Flying to Indonesia!

Going to IndonesiaSpecial Note:  I’m flying to Indonesia to speak for the Made Over Women’s Conference!  As you read this I will probably be heading to the airport with friend and fellow speaker Angela Craig. If you haven’t heard the story behind the trip to Indonesia see the video and the text below.  Thank you for all your prayers!

Have you ever felt like God was planning your life behind your back?  That’s exactly how I felt as I sat in a Sunday morning service this past November listening to missionary John Taylor speak.  While watching a video of John and Korie’s work in Surabaya, Indonesia I had the unmistakable sense that I would soon be seeing it first-hand.  How or why I had no idea.

When the service ended Korie approached me and asked me how I was doing and mentioned that she had been reading my blog.  I could hardly believe it!  We talked about our families and out of nowhere I said, “Do you know the story of Michael and I and our discovery that he has bipolar disorder?”  This isn’t my usual conversation starter.  In fact, I rarely bring this up.  But it was almost as if it fell right out of my mouth.

Korie’s eyes watered.  She said that there are women in her church struggling in their marriages and also those who have husbands with bipolar disorder.  “Would you ever consider coming to Indonesia and speaking for a women’s conference?  We’ve never done an event like this before but have been praying about who to ask and would love for you to come.”

It was my turn to cry.  How could I say no?  I knew God had prepared the way.

The following week, while talking with Korie about the details, I asked what she thought about having my dear friend and fellow minister Angela Craig come and speak at the conference. Little did I know that she had spoken with Angela earlier that week and had secretly wanted to ask her to come but was afraid and felt shy.  Korie was beyond excited!

The beautiful story of Angela’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury comes at the perfect time for the church in Surabaya.  Their own Executive Pastor Poedji has  suffered through a terrible car accident and spent a month in a coma (Click here to see more of this story).  While he is facing a daunting journey of reclaiming his former abilities we are thrilled that Angela will be able to encourage both his family and church during this pivotal time.

We all live to the glory of God and know that ultimately His grace and mercy will be evident through this struggle.  We can’t help but think of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John:

“This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 NIV)

While in Indonesia, Angela and I will be providing leadership training, speaking for the conference, as well as speaking for the Sunday morning and evening services.  We are so excited to see how the Lord has put all of this together and are confident that He will provide the strength and wisdom we need to serve.  We are investing in the women who will be coming from Surabaya, Jakarta and surrounding areas to seek God and learn more about training up leaders to serve Him.  We hope that you will invest with us—through prayer—as we go.

When Someone Wrongs You

when someone wrongs youWhile driving through a grocery store parking lot recently I encountered a very unhappy woman. I choose to believe she is unhappy because of this incident.  In her shiny new Honda, she began to back out of her parking place after I had come to a stop behind her—waiting for the car in front of me to move.  I honked to warn her that she was going to back into my not so shiny nor new van.  She kept backing up.  I honked again thinking she didn’t hear me.  Apparently she had heard me and let out an extended honk in return.  I guess she didn’t appreciate my help.  She finally stopped backing up and as soon as I could move forward I did.  As I pulled out onto the road Miss Shiny New Honda tailgated me honking for two blocks, and then gave me the universal sign for “I really, really don’t like you!”  Pretty sure you get the picture.

I have to admit that I felt totally irritated.  Really?!  I help YOU not hit ME and this is the thanks I get?

When someone wrongs you it’s pretty natural to feel annoyed and angry.  If you’re anything like me you usually go through a mental checklist of why they are clearly wrong and you are clearly right.  Then you might (not that I’ve done this before) tell someone about it (like the people who read your blog!) and hope that they jump on the bandwagon of “You’ve Been Wronged!”  Pretty sure there’s a country song with that title!

But what if there is another way?  What if we lived with a conscious mindfulness of God’s presence and perspective in our lives?  I don’t know about you, but I can’t achieve that on my own.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not something that we achieve at all.  I believe we can live with this mindfulness as we draw close to God and allow His Word to become a part of our inner dialogue.  We do this when we exchange the lies we’ve believed for the truth that sets us free.

So, when someone wrongs you…

Bless:“Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.” Romans 12:14 (GNT)

Ignore it: “When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it.” Proverbs 19:11 (GNT)

Don’t be afraid: “Do not be afraid when people taunt and insult you.” Isaiah 51:7 (GNT)

Forgive: “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another.” Ephesians 4:32 (GNT)

Life is full of opportunities to react or respond—let’s make each one count!

How will you begin to live in conscious mindfulness of God’s presence and perspective in your life?

Broken

SBrokenpecial Note: I’m so happy to share today’s guest post with you!  Amy Slater is a dear friend and wonderful writer.  Find out more about her on her bio at the end of the post.

We get broken in different ways.  Sometimes it’s through suffering.  Sometimes it’s the struggle to live an overcoming life in the midst of our ever-present weaknesses.  Sometimes it comes through a series of events or choices that have left us completely shattered.  Broken.

I’m broken.  Without sharing how you got there, I would guess that maybe you are broken too.

I “get” broken people.  I relate to those who struggle against their weaknesses.  I empathize with those who suffer.

I sense that in our world of quick fixes and distorted doctrines that elevate happiness and prosperity, admitting brokenness is very hard.  But brokenness is a reality.  And it is not wrong or bad or a sign of not loving God or having enough faith.

Psalm 34:18 says: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

David faced many points of brokenness.  And in the midst of them, he knew that God was there.  That even with a broken heart, God would receive his prayers.

Psalm 51:16 & 17 says: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Regardless of how we got here – whether through weakness, suffering or poor choices – a heart, broken and desiring atonement, lifted to God in praise, is a beautiful sacrifice and will not be dismissed.

God loves the broken.  He sent his son, Jesus, for the broken.

Jesus is the story of redemption.  He came to make the broken whole again.  Not whole in the sense that we are perfect and we will never suffer or go through difficult things anymore, but healed, mended and made beautiful so that others would see Jesus through our brokenness.  Jesus came so that we could offer our broken sacrifices to God, and find wholeness through complete surrender.

Sometimes it’s the broken things that are my favorite.  There is beauty in the brokenness.  There is beauty in a broken heart.

This song by The Afters is a perfect musical illustration of offering a broken sacrifice to God…enjoy.

Amy SlaterI grew up in Africa and married an Oregonian. I’m a working mom of three, a pastor’s wife, and I have a standing date with my laundry room three days a week. I love the beach, ocean, collecting shells, writing, creative interior design, being with my family and following Christ. Come visit me at my blog Simplifying…Me.

What Are You Settling For?

What Are You Settling For?We settle for a lot of things in life, and that’s not all bad.  We can settle for french fries that are less than crispy and coffee that’s a little too strong.  We can settle for unmatched socks and a wrinkled shirt.  But what happens when we start settling for the important things—like the relationships we invest in and the values we believe in?

A lot happens and it happens to our souls.  We start to fill that God-shaped hole with food, money, entertainment, and a desperate attempt to connect to things instead of people.  We forget what God says about who we are and maybe we never knew.  The Psalmist, King David writes this…

“For you [God] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—” Psalm 139:13-18

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

I am.  You are.  So stop settling for less than extraordinary.  The creator of the universe is spending time thinking an infinite number of thoughts about you.  Let’s live like we believe it.  Let’s live like sons and daughters of God who have an amazing purpose to live out on this earth.  A purpose that will impact eternity—whether we live a day, a month, a decade or one more moment.

Stop settling and live this extraordinary life for God.

 

When People Rub You the Wrong Way

When People Rub You The Wrong WayWe all do things that irritate people.  We probably don’t even realize it unless they tell us.  It’s a long-standing joke in our family that my mom can’t stand the sound of people eating loudly.  She even has a theory that certain people (sorry Dad!) have special echo chambers in their skulls.

That’s just a silly example, of course.  But what about those offenses which are so contrary to your values that you have a tough time being in the same room with the person?  Experiencing one such encounter recently I wondered if my outward reaction betrayed my inward struggle.  The details don’t seem very important, but what I am learning does.  It’s a reminder to look at the condition of my soul.

John Ortberg writes that “how we get along with people says a lot about where our soul rests.”

Our soul?

King David seemed to understand…  

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” Psalm 103:1 (ESV)

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you.” Psalm 63:1 (ESV)

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.” Psalm 116:7 (NIV)

Our soul connects everything together in our lives—it’s the whole of who we are.  I love the way David felt the need to speak specifically to his soul:  Return to your rest.  Makes a lot of sense doesn’t it?  It does if “how we get along with people says a lot about where our soul rests.”

That encounter I mentioned before made me think:  When others rub me the wrong way how do I see them?  When someone’s comments make the hairs on the back of your neck rise, how do you see them?  Most of the time we’re focusing on how they make us feel.  We might even craft a compelling comeback for their unkind comments.  But what if we tried something different?  What if we tried to imagine their hearts or their souls?  What would we see?  Someone who is…

Lonely?

Scared?

Insecure?

Unloved?

I remember the day when I chose to see my husband through the eyes of Jesus.  I pictured a little boy who had been teased and picked on all through middle school; a boy who always felt he was different from his peers, his family…from everyone.  I saw a boy—not the man who was struggling to love the person who loved him most in this world, struggling to love me. That was the first day I started to find rest for my soul.  I surrendered my will, my plans, my heart and my soul.  Will you?

What will you do the next time someone rubs you the wrong way?  Could you see them through the eyes of Jesus?

Special Note:  If you are interested in reading more by John Ortberg on the soul, you won’t be disappointed by his book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. 

19 Years and Counting

Mike_Angela_19thAnniversaryLast year my wife wrote a post about the 18 things we have learned in our 18 years of being married. It was a cute concept, and I think Angela covered everything. So when she asked me to write something for this year, I started to sweat. I couldn’t ever think of 19 things I’ve learned about anything. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t write a blog article called, “19 Things I Haven’t Learned and Consequently Can’t List Here: Unabridged Version.”

So instead, I’m going to write about one thing I’ve learned.

  1. Angela is more amazing than I thought.

As far as I am concerned, the highest compliment that can be paid from one person to another is this: You know everything that is wrong with me (and that’s way more than 19, I don’t mind telling you), and you love me anyway.

That’s what Angela has done for me. She just…loves. It’s such a show of what it is to love like Jesus does, and I realize now that without it I would wither away.

And it’s not just me that feels this radiating warmth. People just feel comfortable and free with her. When we were buying my car earlier this year, the salesman found himself pouring out his heart to us about his life—past and present. (I say “us” but I was more of a spectator). “I don’t know why I’m telling you this,” he kept saying. “I’m so sorry.” She just looked at him and patted his hand and told him it was OK, that obviously he needed to talk about it, and we were happy to listen.

This happens all the time. Angela jokes about it, saying that she must have a “TELL ME ALL ABOUT YOUR LIFE” tattoo on her forehead. But the truth is that she makes people feel comfortable; she listens and engages and empathizes without being patronizing or condescending.

She’s a woman on a mission. Literally. She decided that she wanted to get licensed as a minister, so she studied and applied and interviewed and got it. There wasn’t any doubt in her mind that she wanted to do it, and so she just…did it. That may not sound all that impressive, but then you didn’t watch it go from idea to reality like I did. It is such a great example for our kids to see, how wanting something means having to work for it.

And then there is Indonesia. A visiting missionary floated the idea to Angela to fly out to Indonesia and speak for a large women’s conference. “Would you be OK with it if I want to do it?” she asked.

“Sure thing,” I told her. Because, honestly, I thought it was purely hypothetical. Not that I’m not OK with it, of course. It’s just I wasn’t prepared for such decisive action. I am by nature an investigator. I like to circle around a decision and examine it, play out alternate scenarios and contingencies, try to predict pitfalls. It usually paralyzes me into indecision. Angela just knew it was an exciting opportunity, and struck while the iron was hot.

So, again, she set about getting it done. She sold personal belongings—some of which were hard to part with. But for her it was the sacrifice that needed to be made because this trip was important to her. She wants to be an instrument of God to change others’ lives. That is her ultimate calling, and her actions truly bear this out.

To Angela:

I love you so much for who you are. I love how you bring balance to our lives. I love how your passion for others has driven you to action, and often to sacrifice. I love how you love others—including our family. I love how you’ve opened your heart to do new things, and that you have been willing to be uncomfortable to do them. Thank you for loving me for these 19 years!

If Only Parenting Was Like Math

IIf Only Parenting Were Like Mathf only parenting was like math.  You don’t even have to like math to understand where I’m going with this…

1+1=2 every day

2 x 8=16 every day

If 4x=12 then x=3 every day

But parenting isn’t like math.  In fact, there are no formulas when it comes to raising children. The techniques that worked beautifully on Monday seem to crash and burn on Tuesday.  The methods you used with your firstborn child only make things worse with your second or third.  Each individual child is God’s matchless creation—completely irreplaceable and definitely not a carbon copy of you or anyone else.

That couldn’t have been clearer to us when Emily was born.  She laughed from deep within her belly earlier than any baby I had ever seen.  She also had an iron will.  At the age of 2 you could tell her not to go into the kitchen and she would put the edge of her toes onto the kitchen floor and stare you down.  This caught me by surprise after parenting Benjamin who would stay put on a blanket in the middle of the room for hours on end, because it was the rules.

Perhaps parenting isn’t like math to pull us away from the belief that everything must be black and white, that temptation to elevate our opinions as gospel because surely our way is the right way.  While this would be nice for our self-esteem, this isn’t nice for our character development or our ability to persevere when things don’t go as planned, and parenting rarely goes as planned.  That’s why I am so glad that I can depend upon God and His guidance while raising my children.  Aren’t you?

In this stage of parenting I find myself looking less at my opinions (as fabulous as they may be!) and more at God’s word.  Although I have always taught my children scriptures, I’m finding that they need an even greater understanding of whole passages or entire books.  Emily and I are taking on the challenge of memorizing the book of Philippians.  We’ve spent a month taking 15 minutes individually each day to read the book in its entirety out loud.  If we miss a day we just begin again the next day.

Emily’s first comment was that she is really beginning to understand what the whole book is about.  Now we’re writing the book on notecards so we can begin to memorize.  I’m sure we won’t be perfect but we are starting this practice of intentionally “hiding God’s word in our hearts” (Psalm 119:11).  It is truly by God’s word and the power of the Holy Spirit that we are changed from the inside out.

Each one of our children will face difficult choices throughout their lives.  During the teenage years these choices can often have serious consequences that will affect them for years to come.  If parenting were like math I would tell you that by memorizing scripture they will automatically sail through the teen years with no trouble, but let’s be honest—memorizing scripture is one major tool that we can offer our children.  My prayer is that through this process they will be drawn into a vibrant and intensely personal relationship with God.  If they don’t have this close connection with Jesus the motive to make good choices can be muddled at best.

What have you found to be the greatest tools in your parenting tool box?  How are you learning to let go of the idea of formulaic parenting?

Special Note: If you want to be intentional about building stronger relationships with your family and with God buy my new book How to Love Your Crazy Family  for just 4.99! Click here to purchase today!

 

An Unhurried Life

An Unhurried Life Do you know anyone who lives an unhurried life? It’s a rarity for American culture.  We not only value a job well-done, but a job done with expediency.  Faster is better.  Busyness is praised.  There are few people who live unhurried lives.  When we see someone who breaks with culture and slows this frantic pace we can be quick to assume that they are lazy or unmotivated.  But could it be possible that living unhurried is actually a spiritual discipline?

I am privileged to know one such person.  Jennifer is my lifelong friend.  It is always a pleasure to spend time together.  Her face, her movements and even her body says, “I am with you—I have nowhere else to be.”  I would love to say that I give her this beautiful gift in return, but I am often moving through life at too fast a pace.  Her presence reminds me to stop and just be.  There is something so healing about this unhurried life.

I just spent several days helping Jennifer and her parents with some household projects.  It’s a time in our lives when we have the opportunity to give back to our parents, a time to give to them, in a small measure, what they have spent a lifetime giving us.  We sorted, we cleaned and we organized.  But true to her nature Jennifer would say, “Time for a break, let’s have something cool to drink.  Let’s chat a bit.”  So we would stop.  And during the rest we would rejuvenate our bodies and our minds.  We would talk and laugh and sometimes just sit.

Over those four days we looked through pictures from our childhood.  We listened to old records and told stories.  I asked Barbara (Jennifer’s mother) about the artwork throughout the house.  “Where did you get that one?  Why do you love it?”  We read inscriptions in books—beautiful thoughts from Barbara to Mike.  I’m still emotional over one of them!  We looked at stories written in grade school and bent over double laughing at pictures of Jennifer and me.  I’m pretty sure we started selfies with the Polaroid camera!

Then something amazing happened.  While recalling our history I found my present.  My love for art, history, stories and music all birthed from our shared experiences.  My love for writing can be traced back to this couple who were journalists and had shared their writing with me from the time I was a young girl.

I would have missed all of this living a hurried life.  I would have missed remembering.  I would have missed their faces, their expressions and their touch.

David reminds us of this…

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.  Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.

We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:4-7 (NLT)

Our busy, hurried lives compete with a beautiful connection with God and with one another, and I’ve decided it’s not worth it.  If my hope is in God then there is no need to hurry.

What are you missing living a hurried life? What choices will you make today to slow down?

 

Enough is Enough!

Enough is EnoughEnough is enough!  We’ve all made this declaration when we’re at the end of our rope and feeling discouraged. But maybe this thought has been popping up a little more often than you’d care to admit.

“I have had enough, Lord.” (1 Kings 19:4 NLT)  This is what the prophet Elijah said to God.

Joanna Weaver writes, “Having just won a mighty victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18), Elijah had been flying high. But when Jezebel took out a contract on Elijah’s life, the wicked queen’s haughty words brought the mighty prophet back to earth with a thud. Less than a day after holy fire fell from heaven—proving once and for all that God was God—Elijah was running for his life.”

Can you relate?  We see God intervene in a powerful way—a healing, a salvation, providing financially—and then BAM! Seemingly out of nowhere we are discouraged.  We certainly aren’t alone; Elijah experienced this as well.  If I saw fire fall from heaven I would never be discouraged again, we tell ourselves.  But I wonder if that’s really true.

Remember my post about the little tree in my back yard?  Even though it grows slowly, it is perfect for a nest of sparrows hidden deep within its bushy branches.  A reader told me that this tree is an upright juniper, in the same family as the juniper tree that Elijah sat under as he prayed this prayer…

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life…” (1 Kings 19:4 NLT)

As I read through the story, I noticed a few things that happened with Elijah that can also happen with you and me when we feel like enough is enough.

He felt afraid.

He ran.

He isolated himself.

He felt despair.

He wallowed in self-pity.

Sound familiar?  I thought so.  But thank God that isn’t the end of the story (I encourage you to read 1 Kings 18-19 to get the full picture).  An angel of the Lord comes and touches him and tells him to eat so that he can gain strength for his journey.  Elijah makes his way to Mt. Horeb, and it is at this point in the story that we find one of the most comforting scriptures in the entire Bible:

“After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 19:11-12 NLT)

One would expect that God would be tired of Elijah—his lack of faith, his self-pity, and his fear.  But no, we see a God who cares for both his physical and spiritual needs; a God whose goal is to reveal Himself to Elijah and ultimately give him guidance for his life.

This is the same God that you and I serve today.  He is with you in your discouragement.  And He hasn’t given up on you.  So lay down your fear, your isolation, your despair and your self-pity and listen for His gentle whisper.

When have you felt like enough is enough?  What comfort do you find in knowing that Elijah, a prophet, went through these difficult times as well?

 

Are You Feeling Trapped?

Are You Feeling TrappedAre you feeling trapped?  Hemmed in?  Constrained?  We usually view these feelings as negative and limiting but what if the, situation actually enabled you to identify what’s important to you, what you’re passionate about and even your purpose?  What if this sense of being stuck and ensnared turned into clarity, clearness and simplicity?  What if this situation is just the catalyst you need to pursue your God-given calling?  I believe it can.

Change in Perspective

When we are forced to slow down and get out of the fast lane we have the opportunity to change perspective.  Moving so quickly through life devalues the relationships which should be the most important to us.  We allow the “tyranny of the urgent”  to rob us of our time and attention.  When we find ourselves in a situation where we feel constrained or trapped, we can use this time to evaluate our lives.  We can stop long enough to gain some much needed perspective.

Rest vs. Restlessness

I recently spoke about rest vs. restlessness.  Learning to rest seems almost counterintuitive.  We struggle with resting physically, spiritually, emotionally and even on a deeper level within our souls.  But all of us will come to a point where we can no longer function without rest.  We require it.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” (NASB)

In the Hebrew “steadfast” is the word is Camak meaning, to lean, lay, rest, support, put, uphold, lean upon.

Apparently steadfast doesn’t mean running at break-neck speed.  It doesn’t mean being dependable and never ceasing in your labor.  Steadfast is leaning into God, resting in Him, being supported by Him.  And that is when we find peace.  Rest and trust are beautiful linked together to bring peace to our lives.

Clarity

Are you feeling trapped by a job, your finances, or even life circumstances that seem insurmountable?  I challenge you to allow these limitations to bring clarity and help you zero in on your purpose and calling.  I have a friend who found herself seemingly trapped by financial and relational struggles.  She felt hemmed in and frustrated by her situation but she continued to seek clarity.  It wasn’t simple but she has found a career that answers both struggles with a beautiful symmetry.  We can trust that God is with us in every situation.

Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8 GNT)

Are you feeling trapped?  How can you begin to find a new perspective, rest and clarity?