Where have you been?

IMG_1569A broad question for sure but one that has such opportunity.  In R. Thomas Ashbrook’s book Mansions of the Heart he says “We cannot lead others where we ourselves have not yet been.” in speaking of spiritual leadership.  On Sunday, Richard Dahlstrom spoke on the text of James 1.  I loved the way he talked of trials increasing our capacity to display Christ.

These two comments together continue to have me thinking where have I been?  Am I allowing the redemptive work of God to mold me and transform me?  I think my heart wants to to just run from pain, hurt, and trials.  Yet isn’t through those experiences that I have been transformed and refined.  That as I engage with others in their journey that I can come alongside of them to just be there.  Oh I have so far to go in this path but how I have appreciated those who have been to places that I am being lead to that can offer hope for the road ahead.  Also who can accept the tears as they come as along the journey.

Where have you been?  For I imagine there are those around you that would love your authentic story and heart to be with them as they journey forward and come behind.

Here is a blog I follow of a man I deeply respect. I love his words, his courage and most of all the way his challenges us to a surrendered life that brings about restoration. I hope you enjoy his words as well.

To Sir, with love

Train Tracks, Aurora, IL

The train platform was chaotic. A woman on a cell phone sprinted past me screaming, “someone do something!” I noticed an odd sight then. Normally a few over-anxious commuters stare down the track in the direction of the pending train, willing its arrival. However, this time every person had their head turned, body bent in that direction. There on the tracks at the end of the platform was a man, his head on one rail, and his feet on the other. His hands were folded behind his neck, like he was in a hammock on a lazy afternoon. But this was 6:30am, and he was waiting to die.

The crowd held their breath, frozen in place. I began to walk toward the man, watching the tracks beyond him. When I got to the end of the platform, he was still about 20 feet away, so I nudged someone next to…

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You want me to jump?

Heart trembling I breathed deeply as I exited my car and headed for the door.  Just walking those couple of feet to the door my heart increased in trepidation.  I know something of fear and overcoming as I have sought out risk before but this day it was the constant companion.  I am not sure if that is getting older and wiser or well just plain older. But here I was, at the door, ready for a two-hour class.

As I walked into the building I come face to face with a large net and the trapeze bar hanging there, inviting, taunting and beckoning me to come over.  A few instructions and one practice on the ground and then the belt goes on.  Really? That is all it takes to climb the rope ladder up to the second story to jump.  Yup.  A safety harness that pretty much looks like just a wide belt around my waist with a few hooks and I am set to fly.

My turn comes and I hesitantly begin the climb.  Wow this is more fear inducing than I thought.  I breathe…you can do this.  I focus on just the inhale and exhale and then I get there.  That tiny little platform hung by ropes that I am to stand on.  Whew I made it.  I saw those before me but there is something about having to reach out and grab that tiny little bar that sends shivers down my spine.  I mentally check off…I am attached to a harness, I have the instructor pulling my weight back so I won’t fall, I have a large net below that will catch me, I have another instructor holding the rope and yet every fiber in my being is screaming….ARE YOU CRAZY! You want me to jump?  But then it comes the call…1, 2, 3 Huah!

Somehow the legs just won’t do it.  I panic…..regroup.  Okay ready.  1, 2, 3 Huah!  Off I go….hanging by the bar.  I hear the commands to swing my legs up…they won’t go.  Goodness this is challenging.  They finally find their way around the bar.  Then the hands…letting go.  Getting ready for the next move.  Hands back on the bar, legs undone and now the back flip.  1, 2, 3 let go!!  I effortlessly do a flip!  WOW!  That was amazing.  I land in the net and just breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Then reality hits I am doing this again.  So I wait my turn and with each next attempt the fear climbs right back up into my body and I wrestle it to the ground and let go.  My novice attempts at flying keep me tackling the fear that screams at me to stay on the ground.  But if I never let go I wouldn’t be able to fly.

alg_trapeze

“So, who are missional people? They are the individuals committed to forming their character and lifestyle after those of Christ and who are compelled to live out their faith in the context of a community.”  The Tangible Kingdom

The first lap was just the usual characters running around the lake.  I desperately tried to keep up with the pace that was set but quickly fell behind.  Nothing new as I am used to running solo but I so wanted to continue in relationship and conversation with the women I have been getting to know.  I mean it is a little hard to be a reflection of Christ to others when you are no where in proximity.

The second lap I was determined.  I set my mind on the fact that I would have to push my body to the limit and just keep my legs moving.  Thankfully one of the girls was feeling a little under the weather so the paced eased up just enough for me to hang it there.  Quickly the conversation turned to catching up as I hadn’t seen Cate in some time.  Life was full, busy and good.  Both of the women were in relationships and sharing about what they were experiencing and feeling.  A big decision was being made and I listened as she unfolded some of her fears and some of her excitement.  Thankfully when you are grasping to catch your breath adding words to the conversation is not very easy so all I could do was listen.

As we rounded the second mile talk continued about what it means to self sacrificing and giving to others.  How we have each experienced that both positively and where at times that has fallen short.  I don’t know if anything significant happened as we came to the end of the run but I was glad I was able to stay in it.  To not only stay with their pace but also to enter into their lives and listen to the stories.

I may not agree with all the choices but I am continuing to reflect and think about the above statement of what it looks like to reflect Jesus to others around me.  All I know for sure is that I can listen and I can care about these women and what burdens they carry and have on their hearts.  I keep praying for these conversations to deepen but for now I will continue to try to come alongside others in this community and ask Jesus to shine through me.

Cupcakes and Running

What do these two things have in common?  I am sure many things but I am hoping for a great conversation.

Recently at a bar-b-que I was sitting around and talking with a group of running friends.  The conversation somehow quickly turned to food and how many of us had a mutual love of baking.  The thrill and challenge with sugar and making something that tastes so unbelievably decadent that it is for a treat….well at least that is what we tell ourselves.

Well out of all this came the idea to have a cupcake challenge.  A way for us to just spend time together outside of running and share in another part of our lives.  I know it is not earth-shattering but just engaging in life with others and deepening those relationships is a gift.

As I continue to ponder what it looks like to be incarnational in my life and think through how did Jesus live and what does that look like for me.  I figured he would enjoy a good night with great food that could lead to deeper conversation.  Now I just need to figure out what cupcake recipe to try out.

There is something….

beautiful about sitting on the beach with waves crashing into the shore and the crackle of a fire burning brightly.  As the sun descended into the horizon so the conversation deepened.  This is what I have been longing, hoping and praying for as I think about these women.  I want them to experience coming together and hearing each other’s stories and realize they are not alone.  That God is writing his larger story and that they have a part in it.  Through heartbreak, setbacks, triumphs and just life they are experiencing the journey of walking with God and each other.

I also needed this reminder last night.  I couldn’t have felt more loved by each of them.  It was as if a collective sigh of relief was felt as we closed in prayer.  That the burdens that were deep within each heart for a moment were lifted and given over to the waiting hands of our loving Father.  I know we can experience these moments no matter our surroundings but I have to say looking into the fire and feeling its warmth there was a sense that we were delighting in something special, something restorative.

Life that flows

“We must go out and then let church reemerge as a reflection and the natural outgrowth of our missional way of life.” p.38 Tangible Kingdom  What does this mean?  Of course that is why I am reading the book and hopefully will discover more soon.  But one concept has been on my mind for the past few weeks.

How do you really engage with others around you that are vastly different from you in terms of values?  What does it look like to move towards others relationally when you disagree with their choices and behavior?  Jesus was considered a friend of sinners and they were drawn to him.  They wanted to spend time with him and liked being in his presence.  How many of us have friends in our lives that are far from Jesus but are drawn towards him through us?

I know that as I have sought to step out in faith and be this in my community I am finding that it is incredibly challenging.  So many times I want to throw my hands up and give up.  To not have to face times of feeling isolated or alone or conflicted in my emotions or how to handle certain situations.  Life is not so black and white and that is a challenge.  It brings me to my knees knowing that I don’t have the answers and that I fail others miserably.  All I can trust in is that I am deeply loved and growing and learning to lean more closely on the Lord.  Hopefully as I seek to rely on Jesus, He will be reflected to those around me.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you stay engaged with others around you that may be difficult to love or even difficult to watch their life choices.  Oh but I am so thankful for the grace because thankfully Jesus doesn’t back away from me when I don’t choose him.

Conversation

We have them everyday.  Conversations, an exchange of ideas, thoughts, emotions or just words.  Sometimes we listen and engage and at other times it is probably doing that which is socially acceptable.  But what does it look like to have a conversation that is transformative.  One that changes the way I see myself, see the other person or even the way I see the world.

Lately, those are the conversations I crave and yet fear at the same time.  I long for transformation in my own life and those around me.  But transformation comes at a price.  It will cost me something and I am faced with the question “I am willing to pay the price?”.  For it requires that I leave the safety of what is know and what feels comfortable.  That risk is involved.

This morning I was having one of those conversations.  It was about what it means to really surrender my life to Jesus.  To live in such a way that I am willing to let go of my own agenda and plans and willing to surrender and embrace a life that is focused on others and what God would have for me.  We were talking theory and about how to live our lives missionally.  Both of us responsible for leading others and helping them to see the world differently.  But yet both us asking that question of ourselves.  If I am calling others to live a faith that is surrendered and can bring transformation, am I willing do that myself?  

Within our conversation a blog post by Mark Sayers was brought up where he shares his perspective on consumerism and why many young believers are leaving the church.  It is both convicting and telling.  http://marksayers.wordpress.com/older-articles/why-young-adults-leave-church-reason-4-consumerist-spirituality/

Thus the introspection begins.  Where am I allowing consumerism to influence my faith journey?  What are your thoughts.

Captivated by Story

Last night a group of women gathered in my home for dinner.  It was such a sweet time of entering into each other’s story.  The idea was to come together and answer the question “What are you captivated by?”

As the evening unfolded the stories became richer and deeper as experiences were shared and hearts unfolded.  Most of us could relate to being captivated by the beauty in nature; a glorious sunset, a majestic mountain, the quiet of a forest.  Yet it was the boldness of one woman to share her story of receiving forgiveness and the restoration of relationship that opened the treasure of venturing further into each other’s lives.  Blessing, peace, and experiencing the Lord’s presence all are places where our hearts are captivated.

Then I asked when have you experienced when the Lord has been captivated by you?  A hush fell over us and the weight of that question just lingered in the air.  The idea of the Lord being captivated by me???? Could that really be true.  Of course we sat there knowing intellectually that is what He says in His Word and yet the idea of truly believing that and its implications hung there.  Sweetness and freedom lay there waiting for us to believe.

As we pushed further into that idea I had a chance to read one of my favorite stories.  You are Special by Max Lucado.  This is what captivates me.  That my creator would be so loving, kind and generous with me.  That He patiently waits for me to come to Him and just spend time in His presence.

I delighted in an evening of women sharing their stories and look forward to another time of story.

Retrospection

Looking back, reflecting, evaluating.  There are so many aspects to retrospection.  Lately I have been inspired what Gordon T. Smith in Courage and Calling wrote about this aspect of our faith journeys.  He states that “[t]hrough retrospection we interpret how our identity and our call have unfolded in the whole of our life experience thus far.”  Isn’t that so true of our Lord.  To not waste any experience but allow all the trials and triumphs shape us into who he created us to be and also how we get to enter into his Kingdom work here on earth.

He also states that “[r]estrospection also includes coming to terms with the difficult moments in our journey.”  Throughout studying 2 Peter we are reminded that we should not be surprised by suffering and trials here on earth.  I am not sure if that is always consoling in the midst of great pain and heartache but I do know it has been a part of the conversations with younger women I have been having lately.  Just the recognition that life happens and it doesn’t seem to always turn out they way we anticipate or desire.  That  we experience hurt both from our own sin but also from the sins of others.  In this retrospection and looking back we can allow Jesus to enter into that pain and bring a healing that comforts and also allows us the freedom to enter into the hurting places of others.

Smith continues by saying “[w]e must look back, but we look back so that we can be fully present to the current situation, to the current moment, to the real circumstances of our current life situation.  Everything in our lives is a prelude to the present moment, to the present event, to the opportunities that are before us now.”  So that challenge exists to live in the present.  To not long for a past that may or may not have existed or a future that may or may not be.  But to just allow those moments that have shaped my past be a catalyst into what the Lord has for me in this present moment.

It is there that the tension lies.  Am I willing to listen, to engage in relationship with my Lord in such a dynamic way that I hear what He has for me?  Am I willing to embrace the present and be fully available to live into the moments now?