The Call of Jesus: Come to Me and LEARN a New Way

Growing up my value system was unknowingly ruled by 3 main things, 3 ways I managed life in order to know that I was OK.

Reputation. I was a hard worker, not for the sake of achievement or because I valued excellence really, but because I valued being thought well of. I was driven by reputation.

Relationship.  I felt good about myself because of who my friends were. And I was a good and caring friend – sometimes at the expense of my own needs, and in spite of my better judgment. I was a good and caring friend so that people would like me. Because I needed them to be my friend, I needed them to like me, I needed to be needed.

Responsibility. As the oldest child in a split and blended family, I felt responsible for everyone. I was aware that the younger ones were watching, that I was expected to be a good influence. I was always aware of my responsibility. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I see: I thought I could overcome the hurt and pain and unpredictability in our family for myself, my siblings, even my parents, by the power of my own responsibility and reliability. W

This was my value system, my way of managing life and being OK: Reputation, Relationship and Responsibility (and I was much better at being responsible for others than I was for myself.) That is how I was OK in the world.

Then, halfway through college, I met Jesus. I fell head over heels in love with Him. He filled up empty spaces I didn’t even know I had.

For years, this is how I shared my story: Before Jesus, I found safety, security, LIFE in relationships & reputation. But then I met Jesus and learned to find safety, security, life in Him.

I had been a Christian and telling this story for over 10 years before I realized it was a lie. Continue reading

New Resource Available: The Call of Jesus (an 8 week study on the commands of Jesus in the Gospels)

As I mentioned here, this summer I’ve been working on getting some of the Bible study curriculum I’ve written for my local church and college ministry formatted and share-able so that I can make it available for others to use.

Now available here and under the “Free Bible Studies and Resources” tab:

FullSizeRender (1)The Call of Jesus: An 8 Week Bible Study focused on Jesus’ Commands in the Gospels

This is one my favorite studies I have written or participated in, I just love it. For 8 weeks set aside time to look at Jesus, listen to His words, and ask what He is inviting you to right here in your real life. Continue reading

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy I Can Not Find In My Own… (A song for your Saturday, and mine.)

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy 
I cannot find in my own 
And He keeps His fire burning 
To melt this heart of stone 
Keeps me aching with a yearning 
Keeps me glad to have been caught 
In the reckless raging fury 
That they call the love of God 

Now I’ve seen no band of angels 
But I’ve heard the soldiers’ songs 
Love hangs over them like a banner 
Love within them leads them on 
To the battle on the journey 
And it’s never gonna stop 
Ever widening their mercies 
And the fury of His love 

Oh the love of God 
And oh, the love of God 
The love of God 

Joy and sorrow are this ocean 
And in their every ebb and flow 
Now the Lord a door has opened 
That all Hell could never close 
Here I’m tested and made worthy 
Tossed about but lifted up 
In the reckless raging fury 
That they call the love of God

– Rich Mullins (my favorite poet and songwriter)

 

If you’d like to hear it as a song, you can listen here, or watch him sing here (and talk about how this isn’t his favorite song, but I sure love it anyway).

A Prayer for Peace {Psalm 122}

Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am traveling and working on some long term projects this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. Today’s is on Psalm 122, which you can read here.

Imagine you are one of the children of Israel, in the generations after exile.

You were born of a people covenanted to Yahweh God, married to the Most High. Your ancestors followed Yahweh out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the land of promise – Israel. You grew up listening to stories of the golden years – when Israel was united under King David and worship centered around the temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, named the city or fountain of shalom (peace, wholeness,  flourishing.) But along with those golden stories, you also grew up with stories of darkness, consequences, judgment. Your ancestors, your people, were unfaithful to Yahweh. They joined themselves to other gods, sought protection through military might and treaties with foreign nations rather than in Yahweh your God. And so – as was promised in the ancient texts, and warned of by prophet after prophet, the mighty men of old – your people were removed from the land. Carried off by the very foreign powers they had looked to for safety and security. Jerusalem, the city of peace, was lost. The temple in ruins, the people were removed from the land of promise. You inherited generational guilt and consequences of sin, through no fault of your own – you were born into exile.

Imagine you are one of the children of Israel born in exile. You were raised on these stories, but you were also raised on promise – the promise of Yahweh’s lovingkindness, the promise of the prophets – that after the judgment would come restoration and return, and some day, a Messiah. A Christ. A King to return Israel to what she should have been. A return of Shalom to Jerusalem, the city of Shalom. And now you are seeing kept promises begin to rise like dawn. Jerusalem is being restored. The temple is being rebuilt. Your people are allowed to make the yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship. The Psalms are your songbook, and as you make the long trek home, you sing the Psalms of Ascent. Step by step you are getting closer. Closer to seeing Yahweh’s promises fulfilled, closer to the hope of the Messiah, closer to Jerusalem.

You sing: Continue reading

Darkness {Psalm 88}

Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am traveling and working on some long term projects this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. 

I love Christians, but sometimes we say dumb things.

Years ago, in a hard season, people kept telling my friend Rae “God never gives us more than we can handle.” She finally said, “I think God has severely overestimated my abilities!”

It made me laugh, but can we all agree that God has never promised not to give us more than we can handle?

Personally I find most of life more than I can handle. And more often than not, the pathway to deeper dependence on God and faith has been not my ability to handle things, but my inability.

Maybe we say things like “God never gives us more than we can handle” because we’re uncomfortable with suffering. We think we need to fix it, to make it better, to get over it.

Psalm 88 presents a vastly different response to prolonged suffering. This is the saddest of all the laments, called by many “the dark corner of the Psalms.” Continue reading

How to Thrive When We Feel Shriveled Up and Dry

Feeling a little DRY-

SUMMER! The season for fun in the sun, rest and relaxation, joy and refreshment. The season when kids are home. All day long. Family vacations. Extra time with extended family. Lots of togetherness. Not a lot of routine.

I want summer to last forever.

On the other hand, I’m kind of worn out from all this togetherness, partied out by all the fun. By this time in the summer I am feeling less like a summer sun goddess and more like a shriveled little tree. Especially in this post-July 4th Nebraska week, after so many fireworks-full (sleep-deprived) nights.

So I look to one of my favorite passages in the Bible for help and hope.

Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord.

 For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord.

For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

I don’t’ know where summer finds you today. Maybe it has been one bright adventure after another, with plenty of rest.

But I imagine at least a few of you feel like I do on this mid-summer day: Tired. Worn out. Maybe feeling a bit like this bush, deserty, like you live in a stony and salty wasteland, alone.

In this tired, dry place I am inviting myself to remember where I’m planted. And I want to invite you to remember as well. To remember where we’re planted, and to remember where our trust lies.

This passage tells the truth about me: When I am feeling stony and desert-y, it’s almost always because my trust has seeped away from my only trustworthy source of strength and sustenance.

I find it so easy to trust in mankind, to depend on my own ability to fix or help people, to think I need to manage outcomes. This wears me out quickly. And it makes parenting in particular and life in general so exhausting.

Even in the summer, when things are supposed to be light and easy: If I’m carrying every burden on my own shoulders, trusting in my own strength, I end up dry and dusty.

It is so easy to forget to put my roots down deep into God.

I forget to TRUST.

We are believing trees, planted right by the streams of living water.  And daily we can choose to trust the Lord and put our roots down deep.

So today, if you are energized and ready for the second half of summer… Or if you are tired and feeling salty and stony: I hope you remember we have no reason to fear heat, no reason for anxiety in a year of drought. We all get to put our roots down deep.

For me, that looks like reminding myself of truth:

God is with me, and God is with you. He has already provided all that we need for life and godliness, we have ALL we need in Jesus.

My hope and trust is in GOD, not in a certain outcome, and not in my own or anyone else’s abilities or strengths.

And it looks like taking (or making) time for silence and solitude, pouring out my heart to God, listening for His encouraging reminder that He is WITH me.

Blessed is the man who trusts God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. (Jeremiah 17:7-8, The Message)

Never a worry, through the hottest of summers. I think I’ll stick with God. How about you?

 

This post first appeared on the EquipHer blog (that’s the women’s ministry I serve with!), as part of their summer guest post series, “Thrive!”. My fellow guest posters have been hitting it out of the park, check out the whole series!

 

Come & Listen {Psalm 66}

Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am on vacation this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. 

Food tastes best when you’re hungry.

Rest is sweet to the exhausted.

A shower is never more enjoyable than when you’re covered in sweat and dirt.

Safety is taken for granted by those who are used to it. But for those in danger and hardship, security is a gift. A blessed relief.

With these truths in mind, read Psalm 66.

Come and see the works of God, Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.  He turned the sea into dry land; They passed through the river on foot; There let us rejoice in Him! He rules by His might forever; His eyes keep watch on the nations; Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah.

Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.

For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins. You made men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water, Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:5 – 12)

Psalm 66 tells a tale of deliverance, of danger and privation, followed by being led into abundance, “Finally he brought us to this well-watered place.” (v. 12, The Mssg)

No wonder the response is praise:

I shall come into Your house with burnt offerings; I shall pay You my vows, which my lips uttered and my mouth spoke when I was in distress. I shall offer to You burnt offerings of fat beasts, With the smoke of rams; I shall make an offering of bulls with male goats. Selah.

Come and hear, all who fear God, And I will tell of what He has done for my soul. (Psalm 66:13 – 16)

The psalmist experiences God as one who hears, who delivers, who restores and leads and comforts.

For those in danger and hardship, security is a gift and a blessed relief. Continue reading

Psalm 6: Sin is a problem, what do we do with it?

Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am on vacation this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. This one is on Psalm 6,  which you can read here.

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are dismayed.

Psalm 6  is the first of the Confessional (penitent) Psalms in the book of Songs. Studying penitent Psalms means thinking and talking about sin.

The Hebrew people – at least as they are represented by the psalmists – seem to have had a much more open relationship with sin than we do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like talking about sin. My history with conversations about sin is colored by groups of people calling other people sinners. As a Bible teacher, it’s awfully hard to talk about sin without condemning and judging – and only God is judge. This makes it so much easier to avoid the topic. But perhaps that tendency blinds us from embracing a healthy awareness of our own sin?

I want to learn from the Psalmists’ openness and understanding of human sinfulness and a holy God. Continue reading

Free Bible Study Goodness

Popping in with a little bloggy business for you today. I wanted you to notice I have a new link up there ^^^ on my blog menu. See that? Where it says FREE BIBLE STUDIES AND RESOURCES?

FREE?

Why yes.

I’ve been writing Bible studies for over 10 years for my local church, through my role in the college ministry and women’s ministry. It is one of the joys of my chosen vocation.

And it is a never ending delight to my heart to get my studies into the hands of other churches and ministries. I’ve been asked for copies many times over the years, to be used by churches and groups in other towns, states, and even around the world. It makes me so happy!

 

One of the projects I am working on this summer is getting everything I’ve written ready to share here on the blog, so they will be more easily accessible. (Up until now, people have to email me and ask, then I send them a PDF of what I used, with all the dates and information from when I taught the study – so I’m cleaning all that up!)

Check back regularly and see what I have for you.

Or (even better!)  sign up for my email list, and I’ll let you know when I’ve added new resources!

Right now, there’s just one study on there and ready to be downloaded (free!): a 12 week study on the Sermon on the Mount, which has been one of the most impacting and challenging studies I’ve ever participated in. I’ve done it with a group of 20 or so college students, adapted it for all 200 in our college small group Bible study, and taught it as part of a Bible study with 40 women through our Tuesday morning Bible study. It is good stuff, if for sure the hardest Bible study for me to write (not because it is hard to understand, but it is super challenging to live.)

Coming soon:

Living on the Rock: Finding Security in an Insecure World (A 12 week Bible study on the character of God, focused on moving beyond just knowing the truth to applying and living in it day by day.)

The Call of Jesus: Making Room to Hear and Respond to Jesus In Our Busy Lives (An 8 week Bible study organized around different invitations Jesus made: Follow Me, Come to Me, Abide in Me, and more.)

Teach Us to Pray (An 8 week study of the Lord’s Prayer. In this topical study, each week focuses on one phrase of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray.)

And more…

Bible Study Goodness

 

Hang on Tight {Psalm 44, part 2}

Last year our college ministry spent the summer in the Psalms, and our staff directional team took turns writing devotionals for each Psalm that we covered. While I am traveling and working on some long term projects this summer, I thought I’d share some of the devotionals I wrote. This one is on the second half of Psalm 44,  which you can read here.

 

On Tuesday we talked about finding the honesty – together as a community – to say things to God like, “it feels like you have rejected and forsaken us.”

As I watch the news – violence near and far, division of all types, anger, hate fear – I do sometimes feel like we are in God-forsaken times. And when I see that violence, division, anger, hate and fear in people who claim the name of Jesus, I just don’t know what to say. WHY does God stand by and let this happen?

Join me in asking Psalm 44 to be our tutor. I am looking here for what we can learn about what to do as a community when it feels like oppression is running rampant. Continue reading