Friday, May 31, 2013

Imaginary Go Fish

When they were little, my boys used to play imaginary Go Fish.

They typically played during long car trips, and it went something like this: They would be sitting in their car seats, "holding" an imaginary set of cards in their fat little hands. Each positioned himself carefully so that his opponent could not "see" his "cards."After determining who would go first, the game began:

"Do you have any 3s?"

"No. Go fish."

"I fished my wish!"

They actually played rather contentedly at this game; though, eventually an argument would break out. One boy would declare that the other one had not, in fact, fished his wish. How, oh how is a mother to referee an argument over an imaginary game of Go Fish?

Tomorrow one of those boys will take the S.A.T. The distance between imaginary Go Fish and College Aptitude Testing is unbelievably minuscule. I wonder if he remembers the silly games he played in his youth now that the real world beckons him towards responsible adulthood. I know I will never forget.

Five Minute Friday

P.S. Our boys played many games like imaginary Go Fish. It used to concern me, but then I read The Way They Learn, by Cynthia Tobias, and everything became crystal clear. You see, while my husband and I are both concrete thinkers, we produced two sons that are abstract thinkers. They can live life in an abstract world that is often difficult for me to perceive. Even today, as teenagers, they can talk and interact about subjects that are rather obscure to me.

I highly recommend this book for parents; it is both entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'll take that "To Go!"

Some ministry partners/friends left yesterday morning, and our next guest does not arrive until a week from today. Our home is strangely quiet and a little messy, and that's okay with me. Ministry continues, but there is something nice about having our home as a haven instead of a hostel for the next few days.

In the past three months we have had 8 family groups (31 individuals) for overnight visits including meals. We have also had the joy of preparing at least one meal for an additional 50 people over six different occasions. Next month our guest room will be occupied for 12 nights. I am smiling as a type these numbers--God's grace abounds through the company of others. We delight in being able to share our lives and ministry with those whom God brings to our home.

Between now and the arrival of our next house guest we will catch up on paperwork (self-evaluations for our annual review with GEM), housework (changing sheets and towels in the guest room), and soulwork (extended time in the Word). We will also begin the process of renewing our long-stay visas, we will travel to Paris for Graham to take the SAT, we will go to the US Embassy to renew the boys' passports (which expire next month), and we will try to figure out why I have a red bumpy rash on my right arm.

In the midst of having guests, most of our regular ministry activity continues as usual.

But today we claimed as a day of rest--a much-needed mid-week Sabbath! The restfulness of the moment is rejuvenating, and I'm taking full advantage of it--short-lived though it may be. Sometimes God's refreshment is like a long banquet, where I sit and savor the sweetness of his rest over several days. Other times it comes in the form of a drive-through dinner, gobbled on the go, but satisfying just same. Today I am having some rest on the run. It won't be luxurious or extravagant, but it will fuel me for what lies ahead. I'm so thankful that his mercies are new every morning.

Monday, May 27, 2013

To Be (Radical) or Not to Be (Radical)? That is the question...

There is a bit of a debate going on in the Christian cyber world, and it has caught my attention and sent me pondering.

On the one side, there are those who ascribe to the ideas expressed in books like David Platt's Radical, believing that true Christ followers are called to live lives that are, well, radical--that is to say, lives that are self-sacrificing, sold-out, hard-core, and intentionally missional for the kingdom of God. For these people, it is simply impossible to conceive that one could respond to the gospel of Jesus with anything less than everything.

On the other side is a viewpoint which contends that the push to become "radical" or "missional" is the new legalism in the church. This side believes that the basic command to love God and love others is radical enough, and that the world needs more Christians simply living lives of love while doing normal jobs and living in regular neighborhoods. The author of the article posted here says:
Today’s millennial generation is being fed the message that if they don’t do something extraordinary in this life they are wasting their gifts and potential. The sad result is that many young adults feel ashamed if they “settle” into ordinary jobs, get married early and start families, live in small towns, or as 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “aspire to live quietly, and to mind [their] affairs, and to work with [their] hands.” For too many millennials their greatest fear in this life is being an ordinary person with a non-glamorous job, living in the suburbs, and having nothing spectacular to boast about. 
I have a strong opinion on the subject, which is actually the main idea behind the book that I am writing. While I eschew legalism in all of its forms, I believe that American Christians, in general, are a LONG way from becoming legalistic about living radically in response to the Gospel. At the same time, I do not believe that first-world suburban living is necessarily at odds with radical Christianity. Being "radical" is more about passion than postal code. Radical living certainly is NOT about having something "spectacular to boast about," nor is it about a glamorous job. And as for being an "ordinary person," well being missional certainly doesn't suddenly make one extraordinary. It might, however, reveal an extraordinary God.

I realize that what our family did --moving to France and becoming missionaries--is easily identified as "radical;" however, on our recent trip back to the States we were absolutely blown away by how some of our dearest friends and supporters are living extremely radical lives right where they are!

We had dinner with a pastor and his family who are active in sharing their faith and their lives with their daughter's high school friends. One of those friends had just recently put her faith in Jesus and she was invited to dinner the same night that we were--so that she could meet the missionaries from France. But all evening long, it was David and I who were learning about radical living. We watched this family gently and lovingly answer this new believer's unending questions about everything from homosexuality to evangelism to dating relationships to discerning God's will. It was clear that the young girl trusted them and felt loved by them. It was so amazing to see the fruit of THEIR mission field! David and I left feeling humbled, blessed, and inspired! They are living radically and missionally in Portland, OR.

Another friend of mine--a friend who has four children of her own--had taken in a young woman who came out of the foster care system. Though she is of legal age and even a college graduate, this young woman has the emotional maturity of a pre-adolescent. She has never known the love, security, and acceptance of Christian home, so my friend and her family took her in. Her presence in their midst caused a great deal of stress and turmoil, and many of their friends questioned the wisdom of their decision. But my friend, motivated by the grace of Jesus, knew that God had called her and her family to share his love in this way. They are living radically and missionally in the suburbs.

Other friends, living in Spokane, have started a non-profit organization to serve an orphanage in Africa. Several close friends have adopted children of all ages from across the globe. We know people--many people--who live simply and give generously so that missionaries (like us!) can move internationally to share the Gospel. These people are living in the first world, working in "non-glamorous" jobs, and would say that they have "nothing spectacular to boast about!" To me they are heroes of the faith, living radically for the kingdom of God!

That being said, there are many believers in North America who would rather be comfortable than missional. I fell into that category for many years, so I speak with first-hand experience. I was quite happy to go to church and serve when it fit into my schedule. I read my Bible every day and went to (even TAUGHT!) Bible studies, so I assumed I was growing in my faith. I was even on staff at my church--and I suppose I equated being a vocational Christian with being a missional Christian. But it simply isn't so.

As God started to make me aware of the completeness of his call on my life and the totality of his sovereignty over my life, I began to be bothered by a holy discontent. I started to feel like I was "playing" Christian much in the same way that I had "played" house as a young child. By the time God called us to France, we realized that he had already been hard at work in our hearts, developing a deep dissatisfaction with the status quo. We jumped when he finally showed us that the answer to our longings was a total abandonment of life as we knew it. Moving to France was just the evidence of something that God had long been working on in our souls. It is not becoming missionaries that made us missional--it was becoming missional that made us missionaries.

And being missional  is what makes our friends share their faith radically. Or open their homes radically. Or give their money radically. All Christians are called to live this way, regardless of vocation or location. Of that, I am sure.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Running up the stairs to Platform 2, we saw the TGV humming on the tracks, unmoving. But the doors had closed and the mustached, uniformed man subtly shook his head, telling us that boarding was no longer an option. Just then the train began to creep forward; seats 22 and 23 of car 14 were vacant. We missed it.

Typically, I am an easy-going traveler, one who goes with the flow. Calm. Assured. Unflappable. But yesterday, something in me snapped. It was 8:15 a.m., and I was supposed to be on a train to Paris with Graham, who was scheduled to take a AP World History exam at noon. This was the only possible date for him to take the exam, and the International School in Paris was the only location with the credentials to administer the test. We had paid the non-refundable $250 test fee and we were told that he had to be at the testing site, Photo I.D. in hand, at 11:45 sharp.

But we missed the train. I held back tears as I went into the ticket office and explained our predicament. The next possible train to Paris departed at 10:15 a.m. It was scheduled to arrive at the Montparnasse station at 11:15 a.m. From there we would have to take the Metro, and then walk about 6 blocks. We would never make it to the school by 11:45, but we had no other option. I paid the penalty to change our tickets.

Then I called David and asked him to e-mail our contact to let her know that we may be a little late but that we were coming. I did not know if "late" would be an option. Many standardized tests have strict start times, and therefore those who do not arrive on time are not permitted entrance.

Graham was cool and collected the whole time. We had hoped to grab an early lunch in Paris before the exam, but now lunch would have to wait until the test ended at 3:30--if he got in, that is. So, as is normal for Graham, food was his only real concern. While he took everything in stride, he kept asking me why I was panicking. Because I am not usually a panicker.

I think I was feeling that very rare (for me!) burden of responsibility. David, a first-born, has what I think of as an over-developed sense of responsibility. I, a baby, have practically no sense of responsibility. But suddenly, I was the one who had to get Graham to the test center on time! I really should not be entrusted with such tasks! I can't take the pressure.

We waited in the train station café until 15 minutes before our scheduled departure, then we headed up to the platform. We might have missed the second train because we were patiently waiting on Platform 2, when (by what MUST have been divine intervention!) we realized that we were supposed to be on Platform Z. Honestly, there are are only TWO platforms at the St-Pierre-des-Corps Station, and one is Platform 1, (also called Z) and the other is Platform 2, (also called V). Do you know how similar a 2 and a Z look digitally? They couldn't have used V and X? Arrrggghhhh. We arrived at Platform Z at the same time as our train, and happily got on board.

I was starting to calm down a bit as we moved through car 16 towards seats 11 and 12. When we found our places, a man was already sitting in one of the seats. He insisted that he was the rightful owner of seat 11. We reexamined our tickets. Clearly, they said car 16, seats 11 and 12. Finally, reluctantly, and quite annoyed, the man pulled out his ticket. Indeed, he did have seat 11, but he was in the wrong car. He should have been in 18. He was not happy to move, but at that point he had to surrender his post.

The TGV got us to Montparnasse right on time, and we exited the train at a clip. We paused at a sandwich stand to consider getting a bite for Graham on the run, but realized the line was too long and it wasn't moving. It was already 11:25. Thankful that we always keep a ready supply of Metro tickets, Graham and I headed down the stairs towards Green Line 12, Direction Marie d'Issy. Once we were on the Metro, I stole a glance at my watch. 11:32.

We got off at the Convention stop, and climbed out into beautiful Paris. I looked at the information that David had carefully assembled, trying to determine how I would find the school. Unfortunately, my dear husband had printed a map for me. A map. After 20 years of marriage, he still does not realize that I can't read a map. Graham can read maps, but Paris streets are not always labeled and they change names frequently. So I did what I always do in these types of circumstances: I called David. The phone conversation went something like this:

"David, we are at the Convention Metro stop, but I can't find any street names and I don't know which way to walk.

"You want to head Southwest."

(Long silence while I fight the urge to throw myself on the ground and pitch a fit.) "Honey, that doesn't really help me."


At this point he is on Google Maps, looking at the street view on his computer screen. (What did people do before the Internet?) "Do you see the 'Café Convention?'"


"Stand with your back to the Café Convention."

I dutifully position myself as instructed.

"Turn right and walk!"

"Thank you!"

We turned right and walked....very quickly. I actually broke a sweat.

Once oriented, following the map was a piece of cake. Of course it helped that David mentioned that my next turn would be a right at the Carrefour Market--those kinds of directions make sense to me.

We found the school, and then I made a classic American blunder. The e-mail I received said to go to the second floor. So I went up one flight of stairs and started looking for the right office. Not finding it, a student came to our rescue. I told him who I was looking for, and he said, "Oh, her office is on the second floor!" European second floor=American third floor. I know that one, but clearly, this day was meant to be a comedy of errors.

Up one floor, red cheeked and winded, we arrived. 11:55.  I wondered if we had made it in time. I imagined a room full of 50 students waiting in weighted silence for the 12:00 exam to begin, and Graham being told that he was too late. Instead, a warm, completely unruffled woman appeared. In a lilting Irish accent she informed us that Graham was actually the only one scheduled to take the AP World History Exam, and that the test, though indeed timed, would be administered and proctored just for him. Our tardiness turned out to be a total non- issue.

And so I left him,with the promise of cheeseburgers upon my return. I met my dear friend and my goddaughter for lunch. We wandered the streets of Paris, and then at 3:30 we returned to the school, McDonald's bag in hand, to meet Graham coming out from his test.

That boy never once seemed bothered by the craziness of the day. He gets that from me. I did not enjoy playing the role of the responsible parent, and I am so thankful for a husband who was made for the part. Me? I'm more cut out for comic relief. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leading and Following

Is everyone a leader?

I don't think so.

I think anyone can learn to lead, just like anyone can learn to play the piano. But even though I have had 12 years of formal piano training, I will NEVER be a gifted pianist. I can competently play some piano music, and it is a skill that I am willing to use if need be; however, it is not a gift. In the same way, I believe that people can go through leadership training, and be competent to lead if need be, but not everyone is a gifted leader.

I have been pondering these thoughts because David and I just completed a leadership training program that consisted of 5 3-day sessions every 6 months over 2.5 years. In the end, I suppose some participants grew in their leadership abilities; however, no one jumped from "competent leader" to "gifted leader." I don't think it can be done.

And while I believe it can be helpful for just about anyone to learn some basic leadership principals, I wonder why it seems that we push everyone to become a leader. If we all lead, who will follow?

Speaking of following--a separate but related topic--there is NO DOUBT that all of us are called at some point to be a follower; yet, no one seems to have Follower-ship Training Programs! Why is that? It certainly is not because we are all naturally good followers! Most of us have the follower-ship capacity of a cat--which is minimal to say the least. How can we better honor and learn from the gifted followers in our lives? I suppose it would be difficult to talk a gifted follower into leading a seminar!

In either case, it seems that leading and following cannot be fully separated from each other! Me? I am a leader. Some have called me a gifted leader. Leading is actually one of my best things. At the same time, I have come to realize that redemptive leadership flows from effective following; it is only by following Jesus that I can lead with any integrity, hope, or goodness at all.

But it took me some time to learn that most of the work of leadership goes unnoticed, uncelebrated, and unrecognized. Leadership is hard on the knees and involves a lot of foot-washing. Some leadership roles have room for vision, direction, and coordination. Most leadership roles require empowering, encouraging, and serving. All leadership roles demand humility and sacrifice.

Nevertheless, I have not done a lot of leading since I moved to France. I have done a lot of learning; a lot of listening; a lot of following. I have grown (happily) in my follower-ship skills, though not enough to be an expert! Through my many opportunities to follow I am beginning to see God's grace in this time of non-leading. Strangely, it is not through a leadership training program that my leadership skills have been enhanced over the past 2.5 years, but rather through accepting the role of a servant, through increased opportunities to humble myself, and through choosing to live in community.

All of that to say this: some may benefit from leadership training, but perhaps gifted leaders need to figure out how to follow if they want to make the most of their gift! 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Wonderful Grace of Jesus!

I love that moment when, after flailing around like a drowning child in a vast ocean, I finally latch on to the life ring: the wonderful grace of Jesus.

All-sufficient grace for even me (for even me!)

He is SO good! And no matter how often I blow it; no matter how great the offense; no matter how long I tarried in my wayward state--his grace is still enough.

Broader than the scope of my transgressions (sing it!)

The old hymn, a family favorite, marches through my head and ministers to my heart; words that confidently proclaim a truth that I cannot fully comprehend, even though that very truth is active in my life, renewing my mind, filling my spirit. After announcing the enormity of his grace, it concludes with this exhortation:

Oh magnify the precious name of Jesus
Praise his name!

How else could one respond to the Wonderful Grace of Jesus?

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Dreaded Photo

When is the last time that you stepped out of your comfort zone?

For me, it was yesterday. I had to have a professional photo taken.

I really do not like getting my picture taken, though I find it tolerable when it includes others, like family and friends. But this was a photo of me. Just me. And a close-up at that! Ugh.

The photographer was a professional, but also a friend, and he was patient, calm, and instructive. He didn't make me smile the whole time and he talked to me a lot, which I found kind of soothing. David was there, too, for moral support. Chandler helped with lighting.

Still, being under the scrutiny of a lens, a lens that refuses to lie or even soften the truth, is painfully uncomfortable for me. I feel inescapably aware of all my physical shortcomings: my odd shaped nose, my nonexistent chin, my squinty eyes, and I am reminded of the simple reality that no matter what I do, beauty is an unattainable goal for me.

And then the Lord whispers in my ear, in my heart, "You are beautiful to me, my darling." I suppress a surging cry of protest, and decide to believe him. And it is enough.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Walking in Weakness

The past two days have been packed with ministry--ministry that varied from playing with toddlers at a park to training college students to lead worship to praying with a middle-aged woman for deliverance. I've worn a lot of hats already this week--and it's only Wednesday!

In the midst of all that, I had an emotional breakdown. Or a crisis of belief. Or maybe I was pitching a fit. I'm really not sure. Let's just say I shed a few tears. Or a lot of tears.

My weeping was related to a weariness that I can't quite wrap my mind around, but has something to do with the fact that most of what I do these days--I'd say 85% of my ministry--I do out of weakness.

What is the point of spiritual gifts, natural abilities, and past experiences when Jesus keeps asking me to do stuff for which I am not equipped? Why has he given me certain strengths and then put me in circumstances that require an entirely different skill set?

You know that feeling you get when you are in your sweet spot, doing that thing that makes you think, "I was MADE to do this!"? Like the guy from Chariots of Fire who said, "God made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure."? You know that feeling? I don't get that feeling very often anymore.

Right now I feel more like, "God made me fast, and then he sat me down in a chair, put a seat belt on me and asked me to paint a sunset." What?!? I don't paint! I can't even draw stick people. And besides that, I don't like sitting. Or seat belts. Or paintbrushes. Speaking figuratively, of course.

You see, it's not that "painting" is bad, it's just not my best thing. I am really glad that there are great painters in the world, and I value what they do. I think it is important work. But it's not my work.Or rather, it's not work that I am good at, nor is it work that I enjoy.

But it is the work that God has me doing today.

And so I am wrestling with the tension between being a humble servant (willing to do whatever God asks me to do) and being a gifted child of God (uniquely wired for a specific purpose).

Before I left the States, when working in ministry, I loved helping women discover their gifting and then equipping and empowering them to serve. I liked to see women operating out of their strengths because then they tended to 1. Be highly effective in their ministry 2. Be highly satisfied in their ministry and 3. Be less likely to burn out.

I realize now that such an outlook on ministry was a luxury. I was in a church of 4500 people, where all the gift sets were represented and plentiful. I never had to ask a woman whose primary gift was hospitality to teach in the children's program. I never had to put someone with a behind-the-scenes gift of service in an up-front teaching role. And I certainly didn't have my prayer warriors bogged down with administrative tasks. But that was a luxury.

We currently serve in a church that, as of last Sunday, has 17 founding members and about 40 regular attenders (not counting children under the age of 10). Among those members and attenders, many are still just discovering their gifts and are not yet equipped for ministry. So then what?

Jesus, at the Last Supper, sat around the table with His disciples, knowing that before they could eat, the feet needed to be washed. I suppose everyone around that table could have said, "Hey, foot-washing is not my gift! Me? I'm an apostle! A preacher! I have the gift of leadership!" And Jesus? He could have played the gifting trump card, "I'm the messiah! Uniquely gifted to save the world from sin and death." But Jesus didn't do that. Instead, he quietly got up from the table, wrapped a towel around his waist, and did the work that needed to be done. No fanfare. No complaining. One minute he's turning over tables in the temple with passion and authority, the next minute he's caressing the dirty feet of his followers with tenderness and humility.

I want to be like Jesus. I want to be willing to do whatever God puts before me to do--trusting in his strength to give me what I need. But (insert whiny voice) I also want to do the things that I like to do, that I feel gifted to do, the things that let me feel God's pleasure. That is the place from which my tears fell yesterday. That place, that desperate, hungry-for-his-pleasure place is crying for my attention, and I am not sure what to do about it. And I see no end in sight...And I am weary.

It's hard to do things that I am not good at! It's hard to be continually reminded of my own weaknesses! It's hard to feel like my entire ministry here is built on mediocrity because that's the best I can do! It's also hard to remember that I have any gifts at all. Those things that used to make me feel alive are gathering dust in a neglected corner of my life. Sometimes I gaze longingly in their direction, wondering if I will ever put them to use again.

God is silent on the matter.

And so I wake up each day, putting one foot in front of the other, moving forward with a faith that belies this hidden struggle. God is active in his silence, filling all of my awkward, fumbling attempts at ministry with his enormous goodness and grace:

  • I, who am not at all gifted at worship leading, train those who are. I help them understand what it means to lead worship, teach them some basic principals, encourage them to keep growing in their faith, and BOOM! Those whom I have just trained quickly surpass me in their abilities. They do excellently what I can only do messily. I delight in seeing them discover and use their gifting, feeling God's pleasure as they do. 
  • I, who do not have gifts of prayer or faith, pray to see others delivered from strongholds. I spend hours dreading these types of encounters, I beg God to send someone else, and I fast out of total desperation. Then I go, totally dragging my feet. I exercise a teeny tiny bit of faith in a great big God, and then he shows up. Peoples' lives are completely changed, and no one is more shocked than me! I delight in seeing people delivered even though I don't enjoy the process.
In the end, God will do his work whether through me or in spite of me. And any gift I have is worthless unless it is put to use by the giver himself. Either way--it's all by his grace and for his glory.  Rather than gazing longingly at the unused gifts, I will try to turn my eyes once again to the giver, and trust that he knows what he's doing. He can deal with my tears, my fits, and my weariness. He makes all things beautiful in his time.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Because I am really missing my garden...

Because I really love the flowers that French people have in window boxes...

Because I have the most thoughtful husband ever...


Because he had a little extra money in his pocket from the guitar lessons he's been teaching...

David planned a flower-planting-date for us last Friday afternoon!

And we'll be enjoying the benefits for the next several months!

Friday, May 3, 2013


As we stepped onto the footbridge, my dad bent down, swooped me up by my waist, and placed me up on the raised edge. I nervously gripped onto his shoulders as I found my footing on the wide, stone rim. Once I was steady, he took my small left hand into his large right hand, and started across the bridge.

I did not want to walk the rim--but another desire ran deeper, stronger: I did not want to disappoint my dad. I wanted to be the brave daughter that he believed me to be. And so I smiled, lifted my head, and carefully put one foot in front of the other.

But I wasn't brave! My heart was racing, my legs were shaking, and with each wobble I gripped his hand more tightly. Should I keep going? Did he know how high I was? Did he see the water below? Stealing a glance at his face out of the corner of my eye, I saw the he had not a care in the world. Didn't he care if I fell?

Oh yes, my father cared! But he wasn't worried because he knew his own strength. I realize now that he wasn't asking for me to be brave, he was simply asking me to trust in him. For me--they were one in the same.

My dad, my dear sweet dad, taught me how to trust in the strength of one who is greater than myself, and then he directed my affections toward a heavenly father who is always able to keep me from falling. Real bravery is knowing that I am weak, but believing in the one who strong.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


So here's the thing: Sometimes I feel like I'm really not missionary material.

Lately, when I'm awake in the wee hours of the morning, I question my usefulness here. I wonder if anything I do matters. I worry that I'm not doing this missionary thing right. Or good enough. Or even at all.

I am plenty busy, but much of what I am doing is done out of weaknesses. In the meantime I'm wondering what my strengths used to be. I think I had some once. A long time ago. In a place far, far away.

I know that it doesn't really matter whether I feel like missionary material or not, because the fact is that God called us to France and we obeyed. But sometimes I just get tired. And I need to be encouraged.

Years ago, as a young Bible Study leader, I found myself feeling a lot like I do today. I remember calling a mentor, hoping she would cheer me up--you know by telling me what a great job I was doing and reminding me of my great capabilities and pointing out how cute I am.

When she answered the phone, she quickly picked up on my tired tone and said,"You know, Jenn, it sounds like you need some encouragement."

"Oh, yeah," I thought "here it comes. Bring on the compliments, the affirmations, and the praises." But they never came.

"Who called you to be a Bible study leader?" she asked me.

"Well, God, I guess." I replied, wondering when she was going to get to the good stuff.

"Then I suggest you go to him for encouragement!" she stated plainly. And then she hung up the phone.

I was stunned for moment. Crushed, actually. I wanted to be encouraged, and I wanted it NOW! I didn't know how to go to God for encouragement and it sounded so much more complicated than calling a friend. I collapsed on my sofa and burst into tears. I contemplated calling my mom. I finally prayed.

"Lord, can you encourage me?"

I'm not sure what I was expecting. I wish I could tell you that the clouds opened up and a dove descended from the heavens and loud voice cried out, "This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased!" That didn't happen. So I sat in silence. Between you and me, sometimes I wish the Christian life was flashier.

I'm not sure how long it took--I was still  for quite a while. But eventually I took my eyes off of myself and gazed into the goodness of my blessed Savior. In his perfect love, my heart was at peace. I realized then that my thirst for affirmation was gone--swallowed up by the knowledge that he had already accomplished everything for me. The weight of performance was lifted and I sensed the quiet pleasure of a servant king who does all things well.

The Lord does not encourage with empty flattery or shallow platitudes--Perfection personified can not, should not sing the praises of the fallen and flawed. The Lord encourages by redirecting my focus to HIS greatness. I suppose that is why Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, "let us fix our eyes on Jesus." He is the source of our call, our means of fulfillment, and our prize at the end.

Today, as my heart once again hungers for encouragement, I turn my eyes to Jesus. I remind myself that his grace is sufficient. I delight because he is worthy, and I thank him because I don't have to be.