What stirs your affections?

869617_84392121We’re interviewing Matt Chandler this weekend at the LeadNow conference here in Dallas. I was preparing some interview questions yesterday and was stirred by some things he’s said in an article with Leadership Journal. At The Village Church where Matt pastors, he believes that sanctification begins by answering two questions: What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections?

Those questions reminded me of my post from Monday on simplicity. I think the bottom line of what I wrote on that post deals with my own affections. And most importantly, what things might be robbing me of putting my full joy and delight in Christ alone?

In the LJ interview Matt goes on to say that “Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They’re not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn’t take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking…”

I appreciate Matt’s honesty in that he’s not exempt from certain affections that could stifle his growth either. It doesn’t matter if he’s a pastor of a renowned church. The reality is that he’s human. And no one is exempt.

I was reading this morning in Proverbs 4 and in verse 23 it said to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

I was reminded once again of where I’m placing my affections. What am I allowing myself to see with my eyes, hear with my ears, believe in my heart, ponder in my mind, and then what do my actions reveal? If someone were to take a sneak peak inside my heart, will they see that my deepest affections are for Jesus?

I hope so.

It goes on to say in verse 26 to, “Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.”

It’s a challenge to watch over my heart and the path that I tread each day, but the command is there for protection so that the fruit of my life will be what God wants- not my own fleshly desires.

I’m excited to see if Matt will hit on this at the conference at some point. I’m hoping he will!

Why I need to simplify my life

simplifyThis past week I spent time in VA Beach visiting my sister and nephew. I came away from my trip with a lot of unexpected thoughts, refreshment, and a confession that  flying with a one-year-old is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Probably because I’m often impatient and struggle with people pleasing at times. Therefore I was constantly giving John toys or feeding him gold fish and pretzels to keep him from screaming the passengers’ ears off. I can still feel the frustration.

Anyhow, the one unexpected thought I came home with was to simplify.

Simplify in the sense of what I allow into my life. And it all started with a conversation my sister, mom, and I had about email and facebook. I think lately, a lot of my personal time has been dedicated to answering email and facebook comments. I don’t think I’d ever go as far as to say it’s an addiction, but maybe something I do a lot? I don’t know.

I know email and facebook are not bad things. The majority of us use them. But for me, too much of a good thing is a bad thing and I need to chill out for a bit. The world doesn’t need me. It will still go on. I don’t have to get back to people the moment they ask for something. It’s really okay. We’re all friends anyway.

So the last several days, I’ve checked my blog, email, or facebook about once or twice a day for a few minutes. It’s been so freeing to be detached. I’m excited to use the extra time to be intentional about playing with my son, spending time with my husband, hanging out with friends, enjoying God’s beauty, and soaking up what life is all about- real-life relationships.

My desire is that in the next few months I will accomplish things I never thought possible by living a more simple life when it comes to online habits. So please… check up on me and ask how I’m doing.

Are there any areas in your life where you’re learning to simplify, or at least would like to?

Dear John- 10/27/2009

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Your first haircut on your 1st birthday

Dear John,

On Friday you turned one! The sun was shining and the fall air was crisp just like on the Thursday morning you were born.

Your first breath of life changed your Daddy and I forever.  Your eyes were wide awake when you arrived and you even grabbed Daddy’s finger while the nurses were getting you ready for me to nurse you for the first time.

I couldn’t stop staring at you and giving you gentle kisses as you were tightly swaddled in your blanket.

You grew so fast during those first few weeks and months. Eventually you started to smile, laugh, and coo. Then you graduated from baby food and crawling to real food and walking, even before your one year old birthday. You are truly amazing.

I have taken you all kinds of places around Dallas and we’ve met all kinds of people. And one thing remains the same: People don’t leave unchanged when you’re around. I’ve seen smiles remain on their faces after we’ve walked away. We’ve actually stayed at the grocery store longer because of the old ladies who can’t stop getting enough of you.

God has given you quite the personality and you pick up on how to do things so fast! Lately, you like getting into Daddy and Mommy’s books, phones, and gadgets more than your brand new toys. You are saying “mama” the majority of the time then “dada”, “baby” and “oh?” We love your sweet words.

God has given you one year to live and we pray that many more are to come because this world needs you.

You’ll come to learn one day that your Daddy and Mommy aren’t perfect all the time, but we do serve a God who is perfect and will never let you down. We will still do our very best to love you with all that we have… because you are a gift from God and that is a serious thing.

I am proud that you are my son.

I love you,

Mommy

10/27/2009

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

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