Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Roundup

I made a list today of all of the things I feel like God has taught me this year.

It was, um, a huge list to say the least. But here are some of my faves:

1.) When I take fear out of the equation, my decisions are a lot easier to make.

Because as my friend Julie says, "Fear is the absence of faith in God."

"Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Matthew 8:26

2.) In every moment, I am either moving towards or away from God.

Every moment. Every decision I make. Every thing I do. It either pulls me to His throne or further into myself.

3.) I have nothing to fear from being imperfect. My imperfection is an unchangeable fact until I see Jesus face to face.

Which means I have no fear in being transparent and honest about all my failures and shortcomings. I am more sinful than I could ever imagine and yet more loved than I could ever dare hope.

4.) Whatever is all over the floor of my life was inside of me to begin with.

Paige Benton Brown pointed out that when a water bottle gets knocked over there will be water on the floor because there was water in the bottle. Life will knock me down, it is inevitable and unavoidable. But if there is bitterness, frustration or sorrow on the floor of my life, it is not because I got knocked over. It is because those things were inside of me from the very beginning. Life just happened to reveal them at this moment. It all goes back to what the condition of my heart is.

5.) I can't change other people, I can only change the way I react to them.

Thank you Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend.

6.) That God is a gentleman.

He will not force Himself upon me. He will allow me to choose. Will it be Him or something else?

7.) I receive peace not when my prayers are answered but when they are offered.

8) God will not play my mind games.

When I worry about a particular situation that could happen, that is a mental reality that exists without God. He will not show up in my daymares. If the actual situation occurs, He will be there. But it is useless to worry because He won't play the game of showing me how every problem in my imagination will be solved IF it happens. He will only show me how it is solved if it does happen.

9) All suffering is weighing God's character against my own wisdom.

And my wisdom is EXTREMELY limited and fairly useless.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. " - Proverbs 3:5-6

10) God loves me.

This year I discovered that God is a God of boundaries. He does not tolerate sin. So the only way He can tolerate us is if that sin has been paid for. That is His boundary. But, He loves me so much that He paid for it Himself. Wow.

Happy New Year. Welcome to 2009.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Faith Daring Pillow Reminders

I was spending some time pouring my heart out to God this morning when I looked over and saw this pillow.  It says "Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see".  I have been sleeping in this room for several nights and somehow just noticed it today in the middle of my prayer.

Hmmm....  Perhaps I'll cart it back to the big city as a little reminder...
A reminder that faith means I trust that God is working behind the scenes....
And just because I can't see it doesn't mean I can't keep going.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cup Removal

"Abba, Father," He said, "everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will." (Mark 14:36)

"Jesus, knowing all  that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
    'Jesus of Nazareth.' they replied.
    'I am He,' Jesus said." (John 18:4-5)

Jesus asked for the cup of suffering that He knew was to come to be taken from Him.  And God was silent.  He did not take it away. 

And then, moments later, Jesus walked into the fire, knowing all that was going to happen to Him.

"I am He."  The cup of suffering was not removed.  God chose not to remove and so Jesus was obedient to what He was called to do.  He was completely obedient knowing what pain and suffering that would mean.

If I ask God to remove something, a hurt, a task, anything... How faithfully will I follow Him "through the valley of it" if He does not?  How obedient will I be when He calls me to do something and I say it is too hard?  Will I step forward and say, "I am she" or will I muddle through kicking and screaming?  

"So if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will walk through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'd never go alone."
-If You Want Me To- G. Owens

Having fallen in love with this song by Ginny Owens, I now realize that the truest example of the graceful obedience she sings of is in Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 15, 2008


"Someone told me a lie.
Someone looked me in the eye and said,
'Time will ease your pain.'"
-Cannonball by Brandi Carlile

I was struck today by how much faith I have put in time to heal pain. I think we are all guilty of that. But it struck me when I read this verse today:

"But I will sing of Your strength, in the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble." - Psalm 59:16

And then I looked up the definition of refuge:
"Refuge: Anything to which one has recourse for aid, relief, or escape."

God is my refuge in times of trouble. He is my aid. He is my relief. He is my escape. He is the Healer that applies the balm to the wounds.

God only.
And I realized all of the things that I have been making my refuge lately:
Friendships. Family. Caring for Myself. Church. Keeping Busy. Serving Others. Loving Others. Performing. Exercising. The West Wing.
Even the advice I have received (and have given to others at times) points to the way we make everything but God our refuge:
"Lean on your friends."
"Time will fix this. Time will heal."
"Just keep yourself busy."
"Now you can focus on your career for a little while."
"This is time to make taking care of you a priority."

And I have been depending on these things (relationships, career, myself, etc.) to (1.) either pass the time until healing occurs or (2.) be my refuge.

But Time won't heal pain. It will make it seem less significant. It will fill our minds with other things and activities. But Time won't heal.

And there is nothing wrong with loving people or service or career or my favorite television show BUT I have made good things into ultimate things. I have made blessings into my refuge, my aid, my relief and my escape.

But only God is able to be my refuge. Only God is my Healer. Only God is my aid, my relief, my escape.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
and the mountains quake with their surging....
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted amontg the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."
-Psalm 46:1-3 and 10

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Quotes of the Week

I went back to see Sight and Sound Theater's Miracle of Christmas show last weekend that some of my friends were in. Two of the lines really hit me in the gut.

1.) The scene in the show where Mary is pregnant and Joseph thinks she has been unfaithful prompts Mary to say to him, "Why is your faith shaken by that which you cannot comprehend?"

Which led me to:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. " - Proverbs 3:5-6

How often am I leaning on my own understanding of a situation? My own, 25 year old, Kentucky born, New York University educated understanding of a situation? And let's be serious. How limited is that? Yikes.

Like Kathy Keller said, all suffering and hurt is weighing God's character against my own wisdom. And trusting in the Lord with all my heart goes hand and hand with LEANING NOT ON MY OWN UNDERSTANDING.

So, Lauren, quit leaning on something as rickety as a one legged table.

2.) There is a scene where Elizabeth, Mary's significantly older cousin, who is miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist discusses how after years of being unable to conceive a child, "In my greatest hour of despair, God did His best work."

I am constantly floored by the nature of God and the way He makes great things out of nothingness. It must be because once we are emptied of all our junk, that is the hour that we are most dependent on Him. We have been emptied of all the worldly desires, hang-ups and habits and are clinging to nothing but the knowledge that Jesus loves us because that is all we have left. And NOW, God can begin to do His best work.

Also this week, Susan threw this one at me when I was upset about my own stupid sins:
3.) "You never have anything to fear about being imperfect, Lauren. Until we see Jesus face to face, our imperfection is an unchangeable fact."

I'll admit when she hit me up with that one, I started crying immediately. It never ceases to amaze me how countercultural Jesus is. The idea that nothing about being loved by Him has anything to do with my performance as a human or even as a Christian is something I am constantly relearning.

So, as I sit between Thanskgiving and Christmas, I'm thankful for three things:
1.) That my God is bigger than the shakiness of my faith. A faith that is often shaken by things I can't comprehend.
2.) That God makes great things not out of good things but out of nothingness. He often does His best work in my greatest hours of despair.
3.) That I am completely and totally imperfect. And yet completely and totally loved.

Hope your Christmas is getting off to a good start.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


"I thank God upon every remembrance of you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now..." Philippians 1:3-5

I'll be honest.

I was not looking forward to the holidays this year.  In fact, the thought of Christmas is still a little daunting to me.

But God is good.  And when my skeptical heart said, "Really? A holiday to count my blessings?"  I was met with some pretty huge reasons why I should be doing just that.

There really is nothing like sisterhood.

It was pretty exciting to bring two of my favorite ladies from New York home to Kentucky and introduce them to my childhood community and say, "See, this is why New York is so important to me.  This is part of the community that continues to help me grow and love and change."

People in Kentucky can be pretty skeptical about why New York is a place worth visiting.  I can't count how much I introduced friends from NYC and heard "New York?  That's somewhere you will never see me go." 

But I think we showed them that sisters like this makes a lot of the homesickness, lack of grass and rent checks feel totally worth it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pressing On = Pressing In

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" -Matthew 26:36-38

I feel like there could not be a more incredible example of how necessary it is to press into the Lord to get through tough times. Even Christ had to do it. Knowing the end was near, He pressed into His father. Knowing His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow", He asked His friends to keep watch so He can go to God in prayer. Even though He confessed to them He was hurting, He took His hurt to God.

Pressing on through the hurt means pressing in to the Lord.

I realize this is almost exactly what I said when I talked about Hannah. But I keep getting smacked in the face with it because I realize that I can never do it enough. I can never press into the Lord enough.

I've always really struggled with "pouring my heart out to God" the way that Hannah did. I'll pray for you, your Grandma, my future, your future, etc. I'll pray for healing. Generically. But I don't pray for God to reveal to me the things in me that need to be changed so that I can heal.

"Hey God, if you could fix it, that would be great. But I'm not really going to put any effort in."

But to pray is to change.

It's like counseling. I remember talking to someone once about their counseling experience. They said that after going once or twice they weren't going back because they left the counselor's office more upset than "if they had never gone in the first place." Um, well, yeah. Counseling hurts. It's like surgery. We are going to pull up all your junk and crap that you have been avoiding, take a look at what is destructive and cut it out with a scalpel. But you'll be healthier once we get it out of you. We have to get rid of the cancer.

Prayer is the same way. Just with God. And surgery scares me.

At 3 o'clock in the morning the other night, (and um, I was up at 3 o'clock because I am newly obsessed with "The West Wing"; thanks a lot Blum) I went from discussing something rationally with my roommate to being a gross, crying mess in her lap. And I realized that my hurts were overflowing out of me because I was not pressing into the Lord enough. I had not been leaving prayer changed because I was asking God to fix it but then I did not do my part.

He's saying, "I'll show you the cancer and you go get it cut out."

And I'm saying, "Um, I'd rather you divinely remove it with a miracle so that it doesn't hurt, actually. Oh... and could you also make sure it doesn't leave a scar? That would be great. Thanks."

Cricket.... cricket.....

Do I trust God enough to believe that the surgery that is being performed in my life is for my best? If I am not really pressing into the Lord and asking what I can do then do I really believe that His Character outweighs my own wisdom? If I did then wouldn't I be pouring everything in my heart out before Him to show me what to get rid of?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Transparency a.k.a What's Your Mess?

"In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O' Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that 'there was a deep, black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.'  This is a profound insight.  You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have "rights".  God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don't need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior." -The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

I have been thinking a lot about transparency lately.  I have been completely inspired by the people in my life right now who are struggling with things and are just laying it out on the table.  They are admitting their imperfections, for they know they are not their own savior, and they are living lives in the light with accountability and hope.  It really is so beautiful.  They truly have an understanding of the gospel:

We are more sinful they we ever dared believe and yet more loved than we ever dared hope.

If there is not an understanding of the latter, then there is no way to admit the former.  If I do not believe that I already have more love than I will ever need then there is no way I will admit my struggles and failings for I fear the rejection of those around me.   

Paige Benton Brown discussed this briefly at the conference when she said, "When's the last time you heard someone say, 'Can you pray for me? When I look at my heart I realize I'm racist? ' or 'Hey I'm really struggling with lust here.'"  

I had a friend say to me recently that he wanted to start going back to church but that first, he needed to get his life back in order.  How sad that the church gives off such an unwelcoming, self righteous air.  That is not what Jesus said we should be.  

"On hearing this Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" -Mark 2:17

I am thankful that I have a community of people who inspire me to acknowledge how loved I am by God and be confident enough in that to admit to the world what a total mess I am.  

I hope you do too.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Desperate Hearts

"In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her....Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
"Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."
She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. "-1st Samuel 1:10-18

This was one of the passages that Paige Benton Brown (PBB) discussed at the conference I attended. Hannah was a desperate heart. She desperately wanted a son. And what did she do with that? She went desperately to the Lord. So desperately that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. It was so rare to see someone that passionate in prayer, that broken before the Lord that the priest thought this woman was drunk. She doesn't show up all big and strong and composed asking for her hearts desire. She is a mess.

And I just love the transition that takes place between these three moments:
1) Hannah begins "in bitterness of soul" weeping and praying to the Lord
2) Hannah "pours out her soul" to the Lord
3) Hannah goes her way and "her face is no longer downcast"

How do I go from "bitterness of soul" to "no longer downcast"? By pouring out my soul to the Lord. And, as PBB points out she leaves a different person "not because the prayer was answered but because the prayer was offered". She still did not have a son when she left nor the assurance that she would ever have one. But she knew that God was Sovereign, Consistent and Loved her. She had handed over her request to the one who knows better than she does what is truly best for her.

Kathy Keller said our sorrows, our sufferings, our conflicts are all weighing God's character against our own wisdom. That is the only conflict that ever has to be decided when we are suffering.

Hannah knew that whether she had a child or not, God's character was greater than her knowledge of the situation.

I'm working on trying to rest in that knowledge as well.
And I hope, whatever you are going through, that you can too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason
Why You brought me here
But just because You love me
The way that You do
I'm gonna walk through the valley
If you want me to."
-If You Want Me To by G. Owens

Last weekend, I went to a Christian women's conference that blew my mind.  I'm sure my next several blogs will be sorting out the things I learned there so I'm warning you that you may get sick of references to Paige Benton Brown and Kathy Keller.  

But one of the things that struck me as a definite theme of what God was teaching me was to trust Him in the wilderness of pain, hurt and confusion.  For the last few weeks, I have swept things under the rug and tried to build a new future for myself.  I've thrown band aids over things that need to be evaluated and considered.  And when Paige Benton Brown spoke about desperate hearts in the Bible and how God uses them, I felt like she was speaking right to me:

"We live in a culture of cover up and not collapsing.  As soon as something collapses we try to build it back up."

But wait, I don't like being in the valley.  I like the mountaintop.  When I'm down in the valley I just want to pull myself up by my bootstraps and jerk myself to the top of some other mountain.  

But, as the speaker pointed out, total inability is God's starting point.  He does not begin when I start something and invite him along.  He does not create great things out of okay things.  He creates great things out of nothingness.  Out of wilderness.  Out of brokenness.  

Kathy Keller made the point that hurt shouldn't be wasted.  To grit our teeth and just wait for it to be over just makes our sorrows useless.

So... I'm going to try to stop trying so hard to be pulled together, put together, etc.  This weekend I was surrounded by beautiful, amazing women who shared their stories, their hurts and their lives.  They were real leaders.  They were real women.  They were what God created them to be.  

I am in the wilderness and I don't know what the next step is for my life.  I don't know where to go or what to do.  I'm in the wilderness and that is okay.  I am in the wilderness but I am not alone.  

"Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have spoken to you."- Genesis 28:15

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Change is Good

"Right now, I am uninterested in being perfect, I am solely interested in God changing my life." -From Grace's Blog

Which reminds me of the quote: "God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us that way."
-Leighton Ford

Here's to being a work in progress even when the progress feels slow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beautiful Things

I read in "Captivating" that beauty is healing. They made the point in the book that we send flowers to those who have lost loved ones because when words will not suffice, beauty helps heal. It says things that words cannot. It fills the voids in our hearts. I have a friend who is hurting right now. And several more who are in the midst of fairly painful transition phases. So here are 50 Beautiful Things (in no particular order) to heal our hearts when words just can't get it done.

50. Quilts

49.) Roses
48.) Cityscapes
47.) Countryside (Thanks for the picture Elisabeth B!)

46.) Friends (aka Your Peeps)

45.) Stained Glass Windows
44.) Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes

43.) Naps

42.) Pets (Particularly in front of flowered curtains)
41.) Springtime
40.) Any song by Sigur Ros (Particularly ‘Inní mér syngur vitleysingur’ )

39.) Caramel Lattes

38.) A Beautiful Dress

37.) Any Piece of Art by Teresa Reilly

36.) The Ocean

35.) Prayer

34.) France and French

33.) Laughter

32.) Old School China

31.) Winter

30.) The Play or Movie that Changes the Way You Think

29) Peacocks

28) Gardens

27.) Art by Gustav Klimt

26.) Dancing

25.) Choir Music

24.)Anything in Anthropologie
23.) Summer

22.) Kiddos

21.) Candlelight

20.) Fall

19.) Books

18.) An Old Country Church

17.)Van Gogh Paintings

16.) The Sound of Rain on Your Roof

15.) Jewelry

14.) Lilies

13.) Kentucky

12.) Italy and Italian

11.) Christmas

10.) Big, Fluffy Pillows

9.) Chocolate

8.) Waterfalls

7.) Any Song by Sara Groves

6.) Family

5.) Pumpkins

4.) Unexpected Phone Calls to Check on You

3.) Fireplaces

2.) Sisterhood

1.) Jesus

Feel free to add to the list and by doing so, as our good friend Sara Groves says, you'll also "Add to the Beauty".