God’s Idea of Perfect…

I was typing an email yesterday and God just laid this in my lap.  We live in a culture of pseudo perfection. We attempt the perfect body, marriage, family, church, country. We  spend countless hours trying to achieve some shifting notion of “just right.” And, frankly, it’s killing us.

Yes, we are spiritually wired for perfection, but it is one of those “not yet” scenarios. When we are fully with the Perfect One, we will enjoy our perfect reality.

But in the meantime. What is God working on?

God-molded-me-for-who-I-am.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

This jumped off the page for me! God has his own goals of perfection. He is not focused on six-pack abs, or 401K totals, or world issues, although He intimately knows and cares about those things. In fact, He graciously “gives us all things” and uses those things to shape us and reveal His love and nature.

But God is working daily to perfect our faith that we might believe in who He is.
All His love. All His power. All His availability. His Kingdom come, His will be done.

Is it possible that our greatest achievement in this life is how well we believed Him?

Perfect in Faith.

Is it possible that the goal is to become and accomplish all that He promised us only because we believed Him more and more with each passing year and circumstance?

Fixing our eyes. Focusing our attention, but also repairing our vision. We are learning to see with Heaven’s eyes, looking through His lens of truth and love.

On Jesus. The only One truly worthy of our trust and adoration. All other ground is sinking sand.

The author. He is in all and over all. “All the earth beneath you, all my life before you.”

And perfecter. His intention, goal and plan is that we would be made perfect in the knowledge of him. Who can thwart the plans of God? Job asked.

Of our faith. “Help my unbelief” the man cried to Jesus.  What a blessing. What a gift. What a relief to know He is actively working to perfect our faith to believe Him more.

I am so struck by this glimmer of God.  I want to respond to what He is actively working on. My faith. I want my heart to be so steadfast, so held by His perfect love, that when I see Him face to face, we won’t be talking about what I did for Him but what I believed about Him.

Pay attention to your life. All of it. And know that Jesus is actively, wonderfully perfecting your faith. Because when you believe Him well, everything else changes too.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

When You think You Need More Money…

I have a lot of wealthy friends.  We live in really different financial spheres and  sometimes the money gap is comical.  For example,  I was thrilled to go to Florida and one friend vacationed at  a Mediterranean  oasis.  I bought a new house (that I love!) and one friend bought a new house that makes my house look like her bonus room.  Another  friend  eloquently remarked, “Jana I live in a land with lots of zeros, so I  am not worried about the cost of this.”

I laughed out loud. I can’t even imagine making such a statement.

The odd thing though is my wealthy friends also make heart-wrenching comments.  Two of them said  recently that they have a hard time with close friendships because people are jealous of them and that people judge them for how they spend their money.IMG_1962

These comments rattled my soul. For several reasons. I love my friends. Deeply. And they love me. Deeply.

I would hope that their love for me would not fluctuate as my income fluctuates. As in,  when I have no money,  I would have no friendship? So then, why would having a surplus of income mean a sacrifice of friendship?

Do we really believe that more money is the answer to most everything?  If we are not careful, we will have our eyes on more money rather than on more of our Maker.  Look at these statements from wealthy people in my world:

“I have so much money, I don’t really need Jesus for anything.”

“I had an opportunity to make millions, but I don’t think that is what’s best for my family or my own soul. I don’t think this is God’s plan for me right now.”

“I am thankful for the money we have, but my friends think I don’t have any problems.  They think their  life is harder than mine. And it gets very lonely.”

Do you hear the temptation? the poverty? the need?  Suddenly the ground becomes very level at the Cross. Perhaps money isn’t the answer to everything. Here are real life people who have plenty of money, yet still have plenty of lack.

Theologian Henri Nouwen poignantly calls out that we are all poor in some areas and rich in some areas. Some have material wealth, some have spiritual wealth. Some have wisdom, some mercy.  Yet above all things, he asks, where is our trust? The Lord is the source of all, for all.

Extreme security.  These are the two words that God gave me in March.  It was an invitation actually.

“How would you like to live in “extreme security?” He asked.

“What does this mean?” I said. Instantly I thought of paying opportunities that would give me more stability, more options. But that’s not what He had in mind.

“That you would be so convinced of My Provision that I would  become your ‘extreme security’.”

“I would love this Lord, but I don’t know how.”

“Trust Me.”

Trusting the goodness of God is our highest goal. Perhaps, just perhaps, this is why Jesus said you can’t love God and love money. You have to choose.

You can love God and use money. But you can’t love money and use God.

When I love God, I can learn to trust in His abundance for my every need. Enter peace.

When I love money, I am constantly grasping for more to meet my own needs. Enter exhaustion.

My wealthy friends already know this. They have all they need financially and more. (Which is why they give so much away.) They already know that money doesn’t meet ALL their needs. Only God can do that.

So regardless of your financial status, how is your peace? What is your source? Where is your love?

Really let the Lord reveal your mental conversations as you compare yourself to others, or even despise others for their surplus or lack. Are you asking God to meet your needs?  Are you accusing God of not taking care of you? How about this— are you thanking God for what you do have?

And, likewise, let the Lord reveal your areas of spiritual wealth. What areas are you so full that you might share with others?  You may be rich in ways you have never considered. I love what 1 Timothy 6:6 says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  Godliness. Contentment. Great Gain. This sounds like a great path for us all, regardless of the number of zeros in our lives.

God is faithful to meet all our needs. May we be rich in trusting Him.

 

 

 

Standing in These Uncertain Days…

ISIS. Torture. Beheadings. Martyrs. Burned at the stake. Crucified.

Persecution is not a new thing. More than twenty years ago,  as brand new believers, Chuck and I worked closely with the Voice of the Martyrs organization. We heard stories that  turn your stomach turn and test your faith.  But that’s not all.  I have read many history books. And, I have read the New Testament.  Often.

Remember? It is the stories of people who experienced  overwhelming love and utter sacrifice. Persecution is not a new thing.

So as we face the current onslaught, the alarm sounds for us to move deeper into the heart of God.  Just as  tornado warnings  blare out for us to “seek shelter,”  so we  seek the shelter of the Almighty.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.” 

Psalm 91:1-3

These are the days that separate true faith from religion. The sheep from the goats. Religion would make cowards of us all.  Social comfort zones, or playing church, do not provide a foundation worth dying for.  But “the love of God compels us” to stand against the evil of every generation.

I tell you in the Spirit, the days we are living in must produce  three things in every believer’s heart—love, power, and a sound mind.

Love will help you discern that the battle we are in is not against “flesh and blood but principalities and powers.”  (Ephesians 6:12)

Love— and I mean God’s real, relevant and consuming affection—  will help you abandon your life into His heart. That though you lose your life, you know you will save your soul. These are chilling questions but ones you must examine.

“Am I willing to die for Jesus?”  “Am I willing to lose all that I have, including my family, for Jesus?”IMG_4803

You can be sure that our brothers and sisters in the middle East live—and die— by their answers every day. We are not exempt from these spiritual siftings.

Jesus himself spoke of days just as these and declared that these things “must happen.” But his warning? He was concerned about our love. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,  but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24: 12-13 What is your love temperature?

It a sincere love for Jesus that motivates us to follow in His sufferings should that day come. You can’t fake Christianity for long when someone is a holding a gun to your head. Be diligent then in these days. Cultivate, nurture, prioritize your relationship with God now.

Power will equip you to wage war with “divine weapons” and demolish strongholds regardless of where the enemies are located.  (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Power comes when we understand that Jesus reigns. He is the King of all the earth. Period.  When we see evil on the rise, we must respond with even greater confidence and faith. And we must respond. In prayer, in action, in faith.  The great Light of God has come into the world, and the darkness cannot put it out. Not ISIS, not anyone.

Through him all things were made;

without him nothing was made that has been made. 

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome  it.”

John 1: 3-5

We don’t wring our hands, or fret about our way of life. We speak the kingdom of God into the darkest places. We declare the goodness of God to be manifested to those being tormented but also to the tormentors. We release the Scriptures like arrows. We stand in the Spirit against our enemy, we intercede for the suffering. Just this morning I prayed that the name of Jesus would “pour forth like ointment.” (Song of Songs 1:3)

We must rise up into the power and authority that Jesus gave us to advance His Kingdom.  It is time for the church to stop its petty territory games and “follow the leader” paradigms and instead start equipping the saints for the Holy War of Love.

A sound mind has a peace that  “will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:7

It is in the mind that your greatest victory is won. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” ( 2 Timothy 1:7 )  A sound mind has already been given to you. Are you accessing it?  We know that in Him we are more than conquerors.  But so many of us live in a daily panic or state of “what if this happens.”

I challenge you that God knows your days.  He knows the hairs on your head. His job is to be God. Your job is to trust and obey. Trust His goodness, even in the darkest of circumstances, and obey His commands: Love God and love your neighbor.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the LORD require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8

Which takes more faith? To freak out over every news report or Facebook post? Or, to love your enemies and to bless those who persecute you? ( Matthew 5:44) Our sound mind and steadfast faith releases the power of God into our lives and the world.

Perhaps, the greatest challenge we face as Christians is to finally learn the secret:  “Perfect Love casts out fear.”

Today. Tomorrow. Middle East. USA. War. Peace. Famine. Abundance. It is Christ alone.

I exhort you to examine your life. To purposely raise your spiritual expectations so that you live in the realm of Love, Power and a Sound Mind.  Then we might  truly see “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.”

 

 

Why Say Yes to God?

I am just looking at the date of my last post.  No wonder I am spilling over with God stories. I have some much to brag on God about. It is hard to walk day by day with God and not be overwhelmed by His kindness. His goodness. His abundance. Don’t you agree?

As to my absence, I have been in the throes of a move.  I continue to unpack boxes of STUFF, and I paint, and purge, and muse on God’s promise now realized. I am overcome with the word that started the whole endeavor of a new home.

Saying Yes to God.

It is a great story and I will certainly share it in due time. But for now, I wanted pique your interest in the new class I am teaching beginning Thursday, June 19. Of the same name, it is an exploration of what happens when people say Yes to the Living God. As is my custom, there will be worship, God stories, Bible study, hands on activities, and  hard questions (wink).  But more than anything, there is this worthy question: Why say Yes to God?

Who is more trustworthy? Who more dependable? Who truly knows best?

But equally important, how do we Hold On to our Yes in the middle of uncertainty?

I just want to share one often repeated prayer that got me through the whole ordeal of closing on our house of promise:

“Jesus, I just want to love you well through this whole process.”

That phrase was a great protection against unbelief, fear, doubt.  More later.

I hope you will join me Thursday night. And, if you can’t come, please let your friends know who may need a little spiritual refreshment this summer.

Location: Claris Networks Conference Room, 6100 Lonas Rd, Knoxville 37909

Very conveniently located off Papermill exit. 6:30- 8:30  First Class, Thursday June 19. No homework. All are welcome. Saved, unsaved, churched, unchurched.

Finally—just for fun—because He is so hilarious, look at the two signs I saw after I decided on the topic.  Be Blessed. Janaphoto

 

yes photo

 

 

 

Awakened by the God of the Ocean

Years ago, I remember reading a profound little book called Gifts from the Sea by Ann Morrow Lindbergh.  I was a new Christian, a wanna-be writer and a newlywed. Her book was so deep and so grown up, I missed much of her wisdIMG_1107om the first time I read it.

It seemed surreal that she would leave her family, or could leave it, just to go to a beach to unwind and write. And yet, here I am — waiting, seeking  what the ocean might bring to my distracted soul; here I am yearning for the presence of God. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

Like my sister from generations passed, I am disentangling myself from the daily demands of family, work, ministry, and life. They are beautiful  cords that weave through and decorate my life. Yet I confess the tautness and pull of them sometimes knot up my mind. (I suspect I am not alone.) Ann Morrow described a woman’s life being the hub of a wheel with responsibilities and relationships emanating outwards in constant motion. That said, it required so much trust and courage to step out of the circle of motion and to take the time to unknot myself. Oddly, I find it is the very lack of pace that leaves me uncomfortable.

What do I do with my time? Now that I have removed all excuses and counterfeits, what is best done with my sabbathed energies and emotions?

I listen.

Yesterday the word was affection.  We talked about hearts. But not sea shell hearts, although I have found many. He showed me hearts in the sand, hearts outside crab holes, hearts in sea foam, in the clouds, in tree leaves.

The message?

His love is everywhere. Will I simply see it and receive it?

His love is everywhere. Is there anything more present or powerful? 

His love is everywhere. Am I walking in the boldness of a well loved woman?

As I look back on my God journey, I realize my soul was awakened by the ocean. From a child who giggled at first sight, to a twenty-something who stood by the sea and cursed my life for its bitterness and loneliness, to a young married consumed with “what would be one day”, to a wonder-filled diver who explored the glorious underwaters, to a forty-something who realized that I was not alone as I picked through the trinkets of the sea — God had been there, was there, would be there. He is here. Now.

My conversations have changed over the years and the beach trips. This time together, we dream and enjoy and ponder. The conversations are as diverse as the tides that roll in differently every day. One day it is fierce and windy, leaving me breathless and slightly off center;  another day is warm with gentle waves urging me closer.

Every day there are different lessons and perspectives. But always, always is the “voice of many waters”. Always is the rushing energy, the pounding roar, the blue visual feast that stretches out beyond my comprehension. Every day is the welling up in my spirit, in my deepest heart that often goes overlooked or undernourished when I am in the “hub mode.” God is for sure the center of my life, but life itself is draining as “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

So to pull away, to hear him, to laugh and muse, to tease and argue, to deeply intercede for others in a focused way…it replenishes me in the same way the dry sand hungrily soaks up every drop as the waves wash ashore.

What do I do with so much time with the God of the ocean?
Soak Him in.

Find your place, your beach, your sabbath. Find your spirit again.

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:31

What is your song?

CascadeDo you ever have those moments when you are listening to someone teach and then Holy Spirit starts talking at the same time and then the two of you go off on some tangent? I love when this happens.

So yesterday I  listened to a pastor unpack one of my favorite verses, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6  He  said when our own hearts are hard and full of self that God fights against us and  that we often we feel that  fight in the hardness  we experience from others. Ouch, I thought. Been there, done that.

But God,  more importantly, gives supernatural help and divine favor when we  lay down our rights and demands and  trust Him to transform  the situation. We surrender our hurt and anger to God and ask Him to change both of us.  Then God is free to pour out grace and help to us when we understand that we can’t do it alone, but we also know that only  God truly sees the best way. His ways are perfect.

Okay, that is meaty enough. BUT here is the Holy Spirit revelation.  When the pastor was talkng about how God pours out lavishly into the person who is humble before Him,  the Spirit began talking about singing.  He teaches us new songs about His love. He keeps singing them to us, over us, in us. He sings until we sing with Him. Then we begin to sing it to others.

In a moment He reminded me of the new worship song He is planting in my heart. I heard it “randomly”.  I hit repeat, listening over and over. Then I heard it in my sleep. Then I began singing it.  The other night I was singing it out loud as I was cooking dinner.  My family came in and asked what I was singing?  So we all listened to the song together.  On the way to school the next day, the girls and I sang this new worship song together.  Perfect picture of how He sings to us. All these dots connected for me  in a moment, right? Here comes the kicker.

“What is your song of grace?” He asked me.  Selah.

God  wants our hearts to be so tender towards Him, so empty of distraction by others, that His favor blows through us, as music fills the air.  And when we learn His songs of grace, we can go sing them over others.  All this by way of humility.

Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up  in due time.”  1 Peter 5:6

Here is the beautiful song… Fall Afresh, Jeremy Riddle, Loft Sessions

 

Appetites in the Hands of God

jesus+good+shepherd+3As we think about appetites this month it is good to know that you are not bad for having them. It is more a question of what do you do with them? How do you sort whether they are good or bad for you? Be sure to check out our first two WGR classes as we mull over some tough questions.

But for today let me relay a God story. He has such a sense of humor…

This weekend I  turned over two different calendars since we just began  February.  And to my surprise the verse was the same.  I have never had that happen before.

An even greater surprise was the selected verse — Psalm 23. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

Isn’t He funny? We have talked about that verse for the last two weeks in WGR class. One translation is: I lack no good thing.  Here we are talking about appetites and God is already giving us a clue to the answer. Because God is my shepherd, I don’t HAVE to want. Re-read the first three verses of Psalm 23.  Then work on believing them. Don’t just blow past this. Soak in His truth so your truth system will line up…

Stay tuned. More to come.

Confessions of a Woman in Process

I enjoyed preparing for three celebrations at my house recently, a bridal shower, a baby shower, and a team work retreat for my husband’s company. The cooking and decorating stirred my heart in different ways.  I thought I’d share with you what I wrote for the bride to be:

“Preparing for this shower was a good time to reflect, marvel, mourn,  and give thanks. It began with the tablecloths. Looking through my tablecloths was like peeking into my past. Some I bought, some were gifts, some I made. One cloth is from my friend. It is a patchwork, diverse and beautiful. Like our friendship. There is the one I paid too much for and have never really liked. But I keep it because it is neutral and necessary. A lot of life lessons are like this: expensive but useful. Then there is the outside cloth, the lace cloth, the zebra cloth, the red cloth that used to be a curtain but I loved the color so much that I converted it.

All of them have their place and lesson. They are a passage of time, tastes, and stories — lean times and plenty, discoveries of what I liked and who I was, stories that captured a mixture of emotions.

The pink gingham cloth came from my grandmother. It is precious to me.  I don’t use it often but it is a constant in my drawer to choose from. And though it is stained and so out of date, I cannot bear to part with it.

Do that with some of your traditions. Treasure them. Keep them. But don’t feel bound to use them every day.

People whom I loved, studied, mentored, and learned from, all ate at my table with these cloths. We laughed together and cried together. Some of these  people  are now dead or  they’ve moved on to other friendships. It was good for me to serve them. They are forever part of my life,  marriage and  legacy.

Learn to enjoy the beauty of people eating at your table. It is what God himself has done—invited us to feast at His table.

The napkins also caused a lot insight. For a long time in my life and marriage, I wanted everything to be perfect, to match, to be just right.  In fact I wouldn’t let people in my house, and honestly my life, unless it was. The napkins reminded me of that. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore. I’ve relaxed. I’ve got different priorities and values than when I started. I don’t mind the tatters and stains so much. Peace lives in me now, instead of that hounding jackal called perfectionism.

I realized cloth napkins are a lot like marriage. Some of them are durable, they wash and wear easily. Like our daily lives. We need attitudes and beliefs that can stand up to daily use. Some of the napkins faded pretty quickly after use much like expectations and demands we have for each other. Some of the napkins are silky, for romantic dinners at home. I have to remember to keep pulling those out. I have to keep my heart centered on my marriage so that kids and life and work don’t overshadow the love story that began the whole journey in the first place.

There are seasonal napkins, formal napkins and paper napkins. They all have their place in time, in marriage, in life.

Finally, there was the dirty napkin. I have no idea how long it has hidden in the cabinet. But this is October and it is a Christmas napkin.

It reminded me  that I am learning to be nice to me. There is dirt. I may or may not know about. But it will surface sooner or later. And there is grace for that too. For all of it.

By their very nature, napkins clean up messes, beautifully. Expect to have messes on this journey.

But above all enjoy the meal. Enjoy the conversations, the laughter and tears. Listen and learn from those who sit at your table. Young and old. Savor the seasons. Each person, friendship, meal is a gift of time. Learn to serve. Learn to be served. Be nice to yourself. The pressure is off.

Give yourself time and permission to Learn how to love. Marriage, and life, doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure you have lots of napkins along the way.”

Room for Wonder

We make all kinds of allowances for fear, worry and stress.  We take meds. We have talk shows. We have lots of diagnoses. But I am not sure we are actually getting any where.

My friend Heather said, “this way of life is scandalously simple.” Let me explain the math.

Jesus is the Son of God. He can do anything. (Check your own qualifiers and excuses that just surfaced.) He loves us completely, in fact He adores us.  Lavish is the word that comes to mind.  All through scripture we see Him saying radical things like:

  • Ask and believe.
  • With God all things are possible.
  • If you believe, you will see the glory of God.

Yet we don’t ask. We don’t be believe. And we don’t see His glory.

What are we waiting for??  The Lord told me the other day that I was too comfortable. I wasn’t attempting anything that needed a miracle.  A God life should be so big that it takes God to pull it off.  How big is your life, your ask, your need?  How big is your God? How great is your faith?  Mary turned to Jesus for help when they had run out of wine.  Not a life or death situation. Not healing. It was a party.  And after she asked she immediately turned to the servants and said, “do whatever he tells you do.”

Belief. Waiting. Expecting.

There should always be “room for wonder” in our lives. We have to let go of the control and confines and leave space for God to show up and show off. But instead of waiting in wonder, we often quit, lament, or take it back in our own hands.

Let’s be done, shall we?  Let’s whisper our prayers in faith, fully knowing that He listening and ready to pour out. Let’s pray for others knowing that God is ready to be God to them. Let’s do whatever he tells us. And then let’s sit back after the miracle with hearts full of wonder and give God all the glory for being God. He is so worthy of all our praise.

 

Hidden Masterpieces

Never question the unseen work you do. For God sees. And God enjoys.

I was struck this morning by the heavy fog. Hard to see much of anything until the sun began burning off the haze. And then, at just the right angle, I  noticed along the roads were these beautiful cobwebs strung between the power cables.  If you drove right up on them they disappeared. But with the donning of the dew, you could see their delicate artistry.

Spider webs. Between power lines. If you can visualize it, because they were so hard photograph, the spider’s masterpieces appeared to be on display, an elegant hanging gallery.

But who would see them, except for the dew?  And yet they spin them.  Whether seen or unseen. It is their work, their calling.

“These are hidden masterpieces,” I said to the Lord.  The Spirit whispered this verse, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6)

What are your hidden masterpieces? Will you do them just for the reward of His pleasure? Just for His enjoyment?