Friday, August 29, 2014

Freebie Give Away

Today is the end of my first week with students.
It’s been a good week.

But I’m tired.

I’ve found one of the best ways to replenish the storehouses is giving.  I know.  It sounds counter intuitive.  But in God’s economy, when you give, more is given.

So in honor of that, today I’m giving away a $5 Starbucks gift card…something to perc you up when you need a lift. (Get it?... coffee… percolate….perk :)
I will give what I need and trust the joy of giving to fill me up.

To enter the freebie give away, simply comment below with a favorite school memory.  It doesn’t have to be long, but can be. Maybe it’s that favorite teacher you’ve never forgotten, that time you surprised yourself with a grade or success, or even a struggle that fueled you for great things later in life.

All who comment by midnight, Sunday, August 31, will be entered to win.
Thank you to all who enter.  It will be fun to enjoy each other’s stories.

Good Luck and let the fun begin!

(If you have trouble posting, you can email me at julia@ondryground.org to add your story.)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nothing To Fear

Have you ever read a verse that simply startled you?
That happened to me this week. 
It startled me because it corrected a misconception I’d never really voiced, yet internally knew existed.
 
The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge. (John 5:22)
 
This verse surfaced a fear I’ve subtly held of God the Father.
 
Growing up, like many daughters, I feared displeasing my Dad. On the farm this was especially compounded by the often severity of the mistakes one could make.  I must confess two of my more complicated blunders involved backing a tractor and wagon so poorly I bent the metal wagon tongue beyond repair, as well as several times opening the door on the wrong set of cows to leave the milk parlor.  This resulted in those with the milkers still attached escaping before finished, pulling off milkers, sometimes disconnecting tubing, and walking all over the equipment. 
 
Needless to say, emotions often ran high in those intense moments.  But it took me years to realize the emotions of those moments were directed at those situations, not at me personally. Instead a root of fear grew instead. I feared displeasing those over me. I never wanted to face another’s anger.
 
This root wound its way into my faith as well. The Bible stories in the Old Testament show a rather fierce and angry side of God. Fire from heaven, the ground swallowing people whole, His using the Israelites to execute His judgment on those who rejected him all fed into the fear. Could I trust a God like this?
 
Instead I preferred Jesus.  Jesus was love, my friend, my mediator and advocate. The stories in the New Testament of grace and forgiveness make for much happier reading.
 
I’ve since grown in my balance, understanding and approach to God.  But yet, when I read this verse in John, it startled me. That root of fear obviously still lingers.
 
The Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge.
 
I read and reread and reread this verse. It really is true! I don’t need to fear God’s judgment. The security I have in Jesus’ love is the same security I can have in the Father’s - because He released his judgment into the hands of Jesus.
 
I am so happy to pull out that root of fear in my heart!  I have nothing to fear in God. Do you struggle to trust God? Do you fear His intentions toward you?  Let’s accept this truth and start a new seed in our hearts today.
 
Neither the Father nor the Son expect perfection. They knew my sinner state before my birth. Ephesians explains that while we were still sinners Jesus died on our behalf. My lack of perfection comes as no surprise and is already planned for.
 
All the Father and the Son ask for is belief. Trust. Faith. Knowing their heart of goodness, mercy, holiness and love.  Then, from this truth comes my obedience; not fear.  And that is such a better place to live.
 
Father God, please make this truth grow deep into our hearts. May its roots force out all roots of fear. Help us to know you in truth. Thank you for the light of your Word to reveal the dark places in our lives. Help me to stand strong on this Word when fear whispers against your name. I want to live free of all fear in my relationship with you. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Modern Day Proverbs from a Mother’s Heart

Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. Proverbs 1:8-9

Tomorrow would have been my Andrew’s 19th birthday.  We would have been sending him off to college this year.  Those words make me catch my breath, but they don’t hurt my heart as much as I thought they might.

I guess because I already experienced this transition, this release.  Although I did not release Andrew into the world, I did release him to another world.  And in some ways my job was a far cry easier because of the world to which he traveled.

I do not have to live in fear of his experiences, his challenges, possible wandering or wrong life choices.  I get to rejoice in his healed wholeness, spiritually as well as physically.  A world free of pain, tears, mourning, and sin.  Yes, I had to grieve the separation, but there’s always been peace at his joy.

But this week I read the words of a woman who is just now letting her oldest go, sending him off into the world.  Her words of wisdom challenge ME, let alone capture the heart of what I would want to say over my son.

So today, in honor of every mother allowing their child to spread their wings and leave the nest, and in honor of Andrew’s birthday, I offer you the words of Ann Voskamp… modern day proverbs from a mother’s heart.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Voices


The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice. John 10:3-5

So as I wrote about last week, God has mounted an offense against the idol of approval in my life.  As Jennifer Dukes Lee shared in her book, Love Idol, after you admit the addiction, you must learn to recognize its voice. 

What does that look like?  Well recently I went out for a jog/walk.  That means I went for a jog but whenever I came to a steep hill I would walk up the hill to make it a little less challenging to my knees.  I work out for the stress relief and for my health.  But God showed me another motivation that can sneak in.

While on my loop I passed two neighbors.  The first occurred near the top of the largest hill.  Thus, I was walking.  My neighbor was almost upon me before I recognized his identity.  As he ran past, the thought flitted through…Man I wish he’d seen me running.

About a mile later I passed the other neighbor walking his dog.  I waved as I jogged past. Glad I was running this time flitted through my thoughts as pride filled my heart, hoping he was impressed.

But about three strides later, having heard myself, I thought, Seriously?  Could that be any more ridiculous?  Do they even notice or care whether you run or walk?  How stupid is that?  Why should what they think matter?

See that’s the difference of recognition. Because when you recognize the voice, you can reject the voice.

The voice of insecurity calls out lies and questions and suggestions.  When we listen to them and accept them, another stone is erected in the construction of that idol.  As I continually accept the thoughts and lies, my perceptions, my thoughts, my view of myself bow in surrender.  I serve the voice of approval which says my security rests in human validation instead of the voice of God which says my security rests in His love. 

When I accept the voice of my idol, I reject the voice of God.
When I accept the lies of my idol, I reject the truth of God and His Word.

His Word says I’m preapproved.  (Romans 8, Ephesians 1)  I’m chosen.  (1 Peter)  My acceptance comes not from my own actions and others whims but from God’s preordained desire to love. 

Later that same week, I hosted the leadership team for my school for our annual end of summer gathering.  But at 10pm the evening before, my husband and I discovered a scheduling conflict.  At the same time that 15 people sat in my family room for two and a half hours, our water meter would be replaced.  No water meant no bathroom.

Panic and fear gripped hard.  What would my administrator think?  Then came anger.  This is my husband’s fault.  Then came the still small voice.  There’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.  I guess I’ll get a chance to live out what I’ve been reading.

I let go of the anger and the fear and accepted God’s peace.

I had a choice which voice I listened to.  The issue isn’t that the voices come.  What matters is which we believe.  When God’s approval is all that matters in my life, I’ll recognize the lies and the truth.  A surrendered life always chooses to trust its master.

When I choose human approval, I declare God to not be enough.  My dependence on others reflects a lack of trust in God and His Word.

God says I’m loved, desired, valued, treasured and cherished.  That remains true regardless of my failures, my successes, my appearance, or my actions.


If you are a people pleaser like me, watch for this idol in your life.  Listen for its voice.  Ask God to help you hear it so you can reject it.  Every time we reject the voice, another stone falls and the idol crumbles. 

Let’s embrace the freedom God desires for us and bask in His truth and His approval.
May our knees only bow to Him.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Recognizing the Fight


Our purpose is to please God, not people.  1 Thessalonians 2:4

I don’t want you to miss the importance of the battle I experienced at the conference Saturday night. (Readabout it here)  Not to toot my own horn, but to point out a battle most people fight.  God revealed it strongly as I worked on Chapters 1&2 for my book proposal, as I dove into the whys of my beliefs and faith at the time we lost Andrew.  But it’s a battle I obviously still fight.

Whose approval matters?

I am almost finished with an amazing memoir that so illustrates my own struggles: Love Idol by Jennifer Dukes Lee.  Just as she readily admits, I too am addicted to approval.

I am an approval addict.

I have lived my life craving that next atta girl, compliment, and success, all in an attempt to validate my significance, value and worth.  But instead of reveling in my “preapproved” status with God, I’ve turned that craving toward an idol – the approval of the created rather than the Creator.

That’s what happened Saturday.  Even though God prepared my heart and I knew Waterbrook would not be interested in my book, walking out of that room with the proposal in my hand instead of hers created a doorway to my heart.  Even though God used my writing peers to instruct me on a better way to write for my blog, their suggestions for improvement pulled that door open even wider. And rather than listening to God’s truth, I accepted the voice of the enemy.

God speaks love, grace, security and acceptance over me.

The enemy speaks discouragement, fear, failure, and rejection over me.

The voice I listen to shapes my perception of other people’s actions.  From God’s perspective, the two events Friday were good.  A closing of a door not right for me and a place of instruction.  But I allowed the enemy’s perspective to warp them into feelings of failure and rejection.

Friday night I basked in God’s approval.  Saturday night I made perceived people approval more important than His.  Even if it had been full out rejection, should it matter?  Why, o why, would I make people approval more important than God’s?

This is the idol God attacked this summer.  He’s been slowly chipping away at the foundation of this altar in my life for a year or so.  But now He’s brought in the sledge hammer. 

God is using Lee’s book to help me recognize this idol and name it.  You can’t fight an enemy you can’t see.  And now that I know its name, God’s helping me to recognize its voice.  Each time I stand against it, another stone in this altar falls to the ground. 

This is what I asked God to burn out of me.  This is what He’s doing.

Come back next week for some practical, and yes silly, examples (because of my foolishness) of what that looks like in the day to day. 

Father God, open our eyes to the idols in our lives.  In a culture dominated by success, comparison, and striving, help us recognize this false god of approval.  Let us revel in the acceptance of our Creator rather than grovel for the crumbs of the created.  Continue to work deep in our hearts, in my heart, that nothing would take your place.  Holy Spirit help me recognize the voices that are not yours.  May I respond only to You.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What I Learned


So many have asked… how did the conference go?  What did you learn?  Well, here it is:

I learned I have a whole lot of ME inside…too much. 
I learned God’s made a lot of progress in my life… but it’s not done.

I know we are never done, this side of heaven, but everything about the conference was about slowing down, not being in a rush, letting God work IN you before He works THROUGH you.

Basically here’s how it broke down….

Friday morning I was the first one to register! We had an opening session and then I had my first publisher meeting.  I really like Discovery House and Miranda Gardner.  The conversation went well.  I got out everything I wanted.  We had time to ask each other questions.  She commented how her House is now more open to memoir and has had some recent success.  She appreciated my preparation and took my proposal to read!  I came out of that room flying inside!  Talk about experiencing the joy of obedience!!  My afternoon sessions were very helpful and productive.  I came “home” to the hotel room with such pep in my step.

I spent at least a half hour reliving everything.  I knew I had successfully completed the task God assigned this summer.  As I crawled into bed, I commented to my husband, “But I just don’t know.  After what I heard tonight, I’m not sure it’s the right time.  I’m not sure the story’s finished.”

And then Saturday happened.

A good morning opening session.  Great workshops.  All day I learned the correct purposes of the various social medias available and all I’d been doing wrong.  But that was OK.  I just needed to change a few approaches.  And again, I kept hearing in my heart, ”Don’t chase the numbers.  Just chase Me.”

Then mid-afternoon I met with Waterbrook.  Laura Barker was lovely.  We had a good conversation; just what I expected.  I’d researched their publishing house and knew it would be very unlikely for them to consider my story.  It’s not their kind of book.  She would tell me I needed a platform and focus on that right now.  And that’s exactly what she said.  I don’t think I did quite as good a job with my explanation as she felt it was a grief memoir and I see it as so much more.  But she did feel I had a fresh voice and new approach in how I’d blended my story with scripture.  She actually teared up and apologized for being unprofessional as we discussed grief and a recent book her company did take a risk on… but because the author had a platform.  (That word again!)  But again, she was very complimentary and nothing countered my expectations.

But it still hurt.
A voice whispered “failure.”

I called my husband, shed a tear or two, reminded myself that I knew it would play out this way, and kicked myself out of my pity party. Time for the next session.

Later we had the writer’s peer critique group.  We shared writing samples in our group of three.  Each offered compliments and commentary, and suggested improvement.  It was great.  But that same voice that started whispering earlier in the afternoon, found new momentum.  They didn’t like it.  Look at everything wrong with it.  Hear how much better their suggestions sound?  They write better than you. Why do you think you can do this?  You don't belong here.

Yet in our discussion, God showed me how to better improve how I use my blog so that more people can connect and be reached.  It was great.

And I saw that….
But I listened to that other voice.

By the time I went to dinner that night, and had to sit alone because I couldn’t find any of the people I’d met over the weekend, the other voice had taken over.

All through dinner I bounced like a tennis ball, trying to fight off the attack.  I sent a friend a text sharing my sadness.  Then I sent another one to her sharing God’s truth.  Then I sent another one with another complaint.  Then I sent another one reminding myself of all I’d learned today.

I was a mess… trying not to cry and fighting for truth at the same time. What happened to my joy of obedience?  Why was this such a battle?

Then we started worship.  And right then God challenged me about my motivations.

He brought to mind two areas of struggle that I hadn’t quite recognized but immediately knew their truth once he revealed them to me.  And then he asked me this:

Who do you want to give your readers?  You or Me?

And down went the knees of my heart. 

Lord, I have nothing to offer anyone.  I can’t help people.  Only you can heal hearts, can bind up wounds, can offer hope, and bring peace.  Please burn it all away.  Get all of the self out of the way.  I want nothing left.  Only you.  Never do I want to be in the way of your grace to others.  Do whatever it takes!

And right there my place setting became an altar.

So what did I learn? 
I learned that the book is totally utterly unimportant. 
I learned I still care way too much about people's approval. 
I learned that I have nothing to offer others.  
I learned that all I need to do right now is focus on what God is doing in my heart. 

Chase him, not numbers. 
Pursue him, not a platform. 
Clear the idols so He can reign – in every area of my life.

Only then, might it be the time for God to use our story.

I will hear from Discovery House by the end of August.  But truly, I no longer think about it.  I know there’s still So. Much. Self.  And in no way do I want any of this to be about me.  My focus has shifted from the writing process to the work God started in my heart with this writing process… Letting him lead, learning to follow, living surrendered, living only for him. 

He’s still working on the story…Chapter 10 – Clearing the Promised Land. 
May the idols continue to fall.

 


 

Friday, August 8, 2014

We Have a Winner!

Well, the names were entered into the basket, including the 3 who contacted me that they couldn't get the comments to work for them. 

(Drum roll Please!)

And the winner is...

Becky G.

Congrats Becky! Here is your necklace:


Yes, a lovely shade of blue!  It was made by Lucy and here is her story:


Thank you to everyone who participated - for both your participation AND your prayers and encouragement on this journey.

I pray all of us will daily lift up Lucy and Alice and the many women who suffer in today's world.  Only Christ's light is bright enough to counter the darkness in their lives.

Much love to all!
juli