If I'm Going to Rise Up About Something

I find that I am often frustrated by Christians' response to things.  I'm not saying we shouldn't stand up for what we believe in, or that we shouldn't have the freedom to speak our minds.  I'm not.  There are plenty of things I feel strongly about, and I'm certainly entitled to my opinion, and  I'm equally entitled to speak about those things (based on the Constitution of this country where I live), and I'm equally entitled to "take a stand" about those things. (and i'm entitled to write run-on, grammatically incorrect sentences when I feel passionately about something!)

But what I am not entitled to do is to be hateful.  I am not entitled to be hurtful.  I am not entitled to misrepresent Jesus and His love for ALL mankind, regardless of race, or gender, or political orientation.  I am not entitled to make you feel like you are less than me because we do not share the same religious beliefs.  I am not entitled to judge you.

I am called to be different.  I am called to use my powers for good ("Do not withhold good to those whom it is due when it is in your power to do so.")  I am called to love, unconditionally, unequivocally, without reservation or regard to political or religious or any another persuasion.

So if I am going to rise up and cry out and want to make a difference in the world . . .

If I am going to put my energy someplace . . .

If I am going to try to change the world to be what I believe God would want . . .

I'm going to rescue babies, and help dig water wells, and help rescue modern day slaves, and feed the poor, or at the very least I'm gonna spend some time getting to know my neighbors and loving them better.

I could go on.  But I won't.  I don't want to join the melee.  (I think I just did).

I just want to say that I love Jesus.  And I love people.  And if my love for Jesus and you isn't the *first* thing you notice about me, then I need to work on myself before I even THINK about what you need to change about you.

All that to say, before you act . . .before you speak . . . ask yourself, "Is what I am about to say or do going to be a beautiful reflection of Jesus or a hateful reflection of myself?" My answer to that question should drive who I am and how I act in the world that I am called to love.

Why You Need to Cut Your Church Staff Some Slack at Christmas

If you've never worked in a church at Christmastime, or had a spouse or parent who worked at a church at Christmastime, then you may not know the immense amount of STRESS that comes with this holiday.

In the Christian church world, Christmas Eve is the Super Bowl.  It's the celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world.  It's a month long building of events and concerts and plays and markets and parties and dinners, all culminating in THE EVENT, Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is the single most attended service of the year in churches, by Christians and non-Christians alike.  And I have to tell you, that's a lot of pressure for a church staff. In many cases, it's the only chance people will give the church, so you gotta get it right.

Keep in mind that people who work at a church also have families, and family parties, and neighbors and traditions, and school events, and shopping and all the things everyone else has to do.  (Yes, I know other people have jobs at Christmastime, but trust me, it's different!  I've been on both sides of the fence.  It's different!)

And when your family is dressing up all cute and feeling all warm and snuggly and festive as you attend the Christmas Eve service together, keep in mind that the folks who work at the church are attending ALL of the services while their family is most likely at home, celebrating without them, or "making the most of" the fact that their family member isn't there with them.

And they've probably been there for hours getting ready for the service.  No details have been left to chance.  The candles, the music, the lights, the message.  It's all been thought about for a long time.  Even if your church does it simply, it's still a massive undertaking for the staff.

Why am I writing all of this?  It's not because I'm counting my blessings that I don't work in a church anymore.  I loved working there and often miss it.  (Well, parts of it.)

I'm writing this because this Christmas I want you to cut your church staff some slack.  I want you to shower them with grace.  I want you to withhold how you wish they'd put real trees up instead of artsy lighted tree branches.  And don't feel the need to critique the marketing of the Women's Christmas dinner that you missed. I want you to be thankful that there WAS a Children's Choir performance and that your child got to sing in it, even if they didn't have a solo.

I want you to appreciate that someone had to set up and tear down and set up and tear down and set up and tear down the insane amount of extra events that people seem to want to plan AT church at Christmastime.

Please, take the time to send them a card and write a meaningful note in it.  Not just for your Senior Pastor (though he's clearly important) but to any staff member that you interact with regularly.  Or give them a gift card (even it's $5 to Starbucks) or just do something nice for them!  Mow their yard.  I don't know and it doesn't really matter.  Just be thoughtful is my point.

And best of all, when they ask you to, or better yet, BEFORE they ask, volunteer to serve.  You'll have plenty of chances.  There will be Children's events and Student events and Women's events, and OF COURSE Christmas Eve.

All that to say, this Christmas, let your church staff (if you have one) inhale the beauty of the season by helping them a little bit more.

Trusting Requires I Lose Control

When I was a young woman, 20 to be exact, I fell in love with the Church.  I'm not saying I fell in love with Jesus, (in truth, and sadly, that didn't come until much later), but I did fall in love with the Church.  Having come from a somewhat difficult childhood that was often chaotic and stressful, I found comfort in the rules and structure of church.

The Church offered me boundaries and a feeling of control that my heart and mind craved.  It taught me how to read my bible in a structured way, how to pray in a structured way, even how to worship with rules and decorum.

Of course, as I type these words, I know that what the church taught me in my early days of Christianity was to love religion, but I know that the Holy Spirit found me there, knee deep in my religion, and rescued me, and for that, I am grateful.

In the last few years, I have come to understand how desperately I hold onto control, and the root of that is because  I felt so out of control as a child.  I find great comfort in knowing what is ahead. I'm a planner.  My lists have lists.  I have contingency plans.  I mean, why take the road less traveled? That's not a plan! And why plan for tomorrow when you can make a 5 year plan or a 10 year plan?  I'm not saying there is anything wrong with planning, to a certain extent.  It's when trusting your ability to plan overrides your trust in Jesus that there's a problem.  And that's where my problem is.

Sunday, at church, we sang a song that contained the phrase "trust without borders."

I felt like the words became the only words on the screen, an indictment to my secret character flaw, and the weight of that indictment sucked the oxygen out of the room.

From there, the pastor went on to tell a story of Mother Theresa and how when once asked to pray for clarity for someone, she refused, stating that praying for clarity was really just a way of wanting the security (and control) of a mapped out plan.  She stated (I'm paraphrasing) "Clarity doesn't require trust.   Instead, I'll pray for you to trust without boundaries."

And there it was again.  Trust without borders.  Trust without boundaries.  Trust without conditions. Trust without a damned plan.

It's not that I haven't been painfully aware of my need to control things, it's that I've been ignorant of the fact that my need for control has often replaced my trust in Jesus.

I read this excerpt from The Hobbit the other day on a friend's facebook wall and knew it was a challenge for me personally.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say

So where does a girl go to learn how to trust without borders?  I'll let you know when I discover it.  But for now, I'll step out on the path, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way, where many paths and errands meet.

All that to say, it's a scary place for a control freak, asking for the ability to trust without borders, for lessons of trust must inevitably come with opportunities to have to.

I Feel the Rush

I feel the Spirit of God moving in me today, a feeling that is at once  both exhilarating and terrifying.

It's a sense of anticipation and foreboding, which of course makes no sense whatsoever to my rational mind.

The closest thing I can relate it to is giving birth.  One minute the thrill of bringing a life into this world overwhelms you and just as quickly you are hit by the overwhelming realization of what it takes to bring a life into this world.

Knowing that God speaks to me, at all, is incredibly humbling. But knowing that He moves through me, searching me, going beyond the surface things the world can see, into the deepest part of me, that thought is overwhelming.

I trust the Holy Spirit. I trust the way He speaks to me. I trust what He uncovers in me and encourages me to tackle.  I trust His affection for me. He has proven himself to me over and over.

"And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth."- I John 5:6

All that to say, I trust the Spirit of God because what He speaks is truth, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, where truth is, there is freedom. I feel the rush of His Spirit today, speaking truths I need to hear. Sweet truth, liberating truth, His truth.

I wonder, what truth is He speaking to you today?

Too Old to Trick or Treat???

My husband is so cute when it comes to little kids. If you ever want to see the lighter side of Mike Jones (yes, he has one) then you are going to see it when little kids are around. 

Seriously, he's a goofball.

He uses this high pitched and INSANELY loud voice.

And the kids eat it up.

However, when it comes to teenagers, mmmmmmmm, not so much. He's not a fan.

I mean, I think he wishes he could be, but he isn't. He has no patience for their sarcasm or their attitudes or their antics.

Now, take these two traits and combine them with Halloween, more specifically trick or treating.

When the little kids come to the door, Mike is so engaging and entertaining. Oooing and ahhhing over every costume. Praising them. Telling them how beautiful and/or scary they are. Even pretending terror when the costume warrants it.

But if the big kids come, you can sense his frustration. One year he even refused to give the big kids candy. Sent them away with a lecture instead of a snickers bar. (I believe our pumpkins got smashed that year.)

A couple of years ago, I decided we should make some rules for trick or treaters. There is the "manners" section and the "you're too old to trick or treat" section. Feel free to add yours.

1. If the light is off, DON'T RING THE BELL
2. If I give you candy, say "thank you." For the love.  Your grandma would slap the back of your head if she knew how bad your manners were!
3. If I open my door and greet you, say something. Don't just stand there with your bag open.
4. Don't scare the little people inside the house. For Real. I mean it. You scare my babies, and I will hunt you down and haunt your dreams.
5. Don't make up that lame story about why you have TWO BAGS that you are filling up. Newsflash!!! No one is buying it!

1. If your voice has gone through "the change" . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
2. If your body has "developed" . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
3. If I can't tell if you are a hooker or a trick or treater . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
4. If you drove yourself to my house to trick or treat . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
5. If you grew your own beard for your costume . . . you're too old to trick or treat.
6. If you used a GPS to map out the "good houses" . . you're too old to trick or treat.
7. If you are out trick-or-treating long enough to fill up a pillowcase . . . you're too old to trick or treat.

All that to say, I'm sure you have some rules you can add to this. Feel free to jump in!

No One Ever Believes You When You're 29

I have been blogging for Zack's birthday since 2008, so that means this is his 6th Happy Birthday Post.

  • In that time I have shared with you the story of his birth (and how he was 5 weeks late arriving, weighing in at 9 lbs. 11oz.)
  • I've shared with you Zack's great qualities (like how gentle and kind he is with people the world tends to overlook or push into the margins).  
  • I've shared with you what a great Big Brother Zack is (and how he once put the fear of God into someone who was bullying his little brother and how I FEAR for any boy whom ever wants to date his sisters!)
  • And I've shared with you some funny secrets about Zack (like how he slept with a stuffed dog named Dylan until he was in 7th grade, and how he can dance like Michael Jackson . . . for real).

So what else is there to say about this man?

That sounds crazy in my own ears . . . this man.

First, I'll say this, you're a good son, Zack Jones.  You're a good brother, a good friend, a good husband (but Christina will have to vouch for that one), and some day you're going to be a great father.

You are tenacious, dedicated, fiercely protective, incredibly loyal, brilliant, talented, hysterically funny, sometimes a pain in the buttocks, helpful, generous, and a lover of Jesus.

When I think about the moments in your life that have been the most incredible to me, they are the moments I have witnessed you loving others.  Not so much with words, though you are good at that, but with your actions, showing the smallest kindnesses to people who needed them most. And if I erased every word I have ever written about you and left just this one paragraph, it would be saying a lot about you as a man.

These boys always have fun!

He brings out the best in her. No one else can make her smile this way!
One of our sweet babies.  Man he loved this guy!

Sometimes he's just so crazy!  And yet, his dad can remain straight faced!
One of the best decisions he ever made!

One of my favorite casual pics of us! This was a lot of years ago.
Always willing to have fun with his sisters.
Zack gave this homeless man shoes once and then years later ran into him again!
Very cool.

All that to say, Happy Birthday to you, Zack Jones.  For the next year, no one will believe you when you tell them your age.  You enjoy that.  :)

Ruled by Our Human Emotions - Happiness

Happiness is a  co-dependent emotion.  It is completely and totally dependant upon a right set of circumstances.  The right gift.  The right friendship.  The right marriage.  The right home.  The right job.  The right small group.  The right relationship with your kids.  The right car.

The list is endless.

Let one piece of our circumstances change and our happiness meter gets totally out of whack.

I even hear my little girls say, "I'm not happy."  

And when I inquire as to why, they say, "Btuz I want that doll," or "Btuz I want apple juice."

Even in their short-lived lives, they have learned that happiness, their happiness, is dependant upon getting what they want or what they think they need.

We, as adults, are equally conditioned to think that our happiness is dependant upon getting what we want or think we need.

But happiness is fleeting and fickle and self-serving. 

Joy, on the other hand, is completely different than happiness.  Joy is a contentment that defies the weighty gravity of conditional happiness.  It's an inner peace that passes all understanding.  It's a support structure for our spirit.  It props us up on really bad days, and it delights us and compels us forward on really good ones.

Joy is a gift that we are given.  A gift we must receive.  But sadly, we miss the precious, soul-feeding contentment of joy because we are so freaking caught up in worrying about our happiness.

All that to say, happiness is fleeting and self-serving.  Choose joy.

Just out of curiosity, what makes you happy, 
and what brings you joy?

Catalyst: Session 6 - Reggie Joiner

Reggie Joiner
Founder and CEO
Rethink Group

Your Days Are Numbered. 
Be Known For What Matters

We all know our days are numbered, but to see a visual representation of that is both sobering and inspiring.  When Reggie Joiner stepped out onto the Catalyst stage, he did so carrying a giant jar of marbles, a representation of the life of our children, specifically, but a broader representation of our life in general.

When you realize how much time you have left, when you see it as a jar of marbles, you tend to pay attention to what matters most.  This makes you focus on the things you can do, the things you were made to do, and not just the things you think you should do.

Leaving a Legacy

We all think about what we will leave behind when we are gone.  We want to leave a legacy, a tiny piece of us, which will be remembered for generations. Joiner reminded us, in bullet point fashion, of some important legacy truths.

Truth #1 – Legacy is not the same thing as inheritance.  Inheritance is what you leave “for” people, but a legacy is what you leave “in” people.

Truth #2 - The people who will remember you are the people who know you now.  (Not the virtual friends you have on social media, or the people you hope to someday impress, but your children, your family, your true friends)

Truth #3 – You will leave what you model, not what you lecture.

Truth #4 – Legacy is less about you being magnificent and more about you being ordinary and dependable.

And lastly, Joiner reminded us of the Principle of Over Time.

The Principle of Over Time

Progress is measured “over time”  Life is richer “over time.” Relationships are different “over time.”

Time = Worth

Time = Deeper Relationships/Connection

Time = Deeper Perspective.

And at the end of the day what you do week after week after week is what matters.

All that to say, go, be ordinary and dependable.  And do it over and over and over. Leave a legacy.

Catalyst: Andy Stanley - Known Survivor

Andy Stanley,                                                                         Sr. Senior Pastor, North Point Church
Known Survivor                                                         Surviving Your Appetite for Known

Catalyst is known for a lot of things. Leadership, Powerful worship, incredible messages. skinny jeans and hipsters. So it should come as no surprise, that Andy Stanley, Mr. Session One himself, would throw all grammatical convention to the wind and use the word KNOWN as every form of speech possible.

Everyone has an appetite for known.

If you feed your appetite for known it grows. And no matter how much you feed it, you will never have enough known.  You never fully satisfy your appetite, no matter what.

You can overfeed your appetite for known, and if you aren’t careful, the need will eventually tip you over.

There is no amount of known that will ever be enough to satisfy your need to be known.

So How much known is enough?  You will never have enough known.

The Three Laws of Know

What’s applauded as exceptional the first time will be expected the next time.
Your desire to be known will drive you to do things you never ever thought you’d do until you get a little bit of recognition.  A little bit of known. And then it’s expected you’ll keep on doing it.

Applause is intoxicating
Those most applauded will feel the most entitled to it.
You think you should get something no body else should get.

Applause is addictive
We start looking for it
We start manufacturing it
And if it gets out of hand, you become a victim of known.

So here’s the tension:
To lead, you must be known.  You have been called to be known.   The question is, how do we keep known from ruining us?

The Answer Is In The Bible
Mark Chapter 4

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to hear John the Baptist (thousands and thousands of people)

He goes from obscurity to everyone coming to see him.  Suddenly he is a phenomenon.  He is known.

Everyone asks him if he is the Messiah or Elijah.  He repeatedly answers “no” and they ask him “WHO are you?”  He said, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”

He was saying, "I am a directional sign. I’m just here to point you in the right direction.”

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,  “Look. . . the lamb of God comes to take away the sins of the world.”

It happened again the next day.  And when John’s two disciples heard him say, “look” they looked and followed Jesus.  His disciples left him and followed Jesus.

His other disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi (talking to John the Baptist) that man (Jesus) who was with you yesterday, he’s over there and he’s baptizing and everyone is going to him.”

Basically they were saying, “He’s totally stealing your show.”

John’s disciples were worried that they were losing followers.

But Here Was John’s Profound Answer because he understood known.

“A person can receive only what is given him from heaven.”

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

He was saying, “Do you think I am known for any other reason than because God ordained that I would be known so that He can be known?” 

What is the Application for Us?

In our lives and our minds, as long as we are growing, succeeding, doing well at work, have perfect kids, etc. it’s all for the glory of God.  But when things go downhill, we start going into problem solving mode.  We can’t lose our “known.”

But if we could remember that we receive “known” because we can only receive from heaven what heaven decides to give.

Want to survive being known?

Remember who it’s from and who it’s for.  Your appetite for known will never be satisfied by a number.

All that to say, wouldn’t it be so great if we could be so blessed by the amount of known that Jesus gave us and didn’t get jacked up because of it . . . didn’t think we were something special because of it?  Then we’d never have to worry about losing it because we’d know we’d done what we were supposed to with the amount of Known that God gave us.

Never forget that the applause isn’t for you.