“I am Xena, God’s Warrior Princess…”

As we finish this series on learning who we are in Christ, it is my heartfelt prayer that each of you have drawn closer to Christ on this journey and have developed a deep sense of how valued and treasured you are.  It is my hope that you will continue seeking Him and discovering this rich relationship in the months and years to come.  Knowing who we are in Christ is an ongoing process.

So to wrap us up, I thought you might all get a kick and a chuckle over hearing my experience.  It is humorous but absolutely true.  And it is quite involved so I will probably share it in two parts, ending tomorrow.

So, in 2003, I was still pretty much a baby Christian and began to discern the need for professional counseling.  I had some things going on in my life that I just wasn’t handling very well, and after praying over them, God told me I needed to get some help.

So I went to work and contacted my HR department (who else would I tell that I was losing my mind??)  They apparently had much experience with this and provided me with a list of covered therapists in our area.  I had asked for specifically a Christian -based therapist and they had a very long list.  I prayed over the list and chose a name that I felt God was leading me to.

I began meeting with this strange little woman of God once a week.  At first I was very uncomfortable because she did crazy things like just sit there in silence with her eyes closed for the first 15 minutes (remember, I was paying by the hour!)  At times she would turn on praise music and dance as if I weren’t even in the room.  And, oh yes, she loved to drip oil on my head and pray for me.  It was quite an unsettling experience.  She was crazy…

But I kept going, week after week, for two reasons:  1.  because I truly believed God led me there; 2.  When I left I always felt more at peace.  I couldn’t explain it, but I really did feel as if I had been in the presence of God, even if it was very uncomfortable.  

About 6 months into the process, she said something that changed my life.  After discussing one of my many troubling relationship issues, she looked at me with these intent little black eyes and said,

“Your problem is, you don’t know who you are in Christ.”

That made no sense to me.  I didn’t understand the term “identity in Christ,” and what did it have to do with my failing marriage?  But according to her,

“When you truly know who you are in Christ, it changes everything.  It changes how you see things, how you respond to things, and how you see your future.”

Of course my interest grew at this statement.  So I asked her how I could figure out who I was.  She told me that she already knew.  You see, God had given her a vision.  OKAAAY!  A vision from the incense burning, dancing, oil pouring little pixie.  Why was I surprised?  I had never met anybody that claimed to have visions from God before.  And on top of all the other strange things she did, I guess it just fit.  So I took a deep breath, and asked her to share her vision.

“You,” she said, “are Xena, God’s Warrior Princess.”  Then she jumped up, started singing hallelujah, danced around me pouring oil on my head.  

“Oh my God,” I prayed, “how could you have placed me at the mercy of someone who obviously takes recreational drugs for breakfast?”

“Xena, the Warrior Princess”  I repeated slowly.  

“Yes,” she said (still dancing.) “And you are glorious in the Father’s eyes.”

And so the story begins…          (Continued tomorrow)

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for surrounding me with people much wiser than myself.  Thank You for sending messengers that reveal Your will to me.  Thank You for leading me into my identity through the faith and witness of others.  Please continue to speak in ways that I can understand.  

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen

“Where are you bleeding?”

Jesus went with him, and all the people followed, crowding around him.  A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding.  She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.  She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe.  For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”  Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it.  Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done.  And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” – Mark 5:24-34

 

I am currently soaking up Jesus’ Spirit at the Academy for Spiritual Formation.  I come here for a week each quarter to renew my soul and re-connect with God.  It is amazing what happens within just a few hours of being in this environment of worship, rest, and complete acceptance.  I forget things like “what is going on at home” and “time to post today’s blog” (sorry about yesterday.)  I forget these things because I get so caught up in the presence of my Savior, that nothing else really matters.  It is my prayer that many of you will make the journey through the Academy at some point in the future.  It has been the most transformational experience of my life.

As a church, we are coming to the end of our month of contemplating who we are in Christ.  It has been a wonderfully reflective time for me.  And, as grace would have it, I have been given an assignment this morning that I would like to share with you.  Each day, our faculty gives us assignments for prayer and contemplation for the day.  This one fits perfectly with our blog journey as well.

Consider the scripture above.  It is well known by most of us, this miracle healing by faith on the part of the woman.  But pay close attention to verse 33.  She fell at Jesus’ feet and explained her situation to Him.  We don’t know exactly what she said, but imagine yourself in her shoes.

Here she is, having been ostracized by her community for 12 years because of a disease she could not control.  She could not go to church, or the marketplace, and it was quite possible that she could have been kicked out of her own home for being unclean.  Suffering doesn’t begin to describe the life she was living.  And she had just committed a crime for touching a pastor physically, and punishment for that was quite severe.

Now she was caught in the act.  I would have been fearful too, of what Jesus would say or do.  But instead of retribution, He listens to her.  And instead of chastising her, He affirms her faith and her healing.  Wow!  What a gracious Savior we have.  What did she say to Him?  Was she on her knees groveling and apologizing?  Did she see something in His eyes that gave her courage to tell Him of her suffering?  Was she praising and thanking Him, with an overflowing explanation of the last 12 years and joy over what had just happened?

We don’t know the answer.  Nor do we know what her life was like after this day.  But know the heart and love our Savior has for us, I am pretty certain of a couple of things.  First, His heart is for me (and you, and her.)  He listened, not because He was unaware, but because He wanted her to understand that she was valuable to Him.  Second, I know that she took a step toward Him in faith, in her brokeness, but she walked away whole.  And her life had to change for the better.  It always does when we draw near to Him.

So my assignment for today (and yours)  is to consider the following questions:

1.  Where are your hurts?  Where is the life draining out of you, a little each day?

2.  What is the story Jesus wants to hear from you?  He cares about you and wants to restore you to wholeness.

3.  If you spend some time today talking with Him about your need for healing, what is His response to you?

I am thankful for the opportunity to sit at the feet of the Master, and just soak Him up today.  I pray you have the same experience.

Peace.

Dearest Lord,

Give me the opportunity to rest in Your presence today.  Help me to open my heart up to You, as Your beloved child.  Give me a trusting spirit, and the ability to be honest with You.  For I know You rise with healing in Your wings for me.  Help me, Lord, to connect with You, and in that way, to be made whole.

In the name of the Lamb I pray,

Amen

“Headin’ for the hills…”

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35

Have you ever noticed how everyday life gets in the way of being a Christian?  My weekend has been living proof of that fact.

Friday afternoon began with my leading of my daughter’s Bible Club.  So there I was, feeling pretty good about myself, explaining to these eager little minds that being a true Christian meant, not only talking about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,) but also living them out.

 “You see girls, it’s not enough to talk about being kind and patient, and gentle, we have to behave that way too.”

Then I gave them some homework for the next time, write down in your journal some practical ways that we can love others.  What a wonderful lesson to begin teaching to these youngsters.

Saturday morning came and my daughter was up early working on her homework.  She already had 21 ways written down about how she could love other people.  The only problem was, she was screaming and punching her little brother because he kept interrupting her “work.”  He wanted to play, she wasn’t interested.  Again, another teachable moment.

 “Hope, don’t you see that actually loving and being patient with other people is more important than writing about it in a notebook?”

I went about my morning tasks because I had a plan.  I had several errands I wanted to run.  Nothing critical, but just things that would put my world a little more at peace.  My plan was to leave the house at noon, do my errands and meet my 3 beloveds for a movie at 2:30.  This was going to be such a peaceful and productive day.  I was happy.

But just as I began to leave, one child needed help with something.  “Ok sweetie, mom has time for that.”  10 minutes later, I was walking out the door.  “Mommy, I need some juice.”  “Sure thing, little angel.”  And one by one, the needs of my “beloveds” continued to pile on top of me.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not make it to the door without someone trying to stop me with an urgent need.

Finally at 1:10 I blew,

“I am done with you people.  Take care of yourself!”

as I slam the door behind me.  I got in my car, raced out of the driveway, and headed for the hills.  Being too late to do any of my planned errands, I didn’t care where I went.  I just had to get away from those whiney, time suckers.  They had ruined my peaceful, carefully planned day…

My God and My Lord,

Thank you for the precious gift of Your Holy Spirit.  Without Him, I would have no way of seeing the hypocrisy of my ways.  The truth is, I love to talk about being a Christian, but I have a long way to go before I actually begin living like one.  Forgive me when I absolutely fail at Your most basic commands.  I pray, that You would become a little bit louder, my King.  When I am in the midst of completely losing my focus on the most important things, please yell at me and turn me around.  Help me to see when my actions are not matching up with my words.  

In all my relationships, help me to be filled with and led by the Spirit.  Thank You for Your unending grace toward me, a sinner.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

“Making me feel super special…”

I am writing to Timothy, my dear son.

May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.  Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again. I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you.” – 2nd Timothy 1:2-6

 

Timothy was a young pastor in Asia Minor in the early days of the church.  He was a protege of the Apostle Paul, and considered as his own son.  Paul poured much of himself into Timothy over the years, and, from what history tells us, Timothy became a very effective leader for the church.  

Timothy had a couple of obstacles to overcome, first being much younger than those he was charged to teach; and secondly, his father was Greek, giving him some cultural obstacles.  However, God had a plan for Timothy, and He placed people in his life that would lead him and continually build him up.  Along with the Apostle Paul, Timothy also had a faithful mother and grandmother that continued to support his efforts.

I was considering this morning, “Who has God placed in my life to build me up and bring me closer to Him?”  He reminded me of someone that I had not thought of in years, my Aunt Mae.  She died about 15 years ago, but let me tell you, she was a wonderful woman.

I grew up unchurched (as all of you know,) but also in an unstable situation.  For a little kid, it is easy to become invisible when living amongst strife and chaos.  My Aunt Mae was my dad’s sister.  And she had an amazing ability to make you feel like the most special person in the whole world, even when the rest of your world was falling apart.  She loved me, just for me.  She always stopped what she was doing and was so happy to sit and talk when I would drop by unannounced.  She made you feel like nothing was more important than you.  I miss her very much.

When I was 5, she gave me a Bible for my birthday.  It was a really nice one.  I didn’t even know about it because my mother put it away, probably trying to protect it from crayons.  But as a teenager, I found it.  Being unchurched, I didn’t know anything about it, but the inscription compelled me to try and read it.  The inscription read, “To my sweet Lana.  Happy Birthday, 5 years old! Love, Aunt Mae.”

Oh, I tried to read it alright.  But it was in the King James Version, and I didn’t understand a word of it.  So I gave up pretty quickly.  But I knew from the inscription that she thought it was very important that I have it.  So I held onto it.  I still can’t read it.  But it does help me to remember someone who loved me dearly and wanted to encourage me in my faith.  I am very thankful for that.

How about you?  Can you think of anyone that God has placed in your life to be an encourager in your faith?  Aren’t we blessed to have those folks, that love us enough to pour themselves into our journey?  

I invite you to take a walk down memory lane over the weekend.  Think about those people that have made an impact on you.  Consider saying thank you, if that is possible.  Or maybe just say a prayer on their behalf.  And secondly, consider who God might be placing in your life that needs the same kind of encouragement.  We are surrounded by people in all venues of our lives that might need a Paul or a Eunice, or an Aunt Mae.  Maybe God has placed you there for that particular purpose.  The generational effects of such efforts are too many to count.  I hope you listen closely and take advantage of those opportunities.  They are blessings in themselves.

Peace brothers and sisters.

Gracious God,

You are my Good Father.  You have surrounded me all my life with people who have protected and encouraged me.  Thank you for those individuals, too many to count, but precious just the same.  Thank you for my aunt, who went out of her way to love me and make me feel special.  Help me to be that kind of aunt, mother, and friend – the kind that invests in young lives for the better.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen

“Where do you fit?”

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a necessary part of it.  And God has placed in the church first of all apostles,second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” – 1st Corinthians 12:27-28

I know very little about how God works.  But there is one thing that I know for sure.  Without a doubt, each believer has been blessed with at least one spiritual gift to be used in the advancement of the kingdom.  He promised us the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and I have been a witness to this truth in every believer I have ever encountered.

Imagine!  God has gifted you in a very specific way.  You are unique and designed to fulfill a certain purpose within His church. When we begin to truly seek out our identity in Christ, this is one of the fundamental pieces of our puzzle.  We are a necessary part of the body of Christ.

I don’t know about you, but the implications of that truth somewhat overwhelm me.  When I realized that God created me with a specific purpose, I was both awed that I was so significant, and scared that I wouldn’t be able to live up to His expectations.  That seemed like a lot of pressure.

But I have learned that it is not.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  When serving within the realm of my true giftedness, I have great joy.  I don’t get tired.  I can feel the presence of God within me.  It is a wonderful way to live.  And when I accept the things I am not, it is even better.  I have stopped giving myself a hard times for the traits I don’t possess.

Our staff at Liberty Crossings is a living example of God’s design at work.  In the words of a team building consultant, “we are the most well – balanced team she had ever encountered.”  How do you think that happened?  But it is true.  We went through some pretty extensive testing a couple of years ago, and this is what we found:

  • Wade – the visionary
  • Jim – the administrator (aka “the velvet hammer”)
  • Steve – the artist
  • Laura – the lover
  • Lynn – the warm welcome
  • Sharon – the listener (and retainer of all church facts)
  • Sandy – the gentle spirit
  • Lana – the fire starter (that is truly the label given to me) aka – the hamster on the wheel

Once I realized where I fit, I was able to embrace the gifts I had as something necessary for the whole.  It didn’t bother me so much any more that I wasn’t  “a warm and fuzzy.”  If you look at our team, we have plenty of those.  It is a very freeing thing to realize you don’t have to be all things; just the one thing God made you to be.

Some may say of course that is how a church staff should be.  But I would challenge that statement.  Instead, I believe this is how the ENTIRE CHURCH is.

And you are a part of it.  You are necessary and valued.  The church is not complete without you.

I invite us all to spend some time praying about and seeking affirmation of our gifts.  I am including below a link to a website that contains a quick (10 minute) free survey to help in determining what our gifts might be.  When I took it, it proved to be relatively accurate.

As well, we offer a six-weeks course in determining, not only our gifts, but also our personality styles and ministry passions.  If you are interested in attending, please let me know so we can schedule one for you.  This is one of my most favorite things to do.

http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/test/adult

 

Heavenly Father,

 You made each one of us wonderfully unique.  We are handcrafted to fulfill the purposes You have for us.  Help us to embrace our gifts and to feel complete in them.  Help us to see where we fit in Your church and how to go about connecting with those ministries.  Above all, teach us how to live for Your glory and Your honor each day, regardless of our activities.

In Jesus’ name we pray,

Amen

“A priceless gift…”

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” – Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)

Some of you may recognize this passage of scripture.  It is commonly known as the “fruit of the Spirit” verse.  Most of us can remember some of it:  “and the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy, patience….)  But today I really wanted to share this version from the Message translation.  Sometimes, reading a passage you know by heart takes on a new meaning when viewed through a different lens.

By reading it this way, I can ask myself, “Am I truly being filled by the Holy Spirit?”  This is extremely important because, as a child of God, signs of the Spirit in my life are a distinct marking.  It is how the world can differentiate me from a non-believer.  It validates my witness.

I invite you today to really meditate on the passage and to ask yourself the same question.  If you find that some parts of your life are not quite there yet, then this is a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with God and ask Him to fulfill this wonderful promise He has given you.  It is a prayer that is well-said each day of our lives, “Lord, please fill me with Your Holy Spirit.”  And the benefits cannot be measured.

Sweet Holy Spirit,

You are my Good Counselor.  You are my Teacher and my Guide.  Please come today and fill my soul.  Lead me into a life that glorifies You and bears a strong witness for Christ in this world.  Cultivate in my heart the fruit of Your presence: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Help me to live as the child of God that I am, with all its fullness.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

“Christian or Christ-follower?”

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened—
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.
 I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40:6-8

 

Here we are in the 3rd week of our question, “Who am I in Christ?”

Today, I invite you to consider the following question, “Am I a Christian, or a Christ follower?”

They are the same, you might say.  However, I have both witnessed in our culture, and found in my own life, that they are not.

First let us look at our cultural context.  What does it mean to be a Christian in our nation, our state, and even our neighborhoods?  If we were to take a poll, we would receive many answers.  Some might include:

  • Someone who attends church regularly
  • An honest, moral and decent person
  • A judgmental person with little tolerance for different people
  • Someone who serves the poor and least of these
  • Someone who prays a lot 
  • Add your own definition here

To be honest, in my quest to be a “good Christian,”  I have been all the above, and more.  And I believe that being a Christ follower will include these activities too (except for #3.)  However, in my own experience, I have found that being a follower is so much more than just doing the “right things.”

True Christ followers are marked by a state of being, not doing.  True followers exist in such a way that they are completely surrendered to the will of Christ everyday.  They are worshipers.  They are seekers of His Divine presence in all circumstances.  They get up every day and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done, Lord.”

True Christ followers lay their ambitions aside in order to advance the kingdom agenda, not their own.  True followers say, “Here I am, Lord.  Use me.” even in the midst of challenge and sacrifice.  These are the faithful that lay everything they have at the feet of Jesus and say, “take it and use it as You will.”

Can you see the difference?  Me too, glaringly.

See, I know people like this.  I have seen how they live, and I can assure you, I have a long way to go.  I have my moments when I give it all up to God and really seek His will for my life.  But they are few and far between.  Most days I am wrapped up in my plans and my wants, and I don’t give much thought to what He wants from me.

But I want to do better.  I don’t want to get to heaven and hear Him say in a disappointed voice, “Lana, you could have done so much better.”  Or even worse, “I don’t I know you.”

However, I know myself well enough to know that I can’t do this alone.  It is far too easy to make excuses and pretend that I am doing ok if no one else is watching.  That is why I am so thankful for my small group.  If I ask these folks to keep me accountable, then they surely will.  And I need that in my life.  

What about the rest of us?  How do the rest of the folks in our community here stay on the right track?  I would love to hear your answers.

Traveling Together,

Peace

 

My Lord and My God,

You are unchanging and Your love for me never fails.  How is that?  When I fail You so regularly?  I thank You for Your grace and mercy toward me.  And I ask today that You would continue to work with me.  Create in me a burning desire to be a true Christ follower.  Give me the strength and presence of mind to follow through on it.  Do not let me be satisfied with a hollow religion, filled with activities, but lacking true intimacy with You.  Draw me closer to You, my King.

In the name of the Good Shepherd I pray,

Amen