Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trust Boldly. Walk Humbly--August 27, 2016

Trust: firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.
    synonyms: confidence, belief, faith, certainty, assurance, conviction, credence; reliance
Boldly: (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.
    synonyms: daring, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, valorous, fearless, dauntless, audacious

              New year, new theme. I’m so grateful for the last year—learning to embrace love was so painfully beautiful—most of the worthwhile things in life are. I’m excited to look ahead, look forward. As I prayed on the 25th, the eve of my 29th, I asked God what looking ahead and moving forward would look like—what it meant for me to “cross the Jordan” after a difficult year of loss. How do I live out embracing love in light of who Jesus is and who he wants me to be—trust boldly—began to echo in my heart. Basically, live out being loved tangibly—take risks, obey, speak—because you are loved. Embracing love is the first step of trusting boldly. You can’t trust something you don’t know—good lordy if people recognized this—trust is earned, not a product of a title or position. Trust is an action—it is faith in motion. Trust is full of hot air and meaningless until it is tested tangibly. So what does that practically look like for me now?
It means that I keep walking, keep moving where He leads—it means I get out of bed and go to church, I attend a small group, I make the effort.
I think it means I move forward in faith not fear. I have and will continue to make mistakes—but that shouldn’t paralyze me. I am loved by the one who died for all my mistakes—ALL. If I choose the “wrong church” he will be there, if I say too much or too little—He has been perfectly silent and spoken—for me.
One of the most surprising aspects of learning to trust boldly has been a freedom from a fear of being wrong. I know that I am human—perfection is impossible—and failure happens when we’re preoccupied with being right. Perfect love casts out fear partly because the burden is lifted to be “perfect” and “right”—replacing them with wisdom and discernment—a journey not an achievement.
The gospel reminds us that it is finished ultimately so live in freedom today—knowing that you will make mistakes—the Bible is full of redemption—learn from your past and move forward. Be humble and teachable and trust God to correct you—to lead you beside still waters and green pastures that strengthen your faith and trust.

Embracing His perfect love casts out the fear of having to be right---have the right convictions, read the right books, and the fear based avoidance of the “wrong” by instead focusing on pursuing the good. I don’t have to live in the fear of being wrong when I remember He is my rightness—Jesus lived perfectly, thought sinlessly, acted justly—when I stumble, ramble, live selfishly. Perfect love casts out fear, enabling us to trust boldly. 

Jesus Really Loves Women




Jesus loves women. Women make up half of his image bearers on this earth. In his 33 years Jesus turned the cultural tables on how women were treated. He let Mary sit at his feet and learn from him—showing that God wants women to know him and study just as much as men. Jesus looked at the broken woman at the well—the whore—and gave a way to become whole. Jesus healed and esteemed women. In a patriarchal culture that saw women as property—Jesus saw them as people.
Jesus loves women—and he loves you. See and measure yourself by His love for you--no one elses. 

Jesus loves women. He doesn’t fear femininity—he created it. The beautiful things women love—flowers, fashion, the irresistible aroma of a good pie—Jesus delights in beauty—he was the first creator of those things. Jesus loves the way women nurture tenderly and protect fiercely—for he is love. Every day women work for the least of these—the poor, their own babies, the outcasts—and Jesus says when we do that work—we have worked for him. The Bible is full of "birth pangs" metaphors--how creation is groaning and longing for new life to come--women uniquely can understand this.


Jesus never saw women as a possession or a body—he saw the heart and soul that he created and loved and called just as much as men. It was women who first learned of his resurrection—entrusted first with the commission to go and tell of his hope—women were the first human proclaimers of the gospel incarnate. So Jesus doesn’t dismiss a woman’s voice or shroud her gifts in patronizing parameters. Rather, Jesus speaks to women and teaches them. He calls women to live boldly and use their gifts—to image bear him wherever they are—home, office, classroom—your position is important, your voice needs to be heard, your heart is fiercely loved. Move forward today in light of that perfect love. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Embrace Love--a year later




Last year on the day before my birthday I was led to the birthday year theme of “embrace love”. At the time it felt ambiguous, flighty even—like, what does that even mean? Oh, maybe I’ll have a relationship, maybe I’ll grow in ministry, maybe…my mental “what-if’s” were endless. I was optimistic that embracing love would bring joy.


A year later, it has—but not at all in the rosy way I expected. Sure, I’ve bloomed in many ways this year—but roses have thorns. Thorns are protection of the bud, for the plant’s health—keeping the unsafe and the unhelpful away. Learning to “embrace love” this year meant blossoms and thorns.

In my professional work when we define a behavior we also define what it isn’t—we give concrete descriptions of the target behavior (e.g. aggression is defined as hitting an object or person with an open or closed fist), while also giving non-examples (e.g. aggression does not include yelling, running away, or lightly tapping a surface with fingertips).


None of my “maybe’s” imagined the “non-examples” of embracing love. But as I look back over the last year, I am so grateful that God in his infinite wisdom began to teach me how to embrace love by also teaching me what love isn’t—and the love to reject. He used hard circumstances where power and position “in the name of love” was mishandled to teach me to recognize His perfect love. He revealed areas of my heart that were prideful, self-sufficient, and clouded by my sin to free me to embrace his love. He healed in the midst of hurt—his is a love that embraces us in our pain and pride and calls us to be healed and humble. His love doesn’t demand devotion or submission. His love doesn’t use fear to manipulate—His love casts out fear. The love I’ve learned to embrace this year is a spoken love—the word became flesh. Speak the truth in love—it must be spoken—truth hurts to heal, faithful are the wounds of a friend. The love I’m learning to embrace is not self-seeking—emboldened by its seeking of the beloved’s best, this love speaks into darkness, tender words from ferocious care. This Love knows that silence is comfortable for the moment but cancer in the long run. Love doesn’t treat people like a number, a dollar symbol, a part of the whole. Love knows that to care for the whole you must care for the one. The Good Shepherd seeks after the one lost sheep—to love well we must love like Him. This is the love that is worth embracing.

The “love passage” in 1st Corinthians is often read at weddings—yet contextually Paul was yelling at the Corinthians—like a stern Father Paul was embodying the love he was calling them to—patient, kind, NOT self-seeking, rejoicing in the truth. He said the hard things because he had a Holy Spirit inspired love. That’s the greatness of love.

My heart wounds are turning to scars—reminders that healing is possible. I won’t be the same—and that’s a good thing. The Gospel has reminded me this year that the love I want to embrace is a scarred love. A love that entered into the mess of this world, the pain, the brokenness, the abuse—and took it on. Christ is quite literally love embodied. I want to embrace that kind of love—the one that flipped tables instead of sweeping things under the rug. The love that cares too much to stay silent in false unity and comfort—knowing wounds caused by words of truth heal. I want to be love like that— speak to heal, cry out for justice, defend the cause of the poor and needy, encourage the faint-hearted, and be patient with them all. Because as much as love endures it also evokes freedom for the beloved. A love that demands is not love at all—it is control, and power, and abusive—self-love is never selfless.  So as I look back and look forward—I’m grateful for this year of learning to embrace love. I’m thankful that God has allowed hurt to heal and to teach humility—to encourage and remind me that I can embrace love because he perfectly embraces me in his infinite love

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Crossing Your Jordan


“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim,whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you…“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord”
Deuteronomy 9:1-3,6-7
We all have personal “Jordan Rivers”—pivotal moments where God calls us to move forward, to walk courageously. These  moments often come after wilderness—times of pain, confusion, desolation in our circumstances or hearts. Often we’re fearful to take the next step—to end the relationship, to change our habits. Just like Israel we forget that God goes before us—that it is His power that equips us to walk, to fight our battles, to take the land He’s calling us to. If you’re like me, you do start to think that it’s all on you to make the right decisions, to say the right things, to remain silent—forgetting that it is not by our works that we are even where we’re at today.
I think our wilderness seasons are so pivotal because they forever remind us just how much we need our Savior. When everything around you has crumbled you’re left with the essentials—what you really needed in the first place.
“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down” (A Grief Observed C. S. Lewis).
It is often in our wilderness seasons that we are humbled and refined. It can feel like punishment but it’s actually the most loving thing to be reminded of what matters. The wilderness prepares us for crossing the Jordan.
 I don’t know what wilderness you’re in—where your heart is parched by pain—but I know that He will not waste it and that it won’t last forever. Our God is the one who made water pour forth from rocks—and he does that with our heart’s too.

Know that your Jordan will come—and that He goes before you, prepares you, is with you, wherever you go.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Lesson in Grace from My Grandfather


Speeding down a sun-speckled Midwestern highway, a weathered hand pats my own “You keep writing, Elise. Write about your life, what happens to you. It’s your gift”. My eyes water at his affirmation, his love; his encouragement irrigating dry ground.

Earlier that day I peered through a cracked door to see him pouring over a book, pen poised to take notes. Upon entering the book-crammed study, I sigh and my heart echoes—so this this where I got it—the love for reading, studying, writing—it’s in my blood. As I settle into a well-worn chair, I can’t help but look around at the shelves spotted with photographs of family and friends. I know he prays for these people faithfully, daily; blood related by the cross.

Our roots lead to wings—sometimes to fly away from danger, sometimes to tether us to our calling. “You can’t pick your family”—some grin, many grimace.


“The place you start your journey is your anchor, the filter through which you process every single stop along the way…If, along the way, you realize you’ve been heading the wrong direction, you might change your trajectory, but you can’t change where you started” (Allison Fallon,Packing Light).
My eyes move from pages to photographs, glimpses of what matters to my grandfather. He is a man who has lived quite the journey. He’s the first to admit he’s not the man he once was, and his family echoes this. Grace is exemplified when a person knows they need it—when they, like David, from the heart say “against you only have I sinned” (Psalm 51).


Back on the cloud-shadow spotted road, my grandfather remarks “twenty years ago I never would have thought I would be ministering to sex offenders in prison, but the Lord has changed me”. We never know what events will change the course of our lives—when our hearts will be moved to speak or to be silent, when tragedy or triumph will mark our path. Yet, as I listened to my grandfather reminisce on life and change, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by grace—that sees our pride, our prejudice, our fear—the grace that knows our starting points, the families we’ve been placed into—and calls us to walk with Him. This grace doesn’t demand perfection—casting us away at the first inconvenience, mistake, or conflict—rather, it redeems in the most humble and humiliating way—by taking the punishment for our errors, our anger. The infinite entered time. His grace must be our starting point—it must be our anchor—He has adopted us as family—grace received leads to grace exemplified. Indeed, “His grace has brought us safe thus far, His grace will lead us home”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Though None Go with Me

    "But what about you?" he asked.
 "Who do you say I am?" Mark 8:29
                The last few months have reminded me of this conversation between Jesus and Peter as my own heart has heard echoes of,  “Who do you say I am?”  As I’ve processed and healed and begun to move on, Jesus has gently asked me to revisit who He is—a process that will never end this side of heaven.  The initial confusion and sadness has been an opportunity to restore the joy of my salvation—it has drawn me to Him.  He uses hard things to remind us of His character and call us to rely on it. I can say I believe that He is my strength, my peace—but those are hollow until they’re all you have to hold on to. This year has been one marked by change in my circumstances, my habits, my community. Many nights I’ve fallen asleep praying for Jesus to be my fortress, my clarity, my defender—the way only He can. He has never failed.
                He’s reminded me that he is my hope, He alone is the Author and Perfector of my faith, the Keeper of my Soul. He alone knows my heart. He alone. Though none go with me. He has faithfully uprooted lies, ended harmful thought patterns, and restored dreams. His grace reminds me I’m a work in progress, yet ultimately it is finished. His grace frees me to admit my faults, to look back and repent. His grace beckons me to forgive, to move on, to trust that he leads me beside green pastures and still waters.

                I don’t know what hard things you’re going through today. I don’t know where you feel pressed, almost crushed, persecuted and almost abandoned, struck down seemingly destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8)—but I know that he meets you there. He was pressed, crushed, persecuted, abandoned, his body was destroyed—for you. When in trials it feels like “none go with you”—remember, He has. He knows. His grace has brought you safe thus far, His grace will lead you home. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

A prayer for the church


Your Kingdom is in-breaking,
Your loving-kindness has no end,
You only hurt to heal,
You are the one who mends.

You are not distant in our pain,
 You are not aloof or cold,
You are the one who turns loss to gain,
You are the one who destroys strongholds.

You know the depth of each human heart,
You know your children by name,
You alone can dissect a hardened soul,
You are the movement for the lame.

You are not finished with your people,
You are not throwing your hands up in despair,
You are the one who allows pain-
The Cross revealing your infinite care.

You will refine your church,
You will redeem your bride.
You are the one who removes our shame,
You are lovingly rebuking pride.

You know this moment many hearts are faint.
You hear each desperate cry.
You touch each soul with your tender care,
You will one day make every eye dry.

Tonight remind us of your love,
Satisfy souls in your peace,
Guide our prayers for you to abide,
Heal this body, from sin release.

--march 13,2016--