Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I'm Reading:
1. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
2. Axiom by Bill Hybels
3. The blogs listed to the right and also Michael Hyatt's blog.

What I'm Watching:
1. Scrooge, The Musical with Albert Finney (this is my favorite Christmas movie so I keep it on deck all through December)
2. Parenthood (Tuesday nights on NBC) - my husband and I love watching this one together, especially as we are navigating our way through the early years of marriage and parenthood

What I'm Listening To:
1. Andy Stanley's sermon series on "The Thrill of Hope"
2. One Question with Ken Coleman - series of short podcasts asking questions of some great leaders and innovators
3. North Point's new Christmas album - AMAZING!
4. Gungor - an incredible worship team from Denver; if you only download one song, make it "Beautiful Things"
5. The song "Winter Snow" sung by Audrey Assad - makes me cry every time I listen - if you were in worship with us at Ashley Ridge on Sunday, Kadie Naugle sang this song beautifully!!!


what are you currently consuming?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For months I said, "I don't care how cold it is, I just don't want it to rain."

But then race day came, and it rained, and it rained, and it rained.  But still we ran - 13.1 miles we ran.



That's right, friends, I finished my first ever half marathon Saturday on Kiawah Island.  I had two goals: to run the whole thing and to finish in less than 2:15.  I ran the whole thing and I finished in 2:13 - mission accomplished!

A few observations:

1. There are a lot of really skinny people at these events.

2. We, and by "we" I mean Jamin, observed that at the starting line where the masses lined up according to pace, people got skinnier as you got closer to the front (which is the nice way of saying that those of us between the 9 and 10 minute pace were heavier :) - something you can easily tell b/c everyone is wearing spandex.

3. Everyone got a medal as they crossed the finish line.  While I typically frown on the whole "everyone gets a trophy" mentality, I am now a firm believer that running 13.1 miles is deserving of a medal.  (Plus, the people who won got much shinier and fancier medals that actually said "winner" on them; whereas mine just says "Kiawah Island Half Marathon.")

4. We need to challenge ourselves.  There is no exhilaration that comes with doing something we knew we could.  There's a complete euphoria that comes with doing something we didn't think was possible.  It's about being stretched, getting out of our boxes and re-learning again and again that God wants to do more with our lives than we dare to dream.

So, who's running with me next year?
Joseph's Disruption

The first Christmas when Jesus came, it was anything but silent and peaceful, it was a HUGE disruption to everyone involved.

For Joseph, it was a family issue.

Family is so complicated – tis the season, right? We visit with our families and we eat a lot of food and we think, “surely I don’t share DNA with all of these people.”

Nevertheless, families are important.  I had an OT professor who said to never read thru Biblical genealogies too quickly.  In 
Matthew 1 Jesus' genealogy is rolling along with so-and-so the father of so-and-so and so-and-so the father of so-and-so until 1:16, which says “and Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.”  Something doesn't seem quite right.  It doesn't say "Joseph, the father of Jesus."



Can you imagine what it was like for Joseph when he found out Mary was pregnant?  He had to have been stunned.  In the end, he had two choices: take her to trial and have her stoned to death for adultery, or divorce her quietly and make no accusation.  The Bible tells us that he was a "righteous" man and therefore chose the second.



But then...the angel shows up and clues him in.  Stun gun, take two.  Joseph, Mary is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, take her to be your wife and name the child Jesus because He will save us from our sins.



And so he did.  And because we know the rest of the story, we applaud his obedience.  But, think about his decision at the time.  The angel didn't show up to the rest of the village to explain what was going on.  By taking a pregnant Mary as his wife, Joseph opened himself up to a lot of gossip and ill repute.


You see, Joseph takes on a life that only history will celebrate.  In his life, it will not be celebrated. He’ll be the discussion in the corner at the family Passover celebrations.  He’ll be talked about in the town square.   He’ll be the guy the other guys leave out on spin the dradle nights.

And yet, he was obedient because following Jesus is so much more important than your reputation.  

Here’s the deal – Joseph may not have fathered Jesus in the traditional sense, but it was through Joseph’s family line that God promised a Savior would come.  God had a plan for Joseph’s life – didn’t fit Joseph’s plan, wasn’t very popular, BUT…

God has a plan for your family this Christmas.  When we let Jesus into our lives, into our families, our decisions don’t look the same, our lifestyles don’t look the same.
           


What is God asking you to do this year that will be hard in the moment, but unforgettable in the end?




Thursday, December 09, 2010

Safe

After a two-month break, my Thursday morning women's Bible study started again this morning.  As three married women and one soon-to-be married woman, we decided to read "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge in an attempt to grow in understanding of our husbands.  (We try, men, I promise we try.)


Our conversation this morning led quickly to a conversation about safety - our desire for safety, our pursuit of safety and the sinfulness of safety.  We live in a world that seems driven by the idea of safety and security.  We work hard to make sure our children are safe, we make career choices that are safe, we make financial decisions that are safe (and if they aren't safe, they help us keep up with the Joneses, so at least there's a good reason :/).

While we're not called to be careless with our lives nor foolish with our money, we are called to live dependent on God, which means at times abandoning our safety nets.


How are you living dangerously? What recent financial decision have you made to give extravagantly?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Disruption, Part 2

Disruptions come in the good and the bad variety.

Good Disruption - my son wakes up from his nap early and comes walking down the hall saying "Mommy, hold you" with his little arms outstretched.

Bad Disruption - a staff member accidentally spills coffee all over his Macbook Pro and we spend the morning laying hands on it in desperation, cleaning the mess and googling home remedies for drying out a computer (for all of the Apple lovers out there who are panicking, fear not, all is well).

Zechariah's disruption in Luke 1 was a little of both.  The good part - "even though you and your wife are old and maybe not up to chasing kids, you're going to have a baby and he's going to be awesome.  He's going to prepare the way for Jesus!"  The bad part - "since you doubted whether the good part was possible, you're going to lose your ability to speak for nine months, which may be a tad detrimental in your work as a priest."

Can you say "DISRUPTION!?!?!"

A kid on the way, no way to talk (how many of you pastors have tried preaching a whole message to your congregation in subtitles?), and on top of all of that, the kid was supposed to be the one the prophets spoke of who would call people back to faith and prepare the way for the Savior of the World (not exactly the message Rome was waiting for or wanting to hear since Herod thought he was the King of the Jews).

See, it's like I said before, that first Christmas when Jesus came created a major disruption for everyone involved.  Zechariah thought he had life figured out.  He knew his gifts, he understood his job.  Sure, he and Elizabeth had experienced some disappointments in life such as not being able to have kids, but they were fine.  They had each other.  Their life had been good. They knew their parameters and the way of the world.  They understood their limits and they worked well within them.  Oh, but wait...

Jesus was coming and everything was about to change.  Rules are gone, limits blown away.

Jesus is coming again this Christmas.  What limits are you placing on your life right now that need to be taken away?  What boundaries have you set for what you can and cannot do?

Jesus wants to do more than you ever dreamed possible.  Will you let him disrupt your life?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Awkwardness and Praying Couples

So, let me take you back a few years to one of my earliest and most awkward ministry moments:  I was finishing my first year of seminary and had been assigned to a large church in South Carolina for my summer field placement. I was newly engaged and not looking forward to heading even further from my fiance for 12 weeks. 

Before going, we had an orientation weekend for field placement supervisors and students filled with workshops and other get-to-know-you activities.  The pastor who would be my primary supervisor couldn't attend so he sent his associate pastor, a retired Air Force chaplain in his 60s who today is one of my greatest friends, advisors and confidantes.  However, at the time, it was simply awkward.  I wasn't real sure about heading to his church (i.e. the church I went to work at full-time when I graduated two years later) and he hated (still hates) sitting in meetings of any kind.  We were having a great time (read dripping sarcasm :).

Anyway, during one of the workshop breakouts we chose to attend a workshop that was titled "Spiritual Growth in the local church."  Sounded better than "Death and Dying" so off we went.  When we got there, we met a pastor who talked about a lot of things, but I don't remember much spiritual growth.

I do remember about 15 minutes into the session when he started talking about couples praying together, followed by the statement that couples who pray together regularly dramatically improve their sex life (he actually was much more graphic, I'm keeping this PG for my readers and my own comfort level).  Whoa!  Who saw that coming?  Not this unmarried pastoral intern.  Not the guy sitting next to me.  AWKWARD!!! In fact, awkward doesn't begin to describe the moment.  We laugh about it now, but at the time, both of our faces were scarlet.

Ironically, one of the things that keeps many couples from praying together is the fact that it's so incredibly awkward.  Different kind of awkward, but still, awkward.  Fear not, I'm not about to try and talk you into it for the purposes mentioned above.  However, I would just like to say that whatever the fringe benefits may or may not be, couples need to pray together.  I tell our high school students all the time - look for the person who will pray with you and for you.

When my husband and I were engaged and living in separate states, we used to pray together over the phone.  That was more awkward for my roommates than for me.  As a married couple, we've had periods of time when we've been very faithful to pray together and periods where we've been awful about it.  I can guarantee you the times we're praying together are our best times, our most genuine times and the times we've been the closest and gone deeper in our relationship.

I'm thankful for a husband who invites me to pray with him even on the nights when I'm annoyed with him and would rather just go to bed.  I'm really thankful for a husband who invites me to pray with him on the nights when he is rightfully annoyed with me and doesn't really want to talk with me let alone pray with me.  Mostly, I'm thankful for a Savior who invites both of us into His presence even when we're so unworthy to be there, but at least we're there together.

I know it's awkward, but today, ask your spouse or the person you're dating to pray with you.  I promise you it will be awkward. I promise you it will be worth the awkwardness.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Disruption

Tis the season - you know, the season of stress, anxiety, over-eating, etc.

Wow, that sounds really Bah Humbug. I assure that's not what I mean. I love Christmas. I'm one of those people who decorates the day after Thanksgiving and watches as many sappy, cheesy Christmas movies as possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Nevertheless, along with the Christmas fun, comes a month often overshadowed by shopping, cooking and busyness that can make the most enthusiastic elf weary.


So much of our preparation has to do with shopping for the perfect gifts, preparing for the perfect parties, decorating so as not to be outdone by the neighbors. We prepare in order to manage and control the craziness.

But, what if Christmas isn't at all about peace, control and perfection. As I read the Christmas story this year, I'm increasingly aware of all the disruptions going on in people's lives. Take Mary, for example, she was getting ready for a wedding, transitioning from childhood to a home of her own when all of a sudden Gabriel shows up, scares her to death and then proceeds to tell her she's going to have a baby, and not just any baby, the Messiah they'd been waiting for for so long.

Mary's response: "Not possible." (Luke 1:34)

All of Mary's preparation went out the window - "Holy Disruption, Batman!" was more the order of the day.

Jesus' arrival at the first Christmas was anything but planned and organized, it was a total disruption to all of the immediate players (we'll talk about more of these stories in the coming weeks).

And so, here's the question: what are you preparing for this Christmas? Are you preparing for parties and celebration? I hope so, there's much to celebrate. But, are you also preparing for the complete and total disruption of a Jesus who comes to change your world and your life?

I don't always welcome it with open arms, but I know there are things in my life that need to change. The question is am I willing? Willing to change? Willing to grow? Willing to be disrupted by the greatest gift ever given in Jesus Christ?

Tell me about your Christmas preparations.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Real Life Radicals

Yesterday in my message I mentioned this blog about a girl named Katie - please follow her and pray for her.


I stumbled on Katie's blog in my reading last week and it blew me away. Katie is living the kind of life Francis Chan talked about in "Crazy Love," the kind of radical love Mother Teresa demonstrated for the world, and more importantly, the life Jesus talked about when he said , "Take up your cross and follow me."

Not all of us are called to leave everything behind, move to Uganda, adopt 14 children, run a feeding ministry that provides food for 1,200 people and spend our free time running a makeshift medical clinic out of the back of our van. However, all of us are called to live a life of sacrifice, a life fully surrendered to Jesus Christ.

I hope Katie's story inspires you to do what God is asking you to do. If you already know what that is, please share b/c the Courtyard family would love to pray for you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stolen

Okay, so my luggage was found and returned after its long voyage coast-to-coast and back again. But then this morning I went out to my car to leave for work and I discovered the contents of my glove compartment all over the front seat.

(Not my week, friends, not my week.)

I calmly walked back inside the house and asked my husband if he had been in my glove compartment. He said no and together we walked back outside to the driveway to discover that both of our cars had, in fact, been broken into during the night. Interestingly, the only thing taken was my husband's GPS. They bypassed the Kohl's shopping bag on my floor, Clark's sirius radio, my iPhone to sound system connector, cd's and more. (Can't figure out why they wouldn't have wanted Jacob's new bibs or the box of diapers in the back :).

Surprisingly, the whole event didn't unnerve me all that much. My family was safe and all was okay. Then I got in my car and started to drive away and all of a sudden the eerie feeling went through my head, heart and stomach that someone had been in my car. Someone had invaded my space.

Now I realize there are lots of people who have experienced what I'm talking about in far more invasive ways. This isn't even on the playing field with people who've experienced personal injury, people whose homes have been broken into, property destroyed and more. But, I think I got a taste of what it feels like when something gets stolen.

I've never before questioned the safety of me and my family in our home. I've never truly considered that something I left in my car wouldn't be there when I got back. That innocence is gone. Stolen.


What has been stolen from you that changed the way you function and think?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lost

So, yesterday I flew from Pennsylvania to DC to Charleston, SC. Meanwhile, my luggage flew from Pennsylvania to Chicago to Portland and back to Chicago, hmm... (please say a prayer it makes it from Chicago to Charleston to my house this afternoon).

It's frustrating to be somewhere, but feel like you're not all there. It's downright terrifying to feel like you have no idea where you are at all. I remember watching the movie, American Tale, as a kid and having nightmares for months about not being able to find my parents. The panic of not knowing where you are, where to go next, what to do or who you can turn to. Lost.

As adults, being lost is almost never geographical, but let's play out the geography anyway. I talk to people all the time who tell me, "I feel lost. I don't know how I got here." You see, they thought they were heading to Charleston too, but somehow they ended up in Portland. Maybe it was a foolish decision that seemed inconsequential at the time - they just weren't paying enough attention. Maybe it was a rational decision they thought they could control to go to Chicago but never go the whole way to Portland before coming home, but once they got to Chicago they just couldn't stop, they couldn't get off the train so to speak.

I'm talking about so many things here - addictions, affairs and so much more. We all get lost at various points in our life. We don't set out to get lost, but it happens just the same. We're imperfect, we're human. The question is, how do we keep it from happening again and, if we're currently lost, how do we get back?

A few suggestions:

1. We need people in our life to hold us accountable - people who are going to check in with us and ask the hard questions. These people have to be people we can trust and people who share our faith. They also have to be people who love us enough to not lie to us when we're wrong. Who are the 1-2 people in your life who fit this description?

2. We need the understand the Principle of the Path - enough said, read the book and it will all make sense. It's well worth the time (even better, Ashley Ridge people, join a small group and read it together :). If I have one book I've read in the last year to recommend to anyone and everyone, it's this one.

3. Finally, and most importantly, we need to stay connected to the One who found us when we were lost and made it possible for us to come back. Yes, I'm talking about Jesus. How do you stay connected to Him?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Time I Always Waste and the Time I Never Waste

Time I Always Waste:
1. Time spent worrying
2. Time spent critiquing other people so I feel better about myself
3. Time spent playing solitaire to turn my brain off (there has to be a better way)
4. Time spent watching excess television




Time I Never Waste:
1. Time spent praying
2. Time spent reading my Bible
3. Time spent getting dirty and out-of-breath playing with my 20-month old
4. Time spent on a date with my husband or cooking dinner for us to eat together at home

How about you? What time do you waste and what time do you spend well? Which area are you currently spending more time on?
After the Message
(Relationships Part 2: "I Do")

Two truths: God created relationships, relationships are not easy

Last week - dating

I like you becomes I do (whole different message on that transition, today we’re

assuming)

What is marriage? What does it look like? What does it mean?

Marriage was God’s idea (Genesis 2:24)

A Numbers Issuewhen we talk about marriage, we talk about 2s and 1s (and in the south 20s if we include the whole wedding party)

Two sinks vs. One sink

One bed, two sides

Two ways to do things – my way, your way or right way, wrong way

Marriage License reads as a Two-Party Contractcouldn’t be more mis-leading

Marriage God’s Way: A 3-party covenant

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

Three instead of Two

Covenant instead of Contract


When's the last time you invited Jesus into your marriage? He's our foundation. He's our hope. He's our forever.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

We can live an incredible life of meaning, purpose and hope, or we can simply live. Max Lucado suggests the first option.

Lucado's newest book, "Outlive Your Life" reminds us that there are people, normal people, you and me kinda people, changing the world everyday. And make no mistake, our world needs it. People are hurting, people are dying, and it's time for the people who follow Jesus to step up to the plate.

I remember the day I got my first pair of glasses. I took them on-and-off and on-and-off, marveling at how clear everything was. There was a world around me that I didn't even realize because I simply couldn't see it. Lucado's book is like putting on a pair of glasses, revealing a world and a movement that you can't help but join once you've seen it.

Don't get me wrong, I know that world is out there, but it can be so easy to ignore as we wrap ourselves in the busyness of the day-to-day. Sometimes we get so trapped in the rat race that it takes a 2x4 moment to shake us loose. Lucado's book was a 2x4 moment for me.

It has been several years since I've picked up one of Lucado's books and I'm so glad I broke the trend with this one. Lucado tells stories from today side-by-side with the stories from the book of Acts, making an undeniable case for the work of God in our midst. And, as an author, Lucado deserves kudos for the unforced symmetry he portrays between Acts and today. As he points out, there is no conclusion to the book of Acts.

If you need a 2x4 or some preparation to write your chapter in the book of Acts, I encourage you to pick up a copy today.

(And if you're part of Ashley Ridge Church, you may want to start reading early as we'll be using the book in our worship and small groups in May 2011).

I received a copy of this book free from the publisher as part of the Booksneeze program for bloggers. I was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Starbucks May Take Away the "Christian Bar Scene"

So, apparently Starbucks is going to start serving beer and wine. For the record, I have no problem with this. But it does make me wonder what will happen to the hip Christian social scene. Let me explain.

In a world that is increasingly digital and detached, there are few remaining places where people go to gather and interact with other human beings, you know, a place "where everybody knows your name." Remaining places include hair salons/barber shops, bars and, in recent years, coffee shops.

It seems that with the emergence of coffee shops, Christians latched on to their drug-of-choice, i.e. caffeine. After all, the Bible talks several times about getting drunk, but never once does Paul mention the 3x a day venti latte/espresso/mocha/macchiato trend. And so, for the Christian population, coffee shops have all the advantage of meeting the culture at a popular hub without the stigma of a bar. It's trendy, it's hip, it's church meeting culture in the way Martin Luther did in the 16th century.

Before I go any further, a few disclaimers: I often work in a coffee shop. I even host a gathering called Java with Jenn every Wednesday morning in a coffee shop. I know every barista in my local coffee shop and they know me. I like it. I also make the occasional visit to bars, typically when our church's worship leader is providing the music and half of my congregation is in attendance.

So what happens when coffee shops start serving beer and wine? Do we still hold Bible studies in coffee shops? Do we still make coffee shops our meeting place for casual and official conversations?

I hope so.

Not because it's trendy. Not because it's edgy. Not because it's hip. But because Jesus told us to make disciples of all people, and that requires going to where people are. I love coffee shops. I love the fact that there is a group of guys in their 40s, 50s and 60s that I share friendly banter with in the morning, a retired school teacher who brings in her books and talks with me about her love of theater and a 22-year old barista named Travis who is dreaming big about going to New York someday to open a restaurant.

So, Starbucks, do your thing. I hope the church can continue to take some hints about creating environments that encourage conversation and human interaction, environments where life is being shared. (and no, I'm not suggesting churches start serving beer and wine before or after worship)

What do y'all think?
"God did not give you a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power,
love and self-discipline." ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

And yet, how often do we live timid lives? How often do we spend time agonizing and planning over how to please people and keep the waters tame? We weren't meant to hide in our shells, we were meant to live in the sun.


Power, love, self-discipline...it's an interesting list. Faith, hope and love seem to have a more obvious connection. I have some thoughts, but today I would rather hear yours.

What do you think of when you hear that we've been given a spirit of power, love and self-discipline? What would your day look like if you grabbed hold of that spirit?

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Poem

My toddler will not stay in bed. The same toddler who I sat up with during the night because he had a fever and was shaking with chills. The same toddler who threw up several times last night. Yes, that toddler is suddenly feeling better and will not stay in bed.



It's nap time. That precious time on a day like today when I'm home at work with a sick kid and need to get some work done. The hour and a half I'm supposed to have to catch my breath. It's nap time and my toddler will not stay in bed.

I remember the days when a crib did the trick. The glorious days before the climbing began. The days when my toddler would talk for 30 minutes before falling asleep, but eventually fall asleep he would, snuggled secure, contained in his crib. But now the high front wall is no more, replaced by a guardrail meant to catch a sleeping child from rolling out, but an easy escape for my toddler who will not stay in bed.

Someday I know my toddler will be a teenager and I will fight to get him out of the bed. But today, it would be so nice if my toddler would stay in his bed.

(they say art is supposed to be an outlet, a release...I don't know if I feel better yet, I think it may depend on whether my toddler finally stays in bed.)


After the Message

So, this week I'm breaking form and I'm going to tell you that if you would like yesterday's sermon notes, you're just going to have to listen to the podcast. God did something incredible in our worship yesterday and I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with my notes...

Check it out on iTunes. It's called Consequences - Part Three and it should be up very soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

To Run or To Pray

Okay, so have you noticed how people like to tweet and facebook about exercise when it's going well? Nobody posts an update that says "It's been 82 days since my heart rate rose above 70 bpm." However, if they've been to the gym two days in a row, the world knows about it.

Don't get me wrong, I feel at liberty to write about this because I'm guilty of committing this very act. I'm getting ready for a half marathon in December and I talk about it a lot, in part to keep me motivated and in part to shame myself into doing it if necessary - pride is a great motivator. You better believe that if/when I survive my 5-mile run on Saturday morning I will tweet about it and casually slip it into conversations for the rest of the weekend. That's how I roll.

Naturally, as I'm getting into the thick of this training, my Bible reading today took me back to a verse that I've highlighted, underlined and circled at various points over the years: I Timothy 4:8 "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."

That's what we call in the industry "a good one."

Why aren't we more motivated to get spiritually fit than physically fit? Why don't we make sure we get our prayer time in before we get our work-out in? I would love to see someone's facebook page say something like "got up a 1/2 hour early five days in a row for more time with God," or "dominated the book of Ezekiel this morning."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Holy Discontent

What's that thing that makes your gut twist? What do you lay awake at night thinking about? What's the thing that makes you so mad or sad (or smad for all you Gilmore Girls out there) that you have to act?

There's a difference between discontent and holy discontent. You might be discontent with the traffic situation on your way to work, but your discontent becomes a holy discontent when it's something you know God is desperate to change as well. Not that God doesn't care about your morning commute, but you know what I mean.

My holy discontent is cultural Christianity. It's all the people out there who don't know or haven't heard or don't understand that church isn't something you do it's something you are. I'm not mad at the people, I'm mad at the church for creating this culture. I'm sad that we haven't found a way to help people understand that Jesus didn't die for a building or an organ or a drum set - Jesus died for you and me. He died so we could live - live differently, live strong (to steal from Lance Armstrong), live courageously as people take on Jesus' work of redeeming a broken world.

I believe God gave me this holy discontent. I also believe that holy discontent is a big reason God called me to be a church planter - to take away all the obvious and go back to basics of what it means to ignite passion for Jesus Christ that changes our whole lives and our whole weeks.

My sister Laura has a holy discontent for the huge numbers of women with breast cancer. As a result, she's heading to NYC this weekend to walk 39.4 miles in two days with her team, Paper Girls Wear Pink, as part of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

What about you? What's your holy discontent? Is it starving children? Is it human trafficking? Is it alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual addiction? Is it elderly who are abandoned or uncared for? Is it child abuse or domestic abuse? Is it cancer research or Alzheimer's research?

What's your holy discontent? What is God calling you to do with it? How can we as a community come alongside you and be part of it?

Monday, October 11, 2010

A note to my readers: Thank you for being patient with my recent lack of posts. I promise this blog has not been reduced to simply the sermon notes. That said, here are this week's sermon notes, but check back for more content through the week. Thanks for reading!

After the Message

If…Then…

And yet we…

And still God…

Last WeekNineveh knew what they were supposed to do and chose to blatantly disobey and rebel against God…and they were destroyed

This Week – Different kind of disobedience and its consequences, the disobedience of standing by and doing nothing when someone is in need

What Would You Do?all these scenarios when people see awful things happening and we get awkward and find ways to pretend it’s not happening versus getting involved

We say things like – “it’s not my place” “I didn’t want to get hurt” “I didn’t want my

kids to get hurt”

Obadiah

shortest book in OT (17 verses)

written in the form of a dirge of doom

Edomites – descendants of Esau

vv. 10-15, Obadiah explains why Edom will be destroyed, namely blatant arrogance toward God and persecution of God’s children

- Obadiah said God would destroy Edom as punishment for standing by when Babylon invaded Judah

o A21 campaign – why didn’t you come sooner?

- Edom located in the mountains – thought they were invincible

vv. 17-21 – God will fight for His children and those who stand against or stand by will be destroyed

Who are God’s children? We are all God's children - the vulnerable, the oppressed,

the hungry, the abused

The redeemed are called to restore - we can no longer stand by while our brothers and sisters get hurt, it's time to get involved.


For more information on the A21 Campaign, check out theA21Campaign.org. Our senior high students will be fasting on the 21st to bring awareness to human trafficking - would you like to get involved?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

After the Message
Consequences, Part One

If…Then

If you ignore your laundry piling up and up and up, you will run out of clothing to wear.

If you eat junk consistently, then you’re going to gain weight and have health issues.

If you spend more than you make, then you will end up in debt.

If you betray someone you love – a friend, a family member, your spouse – then you will lose trust.

And yet we…Do it anyway

(We know if we stay up late, we’ll be tired in the morning – but just this one last show on tv, a few more chapters in my book, a little more time on facebook, hey what about these other internet sites…)

Why? When we’re young we think we’re invincible (that bad stuff won’t happen to me, no one else will be affected, I have plenty of time to turn things around…). We get older and we figure we can manage things (I can take care of it, I’m in control…). Then we get really old and we think, who cares, what’s it going to hurt now.

Bottom line is we do it anyway because it feels good, it looks good, it sounds good and, after all, it’s my life anyway.

Nahum

- a minor prophet (minor as opposed to major b/c of population addressing and size of the book)

- Remnants of the Jonah story re-emerge - Jonah is the if…then… - goes to Nineveh, tells them to repent or get destroyed, so they repent

- 100 years later, Assyria is the world power, Nineveh is the capital – Judah is a vassal state

- Nineveh had heard the if..then, but yet they chose anyway to live in disobedience and rebellion to God

- What happens? Chapter 1:1-8, God tells Nineveh they’re going down, which they do (about 50 years after Nahum’s prophecy, Nineveh is destroyed, shortly after Assyria falls to Babylon)

Consequences are real. Not just an OT thing.

And still God…

Romans 5:8 - God proves His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It's time to stop running from God and instead run toward God.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Coffee Talk

"I was in the military, attending a church every Sunday, pretty religious if you ask me. It was time for my second child to be baptized and the godparents and in-laws were coming in on Friday night. I went down to the church and asked the pastor if we could do the baptism on Saturday. He explained that the baptism had to happen during a weekend service. I explained that my family was only going to be here Saturday. He said no. I told him I had invested $6k in the church the year before and not to spend it this year because it wouldn't be there. Where the hell does the Bible say you have to baptize in front of X number of people? I never went back."

This was the conversation I overheard five minutes ago as I sat drinking my tall skinny pumpkin spice latte. It was followed by similar stories from the others sitting in the circle. I've heard these stories countless times before. I've read about these stories in books I read about the de-churched. But, I still get heartbroken and angry every time it happens.

Make no mistake, I overheard this conversation from the opposite side of the coffee shop, but it was intended for my hearing. I frequent the coffee shop as does this group. We say hello, we've exchanged names, we've shared friendly banter when we end up in each other's seats. They know who I am and what I do, and today they wanted me to hear what they think about the church.

I hope this is the first step closer to them being open to me joining the conversation. It's taken a year to get this far.

I need some feedback. What do you think when you hear this kind of conversation? Have you had a similar experience personally or with a friend or co-worker who still won't accept your invitation to worship?

Talk to me please.

Monday, September 27, 2010

After the Message (Sermon Notes)

Who’s Your Team? Part 4

Winners

I like to win – you could say I’m a little bit competitive

Doesn’t matter what the event/activity – board games, brushing teeth

So competitive, I’ll compete at being bad at something – someone says to me “I can’t draw,” my response is “Oh, you want to see someone who can’t draw? I promise I’m much worse than you.”

Where are you winning in your life right now and where are you losing?

Are you winning the fight for your marriage? Your kids? Your neighbors? Are you winning with your money (to steal a Dave Ramsey line)?

Life can feel so often like an uphill battle – the moments we feel as though we’re winning are few and far between

But here’s the good news…

Romans 8:31-39

- Lead-up – God is working things out, despite present hardship or suffering, God is at work redeeming all of creation

- V. 35 – what’s going to separate us from a God who wants to be with us – anger, pride, aggression, bad decisions, pain, anxiety??? None of that

- V. 36 – bad stuff happens, doesn’t change the answer in v. 37

- IN ALL THESE THINGS, WE ARE MORE THAN CONQUERORS

- the only way we win is with Jesus who loved us more than we will ever understand

- with Jesus, we win and we win big – more than conquerors

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Priority Check

I'm reading the book "Mad Church Disease" by Anne Jackson and in the chapter I was reading yesterday morning she was talking about the two greatest commandments (i.e. love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbors as ourselves) and she pointed out that it doesn't say to love our neighbors with all our strength, it tells us to love God with ALL our strength - only if we do that are we able to love our neighbors at all. She also went on to say that a lot of us are doing a pretty lousy job of loving ourselves, which means we're setting a really low standard for loving our neighbors. (For more stuff from Anne Jackson, check out her new book "Permission to Speak Freely" or her blog.)

I needed to hear that. It's so easy to get caught up trying to do everything for everyone and forget to first love God with ALL our strength. It's only when we expend all our energy on God that we have energy to give to anyone else, including ourselves.

I'm going through an overwhelming season of life and I'm thankful for the perseverance God is teaching me (even though I'm not always the best student). But even though overwhelming seasons are part of life, we often bring them on ourselves when we think we're too busy to make time, our best time, for God. We start running on an empty spiritual tank and it doesn't get us very far.

So, here's today's gut check - what are the things currently getting the benefit of ALL your strength and where is God?

Monday, September 20, 2010

After the Message (i.e. Sermon notes)

Who’s Your Team?, Part 3

Maximizing Your Investment

College Football Tickets - $150

Parking - $20

Gas to and from game - $60

Tailgating - $45

Hotel room - $150

Game Day Apparel - $40

Big Foam Finger - $5

Spending Saturday with 85,000 of your closest friends – priceless

A few caveats:

Money talk is always a little uncomfortable b/c it’s personal

Too often the church has done a poor job of talking about money b/c we only talk about the 10% we want you to give to the church and we don’t talk about the 100% God has entrusted us with and biblical financial management of that money

To make it worse, we didn’t learn it in home economics either – we learned to sew a pillow and make no-bake cookies, but skipped the “home economy” part

So, most of what we’ve learned has come from the credit card companies who spend millions and millions every year talking us into spending more than we have


This message - Not talking about what we give to God, but what we do with what God gives to us.

Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30

- Jesus has just finished telling a story about the kingdom of God, which he ends by telling his disciples to “stay alert,” because no one knows when he is coming back

- Notice first off that the master entrusted his money with his servants, the money never belonged to them

- A talent was a large unit of money, one talent worth about 20 years of work from your average person

- They didn’t all start with the same amount of money – fair? No. reality? Yes.

- If this were a modern parable, there would have been a fourth guy who spent all of his talents, borrowed more from someone else and when the master came back, he was actually at -6

What we do with our money has eternal significance - do we sit on the incredible gifts God entrusts to us or do we use them for His glory?

- 70% of Americans haven’t kept what God has given them – we blow it and then we finance 30% more, as a result, we’re broke

- Average American family spends between $500-$1500/month on debt payment, excluding our house payment

- Average family can get debt free in 18-36 months

Challenge/Place to Start: Take out a blank piece of paper and open your bank account on the computer – make a list of all the things you spend money on and then rank those things in order of where you spend the most – talk about it with your family, have an honest conversation including your teenagers about how you spend money


If you are part of Ashley Ridge Church, sign-up for a small group today. In the coming months, our small groups will all have opportunities to go through a 6-week study called "I Was Broke. Now I'm Not" by Joe Sangl that will provide practical steps to becoming debt-free and investing wisely.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Someone's Always Watching

It's true, you know. I was making some updates to our church website this afternoon and I happened to click on the stats button. The first graph that appeared showed how many unique visitors come to our site each day, and I was surprised at what I saw. It's easy to think no one is looking, no one is watching, but it can be mind-blowing when you see the data. The same is true with this whole blogging thing sometimes - often, like now, I'm sitting by myself in an almost empty coffee shop, tapping away at my computer, not even thinking about the fact that others will actually read what I write. And then someone I barely know makes a passing comment about something I said on my blog and I think, "wow, did I really put that out there for strangers to read?"

Sometimes we start believing that it doesn't really matter what we do, what we say, how we act, how we react, etc., etc. But it does, someone is always watching.

It might be your kids... We think they're so caught up in their own world that they don't notice the little things, but they do. My 19-month old is in the parrot stage where he repeats everything he hears - it is a constant, and sometimes not so flattering, reminder that someone is not only watching but listening. I read in a book recently, "Our personal relationship with God and with our spouse make a bigger difference than we think in our kid's lives." Our kids are watching, what are we teaching them when we don't think they're paying attention?

It might be your parents... Here's an example: when I'm on facebook, I'm primarily interacting with people my age and younger. Sometimes I'm not thinking and I put silly things on my status, and then my mom calls and asks me about something going on in my life that I know I didn't tell her about - that's right, she's on facebook too. (I met a youth pastor recently who said one of his favorite Sunday morning activities with his students is to throw facebook up on the big screen and then pick random profiles to open for everyone to look at - yikes!)

It might be the person you ate lunch with who looked to see how big of a tip you left... I know we throw this fact out there all the time, but it's true that you can talk to all kinds of restaurant waiters and waitresses and they'll tell you they hate working on Sundays b/c the after-church crowd are some of the worst tippers of the week.

People are watching. What are they learning from your life?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Love Wednesdays

Wednesdays are my people days. Wednesdays are my days to ignore my computer through the morning and sit with people face-to-face. I need Wednesdays to remind me sometimes why I love what I do and what it is such a privilege to do what I do.

When is your Wednesday and what does it look like?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gettin' My Reads On

Stressed? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Self-consumed?

I recommend a date with a good book. There's nothing like a good book to transport you out of your current situation, lift your eyes out of the dense forest and be re-inspired by a greater narrative (gee, I kinda sound like Donald Miller :).

And so, if you're looking for a recommendation, here are a few from my most recent reads and even one that's coming up next on my list:

1. Christian Atheist by Craig Groeschel - there are 10 chapters in this book, and I promise you'll find yourself in at least one if not all of them along with some concrete steps forward.

2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - excellent book about black maids and the white ladies they worked for in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. Of all the books I've read dealing with segregation and the civil rights movement, this one surpasses them all. It's funny, honest and an opportunity to see life through entirely different eyes. This is definitely a good one if you need a little perspective.

3. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett - releases on September 28th and I'm so excited! Follett doesn't write stories, he writes epics. This one won't be for the faint of heart at almost 1,o00 pages and that only the first installment of a trilogy, but based on previous experience, I think it will be worth it.

Go ahead and roll your eyes now, but I won't write a post like this and miss the opportunity to point out that the best book to be reading at all times is the Bible. Stressed? Read your Bible and be reminded of God's faithfulness and provision. Anxious? Read your Bible and be reminded to cast your cares on the One who cares for you. Overwhelmed? Read your Bible and don't miss the part about walking through fire and not being consumed. Self-consumed? Read your Bible and remember life isn't about you - it's about living everyday for Jesus, the One who gave His life for you.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

After the Message

So easy to zero in on the things that excite us, the things that get our passion running high –

Can you just imagine if we were as excited about Jesus as we are about football?

Thousands of people crowded into stadiums every weekend, faces painted, signs made – so eager to get in that they show up early and cook out in the parking lot, making friends with the people parked next to them b/c even if they’ve never met, they have this one, amazing thing in common.

Not just football…basketball, rock concerts, etc.

Are we that excited about Jesus, or do we come here when we don’t have anything better to do?

Revelation 3:14-22, Church in Laodicea:

Water source was about 6 miles out of town, so when it came through the pipes into their town, it was tepid

Hence, the metaphor resonated with them that they were not to be lukewarm, better to be cold than lukewarm. Jesus wants us to be hot, passionate, on fire.

Jesus doesn’t need lukewarm, he needs boiling hot, passionate, on-fire people who are ready to live a radical, sold-out life to him

The issue is not feeling guilty about loving college football or basketball, or playing golf or doing any of the things we love – it’s about what has captured your heart, or better said, it’s about WHO has captured your heart.

Where are you going to place your passion? What are you going to get so excited about that you’re willing to look foolish for the sake of it?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Can You Feel It?

There's something special in the air, a shift, an excitement, a buzz - that's right, today is the start of the college football season. If you read any of the other blogs listed on my blogroll or if you've tuned into any kind of media today, you've heard others already speak eloquently about what this day means and what it represents.

I'll admit it - I share the sickness. This morning over a bowl of cereal I explained to my 18-month old how he and I would be spending Saturday morning watching College GameDay to help him learn the players and gear up for the day ahead. My husband has been working with Jake for weeks, teaching him to say "War Eagle" and "Touchdown!"

I've always loved football and I grew up in Steeler country where pride and passion run high, but I married into the college football obsession that is only amplified by living in SEC country where words like "diehard" don't begin to describe the intensity with which people follow and support their teams.

I was a quick study and today I converse easily on topics like the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and the Iron Bowl. I have a cake pan in the shape of a football field and plenty of food coloring to make orange and navy icing. Heck, I even think my favorite Auburn shirt will fit again this year now that all of the pregnancy weight is gone :)

So, let the games begin - pull out your flags, show your colors and may the best teams win!

...and when the games are over on Saturday, don't miss worship on Sunday morning (before the NFL games begin). Throughout September our worship series "Who's Your Team?" will resonate in the hearts of football fans everywhere. And make plans now to be with us for the Ashley Ridge tailgate on September 26th.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Asking the Wrong Questions

I took Greek in school, but I couldn't conjugate anything for you today and there are very few vocabulary words I could pull out of a line-up. I studied Paul's missionary journeys in school, but don't ask me off the top of my head to tell you whether Paul went to Laodicea or Ephesus first (I think it was Ephesus because that was on the coast vs Laodicea which is inland, but the point is I don't know for sure offhand). I took a course in undergraduate on Shakespeare's works, but don't ask me to explain the form of a sonnet to you - I don't remember.

Here's the point - the educational process is less about the facts and figures we learn and much more about learning how to learn and how to think clearly and well. Maybe this isn't true of all education - I'm fairly certain that doctors need to remember the anatomy they were taught in school without looking at a book, but you get the point.

And so, I'd like to offer one of my top 3 seminary take-aways that just might transform how you read and understand the Bible:
Don't ask the wrong questions.

You see, too often we read the Bible expecting the Bible to answer questions it wasn't written to answer. The Bible is not a history book. It wasn't written to provide an unbiased, detail-specific, geographically and chronologically accurate and cohesive history of the era in time it covers. Instead, it's a book about God, meant to explain who God is and how God works and who we are as God's people.

Let me get more specific, we can get very frustrated reading the Bible if we get hung up asking questions like, "Did Jesus overturn the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple in the beginning of his ministry or toward the end?" After all, John's Gospel has it happening early and the other gospels have it happening late. I could ask who's wrong and who's right, but that's the wrong question and it won't get me anywhere. A better question is, "Why did John choose to tell the story when he did?" or "What does it tell us about Jesus to see this story in this context?"

Here's another example: in Genesis 1 we read that God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them in 6 days and then He rested on the seventh day. We have and continue to debate this idea extensively in our culture - i.e. was it 7 24-hour periods, or is it a relative statement? is it literal or figurative? Does this disprove the theory of evolution? All of these are the wrong questions. A better question - what is Genesis 1 telling us about God? For starters, it's telling us that God created everything and everything God created was very good. You see, now we're getting somewhere.

It's so important to ask the right questions because if we spend too much time asking the wrong questions we either get frustrated and stop reading because we don't understand, or we decide the Bible must not be true because it can't answer the questions we want it to answer.

Next time you pick up your Bible, ask God to show you what it's teaching you about Him and who you are as His child. The Bible is God's gift given to us, it's a story of God's tireless and relentless pursuit of you and me, it's a story of Jesus offering us life that we don't deserve, it's a story of God choosing you and me - don't miss the chance to be amazed by asking the wrong questions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kiss Me

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips." Proverbs 24:26

Some kisses are awkward - like when you bump noses or suddenly remember you ate onions for lunch. Most kisses are awesome - they come from someone you love, they're a gesture of intimacy and love and warmth.

Both of those statements being true, I definitely agree with the Proverb above. Sometimes honesty is awkward, sometimes it's even painful, most times it's beautiful - always honesty is preferable.

Who do you need to be honest with today? Maybe you need to be honest with God about where you have or haven't been in relationship with Him. Maybe you need to be honest with your spouse about the thoughts and feelings you've been having and not sharing. Maybe you need to be honest with your kids about ways you've fallen short. Maybe you need to be honest with a co-worker, boss or someone who works for you. Maybe you need to be honest with yourself.

Whatever it is, be honest - and when you're done being honest, ask the person you were honest with if they enjoyed the kiss (haha, okay, maybe not, but it could be fun if it's your spouse :)