Overflow

The Friday before the Monday C19 left for college out-of-state, neighbors we hadn’t met posted on social media that they were giving away a full-size bed, a few years old with limited wear-and-tear, with an almost-new mattress. Free.

That morning, C19 had awoken in the twin-over-full bunk beds he’d had since childhood. We asked if he’d like a new bed, even though he wouldn’t sleep it in often. He replied with an emphatic, “YES!”

We didn’t need more to do that weekend, but nevertheless we made arrangements to see the bed, and the owner, congenial and overly generous, helped us load the pieces into our minivan. He easily could have sold the bed/mattress, but he just wanted it gone. Two trips and less than a half-hour later, our kid had a new bed he loved.

Q13 liked it, too. Since his bed was the metal frame we’d found, free, when the crib-daybed-full bed frame that had served both our children finally cracked, he decided he’d be moving in to the new bed as soon as his brother left home.

Guy recognized that Little Brother, easy-going and uncomplaining as he was, had grown tired of hand-me-downs. He needed a new bed of his own. He also needed a show of provision from his parents. So he checked online and found another almost-new bed/mattress combo for sale at a ridiculously low price. He bought it, and wouldn’t you know?, it matched the existing decor of Q13’s room as if we’d planned it all along.

We donated all the matching bedding from the twin-over-full bunks to charity. We listed the bunk beds for sale, and the low purchase price was still enough to pay for the purchased bed plus new bedding for the free bed.

And somehow, we still had a good quality full-sized mattress left over. We gave it to a young friend in her first apartment + (low-paying) professional job.

We thought we didn’t have time for more in an already overly-full weekend. But generosity flows downhill. Someone generously giving something away led to more, and more, and more. In the end, our kids had new-to-them beds they love, we came out about even on the cash flow, and we still had things to give away.

God is good!

By the way, I was going to title this post “Pay It Forward,” but I’ve already used that title on another post about someone’s generosity. C19 still enjoys that gift when he’s home and driving about town!

Abundant Life
Week 2: Grace-Fueled Gratitude
Luke 7:36-50

Connect
Share about a generous gift you have received.

Study
Read aloud Luke 7:36-50.
Describe Simon. Describe the woman. How does each interact with Jesus?
How does Simon view the woman? How does Jesus view her?
How would you retell this story in a contemporary context? Who would play the Pharisee and the woman?
Based on this story, why do you think the religious establishment and “sinners” had such different reactions to Jesus?

Live
Write a Yelp! review for the banker who forgave your $36,000 debt (equivalent to 500 denarii today). How would your review reflect your gratitude?
How are you like the Pharisee? Like the woman?
What moves you about the woman’s response to Jesus? Does anything about her response unsettle you, and if so, why?
How can we demonstrate our gratitude to Jesus?
What prayers has God answered for you?
How do we prevent a pharisaical, judgmental mindset? In other words, how can we keep God’s grace in constant view?
What would it take for the Church to be as welcoming to sinners as Jesus was?
Discuss: “Appreciating beauty and giving thanks for life’s treasures is not living in denial of life’s suffering and challenges. It’s what helps us cope with life’s suffering and challenges” (Rene Schlaepfer).
Create a Generosity Project—something you can do, ideally with others, to demonstrate and share your gratitude to God with others.
What is God saying to you through this passage, and what will you do about it?

Pray
Ask God to help you stay grateful and reflect His generous spirit to others.

Speak Grace

With Thanksgiving only days away, I am thinking about gratitude, grace, and the state of my heart.

Many of us were taught to ‘say grace’ at the dinner table. Something like:

Thank you, God, for the world so sweet
Thank you, God, for the food we eat
Thank you, God, for the birds that sing
Thank you, God, for everything!
Amen

Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

Still, it breaks my heart every time I realize that so many of us have not learned to speak grace to those who need it: all of us.

At about the same age we learn to say grace before dinner, we also learn to judge. Who is in and who is out? Who is a friend and who is not? Who can I trust, and from whom should I run? Obviously, we need to make sound judgments. We shouldn’t trust the wrong people. Stranger Danger is all too real.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

As we get older, our judgments become more sophisticated—and hurtful. We all recognize the popular kids, the mean kids, and the outcast kids in the middle school lunch room. Sadly, it doesn’t stop at middle school. We decide who is like us, who we like, and we love them—because they deserve it. Others deserve sympathy, compassion, pity, or even contempt. Of course, we don’t like to think of it this way, but it’s true.

James warns: “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (1:19). Similarly, Jesus exhorts: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged…why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Matt 7:1, 3).

Unfortunately, we aren’t quick to listen—we are quick to judge! We decide in advance that what that person did was wrong, not up to our standards, was something we would never do…so we don’t listen to their story, we don’t hear their heart.

With anger bubbling around our heart and head, blocking our ears, we speak out of hurt or disdain, and never get around to listening. Often we speak the judgmental words only to ourselves, or worse, in gossip; we don’t take them to the source of our frustration, because that would require a vulnerable conversation, which might be uncomfortable for both of us and necessarily involve listening. We cut people out rather than allow them to be human, to make mistakes. We cut people out rather than get real, with them and with ourselves.

Gracious speech can be an antidote to judgment. Paul encourages: “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Col. 4:6). To speak graciously isn’t just good etiquette. It flows from believing in our God of grace, believing that He loves us no matter what, believing that there is nothing we can do—for good or ill—that will ever change His love for us. When you know you are loved, love will flow through you. When you know you have received grace, you are able to share it.

Notice, I wrote “we” all through this post, because of course I am guilty. I can be quick to judge. I need to be quick to listen to the loving whispers of God, and quick to listen to your stories. I need to speak grace to you, and not just say grace before dinner.

Forward

Oh friends, how I have needed the words and wisdom of this post…! Even for those who don’t think of themselves as Creatives, our very lives are adventures we have the privilege to create. Ann yearns to cheer-lead and encourage, and I’m certain others also need the cool refreshment she’s offering, the gentle nudge to keep going. Let’s keep moving forward, stronger for moving forward together.

re:create recess #17: Ann McDonald

Forward.

I’m soul stirred by the concept of inhabiting forward motion lately.

Truth? I’m not even sure I know what that means, but it feels like the daily practice of choosing to leave yesterday completely behind so today and tomorrow can actually be new…

…new places and spaces where creating is fresh, not simply re-purposed from what we’ve always done.

There is this holy unrest in me to move forward. To see what is possible.

We’ve got something else to build, you and I.

It’s not time to settle in and get small.

The concept of soul-downsizing offends me, as I see some of my acquaintances fold up hope and shrink back in fear. Considering their ideas and dreams old and of no use…they call it wisdom. But it feels more like embarrassment or self-judgment…that comes not from God, not from love.

I believe our best upsized soul days are ahead. Let’s walk those days out together, you and I. It isn’t exit stage left just yet…no matter what age or cycle.

My heart yearns to cheer-lead and encourage in this season.

To remind us we’ve got something never before seen inside of us that wants to be created and come out.

Jesus came to give us abundant life and there is a piece of abundance that includes more.

It’s the “lying one” that came to steal, kill and destroy.

If our thoughts start to steal hope in us, they need to go.

If our dreams start to kill the blessing of prosperity, they need to go.

If our imaginations turn destructive, they must bow to the name of Jesus…and find, in that name, grace for hope in today and most certainly, tomorrow.

Everywhere I turn, my heart burns to lift our collective countenance.

To empower us to the next heap of joy. Not sappy happy, but deeply seeded, “heaven is actually real and it wants to break in on our every-day” kind of joy.

There is this piece of me that yearns to stand on the park bench and get my Berkeley preacher girl on:

“Take the music lessons at 80”
“Learn to ride the horse at 70”
“I heard about this couple named Sarah and Abraham who had a family after 90….”
“Build the idea you’re afraid of into an abundantly prosperous business at 30 – 60 – 100”
“Start an orphanage”
“Bring water to a village”

Why? Because we can’t create those things from a place of downsizing in our soul. They must come from a place of hope and courage. Those things come from abundance…

“Write the book”
“Write the book”
“Write the book!”

Why? Because you may not see yourself as an author, but heaven knows you as one…and time is waning, the veil is thinning…

As I see it, we humans are a resilient and marvelous bunch. Every single one, created by God with something great inside, but we must steward our part forward.

It’s not easy, but sometimes it is. Sometimes there is grace for today to forget and forgive ourselves so we can live our best fearless day with dreams abandoned to the impossible becoming possible…

This is my re:create cry in this season.

Re:create what is impossible without God.

Try.

And so this holy unrest in me to move forward. To build something new. To be something I’ve never been.

Forward. Upsized. In spirit, soul and vision.

Stretch our tent pegs to the right and to the left.

Every day we get a new chance. Every day. Every day we set the coffee and pour a cup for Jesus, convinced at some point He will, in fact, show up to drink.

What is our everyday hope? Do we still have one? Can we even find one in all the noise?

What is our tomorrow dream?

Don’t downsize your soul and fold it up because it feels hard or heavy.

Turn on the lights at home. Buy a new pillow. Have a dinner party. Have a dance party. Host a prayer group that keeps the music on and the feet walking while the prayers ascend…

So many questions I know, but for the Creative, questions stir life.

There must be unanswered questions that move our soul into places in glory we’ve dared to dream of…

For today, let the spaces and places you inhabit move you forward…not hold you back.

And here dear one, is our collective key: the doors only open forward…

Xo – Ann

Creative Ann McDonald has been designing spaces & places and enterprises from ideas for over 30 years. Having lived & worked in New York City, Beverly Hills and now the San Francisco Bay Area, she exists to empower people to do great things. Ann believes joy is strength and if God said it, it must be true…even when we can’t see it just yet. Her Idea to Implementation curriculum is part of the 7 Mountain Message, she mentors Kingdom Entrepreneurs & equips people to create prosperity from ideas.

She and her husband Patrick have recently co-created a new health minded endeavor, Forwardshape™, set to launch Fall 2017. The purpose of Forwardshape™ is to empower a multi-generational movement away from shame, regret, unbelief and unforgiveness into joy, peace and righteousness in the everyday. To join the movement free of charge prior to launch, visit www.forwardshape.com.

 

 

Releasing Our Guilt: Confession

Imagine the scene: a little girl, about four years old, wispy white-blond curls hanging to her shoulders, plays in her mother’s room while Mom takes a shower. She wanders over to the nightstand and gently slides open the drawer. Inside she spies her mother’s jewelry. Entranced, she picks up an earring, gold inset with a pearl. But in her clumsy fingers, and to her dismay, the stone falls out of its setting. What can she do with this now-broken treasure? She quickly shuts the drawer and tucks the earring and pearl under the edge of the long white curtains hanging just behind the nightstand. With the evidence out of site, Mom will never know that the child had anything to do with the earring.

Except… The guilty child returns to check on the broken bit of beauty. She tucks back the curtain, and a large black spider lurks in the earring’s place. Horrified, the girl drops the curtain, certain that the spider is a magical omen of judgment for her wrongdoing…

house-spiders-13

Interesting which childhood memories linger into adulthood, isn’t it? I can still feel the gasp in my throat, the thudding of my heart, the terror shaking my limbs. And yet I don’t remember what came next. I think I must have confessed to my mom, as I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to bear that guilt interminably.

Not long ago, Tween asked if we could talk about something, his tone making it clear that he had something serious on his mind. His friend had entrusted him with a secret, yet while he was working on a school project with another friend, he accidentally blurted out the secret. Tween felt terrible, sure that his friend would feel betrayed and unable to trust him ever again. He asked what he should do.

What should we do when we’ve hurt someone, even if they don’t know about it (yet)? Confess.

What do we want to do about it? Hide the evidence until we’re caught, and then blame someone else. At least make excuses.

Confession is hard. It’s so much nicer to avoid those deep, dark explorations of our hearts and minds, to pretend we’ve got it all together, to deny any and all wrongdoing.

Tween took the high road. He confessed that he had not kept the secret. And fortunately, his friend forgave him. In the end, both boys came out winners: Tween released his guilt and will be more careful in the future not to betray confidence; but their friendship itself is stronger as they trusted each other with truth and grace. They now understand their friendship as a safe place, where neither has to be perfect and both can be forgiven.

Confessing our sins before God is hard enough, but confessing to another human being is a different story altogether. We risk rejection and condemnation. Why even bother when the Bible is crystal clear that God forgives us when we confess (1 John 1:9)?

A dear friend taught me the value of confession. She had participated in an intensive discipleship training program where they took seriously traditions of the church that many in Protestant circles have ignored. One evening as she had dinner with Guy and I she suddenly blurted out: “Can I confess something to you both?”

I don’t think I had ever heard those words spoken aloud before. And certainly not about something that had nothing whatsoever to do with us. She hadn’t done anything to offend us, no lie or broken trust. Rather, she had already confessed to God but still needed to hear the words of absolution spoken aloud: “God has heard your confession and you are forgiven.” Just like sometimes we need to feel human arms embracing us in order to experienced God’s love, she needed trustworthy people to play a priestly role.

You know what? While I remember that she confessed, I don’t remember the details of her confession. It reminds me of this beautiful passage from Psalm 103:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.

With confession comes freedom. And a bonus: her confession changed the quality of our friendship as I never have to fear that she will withhold forgiveness. In fact, I trust her like few other people in my life. Those who recognize their own need for grace are far more likely to extend grace to others.

No one is perfect. We all blow it and need forgiveness. We are sinners in desperate need of a Savior. Through the cross of Christ, God stands ready to forgive our confessed sins. May we also be a people who freely give the grace to which He has called us.

Connect
Reflect on a childhood experience when you did something wrong. How did you feel before and after you either got caught or told someone what you did?

Study
Read aloud James 5:14-20.
How do you understand the connection in this passage between sickness and sin?Explain the roles of the sinner, God, other believers, and prayer in the discipline of confession.
Read James 4:7-10, a picture of repentance.
How is repentance related to confession?
Sometimes we want to excuse sin rather than confess it. What steps of confession do you see in this passage?

Live
Reflect on this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
How can confession help you see differently yourself and God’s work of salvation through Christ?
What stands in the way of more Christians practicing confession?
How might a discipline of confession affect your future behavior?
When have you practiced confession? Describe the experience.
What can you do to foster a grace-filled community in which people feel safe to confess their sins to one another?
Which Faith Training Exercises have you tried recently? Share joys and struggles.
Which exercises might God call you to this week, and why?

Pray
Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you freely live the reality of Christ’s forgiveness for your sins.

Hope Has Come

Hope. What is it, even? Does it make any difference?

I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight…

But hope is more than wishing. Hope is expectancy, pregnant with anticipated reality.

Hope gives us strength to muster on, to slog through the daily reality, harsh as it some days may be.

Hope is whispered truth that Someone lavishes on us great riches of love, even when we feel dirt poor in life’s oozing mud.

Our hearts ache this season – our family friend is dying, so unexpectedly quick. His own family prayerfully endures the momentary ups-and-downs of life’s end. Another sweet friend has a father sick, hopefully not-yet at his end. Her grandmother experienced what we can only call a miracle of complete healing. Why spare grandma, ready to go, and not dad, longing to stay?

Those major life movements. And the minor – the day-to-day, home-work-school-home – movements. The daily interactions of grace and pain that linger in soft spots of thought and heart and soul. The daylong and momentary communications as we load backpacks, drive carpools, share work and lunch and work, shuffle through homework before dinner before even-more carpools before bedtime – and when was family time?

Our church put on its annual Christmas concert this weekend: A Song of Hope.

Hope: What is it? Does it make a difference?

This song, Hope Has Come, set the tone and grabbed me at the core…

Come all ye faithful
See the love see the grace
That is born unto us tonight
Come all ye broken
See the love see the hope
That restores ev’rything that’s been lost

Hope has come to us tonight
Death is drowned out by His light
Hope is here and He’s alive
Takes our pain and lifts our eyes

O come let us adore Him…

What makes these minor – and major – movements bearable? The presence of God, so near, so here, so With Us Emmanuel, hallelujah! We have hope because of God’s love, because of the hope God pours out on us as He lavishes His rich-RICH love, to use the “old words” – “Oh, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should we called the children of God!” God is near. God is here. God loves us. We have hope.

Week 3 – Hope of His Coming
December 14-20

Read Scripture: 1 John 3:1-3
Candle lighting: Light the first three candles.

Read: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The first candle represents the hope of Israel. The second candle represents the hope of heaven. The third candle represents the hope of His coming.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be a child of God, now and forever! Think about it: how incredible that God – great big Creator of the whole world God – loves us and calls us His very own children. Just like we remain our earthly parents’ children even when we become grown-ups, we will always be God’s kids. And when Jesus returns, those who put their hope in Him will also be like Him. What a promise!

Pray: Dear God, thank you for loving us and making us your children. We look forward to eternity with you. In the name of Jesus we hope and pray, Amen.

 

Throughout the Week// light the candle, read and discuss the daily Scripture and pray together.

Light three candles as you say: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Read & Discuss:
Monday// Psalm 33:20// When has God helped or protected you?
Tuesday// Psalm 46:10-11// God says, “Be still…” because He was, is and will be with us. What hope does it give you that God holds us all in His hands?
Wednesday// Psalm 119:114// How can God’s Word give you hope?
Thursday// Matthew 28:18-20// How can you help others know about Jesus before He returns?
Friday// Romans 8:22-24// What would you say if you could crawl up on your Daddy God’s lap right now?
Saturday// Hebrews 11:1// What does faith in Jesus mean to you?

Pray: Dear God, thank you for loving us and making us your children. We look forward to eternity with you. In the name of Jesus we hope and pray, Amen.