When The Honeymoon Is Over…

About 12 years ago, I recall standing in the kitchen looking at my husband with a seemingly confused and slightly discouraged look…clearly he could tell that something was bothering me. You see, we had just returned from our honeymoon…months and months of planning, excitement, laughter and love being shared with about 260 of our family and friends…a week in a beautiful hotel with phenomenal meals…it had all come to an end…I looked at him that day in the kitchen and said, “So this is it, huh?”  Probably not something he expected to hear, but it was exactly how I felt in that moment and did not foresee that emotion…I was caught off guard by my own feelings!  The dust settled and the real work began; now the true test of this relationship that we committed to was being put into action.  You may or may not be married, but how much of this applies to our friendships?  Think about the first time you met one of your own best friends…the joy of finding somebody with common interests, the same sense of humor, shared passions…it’s a great feeling right?  When the newness of the friendship wears off we start to notice each others’ quirks, weaknesses and maybe even experience a small conflict.  In that moment, we discover the weight and significance of that relationship…NOW the real friendship begins.  We begin to still care for one another through our faults and short comings…we stand with each other through our joys and sorrows…through our success and failures.  Yes, marriage is a different type of commitment, but the concept of commitment is the same, or is it?  Maybe for you this is a challenge…sustaining friendships might be a struggle…if that is you, I would encourage you to pray and ask God to give you the desire to make this type of commitment in your friendships. 


Once you get over those hurdles the friendship grows stronger.  Friendship is designed to be a blessing and not a hindrance. 

“Most people in your life were only meant for dreams, and summer laughter.  They stay till the wind changes, the tides turn, or disappear with the first snow.  And then there are some that were forged to weather blizzards and pain with you.  They were cast in iron, set in gold and never ever leave you to face anything alone.  Know who those people are.  And love them the way they deserve.  Not everyone in your life is temporary.  A few are as permanent as love is old.  -Nikita Gill

Like marriage, friendship is work, therefore we need to be intentional in investing in our relationships.  We will have conflict, we will disagree, but healthy and godly relationships should be able to withstand those tough times. I encourage you to take this journey of intentionality…let’s not take for granted these meaningful friendships, and continue to pour into one another by sharing life together. 

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help.  But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Product vs. Process: Thoughts During Advent

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As a Christmas enthusiast, I anticipate this season of the year with great excitement. Everything Christmas makes my heart swell: the songs, the decorations, the traditions. But the element I most anticipate is particularly personal and meaningful.

In December 1993, I was in kindergarten. I vividly remember making the decision to give my heart to Jesus when I was sitting on top of my dresser in a dormer window of my bedroom at home. I was alone in that moment, yet I knew that I wanted to belong to Jesus and have Him be my Savior. A few weeks later, my dad was talking with me about making the decision to follow Jesus. I told him, “I did that already!” As we talked and he made sure I truly understood the commitment I professed, a new life was beginning: mine, now under the leadership of Christ.

Every year during the Advent season, God reveals Himself to me in a new way. Each year it has been different, but I greatly anticipate the truth he unveils. I like to think of them as “spiritual birthday gifts!”

I hope you’ll receive something from the Holy Spirit as  I share the contents of my gift this year! Here are the thoughts He has given me:

Do you focus on a result? Or do you focus on what’s required in the process to get to that result?

Sovereign God is undoubtedly invested in result, and yet, because His plan will prevail and He will be victorious regardless of human action (or failure to act), I believe He has a vested interest in His process. I think much of human frustration stems from having too heavy a focus on what the outcome will be.

Consider the first Christmas: we look at it now and celebrate the birth of Jesus–and we should! This was an incredible encounter of God with man. And yet, it is not as though instant solutions were provided. After all, Jesus arrived as a baby. It would be a few more decades before His formal ministry would begin. His arrival as a baby certainly altered history, but we are even still in the midst of many loose ends.

I have a certain frustration for lack of completeness. I love to check items off my to-do list, see my progress, feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. But the fact is, in God’s Kingdom, rarely am I responsible for (or even capable of!) creating tidy conclusions. A far greater discipline than task-management is contentedness in embracing unfinished business.

Christmas is an event, yes-but it represents just a piece of the process. Our celebration of the process God is working out in our lives ought to reflect that–even without resolution, even without tidy conclusions. We can celebrate what God is doing RIGHT NOW, and also look forward to what is going to be accomplished as we continue living faithfully.

This is a particularly difficult mindset to have today. We have become trained as a culture to expect “The Big Moment” to happen quickly. We grow bored of a YouTube clip that exceeds a couple of minutes without a punch line or big action. We are attracted to photos that capture a fleeting moment of time and then pursue a train of thought that tells us if we had that arrangement (house, relationships, event, vacation…), then we would feel content. We watch a make-over show and have trouble waiting the whole HOUR for the big unveiling of the remodeled home/revamped wardrobe/diet results that actually took weeks, even months in real time. Thanks to social media, we are so aware of the actions of others, not often giving thought to just how filtered those feeds are, and we compare our life to the split seconds that are broadcasted around us. Our exposure to the filtered days of others is at an all-time high. And as a result, we are not focused on a process. We are conditioning our minds to look for one result, one conclusion, after another.

If we hope and pray for solutions, we need to be prepared for the practice rounds that God will give us on our way to resolution- how we are being equipped to continue in the good fight. As you become better trained, the tests get more difficult. Praise God! “For the LORD disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6). “…Our light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Maybe you are waiting on an answer to prayer.
Maybe you feel that you need refreshment that isn’t coming.
Maybe you are overwhelmed with the weight of a responsibility or decision that feels insurmountable.
Maybe you are living in a state of stress due to job or financial difficulties and you don’t see a way out.
Maybe you are struggling to be the friend, wife, or mom that you know you need to be.

What is God leading you through? What is going on around you right now? What might God have to teach you in your current circumstances? Can you refocus your mind to shift from an emphasis on the outcome that YOU desire, and instead be grateful for the way God is directing your attention to another area? How is this current situation allowing you to grow in holiness? How are you being given opportunity to be trained in godliness? What behavior is continuing to be addressed by the Holy Spirit? Is there a pattern you have become aware of?

To be sure, this can be a tedious mindset to maintain. But, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

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Four thoughts on giving thanks in all circumstances…

shutterstock_63103612This year has been a tough one for me. My chronic illness reared its head after many years of lying dormant in my body. From being flat on my back with a 24/7 fever for several months at a time to long-term inflammation attacking parts of my body requiring removal of said parts, there hasn’t been much opportunity to catch my breath. The light at the end of the tunnel appeared at different times this year and I thought, “Finally! I’m at the end of this crazy roller coaster!”, only to be struck down again with symptoms of my chronic illness and reversing the few, small steps of progress that had been made in the past year.  The chronic illness that I have is managed, not cured. It is dangerous and deadly and if not addressed can be fatal.

I’ve lived with this illness since I was 16 years old and, in my experience, I only have flare-ups like this once every four or five years. This is not to say I don’t deal with symptoms on a daily basis or that the disease is not active in non-flare up times; I still manage the effects of a chronic illness taking its toll on various parts of my body day after day, month after month and year after year. This pattern I live with – where I come face to face with the suped-up version of the chronic illness – is one I’m grateful for as I know of others who live with a more frequent, longer pattern.  I’m grateful, as painful as it can be – physically, emotionally, and spiritually -for the season of a flare-up because God always, always uses this time for rest and refining in my life.

Grateful. A word that seems so out of place when describing trying circumstances. Yet, we are commanded to a posture of gratitude in all circumstances in 1 Thessalonians…

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  – 1 Thess. 5:18

How do we do this? I can think of many circumstances where thanksgiving isn’t my natural response, especially in living with a chronic, debilitating illness. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? It is not my natural proclivity to give thanks “in all circumstances” yet this is God’s will for me so I must set aside my feelings and my personal inclinations and obey. After all, the Greek word for “all” means “all” no matter how fine a point I want to put on it. So, how do we maintain a posture of thanksgiving -not just now but all year long – when life’s circumstances may be full of disease, discouragement and difficulty?

Four thoughts for you to consider as we strive to be thankful all year long:

  • Know that the heart posture of thanksgiving is not based on our circumstantial and temporary feelings.  

Romans 8:9 tells us that if we are in Christ, we are controlled by the Spirit and not by the flesh, so our feelings should not be the force that is driving the boat when it comes to heart posturing.  Don’t “feel” like giving thanks? So what! Do it, anyway.  When we practice obedience, our feelings tend to fall in line and follow suit so that our actions and feelings become unified.

  • Think of Jesus’ example. 

In the Upper Room, Jesus sets for us an example of giving thanks even though he knew of the horrific death he faced. Yet, he gave thanks and taught the disciples how to give thanks for his body, that would be broken and his blood that would be shed.

Luke 22:19 says, “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Mosaic_IFGathering2015_08 Do this in remembrance of me.  Our faith, Our God calls us to remember repeatedly and give thanks. When we remember and give thanks for that moment of remembering, we trust a little more and give ourselves over a little more to the One we give thanks to so that the circumstances do not matter any longer. It has what has been done that does.

  • Count it all joy.

James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all (or Consider it all) joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trials of any kind are genuinely not responded to with joy, anticipated with joy or have any resemblance of joy to them. Yet, again, we are called to adjust our response. This joy, excitement from our trials is for the future results we will see come forth if we submit in obedience. If we submit to the testing of our faith, perseverance develops, and from there, perseverance produces maturity in our faith. So, we must count our troubles and trials joyfully, with thanksgiving, knowing they will refine our faith and we will reap the benefit of that refinement in the future.

We, once again, see this in Jesus’ example.

Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

For the joy set before Him. He must endure the horrific death and brunt of the sin of all mankind on the cross not for immediate joy but for a future joy; the joy of atonement and reconciliation of all mankind…for a reborn life where death is defeated.

We, too, must give thanks as Jesus did in the Upper Room, knowing the coming circumstances were awful, but persevering anyway for the joy set before Him… the joy that comes from what His death accomplished on the cross. bg5

  • Recognize it’s not about me.

Ultimately, we must recognize giving “thanks in all circumstances” isn’t about me. Sure, do we reap a benefit? Yes as we develop the discipline of obedience and a heart and mind that thinks in terms of thankfulness all year round.

Yet, we are giving thanks to Him, for Him and because of Him. It is nothing we have done or didn’t do. It is nothing we have caused or contributed. What we remember and what we give thanks for has nothing to do with us.. and only to do with Him.

“I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High.” – Psalm 7:17

Notice we give thanks because of HIS righteousness. Not my own. Not my abilities or anything that derives from me.

All of my thankfulness is about Him, to Him and for Him.  His abilities. His provisions. His will. His goodness. His love. His mercy. His grace.

It is not about me. If left up to me, I lead myself down the road to grumbling, bitterness and death. In my flesh, I am dead. In Christ, I am alive and made new.

IF GatheringSo, when we are in a season of pain or in circumstances that are trying and difficult, we must override our natural desire to complain and grumble and put one foot in front of the other, no matter how wobbly the step, toward walking in obedience to give thanks.

Let us think on the joy set before us, the promises made by a good Father and give thanks in all circumstances, knowing those circumstances are refining us and knowing He is with us and, simultaneously, has prepared a place for us to live with Him forever.

 

Balancing Act: Surrender & Action

As I sat at our kitchen table with my kids, a basic morning activity of play-doh and cookie cutters turned into a surprise reminder from God. With my five-month-old son, Reuben, in my lap, I enjoyed observing my girls form and create little models and shapes.

After a few minutes, Vera (age 2) grew frustrated. “Mommy, I need HELP!” she cried, a scowl emerging on her round little face. I reached over to assist her; she was trying to pry the lid off a play-doh container, but it was sealed too tightly for her to separate the pieces. She snatched the container and held it to herself, exclaiming, “NO! I do.” Moments later…”Mommy! Need HELP!” Again, when I reached out, she refused to surrender the container, caught up in her frustration. Illogical battles of will pepper my every day; this is to be expected in our home with young children (moms of older kids, please don’t tell me about how it won’t change much once they’re teenagers!). After a few rounds of this cry for help, yet unwillingness to let me step in, I said, “Vera, I can’t help you if you won’t give it to me.”

Pause. I heard my words echo inside my head. “I can’t help you if you won’t give it to me.” In that simple phrase, I received a gentle reminder from God. How often do I ask Him for help, only to decide I should take matters in my own hands in order to achieve results that I think are best? How much time do I spend trying to control my own circumstances and only wind up feeling frustrated?

It is a difficult balance, trying to surrender our lives over to the Lord, yet take responsibility with forward steps of obedience. The phrase my husband often references when talking about this concept with students is “active dependence.” First, we are to recognize God’s ultimate control (His sovereignty).

Isaiah 46:9-10
“…I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose.'”

Psalm 135:6
“Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all deeps.”

Daniel 4:35
“…He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?'”

Next, we need to acknowledge our role in God’s redemptive plan and commit to be an active participant. This requires that we actually understand what God’s plan is: in a nutshell, to restore all people and creation to perfect relationship with Himself and each other.

Micah 6:8
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”


James 1:27
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”


Titus 2:11-14
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

In each of the above passages, there is action required of God’s people. We have clear direction to live as Jesus lived. That doesn’t mean that every situation will have a tidy paved path to follow, with encouraging signposts along the way to assure that you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes sifting through the messages of the world combined with our own natural bent toward selfishness and control makes it difficult to decipher God’s voice in the matter. However, the closer we are walking with Him and the more frequent our communication with Him, the more clearly we will be able to hear and sense His direction. That is powerful motivation to “Keep in step with the Spirit”! (Galatians 5:25).

Here are a few questions you may ask yourself to clarify if you are trying to take control, or if you are taking steps of obedience:
-Is there any sin impulse that is satisfied by my actions?
Galatians 5:16 “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
-Does what I’m doing/want to do have eternal impact? (Am I growing God’s Kingdom or mine?)
Luke 18:29-30 “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.'”
-What thoughts prevail? Ones of self promotion and earthly treasures? Or ones of outward-focus and kingdom benefit?
Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, bu also to the interests of others.”
-Am I filled with peace as a result of my actions?
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.”

So, instead of asking for God’s help, but then holding tight to the situation and trying to exercise control over it, let’s acknowledge the futility of that thinking. Let’s also recognize that, truly, we don’t know what is best (for ourselves or anyone else!). That knowledge rests solely in the Lord’s hands. Continue in a state of active dependence- go forward with the confidence that comes from walking in the truth of God’s Word!

Getting In Shape

On August 1st, I started running again. After an extended (read: multi-year) absence from the sport, I was determined to get back into a routine. I committed to a plan and set out with a mixture of motivation and dread, each vying for position in my mind. The first week back proved difficult. My knees and hips protested the impact that was so unfamiliar. My shins ached. My lungs felt over-exerted, their capacity for extended work threatened. During my most recent pregnancy, I had been faithful to my routine of anaerobic exercise in the form of Pilates three times a week, but even that had stopped by a week before I delivered. It amazed me to recall that there was once a time where my body and mind actually craved going running. In college, I had successfully completed a “Lydiard” training regimen that worked me up to running 100 miles in one week. I have marathons and half-marathons under my belt, and countless 5K races. And yet, on August 1st this year, running was an absolute chore. I came to face the difficult reality that I have to train my body again.

Incidentally, this fall I have also committed to being part of a small group study that requires a commitment of daily personal devotions, practice of disciplines, service projects, and meeting with others for accountability and encouragement. To my shame, it has been quite a while since I participated in a structured personal devotional time. My efforts tended toward reading in spurts when I got the opportunity, not a habitual and reliable time and place for Bible reading and prayer.

I found myself in circumstances where my physical struggles mirrored my spiritual negligence. The Lord brought to my mind a familiar verse: 1 Timothy 4:8, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” As Paul encouraged Timothy with these words, He was expressing a wonderful truth. While our bodies are temples (1 Corinthians 6:19), and we ought to take care of them as expressions of good stewardship, honoring the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and as vehicles of the Gospel, we have matters of eternal consequence to bear in mind. This body is the shell that houses my soul, and my soul needs to be in regular, deep communion with its Creator. This is what we were made to do!

But just as I had gradually downgraded from “avid runner” to “contentment in my late-night snacking routine and utter lack of exercise”, I also slipped from “disciplined follower of Christ” to “sporadic spiritual consumer.” While it certainly wasn’t as though I turned my back on God, I was failing to turn my eyes to Him moment-to-moment. I found spiritual encouragement through books and articles far more than I did directly from my Bible. My habits had shifted.

This shift is not shocking. Unfortunately, because we live in a fallen world, the things we naturally crave generally aren’t greatly beneficial or God-honoring. We have to train our mind to crave the things of God. It’s an effort. Many times I’ve heard it said that rarely does anyone coast into success or greatness; rather, an intentional, disciplined pursuit is required.

You’ve probably heard that pain–here I mean physical pain–is a gift because it indicates something is wrong and we are then able to address it. Emotional or spiritual pain is no different in that regard. It’s a symptom, not the problem. When we are faced with truth, there can be an element of discomfort, or even pain. That discomfort or pain may be understood as conviction.

In my case with running, the pain I felt (feel) was indicating that my body was not used to exercise in that form. And the cure for that pain? More running. I can keep training, I can keep pushing my body, I can stay disciplined and run at least three times a week, knowing that progress will come and my muscles will respond with strength and endurance as I keep using them.

However, you can’t take the running out of running. It will always be work, no matter how fit you are.

In my spiritual out-of-shape status, I also know that the cure will involve more pain. In this sense, though, it will be growing pains via practiced disciplines. And just as you can’t take the running out of running, you can’t truly achieve holiness on this side of eternity. Perfection is the goal, and we know we are incapable of that level until Christ calls us to our true home with Him. But that is not a blanket excuse for coasting instead of pursuing.

All the motivational quotes and pretty Instagram-able verses won’t make up for a lack of individual effort to pursue Christ via His Word. A substitute for a meal is never going to be dessert. (Not that there’s never a place for dessert. But when my 3 year-old asks me for candy before a meal, I don’t indulge her. I want her to be full of things that give her energy, strength, and the nutrients she needs to grow up strong and healthy. I enjoy letting her have some dessert every once in a while, but if it goes from “occasional treat” to “expectation and habit,” then I have created a problem.) So I also need to decide to not subsist on spiritual candy, whatever form it may be presented in. The easy, fun things are often deceptive. How simple it would be to continue sitting on the couch eating late night snacks and forgetting the fact that I own running shoes! But this is choosing ignorance. Because we live in a fallen world, the path of least resistance is the most appealing at first glance; the one that requires effort and invokes pain sounds foolish, initially. But what is the alternative? If I resist growth because it causes me pain, eventually my resistance will produce weakness, and that outcome will leave me ill-prepared to face any challenge (physical or spiritual!).
Yes, there is pain because of conviction when faced with Truth. And yes, confronting pain with pain seems counter-intuitive. But the alternative is a passive decline into uselessness, ineffectiveness, and wasting gifts God has given that are intended for building others up.

The pain of atrophy is worse than the pain of discipline. The former leads to lack of purpose, the latter restores and rebuilds.

So I press on, both in running and in my disciplined pursuit of Christ. Running is a gift that God has used time and time again to draw my mind closer to His and reveal conditions of my soul that need to be addressed. I won’t resist. And I look forward to the strength He will provide me, both physically and spiritually, so that I am better equipped to engage in the ongoing battle for souls.

 

Meet, The Hen Den…

As situations continue to arise in my life, one thing remains…how good God is to surround me with such an awesome community of people; specifically, three women.  Let me pause for a moment and say that if you were to ask me five years ago if I enjoyed connecting with women in general, I would have laughed and explained how most of the female friendships I have had in my life have ended in pain, drama, and tears.  I much preferred to hang out with the boys and talk about sports.  Fast forward to present day, I am beyond thankful to God for answering my prayers in allowing me to experience strong, non-surfacy (yes, I just made up a word), healthy, drama free, godly friendships with women.

Two years ago I attended an IF: Gathering…for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s an annual women’s conference…that’s about the time I discovered what true friendship and sisterhood should look like.  As women, we have all had toxic and hurtful friendships…for some reason we were designed to be great at comparing, judging and deceiving one another.  It’s unfortunate, but is the norm for most of us.  As a result, I stayed closed off from them.  I had girlfriends, but tended to keep them at an arm’s reach…until I was presented information in such a way that changed my perspective.  As a side note: all the inspiration, scriptures, encouragement, etc. means nothing unless your heart and mind are open to it!  Amen??

I can’t recall the exact moment, but what I do remember clearly was a silent moment of shared glances between friends that meant, “We’re in!  Challenge accepted!”  We each desired more…accountability, prayer, encouragement, transparency…we had been friends, but desired more depth.  Not just the casual hang out, or the monthly get together, but being in intentional communication on a weekly basis…being transparent with the little and big details of our lives…sharing in our struggles…encouraging one another.  You see, in that moment, God put us four together, united us spiritually, and those days following we made a friendship vow…a vow to go beyond a surface friendship.  Simply, we said, “Yes,” to God.  Since then, our friendship has grown immensely!  We laugh, we cry, we pray, we encourage…did I mention we laugh??  Not only has the relationship between us four blossomed, but my other friendships have grown as well.  I have learned to let my guard down, how to be an encouragement to other women, and overall, have continued to strengthen my relationship with the Lord.

So, how did this term Hen Den come about??  Part of our vow was to stay in contact weekly…honestly sometimes this is easier said then done, but we hold each other accountable.  In the midst of one of our group texts, I was clearly laughing out loud enough for my husband to notice.  Well, my husband has a habit of giving people nicknames and he gave us our nickname that day…the Hen Den.  At first we resisted and laughed it off, but it was so funny that we kept the name.  We are from different walks of life, and we are all currently in different stages of life.

I’m sharing all of this to encourage you to find your Hen Den.  Maybe you already have one, but if the idea of it makes you want to run in the opposite direction, I would strongly encourage you to pray about those feelings and ask God to help you be more open to it.

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” Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  Ecclesiastes 4:12

Something more…

I’ve grappled with women’s ministry since my teen years because, honestly, it has never fully appealed to me.  This line of thinking is dangerous, I know, for it can contribute to an expectant and entitled attitude of “it’s all about ME” and my wants, needs, expectations of how it should be. I walked away, though, longing for something more. More of what, though?

So when God started prompting me to a more active role in women’s ministry at LifePointe and convicting me about my own arm’s length approach to women and women’s events, I resisted. I struggled and resisted for 6 months, in fact, with my one argument being, “I’m not qualified! I don’t LIKE women’s events!” Yet, my heart continued to beat strong for unifying women to become a true community in Him. When Pastor Josh approached me asking if I’d consider leading women’s ministry, I laughed. Ok, God. I hear you loud and clear!

Women’s Ministry in the church, at large, brings different thoughts and emotions for different women. Some women carry baggage around this ministry: hurt, alienation, disconnect. For some, you’ve experienced a ministry that caters to only “church ladies” or to an ideal of Christian womanhood that you knew you could never live up to (nor wanted to). For others, you felt left out because you weren’t married, of a certain age or had children, yet that is where much of the focus of the ministry landed – looking only to the encouragement of married women with children. Still, for others, age was an issue…you were not old enough to participate or contribute (even if you were in your mid to late 20s).

There are more specific complaints out there against women’s ministry. I’ve read the blog posts and I’ve heard the hearts of these women as they cry out for something real, something authentic and for something MORE than just cute, feel good events.

I get it. I really do. This is what I struggled with too.

And at the same time, God was pointing out in my own heart just how focused I was on me. It’s so easy to stand on the sidelines and complain. And withdraw. Both of which I did, I’m sad to say, in abundance, for a number of years.

So while He and I worked to uproot these negative thoughts on women’s ministry out of my heart and head, what remained.. when the wheat was separated from the chaff…was worth paying attention to.

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Women’s ministry isn’t for only one type of woman, in one stage of life.

Women’s ministry shouldn’t be setting unrealistic, even unbiblical, goals of womanhood.

Women’s ministry shouldn’t be all fluff and no substance.

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Women’s ministry certainly shouldn’t be contributing to divisiveness within the Body of Christ, where age and behavior and experience and knowledge segregate one from the other.

Women’s ministry should be a place that provides additional (above and beyond what you glean from the church as a whole) fellowship between women of all ages and stages of life.

 

I see it as a room full of women, young and old, willing to listen to each other’s stories, learn from one another, give an encouraging word to one another and leaving competition, comparison, and strife at the door.

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You guys, I don’t have to tell you that this life can be hard. Womanhood can be hard. Our roles and our responsibilities can be draining and the expectations that we place on ourselves, let alone what the world places on us, can be downright overwhelming.

Women of Christ must create a place that lets us be who we are, in the stage that we’re in, ready to drink from the Well. With no judgment, condemnation or expectation.

While we, at LifePointe, may set a pretty table once a year, we desire so much for our women to gather together, in truth and love. To be for one another the family God desires us to be. To love each other and think of each other more than we think and love ourselves.

IF: Gathering 2016

We pray for our women to find a place to be authentic; to find a place that provides something MORE than fluff. To be a place that provides something MORE than even knowledge because we know God’s word says that knowledge without love (and action) is nothing more than noise.

LifePointe women’s ministry isn’t perfect. Its leaders are far from it. We don’t always get things right and we don’t always have it all together, but we do seek to lead you in an authentic way while seeking to live out God’s word to the best of our abilities.

We want to invite you along on this journey as we seek the raw, the vulnerable, the real, together. To stand before our Lord and His Body vulnerable, truthful, and desiring to drink deeply from the Well.

We know our time on this earth is short, so our ministry doesn’t want to offer home keeping tips, child raising advice, or decorating ideas. Nothing is wrong with those things, but the world can provide them. What we invite you into is peeling back the layers and taking off the masks that we’ve been taught to wear while learning to love God’s word, live out God’s word and love each other well.

IF: Gathering 2016

We don’t want to distract you with fluff as you do the hard work of journeying with God through the trials, suffering, joys and questions this life throws at us.

Join us in this conversation and on this journey, won’t you? We’ll be discussing all things women over here once or twice a week and we’d love to meet up with you in your inbox! Can we send a little encouragement your way? Some thoughts to chew on? Some Bible verses to meditate on?

Sign-up on the right so you don’t miss it!

Go…

IF Gathering

If you’re anything like me, your mind is still spinning and processing every word presented two weekends ago at the IF: Gathering.  I was emotionally moved, which does not come easy for me, spiritually enlightened and challenged to the core.  You see, it was not by accident that each one of us had a place at the table.  So, now what?…What’s next?  Well, that is the exact question I’ve been asking myself over the last two weeks.  As I’ve turned page after page of my notes, re-read several scriptures that were shared, verbally downloaded the whole two days to my husband, I found myself still asking the same question…can I get an amen?!  As I was praying the other day in the shower…yes, I said shower!  It’s one of my favorite places to pray because I can’t hear my boys yelling and wrestling, and is the one place where I’m not inundated with distractions…but as I was asking God to give me the right words to write, one word came to mind…simple.  I don’t know if you can relate to this, but many times I tend to shy away from sharing God’s word because in my mind it seems so complex.  What if they ask me a follow up question?  What if they ask me where to find it in the Bible?  What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?  Ladies, it’s simple…God loves us…He sent his son down to earth in human form to wash away our sins by dying a sinner’s death…He did all of this so that we get to spend eternity with Him…Why?…because He loves us.  It’s simple, and yet we make it seem like we have to explain the speed of light.  IF you believe who God says he is, and you believe in his simple message, then what’s holding you back?

IF Gathering

The conference was closed out with a plea…a plea for us to go out and make disciples…a plea for us to realize what’s at stake.  We were even given a tangible reminder in the form of a domino necklace.  Psalms 96:3 says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people.”  Another translation says, “Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.  Tell everyone about the amazing things he has done.”  IF you have established your faith in the Lord, and you believe in his word, then I encourage you to take that next step!  “The call of Christ, and the call of discipleship may cost you everything, but the reward is even greater.”  Isn’t that what we are most afraid of sometimes?  Being criticized, losing relationships…BUT, think about the possibility of somebody actually accepting Christ!  Just one seed has to be planted in order for growth to happen.  When I think of testimonies of those that accepted Christ later in life, it encourages me and causes me to realize that without somebody taking that simple step, they would not have the hope that we have been blessed to experience.

IF Gathering

Take this time to look at your domino necklace….now close your eyes and recall the domino effect.  Think about the fact that in order for dominos to have that effect, they have to be close in proximity. Now I’m not suggesting for you to stand out on a corner, or go door to door, but to think about those that are close to you and do not have a relationship with the Lord.  Will you take the next step?  Will you be bold and share your love for God?  In light of eternity, be brave…be enough.

“You didn’t choose me.  I chose you.  I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father  will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.”  John 15:16

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