Lent To Me

I grew up in churches but not in ones that emphasized Lent.  I really don’t remember hearing it taught until maybe sometime in law school.  Even for years after that it never really impacted me (maybe because there was no Facebook with everyone posting about what they were giving up!).  I’d grown up with Good Friday and Easter Sunday but not paying that much attention to the 40 days before.

Recently, I’ve paid more attention.  But never more than this year.  You see, I’m up early this morning writing this post and spending time praying over what these next 40 days would reveal.  I’m a big fan of those Biblical 40 day periods.  I’ve even written a 40 day marriage preparatory devotional that might see the light of day one of these days.  I love how God uses that time period to transform.  To grow.  To commission.

The 40 day period that comes to mind during this start of the 40 day Lenten season is the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before He began His ministry.  You can read about it in Matthew 4, but we see that it is a hard season filled not only with prayer and fasting but also with some pretty hard tests, tests maybe some of us can even relate to (tests of pride, tests of physical will power, tests of even proving yourself).

I read this yesterday on a blog I don’t even know how I found, and it struck a nerve, “Friends, Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue: we are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way. The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from our dead-end devices. We turn away from the false, and we turn to the True. We turn our face, attention, interest, energy, and all our will towards the face of God.  Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our heart, sears our conscience, and darkens our mind. Our eyes and words turn haughty. We compare and despair and bemoan. We are easily offended, greedy for affirmation and self-justification. We seek our will be to done, grumbling and blaming when it isn’t. Sin hides God’s true image from the world that he loves. We desperately need a time of focused heart examination because sin – whose property is always to destroy and separate – will steadily suck our spirits dry to the bone.  The point of Lent, then, is not to give up chocolate or Cabernet or chips, but to give up sin!”

That’s a tall order.  But one I decided to place.

Rarely are we offered a season where we are given the opportunity to clean out our souls like we spring clean our houses.  We have been given 40 days to look at all the clutter and all the things that so easily entangle us and keep us from running the race that He has set out for us (Hebrews 12).

During a season where the church universal mourns the execution of 21 Egyptian Christians, we should also mourn how we, in a nation that affords us every freedom, have become lukewarm and unaffected by our faith.  There’s nothing worse (Rev. 3:16).  We’re unaffected and unmoved and that should become unacceptable during this season of searching our souls.

I am giving some things up starting today.  I’m also beginning some new things.  I pray for the discipline to continue through this season faithful to my commitments.

Kristin Schell wrote a beautiful post on Lent and what it is and offers up some great resources to if you want to dig deeper this season.

From Victory to Defeat, And Back

On the edge of some of your greatest victories, one wrong message can make you run the other way and hide and want to die. 

Christine Caine, Passion 2015

This weekend, I went to Passion with some of the 20-somethings in my church.

If you don’t know what Passion is, that’s fine; what it is isn’t the point of this particular post.

Over the course of the weekend, I had the opportunity to hear Christine Caine preach.  She wasn’t teaching.  She was preaching.

And if you’ll hang on if you aren’t really a fan of the Bible or God or stuff about faith.  Would you just hang in here with me?  I am so grateful to have people who read this blog from all over with different backgrounds and beliefs.  Maybe you read because you have triplets or because you like fashion or because you follow my leadership stuff.  I love that.  And I would really like all of you, regardless of why you come, to hang in here because I would like you to (a) hear this neat thing she shared, and (b) tell you one thing about myself that I don’t talk about much.

She preached out of the Old Testament – I Kings Chapter 19 to be exact.  I’ve been spending some time in this part of the Bible recently because I like the story of this guy named Elijah.  He was a prophet and having a mess of a time in a place where a lot of people believed something else while he believed in God.   King Ahab was furious at him because of the drought, but Elijah knew God was going to use it to show His power.  So in I Kings 18, Elijah has this major God victory and shows all the followers of Baal that God was the One True God.  Seriously, this is like the most epic moment in his entire life.

Then we get to I Kings Chapter 19.  Right off the bat we see that Queen Jezebel is furious about what just happened, so she sends a messenger to Elijah to say she’s going to kill him.  What would you expect his reaction to be?  My brain starts pumping out MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This!”   I mean Elijah just had this stupendous victory and beat all her Baal prophets, so wouldn’t you think he’d look at the messenger and bust into “Can’t Touch This”?

He doesn’t.  He runs away.  And hides.  And lays down and wants to DIE.

So Christine Caine leads with a seriously true fact:  sometimes, after our greatest victories, come our hardest seasons.

God is okay with our despair.  In fact, here he lets Elijah rest for a long time.  He feeds him and gives him drink (for FORTY days).  Then He even passes by so Elijah can experience His presence.  But after that, He tells Elijah to go and anoint the man who will be the next prophet, Elisha.  After God allowed him to rest and regroup, He asked him to get back up and pass the mantle to the next generation.

I have no idea where you are in your life season.  You may be at the point of your greatest victory.  You may be at the lowest point of your life.  You may be at a place where it is time to put your hand out and bring up the next generation.  Whatever your place, God is with you there.  And that place is just a season.  Another one will come to replace it.

Here’s the next thing.  This one is about me.  If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I believe in God.  You hear about my faith some.  Heck, sometimes I even include something I’m reading in the Bible.

But I think I’ve been short selling my faith because I’m scared people who read this blog will see it as religion and run away.  I am not religious.  When I hear religious, I think of a person with hat and gloves on a Sunday morning that sits singing hymns but doesn’t so much care about what Jesus wants them to do during the week.  I think you’ve known some of those people, and they have scared you away from Jesus because you think that’s who Jesus is.

That is not who Jesus is.

I’m a mess on Sunday mornings and I try to go to church with my loud kids, and most of the time we make it because I learn something from my pastor now, but we didn’t always go.  But I really care during the week what Jesus wants me to do.  I mess it up and get it wrong every single day.  I yell at my kids.  I eat things that are bad for me.  I spend selfishly – my time, my words, my money.  Oh, but I want to do it right.  I try every week to do it right.  I would love to show that Jesus is freedom and forgiveness and grace.  That He is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… (Galatians 5)

I do not want to short sell Jesus on this blog.  I’m not going to change what I write about and I’m not going to turn Fashion Fridays into Faith in your Face, I promise.  In fact, I’ve got about eight Fashion Fridays already lined up.  And I’m still going to research and write about leadership because I think it’s important to have a generation of smart, inspired women leaders.  But I’m going to use words I believe in more.  God somehow sounded like it would offend people less.  If I spoke generally about faith without any edges, then no one could get bothered.

You know what though?  Jesus bothers me.  He pushes me so far out of my comfort zone, I haven’t even seen it recently.  He tells me my job is to let His light shine through me so people would see me and glorify Him.  (Matt. 5:16)  You know how crazy that is today?  Aren’t people running around trying to be seen so they can be glorified?  Me – well I’m just supposed to point back to Him.

So I’m going to try that.  And if you’ve ever asked me how I do what I do, I do it because Jesus lets me, helps me, and paves the way before me.

When You Win An Award

A couple of weeks ago, this crazy thing happened.

This lady I’ve never met contacted me and told me I’d won an award I didn’t know about.  It turns out someone had nominated me, and I had been selected, as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Houston for 2014.

My heart stopped momentarily and my stomach did a complete flip.  Because that made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Then I may have running screaming down the hallway to tell my co-worker, and I may have even danced a little jig in front of my boss’ boss.  (Is that how you type that?  Because it’s not boss’s boss, but it looks wrong the other way.  Sheesh.  Rabbit trail.)

I got details about the awards celebration and the magazine and the deadline for headshots and bios and what not.  I called my husband with the news who was so impressed that in response to my yelping he replied, “what rank were you?”  When I noted it was just a compilation of the top 50 women rather than a ranking he pressed, “well, don’t you want to know your rank?”  (This is why God brought us together.  My husband is completely unfazed.  And that is really good for me.  And my kids still won’t eat their spinach so clearly not much influence there…)

The awards celebration and press release and all that craziness happened this Sunday.  And there are a lot of things that have historically happened when God is gracious enough to open a door like this for me.  I’d get sort of full of myself, wow, look at me, this is pretty dadgum impressive if you ask me, umm-hmm.  That’s the God’s honest truth.  I used to think these things made me awesome.  I also used to think the absence of these things made me not so awesome.  I would also do a lot of comparing.  I’d look around at the other people in whatever award mix or recognition group and see some real or perceived skill or talent they possessed that I did not.

So I stopped.

Not cold turkey.  And not perfectly.  I still looked around at the women on Sunday and nearly fell out.  Heck, my friends and co-workers who came to cheer me on could have been honored too!  But my worth does not come from whether or not I pick up another killer award this year.  Nor does it come from being completely unrecognized in any given year.

There’s this wonderful hymn I grew up hearing my grandparents sing.  The chorus says, On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.  All other ground is sinking sand.

That’s the truth.  Everything else is completely unpredictable.  Whether or not you’ll be deemed the best or the worst on a swinging pendulum of outside perception is no way to live your life or determine your value.  You have to find your solid rock to stand on or else you’ll spend your career chasing the imaginary pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

So yesterday was just gravy.  Goodness and fun and light.

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I spent it grateful for the mix of colleagues and family and dear girlfriends (even darling Kristin from Minnesota, whose birthday surprise you’ll read about later) that came together just to toast this fun recognition.  I am no more successful or worthy today than I was last month.  And I will be no less successful or worthy next year when everyone’s forgotten my name.  (See, I have written your name on the palm of my hand.  Isaiah 49:16)

On Being Brave

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There’s a theme out there in the blogging world about selecting ONE word for the new year ahead.  I’ve never done it.  I’m not doing it this year.  But I love the concept.  If you had to capture all you want out of the year ahead in one word, what would it be?

For me, as I have written earlier, my word for 2015 would be brave.

Brave as dressed in entirely new clothes.

Brave as being rather than doing.

You see I’m a doer.  It turns out being takes far more courage (for me) than doing.

When I wrote a God-sized Dreams link up post last year at this exact same time, I wrote about wonderful stuff but it generally involved doing.  I did not envision just being one year ago.  I envisioned doing.  And so I did.  I thought I was brave this year by working on a second book and taking more significant assignments at work and speaking on bigger and brighter stages in front of hundreds of women and leading an organization with an increasingly national profile.

That was not actually all that brave.  It was good, don’t get me wrong.  God opened those doors and I am grateful for every single one of them.  But what God is teaching me, in these hours we’re spending together, is that brave MUST look different this year.

It takes more bravery for me to offer a dozen neighbors cookies in my front yard that to stand on a stage in front of a thousand women.  It takes more bravery for me to read bedtime stories every single night I’m given with my children this year than to finish writing my next book.  It takes more bravery for me to wake up early every morning and work out so that I can lose weight and be a healthy momma than to attend dinner parties with “the important people.”  It takes more bravery for me to spend less and live “smaller,” than to gain everything but lose my soul (Matt. 16:26).

It will take a mighty act of courage, with significant assistance from my patient Heavenly Father, to focus on my influence within my property lines than my influence within my city or state or anywhere else.

I studied the 40 Day Prayer Circle Challenge by Mark Batterson this fall, and in it he writes about drawing a circle of prayer around the area you most fervently want God to work.  Then he uses this beautiful image of how God draws a circle around us:”Long before we woke up this morning and long after we go to sleep tonight, the Holy Spirit was and is circling us in prayer.  And if that doesn’t infuse us with holy confidence, I don’t know what will.  But it isn’t just the Holy Spirit who is interceding for us; the Son of God is interceding for us as well.  They are interceding for the will of God to be accomplished in our lives.  We are double circled.  They are circling us all the time with songs of deliverance.” (Day 15, Draw the Circle)

He wants His work to be done in you even more than you want it!  I could just visualize that 2015 is the year God is drawing a circle around my family and saying, Here.  Here is where you stand.  You stand in this circle this year.  I have a plan for you.  But it will take you being brave to trust me that I can accomplish it while you stand right here in a circle that might feel a little small at first. 

I wrote for God-sized Dreams, “God sometimes requires us to lay down our dream, even the dream He placed on our heart, in order to know him more.”  I want to be brave enough to do that.

He must increase, but I must decreaseJohn 3:30

The line in a song by Francesca Battistelli resonated in my core, “I don’t need my name in lights, I’m famous in my Father’s eyes.  Make no mistake, He knows my name.  I’m not living for applause.  I’m already so adored.  It’s all His stage.  He knows my name.”

You see, it’s all HIS stage.  Thousands of articles have been authored  by media specialists and blogging experts about the size of your platform (aka your stage).  Your reach is supposed to grow and your name found at the top of every search engine.  But it is His stage.  I only need HIM to know my name.

So my God-sized Dream for 2015 is for the size and shape of my stage to just so reflect Him.  The stage may look, from the outside, smaller and less bright, but oh friend it feels so brave and big to me.

 

Linking up with God-sized Dreamers today:

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The Best Yes Study: The Final Yes

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You did it!  You made it through to the very last installment of our walk through Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes!

What was the single most important lesson you learned?

I’m not sure, it’s a hard one for me, but I sure loved Chapter 8 on release and Chapter 5 on every assignment not being MY assignment.  Probably the most important reminder was the power of a small no in Chapter 11.  And then today.  Whoa.

We tackle the final two chapters right here at the close of the year: Chapter 18, When My Best Yes Doesn’t Yield What I Expect, and Chapter 19, We Make Choices Then Our Choices Make Us.

Do not miss Chapter 18 if you have ever walked through disaster, crisis, heartbreak, or failure.  Let this give you hope as we enter the new year:

Let this unexpected happening point to your strength, not your weakness.
Maybe you’ve been entrusted with this.  Not cursed with it.
Chapter 18, p. 221, The Best Yes

Whatever the hard thing is you are facing, do the next right thing right in front of you to do.  No matter how much it hurts to do the right thing.  She quotes President Theodore Roosevelt as saying, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing.  The worst thing you can do is nothing.”  {===>Click To Tweet}

I could not put the message to you any better than Lysa did herself:  Friend, you are strong.  You are persevering, tough, able to bend without breaking, willing to be humbled to the point of humiliation, not blinded, a hunter for wisdom, a praying-through-it woman, a courageous gal, one who wants to learn the deep dependence of following hard after God Himself…From that cracked open-heart place, a God-breathed strength will rise. Rise. Rise. (Chapter 18, p. 225)

In Chapter 19, she closes by commending us to mix together all of the wisdom we have picked up along this journey – day by day, decision by decision.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:4-5

So share your thoughts?  What will you be taking into your new year as you strive to offer respectful nos and best yeses?