Am I hanging with the right crowd?

It’s no longer Friday – but I promised myself I’d be intentional about blogging in 2014 – so here’s my #FMFParty (Five-minute Friday) thoughts on Lisa-Jo Baker‘s “crowd” prompt.

My wonderful husband in 2013 challenged our family to recognize the sabbath on Fridays. Since we’re blessed to be on staff at Elevation Church together, it’s our best day to spend together as a family, reflecting on God’s glory and goodness without distraction.

But it’s not easy for me to unplug. shut down. ignore the texts, emails, deadlines, and phone calls that ping at me all day. So Sean takes my phone away. Seriously.

He read a book called 24/6 in late 2012 that inspired his leading our family to “remember the sabbath.” It’s the only commandment that begins with “remember” says author/physician Matthew Sleeth – “it’s almost as if God knew we’d forget,” he says.

So on Fridays, when I could be spending time with friends, neighbors, coworkers or colleagues – I’m at home, spending time reading and playing baseball and board games with my family. We talk, we play, we get messy, we laugh. We don’t go anywhere. It’s weird, really. But I like it. I used to use Fridays to get caught up on everything I didn’t get done the rest of the week – cleaning, writing, answering calls/emails, and all manner of working.

On Fridays, my crowd is my family. And it’s just right.

From determined to devoted

My super-woman sister reminded me this weekend about how our father taught us NEVER to use the word, “can’t.” It’s not a word he would say. We don’t use that word in this house. You CAN.

This is the kind of determination I learned growing up. To jut out my chin and put up my fist and say “Yes I can!”

The trouble was my father would use plenty of other words (other than can’t) in our house that seemed just fine. The four-letter kind I learned to utter in my own frustration. This and other crazy things that happened in my house growing up led me to constantly question, “Does my father really love me?” .. because the words and the actions didn’t always match up.

Of course I knew my earthly father loved me, the best way he knew how. I’m so grateful for how he gave me so much. But I’m learning now that his imperfect love led to a lot of confusion in my little girl heart.

My dad was bullied and beat up as a young boy. So he learned to raise his fist at the world and with a long list of curse words say, “YES – I – CAN!” He was determined to live. To survive. To prove those guys wrong.

No matter how imperfect my dad was, I always admired his determination. But like any good human quality like passion, intelligence, confidence, and even courage – if we’re not rooted in the right place we will find these qualities can only get us so far. And I’m finding, they can actually keep us from the life God wants for us.

Philippians 4:23 says “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me.”

I’m grateful for the opportunity to be under the teaching of the best of the best. Pastor Steven Furtick’s book Crash the Chatterbox is a must-have for anyone who’s ever struggled with the lies of insecurity, fear, condemnation, or discouragement. This past weekend at Elevation, his wife and my friend Holly Furtick preached an incredibly practical message on discouragement I know I’ll go back to again and again.

Through this consistent teaching, and studying God’s word on my own, I’m learning how instead of overcoming my fears through Christ’s power IN me, I’ve been consistently denying my fears and pushing past them in my own strength. And with two little boys and a husband and a rewarding ministry and demanding schedule – my strength is a limited resource.

Today, I’m learning how to move from being determined (in my own strength) to being devoted to the one whose resources are unlimited.

Thank you, Jesus for this day. I am a limited being. I can’t do everything in front of me today on my own. But your word says that IN YOU I can. I have to be smart, Jesus – I can’t say YES today to everything that’s placed in front of me, so I ask that you’d sift the work of my hands. Help me to discern what tasks are mine alone God – which ones I can delegate to others on this journey with me – and which ones I should push aside for another day. More than anything God today I want to know you better, and be devoted to you. I trust that as I devote my life to you, your love will overflow through me so I can bring YOUR peace, YOUR joy, and YOUR love to those around me. Thank you for first loving me. Amen.

Pray more, talk less, LOVE always

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

We just wrapped up an epic night in the this history of Elevation Church. Hundreds of people got baptized at three of our locations. Though it was an incredibly public evening – with thousands of us cheering on each person in the tank – I can assure you it was an intensely personal experience for each of the beautiful people in line.

I know, because I was in that line in 2008 waiting to get baptized myself. Our church was only two years old. We were at Elevation Providence and I’d been waiting until my mother could fly in from Spokane, Washington to participate in a day that would be a turning point for me.

I’d been a follower of Christ since college when a friend walked me through what it meant to put Jesus at the center of my life. And when I got baptized, I remember being so happy, and so grateful for this refreshing new phase in my faith. I didn’t realize how far from God I had become in the way I led my life.

It’s been an amazing journey since then. I’m grateful for the people who’ve invested in me, believed in me, and encouraged me along this path. But the biggest change I’ve had to make is how I’ve had to learn to pray MORE and talk LESS. I’ve had to learn to trust God to work in people’s lives instead of trying to do the work for him. That just wasn’t working out so well for me.

I would often scream out loud, “Why will no one listen to me?!!!”

I suppose it’s because I was talking too much. Criticizing too much. Preaching too much. Loving too little.

So yes, my mantra these days is “Pray more, talk less, LOVE always.” In the working it out, I’m finding that God is showing up in beautiful ways I never anticipated. I’m finding it is true that LOVE never fails. And I’m grateful that I am raised to life in Christ.

Below: Family baptism gallery – Tonia 2008, Ciara 2011, Cooper 2013.

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Running from my life..

20140220-001826.jpgI work in the greatest place in the world. Really. I’ve worked other places and thought they were pretty amazing at the time – but Elevation Church is really the greatest place in the world to work. And it’s not just because I get to see all God is doing through the generosity of the people in our church first-hand. Though that’s pretty great.

It’s more than that. Expectations are clear. Leaders guide with integrity. We are encouraged to create, dream, and collaborate. Learning and cultivating healthy habits and fun are an integral part of our culture. We have a “game of the month.” We compete in games like air hockey, foursquare, ping pong, and tennis.

You’d think in a place like this, I’d be good at having fun. Everybody else is having a great time.

My report card came in the form of a question from my six-year-old. “Mommy,” he said, “why do you not like to play with me?”

I responded with a pile of excuses as high as my unfolded laundry. I blamed my busy schedule, my dysfunctional upbringing, my unfinished chores. Gah. In my own defense… I play card games. I play chess. I play Legos. We built a snowman together the other day. I do play. But do I like it? Do I look forward to playing with my son or do I think of it as a chore? Well, apparently IF I like it I don’t act much like it.

In his book “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul,” Dr. Stuart Brown proposes the seven properties of play, and the first one is that it is apparently purposeless. And somewhere along the way of my reaching and striving, I’ve forgotten how to play. To have fun just for the fun of it. I’ll do it if I have to. But it’s the first thing to go if I think I’ve got “too much to do.”

Blah. How self-important am I that I think something will crumble if I spend some time doing nothing but laughing and being silly?

In his new book, “Crash the Chatterbox,” Pastor Steven helps us learn to hear God’s voice above all others. And I’m realizing how many of my habits are based in fear and insecurity. Pastor Steven quotes the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-3 “Now Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” Pastor Steven goes on to unpack the story and comes to the conclusion that fear had Elijah running FROM his life.

I want to stop running FROM my life. I want to really enjoy playing with Legos and jumping on the trampoline and whatever else my boys want to do. I know I need to truly value these beautiful gifts God has given me. As my friend Lysa TerKeurst guides in her book, Unglued, I can choose to live in the grace of imperfect progress.

This day, I got to encourage 170 children in Trinidad from God’s word. And I stopped long enough for my talented husband to snap a photo. This is what progress looks like for me. What does it look like for you?

#30daysofThanks, Crisis Assistance Ministry

DOWNTOWN CHARLOTTE – One of my favorite things each week, is hearing from our amazing Elevation Outreach volunteers about how God used them to reach people while they’re out serving.

Guys like Russell Goetting and Bruce Bloomquist have made it a priority to serve through our outreach partners weekly, monthly, sometimes (during #30daysofthanks or LOVE Week) even daily.  And I get notes like this:

The Lord used Laura Wells to bring a young couple into His Kingdom, and she is bringing them to Elevation this weekend to plug them in!  They came for one time help with utility bills, and left with eternal life.”  

And they send me stories like this every week.  Serving in the pre-work hour at Crisis Assistance Ministry is one of the easiest, most-rewarding outreach opportunities you can find during #30daysofthanks.  How could you NOT want to be a part of what God is doing through Elevation Outreach at Crisis Assistance Ministry?

Sign up here and look for the weekday “Fight Hunger” opportunities with “CAM”.  Then check out this short video about Elevation’s partnership with this great ministry.

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