The Missing Piece to True Peace

Confession is a powerful avenue of healing that sheds light on any sin we are harboring. But it can get easily lost in today’s culture of photo-shopped perfection and social media highlight reels.

However, I challenge you and me to reclaim confessing “one to another.” It is a basic and powerful element of faith for those of us who call ourselves believers in and followers of Jesus. It is also the reason that sustained commitment to a twelve-step program, such as Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous, is the only way many find true freedom from destructive and addictive life patterns. And it is also the reason many modern churches have lost their effectiveness in truly leading their members into a lifestyle not dominated by sin. There sometimes is more of an emphasis on looking blessed than taking time to confess.

In His famous “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus stated, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8

Jesus’ brother, James, echoed that truth when he wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

What would our churches and our lives look like if we truly began to imitate the ancient and effective pattern of the early church of shedding light on sin so true healing can occur? Why not try it and find out?

Oh, and please note…. It doesn’t say you have to be some super human or a priest-type to hear someone else’s confession. The “one to another” lateral aspect of confession as peers and NOT as superiors is important. This prevents us from erroneously placing the power of forgiveness on anyone else other than our One True God.

Passivity MUST Go!

What I am NOT talking about here is #planning, #evaluating, rest, or any other type of #PurposefulPause. But what IS on my heart this morning is a strong sense that a #SpiritOfPassivity is attempting to dominate our culture. If this spirit is allowed to persist, it could absolutely paralyze our future. We cannot allow this to happen!

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” -The Apostle Paul, Colossians‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭NLT‬‬ (The Bible, New Living Translation)

“Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious. Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? ‘If you don’t work, you don’t eat.’ And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.”-The Apostle Paul, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 MSG (The Message Paraphrase)

Easter Egg Hunts?? Or Church All Day?? This year I’m Celebrating Resurrection a Different Way.

There’s been debate in “Christiandom” for years about whether or not good Christian parents should tell their children stories of Easter Bunnies and send them off on adventures to find hidden eggs.

Some would argue that the remembrances and celebrations of the Easter Holiday weekend should all focus on our Risen Savior and the empty tomb He left behind. “Behead the bunnies and burn the baskets!” might be their mantra.

But I would argue that a single day – or even an entire Lenten season – cannot adequately celebrate our Risen Redeemer – whether filled with chocolate bunnies or fervent fasting. You see, the whole point of that ancient crucifixion and resurrection of our Serving Savior was not for focus to be fixed on an empty tomb or for feasting on baskets full of candy.

The point of the God becoming man, dying, and rising was not to create an empty tomb for generations of faithful pilgrims to gaze into – as awe-inspiring as that may be. The beauty of what these over-crowded Easter Sunday services are trying to Celebrate is so much more than one day and a family dinner. Rather, the true Resurrection Celebration is the sudden and sustained appearance of the light of hope and life in the eyes of a person who had previously been daily trudging through a living death of hopelessness.

So eat that Easter Candy if you want to. Go to church and slice the ham. But you are only witnessing a true Resurrection Celebration when you can daily look into eyes and see a changed life.

For me, this Easter weekend was one of my best yet. I shared the weekend with a dear friend who has navigated through very similar life struggles as me. As we hiked some beautiful West Virginia trails and spoke of strong and confident personal and professional steps we would have never taken in prior years, we realized the very lives we are leading are a beautiful resurrection story.

And the weekend was summed up with a beautiful reminder of this at the close of the service of a little church we visited in West Virginia today. Unlike the larger highly-produced church services many of us experience these days, this one was small and intimate – opening with the pastor querying the entire congregation for any prayer requests and closing by asking if there was anything else on their hearts. It wasn’t focused on a celebrity-style preacher but on the simplicity of God’s love poured out on all the people as they ministered to one another. And it was that sweet atmosphere that provided the freedom for a woman near the back of the church to stand at the close of service and say, “I know He’s alive because He Lives in me!“.

And that – the unending and uninhibited passionate spark of a changed life – is way better than an Easter basket or a sunrise service.

So, not just happy Easter to you. Our Father designed us for more than just an occasional celebratory day.

Happy Resurrection Lifestyle!

Growing with you in Him,

The Gospel According to my Bubble Bath

If you’re a fan of bubble baths like I am, you probably would never add fragrant oils or soap to still water. You either add it when the water is running or you fire up those jets on the whirlpool tub. Why? Because as fragrant and lovely as that oil or soap may be while sitting still, its full refreshing, relaxing, fragrant, and bubbly impact is not released until it is stirred.

It would be sad if I sat in my big old tub and added fragrant oils and soaps, but never fired up the whirlpool jets to spread their healing beauty throughout my bath. Well, how much sadder still if we never fully release the fragrant life-giving beauty our Maker so lovingly crafted into us because we avoid the very things (often in the form of painful or challenging decisions, situations, or relationships) that were designed to stir us up in order to release us into our full potential.

So I challenge you… I challenge me… not to be so busy about avoiding the pain of life’s stirring that we miss having our full and intended impact!

Think about that the next time you’re in a bubble bath. Or, think about it the next time life’s circumstances try to get you stirred up. The stirring that rocks our predictable “safe” little worlds sometimes may not be such a bad thing after all.

Growing better together,

Know Yourself. Lead Yourself. Lead Others.

Perhaps much of our struggle lies in that we attempt to lead others when we haven’t yet learned how to lead ourselves.

My new life coach/counselor is having me read the book, Better Than Before: Master the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin. In this most worthwhile read, the author proposes that there are 4 basic tendencies: the upholder, the questioner, the obliger, and the rebel.

These tendencies cause us each to have different styles of doing everything: living, loving, habit formation, absolutely everything….

And if we haven’t taken the time to assess ourselves – we may just be attempting to apply someone else’s habit-system-solution which may actually be counter productive in a person with our particular design.

So as I’m reading this book in an attempt to finally conquer a life-long struggle with procrastination and become more productive, I am learning that I am a rebelwith just a touch of obliger.

And… I must confess. At first I thought this odd combination of tendencies was just a bit unfair. Perhaps God was expressing a warped sense of humor when He created me. I mean, how the heck am I supposed to get myself to do anything when my natural tendency is to resist outer expectations and inner expectations… mixed with a touch of people-pleasing tendencies!

Oh, and to top it all off – my professional background and passion for changing healthcare for the better tends to land me in positions that are typically filled by the 100% obliger type. (You know, the “You say jump – I’ll say how high” follow-every-rule type?). So… I work in the most highly regulated industry ever in roles that are supposed to enforce those regulations and create structured frameworks to bring about positive change. Yet I have the tendency to want to do the exact opposite of what I’m told. What’s up with that??

So….. This morning I was talking to Father about this. (The Maker-of-my-soul-Father – not my earthly father, Dad, a.k.a my most faithful blog reader who I’ll call later!). And, since Father’s ok with His kids being real with Him, I let Him know my frustrations in a “What were you thinking when you designed me like this?!?” kind of way. And He lovingly and graciously asked me, “You want to lead and make a difference for me, right?”. Yes, of course. Then He softly spoke this simply profound truth to my soul:

If you can lead yourself, you can lead anybody.

So, in other words, if I can convince this stubborn-rebellious-wild-child-wrapped-in-a-sweet-submissive-compliant-looking-shell to do what she’s supposed to, I can lead anyone??

EXACTLY. (If God texted, I am pretty certain it would always be in bold, italicized all-caps).

Huh. What about that. Maybe my Maker knows what He’s doing after all.

So let’s stop over-complicating things and just get to know and love Him, ourselves, and each other. Then we can simply live and love well as we walk out this crazy adventure called life!

Resilient Beauty

So there’s this tree just outside my hotel here in beautiful Virginia that started showing off these beautiful blossoms a couple weeks ago at our first unseasonably warm day. What’s so amazing about this is we’ve had more than a couple hard freezes since then. But this tree continues to blossom – blessing us with beauty in spite of harsh external circumstances.

As God does so often, He reminded me of spiritual truth through a beautiful natural example. Beauty does not have to be diminished by external circumstances.

It is not easy – but it is possible to be so deeply grounded and rooted in the strength and power of our Maker that the deepest freeze the world has to offer cannot rob us of our beauty. In fact – because of the greyness of the world around us, our beauty will be even more vivid in the landscape of the pain around us.

You see, this tree was probably planted by the hotel owners when they opened the place over 20 years ago. Even though it may not be the largest tree from what we can see, it has had years of developing a deep root structure and careful nourishing and tending to by its landscapers.

May my life be a beautiful testimony of the strength that can only be developed over time as I learn to lean in to the deep abiding power of my Maker.

“They are planted in the house of the Lord. They grow strong in the courtyards of our God.” – Psalm 92:13 ERV

“I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from Me you won’t be able to do anything.” – John 15:5 ERV

What God Wants Us to Hear the Most

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The following is from “Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God” devotional reading plan on the YouVersion Bible App by Mark Batterson (Day 4). This reading encouraged me so very much today. Too good not to share! You aren’t the mistakes you’ve made. You aren’t the labels that have been put on you. And you aren’t the lies the Enemy has tried to sell you. You are who God says you are.

You are a child of God.

You are the apple of God’s eye.

You are sought after.

You are more than a conqueror.

You are a new creation in Christ.

You are the righteousness of Christ.

All our identity issues are fundamental misunderstandings of who God is. Guilt issues are a misunderstanding of God’s grace. Control issues are a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty. Anger issues are a misunderstanding of God’s mercy. Pride issues are a misunderstanding of God’s greatness. Trust issues are a misunderstanding of God’s goodness. If you struggle with any of those issues, it’s time to let God be the loudest voice in your life!

God doesn’t love us because of who we are. God loves us because of who He is.

When we succeed, God says, “I love you.”

When we fail, God says, “I love you.”

When we have faith, God says, “I love you.”

When we doubt, God says, “I love you.”

Love is His answer to everything. Why? Because He is love. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you any more or any less. God loves you perfectly. He loves you eternally.

God wants us to hear what He’s saying, and we must heed His voice. But much more than that, He wants us to hear His heart. So He whispers softer and softer so that we have to get closer and closer. And when we finally get close enough, He envelops us in His arms and tells us that He loves us.

We’ve been deafened by the voice of conformity, the voice of criticism, and the voice of condemnation, and the side effects include loneliness, shame, and anxiety.

The good news? You not only bear God’s image but you know His voice. It’s His voice that knit you together in your mother’s womb. It’s His voice that ordained all your days before one of them came to be. It’s His voice that began a good work and His voice that will carry it to completion.

Where is God leading you? How is God talking to you?….

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”- Philippians 1:6