an invitation to be not-fine

I have lots of internal conversations that take place beneath the folding of laundry or the making of dinner or the running of errands. And I really would like to write out some of those internal conversations into blog format more often. But lately, it just isn’t happening very often. Maybe I need to rethink my definition of blogging. Maybe I should call it “blurbing” instead of blogging so that it wouldn’t feel as daunting.

Blurbing — {v.} short blurbs of thought written out on a blog; less intimidating than blogging

That’s what I’ll start calling it.

Blurb no. 1.

I listened to a podcast series the other day while flying to the Spanish Wells (more about that trip in later “blurbs”). It was three interviews by Dr. Dan Allender of Dr. Keith Anderson regarding Anderson’s newest book A Spirituality of Listening. The third interview sat with me a while.

 

an invitation to be not fine

 

Anderson was talking about lament and how (my paraphrase –>) the American church in particular (and our culture at large) has neglected the power and reality of lament in this broken world. We’ve become a culture obsessed with the victories of life to the neglect of a time for lament in the midst of the hard stuff.

Yet some forty percent of the Psalms are laments. They’re words spoken from the depth of soul in the middle of despair, mourning painful realities. Not hidden despair. Not fake “I’m fines” from plastered smiles. But real words from real hearts dealing with real issues — real anger, real pain, real regret, real fear.

 

But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.
Psalm 55:16-17

 

As I sat on that plane, the idea of lament affected me. Because sometimes I want the ending — the victorious result — to the point that I’m not honest with myself (or others) about the deep struggles within. I so want to reach the “win” that I feel restless and uneasy with the undone.

Maybe as Christians we subconsciously think there’s something wrong with us or wrong with our faith if we’re not “fine.” Like we should be “ok, already.” But in all reality, we won’t be completely “fine” until Jesus comes again. In the meantime, there’s wrestling. There’s struggle. And there’s a place for holy lamenting.

God has graciously been drawing quiet folds of my own heart out of hiding. And I’m seeing that in being honest about the undone places, I allow Him — the ultimate Healer — in to mend.

So consider this an invitation to be “not fine.” Maybe not all over Facebook or with everyone we see in the grocery store. But “not fine” before our good God and even with a trusted friend. He waits to meet us and touch us right there.

 
Fill me, Lord…

Have you ever walked with God through a season of lamenting? How did He meet you and heal you in that?
 

how to create a culture of passion for Jesus in our homes

“Passion isn’t taught. It’s caught.” That was the exclamation point on our pastor’s sermon last Sunday. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

I mean, I’d say that my deepest desire is to be passionate for my God. I can get pretty fired up in a worship service standing next to other believers, hands raised high, telling God to take us wherever He wants us to go. Add a smoke machine and flashing lights and watch the heck out. But put me in my everyday life with my everyday struggles and the everyday frustrations and y’all, I have to wrestle my heart. Constantly.

 

culture of passion for Jesus

 

It’s like my passion for a clean home or obedient kids or quiet or…coffee…can trample my passion for Jesus in 2.8 seconds flat if I’m not on guard. External remedies for the thirst within can tempt my focus. And they’re convincing.

I know there’s “regular” life to live and we can’t always be on that “mountaintop” with Jesus. But I’m certain that my pastor is right about passion. People in our sphere of influence will more quickly do what we do, rather than do what we say. So if we’re going to create a “culture of passion” in our homes for the Lord, then it has to begin in us. Passion for Him isn’t manipulated or faked. It can’t be demanded or bought. It’s the natural overflow of His Spirit not only sealing us, but filling us full.

So what stops His Spirit from filling us full? Well. To put it blunt. Sin. Sin hinders His fullness in our lives. Which is why, if we want to live a passionate-for-Jesus life out of the overflow of Him in us, we have to be willing to bow low — to repent when self rises up — moment by moment.

It’s asking for eyes to see and ears to hear and tenderness to know when unlove or fear or resentment or anger or bitterness or gossip (or a million other expressions of self) rears its ugly head. The flesh trying to stomp out the Spirit’s reign in us. The second we finally see the messy sin that’s being pressed out of our hearts through our circumstance, by His absolute grace, we stop. We repent. We let the blood of Jesus cleanse us from that flesh rebellion. Then we move forward in His mercy, welcoming the fullness of His Spirit.

Then we do it all over again the next time our sin rises up.

Then the next.

By His power, we have to actively war against the sin in our souls. Or else, I promise, the sin will eat us — our joy, our peace, and our hope — alive. And passion for Jesus will become something we only look at from afar.

To me, passion for Jesus in the midst of everyday, looks like a war against my own heart. It looks like outward repentance that affects my emotions and my choices. It looks like choosing to praise and dance even when I feel despair. It looks like taking my thoughts captive to what’s true by verbally remembering what He says in His Word. It looks like a race — running hard and with endurance, eyes set on the finish line.

We’re going to fail. And thankfully the salvation, and even the passion, of others doesn’t actually rest in our hands — God alone raises the dead soul. But everyday, in Him, we get some choices. By His grace, we can choose to commune with our Father. In His strength, we can choose to fight the fight of faith. Because of Jesus, we can create a culture of passion in our homes as we press into Him, one moment then the next.

 
Fill me, Lord…

How would you describe “passion for Jesus” in the everyday of life?
 

journals and art and missions and…free-ish stuff

Well, hello darlings. (I said that with a British accent in case you’re wondering. Which you’re not. Moving on…) I’m excited to share something with you, my online-family-ish-of-sorts. (I’ve obviously had too much coffee today.)

My 11-year-old daughter is going on her very first mission trip this summer to the Spanish Wells. And she has to take a parent. So I have to go with her. #Iamsostinkingexcited

Anyway, we’ve been brainstorming on how we could raise support for this trip and God inspired her creative side. One day she came in with a beautiful watercolor picture taped onto a journal and asked me, “Mom, do you think I could make these journals and sell them to raise money for the mission trip?” Um, yeah, they’re amazing!

 

 

So I bought some journals and she started painting a replica…which took her a looooonnnnnggggg time because my sweet thing is an artist-perfectionist. And that’s when I realized, “Wait. I’m an author. And I’ve self-published books. I could probably help her with this endeavor.”

So we took a picture of her watercolor(s), chose the font she liked for lettering the verses she chose, and voila. We created two journal covers. From there we designed a 180-page journal of blank/lined pages, hopefully to meet all your journaling needs. And now we’re having them printed through CreateSpace.

 

 

“How can I get my hands on this amazing watercolor-covered journal?” I’m so glad you asked.

1. You could buy it through CreateSpace. And that would be wonderful, but we won’t actually see those proceeds until after our April 30th support raising deadline.

2. OR you can get a “free” one. “How?” you ask. Great question. I’m giving them away to those who donate to our mission trip BEFORE April 30th. Here’s what I’m thinking…

  • If you donate $40 or more, I will send you a free (11-year-old-artist-cover-designed) journal.
  • If you donate $80 or more, I will send you a free journal and a paperback copy of one of my Bible studies.
  • If you donate $150 or more, I will send you TWO free journals (one of each design) and TWO paperback copies of my Bible studies.
  • If you donate $1000 or more, I will come to your house and personally give you a pedicure. And give you journals and books and coffee and chocolate. (local contributors are only eligible for this last option.)

 

If you want to help us on this venture, simply click this link –> DONATE HERE <-- donate what you feel led to donate and then email me at laragwilliams(at)gmail(dot)com to give us your mailing address.

Your support — financial and prayer — is vital to us. And so very appreciated. By the grace of our good God, I pray He uses this trip to spark an even greater love for Him, for people, and for missions in these precious 5th and 6th graders. They truly can’t wait to “tell other kids about Jesus.”

 

mission trip