Don’t Let it Die

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What an incredible REVIVAL season we’re in. And as Pastor Steven preached on the final night we know that the success of revival is not measured in the seed that was sown – we know that was incredible, right? It will be revealed in the fruit. Potential has been planted in each of us, now it’s up to us to bring it to power in our lives.

Our Elevation Outreach teams are working in this season to get new events on line each day so that you have the opportunity to “See what God can do through you” in outreach.

You are stronger, braver, wiser, and more loving than you were before. Let’s bring that revival spirit with us to work, school, and to our outreach partners. Sign up and SERVE today.

Wide Shots

Our church is celebrating TEN YEARS in ministry this weekend. My super hard-working, creative husband Sean got this iconic shot of Time Warner Cable Arena filled to the brim on Easter Sunday 2010. So much happened that year it would be a blur if we didn’t take time to look back and reflect on God’s faithfulness.

Our first Love Week, Egg the City for Easter and the opening of Elevation Blakeney.  It was a personal time of stepping out in faith to take the gifts God cultivated in me in 22 years of TV News to say yes to a call to come on staff at Elevation Church.

It’s funny how we can’t see what God is doing when we are in the midst of it. It’s when we zoom out and take the wide view and we can see how we get to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves. When we FOCUS on God, his goodness, and all He has done for us, the struggles we’re facing seem to fade away into the background.

I love John 3:29-33 in the Message version. “That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines. The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven.. anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth.”

I had no idea how God would grow and stretch and love our family through the work we would get to do together. Or how God would strengthen, encourage, teach, and change us through the messages we heard from our Pastors Steven and Holly Furtick. Or how friendships with our first eGroups leaders Chunks and Amy Corbett would teach us how to lead and serve with passion, excellence, simplicity, and grace. Looking back, I can’t believe God would love us so much to order our steps in such unexpected, beautiful ways. Our marriage and family are stronger because we said YES to God’s leading in our lives.

As I become less, he gives me so much more.

Happy #Superversary @ElevationChurch. We love you. #Elevat10n.

Thank you #FMFParty for the Five Minute Friday word prompt, FOCUS.

Run. Speak. Pray. Sit.

Sean and I are closing in on 20 years together and our marriage is stronger than ever.. today. Though if you asked me last week if we were “feeling” strong in our union I would have said, no, not particularly.

Sean and I were not set up for success. Both his parents and mine are divorced – and each of us has struggled through the loss of our own first marriages.

So we certainly are not quick to offer up marriage advice and certainly do not feel like experts. But while we were having a dinner date night last night we pushed ourselves to come up with four things that help us bring ourselves back to center in our marriage. Not an exhaustive list. Just the one we could agree on while we split an entree on a Friday night.

RUN TOGETHER – Sean and I have run a few marathons together, and enjoy training together. He wants to run a 50-miler in 2016 and so he’s been running several days each week. I love running, too – and now that a spider bite on the bottom of my foot is healed up I’m back out on the trails as often as possible. Running together gives us time to talk, connect, and dream. And since one of his love languages is quality time, this time together is key to keeping us connected.

SPEAK KIND WORDS – The power of life and death is in our tongues. I’ve really had to learn to tame mine and use my words to build him up rather than constantly reminding him how I’d rather see things done this way or that way. And since he’s more of a pictures guy than a words guy – this one pushes and helps both of us. Words of affirmation are my top love language so when he can remember to say something nice to me it fills me up like nothing else.

PRAY TOGETHER – They say couples who pray together stay together. However, I can’t actually find any reliable statistics on this issue. I can say that when Sean and keep our eyes focused on God together in prayer regularly, we are far less likely to get caught up in our little issues and irritations. He leads prayer at night. I lead in the morning. And nobody gets mad if we skip a day of prayer together, we just try to do better next time.

SIT ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE BOOTH – This works for us. You may enjoy gazing into one another’s eyes and having long conversations about your day (do people really do that?) But if you see us out on a date we’ll be on the same side of the booth. His top love language is physical touch and if we are close enough to touch during dinner, it softens his heart and makes him more likely to try to answer all my questions about life and work and raising kids.

Five Minute Friday – YES

thebestyestitleIt is with great pleasure on this Labor Day Monday evening I take five minutes to write a bit about the word, YES.

I love this word. I’ve said YES to many great things in my life. And I want to keep doing it. But along the way I’ve had to look at making a decision to say YES not to everything, but to the things that will add focus and joy to my life, and not just add stuff.

My entire adult life I’ve struggled with an overwhelmed schedule and an underwhelmed soul. But I have a choice to say YES to the things that feed my soul, instead of starve it. I have a chance to say YES to this moment, rather than be worried about the dozens of things I should be doing that I’m not.

And I want to say YES more often to the requests of two beautiful little boys who won’t be little forever. My friend Lysa TerKeurst wrote a book all about YES. If you’ve not yet read it, I highly recommend it!

Praise, pray, or panic?

Psalm150I swing wildly between gratitude and frustration.

I know I’m supposed to be grateful. I know it’s good for me. I know God says in EVERYTHING we should praise him. In fact the word “PRAISE” appears more than 250 times in the bible. Psalm 150 is my favorite – here’s the bible.com list so you can choose yours.

But sometimes in that fraction of a second when the Holy Spirit gives me a chance to PRAISE OR PRAY I instead resort to PANIC. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I mean. You do. You just don’t yet recognize it as panic. Neither did I. Until I got slapped in the face by this little bit of wisdom from Oswald Chambers the other day. He says, “The degree of panic activity in my life is equal to the degree of my lack of personal spiritual experience.”

What? First I was kind of offended. Then I was just a little angry. Then as I read it again and again I wondered, is this really me?

It IS me. I like to run around looking busy because then I don’t have to face up to what’s really wrong. I don’t have to make any plans to actually do something about it. Ouch. It hurts to say it. But I know God can only heal me to the extent at which I’ll admit I’m broken.

I’m super grateful for Pastor Steven Furtick’s message this weekend – “Making Friends with Frustration.” It’s online now – The fact that Elevation’s Sunday sermon is online by Monday is one of the things that makes Mondays so great, don’t you think?

Complex.

It was a simple question.
“What happened here?”
Though I knew specifically what she was talking about, I mindlessly went down so many other roads.
Like those nights when I was 10 and felt so small and helpless because there was yelling and arguing and things being thrown around upstairs.
Like that time my boss said, “No one cares about your opinion,” after I’d finished an interview with a woman who’d been the victim of sexual and racial discrimination.
Something about THIS moment of fear allowed a wave of old junk to rush in. Tell me if this happens to you sometimes, too.
So I recognize the old junk and I name it. Fear.
But there’s something else in this moment, too.
It’s Pride. I don’t want anyone to know I’m hurting.
I want to be the strong one, the helper, the one who has it all together.
THIS shatters THAT.
So I dig into God’s word to encourage a friend (because that’s what I do now to take a shot at the devil) and this time I encouraged SEVERAL friends because I know the TRUTH that I don’t have to let fear cripple me and I want others to know this freedom, too.
And I find this from Paul who was talking about a ‘thorn in his flesh’ that God would not take from him:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power will rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)
And I answer the question. And the doctor tells me it could take two months to heal and I could be on crutches most of that time.
And I admit to him that I am afraid if it doesn’t heal properly I will never be able to run again.
And that running is my drug.
And he attempts some kind of empathy like I’m overreacting as he jokingly tells my son how many toes he’s had to cut off.
I wince at the foot doctor humor and tell him I know that God is with me but I’d like to keep all my toes if possible.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Grace flowed in and I smiled.
Questions are simple.
Answers are more complex.
For more: I love what Holly Furtick preached about being a complex versus a complicated woman. It encouraged, challenged, and convicted me. The sermon was from our church’s Moodswingers series entitled “The Orchid and the Oak Tree.”

9 Habits of People Who Are Always on Time

Read this today on TIME – and felt that “I need this” feeling in my gut. Thought it might help you, too. I want a better product, so I’ve got to change some of my habits. Let’s do it together!

TIME

Some people get their daily dose of cardio by running into every meeting saying, “Sorry I’m late!” While it might seem like chronic lateness is just plain rude, time management can be harder than it looks—and often, lateness is rooted in something psychological, like a fear of downtime.

Luckily, there are simple habits you can tweak and others you can adopt entirely to turn you into that person—the one who shows up early and finishes projects with time to spare. Here, nine habits of those mystifying people who are always punctual.

When it’s time to get up, they get up.

Waking up is the first item of the day you can procrastinate. Whether you hit the snooze button and fall back asleep, or accidentally turn your alarm off and wake up 30 minutes later in a panic, getting out of bed is an easy thing to delay. Diane Gottsman

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I am not ashamed

Screenshot 2015-03-06 22.42.31Writing the headline feels like a lie. I suppose it means I’ve been living with shame far too long.

I know now what it smells like… sin and shame. It smells the way my VW smelled this week when my cat piled out of it after having been trapped in there two days. Or at least I imagine if you could smell foolishness and fear – that’s what you’d get. This idea of the “smell of sin” crossed my path during a devotional I found on YouVersion. Timothy G. Walton writes, “One early American preacher traveled from town to town preaching the gospel message. It was witnessed that as he approached the outskirts of a town he would pause and say, I smell hell!”

The funny thing is, we can’t smell our own sin so well, even while we are keenly aware of the shortcomings of others. My cat certainly didn’t realize the gifts he left behind in my car would make our family hold our noses in disgust. And I’m thankful that I could shower the smell off of me, and shine myself up all pretty again before heading to work. Imagine the questions, “whoa girl, where have YOU been?”

But sometimes I can’t seem to shake the feelings of ugliness and brokenness inside me. Let’s face it, I’ve made far more mistakes than I care to admit. And the worst of it is, I’m certain to make more. But I didn’t always realize it while it was happening. I didn’t recognize my behavior as selfish, lazy, or judgy at the time. And I’m thankful that Jesus is so patient with me. Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were still sinners, Christ Jesus died for us.”

This is such good news for you and me. Because it means Jesus loved me before I could do anything for him, or do anything to hurt him. And it means there is hope for us all to live UNASHAMED.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know I like to recommend books that have helped me work through some of my own gremlins. Brene’ Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame, and especially her book “Daring Greatly” has been huge in my understanding of the things that hold me back from living a wholehearted life.

Brown writes in the book’s opening passage, “Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither.”

So here I am. Admitting my shame, foolishness, and fears. Asking Jesus for forgiveness, and accepting his free gift of grace. As I do this, I feel lighter. I’ve given Jesus the only gift I can give him, and he accepts it with joy. Jesus turns my fear into faith so I can live unashamed. That’s genius.

We’re starting a new series this weekend called “The Genius of Jesus.” Click here to find the location nearest you, or join us online on the Elevation Network.

Gather

Occasionally to keep myself from giving up on this personal blog writing thing I link up with other writers across the nation for something called “Five Minute Friday.” We write for just five minutes from a one-word prompt. Today’s word is “Gather.” GO.

Recently I’ve been asking those in my closest work relationships to share with me the results from their Strengthsfinder assessment. It’s a great tool to build teams and help team members understand and work together better.

According to my test, my top strength is INCLUDER. It means I’m instinctively an accepting person. I don’t want anybody to feel left out, and I want to “stretch the circle wider.” It means, when I’m having a meeting or a party or a group function of any kind – I want to GATHER up everyone I know and help them feel included and important.

This kind of behavior I’m finding can drive some people crazy – including my husband and some of my closest colleagues. Thankfully we gatherers have learned how to get along with our hunters and learn and grow together. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to work together with those in our church to make everyone feel welcome. If you’re an INCLUDER, too, you’d probably enjoy working in outreach like I do, or maybe you’ll find your sweet spot as a greeter in church.

No matter what your strengths, I hope you’re getting involved so you can feel the warmth of the group. Everyone is welcome.

I am not helpless

Their strained, angry voices would wake me from sleep in my basement bedroom. When I recall them now, though – I hear the fear.

My dad was afraid he couldn’t provide for our family. He was afraid he couldn’t measure up to my mother’s unspoken expectations. He was angry because she asked the wrong questions or looked at him with confusion, hurt, or despair that he perceived as dishonor or disrespect.

My mom was afraid dad would leave us for the friend he met at the bar. A part of her wanted him to go. But the other part was terrified she couldn’t survive without him. I remember she always wore a pained look on her face, even when she was smiling.

I remember her look of helplessness so clearly. I learned to despise her desperate cry for mercy. There was this hint of judgment in it – that somehow everything in her life that was wrong was everyone else’s fault. Her face said, “Help me, please don’t hurt me.” But it also said, “It’s all your fault.”

Their middle of the night outbursts made my little girl self feel afraid, angry, confused, and desperately helpless.

Though I’m all grown up now, I still have to daily remind the little girl in me that I am not helpless, I am strong in Christ.

  • When my kitchen (or my entire house) is a mess and I don’t feel like cleaning it.
  • When I’m up against many deadlines and I feel like all I want to do is pretend like they don’t exist.
  • When I give in to my boys who keep asking to play video games.
  • When I see my calendar for the week ahead and the crush of appointments makes me want to cancel it all.
  • When I look at the income/expenses columns in my budget and want to cry.
  • When my husband asks for help with tasks while so many of mine remain undone.

John 15:5 gives me hope in these helpless places. God’s word reminds me how much I need Jesus, and how if I can remain IN HIM, he is right there with me to help.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Apart from me you can do NOTHING. At the start of this year, our church spent five weeks learning this chapter of scripture, and I want this one line “apart from me you can do nothing,” planted deep in my heart. The series is called “The Power of Same” and it is so powerful.

Would you join me this month leading up to Easter as I seek to replace the lies in my head with God’s truth? I’m coming to realize I’ve been wrong for so long about how best to approach the daily problems I face. I cannot defiantly push through any more. My patience runs out. My joy turns to despair. My faith turns to fear.

I can’t blame others for my problems. If I don’t like something in my life, I have the power to change it. It may not be easy. But it will be worth it. What kinds of changes have you made this year that help you work through feelings of helplessness? I need all the help I can get. I promised myself I’d give up despair for Lent.

For more on how to be a stronger, wiser woman, my friend Lysa TerKeurst preached on making wise choices in the midst of endless demands during our Elevation Church series “The Best Yes.” The book is amazing. Her message is called, “One Wise Woman.”

Fierce Happiness

The phrase arrested me. Two words strung together in a sentence that don’t really seem like they should go together.

Fierce happiness.

Fierce: Intense or ferocious aggressiveness OR heartfelt and powerful intensity.

Happiness: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction.

I’ve been having great conversations with ladies lately about the things I love about Jesus.

His patience. His consistency. His grace. But I’ve been searching for something else in my understanding of who He is.

And there it was. It jumped out of my phone and into my heart like God speaking straight to me. I started thinking of friends who exhibit “fierce happiness.”

My friend Mary Catherine Garrett who co-leads the inner city youth ministry One7 with her husband, David. Ultra endurance athlete Meredith Dolhare who founded RunningWorks, a non-profit investing in the health and well-being of homeless neighbors. My pastors Steven Furtick and his wife, Holly. Suzanne Spantgos and her husband George, great leaders in our church on outreach, tech, and eGroups teams. Tony and Christine Schmitz who lead at our Weddington location. Christy Baker who leads at our non-profit partner Charlotte Rescue Mission. And I could go on, and on.

Each of these people has known deep sorrow and on the other side have come to a place of fierce happiness. If Tim Keller is right in his book, PrayerFierce happiness is found in the perfect truine relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It seems it is found in truly knowing someone and allowing oneself to be deeply known.

Somewhere along my journey with Jesus, I think I’ve both gained and lost some of who He is. Before I really knew him I’d mastered a sort of fake happiness. I didn’t entirely realize I was faking it. I felt happy, mostly. I gave up the fake me as much as I could. But I’ve traded in something fierce in me for a sort of abstract tranquility. I want my fierce back. But a new kind of fierce that’s grounded in who He is inside me. It’s a different kind of grrrrr… Let’s see if we can find it together… in letting ourselves be deeply known.

As we begin a new series called Moodswingers, we’re also about to launch into a new season of eGroups at Elevation Church. Get there. Be known. Be fiercely happy.

Inspired by “Prayer: A 14-Day Devotional by Tim Keller” on the YouVersion Bible app.

Encourage a friend

IMG_6840.JPGMy apologies for the morning blog publishing blunder. I was working on this piece over on the Elevation Outreach blog, and accidentally published the lovely Jay and Brandi Rabon photo (by Sean Lyon) here a bit early.

Jay and Brandi are incredible Elevation Church friends and one of the original families to launch our church with Pastor Steven and Holly.

From the outside looking in, with their beautiful smiles and cheerful, helpful dispositions, you’d never know they were going through a difficult season in their lives. Their once very active, spunky 10-year-old Addison suffers from two rare medical conditions. You can read details in this local newspaper article.

We are believing in total healing for Addison and we believe her story will bring God glory. You can give her spirits a boost by voting for her in the “Rare artist 2014″ contest.

Do it. Tell everyone you know about it. You’ll be inspired.

Addison Rabon’s art photo on the “Rare Artist 2014″ contest. Children with rare disorders are competing for a $100 prize. Addison already knows what she wants to do with the prize money – buy pink iPod for her 7-year-old sister Alana.
Addison Rabon’s art photo on the “Rare Artist 2014″ contest. Children with rare disorders are competing for a $100 prize. Addison already knows what she wants to do with the prize money – buy a pink iPod for her 7-year-old sister Alana.
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