Thursday, December 8, 2011

For Love's Sake

I met Beth Moore last weekend. My friend Mary Margaret and I had attended one of her Living Proof Live conferences and we ended up at the same restaurant as Beth (another story) when the conference was over.  I waved at Beth and told her I’m from Arkansas (where she grew up). She immediately came over and gave me a big hug! It was such a neat moment for me and is a really special memory. I am a big fan of Beth Moore and have always thought it would be fun to meet her. And it was!

BMoore giving me a hug. Props to Mary Margaret for being quick with the camera!

But it was not the highlight of my weekend. I don’t say that to minimalize my Beth Moore encounter, because that was a really big deal to me. But also this weekend, I got to spend some time with one of my favorite people in the world: Margie Butler. I don’t know if she’ll ever read this and if she does it will probably make her uncomfortable because she prefers to be behind the scenes. Margie is married to my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Rex Butler, and while I was a seminary student living far away from home, they took me in as an adopted daughter.
Margie and me

Margie is one of the godliest women I have ever known. Her faith, while very private and personal to her, is on display for the world in the way that she loves the Lord, her husband, and her family. It is on display in the way that she serves selflessly and gives of her time and skills sacrificially. It is on display in the way that she took in this loud, flashy, hurting seminary girl and loved on me in ways that make me cry. Margie’s faith is solid, her advice is sound. She loves the Lord more than anything or anyone else in her life.
Margie Butler and Beth Moore don’t have much in common. They are opposites in a lot of ways. But they both love and serve the Lord with their whole lives. They both live godly lives in front of people like me: younger women who are striving to love and live for the Lord but need some encouragement from time to time. Margie and Beth are examples of women who are fighting the good fight and who will come alongside of a younger sister, put their arm around her and say, “I know this is not easy, but I promise it is worth it.”
So was meeting Beth Moore a highlight of my weekend? Absolutely! But what really meant the world to me was getting to sit next to my New Orleans mom during church last Sunday. Beth Moore mentors the masses through her writing and speaking, and she is effective in that way. Margie Butler mentors me through being a spiritual mother in my life.
Life in the daily grind is what discipleship is all about: being there for someone in every season, in every mood, through every holiday and every Tuesday. It is about helping us smooth out those bumps in the road that can totally sideline us if we let them. These women—the ones Paul talks about in Titus 2—teach us by example. They are loving their husbands and children and displaying the qualities of a godly wife, mother and friend just by letting us live life alongside of them. Are they perfect? Of course not. But personally, I respect a woman more for letting her imperfections show.
While having the discipleship conversation, I feel like I always hear older (not old, just older than me) women say, in essence if not in words, “I don’t have anything to offer my younger sisters. I’m not that impressive.”
I’m not sure how to say this nicely—THAT IS A LAME EXCUSE AND A LIE FROM SATAN. Here’s the discipleship equation. Follow along with my wicked math skills:
1.       Are you older than me?

2.       Do you still love Jesus despite the trials you have been through in your life?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER ME. And by ‘me’ I mean all of the younger sisters in Christ with whom you come into contact on a regular basis. Please do not claim some false modesty excuse when actually you’re afraid to let someone find out that you aren’t perfect. Or you don’t think you have the time to invest in someone. Listen, my generation of young women NEEDS godly role models. Won’t you do your part for the next generation of Jesus-loving women, and befriend a girl who needs some spiritual mothering? On behalf of my generation, I am imploring God’s women who are a step ahead of us in their faith journey to turn around and give us a hand.
And for the girls my age—we aren’t off the hook. Lest we think our own generation is the one most in need, I would like to point out that when we were teenagers, there was no such thing as sexting. Ladies, our younger sisters need a hand, too. We weren’t in high school/college so very long ago. We have some insight to offer.
Loving and encouraging one another through life’s trials is putting the Gospel on display for the world! Women of God, for the sake of the Gospel--for love's sake--let’s be Titus 2 women for our little sisters. Besides the fact that it is what we are commanded to do, it enriches our lives so much. The return is so much bigger than the investment. You have kingdom impact and you gain some family members in the process! I can’t imagine anything more meaningful.

Titus 2:3-5:  Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Heart for Sale

When I lived in New Orleans, some of the women there began a ministry to women working in the sex industry. The ladies involved walk the streets of the French Quarter, building relationships with the dancers in the clubs, the bouncers, and even the club owners. They are doing a beautiful thing by loving these girls where they are, with a gift or maybe just a smile, and blanketing Bourbon Street and the rest of the Quarter in prayer. Their task is not easy. But those girls are worth the risk. 

When I hear the word ‘prostitution’ my mind paints a picture of what I’ve just described: people in dark rooms or on dark streets selling sex for money. We sometimes hear prostitution described as “the world’s oldest profession.” But there are other types of prostitution.
In Genesis 15, God made a binding covenant with Abram. He promised that Abram would give birth to a nation whose people would outnumber the stars in the night sky. God made good on His promise to Abram, and several generations later Abram’s descendants outnumbered the stars in the sky. Exodus 1:7 tells us “the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.”
But as the Israelites became a great nation, they forgot about their covenant with the One True God. They hadn’t so much as gotten out of sight of the Red Sea (remember that one time when y’all walked across on dry land?) when they crafted a golden calf idol to worship while Moses was on Mt. Sinai with the Lord. Over and over (and over) we see the Israelites turning from God in disbelief or impatience and worshipping other things. It’s easy to look back on that and think, “Silly Israelites. Don’t you know that the Almighty God is on your side? I would never be that spineless.”  But oh, we are. And in a thousand more subtle ways.
The more I read of the Old Testament, the more I see the big picture: God provides for His people who promise to love and serve Him forever-- or just until, you know, they forget about that promise. Then they turn to some other idol, and God in righteous anger allows the Israelites to suffer until they return to Him. Over and over the Israelites sell out to other gods. Over and over He takes them back.
God is still doing this for us: He sees us in our sin and redeems us and offers us life with Him. But before long we turn our backs on Him. Some girls prostitute their bodies. So many more of us prostitute our hearts. How many of us seek the applause of others? Our need for the approval of others goes to our very core. We lay our hearts on the line asking of anyone who will listen, “Am I enough for you?” While the One of whom we should be asking these questions waits patiently for us to turn to Him.
Inevitably, we get hurt. Maybe then we turn to God. But soon, we follow the lure of the world away from the safety of His arms, and we get our hearts broken again. I can only imagine how much it pains our Father to watch us cast out our hearts like a fisherman casting his line, waiting and hoping for a bite. We do this over and over, after each disappointment reeling our hearts back in a little more broken, a little more bruised. Can temporary applause satisfy our heart’s longing to be loved unconditionally? Of course not.
 Oh girls, we were created for so much more than what we have become. I think God must weep when He sees His daughters hurting because we have sold our hearts at a price that is far too cheap.
I would not speak about this prostitution of the heart if I was not a repeat offender. Over and over in my own life I have looked for fulfillment everywhere but my Heavenly Father. And I am here to tell you that apart from Him, it is not to be found. True fulfillment, true wholeness, is found in Jesus alone. Not in your boyfriend/husband or your bestie or your mentor. Acts 4:12 tells us, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
So let’s stop selling our hearts to those who mean well but who just cannot meet our soul’s deepest need.  The One who fearfully and wonderfully made us loves us like no one else can. He deserves our hearts. More than that, He wants our hearts. The promise He makes us is one that no one else can make: He will never leave us.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I am not an animal person. If you know me, you know this about me. Especially if you know me and you have animals and I have been to your house. It’s not that I hate animals—I don’t. I just don’t like your dog’s wet nose leaving snot on my pants. And I don’t like feeling the need to wash my hands every 30 seconds. It’s not personal. It’s really not. But animals have this way of knowing when you aren’t an animal person, and it becomes their life’s mission to convince you otherwise. Well not me. Sorry, Kobi.

However, I do enjoy looking at animals. I love the zoo. I like pet stores. And I enjoy watching animal videos. There was one that went viral last week of a biker getting plowed by a leaping antelope. One of my ultimate favorite Youtube videos is called “BBC Talking Animals.” I nearly choke to death every time because I’m laughing so hard.
Today I came across another animal video. It was of a guy on a motorcycle traveling down a dirt road and wearing a helmet camera. There are fields on his left and a canal full of water on his right. If you’re paying attention and you look at just the right moment, you can see a speck in the canal at one point. He turns his bike around and goes back to where you may or may not have spotted the speck. It turns out the speck is a calf. Alone, wet, and lost, she has no way of getting herself out of the canal.
The driver hops off of his motorcycle and pulls out, essentially, a rope. Clearly this tells you that the driver was a man, because only a man would just happen to have the tools needed to rescue a farm animal. If the calf had had some sort of stubborn grass stain, I could’ve come to the rescue with a Tide stick. Or if the calf had had chapped lips, I could’ve offered 6 different glosses in varying shades and textures. But a tow rope? Sorry, it’s in my other purse with my monkey wrench (I don’t actually know what this is) and my WD-40.

First, MacGuyver tries to get to the calf without getting in the canal but he quickly realizes that in order to rescue her, he’s going to have to get wet. So he climbs down into the canal with the calf, ties the rope to her, climbs out of the canal, and drags her out by her front feet. He then picks her up, lays her across the front part of his motorcycle, and drives her back to the herd.
I love how God can use a video about a lost baby cow to speak truth into my heart. This poor animal was lost and alone. It was only by chance that the driver even spotted her in the canal. But miraculously, he did spot her and even more miraculously, he came to her rescue. How humbling it is that God does this for us! He sees us in our distress and instead of staying where he is and demanding that we come to him, he meets us where we are. He climbs down into the smelly, muddy waters with us. He doesn’t give up, no matter how much we fight him or how complicated our situation is.  He rescues us and, in those moments when we are too weary to walk, he carries us.
I know what it is to feel lost in the wilderness. I know what it is to feel unseen and unnoticed. But praise God that even darkness is as light to him (Psalm 139). When I’m blinded by my own despair, my Father can see the big picture. I may not know my rescuer is coming, but he knew all along that I was meant for more than drowning in a stinky canal. My rescue is sure. My hope is secure. And so is yours.

Psalm 103:2-5:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 34:17-18:

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lyla's Letter

This past week, my bff Jenni had a baby. Jenni and I were roommates my senior year of college. The two of us plus two other wonderful women, my friends Lindsey and Micah, make up a foursome we nicknamed the Bumpass Belles. The story of how the Belles came to be is for another day, though.
Jenni and her husband Jonathan decided not to find out the baby’s sex, which has been no small torture to those of us who wanted to know whether we should buy pink or blue. So when the time came for the baby to be born, there was more than the usual anticipation. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, we received word that the baby had arrived. Jonathan stuck his head out of the delivery room and announced to those of us gathered around the door, “it’s a girl!” We. Went. Crazy!
An hour or so later, Jonathan placed little Lyla Nicole in my arms for the first time. As I looked into her sweet face, I came unglued! Through my tears, I held her and praised God for this tiny miracle.
The next day I bought Lyla a copy of the book “On the Night You Were Born,” a beautiful children’s story written/illustrated by Nancy Tillman. The book’s final stanza reads: “Heaven blew every trumpet/and played every horn/on the wonderful, marvelous/night you were born.” The last page of the book reads: “You are loved.”
In the back of the book, I wrote Lyla a note telling her about the day she came into the world (including an Arkansas State Red Wolves win!).  I told her that there has never been a moment when she has not been loved, that there has never been a day when she has not been prayed for. I also told her that my prayer for her life is that she would grow up to love and serve the Lord like her parents do. I want Lyla to know that she is loved by the people in her life. But above all else I want her to know that she is loved by our Heavenly Father, her Creator and the One who loves her best, and I want her to love Him back.
It means the world to me to be able to speak these words over Lyla’s life. It is my hope that her parents will read it to her, and then once she is able to read my note on her own, that it will encourage her in her walk with the Lord. I want her to know that the love of family and friends is precious but incomparable to the love of God. This is a lesson that I am still learning in my own life, and while it is not an easy one to learn, it has the power to change everything about the way we live.
Can we speak these truths to our little sisters? Can we take them by the hand and tell them about the all-surpassing love of Christ? That is what I want my life to be about. I want to leave this world knowing that I have nothing left to give, that I have left all of my human love and affection behind, still living in the hearts of those who needed the encouragement. I want my life’s message to be, “it may not have been easy, but it was worth it.” And I want to proclaim that message with my arms around those girls with damaged hearts. Because let’s face it, who among us is not damaged in some way?
May we be on the lookout for our sisters who need a reminder that they are loved, and may we always point them to the love of Christ.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A New Coat of Paint

About a month ago, I moved into a new apartment. I was SO excited about decorating my bedroom because for several months now, I’ve had a vision of a very feminine, very fancy purple and white bedroom. Part of the preparation for moving meant that I would need to re-paint my antique iron bed. I woke up one Saturday feeling ambitious, so I got out in the backyard with my bed, some sandpaper, and a can of white spray paint.
Have you ever sanded anything? It’s not fun. It’s hard work, for one. Second, the little sand granules come off and get stuck between your toes, because you are wearing flip-flops because you didn’t know how dirty your feet were going to get. Because unlike Jesus, you are not a carpenter.  So, I’m sanding. I’m sweating (because it’s August in Arkansas) and I’m sanding. And as I sanded away at the spots where the previous coat of paint had chipped away, the Holy Spirit began showing me something. In order to put a new coat of paint on this old, rusty bed, I have to make the rough places smooth. If I don’t, the new paint won’t stick. And I can’t just sand the big spots, I have to hit every crevice and curve of this piece of furniture to ensure that it is ready for the white paint.
As I rubbed the sandpaper into even the unnoticeable corners, I thought—this reminds me of what God does with our hearts. He takes us as we are—chipped, beat up, flaky, and having seen better days. And then He begins His restorative work in our hearts. And it is painful. If my iron bed could talk (which would probably mean I’m having some sort of spray-paint fume-induced hallucination) I’m sure it would have given voice to some painful moments as I scrubbed away with the sandpaper. But that was the only way to make smooth the rough places. I knew how great my bed was going to look once I finished my work on it. I did it to improve the overall appearance and value of this piece of furniture. But I first had to expose the weak spots so that I could repair them.
Doesn’t God have this way of doing that to us? I don’t know about you, but my weak spots seem to get a lot of scrubbing with sandpaper. Part of me thinks that getting a rubdown with actual sandpaper might be less painful than the figurative scrubbing that I sometimes receive. Broken relationships. Feelings that are hurt too easily. Insecurity. Fear of rejection. And all of that, sometimes, before lunch.
So where is the hope for those of us with chipped paint? Our hope comes from knowing that we have a Master who wants us, who values us even when we are rusty, old and flaky. He can see past our problems to our potential. Though we can’t see past our circumstances, He can see the end result of his vigorous restoration of our lives, and He won’t give up until His vision is accomplished. It’s scary. No one likes to have our wounds rubbed raw. But if we belong to Christ, we must trust in our Master’s vision for our lives.  It is not easy. But it is worth it.