Happy New Year – Two Thousand Eighteen • New Beginnings

Maybe this year it can be different. Maybe we can do away with resolutions and embrace something radical. Perhaps if we do, we could actually end 2018 better than we arrived. If we let the light shine just a bit brighter each day, maybe they would WANT to be in relationship with us, conversations could happen, we could listen to each other, perhaps even walk with each other. Then perhaps, they could SEE…they could see Jesus, the Jesus of the gospel who often acted VERY differently than we do in the name of love. Maybe they could see who Jesus really was, in us. Imagine that. Twenty • Eighteen would then be a year of real transformation and not empty resolutions. It begins. Let us embrace this new year. Let us embrace the light that we have an opportunity to shine…Lord knows this weary world and her people need it. ********************** There is a song lyric that tends to replay in my head this season by a little known band named Semisonic, tucked within a song called “Closing Time.” “Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” It encapsulates so much in my personal life. It encapsulates so much of our journey at the Café. The Café was laid in my lap 11 years ago in a season of transition and it was an indescribable GIFT from the Lord. It was a gift in the midst of a season of saying “yes” and walking obediently in faith. HE alone brought it, cultivated it, moved in it and introduced me to some of the most amazing humans, scattered all...

When Glory was the hope of the humble

The heavy darkness of oppression had blanketed the Hebrew people for years. They ached for deliverance, for a mighty king to rise up and free them. Then, one ordinary day, an angel stepped in and promised a Messiah to a young, unmarried girl named Mary. And, startling enough, this world-redeeming King would grow within her virgin womb. Unbounded hope and raw delight must have filled Mary – that the Most High had knit her Messiah in her being. The fullness of God had been implanted in her and would grow to save her people! Yet, the Bible doesn’t tell us about exuberant announcements or joyful parties to welcome this prophecy fulfillment. Simply, she and Joseph continued on in faithful living, quietly proceeding with life and customs. In truth, the Bible says remarkably little about the pregnancy, delivery, or even the rearing of this God-child, Jesus. And, I wonder if that isn’t the point. Because, although they found favor in God’s eyes, this story could never, ever be about them. Yet, if there were ever grounds for spiritual hierarchy, it would be now – for who else could claim the status of being chosen by the Almighty Creator of the universe to birth and raise Jesus Christ, the Messiah? Was this couple ever tempted to insert themselves in this divine plan? Did they ever beat down pride, or wonder if being faithful to God’s ways really applied to them – after all, their child was God, prophesied by angels, born of immaculate conception. As far as we can read, their response seems to lack the stench of pride; it’s nearly impossible...

When Glory was displayed in the disgrace

Once upon a time, a young girl named Mary found favor in the eyes of God. And, on the brink of one of history’s greatest leaps of faith, this girl said simply: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary thus entered into the plan of God with a bowed head, willing to carry within her the presence of God in order to birth His glory into flesh. Yet, in Matthew’s gospel, we get a wider picture of the drama surrounding Mary – when she was found to be pregnant and unmarried. In these words, we start to understand the cost of Mary’s surrender. We begin to see the human heart exposed in the midst of divine work. “And her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19) Shame. Disgrace. Maybe even a touch of scandal. An unmarried girl, suddenly pregnant. What did people think? Did they jump to conclusions, whisper about her, share their disapproval? And we’re left to wonder – why would a holy, perfectly pure God choose to use this scarlet thread of disgrace while weaving His eternal plan? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 Prophecy declared it, yes, but certainly God Almighty could have engaged a staggering variety of means, outside of such a publicly disgraceful situation, to accomplish it. Truth is, I think we are all left a bit shaky at this unfolding – broken pieces of moral standards...

When Glory was birthed in a barn

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:6-7 There, Salvation was nestled among animal food. And, we wonder over God, this God who stepped off His throne and into human skin, laying Himself into a mere animal trough. Glory Himself was birthed into baby cheeks and tiny hands by a young, scandal-surrounded girl. How is it that we find the King of all in such a place? How is it that the Almighty God, the great I Am, bends Himself into a world of labor pains and dirty animals? And, it’s at times like this that I find myself both awestruck and inexpressibly moved by the story of Jesus’ birth. Of course, it’s a familiar one, and most of us can see the story line from miles away. But what consistently moves my heart? It’s the common. Each year, I find myself analyzing the details, trying to imagine what it must have felt like to witness the great and awesome God stepping into the everydays of some simple folks. Because, it’s natural for us to attach the concepts of splendor and power and mind-blowing radiance to our God. We exalt Him. We praise Him for the attributes we can hardly understand – His sovereign ways, His unsearchable wisdom, His unfailing love. His stands far above us, and we marvel, speechless at His majesty. Therefore, it is not without near bewilderment that we...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 23 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan. This baby isn’t due YET.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car, a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first...

Preparing for Christmas: A Seven-Day Plan

We face so many preparations this month. Christmas is right around the corner, and we have decorations to put up, gifts to buy and wrap, and scrumptious food to prepare. We anticipate spending time with family (and all the joy and frustration that comes with them). And although we have so many thoughts and tasks added to our calendars this month, we also have the usual routines and responsibilities of work, parenting, laundry, grocery shopping, and more. It’s a lot. It’s difficult to refocus once we get in the middle of mayhem. The time to focus is now, early in the month as the busyness begins. Today’s post is for you to print and keep where you’ll see it every morning, evening, or whenever you can intentionally read, reflect, and focus on God. Each day is not intended to be time-consuming (one more thing to add to your list!) but heart-consuming. Empty yourself of your concerns, schedule, and stress, and invite God to fill you with his presence, wisdom, and peace. Instead of inserting God into your celebrations, let him guide every moment of the month ahead, inserting the essentials and setting aside the unnecessary. Day 1. Prepare. The Old Testament is sprinkled with the foretelling of Jesus’ birth. It’s easy to see now, because we live beyond the birth of Jesus. Realizing the accuracy of the words spoken many years before is awe-inspiring. Read Isaiah 53 and let the prophecy soak into you. Day 2. Plant. It’s easy to allow truth to be uprooted. We’re surrounded by clashing messages. The messages with a little truth mixed with a lot of...

Christmas without Shame

    “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3.17 NIV). Every Christmas, I feel God giving me a personal theme of what He wants to resonate in my soul for that season. This Christmas, God is practically shouting to me, “Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus” (emphasis added) (Romans 8.1 NIV). Why is this Truth so difficult for us to grasps? Why do I still wake up every morning having to engage in a mind battle to capture every little negative thought that comes into my mind and bring it to obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5). “You didn’t work hard enough yesterday.” “You said that stupid thing to your friend.” “What makes you think you can be a Christian communicator?” “You messed up as a wife, mother, friend, daughter, etc.…” Each morning, it’s like Satan is just waiting for me to wake up, so he can throw accusation at me. The funny thing is that no matter how perfect I try to be, he will always find some way to accuse and shame me. The Bible says that our accuser is ALWAYS at work shaming us (Revelation 12.10). I would always grin and bear it until God showed me recently that I was so busy playing defense to the enemy’s schemes that I was losing my offensive advantage. Every Christian has the offensive advantage through Christ. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater...

How To Get Your Heart Right This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and yet if I’m being honest there are days in this season of life when it is just plain hard to be thankful. Shocking, I know. I shouldn’t be saying that to you, I should put on my Patty perfect pastor’s wife hat and pretend to have it all together…but, I just can’t do that anymore. You and I both know that being real with each other is so much healthier than some pretend story of how someone else’s life is more put together than yours. Plus, it is a reality that many can relate to right now. I can count my blessings, I can try to be positive, but let’s face it–life is hard sometimes and it’s not enough to know that fact in your head, you’ve got to give it time to get your heart. So, what are you supposed to do when you should have a heart of thanksgiving but your heart and your head aren’t talking to each other? That’s a great question and I’ve found some incredible wisdom for us right here in this verse; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 ESV Let’s dig right in because this is just too good to wait on…if we are anxious then chances are we aren’t going to have a heart of thanksgiving, will we? We’ll be, well…anxious. Worried, frazzled, distracted and trying...

Freedom to SERVE one another…Happy July Fourth

As we pause to celebrate the many freedoms that we enjoy this July Fourth, may we too pause to reflect on how we serve our fellow man, regardless of those things often taint our view of each other. Pause for a moment and reflect on how you express your love for others, even the unlovable, by serving them in grace. May we ALWAYS see freedom as the opportunity it is to not serve self, but one another, the way Jesus would, setting aside pride and embracing the real gospel of love and grace. We have the freedom to love because LOVE freed us, and we are challenged to LOVE our neighbors, and that means all of them, (even the ones you disagree with.) It’s only in freely loving each other in grace, that we walk out as real witness what the Gospel of Jesus was all about. Enjoy the fireworks. Enjoy the picnics. Enjoy the celebrations of freedom and reflect on what it really means to one who has been made FREE. It was and never will be about you. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke...