Victors

Tonight, the headlines irrevocably declare: “120 Dead in Paris Attacks, Worst Since WWII”.

Terror is spreading across our planet, and the people of this planet, like ancient wooden ships adrift in a storm, scatter. Some cry, some shout “Revenge!”, some huddle in the paralysis of fear. Some hold up signs that say ‘NOT AFRAID’–a distinctive message to their enemies, but the sign-holders are powerless to make the message true within their hearts.

We the people– the meant-for-another country people. We the foreign exchange students, so to speak. What are we doing?

If we’ve been trained to fight, why are we afraid?

If we are truly selfless, why not choose to feel pain with the hurting instead of jumping into our closets of self-protection?

If we really believe God’s power makes us unstoppable, why not walk towards the danger instead of running away from it?

We are never victims.

We are always promised joy.

We are always promised rest.

We are always promised protection–the definition of which only Jesus knows.

We are never victims.

We are victors.

We the people pray for Paris tonight.

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We also pray for peace within ourselves.

 

Never, never, let us accept the title of “victim”, Jesus. Never let us stop receiving peace from you, and fearlessly giving that peace away.

just call me Moe

You know what’s so weird?

I’m spending this entire year of my life in the wilderness field… well, the rest of my life, hopefully. And it’s the thing I’m the least cut out for.

Seriously though. I’m introverted, preposterous and afraid of heights and drowning. Just the other day, a mother called me to talk about her concerns about adventure programing. It was very uncanny to assure her, “Don’t worry, Ma’am. We practice challenge by choice. I’ve never cliff jumped in my life.”

People look at the pictures when I return from a trip, and hear the stories, and think, “Wow! What an adventure! You must be very brave!”

They picture me as this, sometimes.

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But in reality, I’m more like this.

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Just call me Moe.

You know, short for Moses.

I can relate to him a little, in a small way. I often beg Jesus to give someone else the task of prophesying. Embarrassingly, I pretty much don’t give Him an option when it comes to cliff jumping.

I look ahead at my summer that is quickly filling up with mentoring opportunities and think, “Why me?”

FAITH.

That’s why. His spirit, making me unstoppable. Saying what I didn’t think of on my own. Doing what I couldn’t do.

Being sure of what I hope for, and certain of what I cannot see. The heritage of being God’s kiddo.

Isn’t it amazing to be able to do things way beyond yourself?

The things you love, even though you’re not good at them?

Isn’t is amazing to be a part of the impossible?

And if He has His way, He’ll get me off that cliff yet.

Innumerable Gifts

 

Recently, most people have been asking me the “What next?” question. You know the one. The one where it’s incredibly awkward to say, “Well, I plan to study, write, do some renovations and work out. That’s it.”

Why me? Why is my path so full of “What if?” and “What next?”s? Why do I love doing everything, and find it impossible to just stick to one vocation until I’m a pro, like some nice, normal person?

I hate not knowing what is ahead, and I hate having not having a predictable income. I hate those looming words TAXES, CAR INSPECTION & MED BILLS that seem to float through the air at year’s end, without a care in the world.

Really, I mostly just hate being out of control.

I went into a field today, and laid on my back looking at the blue of the skies behind wispy clouds, silently sad.

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And then it hit me. “Right now, I am doing my favorite thing. I am outside, alone, breathing fresh air, without a single deadline to worry about. WHY should I be sad unless I’d allowed that sneaky little seed of mistrust to grow in my heart?”

I thought of Jesus’ care for me over the past month, and how He surrounded me with wonderful friends, gave me a plane ticket to the Caribbean, and overwhelmed me with His promises at all the right moments.

“Jesus, I’m sorry. I DO trust you. Thank you for giving me freedom!

Because that really is my favorite. .

I came into the house and the first thing I heard was, “Don’t forget to put your registration sticker on before the new year.” What?? My registration?? But…. I already paid for that!”

All along I’d been preparing myself for a $200.00 inspection bill…. but… that’s not what was about to expire!  My registration had been paid for weeks ago, leaving me bill-free.

Then I realized how my Father had provided for me long before I noticed Him….. once again.

Do you think, one day, I will fully learn to trust Him?

That’s my goal.

 

 

Love Ambush

I’ve been a crab for twenty-four hours.

It all started when someone asked me a question, and I responded defensively and then the father of lies jumped in with all of his hogwash and made a mess of everything.

“You’re not worth fighting for.” he said, “You are selfish at the core, and think of no one but yourself. Your dreams are not reality. You have tricked yourself into following them as an easy escape from life’s problems.”

Because I was tired, weak in heart and still feeling defensive, I believed all of it.

My joy was robbed.

It’s messy enough trying to make big decisions for your future, but when you start believing lies… things get ugly pretty fast. Each lie is joined by it’s own disease until your heart is trampled.

Shame.

Defeat.

Anger.

People (and most animals) caught on pretty soon, and gave me a wide berth.

I sat at my desk the next day, trying to write encouraging words to a friend and finally decided that I needed some music for inspiration. The first song that played went like this:

“Whatever you’re doing inside of me… it feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace. It’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see, but I’m giving in to something heavenly. Time for a milestone… time to begin again. Revaluate who I really am.

So show me what it is you want from me.

I give everything….

I surrender….

Time to face up. Clean this old house. Time to breathe in and let everything out that I’ve wanted to say for so many years. Time to release all my held back tears. Whatever you’re doing, inside of me…. it feels like chaos, but…. I believe. You’re up to something bigger than me.

LARGER THAN LIFE.

Something HEAVENLY.”

While the “You’re up to something heavenly… bigger than me.” promise was still reverberating in my mind, the next words came through my speakers.

“Lord I come. I confess. Bowing here, I find my rest. Without you I fall apart… you’re the One that guides my heart. Lord I need you, oh, I need You. Every hour I need you.

My ONE DEFENSE.

My RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Oh God, how I need you. Where sin runs deep, your grace is more. Where grace is found is where you are. And where you are, Lord, I AM FREE!!

HOLINESS IS CHRIST IN ME.

Teach my song to rise to you, when temptations come my way. When I cannot stand I’ll fall on you. Jesus, you’re my hope and stay!!!!”

“Jesus… MY righteousness??” “Holiness is Christ in me?” I was overwhelmed.

“For real, Jesus? But…. my sins. They are HUGE! ”

“I AM your righteousness. It’s not about you at all. Where sin runs deep, My grace is MORE. Come to me, and you will be free.”

“Ok. I will!!!”

He smiled, and I could have swore He wrapped His arms around me.

My heart jumped into the sky. And of course, the next song that played was,

“I’m trading my sorrow! I’m trading my shame! I’m laying them down…. for the JOY OF THE LORD.”

THIS. This was what my Loving Father was holding out to me.

I received it, and cried.

Forgiveness overwhelmed me.

Yes, Lord. Yes. I AM blessed beyond the curse. Get behind me, satan. JESUS HIMSELF is fighting for me, and He will never stop.

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My Jesus is up to something LARGER THAN LIFE. Something HEAVENLY.

He does not despise me, but instead holds out HOLINESS, FREEDOM & GRACE.

His promise will endure, and His joy’s gonna be my strength.

He told me so Himself, in one big love ambush in my old-fashioned straight-backed chair.

And I accept His words.

My Best Addiction

Now that you all know I’m addicted to gummy bears….. (and oh happy day, I got a whole 1-lb bag of them for my birthday) I gotta tell ya’ll about my FAVORITE addiction.

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The one I plug into when I get upset at my boss.

Or when I’m preparing to teach.

Or when I’m bored by a mindless task.

Or when I’m driving, sitting, chewing, moping, running, or staring for hours at a blank computer screen.

Pretty much, I plug in all the time. My father loves it. Tiny kiddos love it. Basically, a win no matter who you are.

Am I gonna tell you what it is? Ohhhh no. Watch it on YouTube HERE.

And join the stampede of audio/visual learners!

We’re happy to have you 🙂

(Oh yeah…. and it’s available on Audible for free, with a one-month free trial subscription. You’re welcome.)

The Time When I Started a Church

Driving along a cold, forsaken road one dark night, my radio croaking out a mournful song,  I saw a church. A church that had a lighted cross by the highway, and warm, welcoming lights on inside, as if it was open to strangers and a crackling fire was burning in the hearth.

How strange!” I thought, “How very rare it is to see a lighted church at this time of day. I wonder if their doors are unlocked?”

“Hmm. That sight is like rest to my weary bones. If I ever started a church, I would have a parsonage, and leave the doors open and the lights on all day and night and people could come and go as they pleased, and always know that my church was a safe, private haven, always at their disposal.”

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And then I thought, “Ha! Start a church? Never!

There never WILL be perfect church.

Even if I gathered the smartest, most on-fire people to start my church, they would end up fighting. Wait, I bet that’s why, in the old days, there was just one man spear-heading the church. The parson. And the only person he had to get along with, if he wasn’t musically inclined himself, was the organist. A strange lot, those parsons, but still….. I think they were on to something with this one-man deal.”

So I planned it all out in my mind.

IF I was a man, and

IF I became a parson in the mountains of darkest Peru,

and IF I had my very own parsonage, I would win the people’s hearts for Christ and have a perfect church.

I would work tirelessly (with the help of many cups of coffee, of course) to meet all of their needs. I would love unconditionally. I would study the Word with passion.

I would preach the Gospel tirelessly, and speak truth in the face of lies. (But if I was feeling insecure, I would be silent.)

I would spend my last penny to bring cheer to my discouraged parishioners. (But some days, I would squander my last dollar on a bag of gummy bears, and eat them all in one sitting.)

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I would pray without ceasing. (But on days of total exhaustion, I would cut it short with the excuse, “I REALLY need my sleep.”)

The rickety little sign by the door would say, “Come just as you are!” But on a bad day, I would add “…but not if you have a dirty mouth, fart without shame, or act inappropriately towards the opposite gender”, because those are three of my pet peeves.

I would never judge a soul. (Unless it was someone who deeply hurt me.) I would fight for spiritual victories in my parishioners’ hearts. (Unless I was in a No-One-Is-Fighting-For-ME sort of mood, in which case I would block everyone out for awhile.)

I would do a lot of things, if I was a man, with a parsonage, in the darkest depths of deepest Peru.

But it would never be perfect.

Because I’m not.

Why do you stare at the tiny particle that is in your brother’s eye, but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye.”, when there is the beam  in your own eye? First get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.

Keep on asking and it will be given you! Keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, the door will be opened.

Matthew 7:3-5,7,8

Those words are for me.

“Keep on asking, Kara. Change begins inside of you. One day, when all of my children finally arrive in heaven, all of these imperfect temples will transform to become My spotless bride.”

What if heaven says you are PERFECT?

I once heard that when you comb your hair/put on makeup/etc. in front of a mirror, your hands are trying to conform your appearance into a ideal picture of yourself—–the Who-I-Know-I-Can-Be-With-Enough-Effort—– that you have inside your brain.

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I do that in so many other ways.

The other week while I was at work sweeping cobwebs and feeling like I was doing absolutely nothing of Kingdom value, I prayed, “God, show me how to meet the needs here as You would. What is my purpose here? I am doing nothing. Teach me how to love like you love.”

Quick as a whistle, He responded.

With just three words.

“You are perfect.”

I stopped what I was doing. It was that clear.

PERFECT?? Umm… what??

Still His words swirled undeniably around me. “You are perfect.”

What a preposterous response! Here I was, beating myself up about my selfishness…. all of the opportunities I’d missed…. my complete lack of energy….. On and on and on the list went.

I was fully expecting God to answer my heartfelt question by asking me to do some hard thing, or to accelerate my efforts, or to add an extra hour of prayer to my schedule. I was not expecting to be asked to believe the words, “You are perfect.”

How could the Father have such an unrealistic picture of me?

What could these words mean? Did they mean that it was time for me to toss my mental mascara and flat iron out the window? Did they mean that the Father desired me to lay down the idealized visions of who I KNOW one day I can be in favor of cherishing the who I am NOW?

Did it mean that the Father’s truest expression of perfection is a spirit that is completely broken and desperately willing to accept any direction that He offers?

What do you have to lay down in order to accept the Heaven-stamped fact that YOU ARE PERFECT?

With Whom We Deal

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“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbors glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it,

and the backs of the proud will be broken.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

THERE ARE NO ORDINARY PEOPLE.

You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations-these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is IMMORTALS whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit-

immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

–excerpt from With Whom We Deal, by C. S. Lewis

I found this old tidbit from speech class–well, I found much more than one tidbit, actually, an entire portfolio of tidbits–and it made me stop and think hard yet again.
How can/do you define the word ‘mortal’?

I hope you {dance}

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Life is short.

But I’m not afraid. When I die, I hope you dance. I hope you do a full-out jig.

Stop giving me that awkward stare. I’m really not that crazy.

I attended a funeral last fall. Unfortunately, I’ve been at quite a few in the last year. But this one was traumatizing, unlike anything I’ve experienced previously or since, from the about-to-rain suffocation of the low-hanging storm clouds, to the crunching gravel beneath the wheels of the hearse, to the utter silence of the people, to the tomb-like, clammy chill in the air. The ghostly rustle of starched black fabric of the people walking towards the graveside was almost more than I could bear. What was the worst, though, was the total lack of communication and expression. Almost no one–out of hundreds–spoke to the grieving family. Almost no one cried.

And even though the one who died was a jubilant follower of Christ, no one celebrated.

When I die, I hope you dance.

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I hope you hug my family, and cry if you need to and laugh if you want to and don’t feel embarrassed if you do both at the same time. I hope you’ll understand that if your heart is sad, you don’t need to say a word. Just be. And realize the truth.

I am safe from the world of harm, and have the rest of eternity to explore my Father’s nature, to bask in His pure, unspeakable love, to uncover the mystery and beauty of an unseen kingdom.

It is a time to celebrate.

When I die, please don’t wear black. I hope you wear all the colors of the rainbow. Blue and orange and turquoise and yellow and every shade in between.

I hope you sing Blessed be Your Name. I hope you raise your hands towards heaven.

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I hope you clap. I think the Savior deserves that much expression, at least, for redeeming a creature like me and leading me safely home. It’s a home I’ll be ecstatic to be in.

I hope you celebrate. You can celebrate my life, if you really want to, but what I really hope you celebrate is my King.

Celebrate the glories of heaven. I don’t want the pastor to talk about ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that racket. I want him to tell the gospel message. But don’t use the word “gospel”, please, Pastor. Use simple, everyday words like love, freedom and peace. Explain the Father’s love, because it is AMAZING, and I don’t think I told the ones I love enough about it and how it transformed my life. Vividly display it as best you can, Pastor. Jump around a little.

Get excited!

Tell about the passionate, unshakeable, transforming, peace-oozing love of an incredible Prince of Peace. Talk about His love for the downtrodden….. how He bore (literally carried, experienced, was wounded by) our griefs and carried (took upon Himself) our sorrows.

Make sure you mention that He definitely does not have a thing for flowery words or perfectly choreographed actions. He’s totally cool with the unspoken cry of a desperate heart or the collapsed form of a beggar. It’s the kind of medium He can work with best.

Basically, Pastor, just make sure you let everyone know that His love is here, now, forever and REAL.

When you lower my casket into the ground, I want the kids to have confetti and glitter to toss, because it will be a small chance for them to remember that they can join in the celebration of the angels, even though they are still stuck down here on earth.

I want a cloud of colorful balloons to be released into the air.

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I want the balloons to symbolize my spirit set free from the limitations of my old sin nature and flimsy body.

I want you to remember only one thing when I am gone. Eternity is real. Heaven is pretty unspeakably awesome, and I really hope we can spend it together. Cuz we’ll have way more fun than we ever did here on earth.

I hope that if you never thought about life after death, or a passionate Lover who can’t be seen with earth-eyes but can be felt when no visible person would dare to venture near you, or a Lord who is willing to forgive the darkest sin (trust me, you’ll never know what kind’s I’ve committed. I can talk.), if you never considered these things, I hope you’ll know that it’s not too late!!

There’s this cool love letter around. You don’t even need to go dig it off of some old dusty shelf. You can read part of it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKmdIdQg3Ks

I hope that if you thought you’d never see me again, you’ll meet the King of Kings, and reconsider.

And when you truly meet Him, you will fall in love. And then, when your heart is at ease like you’ve never known before, and the smile of forgiven wrongs splits your face, and your eyes shine so brilliantly with the light of heaven that you surprise yourself when you look into the mirror, and the overwhelming reality of the love of your Heavenly Father comforts you in a way that you never though could be possible….

I hope you dance.

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I’ll be dancing too.

My Lantern Ignited a Tree

And then it was 2013.

As the first few minutes of the fresh, new year ticked their celebratory circuits around the clock, my friends and I released a cloud of paper lanterns into the night air.

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They floated solemnly at first, and then with a gust of hasty impatience shot straight up until they were only fairy specks against the obsidian sky.

Except for my lantern.

When I lit it, it tossed it’s papery nose into the air, turned a scornful back on its partners high aloft in the sky,

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and instead did a drunken dance across the yard.

And landed in a tree. Where it proceeded to smoke and burn in the most grotesque fashion, and began to ignite the branches.

To which we responded by pummeling it to the ground with snowballs.

Oh, how ironic.

I actually don’t believe in luck. You already knew that, right? But regardless of the fact, since the dawn of 2013 I have lost my smart phone, towed my car to the garage (to sit there helplessly until my bank account awakens from the dead), been stranded in sub-freezing temperatures, seen my friends deal with cruel and devastating situations, and watched the culminating effects of retinoblastoma in my 7-month-old niece.

At a bad moment, I’d say that 2013 has been pretty long already.

But then my mind wanders back to those pre-2013 moments around the bonfire.

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When I stared into the coals and remembered 2012. That rollercoaster year of challenges, and heart-wounds and wondering what in the world was the purpose for it all. The year of hopes dashed, and fears forged and dissolved, and finding out just how different the spiritual world is from the our tiny little world here on planet earth.

The year I drank the deepest draughts I have ever received from the bottomless well of the Father’s exuberant love for me.

The year I experienced the Holy Spirit’s power in ways far beyond the vision or imagination of man, and sat back time and time again without a word to say that could begin to describe my amazement.

The year I cast the lies of the devil far from me, and danced the dance that only the ones who are truly free can know.

The year I did things way beyond myself.

And as I sat there by that fire, do you know what the pervading thought in my mind was? POWER. Even though 2012 was one of the harder years of my life, the POWER of the Glorious King was clearer to me than ever before. He was unstoppable, beautiful and overflowing with passionate, personal love. And unlike our years, He never changes.

Somehow, I’ve got a feeling that 2013 is gonna be a good year.

But my bull-headed laptop computer declares that today is August 3, 2012. So we’ll have to wait and see.

“Look among the heathen, and regard, and WONDER marvelously! For I will work a work in your days that you will not believe, although it is told you.” Habakuk 1:5