Friday, December 29, 2006

you can take the girl out of the country...

it's true.
I've been in Lincoln with my family for the holidays. Yesterday, I was driving to Kansas City to visit some friends, and, as I looked out my window at the passing cornfields and cow farms, I thought "I love the midwest". And truly, I do.
I like small towns. Population 1000. Brick and cobblestone streets. Stores and restaurants that close at 7pm. People that are friendly and have time for each other.
I like the slower pace of small towns. Climbing the corporate ladder isn't life's focus here.
I've never understood "big city" culture, and I've never liked it. I don't understand how or why "keeping up with the Jones'" has become the preferred pasttime.

It's late, and I'm tired, and as much as I'd like to write something profound and eloquent, my brain isn't up to the task.
The simple truth is that I like "small town". Small town people, small town priorities, small town way of life. Life is rich here. It has meaning that extends beyond the boardroom and the paycheck and inground swimming pool.
I'm so grateful for my heritage, my history, my roots. I'm glad that I know there's a better way to live. I'm glad I get to come back home every so often and be reminded that "big city" life is a sham. Small town is the only way to go.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

do our dreams dwell on the far side of our fears?

Lately, I've been thinking and praying a lot about fear. Not just in my life, but in the lives of others as well. And I've come to the conclusion that our dreams dwell on the far side of our fears. I'm convinced that as the enemy becomes aware of how God intends to use us, as he sees us developing our God-given gifts and abilities, he mounts an attack aimed directly at them.

Case in point: a good friend of mine was telling me about his sister. He said that she experienced something (though she's never told anyone what happened) that's caused her to shut down her emotions and her creativity. I'm certain that God has given her deep-rooted, powerful emotions and creativity that are meant to encourage others and glorify Him. The emotions emparted to women are given for specific reasons. I believe they enable us to pray - with deepfelt passion and empathy - prayers that move mountains.

Another case in point: me. I've recently taken a step of faith that's brought me closer to terrified than I've been in a long time. My greatest challenges and deepest hurts have come from leaders. I've had my confidence shaken, and nearly destroyed, by leaders I admired who told me I wasn't good enough. And yet I feel like leadership is an area where God wants to use me.

Our natural tendancy is to run from our fears. No one wants to turn and face the person, place, or situation that causes (or could cause) such great pain. And I think we can still be used by God while avoiding our fears. But what are we missing if we do that?

What if the best thing to do with our fears is run headlong into them? Kind of like Neo did to that Agent at the end of The Matrix. What if running headlong into our fears, diving in head-first just like Neo did, causes them to simply disintegrate, revealing our true identity and ultimate purpose?

What if the core of who we're meant to be, and the greatest dreams we're meant to achieve, can only be discovered on the far side of our fears?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

From Voice of the Martyrs daily devotional

"What we do for the Lord is not just a job—it’s a mission. A mission is never about a single person’s responsibilities. It is singly focused on Christ and his kingdom. Therefore, someone at the helm of God’s work in a particular area may leave, but the mission itself never dies. God’s work is never left undone. It goes on forever to its completion. Those who are willing to undergo persecution for their faith teach us about the meaning of mission. They recognizethat there are only two things that last for eternity—God’s work and human souls. When we are willing to invest our lives in these things,we are involved in a mission with eternal significance."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

copied from Eva's blog:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide up work and give out orders. Instead teach them to yearn for the vast endless sea." ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Monday, December 04, 2006

audience participation

I don't know how many people actually read this blog, but I'm posing a question to those who do: What does it mean that "the last will be first"?

Over the past several weeks, I've been studying the armor-bearers and those who have an armor-bearer's heart. People like Ruth, ("Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay."), and Ittai ("As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be." 2Samuel 15:21).

As I was reading last night, I began to wonder about Jesus' statement that the "last will be first and the first will be last." I've always been taught that it means those who put others ahead of themselves will be "first" in the Kingdom of Heaven. But last night I was reading the parable of the landowner (Matthew 20), and started to wonder....

You know the story, a landowner has a field that needs tending. Throughout the day, he goes out into the town and hires men to work. At the end of the day, those who worked for an hour were paid the same as though who worked all day. The parable begins in Matthew 20, verse 1, but it's the passage leading up to this parable that made me stop and think. In Matthew 19:27-30, Peter asks Jesus what the disciples will receive for giving up everything to follow Him. His response is that anyone who leaves home and family will receive "a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." Cool answer. But then He goes on to say this in verse 30: "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first", and immediately tells the story of the landowner.

Matthew 20:1 begins "For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner..."
So if you read Mtt 19:30 and Mtt 20:1 together.. "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner....", the parable seems meant to be an explanation for the statement that "...many who are last will be first...". But the parable isn't about sacrifice, it's about time. It isn't about people who are putting other's needs ahead of their own, or serving their "fellow man".

As I read and re-read this passage, I started to wonder if Jesus is trying to remind us that the Kingdom of Heaven operates outside of chronological time. I started to wonder if His message is: "look, I don't care how LONG you've been following Me, I care about how MUCH you've sacrificed to do it." That being "first" isn't based on time, but on sacrifice.

Then I began to wonder, What does it mean to be "first" in the Kingdom of Heaven?

I'm curious to know what others think.