Exposing Sin

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Last month my man and I decided to tackle a DIY project. Our master bathroom remained one of the few untouched rooms in our recovering foreclosure. We didn’t have the budget to do a major gut, so a cosmetic face-lift was what we planned.

Our Saturday goal was to replace the horrible old laminate flooring with a fresh clean newer laminate flooring- anything would be better then the 20 year old purple and green diamonds filled with white lilies. Anything.

As we peeled back the old floor eager to tackle this “one day” project, we discovered years of mold. Black, ugly, not-welcomed mold. Years of untouched mold had grown in the dark places beneath the cracks in the floor. Years of neglect and hiding in the dark let this harmful grossness thrive.

And this got me thinking. A few months ago I pulled back the old laminate floor covering my heart and let someone in. And this peeling back? It’s breathed new life into my tired moldy soul.

For years I kept this particular sin a secret. For years I didn’t see it as sin, and even when I started to – when the scales were removed from my eyes – I still didn’t think about it much. Sin kept in the dark,  well it’s way more comfortable. It’s uncomfortable to think of exposing our sin to others. The thought alone can make us shake in our boots and squirm in our seat.

Sin rooted deep in years of habit, it’s ugly. And when we keep that sin tucked away, tucked away from others eyes, there it is fed. There it festers, it grows, it burns.

Kept in the dark our sin is fed by the enemy. He likes when we keep our sin a secret, when we don’t tell our husbands, our best friends. He likes when we are afraid to show our struggles, our pains. Sin tucked away breeds isolation, fear, and loneliness. It keeps us from being real, raw, open, and authentic. It keeps us from going deeper. It keeps us from Him and it keeps us from freedom.

I remember someone telling me years ago that in order for sin to be conquered, it must be exposed to the light. To Him, the Light, and to others. Sin loses it’s power not only when we bring it before His throne of grace, but too when we expose it to the light around us- to those who pour light into our lives and hearts.

A few months ago I braved my fear and shared my sin struggle with my accountability partner. I finally told her what I’d battled for years, how I’d wrestled and fought and grown weary. How I’d secretly loved this sin yet dreaded it’s power too. I told her of my embarrassment to confess it and my desire to run out of the room. I told her how it’s effected my marriage and my relationships. I told her all.

And you know what she did? She hugged me, she cried with me, and she prayed over me. She poured into my soul love and light and encouragement, and weekly she continues to do just that. She spoke light into an area in my life where ugliness lurked and mold had grown. Her prayers and encouragement and love and light, it has helped me to expose the ugly places of my heart. It brought me freedom- freedom to talk, to be real, to be raw and to be authentic.

 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. – Psalm 32:3

I must be honest and say that this sin hasn’t just disappeared. It’s not completely gone. Years of habit, well, it takes time to unlearn. But this area of my life, it’s losing it’s strength. It’s losing it’s hold, and complete freedom is only steps away.

Had we not pulled back the twenty-year old laminate flooring we would’ve never exposed the mold. Had I continued to keep my sin in the dark, I never would’ve tasted the freedom granted through exposing my sin to the beauty of deep authentic relationship.

Do you have something lurking in the darkness of your heart that is begging for the freedom that comes with exposing it? Let me encourage you to share it with a trusted soul, set it free and watch how He blesses your vulnerability. He will, I just know He will.

Bridge Builders

Bridges Are Not Built With Lit Matches

We are bridge builders. We reach and stretch with words. We long to connect across a divide. Of course, this desire has been set into our very being as image bearers of our heavenly Father and Creator. Our God spared nothing when the chasm to our rebellious selves was crossed. Fortunately, we have been shown how to build a bridge, by the life of our own Bridge.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

In becoming flesh, there is a sharing in our experience. We must first seek to have common experience and community with others as we pitch our tents together in this world. Just as Jesus moved into our neighborhood and engaged with those at arm’s length, we are surrounded online and in the real world by friends, enemy combatants, the destitute, the apathetic, and the clueless to whom we must relate.

Jesus was the manifestation and perfect reflection of God’s presence as his feet trod the dust of Israel. We must be filled with the Spirit by the reading of the word, meditation, worship, and prayer to even begin to show this same glory on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or our blogs.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Eph. 5:1

Oh, to be a copycat of that one-of-a-kind, unique, “like Father, like Son.” Are we being kind, tenderhearted and forgiving (as we are forgiven) as we speak truth? When the injustice of this world raises its ugly head do we respond with righteous anger that is put to bed when we go ourselves?

When we speak out are we finger pointing, calling out, sharing posts that call attention to yet another area of darkness, adding to the pile, demanding to be heard, demanding others be heard – like a classroom of 3rd graders and their cacophony of “shhh”s when the teacher asks for quiet?

Are our words free of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice so that when we speak out it should only build up as it fits the occasion, giving grace to the hearers (or readers)?

Bridges are not built with lit matches. Are we sure we are using the right tools in our endeavor?

Ephesians 5:2 continues on saying,

“And walk in love, as Christ loved and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

By doing so He changed the world through individual changed lives.

Friends, let’s construct bridges that cross divides and are two-way streets. Let’s put up railings of patience that make them safe for travelers who venture over the abyss. Most importantly, may our signs lead ultimately to God and not ourselves.

Speak out against injustice, stand up for the cause of the oppressed, and denounce wrong wherever it exits – GRACIOUSLY.

Go forth and build.

What Does Your Bridge Cost

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If you haven’t yet noticed, May’s theme for the Allume blog is “bridge.”  So of course the idea of a bridge has been rolling around in my mind for the past few weeks, and honestly, the 90’s hit “Love Can Build a Bridge” by The Judds is what pops into my mind every time I think about bridge as a writing prompt.

Maybe that’s what we’re going for here, not the actual ballad of course but the idea of the song — love really can build a bridge.

In fact, Love did build a bridge. 

1 Timothy 2:5 tells us that Jesus is the bridge between God and man, and “this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16 NLT).

Because God calls us as Believes in Jesus Christ to lead people to Jesus, we, too, are to be bridges!

But here’s the thing, if we want to be a bridge, we must first count the cost.

Being a bridge is not easy. Think for a minute about a bridge.

Bridges are walked on, taken for granted, and overlooked. A bridge certainly doesn’t choose who walks across, nor does it have any control over whether or not the person will make it to the other side. Sometimes the traveler will turn around and go right back to where they started.

Being a bridge can feel quite similar, can’t it?  The reality is that as a bridge, many times relationships and circumstances will be painful and thankless. We will feel overlooked and unappreciated, beat down and taken for granted.

Am I ready for that? Are you?

See, most of the time, I want to stand up and be seen. I want to be the signpost on the corner that people look to for guidance and whose advice they heed. But the reality is, if God has called me to be a bridge, then when I stand up, I just get in the way. I become an obstacle rather than a path.

God hasn’t called me to stand up and be seen but to lie down and be willing — even if that means I get hurt. Sure, bridges have boundaries, but even with boundaries, bridges are still walked on and used and many times unnoticed. But isn’t that what gets people to the other side?

Our love for one another will prove to the world that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35 NLT). Is love making me into a bridge?

We’re quick to remember that love is patient and kind, but that part about not being self-seeking or easily angered and especially the line about keeping no record of wrongs, that’s where our memories get a little fuzzy.

Love always protects, always trusts. Despite the disappointments, love always hopes. Regardless of the trials, love always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13)

Love lays low, often advancing through surrender, gaining by relinquishing.

Jesus laid down His life for us, and He has called us to do the same.

Love is the strongest bridge of all, crossing all boundary lines and connecting us together in ways otherwise impossible.

I might be the most persuasive speaker or eloquent writer. My knowledge could be unmatched or my wisdom profound. I could even have faith that could move mountains, but without love, none of that matters. (1 Corinthians 13)

Love is the bridge.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

Friend, being a bridge is not cheap, but God already paid the price.

 

Question for You:

In what ways do you struggle to lay down your life and be a bridge for others?

On Taking The Narrow Way

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Thank God, we have an empty tomb. The glorious fact that the empty tomb proclaims to us is that life for us does not stop when death comes. Death is not a wall, but a door.” ~Peter Marshall

In these weeks after the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, I’ve spent some time reflecting on how the emptiness of the tomb signaled the fullness of God’s glory. The grave sat empty while heaven welcomed Her King. Jesus didn’t just make a way, he became the way–the bridge between an earthly, and heavenly world. He showed us death as a door, and in walking through, invites us each to take that same difficult path.

But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it. (Matthew 7:14 NLT)

I’ve been thinking about how every day, we step, either towards the bridge or away from it. Every decision, every word, every dream or hope or action moves us either closer to the the narrow way, or further into the expanse of the wilderness.

We are never as stationary as we feel.

As Christians and writers, we have an opportunity, an invitation–or dare I say, a holy burden to help wandering souls to find the narrow way–to lead them to the doorway of death to self. We can use our stories and our words to circle ’round those who stand at the edges of the bridge, we can come beside those who see death as a wall, and whisper our resurrection stories to them.

In our writing, we can extend our hands to those who doubt and wrestle, and show them our own scars. We can reveal our own wrestling, and speak about the grace that buoys us when the water under the bridge rises. We can write about how hope keeps going along the difficult road of obedience. We can be proof that surrender is how to really live.

Our stories, held out as a light in the dim of doubt and uncertainty.

Our stories, as a gentle nudge to keep going when the path feels too hard, and muddy.

Our stories, as a companion for when the way feels lonely and isolating.

Jesus laid down His life that we might find ours. He became the way for us who wander and wonder at the edges of the empty tomb. Death is a door, not a wall. Jesus stretched Himself across the expanse between heaven and earth, inviting all to come weary, broken, bedraggled and walk across the narrow way.

What might it look like, if we boldly told our own resurrection stories? What stories are God writing in you?

Community is Worth the Risk

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This March my man and I celebrated our 4 year house-aversary. We bought our sweet little foreclosure 4 years ago before our little man came along, before children were really budding in our mind. We bought this home with the intention of raising our family here. Our home is within walking distance to schools and playgrounds and we’re surrounded by young families. It’s a great neighborhood. A beautiful neighborhood. We love it here.

But for the first 3 years, we really didn’t feel very connected. It’s just within the last 6 months that we’ve started to get connected. And those first 3 years? They were kind of lonely. 

Prior to having our little man we didn’t really have an excuse to go hangout at the playground to meet families there (without appearing a little creepy), and our surrounding neighbors just seemed to have their own lives- never really biting at our efforts to build a relationship. Our church and most of our church family live a good 20 minutes away, so although we made trips there multiple times a week, it still didn’t make up for our desire to meet neighbors.

Our area isn’t really known for having loads of friendly people {we don’t live in the South}. In fact, most people here have such busy lives and big careers that by the time they get home late at night, they pull into the garage and call it a night. Mingling with neighbors takes extra effort, and those in this area- although hungry for community- don’t necessarily take the time to create it.

Last Fall, when little man was just old enough to play at the playground, I finally met a Mom in a similar stage of life- a Mom who I wanted to be friends with. We met once and I knew which house was hers, but I wasn’t brave enough to ask her to hangout beyond that first meeting. I didn’t want to scare her away with my zealous desire to meet neighbor friends, so I didn’t ask to exchange numbers. I kept going back to the park in hopes of seeing her again, but I never ran into her. I was struggling with the courage to go knock on her door and ask her to “play”.

I told a friend of my insecurity – how being shut down by other neighbors made me shy and insecure about putting myself out there again. She told me to be brave and go knock on her door. So I did. Sadly she wasn’t home that day, but it birthed within me the courage to step out again.

A few weeks later I ran into that Mom and her sweet little one at the park again. We’ve since become friends, and get together frequently. And thanks to her having met another Mom at the park, we now both attend a neighborhood Bible study. Weekly I get to connect with other like-minded ladies and Moms in my neighborhood, and it just fills my heart with such sweet joy! A year ago I never would’ve guessed that there was this community within my community.

It only took that one friend, one time of pursuing a friendship with someone, to open a whole new world for me. I took a chance, laid down the fear of rejection that I’ve too often experienced here, and I intentionally chose to build a bridge towards community. 

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been hurt before? Maybe you just don’t know how to reach out to others in your neighborhood? Maybe you’re the only one on your block without kids and you have no reason to hangout at the park? I’d encourage you to take a deep breathe and go for it! Step out, knock on their door and bravely introduce yourself. It may not always result in a new friendship, but maybe it will. It’s worth the risk. Community is totally worth the risk. 

And for those who already have that community, I would like to encourage you to get to know the elderly woman next door, invite over that young couple without kids, get to know the single-Mom who looks too busy to stop and say hi.

Make the effort, build the bridge, don’t just sit back in your comfort without first giving them an invitation to join. You never know what door a new friendship can open for both of you! 

 

How to Let Go of Comparison and Build Others Up

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My finger paused as it hovered over the “post” button. The familiar tune was vulnerability, but this time I felt particularly exposed.

My anxiousness was not because I was about to share something hard, but because I was about to disclose what was, for me, a small success – a joy.  I knew that there would be silence from some in my circle, and that was going to hurt.

How did I know this would happen?  Because I understand the game of comparison.  I know what it’s like to hear of another’s success and secretly wish that it were mine – to feel like another’s opportunity means I’m being left behind with empty hands.  Our gut-reaction to that is often silence.

Celebrating another requires a bold and intentional move because it means we have to take our eyes off of ourselves. We trade our self-pity, disappointment, and feeling of unworthiness for confetti, a party hat, and a mouth full of sincere praise.

A true friend who is for me is not just there in times of sorrow, but also shows up with a celebration cake in times of joy.

There was a season in my life when doctors labeled us as having “secondary infertility.” We already had one child, but could not become pregnant again. I was at an age where all of my friends were having babies, so it seemed every week a new baby shower invitation came in the mail, or someone was announcing a pregnancy. There are few things that test a woman’s heart like infertility.

Every single month, hope would rise, and disappointment would pierce it. I was filled with struggle and angst. So when these precious friends came to me to share their joy, it was the ultimate test of my ability to build another up according to her needs, not mine (Ephesians 4:29). I knew that I could not focus on myself and sincerely build up my friend.

I had to trust that God would provide for my need, and would care for me, as I was caring for another.

The most secure and biblically mature people I know breathe this way of living. Their identity and worth is so tied to Christ that another’s success, despite their setbacks, does not trigger insecurity or comparison. They’ve learned that God’s evidence in another’s life is to be praised and that it doesn’t take one thing away from them.

If we want to be mature and secure women who reflect Christ’s character, comparison must be buried.  

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I have found that the best way to overcome these destructive feelings is with practical action. Here are three ways I attempt to kill comparison in my life.

  1. Pray – When we come before God on the behalf of another, He changes our heart toward them. I thank Him for the work He is doing in my friend’s life, and for the faithfulness He is showing to her. I then name what God is doing in my life, and ask Him to give me a heart of contentment and gratitude for those things.
  1. Act – Sometimes our feelings follow our actions. I can choose to act graciously toward the person with whom I am comparing, even if that person has not acted the same toward me. This usually comes in the form of speaking words of life to that individual.
  1. Celebrate – We can learn to celebrate another person, both for their personal benefit, but also to acknowledge that God is doing great things in the world. When I celebrate someone, I am ultimately giving credit to God, the giver of all good things.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I would add that it robs relationships of what is good. Let’s not hand comparison that power.

God’s generous provisions are more than we could ever hold. Let’s believe that truth, and overflow out of that rich abundance and heritage with a strength that, dependably and faithfully, builds others up.

I’d love to know, how do you fight comparison in your own life? or help your kids to do that?

In the Faith,

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How To Build Up and Out (Tearing Down Walls)

How to Build Up and Out

I am married to a builder.  I am a writer.  We work in different worlds, but live and create in the same one.

He constructs frames for homes, and I put together sentences.  We tear down and rebuild and press on in our creativity and craft.

We do not speak the same languages.  We have to work to communicate our processes and our purposes. His tools are strange looking and sometimes dangerous.  My work space is cluttered with paper, pens, nouns and verbs.

Yet, we get one another because we have had to build a foundation that joins us together despite our differences. He builds homes, I build stories.  But together, we build bridges.

Because we have not built walls around our differences.

How do we fashion the two worlds together, with rough edges, deadlines and the strong desire for other person to just get us?

It is easier to construct walls of definition within our lives from those that are different than us. Mending fences and building the Kingdom is the very reason we give all control of our gifts and desires to Jesus.

How can we build the Kingdom of God greater for His glory, when we are so focused on in our own voice, in our own world and into the very next thing that brings us closer to the end goal that may not be perfectly fit into the bigger plan?

Those very people that live down the road from you.

The writer that shares a different voice.

The lonely stranger that you overlook.

The best way to build the Kingdom is to begin with tearing down the walls of differences.

Who are the real neighbors in my life that I could work harder to BUILD relationships with?

What is my message or craft and how can it intersect with others to BUILD the Kingdom?

Where am I most needed for Christ and am I going to BUILD a community there?

Why am I writing and how can it BUILD bridges with others?

When will I begin break down walls and BUILD others up with my words, my gifts and His Word?

Every working relationship needs a builder.  And every one we meet, talk to, write for and live around should be a relationship we are working on.

My builder brings me home dust and dirt, mud and loose nails, bolts and tools that could easily be considered clutter, a nuisance or a hindrance to my own space.

I have chosen to see this as a perfect opportunity to know Him better. To hear his dirt and to share my own.  To clean up his mess and to sweep away my own.  To allow our differences be the very glue that holds us together.

Our words have impact. Be careful what we say and write.  But more careful who we keep them from.

Build up and not around.  Fences can be mended, but walls are not as easy to tear down.  Especially if they have been constructed with precision and purpose.

Who or what is on your purpose list today?  Will you be building up and out, or around?

 

Saying Yes to What is Best.. (And a BIG Announcement)

The Best Yes

A couple of days ago, I was super excited to receive in the mail an advanced reader’s copy of my friend Lysa Terkeurst’s new book, “The Best Yes.”  And while I can’t wait to finish the whole book, the title struck me immediately and I put a sticker from the box that says “Is this my best yes?” directly onto the back of my phone.  Because let’s be honest….if one of my babes is tugging at my shirt needing snuggles and some time with me, I often need to put the phone down with all of its apps and emails and social media pulls.  It is just not my best yes.

But it’s not only our phones that beg that question of us either.  It’s our time, our relationships, and our commitments that can force us into not being able to give our best yesses to the people or things that deserve them.  In her book, Lysa says “The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep.  The schedule you keep determines the life you live.  And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul.”  Annie Dillard puts it this way, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.”

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live stressed and overwhelmed with an underwhelmed soul…and I don’t want the people I love to live like that either.  I want to spend my days in ways that testify to a life well lived.  But, if we can’t say the hard “no’s” sometimes, then we need to know that can also prevent us from the capacity to give our best yes.

So when my dear friend Ann Voskamp wrote me very recently and said that as much as she adores and cherishes Allume, for this time in their family, it just isn’t their best yes, I blessed her with all the blessings of our entire community and told her we need the examples of more women being willing to say the hard “No”, so that they can walk in the best “Yes”.  What this means for us is that we will sadly not have the pleasure of hosting sweet Ann for what would have been her 5th Allume.  But… what it means also is that we support one of our sisters in releasing her to being able to follow the Lord in obedience to say her best “Yes” in the place that needs it most.

And while no one would dare to say that any one of God’s children is replaceable (and certainly we all agree that Ann is one-of-a-kind), we do have the pleasure of bringing someone new into our community to keynote at Allume this fall.  Because don’t you know that the Lord loves to give his children good gifts, and those good gifts DO extend to the opportunities we have to hear his own speak and honor him?!

In one week I received separate messages from an old high school friend, Anna, who is a fabulously talented makeup artist in LA, and my dear friend and literary agent, Don Jacobson, both telling me that I just had to meet their friend Sarah Dubbeldam.  Don has known Sarah for years as a friend of his daughter, and Anna is the beauty editor for the stunningly gorgeous magazine that Sarah is the editor-in-chief of called Darling.  Sarah and I finally got to connect, and all the while I’ve continued praying that the Lord would make clear his plans for Allume this year.  After Sarah and I got off the phone, we both just knew that there was something special that the Lord was doing, but neither of us knew quite what it was.

So here we are now.  Our Ann gets to give her best yes to her family… paving the way for Sarah to give her best yes to us!

Friends, get super excited because you’re in for a treat this fall when we have the pleasure of presenting to you our friend, Sarah Dubbeldam.

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Sarah Dubbeldam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Darling Magazine, an artistic quarterly publication that seeks to broaden the “ideals” of beauty in media and speak real, time-tested wisdom to women. Now recognized across the nation in over 100 retailers such as Whole Foods, Nordstrom and Anthropologie, the magazine is broadening into a social media movement with it’s “no Photoshop” policy and call for women to know their true worth. Sarah and her team are most excited about Darling’s recent partnership with International Justice Mission to help eradicate sex trafficking in South America. Sarah lives with her husband Steve, the CEO of Darling, in Los Angeles, California.

Connect with Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and make sure too to check out Darling!  Get ready to swoon friends…it’s stunningly beautiful and fully encouraging!

*And while we’re talking about it, What do you need to say no to, in order to give your best yes? We’d love for you to share in the comments below.  (Make sure to check out Lysa’s book, “The Best Yes” available HERE! and enjoy “The Best Yes” blog tour coming soon too!)

You Are Now the Proud Owners of an Outreach House

Allume! Guess what?

You are now the proud owners of an Outreach House. Specifically, The Sole Hope Outreach House in Jinga, Uganda.

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We (Logan & Carey) have spent the last week with Sole Hope experiencing the daily grind of what they do in remote villages when it comes to jigger (sand flea) removal and education. The ministry they provide is beyond amazing and we have been so encouraged by the light they bring to what plagues this community.

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What our eyes have seen has been painful but nothing was more gut wrenching than what we experienced today. Sole Hope has a new emerging ministry in their Outreach Center but it needs someone to take ownership of it so it can thrive. And we are the perfect people to do that!

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The Outreach Center now known as the Allume Wellness Center takes in the kids with the extreme cases of jiggers in hidden villages and cares for them beyond what a day clinic can cover. At the Wellness Center they are cared for by an on-site nurse and given much needed medical attention. They receive continuing education about jiggers, given new pairs of shoes made from your jeans, and returned to their village with a new sense of hope.

13march085 This is a ministry that was thrust upon Sole Hope and they took it on graciously but they need resources to make it happen. These kids need beds, they need a joy-filled place to stay, and they need our support Allume. Through Pure Charity you can give to the Allume Wellness Center and make an impact in the lives of children seeking relief from the pain of jigger removal. So get busy Allume! Start sharing, getting creative, and do what you can to make an impact in these little lives.

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Join the Allume Facebook Community

We know that many of you are looking to connect with the Allume community through Facebook and we want you to know we have an Allume page where the entire community can connect with each other.

We are going to be livening it up with connection points and questions to encourage you to interact with one another. We will continue to update the page with conference news, announcements, sponsor opportunities, blog posts from Allume, 2014 speakers and community writers. The best way for you to connect is by interacting on these posts. Feel free to come to the page any time, ask a question, look for a room mate, look for other newbies or alumni–we’ll connect you!

Logan in Uganda with Sole Hope

This week we’ve had the incredible privilege of sharing Logan and Carey’s journey to Uganda with Sole Hope.

Logan and Carey with Sole Hope

Sole Hope was one of our 2013 sponsors and is coming back for 2014 and, not even having been to Uganda, I cannot tell you what a blessing Sole Hope is to the children there. This is one of the many things you will see coming from our Allume Facebook page. So, if you haven’t already, go here and “Like” us so you can be and see community in action!

Finally, I encourage you to follow Logan and Carey through their blogs as they work with Sole Hope through the weekend and into next week.

Meeting God in the Airport

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Once upon a time, there was a girl headed to a conference. She nervously packed her bags, checked her hair, and prepared herself for an early morning flight. Her breath was taken away by the cool, rarely met, early morning breeze as she rolled her slightly beaten suitcase along the cracked concrete to take her number and find her gate.

But–she is not the only one. There, as she slowly sinks into the slick, black leather chair only to wait, are people–others that are prepared to take the same flight. Others with the same destination, same flight number on the same day. She has placed herself at odds that happen in these rare moments, divine encounters with strangers that will most likely never again happen during her time here on earth.

A two hour layover is plenty of time to grab a searing hot cup of coffee, read a few “how to” ebooks on blogging, and look cute while doing it, right?

But.

She has a two hour layover.

Two hours.

Two hours to help encourage a mom who just lost her child. To thank a veteran for his service to our country. To relive along with a pilot his shaking, near experience with the September 11th attacks.

You may have a few hours or a few minutes to share love, peace, and ultimately the gospel message with these wayward travelers who, just like you, are all headed somewhere.

You may have only a brief moment to connect with the stranger crammed next to you who orders peanuts instead of pretzels and is obsessed with playing Candy Crush on their smart phone.

That ticket, that purchase you made so long ago that covers all your meals and provides access to fabulous speakers is really just a way to get you out of your comfort zone. No, not necessarily once you arrive and wonder if you are wearing too much makeup or smell like old laundry. This time, this moment, this opportunity will never happen again.

Meet God in the airport. He is there with earphones, He is there huddled up with a soft blanket and silent tears. He is there, cradling the screaming infant amidst eye rolls from fellow passengers. He is there when you, when they feel alone.

It is not always about the destination. It is about all of those stops in between.

Seven Ways to Help Kids Memorize Scripture

The Shema ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When my youngest children were four and five, I wanted them to memorize the famous “Love” passage from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. So I made a poster using a different color for each phrase

First, we focused on the red words:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast.
Then, we moved to the orange words:
It is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking.

We proceeded in this colorful fashion until my kids memorized the entire passage. We called it the “First Corinthians Game.”

One morning, while gathering laundry at the top of the stairs, I heard my son say to his big sister, “Let’s play First Corinthians!”

His sister responded with a bored voice. “No thanks.”

Undeterred, he said, “Okay. I’ll do it.”

I stopped to listen and savor the moment.

In his tender four-year-old voice, he began. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not self-seeking.”

His sister interrupted, “‘It is not rude.’ You’re supposed to say, ‘It is not rude.’”

He accidentally skipped that phrase. But he shouted back, “No! It is not self-seeking!”

She yelled again, “No! It is not rude!”

Their skirmish escalated, and my maternal moment of bliss ended. I had to march downstairs and break it up. Their words to each other were neither loving nor kind. Obviously, they missed the point.

First Corinthians 13

Later, I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony.

Sometimes we work so hard at getting it “right” that we miss the point too. Reading the Bible is about transformation, not information. It’s about imprinting God’s Word on our hearts that we might love others with the same compassion Christ has shown us.

As much as I love to study God’s Word and memorize life-giving passages, I know a mere recollection of Bible verses isn’t enough. The Truth of Scripture must burrow deep into my soul, yielding a harvest of genuine service for Him.

At the end of my days, I don’t want to be known as someone who acquired head-knowledge without heart-compassion. I want to be someone who loves the way Jesus loves. And I want to teach my children to do the same. We still practice our memory verses. But we also talk about the meaning of those verses and how we can apply them to our lives.

 

Here are seven ways to help kids memorize Scripture:

 

1. Select one longer passage instead of many short memory verses.

The short weekly memory verses from Sunday School lessons are fine, but they usually reside in a person’s short-term memory. By the following week, they’re easily forgotten when it’s time to learn a new verse. Shorter verses are also more difficult to retain because they’re not attached to something larger.

We learn by association. So when we tackle a larger segment of Scripture, one section at a time, we stay focused on the same passage for a longer period of time, which supports retention in a person’s long-term memory. The children’s ministry at my church devotes every six months to learning one passage. Last winter, it was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. This spring and summer, the memory passage is Psalm 23.

2. Make a poster and give each section a different color.

Create line breaks to denote appropriate pauses. It’s much easier to absorb individual lines than one solid paragraph. This helps visual learners, especially when each line is assigned a specific color.

3. Create a pathway through your home and assign each line of the passage to a specific room or location in the house.

Start with the front door. When your child enters, have the first verse presented on one 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper. Let the child color the page. Then frame it. Set the framed words where they’re visually prominent. Then travel along a predetermined path — perhaps through the living, kitchen, dining area, and hallway — and end at your child’s bedside table or shelf. This helps physically active kids move through the house, associating each section of the passage with each sequential location. Each verse becomes a part of the house for the duration of the whole project. This especially helps kinesthetic learners.

4. Put the words to music.

It could be a new melody your child makes up, or it could be a tune as familiar as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Sing the passage together while driving in the car or walking around the block. This especially helps auditory learners.

5. Add motions to your song, or make it a cheer.

The more we engage our bodies, the more our minds have to pay attention.

6. Make a book.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Staple a few sheets of blank white paper together. Have your child write each verse from the passage on a separate sheet. Then draw a picture on each page that tells a visual story. Read the book often and admire your child’s artwork. Your child will associate each verse with the picture he/she drew and remember the sequence of the visual presentation.

7. Take turns reciting the passage before going to bed.

Kids are famous for wanting one more glass of water or one more hug before bedtime. The presence of their parents is comforting. When my kids were little and wanted to cuddle before going to sleep, I’d lie next to them in bed, and we’d take turns practicing our memory passage. They knew the routine. It wasn’t time to chat about the day. Once they finished their turn, they’d close their eyes and fall asleep while listening to Mom quietly recite the same passage.

Kids learn by example. And memorizing Scripture is something the whole family can do together. Then it becomes a central teaching focus for several months.

What helps you memorize Scripture?

 

Writing for Him,
Denise

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here’s one way we affect the world

 
My middle boy has tested my sanity lately. Sweet thing. He’s completely precious and tender-hearted. He can take anything apart and (almost) put it back together. He hurts when people hurt. And he prays to Jesus. But, like all of us, he has weaknesses. And his weaknesses colliding with my weaknesses have made for some ug-lay moments.

One of our biggest struggles as of late is with our words (his and mine), specifically when anger or frustration arise. My favorite was when he said I was meaner than satan. Nice. I followed with an equally winning comment, “Oh, I can show you mean if that’s what you want.” Not my grandest moment.

But this struggle with words has challenged me to think about the power of words. Because whoever coined that ridiculous statement about “sticks and stones” must have been smokin’ somethin’ because words absolutely affect us.

 

Words are power.

 

Words can humiliate and degrade. They can evoke fear and shame. They can make people run away or hide for cover. But. They can also pour life into another’s soul.

Words can squash fear and make us feel like we could fly. They can empower us to take the next step in a dark valley. They can minister grace and mercy when judgment seems more logical. They can encourage and bless, lift and even transform our today. Words are power.

 

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
Proverbs 18:21

 

Then there’s us in our areas of cyberspace that we call our writing home.

Those words we type onto the page can change the people on the other side of the screen. Our words can cause chains of religiosity to fall off. They can stir hope in places of utter hopelessness. They can serve up grace to those who feel like outcasts. They can show Jesus to someone who may have never looked into His face.

Oh yes. You and I — we can affect the world, beginning within the four walls of our homes and then spreading across time zones and continents.

Words are power — for better or for worse.

 

Father, put a guard on my mouth today. Use me to pour out life on those around me with words that are grounded in Your truth. And then thank You, thank You for Your grace when I fail.

 

Running this faith race beside you,
Lara

 
Tell of a time when you experienced the power of words — for better or worse.
 

When We Choose Pouting Over Praise

railroad2

I spent the first year at my job wishing it away.  It wasn’t what I wanted, and I let a pout be a permanent fixture in my attitude.

I went back to school with the intention of graduating into my ideal ministry position. I dreamed about that position throughout my three years in grad school. I longed for the day of ministering to women, pouring Scripture into their hearts, and connecting deeply with the Spirit in prayer beside them. I had a dream, I had a vision. But He wanted something different.

I graduated and He opened a door to a position much like where I had come from prior to grad school. In fact, it was a few steps backward in many ways. But He made it obvious this is where He wanted me, and so I obeyed His lead and accepted the position. As time went on I grew to dislike the position more and more and I grew bitter.

Instead of being grateful for a job in a struggling economy, I allowed misery and self-pity to overtake my heart. I soaked in the waters of anger, and I chose not to look at the blessings covered beneath the surface of this job.

Gratitude was something I had lost–a lifestyle, an attitude, a focus I chose to walk away from.

Over time the Lord began to pull up the weeds of resentment, showing me why He had me there. He revealed the purpose- the very reason I was placed there. Over time my heart changed.

But looking back I am saddened that for so long I wished away that season, excited to move on to what God had for me next.

Look what Paul wrote of the Macedonian churches in 2 Corinthians;

Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

Those in Macedonia faced great persecution because of their faith. Their situation deteriorated and poverty spread through the Church. Despite the difficulties they faced, they still chose to praise God and bless others. They contributed financially to Paul’s missionary work during this difficult time, they gave out of what they did have, instead of focusing on what they didn’t have. The Macedonian’s faith increased even in the midst of great trial. They chose to see the grace of God, soaking in His blessings even in the midst of a storm.

The Word of God gives us testimony after testimony of this very attitude, the attitude of living in gratitude and sharing the joy of the Gospel of Christ in every and all situations.

I wonder what would’ve been different if I hadn’t ‘wasted’ a year pouting over the season He had chosen for me.

As I reflect on that season, I see that He is patient. He is gracious. And He is a great Teacher.

I needed that season of pouting to learn that sometimes my story isn’t equal to His story. Sometimes He has different plans for a season then I do, and that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time. When my attitude learned to adjust to His plans, when I accepted where He had me and chose to be present and purposeful, I saw His abundant blessings. I saw Him.

After two years in my position, today is my last day. God has moved me into a new season, and I am walking away from this job. I am grateful for where He is leading me, but I wonder what would’ve been different if I hadn’t allowed my pouting attitude to cloud that season.

I am grateful for the lessons He’s taught me on this journey, and I pray that my heart will overflow with gratitude, like the Macedonian’s, no matter what challenge or storm this next season brings.

Are you in a season you didn’t picture for yourself? Are you weary and bitter? Are you pouting the days away?

Let’s choose gratitude. Let’s choose to see Him in the midst of this season, being open to what He might have for us there.

By, Mandy Scarr at mandyscarr.com

More Than Your Business Cards

more than your business card

I attended my first Allume conference two years ago. I was as nervous as a hummingbird! A few weeks before the festivities were to begin, I started to notice Allume peeps tweeting about the cute business cards they were bringing to the conference.

What? I began to panic. I didn’t have these things called “business cards”.

I quickly asked a designer friend to whip me up something and we rushed it to Overnight Prints. Like magic, I suddenly became the proud owner of business cards. But, I have to admit I was still wondering what I was actually going to do with them. I was pretty sure I would be returning home with the whole box.

Boy was I wrong! As I sat down the first night with a table full of women I did not know, one lady spoke up and said,

“Let the business card passing begin!”

It was like she sounded a trumpet! Everyone grabbed a stack of their cards and started passing to their right. As the cards went by you grabbed one of each. Wow! I suddenly now had other people’s business cards. This ritual occurred probably five times a day. By the time I got home I had over 100 business cards. In fact, I still have them. They sit in a stack on my desk along with my stack from last year.

I do enjoy looking at the way people visually represent themselves and their brand, I do enjoy having email addresses of people I connect with easily accessible, and I do enjoy having something to use as a distraction when I am sitting by myself and not sure what to do. But do you know what I enjoy more than a 3” x 2.5” piece of heavy weight paper with a picture on it?

  • I enjoy actually getting to know the people at my right and left at meals.
  • I enjoy having conversations about where people are from.
  • I enjoy discovering how and why people started blogging.
  • More than anything I enjoy listening to hopes and dreams inside the women around me.

Each year I go home from Allume with my new stash of business cards but what stays with me and makes me want to keeping coming back to Allume each year are not the cute business cards, it is the relationship building. It is impromptu mentoring sessions, the brainstorming breakfasts, the tears in the DaySpring lounge, the kindred spirits you discover, the challenge to be brave, the reminder to choose God 1st, family second, and blogging somewhere way down on the list, the opportunity to worship without distraction, the prayer, prayer, and more prayer.

So this year bring your cute business cards, but plan on being more than your card. Plan on being a conversation starter, relationship builder, and light to those around you.

With Joy, Carey C. Bailey from Cravings: desiring God in the midst of motherhood

 

3 Truths About Social Media

3 Truths About Social Media

I hear the rumbles every time Facebook makes a change. I’m going to quit Facebook. I like Google+ way better.

And just like that, bloggers everywhere are ready to drop one of the most popular social media networks. Not because their readers have abandoned it, but because the bloggers themselves are fed up with it.

I shake my head and smile. Next month they will be frustrated with the new social media network they’ve chosen, because no one is on there.

The truth is, social media is consumer-driven. It is all about the relationships you are building with the people who are already there. And you can’t have social media relationships with your readers if you abandon the place they like best to hang out.

Of course, when it comes to complaining about social media, it’s not only Facebook that gets the blame. Twitter isn’t conversational any more. Everyone preschedules their Tweets: no one is ever really “there”. And too often, the negativity is what drowns out everything else. But as Christian bloggers, we need to lead the way in shining Christ’s light in social media as well as everywhere else we go online.

Here are three truths about social media to remember when we start to feel disillusioned:

1. Social media is consumer-driven.

It doesn’t matter how many fabulous posts I make over at Google+ if my tribe isn’t there to read them. The first rule of choosing a social media network is to find out where your readers are, and go there. Social media is about where the consumer is, not about where the producer would rather be.

When the majority of my friends and family are on Google+, then I will consider hanging out there more than Facebook. But maybe your tribe is on Twitter and never hangs out on Facebook. Perhaps LinkedIn is where you need to be making contacts. Or it just might be that those up and coming Google+ users are the readers for you. Wherever your readers are, go there. But unless they are techies, don’t expect them all to follow you somewhere new: another social media network is the last thing most people want.

2. The purpose of social media is to build relationships.

No matter which social media network we’re on, we need to remember the primary purpose of social media is about building relationships. It’s not about getting the most likes or the greatest interaction as judged by a computer: it’s about the real interaction of conversation and relationships.

Yes, it behooves bloggers to be good stewards of their platforms. It’s a good use of time to study Facebook marketing techniques and best Twitter practices. But no algorithm can measure the eternal heart-impact of a Facebook post. No graph can show the value of relationships formed through social media.

3. Social media needs good leaders.

What social media really needs is good leaders, who will do what they wish others would do, right where they are at. Miss the conversations that used to happen on Twitter? Bring them back. Feel like no one is sharing your Facebook photos? Share the photos of others.

No one wants to listen to a whiner. Negativity isn’t going to generate more likes, and complaining about one social media network isn’t going to gain you follows on another. Let’s raise the bar for the content we’re creating and sharing. Let’s set the standard high for our social media posts. Let’s lead the way in being positive and “doing unto others” right where we are in social media. 

Tweetables:
  • 3 Truths About Social Media – to remember when we start to feel disillusioned (Click to Tweet)
  • Social media is consumer-driven. (Click to Tweet)
  • No algorithm can measure the eternal heart-impact of a Facebook post. (Click to Tweet)
  • Let’s lead the way in being positive right where we are in social media. (Click to Tweet)

Embracing Rest as a Writer

Today is my first day back from a two week blogging sabbatical of sorts.

In December of 2012, I wrote and launched my first eBook. It was a big undertaking, but so rewarding. I’ve loved every part of it. It’s proven to be so helpful for so many, and I am blessed by that!

Then, in February of this year, I finished my first book and sent it in to my publisher. That was a much bigger undertaking. The deepest parts of my heart, my soul, and my story poured out in 30,000 words.

I was drained after that, emptied of words. Still, I kept blogging. But I found myself lost, my message cloudy, my voice distracted.

Embracing Rest final

After such an emotionally intense season of writing, I heard God whispering rest to me. However, I am often guilty of halfway obedience, so instead of really resting, I just cut back on the writing. Three posts a week instead of five.

Still, a cloudy message and a distracted voice.

Also? A burned out me.

It took a teary conversation with my husband for me to be able to understand what God had been asking of me. Rest. Full and complete rest.

That meant no writing, no words at all.

And I panicked.

To take a complete break would mean a serious decrease in pageviews. A drop in followers. What if people left and never came back? What if they no longer took me seriously because I took a break? What if everything I had worked for came crashing down in two weeks of silence?

In asking myself those questions, and working through my panic, I realized why I so desperately needed a break.

My focus had shifted from His message to my numbers. I had gotten caught up in followers and subscribers and pageviews and link-ups and all of the things we are “supposed to do” in order to grow our ministries.

His message got lost. My voice got lost. And if I was honest with myself, it had been a while since I had written anything of quality.

That’s not the kind of writer I want to be. That’s not the kind of Jesus-follower I want to be.

When I write, I want to write the words He gives me. I want to use my voice to say the things He wants you to hear.

I want to do it because writing for Him makes me come alive. Writing for numbers wears out my soul.

So I took a break. I let my readers know what was going on.

Their responses blew me away. Comments and emails of encouragement, promises to be there when I returned, offers to pray and lift me up.

It was so incredibly freeing. So encouraging. Such an affirmation of the rest God had called me to.

This break, it has given me time to clear my head, to process deeply, to pray about my writing and the direction God has for me. And you know what? It doesn’t look like a million link-ups and book launches and strategies for building my numbers.

It looks like honest writing, a clear message, and rest.

I’m learning that good art requires rest. Creativity is choked out by busyness. We were created for rest, called to it. If we want to be the kind of people that write words of worth, we must embrace the call to rest.

All week long, I’m writing about rest over at my blog. I’d love for you to come visit, read along, and join in the conversation. Not because I want your page views, but because I believe this is the message I’ve been given. And maybe you need to hear it, too.

How do you find rest as a writer? Do you find it a struggle to refocus on the message instead of the numbers?

Kaysee

When You Write

Sword of the Spirit

When you write what the Spirit whispers, all the hosts in the heavenlies bend to listen and adore to the praises of their King.  On coal-burnished lips they whisper holy over the soft sound of beating wings.  The word echoes through eternity in unending repetition, holy, holy, holy.

But in the shadows where the light has cut the line and fenced the darkness, the hosts of hell take up arms.  It is not their habit to let a battle-cry go unanswered, and you have raised the colors of an enemy King when you wrote His words.

This is war, whether you realize it or not.  The battle rages in highest heaven and deepest earth and you have been uniquely equipped for a place in the battle by the power of your pen.  It is a pen that shreds the veil and open eyes because they are not your words, they are His, and His words have the power to ruin and restore with a single thrust.

Do you take that task lightly?  It is no light task to listen to what the Spirit whispers and to write “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  When you write those words, eyes are opened and swords are drawn.

God’s Word is powerful.  Effective.  Game-changing.  It is no less powerful in the hands of little-known writers or back-woods pastors.

Sword of the Spirit

And that is the truth that makes the underlings rise when you dare to lift your pen.  Because oh, if you realize how sharp is your sword and how mighty is He who is on your side, their ruin would be sure.

Their ruin is sure.

So they respond with the coarse whispers of those who must crawl on their bellies and grovel at the gates of the Kingdom.  They must speak in lies and half-truths because there is no truth in them, and no love.  Where there is no love there is only fear, so it is with fearful words they speak.

You must not listen.

But then, you will not hear them, not with your ears.  You will feel it with your heart and with your emotions and even with your will.  And if you listen, those lies will work their fear into you and fell you.  They will keep you on the ground when God has called you to arm yourself.

They will keep you from your sword.

You have been there, perhaps more often than you wish.  You have been crushed by something you cannot see.  But it is no less real.

When you cannot get up, when you cannot write more, it is because deep inside, you heard the cadence of lying tongues and in your weakness, you believed it, and they won.

Ephesians 6 12

Listen, Writer, from your place on the ground and know this: the power they hold over you is nothing like the power that lifts you up. 

That is what they fear, those demons who lurk in the shadows, working the truth over forked tongues and causing you to believe you are nothing more than a writer with a word.  They fear that one day, you will come to understand the truth of your calling.

You are a writer with The Word

You are armed with a sword that always hits its mark.  It has never returned to its sheath in shame, and it never will.  When you pen truth, you thrust that sword right into the den of the liars.

They will claw and fight when they find you there, and you will feel the blows.

But this is not the time to shrink back.  You must get back up.  Secure your armor, take up your pen, and write.

 –Yours in the fight,

Kristen

Why Encouragement Works

photo (7)

Encourage one another.

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Would you like to know a secret? It has been the single most effective way for me to build my blog.

And also required the heaviest sifting of my heart to find.

It has brought me the most joy and has found me more often than not on my knees before the Father in tears. I have had to put my selfish pride behind me and do things – in blogging, online communities, and real life – that bring glory to God. And it’s hard.

My natural tendency is to strive. To have a goal and do everything in my power to make it happen. When it works, my pride grows. When it fails, my pride suffers and I become insecure, comparing and wondering why it worked for “her” but not me. And that, sweet friends, is an ugly path I have traveled down far too often.

It is only by the grace of God, a powerful refining, and a softened heart that I now know the full joy of offering praise for the success of others. It’s not always easy. It takes practice, reaching out to someone and celebrating their achievement when you wish it was yours. In a world where competition is the norm and women are expected to be catty, not congratulatory, it takes practice.

But I can promise you this. When you go out of your way to share someone else’s amazing blog post, leave an encouraging comment for a blogger you admire, or send another writer information about an opportunity you think they would be perfect for, you are doing a hard thing. You are choosing not to keep it all for yourself, you are choosing to admit that you are not the only one who can do this thing and you showing this world that Christ’s light shines brightly when we live for Him and not ourselves. As I’ve opened my heart to those around me, as I’ve joined community and sought ways to encourage others, He has blessed me in incredible and unexpected ways.

Today, my amazing writing friends, let’s give God the opportunity to poke some holes in our pride so He has more room to shine. Be a light. Love one another the way Christ has commanded us to and take this “light living” from the pages of Scripture to the screens of blogs and out into our daily lives.

Encourage one another.

Who is God calling you to encourage today?

Crystal Stine
http://www.crystalstine.me

What Are You Building?

broken bricks

Photo Credit: John Donges

 

Building a blog. Building a platform. Building a following.
In this blogging world, we read about building all the time, don’t we?

With each word and thought and post and comment,
each interaction, each tweet, each mention and share, we are building.

But what are we building?

I have wrestled with this question every time the idea of platform building is brought up, and I shrink back. The reality of Genesis 11 hits me with full force, and I wonder if my mind equates building my platform to building my tower of Babel.

“They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ … Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves…’ (Genesis 11:3-4).

A name for ourselves.

The barb of those words pierces me through.

That old slave of seeking approval and perfection and wanting to be accepted and liked and seen rears its ugly head, and I must flee!

The temptation to stack those bricks to make a name for myself can whisper loud at times, but may it never be! I don’t want to build with bricks. I am not called to build with bricks. I am called to be a living stone.

Living stones don’t build towers; they become altars

And those altars are beautiful because on them we pour out, lay down, give away, that our lives might become a living sacrifice.

Less of me; more of Him.

Sweet sister, can’t you already feel the freedom in that?

Even in this competitive world of blogging,
even in the desire to get noticed,

we can put off envy and division. Selfish ambition has no place. We can let go of vain striving and fierce competition. As we become that altar and pour ourselves out for His name, following His lead, we find the purpose and fullness and hope He has for us.

Bricks are made by man, but stones are created by God. I am not the builder, He is.

Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:1-2 NLT).

What endless toil there is in laboring over a plan that is not God’s.

Solomon knew this well when he penned Psalm 127, one of the very few Psalms written by him. One well acquainted with meaningless striving (Ecclesiastes 1), Solomon recognized that all the effort and time and work spent on anything that God does not build is wasted effort. It is pointless. Futile. Meaningless.

It is just bricks.

“Imagine pouring your daily efforts into something completely meaningless. None of us wants our work to be in vain…The question we need answered is whether or not God is in our labor and indeed initiated it as His own building project” (Beth Moore, Stepping Up).

Are we spending ourselves on making bricks? Are our blogs just another way to build a name for our selves, or are we surrendering selfish ambition, following Christ’s lead, living lives marked by spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God so that we might be living stones?

We are not to build up for ourselves but pour out for Him.

We aren’t called to build, but to be.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him” (Romans 1:1-2 MSG).

Oh Sisters, may it be that our words, our blogs, our very lives follow God’s lead and be all about making much of Him!

“Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to YOUR name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Psalm 115:1).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Erika

erikadawson.com

because the milk will probably spill

Yes. The milk will spill. And it will probably be chocolate. And it will probably spill on the floor you just mopped for the first time all month.

Not only that, the kids will run through the house with muddy boots. The dog will eat your still-warm, from-scratch cookies off the counter. The toilet will overflow because someone tried to flush a Lego creation. And the computer will crash just before you save that 800-word blog post — the one in which you poured out your heart with deep vulnerability.

I’m just here to encourage you.

 

The milk will probably spill.

 

Seriously, though. These are the things that can get to me. In fact, it’s often the little daily annoyances that bring out the me that I can’t stand. The one that I hope no one else sees or hears or remembers. Because she can be jacked. up.

So in recent years I’ve asked for wisdom for those kinds of moments. Because they’re gonna happen. And I really don’t want to hurt anyone. Literally.

The only solution that seems to work sounds so churchy. But it really helps me keep perspective, especially when the container of 5000 plastic beads gets poured across the kitchen and you’re still stepping on them eight days later.

 

Pause. Breathe. Pray.

 

I told you it sounded churchy. But it’s just true. The spilled milk won’t matter in ten years, but the hearts of those who spill it will. When I pause, breathe, and pray, it changes my perspective.

I may say something profound like, “Lord. God. Help me not hurt someone.” Or I may go deeper, “Father, it’s just milk. Give me your perspective. I want to reflect You and Your grace, even now. Show me what to do.”

God loves it when we simply turn to Him. He’s knows we’re dust. He knows we’re going to lose it at times. He remembers our humanity. And He just loves it when we turn to Him.

We won’t do it perfectly. We’ll still totally overreact at times — especially during heightened hormonal seasons. Can I get a witness? But even when we completely fail, He’s still grace. He still lavishes grace.

So if…when…the chocolate milk spills today, I’m asking Him to remind us to pause, breathe, and pray. We’re such a needy people.
 

What do you do to keep perspective when those daily annoyances arise?
 

Looking forward,
Lara
ToOverflowing.com

 

Change Lives, Live as Light

The words you are writing are important.

The ones trapped in your heart, the words you have to close your eyes to type because you aren’t sure if you have the courage to make your fingers move across the keyboard?  Someone needs to read them today.

The story you’re living and the legacy you’re leaving is one built by God, hand-crafted from breath and Word and you are the only one who can share it with the world. God did not mistakenly give you a passion for writing, communicating, speaking, song writing, rapping, singing, worshiping, glorifying – any way you slice it, the words are yours and the story is God’s and you are here to tell it.

light

Sometimes the story is hard. And it takes courage to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, heart out for the world to judge.

Do it anyway.

Sometimes the story is funny. And it takes courage to be a light and shine Jesus, to share love and laughter with strangers who might not “get” you.

Do it anyway.

Sometimes the story seems like it’s been told before. And it takes courage to tell it again, your way, with your words, believing that someone needs to hear it from you.

Write the words.

I know how hard and discouraging it can be. I know what it’s like to steal minutes and hours in a closet-office away from the sleepy morning cries of a toddler snuggling with her daddy because that’s the only time you have. I know what it’s like to write with sleepy eyes late into the night with reality TV in the background and your laptop on your knees. I know how easy it is to believe that my words don’t matter. I know what it’s like to want to give up and I also know the blessing that comes from doing it anyway. I know what it’s like to click “publish” and read nearly the exact same post from a bigger blogger the next day. (you know, like my last post here at Allume!)

Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Whether you realize it in this life or not, your words, when used for God’s glory, will change lives. Use the gifts God has given you and be the light someone else might desperately be searching for – let’s change some lives. 

 

Crystal Stine
http://crystalstine.blogspot.com

you. we need you.

You. Your voice. Your God-given, Spirit-inspired, life-lessons-learned voice is needed. It’s needed.

Not just maybe needed. Not just “if you want to say something then that would be fine” needed. No. I mean there are people who God strategically places and perfectly prepares to hear your. specific. voice.

 

God gave you a voice on purpose.

 

Do you believe that?

Personally, I used to really wrestle with that thought. I mean, I had twelve subscribers for the first six months of my blogging venture. Twelve. And eight of those were family members.

And even though I sensed God leading me to write, I struggled. I questioned, “With all these other voices filling blogs and books, does mine really matter? Does my voice really matter.”

God slowly, faithfully revealed that I was asking the wrong question. Wondering if my voice matters put the focus on me. Not Him.

Here’s the bottom line. Write this down. Frame it. Have it tattooed around your wrist…if you’re into that. If God leads you to do it (whatever *it* is) then it’s with infinite purpose. For our good and His glory.

We may not see the results. We may never know how our words affected another. But following His lead brings great reward. I’m not talking about tangible rewards like increased subscribers or more comments or hundreds of shares — that may or may not come. I’m talking eternal, unseen rewards that time can’t steal.

You. Your voice. Your God-given, Spirit-inspired, life-lessons-learned voice is needed. It’s needed. So let’s press into our God. Let’s seek His face. And let’s trust that if He leads us to write it, then He must have a really good reason.

 
How have you wrestled to believe that your voice is needed?
What is God calling you to do?

 

why am I writing?

If I’m honest, I’ve had moments when I’ve asked myself the question.

Why am I doing this?

Why do I spend my supposed “free” time writing blog posts and designing widgets and answering comments? Because personally, I don’t monetize my blog. So it isn’t for the money.

 

What is my motive...really?

 

The answer I keep coming back to is “I’m compelled.” God led me to start it. He led me onto this blogging journey. And He leads me, inspires me, and prods me to press on — spilling out whatever He teaches in my process-of-a-life.

But with deadlines and page stats and link-ups, it’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to disregard the heart behind the blog.

I mean, yes, He leads. And yes, He inspires. And being compelled is a great place to start. But if I’m not doing it in love, then I’m missing His ultimate reward. If I’m not typing the words and praying for direction out of love for Him and love for the hearer, then in the end, it’s nothingness.

Paul tells us…

 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3

 

God has challenged me to honestly look in the mirror. Because I want to write from the overflow of love. I don’t want to stand before Him one day and have it all disintegrate into nothingness because it lacked love. What a travesty that would be.

So in this honest looking-within, we simply ask Him to reveal our heart. And if it’s difficult to find love at the center of our words, then we ask Him to stir up His love within us. We ask for His vision of those who are listening. And we trust Him to faithfully fill.

How about you? How do you foster a heart of love for Him and for those to whom He’s called you to minister?
 

Give Them A Clue

We gather in this spot daily, weekly and once a year – for a cross generational community of women to encourage and inspire Real Light Living.  

Have you had any one ask you what Allume is and what Real Light Living means?  I have.  They ask me to just give them a clue.  Just a glimpse into this call on our schedules, our hearts and lives – that pulls us to this one place:  Together.

If you had to describe this community, the conference, the meaning of Real Light Living…could others  SEE it, rather than be told?

Is a glimpse into our lives enough to show other’s what Real Light Living is all about?

May I encourage you, the women who stop by here, to pull up your chair and get comfy while you read this post.  Let the words sink into your skin and inspire each you..each one of us..to model this LIGHT wherever we go, and with whatever we do.

While raising our family, we chose a “tag line,” we have referred to through the years as we bring our focus back to what is really important.  “Life is for service.”  In a nutshell – Let your line shine before men.

There are 276 days left before we meet together again and convene as women who aspire to Real Light Living.
 Wouldn’t the Lord be well pleased with over 400 women gathering together to share their stories of change, growth, and how their light could be seen like a city on a hill – so that other’s could see the light and it made a difference in the Kingdom work?

Grab your notebooks, net books, and let’s begin.  The days are ticking …

-Make service a priority in daily living

-Learn how to handle conflict Biblicaly

-Begin intentional, joyful living at home

-Write truth and not false allusions

-Share in the good news of others with words of affirmation

-Model forgiveness

-Re-direct your success and accomplishments to God, and not ourselves

-Write and write more – Letters of encouragement

-Make and Take meals to those around you

-Encourage a mom with a helping hand

-Shower your family with Grace

-Show grace in your relationships

-Learn to see beneath the surface of those you mayhave before judged

-Show Joy in your life and not martyrdom

-Invest into genuine relationships

-Think beyond your walls and computer screen

-Love those that may seem “un-lovable” to you

-Allow your on-line presence to radiate His presence in your life

-Look up and beyond those you normally speak with, there is someone else going unnoticed

 Keep your list going.  Living in the Light is not about our works, but about a transformation of our daily living, that we may reflect His light in our spheres of influence.

That others may see this place and proclaim the glory of His Name and His amazing work in our lives and others.

Let’s give the world a clue – Allume!

 

Because Life is for Service, September @ One September Day

 

Why Would You Do That?

There are a lot of times that I am asked some serious thought-provoking questions.  Women searching for answers that I myself am still discovering golden nuggets of truth about.

I don’t claim to know everything about blogging. One might think that I have the “handle” on motherhood, and truly, I am still pressing towards the mark for the prize of the High calling in Jesus.  

But I am open to wisdom and leading. 

When I came home from Allume with my daughter  by my side, I again realized that God always teaches me in the quiet.

May I share what happens when we abide and let the fog clear just a little bit?

Coming “down” from Christmas might be just the time to read this post and ponder.

I took my daughter to Allume this year.  I have been before, but this year was different for me.  I had just finished writing an e-book, and had found myself in a place called – tired.

I was ready for this time away.  Would you be surprised to know that I only attended two workshops this year at the conference?  I know all of the speakers, and truly would recommend always taking advantage of hearing and seeking the wisdom from any workshops you can attend.  

But, this year, I sought peace.    Peace in the blogging world, quiet in my world and heart, and this is what God did for me.

I begged Him for light.  Not for me to BE the light, but to BRING me light.  It was there, I just couldn’t see it.

Life gets foggy, and our vision becomes clouded with ideals, and expectations.  I let the fog roll away.

I spent hours in the Prayer Room.  I would meet new women each day at meals, and seek their journals to write and pray for them.

Why would you do that September?  Why would you spend money and time for a conference, and not take advantage of the whole experience?

I am asked a lot of questions.  Questions about motherhood, parenting, marriage, etc.. but the only real wisdom I could ever give you – would be this:

Abide.  Listen and follow.  In all of those areas and the rest of your life.  Choose wisely by knowing you have given the right time to the right things.

Allume for me was the most beautiful time with my daughter.  Seeing her as a fun-spirited woman, and giving me a new and fresh perspective.

I learned to look in the eyes of the blogger handing me her card, and love her for the beautiful creation God set in this place. And now, I am rotating your cards by taping a new one to the corner of my computer each week.  I am praying for you, with your picture and your site to remind me of your life and His work in you.

Allume to me is and always will be about life, His Light and a little about blogging.   

I came home from Allume, and took my first blogging break in four years.  I have not written one new post, and my “followers” have jumped by 400.  Where does that come from and how?  I have no idea, but, I can truly say, that I have seen His Direction, by waiting and listening.

Listening cannot come from busy.  Following cannot come from running ahead. 

What would I do that?  A question that I hear so often – and my answer is always this – Because He told me to.

Written by September, at One September Day

 

A road in…{on transparency with Holy purpose}

As I was walking with my young teen beauty, through our grassy field, in our own backyard, I paused. I recognized the place I stood. Remembering, I looked ahead and looked behind. “I had a dream a couple of days ago,” I began to share with my daughter. “A dream that someone was building a road through our land, right next to my writing cottage. It was being built through the woods.”

In the dream, I knew our land was not the destination. The road was to be used to get from one place to another. In the dream, I wasn’t afraid of the intrusion, I just wondered and watched.

“Oh, no! That is not ever happening,” My daughter was adamant. “This is our property. We own this land. This is our house. No one is coming here, and especially not building a road through it.”

“Of course not,” I smiled as we continued our walk.

It was only a short while ago, resolutely, I took the same stand. Fearful, possessive and protectant, closed-in, and wanting to keep everyone else out. I was the guardian of my own heart, and I was alone in a dark prison of my own making.

God whispered in that moment. “That’s not My way. What if I want to build a road in your life? What if I want others who have lost their way to use that road? What if I want to use your life to help others find their way? It means you have to let Me. Then, not be afraid to let others in. I take your place as Guardian of your soul.”

A road in? A roadway in the wilderness, where no road should be and He’s the Road-maker. And maybe, just maybe, that hard way where trails were blazed through testings by fire, weren’t just for me to walk through. Just maybe they are to help someone else walk through, too.

I know what He means. “Keep open house. Be generous with your lives.” (Matt 5:15 MSG) He’s been teaching me this lesson, long. He doesn’t force His way in, He waits to be invited in. Then Him coming in means opening a way to let others in, and for us to come out. Out of hiding. Out of darkness where we think we are safe. His way is perfect. His way is love. And His love perfect, coming in, means driving fear out. (1 John 4:18)

“But by opening up with others, we prompt other’s to open up with God” (Matt 5:16 MSG) This is the beginning of true authenticity and transparency with a holy purpose. “For if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us.” (1 John 1:7)

So this — this blogging, this soul labor of writing true — this is me keeping open house. I am allowing the road to be built through my life. I share my struggles, my trials, and my triumphs, and how I’m finding the way. My life isn’t the way. Jesus is the Way. I let this light shine, and hope it be a beacon for those who have lost their way. And we journey together.

by grace,

Michele-Lyn, living a life surrendered

 

to my fellow {recovering} control freaks

Hi my name is Lara and I’m a recovering control freak. Seriously. I used to alternate our dinner plates by color. The ones inside the cupboard that no one saw. Can we say “issues”?.

But God gave us three kids in four years and all color-coding fell apart. Then our marriage walked through a dreaded valley and my soul fell apart. And I finally had ears to hear my God whisper in sweet perfection, “Child, you are not the one in control.”

*Deep. slow. sigh.*

 

God's on His throne

 

Thinking we have life under our control — or not — is simply an illusion. Because only One reigns. And He has authority over every storm, every bird, every heart, every principality of darkness, every cell, and every disease.

Rest comes upon us when we let go of our grip. When we let go of the people and things we’re desperately trying to fit into our box of how life should play out, and grab hold of the One who’s sitting secure on His throne.

That taking hold of Him is done in the moments. It’s done when our feelings react, or overreact, and we run to the laundry room and remind our heart of truth. That’s when His peace guards us. He promised.

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

 

Because He’s got this, wrapped tight in His perfect love. And He can be fully trusted with every detail of our lives.

Looking forward with expectation,
Lara from ToOverflowing.com
 
Any other recovering control freaks out there?
What encourages you to get past that feeling of needing to control ev.er.y.thing?

 

Something Much Greater Than Just You or Me

You stand at the edge and peer over. Your heart is beating wildly and you hesitate for just a minute…but you know…

…you know that you didn’t walk this thing to be silent about it. You know that this pain, this weakness, this dark place in your heart wasn’t just exposed and healed so that only you could be free.

No, it was for more than that.

So you stand at the edge and look over at this new territory. It’s terrifying. You see others ahead that are beaten and bruised, almost crushed, and they are weighed down with the same thing that held you. You have overcome by the grace of God but they are writhing in pain and held captive with chains too heavy to fight against.

But to pick up your sword and enter the fight is going to cost you something.

It’s going to cost you exposure. You will have to reveal that you were held captive too. That you were weak. You will have to do war again, beyond what you’ve already fought, for these who are bound in front of you.

You could back down. You could stand in your own place of freedom and choose to stay. It’s the safe place to be.

But you are brave. There is a fierceness in you and a call to greatness that you cannot describe. It sees the captives, surveys the territory, and readies for battle.

You pour your heart out with your fingers on keys and your eyes on the screen and you slash through lies. You tell your story and chains begin to loosen. You share how you were weak but He was So strong and the enemy is shaking in his boots as he begins to loose ground in this new territory you are taking. He fights back and fights hard but you know Who to run to when you are in the thick of battle so you fight on.

You are faithful with this truth that set you free. Now you get to be a part of a deeper work that sets others free when you obey the call to write and speak about the radical grace you have found.

Are you standing on the edge of a blog post or a conversation that is terrifying but also powerful enough to break chains for someone else? What will you do with it?  There’s new ground to be taken and we have a choice to join the fight and take it for the King of Kings or to be safe. 

So, when you write on your blog and share your heart {your failures, your weaknesses, and your victories} you are waring over lies that hold others captive.  This blogging thing is no measly hobby.  It’s a chance to be a part of something so much greater than just you or me.

In the battle with you, Kristin from The Beautiful Deep

Making Disciples Where You Are

We are about four weeks out of the Allume conference and many of you have gotten back to your normal routines and normal life, while some of you are still picking up the pieces of the disaster hurricane Sandy left behind. I pray that wherever you are, God is using the words of the speakers you heard to spur you on, challenge you, and encourage you in your everyday life.

These past few years, each Allume conference has carried with it a running theme throughout the speakers messages. Although these themes weren’t preconceived by conference planning, God was very much a part of putting these themes into place to reach the hearts of us.

The first year, speakers spoke mainly on not neglecting your family for the sake of your blog. Crystal Paine spoke of having boundaries and not neglecting your husband–especially in the bedroom. “If you don’t have time to have sex with your husband, you don’t have time to blog.” Oh yes, she went there–because it’s something we need to be reminded of! Sally Clarkson spoke passionately and encouragingly of blogging with integrity. If you’re neglecting your family for blogging, you’re not blogging with integrity.

The second year, speakers spoke of not seeking fame in blogging. They said it over and over again: ignore the stats, don’t seek your worth through your numbers. Ann Voskamp really hit it home in her key note as she spoke about letting go of the fame-seeking because Jesus never sought fame. He had just 12 followers! She encouraged us, though, to rumble the web with thunder and watch as God brought the lightening. God would light up the Internet if we would bring the offering–our stories. Our brokenness. Not sermons, or preaching.

This year? The theme was to reach the people who are right in front of you. While it is similar in nature to not chasing after fame, it still has a more narrow focus. The message was that if we are ignoring those people who need ministering to right in front of us to go out and chase numbers, we are failing to recognize the ministry God has placed before us.

Something that’s also very important that we need to be aware of is this: people may not comment on your writing, but they are still reading. You may not even realize that there is a broken woman reading your words on the other side of the screen; a woman who doesn’t know the love of Christ but finds hope through the words you share because they illuminate Christ. They draw her in, yet we have no idea because she has never commented.

All of these themes speak to one central message: discipleship. We are called to make disciples. All of us. Not just certain people. It begins in our home but it doesn’t end there.

We reach the people right in front of us.

Through missions you can help reach those across the globe as well, by being a sender.

But let’s focus for now on your blog, if you have one. Minister to those already coming to your blog. Don’t ignore them to chase after more people. Reach the heart and pour into the few.

In Luke 16:10, Jesus says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”

Let us be good stewards of who is right in front of us. Let us minister to the one person. Let us tell our stories for the one who needs to hear them. Because that one matters.

Joy in Christ,

Christin, Joyful Mothering