On Offending the God you’ve never met…

aliferepaired

On offending a God you don’t know…

John 3:16
New International Version (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life

Have you ever noticed that this scripture does NOT say : For God was so disgusted with their sin and tired of their mess that he sent Jesus down to condemn them for their sin and tell them he wouldn’t love them until they cleaned their act up? I have. And yet, it seems to me that this is largely the perverted gospel that we attempt to share with a broken world. “Hey you- you don’t know me and you don’t know the God that I serve- you know nothing about his love- but you know what- you’re offending him and you need to stop it.” How is it that…

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Loved

In the days that my belly was taut and swollen and I still ate everything in sight there were few things I loved like sitting in the rocking chair in Avery’s nursery and having my quiet time with the Lord. Soaking in God’s presence, I would scan the room and think about how carefully I had chosen each dainty pink and white item that graced the walls. Sometimes I would open up the dresser drawers and run my fingers over her tiny clothes, smiling in unbridled joy and anticipation. And I would weep. How could I not? How could I do anything else? How could I sit amongst this place that I had so lovingly prepared for the daughter whose face I’d never seen even as she danced within my womb and not think about my heavenly Father lovingly preparing a place for me? How could I not think about the scripture that says he dances over me with singing and not be moved? What kind of love was this? What kind of God is he?
Pregnant pic

Not long ago my younger sister had a precious baby girl and posted an update on social media that was so familiar to my Mom heart. “Watching my squishy one sleep. Must not wake her. Must let her sleep. But I want to hold her.” Yes. How familiar were those longings to hold your little one dear, to gaze upon them lovingly even as they slept. The inability to take your eyes off of them. How easy it is, even now to be overcome by their beauty. How can something as simple as breathing be so beautiful? And yet, this is how the God of the universe feels about me? The very thought leaves me utterly undone.

Julie and Avery Pic
When Avery was six months old she had NO FEAR. One of her favorite pastimes was attempting to jump from the couch to the coffee table on her stomach. Without hesitation, she would thrust herself into the air and cackle with delight as she soared. What she was too small to know or understand was that I was holding her tiny foot and cushioning her fall. How many times have I jumped with no understanding of who was catching me as I fell?
I will never forget the moment of realization and little baby hatred in her eyes the day that Avery looked down and saw my hand attached to her foot, cramping her mid-air style. She didn’t want my protection. She attempted to shake my hand off. And when it didn’t work she cried in frustration. How many times have I cried in protest and frustration upon finding the hand of God holding my foot, protecting me?
At three years old, Avery is right about everything. She ends most sentences with, “right?” If you contradict her even in the gentlest of ways, she’ll tell you why you’re wrong and then wrap up with, “Okay, mom?” How many times have I tried to convince God of why I am right and he is wrong and then wrapped up with, “okay God?”

Avery and Ryan
I haven’t loved Avery anymore or less at any given stage.She’s my daughter. I enjoy her endlessly at all of these stages. I still love to watch her sleep. I cherish the moments when she wants to snuggle up next to me and be close. I laugh when she tries to convince me that weeds from the yard are alive. How could I be mad? She’s three. In fact, I’m so proud of her growth. I was looking at her the other day in total wonder. Her legs alone were longer than her entire body was when she was so born. “Avery, how did you get so tall and smart?” I asked her. “I just growed.” She said. It’s true. And I’m excited about the growth that I know is to come. Just like my Heavenly Father is excited about mine. Just like he loves and enjoys me at all of my various stages.
So often we are hard on ourselves and one another for not being where we think we should be or where someone else might be. What if instead we chose to celebrate the growth that has already occurred? What if we simply enjoyed all of the nuances of today? Our Heavenly Father is loving us, enjoying us just as we are. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we could do the same?

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On the Pursuit of Passion

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to my lifetime friend and cheerleader, Courtney Garza. After you read her words, you’ll want to steal her from me. A word of caution: I am scrappier than I might appear at first glance. Do not attempt to mess with the bestie. Now, Courtney currently hails from Birmingham, working at the University of Alabama. She can kick your tail at Scrabble and put anything together regardless of whether or not she has the instructions. She’s a faithful friend, gifted writer and lover of Jesus. Enjoy!

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I think that honesty is important. And if I’m being honest, I would say that complacency is my default.  It’s great to be content, but every now and then, I have to make a conscious effort to dream again, to remember (or discover something new!) what it is I’m passionate about.  And I also have to remind myself of these five things:

  1. Passion is not a personality trait. I spent many years looking at passionate people, convinced that they got where they were because of their outgoing personality.  I also spent too much time comparing myself to others.  We know we all do it, but we need to stop.  You are passionate about something.  Find it, and then do something about it, because…
  2. Passion requires pursuit. Webster’s definition for the word pursue is: to follow or try to catch or capture (something or someone) for usually a long distance or time.  Passionate pursuit is intentional and requires an investment of time, even if the investments are small.  In this message, Andy Stanley reminds us that small investments of time add up to something.  I know…duh!  But how often, when I don’t have time to accomplish something “productive”, do I opt to watch television or play on Facebook to pass the time.  What if, instead, we started using that time to pursue something we’re passionate about?  Want to start now?  Author Jon Acuff is encouraging thousands of people to DoSummer and even gives you a convenient chart to track your progress 15 minutes at a time.
  3. Pursuing passion does not guarantee the absence of pain. Just ask Jesus. Or Paul.  He was passionate about spreading the gospel and was beaten and imprisoned on numerous occasions because of it.  Over the weekend, I watched The Drop Box movie.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It so clearly demonstrates this point.
  4. Your passion can influence others. It might encourage them to pursue their own passion, or it may convince them to join you. I attend a mega church, but even as much as it’s grown in the short time I’ve been there, one of the things I love most about it has nothing to do with how many new campuses we have or will open. My pastor has a vision and invests a significant amount of time and resources into helping other churches grow.  We also have an organization to plant churches.  Your passion can change the world.  But how much better would it be to leave a legacy, to replicate yourself?
  5. Passionate pursuit is not about perfection. I believe this goes back to fear, that if we can’t do it perfectly, it’s not worth doing at all.  My niece is in middle school.  A few weeks ago, I was asking her if she might be interested in joining the band or playing sports.  She told me that she didn’t think she would because she didn’t know how, and also mentioned that she didn’t think she would be good enough.  If I could have shaken those perfectionist tendencies out of her right then, I would have.  Instead, I encouraged her to pick something she might be interested in and TRY.  If you love singing, you might not ever make it on stage, but don’t let that stop you from worshiping God from your seat on a Sunday morning just because the person next to you might hear you.  Maybe your dancing skills shouldn’t really be seen in public, but if it’s something you love, you can still have a dance party with your kids at home!

“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”  -Nelson Mandela

Keep Fighting

As so many of you have reached out to me, begun to share your stories and your hearts I have been overwhelmed with love for you. As you’ve shared your pain and your freedom, your overcoming, and your growing, I’ve felt that surely my heart would burst with love. I have been rendered awestruck by your bravery and tenacity. And I can’t help but wonder, if I feel this way about you, how must God feel? I know that for so many of you, the battle has been long. You’ve been fighting for health or victory in one area or another for what feels like forever. Some of you feel like, “What’s the point in even continuing to fight?” Many of you look around and you wonder, “What am I doing wrong?” You realize that for others the battle wrapped up years ago, but here you are, still in the heat of battle. You feel like such a disappointment, such a pathetic beaten down excuse for a soldier. Can I remind you today that there is no shame in the victory that is long, drawn-out, painful and hard-fought? It’s a victory just the same. If today you got out of bed in spite of the pain, invested in another when you felt you had nothing left to give or smiled when you thought you had no smiles left- you’re still in the fight. We all want that quick and easy win. But we learn so much about the weapons and strategies of war, we become such fierce and mighty soldiers when we battle for victory over time and space. I honor your courage today. I have a friend with a four your old son. When he isn’t listening to her instructions well or she wants to be certain that he has understood her she says, “Brendon, look at my eyes.” I have often wondered what it is he sees in his Mother’s eyes that communicate so effectively without a spoken word. I think he must see primarily love; this person is for me, I can trust what they say. They won’t hurt me. I think he must also see fierce intentionality. I am called to parent you, to raise you up to be the man God called you to be. I intend to do that job well. Does he also see the same woman who kisses his boo boos and sings him to sleep, the gentle voice he heard in the womb? Today, I want you to look up into your Heavenly Father’s eyes. I think primarily, you may see love- God the Father, who sent his son to die on the cross as your ransom. He is for you. You can trust what he says. You may also see fierce intentionality, the eyes of the one who is raising you up to be all that he created and called you to be. Maybe you’ll also see the one who has lovingly picked you up and dusted you off each time you fall. With eyes locked on his I want you to hear me. You are not failing God. You are not failing your family. You are not a failure. You are not a disappointment, a hassle, a freak or the worst thing that ever happened to the ones you love. You are a treasure. You are brave. You are strong. You are an over comer. I know it’s taking longer than you thought it would. I know it’s harder than you thought it would be. Don’t quit. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV) So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Even if your outer self is wasting away!!!! Or your outer life, if everything is falling apart- Don’t lose heart! God is doing something. Our inner selves are being renewed day by day. You all are so brave. So strong. And your story isn’t over yet. This isn’t how your story ends. This is just an amazing testimony in the making. Keep fighting, brave ones!