Streamlining

I have read that when the body has endured trauma, it automatically shuts down organ systems that are unnecessary to survival to conserve energy for the ones that are. Because of the way the Creator formed us – the body instinctively knows that it can’t do it all when it isn’t in optimal condition, so it streamlines – cutting the excess and focusing on the essential until it knows it will survive and can heal.

In small measure, this is the lesson the Lord has taught me the past couple of months. Despite our challenging circumstances, for many months I still tried to do it all. And I was unsuccessful. I became exhausted and depressed. I kept expecting our circumstances to get better overnight and so I was just trying to hold it all together until that happened. But as the months turned into a year, holding it all together became an impossible task.

During this time, the Lord began to teach me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom to say no. Freedom to get help. Freedom to shut down the things in our life that caused unnecessary stress so that we could function better for our kids, for each other, and for the things that Jesus said were truly necessary. Freedom to fail. Freedom to fall apart for a while and then allow the Lord to put me back together while my husband guarded over our family.

It was a tough time – but highly necessary. The Lord was teaching me the lesson of how He created our body. He was teaching me to streamline.

So one day, not so long ago, I let go of trying. I fell apart. I went to a doctor and got some help for depression and for the ulcers that have made me sick for the past 18 months. I turned down a few events and work opportunities that were causing me stress. I made some decisions to streamline our finances. I even streamlined my Facebook friends and Twitter connections, eliminating people or causes that were sources of anxiety.

I wrote down what was vital: Justin, my girls, loving the Lord my God with all my heart, feeding the hungry and caring for the orphan and widow, my friends and family who love us, the work relationships that enhance our lives.

Six things. That’s it.

And everything else I shut down.

I battled with guilt (especially over walking away from relationships), but the Lord confirmed my decision with His Word. My Baptist upbringing conditioned me to see everyone, even the difficult, as a mission field. So to walk away seemed like choosing my good over their eternal destiny. But in this season time and time again the Lord confirmed this idea with His Word. Even Jesus took time to walk away and commune with His father or with the 12 who He loved when facing difficult challenges. So I asked the Lord to take care of those who I couldn’t – and I walked away.

I am living a streamlined life  – hiding in the shadow of my Father’s (and my husband’s) entirely capable wing until I can recover. And frankly, I like this so much, I may hang out under here for far longer than is necessary.

Because the streamlined life is the passionate life. This streamlining has brought me a new boldness for the things that do matter. I now have energy to fight for my six things that are truly important. I believe, for the first time in a while, that the Lord will use me to accomplish the work He has given me to do.

Streamlining. I’m grateful for it. I hope some of you will join me in it. I truly believe it has saved my life.

Team Sims Rocking the World

The Lord is doing a GREAT work in the Sims family (my side of the family), and I am so grateful – so I thought I’d share for those of us who love us and pray for us.

First – My brother, Joe, and sister-in-law, Lori, are expanding their family through adoption! I cannot TELL you what an encouragement it has been to see the Lord call them to this, confirm this call in them, and begin to fulfill it. It has knit my heart with theirs even more to share this calling and to understand the urgency of caring for precious children that the Lord loves. They have faced the opposition we are all warned comes with obedience to this call – but I have loved seeing them handle it with grace and assurance that Jesus is bigger.  So – allow me to “cyber” introduce you to them, and if you can, check out their blog and if the Lord leads, give them some encouragement through comment love. It’s a hard road, and in times like this support from the “church-at-large” becomes invaluable.  http://teamsims.blogspot.com/

Second – my sweet sister, Jess, is coming home from the World Race! If you don’t know what that is – it is an 11 month mission trip through 11 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.  I’ve written about her before – when she began her journey 11 months ago, and I’m so proud of how she has finished strong.  She returns home next week and if you would, keep her in your prayers. She has big decisions to make, and wants to follow the Lord in courage wherever He leads her. I am so excited to again be able to pick up the phone and call her whenever I want to! She is my best friend – and I have so missed being able to share my days with her. But I am also so proud – she followed the Lord in obedience (like Joe and Lori have) and I know He is going to continue to use her to change the world.

Third – my parents are doing better than I’ve ever seen. The Lord has done a HUGE work in both my dad and my mom’s heart, and consequently in their marriage and our family. They are very active at Gateway Church and I have seen the Lord use that church to do a new thing in their hearts (Isaiah 43:19).  It has been amazing to experience and it has confirmed what I always have known to be true (but so easily forget) – the Lord pursues our hearts and when we surrender, the blessing of His Spirit flows to bring life into death and light into darkness beyond what we ever imagined possible.

He’s a good, good God. We’re blessed and I am very very grateful.

Depraved Indifference

It is so easy in the world we live in to see up as down and down as up.

I think we as the church need stuff like this – reminders along the way of the TRUTH.

Please take 7 minutes and watch.

Modern Day Amos

I am taking a class this semester, History and Literature of the Bible, from a secular university.  For my class, I had to study the Book of Amos and report on how I thought the world today would receive a modern-day prophet with a message similar to what Amos preached, and if I believed there were any modern-day prophets like Amos.  It was a fascinating study that I very much enjoyed, and since I do my studies online, it was great to know that my class of 60 people from around the country could also see the essay.  I pray it was an encouragement.  My professor loved it (he gave me a 100! 🙂 so I thought I’d post it here as well, if anyone is interested.

Amos was a shepherd, a common man, who was called by God to deliver a message both to Israel and to her neighbors.  To Israel, Amos prophesied judgment for turning away from the Lord and for forgetting the poor and needy: “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.  They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.”  Amos 2:6b-7

The book of Amos is so interesting because it could have easily been written to the church in America today.  There is a large evangelical cultural and even political Christianity that is seemingly complacent to true righteousness and to the care for the poor.  When Amos wrote in chapter 6, verse 2; “Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come!” he could have been writing to any number of Christian leaders of our day.

If a modern-day Amos was to appear (which in my opinion the Lord has sent several which I will address later), I believe he would be disturbed by the amassing of wealth in our society, and even by the large elaborate church buildings and churches giving 3% to the poor.  Churches filled with members who seem to be numb to the fact that they live in a world where 8.1 million children die each year before their fifth birthday (one.org).  Just like in Amos’ time, there is a sense where the religious of today have largely ignored the covenantal obligation to care for the poor, the widows and the orphans in their distress.

Like other prophetic works, the purpose of the prophecy was a warning to return to the Lord or face doom, and that only in returning to the Lord is hope found.  Amos’ message was a warning what would happen if covenant abuse continued (Hauer, 140).  This is why the end of the book is a hopeful picture of the restoration of Israel after her repentance.

I believe there are four modern-day prophets, or “Amoses,” calling the church to wake up and address the needs of the most needy:

  • First is David Platt, Pastor of the Church at Brook Hills and author of Radical, who has called millions of people to take seriously the commandments of Jesus to care for “the least of these.”
  • Second is Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, has challenged the assertion that most Christians actually follow Christ. “I asked participants who claimed to be “strong followers of Jesus” whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time with the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” (Claiborne).
  • Third is Richard Stearn, President of World Vision and author of The Hole in our Gospel, who leads an organization that cares for millions of children in over 100 countries around the world and who calls churches and Christians to examine whether their giving to the poor lines up with their claims to care for the poor.
  • Finally, although he is not often given the credit he deserves, is the work Bono has done to call churches and governments to fulfill their obligations to the most innocent.  In an interview with Bill Hybels, a noted Christian leader and the Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, Bono called out church leaders who have not led on the issue of caring for the poor ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grBByc7t3Fs).

These four are considered fringe, or liberal, or even heretical by a great majority of evangelical Christians, and are not taken seriously.  Like the prophets in Biblical times, they are criticized and ostracized.  The news media does not pay attention to them because they are too busy selling politicized visions of doom. But these prophets have remained faithful to their message and for those with the ear to hear, they have called us to a Christianity that seems more like the way Christ actually lived than most of what we see in the world today that passes for religious behavior.  Their message gives me hope for the church, because I believe that if we continue to get this wrong, and to build up treasures for ourselves instead of following the clear commandments of Scripture, we are as surely doomed to judgment as the nation of Israel in the time of Amos.  Only in getting this right and caring for the least of these will we actually see the Kingdom of Heaven, both here and in the life to come.

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan, 2006.

Hauer, Christian E., and William A. Young . An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds. 7th ed.  Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2008

“Maternal and Child Health.”  One.org.  Accessed 23 Feb 2011.  http://www.one.org/c/us/issue/15/.

 

Pushing back the ocean

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  I saw two very different articles today about this topic, one where President Obama affirmed the right to choice in a speech, and this horrific article about the abortion clinic in Pennsylvania that was recently raided and shut down by Federal authorities.

This day makes me very sad.  The abortion issue is an intensely personal one for my family – and tonight I just had to say this much.

My heart breaks for women who feel they have no choice but to abort their babies – women who don’t have a support system or who are frightened or overwhelmed.  My heart aches for women who feel alone.  Sometimes I feel hopeless when facing something this big.

But in the back of my mind I have had this thought – I have the great and humbling privilege of having connections, through Facebook and this blog, to hundreds of women.  So given that connection, I wanted to say…

If any of you, or any women you know, are facing an unplanned pregnancy, I want you to know I will help you.  You are not alone.  My family will personally sacrifice to enable you to parent, or we will stand with you if you make the choice to give your baby the option of life through adoption into a forever family.

It would be the joy of my life to give even one child life, and give one mom hope, through something as silly and mundane as a Facebook post.

So, given the things I have read today, I just had to try.

Planted by Streams of Water

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

I am visual and because of what I imagine when I read it, I love this verse.  Doesn’t your heart rate slow when you read this verse and picture that tree?

I read this passage this week and immediately thought “Lord, I feel withered.  I don’t feel planted by streams of water.  I don’t feel like a tree. I feel like a weed.” In that moment, I realized I had a choice – turn from this passage and believe that either this is not really true for Believers or that I am abandoned in my sin, or dig in and figure out why my feelings aren’t matching up with truth.  I realized, quickly, the context of this verse is that the person living deeply invested in the Word of God is the tree.  Ahhh – there is my problem.  I have been disobedient in that area.  So I returned to Him, and sought His presence, and began to feel the streams of water reenter my parched soul.  My perspective began to shift from inside this tiny life I live to the bigger picture of His grace and glory.

And I saw something in this verse.  “Which yields its fruit in season.”  I know from previous study that there is a symbolic meaning to fruit – and I know what this passage is trying to say.  But I also saw something else – another definition of fruit.

One of the MOST amazing things about this past year has been the private messages I have received via Facebook or email, particularly after I reveal some aspect of my terrible nature on this blog.  I have received confessions of weakness or sin from women and men who I’ve known throughout my life, small “me too” messages that reveal that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have received PRECIOUS notes of encouragement from people who have defeated similar sin and many people have joined with me and prayed for me.  I have had the great privilege of praying for, and maybe encouraging, some other people who are struggling alongside me as they have walked their walks with the Lord.  One thing I’ve realized – many many people wait with us on the Lord.   This waiting room is more full than I ever imagined.  But in the waiting room, if we’ll look around, is grace and true Biblical fellowship with other Believers, also waiting.  We can learn from each other.  We can relate to each other.  We can find lifelong friendships.  Amazing.

Another great thing about this time, since I have decided to speak out loudly about our desire to adopt and our desire to support adoptive and foster parents, a number of people have privately messaged me that God is calling them to adopt or foster.  Someone wrote today – it just thrills my soul.  That calling is a daunting one.  I read somewhere that only a very small percentage of people who investigate adoption actually adopt.  And I can understand why.  The process is sometimes confusing and challenging, and it is scary stuff to ask for the permanent care of a child from another environment – not because we fear the child, but often because we don’t feel worthy to handle the challenges that could be associated with adoption and we worry we’ll mess up everyone’s lives in the process.  So I get these quiet messages – “Do you think I could do this?”  I love getting those messages – I love that people trust me with that secret desire and I love that I get to, in that moment, affirm that what God begins in us, He is faithful to complete in His power.  During this past two years, we have gotten the amazing privilege of praying with people, encouraging people, and in tiny measure maybe even helping people do what God has called them to do.  It has been overwhelming and humbling.  When I get those messages, I shake from the honor of being a small part of God’s movement in their lives.

It has been priceless to me.

I wonder had all of my dreams, and my plans, come true in my timing, would I ever have known that community and that privilege?  Had it been up to me – our house would be on its way to being full of little people from around the world.  It is likely I would have been puffed up in my success and busy in my own pursuits, and I would have missed out on the joy of this avenue of true Biblical fellowship.

For that reason, I love this time while we wait.  We can’t adopt now, but we can encourage now. We can pray.  We can advocate.

So this week, when I went to the Lord feeling weak and lifeless, He reminded me that even in Fall and Winter, He is working to bring forth Spring.  And even if I get to be a small part of bringing forth Spring in the lives of others, it is worthy wonderful work.  If that is some of my fruit of this season, I’m in.  I may not be seeing fruit at this moment in our home, but I am seeing others bear fruit and joining with them in community.  Rock on.

So that was a sweet new definition of fruit for me, as pertains to the Psalm 1 passage.

And speaking of bringing forth spring – the Lord has been pruning me so that I can produce fruit in my parenting.  This wait has revealed in me some deficiencies that I needed to correct before I was ready to adopt.  About six months ago, I began to be aware of my inadequacies parenting my girls, in particular Grace.  It was like she was a mirror reflecting the worst side of my nature, and what I saw in myself was ugly.  It killed me.  I longed to parent her with grace and wisdom, and I knew I was failing.  So I prayed.  I begged.  I blogged.  And truthfully, my parenting style, and my sin nature, didn’t revolutionize overnight.  I started having more good days than bad, but sometimes the sin that so easily entangles would overwhelm me.  And I was frustrated.  I felt broken.  I knew my problem, knew some of my wrong thinking, but wasn’t sure how to correct it.  But in my chaos and confusion, the Lord was working quietly and perfectly. Over time, He weaved several seemingly small interactions together that have helped me see my purpose in parenting and helped me identify and correct much of that wrong thinking.  Through a verse, a couple of conversations with friends, some messages from Brandon Thomas, a note from a high school friend over Facebook, a couple of books, the Tapestry Adoption Conference, and the prayers and accountability of precious sisters in Christ, He spoke.  Today I confess that I am not perfect yet (Ha – I wish!), but that I am tapped into the source of change and everyday realizing the grace that is mine both for myself and for parenting my loves.  I am seeing, in Grace, the same struggle I face everyday, the struggle to protect and control what we see as ours, and finally I am feeling empathy for her, not frustration.  Loving, obeying, understanding, and dying to ourselves is not natural.  It is hard, lifelong work.  I am an adult with the person of Christ living in me and yet I struggle, but I expect my three year-old to get it?  It is terribly unfair.  So finally I am seeing that for what it is – sin in me that needs to be dealt with.  Thank you Lord for your refining of me for my and my sweet daughter’s sake.  Protect her Lord from my habitual sin, and continue to be a source of love and grace for my girls.

I remember after therapy realizing that there is power in the knowledge of our brokenness.  Sometimes healing takes work and often it comes later, but a great victory is won when we see ourselves as we truly are – in need of healing and help.  In that moment, we can turn to the Lord and confess our brokenness and He begins to heal.  That is why the enemy of our souls fights to tell us that we are okay, that our problems are always due to other people in our world.  The enemy wants us to believe “It’s all good.  Don’t sweat it.”  But the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin for our benefit, so we can become free.  And I am so grateful to God for that.  He could leave us to walk through life clothed in the stink of death and sin, unaware of our own stench, covered by the grace of His Son’s death but unable to live an abundant life.  But He doesn’t.  He has made us positionally pure in Christ, but He reveals Himself to us and reveals our sin so that we can become completely pure.

That is what streams of water is all about.  Filling with Him so there is no room for our sinful selfish ways until we grow taller and stronger than we ever could have grown in our own power.

Sign me up for that.

Mercy is Alive.

A few weeks ago, my parents kept my kids and allowed me to go to Keystone Church‘s Communion Gathering.  I was tired that Sunday.  Worn out, actually.  I had been working much, traveling much, and patient with my girls and Justin little.  I felt small and broken.  And there was a song we sang that I didn’t know but one line washed over me:

Now’s the time for us to rise

and carry hope to hopeless eyes

and show this world that mercy is alive

Mercy is alive.  As I sang those words, I realized that is what draws me to Keystone, and indeed to any gathering of authentic Believers.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.

That rang through my spirit like a bell – shaking the core of who I am.  Mercy is alive.

It started me thinking.  About how much in need of mercy I am.  About how I can show mercy to others.  About maybe that the point of this life for us Believers left here on earth with a heart for heaven is to show mercy to the others remaining around us who are hurting and lost.

It also made me think that maybe I don’t show the church enough mercy.  And by the church, I mean the total number of Believers on this planet – the Bride of Christ.  I have struggled with frustration with the church for a while.  I feel sometimes like the church is sleeping, only slightly less self-involved than the world we are sent to reach.  And on those days, mercy towards the church is hard to find in this heart of mine.

So the Lord sent me to Hosea.  It is so frustrating and yet so powerful a picture of mercy.  In a nutshell, the Lord is angry with Israel.  They are continuously unfaithful, continuously returning to their sin, yet He loves them.  So the Lord goes to a prophet named Hosea and commands him to marry a prostitute who the Lord knows will be unfaithful.  Hosea, in small measure, is going to live a life demonstrating how the Lord feels every time Israel is unfaithful.  Poor man – his home is about to be the most unfortunate word picture in history.  Hosea’s wife, Gomer, despite his love and patience and kindness, returns again and again to her sin.  And each time, Hosea invites her back.  Throughout the book you see, in poetic measure, this push/pull relationship between the Lord and Israel.  He is kind to Israel, and they draw close, and then over time they run back to sin, so He rejects them for a moment as they face the consequences of their actions, and then when they are lost and hopeless, He woos them back and they return to Him.  And it all starts again.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  This rejection/relinquishment/wooing process has happened in my own life a thousand times.  But it also reminds me of my relationship with other broken sinful people.  We hurt each other, we turn away, we realize our need, we return to each other.  This is why our families are so messy. Even the best families struggle with this broken cycle.  We are sinful people living out the story of Hosea over and over in every relationship in our lives, demonstrating our collective need for mercy.

And since we make up the church – the church lives this out too.  The church will draw close to the Lord, then run back to sin, and the Lord will reject them for a moment and allow them to glimpse life without Him, and then He draws them back repentant.  This is why the church has sometimes been on the wrong side of cultural issues, for example slavery.  The church is not perfect – in fact, we are like a prostitute returning to her sin.  But we have a bridegroom who pursues us, woos us, urges us to return to Him.  He loves us with an everlasting love, despite our continuous inability to get it right.

We aren’t rejected, we are still His bride.  Why?  Because mercy is alive.  Do you get that it is personal?  That it isn’t a concept – it is a PERSON.  Mercy is ALIVE.  Jesus is ALIVE.  Jesus is mercy.

So, since we are ourselves playing the role of Gomer, living in a church full of Gomers, may we recognize the Gomers all around us, and show mercy.  Because when we show mercy, we show Jesus to a lost world.

  • The son who runs away time and time again – he is a Gomer.
  • The daughter who returns to drugs despite the perpetual destruction of her life  – she is a Gomer.
  • The stubborn atheist in a search for truth anywhere but the cross – Gomer.
  • The people who have made sinful decisions that have hurt your family – Gomers.
  • Me in my impatience with my children and my stubborn insistence on my rights and control – Gomer.

But all of us have a Hosea, our powerful Creator who loves us and knew the circumstances of today before a single day came into existence. Jesus is alive, Jesus is mercy, and He will not give up.  He loves us and pursues us.

So we should not give up.  On ourselves, on others.

Our job, as Believers, is to live in the mercy of our King and to show the world that mercy is alive.  The same mercy that right now allows us to breathe……..this……..breath………. He is alive.  He loves us all.

Thank you Jesus for your love and mercy on me – a Gomer of Gomers.  Please help me to show mercy – to show YOU – to a world around me today.