Dear World: We’ve Got Your Back.

A while back, I wrote a post that unintentionally got lots of people hot and bothered.

It was an outlier post, different in content and tone from my usual writing. But – in the predictably unpredictable way of social media – it was shared online over a million times.

People were fired up.

Looking back, I can tell you that my “post gone viral” experience was not awesome – in the same way that a never-ending roller coaster ride at Space Mountain would also not be awesome.

I’ve found that there is no middle ground when it comes to roller coasters, or viral posts. You either love! love! love! them (like this lady), or you would rather be boiled in oil. I fall squarely in the latter camp, believing that careening at light speed, upside down, in total darkness, is a very special kind of misery.

And so it was for me. Just minutes after the post was published, it became obvious to all that I wasn’t properly strapped in, or remotely ready for this kind of ride. I wanted off. I wanted the lights back on, and I needed a bucket into which I could barf repeatedly.

“The LORD is your Shepherd, and I’ve got your back.” My pastor would often say to me in those days, holding out a bucket. And then it got even more totally not awesome.

Some non-fans felt compelled TO YELL THEIR OPINIONS OF ME AND MY FAMILY IN ALL CAPS (hasn’t it been well documented that this makes everyone think you’re a loon?) while thousands of others raced to their own blogs to write clever piggy-back posts: This Is What Would Have Said, and This Is How I Would Have Said It (if I had thought of it) Aren’t You Just Outraged About This? Isn’t She A Fool and Aren’t I Cool?

Note to self: never write a blog post about someone else’s blog post. It’s lame.

My first instinct was to gird my loins and rally the troops for a fight. I was Joshua, and this was the time to be strong and courageous, to march bravely around Jericho.

Take the land.

Strap in, saints.

Jump into the fray.

Good verses evil…and all that jazz.

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Except in my heart, I knew that the LORD wasn’t wanting me to fight.

Worse, really, it was dawning on me that God might want me to take it, absorb it, forgive it, and enter into the threatening discord with peace. I was being asked to turn my face towards my Father’s world, and not away from it.

“The LORD is your Shepherd, Kim.”

So, if the LORD didn’t want a fight, then who did?

In case you’ve missed it, all social media wants to see these days is a knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. It wants to see a drama, a tragedy, a horror. In fact, all our media thrives on controversy and conflict: it is alive only because we give it our own lives for fuel and fodder.

It’s not interested in shepherds.

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Friends, social media can restore no one’s soul, only reflect the condition of it.

It leads us daily – not to still waters – but to restless discontent.

Are we invited to lie down in green pastures by Twitter?

Nope. We are tempted to pick a side, draw a line, plant a flag, hunker down, raise our voice, shake our fists, and then call the other team morons.

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“The LORD is your shepherd, and we’ve got your back.”

Church: this is the language we need to take on as we quietly go out into our Father’s world, and redeem all corners of public life.

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What would it look like if the world knew that the LORD was their Shepherd, too?

How will they ever know, if we don’t have their backs? How will we ever remember, if we’re cutting each other down to size?

Are our faces turned towards the world our Father loves, or away from it? 

They will know we are Christians by our love, saints. Of course we must speak boldly and firmly into our world, but we must also shine on it warmly.

God’s Kingdom has come into this world, not to condemn it, but to save it.

He is the Good Shepherd of all his creation.

He has had our backs for all eternity.

Let’s go and do likewise.

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The LORD is your Shepherd, and I’ve got your back.

Kim

“She who was not beloved…”

Did you know that there is nothing we have done to ourselves, or to others, that puts us too far gone for good?

We have caused other people to suffer. We have blamed, belittled, shamed, aborted, cheated, deceived, and looked the other way.

We have spoken hard truths, but not in love. We have been self-righteous and judgmental, heaping accusations on our neighbors.

We deliver, and deserve, condemnation.

Yet, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

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There is no evil that you has been done to you, or by you, that makes you a forever lost cause for good.

Man may have abused you – broken body and spirit – for some are terribly wicked. Parents or spouses might have abandoned you, for some are selfish and cruel. Brothers may have bruised your body and conscience, and the words of friends may have scarred your soul.

And you may have done these things to others.

We can feel condemned by our circumstances in this sad life.

Yet, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

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Who is it then that heaps shame on our consciences? Who sits in judgement and finds us lacking in every way?

For Christ did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.

Who is it that tells you God is disappointed with you? Who tells you that your Heavenly Father expects you to be more, and do more?

God is not disgusted or weary with our failures, even when we condemn ourselves. Our Father hasn’t grown bored with us, and moved on to someone else more appealing, more wholesome, less broken, and more effective.

He isn’t like us.

Our Heavenly Father isn’t harsh or impatient: he remembers us, and calls us by name. He doesn’t condemn the very people his Son died to save.

She who was not beloved, I will call beloved.

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Instead, God’s considerable energy and power is working for us to give us new life, both now and forever. We are not condemned: we are loved with an ever-lasting love.

We are beautiful to God, because he made us.

He is for us, not against us.

She who was not beloved, I will call beloved.

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Peace to you, beloved.

Kim

The End Is Better Than The Beginning

None of us ever want to fall from grace.

I may earnestly seek the favor of God, but I especially hope for the favor and respect of all who know me. 

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Pride suggests that I can be sinless and successful in every endeavor, and that others can, too. It also insists that I be appreciated for my good efforts 100% of the time. This can only end one way, and always does – with great suffering, humility, and soul trouble.

I am not perfect, and neither am I successful at everything I put my hands to. There are not enough minutes in the day for you to fill my craving for esteem. As surely as the next wave comes to shore, so I will regularly fall from the good graces of man: I’ll never live up to your expectations for me, and you will never live up to mine.

Truth be told, I will never be able to live up to the expectations I have for myself, even today.

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Here’s more truth: I will sorely disappoint you, and be disappointed by you.

I will disappoint myself to the point of despair.

This is good news.

Who can straighten what he has made crooked? (Nehemiah)

But, my Heavenly Father draws straight lines with crooked sticks. We do not disappoint him. He expects nothing of me but to trust him, and to thank him. A child of God can’t fall from his grace.

She can only fall into it.

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The end of the matter is better than the beginning. (Ecclesiastes)

Our Father, through Jesus, has started a good work in you and yours. Do we trust him in the fray, in the heat, in the dark, on the uphill? He is faithfully working all things in this life (even our trouble) for the good of all those he loves. 

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans)

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Peace, as you trust in the trouble,

Kim

 

I Think You Might Have A Problem

“If you are in conflict with more than one person, it’s likely you are the problem.”

Isn’t it mysterious that through much of this communal life, this wisdom is obvious to everyone but us? Indeed, if I am at odds with more than one person at any given time, the most common denominator in the relational strain is probably me!

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This is something to consider during Lent.

If I am chronically annoyed or hurt by particular friends or co-workers, the roots of the bad tasting fruit can be found inside me. When I am routinely offended by certain people, the problem is, in major part, my own. If there is conflict or chaos in my personal relationships, the obvious common thread is, well, me.

The beautiful thing about arriving at this place – this humble place – is that we can always change. We can loosen our grip on favorite grudges, and forgive sins. We can look for offense less, and give the benefit of the doubt more. Peacemakers are indeed blessed: they sow righteousness, and they will be known as the daughters and sons of God.

Here are eight questions to consider if you want the fruit of your spirit to include greater peace and forbearance:

#1.  Where is there discord (confusion, tension, trouble) in your life?

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For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace. “I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I will not forsake them.” 

#2. In what relationships are you withholding love? 

For God did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

#3. Who really irritates you? What personality type really gets under your skin?

Be kind to one another, then. Be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 

#4. Who do you wish would just disappear from your life for a while?

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But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you. Whatever measuring cup you use to portion out grace with others, will be the same size measuring cup used with you.

#5. What person, or people, most offend you? Why?

The Lord is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

#6. The words of what person(s) cause you to lose sleep?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. He is a shield for those who trust him.

#7. What relationship do you doubt that God can restore?

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, do you not see it?

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#8. How can you be an instrument of God’s type of peace, today?

Behold, he is making all things newFor he came to bring good news to the poor; to bind up the brokenhearted, and to proclaim liberty to the captives.

#9. Where do you need to take peace, pursue forgiveness?

Wherever God’s spirit goes, real life happens. Wherever God’s people go, wrongs are righted, forgiveness is granted, and peace is made. For I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Peace to you (and joy) this week.

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Kim

Elephant Interrupted: A story

One of my favorite adventures in this life is to canoe and camp along the Zambezi river.

My father grew up under the Mopani trees in the Zambezi Valley. The banks of the great African river are his first love, and the measuring stick for every other place tasted in life – nothing will ever compare.

Like my dad, this land is in also in my blood. The Zambezi is the wild stage to childhood memories full of adventure and delight. The love of place has been passed along to me.

A few years back, I took a team from Austin on a two-night trip down the Middle Zambezi: the swath of the river that divides the countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia.

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Our excursion came on the heels of a trip to remote refugee villages in Mozambique. We were all  spent, and undone. We had witnessed much suffering and sorrow, and felt heart-heavy and helpless.

What would we do with all that we have seen? How would we ever be the same? How quickly could we sell everything we own and convince our families to come back with us?

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I’ve always thought it crucial that first-world mission teams make the effort to see the majesty of the land they’ve come to visit, and not just the mayhem. “Poor Africa!” isn’t a full – or fair – final summary to bring back home.

I want visitors to witness some of the awe, along with the awful of this land. I want them to see the richness and beauty of Africa, as well as the dearth.

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And so, we entered the river valley in the very last days of the dry season, along with every other living thing. We shared the river with herds of hippo and elephants, crocodiles and buffalo, and all species of  birds coming to find moving water. I’d canoed the Zambezi three times prior, and had never seen so much game: it was as if Noah was about to shut the door of the ark at any moment, with every animal present, and ready to enter.

Day One:

We had been canoeing uphill all day (over 25 km), and the orange sun was squatting just barely above the horizon. Our Zimbabwean guide was becoming eager/anxious/hysterical for us to reach our destination before losing daylight.

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A note about our destinationit was a sandbank, the size of an average ice-skating rink, in the middle of the river.

“See that spot there?” our guide said. “Paddle hard straight towards it. That’s where we’ll stop and set up our accommodations tonight.”

An explanation about ‘that spot’: as we paddled closer, it became apparent that that spot was in fact a bull elephant, accompanied by his lovely lady-elephant, and their baby calf. They were all grazing on branches along the edge of the water.

A word about our accommodations: our canoe paddles would be hammered into the sand, and a mosquito note would be draped over the top for a ‘tent’. Just FYI.

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I could tell our guide was troubled as he considered the situation.

The sun was starting to sink quickly, and this was where we needed to unload, set up camp, and start a fire for dinner.

“Maybe if we get just a little closer, they’ll move away.”  he said hopefully.

A tidbit about interrupting elephants: it’s never good etiquette to interrupt an elephant as he is eating dinner with his family. In fact, it’s never good wisdom to interrupt an elephant at any time of day, really.

The elephants did not move away, despite their new audience, and continued to stubbornly (defiantly?) stand exactly where we needed to beach.

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“Let’s move just a liiiittle bit closer.” our guide said, again.

A description of what might happen when you move just a little bit closer: You might be less than twenty feet from a family of African elephants. You might be filled with terror and remorse, imagining who is going to break it to the kids that you were trampled to death by an elephant in the Zambezi River.

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The elephants did not want to leave dinner and ‘move along’. In fact, they wanted us to move along, and to make it snappy. I noticed how shallow the water was under my canoe, and tried hard not to think about how quickly the elephant would be able to move from there to here.

An interesting fact about how fast elephants move from there to here: Elephants ‘run’ at the average speed of 15 mph. If they are really angry though, they can charge at a speed of 25 mph, but, don’t worry, this is only in rare cases. Like this one.

The bull elephant had been waving his ears in warning ever since we had rudely paddled into his dining room.

An explanation about what it means when an elephant waves it’s ears in warning: Do not move closer! I am really peeved! You are thirty seconds from being an unfortunate Zambezi statistic!

The guide, tired of waiting, sighed loudly and started clapping his hands. “Come on, now!” he yelled. “Move along!” clap, Clap, CLAP. “Go! Move! Now!” he shouted and clapped, the sound echoing in the valley.

By this point in the drama, I had shrunk so far back in the boat, that I was practically in the guide’s lap at the rear of the canoe.

And then, the elephant’s ears went flat.

A few words about when the elephant’s ears go flat: You are now virtually dead. You’ve been given ample warning, and are now about to become a memory. You have front row tickets to watch a 15,000 lb animal move at 25mph. But don’t be too sad – not many people get to see this…it’s rare!

In an instant, I was out of the canoe, running crazy through the river.

A few facts about who might be submerged in the Zambezi River: the river is crawling with crocodiles, and a few thousand hungry, hungry hippos. No danger there! Good thing I was calm, and not attracting any attention as I flailed like a  deranged antelope separated from my herd.

A mention about my preferred way to die: I would SO MUCH RATHER be trampled to death, than eaten by a crocodile. What the heck was I doing? Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And, as if in a dream, I saw our guide stand up suddenly, like a Zambezi Moses. His hands were stretched out high and wide above his head, his palms facing the bull. I heard him bellow “STOP!” as the elephant was almost in the canoe.

And, friends, from my fetal-crouching position in the river, I saw the elephant stop dead in his tracks.

An observation about an alpha-male stare-down: It is surreal. To see a small African man stare down a massive African elephant is like nothing I ever want to see again. And what was even more amazing to witness, was to watch the elephant shake his head, paw at the ground, and move along (slightly) down the shore with his family.

“It’s OK, now.” Our guide said. “Let’s set up camp.”

And with a red sun as our backdrop, and a family of unhappy elephants watching our every move until the moon came out, that’s exactly what we did.

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Peace to you, in all your day’s adventures.

Kim

Lent: It’s not for the sentimental.

We are about to enter the season of Lent, which is the period of time all of us are gearing up to abstain from sugar, right? Right?

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For those of you who might be less spiritually mature, and still plan to enjoy your 70% dark chocolate with sea salt, I hope you are at the very least making plans to give up some of the slightly lesser sins such as:

  • Alcohol?
  • Social Media?
  • Soda?
  • Coffee?
  • Meat?
  • House of Cards?

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I wonder what would it look like if we all gave up gossip? Or imagine if we decided to give up complaining, or comparing ourselves to others, or interrupting? What would it look like if we still ate a square of chocolate every afternoon (sipped a coffee, tweeted a tweet, grilled a burger) and yet were warm, cheerful, and sensititive to everyone for a month?

Friends, Lent is a wise tradition that insists we deal with our heart’s biggest spiritual issue: we are prone to wander, to forget, to blame, and to hide. We want to make our own way.

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The tradition of Lent is a mercy. It is an intentional time before Easter to turn away from my own dead-end devices, and to the life-giving way of a good God. Lent is for us.

Lent expects us to (re)turn our faces towards the sun. Sin (wanting our own damn way) hardens our hearts over time, and sears our conscience. We become complacent, and easily offended. Our eyes turn haughty. We seek our will be to done, and grumble when it isn’t.

We need a time of focused heart examination, because sin (whose property is always to destroy and separate) will steadily suck our spirits dry to the bone. The point of Lent, then, is not to give up chocolate or chips, but to give up sin!

God created us as physical beings. Our bodies matter. Art matters. Sleep matters. Bread matters, and so does wine. Our relationships are also physical: smiles, sex, eye-contact, a certain tone of voice, all our body-language communicates to others in tangible ways.

Over time, what is hidden inside our inner places will overflow into every crack and crevice of our physical lives and relationships: what’s inside will come out.

Understanding this, if my love of wine (or work, or applause) fills up my need for God, I mustn’t be surprised when my body, mind, spirit, and relationships slowly become depleted and dry.

Real life will leak out of all the holes I am trying to fill.

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Enter the season of Lent.

Lent is the time for me to turn around from my own darkening path, and to walk again in the light. It’s not a sentimental turning – it is decisive, and with a cost.

I leave the good things found in wine, or blogging, or exercise, so that I can more expectantly follow Christ, and (re)turn to the real way, the real truth, and the real life.

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Here are a few questions (thanks to Craig R. Higgins, from his article “On Keeping a Holy Lent”) to ask yourself if you are ready to focus on your heart this season.

  • What are my characteristic, habitual sins?
  • What has captured my attention to such a degree that my love for Jesus has grown cold?
  • In what ways is my devotion to Christ and his church less than whole-hearted?
  • Do I give thanks to God after every pleasant occurrence or time?
  • Am I warm, cheerful, sensitive to everyone?
  • Have I thought, or spoken unkindly of anyone?
  • Have I over – or under – eaten, slept, worked, rested?
  • Have I done things just for appearance?  Have I compared myself to others?
  • Have I been fervent in prayer and reading God’s Word?  Is there warmth?

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Don’t be afraid. God’s grace and tender care is infinitely greater than any sin you may unearth in your heart during the season of Lent. He has taken on your every sin, and not in in a sentimental way – it was decisive, and there was a cost. 

Press this into your heart. Our Heavenly Father’s will is being done. Open your eyes this Lent and see it! His way will form us into a celebratory, hospitable, generous, and thankful people who will reflect him rightly to the watching world.

Peace to you in your journey this Lent.

Kim

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If You’re A Needy Mom

In high school, I remember coming home to exactly what I didn’t want to be.

“Guess what I did today?” mom would say, which was my cue to follow her to whatever housekeeping feat she had conquered while I was away.

Depending on the day, the downstairs windows had been washed, or curtains ironed. Laundry for all athletes might have been bleached, socks all sorted. Floors likely had been mopped. And dinner was always bubbling in the oven, made from groceries purchased well before dawn. I was seeing the result of someone not sitting down for even two minutes all day.

Do you want to know my response at seventeen?

Suffice it to say that there was plenty of internal eye-rolling, non-stop fidgeting, and some fake appreciation while I casually checked my phone. Just kidding, I didn’t have a phone in 1986, but if I had, that’s when I would have totally checked it.

I remember wanting her to hurry up, to wrap it up already. Here was my idiot thinking: “This is what moms do! Sheesh – why the big production? Are we almost done? Can I please go now?”

She seemed so needy of praise, and I was so reluctant to give it.

Why? Why? Why?

I thought about that today as I scrubbed my self-cleaning oven. Apparently, the maximum amount of times a self-cleaning oven will clean itself is two. After that, it becomes annoyed that you expect it to do all the work.

I love to cook, and fill every casserole dish, cookie sheet, and chili pot to the absolute brim. So, you can only imagine my oven after the self-cleaning feature crossed her arms and called it quits several years ago.

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I asked my son to take a photo when I was elbow deep in crusty, black grease. I wanted to text it to David (who was surely sitting at his orderly desk, most certainly looking crisp and handsome, in his stunning charcoal suit and mint-green tie…) “Look at me! I’m cleaning our oven! It’s only taken me four hours and I’ve ruined my favorite yoga pants for love of this family!”

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And now I get it.

I’m sorry, mom.

I love you, mom.

I wish I had carefully inspected every square inch of every windowsill you carefully dusted in the lonesome corners. I wish I had smelled the clean towels with huge, deep, appreciative, monster sniffs. I wish I would have burst into the kitchen saying: “Chicken and rice casserole again! My favorite! What can I do to help?”

Of course I wish now that I had offered to help you more: growing up five children is no small feat. But even more, I wish I had better seen the ways you lovingly touched every square inch of our lives and our home.

Little did I know then how needy I would also become. Mothers are a needy bunch, y’all! Our needs can make us desperate, irrational, and shake our confidence. But, do not fear.

Like new copper left to nature’s elements, every mother’s life will also be exposed to weather that will leave her looking nothing like how she began. The many seasons of life will create the most beautiful patina on every woman who throws open the windows of her heart to those she loves.

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My mom’s patina is without comparison, a work of divine art. Take heart, yours will be too.

Press on in faith, love, and (even) oven cleaning,

Kim

Things that start with ‘B’ (if you worry)

My hairdresser asked me last week if I had any New Year’s resolutions?

He had resolved to master Thai cooking, call his mom every day, and get more sleep – excellent ideas all. I told him that I was trying to examine my heart more regularly: I hoped to be a more generous mother, and a kinder wife.

“How do you examine your heart?”  he said.

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If you’ve been wondering the same thing, or would like to start, here’s a mid-week quiz to get you moving in the right direction.

1.  What is it you wish you had more of at this point in life?

a) applause
b) escape
c) comfort
d) security
e) depending on the day, chocolate might be an acceptable answer.

For where your treasure is, sister, there will your heart be also.

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2.  What is it that you fear most right now?

a) being invisible and insignificant
b) being vulnerable or exposed
c) being left behind or left out
d) being mocked or dismissed
e) being poor

Those who know your name will trust in you.  
For you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
In Him, nations will place their hope.

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3.  How much are you worrying?

a) a good bit
b) a great deal
c) all the freakin’ time
d) I worry in my sleep
e) enough for a hundred women!

Who of you by worry can add a single hour to your life?
Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.
Is anything too hard for the LORD?

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4.  Where is it dark or crooked in your life?  

a) my relationship(s)
b) my work
c) my emotional/mental state
d) my addictions/compulsions
e) my past

And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not;
I will lead them in paths that they have not known:
I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight;
These things I will do unto them, I I will not forsake them.

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4.  What burdens you? 

a) the bills
b) my babies, or lack thereof
c) my body
d) my boyfriend
e)  ________ (insert something that starts with a “b”. (please, not ‘boobs’)

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
In the morning, I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation…

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5(a).  Are you listening to God’s living word to you every day?  Y/N

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

5(b). If not, why not?

a) I’d rather be anxious
b) I’d rather be burdened
c) I’d rather be fearful
d) I’d rather be worrying
e) I’d rather be _______ (insert something honest here).

Offer right sacrifices, and trust in the LORD.

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6. What are right sacrifices?

I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me!

Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be filled!

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There is one who sees clearly into our hearts, and still he draws near.

He is not far.

His burden is light.

Rest in his care for you.

Kim

What We’re Like

“In our culture, boys are like gems” he says. “If they get dropped in the mud, it is easy to pick them up and clean them off.”

We are sitting cross-legged on the wood floor, eating from platters piled with rice and fish.

“But, girls in this country are thought to be like cotton balls.” he continues sadly. “If they get dropped in the mud, they can never again get clean.”

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It’s a shock to hear gender roles explained so bluntly. If any warm words have been used to soften the cold facts, they’ve certainly been lost in translation.

I think back to my own muddy teenage years. Many of my actions – willful or mistake – would have rendered me unclean. I’ve had my share of slopping around in the muck.

So much of the world believes a girl’s life to be worth less than her brother’s. Parts of my own western culture also waters the same seed: boys will be boys, and it is the girl’s responsibility to keep herself out of the mud. 

Intuitively, intellectually, spiritually – deep down – we know this is false.

Lie #1: My outward appearance and actions mean everything. I must be careful not to do the things, or associate with people where I might get dirty. I cannot make a mistake and invite unwanted attention. It is up to me to be worthy. It’s up to me to earn respect and love. It’s up to me.

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In response to this deceit, modern society has adopted another ideology that is equally harmful to our women. It is tailored to those of us with more means, education, and freedom. If we were to sit together on my floor in Austin, I might sum it up like this:

“Of course we know our girls are gems! They can do anything they set their minds and hearts to do. A woman’s personal choices are endless – and so girls should be able to get as dirty as the boys without consequence. They should be free to schlep in the mud as they wish, without anyone’s unwanted moral judgment or condemnation.”

We want to believe this, promote this, even fight for this – but it is equally off the mark.

Lie #2: My outward appearance and behavior means nothing. My individual actions have no significant consequences. It is my right – completely in my power – to express myself in any way I see fit. It is society’s duty to always treat me as the gem that I am, no matter how I treat myself. It’s up to me.

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Hope cannot be found exclusively in either one of these philosophies, but in a holy and human mystery of both.

We are all balls of cotton, stained and discolored, unable to clean ourselves from the wrongs we have done to others, and the wrongs that have been done to us.

None of us is perfect.

All of us are a mess.

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In the same way, we are all precious stones: each of us is extraordinary and of great worth. We have been created in love – not to wallow in the mud – but to reflect light for the benefit and beauty of the world.

Each of us is valuable.

Each of us has been made to shine.

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The best news of all is this: when we are all stuck in the mud, Jesus came down and got dirty. The only perfectly clean man became fatally ruined, so that we – male and female – might be re-made eternally new.

Why would he do this?

Because he made us. 

We are precious to him.

He delights over his creation.

There is nothing else we can do to earn more of his love.

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It’s not up to me.

Rest in this kindness and grace.

Kim

Skipping To The End

Sometimes, we need to set aside something really good to enjoy something better.

She lays down her interior design dreams to help him finish his degree. He stays home with the boys so she can pursue her calling. They don’t take a vacation for years to save up for an adopted child. They remain virgins until the wedding vows.

As Christians, there are certain times of the year that suggest we take inventory of our hearts and habits. Advent is one of those seasons: the wonder of the Incarnation shaking us to wake up and pay attention to something better.

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Advent invites questions that should slow me down: What pleasant comforts are lulling me to sleep? What practices are acceptable, but not life-giving? Where am I blind? Deaf? Numb?

We’re not left to figure it all out on our own. Our Brother, who never asks us to do more than he was willing to do, temporarily left the wonder and shalom of the his own Father’s home for something better.

Why? Advent begs that question.

Why would God’s only and beloved son leave the fullness of heaven to grow up as one of many children in a low-income family? Why would the King of all kings leave his throne to become one of the harried, non-elite, working poor?

Advent suggests that we look hard to answer those questions, and also hints that we skip to the end of the story.

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The End: Jesus of Nazareth, born to an unmarried teenage girl, is going to rescue the world, and everything in it.

What the…? How? Why?

Because he made it all, and it all belongs to him. We belong to him.

The End: The Son obeyed his Heavenly Father, and things are not the same.

Because the Son considered it better to suffer and die out of love for his Father, we are marked as Christ’s own forever. Does this fill us with joy? Wonder? Confidence?

The End: We are not alone. 

God’s own life-giving, death-conquering Spirit is alive and well on the earth and in the hearts of all who love him. He is actively moving before and through all things, creating light in the dark, beauty from ashes. 

Let’s wake up now, and join him.

The End: The Bridegroom (Christ) will return for his bride (the Church).

“And he has on his robe and on his thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelations 19)

He is not far off. Can you hear him? He is Faithful and True, the Head of every man.

How will he find us when he comes?

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Peace to you, as you joyfully wait for the Bridegroom, your Savior.

Kim

PS. This Advent season, I am setting aside my on-line writing to make a little more room…see you in January.