. . . and then some more . . . More life. More Jesus.

Category Archives: (20)14

How Complete Surrender Helps With Suffering {What I’m Learning From 1 Peter 4}

I do not like to suffer. At all. That’s why I’ve always wanted to be a runner but have never actually done it.

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But Peter seems to have this obsession with hope in such a real and crazy way that according to him, suffering is just part of life as a follower of Jesus Christ. (It’s actually the Holy Spirit using Peter to say this, but . . .)

And this is what I am learning through 1 Peter chapter 4.

Suffering for following Christ, he says, is actually an honor, reason to rejoice. It gives deeper cause for celebration when the hope of Jesus’ return becomes reality. It’s called living hope. Hope for living.

If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed . . . (1 Pt. 4:14)

I wonder if Peter recalled those pre-dawn moments as he wrote this. Did he play out in his mind a different ending to that interaction with the slave girl outside the courtyard where Jesus was being beaten? Did he wonder what might have happened if only he had entrusted himself at that time to His faithful Creator? How would he have done differently if only he had clung to that living hope?

It’s possible, you know. To live according to this all-consuming hope. To suffer through even the most horrifying trial and persecution.

It’s possible because what God has for us in eternity is way better than any comfort we might enjoy here on this side of it.

Hard to imagine, though. I mean, I like comfort. I like easy and nice and can’t-we-all-just-get-along. And I don’t want to face icky and hard and fiery trials. (Yes, as a matter of fact, I did just use the word icky in a theological discussion. You are welcome.)

That’s when it comes back to that whole complete surrender thing. It just keeps coming back to that.

Complete and utter surrender to God’s ways, His hand, His mercy, His life. It’s all about surrender. This summer. This year. This life. It’s all about surrender.

Because when I am living entrusted to my faithful Creator (v19), I am okay with whatever may come. When I honor Jesus Christ as Lord in my heart (3:14-15), I am more than just okay, I can rejoice in the fact that He knows what I need and is somehow blessing me through it. 

So what do you think? There is so much depth and hard stuff here in 1 Peter. Let’s talk it out. Let’s ask questions and help each other find God’s truth in it.

How To Be Beautiful {What I Learned From 1 Peter 3}

I read 1 Peter 3 last week. A bunch of times. And here’s what I learned:

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It just keeps coming back to that: complete and utter surrender to God’s ways, His hand, His mercy, His life.

It’s all about surrender. This summer. This year. This life. It’s all about surrender.

That Time Peter Wrote About Mary {Finding God in 1 Peter}

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I have long been enamored with Mary in the Bible. You know — Martha’s sister, Mary.

The threw herself at Jesus’ feet when her brother died and made Jesus cry Mary.

The sister got super annoyed with her for just sitting there hanging out with Jesus while she did all the work for dinner Mary.

This is the Mary who crashed her brother’s I-was-dead-and-now-I’m-not party by pouring thousands of dollars worth of perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiping it off with her hair.

This is the every time-we-find-her-in-the-Bible-she’s-at-Jesus’-feet Mary.

I am both intrigued and inspired by this Mary. (And, no, I do not have a feet fetish). Her passion for Jesus kept her regularly at His feet. And her always-at-Jesus’-feet habit kept her constantly pointing to Him, constantly inspiring His praise.

 

The fact that Mary lived in utter awe of Jesus tainted every single part of everything she did. 

That’s what Peter was trying to get across when he wrote this second chapter of his first book.

I read through the first two chapters yesterday trying to find the nugget to bank on for this post. (Seriously. There is so much in this book to dig into, it’s hard to find just one.) So I started by letting God know I wasn’t sure I was the one to lead you all through this Great Summer Slowdown study. (Have I mentioned I’m needing some clarity lately?)

Then I asked Him — again — what exactly it is that He has called me to do. What do You want for me? (Because, really, doesn’t every 42-year-old struggle with knowing what she wants to be when she grows up?) (She says sarcastically.)

So I wrote down everything 1 Peter 1 and 2 tell me to do. It was kind of a lot. Prepare your mind for action. Set your hope completely on the grace Jesus will bring when He returns. Be holy. Long for pure spiritual milk.

Then I got to verse 9 of chapter 2 and my list changed from what He has called me to do to who He has made me. And as I got to then end of that list in verse 9 I found purpose for myself…

So that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 1:9b, Holman)

And just two verses later… more purpose.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day (Jesus) visits us. (NIV)

All that holy living and readiness and sober-mindedness? It comes from who God has made us. Royal priests. Chosen people. His very own.

And the good works? All to point to Him.

Just like Mary.

See, the more I know Him, the more I want to be like Him. And the more I am like Him, the more I point to Him. And the more I point to Him, the more I glorify Him, make Him famous, bring praise to Him.

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And this is my purpose.

So Mary had a good thing going spending all that time at Jesus’ feet. I mean, even now, some two-thousand years later, she’s bringing praise to Almighty God just by hanging with the King of Life.

A Question For You: Who in your life points you to Jesus?

**Are you journaling through First Peter with us? Join in the conversation. What did you learn this week from 1 Peter?

**We’re journaling through 1 Peter this summer. Slowing down and taking it one chapter per week. Want to join in? Here are some questions to help you along the way?

Three Words That Changed My Morning (One of them is ashes.)

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The morning was rough.

With my youngest home another day from school, just sick enough to stay home, and we haven’t had a full week of school for both kids since 2013.

We sit with our Bibles, and the oldest decides she’s not happy with my mothering skills and uses her critical thinking to make me question my every move.

It doesn’t go well.

I have to journal my way through the anger while she sits reading in the chair across the room. And still, I am hurt. I’m the needy mom who wishes she could at least convince her 12-year-old she knows what she’s doing.

But I don’t.

I wave to her as the bus drives away and can’t see through the storm door’s solid frost from winter’s return yesterday.

The wood pile on the porch is covered in snow, so when I grab it my fingers freeze and my sweatshirt gets wet, and when is spring coming, anyway?!?

I go to start a fire and the bottom of the fireplace is thick with ash and coal from yesterday’s burn. So I grab the little shovel and the pail on the hearth and I remember three words I’ve heard sung and recited. Straight from God’s heart through the pen of His servant Isaiah.

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I can’t remember it exactly, but I know three words, and I know it’s a promise.

. . . beauty for ashes . . .

I shovel out the soot and try to remember the words to the song. The words God gave Isaiah. I remember a Beth Moore Bible study and the talk she gave about the promise of new and beautiful. I remember the truth that to God I am beautiful already. And this ashy, sooty, sometimes hard-morning place will someday be crowned in beauty when He’s done with His deal.

I crinkle up the paper and throw it in the stove before stacking the snowy wood inside. My heart is singing the words it remembers.

. . . beauty for ashes . . .

And the rest of the words get lost in my brain, which is actually okay because I never really liked the tune. But I hum it anyway because it’s what my brain does, and I can’t wait to grab my Bible once this fire gets going.

I look for beauty and find the reference. Isaiah 61. That’s when I read the first few verses, the ones surrounding the phrase my heart suddenly can’t let go of . . .

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.

And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the LORD to glorify Him.

Isaiah 61:1-3

God uses the thick ash on the bottom of my fireplace to remind me of His perfect plan. And three words of promise change my dark morning into a song for my heart.

Because I realize the ashes from my anger and the sometimes strained interactions with the 12-year-old love of my life are God’s fabric for some kind of glorious beautiful.

I start to see the frustration of another out-of-routine week, another sick day for the youngest as beauty’s fuel for the artwork God is painting with my life.

In Which I (Humbly) Ask For Your Help {Please Take My Survey} {Pretty Please}

You know those times in life when a theme kind of develops and defines a certain season?

Like when you know you need to live a healthier lifestyle, so you find the book you bought two years ago but never read. Then you pick up Lysa Terkeurst’s Made to Crave, (that’s an affiliate link, just so you know) dusty as it is, and you start to read it.

While you’re reading it, you come across a great tip about writing a helpful Bible verse on an index card for your counter or your fridge to help you make right choices at snack time.

So you write down a verse from Galatians 5, because it reminds you that because of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and gives you power to make healthier choices.

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And you place that Scripture-laden index card right in the middle of your counter, with the fruit, so you’ll see it a lot. Especially at the daily 3pm chocolate-craving time.

It helps. Most of the time.

A week later, your phone rings, and you see it’s someone who will take some energy to talk to. Energy you don’t really feel like expending right now. It’s someone God’s been nudging you about serving more and loving better. So you don’t want to answer it, but your phone’s right next to that index card. And when you pick it up to silence the ringer you see the verse and remember the truth.

So you pick up the phone and keep in step with the Spirit as He shows you each step through that difficult conversation.

Before you know it, the words keep in step with the Spirit start to become part of your normal. You notice them in a devotion you read, a sermon you hear and, of course, on that tiny little index card.

Well, that’s kind of how I came to adopt those fourteen words I wrote about last month. Fourteen words for 2014.

My Fourteen Words

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Because I have a lot to work on. A lot of weak that needs strengthened. A lot of dull that needs shined.

Because I know I need to love more like Jesus and eat more like Lysa Terkeurst and take care of my body more like Jamie Anderson. I want to pursue God’s call on my life to help make Him famous with my words. And I know the only way I can possibly do any of those with excellence or any semblance of balance is to follow every step the Holy Spirit of God shows me.

When The Ball Dropped

I was so all about keeping in step with the Spirit when the ball dropped on December 31. And I thought I knew where the run was headed. I had three goals for 2014 and what I thought was the laser focus to get them done.

Then the temperature dropped to Arctic, and my kids didn’t have school for like an entire month (seriously. There is no way that was only three days.) And the routine I thought I was going to slide right into hit a wall early on. By January 6, I was already scrambling to find the cadence I thought I knew so I could chase the dreams I thought I knew how to get.

The Cadence of the Spirit

The Hebrew word for keeping in step with the Spirit is the same word we English speakers use for cadence. Like the song from that awesome 1980’s commercial for (wait for it) The Clapper. Remember it? 

http://youtu.be/cfgN5tUgjb8

Are you singing it yet? You are welcome.

But here’s the thing about the cadence of the Spirit: He’s the One Who calls it out. Not me. He’s the One Who sets the pace. If I’m seeking His voice, finding His way through the Word of God, I cannot miss it.

To keep in step is to faithfully follow. To find the Spirit’s cadence is to trust that even when the weather goes negative three hundred degrees, and my kids have another snow day, and my writing schedule gets thrown off, I look for ways to make God famous.

In step with the Spirit means when my friend calls and needs me to come and cry with her and talk her down, I listen, and I point to Jesus with my tears and my quiet.

I’ve been listening more carefully for that cadence lately. Finding the faithful in every small step. For my family. For my friendships. For the words I write.

It’s what gets me up before my kids in the morning as of late. It’s what makes me write the way I do. The cadence of the Spirit is literally what keeps me from ramming into the lady in the after-school pick up line who never. waits. her. turn. ever. on any day.

And here’s where you come in. More than anything, I want my words, and my whole life, to point you to Jesus. And I want to do it better here in this place I call my home on the internet. So I could really use your help.

I have this little survey that I wonder it you might take two minutes to fill out. It will help me so much. In return, I would like to send you a small gift that I hope might help you as you listen for the Spirit’s cadence next month. It’s a printable March calendar with daily verses to help you listen for the Spirit’s cadence.

Also, would you consider sharing this post. I know it’s like the longest blog post. ever. But I would love to hear from as many of you as possible so I can make this place even awesomer.

Ready? Set.Click here to take survey

 

What February’s Teaching Me About Faithfulness (It’s Probably Not What You Think)

February was always a hard month for me. Maybe not always. But at least from the time I was 17.

That’s when my friend’s boyfriend shot himself in the head. Five days later, she jumped off a bridge. When my infant cousin died in her crib just about a week later, it was all I could do to stay sane. Literally.

Over the course of three weeks, I went to three funerals and lost my will to stay faithful to the God I had known since I was five. That will got replaced by a burning desire to do whatever it took to keep my friends happy. And close.

Although it made my senior year of high school super fun, that decision also served as a catalyst for some really dumb choices that made me not want to go to my class reunion twenty years later.

For years, every February when I would realize what month it was, I would enter a sort of subconscious funk that made me dread the coming days and the pain I thought I would always remember.

I’m not sure when that pain stopped hurting. But I can tell you for certain it no longer does.

Still, there is a certain mid-winter funk that happens every year. It makes February feel like the longest month. ever.

Tulips for Feb

I find myself dreaming of springtime and daffodils and hyacinths. Easter celebrations and sunnier days and planting gardens and sitting outside at Chipotle. (My fingers are seriously typing faster with every thought of those springtime lovelies!)

I’d like to say this year I have found a way around the funk, but the truth is I have not. Rather I believe God is using it to teach me about faithfulness.

It’s doing what I know I was born to do even when I don’t feel excited to do it.

It’s just starting. Finding my way to the floor on my face and handing the I-don’t-want-to-do-this to the One Who does.

Faithfulness is choosing to stay committed to my dream even when the thing that does the choosing doesn’t want to choose that.

It’s every step, following God’s next. Believing He won’t let me stray. Trusting He’s showing up inside my every daily offering. My hands as they type. My smile as it turns a stranger’s countenance around. My mouth as it refuses to grumble.

And this is where I stand. Faithful because God shows me how.

What about you? What do you think of when you hear the word faithfulness? What about February? Do you like it? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

(Twenty) Fourteen Words

It’s a new year.

Well, sort of.

I mean, it’s already January 23rd. And something in me knots all up when I write that out.

Because I’ve had a slow start on my goals. I was all set and ready to go with my three SMART goals for the year. (A cool acronym for setting reachable goals.) And my 14 words for 2014.

Oh wait. You don’t know about those, do you?

Probably because I haven’t written about them yet. (See above.)

So — I guess I better get started, eh?

Remember last year and the year before when I chose a word to focus on for the year? A lot of bloggers do it, so I joined in because I love the idea of having a certain theme all year.

So I started thinking about my 2014 word somewhere around the end of November. I prayed about it, too. And asked God if He could help me figure one out.

Some phrases came to mind, like . . . Love like Jesus. and Make the next right choice. 

No one word stuck out.

But this verse kept showing up in front of my face, and it seemed to encompass all those phrases. So I took the hint and chose a verse for the year instead of a word.

A verse, it just so happens, that has exactly 14 words. Fourteen words that come straight from God’s mouth. And it’s 2014. Perfect, right?

since we live

What a great focus, no?

A perfect way to jump into my goals for the year. Because, although I have prayed long and hard through these three ambitious intentions, I know I cannot accomplish even one unless I do it God’s way, with His strength, according to His Spirit.

So far this year, I have been on my knees every day at least once asking the Lord of my life to show me where to step.

Then I stand up and trust Him, and I take the next step.

Because it’s one thing to say I live by the Spirit. But it’s an entirely different thing to actually stand up and walk in it.

It’s a high call. Keep in step with the Spirit of God. In all truth, I know I don’t have it in me to do it on my own.

But that’s just the thing. I’m not doing it on my own.

Because God is alive in me. I live by the Spirit because I handed my life over to Jesus Christ a long time ago, and He promised His Spirit would give me His life.

This year, I want to go where God wants me. I want to step where He leads. When I sit with a friend who needs me to love her like Jesus. When the lady at Panera cuts in front of me at lunchtime. I want to keep. in. step. with the Spirit of Almighty God.

 

I want to keep up with His call. Make the choices He wants me to make. Love the people He gives me to love. Serve the way He wants me to serve.

And the only way I can do that is by giving up my everything and stepping where He shows me to place my feet.

I’m telling you here because I’m hoping you’ll help keep me accountable.

But there’s something else.

I wonder if maybe you’ll join me? Join me in asking God’s Spirit to show us His steps every day? Join me in following and trusting as we do?

I’ll give you a few days to think about it. Let me know if you’re in, and I’ll hook you up with some ideas for a jumpstart, ok?

I truly believe that if we do it together, we will see God do amazing things in 2014. And, oh how I would to see that with you!