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Tuesday
Apr152014

holy week: our burden is light 

holy week. the biggest week of the year in the christian faith. the super bowl of the church calendar. this week, we'll spend a gigantic amount of time creating experiences, leading, pastoring, praying, teaching and sharing the risen hope of our savior. it will all be so good.  

i've been praying that easter would be a memorable, special moment for families in our church. that they'd have moments of connection with each other and with jesus, and that they'd remember easter 2014 for years to come because they prayed together, laughed together, celebrated together, and because, most importantly, their faith grew together. 

but, to be honest, all of this special moment creation is taking the life out of me. i'm exhausted, already. it's tuesday morning, and it's possible that i'm having a small meltdown on how i'll manage my energy this week. i'm pretty sure my husband said to me as i was walking out the door this morning -- may the holy spirit and coffee be your strength today. so, yeah. we're there already. 

the thing about easter, though, is that really, at it's core it's all about the freedom that jesus gives us. freedom from sin, of course, but also, freedom in day-to-day life and community with him. jesus' freedom gives peace and hope and rest and strength and new life. 

and following jesus, claiming his freedom is not a heavy burden. he says, "take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” {Matthew 11:29-30}

because of this, i'm determined to not let this week be consumed by tasks and tiredness. i claim the holiness of this week for myself, too. i want equal parts leading and receiving this week.  

this week, i drop my shoulders, i breathe deeper, i walk slower. his yoke is easy. life in and with jesus is not tiring, exhausting, life-draining. jesus is peace and life and healing. 

and, as i call people to life with jesus this week, i won't call them to the heavy burdened life. i refuse to share jesus' peace while stress and tension run through my body. i call them to a life that is rest for the weary and freedom for the soul because that's what i've found, that's my life.

follow me as i follow jesus. 

holy week. our burden is light.

Wednesday
Apr092014

jesus for all {city stories}

chicago really is the most magical place to live. on sunday, my niece emerson came for a visit and while we were at brunch, sipping giant cups of hot chocolate, i said to her -- E, the city is so magical. she pointed to the tall buildings and sighed and drank and said, "it's the most magical place on earth." i mean, out of the mouths of babes, right. 

part of the city magic includes living amongst a very diverse group of people. which, i love. so much. and, living in the city provides a lot of opportunity to interact with those in need. just walking from the bus to church each day, i encounter 5-10 folks asking for money or looking for a hot meal. it's not always easy knowing the right thing to do, the most loving and effective ways to help. 

at different seasons of life, i've sensed god leading me to interact in a variety of ways. last summer, he asked me to give whatever i had in my wallet whenever someone asked -- to not judge, or question, or deem worthy. just give. {and, you know, of course, that season was more about the way my own heart needed to grow than the actual need i could provide for. because god has a way like that. he's tricky. and clever. and wonderful. oh, i love him so much.}

in this season, i've sensed his direction to be towards spending time talking, asking questions, shaking hands, looking folks in the eye and demonstrating "you're noticed." less giving money, more giving time, love. and, in almost all interactions, i look someone in the eye, smile, ask how the day is going, he or she looks up and returns the smile, almost in astonishment that someone noticed. some days it's too much to handle, too hard to make eye contact because the look in some folks' eyes communicates they've not been noticed, smiled at, remembered in a very long time.

this all breaks my heart. at times i wonder if i avoid contact in order to not be reminded that so many are forgotten. it's too unbearable. too hard to open your heart to people's pain. 

last week, kelly and i were waiting at the bus stop when a young, pregnant woman approached us asking for money. we engaged in conversation asking how far along she was and how old her other children were. she took my hand and put it on her belly, and we joked that she could name her new baby "kelly" because all her other kids' names started with the letter "k." eventually our bus came, we hugged and reminded her to take care of herself and her kids.

then yesterday, the strangest thing happened on the way to work -- the woman in the red coat, as i've affectionately named her because she's always wearing the most beautiful red coat as she walks around the neighborhood, asked for money. she had the most haunting look in her eyes as i tried to engage in conversation. i asked her name, and what she needed, and if i could pray for her -- not because i'm super spiritual, but truthfully because i couldn't think of anything else to say, and her weary, tormented eyes were throwing me off, making me nervous. she didn't reply, just kept asking for money unable to participate in back-and-forth conversation. i grew increasingly concerned and uncertain, terrified to even imagine all that was behind her spooky eyes.  

i really didn't know what to do, how to remind her that regardless of what led to this moment, she's noticed and loved and not forgotten, and i eventually left her, made my way to work, shaken and unsettled. her pain, too deep and too much a part of her, appeared to be preventing her from feeling connection. it was really completely too much for my simple heart to handle. how can this be, jesus?

and, i've had the song man of sorrows on repeat this lenten season. speaking deeply to my soul for all sorts of reasons, but then, yesterday, it all came together -- the man of sorrows for the woman in the red coat, and the young pregnant woman, and the man selling newspapers, and me, and you. 

Man of sorrows Lamb of God
By His own betrayed
The sin of man and wrath of God
Has been on Jesus laid

Silent as He stood accused
Beaten mocked and scorned
Bowing to the Father's will
He took a crown of thorns

the man of sorrows, for us all in anticipation of easter. jesus' resurrection is for the weary, and tired, and pain-filled, and un-noticed, and the desperate, and the on-the-street, and the in-need. for all. 

Oh that rugged cross
My salvation
Where Your love poured out over me
Now my soul cries out
Hallelujah
Praise and honour unto Thee

be reminded, this easter, as you lead and serve and care and share the good news of jesus' resurrection, his good news is for all. you, too. his pain and suffering and sacrifice are for those in desperate need, and for those with plenty. for those with bursting-to-the-brim full hearts and those who are fragile and brokenhearted. let his love and grace cover you, refreshing your spirit anew.

because jesus' love heals even the spookiest of eyes. jesus for all. 

Monday
Apr072014

the pattern of sunday

here's the thing about sunday -- it's a front. sure, we aspire to inspire children's faith and grow their relationship with jesus. but, sometimes i feel like that's just a front. like, there's more behind the pattern, the regularity, the familiarity of sunday. 

maybe our real purpose for gathering families together every sunday is for the sake of noticing a change in pattern. because when you do something every sunday you notice patterns: who's missing, who's looking strong, who had a rough night of sleep, who's bringing her boyfriend, who's holding a new baby, who's looking lonely, who has a skip in his step.

it's the every-sunday nature of church that gives us notice when the pattern has changed. 

and, when you notice the pattern has changed, it gives opportunity. to ask a question, offer a prayer, give a hug, set up a meal, introduce him to her, and to look each other in the eye in order to lovingly communicate and remind -- "you're noticed, you're seen." 

i'm a broken record lately, {especially to the lovely MP} chattering on-and-on that sundays are a privilege, a special time for us to connect and notice and intervene. because i'm finding that when we notice a change in pattern on sundays it leads to something: a follow up conversation, a chance to provide for a need, an opportunity to dig deeper and offer care and love and support.

maybe, that's the real purpose of sunday.

practically speaking, to really be effective in caring for others and noticing their patterns, you've got to be effective in noticing your own patterns. take stock: how do i typically feel while leading on sundays? for me, maintaing a peaceful mindset is the key to success; not consumed, not over-run, not distracted by the details or stresses as they arise. i'm experimenting with these prayers throughout the week, and specifically using the prayers when we first arrive on sunday mornings. there's something about setting a peaceful tone for your body right from the start. 

also, something new for me -- i'm trying to set aside my own needs to be noticed on sunday mornings. {this is not easy. all of my insecurities cry out for validation on sundays.} would i love for every staff and volunteer to ask how i am and notice changes in my patterns, YES! but, for now, for me, that's not the purpose of sundays. when i'm consumed with how my own needs are/aren't being met, i'm less likely, less able to come outside of myself and see others. i want to notice others authentically, honestly. and for the the care i offer in return to be genuine, pure. 

today, especially, i'm grateful to be part of the every-sunday rhythm. there's beauty, mystery, and love, and faith in the pattern of sunday. God, grant me bigger eyes to see and greater love to act. 

Tuesday
Apr012014

WITB VBS

people. we made a VBS. a full program for kids + parents that can be used this very summer to inspire families to love jesus + love the bible. ah summer. what could be better? 

but, don't just take it from me. check out what the big guy had to say.

AND! order today to receive free shipping on all US orders. PLUS! 10% off your purchase when you enter code lemonlimekids. cheers to warmer weather, bible growing kids, and faith-filled families. 

PS: this post contains affiliate links, which means that when you click a link and make a purchase, i receive a percentage. as always, i only share products that i hope will encourage your ministry. 

Friday
Mar282014

sunday school that works! {new book}

new book

 

the book  Sunday School That Works! released this week -- i'm thrilled to be a contributing author. 

i wrote a chapter on overcoming space issues, including: evaluating your space, creating great first impressions, ideas for flexible spaces, creating interactive early childhood classrooms, spicing up the supply room {ahem! which i did today.}, and setting up a volunteer break room. good, right?

oh! total name drop alert. a few of the other authors are friends. like this guy. i might know him, too. whatever. see the full list of contributors and read a great review here.

cheers to new books, ministry friends, and weekends. let's do this.