Crushing Your Kingdoms – 31 Days

crushing your kingdomsWe all do it.

We set goals, we aim high. We create bucket lists and reach for the stars.

We attempt to set up our own little kingdoms with little ol’ me on the throne.

We may pin things to our Pinterest boards to build up our kingdom. Perhaps we cook and clean and decorate the “perfect” house.

We may work long hours, using a career, to create our kingdom.

It’s possible we’ve decided the kingdom must happen through our children and we bow to their every whim and desire to give them the perfect childhood we didn’t have.

In the quiet hours, late at night, when the house is still and you’re not able to sleep, that’s when you can be honest with yourself. Your attempts to build a kingdom are wimpy at best. If anything, you’ve created a sandcastle kingdom, but a strong wave will knock it down.

For the month of October, I will be joining a couple thousand bloggers in #write31days. Each day in October, we’ll look at why we set up our own kingdoms, which kingdoms needs to be crushed, and whose kingdom we should be building (hint: the Lord God).

You can come back to this page anytime to get links to all the posts in this series.

Is there a kingdom you immediately thought of while reading this? Let me know in the comments and it may make its way into the series. Also, if you’re visiting from #write31days, let me know so I can visit your blog!

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To write or not and what to say

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I’ve been trying to decide if I’m going to commit to the 31 day blogging challenge this year.

In 2012, I blogged prayers for people who are/were hurting:

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Last year, for 2013, I wrote for (almost) 31 days on rest. It was challenging to try to be restful while making sure to keep hitting the deadline to write about rest.

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So what about this year? I haven’t been blogging consistently this summer, but I know the challenge to write regularly has been and is a good one for me. Whatever I decide, I need to make that decision happen in just a few short days…October is around the corner!

The follow-up question is what to write about? I’m not set on anything yet. What would you write about? Better yet, what would you like to read about for a month? What topic would you find interesting?

A Whisper is Better than Silence

Sometimes you can only speak in a whisper. I recently overheard two college girls where one was explaining that she had laryngitis and could only speak in a whisper at that time.

I haven’t had laryngitis, but my blog has been little more than a whisper this summer. Life has been so full with family, major projects at  church, additional responsibilities, illness, camp, etc., etc., that I had to set blogging aside for a while.

Sponsorship_Rwanda_Photo-PackAnd then inertia sets in. And as any introvert knows, the longer you stay silent, the harder it is to speak.

Using our voice, changing our world.

This is the blogger motto for World Help bloggers. I’ve technically been a #WHblogger for almost a year now, but my whisper has not been heard. I haven’t spoken up, in part, because I’ve been afraid that my little voice in my little corner of the internet wouldn’t have much impact. I know, it makes little sense, since not saying anything has zero impact.

So, I’m starting with a whisper today:

A – I’m back and blogging (yay!).

B – World Help is a solid non-profit that has been on my radar for years. Founded by one of my college professors, Vernon Brewer, World Help is a faith-based organization that meets the spiritual and physical needs of millions of people around the world through child advocacy, humanitarian aid, education & sustainability, and community development. This video gives a window into some of the work that World Help has been involved with recently:

 

Thanks for listening to my whisper today. I look forward to sharing more soon.

This post is also linked up with Five Minute Friday – prompt is whisper.

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God’s Got This – a peek into His sovereign will

berries of winterWe all have ideas of how we expect things to go in life. We make plans and expect they will turn out as we planned. Large project or small, we start down a course with a set expectation.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s an epic mess. Sometimes we end up with our own version of a Pinterest Fail.

I’m at Camp CUMCITO this week. We planned to have a fully staffed week. We planned to be able to fill the camp with campers. My husband planned to be here with me. My church planned to have a team of 15 people and bring 25 local campers with us.

God’s been teaching me a lot about His sovereignty lately. I had a refresher course a couple of months ago during a class my church taught. God’s in control. He’s so much bigger than my plans. God doesn’t scramble to figure out Plan B. For Him, there is no Plan B. It’s all His Plan A.

Basically, God’s got this.

I’m here at camp as a team of five from my church – not 15. I’m so glad that these four came with me. I’m so thrilled that they committed to serve. God planned exactly who should be here this year.

We ran into difficulties in getting parents on board and ended up not being able to bring any campers with us this year. God is not surprised by this.

My husband had a flare-up of back pain and is not able to work right now, let alone serve a week at camp, so I’m here without him. God orchestrated that he would be home and I would be here.

We not expecting to have a full camp. Campers weren’t able to attend this week for various reasons and we think we’ll be short about 30 campers. God knows and planned the exact campers who will step off the bus on Monday.

We have not been able to find enough volunteers to work at camp this week. Not sure if it’s the Independence Day holiday or what. We are short about 12 staff positions and people are having to stretch and do double-duty and get creative about how we make ends meet. Even this is part of God’s plan.

Not one single bit of this is a surprise to God. While we do all we can to fill the gaps and make plans, God knows exactly who will be here. He’s in charge of exactly what will happen this week. He is in control.

God’s got this.

Maybe there’s something in your life that’s not going according to your plan. Perhaps it seems like everything is falling apart. God is over all. He is at work in your life with His Plan A. He’s got this. I hope you can trust in that today.

winter berries

 

His Peerless Worth

This song has been on repeat for the last day. Different bits of the lyrics hit me each time.

…Joyful choose the better part…

…Let his peerless worth constrain thee…

…What can strip the seeming beauty from the idols of the earth?…the sight of peerless worth…

It’s so easy to focus on things of this world, even good things, and take our eyes off that which is peerless worth. God is beyond compare. There is none comparable; no one to be considered his peer.

And suddenly the things that have occupied my time and attention seem flat and shallow compared to his peerless worth. Soak in that as you listen to this song.

 

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Captivated by His beauty,
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King.

What can stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless worth.

’Tis that look that melted Peter,
’Tis that face that Stephen saw,
’Tis that heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.

peerlessworth

Exciting news (why I haven’t been writing lately)

I love, love, love, love, love my church.

No, it’s not perfect; neither am I. Yes, there probably are hypocrites; I’m probably one of them in some area. It’s definitely filled with people who have sinned and who have recognized God’s grace on them to rescue them from the damnation due all of us for rebelling against a holy God. It’s filled with broken people who are healing. It’s filled with grace (karis).

Easter was a powerful time of gathering in worship in Karis Church. On our last song of the day, the instruments fell silent and everyone’s voices were raised singing victoriously, In Christ Alone. I was so taken by the sound of all our voices that I stopped singing and recorded the audio from my phone. Here, with photos taken by Shalonda Farrow that day, is what I heard:

(I’m sorry, I can’t figure out why this won’t play on smartphones. If you have tips, I’d love to hear them. The video is posted on youtube.)

Our young church is growing. It’s exciting to watch it grow. And we’re feeling the growing pains right now in a huge way.

SOMEONE GAVE US A BUILDING.

A church in town is closing its doors and they decided, rather than selling what was left, to give their building to our young church. Incredible.

It’s not a new building and it’s not ideally laid out for today’s congregation. The lobby is small and cramped; there’s no space to check in children for Karis Kids or gather over a cup of coffee. It needs to be updated with sound and media equipment for showing song lyrics and scripture passages on-screen.

Demo galsAnd so, our mostly 20-somethings congregation is seeking to raise $50,000 to ready the facility to be a Gathering Place. We’ve already started construction and have made the auditorium larger by knocking out a few closets and small classrooms. Our pastor recently outlined the full vision on his blog. It. is. exciting!

So, this is partly why I’ve been so vacant from my blog. There’s exciting stuff going on and I’m in the thick of it. I’ve been helping with some of the organizational, behind-the-scenes stuff. I got to take some pictures last weekend of the first demolition day. There’s some fun pictures of that on our church’s Facebook page. Did I mention how exciting this is?

Would you pray with me for God to provide the money we need?

Would you pray for the work that needs to be done in such a short period of time?

Would you pray for God to bless the ministry of Karis Church as we seek to share the gospel of Christ with our community, across our state and the world?

Saying “I love you” without words (the Secret of the Snickers)

My dad was a lover not a fighter.

He was. He was a lover. A big softie. :D

And he was a huge gift giver.

Pick a year (any year), look at one photo from Christmas in our house and you would understand. You would see a brightly decorated tree with a flood of gifts underneath it and spilling out on all sides. Every year we had to remove bottom rows of branches from our artificial tree because there would not be room for all the gifts if we put all the branches on the tree. Stockings on Christmas morning were often laid on the floor in front of the fireplace because they were overflowing with “stuffers.” It was not unusual to find a stocking overflow bag with someone’s name on it. Serious gift overload.

Yes, Dad loved to give. Dad would write poems, give flowers, wrap up gifts. 

But the Snickers bars were the most interesting thing of all.

candy bar

On any random day Dad would come home with a Snickers bar for Mom. No pomp and circumstance, just ‘Here’s a Snickers I bought you.’ Sometimes they were just left on the dining room table to be found. Mom was always pleased to get them. I remember thinking once or twice, ‘Wow, Mom really loves Snickers, doesn’t she?’ Months might go by, but eventually, there would be another Snickers.

As my sister and I got older there started to appear three Snickers bars instead of one: one bar for each of his girls. What teenager will turn up her nose at chocolate? We thought it was pretty cool but, y’know, whatever.

It wasn’t until a few years after Dad passed away that Mom let me in on the secret. A Snickers bar was their secret sign, a private way of saying ‘I love you’ that wouldn’t mean a thing to anyone else except the two of them. Every time he brought home a Snickers, he was telling Mom, in their special way, how much he loved her.

It reminds me how important it is to tell our loved ones that they are just that – loved. Not just on special days like Valentines Day, but on the random days. On a day when the roast burned because the baby was crying. On a day when a dad soothed his sick toddler at 3am. On a day when nothing special happened and nothing terrible occurred. On a day like today and yesterday.

Maybe you need a secret sign between you and the one your heart loves, like a Snickers. Maybe it’s a peanut butter cup or a special IPA. Maybe it’s a back rub or knee squeeze. Obviously, make it something your special someone likes or you might end up in the doghouse.

Don’t forget to tell them. A secret sign does no good, if the person doesn’t realize what you’re trying to say.

Whether it’s with a Snickers or a kiss (the chocolate kind, right?), look for creative ways to say, “I love you.”

What secret ways can you think of to say, “I love you?”

 

Today, I’m linking up with:

Community: Outside Your Comfort Zone

lyrics for life

There are basically two ways to get community:

  1. You step out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s.
  2. You wait for someone else to leave their comfort zone and step into yours.

One Saturday in late April, five beautifully brave women and two toddlers stepped out of their comfort zones and into my home, while I stepped out of my comfort zone and hosted an (in) Real Life Conference.

What is the (in)Real Life Conference or (in)RL, you may ask? The conference that comes to you, the women behind (in)courage.me host a webcast on the last weekend in April and encourage women to meet together in homes across the country.

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The discussion centered around community and learning to tell your story. It’s an amazing thing that by one person opening up and sharing part of their story, others find the freedom to do the same. We end up in closer, more honest, community as a result. Through the course of the that Saturday, the six of us were able to share parts of our stories with each other. Even though I knew all the women on varying levels, I was thrilled to learn something new about each one of them as we shared.

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Earlier in April, my friend, Brooke, led a women’s training session for our church. She shared a great article by Paul Tripp that fit so well with the conference. In Who Knows You?, Tripp talks about two character qualities to shape your life by:

COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY. “You will want relationships where truth can be spoken, where honesty lives, and where candor thrives. Truth should be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), but you won’t be afraid of what will be revealed about your heart and life.”

HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY. “When sins and weaknesses and failures are revealed about you, you won’t rise to your own defense. You won’t summon your inner defense lawyer and try to argue for your own righteousness. You will admit your need for help and run to where help can be found – Jesus Christ and the promise of a new heart.”

I highly recommend you read the whole article.

Don’t wait for someone else to break out of their comfort zone. Make the first step. Grab that courage and humility and dive into life where you can share your story and get to know someone else’s.

What can you do to build a deeper relationship with someone around you? What would be the first step to breaking out of your comfort zone?

**Thanks to a gracious host gift from Dayspring, I was able to offer these gorgeous Lyrics for Life plaques as giveaways to the women who attended the (in)RL Conference in my home. **

 

I’ve Been Preapproved

To be preapproved means this: We love from our approval, not for our approval. We love without expecting anything in return. – Jennifer Dukes Lee

PreapprovedI just finished reading Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee. The subtitle on the cover sums it up so well, “Letting go of your need for approval and seeing yourself through God’s eyes.”

So often today, we have blinded ourselves to who we really are. We strive and work to be accepted by parents, peers, bosses, and sometimes even strangers.  That longing for approval creates idols that replace God.

Love Idol reminds us that we don’t have to prove ourselves – we can’t, even. Much like a credit card offer, we have been preapproved by Christ. We are already accepted and loved. The book is a journey to help us gain freedom from the bondage of people pleasing, perfectionism, and approval seeking.

I wanted to really dig into Love Idol, but I didn’t quite get caught up in it as I’d hoped. Jennifer is a gifted writer, but that gift sometimes got in the way. At times, the description of the surroundings of a conversation were so brilliantly written, that I stumbled out of the story to focus on the scenario she just created, that I missed the reason the story was included and had to re-read the passage.

Despite that, I still would encourage people to read the book, but to do so with discernment (as we should with anything, really). I have a friend in mind who I think will enjoy the book and I look forward to passing it on.

Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This book released early, so it’s available now at multiple online retailers. You can also join the Love Idol Movement on Facebook.

Where is the Joy?

Welcome back to Five Minute Friday. The general idea is to receive a prompt word and write about it for 5 minutes. No major editing, no fixing things to make the perfect post. It’s about writing.

This week, I left it really raw. It was one of those words that I wanted to overlook, but I stepped up to the challenge to write anyway. What follows is a rough estimation of how my brain works. I like where we finally ended up, but the getting-there was H-A-R-D. Disclaimer: I went way over 5 minutes, but you’ll see why.

This week, the prompt is Joy.

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The clock is ticking… The meter’s running… 

And I sit and try to figure out what in the world I could say about joy.

|    |    |    |    |    ← the cursor keeps blinking at me.

The Bible is filled with promises of joy. The 2nd fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace…

But I don’t feel it. Life is hard sometimes and my joy seems to dissipate like morning fog as the sun rises.

Nope. No.

I don’t remember a joyful moment today.

And I wrestle with how that balances with the people who are bubbling over with joy so much of the time.

I remember how, just before Christmas, a friend had a really exciting thing happen in her family. She couldn’t contain her joy (rightfully so!). One day she shouted on Facebook, “JESUS IS SO GOOD!”

At the time I was working through Advent, preparing to greet the Christ-child anew in celebration of his birth. My heart was raw, wounded, and sore. I mulled over her triumphant shout, happy for her, aching for me. It struck me at the time, that while I couldn’t shout in joy that God is good, I could still whisper it in pain. I could sob it in prayer.

Jesus is so good.

God even used that to allow me to encourage a few other people during the Advent season, to shyly show a tiny window of my pain so that someone else’s day would be brightened. There was a quiet joy in that.

Joy God is good

Back to today. A joyless day? God is still so good.

But my heart aches. God is so good.

And today’s problems will still be here tomorrow. He is good.

But I just want to scream out my frustrations! Jesus is so good!

joy.

Today is the first day of spring. We’re between the two holidays of Christmas and Easter. The joy at the manger to the joy of the cross. You see that now, right? The sorrow has a bright side. God is so good. He orchestrates everything for good, for His glory.

The joy of today is that even on a hard, exhausting, stressful day, God is so good.

Joy!

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You can read more of this week’s Five Minute Friday posts here – Joy.

I’m linked up with:

Five Minute Friday       

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