stance

As many of you already know, I have resigned my position due to health concerns as of May 10. I know it’s the right thing, the only thing, I must do to get healthy again.

But I am leaving behind the women I love, the leaders I trust and admire, the opportunities to plan.

I’m so sad about all those things.

Last weekend, we held a conference at OBC – Kathy Troccoli was our speaker. She sang and spoke life and truth into me, and I’m confident into many of the others who were there.

I had to leave early – health concerns.

But God spoke to me so clearly, I could almost hear his voice in my head, whispering in my ear, the truth. Lots of truth.

And this, I wrote in my journal, Saturday night:

“Last conference. My grief. My disappointment about having to leave early. Your gentle reminder that you DO NOT NEED ME to accomplish your purposes! Thank you.

Lord teach me to be

Soft

Loving

Gentle

Like you are with me, even as you are giving me an “adjustment.” I recognized the truth of your words before I remembered that you said EXACTLY those words. EXACTLY. In Isaiah 55.

You don’t need me, but I need you, desperately.

I have choices about how to approach this next chapter – standing face turned up, arms lifted high, spread out wide stance – standing still waiting joyfully on your will. Not lagging behind when You speak, but not running ahead of your voice. Hearing is such a delicate thing and my head must be turned toward the thing I want to hear the most. And I can’t be expecting to hear you when I’m too far ahead OR behind.

Forward facing.

Empty hands.

Spread-wide, reaching arms to receive from you.

Spread-wide, solid stance so I don’t topple over in the wind, in the storm, in the driving rain sleet hail snow.

Standing still.

Firmly planted. Psalm 1. Not tossed about.

Because otherwise I only hear the storm, my hands are grabbing all around for some sort of safety net, and my knees are buckling.

STANCE MATTERS.

Jesus I need you.

I want you. To be the Lord of my life, my self, my circumstances.

I want to stop grabbing at the wrong things, turning my head the wrong way, holding on to that which I should let go, standing weak instead of strong.

Such a picture in my head right now!

But. BUT I can only stand strong by standing weak in your presence – because when I am weak, you are strong! AMEN!

There is no contradiction here – I can stand strong briefly on my own, but I can stand weak forever in YOUR strength.

Stance matters.

Am I inclined toward you or something else? I must choose. If/then. If I incline toward you, THEN. Only then can YOU lead me to where you want me.

Stance matters.

On my knees, on my face, standing wide face turned up – I can’t be knocked over bowled over blown over easily in ANY of those positions.

And attitude matters. MENTAL STANCE.

Offensive? Defensive? Both can be good or bad.

A good offense = the Sword of truth. A good defense = the armor of God. The Word. The Holy Spirit. The truth. When it edifies.

But when being on the offensive offends for the wrong reasons, or being defensive means defending the wrong things, well, neither is good. Let God call the game. Let Him determine whether and when I’m on offense or defense, so that I am not offensive, or defensive. Lord teach me to wield your truth alone as my sword, and to do it in a way that comes only from You teaching me.

I want to be that sweet aroma, that open shining countenance that draws people to you. I have this image of myself bound and all closed off all closed up, angry frustrated bitter small, and nothing about THAT stance opens the way for me to hear from you, OR for anyone to be drawn to You in me. Lord give me the courage and determination to open myself up to you completely.

OPEN STANCE.

Because you are:

PEACE

JOY

POWER

STRENGTH

HOPE,

I can be:

Peaceful

Joyful

Powerful

Strong

Lord I am all these things tonight, because you are all those things yesterday today and forever.”

I will truly miss posting on this blog – I love the writing. It has always been from my heart, the things God has shown me and taught me, and I will truly miss it. But God. He has plans for me. He is my Hope, and I am trusting Him to guide me through whatever comes next.

Thanks to all who have read these ramblings – I will continue writing because I am compelled to write. Of the grace and mercy and strength and power of the God who loves me furiously and gracefully. May I never forget.

consider

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

How is it possible to have joy in trials? Have you ever been quoted this verse by a well-meaning sister or brother?

When we are in the storm, it’s hard to hear.

storm

This might help.

The key word here is “consider.” It means to “think forward, to think about the outcome.”

This verse doesn’t mean be happy because of the pain.

Nope.

Pain is pain. And it still hurts.

Joy? Where? How?

Joy comes when we realize what God will do in us because of the pain.

Because we know we are going to come out on the other end more like Jesus.

We don’t need to be happy about the pain.

But there is hope. Even anticipation.

We can have joy.

We can think ahead, and realize that God has purpose for us, forward purpose, and an outcome that will result in what we really want:

To be more like Jesus.

unexpectedness

Is that even a word? I say yes. So there.

My husband and I just returned from a (wonderful) trip to California. Once we hit the airport, already weary travelers as we rose at 3:30 to make our 6:15 plane, we thought our trip was over. We would just be marking time – hopefully by sleeping – until our plane landed and we could scoot home. To laundry, restless and pouting cats, the messy house I left behind. Those were the things wandering through my mind as we boarded.

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I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All the way out to California, I had seatmates who slept or had their headphones on. Translated: no chatting. And I didn’t mind. At all.

But as I sat down [in the center seat of course. translated: crammed myself in], I was acutely aware that the woman sitting next to me was in distress.

It would have been so easy to close my eyes.

But instead, I turned to her and started talking.

Turns out, she was terrified to fly. More specifically, to take off and land. So I talked. I asked questions, gently, and we quickly rolled into meaningful, deep conversation. I talked all the way through takeoff, and even though she was clutching a rosary she expressed her surprise when we were in the air and she hadn’t even noticed the thing she so feared.

By then we were fully engaged and she revealed to me that she was on her way from Denver to Kansas to attend a funeral. The funeral of a close childhood friend who had committed suicide, leaving behind a wife and four young children. She was grieving. She was confused. She was angry. I listened, I encouraged, and I spoke the truth of the Gospel to her.

And as the plane taxied to our final destination, she laughed in surprise that she had not even noticed the landing. She was transformed from a terrified, distraught woman, to one who thanked me for “being a blessing” to her. I promised to pray for her, and I meant it.

I had no plan to talk to anyone on that flight. I had no sense that I was “being a blessing.” I was simply there, and I noticed her, and I chose to be obedient to the Voice that said “TALK” instead of my own which said “sleep.” That’s all.

I was and still am in awe of that God appointment.

And then.

We were waiting for our bags, and standing near us was a man who was obviously distraught. Greg engaged him in conversation, and we discovered that he was in Kansas for a funeral. The funeral of his closest brother who had been horrifically murdered. He was grieving. He was confused. He was angry. And as our bag went round and round on the carousel, we simply listened to this man. We listened to all his pain. We expressed our profound sympathy, and we asked if we could pray for him.

I was and still am in awe of that God appointment.

And we picked up our (lonely) bag, and we hopped the shuttle to our car, and we prepared to scoot home. But laundry was forgotten, unhappy pets were not our concern, even sleep wasn’t a consideration.

We prayed. All the way home. For the woman. And the man. And all those affected by these tragedies we were entrusted with. For our son, and his wife, whom we sadly left in California. For our daughter, and her husband, and her three littles and the one coming soon. It was a sweet, sweet time with my husband, lifting our voices to the God who listens. And cares deeply about the grieving, the confused, the angry.

I’m not sure there’s a simple “moral to the story.” But I know we were obedient to talk, to listen, and to pray, and I know that I profoundly felt the presence of God with  me from start to finish of the unexpectedness of this journey. And two days later, I’m still simply in awe.

 

falling forward

It feels like I’m falling.

falling

 

Like I’m in a season of falling, over and over and over. Tripping over myself, losing my balance, finding myself landing hard again and again.

Like I forgot how to even walk.

baby falling

 

But as I am praying this morning, I am reminded that even when I’m falling, I can fall forward. Into the arms of the the One who made me, the One who loves, me, the One who has great plans for me.

If I don’t believe this, though, I fall backwards. If I forget it, I might not even try to get up. And sit wounded and defeated. Afraid that if I do get up I will just keep falling, hard, again and again and again.

Afraid is the key word.

Because I do keep falling. And I will keep falling. But if I sit in fear, I cannot fall into the plan He has for me. I forget that falling doesn’t mean failing.

Even if it means I get all scraped up, even broken, even if I come in last.

Even if I knock other people down when I fall.

Even if they have to go around me while I’m down.

If I fall forward, I can rest on the knowledge that He lifts me, He catches me, and He will uphold me with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

I can’t let fear keep me down. And as I pray, I lift my head, and I see my day stretching ahead with promise, promises I can stand on. Promises I can fall into, without being anxious and afraid.

falling forward

 

Are you falling? Fall forward. Sit awhile if you need to rest. But name the promises. Remember the reality of who you are and who you are made to be. And get up again, and again, without fear, because He’s RIGHT THERE to catch you.

the right stuff

“Faith is only good when it engages in truth.”  (A.W. Tozer)

It is simply not enough to BELIEVE.

We must believe the right things about the right one.

First the right one: God.

But.

To believe in God is more than to simply believe he EXISTS.

Knowledge is necessary to believe the right things. Knowledge about what God is like, and what he wants for us.

There’s only one place to learn the truth about God. One. The Bible. And we can’t pick and choose among the truths revealed there.

Isn’t this the basis for all deception?

Sometimes, we believe the right things about the wrong one.

More commonly, we believe the wrong things about the right one. About God. About what he’s like. About what he wants for us.

Neither one of these options gets us to the truth.

The only place to get to the truth? The Bible. Because like it or not, that’s the only way to really know.

And deep down, we all really want to know.

Don’t miss this: IT’S ALL TRUE. Not just the parts we like.

All of it.

We can’t pick and choose.

But we can learn the right things about the right one … and that changes everything.

Just ask me.

 

a new year’s revolution

2014

Nope, that’s not a typo. I’ve been thinking about the whole New Year’s Resolution thing, and I do have plenty I could make. But my usual pattern is to make the promises – to lose the weight, read the books, spend the time – and then fail, or forget.

I kind of like the commercial where the little boy’s resolution is to eat more jelly beans. I think I could do that one. I would change it to chocolate.

But really, what keeps coming to my mind is the word REVOLUTION. I don’t mean the “overthrow the government” kind of revolution.

No, I mean this: a sudden, complete or marked change in something.

Or this: a procedure or course, as if in a circuit, back to a starting point.

Pick one. Or both.

This year, I want a change. A sudden, complete, marked change in … several things. The way I view some things, and people. My attitude about some things, and people. My heart, towards some things, and people. But mostly, I want a MARKED change in that personal, intimate, whispering-in-my-ear relationship with the God who woos me, waits for me, loves me like crazy.

I’m not saying I don’t have a personal intimate relationship with Him. But I want to grow in it, grow into the listening, the craving for more time with Him, the desire to feast on His love story to me (the Bible), to increase my trust in His infinite faithfulness to me, to bow lower and more humbly in worship and awe and reverence before His stunning glory.

And to do that, I needed to understand how a circuit works. My husband explained it in detail (and surprisingly I followed most of it!) and here’s my takeaway:

  • For a circuit to be complete, and stay that way, it needs both intake and outflow.
  • The intake must be good – if it has low supply the result is bad intake and low voltage.
  • If there’s no outflow, the circuit is inoperable.
  • Flipping the “switch” off breaks the circuit.
  • Leaving the switch on gives a constant complete circuit for the life of the mechanism.

THE APPLICATION FOR ME IS THIS:

  • I must intake GOOD things, the things I’m hungry for, the things God provides for me through His word, His work, His answers to my prayers, my receiving through good teaching. I am responsible for this.
  • If my intake is BAD … heresy, untruth, lies, worldly things … that’s at best low supply, which leads to, at best, low voltage. 
  • There must be outflow. If there is no trust, no faithfulness, no worship, no fruit, no changes in my actions or thoughts, no sharing or loving or caring or encouraging of others as a result of my good intake, the circuit is broken.
  • If I stop and start the intake, the circuit is broken.
  • When the intake is constant, the circuit remains complete, for the whole life of me.

TO SUM UP:

To maintain that personal, intimate, can’t-wait-to-see-you-again connection, to keep the circuit complete, I have responsibilities. Good, constant intake. Meaningful and God-ordained outflow.

I don’t want to break the circuit this year. I want the intake and outflow to be constant.

broken circuit

And when I DO flip the switch off (because I undoubtedly will), I don’t want to leave it off. I don’t want to live a broken circuit.

lightswitch

I want to love and learn and trust and believe out of a healthy, constant, complete circuit … intake: God. Outflow: Worship. Ministry to others out of that very intake.

complete circuit

I want to burn so brightly, for Jesus to just SHINE right out of me so much that I am invisible.

lightbulb

Revolution.

That is my prayer for 2014. Amen.

I just might cry

I was at Walmart Friday. Yes. The weekend before Christmas. It was simply wild in there, crazy with multitudes of people in aisles, lines, and just generally in.my.way. And everywhere I looked, EVERYWHERE, were the trappings of “Christmas.” And I snapped a few pictures quick.

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And as my gaze landed on one display and another and another, and I saw people being so grumpy with each other, I felt like I might cry. And it surprised me, that lump in my throat, but it seems that I cry more easily all the time. So I swallowed the tears and finished my shopping and didn’t think about the lump anymore.

Out of the madness, I went to one of the places full of the people I love the most. And we wrapped, and I was impressed with the six-year-old, and I saw the sillies and the snuggles on the couch and there was that lump again.

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But these ones can make me cry easily – sheer joy, and pleasure, and wonder at their very presence in my life. So I swallowed the lump and went home.

And then last night, family Christmas together, and the food, and the kids’ table, and the sweet lovely niece I haven’t seen in far too long, and I lost the fight with the lump and just cried with her.

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But I still didn’t think about those tears, about the “why” of them, no not at all. And we ate, and opened presents, and hugged big and warm and came home through the ice and snow that promises a white Christmas, which gave me … yes. A lump in my throat.

This morning I watched the children show us the Christmas story, play it out right there on stage, beautiful and simple and then they were singing.

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And then we were singing, together, voices lifted Noel, Emmanuel, O Holy Night, and the pastor told us about the promised gift of a child, a Son, a miracle-working wise person, Almighty God, enduring, compassionate, provider and protector that is our Everlasting Father, the Prince of Shalom – peace – the kind of peace that means so much more than we think, the peace that means spiritual WHOLENESS with God.

And how this Child is the only way to find Shalom.

And hope.

That’s is all bound up in this Jesus. This improbable solution, one that can’t be found in politics or prosperity or education or increase, is our only hope.

This Jesus.

Who was born.

And died.

And rose.

And ascended.

And is coming again!

THIS. This is why the lump will not go away. The lump is made of a Christmas that brings sadness and joy and laughter and singing and awe and the gift, the only answer, the only hope. The miracle-working, wise, enduring, compassionate, provider protector Shalom – this Jesus.

And finally, the tears run down my face, no holding back, and I let myself feel the sadness that is Walmart, the love that is my kiddos, the joy that is my niece, the wonder that is the children telling the simple story, and beauty that is the singing, the hope that is THIS JESUS. And I bow, and I worship, and I am thankful, and I am humbled, and I just cry.

And I write this post, and I cry while I’m typing.

And then joy comes in my door, just this minute, bearing cookies and this, and I laugh through my tears.

remembering Pat Humphrey

pat humphrey (2)

 

Many of us remember this dear woman, shown here in prayer, as she so often was. Jennifer Mellick is guest posting today about the legacy Pat left for her family.

Remembering Pat Humphrey
by Jen Mellick

She was a small woman in stature but tremendous in character. Without knowing her, one might think she was simply the kind, old grandmotherly type.  Yet she was so much more to so many people. For all the wisdom she expounded to women over the many years, my one and only conversation with her became her legacy to me and my family.

I informally met or briefly saw Pat Humphrey on several occasions. I was new to the OBC staff at the time. Since I’m not the kind of person to boldly interject myself into conversations or linger when I don’t really know someone, my interactions with her were always brief – nothing that would be memorable to her. In fact, the only time I can actually remember speaking with her one on one was the Christmas season before she and Rusty moved to Texas. It was my first holiday season with the OBC staff and leaders while it was her last.

The chit chat was simple. It was about families – children, in particular – and the holidays. My son was three at the time. Maybe she asked what we do at the holidays or how we teach him about Jesus. I don’t know how we got there, but she spoke to me about how the nativity scene should never be something fancy and out of reach of the children. If you have a fancy one, that’s fine. However, you should have one that the kids can hold and play with – one that they can discover and make their own.

I’m not sure why that has stuck with me like it has these past three years. In that time, my son and I have dabbled in playing with the nativity scene, but quite honestly after a few minutes he prefers to play with his dinosaurs or superheroes. However, this year has been quite different with my 20-month-old daughter. She is all about the little dolls.

As I took down the Christmas decorations and unpacked the nativity scene and characters, once again I remembered Pat’s words. I placed the nativity down where my kids could see them.  My daughter loves to hold them and move them around. She’s learning to talk, so she also loves to say their names. We call them Daddy Joseph, Mommy Mary and Baby Jesus. Daily, I find Joseph, Mary and Jesus in different positions in the stable.

It sounds cliché, but it is the little moments that count. That’s why this is so precious to me. Thanks to Pat’s advice, my kiddos have full access to Joseph, Mary and Jesus. It’s not something they can’t touch because it’s too fancy. Jesus is not concerned with that. It’s not something too high and separated from them so that they can’t even see it. It’s keeping Jesus right in front of them. It’s not valuing the preservation of my decorations over teaching my children about our Lord and Savior. If they get broken, we’ll make it a life lesson about how Jesus’ body was broken for us. It doesn’t matter.

I hope they will always warmly remember this nativity set, even when they are grown and married with their own children. I know that I will cherish these memories even then and long after.

Thanks, Pat.

 

 

kingdom ripples

Martha came to our church alone for the first time in September. She was new not only to OBC, but brand-new to this Kansas City community.

Lona saw Martha that day, and made a beeline for her. (I just know it was a beeline, because I know Lona.) She invited Martha to join our Thursday morning Bible study.

Martha came, alone, to Bible study the following week.

I suspect it’s the last time she’s felt “alone” within our doors.

She tells me about the table she joined, and the way they welcomed her. About Brenda, her table leader, and the way she made her feel so comfortable right from the start.

About how she had just finished a study on the book of James, but came anyway. And about how this study was even deeper, and more thorough, than the one she had already done, and how glad she was that she came.

And then she told me about how Brenda connected her to ways she could serve our congregation, and our community.

Now, a few short months later, Martha is part of the Congregational Care Ministry, bringing meals (and that fantastic, contagious, lit-by-Jesus smile) to our loved ones. And she serves at the Food Pantry every Friday – serving with her hands, and her heart, and again with that light shining so bright for all to see.

Do you see the ripples?

She came, alone. Lona reached out, and pulled her into the Thursday morning fold. Her table welcomed her, and Brenda connected her, and so many lives have already been touched for the Kingdom.

ripples

I have much to learn from Lona – she didn’t hesitate to reach out, seek out. That’s kingdom work.

And Brenda – she listened well, and helped connect the dots between giftings and serving. That’s kingdom work.

And the Bible study table – they radiated welcome-ness. That’s kingdom work.

And Martha. She’s courageous, and strong, and generous, and lovely, and passionate, and humble, and she serves with her whole heart. Kingdom work.

 

sing

All these days. All this month. All these lists of thankfulness. And I wonder, how deep was the digging to find something to be thankful for every.single.day. For me, there has been deep digging, most days. 

bare tree

Like the days when the trees show bare. 

And my soul feels gray.

But then I notice, if I dare, that the grass below is still green. And I can remember, if I will, that THIS tree will come ’round again.

fall tree

 

And that LIFE is happening, the bare-ness has to be happening, right now, this day, for the beauty to return. And so at the end of the long gaze at the bare, gray tree, there is thankfulness.

And that under the dirt, LIFE is beginning, and it will bloom in its season, beautiful and free.

freedom pot

 

And then I am thankful.

I can be a bottom dweller, staring at the blankness, the grayness, the muddy road I’m on that seems to lead to nowhere. Or I can be an up-looker, eyes lifted, seeing beauty, color, tiny treasures on the high road of thanksgiving.

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I do not deny my reality, the messy hard things that are made of mud, but I lift my eyes to my Maker and give thanks, rejoice, in the midst of the mire, this day.

thankful

And I sing. Songs of praise, sometimes croaking, rasping, desperate, broken, sometimes silent with tears running, sometimes a lullaby lilting, soaring, but I sing.

sing

 

Some days the reach is short, to find that thankful thing, and sometimes the dig is deep. But dig I will, and sing I do, because only in thanks-giving to God do I find the peace my heart desires. He’s right there. He knows. And so I sing.