Two Things Have I Heard

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 62.  Here is a bit of it…

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (v 1-2)

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is fro Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.  On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (v 5-8)

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” (v11-12)

 

The last part is my favorite. You, O God, are strong & You, O Lord, are loving. What a perfect combination. What if He was strong, but not loving? Think about it. What if He was loving, but not strong?  What a wonderful thing for us all that He is both! 

I am going to praise Him today because He is both strong AND loving. He is able to accomplish any task, to handle any situation, to take care of anything I need – and He loves me enough to do all of that. He will work everything out for good. He is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine – and I can trust that He will. Praise God!

My prayer for you this week, sweet friends, is that you will experience God’s mighty strength this week – that you would recognize that HE IS ABLE – and that you would also experience His mighty love – that you would feel how deeply you are loved by the God of all creation.

Love you guys,

kim

I Can Learn to Pray – A Book Review

 

I Can Learn to Pray by Holly Hawkins Shivers is a phenomenal resource for families, churches and especially homeschools.  Besides the fact that it’s a beautiful hardcover book, it is filled with 52 weeks of devotions on the subject of prayer.

There are seven sections in the book covering topics such as how to pray, thankful prayers, sorry prayers, help prayers, and the prayers that Jesus prayed.  I absolutely love how even the language of the sections is geared towards kids (such as “I’m Sorry” prayers).  This sweet little devotional is filled with tons of ideas for kids to put what they’re learning throughout the book into practice (such as thanking God each day for a different person and sending them a note telling them they’re being prayed for – a wonderful idea for adults as well as kids!)

This book could easily be added into homeschooling curriculum by covering one devotional each week.  There are even little assignments within each devotional that are meaningful and easy to understand.  Although the suggested ages for this book is 4-8, the younger kids might need a little help.  I also think that my almost 10 year old would be thrilled with this book!

Holly Hawkins Shivers has also written another 52 week devotional for kids, I Can Learn the Bible, which looks just as wonderful as this one.

I highly recommend I Can Learn to Pray!  What a wonderful resource for families to learn about prayer together!
I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 

 

 

Becoming in Worship

language-of-worship

“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will [come] out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was a pastor in a Christian church early in his life. He then lost his wife and began to pull away from the church. Eventually he spearheaded the Transcendental movement in the 19th century. I wonder at what point in his life he wrote this.

I have read this quote many times and each time I am struck by how exactly right it is.

We all worship something.

What we worship determines who we are.

I especially love the last line…what we are worshipping we are becoming.

I pray that is true of me.
I believe that is the true goal of

worship:
To become more like Christ.

If we are not becoming more like Christ …
we probably should be asking the question …

what are we really worshiping?

Love Comes First

I was raised in a Christian home and was in church from the time I was four.  I grew up in a small Southern Baptist Church in the DFW area and, although I know that everyone has a different experience of church – no matter the denomination, my experience in church was overall a very positive and affirming one.  I was loved, cared for, taught and encouraged.  I was also admonished when I needed to be, but with love and kindness.  When I think back on my experience in church growing up, I feel very blessed.  The people of my church were my family.  They taught me things.  They helped me become who I am.  Without them I cannot imagine where I’d be.

Richard taught me how to love people no matter what they looked like by loving me just as I was and no matter how I dressed.  Nita and Ginger taught me about missionaries and what it looks like to serve God in other places.  Johnny taught me about worship and later he and his wife, Leona, taught me about marriage and parenthood.  Miss Rose taught me about Jesus.  Miss Bessie taught me about faithfulness.  My friend, Chris, taught me about loyalty and about unconditional love.  Paul taught me about evangelism and his wife, Christy, taught me about modesty.  Pattie, though she may not know this, inspired my dream of becoming a worship leader.

Later in my life and ministry Eric and Paul Michael taught me about what ministry really looks like and they both encouraged me and believed in me enough to help me find my own.  Dennis taught me about myself, who God made me to be, and that I didn’t need to be afraid of it.  After over ten years of ministry in churches, I’m still learning from the people who I serve with.  Lee is teaching me about grace – not only through his words, but mostly by his example.  Rachel is forever teaching me about forgiveness and courage.  Amy is teaching me about joy and friendship.  I cannot count the number of people who have spoken love and life to me over the years.  These people are all church people.  These people are all my people.  We speak the same language.  We think the same thoughts.  We have the same burning passion for Jesus and for people to know Jesus.  Church is meaningful to me.  Church people are meaningful to me.

I never understood the enormous difference between my experience with church and the experiences of the people around me that seemed to be so negative.  That was, until I had some negative experiences of my own.  It’s amazing how completely oblivious we are to the world around us until we get a taste of it ourselves.  I have been deeply hurt by church people, too.  I carry deep scars that may never fully heal from people who follow after Jesus.  And I’ve left scars of my own too.  And I think that’s the part that hurts the very most.  Church is supposed to be a place where broken, hurting people can come to be healed and loved by Jesus and supported and encouraged by each other.  And sometimes we’re great at that.  But sometimes we’re not.  Sometimes I think we’ve missed the point entirely.

Christians spend so much time trying to stand out from the world as “holy” or “set apart” and that’s exactly what we should be.  But I often wonder if we’re trying harder to ACT holy than we are trying to BE holy. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”              – John 13:34-35

Love comes first.  That’s how they know that we follow Jesus – by how we love each other.  Christian to Christian.  Christ follower to Christ follower.  Believer to Believer.  How we love each other matters to the people around us.  When they see us bickering over stupid things, arguing over theology, fighting over semantics it makes it look as though we hate each other.  The world is having a hard time believing that following Jesus is worth anything because even His followers can’t get along.  Forget about how we treat the rest of the world – although that’s enormous too – we can’t even get along with each other!

Think about that.  We’re part of a family that has something incredible to offer.  We desperately want the world to know what we have to give.  What we have to give is good and real and life-giving and FREE!  So we stand up and start telling everyone how wrong and stupid and awful all our family members are.  Then we tell all of those people how horrible and unlovable they are too.  And we cannot figure out for the life of us why they aren’t interested in our offer.  It’s ludicrous.  It really is.

The world needs Jesus.  Desperately.  He is the source of love, peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing and everlasting life with a perfect, holy and loving God.  But the world won’t ever see Him in bickering Christians, or prideful pastors.  When we spend all our effort and energy on “defending the Gospel” instead of living the Gospel we’ve entirely missed the point.  I don’t believe that the Gospel needs defending anyway.  What if instead of boldly proclaiming the truth (as we understand it) we were graciously living the love of Christ?  Instead of boldly proclaiming … graciously living.  Wouldn’t that make the world stop and take a look?

In his book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians debate, Justin Lee said this: “Jesus radiated grace and compassion in such a way that people came to him to hear his views on things.  By contrast, we Christians were so focused on preaching our views on things that we were driving people away, turning them off to church, Jesus, and everything we had to say.”

I believe that the way that we treat each other as Christians greatly affects the way people around us view Christianity.  I know that it is such hard work to find common ground with people you vehemently disagree with, but if we are to be Christ’s love to a hurting world we have to try.  We have the ultimate common ground: grace.

“Grace sees people for what makes them uniquely beautiful to God, not for all the ways they’re flawed or all the ways I disagree with them.  That kind of grace is what enables loving bridges to be built over the strongest disagreements.  Gracious dialogue is hard work.  It requires effort and patience, and it’s tempting to put it off.  All of us have busy lives and a lot of other issues to address.  But for anyone who cares about the future of the church, this can’t be put off.  The next generation is watching how we handle these questions, and they’re using that to determine how they should treat people and whether this Christianity business is something they want to be involved in.” – Justin Lee (Torn, pg 252)

I couldn’t agree more.  If the world is ever going to care what we have to say, they need to know how much we care about them – and how much we care for each other.

Love comes first.

 
PS: If you’re at all interested in helping to bridge the divide between gays and the church, please go buy and read Justin’s book. It affected me deeply.  You can also find his blog here.

 

21 Seconds to Change Your World – A Book Review

Restore your soul through prayer.  Those are the words on the back cover.  I have to admit that I went into this book a skeptic.  I expected something along the lines of Prayer of Jabez or some other rote prayer that claims to bring you health and wealth.  That is NOT this book.  21 Seconds to Change Your World, by Dr. Mark Rutland, walks through the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 in an exegetical fashion, comparing the words, thoughts and intentions of the authors of each text.

The Book is broken up into three parts: The Journey Begins, which explains the intent of the book and the importance of these two prayers; The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, the meatiest section in which both of the prayers are examined thoroughly and compared to one another; and the third section, To Change Your World, gives the reader ideas and thoughts about how to use these two prayers to your personal benefit and to impact the community and world around you.

There are so many things about this book that make it worth reading.  First, the unpacking of both the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.  I have both of these prayers memorized and have for most of my life.  However, after reading the chapters in the second section of this book, I have a much deeper understanding of the intentions of their authors and a much greater appreciation for the beauty of their words.  The author is obviously very knowledgeable and well-studied on the topics, but he is also so humble and kind in his style of writing.  I felt as though I was listening to my own pastor, whom I thoroughly love and respect.  Another reason this book is worth reading is the last few chapters.  These chapters are the “what to do next” chapters.  After studying the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 in the previous 19 chapters, the last five chapters gave me some practical ways to use these beautiful, Biblical prayers to help me in so many different ways – inner healing, intimacy with God, deliverance from temptations, just to name a few.

Over the last week or so since I finished this book, I have been reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 regularly (21 seconds a day) and the impact in my own heart and life has been real and measurable.  I am more calm.  My priorities are easier to determine.  My fears have been more manageable.  My stress is lower.  I have even been able to walk away from temptation multiple times a day (I have a massive addiction to soda and sweets).  This book is not a magic formula in and of itself.  But it does have wonderful instruction on how to use scripture to become more committed to Jesus, more in tune with the Holy Spirit and more effective in life and in ministry.  I whole-heartedly recommend that everyone read this book!

BakerBooksBloggersSquareLogo

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Fear and Loathing in My Driveway

A few nights ago I wasn’t feeling well, so my sweet husband took all five of our kids out to dinner and to the grocery store so I could rest in peace and quiet. (Have I ever mentioned that I am married to the most wonderful man in the entire world?) Since I very rarely get the opportunity to be alone, I thought I would take advantage of it and watch something on TV.  So I turned on a new show that I heard would be really great to see if I would like it.  Trying out new shows is very stressful for me.  To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie that I’ve never seen before.  I know that seems weird, but remember how I struggle with guilt?  Well, watching movies feels like a long time to be away from my never-ending to-do list and so I very rarely watch movies.  I feel the same way about new TV shows.  I mean, what if it’s terrible and I just wasted thirty minutes or even an hour of my precious time (that could have been spent on any one of a thousand other important things) on a show that I am now dumber for having watched.

However, despite my very logical (certifiable) issues with new TV shows, I turned one on.  It was not at all what I expected.  I was expecting funny but instead it was intense, weird, uncomfortable and a bit creepy.  I don’t do well with creepy – especially when I’m by myself.  So I’m all alone in an empty house that is eerily quiet, it’s getting dark outside and I’m not more than 15 minutes into this creepy weird show when I hear a big thud coming from one of the back rooms.  I immediately jumped up, grabbed my phone and keys and ran out of the house in 5 seconds flat.  I jumped in the car, turned it on and sat there.  FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES!  Not kidding.  This is what I actually did.  I didn’t even lock the door behind me.  Just ran and sat for almost an hour until my husband could get home and clear the house of whatever made the scary noise in the first place.  He’s so used to my weird fear-based shenanigans that he didn’t even laugh, or say anything other than “it’s all clear” after walking through our entire house (including closets) to make sure that there was nothing that could “get” me.  My prince.  My hero.  I don’t have any idea why he puts up with me.  Fear makes me do nutty things.

fear and loathing

The next day, when I finally had my wits about me again, I was reflecting on my ridiculous evening of fear and loathing in my driveway and I was reminded of the story of Gideon.  Remember the story?  It’s found in Judges 6-8.  In Israel at that time, the Midianites would come through the area where Gideon lived every year for seven years and steal their crops and livestock so that the Israelites had no food for themselves.  The Israelites were terrified of the Midianites. When we first meet Gideon he is hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat so he could keep it from the Midianites.  The angel of God comes to him and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

In the middle of his fear and hiding, God reminds Gideon that He is on his side – that He is with him.  Sometimes I forget that God is on my side.  Life is so very much harder than I thought it would be and I often feel all alone in my struggles. I feel all alone in my soul.  In his little book “How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit”, A.W. Tozer writes, “There is a spiritual loneliness, an inner aloneness, an inner place where God brings the seeker, where he is as lonely as if there were not another member of the Church anywhere in the world.  Ah, when you come there, there is a darkness of mind, an emptiness of heart, a loneliness of soul, but it is preliminary to the daybreak.  O God, bring us, somehow, to the daybreak!”  If A.W. Tozer felt this loneliness of soul, if the mighty warrior Gideon felt it, I think it’s safe to say that we have probably all felt this all alone feeling at one point or another.

I don’t particularly like my alone time.  That’s when my thoughts and fears get the best of me.  I wouldn’t have ended up in my car for an hour hiding from the big noise of the falling shampoo bottle if someone had been with me.  I might have been able to gather the strength to go and find out what made the scary noise in the first place if I had had back up.  What if I were able to be close enough to God, sure enough of Him, that I considered Him to be fully present in my every situation?  What If I remembered that God is with me and acted accordingly?  I don’t think there is any other way that I will be able to face the ridiculous fears that plague by head and my heart.  I think I understand the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns a little better after this experience:

The author of this song is a woman named Annie Hawks.  She was a housewife and mother and was two years older than I am now when she wrote this song.  I feel a kinship to her when I read her words and imagine that she felt then similarly to how I feel now over a hundred years later – that without the nearness and very presence of God I cannot make it.  Here are her beautiful words.  They will be my prayer today.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

 

 

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I read a book last year that took hold of me and started me on a journey to a different kind of thinking.  I cannot tell you how profoundly this book impacted my heart.  The book is Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle.  Father Boyle is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries in California.  His book is about grace, redemption, love and life.  I urge you to go read it.

I was flipping back through it this morning, reading all of the things I highlighted and underlined.  As I was reading through his chapter called Gladness, I felt compelled to share a bit with you.

“Jesus says, “My ways are not your ways.” but they sure could be.  In the utter simplicity of breathing, we find how naturally inclined we are to delight and to stay dedicated to gladness.  We bask in God’s unalloyed joy, and we let loose with that same joy in whoever is in front of us.  We forget what a vital part of our nature this is.” (p150, Tattoos on the Heart)

“We breathe in the spirit that delights in our being – the fragrance of it.  And it works on us.  Then we exhale (for that breath has to go somewhere) – to breathe into the world this same spirit of delight, confident that this is God’s only agenda.” (p151, Tattoos on the Heart)

I must have read that last sentence a dozen or more times.  Even now as I read it, I feel so affected by the truth of the statement that it brings tears to my eyes.

We breath in the delight of God and it works on us.  Then we breath out that same delight to the people around us.  This is God’s purpose for us.  To breathe in His delight – His pleasure in us – His love for us.  We breathe in His love and we breathe out His love.  Inhale and exhale.  Delight in, Delight out.  Acceptance in, Acceptance out.  Grace in, Grace out.  Peace in, Peace out.  Love in, love out.  That is our greatest purpose.  I truly believe it is that simple.  We are to be instruments of His love, His peace, His grace, His mercy, His delight.  God’s love for us, His delight in us fills up our lungs and our hearts and our minds and we breathe it back out into the world.

Father Boyle says, “We have grown accustomed to think that loving as God does is hard.  We think it’s about moral strain and obligation.  We presume it requires a spiritual muscularity of which we are not capable, a layering of burden on top of sacrifice, with a side order of guilt.  (But it was love, after all, that made the cross salvific, not the sheer torture of it.)” (p155, Tattoos on the Heart)

We make loving people and loving ourselves so complicated.  We have all these prerequisites for worthiness.  When really there are none.  It’s not complicated.  It may not be easy, but it’s not complicated.

Breathe love in.  Let it work on us.  Breathe love out.

Inhale.

Exhale.

My prayer for you this week is that you breathe in the incredible love of the Father who delights in your very existence.  That you let that delight work on your heart until you understand how very enough you are – how very loved you are.  That you exhale that same love, grace and compassion to the people around you.

Love you guys!

Kim