To Give up or to Take Up

Originally posted March 5, 2014

“So what are you giving up for Lent?”

It is the question of the day online and in many Christian communities yet so many people, even Christians don’t really know what Lent is about or WHY we give things up.  I spent my whole childhood in church but it wasn’t until I was an adult that participating in Lent ever even occurred to me.  I remember a girl coming into my store just 10 years ago and I thought she had dirt on her forehead.  It had not even occurred to me that it was Ash Wednesday; it just was not something I paid attention to.  When I finally began to intentionally work on my faith and become an intentional Christian I discovered what a gift Lent is.

For those of you (like I was) who only have a general idea of what Lent is, let me give you the pocket guide… Plain and simple, Lent is a time of preparation.  Just like you prepare the soil before you plant a garden, prepare your home for a new baby, or prepare yourself for an interview Lent is a time to prepare our souls for receiving again and again the gift of Jesus.  Because we are human and sinful and if you are anything like me a mess much of the time, we need to push pause from time to time on areas of our lives that are keeping us from God.  For some it is media, others spending, for some an activity.  Whatever the vice that keeps your focus away from God, Lent is a time to step away from it and fill that space with HIM.  If you would normally play on Facebook for an hour at night before bed, instead you could spend that hour studying scripture, in prayer, or serving others in whatever way God leads you.

Many people choose fasting as a spiritual exercise during Lent.  If you love chocolate, or diet Pepsi, or cookies (I’m looking at you Jeff Prince), fasting from what you love means an opportunity to look to Jesus every time you think about eating (or drinking) that thing you love.  Because of the common act of fasting during Lent it has become pretty mainstream to use Lent as an opportunity to give up a vice; even non-believers are now known to take part in the giving up side of Lent.

But what if it is not about giving up for you; what if it is about taking up?  What if God is preparing you for the coming of Jesus by asking you to take on something new for 40 days (or beyond)?  Perhaps you have been meaning to become healthier, read more, or serve more in your community.  Perhaps you have felt a conviction to speak with your husband, wife, or children with more tenderness.  What if you knew you needed to be healthier but also wanted more prayer time in your life, you could take up walking, or running, or swimming and spend that time in prayer and listening for God while also getting exercise.  Two years ago I felt God telling me to focus on patience during Lent.  Little did I know that 6 days later Jeff would stumble upon a job opening with Dave Ramsey and we would be faced with the longest year of our lives in terms of waiting and wondering and having to be patient.

If you are listening, God will direct you to what you should give up or take up.

While it is always good to give up something unhealthy or take up something healthy, it can be even better when there is a greater purpose involved.  If you have always given something up but never filled the empty space with God; why not try it this year?  If you are not a believer, why not just commit to taking time for meditation?  If God is not real, then you will just have some good quality quiet time to center yourself.  But if He is… offering that space for Him to move could (and I suspect will) change your life.  There are some incredible Advent devotionals; Ann Voskamp’s comes to mind first.  Choose one to follow, involve your family, your kids and make room in your lives and hearts for transformation.  Remember, it not just about GIVING SOMETHING UP.  It is about what you fill that space with that will make the difference.

So what is God preparing you for this Lenten season?  Will you give up or take up?  I can’t wait to hear what God is challenging you to do.

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Reflecting on the Path

So have I really made any progress on this path?

Nearly 5 months ago, I sat here and typed out the words that were flooding my thoughts.  I declared to the world (or at least the 5 people who read that day) that I was making a change to my life and here, on the pages of this blog I would chronical the journey.  God was calling me to share my story through 3 things.

Create. Relate, Share Jesus

That was the filter through which I would run all new ideas, all plans.  I felt confident that I had found something useful to guide me on my journey back to a life of purpose, a tool that would make the searching and the weighing and the questioning easier.  It has.  And at the same time it has not.

cre·ate  [kree-eyt]  verb 
1.to cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that  is not made by ordinary processes.
2. to evolve from one’s own thought or imagination, as a work of art or an invention.1

I assumed that create for me would mean visual arts.  I have always loved painting, drawing, clay and color; and in many ways create has been all of those things.  But create also became about words.  I began to recognize the stories in my heart that I longed to tell.  They fill my mind and I find myself constantly looking for a scrap of paper to scribble down an idea so I don’t lose it.  Creating became less about something to look at and more about a way of expressing emotion.  I’m still not writing those stories but I think I am getting closer to feeling brave enough to try.

God’s whispering of CLAY over months and months came to fruition and I started my small ceramic handprint business.  I started over when the pain of failing in a past business was still very real.  I have a few creative outlets but I still feel trapped some days.  I have a brand new easel that I have not had the courage to take out of its box and a stack of blank canvases waiting to become something beautiful.
I’m still trying to work out what I am supposed to create instead of allowing myself to be used as part of the creation.  
I am still getting in my own way but have experienced a healing that comes from moving in the right direction.
re·late  [ri-leyt] verb
to establish a social or sympathetic relationship with a person or thing1

If there has been one area that I needed work the most this was; and still is it.  I’m a strange kind of social person.  I love conversations, but just the real ones that draw you deep into relationships that can’t happen over chit chat and gossip.  I am practically incapable of surfacy talk – it is just incredibly uncomfortable for me.  I am more likely to get into some deep soul baring discussion with a perfect stranger than to talk about traffic on 31 with another parent at a basketball game.  I am all in or nothing it seems.  But I know that is not the way the game works.  Most people are not going to that soul baring place where real life happens if we don’t get through some obligatory “your shirt is so cute” conversatons to break the ice.

I am trying, glory I am trying.  When I go to basketball practice for the team of which I know NO PARENTS AT ALL, I want to just sit there and read a book.  I want to just read because otherwise I am going to either have to chit chat or make someone really uncomfortable when I ask them if all is well with their soul that day.  I’m just not good at the gray area there in the middle where the rest of the population is comfortable.

So I have started saying “yes” to new friendships, even those that start slow.  I said “yes” when God called me out with a coffee tweet from a perfect stranger who 4 months later I consider an absolute God-send into my life.  I’m still investing in the real relationships I already have as I invited women into my home for the If:Gathering where we shared our dreams and fears with one another.  I put my Nook down and jumped in on the conversation with the other moms at basketball practice last week, and I have started just smiling more at strangers instead of avoiding conversation in order to avoid the chit chat,  Who knows how many relationships I have missed because I didn’t take the time to just smile and let the chit chat happen.

PSA – I still hate the surfacy talk, so if we are going to be friends you have to promise me that we can move past this stage pretty quickly because I can just breathe better in a place where we are being real with one another.

Share [shair] verb 
to give others access to
Je·sus  [jee-zuh s, -zuh z] noun
the supreme example of God’s nature expressed through human beings

Is this what I am doing?  Am I doing it every day and in every way possible?  The desire of our heart is not always played out in our actions and in this I fall unbelievably short.  I am working on it but have so far to go.  Scripture tells us:
But encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb 3:13)

Isn’t that really what it means to share Jesus.  Whether sharing through scripture, prayer, a cup of coffee, or service; to share Jesus is to encourage others.  The lies that we tell ourselves about our value, our dreams, & our worth come from the enemy.  Those lies will deceive us and it is only through the hope of Jesus that we can overcome them.  I think that is what sharing my story is really about.  It is a story of hope, hope that I could not see when I was struggling and depressed.  My neighbor Jodie showed me Jesus in that dark time and for that I will always be grateful.  Friends have been encouraging me to put myself out there to speak to women and girls and with my hands shaking I sent a message to someone coordinating a women’s conference in town.  And he responded – not with the “Oh, isn’t that cute” response I expected, but with encouragement that he was passing my website along to his partner.  Sharing Jesus through sharing my story feels right – terrifying but right.

I still get it all wrong alot (most) of the time, but atleast now I know I am getting it wrong with a right heart.  God knows my intentions and is quick to show me when I’m working for my own glory and not his.  I’m still prideful, too concerned with appearance (though you would not know it by my outfit today), and terribly consumed with my own comfort.  But He continues to transform me every day.  Tomorrow begins Lent and I have some serious areas to focus on with God’s help.  I pray that by Easter I am further into this journey, and no longer struggling with the same things holding me back today.  I pray the same thing for you.

Casey
1) Definition from dictionary.com

With Both Feet

Originally posted on February 26, 2014

What do you do when you know God has been telling you for months to “tell your story” and all you keep asking is how; and suddenly how is staring you in the face?

What do you do if you finally admitted to yourself, your husband, and friends that you think you are supposed to be speaking to women – sharing your story and offering hope to them; and one of those friends tags you in a Facebook post of a Women’s Event looking for speakers?

What do you do when you are out of excuses, you know He has a plan, and your selfish, prideful fear is just no longer cutting it?

You JUMP.  Both feet, ready for the water, trusting that you will come back up.

A few weeks ago Lisa-Jo Baker tweeted  “Scared is the new brave” and you know what?  I’m just going to go ahead and believe her.  She is using her platform to raise money to build a community center in South Africa. You really should click here to learn more about it and make a donation. She is scared and brave and an absolute inspiration to me.  I want to be brave so I’m going to do this.  It’s totally normal to send this email to a random person I have never met, right?

Dear sir, I hear you are looking for speakers for a women’s event in Spring Hill.  Nope, no credentials other than God told me to – does youth ministry or speaking in front of our congregation at church count?  Awesome, count me in.

That should seal the deal, right?  I don’t care, I’m doing it.  I am reading Restless by Jennie Allen right now and last night as I read I knew I just needed to go ALL IN.  I needed to tell God I will do it, whatever “it” is.  Well I did, and today my girlfriend Casara tags me in a post looking for speakers and texts me this in response to me asking how you even go about beginning to speak…

“It’s just one small step at a time.  God told Moses, ‘Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’ (Ex 4:12) All you have to do is go.  Just move and He will do the rest.”

What a wise friend I have.  I’m sending this crazy message.  I’m getting out of the way and letting God move.  7 years ago I was drowning in depression – He redeemed my story and I have to start talking about it so He can finish it.  Here I go.

Casey

Books I’m Loving Right Now

February 24, 2014

I love to read.  Love. Love. Love to read.

But alas, life with little people and silly responsibilities like pesky house cleaning, and driving kids to and from school as well as that other important one, my job, leave me little time to devour books the way I would like.  I want to start sharing what I am reading in hopes that I can ignite someone else’s love of words or just help you find an encouraging word in the pages of someone else’s story.

Since Christmas day, I have only finished reading 2 books (seriously sad considering I have started 5).  I just started a new book today and already have my sights set on some new books for March.  In addition to these I’m also reading Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls aloud to the kids at night and they love it!

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann
This is a powerful story that left me speechless for a little while.  It took some time to process before I could talk to Jeff about how it impacted me.  It encouraged me.  It fills my heart with the truth that serving others matters and that being successful does not have to be a winning at all costs plan.

Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and Soul by Jennie Allen
I’m still working on this one!  It is a good read and Jennie’s voice is so honest.  I got so caught up in the If:Gathering that I forgot to finish.  Writing this post reminded me I need to finish it today.  Her willingness to do anything for God is an absolute light in a world of selfishness.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker
Is it bad to admit I was putting off reading this?  I remember hearing some time back that one of the books that messed with Jen while her life was being interrupted was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I literally QUIT READING Shane’s book because it was making me so uncomfortable.  It is phenomenal – I was just not ready to face the truths and realities he was sharing in his story.  So the idea of reading Interrupted worried me, I knew it would make me really think about my own life and missional calling.  I’m glad I waited to read it.  I’m still not sure how exactly to process what it brought out in me.  If you are ready to peel many layers away from the church you are used to and look at life as a called follower of Christ then jump in.  This book can open you up to MAJOR God led transformation of your life  and in turn the lives of many.

Restless by Jennie Allen
Tonight starts a live online book study and I cannot wait to dive into this one.  Jennie is the founder of theIf:Gathering and a mom and a dreamer and someone I would just love to sit and have coffee with because her big dreams just make me feel so normal!  She has a voice that needs to be heard by women all over the world and I’m excited to be a part of this study.

Hope some of these suggestions will speak to your hearts!  I would love to know what you are reading!  Leave book or blog suggestions in the comments!

Casey

Fear and Calling and Messing it all up

Originally posted on February 20, 2014

My mind has been swirling with thoughts and realizations lately that I am so far from the person I was 10 years ago.  I laugh to think of the work God has done in me and am overwhelmed to think of how far I still have to go.  When I was called to ministry in 2007, it made no sense whatsoever, but I followed and was blessed beyond measure by the people whose lives were woven into mine.  I have been pouring through old pictures and cannot help but get teary over the huge impact these teenagers had not only on my life but on the lives of my kids.  They were our family, and when I felt myself being pulled away from ministry I didn’t understand why, but I knew it was time.  I was struggling every day with the fear that I was messing it all up.  I just knew that one day my kids would shun the church that took so much of their mom’s time.  They would hate the Jesus whose ministry I was championing while leaving them for a week in the summer to go to mission camp, or on weekends for retreats.  I dreaded the day that they would have had enough of being in a church because for a season of our lives that is practically where we lived.  I knew I was in over my head and needed a reprieve.

I think I was pulled away for a time of rest, of reflection, and a time for God to grow and stretch me.  Now, I am feeling with every fiber of my being that I am being called back into ministry and I am terrified.  I don’t even know exactly what it looks like, but I have some pretty hazy visions in my head.  Jeff is cheering me on like he always does, the kids pray with us every night that God will continue to shine a light on the path I am supposed to be taking.  And all the while I am SCARED. TO. DEATH. When I think of what it all means, if I really jump in with both feet, if some of the HUGE things I see hazily in my head are real, then this is going to mean time away from my kids and from Jeff.  My life will change.  Every single time God has shown us a direction, He has delivered on it, why would this be any different – and that is what scares me.

Last night I was thinking about all of the different versions of me that I have been in my life.  I was imagining what each of those Caseys would think of or say to the person I am today.  I was laughing aloud as I imagined telling my 22 year old self that “No, I don’t exactly keep up with my every other week manicures, It may or may not have been over a year since I have stepped foot in a nail salon and oh yeah, my hair gets cut once a year at best.  I’m a vision really.”  I was reminded of a blog I wrote over 2 years ago when I opened my eyes to how different I was from who I thought I would be.  I’m glad I am not the same person, I am not sure I would even like the person I was back then.  There was way too much make-up, nail polish, and need to fit in to the Charlotte mold I was clearly not made for.  But I obviously have so much more stretching and growing to do.

I am still caught up in the same old stubborn patterns and I childishly dig my heels into the ground when I know I am supposed to be moving on.  We are all called to something important, and I don’t mean important in worldly terms.  I mean important because it is God’s calling on our lives.  Your important work will not be the same as mine, mine may not feel as big as yours, but it is all important.

But how on earth am I supposed to jump back into ministry, discipleship and leading other people’s kids when mine are a mess 99% of the time?  Maddie May literally smuggled a Cadbury Egg out of the grocery store on Sunday in her boot and proudly told me about it an hour after we got home.  That is its own story to be told on another day, but you see what I mean?  How do I have any credibility at all to share the word when I am so completely dealing with the exact same behaviors, problems, and concerns with my own kids?  I ask these questions, I toss excuses at God and I let fear of messing it all up keep me from obedience.  Then, today, I read this at Momastery and couldn’t decide if I felt encouraged that I’m not alone in this fear or more scared because if a bestselling author and speaker can’t do it without being scared then how can I?

But then I let my heart settle and I cannot get the truth out of my mind.  I am not the one who will be doing it; He will be doing the work through me if I will just get moving.  My heart hurts for young women today.  It is those young women in their late teens and early 20’s that are living with the same struggles and issues I was but it is all out there for the world to see because of the internet.  They struggle in ways we never did because no one knew you literally had fewer “friends” or people who “liked” something you did or said.  There is an entire generation struggling with being defined by things that absolutely do not matter and I just want to come up beside each one of them and tell them (maybe for the first time) who they really are.  They are not a number of likes, or an Instagram pic or a tweet that was or wasn’t shared.  They are loved and valued and important.  And life after this season is beautiful and challenging and more real than anything you are experiencing right now.

So I’m going to keep writing, and sharing as I try to follow His callings.  I have some big dreams that I want to share as the time is right, but for now, I just want my friends reading to know I am here being scared with you.  Whatever it is that you feel called to do, whatever is challenging your heart or consuming your thoughts, you can do it.  Because if it is His plan, you won’t be the one doing it anyways, He will be doing it through you.

What do you think you are being called to do that you are too scared to act on?

Casey

All the Jennifers – AKA 99% of the Women I Know

Originally posted February 14, 2014

From 1970-1984 there were at least 892 babillion Jennifers born in the US.  And at least half of those are in my immediate circle of friends.  OK, that might be a slight exaggeration but I can list 20 off the top of my head and that doesn’t even count my 2 newest favorite Jennifers; Jennie Allen, founder of the If:Gathering, andJen Hatmaker, author & my imaginary (I’m not a stalker) BFF.  According to Babycenter.com[i], Jennifer was not just the most popular name the year I was born, it was the most popular name from 1970 to 1984.  Y’all that is a lot of Jen, Jenny & Jennies.  I went to a girls night out last week and of the 10 women there 5 were named Jennifer – seriously.

And then there is Casey.  In the year I was born it was #261 in popularity.  It peaked in 1987 at #80. Bless it’s heart.  Needless to say, there have never been a lot of Caseys on my block.  When I was a little girl I hated it because the only Caseys I did know were BOYS.  I had a boy’s name.  Jennifer means Fair Phantom or White Wave (how romantic!).  Casey means Vigilant in War.  Seriously, what the heck was I going to do with a name like Casey?  I was girly, artsy, loved to dance and a hopeless romantic.  Again, Casey was a boy’s name.  My middle name was Lauren; couldn’t I just go with that?  How about a nick name?  Something cute, anything cute.  Nope.  “Case”, that was all I got – what else are you going to do with Casey?  Not cute.

In the mid 90’s while at the beach with a group of girlfriends we baffled everyone we met because our names were Stacy, Stacy, Traci, and Casey.  It was utterly ridiculous sounding but every time we were asked (as we were trying our hardest to be cute on the Myrtle Beach strip), we would say, Stacy, Stacy, Traci, and Casey – and people would look at us like we were mental.  I felt for the first time like my name was “like” everyone else’s.  It wasn’t the same but there was something about it that fit in.  Over those teenage years I met a couple of other Caseys and even declared one to be my arch nemesis (because that is the kind of thing you do in high school, right?)  And as the years went on I began to like the differentness of it.  I loved that if someone said “Casey is coming”, rarely did anyone have to ask, “Which one?”  It was my name and the thing I used to hate about it had become the thing I was beginning to love.  I even declared as a youth leader years later that we were all to refer to one of the new boys to our group as “boy Casey”.  He loved that, really he did.

The name was mine, I had grown into it, claimed it, and it had become a part of me.  If someone came to me as an adult and said, “Oh by the way, you are “Petra” now, that vigilant fighter would have come out and they would only manage to attach a new name to me with the force of an army.  Petra means rock[ii], like Peter means rock.  You know Peter, who was once Simon, brother of Andrew, called by Jesus?  Jesus met him and 5.2 seconds later changed his name.  And Peter (Simon) just went with it.

Can you imagine our lives if we just went with it every time God offered to transform us into something else, something he created us to be?

It is so interesting to me that Simon’s given name means “to be heard”[iii].  Isn’t that just exactly what we are all trying to do?  To be heard, to be known, to make an impact.  But Jesus says, “I have something more for you”.  Sometimes that something will just require a small change, sometimes a name (or more likely a title) change, but ultimately, He wants to literally transform you from who you were (a person striving to be heard) into who you were made to be (a rock on which Jesus can build his kingdom ).  Jesus wants to use you, but He needs you to understand who you are in Him first.  Maybe you are fair phantom or white wave, maybe you are a vigilant fighter, but maybe you are meant to be a ROCK.

Stop resisting, stop yearning for what someone else has be it a name, a gift, or a passion.  His plan is for exactly you, exactly as you are, whatever you are named.  If you are meant to have a different name, or place, or title, or position, He will do it.  We just have to be willing to go with it.  And just so you know, VIGILANT IN WAR is exactly who I pray I am every day.  And oh yeah, Casey is making a comeback… #90 for 2014, thank you Kacey Musgraves.

Variations on a Theme

Originally posted February 13, 2014

As a very young ballerina I remember many many years ago not understanding the name of our spring recital, “Variations on a Theme.”  It was beautiful with the music and the dancers, but I didn’t get what it meant.  This morning, I feel like God is confronting me with this again and hoping I will understand that He is trying to tell me something.  My dance is not going to look like yours, and yours won’t look like mine.  Our steps and even the music that leads us will be different – but they can both glorify God if we are focused on Him as the theme.

For months now, I have been conflicted with emotions and feelings about how biblical interpretation is discussed, believed, held tightly to.  It was during this morning’s If:Equip bible study of John 1: 35-51 that I was confronted with some questions that tie me back to all of these emotions.  My questions have all been variations on the same theme, a theme of interpretation.

As I wrote this week, I’m bothered by how we as believers “throw salt” at one another over disagreements on theology and doctrine, all the while forgetting that we are here to serve the same God.  I am bothered that as a society we choose to show a complete lack of Jesus to those who are different, believe different, practice different.  And we do it in the name of Jesus.  It boggles my mind.  As Christians, we cling so tightly to the interpretation that we were taught or that we have been given, we leave no room for the fact that the holy spirit can and will move differently in each us based on what GOD wants to teach us.

This morning God showed me that my inclination to talk about this is not the only variation on a theme.  The Gospel itself is its own kind of variation on a theme, the theme of Christ the living God. The theme of love incarnate.  

In John 1: 40-42 we are told of the calling of Andrew and his brother Simeon (Peter).  I had to stop and read it again and again because it told a story I know.

BUT IT TOLD THE STORY WRONG…  Seriously, I was arguing with the gospel.  I’m not kidding, I am that stubborn.

I cannot believe I have NEVER EVER noticed the difference in the calling of Peter as told by John when compared with Matthew 4:18-20 and Mark 1:16-18.  Matthew’s and Mark’s versions are the tellings I remember; those are the tellings that I have held to be “true” about the calling of Peter.  How arrogantly I hold tightly to my remembrances and retellings of events, even those of scripture.

It just goes to show you how wrong we can be to assume the bible will speak to each of us in the same way.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all there.  Literally in the presence of God and in a position to ask questions of how this or that really happened.  But when the time came to re-tell the story, they give a completely different account.  I find this fascinating because if we believe that the word is completely God breathed, then God had a reason for why each story was told in the way it was.  It is not like 4 women telling of their experience at the If:Gathering and the simple explanation that we all took away different meanings and lessons.  The gospel is God telling the story through men.  John was not wrong because Matthew and Mark were right, just like your interpretation does not have to be wrong for mine to be right.  God’s word will never contradict His character though and there absolutely will be wrong interpretations proclaimed as divine inspiration. God will never ever call you or me or anyone to go against his commandments.  Love will always be the theme.  The questions, the possibilities, it all makes me want to dig further into why God chose to tell the stories through these men in the way he did.  I may be sitting here all day with my bible over this.

What if we stopped clinging to our own “truth” of a reading or interpretation or difference or definition of sin and allow God to reveal HIS TRUTH as He deems it necessary to our lives?

I am craving insight into this… the thoughts and experiences of others.  Talk to me about this, invite and share this with your friends.  I think this is a discussion we could all benefit from.

How have you experienced scripture delivered to you in a different way than someone else?

How has God allowed you to tell the story from a different perspective?

Why can’t we see the beauty in this gift He has given us?

Is there someone you need to allow a second conversation to talk about the differences in your experiences and how they might actually be more alike than you first thought?

Casey

Stop Throwing Your Salt

Originally posted February 10, 2014

11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13

I hate conflict.  I avoid people and situations where I suspect my opinion on a controversial topic will be asked because while I am more than happy to share it, I detest the ugly back and forth that often comes next.  If people were allowed to simply talk together with civility about what they believe, share their convictions and then let God do the work of convicting in the hearts that need it then I would share without reservation.  And by the way, I’m not talking about hating to share my opinions and beliefs with non-believers.  I am talking about Bible claiming, well meaning, lost-in-our-own-pit of self-righteous, think-we-are-being Christ followers.

Y’all, what is wrong with us?  Seriously.  Believers sling mud at one another from pulpits, from blog posts and in 140 character tweets.  We are so desperate to protect the gospel from any perceived attack that we cannot believe that God might be using someone for their own version of greatness for the kingdom by speaking to them in a voice we cannot hear.  When we stand on our righteous platform and drop our self-proclaimed truth bombs on others doing their own kingdom work we are dangerously off the mark and destroying the body.

Jen Hatmaker says it best.  “We do not need to defend the gospel.  No we do not…We serve a kingdom that will not be shaken…Nobody can steal from us what Jesus already won for us…If we don’t have to be Jesus defenders then we are set free to be representatives.”

And the whole world said amen.  Or did we, can we possibly put down our shields?

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul tells us that God gave specific talents to His people.  I can’t think of many believers who would argue with that point.  But then he goes a step more and tells us WHY God equipped us in this way.

God gave us all different, specific gifts to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. (Eph 4:12-13)

We are not complete as a body without the work of each believer.  

My faith is in Jesus Christ.  That’s it, end of story.  My faith is not in preachers or pastors or teachers
for It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man, psalm 118:8.  
My faith does not lie in man’s interpretation of scripture.  My faith is not in a denomination or how many likes you or I can gain on a Christian blog post.  My faith lies neither in doctrine nor theology.  Only Jesus can save me.  Only His blood can cleanse me.  While people, scriptural interpretations, and bloggers certainly can point me to Jesus, my faith lies in Him alone.

I cannot understand why we fight about whose translation or tradition is best.  Why does she have to be wrong for you to be right?  God’s power is woven through all of scripture.  If He wanted it to be black and white with no need for us to wrestle with meaning, He could have made it that way.  I find it hard to imagine that the living word can mean something completely different in my life depending on the season but that it can’t have a different interpretation, revealed through prayer to another Christ follower.  God deals with each of us where we are.  He speaks to us in a voice only we can hear.

In the time of Moses, God made a point to give us a list of behaviors and heart conditions that we “shall not do”.  That list is pretty black and white.  But then he gave us Jesus; Jesus who make the list and the rules all blurry for the leaders and the teachers.  Jesus who by His very countenance became a filter with only 2 holes.

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

That’s it.  Love God.  Love Others.  If we would actually use that filter in our language, our posturing, and our actions, we would stop harming the BODY with our swords of words.  Your theology does not have to match mine.  Even if we fall on different ends of the spectrum on the biggest hot button topics (which is a whole other issue I can’t even get into today), your faith in Jesus is the same as my faith in Jesus.  What more could we need in common to want to join in unity?  Why can’t we just abide there?  Any conversation or disagreement can happen in a completely healthy way if we are abiding in the one thing that really matters.  Love of Jesus.

The full body of Christ will never reach its potential until we stop using our gifts and talents to strike down the kingdom work of other believers.  So you practice your faith as God has called you to practice it and I will practice as I am called.  Worship with a hymn or bongo drums, sing or pray in silence.  Serve poor people, or young people, or old people, or saved people or lost people because each and every one of those people is loved valued and important to God.  Be salt to those who need their sin revealed, but do it by shining the light God put in you.  Do your own work.  He will do the work in other people.  Salt works with nearly no effort needed, it reveals wounds people didn’t even know were there.  Matthew 5:13 says you ARE the salt.  Just keep being and giving and loving people and your salt will do its job.  We have to stop throwing salt at other believers – it scatters in the air and instead of hitting our target, it burns the eyes of those watching and cause them to lose sight of the One we are  serving.

Love God. Love Others.  In that alone we can abide in the unity of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Casey

Lies, Truth, and Your People

Originally posted February 8, 2014

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:24
Mercy this is long.  Y’all bear with me.  I promise I have a point.

It is just like Satan to take a person you admire, your favorite author, a sister in Christ and use her words to cut you and diminish your kingdom work.  I am a part of the IF:Gathering because God told me to be.  I found IF:Gathering because I was supposed to.

Little more than 6 years ago I bought my first bible study book, it was Girl Talk by Jen Hatmaker and it was the first time I felt like maybe I could actually walk this Christian walk without feeling completely out of place.  Reading her words made me feel (a little) less weird because she was also someone who was absolutely imperfect but still following Jesus.  It’s funny because I had to find her at that time, in my new walk with Christ where I was just dipping my toe into the water to determine if I was really going to be all in or just kind of keep my Jesus to myself. Because her language in that book was kind of easy for me to digest.  It stretched me just the little bit that I was ready for because I was not living life for Jesus at all.  If I had first stumbled upon her as Jen Hatmaker, author of 7 or Interrupted, I would have never made it through the first chapter.  I would not have been ready.  Over the next few years I read a few more of her early books.  I devoured Out of the Spin Cycle because I was in a season that felt like a tilt-a-whirl.  I was up, I was down, I felt pulled and pushed and altogether in a tailspin.  Then years went by without reading anything else Jen.  I call her Jen as if we are friends.

I don’t usually remember who wrote the books I love.  I will want to share a book love with a friend and I can remember the title but not the author.  Strangely though, I remembered who wrote that first bible study book I read… and then the next 3.

Fast forward to fall of 2013.  We have moved to Tennessee and I have a deep stirring in my heart that God has placed us here for a specific reason and that I am supposed to be doing something BIG.  I walk through my days in tension constantly wondering WHAT it is and WHY I am here.  I miss youth ministry but haven’t plugged into it here.  My heart is burdened for young women and those who are missing out on the absolute GIFT that is knowing Jesus.  I wonder constantly how I can be used to GIVE people Jesus sooner in their lives than I found Him.  And I hear Him, I hear God tell me clearly over and over that I am supposed to be telling my story.  I have no idea what that means, or how that plays out.  So I’m stubbornly not doing it.

One night after couples group, a friend who is a producer looks at me and says, “Do you know who Jen Hatmaker is?”  It was like my heart lit up.  I said, “Oh my goodness yes.  She wrote the first bible study book I ever bought. I love her.”

“Cool,” he says, “Because I got to spend some time in her home for a time filming and you totally remind me of her; your mannerisms, how you speak.”

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR YOU MADE MY NIGHT… To be told that you remind someone of a person you admire?  I thought, hmm, I love her words, but I have never even seen her speak.  I should check her out online.  You see was not really a blogger at that time.  I sporadically wrote things and rarely read blogs.  I was a book reader, not really a blog reader.

So I looked her up.  And her words and her message made me read 7. And she changed me more (because at this point I was a bit more prepared for that kind of radical challenging). And since I was now a person who read blogs,  I read this about the IF:Gathering.  And my heart began to pound.  And I started talking about this thing that I didn’t even really understand.  And I drove my husband and my friends CRAZY with all of my excitement.  But I knew in my heart we didn’t have the money for me to go to Austin for this conference.

But God knows and loves the desires of our hearts.  So one day, I read this.

So now there is not just IF:Austin, there is a gathering of women around our world and I knew God was telling me I was going to gather my people too.  But I didn’t.  Because that is STILL what I do.  I still do not fall on my face every day begging him to allow me to walk in His will – and then actually do it.  I was not gathering my people, I was not acting on His call until last week, when He pressed on me over and over and over and He refuted every single excuse I made until I finally said OK.  I am going to be a local host.  I am going to invite my friends into my home and pray that they come.  And God is going to move.

And they came, and HE MOVED.

Christine Caine told us yesterday that wilderness is not freedom it is just deliverance.  I have been in wilderness for years.  He delivered me from so many things that were trapping me, but I have not been free because I have not been obedient to keep moving out of the stinking wilderness.  Christine also taught us that we absolutely have to put aside the weight of opinion and entitlement.  Good heavens I have such selfish entitlement to live comfortably, to get all of my things done, to make sure I please all of the people.  I have not been performing for and audience of one as Ann Voskamp so eloquently described.

Last night I admitted to my husband that I’m not being obedient because I think I know what God is telling me to do.  When I look at the women in leadership at the conference I know deep in my soul that THAT is the thing I want to do.  I am supposed to speak, I am supposed to teach. My heart needs to share this Jesus that I love and the Jesus who loves the mess that is me.  I need to give him to teenage girls and young women who are lost and unaware that He is literally walking right beside them.   And as soon as it was out of my mouth I thought WHAT ON EARTH?  I figured he would smile his supportive smile and say well maybe you will.  Instead, he said, “That doesn’t surprise me at all.  Of course you feel that way.  I have told you over and over I know He wants you to do something big.”  Blessed man.

So now it was out there.  But just out there in the safety of my kitchen with my husband.

And today, in the small group questions, I get these two:
What makes your heart race?
What is God calling you to risk?

So I had to talk about it.  I had to tell my girls, “I am sorry but you decided to be here and you are about to hear my secret desire of my heart, and that makes you my people.  I should have disclosed it before but you are here and now you are stuck.  Hope you don’t laugh at me because I dream a little too big.”

But they didn’t laugh, and some of their stories and heart desires so beautifully complimented mine, and I spent the next few hours still a little whirly in my heart but thinking MAYBE God really is going to use me for this.  Because WHO, if not us, would carry this message from the gathering to the young women, so that in 20 years they are not sitting in the same living rooms wrestling with the exact same problems.  We kept laughing and saying as Christine Caine did, we need to “Get a New Problem”.  I believe the problems of the next generation can be more about actual kingdom work and less about having to deal with the nonsense that we create with all of our division, and drama, and belief of lies of the enemy.

I felt a little inspired.  I was excited to hear Jen speak.  I knew hearing her would move me, inspire me a little more, after all, she inspired me to gather with my people.  So of course Satan stepped in shouted at me the same trash I throw at myself all the time. As Jen’s talk flowed and challenged, and inspired, and convicted us, my mind was assaulted with accusations.

Who do you think you are?

SHE is doing real kingdom work.  Your passion is too small.

Teenage girls?  How hard is that?

Jen is talking about greater things… you are not up for greater.

Your burden is too easy.  Sure your heart breaks for them and for their future,
but they aren’t literally hungry for food.

Your burden is not big enough to worry about.  Real Jesus servants feed the
hungry and adopt   orphans.  You heard Jen.  Stop blessing the blessed and
thinking you have done something.

How can you equip the next generation to be world changers if you are not one
yourself? What have you even done that matters?

Teach it or Do it?

You are NOT qualified for anything like this.

My heart hurt, I ached, because I was listening to these lies and actually considering allowing them to paralyze me again.

Until I told my people. 

These women who God has literally woven into my life for a reason looked at me and asked of me the darn same questions I posed to our group last night.

If not NOW, When? If not YOU, Who? If not With God, How?

Truth.

I know it, I believe it.  I am getting a new freakin problem.  I refuse to allow past failures to keep me bound to this spot.  If God says move I am going to move.  If Jennie Allen’s dream became the IF:Gathering, my dream can be something real too, because if He called me, He will equip me.

“You must believe the truths of God’s word over the facts of your circumstances.” -Christine Caine

God used Jen Hatmaker to introduce me to bible study.  God used my friend Kyle to send me back to Jen Hatmaker so I would find about the IF:Gathering. Satan will not use Jen Hatmaker to diminish the kingdom work God has planned for me.  Knowing her heart through all she teaches, I am positive she would not allow him to use her for that so I will not allow it either.  If God has placed something on your heart, don’t keep it inside.  Tell your people, allow them to hear you, to feel your burdens. Then believe them when they remind you God does not call only those who are already equipped. He will equip the called.

Casey

O My Soul

Originally posted on February 7, 2014

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you.Many years ago, in a week that felt too heavy, a friend sent me a card with nothing more than these words written inside,

“Psalm 116 verse 7 has always given me comfort.  I wanted to share it with you.”

I opened my Bible and read what would become such a comfort over so many days.  It is the prayer I immediately turn to when my soul feels unsettled.  When things are hard or life feels heavy, I read it, or I pray it, or I just soak it in.

Be at rest… O my soul.

Not my body, not my mind, for those may run a mile a minute.  To allow your sould to rest means you are allowing your absolute connection to the holy spirit to be available to listen, to be comforted, to feel His presence.

…for the LORD has been good to you.

When you are in the moment where taking a breath takes herculean effort, when just looking up at the next hurdle feels as if it will break you; REMEMBER.  The LORD has been good to you.  God always has been and always will be good.  He will carry you when you cannot carry yourself.  Whatever fear has your soul in a state of unrest, whatever challenge is taunting you, whatever failure is weighing you down, hand it over to Him.  Allow your soul to rest so that no matter what is happening around you, your innermost self is ready to be comforted by the only one whose power is greater than all fears.

My dear friend’s mom is having a biopsy performed as I am typing.  She asked me to pray, to ask others to pray.  Immediately my mind turned to psalm 116, verse 7.  It is my reset button, my reminder that no matter how difficult this moment feels – the waiting, the wondering, the unknown, the fear – He has always been and will always be Good.

Love you sweet A!  Praying over you, your sisters, and your precious mama all day. Praying for your souls to be at rest so that you might feel the power of prayer lifting you all up.

Casey