Three Pieces about Fire: Passion

Three Pieces about Fire: Passion

three pieces about fire passion

God is often compared to fire in the Bible. When you read about fire, it usually means one of three things: an indicator of God’s presence, a means of His purification, or a display of His passion.

This is part three of the series, how fire represents God’s passion.

I procrastinated in writing this piece.

They say that the more legalistic, vengeful and judgemental a religion is, the more it equates the fire of God’s passion with His wrath–Hellfire and brimstone, the burning fires of Hades, un-dying worms and un-quenchable flames.

And I didn’t think I was judgemental or legalistic, because I believe in a God who loves and a God who is love, and although I know He is the same God who smote down the enemies of His people and whose avenging angel traveled through the dark streets of Egypt taking the breath from its firstborn, I don’t like to think about this side of God. In the back of my head, in a corner of my heart, I was harboring an image of God that I was afraid to face.

So I faced it. I pulled it out, threw it in the light, and examined what I was afraid I’d see.

What I found was not what I’d feared. I didn’t see an angry, vengeful God. I didn’t see a different God from the one in the New Testament. I didn’t see the god that those who’ve been burned by religion turn their back on, and I didn’t see the god claimed by those who twist the Bible into a weapon and then use it for hateful purposes.

I saw a Daddy.

I saw a Daddy who loves His children so much, He protects them passionately. I see a Daddy who guards His beloved sons and daughters and will do anything to protect them…

…from captors who would keep His people in slavery (Exodus 9:23)

…from the people who were out to physically destroy them (2 Kings 1:10)

…from the places where sin had taken over so completely that truly, not even one righteous person could be found (Genesis 19:23)

I saw a Daddy who jealously guards his little ones and protects them from bullies, kidnappers, and soul-thieves. A God who knows the heart of a person beyond the shadow of a doubt and has the authority to act accordingly. And I saw God who gave even the enemies of His children more than one chance to repent and stop harming those who were under His protection.

I saw God-made-flesh rebuking his followers when (out of the weakness of their human hearts) they asked him if they should call down fire to destroy the people who refused to welcome them (Luke 9:54-55).

The passion of the Lord is just, and it is trustworthy {Tweet this}.

He is sovereign.

He is righteous.

His wrath is fearsome.

His loving protection is beyond description.

The passion of the Lord will go to all lengths to save His people. It will go all the way to the cross {Tweet this}. Passion, after all, comes from the Latin word meaning “suffering.”

And when that same passion burns in each of us, it sets wildfire ablaze in a darkened world. Becuase the passion of God inside us should lead to compassion, whose Latin roots mean to “suffer with.”

The passion of the Father toward His children should lead us to compassionate action for those suffering in poverty, obscurity, and abuse. The passion in our hearts should lead us to compassionate refusal to turn a blind eye towards the suffering of refugees, the outrage of human trafficking, the wounds of racism, the dishonoring of God’s daughters throughout the world, and the abuse of His name.

Passionate compassion is what should drive us to go out and burn down walls, strongholds, injustice, and indifference as we become His hands and feet, protecting those who need it most.

Lord, let us burn with Your passion. Erase from our hearts any false views of who You are and replace them with truth. Let your passion become compassion in Your church throughout the world, moving us to action by the example you set in protecting your precious children from harm, neglect, and misdirection. 

 

 

 

 

Three Pieces about Fire: Presence

Three Pieces about Fire: Presence

THREE PIECES ABOUT FIRE

On our way to Idaho, we drive into thick, dark smoke. The West is burning, over a million acres consumed by wildfires raging out of control. The smell of smoke hangs in the air, the sun is a muted orb of pale yellow barely visible through the haze.

I’ve seen this before, the way a wildfire devastates the landscape. The way the flames sweep through the forest, leaving behind blackened ashes where life once thrived.  The year I turned sixteen, Yellowstone National Park burned through the summer–snowing ash down over the town where I grew up and flushing the horizon with an eerie red glow. We drove through the sodden, black remains that autumn on my way to boarding school, when my life was turning upside down and my heart felt as burned and barren as the forest around me.

The thing about a holocaust is that you can’t see how life will ever grow there again.

But I’ve learned a lot about fire since then. I’ve learned that, like everything in creation, fire has its purpose. And I’ve learned to see God in the burning.

God is often compared to fire in the Bible. When you read about fire, it usually means one of three things: an indicator of God’s presence, a means of His purification, or a display of His passion.

The Lord’s presence is often represented by fire. In Exodus, Moses meets God when he encounters a bush that burns, but is not consumed:

And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”      –Exodus 3:2-4

This was sacred ground, as Moses quickly saw. It was here at this commissioning, in the flickering light of that strange fire, that God gave Moses the job of shepherding the Hebrew people to freedom. He had heard the cry of His beloved and would lead them out of the bondage of Egypt.

Again, we see God’s presence in the pillar of fire that later led His people through the desert. A guide before them, the fire of the Lord went ahead through the wilderness and stopped where they were to set up camp, telling them when to move and when to rest. It was this pillar of fire that blazed through the dark desert nights, showing the wandering Hebrew nation that the Lord was still among them. His presence was evident:

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. –Exodus 13:21

The fire of the Lord rested over the Tabernacle, hovering above the tent of meeting–the Lord’s dwelling place. When the Israelites saw fire resting above the tent, they knew that they were to stay where they were. Whether it was for a day, a week, or a year–when the fire rested, so did they. But day or night, when the fire moved from its place over the tent, it was time to pack up and follow.

It was there in the desert, a place of heat and wandering, that they first learned to follow the light.

Later, the presence of the Lord again appeared in the form of fire. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down and filled the people there, and as their hearts were changed fire appeared over each of them. No longer confined to a tent or a temple, no longer accessible only to consecrated priests, no longer separated from His people…the Spirit of God moved into hearts.

His dwelling place was no longer a tent of animal hides or even a temple of carved stone and gold, it was the hearts of those who love Him. He made His people into living temples, Tabernacles filled with the burning wildfire of His presence. He had heard the cry of His beloved, and would lead them out of the bondage of seperation from Him:

And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. –Acts 2:3-4

I’ve been thinking, what if we looked for God’s presence in the fire? What if we followed that fire, relying on the light and trusting where it leads? I’ve been praying that God will show me where He’s moving, and that I’ll have the courage to follow Him there.

I’ve been praying that the fire that burns in the hearts of God’s people will catch like wildfire…strange fire that burns but does not consume. Fire that brings, instead of devastation and loss, peace and restoration.

Lord, please fan into flames the Spirit in our hearts. Give us eyes to see where you are leading, and strength to follow. Let the fire of Your presence spread to every heart that’s cold, bringing life and warmth and hope wherever it goes. Father, I pray also for those affected by the fires that have destroyed so much this summer, that You would be with them–bringing healing and hope and peace. Make beauty from the ashes, Lord.  Amen. 

 

 

 

 

 

Wrecked

Wrecked

WRECK

In a local Walmart yesterday, two worlds crashed head-on at an unmarked intersection. The wreck went largely unnoticed, although it caused a great deal of inconvenience. There were no fatalities.

Or, maybe, there were.

You see, I was minding my own business that day. Doing the things we do here in America, the things I take for granted. I was annoyed to have to go to Walmart in the first place and I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible, so I wasn’t focused on what I was doing and my mind was wandering.

Which is probably why I didn’t see it coming: That Other World, the one I know about but don’t live in, the one that breaks my heart but too often isn’t on my mind. It came barreling down from the other direction when I wasn’t watching, and the whole weight of it hit me full-force right there in the Seasonal Goods aisle, where I was tossing a bottle of off-brand sunscreen into my cart.

The wreck was totally avoidable. That Other World and my own coexist every day, parallel universes 22 hours and a hundred light years apart. They go on, both of them, as they always have–side by side, never intersecting. I’ve become quite adept at preventing them from crashing into each other. It’s a simple matter of keeping things neatly compartmentalized, and they normally don’t come in contact at all.

So imagine my surprise when, in my own comfortable world, a moment of simple distraction allowed a ten-car-pileup to occur in my soul. It was a silly thing, really. A floor to ceiling stack of orange 5-gallon water jugs, innocently waiting to be purchased and taken on camping trips. But out of nowhere, That Other World showed up and I was wrecked.

Wrecked because each of those containers will hold 5 gallons of clean water, while 783 million people worldwide lack access to clean water and 1 out of every 5 deaths in children under the age of five is due to unclean water.

Wrecked because women in That Other World spend so much time carrying gallons of unclean water to their homes that they don’t have time to get an education or go to work.

Wrecked because those cheerful orange containers will go on camping trips where we get away to “rough it” in conditions far better than those over half the world lives in on a daily basis.

Wrecked because the contents of my wire shopping cart, which seemed so necessary at the time, cost more than it would to provide food, shelter, and education for an orphan for a month.

Wrecked because I know the needs, I work with a non-profit dedicated to equipping That Other World to rise out of poverty, and yet I so often get tied up in the things that seem important in my little corner of the world and forget how privileged I am. In today’s world there is no excuse. How easy, how very easy, it is to make a difference.

Sometimes I feel like my soul is schizophrenic, living in two worlds. The rift between the two is imaginary; we are one family in Christ and one church across the nations. And yet I feel tossed back and forth, a stranger in both lands. I give my dog a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti on her birthday and post the picture on Instagram, and then I weep because my dog eats better than most children in Africa.

I am wrecked.

But maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe wrecked is where Jesus meets us, brushes the scales out of our eyes and gives us new vision {click to Tweet}. Maybe wrecked is where I need to learn to live, trusting that the Jesus who said the poor will be among us always and also said that he is the poor among us always, will teach me how to make peace with both worlds.

Yesterday, two worlds crashed head-on and complacency was the fatality.

Lord, help me carry both worlds with me always and help me learn to live as a bridge in the gap between.

 

Be Forgiven: How to squash shame and forgive yourself

Be Forgiven: How to squash shame and forgive yourself

be forgiven

Being forgiven means we are freed from the chains of sin and death. But it is also a gift meant to allow us to live a life of joy and freedom!

You can have the assurance of salvation but miss out on the part where you live as a free, worthy, precious child of God. And that’s not OK, friends.

It’s not OK for us to miss out on the great love that the Father has for us. His love for us changes everything. It has the ability to transform your heart, and your whole life. It has the power to work through you and make a powerful difference in the world around you, the power to change the lives of those you come in contact with.

But you have to accept it, you have to let it sink in. The enemy has no power over what happens in heaven once we get there. But he does his best to wreck our joy and our effectiveness here in the broken world, and one of the very best ways to keep a Christian down is to mire her in shame.

John 10:10 says:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.

Shame is a joy-stealer, a relationship killer, and a confidence destroyer (click to Tweet). Those things are right from the enemy, who is continually whispering lies to us about our worth. But God’s gift is that we have life, and have it to the full! We need to be free to fully live the life God has given us, and shame is a roadblock to that freedom.

Click below to listen to my talk on forgiving yourself, and breaking the hold of shame in your life…

Dear Almost-Nineteen Year Old: An open letter to young adults and their parents

Dear Almost-Nineteen Year Old: An open letter to young adults and their parents

Dear Almost Nineteen...an open letter to young adults and their parents

An un-named 19 year old lighting his birthday candles with a blow torch

Dear Almost-Nineteen,

Do you have a moment? Just a little time to chat, I won’t keep you long. You’ve got things to do, I know. Set it aside a moment and walk with me.

Listen, I don’t want to preach. I know what it’s like to be young, how everyone seems to have some kind of advice for you and everyone wants to tell you how to live your life. But I’ve got a few things to say, if you’re willing to listen.

Because, Child? Nineteen stinks.

I am not going to lie to you, it’s quite possibly the most dangerous age to be, ever. It’s dangerous waters from 18 to at least 22, but 19 seems to be the age where it all goes wrong. Ask an adult…I’ve polled quite a few. If you’ve made a Big Mistake in your life, it’s likely to have been at age Nineteen or thereabouts. I know this first-hand, I made the biggest mistakes of my life at nineteen (and, frankly, most of the runners-up as well).

Here’s the deal: I know you’ve been an adult for just about a whole year now. And you’ve made it through the year successfully, you’re not dead and you’re not in jail and by now you’re feeling pretty confident in your ability to deal with this whole life thing. You’ve got this adult thing totally under control, and you’re ready to loosen up and relax about it.

Except for one thing: You’re Nineteen.

Here’s the problem with Nineteen, and please don’t take this the wrong way. You are navigating adult-ness right now with a brain that’s only processing as an adult about half the time. This, Child, is not your fault. We humans are wired that way, and in fact none of us will develop a whole-adult brain until somewhere around the age of 25. Until then, we’re yanked back and forth between thoughts and decisions that are sometimes startlingly mature, and at other times shockingly childish. That’s the nature of the beast. And you can’t predict if your adult-brain is going to be in charge at any given time, or if your child-brain is going to be in the driver’s seat.

That’s a precarious place to be.

You are not going to know the difference at the time, either. It’s all going to seem totally rational to you. Add to this the fact that the expectations for you at this age are discouragingly low, you may be spending most of your time away at school with a bunch of people who are in the same precarious age group, and that a good many of your peers are going to be struggling with issues you never saw coming…well, you’ve got a recipe for potential disaster. And you are navigating all this with half-a-brain.

Right around now a lot of you will be going into your Sophomore year in college, and it’s no accident that the word itself is derived from the Greek words for Wise (sophos) and Fool (moros).

Wise-fool, here’s what I want you to know: You can do this thing, you can keep on track but you’re going to need to go into this with caution. Get your people behind you, your support system. Tell them that they have your permission to tactfully tell you that your child-brain is currently at the wheel, when they see reason for concern. And when they do speak up, listen to them. Here’s a secret: It can take courage for a parent to speak wisdom to their child, even when they know it’s truth. It’s not as easy as it looks.

With this in mind, I beg you…Set aside those Big Life Decisions for a year or two, if at all possible. Know that you are right now going to have to exercise some serious adult patience in situations that try the patience of even the most seasoned adults, and you’ll be expected to do this when your brain might, at any given time, flip into child-mode and want to sneak under the Christmas tree and secretly unwrap those tantalizing gifts a week early. It’s not fair, and it’s hard, but at its best it’s kind of like boot-camp that will shape you up and help kick you, well-prepared, into that next phase of life.

Parents…here’s a bit of advice as well. Your job is never going to be done, but for certain right now is not the time to hang up your hat and call it a day. Check in and stay checked in, even though our culture is telling you that teens will be teens and we should expect the worst. It doesn’t have to be that way. Start talking to them about these perilous years early on, and keep talking right on through. Listen to their ideas and enjoy the adult conversations you’ll be having, but don’t do them the disservice of allowing them to get off track because they’re legally adults and should be able to figure it out on their own. Have the courage to speak up and help them remember who they are, and Whose they are.

Parents, let's stop looking at our teens as ticking time-bombs and start partnering with them as young adults. Click To Tweet If we stopped looking at our teenagers as ticking time-bombs and started partnering with them as young adults who are learning to navigate through hard, adult situations, I’m convinced we could save both parties a lot of heartache. Because our culture has such a low opinion of teens, we’ve been ingrained with the tendency to disrespect them and minimize what they’re going through. How can we expect them to respect us, if we can’t set an example by respecting them? Let’s promise to hold our young adults to high standards and keep our discussions rooted in Biblical truth, because this is the time they need it the most.

God has good plans for you, Almost-Nineteen, and the most important thing you can do now is to lean on Him and keep strong in your faith. Sometimes it won’t be easy, and sometimes it will be downright hard. But hard things make us stronger:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Romans 5:3-4

Let’s make a promise to each other, let’s prove the world’s view of teens and young adults wrong. Click To TweetLet’s make a promise to each other, let’s prove the world’s view of teens and young adults wrong. Let’s work together instead of falling apart, let’s act with respect and love. Let’s not give up on each other.

All my love,

Someone who’s survived Nineteen

 

 

A note: I’m not a perfect parent and I don’t have perfect kids, but we have made a point to discuss this stage of life with our kids from an early age. I promised them that I would remind them about 19 if the need arose and they promised to listen…Eldest is now 20, and we’ve found that commitment to be a huge blessing. It’s never too late, but if you can start these conversations when your kids are early teens or tweens it will make a huge difference when they’re older!

More Than a Song: Thoughts on Creativity and Worship

More Than a Song: Thoughts on Creativity and Worship

More than a song: Thoughts on creativity and worship

 

The piece below was written years ago; since then God has given me a lot of opportunity to think about what worship means to me and to the church. I have seen some beautiful examples of worship and some that make me sad. I have had moments leading worship where the voices of the saints washed through the church, where I felt the Spirit move and the hearts of hundreds knit together by the simple act of singing to the Lord. I have had moments when I wondered if corporate worship has been so tainted by ego, showmanship and smoke machines that it borders on profane.

Through it all, one thing stands true: Worship is not a song. Worship is losing oneself in the act of giving back God’s gifts with sacrificial joy.

Worship is not a song. Worship is losing oneself in the act of giving back God's gifts with sacrificial joy. Click To Tweet

True worship does not rely on a sound board and lights and PowerPoint displays. Those things are at best tools and at worst distractions. Worship does not need an audience. True worship takes place when the Spirit moves through the gift of creativity, whether it takes place on stage or in front of the breakfast dishes or on canvas or printer paper. True worship takes place when your heart is connected beyond words, beyond thought; connected in the Spirit with the Creator, and what flows out of you becomes so much more than the sum of its parts.

I’m not saying that the current church model for worship is broken beyond repair. There is just so much more to it, and there are so many ways to let ego and self get in the way. When we do that, when we grab too hard to the wheel and forget Who is driving, we close the door to the miracle that happens when a song is lifted from simple notes and transformed into worship. We limit the profound gift that God offers us when we take His blessings (whether they are sung or played or painted or written or sculpted or spoken…any of the many unique ways He chooses to gift us) and turn them back up in praise to the One who invented everything that makes our hearts fill with awe and joy.

Friends, I’m praying that each of us will find the blessing of true worship…in church and at home, at work and in the quiet deep of every heart. I pray that our worship will bless the Father who has been so generous in giving us the smallest fraction of His creative power, which puts to shame our greatest masterpieces and goes beyond our wildest dreams.

From the Archives:

It’s been with me since I was five, the antique upright piano.  Its finish is deep ebony, the surface crackled with age, the keys chipped here and there like a well-worn smile.  And when I can’t find the words, I go there and let the contents of my heart flow out in the pure form of music instead.

So I’ve been there a lot lately, sitting on the bench with its worn white and green brocade.

What I can’t find words for flows through my fingers on these different, more familiar keys.  After all, I learned to play them before I learned to type, before I really even learned to write.  It’s like slipping into a first language– the one you rarely get to use but often find yourself dreaming in.  I play the old favorites I learned as a child; Beethoven, Haydn, Chopin, Brahms.  I play new ones, hymns and worship songs and pieces I’ve picked up because I’ve always loved them.  And I play what comes to mind and then through my hands, sometimes in such quick succession that I’m not sure where the music comes from at all…it moves through me and surprises me and makes me laugh, and makes me cry.

Sometimes when no one is watching, I lean against the piano as I play, my cheek against the smooth black surface.  I feel the music, the vibration of many strings against brass soundboard, resonating through old wood and flesh and bone. I feel the hum in my bones and soul and wonder:  Is this how the Universe vibrates, with the echoes of the Creator’s voice….“Let There Be Light”…. humming through an infinity of tiny strings strung between all of creation that glows and breathes and sings?

Perhaps true worship is simply playing in tune with Him.  A Rhapsody on a Theme by El Shaddai, sung by a choir not bound by time or space or the limitations of flesh.  Do you know these moments?  When what began as poetry or paint or the pressing of black and white keys, the draw of a horse-hair bow across silver strings…becomes transfigured? When light falls in and through and lifts art from human hands to God-inspired, when every note or word or brushstroke is praise and you know, you know that there is more to it than ink or paint or notes splashed across five thin lines. And as the last note sustains and washes over you, you just want to stand there and raise your hands and whisper his name….Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

In Heaven, friend, that’s how it’s going to be.  Every day, every word, every breath.

Why we humans create, why there is art and music and poetry must be this:  Our hearts were created after His own image, they long to hear the symphony and strive for those moments in which they resonate in perfect pitch with the Creator, in which they catch a glimpse, as in a mirror dimly, of the glory that is to come. And in that moment the soul understands that it cannot understand, only give in entirely to that which is incomprehensibly greater and more beautiful than we can imagine.

 

 

 

First published February 1, 2012

Does God Care about Our Happiness? A Book Review of The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

Does God Care about Our Happiness? A Book Review of The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

your happines matters

I have to confess: I have always been a bit of a happiness skeptic. Sure, I know that God intends us to have deep and abiding joy. But somehow the term “happy” seemed to be joy’s cheaper, less durable knock-off.

In addition to this, there have been plenty of times in my life that the joy I know God has for us seems to be a thing meant for heaven, meant for later. In the meantime, there are people starving and orphaned children and corrupt governments and human trafficking and refugees and children working in sweat shops and I have a hard time not letting that get me down.

I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life and, perhaps as a result, have always been slightly skeptical of people who seem happy all the time. How does that work? Are they faking, or are they blissfully unaware of the state of the world?

All things considered, I might have passed over a book about happiness if I didn’t know Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Jennifer is no faker.

A former reporter, Jennifer Lee has seen a lot of hard things and she’s not a stranger to adversity. She’s a deep thinker who understands that the world is a hard place in which to live, and she’s not one to gloss over hardship. She’s seen a lot and she isn’t afraid to get in there and put herself in the midst of it, to make a difference despite the sadness. In fact, Jennifer writes:

“I wrote this book because I needed this book. I needed to know if my happiness mattered. And if it mattered, how could I go about finding it and then living it out in a place pulverized by pain and heartache?” ~Jennifer Dukes Lee, The Happiness Dare

I needed this book, too. The Happiness Dare is not a cure-all for depression, and it’s not going to automatically fix you if you are at a place where you are clinically depressed and in need of help. If you’re in that place, then friend? I give you permission to go get help. Get help spiritually, physically and mentally, because all three matter and nobody…not you, not anybody, deserves to live in the kind of anguish that depression causes.  It can get better, I promise.

Does God Care about Our Happiness? A Book Review of The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee

That said, I think that a whole lot of people are living in a not-quite-clinically-depressed but nowhere-near-happy place, a sort of gray zone where the colors are all there, just muted. Maybe you’re recovering from depression and you can’t quite remember what it was like to be happy. Maybe you can’t quite believe that God cares about your happiness…after all, you’ve got it pretty good and maybe it feels like asking for too much that you be happy along with it. Maybe, like me, you’ve got undiscovered hang-ups about happiness in general, and you need someone to come along and expose them for you…so you can savor the life you have.

Because, friend? Yes. God does care about your happiness. {Tweet this} Just like we care about the happiness of our own children, only more so because he’s God! I’m thrilled that my husband and I can provide for our kids, but it brings me real joy to see them really enjoy what they have, not just go through the motions. It brings me joy to see their happiness.

My kids’ happiness brings me joy. And God is the perfect Father, so imagine how much joy our delight brings Him! 

Yes. He cares.

In reading this book, I discovered that I’ve been holding back when it comes to happiness. I’ve had a wrong view of what God wants for me, his child. And in loosening up the bonds that wrong-thinking had put around my happiness, I’ve been able to enjoy life more…the colors are brighter. I’m more free to enjoy the gifts my Father has given me, to linger a little longer and laugh a little louder because I know my happiness brings Him joy, too.

Some happiness-growers you’ll find in The Happiness Dare:

  • The importance of realizing God cares about your happiness
  • How to linger in the good
  • Know your style…understand what makes you happy (check out this free happiness style quiz!)
  • Rest in the fact that good enough is good enough
  • You have permission to be happy

You know what? You should get this book. Because happiness is a thing that we could all use more of, and it’s too important to leave un-examined. The Happiness Dare is well written and fun to read, Jennifer’s sense of humor will make you laugh and her tender stories will go right to your heart.

Want to know more? Check out the book on Amazon, or stop by Jennifer’s blog. Also, there is a Happiness Dare book club going on at (in)Courage…join me and the dare-takers there?

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The Perfect Cone

The Perfect Cone

The Perfect Cone

She held the box of ice cream cones in her hands, staring at it. For a child who was about to enjoy a cold scoop of ice cream on a sweet, crispy cone, she sure looked glum.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Youngest sighed, set the box of cones on the counter. “It’s just that the picture of the ice cream cones on this box has the perfect ice cream scoop. And I have been trying and trying every time I get an ice cream cone to make the scoop this perfect, and I never ever ever can make a perfect scoop.”

I set the ice cream down.

“You know,” I said. “The people who made that box for the cones hired a photographer to take that picture. And the photographer hired a whole team to make the food look just right. First of all there is someone who’s whole job it is to make ice cream cone look just exactly perfect. They have tricks like spraying food with a shiny coat of shellac to make it look better and they spend hours arranging the food to be just right. And then, the lighting part of the team comes in. They set up special lights that get really hot, which melts real food. Your daddy worked with a team like that once, and they used fake plastic butter on the potatoes because real butter would have melted.”

Youngest looked thoughtful. “Do you think maybe this isn’t even real ice cream here on the box?”

I looked the photo over for a moment. “Well, it looks real…but you know, ice cream melts even faster than butter!” She mulled that over for a moment, and I picked up the ice cream again…expecting her to be relieved to have this new information. Instead, tears welled up.

“But then, that means I am never going to have the perfect ice cream cone,” she cried. “No matter how hard I try!”

I feel her pain. I have spent my whole life trying hard to achieve the “perfect cone.” I’ve spent so much time beating myself up over the fact that nothing in my life is perfect enough, that my carpet has stains and my house is never clean enough, that we never have enough or give enough or do enough. I have spent way too much time in frustration over the fact that my body is not perfect, I have let a few extra pounds keep me from loving myself. I have cried over the fact that I am sometimes so far from that perfect Proverbs 31 woman that it seems impossible for me to ever really make it. I’ve berated myself over every little fault that leads to lack of perfection.

I’ve let comparison and the pursuit of perfection keep me locked in a constant not-good-enough mindset, so that at times I am overwhelmed and feel unable to do anything at all.

And through it all, I’ve figured that despite all of this I am not a perfectionist. No, not me!

Because if I really were a perfectionist, my house would be much, much cleaner. Seriously.

We are bombarded every day with reasons to feel like we don’t measure up. {Tweet this} Even a box of ice cream cones, for crying out loud, is setting a standard that we can never live up to! And even when we know in our minds that the only perfect scoop of ice cream is the one that’s plastic and inedible, we suffer in our hearts because we’re worried that our’s doesn’t measure up.

That’s not God’s intent. God knows that this is an imperfect world, He knows that we’re missing the mark. But that’s not how He sees those who belong to Him! God sees me as His beloved child, and my frantic efforts to be perfect just make Him shake His head. He really doesn’t notice the fact that my scoop of ice cream is lopsided, dripping off the cone, and slightly freezer-burned. God delights instead in my joy as I eat that cone, as I am grateful in my heart to the God who created me to love sweet treats enjoyed with my family, sitting outside in the golden light of early evening.

You can’t delight in the taste and feel of cold ice cream on your tongue if the ice cream is perfect…and plastic. God sees me as perfectly, fearfully and wonderfully made just the way I am. He doesn’t reject my flawed efforts to please Him any more than I would reject a drawing made by my children because it didn’t look perfect enough. Those wobbly drawings bring me joy! He values my efforts, like I value my kids’ efforts. He maybe even hangs them on His fridge.

I hugged Youngest, wiped away her tears. “You know,” I said. “I think the perfect scoop of ice cream is the one you enjoy down to the last drop. Do you like eating plastic ice cream?” She shook her head, and smiled a little. “Well, neither do I! They can keep their perfect, plastic scoop of ice cream. You can make yours twice as big and a million times more tasty, and it will be better than that plastic scoop on the box!”

She nodded again, and her usual sunny smile broke out in full. “Can I have sprinkles?” She asked. “Sure you can,” I replied. “And let’s eat it outside, in the sun. Because the perfect ice-cream cone is the one that you enjoy to the full, whatever it looks like!”

God, thank you that you see through my imperfections and you love me perfectly. Please help me remember that, and learn to do the same!

{A post from the archives}

The Church is an Anchor

The Church is an Anchor

I came from a tradition where church meant stained glass and polished wood, beautiful paintings touched with gold and ceilings arched so high above that you could imagine they brushed heaven itself. I will forever be able to call to mind the feeling of sitting in the quiet of those places, the way the light filters through colored glass, the smell of incense and daylillies.

And then God took us by the hand and led us to a new place, a new field, a new beginning. He led us to a church where the windows were cracked, where the carpet was threadbare and the walls were scuffed. The ceilings were low, acoustic tiles stained with water because, yes, the roof leaked like it wasn’t even there at times. This church was ugly, it was run down. You would not recognize it as a church, in fact it looked like it was abandoned most of the week.

Except on Sunday. On Sunday, it was beautiful. It was beautiful because it was full of Jesus, it was filled with His people, it was filled with His praises and joy and love and there amidst the trash cans collecting rainwater and the beat-up folding chairs I learned what is true about church:

Church is not a building. Church is a family. {Tweet this}

The Church is an AnchorChurch is people becoming the hands and feet of God, church is praying with someone whose heart is hurting, church is bringing a meal and sharing your resources and church is telling the story of how Jesus has changed your life. Church is singing together about the wonders of God and meeting with others to read His word and church is holding someone’s hand as they weep and knowing that they’ll be there to hold yours. Church is a family, a safe haven, a home you come to where you feel safe in the care of your Father…

Posting at The Lulu Tree today, where you will find the rest of this post. Join me there?

 

Thoughts on Creativity and Worship

Thoughts on Creativity and Worship

 

It’s been with me since I was five, the antique upright piano.  Its finish is deep ebony, the surface crackled with age, the keys chipped here and there like a well-worn smile.  And when I can’t find the words, I go there and let the contents of my heart flow out in the pure form of music instead.

So I’ve been there a lot lately, sitting on the bench with its worn white and green brocade.

What I can’t find words for flows through my fingers on these different, more familiar keys.  After all, I learned to play them before I learned to type, before I really even learned to write.  It’s like slipping into a first language– the one you rarely get to use but often find yourself dreaming in.  I play the old favorites I learned as a child; Beethoven, Haydn, Chopin, Brahms.  I play new ones, hymns and worship songs and pieces I’ve picked up because I’ve always loved them.  And I play what comes to mind and then through my hands, sometimes in such quick succession that I’m not sure where the music comes from at all…it moves through me and surprises me and makes me laugh, and makes me cry.

Sometimes when no one is watching, I lean against the piano as I play, my cheek against the smooth black surface.  I feel the music, the vibration of many strings against brass soundboard, resonating through old wood and flesh and bone. I feel the hum in my bones and soul and wonder:  Is this how the Universe vibrates, with the echoes of the Creator’s voice….“Let There Be Light”…. humming through an infinity of tiny strings strung between all of creation that glows and breathes and sings?

Perhaps true worship is simply playing in tune with Him. (click to tweet) A Rhapsody on a Theme by El Shaddai, sung by a choir not bound by time or space or the limitations of flesh.  Do you know these moments?  When what began as poetry or paint or the pressing of black and white keys, the draw of a horse-hair bow across silver strings…becomes transfigured? When light falls in and through and lifts art from human hands to God inspired, when every note or word or brushstroke is praise and you know, you know that there is more to it than ink or paint or notes splashed across five thin lines. And as the last note sustains and washes over you, you just want to stand there and raise your hands and whisper his name….Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

In Heaven, friend, that’s how it’s going to be.  Every day, every word, every breath.

Why we humans create, why there is art and music and poetry must be this:  Our hearts were created after His own image, they long to hear the symphony and strive for those moments in which they resonate in perfect pitch with the Creator, in which they catch a glimpse, as in a mirror dimly, of the glory that is to come. And in that moment the soul understands that it cannot understand, only give in entirely to that which is incomprehensibly greater and more beautiful than we can imagine.

A post from the archives