A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand. One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something. Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame. I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity as a reminder. We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us. He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by...

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...

The Difference Between “Us” and “Them”

In my high school Persuasion and Control class, the teacher quietly distributed sheets of paper, then instructed us to work on our own to answer the questions on it: Who is “we”? Who is “they”? We (and probably they) use those words often, but what do they mean? There were a few other questions on the assignment, but they all stemmed from these two. After several minutes of personal reflection, we began discussing, and it was one of the most animated, perspective-changing, convicting class times I remember from high school. Our world was small at the time, but it didn’t seem that way. We had groups in high school, as I assume most do, and the open discussions about what we thought about ourselves, what we thought about others, and what we thought about what others thought about us surprised and unsettled us. The internet was just beginning to creep into our daily lives, so we didn’t have access to as many viewpoints as people do now. But I’m not sure that would have mattered. After all, we have access to a lot of information now; we can easily get to know people around the world or around the corner who are very different from us. Yet we still separate ourselves. Separation helps us feel protected, worthy, and justified. It helps us determine our identity, as we often deteriorate others’. “We” still define “us” and “them.” So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave...

Should You Quit Social Media?

I want to quit Facebook. Can I do that? My friend’s question was in response to the frustration of scrolling through her news feed and finding vague accusations and threats, gossip, and one-sided claims that blatantly disrespected people. And…all those posts were by Christians. Can you quit Facebook? Yes, you can. Should you? I don’t know. Sometimes we feel victimized by social media, and we get frustrated, but what about the positive influences? What about the encouragement we give and receive? What about the support (the healthy kind, not the “I’m going to jump on your bandwagon and say, ‘You go, girl’ when I should actually be telling you, ‘Whoa! Take a breath and calm down.'”)? What about the opportunities to reach out to and catch up with people (again, healthy connections)? Just like you have choices about who you hang out with on the weekend or who you call when you have a crisis or need an ear to listen, you have choices about social media. You decide how often you check social media. You decide who you connect with. You decide what you look at the most, which determines, to some degree, what floats to the top of your news feed. You decide what to post and how to engage others. Maybe God is leading you away from social media. And maybe He’s leading you to be more discerning. Apply some of the same lessons to your faith. You might complain about your church or specific people in it. You might get into inappropriate conversations with people, ask for affirmation when you really need accountability, or work...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 5

  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. But avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 It’s important to know what to say and what not to say. Restraint is as important as boldness. Both require submission and discernment. We need to understand pure submission, so we don’t confuse it with passivity or indifference.  With which do you struggle the most: restraint or boldness? How can submission help? Now every house is built by someone, but the One who built everything is God. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. Hebrews 3:4-6 Seeking the definition and purpose of pure submission humbly seeks God’s authority. It is only when we begin to fathom His authority that we understand the purpose of submission. It’s never self-serving. It always keeps God’s purpose and plan at the forefront. Because He is sovereign, truthful, and trustworthy, we can step into submission without fear or hesitation. It is still difficult, as it always is to pry pride and control from our hands, but it is worth the journey and effort. What do you believe about God’s authority, and how have your beliefs changed over time? Have you noticed corresponding changes in your submission and humility? Moses said to...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 4

I have told you now before it happens so that when it does happen you may believe. John 14:29 Jesus repeatedly declares “so that you may believe.” He continually reminds us to submit. We choose to follow over and over again. We choose to believe Him over and over. We choose to trust Him over and over. Faith isn’t a one-time commitment. We don’t get to check the box and move on. Knowing the pure meaning of submission is important to our lives. It reflects the truth. It makes a way in and for life. It’s persistent, just like God Himself. On a regular basis, do you fully take advantage of Jesus’ reminders to believe? How well do you listen to what He has told you? What then? Are we any better? Not at all! For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin. Romans 3:9 Submission positions us to see the truth alongside hope. We don’t arrogantly claim we’ve received, accepted, or achieved something others haven’t. Humility prompts us to want what we have for others. If we ever point out a lacking, it is only because we see our own and can encourage someone. We can help them see the possible hope. But the moment we let pride taint our attitudes or efforts, we weaken. Submission strengthens us. When have you thought yourself better than someone else, particularly in faith? How did you move on, or how can you now? Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up -Part 3

Pure Submission: Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up is now available at Amazon and PurePurpose.org, but we’re giving you a taste here at ICD! Through a series of posts, you’ll get several taste tests to whet your appetite for pure submission. Set the junk aside! Such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. Romans 16:18 It’s easy to declare things about “such people.” We separate ourselves from them, because we can always find someone who does something more or less than we do: whichever we need in order to prove that at least we have not done that, gone that far, stooped that low! Only “such people” would do that. But we are such people. As soon as we think of ourselves as better than someone else, we let pride get a foothold. We can see people’s weaknesses with humility: wanting to help, being willing to pray, refusing to gossip or judge. If we don’t, we’ll be faced  with the reality that we are “such people” too. Lord, lead me in Your righteousness because of my adversaries; make Your way straight before me. Psalm 5:8 In our submission, we trust God to lead us well. We don’t insist that He lead us the way we want to go, the most convenient way, or anything else that places confines around the way He leads. After all, that’s not submission. Submission is trust in His authority, wisdom, and guidance. In what areas do you doubt God’s authority, wisdom, or guidance? What...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 2

Pure Submission: Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up is now available at Amazon and PurePurpose.org, but we’re giving you a taste here at ICD! Through a series of posts, you’ll get several taste tests to whet your appetite for pure submission. Set the junk aside! But when I hoped for good, evil came; when I looked for light, darkness came. Job 30:26 Life feels this way sometimes. What we expect seems to be the opposite of what we get, no matter if we start with light or darkness, good or bad, right-side up or upside down. Life seems unpredictable and confusing. And that comes as no surprise to God. He is consistent and dependable, but we don’t know everything He knows. We can’t fathom His purpose and sovereignty. Things look confusing to us some of the time. There are things we are fairly certain about, then something tosses our expectations upside down. That’s why we can’t always trust our feelings and expectations. Our personal perspective can’t be the foundation on which we build our faith. We need to trust God’s perspective, and He will often turn what we believe on its head, but in the process, He actually turns us right-side up. How thoroughly do you trust God to define everyday situations in your life? What percentage of the time would you say you filter your experiences, feelings, attitudes, and reactions through His truth and invite Him to correct you? So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:4 When things get frightening or discouraging, we often blame...

Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up, Part 1

Submission has become one of those words (and concept) we’d rather avoid. It brings up stories and experiences of mistreatment, disrespect, and abuse of power. The concept has been hijacked by authority who have only their own interests in mind and want everyone else to do it “my way.” We live in a culture and time of applauding “my way”—unless it bumps into our own way. Or, we try to generalize what submission means, isolating Scripture to support our assumptions or preferences. We use the concordance, search for “submit,” then declare the limited results are all God has to say about it. In reality, submission is scattered throughout the Bible. We have to humbly search and change if we want to truly know and live well in submission. Susan Lawrence went on a search to see what the Bible (in its entirety) has to say about submission. Pure Submission: Turning What We Think About Submission Right Side Up is now available at Amazon and PurePurpose.org, but we’re giving you a taste here at ICD! Through a series of posts, you’ll get several taste tests to whet your appetite for pure submission. Set the junk aside! Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 Submission can be a wonderful thing. It can also, when distorted, be disastrous. Perhaps that’s why we struggle so much to understand what pure submission might be. We have seen so many twists on it, including damage it causes, we just want to toss submission aside. But Jesus didn’t free us from submission....

Journey Through Israel

There are many ways to “see” Israel. Most people sign up for a trip to Israel because they want to “walk where Jesus walked.” They do…sort of. I’ve watched throngs of people get on and off buses, follow a guide who sometimes has to use a microphone to be heard. Where microphones aren’t allowed or available, people hear what they can as they trek from one stop to another. It can be a good experience, …but there’s a difference between touring and journeying. The trips I’ve led have been a little different. We try to combine touring certain “essential” locations with exploring some less familiar ones. We keep the group small, so we get to know each other well and can help one another with questions along the journey. After all, journeying through Israel isn’t about sites as much as about heart. It’s not about gaining head knowledge as much as inviting life change. We serve the people of Israel so that we’re invested in people of today. We might be drawn by the past of Israel, but we engage in the “now.” We look people in the eyes and serve with our hands. It’s not a perfect approach. I always long for more. As I connect one place with another, I wonder what it would be like to hike instead of drive. I savor conversations inside the hotels and at coffee shops, which makes me want to seek out and enjoy even more connections with people. During the adventure of daily itineraries, I wonder about the simplicity of routines. I come across the people living everyday lives and...