Oh Hey There Friday Favorites!

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Oh hey, Friday! I am so happy Friday is here because it means a little less driving and little slowing down for the next couple of days. Here’s where grace and thanksgiving was found this week from the frivolous to the very much non-frivolous.

First for the very frivolous. I found a new favorite t-shirt.

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I have not mastered the art of the self-timer on my iphone so forgive the selfie (and the mess behind me). This is a Tresics brand t-shirt I found at Marshalls. I orignially got it in grey for 9.99 and like it so much I went back and bought it in another shade of grey and this blue. It’s soft, flowy and super comfortable and cute while hiding everything it needs to hide.

My new favorite Twitter account to follow is @manwhohasitall. It’s a parody of all the things that are said to women who spend their lives “juggling” motherhood, families and career. If you want to go the extra mile you can get a good laugh with this video from Buzzfeed featuring presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

All a great segue to the not so frivolous Jen Wilkin who has an tendency to say everything I wish I would have said only better. She has a brilliant mind and is a great leader and teacher of the Word. In her post this week she comments on an open letter written by Jared Mauldin, a senior in mechanical engineering at Eastern Washington University. He talks about the importance of men speaking up for women in ministry. In my own personal experience, few things have been more encouraging than when a man has spoken up for women in leadership. Everyone calm down…we’re not trying to take over, we just want to do our God given part.

We’re getting increasingly less frivolous here friends. My friend Dan Parkins has gone through more trials than many people experience in a lifetime. He has the best way of writing grace and when I read his posts it literally feels like my soul is being watered. Read this post and be moved by his ability to find grace in the daily and go hunt for your own.

Jen Hatmaker wrote this post on the freedom Christ has set us free for, and here I am, finding myself outside of a gate, wondering how I got here and what kept me inside for so long. Things like my ability to really trust God and my view of His greatness compared to my own fears and worries about life come to mind.

Finally, my favorite quote this week is from Ann Voskamp‘s 1000 Gifts Devotional: Reflections on Finding Everyday Graces.

“Life is so urgent in necessitates living slow.”

Let’s go into the weekend remembering weekends were originally designed for selah between weeks of laboring. This time, let us not be trapped by the over workings of our own minds but walk in the freedom already unleashed for us at Calvary and find our rest in the slow savoring of Jesus and those he has around us. I’m praying this as much for me as I am for you. Amen.

What were some of your favorite things this week?

Oh Hey Friday! | Friday Favorites

On Progress and Outcomes

The first progress report from middle school came home today and there were some, well… less than favorable remarks on the one we received. It really wasn’t that bad but for this particular boy it was out of the ordinary.

A conversation followed with questions such as,

“What do you think led up to this result?” and

“Do you know what you could improve on?”

The answers to these and more were thankfully appropriate and what came out of it is, the grades don’t matter as much as the lessons learned along the way.

As we learn what we are supposed to learn, acquire the understanding and knowledge we are there for, the process is what shapes us rather than the final grade defining us.

Such is the case for so many of the situations we face on a daily basis even when we are no longer students.  The roads that hold the feet we walk upon and the situations in which we live are watered down to something we must “get through” instead of lessons how we are being formed along the way.  Rather than learning to dance and sing in the rain, we remain focused on getting through the storm.

We pray for healing, relief, and solutions…all good things but until God provides that which He will at His appointed time, are we willing to suffer long enough to see what He wants us to see?  Learn what He wants us to learn?

When I think of what defines me, it’s not how good I am at any particular thing, how successful I am at mothering, teaching, writing or any one I am to any person I am with.  Character is shaped by process that includes and is not limited with refinement and sanctification. I am not defined by that characteristic or even what I’ve been through to be molded this way.

Neither are you.

Sinner.

Adulterer.

Tax Collector.

Pharisee.

Alcoholic.

Ex-Convict.

Prostitute.

Failure.

Lazy.

Hopeless.

Those who call on the name of Jesus are defined by grace.  Grace that is never ending, far reaching that  flexes, moves, and reaches out and reaches down where no one wants to go.

I am defined by the Potter, the Creator and the Artist.  I am not the artist, I am the canvas. I am His workmanship, a work in progress and by His grace my outcome is secure but my process and that which I will learn along the way, who I am becoming and what it will look like is ever changing, ever morphing into the image of Another.

What defines you?  Are you looking at an outcome longer than the process in which you find yourself?

Our eyes should be on eternity, but that view is dim yet He is illuminating something for each of us right here, right now and that process is chiseling us into a final product, the outcome of something splendid, designed before the foundations of this earth.

And that outcome belongs to Him.

Let us not miss it.

The Wages of Sin is Disorganization

Recently the Barna Group presented research on Christian Women today based on telephone surveys with 603 women who are ages 18 or older who describe themselves as Christians and have attended a Christian church service within the past six months (excluding holiday services or special events).

Part three of the four-part presentation focuses on our emotional and spiritual check up. After reading the results, I have a hard time believing the women who answered the questions were being entirely honest with themselves and/or the surveyor. Either that, or we really have a problem with our understanding of sin and grace.

Here’s what the research had to say about women’s view on their sin:

Churches have long taught the seven deadly sins or modern interpretations of them: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. For women, these traditional sins do not seem to be a problem; they claim instead much more “modern” struggles. In fact, when asked what they struggle with, women most often point to disorganization (50%) and inefficiency (42%).

As for the traditional sins, women are least likely to admit to lust (8%). And, against common stereotypes, women also say they rarely battle jealousy or envy—less than one in eight women (13%) admit to feeling envious often or sometimes. When it comes to other negative behaviors and attitudes, about one third (36%) admit to feeling anger, one quarter say they struggle with selfishness (25%), one in five say they are prone to excessive arguing (19%) and just over one-sixth (16%) say they can be arrogant.

Really? Our biggest struggle is disorganization and inefficiency?

The next section of the research states our biggest disappointments are relationship based. With the exception of number one being the loss of a loved one {which is out of our control} the rest of the research points to trouble with family and/or children. How does our disorganization and inefficiency effect our relationships most? While so many of our disappointments are the result of being sinned against, how much responsibility do/should we take for our part in the break down of our relationships. Of course I’m not talking about issues of abuse, etc. but when people fail us, or we fail others do we have a correct view of our own sinful nature?

Do we resort to what we “did” or what we have to “do” to fix or make it better so much that we have lost sight of the grace given to us by Jesus that we are to live in, live through and pass on to others?

This fall, I’m going to teach a MOPS group on being authentic with God, ourselves and others, followed by a retreat based on Psalm 51 and Davids renewal after his fall with Bathsheba. After that, I’ll be teaching a class on being a woman in the 21st century. So to say much of my studying has been on God’s grace, who and what He’s called us to and the impediments and road blocks {often our sin} that holds us back is an understatement.

The results of Barna’s research is a bit concerning because in order to fully understand the nature of God and press into His calling on our lives, we have to be honest not only with ourselves but also with Him. To fully embrace, understand and enjoy grace…we have to understand and come to terms with sin… the very reason why grace is so freaking amazing.

I know women struggle with feeling “safe” in many of their relationships but do we also struggle with feeling “safe” with God?

David begged God:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

There is a deep work of searching, uprooting and cleansing David desires in Psalm 139 and God will do just that. There is nothing God doesn’t see or know even in the deepest recesses of our hearts. The best part is, none of that effects His view of us or His love for us. Those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus and received the grace of His salvation are seen as redeemed and set free despite the sin that finds its way into our lives. Our actions don’t effect God’s affection for us in the slightest.

Our unresolved actions, our incorrect view of them, our unwillingness to face them does impact our ability to enjoy living in the grace, peace and freedom God has for us. So if our greatest sin is inefficiency, perhaps we are doing too much or not what we are called to or we are simply working too hard to make things right and we need to just stop and ask God to search our hearts to see what the real problem is.

That problem… has already been paid for. The work was taken care of in the most efficient manner at Calvary when our Savior cried out

it. is. finished.

Perhaps the disorganization we are plagued by can be reordered correctly if we turn back to the pages of Scripture and really contemplate on the truth found in those words rather than what we think others expect of us.

What do you think about Barna’s research?

Do you relate to inefficiency and disorganization being your greatest struggle?

{Post Script} Let me be clear that I am a big fan of Barna Research group and am thankful for their work and insight into our culture and how it measures against our faith.  This post is not a criticism of their work but rather questioning the results of the survey based on the answers of those surveyed. BR did their best, as always.

When Grace is All You Have

The sacred echo of late has resounded in the quiet moments, the not-so-quiet moments, in the stories and words coming alive in the text and in conversations between she and I, he and I, us and them.

When the only word to describe is overwhelmed.

We live through many hardships and trials.  Some are results of situations beyond our control and others are simply the fall out from our own sin.

A husband leaving.  Sudden illness. The son who has gone his own way.  Bank accounts dipping below zero. The home slipping through our fingers.  The job that is no longer. A friend who has turned her back on you.  When we are gripped with fear or we sense God is not ready to move us from this place.  Or we can’t seem to muster up the faith to take the one step out ourselves.

His grace is sufficient.

It’s more than enough.

We can gaze upon the cross of Christ and see it all there.  All our failures. All our deficiencies.  In all our not-good-enoughs, He is enough.

It’s more than we deserve.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In everything.

When the plate is full or when we can barely scrape up something to see there, Grace is enough.  When you can’t think of the hows or can’t shut down the what-ifs, Grace is sufficient.

What do you need Grace for this week?

May the power of Christ rest upon you.

Not-So-Proud-Moments

This past weekend was the weekend of not-so-proud moments.

It started out with a plan, lots on the schedule but it was going to be manageable. A lot of things, but all good things.

A piano recital, a baseball tourney, two basketball practices, decorating the tree and church.

But I blew it on more than one occasion.

I had my first experience of losing self-control in the stands as a parent. After the game, I had to ask forgiveness from the moms for my inappropriate behavior and had to repent to Coach-Husband for my attitude in the stands. This was after he sent an email to all the parents (including me) about maintaining a positive attitude.

The kids seemed to manage the packed in day of Saturday really well… until Sunday morning. Then we had the kind of morning where I actually thought about calling in and saying I couldn’t come to church. My heart was not in the right place. I was the parent who didn’t handle things well in the morning and felt hypocritical going to church and worshiping God and offering to minister to others.

Yet we went along and as I prayed for Jesus to help me, I remembered something very important I had just read.

I am loved unconditionally and welcomed fully by Him.

By His grace, it is in these moments when I am at my ugliest, I can return to Him for joy, fullness of hope and restoration.  Because He forgives me, I can look my boys in the eye and tell them I’m sorry. Because I know I am deeply loved at my worst, I can go back and worship.

Approaching Christmas, I’m reminded at how amazing it is that Jesus came to save the lost. To reach out and raise up the wretched, most messed up people, just like me.

Thanks be to God.

Remember what the gospel says about us: we are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe but we are also more loved and welcomed than we ever dared hope. ~ Elyse Fitzpatrick, Counsel from the Cross