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God is Working in the Waiting

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2017 | 2 comments

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He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

I remember it like it was yesterday, when a new-to-me speaker posed a question that burrowed under my skin like a chigger in the heat of summer —

“Are you the kind of person who walks into a room and declares, ‘Here I am!’ or do you walk into the room and say, ‘There you are!’?”

I wasn’t an “all about me” person, but I’m naturally outgoing and comfortable talking to new people. I can work a room if that’s expected of me. My nerves do rattle on the inside, but they’re energy fueling confidence and conversation.

It also wasn’t that I didn’t notice other people; but the question forced me to realize at best I was blissfully unaware, or at worse, I was more concerned about myself than others. Ouch.

Over the past ten years through unexpected personal deserts and crazy life, I’ve tried to become a There you are! friend, the one who notices what you’re not saying as much as what you are saying. I’ve challenged myself to notice people in the margins. And trusting the providence of God (mostly in hindsight), I’ve wandered into those places myself, learning by experience what it feels like to be ignored, rejected, forgotten, irrelevant, and sometimes invisible.

I’ve hated it.

But on the other side of those hard lessons and hurt feelings is what has become a passion of mine: redemptive purpose

Just as sure as the sun hangs in the sky behind a veil of dark clouds, God is accomplishing His will and His ways even when I can’t see His hand at work.

 

And when I do gain insight and understanding in the aftermath of pain or heartache? It is an astonishing gift and grace to discover beauty among ashes.

Pride and ego were subtle idols of mine. God was kind enough to reveal them to me in a way that would sear an impression on my heart and ultimately change me.

———-

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve attended a Beth Moore Bible study. I forgot how she gets to me, how every study I’ve ever taken will somehow speak a word over me so strong it’s undeniable God had her write it just for me.

What . . . you, too? 🙂

It was in the fourth week, day three, on her study of James, when a section started doing its thing.

Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment. (James 3:1)

Beth spoke about “landmines that go with the territory” of teaching:

  • The temptation to teach more than we know.
  • The capacity to mislead.
  • The capacity to be misled.
  • The temptation to use the platform for personal agendas or opinions.

And though not exactly in the context of being a teacher, I sensed these landmines speaking to my life as a writer.

———-

It would seem that the natural progression for a long-term blogger is to write a book; that is the childhood dream of many in the online world. Those of you who’ve followed (in)courage since its inception know many of our regular contributors have gone on to lovely writing careers.

Here’s the thing that’s hard for me to admit: 

Please continue reading God is Working in the Waiting at {in}courage.
It’s personal but in some ways the story of ALL of us….

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Have You Ever Wondered What Your Faith Would Look Like If You Didn’t Have a Bible?

Oct

31

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 |

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Recently, our pastor led a sermon series that caught me by surprise, six messages celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (which happens to be today, October 31, 2017). It would have been almost expected in the former denomination we attended (Presbyterian (PCA)), but not what I’d predict from a Southern Baptist church.

I like surprises.

I owe Pastor McCoy a debt of gratitude for inspiring my thoughts at {in}courage today, and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and comment. His sermons also pointed me in the direction of some helpful resources (and a few quotes that found their way into my post). Learning about Church history strengthens my own faith, understanding the price so many paid that I might have the luxury of reading my own Bible, and worship without fear.

On this day in 1517, history – or maybe, more so, tradition – tells us Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, thereby ushering in a faith movement that led to the formation of the Protestant Church. Originally titled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” but more commonly known as the 95 Theses, Luther raised questions related to authority and salvation. One of his major points of contention centered on the practice of indulgences where people could basically buy their way out of sin.

Please read “Jesus Loves Me This I Know…” over at {in}courage to learn why Luther’s work matters to all of us, and I’d challenge you to ponder what your faith might look like if you didn’t have access to a Bible you could read on your own. Really–linger in the ramifications of that question; I’d genuinely love to hear your thoughtful responses (either in comments, if you’d like to share publicly, or via email).

Last, if you love learning, below are links to Dr. McCoy’s sermons and to the resources he used in his research (thank you, Dr. McCoy!):

The Unfinished Reformation by Greg Allison and Chris Castaldo

Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George

The Smalcald Articles by Martin Luther

The Bible Translation That Rocked the World, Christian History, Issue 34 by Henry Zecher

The Babylonian Captivity of the Church by Martin Luther

Find audio files and pdf guides here for Pastor McCoy’s sermon series The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation beginning September 24, 2017 and ending on October 29th.

  • Sermon 1, How Well Do You Know Your Story?
  • Sermon 2, What Does the Bible Say? Sola Scriptura and Following Christ Today
  • Sermon 3, All of Grace: Sola Gratia and the Way of Salvation
  • Sermon 4, Sola Fide: Abraham, Luther, and Justification by Faith
  • Sermon 5, Jesus Paid It All: Solus Christus and the Way of Salvation
  • Sermon 6, Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone

Related content:

http://www.history.com/topics/martin-luther-and-the-95-theses

Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk by Michelle DeRusha

 

Note: my affiliate links are included for books listed above.

 


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Oh Happy (#AMomentToBreathe Book Release) Day!

Oct

03

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 | 2 comments

If you aren’t yet a subscriber, how about today?

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Our world is reeling these days, isn’t it?

Collectively, we feel the tragic news out of Las Vegas, horrified that one man could rob so many of so much; for too many, their lives.  I can only imagine that those who are directly affected wonder how anyone can go on in a world gone mad?

There’s no reconciling the absurd.

There are times when faith comes easy. This isn’t one of them for a lot of folks.

I know all the Christian platitudes, the things we say at times like this. But I can’t bring myself to say any of those things out loud – even if they are true – because sometimes the loudest lament is silence.

 

God hears the cry of the broken ones, and he alone offers hope during obsidian days.

 

So, we mourn with those who mourn. We ask a lot of questions. Yes, we want answers, but the truth is we’ll never be able to make sense of it.

This world we find ourselves in is still spinning, sun and moon nudging us into the next day and the one after that.

 

And, here’s the important thing to remember: even in the darkness there are beacons.

 

We need light to guide us to where we are going, yes? We need light to show us the way.

Months ago (a year ago?) the date was set for A Moment to Breathe to release. No one could have anticipated the timing, that this collection of “365 devotions to meet you in your everyday mess” would launch right after the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history.  Eighty authors, inspired by scripture and for the glory of God, poured their hearts and lives into its pages, hoping it would bring light into the lives of those hopeful or desperate to find a beacon.

 

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I’m proud of this book, thrilled and honored to have seven devotions included. There’s a part of me that feels guilty for being happy when so many of our neighbors have suffered unimaginable loss – before Las Vegas, the multiple earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and those awful west coast wildfires. Unresolved racial tensions and political discord add to our collective grief. And beyond these national tragedies and disasters are countless more personal tragedies and disasters. Every day our neighbors are facing financial ruin, infidelity, addiction, illness, difficulty with children, debilitating accident, death…. Maybe you are the neighbor.

Here’s the beautiful, liberating thing: humans are a complex and multi-dimensional creation, capable of simultaneous, opposing emotions. (Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.) In other words, the “guilt” I’m feeling is a false guilt, the kind the enemy of my heart loves because it has the potential to defeat, paralyze, or confuse me (sometimes all three). False guilt materializes in a thousand different ways, and often it’s rooted in comparison; for me, at least.

 

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With all tenderness for those who are suffering, I can still celebrate the happy and good things happening in my world (if you need permission, I’m extending it to you, too, because sometimes we just need someone else to tell us so). It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It’s essential to have compassion for those in pain, to pray for, help and support those who’ve suffered loss. It’s also important be light for those walking in darkness (Matthew 5:16).

A Moment to Breathe is a disco ball of light.

You will find it to be a lovely, hardback devotional, rooted in scripture and the stories the authors first lived before sharing, with prayers and calls to action. It can be found at any bookstore that sells Christian books, or here are a few links (including affiliate):

For fun, Sarah Mae and I talk through the question,“What does ‘a moment to breathe’ mean to you?” (Why didn’t anyone tell me to smush my shirt down in front so my stomach didn’t look so poofy??) 

 

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The Panhandler’s Breath

Mar

26

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 |

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He slipped in sideways between the closing elevator doors, as if he were late to a meeting; he pressed the “5” without looking. Instead of suit and tie, though, baggy pants and faded navy hung on his tall, slim frame.

His stealth entry stiffened the hairs on the back of my neck.

I had noticed him a few seconds earlier, just after we had parted a sea of rowdy teens. He was smiling, grandfatherly, standing maybe 30 feet away where the downtown electric shuttle picks up.

I had no idea he had been watching us, studying us, predator patiently awaiting his next prey.

The four of us were sealed in a four-by-six-foot metal tomb. Tomb — that thought really muscled its way into my mind. I wondered if he had a knife in his pocket. I wanted to protect my son.

Fight or flight pumped adrenaline but there was nowhere to run.

 

A true story, the kind that reveals so much. Hope you click through to read
The Panhandler’s Breath over at incourage and
then share your own thoughts in response

(the last line still rattles me….).

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Wisdom You Can Count On – (Word Writers ~ James 3:17-18)

Mar

13

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 |

DAY 16 JAMES

Used to be I was a Bible study snob.

 

If it wasn’t long and so deep it took me hours to complete, if it didn’t quote Lewis or Piper or Spurgeon or their ilk, if it didn’t use big words I recognized but didn’t necessarily understand, it wasn’t worthy. In this ridiculous, pretentious economy, Level of Difficulty = A “Good” Bible Study.

 

 

It’d be laughable if it wasn’t true.

 

These days I’m thankful for studies I can digest, writers who provide margin to think, linger, and engage the Word. And complete, finishing each lesson is important, too.

 

This is why Denise Hughes’ Word Writers series hit the sweet spot for me; she’s written studies for Philippians, Ephesians, and now James, and they’ve filled a void I didn’t even realize I had. Without overpowering you with heavy reading and complex  hermeneutics, she’s created accessible studies that lead you to Jesus and leave room for you to know Him better.

 

She invited me to take part in an online Deeper Waters blog series for her newly-released James study, and today I’ve written a brief devotion inspired by James 3:17-18. Please take just a few minutes to read the devotion, share your thoughts, and maybe even follow the rest of the devotions in this series.

 

(affiliate links used)

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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 |

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)

 

You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?


I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 

Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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