when pictures come alive

I’m in a theology class right now and we are reading through J.I. Packer’s Knowing God.  I about came unglued when I read through chapter 4 — because he started to go down a path in which he summed up that all art and all crosses and statues and whatnot are forms of idol worship.  I kept my seat-belt on long enough to read a few pages into the chapter and then momma had to take her seat-belt off and “go there.”  (who else just heard your mother in your head say “don’t make me come back there!”) 

As it turns out, Packer was just writing from a time and place with which I couldn’t necessarily connect.  He was kind of an absolutist, and I’m … SOOO not.  After our fearless and amazing teacher walked us through where he was coming from and what he meant — I understood it better and put my seat-belt back on.

As it turns out – he has a point.  We can turn just about anything into an idol that takes the place of true learning about Jesus and God.

  • the mom who checks her cell phone every 1.4 minutes for any kind of adult social connection she can get so she doesn’t go postal on her kids — maybe she should be checking her bible every 1.4 minutes
  • the Christian who plasters her house with decorative crosses but hasn’t cracked her bible since….. ?
  • the Christian who fixates on a drawn picture of Jesus <— this is a not-so-subliminal message about what’s to come in this post

Why am I even “going there” you ask?  This is why…

Last year, I attended a women’s conference and got to listen to and worship with MercyMe.  They sang The Hurt and the Healer — which was written for me.  Ok not really, but really.   You can read about my entire experience during this song, here.  In fact, please go read it before you continue.

You didn’t go read it.
Go read it.

Are you ready for this?  My amazing friend Meena captured Jesus reaching for me — she took my words and turned them into a sketch.  Here it is:

http://meenamatocha.com/

http://meenamatocha.com/

You can see what other cool things Meena has created on her website — she’s simply amazing!

So for me — this isn’t idol worship.  For me this is a moment in time when I could feel Jesus’ presence so tangibly that my mind created a picture of Him reaching for me.  This picture hangs right above my sewing station in my office — not so I can praise the picture, not so I can fixate on the idea that Meena’s interpretation is exactly what Jesus’ hand looks like…

This picture hangs where I can see it to remind me that it’s my job to stay connected to Jesus … to learn all that I can about Him so that when I am  moved by worship music, or an awesome testimony, all of those details about Him come together and move me spiritually in a way that only He can do!

So yes – I fully admit that I got all defensive when I read Packer’s words about idol worship.  I might have even stood up, banged my chest a little and hollered, “you want a piece of this?!?!”… but I can see now that it was all because Meena’s drawing means SO much to me and I was ready to go to blows with anyone who was going to try to tell me that having this drawing was wrong.

As it turns out, J. I. Packer wasn’t trying to tell me I was wrong in having this sketch.  He was trying to tell me that the sketch should always lead me to read MORE about Jesus instead of letting the sketch and that moment in worship be the end-all-be-all.  Packer is concerned that people let their faith end with the crosses on their walls — or the crucifix their grandmother’s gave them back in the day — or the picture of Jesus they saw in a book.

Ok Packer… I get it now.  And I apologize for going all chest-thump on you.

Do you have something in your possession that either keeps you stuck at a fixed point in your faith or pushes you to want to learn more about your faith?  I would LOVE to hear about it!

chunkin’ my flashlight like I chunked punkins’

In the past 7 years, the hardest Christian concept for me to grasp has been understanding how to give God the glory and remain humble.

I’m a do-er by nature.  I don’t sit still very well.  I’m also very transparent; I don’t have much to hide.  And the things I “hide” from people are just things that would gross them out or things I know not everyone can appreciate.

I thought being humble meant I could never talk about the cool things happening all around me and in me! I learned a hard lesson in separating the definitions of bragging and letting God have the glory… uh multiple times actually.  I think it’s perfectly biblical to help others.  And I also think it’s completely against biblical teaching to let your good deeds shine for all to see.  I think that’s bragging.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  – Matthew 5:16

“Um Ann, you just contradicted yourself.”
“Actually, no.  I didn’t.”
(pretend conversation between you and me, in case you were wondering)

Jesus says to let our LIGHT shine so that they may see our good deeds – the good deeds that are meant to glorify God, not ourselves.  I have come to understand that when Jesus is IN me, I am the light of the world.  When I am not representing Jesus and glorifying God (AKA bragging), I am like one of those cheap little flashlights that you have to smack on the side to fire up the puny little light bulb.   I admit it, sometimes I need a good smack on the side of the head.

I tried on humility like you try on 15 pairs of jeans before you find the ones that fit right.  Each time I failed and I could feel myself wanting to brag.  The desire to brag never went away.  But this weekend was different.

Our church hosts an incredibly cool fall picnic each year called Punkin’ Chunkin’, and I had the pleasure of co-leading it for the second year in a row.   The event was to be held on Sunday afternoon.  Now, if you’ve ever planned a party you know that the planning and purchasing starts months in advance.  Hosting a church picnic is no different.  The set-up we did on Sunday was like putting the last few pieces into a puzzle… it was almost complete.

And then it started to mist.  And rained.  And misted.  And it was super cloudy outside.

I couldn’t stop praying, in fact I think I might have been begging in there at some point.  “God, this picnic is for your people to celebrate all you have done, PLEASE take the rain away!  I don’t need sun or anything drastic, just no more moisture!  Please bless our efforts to spend this kingdom money wisely, bless our time spent planning so that your children can embrace joy and community for three hours today! Let people see a great example of a healthy and non-judgmental Christian community here on the land you have given to us!

One of the families that was helping us set up in the rain had a precious 7 year old girl and her prayer was this, “God, please stop the rain.”  I saw her resting her elbows on a pumpkin, praying for God to stop that rain.  And you know what?  He did.  Not a drop fell on us at our event.

So in the end, when people were congratulating us on a job well done guess what happened?  I knew it wasn’t all me, or all my co-leader, or all the volunteers… I completely felt 100% secure giving God the credit.  Through Him we had multitudes of people wanting to serve.  Through Him we had joy and safety and blessings.  It was for Him, and through Him, that the picnic was a successful event.

And yes, I let my light shine for all to see.
No, I did not let my good deed shine for all to see.

And in reference to the C.S. Lewis quote above, I was able to accept the compliments and the thanks from people for a job well done because it was indeed a lot of hard work and planning.  However, I was very quick to make sure that my thanks led to God getting the spotlight.

And guess what?
It wasn’t hard.
Because my heart is finally in the right place.
And my cheap flashlight is in the trash where it belongs.

 

punkin’ chunkin’

IMG_6018
Photo credits: Kiran Photography

For the third year in a row I get to be part of the planning team at our church for our annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Fall Picnic.  This is my favorite event (other than baptisms!) to attend, enjoy, and see God at work in the lives of people. I love that our church lives to pray hard and PLAY hard!!!

Read my blog post here:  http://goo.gl/oBrEqT

jen hatmaker is my best friend

You know how we read the news online and gasp at the ridiculous things people do to either meet a celebrity or try to convince a celebrity that they are marriage material or whatever?  Psh, THOSE people are nuts.

I like nuts.  Pecans are my favorite.

I’m a special kind of nut in that I am pretty convinced that Jen Hatmaker and I would be excellent friends.  We’re both transparent, I’m hilarious and she’s not so bad herself, and we both love to write.  Now granted she has WAY more energy than I do and she could run circles around me in the ways that she gives and serves and just … DOES… but I think we would still make great friends.  Did I mention we both love to write?

photo from jenhatmaker.com
photo from jenhatmaker.com

She totally tweeted me yesterday…
(but only after I told her I would be traveling to her house to watch her new show since we don’t have cable)

And she’s coming to my church in Frisco, TX to see me…
(and about 749 other women who will just happen to be there as well)

I’ve read one of her books, and loved it…
(although she has written 9 others that I haven’t read)

And our hair is very similar – so there’s that.

I would love for you to come listen to her speak at Preston Trail on October 25th and 26th, but you should know that she will be VERY busy talking to me…
(from the stage and 749 other women will be rudely listening in on our private conversation)

You think I should buy us friendship rings or those cool heart pendants from the 80’s that say “Be Fri” and “st ends”?

write your name here ____________

I use to go to church alone with my 4 year old son.
I didn’t really know many people.
I started serving in the kids area because it looked fun.
But I still didn’t really KNOW anyone.

It reminds me of being a kid and seeing all those cool key-chains with names on them but I could never find my own name.  Or seeing a cool board like this with names all over it, but I still can’t find my name:

photo from: http://www.jodywissing.com
photo from: http://www.jodywissing.com

I was terrified to get into a bible study because then people might see how messed up I really was.  What if they found out I struggled with lying?  What if they found out I used the f-bomb sometimes?  What if they found out that my husband wasn’t a believer?  What if they found out that I sometimes yelled at my kid because he got on my every last nerve?  What if they found out that I didn’t know much about the bible at all?

I finally took the plunge after waiting a year to get signed up.  

The first day I went I was terrified to walk into the worship center.  I didn’t even know what my leaders looked like.  What if I was the idiot walking around reading all the table signs and still couldn’t find my group?  I would just leave, that’s what I would do — if I made one round and couldn’t find my table, I would just leave and use my handy bucket of lies to make up some fabulous excuse about why I couldn’t stay.

As “luck” (read: God’s grace) would have it, my table was the second one I saw when I walked in.  The ladies quickly and eagerly welcomed me to their table.  They all knew each other, and I knew none of them.  We filled out that little “getting to know me” sheet and I made sure to make it look polished so the leaders wouldn’t have any inkling that by my standards, I was a fake Christian.

After the announcements were over, the leader let out a huge sigh and said something along the lines of, “Girls, I can’t tell you how glad I am that bible study has started up again – I thought I was going to lose my ever living mind being at home with my children this summer!  I NEED you guys!”

(huh, maybe this group thing won’t be so bad after all)

As the weeks went by I learned that EVERYONE at the table had issues and that it wasn’t just me.  (Thank you Jesus, I’m not the only one who is a mess!)  My biggest awakening came when I finally learned what “the veil was torn” meant in one of my favorite songs and they celebrated with me!  They didn’t say, “REALLY?!?!?!  You didn’t know that?!?!?!”

I haven’t missed a semester since.  I have been ill through several semesters but I did my very best to make it every time I was physically able.  I carved out my Tuesdays to make sure nothing ever got in the way of my morning group time.  Now I see familiar faces when I walk through the church and Lord have mercy that comforts me and brings me such peace!  It slowly became my second home.

My church.

I will never stop being in groups.  (Even though I have been known to pray that one would be canceled when I am overwhelmed with life — come on, you know you have too.)  Processing scripture, God’s promises, and the grime of life with other REAL women (the ones who aren’t afraid to show up with no makeup and in flip flops — LOVE those girls!), is life changing.

Quit making excuses.
Sign up.
Because if you’re standing there looking at everyone else’s names on the board like they just belong there, but you can’t find your own … it’s because you haven’t written it yet.  Get some chalk, I’ll wait….

If you’re in the Frisco/McKinney/Plano/Little Elm/Allen areas, come give Preston Trail a try.  Our groups are FREE this semester!  All you pay for is your book and childcare.