Life This Week

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This weekend was so rich with life, the days could hardly contain it.  Did you notice how the grass is greener and longer and the trees are showing signs of life? I had dinner Saturday with my daughter and three of my spiritual mentors, each of whom has been Jesus to me and has walked with me through my highest and lowest moments of the last four years.   Then, Sunday, my daughter and I had ice cream for lunch and drove around signing songs at the top of our lungs with the windows of the car rolled down.  As I climbed into bed last night, I could not help but remember Jesus’ words: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10)  This week will be busy, but I would love for the fullness of the weekend to spill into the week.  Here’s what I’m planning:

I’m expecting to encounter God. I will encounter people this week and so I will encounter God.  I can’t wait!

I’m not letting Facebook entice me away from life.  I’m still working through why Facebook presents such a pull for me.  Am I the only one who has begun to have experiences and instead of being fully engaged or thankful, you wonder what to say about it on Facebook? Social media did not play any role in my rich weekend.  I’m going to do a little experiment this week and see if I can just be present in real life instead of on Facebook.

IMG_1392I’m carrying around one of Jesus’ questions.  This week on my phone background, I will find the question Jesus asked the blind man, Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”  This one is going to have several levels, I suspect.  I may not get to the truest answer for a few days.

I’m reading Scripture out loud to myself.  Paul says something remarkable to the Philippians at then end of his letter to them, after thanking them for their support of him as he traveled around preaching the gospel.  He said: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil 4:19)  I am letting these words speak over me today (in my voice) because I am amazed at God’s desire not just to make sure I barely get by, but rather, to meet my needs according to his glorious riches!

I’m praying a big prayer.  God stopped the sun and the moon in response to a prayer.  (Josh. 10:12-14) I’m praying big this week because I know God is able.

I’m thanking God.  I am thanking God for my daughter and for the people he has brought into my life.

What’s on your agenda this week?

What’s your big prayer?

Scripture to consider:

Joshua 10:12-14

Philippians 4:10-20

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How Watching Old Home Videos Could Change Your Ordinary Moments

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Late last week, my family gathered together at my parents’ house. While there, we watched some old home videos. We laughed so hard our throats hurt and our stomachs cramped. Why was our hair like that? And, the clothes, what were we thinking? Anyway, in these videos, I ranged between 12 and 21 years old. As I watched, I alternated between thinking: “I was so different then,” to “I am still exactly the same.” Both are true.

I studied myself in the videos and wondered what I must have been thinking when I pumped my fist with joy at receiving a red button-down shirt for Christmas in 1987; or did flips and handstands in the swimming pool with my sister in Arkansas; or sat with arms crossed watching my littlest sister sing Carly Simon’s version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” over and over (and over) again; or practiced my softball fast pitch with my cousin in Texas. Mostly, I could not remember.

But as I watched, so many years later, I felt a slight ache for this girl on the screen. I remembered how insecure she felt sometimes, how hard she was on herself, how much she wanted to fit in, that she was often somewhere else in her mind, and how she would shut down and compartmentalize when things were hard or she sensed pain coming. Everything in me wanted to go back in time, wrap my arms around that vulnerable girl, and whisper: Be gentle with yourself. Savor this time. Pump your fist and celebrate with every gift. Laugh as much as you can. Open your arms. Open your eyes. This pain will pass. You are not alone. You are loved no matter what.

Don’t you ever wonder what Jesus has to do with the day-to-day ordinary moments in your life? I mean, I know that everything we do is to be for God’s glory, but I’ve got to say, I don’t feel that all the time. It just doesn’t seem like eating dinner alone at my table or washing the dishes or struggling on the treadmill or cleaning out the cat litter or reading the rules of civil procedure could have any meaning at all. Maybe God is off dealing with something really significant in your life during those ordinary moments in my life.

Or maybe, in those ordinary moments, he is whispering: “Be gentle with yourself. Savor this time. Pump your fist and celebrate with every gift. Laugh as much as you can. Open your arms. Open your eyes. This pain will pass. You are not alone. You are loved no matter what.”

Do you have any old videos of yourself that you could watch? Or pictures you could look through?

What are you dying to go back in time to tell your younger self?

Could it be the same things God is whispering to you in your ordinary moments today?

Scripture to consider:

Psalm 139

Psalm 126:2-3

My To-Do List for this Week

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It’s Monday again.  This week has a ton of potential.  Yesterday at church, we started a three-week series called Celebration of Hope, during which we will learn about churches around the world, serve churches in Africa and South America by providing for community needs like seeds, medical supplies, and clean water, and help equip their pastors and youth leaders.  I could wait out the week and see what the teaching is next Sunday, but I can’t do it, I’m taking this last Sunday right into Monday.  Here’s my to-do list:

I’m expecting to encounter God today.

This tops my list again this week because there is just nothing better.  Psalm 89:14 (NLT) says that unfailing love and truth walk before God as attendants.  I’m looking for unfailing love and truth.  There, I’ll find God.

I’m reading Scripture out loud to myself.

This one from Acts 2:42-47 never gets old to me or fails to fire me up.  When the church operates this way, it is the hope of the world.  I’m reading it out loud.  I may even stand up!

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.  All the believers were together and had everything in common.  They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people.  And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I’m inviting a friend for dinner.

It’s one thing to text and email love and encouragement.  It’s another to sit down, face-to-face and have a conversation over dinner.  One says love and one does love.  Both matter.

I’m carrying around one of Jesus’ questions.

Last week, I typed out Jesus’ question, “Do you believe I am able to do this?” and set it as the background picture on my phone.  My faith grew last week because I finally turned over to God a wound for healing.  I had not believed he could.  This week, the question I’m walking around with is from Luke 6:46: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  Every time I look at my phone, this question will be there.  Who knows what could happen as this one makes its way into my heart at the same time there is such need in the global community.

I’m writing letters, packing seeds, and praying.

I sponsor three precious, growing kids in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia.  Today, I’m writing each of them a letter to encourage them and their families.  Every day this week, I’ll pray for them with their pictures in front of me.  On Friday, my daughter and I will join our church community and pack tomato and squash seeds into small white envelopes that will be sent to Africa to help communities there grow gardens.  I’m praying for each person in our world who is hungry.

I’m thanking God.

I am thanking God for my daughter and for the way he works through his church.

What’s on your to-do list this week?

Scripture to consider:

Psalm 89:14

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 6:46

Three Questions I’m Asking Today

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I could go to work today, sit in my office or cubicle and catch up on my emails and phone calls. I could head to my scheduled meetings, provide my input and walk back to my computer screen. A big part of me wants to do this because it is rainy and dreary. Bad things seem to be happening all around – explosions and earthquakes and flooding. I feel at risk, exposed. Better to close down and hold on. But, as tempting as that approach is, I’m going to reach out and up, toward light and away from darkness, asking myself these three questions:

1. Who needs encouragement today? I know four people in the midst of struggle who I could call or email to build them up and shine a light.

2. What is my faith in today? Basements flood, buildings crumble, stuff gets ruined. I wonder if this low-level anxiety and fear I feel upon hearing about tragedy stems from me unknowingly or unintentionally placing my faith in the man-made, instead of Christ.

3. What am I believing God for today? There are some deep wounds and patterns of thinking that, if I’m honest, though I want to, I don’t believe God can heal or redeem. I need to speak these wounds and patterns of thinking with my mouth and seek increased faith.

When tragedy is all around and storms roll in one after another, are there any questions that you need to ask?

Scripture to consider:

Ephesians 4:29-32

Isaiah 46:1-10

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

My Monday To-Do List

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Mondays can be hard, getting back to work and all. But they hold such possibility, days stretched out ahead. I want my Sunday to roll right into my Monday and on into my Tuesday, and so forth. I don’t want to live for Friday, waiting out the long hours of the other days, just hoping to make it.  So, although I’ve got a to-do list for this week that could take me a month to work through, I’ve added these six things at the top of the list:

I’m expecting to encounter God today. Every time I have an encounter with God, whether it is through another person, in Scripture, in nature, or within my own heart, it surprises me. I cannot make God respond to me or answer a prayer, but somehow, when I walk in the world with my eyes up instead of buried in my thoughts or my smartphone, I can’t help but see him all around me. I expect to encounter him today.

I’m reading Scripture out loud to myself. There are some things I need to remember when I start a day (and a week) because each day seems to start with new insecurities about who I am and whose I am. Today and each morning this week, I’m reading Romans 8:1-2 out loud to myself because I need to hear it:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

I’m asking: “What would love do in this situation?”  I will probably see and talk to about 10-15 people today. In each encounter, I will ask myself: “What would love do in this situation?”  And, whatever the answer, I’m doing it.

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I’m carrying around one of Jesus’ questions. Jesus asked many questions of the people he encountered during his time on earth. I’m writing one down today and setting it as the background picture on my phone. It’s from Matthew 9:28: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Every time I look at my phone, this question will be there and pull me forward.

I’m praying for other people. So many people come to mind during a typical day. Each time one comes, I am acknowledging them before God: “I lift Amy up to you, Lord.”

I’m thanking God. I am thanking God for my daughter and for the smell of the air today.  How they have blessed me!

What’s at the top of your to-do list?

Scripture to consider:

Romans 8:1-2

Matthew 9:27-31

Psalm 37:3-7

What Does Jesus Have to Do with It?

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If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you likely remember a specific moment in your life when you first understood the message of God’s grace.  You can still recall the way something in you broke open at the realization that you could stop all the effort and work you were pouring into cleaning up your life in order to be accepted by God.  The heaviness you had carried for so long suddenly lifted when you grasped the notion that God already accepts you, the non-cleaned-up you, as you are, and because of his inexplicable mercy toward you, considers not your merit or efforts, but the merit of the blameless, perfect Jesus Christ.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you likely also remember that after you came to understand this gift of grace and freedom in Christ, you had the sense that everything had changed.  Your life would never be the same.  You would seek God in all that you did, you would follow him wherever he led, you would be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.

But over time, perhaps even without you noticing, this fire you felt at the beginning began to cool, and now, you are not sure what you would say if asked: What does Jesus have to do with it?  Any of it.  Your life, your spouse, your children, your aging parents, your sexual desire, your drinking, your late nights in front of your computer, your friend who was diagnosed with cancer, the decision you face at work, the co-worker who never meets your eyes in the hall, the homeless guy on the corner, your Facebook posts.  What does Jesus have to do with any of it?  You are pretty sure you know how to explain what Jesus has to do with your afterlife, but beyond that, you wonder.   Maybe you knew at some point, but you’ve lost your way.  Maybe you can answer it sometimes and not others, depending on the day.

The answer to this question matters to me.  If I can only answer it when it comes to Sundays at church or what happens after I die, I think I’m missing the abundant life and freedom to which Jesus calls me and which I have tasted and know is good.  I don’t want a work life, a home life, a church life, a social life, and a spiritual life; I want an integrated life, one in which Jesus Christ is at the center and in whom all things in my life hold together. But there is no switch to flip and no button to push to make this happen easily.  I’m moving ahead anyway, though, and this blog is dedicated to figuring out how to do it.  Would you join me?  By hitting the “Follow Blog by Email” button under my picture, you can!

Hey, by the way, how would you answer?  What does Jesus have to do with it?

Scripture to consider:

Colossians 1:15-23
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Col%201:15-23&version=NIV

John 10:10
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010:1-21&version=NIV