All I need is You

I had a dream last night where I was preaching at a church about Lent.  It was a really vivid dream which is why it caught my attention – my dreams aren’t usually that vivid.  The sanctuary I was in was one I’ve never seen before and it was weird.  On the level where I stood there weren’t really that many seats.  But there was a balcony that came out pretty far that was packed full with people.  After I finished preaching we went into a coffee hour and even that was clear.
I don’t know what this dream means – probably nothing, but Lent is coming up.  It’s been a while since I’ve addressed Lent here, so maybe that’s all the dream mean, let’s talk about Lent.
Some background on my faith journey and Lent – in my house growing up we were always encouraged to give something up for Lent.  I honestly have no idea why.  We didn’t go to church regularly, I didn’t know what Lent really was other than that it meant on Fridays I wasn’t allowed to eat meat.  Coincidentally the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced happened because of some bad fish I ate on a Friday because of Lent.
It was never explained to me what we were doing, I just knew my mom would “suggest” something for me to give up.  Usually it was chocolate or soda.  And then on Easter Sunday after we did our Easter Egg hunt I was allowed to consume all the chocolate or soda or whatever that I wanted.
As I grew up and started to walk with God on my own, I rebelled against Lent because of my childhood of not understanding it.  When one of our youth interns talked about giving things up for Lent I would always roll my eyes because in my mind giving something up for 40 days meant nothing.  So I gave up chocolate, I could still have a variety of other candy that was just as good.  In my teenage youth I saw friends give up things for 40 days as a hope to be “healthier” which in teenage talk 9 times out of 10 means skinnier.  Lent seemed so manipulative to me.  It still had no real meaning.
Until I moved to Kansas City to start an internship.  Within my first month there the senior pastor challenged the congregation to a season of fasting and praying for our church and its impact on the community.  He challenged us to pick a level of fasting that would be sacrificial to us and spend the 40 days in prayer and fasting – seeking direction.
The youth staff decided to do the Daniel Fast.  If you’ve never heard of it – look it up.  It’s intense.  Although maybe not if you have ever done Whole30 or Paleo or anything like that.  But to me, it was torture.  It was unbelievable hard, every bit of food or drink that went in my mouth had to be scrutinized.  It changed the way our staff interacted with each other.  The lack of coffee to this caffeine addicted lady was rough.
But throughout the time of Lent we were encouraged to remember why we were doing it, in solidarity with Jesus and his 40 days in the wilderness.  To remember that there are times when we need to press in, to sacrifice our comfort in order to hear from God.
That season of Lent was the hardest I’ve ever endured.  But it was also incredibly fruitful.  I dealt with a lot of things in those 40 days and heard from God in some really tangible ways.
Since then, I’ve viewed Lent differently.  I haven’t always done as significant of a Fast but I’ve always tried to challenge myself to take something up that challenge me in my faith.
All this to say, I’m not judging you if you are giving up chocolate for Lent.  Instead I’m challenging you to know why you are giving it up.  In what tangible way is giving it up going to pull you closer to God.  Lent is not about denying yourself for the sake of denying yourself.  Or to see how strong your will power is – it’s about pushing into your relationship with the Creator of the Universe and being able to hear his voice clearer, freer from the distractions of this world than you are in other seasons.
So – What are we doing for let this year?  Share here in the comments and lets encourage one another!

I've learned to slam on the breaks before I even turn the key

I’ve never really had any phobias.  As a child I prided myself in not being scared of things.  I was in no way a daredevil, but I also wasn’t afraid of snakes, spiders, heights or other things the kids my age were afraid of.  Turns out I was also not that afraid of getting in trouble either.

For most of my childhood, we lived in a neighborhood that was a big circle and at the base of the two streets was a cul-de-sac.  Along the edge of that cul-de-sac was a line of pine trees that was our boundary.  We could play anywhere in the neighborhood as long as we stayed on this side of those trees.  Because just beyond those trees was the highway – Route 17.  But, along Route 17 was a gas station and the only thing we needed to do was cut through the trees, walk along a little path and then we had access to ice cream, candy and all the pop we could dream of drinking. 

But of course, the gas station was off limits unless we were with an adult – it was past our boundary.  But I wasn’t scared. At the ripe old age of 8 or 9, I thought I had it all together.  I could lead the crowd of kids to the gas station no problem.  The reward was far greater than the risk of getting caught. 

I look back now and see how ridiculous I was – in a world where we hear about car accidents, abductions and millions of other things going wrong within moments of them happening, I see now how foolish I was as a spunky little kid. 

Of course I did get caught.  Of course I did get punished.  And the punishment worked – I never went back to the gas station just beyond the trees that became my boundary.  For the remainder of my time on Sherwood Dr, I didn’t go past that boundary.

As we grew up, as we moved around the boundaries my parents put on us changed.  And the spunky kid in me never really changed, I constantly challenged those boundaries.  But because we lived in a small town and everyone new my mom – I got caught… a lot. 

Although somewhere along the way, I started to lose my spunk.  The courage that had always been inside of me started to slip away.  I cared more about what others thought of me.  I cared more about whether or not I was making my parents proud.  My boundaries became firmer and less negotiable. 

In some ways, it was a good thing.  I started living in ways that would make my parents proud, never stepping out of the boundaries set for me. 

In other ways, it was debilitating.  Somewhere around middle school or high school I became hyper aware of what others thought of me.  I think some of it was knowing that I was different from my peers in a lot of ways.  All I wanted to do was fit in with everyone else.  I let other people set the boundaries for my actions. 

I began living out of fear.  The fear of losing something that I thought I could obtain by staying in the lines.  Sometimes it was stability I was craving, or approval, or to simply not be the one always sticking out like a sore thumb.  That fear began to rule my life. 

It wasn’t until I was in Seminary that I started to see that fear had become the ruler of my life. 

I’ve started to realize that I am at my best when surrounded by the people who love me the most/best.  I am able to fully be that confident somewhat crazy woman I was created to be.  I think we all know that to be true, but I’m realizing that the fear that’s dictating my life has also created my own glass ceiling.  It makes me afraid to ask for what I know I’m worth.  It makes me afraid to put myself on the line because I’m afraid of what could happen. 

I’m learning to manage that fear.  I’m learning to do a gut check and see what I’m really feeling at any given moment.  Am I afraid because the risk doesn’t seem worth the reward?  Or am I afraid because the risk is known but the reward is unknown? 

It’s easy to take a leap when we know the reward outweighs the risk.  But what if we don’t know what the reward will be?  Can we still take the jump?  Am I capable of crossing the boundary someone else put up for me when I don’t know what’s on the other side?

time to check in

I’m a bit behind because I was gone for a week at a pastor’s conference followed immediately by a MS retreat.  Because of that I’m also behind on my listening to Lead Stories Podcast, so today’s #TuesdaysinLeadership will be looking a little different.
Last week I got to spend a week in Louisville, KY for our denominations annual pastor’s conference.  The theme of the week was leadership which was exactly what I needed to hear about.  As I’ve been listening to Lead Stories and engaging conversations surrounding leadership, I find myself trying to pour into myself but not quite knowing how to go about that.  I didn’t have a game plan per say.  I had thoughts and different topics to write about, but nothing to really pour out into my own life.
Then I went to Louisville.  I entered a weekend of learning alongside of a group of youth pastors who are a combination of new friends and dear old friends.  I found a new tribe among my peers in my area.  I invested in some relationships that needed that extra foundation.  After the weekend of youth workers connecting, the hotel filled with more pastors from all over the US and Canada.  I entered into convos with friends who have known me for over a decade and with those I’ve never met before.
I’m taking away a lot from the week, a lot of things to process in my life.  But one of the things I’m taking away the most is the need to be more intentional with those around me – my colleagues.
I need to cut the phrase “We should hang out” and actually plan times to be with people.
I need to read more books on leadership and challenge myself more.
I need to be praying (more) fervently over my ministry areas.
I need to be pouring into others in leadership – mentoring and guiding.
I need to be poured into from others in leadership – mentored and guided.
So I guess this post is more like a declaration of intent – I’ve found the holes in myself when it comes to my leadership and I’m figuring out how to fill them up.
Where do you need to fill up?  How does that look in your context?