Marriage: Built to Last #2

marriageI used to think I was perfect- until I got married. Okay so not perfect, but maybe close to perfect.

And it’s hard to believe in December we’ll be celebrating four years of marriage. It’s truly a gift from God and today, I respect and love my husband more than on the day I committed my life to his. He’s my best friend and soul-mate, and I couldn’t live with without him. But I’d be lying if I told you that our marriage isn’t hard work. And that it doesn’t require living intentionally and loving biblically.

Well for a while now, at Bluefish TV, we’ve been working on a small group bible study series called Marriage: Built to Last that I wrote about a few posts ago. We got the kit back from the manufacturer last week and I’m blown away by how well the stories, teaching, and spots have come together.

What I love most about what we’ve produced is the stories from real-life couples. They are transparent to the core and share about real life issues like expectations, communication, conflict, and sex and intimacy. I also say “to the core,” meaning that these couples get down to the dirty, ugly details of their marriage. Some of them expose their pride, anger, pornography, past baggage, affairs, control issues, spending habits, unhappiness and more.

I’ve never really seen such brutal honesty. But it’s so neat to see that through that authenticity, God can really work and it’s evident He has in their marriages. He can replace that pain and brokenness with joy and life and put couples on the path that leads to a marriage built to last.

Head on over to Bluefish TV and watch the trailer to get a sneak peak into the series. Thank you also to my friends Zech and Kim Lumpkin and Chase and Elizabeth Hammon for sharing your stories with couples across the country.

I want to be ready

6a00d83518d15e53ef00e54f9278908833-800wiOn our way home from our community group last night, we were driving down 75 and passed a guy in a suit broken down on the side of the road. He had set up bright orange reflectors several feet away from his SUV so other cars could see him in the distance. He was talking on the phone, most likely to get help.

I looked over at Jeremiah. “Man that guy was prepared. Why don’t I have those cool reflectors in the back of my car, ready to pull out when I need them?”

A few months ago I had already experienced running out of gas on 75 during rush hour. And it wasn’t fun.

I then started to think about being prepared in my own life and more specifically in my faith. Sometimes I live each day forgetting that I am on mission and that I’m a part of a much larger story that God is writing. I forget that one day, I will meet my King and Savior face to face. Sometimes I forget to be about His business, and not my own. And way too often I forget that the only way I can prepare is to trust in Him to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Because I know that one day he’s returning or either I will meet him before then, I don’t want to waste my life on things that aren’t a part of his plan. I don’t want to be caught twiddling my thumbs or arguing over petty things. Because when it’s all said and done, none of that will matter anymore. The only thing that will matter is knowing Jesus and making his glory known. And one day, I’ll be held accountable for how I choose to spend my time here on earth.

I want to be ready.

I’m sure eventually the business man on the interstate was able to get on the road again. And I’m sure the motive behind his readiness was not for the sake of being prepared, but so his life would be preserved.

Video: Bethany Allen- Outrunning Breast Cancer

Just a few years ago one of my best friends was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ll never forget the day she called me telling me the news. I remember sobbing with her on the phone and doing all I could to lift everything up in prayer with her. She told me on the phone that she was still going to run her marathon she’d been training for. It was only in a few weeks at Disney World.

I booked a flight and headed to Florida to surprise her. I’ll never forget her face! I watched her finish her race strong, and not only that but finish her last year of law school while enduring multiple surgeries, taking shots every day, and battling the pain of chemotherapy and radiation.

Last year, I asked Bethany if she would share her story for an upcoming series we were working on that dealt with prayer. The series is called The Sacred Echo with author and speaker Margaret Feinberg. When Bethany flew out for my baby shower last Septermber, in one tightly packed weekend, our team at Bluefish shot her story.

The link to Bethany’s story is here. I hope it encourages you in whatever trials you’re facing today and that ultimately you’ll put your hope, faith, and trust in God alone.

the best kept secret

2785596455_848c54e8beIt’s been cloudy and raining here in Dallas for four days now. By now, I’ve heard plenty of comments about the weather and I too, wish the sun would come out again.

Contentment. I’m learning a lot about its meaning lately. God is doing a lot in our life as a family. We’ll be moving in less than two weeks from our 1200 sq. ft. apartment to a 780 sq. ft. apartment! We are ending our 2 year commitment as a CARES Team serving the residents in our apartment community through meals and events. We’ll be entering a new season of living on campus at Jeremiah’s seminary, Dallas Theological. It’s really going to be a good move for our family and there will be lots of young families to interact with who are all pursuing full-time ministry.

A lot of change is happening really soon and the temptation can be to worry and not be present in the moment. But I really want to be content. To not compare myself to others with what they’re doing or where they’re at, to not wish I had more money or more things, to not wonder how great it would be to be somewhere else, or to not wish John was older or I was younger.

The apostle Paul said,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13.)

Paul was no different than us. A lot of people put him on this huge pedestal, but he was simply a normal, imperfect man touched by a divine, perfect God. He allowed God to infuse his life.

So what exactly is Paul’s secret to contentment? He learned it. It didn’t happen in his sleep or in a few short days. God put circumstances in his life to teach him to trust and to depend on God. So whether he was rich or poor, well-fed or hungry, he gave glory to God because his joy and happiness didn’t depend on life’s happenings.

This gives me great hope today- that I can learn to be content too as God works in my heart.

Well on my way to work sitting at a stop sign, a car behind me laid on their horn for 10 whole seconds!  I was waiting for the right time to turn and I guess that wasn’t good enough. Maybe the rain and clouds were getting to that guy too. I couldn’t believe it.

Oh well. He probably needs to learn contentment too.

Josh Wilson: Savior, Please

I’ve heard a lot about singer/songwriter Josh Wilson lately. This song has been so refreshing and is a powerful reminder of who I am not, and all that God is and how he continues to save me day by day.

I hope you’ll listen to these lyrics and be encouraged by God’s love for you today.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diUhGip85U8&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.journeymanproject.org%2Fpage%2F2%2F&feature=player_embedded#t=250]Savior, please take my hand .

life without fear?

29_NewsPGMPHovIn less than one month, my brother-in-law Paul who is a Navy Chaplain will get on a plane and head to Afghanistan to serve our country. He will say goodbye to my sister and four-year-old nephew for six whole months. Because of what’s going on over there, I have my share of worries and fears when it comes to Paul’s safety and God’s sovereignty.

But I’ve been encouraged today in reading Chapter 1 of Max Lucado’s new book Fearless. I downloaded the PDF off of The Fearless Times, a site that’s all about the book and is a great marketing tool for it.

In almost 25 years of writing, more than 65 million books filled with Max Lucado’s words have been sold. Max is so gifted when it comes to words that you’d think he was Jesus. But he’s not. He’s a human being with fears just like you and me.

Here are some of my favorite lines from Ch. 1 that I hope will tease you into heading over there and reading it for yourself:

“Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.”

“Christ-followers contract malaria, bury children, and battle addictions, and, as a result, face fears. It’s not the absence of storms that sets us apart. It’s whom we discover in the storm; an unstirred Christ.”

“Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if love lives in heaven. If God can sleep in our storms, if his eyes stay shut when our eyes grow wide, if he permits storms after we get on his boat, does he care? Fear unleashes a swarm of doubts, anger-stirring doubts.”

“And fear feels dreadful. It sucks the life out of the soul, curls us into an embryonic state, and drains us dry of contentment. We become abandoned barns, rickety and tilting from the winds, a place where humanity used to eat, thrive, and find warmth. No longer. When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.”

“If we medicate fear with angry outbursts, drinking binges, sullen withdrawals, self-starvation, or viselike control, we exclude God from the solution and exacerbate the problem. We subject ourselves to a position of fear, allowing anxiety to dominate and define our lives. Joy-sapping worries. Day-numbing dread. Repeated bouts of insecurity that petrify and paralyze us. Hysteria is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7).

I have always loved 2 Timothy 1:7 in that fear is not from God. Fear can make us do all kinds of crazy things.

As we get closer to Paul’s deployment, I know that God wants me to continue to trust that he’s in control and he’s directing Paul’s path no matter where he goes. The issue isn’t really about Paul going to a dangerous place, but whether I will trust and have faith in God that He is good and is sovereign over everything in life.

Savoring Solitude

1150829_algarrobo_beach_2Before we left on Friday for a Labor Day weekend getaway, the one thing I needed more than anything else was rest and solitude time away from the busyness and baseline stress that comes with living in a big city… and that comes from life in general.

As we drove into the wide open spaces, I felt my burdens lifted away. Jeremiah blasted the radio and rolled the windows down. John loved the breeze against his face. We sang, laughed, and talked. It was just the beginning of our journey to getting refreshed and encouraged again.

All throughout the gospels Jesus withdrew in solitude away from the crowds and the disciples to be renewed in his relationship with God:

“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them” (Lk. 4:42).

“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him” (Mk. 4:36).

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Lk. 5:16)

Knowing that Jesus did this often, speaks volumes to me. How can I expect to live life apart from being alone with God- just me and him? How can I expect to love others well if I don’t separate myself from people from time to time? How can I expect to be renewed by staying in the same place day in and day out without ever getting away? A few things I’ve noticed when I choose not to withdraw to my “lonely place” is:

1.) I worry, worry, worry

2.) I’m not sensitive to God’s leading in my life

3.) I carry stress and don’t easily serve others

4.) I don’t share the gospel and what God is doing in my life

5.) I am mean and sin more

It’s crazy to think that choosing not to withdraw has led to those things in my life, but it makes total sense. Solitude time is examining life, confessing sin, being refueled in God’s word, and most of all resting in Christ for his strength. Life is just too hard not to make room for his presence in my life.

While I’m far from being perfect, a few practical things have helped me when it comes to making solitude time:

1.) I write it on my to-do list. Since most of the time, I get done what’s on that list, my quiet time is non-negotiable as well.

2.) I pretend like there are no dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, voicemails to return, and that not one person needs me.

3.) I leave my phone off, shut down my Mac (no emails, facebook, etc.)

4.) I go somewhere quiet with my journal, Bible, and pen and most of the time, I do this when John is asleep.

5.) I try to be still and pray in the car on the days I commute to work.

Well, I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas listening to the sound of waterfalls trickling into the pool. The morning breeze is so refreshing and the birds love it too. The past few days I’ve been renewed in God’s word and renewed physically and emotionally. I’m sad we’re at the end of our journey at my parents because the time away has been so sweet.

But I can say I’m ready to travel back to Dallas and face the realities of life again with a better perspective than when I left.

A love story & lemonade

lemonade1Yesterday I went for a run around White Rock Lake and in the distance I noticed a little boy selling lemonade on the side of the running path. I felt a nudge to talk to him and share something really important that my pastor reminded me of that morning in church.

I stopped and first asked him if the lemonade was free. He said it was $.50 and that it was for a raffle at his school. I told him I didn’t have any change on me. After we talked about his school a little, I asked:

“Do you mind if I tell you something?”

His brown eyes got big and he was focused.

“No,” he replied.

“Have you ever thought about how much God loves you?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you know about Him?”

“Um… They nailed him to a cross. He didn’t like that. It was very bad… And um… the people didn’t like him because he said he was the son of God and stuff.”

“You’re exactly right. Where did you learn that?” I asked.

“At my school,” he replied.

He told me he was 9 years old. His name was Kyle and he wanted to be an architect when he grew up. I told him when I was not too many years younger than him that I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 6. I tried to explain to him that growing in a relationship with God takes time and when he gets older that he will understand even more. I explained that Jesus died for him and died for his sins (the bad things he does) so that he can have a full life.

He didn’t say anything after that. I could have been way over his head or he was just listening.

I sensed our little conversation coming to a close. I said it was nice to meet him and continued on my run.

Kyle was the cutest kid ever and he taught me something about faith.

The gospel is simple that even a 9 year old could grasp it.

Yet in its simplicity it is so incredibly profound. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again, but that fact can’t just stay there. The question is whether I will act on that truth by following him and surrendering all that I am to him because of what He’s done for me.

The love he showed on the cross might seem simple, but it wasn’t. It was “very bad” like Kyle said, in all of its forms. It was evil. All the sins of the world… he bore them. It was his blood shed on the cross that has set us free from our sins.

It’s just so amazing that Someone could love me this much. And even crazier that God sent his son to prove his love for all of us. He has given us this awesome gift of undeserved GRACE and He’s inviting all of us in to accept it. If anything in this world could lead me away from my sin (in repentance) and closer to him, it is because of his kindness and undying love.

My prayer for Kyle is that one day he will become an architect who knows the fullness of God’s love and that he will love him in return.

Leading Yourself Well

1161714_kids_under_treePhillip Brooks, a 19th century clergyman once said that “Character is made in the small moments of our lives.”

Typically, the real test of character is not in one huge defining moment but is in the daily choices made every day and that includes in the mundane details of life.

In college I read a really impacting book called Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. In it, Sanders asks some really challenging questions when it comes to leadership. They have really made me think and realize that I’ll never lead anyone past how I am leading myself. This could potentially be a scary thought, but more so, it’s really challenging and encourages me to grow.

These questions have spurred me on to have a clearer vision for what it means to produce character in my life. Here they go:

Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead, we must master our appetites.

Do you keep self-control when things go wrong?

Can you handle criticism?

Can you turn disappointment into a creative new opportunity?

Can you exert discipline without making a power play?

Are you a peacemaker?

Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?

Do you depend on praise from others to keep you going?

Can you forgive?

Do you welcome responsibility?

Do you “use” people or cultivate people?

Question for discussion:  Why do you think it’s important to lead yourself well? What struggles have you had in leading others?

Fighting Complacency

If you’ve followed my blog for a little while, you know that I’m going through the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The last few chapters I’ve read have dealt with the lukewarm Christian and what God says about Christians who are lukewarm in their faith. I couldn’t believe some of the verses that Francis pointed out. They were convicting to say the least.

They have led me to search my heart deeper and to ask: Do I have lukewarm tendencies? Am I living in mediocrity anywhere or struggling with complacency? Do I sometimes take Jesus’ words half-hearted or even say “I’ll do that another day…”

In my relationship with Christ, just like in any marriage, I have to constantly fight against complacency. It’s so easy after the honeymoon stage, to just settle in and be comfortable. In following Christ, it’s easy to kick back, go on with the day, and lose sight of who He is. And then the relationship turns to legalistic rules and rituals (duty) instead of a wholehearted desire and delight to know and love Christ for who he is.

I don’t think Jeremiah would ever want me to respect and love him out of duty. He would never force me to love him either. So it is with God’s love. He wants me to choose to love him. And to me, this requires battling my laziness and complacent heart that I have at times.

This past weekend, we didn’t stay in our apartment but we went down to my Dad’s (he has a corporate apartment in our complex) and we just enjoyed the setting down there. We watched the Dallas Cowboys, cooked, talked, and had friends over for dinner. It was so relaxing and refreshing. Our relationship felt renewed.

Some things I’ve been doing lately in my relationship with Christ to revitalize it and stir up the passion is listening to podcasts of some really great pastors, praying on my way to work, going through old journal entries, starting a Bible study with some friends, reading blogs, and most of all revisiting God’s word- reading and meditating on it.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t leave us where we’re at. He is so patient and when we truly desire change (and we seek it), he will give it to us in the smallest ways… even if it’s just a different place to spend the night!

Question: What has helped you in times of feeling “stuck”? How are you currently fighting the war of mediocrity?

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