There is Coming a Mighty Season of Full Restoration {...thoughts on grace and gospel...}

I wish I could communicate to you the sweetness of tonight.  I am living a dream I have not earned and do not deserve.

{experiencing community through the sharing of a meal is one of God's best gifts - one Christ died to give us!}

As The Preacher and I fellowshipped with our young friends tonight, we talked about their upcoming wedding ceremony and the way they want it conducted.  We also talked about how our daughter Sarah and her husband Jonathan and their two baby girls spent the first night in their new home directly across from us.  Right next to that home, lives my other daughter -  her identical twin sister Hannah and her husband Justin and their precious little boy.

As of today, the Preacher and I have three of our four grand babies across the street.  

After a sumptuous dinner of paella and bread and wine, after fellowship and prayer and winding up this couple's final pre-marriage counseling, we invited them to walk across the cul-de-sac with us, and join us in praying a blessing over Jonathan and Sarah's new home.

They had already built the first wood fire that fireplace has seen (after removing the old gas logs) and we all gathered in close and spent some time in prayer.  Tim and I were surrounded by our natural children, by a young couple that we love as though they were our own children - they truly are spiritual children - and our grandchildren.

Friends, I don't care who you are....that is a moment.  That is the fruit of lives lived fully committed to the Gospel of the finished work of Christ.

I had Justin grab this candid shot for me - as the prayer was winding up in the dimly-lit room, the vintage console record player was playing some long-forgotten swing tunes, and my Preacher and our soon-to-be-married young friends, and our children and grandchildren stood chatting...and by chatting, I mean they were literally recounting the blessings of God and basking in the sweet presence of the Lord that already fills that home.

Then, the four of us - my Preacher, our friends, and me walked (walked!!!!) back up to my home and we gathered dishes up in the kitchen, and said our goodbyes to them on our front porch, as the waterfall made its ever-soothing sounds in the background.

Their wedding day is only two weeks away, so this night was beyond poignant and special - complete with my giving the bride a very special gift...something very personal, from me to her....something so perfect for her.  {wink, wink}

I wish I could show you how it felt to say goodbye to those young house guests...and then to stand in our own doorway, arms around each other, looking across the street at the glow of the lights in the two homes of our two grown daughters and their husbands and children.  To peek in the window to our left and see Hannah and Justin busy putting Timothy to bed....and then to look straight across and see the embers of the Howe family fireplace glowing still, as they put their baby girls to bed for the night.

"All this, because two people fell in love"....that's only HALF the truth.

"All this, because God is good and He gives manifold grace upon grace upon grace."  That about sums it up.

This is the kind of goodness God wants to lavish upon you, if you will just believe the Gospel.  Your works of obedience will not earn you this depth of lavish blessing.  It will be by grace through faith.  We Atchleys...Howes....McConnells....Trenthams....we are not His favorites.  What He has done for us, He will do for you.  The sweetness we experienced tonight, He wants to pour out in churches all over this city and around the world.

The grace of God enables us to live in community well, friends.

Tonight was a good, good night...and just the first fruits of a sweet, sweet life.

I have not earned it.  I do not deserve it.

But here I am.

On Mother's Day and Honor's Wounded Blessing {...for MOST, this relationship needs some healing...}

That day when I humbled myself and acknowledged that my mom had always loved me.

{...even with her own wounded places, and now me with my wounded places, and I am certain my grown children all have their wounded places...}

That day when I humbled myself and acknowledged that my mom had always loved me every bit as much as I love my own children. That day when I realized that I didn't have to re-parent myself, that it wasn't all about me anyway, that my mother was allowed to raise me the best she could with the knowledge she had.

That day, years ago, when I owned up to the fact that, regardless of my perceptions, or her mistakes, or our collective brokenness, there was never a day when I was not loved by her as much as I loved my own babies.  Never. a. day.  

That was the day I grew up....exponentially.   

That was the day I appropriated the kind of Gospel that gets up inside my brain and renews my old patterns and transforms my thinking and re-writes history. That was the day I walked free. That was the day I stopped being the victim in a universe that revolved around my imagined (and real) offenses.

That was the day I, myself, became a woman capable of living in healthy community with the family of God, as well as my own family.  That was the day I, myself, became a leader.

It was pretty revolutionary.  And I am the Queen of Understatement.

Seems like almost everyone has "mother issues" these days.  I wonder if it isn't almost fashionable to bash mothers and mothers-in-law.  

On the side of compassion - if that is you, if there is some woundedness in that relationship, you are not alone.  In my experience, we are the majority.  And we can minister and administer such grace to one another!

But when there is bitterness?  When you are "the victim"?  When there is resentment and when the relationship takes on a punitive tone?  (when, in your mind, you are finding ways to put a parent "in her place", or withhold in the relationship) Sometimes, there can be a deep disconnect with the concept of femininity itself at the root of all the complaining.

Consider that.

It ain't healthy, that's all I am going to say.  When my female-ness makes up half of the image of Very God - it becomes high time to respect femininity, even in its fallen state.  There is a lot of strength and good to be found there.

That day I quit judging my mother, and found fresh respect for myself.  For all women.

For you, the "that day" I speak of, can be today.  Whether you are sixteen or sixty, you can truly find yourself with a new lease on life, when you choose honor in what may at one time have been a difficult relationship.  And may I add, whether that parent is living or dead.  In fact, if they are gone and beyond the sound of your voice, it might be more important for you to hold a space of honor for them in your heart, always.

It's one week away, friends. Mother's Day is a week away.  Never forget: the road to true prosperity is paved with authentic honoring of your father AND your mother. I love how God didn't leave our momma out of the command.  

Mothers everywhere...adoptive mothers, biological mothers, spiritual mothers...may I tell are not an afterthought. Given any kind of halfway normal family dynamic (assuming your mother didn't send anyone to the hospital in a fit of rage) and especially if your mother was as wildly imperfect as I was (and am) as a parent, God totally expects a mother's children, grown or not, to honor her.

                                       (this original, as well as a giclee, is available in my shop)

Do You Love What Christ Loves? {...Christ loves His Church...}

(..the front door of our church, where I am a devoted member of the body and bride of Christ..)

"Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet." (Acts 4)

Can I share with you why Barnabus - that wise, generous, encouraging leader of substantial means - why he went through the apostles in his giving?

Ask yourself: why didn't Barnabus just give directly to people he knew were in need?  He was a grown man, he owned property, he had worked hard, he had means, he didn't have to let anybody "be the boss of him".  I am certain he knew that church leadership was flawed, sometimes.  So why did this great man - obviously very wise - why did he go through church leadership?

Because Barnabus was a leader. And true leaders will never cut and run...and they will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook...and a true leader would never exploit their means or their  influence. 

In short, Barnabus lived in the fear of the Lord.  Barnabus did not want people to look at him and think, "Wow. Barnabus is amazing. And if he ever needs anything from me, he's got it."

Barnabus wanted people to look at the Bride and think, "Wow. The church is amazing. The Bride is incredible - and this thing God is doing in the earth is worth my sacrificial offering of time, talent, and treasure, too!"

Short testimony: We have lived this at Harvest Church.  I won't say who, or when, but not so long ago, a family in our church was blessed to rent a large home they could never have otherwise afforded...because a couple in our church came to the leadership of Harvest and told the leadership FIRST that they wanted to rent their beautiful home to a certain family for the same amount they were used to paying for what was a dump, by comparison.   

It is an incredible story of provision and blessing, and it was done in a very book of Acts style. To this day, there are no strings attached on this home, or the family renting it. It was just quietly done. And it went through leadership, because this couple would rather others look at the Bride and gasp at HER beauty.

Of all things God made, animal, vegetable, and mineral...people are His favorite.  And of all the people of the earth, His church is His very favorite.  

How are you spending your time, talent, and treasure?  A beautiful Bride is the glory of her Groom - she makes His praise glorious.  Me, all by myself, I do not constitute "the bride of Christ".  You, all by yourself, and however much Jesus loves you (and He does...far more than you know...) you do not constitute "the Bride".

Why not invest in what Christ died to obtain?