Friday Encouragement: You are Beautiful

The world is loud with voices telling you who you are, who you aren’t and who it thinks you should be.

But, you? You are beautiful.

Exactly the way you are. The eyes you don’t like, or the body you fight, or the heart you doubt. All of it is beautiful. You are good. Your heart is good. Sometimes we lose our way to goodness but at the center of all of us is God. When we stop arguing with the world and accept the holiness of our being and the transformation already inside, love wins.

Every time.

It takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Knowing you don’t have to do anything. Just be. That is the power of Christ. That is what we should show the world as Christians. God doesn’t separate himself from any of us and if God is in all of us and, if all of us believed in the ultimate holiness of our being,

The world would be bright with God’s love.

Go out today in the peace of Christ and the God who already loves you and say to yourself, to your family, your friends, your spouse,

You-are-treasured-You

 

That is life-giving. That is life-changing. That is Kingdom changing.

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Hard Days

There is troubling news all around us and I see friends on Facebook and friends in conversation struggling with this world. This world is hard. Really hard. People get sick. People leave this world too soon. Racism persists. Hatred continues. Children die because they don’t have enough to eat.

This world doesn’t have the answers.

Today on my run I was listening to Rob Bell talking about the immensities of life. The things that happen that have no explanation, the cancers, the hurt, the pain people experience just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And he told the story of Jacob. A man who wrestled with God and walked away with a limp. Not in in pain, but because he experienced the divine.

That may now be my favorite Rob Bell quote.

We live in a world where love and suffering live alongside each other. Creation hasn’t caught up to God’s divine love and that middle place is difficult, lonely and hard most days.

But the right now isn’t how the world ends. It’s just the growing pains to our ultimate story.

Now-the-dwelling-of-GodGod will wipe our tears. God does. He experiences our pain, knows our suffering. He isn’t a distant God who leaves us to suffer. He wipes our tears.

And I believe we can have peace right now. In the midst of tragedy, in the midst of life that doesn’t make sense. When you turn on the news and your heart grows sick, remember God is unshakeable. And we are unshakeable because we are with him. Don’t get stuck in the pain of this world, because the world doesn’t win in the end.

Love Does.

Go out today in the peace of a God who doesn’t fail. Who gathers and protects the people of this world and showers his glory on us all. Don’t let your heart grow sick with the world, let it rejoice in the certainty that the world will be transformed.

Just as you have been

 

 

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Your bright light

You my child have light. The world will tell you that your light isn’t bright enough or important enough. The container it is in is the wrong size or shape, or it’s too broken to make a difference. The world will have you believe your light won’t be missed.

But your light matters.

It matters to the people who know you and the ones who don’t. It matters to the person you just smiled at, the person you called by name. It matters to the church that is dark, the city cloaked in sadness, and the workplace stumbling.

Your-broken-vessel-mixed

It is your unique vessel mixed with God’s love and that produces a light that will never shine like anyone else’s.

Don’t hide that light.

Don’t seal the cracks.

Don’t plaster over what makes your light yours.

Let your light shine, because your light matters.

It will be missed. Shine it loudly, the world needs to see it.

Don’t hide it beneath layers of insecurity and doubt. It is brighter than you think. The cracks and the crumbling spots just shine that light even brighter.

And always remember, it is your body and God’s love that make the light shine in this world.

FullSizeRender (2)

So shine bright, and don’t doubt for a second that your light matters.

 

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One neighborhood at a time

Yesterday we were driving down a stretch of Cleveland the kids had never been on. My son spoke up from the backseat, “Mommy, I don’t want to go into this spookytown.”

I looked around me and tried to see what he saw. The town wasn’t spooky, it was tired. It was worn out. It wasn’t sparkling and new. There weren’t mansions lining the streets and artisan bread shops. There was little green space and garbage lined the sidewalks from the recent snow melt.

FullSizeRender (1)

 

It was the inner city. Not a ghost town.

My oldest daughter asked why everyone was smoking. And Margo screamed out, “That man just littered!”

I realized right then how much I have sheltered my kids from the city of Cleveland.  As we drove further towards my volunteering gig in Slavic village, the kids saw houses boarded up. Factories shuttered. Stores unopened. People walking everywhere. Heads down. Slow and steady.

There were no grocery stores. No restaurants. The streets are lined by houses that I often pray no one lives in.

But I also know, inside these neighborhoods are families who love each other. Kids who can make a difference where they live. Helpers who are investing heavily in organizations because they believe that a city needs to work together to change lives. There are houses well loved. Not everyone is hungry.

But also in these neighborhoods are people hurting. People who need jobs. Kids who need fathers. Families who need food and safe and reliable housing. People who need choices and opportunities.

People who need hope.

When I worked at the library I once had a boy tell me he stayed in bed until the very last minute during the winter. Underneath his nest of blankets he was warm. When he had to get up, he jumped out of bed and ran to school or the library depending on the day just so he could be warm.

It broke my heart because I knew he wasn’t the only one.

We turned from that road onto another. It wasn’t so scary to the kids. The kids recognized fast food restaurants and the streets boasted commerce, no matter how small. This wasn’t spookytown anymore.

What I realized, is my kids saw poverty and couldn’t imagine anyone living there. They thought it was a ghost town. Abandoned. Forgotten.

And the inner city is abandoned and forgotten most of the time, just not in the way they realized.

We arrived at the health center and we got to work. I interacted with a boy a year older than Margo. Margo helped him on the iPad with his numbers and colors. The older two flew through games that usually frustrate the kids I work with. My oldest daughter watched a boy her age care for his newborn brother. And she was flabbergasted at the responsibility he had.

And all I could think about while I was there is the disparity between opportunities. My kids will always have choices. What schools they go to, what activities they play, how they spend their free time, what food they want to eat. They dress in shorts in the winter because our house is always warm. We go to the pool in the summer when it is too hot to think. We take vacations, go to the lake. Walking is for fun and not for going somewhere. We eat out a restaurants and have so much food we end up throwing some of it away each week.

We play, we read, we talk to each other because we have the space and energy to do that.

I have four grocery stores within 5 minutes of me. four stores I can drive to, stores that I don’t have to figure out a bus schedule, or how I will get the food home. There are so many schools nearby they hold open houses. You can tour and pick the best one for your children. There are rec leagues, private lessons, sports centers all over advertising for your kid’s time.

The streets are maintained. Our electricity lines worked on. Streets cleaned. Garbage picked up by neighbors as they stroll through the neighborhoods.

We have so many opportunities and possibilities on this side of town and there lies the difference between us and the inner city.

On the way back home we passed through the same streets. We saw a house being torn down. The kids wondered why that house was and the one next to it wasn’t. It was in the same disrepair.

The difference, someone lived in the house next door.

I don’t know if the trip affected the kids. Will it change how they interact with poverty and race relations in our city as they grow up? I know one trip can’t do that, but repeated exposure to those who suffer so close to us has to.

Except most of the time we hide from it.

When I drove everyday to work in central Cleveland, I couldn’t ignore what happened in front of me. I saw it, I felt it, and it hurt. I loved the people I met and talked to each day. It reminded me we aren’t different. We all want the same things in life.

We want to be known, chosen and loved. We want to take care of our families and loved ones. We want meaningful work. We want a safe place to live and a warm house to surround us. We want friends to surround us and a long life to look forward to.

When I stopped working at the library, I started to forget that I was a part of the solution. I forgot that I had the power to change the city.

One neighborhood at a time.

When I pulled into the garage and turned off the car, I felt certain I couldn’t let the kids ignore the rest of the city. They could live most of their childhood without being exposed to those “spookytowns” but I know I don’t want that for them.

I want their hearts to be soft, open and willing to fight for places in our cities that have been forgotten. But in order for that to happen, I have to take them outside the comfort of here and allow them to see the world as it sometimes can be.

I don’t want them to say the poor will always be with us. I want them to understand that and try to change it anyway.

The only way the inner city will improve is if we step outside our neighborhoods and serve.

Very-truly-I-tell-you

What is one thing you can do to change the lives of those living in poverty? We all can do something. What is your thing? And what will it take for you to have the confidence to go and do it?

 

 

 

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Sunday Reflection: Intimacy

I believe intimacy is a critical ingredient for a healthy church. Intimacy allows us to push past the facade and truly know each other. Not to hurt, not to judge, not to redirect, but to love. Without intimacy, churches will never be anything more than a social club who gathers together for a common purpose.

Intimacy

Do you have what it takes to be intimate at church? Can you let down the curtain and allow people to see what it is that hurts, makes you happy, your insecurities and fears? Your doubts, your dreams? Your anger?

Don Miller says in Scary Close, when we hide these things inside of us, people never get to know us. They only know the person we appear to be on the outside. And that person is who we end up becoming. At church, at home and with God.

In order to truly worship, we need to unveil who we are with the people we spend the most time with. I am not asking you to unburden your soul in the middle of the hallway between services, but when someone asks how you are? Or how they can pray for you? Or how your soul is?

You actually answer them.

When we let our insides be who we are on the outside, we build true relationship with each other and that leads us into deeper worship and relationship with God. But if we keep running from each other and from God, we end up never going anywhere.

This Sunday reveal a little of who you are. In your Sunday school class, during prayer time, or as you sip coffee with another person. Don’t keep hiding your real self, because when we reveal who we are, we make the church stronger.

We worship together not because we are perfect people, but because we are human and asking God to gather us in his arms and love us anyway.

Today, be human to someone else. That is life changing. That is kingdom changing. That is church building.

Happy Sunday!

Jeremiah

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Friday Encouragement: Unshaken

(This is a post about anxiety. If you suffer from anxiety I don’t believe you can just pray it away. I have been in intensive therapy for over 6 years to help me recognize where the anxiety came from and how to handle it. Some people need medication, some people need a listening ear.  And I truly believe all of this needs to be surrounded in prayer, love and support. If you feel incapacitated by anxiety reach out to someone, therapy truly can transform lives. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing today.)

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

  • Would you tell that someone you love them, even if you haven’t spoken in years?
  • Would you forgive what you thought was unforgiveable?
  • Would you ask for forgiveness?
  • Would you start living the way you are called to live?

For most of my life I have been afraid. My teachers called me worrywart in elementary school. There was always something I could wrap up in anxiety and carry around with me in a backpack. I often didn’t try new things, or say what needed to be said because I didn’t believe that I could succeed or it would make a difference if I did.

The problem with anxiety is it makes us start from a place that believes we can control the world. A place that says every worry has a solution if I just stay up late enough to figure it out. How much more sleep I would get if I didn’t try to strangle a solution out of every problem?

I am starting to learn that there is not one thing in this world that I can control, and while that used to scare the crap out of me, now I find it freeing.

Because I know someone who is unfailing, unshakeable, and firm in every storm. And when I tether myself to him, I will always be okay.

Always.

No matter what happens.

This certainty has lessened the weight I carry around. Every day I learn to hand something else over that I thought I had to control. It doesn’t mean I sit around waiting for something to happen. No, now I act in the best way I can and I trust that no matter the result I will be okay.

Some days it works better than others.

Today I carried a whole car of worry behind me on my run. It was positively pulling me back with every step I took forward. I felt terrible because I couldn’t figure out why I was so anxious. Have you ever been worried for no other reason than being worried? It’s a terrible feeling and it leaves me searching for the one thing that will make it okay.

But with each step that I slid backwards, the phrase I read this morning kept popping up in my mind. He can’t be shaken. 

It doesn’t matter what I can’t do, because he does. In fact he already did. There is nothing that God can’t do.

So I ran. And each step got easier. And by the time I got back to thehouse the weight that sat on my chest since last week was gone. I felt free.

I stepped into the house and the first thing I saw was a call from my kids’ school and instead of my stomach jumping into my throat, I felt free. The day only got more tense after that, but I still felt free.

Today I believed I could do anything, because it wasn’t me doing.

It was all God.

So what can you face, if you knew you couldn’t fail? If it wasn’t all up to you. That there was someone else who had your back, and not just your back, but the whole universe.

I bet you could step out into the unknown.

I have good days and bad, but the good are becoming the norm and I can feel when the bad ones have their grip on my back. I don’t try to fix it on my own anymore. Now, I turn to the one person who can.

And I believe because He can’t fail, I can’t either.

Hebrews 12

 

 

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Little ears hear

Do you know the song?

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear, oh be careful little ears what you hear. For the father up above is looking down in love. Oh be careful little ears what you hear.

For the most part that song scared the bejeezers out of me as I kid. I guess I missed the part where God was looking down in love. I truly believed God was following me around with a notepad and a frown on his face seeing everything I did wrong. Did I mention guilt is my middle name?

As a parent I am starting to hear that song in a different light. It wasn’t for me really as a kid, but for the adults around me. I realize now that our kids hear, see and repeat everything we do. And that isn’t always cool.

When the kids were little, my husband and I could have any conversation we wanted in front of them. There were no cryptic messages over their little heads or spelling out words we didn’t want them to repeat.  They were too busy eating their feet or chasing a fuzzball around the living room to care what Mom and Dad were talking about.

Now they are older and they hear everything. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. We can’t spell anything, because the boogers can spell. They are really good at charades so there is no more miming. Now every topic, glance, swear word, and sigh is under scrutiny by the kids. And I forget daily they are no longer babies who don’t understand language.

If you ever wonder how inappropriate your words are, just have your 6 year old parrot back what you just said about another person.

When this happened to me recently I immediately repented. I apologized to the kids for being judgmental, using my words to hurt not help, and generally being a terrible person. And although I know the authenticity of the moment was a growing one for both them and me, I also realized that the kids will do and say whatever they hear me do or say.

What they saw was their mom beating herself up with guilt. Guilt doesn’t free us, it keeps us doing the same thing over and over because we don’t expect anything different.

Kids are sponges and they soak up everything we do or say. They replicate our best and worst qualities. They are Geiger counters of our radioactive personalities. As the kids get older I realize even though I say I have been transformed

I have a long way to go.

There is no way we can be perfect. We are all on the same road of sanctification and most days we keep turning left instead of going straight. We stare at the same road sign and wonder how we keep arriving at the same place. I am not writing this post to guilt you to be a perfect person.

Because as much as we try. It’s impossible to be perfect.

What I have been thinking about is how I want my kids to respond when they find themselves doing the wrong thing.

When they yell at a classmate.

When they lie about a chore they didn’t do.

When they judge a friend for something he did.

When they use those swear words they practice so hard.

Because the truth is, they will do all of those things and more probably before I hit post on this blog entry. We all do the wrong thing quicker than I get out of bed for donut day. What I want them to do is not beat themselves up with more guilt, but cover themselves in grace, because that is kingdom changing. That is what transforms.

Thank goodness they have me for a mom, because they will get to see it a  lot :)

When we mess up we

  1. Stop what we are doing.
  2. Start doing the right thing
  3. Apologize for the specific thing we did wrong
  4. Say what we will do in the future.

What I don’t want my kids to see is me envying someone else’s house and then trying to cover it up by ignoring the problem or getting angry with the person who pointed out my envy. Or yelling at the person who asked me to stop yelling because I am upset with myself for losing my temper yet again. And I definitely don’t want my kids to then see me feeling guilty for having the audacity to act human. We all mess up. That’s why there is grace. But if we don’t accept it, we are chain ourselves to the past, instead of God.

Our kids pick up everything we do. Therefore, when we mess up

Confess. Change. Advance.

That way our transformations of heart don’t just transform us. It transforms our families. Our neighbors. Our schools. Our communities.

We have power as parents, and although the days seem long, our years with them are really short. Let’s use it to change lives. Not just theirs, but everyone they meet in life. Imagine how our interactions will change if they aren’t based on guilt. That is what I want my kids to soak up from me.

Not that I’m perfect, but that I am willing to keep transforming my life to something better. Without guilt, without fear and in the full freedom of Christ. And in order to do that

Confess-Change-Advance (1)

 

Not because we’re bad people who deserve judgement, but because we are a free people leaning into God’s love.

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