Road Trip – Promises

I’m sorry I didn’t get this posted on Monday. Trying to stay true to my commitment on this experimental “Road Trip” series, but we’ve had a lot going on. Thank you for your grace!

I don’t really think about taking road trips into “enemy territory”.

I don’t like thinking of anyone as an enemy, and a “battle” image is not one I’m usually drawn to. I want to be a lover not a fighter.

But as I was reading Joshua 1-4 about his road trip across the Jordan and eventually into the enemy territory of Jericho, it struck me that we are constantly on a highway where the Enemy is actively trying to thwart our progress and we often forget that.

In John 16: 33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble…”

And then there’s the whole lion thing in 1 Peter…

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C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors…”

I probably fall into the first camp of thinking too little of the schemes of Satan in my everyday world. After all, Satan in “Mayberry”? What?? But, daily the giants of envy, pride, bitterness, impatience, and selfishness lurk on the road. So it’s important that I pay attention to what Scripture says about the spiritual warfare I may be ignoring.

Read Joshua 1-4 (It’s so great!). What promises, phrases, and themes do you see repeated (especially in chapter 1) that make a difference in how you might go into your day?

Like a mom reassuring a toddler,  God keeps saying here’s what I’M going to do. You can be strong and courageous BECAUSE I’m with you and I’M the one making your victory possible.

Those are the promises God makes – the things He’s going to do.

But there are two things He asks of Joshua and us also – that we obey Him, and that we honor Him by putting in place reminders of His faithfulness.

Questions

1. What you think of when you consider your part, God’s part, and Satan’s part in the challenges you face daily. Who are you most likely to “blame”?

2.  In what way is your everyday world “enemy territory”? What are the top 2 “giants” that threaten to get you off track?

3. What is one way you can honor God today by acknowledging His faithfulness? What are your “12 stones” (4:21-24)?

4. What is the last part of John 16:33 that I left out?

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4 Ways to Love Someone Well When You Disagree with Them

Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is legal nation-wide. This prompted an emotional response ranging from euphoric celebration to critical vitriol, to fearful-of-saying-the-wrong-thing silence.

This post is not about the ruling at all. Except it is, in that it is about loving one another well even when we disagree. Honestly, I am posting this with fear and trembling and a lot of prayer. Most will say I’m crazy for even trying to address this, but it’s only by leaning in and continuing to dialog that we’ll get anywhere, so here goes…

I can’t possibly in a gazillion years imagine how hard it is to be gay in our society. Even with growing understanding, and respect in the culture, the brutal experiences of rejection and dishonor I have heard about from friends who are gay, give me just a tiny glimpse of their world.

But I am also dismayed that it often seems in order for me not to be labeled a hater or homophobe I need to support every choice a gay person might endorse. It pains me that there are actually people who, in their support of gays, have turned a cold shoulder towards we who disagree with them in some areas of theology. It’s not easy for any of us to respectfully disagree and still love well.

And this is the most important work of my life, of your life – learning how to love others well.design

There is the image of Jesus and the brokenness of sin in all of us. We are a beautiful ugly mess; every one of us in need of redemption. As we love each other we recognize more beauty and more brokenness, and we move towards becoming more of the person God designed us to be.

When we sit down in church (if we go to church), we sit down as gay, straight, bi…We live with an orientation we didn’t choose – not right, not wrong, just real. But regardless of orientation, we have choices and challenges as to how we will live. We sit among gossips and gluttons, those in recovery and rebellion, adulterers and idolators. They are us. Lovely, lost, and relentlessly pursued by our Creator.

Whether we sit in a pew or on a bar stool, I believe we’re all doing our best to find our way.

Do we ever totally agree with those sitting next to us? Probably not.

Can we still love them? Jesus commands it, so honey we’d better be on board with it.

Gay or straight, we are precious children, made in the image of God, deserving of love and respect. But love and respect don’t mean endorsement of choices we disagree on.

There is a lie that says, “To love me you have to agree with me.” 

Love does not equal moral indifference, but it engages from a place of humility and grace. We all “see through a glass darkly”.  You might be wrong. I might be wrong, but we’re doing our best to love God and others in the context of our beliefs.

I want to share 4 ways that I think we can love others well when we disagree, but I do that with the caveat that I am a rookie with so, so much to learn:

1. Move towards, not away. 

Spend time, listen well, sit around a table together. Open your arms to welcome those with whom you differ. Welcome them into your church, your home, your small group, your work.

Distance breeds distrust, but proximity leads to understanding and empathy even when it’s scary or uncomfortable.

We have a rather shy gay friend who lives in our neighborhood. He kind of reminds me of a wary doe in the woods. Over the years we’ve just kept moving towards him gently, trying to love him well and not scare him off. Every single week he sits in the same spot in church, and often brings friends. Recently I asked him to serve communion with me. Oh how I pray he continues to feel our church is a safe and accepting environment for him to experience God’s love.

2. Don’t expect someone with a different world view to make the same choices you do.

Because of our interpretation of Scripture, we don’t perform marriage ceremonies between gay people in our church, but it’s a right that we believe all people should have in our society. Those who don’t hold our interpretation of Scripture, or who aren’t followers of Jesus are absolutely entitled to have the rights and protection of our government, so I support the decision by the Supreme Court this week.

God loves us so much, He respects our freedom. Although He has the power to overrule our choice, he doesn’t.

3. Major on the majors. 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently. (Romans 14:1 MSG)

We have a young man who is gay on our staff part-time. He loves Jesus. He trusts Him as his Lord and Savior. He trusts Him as a sinner like all of us, dependent on grace. This is the main thing. He also has agreed to the same standards of sexual purity we ask of all of our staff. We’ve had hard, explicit conversations with him about his responsibility as a leader. He didn’t choose his orientation, but he has choices regarding his lifestyle.

4. Affirm all you can in every way you can.

Recently, I woke up to find a picture on Facebook of two women friends of ours. It was a picture of their wedding with congratulations. Now, I may wish the Bible said differently, but after a lot of studying, I can’t avoid coming to the conclusion that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman, and sex outside of that is not His best intention for us. BUT, that doesn’t mean I don’t love these friends and want all the joy in the world for them. It doesn’t mean we’re not friends or that I don’t support them, pray for them, and cheer them on. They know what I believe. What they need to be assured of is that I love them. So both John and I wrote messages affirming how beloved they are and that we are praying for their joy.

This is loving in the deep end of the pool – hard stuff for us all, because the issue of gay marriage in particular is so emotionally charged. I’m on board with a goal articulated by a colleague recently – that of trying to stay between the one guardrail of commitment to a theological position on marriage – believing that God’s Word is intended for our flourishing, and the other guardrail of respect and love for all people. Jesus came full of grace and truth. He never compromised either.  He did, though, always lead with grace so I want to too.

May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! (Romans 15:5-7 MSG)

If you post a comment, could you please post on the topic of loving well in the midst of disagreement, and not on your opinion of gay marriage? Thanks!

 

3 Prayer Mistakes I’m Trying to Learn From

Prayer is a mystery to me in so many ways. Like math or the rules of Cricket, or why people like cats is a mystery.

But I keep doing it.

I keep talking to God because He says it’s a good idea and it reminds me of who and whose I am.

As I pray, I think I get it “wrong” a lot, but I picture God smiling patiently, still glad I’m showing up. Like my dad used to do when I tried to build something out of wood alongside him at the basement workbench. He was glad I was down there with him, but I had a lot to learn.

When it comes to prayer, I have a lot to learn.

Here are three mistakes I’ve become aware that I make when I pray:

1. I pray stupid, safe prayers for what I already have. For years I prayed that God would “be with” so and so, before I realized how crazy that is!  I’ve ranted about this before.   I get praying that someone would sense the presence and power of God that is there, but WHY do we pray that God would “be with” someone??? He IS! It’s a done deal! A sure thing! A winning bet!  He says “I will never leave or forsake you.” and “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Are we afraid He needs an easy win so we pray with a “You’ve got this” wink?  

Or I default to praying that God would “bless” so and so. “Bless” is nice, but what exactly is it that we’re talking to God about? Do we really think about it, or just throw it out there as a filler because we can’t come up with anything else?

I wonder if our “small” prayers are an offense to a big God.

2. I focus on the ME instead of THEE. I can obsess about MY specific “prayer request” (read: Amazon order) instead of asking God what He wants. I talk more than listen, demand more than submit, boss more than comply. Somehow I think we’ve gotten the idea that faith means faith in our prayer rather that faith in God. If we grit our teeth and think lovely thoughts like, “MY will be done because I have faith!” that will ensure prayer “success.”

3. I don’t pay enough attention to the many ways God shows up, shows off, and shows grace in response to my prayers. We have been praying for HEALING for my brother David, but if we’re not careful we’ll miss the LIFE that God gives every day. David and his wife Susan model this in authentically being grateful for the ways He shows up in a hug, in the strength to take a step, in life-giving texts of encouragement, in helping hands, in the the counsel from His Word, the resource of doctors, a day without pain. While waiting for the one BIG thing, we miss so many little graces.

Well that’s my list (for now). What are you learning about prayer?

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Road Trip – Provision

Good Morning! Today’s post is a little different…A lot of questions for YOU to dig into. I’d really encourage you to give this some time and share your insights in the comments! 

Adventure starts where plans end.-3

When my husband John and I travel our strategy is to always pack everything in a carry-on. No matter how long we’re going to be gone.  We had experiences with lost luggage early in our travels that prompted this.

For John, 10 days in Africa washing out one set of clothing was enough motivation for a lifetime. When you “go” you want at least the illusion of being in control and prepared for anything.

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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were lacking what you needed? Not just a toothbrush, but courage, or wisdom, or resources…?

Moses didn’t live with the illusion that he was adequate at all.

Exodus 3:9-14 “The Israelite cry for help has come to me, and I’ve seen for myself how cruelly they’re being treated by the Egyptians. It’s time for you to go back: I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the People of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

“I’ll be with you,” God said. “And this will be the proof that I am the one who sent you: When you have brought my people out of Egypt, you will worship God right here at this very mountain.”

Then Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I-AM-WHO-I-AM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘I-AM sent me to you.’”…

4:1-5 Moses objected, “They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’”

So God said, “What’s that in your hand?”

“A staff.”

“Throw it on the ground.” He threw it. It became a snake; Moses jumped back—fast!

God said to Moses, “Reach out and grab it by the tail.” He reached out and grabbed it—and he was holding his staff again. “That’s so they will trust that God appeared to you, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”…

10-11 Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.”

God said, “And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn’t it I, God? So, get going. I’ll be right there with you—with your mouth! I’ll be right there to teach you what to say.”

Moses’ story is a big one (Skim the first 20 chapters of Exodus).

He lacks the right words.

He lacks the power to escape Pharaoh’s grip.

He lacks food and water for the thousands of Israelites he’s leading.

He lacks a GPS.

He lacks wisdom to manage leadership challenges.

He lacks companionship.

He lacks, but God provides.

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9

As I read this, here are a few of the things I notice about Moses’ “road trip” out of Egypt and to the Promised Land:

  • Who God calls, He equips.
  • God doesn’t ask if we’re capable, but if we’re willing. Provision awaits obedience.
  • God takes our “not enough” and makes it “more than enough.”
  • Great circumstances on a road trip don’t necessarily mean we’re in God’s will. Difficult circumstances don’t necessarily mean we’re not.
  • It’s in times of heaviest demand that we discover God’s deepest supply. Sometimes we need to be put in situations that demand more than we can bear so we can experience that God’s supply is more than enough.

I can observe all that stuff in Moses’ story, but I really need to work to apply it in my life. I like the idea of being over-prepared and not forced to depend on Someone other than myself! Like Herbie the dentist elf and Rudolph, I want to be IN-DE-PEN-DANT. But God has other plans.

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Questions for us today:

Read Exodus 3 and 4:1-17

  1. Describe the setting in 3:1-3
  2. In 3:4, God calls Moses by name. What does this tell Moses about God?
  3. What range of emotion might Moses have had in this encounter with God?
  4. In what situations do you feel inadequate to do what God commands or desires?
  5. What are all the “God said’s” in 3:9-14? What do they say about God’s character? How do they encourage you?
  6. In verse 10 Moses claims he lacks the gifts to serve God effectively. How does his view of himself differ from God’s perspective?
  7. If God were to identify Himself as “I AM ________” how would He fill in the blank for you?
  8. What are some ways God has provided you with what you need to face today’s challenges?

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14

One Thing to do in August we Promise You Won’t Regret

John and I really don’t endorse many things. We don’t endorse political parties or candidates. We don’t don’t recommend realtors we know, and rarely endorse movies. We’re kind of like Switzerland.

But there is one event over the years that we have enthusiastically, unequivocally endorsed and guaranteed as a “sure thing”. We have said, “If you do this, we pinky swear promise you won’t regret it.” (Gulp.)

Every year we have invited folks from our church to attend the Global Leadership Summit  at Willow Creek Church in Barrington, Illinois. And we have promised them that it will be well worth the sacrifice of time and money it will take to make it happen. That’s a big promise, but we have never regretted it, and neither have those who come with us.

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Each year, Bill Hybels, along with world-class leaders from around the globe, speak on teamwork, vision, significance, conflict, motivation and more. We take notes like crazy, but more importantly, we gather to process and contextualize.

This isn’t just for church leaders. It is for business people, soccer coaches, soccer moms, and influencers in every environment. We have friends in business who bring their whole management teams.

The investment in this time of equipping, inspiration, worship, and fellowship has paid off big time for our church.

It has changed our vocabulary. “Umbrella of grace”, getting from “here to there”, “crucial conversations”, and “true north” are part of our shared leadership language.

It has changed our sense of ownership. When we process as a group, we don’t ask, “What should John do?”, but “What can we do in partnership with God to be more effective kingdom-bringers at CPC and wherever we are?” We all become share-holders in kingdom vision, not just the senior pastor.

It has changed our yearly rhythm. Each summer we look forward to this time, knowing we will get a re-charge that will energize us for the upcoming year.

Here’s the thing…This year, August 6-7, for the first time ever, we’re not taking folks down to the GLS. Instead, we’re going to be a satellite host church. If you are in the Twin Cities, this is your chance, for a smaller time and money investment, to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

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Our church site, CPC, is located at 70th and 100 in Edina, Minnesota. Sign up now! Or if you live elsewhere around the world, you can find a satellite site near you.

You won’t regret it. I guarantee.

For those of you who have attended the GLS, what have been some of your “take aways”?

5 Ways to “Ruin” Your Pinterest Party

Last weekend I hosted a little baby shower brunch for one of my close friends and our small group.

My friend is very special so I wanted our celebration to be special. You know, to have those extra meaningful touches that make people feel cared for.

I love baking. I love creating. And I love gathering people in our home around the table. I say this because this kind of thing is not stressful for me. It’s life-giving. It’s just the way God wired me. But it may not be for you. What I’m saying is, that doesn’t matter as far as this post is concerned. Keep reading. Continue reading

Leaving Baggage Behind

My younger brother, David, is an amazing man of faith, humor, kindness, and courage.  Many of you know he has been on a grueling road trip.   As I write this, David has been admitted to M.D. Anderson in Houston. His road is one of ups and downs, medication, and fatigue. Recently, through the haze of pain, he bravely tried to reflect on last week’s post and share some personal thoughts. Here are his words:

Let me first start by saying I love to travel.  Planes, trains and automobiles are my thing.  I’ll bump off the interstate and take a US highway just to roll down the window, smell the alfalfa fields, and look for grain elevators every 6 miles like clockwork.

I know there isn’t much to like about air travel but every time I see the Arrival and Departure signs at an airport my heart skips a beat and I recall the first time I flew as a 12 year old on a Delta Airlines Super DC 8 stretch.

And don’t get me started on trains as there is NOTHING better than a private bedroom with a large picture window and a good book while watching the American west from one of Amtrak’s western long hauls.

They all connote road trips for me and they certainly are a far cry from Abram packing up his tents, livestock and family and putting one foot in front of the other on the way to where?  The Promised Land? With no return ticket?

Monday’s post about Abram, his idols, and his journey struck a chord with me.  You see, I’m on a journey of sorts myself, and like Abram, it’s not one I willingly signed up for.  In January I was diagnosed with stage IV Melanoma cancer.

For those of you who travel a lot, I’m sure you’ve become expert packers.  You know which clothing you can get multiple wears out of. Your carry-on is packed with extra charging chords, toiletries ready in one clear quart plastic bag, and the indispensable People magazine.  You are efficient and have exactly the right amount of “stuff”.

There are those of us, however, who arrive back home only to find six shirts never worn, untouched work out clothes,  and a pair of  Topsider deck shoes and Hawaiian  shirt because “Weren’t we supposed to have a Cruise Night Party?”

Just like Abram, I started my journey with everything I had and yet God wanted me to pare down a few things.  While the word “idol” sounds so ancient, there were things I worshipped that were excess baggage – mainly ego, pride and control. Continue reading

Why I Love Instagram

I’m pretty cynical about social media these days. Facebook and Twitter, I’ll throw you a bone now and then, but you really make me tired.  But Instagram??? LOVE!*

I love Instagram because…

  • It helps me be pay attention to God’s everyday graces.
  • It is positive, and uplifting. No one is bashing anyone on Instagram.
  • It is a creative outlet. It gives space to communicate what we’re making, the environments that are moving us, and the relationships we value.
  • It’s visual and I’m visual.

For me, Twitter is mostly information sharing. Facebook is where I post links to the blog and try to affirm others, but Instagram feels like a smaller, more personal, more inspiring world.

I’m really picky about who/what I follow on Instagram. If you put up all pictures of your kids, friends, or family, I figure I’ll see them on Facebook.

But if you want some suggestions of feeds l like, check these out:

1. benjaminhole – the ebb and flow of farming life on the Isle of Purbeck, England

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2. wranglertoday – the Today Show’s puppy with a purpose. These pictures chronicle Wrangler’s journey to becoming a guide dog.

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3. earthpix – amazing pictures of places, people, animals, and nature

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4. thedailyst – The Daily Saint – “By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.” These are pictures of people doing random acts of kindness.

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5. bobgoff – uplifting words and pictures from the indomitable Bob Goff, author of Love Does.

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6. usinterior – beautiful pictures from state and national parks

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What Instagram feeds do YOU like that I should check out??

*If ANY form of social media feels like too much to you and you just don’t want to go there, I get it! Good for you if this is a healthy boundary…one thing you want to say “no” to.

Road Trip – Leaving

Adventure starts where plans end.-3

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…Genesis 12:1-5

Every year, the night before we left on vacation, we got the pep talk from Dad. “Ok guys, I want everyone up early so we can get on the road by 6:30 and beat the traffic!”

Mom would make her magic mixture of Grape HiC and Lemonade in a big jug that sat at her feet in the front passenger seat. She’d pack Bugles for snacking and peanut butter and egg salad sandwiches for lunch at a roadside rest stop. (Don’t mock. Our family had our things, your family has yours).

But no matter how organized we were, or how adamant Dad was, it was always hard to actually LEAVE. Someone would forget a crucial stuffed animal, or have to go to the bathroom at the last minute, but it was nothing compared to what I imagine Abraham experienced.  He was leaving everything he knew. Everything that was comfortable. For some mystery destination. (What if it turned out to be MINOT?)  And did you see that he was 75 years old???!

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8-9)

How hard is leaving for any of us? Continue reading

8 Valuable Choices I Learned From Mentor Moms

When my kids were tinies I realized quickly that I needed all the help I could get. I was hungry for ANY lifeline when I was drowning in a sea of uncertainty about ALL OF THE PARENTING THINGS. Fortunately I had some wise, godly moms who were a season, or two or three ahead of me and shared some valuable lessons. IMG_0175 Coke Evans, a mentor in the 80’s :)

Here are 8 choices they taught me to make: Continue reading

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