Not afraid

I spent the better part of the weekend talking about being afraid.

My commitment for the weekend was to be transparent.  This statement may seem unusual coming from a woman who has been called, “real, open, strong” by her friends and colleagues. Truth is, I believe we all hold some part of ourselves back from others.  That tiny part of ourselves where hurt and insecurities dwell.  The part of ourselves where fear of failing or disappointing others exists. That very inmost part of ourselves we often deny existence for fear of what may happen if we are truly honest with ourselves and each other.

This is the part of myself I committed to opening others into that weekend.

This was how I approached IF:Gathering last month. 

A good friend and I co hosted an IF:Local at her house that weekend.  The central Gathering took place in Austin, Texas and the entire event was live streamed, as well as DVRd, for local gatherings throughout the world.  The local gatherings are called IF:Locals and I’ve heard reports that there were and still are over 1,000 IF:Locals taking place ALL. OVER. THE. WORLD! 

Our gathering was small … 3 of us taking over Brenda’s house for the weekend. Our preparation for the weekend was fairly easy and informal.  I took care of the logistics – printing all the needed materials, monitoring session updates and sequences through the Local Leaders page as well as monitoring the technology while we viewed the sessions during the weekend.  Brenda and Mary took care of the nourishment. ūüôā

Although I am an incredibly reserved person, more comfortable listening and observing over actively engaging in conversation, my most favorite part of the IF:Gathering was when we got to turn the volume down on the TV and work through the conversation questions together.  There was safety in our small group and I allowed the Holy Spirit to gently push me out of my comfortable silence and speak up.  In this process, He allowed me to explore some of the insecure areas I’ve been afraid to share from.

I can’t speak for the other two women, but I came away from IF with an assurance that whatever fears I imagine are simply wasted energy.  The only one judging me is … me.

Our focus for the weekend was on the history of Israel and their crossing into the Promised Land 40 years after their deliverance from captivity. Forty years! God told them He was giving them this land and yet, all but two – Joshua & Caleb – were afraid to move forward into His promise. How so like the children of Israel am I and yet, how so like Joshua & Caleb I desire to be!

As the weekend drew to a close, I had the honor of heading out to Brenda’s flower bed and picking, cleaning, and presenting a rock to each of our group. Our final assignment was to write a statement on those stones of what our next step, our testament & commitment would be following IF:Gathering.

My commitment is to no longer be afraid. Of what others might think, of what may or may not happen.  If I sense God is calling me to join Him in a work, no matter how big or small, clean or smelly, I’ll join Him. And I summed it all up in …

ÔĽŅÔĽŅ

[1] The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? [2] When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. [3] Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. [4] One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple. [5] For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. [6] And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;I will sing and make melody to the LORD. [7] Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! [8] You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” [9] Hide not your face from me.Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! [10] For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. [11] Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. [12] Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. [13] I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! [14] Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!  – Psalm 27 [ESV]

Common No More

 

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)

How often have you asked yourself: Why am I here, what am I¬†meant to be doing, what’s my¬†purpose? ¬†I don’t profess to know the answer to these questions but I know One who does.

My take away from the verse above isn’t we’re able to cleanse ourselves, but we’re cleansed through our surrendering ourselves to Christ. He’s the One who cleanses us so we’re able to be used for¬†His purpose.

images-2

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, ‚ÄúFill the jars with water‚ÄĚ; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, ‚ÄúNow draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.‚ÄĚ They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‚ÄúEveryone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.‚ÄĚ ¬†John 2:6-10 (NIV)

The amazing and awesome takeaway I got from this passage focuses on the jars.

Jars. Probably made of clay. Common. Their purpose? To store. Jars don’t make water;¬†they¬†have to be refilled in order to¬†fulfill their purpose. Who refilled those jars? The people who need to use the water contained in the jars.

We’re like those jars. Left on our own, we fill our¬†jars¬†with our wants, our desires, our plans. Our focus is inward.

When we surrender ourselves to the Master and His plan? The old water, our plans and purpose, is thrown out; we’re transformed into vessels filled with fresh water, fresh plans, fresh purpose.

Who fills us with this fresh water?

Jesus answered, ‚ÄúEveryone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.‚ÄĚ ¬†John 4:13-14 (NIV)

images-1

What’s our purpose … to share one truth: God loves us.

 

 

Lovin’ Summer

“So, what did¬†you do on your summer vacation?” ¬†There was a time I didn’t like thIMG_0353is question. ¬†This year, I’m eager to answer! ¬†What did I do? ¬†Well …

My Word for 2014 is Focus; my summer was spent developing my focus.  My focus commitment is 4-fold:

  • God
  • my family
  • what’s important
  • my health

 

IMG_0320

Excerpts from Unglued, Believing God, The Carpenter, AHA, Gods at War, Love Does, & Not a Fan

My heart’s desire is to be Jesus’ hands & feet to those around me. ¬†I’ve been devouring¬†a lot of books this year which¬†focus on being a strong follower (as opposed to a fan) of Jesus.

I’m so thankful for this time in the mornings and evenings to read and marinate in the Word … time without constraints to read and study passages of Scripture and glean truth. ¬†Time to read … just read.

I’m not sure if it’s my desire or if it’s Holy Spirit inspired, but I believe¬†I¬†should be sharing this knowledge instead of hoarding it.

Time to move into the application phase!

How will I do this? ¬†Lead a Bible study? Minister to my neighbors? Head out on a mission trip over Spring Break next year or next summer? All of these, none of these … I have no idea. ¬†What I do know is I am committed to focusing on the important.

Digging into the Word is important.  So is my family.

Hub and I continue to believe we are called to be parents and are praying about¬†plans to expand our family. ¬†Will we be more than a family of two humans and three dogs next summer? ¬†Again, no idea. ¬†We’ve been waiting for almost 30 years to be parents, so our answer is: we both hope so! ¬†In the meantime …

IMG_1261Hub and I were able to coordinate our schedules and head out of town for a couple trips this summer. ¬†These were places we were able to head to and return from on a tank of gas. ¬†We had a great time together, even when things didn’t go exactly as planned. ¬†The important fact was we were spending time together which is something we’re not really able to do during our “normal” life.

I got to spend time with my family and even managed to squeak out a win over my intelligent & talented niece when we played this:

IMG_1238

To her credit, she did win one game

 

 

I couldn’t resist laughing when she commented, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing this against a TEACHER!”

 

 

Hub & I have lived in this house for over a decade and there are things we’ve dreamed of doing in the home-improvement department for quite a while now. ¬†I decided to surprise him and begin working on one of those projects¬†on the 4th of July.

IMG_1273

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV)

It’s not done but “in progress.” ¬†I still have a few things I’d like to do before I can call the project complete. ¬†And I like it that way for now because it’s a tangible illustration of how I am in His hands. ¬†I was overgrown with lots of mess in my life before God began working on me. ¬†He’s had to cut a lot of dead wood and overgrowth out of me and I can say with confidence He won’t be done pruning and shaping me until I cross that finish line at the end of my life. ¬†My joy¬†is anticipating the moment I’ll hear Him proclaim, “Well done!”

 

 

P1010354

Sunflowers in Gruene

Summer vacations for educators aren’t ever complete without the requisite doctor appointments we schedule so we don’t miss time from our students and staff. ¬†I found a field of these outside my doctor’s office on a recent visit. ¬†It was a nice opportunity to take the time and snap some pictures before heading home.

What did I do on my summer vacation?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

And a whole lot of focusing on what is important: God, family, faith

Planted by streams of water

Once upon a time, I had a student in my first period class. ¬†Okay, I had several students in that particular first period class; thankfully,¬†there was only one¬†Bud (not his real name). ¬†I had a habit of locking my classroom door in the mornings I didn’t tutor before school in order to grab a few last moments to “prep” for the day without any interruptions. ¬†I forgot to unlock my door one day and began presenting that day’s lesson. ¬†Bud, a high school senior, attempted to unobtrusively sneak into class but was stopped by the locked door. ¬†What happened next not only disrupted every classroom on my hallway, but created a memory I don’t think I’ll ever forget:

He banged on the door with both fists shouting, “LET ME IN! ¬†I WANT TO LEARN!”

I shared my heart with my Lifegroup sisters recently about my desire to not just exist, but to Live.¬†I don’t believe I, or anyone, is called to¬†live a lifeless routine of working and sleeping. And yet, this is exactly what I’ve been doing.

My heart’s desire is to move beyond existing to living.¬† We talked about what it means to live¬†and then discussed Casting Crowns’ song, “Thrive” and what it means to thrive. ¬†I don’t know why, but I didn’t have a clear grasp of what the word, thrive, meant. ¬†After arriving home,¬†I cracked open my digital dictionary and noted the definition:¬†to prosper and flourish; to grow; to develop well.

While the dictionary definition shed some insight, I knew … just KNEW … there was more so I checked out the “story behind the song” to dig deeper to find it’s¬†scriptural foundation. ¬†I am thankful I did!

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. ¬†He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for it’s leaves remain green, and it is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.  That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither Рwhatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. РPsalm 1 (NIV)

[emphasis mine]

I want to be like that! ¬†To be like a tree planted by streams of water, my roots digging deep and¬†drinking continually¬†from the everlasting water of God’s Word!

The result of all this digging and drinking? Reaching out! ¬†That’s the other desire of my heart: to share Christ with my community … my neighborhood, my colleagues. ¬†To “be there,” to be an encourager. I believe the Lord is confirming some things for me and I’m excited! ¬†For now, I’ll keep drinking deeply from the Word. ¬†I can’t wait to see what He’s got in store for me!

Bud has long since graduated and moved on with his life.  His declaration, altered slightly, is now my fervent plea:

I WANT TO THRIVE!

It’s a “Heart” thing

Image

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. ~ Rom 10:10

Isn’t it amazing how, when you buy a new car, suddenly everywhere you look you see your make and model? ¬†That’s what this past week has been like for me.

My Lifegroup has begun a Rick Warren Bible¬†study¬†and, in the midst of our conversations and emails amongst ourselves, the matter of the “heart” has come up. ¬†I, quite interestingly, have noticed I’ve become hypersensitive to anything relating to the heart while I’ve been in the Word these past several days.

Below are a few “heart sightings” I’ve had:

  • the goal of instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5)
  • when asked what He believed the greatest commandment to be, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)
  • set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

Today’s Quiet Time has me shouting from the rooftops because, in the midst of my scribbling out today’s PRONOUNCE IT verse, this is where the Spirit has led me:

From this: “be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 1:6

To this:¬†“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to¬†obey everything I have commanded you. ¬†And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19, 20

Yes, this is the “Great Commission.” ¬†No, neither verse speaks directly about the heart.

But it is the desire of my heart.  (Ps. 37:4)

He’s called me to share my heart and His Word with other women.

It’s amazing how He has taken a wistful prayer to go to seminary to study His Word and transformed it into a burning desire to be in the midst of a group of women as we pour our hearts into learning from the Word.

To be very truthful, I’m anxious. ¬†I have been happily content working with the junior high girls this year and am looking forward to another awesome year with them when we start back in September.

No sooner do I start feeling anxious than He brings me to passages like Philippians 1:6 and Matthew 28:20. ¬†Breaking it down to the brass tacks of it, it’s like He’s wrapping Himself around me speaking straight to my heart, “No worries, Lisa. ¬†I got this.”

My gracious, God is good.