Can We, the Church, Please Get It Together?

I have no words for the news this morning.

I feel like the world is quickly running out of words for days like this when dawn breaks yet again on a new depth of sorrow.

Our souls are weary. Our hearts are heavy.

How do we explain this to our children?

How do we look into their sweet faces and explain that someone had such incomprehensible hatred for their fellow human beings?

I just don’t know, y’all.

I’m a peacemaker. That’s probably code for people-pleaser. I can’t stand the idea of someone being mad at me and I feel sick when I have hurt feelings or offended someone.

Because of that, I have remained publicly silent on a number of issues in the past. Under the assumption that someone else will always say it more eloquently, I’ve let others speak out. And while I nod along and silently wave my pompoms from the sidelines, I’m content to let them take the heat for it. I’ve kept my head down.

I’m done with all that.

So, Church?

Listen up, please.

We need to get it together.

When we come together now and offer prayers for the victims of this shooting, but have been unwilling to acknowledge our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community except to shame and ridicule, we are not taken seriously.

Can you blame them?

How can we be so strong in our pro-life conversations and then tell a grieving community “they reap what they sow,” belittling every ounce of humanity they have?

Could times like these point out our hypocrisy?

Our brothers and sisters are hurting. And have been hurting for quite some time. Sadly, we who are to be loving our neighbors as ourselves, are responsible for some of the pain.

We’d rather point fingers, shout about bathrooms, or carry picket signs.

Look, we can disagree on every issue under the sun. But we are called–commanded–to love.  Tweet: Look, we can disagree on every issue under the sun. But we are called--commanded--to love. http://bit.ly/1tkWfIb via @ashleydpooser

We’re talking LOVE love.commanded to love 2

Radical love.

Without limits.

Extreme love.

Without qualifiers.

Jesus love.

 

We, as the church, need to pause and reflect.

Are we showing Christ to a hurting world with our chronic indignation? With our outrage about bathrooms and holiday coffee cups?

We have much work to do.

Because love wins in the end. We already know that. So let’s get it together. Let’s enjoy being on the winning team.

Please. Let’s be extra kind today. And show love.

Love neighbors. Love strangers. Love the guy who cut you off in traffic.

Just. Love. Period.

To all my LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors: I love you. I see your pain. My heart hurts with you. I stand with you. I love you all.

And the idea that that statement could be deemed as controversial is heartbreaking.

 

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31, NIV

 

Connecting with God When All You Have Is a Moment

dawn-nature-sunset-womanOnce upon a time, I was an adventurer. I was fearless. I lived each day to the fullest. Carpe diem and all that. I climbed mountains and flew across oceans. My passion to share Jesus was a fire burning, and I wanted to spread it across the world. I prayed aloud all the time, whether in the arms of my dearest friends or with complete strangers at the next gas pump.

As time passed, though, that fire died down until it seemed only embers remained. I think I got lost in the haze of day-to-day life. Over the last decade, my adventures have consisted mostly of navigating Walmart with three kids without causing a major public incident. The only mountains I’ve climbed have been the lofty peaks of laundry I step on to get to the dryer.

When I became a mother, I think I hit a pause button on being me. I think this self-imposed hiatus is something to which all caregivers can relate. It’s in our nature to give and give and give to our families. That’s part of what makes being a wife and mom so fiercely beautiful. This system we’ve set up seems to work–until the time inevitably comes when we have nothing left of ourselves to give.

That’s where I was just a short time ago. Drained. Short-tempered. Exhausted. Spiritually parched. Easily frustrated. One day, I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember the last time I’d prayed aloud. There were the bedtime prayers and meal blessings with the kids, but other than that, it just didn’t happen anymore. I’m not sure why. With church and small group and Bible study and MOPS meetings, there were plenty of opportunities. I would just sit there, though, with the weight of the pause pressing on my shoulders and the heat of the moment burning my cheeks. It’s not like I thought my friends or church family would jump to their feet, laughing and pointing at me. Why was I so self-conscious? I realized it was because I was out of practice.

I was disconnected. In my frantic need to take care of everyone else, I wasn’t making time to connect with God, and that disconnect was spilling over into all the other parts of my life. My identity is found in him. Unless I am spending time with the One who created me, I am bound to lose myself…

This post was challenging for me because it felt very vulnerable. Vulnerability is scary but authenticity is so worth it if even just one person is encouraged or says, “Me, too!”

To read more of this post, please visit The Glorious Table:
http://theglorioustable.com/2016/06/connecting-with-god-when-all-you-have-is-a-moment/.

The Joy of the Lord


The joy of the LordWe were getting ready for a dinner party but ended up in the emergency room. I was six weeks pregnant and an ultrasound confirmed my fears. There was no heartbeat.

This was the first loop of the roller coaster.

Two days later, I followed up with my doctor. There was another silent and still ultrasound. There were tears. There were a lot of labs drawn. There was a brief glimmer of hope in the doctor wanting to wait before making a final treatment plan.

More loops in the roller coaster.

And this is where we were on the day my husband and I were to head out of town on a very rare getaway to see Rend Collective in concert.

I packed my overnight bag in a daze. We had been so looking forward to this trip. They are one of our very favorite bands and we’d already bought the tickets. Even though we were emotionally exhausted, we decided to make the best of it.

The entire four hour drive was spent waiting on pins and needles for the nurse to call with my lab results. I called her twice with no success.

Finally, as we were pulling into the parking lot, the phone rang. The labs were inconclusive.

I walked into the concert not knowing if my baby was alive.

Hindsight is a precious gift. At the time, I could not wrap my mind or heart around what was happening and the timing of it all.

But now I know the lesson God wanted to teach me that night. And His timing provided the best way to learn.

The concert was not a show. Not at all. It was a night of worship. And, if I’m honest, I was not in the best emotional place for that.

But God is on His throne and the Holy Spirit is not deterred by emotions. The Lord ministered to my heart and I could not help but worship the Creator.

My Creator. My baby’s Creator. I knew I had to trust God in His plans. No matter what the outcome might be.

There was peace. Such peace. And there was joy. Which seems so improbable. But the joy of the Lord is not situational.

God was merciful to us and the following week showed a strong heartbeat and a growing babe. We named her Abigail (“the Father’s joy”) and we’ll be celebrating her first birthday in just ten days.

God’s divine timing had us in the right place at the right moment to truly learn about the joy of the Lord. In spite of our emotions, we worshipped with abandon and chose to glorify Him no matter what. We got a chance to deeply experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Tomorrow night, we are getting a chance to worship with Rend Collective again and I am so looking forward to it. Our life has been less dramatic lately but still tough.

The icky things of daily life pile up one after another and it’s hard to shovel through when you’re not sleeping.

I’ve just been so worn.

I’ve found that sometimes a strong faith comes easier in the dramatic valleys of life than it does during the long hot trudges through life’s deserts.

Thankfully, the joy of the Lord is not based on my spiritual geography.Tweet: Thankfully, the joy of the Lord is not based on my spiritual geography. http://ctt.ec/LGX28+

I’m looking forward to celebrating Him tomorrow night.

On the Need for Community


on the need for community

Over Spring Break, I got a chance to sit out on the back porch of my parents’ house. They live in the quiet countryside of north Florida, surrounded by pine forest.

All throughout the day, the only noise is ours. Someone puttering in the kitchen. Someone else calling the dogs back in. Laughter and playing and the occasional argument between the kids.

But at nighttime, the woods come alive with a loud symphony of sound. Sitting on the back porch, with the frogs and crickets and birds all shouting their songs, God reminded me of something.

Each individual creature is tiny and fragile. On its own, it could be overlooked and not noticed. It could be forgotten, easily stepped on or quickly dismissed as insignificant.

But together? When they come together to raise their voices? It’s a choir that can be heard for miles. It will not be ignored.

The same can be true for us.

Individually, we feel fragile. But together, we are strong.

We are made for community.

I recently had the privilege of witnessing this firsthand.

Jennie Allen, a popular Christian speaker and author, was alone in a hotel room, trying to finish a book and realized her own need for community. With no real expectations, she tossed out a link for a Facebook group.

As of this writing, in the week since its birth, “Our Village” currently has 4,983 members.

Almost 5,000 people. Mostly women. Who immediately felt the need in their own hearts to connect and jumped in.

In the last week, I have seen hundreds and hundreds of posts. They mostly sound a bit like the one I wrote in my head and never posted:

Hey everyone. I wasn’t going to introduce myself because there are just so many people to know but I thought I might as well go for it. I’m so-and-so from somewhere. I’m a wife/mother/friend/sister/daughter/teacher. I’m glad to be a part of this group because _________.

And where that ________ is? Insert any one of five thousand incredible, unique, God-given stories. A story that might not have been told because there are so many stories that have already been shared.

And we tend to feel like our voice and our story isn’t as needed or as exciting or as important as the others.

But we are made for community.

We need to hear each others’ stories. And we need our stories to be heard. God made us that way.

For every reluctant introduction, the need to be known finally outweighed the fear of being overlooked. The need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves was stronger than the fear of rejection.

Strangers.

But strangers who are now a part of something bigger than themselves.

I have seen women jump to congratulate and cheer on successes. I have seen women humble themselves and bravely tell their truths once held hidden. I have seen women shower grace upon grace.

Strangers no more.

Sisters.

In community.

And again I’m reminded of the frogs, the crickets, and the birds. Each one a tiny creature. One small part of a much larger whole.

But together, we are strong. 

We are made for community.

But What About Saturday? Finding Hope in the Wait

Mom Confession:
Easter week has completely caught me by surprise this year. My excuses reasons: (1) We are on Round Two of strep throat in the last month. That would be six cases of strep in the last four weeks. That’s 120 doses of antibiotics. (2) We are on Jake’s eleventy billionth shift in a row. (3) Each kid has had a different school project. (4) Full moon. (5) No sleep. (6) First Easter away from family and our regular traditions. (7) General loss of mind.

So in a last ditch effort to reclaim some of the holiness of Holy Week, I spent some time talking with the kids about the days ahead.

We covered it all. Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and his disciples shared the Last Supper and Jesus was arrested. Good Friday and all of the events of that sad day when Jesus died on the cross. Then Resurrection Sunday when Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave.

“But, Mom? What about Saturday? What happened that day?”

My daughter’s question took me by surprise. I guess I had never really thought much about Saturday. We tend to skip over Saturday. “Jesus died on the cross and on the third day was raised from the dead.” Growing up in Sunday School and Bible School and Youth Group, it became rote. Just as 1+1=2, it was too often more like “Jesusdiedonthecrossandonthethirddaywasraisedfromthedead. Time for pizza!”

But Grace’s question got me thinking about what the followers of Jesus must have been feeling on that Saturday.

They had sold out completely for Jesus. He was Messiah. This was the real deal. Jesus was The One sent to save the Jews in what they most likely anticipated to be a dramatic and triumphant fashion.

They had literally up and walked away from their lives as they knew it to live on the fringes of polite society. But it was worth it because everything was on track for them to have a front row seat to history. And as they came into Jerusalem, they must have been riding high as the people celebrated Jesus. I can only imagine the adrenaline and jubilation.

How quickly it all changed.

In a matter of days, their hero who was here to deliver Israel, the one who held all their hopes, was arrested, mocked, tortured, and killed.

And on that Friday, the sun set on all of their expectations.

On Saturday, the sun rose. Life went on even though the story they thought God was writing was dead.

Can you imagine how long Saturday felt?

They had watched hope die on a cross. Their faith, so strong just days before, now broken and bloodied and lying lifeless in a borrowed tomb.

I take Saturday for granted. I say it all in one breath, “Jesus died and rose on the third day.” As if it were just the blink of an eye.

But even in the most important work in the history of ever, there is waiting.

There’s a day in between. A long, dark Saturday when all seems lost. When it feels like we’re completely on our own. When it all seems to be unravelling. When all we can do is look around a world of confused faces and wonder, “What now?”

Thank God he doesn’t leave us there in that place of loss and confusion. When we’re floundering somewhere in the middle pages of our story, he is not surprised at the twists and turns in our lives. He knows every page.

The Author knows how our story ends. He knows the stone gets rolled away. Darkness is defeated. Love wins.  Tweet: The Author knows how our story ends. He knows the stone gets rolled away. Darkness is defeated. Love wins. http://bit.ly/1pAIkfl

In the craziness of this world today, it often feels like we’re living in the tension of a lifetime of perpetual Saturdays. When our expectations of how our story is supposed to go have been shattered, we’re looking around a room and wondering, “What now?” We’re feeling abandoned.

Oh, friends. Hold on.

It is a cold and dark Saturday right now. But Sunday is coming!


What About Saturday blog

 

 

He Knows My Name

abby mouse blogThis little cutie is almost six months old now. She has been having lots of “conversations” with us, including tons of hilarious inflections and facial expressions to emphasize her points. So of course, I take that as my cue to start teaching her to say mama.

(Jake has also taken it as a cue to start teaching her to say dada. Which she will probably say first because she loves him more it’s easier.) 😉

There’s something about hearing your child call, “Mama,” that just grabs your attention. You could be in the middle of a playground full of kids and hear 37 different children shout for mama but instantly know which one was meant for you.

I started thinking about this after a morning at the Chick-fil-A playground. Each mom knew when it was her own kid shouting for mama. It reminded me of a video MOPS produced for MOMcon 2014. The beautiful video told the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and it took my breath away. (You can watch it down there at the bottom of this post and I highly recommend you do.)

Jn 2014-16 blog

She thought He was the gardener until He said one simple word.

Mary.

He said her name. And suddenly she recognized her Savior.

Y’all. It just blows my mind.

He knows my name.

Our hearts are designed to recognize His voice calling us. Just like a mama can instantly pick out her child’s voice calling to her from a crowded and rowdy playground, our hearts respond when He calls our names.

Whenever I’m feeling invisible and unappreciated at home (Does no one else see the empty toilet paper holder? I mean really.) or whenever I’m feeling like I have no real purpose outside of my house and I’m battling insignificance, I try to remind myself of this: He knows my name.

Ashley.

The next time you’re up to your elbows in dishes and up to your knees in laundry and you feel like your only contributions to this world are carpooling your kids to soccer practice and changing diapers,  I hope you can just pause for a second. Turn your face toward the sun. Close your eyes. Store this up in your heart and treasure it.

He knows your name.

More Than I Can Handle


more than i can handleSo I know this isn’t any kind of newsflash for you, but life is hard.

When we’re growing up, we imagine how our lives might be.  I was one of those realistic kids.  I’d seen my mom, in particular, overcome some tremendous hardships in her life.  I knew that life would have its ups and downs.

I knew that chances were high that we might struggle with jobs or finances or kids or our health.

I guess even with all my realism, I didn’t really expect to struggle with all of them.  At the same time. We are very blessed in many ways.  I know that and I’m very grateful for each and every one. But so many times, even with all our blessings, it can all seem completely overwhelming.

“Oh honey. Bless your heart. Remember God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

We’ve all heard that, right?

Well guess what?

It’s crap.

God gives us more than we can handle all the time.

One day a few years ago, when both of our cars were falling apart and the bank account was in the red and my RA was flaring and we seemed to run out of everything at once and autism had me out behind the woodshed again and Jake was gone 24/7 for school, I found myself sobbing on the floor in the kitchen.

Overwhelmed.

Broken.

It was more than I could handle.

And I sat on the kitchen floor and I cried out to God for help. For mercy. For comfort. For peace.

And that’s when I (eventually) realized that, of course, this is more than I can handle. I was never meant to handle it alone. It was time for me to humble myself and admit that I couldn’t do this on my own.

I hope you’re not thinking that this story ends here with my admission suddenly causing things to magically fall into place and bring about a sudden reward for having learned my lesson. Maybe it happens that way in the movies. Not in real life.

I begged God for some kind of encouragement or special word that would show me that He heard my desperate appeal.

It didn’t happen that way. Instead? Different Bible verses popped into my head. Scripture that talked about God’s promises of peace, hope and His plan for our lives. But still…Instead of me suddenly feeling all better with the warm fuzzies, it was more like if I repeated them enough, they would eventually take root.

I realized this was one of those times when my faith is shown by choosing to believe it. Even when I don’t necessarily feel it. And I was reminded that one of the reasons I need to study the Word is so those promises and reassurances are somewhere in my stressed-out brain when I find myself overwhelmed and broken.

I love this song by BarlowGirl that says, “I cry out with no reply and I can’t feel you by my side so I’ll hold tight to what I know…You’re here and I’m never alone.”

Faith isn’t always about feelings. It’s about choosing to believe even when (especially when?) those feelings aren’t there.

I don’t have it all figured out. One thing I’ve learned for sure is that we’re never done learning.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

That’s another one that I’ve heard quite a bit. And the truth is that I don’t do it. I couldn’t possibly. Not by myself.

I hope this post hasn’t come across as preachy because that’s not how it’s meant and I’m definitely in no position to preach. I just hope it might possibly be a small encouragement to someone else who might find herself sobbing on the kitchen floor.

If that’s you today, take a few minutes to listen to this song and breathe. Because no matter how strong we are, we’ll never be strong enough to do this whole life thing on our own.  And we don’t have to be.

 

Image courtesy of FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net