Advent 2: Be Content (2019)

Get a modest place and be content there Mark 6:10

Jesus invites us to be content, an invitation we struggle to receive. The focus of Advent is our longing for the Savior, but instead we make it about longing for the perfect gifts. Santa may be making a list and checking it twice, but we hit the malls more than twice. I read that the average American household spends over $1,000 on Black Friday sales alone.

I like the advice on shopping for children: something they’ll want, need, wear, and read. Now that my kids are young adults, we’re all about experiences. Tickets and gift cards and memberships they can enjoy with friends or family. Experiences that will create memories and won’t clutter up their rooms with more stuff to manage, clean, organize.

A good question during this season (and throughout the year): am I content with what God has provided? Am I content with my home, my job, my neighbors and friends, my hobbies? Another helpful question: Where do I notice grumbling and dissatisfaction, and what will I do about it? For example, if I’m frustrated with housework, I can clean up, even if that means delegating tasks to less than enthusiastic young people.

One way to cultivate contentment is to practice gratitude. I am grateful for the people living under our roof who also make messes. I am grateful for the healthy food consumed on plates that mean more dishes. I am grateful for the clothes we wear that make piles of laundry. I am grateful for the appliances that make cleaning dishes and clothing easier. I am grateful for the holidays and the opportunity to decorate and celebrate even though, at the moment, my home contains a hodgepodge of both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Jesus, help me be content with what you have provided. Amen.

Want your own set of these devotional cards? FREE download right here. Perfect for stocking stuffers, or feel free to share the link so others can get their own set.

Advent 1: Follow Me (2019)

Come, follow me…and I will send you out to fish for people. Mark 1:17

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the church season in which we remember our longing for the arrival of the Messiah. My friend The Creative Resource and I have created a set of devotional cards you can use in any order all year long, or you can use them in order during Advent as an Advent calendar. This set of cards all feature two words spoken by Jesus as found in Mark’s gospel; you’ll find Nancy’s artwork on one side, and the corresponding Scripture and a prayer written by me on the reverse.

FREE download, available here.

Also during Advent, I will post a longer meditation on Sundays using the words on that day’s card. We’re not following the traditional themes—love, joy, peace, and hope, or the characters of Jesus’ birth narrative—but the way the two word themes of Jesus play out chronologically in Mark’s Gospel.

The First Sunday of Advent: Follow Me

Jesus met people where they were: the seashore, the tax collector’s booth, in a tree, caught in sin. He went to them, gracefully interrupting their lives in progress. He didn’t expect them to clean themselves up before they came to Him, holy and ready. Truly, He loved but didn’t much like those who considered themselves holy; those were the ones who thought their own goodness could save them; they didn’t need a Savior.

Sinners who recognized their need for a Savior, that’s who Jesus looked for. And Scripture shows us so many beautiful scenes of sinners recognizing their Savior Jesus when He arrived.

Simon and Andrew, James and John, fisherman at work casting and preparing their nets, Jesus called them first. Was it a crisis? Did they wonder at this stranger who walked up with an unlikely invitation to follow Him? Though they did, at once and without delay. Maybe they had heard of Him, this One who had strolled their town, Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God: God’s kingdom has come near. Repent and believe!

Maybe they were intrigued by His words: I will sent you out to fish for people. Fishing for fish, they knew; what could it mean to fish for people?

We still think we have to get cleaned up for God. We gussy up for church, out of respect, perhaps, but also to fit in. We wouldn’t want anyone to look askance. Would they, would we, look askance if we knew the truth of one another’s lives?

The first disciples must have reeked of fish. They didn’t shower and change before following Jesus, before He put them to work fishing for people. He accepted and loved them just as they were, and began immediately to show them what God’s kingdom looks like: healing, teaching, praying, loving: restoration.

That’s the journey Jesus still invites us on. Wherever we are today, this moment, Jesus appears to us if we have eyes to see Him. He wants us, just as we are, to follow Him. To learn from Him what His kingdom looks like. What love looks like.

Jesus, thank you for inviting me on the adventure of loving others. Amen.

Creative Collaboration

One of the great joys of my professional life over the last many years has been my ongoing partnership with my friend Nancy, aka The Creative Resource. I write/edit words and she makes them pretty. I hatch ideas and she makes them real and, in most cases, even better than I imagined. She is a fabulous photographer, graphic designer, artist, hand lettering extraordinaire; she is also a woman of deep faith with a kind heart of gold. And she loves dogs and coffee, which makes her an all-around terrific friend.

We have both moved on from our side-by-side week-in-and-out roles; in fact, she moved more than an hour away. But that didn’t stop us from continuing our collaboration.

Last year we created a set of devotional cards—her hand lettering art on one side with a Bible verse and a prayer written by me on the reverse. We sold them at our church craft fair and book shop to great response. People appreciated them as attractive countertop reminders to pause in each day and remember what’s important. They also make great stocking stuffers.

So we decided to produce another set: To Do Cards take two.

This set is so fun (if I do say so myself)… Each card features two words spoken by Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. Nancy did a beautiful job hand lettering them in on-trend black and white, an classy fit with any decor. Though they are currently arranged in the order they appear in Mark’s Gospel, you can use them in any order as they strike a note in your heart. They are numbered but not dated, though if you start with Day 1 on December 1 (this Sunday! How in the world did we get to December already?), you’ll begin the month—and Advent—by making preparations and end on Christmas Day by asking Jesus to stay with you, an Advent calendar of sorts designed to fill your heart with love rather than your mouth with chocolate.

To Do Cards take two are available to you as a FREE download. All you have to do is give us your email. We promise not to spam you; we’ll email you just a few times a year about other inspirational creative projects we’ve cooked up. Please feel free to share this post so others can get in on the fun as well.

Merry Christmas already!

I Went Home.

Many of the Christian women writers, teachers, and preachers I follow have posted this week about John MacArthur’s deplorable behavior at a recent men’s conference. He was asked what two words come to mind when he hears the name “Beth Moore.” He replied, “Go home.”

Beth Moore has been a powerful Bible teacher for 40 years, teaching women since her Southern Baptist Church won’t permit women to teach men. Her reach has extended far beyond the Southern Baptist Church, however, through her books and videos and conferences. She is intelligent, well-read and -studied, dynamic, and one of the best preachers I’ve heard in any pulpit anywhere. Arguably, she is the Billy Graham of female preachers.

And John MacArthur et al quite obviously feel threatened by her influence, because they think it’s funny to publicly mock her. I purposely haven’t watched the video, because I have read it thoroughly described by several respected sources. And because I have heard and experienced similar words from men; some meant well, others used their words carelessly and, perhaps, unaware of their own bias.

For most of three decades, I’ve spent my career in the Church. I showed up day after day, year after year, in one, two, three churches, using my gifts, skills, and creativity in every possible way to express God’s truth to God’s people. Until I finally admitted that I was too tired and too hurt from banging my head on the glass ceiling.

I went home.

But I haven’t given up, and I will not be silent. As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will use whatever platforms I have to speak truth:

God loves me.
God loves and gifts all His people (male and female; white and POC; old and young; rich and poor; straight and LGBTQ+; throughout time and the world over) to share His love.
All God’s people are preachers, though only some use words.

I may never again step foot in a pulpit (though I don’t rule that out), but I will never stop sharing God’s love. I am a God-loving and God-gifted woman. Even from home, you can hear me roar!

For more of the story of my ministry experience, please read this post.

Read these posts from two women I respect:
Cara Meredith
Sarah Bessey

Cover photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Power Posing

I first heard of power posing years ago from a friend who mentioned that she was teaching her young children to stand in front of the bathroom mirror every morning, hands on hips like Wonder Woman or Superman, and speak positive words to themselves, for example, “I am amazing!”

Okay. I’m all for positivity. Whatever works.

Turns out there is scientific support for assuming a power pose. Our body language both reveals our inward state and can influence it. In my early 20’s, I remember having to sit through an uncomfortable staff meeting. Afterwards, an older-than-me wise woman pulled me aside and told me that my crossed legs, crossed arms, and downward chin-tilt had given me away. I am an open book, and I definitely have resting bitch face, and working toward more positive body language will improve not only how I feel but how others feel toward me.

Power posing in the mirror, with positive affirmations, may help, apparently. As will taking up all the space I need, physically and otherwise. (Why do women need to be taught these things that men seem to know instinctively?)

This week’s Bible study comes from one of my favorite passages: Psalm 139. This beautiful poem about God’s passionate pursuit of His beloved–the Psalmist, me, you, humankind–never fails to move me. I need, we all need, regular reminders of how loved we truly are.

But this week came with new insight. Those three big theological words/concepts, the Omni’s–that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere-present), and omnipotent (all-powerful)–are also pictured in this Psalm. In fact, they can serve as hand-holds to the poetic structure: vv1-6 show God as omniscient; vv7-12 show God as omnipresent; vv13-18 show God as omnipotent. What a beautiful pairing: that God is as ALL as the biggest theological concepts and so intimately involved with His creation. Yes!

But then, what about vv19-22, where the Psalmist moves from God’s love to invoking His wrath on “the enemy”? Well, isn’t that just so human? He knows he is created and loved by God, and also angry that everyone doesn’t get it. The world isn’t as it should be and the Psalmist feels ticked off, like we all get from time to time. And yet, he doesn’t dwell there but quickly asks God to search his own heart, to clean up his junk and lead him in righteousness. Good move!

What does this have to do with power posing? I was struck again this time through that our all-powerful God comes searching for us, before we were a twinkle in our parents’ eyes, before we had anything to give. And His pursuit of us, when we acknowledge it, should give us courage, should empower us to know deep in the core of our beings that we are amazing. Because He made us.

We can stand, hands on hips, speaking aloud The Truth: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made!” We don’t give ourselves superpowers, but receiving and repeating the truth of God’s love sung over our lives should give us renewed strength. What might change in my day, in my life–or in yours–if we regularly repeated those words to ourselves?

Who is God: What is God Like?
Psalm 139

Connect
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?

Study
Read aloud Psalm 139:1-6.
Notice all the things God knows.
What does it mean to be hemmed in by God, with His hand upon you? Explain.
Read aloud Psalm 139:7-12.
Notice all the places God is present with us.
What does it tell you about God that He is always present with you?
Read aloud Psalm 139:13-18.
What does this section say about God’s power?
What value does God put on each day of each human life?
Read aloud Psalm 139:19-24.
Why is the Psalmist angry? How does he handle his anger?

Live
What does it mean to you that our all-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful God is also so intimately personal with people?
How does it (or might it) impact your everyday life that God pursues you so passionately?
How can you share with others the love of God portrayed in this Psalm in ways they can receive?
What is God saying to you through this study, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Pray aloud the prayer of vv. 23-24, ending in silent confession and dedication.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on Psalm 139:13-14 individually and with your family.
What does it mean to you that God made you?
How might your day be different if you said to yourself (and God) in the mirror every morning, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made”?
Thank God for doing such good, creative work in your life and the world.

Sabbath 3

Well now, that Mexico trip sure is something

For eight long days, early mornings to late nights, we traveled and camped, worked and sang, ate rice and beans and lived communally. We shared a memorable and almost indescribable experience while fourteen teams composed mostly of teenagers built homes for families who had lost their homes to a fire last fall.

It was energizing and exhausting.

I came across a new-to-me word the day after we returned: quanked. It means, “to be overpowered by fatigue.” Oh, yes, I’ve been feeling quanked. A week later and I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.

I imagine I’ll continue to process what we lived and learned for some time to come, but life doesn’t stop just because we’ve been traveling. While it would have been nice to sleep for a week, we had to restock the fridge, unpack and do all the laundry, parent our kids and, of course, work.

So, yesterday was Sunday and I had so much still to do. Instead, I made an intentional decision to Sabbath. I taught my 4 year old Sunday school class (cute chaos). I read a book for fun, then napped. I read my Bible and wrote in my gratitude journal. I made a nourishing pot of soup to share with my family and we enjoyed some TV time together (Buddy vs. Duff, dueling cake makers on Food Network, and Game of Thrones; Guy and I are on Season 1, racing to watch the whole series now that the final season has begun).

To be honest, it felt both refreshing and a little boring. It might have been easier to keep going business as usual. But the world kept turning and didn’t miss me.

Sabbath: The Power of Rest
Matthew 12:1-14

Connect
Share about a good deed someone did for you recently.

Study
Read Matthew 12:1-14
Name all the examples, real and conjecture, of Sabbath law breaking that Jesus exonerates. What do they have in common?
Explain the connection between “mercy, not sacrifice” and the Sabbath.
How might the Pharisees, rather than the disciples, be the ones in danger of breaking Sabbath law?
What does Jesus say and demonstrate about what is and isn’t appropriate on the Sabbath?

Live
Did you take any steps toward implementing a Sabbath practice this week? If so, how did it go?
How do you decide what is and is not permissible for you on the Sabbath?
Why is it important to respect others’ interpretation of what Sabbath rest looks like?
What might it look like to spend Sabbath extending mercy and goodness to others?
How might a Sabbath practice itself be an opportunity for God to provide healing in your life?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to fill you with mercy and goodness.

Family Share
Use these questions to reflect on Matthew 12:9-13 individually and with your family.
What are some good things you can do for others?
How can taking a Sabbath day of rest be a good thing God wants to do for you?
Ask God to help you do good things for others.

Sabbath 2

You find what you look for.

I’ve been thinking about Sabbath, so of course I’ve found it even when I haven’t been actively looking. Try these unintentional definitions:

Stop doing and just be here.

“This is the day that the Lord has made. You can rejoice and be glad in it. You can have fun and laugh and be peaceful about your to-do list because God is in control, and you can have total peace in Him.” Annie F. Downs, 100 Days to Brave p.162

Recently, while perusing a book about loving your neighbor, I came across this paradigm:

Put first things first.
Hack off the unnecessary.
Be interruptible.

Those three points have hung on to my imagination.

My first things first: God, family, friends, work, rest/play. So how can I not observe Sabbath if a) it’s God’s command, and He wants to spend time with me; and b) rest/play is already a priority, one that I don’t make enough time for regularly? Leaving my work email off, letting the house be less than pristine, long dog walks rather than our usual quick route, reading all the books, choosing activities that feel life-giving rather than draining–all good!

Hack off the unnecessary: The author wrote about Michelangelo carving the David and famously saying that he “simply” carved away everything that wasn’t his masterpiece. If my life is my masterpiece, my gift devoted to God, then what do I need to carve away to reveal its beauty? One example: I added a time-tracker to my iPhone. Last week it alerted me that my usage was significantly down, but still at over an hour/day. Yikes! What else might I have done with those wasted hours? Today it alerted me that my usage was down to a much more reasonable less than 15 minutes/day (still too high?).

Be interruptible: I shouldn’t be so busy that the task at hand takes precedent over something else–or someone else–God wants me to see. Sabbath is an interruption of sorts to my regularly-scheduled week, one which prioritizes God. I can choose to see human interruptions at any moment during the week as gifts from God.

Sabbath: The Power of Rest
Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Connect
What do you enjoy about your work?

Study
Read aloud Deuteronomy 5:12-15.
Why are we commanded to remember the Sabbath?
How would it help the Israelites to remember their deliverance from slavery? In other words, what is the connection between work, slavery and rest?
How are we to keep the Sabbath holy?
How does the Israelites’ Sabbath benefit others?

Live
Did you take any steps toward implementing a Sabbath practice this week? If so, how did it go?
How do you define “work”?
Is it possible for you to get all your work done in six days? If not, why should you still observe Sabbath?
How does society define “rest” and how might that be different from “a Sabbath to the Lord”?
How might Sabbath benefit your relationships with others?
What mighty acts of God would it help you to remember?
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Remember the ways in which God has delivered you, then ask your mighty God to help you keep Sabbath.

Family Share Questions
Use these questions to reflect on Deuteronomy 5:12-15 individually and with your family.
What does “work” look like in your life?
What can you do to get your work done in six days?
Ask God to help you experience true rest for one day each week.