Tag: Jesus

 

When we were kids, one of my younger cousins would trade you his dime for your nickel. He thought bigger was better. That the size spoke its worth.

We laughed, pleased with ourselves for pulling something over our younger cousin. Trouble is, when we grew up, we let the world pull the same thing over on us.

We’ve bought into the stuff, the titles, the degrees, the labels, the whatever it is that’s being sold this week.

I know. I think I’m too smart for those pitches too. But I find myself trading my dime for someone else’s nickel too.

I’m looking for my place. I”m looking for status, for recognition but these are empty. They will never describe my worth or my value.

God-given gifts

The text we grew up on says this:

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36 KJV

Eugene Peterson, in the Message, expands on that as he writes with more context:

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? Mark 8:36-37

It’s why we shut out the 24-hour news cycle and close our laptops. It’s why I turned off notifications on my phone. At times, it’s hard. I don’t want to be the las one who knows the latest app or the political jokes the late night talk show hosts are making. But it’s fools gold. In the scheme of life, it’s worthless.

 

I believe my value will only be found of worth through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Am I a nice person? Yes

Do I want to make a positive difference in this world? Yes

Do I show my love for my family and friends with actions and words? Yes.

Yes, yes, we are good people. But Jesus wants more than good. He wants all. He is described as the pearl of great price. His sacrifice has paid the price. He alone makes us worthy.

 

 

faith Five-Minute Friday grace

I can count on one hand the number of times we saw grandma Durham. I remember visiting her and grandpa in California when I was 5 or 6. We drove from Louisiana or Arkansas, wherever we were living at the time, in a station wagon that I think we slept in at least one night.

My memory focuses on the cots spread out in the field behind their house, across the levee under nothing but the California sky. The cots were available to men. The times were different and so was the language. They weren’t homeless in those days even if they had no address to call home. Here in an open stretch of space they had a place to sleep and a bowl of beans served up by grandma. I think the only payment in return was chores around the property or grandpa’s used furniture store.

Years later they moved north to Washington state and this time it was a big house where they rented rooms to migrant workers. Rooms filled in the summer and empty come winter when the work moved south back to California. The men paid what they could, often bringing heaping bowls of cherries or other fruit they picked in the orchards.

 

This is who they were. People with little, but feeling they had enough and giving from their enough to others.

Mama told me about the man she bought stockings for. He came to church but didn’t quite fit in. A man’s body, women’s clothes and he needed stockings. Grandma bought them. He was in need. That’s all that ever mattered to her. If she could help, she would. She did.

Years after grandma had gone to be with Jesus, mama sat in our house in Memphis. She called home to check on things in her absence and I heard her voice tighten. I saw her eyes redden.

What happened mama? Someone died. Who? I don’t remember you mentioning that name. He was a drunkard. He was my friend.

A legacy, handed down from her mama, from grandma. The focus not on herself as God’s grace swept through her heart.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.” Matthew 6:6 the Message

Maybe this is why I’m comfortable sitting in a roomful of addicts and alcoholics. Maybe this is why I’m fit for this work of victory and defeat, of relapse and recovery. The focus on self is removed as God shows his grace to me through these men. He shows me how desperately I’m in need of his mercy.

This is in our blood, my DNA that at its core has a cross.

faith family grace

Her eyes rimmed red as tears began to form. He sat in silence, empty of feeling having poured them out. Again.

It was quiet in Jenny’s office as we sat with our feelings, our pain. Another fatal overdose. Another life lost. Another friend, son, brother, gone. He was 28.

These times when we’ve poured ourselves out, when we feel empty of caring, these are the times we question: Is this where I should be?

I know we follow a Savior who emptied himself out but we are not him. We need a constant filling. So we gather in an office or take a walk in the bright sunshine. We pull close to another who understands this pain and we ask together if we can handle death’s sting.

Maybe this is the cross Jesus said we needed to carry.

We look for endless blessings and joy, the kind that doesn’t hurt, the kind that keeps us bubbling over. Somehow we have this notion that this is the life of following Jesus. It’s not. It may be a glimpse of heaven but on earth it’s fleeting.

That wasn’t the end of sorrow for me this week. More would come, Family would face unexpected life threatening illness and a mom would wonder how much more. It would continue to feel like a week of trials and questions we’re afraid to say out loud.

It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming. Resurrection Sunday is coming and we will proclaim:

He is risen.
HE IS RISEN INDEED

But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
    a servant in form
    and a man indeed.
The very likeness of humanity,
He humbled Himself,
    obedient to death—
    a merciless death on the cross!
So God raised Him up to the highest place
    and gave Him the name above all.

Philippians 2:7-9 VOICE

faith Five-Minute Friday hope recovery

It’s that first glimpse of the external that we define someone. Tall, short. Young, old. A description becomes our initial definition. It’s only the surface we define.

I would have been in the third or fourth grade when my family went to visit friends. They must have been business acquaintances because I don’t remember another time we were together as families. I clearly remember being in their backyard where their daughter, a couple of years older than me, was playing with their dog. She was sitting in the grass eating a popsicle when she held it out to the dog for a lick and then proceeded to enjoy the treat herself.

I was a bit astonished by this. My mama would have snapped that popsicle right up from me. But her parents didn’t intervene. Instead, they reacted as if this were a common thing for their daughter to do. Amy was retarded (as we said in those days). It was visibly obvious that Amy wasn’t like others. No doubt, her physical appearance was how she was defined.

When I remember that moment, what I most recall is her joy. She sat in the grass laughing as the dog jumped around her. She had no qualms about sharing all she had with her animal friend. I suspect she did the same with people too. Amy defined joy.

In today’s post, Kate wrote about how the hardest thing for a writer to write is often their profile. The blurb that defines them. How do you sum that up in a few lines? And how do you really define yourself?

I’m afraid sometimes I wear my profile on my face or in my tone of voice. It says: back off!

When we’re struggling to define ourselves, it’s best to remember that we are only really defined through the grace of Jesus. No matter our appearance, our status, our earnings, He defines us as worthy.

 

faith Five-Minute Friday grace

It sounds dire and like the most serious thing there is when you say ‘this is what’s saving my life’. Yes, perhaps it’s a little dramatic. But then again, maybe these things are  saving us more than realize.

If this is your first time to my blog, know that the only one who can literally save my life is Jesus. He saves me. Every. Day.

There are a few things that are bringing an extra measure of peace to my life these days.

Realizing I’m a resource-er
I posted that statement on my Facebook page and a reader asked what that meant to me. Questions are helpful in allowing me to process and articulate it.

It’s not a word you’ll find in the dictionary but it describes much of what I do.

I listen to residents and employees, friends and family and find many times the conversation leads to where I recommend a book, send a link to an article or share lyrics of a song.

It was a few of those encounters on the same day that it hit me that I’m a resource-er.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you are too.

Taking a leap (for me)
I’m an over thinker and second-guesser. I don’t ask the what if’s because I’ve already imagined they aren’t good. So for me, opening an Etsy Shop and putting some of my photography on Sociey6 isn’t a step, but a leap. I feel certain I’ll make some big mistakes. I’ve priced things wrong, haven’t fully thought out the shipping process and what am I thinking that someone will actually want to buy my art?! Yes, this feels like a leap.

friends
Texas, North Carolina, Florida
TX, OK, FL, KY (most have moved since this photo was taken)

 

selfie with the nieces

Friendships near and far

It’s not hard for me to go it alone. I learned it early on as well as learning the risk of allowing others in. But I need people in my life. I need others to speak words of truth and hope to me. One friend recently told me I should get a therapist. It wasn’t harsh or mean but said totally out of love as she sees some of my emotional ups and downs more than most.

I also need the friends I’ve never met in person. The unexpected card from one that shows up in our mail box. The real outside-on-the-street mail box! Another sends a book and another messages me just to check in.

I need to see Patt’s photos of her work in Malawi and Brian’s updates from Peru. Pictures of my nieces who are scattered all over and cousins I haven’t seen since we were kids. We’re tethered by social media I’m grateful.

What’s saving your life? My challenge is that you let that question settle with you and jot down the things that come to mind to answer that question. It will change. Today’s things won’t be the same as tomorrow’s but maybe there’s one that makes the list more often. If you’re really brave, share them; blog it, tweet it, or tell a friend.

It helps us be in the present.

faith family

If there are Advent rules, we’ve broken one. Right from the start, we’re out of sync.

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas but when Christmas is on Sunday….hmmm. I went with the thought that of course Christmas counts so Advent begins the first Sunday in December this year. It will end on Christmas day. Perfect. Only, it seems most churches that celebrate Advent (maybe all of them?) began last Sunday. The one after Thanksgiving. That Sunday.

Oops.

Advent candles

 

There are a few drawbacks to a congregation that is totally depending on you for these things because they don’t know when Advent is or what it is. Some will be hearing this new word and we will do our best to immerse all of them in a holiday that will focus more on the reason we celebrate Christmas than the commercialized holiday we’ve come to know.

They won’t hold this faux pax against me but maybe I’m being reminded of something else.

When I thought about how out of sync we’d be with the Christian world I realized that Jesus intentionally lived his life out of sync with the world. He came to turn things upside down a bit. To remind us that he is the way to true life, not money or status.

He is the answer to the peace we seek, not job security or marital harmony. Jesus is the only truth, not political parties or the best self-help books.

The apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Rome to “not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind.” Romans 12:2

Jesus was born to a young woman, a virgin birth, impregnated by the Holy Spirit. Out of sync with the worlds customs and cause for skepticism at the least.

His birth was prophesied as a Savior, a King. But he was born in a barn, not a palace. More doubt for those waiting his heralded birth.

His ministry included eating at the home of cheaters and his small band of followers was made up mostly of fishermen; common men. He defied the customs of the day and disdained the so-called religious leaders. The world could not mold him into its image because he was the embodiment of his Father God. And he came to show us a new way. A way that may be out of step with the world but a way that leads to peace that holds through trials. It’s a way of hope.

Maybe we’ll learn something new this Advent. Maybe we’ll learn more about the unconditional love that Jesus came to give.

Advent calendar tree

Here are a couple of book recommendations especially good for the Christmas season.

If you’re looking for a fresh reading of the Christmas story, I’ve found the Jesus Storybook Bible to offer that and more. It’s not just for children.

Ann Voskamp’s book, The Greatest Gift Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas offers daily reading throughout the month with space to write personal reflections. A beautiful book in all ways.

faith hope

by Jaime Riefer

It feels like we are always making excuses to not rest. We talk about sabbath as a lifestyle rather than a day off. We stand on our soap boxes explaining that Jesus was the Lord of the Sabbath; sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for sabbath. As people of freedom we are not bound by the constraints of forced and required do-nothingness. We do not abide by laws that take away our freedom to cross items off of our to-do lists. We are people with faith strong enough to withstand whatever our schedules require; we only need a Sunday afternoon nap, a little late night television, and on the really hectic weeks: God will sustain us.

We are busy. We have so many obligations. And every one of them important. Really important. We are sleeping less and working more. We are constantly in contact with everyone. We are inundated with news stories, personal stories—all giving us something else to do, to think, to feel. We are tired. I am tired.

I recently left a position in full-time ministry. I was wildly in love with Jesus, i was privileged to serve where I was serving; I was happy. And I was tired. One of my superiors had a habit of becoming indignant when I would assert my right, and requirement, to take a break. I would free up my time to go and listen to the waves praising the Lord. I joined a gym to disconnect with the world and reconnect with me and Jesus. These times were not only mocked but often stripped. It was not because my superiors were trying to be malicious but because they were perpetuating a system they had been a part of for so long.

Now I teach at a preschool. I am still wildly in love with Jesus. I deeply miss those with whom I once served. I am still happy. And I am tired. I am the kind of tired you get when you chase 20 four-year-olds all day. The kind of tired where you put your feet up and watch an episode or two of NCIS while munching some popcorn before bed. The in-bed-by-10-asleep-by-11 kind of tired. I am no longer the soul weary tired so easily overwhelmed by the days insurmountable tasks, being pulled in every direction by multiple crises. It’s not because I changed jobs. There was nothing wrong with what I was doing—it was the way I was doing it.

rest by the lake

I spend my days trying to educate little ones, reaching milestones, holding up a state standards. I am responsible for parent-teacher conferences and evaluations. I am their introduction to school and set them on a path of learning for the rest of their lives. No stress there!

There are many non-negotiables in my schedule but there are days when we stop and search for leaves changing color. There are days when we dig for worms and visit some local chickens. We slow down and taste apples and berries. We dance and sing and shake instruments. We stretch our bodies and breathe deep. Because that is what life is about. That is where sabbath rest lives.

Sabbath is no longer a day of the week, but a person. A person who calls you to taste and see that He is good. A person who promises rest to those He loves.

So shake off the pressure to do and go and do nothing. Go look for changing leaves. Dig for worms. Visit some chickens. Catch up on NCIS. Stretch your body. Breathe deep.

Jaime is a preschool teacher with degrees in sociology and counseling. She has a passion for Christ and to live life fully–while dragging others a long with her. While she loves to write, the majority of her writing can be found scribbled on scrap paper or packed in the lunch boxes of those she loves. You can follow Jaime on Twitter.

faith hope The Church

Church is defined by Webster as “a building for public and especially Christian worship”. However, if I had to a guess, when you hear the word “church,” that’s probably not what comes to mind.

Whether you’ve gone to church since you were days old, you are new to the whole “church scene,” or you’ve been there, done that, never going again — we all have our own definitions of church.

Our definitions are shaped by years of genuine community or frightening hypocrisy, biblical preaching or fear tactics, grace and mercy or fire and brimstone.

church more than a word

My personal definition of church continues to be refined throughout life’s seasons. In my childhood, church was a place of Sunday school and animal crackers. It was learning about a felt cutout of some man named Jesus, who loved fuzzy sheep made out of cotton balls.

As the years marched on, and my home address changed with family moves, different churches influenced my life. A huge one where I felt small and unseen among thousands contrasted with a smaller one where everyone may have known my name, but they didn’t  see past my Sunday mask.

With college came a new state with more church experiences. This was a time of changing, of re-creating, and searching. This season brought my first experience of a church with no masks; a congregation who shared hard truths and real life together. I was amazed and, honestly, uncomfortable. What was this church?

Graduation day

Real life began with more church shopping. It was my first Sunday to visit a particular church. During the “Real Stories by Real People” segment of the service, a man stood up in front of hundreds and shared his story. It was messy, heartbreaking, real, authentic, doused with the gasoline of grace, and set aflame with Jesus. I couldn’t believe it — another church, not afraid to be real and raw? A church that pointed to grace instead of rules? A church that focused on living life free in Jesus instead of living life bound by an account of works you had to do for Him?

My definition of church shifted and grew. It changed and morphed into something new. I became engaged deeply at this church. I found a community of men and women who were like-minded, honest, and authentic in both their strengths and their weaknesses. A group who wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, who called out perfection for what it was: impossible. This congregation focused on relationship building instead of intimidation to bring others to Christ.

These Jesus followers changed my definition of church. They challenged me to truly learn about this man called Jesus and to embrace the grace He offered: a grace that involved no stipulations, no pre-requisites. A grace that was the most incomprehensible thing I had ever encountered. I realized my view of Jesus was skewed – I saw Him as an unpleasable Father whose conditional love was directly proportionate to how “good” I could be.

This church community changed my life. They showed me freedom. They taught me that because I receive so much grace daily from my Savior, I should have more grace for myself and others. They taught me what living real, messy, imperfect lives with other believers looks like.

They are why I’ve stayed. They are why I now believe “church” is just a word. It is the people, the community, who make up the church that matters.

Church is a word that can provoke strong negative feelings in many. But when you find Jesus followers who simply use the word “church” to cultivate a community of authenticity, you find you live “church” out daily. Just as the Man who started the church intended.

Jessica ChanceI’m Jessica, Florida born, Texas bread, currently living in and calling North Carolina home with my husband. I love words. Words of all shapes and sizes, tumbling over each other to form thoughts, bold statements, incredible visions, and whispered revelations. Words make a difference, and, in essence, change the world. You can find my blogging at jessicaachance.com or follow in on Twitter and Instagram.

 

faith hope

by Lindsey Cornett

A year and a half ago, our family packed up a giant yellow Penske truck and moved from Florida to Michigan. A lot has been challenging about this transition: adjusting to new schedules and routines, living far from family, making new friends, finding a replacement for my beloved Publix and living months at a time with no Chick-Fil-A sandwiches.

In many ways, the most challenging element of our move was finding a new church.

stone church

When my husband and I were long-distance dating, attending his church was one of my favorite things about our visits. I remember where I was sitting the first time I heard someone say the church’s vision out loud. It wasn’t groundbreaking—it’s what God called His people to long ago—but it was the first time I heard God’s vision for Church articulated so clearly. I was hooked.

We couldn’t imagine how soon that community would become our family or that I would spend several years on the church staff in what has been the most fulfilling work of my life to date

Leaving that place felt like heartbreak. We are still mourning the loss.

We began the church hunt our first week in Michigan. There are about 10 million factors you could consider when choosing a church: style of music or preaching, how money is handled, relationship with the neighborhood, age of the congregation, children’s and youth ministry, how visitors are welcomed, denomination, theology, size, location, and so on.

perfect church
Last summer, a neighbor commented that it must be fun to go church-hopping and experience different styles, perspectives, and communities. I smiled and said, “Oh, yeah…” but internally I harrumphed grumpily. It didn’t feel fun at all. Each Sunday, we left church disappointed that we hadn’t found a perfect fit. With that perspective driving us, no church felt right: maybe we were welcomed warmly but had issues with the preaching, or we appreciated what we heard but were distracted by the style. Mostly, we were comparing instead participating.

Just when we thought we’d found a new church home, the teaching pastor announced he was resigning. On our way home I looked at my husband and said, “Why can’t this be easy?”

On the pastor’s last Sunday, he shared a list of things he had learned about church and God during his time with our congregation. Something clicked into place like a buried childhood memory that was rising to the surface again. We aren’t meant to be part of one individual church. We are the church.

I started asking different questions on Sundays, the ones I should have asked from the beginning:

What feels worshipful? Where can we follow Jesus best? Are we learning something new? How can we serve? How are we being transformed more into the image of Christ? As Jesus worked on my heart, I switched from critic to worshipper.

The church isn’t perfect, but there is something to be said for settling. Not settling down or settling for but settling in.

So, here we are again. Settling in, and hopeful.

Lindsey Corentt

Lindsey Cornett is a writer, reader, and mom who is slowly but surely learning to trade perfectionism for freedom. Lindsey writes about what she’s learning about faith, family, and freedom at her blog. She also is one of the writers behind The Drafting Desk, an e-mail newsletter for everyone trying to pursue grace instead of perfection. You can subscribe and learn more at www.thedraftingdesk.com.

You can also follow Lindsey on these social media outlets: Instagram and Twitter.

faith hope

It’s a bit complicated to describe our congregation. Some would say they’re a captive audience. While that description makes me flinch, it’s not all wrong. The residents in this six-month rehabilitation program are required to attend our Sunday service. A spiritual component is part of their recovery along with individual and group counseling, recreation, and work.

chapel edit

We have a congregation of all men. Most of them are addicts. Their church practices are  fairly split between no church, protestant and Catholic. I would not describe them as church people. Few of them can navigate their way in the bible without searching the table of contents. You won’t hear them using words like abide or talk about sitting at Jesus’ feet or seeking his face. They don’t know the hymns of the church and, unlike the average church person, these men are very honest when they stand up to share in church.

All of them have come to us beaten down, in desperate need of a shower, clean clothes, a good sleep in a real bed and the consistency of three meals a day. There is more they need but that will come later. First, we tend to the physical. How will they hear the love of God if their stomachs growl with hunger?

“You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.” William Booth, founder, The Salvation Army

ARC chapel and guitar

people kneeling

Many consider this a great opportunity we have to share Jesus with this group of men. I have found it to be more about them teaching me about grace.

“Jesus doesn’t belong to church people. But church people belong to Him, in Him, and through Him.” ― Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

They are visible reminders that “Jesus doesn’t belong to church people.” This community reminds me The Church isn’t contained by walls or evidenced by steeples and crosses. This group of men, “tore up from the floor up” as one has said, are being called into the church family. Jesus is calling them just as they are, dope sick and hopeless.

If ministry is about us teaching and leading others, then we’ve made it about ourselves and not about serving God and letting him teach us through others.

This group teaches me to look past the outside. They have taught me compassion for the panhandler rather than contempt. They teach me to be honest about my feelings. They’ve taught me that when I accept help I’m helping another. They’ve shown me real discipleship through the 12 Steps. They remind me we can’t do life on our own.

Our congregation may be filled with people who don’t know much about church, but they are people who are learning how The Church can be Jesus to them.

faith Salvation Army