How We See Success In the Kingdom

lens-1webI’m about to do something brave.  I mean really brave.  At least for a conflict-averse, fairly-extreme introvert who loves to be nestled in her studio illustrating in watercolor or working on a list of writing projects, it feels really brave.

When Up for Debate on Moody radio contacted me some time ago and asked me to be a part of a show discussing whether or not it is OK for pastors to be celebrities, the name of the program was enough for me to want to say no.  I just do not do debate.  Debate is for politicians and apologists, of which I am neither. I explained this.  They still wanted me on and I might just be the most reluctant radio guest they have ever had.  Still.

The program is tomorrow and I am sorting my thoughts.  So I thought we could sort them together, you and I.  My counterpart in the conversation has a speaker’s bureau and reportedly will be sharing the point of view that a large platform is fine because it is simply a place of influence.  I have absolutely no argument with that.  At all. *Sigh*  It might be a less than thrilling debate.

To me platform size is irrelevant. Biblically and historically, every generation has had its well-known leaders and voices, some of which that are still heard today.  Of course God raises up leaders to carry His heart and become the message they are called to bring and in so doing reach and influence many.

The problem isn’t having a platform.  The problem comes when that platform becomes our focus and when its size becomes the defining measure of our success.  A platform that comes as the by-product of a love-based, faithful journey lived focused on Jesus is a beautiful thing.  But in our social media savvy, hyper-connected world it is possible for someone to wind up virtually overnight with a massive platform he/she doesn’t have the wisdom,  maturity or even calling to steward.  Gifts can take you where character can’t keep you.

There is a celebrity subculture that has crept in at the edges in many places in the Church that is deeply concerning.  Here leaders often find themselves balancing on pedestals {in many cases not of their own making} instead of standing on platforms.  And that is a very perilous place.  Platforms are places of influence.  Pedestals are places of idolatry.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a certified green room escape artist.  Green rooms can be wonderful places to regroup. But when the business cards start swapping and the elbows rubbing, I duck and run.  I want to hang out with the folks I came to serve.  To be honest, often the most fruitful times of ministry happen over cups of coffee far away from the podium and stage.

The celebrity mentality and the oft ensuing dance of pedestals can cripple the Church.  To the degree we feel it necessary to run after our 5 or 10 favorite speakers or the next major event in order to find what we need in the Kingdom, we are in danger of missing the point.  Can we receive valuable input from speakers and events and truly encounter God?  Absolutely.  But if we make the primary context of meeting Him so-&-so’s ministry or the next conference we can attend, we risk missing the daily invitation to forge our own history with God.

I am grateful for every person, event and place that have played parts in my growth deeper in Jesus. But I am who I am not because a famous speaker prayed for me in a ministry line or because of an event I attended.  I am who I am in Jesus because of what He has done in my life in the hidden seasons and the secret places of meeting Him, as well as the authentic relationships and the community of faith that surround my life and journey.

There is a crucial difference between fame that’s a by-product of following Jesus and fame that comes from pursuing it as our focal point.  We create the benchmark of success for the next generation by what we celebrate in our own.  The goal isn’t to be well known, build a larger social media empire or climb the religious corporate ladder but rather scandalous abandoned love poured out on the feet of Jesus. He is our focus and the rest is simply the overflow of a growing relationship with Him.

What we understand the definition of ministry success to be in this upside down inside out Kingdom becomes the lens that colors our journey.

Would love to hear how you define ministry success over on my Facebook page.   Just reply to this post on my Facebook page {so we all can find you in the conversation}.  See you there!

What You Need To Know To Live #EverydayBrave

holdingonwebSome days hanging in there is the bravest victory of all.  There are seasons where it isn’t about taking new ground as much as staking the ground you already have, refusing to give up even an inch of your hard-won territory and having done all, to stand.

Sometimes the bravest victories happen in battles no one knew you ever fought.  These small, silent, world-shaping moments that come from living #everydaybrave.

When you have had to give up lifelong dreams in the last season, sometimes it is scary to wholeheartedly jump into the pursuit of new dreams in the new season.  But seasons move forward only through dreaming with God and then trusting enough to throw your heart and hope fully into His embrace as you move toward those dreams unfolding.

It is beautifully terrifying, exhilarating and wonderful all at once.  I’ve been where the little guy above has been.  Commando crawling a tightrope line between trees 30 ft high in the air (with a harness).

Starting to dream again can feel a little like that.  You see where you are going and there seems to be impossible obstacles standing in the way.  Since with one leg I couldn’t crutch or hop across on the high wire, I had to get a little creative.  No one said how I had to get across, just that I needed to.  And it didn’t matter that several others had tried the traditional way and fallen off before reaching the other side.

My turn came with everyone wondering and expecting me to give up, because of course it would be unrealistic for me to try to cross the usual way.  No one expected me to swing out underneath and commando crawl my way successfully to the next platform.

That’s way I want to live life… seeing impossible obstacles as opportunities for creative breakthroughs of God’s goodness and wisdom. I want to live everyday brave.

We don’t have to figure it all out or make anything happen.  We can trust His grace to hold onto us when we can’t hold on ourselves.  Little by little each day we can choose to move forward into the dreams He has for each of our lives, move forward into becoming more of who we are created to be.  And we can celebrate each inch gained in the right direction.

What was one of your #everydaybrave moments this week, one obstacle you faced or a problem that you fixed or a storm you stood in?  Come on over to my facebook page and share by replying to this specific post so we can celebrate with you!

The Power of Simplicity in Christ

canotreesThe last few weeks have been intense.  Hmm, OK, intense is a dramatic understatement.

Between my own health hurtles and helping my folks navigate theirs, it has been a nonstop medical merry-go-round of specialists and hospitals, of navigating stormy diagnoses and mitigating medical side effects.  I’m shocked to see the horrific quality of over processed non-food served to patients in our local hospital.  So much so I got permission to bring home cooked meals and fresh vege/fruit juice to a close family member who is having to stay over a few days there. How can ANYone get better on food that has had the nutrition modified and processed right out of it?

So it is back to my Africa days of meal delivery to family in the hospital.  That is just what love does.  Period.  Love looks like something here just as it did there.  Some days love looks like hand delivered nutritious kale tonic (kale, apple, lemon & cucumber juice) and running medical interference to make sure the best course of action is being followed.

It is simple. Really simple. But we so often make it complicated.  It doesn’t have to be.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched a preponderance of teaching creep in at the edges of some streams of the Body under the banner of the prophetic and try to arrest her gaze and draw it to focus on things that are peripheral at best and straight-up deception at worst.

I believe in the prophetic.  My whole walk with Jesus has been shaped by profound prophetic encounters with Him. I’ve even had some really strange out of the box experiences spiritually.  So I am not negating genuine Jesus-centered encounters- even ones that seem weird or out of our theological boxes.  God is really big and equally creative.  Please hear me there.

But I have been in settings where the instruction very intentionally pulls the focus off of Jesus and draws it into complicated systems of “heavenly legal protocol”, laborious methods of spiritually cleansing DNA or super obscure marginal biblical references to things like “the nephilim”.  And I have seen first hand people in these settings get so confused and tormented, they began to doubt if their relationship with Jesus was enough.  In one particular event, I spent most of my time in between certain sessions having covert God set-up run-ins to counsel, encourage and break fear off participants from the previous session’s content.  That is just not OK.  At all.

Rev 19:10 makes things pretty clear, “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”  If the spirit of a prophetic insight, revelation, teaching or experience doesn’t point to Jesus or reference His heart or character, proceed with caution.  Jesus said the Kingdom comes to little children.  I have never seen a loved five year old stressed out over issues of legal protocol.

Are there elements of Kingdom protocol?  Absolutely.  But they are simply centered in a love relationship with Jesus not elaborate ceremony, structure or systems.  Does our generational line or DNA need cleansing and restoration?  Definitely.  But it doesn’t center around a herculean effort in prayer that we tediously perform hours a day weeks on end.  It centers around what Jesus has already paid for and accomplished on the cross.  It’s simple a matter of receiving by faith and thanksgiving what He has already done.  Again, it is all about Him and His work, not our works.

As for peripheral, obscure references of giants and nephilim taking center stage, I am well sure if I ever run into one Jesus will know exactly what to do. And He’s WAY bigger than they are so I’m not in the least concerned.  Beyond that, I am too busy falling in love with Him over and over again to let anything that isn’t centered in Him steal my gaze.

When I really need clarity from all the noise of different voices and views, I unplug and go find a quiet wooded cathedral of trees where all creation is groaning for Jesus to be revealed in us.  There in the stillness and the silence as I sit with Him, what is muddy becomes clear and I am embraced by the calm assurance He is ALWAYS enough.

Sitting under some trees with Jesus recently, I was thinking about all of this and He reminded me of the passage in 2 Cor 11:3.

But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. {NKJV}

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. {NASB}

When I dug a little deeper this verse becomes even more relevant to this conversation.  Here’s my extended translation from some of the original language used:

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived (seduced wholly) Eve by his craftiness (trickery, subtlety, false wisdom that is superficially plausible but misleading in appearance and ultimately wrong), your perceptions and purpose (mind and thoughts) may be led away and corrupted from (shriveled, withered away, be defiled from) the simplicity (singleness, purity and openness of heart) that is in Christ.

I’m sharing this, not in any way to say we need to shrink back from pursuing all that Jesus has for us in every way He chooses to reveal Himself and move in our midst.  Never.  Instead, I want to run headlong into Jesus’ embrace more everyday until all I am is hidden in all He is.  I want to be hungrier for Him and His Kingdom more today than I was yesterday.  I want to walk with Him in such a way that the reality of His heart and of the Kingdom of heaven breaks forth every place I go.

You too?  May I pray for you?

Jesus, if anyone reading this has gotten entangled with peripheral, confusing or harmful teachings that don’t lead deeper into You but rather to a place spiritually they no longer wish to be, would You please recenter and refocus their gaze?  Please cut them free from any heaviness or confusion attached so they can freely embrace and be embraced by Your beauty, grace and the fullness of Who You are.  We love You and are always amazed by Your love!  Amen.

Finding Home {On Navigating Transition & Re-Entry}

homeI am sitting here in Florida cross-legged on the floor typing this post. Then I will have to pack my computer up and go in search of an internet connection that will let me send it. My internet died 2 days ago and it will be 2 more until the tech comes to fix it. The irony of the timing doesn’t escape me.

From 2006-2013 I lived far from the reach of regular internet, electricity, running water, paved roads, mail systems, banking systems and medical care. I lived in a deep in the war torn African bush that had changed little for hundreds of years; where superhighways were dirt paths that carved their way through the scrub and grass with an order only those who grew up traveling them fully understood. Every other day I would pack my computer into a little backpack and head out on foot to find a connection at one of the local NGOs so I could do the basics of keeping in touch and administrative housekeeping.

I got used to bucket baths and candlelight, to nighttime walks beneath million star canopies, to sitting around the evening fire with local coffee, laughing with our house mamas as little ones slept in our arms. I got used to having to figure medicine dosages, to holding on for dear life on motorbike taxis, to slower rhythms and being surrounded with incredible community everyday.

Then in 2012-2013 my health finished a violent crash landing that catapulted me back to a once familiar world that suddenly felt bright and glaring, rushed, isolated and foreign. There is danger in leaving and letting someplace a world away change you, capture your heart, weave its beauty and hardship and wonder into the fabric of your very being. Once we do that, we really can never go back home again. It isn’t home that changes while we are gone. It is us who change from the going… {Keep reading the rest of this post over with the community at Velvet Ashes.}

Pin this for others to find? Here’s a pin-ready quote:findinghomequote

Sometimes Trust Is a Miracle

11025248_10206462440666760_7183773479328851597_oSometimes we have tunnel vision when it comes to the miraculous. 

We have tightly defined little boxes for what does and does not meet our criteria for a miracle.  Believe me, when you wear your physical need as openly as I do, sometimes the well-intentioned hunt you down.

When good-hearted people ask me if they can pray for my leg to come back, I usually say yes. I really don’t want to dash anyone’s humble attempt at ministry when I know it probably has taken every last ounce of courage to even ask me. I get it, stepping out to pray for someone can be a scary thing.

But too often when the answer doesn’t appear on command, I have wound up chastised for not having enough faith or given a pep talk about really believing more, agreeing more, standing more, releasing more, forgiving more, trusting more.

It is sad to see that a leg “grown-back” or “delivered” this side of the veil qualifies as a miracle, but a faith that stand’s for God’s timing and highest purpose in that miracle not so much.

Please let me clarify a few things. I am not talking about God sending birth defects or sickness to teach us a lesson or make us more effective.  I do not believe He does this, ever. I am not slighting His sovereignty, I am standing in His goodness and character.  Only an abusive parent would burn a child’s hand to teach her what hot was.  Our heavenly Father could not be farther from that description.

Here is the balance. While I don’t believe God initiates sickness or harm, I do believe He allows it. We live in a broken cosmos where so many things happen that are not from the heart of God and some of them are direct assaults of the enemy.  But to paraphrase something I have heard Graham Cooke often say: What God could easily prevent in His power, He sometimes allows in His wisdom. 

Faith is living in the tension of the inbetween when we don’t understand and still holding on to a relentless belief in God’s character and goodness.

Let me boldly unequivocally declare, I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES.

I have lived them.  I have seen the blind see, the deaf hear, food multiplied, shattered lives restored. I have staked my life God’s ability to make the impossible happen time and time again. I 100% believe in and for creative miracles and healing in my own life and in the lives of those around me, but I also believe in mystery when miracles don’t look like we envision them and that sometimes the greatest miracle of all is the grace to choose trust.

Trust in God’s timing and purpose when we just don’t understand.

Trust in His wisdom and way of answering our deepest prayers when it doesn’t look like we think it should.

Trust in His goodness and character no matter what our eyes see or circumstances scream, never reducing our theology to our experience or lack thereof.

Trust in His nearness and His whispers of love and grace and strength that hold us close and draw us deeper into His heart.

Trust in the mystery and the journey and the process and that God carries us when we cannot walk ourselves.

This is the trust that overcomes and conquers kingdoms and believes in cities unseen.  This is the trust that kicks back darkness, turns weakness into strength and makes the world not worthy of our lives laid down in love for Him.

By grace, Jesus today again I choose abandoned, total, relentless, beautiful, miraculous, sustaining, overcoming trust.  It is a gift I cannot give You beyond the veil, so let me give it to You everyday I have before I get there.