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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love Wins

Love wins. This simple phrase has taken over our nation and my social media platforms, our conversations and 24-hour news headlines. It's pulsing through our minds like a Times-Square ticker tape.

Love wins.

Maybe you've posted something like this on your Instagram within the last few days:

Or maybe you've posted something like this:

Or maybe you haven't posted anything at all (like me, until today); instead, you've simply observed.

There has been plenty to observe.

The things I've heard and the things I've read have really blown my mind. People's ability to graciously and compassionately disagree is largely extinct. Hatred is flowing from both sides of the debate, and each camp views the other as intolerant and ignorant.

I kind of want to curl up in fetal position in a dark room and take a month-long nap until the noise quiets.

Then I pause, and I breathe. I get quiet. I come before the God of creation, the God who made me and you and every person in every camp, the God who knows our sinfulness and our lifestyles and our fears and our dreams. I sit before Him and remember His graciousness and compassion. I remember His abundance of tenderness, and His ever-flowing well of forgiveness through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The chaos subsides. The truth shines clearly.

First and foremost, we are all sinners in need of saving. All. Of. Us. The second those of us who profess to follow Christ start to hold ourselves in higher esteem than others, we will find ourselves in severe danger of being just like the Pharisees that Jesus chastised in Scripture:
"None of you should be called the leader. The Messiah is your only leader. Whoever is the greatest should be the servant of the others. If you put yourself above others, you will be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored. You Pharisees are in for trouble! You're nothing but show-offs. You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You won't go in yourselves, and you keep others from going in." - Matthew 23:10-14
If those who walk with God would walk in humility, with a true understanding of our own depravity, our approach to other broken people would drastically change. Instead of elevating ourselves and looking down on the masses, seeing broken people as projects and sinners to convert and cleanse, we might instead first stand among and beside them, commiserating with them. We might vulnerably share our own brokenness and sinfulness, and stand first as one people, all of us broken and in need of a Savior.

We could lead by example instead of chastising. We could lead by loving people the way Jesus loves us: sacrificially and wholly.

Secondly, God's people are called to stand as a light of truth in this dark and hazy world. Standing for what we believe by holding firm to God's Word and to a belief that His truth is unchanging in an ever-changing world is something that should overflow from a place of humility and love. If we stand for the truth as a Pharisee might, willing to point out the sins of everyone around us all whilst ignoring the giant plank of wood in our own eye (Matt. 7:3), we might as well be nothing more than a "noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1)," making a bunch of noise that ultimately drives people away, both from us and from their Heavenly Father.

Truth spoken in love, however, has a much different effect. It breeds compassion and respect, and ultimately growth in the kingdom of God. Ephesians 4:13 says:
"Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the Head of the body. Christ holds it together and makes all of its parts work perfectly, as it grows and becomes strong because of love."
The Church has an incredible opportunity right now. We can walk humbly and speak truth lovingly and respectfully to a world that looks darker every day, realizing that ultimately it's God's job to change hearts and lives and lifestyles and so on, and that our job is to represent Him honestly and consistently, ultimately lending credence to the fact He is who He says He is, and that His ways and truths are worth living for. We can carry the gospel of Jesus Christ into our world by living the gospel in our world.


We can walk arrogantly. We can be loud and brash and angry. We can stir up dissension and try to change the world ourselves, in our own way. We can fight with both fists raised instead of turning the other cheek that way that Jesus would (Matt. 5:39).

If you choose this path, just do me one favor - don't do it in the name of Jesus. Don't make Him look bad. Don't drag Him through the proverbial mud, taking those who desire to represent Christ biblically and wholeheartedly along with Him.

Presenting truth to a world in which black and white have melted into a drab gray cannot be forgotten. It's part of the very fabric of the gospel. However, it must be presented in humility and love. 

This requires us to engage with people. To build friendships with people who live and believe differently than we do. To step outside of our comfort zones and into a brave new world of loving people who aren't like us.

My pastor said it so well in an email he wrote this week on the subject of the Church's response to marriage equality: 
"It comes down to relational evangelism.  Build those relationships!  May the love of Christ come through as we are “salt and light” for the gospel."
This means we must step down off of the pedestals many of us have placed ourselves on in order to stand side by side, sinner by sinner, next to our friends in other camps. And we must realized that God loves every person in every camp, and that Christ died for us all. If that doesn't bring us to our knees, humbled, I am not sure what will.

In the end, Love wins.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Grace Wins (that time I forgot to go to the baby shower I was throwing)

Hello, dear friends! Long time, no communicado! Things have been even crazier than normal in my universe as of late. 

The school year drew to a close, ushering in an onslaught of unnecessary class parties and faux-graduation ceremonies for five-year-olds and trophy presentations for the t-ball league that doesn't even keep score.

I went on a cruise. Alone. #hatersgonnahate

We sold a house. And bought a house. And moved into the new house in the middle of renovations so all of our stuff was covered in sheetrock dust and then plastic protective covering, in that order.

I planned a baby shower for my dear friend of 20 years and then forgot to attend and throw said shower. #yesyoureadthatright 

You might be wondering, "how does one forget to attend a baby shower one is throwing?" The answer is...apparently very easily.

I wish I could blame missing my girlfriend's celebration of her soon-to-be firstborn on the chaos and stress that abound when you move a family of five from one home to another, but no. I wish I could blame it on the overabundance of activities on our calendar at the end of the school year, but no. I wish I could blame it on anything other than my own error, but no. #itwasmyfault #filethatawayunderstuffonlyjordanwoulddo

When my girlfriends and I were in the planning stages for this baby shower, a lot of dates were tossed around. Saturday, July 11? Sunday, August 2? Maybe Saturday June 6 or 13? It started to sound like Charlie Brown's teacher's voice after a while..."wah-wah-wah-wah, wah-wah-wah-wah." The A.D.D. part of my brain apparently checked out due to details overload and -- hey, shiny things!

Ultimately we settled on a date: May 30. Which was a Saturday. NOT A SUNDAY. #iknowthisnow

Don't ask me why, but as the shower approached I saw it in my mind on my calendar (that I should, in theory, have looked at) on Sunday, May 30. I realize now this was not even a real day - it was either Saturday (5/30) or Sunday (5/31). There was no in-between. I received the invitation one of my cohosts mailed out: a shower for Allie, Saturday May 30. Again, in my head it read Sunday, May 30.

I was SO confident that the baby shower I was throwing was on Sunday, May 30, that I planned my son's birthday party for the entire day of Saturday, May 30. #letthatsoakin

The morning of May 30 arrived and I woke up and started scrambling to get everything ready for a day spent taking seven boys under seven to an air show in Atlanta as part of a birthday celebration for my middle child. I made grocery store runs. Bought more snacks and junk food than was necessary. Packed coolers and candy and sunscreen (did I mention it was 95 degrees that day, as was made evident by the steam coming off the asphalt where we were sitting in misery the airport parking lot). I tried not to think of how tired I would be the next day after having a bunch of six year olds stay for a sleep over in the house we'd lived in for six days that was covered in plastic sheets and sheetrock dust. I made a choice to muscle through it, because the next day was important: I had to throw my friend's baby shower. #yeahaboutthat

We packed the boys up and carted them off to the airport to see the crazy trick airplanes and synchronized fliers. We arrived and had to got to pay $25 for parking. We got the boys coated in sunscreen, grabbed our coolers, the blankets (to sit on), and the wagon, and off we trekked with seven boys under age seven to find a place to camp out. No sooner had we found a spot to sit before they were hungry, so we fed them $5 hotdogs from the concession stand. They were thirsty, so they drank their Sprites and then asked for a Capri Sun, completely depleting my drink supply in less than five minutes. The start of the air show was delayed and the boys started asking to go home and swim before the excitement even began. The birthday boy was in tears because he was "hot," and rest of the boys were constantly screaming in awe and crowding around the people in front of us, who weren't fans of us, because somehow I think they thought moving forward would help them see straight up into the sky better. #itdidnt

After watching two planes (out of a total of about 20 that were flying in the show that day), the boys unanimously voted that we return home to swim. So we made the mile or so hike back to the car with a crying six-year-old who was hot, six other boys who were amped up on Sprite and Capri Sun, two coolers, a pile of now-dirty blankets, and the wagon. #thisisfunright?

After we returned home I quickly got all of the boys changed into swimsuits and did what any good mother would have done: I sent them to the pool with my husband while I took a nap. #noshame #okalittleshame

After a short one-and-a-half-hour nap I forced myself to reenter the chaos and donned my own swimsuit and cover-up, then headed down to the pool to assist Super Dad. As I walked down the street toward the swim and tennis area, I pulled out my phone and checked my email, then opened the Facebook app to see what amazing things I had missed that day.

First I saw someone's post about the government's role in 9/11 and how we are all sheeple who blindly follow a corrupt socialist agenda. *sigh*

Next I saw that it was a friend's birthday, and I quickly wrote her a greeting, adding to the other 597  "happy birthdays" that were already posted to her wall.

Then I saw it. My heart still races when I think about it today. To say I was horrified doesn't even begin to describe the depth of my emotions.

Posted with a caption that read something like, "so excited to celebrate this mama-to-be today as she prepare's for baby W's arrival," was a photo of my friends. At the baby shower. That I was throwing.


I spastically punched at my phone, desperately trying to pull up my contact list so I could call my sweet, lifelong friend who was very probably unhappy with me at the moment. Her phone rang and rang and went to voicemail, and I left a quite frantic message, something along the lines of, "OMIGOSH OMIGOSH OMIGOSH OMIGOSH OMIGOSH, Allie! OMIGOSH! Your baby shower! I missed your baby shower...that I was throwing for you. OMIGOSH! AHHHHHHH! Ok, wow. Wow. I am SO sorry. I mean, seriously, I am SOOOOOOOOO sorry! Call me back, k?"

I then immediately dialed my other girlfriend whose home we were using to host the shower. She answered immediately. "Hey there..."

Oh, the horror. The shame. I didn't even know where to begin.

"Emily. OH MY WORD. Emily. I forgot Allie's shower today."

Emily, being the gracious southern belle that she is, immediately responded, "Oh, Jor, it's ok! I just thought you were swamped with moving and that you decided you couldn't come."

How could I tell her that, no, I didn't miss the party because I was swamped with moving, and no, I didn't miss it because in the crazy end-of-school year madness I forgot.

I missed it because, in my mind, it was scheduled for Sunday May 30, not Saturday May 30. Because my son's birthday party was Saturday May 30, which could only mean that the shower I was throwing had to be on Sunday May 30. #ireallydothinkiamlosingmymarbles

In the end, my friends were able to laugh about, and Allie forgave me and knows that I love her, but I have to be honest - I felt absolutely horrible. Like the worst of the worst of friends.

Over the next several days I felt the enemy heaping condemnation on me. It's just like him, isn't it? He takes the smallest (well okay, maybe it wasn't the smallest) of offenses and uses it to diminish not only our senses of self worth, but also our perceptions of the love God has for us.

I started to feel like I was underperforming as a human being and as a Christ-follower. That I was constantly disappointing my kids, that I wasn't meeting my husband's needs, that I was a fair-weather friend, and the list goes on and on. Satan is great at planting lie seeds in our heads that sprout and quickly grow out of control. I was in a funk and I was emotionally beating myself to a pulp.

Then, as often happens in these scenarios, I dragged my battered and broken self to the foot of the cross, where I lay in exhaustion and weariness. I opened the Word and I read a section of Scripture that I've seen a thousand times before, but this time it was just for me and it was life-giving to my soul.

"...sin didn't, and doesn't have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life - a life that goes on and on and on, world without end."
Romans 5:20-21

A bit more simply put is the very same truth, this time found in the lyrics of one of my favorite songs:

Where sin runs deep your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Your holiness is Christ in me

My big-time mistake (missing the baby shower) wasn't a sin, mind you, but I still carried the weight of shame and condemnation that was rooted in the lies of the enemy. And, being real, I have sinned enough for all of us, so plenty of time my shame is rooted in the depth of my depravity.

Shame is heavy. Condemnation latches its claws around us and holds us in a death grip, refusing to release us. We live as slaves to our mistakes, to our pasts, to our inadequacies, and we feel like we're suffocating under the weight of it all.

And then...GRACE.

When we bring our heaviness to the foot of the cross and we lay down the lies of the enemy for the truth of who God says we are in Christ, everything changes. The darkness of sin and shame is replaced by the bright light of grace. Apart from Christ we are all the horrible things Satan speaks into us, and then some, but when we are hidden in Christ we are as pure and spotless as the Lamb himself. Praise the Lord!

I love the version of Romans 5 I shared above (The Message). I especially love this part: "All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace...invites us into life that goes on and on and on..."

Sin is death. GRACE IS LIFE. Let's choose life and allow Him to heap His grace upon us.

I allowed my sweet friends to heap grace upon me after my major friend faux pas. I chose to believe that they love me and see the best in me and know my heart, and to accept their forgiveness and understanding, which were things I didn't even want to extend to myself. We laugh about it now, and I, of course, now triple-schedule things (laptop, iPhone, and paper planner). After missing my dear friend's baby shower, two parent-teacher conferences, and friends coming to my house for dinner (I was out running errands when they showed up on my doorstep, majorly confusing my husband), I decided it was time to pull out the big guns.

If I happen to forget about something important in the future, though, I reserve the right to use this as my excuse:

Well, a sort-of awesome mom. Ish.

Feel free to laugh!