Saturday, December 7, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:59 PM | 1 comment

Hannah Hearts

Friend,

I have been carrying an ache in my heart for you these last days.  To see you wrestle with this want, this beautiful, God-woven want...it peels back the covering of put-togetherness we all desperately try to keep tethered to the ground around our feet. But I have seen glimpses of the frayed corners of your covering. A picture. A 140 character sigh. A far-off stare occupied by a deeply rooted thorn in your heart. A one ton tear breaking through your "I'm fine" eyes and cutting a path of escape down your rose-garden cheek.

You are hurting. And life has not stopped to allow it. Holidays have steamrolled through as a constant reminder of hope deferred.

Hope deferred.

Such heavy words. Such known words.

It is this child. Loved before known. Held in your heart before your arms. Prayed and planned for. And grieved.

I know only a glimpse of this child-longing. I have dreamed of the day I hold my little heart-capturer as well. But, I don't know it the way you do. I don't know the creating of space for the expected and having to fill it again with the what once was...not as a mother does. I don't know the sharp entrance of the arrows of well-meaning questions of "when?".

It is him. The one with whom you hope to battle all other deferred hopes. He is your delayed desire and as a friend so rightly said, the faces of the others only serve as reminders of him not yet here.

This longing I know. This heaviness of a bare-finger. This canyon of an empty hand. These arrows have left scabs, torn through with every probing "why are you still?"

Friend, I ache for you because I know the ache of Hannah's heart. I know the sobs and seemingly drunken slurs of words tangled in heartache.  When approached in her mess, Hannah shot life-blood into her ache by breathing out the honest words; and the hearer agreed with her prayer. "May it be." So I will do for you. "May it be." May the longing of your heart be met, with all the poorly-timed truths people say when our hearts hurt-yes...with more love for Jesus-yes....with deeper trust-yes...I always want those things for you, for me, but today I will beg for you to find your longing filled, for hope to be deferred no longer, for arms to be filled with the one for whom you have created space, time and again. Let's, even if for a moment, take down the tents of put-togetherness and trade them in for coverings of grace. Longings are allowed to be spoken there. Aches find a voice. Hope deferred is met with a "May it be." And lament leads the way to life.

From my Hannah-heart to yours,

Erin


Friday, November 1, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 11:32 AM | 1 comment

Trick or Treat?

Dear teenage sister,

Sister, you are beautiful. You bring smiles to faces of those around you. You hold the power to bless the world immensely by shining the light of Christ into the dark crevices of sorrow that mark the hallways of the teenage years you are walking through. You are seeking Christ and I commend you for that. He loves you and has so much life He wants to share with you. And you want to know what it is. I can see it. I can see it by the questions you ask, by your fervent desire to serve where you see brokenness, by the way you latch onto the Word taught on Sundays and Wednesdays. It is all of that makes you shine.

May I say something to you now that may sting? Something that may cause you to want to lay some bricks on the wall you've built to protect yourself? As I do, I ask that you listen with the same heart that is all that I mentioned above. Listen with a heart that desires Jesus first. And know, that what I have to say, I say in complete love. I care deeply about you, about who you are, about your dreams, and mostly about your relationship with Jesus. Alright...

Last night was Halloween. It's a super fun holiday. I never went trick-or-treating as a kid. We always opted for the Fall Festival at church. But, I love any excuse to wear a costume and eat sugar. As I cruised Facebook last night, I experienced the extremes. One post would boast of the cutest baby in a lamb costume you have ever seen. And with one flick of the mouse, the most beloved teenage girl in a "sexy" _________ costume.

Sweet girl. You are worth more than your body. Your value has very little to do with your skin. It has everything to do with your heart and the one who possesses it. Do I think that your choice of costume means you do not love Jesus. Absolutely not, I do not think that. No, rather I think that perhaps you have yet to grasp how very much He loves you. I think that you have yet to understand that loving Him is lived out in your actions. I think that, like me, you have trouble remembering that whose you are determines who you are. If you know Jesus as your Savior and Lord, then your identity is wrapped up in Him. He has clothed you in His righteousness. Sometimes we forget what it is we are wearing. We take off that robe of righteousness because we forget who gifted it to us. We forget what it means. We trade it in for the old clothes...which sometimes look like sexy bunnies or nurses or taco bell hot sauce packets. (Side note: why do we have to make everything sexy...hot sauce packets? Really?)

On dictionary.com, the first definition of "sexy" is "concerned predominately or excessively with sex". The second is "sexually interesting or exciting; radiating sexuality." WOAH! If anyone every referred to me as sexy, I'd be insulted. First of all, "concerned predominately with sex"? No. If we are concerned with sex above all else, something is wrong. We need to check our hearts. Am I saying that we should never think about sex? No. We are wired for it. It isn't a bad thing...in the correct context (which, ahem, is marriage...ONLY marriage). Am I saying that I have navigated the waters of hormones perfectly? I wish I could say that, but I cannot. But, how heartbreaking for it to ever be true of you or me that sex is our priority over Christ and outside of marriage, that sex is our priority over anything. And secondly, "radiating sexuality"? Oh, my sister, please go read the first paragraph of this letter again. I'll wait.....

....

....

In Exodus, Moses met with God and when he came down from the mountain, his face was radiating so brightly that the people freaked out. They had never seen anything like it. Daniel 12:3 says, "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Radiate sexuality? No, beautiful one.
We should radiate Christ!

We all know that what we put in our bodies affects our outward appearance, yes? When you eat junk, it shows on your skin...breakouts, weight gain, weak nails, etc. It's the same with the heart. What we soak into our system, will be revealed through our actions and choices. If you are soaking in Jesus, then it will be evident on the outside. It will be evident in how you dress and present yourself to the world. Do you know what Proverbs 31 says about the woman who is seeking God? Verse 25 say "Strength and dignity are her clothing." Sister, when you are dressing for sex appeal, you are forfeiting dignity. Halloween isn't the only day this matters either. Every day. Every day, you get to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He has traded our rags for His strength and dignity. We get to wear it everyday and it will show off the beauty of Christ in you....and also, the beauty that He created as you (meaning your own beauty), far better than a short skirt or low cut top.

So what, then? Do we just skip Halloween? I mean, it's hard to find costumes for women that don't showcase our cleavage, mid-drifts, or butts. We like to say, too, that it is hard to find everyday clothes that don't do the same....this one is a lie. It is easy to find modest, cute clothes....but your eye has to look for them. You will find what you want to find. If you aren't finding modest clothes, maybe it's time for a heart check. But, in regards to Halloween, God is a creative God and He made you in His image. That creativity is in you. Raid Goodwill. Raid the fabric store. Go crazy with hair and makeup. You can work wonders with duct tape. Think out of the box. I promise you, it is in you to design the most clever costume your high school has ever seen. And people will talk about your creativity for much longer than they will talk about your sexy poodle costume.

You are beautiful. Let that show. Let Christ shine through you. Have you ever seen alabaster? It is a stone that all sorts of beautiful markings. It's alright on it's own, but when you put a candle in an alabaster jar, all of it's beauty becomes evident. Those beautiful marking were always there, but it took an internal light for them to be evident. Painting or bedazzilng the outside of an alabaster jar would do nothing to reveal it's beauty. In fact it would hide it underneath a layer of cheap sparkles. It is the same with us. We have been formed with beauty marks of our own. It can be hard to identify them until Christ becomes the light in you. Then, the world will be stunned by the beauty they see in you.

Continue to seek Him. Be predominately concerned with Christ. Radiate His glory. You are beautiful.

With all love and grace,
Erin


Friday, October 25, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 4:28 PM | 1 comment

To The God-worshipers

Dear Worship Leader,

Thank you for clearing a path through the clutter of the days, through the veil of flesh to the throne of God. Leading is never easy, but the task you have before you...we have before us, is of eternal importance, and is equally difficult. To clear away the foliage of another's heart so that they can see where they are going...it is an impossible task. But, only in so much as we attempt to do it in our own power. The sweet truth is that the very King whose throne we are journeying to in our worship, steps off His throne to clear the foliage for us. He journeys with us, drawing hearts to Himself.

Last night, I had the joy of worshipping under the leadership of All Sons and Daughters and Tim Timmons. If you have not heard of them, go now. Download, stream, get thee to the store...however you take your music, do it. The songs they write are nothing short of Spirit-inspired. But, the true beauty of their leadership is their pastoral heart. Yesterday, Leslie of All Sons and Daughters said, "A prophet is someone who believes God has something to say to the people. A worship leader is someone who believes the people have something to say to God." David shared a quote as well, "To worship is to give God His breath back."

Let's lead our people from where they are to God's feet. Let's write songs to help people say what they need to say to God. And what is that? Well, it is different for your people than for mine. They have lived different lives, have different heartaches, different joys. So write and sing from there, but always take it the goodness and holiness of God. Don't leave them in the "Why" but lead them to the "Who".  Let's use the breath in our lungs to declare our need and our love for our great God!

Leslie also shared Psalm 22 from the Message, last night and I want to pass it on to you...


22-24 Here’s the story I’ll tell my friends when they come to worship,
    and punctuate it with Hallelujahs:
Shout Hallelujah, you God-worshipers;
    give glory, you sons of Jacob;
    adore him, you daughters of Israel.
He has never let you down,
    never looked the other way
    when you were being kicked around.
He has never wandered off to do his own thing;
    he has been right there, listening.
25-26 Here in this great gathering for worship
    I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
    in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
    and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
    is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
    Don’t ever quit!”
27-28 From the four corners of the earth
    people are coming to their senses,
    are running back to God.
Long-lost families
    are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.
29 All the power-mongers are before him
    —worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
    —worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
    —worshiping!
30-31 Our children and their children
    will get in on this
As the word is passed along
    from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
    will hear the good news—
    that God does what he says.

As one who will never get it together,
Erin

Monday, October 14, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:00 PM | No comments

Like it's 1999

Dear Nineteen-Nineties,

I miss you. You were tight, crunk, dank. I mean, your music was totally dope. You kept me singing along to everyone from Backstreet Boys and The Spice Girls to KC and JoJo to Cake to Presidents of the United States (she's lump she lump she's in my head...) to U2. And your country hits have yet to be rivaled. This pop-country fusion is a mess. People don't know if they are listening to No Doubt or Reba...they all sound the same these days. I weep for the passing of the country golden days.

And let me not be negligent in mentioning your quality sitcoms. Never have I seen such stellar 30 minute entertainment. Obviously, one of the most cherished is The Fresh Prince of Bellaire. Jazz, Hillary, Carlton...the whole crew. That one episode where Ashley is discovered and almost becomes a pop star and Judge Banks doesn't like it. Ashley sure told him with that rendition of RESPECT. And people are still trying to recreate the "carlton" dance move. It is unusual. And Full House. I loved that family. Oh man, remember when Stephanie drove the car through the kitchen?! Good times....good times, indeed.

MTV and CMT actually played music videos. High School Chick Flicks were aplenty. Lisa Frank was the star of the classroom. Roller Blades ruled the streets. Saturday morning cartoons were at their height of awesomeness. I mean, Adventures of the Gummi Bears(gummi bears bouncing here and there and everywhere)...duh. And like, totally awesome Tale Spin and Dark Wing Duck. Chip and Dale:Rescue Rangers. For sure.  

But of course, there are some things you can leave out if you decided to come around again. For instance, your jeans. We don't need to do that again. And Furbies. You tried to bring those back recently, and let me just say, no. Keep that to yourself. Same for Tamogachi pets. We just don't need that.

So, 90's, come visit anytime. Bring Reba and Martina. Bring The Fresh Prince and Dark Wing Duck. Bring Sugar Ray if you want. You were truly dope.

Wish you were here,
Erin

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:21 AM | No comments

The Soul's "Amen"

Dear Audrey Assad,

Thank you. You have stepped into your calling as an artist beautifully. And because you have, The Kingdom of God has been strengthened. How do I know that? Well, because my spirit has been encouraged by your songs.

A few years ago, I was in a dark place...walled in by doubt and insecurity. It was in the midst of that season that I stumbled upon your music. I don't remember which song I heard first, but I remember listening to "Show Me" on repeat for days. It was all that my soul was crying out. That beautifully mangled picture of desperation. My soul knew that time was necessary. I needed to die. My faith needed to die, in order to find life. But oh, I wanted that ache to be over. Such glorious tension: "Mercy bend and breathe me back to life, but not before you show me how to die." I needed those words. They were tangled up in me but I couldn't untangle them on my own. You wrote them and my soul eked out a weary "Amen."

And then, that season passed. The walls of doubt little by little (and sometimes in mile long sections) tumbled down. My soul found words to praise and rejoice. And my heart learned that The Lord is good to me, even in the painful seasons. I began to claim that banner over my life. "God is good...in everything!" As I claimed it, you wrote it, recorded it, shared it. I took that song for my own. Again, your voice was on repeat day in and day out and I sang out with you. "The foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy because You are good to me, good to me....Your goodness and mercy will follow me all my life. I trust in your promise." Those lyrics, they washed over me like a tidal wave. You wrote them and my soul, in emphatic agreement, proclaimed, "Amen!"

This last weekend, I attended The National Youth Workers Convention in San Diego. You lead us all in "Good to Me". It was a beautiful sound, a room full of strangers, some weary, some starting out in their calling...all singing of the goodness of God. Perhaps to some it was a prayer of desperation...clinging to a bit of truth in the midst of a storm. For other, it may have been a declaration of the Spring of their souls, rejoicing in the darkness passed and new light dawning. But, all sang of the promise of a God who is good in all things.

Thank you for writing "Show Me" and "Good to Me". My spirit needed those words, those melodies. And thank you for all the countless songs you have written, the ones shared and the ones kept between you and The Lord. Thank you for stepping with grace and dignity into your calling as an artist. The Kingdom has been strengthened because of your obedience.

With lifted eyes,

Erin

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:24 AM | 1 comment

Not Mint to Be

Hello, Hello Toothpaste.

We met the other day at CVS. You were so cute in your pink and white get up. It is very flattering on you. You made a lot of promises about yourself that day: You are 99% natural, fight cavities, strengthen tooth enamel, and whiten my coffee-addict teeth. It all sounded so delightful. There was one bit of information you shared that I was not so sure about. It was that little bit that caused me to hesitate and wonder if I'd miss my longstanding relationship with Crest. But you caught me in the morning hours when my brain has not quite awoken to the world. Therefore, my risk assessing filters were not working properly. So, I threw caution to the wind and you and I left together.

Now, I will say, my teeth feel better after spending time with you. Maybe it's the natural ingredients or your peppy persona. Either way, my pearly whites love the way you make them feel. My taste buds however...They are not so impressed. In fact, they have scolded me greatly for making such a silly mistake. Here is what they have asked me to pass onto you:

"Hello, what were you thinking?! Mint is a delicate flavor not to be tossed willy-nilly into just any ol' batch of whatever flavors you may have leftover in the factory. Mint goes deliciously with vanilla and chocolate.  Mint with cucumber is even palatable. But, pink grapefruit? No. No. No. Grapefruit and mint should be kept far from one another. They are a volatile combination. The resulting flavor is something akin to NyQuil. That is right...nasty taste bud assaulting NyQuil. This oversight is extremely serious. In the future, please make wiser choices about the arranging of flavor marriages. You are responsible for creating beautiful relationships that will bless teeth and taste buds everywhere. From henceforht, I must insist that you refrain from sending such contradictory couples out into the dental universe."

I have done my duty and passed on the message. I know it seems harsh, but my taste buds do have a point. Pink Grapefruit Mint toothpaste should not exist. But, don't let this one thing get you down. It's just a bit of constructive criticism. Remember, you are super cute and my teeth love you.

Don't shoot the messenger,

Erin
Posted by Erin Posted on 2:08 AM | No comments

Do Not Steal

Dear Christian,

When was the last time you told your story? Now, when I say story, I don't just mean, "Jesus saved me." No, no. I mean your STORY.

Colossians 1:13 says, "He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves."

Stop. Go back and read that about 10 times. I'll wait...

...
...
...

Good stuff, right? That is your story! A daring rescue from the grip of the enemy. A sweet welcome into the Kingdom of Light. 

I've heard you spin the story to center around yourself. You are significant. You matter. But, you are not the star of this epic adventure. Do not steal His glory. Please. 

I've heard you downplay your story. As though there were such a thing as an insignificant rescue mission. Have you ever seen a story of a hero stepping out of their way in order to save a helpless one and not had your heart swell? Even the simplest version of the story stops us in our tracks and makes us wonder. Stop comparing your story to the next person's. You were rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son. When you downplay what He has done for you, you are saying that the rescue is unimpressive. Do not steal His glory. Please.





Christian, the world needs to hear your story. Your friends need to hear your story. They need it because they need Him. They may be trapped in the fortress of sin, having been duped like every other person who has ever breathed in this spoiled air. They may not have heard that the fairy tales are a shadow of something true. Tell them. Remind them, there is a Royal One who left His throne to rescue the broken ones and make them whole. 

Tell your story and celebrate His heroics.

Waiting to hear from you,
Erin

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 12:01 AM | 1 comment

Here I Raise My Ebenezer

Dear Future Erin,

I am writing to you so that you remember.

A month ago you started a new job. It is the job you have prayed for since you were a teenager. It is the job that you looked for when you graduated college. It is the job God said no to for years. And now, you have been doing this job for 32 days. You are tired. The long drives are hard and students are busy and you are not 22 anymore. But the fatigue does nothing to steal from the joy. You spend your days loving the Church. You spend your days on behalf of students. You spend your days living out your calling. And it is magnificent.

There are hard conversations and insecurities. Theirs and yours. There are misunderstandings and flesh-directed decisions. Theirs and yours. But there are also celebrations, hugs, prayers. There are dreams. Theirs and yours. There is laughter and life. Cherish these. All of these. The heavy as well as the light moments. Love them. Remember them.

Tonight you taught on Romans 10:13-21. Asking, why did Israel miss Jesus? And it was a heavy text, but a sweet one as well. There were moments of intensity sprinkled together with moments of silliness. You were nervous. High schoolers who have been raised in church are a much different audience than 3rd graders who have not. It has been years since you have taught this crowd. But The Holy Spirit is faithful. He spoke through you. He communicated clearly the message -- Don't miss Christ because you want Him to look a certain way. Don't cut Him off because He won't bless your striving. He is holding out His hands to you, saying, "Come. I have life for you. Come to me. Stop seeking wholeness in all those other 'and's'. It is not Jesus AND ______ that brings life. It is Jesus. Only. Come find Him."

There is something so weighty and so sweet about opening the Word with a room full of hearts. It is a sweet taste when The Spirit uses the gifts and personality He designed in you to communicate Truth to a room full of souls. Don't forget. Don't forget that He used you. That you called out for wisdom and direction and He came through. Don't forget the words spoken to you. "Your lesson reassured me." "I needed that." "Thank you."

The hard days of this job will come, just like they do in any job. The days will come when you feel safe in auto-pilot and are tempted to stop relying on the power of Christ that dwells in you. Don't let the hard days steal your joy. Remember this day. This month. Don't let the lie of self-sufficiency rob you of the joy that comes in relying on the all-sufficient God to do the work He has given you to do. Remember this day. This month.

Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by they help I've come.

Sealed in Christ,
Erin

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 1:33 AM | No comments

Dear October

Dear October,

It has been awhile, 11 months to be exact. I've been wondering lately how you are feeling about the expectations placed on you. I mean, everyone builds you up to be so...Fall. Warmer colors and cooler temperatures. Sweaters and boots. Pumpkin Spice Lattes and football. But, you never seem to live up to those expectations. Oh sure, football happens and the PSL drowns the disappointment of the sweater-clad co-eds who were hoping for a legitimate excuse to wear their uggs in Houston, but in all honesty, I've rarely seen you live up to the Fall-bar everyone has set for you. How do you handle that?

Do you remember that song I wrote about you when I was in college? You know, the one about how I'd be ok if we could just get rid of you and maybe skip to December? Yeah. I'm sorry about that. I was in a funk that year when you visited and I blamed it on you. It wasn't your fault. I have actually learned to love you since then. My brief trip with you and the girls to Red River in 2010 was great! I finally got to see your true colors! They were beautiful. You should let them show more often. And then the next year, I started a new job working with kids and was excited to go to work since the first time since graduating college. And now, here I am, a month into another new job. My dream job. And I get to spend the weekend with you and my co-workers in San Diego. You are so good to me, October.

We have really come a long way, you and I. I used to dread your visits. Now, I look forward to your arrival.  I would like for you to bring cooler weather and warmer colors when you come, but I know there are somethings that you just can't help, like Houston climate. But it's ok. I'll wear my sweaters, drink my PSL, pretend to know what is going on in the world of football when surrounded by fans, and enjoy your company for 31 days. Maybe one day we can make it back to some place where you really shine...like St Louis; but until then I will always hold out hope that you will learn to be, even in Houston, who God intended you to be when He spoke you into the calendar.

Yours Truly.
Erin
Posted by Erin Posted on 12:38 AM | 1 comment

31 Letters

So there is this little blog-world challenge going on around these parts...The 31 days writing challenge from Nesting Place. Many of my very talented friends are participating and I've come across the mention of it multiple times today, so I thought I'd join in. Everyone is blogging about their own topic. Some I've seen: 31 days of letters to my younger self, 31 one days of taking time for myself, 31 days of searching for the real me, 31 days of meals...Love all these ideas, but it took me all day to decide on my topic. I knew I'd never be able to write a Chosen post each day for 31 days, so I had to pick something else. So, I decided I'd post a letter each day. These letters will be to different people. Individuals, groups. Fictional characters, strangers, loved ones. Somedays may be ridiculous while others may be gut-wrenching. I don't really know what to expect. I don't know yet, who I will be writing to each day, but I will be writing.  And if you want to follow along with the other bloggers, you can find their blogs linked up here

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 1:54 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 12

Mary and Martha. Both known by Jesus. Both loved by Him. But both oh so different in their ability to receive that security of relationship.

Mary, always at the feet of Jesus. Never concerned about social expectations. She knew what Jesus thought of her and that was all that mattered. She was loved by the only one whose love brought life to dead bones. She had seen His love do just that for her brother. She had felt the beat of her own heart change when she met Jesus. There was no need to measure her life against anyone else's. No one else's standard mattered now. She was with Jesus.

Martha, always measuring, against culture, against her sister, against reason. Jerrell Altic, a passionate man of God who is on staff at Houston's First Baptist has this to say about her, "Martha thought she had value because she was productive. Jesus wanted her to see that she had value because she was with Him." Martha turned herself in to victim. No one recognized her hard work. No one applauded her ability to host such a wonderful dinner party, keep her house in such pristine order, have such firm knowledge of God's Word. Jesus was laughing and sharing stories with Mary and Martha was hard at work. But, no one gave her a gold star. She missed it.

We miss it. We play the victim. "I have been gifted to do XYZ, but no one will acknowledge it." "I have done nothing but serve serve serve, and no one takes a moment to thank me." "Everyone wants me to listen to their problems but no one stops to think I have my own." We speak these circumstances as though they are the truest reality. And being our truest reality, we attach meaning to them. That meaning? "No one thinks I'm valuable." And that in turns becomes our foundation for proving our value, or instead, for accepting our fate as worthless.

No, friend. Do not receive that. You have been gifted and called. But, you must stop looking for your value in how often or well you walk in that calling. You must stop measuring your productivity against that of others. You must stop spending your best energy on finding approval through your deeds. Spend your best energy on enjoying Christ.



President Theodore Roosevelt  said "Comparison is the thief of joy."  1 Timothy 6:6 says it like this, "Godliness with contentment is great gain.(ESV)". And I particularly love how The Message states it. "A devout life does bring wealth, but it is the rich simplicity of being yourself before God." And that is it! Our joy, our value is in being ourselves before a God who asks us, as we are, to sit with Him, to be a part of what He is doing, to rest in Him while we work alongside Him and under His authority. If we compare to what others are accomplishing or have, our joy and our security will be stolen. Ripped from beneath us like a rug. We will never measure up to everyone else and everyone else will never measure up to us. (Funny how we do that. "Why can I not be more like...""...don't they see they should do things the way I do"...double-edge lying sword.)

Your value is not in your list of accomplishments, even in those done in the name of Christ. Your value, my value, is in being known by Him, being in relationship with the Creator, being loved by the one who had every reason to turn away from you. He is the one who brings the dead to life. Watch Him work. Get your hands dirty along with Him, yes. Unwrap grave clothes from the once-dead. Open your home to the masses and get the kitchen dirty with flour and diced veggies and chocolate chip cookie dough for the hungry. But all the while, rest. Rest in knowing you are with Jesus. No one else's standard matters...not even your own. It only matters that you are with Jesus...the one who has loved you from the start, before you could lift a finger to earn His affection.


__________________________________________________________
Questions for today:
1. Have you been stuck in a cycle of measuring?
2. Have you allowed comparison to steal joy? What areas specifically do you normally find joy in that you have begun to dread as you measure against wrong standards?
3. When was the last time you just sat at Jesus feet? What will it take to get you back to that place?
Happy Journey!
Erin

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 10:45 AM | 2 comments

To be Lazarus

When you are so sick your system starts to shut down and the doctors don't know what to do, you send for the only One who can do something. Sometimes, I've heard, He comes. He puts mud on your blind eyes and you see. He tells you to get up and walk and your lame legs strengthen. But sometimes, He doesn't get there fast enough. Sometimes, He comes too late to heal the sick. Your lungs collapse and you gasp for a last breath. Your heart unlearns how to beat. Your brain forgets that it is in charge of keeping your body functioning. And you die.

The tomb is dark. Cold. There is no life there. Everything that had once pulsed pink with rushing blood, turns yellow-grey and shrivels into the darkness. And decay sets in. They can wrap you in a thousand layers of grave clothes and leave bushels of herbs and spices at your side, but there is no undoing decay, no stopping the smell of the rotting flesh.

But then, sometimes, from some distant place, like in a dream, you hear your name being called. And your shriveled heart beats. Buh-Bump. And then it beats again. Buh-Bump. Your brain says to your eyes, "Open." To your body, "Get up." To your feet, "Walk." And you stumble toward a light and toward the sound of weeping mingled with the sound of breath caught up in astonished anticipation. You walk toward the voice that had called your name with such authority that all the rotting reversed and your skin found your muscles which found your bones and your brain remembered and your lungs found their form and took in the air again.

And your eyes burn from the sudden light and you lose your footing a time or two, but there are people now, holding you up, helping you find the ground that is safe to put your weight on. And it's hard to make out what they are saying because they are all speaking over you. Some are speaking in the tone of a nurse, to sit, rest, drink this, eat something. Some speak with the excitement of a parade, as though something miraculous has just occurred. And slowly, clarity comes. You can hear familiar voices, some that have scolded you in the past, rejoicing over you. Some who have ignored you, now speaking with tenderness. And you begin to feel the hot, humid air on your skin as these loving-ones unwrap you from the grave clothes. It is an meticulous task...this undoing of the layers meant to keep death in. But they don't abandon you. Though it's messy and they occasionally turn away to catch their breath, they unwrap your alive-again body down to the last binding cloth. And they help you learn to walk again. They wait patiently for your feet to find their strength and your eyes to adjust to light. 

And then you remember. The thick sound of bated breath. The shouts of celebration as you came closer. You remember how the tone of weeping changed from sorrow to sudden joy. And you realize, a miracle has in fact occurred. You had died. And then your name was called and now...Now you are alive. And you look around and find that those who had wept as you lay dying, and some who could not come until the day of mourning, had not left you, even in all the excitement, to untangle your own death-binding clothes, but carefully unwound it all to set you free to live. And you see the One who called your name. He smiles at you and you know. You know. He is never too late. 

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I am Lazarus. A few years ago, I died. My faith...died. There was nothing left of it but a putrid shell where it once thrived. But then Jesus spoke my name. He said, "Erin, wake up!"  A faint beating in my chest could be felt.  And when I came out from the tomb, there was a family both familiar and foreign to welcome me. That family is Bayou City Fellowship and for the last 2 1/2 years, they have been tenderly unwrapping the lies that had bound up my dead faith. They untangled me with words of kindness, prayers of strength, shared tears, and lifted hands. They unbound me by rebuke, and by laughter, and by shared meals. And I love them for it.


Thank you. From the deepest part of my soul, thank you. 

Now, the Lord is calling me to a new place. A place I could not be more thrilled about going. On September 1st, I will be joining the youth staff at First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood. And I will be living out what I have always believed the Lord made me to do. I will walk with middle school and high school girls through life. I will pour into future leaders of worship. I will point young believers to the Kingdom work to which God has called His people. And I will speak words of kindness, prayers of strength. I will share in tears and lifted hands. I will rebuke, and laugh, and share meals. And I will love them.
photo credit: Amber Burger

But I will also deeply miss my family at Bayou City Fellowship. Oh, I will still be around, often I'm sure, but it will be different. My involvement and thus my relationship with my BCF family will change, as does everything eventually. It will be hard to not be a part of leading you all in worship. It will break my heart, though it fill me with joy, to watch from the sidelines as God continues to pour out His Spirit on you. But, I am so immeasurably grateful for these two and a half years. As Beth said at Rise earlier this month, "Church isn't about attendance. It's about attachment." And I am ever so attached to you all. To your children and your stories and your longings. To your Kingdom dreams, to your precious, precious hearts. So it will be hard to let go, even if it's just slightly. It should be hard. Whether now, or in ten years, I would want it to be hard. I pray that when God calls you out, you find it just as hard because you are just as attached. 

And know this, you are still my family. And whether I get to see you once a year, once a month, or by God's loving-kindness, every week, I will be continually thanking our Father for you. And I will be praying that He only continues to give you more of Himself in His blessedly perfect timing. Wait for Him.  

This I know, He is never too late. 

-Erin

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 4:39 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 11

Sweet Mary. There is just something about her that I long to imitate. We don't get to hear her speak but just a few words, the same words her sister spoke when Jesus arrived late...after their brother, Lazarus had passed away. "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

**Before I go any further, let me just insert a little disclaimer. It may very well be that I am projecting my own experiences onto Mary and Martha. I do not know how they spoke these words; I can only imagine, knowing that I have spoken similar words from different places within myself.**

So, as I believe Martha's statement of Jesus' bad timing came from a place of rigid if-then practicality, Mary's comes from a place of desperation. John 11:32 tells us that she knelt at His feet. It tells us she was weeping. John even tells us that the others who were at the house followed her. Why did they not stay with Martha? I get the sense that Mary is just more raw with her emotions. Perhaps Martha gives off the "I've got it together" vibe, while Mary walks through life with her heart on her sleeve. (Perhaps she had been told a time or two that she was too sensitive.) But Mary doesn't follow up her "Where were you?" statement with a declaration of figured-out faith. She doesn't say anything more. She only weeps.

Oh, and I know that place well. Sure, I've had my fair share of Martha moments, proclaiming my unwavering faith as if I were nailing garlic above my doorways to keep out the vampires. But these Mary moments...I know these too. And you do as well, I'm sure. Those moments when you know God is the only one who can do anything about your circumstances, when you run to Him for help because you KNOW He cares, but all you are met with is silence and time and pain. And when you can at last see Him dimly through your tears, all you can muster is a broken "Why didn't you come?" Oh my friends. Such ache lives in these moments. Even now, though I am not currently in such a season, I am welling up with a familiar sorrow for my younger self who felt this desperation many times, and for those of you who are walking in it now. Why would Jesus wait? How is it good to let pain go on longer? I don't know. I wish I could explain it. For you and me both. I wish there was an obvious, tangible explanation. One that fits the canyons of agony better than the blessedly true, yet horribly bathetic answers of God's sovereignty. We toss statements of God's perfect timing and higher ways to each other as though they are fairy dust that will erase the carvings of the heart-wounds. God's sovereignty is not a bandaid for covering but an ointment for healing pain...ointment cannot be slapped on, it must be applied with care and even then healing takes time.

Mary, at Jesus' dusty feet, weeps and pours out her sorrow and desperation. And John tells us, Jesus' response to Mary is different than to Martha. He doesn't offer a statement of Truth or ask if she believes something her mortality cannot grasp. No. John says He was "greatly disturbed and deeply moved." Jesus asks to be taken to Lazarus' grave. And Jesus weeps. Isn't that just the most beautiful and tender reality? The desperate sobs of one He loves deeply moves the heart of the only one who has the power to change reality.

Sweet Mary. There is just something about her. These desperate words are the only ones we hear from her, but this is not the only time we see her. There are two more times we see the lives of Mary and Jesus intersecting. Both times, just as in this moment, we find Mary at the feet of Jesus.  Again, Jesus comes to their house and Mary again, with her heart on her sleeve is exposing her emotions to whomever might be around. Picture it. All the guests have arrived and are gathered around the table. Martha is scurrying about bringing out all the elements of the meal she's been slaving over all day. Lazarus is talking shop with the guys. And Mary, having quietly slipped away for a moment, returns with her most precious perfume that has been stored in a gorgeous alabaster jar. Slowly the attention turns to her and the room goes silent as everyone wonders what she might be up to. (I imagine Peter to be the last one to realize he is laughing loudly at Andrew's joke while the rest of the room has become silent. You are so awkward, Peter.) Without a word, she walks over to Jesus, kneels at His feet, shatters the top of the jar and proceeds to pour out all of her costly perfume on His feet. 
But she doesn't stop there. According to John, she lets her hair down, which according to Dr. Constable's study notes on soniclight.com, was something only "loose" women did. But, Dr. Constable says, "Evidently, Mary's love for Jesus overrode her sense of propriety. " I love that. I would definitely say that's true in what we've seen of her. And, I believe it's true of the next place we find her.

Jesus has come to visit the siblings yet again. Martha, is once more busied by the hustle and bustle of hostessing. And absolutely indignant that Mary is not helping as she should, being the other woman of the house. But, Mary is not concerned with her "duties" or "place" as a woman. She is concerned with being with Jesus. She sits at His feet, enjoying the time she has with Him. I googled images of this scene and the results seem very odd to me. None of them seem to have taken into account the character of Jesus or Mary or their other interactions. In most of the paintings, Jesus looks very stern or at least straight-laced. And Mary looks almost bored or at best, attempting to be invisible. But this is not how I picture this scene. No, we have already seen that Mary is not all that concerned with blending into the background, nor is she afraid to express her emotions. And Jesus certainly has stern moments, but not with Mary. He is always so tender with her. I just am convinced that they were probably sharing stories and laughing together. Or perhaps He was teaching and she was interjecting with so many curious questions. Either way, it certainly mustn't have been a cold interaction as the artists have painted it to be. 

Mary. Always at the feet of Jesus. Never concerned with the thoughts of onlookers. Just herself, in all her despair, in all her lavish love, in all of her comfort. There she is. She is in you. You may not believe me, but she is. I know it. Let her teach you to be fully at peace with yourself in the presence of the Savior. Let her lead you to His feet. 

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Questions for today:
1. Which moment at Jesus' feet strikes a chord with you today?
2. Does Mary's unabashed emotional displays make you uncomfortable? Why do you think that is?
3. Do you allow the "onlookers" to affect your interactions with Jesus? 
4. When was the last time you felt at perfect peace with who you are in the presence of God?


Happy Journey!
Erin

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 1:46 PM | No comments

Chosen Series: Part 10


Mary and Martha

Spirit and Flesh

The truth is, even when we understand that we are chosen, even when we know we are accepted by God in spite of all our flaws and in spite of all our lawfulness, we will struggle with identity until we are free of this skin and are seeing God face-to-face. Our flesh will always crave assurance from those who cannot or will not give consistent, unconditional acceptance and approval.

Mary and Martha both live in us all. Mary, sitting at the feet of Christ, enjoying her security in their relationship, soaking up the acceptance of the one from whom she cannot earn it. And Martha, working with all her might to provide the most hospitable environment to show Jesus she loves him and to hear him say she is good.

So let's meet these sisters, but as the individuals that they are.

Martha. We first meet her when her brother, Lazarus, is dying. But we see that this is not the first meeting for Jesus and Martha. In John 11:5 we are told that Jesus loved this family. Who knows when they first met, but Martha is certainly no stranger. Jesus was a Rabbi, and could have intimidated those around him. Women, in particular should have been careful with their words around such a man, but we see that Martha and her sister are at ease with him. Martha speaks freely to Jesus and He is gentle in return.

Martha and her sister send for Jesus to come heal Lazarus. And Jesus delays. He even says why he's waiting, so that his followers would believe. But Martha is practical and when Jesus arrives 4 days late, she goes out to meet Jesus and explain how rude it is to show up late. But she is quick to add "the right response" to her rebuke. She tells Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus is not shaken by her blunt words or her quick turn to show she is still the good disciple. He tells her that her brother will be raised and like a good church girl, she quotes God's promises to Jesus. "Yes, I know that when we all get to heaven, Lazarus will be alive." Jesus asks if she believes him and she is quick to say yes. And she may believe him, but she certainly doesn't understand him. Even when Jesus is rolling the stone away from Lazarus' tomb, Martha is being practical. "Um, he's been in there for FOUR DAYS. It will stink!"

Oh, Martha. Oh, me. I do this too at times. I may so frustrated with God's timing and in my heart may be seething, but in conversation I am quick to let people know that I haven't fallen off the wagon. I quote promises about how good God is and how his timing is perfect. Afterall, I have a reputation to uphold. Anyone? Anyone?


In John 12, Jesus is still with Martha and her siblings. And we see Martha doing what she seems to do best: serving. Lazarus is reclining (and rightfully so, he just died and came back to life...he should take it easy.) Mary is picking out the right perfume for the event. And dutiful Martha is bustling about serving the meal. Bless her hospitable heart. 


We see her once more when Jesus visits her home. And again, we see Martha serving. Luke, in 10:40 even tells us she was distracted with her serving. 

Jesus speaks to her about her anxiety and tells her to rest. 

Martha was a doer. And perhaps, honestly gifted in hospitality. She was a good girl. She knew her role and filled it well, taking care of her siblings and of her guests. Martha was bold in speaking her mind when she felt she was in the right, but also quick to not lose face by saying something that may be insulting. 


I have much of Martha in my own soul. Seeing needs and filling them because someone has to. Feeling the depth of injustice in my own life and speaking freely about the wrongs done to me, but always sweeping back over my footprints so that the words of hurt cannot be used against my reputation as a good girl, a woman of faith, a woman who believes Jesus. And, I'm certain you have a Martha soul too. Not only, but in part. You have seasons of striving and feeling rejected and ignored. Bless our hearts. It is so much work keeping up appearances.


Let the weight on Martha's shoulders sit with you today. She is practical but to what gain? Don't beat her up and don't beat yourself up. But, let's be honest about the callouses on our hands and hearts from all the striving.

And next time we will meet sweet little Mary.


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Questions for today:
1. What about Martha strikes a chord with you?
2. In what area are you striving to keep up appearances?
3. What promises are you quick to use to cover over your frustration with God's timing?
Happy Journey!
Erin






Thursday, May 2, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 12:33 AM | No comments

Chosen Series: Peter Re-cap

It's been quite a journey with Peter, hasn't it? He's had a name change, found a friend, royally screwed up, been met with mercy in his mess, and his flaw became his faith. We have learned a lot about this desire to be chosen and where to find it's fulfillment. And, there is still so much to learn. Next, we will ask some sisters, Mary and Martha, to teach us what they know. But first, let's look back at some of the things that Peter taught us.

Firstly, before we offer anything to Christ (any obedience, any love, anything), He gives us a new destiny and identity. Jesus knows us and calls us by who we were made to be not by who we currently are.

Secondly, every single one of us is asking, "Who am I?" We can and usually do ask anyone we meet, but it will take a bold and intimate friend to know the truthful answer to that question. And, we all have a bold and intimate friend in Jesus. Let's make sure that He is the one we are asking to answer our question of identity.

Next, Peter helped us to see our desire to rush pass the pain of shame. Like Peter, we are often certain we cannot fix our mess so we hide in the familiar. We strap on the shame and refuse to accept that we are accepted.

Likewise, Peter's journey allowed us to see that we don't have to make up for our messes. Jesus met Peter at the shore for breakfast and God is still, always, daily, eternally choosing Peter, you, and me...failures and all.

Finally, we journeyed along as Peter's boldness changed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, from messy and stupid self-centeredness to purposeful and godly kingdom-centeredness. When we understand that we are chosen, regardless of our mess, we can walk confidently in the Spirit and our personality flaws become our personal faith.

I am a fan of Peter. I get him. Be purposeful about speaking these truths over yourself today. Ask Jesus who you are. He's already given you a new identity and He knows your messes intimately and has chosen you anyways. Let His love turn your "flaws" into faith.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Posted by Erin Posted on 11:58 AM | 1 comment

Chosen Series: Part 9

Yes. What a glorious truth that Peter and you and I are chosen by the God of the universe. He doesn't ask us to get it together first or even wait for us to ask to be chosen. He just chooses us and loves us.

This is maybe one of my favorite lessons that I have gained from Peter's life, that the very thing that appears to be his character flaw, once he comes alive in the reality that he is wanted by Christ, becomes the very thing that is most useful to the Kingdom of God. What do I mean? Well, I'm glad you asked.

A couple of years ago, I was preparing to go to India with a team of amazing people from Houston. We were serving with a ministry called As Our Own and we would be teaching girls about the life of Peter. I was set to teach the last day on the topic of Peter and the Holy Spirit...in a 40 minute lesson...which was really a 20 minute lesson because of the need for translation. No big deal right? Well, I was a little terrified about boiling all of Peter and the Holy Spirit down so much into a relevant, short lesson for little girls who didn't speak English. But, as I prepared, the Holy Spirit was up to something that would change me, and hopefully those sweet girls forever. Before my lesson, other team members had taught on Peter's name change, on his experience with walking on water, and about the time he cut off a guard's ear and told Jesus, "No!". And as I studied those stories along with the rest of Peter's life, I saw a common theme: boldness. The man was bold. And after being filled with the Spirit, after the moment on the beach when he realized he was chosen despite his character flaws, he was still bold. So what was different? Peter's personality didn't change. He was bold from the start.

Attempting to walk on water? Bold. Cutting off a dude's ear? Bold. Telling Jesus, "No." Bold. Stupid. Messy. Selfish. But, without a doubt, bold. But then....then Jesus died. And rose. Conquered death. And Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. His disciples all together, waiting. Suddenly met with the roar of a tornado and fireballs that looked like tongues. Woah. That is bound to change things. So what happened next. The disciples stood and began to speak in other languages. And as the crowd ridiculed them calling them drunk, Peter, true to form, did something bold. Only this time, he didn't lunge at the crown threatening to cut off ears or noses or tongues. He did curse at them or fight them. He began to speak over the noise of the crowd. Not hurling defensive remarks, but silencing the mockers with truth. Peter preached. He spoke boldly of Christ and fulfilled prophecy. And as a result of his boldness, 3,000 people became believers that day.

Bold before. Bold after. Only, before, Peter's boldness was selfish, messy, stupid. Then the Holy Spirit came and filled Peter. And that same boldness that had caused so many injuries to himself and to others, became useful for the Kingdom. It was a boldness that healed. A boldness that shined with eternal purpose. God had created Peter with a boldness from the beginning. As He knit Peter together in His mother's womb, God intricately wove a tight-knit, scratchy burlap fabric of humanity and called it Peter. And then God put of flesh of His own and came to earth and as He, Jesus, began His ministry, He called this burlap Peter to join Him. And Jesus patiently pointed out the ignorance and selfishness of Peter's boldness over and over. And then, Jesus conquered death, saving Peter from his selfishness and redeeming Peter's boldness. Jesus left so He could send the Helper, who could fill Peter from the depths of his soul and turn the boldness from self-centered to Kingdom centered.

You and I have it to. That personality trait that feels so very much like a flaw. It seems to only cause injury to ourselves. To others. And we are assured it is in fact a flaw because others have told us as much. Perhaps you are too loud. Too hyper. Too shy. Too trusting. Too much something. For me, it is my sensitivity. I cry. Oceans. I feel. Deeply. I am wounded easily. The pain of injustice rips through me like a hurricane. I was told more than once as a child that I was too sensitive, that the things that bothered me shouldn't. I was told to suck it up. Be tougher. Don't cry so much. And I was praised when I "got over it" so quickly. I learned to cry for a little and then move on like nothing was wrong. I learned to hate my sensitivity. To see it as a horrendous flaw. And then, in His grace, God sent me to India and gave me the task of teaching on Peter and the Holy Spirit. And in His grace, He unraveled some of the mystery of scripture for me. And I saw it. The truth about the sensitivity I'd been born with. It was given to me on purpose. It was not a horrifying blemish. It was a beauty mark given to me for the glory of God. When I am walking in my flesh, that sensitive spirit is gross. It is selfish. Injustices against me...my laws set it off. I cry over my hurt feeling, over not getting my own way. It's messy, like Peter's boldness. But...when I walking in the Spirit...filled from the depths by the Helper, that same sensitivity has Kingdom-purpose. My heart breaks over the wrongs done to others. I cry over the things that wound the heart of God. I am compassionate toward the hurting. I don't believe God ever intended for me to "get over" injustices. I don't think he wants me to cry for a little and move on like I never felt the sting of wrong-doing. Quite the opposite.

Genesis 1:27 tells us that we all were created in the image of God. I don't pretend to understand the fullness of what that means. But, I believe that part of it is that in each of us, God has placed a tiny drop of His own personality. Apart from Him, we use it to build our Babel. Our tower of self worth that never stands once the winds come. But when we allow Him to envelope us, that trait causes the world to see Him. We move from being a one-man failing construction crew to being a part of a Kingdom. All building together...building a city that cannot be shaken. And when your "flaws" become your "faith", you find a joy and a freedom like you've never known.

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Questions for today:
1. What is your "boldness"?
2. Have you believed the lies that your personality is a flaw?
3. What do you think that flaw would look like when it is redeemed and filled by the Holy Spirit?

Happy Journey!
Erin