Advent 2011: My Jesus

I have been doing some writing for my church community over the Advent season. I've been asked to post them online. So here goes... I pray that these will bless you and encourage you as you draw nearer to Christ this year... see Him and know that He sees you! Much love, Rachel

Week 1: My Jesus-Hope

To be human is to know suffering.
From the moment we are born, we are walking targets for pain and sorrow.
Life is full of mysteries.
Moments of asking, “Why?”
Failure. Rejection.
Unrequited love.
Abuse. Abandonment.
An empty womb.
Sickness. Loneliness.
Tragedy. Poverty.
Feeling Forgotten and Invisible.
It is tempting to become cynical or bitter.
Sometimes we find ourselves believing, there is no point...
But, to be human is to embrace Hope.

Hope is a seed of promise
Burrowed deeply into the soil of the soul,
Small and seemingly insignificant,
This seed bears internally the DNA of something far greater than itself

Hope is Truth planted firmly in the center of the heart
Like a flag that stands unwavering in the midst of a battle to remind soldiers what they’re fighting for.
Like a focal point upon which a weary woman fixes her gaze for strength to endure through long hours of labor
Like a final exam in the final course of one’s final semester, Hope says “You can do it.”
Like a candle that flickers in the early morning hours just before dawn,
Hope constantly reminds us that “the best is yet to come.”

Hope whispers in the darkness…
This seed will one day be a strong oak and become a resting place for hopeful souls
This battle will be won and another generation will live free
This child will be born and a new life will be lived
This diploma will be received and a career will begin
This sunrise will fill the morning sky and light will nourish creation.

Hope is a voice crying in the desert…
Hope is a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes
Hope is a boy who teaches men with wisdom far beyond his years
Hope is a man who fulfills promise after promise in daily obedience
Hope is a man who causes the blind to see, the deaf to hear and the lame to walk
Hope is a man who washes the feet of his followers
Hope is a man who willingly bears the burden of humanity’s hopelessness-- even unto death
Hope is an empty grave and a resurrected body
Hope is a city with eternal foundations filled with the souls who have lived by faith
Hope is a soon returning, glorious King…
Hope is Jesus.
My Jesus, My Hope.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:36-11:1 (NLT)
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised.
“For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay.
And my righteous ones will live by faith.
But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”
But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

Week 2: My Jesus-Peace
A king once asked his subjects to draw a picture of peace. The king narrowed down the pictures to two finalists. One painting was a calm lake, with a clear sky and majestic mountains. The other was the same setting, but the sky was black and stormy, the lake rough and choppy. In a small tree sat a bird in its nest.
The king decided that the stormy picture best represented peace in his kingdom. The subjects were shocked. They wondered how he could choose such a frightening picture to represent peace. But the king pointed out the bird sitting quietly in its nest in the midst of the storm in the winning painting and announced,

"Peace is not the absence of noise, trouble or hard work. It is to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."*

The world we live in defines peace as
The absence of strife and turmoil
Void of problems and disappointment
Peace is defined by a smooth, ripple-free lake
Not a cloud in the sky
This peace is rare and elusive

Jesus is the Prince of Peace
He promises peace
to all who come to Him
His peace is eternal
Steady and consistent
It enables us
to sleep in storms
to walk on water
to be rejected
to face death
And to keep standing firm
His peace is a nest
Precariously resting on a bent sapling

Two kinds of peace,
One is elusive, demanding us to strive for perfection
The other is certain, requiring us to rest in His Perfection
Which will you choose?

Scripture Reading: John 14:27
“I am leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

*The fable about the king is not original. It is an anonymous tale shared with me by my lovely sister :-)
Week 3: My Jesus-Joy
“Let Us make humankind in Our Own Image…”
With those words, Creator God became involved in the human story
He knelt down to earth
Formed anatomy with His own hands
Vessels of flesh and bone,
Into which He breathed His Life
When He was finished, He stepped back and said,
“Now that is good!”
And on the seventh day, He rested
Enjoying His children, the bearers of His image
And His Joy was complete.

However, in an instant,
The Father’s joy turned to sorrow
His children disobeyed.
All creation turned against Him
Death began its slow decay
Pain commenced its harsh reign
Hatred’s seed was sown
And in that moment,
He promised, He would not rest again
Until His Joy could be restored

Over the years,
His promise prevailed
Jehovah Jireh, The One who makes a way
Remained with His children
After the flood, He sent the rainbow
In the desert, He walked
With Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
In Egypt, He preserved Moses
And raised him up to lead His children
Out of captivity and into the land of promise
It was His hand that toppled the walls of Jericho
His wisdom, courage and strength enabled Deborah, Gideon and Samson
Every move, intentional
Until His Joy could be restored

The Father’s heart broke
When His children chose a human king
Still He gave them Saul and then David
He wept as time and again
His children rejected Him
And the consequences of their own disobedience
Destroyed them repeatedly
Yet, His promise prevailed
Until His joy could be restored

Finally, Immanuel, God with us,
Chose once again to step down to earth
To take on human anatomy and be born as a baby
He was received in humility and raised in obscurity
He spoke with authority, proving His Deity
And still He was rejected.
Hung on a cross and laid in a tomb.
He didn’t have to, but He did
Because His promise prevailed
Until His joy could be restored

On the third day, He rolled out of the tomb
Proving His Love by conquering Death,
He returned to the Father
Promising His children
Trust Me, I will return
Please wait for Me
I am sending a Comforter to BE with you
Until Our Joy can be restored

Since that time,
Freedom from Death has been possible
His Comfort has been available in sorrow
His Power has been present in weakness
For those who trust Him,
For those who call Him, Abba, Father
But, there is a day coming!
We will see Him, Face to face
Once again, we will be like Him
He will rest as He enjoys the delight of His children
And His Joy will be complete

Scripture Reading: John 15:7-11 ESV
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Week 4: My Jesus-Love
There is nothing more beautiful
Than a woman who knows she is loved
Her eyes full of confidence, her voice steady
She stands strong in the face of uncertainty
She overcomes adversity with courage
Nothing can shake her assurance
Such a woman is “fearsome to behold”
She knows to whom she belongs
There is no lingering question
There is no doubt
She is loved.

On a wedding day,
It is not the white dress
That captivates a groom
It is the look of utmost confidence
In the eyes of the woman he loves
On that day the two dream and hope
Certain that in the days to come,
No matter what comes their way
She is loved, He is loved.
Their love will be enough.

Even the love of a good man
Cannot complete a woman.
Hard times come, Hopes dwindle
Promises fail, Unexpected tragedy strikes
Again and again, Confidence wavers
Human love can only promise so much
Yes, hard times make one stronger
Love deepens
And yet sometimes love breaks
Human love will never completely fulfill

Yet there is Love that is stronger than death
Love that acknowledges…
“You are not enough, but I AM.”
“You are weak, yet I AM strong.”
In our imperfections,
Love becomes even more perfect.
Love is the eternal arms
And the burning eyes
Of a soon returning King

Jesus, The King of Glory chose you.
He is preparing a place for you.
One day soon He will return for His Bride, The Church
To the Father and all of the heavens
With fire in His eyes, He will say,
“This is her, the one who has ravished my heart.”
In that day, we will be with Him and He with us!
The Bride of Christ will be fierce and beautiful,
Confident, whole and secure.
For she will dwell in this truth,
She is loved with an everlasting love!

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.


You cannot "unplug" from true community...

I've been chewing on a cultural buzzword lately. It seems like everyone is enamored with the concept of "community"... We all want it... But do we even know what it looks like?

It seems like our generation idealizes community.  We were raised watching shows like Friends, Seinfeld, & The Office, etc. It seems that we view community as a group of dysfunctional people who have no boundaries and who live together. Or we view community as a social organization that meets & works together semi-regularly...wearing cool t-shirts, doing good deeds and playing fun games.

Most often, culture defines community. In western culture (US, Canada, Europe), we value individualism. From the time we are born, we are taught to say "I did it all by myself." Let's call this an "I-self" culture. We define community as a network of individuals who have something in common (a set of beliefs, a location, a hobby, etc) who get together regularly around this commonality. Within this cultural context, being part of community is a choice. At the same time, one can choose to disengage community pretty easily.  Unfortunately, when community becomes a burden or encroaches upon our personal goals or values, we tend to take a step back.

However, eastern cultures (India, Middle East, Asia) view community as one's total identity.  Individuals do not exist within community. Let's call this a "We-self" culture. Community is one's essence..one's livelihood, one's sense of being whole. An individual does not make a decision without the rest of the community weighing in on it... To make an independent decision within such a culture is to successfully tear one's self out of the community... In some extreme situations, this could lead to death... and most certainly leads to being ostracized and becoming an outcast...  Here is a more specific understanding of this concept, suppose an individual within a "We-self" culture makes a decision to embrace a different religion. This is huge for someone to even get to this point... So, once this person makes the bold move to leave their entire sense of self and cling to something else... they are free falling...unless there is another community present to catch and envelope them :-)

Acts 2 describes a catalystic moment.
Acts 2:42-47

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.
Last I checked, Israel sits smack dab in the heart of the Middle East... Culturally, we're talking, "We-self" ... The nation of Israel embraced Judaism. You were either born a Jew, or you were not. So, when Jesus preached about denying self, taking up one's cross and following Him...He was speaking to the heart of the issue... To acknowledge Jesus as Messiah meant denial of an entire sense of self. He was saying.. Prepare to be rejected. Prepare to be ostracized...and cast out of your family. Quite possibly, prepare to die. Before Jesus went to be with the Father, He promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower His followers and to give them what they need to live for Him. He told them, "Go to Jerusalem and wait...the promise will come..." On the day of Pentecost (Acts 1), 120 people were huddled in a little room, desperately waiting for this promise... they probably didn't know what to expect... so when the Holy Spirit invaded the room... it had to be a little crazy. They were caught up in the moment and people in the streets thought they were drunk! Peter, a guy who was usually all passion and very little knowledge, steps up and starts waxing eloquently...sharing the gospel and inviting people to follow Jesus!! And BOOM 3,000 people (all from "We-self" communities) made a supernatural decision. What had been a weekend trip to Jerusalem, now became an indefinite stay with a bunch of strangers... 
Imagine trying to pastor this community! So, this band of people who had just lost all sense of identity are doing life together...living around the teachings of Jesus... I'd say that is a little inconvenient. I could write a series of blogs about cultural dynamics of NT Church community (maybe I will, but lots of people have already done that).  What I find most interesting about the NT Church is the role that community played in spreading the gospel of Christ...and establishing God's Kingdom. Community was the lifeline... I tend to think that the NT Church community gave new believers the courage to step out and follow Jesus (to the point of death). In my western, many-times-removed culture, I know this applies to me...but I have a difficult time wrapping my mind and heart around it...for application sake.

In the American Church, we want community... we talk about the New Testament church and make efforts to create our version of community. But seldom do we find it. Community is not an event. It is not a group on FB, nor the number of friends who post scriptures in your newsfeed... (Although, they're great tools). I think in our "I-self" culture, community is the cross that we bear. When Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, He says...deny your individual, "all-by-myself" mindset..reach out and receive what others offer..And/or "stop looking out for number one, BE PRESENT." When He says follow Him, He means...go throughout your day looking for what He's doing...and BE there.

Community is being present to the Holy Spirit and to each other... The study notes in the Spirit-Filled Life Bible define koinonia, the Greek word for community used in Acts, as follows...
"Sharing, unity, close association, partnership, participation, a society, a communion, a fellowship, contributory help,brotherhood.... the individual shares in common the intimate bond of fellowship with the rest of the Christian society.... it cements believers to the Lord Jesus and each other." 

It CEMENTS us to each other? Um, my individual "I-self" nature does not like this!! Lately, I've been encountering the "messiness" of community... and each time, I am presented with a choice... Will you engage and be present...REALLY present? Or, will you unplug and come back when things are convenient? I cannot say that I have always made the best choice... but I'm learning that there's joy in choosing community... in partnering with the Holy Spirit. Community is not God, but it is a reflection of His heart...

 On another note, how can we ask people to follow Jesus Christ without offering to be a safe place for them? We need to be willing to walk with them as they disengage their past identity and put on the identity of Jesus. We help by demonstrating the Love of Jesus in Community... right?

There are so many layers to unpack in this concept... I hate leaving something unresolved... but for now I will leave it... What do you think??


Hold My Hand

Nothing moves me more than seeing two life-weathered people deeply in love. I love seeing that look in their eye that says, "I'm yours & you are mine." I love when a couple has been married longer than they were not married...how they still tease one another relentlessly & then moments later they say, "This is my best friend." it speaks so much to me about God's intentions for us to love deeply, fiercely & loyally...till death do us part.

I work in an orthopedics office. About 90% of our clientele come to us because their bodies are getting older and it's time for a knee or hip replacement. But several times a day, a little couple will shuffle up to my window... Tell me some good stories on their way out the door. What just melts my little romantic heart is when they begin to leave, they help each other gather up purse, hat, paperwork, etc and then reach for each other's hands. They walk away together. Usually one is protective of the other... Today, i checked out a lady who was a little wobbly and before she could even turn to leave I heard her husband say..."hold my hand." She reached for his hand and he took it, kissed it & tucked it under his arm, safe & secure... They shuffled arm in arm out the door. All I could do was watch... That simple act of loving endearment took my breath away...

One of my life goals is to marry my best friend & to celebrate our 50th anniversary. I want the joy of shuffling through even the toughest seasons with someone who will say, "Hold my hand..." now, I could turn this to a spiritual metaphor... In fact, the Lord has said that to me :-) I am grateful that He does hold my hand through all of life's journey. But today, I want to express how beautiful that human relationship is...that intricate & intimate friendship called marriage. Hollywood cannot hold a candle to this kind of romance... Wrinkles, warts & broken hips...love only deepens.

How beautiful :-)


Coming out of hiding...

I've been reading a book by Brennan Manning called, "Posers, Fakers & Wannabes"... So far (I'm not very far) I have more questions than answers. Recently, a dear friend responded to me, "welcome to seminary..." Manning talks about how we have a tendency to hide who we really are...we pretend to be something we're not...someone we wish we were ... Because we think people can't handle the "real" self. I've been saying I struggle with this for a long time and I decided to "unmask" a little bit...

Who is Rachel?
She is the oldest daughter of two very human, very passionate ministers. People who have interesting stories and who are all-around sacrificing, Jesus-loving people. Rachel was raised to love people...to love Jesus...to serve. Rachel is a lover of all things creative. She is a closet musician, not disciplined enough to play the piano publicly and not confident enough to call herself a singer. Rachel loves getting lost in good fiction, fiction that probably doesn't qualify as literature, but oh well. Rachel loves words... Any kind, any language (well, not necessarily dirty words). Rachel enjoys thinking (although she tends to OVER think everything!) ... She always thinks in metaphors and gets excited about the big picture. She day dreams of traveling... Walking through historic towns, listening to others' accented stories...basking in natural beauties: mountains, oceans, forests filled with giant trees.. Rachel has a vivid imagination. She tends to give inanimate objects personalities, voices & opinions. Rachel loves characters... Quirky people. Rachel enjoys listening and helping others understand life, love & other mysteries..especially where God is concerned. Rachel likes to try her hand at creative things like knitting, painting, cooking, decorating & pottery. She enjoys being with people (even when we just go to walmart, if we're together...I enjoy it. Rachel tends to talk a lot! She gets really excited and wants to share everything with someone willing to listen. Rachel loves taking care of people...seeing people grow, change & become. Rachel loves learning new things... Really! She likes to be right, rarely is wrong...and always tries to have the last word:-/ she hates arguing over stupid things...can't stand when people are being devalued or put down. Rachel longs for restoration of relationships & identity. Rachel loves surprises...mainly because it is so hard to surprise her. She's a hopeless romantic and she dreams of a man who will treasure her. Rachel tends to love fiercely and tends to love too much.... She tends to expect herself to be perfect, while all the while knowing, she is far from perfect. Rachel feels least comfortable with her peers ... But it seems that God keeps calling her to serve them. She tends to be extremely intimidated by leaders..to the point of ridiculousness. She avoids putting herself out there because at some level she fears being told go back to the kitchen or go get a husband and come back later... Rachel is a nurturer, a discipler...a spiritual mother. Rachel dreams of having a husband and lots of children...but shies away from anyone in whom she is truly interested...somehow believing he won't feel the same ... Rachel is a perfectionist yet a procrastinator. She's an idealist... She loves to laugh... She loves to dance... She has a deep longing to play a vital role in something bigger than herself... She loves tradition but hates when people do things out of tradition. She lives coziness...being at home curled up on the couch...Rachel loves holding babies and talking to middle school boys in all of their awkwardness. She loves to write and is a firm believer in journaling...it's strong medicine for a weary soul. She dreams of writing for a living, but can't seem to focus long enough to write anything. She has too many causes...she is passionate about justice or rather bringing justice to those who have been treated injustly. She is actually an introvert who loves being with people. Family means the world to her and she loves sharing her family with others.

Rachel has learned to live hidden away.
She rarely lets others into her heart or life beyond what she thinks is safe. She has learned to maximize her gift for administration to make a place for herself. She likes routine and order except she often fails to keep it in her personal life. Rachel does not like not winning and failure...at times, she avoids doing things she loves because she does not want to fail. Rachel is a leader who prefers to lead from backstage, but who will step up if no one else does. She often feels misunderstood, taken for granted and not taken seriously. But she's beginning to realize that may be an internal issue. Rachel is pretty complicated.

She is trying not to hide anymore. She doesn't like to hide. She wants to know & be known. She wants someone to hear her... She wants someone to want to listen...to want to be near her heart & not to be satisfied with her shell, what she shows when she's afraid:-)

Rachel knows God loves her...


A needle in a pile of needles...

So, I've been In Springfield for two months... Life has been good. If not overwhelming. New town. New home. New job. New church. New friends... I've been thrilled because I'm certain being right where I need to be... Over these past few weeks ice felt like I've been riding an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes... I just get tired of being the "new girl" everywhere I go. I've been telling myself that it will get better, and it has been slowly getting better. Who would have thought a girl go through culture shock just moving to Springfield? Sometimes I have found myself just wishing for something...someone familiar. Haha, at times I've rejoiced over wandering through Dillon's, a Kroger owned store chain, it has a hint of home in it... A friend of mine has been telling me to give myself grace...I'm really trying...really! Sometimes it would be nice to just get a good warm, familiar family/friend hug!!! No words, just someone elses strength.

On that note, I am really excited about the new community God is planting me in :-) 20twenty is unlike any church I've ever been privileged to be a part of... More on that later...

I've been reflecting ;-)when I was in college, I had a friend who compared our season of training together to being "a needle in a stack of needles" ... You see she was talking about coming from home where finding like-minded, talented leader types was like finding a needle in a haystack...she was unique, she stood out...everyone loved her, but at Southeastern she was just like everyone else...speared trying to lead a bunch of leaders. As our conversation continued, we discussed how sometimes leaders just need to learn to follow. Right now, I find myself back in that place ...being a leader with a lot of leaders. I'm trying to learn the art of leading myself, being myself ... While still being willing to humble myself and be led. Truth be told, i like following ... When i trust my leader (which i do, probably for the first time in my life) I'm trying to find my way to that place where I'm being true to the call of God and the leadership God has placed in my life. It's not always easy or comfortable, but it's exciting because I'm part of something bigger than myself...something I truly believe in... This is where I am supposed to be. This is the Body of Christ, no big I's & little you's...we all have roles to fill...the purpose is to find that role and To fill it with all your might...so here I go!


Community: My Mama told me...

"In order to have friends, one must show oneself friendly..." I know that's in the Bible somewhere...but to be honest, I'm not sure where it is at this moment?

I've lived my whole life trying to live by that principle. It seems simple enough... the unstated expectation is that being friendly should bring about long-lasting, life-giving friendship but...not so much! Honestly, I've found that when I genuinely offer my friendship to others, it is rare to have it reciprocated in kind. Especially within the Christian world, we're good at the initial expression... Maybe. But when it all boils down, it is awkward or uncomfortable to truly connect...we'd rather have 998 Facebook friends and tell 2345 followers on Twitter what we had for breakfast. I recently took a sabbatical from Facebook and it took most of my friends almost a month to notice! Community has become a cultural buzzword... One that I doubt this generation truly understands.

Loneliness is one of the most prevalent problems of our day...even though we are the most socially-networked people in history. What is community? What is the difference between a clique and community?

I think community requires much more from Us than what most people are willing to offer. It requires being present to people... Even when we things on our agenda...or when we feel uncomfortable...it is praying for & reaching out to someone outside of the social scene. Community is a commitment to accountability ... A willingness to receive criticism & correction, as well as to offer it when necessary. Community is inconvenient. Most of us are only cool with community when we choose it...thus can be seen in how we choose out churches, "it just doesn't 't have what I'm looking for...I wasn't getting fed..." it 's still about me...not about you...or God, for that matter...

But what happens when God calls an individual into a community? What happens when the "Golden Rule" of community doesn't work?What if people reject one's friendliness or at least do not reciprocate it? How does someone continue to be in community? Community is awkward. I wish I knees how to get people to take interest beyond the surface?

Whatever happened to...be a father to the fatherless & husband to the widow? just sayin'.


My heart is SO full... Jesus is incredible! I don't know if you've ever experienced the love of God in a tangible way...I have. It is a daily occurrence. For many Years I have "served" the Lord. But God's love is deep...my relationship is so much more than servanthood and even friendship...it is a romance.

It is the subtle glances,the sweet unexpected stolen moments, the whispers of love and gentle caresses that keep love alive. And then every so often, there are the moments to revel in...the moments that go in one's journal...the moments that overwhelm your senses leaving you breathless...your mind racing...in those moments, your heart snaps a photograph... You will always cling to that moment as precious...

Love can become familiar and routine...and that is dangerous. Loving someone is as much about the daily things as the grand gestures...the roles we play in one another's lives. Protection. Comfort. Nurture. Provision. Those roles are a faithful expression...a daily statement of "I love you. I am yours and you are mine." As humans, we tend to settle into the dailyness of loving each other practically and forget about the romance...

Walking with Jesus can become like that...loving Him can be more about what we do than about being together...listening to each other...being near each other...

So whenever a moment comes along to revel in the romance...it deepens the daily. I love to experience that romance :-) it is heavenly (no pun intended) I recently had a precious encounter with Jesus... So unexpected and sweet. If you've never known God's love...NOTHING compares to it... I pray that you will go after Jesus, actually, take time to listen...he is pursuing you, whether you know it or not. Let Him love you...respond to His great love! It will mess you up...


The "God's Will Game" is No Game :-)

So ... I have been going through a major shift in plans! There has been so much uncertainty along the way... I wanted to wait to spill the beans until I knew everything was definite. I am mostly packed and I an planning to move in the morning so I think it is safe to share now :-)

I am no longer moving to CA to go to Fuller, I am heading to Springfield, MO to attend the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary! It's funny how God brings us full circle with ourselves and His plans. I am of the the notion that God has a perfect and permissive will. Whe we live our lives God-ward...our hearts and minds focused on pleasing Him, He leads us. However, as I have experienced, there are occasional forks in the road where it seems like I ask God, "which way now?" and He says,"which do you want to go, daughter?"of course, God's will is one of those deep theological topics that none of us are ever quite sure of. There have been a few places in my life like thar so far...almost like Father God says,"Rachel, I AM with you...I AM leading you...choose a direction, either way you choose, My Will us going to be accomplished."

Now don't write a doctrinal statement on my life experience...but here is where the mystery takes place...Proverbs 16:9 says, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." it is almost like our Father enjoys letting us choose the adventure We ant and then He holds our hand and tweaks the journey as we go. When I was a little girl, I dreamed of attending a certain school, Evangel University. I was going to major in Spanish Ed, meet and marry a missionary ...we would have 4 kids and change the world! :-) the problem was that when choosing a college, I visited said school and felt zero peace about it. Instead, the Lord led me to Southeastern. I did not study Spanish Ed... I tried Education ... But ended up studying missions. There were several springs in my time there, but no rings :-) I had it in mind to hit the map and to start blazing a trail through all of the nations in my heart ...but God. He stopped me just before graduation and said ... "Will you return to KY (home)?" after saying no three times,I went home. After choosing KY, I also felt a leading to get my M. Div at AGTS but ... That required living in "Misery" and I was called to KY ... So that was a no-go :-) fast forward 5+ years...getting licensed and ordained with the KY Ministry Network...a 2 year urban youth pastor position, a maternity home season, a couple times with Teen Challenge...a season of church revitalization attempts... Working with an awesome church plant that is focused on reaching MY generation... Meeting a slew of amazing, unique and completely raw friends...applying to and being accepted at Asbury, Xavier & Fuller ...

Now here I am...a couple of months ago, in the midst of my striving to move to Pasadena, I felt the Lord take my hand and say, "wait, slow down...I showed you where to go a long tine ago." So, I started re-applying to AGTS. That's when things started moving pretty fast. I spent last week in Springfield...and it was the opposite of misery...it felt like that place called "there" that I've been searching for ... Long story short... When God is in it, He provides...in the last three hours of the last day in Springfield, I was hired to work for a Great organization and got a cute little apartment... I have packed my car and mom's as tight as they can be and tomorrow we launch out for Springfield!!

Something else pretty cool...God is into details :-) there is a major consolidation process taking place with three schools in Springfield, including AGTS, if all goes as is expected... I will probably be graduating from Evangel after all :-)

My heart is full... I have so much to share... I will just have to get back into the swing of posting on here!



Every year when Easter comes, I think about the cross...if I can make it through the Passion of the Christ, I try to spend time reflecting on what Jesus did at the cross...

The other day I thought about something...
Jesus died so that He could be raised from the dead.

Wait, hold on, He died for my sins? The wages of sin is death, right?
So, Jesus died so that I wouldn't have to die...right?
But everyone still dies...
Ok, Rachel, really? What about John 3:16? It says that anyone who believes in Him will not perish (die) but have ETERNAL life..
Very Metaphysical...

What about this...?
"Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it." Luke 9:23-24

And, this...
"For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!" Phil. 3:9-11

It seems that about every 6 hours over the past few weeks I have been hearing these two verses. And I must admit that I often wrestle with how they are worked out in my life...

Jesus loves me, THIS I know.
Jesus died on the cross for my sins.
Jesus died so that He could be raised from the dead...in power!
Jesus died so that I could live...but...
Jesus died so that I could die?
Jesus was raised from the dead...so that I could be raised from the dead...

WAIT, I'm dead? How am I dead...I'm writing this blog...
 "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Corinthian 1:18

Let me work through my thoughts...
  • Jesus died to the POWER of sin (ultimate death, separation from God, immorality) ...
  • His resurrection showed that JESUS IS MORE POWERFUL THAN SIN!
  • When, I accept Jesus as my LORD, I have to die to my sinful nature...
  • I, in essence, lose my own personal sovereignty and give Him control...
  • In return for my "death" to sin, Jesus gives me the same POWER OVER SIN!!
  • The SAME power that RAISED CHRIST from the dead...
  • DWELLS...resides and has AUTHORITY...in ME...and you (if Jesus is your Lord)

COOL! (for lack of a better word)


 So, I have to choose to walk in submission to the authority of Jesus Christ...
That is the key to victory...
I have to be so..."into who HE IS, that I step away from who I am..."
(thank you, Steve Axtell)

I find myself in a crux...I know what I am to do...but I am SO quick to forget...
How do I deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus daily?
What does that look like?
My prayer must become...I WANT THE CROSS... I want to live in the victory of death to sin... I must choose to EMBRACE Christ's deliberate decision to lay His life down...and lay mine down... in meekness (controlled power)...submission to the greater Authority ... Christ in me...my HOPE
  • I must serve instead of looking to be served
  • I must deny my need to be "right"
  • I must deny my "right" to be heard or get even
  • I must choose to stand firm on TRUTH not on societal norms
  • I must be willing to be a peacemaker even when I'm the brunt of the attack
  • I must be willing to prefer my brother/sister even when they despise me
  • I must be willing to suffer for the sake of being right before God...rather than men...even when those men are my brothers...
  • I must be willing to walk by faith, not by sight...
  • I must be willing to become less so that Jesus and His LOVE may be put on display and become more!

...I WANT THE CROSS! Oh that each day would be lived out embracing a lifestyle of submission to His authority... Teach me, Jesus...help me walk this out...


Why Do We Hide?

Genesis 3:1-10 (The Message)

The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: "Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?"

The Woman said to the serpent, "Not at all. We can eat from the trees in the garden. It's only about the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, 'Don't eat from it; don't even touch it or you'll die.'"

The serpent told the Woman, "You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil."

When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it—she'd know everything!—she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

Immediately the two of them did "see what's really going on"—saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.

When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: "Where are you?"

He said, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid."
So I read this passage this weekend and something struck me. I have read this story probably a couple hundred times and discussed many more times. However, I never thought about this fact...

Prior to eating the fruit from the tree of good & evil, God saw Adam and Eve as they were...but Adam and Eve saw themselves as God viewed them...as His children. In the instant that it took to crunch into that apple (or whatever kind of fruit it was), they saw themselves...as un-God-like...They realized the vastness of God...they realized how BIG He is versus how small they were... I think that "naked" must be both literal and spiritual here. In their nakedness, they saw their human-ness. They recognized that they were no longer immortal, but finite...while God is infinite.

Perhaps, as we look at this passage and we consider our need to hide...the fact that we often run from God...we see that we are much like Adam and Eve. Deep within our soul, we know that God is separate...He is holy...there is an other-worldliness to Him...

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have a special love for the Chronicles of Narnia. I love the mystery, the whisper that we were created for another world... I envision that Adam and Eve walked through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, just as Lucy and Susan walked with Aslan. Their was a deep companionship, an understanding of the authority Aslan had given to them alone...no other creature was as priviledged as the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.... no other creature was as priviledges as Adam and Eve...they walked with God...they saw His Face, His Voice was the most familiar Voice. And in the instant of recognizing their nakedness...they suddenly understood all that they had lost... Intimacy with Creator God...

Why do we hide? Because we see our own nakedness, our own sense of insignificance...we recognize our shortcomings and our inability to be whole in our own selves... and we look for ways to cover up...to hide...in hopes that God will not see us...will not see our lack.

But we forget, we fail to recognize...God has always seen us as naked...and yet He loved us. Just like a father who holds his infant for the first time...suddenly he realizes the power that he has to either protect or harm his little one...there is an intrinsic love that washes over a father and a mother...they recognize their world is not just about themselves anymore...God loves us more than that...


Anticipating Rejection...

**I wrote this a few days ago and chickened out before posting...more to come...this is a journey in transparency...

An open rebuke
is better than hidden love!
Proverbs 27:5 (NLT)

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine quoted this verse to me...little did he know that verse would stick deep into my soul and cling to me like barbed wire... Of course, this verse is talking about care-fronting someone with the truth, even when it is inconvenient and uncomfortable...even if it puts your friendship in jeopardy.

However, there is a personal application that seems to be what causes this verse to reverberate through my core. For me, the meaning has a lot more to do with the "hidden love" part. I have never liked confrontation, when I was an RA in college and I had to confront people, it was VERY tough...but I would eventually work up the nerve and approach that person. Life is full of loving confrontation...alas, confrontation is unavoidable...especially if you really care about someone...sommetimes you just have to gently and lovingly point out their blindspot, for their own good. I have found that confrontation usually ends in one of two ways...

The first possible ending is that a friend or loved one will have an open heart and mind, they receive the rebuke and all is well again.

The second is probably the thing that everyone fears most about confrontation...rejection. Oh, rejection, the m'lady of the ages... the root word is a verb: to reject...defined as follows
1. to refuse to accept, acknowledge, use, believe, etc
2. to throw out as useless or worthless; discard
3. to rebuff (a person)
We all know that it much easier to reject (a verb) than to be on the receiving end of the noun, a state of being...and situation to be experienced...called rejection. Rejection, the act of being not accepted or acknowledged, being thrown out and made to feel useless or worthless...being discarded (or even disregarded as not a viable option)... We have all had ideas rejected. We have all had our resume or experience disregarded as non-applicable. We have all had our vulnerability thrown back in our face... Rejection is a place no one wants to visit and many people who do visit rejection find it difficult to return to assertiveness...

Ok, enough of my philosophical ramblings about rejection..I'm sure you get the point, it hurts and no one wants to be rejected, period. Hence the reason many people avoid confrontation.

So the first option is acceptance, the second option is rejection. Is there a third option? Quite possibly so. I have experienced that upon occasion, someone initially will reject the person that is confronting them, but eventually, after processing the information...they come to the conclusion that, yes, there is truth to their friend's assertion. Which brings me closer to my title...

A couple of years ago, another friend of mine made a very blunt statement (which is typical of her brutally honest, loving self)...she said (and I quote).

"Rachel, you tend to anticipate rejection."

Period. That was it. She did not even pose it as a question! And I, of course, immediately agreed with her. She is someone I trust dearly and we happened to be chatting about matters of the heart and I was trying to analyze myself (something I tend to do overly frequently). And it soon became something I was comfortable saying about myself...YET, I never took the time to process the concept of what it means...to anticipate rejection...

Lately, I have been doing a lot of people watching...  I have noticed that most mature adults, especially those is committed healthy relationships, tend to trust people more easily...they tend to be vulnerable...they tend to let others know what is really going on inside of them...and they tend to do it as easily as taking a breath. I have found myself asking the question, how DO they do that? Please note that I used the words mature adults and healthy relationships (I am not so naive as to think all adults do this with ease).  But, I'm learning that vulnerable and open communication and trust are a must in relationships.

Don't get me wrong, I am very good at giving people a glimpse into me...when it is necessary. I work with people...it is my passion...helping people find themselves, helping them find the Lord...helping them connect with His purpose... that is what I LOVE to do. However, in recent years, I have noticed (when I allow myself to be aware) that there is a vast difference between the things I know about others and what I allow them to know about me. I will share, but in a vague way, leave-it-to-your-own-interpretation kind of way...in a way that helps others, not in a way that helps me. There is a great divide...a chasm between my heart (the dreams, longings and desires that I keep locked away inside) and living up to the expectations and needs of others. Not a problem, you say? Well, boundaries are good, but hiding...not so good. There! I said it...I hide. AND, I think I hide because I am anticipating rejection...

According to dictionary.com, to anticipate means...

–verb (used with object)

1. to realize beforehand; foretaste or foresee: to anticipate pleasure.
2. to expect; look forward to; be sure of: to anticipate a favorable decision.
3. to perform (an action) before another has had time to act.
4. to answer (a question), obey (a command), or satisfy (a request) before it is made: He anticipated each of my orders.
5. to nullify, prevent, or forestall by taking countermeasures in advance: to anticipate a military attack.
6. to consider or mention before the proper time: to anticipate more difficult questions.
7. to be before (another) in doing, thinking, achieving, etc.: Many modern inventions were anticipated by Leonardo da Vinci.
–verb (used without object)
9. to think, speak, act, or feel an emotional response in advance.

When I looked it up, I realized how very much I do anticipate rejection. Anticipation is actually, and usually, a positive experience, something that intensifies pleasure. However, when juxtaposed with the word rejection, it is anticlimatic.Big words...I know :-) Basically, somewhere in between the concept of anticipating and the concept of rejection...there is a major fleeing sensation...a need to run for cover...and most accurately can become a deep sense of impending doom.  Alright, drama queen, get to the point, right?
It is a powerful and ugly action too.What is absolutely ridiculous about this whole thing is that...I can say with full confidence that 99.9% of the time, people LOVE me. It's really bizarre because I can still remember being the new girl in kindergarten, I remember hiding. My first day of school, we went to recess and the other kids wanted to play with me but I turned my back to the playground, pressed my face against the chain-link fence and cried, the entire time! (Before you feel sorry for me, I did eventually make friend and I loved recess).  Then again, in 7th grade, the worst  school year ever, I had a girl named Angel (the antithesis of her name) who tormented me for months...she loved making fun of my face. Even in high school, I'll never forget when I took a friend with me to summer camp right before my senior year and she asked me why I was so different outside of school... You see, outside of school/society, I was the darling...everyone in the church world loved me... I was known for talking too much, etc. But at school , I made it my goal to be invisible...oh, I was always present...in fact, I was even involved in leadership all across campus... but I never let anyone into my heart. I gave and gave and lived to meet others expectations...to the point of pain.
Interestingly enough, I've often wrestled with the opposing question, "Do people only  love me because of what I do for them?" What if I stopped being the "yes" woman...the to "go-to" person for everything (which I truly enjoy by the way).
I don't know if I am making any sense here...but I'm getting to the point...perhaps the area that has suffered the most from this anticipating rejection problem has been .... drumroll, please...trumpets (dundududAH)...my love life! Or, perhaps, more aptly put, my lack of a love life.  I have always, ALWAYS heard this phrase (most often from men I admire)...
"Rachel, you are such an amazing woman...a gem, a treasure, a precious prize... (insert your own flattering remark)...you will make some man an amazing wife someday..."
And I think to myself...why thank you...why not you? Well, that was back in the day when I actually allowed myself to have close male friendships :-) Let's call that long season, the season of the broken heart... I'm sure this may sound like bitterness, but I assure you it is not... it was once...now what you hear in my voice is a questioning, uncertainty...why?
Let's back up, I always received those kinds of compliments because I was everything to these men...basically a third arm... I knew their thoughts and would finish their sentences... I loved them...genuinely, as truly as a friend could...because that's what I am supposed to do as a sister in Christ... but my feelings almost always transitioned into more... I made the mistake, once, of actually telling one of these dear men how I felt...and I will never do that again... he was the first of several heartbreaking friendships...platonic, one-sided friendships.
I am not still nursing those experiences, but they have been my reality, thus far, in my 26 years... I so wish that things were different, I wish that I had been able to experience godly Christian men in a way that still leaves my heart open...vulnerable.  However, in recent years, I have dealt with this anticipated rejection...by hiding. Avoiding getting to know people, avoiding any real connection, trying to be invisible...while all the while...
HOPING Mr. Right...would SEE ME! and PURSUE me!
Haha, I know, what an oxymoron. Hiding, while hoping to be found. Wanting deep within my heart to know and be known...but hiding for fear of being rejected...for fear of being found wanting, not enough.
Ok, so let's bring it to the present...I was watching the Biggest Loser...a very inspiring show. But, let's face it, people get on the show because they are phyiscally in a drastic state of disrepair... Here was the beginning of my epiphony...most of these people had significant others... Now, don't judge me for confessing my next thought..."If these overweight people can have people who love them...why do I believe the lie that no one will love ME that way?"
To be honest, I am not quite sure the answer to that question. I have not been writing this so that people will feel sorry for me. Nor have I written this so that I will get some matchmaking help (although...nah) :-) No, I am writing because I want to quit hiding... I want this cycle of anticipating rejection to stop...I want to be free from this LIE once and for all...
Because, there is one more relatioship that this is effecting. It is the most important relationship of all...my relationship with God. For the past few years, I have often shared with confidants that I feel a certain sense of split personality when it comes to my spiritual life. I connect with God in a very real way whenever I am helping someone, when I am praying for people and ministering to them. But, when it's just me an Him, I feel MYSELF ( not Him) pulling away. Because no matter how much, I know the concept in my head...that God LOVES me...I still wrestle with feeling like I want to hide....feeling like intimacy with the One who knows me best...is impossible.
Somehow, I feel like being painfully honest and thinking out loud will help me get free. Let me clarify something...I love the Lord and I am certain that He loves me...but something is missing. Something is in between His heart and mine...something I am hiding behind... AND I'm not sure what it is... Plus, I know that I am not alone...I know others have felt this way before...or may be feeling it now...I want my journey to not hiding...to being vulnerable...to help you too!
So, this brings me to my thought about hidden love...if I love someone and hide it...it hurts worse than if I openly rebuke them. Who does it hurt? I don't want to hide anymore...I want to love with arms wide open... But for once, the girl with an answer for everything...is without one :-)
What about you? Are you anticipating rejection? Have you in the past? How do you stop anticipating...and starting being open?


Learning from Mr. Obama

1. belief in perfection: belief in and pursuit of perfection as an attainable goal
2. living by high ideals: aspiring to or living in accordance with high standards or principles

3. belief that material things are imaginary: the philosophical belief that material things do not exist independently but only as constructions in the mind

Ah, idealism. It is a malady that most of the free world is born with. I guess the good news is that it slowly dissipates with age (in most cases, at least). Some are simply carriers of this disease, while others are life-long sufferers :-) I am an idealist in every sense of the word! Everything I do is tainted with idealism...give me a day in a new setting and I can tell you what needs to change. I get all pumped up over causes and frustrated when I cannot fix them.
I am a young person. No, I'm no longer in high school or college, but I am still relatively young. My youth has blinded me to my own idealistic insanity on multiple occasions...usually, to my own detriment. They say hindsight is 20/20...I don't know if that's always true, seeing as how I've made the same mistakes a couple times. However, with each passing year, my impulsive and idealistic self is learning to make wiser, more pragmatic decisions.
When I was in AP US History and then again in Government, good old Mr. Burns left a couple impressions on me. One, he made sure I was registered to vote, even though I was not quite 18. He made certain that ALL of his students understood their duty as citizens of the United States...to VOTE, to simply show up at the polls and make one's voice heard. He also made certain that we understood the basic Bill of Rights, the Constitution, etc. He laid out a thorough understanding of the requirements for running for public office...which as a younger American, I felt were a little steep, especially when it came to age!

I used to believe that what the White House needed was youth...a fresh perspective...someone who could see things the way they could be, not so much as they are! No, I did not vote for Mr. Obama. However, I was slightly tempted to vote for him due to his age, his fervor and the "freshness" that he could bring to the Oval Office. I did my research, I studied the facts, I looked at the issues. Here's what made my decision not to vote for him... He kept promising change...ALL OVER change...but he never outlined a plan for any of his proposed changes. It sounded great on paper...every idealist in America wants REAL change. But ideals were not convincing enough...

Now, Mr. Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America. He and Michelle and their beautiful daughters are a lovely family. I love that they set a nice model of a healthy African American family.  I tend to disagree with most of his politics but he is my president and I refuse to bash him.

That said, I think that watching Mr. Obama's leadership, we can see the quintessential young, idealistic leader. He is led by his own set of ideals...in many ways, I see his Utopian ideals and I understand why he does what he does. However, almost every initiative that I have seen set forth from the White House is impulsive and reactionary...the result of youthful, inexperience... Yes, in a day and age that idolizes youth, I DID just say that.

I once heard a wise (older) someone say, you eat an elephant the same way you eat a mouse, one bite at a time. Perhaps, one could swallow a mouse (I'm not sure why anyone would want to, but it is feasible). BUT imagine trying to swallow an elephant? HAha... yeah... not gonna happen.

Age teaches one to pace oneself...to choose battles wisely...to focus on the essentials and not to major in the minors. As much as we would ALL like to be heroes and do something that changes everything...we simply CANNOT. We humans are finite, we have limits...

Most leaders have boundaries and time parameters within which to work, presidents have four years to leave a legacy (occasionally, eight...if we're lucky, this one won't). What I've seen Mr. Obama do is take the helm of this massive ship called the United States of America and try to go in too many directions. He has tried to conquer the economy, health care, foreign policy, energy...what's next? The problem when you try to do everything...you don't do anything well. And often you create more problems.

What I'm beginning to realize is that a good leader see the whole picture and holds hope for change in multiple areas. Perhaps he or she plants seeds in various areas, but he or she picks a few specific things to focus on. Then, that leader builds a team of experts who then work with said leader to make an incremental plan for change...

There's an old church joke that goes like this. How do you move a piano from one side of the stage to another? (Every pastor knows, you can't simply move the piano...WWIII would be imminent with a swift resignation pending ;-) You move it an inch per week...then everyone will insist it's always been there.

I can see where this has already been happening in the ideals of our nation over the last 30-50 years...people do not look at government or history the way they once did. But there are still enough people in this nation who look at the USA as a sovereign nation that they are proud to represent... those people do not take kindly to instant change...in EVERY area. Frankly, I'm somewhat glad for our president's impulsive idealism because if he were older and wiser, those who oppose his politics would not know what hit them.

To my fellow young leaders, learn from our president...don't try to lead solely by your emotions and ideals, let those guide your decisions, BUT look at the bigger picture, assess the situation and your own skill set, then choose a few important areas upon which to focus. Build a team. Make a plan for change...a plan is vital...that plan can be tweaked, but without a WRITTEN plan, you'll end up the same place you started. Then, begin to implement that plan, in stages...a time-released change.

...without a vision the people perish...
...there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors...

Sound familiar? A great place to learn wisdom is in the Scriptures...start in Proverbs...


DON'T Panic! Just be faithful...

I've always despised movies like Left Behind. Now before you pounce on me, let me explain...

I believe that Jesus is SOON to return...His return has been iminent for centuries...yet the fact that He has not yet returned makes it all the more possible that He could return today!

What I do not like about these movies is that it puts people in a panic...people are not excited to see Jesus return, they are afraid that the world is going to end...they are afraid of being left behind...they are afraid of the tribulation...they MIGHT be afraid of hell (if they believe it exists...don't get me started...but yes, I do believe it exists).

For believers, the end times should not be a point of panic...it should be our greatest, most blessed HOPE!!! After all Jesus promised He would come...and we would be WITH HIM...eternally! But if He chooses to wait until after we have passed on into eternity to return to earth, we will BE WITH HIM...for eternity :-)!

For non-believers, i.e. people who do not consider Jesus to be Lord, who discount His existence, people who have never heard of Him, people who have known Him and yet intentionally rejected Him...those people have no hope in Christ's return! This saddens me deeply... But let's be honest, even if the world does not end in our life time, these people will DIE...WITHOUT HOPE! They will be eternally separated from our Father...from Jesus, Our Great Redeemer! As long as they live, and we live...and we walk together on this earth...we have the opportunity to offer the HOPE THAT WE HAVE IN JESUS!!!

If you have been paying attention to current events, you may feel a tinge of panic. If you are American, you may need to question yourself, "why am I panicking?" Your reaction to events certainly triggers a slow yet impending doom to everything we've ever known in our comfortable American society...unfortunately a large percentage of our population is clueless to what is going on. The impact that these flippant and impulsive decisions that our American leadership is making does not seem to weigh in with many people who are more caught up with Hollywood, FB & Twitter, etc. than they are the bigger picture. Here's the reality, if you're paying attention to these events in light of Scripture...there is an even bigger impulse to panic... anyone laying the newspaper side by side with the Word of God can see that we are in mid-labor...

I have been wrestling with panic...My Bible is becoming accustomed to being open to Matthew 24, Ezekiel 38 & 39, and Revelation...

The other day, I sat, reading and praying...talking to the Lord about the situations in our world...asking Him, what do I do? I felt so led to look at Matthew 24, where Jesus listed wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, famines and pestilences of many kinds as signs of the end times (and His return)... but He said, these are NOT THE END...

Matthew 24:4-8
 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you,  for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. 7Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

What I find most interesting is that in Matthew 25, the VERY next chapter, Jesus shares 3 parables. 

The first parable is of the 10 virgins (5 foolish & 5 wise). This parable has always SEEMED to be about Christians vs. Non-Christians...but what I've realized in recent years, all the virgins here represent Christians (at least in my humble opinion)...they are ALL waiting for the arrival of Bridegroom (Jesus). Non-believers are not waiting for Jesus to return (NEWS FLASH)... So, since they're all Christians, I found myself asking...what makes some wise vs. foolish...IT WAS THE OIL! Now, I'm not a famous theologian, but I know that oil is often used to symbolize the Holy Spirit... Some of the virgins ran out of oil before the Bridegroom arrived and it says that they wasted their oil running around doing foolish things and not savoring it... hm, now what I see is that the Holy Spirit...intimacy with the Holy Spirit...is pretty valuable...and must be maintained so that our LIGHT does not go out...

The next parable in Matthew 25...one of our FAVORITE parables...the story of a master who is going away and gives 3 servants varying amounts of money to manage for him while he is away... you know the one I'm talking about, you've probably heard as many sermons about it as I have... Long story short, master comes back and the two servants that he gave the most money to had invested it and doubled it...
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

Then to the third, who had done nothing with his money except to burry it (out of fear), the Master says,
"You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate,  why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

“Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

So moral of the story, Master (Jesus) has given his servants (that's us, Christians) treasure to manage while He is away, to grow and cultivate and develop and invest.. what is that treasure? Is it our gifts? OR is it the gospel...the GOOD NEWS!!! I say the later...the treasure represents the gospel...the Kingdom of God...the good news that ALL OF HUMAN KIND can come to know our Creator...can be sons and daughters of a LIVING GOD...through JESUS! What kind of response will we get when Christ returns? Will He call us faithful? Or will He send us away?

The final parable is that about the Sheep & the Goats. Keith Green wrote a great synopsis of this parable...check it out. Basically, Jesus compared the Final Judgement to a shepherd separating his flock, the sheep enter into the Kingdom and the goats...not so much! The only difference between the two...one group was religious and did not care for the broken and lost members of the world...the other group was not so religious but did care for the broken and the lost....

So at the end of my studying, I'm left an impression
...Jesus' return is imminent
...He is coming back for a people who fit the following description...
1. They have maintained a rich intimacy with Him through the Holy Spirit
2. They have been faithful to establish HIS Kingdom (not their own) and to share the GOOD GOOD News that Jesus loves the ENTIRE WORLD...and that they can know Him too...
3. They have lived their lives loving & serving the broken & lost

What do I do with this? Well, first, I am choosing not to panic...the world will end someday, I may be priviledged to see Jesus return, if not I will be with Him. I must be faithful to maintain intimacy with Him and draw others to Him...every day... in everything I do.

My resolution...
1. Quit politics (honor & pray for my leaders, obey as long as I'm not disobeying Jesus)
2. Pray often, without ceasing...stay close to the Spirit...
3. Invest in everyone and every opportunity that He brings my way...so that all will SEE JESUS...on that day!!



wait for it...

Have you ever noticed that part in a song where there are no words? The instrumental soliloquy? You know, the part where the musicians get solos and the music builds and everyone gets excited... For those of you who are "non-musicians"...this is the part where the soloist usually jumps off the drum cage and the guitarists head bangs and jumps around a lot....and the drummer goes insane!! yeah that's the part that always gets me!

:-) Yeah I know, sweet pic...andy barron took it (hilsong united concert)

Musically, it's the climax...the best part of the song...but I always end up trying to put words where they do not belong...

Seriously, the BEST part of any song is the instrumental part...but I can't seem to let it be...without serious effort ;-)

Why am I going on about this? Well, I was thinking about it this morning...it is a great comparison to THIS season of my life...my lifesong...I'm in the middle of a bridge...I should be dancing...and in some ways I am...but I'm in such a hurry to get back to the words...the next verse...I always am! Hurrying that is...

God keeps saying to me...be still...be still...be still...I'm about to do something REALLY cool...just wait. Wait for it, wait for it...wait for it.......wait for ME.........

Waiting :-) I'll try not to make up my own lyrics and put them where they're not supposed to be! I'll let Him play the song the way He plays it best :-)


Why are we SO quick to complain in DAILYness?

So, this morning, I awoke to a nice coat of ice and snow ALL over my car. Mid-March Madness, I guess. Anyway, I found myself grumbling as I scraped my car to go to work....and day dreaming about living on the West Coast where it's sunny & 70 all the time.... :-) ah, soon enough!

Then I got in my car and headed to work. Of course, with the snow, a 15 minute drive turned into a 45 minute drive due to accidents all over the place (it's not that much snow, people, drive...come on!) Mumbling and grumbling about bad drivers and snow and Fridays... I turned on my radio...and realized I could have been waking up to this:

Quake, Tsunami Hit Japan; Waves Moving Toward West Coast
 Really, people? Why do we complain so much??? It's like an automatic response to inconvenience...like complaining will make it go away...or make us feel better.

I'm ashamed of my own lack of gratefulness. Lately, it seems like everything is just on hold...every ounce of work and effort I put into life comes back around  to...WAIT...just hold on... and deep in my heart I know that is a good thing...that God is at work in me and at work on my behalf. BUT instead of trusting Him and resting and being grateful...I whine...

My mom used to read the book  "Wendy & the Whine" to me on a daily basis (at least it seemed like it ;-) Why? Well, like most little girls...there were moments in the day when I would let out the most ridiculous whines...ugh. Did the book cure me? Mostly. I was scared of  "The Whine." But as I'm admitting, I occasionally am still visited by Monster Whine!

Now, I'm reminded of a verse that God has been trying to instill in me for a year now...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV, ©2011)
Rejoice always,
pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (AMP)
  • Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);
  • Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];
  • Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

Yeah...OUCH! So...what will we do about that verse? That's a TALL order...
Do we just ignore is and stay focused on Jer. 29:11?

What about what Jesus also said in John 14:15?
"If you love Me, you will obey what I command."

There's no wiggle room there...

So I guess, our response to 1 Thess. 5:16-18 should be:
1. Do NOT complain...ever
2. Instead, Pray persistently, in every situation!
3. AND...be GRATEFUL...for everything!! (even fleas)
**THIS is God's Will!!**

 Ok, got it...
now, help me, Jesus!!
I SO want to honor You!


Sometimes I talk too much...

I love this...there is something so rich and sweet about just knowing who we are ... not being so caught up in do, do, DOing! Lately, I've been quiet...ever feel like you just talk too much? I feel that way a lot...reallly! Some of you who know me best are laughing because you know this is true... I don't want to be known for the flourish of words that I speak...for self-centered soliloquies or famoous speeches...but by the still small Voice that speaks through me... may I learn to be still and patient before the Lord...to wait until He speaks...

That is my prayer for you as well...that you will know Him..the One who created you...and who loves you more deeply than you will ever even know yourself... that you will find a deep heart connection with Him and that He will satisfy your soul...

Jesus, come dwell in us richly...


More on Peacemaking & Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (New Living Translation)
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.
And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors;
God is making his appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Definition of RECONCILE
1a : to restore to friendship or harmony b : settle, resolve     
  2: to make consistent or congruous
So, the way I'm beginning to see it...we are called to fight for peace...to fight for restoration of friendship and resolution between...God and man! That is our mission! We are ambassadors, peace MAKERS...

Our job is not pretty and it often comes at great consequence to our own comfort...are we doing it?



Today I came across a blog that made me start thinking. You can read the blog here
The following are the thoughts/comments I made to that blog...

Well, those are deep questions. I'm not sure I am any closer to answers on them than you are, however, a thought popped into my head as I read your post...I hope I'm not hijacking...

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God." (Matt. 5:5)

So, being a peacemaker is part of our identity...right??

Problem. I've always interpreted that to mean being a doormat... "giving up one's 'rights' to vindication"...because after all revenge is His, right?

Well, what does it mean to be a PEACE-maker? NLT says "God blesses those who work for peace..." What are wars about? Two opposing sides...that can't seem to come to an agreement... Often a third party joins the fight...in order to RESTORE peace...to reconcile differences for the greater good...

Three different concepts come to mind...

Pacificist= a person who believes in pacifism or is opposed to war or to violence of any kind.

Peacekeeper= a person who maintains or restores peace and amity; mediator

Peacemaker= a person, group, or nation that tries to make peace, especially by reconciling parties who disagree, quarrel, or fight.

Are soldiers peacemakers? Technically, yes.

Soldiers (in theory, at least) are people who fight for peace.

Ok...so this is not about war vs. peace...but it is.

In relationships, in reconciliation especially, things can begin to feel like war. One caustic statement produces a self-protecting and equally damaging response... et cetera, etc.

So...if we are to be peacemakers, if we are to spread this gospel of reconciliation...are we not people who are to fight for peace... we are to be people who intentionally enter into conflict for the sake of ending the conflict. Hm...how does that work?

Honestly, that answer still evades me somewhat...but a few things DO come to the surface...

One, we do not enter the conflict with the motive of self-promotion, if we do...we are sure to wreak havoc on our own souls and to leave a bloody trail.

Two, we must enter into the conflict from a stance of Love. That love that's patient, kind (which also means to be patient), not rude, always hoping for the best...

Three, We must seek to understand before seeking to be understood... MUCH easier said than done.

Finally, we must enter into the process of peacemaking and reconciliation with the understanding that reconciliation is a process that often takes place in a series of encounters...it requires a commitment until the resolution...peacemaking rarely makes an easy or immediate appearance.


All I know to do...is give it to You...

Tonight...my heart is full...
full of an awareness...
my reality is not reality
not everyone has lived a life as easy as mine...

human trafficking
27 million
...human beings...
...no dignity...no sense of value
little girls...
little boys...
people with souls...
people without hope...
people who need Jesus' love
people who need someone to get passionate about them!
forgotten and cast aside...
...more concerned with the red carpet than what's "hidden" in the red light district...

...meth, pills, heroin...
broken, self-centered people...
whose stories are so long and intricate, the beginning is hard to decipher from the end
people who believe they have no choice anymore...
hurting, abandoned children...damaged by someone else's choices
burnt bridges... parents and loved ones at the end of their ropes...
people desparate for freedom...
yet it is as illusive as the high that they seek
people who need
...Jesus' love...
...the power of the cross...

Jesus, tonight, I come into agreement with You. Healer of the Broken, You alone hold the keys to freedom from sin and wholeness from its destruction...I ask You to set captives free...to open the blind eyes and unlock the deaf ears... AWAKEN this generation from its slumber...from its foolishness...AWAKEN Your Bride to Her Purpose...to seek and to save those who are lost...to bind up the broken hearted...Father, stir up our hearts... RAISE UP men and women with the heart of William Wilburforce...let freedom ring... Raise up people with the anointing of Mother Theresa... Raise Up people with hearts to please YOU to glorify YOU...not the media, not the status quo, not the political agenda of a deprived generation...YOU and YOU ALONE! Holy Spirit...empower Your People to DO THE WORK OF END TIME HARVEST... May we become aware of our God-given authority...Establish Your Identity within Your People...that we may see the nations come to know Your Name!

Father...this is Your Heart...only You can accomplish this work through Your People...embolden us...cause us to see reality...YOUR REALITY... I roll over the burden...the weight of the needs I see...show me, how can I be part of the solution...?


I have a problem...

"Hello, my name is Rachel Leonard and I am addicted to books..."

"Hi, Rachel...." (imagine a chorus of people that sound like Eeyore)

(Ok, in case you're not laughing ... you should be!! The last year of has ruined my humor!)

No, seriously, people...I LOVE books! And I think that I have a problem. (That's good, they say that the first step is to admit you have a problem...I'm getting there :-) I like to buy books, borrow books from libraries, borrow books from friends...

I am also a chronic multi-book reader...meaning I am reading about 10 books right now...in fact, I was SO proud to have finished one the other day...guess, how long I was reading that one? Come on, give it a go... alright...it took me about a year (granted, I didn't start until about 8 months after receiving it as a gift because I was in denial over needing to read it...a great book on singleness!)

I realized the other day that the first thing I do when I move to a new community is find the public library...I have a library card on my key chain from 5 years ago (I interned in southeast KY for 2 months and spent all of my free-time at the library!)

So, um, right now I'm avoiding a mess in the basement...totally and completely MY mess...
I am trying to squeeze 26+ years of life into a tiny bedroom ...and it is becoming a little overwhelming! The other day I realized that I have moved 4 times since May 2009! And, well, I'm not done yet for this year!! However, I've decided I need to get my stuff in some decent organized order...even if it is only for six months or less.

One discovery that I have been making in the process of this mess...ehem, drumroll please!

Most of my belongings have great similarity... they all have hundreds of pages, tiny print and are bound together in various forms of colors and pictures...we like to call these things books! Oh...I just love them! Until, I have to pack and unpack them :-)

I asked myself a good rhetorical question today...

"Why do I love books so much?"
"Good question, Rachel."
(Yes, I did just talk to myself and respond...)

Well, I'm not sure of the answer. I do know that I usually like to read to understand something better....a people group, a world situation, God's Word, myself... or to just escape from life for a while... I literally have entire sections to my collection...Bibles, Hermeneutics (big word for studying scripture), Leadership, Missions, Church Growth, Counseling, Youth, Young Adults, Women's Issues, Addiction, Marriage, Dating, Literature, Christian Fiction...

Each section contains an insight...I like to read and I like to understand...and then I like to share! One of my dreams since I was a little girl has been to have a room in my house completely devoted to books, it will have shelves full of books...cozy couches, a fireplace and snuggly blankets...and to top it off a ladder that will slide down the wall (partly because I'm short and partly because Belle in Beauty & the Beast always made it look so fun!)

Welcome to the random mind of Rachel :-) So, to the answer the question...I'm not sure? haha...but I should probably get back to organizing all the books I already have...in my basement bedroom!

PS I found this awesome picture...another dream of mine to have a house where I can plant a tree in the middle and it will grow super tall right through the roof... what a GREAT combo ...well, at least in theory :-)