day 3: the unexpected journey

Today, we celebrated journeychurch.

Journey. It could not be a more fitting word.

In so many ways, our existence in South Carolina is anchored to this place, these people, this mission.

We celebrated so hard today that I’m pretty tired, and there isn’t much I can write that I haven’t already, just…

In South Carolina, our home is journey, our friends are at journey, our family is at journey.

We thought it was going to look different. We thought moving to Myrtle Beach was going to mean an anchor to positive and Christian entertainment, the opportunity for Rod and I to work together every day and get paid for it, a chance to perform, create, promote, succeed.

In a matter of months, that journey was over for us. That dream was gone. But the unexpected part was how the work, the mission, the ability of the local church- of a vibrant, dynamic, growing, Spirit-led, truth-teaching, real-hug-giving, loving, let’s-do-this-like-Jesus-did-it church, became the place for us to, well…

perform… create… promote… succeed… in a totally different way, for Jesus.

We have grown up in our faith here. Our children will grow up in every way here.

However unexpected and different the journey is, we are grateful for it and in love with it.
journeynow

 

day 2: there is no box

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to drown out the voices of culture, scholars, politics, and myself, on the subject of Jesus.

I want to know what HE said. No more, no less.

What did Jesus say when He was on earth?

How does it apply to our complicated society?

What does it mean for all the subjects and situations I find important?

I have started several books recommended to me by people I trust and respect. (Once a veracious reader, I am now an expert on reading articles and starting books. ’tis the season).  They are good books, but they, too, come with some agenda when it comes to the person and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Last night, a prophet spoke to me. I had shared with him the day prior my desire to know the heart of the Savior.

And through this prophet, Jesus said back to me, “I want something deeper with you. You’ve only known the idea of Me. I want you to know ME.”

Folks, I’ve been singing “Jesus Loves Me” since I was 4 years old. IN church. KNOWING the Bible stories. TEACHING the Bible stories. Absentmindedly humming the songs whilst grocery shopping or in line for a roller coaster. I’ve lived a pretty Jesus-y life. But I know those words are true. I don’t know Him like I want to know Him.

And I’m ready.

~

Yesterday was a marathon. From the start of the day (and whoa, did we all have Halloween-candy-hangovers to begin with), I went from one definitive, must get done activity to the next. This included my annual review at work, and let me tell you, like most things that have blown my mind about working in the business and ministry of church, it was a profound and touching experience… because we opened in prayer and my boss and I both cried, because the two smart, experienced, pastors reviewing me talked about the potential God has for me.

I also got to have lunch with a friend whom I don’t get to visit with very often. She and daughter run Miranda’s dance studio. And as I told my friend, I’m a little obsessed with their family… three grown daughters who are so fun and talented and lovely. They have walked through unbelievable emotional highs and lows this year, and in particular, this last month, and it was precious to sit across from her in a crowded restaurant and cry together and rejoice together in how God’s love has carried them through and been a light in dark times that everyone around them can see.

You know, there were also errands, and cleaning, and after-school-crazy-time with the girls, and then finally, opening the door to the 22 people who came last night. I’m tired y’all, and everyone else is miraculously still asleep this rainy Saturday morning. But I woke up at 7:30 and got over my own self, and took my favorite Bible, one that is almost 20 years old with the cover hanging off, and began to read the words of Jesus.

What strikes me in the first passages I have read is how Jesus called people to Him. In Matthew 4:17, He says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

So simple. So direct.jesusbox

So void of tasks.

Is anyone else struck by what He didn’t say?

Part of what has gotten me so frustrated with Christian culture is the lists. We take secular entities and try to fit them into our spirit walk. It’s very American, and I think very fruitless. Now I am not saying different people don’t need different boundaries because of their struggles, or maybe their fears. I respect that. But respectfully, I say to my fellow believers in Jesus:

He would eat at Chic-fil-A, but he would also shop at Target and eat rainbow Oreos.

He hung with tax collecting crooks and downtrodden losers and active whores… before they changed one bit.

In fact, as my wise and observant husband pointed out to me two days ago (and I read this morning!) when Jesus began to build His team, when He called the first disciples, He said to them:

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4: 19

Note the sequence. He didn’t say, “Get your tattoos lasered off, quit smoking, stop cussing, clean the wine out of your refrigerator, clean all those soapy sex dramas off your DVR, tell your gay and Catholic and Democrat friends you can’t be seen in public with them, then come find me.”

Oh, don’t mistake me: I know Jesus calls us to change our lives and become more like Him.

But I think we gravely, for as long as I remember learning about Jesus, mistake Who and How and What He is.

Part of the reason I want to read all of His words is because I have a theory. I’m sure others have discovered and written about this theory, but it’s a personal journey for me.

My theory is that Jesus doesn’t fit in the box I’ve been shown, that He doesn’t care about all this “stuff” we’ve made rules and marches for, that His love is better, greater, deeper, wider, much less discriminating and much more redeeming than we have ever ever ever allowed ourselves to fathom.

My thankfulness today? Bosses who pray, friends who testify, husbands with wisdom, and a Savior who does not live in a tiny, conservative, American box. After all, even a grave could not hold Him.

day 1: greater things

greaterFor a moment tonight, I thought it best that instead of blogging every day of November, I should use that time to pray.

And then someone very close to me suggested that instead of replacing one with the other, I need to do both.

I know that my life (all our lives) go in cycles of valleys and mountains, defeats and victories, struggles and successes, being lost and being found.

So I am sure if I searched the contents of this digital, running memoir, I’d find these words at least once in my recent past:

Greater things have yet to come.

It is in my heartbeat. That phrase is one I use to encourage others, because I believe that no matter what we have seen, we still haven’t seen our best days. On a general human level, there is always hope that things are going to be better.

And on a spiritual level, the truth is, our home is not this time, this world, and so obviously, our best days are in the future, when we are joined with our Creator.

Tonight, we hosted 22 people in our home, all of whom were either pastors or church elders.

For four hours, we ate, we shared, we laughed and cried, we encouraged each other, and we prayed.

For several minutes, Rod and I had the privilege of being on the receiving end of that encouragement.

What was the resounding message?

You ain’t seen nothing get.

You are accepted and gifted.

You aren’t meant for the bench.

God wants something greater with you.

God will do greater things through you.

Get ready.

This is not a message solely for us, nor do I share it to boast on anything except for God’s grace.

As I said to a new friend at the end of this meeting, Rod and I were just two dirty sinners. Who’d ever have thought we’d not only host pastors in our home, but be pastors? Religion told us there was a glass ceiling for how much God could use us, and a finite amount of his grace. Love tells us that God’s plans for us aren’t limited by anything but our willingness.

I choose to accept the grace.

I choose to receive the prophecy.

I choose to get ready for the something greater that is coming.

In this special time of year when so many of us “count down” gratefulness, tonight I am grateful for the infinite grace, which does not, as some fear, entice me to settle for a life of sin, but rather, calls me to a life of walking with Him, confident that the best is within my reach.

So, what are you guys doing now?

We used to do this all the time.

Get up early and drive. Be dressed just so. Have a set list. Prepare a short, mental list of goals. Buck up. Settle the children. Smile and act naturally. Respond to the canned questions and comments with canned answers.

singingWe called it ministry. We usually did it 3 weekends out of four. But this kind of ministry… a “singing” at a church on a Sunday morning… well, it’s been two years since the last time.

We were glad for the opportunity; it was for a friend, it was local, it would be fun. And simply put: there is a difference in doing ministry like YOUR life depends on it as opposed to doing it like perhaps someone else’s life does. We didn’t need a minimum or even a morale boost. It was simply, “We get to visit a church and Rod’s gonna sing and hopefully lead some people to worship in a new way. Cool!”

We have friends who still do this travel-and-minister thing because they are called. Our calling for it left us without much ado in a season when God pretty much stripped us of all our creature comforts, even our work. IMG_4162It was strange to wake up and realize, “Hmmm…. We don’t do that anymore,” without there being a press release or any dramatic show of it. In the mean time, He’d replaced our calling with something new. At first, I thought it was smaller: because it mostly takes place within our local church (our beloved, spectacularly awesome local church). And lately, I realize it’s bigger.

See, with a message of grace and a method of integrity, and an “Event” that didn’t ask permission or strive to stroke egos or be fancy, we had a specific goal… I’m not sure we reached it, but I know we forged new relationships that have lasted and had impact and meaning, and that’s probably even better.

We were seeking to change an industry.

Now, we simply seek to change the world.

I could cower from that and decide it’s too arrogant to write. But I don’t think so.

deanna

Not when a friend of mine who started a magazine out of her kitchen last year will be seeing it on the shelves of Barnes and Noble this year. Not when my friend retired from an illustrious and exhausting career as a teacher and found his second act in Habitat for Humanity.

And then there are the life changers I see every day around me: the ones who drop everything and pray for their bankers and doctors… the ones who take meals to strangers who have sickness in the family… the ones who stay with their friend’s mother so their friend can go to church or out to dinner… the ones who give away couches and TVs and beds to people they’ve never met… the ones who move a farick guatemala copymily in the pouring rain just because someone asked… the ones who look at people who are hurting, lost, confused, or lonely and call them by name, and aren’t afraid to hug them, and show them that people still care about people.

Yeah. That’s how we change the world.

I don’t know what my/our “next act” is. Sometimes I still get restless. I love hearing my husband sing more than just about everything. And I love new opportunities to share my writing with others. And make no mistake… I do get that temporary high off of a success, off of recognition. But that is not where I live anymore. Are we doing something of value? Are we helping people get what they need? Are we loving like Jesus? Those are the questions that guide our ministry… and that ministry starts with our own family, our marriage, our kids, our parents, before it works its way outward.

burtons2013

We did not step down or step back or retire. We did not accept a lesser position. We did not leave the ‘limelight’ for the local church. We still sing for Jesus. We still sacrifice to reach out. We still strive to keep the spotlight on the message. We’re still here… following Him. He is leading in places different than we expected. He is surrounding us with people who stayed or came along the way. He is here… every time one of us commits an act of love in His name.

Jesus, help me to love my neighbor even if I don’t understand or agree with her. Help me to find as much satisfaction in cleaning the office toilets as I do in great conversation. Help me to listen more than talk when I pray. Help me to sing my own song with You as my audience. Help me to be kind and patient and helpful and sincere, and not just waiting for my turn. Help me to follow Your lead, whether it leads me to a big stage, a small corner, or something I haven’t even imagined yet. Help me to let go of the past and the people who stayed there and appreciate what and who is in my life right now. Help me to be more like You! Amen.

new, old, silver, gold

Disclaimer: I did my best with pix. I could have spent 20 years on those… ;)

It’s no surprise that I have a heart after friendship, so much that even celebs I’ve never met feel like part of my circle… like, I just know that Johnny Cash and I are going to be BFFs in Heaven…

cashBFF

I fall for people hard, and I protect my friendships ferociously. And because of our travels for a few years, and the miracle (yes, miracle) of the Internets, I have friends I have 1) Never met in person, 2) Might never see again, 3) ‘Talk’ to nearly every day but rarely hear their voices or see them.

And you know what? That’s not always enough.

Looking back now, I realize that when I moved away from my very, very comfortable, in-person circle, even though I said I wanted to make new friends, I had a wall up.

And then it came down.

And then, I spent months being disappointed, disillusioned, left out, rejected, etc, because …

well, because I expected for my new friends to be just like my old friends.

Last week, my sweet hubs posted this song for me. It’s by 2 celebs who would probably be my friends <smile>. I have loved their duets since I was a child (c’mon, ’80s children… you know you belted “Islands in the Stream” in the backseat of your mom’s car and the front seat of your own…No? Just me?).

The song is called, “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” and it’s sung by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

The message to me: you can’t rush intimacy. You can’t rush history.

But you know what else? You can’t erase it either.

My old friends? They’re still my friends. We can pick up where we left off. We can celebrate and share burdens across miles. We can reminisce just like always, and on special occasions, we can still have nights to remember.

My new friends? We are creating history. Today we share the laughs that will be next year’s inside jokes. Today we meet each other’s kids and parents and learn each other’s stories so that 10 years from now, we can recall them and say, “Remember?”

To the old friends who remain,
…the ones from kindergarten, the ones from college,the ones from teaching, the ones from the mommy-ing, the ones from the gospel years…
I cherish you. I always will.

 oldfriends

To the new friends who are along for the ride…
…the ones who have gathered around our table or shared your own, the ones who have loved my kids, the ones who visited the hospital, the ones who stand barefoot in the backyard, the sisters and brothers who’ve seen me laugh, cry, sweat, squirm, and flourish in these last 2.5(!!) years,

newfriends
I cherish you.  And I sure hope some of you are fixin’ to be my old friends.

To my best friend, who has added brother, sister, girlfriend, shopping partner, mommy date, and so many other roles to his Husband, Love, Best Friend, Partner In All Things status during various times since May 2011~

bffs_2013

you’re still the best.