be honest, I don't really understand this.  I don't understand how you can know of God's love, His healing, His protection, His sacrifice, His provision, or His strength and just not care.  I don't understand it, yet I've been guilty of it too.  It's not so much that I didn't care; I cared and was genuinely humbled by it, but I didn't care enough to let it change me. I knew it all, and I was a "good person," but I didn't care enough to be any different from the world.  Am I alone here?  Has anyone else ever been guilty of being lukewarm?  That's just not good enough.   It's not where we want to be: 

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  ~Revelation 3:15-16
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." ~Matthew 5:13
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." ~Matthew 12:30
"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." ~James 4:17
The point here is that we've got to try harder. No one said it would be easy, but we've got to do better.  No one should have to ask us if we're Christians.  No one should assume we aren't believers because they have no reason to think otherwise.  We've got to be better than that.  We've got to be sold out and committed to our relationships with God.  We've got to care and we've got to show them why they should care.  We've got to show people how God and His everlasting love has changed us.  We've got to be followers who make a difference, who share God's love in all that we do.  Try harder.  Be radical.  Show the world how He has changed you. 
"Lukewarm people call 'radical' what Jesus expected of all His followers." ~Francis Chan