dear Church, it is our time to rise.

If you are weary from the all political talk, if you are afraid for the unborn and for the refugee, for safe places to land, the respect of women and the integrity of men, for the unity of the church, if you are gasping for steady breaths in a panicked world – you are in the right place. Our editor, Rachel Dawson, posed this question on Twitter last week and it affirmed everything I was feeling:

“Daily battling the desire to disconnect from the Internet entirely (it’s hard, heavy, etc) … but don’t want to be ignorant/unaware either. How do we live in this tension well?”

The internet can be a place of abundant kingdom work. But the evil one wants to distort anything that can be used for the glory of God, and I believe that he is using it as a tool of distraction and division today. If we are not careful, it consumes us. Because this is the truth: if there are a thousand voices shouting in our minds about the core of who we are and precisely how we should think, we just might miss the voice of God. As with anything in life, we should know who we are and what our mission is before we say hundreds of accidental yeses as we scroll through a list of both fruitful teachings and faulty doctrines.

If we are not careful, this confusion replaces the people sitting elbow-to-elbow with us. It eats up too much of our valuable time. For some, this means cutting out the internet entirely and reading a newspaper. For others, perhaps for most of us, this means reality checks. Self-control. Intentionality.

R E S E T

The evil one is here, and he wants to divide. Distract. In order for us to thrive in these times instead of retract, we have serious work to do. It starts simply and with us as individuals. We have to strip down every living day and teach the gospel to ourselves. If I am not in touch with the weight of my sin and the freedom from my oppression, then how am I able to make a difference? If I am not grounded in the truth of love, how will I ever be more than another clanging gate, joining the noise of millions?

R I S E

There is a war going on against everything holy. We have received the Good News of Jesus Christ. Man cannot touch or pluck away from God all that is His. We cannot splash an iota of darkness on it or throw more light on top of it. But evil can distort how the Gospel is perceived, touched, and spread. In order to protect the church, the ones saved and the ones to be saved, we have to fight. Let it be known, friend, that we don’t walk into this battle unarmed and unprepared. Whether it is on the internet, in our own homes, or in our cities, Christ has enabled us with everything we need to walk this out into completion.

Christian,

You have a belt of truth that holds everything together. Your words are not your own, you don’t sustain the whole world on your shoulders: God does. Walk in what you know confidently and seek His Spirit to give you wisdom where you do not.

You have a breastplate of righteousness that justifies you and cannot change your name from Chosen to Taken. You are covered in the blood of Christ. You belong.

You own a shield of faith that negates everything – not just some things, but all things – the evil one throws your direction.

You hold a helmet of salvation that secures you. It protects you from doubt.

You’ve got a sword from the Spirit that can slay. The Word of God is meant for our life, peace, but it is also created for our strength and protection.

Oh yeah, and those shoes for your feet? You have sandals that scatter peace everywhere you tread on the earth. You don’t have to walk afraid. You can run with readiness, eager to shed the light you’ve got.

(Adapted from Ephesians 6.)

I am saddened, grieved by the events in our nation. But may I say something bold, something that might shake a few heads? This makes me excited for the church. We have an opportunity here to rise up. It starts with living our one life with integrity, generously giving, always praising and reaching out. Stay faithful with the little things and God will use you in big ways. What sign will we hold above our heads in bold protest? Will we hold up condemnation for either side? Or will we consistently be the evil-slayers, water-givers, bread-breakers, and peace-makers everywhere? Maybe, just now, I finally understand what be the rising means?

R E C O N C I L E

Ephesians 1:13-16 says it likes this: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

If Jesus was so passionate about reconciliation that He gave His life and threw the world in a glorious upside-down motion for the sake of our unity in Him, shouldn’t I dedicate my life towards that same mission? We get to choose what we will be known for. You have to chance to redeem how the church will be seen today. Will they know more about what we are for (light, love, unity, forgiveness) or what we are against (politically, personally, in condemnation)? There will be people you disagree with at every turn. Instead of causing a division with our debates, let’s create conversations. Instead of choosing comfortable silence, speak up in the face of evil. We don’t all know all the answers. If one of us claims to understand everything going on underneath the sun, isn’t that clothing yourself with a kind of arrogance? The way forward to unity during division is through research and spurring each other on further into the love of Christ. If you are in Christ, we must love our brothers and sisters and strive for unity. Be kind, always and with no exceptions. Keep your mind open, while holding your convictions strong. (It’s possible.) Test everything according to God’s Word and at the end of the day change your mind or proclaim your belief more confidently. Will we be known for taking sides and abusing our neighbor? Or will we be known for bold love and mending fences? Will we use the armor of God that is drenched with hope and truth? Or will we stand by the empty promises of man that reap our own destruction?

You are making an impact. Wherever you are, however you are exercising your influence – you’ve got it. However small it may seem, you are called to steward what you have well. Rest secure because in the Spirit, you have a full suit of armor that will withhold you along the way.

“The church of the present – comprised of every Christian on planet Earth – has a rock-solid foundation but it doesn’t have walls. It’s not meant to. It is made up of porous skin. We will have to labor hard and break a sweat sometimes to keep from absorbing the brutality of a culture in love with itself.” — Beth Moore, Entrusted

So wherever you tread today, let it be all be about peace, grace, and justice. May we fight unapologetically for the sake of the Gospel, know that revival starts in our hearts, and that by arming ourselves to be the rising we might continue a holy revolution to the glory of our Father.

 

See this original post where it was born at my home away from home, The Rising.

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5 Things for When You’re Discouraged in Community

Christian community is making great strides toward improving and recognizing our weaknesses, but we have to keep up with the truth when communication is almost immediate and typically inch deep. Churches are resembling clubs where people have the chance to show off their newest outfits and smile away their cares of the week. Dressing nicely and being kind is not the problem – but if we’re looking for our love to be genuine toward those we are in continual fellowship with, we’re going have to stain our perfect ideals of ourselves one honest encounter at a time. This is what I mean.

How do we start the journey to let people see the true us? How do we learn how to walk beside these people?

1. Lower your expectations for others and raise the expectations you have for yourself.

This sounds cynical, but let me explain. Once you know that people are inadequate and broken and pretending like they have it all together just like you, you will be able to enter into a community life that is messier and more beautiful than you could have ever imagined. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together, said, “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”

2. Write down who you are and don’t apologize for any of it.

Whether you keep this list in your mind or on an actual sheet of paper, write down some of your characteristics, your interests, and what makes you come alive. In Christian community, we are to make each other better. We are to challenge each other to go the extra mile for Jesus and everyone we serve on His behalf. But, if your “Christian friend” is shaming you for an area in your life that you see as pure but just quirky, first, ask Jesus to examine your heart to see if there is something to repent of. Secondly, once you’ve taken time to listen to the Lord, and if the matter is simply trivial, do not apologize for it. It doesn’t mean you have to cut off this relationship because they said one negative thing you didn’t agree with. This is about keeping your integrity while at the same time actively working to live peaceably with everyone you interact with. It’s what is being called self-discovery. My personal definition of self-discovery is when you’re open to growth, but no longer sorry for what makes you who you are. It means that we don’t all have the same characteristics and personalities and backgrounds, and this is going to make collisions easy to come by. But it means we can make every effort to be unified, and sometimes that means agreeing to disagree. Will we run? Or do we face the conflict for what it is, fight for unity, and walk away stronger as individuals and as Christ’s church?

3. Walk humbly, and know your worth.

Before you enter the doors of the next social gathering you attend, this is what you need to tell yourself: Whether these people accept me or not, whether we click or not, whether we go beneath the surface or not, I am loved outside of this room. So are they.

Once you go beyond only knowing that you are loved outside of one single space, and somewhat grasp the true concept, you will then be free to be yourself, to invite the Holy Spirit to fill up every void, and to see people brighter than your own insecurities. And when we are willing to get outside of ourselves long enough to see people as better than ourselves, we can find that loving others is so much easier. We will wish that we would have checked our insecurities at the door years ago, because when we finally look outside of ourselves, there is a room full of people looking for all of the same things that you are.

Once we are free from the weight of our own emotional resistances, we are free to love people well and connect on a less artificial level whether the interaction leads into a string of stories or it falls short automatically. This freedom means you’re no longer afraid of being alone and you can sit taller no matter what the setting is. You’re just learning how to be embraced and how to stand alone with less apologies written in your eyes – and the important difference between the two.


To read the remainder of this post, go to The Rising!

dawn of day and companionship.

The birds are chirping, I’ve spent twenty minutes as a sleepy sixteen year old, and I already know that I don’t want this day to end.

Those were the first words I wrote on last Sunday morning, February the 8th. The house was being filled with only soft whispers and sunshine was just beginning to peek through the windows. Later that night I wrote…

It’s so hard writing about huge events such as today because I know that I will miss something. Because there is a depth in days like today that are unmatched….I don’t want to forget what today was. Everything that happened.

Ann Voskamp says that counting gifts stills time. I counted all weekend. Riding the hill of our humble little zoo, brown boots & black sneakers at the back door, a brisk wind chilling our noses and turning them red, exhaustion that leads to deep laughter, bittersweet, thankful, and hopeful tears, true worship in God’s presence, whip cream on my nose, my family taking time out of their day to have dessert and visit, falling asleep with the Spanish birthday song stuck in my head….

After spending time with these two friends of mine over my birthday weekend, I came away saying, “I wanna love Jesus like they do. Love people like they do.”

Meet Richard and Elizabeth Santana.

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On the Guayaquil, Ecuador boardwalk with Las Penas in the background.
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In my front yard.
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With Richard’s parents in their front yard.

If you didn’t know already, my youth group (a total of 22 people) went on a short mission trip last July to Ecuador. Long story short, that’s how I met this beautiful couple. I introduced myself first to Elizabeth as we walked through a row of cocoa trees at Richard’s family’s farm. These two and I had most of our defining conversations while in the line for the bathroom or in Richard’s parents small kitchen while everyone was getting ready for bed after a long day’s activities. Over the past six months, I’ve kept in regular contact with them through letters and social media updates.

It was my wildest dream to spend my sixteenth birthday with the Santana’s. Over Christmas break, I sent Elizabeth a message inviting them and wondering what it would all look like in reality. It took some rearranging and hours of preparation, but they left their home in Minnesota Friday afternoon and arrived here early Saturday afternoon! Seeing them on an opposite continent was so different and worthwhile. Our schedule was simple, yet went by so quickly, and we made the most of every minute.

As we sat at my favorite Mexican restaurant the I’m-horrible-at-see-you-later tears began to start. The crying began to start because next Saturday night these two beautiful people won’t be here to go on a bike ride with me, or Richard won’t be there to give me a hug goodnight, or Elizabeth won’t be there to fix my hair and drink coffee with me before church. I don’t like that I’m not good saying goodbyes, but I praise the Lord because I have so many friends, in outrageous tiny corners in the world (big corners in the Kingdom), that make saying goodbye (for now) so incredibly hard. Thanks for knowing us so much, Lord, that You send us people, friends, familia…. that we need to gain comfort, strength, and conviction from.

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Richard and I, with the church in Ecuador and the rest of the team in the background. Love this moment captured. 1,000 words, truly.
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With the Ecuador flag and familia picture at church here in Kansas!
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part of our hearts will forever be there, no matter where God leads us.

I knew that when I met Richard and Elizabeth that we clicked. Not every friendship is immediate. But I believe that, at least for me, this one was. I knew that they both were kind, accepting, hilarious, and loved Jesus. But it was God that only knew at that point that we would find so much common ground. God knew that He was giving us a friendship where we could be passionate together about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, books, writing, messy buns (well, that’s just Elizabeth and I 😉 ), homeschooling, daily grace, missions, and dreamy house plans. But He also made us different enough in early childhood beginnings, ages, and fast accents to make us listen well, hard, and repeatedly to truly understand one another. He knew that when I went behind the curtain in South America. He knew that last July when I walked into the kitchen so nervous and feeling lonely, with only my journal and a Sharpie pen, to ask for new friends’ mailing address that it would lead to iron sharpening iron. He knew.

There are two things I vividly remember my Mom saying after we gave our final wave from the front porch. Hours after they had left and my birthday party was over, I opened up my birthday present. It immediately made me smile. When I showed Mom that they had gotten me a book by Henri J. M. Nouwen (among several others) and a special pen she said three words, reflecting on the gift and the entire weekend,

They know you.

The second thing my Mom said was,

OOoohhhh! Message them and tell them to turn around! We have so much more to talk about. So many more stories to tell. 

So, mi amigos, there is so much more to talk about. Turn around soon. Or we’ll follow your generously carved path and follow you back home. Or maybe, and also hopefully, even Ecuador. God knows. Until then, I’ll leave you with these words Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in 1943.

Even if that should not be the case, we both know that we are bound together in our thoughts day by day.

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Gracias for knowing me.