Truth-telling

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about truth-telling. Not truth-telling as opposed to telling lies, but truth-telling as in let’s be honest here and quit saying things just so everyone can stay comfortable and happy. I’ve encouraged so many friends to be truth-tellers, to their spouses, to their children, to their mothers, to their fathers, to their churches, whoever it might happen to be. Sometimes you just have to be brave and tell the truth. Sometimes you have to say how you really feel about something. Sometimes you have to tell the truth to be true to who you really are.

And like it so often happens, I too am suddenly confronted with situations that I haven’t been willing to tell the truth about for a very long time, and God is nudging me and giving opportunity to speak the truth. And let me tell you – it is hard! It’s hard to say things that might upend the way you’re perceived. It’s hard to be that brave, to say that’s not how I feel about this or that. It’s hard to be the odd-one-out. It’s hard to be misunderstood. It’s hard to shatter people’s expectations. It’s hard to be that vulnerable.

But it is so worth it.

You might feel broken to bits in the process, but it is worth it.

Those broken bits will be remade into something sacred and beautiful. That’s how God works. And that’s the promise I will cling to as I embrace truth-telling.

I pray that you will find a safe place where your truth will be heard and valued. Where it is handled with care and love. Speak your truth. There is freedom to be found.

Sometimes we have to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Be brave.

On Fighting Tough Battles and Dying Daily

In the weeks leading up to several events that are the among the highlights of the year for me, the IF:Gathering and a missions emphasis weekend known as Unto the Least of These Conference, it felt like even in the midst of a world gone crazy, my own little world was mostly peaceful. The planning and execution of our Local Gathering went relatively smoothly and all seemed to have gone quite well. I was reading where other IF:Local leaders found themselves under what looked to be severe spiritual attack in the weeks before and directly following the event, and I recognized I was not really identifying. I wondered if I was just slipping through unscathed, or was our event not significant enough to merit an attack or what? (Not that I was wishing for one – quite the contrary – I was feeling quite relieved.) But of course you know what’s coming – my turn has come.

This is the thing – I’ve also been teaching Sunday School and the last two months our study has been taken from the book of Job. And just this past Sunday our discussion ended on the note of how being misunderstood is so hard for some of us (I would be one of those) and I reminded my class and myself that Jesus was also misunderstood – in fact, I contend, He was misunderstood to death. And so when I’m misunderstood, I try to remember the reality of a Jesus who knows what I’m going through and how He knows what it feels like to be grossly misunderstood. And now I’m back to “this is the thing” that I started saying at the beginning of this paragraph – my contention has long been, that whatever we’re teaching, whatever we’re talking about at any given time, that is exactly where we’re going to be tested.

I’ve done it so many times – I say something like “Well, if that was me in that situation, I would do so and so and so!” And wouldn’t you know, before I know it, I find myself in a similar place, and now how will I handle it? And so on Sunday I validated the conversation about being understood and the pain of being misunderstood, and boom, no later than Monday night there’s an all-out war for my soul. What a fight it’s been – a fight to remember who I am, what I’ve been created to do and who I’m doing it for.

Couple that with a message at the missions conference about laying down our lives for the cause of Christ and His message, and it’s been a death struggle this week. The enemy fighting to take me down, me fighting to lay down my life, and Christ asking for total surrender, at the expense of everything. I’ve found again (to my horrible chagrin), that I have loved this life too much! I want to be comfortable, to have it easy, to be understood and validated, to be affirmed, to be patted on the back, when Jesus is really inviting us to take up our cross. There is nothing comfortable, easy, or feel-good about the cross, there is so much about our cross we don’t and can’t understand, and yet, that is what followers of Jesus are invited into. And somehow, s o m e h o w, the passion (the suffering) becomes the Joy! Somehow, someway, I want to be able to say with the apostles, who after being beaten and told not to speak in the name of Jesus, went from there “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Do I count it a privilege when I am in pain for the cause of Christ and His Gospel and for truth? I want to, I really do! Oh to be free of this body of death that would destroy me, and to be transfigured into a sacrifice of praise and daily dying, counting it all joy.

I know none of this is possible without the grace and mercy of Jesus and I’m so incredibly grateful today for His provision, but not only for His grace and mercy, but for His gift of Himself. As I am molded more and more into His image, that means I must give not only what I have back to Him, I must give myself back to Him.

I recognize with all clarity how my experience pales in comparison with believers who are literally losing their lives around the world for their faith, and my intention is not to diminish what is going on in the world. This is only my experience, and while it doesn’t compare, this is where I find myself right now.

One Thing I Learned at IF:Gathering and a Few Other Places

So this past weekend was the world-wide event known as IF:Gathering. Actually, I hesitate to call it an event because it’s more like a movement, or a gathering, equipping and unleashing of women for the Glory of God and the good of all people – oh wait, I guess that’s their tag-line, so that pretty much explains what IF:Gathering is. What an honor and a privilege to be able to host what is known as an IF:Local, along with 6 other wonderful servant-hearted women who love Jesus and love people. We gathered around tables with about 50 women for two days of teaching and discussion, wrestling with questions about faith and the believing-life and anything else that needed sorted out.

I have learned so much from the IF:Gathering content and I love how those involved have invited me to see and experience Jesus and the Bible in new and unexpected ways. The Gathering is always an interactive experience, which I think helps the things we hear in the teaching segments sink deeper into our bones, as we engage the content right away with those sitting at the table with us. Somehow it makes what we’re hearing more personal and it sticks better and longer.

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But I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is something that has not really been talked about all that much, if at all. I know IF:Gathering makes an effort to make this experience one that is not tied to one particular denomination or theology, with the vision of finding common ground in the places that matter most (Jesus!) and letting go of everything else. This has been incredibly refreshing and life-giving for me. While I may not have agreed theologically with everything I heard, I am choosing not to focus on what we don’t agree on. I want to take the things I heard that God was using to speak very specific things to me and let them burn deep into my heart. Furthermore, I am also choosing not to reject out-of-hand the things I may not have agreed with or the things that raised questions for me – I want to hold those things with open hands, as I ask God to show me what is true, and pure, and from His Heart, and whether this is an area He want to grow me in. I want to remember that my perspective may be different from other’s perspectives, and that simply because they’re different, it doesn’t mean that either is necessarily wrong. This is probably one of the biggest shifts for me since I’ve attended several conferences and events that embrace multiple denominations and theologies – that there is more than one way of seeing any one thing.

When you grow up believing that anyone who doesn’t believe exactly the way you do, or practice Christianity mostly the way you do (think rules and standards), or doesn’t have it figured out quite the way you do, then “they” are the enemy and “they” are dangerous. Well, I’ve found out that “those people” are not the enemy of me and if they’re dangerous, they are probably dangerous for me in a good way, in that they mess with my golden little pet theologies in all the best ways. I have come to love and appreciate diversity, and the unity that comes in embracing the different ways God has called us to live out our lives and our faith in Christ. This is what IF:Gathering has embodied for me – this embracing of each other, of affirming and celebrating where and how God has called each one of us in, as Mary Oliver puts it, this “one wild and precious life.” In short, I’ve fallen in love with the Church of Jesus Christ with its many, many beautiful dedicated followers of Jesus who are bringing God’s Kingdom to earth through their reflection of Him in their every-day walking-around life. The Church is alive and vibrant and beautiful, regardless of what its many flaws and short-comings may be, and regardless of how we may think that should look. The Holy Spirit is at work all around the world (that would be everywhere, folks!) and we are all invited to join Him in that work, wherever we might find ourselves at any given moment. I want to join Him, but I also want to join my fellow-believers, wherever that may be and however that may look.

We must move beyond being afraid of each other and begin to link arms with each other, because we’re all fighting the same battle, not against each other, but against our common enemy, the enemy of our souls. We can’t afford, nor do we have the time, to not come alongside each other to encourage, to bless, to call out the image-bearer, to teach, to equip, to lift up, to give a nudge out of the nest if needed – all of that, for our sisters, and brothers, who are on this journey with us. We must join together, in unity, celebrating our differences and recognizing that God uses those very things to further His Kingdom, not divide it. This brings to mind a very important conversation we were privy to this weekend, one of racial reconciliation and healing. It was so, so good and so very necessary. It was a real picture of precisely what I’m talking about. Not only do we need reconciliation racially, we need reconciliation denominationally and theologically. We need to see each other through the eyes of Jesus, with love and grace and mercy, and Lord knows I need His help to do that!

I loved how our little gathering of 50 was diverse, representing a dozen or more churches in our area, many of them different denominations and with different views on any given issue. It was so beautiful to worship together, to listen to each other’s stories and to encourage each other on the journey that God has each one of us on. We have so much to learn from each other, so much to do together, so much to celebrate together! This was by far the most special part of the weekend for me, sitting with women who love Jesus and are following Him in the way He has called them to follow Him. So I’m over here cheering you on!! Run your race the way God is asking you to run it, and run it well, no matter what that may look like! May we fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith. If our eyes are collectively fixed on Him, how much better to run the race He has set before us.

 

The Winds Are Blowing and IF:Sugarcreek is Happening

It’s been awhile friends, since I’ve had emotional and mental space to write and hit the “publish” button. Goodness, when I looked at the date of my last entry I realized it had been longer than I imagined. So much has happened since July, and really, I won’t bore you with all the little details. The big things have been continuing work on the remodel (it’s almost done enough to move in!) and taking on some heavy classes in the fall that left me with no extra anything

As I read back over one of my last posts, I was reminded of the way God was moving in my heart at that time and how I thought I would be sharing the vision I hinted at much earlier than this. Anyway, here we are and I will attempt to do that now.

Last year in February, I, along with several other women, had the privilege to attend the first ever IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. It was a brand new thing and I wanted to see for myself what it was all about. I call it a thing, because IF:Gathering is not simply an event that happens once a year – it is a gathering together of a community of women who long more than anything to have more of Jesus and who desire to live their lives out of love for Him. Because if God is real, than we want more than anything to live like it. We want to let the real God that we love and worship do a deep and profound work in our hearts, increase our faith, and let Him change us to the point that we live differently because of it.

As I’ve been pondering and remembering how this conference and the ongoing connection with this community has impacted, inspired, and changed my life this last year, I have found myself wanting to bring this same kind of community and connection to my place in this world, to the people I rub shoulders with every week, to friends and sisters I don’t yet know, to those who long for a deeper connection with Jesus and also with His Body of Believers. What I love about this, this “movement” I guess I’ll call it, is that the founder and leadership of IF:Gathering do not want to have everyone leave their places and come to them once a year for a conference, but rather that we would gather locally with the people in our churches, in our communities, in our towns and cities and neighborhoods, the people we do life with, and join in the conference from where we are. They do this by offering streaming video of the event and providing an astonishing amount of resources and material to help women do this in their own context. I love this so much about them. I appreciate so much the humility with which this event was put on last year, the almost palpable presence of the Holy Spirit and the breathless expectation they – and we – had for what God was about to do. And what He did was explode this movement to the ends of the earth. People are watching in and doing online Bible study and praying together and eating together all over the world. To me, this is one of the most beautiful pictures of the Body of Christ coming together that I could imagine. Women from all different cultures, denominations and churches are laying down the things that don’t matter and unifying around what matters most – Jesus Christ. Jesus, and how He changes us so we can live our lives for His glory and for the good of people. I love the simplicity of this message and how the focus is on the heart of the Gospel. This – the pure and simple Gospel – this, I can get behind. This I can bring to my community, to my place, with the confidence that God will be honored and we will be challenged to a deeper place with Him.

My prayer for a number of years has been that there would be a safe place in my community for women to come together to wrestle with big questions, doubts, and fears, where there is no judgment or condemnation, but a place where grace is extended, where truth is spoken in love, and where we recognize that everyone is on a journey, realizing we are all at different places in that journey. And somehow, someway, I find that God is allowing me to be a small part of beginning to create such a space in a broader context than I ever imagined. In a small way, I see that happening as IF:Sugarcreek is coming to Sugarcreek, Ohio on February 6 & 7 via a live stream video event, as we join what God is doing in Austin, Texas and around the world right from our own little hometown. No need to pack up and hop on a plane to be a part of what God is doing, this is coming to you right here in your community.

God has been so gracious and brought together a group of six women who have come alongside me to make this possible this year, and I’m so grateful. We don’t know what to expect but we’re believing that God will do immeasurably more than we could ask or even imagine. We are so excited that we have registrations from people from a number of different churches and contexts from throughout our community and that we will get to meet new people and encourage them to live into God’s call on their lives wherever they may find themselves. Because we believe in coming together to build the Kingdom together, and we believe in affirming where God has called you, no matter how that looks or where it may be.

Do not let fear keep you from joining us – bring your fear, your questions, your doubts, your misgivings, bring them right in. I know I will there with all of those things. We believe we should bring any or all of those things, because if we’re honest, we all probably have at least one of these lurking in the corners of our hearts – and what better place to bring them than here? Don’t check them at the door. And just one more thing, no need to put that mask on and make sure everything “looks good”. Just come. Bring all of yourself. Bring your true self. Let’s be courageous and brave together. Let’s see what God has for us as we gather together. The winds are blowing and there is a fresh fire alight in the world, and this is one of many places around the world where I see this happening. I believe the Holy Spirit is always working and moving in the world around us; I see Him moving here and I know I want to be a part of it, I want to join in. We would love if lots of you would join in as well.

So, if you want to the nitty gritty details about when, where, what and how, keep reading. IF:Sugarcreek will be streaming the IF:Gathering event live on February 6 & 7, 2015 at Provia Door at 2150 State Route 39, Sugarcreek, Ohio. Since we are streaming live and the live event being in Austin, Texas which is in the central time zone, it will get just a bit late here in Ohio on Friday evening. Registration is required and the deadline to do that is February 1. The registration process is a two-part process, beginning with registering with IF:Gathering here. They have costs involved with doing an event such as this, and we encourage you to support what they are doing. Without them and all their hard work which continues year-round, this would not be possible. They ask you to give what you feel God would have you give, with a minimum of $1 required to register. The second part of registration is for the local part of the experience and we also are asking you to give what God lays on your heart to give, again with a minimum donation of $1 payable to Rosanna Mullet which should be mailed to 781 Smokey Lane Rd NW, Sugarcreek, Ohio 44681. We have limited space available, so please be as sure as you can that you are able to come if you sign up. We do ask that if you are registered and something comes up last minute that makes it impossible for you to attend that you notify us as soon as possible.

IF:Gathering does not release the speaker list ahead of time (they really want you to join because of Jesus, not because of certain speakers, but we’re all human and WE WANT TO KNOW!) so I’ll give you a taste of last year’s speakers. They were amazing – so gifted and so full of Jesus! Some of the speakers were Christine Caine, Ann Voskamp, Jen Hatmaker, Rebecca Lyons and Shelly Giglio, just to name a few. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Oh, and the worship times were so good too – great musicians to lead in worship.

Schedule & Theme

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sign-In and Appetizers: 1:45 pm – 2:45 pm

Session One: 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm  “A Call to Believe”

Dinner Break: 6:00 pm – 8:00  A Catered Dinner will be provided.

Session Two: 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm  “Why Don’t We Believe?”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Session Three: 10:00 am – 1:00 pm  “How Do We Believe?”

Lunch Break: 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm  A Catered Lunch will be provided.

Session Four: 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm  “What Could Happen IF We Believed?” 

 

Find us on Facebook at IF:Sugarcreek and follow along there for updates and details. You can also ask questions there (as well as here in the comments). We really hope you will join us if God is nudging you to do so.

My friend Irene reflected here a bit on her experience at IF:Gathering last year…

“Heading to IF I had no idea what to expect, but it was much more than I could ever have imagined. First you should know that I would not have been able to go to IF had not someone paid my ticket and invited me along for a gathering that I will never forget. Just with that, gratitude filled my heart and as things came together to go I knew it was just where God wanted me to go.

“So as I reflect on what I experienced at IF in Austin, as we walked in I remember feeling like I could turn and run because of all the people, but it did not take long for that all to change. We were greeted like everyone was greeted there, like we mattered.

“As we sat and listened to Jen Hatmaker, Shelly Giglio, Ann Voskamp and Jennie Allen just to name a few, my heart filled and overflowed, so many things to remember and take home. As I glanced around the room I saw hundreds of women doing the same and I thought, what could be more beautiful? Women from all over the world together because of Jesus.

“You may ask what did I take home from IF? First of all, IF is a gathering where everyone matters. Then, as Ann Voskamp spoke she asked the question, “What if I am a Jesus user and not a Jesus Adorer?” That, my friends, stabbed my in the heart. I asked myself, am I more of a Jesus user than a Jesus Adorer? As she continued, she said when Jesus is beautiful to us, He moves us and that changes the world, versus when He is only useful to us and we expect Him to change our world.

“As we get ready for IF:Sugarcreek 2015, my prayer is that women could gather and be filled with the love of Jesus  and that their cups would be filled and overflowing.” –Irene

 

One Thing I Learned Watching the Crossfit Games

Over the course of the last few evenings the Crossfit Games have been closely watched at our house. Husband has been doing Crossfit for over a year now and it has been a huge plus in his life. I am so proud of his commitment to working out and the discipline it takes to show up at the gym week in and week out. I’ve watched him find an awesome community where everyone is cheering everyone else on, where everyone is accepted right where they are and everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. The last one done is cheered on more loudly than the first one done.

All of these elements were on display this weekend at the highlight event of the Crossfit world. Even though athletes were competing against each other, there were moments when they would help each other and cheer each other on. It was breathtaking.

What struck me the most though, was this. Going into the last few events, Rich Froning, the men’s Crossfit Games Champion for the past three years was leading by only a narrow margin. He knew he would have to win practically every heat in order to win. And then came the last event. As it was being announced, I noticed that many of the competitors were shaking their heads “no” – it was going to be a tough one. But not Rich. I noticed immediately that he was doing the opposite of what most of the other guys were doing. He wasn’t shaking his head in a negative, he was nodding his head. I could almost hear the self-talk that was going on in that arena. Some were saying, “No way, this is going to be tough,” while Rich was saying, “Yes, I can do this!” And in that moment, so much became clear. Attitude has a huge impact on how we finish in so many areas of our lives.

Froning went on the win the heat and the 2014 Crossfit Games, declared the Fittest Man on Earth for the fourth year in a row. Yes, he is fit. But he also has the mindset and attitude that makes him a winner – in Crossfit and in life.

What challenges are you facing today? How will you approach the starting line? With a shake of your head, or with a nod? It could make all the difference.

Thoughts {Because I Realized This is Not a Good Time for a Series}

Today is one of those days I’m convinced it would be so much easier to do a blog about food. Or gardening. Or making homemade soap. Or making homemade cheese. Or sewing. Or crafting. Or decorating. Or ______________ (fill in the blank). This business of writing is hard work and last week as I sat down to really start into writing the series I promised to do, I realized I do not have the emotional capacity to dive into that right now. As much as I hate going back on my word, that’s exactly what I’m finding I have to do. I just have too much on my plate right now and my limitations won’t allow me to add that too.

So what IS going on? Mostly, it’s this “emptying the house to get ready for the remodel”. Oh, my goodness – way more overwhelming and emotionally draining than I expected. And everywhere I turn there is another cabinet to clean out, more stuff to go through and decide what to do with, more stuff from what seems like a lifetime ago to throw in the trash. Cleaning out, getting rid of “stuff”, and making room for a new and fresh start. It really does feel like I’m starting over in so many ways. There is a bit of a grief process going on too, as I’m reminded of so many things that filled my life that I truly believe were in the place of what I was really meant to do. I missed my calling for a large part of my life and I grieve that deeply.

Even beyond that, I sense a few other things stirring in my heart – things for which I am passionate and that I feel like I need to pray about. I need direction and affirmation and courage and encouragement. Several of these things look exciting and fun and then there are other things that look big and scary and way far over my head. So, if you want to join in with me, I will take prayer any day, all day. For wisdom, direction, discernment, humility and that I will depend on God and His Spirit to fill me and guide me. I’m so excited about some of what is on my heart that I just want to talk about it and get people on board and get moving, but more than that I want to be led by God, so I sense a need to step back, to bring a few people around me who will help keep me on track and speak truth to me and pray with me.

I’ve shared with several people how God sometimes puts certain things on our heart to take us in that direction, only to take us partway down that path and then veer us off in another direction entirely. I truly believe that is how God sometimes takes us where He really wants us to be, not by showing us exactly what He wants from the beginning, but by showing us enough to get us moving in the direction He wants us to go, so that He can take us where He really wants us. I’ve said that to so many other people and suddenly it seems to be a very real thing in my own life. I think too often when this happens we start to doubt what we saw “back there”, when I believe we probably saw exactly what God meant for us to see at that time, only to give us new visions and dreams as we faithfully move toward what He revealed. Is this not where it is vitally important to be sensitive the voice of God in our lives, trusting that voice, and walking in obedience to it even when it seems crazy and counter-intuitive and counter-cultural?

I’m excited about what I’m seeing and the vision in my heart. I hope to be able to share it with all of you soon! In the meantime, prayer is a good thing and important work, so thank you for praying.

I still plan to get to my series, I just don’t know when. For now, the winds are blowing and I must unfurl the sails.

 

Reflections on Reading Scripture

This morning as I was doing a bit of reading, I thought back to all the years when I would come to Scripture feeling like I was under pressure to make sure I got out of it exactly what God wanted me to know. I would read every word carefully, slowly, hoping some giant revelation would leap off the page and into my heart. That rarely happened, if ever. Because I didn’t know the heart of Jesus so much as knew the words in the Bible, reading appeased the Pharisee in me and verified what I already thought I knew.

When we have an intimate relationship with Jesus – and by that I mean living in His love and grace – we don’t have to worry so much about understanding what each and every word means; we can simply let them flow over our parched souls and let God bring the meaning He wants us to understand. We can trust that He will show us what He wants us to know and experience.

Here’s to less trying and straining, and more of trusting Him to do the work in me.

Personal note: One thing that has really helped me to be able to come to Scripture in a fresh way is to read it in an unfamiliar translation or paraphrase. When I already know the next word or phrase, it’s easy to zone out. Read it in words you’re not familiar with and just let it wash over you. And don’t over-think it.

Be blessed today!

What has helped you read the Bible with fresh eyes and in new ways? Leave your ideas and experiences in the comments – it may encourage someone today.