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

Photo Credit

Oh, Kanye!

“For me to say I wasn’t a genius, I would be lying to you and to myself.”

~straight faced Kanye West

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Ok.  So there is MUCH I could say about Kanye West.  The one thing I don’t want to come from this post is for people to think that I am supporting him and encouraging people to go out and buy his albums.  My first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and I try to live in a way that reflects such.  For me to encourage people to buy a Kanye West album would confuse what I believe and who and what I stand for.  That being said, as troubled, mixed up and confused as he is, the guy ain’t all bad.  He makes some good points.  Sometimes.  Like in his recent interview with Jimmy Kimmel.

So, I first heard about the interview in a conversation between the ladies of The View last week.  The table was split with differing opinions around the portion of the interview from which the above quote was taken.  Some of the women felt that it was appropriate for West to tout and give himself props and respect for his talent, skill and vast array of contributions.  Others felt that it was too much and that in general it’s better to let others tell you how great you are rather than tell the world about your greatness.  There’s a strong argument for either side but, for this one (JUST this one), I’m going with Kanye. . . kind of.

I thought of many things regarding Kanye’s comments after I took a few minutes to gather myself from laughing so hard at him.  Not that I thought he was joking, but the contrary.  The sincerity and seriousness in his delivery incited an uproar of laughter.  It was just that good to me.  Who says of themselves that they are genius?  In fact, most of my life I was encouraged to do the complete opposite and it (with suitable accomplices) produced a girl who struggled with low self esteem, low self concept, masquerading with false humility and an inability to appropriately accept a compliment.  So where I start to lean toward Kanye’s perspective is slight, but enough to say it’s okay to say you’re great . . .so long as you know why and how.

For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. ~Romans 12:3 (AMP)

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.   ~2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)

It is no more right to walk around pretending to have low to mediocre talent when you know you exemplify excellence an area than it is to walk around replaying your own commercial on your greatness.  So many of us, present company included, need to be convinced, repeatedly, of the ways that God has gifted us thereby delaying our participation in His plans for us, and stubbing our effectiveness in being salt and light wherever He has placed us on the earth.  Kanye was on to something but, dear one that he is, until he comes to know, truly know Christ, he’ll only and always be great in his own eyes (as well as a devoted family and a few wool-eyed, adoring fans) and will be unlikely to cease his work of convincing other people of it.

When you know that you are great because you have believed and received Christ’s great sacrifice and walk in the ways that He has especially and specifically called and gifted you for His purposes there are certain benefits.  Namely, you don’t suffer from identity crisis– you know who you are and whose you are.  The chances of you identifying yourself by anything other than who God says you are, are slim.  Should satan grab hold of your mind and cause you to question, you reach for your manual (the Bible) for reminders.  You greet each day in light of your calling and you surrender your purposes to His will for your life.  You stand up a little straighter and you dare not compare yourself to others because you realize that you have your own work to do.  As provocative as it may be to hear Kanye call himself a genius, believers in Christ are tied to greatness in an unshakable way and we don’t have to shout it out.  But when He reveals His glory to us time and time again, we seem to do that anyway because we come to understand that our greatness is but a mere, faint shadow of the power source enabling us to show up everyday.

I’ve posted the last part of the interview here.  Watch it if you’d like but, save a psych eval from an unprofessional, after watching it I have compassionately added him to my prayer list as I sincerely feel for him.  I posted it because as Kanye was talking about what his mother told him to believe, I could only think about my relationship with Christ and what my heavenly Father, through His word, has told me to believe.  Can’t go wrong with that.  #tryJesus

Photo Credit:  http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/06/20/kanye-wests-yeezus

His

All my fears and inhibitions fade away when I recognize . . .

. . .that I am His . . .

. . .my identity is in Christ . . .

. . .who I really am is in Christ . . .

. . .everything I need is in Christ . . .

. . .Christ is my source. . .

. . .Christ is my self-esteem . . .

. . .He is BIG in me!!!!

Hallelujah!  You are BIG in me!!!!

…… lying with the quiet calm that comes with the end of a day.  It’s rather late, so perhaps you won’t read this until morning but my mind is swirling and looping with all of the events, conversations, people and responsibilities that filled my Monday.  However the thought that keeps circling back to the front of my mind is my identity in Christ.

I can sense my savior’s urgent message for me to identify myself by no other standard than by the word of God.  And I believe He wants that for you as well.

I was sharing with the ladies in bible study tonight that for so much of my life I have been running from being labeled a statistic, running from my past, past mistakes made and poor choices executed, doing my best to define and position myself so that I can control how people see me and therefore what they think of me.  I have been able to accomplish and have some good things in my time but they became the standard by which I identified myself.  If I were to list even a couple of these things it would only be perpetuating the very thing that the Lord is trying to get me to pull away from: identifying myself by the standards of this world.  I am nothing more and nothing less than what the word of God says that I am.  I draw my strength, my value and my identity directly from the heart and mind of the almighty God.  

Now, how does that sit with you?  Does finding your identity in Christ and not in the pieces of the American Dream you currently do or don’t possess scare you?  If you lost absolutely everything you have today, perhaps your own version of a Job experience, would you have any clue about who you are?  Take heart.  He wants us to know the truth about ourselves.  As I explore His word to find myself, I am taking refuge in the fact that I am completely His and I’m putting this on repeat:

Pondering the Gospel

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I had a friend describe a situation that she was in a short time ago where she chose to divulge to a large group of women some of the things that she was struggling with at the time.  It had much to do with singleness and likely most of the women in the audience could relate, whether they wanted to admit it or not.  The list was less than pretty.  The details, though vague, were of a very personal nature because, in order to tell the truth, she had to expose parts of her person that those not close to her might not otherwise know.  But she poured herself out thin, viscous, and abundant in front of the women anyway.  After the session was done, quite a few women came up to her and asked her, “How did you do that?  How were you able to just tell your business like that?  I can’t believe you just shared all of that with everyone.”  My friend responded with a couple Christ pointed sentences to explain where her “courage” came from but then she ended with the most intriguing response of all.  She said, “I really believe that the gospel is enough.”

I’ve been thinking of my friend’s final response and I’m just really taken by it.

Well, what is the gospel?  According to John Piper, “the gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the righteous one, died for our sins, rose again eternally triumphant over all His enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe but only everlasting joy.

So, essentially, my friend was saying that because Christ, the righteous one, who is eternally triumphant and gives no condemnation but everlasting joy to all who believe, died for her sins, she can struggle in the light. . . with NO shame nor embarrassment . . . and receive strength to overcome the evil one and live victoriously today and everyday. . . and by so doing, invite others to do the same.

yeaaaaaaaaa . . . . my head is spinning too . . . .

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: Family Calamity and Restoration pt 7

So, a few months ago I followed this series, Family Calamity, and dealt with some pretty sensitive thoughts concerning my family of origin and how this series helped me.  I posted each part of the series but somehow I missed this past installment!  I’m not sure if this is new, but I am so glad that I had a chance to catch it, honey!  (wipes sweat off brow with great conviction and drama!)

If you belong to a family, take a listen . . .

Check out the rest of the series in the archives here or on www.lifetoday.org

Wednesdays with Beth: Taking Your Treasure Back pt. 3

I’m not sure how many of you actually take the time to click the link and watch these videos, but if you’ve never taken a chance to do so, you should give it a try.  Beth Moore typically speaks for about 15 (or so) minutes and then James and Betty Robison, the hosts of the show, come back and speak about their missions work and invite viewers to help them change the world by meeting the needs of some of the people who need it most.  In all, it’s about 28 minutes of your day really well spent.  You get an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Christ as Beth Moore teaches and gives fresh perspective on a never changing God aaaaaaannnnnd you are offered an opportunity to change someone’s life.  I almost always enjoy the broadcast and I try not to miss it.  I offer it here on the site because I’m sure there are others out there who’d love it as well.  I would encourage everyone to take a look but especially if you haven’t ever tuned in, try it today.  Click here and see what I mean.

Wednesdays with Beth: Taking Your Treasure Back pts. 1 & 2

Frans!!!  It’s been too long!  And I have missed sharing with you in this space.  It’s been encouraging to hear from you, encouraging me by sharing that you’ve missed the posts.  Totally unexpected.  Totally sweet.  I’m so totally grateful and so totally humbled.  I have so much to share and share I will, but for now, I want to get us caught up on the latest installments of Beth Moore’s newest series on Life Today called Taking Your Treasure Back. Here’s part one and part two.   Enjoy!!