An Open House and an Open Heart

As I prepare for my journey to “next”, a friend and I staged my beautiful little home for an open house. As we did, I was reminded that I’ve always strived toward an “open house”; a house ready for guests, for weary travelers and for hungry souls and tummies. I have opened my home to be the place where my kids’ friends hang out, my neighbors are proud to live next to and extra food in the freezer awaits impromptu meals with friends. Because no matter what your circumstance, you can be hospitable. You can freeze your leftover chili for an unexpected guest. You can make the most of whatever space God has granted to you for this moment in time.

I’m reminded of an old Keith Green song that states, “I don’t want your money, I want your life,” (which includes your money, by the way.) My proof of surrender doesn’t end after the offering plate goes by. It includes my property, my vehicle, and maybe most importantly, my time.

I come from parents who led an almost monastic life. And truth be told, I can lean toward hermit living from time to time. However, I must say that the greatest joy I’ve experienced is when I’ve shared all that I have. Open hands. Open house. Open heart.

Part of staging a home, requires encouraging the prospective buyer to imagine themselves in your home. As my friend and I told stories with furnishings, it was easy to remember precious moments in each cozy corner. It was also painfully easy to see how I could have done more and been more accommodating. I could have used the space I had for His glory in a greater way. But then I’m reminded that we go from glory to glory and faith to faith. I am growing in His likeness. His mercies are new every morning, so that I can share better and more in my “next”. I can’t wait to open the door to my house and my heart to all that awaits.

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Marie Kondo Made Me Cry: 3 Unexpected Results From Konmarie

While browsing through Netflix one day, I saw one the most feminine and dainty young women that I’ve ever laid eyes on. Her name is Marie Kondo and she is taking the nation by storm with her Netflix show, Tidying Up.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, my house will be officially on the market next week. So tidying my home right now, is a no-brainer. However, there were a few unexpected benefits to Ms. Kondo’s method of sorting through things. I thought I’d share them with you…

Clearing Your Physical Space Clears Your Head Space

  1. Less is more – I’ve always been a believer in less is more. However, because I have often found myself a hair shy of impoverished, I tend to hoard in preparation for a rainy day. Honestly, it’s been fear that has kept me from donating clothes too big/small for me, thinking, “What if I lose/gain a bunch of weight and don’t have the money to buy the required clothing? What if I get rid of that shirt box I received for Christmas and I need one later?” Forget about the fact that styles may change or that boxes are literally less than a dollar at Dollar Tree, I’m afraid that as soon as I let go, that I will need that item…and I often do. However, I forgot how clearly I am able to think when the clutter is gone. And that’s worth something don’t you think? Finding the perfect balance between being prepared and being a hoarder is difficult, but our decision should definitely not be out of fear. After all, we are encouraged in I Tim. 1:7, that we have not been given the spirit of fear, but of love, power and of a sound mind.
  2. Gratitude “Sparks Joy” – As I sorted through my belongings, my level of gratitude began to soar. Marie Kondo asks her clients to hold each item and ask, “Does this spark joy?” As I did this, I was often reminded of the origin of the item. I remembered where I was when I purchased it, or who gave it to me. There were cards and letters others had written. I was becoming not only grateful for the items, but for the people and experiences in my life. At one point, I even found myself placing my hands on the ceiling beams of my attic bedroom and weeping praise and thanksgiving for the privilege of having lived in a house I’ve loved so much. One of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp, said, “Thanksgiving always proceeds the miracle.” But maybe the miracle is how thanksgiving heals the heart. I have so many changes coming my way right now, and I need to know that I am following God in all that I am doing. I believe that God is able to do much more when we keep a grateful heart, full of appreciation for the blessings He’s already given. We are told that we can enter His gates with thanksgiving.(Psalm 100:4) We are also told that in His presence is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11) So wouldn’t it suffice to say that thanksgiving brings joy because it puts us in the most joyful place of all which is His presence?
  3. Purging Material Items Brings Healing – I had no idea that a few of my possessions actually brought bad memories and pain to my heart. Holding each item and asking if that item sparked joy, I realized that a few things that I had kept for decades, brought fear, pain and a deep sadness and regret. Donating those items actually brought healing and freedom. Although they were lovely, not having them in my home feels a little like I have cleared away the cobwebs from my mind. I had no idea the negativity they were bringing into my environment.

Overall, the greatest blessing I received from the Konmarie Method is in letting go. We are told to forget those things that are behind and press forward toward the mark.(Phil 3:13) I had things hanging in my closet, trinkets and jewelry, and even books that were unbeknownst to me weighing me down like a beast of burden under too much strain. It was painfully glorious to let go of these things.

One of my key Scriptures as of late, is found in Isaiah and speaks of God doing a new thing, in unexpected places…and I feel Him stirring. But I had no idea He was stirring in my closet, my bookcase and even my junk drawer. But I’m glad He is, because now I am liberated to run faster, farther and freer than ever before without the cumbersome burden of too many things.

Your Greatest Accomplishment

I recently quit my dream job. A job so perfectly suited for me that it fit like a glove. A job where I had the privilege of affecting thousands of people by providing services to local churches and reaching out to neighbors in need. But alas, the small non-profit ran out of funds and could no longer support my salary as director. So, in the best interest of the organization, I resigned.

I’m moving out of my dream house. A house so perfectly crafted for me, it was like someone built it to my specifications. A house that I thoroughly believe that God provided. But alas, without steady work from my dream job, it is wise to sell. Perhaps more importantly, I feel the Good Shepherd leading me on.

On Monday, I had a few friends over to help me make a “work list” of things to be done before I put my home on the market. We ate lunch, talked about staging the house, our kids, our dreams and what Bible reading program we were using for the year. We talked about what books we are currently reading and how things are going on in our church families.

As I stood talking to the last guest, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper, “This was one of your greatest accomplishments.”

“What part of this?” my mind whispered back as my friend continued to tell me how work was going.

The answer was unexpected, because it wasn’t anything grand, or difficult. In fact, it was something that had come quite naturally to me without much effort. You see, my three friends are from different churches, backgrounds and have very different personalities. But we do have one thing in common. We all love Jesus. I hadn’t thought I was doing anything special or unique by inviting the three of them over, but our Father did. I believe that God, just like any parent, loves to see His kids getting along and loving Him together, side by side.

What pleases God most about us isn’t necessarily the most complicated or difficult things, or acts of great sacrifice and heroic deeds. Instead, they are the everyday, common things that come naturally to the unique personality He has give to each of us.

I didn’t hear God’s voice commend me for sacrificing my career for the good of the organization. (Although I know that it was the right thing to do.) I didn’t feel God pat me on the back for being willing to sell my house and move in order to follow His leading. (Although it’s been through tears that I have done so.) No, it was something much simpler than that. It was having three friends over for lunch that brought me the warmth of His pleasure.

God warns us not to call common what He calls cleansed and holy. (Acts 10:15) And maybe the key is in this: Where two or more of you are gathered in My Name, there I’ll be…

After all, what could be more uncommon that that? What could be more uncommon and holy than God sharing lunch with three ladies? How can where He is be a common place?

I may have felt really good about myself as an executive director of a small nonprofit. Finally, I was doing “big” things for God. Giving up my house might feel like a mini-Gethsemene, the best gift I could offer to God. But it wasn’t these hard things that God was whispering about. It was something far simpler.

I want to encourage you today, what you think is commonplace, God wants to make a holy altar. What you think is insignificant, God wants to make a sacred sanctuary. It’s not only in the grandiose, obvious acts that much is accomplished in the Kingdom. But it’s also in the everyday breathing, eating, drinking, sharing, laughing and living that His heart is warmed.

The Social Justice Christianity of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the heroes of my faith is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He refused to silently watch as evil was at work where he lived. He risked all to follow Christ and serve mankind and in the end paid the ultimate sacrifice in a concentration camp. Even with all the wealth and education his family could afford, in the end it was no protection against the Nazi fury.

It was almost like Dietrich was two different men: the scholar and theologian; and the activist surrounded by controversy. To Bonhoeffer, being a Christian reconciled the two prominent parts of his persona. He could not be a disciple of Christ without being an activist against things that he was convinced that God hated. Imprisoned for being suspect of a plot to kill Hitler, he was hung just before the end of the war.

In today’s world, there are many who need champions, and perhaps unlike Dietrich, I will remain silent about which causes you should choose. Instead, I will trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you through Scripture to the mission He has personally called you to. Whatever the cause, allow these ten Bonhoeffer quotes to inspire you to fight without thought for your own safety and reputation.

Ten Bonhoeffer Quotes Sure to Inspire

  • “Silence in the face of evil, is in itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
  • “If I sit next to a madman as he drives a car into a group of innocent bystanders, I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe, then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”
  • “The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”
  • “Salvation is free but discipleship will cost you your life.”
  • “Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into tranquil joy.” 
  • “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.”
  • “Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Christ.”
  • “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller.”
  • “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
  • “A righteous person is one who lives for the next generation.”

My hope is that these words have inspired you to bid your calling. If you’d like to know more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, here are a few suggestions: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

“Her Name Was Lolita…”

My son recently adopted a dog who had been rescued from a puppy mill. It is likely that she had been left in her cage for great lengths of time, sitting in her own excrement, filthy and used solely for the gain of another. She had been treated like an object who had now outlived her usefulness; discarded and abandoned; unwanted and unloved. We braced ourselves for severe behavioral problems and extra training. Her foster home wasn’t even sure she was fully potty trained, and said she showed signs of the food anxiety so often exhibited in animals who have been treated inhumanely and have had to fight to be fed.

Even her name seemed to be a sentence to failure. It was Lolita, which means “sexually precocious young girl.” We decided that our first act of love was to change Lolita’s name, therefore cutting off all connections with her past. Her name is now Lola, meaning, “sorrows” or Lolo, meaning “goofball.” My son and I gently trained her to recognize our voices and respond to her new name. We were thrilled when she began to run to find us when we called her.

Our little “goofball”

Within 24 hours of adoption, Lolo surprised us all. From the first full day, her desire to please her new masters drove her to be careful not leave unwanted “packages” in the home. She cuddled and snuggled into our arms whenever we were sitting, and she ran around the house like a kook when one of us came home.

The whole experience has reminded me of when Jesus said that those who have been forgiven much are more grateful than those who believe they are not in need of much forgiveness. And though Lolo’s past wasn’t her fault, she seems to understand the depths of what she has been rescued from, and in response, has become completely and deliriously devoted to her deliverers.

How many of us, upon our rescue by Jesus, had been:

  • Found captured in a cage of our own or other’s making?
  • Left to feel dirty and unlovable?
  • Called names that led us to identify with things we were never meant to believe about ourselves? 
  • Discarded after our abusers deemed us no longer a part of their plan? 

Like Lolo, our desire to live in a way pleasing to God should be rooted in response to His great love and enriched by deep gratitude for the extremes that our Master went to in order to rescue us from sin and separation from Him. When He calls, we should be leaping and jumping in excitement for the adventure that awaits us. When we rest, we should be as closely snuggled in His arms as we can get. We should believe in who He says we are, rather than the who we were when He found us.

We all have a choice. We can either allow our past to cause us to be broken and bitter, or broken and better. We can, like Lolo, choose to respond to the love of our Master and become all that He has called us to become. We can allow God to “rename” us from forgotten to begotten; precocious to precious; trashed to treasured. We can allow God to train us as we follow His lead and learn to recognize His voice. Most significantly, we can, for the love that God has shown us, leave our pasts behind and joyfully experience our adoption in Him.

1John.3. [1] Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God:

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Terrific and Terrifying Life Transitions

I’m the kind of person who is loyal to the end, often to the end of myself. I’m not the typical “Cruiseamatic.” I’ve gone to the same non-denom church for 30 years, lived in the same area almost my entire life, and would have been happy to work at my job as an Executive Director of a small Christian non-profit to the end of my days. But God had other plans…and that makes my dig-in-your-heels-until-the-end-of-time personality VERY uncomfortable.

So, here I am, picking up my proverbial pen again. Something that I had convinced myself that I had no time to do while immersed in the nonprofit world. I’ve let my writing persona crumble and, like Nehemiah, I’m looking around at the ruins of my blog, my novel and a few other projects of unfinished business with no idea where to start. Where does one even begin to repair broken dreams and things left to the destructive forces of life’s storms?

Oddly enough, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the upheaval in my life. Last year, without even asking, the Lord gave me the word “transition.” I can’t think of a more terrifying word to receive when one is pretty happy with every part of her life. As I sought the meaning of this command, I left no stone unturned. I continue to allow Him to change things that, at one time, I thought were non-negotiable. As each of these dark corners in my life reveal a change by His direction, I will gladly share with you. For now, I can only say that, like Bilbo when questioned where he was off to, “I’m going on an adventure!” The kind of adventure where I am trusting God to take me to a safe and prosperous place that I know not of. I understand that such a place is unavailable without setbacks, surprises and battles. I also know that the character, growth and relationships built along the way will make the whole process more than worth any struggle seen along the way.

Quiet: The Soundtrack of Heaven

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The dog sighs, rolls over and snores. In out, in out, inhale exhale, inhale exhale. My left ear hums its never ending song.

Quiet only means that I hear things usually covered up by the noise of demands surrounding me. Dinner must be made. Television blaring, phone ringing, all screaming for my attention. But tonight, while everyone sleeps, I hear the tired train moan deep, and I wonder, What other sounds do I miss in the business of everyday?

Wind chimes tinkle Amazing Grace…how sweet the sound! All at once I realize that it is grace I fail to hear when pressures roar their angry lion heads at me. “You will not ignore me!”

His still small grace voice of a breathing dog, a trailing train, and yes even the hum in my left ear beckons me to follow deep and deeper still into steep stillness.

Quiet and powerful is His voice. Full of grace. Yet Demands demand that whisper-dreams shut up, or at least become drowned in the underlying strings of stress playing the tensing muscles taut.

Grace beckons beyond cacophony band to the world of deaf ear ringing and all the other sounds of still voice that I ignore as background noise. Refrigerator purrs, full of food and air conditioner writes songs of comfort on a muggy night. The toilet fills the empty bowl and I am filled again. Filled with wonder in the Silent Night.

Grace burns brilliant in the silent night-holy night. All is calm…all is bright.

No matter how dark the night, the birds bring balance to the universe in morning with cheerful chirps. I am sure their song brings healing, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge their part. They know the secret…the one about Abba Jireh…the Providing Father.

I determine to slow down enough to listen to the music heaven plays as a soundtrack to life. Just like a movie, it is meant to provide mood behind the story.

Transpiring Praise

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His presence is heavy like dense summer air

Can be cut by a knife,

But melts flesh like butter,

Soft and pliable to His touch,

Changing and transforming,

Shape shifting into the Image.

I’m not the same.

His presence accumulates like moisture into clouds

And rains down on thirsty ground

Dry and next to dead,

Parched and desperate

Cloudburst ready, downpour welcome.

Hard heart softens.

I am ready for plowing.

The washing of the water of His Word

Cleanses seeds long ago sown

Nourishing roots to the tip

Building strength to endure

Harsh realities of sunshine and heat

Leaving reservoir to sip for everyday enjoyment.

I grow up full and overflowing.

Overflowing with thanks like a cup under faucet

Brimming with More Than Enough

That is Him. Till I spill over

On others and water that transpires into vapors

Of praise rising up into Heaven

With once parched lips singing

Praise to the only One Who satisfies.

I will never have enough.

Chosen To Stand For Such A Time As This

I don’t know how to feel.

Right is wrong

Black is white

Left is right

and nothing is really anyone’s fault anymore.

The criminal is conditioned

the terrorist brainwashed

the murderer sick.

If everyone is sick

then is the well person now considered the one with a problem?

No one is to blame…

except you Believer.

Your love is mistaken for hatred.

your freedom for bondage

your acceptance for intolerance.

And it will get worse before it gets better.

So what do you have to say for yourself, Believer?

If you say nothing you are a coward

If you say something you’re an extremist

You can’t win for losing

so you might as well say what He said.

If you’re gonna go down,

go down with His Words on your lips.

Unapologetically.

Unashamedly.

Uncompromisingly.

Let your words be bold,

yet uttered with tenderness.

I want to be the Dangerous Christian

the one who talks about Church in the wild

The one who actually acts like she believes what she says she believes,

With a radical faith.

The one who could be convicted and condemned as a follower of Christ.

Because no longer do we have to travel across the world to be persecuted.

We can stay at home

And they’ll throw rocks at our castle

Windows will get busted

Doors will be kicked down

Houses set on fire

Because your light will shine in the darkness

And the darkness will comprehend it not

And it will try to hide from the light.

blaming the light

for illuminating what must be dealt with.

And in all of this I must ensure that when I am hated

that it is for His sake

Not because I am haughty, opinionated,

angry or annoying.

There is no anointing in annoying.

I know how to feel now…

Honored to live now…

Chosen to stand now…

Entrusted with the challenge

of being true to Him.

This is your time Believer!

To be loyal to His Name,

His Word,

His cause.

Not just to believe in God,

but to believe Him.

To trust what He said

and you can trust that when you recite His Words

that they will move Heaven and Earth,

they will change HIStory,

they will raise up a standard,

for such a time

as this.