Tag Archives: Jesus

Worship

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Today I heard the most beautiful sound.

It wasn’t a symphony or chiming bells.

It wasn’t a seagull calling out over the ocean.

It wasn’t the man I love professing his affection for me…

Today I heard the most beautiful sound.

It was a little girl standing behind me in church and singing praises to Jesus at the top of her lungs, with misshapen words and a few forgotten notes…

And I cried…

The most classically trained, perfectly tuned, ethereal utterance could not compare with the unashamed purity of emotion poured out by this sweet little girl.

That is Worship.

Worship is not something presented for our entertainment, to be critiqued, or to impress an audience of many.

Worship is singing, dancing, working, teaching, sharing, writing…

        For an audience of One

        Not to win His admiration,

        But because our love overflows and we just…can’t…keep…quiet.

Today I heard the most beautiful sound,

And I felt the heart of Jesus.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Matthew 19:14.

 

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Surnames & Identity

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“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” or would it? Five Japanese people are suing their government over an 1896 law that requires them to take the same surname to legally register their marriage. One of them argues that, “By losing your surname…you’re being made light of, you’re not respected…It’s as if part of yourself vanishes.” A Japanese constitutional scholar contends that, “Names are the best way to bind families.”

I would like to offer that both perspectives fall short of convincing. While family heritage plays a large role in our identities, the surname itself is always borrowed from another relative. Sure, you can blend and hyphenate names, but how long does the name become in order to identify oneself fully? If marrying someone causes you to feel disrespected, then why are you getting married? If you are partnering, “becoming one,” with another person, but don’t want to share their name, is it not an indication that you are rejecting their family and heritage? On the flip side, simply suggesting that it is the “best” way is also a statement of opinion, along with fears of “destroying social stability, the maintenance of public order and the basis for social welfare.” How, exactly, are either positions to be quantified, or reconciled?

I know of only one way…When God created man and woman, He did not give them separate names. “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). They were collectively named “Adam,” meaning mankind. It was the man who gave the woman a different name, “Eve,” and defined her as the “mother of all the living.” So the idea of individuality is coupled with separation – distance.

If people are wrapped up in the idea of being their own person and separated or distinguished at a distance from their spouse, then what is the point of being married? Is it not entirely, then, a self-serving enterprise? How well do those marriages generally turn out? When two people desire to come together, the goal is not individuality, but oneness. Each brings their own uniqueness and heritage to the table and creates a new entity, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family” (Genesis 2:23-25).

Personally, I have dealt with divorce and remarriage, and the surname issue was a big deal for me. In my first marriage, I did not wish to entirely take on his name. I didn’t want it hyphenated, so I kept my maiden name as a second middle name, but made certain it was written on everything. It didn’t take me long to understand that my hesitation and uneasiness was because something inside me didn’t trust him or respect his leadership. After divorce and reconnecting with Jesus Christ, I set my focus on following Him, and He brought into my life the man who would become my second husband. This man also shared the same direction and desire to follow Jesus, and I trust him implicitly. He leads where I am weak, and is willing to be submissive to my strengths. I had no doubt that I wanted to take on his name. Though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, it has grown me and strengthened me more with each passing day. While it was his name from birth, I proudly claim it as my own, and I am closer now than I have ever been to being the woman that God made me to be – the woman I want to be.

Regardless of earthly names, titles, labels, roles or relative position – first and foremost, my husband and I are children of God and carry His name. We are His ambassadors, sent to share the love of Jesus and to testify to His kingdom. Our goal and desire is to be unified and of one mind with Him. My perspective will be different than those who choose to follow any other path, because we have a different filter and focus.

Marriage, for me, is not about a political or social movement, a whim, a flight of fancy, or romantic notions that any other human could “complete me.” As a follower of Jesus, I can call my marriage (oneness, unity, relationship, etc.) by any name and it will still be as sweet because it is defined by the One who created my identity.

Reference article: “Debate on separate spouse surnames heats up before Japan court ruling.” By Elaine Lies. Reuters, December 10, 2015. http://news.yahoo.com/debate-separate-spouse-surnames-heats-japan-court-ruling-002048548.html

Photograph courtesy of Rebecca L. Jordan, 2015.

Back to School

Back-To-School-Make-a-DifferenceI’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for good teachers. Having seven kids of our own, each as different as Nashville from Hong Kong, I have often praised teachers for spending hours each day caring for over twenty kids in addition to any of their own at home. I’m certain it is incredibly rewarding and exhausting! In my youth, it seemed every other year I had a fabulous one or two teachers, and the alternating years I was saddled with teachers who were more anxious for the closing bell than any of the students. Teachers can make or break a student’s spirit, igniting a flame or smothering it. Going into this coming school year, my respect and admiration to the sacrificially-dedicated, student-loving educator has jumped to a whole new level as I am preparing to home-school four of my children. The fifteen-year-old boy has home-schooled for the past two years, and this year we’re adding all three of his younger sisters. With each of them at a different grade level, and taking into consideration their different learning styles, strengths, and the speed at which they function best (which is different for each of these four), I’ve spent the last several weeks combing over lesson plans, reading lists, possible field trips, and the calendar is my constant companion…Okay, so my calendar was my constant companion before this whole venture, but now there are planners for each of the kids and my master copy so that I know which one I have rotating where and when. Whew!

Our family did not part easily from public education, nor did we have a poor experience. On the contrary, all of our kids were blessed to attend one of the most amazing public schools in the country! Our decision was made as one is transitioning into middle school and will need more specialized attention with regard to testing (mostly related to formatting) than her teachers will be able to provide, a second wants to pursue acting and the crazy audition schedule that can result, and the third likes a challenge and is wanting to advance her studies beyond her grade level. As for me? The Lord has allowed me an incredible learning opportunity as I work on developing and organizing curriculum for these kiddos, and hopefully for other home-schooled kids and university level students in the future!

Whether we’ve ever put together a lesson plan or not, all of us are teachers. The younger generations (and even our own peers) look to us for inspiration – It’s why Pinterest exists! – So what kind of teacher are you going to be? Will your example raise others spirits and encourage them, or will you zap the energy and enthusiasm of those around you? I would charge each of you to think of a teacher, mentor, friend or family member that has taught you something positive and significant, and take the time to say “thank you.” If you already have recently, great! Think of another educator and say a positive word to them. It’s contagious and will, hopefully, resonate with the youth they are serving as well. So, no matter what your position or profession, endeavor to make it better and have a great school year!

Time Is…

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“Time is Fleeting.”

“Time is Infinite.”

“Time is of the Essence.”

“Time is Money.”

 Our understanding of time colors our perception of the world around us. There are essentially two modes of time: kronos and kairos. Kronos is chronological time. It involves punching a clock, scheduling, and prioritizing. Efficiency and productivity are its goals. Kairos is more elastic. It measures time in terms of relationships and events. Let me give you an example…If I asked you what you were doing at precisely 3:17pm on May 14th, 2014, you probably would have a difficult time recalling, and even if you could remember, the answer provided would be clinical, like reading it out of an appointment book. However, if I ask you to think back to your last birthday or the last time you went to your favorite restaurant with that special someone…Now the memories and related emotional responses begin to surface and flow. You can smell the food, remember the ambiance and tone of the lighting and perhaps hear background voices, even recalling whole conversations from that event – a look, a touch of the hand – it all becomes almost tangible again…

Our memory resides in kairos time, though western society functions in kronos. Most of the world still functions entirely in kairos time – punctuality is not as highly prized, getting straight to the point is considered rude and breeds distrust, and face-to-face communication is highly valued. Western-style-kronos-club members are convenience-driven. If a phone call or a text will suffice, business is done. Emails and conference calls may well close the deal – but keep them brief and succinct so the audience doesn’t fall asleep or tune you out.

When and why did we change? The key point in history came with the Industrial Revolution. Productivity became more important, with everything now being tied to earning potential. Money becomes king. As a follower of Jesus Christ, how do I reconcile that? Hmmm…

We have the concept of “free time,” meaning time not previously committed to some other endeavor, namely one that generate income. Perpetually busy, we fantasize about what we might do with our “free time.” How much money can we throw at it? And then, returning to work, the cycle begins again…

Our time, all of it, is actually free. It is a gift that God freely gives us because He is exceedingly patient…and yet it was not without a magnificent cost…

Every year, Americans celebrate Independence Day where we enjoy the freedom to participate in parades and fireworks shows, to grill hamburgers and hotdogs, go swimming or take in a baseball game – but the freedom we prize so highly came, and continues to come, at an incredible cost. Our military budget dwarfs all other nations, though we can’t seem to budget to care for our veterans when they return home – if they return. The lives lost or crippled may be quantifiable, but their value is incalculable…This is why we say that “Freedom isn’t free.” Likewise, True Freedom, that which no government or earthly authority can dictate or take away, was bought with the blood of one perfect individual – fully God and fully man – and we did nothing, nor can we accomplish anything to deserve His sacrifice. So…if Jesus bought our eternal freedom with His own blood and our time is a measure of His grace and mercy, then how should we use that gift to say, “thank you?” We are not merely stewards of the money, resources, and relationships entrusted to us, but also of the time we’ve been afforded – in whatever amount that is. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a reads, in part, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Luke 16:10-13 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you’ve not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?…No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

When Jesus said, “Come follow me…” to Andrew and Simon Peter, they walked away from their money-making livelihood and obeyed…imagine if they’d said “What about my job?” or “Can I pencil you in tomorrow?” But they knew the value of the One who called them. He may not be calling you to walk away from your job – Simon and Andrew were fishers, therefore Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” If you are not a fisherman, then this is not likely what God has in store for you…Are you an architect? It may be more likely that He is grooming you to build others up. Are you a teacher? Oh, wow, does He have a tall order for you! Are you an accountant, or a bus driver, or a journalist…Jesus didn’t call all of His disciples to be “fishers of men.” He called them as He had already equipped them.

If “time is fleeting,” then we shouldn’t let it go to waste. If “time is infinite,” then we should approach everything with an eternal perspective. If “time is of the essence,” then we should walk with His Spirit, seeking His wisdom and guidance, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on you own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own estimation; fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7). If “time is money,” perhaps we would be better served by serving God with our time, talents, finances, prayers and relationships, and let Him handle the rest.

Resurrection Day

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We’ve had a few brilliant moments of clarity this month as we’ve traversed through the seven year old being sick, and then myself, car problems, and extended family health issues. One of those perfect windows where everything seemed right with the world was Easter weekend. This year as my older boys ran around hiding sugar-filled eggs for my younger girls to find, and the picture-perfect weather between storms was calming my sinuses, my thoughts wandered back to the Old Testament Book of Nehemiah. It may sound like an odd connection, but bear with me as I chase this bunny rabbit. Nehemiah traveled 1,000 miles with permission and protection from the king of Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. These walls had been rubble for generations at that point. The people were seemingly lost in despair. Before something beautiful could be constructed, Nehemiah had to take a long, hard, honest look at the damage, and then set out to clear away the debris. So often I’ve thought about something that I’d like to accomplish, but there is too much rubble in the way – too many hurdles – too many inconveniences – and somehow I convince myself that must mean it’s not God’s will for me to complete that particular project. This is exactly what kept Jerusalem wallowing in shame and destruction for so long – it seemed too great a task and they were discouraged, brokenhearted, and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the damage. Our metaphorical damaged walls and lost-ness can have the same debilitating effect – leaving us feeling powerless and ineffective. The answer is not to wait until God sends a Nehemiah, but to follow Nehemiah’s example. He prayed for four months for the city, and then God prompted the king to ask Nehemiah what was on his mind, opening up the conversation and the possibility of healing. Which brings me to the second point: Nehemiah didn’t do it alone. He had others come along side him. God used the king to provide the resources and provisions. Nehemiah’s distant relatives, most of which he’d probably never met, all pitched in and had their section of the wall they were responsible to build and defend. Just fifty-two days later the walls were built – project complete? Not hardly. The clearing of the debris was necessary to build the wall. The building of the wall was necessary for the next step, getting the heart of the city right with God, and people right with each other. There are stages to healing. Where is the debris so thick in your life that you’ve determined to just ignore it? Are you trying to do it alone? The reason that people are supposed to be in a church community is not because it’s the right club to belong to, but because we need to be there for one another, loving each other and helping each other to clear away our rubble and rebuild. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).

Sin is simply anything that separates us from God – it is us deciding what is right and good instead of leaning on His perfect design and plan. If a builder decides to go solo on a whim and deviate from the architects plan, it could create a big ‘ol mess or at the least distrust between team members who thought they were all on the same team with the same goals and methods in mind. When parents aren’t on the same page regarding the training of a child, distrust and brokenness can result and a rift develops in the heart of the child, which continues to impact other areas of their life and relationships. Destruction begets more destruction. We all have some level of brokenness that we have to own up to. Looking in another direction will not make it go away. Ignoring it won’t make it better. Hiding it will only cause it to fester and rot. How do we begin to clear it away? Where do we start? Start with the one who understands every inch of our lives. He was the architect who fashioned an amazing floor plan for each of us, and it was all-good until we decided to confiscate the tools and change up the design. He is perfect, loving, forgiving, and He can make all things new. In the Russian language, the word for Sunday is pronounced Vos-kre-sen-ye. It literally means “Resurrection Day.” But before Christ could be resurrected, He had to die to clean up our mess. It is too big for one person, but not for God. He is the King who provides us protection in the midst of disaster, and whose limitless resources are available to us through Jesus. “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14 NIV). The light of Christ will expose all of the ugliness that we face, but it will allow us to see our way through it – one stone, one hurt, one apology at a time. No person, no Christian, no church is perfect. When Jesus was asked why He was hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes, He responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Matthew 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31 NIV). Our souls can be healed – even though we were dead in sin, separated from God, sick, and alienated from the church because of imperfect people that treated us poorly. God has a lot of patience and a lot of patients. While this life will never be perfect, He can take all your imperfect parts and employ others to help you rebuild the walls of a structure that will shelter others during their storms. You may be the answer to a prayer just 52 days from now that someone else is seeking. Shine a light on it. Find others who are following the Architect to help you resurrect this life, and rise each day in the knowledge that He loves you. He invested His whole self in you. You were an investment worth dying for, and you too can be resurrected with Him.

Born to Do This!

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When I was starting out in college (the first time around) I came across a letter-sized black poster with a white swoosh symbol on it. Being familiar with the commercials for Nike and the tag line, “Just Do It,” I put it on the wall in my dorm room as a reminder that no matter how tired I was, or how directionless I felt, I could not give up. The problem I had was never a lack of determination, but a longing to understand my purpose. Why did God choose to place me in the time period that He did, with the family and in the birth-order that He did, and what in the world was I supposed to do with any of the talents and resources that He’d handed me? I’d heard people with regard to this or that say to me, “You were born to do this!” But was I? Just whose voice was speaking on behalf of God? Who should I listen to?

Our oldest child wasn’t much for listening through his teenage years, but after becoming a father at age twenty on Christmas Eve 2014, he’s started asking a lot more questions, and really taking to heart the answers given. Our second oldest is getting ready to go off to college and is struggling with which university to pick. When I was where they are now, though I believed fully in Jesus Christ, I didn’t truly understand what it meant for Him to take the lead, or for me to follow. I still attempted to do things in my own strength – to do what seemed rational, logical, or responsible rather than asking the Lord AND WAITING for Him to answer. He knew I would do that, and He graciously carried me through a host of poor decisions anyway.

So I’ve walked quite a bit farther since then, but focused on keeping more in step with Jesus and His Word, and I’ve learned a lot. One of the many things He’s taught me is that (See Exodus) the enemy is always in hot pursuit. If I am listening to anything other than His Words or following any other path than the one He’s carved out for me, I will get distracted and overtaken. The enemy will pick me off and consume me. If I will wait, listen, trust Him, and follow, He will make straight my path. That path may not lead to immediate prosperity – I may wander in a desert for 40+ years – but in the midst of that, He still provides (quail, manna, water). The banquet is yet to come.

So what am I born to do? I am a missionary. It is my life’s mission to be actively involved in an intimate relationship with Jesus and to introduce others to Him. How? Find where you are motivated – What stirs you up, brings you tears of joy or frustrates you the most? As an example, when I was seven years old, the Reflections art contest theme was “I Have a Dream…” patterned after MLK Jr’s famous speech. My dream was for every child who was too poor to have a birthday party to come together and a celebration would be provided for them. When I received an allowance at age thirteen, the first thing I wanted to do was sponsor a child, which I began doing through World Vision. Imagine my tears of joy when, years later, World Vision added birthday celebrations once a year in every village and I get to be a part of it! The point is not to pat myself on the back, but to point out where my obvious motivation always was (never discount the passions of a child – there’s always an underlying theme). Take that motivating factor and mix it with the talents, abilities, and interests that God gave you & presto! You’ve got a good idea of how He wants to shape and mold you – you’ve got your starting point. You still need the light of truth that only He can provide to guide you step-by-step. My starting point is a compassion for others that leads me to combat injustice through service. The gift He’s provided that I’ve used most prolifically throughout my life is my voice. Most people thought that meant I had to perform on a stage and live in a tour bus, but God had other plans. I am a voice-over actor. I am a teacher to my children and of preschool music in my church. I am an encourager and editor to my husband (who’s soon to be a professor/preacher). I am learning to translate into other languages. I still sing – but now for an audience of One.  I am a writer, passionate about research and sharing God’s Word. And I will not give up, shut up, sit down or stop moving forward as directed by His Word until the day He calls me home. What are you born to do?

Pigeonholed

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Pigeonholed

A few reasonable definitions might be “to assign to a particular category or class, especially in a manner that is too rigid or exclusive,” or “an oversimplification of a group or individual that paints an inaccurate portrait of reality as it applies to that group or person.”

People who are pigeon-holed are classified consciously or unconsciously by another or group of others in an attempt to compartmentalize or understand something that is perhaps beyond their level of interest or comprehension. This allows them to put the matter aside and ignore it.

These neat little mental boxes effectively create barriers between the two parties and can cause open communication to disintegrate.

I find it to be particularly painful when the misperceptions, or lackadaisical approach to relationship building is perpetrated by those who should know better, those who claim to have a relationship with you, but clearly hale from a different planet.

Certainly, I’m venting a bit of personal frustration, but I’m truly writing in order that I might share what helps me to bear up under some fairly heavy annoyances:

1) I don’t have to bear them alone. I have a Savior who understands me for better and worse. He has said, “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you” (Hebrews 13:5).

2) He understands my frustration because He has felt it in far greater measure than I have. Those who should know Him the best often try to put Him in a neat little box and they miss the bigger, truer, more beautiful picture.

“The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (Psalm 14:2).

“…Those responsible for teaching my law did not really know me…(Jeremiah 2:8).

“…my people are foolish. They do not know me…They have no understanding…” (Jeremiah 4:22).

In John 7:27, Jesus is speaking in the temple and some want to believe, but they dismiss His teaching because of an inaccurate perception, “But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

The people had their own version of what the Messiah would be like — a mighty warrior-king after the more masculine fashion of David, a lion from a far-off place. But they forgot Isaiah 40:10-11, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power… He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” King David was first a shepherd, before claiming the throne as king. The Lord Jesus also is our Shepherd and is exceedingly patient with us (2 Peter 3:9). One day He will return as our conquering King, but in the meantime, He endures the mislabeling, misunderstanding, and mistreatment of His name.  One day all will see clearly.

3) There is a teachable element in all circumstances. Sin and fear blind us to the truth around us and within ourselves. I have to ask myself, “How often have I been guilty of trying to pigeon-hole or ignore God?” I can then ask His forgiveness and learn how to grow closer to Him. You can’t change others perceptions necessarily, but you can learn from the situation and alter the way that you approach The King. When you truly love someone, it pains you to have hurt or neglected them in some way, and by realizing the distance you’ve created, you’ll naturally wish to move closer to them in proximity and intimacy in order to repair the breach, thereby growing positively in your relationship.

If you don’t know Him yet, introduce yourself. If it’s been a while since you put Him on a shelf, revisit the box, and you’ll find that you never really had Him contained anyway.

Easter Isn’t Over Yet…

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This Easter I wanted to help my girls to understand that the holiday is more than just baby chicks, bunnies, and chocolate eggs. As I went looking for the items, the Scriptural significance of each one came to me. I gave each of my daughters a basket along with this note:

Your Easter Basket

 A princess to remind you that you are daughter of the King.

Romans 8:15-17

  A mirror to remind you who He created you to be.

Ephesians 2:10

 Bath soap to remind you what truly washes your sins away and makes you clean.

Hebrews 1:3

  Nail polish to remind you of the beautiful hands and feet that were pierced for you, And that now you represent His hands and feet too.

Romans 10:15

 Cleaning wipes to remind you to serve others just as Jesus did by washing the feet of His disciples.

John 13:12-17

 Lip gloss to remind you that every word out of your mouth should be sweetened with the Fruits of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23

  A little lamb so that you remember to stay close to the Good Shepherd, Always.

John 10:11

 They held each item, read the corresponding note and looked up the reference together. I must say, this little exercise will help me to think about things differently when I’m doing simple tasks like putting on nail polish or lip gloss, or even looking in the mirror and remembering that I am valued by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords so much that He would hang beaten and exhausted on a cross for me. I can see Him looking down at me and uttering the words, “Father, forgive her. She doesn’t know what she’s doing.” And then to include me in the power of His resurrection anyway, and given a seat at the great banquet table?! Choco-egg-birthing-bunnies have got nothing on my Risen Jesus!  Resurrection Sunday is just the beginning…Easter isn’t over yet.