unshackled and unashamed

We crowded the platform overlooking the stage – the three of us in a kind of huddle, swaying and bouncing with giggles.

We danced with our hands in the air, singing the words we knew and mumbling through the ones we didn’t. More than 17,000 people packed the arena and it felt like just the three of us – three blonde sisters savoring the moments and filling the air with laughter. I wasn’t concerned about impressions because I was singing with two beautiful girls who were lost in the music.

I didn’t used to be like this. Junior and high school were about keeping up appearances, no matter how many times I try to say they weren’t. 

Do I look spiritual enough? Do I look too spiritual? Do I look smart enough? Do I seem too smart and not humble?  I did a lot of situational assessment to figure out how to make the best impressions. I know, definitely first world problems.

I thought on those things as I was standing there at the concert, not caring about anything that anyone was thinking. Maybe it was because those things – those silly cultural fears about what others think – seemed so petty when I thought about what my sisters thought of me. I wanted them to see that I was unshackled and unashamed.

Christ doesn’t set free halfway – when he freed me from my sin it was complete. That kind of power pulls people into statements like Paul’s in his letter to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…” That’s not a statement that’s worried about impressions.

The law of the spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death. Free.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
(Romans 8:1-11 ESV)

The Spirit of God dwells in me and the Spirit is life and the Spirit gives life – the kind of life that lives unshackled and unashamed. This is the impression I want to make.

Today is the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, and I want to live it unshackled and unashamed.

You may not be giving something up for 40 days, but if you are, let me encourage you: don’t put yourself under the law for 40 days as an act of penitence. If you are in Christ, the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Don’t crawl back under the law so you are condemned again. Instead, live in the freedom His grace provides.

Even as you are giving things up, focus on Jesus as treasure and your small sacrifices will taste so much sweeter.

These 40 days are about choosing Christ instead. When we want chocolate or coffee or facebook or drive-thru or clothes or comfort, choose Christ instead. Sink your teeth into His truth and be filled to full with His grace. He satisfies (Psalm 63) like nothing else.

In sacrifice there is reward and His name is Jesus.

Here’s a devotional you might check out and some of my favorite songs for lent. These 40 days could be a time where you discover what it means to be unshackled and unashamed.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

this & that

It’s raining/snowing and the murky sky suits this Thursday.
I don’t mean that today is despairing, but I do mean that today seems like one of those days where weighty thoughts find a rightful place in the front of my brain. Maybe it’s the ushering in of the Lenten season or perhaps the strange, brown winter we’ve been ambling through… but today is full of weight and maybe you’d like to carry it with me.

Honduras never left my heart, but these past few weeks it’s been intense with two huge fires. You might have heard the news stories about the prison fire and the central market fire. The fire in the market was 5 minutes from where I lived a few short months ago. My sister in Christ tells me to pray for open doors so ministries can reach out during this time. My heart is heavy.

As I try to reflect in prayer during Lent, this blog post by Brett McCracken with Lenten Prayer requests is especially helpful. Oh, that my heart would be situated in a place where I can hear from the Lord.

Now that I’m living in the States again, this whole season feels different. There is something about a Catholic/Latin culture that surprised my spirit around this time. Apart from soccer, the religious traditions surrounding Easter always caused my heart to slow and consider the cost. This blog post by Russell Moore, “Always Mardi Gras, Never Easter” reminds me I must readjust my cultural lens to understand how to engage in conversations with Catholics/Protestants here.

I thought this article “Give up the Gimmicks, Youth Pastors” was an excellent read. I struggle seriously with all the games/programs/bells/whistles that make up our youth outreach programs in the US (and to Christian youth in general). I just don’t know what the best method is to effectively “speak their language” without sacrificing the content they are more than ready to receive.

I know I’ve certainly wrestled with “Why?” questions when it comes to God’s sovereignty. Just last night, I met up with some friends and before I could sit down they told me they were arguing about reincarnation. Before the conversation got too far, I found out the one guy’s mom was a Jehovah’s Witness and he knew his theology. At one point, he looked at me cynically and said, “Oh, sure. It’s about “sovereignty” isn’t it? Right. God is “sovereign” and that’s why it’s okay to say He created everything only to let it go to crap so that He could save it?” Whew! I tried to meet him where he was at and encourage his questions, but when I read this article from DesiringGod.org, “Why Did God Let Paul Become a Murderer?” I thought about all the answers that are foolish to those who don’t believe in the cross. I need serious grace and faith to believe God will give the words that make sense in the right time to the right people.

Well, folks, that’s a lot of reading. I’ll repeat the challenge from my last “this & that” post: How can my knowledge of God inform my obedience in a way that leads to actions full of love in reponse to these things?

Last night, I spoke with one of my dear friends who is still living and working in Honduras. She shared about a time recently when she was so full of sadness – days of heavy, unrelenting sadness because of the brokenness she sees. We agreed that sometimes – precious, painful sometimes – God responds to our prayers to, “break our hearts for what breaks Yours,” by allowing us a sliver of His pain. We couldn’t handle any more than that, but if we are fervently praying, we shouldn’t be surprised when our hearts start to swell inside our chests. We shouldn’t wish it away either. Those moments are precious – gifts to draw near to Him and grieve all the ways we’ve mangled his magnificent design. And then, to pray for His purpose to be realized through us – that every nation, tribe, tongue will hear the glorious news of the Gospel. The news that sets the crooked straight and the broken mended.

even with heavy hearts, in the power of the resurrected Savior, we can

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

my mom misses my blog

the greatest group there ever was - mission 2011

I get to see this beautiful girl every day!
this was our good morning chocolate chip pancake day!

I miss it, too. I kept thinking of opening lines over the past few weeks, but they never found their way to the keyboard. I apologize for the absence of electronic words, but my excuse is that I’ve been living. I’m trudging through a great mix of emotions as I fill my days with sometimes the most random things. Yesterday was the Junior/Senior banquet… which made the end of this year even more final.

Well, my mom has suggested in more than one way that I will regret it if I don’t blog during these last months, so I am going to throw out some bullet points to get started. This is a mezcla of things I’ve been up to lately:

  • I am just eating up every message from the Gospel Coalition Conference that’s happening right now in Chicago. They are not only posting the plenary sessions online for free, they also made the live hymn sing available! Go check it out, download it all and then send me a message so we can talk about it! The only (BIG) downside to not being there is the discussion that I’m sure is happening over coffee and around book tables.
  • This quote by John Stott, as I think about the cross,

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

John R. W. Stott

  • I love this new blog I found llevo el invierno where a super creative, crafty lady from Monterrey, Mexico posts some great stuff! Also enjoying this and this.
  • I have found out that working out and strength training doesn’t necessarily mean slimmer… I feel like I’m training to be a football player or something!!
  • This year is winding down and I’m all mixed up with how to feel about it. The seniors have 23 days of school left and I’m getting as weepy as they are! I have other students in and out of my office and I try hard to keep my emotions at bay because if I don’t there’s no controlling them, they’ll just go crazy!
  • The Nichols siblings are about to embark on a half-marathon journey for the fall. I’m super pumped to do this with my sister and brothers (praying for James’s injuries to be completely gone in time to train). This is something I’m so excited about, amidst all the other confusion and changes.
  • Mission trip momentum… this is the time where I need to be praying the hardest for my students. They are getting attacked on every side by people and things that say they should be “over” the mission trip by now, but in their hearts they know it’s a lifestyle they’ve been called to. I love them so incredibly much and want to pray them into the Lord’s presence!
  • Next year. Oh heavens! The Lord has this, too, in His hands.
  • Semana Santa is next week and I have a lot of hangout time planned with students, as well as some goals to spend some reflective time with books and words and writing and (yes) even my blog. I want to hit up the stations of the cross with these Songs for Lent, which you can pick up for free.
  • I have been doing this really cool fast/pray/give thing with Living Water as a practice for Lent and I’ve got nothing but good reflection about it. Hard at times, but good.
  • Tonight I made a bucket list of sorts for the seniors/students/mission trip/me and it is completely unfinished but even as I was writing it I felt excitement and sadness go back and forth like ping pong in my soul.
Okay, well I guess I’m back in blogging action.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy
once again!