New Year, New Word, New You

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Here we stand, breaking into another new year!  How will we begin? First steps are always a bit tricky. I’m just wondering how you have started in previous years. Are you a resolution maker, a list producer, or do you pray asking God for a word? I had recently heard of this idea and being a lover of words in general I latched onto it with enthusiasm. Because in my world, words have power. So a friend explained that you begin by praying for God to unveil a single word that would guide you as you go through the year ahead. Just one word.

If you are like me, you want to live a clear and focused life for Christ. And let’s be honest, having a neat, precise target lets us breathe a little easier. We are people who long for a plan, a little direction, and the freedom to follow at our own pace. So having just one single, solitary word seems like a good way to get that clarity of focus.

For example, my “word” for 2017 was “fearless”. I felt God was showing me that word over and over in the early weeks of January. So I adopted that word as my guidepost as I journeyed through the year. As the months passed by, I found myself measuring my level of “fearless” living against the lives of those I admire, those I see desperately chasing after Jesus.  I wondered if I was even close to the target I aimed my efforts at for the year of living fearlessly.  Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing to look in the mirror and evaluate your strong and weak places. A little quick glance into that reflection helps us grow, and lean in closer to Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I have found that sometimes singular focus can lead to a bit of anxiety because it gives me room to compare myself to the standards of my world.

So my friends, this year I am determined to fix my mind, body and soul on a different path. Instead of looking for a word to define the areas I need to reform, refocus and reset, I am determined to simply yield. Every day…just yield.

Are you with me here? Hi, my name is Karen, and I have control issues.

Not only do I like a plan of action, I want to be in charge of the charge!  Sometimes I allow my passion to lead me, and I leave Jesus in the dust.

So what if I fully embraced yielding?  When I looked up the word on my dictionary app, the thesaurus unveiled this stirring truth. Jesus was the living, breathing perfect example of the word yield. And if my intention, my longing, is to live a life like His am I willing to yield?

Here are a few words to turn over and examine.

Yield: to give way…am I willing to give up my way, for His way?

Yield: bend…am I willing to be flexible, moldable, movable?

Yield: let go…am I willing to embrace change, every day, every way, trusting Him?

Yield: surrender…am I willing to resign from leadership of my life, let God run things?

Yield: submit…am I willing to allow the Holy Spirit to break me and make me into a beautiful reflection of the love of Jesus?

Okay, these are the things I want to carry into the new year.  I want to declare there is no word I can cling to in order to be better, love better, live better without yielding to the One who takes my messy self and molds it into His likeness. Today I stand flooded with gratitude that He is able, if I am willing.

So, as I face a new beginning, I won’t pray for a clear “word” that points to a plan of action. I will pray that yielding to His Word will point others to Him.

 

My prayer for me and for you…

dear Father,

Thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for fresh, clean, do-over days. As we face the starting line, remind us to let you lead. Help us give way, knowing without a doubt your way is better than anything we could possibly dream up. As we face changes in the days ahead, help us to depend on your promise that you are with us. Father, we confess that submit and surrender are not words we embrace. We like control. Help us to relax and release that control into your loving hands. Lord, you have proven over and over you are trustworthy. Help us to keep our eyes on Jesus in this journey. Your Word has given us a clear picture of how a yielded heart lives and loves. Strengthen us for the course you have set out for us. Let our declaration to yield to You bring you glory upon glory.

amen

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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.

 

Sis, can we agree on this?

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My Dear Sis,
Have you ever looked back at disagreements? Wondered how you got to that place and how it grew into something so much bigger than it really was?
I remember once my sister and I argued over a stuffed giraffe for the longest time. She remembered it was her Christmas present and somehow, I remembered it was mine. We never did find a way to resolve that question because even mom couldn’t remember for sure. So, we just had to laugh about it and go on.
Could we even keep count of all the little arguments over the years between sisters? All of them small and insignificant and forgotten. We saw things different, and it caused an unsettling for a bit. The disagreements didn’t hold any power because the strength in our sisterhood was bigger.

Love was the best defense to overcome the offense.

I look around today and wish for more of that. If only we women could see our differences and recognize how very small and insignificant they are in the expanse of our lives and our world.
If we could all be like sisters and see the very things we have in common, how would our lives be different? How would our world be different?

If we could hold the hand that has held a child, would our hearts beat in rhythm as mothers?
If we could hold the hand that has held their mother’s hand as she breathed her last breath, would our hearts beat in rhythm as daughters?
If we could hold the hand that wiped away the tears of longing for love, would our hearts beat a rhythm as sisters?
Could we be sisters who agree that the things that make our hearts break wide open are the very things that make them beat in complete unison?
In that deep place, we would find we are more alike than different.

I want to find that place in the women of the world and expose it. Let the air and the light and the goodness breathe life into it. Let it bring healing and acceptance and yes even deeper understanding of all the ways we stand in the same places. Crying the same tears of regret, sorrow and even joy.
Oh, Sis. Could we gather together and find the common denominator to bring peace in a world that loudly proclaims different is too much to overcome?
When we meet some girl, some daughter, some mom could we reach outstretched hand, open heart and ask her to help us understand? I don’t believe there is any difference that divides if we are willing to listen and lean in and learn.
In order to discover truth, we will have to kick fear out the backdoor. We will have to kick out our cluttered understanding of who they are and who we are too. We will have to stand with open arms, open heart and open mind.
And in those wide-open spaces we will start to inch closer, one step at a time, one story at a time. Before we know it, there will be a circle of sisters, hand in hand, heart beating in rhythm because love is the best defense to overcome an offense.
Yes, sweet sis, it’s the first step toward healing the broken relationships in our world. Will you take it with me?

Love,
Your Sis in Christ
Karen

 

Sis, Is it Good or God?

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Dear Sis,
What kind of God peers into the heart and ignores the shadows? Looks right past the things I have placed between us and tries to catch my eye with the beautiful truth? Truth that draws me back to Him. Truth so big and so wide it breaks like the dawn.

And in the warmth of that light, I no longer shelter the shadows. I let them disappear because they no longer have any power or purpose. And I stand face turned toward him, locked in the embrace of his love. It’s the same love that welcomes me back again and again, no matter how many times I let the shadows slip in.

Oh sis, don’t the shadows edge in so quietly, unnoticed? It’s like they tip-toe in when we’re not looking.
If they were evil things we would be on the alert. But, so many times they are good. Good people. Good places. Good choices. Until they become the good things between us and the God thing.
We are tempted to believe the good things don’t need to go. Because after all they are good. How do we determine if the good thing is good enough? Or is it standing in the way of a God thing?

I have asked myself this question so many times I’m sick of my own struggle with it. And every time I ask it, I already know the answer. Because God has given me the Holy Spirit to awaken me to wrong turns. And as much as I would like to deny I see it, there’s no denying the kick in the gut feeling I get when I begin to sense a need for turning.

Sis, have you ever seen the truth you didn’t want to face and just wish you could turn away and ignore the urgent signs he keeps giving you? Oh, how I have stood in that very place. Stood crying, kicking and screaming, because that thing I needed to turn away from was so very good. And I had convinced myself, God wanted to bless me with it.

But Sis, here’s the thing, obedience always requires turning and trusting. Turning away from the good thing, and trusting there is a God thing in the making.

Sis, I’ve learned to count on this, when we lay tired from the crying, kicking and screaming He lays out lovely things that remind us that turning toward his embrace is always the best thing.
He will use every word we read, every song we hear, ever friend’s encouraging words to remind us, he sees us, he hears us, and he knows how hard this living in obedience to his voice really is.

Because this God, this compassionate, forgiving God, peers past the dark places in my heart and still tries to catch my eye with his beautiful truth, I turn toward the light. I have to believe the one who can break forth like the dawn has the power to eclipse all the shadows of goodness that stand in the way of my drawing closer to him.

So Sis, let’s turn. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it isn’t clear why. When you feel this thing standing between you and God, and you want it gone. Choose God over good. He’s looking right past your shadows, trying to catch your eye with the beautiful truth, He’s all you need

Love,

Your Sis in Christ,

Karen

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

 

Are you willing?

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It all begins and ends with being willing to do something. It’s the down and dirty catalyst for change. This story begins with a man looking for Jesus, desperate and determined enough to risk all. He was willing to take the first step.

Mark 1-40-41′”A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed.”‘

I imagine the man’s journey to see Jesus. The risky path he took to get close enough to kneel in front of him. The crowd pressing in around Jesus would have stepped back in disgust as he drew near. A wide berth on all sides. This man barely remembers what human touch feels like. Yet, he comes full of faith and hope, not just begging Jesus, but believing Jesus. “if you are willing, you can…” I see the crowd standing as close as they dare to this unclean man, leaning in, no one taking a breath as they watch closely to see what Jesus will do. Jesus slowly reaches out his hand, eyes fixed on this man’s face, compassion brimming…and. he. touched. him. And I hear his voice, maybe a mere whisper. I. am. willing. be healed.
Isn’t this how I approach Jesus? I feel too unclean to come?  I come as a beggar, pleading to Jesus…if you are willing, save me from the pit I stand in. I come as a believer because I know he can, he’s the only one who can. And honestly, he’s the only one willing. Willing to reach out his hand from the cross with compassion in his eyes and touch the brokenness that defines me. And I am healed.

With this healing, I am both changed and challenged. I hear him whisper, are you willing? Willing to do the same? Will I reach out and touch the people in my path longing to be seen, to be known, to be loved, as Jesus does for me?

Dear Father,
Thank you for being willing to do whatever it takes to draw us near. Thank you for being willing to sacrifice your Son because of your great compassion and love for us. We live thankful you extend your hand, your heart from heaven and touch the unclean and by your love we are healed. We are desperate and dirty longing for change and your beautiful Word reminds us to come and ask, with hope and trust. Help us to always be willing to love the “unlovable” in our path with the same tenderness. Because you took the first step toward us, let us take the first step toward others. In the power of your love lies the catalyst for new beginnings. You simply ask if we are willing. Yes, Lord, let it be so! Give me a willing heart! Amen