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babies_in_rowI believe that each person is born unique. – As a mother of two daughters, from the womb I knew that my girls were going to be different. My eldest craved veggies and let me sleep most nights; my younger one craved spicy food and chose 1:00am as the best time to jump rope with the umbilical cord. This personality difference followed them out of the womb and into their toddler years. My oldest loved to do flashcards – excited every time she got one right. My younger would try and eat the flashcards as she spied out the room for the next thing to climb on. (The scariest of which was when I found her hanging from the ceiling on the rail for the garage door.)

Today their both teenagers and though my youngest is no longer hanging from the ceiling and my oldest isn’t satisfied sitting in front of a pile of flashcards all day, the core of who they are is still very apparent. Things have matured, boundaries have been created, they’ve had to choose which character traits to soften and which to enhance. And yet still at the end of the day my youngest dreams of the next adventure she’ll get to go on and my oldest loves a great, thought provoking lesson. Created wonderfully unique.

Just like each one of us have opportunities to grow, mature, and learn, Paul is showing the Galatians that though he is still the same person, everything has changed.

Galatians 1.11-24

I love how this passaged is preceded with the statement, “If I were still trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Paul had spent years with the passion and zeal he had had from the womb directed at all the wrong things. He had been focused on man’s gospel – on the Jewish law and traditions to save him. He was trying to follow each and every rule given (pleasing man), and demanding that everyone else do the same. Being so caught up in doing what was ‘right’ Paul was blinded by the fact that he was so very ‘wrong’.

I can imagine Paul as a youth. Questioning everything. Demanding the truth. Chastising anyone who thought differently than he did. Passionate, convicted, strong, focused. He had the determination, tenacity, and laser focus to not only get an A in the class, he would get 100%. It was that God-given passion that was exactly what was needed in order for Paul to be able to stand up against 2000 years of tradition. That very passion that could look the Pharisees in the eyes to say, “You are killing these people, and I’m not going to stand by and watch it happen!” The same passion that once set out to kill the church was now it’s strongest advocate.

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So if Paul didn’t change what did? His perspective.

I love the image of scales falling from Paul’s eyes when Ananias prayed for him. (Acts 9.9-19) It’s such a beautiful metaphor. Paul’s whole life was changed because his eyes were opened to the truth; a truth that gave him a 180° shift in his perspective. He was now able to channel all that passion and energy into bringing freedom to the very people he had once sought to enslave.

Looking back on my life, the things I’ve learned, the experiences that have changed and shaped me, I can see how each season of my life has shaped and changed the way I see things. My perspective at 35 is so very different than it was at 15 and will hopefully be very different than when I’m 55. This realization makes me ask myself several questions…

What are those things that I’m holding onto so tightly that in 20 years I’ll wish I’d released them? How does my perspective need to change in order to show me my blind spots? What parts of me am I fighting that God has actually created in me to be unique?

girl-with-arms-open-wide-to-the-skyTake some time this week to sit with your Creator and ask Him to show you how you were created unique. Looking back on your life, look at the patterns you may have had. Are you adventurous, studious, quiet, outspoken, artsy, nerdy, friendly… – Embrace who you are. Look at the beauty inside of you; acknowledge the fingerprints of your Daddy God that run through your DNA. Ask Him to show you areas in which you need a perspective change. What are areas in your life you need to release the very thing you’ve been enslaved to?

Rest in Him arms. Rest in His peace. Breathe in deep the air of His live-giving Spirit of freedom and grace. Let it flow over you as He whispers, “I love you my dear precious one.”

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My thoughts on Galatians 1.1-10

From the very beginning of this letter Paul appears to be very deliberate. Choosing even the words in his greeting carefully, always directing people back to the grace of Christ – the message of the gospel.

Taking only a few verses to say hello, he gets right to the point of why he’s writing – something pivotal is being distorted. Something that is at the core of who they are is in a vulnerable position. Paul needs to remind the people of Galatia (he needs to remind us) of the truth.

Truth-and-lies1Like all things in life, you cannot change what you do not acknowledge. Sometimes we need people in our lives that are there to point out the things we do not see. We need people in our lives to remind us of the reality of the truth when the lies seem so convincing and true. This is what Paul is doing. He’s showing the people of Galatia the deception; he is telling them that there are liars out, fabricators of truth, who want to deceive them. People whom, in the words of Paul, should ‘be accursed’ for all they are trying to do.

And Paul doesn’t stop there; he goes to the root of the temptation – the lure of the deception. He looks at the heart of the church of Galatia and point out their blind spot so that they not only stand firm against this deception they are facing today, but that they are able to stand strong against anything that would come between them and an intimate relationship with God through the grace of Christ.

Paul addresses the approval factor. That thing inside of each one of us that longs to be loved, accepted, and cherished, not for the things we do, but for who we are. That built in part of us that embraces the praises and ‘attaboys’. It’s the same part of us that hides those things that bring us shame and pushes us away from those we most long to connect with.

Let’s step back and take a minute to consider the last verse in this passage: “If I were still trying to please man I would not be a servant of Christ.” These words may appear to be harsh words of judgment. Yet, they really are a simply a statement of truth.

MomJugglingI remember early on in my academic career, I was young, had two children that I was trying to homeschool in elementary school, all the while trying to keep my house in order. Many nights I would stay up late after everyone was in bed, only to wake up a few hours later, trying to grab a couple of hours of study time before everyone was awake again. (Coffee was my best friend during these days.) My motivation, my heart, my passion, the thing that drove me to those crazy hours was my focus on doing the best I could, knowing that one day my transcript would be examined by a board of strangers who would determine my fate into graduate school. In the back of my head throughout my days, as I planned family events, play dates for my girls, even considering what meals we’d eat, I always asked the question – will this sacrifice my grades. I was driven by the approval of an unknown board of people, knowing without their approval I wouldn’t get what I really wanted – entrance into graduate school.

Each one of us has something like this, something that is driving our daily lives, our priorities, and our passions. For some this may be a degree, for others its a friendship, an image, a persona that has consumed their identity. What Paul is trying to get through to the people of Galatia, and what God is trying to get through to us today, is that thing that is driving your approval is the very thing that you are serving, whether consciously or not.

As we get further into Galatians you’ll see examples where the approval of man has interfered with the truth. And as a result, it takes people away from intimacy with God.

Take a moment to ask yourself what’s driving you? Who’s or what approval are you longing for? Is it driving you closer to the grace of Jesus or further from his embrace? Are you seeing yourself more clearly or do you feel like you are loosing your identity?

da3b5a56666364c4acde690e401c57ceAsk God to show you today how loved you are by Him. Ask Him for His approval. Ask Him for His grace filled eyes to overwhelm your every move today, and to give you a glimpse into what He sees. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. And better yet, He loves you for the simple reason that you are His. You are beautifully and wonderfully made, by Him, through Him and in Him.

Rest in His peace today, precious dear one.

Galatians Overview

7305954_448x252Now I’m not a scholar, nor am I a historian by any means, and yet the heart and passion of Paul toward this sweet church of Galatia, resonates throughout this letter. It’s as if he’s crying out in love shouting, “Move! Run! The train is coming! You are going to die! Do you not see that you have strayed so far into the tracks!?!”

Anyone who has had to watch a parent, a child, or a loved one, making life decisions that were ultimately destroying them, understands the heart of Paul in this book. Paul addresses the people of Galatia as ‘my little children’, saying he yearns for them like a mother in childbirth. The passion of Paul throughout this letter is completely understandable when you realize that he sees the train coming while those playing on the track seem oblivious, some even choosing to pull others onto the deadly track as well. Even more evil are those who are manipulating and deceiving people into thinking the only option for life is to be on the deadly train track.

It was once said to me if something is only 99% true then it is false. A joke from my youngest daughter is the easiest way for my brain to think about it.

A man walks into a bar and asks for some H2O, his buddy sees how much his friend is enjoying his drink so he says, “Can I have some H2Otoo?” then he dies.

The humor is in the play on words, with the bar tender replacing the word ‘too’ with 2, making what would have been a refreshing drink into poison. (If you didn’t get it, the humor’s probably lost by now.) The point of the joke was that H2O2 is the chemical compound for hydrogen peroxide, not water. Distorting something by the smallest increment can completely change it from truth into a lie. On the outside water and hydrogen peroxide look very similar, its not until the man in the joke drinks it, that he realizes the fatal mistake.

In this letter Paul addresses just such a thing when he realizes that people are taking the live-giving truth of the gospel and altering it, ever so slightly, creating a poison that will ultimately kill people. It’s no wonder he comes across strong, at one point saying he wished those who had distorted the truth would ‘emasculate’ themselves. In some translations it says, mutilate, or cut off. Whatever word you want to put there, the point remains the same: Paul is so frustrated with the venomous poison that has distorted the simple truth of the gospel that he wants those who continue to teach the lie to die for what they have done to those he loves so deeply.

In addition to Paul’s passion to save people, is the sweet, simple truth of the gospel. The reality of life with Christ and the freedom that comes with resting in who He is. There’s a freedom in this short letter that brings with it, peace, trust, contentment, grace and love… I hope that in reading Galatians, you too will find these things. :0 )

article_images_7_secrets_life_giving_church_culture_571290993Questions I’ve been asking myself… and continue to ask…

What in your life has been altered ‘ever so slightly’, that it has changed from life-giving to death?

Do you have people like Paul in your life that can scream out to you and yell, “Get off the tracks before you die?” People that you are willing to be vulnerable enough with to open up and show the grungy grimy stuff as well as the sweet smelling stuff? Why or why not?

Are you allowing God to be the one to replace the lies with His truth, or are you holding onto the lies because they are the most comfortable thing you know? Are you willing to hear the truth?

Something Different

Bible-ReadingAbout a year ago I changed the way I read the Bible. I decided to push aside (as much as I could) all that I thought about various passages, ignoring different sermons I had heard, and dismissing discussions I had been part of that pulled theology out of thin air backing it up with random verses. I decided to read the various letters and books of the Bible as a whole, reading each one with fresh eyes, opening my heart to what God would want me to hear and glean from each book. I then decided to stay with one book, reading it as often as possible until I felt like it was time to move on to another.

There were seasons when this felt tedious and I didn’t understand why I was stuck in one book for several months. And then there were those moments, those life-giving times when clarity poured out of the pages, when answers were given, hope was received, and understanding coursed through my spirit and soul. It was for those moments that I kept reading, soaking in the pages of life, and consuming it like a dry sponge soaks in water. When I felt like I had consumed all there was for me to consume, it was then that I would move on to the next book or letter.

Looking back on this past year, the lessons I’ve had to learn, the pain I’ve had to deal with, and all that life has thrown at me, there’s a beautiful parallel to the overall message of the books I read during the times I needed it most. I found hope in 1 Peter, faith in Hebrews, love in 1 John, Jesus in Colossians… on and on it goes. My sweet Daddy was intimately leading me to what my soul needed as I leaned into Him.

For the past 6 months I’ve been in Galatians. Reading it, processing it, looking at the simply powerful message of this book. And what I’ve found, is that there are many things in life that are important, many things that stick out to me as things I’d like to pass on to those closest before I die, and yet very few of them resonate within me as much as the truths in this book. It’s a breath of fresh air I want to share with everyone around me. And I see the message everywhere. It’s a message of hope, grace, freedom, and intimacy with the one who loves us unconditionally. I could go on and on with what I’m learning through this book.

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I’ve decided to take the next few months to process Galatians here. I’ll be posting once a week my thoughts on a specific section of Galatians. And because I’m still asking myself questions as I read and process, I may share a bit of those questions as well. I’d love for you to journey through Galatians with me and share your heart, and thoughts on this short letter.

hbx-holiday-1210-perfect-de-83980034I’m not really a holiday person. I don’t know if I ever have been. For me the holidays exhibit frustration, disappointment, and awkwardness of forced relationships. I’ve heard of stories and know people who love the holidays, embrace the joy of the season, see the beauty of peace on earth, and make cookies to help spread some of that overflowing festivity inside of them. I’m thankful for people like that, they help me come outside myself and make the holidays better for everyone. I just happen to not be one of those people.

To me the holidays are a season of stirring up emotions that I try to keep dormant. As a result, all I do during the holidays feels like a forced effort, similar to a child waking up for school, or choosing to go to for a run when it’s 36 degrees outside. Maybe if I did run more often these days I would feel better…  its just so stinking cold out!

In addition to not appreciating the holidays for all that they’re worth, my natural tendency for dealing with stress, pressure, and all that makes me feel uncomfortable is to run and hide. I don’t think it’s that uncommon to want to push away from something that hurts or is unfamiliar. I look at it like getting a shot; most children scream and try to run away from the needle. I don’t have a problem with needles, I tend to run from people, places, events, tasks, pretty much anything that causes me pain. Knowing full well that running away from everything that scares me, hurts me, or makes me feel inferior is extremely immature, cowardly, and will get me nowhere in in life, I push forward trying to do the best thing in each situation… that is until the holidays come around.

I can’t explain it; something happens inside of me, my insecurities overwhelm me. Tapes play in my head louder at this time of year than any other… “Everyone is better at this than you… people are tired of your weaknesses… why can’t you just get your act together and make some cookies… why is it four days from Christmas and you haven’t even put ornaments on the tree, you’re as pathetic as your tree… you really need to see someone about your issues, maybe a few days stay at an institution would help…” And the list goes on and on and on, intertwining truth and judgment. I don’t have ornaments on my tree, I haven’t made a single cookie, I haven’t even been able to bring myself to buy presents for those I love because the tapes in my head scream at me each time I think of what I’d want to get.

It’s during this time of year that I think back to when I was a child. Many nights when storms would rage, and the thunder and lightning would penetrate the house, my sister would come running into my room to save me. Along with her would be a blanket and her most comforting stuffed animal. I’d grab my “Ted-E-Bear” and run after her excited to find some solace in the storm. We’d clammer down the stairs into the center of the family room (away from all windows) and sit with blanket overhead, waiting out the storm. It was in those moments with the warmth of our breath comforting our souls that we would laugh and rest, knowing we were safe.

It is during this time of year that I long for that, long for the warmth and comfort of peace that comes with knowing there is one who takes you under their blanket, because they too understand the fear. To feel the comforting breath of one who loves unconditionally, without judgment or criticism, the breath of one who will just let you be and will be with you as you wait out the storm.

6121045132_dbcca8315d_zEven though 25 years have passed since those days of hiding from the storm with my sister, and 1,500 miles now separates us, I know that I can still find that comfort. I can sit by my fireplace, dog at my feet, kitty in my lap, coffee in hand, and simply rest. Feeling the warmth of breath refreshing my soul, I can breathe out the frustrations of the season, let go of all the unmet expectations, release the tension I’ve placed on myself, and simply be. Be with the one who doesn’t care about the commercialism, doesn’t care if I make cookies, or buy presents, doesn’t care if the ornaments on my tree are up, He just cares about me at this moment and at this time. So for now I will simply breath in, feel the warmth and be.

Love’s Conquest

“The forge is used by the smith to heat a piece of metal to a temperature where it becomes easier to shape, or to the point where work hardening no longer occurs.

The metal (known as the “workpiece”) is transported to and from the forge using tongs, which are also used to hold the workpiece on the smithy’s anvil while the smith works it with a hammer. Finally the workpiece is transported to the slack tub, which rapidly cools the workpiece in a large body of water. The slack tub also provides water to control the fire in the forge.” Wikipedia

An analogy I heard this past Sunday has given me a new perspective on the struggles in my heart, mind, and life. As a blacksmith forges metal, so God is forging us. With each blow of the hammer, we are being shaped into something strong and beautiful. In order for the metal to be pliable and not break, it must first be placed in the fire. (That’s my summary, here’s a link to the full sermon by Trevor Estes.)

As I listened to Trevor say, “With each blow of the hammer…” The memory of me emotionally beating my head up against the wall again and again wondering, why I was revisiting the old pain, distracted me from the rest of the sentence. At the same moment a freedom overflowed my heart and my perspective was changed.

I used to think life was a line with a beginning and an end, a neatly packaged start and finish, or a ladder that I was continually trying to climb in order to attain, and be, who I was created to be. Not any more… I’m thinking life’s more like a slinky: ever twisting, bounding, circling, back over the same things again and again as we are shaped and molded. “Like a blacksmith forges metal so our lives are continually being shaped. “

To embrace the discomfort and the struggle in life like an athlete embraces the pain to push toward the goal; to realize that the feeling of hitting my head against the wall again and again over the same issue isn’t because I haven’t learned anything, or that there’s a deficit in me; to acknowledge that life is about cycles, transitions, ever changing; to rest in the seasons: This is a freedom that I’m beginning to embrace.

It’s a freedom that rests in trusting the blacksmith. Feeling his strong hand encircling my life, knowing that there’s more to the story than I can see, breathing in the life-giving breath of each blow from the hammer, every moment in the fire, and every cool moment in the water.

Being reminded that this too is temporary, this too will soon be gone, my heart can rest in his sweet whisper, ‘My love, trust in me.’

 

Contentment comes with each new wind

My heart it overflows

The tears pour down as flesh resists

The heat, and hammer’s blows

 

Trust reveled as seasons change

My spirit lays at rest

There’s strength inside for now it knows

The hope of love’s conquest

Most things I read on Facebook, I scroll through like the ticker tape at the bottom of news screen; liking a cute picture, acknowledging a clever saying, logging details of people’s lives for conversation starters the next time I see them. Rarely does something I read on Facebook stick with me like the saying I read last week. Repeating itself daily in my head cycling, processing, telling me, ‘There’s more here, go discover it.’ I couldn’t shake this simple truth.

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

I’ve heard many times saying like, “Failure is good. No one is perfect. Try new things. Never stop learning.” For the most part I thought I had these down, and in many ways I had convinced myself did; I was learning, trying new things and giving myself grace – That is until this quote pierced through my deceptive dance and opened up reality. A blind spot that had been hidden for years was now a blinding light I was forced to look at.

Yes, I was continuing to learn… more about things I already knew. I was allowing myself to fail… as long as the failure didn’t affect anyone else. And I know I’m not perfect… I just try not to do things that remind me of that. As for trying new things… I would only risk on those things that I’m semi-comfortable with… like new types of wine, or this blog, or new music. To step out and really be a beginner: just the thought of it makes my want to run back to my cozy pjs, find a good book, and escape into someone else’s reality.

be·gin·ner/biˈginər/ Noun:

A person just starting to learn a skill or take part in an activity.

Synonyms: novice – tiro – tyro – neophyte – tenderfoot – apprentice

To be a beginner… to stumble… to mess up… to not know how to do something… to be forced to ask for help. To paint a picture that a 3rd grader could paint better – To be the heavy girl in the corner of the gym sweating after 10 min. – To write a story that lost it’s flow halfway through – To run a 15 min. mile – To try to sew only to have the machine jam before you even get the material under the needle – To pick up the bow of the cello, and realize your hand has no idea what to do with this foreign object – To try – To risk – To trust –To extend grace

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

Thoughts in my head swing between calling myself a fool, and images of a child learning how to walk, ride a bike, or write their name. Never would I look at a child, mock their efforts, or laugh at their failure. Yet, here I am unwilling to take the next step with things my heart really wants. I fear my own voice, laughing, mocking, -reminding me of why I shouldn’t try.

What is holding me back, what is so manipulatively strong, that I am so blind to and unable to push past? Telling myself it was fear; I focused on learning to trust. Telling myself it was tapes of the past; I dug down deep beginning the process of ripping them up and replacing them with new ones. This is more, its strength intertwined, weaving itself through the fear and tapes, disguising itself in the pain.

It is pride.

pride/prīd/ Noun:

A feeling of pleasure from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is associated, or from qualities or possession.

Synonyms: arrogance – haughtiness – vanity – conceit

My heart had become so fond of hearing the praises that it would shrink back at the thought of them going away. To have to walk forward and look like a fool with mud on my face was too much for my prideful heart to imagine.

“Allow yourself to be a beginner.”

Allow yourself to play, to experiment, to learn. Allow your heart to explore new ways of expressing itself. Allow yourself to push toward a goal that looks daunting. Allow yourself to find the joy in the baby steps. Allow yourself the victory of falling down, and getting back up again. Allow yourself to be humbled by the reality of your own frailty in order to extend grace to yourself and others as we all maneuver through this space of liminality. “Allow yourself to be a beginner.”