Before anyone gets out a red letter and sows it to my chest, I would like to make a case, state the issue, and let the jury decide. [Maybe it's my inner forensic nerd coming out, but my secret dreams of being the District Attorney for Law & Order SVU are seeping into the blog today. Listen Olivia Benson, just do what I say and everything will be fine.]
With pop culture creating a prefabricated expectation of marital union, it’s important hold fast to what is good, true, beautiful, noble, and right [See Philippians 4:6 as article #1]. There has been a shift from the representation of love and marriage in media from the 1960s to today. Leave It Beaver and Dick Van Dyke portrayed families in traditional familiar structures and celebrated normalcy. The hearth of health was home and every evening or closing monologue ended with conflict being resolved with a smile and hug.
Fast forward to more modern reflections of family from the 90s to today [Rosanne, Married with Children, The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Malcom in the Middle, Family Guy] and you’ll see there is a shift in the depiction of family as well as the marital affection between parents.
If you think I’m going to bash pop culture or media, I’ll show you my TiVo shows, concert tickets, and shout MAZEL like we’re in the Bravo club house and you’ll realize where my affinity lies. However, I believe we—as intelligent, divinely created human beings—have the capacity to create and adhere to the beauty of love and commitment contrary to what is portrayed through movies, magazines, marketing, and media.
I believe we can display marital affection in a way that encourages and affirms healthy affection between spouses… even at church.
People, I’m a passionate woman who loves deeply and expresses affection through physical touch and word. I made a vow to a man over three years ago to love and to cherish from this day forth. And I intend on keeping it. I also happen to think he’s a ravishing piece of masculine flesh, so pardon me if I happen to sneak a kiss from him in broad daylight.
Public Displays of Affection [PDA] can be offensive to some and I do believe there should be a standard of what is acceptable [penal code 277 forbids public acts of hokey pokey, if you know what I mean]. But is there a ridiculous unstated standard on church property?
Example One: While at church a few weeks ago, I saw my husband at church and because it was a Sunday and he was serving all day, I didn’t get a chance to say good morning or goodbye as he left the house for work. I casually went up to him and kissed him—to which you might have assumed I jumped on his back and started humping his leg like a dog.
Obviously he was embarrassed that I enacted upon such a lewd act [oh you know, a kiss in public] and kinda laughed like Whoa-keep-it-down-cowgirl,-this-here-is-holy-ground kind of way [God bless his public Puritanical German ways]. To which I rolled my eyes and said, OH MY GOSH! It’s not like we’re David and Bathsheba’ing this moment. We’re married. We kiss. It’s fine.
Maybe his reaction of warranted. I’ll let you decide.
Example 2: Last week while saying goodbye to Matt at church, I hugged him and gave him a slight pat on his backside. It wasn’t a grope or grab, but more like a Get-back-in-the-game love tap.
Apparently someone saw because a woman came up to me and asked if I grabbed my husband’s butt at church. I laughed a bit because I was nervous but explained that as an athlete and previous coach, I usually do that as a force of habit. She said that as a pastor’s wife, she expected more from me.
What I wanted to say:
What I said:
Let’s get real: I’m still going to do my thang’ and publicly love my husband. In the words of of the Jersey Shore DJ Pauly D, You do you and I’m going to do me. But I’m also open to better addressing this issue.
PDAs are one thing, but if there is an unwritten rule about affection at church, will someone please let me know?
What’s the verdict? Where do people stand on this issue? Furthermore, is there a way to affirm marital affection in public without offending those from the Victorian era of puritanical virtues?
It’s cheesy. Totally cheesy. We go around the table and each state what we are thankful for. We laugh. We cry. We wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s totally my family.
We’ve done it for years and it’s a tradition I thought all Americans did on Thanksgiving day. But from Matt, to some a girl at the gym, even to a guy from church, I’m realizing that not all families vocalize thanksgiving on Thanksgiving.
But this holiday is particularly important to me because it’s easy for me to grow complacent in all that the Lord has blessed me with. Living in Orange County, California is particularly difficult because no matter where you look, someone has a better house, better car, better body, better better than you. But when there are moments to pause and reflect on blessings, it’s amazing how thanksgiving [the act, not the holiday] calibrates our heart and mind.
This month three years ago Matt and I were living in an apartment, with two kids, a crotchety neighbor, and neighborhood cat who was perpetually in heat. We were aggressively paying off debt and even though we were a two-income household, we were struggling to find funds for daily living. For example, we really needed a dresser for Ryen [Good grief, we were keeping piles of her folded laundry on the floor?!].
Our church has a resource center [a fancy Orange County word for thrift store] and we humbly walked in to pick out a dresser that had been donated by a member from church. It was a bittersweet moment as we placed the clothes into the drawer. Bitter because we didn’t have excess funds, sweet because through the church’s generosity we were helped.
And isn’t that what generosity does? Generosity changes lives. Not only for the receiver, but for the recipient. Someone generously gave, we received, both lives were blessed.
Three years later I haven’t forgotten the dresser or the station of life we were in. Looking back, I believe it has not only caused us to be grateful people, but it has challenged us to be generous people as well. If this was a math equation, it would look something like:
Generosity —> Gratefulness —> Generosity
Generosity begets gratefulness and gratefulness begets generosity. [Did I just bust out in Old English? Oh you bet'cha!] We don’t have that dresser anymore, we’ve moved out of that apartment and away from the demonic cat, and thanks to Dave Ramsey and his lame envelope budgeting system, Matt and I are debt free.
But the party doesn’t stop here, folks! This week as we talk about gratefulness, can we also be inspired to be generous? Your generosity might just be the linchpin in someone’s gratefulness. And their gratefulness might remind them to be generous. Wash, rinse, repeat.
So here we are, around our online table o’ fun. You know I’m going to ask it: What are YOU grateful for? How can YOU be generous?
Wisdom is hard to find. Truly. Just ask me. I’ve gotten the same ticket three times in row. On the same corner. By the same cop. So I’m not sure Job knew what he was talking about in Job 12:12 when he said, Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?
Sorry Job! I’m 33 and still call my dad when I need directions, I call my sister when I need an outfit, and I call my husband when I’m having
another quarter-life crisis. [When will the trials end?! When when the drama cease?!]
Since wisdom is valuable and 100 Word Wednesday have been dedicated to wisdom, here are 100 of the wisest words a high school teacher passed on to his students. Of which I am sharing with you!
[Don't say I never gave you anything! Remember that Solomon said wisdom is worth more than rubies and gold---so basically, I just made you a rich person. Go ahead, add me to your will. Amen.]
Happy Wednesday, friends!
It was Jesus who came to earth to serve. He even stated in the gospels that he who wants to be first must be a servant of all. (WordNerds can check out Mark 9:35. [Drops mic])
So why can’t I get it through my thick skull?! It’s like I need to run into a wall a million times before I realize I should change directions.
Take for example this past Saturday. Me, in all my righteous glory, was preparing to teach at Girls of Grace in Atlanta. I listened to worship music as I got ready, read my daily devotion, and prayed. I mean, I was checking things off my righteousness list LIKE A BOSS. If God was giving away an award for SuperSaturdayChristian, I would totally win it. [And I’d ask for a sash so everyone would know that I’m God’s favorite. But I wouldn’t wear my crown. You know, so everyone would know that I’m keeping humble about my accolades and all.]
But see, all this was done in the comfort of my hotel room. Alone. Without human interaction. And you know what I realized? My Christianity is nothing if I’m isolated and alone. Nothing.
I rushed downstairs to grab breakfast before my ride arrived, but I was met with a line, four people deep. There was a young teen girl with her mother trying to decide what type of grilled carbohydrate she would indulge in.
Girl: What should I get? Pancakes or waffles? Or a cinnamon bun with frosting?
Mom: Well, that’s your choice. But if you order pancakes please get them with blueberries so you have some fruit.
Girl: Maybe I’ll just do a waffle and get some fruit on the side.
Mom: It’s up to you. Both are great options.
At this point, I had aged about ten years and had a perma-scowl on my face like Milani Trump. I don’t know if I was more bothered with the fact that she was skinny and ordering carbs or that I was late and had to order egg whites?! Either way, I tapped my foot as this child was acting like the decision would effect her future grandchildren.
So then I shouted from the back of the line, IT’S BREAKFAST, SWEETHEART! NOT THE TREATY OF VERSAILLES! JUST PICK SOMETHING. Ok, no I didn’t. But I wanted to. [Did you hear that? My crown of righteousness just broke into a million little pieces.] I swallowed my comment and asked for Jesus to give me a muzzle. By the time I ordered, my ride had arrived, so the server dropped my food into a plastic container. I ran out the door with my soggy, half-cooked egg whites and a badittude that would make Michael the Archangel shake his head at me.
The worst part up until this point of my Saturday was in the middle of my internal tantrum, I overheard the mother and her friend tell the young girls to pray for their food. Oh great, I thought to myself, Jesus is showing me they’re Christians and I’m just a poser who needs salvation.
I thankfully find my salvation on my commute to the venue and all is well with my soul. And the holy sash I was still wearing.
That was until the very end of the conference when I’m approached by two mothers and their daughters, Blueberry Pancakes and Cinnamon Bun. Internet, I D.I.E.D. The group at the hotel breakfast line WERE ATTENDEES AT THE CONFERENCE. They wanted to meet me and thank me for sharing at the conference and urged me to keep fighting for freedom. I thanked them all and slowly slithered backstage.
I was so committed to preparing myself to serve at the conference. I had prayed and prepared and prepared and prayed. I asked God to empower me to teach His word to those who would attend. But I missed it. I totally and completely missed it. I had a wonderful opportunity to serve through love and grace and patience to people I didn’t know, but I failed.
The good news is that I’m not alone. The disciples missed it when they tried shooing the children away from Jesus. Martha missed it when Mary served Jesus through presence and not actions. The prodigal son’s brother missed his serve opportunity by griping and throwing a hissy fit. We are all prone to missing out on the opportunities in front of us to serve.
Servanthood isn’t when all eyes are on you. It’s not on a blog. It’s not something we get paid to do or accolades received. Serving is putting others before ourselves no matter the cost. It’s dying to our desires for the sake of those around us. This is the call of Christ. And it’s ours.
So I’ve swept up the imaginary pieces of my crown of righteousness and threw them away with my sash. As Paul says, I count that as rubbish. The good news is that the disciples learned servanthood, Martha witnessed the miraculous, and I have been extended grace to be a servant to all. Even those who get to eat carbohydrates.
Wherever we are today, we have the opportunity to follow the example of Jesus to serve. Serve when it hurts. Serve when you don’t want to. Serve because you can. Serve because we are called to.
Walking the streets of Thessaloniki is quite a treat. Bustling shoppers, street owners with loud voices are calling back and forth, in what would assume to be a regular city. But deeply seeped in the foundation of the city is history rich with truth.
The apostle Paul preached a sermon in the city square to the Thessalonians and later wrote not one, but two letters to the Thessalonian church. Today, walking on cobble stone streets past store keepers and busy shoppers are ruins from ancient times. In the middle of the city there are ancient pillars and stones and walkways preserved from years long ago. The ruins are old, decrepit, forgotten. But the city is alive.
The juxtaposition between the two worlds is simply proof that life can resurrect from ruins, from the forgotten, from the damaged.
On stage she swayed back and forth to the melody we sung. Her hand raised high, worshipping with full abandonment, she sang with a conviction unknown to many; a conviction that only comes through experience.
I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
As I watched her sing Glorious Ruins to the Giver of Life, I swallowed back the emotion in my chest. In a city where old and new converge, life and death prevail, defeat washed away by victory, I watched the redemption of a life take place in a city that celebrates ruins coming to life.
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
A girl who’s life was taken away from her, robbed of innocence, hope, and life, stood on stage and sang with a conviction only known through experience. At the hands of sin, evil prevailed leaving her life nothing but ruins, forgotten and damaged. Day after day, week after week, month after month, her life was expensed as a commodity for gain, discarded at will, abandoned by choice.
But God—our great redeemer—rescued her from the grip of slavery and before a great witness of believers, we saw ruins come to life. We saw the power of redemption transform what was once dead into full life. And there, in that moment, a body of believers standing on historic grounds were led in worshipping God by a woman creating a new history. A history of transformation revealing that life and truth and good can come from what was dead and evil and lies.
Thessaloniki may be thousands of miles away, but in our communities, in our cubicles, in our colleges, and on our campuses, there are ruins begging to come to life. And they can. There is no stronghold too big, no evil too strong, no darkness too pervasive to stop God from resurrecting life from death. I’ve seen it. I’m a witness. What is dead, can live again. As it is prophesied in Isaiah 61:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
May we as a people believe that ruins—Glorious Ruins—can one day live again.
Let the ruins come to life
In the beauty of Your Name
Rising up from the ashes
God forever You reign
Yassas and Здравейте to all my fine American friends! It’s been a crazy couple weeks with work and my goal was to blog all about it while I was in Greece and Bulgaria, but as the computer gods would have it, my computer died. Well, it was dead to me and technical resuscitation was needed. So as the tech world would say, reality bytes.
I’m glad to be back in America and to get things back into rhythm, I’ve linked up with my fine friends from the IF Gathering to talk about life, ministry, cancer, and a wee bit of what I do for work. Founder Jennie Allen and I chat on a podcast about some of the tensions women face on a day-to-day basis. So take a few minutes out of your schedule and tune in for fun!
The best news is that there will be more podcasts coming as Jennie interviews women from around the nation about life, love, and the pursuit of Jesus. Do you have questions you want answered? Podcast ideas? Tensions that you would like to address? Feel free to drop a note and we can make it happen.
To listen to the podcast, tune in here!
It’s often been said that holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and expecting it to kill someone else. But we’re rarely fond of the alternative.
On a topical level, forgiveness can feel like fat-free food: unsatisfying. It’s easier to imagine ways of getting back and obtaining vengeance than it is to forgive someone. They may not feel better afterward, but we might.
TO FORGIVE IS TO WILLFULLY BEAR AND EMBRACE A WOUND THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS GIVEN TO YOU.
Many pastors and preachers speak of forgiveness as a virtue, and praise the maturity of it. But there is a reason so many can’t seem to forgive—it requires willingness to suffer. This isn’t just any kind of suffering, either. To forgive is to willfully bear and embrace a wound that someone else has given to you.
In this video, I discuss the effects of forgiveness and how he love loves much, is forgiven much! [Yes, I stole that from Luke 7:47. Whatevs, man.] I recorded this for my friends over at Leading and Loving It, but my friend Liz left a comment on Facebook that requested a vlog. Ask and ye shall receive, boo!
Have you had a situation that called forgiveness? How did you respond? Hopefully you’re more mature than slashing someone’s tires. But if so, no judgement here, friend. No judgment here.
I think all of us have been there. Don’t lie, it’s true.
We’ve all had a moment where we have to show up in an environment and lead, even when we feel incapable to. Whether its at school, in a boardroom, at a prayer meeting, or in a living room, we have responsibilities that call on us to lead—even when we feel like we shouldn’t.
She approached with a big smile and introduced herself. I just had finished my teaching at Allume on Saturday morning and everyone was scattering off to various workshops and seminars, but she stayed. In a moment of honest vulnerability she shared her struggle with the responsibility of balancing motherhood, writing, and being the pastor’s wife she thinks she should be.
I feel like I can’t lead and be the pastor’s wife I should be until I can get this all worked out.
Here’s a secret I will share with my Internet friends: We will never have it all together. If we wait to lead until that assignment is done, those things are changed, I have lost that weight, we will never fully live in the blessings that are ours.
There are so many great leadership tools, books, and blogs about leadership, so I’m not going to get all John Maxwell on you. The perspective I bring has less to do with 5 Great Tips for Time Management or the 3 Essentials of Executive Leadership, and more to do with the iconic phrase Nike coined in the 90s: Just Do It.
With tears of frustration in her eyes, she really needed some wisdom. I wanted to give her some Seth Godin wisdom or equip her with 7 Keys, 5 Great Tips, or 3 Essentials, but I had to be honest and tell her, Look, it’s Hot Mess Leadership. We lead not because we’re perfect or have our junk together, but because we are called to. We don’t lead because we can, we lead because we are called.
I had to laugh as I spoke with my new Allume friend because the night before I taught, a friendly, good-night conversation with Matt turned into bickering about something SO stupid. It went something like:
Matt: Great to hear the conference is going well! I’m praying for you.
Me: Great thanks!
Matt: Also, did you realize you did ________?
Me: Whoa, it was a mistake. And I even asked you about it before I moved forward.
Matt: But you didn’t even consider how that would effect me and our weekend.
Me: Are we fighting? Is this a fight? I can’t do this right now! I’m teaching in the morning. You know, from the BIBLE! I can’t fight and try to be holy at the same time?!
Matt: This is not a fight. It’s a conversation and you’re flying off the handle. You need to—
Me: FLYING OFF THE HANDLE? I can’t do this right now. I just can’t! You know what this is? It’s SPIRITUAL WARFARE!
Thankfully the issue was resolved, but in that moment I heard all the lies in my head raise in volume. You shouldn’t be here. You’re a horrible person. How can you stand behind the word of God and teach others when you can’t even lead yourself.
I explained to her that even in moments when we feel like a HOT MESS, we must still show up. Gideon led his army into battle, but he wrestled with doubt and indecision. Abraham led as the patriarch of faith, yet denied his marriage covenant to Sarah out of fear. Barak led troops to battle with the Canaanites, but asked for Deborah to come with him out of a lack of trust. David led a motley crew of bandits, even though he was in exile. We don’t lead because we can, but because we are called.* Just do it!
My boss says that sometimes leadership and being used is simply because you’re still standing. Many people walk away and quit. Are you committed to showing up even when you feel you can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to?
Just do it.
*This is in no way an excuse to sin or license to act a fool. This is just a reminder that God uses the foolish things to confound the wise. Or as the Message version says, He uses nobodies. I’m proof of that!
If you take a look at history, some of the greatest characters have humbly failed. We should never strive to fail, but as imperfect, fractured beings, we are prone to falling short. It happens.
David, Jonah, Peter, Paul, Sarah all faced some form of affliction. Their actions are not new. Deception, betrayal, denial, persecution, doubt have plagued humanity since the beginning of time. The beauty in the lives of these biblical characters was in their moment of failure and affliction, they became the truest version of themselves.
Note: It is in the face of affliction that we become our truest or most false self.
Ananias, Sapphira, Saul, and Achan had the opportunity—as we do now—to maintain truth, integrity, honesty in amidst failure and affliction.
So be wrong. It’s okay to fail. You’ll be forgiven if you fall. But be honest. Be the truest form of yourself.
[Ashley, this post was for you. Thank you for challenging be to me to formulate thoughts around this tweet. XO]
We all have those friends who are just a bit off. You know, that friend who does something and you shake your head wondering how on earth you could love such an odd human being. Well, that friend is me. And I own it.
You know that passage in the bible where Paul talks about us being the body of Christ? I take that statement literally. Yeah, yeah, it’s a metaphor, I get it. But we are the tangible reflection of Jesus and we have honor and privilege to be the answer to someone’s prayer. We can be the solution to someone’s problem.
Last week I met up with a friend during my lunch break. She was talking to me but I was distracted. Her lips were moving, but I felt something behind me and I couldn’t really explain it, but it felt like pain.
Me: Wait, I’m sorry. Is there someone crying or something behind me?
Her: Wait, wha—oh, yeah I think there’s a lady crying three tables down.
Me: Wow, I feel so badly for her. When we leave do you mind if we go pray for her? I feel like she’s dealing with death.
We finished our lunch, threw away our trash, and I walked over to a small outdoor table with three ladies lunching. [Slow inhale. Slow exhale.] Excuse me, I don’t mean to pry, but I just wanted to tell you that I’m praying for you. She looked at me in sheer bewilderment which instantaneously made me feel like a 5150 lunatic wandering the streets of Orange County with a grocery cart and 15 cats talking about my days in Vietnam.
To assure her I wasn’t going to accost her or ask for loose change, I squatted down and told her that as I was having lunch, I felt that God told me to tell her that whatever death she is experiencing, God will restore.
That’s all I said… but that’s all it took.
She began crying again and her friends looked at me like I had dropped in from Mars saying, Nanu nanu. What I discovered through her sobs was that her dog [aka her best friend] of 13 years had died that morning and she was in such pain because of her loss. She told me she was a Christian and she was asking God to send her a sign that her dog was ok.
Though I couldn’t guarantee her dog was in heaven, I did tell her that if Isaiah talks about the lion laying down with the lamb in heaven, then at least we know there are animals. And if there are animals in heaven, why wouldn’t there be dogs? And if there were dogs, why wouldn’t there be her dog? [And her dog is in heaven, that I'm affirmed my dog Ricci will go to heaven because he's PERFECT!] This theology is faulty at best, but given the circumstances, I felt affirmed in this assertion.
It’s all very odd, honestly. I wouldn’t necessarily say it something I do often, but definitely something I would do again. What I will say is that sometimes we are the answer to a prayer. Sometimes we can be the solution to a problem. Sometimes the best thing we can do is act like we believe the power that was in Jesus Christ and raised Him from the dead in the same power in us.
And don’t worry, if we’re out to lunch and I ask you to go pray for someone, just nod and pretend you think I’m sane. Yes, I’m that friend.
What would it look like if we all believe God wanted to use us? How would our lives change? What if God really meant we are His hands and His feet to share the gospel?
Shouldn’t our lives look different?