Monday, March 20, 2017

what kind of boat are you?


When I was in high school I once used all of my hard-earned babysitting money to buy an entire volume of books that took you through the Bible - Genesis to Revelation.  I was a dorky responsible kid and believed I had some major responsibilities when it came to my faith in God. 

I never made it past the second book.  

I would always get busy or distracted.  Too much time would pass so I would decide to start all over again.  That seemed like the responsible thing to do...the first time, and second.  By the third time I felt like a complete failure but I could practically recite the book of Genesis after having re-read it so many times.  

I carried a tremendous burden when it came to being disciplined in my faith.  Even though I knew my salvation was a gift of grace, I thought spiritual disciplines were necessary to earn God's favor.  I wanted to be a favorite.  Who doesn’t?  So I sped forward through life like a motorboat trying to get ahead by my own hard work and perseverance.  I burned that motor out so many times.

After years of doing the 'right' things, I went off to college and decided it was high time I got rid of the heavy load I had been carrying.  For heaven’s sake, the Bible says it is for freedom that we have been set free!  I needed freedom from the guilt and burden I carried for years!  I suddenly turned into a raft just floating along wherever the waters carried me.  Unfortunately, the waters carried me into some pretty stagnant places.

It wasn't until much later in life that I learned disciplines of faith are not really anything like a motorboat or a raft.

I moved from the east coast to the west to attend graduate school.  It was a season of darkness and clambering back towards the light.  During that season I participated in my first real bible study.  The study was led by a woman named Mary and, interestingly, our curriculum was a book by Dr. Larry Crabb entitled – The Pressure’s Off.  Hmmmm.  A life without pressure?  Sounded impossible, and yet appealing.

It was the first of several studies with Mary and the more time I spent with her, the more I observed something.  Mary practiced spiritual disciplines in a way I had never seen them practiced before.  It was as if she constantly held her hands cupped open waiting for God to pour something into them.  I saw the overflow of what she received in the radiant way she loved God and loved others.  For Mary, spending time in prayer or bible study or any other discipline was like a gift she couldn't wait to unwrap.

It was not something she felt she needed to earn.  It was something she gratefully received.  It was not a burden she avoided.  It was an invitation she accepted.  It wasn't something she tried to cram into the corners of her life.  It was a consistent way of life.

In Mary I began to see the practice of spiritual disciplines more like a sailboat.  God sends the winds of His Holy Spirit and we set the sail to receive it.  We position ourselves to be moved and used by God - everyday, all the time.

Our goal isn't to earn.  Our goal is to receive.

In my race to the finish line I was always focused on where I was going.  God has been teaching me that sometimes life is less about where we are headed tomorrow and more about what we are building today.  He has also reminded me, he draws the blueprints for that building.


If we really are trying to build something in our lives it may be helpful to have some tools and a little preparation, but there is something of far greater importance.  More than any tools we accumulate or techniques we hone,  there is one simple step that must be taken.

We must choose to begin.

Sometimes more information leads to less transformation and what we really need is to just take what we've got and get started.

Several years ago I begin taking bites of different spiritual disciplines - prayer, study, solitude, silence, frugality.  As I tasted them and experienced the nourishment they offered to my soul, I wanted more.  I think you will too.  But I don't want you to get ahead of yourself.  I want you to take bites too.  I want you to savor what God has for you.  I want you to simply begin.

I have written a new book because I want to take your hand and lead you there.  I know beginnings can be scary and overwhelming.  I know sometimes it's easier to stay where we are.  But my world has been widened and my souls has been strengthened with every step I have taken in this direction, so I've come back for you.  I want you to join me along the paths of spiritual disciplines that lead to the heart of God.  At some point we will both head off in different directions but for now, let's begin together.


This is your invitation.

Remember, you are a sailboat.

All that is required is for you to push out from shore, set your sail, and wait for the winds of the Spirit to move you.  I promise they will.  

How would that change our hearts and minds?
How would that change the way we interact with our family and friends?
How would that change the impact we have on our community?
How would that move us away from the temporary things of this world to the eternal, enduring things of God?

begin. will give you the basics of spiritual disciplines and then get you quickly on your way to actually practicing them.  Following a few non-bossy suggestions, you will be provided with 40 days worth of readings to help you tend to your soul - that inner life that so often goes unnoticed and neglected, and yet is the most important part of you.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

love mugs {{a little valentine's giveaway}} xoxo

My husband does not drink hot beverages.
I love him anyway.  But, quite honestly, I don't understand.  So you don't like coffee.  That's fine.  But what about hot tea or hot chocolate or apple cider?  There are endless delicious options.  Am I right??

Nothing brings me comfort like pajamas and a hot beverage.  I don't drink much caffeine but you can be sure I will have something steamy brewing nearly every morning.  I am a mom and my kids are high-maintence so each cup averages 4 reheats in the microwave, but I'm not deterred.  In fact, every time I get my coffee or tea back to its original steamy state I feel happy all over again.  I know I will get at least 2 or 3 good sips out of it before I am needed again.  

Now we all know that the mug from which you drink your hot beverage is important.  I don't play around when it comes to this.  That's why I got all goofy happy when I tore into the boxes that arrived at my house this weekend.  They contained dozens of...are you ready for this???  
The perfect mug.


Do you see them, y'all?!?!?  Aren't they beautiful?!?  And oh my goodness...wait until you hold them in your hands.  They are a perfect fit.  And that's actually gold on there.  Straight up microwave-safe gold because...well...the reheats.

So here's the deal - 
My latest book begin. will be birthed into the world next month and at the heart of this book is my desire for us all to begin well.  I can't think of a better way to do that than with the perfect mug in hand every morning.  These beauties will not be available to the general public for a little while but I have 3 sitting on my counter ready to go to their new homes right now.  Tucked inside each one is a Starbucks gift card.  

It's Valentine's week so I thought is was a perfect time for us to share some love.  Tuesday morning I will put the mugs and gift cards in the mail to three lucky winners.  Anyone who makes a donation to Back Porch Press {in any amount!} over the next 24 hours is entered into the drawing.

All you have to do is donate at the link below and you will be automatically entered to win!  And you will forever be an important part of getting our very first Back Porch Press book published!  You will be part of the family from the beginning and you will have the mug to prove it : )

I do love you so, friends.  Happy heart day!

Click on the picture to donate to
https://www.gofundme.com/backporchpress

To stay in the loop about begin. book click HERE.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

name calling

Running a half-marathon and childbirth have one glaring similarity: you need time to erase the pain before you decide to subject yourself to it all over again.
When I crossed the finish line of my first race everybody said, “Now you’re ready for a full marathon!”
I said, “One and done. I’m ready for a full plate of food!”
For the rest of this post please head over to (in)courage where I am guest posting today.  It's one of my favorite places to gather with friends...

Monday, January 23, 2017

when you need to know what's next


Our six week summer study had come to an end.  Tears and laughter filled the air as we left the building and said our goodbyes.  I hugged the last few girls and one of them turned back to me as she walked away, the July sunset blazing behind her.

Hey - what's next!?  I need to know what to do next!

I've heard it countless times.

Women's retreats.
Special events.
Bible studies.
Small group gatherings.
Every time I walk with women from the shallow end of spirituality to the depths of abundant living, there is a yearning for more.

Of course there is.

That yearning is not the result of my perfect preparation, but of God's perfect presence.  Once you begin to experience that presence on a consistent basis you never want to go back.  Oh, how I don't ever want a single one of us to go back.
Back to leading instead of being led.
Back to clinging to control instead of clinging to the cross.
Back to making demands instead of waiting for commands.
Back to fumbling around in the dark instead of walking in light.

God's word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

I want you right beside me on that path.  And I don't want you to stop just because our study came to an end or the weekend retreat is over.  I can take your hand and gently guide you.  I can dip my own cupped hand into the living water and hold it up to your lips and watch your thirst quenched for the very first time.  I can do that.  Oh, what an honor to do that.  But what you receive, what keeps you coming back for more, is what God provides in those moments - Himself.

When you ask what's next, I know you want more of those moments, more of Him.  You want a consistent diet of truth and beauty prepared by God himself and served up to you every day.  I don't want you to lose that hunger.  I don't want you to find a substitute thirst quencher.  But I can't go home with you and we can't all have coffee dates every Monday morning and teaching more than six weeks at a time would do me in for good.  In the past, when our time has come to an end, I haven't had much to offer besides a few practical suggestions and some recommended reading.

But, for over a year now I have been working on something for every single person who has asked - What's next?

I could never preach enough sermons or write enough Bible studies to give others everything their souls need.  God may speak through me momentarily, but we were meant for more than a moment.  We were meant for relationship.  I love my relationship with every single one of you, but I desperately want you to know Jesus better than you know me.

Relationship is day after day, week after week, year after year of showing up.
Relationship is making time and space for what matters most.
Relationship is listening and learning and sharing and growing.
Relationship is messy and unpredictable.
And God wants every bit of that with us.

Relationship is - Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.

It is the greatest commandment and it will require our greatest commitment.


But, goodness, that sounds so overwhelming, doesn't it??  


When you ask me what's next, that's the end game - the greatest commitment to the greatest commandment.  But first, we just do one simple thing.  We 

     
     begin.

No big capital letter.  No carefully thought out 5 year plan.  No Bible reading schedule or small group curriculum.


Just - begin...period.


One of the greatest hindrances to our spiritual growth is our failure to launch.  Fear and doubt tell us we have no idea where to actually begin and so we don't do anything at all.  We get stuck somewhere in between a momentary experience with the living God and the hope of an abundant, eternal life with him.


Maybe you're new to this whole spiritually healthy, soul-keeping, Bible studying thing.  Maybe you got a good taste but now it seems the kitchen closed.  Maybe you feasted on the truth of Scripture for years and walked hand-in-hand with Jesus but somewhere along the way something happened and you can't find your way back.  Maybe you're just dried up and worn out.  Maybe you have no idea 'what' you are, but you sure would like to move forward.


What if we all just stood up, looked each other in the eyes and agreed to take a step.  Not a step towards another cause or another fight, but a step towards truth.  A truth to guide us in our fighting and our surrendering, in our 'taking a stand' and our 'taking a seat'.  The precious, grace-filled truth of God's word is the most solid thing I can offer you in this shaky, uncertain world.


With the help of some of my favorite friends I have written a book for all my what's next people.  


The bad news is, I have no idea where the pages of that book will take each one of you.  The good news is, God does.  

The bad news is, I can't write a perfect storybook ending for you.  The good news is, I can help you turn the page to the next chapter.

The official book launch will happen in March, but I would love for us to start gathering together on the virtual back porch now.  In the coming weeks I will share interviews with some of the begin authors and other fun extras!  I want you to be a part of every little bit.  You are my people.  Together we are the what's next people.  So let's begin, shall we?


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