New Year…New Post and the Thoughts That Swirl ‘Round My Brain…

I’ve been a bit of a blogging slacker. New Years Resolutions are supposed to fix this through at least mid February. I’ll blame a pretty significant change in work schedule (due to an answered prayer of a new job), the holidays and the fact that sitting down to write what is swirling in my head may not yet be blog material. Somethings are meant for personal journal writing….some questions are good for online…and some need much prayer before going public. I’m learning the difference.

The last month has been a whirlwind…

Our Christmas backpack and taco outreach was awesome. Not a single person left empty handed. For those wondering what was a huge hit…bus passes. We also had McDonald’s gift cards and backpacks. This year in comparison to last was night and day. Thanks to Mike Vogt, we were organized and were assembled and ready to roll within minutes of pulling into the parking lot. Conversations, kids passing out cookies,  warm smiles, full bellies, Tracy singing with a guy who brought his guitar…that all happened.

There is so much to be done. Let’s love our cities!

I just finished reading Undaunted by Christine Caine. If you need a shot in arm, kick in the face or a good, healthy dose of reality and the purpose of our faith. Read it! If a books intro is written by Max Lucado and says “our generation has a Paul, an Esther and a Mary and her name is Christine Caine”. You should probably see what its all about.

We just started our James bible study. Fact – Beth Moore is crazy and I want to be a little bit like her. We are in week 2 and loving it. Women, study the bible with other women. In fact, if you are in Austin…join us. We are only scary if you don’t appreciate crazy.

My grandmother is 98 and still possess the same stubborn streak I have always known her to have. With this information, I don’t allow certain arguments to happen in my house. My kids are stubborn and I want them to use it for things that matter. Jackets when it’s 30 degrees outside is not worth fighting for, so we don’t. It’s a healthy dose of perspective. Thanks Grandma.

Every time I watch The Avengers, I say “my favorite Avenger is Tony Stark (Iron Man), I’m not sure what this says about me”. Help me folks.

My husband and daughter are frighteningly similar at times. He is NOT dramatic, diva-esque and in love with Justin Bieber…but other than that…I look at them and they are kind of the same.

A real wrestling thought has been about churches in general. The camps we are in, what we are for, against and how it wrongly divides us. This has been on going for a little while. Forget one blog post on this one. It may take a book.

Why do people say “well, you can do that in Austin”? I’ve heard it since we said “we are planting a church in Austin”. Most of those questions have come from dear friends. This is not a jab. I want to know the difference. It makes me use words like “sub-culture”. Pray for me. LOL.

The purpose of the church is great. Something about a new year excites me…and this year has a whole new list of prayers, expectations and believing in what God is going to do.
While my list of thoughts is long, my heart is not troubled. It may be a tad uncomfortable but not troubled. I’m learning that it’s His kindness that leads to repentance. I’ll wrestle with the stirring and know that God is at work. I will not allow condemnation to lead to inactivity. Let’s do this church! 

Writing, Gratitude and First World Problems…

With the untimely passing of my Dell laptop battery (hope that is all that’s wrong), my posting has been minimal. I have grandiose ideas folks and not having access to my own beloved laptop is somewhat of a downer (and a first world problem…mock me if you must).

I’ve decided that keeping on keeping on is a must. So, until my laptop is brought back to life, I will do my best to work through my first world grief and use my husband’s Mac whenever possible. He has a weird keypad cover that looks cool but drives me crazy. This is a labor of love people (and laced with all kinds of sarcasm).

My next attempt will be at uploading pics to my blog on a computer that is not my own.  Gasp!

I have a purpose in what I write and a purpose in this post. I promise, I’m getting there.

I wanted to add a new weekly post. I’m adding a little game of high/low. Come on, who needs to be reminded that they are not alone when they spent time during the week arguing on a 4yr old level? Or even better…a 6yr old level. To clarify, my 6yr olds level. It’s kind of impressive. On a very high note, my friends will be in town from Wrangell, Alaska this week! I’m thrilled to no end! Each week will not be complete without a 1000 Gifts challenge. In life we all need the pauses and gratitude does such a thing. It points to God, the Father, the Creator. Those moments are reminders and like much of life, it points to something greater than us yet something we are invited in to. I’m taking my cue from Ann Voskamp. Read her book, and watch life slow down a bit, gratitude increase and see God in unexpected places. I failed to mention how reading that book challenged my writing and creativity. Perspective man…perspective! It’s amazing.

I would love feedback as this gets going. This specific kind of post will go up every Friday. So get ready to share!

This week is full!!!! We have our first service in our new location (those friends I mentioned will be there), at our new service time on Sunday. The renovations are looking great! Our team has been busting their booty to get everything done. We are meeting at 5pm, across the street from where we have been meeting since day 1. Oh yeah, that’s right….5PM. We are excited about the changes! We are praying and dreaming…more praying…you get the idea. We are excited about the future of Revive Church. We love this city and still can’t believe that God would lead us back for this purpose. Would love to have you join us! 1006 W. Koenig Ln.

Until we meet again (Friday at the latest), I pray your week is full of the beautifully unexpected. It’s raining in Austin, TX…we are already enjoying the unexpected 🙂

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself…

You get a group of girls together and anything can happen. Add in the fact that we are all part of a new church plant and most of us have had the most topsy-turvy year of our lives thus far; we are a perfect storm of faith, emotion and questionable sanity…and we are right where God wants us.

As a women’s community group, we have been going through 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Having read the book before, I knew potentially what I was throwing my friends into. I couldn’t wait. I think some of their husbands were a little scared. We’ll ignore the fact some of us tend to live in momentary extremes. Their fears are valid. I’ll discuss the differing personalities in a moment. There is a reason God assembles us in our differences. I had certain hopes and prayers going into this. God has exceeded every expectation.

To sum up the first three weeks…

Turns out that talking about reduction, simplicity and fasting goes a lot deeper than the stuff you are giving up. Go figure. This has brought up far more than I anticipated. I love that we can wrestle with what we needed to wrestle with together. This has stirred new dreams, fresh vision and a bold call to action that we can no longer just talk about. Have I mentioned tears? Those were NOT planned. Ah, community…Thank you Jesus…that is all.

We sit and laugh cause that is what we do. We sit and cry over what we used to pursue and how God is giving us fresh eyes.

One who tends to live in extremes mentions selling all her stuff and her house and living under a bridge. We don’t all fully believe she is joking and we thank God that she has us for stability sake.

In the middle of week 2, one girl ended up giving a drunk woman at a restaurant a ride. She turned out to be a stripper, a prostitute and a list of other things. Insert a shattered friends heart after dropping this young woman off at a bus station headed for San Antonio. You can read about that here. Lots of tears followed.

One has filled out a home loan application and bawled over World Vision kids support packets…and takes one named Goodluck. Read about that one here.

Different women, different responses.

This week we went over months 3 and 4. We survived Month 3 talking about possessions. Not without someone (who shall remain nameless) ready to clear out their apartment, every closet included. Month 4 is media month. I thought I was good. Then…a big fat THEN…I got to a portion where Jen talks about what she would go back and say to her 2004 self. I had read this part before. This time, I read it like a blubbering idiot. This time I was reading it out loud. I could read it again right now and would likely have the same reaction. Tears!

Each season of our lives plays a part. We learn, we grow, we change. God jacks us up, we live in the tension and He reveals. We act.

We are all starting to see how to start with where we are and with what is in front of us. There is no going back and we are ok with that 🙂

We have a Garage Sale For Orphans coming up at the end of the month (June 30th to be exact). I can’t imagine a better way to end out reading this book. So we are selling our stuff, our friends stuff, strangers stuff…give us your stuff and we’ll sell it. My kids know where toys and clothes are going. They also know why…and that if they leave that toy on the floor one more time.

So, to summarize…this book is great and much like life, it is best lived out in community. Let the good times roll. We are on this crazy train and we are not alone 🙂

Songs That Won’t Quit and Running Realizations…

I went for a mid-morning run yesterday. Headphones in, sun shining, Nike tracking…off, no time or distance goals to hit today…just me, some music and road ahead. I failed to mention the kids were with grandma. My house was quiet and I still went out. You may question my sanity later. I got approximately ¼ mile up the street (cause who am I kidding, I wasn’t tracking but still knew that routes distance) and song #2 hit me like a wall. I know that to some, Christy Nockels’ voice doesn’t exactly sound like running music but it was what I picked today. Song #2 stayed on repeat for my entire run and has been running through my head ever since. I got home and kept listening.

The song…

For Your Splendor

You can listen here And you should.

I just finished Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian. I can’t recommend this book enough. It has challenged the way I see myself through Christ’s finished work. That’s right…finished work. If you attend Revive Church, I keep saying every week before communion that I can’t get away from “It Is Finished”. I’ll never get away from that. I should never get away from that. What that means has never been more in my face. I’ve highlighted and bookmarked a lot of that book. I told Ray when he reads it, he’ll appreciate my notes. Ha!

So the combination of that book and where God has been stretching me…this season of life we are in…and that song…something hit me today.

First thing – my fears are invalid. Even the ones that make sense in my head…they are invalid.

Not only are secret fears invalid, they are pride. My fears cause me to want to depend on myself. That always works out so well. My fears point to something deeper (all the ladies going through 7 with me know…it’s always something deeper). The “am I gonna measure up” fear…it’s a lie. The “am I gonna be all God calls me to be” anxiety trip…a lie. I am realizing more than ever the seemingly normal secret stuff that weighs me down and points to the lie. The fact is, the more I seek His face, the more I realize the “am I gonna miss it” fear disappears.

I am learning what it is to constantly measure myself up against what Christ has already done for me. It makes it really easy to see just how much this isn’t about me. It’s about Him and His glory. In all my striving, worrying, annoying those around me, God is pointing me to the no-brainer answer – It is finished. This is not a weighing reality. It is freedom. While I am a new creation, I will be constantly growing till I see His face. The “completion” part of “He who has begun a good work”…we don’t see that in its fullness till we see His face. We are always a work in progress. Always learning, always growing, always pursuing…doing so because of love and out of love. This progress doesn’t mean I have anything to earn. It’s finished. It’s “all for His splendor”.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.

Isaiah 61:3

And I Think I Can Stand Here?

On Saturday night, I sat reading One Thousand Gifts. I’ll probably mention this book again. That was a warning. My last reading, I read two pages…two! Seriously, this book causes me to pause and reflect. To ‘Selah’ if you will. I like that word.

I got caught up on a few words, as she was describing a beautiful moon and the awe of God in that moment, she wrote this.

“And I think I can stand here”?

Pardon me as I’m weird and get caught up in words. She paused at the moon, I paused at those words.

Anyone else ever feel that way? A beautiful sunset, the ocean, a live-giving conversation over coffee, a worship service, a desire in your heart gaining feet, life, love…and you suddenly realize the beauty and evidence of God in a moment.

In that moment have you asked the question? Maybe you read these words as a statement…

And I think I can stand here?

I read those words and immediately have David Crowder Band’s, ‘Can I Lie Here’, playing in my head.

“Can I lie here in your arms?

My only calm is You,

My only thought is You,

My happiness is You,

Save me”.

The awe is why I ask the question. The answer is in the awe…the reason for the awe.

I can sit with a consistent weight in my heart and my mind like I have never known before, in a season I have never known before, with a heart I didn’t know the capacity of before, more undone than ever before and seeing beauty like I have never known before. I am more aware and in awe of the grace of God like never before. Sweet mercy and grace saturate the answer. I’m learning gratitude for a whole season, not the just parts that are easy to see. I believe that the not-so-easy parts right now, will radiate with beauty…they are perfecting…

I ask…

And I think I can stand here?

 

 

 

Slow Going…

I’ve attempted to write a post for the last two days. I have ended up with a start and two middles…so three different posts out of my attempt for one and none are completed. Am I scatter-brained much?

I don’t think so.

All of these trains of thought make sense in my head and they all connect. I just don’t expect them to make sense to someone who hasn’t set up camp inside my brain. It kind of sounds like conversations in the movie “The Bucket List”. My husband described that movie as the right and left side of his brain having a conversation. I told him it sounds like us having certain conversations (not all but there are a few…).

That is the current state of my brain. Apparently, it sounds all over the place.

In this current state, I have been reading something that has caught my attention.

Honest Disclaimer – I don’t love every book I read. I’m about 80% done with one that I wish I’d saved the $1.99 on (kindle edition).

This one has required something from me that I desperately needed.

Time.

I’m reading a book that requires me to slow down in order to read it. I believe I am better for it. If it is possible to describe an author’s writing style as “thick”, that is the word I choose. I’ve been reading this off and on for about 10 days and I’m on page 74. I normally fly through books. I highlight, write about, soak in, go back and reread portions…and love every moment of it. This one, I am not flying through. I’m pretty sure the author would be happy to hear that a book about gratitude causes me to slow down…and I’m still reading it.

My heart has felt weighted. I can’t say that it is a bad heavy feeling…it’s just there is a lot on it. My brain is on over-drive most of the time. I’m still doing Beth Moore’s bible study on James and loving it…and it has been timely (more on that later).

What am I reading in the midst of the over activity of my physical and mental state?

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This starts out significantly heavier than I thought it would before I opened its pages. You have to get to through the heavy (and I mean heavy) in order to understand what is in front of her when the life changing message of gratitude hits (Eucharisteo – read it and you’ll get it).

In the midst of desiring to do, to be, to go and conquer…this book causes a reflection and calm I didn’t expect but needed. I’m challenged by the small things I’m grateful for. This has required me to slow down in life that is not slow.

 

 

Dynamic Duo – 7 and James

I already wrote a blog post about the book 7: The Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. You can read it here. I loved that book!

Right now, I am going through a new bible study by Beth Moore. James: Mercy Triumphs. I’m only two weeks in and I love every page…even the one that went into detail about the word “consider” in the verse “consider it all joy”. You will never read it the same way again. I think that is what we are supposed to get out of bible study. This is my first Beth Moore study so pardon me as I oh and awe over the detail and amount of extraction of each verse.

I decided to do a whole post on why I love it and why I recommend 7 and James as a world rocking combination. If you were to decide to read the book and go through the study at the same time, I would call you brilliant and ask to be your friend…if you aren’t already because for the most part that’s who reads what I write anyway. I love you all for it. Hi Mom!

For me, reading 7 prepared my heart to really receive everything I’m studying in James. I imagine, if you are already studying James, that reading 7 would help to put feet to what you just studied.

I could go on and on about these two. I’d rather practice being succinct and plead with you to go get these two and go for it.

Do it! I triple dog dare you.

“Have the courage to live under strain and pain to be part of a better story.

A larger story.

Don’t wimp out” – Beth Moore

7: The Experimental Mutiny Against Excess – a book review

I’ve had every intention of posting 9 times between January 1st and now. There goes that resolution. After reading this book, I’m convinced there was no better book to start out a new year. Given where life is, where it has been, the questions, the frustrations…God knew…and this was a great way to kick off 2012.

I’ve recommended books on here before but I’ve never reviewed one. That changes today.

Hip-hip-hooray!

I knew this one was coming. I knew it would strike a chord with me. The title didn’t scare me (although it got my attention). After reading the title, I welcomed whatever challenge it may present me with. Fact – if the author’s last name is Hatmaker, I’m gonna read it.

7: The Experimental Mutiny Against Excess’ by Jen Hatmaker

I loved this book!

While I anticipated some of what this book offered, there was a good bit of it that took me completely by surprise. It went way deeper than the “stuff” and went so much into what the stuff represented. Even more than that, it pricks at our core questions. The belief that there is more to the life that Jesus came to give us…and by more, I do not mean more stuff. That “life abundantly” stuff holds a far greater significance than we have lived out. How do we express that to others? What is our responsibility? How we purchase, what we purchase and what we don’t says more than we realize. This book got me thinking and praying…a lot. Honestly, it got me as much on fasting as it did on the excess. Reading this felt like an invitation to join in on a crazy train of a journey. I accept!

Every chapter struck something different. Just when I thought a chapter was my favorite, the next offered something different. By the end, I realized each chapter builds on last. This was not a “how-to” or a guilt-ridden rant. This was full of honesty, hilarity, humility, practicality and some darn good writing.

I did not finish reading 7 feeling simply inspired. I’m up to my eyeballs with inspiration and that just leads to me in tears, frustrated out of my mind and unable to go to the movies for fear of further motionless inspiration. Give me something to do with that inspiration. This is someone writing about the questions we all ask and pursuing a different way (and taking her family along for the ride). Seriously, the honesty and practicality will give you somewhere to start. That means a lot to my over-active brain.

Buy it for yourself. Buy it for a friend. If you are afraid the title will offend someone, get guts like my Mom. One year, she gave every man in my family ‘So You Call Yourself a Man’ by TD Jakes…for Christmas! They will thank you for it, and you’ll have more guts for doing so.

Read…enjoy…and join the crazy train!