Weekend Wanderings

{For my friends reading this in their inbox, here is a direct link to this amazing spoken word video, Look Up by Gary Turk. http://youtu.be/Z7dLU6fk9QY}

Connecting to what matters most requires time disconnecting from that which keeps us screen bound and distracted from seeing it.

Less is the New More | #MinimalMondays

Found on Pinterest. Pinned from http://www.becomingminimalist.com/

I should be sleeping. Not writing at 3 am.  Adrenals, seriously. Get with the program.

I have nipped at the edges of this subject over the last year.  But it has become a central theme in my life in this season and so after traveling down this stretch of unpaved road, it is time to start sharing about the journey.

You may have never heard the term. If not, I am very happy to introduce you to it. If so, minimalism might evoke design images of stark sterile spaces. Or perhaps of radical folk who manage to pare down their possessions to live in a tiny +/- 200sqft. house on wheels.  Maybe for you minimalism could even be mentally connected to a “poverty mindset”.

In my understanding, minimalism is actually a wealth perspective that is the exact opposite of poverty. I’ll be writing more on that bit soon.  Minimalism as a lifestyle goes far beyond a design aesthetic. It is about creating wealth in the areas that matter most through intentionality and stewardship. It is about “the intentional promotion of our greatest passions and the removal of everything that distracts us from them.”  Thank you Joshua Becker. This could also be a fairly amazing definition of discipleship. Jesus is my greatest passion and I certainly want to remove anything and everything that distracts me from Him.

I lived for seven years out of a suitcase.  That meant I had to curate my life and belongings very carefully.  I learned a lot about myself in those seven years. I learned I’d rather have one quality item to 10 cheap ones. “More” is not always more.

Living in an African war zone, I also lived with half my life packed at all times in case we had to evacuate. In which case my computer, passport and camera would be shoved in a backpack and away we would go.  Fortunately I never had to test that plan. God protected us right where we were at.

Now I live in a 700 square foot apartment. With running water, carpet and electricity. It is a palace.

A few weeks ago my apartment manager came in to see about a maintenance issue {my running water ran away with my rug as a pipe back up equaled indoor flood}.  She was greeted with chaotic piles of things.  I have been in an “empty everything out and get rid of as much as possible right now” mode and then a flood in the middle of my living space didn’t help.  She exclaimed, “Wow- you could use a two bedroom apartment!”

Isn’t that how we think so often? I need to up-size my space to accommodate my stuff.  But I don’t want more space.  I want less stuff.  Less is the new more. I’m utterly convinced.  Less of what doesn’t really matter so there is space for more of what truly does.  That is what being wealthy looks like, a life filled with value, where we are so secure in Jesus and who we are in Him we can get rid of any and everything that would distract us.  Not out of obligation but out of joy!

I want to share this part of the journey with you friends and as I am starting grad school in a matter of days, I deeply realize I need a few regular themes I write about here so I will be here writing regularly. Voilà! #MinimalMondays are here to stay.

I absolutely love sharing this space with you. It is such an honor. You make my life richer and I am so grateful for each of you.

Thoughts? Head on over to my Facebook page, look for this post and let’s start a conversation about how living with intention and getting rid of distractions can help us be happier, more effective and grow with Jesus.

On the Bravery of Identity

heels“Wow, you have the same anointing as such-and-such {fill-in-the-blank, well-known female Christian historical figure}.”

“Oh you are just like so-and-so {fill-in-the-blank, wonderful, famous female Christian leader}.”

If I had 50 cents for every time I heard or received that type of “prophetic” word in the years I traveled full-time speaking in the outer fringes of the conference circuit, I could pay for part of grad school.

Before I left for Africa in 2006, I had a very vivid mental video play in my minds eye one afternoon as I was praying. There stood a long line of well-meaning people trying to put other people’s dresses on me.  Layer after layer got put on me until I was virtually mummified by other people’s garments.  And when no more would fit on me, they were simply piled around me until I became buried up to my mouth by them.  Wearing other people’s expectations of who they think you are supposed to be steals and silences your voice.

At which point Jesus came to my rescue and extracted me from that mountain of misplaced identity. He very clearly told me the only dress I needed to wear was the one He created for me to wear.  Great picture Jesus.  Filing that away.

And… then it actually happened. Slowly. Subtly. Until I was nose-deep and suffocating in “prophetic” comparison that rapidly became the subject of introductions before I got up to speak and the talk around the table after I sat down. I get it.  Folks were trying to figure me out as a newbie on the scene.  They were genuinely trying to be encouraging in the only way they knew how.

And therein lies my concern.  Hence this conversation.

Using metaphor as an intentional literary device is one thing. The Old Testament prophets spoke and lived in metaphor. The Psalms are filled with it. Jesus taught in it.  But when metaphor is reduced to a form of literal comparison that in turn becomes the unnoticed context framing our reality, we operate with only part of the picture in view.

As one of my grad school text books points out {Images of Organization for any who like yummy academic reads on organizational theory}, metaphors are great at showing us similarities and can provide powerful insights.  But the very same lens and perspective metaphors offer have within them inherent distortions. While the lens can help us see some things, it helps us not see others at the same time. The same metaphor that gives us insight through pointing out similarities is powerless to show us the differences needed to complete the whole picture.

And what in the world does that have to do with bravely living out our identity in Jesus?  A whole lot.

The bravest thing any of us can ever do is go on the journey to become who we uniquely are, to wear the garment Jesus has made just for us.  To embrace our story fused with His, to share our one-of-a-kind voice and to celebrate raw authenticity in the face of a culture that still bows before graven and polished images.

What does that look like practically?  Is it wrong to point out similarities as a way to encourage the giftings we see in each other?  Well, is it more helpful to say to someone, “Wow, you are just like “fill-in-the-blank amazing well-known Biblical teacher and father-figure-to-many.”  Or to say to the person, “Wow I can see Jesus has given you such a gift and ability to take deep spiritual truths and condense them down into powerful and memorable one liners.” And then if appropriate mention someone who is known that demonstrates that same gift.

Perhaps it is the way we frame our encouragement that needs to change.

We desperately need to cultivate a culture of celebration not celebrity.

Comparison is compromise that becomes a box that confines.  Celebration defines {rather than confines} aspects of our identity and becomes an invitation to an ongoing conversation.  This conversation ideally challenges us to grow bravely into more of who Jesus has created us to be in Him.

Paul didn’t say, “Compare yourself to me as I follow Christ.”  Rather he said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Comparing and following are two totally different things with two entirely different end results.  Comparison’s goal ends at Paul, where as following Paul culminates in Jesus.

When our prophetic histories are overly saturated with frequent comparisons to famous leaders, we risk allowing these comparisons to become the measures for what we think we are supposed to become.  The very truths that should set us free become boxes that hold us back.

You are you. Period.  And the bravest, most dangerous thing you will ever do is dare to become exactly who Jesus made you to be.

So what do you think?  What are the most helpful ways we can encourage one another in this brave journey of becoming more of who we are called to be everyday?  Let’s have a conversation over on my Facebook page.  I’d love to hear your heart. Simply reply to the question in the comments on this post over there.

Living Brave

braveart01aBrave is a word I keep running into these days.  You might even call it a current “buzz” word.

I’m not a big fan of using trendy terms.  I’m just not.  Why use the “common” term when I can say it in 100 other ways.  The creative in me rebels.

But I do pay attention to themes.  God speaks so often in surround sound.

Words are just collections of letters unless we live them.  Brave is a word I know well.  You might even call it a life theme.  23 surgeries by the time I was 13 years old, I came of age through a journey that demanded me to be brave.  And while I would wish much of it on no one, I am grateful for every hard moment now.  I would not be who I now am except by being forged from the fire of my own story fused with His story right in the middle of adversity.

I can do all things through Him and because He is with me, I am brave.

But what does brave mean?  It is so easy to use buzz words without bothering to really define them.

Moving 3 times across the planet site unseen, the last time of which planted me pioneering a rescue home for children in a war zone in Africa and being part of seeing the world’s newest nation be born.  Staring down loaded machine guns, going 18 rounds with cerebral malaria, trusting God for the next meal for a family well over 100, staying put in the middle of rebel attack.  By any definition, people would probably call that litany of life events brave.  I call it grace.

Brave is what I lived out before ever reaching Africa and the bravest part of my journey is the part I am living out now.

It is easy to put your brave face on when the world is cheering you on.   Sometimes the bravest acts of all are the silent victories hard won in secret struggles the world doesn’t know you have ever fought.  I used to jump on a plane and fly 3 days to get home to my family in Africa with barely a second thought.  But now there are days I physically fight to drive 4 minutes away and do basic grocery shopping.  Right now some days getting to the grocery store for me is braver than flying to Africa ever was.

Brave is brave.  The external context doesn’t define what qualifies as brave.  It’s about the inside reality.

Brave is keeping going when everything shouts give up!  Brave is knowing you are so loved by Jesus that even if everyone walks away, you know you are OK because He never will.  Brave is being YOU as He created you to be and not settling for the popular mold.  Brave is daring authenticity, integrity and transparency in a world and many times a church context powered by image.  Brave is refusing to reduce your theology to the level of your experience and conversely refusing to create your theology merely out of your experience. 

Brave is the faith that conquers kingdoms, administers justice, and gains what was promised; that shuts the mouths of lions, quenches the fury of flames, and escapes the edge of the sword.  Brave is faith that turns weakness to strength and raises the dead.  {Heb 11:33-34} But brave is even more this:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.  {Heb. 11:35-38}

Brave comes when you know you are wholly loved.  Perfect, complete, mature love drives out ALL fear.  Brave doesn’t mean you never feel afraid and brave certainly isn’t muscling through fear on some adrenalin overdrive.  Brave is being real while being so filled with God’s love that when fear comes knocking there is no room for it stay.

Brave isn’t formed in the middle of glamorous epic motion picture worthy events. Brave comes from living loved a little more each day and loving in the messy, mundane realities of daily life.  Brave is forged in adversity one choice at a time as God’s love becomes bigger than any battle we can ever face.  And it is from the hidden daily battles we fight day in and day out that some of the truest triumphs of His grace emerge.

I’m made brave by love.  I’m kept brave by grace.  The answer isn’t more brave.  The answer is more Jesus.

 

Through Fire

thruthefire01The needle pricks add fire to already inflamed flesh.  That which numbs burns first.

Yesterday the ping pong ball sized abscess on my hip was lanced and drained.  It burned like a summer forest fire searing through dry underbrush.  But the only way through the flames was to drain the infection that had built up, seeping into surrounding tissue.  A throwback to African staph infections.

The doctor comes in and says “Wow, great you are here.  If you hadn’t come now you’d have wound up in the hospital over the holiday.”  I smile and nod. She pricks and slices.  And the infection pent up comes spilling out and continues to spill all day and night long.  I make hot basil compresses to draw it out even more, soak in hot tubs of water, press the tissue and bit by bit it empties until there is just emptiness.

It still stings like fire and my cute patriotic outfit will have to wait for another occasion as snug jeans are still a few days away.  But the throbbing infection is slowly subsiding with the help of antibiotics and determined coaxing out.

My fourth was spent stretched out on the couch, my sweet furball curled up sleeping on my lap, as mom and I watched the concert and fire exploding in the sky over Washington DC.  That was all the energy I had.

But I sit here tonight grateful.  For access to medical care and family and freedom and most of all God’s incredible kindness.  For new friends and doors opening.  For dreams unfolding and incredible support from some of you who are praying and giving.  So much to be grateful for.

I wonder how many of us have inner hidden abscessed dreams or hopes, inflamed by bitter infections from wounds that never quite healed. Healing isn’t just a one time prayer or experience.  When loss and betrayal cuts us to the core, healing is a journey.  A journey that requires our yes every single day.  What God does is done but there is always more He is doing.  Until the last remnant of infection is drained away and only emptiness remains.  Waiting for His filling with life and truth and beauty and redemption.

It is a journey that can’t be rushed, but that can be slowed.  If we don’t let Jesus drain the things that inflame, relentlessly deal with the infection, we risk getting stuck in our pain.  And worst, we risk letting that pain define us and the infection become the thing that kills His dreams in our lives.

The devil never has to attack our faith if he can kill off our hope.  Faith is the substance of the things hoped for.

No loss, no hurt, no pain will define who I am.  Ever.  By grace.  Will it be part of my story? Absolutely.  Will it determine my story’s future? Not if I have anything to say about it.  And I do have lots of say.  So do you.

I never want to waste my pain or my struggle. What the enemy wants to use to define us, God will transform into that which refines us if we let Him.  Refined as by fire.  So we can more clearly reflect Who He is.

The ache and throb on my hip is still there changing the way I walk in this moment.  But I know healing too has begun.

Just a thank you to all the men and women and their families who have served or are serving in our armed forces.  Every single one of you are heroes.  You define what it means to be selfless and brave.  And you remain in my heart and prayers.  Because of you, we have another 4th of July to celebrate!

thrufire02Bless you sweet friends.  Grateful to share this journey with you!

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