Giving Myself Permission to Fail

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A few days ago, my 6 year old boy John came home from school ecstatic about the prizes he had won and all the candy in his Easter goodie bag from school. One of his favorites was a bouncy ball. He bounced it on our hard wood floors and on the ceiling and his sister was jumping off the walls in sync with it.

“John, take that outside please,” I tell him as I desperately wanted some peace and quiet.

He opens the door and heads outside and within 3 minutes, he’s yelling my name.

“MOM! You shouldn’t have told me to go outside! I bounced the ball and now it’s lost.”

Oh boy. There goes my quiet time.

I go outside to help him look for it and it’s nowhere to be found.

“I’m sorry John.”

“It’s your fault. You told me to go outside,” he says on the verge of tears.

I reason with him and share how he is still responsible for the ball. I let it be and let it go, but something inside me still felt like I failed him. I guess I didn’t suggest the best solution for play.

My feelings toward his lost bouncy ball reminded me of how I often feel in motherhood. Am I failing at this? I never feel like I quite have it down and as soon as I do, some other struggle and difficulty surfaces.

In her honest article, “My Pact to Become Good at Failure,” Mandy Arioto says,

“In a sense, motherhood offered me new eyes to see that failure can be the thing that saves us. This is what I’ve come to believe about failure: it’s good. Just like childbirth is good. And by good I mean incredibly painful. Failure hurts, but there is tremendous potential for goodness to be born through it.”

– (Hello, Darling MOPS Magazine Spring Issue, pg. 29)

I think she is right on. For so many years, I have looked at failure as a bad thing. Could it be though, that failure can be turned into a good and godly thing?

When a deeply invested friendship hasn’t turned out the way I thought, I’ve felt like a failure. When I can’t seem to balance all the needs of my children and love my husband well, I’ve felt like a failure. When I lash out and say words I would’ve never imagined saying to those I love, I’ve felt like a failure. When dinner is not what anyone wants to eat, yep… failure.

And then there are situations and circumstances in the past that haunt my heart today in light of failure: A hurtful word, an unacceptable grade, the inability to do what was expected, a damaged relationship, and more.

IMG_7096Regardless of the sin I’ve committed and the sin that’s been done to me, God still uses failure and all the pain and suffering attached to it. Maybe we don’t see the purposes now — that’s okay. God loves us in the midst of our deepest failures.

There is never a time when He is shaking his fists and yelling at us to get our act together; rather His arms are outstretched like a father to his child. He tells us to, “Come.”  He accepts us by grace through faith, not by any good works we have done. Even on our best day, we still fall short. That’s why we need Him. That is what we celebrate this Easter.

I will fail, but I am not defined by my failures because God redeems them. He forgives. He is gracious. He is patient. And pain, while it is so difficult, can be a wonderful tool for growth and change and Christ-likeness. If I gave myself permission to fail, and let God pick up the broken pieces for me, I’m pretty sure I would start to see things with a fresh pair of lenses where grace saturates the world around me. It is a daily battle to rely on these truths, but it’s possible.

Well, the bouncy ball incident hasn’t been talked about all weekend until yesterday when John stormed into the house and yelled:

“MOM! I found the ball. It was in front of the slide!” He threw his arms around my waist and almost knocked me down, to which I translated: Mom you’re still the best!

Grace, Life, & Finding Order in the Chaos


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This past week has been difficult. All my kids were sick, we were up multiple times a night, I caught a stomach bug, had multiple pediatrician appointments, dealt with overwhelming (think rip your hair out) demands in motherhood, and had a flat tire.

It never ceases to amaze me how much I begin to “get ahead,” as in things are feeling somewhat smooth and then conflict and major struggle comes on the scene out of nowhere. In these times it’s so tempting to throw in the towel and quit. To not read my Bible, to be short with those I love, to complain, to say “why me?,” to take a few extra bites of that chocolate than I should, to blame, to be angry, to isolate, and to be undisciplined all around.

Discouragement settles in and spiritual attack is difficult to overcome especially being sleep deprived.

Thank goodness, Sunday rolled around and John Piper preached at our church and Phil Wickham led us in worship. They were both helping lead the Linger Conference here in Dallas. Piper preached beautifully on God’s grace and the theme of grace was also interwoven in Wickham’s songs. These lyrics have been stuck in my head since Sunday:

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

It’s easy for me to think of the words “Who brings our chaos back into order” as a one time deal – in the moment I trusted God for my salvation and surrendered my life to Him. And it certainly is that. But I was thinking yesterday how I just can’t leave it at the moment I put my faith and trust in Christ.

I need God to find order for me still today. Order in my relationship to my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and in whatever life throws at me. And it is certainly a process.

We need to know that God is here with us. He cares about the brokenness in our daily lives – whatever it might look like – and He’s here to do something about it. He knows we struggle – sometimes deeply struggle – and need His intervention. And even if we have thrown in the towel, He’s there to pick it back up. 

When we need order, we run to Jesus and we find it in him alone. And we remember that we desperately need him in the joys and trials of life.

These truths have been enough to help me get back in the Word, get our home cleaned up again, love my family better, be thankful, practice moderation, serve others, and be known.

Everything isn’t made whole yet. Creation. This sin-cursed world. This sin-nature. But one day all of it will be. And that is our hope. Until then, we can lean into his precious grace not just for today but also for tomorrow.

 

Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace Music Video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFRjr_x-yxU&feature=kp

 

When You Pray for & Love Your City

photo credit: athensboy.wordpress.com

This past Sunday, our church partnered with 15 local churches to pray for 18,000 homes in the city of Rowlett, TX (just outside Dallas).

Our church gathered together for worship, a message of encouragement, instructions, and then our leaders sent us off. I teamed up with an incredible family in our church, Judy and Ali Master, along with their four children.

A Prayer of Blessing

I didn’t quite know what to expect with this kind of event, but I knew that there is power in prayer and you never know the hardship, chaos, or disfunction going on inside someone’s house. All of us have experienced pain in some way or another. We were being sent out to pray this prayer of blessing over each home:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26

During the first few homes we prayed for, we noticed a middle schooler riding his bike on the road. He rode up on the sidewalk and we introduced ourselves. His name was Ryan and he attended the school our church met in right down the road.

I told him what we were doing and I asked him if he wanted to join us. I figured he’d think I was wacky for asking such a question, but I wanted him to know we noticed and cared about him.

He responded with a sincere “No” and rode off. I was a little disappointed but I couldn’t blame him! We were complete strangers.

An Unexpected Breakthrough

We continued on our walk, discreetly praying for each home. Ryan was still riding his bike just ahead of us. I told Judy and her daughter, Molly, about how interesting it was that he was still “with us” an hour into it all. They’d been thinking the same exact thing.

Towards the end of our designated houses, Judy engaged in more conversation with him and invited him to our church. He opened up more and said his parents were divorced and that he might be at his dad’s on the weekend. We told him whatever he could do was fine.

The Master’s and I headed to our cars to load up, and Ryan rode over near my van. He asked me some questions about my kids and told me more about the dynamics of his family. I was amazed at how nice he was and how natural it was to talk to him. He was totally different than when we’d first met.

Then he asked what time our church started because he forgot. I told him when to come and he said he was going to try and make it this coming Sunday.

Living, Learning, Loving Redemptively

I was so excited about Ryan’s willingness to join us. I believe he saw Christ living through us and that light was attractive. It was encouraging that our prayers to make a difference in someone’s life were being answered.

Being on mission with the Master’s created a special bond between us as we worked together to reach out to Ryan and love on him. At the end of the day, whether he comes to our church this Sunday or not, I just hope that he knows he’s loved and prayed for and that ultimately he will come to know Christ.

Acts 29 church planter, Jonathan Dodson, says:

The power of redemption, in turn, changes the heart of man who can change his culture and his city. Liberated from the power and penalty of sin, the redeemed are released into true humanity. In turn, we devote ourselves to living, learning, and loving redemptively.  (See Article: “Hate the City, Love the City”)

When redemption is truly understood and lived out in our daily life, it becomes impossible not to pray for and love the people inhabiting our cities. How convicting and challenging this is, but what a joy to be apart of the redemption God desires for each and every person we come in contact with.

How are you doing at loving your city?

10 things the Cross has saved me from

… continues to save me from:

anger, control, pride, fear, condemnation, envy, shame, bitterness, anxiety, lust.

The weight of my sin on the cross was great, but not greater than the One who took it upon his shoulders:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]

God’s Constant Pursuit

I interviewed an extraordinary guy last night for a potential story in a project we’re doing with Max Lucado. Chris Skinner and his wife Suzie sat down with me for two hours sharing about God’s grace on Chris’ life. In college, after a night of partying with his frat brothers, Chris got in a severe car accident that left him with a broken neck, spinal chord injury, and in a coma for 13 days. He would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

There is no way to do justice to his story in this post, but I left last night amazed at God’s continuous pursuit of Chris. Chris grew up in a Baptist church, God had put several Christians in his path throughout the years, but he never really knew Jesus. Eventually one evening at church through hearing God’s word, he came to the end of himself. He felt a deep remorse for his sin and he repented. He surrendered his life to Christ.

He told his buddies he gave up drinking. One of his roommates, so infuriated, poured vodka down his head. They forsook him, but in the midst of the persecution and pain, he pressed on and followed after God. He started speaking all over the country and sharing his story to help other people. He even got married to a godly woman. Now, in and out of speaking, he’s at Dallas Theological Seminary studying God’s word and raising twins.

As I sat on their couch, I couldn’t help but think of the times in my life when I was in rebellion and sin, but God kept pursuing me. I would willfully disobey God’s word in the evening, and then in the morning I would “do my devotions.” I struggled to love God through obedience and not just words. But eventually, I too, came to the end of myself and surrendered everything to Christ. My struggles didn’t disappear, but I chose to make choices that would help me love God better.

Fast forward to today, and sometimes I take for granted his constant pursuit. While the sins I struggle with are different than what they were 10 years ago, I’m amazed that He has always been there, loving me as his child. Patient in my disobedience. I sense his love today greater than ever before and I just can’t escape it.

To be able to sit down with Chris and Suzie gave me a whole different perspective in how God works in the lives of other people. How he is always on the move to redeem and save what has been lost. My time with them has strengthened my faith and has given me a greater trust in the Lord.

I think when we experience times when our relationship with God is stagnant and we just don’t see him working in our own lives, he gives us the body of Christ to wake us up and to see that God is doing so much more than we could ever imagine.

In what ways do you feel God’s pursuit in your life? Has he used anyone lately to remind you of his love and faithfulness?

Rethinking Bethlehem & Redemption

bethlehemOne of the most amazing things about my job is being able to hear and reflect upon solid teaching from our video shoots before I write. I’ve been writing the discussion guides for our Bluefish TV 2009 Small Group Kit that releases soon. Some of our teachers/pastors in the kit include Erwin McManus, Todd Phillips, Mark Batterson, David Nasser, and more. Right now, I’m working on the Christmas small group series called “A Savior is Born: Experience the Wonder of the First Christmas” with Pete Briscoe- the Senior Pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Let me tell you… this series is beautifully taught. Pete’s teaching has helped me to better reflect on why God chose certain details in bringing his son into the world. For instance, Shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in that time. Considered ceremonial unclean. Not allowed to worship in the temples because they worked with animals (who were unclean). So why did God choose to bring the good news that a Savior was born to them first? He could have chosen the chief priests or the elders. Well, God always exalts the humble and they were watching for Him.

Bethlehem? The town wasn’t anything special. But it was great in the eyes of God. A manger? No newborn infant at that time would have been placed in a feeding trough. Why wasn’t he born in a palace? Why didn’t he come in apparent glory like many expected? 

And Mary? She was a simple human touched by divine power. People try to exalt her today above God but what made her extraordinary was the Spirit coming upon her. His grace and favor was on her, but not because of anything amazing she did. He chose her to bring His glory.

I’m so perplexed that God came into the world as a humble servant- for me. For us. He chose lowly Bethlehem and took upon a criminal’s death on a horrific cross to save me from my sin and to heal my brokenness. Why did he do it? Because of His relentless love, grace, and redemption for all mankind. There’s no condemnation here. There’s no pomp and circumstance. 

If that doesn’t cause me to sing, I don’t think anything else will.

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