Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Januaries by Sherri Lewis

Sherri Lewis asked me out for lunch one day and over that afternoon chat it became apparent that this young woman is hungry to grow, hungry to serve, hungry to learn and in all that hunger she had started her own ministry called Hungry Women with a huge desire to see women freed up the the slavery from food and body image issues and find peace and joy with themselves.  And here she sat with me over lunch wanting to also serve on the Collide team! Sherri has served for nearly two years on our team and lives her life pursuing God and serving Him and her community! In this blog it is like Sherri replaces our phrase having a case of the “Mondays” with having a case of the “Januaries!” – Willow

 Sherri my story

When January rolls around and people start dropping four letter words left and right, there’s one in particular I think we can all relate to: DIET. I hear conversations about losing weight, tight pants, if only I didn’t eat that, plans to eat only vegetables, or no carbs, or getting “back on the wagon” (as if there was a wagon in the first place). January 1st comes, dieting resolutions are underway and we will finally be happy in the bodies we have once we get back on the wagon and start fresh with only veggies and water and lots of squats, or maybe burpees (or both simultaneously).

And it doesn’t end there, when January comes around we find a lot of things that we need to fix besides our flabby thighs and arm wings. We know there are many things we got wrong, and that need to get right, and get right fast. We need to be better money managers, better friends, better wives, better leaders, better employees, the list goes on. It is this list that becomes our New Years’ Resolutions.

On the flipside, there are those who have set resolutions year after year, experienced hope and excitement, and yet they failed. They believe it’s not even worth it this year. Why even try? Resolutions have failed the last forty Januaries and this year is no different.

As I weigh these two sides of the coin, I relate to both. I relate to going on “New Year, New You” diets, starting budgets that never last, joining new committees and groups to make a difference and impact the world, yet being exhausted, not fulfilled, and still in search. I also relate to feeling like a failure, like it’s not worth it, like I never will get it. Why even try?

The reality is that when I look back on all the Januaries in my life, I realize that I started out with hope only to come to February 15th to realize it’s all pointless; my life simply is a treadmill of monotony and hopelessness. If this isn’t the case on February 15th, you can bet that I just assumed that position on January 1st. Either way, the end result leads me to believe the same thing: I am not enough, I shouldn’t even try, just accept things the way they are.

As I ponder these thoughts and consider all my former Januaries, I really relate to the words Paul shares in Romans:

 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  (Romans 7:15-18)

The problem with either side of this Resolution coin is that both sides are really only as effective and helpful as the bar or standard against which they are measured – the law, as Paul calls it. The world around us will ALWAYS lead us to a place of hopelessness, discouragement, and ultimately failure when we engage in what it is telling us to do, or what we perceive it is telling us. We might perceive that the world wants us to be skinny, buff, rich, generous, charitable, friendly, smiley, always happy, always offering a helping hand, giving… well, you get the picture. This list of what we should be is what we are told by others, including the media and even people around us whom we trust.

This year though I am realizing that my list doesn’t have to have any of these things on it. I do not have to lose weight, make more friends, smile more, be more involved in this or that, or make more money. These are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not “have to’s” or “need to’s,” and they are not where I should start.   

What has led me now to a place of peace and rest is starting with the realization that I simply am who I am, who God has created me to be, and it is enough. I am so filled with peace and joy that while in this world I may not look like much, in Christ’s eyes I am enough and more. I am made perfectly. He is living in me and working out His perfect will, not my own, and definitely NOT anything like what I see in the world or others around me.

What’s more is that this is not a destination to achieve or work toward believing about yourself; it simply IS. The only bridge from where you are now, to accepting this about yourself, is faith. I have learned to have faith that God has created me to be where I am, who I am, and with whomever I am with for a reason, a really good and perfect one. God’s plan cannot be thwarted as Job says: “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” (Job 42:1,3)

I have learned to step back from setting goals and resolutions (while these are not bad) and surrender my will to God’s will, for His plan is far greater than my own. I have had to surrender trying to fit into some ‘type’ of person that I think I should be based on world’s standards, or based on those around me that seem to “have it all.” I realize that it all starts with accepting who I am in Christ and understanding He has a lot more going on than what I see. This is evident especially when I look back and see where God has brought me. The journey I have been on has been rocky, full of struggles and pain, and discouraging at many points, but I see God’s hand.

It has been a long and exhausting road to realize that God’s the one working on my behalf. Really, it is not that He is working (though He is), it is that He did the work already! It says in Romans, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” and as you read on further, Paul states that this one righteous act led to the free gift of righteousness to all, as well as abundant grace and a justified life. “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

What has brought me my own peace and joy is accepting that even on my worst days, with failed efforts and resolutions, I remember that I am created by God and I am loved as I am. God’s plan will not be thwarted no matter how many failed Januaries go by. God’s plans and HIS resolutions for your life are waiting for you. Simply rest in His promises and remind yourself that you are loved just as you are and God’s grace has you covered. Let go of trying on your own and remember, “He has come that you might have life abundantly.” (John 10:10).

God came to save you and save me, and the work has been done. Simply trust.

Our Next Day for Women is Coming!

getting unstuck_First Pres_Online Invite

We are so very excited for our next day for women coming up! We are centering around John 5 and looking at this idea of getting Unstuck! So often we haven’t moved in so long. We have dreams, plans, hopes and goals and yet seeing them come about often seems impossible. We often get stuck in negative mindsets and attitudes. We get stuck in bad habits. We get stuck in perspectives that are limiting. We get stuck in relationships that are unhealthy and patterns of relating that seem to be the cause. We get stuck letting fear boss us around. Yet we have a God who wants so much more for us than to stay at a standstill and not see progress or growth. We have a God who wants to see us get out of our ruts and live our very best lives! Because of that, we want to spend a day colliding with Jesus and getting unstuck!

We have so many things in store! Our team is working creatively and diligently to bless women in ways that will meet hundreds of diverse women with diverse stories right where they find themselves. We are praying, we are building, we are sewing, we are cooking, we are shopping, we are studying, we are designing. Why do we do all this? Because we believe in the message God has given us and we believe women’s lives matter!

If you want to hear a woman’s experience of Collide, read this….

-collide 102415 fb 019

-collide 102415 fb 046

10703947_841969969156906_4493847744573002919_n

10606394_888540907833145_8524183699487246088_n

9807_888539764499926_2350879040795134834_n

10734247_841969809156922_6472563022161009005_n

To see pictures from our last day for women, click here...

We look forward to seeing you at Collide, ladies. To register, click here.

 

 

Learning to Let Go by Melissa Jacobs

Melissa is a refreshing soul because she is one of those people that isn’t hiding or pretending. She isn’t building an image she hopes you will see or trying to act as though she has arrived. Her honesty and rawness meet you in a stunning and beautiful way and then invite you to be honest and raw. I appreciate her invitation for us to step out of the chase for perfection. Enjoy! – Willow

melissa my story

Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. I have no idea who this quote should be attributed to; it isn’t profound and it seems an obvious truth. But for me, it requires repeating. Every day. Several times a day. So when I found a sign that says so, I knew my entryway table would be its new home.

IMG_2598

For years I tried desperately to fix me. I would convince myself I was working toward wholeness, but really it was perfection I was after. As if I could someday, somehow, have all the answers and one day avoid all the pain. I think I have always been this way. When anyone around me is hurting, I want to fix that too.

However, this past year brought about challenges that had no easy fixes, sadness that couldn’t be patched up with treats and hugs, pain that yielded questions with no concrete answers. There were no silver linings to be seen. These were circumstances that I was simply powerless to mend. While I knew these burdens weren’t for me to carry, I couldn’t figured out how to lay them down. I didn’t want to, actually. I wanted there to be answers. I wanted to make the suffering go away. I wanted everything to be restored and to fit neatly together. I grew weary searching for ways out and around.

But some pain and brokenness can’t be avoided. Instead, some things must be endured or let go. To lay down all my trying and problem solving, to let go and sit with the pain, and allow others to sit with theirs, is something I have managed not to do for much of my life. In my recent weariness I became content with letting the hard things happen. I have settled in to wait for the answers to come, instead of chasing them down in my own power. The waiting and enduring, ended up being a gift. It is the place where I have come face to face with my expectations and fears: they are big and they are many.  And they have often been running the show.

But this is a transitional time. A time of simply accepting what is, no fixing, just being alongside the hurting. It’s a time of recognizing when I feel compelled to dissect the problem and devise a way around it. It’s a place of taking each day as it comes, one at a time. This waiting and enduring isn’t stagnant, just different. The fear and expectations I have carried along the way haven’t disappeared, they creep in daily. And when they do, I turn to hope instead of searching for quick solutions. I can’t control the outcome, can’t make everyone’s pain go away, but I can rest in the character of God. When it’s all said and done, my fear is that pain will harden little hearts against God and diminish their hope.

My little sign has become a tool, a daily reminder to adjust my expectations, to be present and hopeful in each moment. It’s really a reminder to consider Jeremiah 29:11, that there is a greater plan, there is hope, and I’m not the one on which these rest.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

when your son carries a 30 lb weight and runs sprints for you

the long haul

Recently I asked my son to go running with me. This running idea is not like my idea of fun nor is it a common request of mine. I wanted to start running but I knew getting back into the rhythm of such was going to be challenging to say the least. So I asked my best buddy to come with me. We laced up and got in the car and as we were driving down the hill I looked at him and said “What’s the game plan?” It was kind of like, “Alright, how are we going to pull this off?” Or more accurately, how are we going to help me pull this off? He looked at me with the cutest smirk and pointed to the back seat. Trying to stay on the road, I took a quick look back and there was a bag thing. I said “What is thaaaaat?” He simply said “It’s a 30 pound speed sack that I am going to wear while we run.”

Who does that?

carrying another's burden2

We got out of the car and he had to get all jacked up in this doohickey that he, on his own, planned to wear around the track. As we ran each lap I saw how hard he was working. I saw the extra weight he carried for me. I saw the sweat he sweated to encourage me. I saw the extra effort he extended to run alongside me prodding me on for my best in mind. This was compassion at it’s greatest level.

compassion mens nothing if

See compassion cannot only be a feeling. If compassion were only a feeling, it would be useless. Anyone can feel. What good does just feeling for another do?

“Oh I feel so bad that you feel bad.” 

“It’s really sad that they have that problem. I feel for them.”

“What a hard life, I feel sorry for them.”

I bet you, like me, find yourselves “feeling” for people. You empathize with their grief or their childhood or their lot in life, but that’s often where we stop. We feel sad. We get mad. We ponder their plight and it looks like something we would avoid with a ten foot pole. But that is all. We have a compassion that sits- A compassion that claps and cheers and hopes things get better for another- A compassion that doesn’t lift a finger to bring about any change- A compassion that watches- A compassion that hears the news and feels bad and… that’s all- A compassion that knows but does nothing.

walk in your own shoes but do it thinking what its like to walk in another

The definition of compassion according to Webster is: a feeling of wanting to help someone who is sick, hungry, in trouble, etc.

A feeling.

A feeling?

A feeling of wanting.

What good is wanting to help someone if we never actually do? What good is wanting to reach out if we we only reach in? What good is a good intention? What good is a feeling with no movement along with it? Compassion is absolutely useless if it is not FELT and SEEN in action.

“Thats really hard.”

My son could have said that to me. “That’s really hard mom. Running after years of not running! That is going to be a real tough go. Good luck! You got yourself into this, now get yourself out of it. See you when you get back!”  Yet once again, I am schooled by my kids.

attach the burden to your own back

But he didn’t. In fact he took on my pain, my extra weight, my grueling run, my hardship, every lap and wore it himself. I cannot tell you what that did for me. It was like I was running next to Jesus Himself. It is said of Jesus in Isaiah 53 that He took up our pain and bore our suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. He wore our wounds so that we might find healing. This Jesus I know, He wears the heaviest of all running bags so that we might run unencumbered and free, fast and youthful. There is something about Someone coming alongside your pain and heavy laden race and running it alongside you, carrying the weight, knowing exactly how you feel.
carry each others

Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

I find this so fascinating and radical. The law of Christ is not going to church and getting a perfect attendance record. The law of Christ is not Bible trivia winning. The law of Christ is not joining every bible study and bragging about your long prayer times and all the ways you volunteer and take part in social justice causes. The law of Christ is not throwing away your short hoochie skirts, your hip hop cd’s and your F bombs . The law of Christ is carrying each other’s burdens. And I hate to say it, but if we aren’t carrying people’s burdens, we aren’t fulfilling the law of Christ. Which means, if we are merely feeling bad for people, but doing absolutely nothing about it, we are not quite as spiritually cool as we think we are. Carrying other people’s burdens is as trying and difficult AND radical as a 12 year old carrying a 30 pound running bag to not just empathize with his mother, but to carry her pain and run sprints doing it!

You either enter people’s hardships and carry them or you don’t. You either hear the news and put it on the prayer list or you actually engage the news and try to bring some good into it.  You either know whats going on and ignore it because you are uncomfortable or you engage it, wear it and run alongside it because it’s what Christ would do. Or you don’t. You can hear about starving children if Africa and feel badly but what good does feeling badly do for a hungry child? You can hear about their pending divorce and worry but what good is your worry doing when they sit lonely in loss? You can make a sad pouty face when you run into them because you know they are hurting but what healing does a sad pouty face have? Compassion. It’s a choice. Everyday, all day, it’s a choice.

Carry each other’s burdens.

“But their too heavy.”

“But I am already carrying my own.”

“But I don’t want to.”

In this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.


run for another

It’s one thing to run the race in life for yourself but it’s astounding to run it for another. True compassion runs alongside other people. Aidan ran for me. Do you know what that did for me? Every time Aidan sprinted ahead of me, and sprinted ahead of me he did, I’ll tell you what it did for me… It blessed me. It told me to keep going. It cheered me on. It applauded me. It told me I could keep going. It told me I wasn’t alone. It inspired me to one day be free of the heavy weight. It made me want to run harder and faster and longer. It made me want to be like him one day, showing up on a track carrying extra weight to help someone else lose it. It made me want to be a compassionate runner on the journey too.

Maybe carrying each other’s burdens is the law of Christ because Christ knew how beautiful the world would be if we all ran alongside each other in the race. Maybe Christ knew that compassion in action, carrying what is heavy for another, is how God best shows up and uses people to bring about healing. Maybe Christ knew it’s exactly what we all need.