Meet Travis 1. Meet Travis 2.

It seemed odd. In one week, I met two new friends, both named Travis.

Meet Travis 1, Travis 2

Friend 1:
It’s Friday afternoon. He says, “My name is Travis. But you can call me Trav.

On Saturday morning, a different place, a different person. . .

Friend 2:
He says, “My name is Travis. But you can call me T. Or T-Bone.

Friend 1 is a pastor of a Methodist church in my hometown.
Friend 2 is a homeless man looking for a ride to his family in Florence, an hour down the road.

Friend 1 is at school reading with Jenna’s 1st graders.
Friend 2 is at Outdoor Church killing time.

At first glance, you’d think they have nothing in common.

  • Friend 1, Trav, is white; Friend 2, T-Bone is black.
  • Trav likely lives in a nice home in a nice neighborhood. T-Bone plans to sleep at the Salvation Army.
  • Trav and I lack time to converse much, but T-Bone unravels his story all morning.

Alike or Different?

They both are very polite to me. They both are likely around the same age. It doesn’t come up with Trav, but T-Bone volunteers that he is 36.

But T-Bone has had a really bad week. He says he needs some lifting up. He says he can tell when he meets someone if they’ll uplift his spirit. He’s here today for that, hoping for that. I assure him he’s come to the right place.

He tells me about his girlfriend (she’s about to break up with him, he feels it; he wants to break up first). About his grandma. About being an Ohio State fan.

T-Bone talks about the nitty gritty of life. Openness happens when other things are stripped away, when you’re wondering where your next meal will come from.

I ask him if he’ll stay for lunch after Outdoor Church and he says he might as well; he has nowhere else to be.

But the more I talk to T-Bone on this Saturday morning, and think back to Trav on Friday afternoon, the more curious I am about their commonalities.

Sometimes outward differences blind us to likenesses. Our preconceived stereotypes pile on. Surface-level judgments cause us to miss community.

And Then Faith

And then T-Bone tells me about his faith.

That’s when the similarities between the two Travis’s come more into focus.

While Trav doesn’t say anything about his faith, I hope and assume he has a full one since he’s a Christian pastor. But T-bone is vocal about his. He says that through the storms, he knows he has Jesus.

I ask T-Bone where he got his faith. He says his grandma, definitely his grandma.

I haven’t seen T-Bone since that Saturday morning, nor Travis since that Friday afternoon. Our paths may not cross again this side of heaven.

But I’m glad they crossed so close in time that one week in December. So we could meet each other. Hear a little piece of each other’s story. And see what we had in common.

Everybody has something in common with everybody else.

Maybe a name. Maybe an age.

Maybe a Savior.

We all have something in common

* * *

Do you share a name with any of your friends? Do you have friends who are totally opposite? Please share in the comments.

sharing with Lyli, Dawn, Deb, Susan,
Carmen, DawnDebbie, Brenda, Crystal,
JaimeEmily, Holley, Kristin, Patricia


How to Love Well in Our Culture

“Often we mean well, but we don’t love well. In every single encounter Jesus had with people, we see an unwavering attitude of love even as he calls them to leave their sin behind and follow him.”
– Chris Hodges

Right or Righteous?

We all live in a certain culture. How does our culture affect us and how do we affect our culture?

Some people believe one thing; others believe the total opposite. As believers in Jesus, we need to be the most loving with all, whether we agree or disagree. How?

Using the life of the prophet Daniel, Pastor Chris Hodges lays out five main principles in The Daniel Dilemma about how to love well in today’s culture.

Truth without grace is mean. Chris Hodges sm

“Here’s what we need to remember: Truth without grace is mean. Grace without truth is meaningless.”

While I don’t always agree with Hodges’ exact biblical interpretations, I greatly appreciate his foundation of grace, his attitude of humility, and his reverence for Jesus. His love for God and his love for people are evident. (I listen weekly to his sermons via podcast from Church of the Highlands. Because of his consistency in walking his talk, I pay closer attention to what he shares in his books as well as his sermons.)

“Being right and being righteous are not the same.”

Five Cultural Dilemmas

Hodges answers five cultural dilemmas on how to be a person of influence, standing firm and loving well. Here they are with quotes from The Daniel Dilemma.

1. Confused identities (Culture’s great impact)

  • Know our God-given identities (chapter 1)
  • Settle our core values (chapter 2)
  • Be ready to stand our ground in the tests of life (chapter 3)

The more time you spend with Jesus, the less time you’re going to spend being intimidated by the opinions of others or worrying about your problems. Worshiping God has become the first thing I do whenever I’m faced with a loss, crisis, or major setback.”

2. Whom will I worship? (Culture’s greatest test)

  • Worship God (chapter 4)
  • Don’t worship other gods (chapter 5)
  • Give our lives fully to Jesus (chapter 6)

“Worship changes everything. Through worship, we move from viewing our problems as big and God as small to the exact opposite: because we remember how big our God is. Worship restores our perspective.”

3. Who is in charge of my life? (Culture’s greatest question)

  • Identify our pride (chapter 7)
  • Put our feelings in their proper place (chapter 8)
  • Give God full control of our lives (chapter 9)

“If we want to overcome pride in our lives, then we must turn from being self-sufficient back to being God-dependent. . . . God doesn’t bless us just so we can hoard a lot of money and buy stuff. He blesses us to be a blessing for others, to advance his kingdom, to reveal his love through the gift of salvation in Christ.”

4. Unfocused and busy lives (Culture’s greatest culprit)

  • Understand the brevity of life (chapter 10)
  • Focus on our priorities (chapter 11)
  • Heed the warning signs of weariness (chapter 12)

“It is better to have less of what doesn’t matter and more of what does. . . . Focus on things that will last. . . .God’s plan to bring light to a dark culture is us.”

5. Truth and grace (Culture’s greatest need)

  • Learn how to connect before we correct (chapter 13)
  • Let God change us into his likeness (chapter 14)

“My purpose as a follower of Jesus is to give people hope. People are ready for God, but they want hope, not a debate. . . . Evangelism is not telling others what they should do; it’s telling them what happened in you. It’s never ‘Turn or burn!’ It’s ‘Hey, guess what happened to me.’”

Keep the Hope

Ultimately, this is a book of hope. Christianity is a religion of hope. It points us to the reliable One we put our hope in.

“I’d rather have hope in what an all-powerful God can do than certainty in what I am limited to do.”

And it shows us a way to pass along that hope to others.

“With so much turmoil in our world today, more and more people are looking for hope. The more we look and act like Jesus, the more others will find hope in God. This is how we reflect God’s glory—by looking like Jesus.”

Hodges does not say it is easy, but he shows it is possible.

“The secret of influence isn’t what you say; it’s how you live.”

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book

sharing with JenniferKelly, Char,
MaryBarbie, Anita


Is This a Throwaway Prayer?

No prayer is a throwaway. God is better. Lisanotes

Many of the words we say are throwaways. We talk to be talking. The content isn’t relevant or important. Just a blurb. Throwaway lines.

But our prayers? Is there such a thing as a throwaway prayer?

Wait in Line

The outside line was long and slow-moving. Mothers and a few fathers stood outside in the cold (and sometimes rain).

Their goal? Pick out free Christmas gifts for each of their children, specifically, a stuffed animal, a book per child, a new-in-the-package toy, and a stocking stuffer.

And a prayer.

I don’t know if they all appreciate that particular gift. Or if they just tolerate it. But no one turns it away when we offer a prayer of blessing as they wait in line at Manna House for Christmas.

My Spanish is poor, but when one quiet Hispanic lady urgently wanted to tell me something before we prayed, I did my best to understand.

In her broken English, she explained that she had been in this line four years earlier. And a young lady from our group had prayed for her.

Three months later, something happened. I was all ears.

But My Little Prayers?

Praying for person after person, only briefly learning their names and needs, can sometimes leave you with questions of your own.

  • Are my non-eloquent and often stumbling words adequate enough for this responsibility?
  • Do I know this person or their needs enough to be praying for them?
  • What if I pray for the wrong thing or make them feel awkward or harm their faith?

Is my prayer a throwaway prayer?

Why Every Prayer Matters

As I listened to the lady detail her story to me, I heard the answer: No. No prayer is a throwaway. No prayer is unimportant.

Every prayer matters because. . .

  1. God is listening.

Even when our prayers aren’t adequately heard or understood by others, God hears every word. When our message is incoherent even to ourselves at times, God still knows what we mean. God even pays attention to the thoughts underneath the words, hearing as his Spirit translates them into coherent requests.

He loves when we talk to him. He is honored by our requests.

  1. God knows what’s best.

Our prayers matter even if we ask for the “wrong” thing. We can trust our Father to answer in the best way. He is smart enough and good enough to give us what we really need, not just what we ask for. We won’t throw him off-track by begging for Job B if he’s already lined up Job A for us.

We don’t have to pray the answers. We just make the requests.

  1. God has power to act.

I’m sometimes reluctant to pray for someone because I know I can’t really help their situation. But isn’t that exactly why I need to pray? I can’t do much, but God can.

My words are just the smoke signal. His words make things happen.

Her Answered Prayer

The lady finished her story.

On that Christmas four years ago, she had recently experienced a miscarriage. She had been devastated. She had asked and received prayers about it.

Three months later, she was pregnant again. And this time she carried to term. Now she was here to bless her three-year-old daughter with Christmas gifts from Manna House.

She wanted to be sure someone knew. The prayer had been answered. Dios te bendiga.

And I was the blessed one to receive her story. Why? Maybe because four years ago, my own daughter was one of the young women praying over these moms. Could she have been the very one who prayed over this lady? Was it her prayer that was answered, a quick prayer in a moving line over a stranger she didn’t know?

Yes. Jenna confirmed it when I told her the story.

Every prayer makes a difference.

Because God is different. He’s not like us. He’s better. Wiser. Stronger.

May we never lose confidence to pray for others. Not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

No prayer is a throwaway.

* * *

Prayer can be a mystery to us. But it’s not to God. Please share your thoughts about prayer in the comments.

sharing with Lyli, Dawn, Deb, Laura, Susan,
Debbie, Carmen, Brenda, Crystal,
Holley, Jaime, Kristin, Patricia


Not Just for Christmas – “Come, Let Us Adore Him”

Grace is Jesus_Paul-David-Tripp

They’re not just for Christmas.

I read two Christmas devotional books in December. One was a contemplative “doing” book, which I loved. (See Ordering Our Affections: Advent here)

The second was Paul David Tripp’s book Come, Let Us Adore Him, which I also loved.

“Jesus’s birth is both the worst and the best news ever, and understanding both will change your life forever.”
– Paul David Tripp

Come-Let-Us-Adore-Him

I share Come, Let Us Adore with you now because it’s not just for December. It’s good for any month of your year.

It’s divided into 31 short devotionals, one for each day, and it’s held together by hope.

“The Christmas story clearly shows that the hope of the universe is a person.”

~ * ~

“Hope will never be found if you look horizontally. True hope is found only when you look for it vertically. It’s not enough to say that God gives us hope. What the Christmas story declares to us is that God is hope.”

While I don’t always agree with Tripp’s theology, we do agree on the core matters. Such as grace. And if there’s one thing this book is full of, it is grace.

“Grace is a person, and his name is Jesus.”

~ * ~

“So what we all need to confess is that denying our need for grace is more natural for us than confessing our need for grace.”

~ * ~

“It takes grace to confess our need for grace.”

~ * ~

“Past grace is your guarantee of present grace and of all the future graces you will ever need.”

If you’re looking for a small but meaty devotional any time this year, I recommend Come, Let Us Adore. Let it capture your heart with the beauty of Jesus like it did mine.

What has captured the wonder of our hearts will control the way we live.”

* * *

Do you have a favorite devotional book for any time of the year? Did you read a devotional book this Christmas? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to Crossway
for the review copy of this book

sharing with JenniferCarol, Barbie

 


Say It More: “I Don’t Know” (And My One Word for 2018)

One Word?

Have you picked One Word for 2018? Or made any New Year resolutions?

Deciding what to work on for a new year can be confusing. (See 3 Steps to Choose One Word.) There are so many good things to choose from. How do we know which things will be helpful when we don’t know what the year will deliver?

It’s a mystery.

None of us knows the exact tools we’ll need for 2018.

It can be uncomfortable at best. We don’t want to be unprepared, be caught looking stupid, or miss out on good opportunities.

But at its worst, the mystery can even feel dangerous. We’re vulnerable to the unknown. If we misread warning signs or aren’t ready for new challenges, will our destinies be changed forever?

Anxiety about the future can put pressure on us to learn more, to try harder, to have more self-discipline in 2018 than we did in 2017.

Who can live joyfully under such anxiety?

My One Word 2018: Mystery

Instead of fighting the unknown, I want to team up with it. I’m choosing “Mystery” as my One Word for 2018.

mystery-one-word-2018

How can I practice Mystery this year?

I’m starting with this: “I don’t know.”

I want to say “I don’t know” more often, not to dumb down what I do know, but to acknowledge there is more that I don’t know. And to make peace with that.

2 Things I Don’t Know for Sure

  • GOD

God is too big for my brain. While we can know many things about God—he is grace, he is beauty, he is love—we know so little. His ways, his thoughts, are beyond our understanding. We shine our brightest when we don’t put words in his mouth, but just let his words come out of ours.

Knowing that he loves me and that I love him is enough. Christ himself is the mystery I know.

“…The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message.”
Colossians 1:27

  • WHY

I also don’t know why most things happen. Why do some healthy people get cancer and some abusers live to 100? Why can one woman never conceive a child while another woman has a dozen kids? Why does God seem to wait so long to answer some prayers yet answer others so quickly?

I don’t know why. Nor do I have to explain it.

“Just as you’ll never understand the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman, so you’ll never understand the mystery at work in all that God does.”
Ecclesiastes 11:5

My Asks

So as I practice Mystery as a spiritual discipline in 2018, I ask God for:

  • More peace in the unknown (which is basically all of life)
  • Less fear about having less control
  • Greater hold on God and less dependency on me
  • More freedom to follow the mysteries

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it.

Life Is a Mystery

I’ll still make plans. Even though I don’t have all the details to work with. The outcomes are up to God, not me.

And I’ll still strive to learn more. Even though information isn’t the end goal. More knowledge is a marvel but not a salvation.

I’ll accept that life is a mystery. A beautiful one. Sometimes a startling one. But in the end, always a good one when Love leads the way.

And everything else?
I don’t know.
I don’t have to.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.”
Proverbs 3:5

* * *

What about you? Are you a mystery lover already (not me)? Or do you like to know as much as you can (that’s me)? Are you choosing one word this year? Please share in the comments.

Want more? Here’s a short article on Embracing Mystery at Spirituality and Practice.

Related:

Previous One Words:

sharing with Kelly, Char,
CharlotteLyliDebSusan, Dawn,
MissionalBrenda, Debbie, Carmen


Five Links, Books, and Things I Love – January 2018

That was so 2017. Now it’s 2018!

Here are favorites from December and what I’m looking forward to in January. We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

5 Things Around the Web

1. Celebrate World Introvert Day, January 2
by Jenn Granneman

For us introverts, we celebrate surviving another set of holidays surrounded by people and activity.

“The idea is that introverts set aside this time to recharge after the busy, tiring holiday season. It’s also a day to bring awareness to introversion and remind the world that being an introvert is something awesome, not shameful.”

World Introvert Day

~ * ~

2. Clear to Neutral: The One Habit That Stops You From Procrastinating
by Thanh Pham

Clear-to-Neutral

“The main idea behind Clearing to Neutral is you set yourself up for success. Anytime you finish your activity, do a little routine where you set it up so the next time you start, there is no friction. In other words, you set up your environment for next time.”

~ * ~

3. The Most Mispronounced Words of 2017
by Christina Kline, CNN

“Here is Babbel’s list of the top 10 mispronounced words in 2017, complete with how to say them so you don’t keep butchering them.”

Misprounced-words-2017

~ * ~

4. How to Love Visiting Church Members in the Hospital
by Timothy Raymond

This isn’t just for pastors. And not just for visiting fellow “church members.”

“Hospital visitation is a unique opportunity for pastors to demonstrate Christian love and speak gospel words into the minds and hearts of those who, due to the circumstances, may be unusually attentive.”

~ * ~

5. 2017 Politics, GIF-Wrapped
by Brenna Williams

Regardless of your politics, these should just make you smile. We all need that from 2017, yes?

Melania-Gift-Michelle

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

5 Things about Books

1. The 2018 Reading Challenge
at Modern Mrs. Darcy

It’s just 12 books. I love the practicality and intention of this challenge.

“On our list, we won’t ask you to read a book that’s periwinkle blue, or that’s by an author who shares your name, or that has a vegetable in the title. Instead, we’re focusing on twelve categories that have delivered best-of-the-year reading experiences to thousands of readers over the years.”

Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge 2018

~ * ~

2. 10 Best Books I Read in 2017
by Emily Freeman

I’ll be returning to this list in 2018 to track down some of these books.

10-Fantastic-Books-Emily-Freeman

~ * ~

3. Easy Bible Reading Challenge – 31 Days in Proverbs
at DoNotDepart

Here’s a reading challenge any of us can do. Read 1 chapter of Proverbs every day. Be finished by the end of January. Download a free packet.

31-Days-in-Proverbs

~ * ~

4. My Own Favorite Books of 2017

  • Some are about healing the divisions in our country.
  • Some are about God and faith.
  • Some are memoirs of real-life people and meaning.

Top-10-Books_2017

~ * ~

5. Want to Read More in 2018? Here’s how. 

How-to-read-more

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

5 Things I Love

1. Nurture App

Morgan has used this pregnancy tracker for our baby Riley. I downloaded it, too. It’s been fun seeing the development of the baby along the way. And now we’re in the final countdown!

nurture-app

~ * ~

2. Christmas with My Daughters

We did Christmas at several places this year, but our immediate family went to Morgan’s house this year since she couldn’t come to us.

Jenna, Morgan (and baby Riley), Lisa

~ * ~

3. And the Men

It was fun having everyone together again, including all the husbands!

fuller-jeff-trey-2017

Fuller, Jeff, Trey

~ * ~

4. Steak Tradition

For Christmas with Jeff’s family, we always have grilled steak and twice-baked potatoes. It was a blustery day but the men did their part well.

Steak-Grilling

Steve, Trey, Jeff

~ * ~

5. Boardgames Anyone?

We broke out my (very) old Clue game at Morgan’s house. My daughters have learned all my tricks now. I no longer can dominate. I need some updated strategies.

Clue-boardgame

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

5 Things on the Blog

* * *

What was one of your highlights from December? What are you looking forward to in January? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books