Thursday, April 23, 2015

Limitless Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1

The most amazing thing happened to me today....I became a grandma.  An angel-boy named Cohen James Campbell entered the world today and has stolen my heart simply by his presence.  He didn't have to do a thing to win me over.  Every breath a beautiful symphony, each stretch a marvel of joy and every cry dug into the deep places of my heart with the desire to comfort him.

I am his and he is mine.. There is nothing he can do that would cause me to love him less and there is  simply no room left in my heart for me to love him more.  I am bursting at the seams with love for this tiny human being...and Cohen didn't have to do one thing to earn it.

As I gazed at him sleeping peacefully through the nursery glass I thought of God's love for us. I wonder... if I, Cohen's "CoCo", feel this insane rush of emotion for him, what must the one who knit him together in his mother's womb feel?

 It occurred to me that this new grandma love may just be a teeny bit of what God feels for you and I... Limitless Love.

May you bask in the sheer joy of His limitless love for you!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sisters In The Storm

"Still" by Hillsong

When the oceans rise 
and thunders roar
We will soar with you 
above the storm
Jesus you are King over the flood
We will be still 
and know you are God.

I got 30 new sisters last weekend!

We journeyed from all over Charlotte and surrounding areas and met  together on the shores of Ocean Isle Beach to retreat, to laugh, to grow in our spirits, to be renewed in our faith and to be refreshed in christian community. We came to ponder how to discover God's peace in our storms. We came to hear from the One who commands the winds and the waves. Jesus.

Tonya, my fellow writing friend and co-retreat speaker, pulled in just a couple minutes before me. I stepped out and we both looked up at a majestic oceanfront beach house which would be our home for the next 4 days. Aptly named, Splash Kingdom, we stood in the driveway and took it all in--two simple midwestern raised and southern planted girls gawking happily up at this incredible 12 bedroom jewel.  No words needed to be said- we stood for a moment, grinning at each other, amazed by the opportunity God had given us to minister His peace at such a heavenly location!  Yet the loveliness of this vacation home paled in comparison to the breathtaking radiance that we would soon discover within the women that God had called together this weekend.

We talked about The Vessel, The Storm, The Sand and The Treasure.

The Vessel: The one being refined by the storm - You, me, our families and our friends. We are all
                     intricately different vessels created for His glory and purpose. Wonderfully and
                     fearfully made. Each of eternal worth and value to God just as we are.

The Storm:   Storms in nature and storms in our lives are to be expected. No one is exempt. Storms
                     need not define us but turned over to God have the power to Refine us!  As Christians,
                     Storms have a purpose to draw us to God who is always with us in the midst of them.
                     "Sometimes God calms the storms and sometimes God lets the storms rage and calms
                      His child."

The Sand:      Storms can rub off our rough edges. Like sea glass, the sand (i.e: the difficult situations,
                       people and events of our lives) over time, turns broken shards of our life into
                       something beautiful. The Potter has the right to re-fashion and re-purpose His vessels.          
                       God allows us the freedom to choose to surrender to this heart makeover.
                       Brokenness brought to God becomes beauty and purpose. He can be trusted
                       with our hearts.

The Treasure:   Each of us carry within our vessel a treasure. The Holy Spirit. Purpose and Hope.
                         Like a message in a bottle. We are God's workmanship, His poem.   Surrendering          
                          our "Storm Stories" to Jesus uncorks the bottle of our testimonies and allows the
                         message to go forth with power and joy in us!  Misery surrendered to God becomes

32 Individuals arrived at the beach retreat. Some not knowing a soul, some good friends and others vaguely acquainted with each other.  Over the course of the weekend it stormed...and we rained and God ministered, the wind blew and hearts were healed. Finally the sun came out and we basked in the beauty and warmth of it. Grateful.

We risked vulnerability to share our stories. We opened our hearts to the Lord and asked for healing, we worshipped, prayed,  laughed and cried together.  And while we weren't looking, something amazing happened...We became sisters!  Sisters in the storm.  All the while, God was accomplishing a deep work in hearts and minds, setting many free from shame, fear and hopelessness. New dreams were birthed, old dreams were resurrected, compassion, forgiveness and repentance swirled like mist throughout the weekend. The final night God set our feet to dancing!  Yep! Sometimes joy is so thick the only appropriate thing to do is dance... so we did!

Do you know that you are God's beautiful vessel? His Treasure?  Will you allow the storms of your life to be used of God to do their refining work in you?  Will you allow The Lord to use the rough and scratchy parts of your life to fashion into a testimony of His goodness, grace and power?  Will you take the risk of sharing your "storm story" with another who needs to know that she is not alone?

Your Sisters in the Storm will be cheering you onward!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gracious Uncertainty

“Don’t talk to Strangers!”  If you are a parent or have kids in your life,  you HAVE uttered this creed. Even if you aren't around kids now, I would bet you remember being given this commandment as a child.   But I have a suspicion that we have unconsciously continued to adhere to this childhood rule as adults.

I had the pleasure of having coffee and talking for hours with a  STRANGER!  (I wasn't sure it would be a pleasure until I took the risk to invite her for a face to face meeting.)  She also took a risk and drove 3 hours to meet me, also a complete stranger to her!   Some may say she was foolish and put herself in a vulnerable situation...Some would say I was foolish, opening my home to a woman I don’t even know and have never met.  And yet, with gracious uncertainty,  we both took the risk. 

 She wanted to hear what I had to say. I wanted to encourage her.  She wanted to hear my story and I desired to hear hers.  I can tell you, It was so worth the risk!  I have a new friend!  I sought to encourage and have been encouraged myself!  We are meeting again face to face in a few weeks...(my turn to drive!)

Oswald Chambers addressed “gracious uncertainty”
 with these words...

“Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways...we don’t know what a day may bring forth....We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God....He packs our life with surprises all the time...”

So I ask you...

*will you step outside your comfort zone? 
*Will you talk to that stranger?
*Will you befriend the one who believes differently than you?
 *Will you drive 3 hours to speak face to face with a stranger?
*Will you share your lunch hour with that co-worker who eats alone?

The “Don”t talk to strangers” creed is certainly a wise rule for unattended children to follow.  But we, as adults, need to put away childish things. Get outside of your comfort zones!  Talk to Strangers!  Listen to their stories and tell them yours!  There is a big world out there and God means to connect people in wild and mysterious ways and for His specific purposes.  

We need to be so certain of God that we are willing to step out of the bunkers of the safe and comfortable and into the great unknown with Him and with each other.  When we do, our God will surprise us. Our uncertainty will then graciously give way to the blessing of authentic community!

“Stop neglecting to show hospitality to strangers, for by showing hospitality some have had angels as their guests without being aware of it.”  Hebrews 13:2 (The Message)

“Certainty is the mark of the common sense life: 
Gracious Uncertainty is the mark of a Spiritual Life” 

Which life are YOU living?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Searching For Life Among The Dead

 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 
John 3:16

Easter Morning...
photo by Kim Dent

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus...suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them,

"Why do you look for the living among the dead?

 He is not here; He has risen!

Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Gallilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. 
Then they remembered His words.  
Luke 24:1-7

The women came to anoint a dead man's body.  Pay their last respects to their beloved Lord. They went to the tomb in deep sorrow. They didn't expect to find life. They expected to find death. In their grief they had forgotten the very promise Jesus had given the disciples at the last supper...or perhaps, they never truly believed it in the first place?

..."But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galillee."
Mark 14:28

I get these women. I have experienced deep sorrow and the dismay at having a dream crushed or a loved one die. I stop expecting that God's  promises for me will be least the way I thought they would.  I know you have experienced loss too my friend.  

When tough seasons come or this world deals me a card that I struggle with, I sometimes forget about His promises...I wallow around in the graveyards of self sufficiency, pride or fear. I shop for things I can't afford and do not need looking for life there.  Maybe you search for life in prescription drugs or alcohol or sex. When we look for life in anything or anyone other than Jesus, we are simply looking for life among the dead. It is an exercise in futility.

But the life Christ gives is overwhelmingly abundant, satisfying and fulfilling. His love and guidance fill us with security and purpose. He frees us from our sin. Yet, the best gift that Christ gives us is eternal life with Him. In Him we are set free from the burdens of this world. Free from fear, grief, hopelessness and defeat.  

Are YOU  looking for life among the dead? 

 Abundant, satisfying, SUPERNATURAL, everlasting life can only be found
 in the one who defeated death...Jesus Christ.  
Look to Him and find Life!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Dance Of Spring

"Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me. 

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. 

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” 

Song of Songs 2:10-13

It's been a long, cold winter!  Even  here in North Carolina! 
I wrote this in response to the experience of joining my friends at the Pregnancy Support Center in Canton, Oh at a women's spring retreat a couple years ago on the shores of Lake Erie.  

What a blessing to let God's word and Our Bridegroom, Jesus, awaken us from our winter slumber and fill us with the dreams and plans of Spring!  My sisters and I laughed, cried, danced, prayed and worshipped.  We felt joy in our hearts even as we watched one more snowstorm come in over the lake.

 Several of us braved the icy winds to take a peek at the sunrise the morning after the storm.  Though the thermometer said otherwise, somehow it didn't seem so cold.  We  were warmed by the unmistakable presence  of  the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of our sisterhood.  We stood together and watched God paint the promise of Spring across the horizon that morning!

The following is taken from a page of my journal...A reflection of what I sensed the Lord speaking to my heart at this retreat....I sense these words are for YOU as well.

...I have set you free my daughter, do you not sense my Holy Spirit within you?  The darkness is dissipating, behold light breaks forth from the deepest places of your soul...can you see it?  Can you sense the warmth of the sun as it caresses your face? 

Come out of the shadows my beloved..Take my hand. You were never meant to blend in with this, my princess, were called to shine for me...authentically, joyfully & courageously.  I have set you apart and desire for you to shine with the brightness of my Spirit. 

This is my will for you.  Yet, like a timid dance partner, you avert your eyes from my loving turn away from my outstretched healing hand...unwilling  to believe that my affections are set on you...just as you are.

Come to me, exchange the darkness of your fears, your wounds and your misconceptions of ME  for the light of truth. The truth of My love for you.  Bring all your shame and insecurities. I will bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of ashes and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

  My beloved bride,  receive My healing and My freedom now. I desire your whole heart. Will you entrust it to Me?  Will you surrender it to me, the only true lover of your soul?

 I created you to dance unashamed and unencumbered by the past.  Let go of the lies that have kept you on the fence...or in the boat. Step out my bride. 

Come away with me! Let me carry you into a brand new season of adventure, freedom and purpose.  I am your King and Bridegroom and I am jealous for you.

Now Beloved…accept my outstretched Hand!  Spin in delight of Me!  Let me lift you to the heights and twirl you under my adoring eyes!   I delight in all that is authentically you, surrendered fully to Me. 

Whenever you feel weary,  just lay your head against my heart.  Let me hold you.  Breathe.   You are safe with me.  Let me wash over you with the living water of my Word and with my great love for you.  Though seasons, like tides, ebb and flow,...My banner over you has always been and will forever be….Love.

My Bride, the choice is yours... May I have this first dance of spring?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pushing Pause...

There is an appointed time for everything. 

And there is a time for every event under heaven--

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I've been going through a season of angst the past two months as I had been pushing myself to finish the manuscript of Dandelion Winds and get it done for a mothers day launch. Until God got my attention.
Confession: since Thanksgiving when I "determined" to muscle through getting the thing finished before Dec 31.  I have been alternating between bouts of depression and anxiety that takes my breathe away and saps my strength.  I have literally fallen asleep as I type from mental and physical exhaustion.  It has not been joyful. His spirit has felt quenched and I have felt far from God. 

  First. I have learned that this "date" was not His idea. It was mine. I wanted so much to achieve this goal and be DONE with this book...honestly I have felt ashamed that it has taken me so long. But, writing to avoid shame, check a self imposed box on my to-do-list or even to keep up with my beloved and gifted writer friends should not be my "why" for writing. 

 God is showing me that He has his own time table for this book and I am not to try to force it into my own time frame. 

Several writer friends have asked why I haven't at least attempted to go the traditional publishing route with this book. (To at least discern IF God has opened any doors here) Here are my reasons...

 1. I assume a book contract is like finding a needle in a haystack.  (God has been dealing with me on my unbelief) 

2. I want it to be done NOW! (God has been speaking to me of the value of excellence and His timing...not speed and a "check the box" mentality. 

 3. Fear of failing. Which we might as well label correctly as PRIDE. Ugh!

  The other "sign" that I have been running ahead of God:  I have been feeling very uneasy as I rush to "get through" my first edit. I see so much that needs to be tweaked. So many "holes" that I believe God wants to fill. So much nuance that I missed as I rushed to finish the manuscript.  So many grey areas that I know He would speak to if I were still enough to listen. Had I been writing at the turtle pace that I had been, maybe I wouldn't have so many holes?

I recognize that somewhere along the line,  I got out of God's rhythm of grace. He is no slave driver yet I was pushing myself as if He was. This was not of Him.  I don't believe He is in the same rush as I am to "get-er-done"  

He is building up His platform and building my relationships with friends gay and straight who don't translate Gods word the same way I do.  I think He wants us to get to a point of truly trusting each other's hearts. Even as we choose to remain rooted to our respective faith convictions about God's design for sexuality. This type of trust doesn't happen overnight. 

So, I am taking a big breath and a big leap of faith and I am slowing down to listen to His voice. To "push pause" and see if I have missed anything He would say in this book. 

Next month,  I am going to the Writers Advance Boot Camp at the Cove in Asheville,NC.  I will become a better student of the craft of writing and continue to pursue this work with excellence. I will, with great fear and trembling, pitch my book to Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and see what they think.  I will learn, and grow into an even better writer. For Him.

That said, I Understand that a Mother's day launch will not happen unless God does a miracle.  For now,  I know I am to pitch it, as God directs, to the publishers he puts in my path and continue to write this story within the rhythms of His grace.

I so appreciate your prayers.

How about you?   Tell me about a time you needed to Push Pause ...

Friday, January 23, 2015

Come As You Are - Guest Blogger, Sonja Faith Lund

Since I have returned from the Gay Christian Network Conference I have been spending time both thinking/writing about my own experiences there and reading  those of my fellow attendees.  Today I want you to hear from Sonja Faith Lund, a beautiful soul and precious follower of Jesus.  I pray her message will inspire us to be mindful of the secret burdens that those sitting next to us in our church pews may be carrying...May the church, one day,  be a place where ALL are truly welcome to Come as You Are!    Read On...

On David Crowder's song; Come As You Are...Listen To 'Come As You Are'   

"Okay so let me talk about this song for a minute. It's gorgeous.

It's one of the first songs we sang in a general session at the GCN Conference, and I was tearing up (pretty sure everyone was) and for me, it wasn't just because it's a stunning song that had words which seemed to reach out to me personally and grab my attention:

"Oh wanderer, come home/you're not too far/so lay down your hurt/lay down your heart/come as you are”

No, the reason I'm still thinking about this song over a week later is related to a phrase that pops up in American Christian circles a fair bit:

 "Church (or Christianity) should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." 

Essentially, if your life is relatively stable, things are going good, church should encourage you to go outside of yourself and help others. If you're unstable, suffering, mourning, etc., church should be where you get respite from your pain and encouragement to keep going.

My whole time in Washington, so most of my life, my family attended a church in a wealthy part of the city. Because it could be safely assumed that most of us in the congregation were privileged and doing alright for ourselves, the sermons and such skewed much more toward the "afflicting the comfortable" approach. Which is fine, I suppose, until there's folks like me who quietly slide from "comfortable" to "afflicted". Folks like me who realize one day that their own church, and hundreds of millions of fellow Christians, don't want them just as they are, and have to deal with that exhausting emotional mess. 

 I'm finding myself surrounded--not just by the church where I grew up, but a lot of places--by the message that I should be Going Out There and Doing the Lord's Work when all I want is a community which will stand by me and assure me that everything is going to be okay. I don't need a push out the door, I need welcoming arms beckoning me inside.

So then here's this conference, and here's this song. This song which says nothing about preparing you to go be a missionary or join the Peace Corps or whatever, but instead just gently assures you that there is a home for you and you can go there and find rest. I needed this so much. So very, very much.”    
                                                          -Sonja Faith Lund