Monday, November 21, 2011

Taylorjourney: Why We Homeschool

     Years ago, I found myself sitting across from my young son in a restaurant, faced with a dilemma.  You see, I had always promised myself that I would fight for my children no matter the cost, and yet I distinctly remember watching the shadows of fear and disappointment cast across his little face as he described yet another miserable day at school.  Trying to swallow the lump in my throat, I nodded my head and squeezed Tim's hand in a silent acknowledgement of what we'd come to accept as normal:  Our oldest child hated school, and apparently school returned the favor.
      Now, I'm not saying that the struggles we were dealing with are common to other parents.  As a matter of fact, it seems as though we were getting it from all sides.  Our son was ten years old at the time and was consistently coming home from school with headaches and stories that would make a saint want to try her hand in a boxing ring.  We live in a small community with a K-12 school system and because of that, our son walked the halls with juniors and seniors that had mouths like sailors and the character, apparently, of catfish.  Being asked to explain detailed sexual terms by your ten year old pales only in comparison to trying to explain why a 17 year old would tear up your homework, steal your textbook or threaten to kill your dog.  After nearly two years of jumping through hoops at the school to try to handle the "bullying" situation to no avail, we were ready to start picking fights with parents in an attempt to curb the abuse, but then God started opening our eyes to a completely different can of worms.
      This kid of mine who seemed to garner the attention of every kid with a perverse sense of humor was also a fantastic student.  When he started school, he absolutely loved to learn and it showed.  He would often finish assignments while the teacher was still giving instructions to the class.  He would grow bored in science and history and read ahead or study the parts of the texts that the classes would skip over.  He, at ten, was reading like a champ and had earned himself a reading level that allowed him to snag books from a different shelf in the library than his classmates.  You would think that what I'm telling you would be wonderful news, but sadly, in the school system, it spelled disaster.   Very few teachers had any patience for his desire to move at a different pace than his peers because it simply didn't fit into a public school schedule, or scope and sequence, to be more exact.  Instead of being encouraged for moving ahead, he was called out in front of the class and even written up on more than one occasion.  My young learner quickly realized that being good at what you do at school meant sneers and visits to the principal's office.  It was a very frustrating consequence of the 'system' side of education, but even at its worst, it didn't touch the issues we ran into when it came to his ability to read on a different level than his classmates.

     It's easy to assume that having a child who loves to read and does it well would be a huge benefit to his schooling, but doing so will only set you up for disappointment, and quite frankly, disgust.  Imagine my horror when my kid brought me a newly finished novel and asked me to clarify the ending for him, only to read and realize that my then nine year old had followed the story of a young orphan who trekked across the country and found himself unknowingly in the care of an older homosexual with questionable motives?  Well, I was furious.  I accompanied my son and that book to the school the next day, sure that the book in question had found its way to his hands by mistake, only to find out that I was being unreasonable.  Apparently, my son's reading level dictated that such material would be made available to his young eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.  As a matter of fact, that book turned out to be a slight blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things as I repeatedly approached teacher, librarian, principal and BOE with reading material that would cause grown ups to blush and squirm, only to be made feel like my finding issue with it in the first place apparently meant I was raising my son wrong.  It was a frustrating time, to say the least, but in the absence of any real solution to the problem, we ended up not participating in the state-wide reading program that sent my son to the library each week.  He went from winning awards to earning zeros and that was as close to compromise as we could get.

      Another thing that really turned my stomach happened at one of our famous teacher/parent meetings just a few weeks before I pulled the plug.  We were a few months into the 5th grade and I found myself sitting at a short table with his three teachers, one of which being his reading teacher.  We were discussing, as always, the problems with a kid who gets bored with classwork and how 'disrespectful' it is for a ten year old to begin an assignment before a teacher gives instructions, or even worse, to do assignments that the teacher hasn't even assigned.  I was frustrated to tears with that particular conversation, only to be questioned next, by his reading teacher, who was profoundly disappointed that my kid wasn't participating in the 'supplemental reading program.'  After retelling my woes about the experiences we'd tucked under our belts, this teacher looked confused for a moment before excusing herself and leaving the room.  After a few minutes, she returned and confessed that she didn't realize my son could read on a higher level than his class and had assumed, for months, that he was defiant and lazy. After a few questions and reminders on my part, I realized this woman wasn't just a teacher, she was his reading teacher and yet she could tell me nothing of his ability to read, only that he didn't "conform" to her version of a "normal" ten year-old. Sadly, I can't even tell you that this situation was the result of an apathetic teacher.  She cared, bless her heart-she just didn't have time to concentrate attention on any one student, therefore, a student who performed above grade level was essentially ignored, unless they caused the problems my child caused.  It was explained to me that the only students who actually get one-on-one time are the students that fall below the average.   It occurred to me right then and there that I had placed my child's academic future into the hands of people who couldn't afford (because they don't have the time) to really care about his future beyond their classroom.  It was a gut wrenching bump in the road that led us to that seemingly dreadful conversation five years ago.

    So, I was sitting at this restaurant, watching my family enjoy homemade salsa and chips while I tried to ignore the dance that was going on in my gut.  Across the table from me was a kid that God trusted me with.  I was supposed to protect him and fight for him.  He was my responsibility and his life wouldn't be graded with a report card that begged for my signature.   It would be graded by his ability to show character when nobody else could, to succeed even it was looked poorly upon, to go the distance, even if it meant going alone.  I was setting my kid up for failure. And as we bowed our heads to thank God for the simple meal, I once again whispered, "God, if you'll just show me what to do, I'll do it.  Show me how to rescue my kid from what seems to be changing who he is."  And it hit me:  God had given me a way, I had just, until that moment, said "no" to it.   We said "Amen," and I casually looked at my son and said, "You can quit worrying about school, son.  You won't be going back."
     Did I have a job to quit?  You betcha'.
     Did I have a clue what I was getting myself into?  Not a chance.
     Was it to be a huge sacrifice?  Absolutely.
     After half a decade of being at home with my kids, would I do it again?  A million times over.

So, there is a picture of my journey from "real" school to homeschool.  It's been the wildest, craziest, hardest and most beautiful ride so far and I'm looking forward to the next leg in the journey.  We're not perfect, but my kids love school.  Better than that, when they talk of their futures, they don't center around fortunes or travels or lottery tickets.  Instead, their stories of being grown revolve around picnics, dinner tables, food fights and making memories.  My kids don't "fit."  They would stick out in a crowd.  In any given situation, they're going to look for "another" way to get something done.  They're a little unique.  And that's just fine by me!

     I decided to jot down this story because I'm asked to explain it on a weekly basis. I plan to write more in the near future about our homeschooling journey.  If you have specific questions, please send them my way.  I don't, for a second, believe that homeschooling is the right choice for every family, but if God is leading you in that direction, I'd love to help! 


Thursday, July 07, 2011

Miles to Go Before I Sleep...

"Whoever asks you to go one mile, go with him two."  ~Matthew 5:41

Many of you know that I am rising to the 90 Day Bible Challenge for the second time this year.  I met that challenge earlier this year and my heart was astounded at all I was able to absorb in such a short time.  I felt as though I'd crawled up in the lap of my Father and asked Him to tell me stories.  It was an amazing time and if I live a hundred more years, I don't think I'll ever be able to settle for a few verses a week.  On Monday, I will open my Bible to Genesis and  begin anew... But that's not all I'll be doing.

First, I have a dismal confession to make.  It's not one I like sharing.  Actually, I believe, until this moment, I've only shared it with two people.  When I finished the last Bible Challenge, I felt so incredibly close to God that I truly felt as though I could hear Him breathe.  My faith was stronger than it had ever been.  So was my prayer life.  I know exactly how human I am and I feared that after the challenge was over, that the disappointment in being finished would somehow cause me to 'fizzle-out.'  During my prayer time, I felt like the Lord was impressing a fast on my heart, and I promised to finish my 90 Day Bible challenge with a 90 Day fast of some sort.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you how that fast went, because I simply didn't do it.  I caved.  I justified.  And I fizzled.

So, I've been asking God to show me how to keep my promises, how to fight for my prayer life and how to sow spiritually healthy habits.  I believe He has answered me in three very different, very difficult ways.

#1:  I am going to dive into the 90 Day Bible Challenge with my heart wide open.  I'm going to give Him all I have.  I'm going to study to show myself approved and spend three months writing His Words on my heart.

#2:  I am going to fast something for said 90 Days.  (I know you're not supposed to advertise this, but we're on a journey of vulnerable obedience, here.  I won't share the details, and I won't twist my face and pout about it- still, there's an element of making the promise real by saying it out loud.)

#3:  And this is the purpose of this blog...  I'm challenging myself to walk two miles a day during my 90 Day Challenge.  I love the story behind the Matthew Chapter 5 verses about carrying a soldier's pack two miles if he asks you to carry it one.  I love that we were designed to be "more than expected" people.  I also love how my daily prayer walks used to define my days.  I don't even remember why I quit them, but I did.  Gone are the days when I would start my day with a brisk walk and a long talk with my Father.  A mere twenty minute walk could easily make the difference in a day, a week, a project or a life.  I'm not sure why I allowed myself to inch away from my Father in my prayer life, but I did.  And no amount of empty promises will get it back, so I'm swapping my words for verbs.  I'm challenging myself to walk, not one mile with my Father each day, but two.  180 miles in 90 days.

Three simple promises from one simple girl who wants her life to be marked, not by what I go through, but by Who lives in me.

May these 90 Days fashion me into a sweeter, more faithful daughter whose heart is set on doing her Father's bidding.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Passenger Seat: Classical Ride

"Young folks these days..."

Allow me to introduce you to one of the good guys.  I was honored to get a guest gig on the blog of someone that I respect and adore.   Stop by and spend a few minutes with a young man that will make you want to be a deeper, more authentic and cooler person.  Rise to his occasion and get to know a 'kid' who just might renew your faith in a God who still moves.

The Classical Ride

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fighting Naked

As much as I hold a grudge against the legacy she left, there are certain aspects of Eve's character that I find captivating.  I love that she was so completely human; even in her pettiness and manipulation, she reminds me of myself. I'm equally amazed that she had the undivided attention of both God and man and still whispered into history that it wasn't enough for her. Only a woman could absolutely have it all and yet wreck it trying to feel even better about herself.  I'm strangely comforted by the fact that she didn't have a single woman to compare herself to, and yet she still had self-esteem issues-enough so that she fell for Satan's ego-boosting schemes.  I also find it absolutely fascinating that the very complex woman walked naked, but unashamed.  And as much as I love to camp out in Genesis and apply Eve's old truths to my life, I always tend to get stuck on the fact that while she didn't have a thread on her body, she also didn't have a care in the world.  Being naked and unashamed is such a foreign concept for me that I find Daniel, Jonah, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego far more believable than a naked woman without shame.

I happen to know that I'm not the only person to ever wake up in the middle of the night clutching the bedsheets about my throat saying, "It was only a dream, Sue.  You weren't really at school (or church, or the airport, or the county fair) naked." As a matter of fact, every time I share that horrible dream with someone, I'm always entertained with stories of the similar dreams of my peers.  I have a friend who dreamed that they showed up to a medical conference without a stitch of clothing.  I have another who told me about a nightmare which ended shortly after they realized they were being welcomed as the keynote speaker onto a grand stage, only to look down and realize that not only were they naked, but the miracle cream they'd thrown a hundred bucks at was a complete waste of money.  And even if we don't actually dream about showing up to the important parts of our life without our clothing, we still fear being stripped down to the naked truth in public.  For years, I've assumed that Eve's lack of shame in her nakedness was attributed to her lack of sin, and for the most part, I still do.  But lately, as I pray and think about ways to teach the young folks in my life how to fight the raging battles for their hearts and souls, Eve's nakedness has come to mean a bit more to me.

Eve, for all of her complexities and issues, did exactly what I'm praying the people I love choose not to do;  SHE FOUGHT NAKED.  She really did.  Eve showed up to war without her britches on.  And it wasn't just her pants she forgot, she stood on the front line of the world's first war without a thread of clothing to cover her flesh.  SHE WAS NAKED, alright.  And in a picture that would last for all eternity, Eve attempted to do battle with the evil one with absolutely NOTHING separating her FLESH from her ENEMY. 

Bear with me, here.  I know I'm speaking in pictures now, but try to see it with me.  Imagine that her physical nakedness was a symbolic picture of our spiritual nakedness.  Imagine that the portrait in our minds of a soft, chunky Eve with an apple in the beautiful garden is actually our greatest motivation to put our clothes on before we attempt to do our daily business with an evil one lurking about. I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking that the idea of someone doing life without their clothes on is made-for-reality-tv-madness.  You're thinking that I must be the only one on the planet who would even dream of going about my ordinary day with no regard to the fact that every part of my being is vulnerable and exposed.  No, you say, folks simply don't try to do life naked.  But, I say we do.  As a matter of fact, I say it's very possible that even though YOU are in the midst of a destiny-changing battle at this very moment, you're doing so without an inch of fabric separating you from the enemy who desires your demise.  I wonder how many of us are mothers engaged in a battle for the souls of our children without our clothes on.  I worry that some of us are fathers, camped out in the middle of a war for our families and instead of being able to fight the good fight, we're distracted by the nagging sense that we're not prepared for the fight at all, while oblivious to the fact that we left our wardrobe at home. 

Think about it, friends.  God told us to cover ourselves before we do battle with the one who hates us.  He didn't just say, "Suit up," and leave it at that.  He gave us detailed instructions about what we should wear.  He told us what to protect.  He shared with us exactly what to don and how and why, but at the end of the day, the moral to all of His instruction and advice sounded a lot like this:

Don't fight naked.

God wouldn't say that, you say?  Well, let me remind you what you probably taught in Sunday school last month...

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

You see?  God told us a truth that Eve didn't understand.  With His Word and His Wisdom, he showed us that we'll never win a battle that we try to fight without our clothes on.  In telling us how to WIN A SPIRITUAL BATTLE, He also very clearly told us HOW TO LOSE.  The quickest way to lose a battle with your enemy is to show up for war donning only your flesh, talents, abilities and resources.  If you care to win in any way that counts in this life, you've got to swallow the truth that you'll never do it alone-and you'll certainly never do it naked.  And the scariest part?  You're in the thick of war this very instant- whether you realize it or not.  That means that if you forgot a few important articles of clothing THIS MORNING, you are losing a battle THIS AFTERNOON.  It could be a battle for your ministry, your purpose or your future.  It could be a battle for your talents, your time or your resources.  It could very well be a battle for your integrity, your self-esteem, your character, or even your family or your children. The fact that we can't sense the battle should only serve as a great motivation to go and look in the mirror.

So, wake up and take a gander at yourself.  Are you naked?  Are you vulnerable?  Are you exposed?  Have you followed your Father's advice today?  Did you put Him on this morning?  Are your pants being held securely in place by the belt of truth?  Is your well spring of life being protected by His righteousness?  Is your ministry covered with the Gospel of Peace?  Are you holding a shield of wide-awake faith?  Is your mind covered with a helmet that constantly reminds your thoughts of your Salvation?  And is your hand on the handle of the Sword that finds its very power in the vowels, consonants and punctuations found between the covers of your Bible?  Are you, in fact, able to stand your ground against the one who wants to steal your joy, kill your heart and destroy your future?  Or, are you instead, standing naked and vulnerable in the face of a very crafty enemy?

We weren't meant to lose, friends.  I mean that.  We simply weren't meant to watch our marriages fail.  We were never supposed to break the hearts of our children.  We weren't made to walk away from our Father, medicate ourselves with false hope, spend our hours dancing with vain imaginations.  We weren't designed to swallow the guilt we've bought, lie the lies we tell or try to sleep without the character we've sold.  We simply weren't made to lose...

And we weren't made to fight naked.

For the love of God people, put your clothes on!

(And if you don't know how, message me at or look me up on facebook.  I'd love to help!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Get up!

I was reading over a prayer list today and smiled about a young Mom who wants her friends to pray for a surgery her son is having tomorrow.  It took me back in time about a decade and a half to the morning I drove my infant son to the hospital to have tubes surgically placed in his ears.  My healthy son was having the most performed medical procedure known to pediatric medicine and yet, driving to that hospital before sunrise that morning, I felt like no other Mom had ever endured such concern.  I'm a lot older and a little wiser now, but it's obvious that the fears that fluttered throughout my heart that day are both timeless and universal.  There is something inherently terrifying about watching a loved-one roll away into an operating room.
I've never really put much thought to what we're actually afraid of until a few recent health scares with my Mom.  You see, my Mom doesn't have to guess at what to be afraid of- she knows what's really at risk when a patient holds that mask to their mouth and count backwards.  She's been a decorated nurse in a high-stress medical environment since I was just a toddler.  She's memorized the risks, knows the statistics and understands the factors involved in the simple and not-so-simple operations that take place from day to day in the medical community.  And with all of her lofty knowledge and studies and experience, do you know what my Mom decided was the most dangerous part of an operation when she found herself on the bed instead of manning the controls beside it?   
It wasn't the exploratory aspect of surgery that frightened her.  It wasn't even the fact that she was putting her God given life into man's fallible hands.  She wasn't even concerned about the risk of some ugly infection or blood loss or any of the crazy scenarios I could dream up if you gave me enough time.  Nope, my mom, the one who's been bedside for literally thousands of surgeries in her career, decided that what TERRIFIED her about an operation was the fact that she would be put to sleep.
In pondering my Mom's ordeal from a few months ago and praying for my friend's son, a realization hit me that makes all of the fear and prayers make sense:
We're never closer to death than when we are in a deep, uncontrollable sleep.

  I don't know that there's any medical proof to what I'm saying.  I'm only saying that what caused me to be so deathly afraid for my infant son was that I was terrified that they would put him under anesthesia and that he would never wake up.   I don't know for sure, but I believe if you asked my friend what scared her most about her son's surgery, that she would shudder as she communicated how wrong it felt to know that a doctor would soon cause such a deep, uncontrollable sleep to overtake her son that he wouldn't be able to inhale a breath on his own volition.  And I know that for my Mother, anesthesia was, at least in her mind for that moment, the enemy of her very life.
Now, all this thinking makes me ponder questions of a slightly different variety.

If we're so sure that being put to sleep is actually being put close to death, then why are we so content to pretend to live our lives when we're really under the anesthesia of our worst enemy?
Why so much fear and anxiety when we think our physical lives might be in danger, but a general apathy when our spiritual lives are?
Why do we resist death in absolutely every aspect except when that death threatens the Life within us that matters most? 

Soak in some of the following Scriptures and wonder with me if we're terrified of all the wrong things.

For this reason it says,
         “Awake, sleeper,
         And arise from the dead,
         And Christ will shine on you.”
      Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.

Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you wine-drinkers! All the grapes are ruined, and all your sweet wine is gone.

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

And finally, 

Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don't wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

Can't you see it?  We were right to be afraid of that deep, dead-to-the-world sleep.  We were right to think that you can't get that close to death without being in danger.  We were wise to resist that artificial, anti-life slumber that only comes at the hand of someone else.  Our fears were founded! They were just misguided.  It's not the medical kind of anesthesia that should leave us shaking in our boots, it's the spiritual kind!  We shouldn't shake in terror when a highly qualified and educated professional administers a medical sleep that will numb our senses to what's going on in our bodies. We should shake in terror when the enemy of our hearts attempts to administer a spiritual sleep that numbs our souls to the living, breathing battles that rage all around us.  We don't need to fight against the doctor who's trying to save our physical lives.  What we need to be doing is fight against the enemy who is trying to steal, kill and destroy our very souls.

 SOUND THE ALARM!  Shake yourself from your slumber and then fight the good fight.  Cover your family in prayer.  Stuff your heart with the Word of God.  Slap on the armor you thought you'd misplaced.  Pull out the sword you told yourself you weren't worthy to hold.  GET UP! Crawl out of bed. Stretch those forgotten muscles.  Take a deep breath and PURPOSE to live your LIFE, not sleep through it.  And the minute you're conscious enough to wipe the sleep from your eyes,  go snatch someone you love out of their proverbial bed. WAKE UP!  Wake me up!  Don't let me sleep while souls slip away. Don't let me slumber while my family crumbles.  Don't you dare let me nap while I forfeit the life Jesus came to grant me! 

Be alert, for your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour!  

Tell me, friends, what is the opposite of 'alert?'  Well, obviously, it's SLEEP!  And what does sleep look like in terms of my soul?  Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you from the depths of my heart what spiritual sleep looks like in my life.

If I, no matter how excellent my excuses sound, am not daily digesting sizable chunks of God's Word, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life.

If I, no matter what I say I'm doing instead, am not fighting, praying and paying to see that the Gospel gets to the ends of the earth, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life.

If I, no matter what my mouth says, am not doing what God says I should do, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life.

If I, no matter how politically correct it is to do otherwise, am not confessing to my close friends where I'm struggling against God's Word, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life.

If I, no matter how very busy my calendar becomes, can hear stories of failed marriages, broken families, hungry orphans and lonely widows without being moved beyond emotional tears and into physical action, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life.

And if I, no matter how pretty words sound coming out of my mouth, am not living a life that is defined by an intense love for others, then I am sleeping through my spiritual life. 

So, friends, will you heed my own call to consciousness?  Will you love me enough to scream to me when I slumber?  Let's not continue to fear a synthetic sleep that aids our bodies while we revel in a spiritual sleep that forfeits our Life.  Take a deep breath.  Pour a cup of coffee.  Call a friend and spill your guts.  The sleep is over.  Let's LIVE!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If you care to know...

After having the incredible blessing of spending a few sweet days with some of the best friends I'll ever have, I wanted to take the opportunity to share why I love who they are, what they do and where they come from.

Viorel and Delia Cruceru live in Southern Romania where they work daily to share the Gospel of Jesus to a country scarred by decades of darkness and deceit.  Facing opposition at every turn, they spend their time, money and life offering the Hope of Jesus to people who, without people like them, will spend their lives believing that they lack a Redeemer that allows them to have a relationship with their God.  Because of people like Viorel and Delia, there is a small group of "Repenters" in Southern Romania that no longer have to pay and hope for forgiveness, trust a man to be their bridge to God, or live in hopeless darkness.  Yes, the Cruceru family has made it their purpose to share Christ with the nations, but they didn't stop there.

Viorel pastors a church in Slatina, Romania.  What we once called Grace Baptist Church, we now jokingly refer to as Sardines Baptist Church because while the sanctuary of the building is small, around 125 people squeeze themselves in there on Sundays to pray, sing and study God's Word.  When Viorel first started pastoring, he knew that he wanted to 'be about' the Word of God so now, after years of leading congregations, he's still centered on his first love:  The Scriptures.  Members of Grace (Sardines) Baptist Church know that their hope rests in God and that truth rests in the Bible.  As a matter of fact, Viorel and Delia have practically spent their adult lives teaching people what the Bible says, but they didn't stop there.
The Cruceru family knows that if you're going to give someone the best chance at a life of Grace, you need to reach them when they're young.  They also know that if you're going to minister to a person, you have to minister to the whole person.  For these reasons, they support and oversee an orphanage near their home that houses teenagers in need.  Whether these teenagers were put out on the streets for professing a faith in Christ or they came to the orphanage because high school wasn't offered in their village, they get the great opportunity to live in Grace.  Teens who make their home here are taught the Word, offered a high school education, given a faith family and trained in life skills, all while basking in the love and truth of God.  I, personally, have met some of my favorite people on the planet within these walls and am so glad that this House of Grace is available for them.  Yes, the Crucerus have made many sacrifices to make sure that the orphanage continues to help teenagers, but they didn't stop there. 

  Much unlike Northern Romania, poverty is the norm in the Southern parts of the country.  While Slatina is a city comparable to parts of Birmingham, it is surrounded by villages that would seem a century or so behind the times to most of us.  Working small pieces of land to provide for their families, villagers live with very few of the amenities and blessings that we take for granted.  Without public transportation, internet, libraries, or high schools, it would seem that those born into the villages are destined for hardship, but thanks to mission-minded churches like Grace Baptist, Hope and resources have been made available to these beautiful villages.  Just a few of the examples I've witnessed throughout the last decade include the only Christian kindergarten in the county, an amazing young woman blessed with a high school education and medical clinics that offer healing hands and precious prayers to hundreds of people who couldn't afford to pay for services.  Viorel and Delia have walked these streets, loving and helping these people, but they didn't stop there.
Apparently, spending their lives and hearts on the Romanian people isn't enough for Viorel and Delia because just last week, they sat in my living room and poured life and truth into my children and friends.  Our time together, as always, was filled with laughter, tears (on my part, of course), Scripture, wisdom, hugs and encouragement.  They shared their hearts with my friends and shared their dreams with my children.  They took time and explained Scripture to Chandler and sang songs (in Romanian and English) with Bre Elise and Connor.  They prayed with and for us and made themselves at home in our home, blessing us beyond measure.  To be sure, they are some of the best friends Tim and I will ever have and they mean the world to us.  They have been faithful to pray for our marriage, our children and our ministry, but they won't stop there.

They will keep the faith and let God finish what He started when He called them. A legacy is already growing in their midst as Luiza, Rebecca and Beni (one of our heroes) stand up to continue what Viorel and Delia started. Souls are being saved in Romania.  The saved are being taught deeply the Word of God.  Strongholds are being demolished.  Families are being redeemed.  Examples are being made.  They are hard pressed on every side, my friends.  There isn't a single area of their ministry that hasn't, at least to some degree, been postponed due to financial hardship.  The government and opposing religion look down on them daily. They are a pitiful minority in a corrupt country. They are 365-day-a-year-missionaries and because their 'mission' is worthy, by definition, it can't be easy.  No, a life sold out to the Gospel isn't necessarily an easy life, but I can tell by the sparkle in Viorel's eyes and the love in Delia's voice that it's a good life, indeed. 

So, what's the moral of this beautiful story?  Pray for my friends.  Pray for the work they do.  Pray for their children and grandchildren and the ministries represented by them all.  Pray for darkness to flee.  Pray that people fall in love with missions and that they would share their treasure for the cause of Christ.  Pray for wisdom and favor for my friends as they live the life I wonder wasn't made for each one of us. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Because" (Blogging Through the Gospel guest blog)

The reading for Thursday is Luke Chapter 22 .


Luke 22:2
The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Him to death, because they were afraid of the people.


The actions of the priests and scribes had very little to do with their own convictions. Instead, they made some history altering decisions based on the perception of other people. The word “because” in this verse is very telling because it shows the motivation behind their actions. I wonder how many times we would act differently if we were to investigate the “because” before we made our choices or decisions.


It all comes back to the heart. Scripture implores us to guard our hearts above all else, and for very good reason. These priests and scribes weren’t people bent on evil, mind you. They had devoted their entire lives to teaching the stories about their Creator and yet when they came face to face with the Answer to every story they’d memorized, they ran from the truth, closed their hearts to their own Redemption and ultimately manipulated the death of our Savior. And why? Because they hated Him? No. Because they disagreed with his philosophy? No. Because they feared He wouldn’t do justice to their precious Scriptures? No. They hated Him “because” they were afraid of the people.
We wouldn’t do that, right? You and I don’t have to worry about betraying Christ, grieving the Holy Spirit or walking away from God’s will out of peer pressure, do we?
I say we do.
I say this little nugget of Scripture was tucked in Luke 22 just for us. Perhaps there’s a co-worker or family member that desperately needs to hear  God’s will for their lives and yet we hold back because we’re afraid. Maybe we’ve been encouraged to wear a certain style of clothing that we’re sure isn’t God honoring, but we don’t say “no” because we’re afraid. Maybe we’re single and have allowed ourselves to fall hopelessly in love with a young man who doesn’t love the Lord and we know we should walk away, but we’re afraid. Or maybe, and most likely, we’re walking aimlessly through life instead of seeking out His plan for us because at the end of the day when all is said and done, we’re simply afraid.
It wasn’t just the priests and scribes who turned their backs on Christ out of fear of ‘the people.’ We have the tendency to do it, too. Nearly everyday, I’m presented with an opportunity that has two choices: Be bold for the Lord or be afraid of what people think.


Father, so many times I listen to that voice that tells me to worry about what people will think. Too many times, I’ve let opportunities pass by because I was afraid I would offend someone or look like an idiot. As I raise my children, Lord, please help me to grow my faith bigger than my fears. I don’t want to pass to them a legacy of bending to peer pressure. I certainly don’t want their Christian lives to be marked by guilt and disappointment.
Give me strength to make the most of every opportunity. And help me to see my peers the way You see them- not as the mirror to my worth, but as my mission field. Use me, precious Father. I love you and I want more than anything to share your Glory with the ends of the earth. Remind me that the ends of the earth start right here, in my own town, with those people I tend to be afraid of. In Christ’s name and by His blood I pray, Amen.
A little about Sue…the wife of a mechanic she adores, a homeschooling mom of three kids she doesn't  deserve and a writer of books and blogs she would love to read.  "I aim to live a life with my heart wide open, evidenced by the fact that I try to LAUGH (a sincere, make-your-jaws-ache belly laugh) and CRY (whether from joy or sadness) everyday!"

What about you? How do you live your life? And what else did you hear in Luke 22? 

Check out:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Before the Fall...

Pride goes before the fall...

Strangely enough, my affair with this verse predates my love of Scripture.  My precious and wise Grandmother used to attach this verse to her 'pretty is as pretty does' admonition.  At any rate, I know the verse well enough that I've attached some pretty incomplete visuals to it.  You see, the way I see a verse in my mind determines how I apply the verse to my everyday life.  And the way I saw this verse prevented me from applying this nugget of truth to my life at all. 

Pride goes before the fall...

For decades, when I would hear or read this verse, I would imagine some strikingly beautiful woman turning her nose up at a plainer variety of Creation just moments before the heel of her stiletto shatters- sending her hurling to the ground in the most graceless way imaginable.  Or perhaps the self-proclaimed-shoo-in for a beauty pageant shows her truest of colors in an ugly display of her lack of congeniality when a slightly less beautiful woman takes her crown. In my mind, I can almost see a tiny teenager taunt her full-figured peer just before she took the quick route down the steps... on her behind.  See?  In my mind, the proud were always prettier than me and the falls were always made for TV...and that visual protected me from ever having to look this verse in the proverbial mirror.



And this was my view of that famous verse.  Until now.  Until this year, this month, this week,THIS VALENTINE'S DAY.  Before I explain how radically different this verse is to me now, let me share with you that it has been a rough year for my friends.  There is nothing light and casual in my voice when I tell you that people I love are hurting.  Hearts have been busted.  Families have been broken.  Kids are shaking their heads in disbelief at the trials they are about to face.  And everyone is surprised.   It's the evening before Valentine's Day, 2011 and this year five friends have shared with me the devastating news that a court of law will soon decide an end to what God ordained on their wedding day.

Five covenants.  Over.
Five marriages.  Done.
Five families.  Broken.
Five sets of plans, dreams and futures.  Busted.

And, while I have cried and hurt for every one of them, do you know what my gut whispered in response to all these casualties?  Do you really want to know what that not-quite-as-pretty-as-she-is-selfish-and-mean girl inside me actually said to my heart while I was praying for my precious friends whose lives have been ransacked by their enemy?  Brace yourself.  It's pretty foul...

"That will never happen to me."

And suddenly, like a hammer to the thumb or a bullet to a beer can, the verse tumbled and bounced and slammed against the wall of my heart-requiring me to challenge my own vocabulary.

Pride goes before the fall...

Pride.  We know the word well, but what does it actually mean?  For me, I had attached a very convenient definition to the word so that it would be absolutely innocuous in my own life.  I allowed myself to pretend that pride only applied to the beautiful, the wealthy and the wise.  As long as I pretended that I could never be in the position to actually be prideful, I never had to worry about the fall that followed.  But lately, I've decided that there's another, more practical definition to that pesky word- and this definition doesn't let me or you off the hook.

Pride:  pretending that you can do something good all by yourself-even if that 'something good' is a truly noble cause (like a charity, a favor, a ministry, or a marriage.) 

And unlike my childhood visual of the 'fall' that follows 'pride,' God doesn't wait around, looking for the prideful so that he can stick His foot out and snicker as the pretty girl finds humility on the floor.  No, this verse isn't a threat from our Father at all, rather, it's simply an honest representation of cause and effect.  The fall naturally follows pride because while this verse is absolutely true, so are the others.  The Bible also says that I can't do a single good thing without Him.  But in my pride, I try anyway.  I actually attempt to beg God to help me in the areas of my life that I find difficult while I offer him a false platitude of praise over a marriage I rarely beg Him to do anything for because- if I can be completely transparent here- my marriage is really, really good without all the begging and trusting that goes along with putting it in His hands.  In other words, 'I can do this part of life without You, God.'

And so, after spending a decent amount of time on the floor, reveling in my revelation, I'm going to tell you like it it really is...

I can't do a single, solitary good thing without Him.  I mean that.  NOTHING.  I can't raise my kids (even on the good days) without God's wisdom, provision and love.  I can't enjoy a healthy marriage (even when it's all laughs, hugs and smiles, paid bills and amazing sex ) without God's wisdom, provision and love.  I can't help my friends (even when they're telling me how helpful I am) without God's wisdom, provision and love.  I can't use my pen to spread His Glory (even when the words flow like fine wine) without God's wisdom, provision and love.  NOTHING.  There is NOTHING I can do without His help and only PRIDE could make me say, pretend, believe or act otherwise.  And because truth begets truth, my failures will stand as concrete proof that not only can I do NOTHING without Him, but that PRIDE always goes before the fall.

I'm begging my friends to hold this verse up to a bright light.  Is it possible that you, too have put a little too much faith in your own abilities?  Are you setting yourself up for a fall by pretending that you're not desperate for God's wisdom, provision and love?  I know it goes against human nature to live every aspect of your life as though you can't do it on your own, but isn't that exactly what Scripture tells us to do?  Who says we can't be desperate before we fail?  I invite you to tell yourself and God the truth...

Apart from Him, we'll always fall.  Believing otherwise is nothing more than a prideful attempt to trust our glory instead of His.  Pride goes before the fall.  Apart from Him, we'll always fall.  Believing otherwise is nothing more than a prideful attempt to trust our glory instead of His. Pride goes before the fall.  Apart from Him, we'll always fall. Believing otherwise is nothing more than a prideful attempt to trust our glory instead of His...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Not So Pretty Little Liars

"I'll never be good enough."
"God never answers my prayers."

"You don't know my marriage.  I might as well give up!" 

"Whatever.  It doesn't matter." 

"This is just who I am."

Do you know what all those quotes have in common?  While they differ a great deal in topic, they're ironically similar in 3 different, but very telling ways.

1.  They were all spoken to me personally within the last 3 months.

2.  Each one of these quotes belongs to a Christian.

3.  Every one of them is a lie.

What we THINK and what we SAY when we find ourselves on the brink of unbelief determines whether we'll spend the next season of our lives fortifying or faking our faith.  We will never, and I want you to believe this in the pit of your gut- EVER grow our faith as long as we put more stock in our own LIES than we put in the Words of God.   In fact, the only downside of being the product of an Intelligent Designer is that we do have the ability to let our thoughts run wild.  In truth, sometimes the worst thing we can do is think.   Now, on a good day, thinking would absolutely be considered an asset, but on the days your car won't crank, your husband ignores you, your kids disrespect you and the pile in the mailbox is all bills and no checks, any thoughts that aren't first held obedient to Christ will give you a one-way ticket to Unbelief Island. 
Now, while it's our minds, thoughts, emotion and will that tell our story of being created in the image of our Father, we have sadly used that ability to think to train ourselves to be Plan A in our own lives.  Shake your head and sigh if you will, but it remains true.  When things go helter skelter, we look inside ourselves for the answer.  Oh, we may say, "Help me, Lord," but then we immediately start brainstorming what we're going to do, say, be...what we're going to move, change or manipulate.  Even though the Bible clearly tells us that we can do no good thing without Him, off we march into the Service Department of Life.  We grab a wrench and head for what we perceive to be the crux of the problem.  What we don't do is look to the hills and wait patiently for Help to arrive.  And so, after a few decades of practicing our convenient, low risk version of faith in God, we find ourselves incapable of not only relying on Him, but incapable of being honest about who to blame when we fail to manipulate our own faith.  And in the process, we become believers of LIES rather than seekers of Truth.  And, even worse, the lies we believe aren't being spoken from our greatest enemy, but from our very own mouths.

Do you remember Elijah?  That great prophet of old?  The one whose very name means Yahweh is my God?  Well, he did more than just prophesy truth and humiliate the masses that chose to put their faith in a lesser god.  He also stood at the crossroads of belief and took a wrong turn.  He participated in a 'stare down' with a crisis of faith and blinked.  He valiantly spouted the very Word of God into the lives of others, but choked when his own heart needed him to whisper the truth.  In a nutshell, our hero of faith was human and in his error, he left us a beautiful lesson.  Wanna' see?

Once upon a time, in a far away land and a time long forgotten, there lived a stoic man known to the wandering world as Elijah.  Elijah paved a few streets in history with his great faith in and willingness to tune his ear to the Lord, God of Abraham.  In his short breath of a life, he defended the worship of his Great God by trusting God to put on a light show for the worshipers of Baal.  He so believed in the unmatched power of God that he asked for fire to fall from heaven and down it came.  He prayed to God and the dead came to life.  There were times in his life when he opened his mouth and the very Word of God traveled past his lips.  And he left this world in a whirlwind complete with a chariot, horses and fire, but before he went to be with his Maker, he bounced over a bump in the proverbial not-yet Roman's Road.  This great and celebrated man of faith had a season of unbelief.  Yes, even Elijah wrestled with trusting God in the thick of things.  After he taunted the worshipers of Baal, after he spoke the Words of God only he could hear, after he prophesied much, after his prayers brought raining fire from heaven and after his faith acted as the catalyst that caused the dead to live, he lied himself into a pitiful cave of fear and unbelief. 

It doesn't seem right, does it?  A man of that caliber of faith shouldn't lose battles with doubt and fear, but he did.  You see, just a little while after Obadiah told Elijah that he had rescued a hundred of God's prophets into his own care so that King Ahab couldn't kill them, Elijah stood before the Lord and said, "All of the prophets of God are dead.  I'm the only one left!"  And as if the lie wasn't bad enough, the fact that Elijah believed the lie changed everything for the prophet of God because while the actual events of Elijah's life paint a perfect picture of God's faithfulness and power, it was Elijah's own dishonest words that caused him to FLEE from a woman in such terror that the Lord found him hiding in a cave asking to be put out of his misery.  And all because when he came to a scary fork in the road, he entertained his own vain imaginations rather than what he KNEW to be TRUE of his God.  

So, I ask you friends, in what area of your life have you believed your own lies?  What does it take to make you spout ridiculous errors about God's abilities?  When do you allow what you feel to trump what you know about God?  Are you running away in terror when all you have to do is stand and tell the truth?  Elijah stepped in and did his enemy's job when he decided to believe his own lies.  Haven't we all done the same?

I, for one, am ready to let go of the lies.  I want to be a champion of truth.  No longer do I want to be the object of my faith.  I want to be able to take a gander at life and all its possibilities from God's perspective and check mine at the door.  As a matter of fact, I'd like for my life to be defined by a great confidence in God.  In other words, I want to trade in my humiliation in the cave for a great confidence in the battle.  And thanks to the Word of God, I know just how to start.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind... 
My 'in-real-life' translation?  Replace the lies with truth.

"I'll never be good enough."
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

"God never answers my prayers."
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 

"You don't know my marriage.  I might as well give up!"
"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

"Whatever.  It doesn't matter." 
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

"This is just who I am."
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God! 

Insert your favorite lie here.   
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?...Let God be true, and every man a liar.

Make no mistake:  Elijah's lie had no bearing on the power of God.  God was just as able to save Elijah from Jezebel before Elijah ran as He was after he huddled in his cave of fear.  Elijah's lie landed himself in the cave of shame, not God.  You see, that's the danger of our dishonesty.  When you believe your own lies, they become truth for you.  Elijah begged for his life to be over.  He fled, hid beneath a tree in the desert and gave up, then ran further away to hide under the rock when he should have been standing on it.  God was still powerful.  God still had plans to pull the ground from beneath Jezebel's feet.  God was still on Elijah's side.  God still had the ability to raise the dead when Elijah asked, drop fireworks from heaven on his command, and postpone the rain until Elijah said otherwise.  God remained unchanged.  The lie only changed Elijah.  And because he believed the lie, at least for the season he huddled himself in that cave, the lie might as well have been true.  

It's time we desired truth from our inner most being.  Choose truth.  Choose life!

Monday, January 24, 2011

As For the Asses...

Picture this:
A thirty year old man leaves the security and comforts of home in search of his father's donkeys.  He searches high and low and travels from town to town in hopes of returning what must have been an incredible pace of donkeys to his old man.  He searches and inquires and searches some more until finally, he becomes convinced that his dad has long since given up on the asses and has surely become more concerned about his son.  Just when he's ready to make a U-turn and head for home, his servant suggest that they ask a 'seer' or a prophet about the donkeys' whereabouts. That 'seer' not only knew where the prized donkeys were residing, but he also knew that God was going to call the donkey searcher to become Israel's first king. After some 'made for TV' coincidences, Saul finds himself face-to-face with Samuel and the Word of God.  And although God would use Samuel to deliver the astonishing news that all of Israel would soon look to Saul for deliverance, guidance, wisdom and protection, He chose first to set his mind at ease about a few donkeys that, in light of what was to come, were pretty ordinary after all.

"As for the asses you lost three days ago, do not be concerned; for they have been found."

I admit that when I first read these words, I laughed out loud.  Somewhere between Samuel's request for Saul to join him for dinner and his announcement that all eyes in the kingdom would soon be pressuring him for every need, God saw fit to whisper some very practical news to Saul.  By the way, the donkeys you're searching for...

I love this about God.  I love that He's all-powerful and all-practical.  Nothing He does is for naught.  Everything He touches has purpose.  No detail goes unnoticed.  No part of my life is too trivial for Him.

I think that when we begin our love story with God, we spend a lot of time stepping out onto icy ponds.  We test Him.  We try Him.  We make mental notes concerning His powers and abilities.  We nod and smile as time after time, He comes through.  Our hearts melt as promise after promise is kept.  Our faith grows as we allow His Word and work to fill our hearts and minds.  And we spend so much time reminding ourselves how practically powerful He is that we forget how powerfully practical He is. 

As for the asses...

I've both come a long way and have a long way to go in my prayer life, but I wanted to share with you where God has allowed me to be tonight.  I am desperate for His power.  I am starving for the wisdom to live out my purpose.  I am begging Him to tell me how He wants to use me.  I am willing to sacrifice for the nations.   I want to serve and pray and fast and love and give.  I'm  counting on Him to protect my family and bless my husband's heart and hands.  And I'm asking God to be and do all of those things in my heart and my life. And during the same prayer, I'm asking God to help me choose a rotisserie for my kitchen.  I'm reminding God that Algebra is hard for my 14 year-old.  And I'm telling God that even if my friends are mad that I asked, I'd still love to see snow this week.

I'm counting on Him to be POWERFUL and PRACTICAL.

Yes, He's magnificently perfect and powerful.  His ways are higher than our ways.  We'll never fit Him into a box.  If we could define Him or measure Him, we wouldn't also be able to worship and adore Him.  He's far too Big, too Right, too Holy for our minds- and yet He cares about the everyday, walking, talking, dish washing, wrench turning, contract signing, job hunting, diaper changing, bill paying, seemingly trivial details of our lives.  And when you look at it that way, it's almost as though He's deeply in love with us and wants us to share every part of us with Him.  

As for the asses... HE CARES.

Please share the blog with others and or comment if you enjoy and please don't forget to check out Graceful Abandon's edition of Faithful Fridays.  You'll love to hear what Lisa has to say!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Do You Remember?

"Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting." ~Iris Murdock

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy... A beautiful picture of redundant clarity.  

Over and over we read of the rescue from slavery, the plan for worship, the dimensions of the Tent of Meeting, the instruction for slaughter, and of the path to the promised land.  I'm reading it quickly, so things are becoming distinctly apparent that hid between the pages until now.  God rescued His people.  He taught them to worship.  He pointed them toward their purpose.  And then, He used man to tell the story of the rescue, to retell the instruction and remind them where they were going...again, and again, and again. (And again!)  I was tempted to skim over it.  The teacher inside me didn't see the purpose in wasting time reading something I fully absorbed the first time, but I harvested the fruit of self-control and found the beautiful lesson.  "Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting."   God used Moses to painstakingly repeat detail after detail, instruction after instruction and plan after plan so that they didn't fall out of love with their Creator.  After reminding them more times than they could count what He'd saved them from and telling until they could commit to memory the instructions they needed to worship Him and where they were going, He finally told them to write the words on their hearts, hands and foreheads.  And He told them more than once.  Why?  Why the redundancy?  Why did God continually repeat Himself?  Why didn't Moses roll his eyes and deliver the Reader's Digest version just once?  

Because falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting.

It's within us, you realize, to forget what God has done for us.  We're just arrogant enough, that if we're not careful, we'll allow our mindset to change until the hell that He rescued us from becomes nothing more than a sweet dose of nostalgia.  We're capable of deciding that, while He may very well have been present, it was probably a little more of our ingenuity than it was His intervention that brought us to where we stand today.  If we're not actively writing it on our hearts and our hands and our foreheads, we'll forget to tell our children the beautiful redemption stories that God whispered as He designed our lives.  

So, fill your homes with stories that tell of His goodness.   Remind your parents of His faithfulness.  Raise your sons to boast in His strength. Show your daughters what He's taught your heart about beauty.  Remind yourself what it felt like to be an orphan.  Write it on your heart. Tie it on your hand.  Bind it to your forehead.  

Because, after all, Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting. 

What are you determined not to forget?  If He's rescued you from slavery, taught you what it means to worship or shown you your purpose, please share it with us in a comment.  Never underestimate the power of your testimony!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Apart From Him...

Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Of course I can't because He's the vine and I'm the branches, right?  We know the verse.  We've memorized it.  We've even taught it to our friends and family, but what does that mean in real life?  We say it's true because our living bibliography reminds us that it's the Word of God, but do our lives say it's true?  Do our actions and our attitudes stand as a living proof that these words aren't just true in printbut true in person as well?

I'm going to go out on the thickest of limbs here and say that our honest, collective answer would have to be a resounding 'no.'  I mean, take a look at who we are in the beautiful script of the world.  We've long since passed the days of Exodus in which people lived in a perpetual reminder of their desperate need for God by the constant aroma of burning flesh.  We've also progressed past the inch on the time line that would have required us to look Jesus in the too-human face and decide for our own hearts whether or not He was the Living, breathing Son of God.  No longer do we have to fear the ever-changing personalities of the Tudors, never knowing if we'd be hailed for our deep faith in Christ or hanged for it.  We don't even have fight with the earth the way the Pioneers did, calling our Father 'Providence' out of a living knowledge of what happened to families who dared to tame the wild without Him.  Let's face it, friends- we don't live life as though we're desperate for anything.

But if those words are true, aren't we just that?  Aren't we desperate?  Yes.  For sure and for certain, we are  desperate for the Spirit of God.  We are desperate for Jesus to be the theme of everything we do.  We are desperate for God to fill in the gaps we leave in our wake, proving love is more powerful than sin. We are desperate for Him to show up in the midst of the lost, whispering words of redemption in our hearts to share with our loved ones.  Make no mistake, we are a desperate people- we just don't act like it.

We don't act  like it because our world won't let us be desperate and popular at the same time.  In real life, desperate is the enemy of strength and strength is the friend of man.  Culture would much rather us be 'cool' and 'comfy' than desperate.  And we nod our heads in a not-so-silent agreement every time we write a check, discipline a child,  hand out wisdom, teach a class, love a spouse or lead a family without the Spirit, permission and wisdom of the Living God.  We, like Aaron's sons, want  to be involved in what God is doing, but we want to do it our way, on our time, and to a great degree- with our power, even though it leads to a pit.  We plan first and ask for Blessing later.  We teach from the reserves of what God has done, not from the deep well of what He is doing.  We promise prayers that never go up, tell stories of faithfulness that reek of a fishing dock and minister the Word we simply don't have time to read nearly everyday of our lives.  And we wonder why we find ourselves scrambling to tell people what God is doing in our lives, our families and in our churches when the forefathers of our faith couldn't have concealed the Hand of God if they'd tried. 

A simple glance at the first chapter of Acts paints a picture of ordinary men who were desperate for God, praying for his Wisdom, Power and Provision.  What started with a few uneducated prayers ends with a few thousand salvations somewhere between breakfast and dinner.  They were so desperate for God's guidance that they didn't come up from their knees until It came.  And, when He answered their desperation, you can bet that not a single follower felt the need to advertise what was happening in their hearts, in their families, or with their friendships because when the Spirit of the Living God shows up, nobody has to blow their own horns.  Truth begets truth.  Power begets power.  Glory begets glory.  And we, well, we're nothing more than the desperate recipients.

We bring nothing to the table except a willing heart, an open day-planner and an available life.  We can plan and manipulate and create and hope until the cows come home.  We can rely on statistics and strategies and stereotypes until we find ourselves replacing last year's calendar. We can mimic the family next door, the fellowship down the road and the church across the continent until we become their clones.  And we can exhaust every ounce of our time and talent, dragging our lives to the brink of breakthrough and back again until the only word we can honestly use to define our existences is 'tired.'  But, we'll never see what happens when the truth of God defines a family, or what happens when the Spirit of God guides a church through an Exodus, or what it looks like when the lost flock to the found until we live desperate for God's power, provision and permission. 

So, the invitation is this:  Turn the verse around. Say it.  Write it.  Live it.  Pretend, with all your heart, that it's true.  Tell God you can't do anything without Him.  Tell Him that your children are hopeless if He doesn't stand up in your heart and tell you what to say, where to go, what to do, and who to be.  Tell Him that whatever you do Sunday at church, if you're doing it without first marrying your faith and works between the binding of His book, that it's really just character education.  Tell Him that the promises you've made to love your spouse forever are fabrications without His power being alive and working in your heart.  Tell Him that your life will be void of a mission and purpose, that you'll never see souls saved and the saved freed apart from His talent pouring from your hands and His truth pouring from your mouth.

Go ahead.  I dare you.  I dare myself!  Tell God the truth.  Do it again tomorrow.  Try it again the next day.  Life a life that says His Word is true and see if His Word doesn't prove itself true to the nations through your life.  See if He doesn't spend the rest of our desperate lives proving His promises are true!  And then, live to tell about it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Great Exodus

My spirit sighs. 

Some days are mixed with just the right amounts of grace, grease and Glory.  Today was a day just like that.  It started with a heavy dose of grace as I stood with my faith family and declared the goodness of God.  By noon, I realized that my day had taken a turn for the 'hard,' and that it would require a decent amount of elbow grease to sign off on my many promises.  But by nightfall, or should I say 'snowfall,' the precious Glory of God was undeniable as He painted a picture a white-as-snow picture for whomever would pay attention.  And, so my spirit sighs...

I'm supposed to write your cup-of-Monday-morning-get-you-going-blog, but my heart is flying in so many directions that I'm not sure my skin can hold me together.  I'm saturated with all things God.  My heart is as raw as a bottom lip in a blizzard, but in a beautiful way.  I'm at that perfectly coming apart place where you know you're going to 'lose it,' but the loss is a celebration in and of itself.   Every word on every page of every book seems as though it was written for me.  Every song sings a story I've entertained in my prayers.  Every sermon makes me want to stand and applaud.  And every call to action whispers my name.  Some folks call it religion.  Others call it rededication.  Some may even call it revival, but my heart has a different name for it.

I'm near the God Margin.

I'm somewhere close to that imaginary line that exists between something good that requires all of my time, talent and resources and something GREAT that can only be accomplished if God does the impossible in my life.  I'm near learning the deep lesson that no matter how many of my own accolades I write on that piece of paper, still a margin surrounds my words that only God can fill.  I'm at the point where I'm almost ready to whisper my purpose aloud, no matter how impossible it sounds, believing that God can accomplish the desires of my heart.

And so, our Monday morning pep rally turns out looking a lot more like a confession. God's Word, along with a thousand prayers and a willing heart, is turning me inside out. If Genesis was a beautiful, intentional beginning, then Exodus was a picture of the impossibility of life without Christ.  Every fiber of tightly woven fabric, every ounce of the twenty-two hundred pounds of pure gold, every detail carved into every precious stone, and every shaving of acacia wood used to prepare a place to offer sacrifices to God proves the truth even the saved are terrified to admit;  we're nothing without Jesus.  I mean, let's face it- if we had to follow that many directions, spend that much time, or share that  many resources before we could ask someone else to ask God to forgive us, we'd be hopelessly, eternally lost.  Even if we knew the way, we've steeped in our 'gimme-gimme' culture too long to spend years practicing a very expensive obedience for any amount of forgiveness.  We're too proud.  We're too smart.  We're too right.  In all honesty, we're so deeply desperate that we spend our entire lives trying to pretend we've forgotten what desperation feels like.  Yes, friends,  I'm pretty confident in saying that we wouldn't have embraced the Exodus.  Nope.  If God was going to write words of redemption across our hearts, He was going to have to do it another way.

Jesus.  The once and for all Sacrifice.  The Atonement.  The Ransom.  The Friend of sinners. 

He was enough.  He fulfilled the requirements that He knew we never would.  He's the perfection His Father was seeking and after thousands of years, He's what His Father sees when He seeks us out.  From our point of view, the book of Exodus looks more like this:

Bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.    Find Jesus.  Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony—before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony—where I will meet with you.   Believe Jesus.  Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the Lord by fire, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die.  Love Jesus.

I'm a little worked up about it all, if you want to know the truth.  The sweetest Name I know is even sweeter today.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a little more wild than He was before I camped out in the Great Exodus.  And, alas, the inevitable has happened- my mind is a little more His tonight, and my heart is a little less mine.