But Lord…

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The Lord said, Go!

Ananais said, But, Lord!

But the Lord said, Go!

So Ananais went.

Acts 9:10-19

’Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananais; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananais.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying there, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananais come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.”  But Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on your saints [God’s people] at Jerusalem; and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing you as Savior]. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a deliberately chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” So Ananais left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road to Damascus, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles]. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; and he took some food and was strengthened.’

Acts 9:10-19 tells the story of a man who doubted but did it anyway. Can you relate Sis?

I get it. When God says go, I run through a mental checklist of what it could cost me. I’m a lot like Ananais. He knew who Saul was and fear stepped into the path before him. Sis, isn’t there always a form of fear stepping between us and obedience?

I wonder how Ananais missed this promise. “I have shown him (Saul) a vision of a man named Ananais coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” God revealed he had gone before Ananais.

Because Ananais is so focused on who Saul is, he can’t see clearly who God says he is.  Because Ananais is so focused on Saul’s power he can’t see clearly the promise of God’s power in him.

Sis, I think sometimes we are so fiercely focused on fear of the unknown that we forget God is the all-knowing. When God asks us to go, could we cling to the promise he has gone before us?  There is courage to be found there.

I love how God in his infinite patience explains the plan to Ananais. He gave him the encouragement he needed. So Ananais went. And in the going, he found God’s confident heart beating with his. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

When Ananias found Saul he wasn’t timid.

When Ananais found Saul he didn’t stand at a safe distance.

When Ananais found Saul he laid his hands on him and said,

”Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay Sis, did you catch that? Ananais called Saul his “brother”.  Because Jesus loved Saul, his persecutor, Ananais loved him too. He trusted Jesus’ perspective even when he didn’t see evidence or reason to. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

I love that Ananais proclaims he was sent so Saul could REgain his sight. Maybe you are like me in recognizing the beauty of grace poured out on Saul through these words.

Saul was a man longing to serve God. He had lead a passionate life for God. He had lead a purpose-driven life for God. But somewhere along the way he lost sight of God. His pride lead him to judge others, blinding him to grace and mercy.

Sometimes we need to sit in darkness before God allows us to REgain our sight. He acknowledges we once saw him clearly, but have allowed the world to crowd in and cloud the truth. The truth that we have a great need for grace.

Ananais said, but Lord…

Saul said, but LORD…

We say, but Lord…

Sis, don’t you love how God will get through one way or another. He will either tap us on the shoulder with a little unveiling of the bigger picture, or he will allow us to sit a spell in darkness so we will regain our sight with a new perspective.

On any given day I can stand alongside Ananais and Saul.

But here’s the picture I cling to. I see Jesus laying his hands on either side of our face, leaning in and whispering—will you trust me now?

Will you say yes to my plan?

Will you go where I say go?

Because Ananais and Saul were willing to trust God, we can find hope for the moments we react with the same words…but Lord. I am so thankful for their stories because we get to see how God will take a single solitary effort of obedience and change the world.

So Sis, lets turn toward trust in the all-knowing when we stand facing the unknown. He’s got the plan, he’s gone before us. It’s a promise we can depend on.

 

Dear Father,

We stand at the road leading to unknowns and we shake in our boots. Oh, we hear your voice, we long to go, but we stagger under the burden of fear. Lord, help us to see your perspective. Help us to see the path you have already set out for us. Oh Father, help us to remember all the other times you have gone before us, because it reminds us to trust you in the new journeys. When we stand hearing you invite us to go, give us courage like Ananais, built on  the promise you have gone before us. When we stand hearing you invite us to change our perspective, give us a new vision like Saul to see through your eyes. Lord, we live thankful you believe we can go and make a difference in this world for your Kingdom. We depend on the promise you will always go WITH us. Thank you Father. We declare we can’t do it without you.

all my love,

Amen.

 

 

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Does Practice Make Perfect?

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Dear Sis,

A funny, “aha” moment struck me at the gym today. Who knew there were lessons to be learned from lunges? Yes, I’m completely serious.

My workout is an hour-long succession of movements. Starting on what I call the “dreadmill” we move to the rowing machine and then on to floor exercises. Just like most people I have my favorite parts of the workout. The parts I’m good at. The parts I can do easily and with skill.

Todays workout presented a challenge called the “skaters lunge”. It was an old foe. It is a movement where you launch yourself into a side to side lunge while reaching to the floor. It’s similar to what you see in the Winter Olympic Games, but without ice to glide on and minus the smooth moves.

I will never forget my first introduction to this move about 2 years ago. I was at the beginning of my fitness journey. I worked with a personal trainer who consistently challenged my balance.  Enter the “skaters lunge”. When he demonstrated the move it seemed simple enough. My brain said “I can do that”, but my body said “what you talkin’ about?”

Let’s just say his demo looked nothing like my execution. I’m pretty sure I looked like I was having a seizure. There was no evidence of the graceful side to side movement he performed.

So back to the present. Here’s THE PRESENT. Today, at my new gym, the trainer challenged us to do twenty skater lunges. In the middle of the reps, she walked over to me and asked if I was a dancer, because I did the lunges with such grace. I actually laughed out loud in between gasping for breath.

So maybe it’s true what they say. Practice makes perfect. Of course by the third set of those lunges my form began to deteriorate a bit. They weren’t looking as lovely and graceful as the first ones.  So maybe, just maybe it would be better to proclaim a new mantra.  Practice makes progress!

Practice makes perfect is a phrase that can make us cringe. When you hear those words you just know it is most likely going to be a long, painful process to get to the goal. It’s going to require steadfast, step by step determination.  But the biggest challenge is the fails. The fall down and skin your knees kinda fails.

Sis, do you know what I’m talking about here? Have you ever practiced and practiced and found yourself still tripping over the same spot? Maybe you are like me and you found yourself standing back up trying your best to recover gracefully. After a few tries, we begin to wonder if we will ever get it right. We begin to wonder if we have it in us to try again. And we just plain wonder if we have it in us.

Oh Sis, you need to know, I get that. I stand there with you with scars to prove it. They are deep, ugly scars that never quite go away completely.

Starting again requires a new perspective here. I am counting those scars as my badges of courage. Because I’m still here, I’m still standing and I’m still trying. Those scars are a  constant reminder that I got up again because I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It’s here in this confident belief I find boldness for a do-over.

Sis, I’ve started to realize something else that gives me hope. Real hope. If we are honest we will recognize that practice doesn’t make perfect. Only the love of Christ can do that. So I take a deep breath and feel the fullness of joy in the land of His love that takes away all my failures, my tripping, my stumbling attempts and makes them into the most graceful offering. Jesus stepped into the world and reached out his hand to help me up, to help you up.

So Sis, I invite you to come along with me. Tomorrow I will rise and practice again. Practice while depending on the Perfector of my faith. I will lean in and hold on when I feel off-balance. One thing driving my determination is the sweet assurance that God won’t give up on me if I don’t give up on Him. Let’s start a new day proclaiming practice makes progress.  I think Jesus will be the first to pin that badge of courage on us and celebrate our progress as a triumph.

Love You Sis,

Karen

My prayer for you and me:

Dear Father,

You found us trying to do our best, be our best and you knew we would need a little help. You knew we would have a few fails along the way and you covered the mess with a whole lot of grace and love through your Son, Jesus. We live thankful you never leave us alone in the journey. You stand beside us and guide us and remind us who we are in your eyes. It gives us strength to get up and try again. Knowing you are for us makes all the difference. Lord, we long to live for you too. Help us to live and love practicing what Jesus taught us. We know we won’t get it perfect, but with you by our side we will make progress. May your kingdom by glorified by our efforts. We love you Father.  Amen.

 

Will we choose to break through or break down?

My Dear Sis,

As I stand at yet another crossroad in my life, I look around and wonder if you’ve ever felt the same anxiety the unknown future brings.  It drops in unannounced and unwelcome. Oh, I am confident in so many other places, but in the future there are unseen moments that make me quake and shake and stumble.

I am about to move to a new town. Again. I have been in this place just three short years. Honestly, I have only recently found my people. You know who I mean. The people who think like you, laugh at the same things, find joy in simple, silly things, love the same coffee places you do and love to sit and talk and talk and talk about Jesus til the cows come home. The people you call home. Your tribe.

If you’ve ever moved and had to rebuild your tribe, you know the anxiety I face. Starting over requires steps. You have to move out into unchartered waters and risk exposing yourself. You’ve got to find a way to trust there is a safe passage through to the new beginning.

Sis, have you ever stood in a similar place?  That place where you try to fool yourself into believing maybe you can just go around instead of through?  Oh yeah, I’ve spent days, months, yes even years declaring I would stand firm and not go through the thing that was just impossible.

I didn’t want to go through the sea of pain that threatened to pull me under.

I didn’t want to go through the roaring whirlwind of fear and anxiety that threatened to toss me about.

I didn’t want to go through the thunder rumbling in the sky all around me, loudly proclaiming I am just not enough.

I just didn’t see a way through when I stood blinded by the storm raging around me.

So sis, if you are standing in a storm, how do you take one step forward, how do I take one step forward? How do we move when all we see are crashing waves, one after another with no end in sight?

It reminds me of the Israelites and Moses. I picture them walking toward the Red Sea. A sea of uncertainty, with nothing to keep them afloat but a promise. I can just see them following Moses to the shoreline, looking out at the immense power of the crashing waves. They’re standing there sandals soaked, their spirits conquered by the plan that looked to be a dead-end. With the Egyptian soldiers coming toward them, their dreams of a new beginning seemed lost in the sea that stood between them and freedom.  I love their first response, because I would have done exactly the same thing. They decided it was time to turn back. Time to give up. This situation was impossible.

Because the Israelites could not see a way through, they were willing to go back. Back to pain, back to suffering, back to slavery. There was no way to break through so they broke down.

Sis are you like me? Do you find yourself standing at the edge of a sea. Are you hoping the water is warm and inviting and in the very same moment fighting the impulse to turn back because searching for a way through takes hard work. And some days it’s just plain exhausting.  We are willing to give up the promise of a new beginning because fear relentlessly whispers in our ear there is no way through.

Oh dear sis, I invite you and me to cling to the words of Moses. They may just keep us afloat in the wonder and worry of what tomorrow holds. “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today…The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13,14

As I read these words I realize God asks me to just stand still and watch. I have to laugh as I have seen Him go before me and work throughout my life so many times I have lost count.  But somehow, I still fear I am on my own. Do you do that too?

If only I could remember to depend on His promise that He will fight for me.

There is no fear in the future if I believe He is my rescuer.

Okay sis, Here’s the big finish…

When you look up and see there is no way through. You’ve hit that wall of waves. You’ve stepped into the deep end. You’ve fallen into the darkest storm.  Grab this life-line.

“Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters–a pathway no one knew was there!”

Psalm 77:19

The Psalmist tells it like it is! God’s road leads through the sea, His pathway through the mighty waters….and it was a pathway…NO ONE KNEW WAS THERE.  Once again, it’s a trust issue. The way through was there all along.

Ah, now that’s a sweet break through!

Here’s my prayer for you sis…

Father,

Forgive us for forgetting your promises. Forgive us for fearing the future You have planned for us. The same future that holds the assurance of love and life alongside You. You have gone before us and come behind us and stand with us, so we will declare we can go through. We can go through whatever sea threatens to overcome. Because Lord we know You have cleared a path. Even a path we don’t even know is there. So Father, we will take one more step, a step toward You, trusting you are standing with open arms ready to guide us into the new beginning You have planned just for us.  And we will praise your name in that very place! Amen.

 

Shine on Sis!

Dear Sis,
This letter is for you, and for me, and for us.
Time is short and the shadows are growing long.
We sit here, looking around at each other with the same question on our minds. What lights us up?

Sis if you are like me, you wonder at what “special light” you have to shine in a world just crying out for a little relief from the darkness. And here we stand. Stuck. And here we plant our feet, because there is no clear plan.

Oh Sis, I want to ask you a question, the same question I ask myself.
Was there a moment in your life,
A point of pain in your life,
A place of poverty in your life,
that propelled you into the arms of Jesus?

Did you long to be seen?
Not social media seen, but deep soul seen.
Did you long to be known?
Not known for what you do, but know for who you really are.
Did you long to be accepted?
Not accepted in the perfect Pinterest places, but accepted in the messy spaces where we really live.
Or did you just long to be invited?
Not invited by mass evite, but invited to really connect, heart to heart.

Here’s what I’m wondering Sis.
If we are standing in His light today, searching to and fro for a place to shine, could simply remembering how we once stood in the shadows open our eyes to possibilities?

Because whatever propelled you and me into the arms of Jesus will propel us to wrap our arms around the shoulders of our sisters standing in a similar place.

Sis, don’t we all know the desperate need to believe we are not alone?

Could it be that the answer to what lights you up, what lights me up is waiting to be uncovered in the pages of our own stories?
When we remember that place of longing, passion for compassion will be born there. It will burn there.
And Sis, there it is, the simple spark that grows into a full blown brilliant light.

Sis who knows where that spark will lead you, maybe you’ll share a meal, offer to help with the kids, or even invite someone to sit across the table and have a cup of coffee. And some days it might just be you’ll offer a hug, the kind of hug that says, I’M WITH YOU!

Okay Sis, listen closely here, I want you to hear this…
WE MUST NOT BELIEVE THE LIE THAT SAYS IT’S NOT ENOUGH!

The biggest hindrance to our light is looking for the big things to do. Jesus took a towel and started washing feet, he stopped to talk to a woman at a well, he had dinner with sinners. He paid attention and allowed his path to be interrupted.
What will we do?

Okay Sis, If you’re like me you’re probably wondering if we could do this thing. And in the wondering your mind is wandering through all the ways you could add a little glow to your world.
Let’s be honest Sis, we are girls who like a plan, and if it comes with a list that’s even better.
But, I can almost hear Jesus whispering right into our ears…
Hold on.
Hold on.
Stay with me here.
Because he wants us to remember he isn’t sending us out to shine FOR him…
He’s inviting us to shine WITH him.
So Sis, when we say yes to lighting the day with love, let’s remember Jesus stands beside us linking arms…and the one true God WITH US WILL SHINE THROUGH US.

Okay Sis, do you see what I see?
The only “plan” we need is to stand so close to Jesus everyone we meet will ask us to introduce him.
Because the common cord in our string of lights, the very lights that illuminate the darkest places is Jesus IN US!

So dear Sis, dear you, dear me,
Let’s let go of the plan, link arms with Jesus, and when we feel him nudge us toward someone, let’s just do it! Even if it feels a little crazy risky.

Let’s unleash compassion that grows from the light of His love.
Because Sis, THERE IS NO POWER OF DARKNESS THAT WILL OVERCOME IT!

Yes Sis, your little light, my little light, our little lights will make a difference for eternity.
And His Kingdom will be multiplied!
And His name will be glorified!
Let’s light it up girls! Let’s light it up!

Love,
Your Sister in Christ,
Karen

 

One Step Forward

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Every beginning carries a little fear. Even when you try to shrug it off and move away quickly, it follows with determination. You have little pep talks with yourself. Positive fragmented sentences. Each word meant to separate you from the heaviness of the unknown.
There lies the factor that is a common denominator in fear. Unknown. How can it have so much power without a name? It creeps in before we even have a reason for giving it power. There is no real explanation of why, how or where.
History has proven fear worthwhile. There is evidence of its value. Other days, other events, other moments gone bad make us sit in this same place, believing history does indeed repeat itself.
What if history had no power? What if we chose to forget? What if we momentarily believed the possibility of a positive outcome? Could we overcome?
If training our minds to take a step in any given direction without apprehension is possible, what could happen? How would it affect our every choice in life?
All moments of hesitation would be erased. Possibilities would quickly become probabilities. Risk replaced by anticipation. Our view would be clear; no amount of trepidation would cloud the vision.
So, can we get there from here?
What does it take? Could it be as simple as taking the first small step?
I saw a movie once that required the hero to take a step into an abyss that had no bridge. He was asked to trust, just take the first step and then the bridge would be clearly seen. Maybe that’s what’s required. The answer to fighting fear in its own arena is to defiantly take just one step.
So here I am today, looking for an option to strengthen my resolve to just keep writing. I long to overcome the fear of another ugly “f” word. Failure.
I may just follow the hero in the story and focus on his triumphal first step.
I won’t look down, ahead, or even behind. I’ll just step out, one day at a time, one word at a time, one sentence at a time. I will leave fear behind with every stroke of the keys.
I realize it’s the first day, the first step and there will come a time when fear creeps in and pulls the words right out from under me. So when that day comes, I will revisit these words and start again. I vow to stop pulling out the history books documenting my epic failures. I will grant myself grace and find words to describe what it feels like to sit in a place of restoration. I will write. Just. One. More. Word. Even if it hurts and it’s ugly and it means nothing to anyone. I will not allow fear to wrestle me into a dark, dead corner stopping my voice, stopping my heart. I was meant to write. I know this without a doubt.
Fear stands in the way of truth. If we don’t feed the monster it will die a natural death. So I take one step forward and leave history where it belongs. It’s a new day.

Join His Team

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Favorite quote of the moment: “The great commission is the great invitation to JOIN GOD!”

God doesn’t send us out on our own. He has a team plan.

Jesus stepped down from the beauty of heaven and huddled up with us so we could learn firsthand. He said, come, follow me.

He coached us on what love looks like.

He coached us on what love does.

He made it so simple and easy.

It always started with relationship building that looked a bit like this:
Notice, really pay attention. He saw people for who they could become.
Pray, cooperate with God.
Listen, hear the whole story. Meet people right where they are.

We have made it hard and complicated with rules and expectations. We have made it a “program” instead of the game of life.

In our striving to do it all right we have “organized” His simple plan into departments wanting everything to fit neatly into specific ministries.

But, Jesus didn’t fit neatly. He was loving in the risky, messy places in the world. He didn’t follow the rules.

He played the game of love recklessly.
Here’s another favorite quote from the “Love Does Stuff” conference:
I think Jesus must have said this, “I don’t need your plans – I have my own.”

I love the simple game plan!
Follow Him!
Do stuff in love! Join His team!

Do not merely listen!

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James 1:22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed by what he does.”

Growth is sometimes an extremely slow process isn’t it? We stretch long and thin, trying to become something better and bigger and brighter as a Christian. We resolve to BE different. We long to be the very bright light on a hill that God speaks about in His word.

We are inspired by dynamic speakers, roof-raising praise and worship and we are sure so very sure that what we have to offer could never have that kind of impact.

So. We. Give. Up.

We somehow convince ourselves we must not be “called” to be the light. God just didn’t equip us for it.

But, here’s the catch.
God said, don’t just listen…do what I say!

If you find yourself looking intently into God’s word, His word that gives us complete freedom, and you realize that you can’t live unchanged by that extreme gift of grace, you’re ready.
You’re equipped.

It’s time to stop avoiding that quavering feeling when you hear God whisper, “Do what I say.”

It’s time to trade uncertainty for confidence in your Savior.

Living by faith is dangerous with exposure to chance of injury. But, here’s the insurance, the absolute assurance–God promises you will be blessed.

If you are looking for a risk-free existence, don’t follow Christ, because faith requires taking “leap off the cliff” chances. Here’s the blessed guarantee…”fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

This my friends, is cause for courage!