You Be You

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In four months, I will be celebrating my 48th birthday. It’s not one of the “big” birthdays. It’s a normal birthday celebrating 365 days with breath in my lungs. Sometimes the normal birthdays are more difficult than the milestones.

This year, in particular, I am more aware that my life is changing. My daughter will graduate from high school and I will be the mother of two college students. My vocation is changing, too. I’m leading a congregation, considering an additional staff member, and coaching other women in ministry. It reminds me that somewhere along the way I graduated from rookie to experienced. So why do I still feel like a rookie?

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In the midst of decision making, someone recently said to me, “You be you.” It stopped me in mid-thought and made me laugh. You be you.

We try so hard to be anyone else but ourselves. In our 20s and 30s, we’re trying to find ourselves. Sometimes we’re trying to lose ourselves. Other times we’re trying to please everyone but ourselves. But in your 40s? In your 40s you finally realize you cannot run from yourself. Wherever you go, there you are.

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This idea of “you be you” cannot mean the same at 30 as it does at 48. Too many things have happened to tell me it holds a different meaning now. At 48 I want to be me. Maybe because I’ve tried being so many other people and the clothes don’t fit.

Here I stand at the entry point of 2018 and the goal of being me. The real one; the one God intended me to be from the start. This me likes coffee and reading and deep thinking. This me wants to shape my world and occasionally be shaped by it. This me thinks we’re better together and that quiet time is good for the soul. This me wants you to share your innovative ideas and hear a few of mine. This me believes we need each other in community if we are going to be the person God intended us to be.

You be you. Yes. This is what I want to do in the coming year. Be authentic. I’m betting this is going to be harder than it sounds. But it cannot be a difficult as trying to be someone else.

Happy New Year! Wake up from your recliner and you be you!

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An Open Letter to Rita

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Rita, I hope this letter finds you well. It has been a little over 24 years since I have seen you last. I was young in so many ways. Young in years. Young in character. And young in the faith. You took a chance on a broken, baby Christian and hired me to work in your Christian daycare. I look back at that time and think I should have been paying you.

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You taught me much about marriage, parenting, faith, and life. And it was almost exclusively by example.

You were one of the most observant people I knew. Your social awareness was admirable. I remember the notes you would leave in our employee boxes. You took notice of the times we made an extra effort in our work and you thanked us for it.

You often sat near the employee log-out book to thank us for coming to work. Who thanks their employees for coming to work? In the last 24 years since I left? No one.

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You were a person filled with grace. It was a perfume that lingered when you left the room and it inspired others to rise to the challenge. You found a way to bridge the sacred and the secular and modeled the incarnation in profound ways.

In the years since I left your employment, I have thought of you often. You were a shepherd to children and broken people and your tenderness abounded.

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Your life and your witness gave me hope. It gave me hope that even a broken, lost soul like me could find my way. And I did. Most importantly, I found The Way. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ beside me. Christ within me.

Twenty-four years ago, all those souls I was praying for? Almost all of them have found Christ, too.

I am confident it was God’s providence that caused our paths to cross. Today, that broken, floundering, baby Christian has grown to lead many to faith in Christ. My husband and my children know the Lord. I planted a church. And I teach others about marriage, parenting, faith, and life.

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You poured into my life and you need to know that your mustard seed of faith has grown into a large tree where even the birds can make their home. May Grace Christian Learning Center continue to produce a harvest 100X its size. May God’s blessings rain down on your family. And may you have confidence you have been the hands and feet of Christ.

Merry Christmas!

Sincerely,

One no longer broken

Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet, when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.  – Matthew 13:31-32

When Life Tries to Swallow You Whole

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But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good.I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ [Jonah 2:9]

Jonah is a Hebrew prophet. You can read his story in the Old Testament portion of the Bible. Some may only know the children’s version of a large fish swallowing Jonah up.

Several years ago I preached a message on the story of Jonah. It was a two-part sermon and at the end of part one, I left Jonah in the belly of that large fish. Someone in the congregation, who had never heard the story, asked me later what happened to Jonah.

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I was thinking about that conversation again this week and the story of Jonah. It is a short book of the Bible and it covers only a few months of Jonah’s life. Yet, it is the only thing we really know about the prophet. One vignette and a few months of his life shapes our entire perspective of Jonah.

And just like that, I felt compassion for him.

The book of Jonah doesn’t really paint a pretty portrait of the prophet. He is disobedient and obedient. He is angry and fearful. He is judgmental and gracious. He is faithful and unfaithful. And the story ends unresolved.

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It made me think of another conversation I had this week. A friend encouraged me to give someone another chance. And I thought about Jonah and how hard we, the Church, are on this prophet. We come to an opinion about him with nothing but a three-month window into his life.

I think there are seasons in our life that mark us. Seasons we may not be proud of. Seasons that haunt us because we were not living up to the standard God has called us to. They were seasons of fear or anger or desperation or pain. They were seasons that corrupted our souls and the lives of those we encountered.

Often times those seasons of our life require God to send a large fish to swallow us whole. At the time it feels like God is punishing us. But, just like the prophet, we see in hindsight that God was rescuing us from ourselves. He allowed us to look into the abyss with the purpose of extending us grace upon grace.

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Sometimes it seems like life is swallowing us up. Here’s the good news. It is only for a season. You have been given grace upon grace to mark your life with better days.

And we have also been given the grace to extend to the “Jonah”s in our life. We are reminded that, like us, those moments and seasons do not represent the broader scope of one’s life. Our experience may have left things unresolved, but God is the One who resolves all things in the end.

For Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world”.