I’d Rather Run (Gray Faith Study Ch. 7: Gray Walk)

Ever tell your kid or your friend something really incredibly wise…and later realize you’re not applying that wisdom for yourself?

That’s how I felt this week as I finished up my “Gray Walk” video.  I recently bought a new 18 month planner and frankly I’m obsessed with it.  I love the inspirational cover.

I love the peppy quotes on the cover tab of each new month. 

I adore the little stickers it came with.But I’m also alarmingly addicted to the rapidly growing to-do items I’m filling that planner with.  Whether I’m taking the kids to the dentist or sending out important emails, I’m finding a bit too much satisfaction in checking off my boxes and making things happen.

I went on vacation last week and actually struggled with my unplanned self in a major way.  Not a pretty fight.  I’d rather run than walk, (in a purely metaphorical way, thank you very much), because running gets you there faster.

The point is I’m not terribly good at resting, especially with God.  I so want to live a meaningful life, driven by Him and His kingdom, that I often forget the greatest things I do in life aren’t measured by numbers, checks or tasks.

My most glorious moments are when God is producing something in me, in His presence, in His time.  And that requires a lot less of me and a great deal more of Him.  It’s what He’s doing in me as I wait, as He walks with me, as He weaves a story through His presence in my life.  He’s interested in shaping my heart before my planner- which might require me to lay that planner aside every now and then and just be.  Just find out who He is.  Just let Him speak His beautiful words and be silent for a minute in awe before Him.

So when you watch this video of me going on and on about walking with God…know that He is currently throwing me a life-raft out in the deep end of my own business and fruitless productivity.  (There’s one to mull over.)  So I hope it inspires, but if you’re feeling like you’re having a hard time slowing down with God to rest…you can come over and we’ll practice together.

Experiment #7:

Perhaps you’ve never talked to God and expected Him to interact with you. No matter where you are in your walk, I challenge you to try spending time with God in a new way this week. We will all experience God in different ways and atmospheres based on our personality, so begin to notice the things and places that you love, because those are the areas where you may be most likely to connect with God. Even if this feels strange, try at least one of the following this week:

Try to be more interactive with God during your Bible reading. Before you begin reading, take some time to pray that God will show you a passage or verse. You might want to keep a phone or computer near so you can look up verses if a word or phrase pops into your mind: biblegateway.com is a fantastic online resource that lets you search for key words/topics in whatever Bible version you prefer to use. Even if you don’t feel that God is impressing you with anything specific (which is OK!), ask Him to speak to you personally as you read any passage in the Bible. If you need a place to start, you might try one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) which tell about the life of Jesus. If anything sticks out to you, write it down or pray about it.

Sometimes being aware that God is interacting with us personally simply begins with expecting Him to. Act on a nudge to give to someone, call someone, go somewhere, or do something God might be directing you to do, even if it feels silly. Don’t overthink. You may even find that God works through something that felt like a “coincidence” because God is always at work behind the scenes. Write about what happened when you took your baby step of faith this week.
Spend several minutes listening to worship music or sitting outside alone, etc. (You can use online worship from Pandora or make a playlist on Spotify if you don’t own worship music.) Focus more on listening to God and being with Him and His presence than in talking to Him. Maybe try kneeling, lifting your hands, or even dancing if you feel like it. Experimenting with our posture and the different ways we can worship helps us to step outside of a plastic relationship and routine. It might feel strange and that’s OK. Reflect on how God may meet you, speak to you, or lead you to worship.
Do something that you love- playing music, going for a walk, working out at the gym, painting or creating through art, writing, dancing, hiking, ________ (insert your own). As you do, consider that God is with you in this activity, and that He enjoys this about you because He made you to enjoy it. Reflect on how it feels to know that you can meet God anywhere- even in things that don’t feel “spiritual”.

Chapter 7 Study Questions:

1. How has “should” controlled your life or kept you from enjoying your journey? What would you let go of or do differently today if you weren’t so concerned about what you “should” do?

2. A friend once told me that God is like a good parent. As parents we don’t expect our kids to ask us about every little decision they make; we enjoy watching them create and make decisions on their own and be themselves. Does this change the way you view your relationship with God?

3. Share a time when God met you in the details of your life.

4. “I don’t know why I fight for control so much, when the end of my control is so often where I encounter the living God.” Can you relate to this statement? Explain.

5. How do we trust in God “in the middle”: after the promise but before the miracle; after the prayer but before the answer?

6. Read Psalm 139. How does this passage give you understanding of God’s view of you and the details of your life?

7. Does following God feel routine to you or has it felt like a bit of an experiment? When do you feel most alive in your interactions with God?

8. How can we learn to embrace our possible “mistakes” in our attempts to seek God? Discuss the importance of having godly friends (who don’t all think just like we do!) to challenge us along the way and keep us balanced.


If you’re enjoying the online Gray Faith study, feel free to comment or pass this along to anyone who might enjoy it.  Thanks so much for being part of the gray discussion.  🙂

 

To Kill a Brother

“Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

(Public Domain)

The last time I felt so sick to my stomach over racism was in a little town in South Carolina where my Memaw used to live.  We’d driven down to visit her and on a whim decided to take a stroll through the quaint, brick buildings at the town center.  If the place were once thriving, you’d never know- there were few people out, and you got the sense that the world around had moved on, or rather out of town.

There we stumbled upon the “Red Neck Store” which innocently advertised itself as a purveyor of southern souvenirs- a unique local gift shop maybe.  We were so wrong.  Though the store was tiny and much too warm, I felt more suffocated by the shocking contents that assaulted me.  It took us longer to process the evil than it should have; oh, there was some light-hearted “red-neck” merchandise, alright… right alongside KKK outfits and other blatantly racist paraphernalia.

As our disgust caught up to our sheer shock, we shuffled uneasily towards the exit.  As we turned to leave, the salesman motioned towards some t-shirts with a picture of Obama, who’d recently been elected for his first term.  “They’re guaranteed to burn!” he called out, hatred glowing in his eyes.  Nail in coffin- we got out of there fast and didn’t look back.

How could such overt racism exist in my modern world?

Fast forward to present.  I don’t watch the news.  Call me irresponsible, call me out on my self-imposed bubble, but my heart can’t usually bench press the weight the news throws at me.

So admittedly I found out about Charlottesville through Lina Abujamra, a blogger I subscribe to.

As her words scrolled through my brain, my heart quickened and I found my fingers typing a search for news that would take my soul and stomach back to the horror of that red neck store and my shattered picture of humanity.  I watched a recap clip of the tragic events that was too short to convey the full story, yet somehow too long a moment to have to stare in the face of evil.

“Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

And I cried- not merely for the loss of life- not merely for those hurt and scarred- but because I’d naïvely allowed myself to believe that somehow we’d moved beyond such base actions.  Yes darkness seemed to have a choke-hold on the world, but weren’t we slowly getting better as a people?  As a nation?  Hadn’t the hard fought war for freedom for all changed not just our legislation but at long last our collective hearts?  At least a little?

We weren’t perfect in the “love your neighbor” department- no sir. And truthfully books like The New Jim Crow have opened my eyes to see that socially acceptable racism still exists even if overt racism is declining.  And I lament along with many of my ongoing complicity in such racist structures and beliefs, though I don’t always know how to perpetuate change.

But my stomach feels especially sick at the real-time use of the phrase “white supremacist” because I thought that language was buried deep within the pages of my history book.  Where has all this hatred been hiding? What is its origin?

I think back to the first recorded murder in the Bible, when Cain and his brother Abel walked with God.  Genesis says God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, but not with Cain’s.  Such a simple sentence, but it was the catalyst for Cain to draw an irrevocable line. Cain’s pride was assaulted.  His sense of His worth and identity were thrown off and he was filled with anger.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”  (Genesis 4:6-8)

Cain didn’t want to look at himself and his issues.  He’d rather draw an imaginary line between himself and his brother and cast the blame on the other side.  His frustrated desire for success? accolades? validation? swelled into lethal anger.

I picture myself for a moment as Eve, the boys’ mother.  Death was still fresh and ghastly, something not yet normal.  Did she crush under the fresh realization of what her disobedience in the Garden had cost her?  Even as she wept over a boy lost to death, did she cry bitter tears over the broken depths of her living son?  Did her own stomach churn at the horrible knowledge that creation from her womb had taken the life of creation…that brother could kill even brother?

Did she fall to the ground and ask God to forgive and to heal, to turn their hearts back to Him?  Did she realize with sobering horror, as I did, that she herself had the capacity for equally grave selfishness?

This week I’ve struggled with fresh revelation of my own brokenness- my own capacity to diminish, overlook, and cause pain.  How sobering to think that I’m simply not so different from the people on the other side of the line that I find myself drawing.  The righteous and unrighteous.  The sinner and the saint.  The peacemaker and the racist. The moral and the killer.  But my lines aren’t any more helpful than the lines others draw.

Because no matter what line we draw, don’t we always end up on the “right” side of it?  Isn’t the line somehow about ourselves?

At its core, racism is about elevating ourselves.  It’s the full-grown sin of seeking our own good and interests, of needing to validate ourselves at the expense of someone else.  It’s the desire to define ourselves AGAINST others- to be on the “right side” of the line of perceived power or beauty or significance.

But no such line exists.  Because God defines us and loves us not comparatively or based on who we are, but unconditionally based on who HE is.

There is no line.

So the powerful, so-called beautiful and self-imposed significant must create that line to maintain their self-worth.  In our insatiable pursuit of our own happiness and meaning we’re willing to diminish, abuse, and even kill their fellow creations…our brothers and sisters.

God fleshes this internal struggle out in His exhortation to Cain: “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must rule over it.”

James 1:14-15 puts it this way: “…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Our temptations feed broken desires that incubate sin which, in its ghastly full grown state, produces death of all kinds. We have to address those desires and the broken places they come from.  James 4:1-3 continues this thought:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

We’re so focused on ourselves.  Our desires and motives are so skewed by our selfish lens. On our desires and pleasures.  And I’m preaching to myself here, just so you know.

Yet God offers some powerful tools to subdue those very desires that try to destroy us.  Some of the most practical daily advice is simply to talk less and listen more:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)

Our anger, even our justified anger, apart from God’s heart simply makes things worse.  It leads to more human lines, more division, and less of the righteousness that God desires.

So what else do we do to find victory over those broken desires and places in our lives? Come to God with humility and acknowledge our broken deeds and desires.

James 4:7-10 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

I’m not the first to suggest that this is a time to repent: to acknowledge the broken places of our hearts before God and before our brothers and sisters.  Time to turn inward and realize where our own selfish tendencies, unchecked, have left us to ignore and harm others.  It’s a time to repent of generations of evil perpetuated against whole groups of people.  It’s a time to listen to other people’s stories in such a way that our own hearts break over their struggle.

And it’s time to stop drawing lines that kill our brothers.

All Bible References from:
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Gray Expectations (Gray Faith Study Chapter 6)

One day I plan to write a whole book about how encountering God requires a constant surrender and reshaping of our expectations of Him.  But until then, I’ll keep it brief.  Whenever our expectations of God don’t align with the reality of who He is, we will be missing something.  We will be frustrated.  We will be running and grasping and wondering why our life isn’t going according to plan.  Our pain and suffering and unfulfilled prayers will try to tell us that our God isn’t good, didn’t show up, or doesn’t really love us.  But excruciating though it can be, surrendering even our most painful unmet expectations to God is like giving over control of the sculpting knife to the Master Artist and letting Him shape something beautiful.

I share in my book a little bit about my own type-1 diabetes and the ways God has used that to shape and alter my faith in surprisingly purposeful and pleasant ways.  (Though I wouldn’t choose it for myself!)  Even when it comes at great cost, I’m stubborn but slowly realizing I’d rather be stripped of my idols and comforts and see Him for the only thing I really need.  If He is my deepest expectation…my vision…my Hope…then I believe ultimately I have all that I need.

Check out this video to be encouraged and challenged, and then dig into the free Gray Faith study guide for chapter 6 below!

Puzzles and Expectations: Gray Faith Ch 6- “Gray Expectations”

Experiment #6- Part of experiencing the full life God wants means honestly giving Him our greatest disappointments, hurts, and fears. We have to get to a place where WHO God is outweighs the WHATS of our lives. I won’t pretend this is easy, and there isn’t a formula for getting there. But if we want to get to know someone better, sometimes asking a question is the best place to start. This week, tell God that you want to know Him better. Ask Him to show you through His Word something about Himself- part of who He is- that will meet you wherever you are at. Read the following verses and pray them for yourself this week:

Ephesians 1:17-19 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”

Chapter 6 Study Questions:

1. What does it look like to give God “an honest acknowledgement of struggle” instead of a “pretense of praise”?

2. What have been the “hard places” in your life? Have those places grown your faith or turned you away from God? Why?

3. Discuss your experience with God through prayer. Talk about your expectations, disappointments, and your level of honesty with God.

4. What does it look like to give up control and let God author your story? Is this idea scary or liberating for you?

5. Do you believe that God’s promises will keep you safe, thriving, and blessed? Use Scripture to explain why or why not.

6. How can we hold fast to God’s ultimate “good” promises when life doesn’t go as we want or expect? Can you believe in a good God when your circumstances are disappointing?

Bible passages for further reading:
Psalm 13 (David honest before God); Matthew 16:24-25 (Giving up to follow Christ); Romans 8:28 (He’s working for our good); John 16:33 (Jesus promises trouble/He overcomes);

Rethinking Evangelism (Gray Faith Ch 5: Gray Evangelism)

No matter what our cultural, ethnic, social, financial, whatever background, stories can connect us in a powerful way.  When someone has a similar story, our heart suddenly feels at home, knowing we’re not alone.  And when people have different experiences, stories are the bridge to help us understand each other better.  Your story has immense value.

And maybe “evangelism” isn’t quite so intimidating if we view it as the simple stories of our encounters with God, woven into our regular lives.  I’ll admit that most often I don’t know what to say or exactly how to say it, but maybe I need to stop looking for the perfect story and share my honest one.  Maybe you too.  Check out this week’s video below, then take some time to try the experiment or chapter 5 study questions on your own!


Experiment #5- Think about your life and the people you’ve shared your faith with. How does evangelism make you feel? If you’re like me, you may feel ashamed that you haven’t shared your faith story more often. Or, you might be someone who has shared your faith often, but you’ve struggled with whether your approach honors God. Ask God to identify one thing about how you share you faith that you can improve in. (If you’re stuck try praying about one of these: Listening better to others, being more sensitive to God’s Spirit, arguing less, having more confidence in sharing the story God’s given you, worrying less about having a “perfect” testimony, genuinely loving those you are sharing with, trusting the Spirit’s role in speaking to people, etc.) Just pick one thing. The next time you encounter someone and feel impressed to share part of your faith story, trust God to help you with that piece of evangelism He wants to grow you in.

Chapter 5 Study Questions:

1. What has influenced you to start following God, or to continue following Him?

2. Discuss the idea of conversion as a before and after experience. How can we emphasize God’s change in our lives without glossing over the reality of our ongoing struggles?

3. Do you feel confident sharing your faith outside of church? Discuss your fears or the reasons for your confidence.

4. How can the pressure to “evangelize” someone undermine the relational aspect of sharing the gospel?

6. A quote attributed to Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Some use this to suggest our actions should be speaking the gospel louder than our words. Others have said that this quote gives the false impression that using words to share the gospel isn’t that important. What does it mean for us to combine the power of our words and actions?

7. My parents once met a man from Africa who was a missionary to America. Does this surprise you? Use this as a springboard to discuss some of the unhealthy views we in America may have regarding mission work. Then discuss some of the positives of missions, perhaps from your own experience.

8. How can examining our view of evangelism and missions help us to love the world better?
Bible passages for further reading:
1 Peter 3:15 (Share faith with gentleness and respect); 1 Peter 2:12 (Live good lives among unbelievers); James 2:15-17 (action accompanies faith); Matthew 28:19-20 (Jesus commands us to share our faith); Romans 10:11-15 (Why we bring good news); Acts 2:42-47 (True godly community attracts others)


Do you feel like sharing your story?  You’ve come to the right place because I’d love to SHARE your story on one of my “Friend Post Friday” guest blog posts.  I have a guest-poster every fourth Friday of the month, so message me if you’d like to write something for this fall or winter!

 

 

Faith (Friend Post Friday #5)

It may be difficult to perfectly sum up today’s “Friend-poster”.  One of the very first times I met her, Lexi Mcguigan’s vulnerable words made me cry as she poured out her soul in a Breaking Silences girls’ play at Epoch Arts.  This is the place I’ve watched her invest so many precious pieces of herself in others through art and her servant’s heart.  She’s got this infectiously genuine personality and she’s present and invested in each moment.  One of the best things about Lexi (aside from the fact that she’s willing to babysit my three children!) is that she never wants to stay stagnant- she’s always thinking deeply, allowing herself to be shaped by God and others, desiring to grow even through the most difficult seasons.  And as she’s grown, she’s gleaned poignant wisdom to pass on to us.  I hope you’ll be inspired by her heart today…here’s Lexi!


“Faith”

by Lexi Mcguigan

When I was asked to write for the blog I was super excited, I love sharing my perspective and
view of things. I had already decided at the beginning of the month what I was going to write about and I thought that was that…. But boy was I wrong. What I felt the need to write about now was faith.

Faith:
complete trust or confidence in someone or something
synonyms:​ trust · belief · confidence · conviction · optimism · hopefulness · hope

Faith is a strong and powerful word, before looking it up in the dictionary I knew what it was, but I decided to look anyway and what I found interesting and kind of a call out was that a synonym of faith was conviction. I feel convicted of sin all the time, I am not a perfect christian nor do I claim to be, my only goal is to give God all of me. And I fail at that more than I succeed. I feel most people can relate to that because we are all human, we make mistakes, we falter and stumble. My main issue that I come upon is myself, I am my own worst enemy, the critic I can’t escape, the only one that can truly destroy my mind. So how do we escape from our own thoughts? Well through prayer, and I learned that through trial and error, through running away, and finally through just realizing the only one I can truly turn to is God. I have never before experienced the chaos and shake up of God in my life like this.

I have always had issues with control, I am very aware that I have no control and God always will but that does not stop me from trying. I’m stubborn and want things to go a certain way and I always seem to be telling God “I know your way is best but let me try” or “God I trust you, I give you all of me… except for this because I really think I need to do this.” I have this need to have everything stay the same or go in the direction I believe it should instead of trusting God’s plan. I have never been hit so hard in the face by my own actions and words as I have this past month. I never realized how much the word faith meant to me, God has stripped people for my life, moved me, changed me and altogether shown me that I am loved, I am his and yet I can’t give him my complete faith because I hold onto fear.

Fear itself is something we all feel at certain times, some more than others. I personally have been living in fear for most of my life. I believe that it is so easy to fall into fear which can lead to countless amounts of things. This past week we’ve been having some issues with our landlord, and only last night did I see what it was truly like to not live in fear or what might happen or to hold onto a grudge but to see this person through God’s eyes, this person God created just as he created me and he loves just as much as he loves all his children. For me to see this person as less than that itself is faithlessness in my opinion, to not try to understand my enemy, to not imagine them as my brother or sister; is a sin. In the bible it says “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.”(Psalm 34:4) So why do we still hold onto fear? When we give it to God are we truly giving it to him? I can answer this truthfully and say that not always do I fully give it to God and then I wonder why it still eats at me. At times I blame God for my own faults. And I think the hardest part about it, is sometimes when I blame him I am fully aware that I am to blame. Yet I am forgiven. Why then do I have fear?

As much as I wish I didn’t have fear I know it goes hand and hand with faith, without the trials and different stops I have made in fear I wouldn’t have the faith I have. Along with the the other things that have contributed to my faith, fear has played a big part. I know God has me on a path of for beautiful and amazing things, he would never abandon me so I am putting my trust in him. To quote tobymac. “It’s a little bit overdue, but I’m putting my trust in you. I refuse to backtrack because God has me on a road and it’s a one way street, no u-turns, and backing up on a busy road is illegal. He’s got mighty plans for his children and it all begins with faith. Fully giving yourself over to your Father, Your maker, the creator of all things.

I am a complete mess with God in my life, thinking about it now; I’m not even sure how I
survived without him. My journey with God is far from over and I am bound to fall down at times but I have the faith and trust that God will pick me back up, dust me off and tell me to get back in the game. And there’s times I feel like giving up, It’s hard to be in a world so full of negativity and anger, sometimes we start to be in the world instead of being of the world. We as christians need to spread this faith, I remember during the hartford project this month the pastor of South church said something amazing that sticks to my heart. “It’s like we’re in a battlefield, were clothed in this amazing armor of God and we’re watching others go out into battle unprepared. We are letting people die because of fear.” Yes it is scary but our God is always with us, we are only here for a moment. I want to see my friends, family acquaintances and strangers in heaven rejoicing because of our God. The only way we’re going to do that, is by faith.

The Christian Phrase I Hate (Gray Faith Study Ch 4: Gray Sin)

Does the very phrase “gray sin” make you uncomfortable?  Each generation seems to be getting more and more fuzzy about what sin means and how we handle it.  But if we’re going to live and love in God’s kingdom, we need a give-and-take discussion about sin.  And frankly, people, we all have room to grow in how we respond.

Check out my video to find out one Christian phrase I’ve come to hate- then stick around to check out this week’s on-your-own experiment and study questions.  (To follow along with the book, download or purchase here: Gray Faith on Amazon. )

Experiment #4:  

(PART 1) Find a comfortable place to kneel down.  Read through Bible passages that declare God’s holiness and power (Revelation 4:8-11, Job 38, 1Timothy 6:15-16)  Or listen to songs like “Revelation Song” by Kari Jobe, or “The Stand” by Hillsong, “Your Great Name” by Natalie Grant.  (These are suggestions- feel free to play songs you most resonate with.)  The posture of kneeling or bowing sometimes helps us to physically acknowledge who God is. Verbally acknowledge His holiness and that you accept His Lordship in your life.  Consider your smallness and brokenness in relation to who He is.

 

(Part 2) Instead of dwelling on your smallness and brokenness to the point of guilt and despair, now consider the amazing love of the Father who made a way for you to approach His throne with confidence (Hebrews 4:16).  Relish the fact that you’re covered by Jesus’ holiness, that God has removed your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).  Take a moment to just dwell on how great His love for us is, that covers over our worst sins.  Write any thoughts that come to you during this time.

 

Chapter 4 Study Questions:

 

  1. What did you grow up believing were the “big sins”?  Has your understanding of or reaction to these sins changed over time?

 

  1. Can you live in the tension that someone else who loves God may not follow God the same way you do?  Explain.

 

  1.  What is the difference between standing up for what we believe in and arguing with someone over belief?  

 

  1. What does it look like to confront sin in love?

 

  1.  We’re all broken- prone to fail and fall short of God’s glory.  How have honest relationships in your life have helped to break down your judgment towards others?  

 

  1.  The “discomfort of grace” means that God covers our sins, even those we aren’t aware we commit, and he covers others as well.  We’re partly right, partly wrong.  Discuss what implications this has for our moral disagreements and how we interact with others.

 

  1. How does the magnitude of God’s holiness affect the way you view sin?

 

Bible passages for further reading:

Romans 14 (Don’t judge, Disputable issues are between us and God); Matthew 18:15-17 (sin in the Church); 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 (we know in part); Philippian 1:4-11 (God continues a good work in us); Luke 7:36-47 (Those who are forgiven much, love much); Luke 17:1-4 (Causing to sin); John 8:1-11 (A Woman Caught in Adultery); Acts 2:38 (Repent from Sin and be forgiven);Luke 18:9-14 (Humility before God); Revelation 1:9-18 (A Vision of holy Jesus


Tough conversation, but if you care to join, please comment below with your thoughts on anything from your own experience with Christianity and sin, to answers to the study questions. Thanks for joining the online study!

Favorite Five [Shopping] For Freedom

I’m no Oprah, but this girl can still make a list of favorites.  I’ve struggled in recent years with the stark contrast between my excess and other’s lack.  My plenty with another’s need.  And though I know our consumerism is part of the problem, I’m encouraged to find organizations that are creating equalizing opportunities through the very products we buy.  It’s a huge step in the right direction!  You’ve probably heard of organizations like TOMS (the one-for-one charity) or World Vision’s Gift Catalog, but in recent years I’ve connected with some other amazing organizations with crazy heart and a beautiful mission.

With each of the five organizations I’m listing below, I’ve either made a personal connection with a team member, or I’ve personally bought their items.  I can vouch for their work and mission and I’m excited to share them with you today:

1: IMAGINE GOODS

This is a fantastic company I stumbled upon during my involvement with Love146 which seeks to end child trafficking and modern day slavery.  Love146 realized that the t-shirts they sold to promote their organization might actually be perpetuating the very child labor they were seeking to end.  As a result, they partnered up with “Imagine Goods” which provides former victims of trafficking with sustainable employment opportunities.  When you buy through them, you know that the clothes you’re wearing didn’t come at the cost of unfair labor for someone else.  Here are some of the things I’ve bought from them!  (I hope you enjoy my cheesy selfie-modeling poses.)

(Top Picture: “the Kate dress“.  Bottom Picture: (skirt no longer sold) Shirt: The Empowerment Women’s T-Shirt–  SHIRT QUOTE: Empowerment is equipping an author with pen and ink to write their own story.)

AND Better yet, they’re running a sale through Sunday July 23rd! So now is a great time to try them out!

2: NEW CREATION- Design for Justice

I ran into this Harrisonburg, VA based organization through ImagineGoods actually.  While I haven’t ever been to this physical store (it’s on my to-do for one of our next trips south!), they have quite a unique story.  They call this place their “porn shop takeover” where they bought up a building that once perpetuated the trafficking industry and turned that into a powerful weapon against the evil it once stood for.  In their words, their mission is ” counteracting human trafficking through education, awareness, design, + the hope of Christ”.

 

And of course…I bought their “Justice and Coffee” shirt.

Next on my list to buy from them is one of their cool art prints or perhaps some survivor-made lip gloss that supports trafficked victims right out of Nashville, TN.  🙂  Win-win.

3: TRADES OF HOPE

Trades of Hope is very similar to the other two organizations in the ways that it empowers women to support themselves through the production and sale of products.  I love that Trades of Hope reaches out to a variety of women in multiple countries and addresses multiple reasons for poverty (disease, cultural discrimination, trafficking, etc).  But what I additionally love about Trades of Hope is that their sales approach also provides employment opportunities for “Compassionate Entrepreneurs” who sell largely through host product parties.  They sell jewelry, hand-bags, scarves, home-goods, and more- and for each item you can see a little bit of information about the artisans that created the product.  It’s a great way to combat poverty and start some conversations through the items you wear and have in your home!  I’m actually hosting my first Trades of Hope party this Thursday through my May Friend-Post Blogger, Sharon.  So if you’re interested in more information, please check her out!

4: NIGHTLIGHT DESIGN

Also during my time with Love146, we had a man visit and share about his heart to change the trafficking climate by addressing the very men who perpetuated the demand for trafficking.  Since then, he has shifted ministry roles, but he now finds himself working with a mission out of Bangkok Thailand which created “Nightlight Design” . This organization mirrors the others in the way it empowers the trafficking survivors right out of Thailand.  My understanding is that you can “host” a party with friends, church, etc, where Nightlight will send you a box of items to sell, and you return any unsold items and the profits from sales back to their team.  You can also purchase online!

5: AMANI YA JUU (Amani Africa)

Call me crazy, but one morning I woke up with the word “Amani” in my head.  Having no idea what it meant, I looked it up and discovered it means “peace” in Swahili.  So months later when I talked to a friend who worked with an organization called “Amani Ya Juu” I was understandably intrigued.

Amani also allows artisans to create sustainable income through the creation of products.  But Amani has such a unique focus on the communities established through each of their centers (Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, and Chattanooga, TN).  Each of these community centers uniquely reflects the women involved, and provides far more than just training or employment.  Especially in light of the refugee crisis of late, the stories you’ll read about the women who launched Amanai and the centers will truly inspire you.  They are bringing so much life where once was grief and pain.

AND I had the pleasure of visiting their Chattanooga storefront last November-

and was in love with their unique toy items, clothes, greeting cards, and more.  Here’s some pictures to give you an idea:

(This skirt has POCKETS!!! Yes, please!)

Such a great shop, and you can find many of these items and more online as well!


Thanks for hanging around to see a few of my favorite shops for freedom.  This is part of my promise to post about some cool ways you can be part of changing the world with your own “less to be more”.  I’m looking forward to sharing more hands-on opportunities with you soon!  What organizations have you worked with that are empowering people and changing the world?  I’d love to hear about them!

Gray Church (Ch 3, Online Gray Faith Study)

The Church isn’t always perfect.  OK, sometimes we’re a long way from it.  Yet there’s a mystery to this group of believers that we’re called to live within.  God intends each of us to build up those around us with the gifts, love, and abilities He’s equipped us with…yet we often disagree and divide instead.  I don’t believe we’re meant to sit stagnant and ignore the areas where our church may be missing God’s heart.  But I believe we’re called to be humble catalysts of change, often right where we are.  Watch this video and check out the discussion questions below as we continue our online study together!


Gray Church Video: Three C’s for Investing in Healthy Church

Gray Faith Chapter 3 Experiment/Study Guide:

Experiment #3:
If you’re a regular church attender, and especially if you’re very active in your church, plan a time to take a week off. If you feel comfortable, try taking a week off from church altogether. Instead, carve out some time to meet with God on your own or with your family. Worship God in a stripped setting- perhaps out in nature, or a personal favorite place. Understand, this isn’t meant to drive you away from your church. Rather, stepping back gives you a chance to breathe in God without feeling the weight of a “role” to perform, and it allows you to step back from routine so you can gain fresh perspective. During this time, honestly give God your ministries, your experience and expectations within the church, your relationships with members and leaders. Ask God to show you where your heart is in line with His and where He wants to shift your heart, roles, or expectations. Write down your thoughts from this reflection.

Chapter 3 Study Questions:

1.What is the role or purpose of the church? (the local church and the global church)

2. We want our churches to be relevant and inviting to the outside world for good reason. But have you ever gotten more caught up in what church looked like than the God who is relevant regardless? What does it mean to be “seeker-friendly” in a way that doesn’t diminish God?

3. How have you experienced the brokenness of the church? How have you been a part of the brokenness of the church?

4. If you’ve never done this before, sit down and make a list of church “non-negotiables”: the doctrines and practices that you MUST agree with in order to be part of a church family. Then make a list of “secondary issues”, such as worship style, ministries or activities offered, etc.

How often do your church frustrations stem from the list of non-negotiables vs secondary issues?

5. All of us within a church family have weaknesses. What does it look like to stay together as a church and balance each other even through disagreements?

6. When you consider that some people will never enter a church building, how do you feel? What does it mean to be the church outside of the church building? Think of examples that are specific to you.

7. In what areas of ministry do you serve the church? Do you feel that you are serving in a healthy way? (Consider your time commitment, affect on family, energy spent, motivation for serving, people you may feel the need to please, etc.) Have you ever stepped back to reflect and pray about your role?

8. Discuss the cost of our lack of unity between churches, especially across cultural and denominational lines. How can we begin to bridge the gap?

Bible passages for further study:
The Book of Acts (beginning of the Church); Romans 12:3-13 (The Church as a Body); 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (The Church as a Body); Hebrews 10:23-25 (Encourage and Meet Together); 1 Corinthians 14 (Instructions for Worship/ Order)

How To Leave Your Vacation in 10 Steps (Vacation Days 7/8)

Sweet Connecticut!!!!

(Aaaand, now I’m going to have This Song in my head the rest of the week.)

We are finally home after leaving Virginia Beach yesterday and coloring all over the dining room mirrors of my friend’s house where we stayed the night.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Here’s “how to leave your vacation” in 10 easy steps:

1: Recognize the signs that you and your children are going into vacation insanity mode caused by lack of consistent sleep and routine. (Hanging off the coffee table while watching TV…check!)  2: Plan a family photo shoot the day before you leave.  Expect to take 80 or so shots of your kids, and leave with 1 or 2 that are…well…better growling than not looking at all.

3: Assess all the things that you had once packed so carefully…breathe in… and haphazardly shove them into the nearest available suitcase. Suck it up! Now is not the time to cry over a little disorganization!!

4: Walk your kids down to the beach to say “good-bye”.  Your desire to stare longingly out over the beautiful, rippling water will be cut short by your boys running away from you.  You should probably catch them, even though they’re being punks and they can totally hear you yelling at them to come back. Ahem.

5: Start your trip carefully following your phone’s GPS and trustingly believe it when it says the “accident in the tunnel” will only cause you an 11 minute delay.  After waiting in dead standstill traffic for 5 minutes, turn around in a mostly legal way. Er.  Close enough.  (It will take you months to trust your GPS again…but with therapy you’ll make it.) Pull over to take a depressing family picture while your husband researches a new route.) 

6: Regroup at a cute little rest area complete with lawn art and a toddler sized toilet.  (Decide to use the toddler toilet because frankly the bathroom line is unnecessary.) Be careful to avoid the “wet floor” signs…they’re kind of subtle.

Step 7: After some crazy rain and flash flooding, finally make it to your overnight stay at a friend’s house.  Let the kids run amok in her home and obsess over their exotic door mail slot.  

Step 8: Take your time in the morning to properly release your family chaos all over your friend’s peaceful townhouse.  Allow your friends to cook you an amazing breakfast and drool over the delicious Croatian leftovers they generously send you home with.

Step 9: Stop about an hour away from home to grab a bit to eat.  In an irritated attempt to find your son’s shoes that he likely threw during a moment of car rage, inadvertently drop the soft cooler that’s holding your new coffee mug.  Take a moment to mourn your loss. Step 10: Power through that last hour of trip and then beam briefly at your trip odometer.  Not too shabby.  Now, quit smiling and get inside to start unpacking and dealing with the post-trip melt-downs. These are simply signs that you’re alive and made it.  

(We loved VA, but it’s good to be back CT.  For those who survived all of our mini-vacation episodes…thanks so much for sharing this adventure with us.  It’s been a blast!)

Sincerely,

~Carrye

Hiding from Vacation (Vaca Day 6)

Well CT,

Tomorrow we’ll be returning to you and I’m starting to feel it.  The “it” of swimming in anything but normal, without the floatie of routine or consistency.  I’m feeling the lack of sleep, and questioning the sanity of my decision to combine a back to back late evening of gaming with my whim to catch the 5:55am sunrise.  I’m struggling with the oddness of seeing my husband every day and not remembering the last full conversation we had because although Virginia is for lovers, family vacation is not.  (The top scintillating conversations we’ve had so far this week are: “Did you put sunscreen on the kids, or was I supposed to?” and “I think I saw a jellyfish in the water.”)  In looking through our pictures, I found an unfortunate trend.  Let’s see if you can figure it out:

(Ummm, yeah, you can ignore that last picture my son took of me pretending to be attacked by a giant lobster statue…) But the common denominator for all the OTHER pictures above is simply that my husband and I aren’t in any of the pictures together because we’re always tag-teaming kid duty.  I actually think the fine-print on all family vacation contracts stipulates that couples-only pictures are strictly prohibited, with the exception of dude ranch trips or travel to Ohio and Yemen.)

As my mom said today, vacation feels like its supposed to be a delicious mini-slice of heaven on earth, and yet we’ll always be falling a bit short of perfection.  (Even with delicious food, precious family fun, surf and java.)

And eventually something about the relaxation of vacation actually draws a renewed desire for something truly purposeful and intentional in our pre-trip lives.  With any luck we leave paradise with a piece of peace, a reminder to slow long enough to savor people over agendas, and a vision of our smallness in the midst of vast creation that gives us fresh taste of humility’s wisdom.

But I’m not sure my emotions have quite caught up to all that wisdom, so for the next few minutes I’ll just finish hiding from vacation here in the AC without the kids.  I’m like a chameleon; I’m blending so well with the wall art I bet you can’t even see me.If you can’t spot me, don’t worry.  You can catch me in person in a couple days.

~Incognito Carrye