Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 9:13 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 8

We left Peter broken down and crying under the weight of his betrayal. There was no undoing that and there was no forgetting the eye contact with Jesus in that moment, hanging on the cross, dying, and now betrayed by the ones closest to Him...

So Peter, having taken up the chains of shame, slinks off back to the familiar.

In her TED talk, "The Power of Vulnerability", Brene Brown says that "shame is the fear of disconnection." How true that is. Peter, as I have been at times, must have been so overcome with the fear of having destroyed the relationship he'd had with Jesus. That is what we fear in the aftermath of our mistakes, isn't it? That we cannot restore what we've broken? That the people who see our worst can never love us the same as they did when we kept that mess hidden? I would imagine that Peter believed that there was no way he could be the rock that Jesus had said he was. How could he loose anything from the chains of darkness when he couldn't even keep a promise for a few hours? How could the church be built by someone that is so foolish and who bends so easily to fear and pressure? Whatever future he was meant to have, he just destroyed with 4 little words. "I don't know Him!"

So what else could he do? He had no choice but to go back to fishing. Oh, he still hung around with the disciples, as we know from John 20. He was with them when Mary Magdalene came to tell them that Jesus' body was gone. He even went to see for himself.  John says the Peter and the other disciple believed that Jesus' body had been stolen. They believed and then went to their homes. There is no mention of Peter returning to the upper room with the others after that moment. The next time we see him, Peter is fishing. For fish. And Mark says the Angel that told the women to go back to share the news about Jesus' resurrection, said to tell "the disciples and Peter". Was Peter not with the disciples? Did he just need a specific word? I don't know. Nonetheless, Peter went back to what he comfortably succeed or fail in. There were so many factors that could mean success or failure as a fisherman. Maybe the equipment failed. Perhaps the weather was bad that day. But in this, following Jesus, what could he blame his failure on? Who but himself was there to take the fall for things not working out? Perhaps that is what Peter was thinking. "I will never get it right."

So here he is, drifting off into the sea of shame, casting his nets hoping for a good day so he can feel successful at least for a moment. And maybe in the silence of the waiting, Peter is replaying his failure, trying to figure out where he lost it and how to make it right. And the maybe the others with him (Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two other disciples) were trying to build him up the way we so often do with each other when we've screwed up. "Man, don't worry about." "We all said dumb things." "It was a hard day, you weren't thinking right." "It's fine." "You're fine." I don't know about yall, but I hate that response to my sin. It's sin, yall! It's wrong! It's a slap in the face of God! It's not fine. It's inexcusable. Maybe that's what Peter wanted to say. Maybe he was opening his mouth to tell James and John to shut-up about it, when they heard a man call from the shore. "Children, do you have any fish?" "No? Then cast your nets on the right side of your boat and you will find them." Ta-Da! Fish! John recognized the man first. He turned to Peter and informed him, "Dude, that's Jesus!" For some reason, that makes me think Peter was sulking at the end of the boat. It just seems like he wasn't even paying attention to the miracle that was happening quite literally in his lap. But when he hears that Jesus is on the shore, he puts his outer robe back on and jumps overboard to swim to sea. Was that faster? Maybe, since the boat was full of fish, but it still seems a bit crazy. The hope of restoration, even though brief at times, can make a person do crazy things. I mean, John even points out how silly it seemed. He tells us they were only about 100 feet from shore and the other disciples just came in the boat. John likes to point out Peter's crazy moments.

Jesus tells the men to bring fish and it seems, almost as if to make up for his mistake, Peter hops to it with as much urgency as when he cut off the soldier's ear. And as Peter is dragging the net full of fish over to Jesus, there is an invitation to stop striving. "Come, have breakfast," Jesus offered. He broke bread as He had done so many times to provide, for the masses, for the world, and now for the shamed. There is no indication of a conversation during the meal. Were they all just watching Jesus eat, wondering why He had come? Awkward silence. I am sure they loved it as much as you and I do. And to make the moment even better, the silence was broken, not by a sermon to the crowd, but by a question to the denier, "Simon, Son of John, do you love me more than these?" Notice that Jesus did not call the man Peter, but Simon, his old name. Perhaps a reminder of where he'd come from. Or maybe a little conviction..."Stop trying to run from what I have made you to be. You are acting like Simon...a man who ceased to exist when I spoke a new future over you...Peter." "Simon, do you love me?"

I can't imagine the sting in this question. How long did Peter have to catch his breath before he could answer. "Yes, I love you." Three times this happened. Three denials, three opportunities to tell Jesus face to face that he loved Him. And Jesus shared with Peter a glimpse of the future, that he would share in the likeness of Christ in his death. Death by crucifixion. And Peter, a little frightened by the weight of this revelation, and probably still fighting shame and the fear of being unworthy of Jesus, looks back at John and asks, "What about him?" And Jesus' response? "You don't worry about what will happen to him. I have chosen YOU for this. Peter. Rock."

What hope! What magnificent hope! Jesus never asked Peter if he was sorry or how he would prove his regret. No, the relationship that had been destroyed, as Peter had imagined,  was in fact, as whole as before. Jesus still wanted Peter to be part of His kingdom. Jesus still wanted Peter to represent Him to the world. Jesus was still, always, daily and eternally, CHOOSING Peter...failures and all.

Can you imagine that kind of hope? To know that regardless of how grand a screw up you can be, that there is one who, without even asking you to make up for the messes, chooses you. Chooses to love you, to invite you to be a part of their life. You don't have to just imagine, you know? It's real. Let's receive this. (Erin...receive it.) The God of the universe has chosen you.

Questions for today:
1. Have you been drifting off in the sea of shame with Peter and his empty fishing boat?
2. Has Jesus perhaps been trying to get your attention, calling from the shore? How?
3. Have you had breakfast with the one who has chosen you? Have you let His word wash over you? Have you received the truth that YOU are CHOSEN? If not, what is keeping you from doing that?

Happy Journey!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 8:56 AM | No comments

It's Here

Somebody get me a 13.1 bumper sticker! Friends, it is real. This time tomorrow I will be running the Dallas Rock n Roll half marathon. I am excited. I am nervous. I am in denial that it is already time. My friends and I are about to jump in the car and drive to Dallas where we will pick up our race packets, go meet with As Our Own staff and other runners, have dinner with BCF runners, and then check into the hotel for a few hours of sleep (hopefully) before waking up eeeeeeeeearly to run 13.1 miles.

It will be hard. I will be sore. I will have several arguments in my head as I hit walls. But I will also celebrate each mile knowing that each step is a step for freedom. It is a step of freedom for me...from the lies I so easily believe about what I can and cannot do and be. But, even better, it is a step for freedom for little girls who have been or are at risk to be trafficked. I pray that it is a step for freedom for the men who are enslaved by the lies that they need what those girls "offer". And for every other person in every other facet of trafficking.

Thank you so much to those of you who have prayed and given. Our team goal was $15,000 and we are currently at $13,240. Pretty dang close. It has been such a joy to see friends and strangers give so generously to a ministry that I love so dearly. I cannot explain to you how much of an honor it is to run under the name of As Our Own and even more so the name of Christ. Aside from His strength, I could not do this. There are lots of things I can "get through" on my own strength...granted it won't be awesome, but I can do it. But this is not one of those things. I would not ever have even dreamed of doing anything like this were it not for the work of Christ and the way He has tied up my heart with little girls in India.

If you want to read more about Parul, the little one we are specifically running for, you can go here. (You can also donate there if you are so lead. ) My memory of this little girl is her silliness. When we were talking about Simon's name being changed to Peter, Mitch had the girls turn their name tags over and write a "nickname" on the back. It was supposed to be a characteristic of them. Jesus saw that Peter would be a rock. The girls were supposed to think along these lines. What is something about you that God might call you? She had one of the house parents write her nickname on her tag. I asked what it meant and he told me it basically translated to "giggles". I loved it. It was the perfect name. She loved to laugh. She always had a smile on her face. I love that girl! Her face is my phone wallpaper. I cannot wait to run for Parul. I cannot hug her sweet neck right now so I will love her the way I can. I will make decisions for her good even when they mean my discomfort.

I will run. For Parul. For As Our Own. For Freedom. For the glory of God.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:06 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 7

At this very moment I am sitting in Mugwalls, a coffee shop in College Station,TX. This is one of the most familiar towns and even one of the most familiar coffee shops in my life. I spent five straight years in this college town. And many hours were spent "studying" in this coffee shop. Well, it wasn't Mugwalls back then. It was Coffee Station, but nevertheless, it is familiar: the bar, the stairs, the neighboring businesses. I know them. I know how this place feels. I know how to drive the roads of this town without wondering if I know where I'm going. I don't have to think about traffic. Even before college I spent a good part of my life in this town visiting family. College Station is in me. I don't have to think too hard about anything here. And yet, I still do some of my best thinking here. It's comfortable. And in this familiar place, I find my mind wandering back to Peter. He apparently had a thing for the familiar too. Don't we all?

Can we all just agree that Peter was sometimes as idiot? That's why we relate to him so well, isn't it? He said some stupid things. He jumped into conversations the way a sky-diving instructor jumps from a plane. Only Peter is not that skilled. He's a beginner sky-diver. A beginner who forgot to strap on a chute before jumping. SPLAT! Flat on his face. Yep. Peter was a messy person to befriend. Jesus felt the sting of Peter's messiness time and time again. But I would imagine that out of all those time-agains, one stood out as the ultimate sting. 

After the Last Supper, Jesus was giving the disciples a glimpse of the future. He told them that they would all be scattered, that they would all fall away. And Peter, who clearly knew more about what's to come than the Messiah, declares, probably with more than a tinge of indignanation, "Even if the rest of them fall away, I will NEVER do that." And so Jesus, again turns to speak directly to Peter. He tells him, "Actually, Peter, you will deny me tonight. Not just once, but three times. Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny knowing me three times." Peter responds more emphatically than before, "NEVAH!!!! I will die with you if I must, but I will never deny you!"

I wonder what Jesus' response was? Did He just pat Peter on the shoulder and say, "Alright, friend." ?  Did Jesus change the subject, maybe start talking about birds or flowers? Or perhaps He launched into a parable as He had done so often. Who knows, but you can bet His heart was aching and wishing that the space between Peter's heart and his actions wasn't so vast.

The next thing we know, we are in the garden with Jesus and Peter, James, and John. Jesus asks them to stay up and pray as He goes off a little further to talk to His Father. Maybe with the echoes of the last conversation still ringing in His mind, Jesus asked that if there was any other way for us to be restored to right relationship with God...if possible, could He not have to endure the sting of this night? Usually, I think of this as a prayer to avoid the cross, to avoid the weight of the sin of the world. And, if that was what He meant...all He meant, than that would still be more than significant. Clearly. But, in this moment, I can't help but think that Jesus was not just thinking of you and me and all the rest of mankind, although certainly He had to have been. I think, perhaps, He was also thinking of the friendships He had spent 3 years building. I wonder if there were memories flashing through His mind as He prayed. Calling the 12. Their faces when he broke that first piece of bread and it grew back into a full loaf. That stormy night on the boat when they woke Him from a nap and were so terrified. The moment when he first saw them "get it". When Peter declared that he knew Jesus was the Messiah. When Peter walked on water. When the 12 were so frustrated by not being able to cast out the demons and wanted so much to do it right. Moments of growth, of fear, hard conversations and crazy man moments of laughter.  Was He remembering in advance? The "memory" that had not yet happened? Was He seeing Peter around the fire telling the girl so fiercely that he did not know Jesus? I am heartbroken just thinking about it. 

And so, Jesus prays, "Father, if there is any other way, let this cup pass." Then He stands up and walks back to where the three friends were left to pray. Jesus finds His deepest friends sleeping. He speaks to Peter, "You are sleeping? It hasn't even been an hour. Watch and pray so that you do not fall into temptation." He goes back to pray again and then returns to find the three sleeping again. This time it's just awkward. We are told in one account of this story that His time in prayer was so intense that He was sweating blood. Could Peter and the other two see the blood on Jesus' forehead? What do you say to your best friend, and your Lord, when He is sweating blood and you can't seem to stay awake to pray for Him as He asked? It happens a third time, but there is not another chance waiting in the wings. I wonder if they'd had one more try at it, if the three would have found a way to stay awake. I wonder how many times I waited too long to be willing to do whatever it takes... But this time, it is TIME. Jesus is arrested. As if to prove he can actually be a good friend, Peter draws his sword and cuts off a guard's ear.  Again, jumping before he puts on the chute. The guards (after the ear has been miraculously restored by Jesus) lead Jesus away and everyone runs. 

And of course, we all know what happens, right? Just as Jesus said, Peter denied knowing Christ three times...the very same night he had sworn he would NEVER disown Jesus. And Mark 14 says that, as the rooster crowed for the second time, Peter remembered Jesus' words and Peter broke down and cried. 
Have you ever done that? I mean, have you ever realized that you screwed up so royally that there is no imaginable way to salvage the relationship? Maybe you stabbed a friend in the back. Maybe you broke the trust your parents had freely given. Maybe you had an affair and made a mess of your marriage. I don't know. But, most of us probably have some moment where we thought, I can't undo what I have done. And I know for me, there is some stuff that hasn't surfaced...not yet anyways. But there are things that I know...or at least I believe, that if people knew, if that friend knew, if that family member knew, if that church leader knew, that I would never be able to get back the kind of relationship we have now. Imagine the weight of that moment for Peter. He had been so sure, so proud, so emphatic about his loyalty and just a few moments later, he couldn't even stay away to pray for his friend and Messiah. And then, on top of that, he told who knows how many people, that he didn't even KNOW Jesus. 

And the shame crept in. There was no undoing this. There was no going back. Jesus was hanging on a cross, so Peter couldn't even say he was sorry. He couldn't prove his regret. And even if he could, there was no way Jesus could ever love him like before. But oh, my friends, there is a beautiful moment ahead for Peter.

We will pause here for a couple of reasons. One, this post is going to get ridiculously long if I don't stop here. And two, I think it is important for us to sit with this for awhile. I so often sprint through the fields of sorrow so that I can blend in with the crowd of comfort. But let's reflect on the heaviness of this moment. Don't rush past it, friends. Lamentations 3:25-31 says it best:

"The Lord is good for those who wait for Him,
      to the soul who seeks Him.
      It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
      It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.

  Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him.
      Let him put his mouth in the dust-
      there may yet be hope.
      Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
      and let him be filled with insults.

  The Lord will not cast off forever."

Questions for today:
1. What is your familiar? It could be a place or a habit or activity, or maybe a person...what is yours?
2. Have you ever, like Peter, been broken by the realization that you cannot undo a mistake? What did you fear in that moment?
3. Are you like me in that you find yourself rushing through the painful parts of life, rushing through conviction? What are some practical ways we can fight this tendency?

Happy Journey!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 3:45 PM | 1 comment

Becoming a Half-Marathoner

My blog world,

I wanted to share with you a great big scary challenge I have taken on. In a week and a half, I will be running the Dallas Rock n Roll Half Marathon. That's right 13.1 miles. I freak out a little every time I think about it. If you have known me for any good amount of time, you know that running is not my idea of a fun past-time. For some of you, running comes easy and is actually something that refreshes and recharges you, but for others of us, well...that just isn't the case. So then, why sign up for a half-marathon? I'm so glad you asked. As many of you know, in December 2010 I went to India for a couple of weeks to work with a ministry called As Our Own. They are working against human trafficking in India through rescue, aftercare, and prevention. 

They rescue girls who are born into brothels or are is situations which make them vulnerable to traffickers. These girls are brought into the As Our Own family and cared for as a parent cares for his child. They do not age out of the program since you can't age out of your family. They are in great schools, most making straight A's to the shock of the community ("The daughters of prostitutes are excelling in school?!?!"). They are given music lessons and dance and the little ones put on a Christmas play which their moms (the ones working in the brothels) get to come see. 

The prevention arm is about raising up the church in India to step into the gap and be the church God has called her to be. AOO has a Bible college where they are training young men to pastor the churches in India. They also partner with churches in the villages.

Back to the half marathon...AOO is in the middle of the I Will Run campaign. 10 races. 10 cities. 10 girls. I love this ministry. I love the girls that they have rescued. There was one in particular that I fell in love with during my time there. Her name is Parul and she just happens to be the little girl who is connected to the Dallas race. I was a little bit giddy when I found this out. There are over 100 people running in this particular race for As Our Own. We are running to raise awareness but we are also running to raise funds. Honestly, being aware of the problem isn't going to do much to actually set girls free. Here is a bit about the funds needed:

$696 provides 3 meals a day for 1 year for 1 girl.
$672 provides a home for 1 year for 1 girl.
$720 allows a girl to school for 9 months.

So my personal goal is $750. I currently have raised $200 and have just 10 days left.I will be running with a team of people from my church Bayou City Fellowship. There are 30 of us running. Our team goal is $15,000 and we are currently at $6,200.  It would bless me immensely if you consider giving. This run will not be easy for me. It has already stretched me. There has been achy muscles, more time required than I ever imagined, and even some tears of frustration over running. To be quite honest, I'm really intimidated by the reality of race day. But, if Parul and other little girls will know hope as a result of this, if they get to fall asleep feeling safe and loved, if they get to see what Jesus offers, than all of that is worth it. You can read more about Parul's story and my story on the donation page which is here.

Thank you for considering giving. And thank you in advance for your prayers. If you have questions about the race or As Our Own, please do not hesitate to ask. It is one of my greatest honors and joys to get to talk about what God is doing in the lives of those precious girls.


 "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." -Eric Little
(I believe that God has a purpose for Parul and so, even though I am not fast, at least for this one race, I will feel God's pleasure when I run.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 1:46 PM | 1 comment

Chosen Series:Part 6

If you remember, in part 5 of this series, we talked about believing what Jesus says about us over listening to the crowd. Pretty awesome, right? I mean, we can know who we are. We can walk in complete security of the identity we have in Jesus. And how great is it that we all do this so easily?!

Ok. Let's be honest, that last part...the easy part...that isn't true. I wish it was. It would be amazing if we were all living out our days in the full confidence of who we were made to be. The truth is, very few of us are there. Most of us are taking steps shrouded by lies that others have spoken over us for years. Or maybe, and probably, lies that we have spoken over ourselves for years. I want to share with you my own struggle with such things. It's a day of vulnerability. Speaking of which, I saw a wonderful definition for vulnerability the other day. Doug Ferguson tweeted it, someone I follow retweeted it. "Vulnerability is when you deeply reveal yourself, legitimately desiring but never demanding a loving response". Uh. Yes. So my goal in sharing is not for pity or anything other than that I want you to know that you are not alone. I hope that you can learn from the things I am processing. I am a firm believer in learning from the hard lessons of others. Of course, there will always be an aspect of having to experience it for ourselves. There will always be work we have to do. 

In a conversation with a friend about what was keeping her in a job she wants to leave, we began to talk about what she can see herself doing. The question was posed, "What are your thoughts on the corporate world?" Her response was, "I just wouldn't fit there." She went on to talk about how she doesn't dress like she would need to, she doesn't communicate like they do, and ultimately, she wouldn't be able to do it. As she shared, I kept thinking about how deeply rooted the voices of her past are...the lies she's learned to walk in. And the Holy Spirit was whispering to me, "Erin, you are stuck too and you know exactly why." This was what came of my moment of clarity:

I think much of why we stay stuck in the lies is because of the method by which we try to free ourselves (not to mention that we are trying to free ourselves which will never work. Only Jesus can free the captive). There is something in us that believes that in order to not be captive to the lie of the identity we have always believed was ours, we have to take the complete opposite identity. For my friend, it would look like this: I am currently this way(however she sees herself) and this person cannot be part of that world (the corporate world). If I want to be a part of the corporate world, I will have to be the assertive, confident, force people to see and hear me, woman that is opposite of all I have ever been." For me, I realized that my struggle to be healthy was rooted in this very thing. The me that I remember has always been fat...even when I wasn't, that was the identity I lived in. I have, over the years, attempted to break those chains. I have started exercising, eating better, making wiser choices...I have shaken my fist to the puffy clouds of ice cream and vowed that "NEVER AGAIN SHALL YOU DEFEAT ME!!!!!" And a week later, I was sabotaging myself again and accepting my fate as the fat girl. Even this last summer I started running with some friends. I dislike running with my whole being. But, I started and I stuck with it for awhile. I was seeing results and tasting a tiny bit of freedom. And then my schedule changed. I got tired. I remembered that I hate running. And I quit. Resolved again to just find a way to fashionably hide the extra rather than get rid of it. 

The problem, I believe now, is not so much in my determination but in my belief of what I should be. You see, I was believing that in order to not be the fat girl, I had to become the girl who loves to run, who makes a home video of P90x before and after success, who blogs about eggplant and kale recipes and brownies made from spinach, black beans, and celery. In order to not live in the false identity I'd adopted, I would have to adopt a different false identity. But, I couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself be the runner girl or the healthy living author. I am not her. And because I could not be successful at being her, I would resign to be who I have always been. I do the same thing with other areas too, honestly, probably more than I am even aware of. (Holy Spirit, examine me, teach me.)

We can't be free from the chains we wear by trying on new chains to see if they look better. And as I said before, only Jesus can free us. But, also, as I said before, there will be work to do. If I want to rid myself of the lie of believing I am the fat girl, I will have to make some changes. Firstly, I will have to speak truth over myself. I will have to remind myself about who God is, that I am made in His image, that He loves me and made me purposefully. I will also have to surround myself with people who will speak truth over me and lovingly confront me about the lies I'm believing. Secondly, if I want to be healthy, I will have to do some things I don't love. I will have to sometimes run, even if I hate it. I will have to celery and kale and drink more water than coffee and soda. I will have to do P90x when I'd rather sleep or hang out with someone. I don't have to enjoy it. I may not ever love those things, but if I keep it up, I will start to see results, I will start to taste freedom. And I will love that. 

I don't know what lie you are believing. Maybe you feel like the invisible woman and think that if you could just learn to be the social butterfly instead of the shy one, that life would be better, people would love you. And to overcome that, you will have let Truth wash over you. And you will have to seek out community sometimes when you would rather be alone. You will have to invest intentionally in people when you would rather wait for them to come find you. You don't have to be the social butterfly but you will have to do some work. And when you start to find that your community is beginning to feel like a safe place, you will love the results even if the work was not fun. Maybe it's the lie that you are are not feminine and you think that in order to be a real woman you have to wear dresses and more makeup that you like and dangly earrings and that you have to be giggly and dainty all the time. Again, let Jesus get a hold of your heart and your mind. Then put the feet to the treadmill. You don't have to be a pageant girl to be feminine. You don't have to have a sweet little southern accent. But you may need to take a fair assessment and make some changes. Do you let the men in your life treat you like one of the guys? It can be fun and feel safe. But, you are not one of the guys. Start asking them to treat you like the woman you are. Ask by behaving differently around them. Let them be men: carry the groceries, hold the door, watch their conversation,etc...  I don't know what it is for you. But, I do know that we all have, do, or will believe lies about who we are and about who we have to be instead. I know it's easier to be resigned to the familiarity of the false identity than it is to let the Healer do some surgery and remove something that makes us feel like...well, us. It's hard. It hurts. It takes time. Recovering from surgery typically means we have to slow down. None of us really like to do that. Recovery means we have to ask for help. Again, not our favorite thing. And often, recovery means scars. Something we try to hide. But, friends, in slowing down, we find that we don't have to carry much of the weight of our daily lives as we  previously thought. In asking for help, we find that we are not alone and that we are, in fact, loved. And in the scars, there is beauty and hope and your story. Share your scars, your story. Others need you to. You need to. Because of Jesus, every scar is a story of redemption. And that is beautiful.

Questions for today:
1. What lie have you resigned to? What lie have you tried to adopt in order to undo the first?
2. Find a verse to start claiming over yourself. Share it with us.
3. What are some good work-it steps you can take this week? You know, the hard, not fun, but necessary things...

Happy Journey!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 12:44 PM | 1 comment

Chosen Series: Part 5

Jesus and Peter had a unique relationship. I think it may be the truest form of friendship ever lived. They wounded each other. Peter wounding Jesus because Peter was weak and he acted out in the passion of the moment. But it was the same impulsive passion that caused him to speak boldly and stand up for Christ, even if his actions were misinformed. And Jesus wounding Peter, speaking sharp words to him because Jesus loved Peter enough to risk wounding him to make him better.

Jesus speaks directly to Peter more than the other disciples. And from what we can see, Peter speaks up more than the others. In Matthew 16, Jesus and Peter have this really intense moment in the midst of the twelve. Jesus is asking, "Who do people say that I am?" They answered...meaning the group..."Some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked, "But who do YOU say that I am?" Whether or not He looked at Peter when He asked this, we don't know. Nevertheless, it was Peter who spoke up. I imagine the others looking at the clouds, their sandals, maybe doodling in the sand as they search their minds and hearts for what they really believe about who Jesus is. But not Peter. He doesn't have to search. He just comes out with it. "You are the Christ. The Son of the living God." And Jesus responds to Peter by reaffirming his new name: Peter-the rock. But Jesus makes sure to clarify that Peter can only say that Jesus is the Christ because the Spirit of God has revealed it to him. And that, Peter will accomplish great things because of Jesus.

We are all asking the same question Jesus asked. "Who do people think I am?" The voices of the crowds are loud. They were with Jesus too. There was no doubt about what the crowds thought about Jesus. He was a prophet, like Elijah, Jeremiah...but the crowds were wrong. They are wrong with us as well. The crowds will say we aren't enough of something or we are too much something. Maybe the crowds see you as the awesome speaker or the girl with good fashion sense. And there may be a little truth in that, but it is not who you ARE. So we keep asking people, "But who do YOU say that I am?" And it will take our closest, boldest friend to really see who we are. It will take a miracle for someone to speak over us what we know in our hearts to be true about us.

So who is that for you? Who is that friend? I imagine some, probably most of us, have trouble thinking of the person that knows us that well. But, let me ask you, would you call Jesus your friend? I'm guessing if you know Him at all that you would say yes. So start asking Him. He knows, understands, and appreciates the deeper value of you who are and what you are called to. He is ready to speak truth over who you are. He is bold enough to say it. There will be moments when His words over you will sting, but He knows you better than anyone. And He loves you more than anyone. Start asking Him how He defines you.
Questions for today:
1. Who is Jesus to you?
2. Who are you looking to answer the question,"Who am I?" The crowds? The well-meaning 11? Jesus?

Happy Journey!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:36 PM | No comments

Becoming Sevened: A Book Review

Sometime in November or December, Jen Hatmaker tweeted that she was looking for people to read her newest book and blog a review about it. I love reading her blog and her tweets are right up my ally so I jumped at the chance to read this book. "7" was emailed to me just before Christmas but I had to wait till I returned home to download it since I was without internet over the holidays (poor me).

"7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" is just that. It is Jen's story of being faced with the excess that she and her family were living in and taking on the challenge...declaring war on the captors of their hearts. Food, clothes, waste, media, spending, possessions, and stress...these are the captors they fought. When I signed up to read this experiment, I expected some cute antidotes about the trauma of sticking to only 7 foods for a month or learning to recycle. I expected some sweet little tidbits of wisdom that I could add to my collection of Christian-living badges. I got those things, for sure, but I also got what I did not expect: Confrontation.

Jen is conversational in her writing so "7" is very easy to read in that sense. As I read at my kitchen table each morning, it was as though Jen was sitting there with me sharing a fresh pot of coffee, only not, since she gave that up for the experiment. I love reading a book when I feel like I know the author afterward. That is what I love about her blog as well, you get to see her heart: the things that she cares about, the way she loves her family and her church and her God. But, you also get to see her personality:  witty, passionate, kind, maybe a little crazy.

However, in the confrontation realm, "7" was all but easy to read. Now let me be clear, Jen, in NO way pours on the guilt when she is writing. She is simply sharing her story, inviting you to join, but never blaming or trying to act as the agent of conviction.  I have this little problem where when my blindness has been healed in an area, I just walk around with my eyes closed like I never saw a thing.  It's easier that way. I've figured out how to live blind. What will life be like if I try to live it as a seeing person? Well, before picking up this book, I already had a sense that this year would be one of hard work, hard lessons, and some sweet fruit. I may have even asked the Lord to let me see more of Him. But, as I read about Jen's war on the excess that had enslaved her, I grew increasing more uncomfortable about the coming year. I knew that the stirring in the wind meant that I would actually have to deal with these questions that Jen posed. I would have to do more than read a book about someone else's experience.

I was only in chapter 2 when my friend texted me to ask if I wanted to undergo our own 7 war. I told her I didn't know. I was only in chapter 2 for heaven's sake. Then over the weekend, I watched live streams of Passion 2012 and wept in my kitchen as college students gave over 3 million dollars to fight for the end of human trafficking. I decided I probably didn't need to pray about doing something to create space for God to teach me about what He thinks is important. I texted my friend to tell her I was in. And so a little group of us in Houston will be changed. In 2012, we will go to war. We will "experiment" with needing less. We will find freedom from stuff. All because Jen Hatmaker and "7". Because she had the audacity to think that there is something more than filling our houses up with trinkets and clothes and our  earth with landfills. Can you believe her?

If you are tired of trying to find the "stuff" that will keep you and your family happy, if you know that surely there is more to life than having the right shoes, if you don't have any idea how to live in your state of life while there are orphans and trafficked people then you should read this book. If you have been disillusioned by the church, read this book. If you love the church but want her to reach her potential, read this book. If you like witty writing, read this book. Yep. Do it. READ. THIS. BOOK. It's worth it. The hard questions, they are good.

So, we are sevening...yes, I have made seven a verb. I thought about sharing an email I wrote the other girls about my struggles with this, but I decided, it is really irrelavent. You don't need to know. I'm not doing "7" for you. I'm doing it because I want to hear from God. I want to know what Micah 6:8 (do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God) looks like in daily life. I want to see beyond the horizon that the mountain of my stuff has formed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:19 PM | 2 comments

Becoming-A Year's Journey

After reading my friend's blog on the year we just left, I was inspired to take some time to reflect on my own journey of 2011. It was quite a year.

January: Fresh off the trip to India with As Our Own, my head and heart were still spinning. I had fallen in love with beautiful little girls who had been rescued from human trafficking. I came back ready to live beyond myself, to make decisions about my life as though I were a parent, making decisions to give these girls a better life. I would have gotten on a plane and moved to India to be with them in a heartbeat. I still would. I would easily give up my life here to be with my girls. But, for now, that is not what God is doing, so it has been a year of missing my girls, of letting myself slip into living for myself and then beating myself up for even beginning to slightly forget them. And, learning to have grace for my forgetting, for my living while still challenging myself to make sacrifices for my girls.

February: Ready more than ever for a new season of life, I applied for a girls' ministry job in...wait for it...Lubbock,TX. I had sworn to never move to the Panhandle of Texas, despite having awesome family there. I was sure the flatness of the land would kill me. But, I decided that the "what" of my life was far more important that the "where" as far as my happiness was concerned. This job seemed like the perfect fit. The interview process was awesome and I was excited about the possibility.
Meanwhile, I met with Amanda to tell her about my trip to India. And as we talked, she handed my a little envelope and told me about a church plant that her family was starting. She invited me to be a part. I was excited about that as well. I was torn. My heart could easily go all into the vision of this new church. But my heart also longed for a job that fit. So, I decided to let the Lord decide. If I got the job, I'd take it and if not, disappointment would be scarce because I was already in love with this new church plant.
Turns out that, for now, Lubbock was not home and while, it did sting a little to be rejected (and rather abrubtly-probably because I'd asked the Lord to be really clear), I woke up the next morning thrilled that I could go all in with Bayou City Fellowship.

March: I finally decided to start writing out the "Choose Me" series that had been floating in my head. Admittedly, I have not kept up with it as much as I would have liked, but it is started. It is out there. It is stirring.

April through July: I have tried to think of something exciting that happened during these months. I just, cannot remember anything but feeling stuck. I just felt trapped and was wrestling with God a LOT during this season. It was a hard hard few months. Harder than it had been before. I didn't know where God was. My whole life: emotionally, spiritually, physically, relationally...it all felt like chaos. Everything was swirling around me, mocking me. So. much. wrestling.

August: I auditioned for The Voice on my 28th birthday. It was a fun day. I didn't make it past the first round, but I felt good about my audition and spending a day hanging out with random people who love music was far more exciting than sitting in an office entering data. The staff of the show were all very kind and encouraging. It was done really well.

September: Bayou City Fellowship opened it's doors. We had almost 500 people on our first Sunday. We were blown away. And you know what? Most of those people have stuck around. We have seen God do amazing, God-sized things. We could not have done what He has done. It's awesome. I love my church. I love my community group and the youth. I love the worship team and the worshippers in the congregation. I love worshipping with and living life with families: little children and young married couples and grandparents. I love love love it.
picture by debra parker

October: Catalyst. I went to the Catalyst conference with my best friend and some other really awesome friends. I was overwhelmed by the fire hydrant teaching but much of it stuck. The biggest of which was "Do Not Fear. Daddy is going with you." (Mark Driscoll). I would say the theme of the conference for me was "It's time to step out of the boat." I had felt that it was time for me to leave my job even though I didn't not have a job to go to. I needed to hear confirmation. And I sure did. Everything from "the right people need to be in the right seats on the right bus" to "give God first fruits even when you don't know where second fruits are going to come from" to practically every song that Aaron Keyes led us in.

"Your plans are still to prosper. You have not forgotten us."
This is from Amy's blog

Then I came home, told my dad I was quitting my job. Went to work that monday and turned in my 2 weeks' notice. On my last Monday of work, after talking with HR, I had a freak out. "What am I thinking?! I don't have income. I don't have enough savings. I don't even have a lead on a job!!!" But, that night, I came home to an email from a friend who said she had seen this job listing and thought it sounded perfect for me. And it did sound perfect! I immediately sent my resume. They called and we scheduled an interview for the next Monday, my first day of being unemployed. The interview was great. They asked me to come for a second interview Tuesday. After that interview they said, "Can you start tomorrow?"

*Gasp* Yall. I was unemployed for 2 days. That is it. 2 days! There was no gap in pay. There was no wondering how I would pay rent the next month. God said go. And I said "But but but..." And he said, "But what? Do you trust me?" So I tentatively stepped out of the boat and lo and behold...I am in a job that I love. I work with kids. I teach them about Jesus. I lead worship. I get to learn about parenting and discipline and patience. I get Christmas off and Summers...granted, unpaid, but still. Seriously. God is far   more kind than I deserve to give me such a wonderful, fulfilling job.

November: On top of giving me an awesome job. God was beginning to open doors. Lots of them. I led worship for a girls retreat. And let me just tell you, everything in me wanted to say no to that opportunity because I felt...feel...inadequate. Inexperienced. Not. Good. Enough. But I said yes. And I told God I would not say no to any opportunity to play and sing. (That is freaky by the way). So, I led worship and it was the absolute best weekend. My heart was so full leaving that weekend. I got to hang out with the junior and senior girls and yall, they were amazing. I miss girls' ministry.

I also went to a faithwalking retreat in Novemeber. I went as a cynic. I don't trust highly emotional processes that promise to bring change. There are a few reasons for that, but that's irrelevant. I wanted to be changed. I wanted to hear from God but I just didn't trust that I would. Well, I was wrong. A big part of the process was uncovering the vows we'd made through life. (for example: I will never fail again. I will always be in control. No one will ever hurt me again....) The way you uncover those vows is by listening a lot to the Lord. I don't "hear" from the Lord often in that way....sitting and listening for Him is hard because I justify away the things that come to mind. What if that was just my own thought, not God's? But I listened. And He showed up. He uncovered all sorts of little vows. But the overwhelming theme of them? "I am not enough." I believe(d) that. And now, is the hard work of fighting through that. It's not enough to recognize it. The Lord wants to change it. But I have to change how I think. And so, when I want to say no to things because I do not feel adequate, I have to start saying yes. When I want to run because I think I'm not enough, I have to stay. It's hard, but it's good.

Decemeber: Oh December. I prayed and watched as a team of friends went to India to be with my girls. I was so excited for them, but ached for wanting to go with them. I woke up most of the mornings they were gone thinking of India. I thought about the girls and Ralph who had birthdays in December and the wonderful celebration we had last year. I thought of the 1/2 marathon that I will be running for them, of how hard it will be and frustrating for this non-runner as I train. And I thought of how much these girls are worth my discomfort.

I WILL RUN from As Our Own on Vimeo.

I celebrated the season of advent by teaching my kids at work about the history of scripture and how it all is about Jesus. I marveled that it had been only 2 months since I started that job and how I could love those kids so much even though I hadn't know them long. I cried somedays because they didn't listen well. I hurt over the times I had to discipline them. I smiled somedays at their funny comments and the way they heard some things I'd say. I hugged kids who cried. I laughed with them in silliness. I somehow got them to eat their vegetables (once). I helped with math homework(a miracle).

I played more shows in December too. Backyard concerts. They were so much fun. And I got asked to play at HEB in January. I cannot wait. The Lord provides. Sometimes it's through 3 years of a less than perfect job. But sometimes, it is through perfectly placed blessings. I am glad to be in a season of the latter.

So, 2011, you were quite a year. So much growth. So many lessons. So many songs. So many tears. And ending in so much more laughter. So much more peace. So much more hope.

As I told a friend tonight, I believe that 2012 will be a year that requires a lot of hard work. It will take effort, discipline, perseverance. But, it will be a rewarding year. A year of results. A year of fruit. I am excited. And I saw a verse on Pinterest the other day and immediately knew that it was for me, for this next year.

Source: flickr.com via Erin on Pinterest