Friday, June 29, 2012

A Paste List

A few weeks ago when Crossroads was going through a series, "The Backyard Gospel," I thought our pastor shared a very interesting idea when he talked about how he prays for his friends who are not believers. 

He has a “paste list.”

He, simply, writes their name on a list that he keeps on his bathroom mirror.  Each day as he spends time brushing his teeth, he prays that they might come to know the freedom that comes from relationship with Christ. 

He shared that he was beginning this practice again. 

He had to make a new list. 

Because his old list?  The people who were on it are all walking with Christ now.

This got me to thinking. 

How often do I pray for my friends who don’t know who Jesus is?

I used to pray right regular for them.  But lately, I confess I’ve not been very faithful.

I do believe prayer works. 

So why do I fail to make time for something that is this important—the lives of my friends?

I do care.  I want to faithfully pray them across the threshold of faith.

So, today, I made a paste list.

I like something pretty to look at, so I pulled out my scrapbook supplies.

I choose green cardstock for the new life I hope they will lead in Christ. 

I place on white a sticker with leaves that reminds me of the growth that comes when we walk with Him. 

I write in pen the words that Peter spoke to the Lord.

“We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

I want them to speak this too.  I want them to be disciples who follow Him, like Peter. Even though the walk will not always be easy.  Even though they might stumble. And even when others around them become deserters, as it was when Peter spoke it.

I write their names, dark print on light.  Each one of them loved ones.

I put tape on the back of this list and fix it to the mirror. 

So whenever I come or go from the bathroom I can pick a name and pray.  A new habit.

And I hope I will pray them right into the Kingdom.

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we spend time lifting up the names of our dear ones who have yet to taste the goodness of the Lord.  May we be faithful friends in prayer and conversation.  May He draw them near—wooing and winning their hearts with His love.

Jessica :)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

An Advocate

I’ve been reading through 1 John lately and sharing a little bit about what I’m learning here on Thursdays. 

Here’s a little recap about what has been going on:

John has just finished writing about the difference between those who walk in darkness and those who walk in the light.  He has shared that all sin.  He has reminded the believers that God is faithful to keep His covenant promises to forgive our sin and just in the act that procured the forgiveness, Christ’s blood. 

Now he writes:

“My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 1:8-2:2 NLT
There is a tension in Scripture between taking sin seriously and yet understanding that forgiveness is available to all who come repentant to Christ.  This is grace.  Yet, this grace is costly.  We see it here.  We also see Paul write about this in Romans 6, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”  If you look you will find it elsewhere too.

We struggle with sin in this world.  It is the way of the world we live in...brokenness.  And we are called to submit our brokenness to the Lordship of Christ, to surrender these patterns we have lived in for a long time.  I am called to lay down my pride, the way I compare myself to others, my eating habits—these places where I have lived in patterns of sin—and I am called to walk a new way.

Yet, a new way of living doesn’t happen all at once.  John realizes this.  He gives a reminder of Good News:  “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father.”

An advocate.  The word in Greek is paraklētos. 

It means “’called alongside’ and describes anybody summoned to the assistance of another.  It was particularly used in the law courts of a barrister, whose responsibility it is, as counsel for the defense, to plead the cause of the person on trial” (John Stott’s Commentary on The Epistles of John by Tyndale).

So, who is our advocate?  “He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”

We could not have a better advocate.  He himself is the atoning sacrifice for sin.  Our sin.  The world’s sin.  My sin.  In Him, the justice of God is satisfied. 

So when the accuser stands before the Father accusing me, of all the things I have done, I am guilty.  There’s no doubt about it.  Yet, the day I lay down my life before Christ, having come repentant, Jesus stands before God saying “She’s mine.”  I have paid the price.  And God is satisfied.

This is a picture of what Jesus does when we trust Him.

This is grace.  Undeserved.  Costly.  Joyous. 

This grace calls us to respond.

To change the direction of our lives. 

To orient our lives toward Christ.

To love God.  To love others.

To live obedient.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we stand in full assurance that Jesus is our advocate.  May we receive this grace and never fail to be changed by it as we remember His atoning sacrifice.  May we be drawn to surrender our lives, to take up our cross and follow in this humble way of life, a life of loving obedience.

Jessica :)

P. S.  Another interesting thing about the word paraklētos is that it is only used in one other place in Scripture.  John uses it in the the Gospel of John to describe the Holy Spirit.  So while Jesus is our advocate before the Father.  The Holy Spirit is Jesus' advocate here on earth.  "He pleads Christ's cause before a hostile world" (John Stott's commentary on The Epistles of John).  May we respond be sensitive to the Spirit's leading.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Skeleton Bones

“6:40,” he says across the phone.  I agree that meeting at this time will allow my husband enough time to eat his dinner and walk from the atrium into the auditorium for the Last Wednesday service at 7:00.  It is 5:15 when I hang up.  I'm in the middle of polishing up two pieces for A Becoming Life.  I am in a groove, worshipping in the middle of words.

I look up at 5:45 and grudgingly set aside the computer to whip up a few turkey burgers.  I pull out the onions, cilantro, paprika and other essentials and dump them into the bowl.  I chop the one ingredient I did not prepare earlier in the week, mix it in and form six uniform patties on a cookie sheet lined with foil, and push them into the oven.  I glance at the clock.  It reads 6:10.  Twenty minutes to bake.  At least fifteen minutes, to drive in rush hour and through construction zone traffic.  I begin to panic.

While the burgers bake, I get everything ready to go.  It’s a nice distraction, really.  I prepare dinner to go, for both Jason and myself, since I certainly will not be eating it before I leave.  I clean up the kitchen.  At least there will not be dishes when we get home, I think, grasping at anything to keep my mind off of the sense of failure that is creeping towards me.

As soon as the timer sounds I pull the burgers out and slap them onto their respective buns and make a mad dash out the door.  As I wait for the slow gates to open at the edge of our apartment’s parking lot I pray for green lights and less traffic than usual.  It doesn’t happen.

“I’m running late,” I call through the phone as I sit in a line of cars waiting to turn onto the highway. 

“Oh good.  So am I,” he responds.

I think to myself, you will not be nearly as late as I am and I should have tried going a different direction to bypass this line.  Then, I take a deep breath and say good-bye.

It is 6:55 when I finally pull into the parking lot.  We eat dinner.  We walk toward the building where the words of our worship leader are coming over the loud speakers as we draw near the doors.  He’s praying a prayer about leaving the day behind.  He is trying to still us as we enter the presence of God as a community. 

My heart is just pounding with the hurry that is coursing through my veins.  We are here to worship.  I want to.  That is why we planned to come.  That is why we are here.  And yet, the last thing I feel ready to do is that.  Where did that peace and sense of His presence I felt as I sat tapping away the words go?

I’m agitated at my tardiness and failure to get us fed like I agreed to.  I’m annoyed with my husband who is saying he needs eye drops badly and is asking if I have any.  I just want to find a seat and there don’t seem to be many of those left tonight.  I don’t think pausing to scream would help, though it might if I could just go into the bathroom and cry for a bit.

We finally find a seat on the side where we can’t see real well, just enough.  Jason runs off to find allergy drops around the corner at the Meijer.  I stand and let the music roll over me and listen, because I’m just not in a very worshipful way of being.  Instead of joyous at heart I’m disgruntled and frustrated.  I’m trying to find my way back.

I pause and call out an honest prayer in a whisper. 

“God I’m here, but I’m feeling like I was better doing this worship thing at home.  Something about messing up the schedule for dinner and meeting and rushing has just knocked me out of a place of abiding in Your presence.  I know that you are here.  I know that you were there at home.  I know that you were in all the crazy places in between.  You are so generous with your grace.  I need to receive it.  I need to know that arriving just when I did tonight was okay.  I think I cared about being on time more than You did.  I give all this to you.  Meet me here.” 

I take a few deep breaths and just listen to the words that everyone around me is singing.

As they come to the end of the chorus our pastor comes out and begins to read from Ezekiel.

The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones.  He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor.  They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out.  Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”
Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!   This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!
He explains that the song we’re singing is really describing the way that the Holy Spirit can fill up our dry bones and allow us to really live.  Right here.  Right now.  If we let Him.

This is what I need to hear.  I am these dry bones.  And I need to be filled with life.  His life.  I receive these words from Scripture.  I receive the words of the song. 

In this place—paused, attentive, waiting—my heart refocuses on Christ.

Again the community around me begins to sing.

Oh let us adore the
Son of Glory drenched in love
Open up your gates before him
Crown Him, stand Him up”

Sometimes this is what discipleship is...refocusing our hearts on Christ.

As they sing the refrain again, I join in, heart ripe with worship.

 Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to worship with right hearts.  May we find that He fills our dry bones with the Holy Spirit.  And in this may we find much joy.

Jessica :)

P.S.  In case you're curious about the song it is "Skeleton Bones" by John Mark McMillan.  McMillan wrote the popular song "How He Loves."  You might like to check him out. 

 I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”  Ezekiel 37:1-6 NLT

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Where Thanks Is Due

“Thank your muscles for for working hard.  Thank your lungs for breathing in the air.  Thank your heart for pumping the red blood cells that carry the oxygen throughout your body,” she would say as we wound down with a few simple stretches before savasana.  The yoga instructor would invite us to thank our body for all that we had done in class. 

Honestly, I found it kind of odd.  So, I didn’t do it.

Why in the world would you thank your body? 

It seemed silly to me.  I’ve never really thanked my body when I’ve worked out while exercising.  Yes, I can remember the many times in gymnastics where I was so very thankful that we were done with push-ups, or pull-ups, or running around and around  and around the building.  I was glad the pain had stopped!  The arms were no longer quivering as I pushed or pulled my body weight around.  The lungs had stopped burning.  I was finished. 

This is often the common theme of thanks when I’m exercising.   I’m thankful the pain has stopped.  I made it through.

So practice after practice the invitations to thank my body seemed strange.  They also seemed a bit misplaced. 

Isn’t it God that deserves the thanks? 

It was really in recognizing this that my perspective on this time of thanks in yoga changed.

I began to ponder the fact that our body is a gift.  God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from Adam’s rib.  He carefully crafted them, with bodies—a gift from God, just as the life that He breathed into them. 

“God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good.”  Genesis 1:31 NLT

What a special gift our body is.  God made us with a body.  It is the way He has enabled us to interact with the world around us.  It is because of this, our spirituality is never separate from our physicality.  They go hand in hand. 

Isn’t this something to be thankful for?

When we are grateful for a gift, we give thanks to the giver of the gift.

I saw the possibilities of this in the yoga invitation. 

I think traditionally practiced this time of thanking the body actually seeks to glorify the body rather than the Maker of it.

Yet, I thought it was possible to alter the way this was practiced.  Instead of thanking my body, I would thank the one who made it, God.

It was a new practice and one that I found to bring delight as I really thought about the intricate systems that enabled me to do all that a yoga practice requires, all that a day requires.  I discovered that at the end of the practice when I am tired I realize that I’m reliant upon God to sustain me both physically and spiritually.  He provides.  That is a reason to give thanks.

In thanking God for my body and allowing me to care for it, I practice yoga in a way that honors Him. 


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to honor God with our bodies, giving thanks to Him for all that they allow us to do, mindful that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit, in Christ.

Jessica :)

P.S.  If you are curious about physicality and spirituality you might like to check out the James series that we went through at Crossroads recently.  They are worth the time it will take to listen.  Blessings.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Open Eyes, Open Heart

This week…

 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Ephesians 1:18-19 NASB

May He open your eyes to His goodness—in a word, in a moment, in creation, in other people.
May your heart be open to receive, with joy, these gifts.

May He open your eyes to new truths in His Word.
May your heart be open to receive them.  May they sink down into your heart that they might be lived.

May He open your eyes anew to the hope that is yours in Christ.
May your heart be set upon Him, the Resurrected One, who lives in grace and truth.

May He open your eyes to the people and the opportunities around you.
May your heart be open to meeting these real needs with your time and tenderness.

And as your eyes are open to Him, and your heart receptive to Him…

May you discover the fruit of the Spirit, that strangely beautiful fruit that is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, is being birthed in you.

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we embrace Him this week and all that He has for us.

Jessica :)

P.S.  There are several really interesting translations of this passage that stirred in me a little something different upon reading them.  I decided to stick with the version that inspired the post. However, if you have time to sit with them and enjoy they are worth a read.  The Voice The Message.

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Cleaning Day!

It’s cleaning day around here.

I love cleaning day.  Really.

You know why?

The smell of fresh laundry as it’s folded and tucked away in a drawer or closet.

The scent of lavender kitchen spray as I wipe down the granite.

The way the mirror looks so clean after I wipe it down.

The dirt that comes up off the floor in the vacuum after I use the Swiffer.

The way the ring around the tub goes swimming down the drain.

These are wonderful.  But there is something even better.

It’s a time of worship for me.

It might sound strange, but it is also true.

I toss the normal routine of Bible, pen, and journal out for the morning.

I let go of that which becomes chore instead of joy when I hold too tightly to it...

And I put on a little worship music in the background and sing along.

I get lost in praise.

Sometimes I leave the music off and just talk to God. 

Though mostly I listen.  It’s a good time for that. 

And as I scrub and tidy, this heart of mine?

I think it knows that pouring out praise is the best way to do any work.

Want to join in?  Today, I'm putting on a little Jeremy Riddle. :)

Grace and Peace be ours in abundance as we pour out praise in whatever work the day has in store for us.

Jessica :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

His Wisdom

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”   1 John 1:8-10 TNIV

Just a poetic response to His word this week.

A world tucked under a dark blanket
Of half-truths and manipulation and pride
Of pain and hardship and striving
How can we think we are good?
We are wrapped up and tangled
In need of rescue—
But who can save this lot?

God, in wisdom higher than man,
Saw fit to send His Son, God incarnate
That we confessing—ALL
(Our lack of trust, our selfish ways, our fear,
The ways we’ve hurt, the ways we’re hurting
The secrets of our dark heart)
OUR SIN—are purified by His blood.

For relationship.
For new life.
For grace and peace.
For freedom.
Living hope that Christ over death is victorious.
Proclaiming Good News to those who are still lost.
All to the glory of God.

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we confess our sin, trusting in His promise to forgive us and purify us for His glory.

Jessica :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

God is good.

(A Wrestling Story, Part 3)

It is after wrestling through what it means to receive God’s love that I begin a new book, The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.  I bought the book a few years back and even tried to start it last year.  But it didn’t take.  Sometimes it’s like that for me with non-fiction books.  They always resurface at the right time—so, too with this one.  I look through my drawer of unread books and I pick it out as the book for now, because I think it is a good time to be reminded about what God is like.

As I begin reading, Tozer writes of the importance of a right understanding about God:

“That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us.  Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence.  Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is.  Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God.

A right conception of God is basic not only to the systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.  It is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.  I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.” 
As I read, I underline this.  The next night, when I am ready to move on to the next chapter, I stop.  I reread this again.  I feel challenged that to get the most out of what Tozer is saying, I need to consider what it is that I really believe about God and wrestle with it.  I need to take the things that are not true and submit them to God, asking him to replace these with what is real.

An image of the father running to embrace the younger son, who has returned home, flashes across my mind.  The parable of the lost son.

This is who I believe God to be at least intellectually.  

Yet, as I consider the way I have been living lately, it is as though I must always busy myself with something to prove my worth.  Studying.  Connecting.  Serving.  Sacrificing.  I live as though by doing all these things, I will receive the good God has for me.  It seems to me that God’s best for me is always moving on to something bigger and better, something different from the way I am living now.  This is my default.

And my default?  It looks a lot more like the older son in the parable—the one who called what he did for the father “slaving away.”  I am the older brother slaving away bitterly for God in hopes of a good inheritance some day in the future—doing the right things, with the wrong heart.  Yikes!  What an ugly thing to discover.
Because the truth?  God is good.  And he withholds no good thing from me.  He is always working for my good.  He is always ready to embrace me when I recognize the condition of my heart and come to receive his love.  And it is never conditional on the things I have done. 

Here it is again, hiding in the middle of this heart battleground. 

Will you receive my love, Jessica? 

Will you receive that what you are doing each day—the dishes, the laundry, being in relationship with your family, with your friends, the way you interact with your neighbor—these are good thingsYou are not meant to be slaving away. 

You want to do something of purpose.  

Yet, you have opportunities every day that you do with such a bad attitude. 

You say that I am a good God.  But you live as though I am not.

You don’t need to do something new or different.

You need to live purposeful where you are today.

Remember the verse in Colossians 3?

“Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This is what you need to know—gratitude for your circumstances and worship in them.

So gently, he sets me free of my own expectations for myself.  I am not a slave.

He reminds me that small acts have great purpose.

Because each one is a chance to worship.

And that is enough.


Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we wrestle to discover what it is we really believe about God and give Him permission to teach us what is true.  May it lead to freedom.  May it lead to peace.  May it lead to purpose.  May it lead us to enjoy Him.

Jessica :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Part 2 of a series about what it means to practice yoga in a way that honors God.

One of the things that I had no context for understanding when I began yoga was the way we ended each class. 

The instructor would bring us to a seated position, after savasana, and have us bring our hands into prayer position,our hands touching and centered at our sternum.  She would bend forward slightly, bowing as she said, “Namaste.”  We would roll our mats up and get ready to leave. 

The first couple times I went I just observed.  I watched as she led.  I watched as the other people in the class would mimic her in the bow and say the words.  And I wondered.  What does it mean?

“The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."”
Considering the source of this word comes from an Eastern religious understanding, entirely different from my own Christian understanding, I wondered if there was any Truth in this to be reclaimed and reinterpreted. 

(Paul did this when He was in Athens.  He found an altar with an inscription “To an unknown God.”  Then, he told the Athenians about this God they did not yet know.  He proclaimed the Good News, by interpreting their altar in a new way.) 

There seemed to be two key pieces to understanding Namaste—“that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart” and the “acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in the other.” 

Could this be interpreted in a new way?

In talking about this with my husband, a few things came to mind.  The way God made us in His image.   And that the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the believer when we walk in relationship with Christ. 

All are made in the image of God.  We reflect Him by just being who we are.  So, while we are not God, only made in the image of God, the Holy Spirit may, indeed, live in us if we are surrendered to Christ.  And if we are looking, it would be easy to identify His handiwork in one another—either through who God has made us to be or by what we allow Him to do in us. 

Similar to the idea of the Divine spark and acknowledging this in one another. 

Yet different.  A better way of understanding what is true. 

I think Namaste said with this understanding honors God. 

Yet, I have chosen not to end like the rest of class, with the Namaste, because I want to practice differently. 

I want the person on the mat next to me to wonder why I haven’t participated with the rest of the class.  I want them to know that they have been made in the image of the Creator God.  I want them to know His love for them.  I want them to know that, in Christ, God can really live in them by way of the Holy Spirit.  Can walk with them.  Can lead them.  Through each moment.  Of each day.  Transforming.  Changing.  And renewing a life.  

I want them to understand Namaste differently. 

I want them to know Jesus.

So, at the end of class, when we sit back up from savasana, as we breathe deep and lift our arms up, as we move our hands to prayer position...

I quietly think to myself of being made in His image. 

Of the Spirit that lives within me. 

Of those nearby. 

I offer a quick prayer of thanks, petition, and opportunity to share—namaste redefined.

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we seek to claim and redefine that which seems to ring true by submitting it to the God who is true, that we might share Him with others.

Jessica :)