Are you a trader?

SGT_LogoThe term “trader” has infused where I work for quite a while. In 2000, my boss Brian Mosley founded the RightNow Campaign to help 20s and 30s connect to opportunities here and abroad to put their faith into action. The mission of RightNow is simple: To help our generation trade in the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ.

Every year, we put on the Rightnow Conference and it’s coming up in less than two weeks. This year’s theme is The Mission of the Church Matters. The line up includes pastors and authors Donald Miller, Francis Chan, Mark Batterson, Kay Warren, Matt Chandler, George Barna, and more.

I’ll be working at the conference, scribbling away on my note pad to prepare to write the curriculum for our upcoming RightNow Leadership Kit we’re producing. I absolutely cannot wait to soak in what these guys have to say.

Bluefish TV, the RightNow conference, and our new site SmallGroupTrader.com all stand under the umbrella of the RightNow Campaign’s mission of trading in the pursuit of the American Dream. Every thing we produce is to help others put their faith into action.

So that’s a little background info you may or may not have wanted! Now that leads me to expound a little more on Small Group Trader.

Our name was originally called Small Group Exchange but we decided to narrow our focus more to the idea of being a trader because Small groups aren’t an end to themselves- we’re calling small groups to battle against the “me-centered” way of thinking (that we all struggle with at times) by trading it in for the the missional call of Jesus – to care for the homeless, minister to the sick, and share Christ’s love with our neighbors.

I’m super excited about this change as it gives us a more clarified mission to strive for as a ministry, calling others to live out Jesus’ command. A nice home, car, clothes, savings account, etc. are good things that God wants me to enjoy, but it’s the pursuit and striving for them that I have to question. I have to constantly ask myself: Am I living for the dream or pursuing what really matters for eternity?

As the Content Editor for Small Group Trader, I can’t wait to see where this site goes and how small groups across the country will be impacted by this mission. If you’re a small group leader, small groups or community pastor, have thoughts you want to share on leadership, or have been impacted at all by being in a small group, let me know.

Step out and share your story. Be an encouragement to others who are trying to fulfill God’s mission for their lives.

You can email me at editor [at] smallgrouptrader [dot] [com]

How are you being a trader with your time, talents, and treasures? Are you willing to give up the pursuit of the American Dream for a world that desperately needs Christ?

Why all human life is precious

3878374083_406d9a0872Recently, I was stopped at a green stoplight. Two policemen were blocking me from going through the light because of a homeless man off to the side of the road.

The police got out of their cars to approach the man. I had a feeling they might jerk him around or in anger, ask him what in the world he was doing.

But none of that happened. They spoke a few words. He listened. He spoke a few words. They were patient to hear him. Then they gently turned him around and put plastic cuffs around his wrists, and signaled me to go ahead.

Sitting comfortably in my car with a place to go home to, I thought about how much God loves that homeless guy. No matter where he had been or what he had done, God made him in his image and wants a relationship with him.

All human life is precious to God because he created us in his image to bring glory to him, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not- All human life that’s yet to be born, all life that is breathing right now on earth, all human life with disorders, disabilities, mental problems, diseases, brokenness, life that might appear useless… All of it matters to God and it should matter to us.

My heart is beginning to change when it comes to the homeless people I see on the streets of Dallas every day. While I’m not always able to meet their needs physically, especially as a young woman by myself, I think one of the issues in my heart is whether I have love and compassion for them. Do I realize they were created in the image of God? And that God is deeply concerned for them as he is for every person’s life?

I’m really thankful I was stopped at a green light that day.


Everything is God’s

10723_656785265458_55713931_38099891_4013055_nAre you like me, and sometimes forget that you don’t own anything?

I forget sometimes that everything I have is on loan and that God is the one who has given me good health, a beautiful family, genuine friendships, an apartment decked out with stuff, a car, his Word, the privilege of living in America, and the ability to use my gifts and talents every day.

It’s easy to be self-focused and think that I have what I own because of my own hands and abilities.

But God says that all I have is from his hand. James 1:17 says that Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Yesterday, I played with my son on the floor for an hour. I watched him carefully place his toys and various objects in the trash can. He would then look at me. One by one, he played this game by himself. He was serious and focused. I laughed over and over because it was so cute. I loved watching his expressions and movements as he learned a little bit more about life.

And it occurred to me once again, that his little life is a gift that I must continually give back to God…

Have you thought about Self-Publishing?

1067843_29644623Well, I’m at the very very beginning stages (that means everything is in my head and not on paper) of writing a book proposal- the treasured manuscript that’s required to “sell” yourself and sell your book idea to an agent/editor. Cause you know, publishers have to make money off what you write. It’s how the world goes around. And as always, it’s a competitive market.

I follow several blogs but the only person whose blog posts get sent directly to my email via google reader is CEO of Thomas Nelson, Michael Hyatt. He consistently has great posts on publishing, leadership, and other great thoughts.

Well on Tuesday he announced that Westbow press, a division of Thomas Nelson will be offering quality self-publishing services (this is a really big deal). Here’s what they say:

  1. We think there is huge growth potential in this category. Increasing numbers of people are moving from being merely consumers to being creators. They want to express themselves creatively. Just witness the phenomenal success of user-generated content sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Scribd.
  2. We want to offer a legitimate alternative to traditional publishing. Why should all the power be in the hands of publishers? If prospective authors are convinced their book should be in print and are willing to fund it, they should be able to do so without the fear that they might be ripped off.
  3. We want to find the new voices for tomorrow. Publishers aren’t omniscient. We miss numerous opportunities every year. Finding the next bestseller is like searching for a needle in a haystack. WestBow Press provides us with a kind of “farm team.” We intend to watch the sales of these titles carefully. We will offer traditional publishing contracts to those authors whose self-published books begin to gain traction.

As a writer, one who’s attended several writer’s conferences, networked with respected authors and agents, and actually works in publishing, I’ve had a slightly negative bent towards self-publishing. Traditional publishing has always been the way to go (and I still believe it’s what I want to pursue).

But West Bow Press intrigues me in regards to where we’re at today in publishing and what it will look like in the future. And I think they are on to something.

Have you heard about it? Would you ever consider self-publishing your book?

Article: An Uptown Confession

6a00e0099410db88330120a5d95c8c970b-800wiMy article, An Uptown Confession, was published yesterday on Ungrind. Here’s a little “scoop” into the article:

I made a pretty “I have it all together” appearance a lot like my pristine surroundings that night. But I neglected to reveal any kind of imperfections on the inside. Like a plastic promise, I pretended to be what I was not.

In the last few years, my view of confession and what it means to be authentic has been transformed into a “wholly biblical” one and it’s been life changing.

Confessing our sin aids in healing the tattered and broken pieces inside us. They are the places God knows about and is helping us through, but also the areas that others need to know too.

Confessing our sin to one another helps us see we were created for community and relationships. We were created to embrace confession as a lifestyle.

Remembering, considering, and confessing sin is not an easy task. It requires humbling myself to walk backstage for a behind-the-scenes look into the dressing room of my soul — where there is no make-up or fancy dress to hide my shame, flaws, and insecurities. Even though it can be so bitter at first, in the end it is so sweet. It’s a “detergent for the soul” as the famous theologian Jonathan Edwards once said.

How has confessing your sins healed you and other relationships? What do you fear most about others taking a behind-the-scenes look into who you really are?

Bring your Bibles, but don’t bring your problems?

dmax_5386sepia3There is a cancer happening in churches across the country today and it has to do with morality– the same disease that controlled the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’ time.

It’s the idea that you have to “do” this or do that to be accepted by God. It’s the idea that you must go to church, but don’t you dare say anything that could ever show that you’re not a “good” Christian or that you aren’t following all the rules. And problems? Oh no, don’t bring those. Those don’t exist.

Well it’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? And it’s far from the true gospel. It causes people to never want to step foot in the church again. I’ve seen it happen.

The truth is that Jesus came to heal us of our problems. He didn’t ask us to clean up before hand. He never asked the church to put on their pretty faces and hide their issues with lust, greed, adultery, murder, or jealousy from each other. He said to confess them so that they could be healed and find life again (James 5:16).

He asks us to bring our sin to him.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were so blinded by their good works that they couldn’t see their hypocrisy. Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matt. 23:13).

The Pharisees had it so wrong that people were kept from entering the kingdom of God. A lot of us have it wrong today, including myself at times. Morality is not our motive.

The gospel is. The cross is our motive. It’s about broken people receiving the free, unmerited gift of salvation- not because of anything good we have done.

As I grow in my faith, I’m reminded to be careful of those who preach a message of morality alone- that there is something I can do to earn favor with God. (This isn’t to say that when I grow closer to Him, I won’t want to “do” those things.) But my motive isn’t for morality’s sake alone, but to embrace Christ for all that he is and to let him do the changing he needs to do in my areas of brokenness.

Have you ever felt like you could bring your Bible to church, but not your problems? Do you think the typical church today is missing the true gospel?

photo by: Janice Dunn

How Pride Kills Prayer

Untitled-1In thinking further on yesterday’s post If God is sovereign, why pray? I thought about a few more things when it comes to prayer inspired from Matt Chandler’s message The Art of Prayer.

I’ve heard lots of sermons preached that have given me a step by step outline on how to pray that include acronyms to follow and certain disciplines to have a better prayer life. I’m not saying they aren’t effective or that I haven’t used them- some of them have really helped me stay disciplined. But most of the time my prayer issues are not because of the how-to’s but deal more with the state of my heart.

Pride says, “I’ve got it figured out. I can handle it all on my own. When I really need God, that’s when I’ll start leaning on him…” These are the kind of control issues I have to battle.

And the reality is that pride kills prayer, making me useless in building God’s kingdom and being about his work. Pride is dealt with when I confess. Repent. Humble myself. Beg for a changed heart. Ask God to help me with any guilt or shame I might feel that would keep me from coming to him.

I love how Hebrews says to approach the throne of grace. It’s all about grace. Jesus gives us grace and mercy to help us in our time of need because he’s been there. He can sympathize with our struggles and pain because he was tempted in every way, but was without sin. He knows we need grace and mercy- we are just so weak without him. There is nothing that he doesn’t understand.

He wants to take my pride and replace it with something greater. He wants a heart that is humble. Humility is what breathes life back into prayer again. And I know it’s something I have to pray for every day.

Has pride ever effected your prayers? How so? Why do you think it’s so hard sometimes to have a humble heart?

If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights.

Every night we put our son John down for bed, Jeremiah and I pray that he will come to know the Lord at an early age. We think about the responsibility that’s on our shoulders to raise him in a loving home, display a loving marriage, teach him God’s word, live a life that does not say “do as I say, not as I do…” And to do this by leaning on God’s grace and not our human effort.

A truth that we acknowledge is that we can’t force John to love God in the future. That’s a decision he must come to on his own. We also know that God is sovereign over his life. And sometimes it’s easy to say well, “Why pray for his salvation if God already knows?”

As you know, a question like this is a great debate in lots of hearts today. And it often keeps us from approaching God or even giving him the time of day.

I was encouraged to hear Matt Chandler hit on the topic of prayer yesterday. A few points he made out of Scripture have given me great hope today.

We know that God listens to his people and has changed his mind based on a request (Moses in Exodus). We know in Luke that we’re to ask, and it will be given to us. To seek and we will find.

But what we miss out on is the act of praying in faith.

Having the faith that he will do what we ask because we’re seeking him. Having faith to lean on his grace for every moment in our lives. We pray in faith because we’ve been commanded to and prayer is really for us, more than it is for God. It changes us and it’s about participating in what He is doing.

As Jeremiah and I continue to pray for John’s salvation, we’re praying in faith that God will answer our prayers. As imperfect parents, we’re trusting that God will use us as his  tool to help lead John to the cross.

When we believe that God will do something, I think that changes everything and gives us great hope in his future grace.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

What are you praying for today, hoping that God will answer? Do you have the faith that He will do it?

the day my true love died

1212536_open_bibleJeremiah’s been reading through the book of John for one of his seminary classes. Last night, he was thrilled to tell me all about what he was learning while I was cleaning up the kitchen. And I love that I get to be the one to glean from it. He then blurts out, “I’ve gotta watch the Passion.”

It’s a little late. It’s like 2 hrs. long and it’s not one of those movies you can just pop in and play. It takes mental and emotional preparation… is what I’m thinking. I thought about doing my own thing and not watching it with him, but I decided to get on the couch and join him.

It was my third time watching it (with the exception of a few scenes) and some thoughts came to my mind that have encouraged me today:

  • Jesus’ humanity– even though he was God, he came down to earth as a man and lived in our shoes. He experienced rejection, suffering, hunger, thirst, laughter, tears, and alienation from those closest to him. He understands the pain I experience today.
  • Jesus’ love– he didn’t have to go to the cross for us, but he chose to because it was his father’s will. It was the only way for man to be saved from the penalty of sin. His shed blood on the cross makes us free and alive today. The cross is the ultimate proof of his love for me today.
  • Jesus’ perfectionJesus came as a man but he was holy and perfect in every way. YET, He took on our sins for us so that we didn’t have to pay the debt. No matter where we’re at today, he invites us to come to him in all our sin, brokenness, junk, hurts, habits, the whole 9 yards. What Jesus did 2000 years ago, requires a response from me every day that I live.

After getting my pride behind me, I was really thankful to be reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice and I know it will probably be a while until I watch the Passion again.

And I can’t help but think of Phil Wickham’s song True Love:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gU-ejQxEXk&feature=player_embedded]

The love of human praise

3289021645_10d019069cA friend and I were having lunch yesterday and she revealed a struggle with an idol in her life- putting her faith, time, and acceptance in successful or popular people in order to attain some type of status or “coolness” in walking alongside those people. Even at the sacrifice of other friendships that were more meaningful.

I was actually in shock to hear her honesty. Who would really admit that? I never have.

Hearing her point of view was huge especially because she’s in a small group at her church that consists of some very successful and influential Christian leaders in our city.

Throughout Scripture, the disciples craved human praise. Sometimes they craved it so much that they didn’t believe Jesus’ words at all. And it’s safe to say that all most of us, in some form or another, call out for human praise today. While it might not be evident outwardly, it is inwardly.

John Piper says that the love of human approval is at odds with faith because

1. …true faith in Jesus gives all glory to God and none to ourselves (Romans 4:20), and

2. …true faith is a drinking of living water for the satisfaction of our souls—and the well of that water is the glory of Christ.

He goes on to say that when we place our satisfaction in Jesus and not in others, “the enslaving power of the craving for human glory is broken. Broken by the power of a superior satisfaction.”

I pray for a spirit that is broken enough to see that I don’t need the praise of others for my satisfaction. I’m thankful for my friend’s vulnerability that has helped shed light on some idols in my own life. Hopefully through a process, I’ll begin to put all my faith, time, and acceptance in my Creator God… and in Him alone.

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