Tag Archives: spirituality

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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Leaving Church Hungry

In my earliest days of being saved, one word popped up often: Balance. Ten years in, I think I’m beginning to understand how much balance relates to spiritual maturity in the church.

There’s a song called “Say So” that asks, “What does it mean to be saved? Isn’t it more than just a prayer to pray, more than just a way to heaven?” For many, salvation is nothing more than a moment in time when we accept Christ to avoid hell. If this is true, then the church is irrelevant. This is an unbalanced view.

On the other hand, some believe the church is a place to be fed. The more spiritually mature you are, the greater your expectations of the church. Worship should be lengthy, the Holy Spirit should move tangibly, and the pastor should “go deep.” As long as I’m able to come and get all my needs met, I’m satisfied. But if the church doesn’t feed me “meat,” I’m out!

Although (or maybe because) it’s opposite the other view, it’s also unbalanced. There are deceptions being dished out on both sides. Church isn’t irrelevant, but it’s also not a high chair.

Erwin McManus put it this way:

I hate this whole Christian phrase about “coming to be fed.” ‘Cause there’s gotta be a certain point in your life when you’re not coming someplace to be fed. You’re a big boy now! You’ve grown up, you are now feeding yourself. And what I hope our times together will do is not feed you, but make you hungry.

If we’re leaving church hungry, that’s a good thing! It means our appetite for God has been whetted. It means we understand there’s so much more to God than we could ever ingest in an hour or two on a Sunday morning. We got a taste and saw that he’s good; now we can spend the rest of the week seeking more of him. That works for the new believer and for the spiritually mature. As far as spiritual growth is concerned, the church’s role is to spark the desire for God in anyone who encounters us. From there, we individually work out (or walk out) our salvation knowing others will walk with us, but not expecting anyone to do it for us.

And for those of us who consider ourselves mature, I’m certain we’re not meant to eat and drink while others starve. I think real spiritual maturity looks like loving people! If we’re really focused on God, we’ll want what he wants. We’ll love what he loves. So we can’t say we love God and forget about, mistreat, or otherwise dis people–whether they’re believers or unbelievers. We’ve been given the ministry of reconciling people to God. Isn’t this the gospel–that he came to rescue people? That he gave his life for people?

So here’s the bottom line. The litmus test of spiritual maturity is to love God and love others.

(Oh wait … Didn’t he say that?)

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Is Jesus the Only Way?

Here’s the next message in Erwin McManus’ series, “Life’s Toughest Questions.” In it he addresses the question, “Is Jesus the Only Way”? Click here to listen.

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What About Sex?

This is the third in Erwin McManus’ “Life’s Toughest Questions” series (from Mosaic Church). In it, McManus answers real questions from real people (received via e-mail/blog comments). The questions are about pre-marital sex and homosexuality, among others. McManus answers from a biblical perspective. Here’s “What About Sex.”

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Is There a Hell?

Does hell exist? If so, why would a loving God send people to hell? These are just a couple of the questions posed by real people (via e-mail) to Erwin McManus. Here is his carefully thought-out answer. Enjoy the second in Mosaic Church’s Life’s Toughest Questions series: Is There a Hell?

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Does God Care?

In late 2008, Erwin McManus of Mosaic Church started a series called “Life’s Toughest Questions.” In it, McManus answers real questions about God posed by atheists, skeptics and believers. I want to share what I’ve heard. Here’s the first message, “Does God Care.” Look for the others soon.

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Ugly, Hard, Messy Lessons

The other day my 10-year-old son got in trouble in school again.

His troubles began when he was 2. My sweet, precocious and very active little boy suddenly began having tantrums. My husband and I were separated at the time, and I was pregnant. I attributed this out-of-the-ordinary behavior to his age and the circumstances.

But it never stopped.

Eight years later, he’s been kicked out of four child care providers and has been suspended from school several times. It’s not a normal week if I don’t have at least one conversation with my son’s teacher, assistant principal or principal. I have these horrible, tense conversations with the adults in his life, listening as they describe his latest failure, and I feel their judgment. I feel their blame, and I fight the urge to wheedle.

So when DJ came home from another rough day, I sent him to his room to wait for me. When I went in, he was sitting on the floor wrapped in three blankets, his face and head covered.

“Why are you sitting there like that?” I asked. He took the blanket from his face and looked at me.

“I don’t want to be this way.” I could hear the truth of his words in his voice. “But I feel like I can’t change.” There were tears, but not the hysterical kind. They were resigned tears. My heart broke (again).

I sat down on his bed and invited him to sit next to me. We talked about how hard it is to change our thinking and our actions, how it’s like making a new path in a wildly overgrown wilderness. We talked about Jesus, about the power the Holy Spirit gives us to change. We talked about how it’s not easy. As we talked, I looked down at his knees, knobby and ashy and small, next to my own. I put my arms around him and I held him very tightly for a long time. I thought of the people who only know him as a trouble-maker, and I wished they could see him now. This little boy is my son, my baby, and he’s worth loving and knowing! This isn’t a choice for him! I feel like I’m the only person who knows that or cares to know that … and even I forget sometimes.

I disciplined him. Then I hugged him again, and I left the room.

It’s not always like this. Most of the time I’m impatient with him. Most of the time I’m angry with him. Over the years I’ve sobbed, I’ve raged, I’ve pleaded. I’ve been defensive and embarrassed. I’ve been sad and scared. I’ve been fierce and I’ve been torn. I’ve been depressed, and I’ve been indifferent.

This year in particular I’ve been angry at God. How much did I have to pray before he would make all this go away? How much faith did I need? Didn’t he care that our lives were miserable? I came within inches of abandoning my relationship with the Lord. I mean, the skin of my teeth, you know?

In the meantime, I have prayed generally for patience (an area of great weakness for me) since I got saved. I’ve prayed to see people through Christ’s eyes, to love the way he loves. I want to be this great Christian and I want God to answer all my pious, silly prayers …

The other day my 19-year-old son said he wanted to join the military. He wanted to be an officer, so he wouldn’t have to salute people, they’d have to salute him. I said, “Why do you always want the shortcut to the perks, but you’re not willing to do the hard work to earn them?”

Speak for yourself, Sparky. What a dumb-ass I am.

Look, if this is what it is … and it is … then what am I doing? Sitting around being pissed at God instead of learning to love my son the way Christ loves him and me: patiently, overarchingly, graciously, hopefully, and consistently. I don’t believe God sends hard things solely to teach us a lesson. On the other hand, I don’t know why this is our lot. But it is. Ugly and hard and messy as it is, I just won’t waste it anymore. I don’t think it’s a situation God created solely to answer my prayers. But the situation itself has created an opportunity for God to answer my prayers. So if there’s a lesson in this somewhere, if nothing else, I want to learn it.

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Less and Less Asleep

This year has been strange. I’ve spent half of it being distant from God, angry at him and unforgiving of him. There’s a difficult relationship in my life, and I’ve been waiting for God to fix it, hoping he’d fix it. This year my hopes took a serious hit. I got pissed off at God. I started avoiding him. I questioned whether he cared about me. I wondered if he was even real.

I didn’t want to talk to him anymore. I felt myself falling, reverting, becoming ugly and dirty, the person I was before Jesus came into the picture. Everything around me was dry and gritty, and there was nothing beautiful to be found anywhere–in me or in anyone or anything. I just … didn’t care about anything anymore. Oddly, this terrified me.

But I feel like maybe I was asleep and now I’m waking up. I feel like Hosea’s wife … like I ran away from my husband and flirted with my old lovers. I hated myself for walking away from my husband, but I figured he wouldn’t want me anymore anyhow.

But then he came after me. He took my hand and woo-ed me back, and he put his arms around me and loved me. I thought, “Why did you marry me? What do you see in me?” Even while I was so frustrated at myself for leaving him, I felt flooded with passion and love for him because he still came back for me! And he doesn’t mean for me to grovel about it, but to simply belong to him and accept the free gift of his forgiveness. When this happened, grace suddenly made sense to me. I’ve been saved for over nine years, and I’m just beginning to understand it.

I mean, I didn’t think he was going to come after me. Wow! Am I that valuable to him? Why?! It’s a strange, humbling, romantic thing. He always said he wouldn’t leave me. I’m beginning to believe him.

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Sometimes God’s in the Dark

In my last EMT post I shared how the Holy Spirit invited me to walk down the dark tunnel. I feel like talking about that some more.

When I got saved, I was already a wife and mother, so I was pretty set in my ways. I’d gone all my life knowing little or nothing about Jesus or God. I had prayed before; I believed in God; I just didn’t have a relationship with Him. After I got saved, I had this rosy picture of who He was and of what life would be like from that moment forward. All daisies and skipping, la la la. (I stole that from Prodigal Jon, it makes me laugh every time.) This picture, of course, is inaccurate.

I don’t mean to say that the daisies are all dead or something. They’re there, but sometimes you can’t see them because it’s pitch black where you are. And God is there too. Daisies and God, in the pitch black darkness.

I maybe know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too: God is light. He’s good and holy and perfect. He cannot exist in darkness. The darkness gives way to the light. Et cetera. And these things are true. So when He said I would find Him in the dark, I was in quite a conundrum. My body was at odds with itself: My mind argued convincingly that it wasn’t God, that self-preservation was my highest priority, that the hell I was living was better than walking into a dark unknown. But in my heart I knew it was God’s voice I’d heard, and I knew exactly what He was asking me to do: Trust Him … with no reassuring daisies and cheerful sun to tell me I was going the right way.

Seriously, it was one of the most scary, gut-wrenching decisions I ever made, but I chose to follow His voice into the dark. I was terrified. But God really was there, and He took my hand and led me through the dark to the light on the other side. Today I’m living in a future that wouldn’t exist had I gone the other way. I mean, my marriage, my children, my husband: Our lives aren’t perfect, but they’re so good, so much better than they were. What if I’d said no to Him? Man … our lives would suck. I mean it.

So, sometimes God’s in the dark, and if you want Him you have to just go there. Okay?

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Turbulence

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged. Last week I was on vacation in a place without wifi (gasp), and I won’t be able to use my computer for the next week. So I’d better write something before my window of opportunity closes!

Here’s what’s going on in my head:

  • Why do I want to lose weight? I look pretty good; why do I want to look better? For my husband? He seems quite pleased with things as they are. And God doesn’t seem concerned with my weight either. No one else matters, do they? So why am I so vain?
  • Am I dressing too young for my age? No, seriously. Lately many friends have commented that could pass for a teenager. That’s kinda fun–but I don’t think I need to perpetuate that with my wardrobe. It’s nice to look younger than my age, but I don’t have to dress like a teenager. I think it’s better to pass for 20-something than 10-something.
  • Who cares? Who cares about my wardrobe? Who cares about how I look? Who cares about how I sing, or write, or design? Who cares? What I mean to say is …
  • … Am I living the way God meant me to? Are we–Christians–doing what Jesus meant for us to do? Is this what it’s supposed to look like? When am I gonna get over my stinkin’ self?! When I am gonna wake up from my own stupid, selfish, little dreams and get on board with the big stuff God wants to do, the stuff I can’t do all by myself?
  • What am I really meant to do besides what I’m doing? I feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to do, but I’m still meant to do more. Not just more, but bigger than the small experiences I’ve had and the small thoughts I’ve thought. They’ve seemed so big, but they’re really not. It’s like I’m in first grade, but there’s still high school! There’s still college! I read this interesting blog article today, and it made me question even more.
  • What are we doing? Why does the church look so much like everything else? Isn’t there more to us than this? We’re more than music videos and 5-minute songs on Christian radio, and graphic tees and perfectly coiffed bed-head.
  • Why is everyone writing self-help books? Why is everyone reading self-help books? How have we made a market of telling people how to live, how to get revelation from the Bible?! Go live! Go talk to God for yourself!

Okay, I think I’m done ranting. Until next week!

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