Sunday, December 7, 2014

FORTY

This man.

Today is his birthday.
Today he turns 40.

I never get tired of celebrating his life.
He is such a gift.

He lives everyday all-in and out-loud.

No matter who is around and no matter what the situation,
Keith doesn't know how to be anyone other than Keith.
And I love that!

He has such an amazing heart.

He loves Jesus and has committed his life to serving His church.
He cares deeply about people and desires to help them live out their calling.
He supports and sacrifices for his family and I am certain there isn't anything he wouldn't do for us.

Together, we have two boys.
One five. One fifteen.
They both adore him and I pray they grow up to be just like him!

This man.

There is no one in the world I love more.
There is no one in the world I would rather do life with.
There is no one in the world I have more respect for than this man.

Happy 40th Birthday, Keith!
You make me smile.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

TRANSITION

After twenty-one years of Student Ministry, we are saying good-bye.

We have served at five different churches in five different states.
We have had to say good-bye more times than we care to remember.
But this is different.

This has been our life.
This has been our calling.

Over the years, we have had the honor and privilege to love, support, hang out with, and point thousands of students to Jesus. We have watched them grow up right before our eyes and we have loved them like they were our own kids. To imagine life any other way seems impossible.

I am so honored that their parents trusted us with their children by allowing them to come to our home weekly for Bible study, by sending them with us as we did mission projects, youth camps, leadership conferences and weekend retreats. Thank you, parents, for believing in and trusting us with your most prized possessions. Thank you for allowing us to partner with you. The seriousness of that responsibility is not lost on us.

For those of you with teenagers in your home, I pray that you will see them the way Keith and I see them. They are not your little boy or little girl. They are leaders. They are world changers. They are the Pastors, the CEOs, the business men/women, the Moms/Dads, the teachers of their generation. They each have a unique calling on their life and God wants to use them to change their world!

If you were in our Student Ministry at one time or another, please know that we dearly love you. You changed us. We would not be who we are today without your influence in our lives.

Some of you surrendered your lives to Jesus and are serving in ministry/missions.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are husbands/wives and you are working to have a Biblical marriage.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are Moms and Dads and you are pointing your children to Jesus.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you had the deck stacked against you and you changed your family tree.
We are so proud of you!
Some of you are working hard in the workplace supporting your self/family.
We are so proud of you!

And some of you, you're struggling. Somewhere along the way you took your eyes off of Jesus. Please come home. The body of Christ needs you. Your church needs you.
We will always love you and believe in you!

In the last twenty-one years, we have had hundreds and hundreds of Youth Workers, Associates, Interns and Admins that have been like family. You sacrificially gave of your time and energy to serve Students. You were the foundation. You were the heroes. We came and left and many of you stayed the course. It has been such an honor to do life with each and every one of you. Words can not express how much we loved serving along side you and seeing how God used your unique giftedness to serve the body of Christ. Thank you for loving and supporting us all of these years. Sometimes up close and sometimes from a distance. We will never be the same because of you!

So what's next for our family?
We are staying at Cross Church and in the next month, Keith will transition from Student Ministry to Marriage Ministry.

God sort of snuck up on us.
He has been using our struggles the last few years to turn our hearts.
He has given us a burden for Marriages and Families.
Specifically, a burden to help couples build a strong foundation based on the authority of God's Word.

Doing life with students the last twenty-one years, we have hugged, cried with, and ministered to hundreds and hundreds of kids whose hearts were shattered because their families were falling apart.  This transition allows us to do Student Ministry from a different angle.  We get to love and support the people who have the single most influence on their lives.  We get to grab a shovel and help their parents dig through the dirt and gravel that Satan throws their way as they work hard to build a solid foundation for their family and the thousands of generations to come.

We are excited.
We are scared.
We are humbled that God would choose to continue to use us.

Please pray for our family as we make this transition.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

GRACE EXTENDED


I am so excited to continue our marriage conversation.  The adventure called marriage was all God's idea and when it is done His way, it is a beautiful and creative way to translate [to illustrate] the love of Jesus to a broken, hurting, searching world.

If you are just now joining us, welcome!  Here are our previous stops... 

One of the many things that I have wrestled with the last several years is this idea that my children are my others.

"Do for others what you would want them to do for you."
{Matthew 7:12}

I always thought of others as, well, others.
Neighbors.  Friends.  Co-workers.
Anyone outside my home.

Somehow, this topic came up in our marriage counseling.  We were discussing this idea of others in regards to our children and I mentioned the fact that viewing my children this way challenges me to look at their heart and be quick to allow them a do-over.  And our counselor, doing what he does best, posed the question, "How does this play out in your marriage?"

If my spouse is my other…
…do I love him as I love myself? {Matthew 22:39}
…do I give him more honor than I give myself? {Romans 12:10}
…do I forgivingly restore him? {Galatians 6:1}
…do I pursue peace in a gentle, humble, patient and accepting way? {Ephesians 4:1-3}

Our others are to be loved because they are "presented to us as the object on and by which we are to show the reality of our love to God." [Pulpit Commentary]

The Bible has a lot to say about our relationship with others.  From the beginning of the Bible to the end, God gives us instructions and examples of the way were are to do life with our others, which became a struggle the moment sin entered this world.

Stop #4– DO-OVER: Grace Extended

Do-over. Grace.
Grace means kindness and favor.
It implies reaching, inclining, extension/leaning toward.

What a beautiful word picture.
[Holy and righteous] God reaching for and leaning toward [sinful and selfish] us for the purpose of pouring out His kindness and favor and freely giving Himself away to us.

Grace is never about us.  Grace is never something we deserve.
Grace speaks to the character of the person who is doing the reaching, the leaning, the extending.  If I received the undeserved grace extended to me by a loving God, then should jump at the chance to love others the way God loved me by being the one who gets to reach out and offer grace.  To give another chance.  To allow a do-over.
"My children, our love should not be only words and talk.
No, our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do."
{1 John 3:18}

God is so gracious to go before us and model how to love and how to forgivingly restore someone by offering a do-over.  He even gave us several examples of do-over's in the Bible.  My favorite picture of grace happens around the warmth of an open fire.  There is only mention of two charcoal fires in all of the Bible and both surround the do-over we are going to look at today.

In John 13, Jesus and His boys, the disciples, are eating supper.  Jesus is trying to prepare them for His death, which He knows will be soon, but they are having a lot of trouble understanding Him.  When Jesus is asked where He is going, He answered, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter gets frustrated and finally asks, “Lord, why cant I follow you now? I am ready to die for you!

Jesus answered, “Will you really give your life for me?
The truth is, before the rooster crows,
you will say three times that you don’t know me.”
{John 13:37}

If we skip ahead a few chapters, we find Jesus and the boys entering a garden to pray. They were met by a group of soldiers and officers with lanterns, torches and weapons. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, bound, and taken into the court of the High Priest.

Peter and another disciple followed Jesus to the courtyard.  If you and I stick close to Peter, we see him walk past a servant-girl at the gate who says to him, Arent you one of this mans disciples?  Peter denied it.  He made his way over to the charcoal fire that the servants and guards had built to warm themselves.  While he was standing with them, he was asked again, Arent you one of the followers of that man?  Peter denied it a second time.  One of the servants spoke up and said, I think I saw you with him in the garden!  Peter screams for the third and last time NO, I WAS NOT WITH HIM!

[insert rooster crow]

What do you think Peter felt in that instance?
Peter.  Standing around a charcoal fire on a cold night confused and scared.
People all around are talking, whispering, yelling.
Jesus is being questioned.  Jesus is being hit.

Im sure his mind was racing, trying to make sense of what is happening.

The smell of smoke invades Peter's senses.  It's in the air, in his clothes, on his skin, and in his hair.  But the moment he hears the rooster crow, I imagine his heart skipping a beat, his ears going deaf to the sounds around him, his eyes looking up and making eye contact with Jesus.

And suddenly, Jesus' words come flooding back, “will you really give your life for me, [Peter]? The truth is, before the rooster crows, you will say three times that you dont know me.”

Did you know that Jesus changed Peter's name?
His new name gave him a new purpose.  It allowed Simon to see himself the way Jesus saw him.  He was no longer Simon, but instead Peter, which means rock.

"And I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.
This is the rock on which I will build my church."
{Matthew 16:18}

As the rooster crows and the sun begins to rise, the smoke of the charcoal fire falls on Peter like a blanket of fear, guilt and shame.  Luke tells us that Peter ran out of the courtyard weeping uncontrollably.  In that moment, Peter wasn't the unmovable rock he thought he was and it rocked him to the core.

As the day went on, Jesus is beaten beyond recognition and crucified on a cross.  He is dead and buried before sunset.  Peter never got to say sorry.  Never got to say goodbye.

So much happens from the time Jesus was buried to the only other mention of a charcoal fire, which is where our journey is taking us.  Everything in me wants to keep going.  To fill in all the blanks -- the details of the discovery of the empty tomb, the resurrection of Jesus, the multiple appearances to His boys along with several others, not to mention the little details John includes than make me laugh and reminds me that these aren't characters, but people.  Men and women just like you and me.  But, a charcoal fire has been built on the shore of the Sea of Galilee so we need to go.  We are suppose to be sticking close to Peter and he's on his fishing boat about 112 miles from here.

In the last chapter of John, we find seven of the disciples doing some night fishing.  They were out all night and caught nothing.  Jesus is standing on the shore and says to them, "do you have any fish?"  The boys didn't know it was Jesus.  After they yelled back "no", Jesus said to them, "cast the net on the right side of the boat..."

"The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!'  When Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his coat and threw himself into the sea."
{Matthew 21:7}

Peter hears John say the man on the shore is Jesus and can not get to him quick enough. If you know anything about Peter, you know this is not the first time he jumped ship to get to Jesus.

After the boat makes it to land and Peter helps them haul the net full of fish ashore.  Jesus invites them to breakfast and they all make their way to the charcoal fire that was already in place.  Can you hear that?  If I'm not mistaken, that is the sound of Peter's heart pounding out of his chest.  This feels uncomfortably familiar.  As he sits down, the warmth of the fire feels suffocating.  The distinct smell the charcoal fire triggers so many unresolved, unsettled emotions in Peter's heart.

When they finished breakfast, the conversation quieted.
Jesus addressed Peter saying, "Simon, son of John,.."

Simon. He called him Simon.
That is Peter's old name.  His old identity.
Jesus has Peter's full attention.

"...do you love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter replies, "you know I love you!"
Jesus repeated the question, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
"Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know I love you!"
For the third time, Jesus asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
A very hurt, deeply grieved Peter replied, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you."

Peter was certain he was ready to die for Jesus, but instead he denied knowing Him, not once, not twice, but three times in one night.  Jesus saw his hurt and pain and gave him a do-over.  The smell of a charcoal fire no longer triggered guilt and shame, but instead served as a beautiful reminder of the redemptive love of Jesus.  The three denials no longer defined his lack of commitment to Jesus because the opportunity to declare his love and affection for Jesus reminded him of the solid, stable rock that Jesus knew he would be.

Do-over.  Grace.
Grace was never about Peter.
Grace wasn't something he deserved.
The unsolicited gift of grace spoke to the character of Jesus. 

Jesus.  The cross.
The ultimate do-over.
The ultimate redo.
The ultimate act of love, kindness and grace.

So, I'll ask the same question our marriage counselor asked us,
"How does this play out in your marriage?"

Has there ever been a time in your marriage that you said or did something you immediately wish you could take back?  Yeah, me too.  Has there ever been a time in your marriage when you were the one left hurt and disappointed?  Yeah, me too.

When you have been hurt [offended, wronged] by your spouse, you have the power to free them up to be all God intended them to be by being generous with forgiveness and grace.  By being quick to offer a do-over in order to keep your one-flesh relationship healthy and intact.  By caring more about the condition of their heart than your feelings.  By using them as a tangible way to show the reality of your love for God.

The reality is that we are going to mess up… a lot.
Give your spouse permission to be as imperfect as you know you are.

Choose love.
Extend grace.
Offer a do-over.

[insert make-up sex]

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

MARRIAGE IS SANDPAPER


Today, Keith and I arrive at mile marker 18 on the marriage adventure.
Hand in hand, we cross the line, excited to see what the next mile will bring.

18 years ago today, ready or not, we were getting married.
So much work and preparation goes into planning a wedding.
Can you imagine what would happen if the only preparations we made for our big day would have been mailing invitations?

No cake.  No flowers.  No dress.
No minister.  No marriage license.

The result would have been no wedding.

Friends and family would have pulled up to the church and found Keith and I standing outside.  Doors locked.  Lights off.  In that moment, our actions, our lack of preparation, would have revealed our priorities.

The last couple of stops [here, here and here], we have been looking at the very beginning of our map.  Even though we have barely journeyed past the introduction, we need to take a quick detour. We are going to flip to the back of the map and look at the finish line.

"Let us rejoice and shout for joy!
Let us celebrate and give Him glory and honor,
for the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready."
{Revelations 19:7}

The marriage, the adventure, is preparation.
It prepares us for another wedding.
Another marriage… You and Jesus.

God designed marriage for His glory and our spiritual growth much more than fulfillment of our selfish desires.  But that only works when we are both chasing after Jesus with everything we have.  If our one-flesh relationship is running in opposite directions, it will tear us apart.

Marriage is sandpaper.
Two people, working together to help each other become more like Jesus.

Sandpaper is used to prepare a surface.  If used correctly, it makes a beautiful, smooth finish.  Here are two types of sandpaper...
-Coarse
  • the lower the number on the back, the more coarse the grit
  • removes unwanted material faster and with less effort
  • great for removing layers of old paint or preparing a surface for gluing by making it rougher.
-Fine
  • the bigger the number on the back, the finer the grit
  • used to make a surface smoother
  • removes the lines left by the more coarse paper and you are left with a smooth finish

Coarse sandpaper can be way too rough for some projects.  It can easily damage your project by gouging deep, non-repairable grooves.

Fine sandpaper can be way too smooth for some jobs.  If you insist on using a super-fine sandpaper on a job that requires coarse grit, you will end up sanding from now until infinity and get nothing accomplished.

Marriage is sandpaper.
My default grit is coarse.  Keith's default grit is super-fine.  
If I am always coarse, I hurt him.  If he always chooses super-fine, he doesn't help prepare me.

Marriage is sandpaper.
When we are working together as a team, our spouse can help us by roughing up a particular surface to create a more secure bond, removing unwanted material (pride, selfishness, entitlement, etc.), and even smoothing out the surface as needed.

Marriage is sandpaper.
If we are careless and choose the wrong grit, we will do more harm than good.
If a smooth sandpaper would have done the job but we choose coarse, we can cause damage to our spouse that will take time to fix.  If a coarse sandpaper will help get rid of some old stuff quick but we choose smooth, our spouse will have to deal with unwanted material a lot longer than God intended.

Marriage is sandpaper.
The words we speak. The actions we take. The grace we give.
Is it helping or hurting?  What type of sandpaper are you?

Spend time with Jesus everyday.
Do something everyday that helps prepare you and your spouse for the wedding day of the Lamb.

"Iron is made sharp with iron, and one man is made sharp by a friend."
{Proverbs 27:17}

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Monday, July 21, 2014

THE SUFFOCATING DARKNESS OF THE ENEMY

"The Mulberry Tree" by: Vincent van Gough
There you are, welcome back.
I was hoping to see you today.

As Keith and I stand here watching each of you find your seat on the tour bus,
we are realizing this is much harder than we thought.

We are watching some of you hop on the bus, holding hands with your person.
You look so happy.  So in love.

But some of you, you are limping.
You snuck on the bus, trying not to be noticed.
But we see you.

And that is what makes this tour hard.

The reality is that some of you are lost and wandering in the dark.
The fog is thick and it makes it nearly impossible to see where you are going.
You want to be on the right path, but the fog, the dark, they are suffocating you.

You want to go on the tour with us, but you can't imagine it helping.

A precious new friend that Keith and I recently met on our adventure just learned that she lost a friend to suicide.  My heart breaks for his family and for my friend.

And my mind is racing… because I know.
I know exactly how dark and foggy that path is.
One wrong step and you find yourself in a deep, dark pit.

Three years ago, I was trying my best to navigate a path I had never been on and frankly didn't want to take.  It was isolating and suffocating.  I found that trusting God for every slippery step was hard.  Too hard.  Because, if I was honest, I didn't really trust Him.

I knew I was suppose to believe that He loves me.  That He is good.
But, everything about the path He had me on felt mean.  Cruel, even.

At first you stay in the pit.
It's easier to just stay.
But you can't.

The walls are moving in around you and you don't even realize it.
The longer you stay, you become numb.
The fog, it's so much thicker in the pit, you can't think straight.

You have to get out.
You have to ask for help.
You need someone to grab you by the hand, be a light to cut through the darkness, help you see where you are on your map, and lead you to a path of safety.

You are not there by accident.
You have an enemy who desires to steal, kill and destroy you.
He has you right where he wants you.
Don't let him win.

If that's you, look up.
God has His mighty hand outstretched, ready to pull you out.
He's been there the whole time, waiting for you to grab hold.

On the 1st Stop of our tour, we poured and squared our marriage foundation built on an accurate view of God’s character.  God is good, loving and trustworthy.  That truth is the very lens we will want to view the map as we continue our journey.
Putting on those lenses saved my life.

We also met Adam and Eve at the end of The Creation Story.
We are going to look at part their adventure today, not because they the first couple to take this journey, but because they were the enemy’s first target.

2nd Stop- THE SUFFOCATING DARKNESS OF THE ENEMY

Adam and Eve.
The pioneers of the adventure we call marriage.
They have so much to teach us about our relationship with the enemy, with our spouse, and with God.

Adam.
First man created.
God spoke some very clear, specific instructions to Adam.
  • God gave Adam "dominion [authority] over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." {Genesis 1:26}
  •  God put Adam in the garden to "work it, keep it, guard it." {Genesis 2:15}
  • God told Adam, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." {Genesis 2:16-17}

Because God is a good and loving God, He is looking further down the path Adam is on and preparing him for what's to come.  God's provisions can protect us from a lot of unnecessary hurts, but we have to believe and trust Him.

In chapter 3 of Genesis, we are introduced to the enemy, Satan.
He is described as crafty [shrewd, malicious, evil in nature and character] and was in the garden in the form of a serpent.

I hate even giving him any attention, but we need to know who we are dealing with so we will know how to guard ourselves, our spouse and our family.

He slithered in the garden, found Eve, and started a conversation with her.
"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" {Genesis 3:1}

"He [the enemy] speaks to the woman, not because she is weaker,
but because her knowledge of God's instructions is secondhand—
communicated to her by Adam."
-Iva May

Eve responded, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit if the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" {Genesis 3:2-3}

The enemy replies, twisting her words and planted seeds of doubt and discontentment.  He knows if he can just get her to do this back and forth dance, if he can spin the truth, she will fall into his arms.

Eve looked at the tree.
She saw.  She took.  She ate.

And just like that, with an outstretched hand, she offered the fruit to her husband.

She could have ignored the enemy.
She could have walked away.
She didn't.

Her husband could have helped her.
He was right there with her.
He should have helped her.
He didn't.

Remember what God gave Adam?
He gave him dominion [power, authority, control] over all creatures.
All creatures, including the one that was talking to his wife!

Remember what God put Adam in the garden to do?
He was to work it, keep it, guard it.
If the garden was being guarded, the enemy would have never made it to Eve.

Remember what God told Adam?
He gave him the freedom to eat from any and all trees in the garden and then warned him that one tree would bring hurt and pain.

Adam and Eve.
Both ate the fruit.
Both of their eyes were opened.
Fear, shame and guilt flooded their hearts.

The enemy -evil in nature and character- has a purpose.
Satan' goal is the same in Genesis 3 as it is today-
He wants to make you doubt the goodness of God and to keep God's Word from taking root in your heart.

Oh how I wish that Adam would have put on his snake boots and kicked that serpent out of the garden!  He had the power and authority to do so.  And yet, he stood there as though he was powerless.

Husbands.  It's not enough to know what God says, you need to obey it.  Your family needs you to obey it.   You were designed and created to guard, protect and lead your family and you have been given the authority to do so.  Your family needs you to be an active participant in their lives so you can kick the enemy every times he tries to slither in a the door, window or computer in our home.

Wives.  Step aside, encourage your husband to lead, and support him.  Spend time reading your map.  It is so important for you to hear God speak His truths to you everyday.  Repeating what God told your husband has no power against the enemy.  You have to hear it, meditate on it, and allow it to take root in your own life.  Be very careful how you influence your husband.  It is powerful.  God told Adam, in person, not to eat from the tree, and yet his wife handed him the fruit and he ate.  That should scare us into making sure our influence is used for their benefit and not our selfish motives.  You are a rib… protect your husband's heart.

Each of us are in different places and on different paths of our adventure.
But the one common denominator in every adventure is Satan.
We have an enemy and he is real.
Don't give him any power.

If you find yourself today feeling suffocated by the enemy and are having trouble finding God, consider this our outstretched hand.  Keith and I would be honored to shine a light to show you the way.


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