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 


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?

join the community

Saturday, January 7, 2017

when you could 'make it happen', but you shouldn't

Do you ever suffer from FOMO?

Fear Of Missing Out.  It's a real thing y'all.

Has there ever been a party you couldn't get an invite for?
Or a club you couldn't join?
Has there been an event you couldn't get to?
Or an experience you just couldn't afford?
Maybe the thought of all you would miss out on drove you crazy.

I get it.  I've been there.  But I can't let the crazy drive me to make a bad decision.  Fear of missing out is just that - fear.  It's never a good idea to make decisions based on fear.

You may have gathered from my last post {which has been read by over 12,000 people - what?!?!?} that I am a pretty big Clemson fan.  Clemson isn't just my alma mater or my favorite team.  Clemson is my family.

And if you haven't been locked in a closet for the past few months you also know Clemson has a really good football team.  So good, in fact, that they are playing for the National Championship in Tampa on Monday.

I planned to be there.
Of course I planned to be there.

I was there for every home game this year.  I was there for the National Championship in Arizona last year.  {Front row, actually.}  Of course I would be in Tampa when we finished it this year.

Or not.

To make a long story short - we missed the deadline for requesting tickets through the University.  What would have been an expensive ticket is now an astronomically priced one.

I will spare you the details of the mental struggle that has taken place over the past week.  I will just say I have spent more time than I would like to admit on Stub Hub and TicketMaster.  I have wasted hours I can't get back reading articles and talking to friends and trying to figure out how I could possibly work this out.
I had to work this out!  
Of course I was going to the game!!  
I would find a way to 
make. it. happen!

On Wednesday afternoon I regained my composure and began to think rationally.  I remembered that 'making things happen' isn't always a good idea.  I went looking for wisdom and truth and this is what I found.

A prophet by the name of Isaiah spoke these wise words generations ago -
Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking horses can help them,
impressed by military mathematics,
awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders -
and to the Holy of Israel, not even a glance,
not so much as a prayer to God.
{Isaiah 31:1-2}

I wasn't planning a trip to Egypt - just Florida, but the same truth applies.  I had a plan, an agenda.  It was an uphill battle so I began looking to every earthly resource I could think of to make that plan happen.  I was going to have to get creative and spend some extra time and money but I was going to get it done and get what I wanted.

Not so much as a prayer to God.

I've walked with Jesus long enough to recognize the nudges, the unsettled feeling, that cause my entire body to tense.  It can feel like excitement and adrenaline but it's really just a shutting down, a shutting out of the truth.  I get a one-track mind and determination turns to obsession.  I wake up with the pain in my cheeks that comes from a night spent with my jaw clinched tight and I know...
I have forgotten the most important thing about making plans.  Listening.

My plans are not always His plans.

And whether it is a nation at war or a girl trying to get to a football game, God has something to say about all of our plans.  Our job is to listen.  If we don't...I think the word there was 'doom'.

Do I believe God is testing me right now?  No.  But I do think it's an opportunity for obedience.  I do think I could move forward with 'making it happen' and maybe have a good time, but miss out on something better God has for me and his kingdom.  Before you think I'm being overly dramatic and spiritual consider this.

It would cost us thousands of extra dollars to 'make it happen'.  Is it okay to spend our money that way?  I don't know for sure, but I do know those are dollars that could be used towards ministry work I have been called to do.

We would have to compromise our original plans and leave our children behind.  It it okay to spend our time that way?  I don't know for sure, but I do know there are needs at home right now that I am uniquely designed to meet.

We would essentially be 'forcing' ourselves through a window.  Is it okay to force it?  I don't know for sure, but I do know that if God really wanted us to go he could open a door instead.

When I finally hit my knees on Wednesday and acknowledged the Lord of my life is also Lord of these plans, this was my specific request - Open the doors you want me to walk through, close the ones you want me to avoid and give me the wisdom to discern the difference.  I surrender my good plans to your perfect ones.

As a writer and speaker I get up in front of people all the time and tell them that following Jesus means closing your eyes and opening your hands.  I plead with them to surrender their hopes and dreams to the One who knows best.  I don't want to just say those things.  I want to live them.

When I get all excited and my FOMO starts bossing me around I get off track.  I take off running and take matters into my own hands.  But when I stop and get back in position as a follower of Christ,
I can set aside emotion and expectation.
I can respond in faith, not fear.
I can find true peace and real hope -
not hope that everything will work out the way I want, but hope that it will work out as God intends.

Whether it's a job change or a parenting decision,
a financial situation or a family vacation,
a battle plan or a football game,
these same truths apply for all of us.  You fill in the blanks.

Doom to those who think ________ can help 
or are impressed by _________ 
and awed by _________, 
and to the Holy of Israel not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God.

Just because you can make something happen, doesn't mean you should.  Before we place all our confidence in the things of this world that impress us and offer us help we should first turn to God and ask for his guidance because Isaiah also shares this truth...

...the Lord waits to be gracious to you.
{Isaiah 30:18}

And he's not waiting for you to 
develop your own plan or 
become perfect or 
achieve success or 
prove yourself worthy.  
He's just waiting for you to ask.  

What he gives you may not be what you'd hoped for, but it will always be His best.  

One last thing.  Here's the real danger inherent in a 'fear of missing out'.  If we get so concerned about being left out of someone else's story we might end up missing our own.  Now that is something to stand in fear of.  If we stay focused on living in the pages God has written for us, we won't have time to force ourselves into a chapter in which we don't belong.

Am I disappointed I'm not in Tampa tonight.  Yes.
But the road to God's best is often paved in disappointment.

Am I going to panic tomorrow morning and hop in the car and drive 9 hours and buy an overpriced ticket and make. it. happen?  I hope not.

I sit here surrounded by family in my cozy house next to the dancing flames of a warm fire and I know I am right where I am supposed to be - in the middle of God's will for me.

Go Tigers!  I'll be right here to welcome you when you get back home.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

the Clemson I love

Seventy-six years ago today Clemson competed in their very first bowl game.  Some would call it a cornerstone season for Tiger football.  My grandaddy was on that historic team along with many other talented young men.  They won that 1940 Cotton Bowl over Boston College 6-3.  
As we find ourselves sitting in between two very important bowl games again this year I remembered these words I wrote a year ago.

They called him 'Great'. 
He grew up in a little South Carolina town called Great Falls.
If he were alive today my children would know him as Great Grandaddy.
{me and Grandaddy}
I called him Grandaddy.
He called me Lissie.
Before I ever reached double-digits he taught me how to dance and throw a football and drive a car {shhh...don't tell my mom}.