Grace and peace to all of you who made the trip to IF:Lead.
In part, I'm writing to you to sort out my own thoughts about the events of the past few days, but also I want to offer a larger perspective, and provide a context for what our trip might mean for our churches. I hope what I say here will be helpful to you as you reflect and dream about your own next steps. And then I want to move us all forward.
I don't have enough words to describe the privilege it was to share this time with you and to attend IF:Lead. The desire for deep and tender relationships with other women has long been a strong thread woven through my life and I cherish meaningful time spent with all of you. This fan girl's heart was content and happy to be in the same room and learn from Tasha Morrison, Ann Voskamp, and Jill Briscoe. And Jennie. Of course. But never, ever will I forget the sheer joy of recognizing Priscilla Shirer walking onstage and realizing that she had something important to share with us.
And as I've flipped back through my notes, it's Priscilla's teaching about the loaves and fishes being the gift to the multitude and the multitude being the gift to the disciples that stands out to me. How using what was readily available and offering it to Jesus ultimately filled everyone's need so that everyone left full and satisfied. It's exactly that upside-down, inside-out, topsy-turvy, kind of gospel thinking that I love and that God is using to transform my perceptions of my world. I'm no longer praying to take the multitude away or take me out of the picture, but I'm thanking God for the multitude of miracles He's using in my life. I believe that's what I came to Dallas to find.
It is not lost on me that twelve of us made this trip and that we represent a multitude of different gifts and areas of service to the church. Not all of you feel called to women's ministry, but I truly hope that you will continue leading with us, dreaming with us, and gathering your women with us. I believe I see a shift into a Cross Points Women's Ministry 2.0 where we no longer just host events, but actually embrace and disciple women from CPC and beyond. And you are just the women that God is using to do that in oh so many ways. I am praying that every woman we connect with feels seen, loved, and accepted in our midst and that barriers of age, ethnicity, and economics be torn down.
My vision for us is that we love each other well. We're going to take the lead in supporting and maintaining community with our sisters in other churches, and in other ministries. That means that all of us are available to each other as you begin those next steps that you're dreaming about. We'll pray, laugh, and cry with you. We'll do the hard things, trust and obey. We will share resources, gifts and talents and I pray that we look more and more like the early church--loving fellowship, breaking bread, and sharing prayers.
Never forget that you were commissioned as you knelt in our midst, prayed for by both your sisters around you and by Jennie Allen. I know God will be faithful to speak to you in the coming days and months and years about your dreams and His plans for you. As you prayerfully go over your notes, I want you to know that I'm also praying for you by name. I'm asking for these things:
--May you recognize the tools in your hands.
--May you love God's Word and people well.
--May you continue to dream.
--May you see beyond the natural and hear the things unspoken.
--May the path before your feet be straightened.
--May you acknowledge the Lord's presence and calling in your lives with wonder.
When Jennie signed my Nothing to Prove book after the tour, she shared a word that things would be different in our church for generations because of that night. I believe that the 12 of us traveling to IF:Lead was the beginning of fulfillment of that prophecy. I am so excited to walk with all of you as God works through us for His purposes in the days to come. It is my highest honor to do so. I am available to each of you for support at any time and I really hope to share coffee or tea with you often in the months ahead to chase those dreams.
Between now and November 1, when we plan to meet again, would you please take just a few minutes and write down as best you can, the dreams that God is giving you going forward? And would you concentrate on one and figure out what your next step toward it will be? That is what I hope we will share and pray for when we meet next.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I Timothy 1: 6, 7
In peace, with love,
Nothing to Prove Book Club started this week and our women are processing exactly what freedom from pretending and performing might look like. During the evening, we talked about living in the tension between the beauty and the mess of our lives. We agreed that we want to avoid separating our lives into silos, and instead allow the everyday and the mundane parts of life to become important in view of our place in God's story.
Jennie cites the stories of Abraham, Noah, David, and Paul, among others, as examples of heroes who lived their lives in small moments, acquiring skills and learning about God until it was time to step up to their part of His plan. The point being that the everyday learning, the regular people type moments were part of a large plan and every bit as holy and noble.
I think we could also look at Sarah, who fought her own battle with infertility (and jealousy, and at least one questionable decision along the way), yet became the mother of the promise. What about Elizabeth who sent her husband off to work at the Temple and he came home unable to speak? Guess who had all the explaining to do when it turned out she was pregnant with the one who announced the arrival of the Messiah?
My thought is that when we study these people, we concentrate on their great battles or victories and we've often overlooked their everyday lives. I'm inspired to think how they made it all work. I've wondered about Sarah's thoughts while she was washing up dishes after some desert banquet. How did she still the taunt ringing in her ears that a baby was no longer a possibility as the long-ago promise of an heir became harder to recall. What desperation drove her to bring her handmaiden to Abraham and hand her over? And I can't even imagine what she said to her husband on the morning he saddled up the donkey and two of his servants and began the trek with Isaac to the land of Moriah.
On the day Zechariah was struck dumb, Elizabeth began a season of ministry to her husband, to her visiting pregnant cousin, and to a newborn babe devoted to the Lord. Both of these women ran households, held countless conversations, lived within their culture, took care of husbands, and managed to keep their families afloat all while accomplishing their work in God's history. They were faithful in the everyday activities, the small tasks and that's what enabled them to walk out their faith.
I'm inspired. To love God more, to love my people more. To look for ways to do my everyday chores with more joy. To find God in the dishes and the laundry and the conversations I have everyday. To not waste another minute. Because if God is in my everyday, I certainly want to find Him and figure out how to advance His story.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke? Isaiah 58: 6 ESV
I didn't grow up in a church that talked much about Lent. Or fasting for that matter. And if they did, I sure wasn't listening. So as an adult, I was kind of surprised that there WAS a season leading up to Easter. And I haven't been very serious about observing it until recently. I've tried food fasts and the proverbial "giving up chocolate for Lent," but in recent years, writers like Ann Voskamp, who urge other types of fasts, have caught my attention. My dear friend, Marjie gave me a book last year that has stayed in my mind and I'm revisiting it again this year. The book is 40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole. She advocates giving up of things such as regrets, tidy faith that relies on platitudes, or stinginess. The express purpose is to diminish ourselves, so that there is room for Jesus to be larger in us.
Silly me. I thought it would be easier than fasting desserts or bread. And I jumped right in with a proclamation to my girls that I was "fasting judgement" and fasting trying to "explain God." Oh my--the next day I asked God to show me where I was judging other people. It wasn't pretty. Seems I have this idea that I can determine motives of other drivers who cut me off in traffic or dare to try to merge into my lane on 435 on the way to work. I had pre-conceived ideas of what projects colleagues would or would not take on at work. It was brutal when I began to examine my thoughts the way God might see them.
It was tough and it was hard and I didn't respond very well. I went kind of numb and withdrew. I turned my face from the One who loves me unconditionally. I focused on a busy work schedule, on learning new skills, and making sure dinner was fabulous every night. Those are all good things and I was busy, but inside I was lost and feeling off-center, missing something.
The course correction involved confession. I had to confess how totally oblivious I have been of my lack of love for people I come across daily and how much I need for Him to show me my faulty thinking. And I wonder at my natural inclination to run and hide from the One who only wants to extend love and grace to me. Again I know that I am in desperate need of Him to keep looking for me until I give in and become found. Again I know that being numb is not where I want to be.
So the hard work of Lent begins. I think it will be good.
So the forsythia bloomed. Last week. In February.
I don't remember that happening before.
And it's kind of funny because I meant to be so much further along with this website. I've had it in my plans for months and intended to get it done in between my semesters--you know, back at holiday time? But I didn't. And now you're going to get access to it anyway. It's one of the things I've learned. Just get started. One step in front of the other. And someday it will be that body of work that I intended.
In the meantime, this is kind of a sandbox area to play with ideas. So you want to come with me? I hope you like it and it's a place to meet and share ideas. Let's just try it, ok?