On Progress and Outcomes

The first progress report from middle school came home today and there were some, well… less than favorable remarks on the one we received. It really wasn’t that bad but for this particular boy it was out of the ordinary.

A conversation followed with questions such as,

“What do you think led up to this result?” and

“Do you know what you could improve on?”

The answers to these and more were thankfully appropriate and what came out of it is, the grades don’t matter as much as the lessons learned along the way.

As we learn what we are supposed to learn, acquire the understanding and knowledge we are there for, the process is what shapes us rather than the final grade defining us.

Such is the case for so many of the situations we face on a daily basis even when we are no longer students.  The roads that hold the feet we walk upon and the situations in which we live are watered down to something we must “get through” instead of lessons how we are being formed along the way.  Rather than learning to dance and sing in the rain, we remain focused on getting through the storm.

We pray for healing, relief, and solutions…all good things but until God provides that which He will at His appointed time, are we willing to suffer long enough to see what He wants us to see?  Learn what He wants us to learn?

When I think of what defines me, it’s not how good I am at any particular thing, how successful I am at mothering, teaching, writing or any one I am to any person I am with.  Character is shaped by process that includes and is not limited with refinement and sanctification. I am not defined by that characteristic or even what I’ve been through to be molded this way.

Neither are you.

Sinner.

Adulterer.

Tax Collector.

Pharisee.

Alcoholic.

Ex-Convict.

Prostitute.

Failure.

Lazy.

Hopeless.

Those who call on the name of Jesus are defined by grace.  Grace that is never ending, far reaching that  flexes, moves, and reaches out and reaches down where no one wants to go.

I am defined by the Potter, the Creator and the Artist.  I am not the artist, I am the canvas. I am His workmanship, a work in progress and by His grace my outcome is secure but my process and that which I will learn along the way, who I am becoming and what it will look like is ever changing, ever morphing into the image of Another.

What defines you?  Are you looking at an outcome longer than the process in which you find yourself?

Our eyes should be on eternity, but that view is dim yet He is illuminating something for each of us right here, right now and that process is chiseling us into a final product, the outcome of something splendid, designed before the foundations of this earth.

And that outcome belongs to Him.

Let us not miss it.

The Transforming God

Image courtesy of CreationSwap via Paule Patterson

Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog for women posted recently on the moral universe of Glee and how creator Ryan Murphy has become an evangelist, touting the message of tolerance to viewers each week on prime-time television.  The post discusses how Glee does a great job of bringing to light various social issues however it stands on the platform that we as people should accept ourselves and others just as we are.  Her.meneutics then says:

But the Christian story tells us that we are born broken, and that we need to be transformed; that we must put off the old self, and be made new. I believe this to be true; but beyond that, I believe it to be a better story, every time, than a story about a person who learns to accept herself the way she is.

I certainly believe that Jesus fully loves and accepts each of us exactly as we are, no matter where we’ve been.  But I love how this post has clearly pointed out that our Savior is a God of transforming grace and His gospel is not meant to be received as one great meal but as an eternal feast of mercy, kindness, love and yes…even gentle correction that will no doubt change us.

For those of us who come from a past where we have sinned in the most colorful ways or have been sinned against…whether we come from a life of crime, substance abuse, promiscuity or even prostitution, or if we’ve been sinned against by those we should trust most, our parents and caregivers… many of us can rightly blame our current condition on our past or maybe even our DNA.  But the gospel of Jesus allows us to be set free from our past. That which we’ve done and that which has been done to us.

Jesus didn’t freely die upon the cross so things could remain the same.  His blood was shed for a new covenant to bring change to the human race, one soul at a time.

Let us love one another exactly where we are but let’s also love one another enough and in ways that point to Christ who will never leave us unchanged.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

Sunday Reflections: Dull Knives and Dull Hearts

The Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa

One of my favorite things to make for dinner parties is fresh salsa.

The combinations of flavors between the tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro are mouth-watering before you even slide your chip in for the dip.

Several years ago, my father-in-law taught me what is required to make good salsa is a good chop.  Lots of chopping.   A salsa with a good texture is the perfect balance between saucy and chunky.

The knife in my kitchen I’ve used to prepare almost every meal since our wedding day is a basic chef’s knife. Perfect for chopping, slicing and dicing just about any vegetable.   However when the knife becomes dull, it becomes ineffective.

In fact, not only does it become ineffective, it can be downright harmful.  If I use a dull, ineffective knife to chop an onion, the knife can slide off the onion and chop my finger instead.  Worse yet, I can know this and in my laziness do nothing about it, resigning myself to the rough, overly chunky chop, making one bite of salsa overwhelming with the taste of onion.

This truth came to mind while studying Hebrews 5:11-14 where readers of God’s Word are warned about falling into the danger of dullness.

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.   But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Dullness.  A debilitating condition that causes us to become spiritually ineffective.

We let time go by and become complacent, finding ourselves standing in the same exact place we’ve been standing in for years.  Not moving.  Not growing. Not changing.  Regressing.

We no longer learn because we are not passing on what we know to another. Seeing and experiencing that what we have learned actually finds its fulfillment when we teach.

When we give it away. 

We are blessed to be a blessing.

The knife in my hand is meant to prepare something to feed others.  Likewise, we are placed in the hands of the Living God when we die to live for His purpose.

Our lives are not our own.

The deal with the knife though is there is a fairly quick remedy.  I can take the sharpening tool that came with it and with a few swipes across, the knife is sharpened and back in the game.

It becomes useful once again.

And so it goes with our complacency.  Our spiritual dullness.  One simple move can help us grow and become effective to those around us.

One step of faith in action.

One phone call to encourage or pray with the person we’ve been thinking of daily.

One step of faith to begin a discipleship relationship with that younger woman who is always ready to talk and ask questions.

One commitment to serve within your community.

These things make the ineffective suddenly effective.

We are blessed to be a blessing.

Does your knife need sharpening?

What steps can you take to combat spiritual dullness?

My Word for the Year

Last year, instead of making a list of resolutions I would not be able to keep, I chose to join the one word 2011 community and focus to just one word which would serve as a lens to view and take in scripture, life lessons, and to listen for God’s voice in my life.

As the year came to an end and I was reflecting on all God had shown me and given me through His Peace, I began praying for God to give me a word towards the end of last year and it became clear through many avenues that the word for this year would be…

Faithful.

I have already been reminded, challenged and struck by God’s proclamation of His faithfulness. In conversations with others it comes to mind that faithfulness is something to be practiced and lived out and is certainly not easy.

This year, I want to be more faithful to in my devotion to Jesus.  I resolve to become…

More faithful to loving my husband by being faithful in all things.

More faithful in parenting my boys with grace.

I resolve to become faithful with the small things.

Faithful with the big things

Faithful with the mundane.

I’d like to be a faithful friend and a listener.

A faithful giver.

A faithful daughter.

Here is how the dictionary defines it:

1.  strict or thorough in the performance of duty: a faithful worker.

2. true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc.

3. steady in allegiance or affection; loyal; constant.

4. reliable, trusted, or believed.

5. adhering or true to fact, a standard, or an original; accurate: a faithful account; a faithful copy.

I’d like to be a faithful copy of the Original.

 We all notice the engraving on a rear view mirror, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”  The mirror is made of a special material that gives us the benefit of a useful rear view but makes objects appear smaller.  Smaller objects seem farther away and if you don’t heed the reminder, you could run into some serious problems.

It’s easy to forget God is larger and closer than He appears.  My faith is small, but my God is big and I long for bigger faith.  In times of difficulty and even in times of plenty, we forget… I forget… God is near.

This year, I want to step it up a bit and take some of the suggestions from Mandy over at Messy Canvas to surround myself with this word.  To search for it and study it in the Scriptures.  To research it, write about it and think more about what it can bring out in me.

I want to understand this attribute of His so that when I need to, I’ll remember, “He who promised is faithful.” And “He who calls you is faithful.”

The synonyms for “faithful” excite me but overwhelm me…

Affectionate, attached, conscientious, constant, dependable, devoted, enduring, firm, genuine, incorruptible, honorable, loving, obedient, resolute, steadfast, steady, tried and true, trustworthy, truthful, unchanging, unwavering, veracious.

More than resolving to be more faithful myself, I resolve to discover, understand and believe God for His faithfulness.  Depending solely on Him.  Trusting Him fully.  Believing what He has said is true.

What have you learned about God’s faithfulness? 

How have you learned to become faithful?

Do you have a word for the year?

One 2011 Word Wrap Up

Last December, still reeling from the news that we were going to have a 4th baby, it was easy to recognize I was not in any state of mind to set new year’s resolutions that would be kept.  It was then that my eyes read Luke 2:14 with a fresh perspective and I decided to join the One Word 2011 community with the word “Peace.”

What started out as a desperate desire for peace led me to the realization that I already had Peace, but needed to choose to walk in the confidence of something God had already granted through His Son Jesus.  Never did I imagine the peaks and valleys He would take me through to see, feel, touch and experience Peace on a whole new level.

It began immediately when the women from Pt. Loma First Church of the Nazarene invited me to come speak at their retreat.  When I asked what theme they were thinking of, my new friend Chavonne replied, “For some reason, God keeps bringing the word “peace” to mind.”  Imagine that.

Right around that same time that I was coming to a place of peace with the baby growing in my belly –until we were told he may possibility have genetic abnormalities.  Peace led me as I wrestled with whether I believe for myself the same things I say to other people. Do I practice what I preach?  Do I believe God and take Him at His word?

Our son’s impending birth brought peace to our home when the second week of January, we broke ceiling and began to turn the attic into a boys loft.  The generosity and kindness of my parent-in-laws and good friends will never be forgotten as many hands spent valuable time giving to our family.  Peace was found through provision immeasurably more than we asked or imagined.

In May, peace was brought to a test when my dad suffered a massive heart attack and remained on life support for two weeks while I was being told to make plans to remove him with no hope of survival.  Every time I came to the end of my rope, a friend showed up with lunch, a latte, a care package or a hug as we sat and waited for things to change.  The Peace of God filled the room in the ICU every time we would pray and God saw fit to revive his heart and is now slowly turning it from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

Through pregnancy, a healthy and some-what smooth birth, a remodel, sickness, job loss, financial struggle and then provision in the most unlikely ways, God has remained faithful as always, pointing out His Peace and favor truly rests here.

Am I convinced of this?  Yes.  Do I now walk in it? Not always.

I remain needy and dependent upon His grace and have been reminded of the need to speak and live the gospel to myself and others every day.  We approach 2012 with anticipation, hopefulness and slight trepidation.  Still in a state of transition.  Facing new illness in our family. Our oldest entering middle school.  My pastor/boss/friend reminds us every year:

We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.

This one word, focusing on this one facet of God’s magnificence has blessed me, filled me, carried me and given me joy, hope and peace in one of the most difficult years of my life thus far.  Next week, I’ll tell you what I’m choosing for 2012.

Want to join us?

{Thank you Alece}

Wholistic Care for Women and God’s Psychology

One of the best things to come out of 2011 in terms of my ministry involvement is the beginnings of the Women’s Care Team at King’s Harbor Church.

Every leader has areas of weakness in which they must compensate with by bringing people on the team who have the gifts they don’t have.  For me, my weakness is in the area of counseling.  I can counsel someone to a degree, but to stay in the long haul and help them get unstuck and moved on to the next place in their growth can be really hard for me and well… not my best contribution.  That being understood, I invited 9 women from our church who either counsel people professionally or have spent years in the trenches with women through the local church.  These women have blessed me so much with their wisdom, enthusiasm and genuine love to see women walk in the ways in which God has called them.  Out of their prayers and team work will come a new and better way to care for women in our church in a more whole way… heart, soul, mind and strength in 2012.

One woman in particular who has become a good friend has just published her first book.  I love hearing Terry’s perspective of psychology and how God has created our minds to work, heal and seek after Him.  She is a licensed therapist with a PhD and has a profound understand of God’s Truth and a desire for women to walk in that truth.  Whatever your bias is towards psychology, I would recommend her insights to you.

I’ve personally benefited from cognitive therapy a few times in my life.  With the help of Christian professionals I’ve been able to clear the clutter that’s been in mind and heart and make way for the God to do a work of sanctification and transformation in my life.

What about you?  Have you benefited from therapy/counseling before?

Safety is Overrated

Like most mothers, I pray for the safety of my children and husband.  When they go off to school without me.  When I lay him down in his crib at night.  I pray God would keep them well, protected and far from disaster.

I want them not only to be safe but feel safe.

But down the road, I see there will be greater challenges to my peace when it comes to knowing they are safe.  Next year, my oldest will go to middle school.  Several of my friends have taken their children to college in other states for the first time this year.  A couple of friends have sons serving on the mission field in distant countries.  Safety is in question.

But as the prayers for safety leave my heart, the thing I desire more for them is to recognize the voice of God in their life and trust Him wholly.  I pray they would walk in the steps He has put out before them in everything they do.

From my own experience, I know God will allow us and sometimes place us in circumstances and places that will not feel safe.  Our safety and security is often challenged and we are left to question are we placing ourselves in the care of this world or the care of our Father?  Are we trusting that no matter where we go, who we are with and what happens that He is watching over us and will deliver us from harm?

More over, do we trust Him in our hurt,in sickness, in our suffering, as He gives and takes away?

Recently, a team of people from our church went to Haiti for a week.  My friend Phil usually sends emails while he is away telling of what he is seeing in Haiti and how he is further understanding our God and His ways.  Last week, he wrote this:

In church this morning, the pastor challenged everyone with a fairly simple question- do we really believe what is written in the Word? I think the question was posed in the form of whether it is “safe” to come to Haiti. I suppose the answer is, in turn, based on the question of whether God has called someone to come here. If the answer is no, then someone should not come. If the answer is “yes”, the answer should be the “safest” place to be is in the middle of God’s will. But what does that look like? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were in the middle of God’s will, yet they went into the furnace. Daniel was in the middle of God’s will, and 1-2-3, in he was tossed to the den. And we all know what happened to the prophets, and to the Christ himself. “Safety” from God’s perspective seems to be different than from mine. In the end, I think the question is not whether it is safe. For some people it is not  At least for me, the question is whether this is what I have been led to do. For the time being, the answer appears to be “yes.” I will leave the rest up to God.

What I want more than safety is for my family to be in the center of God’s will.  By that standard, safety is over rated.  But the struggle as a mom remains.  And likely… it always will.

Do you struggle with feeling safe?  Or worrying about others not being safe?  If so, how do you surrender it?

This Is {Monday Morning Reflections}

Peter begins his sermon at Pentecost defending those who have been praising God and telling of His mighty works in languages other than their own.  After explaining these men were not drunk, he goes on to say, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel that in the last days…”

I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy

Young men shall see visions

Old men shall dream dreams

And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below…

This. Is.

While I am not one to focus, dwell or be alarmed by the “end of the age,” I do, sometimes more than others, long for Christ’s return. Every generation has historically believed theirs is the last and while I’m not sure ours is, I do consider myself a part of the welcoming committee should God ordain it for such a time as this.

This week, I’ve had three people tell me about dreams they’ve had that have either compelled them to move upon a prompting from the LORD or brought them to a place of rest in Him.  The Word of God has prompted people {myself, included} to do, change and say things they never thought they would have before.  We are encouraged. We are sobered. We are hopeful.

This is:

Obedience. Understanding. Peace. Joy.

The preaching of the word and the work of the Spirit to reveal the life of the Word brings about conviction.  Conviction that slows us down, makes us think and be still.

Be still and know that God is God.

Conviction brings about a desire to change. To move. To do something differently than the way we have been carrying on.

The difference between conviction and condemnation is that condemnation just leaves us feeling bad. Where as in conviction we can rejoice because we are standing on the edge of a great plan God has in mind.  We may have a physical reaction brought about by Holy fear or regret,  but we can rejoice and be glad because conviction has a purpose.  Best of all, we can trust that God has gone before us and the outcome will be something He has desired for us and those involved with us.

This. Is.

This is what God intended when He chose to fill us with His Spirit. That we may be filled overflowing to the point where we cannot help but to do His will.  We cannot help but to spill over and pour out to others.  We cannot help but to stand in awe of Who He Is and who we are because of Him.

In the Valley

Source: olivethinks.tumblr.com via mehkta on

This is a familiar psalm to most people. It came to mind last week as a friend was opening up about the season she finds herself in. She can’t “feel God” and for the first time in her life, is questioned whether or not she actually has faith.

She is in the valley.

The only thing she senses is a dark, looming shadow and the hope is dim.

The odd thing was that as she was sharing, my insides filled with anticipation for her.

I wonder…

Does God allow us to enter these valleys so dark and blinding in order to reshape the way we see? Does He use these times to let old habits die hard and retrain our normal way of doing life to a deeper, more Christ-like way of following Him?

In the valley…

We shall not be in want. Everything we need in times of lacking will be filled by Jesus. Spiritual lacking. Financial lacking. Emotional lacking. The LORD is my Shepherd.

There are green pastures. And He will make us lie down. In this life, we will run and grow weary. We will rely on our own strength. Yet through the valley, He shows us how to lie down and teaches us what it means to truly rest in Him.

In the Valley there are quiet waters that restore us. This world is loud and sometimes deafening to the point where our circumstances inhabit our ability to see and hear the voice of God clearly. It’s in these times when the rod and staff of discipline and correction are comforting. We come to a place where we realize, we cannot lead ourselves this way any longer. We need a new normal and Jesus is there to lead us to it.

Since I’ve had my iPhone, there have been a couple of times when it starts acting up and not working properly. Once, it got to the point that it actually shut down and I could no longer turn it on. I was instructed to restore my phone to its original factory settings. When I followed these instructions, everything I had added to it {the apps, my documents, my music, my contacts} was erased. All the junk that had been collected into its memory, of which any of it could have been the cause of its dysfunction, was quickly wiped out and my phone returned to the way it was when I received it. As I began to add to it again, I was more selective and careful. My phone started working again like it was brand new.

In the valley, we find ourselves at a place where God wants to tear away the things causing our dysfunction. The old habits and patterns we have fallen into. The lies we have chosen to believe. He wants to return our hearts to the place we were intended to be and sometimes it requires a long walk through a valley to handicap us in order to rely fully on Him.

Though it feels lonely, isolating and despairing, the promise remains:

Goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.

Among the shadows of death is something bigger. His presence remains steadfast, giving us reason to not fear and to trust His leading so that when we emerge from the valley, we will never be the same.

What have you learned in the valley?

In Case You Forgot or Did Not Know…

I needed this reminder today. Wait… I need this reminder every day. Which one speaks loudest to you today?

Who am I? Where does my identity come from? Who does God say I am? Because of Jesus…

I am faithful (Ephesians 1:1)

I am God’s child (John 1:12)

I have been justified (Romans 5:1)

I am Christ’s friend (John 15:15)

I belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:20)

I am a member of Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I am assured all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)

I have been established, anointed and sealed by God (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

I am confident that God will perfect the work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6)

I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20)

I am hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3)

I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7)

I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me (1 John 5:18)

I am blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)

I am chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 11)

I am holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4)

I am adopted as his child (Ephesians 1:5)

I am given God’s glorious grace lavishly and without restriction (Ephesians 1:5,8)

I am in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30)

I have redemption (Ephesians 1:8)

I am forgiven (Ephesians 1:8; Colossians 1:14)

I have purpose (Ephesians 1:9 & 3:11)

I have hope (Ephesians 1:12)

I am included (Ephesians 1:13)

I am sealed with the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

I am a saint (Ephesians 1:18)

I am salt and light of the earth (Matfthew 5:13-14)

I have been chosen and God desires me to bear fruit (John 15:1,5)

I am a personal witness of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8)

I am God’s coworker (2 Corinthians 6:1)

I am a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5)

I am raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12)

I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6)

I have been shown the incomparable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7)

God has expressed His kindness to me (Ephesians 2:7)

I am God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)

I have been brought near to God through Christ’s blood (Ephesians 2:13)

I have peace (Ephesians 2:14)

I have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)

I am a member of God’s household (Ephesians 2:19)

I am secure (Ephesians 2:20)

I am a holy temple (Ephesians 2:21; 1 Corinthians 6:19)

I am a dwelling for the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:22)

I share in the promise of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:6)

God’s power works through me (Ephesians 3:7)

I can approach God with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12)

I know there is a purpose for my sufferings (Ephesians 3:13)

I can grasp how wide, long, high and deep Christ’s love is (Ephesians 3:18)

I am completed by God (Ephesians 3:19)

I can bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21)

I have been called (Ephesians 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:9)

I can be humble, gentle, patient and lovingly tolerant of others (Ephesians 4:2)

I can mature spiritually (Ephesians 4:15)

I can be certain of God’s truths and the lifestyle which He has called me to (Ephesians 4:17)

I can have a new attitude and a new lifestyle (Ephesians 4:21-32)

I can be kind and compassionate to others (Ephesians 4:32)

I can forgive others (Ephesians 4:32)

I am a light to others, and can exhibit goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:8-9)

I can understand what God’s will is (Ephesians 5:17)

I can give thanks for everything (Ephesians 5:20)

I don’t have to always have my own agenda (Ephesians 5:21)

I can honor God through marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33)

I can parent my children with composure (Ephesians 6:4)

I can be strong (Ephesians 6:10)

I have God’s power (Ephesians 6:10)

I can stand firm in the day of evil (Ephesians 6:13)

I am dead to sin (Romans 1:12)

I am not alone (Hebrews 13:5)

I am growing (Colossians 2:7)

I am His disciple (John 13:15)

I am prayed for by Jesus Christ (John 17:20-23)

I am united with other believers (John 17:20-23)

I am not in want (Philippians 4:19)

I possess the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16)

I am promised eternal life (John 6:47)

I am promised a full life (John 10:10)

I am victorious (I John 5:4)

My heart and mind is protected with God’s peace (Philippians 4:7)

I am chosen and dearly loved (Colossians 3:12)

I am blameless (I Corinthians 1:8)

I am set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32)

I am crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)

I am a light in the world (Matthew 5:14)

I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)

I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

I am safe (I John 5:18)

I am part of God’s kingdom (Revelation 1:6)

I am healed from sin (I Peter 2:24)

I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1, 2)

I am not helpless (Philippians 4:13)

I am overcoming (I John 4:4)

I am persevering (Philippians 3:14)

I am protected (John 10:28)

I am born again (I Peter 1:23)

I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I am delivered (Colossians 1:13)

I am redeemed from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13)

I am qualified to share in His inheritance (Colossians 1:12)

I am victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)