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.

Confessions of an Imperfect Christian Mom

My previous post, Confessions of an Imperfect Christian Wife, was my most widely read post ever. Like, by a gazillion. Apparently, when I let people in to reality of my life, it's interesting. Considering that the entire POINT of this blog is to encourage women to be real, I should have seen it coming.

So since getting real is what it's all about, I'm exposing a little more of my imperfection for the world to see. But this time, I'm tackling a really tricky topic: motherhood.

This is not me, nor my daughter. I'm fairly certain neither of us have ever looked so angelic.
As I only have 2 children (10 and 8, girl and boy), you may not feel I am qualified to write about parenting at all. I have a friend who has 8 kids and she home schools them all, while publishing books, running children's camps, and playing 5 musical instruments. I bend a knee to such amazingness. My husband and I already felt outnumbered when we had our first child, and it's like 'Us vs. An Army' now that we have 2. If you are a parent of 3 or more children, I salute you, I kiss your feet, I sing your praises at the city gates.

Before we had kids, I was pretty sure I had this child-raising thing figured out. Now that we've been parents for 10 years, I have come to the following understanding.

I don't know jack.

I have never encountered a more humbling, awe-inspiring, humiliating, exhausting, overwhelming, or frightening task than raising my children.

I'm not supposed to say things like that since I'm a Christian. I should be saying how my children are a blessing from the Lord (true), and how motherhood is the most important of all the godly callings (debatable).

In the light of full disclosure, I'd like to make a confessional list of some of my parental failings.
  • I would happily put duct tape over my children's mouths if it meant I didn't have to have conversations with them while I was peeing. But that effort would be in vain, since my children wouldn't be deterred by duct tape. They are bathroom interrupting, gold-level MASTERS.
  • At 6:30 in the evening, if I am looking at the clock, it is because I am counting the minutes until bedtime. Sometimes, I push bedtime back to 7:30 just so I can catch a few extra minutes of peace. And they know. They KNOW.
  • I regularly forget to check their homework folders, send in their lunch money, sign their permission slips, or wash their gym clothes. This causes me to duck my head in embarrassment and hide in grocery stores when I run into one of their teachers while I am out and about. If you ever see me crouching behind a potato chip display, tell me when the coast is clear.
  • When my kids are all tucked in to bed and they call out a final request for cuddles, kisses, or extra prayers, I am not moved. Go. To. Bed. Already.
  • I throw away most of my kid's cards, letters, and artwork when they're not looking. I mean, how many clay coffee cups does one woman need?
  • When I was a stay at home mom, my kids watched so much television I knew every word to every Dora episode, and my son's first word was BACKPACK. (True story.)
  • Quality bonding time with my son sometimes consists of us playing Bejeweled Blitz together on an iPad.
  • I am fairly confident that everything good about my children they inherited from their father and all their flaws they got from me. 
  • Sorting through seasonal clothes and hand-me-downs for my children is the most irritating activity in the world.
  • Planning and executing a child's birthday party should be an Olympic Level sport. I would never qualify for the team, but at least I would feel the due rewards of an athlete for trying.
  • I have been known to call the neighbors for assistance with my children without warning. Since I have the best neighbors EVER (my pastor's wife and my dearest friend), they come running and intervene without judgement in whatever hot mess my children have become at that moment. For this, there isn't enough money in the world to repay them.
(There are so many more things I could list, but my husband seemed worried that people would start booing us or throw things at us in public, so I left them off.)

Having revealed much of what I do wrong, I want to reveal the one thing I have realized about being a mother. God is more concerned with my children than I can ever be, and He is ACTIVELY PARENTING them.

He proves this to me time and time again.

Like when my daughter came to me and asked if it was permissible for her to NOT READ OR WATCH certain types of books or movies (that we had already OK'd) because God had told her they weren't good for her.

Like when my son told me that God showed him a picture in his head of him rescuing people in the jungle, and would we pray with him about what that might mean?

Like when my daughter's bedtime behavior was so terrible, so incredible awful, that every night reduced me to a torrent of tears crying out to God for a solution, and HE ANSWERED ME and gave me the key to unlock my daughter's heart.

Like when God whispers something to me to ask my son, and suddenly he is weeping and repenting and praying for forgiveness for an action we didn't even know he had done.

God speaks to my children and He speaks to yours. It is His great desire that children get to know Him from an early age, and that we give our children the freedom and encouragement to know God for themselves. Jesus was known to correct and rebuke adults who thought that children weren't worthy of His time.

This is why, despite my incredible imperfections as a mom, I can sleep at night. (Well, when my kids don't wake me up, I can.) Because God is bigger than my failures, He is greater than my shortcomings, and He is actively working to perfect me and my children because HE LOVES MY KIDS. Because love covers over a multitude of sins; not just my sins against God, but also my sins against my children. My selfishness, my impatience, my anger, my frustration are all covered over by the Love that lives and breathes in our home.

And because the strongest tool in my parenting toolbox is REPENTANCE. I repent to my children when I've gotten it wrong: I pray with them and ask for their forgiveness, and I ask for God's forgiveness in front of them. There is nothing more powerful for restoration and harmony than this.

With Love and repentance, God is changing me into the mom I should be, and He is changing my children too. We are laughing and enjoying each other despite our imperfections.

And that is what is real.


As always, please leave me a comment if you can relate to my experiences, or if you have something to add about your own motherhood story. I'd love to hear from you!

Fill In The Blank


Our local Sisters For Real Bible Study has just started the book of Romans. Which is pretty adventurous for us, since prior to now, we've only tackled books with 5 or less chapters. Romans, with its 16 chapters, seems long and daunting to study in depth. But we rolled up our sleeves, opened our various translations, and dug in.

We got stuck on the very first verse.

Romans 1:1 says, "Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God."

Paul is so sure, so confident of himself and his calling. He starts off this book with a one line description of who he is and what God has asked him to do.

It reminded me of the short descriptions that people give of themselves on Twitter feeds or Facebook accounts. Clever, witty, and often incredibly cool, one-line summaries of who you are can be really difficult to write.

(Full confession: I have wasted HOURS of my life trying to make myself sound interesting and appealing on my Social Media business profiles, in one line or less.)

But Paul, in one line, captures everything important. He describes who he is (a bondservant), what he is called to be (an apostle), and what he is set apart for (the gospel of God). Which got us all thinking... could we come up with a description so easily?

What if we took Paul's declaration, and created a fill in the blank sentence for our own lives? How would it look?

I, (blank), a (blank) of Christ Jesus, called as a (blank), set apart for (blank).

How would I fill in those blanks? Do I know? Do you?

I'm still trying to figure out how my one-sentence description would look. So far, I think it would go like this:

I, Cory, a lover of Christ Jesus, called as a proclaimer of His freedom, set apart to fight for those held captive to the lies of this world.

But I'm not entirely sure....

Knowing who we are in Christ, and knowing what He has called us to do changes our lives and how we live them. I want to live a life that is full of purpose and calling, and that is rich with meaning. I want to have a confident truth-filled sentence that I can use when the enemy of my soul tries to tear me down and make me feel meaningless. I want to be able to proudly (and humbly) exclaim who I am and what He has made me for.

I want to hear from my sisters: If you can fill in those blanks, please leave a comment and let me know.