on the hook: making disciples in non-vocational ministry

I met a woman today while I was running errands for work. We fell into small talk and she asked if I had anything “fun” planned today. I took the road most traveled with my bland reply, “Just work, I guess.”

I thought of all the stories I could weave about my complicated life and my unpredictable schedule… and then I heard her ask, “Where do you work?” I kept up with the North American charade and chose the job where I have an office, “I work at the E Free Church here in town.”

Her eyes lit up. “Oh! The one on 24th street?”

Our conversation turned a corner and I arrived again at a crossroads. Though technically I’m employed by a church right now as an administrative assistant, I am growing into a stronger conviction about the power of non-vocational ministry. When Jesus spoke the commission over the disciples in Matthew 28, his directive was to make disciples – baptizing them in the name of the Father and teaching them to obey all His commands.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

What he did NOT say was this, “Go into all the world and find leaders that you can pay to be disciples and hopefully people will follow them.”

We are settling for a powerless Christianity when we rely on paid ministry workers to carry all the weight of the Body of Christ. We have an amateur complex – an idea that we aren’t qualified or capable of reading and understanding the Word of God unless it is unpacked by an “expert” of the faith. We have elevated individuals in the church because of their knowledge or charisma or firm Sunday handshake and, in the process, given ourselves a ready excuse in the face of spiritual failure. “Well, I know I messed up again… but I’m no Pastor John. I wonder if there’s, like, a program where someone would help me with my addiction.” We make excuses (and we accept others’ excuses) for skipping devotions, church responsibilities, and Bible studies because we’re not “in the ministry” and there’s a lot more than Bible going on in our lives.

What?

Again, when God gave the direction to go and make disciples he was talking about regular people living like Jesus and inviting other regular people to do the same.

Do you know that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)? He grew into more knowledge of the Lord just like he grew into size 28 jeans (or robe). Every day he found out more about His Father and every day He obeyed with more joy and every day Jesus found more favor with God and man. This was his vocation. He was expert at loving the Lord, growing in knowledge of Him, and serving others.

No one is off the hook. Not a pastor? You’re qualified if you are born again. Don’t have a degree in women’s ministry? You are adequate in Christ. Not confident in your less-than-perfect Christian journey? Jesus wants you, too.

Here’s the catch (wink): you WANT to be on the hook. For all the squirming and protesting Christians do to get out of ministry and outreach and loving neighbors, they don’t realize that a worm on a hook is how you catch a fish. Jesus has qualified us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God is making His appeal through us to the world so that they might come to know the saving work of Christ.

WHOA.

No one is off the hook, but no true Christian should want to be anywhere else.

God has called, redeemed, and equipped regular people to take His message of redemption to the world in our everyday, regular encounters with regular people. So, why is it so much easier for people in vocational ministry to have conversations about the Lord?

We are all in ministry.
We are all on “staff.”
We are all called to make disciples.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

grapefruits and what we do with good gifts

Today I ate a grapefruit for lunch – with Saltines, just like my Grandpa Nichols. I used to try to eat a grapefruit like an orange and that never ended well. I’ve since learned a method that wastes little of the delicious fruit.Grapefruit (half)

As I was cutting into the pink today, careful to not waste any of those sweet, pink pockets, I realized that enjoying a grapefruit is a commitment. You’ve got to be willing to work in order to enjoy membrane-less, tangy goodness.

I started thinking about all the reasons I don’t choose good things – all the times I’ve passed up a grapefruit for a granola bar just because it’s easier. I know what’s better and sometimes I can even taste it because I’ve chosen it before, but something dreadful inside of me attacks my knowledge of “better.” And I end up settling for less effort and less goodness.

God promises to not withhold any good thing from us. In Christ, God lavishes an inheritance I can’t comprehend – gifts that won’t run out even if I open one every moment of my life. God promises, in Christ to withhold no good thing from us, so the choice for less is on me.

Psalm 84:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

I wondered (cutting up that tasty giant took some tiempo) if we learn to recognize the good things, but are never held accountable to do/use them. In college I sat in study groups and wrote papers and made passionate presentations about all the good things we should be/could be doing, but the doing of those things is just too hard and everybody knows it. Now, I go to bible studies and post facebook links and wax philosophy at coffee shops about the best ways to change the world, but the doing of these things is just too hard and everybody knows it.

Everybody knows we’ll end up ordering Little Caesar’s instead of planning a homegrown spread from the garden. Everybody knows those ideas about loving others and living like Jesus are like climbing Mt. Everest – we can feel the rush as we raise our hands in victory on the summit, but we’re never going to train for it.
It’s just the way we do life.

I sat down to enjoy my juicy prize at my desk and thought, “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

one FINE day

Remember that movie, One Fine Day?

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Well, yesterday was about as FINE as it could get! I spent the whole day laughing with and talking and listening and dreaming with a very special Honduran someone. She reminded me of all the reasons God filled me up to be poured out during my time in Honduras.

It was amazing to introduce her to a few aunts and uncles and cousins and see her fit right in. She sensed right away our bond through Christ and His love and I’m so thankful! My family does an AMAZING job of showing love. I can’t wait for the big thanksgiving extravaganza in a few weeks! This was ONE fine day – imagine what several will be like with friends and family gathered up to celebrate the many blessings we have!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

upside down at the ankles

When I was little, I was thrown around like a toy amongst the brothers and men in my family. I don’t mean that in a bad way (because my mom would say I “asked for it” almost every time and I probably did). But let’s just say it wasn’t strange to walk into our living room to see me hanging upside down with my brothers’ hands at my ankles. Now, I could incite trouble like any good tomboy could, but I wasn’t one to give up once I got in the middle of it. So, even in that helpless upside-down-at-the-ankles state, I would be jerking and swinging and doing any kind of acrobatics to get free. And it was always when the boys got tired of the game that it was over – not when I accomplished something with all my thrashing. They would let me go (probably by the surprise release method) and then I’d catch my breath long enough to go at them again, sure that this time I could somehow swing an underdog victory.

(Sigh). Right now feels a lot like upside-down-at-the-ankles. I realize I haven’t written since those last days in Honduras and I can’t quite decide if it’s shock or pain or laziness or a dreadful combination of all three. I had all sorts of ideas about what life would look like back here in the States. I still have that tomboy-ish mischief in me that looks at trials and says, “Ha! You can’t get me!” and then scampers off knowing full well that trial is a-comin’ at full speed to pick me up by my ankles and shake all my independence out (oh, and every little bit of loose change). And that, folks, is exactly what happened.

I stepped off the plane in Omaha after one of the most emotional departures of my life in Tegucigalpa to blaze a trail that only made sense in my mind. It looked like this:

I was applying for jobs in those places, but I was also picking up the pieces of my stateside self – trying to figure out what it would mean to live in this skin – and I ended up back on the good ole family homestead thrashing and resisting the attack I provoked on my pride and independence. I am not one bit regretful of my galavanting, though. I’m kind of a face-to-face girl and I needed the time walking on beaches and sitting on couches and chasing kids around houses to remind myself that God has called me to let love fly just as crazy here.

But, when the dust settled from the adventures and I started getting used to painfully pleasant rejection letters and emails, I started to feel the weight of “missing” the ministries and people and crowded streets and fried corn tortillas. It was sure heavy.

God is so gracious to give me community in this time. I was ready to pack my bags and move almost the minute I got back, but He hasn’t let me. No, I think I needed to get some thrashing out, upside down, before I could move on and He was gracious enough to let me do that in the midst of canning salsa and playing nertz and hiking timbers and harvesting soybeans. I am so very thankful.

Last night, when I was babysitting some imaginative munchkins, I scooped up Dari and flipped her upside down and said, “I’m going to shake all your sillies out!” I shook and shook while she giggled until I said, “Well, I think I got ’em all!” to which she promptly responded by scooping all her sillies from the air and then touching my knees, saying, “Now all the sillies are in your knees!”

Oh, what beautiful perspective innocence brings! My knees have never had such a party!! It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 20 more specifically. Solomon is going on and on about what is/isn’t important and what we can/cannot hold onto in this life. Then he arrives at this verse that has nestled its way into my favorites,

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

I want so much to forget my days, for the joy in my heart! How wonderful a thing – to be SO AMAZINGLY FULL of joy that there is no room for anything else.

So, I guess I’m back at this blog thing again. There is too much inspiration in this season to find excuses not to express it! The changing leaves, the baking spices, the conversations, and the endless times I find myself in the upside-down-by-the-ankles state … they all want written about and I think I’ll finally give in.

maybe you’ll help me remember how to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

learning to live “a la orden”

where the JOY happens

In the mess of emotions and energy and exhaustion of the past week, I’m breaking mental ground for a new life motto. Up until this point, I’ve stuck with “Love God, Love Others.” I know, I know – it’s nothing mind-blowing. It’s as old as Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22:36-40.

It seems like we shouldn’t really have to improve on what God explained so clearly. This bold declaration to love God with all my heart and love others out of that love will always breathe life into whatever else God is teaching me. Lately, it seems the lessons in my conversations and experiences have me searching for words to explain how my theology informs my philosophy of living.

So, this past week, I started taking my joy pulse. I was intentionally on the lookout for those times when there was “fullness of joy” in my life, because those moments found me in the presence of God (Psalm 16:11). So many things triggered this crazy feeling of joy bubbling over the flimsy walls of my heart – laughter on the bus ride, children on top of high school students’ shoulders, serious late-night talks, watching a drama acted out to the glory of God, hearing stories of evangelism teams, playing in the ocean in the rain, singing/rapping, sunshine and clouds – all these things amounted to an emotion I can’t explain.

One of the beautiful moments where God arrived in splendor happened the last night before we came back. We were all sharing and reflecting about what made an impact on us, where we felt we made an impact, and what God is leading us to do as a result of our experiences. One of the students mentioned how wonderful it felt to just share. She mentioned that normally all her friends would be very possessive of their “things,” but this week she experienced how cool it was to share.

Something clicked while she was talking… something that I am learning as I live here in this beautiful country: “a la orden.” I can remember so many times when I’ve made a comment to one of my students about her outfit and heard this response, which means, “at your service.” It’s like saying, “Oh? You like it? Well you can wear it whenever you want!”

I love this.

I realized my joy pulse goes crazy whenever I think of ways I can live a la orden… and I truly believe this is how we live out Philippians 2:1-4. The idea is WAY bigger than offering our clothes. When someone compliments us about our gifts of leadership, encouragement, organization, creativity, laughter, work ethic, prayer, or ministry, our response can and should be, “a la orden.”

Can you imagine what would happen if we made our best gifts available and “at your service”?

Person 1: Wow, you really have an amazing way with children!
Person 2: Thanks! God is so good! And, well, I’m at your service whenever you need.
Person 1: (confused) Oh, cool… what do you mean by that?
Person 2: Well,  I mean that what good is a “way with children” if I don’t use it? So, please let me know the next time you have a need involving kids!
Person 1: Whoa. That’s kind of crazy. So, you mean you’d be available to fill the open spot at the after-school program I work with on Tuesdays?
Person 2: That’s exactly what I mean. Let’s talk details.

Obviously, this scenario can’t play out perfectly every time because our days will fill up and we will find it difficult to make ourselves “a la orden” all of the time. But, the point I’m making is a mental shift. No longer am I guarding my time and treasure for myself. God blessed me and saved me for His purposes, not mine. When people point out beautiful things in me, it is only a reflection of my God who formed me in my mother’s womb. My gifts aren’t meant to bring me glory, but they will bring me joy if I make them available to others through my service.

Very few of us wear clothes that we’ve designed ourselves and our spiritual gifts are the same way. We wear them and get compliments on them, but we did not design them. When we receive compliments they should be re-directed to the Designer and He promises the MOST joy will happen when we aren’t promoting ourselves with our gifts, but instead looking for ways to elevate others.

I have SO MANY STORIES and ways God has blessed this philosophy. The joy seriously multiplies! I love looking into beautiful brown eyes and saying, “Whenever. Wherever. You name the place. I know God has gifted me for such a time as this and such a person as you.”

That’s what makes my joy pulse go crazy! And that’s how I know making ourselves available by putting others first is the biggest blessing we could receive.

another reason to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

things are not what they seem – including Mondays

I started a mental list awhile back, because I always happen upon the strangest things. I realized, they might not be strange after all, just bad assumptions.

Before I get into my somewhat silly list, let me be serious for a second. Three things happened today that made the world shine like a candle at a Christmas Eve service. 1) phone chat with my mom and grandma, who came through surgery like a champ 2) a skype call with a dear friend that made distance feel like “just around the corner” 3) the most GLORIOUS reunion of baking goodness with my favorite high school ladies…

this combo is the BOMB!

AND bonus number 4) students huddled in my office for the first mission trip meeting with excitement practically bursting out of their buttoned up uniforms.

These things prove again my belief that any “case of the Mondays” can surely be cured – Mondays do not have to be the dreadful thing they seem. My favorite scene from the day involves: one student working through a series of facial expression while texting, another student busily finishing college applications, and myself dancing around the kitchen to Mariah Carey’s “All I want for Christmas,” while piping hot Nutella-Peanut Butter brownies cool on the counter. Mondays? Yes, please!

Okay, here’s a few examples of bad assumptions:

  • A sign that says “maquinas trabajando” does not necessarily mean machines are working… it could also mean men with pickaxes and shovels.
  • When you see sewer covers in the road, don’t be fooled – they may not have a long life as a sewer cover. Chances are, you will soon have to swerve around that spot with great skill because someone has swiped it to make a buck.
  • Those silly yellow and white lines on the road are not to indicate to drivers what should and should not be done in traffic. Nonsense! They are to decorate the otherwise dull streets!
  • Whoever said there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” has obviously never tried the nutella + peanut butter combination.
  • That terrible cliché about “dancing like no one is watching” is horribly misguided. I think it should go something like, “dance like everyone is watching… and just keep going!”

Okay, that’s all for now. I hope you bursting with joy tonight – don’t forget to

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

Monday are YUMdays!

MONDAYS are YUMDAYS

I love Mondays. No, really. I LOVE Mondays.

You think I’m kidding, but today sealed the deal. Here are some of the things today that overflowed my cup:

 

 

  1. I drove to school instead of rode the bus, which perfectly placed about 8.5 extra minutes to spend with David in 1 Samuel
  2. I ran out of coffee filters at my house, but savored a Vanilla Chai tea… delicious start!
  3. I met the day with uncharacteristic (before coffee), silly joy and greeted students with grand gestures and lopsided smiles.
  4. During our mid-morning break, I was heading back from an errand in the administration building, secretly hoping two certain, special students would be waiting in my office… and THEY WERE. I think I scared them with my loopy-ness and laughter, but I don’t care. I love it when I find students in my office… especially when the special ones appear!
  5. CHAPEL happens Monday and today was such a blessing! I am sure many of the seniors won’t admit it, but they want to know about hearing God’s voice. That was exactly the message!
  6. Then, I got to counsel one of my favorite students using a SWEET analogy about records playing in our heads. Sometimes we’ve let the record of lies steal the show and we listen to it over and over and start to believe all the foolishness it plays. We’ve got to put that sweet record called Truth on stat and then you better believe we’re gonna speak and act out of that life-giving overflow! I’ll admit, my favorite part was connecting it to a Corinne Bailey Rae song, “Put Your Records On” because every time I saw her I broke out into singing.
  7. I love that THIS was shown to remember our time at the SLEEPout!
  8. then…(drumroll) it’s MONDAY so that means culinary collision with two of my favorite ladies! I seriously can’t explain how beautiful and brilliant these girls are… so I won’t try. Just read this blogpost and you’ll get a little taste of the night (not a real taste, but a cyber-ish one:).
  9. I love praying in my car on the way back from Monday baking dates. Shoot, and I just have to say again how much I love these amazing high school girls. They may/may not be changing my life (mostly may).
  10. I may/may not have consumed too much caffeine today (mostly may), which means I might be up writing for awhile!

I hope you are going to

let LOVE fly like CRAZY