Dust And A God Who Breathes Life

We are dust until He breathes life into us.

The exhale of His lungs is resuscitation to us.  Does it awe you to know that you are a billion molecules bound together by a single word from the lips of God?

Nothing more or less than a mote of dust suspended breathless and shocked by a crimson strand of grace.  It would change me if I believed that Almighty God really liked me.  Wouldn’t it change you?  His very star-making hands fashioned you.  He saw you before the dawn of creation, and He.  Likes.  You.  Quirks and all.  All creation waits, whimpering and lost, until it finds Him.  Until it finds itself found in Him.  I, heart lacerated, find my soul cool and laid bare before Him.  It’s in the quietness, the stillness, that I hush enough to hear Him.  Expecting a lecture, I find instead His embrace.  He offers, first and always, Himself.

To be held in His heart is to find perfect acceptance.  Not based on our faithfulness, but springing out of His.  Oh, if we could just slow and still and realize it’s not through trying harder that we find His smile, but in knowing through and through that He’s already done it.  Not for a second have we ever left His heart.  Through the years, and the choices, and the day-in, day-out rough-and-tumble of life…He never looked away.  Not once.

  • When I starved for control and the anorexia relentlessly consumed me…He waited, patient, to satisfy me.
  • When my need for affirmation became a raging hunger and led me to places I never meant to go…He lit the way back home.
  • When I doubted His goodness and pushed hard against Him…He leaned in and drew close, patient, gentle, steady.
  • When stupid choices broke my heart, they broke His first.
  • When idols filled my gaze and I reached out again to what would only devour me, He offered Himself, again.  And again.  And again.

As many times as I have needed Him, He was there.  He always is, you know.  The Great I AM is never the Great I AM NOT.  He just is and always will be.  He will never stop being, and being there, for His beloved ones.

The gift of His presence can feel like a curse to lips parched for blessings and eyes glazed with pain.  When we feel the need to tack on a happy face with Him as we walk through hell-scorched valleys, it’s no favor.  But does He ask us to pretend?  Never.  This life…it’s not a waltz through the park, and He knows it.  Being honest with Him is the only way to find strength in His presence through the dark places.

It is easy to feel the splinters in our crosses, and hard to remember that He carried them first.  It is easy to shock at the blood from our own wounds, and hard to remember that Jesus’ blood obliterates every sin, and will heal every wound.  White-lipped and dizzy, He drenched the dust of Jerusalem with sticky red and bought your soul and mine from hell.  “It is finished,” He said, and there is nothing we can do that will ever make it unfinished.  Nothing.  Like a wayward child, I toddle away, again and again, and always, He rescues, pursues, restores.

What does He see in us?  Not the sum of our choices, but the faces of His favorite children.  The One who can forget any sin, can forget exactly none of us, even the seemingly least significant, noticed, and worthy.  In fact, He can do anything but forget us.  We are caught in the cup of His hand, and we teeter so close, so forgetful of the glories of lavish grace.  We are amnesiac people, so easily distracted, and I feel the tug to forget like the incessant yank of a toddler.  Here I stand on the cusp of radiance, my toes nearly singed by glory, and my mind skitters over the grocery list, the to do list, and oh, I wanted to paint my nails.

Friends, I get it. Our eyes, tarnished by a patina of self-absorption, need Jesus.  Oh, how we need to turn our eyes and our hearts to Jesus.  If we could just do that…the mountain of weight we drag into His presence might shrink in comparison.  And the weight of promise in His name – the Great I AM – would settle buoyant on our souls.  And yet, I clutch my fist full of wishes and heave them to the summer sky, begging for blessings and protection and affirmation to cloak the skeletal cold of my distrust.  They flutter like snowflakes to the warm ground and melt in the heat of the moment, cold and momentary company for a heart that needs, more than anything, Jesus.

I have no need of blessings without the Blesser.  The protection I most need is not against some malicious evil doer, but the capricious and selfish nature of my own heart.  What affirmation is enough?  I am already His.  His child.  Seated in the heavenlies.  No circumstance will ever strip that from me.  When I remember who He is…I remember who I am.  And who I am…is inexorably linked to the Great I AM.  I can’t separate it.  Twined irrevocably, my identity is lost until I find it preserved in Him. (Psalm 103).

Dust?  Yes, we are.  But only before He breathes the breath of life into us.  You – undeniably His pride and joy – are so much more than the dusty labels you place on yourself.  Single.  Married.  Young.  Old.  Success.  Failure.  Businesswoman.  Mother.  Teacher.  Daughter.  Friend.  Strip them all away, and you’ll find the only one that sticks through all eternity:

You are God’s beloved child, forever.

 

 

 

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To The Soldier Who Wants To Forget

Days of remembrance are not meant to be torture.

I see you, soldier.

I see your shoulders, squared in military discipline, weighed down with unthinkable memories.  I don’t know what’s behind your eyes, but every once in a while I catch a runaway glimpse in your thousand yard stare.  I see the pain bubble up, aged and potent.  Old, yet raw.

There’s a hunger for absolution or amnesia that bisects your heart, sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

I’m just a civilian, not a soldier.  I get that I don’t get it.

I don’t know what you’ve seen.  I don’t know what taunts you, what won’t let you sleep.

I don’t know what part of your heart has been ripped out and left to bake on foreign soil, or what scenes play through your mind and weigh you down with unbearable regret.  I don’t know what ghosts accompany you when you’re alone, what phantom slithers through the rolodex of your mind.  Scalding, searing, wounding, and relentless.

I don’t know.

But I do know something.  Jesus knows.

You are defined by His scars, not yours.

At iBelieve today, I am privileged to honor our soldiers.  Please join me!

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Imago Dei – Image of God

Imago Dei.

Latin, meaning the image of God.  A tiny grouping of letters scattered inky over pristine white, 5 terse syllables, but what does it mean?

It means that engraved through your very core, you bear the signature of a God who cannot forget you.  Like any good Father, He can’t help but love you.  He can’t stop thinking about you.  He will go to any lengths to save you.

His were the first eyes to see you, microscopic in your mother’s womb.  Glinting back at Him, was you.  A fragment of His nature runs stitched through your soul.  A piece of Himself, sparkling and irresistible.  He made you.  And He loves, loves who He made.

Hear me in this: you are not a mistake.

You are beautiful and immutably priceless.  You are idiosyncratic, and that’s a good thing.  You are uniquely you, because you are like Him as no one else is or ever will be.  Eternity pulses through your veins because you are linked, irrevocably, to Him.

You are forever and hopelessly His favorite.

You are Imago Dei.

I’m over at Faith+Testimony today talking about what it means to be made in the image of God.  I’d be so honored if you’d join me!

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Dear Church, Let’s Stop Being Mean

Why is it that Christians so often act like mean girls?

There is so much nitpicking, so much criticism, so much arrogance and impatience within the church as a whole.  It’s like group regression to Junior High cafeteria who-sits-with-who.  We are so busy being upset with each other.  All the time.  It’s kind of a full time occupation, observing the faults of others within the first world church.  We are so insufferably…superior… over the lack of homogenization between denominations and families.  It’s like, the only thing we can agree on.  That everybody else has got it wrong.

I speak from no pedestal of immunity.  So much of my life has been wasted comparing, and criticizing, and being kind of obnoxious.  I’m sorry.

Can we stop with the fighting, already?  The mean girl behavior?  The discord?

Listen, I’m as guilty as anyone else of looking at the differences with narrowed eyes.  I get it.  I do.  Different is hard.  Different is scary.  But is different really bad?  Because that’s how we treat it.

There is only one thing that overrules every difference in culture, upbringing, occupation, life circumstance, or denomination.  Jesus.  He brings unity to the equation.  And oh, who isn’t parched for unity – the ability to come together different-yet-one, find a seat at the family table, and both celebrate and grieve in community?  That is the ideal function of the church as a whole.  Doesn’t it sound glorious?

Jesus is the what and the Who we all have in common.  From the deserts of Africa to the rice paddies in China to the McMansion in the ‘burbs to the sleek apartment in Uptown to the cabin in the sticks, we have one bond that ties us, irrevocably, to one another.  (That cabin in the sticks…that would be mine.  Town girl married country boy.  Different…yet one.)

We Christians are more alike than we are different, because we have the same blood thudding through our bodies, the same name tattooed on our hearts, the same Spirit within us.  We can be different in every other way, but if we have Jesus, nothing else needs to matter.  We can be unified as a body because we are united in Him.

Jesus is the common denominator.

It’s time we stop with the cat-fighting and the hair-pulling and the name-calling.  And the social media fighting.  #bekind. @jesus

There are issues.  Real issues, ones we can’t sweep under the rug, ones we can’t hide from and shouldn’t ignore.  I’m not saying we all just go into group hug mode and hold hands and sing campfire songs.  Yes, we need to have those conversations.  We need to hold each other accountable and hold each other up.  Sometimes, hard things need saying.  Every family has the need for a good sit-down from time to time, and the church is no different.

I agree, we as a church have issues.

But can we set those aside (not forever, you understand, but just long enough) to look one another in the eyes and say, “YOU are not the enemy.  We are family.  We are brothers and sisters, and whatever else happens, FAMILY STICKS TOGETHER.”

We are family, you know.

The Messianic Jews and the born-again Catholics and the die-hard Calvinists and the zealous Assembly-of-God-ers and the sober Baptists.  And everyone in between.  Jesus Christ is the connective tissue that binds us together, and love is our antidote to permanent injury.  The blood of a crucified Man flows through all our veins, and isn’t that enough to break down the dividing walls between us and forge unity? (Ephesians 2:14)

We don’t worship the same way, but we worship the same Who.

Isn’t that enough to coagulate us?

Listen, y’all: hands are not feet are not elbows.  We have diversity of culture, personality, and resources.  Can we just get over the “your way” and “my way” and get on with “His way”?  I am so done with infighting and backstabbing and snarkiness.  (My own snarkiness first and foremost.  Sick of it.)  Rupertus Meldenius said it best: “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”¹

Stand to the death on what really matters.  Hold the line and hold the light.  Do it for love and do it in love, but don’t waffle.

There are plenty of things, like the deity of Christ, sole path to salvation, and social matters of injustice, abortion, and the homosexual marriage issue that we dare not compromise.  We must be clear as Scripture is clear, and we must be kind as Jesus is kind.  We don’t need to choose between speaking truth or speaking love; we must speak both.  (Ephesians 4:15).

But there is a whole big world of preference and personal conviction that we just don’t need to tackle.  It’s not our job to police the little nitpicky stuff; it’s the Holy Spirit’s job.  So you don’t like the way she dresses or the cigarettes he smokes or the worship songs they sing or the Bible translation they’re using.

Have some charity, already.  Maybe the way you read your Bible on your iPhone gives them fits.

Maybe you can’t stand their traditions and rituals and rites.  People are different.  Hands, feet, and elbows, remember?  Maybe what is utterly empty and repetitious to you is rich with meaning and worship to them.  (Churches steeped in old tradition tend to give me hives, bless them.  But they really speak to some amazing Christians that I know and love, so who am I to say that it’s wrong?)

It isn’t.  It’s just different, and that’s okay.  It just doesn’t matter if you like hymns and I like TobyMac.  We can love each other and even learn from each other, but we have to set down our edged weapons and armored vehicles to do so.

When unity unravels, so do we.

How long can a backstabbing bunch of people stick together?  If we lose sight of what is really important, and Who we have in common, we are goners.  We cannot be more concerned with being right than being obedient.  “Love one another,” Jesus said.  “They will know you are Mine by your love for one another.” (Paraphrase of John 13:35).

Love must be our signature as Christians, and unity must be our tagline.  It has to be.  Otherwise, what are we but a bunch of jackals, snapping and snarling over roadkill?  I want nothing to do with that, and neither does a watching world.  Neither do you, I bet.  But we have to watch out, constantly, for the ways we unconsciously put each other down and build dividing walls.  It can happen without effort.

Here’s the deal.  If I am going to be with you for eternity, you had better learn to love me now.  Some things take practice.  Look across your church foyer.  Those people?  They are yours to love forever, and if you can’t stand them now, how are you going to feel about them a thousand years into it?  Practice.  Work it out.  Pray over it.  Pray over them.

I’m doing the same.  Because I get the privilege and the opportunity to love you.  And to love that diverse, loud, imperfect mob that fills the foyer at my church every Sunday.  It might take years to get it right, but some things are worth doing.  Loving well and authentically…speaking truth and grace…practicing unity…those top the list.

At the Supper Table of the Lamb, I don’t want to sit next to someone I stabbed with a fork twenty years ago.  It’s going to be far more pleasant facing my Father if I did as He said and used my manners with His favorite children.  (Hint: we are all His favorites.)  You with me?

(And just in case you’re nervous…here’s my fork in good faith.)

Grace and peace and here’s to unity,

Kelly

¹ Commonly attributed to Augustine, but here credited to Rupertus Meldenius.

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From a Work At Home Mom to The World

I am a work at home mom.

There is so much myth, stereotype, urban legend, and flat-out untruth that obscures the true identity of a work-at-home mom.  This is my attempt to set things straight…let the fruit cups and Teddy Grahams® fall where they may.  (Cue inspirational music here.)

Let the record reflect, I am neither an indoctrinated and oppressed barefoot-and-pregnant slave to an overbearing husband, or a lazy, welfare-sustained leech eating junk food and watching reality TV all day.  (That’s pretty funny, actually.)

And while we’re at it, let me clear this elephant out of the room: I don’t judge you for NOT staying home. First, it’s really none of my business to put my nose in your business.  And second, I’m pretty busy just minding my own business as a wife, a mom, an educator, and a writer.  My days are spent changing diapers, teaching my kid how to read, and keeping the baby from climbing the table while I’m stirring dinner and writing articles.  I get that it might not be your cup of tea.  Really.

My choice of professions is no judgment of yours.  I am not sitting here all judgmental, thinking how surely, I am so much better than those work-for-a-boss-and-get-a-paycheck women.  (See above.)  Also, there is no room for pride when you are brought nose to nose with your own shortcomings on a daily basis by tiny people.  Humble pie, once you get past the gag reflex, is a fairly nutritious dish…I eat it often.  (Like at the grocery store recently when the boys tag teamed putting the manic in their mama’s Monday. They alternated between feats of stunning danger to life and limb, such as standing up while seatbelted into the cart, and causing me to run around like a chicken with my head cut off picking up dropped shoes and dinosaurs.  Combined with Child #2’s black eye, which he acquired while massaging the stairs with his face, I got quite a few weird looks.)  No, I am not judging you.  For reals.

I’m a woman, just like you.  I’ve got good days and bad ones.  Just like you.  Some days we soar, and some days we crash, and most of the time, we just kind of have normal.  I think it’s both wonderful and terrible that I can wear sweats and a ponytail all day and no one cares.  (If I ever need an intervention, please, please don’t hesitate.  I’m begging.  In my yoga pants and pony tail.)

I’ve got a job, just like you.  The benefits are fantastic, but the pay in terms of dollars isn’t terrific.  (I am so understating.) But I can’t put a price on little hands wrapping around my neck and little voices saying “I wuv you, Mama!”  I feel blessed to do this work (I know that some people wish they had my job) and I hope you feel blessed in your profession, too.  I happen to work for the people I love most in the world, which is both awesome and hard at the same time.  Awesome, because I get to be around them all day, and hard because there is no break, people.  At all.

Hence, I am a little socially awkward right now.  Frankly, that’s what spending 24/7 with people who come up no higher than my belly button will do.  Please forgive me if I offer you a juice box or ask if you need to use the potty.  (Help us, Lord, may it never get that bad.)

You need to know that I have done the unimaginable in the name of love.  For instance:

  • I have ridden huddled and shivering in the back seat clad only in jeans and a coat on my birthday, not because of some wild night of partying, but because my 9 day old baby shot explosive poop all over me, my clothes (most especially my shirt), and the interior of the car during a diaper change.  Also, I have wiped poop off of walls, shoes, my purse, the carpet, my face and hair, my arms, the washing machine, and many other unexpected places.  Magic Erasers, we are BFF’s for always.
  • I have caught vomit in my hand.  And been thrown up on, all over.  Again and again.
  • I have spent an impossibly huge amount of life wiping small posteriors, emptying smelly garbages, and scrubbing stains out of clothes.
  • I have spent nights walking the floor with a wailing infant and days desperately lonely as a new parent and years wondering if I’m completely messing up these little ones.

In spite of all this, I chose this life.  Actually, I like this life.  I’m not a victim of my circumstances.  Right about now, you’re probably wondering why in the world this crazy lady enjoys her crazy life, but bear with me, will you?  It’s hard to quantify calling, but that’s just what it is.

I am living out my calling, putting feet to the Gospel in my own tiny corner of the world.  I’m pushing a broom for Jesus, wiping little fingers and faces for Jesus, and making PB&J for Jesus.

I’m watching you, living out your calling, being Jesus to your corner of the world.  You inspire me, you strong, faithful women, courageously and faithfully shining the light of Truth all over the world.  In your office, your classroom, your lunchroom, everywhere.

Because of Jesus, we’re not so different after all.

Grace and peace and pass the fruit rollups (they’re kind of tasty!)

Kelly

 

 

 

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