Archive for the ‘Beth’ Category

The Identity Crisis of My Life

I think it’s time to say something. I’m going to keep it pretty short because I’m not ready to go long on it. Still processing it. Still trying to figure things out. One day maybe I’ll write on it with some length and depth but not until God has done a longer and deeper work in me.

I’ve been through the identity crisis of my adult life in the last year. No exaggeration. It has been one of the most excruciating things I have ever endured. After a lifetime of belonging – which, in itself, betrays a certain privilege – I tumbled into a season marked by the most alien sense of unbelonging. Some of it was imagined. Some of it was startlingly real. Some of it was temporary. Some of it painfully endures. I disappointed people I’d so wanted to please and I was disappointed by people I demanded to be heroic. In some very painful respects, I’d given the benefit of the doubt where I shouldn’t have and withheld it in a few places worthy of it.

Numbers of us who’d previously aligned and agreed – not on everything but on enough – were cracking and crumbling. Some people I thought I knew felt like strangers to me and I, to them. Each of us Christian, some of us would talk and talk and truly attempt to understand one another only to hang up or walk away exasperated, incapable of grasping the other’s view. New teams were forming and I felt like I was slipping on ice, scrambling to find the right one.  The one that would always be right on everything.

A fog had cleared that I couldn’t cloud back up.  I saw things I couldn’t unsee and, for a while, a dark cloud descended where that fog had been. I had the unshakable sense that, though it was dark, I was not to shut my eyes. That I’d see more in that dark place than I’d seen in years of sun-up.

Still navigating some of it. Still trying to keep my eyes open.

And mostly to things that need changing in myself. Ways I’ve been kidding myself. Ways I’ve been part of the problem instead of the solution. Ways I’ve been a coward. A people pleaser. A crowd pleaser. Ways I’ve been acceptably Christian in many circles maybe, but not Christlike. Make no mistake. There can be a wide gulf fixed between those two things.

My entire identity has been steeped in the church. In a people, not bricks and mortar. Started serving the church in 6th grade when I’d graduated out of VBS and began helping the grown ups. Church has been good to me, a harbor amid the stormy unstable home life of my upbringing. I have no horror stories about church. I’ve known love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace and growth in each congregation and never loved a church more than the one I’m presently part of. I can’t imagine life without church. I will serve it till I die.

But my identity is having to be reshaped in Christ alone. He alone cannot change. He alone remains unswayed. He alone is Savior. He alone can take the pressure of being adored. Everyone else we set up high is just another Humpty Dumpty waiting to fall.

I am sanguine to the bone. I love a group. I love my friends. I love my associates. I love familiarity. I love knowing what to expect and getting it. I love being able to fill in a sentence like this with confidence: I am a ____________________.

But the only label I know for certain I want to wear is this one: Jesus-follower. I want to go with Jesus. When pilgrimage gets to be a group fare, fabulous. Nothing is more fun to me. But when pilgrimage with Him requires more aloneness or more traversing with unfamiliar sojourners who make me feel awkward, that has to be just fine, too.

I want to do people good. I want to go to those margins where people need the gospel most. I want to love. Sacrifice. Wrestle. Change. I don’t just want to go where I feel like I belong. I just want to go where Jesus points.

Months into this ridiculous identity crisis, it turns out I didn’t lose as many friends or as much community as I feared. But what I lost was my naivety.

Good riddance I guess. Good but hard riddance.

I want to be brave for the sake of the gospel. Too much is at stake and too many people dying and suffering to take the cheap route. This was meant all along to cost us something.

Maybe fitting isn’t the point. The fact is, we don’t fit here. We fit someplace we’ve never been. Maybe the holes we feel in our lives aren’t all supposed to be filled. Let them sit there awhile and ache. Let them sit there awhile and speak. Maybe they’ve got something to say.

 

 

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Is this it? Is this what Jesus meant?

The following article is a tweaked version of a message I gave recently. It’s something God has really been pressing on me in recent months in my personal time of prayer and Bible study. I cannot shake it. I can’t shake the feeling that He may be waiting for many of us to admit to our dissatisfaction and lift our chins toward heaven and have guts enough to ask, “Is this it, Lord? Is what we are seeing of the work of Your Holy Spirit all we can expect? Is this what You meant?”

If it is, then may God give peace and acceptance and understanding to those of us who are unsettled. But, what if our dissatisfaction isn’t inappropriate? What if it’s God-stirred? What if it has nothing to do with cynicism? What if God is sitting on His Throne, shaking His head with our willingness to accept so little evidence of His promises and He’s waiting for a number of us to say, “Is this all we can expect of the outpouring of Your Spirit in our day and in our part of the world?”

We’ve seen drops. Even seen a few showers but I’ve taken longer showers than those on a Monday morning running late for work.

I just keep staring at accounts of those early Jesus followers then into the mirror, bewildered over the dissimilarities.

Hebrews 10:32-39, for example.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38  but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. 

And Acts 5:27-29 and 40-42.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 

40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. 

This is our heritage. The early followers of Jesus were unstoppable and not just unstoppable in works but unstoppable in faith and unceasing in joy. Do we look joyful to us? But what was given to them that drove their unstoppable work, unstoppable faith and unstoppable joy is the exact same thing we have been given.

Same exact Savior. Same Holy Spirit. “The promised Holy Spirit” (Eph.1:13) whose indwelling power turned fumbling followers of Jesus into unstoppable forces of the Kingdom of the living Christ. My daily Bible reading has recently had me in the pages of Jeremiah. The twelfth chapter records the prophet Jeremiah registering a complaint with God. He’d done so earlier and received reassurance from God. This time, God met Jeremiah’s complaint with a different response:

“If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? (Jer. 12:5)

Something about it rang true to me concerning our present Christian atmosphere here in the west. We’re so preoccupied competing with one another for the spotlight that the real darkness rages on undeterred. We have lost our tolerance for discomfort and renamed it pain. And we have upgraded pain to torture. The least insult and we cry persecution. Because we react to every day frustration at a 10, when we encounter real opposition and oppression, we’ve got nothing left. We’re too exhausted from carrying our purses to move mountains. I don’t think we meant to be reduced to this. We were just picnicking by the brook of culture, wading knee deep when the flood came and engulfed us. We’ve had an outpouring alright but it’s the spirit of the world.

The thing is, we like it. It offers instant pain relief for our paper cuts and microphones for our ceaseless opinions. And, anyway, why get ourselves all scratched up in the thicket when we can perform in costumes on stage?

We’ve atrophied in our affluence. In some respects our quality of life has diminished our quantity of Spirit. We need less so we pray less, plead for less, believe for less, live for less. I’m not proposing we go sell everything we have but I am proposing we not sell our souls to everything we have.

The earth is quaking with peril. Injustice abounds and we throw it pennies and post selfies doing it. We’re preoccupied with our race against one another while the eyes of heaven search the earth for servants of Elijah’s ilk willing to pay the price, pray earnestly for rain with such fiery faith that, at the sight of the first fist-sized cloud, they’d run like the wind, leaving the chariots of the world’s proud and mighty in clouds of dust.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently…” (James 5:16b-17a)

We’ve lost our tolerance for pain and given way to whining and it does not look good on us. But here’s the question that keeps needling at me: Could it be possible that our habitual whining is the result of failing to wail when we should have? There’s stuff to wail about. The condition of the world, the sufferings of the masses, the hemorrhaging of the truth and the colossal loss of Christlikeness in the church are wail-worthy. What would happen if there was less long term whining and more rightly timed wailing?

Over the course of the last five years, one of the things I believe God has consistently made clear to me is that He’d require more in my later years than less.  Coasting was out of the question. If I wanted to teach and minister under an increasing anointing, for instance, or bear fruit more profusely or see bona fide breakthroughs in the Body of Christ and true wonders of God in the midst of ministry, I’d have to press in further, go deeper with Him in His Word, get bolder in love, service, prayer and get mightier in battle. Humbler in spirit. Some of the need for pressing in further as time goes on can probably be explained by Revelation 12:12. Satan is furious because he knows his time is short. Each generation will either get stronger in battle or sink further and further into defeat. But I also think God’s increased requirement was for my good. What once came a little easier, I’d now have to fight for. I’d have to want it desperately. Cry out for it.

This has been the gift of my older age, not the curse. I bring it up only because I wonder if I’m not the only one to whom Jesus is, in effect, saying, “It’s going to take more than this.”

John the Baptizer said Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

But where IS our fire? Where IS the Holy Spirit?

It LOOKS like the Holy Spirit.

It SOUNDS like the Holy Spirit.

It often ACTS like the Holy Spirit.

But here’s the pertinent question: Does it WORK like the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is effectual. His work bears abundant, lasting fruit.

I keep reading and reading the New Testament. I keep studying those early followers, noting how the Holy Spirit looked on them and operated through them. I don’t think this is it. I think we’re settling for woefully less than Jesus promised us He’d do. He is unfailingly faithful so He’s not the problem. Where are the “greater works than these” among us? Don’t tell me they were meant for those first followers alone. I won’t believe you and I won’t because I don’t think the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation supports it.  We’ve lowered the bar and exchanged the spring of living water for the spiked Kool Aid of cool cultural Christianity.

Yes, it is incumbent upon us to be relevant because we are not the church of a century ago. We are the church here and now. But what will make us relevant is the fact that our faith actually works. That we really are who we claim to be. Evidences that Jesus does what He says He does. To have an appearance of godliness but lack its power was a sign of fraudulence in 2 Timothy 3:5. We’re called to a fearlessness in the Spirit that results in authentic power, love and self control.

Good Lord, where is an ounce of self control among us???

If we were experiencing more than a few splatters of the Holy Spirit, we’d see evidences like…

Repentance of sins, then FRUIT of that repentance. Salvation of souls. Freedom from bondage that outlasts the weekend. Release from oppression. Transformation. True humility. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. The impossible made possible. Deliverance from addiction that takes less than 20 rounds of rehab. Remarkable reductions in pornography. (I’m talking about among US. The church. Forget preaching it the world when we’re neck deep in it ourselves. Pornography is leaving us impotent spiritually as much as physically.) Real, live healing from brokenness and brokenheartedness. JOY abounding even in suffering.

Some hint of real unity.

I just keep looking around, reading, watching podcasts, listening, trying my best to pay attention and I keep thinking, “is this it?”

Looks like the Holy Spirit.

Sounds like the Holy Spirit.

Acts like the Holy Spirit.

That’s not enough.

We cannot let up until we see the EFFECTS of the Holy Spirit. And if we’re not seeing them, let’s have courage enough to ask why. Galatians 3:3 says we can start something genuinely in the Holy Spirit but finish it in the flesh. Sometimes we lose heart but most of the time we just lose interest. Oh, to fall back on our faces that the Holy Spirit would fall back on us.

Leadership keeps talking about our corporate need for repentance but have we led the way? Are we even really praying anymore? Do we read our Bibles anymore? As hard as this is to accept, reading a blogpost does not qualify as reading the Bible.  For crying out loud, we’re getting push notifications on our phones for our daily Scripture readings and calling it spiritual discipline.  The way to the altar of repentance is so overgrown with the weeds of neglect, it’s not even visible. It’s up to us to hack the way through it and make the way clear again. It’s up to us to weep and wail for the church who has lost her way.

We are suffering from anemia. We need iron back in our blood. Calcium back in our bones.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul refers to “the word of God which is at WORK within you.” If we were in the Word of God, it would be at work in us.

In Colossians 1:29 he says,, “For this I toil struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.”

Many of us working hard in the Body of Christ. We are exhausted and unfulfilled and perhaps for any number of reasons but maybe chief among them is that we are empowering the powerful instead of the powerless.

Is this what the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was supposed to look like? The powerful keep getting more powerful? We’ve become wolves among sheep rather than sheep among wolves.

There are many upsides to the access the internet gives us to see innumerable events and concerts and church services where the Holy Spirit is powerfully at work but one downside is that we can inadvertently create the same atmosphere but without the authentic anointing of the Spirit.

Our biggest hindrance can sometimes be the fact that we’re just good at what we do. And we know how to do it. We’re huge on hype and hype is posing as the Holy Spirit.  A few weeks later when the adrenaline fizzles out and we’re back to our old selves and the environment is back to its old climate, why aren’t we asking,

WAS THAT IT? Is that all there is to it? All we can expect? All we should expect?

It’s risky to wait on the Lord and rely on His Spirit. It’s so much easier to default into what has worked before. The crowd pleaser. The crowd rouser. But what if we got the nerve to quit defaulting? What if we risked feeling the lack of His Presence if that’s what it took to send us to our knees to cry out for Him? What if we no longer relied on what we know would rally and we started admitting to Him in corporate and personal prayer that we’ve grown inept and ineffective and we’ve faked half of what appears to be working and we want Him back in the worst way?

I want holy fire. Bona fide holy fire. I don’t think what we’re seeing is what Jesus was saying. I want to see the real thing. Feel its heat. See its effects. There are glimpses here and there – a few campfires smoking – but I don’t think anybody’s got gall enough to say that the Body of Christ is glaring with the evidence of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Moses, what else but His Presence will distinguish us from the rest of the world?

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us,

what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old.” Psalm 44:1

 

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For Wish-to-be Writers From a Couple of Real Live Writing Coaches

Hey, you guys! In February we hosted an event called “Lit” for women in their 20s and 30s who sense a call from God to write, teach or speak. About a week beforehand, I DM’d my friend, Jonathan Merritt, and asked him if he had a piece of advice he’d have me pass on to women who hoped to write. What I received in return was like asking for a stone and getting a fresh loaf of yeast bread hot out of the oven with a whole side of salted butter. He and his fellow writing coach, Margaret Feinberg, who I admire and greatly respect, did a 12 minute video just for that event. I loved it and couldn’t help but wonder how many others could use what they had to say. I asked them if I could share it here, and they were gracious enough to give me permission.

So you can trust they have the writing cred to coach, Jonathan is a contributor to The Atlantic and writes for everyone from USA Today to the Washington Post. He’s a premier religion writer and knows how to reach a mainstream audience like few others on the planet. We need the message of Jesus spread everywhere. Many of you have a message that needs to reach people who don’t know Jesus yet. That’s Jonathan’s forte.

Margaret Feinberg is the author of dozens of books like Fight Back with Joy and Wonder Struck and numerous Lifeway Bible studies. She’s crazy about Jesus and her writing is deep and rich and beautifully crafted. She lives a life of pouring out in a world obsessed with pouring in.

Jonathan and Margaret are not just gifted writers. They’re gifted writing coaches. They’re about to open enrollment for a new online 16-week coaching program as part of the Write Brilliant Academy where they can help you make that dream of writing a book or Bible study become a reality. This is not a pitch from them. I asked them to allow me to share the information because I’m so often asked, “How does a person even begin to write a book???” I don’t have the expertise to explain that process comprehensively but these two do.

The best part: they are giving away a FREE 3-part mini-course to help you start writing, share your writing, and sustain your writing. You’re gonna love it but you better hop to it! It’s only available for a short time. Sign up at jumpstartmywriting.com today. Their coaching program may be exactly what you need to share the message rattling in your bones. OK, I’ll get out of the way and let you connect with these two. We’re so happy to set you up with them.

 

Thank you a million times over, Jonathan and Margaret!

The free resource Marilyn mentioned in the video is below. Click on the graphic below to print.

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SSMT 2017: Verse 4!

 

ssmtverse4

 

OK, my beloveds! It’s time for verse 4! Since I’m whittling my way through the one-chapter Book of Philemon and the individual verses don’t stand alone as well, I’ve been giving you an alternative verse as an option for those looking for ideas. This one, however, is so good that it serves perfectly. By all means, share it if you like!

Beth Moore from Houston, Texas: I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,” Philemon 4 ESV

You are a tremendous joy to me and, just in case you don’t feel like this to a whole lot of people: you a very, VERY big deal to all 14 of us at LPM.

With much affection,

Beth

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SSMT 2017: Verse 1!

Hey, Everybody! Drumroll please! Welcome to the 2017 Siesta Scripture Memory Team! The entry of your Verse 1 selection acts as your registration. Please read this brief post before you leave your comment so you’ll know exactly how to do it. We are not legalistic about much around here but I am a drill sergeant about the precise way we accept comments for SSMT verse entries. One perusal through the first several hundred comments and you’ll understand why. It’s such a powerful sight you will almost want to cry. Or shout. Or throw your head back and howl your loudest hallelujah. It just all depends on how you process a fresh glimpse of divine revelation. You’ll have before you a feast spread out lavishly on a huge banqueting table.  Keeping the comments to the bare minimum makes Scripture itself stand out on the page. If we add a lot of other verbiage to the comment, the verse is more likely to get lost in it.

Not only will your soul be fed by the entries of others, you’ll discover verses you didn’t even know existed and get ideas for future selections. Any time you can’t decide what verse to memorize, jump on the comments and see what resonates with you. Any time you feel bone-dry or downcast or distracted or discouraged or just plain directionless, open up the comments on any SSMT post and behold the words of the Lord. It’s so powerful I could slap my desk thinking about it.

OK, this is how the information should appear in your comment:

Name (first is fine), city: verse, reference, Bible translation.

(Don’t forget your translation! People love knowing exactly which translation your selection came from.)

So you’ll have a paradigm for how it looks, here is my entry for Verse 1 and you’ll see at the end of the post where I made a slight little addition to add some soul-deep conviction if you wish:

Beth Moore from Houston Texas: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker.” Philemon 1 ESV

You get to choose your own verse according to what you need most right now, what resonates with you in your present circumstances or what God just simply seems to land you on. This year I feel like He’s leading me to use my 24 entries to memorize the one-chapter book of Philemon. It contains 25 verses but the last one is easy so I’ll throw it in with my 24th verse as my final entry. I’ve done stacks of spirals full of unrelated Scriptures for my memory work in previous years. Other times I’ve done several different chunks or one solid chapter. There is no wrong way to do it. It just all depends on what the Holy Spirit seems to be energizing us to do. If something about chipping away at one chapter through the course of the year rings your bell, you are so welcome to join me or you can look through the Scriptures and choose a different chapter of similar length. I so loved memorizing Psalm 25 several years ago. I recited it as recently as yesterday. It has 22 verses ready to go if you’d like to consider it. You’d only need to tag on 2 separate verses after you memorized the psalm to fulfill your 24-verse goal. Jude is another one-chapter book I memorized. It contains 25 verses but I will warn you in advance, take that one on only if you like a challenge. It is pretty wordy.

Let’s just add two little words this time to the front of the entry of our first verse: I commit! And go right ahead and add that exclamation mark at the end of it for the sake of some very appropriate enthusiasm. What you’re about to do bears FRUIT. God’s Word does not return empty. He sends it forth with accomplishing power and divine purpose. That’s worth anticipating with excitement. (In fact, Isaiah 55:11 is a fabulous Scripture to memorize if you’re still searching for a great launch verse.) I think we ought to add those two little words because I keep reading how allergic we’re growing culturally to making commitments of almost any kind. I’m sure you’ve read the same thing. But here’s the deal. We will never be mighty servants of Jesus Christ, alive and awake in the Holy Spirit, bringing glory to God the Father all while standing against evil rulers, powers and principalities without commitment.

Ain’t happenin’.

Nothing was tentative to those early New Testament believers about following Jesus. They didn’t fulfill their callings by being scared of commitment. They gave Him their lives. They bore His name. They testified to the death. Let’s do this thing, Sisters. Let’s do it deliberately. We’re not destined to be weak-willed women. We’re called to be stunningly strong willed about God’s will. So, here’s my official entry for verse 1 of the Siesta Scripture Memory Team challenge of 2017!

I commit! Beth Moore from Houston Texas: “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow worker.” Philemon 1 ESV

Your turn, sisters! Try to make each of your entries within 24-48 hours after the posts go up around the 1st and the 15th of each month. Also remember not to worry if you don’t see your comment posted for a day or so. Wait a while before you post the same verse a second time. We moderate all comments to filter through spam and trash and general nastiness so the process can take a little time. Here we go! I’m beside myself with joy. Thank you for the privilege to store up the very words of God with you. They are life and breath to us. Iron in our blood. Steel in our bones. So much love to you.

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My man and me

Thirty-eight years tomorrow.

The organist played the wedding march and I stood next to my Daddy in the foyer with my heart pounding like clapping thunder in my chest and wearing an ever so slightly off-white, nothing special wedding dress so as not to be a total fraud. We’d rented the dress for $65 and it never even occurred to me to mind. I come from very modest means and there was no world in which I expected my parents to spend several hundred dollars on a dress. They didn’t have it. And, except for the monthly stresses of bill paying in our home and overhearing my mom on the phone with bankers about overdrafts and loans and mortgages, we didn’t care that we made it by the skin of our teeth. It was normal to us and, for that matter, normal to most of the people we knew.

The congregation of about 200 came to its loud feet with the prelude and almost that many faces looked straight back at me and Daddy. My eyes darted up the middle aisle of that small Baptist church, shifting back and forth from smiling face to smiling face, many very familiar to me despite having been there a few short years. I served wherever I churched because that’s what I was raised to do. Never considered not. That day at Spring Woods Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, my wide-eyed gaze also fell on a few faces of those who filled the front aisles. Family members. And, trust me when I tell you, they weren’t smiling. Every year around our anniversary, Keith and I recount the whole ignominious scene with one another and mock the family scowls and laugh until our sides split. Nothing could have been less humorous on that particular day but the thought that we spited all of them by making it this long brings Keith and me no small glee. We were both in long term stable relationships when we met. I was engaged. He was soon to be. Each of our families loved our significant others. And, in a way I won’t go into trying to explain, so did we.

I’m not sure Keith and I ourselves completely understand why we dropped everything dependable and remotely stable in our lives and flew headlong into one another with all the tranquility of a pair of cymbals. The best explanation is that clamor attracts clamor and baggage attracts baggage and, boy, did we each have some. And then there was just pure chemistry. Had we been married to other people when we met, God help us, I trust we would have either ignored or resisted it or, by that time, never met but the fact was, we weren’t married, we did meet and we did not remotely ignore nor resist one another.

The words “wedding planner” weren’t even in my vocabulary or that of anyone I knew. The woman standing in the foyer with Dad and me on the day of the wedding was one of the very same women who brought a green bean casserole or jello salad every Wednesday night to fellowship supper. When the organ piped up, she nodded her head, touched my shoulder and said “Now.” She’d told us to go slow and Dad and I had practiced the night before but, for the life of me, I was either going to run down that aisle to that man in the tux or my hind end was going to flee to the parking lot where I’d holler like a wild hyena until somebody picked me up and hijacked me to Mexico.

I cannot say that it did not help that Keith Moore was the most beautiful man I’d ever kissed in all my life. Dad and I flew so fast down that aisle that my veil nearly took me to the wind like the flying nun.

A thought which carries impressive irony.

In seconds it seemed, the pastor said to the congregation, “Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.”

And, just like that, the wedding was over.

Let the drama begin.

And I guess in a lot of ways it’s never come to an end. It’s just a different kind of drama these days for the most part.

I’ve been asked many times if I’ll ever write a book on marriage. I don’t expect to. I have no intention of setting us up as some exemplary couple. Keith and I have not had a great marriage. But, somehow, in recent years, we’ve managed to find ourselves in a pretty good one. And I guess it’s fair to say you’ve never met two people happier about being pretty happy.

We don’t just kiss on our anniversary. We high five.

I’m really reluctant to do what I’m about to do because what if he and I get into the biggest fight of our lives tonight and I maniacally hurl all his fishing gear and deer heads and forty pair of unders in the front yard? I’ve never done that before but I’ve always known I had it in me. I’ve always kept my pitching arm in shape for such a time as this. And what if one of the neighbors videos us and I end up on the YouTube cussing? I’ve never been one to cuss much but, if I’m ever going to have a cussing conniption, it will be my luck to have it on the YouTube. One time I did try to leave Keith and he said, “Go right ahead. Leave me. But you’ll look in your rearview mirror and there I will be and not because I like you any better than you like me. Because I don’t. But because we are married and married we’ll stay.” Keith never was a great Catholic except about the one thing I wished he’d been more Baptist about: splitting.

And so, like somebody pulling teeth, I’m reluctantly going to tell you with little commentary a few of the things that have kept us at it, every single one of which is nothing but the dripping grace of Jesus. We can’t even take credit for the things that have actually worked. So here goes and then I’m closing this post and publishing it before I change my mind.

If you don’t mind, I’m going to do this backwards and start with the bottom line because everything else comes back to this: We have both and each been willing, many times through bitter tears and against our human-hearted natural preferences, to choose to love each other again. Over and over and over and over.  After some really harsh things.

We had Amanda nine months and two weeks from our wedding day after being told I’d need surgery to conceive. Liar, liar pants on fire. We may as well have named her Elmers. She was the glue God used to hold our first few years together. Then came Melissa, who was a dyed in the wool daddy’s girl. We still wouldn’t have made it even with them to consider, I’m sorry to say, if not for that one bottom line above.

We developed compassion for one another. We were both messed up and we each understood why. And, I really don’t know a better way to say it, we felt sorry for one another and started trying to help each other get better.

The fact that I could sob as I write this next one is fittingly ironic. We each think the other is hilarious. The only thing Keith and I have done as much as fight is laugh. I don’t know why we got that gift but we did. We even laughed at times in the terrible years. We tried not to but we couldn’t help ourselves. We are each the most absurd person the other has ever met. We are a cartoon strip and we know it.

One last thing. I told Keith before we were engaged that God had placed a call on my life at 18 and, if he didn’t think he could handle it, he better run for his life. Having no other paradigm for a woman in ministry, he looked at me with a measure of horror and said, “Are you going to be a nun?” (We’d made out for the better part of the last hour so the absurdity of this one makes me rub my forehead with no small delight.)  No, I said, to which he responded, “Then I’m in.” And he has been. For somewhere around 15 Bible studies, numerous other books, 23 years of Sunday School lessons, many years of Tuesday night Bible study and two Friday nights a month with me on the road. Unwaveringly. And not as a weakling but as the strongest willed man I’ve ever met. Nobody need wonder who wears the Wranglers in my family. And you may as well not go to seed feeling sorry for him. He’d have to lie to say I ignored him and then I’d have to hit him with my purse and, considering all the lip glosses in it, it would hurt considerably. Him, not me. He just wasn’t the kind that would be ignored. When we were at home together, we were at home together. I didn’t hang out on the phone all the time doing ministry or study my commentaries in front of him – I did that while he was at work – or flip through magazines. To this day, if I’m messing around on social media on my phone when I’m with him, he’ll say, “Pay attention to me!” And I’m glad he will. And I do. Or we’d have nothing.

And, finally, after many years, I returned a certain spiritual favor after all he’d done to be supportive of my calling: I just accepted him like he was and quit trying to turn him into a deacon or some big spiritual beacon. He didn’t want to be one. Doesn’t want to now.

Thirty-eight years tomorrow. This one man and me. We’ve decided to stay in this dance a little bit longer.

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Because, ladies and gentlemen, smilers and scowlers, we are Mr. and Mrs. Keith Moore.

 

 

 

 

 

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Proverbs of Ashes in a World Burning Down

In my Scripture reading early yesterday morning, I chased a rabbit trail that landed me in a cul de sac with Job 13. I got so preoccupied I was late for work then, once I got there, still couldn’t keep my thoughts from circling around that curb. In the corner shadow of more substantial themes, the Book of Job gives impressive credence to the adage, “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” God bless them, they started out well but time took its toll and the temptation to offer explanation for human suffering became intolerable. When in doubt, after all, what better coping skill could there be than dogmatism? To the reader’s measurable relief, chapter 13 marks the spot where Job indelicately invites his friends to shut up. Unroll the scroll to verse 5.

“Oh that you would keep silent, and it would be your wisdom!” Then a little further down to verse 13, “Let me have silence, and I will speak, and let come on me what may.”

The show stealer in the chapter is the temerarious declaration the pummeled mortal makes in reference to his God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (13:15 AV) The HCSB says it like a boxer spitting blood from a busted lip through broken teeth: “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.”

But one of the things I love best about Spirit-breathed Scripture is that the Spirit reserves the right to animate a passage that has never attracted our attention before. For me yesterday morning, it was the first half of the 12th verse. Job, to his friends:

“Your maxims are proverbs of ashes.”

For all we know the man made the statement sitting in a heap of ashes like he’d positioned himself in Job 2:8. Of course, it’s easy to miss the ashes in that early scene because we’re too disturbed by him scraping his loathsome sores with a piece of broken pottery. When these words come out of Job’s mouth in 13:12, one commentator suggested he may have gathered some ashes in his palm and blown them into the wind in case his observers were inclined to miss the point. Ashes symbolized loss, grief, mourning and death to the ancients and at times were the wares of sorrowful repentance. The idea probably germinated with God’s words to Adam after the fall in the Garden when death was born.

“For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Mourners commonly practiced demonstrating their profound grief by wrapping their waists in skin-rawing sackcloth and covering their heads in ashes. At least it showed. Don’t you sometimes wish our shattered hearts would at least dignify our suffering enough to show up? Tamar, Mordecai and Daniel displayed their anguish with ashes but here’s the irony: so did Job’s three friends. Yep. At the very first glimpse of him.

And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great. (Job 2:12-13)

 But then Job opened his mouth and released his lament and they opened theirs.

And their maxims were proverbs of ashes.

I never noticed the wording before because maxims had yet to be promoted to our primary means of communication. Shoot, a good maxim today could bring you a whopping ten thousand likes. We’ve developed such an appetite for maxims, we’re bored to oblivion by actual messages from our pastors. We demand twenty minutes of strung-together maxims or we’re staying home and surfing podcasts. Give us tweetables. Quotes we can stick on a picture and post.

And I’m neck deep in the middle of it splashing around in my floaties while people are down at the bottom of the lake drowning. This is not a rant for more meaningful maxims. It’s just a reminder to me today that my aphorisms don’t mean a flying flip in a frying world. Nobody’s likely to thank me in heaven for that life-changing tweet. I love Twitter. Good grief, I love all the things. And, man, do I ever appreciate a good aphorism. It’s fun. Quippy. Can even make people think.

For five seconds.

Mind you, five seconds is better than none. But let’s take it for what it is then get to the real business of ministering to the mournful. They are crowded around us, blinded by the darkness, flailing, feeling around in thin air for somebody’s warm-blooded hand. And sometimes the mournful is you. Me. Sometimes the mournful zips itself up in our ruddy skin and makes it hard to get out of bed. And, Good Lord, no wonder we’re depressed. We’ve turned social media into a spiritual discipline. We’ve made a diet of cheese puffs, bloating our souls with air and calling ourselves healthy.

Ashes.

The thing is, I can’t get the Oakland warehouse fire off my mind. That’s where this whole thing started. I don’t want to get it off my mind right away anyway. That community and those terror-stricken families will need prayer for a long time. I know that because my family has lived in the ashes of murderous flames for decades. I know that because the evening before the news broke out about the fire in Oakland, my husband brought up the fire in his childhood garage over supper with our daughters.

We know the story by heart. I knew it by our third date. Keith and his big brother were knee-high, plump-faced preschoolers playing in the garage when a slender river of gasoline rolled underneath the water heater and ignited. Both boys were burned. Both boys rushed to the hospital. Both admitted. Both treated for several days. Both desperately prayed for. Both were impossible to imagine living without. One went home with his mommy. The other went home with Jesus.

A couple of years ago, Keith and I were sitting with his parents at a picnic table on the porch of a burger joint we often frequented. The men were sitting on one side of the table and we women were facing them from the other. When Keith got up to fetch our order from the carry-out window, my father-in-law leaned across the table and, in a tone dripping with tenderness, said to me, “Baby, today is the anniversary of Duke’s death.”

My eyes immediately shot to my mother-in-law. She did not say a word. She couldn’t. Even all those years later. She reached in her pocket for a tissue and blotted her wet eyes. I can hardly write these words without doing the same. I hugged her, squeezed her hand, picked at my food like she did then sobbed all the way home. Every loss etches an absence. But tragedy threatens to carve an abyss.

Especially a fire. Its destructive force doesn’t just dent, cut or bruise. Fire has the capacity to consume. It has the capacity to take something teeming with life and vitality – a church, for instance, or a home or, God help us, a life – and reduce it to ashes. Something weighty into dust in the gust. I think maybe that’s what makes such vivid imagery of ash: its cold reduction of something to almost nothing.

Forgive me for being so graphic. I don’t do this often. But, the thing is, we are the Body of Christ commissioned to flesh Him out through the ministries of His Spirit to this graphic global darkness. We flip on our screens or open our feeds daily to news of tragedies somewhere on this aching orb. Unless we’ve let our hearts grow cold to shield us from the harsh elements, we shake our heads and shed some tears and at times drop faces to palms and sob. We summon Jesus to hold the hurting and to comfort them in a way that is otherworldly. In a way that is deeply personal because, if we possess a whiff of wisdom, we know that no two hearts process loss the same way. In the wording of Proverbs 14:10, each heart knows its own bitterness.

No two losses are exactly the same. And not all tragedies are equal. There is no one-size-fits-all remedy for the pain-ravaged.

Our maxims are not only a waste of breath. Of electronic space. They are offensive to the suffering. Sometimes even things we know to be true are better left unsaid for a long, long time. In the presence of those suffering, we say less and do more. We still our tongues and loose our hands. We mute our volume and vacuum their dens. We save our words then spill them like a dam breaking before God. Because He’s the only one whose feet don’t fail in a tidal wave of suffering. He’s the only one who really knows the whys and hows and wheres and whens. And He won’t tell us now. But He’ll tell us then.

Yesterday morning it was the word “ashes” that took me on that rabbit trail. I kept thinking about what I’d read in a news article about the first responders carefully, “reverently” removing the ashes from the Oakland warehouse. “Reverently.” That was the description the writer used and I appreciated it even if it made me want to wail. So I looked up every time ashes are found in the Scriptures. I found this among them.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

…to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes.

(Isaiah 61:1,3)

This section had long-since been dear to me but that’s the beauty of research. That’s the beauty of looking to scholars God has equipped with spiritual gifts of knowledge. You learn something brand new. I’ll let Dr. J.N. Oswalt tell it to you the way he told it to me in New International Commentary on the Book of Isaiah: (emphasis his)

“In 60:17 the prophet promised the best (gold) for the better (bronze), but here the Servant/Messiah promises the best for the worst…The picture of the mourner, with ashes on the head, wrapped in sackcloth, with a spirit crushed by despair, is replaced by the picture of a party goer with a beautiful headdress, smelling of costly oil, and wearing a garment of praise.[1] 

 There is a wordplay in the Hebrew that makes it especially spectacular. The peʾēr, “beautiful headdress,” replaces ʾēper, “dust.”[2]

If anybody at all is still reading, I’m almost done. Just take this part of Isaiah 61 in one more time.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.[3]

Instead of, instead of, instead of.

I want to be there on the scene for at least a few thousand rounds of “instead of.” Sometimes we see those things happen right here in this earthly realm but other times it’s too late. Their tragedies took their lives. I want to see Jesus replace the ashes on the heads of the grief stricken in this lifetime with the headdresses of deliriously happy party-goers. Yes, party-goers. Don’t even try to talk me out of that. I want some parties when I get to heaven. I want to see some people shake a leg who’d suffered paralysis here. People dine in style who’d starved to death in squalor here. I want to see Jesus unwind the awful sackcloth from those who’d mourned on this earth and spin them around in garments of praise.

That’s what I want. I want to see my mother-in-law in a party hat laughing her head off. And I want to meet my brother-in-law. And sit cozy by a fire and never get burned.

Because this life is the hint of hell for a whole lot of people. But there is a God in heaven weaving eternity from an endless string of insteads. No proverbs of ashes from His lips. Just straight up promises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (p. 567). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[2] Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

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LIT: An Event for Women in Their 20s & 30s with Fire in Their Bones to Teach, Speak or Write

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I’m ecstatic to announce an all-day Saturday event on February 11, 2017 specifically designed for women in their 20s and 30s who feel called by God to serve this generation through teaching, speaking or writing. The passion to do this event welled up in me continually as I wrote the Bible study on 2nd Timothy called Entrusted. (Released September 1, 2016) The final words of the Apostle Paul, penned to his beloved son in the faith, sketch a relationship on the sacred page of stunning mutual love and support between two generations. Over the course of five weeks, the curriculum holds the spotlight on doctrines imparted and dynamics shared between those two servants of Christ, inviting us to step into the paradigm they represent. If God ordains the order of each generation from the beginning to the end of time, and Scripture says He does, then we can safely assume He also has purpose in the generations He causes to overlap. Each generation – the younger and the older – has the privilege to profoundly impact how the other flourishes.

God timed the writing of Entrusted after two decades of publishing experience and three decades in active ministry. The Paul-Timothy paradigm threw open the door of opportunity to share some things I’d learned, often the hard way, in my journey with Jesus. I’ll echo the same disclaimer here: There is so much I don’t know, so much I don’t have, but whatever is mine to give is yours to have if you want it.

Because I wrote the study to apply to Jesus followers with any spiritual gift mix, I tried to avoid the trap of overemphasizing the ones most familiar to me. All the gifts are vital and all believers are called. I kept wishing along the way, however, that I had a little extra time with young women who feel led by the Holy Spirit to speak, teach or write simply because those are the areas of my exposure and experience.

And that’s where the idea for Lit emerged:

Making the most of a Saturday – from morning through evening – to pour into women in their 20s and 30s who have completed the 5-week study Entrusted and desire to zero-in specifically on speaking and writing gifts. I’m going to have to ask you to trust my motive here. I’m not trying to sell you a Bible study. I have a couple of different reasons for making it a requirement. First, space is limited and I want to insure that those who come are serious about the Scriptures and convinced they want to press on and pay the price of self-discipline to grow into their callings. I’d rather have 100 with fire in their bones than 500 who are mostly just curious. Nothing is wrong with curiosity. It’s just not what this day is set aside to satisfy. Secondly and most importantly, making Entrusted a prerequisite means that we come together on the same page. We can hit the ground running on that Saturday morning and make the most use of our time. Entrusted involves the fundamentals of becoming a mighty servant of God, of grasping the gospel message and using our diverse gifts to share it. If we all come together with those basics already in our arsenal, we can launch straight to the next level.

And we’re going to have a blast. I’ve asked my friend, Christy Nockels, to lead worship and invited a cross-section of my speaking/teaching/writing friends and colleagues to join Christy and me that evening for a panel and Q&A. I love and respect so many female teachers and authors serving our generation and wish we had a week to expose you to all of them. The ones who will serve on our panel that night were sought out because each brings something different to the mix.

Before I give you instructions for our first-come, first-serve registration, here’s a glimpse of the schedule so you can see if it appeals to you:

Our very special guests joining me that evening for the panel are Jennie Allen, Christine Caine, Melissa Moore, Christy Nockels, Priscilla Shirer and host Amanda Jones.

REGISTRATION OPENS Friday, Nov 25th at 9 a.m.   Cost $25.00 (to help cover expenses).

Space is limited and our aim will be to fill the room evenly with young women in their 20s and in their 30s.  But please don’t delay, if either decade does not fill up by December 1st, registration will open up the remaining space.

Requirement: 5 week Bible study Entrusted completed by that day and brought with each attendee as her ticket for admission. Please no exceptions. (Both workbook and DVD sessions recommended but only the completion of the workbook is required.)

The registration page will include hotel information, along with a full FAQ section to help with any questions you might have.

I can already tell you this will be one of the most fun gatherings I get to be part of all year. I cannot WAIT.

I believe strongly in what God wants to do with you young women.

So much love to all of you. I’m honored to be your big sister and servant.

Beth

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A Huge Thank You & the LPL Chinle AZ Recap to show fruit of your prayers!

Living Proof Live Chinle 2016 | Recap from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

Beloved sisters, no words can convey the depth of my gratitude to you for countless prayers and thousands of scholarships that God used to make Chinle LPL a reality.  My four days there, face-to-face with so many Native American women – hearing their stories, their hurts and their hopes and getting to hold some of them in my arms – landed on me in a way I never want to get over. God is stirring up the dust in that native soil. I deeply hope He has plans for LPM to continue to invest in the faith of  Native American women. If the statistics we heard over and over are accurate, the reservation is only 5% Christian so the harvest in plentiful. We want to be part of seeing to it that the workers are not few. Women came from all over the reservation in Arizona but they also popped in from other parts of the United States all the way to Florida. I did a roll call during the first session to see how many tribes were represented in the room and, after about ten different names were yelled from the audience, I finally just said, “On the count of three, everybody shout the name of your tribe!” The sound stood the hair up on the back of my neck. I’ll never forget it.

The women we served stole my heart. They would have stolen yours, too. You would so love these sisters. And the best news of all is that, out of the bounty of Christ’s grace, we had many more sisters in Jesus when we left than when we arrived. One of the churches offered to have outdoor baptism for anyone who desired and even had changes of clothes and towels (well, and pastors!) ready and waiting right after the conference. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever beheld in my life.

You helped make it possible. Keep that in mind as you take a few minutes and watch the recap.

I love you so dearly. You women are my entire ministry life. I want so much to serve you well. Please pray that I will. Please pray that I’ll please Christ and continue to grow in Him and love Him more than anything I can see or touch in this temporal realm. May He continue to capture all of our hearts.

Beth

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God’s Audacious Kindness: Let’s Give Away 40 More

 

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***CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS***

Comment #543– Nanette Price

Comment #190­– Caity

Comment #292– Lacey

Comment #426– Paula Rockwood

Comment #299– Sandy

Comment #236– Nita McAdoo

Comment #158– Anna Deaton

Comment #151– Karen

Comment #326– Dodi Timbrook

Comment #320– Vicki Clement

Comment #161– Susan Beckman

Comment #300– Debbie M

Comment #329– Louise

Comment #121– Jenn Nahrstadt

Comment #347– Pamela

Comment #512– Karen Burton

Comment #253– Hernsa

Comment #367– Stephanie

Comment #227– Donna Shrader

Comment #6– Sarah Stevenson

Comment #52– Geri Fitzgerald

Comment #240– Heather M

Comment #136– Leslie Jordan

Comment #323– Candace Ottoson

Comment #508– Sharee

Comment #346– Laura Zielke

Comment #421– Carol

Comment #435– Kelli S

Comment #413– Debra

Comment #427– Susie Ashworth

Comment #463– Karen Pope

Comment #141– Olivia

Comment #280– Kelly

Comment #216– Lisa Suit

Comment #278– Janet

Comment #108– Rebecca M

Comment #196­– Kym

Comment #572– TPM

Comment #109– Lauren

Comment #68– Pamie Peterson

Hey, you guys! My good friend Jennifer Lyell (trade book publisher at B&H Publishing) got word to me yesterday that Audacious had just received this award. A lump instantly jumped in my throat. I want so much for Jesus to get glory from it and to woo some hearts searching far and wide for a love that lives up to its press. I’ve never once written a book that meant little to me but a few of them were born out of such peril or passion, they are particularly dear to me. This is one of them.

If I just got one shot at saying what I think makes life here on this rocky planet worth all the heartache and worth pushing past the fear, the message tucked in this short book is what I’d want to say. We’ve given away more copies of this book than any we’ve ever placed on a shelf at Living Proof because it’s just straight to the point.

Jesus.

He is everything. Worth everything. To be swept up in the bold love of Jesus is life as we were born to live it.

So, it just seemed fitting to us to celebrate this grace by giving away 40 more copies: 20 hard copies and 20 audios. If you haven’t read Audacious but would like to, please by all means leave a comment to this post as your entry in the drawing. If you’ve read it but know someone who hasn’t and you think it’s worth recommending, tell her to hop on here and enter the drawing. You can’t beat free!

We’ll do a really fast turnaround because it’s just more fun that way. We’ll only leave the post open for comments until 3:00 CST today (Tuesday) then we’ll close it, do the random drawing and post the winners by 5:00 CST.

We love you guys and have a blast serving you!

Beth

 

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