Last Words for January

I hereby challenge the accusation that this is the generation of laziness, lax work ethic, and being disconnected.

I propose instead that this is the Connection Age. We are the generation of breaking down barriers and taking action in the things that matter.

Every generation says that they’re going to be the one that changes the world. We have just as much of a chance, right here and right now, as everyone who came before us.

It’s the last day of January, a month that shone bright with the promise of a new year. If you haven’t made good on your Resolutions yet, I challenge you to. Let’s make it count, World Changers.

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It’s a Big Deal.

For those of you who don’t know this genius by face alone, this is Eric Whitacre, my favorite choral composer.
6 years, I have waited to meet him.
4 weeks, I’ve been counting down to see him conduct this concert.

17 days, I agonized over this humble 10″x10″ canvas upon which I purposed to portray a sliver of his works in color.
5 hours, we drove from Olympia to Corvallis through torrential rain.
2 blissful hours, we sat through a glorious, magical concert of some of the most brilliant music ever composed.
1 hour, we waited. Long after most of the impatient autograph-hecklers had left empty-handed. Then we crept backstage, where the ever-patient Eric was tirelessly signing flimsy beige programs and wrapping a friendly arm around fan after fan for photos.

Eric’s beautiful (and super nice!) wife, Hila.

“1 minute,” said Eric’s lovely wife Hila as a warning to the swarm of eager fans who were still clustered around him. I sized up the remaining group and held back tears, realizing that there was no way I would be able to get to him in that one minute. But my persistent husband pushed me through to the front of the mass.

And then it happened.

I was face to face with one of my all-time musical heroes and inspirations.

“Can I borrow that?” I asked, directing my question to the red Sharpie he was using for autographs. He offered it generously and I marked the canvas with a flourish. “There,” I said. “You can have MY autograph.”

Introductions were made. We shook hands. I explained that I had indeed painted this myself, and that it was indeed just for him and inspired by his work, and then he asked me to point out which parts of the painting were inspired by which songs, which I eagerly did.

I asked for a photo, and he obliged–giving me two.

Levi introduced himself and as we parted, Eric left us with, “You guys are the coolest couple ever.”

I’d say it was a pretty good day.

Musings of a Jar

2 Corinthians 4: 7 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

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 I don’t think it’s necessary to belittle ourselves so God can shine through us. We’re clay jars, earthen vessels, of little to no worth compared to the treasure we hold — BUT. BUT BUT BUT.

We hold a treasure that is priceless to the world–the very Presence and Spirit of the Living, Loving God. And God doesn’t invest Himself into anything worthless or of little value. As precious as His gifts are to us, as precious as Jesus is to us, we are to Him.

God is a Father, not a prison ward. When He purchased you with Jesus’s blood, He wasn’t playing Risk with the devil. It’s not about world domination, it’s about you. It’s always been about you. If you were the only one who needed saving, God still would have sent Jesus to earth to die and raise from the dead–for you. For me.

Moreover, because the treasure of God is so otherworldly, you can’t help but stand out once you have it. You become set apart the moment you give Him everything. It would be impossible for you to outshine Him unless you were to do so intentionally, quenching and grieving the Spirit deliberately to regain control of your own life.

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John the Baptist said that the purpose of his ministry was to decrease in himself so that Jesus could increase. Family, we don’t achieve that by slapping a clearance sticker on our backs and declaring our value less than what it actually is. That’s the easy, worldly way to “decrease.” Why worldly? Because at the very least, I would consider criticizing the workmanship–the precious masterpiece of God–worldly, if not even demonic. How dare we tear down and devalue ourselves and each other with our words, when He has made it clear to us how important and valued we are?

It’s not about tearing ourselves down to make Jesus bigger. He can do that all by Himself, even at your greatest. Even at mine.

Paul said that the way people know that the power we display is from God and not of ourselves is the fact that we look like everybody else and still display great power. There’s this awesome aspect to the heart of God where He never starts over with fresh material; He’s going to work with what was already there, and build upon it. He’ll rewrite your history. He’ll rewrite your shame, your mistakes, your flaws, and make them absolutely beautiful.

When you get filled with the Spirit, you don’t spurt up three feet, spout wings and talking in a booming voice all of a sudden. You’re the same old human you, struggling with the same old human mistakes, walking through same old human stuff–only now, you’ve got a great big Father God walking alongside you. That’s the difference.

That’s the treasure that got put in the jar. And that simple, unassuming clay jar? Father God worked hard on that. He was intentional. He made you exactly how He wants you to be. He did not intend for you to be cracked or broken, nor for you to tell yourself that you are cracked or broken when He made you to be whole. 

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I’m deeply grieved because I feel a great deal of us have missed the point. We’ve striven for perfection and works and an outer image of being just fine at worst and having all our ducks in a row at best. We take the favor God gives us as gifts just for being His children, and pervert that into an obligation to perform, to do better, to reach the expectations we set for ourselves.

No wonder the world has called us hypocrites. No wonder they don’t want our clean-cut, sinless Jesus, because they can tell just by looking at us that we heap expectations on ourselves that we think He put on us. We step back into the Law and take “I am Holy, so you be Holy” as a command rather than the invitation it was meant to be. And by the way, holiness is who you are, not what you do. Righteousness means being in right standing with God; I don’t believe it has to do with never messing up or ever having a bad attitude.

Just this morning, one of my heroes in the faith opened a meeting in prayer and expressed that she “knew” God was disappointed in her for everything she had done wrong just in the past day. I fought back tears and thanked Him for the truth He has been teaching me–that He rejoices over me always, that His disappointment in my failures is momentary and he is only ever disappointed because He knows I was created for better and that I can do better, not because I’ve failed Him.

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The point I’m trying to make is this: we let God shine just by living in this world. Just by being who we are. We don’t need to try to get ourselves out of the way, because we’re half of the plan. The plan for the world to meet God is you + Jesus. It’s Jesus in you. We are the model for relationship with Christ.

But don’t let that scare you or steer you toward trying to clean up the outer appearance of your life so people don’t see your messes. People don’t want to see how clean your house is once Jesus comes to live there; they want to see you, with all your quirks and struggles that make you so easy to relate to and connect with. They don’t want to see Jesus coming into your life and dominating it, brainwashing you into a right-wing platitude-spouting zombie.

As a human being, I’m seldom inspired by a finished product. I don’t see a beautiful piece of pottery and think, “I could do that.” But if I sat beside the potter at his wheel to witness the process, from the formless lump of clay gradually and patiently into something more and more beautiful, I would think, “Oh, this could be done.” It’s the same with people. I’m more intimidated by people “in completion” than I am inspired by them. When people are willing to admit that they’re still dizzy from the constant spinning of the Potter’s wheel, that they’re still in process, still grieving a bit over the chunk of clay that got sliced off the top a little while ago.

It’s by living, grieving, rejoicing, struggling, stumbling, hurting, mess-making, and recovering, that God shines through us. It’s also through persevering, enduring, triumphing, winning, making beautiful things, being a wonderful speaker, a great artist, being wonderful at whatever it is He’s called you to do. And one of the greatest ways He shines through you is by you being okay with being amazing. When you realize the immense value of the treasure you carry, and the treasure you are in His eyes, there’s no point in putting yourself down, because when He’s at His highest in your eyes is when you’re at the lowest you could be.

And that’s right where you need to be–spinning on the Potter’s wheel.