IF:Gathering

Word of the Year 2018

The last few weeks I was asking myself the question, What’s the opposite of fear?

God answers a question in funny ways sometimes. It wasn’t the answer I expected, but it was the answer that was right in front of my face.

I had tried to answer the question on my own, going down a rabbit hole of online thesaurus entries. I had gone to Google instead of God.

Google makes me feel like I’m somewhat solving my problems, because isn’t research the first step to a solution? When I need an answer, I sometimes go to God, but I almost always go to Google. My safety net when I’m stressed is Googling, planning, and worrying. Google always has an answer, even when that answer is buried in a message board, contained in a comment made by someone who most likely has no idea what they are talking about.
— Amena Brown, How to Fix a Broken Record

The reason I wanted to know the opposite of fear was because I thought it would make an excellent word of the year for 2018. (Yes, I still haven’t settled on a word yet, and it is almost March. Better late than never.)

Last night, attending my IF:Local, God gave me the answer so clearly that I felt almost silly that I hadn’t found it. I also felt so loved and seen. God hears our unspoken questions.

When God’s Word hits you smack in the face, sometimes it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels like an overpowering hug from a toddler without knowledge of his own strength.

At the beginning of the year, I was trying to figure out what word I should use for my word of the year. I couldn’t tell you. I could tell you what I didn’t want for 2018. I didn’t want more fear-driven good behavior, fear-driven people pleasing, or pride-driven good works. I have been working on letting go of those things so hard that I wrote a book about it

I knew I didn’t want fear driving my year in any way. Thus my search for the opposite of fear.

The key verse for 2018’s IF:Gathering was 2 Timothy 1:7, and it says this, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.

God just flat out told me the opposite of fear in that one Bible verse, and I laughed in delight and wonder.

Here’s the hilarious thing. I’ve been podcasting about the opposite of fear this last month, and I didn’t even recognize what I was doing.

In my Quiet series for the DevoPod, I dedicated part of the study to breaking out of quiet through serving in God’s dynamite power.

God’s power is absolutely the opposite of fear. God’s power is full of love and it comes more easily if we are connected to our source of self-control or a sound mind, His Word.

It is so clear what my word for 2018 is because I’ve already been thinking about it, writing about it, and trying to live wrapped up in it. It is dynamite.

Eat your heart out J. J.!

71696164.jpg

I shared this on Day 11 of the Quiet series on the DevoPod.  The Greek dunamis loosely refers to “strength, power, or ability.” It is the root word of our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic.

We can take comfort that we can serve in God’s dynamic, dynamite strength.

If you are one of those people who know a lot about God’s Word or maybe have the Logos app, you might say that the word Paul used for power in this verse is actually translated from the Greek word dunameos, meaning miraculous power, might strength from the root dunamai. I would say, why are you being a party pooper? And it is a verb related to the cognate-noun dynamis. And please be nice to me because I’m not a Bible scholar, and I’m being upfront with that. I’m just a girl studying God’s Word, like we all are empowered to do.

If you are one of those people who know a lot about science, you might say that dynamite wasn’t invented in the first century when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. I would also say, why are you being a party pooper? I am not one of those people who know a lot about science, but I can Google it and see that Alfred Nobel invented it in 1867. He named it from this greek word dunamis calling it Nobels Extradynamit, and “J.J.” Jimmy Walker didn’t make it fun to say until 1974 so what of it?

So that’s my word for 2018: Dynamite

It’s already been an amazing year! Check out our adoption update!

What about you?  Have you chosen your word for 2018? Do you have dreams and struggles coming up this year and need some focus? It's not too late to do this fun, focusing exercise. Sign up to receive my Word of the Year Worsheet by email if you need a little help finding your word.

This song is so stinkin' good! So many of our fears are silly in the light of eternity. It's such a good reminder to love, love, love.

Hexagons, IF, and Faith Adventures

This weekend was the IF:Gathering, and like the previous two years, leading an IF:Local in my city kind of took over my life.  I know that sounds like a bad thing, but it really isn't.  I love serving my city and the women in my small church that get to attend our big event in this way.

This year's IF:Gathering decor was full of the hexagon pattern.  It became so much a part of my life, as I built big hexagon art for the stage and stamped programs and table runners, that my son was convinced it was my favorite thing.  Like this SAT analogy:  my son Gabe is to Star Wars as mom is to hexagons.  Monday was my birthday, and at the dinner table, Gabe wanted to know why everyone in the family hadn't drawn me a hexagon picture.

The truth is that Gabe isn't wrong.  I have been a little in love with the hexagon shape for a while.  I even used hexagons in my writing when I wrote my eBook Faith Adventures last year.

I want to share the chapter with my hexagon scripture analogy.  Here it is, my chapter on the Great Commission.  Enjoy:


GREAT COMMISSION

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

When my father-in-law was on his deathbed, I was pregnant with my youngest son Gabe.  The hospital had us put on paper scrubs and gloves because Don had developed a virus.  All garbed up, I went into that room to say goodbye to this man who had been such a huge part of my life.  What do you say?  I’ll tell you what we said.  “I love you.”  He was very weak, but we knew what was important.  We both wanted to make sure we knew that there was nothing but love between us.

Last words are important.

The words Jesus gave us before He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, those words are crucial.  We call those words, the Great Commission.

These words are our parting instructions and our biggest job as the church.

There are a lot of action words in this command.  Sometimes we can get bogged down on just one of them.  

This is not unlike when I ask my son to do multiple chores at once.  Sometimes his ears hear only one command.  I'll say, “Take these dishes to the sink, rinse them off, take the trash out from the kitchen and from the bathrooms, and put new trash bags in.”  Ninety-nine percent of the time, what happens is the dishes are sitting on the counter not rinsed off and the trash is in the dumpster, but there is no trash bag in any of the trash cans.

It isn't because my son is a bad, disobedient kid.  It's because our kid ears don't always input information in.  (Unless it has to do with cheat codes to video games.  Then our kids become Rain Man all of the sudden.  Unfortunately, there are no Rain Man powers for our dishes.  Just once, I'd like my son to walk up and tell me, “There are 32 clean dishes put up in the cabinet, and I put 8 cups, 5 plates, 9 forks, 2 bowls, 6 spoons, and one knife in the dishwasher that I added soap to and started.”  If that happened, I might faint.)

I know about this kid ear problem because I remember having it.  My parents would give me instructions, but I would be busy being glued to a tv set watching something like Small Wonder or Pee Wee's Playhouse.  I wouldn't hear one word.

The genius comic strip writer Charles Schulz nailed it when he coined the adult to kid, “Mwa-Mwa-Mwa” muted trombone sound.

As we look at all the verbs in the Great Commission, let's try our best to not tune out any of the command.  He tells us to go, make, baptize, and teach.

The second thing that my human immaturity sees as I look at that list, is time.  I start to think what a long term project this sounds like Jesus is calling us to do.

But we aren't alone in this endeavor.

Jesus promised to send a helper, the Holy Spirit, to never leave us and to dwell with us.  The greek word Jesus actually used was parakletos which means “comforter” or “counselor.”

My brother-in-law Donnie Lane often points out that we get our word for parrot from the same greek word parakletos.  The same way a parrot would sit on its owner's shoulder and come along for his day of pirating or whatever else parrot owners do, the Holy Spirit comes along side us while we live this life of faith adventuring.

In my kids' home school co-op, this amazing, creative mom planned a whole class math and science that involved a weekly bubble station.  I was unsure of how we were going to play with bubbles all year long and learn math and science, but I was excited about it.

Guess what.  I did learn something.  One lesson in particular stuck with me.  We learned about bee hives by playing with bubbles.

I had always kind of wondered why and how bees make their hives into those perfect little hexagons, but I had never been curious enough to research it.

Maybe my kid brain thought bees could count to six, and that they liked making little line patterns with their wax.

Hexagons are actually a naturally occurring shape in nature that forms with flexible circles are pressed into each other.

In the bubble station we did this experiment.  We took two 10” x 12” pieces of plexiglass that were fashioned together with an inch gap between them.  Then we took a plastic straw and blew bubbles to fill the space in between the plexiglass.

As the space filled up with bubbles and room became precious, the packed in bubbles pressed against other bubbles and began to become hexagon shaped instead of circles.  Each circle was pressed against six other circles, and the slight pressure of competing for space formed a side, which means that each bubble had six sides.

The bubbles naturally did this as they existed within the group of bubbles.

As the church, we are in community together trying to fulfill this Great Commission that Jesus left us with.

As we gently press into each other, we form one united thing, His church.  As we work together, sharing the space God gives us to do His work, we all become shaped a little different.  We all become a little more like Him.

As we look into a beautifully formed beehive with hexagons brimming with sweet honey, I think that is a picture of what His church can be.

I pray we press into our place in His Church and appreciate the sweetness of unity.

The command of the Great Commission is a little less overwhelming when I know I have the Holy Spirt and my fellow believers working together to accomplish it.

Lord, help us to feel the importance of your command in the Great Commission.  Help us to constantly see ways we can do every verb in that command: go, make, baptize, teach.  Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to help us, comfort us, and counsel us.  Give us ears to hear His promptings.  Lord, help us to remember that you have made us Your temple.  Help us to be unified with other believers so that we can be the one church, one, body, one bride that you intend us to be.  Help us to have grace and love as sweet as honey towards our fellow church members.  We long to work together to accomplish your commission.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

 

Reflection:

  1. Which verb in the Great Commission have you put the most focus on?  What would it look like to concentrate on actively follow through with Jesus' whole command?
  2. How has the Holy Spirit been a helper to you in the past?  Has he ever helped you as you made disciples?
  3. Have you thought of the global church as one item, like one beehive, before?  How can you bring more unity to your local church and/or the global church?
  4. How have other Christians pressed into you and caused you to look a little more like Jesus?
  5. Read the Great Commission again.  What is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do right now, this week?

The following chapter was an excerpt of the eBook Faith Adventures by Jennifer L. Lane.  It can be purchased on Amazon for just $2.99.


I loved singing this with our IF:Local, IF:Amarillo, this weekend.

Just be one

Last weekend was the third annual IF:Gathering.  For the third year, I participated in an IF:Local.  I helped lead IF:Amarillo, inviting women from all over the panhandle to come together in unity.

Since I was leading, I was privy to information.  I knew about the domino ending.  I could guess what was coming.  I had already begun brainstorming about what my response could be.  (Why not be prepared.  I didn’t want to get caught off guard and not have anything to offer.  How “try hard” of me.)  We had dominos and sharpies.  I knew we would be expected to write a response on that domino.  I had a list of 3 or 4 things I could have written.

When it came to that moment in the program, I decided I really should try to approach it fresh, forget my preconceived ideas.  I bowed my head and prayed, and I asked God what He wanted me to write on that domino.

I was surprised by the Holy Spirit’s response:  “Quit trying to be a whole bag of dominos.  Just be one domino.  I love you.  Just be you.  Just be one domino.”

It was true.  I’m a busy, doer.  God knows that about me.  Absolutely He knows that.  He made me.  I don’t think He is worried about whether or not I am going to do anything for His Kingdom.

What God knows is that I will run my wheels off, work myself to exhaustion for His Kingdom.  I had done it in preparation for IF:Amarillo.  I would do it again at the drop of a hat.

I believe God wasn’t telling me to slow down, but He was reminding me that He loved me, not the work I was doing for Him.  He loved me, every ugly part and every good part.  His Kingdom will come without me lifting a finger.  That has been finished.  I won’t stop working wherever He gives me a chance, but I know I’m important to Him.  He loves me.

I will be my domino.  I will fall for His Kingdom, and other dominos will fall for His Kingdom.  It’s a beautiful thing.  We can make disciples and change the world.  We can do it, not because we are something special, but because we Love the Lord and we are willing to abide in Him and bear fruit.

What did this domino response mean for me going forward?  I didn’t want to presume anything about what the Holy Spirit had just told me:  Just be one domino.

In the next days, I decided to make a list of everything I am doing for the church and for Him, everything I’m doing in the ministry, big and small.

I took that list and prayed over each item.  Something Jennie Allen had pointed out during IF had sunk in: I don’t want to be working for God, I want to be working with God.  

As I prayed about each one, I heard a still small “yes” to each item.  Well, there was one that was unclear in my spirit.  I texted my husband, and I asked him to pray about that one.

He did, and he said he knew it was something I was suppose to be doing.

It all felt good.  I felt energized and ready to keep working for His Kingdom, alongside Him, knowing how much God loved me.

And then it felt like the dominos all fell down, in a bad way.

I got a series of emails that jumbled it all again.

I got an email from our adoption agency.  Ethiopian adoptions were in danger of big changes, changes that might make it impossible for our family to continue our adoption.

I got an email from the writing conference I had plans to attend, they are taking a year off this year.  No conference.

I got a letter in the mail letting me know my paperwork sent to the US government for our adoption was denied and would need to be resubmitted.  That probably meant $900 would need to paid again.

I was angry.  I was distraught.  I went through a roller coaster of emotions.

The devil did something tricky.  He’s good at that.  He twisted the Holy Spirit’s words to me.  That isn’t a new trick.  It is exactly what he did with Eve.

The devil stated telling me that “Just Be One Domino” really meant, “No thank you, Jennifer.  I don’t need your gifts.  I don’t need you to work alongside me.”

Two big things on my list were our adoption and writing.  Other things on my list were related to those two things.

I believed the lie.  Not for a long time, but long enough.  Long enough to bawl my eyes out, want to quit everything including church, ministry, and anything spiritual.

I don’t know why I realized it was a lie, but I did.  I began to think of Job.  He lost everything.  He didn’t just get an email threatening to take a few things away, but he actually lost everything.  I would be a horrible Job.  I would be a pretty good Job’s wife.  I would be right there with her, “Let’s just curse God and die.”

I don’t want that to be true about me.  I want to be a good Job.  The ugly truth is that I’m weak.  Emotionally, I’m ready to give up easily when things look uncertain.

Thankfully I have an amazing husband that talks sense into me.  Thankfully I have an amazing church family that is praying with me and for me about our adoption.

And writing?  I’m writing this, aren’t I?

Things are uncertain right now, but what the Holy Spirit told me in the quiet response time at IF is not uncertain.  He loves me.  He loves me, not what I can do for Him.  He loves the ugly, stubborn, “work until I hit a wall,” doer, independent, try-hard me.  

Now I also know that He loves the me that wants to give up and listens to the devil’s lies.  He loves me anyway.

Guess what?

He loves you too.

 

 


Day 28: Leading

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 28:  LEADING

At 36 years old, I had never lead a Bible study.  I had barely attended one.  I was cynical about women’s ministry.

In the spring of 2013, we had just begun our adoption adventure.  A friend asked if I would consider leading a study of the book 7: an experimental mutiny against excess by Jen Hatmaker.

I had read the book the summer before, and I had loved the idea of fasting from things that pull us away from God and farther into the culture of this world.

I made emails and fliers and let my friends know about the study at my house.  I had a great turnout all throughout the study.  We had amazing conversations, and I loosened my hold on earthly things just a little.  It was a success.

As our 9 week gathering came to an end, a few ladies began to ask if I was going to do another book because they didn’t want to stop meeting.

I thought about where my cynicism was rooted in my criticism of other women’s Bible studies.  My biggest point of criticism was that I didn’t understand why women wanted to just meet and study the Bible endlessly and never do anything that they had learned.

I had liked the study of 7 because we were doing something, fasting each week.  We were figuring out that God could sustain us through a week without coffee, tv, or shopping.

In school, our teachers tried to incorporate learning styles for different types of learners.  We were told that there were visual, audio, and tactile learners.  I don’t think that this is exactly true.  I think we are all visual, audio, and tactile learners.  We just lean heavier into one category than others, or maybe there are people out there who are evenly distributed among the three in their learning.  It isn’t a yes or a no, but it is a sliding scale.

Tactile learning is when you learn by doing something.  Most of our daily life is full of stuff that we learned by doing, like cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming, clicking screens, reading, writing, and parenting.

I began to look back at times of growth in my Christian life, and I realized that the times I had grown the most were not times of heavy study in the Word of God.  Growth came when I was going through something or when I was ministering to others.  God and I grew closer by tactile learning how to live the Christian life.

That is what a faith adventure is anyway, isn’t it?

Doing something with God, together.

When I was 5, my dad build an entertainment center.  Now days you can get away with a little table or you can even hang your tv on the wall and not even have an entertainment center.  But in the 80s it was different.

He made it big enough to fit our console tv inside the bottom middle.  There were shelves for our encyclopedias. (Kids, those are volumes of reference books we used before Al Gore invented the internet.)

As we acquired a VHS player, my dad modified it to hold the player that was the size of a stovetop, and he added drawers to hold VHS movies.

That entertainment center was ginormous.  It was about 4 1/2 ft. tall, 10 ft. long, and 2 1/2 feet wide.  And I had “helped” my dad build it.  I took so much ownership of that thing.  When my parents decided to get rid of it a few years ago, I was so sad.  I morned it like a lost pet.

I had built that thing with my little girl hands.  I had rubbed sand paper across that wood and panted on lacquer.  We had moved it to three different states.  In all the moving, it had cracked across the back, and it had a license plate holding it together.

That center was a fixture of my childhood.  I sat in front of that thing and watched Cookie Monster, Erkle, Hee-Haw and Andy Griffith.

But had I really built it?  No.  My dad did all the heavy lifting, planning, sawing, and sanding.

God calls us to come build something with Him.  He wants to hand us sandpaper and brushes as we build the Kingdom together.  We don’t do the real work, but we do enough to become invested in what we are building.  We begin to treasure people, the church, the unreached, the hungry, the thirsty, the broken, the orphan, the widow, the sick, and the imprisoned.  We treasure them because we have invested our heart into them.

I wanted a Bible study that was tactile.

I made a plan.  We would study and meet to talk about our lessons for three weeks out of the month, but once a month we would do something.  We would plan outreaches using the encouragement found for women in Titus 2.

One week we taught a healthy cooking class to low-income moms, one week we delivered summer fun kits to single moms, one week we had a used clothing swap at the church, one week we had a class about reading to your kids, one week we taught low-income families how to save money by making household supplies like laundry soap, and one week we had a pizza crust making class.

The group only lasted six months.

Attendance got smaller and smaller as we continued, and it fizzled out.

Sometimes you try something, and it just doesn’t fly.

I don’t regret trying it.  As I write this, I still think that it’s a good idea.  I had fun doing those outreaches.

The principle of a faith adventure is to step out.  Usually God moves in ways that you don’t expect.  That doesn’t mean that He isn’t working.

At the tail end of this group, I had the opportunity to step out and try something else with God.  I heard about the IF:Gathering conference.

In, February 2014, I hosted an IF:Gathering at my church.  I really wanted to go to Austin for the first IF:Gathering, but I couldn’t logistically do that (i.e. no money for that in our budget) and on top of that, the tickets sold out in a matter of minutes.

So when Jen Hatmaker posted her blog about IF:local, I was on it.  I wanted there to be an IF:local in my city.  So I decided I would host one.  I put all the details together and kept it simple.  I had 12 ladies attend, and it was wonderful.  But, here’s the thing.  It was small.  

In December of 2015, I went to a brunch with 5 other ladies and we decided to have a city-wide, multi-denominational IF:local in Amarillo.  From the beginning, our goal was 500 women, free of charge to attendees.  We knew God could provide the money.  Over the next few months, we added other women to our team of planners.  We worked hard getting the word out, asking for donations, and working out details of the event.

I will never forget our meeting the first week of January.  We sat around looking at each other asking if we were crazy.  We had $200 in the bank, around 2% of the money we would need.  We had less than 40 people signed up, and the event was only one month away.

We could have walked away at that point, called it off.  Instead we prayed for God to move.

God was going to have to do the work we couldn’t do.

I am so thankful for that experience, because we saw a miracle.

On February 6, 2015, we had 500 women show up to the event, and God paid for every bit of it.  That month prior to the gathering, donations had trickled in and sign ups slowly were added all month long.

Sometimes you try something, and it flies.

God wants us to hold the kite string, but only He can send the wind.

 

 

 

I love music so I include a song with each blog post.  Folk music is an easy target for ridicule, but if you don't think this song is beautiful, check your pulse.

DaySpring.com is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions. Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Get in His Word

“Get in His Word” is what I wrote on my little May notebook under the prompt “What is God calling you to do personally?”

The May notebook was a gift for note taking at the IF:Local Leadership Gathering, and I loved it’s little dotted pages and mint green cover.

Sometimes the whole idea seems silly.  Do I really need to read the Bible again and again?

I look at most of the pages and think in terms of “I know this.”

My friend Kaylie Hodges wrote a new devotional called Hold Fast.  In it, she says we are blinded by the mental lists of facts we already know about that particular passage.  “We open to Daniel and mentally make a list: Diet, Fire, Statue, Lions. Check. We want the words to move us and to draw us closer to God, but it is hard to see how.”

Kaylie nailed if for me.  I go into it, not empty and ready to learn, but bringing my knowledge to His words.

At the IF:Lead Gathering, Ann Voskamp said, “In the morning there is no Facebook until your face is in the Book.”  She went on to say, “The Bible is not an accessory to the Christian life.”

Needless to say, I was convicted.

But now that I am back home with my comforts of tea and couches.  My brain asks, “Is it really that serious?”  What I really want is to casually consume new material, other books meant for my entertainment.

Quickly my mind and heart recalls my prompt answer, “Get in His Word.”  It is clear that the Holy Spirit led me to write that, and I wasn’t the only one either.  Both of my conference roommates wrote the similar words in their cute May journals, even the roommate with a seminary background felt the call to study deeper.

I need the reminder that His Word isn’t just another book.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
— John 1:1 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
— John 1:14 ESV

When God is prompting and calling me into His word, He is calling me into His Son, into Himself.

The Great I Am is the Word.  The Word is God.

He is calling me into light.  He is the Light.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’
— John 8:12 ESV

Ann is right.  This book isn’t an accessory.  And this book isn’t merely a book.  This book is Him.

Why wouldn’t He be calling me to Himself?

Studying His word couldn’t be more convenient than it is today.  We have apps like “First 5” and “She Reads Truth” that will get us into God’s word with the click of a button on our phones.  There are podcast and apps that read you the Bible out loud for those of us who are audio learners.  And IF:Equip leads you through His word daily while providing a quick thoughtful videos.

Also conveniently, I came home from the conference to find an email from my good friend Kaylie about her new devotional that she had written over the past few months called Hold Fast.

It is a free 7-Day journey from discipline to devotion, because in our discipline we find His devotion.  This word from Kaylie has been such an encouragement to me, and a tangible way I can follow His call.

I’m thankful for new friends at conferences who lean into learning more about Him, and I am thankful for old friends who follow God’s call to write about Scripture so that I can lean into reading His Scripture.

This doesn't have anything to do with this blog, but one of my favorite bands Jr Jr released an album this week.  I love this song because I like snapping along on the bridge.  The video is pretty cool too.