Friday, March 20, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things: Bloggers I Love

I’m sharing with you today a few of my favorites ladies who love Jesus and write about it. Each of their testimonies encourage me and spur me on.  What I love so much about each of them, is they always give it to you straight. There is no fluff. They help you see they are people who struggle with sin.  They share their individual battles, while striving to come full circle in every situation.  These writers remind, encourage, and refocus our minds on the goodness of Jesus, that He alone is perfect, and all our hope must be found in Him.

Grace Covers Me
Photos provided by Christine Hoover
Christine and her husband Kyle are native Texans church planting in Virginia. Christine has authored two books: The Church Planting Wife and From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel. As I read Christine's blog I often wonder how she understands me so well. I sit at my computer and wonder "How does she know that about me???" As a ministry wife I have so many questions, concerns, and fears. Christine addresses so many of those things and more. Her posts encourage and give me perspective in ministry while reminding me I am covered in God's Grace. Find Christine at Grace Covers Me.

Mundane Faithfulness
Kara Tippetts of Mundane Faithfulness is battling metastatic breast cancer. She is the author of The Hardest Places and Big Love. When I read Kara’s blog (written by Kara, friends, and family members) I remember that God is so much bigger than I think. The story He is writing has His sovereignty woven throughout and He is faithful to take care of us as we walk through the hardest times. Kara's story is powerful and raw. Kara's fight is hard and sometimes it doesn't make sense to our earthly selves. She shares her honesty while clinging to Jesus in the most beautiful way. Kara leaves a legacy of fierce faith flowing with love, kindness, and gentleness that can only come from walking intimately with Jesus. Read Kara’s story on Mundane Faithfulness.

GraceLaced
 
Ruth Simons is an artist (see her shoppe) and mother of six man cubs living in my home state of New Mexico. Ruth writes about her continual struggle to give herself grace. And let’s just say I really relate to that. My struggle with perfectionism often leads me to give myself a harder time about everything. I know I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever be and that us why I love the way Ruth laces grace through every post.  Join Ruth at GraceLaced.

What blogs do you read that encourage you with your walk with Jesus? 

 
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Revolving Door of Ministry: Part Two

If you are just joining, don't miss Part One of this series.


Dear Student Leaving our Ministry,

I hate that you are leaving. That’s right I said it. You are connected and do life with us. My heart is being ripped apart. You may not see it, but my heart hurts so bad and I desperately want to fight it. In my heart of hearts I just don't want you to go. You leave huge gaping holes where you once were. And it’s so apparent to me. You are taking my heart with you.

I hate goodbye's so give me grace. Like I may act ridiculous for a little while (you may have already experienced this). I might try to convince you to stay because I love you and don't want my heart to be ripped out (see above). So help me by recognizing how desperately hard this is for me. Know I have cried may tears over your departure (that I probably won't do in front of you because I would never want you to feel bad). I have wrestled with the Lord about letting you go, but still...I need grace.

Thank you allowing us into your life. Thank you for partnering in ministry, using your gifts, and growing together like iron sharpens iron. Our time together has not been perfect. We have argued and struggled because we are people in need of grace. We are imperfect people seeking Jesus together. It is a sincere delight to walk with you as you pursue Jesus. I am more like Jesus because of you. God used you to shape me, to reveal my sin, and to make me more like Him. You are a sweet gift.

I am so proud of you for following so hard after Him that you listened when He called you somewhere new. Yes, I hate it and fight it, but I am so proud of your obedience. Know it’s okay to still call and ask me questions. It’s okay to shoot me a text and ask me to pray for you. I am not going to quit caring about you just because I don't see you every week.

As you go, don’t forget what you had here. Don’t forget the sweetness of doing life and community with a bunch of messed up people all seeking to walk by the grace of God. Go get plugged in (see part one of this post). Don’t hold on so tight here that you refuse to be connected where you are going. It’s okay to make new friends and to do life with new people. (We are actually going to do the same thing here). Dig deep, grow roots, there are people where you are going who will teach you new things and help you to walk with Jesus too.

Don’t forget what you learned here. I pray that the things I have entrusted to you, you will entrust them to other faithful people (2 Timothy 2:2). Hold fast to the gospel and do not taint it (2 Timothy 1:13-14). I pray that you will be a follower of Jesus who continues to make disciples. You are meeting and reaching people where you are going that I can't. So use your time wisely, and make the most of every moment because we are not promised tomorrow.  

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Revolving Door of Ministry: Part One

It just keeps spinning, that imaginative revolving door that leads into our ministry. There is a constant ebb and flow of students in and out. This post series is a culmination of conversations I have had over the last year. If I could sit down face to face with every person who walks into the doors of our ministry, this is what I would want them to know.

Dear Student Entering our Ministry,

Hi, my name is Ashlee and I so want to know you. But I may not remember your name in 5 minutes. So help me, have mercy on me, Know it doesn’t mean I don’t care about you, but I just struggle with names. And while we are talking about struggles, if I seem strange or stand-offish that’s because I am an introvert and I’m trying to meet new people. And it’s hard for me. Yes I know that’s not an excuse, that’s why I am here awkwardly having this conversation with you. It’s because I care about you and so want you to walk with Jesus. Please help me not feel like an complete idiot!

I want you to know getting connected is a two way street. I want to help you get connected in our ministry, but I need you to meet me half way. You have to want to be connected. You must show up, talk to people, and try too. I’m not being hard on you, but friendship and ministry is two sided. So partner with us, get plugged in, and be apart of this messy thing we call community and fellowship. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

I want you to know that we care about people. We will love you, cry with you, cheer you on, get in your face, and have fun. We will study with you, let you ask us hard questions about life, and talk to you about Jesus and His Word. We will disciple you and encourage you to be a disciple maker too.

We are about Jesus and His Word. We want you to know Jesus if you don't and if you do, we want you to know Him better. Don't worry we will help you know how to follow Him, we will walk next to you and you pursue Jesus. That is the whole reason we are here, because we want to help college students know Jesus better and grow in their love of Him.

I am not perfect yet a perfectionist by nature. I can’t be super woman. I work full time and serve in ministry full time. Sometimes I can’t be there for you the way I want to, but know I am here.  I am a human being that still struggles with this body of flesh. I will fail you. So please see me as a real person with real struggles who desperately needs Jesus to carry me and wash me with His grace.

There are big gaping holes in our ministry that you can fill. You see our ministry isn’t whole, we need you to take up your part in this body of believers. We need your gifts and interests and passions. We need you to care about things that may not be our passion. We need you to lead in ways we are not gifted. We are so delighted you are here. We cannot wait to get to know you more.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Good, Bye

Today I have a special guest post for you from Christine Hoover. 

Christine Hoover (@christinehoover) is an author, a recovering perfectionist, the wife of a pastor, and a mom of three boys. She writes online at www.GraceCoversMe.com and has contributed to Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, Send Network, and iBelieve. Her newest book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, offers women biblical freedom from trying to “be good enough”. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book. You can read the entire chapter here.


I’ve been obsessed with being good and performing all of my life.

Hello, my name is Christine. I’m a goodness addict.

I was born with a list in my hand, or at least that’s how early I imagine it started. I came by it honestly—my mom’s response to everything my sister and I needed as children, whether shampoo from the store or help with a school project, was always, “Make a list!”

So I did. I made list after list—of library books for summer reading, of boys that I liked, of songs to record from the radio on my tape recorder, of necessities to pack for overnight camp, of must-haves in my future husband, even of outfits for the first month of eighth grade so as not to repeat and make a fashion faux pas of infinite proportion.

I don’t just make lists. I am that person, the one who adds a task to a list just to experience the satisfaction of crossing it off, the one who makes lists for my lists.

I’m a perfectionist.

There was a time when I would have said that with pride, but not anymore. Perfectionism has not been a friend to me. Sure, my house is organized and my budget spreadsheet is up-to-date, but when perfectionism is applied to the spiritual needs of the heart, it’s called legalism. And legalism is a fancy word for an obsession with goodness. It’s a belief that good things come from God to those who are good. And it’s a belief that you can actually be good enough to get to God on your own.

I became a Christian at age eight. From that point, or more accurately from the point in middle school when I started having “quiet times” according to my youth minister’s instructions, until my late twenties, I spent the majority of my Christian life striving—striving for perfection, for God’s favor, for the approval of others, and for the joy and freedom that the Bible spoke of yet completely eluded me.

At an early age, I fell for perfectionism’s lie that I could be good enough to win God’s heart and the approval of others. I sought joy, peace, and love through being good and, instead, found myself miserably enslaved to my own unattainable standards.

This was my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian: If I do good things, then God is pleased. If I do things wrong, then he is angry. This is actually the basis of every religion on earth except Christianity, this idea of a scale where the good must outweigh the bad in order to be right with God. I had religion down pat, but the religion I practiced wasn’t true and biblical Christianity. On the outside I appeared to be a good Christian, but on the inside I felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about my inability to please God.

Unfortunately for me, a large part of a goodness obsession is an addiction to self. Goodness is evaluated by activity, completed tasks, responses from others, and results. It requires a focus on appearance and image and maintaining some semblance of religious behavior. Goodness required that I control my environment with military precision, hide my weaknesses, and compare myself with others or my own arbitrary standards. Goodness fed both my pride and my self-condemnation and kept me relationally isolated.

The other part of a goodness addiction, I discovered in my twenties, is a faulty understanding of who God is and what he expects from His children. I only saw God through perfectionism’s filter. He was gray. He had no patience for my mistakes, forever glaring at me with a scowl on His face. He sighed a lot. If I was extra-good, He might manage to crack a smile. He was one-dimensional, disengaged, unaffectionate, and I absolutely feared him.

I knew nothing about grace.
I knew nothing about forgiveness.
I knew nothing about the true gospel, because a goodness addiction completely overtakes the heart and mind, leaving no room for truth. It enslaves and cannibalizes itself. It becomes an all-encompassing religion, closing tightly around one’s soul. It led me down paths of depression and despair.

And it became my gospel.
           
I lived according to that gospel–what I now call the goodness gospel–for far too long, precisely because I didn’t know the true gospel’s reach. I believed that faith was effective for salvation but only self-effort could produce my sanctification. Now I know differently. God has taken me on a ten-year exploration of grace and sanctification and faith, and I am not the girl I once was. I live in the freedom that Christ was won for me.

Now that I know differently, I also have eyes to see the goodness gospel covertly worming its way into hearts of believers, and I see its destructive effects.

In the Christian culture, there seems to be great confusion and even pressure that we women feel about what we should be doing and why we should be doing it. The confusion touches decisions about education, family, eating and drinking, work, hobbies, community involvement, and even whether one should volunteer when the sign-up sheet is passed around again at church.

The pressure grows when choices are wrapped in spiritual or more-spiritual terms. We see it everywhere: Do something great! Follow your dreams! Make a difference for the kingdom! Be missional and in community! For the gospel-confused, that too often translates into: I’m not doing enough, what I’m doing isn’t making a difference, and I’ve got to create my own and my neighbor’s own and my children’s own and everyone’s own life transformation.

From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is a book for women like I was, who long to please God but fear they never will. It's for the woman drowning in self-condemnation, the woman afraid to be vulnerable with others because she's so fully aware of her imperfections, and the woman who craves but can't seem to grasp the freedom and joy that Jesus promised His followers.

Instead of asking "What does God want from us?", From Good to Grace asks, "What does God want for us?" The book illustrates how we confuse being good and trying hard--the goodness gospel--with the true gospel, which is really about receiving the grace and love that Jesus offers us and responding with our lives by the Holy Spirit's help. It’s my prayer that through it you discover it's possible to know God's love, live in peace and freedom, and serve others with great joy. Because God has something so much greater for you than trying to be good enough.


Purchase your copy today on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com, or iTunes and discover the gospel’s reach in your own life.
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Monday, February 16, 2015

Let's Meet with God

Francis Chan paced the stage at Passion 2015 in typical Francis style. He spoke of spending time with the Lord.  He shared about Moses going into the tent of the meeting in Exodus 33. The people would come out of their tent and watch Moses go to the tent of the meeting where Moses went to meet with God face to face like a man speaks to his friend (Ex 33:11). Francis talked about how rare and unusual it was for any man to meet with God, let alone in such a personal way.

What an awesome and precious thing. Not just anyone met with God. Yet, I have the opportunity to meet with God every day. Do I truly meet with Him?

Sure I sit down with my laptop to read my devotion. I finish reading but instead of talking to God, I get on Facebook to get my daily dose of communicating with people (without having to communicate with them). What is wrong with me??? When did anything become more important than meeting with God? When did my time with HIM become a box to check.

As Francis spoke, two gentlemen brought a camping tent onto the stage. Francis shared his heart for this generation to delight in spending time in the tent. To realize what a precious thing it is to meet with God. Seriously?! He is the God of the Universe! WHY would I not meet with Him?? Why would I not run to the tent every day.

I don’t have a good answer for you. It’s shameful I know.

I KNOW how to get in the Word. I KNOW how to pray to Him. But I allow OTHER THINGS to take up my life.

My life hasn’t always been this way. There have been seasons where I clung to Him with everything. I needed Him moment by moment. A season of sweetness hungering to be in the presence of Jesus.

As Francis spoke I felt God stir and flutter something in my heart. Something that was more than just a box to check. He gave me a desire to run to the tent and meet with Him. To speak with Him and delight in His presence. To once again have that sweet communion with the Father.

So let us draw near to the throne of God. Let us run to the tent of meeting with delight and expectation. Lord grow a great prompting in our hearts to meet with you.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Do I Focus More on Jesus?

From time to time I get the pleasure of writing for Transform Student Ministries. Below is an excerpt of my latest blog

The three of us sat down in the mall food court. It was just a typical day of shopping. To my right was a student I have discipled, across from me was her sister. As we talked about things in their lives and choices they were making, I began to share a simple truth about pursuing Jesus.
 
“If you will pursue Jesus and the things of Him, those things you are struggling with will become less attractive.” I told them. It was a truth I have shared many times. The key to overcoming sin is not to sit down and tell yourself don’t do it over and over again. The more you think about sin, the more you want to do it. You have to focus less on what you don’t want to do and focus more on Jesus.

I could see the sister was interested in what I was saying. She asked me, “How do I focus more on Jesus?”

Read the answer on the Transform Student Blog
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Quit

I quit! I declared to my mom. My track coach was out of town for spring break and we were running with the high school coach who was known for being tough. Quitting lasted as long as it took my mom to march me back up to school and apologize to the coach for my actions. I finished out track that year begrudgingly.

How often do we run the race of this Christian life and declare "I quit!" Or we mope and drag our feet complaining about our rough lives. That's the mess I've been walking in. Sunday I laid down at the altar at church to pray and had no words. My heart was so heavy and worn I wasn't sure what to ask for. I felt an arm come around me and one of my college girls began to pray over me. The flood gates opened and I bawled while she prayed for me.

I knew I was at the end of myself. Paul Tripp says "true righteousness begins when you come to the end of yourself because you give up on your own little kingdom." My husband and I got home Sunday night and he began to poke and prod on my heart in ways I hate. He said things I knew were true, but did not want to hear.

Yesterday morning I sat down begging the Lord to refresh me and renew me. I read She Reads Truth and the Lord reminded me of that spring break morning when I declared I quit. And gingerly as only He can, He asked me, "Ashlee are you going to quit or are you going to keep running this race I have set before you?" The words in Hebrews 12 that stood out to me were lose heart. That word lose means "to dissolve, grow weak through exhaustion." My heart is so exhausted. I realized I had lost heart.
Yet Paul spurs us on in Hebrews 12 to consider Jesus who endured so much. Fix your eyes on Him the author and protector of your faith. And I realized my eyes have not been fixed on Jesus. My eyes have been on been on myself, the rough road ahead, sorrow, etc. My eyes were everywhere except on Jesus.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus, everything melts away. Things don't disappear, but they don't hold on to me so strongly. No matter where you are today, maybe life seems unbearable, maybe you are ready to quit, let's stop, take a deep breath and fix our eyes on Jesus.

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