How to Let the Master Quilter Do His Work

As I child, I loved to run my fingers along the stitching of my grandmother’s quilts. They were a labor of love for her. Each time my mother reported an impending visit from the stork, my grandmother would smile and say, “I’ll get started on the quilt.” She’d stitch and pray, petitioning heaven with her hope that each of my siblings would “love the Lord all their days.” In this way, quilts and Jesus have always been deeply interconnected for me, almost like the patterns on the quilts themselves.

Not long ago, I took a seemingly straightforward trip. The goal was to support someone important at a crucial time, but the outcome was a mess of conflict and confusion in my heart and mind. I thought I was ready to revisit this space attached to old wounds and questions from my past, but instead the experience was as though someone ripped off a dirty old bandage, uncovering an oozing infection beneath. I felt woozy, unsteady from this discovery. I’ll be honest: my first instinct wasn’t to clean out the wound; it was to slap the bandage back on the wound and pretend I never saw it.

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A Letter to Those Who Wait

I woke up this morning and spent some time in God’s word. And the word that stirred my heart, that jumped off the page was “wait.” It seemed to be the heart of what God was speaking to me, “There is no shame in waiting, only faithfulness.” I thought about how this world sometimes makes us feel like a failure for waiting. Like we should be seeing instantaneous results and if we aren’t, we must be doing something wrong. But, David seemed to be saying something entirely different. I prepared to write a blog on waiting.20160126_100707

And then I read this blog. A Letter to Those Who Wait

And I knew the blog had already been written.

I hope you will find it as powerful and moving as I did.

Come Close

I sat in the flimsy black chair, exchanging pleasantries with the young doctor at my follow-up appointment. We’d go over my test results; he’d say they were fine—- my new symptoms surely the result of Lyme and then he’d tell me what to do about them. After all, that was why I’d come, for relief from the sudden, new joint pain that was crippling at times, causing my fingers to swell and preventing me from typing or texting, sometimes even bringing tears to my eyes.
But instead, he opened his mouth and formed different words. Words I hadn’t been expecting, the weight of which crushed my soul. In addition to all the other fun I’d been enjoying, the markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis had come back positive. I’d be sent to a Rheumatologist to confirm, but it seemed quite clear to him.
I drove home in a stupor, working up a good cry. What I wanted most at that moment, more than I wanted to unhear those words was for my husband to come close. I wanted him to tell me that we were still going to be okay. I needed him to say that one more diagnosis didn’t change the commitments we’d made or God’s goodness.
He was on a conference call when I came home. (As he often is) I did my best to hold my cry in. But the second his finger touched the “end call” button, tears streamed my face, and I said, “Can you come over? I need a hug.” The rest was a blur of blubber and snot. But I heard the words I needed to hear. “We’re still okay.”
This morning, I stood in the shower, and I whispered to Jesus, “Come close.” I’ve been drowning in a sea of symptoms and struggles, and I’ve just needed to feel the Lord near. I thought about the wonder of the cross. What a bold, demonstrative move of “coming close.” Is there any doubt that he longs to be close to us?
It’s the goal of every marriage, the coming close. It’s why we commit our lives to one another so that we can live all of our days up close to one another. And maybe somewhere along the way, hurts and disappointments come in and crowd out this goal of coming close, but it is the starting place.
And so it is with our walk with Jesus.
The desire on both sides is the coming close to one another. How many times have I heard the still small voice of my Savior inviting me, “Come close“? And maybe somewhere along the way, hurts or disappoints come in and crowd this desire out and we no longer want to come close.
But today, he’s still whispering to you, to me, “Come close.”
What if we laid our hurts, our disappointments, and our busyness down and we let him embrace us? Maybe the rest will be a blur of blubber and snot. I don’t know. But what I do know, is that we will hear the words our hearts long to hear. “We’re still okay.”

Superficial Success

I went on a trip recently where I couldn’t help but overhear much networking, business card exchanging, sales figure dropping and general success celebrating.

I’m pretty sure I could even smell it on the plane, the scent of perceived success. The bigger the sales territory the more of this cologne they wore. Did they win awards for their numbers? Pile on some more of that perfume. Buy a bigger house or better car because of those commission checks? Better add a couple of extra squirts for good measure.

My life looks much different than these people. I don’t spend my days traveling for work, trying to close the deal and feeling like “the man” when I do. Is this it? Is this what success looks like? Are there levels of success?

I have to be honest that there was a time in my life that I would have been right there with those folks. When closing investment deals and climbing corporate ladders absolutely would have signified success to me.

But something’s changed…

The closer I get to Jesus, the less and less my definition of success has anything to do with stuff, titles or positions and the more and more it has to do with a posture before the cross.

When I begin to evaluate success now, I think about things like: How well am I loving people? Am I stewarding myself and my resources well? Am I growing in Christ?

We are such a results-oriented society. We want them and we want them now. Measurable and favorable, malleable. But what if being successful means learning to leave the results up to God? What if success means trusting God more than you ever have before?

Maybe, like me, when one year ends and another begins, you reflect back on it. Was it a success? What do I want to improve upon in this next year? Each year I find that my definition becomes more and more simple. This year it looks like this: Was I obedient? Did I grow closer to God in the process? If so, it was a success.

What does success look like to you?

Fluffy Faith

Two years ago at Christmas time our family adopted a Persian cat that our big kids named, “Tater Tot.” She enjoys giving us gifts. To obtain these gifts, she must go out into the backyard and kill them. Then she proudly drags them to the back porch and leaves them on display. I’ll spare you the details on the various gifts we’ve found on the back porch but let’s just say she really enjoys her hunting time outside. But her fur does not. It gets matted and tangled and recently we had to have her taken to the groomer for a little trim. It’s funny, Tater Tot has always looked so big to me. In fact, I’ve often given her a hard time about being such a big, fat cat. But because her fur was so matted from her time hunting, the groomer had to give her “the lion” cut, shaving off almost all of her fur excluding head and paws. Besides being just plain hilarious, I’ve noticed something else. Once you removed all the fluff, Tater Tot looks so small, frail even.

It might seem strange to you that the sight of my recently shaved cat, stretched out on my couch, reminded me of faith. But it did, at least of some people’s anyway. Because once you get rid of all that fluff that makes it look so large, it’s really very small and even frail.

There have been a couple of times that people have told me that their faith, their believing, feels small. One is when they’ve had the wind knocked right out of them by some circumstance in life, such as the loss of a loved one, an illness, a financial hardship, infidelity, etc.

The other is when the person’s faith has been chronically malnourished. It usually sounds something like this, “I’m just not sure what I even believe anymore.” Or “I’m not sure I even believe that stuff anymore.”

“Okay, what have you been doing to build your faith up, to feed it?” Blank stare ensues.

We’ve all been told that what feed will grow and what we starve will die.

We are all guilty of this at times. Feeding the wrong things, while starving our faith. But today I want to ask you a tough question. Beneath all the fluff, what does your faith really look like? What are you doing to feed it? Is your faith feeling weak because it is chronically malnourished?

Sometimes when our faith feels weak we ask our friends to pray for us and that’s great. But I hope your friends will also tell you, “Joker, you need to eat.” And maybe even load you up in the car and take you to that faith hospital called church. Because I would hope that if your friend saw you starving to death they’d do more than pray for you. I would hope that they would feed you and get you some medical care.

How is your faith feeling today? Fluffy? Starved? When was the last time you fed it?

After all, what you starve will die and what you feed will grow.


Perfect Love

I think we’re going to have to start here—with me saying that I understand that I am treading on dangerous ground, boldly going where many won’t. Many already have and many shouldn’t. But here’s the thing, I have to. It’s part of what I’m called to do.

I hope that though you might disagree with me, you can respectfully disagree with me and we can still love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Have you ever fallen in love? Do you remember that early stage where as Lady Gaga says you were “on the edge, the edge, the edge” but you were scared? Scared of letting go, scared of getting hurt, scared of going here again because remember what happened last time? But then you did it. Because deep down, you knew, love was worth it. Love is always worth it. If you aren’t loving, you aren’t really living. So you let go, you faced your fears and you loved, with your whole heart. And maybe it was glorious and maybe it was terrible but most likely, it was a combination of both.

Because love always cost us something.

The bible tells us that perfect love cast out all fear. (I John 4:18) Here’s how I have experienced this in my life: The closer I draw to the heart of God, the more intense my desire to love others becomes, the less afraid I become. Over time, my desire to love becomes bigger than my fear. Until, I can’t help but love—no matter how crazy it might seem to others, how dangerous it might be, no matter what it might cost me.

It’s this love that sends folks on the mission field to minister in hostile nations. Their desire to love is greater than their fear. They simply have to love people in the way that God has called them to. Please hear me. What I am not saying is that we are somehow sub-par Christians if we are not sharing the gospel in a hostile country because maybe the Lord has called us to share the gospel in our workplace right here in America. And if we are doing so faithfully, praise God! What I am saying is that we shouldn’t ever let our fear stop us from loving in the way God has called us to.

How has God called you to love the people around you? I don’t know. I mean, the bible is pretty clear about feeding, clothing, visiting, caring for widows and orphans, those in prison. What does that look like in your day-to-day life? I don’t know. But you do. You know what he’s calling you to. You know who he’s called you to mentor. Where he’s called you to volunteer your time or give financially. Or maybe even who’s he’s calling you to share your home with.

You also know where you are letting fear hold you back from doing those things. Some of you might be called to do those things in other countries. Maybe you are afraid of what others will say, or of physical safety. Maybe you are afraid of letting go of American luxuries. You fear you are not cut out for it.

God has not given you a spirit of fear but of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). You are no longer a slave to fear. Let your desire to love grow so large that you are no longer afraid.

If we died in the process of loving the least of these, wouldn’t our lives be well spent?

This week can we spend some time asking the Lord to show us how he wants us to love the people in our world? Could we ask him to show us where fear might be standing in our way and then stand on the truth that perfect love casts out all fear?

No Longer Slaves

On Offending the God you’ve never met…

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 we are surprised when this methodology fails? Why are we so obsessed with sin and behavior modification? Who made us the sin police? I thought Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the good news- not the condemned news?

Here’s my thought. What if we started with others where Jesus started with us? He came down to Earth. He humbled himself- put on the uniform of humanity and showed up right smack in the middle of our mess and starting loving us, and healing us and setting us free, RIGHT where we were. He came and got the fisherman while they were fishing. And what about the woman at the well? The one that society had marked as just another trashy Samaritan woman that we shouldn’t waste our time on. You know, the one that was always with a new guy and never quite gets her act together. Funny how the first words from his mouth weren’t about how much she sucked or about her sin. Oh, he knew about the sinful, broken and destructive behaviors but he wasn’t fixated on that. His wasn’t confused about the part where her sin did not define her. He saw her. Not the mess. The first thing he started sharing with her (after breaking all the social norms and choosing to see her and talk to her like a real person instead of a throw away) was that he can satisfy the longings of her heart. That he can give her living water, which satisfies her soul. You know the satisfaction and acceptance that she’s been chasing her whole life in all these empty relationships? He says he can fill that empty place inside of her and she won’t constantly be looking for some relationship to fill her. He speaks to the deep hurts and desires of her soul not her sin- he knows that sin is a symptom of a greater problem- she has not yet received his love, his hope, his healing, and his salvation. What if we showed up right smack in the middle of people’s messes and we still saw them and we treated them with dignity, like a real person? What if we let them know that we really saw them and valued them, and then we started helping them? What if we realized that sin is just a symptom of separation from God and we introduced them to a God who loves them so much that he sent his son to earth to die for them? And then what if we let that redemption, that love, that freedom of the cross set them free from sin. What if we watched God’s love heal them so deeply that the sin wasn’t even as issue anymore? What if we extended grace while they were in process and spoke the truth- truly in love- not in judgment and disgust? What if instead of shouting across Facebook “ hey punk, Jesus hates what you’re doing and I do too…” we took God’s approach and we introduced these people to a God who loves them and who knows that sin separates us from him and it breaks us? What if we introduced them to a God whose very hatred of sin is birthed from love? A God who hates sin because he loves us and he knows what it does to us, who knows that holiness leads to happiness and wholeness- and desperately longs for us to have that?

We, the church- were meant to be his hands and feet- not his firing squad. I am not talking about ignoring sin, or pretending that there is no call to holiness. But Jesus was sent to the earth on a rescue mission, motivated by love- what if we started there? So often I cringe when I think of what it must feel like to be outside of the mainstream church and have people telling you about how you are offending a God that you do not know. To me this would be like a total stranger stopping me in the mall and telling me that I am offending their third cousin in Guatemala that I’ve never met by the way that I walk. What? Who do you think you are? Why in the world would you expect me to care about that? How different would it be if that stranger truly cared about me and saw me as a person and began to share with me about how much their cousin loved me and wanted to know me? What if over time I came to know their cousin and love them and realized that they were a highly skilled physician who wanted me to know that the way I walked would eventually kill me- and out of their love for me- wanted to show me another way?

Sinners sin. Why are we surprised by this? Didn’t we sin when we were sinners? Don’t we still sin and live in constant need of his mercy and grace? What if we started extending some? What if we stopped being another voice that says you are not enough, you don’t have what it takes, you are a mess- and started being the voice that said. “You are loved. You are seen. You are known. You are valued. You are delighted in. You are the price for which Jesus went to the cross. You have a purpose. You bring something of great value to the world that no one else can.” What if we started agreeing with the voice of God in people’s lives instead of beating them up?

The time is now. Let love be the thing that you carry to the world. Let love be the thing that motivates you. Let love so fill you in your time with the Heavenly Father that it can’t help but spill out onto the rest of the world. Let’s stop trying to fix people, and leave the fixing to Jesus. Let’s just be the ones who make the introductions. Let’s choose to represent him in a way that makes others anxious to meet him- not run in the other direction.

Jesus, fill us with your love today. Transform us with your love. Give us eyes to see ourselves and others as you do. Thank you for the mercy and grace that you extend to us while we are in process. Help us to extend it to others. We lay down all pride and all superiority. We are nothing without you and we are humbled and honored to be able to love others as you have loved us. Empower us to share your love with boldness and with steadfastness. We lay down our expectations and agendas and we pick up yours. Thank you for coming for us, right in the middle of our mess. Thank you for seeing the treasure in us and not the mess, help us to see the same in others. We love you. In Jesus name, Amen