Having FuN?!

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It was a simple text Huni received just over a week ago:

 “[Since becoming serious about your relationship with Christ] Answer me honestly.  Are you having fun?”

And it got me thinking. . .Christians have a reputation of being so serious about Christ that they smolder all of the fun out of their lives.  Is that a true representation of Christ?  Do I have enough fun in my life?

And what about you? Would you consider yourself someone who takes their relationship with Christ seriously?  Does the idea of fun seem trivial or unimportant in the Christian life?

As I’ve grown and matured into a woman, wife and mom, I understand why I should seek joy and not merely happiness.  I understand why peace is far more enduring than presents.  I have come to value my friendships more (even though I often do a terrible job at keeping in touch) and I drink in the wonder found in the life stories of others.  I can see the danger and detriment of comparison.  I get it.  I do.  I get all the stuff that comes with growing up and I get that I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.  I don’t have half the answers.  But.  Unlike people, I don’t think that fun ever gets old.   So, as people who love God and seek to serve Him and do His will, why aren’t we having more of it?

I’m not trying to make some big statement except to say that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously that we forget to honor God with our whole lives–the serious bits, and doubled over laughing til we snort bits.  I think the idea of “The Zero Fun Christian Life” is what makes it so difficult for some people to come to and/or remain in Christ.  Particularly younger people or those who have sipped the sweet nectar of the world longer than others.  I’m convinced that fun is not the issue.  It’s the emphasis we put on it and where we think it comes from.

God desires to be Lord over every area of our lives.

He provides for every need.

Even the need for fun.

Pleasures Are Meaningless

2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? ~Ecclesiastes 2:1-25 (NIV)

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The Show

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“Character refers to who you are.  Reputation refers to who people think you are.”

~Emily P. Freeman

So often we move and act, aware of the eyes that seek us out  . . . convinced that the eyes are ever present . . . “Girl, somebody is always watching . . . .”  We overact or prepare to perform without even knowing for sure if the audience is present and attentive.  This hyper awareness has the potential to have us spending money that we don’t have to impress people we don’t know.  It can have us posting to blogs and social media sites our every move, especially the really triumphant ones, executive producers of commercials and vignettes about the great lives we live.  So often this awareness makes us sensitive to the people we encounter daily, devoted family and adoring friends but it mutes and blurries the sovereign God and the conviction of His Holy Spirit.  The presence of people, our busy world, its persistent distractions–both beautiful and destructive–have a way of confusing what’s most important and therefore making us actors on the world’s stage.  At the end of the week, we look back and wonder at some of our decisions . . . or we fight our way through the week, each day a struggle like Rocky Balboa pulling that huge, heavy truck uphill, knee deep in snow, because the temptation brought on by the curtain call beckons us daily, and to keep focus, to keep true is harder than we realize.  Those of us who are most caught up in the performance have made it to Broadway.   People expect a version of ourselves that is not true.  They can calculate what we’ll do next and they know where to expect us.  Not because we are so predictable as much as it is because we have done such a good job at showing ourselves, making ourselves known.  At the end of a life, these people look back and wonder, “What was it all for?  Where has it all gone?”  Being careful to develop your character according to the Father by the instructions given in His word can produce similar results (as it pertains to a sort of predictability), but the actions are Christ-driven, the purpose is Christ-centered and reward is so much greater.  Living character-conscious takes care of reputation.  You don’t have to throw yourself in front of the spotlight . . .somehow it finds its way to you, like gravity . . . like the wind, they obey their laws and everything else flows naturally to its sway.

I received an Emmy for my role in the show.  Actually, I have a wall full.  No condemnation if you were my co-star.  Let’s pray for each other today, that we would look to the Master Director for our roles and lines.  Love and grace, Frans. xxoo

Replacing Sunday Mornings

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Strolling through the articles of one of my favorite sites I found this title–“Replacing Sunday Mornings.”  I was intrigued and the article left me spinning, thinking.  It’s essentially about the millennials, people born between 1981-2000, of whom about 60% have stepped away from the Christian church at some point during their faith journey.  I am a millennial but I did not trek with them in their great migration away from the church.  I have some friends who have, though they may not communicate it as simply.

The article was beautifully written and strikingly thoughtful.  Its relevance rang loudly in my ears, resounding a familiar heartbeat of confusion and angst when it comes to church experiences.  Huni and I have moved away from our local church as we have relocated for full time ministry.  We struggle now to find a local body in our new location that meets our needs.  Through the pain and loneliness of this period I link arms with the millennials and can see through their eyes and reason with their mind as to why one would leave the Christian church in search for something real, something true . . . community, truthful & graceful shepherding, Christ.

I know that so many people have had some really bad and hurtful experiences in the Christian church.  Some people have suffered there or just been disappointed as their needs have not been met.  This is real.  But the thing is, it is not a true, full love that loves Christ yet does not love His bride.  If you have relationship with Christ but not His church, your relationship with Christ is incomplete.  I believe that Christ was not so much referring to a beautifully built building with doors perpetually flung open on well oiled hinges, stained glass windows and a steeple when He talked about “the church” as much as He was talking about the collective body of believers in Jesus Christ–the church, but our Sunday morning and midweek gatherings are an organized entity of the body that we call “the church” and it is real, relevant and important to Him.

I am in a season where, if I lived in a cooler city with more to do, the temptation to replace my Sunday morning would be REAL and I’d have to prepare myself through prayer starting Friday night, not to give in to the temptation to ditch that Sunday morning time in a worship space with other believers.  But I press and Huni and I keep searching.  And I believe that God cares about our faith journey and will lead us to someplace where our needs can be met and we can participate in meeting the needs of others.  So I think you should read this article.  If you are in a similar place, let’s pray for one another.  God desires that we get back and trust Him to take care of us in those spaces.

What about you?  Are you in a good space right now as it concerns your Sunday morning with a local body?  Are you searching or have you left? Praying for all of us, no matter where we are.  Praise God for His grace.

xoxo

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Oh, but there’s more!

“That’s the only reason why I’m a Christian,” she said, “So that I don’t go to hell.”

My heart sank just a little bit after hearing her words.  But it wasn’t weighed down by judgement.  No, my heart sank as I thought, That’s all you think there is to this?

Please don’t misunderstand me, I know that being saved from hell is a very, very good thing.  It’s a real thing.  It’s an eternal thing and it’s a logical beginning of salvation for many people.  Some are frightened by it and come running into the arms of Jesus out of fear of the unknown, fear of this horrid hell that imaginations have painted red and the bible has described as a lake of fire.  And although many people shun coming to the Lord out of fear, I stand alongside Paul who accepted the preaching of Christ no matter what people’s motives were, so long as the gospel was preached, and I say, come to Him, ALL of us no matter our motives, so long as we come because once we come, truly come, He changes everything.

But I still found myself moving out of her vision with brow furrowed, mouth agape, head cocked slightly to the left and mind bewildered at how she could have missed that we were saved for more.  That He saved us not just from hell, but to be in relationship with us, to show us His love and have us recognize it and revel in it once we realized it . . . to give us power to live beyond ourselves . . .to do the supernatural . . .to make us worthy of having His spirit placed inside of us . . .to show love to others, even the most unlovable so that they too would come to know Him . . .to see His goodness in the land of the living . . .to have joy, unspeakable joy, in the midst of trying times . . .to have peace that surpasses understanding . . .to know that we have a savior who came to bind up broken hearts, heal the sick, make whole the broken . . .to live with purpose and intention, no days on earth wasted . . .to have hope . . .

. . .and then it dawned on me . . . that’s why I moved here–to be an example of this very thing.

See, I know that people are speculating, what’s the real story? who in their right mind would move from there to here?  I bet they ran up on hard times and just needed to move back home for a while.  hey, it happens to the best of us. . .   But there are no secrets.  We really did change everything and give up everything to come and be salt and light.  We came for moments just like these– to live among people and show them the more that God is calling us to.  To wrap our arms, minds and hearts around the harvest of souls waiting for a glimpse of recognition from the Father.  Yes, He sees you.  Yes, He wants you.  He stands at the door and knocks and it would serve us well to answer.  Answer because you are afraid of what’s behind the other door.  Answer because you are afraid not to answer at all.  Answer because you want Him and what He has to offer. Answer because you’ve answered everything and everyone else and you’ve been sadly disappointed every time.  Whatever the reason–Just don’t miss out on your opportunity to answer.  And when you do, I pray that I’ll be ready to be used, should He choose to use me, to demonstrate that being saved from hell is just beginning.

6-10 Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:6-10 The Message)

Wednesdays with Beth: The Calling pt. 2

I’m often reminded of Esther when I think about God’s providence and His call on our lives.  I recently finished Beth Moore’s study on Esther and it was just . . . rich!!  Seriously rich and inspiring in personal life application, seeing God’s providence in my own life and moving into His call on my life.  So, I am enjoying hearing her perspective in this format on God’s call and adding to my level of wisdom as I move forward.

Last Wednesday, August 1, Life Today aired part two of Beth Moore’s speaking series on the call of God on our lives.  This week we get a chance to catch up, in case we missed it, and see that same video again.  You can view it here .  And if you missed the first video check it out here.

Enjoy!!

Wednesdays with Beth: The Calling pt. 1

She’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!  And she’s ready!!!  Beth Moore spoke today about God’s call on our lives, i.e. what have we been put on this earth to do?  It’s a weighty question, but one worth investigating and figuring out the answers to.  Life is short. We want to use the time we have here wisely and we want to make our time here count for more than just the fun times we had, or the wealth we gained . . .  Beth Moore said in her Esther study, (something like) what is it that you want God to say to you when He sees you?  Who is it that you want to present to the King when you get to see Him face to face?  Are you that person yet?  Are you getting closer to becoming that person?  If not, get busy!  Discovering His purposes for your life is a sure fire way to get you there.  It’s amazing, scary, exciting, nerve racking.  But it’s God business, so that means it’s good.  Check it out and tell me what you think.  I think this series is gonna be bananas!!

ok wait, so, why the pic of Elmo?  Because no matter how silly or off-the-beaten-path you think your passion or calling is, God can use you!  I have two very happy and engaged little girls in part because of the work of Elmo and the whole Sesame Street gang.  So, thank you Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Kevin Clash (among SO many others) for being brave enough to go after it.  I’m up next.

As you know, I love the music ministry of William Matthews.  Here’s another one from him that I thought fitting.  Check out these lyrics:

“He’s awakening the hope in me by calling forth my destiny.  He’s breathing life into my soul.  I will thirst for Him and Him alone.  He has come like the rain that showers on the barren plain.  So my heart and tongue confess Jesus Christ the hope of man!”

woooooooooo!!!  the boy is baaaaaaaaad!!!


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Wednesdays with Beth: Filled to the Measure

It’s Wednesday so that means we get to tune in to Life Today and hear what the Lord is speaking to us through Mrs. Beth Moore.  If you watch the program regularly and have done so for a time, you may have already seen this one before.  I have seen this one and the story she tells in it has been referenced by others who have seen it.  But this video still came right on time for me.

God’s sovereignty and providence is sure.

I had an experience just last week that just seemed so weird but, in the moment, I was so sure that I was being prompted by the Holy Spirit to be obedient to the things He was speaking to my heart.  I wrestled with myself and the personal cost of my obedience all the way up until Monday for sure and then finally, I just decided to let it go and trust God to confirm for me if I had indeed heard Him or if I was just a loon.  And with just the seed planted in my mind that I had misheard and was wrong, acting crazy and unable to hear from the Lord, satan had a field day and really put in work to discourage me.  But God is so faithful, Frans!!!  I know that I have some readers who are not Christian and to them all of this talk compels them to think, “No ma’am, you actually are quite loony.”  But something happens when we engage God through His holy spirit, allow His words to abide in us and we respond to the call. . .   We get to participate in the divine.

Check this out:  http://lifetoday.org/video/filled-to-the-measure-3

Been worshiping to this song since we sang it during church service on Sunday.  One of my faves from Hillsong.  Hope it blesses you.

Accountability

I have two little girls and they are sweeeeeeeeeeet and sooooooo funny.

Izzie, my oldest, is often off doing her own thing and she engages her little sister, Ava (affectionately known as VaVa) when she wants to.  :0)  She loves her little sister and she always wants her around, but sometimes she doesn’t act like it.

Izzie has a habit of exploring parts of the house that VaVa is not allowed to entertain.  One of those places is the stairs.

Izzie has enough skill and stamina to play on the stairs, within reason, but Va, not so much.  She gives us a scare every time she goes near the stairs because she is apt to fall and we don’t want her to get hurt.  She enjoys being on the stairs but she could be happily playing, giving no thought to the stairs and then her sister will sashay her little self over there and it’s like kingdom come.  Oh the stairs!  My favorite place!  And it begins.

It’s the same with the kitchen cabinets.  Iz takes a peek in and the Va is like oh, yeah, what’s in there anyway?  Let’s explore!  Iz takes to my blinds and Va is there, the dutiful supporting lady, ready to do whatever it is that they are trying to do as they rattle the wooden-like slats against the doors and windows.  Even though she’s only two, we try to impress upon Iz the importance of being a good leader and setting a good example for Av because she’s watching Izzie and wants to do everything that Izzie does.  Iz doesn’t quite get it, but she’s trying.

It’s funny how accountability can work that way.  It seems that most often we think about accountability in a very self-centered manner;  how we can use our relationships to make us answerable for the way we live and help us accomplish goals and better ourselves.   But, like it or not, we are always answerable to someone about something.  Our behavior should compel people to the good and we have to be careful to live like we know this.  God requires that we love one another and that we take care of each other.  One way to do this is by the example we set for others to follow.  It could mean freedom or bondage for someone.  It’s such a big deal.

19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:19 NIV)

Pondering the Ocean

I’ve been listening to and talking with many of my friends recently and it seems like we can all relate to “ocean seasons” in our lives.  With all of its vastness, mystery and beauty, life and our view of & relationship with God, can be so very overwhelming, much like the ocean.  Seems like the waves of challenge, pain, stretching, and strengthening come in so strong, so fierce and unrelenting.  Living day in and day out, we expect life to be a walk on the beach; comfortable, beautiful, wild, but only a very controlled and contained wildness, one that we expect and can predict the outcome thereof.  Oh, but how we limit our understanding of God’s power and our understanding of how He views us and the heights that we are capable of reaching in Him.

I mean, I totally get it though.  The ocean, like our walk with God can be so scary.  As soon as we venture out into the water–our relationship with God and all that it contains– and go in just deep enough, trusting God, just enough to call ourselves Christian and surrender just enough of our lives to say that He is Lord, the waves are stirred.  Often, they are manageable at first–transitions, losses, misunderstandings, challenges . . .  the waves that hit at the back of the knee and rock us forward.  We regain our footing knowing that we needn’t resist because there will be more waves and we want to conquer, we want to be successful and pass the test.

Seems like just as I dig my heels into the sand and prepare myself to stand against the next wave, it comes indeed, and takes me under.  And then comes another.  It’s as if wave after wave rushes over me, taking me down head first, swirling me around beneath the deep, dark blue and as soon as I scramble my way to the top, cough up all of the salty water from my lungs and nose, breathe enough air to confirm that I am still alive and this wave, much to my dismay, did not claim my life, I am pulled under again, stronger and longer than before.

God desires that I fully rely on Him.

I hear you Lord, sweet and strong, even as the waves roar and crash violently, I hear it loud:

1-4 But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob,
the One who got you started, Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.
I’ve called your name. You’re mine.
When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.
When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.
When you’re between a rock and a hard place,
it won’t be a dead end—
Because I am God, your personal God,
The Holy of Israel, your Savior.
I paid a huge price for you:
all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in!
That’s how much you mean to me!
That’s how much I love you!
I’d sell off the whole world to get you back,
trade the creation just for you.  Isaiah 43:1-4 (The Message, emphasis mine)

It’s my perspective checker, pleading with me to take these truths into my heart and mind, receive them, believe them and walk in them.  Walk in Him– in His strength and power, not in my own.  It’s a common theme, but I’ve got to grasp it.  Not my understanding but yours, Lord.  Not my way, but yours, not my will, but thine father God.  So I move a little farther out into the ocean even though my fears, and some of the people around me have told me that it would be wise to get out, do life my way, use my common sense.

No.

I’m following your spirit.

I’m going deeper.

And as soon as I trust you to take me deeper, farther, further, I discover that I am perfectly positioned so that the strength of the wave does not take me under.  I am deep enough and far enough out into faith that I have no other choice but to trust you.  The land is too far ahead of me and I cannot see the ocean floor beneath me.  I must trust.  And as soon as I do, I discover that what used to take me under only rocks me a bit now.

So I go deeper in you, at your leading.

And now, I can lie down and rest in you.  Do, as Lisa calls, a God float. I’ll move according to your spirit now.  I’ll no longer strive to control, but by your spirit I will have all the self control I need to just trust you and rest in you.  Here, in this place old truths feel like new all over again; yes, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13)

And I’ll go deeper still.

6-10We, of course, have plenty of wisdom to pass on to you once you get your feet on firm spiritual ground, but it’s not popular wisdom, the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts that will be out-of-date in a year or so. God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene. The experts of our day haven’t a clue about what this eternal plan is. If they had, they wouldn’t have killed the Master of the God-designed life on a cross. That’s why we have this Scripture text:

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this,
Never so much as imagined anything quite like it—
What God has arranged for those who love him.
But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you.

10-13The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. Who ever knows what you’re thinking and planning except you yourself? The same with God—except that he not only knows what he’s thinking, but he lets us in on it. God offers a full report on the gifts of life and salvation that he is giving us. We don’t have to rely on the world’s guesses and opinions. We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way. (1 Corinthians 2:6-13, The Message, emphasis mine)

Can any of you relate to me on this?  Anybody having an ocean season out there?  If you’ve been through one and are coming out, share the beauty and glory of that deeper place in God with us!

Photo from windows2universe.org