Tag Archives: Jesus

I’mpossible

I make a vision board every year, and I’ve done so for about five years.

I’ve written about my vision boards before. I’m part of a small circle of women who gather some time in November or December to create vision boards for the coming year. We enter the process prayerfully, asking God ahead of time what the year’s word or theme should be. Then we come together, blank canvases in hand. We also bring the current year’s board, and we each share how God worked through the items on the poster. Next we invite the Holy Spirit to lead us in the words and images we’ll pull from leftover magazines, and we begin. We give ourselves several hours to complete the task.

I mean … it’s kinda funny. We each sit on the floor with a 99¢ poster board before us. We’re surrounded by the hurricane-like chaos of ripped magazines, discarded bits of paper and cheap shiny embellishments, using–then discarding–scissors, vying for glue sticks, pasting cut-out words and images to the poster while the pink tips of our tongues poke from the corners of our mouths. It’s like elementary school or something! Yet God uses all of it. Our prayers, our first-grade tools, our silly seriousness. It’s so like him to meet us in this child-like moment, when what we’re doing feels huge and important to us, but probably not so much to a Father with greater responsibilities on his radar. Yet he looks at his daughters’ hand-made work with loving eyes, discerning his own face and our very hearts in each sticky cut-out, and judging them valuable, important. It’s very kind, very loving of him. But I digress.

Earlier this week I was lying in bed looking at my 2014 board (it’s on the wall beside my bed so I’ll see it when I wake) thinking about the post I needed to finish, and my eyes landed on the bottom left corner. It’s a picture of a woman striking a punching bag. Across the bottom I’d pasted the word “I’mpossible.”

photo 2 photo

And that’s what I love about making a vision board: The vision part.

When I was sitting on my friend’s living room floor making this board, I didn’t really think about why I was attracted to that picture. I just cut it out–and then that picture made it to the board when other images I’d chosen were eventually thrown in the discard pile.

And I didn’t put any deep thought into why I cut out “I’mpossible.” I remember thinking it was catchy. But why did I paste that word/phrase on top of that image?

As always, at different times through the year my eyes would be drawn to different areas on the board. Almost every day I’d stare at the board, my eyes skipping and skimming over the words and images. Occasionally they’d land on some segment, and I’d suddenly find context in those unpremeditated scraps.

That woman punching that bag with that word beneath her has been there all year. My eyes always skipped past her, until earlier this week, when suddenly that corner of the board had context. For so long I didn’t think it was possible to be comfortable in my own skin: To be wholly myself and still wholly acceptable. To be strong and be a woman. To be powerful and determined woman and be a Christ-follower who is feminine and pleasing to God. But it is, and I am. I’m possible.

What ands are you struggling to reconcile?

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The Open Gate (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

As the dream became more and more hungry, the girl became more and more desperate. Why would the servants not open the gate? Why were they ignoring her cries? Had she done something wrong? Was there something wrong with her?

Soon her desperation turned to anger. She kept beating at the gate, but the servants would not respond. Enraged, the girl decided to leave the hospital. She wanted the servants to regret their cruelty and wish in vain that they had opened the gate for her.

But despite her anger, the girl knew that her thoughts weren’t pleasing to the King. She believed the King had brought her to the hospital, that in His kindness he had provided a place for her to serve. She had served loyally out of love for the King and his servants. She didn’t want to throw away his generous gift because she was blinded by anger and pain.

So before she carried out her revenge, she went away to a secret place and sought Him. She waited quietly there for Him. And one day He came to her.

“Lord,” she cried,”You know what pain I am feeling! This hunger gnaws away at me, but your servants have refused to feed me! Why won’t they give me the small meal I’ve enjoyed all these years?”

The King sat beside her and touched her cheek. “My girl,” He said gently. “You have been blind! Look.”

Then the girl saw herself as the King saw her. She was facing the closed gate, beating at it with all her strength yet powerless to open it.

“Why do you think the food I have for you can only be found through that closed gate?” He asked.

And then the girl saw that behind her was another gate. One that stood wide open. One she’d never noticed, because all her attention had been focused on the closed gate.

“But Lord,” the girl asked with astonishment. “Are you saying it is okay to serve somewhere other than this garden, at this hospital? I was certain you would say that my desire was a wrong one!”

“Your heart was misled by revenge, this is true,” He said. “And I did lead you to this place. You have served here and you have grown here, and you have also found the food I left here for you. These are good things. But it was never my intention that you should serve me here–and here only–forever. Do you not know that all seasons must end so that new seasons can begin? Do you not know that you can serve me anywhere? Do you not know that I am able to provide abundant nourishment for you, wherever I lead you?”

Suddenly the girl saw how silly and afraid she had been. She realized the other gate had been open to her for a long time–she’d known this somewhere inside herself. But she’d been too afraid to turn around, too terrified to give the King the dream she’d hidden. She’d told herself she needed what was behind the closed gate, when in truth her King had awakened a hunger that could no longer be satisfied there. Through the open gate was the path to the land of her childhood, filled with flowers that bloomed colorful and bright, in beautiful defiance of the weeds and thorns. There in that beautiful land (called Faith) was a place for her to plant the seed of her dream, where it would surely die beneath the ground. Yet this was a chance for the girl to trust the King. He would be able to grow the dead seed into the new, living thing He’d always meant it to be. She knew He could: she’d seen Him do it countless times before.

The King wrapped His arms around the girl. “Will you trust me and walk through the open gate?” She nodded. And then the girl stood up with Him, encircled in His kind embrace, and walked through the open gate.

The End Middle.

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The Open Gate (Part 1)

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a beautiful land where nothing was impossible. The King of that beautiful place had given her a seed for big, lovely dream, and with all the trust in her heart she awaited its blossoming. Because she was a child, the heavy seed and the big dream it contained didn’t terrify her. She didn’t ask silly questions like, “How will my dream ever blossom and grow?”

Then hard things happened, and to the little girl’s eyes, these hard things overtook the beautiful land. Her childhood home seemed overgrown with weeds and thorns. So to protect herself from the pain of a dead dream, she placed the dream in a tiny box and hid it deep inside her heart. No longer little, she hacked away at the weeds and thorns with tools fashioned from duty, responsibility and fear. But the buried dream somehow added depth and intricacy to her tools, so that sometimes she could use them to produce tiny, pretty flowers. She decided to use her tools to survive, forsaking the big dream. But the tiny, pretty flowers were incomparable to the dream she’d put away.

The King was very kind. He often tried to show her that the beautiful land was still near if she would simply look beyond the weeds. He sustained the hidden dream with tiny rays of sunshine and little drops of rain. But the silly girl thought she had found a way to sustain the dream.

In her journey she’d come upon servants who were building a hospital on behalf of the King. She offered to help them build the hospital by sharing her tools with them. One day while she was serving at the hospital, the girl walked down a path and passed through an open gate. There she found a lovely garden. She thought, “My tiny flowers would thrive in this little garden!” The servants agreed, and from then on she would often pass through the gate and into the garden.

Each time she passed through the gate, she’d find a small, tasty meal that the King’s servants had left for her. The meal was just enough to sustain her hidden dream, and this made her happy. So she would regularly walk through the gate and eat the meal. She trusted that these servants would always feed her this way. She didn’t realize the meal was the result of the King’s tiny rays of sunshine and little drops of rain.

But then one day the gate, through which she’d always so freely walked, was shut and locked.

The girl despaired, but she decided to wait for the gate to be opened again.

Meanwhile, the dream began to starve. But rather than wither and die, it burst out of the tiny box and hungrily sought the King’s wonderful nourishment. At first she tried to ignore the hunger, but soon she realized this was useless. Desperate, the girl ran to the closed gate, begging, pleading, banging and crying for the King’s servants to open it again. But the servants ignored her. As the dream became more and more hungry, the girl became more and more desperate. Why would the servants not open the gate? Why were they ignoring her cries? Had she done something wrong? Was there something wrong with her?

Soon her desperation turned to anger.

To be continued.

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My Angry Friend

(How do I say this without sounding crazy. I don’t think that’s possible. I’m okay with that.)

I have this friend named Angry Tracie. She first showed up when I was 16 and pregnant; until recently, I didn’t realize how much a part of my life she’d become.

Angry Tracie has been my trusted companion when I’m hurting, and I’ve especially enjoyed rehashing old hurts with her. She seemed to be the only person who listened to me and cared about my feelings. Her presence comforted me. Angry Tracie became my closest friend.

I got saved 13 years ago. But I’ve still trusted her more than anyone. Through lots of personal struggles, when I felt like God wasn’t listening, didn’t like me and wasn’t concerned about my broken heart, Angry Tracie was there to console me. (That’s a hard thing to confess for a Christ-follower.)

I didn’t recognize Angry Tracie’s influence, more than 20 years of it. But I do now. Knowing about her is changing the way I think and behave and live. Jesus is gently working us through it. Man. I love Him for that.

Do you have a “friend” who might be keeping you from really living, and really loving?

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Christian Womanist?

Womanist: believing in and respecting the abilities and talents of women; acknowledging women’s contributions to society. —Dictionary.com

I’m a womanist. This is almost my first time publicly acknowledging it.

I debated a bit about whether to call myself a feminist (according to Dictionary.com, one who believes women should have rights equal to men). But it seems to me that feminism views a man’s lifestyle as the ideal–like the goal of feminism is to live like men.

Meh.

If I wanted to have a positive affect in the world on behalf of women… if I wanted to change how women are viewed and valued in this world… I just wouldn’t start by putting men on a pedestal (for worshiping, for epitomizing, or for bashing). Let men be men. And let women be women.

I’m also a Christ-follower. I thought for a long time that I couldn’t be both. But I’m learning that God is clever enough to handle all my complexity. Still, I’m sure you can imagine the raging internal debate I’ve been having with myself.

What do you think? Do the paths of Christianity and womanism (and even feminism) diverge?

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The Icing on the Cake

Special Note: Much as I dislike Christian-ese, I’m going to use a word straight out of the Church and Religious People’s Vocabulary Handbook: “Anointing.” Just so no one gets lost, I’ll define it: To be anointed means to have been chosen by God to do a specific thing especially for him.

I was thinking today about the difference between talent and anointing. I was thinking about this because I would consider myself a talented singer. But I have this wonderful, beautiful, amazingly talented friend who is very obviously anointed to lead worship through music. So I wondered today (and not for the first time) if I’m an anointed singer. After I mentally compared myself to my friend, I decided that I’m not.

But today for some reason, it didn’t end there. I felt like God stopped me and asked, “Who said you can’t be anointed?” He impressed on me that he wouldn’t give someone talent in an area if he wasn’t also prepared to anoint in that area. It was simply a matter of wanting it, and that would come by wanting him.

So, what kind of music do I listen to? What are my thoughts toward God? What am I doing to demonstrate to him that I want the honor and responsibility of being anointed? I felt like God said to me, “If you want it, come get it.” And then he reminded me that he’d said the same thing to me years ago. Instead of working toward it then, I spent years gradually letting fear lead to apathy. “I’m not confident enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not compentent enough. God doesn’t even like me. Who wants it anyway? Who cares.” I eventually buried what he said beneath fear and presumed rejection.

Over the years I’ve often compared myself to my friend, and I always fell quite short. That’s stupid of me, of course. I’m not her. Despite my worst thoughts of myself, me being me doesn’t equal automatic disqualification. I think probably the number one requirement of anointing is that you’re you, not wishing you were someone else…

What is the difference between talent and anointing? That’s like asking what’s the difference between cake and icing: They’re not meant to be the same, they’re meant to go together (and quite deliciously). If God baked it, and you offer it back to him, he’ll totally frost it. And then it will be delicious for everyone, and God will get all the glory for making such an awesome cake.

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God In Time

We pray about what will happen. But we don’t typically pray about what already happened. Why?

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I got to be part of an amazing conversation with some friends recently. It was one of those conversations that shifts paradigms.

Who’s seen the movie “The Kid” starring Bruce Willis? It’s the story of a 40-ish man who meets and gets to hang out with his 8-year-old self. Somehow we began chatting about this movie, and then we began to wonder what we’d say if we could talk to a former version of ourselves. We all shared about the things some former version of ourselves needed to hear. For example, I would tell my 14-year old self things like: you are valuable; though you’re the only stepchild of three children, you are just as important as your siblings; you belong; you’re not invisible; you’re accepted.

It was an emotional conversation. We wished and hoped that we could have somehow helped our former selves and unravel knots that still affect us today. We wished and hoped that God could somehow have healed us from the pain we endured then, thereby helping our present selves.

We dug deeper into thoughts about time and God. We shared snippets of things we’d heard or thought or felt.

  • One of us shared a story she’d heard: God showed a man a vision of a moment in his childhood when he was wounded by someone he loved. The person had since died–but in this vision, the person apologized for wounding him as a child.
  • Another of us shared about a story in the book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. In it, Donald was trying to comfort a family member who had lost her father. He told her that they were all together in heaven already with her father, because heaven is outside of time.
  • Another shared a vivid childhood memory of being at church with her mother. A few years ago, God reminded her of that day. He shared that He had been there in that moment, looking down on her and thinking joyfully about the day of her salvation more than 20 years later.

After these stories, we began to wonder:

God exists outside of time; we know this from the teachings in the Bible. So … if God can see/use time as the thing it truly is (not linear, but something else), if He can place Himself in or out of it, or use it as a tool to accomplish His will and serve His purposes … then why do we restrict our prayers to the future? Why shouldn’t we pray, today, for the hurting and struggling versions of ourselves that only God–unbound by these earthly restrictions–can reach?

If we could do this … what results would we see today? Imagine! Go ahead!

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Deciphering Me

 

I never thought of this as a worship song, but it was for me today.

God, speaking to me:
Friend, it’s getting late. We should be going. We’ve been sat here beneath these flickering neons for hours.

Me, distracted by flickering neons:
While I am cracking their code, You are deciphering me. For I am a mystery, I am a locked room in a tall tower.

My spirit to me:
Oh can you feel the gravity falling, calling us home? Oh did you feel the stars colliding? Shining just to show, we belong.

Me, forgetting the stupid neons and looking at God:
Your telescope eyes see everything clearly. My vision is blurred, but I know what I’ve heard echoing all around. While I am tuning You in, You are deciphering me: Not such a mystery, not such a faint and far-away sound.

My spirit to me:
It’s love, it’s love that holds us! We will be alright. It’s truth, it’s truth that shows us, if we’ll walk in its light.

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Sinless Christians

I’ve been wondering whether it’s possible for a Christian to become mostly sinless.

Now, I’m talking about born-again believers here. Jesus-followers.

In his book “The Grace Awakening,” Chuck Swindoll said many of us are taught that “we’re only human,” and “we can’t  help but sin.” And this is what we’re being taught after we’re saved. Swindoll disagrees. He asserts that it is possible to become less and less prone to sin as we become more and more spiritually mature. He says teaching to the contrary dismisses grace altogether, negates the purpose of the Holy Spirit…

I read Ezekiel 36:26-27 last week, and I’ve been thinking about it and going back to it ever since.

What do you think?

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Hero Complex

I love stories, and I love heroes. So when I head to the movies to look in on someone’s story, I often leave the theater dreaming not just about Superman, or Spider-Man, or Jacob (because everyone knows it should be Jacob), but of what it must be like to be that girl–Lois Lane, or MJ, or Bella.

It’s not about being her. It’s about being the object of his affection.

To the rest of the world he’s strong, capable, smart, handsome, powerful. He protects everyone–but he loves her more than anyone. With her alone he’s also attentive, meek, vulnerable, protective, careful. This powerful being is infatuated with an ordinary woman! Something about her has drawn his faithful attention; she’s worth rescuing again and again; she’s worth his life.

Could I ever be her? Lois Lane! Mary Jane Watson! Bella Swan! Tracie Frank?! [Giggle!]

My soul is hungry for this, absolutely desperate for it. I want to be wildly, passionately rescued! I want to be weak, yet be totally okay with it because I know he can handle it! When I’m afraid, I want his arms to protect me. When there’s absolutely no way out of a situation, I want him to show up, bust some heads, and fly away with me. I may seem ordinary to you, but I’m extraordinary to him. He’d give his life for me; whatever you think of me doesn’ t matter.

No one really talks about Jesus this way. But I know this is true: Jesus is all these things, and I’m his Lois, his MJ, his Bella. I’m his Tracie. I know it’s true! And I want to live this.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

It bears remembering and repeating on days like this, when I’m longing for something I’ve not yet experienced here on earth.

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