Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm Trying to Love Christmas

I'm trying to love Christmas. That sounds terrible doesn't it? I should LOVE Christmas. It celebrates the birth of my Savior. How could I NOT love this holiday? I'm a little ashamed to admit I don't.

I like a lot of things about Christmas:

  • I like Christmas trees and decorating my house. This is the only time of year my house actually looks decorated. Any other month things are pretty sparse in here. 
  • I like mistletoe (which is easy to come by in central Texas) and I Christmas kisses too.
  • I like sending and receiving Christmas photo cards by snail mail.
  • I like buying egg nog for my guys who can't seem to get enough of it. How they can drink that soupy stuff I'll never know.
  • I like Christmas music. Well, most of it. I hate the schmaltzy shoe song and the dogs barking Jingle Bells -annoying!
  • I like loading up the kids, grabbing some hot chocolate and driving around to look at Christmas lights.
See, I really do like A LOT! So what's the problem? What's not to love?

Get this - I hate the presents.

I hate the pressure I feel to find the things on my boy's lists that will bring them the joy they've been waiting for all year. (Joy that often seems so fleeting.) I hate feeling like if I miss the mark - buy the wrong brand or the wrong color or the wrong thing - I've ruined it. I hate that Christmas seems to come with discontentment, like if we only had more money THEN everyone would be happy because everyone would get more stuff.  I hate knowing that for so many families Christmas means spending money they don't have and mortgaging future months for wrapping paper and bows.

It makes me want to scream!

Yes, I know. Of course, I know. This is NOT what Christmas is all about. But...IT IS. If you live in my world, in my sweet, safe suburban world - this IS what Christmas has become and I'm not sure what I can do to change it.

I don't want to go all BAH-HUMBUG and stop buying presents. Scroogette. 
I don't want to let my heart shrink two sizes too small and hide away in a cave all season long. Grinchella.

So this is my prayer - God help me LOVE CHRISTMAS.

When an opportunity arose to attend a free Christmas concert, I jumped at it. First, it was free so it didn't require reallocation of the budget. Second, I like the music, remember?

THANK YOU to the artists of 1211 for Christmas Unplugged

It took me a while to decompress, to be in the moment. Paying attention. Listening. Not thinking about my to-do list or letting the shopping anxiety in the back of my mind seep to the front.

The candlelight helped.

I loved 1211's take on familiar Christmas carols. It was like hearing them for the first time. The second song got me. O Holy Night, not as the Christmas power ballad we've come to know but tender and repentant.

"O Holy night, the stars are brightly shinning. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining..."

Like the grammar police, I had to point out the misspelling on the slide to my husband. (Did you catch it?) UGH! Why do I do that? "Jesus help me hear from you. To embrace this moment. This message!"

"...'til He appeared and our soul felt its worth."

Wait a second. Is that another typo? "OUR" soul felt its worth? I always heard "the" soul.
But this one word makes a difference.  And it is rings true. Our soul. My soul. 

Perhaps my soul has been searching for worth under the tree. (Click to tweet) Thinking my worth as a parent is found in making my children happy by giving them things. Do I want more money so I can buy them more gifts or for what their smiles give to me?

I can't ask my children to answer the question of my worthiness.

My soul feels its worth at Christmas, because of Christmas. Because God became flesh. Because of this gift given to me. A gift of love. A gift to love.

In trying to love Christmas this year, one thing I can do is rest in my worthiness.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God' Speaks to Discouragement, Fear and Frustration

Building a temple or a life is messy business. There will always be opposition. 

But just as God did not abandon the Israelites to work alone, he will not abandon you! 

The prophet Haggai delivered God's answer for each adversary we learned about in Ezra chapter 4. Click here to read Discouragement, Fear and Frustration Part 1

Discouragement  "...Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. " Haggai 2:4

When we are discouraged God tells us not to quit working. He empowers us with his presence. When you know he is with you, its easier to keep moving forward.

Fear  ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ Haggai 2:5

Remembering the promise of God, his covenant of love, reassures us when we are afraid. Hear his words 'Do not fear' not as a command to cowerers but as words of comfort and care.

Frustration "..in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:9

In this place.
In the frustration, in the opposition, in the building process - God brings peace. (Click to Tweet)
Peace that can't be explained. Peace that doesn't make sense at all.
I could use a strong dose of some o' that right now. 

So as we are in the process of building a temple for God to be glorified in let's remember Ezra and Haggai. It would appear that discouragement, fear and frustration are just part of the process. But God has an answer for each challenge. He is with us. He empowers us to do the work and he grants peace in the process.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Discouragement, Fear and Frustration

God brought his people out of captivity and commissioned them to rebuild his temple. It wasn't easy:
"Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans...." Ezra 4:4-5
They faced discouragement, fear and frustration as they built a home for God - while they were doing exactly what he asked them to do.

God is not contained by stone structure any more. His Spirit lives inside of you and me. WE are the temple of God. 

I tend to pout when I face discouragement, fear and frustration, don't you? 

When I read this passage, it occurred to me - maybe that's just what happens when you build a temple. Click to tweet

We face discouragement. We get frustrated. Fear happens.

I think sometimes I stumble twice. I stumble over the discouraging event and then I stumble again for feeling discouraged. 

We are going to face challenges but we can't let them keep us down!
  • Don't quit when you feel discouraged.
  • Don't run away and hide if you get scared.
  • Don't let frustration ruin your resolve.
You're building a temple and it's going to be magnificent!

Guess what? 
They did it! 
Despite the opposition. Despite a pause in construction. They finished the temple. And then.....they partied!  

How much sweeter was that celebration after all they'd been through?

Click here to read Part 2

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fluffy Love Isn't Enough

What is love?  Romance, family closeness,  forever friendship?

What does it look like?  A soft sweet kiss, a lingering embrace?

What does it feel like?  A yummy warm sensation like melted chocolate?

I'm afraid that when we think love, we think a little too FLUFFY. 

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy fluffy love - snuggling on the sofa with my boys, kissing my husband in the firelight. Fluffy love is....well, lovely.

But fluffy love is not enough. And sometimes love doesn't feel lovely at all, (Click to Tweet)
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters..... let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16,18

Love Gives - OUCH! This can be uncomfortable. The kind of love that changes the world makes huge sacrifices. I don't always want to love like that. I risk my easy existence and give up my cozy life to love like God loves. 

Love Acts - We say "I love..." such a broad spectrum of things. I love puppies. I love pizza. I love people too. But it's not enough to say love, especially when it comes to people. I'm not suggesting we stop expressing love with words or speech but we gotta back it up with ACTION! And follow through is hard. 

  • I can say I love my husband, but do I demonstrate that love by respecting him as a provider, caring  for our home and managing our resources well?
  • I tell my boys I love them, but am I willing to change my plans to sit and play Minecraft, or watch funny videos on Youtube, again?
  • Do I love my friend enough to show up at her house and deliver dinner when she is hurting?

Love Operates in Truth - Truth is not always pretty. Sometimes operating in truth means confronting a destructive habit. And that can feel really horrible. It's far from fluffy for the confront-er or the confronted. Regardless of how it feels, loving in truth always brings freedom.

Fluffy love is wonderful and I'm grateful for it. But hard, uncomfortable, truth-speaking love is what rescued me.  (Click to Tweet)

Have you experienced hard, strong love that didn't feel like love in the moment? How did it rescue you?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Coyote Wonder

I left my ipod at home thinking I would spend time praying and reflecting as I walked rather than listening to someone else's dialogue of words or song.

I was headed back home when I heard something in the grass over my shoulder. 
I looked.

I heard it again, the faint rustling of drying grass in need of rain. I turned and looked straight into the dark eyes of a coyote staring back at me. A furry four-legged stalker.

(Try not to panic.)

My heart skipped a beat and adrenaline carried me quickly across the street and around a fence into the safety of our subdivision.

All I can say is I'm glad my ears were open.
I'm glad I was in the moment, aware of my surroundings.

Its easy for me to get busy and just STAY busy. And the more I have going on, the less aware I am of what is happening right over my shoulder.  Click to Tweet

I need to unplug more often.

Unplug and really be aware. Because I certainly want to be aware of any lurking danger, but I also don't want to miss out on the wonder of the world around me.

So what do you think, was the coyote wonder or danger?
I'm undecided.

Question: Are you intentional about unplugging? Do you make time for reflection? How? Why?

Special Thank you Michael Bizeau for the perfect picture!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Teleportation, Potatoes and Doing Our Part

 Do you ever giggle when you read the Bible? Lately I've run across some stories that made me smile, like the one about the guys who had their beards shaven and their robes cut off in the middle at the buttocks. I'm sure that was humiliating for them, but my brain merged Duck Dynasty with the hospital gown scene from Something's Gotta Give and I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

I cracked up when I read Acts 12. Peter was in prison. Everyone was praying and much to their surprise God answered with an angelic visitation. Personally, I think angels like the fact that human beings freak out when they show up.  Verse 7 says the angel "struck" Peter on the side to wake him. Boom! What a rude awakening. I had to laugh when I compared that to how I wake up our boys in the morning. Had it been me, I would have tip toed in, gently tapped Peter on the shoulder and whispered, "Good morning Sweetie, I'm here to rescue you."

What fascinates me about this story is that in spite of obvious supernatural intervention the angel doesn't teleport Peter to freedom. Beam me up Scottie! The angel doesn't wave a magic wand, sing a Cinderella song and suddenly Peter is clothed. The angel doesn't throw Peter over his shoulder and carry him out of prison like a sack of potatoes, although I’m sure he could have. 

No, there was action required of Peter in his release from bondage.

Peter had to get up, put on his clothes and shoes, wrap up in his cloak and walk.   

Peter had to DO something!

Nothing the angel asked Peter to do was very difficult. "Get up, put your sandals on and follow me." No problem. Totally within reason.

Sometimes I sit around on my fully-covered buttocks wondering when my life will change. Wishing things would be better. But I've learned that if I want freedom from the things that hold me back, I have to DO something! (Click to Tweet)

I do what is within my power to do and trust God to do what only he can. It's an amazing partnership, with God doing the heavy lifting.

Do your part! Get up, put your shoes on and simply take one step forward today.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Baby Steps - Making Peace with Slow Progress

Fresh out of college, idealistic and somewhat naive, I had a conference wish. I hoped that Monday morning at work, after our weekend church services, my face would be all shiny like Moses. My co-workers would bask in the glow and ask, "Lynn, what is this glorious light emitting from your countenance? " It would open a door for me to explain the reason for the radiance and share my faith. 

It never happened.

There have been few overnight changes, giant leaps, or God "POOF'S" in my life.

Change is so daily. Incremental. Little by little.

It seems like God is into this little by little personal growth plan:

"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle but whoever gathers little by little
will increase it." Proverbs 13:11

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you,
little by little....
 Deut 7:22 

Not a very marketable plan. Can you imagine signing up for the Little by Little Seminar. Join us Friday and Saturday, your life might take one teeny tiny baby step forward. 

No one would pay a penny for that conference ticket.

And yet this is how I experience life change. Little by little.
One foot in front of the other. (Click to Tweet)

What if we celebrated these changes they way we celebrate a child's first steps? Clapping. Smiling. Snapping pictures to capture the amazing moments, the slow progress.

If you have visited my website today after the Shine Women's conference, I want to encourage you to take a deep breath and plan for the long haul of gradual growth.

Try these post conference strategies:

  1. Review & highlight your notes
  2. Compile all your highlights into a summarizing list of stand outs
  3. Create a separate list of action items
  4. Schedule coffee with a friend to talk about your take away
  5. Map out one idea to focus on in each of the weeks ahead
  6. Set a date (mine will be Nov 22) to reflect on how you are implementing what your learned
  7. Watch for and celebrate your baby steps
  8. Join the conversation and share a conference keeper in the comments below:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Know Your Purpose and Live Your Dreams - an interview with Lynette Lewis

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynette Lewis this summer for Created Woman magazine. She is a fellow ORU grad and former alumni director. I remember climbing the stairs with her up to the Spiritual Life Department during my student days. She always wore the loveliest perfume and her fragrance lingered long after she passed by. She is the featured "Created Woman" in the July/August 2013 edition.  In the article Lynette shares a wealth of wisdom for professional women and any woman who wants to pursue her dreams, live a life of hope and never give up on the way to becoming all she can be.

The feature article is on pages 44-51. Click HERE to read the online issue.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Country Music Jesus

Eric Church went for a run with me tonight and I must say, I enjoyed his company. I’ve heard a few of his tunes on the radio but most of the songs on my son’s ipod were new to me. I laughed and cried and replayed Country Music Jesus over and over, my feet hitting the pavement in gospel rhythm. I thought about how great this country music Jesus is and how much I need him in my life.

Let me tell you a little bit about this Jesus through the songs I hear on country radio:

  1. Jesus Take the Wheel by Carrie Underwood – Country Music Jesus will hear you when you cry for help. But not only does he hear you, he shows up. He rescues. He will always give you one more chance and he doesn't keep track of how often you bow your head to pray.

  1. I Saw God Today by George Strait- His finger prints really ARE everywhere and if you just open up your eyes – I know you’ll see him loving you today. If you are lucky enough to have a child in your life it will be so much easier to see this Jesus.

  1.  I Believe by Brooks & Dunn– You will find Country Music Jesus in times of loss. He is present in the middle of our pain. There IS more to life than what we see, than the day to day stuff. There is eternity and Jesus will be waiting for you.

  1. Me & God by Josh Turner – He is a Father and a friend, someone you can talk to. Country Music Jesus forgives. He is a strong arm to lean on when life gets hard. You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish walking with God.

  1. He Ain’t the Leaving Kind by Rascal Flatts– Country Music Jesus is with you through thick and thin. He promised he would never leave you, never abandon you. Whatever you do, wherever you go, whether or not you believe – he is there!

  1. Country Music Jesus by Eric Church– This Jesus doesn’t mind it LOUD – shouting, screaming & banging drums.  He comes. He saves. He revives.  Country Music Jesus is strong.

I’ll be honest; I really love classic, corny country lyrics. They make me smile and giggle. But what I really love about country music is that it is so connected to the soul of humanity. It’s not unusual to hear inspirational songs on country radio and even the name of Jesus. Brad Paisley put it so well, “Tellin’ folks Jesus is the answer can rub ‘em wrong, …this is country music – and we do.” My hat’s off to all the country artists who do. Thank you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Losing Limbs and Finding Joy

I have the opportunity to write for a couple of magazines and although I enjoy it, it does seem to keep me from posting here :(

If you wonder what I've been writing, here is a link to my latest piece for Created Woman magazine.

My story: Losing Limbs and Finding Joy can be found on pages 50-52 of the May/June issue.

Inspired by my growing boys

and the wonderful children's story The Giving Tree

this article addresses one of the most challenging aspects parenthood - LETTING GO.

How are you preparing for the day your children leave home?