I’ve Moved!

Over the weekend, I moved Everyday Awe to a new server. I hope that I will now be able to customize some features that will make the site even better! I am still at everydayawe.com, but the site everydayawe.wordpress.com will become inactive.

If you currently subscribe through wordpress.com, I believe your subscription will not transfer. I would love to continue to have you as part of my community! Please head to everydayawe.com and use the rss link on the top right corner to re-subscribe through the rss feed. Or, perhaps switch over to an email subscription, available on the right column.

If you read through rss feed that you linked through everydayawe.wordpress.com, your feed may also have problems. The next post you should see will be called Welcome to my New Site. If you do not receive it, please re-subscribe with the new rss.

If you have any problems, please email me and let me know! Also, I would love your opinion on the  new site. Please let me know what you think- especially if there are other features you would like to see me add!

It is humbling to know that God uses my words to impact others. I love blogging, and I hope my new site will help me do it even better. It is a privilege to write about how I see God moving in my life and in His Word. I pray that Everyday Awe is a site that helps anyone who reads engage with God in their everyday lives.

Thank you for reading!

Psalm 35 is not for me

I’ve bumped up against one of those Psalms again.

You know, one of those Psalms, a psalm that requests God’s vindication and begs for Him to rise up against enemies. A Psalm with verses like

Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
–Psalm 35:7-8

A Psalm that makes me stare at the screen and wonder what in the world to write in my Walk through the Psalms reflection today. {Why did I decide to go through each one? Why didn’t I just pick the easy or pretty ones?} I stare at the words and spit out an irritated prayer, “Just what are we supposed to get out of this, Lord? How does a Psalm like this apply to our lives today?”

And suddenly I realize that this frustrated wondering is a sign of my privilege.

I am not a victim of injustice.

I do not know what it feels like to be a young girl lured into sex trafficking who cannot seem to find a way out to freedom. I do now know what it feels like to be a mother in a war-torn country who faces the daily fear of her children being killed. I do not know what it feels like to squeeze a survival from less than a dollar a day while the leaders of my country swim in excess. I do not know what it feels like to be falsely accused or imprisoned because of my skin color or religious background.

Thousands of people around the world are not like me. They have suffered in ways I never will. Psalm 35 is not for me. It is for them.

I too often read the Bible with an individualistic mindset. I want to know how the words apply specifically, to my life, to my thoughts, to my future. I read the Bible as if I am God’s person, not as if I am one of God’s people. Perhaps the words that feel distant to me are the exact words others need to see. And the kinds of words I should be praying on their behalf.

Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and armor;
arise and come to my aid.
– Psalm 35:1-2

Yes, Lord.Contend with those who are contending with your children. Fight with those who are holding your people down. Arise, and come to their aid.

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
– Psalm 35:10-11

O Lord, think of what would happen to your reputation when these wrongs are made right! Rescue. Protect. Redeem. Save. Show your love to all.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

Why Can’t I Have That?

It has become a predictable pattern in our house.

My two year old comes into the kitchen and asks for a snack.
“Sure,” I say. “How about some Goldfish?”
He responds with a nod of his head and an enthusiastic run to his chair, ready to receive what I give him.

A few minutes later, my six year old comes into the room.
“Aww, M-o-m-m-y, why can’t I have Goldfish?”
I respond with, what I think to be an obvious answer, “Well, did you ask for Goldfish?”
“Why don’t you try asking?”
“Mommy, can I please have some Goldfish, too?”

I’m sure this scene is replicated in kitchens all over the country. Why don’t kids just ask for what they want? And, why do they start to whine under the assumption that their parents won’t give it to them?

I am exasperated. But, I am also convicted. Because I see the same scene playing out in my prayer life.

I assume that God won’t give me what I really want. So I don’t ask. And then I whine that I don’t have it.

I think of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says,

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

- Matthew 7:7-10 (NLT)

Now, let me be clear. I do not believe that God gives us everything we ask for in prayer. He loves us, just as I love my kids. As a parent, doing what is best for my kids sometimes means saying no. Or not yet. Yes is not the only answer given in love.

But, sometimes, we assume the answer is no, and never make the request. We don’t give God the opportunity to say yes.

My prayers need a boldness boost.

There is another barrier besides the assumed no that has kept me from boldness: my attempt at humility. I realize that God is God, and I am not. And so I surround my desires with lots of “if it’s Your will…” statements and “have Your way” requests.

That is not necessarily bad attitude.

But I wonder sometimes if I have fooled myself. If what I have let myself believe is humility is actually a lack of trust.

When I pray without boldness, I am safe. If all I pray is for God’s will to be done, then whatever happens is an answer to that prayer. I do not risk the wrestling that happens when prayers are not answered the way I wish them to be.

When I pray with boldness, I put it all out there. I risk hearing no.  But I trust. I trust that my desires, my true from-the-gut hopes, are better off in the hands of the God who loves me than in my own feeble grip.

And isn’t the risk of hearing no worth it if it also means I risk hearing yes?

I wonder if in my prayers, I am like my son, who assumes too quickly that he can’t have a snack because he never asked me if he could.

I’m going to start praying a little differently.

Do you have trouble praying with boldness? What holds you back?

What does authenticity look like?

What does it mean to be authentic?

We spend much energy pursuing this elusive gem, but it is tricky to define for what, exactly, we are looking. Is it to be fully ourselves in the presence of others? Is it to be honest or broken or humble?

This search for authenticity is a worthy pursuit. But I fear that our lack of definition for the term has taken us down the wrong path. Authentic seems to have become more synonymous with the negative than the positive. When I lay bare the mistakes in my past and the need for grace in my present, when I cry in despair or scream in anger, I am being authentic.

But when I shout for joy, when gratitude seems to overflow from my core, when peace is my perspective on the future, how am I perceived then? I am perhaps lucky or fake or hopelessly optimistic or sheltered behind my rose colored glasses, but not authentic.

Authenticity is genuineness. When I am truly authentic it means I am honest about the whole of my life. The bad and the good. The extraordinary and the ordinary.

It is from this place of honesty that community functions at its best. Each of us need to be authentic storytellers of our lives.

We need to talk about the times in life when even a single word of praise to God takes great effort. Times when we sit on a precarious edge, one step away from stumbling over our anxieties and falling into the deep dark hole of our doubt.

And in those moments, we need others to be authentic, too. We need to hear others share openly about their hope and joy.

Because sometimes the praise flows most easily on behalf of someone else.

That is what David invites us to in Psalm 34.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will glory in the Lord;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
–Psalm 34:1-3

Something wonderful has happened to David. And instead of being afraid to share that with those who are downcast, wondering how the news may be received, David runs to them first. David invites the afflicted to share his joy.

Psalm 34 invites those whose wells of faith have run dry to drink from David’s overflowing gratitude.

When David felt abandoned by the Lord, he shared his woes with those who could help lift him up. And now that he has been rescued, he shares his story of deliverance with those who need to be lifted.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
– Psalm 34:4, 6

David shows us what authenticity looks like. He shares his struggles and shares his joys, always looking to God in the midst of both. And through the Psalms, he continually invites others to join him on that journey.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Psalm 34:8-10

When we share the good things God is doing in our lives, we provide nourishment for those whose souls are hungry. We remind them that God is good, and that they should not stop seeking Him in the midst of their troubles.

So when we are the hungry ones, let’s be authentic. And when we are the ones who can point the way to a God who satisfies, let’s be authentic then, too.

Then, perhaps, as a community, we can exalt His name together.

How do you define authenticity?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

A Call for Unity: Father, Make Us One

The divisiveness has gotten palpable. And its taste is bitter.

I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about the Church.

There are so many things that have so many people so very angry. We argue about issues of theology and praxis, demonizing those who interpret the Bible differently. We are furious about church leaders who are not doing things the way we think they should. We shout to the world that we are the ones who are right and those other Christians have gotten it all wrong.

The most universal political opinion I have heard recently is the sense that November 6 could not come soon enough. Everyone has been longing for the day the shouting and the bickering and blaming would come to an end. Or at least get a little quieter for awhile.

I wonder if we are building to a day when people will wish there was a November 6 for the Church. Some sort of event that would make us shut up for awhile.

I fear the message of Jesus’ love is getting lost in the uproar of Christian arguments.

When Jesus was in the final moments before His arrest, He prayed. This was the moment for Him to emphasize what was most important. To tell us what those who consider themselves Christ-followers should remember and pray for and live out as best they can with their lives.

Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for those who would come after them. Namely, us.

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23

Jesus prays for unity among His followers. Because it is through unity that Christ’s love is best revealed to the world.

Forgive us, Lord, for all the ways we have failed to be unified.

It’s easy to point fingers about why Christians do not do a better job of this. We can look at how that leader is confrontational or this church is power hungry or that writer misrepresents the Bible.  But blaming only increases the problem.

The way the Church will become more unified is when each of us examines our own hearts for ways we are divisive.

It’s like the old adage says, whenever we point a finger at someone else, there are four more fingers pointing back at us.

Unity begins with each of us.

What if each of us began to assume the best about those with whom we disagreed, instead of the worst? Or better yet, what if we didn’t assume at all? What if we invited those people into conversations, to hear their perspective and show them our love?

What if each of us began to recognize that the Bible is complicated? That it is possible for genuine Christ-followers, who authentically believe in the authority of the Scriptures, to come to different conclusions on interpretation? What if we focused less on convincing and more on listening? What if we realized that agreement and unity are not the same thing?

What if each of us began to spend more time seeking to love with our own lives than looking for ways others are failing to love with theirs?

Imagine what a force a unified Church could be in a world that can no longer seem to have civil disagreements. Imagine how people would be drawn to the love of Christ, a love that crosses political barriers and theological differences to join individuals into One Body. A love unmatched by anything this world has to offer.

That is what the Church is meant to be.

Father, make us One.

Hope, the election, and Psalm 33

Most people I know think November 7 can’t come soon enough. I agree.

We are weary of all the politicking. The ads, the debates, the phone calls. The number of attacks is perhaps equal only to the number of promises. Both presidential candidates have assured us that they are the true hope for America. Each has pledged that if we elect him, our lives will be better.

I don’t really believe either of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important to vote. I think each of us should weigh carefully what we believe is the best next step for our nation and place our vote accordingly. However, I think we need to be careful with that word “hope.” Our hope is a fragile thing. If we hand it over to a human being, it is likely to get broken.

Ever person running for every office in the country right now is a fallible human being. No matter how worthy their intent, the political decisions they make once in office will have mixed motives. And no matter how strong they seem now, their power and control will be limited.

I cannot imagine those first days and months in office for presidents. As they see they dynamics of a new Congress, as they learn the confidential information they could not know before they held the highest office, as they live through global events that they could not foresee, how do they weigh those things against the promises they made while on the campaign trail? I wonder if their disappointment is even bigger than ours.

There is a difference between hoping for a better future and placing our hope in a person to get us there. The first leaves room for those unknowns. The second virtually guarantees our disappointment.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
– Psalm 33:16-17

What is true in America today has been true for every nation in the world at every point in history. We are not in control of the world. Our power is limited.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
-Psalm 33:10-11

The Lord, and only the Lord, has plans and purposes that hold fast. Why? Because God is not a fallible creature. His power and authority are unmatched.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
-Psalm 33:6-9

The Creator of the Universe is not wringing His hands in heaven, waiting to see whom our little nation elects as President. God was on His throne at the beginning of time, He is on His throne today, and He will continue to be on His throne no matter who is sitting in our oval office.

Even ancient Israel, a nation uniquely blessed by Yahweh to be a blessing to the nations, was never to put their hope in their king. Their hope was to be placed only in the Lord.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you.
– Psalm 33:20-22

As we place our vote and wish for a better future for this nation, my prayer is that we remember that this world is broken. Even if the person we choose is the one who is elected, we will be disappointed in coming days. May we place our hope only in Yahweh, whose love never fails. And may we continue to worship Him no matter what the future brings.

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
-Psalm 33:1

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

On choosing inspiration instead of comparison

The Internet saved me this weekend. It was my son’s 6th birthday party. I needed to keep six 6 year olds entertained for two hours.

It is possible that after scanning through the recesses of my imagination for ages, I might have discovered one or two fun ideas. But I have no illusions of grandeur about my ability to be fun. Honestly, I’m kind of boring.

Thankfully, there are many people out there who are more entertaining than me. As a result, the kids had a blast. They leapt over “buildings” (cardboard boxes) in a single bound, navigated through “laser beams” (crepe paper) without getting hit, and captured a “villain” (my husband) with a hula hoop.

The party was a success thanks to many people I have never met. I stand here today, grateful for Pinterest.

The Internet fills our lives with possibilities. Yet, the wonder of that often gets lost beneath our own junk.

I could have looked at the perfect cardboard buildings created by another mom and felt pressure to do the same. Comparison could have trapped me into thinking I needed to make my son’s party look the same as the ones those other kids had. But I know that’s not me. There are many, many things I would rather do than cover boxes in brown paper and cut out perfectly square windows. So I didn’t. I let my son color the fronts on buildings until he didn’t want to do it anymore. And the rest? I left blank.

My son had fun. I did, too. And I do not regret leaving those boxes plain. Not in the slightest. I know that if I had, stress would have invaded my spirit.

I am thankful that this time, I got it right. This time, I did not get sucked into the comparison trap. Too often, I have. Too often, I have suffocated under the weight of my own expectations to do everything as good as everyone else. I have failed to recognize that I am not good at everything. I have failed to see comparison for what it is: a thief.

Comparison robs us of the potential we have to inspire each other.

It steals our joy as we notice all the ways we have fallen short. It strips our energy as we waste our efforts trying to be like someone else. Comparison deprives us from reaching our dreams as we hold onto our envy of someone else’s successes.

We can rediscover the wonder of the Internet when we stop. All. The. Comparison. When we see each other the way God sees us: as creatures made in His Image, each filled with a potential and beauty uniquely our own. We are made to bless each other with these gifts we’ve been given. And often, the biggest stumbling block to that happening is our own hearts.

In order to be blessed, we need to receive each other’s gifts as blessings. We must trade comparison for inspiration.

I am blessed
… by those who demonstrate the beauty that can lie within a single sentence.
… by those who raise difficult faith questions even at risk being hurt by the backlash.
… by those who make their homes into works of art.
… by those who create music that slows down my soul and stops my breath.
… by those who boldly tell stories of their past in hopes of helping others.
… by those who turn ideas into movements that make the world a better place.
… by those who follow God, even when He leads them through uncomfortable territory.
… by those who put together recipes that make my mouth water just by looking at them.
… by those who love Jesus and proclaim the Gospel without apology.
… by those who write and teach and lead and craft and cook and parent and paint and tell stories and question and risk and rescue and examine and adventure and love, love, love.

Many times, you are better at these things than I am. And that is absolutely okay. Because you are you, and I am me. I can choose to let go of the comparison and hold onto the inspiration. I choose to be blessed by you.

Thank you for being you. Keep being you. Don’t hold back from sharing the fullest version of you with the world. And I will try to do the same.