There's Power in the Name


I attended a women's conference last weekend. There were amazing, humorous, intelligent women sharing about their lives and their struggles. There was beautiful music, laughter, fellowship. There was only one thing missing.

Jesus.

In a desire to be welcoming, to be a safe place for all women to come - the conference organizers took a deliberate step away from the mention of Jesus. Occasionally, in the middle of a story, they would mention Jesus - but it was rare. There were many references to God, and to vague concepts like the "author of my story". But Christ took a side role, a backseat.

There was one specific moment that stuck in my brain. One of the presenters mentioned that the things we keep in the darkness have power over us. She was urging women to shine light into our darkest places. She said, "The light leads us to truth. And only truth can set us free."

Then she stopped.

And my heart broke a little.

Because while she is correct that only the truth can set you free, she failed to go the next, crucial step. The truth is a MAN and His name is Jesus.

Without Jesus, truth is just a flexible concept, devoid of any constancy. Without Jesus, light is just a weak beam fighting against an endless night. Without Jesus, religion is just a crutch or a shackle. Without Jesus, there is nothing.

The name of Jesus is powerful. The good news is that Jesus conquered death! When we accept His life in us, the same power that raised Christ from the grave is alive in us! Without Jesus, we can have all the encouraging conferences and self-help seminars in the world, but we do not have the power to change. It is Jesus, and only Jesus, who gives us His Spirit to lead us, guide us, and transform us.

While I am certain that many women were blessed at this conference, I left saddened that women were brought so close to the truth, so close to transformation, and then left to have their hopes dashed and their expectations foiled by a life that is full of good intentions without the power to see them accomplished.

There is power in the name of Jesus. I proclaim it proudly, and unashamed.

The Opposite of Rest

It has been so long since I blogged, I forgot my own password. Oh boy.

Ironically, in the many, many, busy and overwhelming months since my last post, God has been working on only ONE THING in my life. Rest. Yet this last year has been the busiest year of my life. There has been less rest than ever before.

(We did sneak in a 1 week vacation to the beach last summer. It was glorious. If you ever hear a report that I've gone missing, come look for me at Topsail Island, North Carolina. It's my new favorite place on earth.)
Um. Yes. Please.
Me and Mine catching a minute of romance.
But aside from that one restful week, it was go! go! go! all the time. And this is the REALLY important thing that I've learned: the only person I have to blame for my constant state of activity is ME.

It's MY fault that I'm busy all the time. It's MY fault that I don't have rest. I'm the one who takes on too much, fills my schedule to overflowing, and takes on new projects whenever there's a moment of free time. It's not my boss's fault, or my husband's, or even my kid's. It's all me.

I really hate that.

God showed me that I don't rest because I need to feel that I've achieved something; that I think my value comes from what I've accomplished. That I'm fighting every day of my life to prove I have worth - and that I think my worth comes from what I've done.

I really hate that too.

I am completely unable to remedy this self-created problem. Left to my own devices, I will work myself into the grave.

But there is hope.

Jesus told us that He came to give us LIFE. Not stress. Not busyness. Not exhaustion. LIFE.

If I will surrender to His will, and seek Him before I make commitments or take on new projects, I can find rest in Him. It's His desire for me, for all of us. And I'm done fighting Him on this one.

I know it won't be easy. I've enlisted my pastor, my husband, and some really great friends to help me recognize when I've overcommitted and discern what commitments need to get tossed out. I can't do it alone, but it can be done.

This upcoming year, when the occasional free day looms out ahead of me, all purposeless and scary in its lack of structure, I promise to stop, pray, and just breathe. I won't panic. I won't rush into a project. I'll just listen. Rest. Wait. Be whole in Him.

Because He's my value. He's my worth. He's the purpose and life I want to find. And there's nothing I can ever add or detract from that.

Do any of you have the same struggle? Are you too busy and it's all your fault? Where do you create boundaries to keep your schedule clear? How do you fight the tendency to draw your value from your accomplishments? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment and share your story.

What the World Needs Now, Is Love, Sweet Love

Why is LOVE so hard?

Recently, a sister-for-real called me to talk about her marriage; how hard it is, how lonely it sometimes feels, how often it is fraught with pain, fighting, and tears.

Recently, a colleague made an appointment to talk to me about her conflict with another work-mate, how critical and overbearing he can be, how devoid of compassion, sympathy and support he is.

Recently, a church member sat with me and spoke of the hypocrisy, the rejection, the shame they feel in their friendships with other church members.

Recently, a friend posted online how much they hated someone else who didn't agree with them, using vitriolic speech that shocked me to read.

In every single one of these situations, the people speaking were Christians, and the people they were speaking about were Christians. Everyone of these people involved should be living examples of love, of kindness, of laying down their lives for others. Instead, they were examples of giving or receiving incredibly unloving words and behaviors.

In John 13:35, Jesus tells us, "...everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

As a whole, we are a long way from where we need to be in regards to love. We are desperate for love, but we are so far from living it out. And I'd like to be a part of changing that.
Starting on Sunday, I'll be joining the "15 Weeks to Love" Campaign. Each week, I'll be focusing on one of the 15 attributes of love that are listed in 1 Corinthians 13. I'll be examining my thoughts and actions through each attribute, and recording what difference it makes in me and the lives of those around me.

I'll also be reminding myself that each of these attributes describes how God is towards me. Love isn't just some grand idea, but the real, living heart of God towards me, His daughter. I want to live like I really believe that.

Will you join me?

Rise Up, My Love, and Come Away With Me

Things are all abuzz and a whirling here in Sisters for Real land. We're preparing for the upcoming Alliance International Ministries annual Women's Retreat that we are hosting at Church of the Nations. We're incredibly excited and delighted! Want to come?
We'll be focusing on rest, and taking time to be refreshed and rejuvenated. There will be free time, fun time, game time, ministry time, meal times, and friendship times. We'd really love to have you.

If you're traveling from out of the area, we have made arrangements with some local hotels. I'll put conference brochure at the bottom of this post so you can print it out, get all the details, and send in your registration.

We'll have a host of different women sharing, from several different churches, and I'll be speaking on Saturday night. Come hear first-hand what God has been working in me about resting in Him.

See you in May!



Responding to Someone Else's Gifting

How do we respond to other people who have more than we do?
Luke 1:39-43 "At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

There are many beautiful things about this passage; that betrothed and 'scandalously' pregnant Mary had a friend she could "hurry to" and be safe, that Elizabeth's unborn child recognized Jesus while in Mary's womb and leaped in greeting, that Elizabeth welcomed her cousin in faith. These are touching, loving, miraculous moments in the story of Jesus' birth.

But it's a different aspect of the story that holds something even more astounding to me. While I have full confidence in the miracle-working God who can orchestrate a virgin birth, shepherds, wise men, and a traveling star, I have less confidence in the human heart. So to me, it is Elizabeth's reaction that is astonishing.

Elizabeth had lived a lifetime with a constant ache: she wanted to bear a child and she wasn't able to. In her culture, the ability to produce children was the defining achievement of womanhood, and a barren womb was considered a curse. Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, had wanted a child for years. Their biological clock had long since stopped ticking, and they were "well along in years". Yet despite their disappointments, they were faithful servants of God.

One day, one incredible, amazing, life-changing day, the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and told him that he would have a son. Zechariah had a difficult time believing this, since they were so old, but the angel assured him it was true and struck Zechariah mute as a result of his disbelief. (Ouch.) Then Elizabeth did indeed conceive a child, and spent 5 months rejoicing to God because "he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Several months into her pregnancy, Elizabeth heard the news that her relative, a young girl named Mary, was going to have a baby and she wasn't even married yet. We tend to gloss this part of the story over when we tell it at Christmas time, but it wasn't a pretty thing to be pregnant and betrothed then. Mary's defense of, "It's a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, I promise!" couldn't have helped the matter all that much. The rumors and gossip must have been horrible. Mary needed shelter from the social and cultural backlash of her circumstances, and since the angel of the Lord told her about Elizabeth's miraculous pregnancy, she decided to visit Elizabeth, who might possibly understand and give her some respite.

Imagine this scene. Elizabeth is celebrating the amazing gift of her late-in-life pregnancy, which was a miracle ordained by God, foretold by a visit from an actual angel, and the child she is to bear will play a crucial role in the kingdom of God. But into this blissful halo of happiness walks Mary, who is also pregnant from a miracle ordained by God, who was also visited by an angel, whose child is to be even greater and more important than Elizabeth's child, and who didn't have to wait her whole life to receive it.

It would have been perfectly understandable if Elizabeth were to feel slighted, jealous, angry, bitter, resentful, or insecure. For the first time in her life, when she was on top of the world in joy, someone walks in the door who has received an even bigger, better, more valuable gift from God. But instead of retreating into a host of human negativity, Elizabeth's response is, "Blessings to you Mary, blessings to your baby, and blessings to me that you would even come to visit me."

Wow.

We can learn something from this, Sisters.

I have witnessed, time and time again, the negative response of women who feel that someone else's gifting is better than their own. I have watched as jealousy, resentment, bitterness, and insecurity become wedges that drive the Sisters of Christ apart. I have been guilty of it myself, and I have seen other people react that way to me. It is a common occurrence among women. And it is terribly sad.

So my question to you today is this: "How do you respond to other people's gifting?" When you encounter someone who is gifted, either materially or spiritually, with things you don't have, do you run to insecurity or jealousy? Or do you respond like Elizabeth and give thanks to God for the blessings of that gifting and the honor of even getting to be visited by the gifting of others?

Elizabeth is astonishing because she had every right to be bitter or resentful, and she responded like a true Sister for Real. She rejoiced with her friend and felt only joy that God had been blessing Mary. Elizabeth knew that every good thing that God gives forth on this earth is a reason to rejoice. She knew that Mary's gift from God, like all gifts from God, would ultimately benefit all of God's creation. Elizabeth knew that jealousy and envy are contrary to God's heart, and she allowed no room for those things in her life.

It's time to be more like Elizabeth.

We've gone too long letting the enemy tear us apart by comparing and contrasting ourselves to each other. We've spent too many years sizing each other up and ripping each other down. We've wasted too much time putting down our own gifts and blessings because they don't measure up to someone else's.

Enough.

Let us go forward from this day determined to have the attitude of Elizabeth when faced with someone else's blessing. What a victory this would be in the church. What an amazing change this would make in our relationships. What an impact this would be on the world!

Are you with me?

Taking a Break from Taking a Break

I have woefully neglected my online Sisters for Real lately. The holiday season was a flurry of activity and family, and truthfully, it was WONDERFUL. The revelation of rest that God is giving me transformed this usually hectic and chaotic time and I loved every minute of it.

I did less shopping, and more chatting with my kids. I did less baking, and more playing games with my husband. I did less work, and more fun Christmasy things.

I was taking a break. And it was everything I dreamed it could be.

Currently though, I am trying to balance the message of rest with the demands of normal, back-to-the-grind-deadlines-to-meet-bills-to-pay-laundry-to-wash kind of days. How can I stay in His REST while still working hard?

I don't have all the answers yet. But I'm getting closer.

As part of my research on rest (Yes, I am doing research on rest. And yes, I can see the irony.) I'll be reading and discussing The Well-Balanced World Changer by Sarah Cunningham with a few of my sisters. Pick up a copy and read along with us. I'll be posting as I go through it, starting in February.

And I'll be sharing my revelations on rest this month at my church. Probably on January 19th. Come on in if you're interested.

For now, I have to get back to work. I'm looking at it as taking a break from my break. I'll be carrying my new restful attitude into everything I do today. And I'll let you know how it goes.

Rest? What's That?

Somedays, all I really want to do is sleep.


In my dreams, the perfect day would consist of a cozy bed, comfortable pajamas, and ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that needs to be done. Just hours upon hours of sleep and rest.

This is probably because my life consists of almost constant activity. From the time the alarm sounds to the time I shut my eyes at night, it is GO GO GO, all the live-long day. A steady stream of jobs, errands, chores, conversations, problems, dishes, laundry, shopping, accounting, filing, homework, cooking, cleaning, typing, researching, conflict solving. (Can I get an AMEN?!?!)

And yet, for the past several months, in the middle of my busyness, I could feel a divine shoulder-tap. A heavenly whisper. It was saying just one word.

REST.

And my ever-spiritual response to God was, "Say what?"

Rest? Are you kidding me? Who has time for that?

His voice was persistent. It resounded through my chaos. It echoed in my heart when I was running around like crazy. It confronted me when I was so tired I thought I would collapse. It nudged me when I got sick from too much work with too little sleep.

REST.

His voice followed me to Ecuador last month while I was vacationing with my family. His voice found me in the car in Riobamba, listening to a sermon on the radio, as the preacher quoted Matthew 11:28. I knew just enough Spanish to know that God was talking to ME.

"Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST."

Ecuador's culture includes rest. Not only a daily siesta time, but a pervasive concept of resting that affects how people plan, how they communicate, even how they work. Rest is important. It is valued. Hectic multitasking isn't appreciated as a skill in Ecuador. It is looked down upon as the action of an anxious person who doesn't enjoy life. And I think they may be on to something.

(I can't even COUNT how many times someone turned to me in Ecuador and said, "Tranquila, Cory." It was their super-nice way of saying CHILL OUT, GIRL. How embarrassing. I was on VACATION and I had to be told to relax.)

So I've been doing some research and I've discovered that rest is pretty important to God. It is mentioned HUNDREDS of times in the Bible. And yet rest is almost NO part of my life. And it's not just my life. Rest is almost non-existant in the lives of MOST of the women I know. It's important to God, and it's not important to us. Something seems wrong here.

Even worse, to be painfully honest, is that I've been guilty of judging people who DO have rest in their lives. I've taken great pride in my busy life, my demanding schedule. I've gathered my value from my achievements and accomplishments. I've allowed my to-do list to define me. I've measured my crazy life against other people's and looked down on those who have less to do.

Oh Father, forgive me.

I don't have all the answers yet, but I am on a journey towards understanding rest. God promises that He has rest for me, for all of us. I want to live in that rest. I want to know it in my heart and in my spirit.
Don't you?

I'll be blogging more to come about my discoveries concerning rest. And I'd love to hear from you as I move forward. Have you found a place of rest in your life? Have you found ways to combat busyness? Are you also guilty of judging other people who have less to do? I want to hear how my sisters are doing in terms of rest. Please comment and let me know.