Sunday, January 18, 2015

What to do with change?

It's January - otherwise known in this house as annual de-clutter month. Seriously. Drawers, closets, the basement. No place is safe.

Yesterday, it was my bathroom vanity. It started as a simple search for an extra button. You know the ones. They come attached to a sweater and you think you'll never need it, but can't quite justify throwing it out. SO instead you throw it in a drawer.  Yeah. That kind. 

In the midst of that hunt, I unearthed treasure.

We get back from trips all jet-lagged and travel-weary. With those precious hours between entering the house and heading to the office, we prioritize sleep above organization. We prioritize sleep above all else. The laundry gets sorted, we unload the essentials out of our luggage and pitch the toiletries bag under the sink for next time - often will all kinds of odds and ends still in there.

Excavating beneath layers of hotel shampoo bottles and quart sized plastic bags there it was... loose change. As I started collecting it, I found remnants from not one trip, but several. And in a fit of like-things-must-be-together, I went hunting in all the usual spots where change accumulates. 

I found 11 currencies - not including our own. 

We humans become accustomed to the way our own coins and currency feel, look. We attach value to those shapes and sizes. We understand the system. We can easily make sense from a pocketful of the familiar. 

I spent so many years in retail and have counted out so many coins, I think I can do it in my sleep. I feel accomplished and comfortable adding and subtracting the familiar. 

But there was a day that I stood at the corner market in Nottingham, hoping to buy just a few items. The clerk gave me the total and I pulled out a handful of change. I was so disoriented with the different shapes and sizes, I plopped the whole lot of it on the counter like a child buying candy. 

 ~ Here's all the money I have plus a few bits of lint. How much will it buy me? ~

It was embarrassing. It's not like I was dealing with yen or rubles. It's was England! But there I was with a handful of new. The colors were different. The textures were different. The weights were different. The clerk gave me a withering look and counted out the appropriate pence and pounds.

A handful of change from a different country feels unfamiliar. It's not our norm. Holding those coins gives you the very real sense that you have departed from your ordinary. 

Change. New. Different. Sometimes uncomfortable. Often disorienting. Change feels unfamiliar.

If we are to step out of our ordinary and into a new reality, we must embrace change. We must learn new colors and textures. Change isn't always shiny and fun, but there is always value in it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Where We Live - A response

We live in New England. Right now, the ground is covered with snow and the air is thick. We are salmon swimming up stream. In the midst of a mass exodus, we moved to the most moved-out-of state in the country.

Originally upstate New Yorkers, we knew what we were getting when we moved here 6 years ago. We anticipated the higher housing prices, higher gas prices and the outrageous! property! taxes! But there was still sticker shock after 10 years in the south. There are the things we didn't think about - the higher costs of plant material, clothing, groceries, lumber. You name it. It's more expensive here. 

The average age in America is 36. The average age in my state is 40 and rising. Young people are leaving because they can't afford to live here. Older people are leaving because they are retiring to warmer climates.

The practical
On paper, this was a bad decision. On paper, we should move back south where it's warmer and cheaper and there are more evangelical churches. We should move to a place where God is not shunned. Where there are Christian concerts and conferences. We should move to a place where people are more neighborly and there are more jobs and more cul-de-sacs. Where you can skate board in your shirt sleeves in December.

The Romantic
We spent a short time living in England and when we mention that, people get all dreamy-eyed. There's almost always a big sigh and the question, "Did you love it." While it's asked as a question, it usually more of a statement. And yet, old England has many of the same characteristics as New England - the very same characteristics that send people running. The weather is less than ideal (um. hello. 42 degrees and raining for months on end). It's crazy expensive. The taxes are INSANE.

The Emotional
If the typical reasons for living in one place over another aren't based on weather, taxes and cost of living, then maybe it's family that drives the decision. Some want to be closer to family. Some may want to be farther away, even if no one says it.

When I think about all these reasons for living in one place over another, this one question keeps hijacking the conversation: Where does God want us? 

This is where my faith has begun to trump my logic. Logically, the move to New England was a mistake, but when I watch how God opened some doors and closed others, I have to rest in the knowledge that THIS is where He wants us. It may only be for a season, and it may be for the rest of our days. But the question must always be Where does God want us? He has a plan. He determines where we live. This is where faith intersects everyday life.

IF I believe this is where we are called to be right now, THEN I must trust Him about the corrupt government and the high taxes and the expensive everything. IF this is where He wants me, THEN I must trust that He will provide for my needs - my financial, emotional and spiritual needs. He may not provide for my wants of family and block parties and deep friendships that propel me forward in my faith, but He promises to provide for ALL MY NEEDS according to his riches and glory.

May we walk in His way, no matter where that takes us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stumbling and Shining + a free Christmas printable

I was privileged to participate in a Women's Christmas Tea at a local church. This is the essence of my talk. Thank you! to the ladies of Praise for seeing past my nerves to my heart. I so loved being a part of your gathering.

“I had no idea you were a Christian.” 8 simple words spoken so innocently.

I was a senior in high school and a classmate stood there shocked. I don’t remember what we were talking about or how it came up, but that was her response. “I. had. no. idea. you. were. a. Christian.” 

You see, I’d transferred into the school as a junior. So here I was “the new girl” with no known history and I chose popularity over my faith. I chose parties over my relationship with Jesus. 

I took my light and hid it from my classmates. It’s not that I’d walked away from Jesus. At least not in my own mind. I still went to church and sang the worship songs. I knew the Word. And yet, the only thing this classmate knew of me was my reputation of running with the party crowd.

I’d love to tell you that everything changed after that conversation, but it didn’t. I went on living my double life. I attended a Christian college, and also knew the local bar owner by name. I called myself a Christian, but I was living in darkness.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

The Message puts it this way: Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness.”

Darkness is defined as the absence of light and Jesus says He is the light of the world.

If darkness is the absence of light, and Jesus is the light of the world, then darkness is the absence of Jesus. And that’s how I was living - in darkness because of an absence of Jesus.

So how could this happen? How could I be living in darkness when I knew the truth. I knew that Jesus humbled himself and came into this broken, sinful world as an infant with the sole purpose of living a perfect life and becoming the atonement for our sin and giving us life.

I’d "accepted Jesus into my heart" as a really small girl and never questioned that decision, but I certainly wasn’t shining with the light of the world. Instead, I was stumbling around in darkness because I my all-day, every-day life didn't have Jesus.

There was a gap between my theology and my reality.

There were 3 fundamental truths from John 8:12 that I needed to better understand to close that gap.

Jesus spoke to the people

I grew up in church. I went to a Christian college, but with all that, mostly I read these familiar passages as past tense. Anybody else guilty of that or is it just me?

And while this verse is written in the past tense, the truth is that it is actually present tense. Throughout scripture we see the consistency of God.

Psalms 89:34 says My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.

Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Based on these verses, is it safe to say that if Jesus said it to the people then, He’s also saying it to us today? If that's the case, if we've moved from the past tense to the present tense, the beginning could read, ‘When Jesus speaks again to Heather, he says…” 

Take a moment and reread the verse, inserting your own name.

When Jesus speaks again to _______________, he says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus speaks to the people. Present tense. I needed to understand that Jesus speaks to me.

The Light of life

I like to tinker in the garden, and one of the terms that I’ve come across in my gardening books is phototropic. It’s a fun sounding word: Pho-to-trop-ic.

It means that plants seek the light because it gives them life.

I grew up in western NY where winters were long and we could go weeks without seeing the sun. 

People in Rochester endure more than 200 days a year of cloud cover. We’re not talking about passing wispy clouds. We’re talking steel gray skies for weeks at a time. 

When we’d had enough, my husband and I moved to Richmond, VA and I’ll never forget that first winter. I worked downtown and my building had this huge courtyard. I would stand outside in my coat with my face to sun. People looked at me strangely. But, it was so novel for me – this idea of daily winter sun.

While I like the sun on my face, plants actually need it. In fact, they obtain energy from sunlight to create nutrition. The light literally gives them life. And this is the beauty of the Gospel. 

Without Jesus the light of the world - without the sacrifice of His life - we have no eternal life. 

I need to follow him

Salvation is a gift freely given, but the gospel is more than the beginning of our faith journey. It’s an important part of our every day. God sent Jesus to pay for our sins – not just the sin I committed before I knew Him, but the sin I will commit later today.
  • That unkind thought. 
  • The responsibility left undone. 
  • That moment when God asks something of me and I put Him off. 

Jesus became flesh, died and rose again to pay for every one of those. My actions today required Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

When we begin to understand the magnitude of the debt He paid, the love He displayed for us, that’s when following Jesus becomes more than a phrase and becomes a way of life. And we further close that gap between our theology and our reality.

In talking about his book, Follow Me, David Platt says:

when someone becomes a follower of Jesus we begin to think differently. We begin to desire differently. We begin to want what God wants. We begin to live differently. And that's a good thing, because we believe Jesus knows what's best. Our relationships also begin to change. We see the importance of the community of faith and the church. And we become more intentional about sharing the gospel with people who don't know Christ.”

We live in a state where many people don't know Jesus. They may know about Him, but they don’t know Him. New England is consistently ranked as one of the least Christian places in the country. 

If there are 50 houses on your street, statistically, yours may be the only one who knows that Jesus speaks to us today, that He is the light of light and what it means to truly follow him.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heavenMatthew 5:14-16

I don’t want anyone to ever say of me again, “I had no idea you were a Christian.” Instead, I want the light of life to shine through me so that they can know the hope that is Jesus Christ.



 p.s. My church has created this free printable of Isaiah 9:6. Download your own copy today.