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Ifly this week to Allume ….

Get on a plane and go to women I feel are a bit like a home to me.

Who understand family and the call to blog and this daily fight for all joy in Him. And we’ll pray and we’ll laugh and we’ll talk about why we do this blogging thing and family and being real and what it means to be a follower of Christ.

It’s still pounding hard in me, this keynote from two years ago & how I keep fighting for daily joy in Christ alone:

The Text of the Closing Keynote of Relevant ’10 (envision farm hick, nerve blotchy neck)

Thank you for grace.

It’s a privilege to be here this evening with you. I’ve been blogging for six years, since 2004, and you beautiful women — are my very first blogging conference. And such women you are! For such a time as this. Such women you are, for such a time as this.

These past days I have met you and prayed with you and laughed with you and I know this about you: You are a holy wonder, you are –every. Single. One. Of. You.

Might I give my Compliments to your Maker?

You have come from all over the continent, from Canada to California, from Oregon to Oklahama, you have packed your bags, you have flown with faith, you have invested and prayed and you have longed to go deeper with God. May I say this about you? You are brave. You didn’t know what this would be like. You didn’t know if you would belong here. Would your hair be okay, your clothes, your weight — you inside. Would anyone like you?

Because we are women living in the upside down kingdom, can we do things upside down here tonight? Might we begin with a round of applause, applauding the God who makes the wonder and beauty of each woman in this room – You are liked and you are loved and praise to our God who dreamed you up and ensured that you were perfectly and wonderfully made and would you applaud right now the making of the woman sitting beside you — our compliments to your Maker! You are beautiful and you belong and thank you, Lord for such women for such a time as this!

And now… may we open in a Word of prayer to Him who made each of you and is worthy of all our applause?

A Prayer for Bloggers

I am no longer my own blogger, but Yours.

Refine me with each post how You will, rank me how You will.

Put me to service, put me to suffering.

Let me be a follower — instead of seeking followers
Let me post for You —  or be put aside for You,

Lifted high, only for You, or brought low, all for You.

Do with me and each post whatever You will, because You alone know best.

Let me not strive but submit
Let me not compete but care
Let me not desire hits but holiness

Let my blog be full of You, and let it be empty of me.
Let me crave all things of You, let me care nothing of this world.
Let my words be focus only on the greatest of audiences: You.
And You are enough.

May I write not for subscribers… but only for Your smile.
May my daily affirmation be in the surety of my atonement not the size of my audience.
May my identity be in the innumerable graces of Christ, never, God forbid, the numbers of my comments.
May the only words that matter in my life not be the ones I write on a screenbut the ones I live with my skin.

I freely and heartily yield every sentence, every title, every post, every comment… or no comments… all to Your pleasure and perfect will.

My only fame is that I bear your name
My only glory is the gift of Your Grace
My only readership, Your eyes that seek to and fro to find
Make this so. Lord…

Yawhew, you alone are my God, not Google
Jesus, you alone are my Savior, not sitemeters
And Holy Spirit, you alone are my Comforter, not comments

So be it, today, yesterday, and every post to come.

O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.

This is my prayer I have made on earth, over thie keyboard…
let it be ratified in heaven.

In Jesus’ Name…. Amen.

I come to you tonight, wondrous word women, with nothing but a string of stories… for that is all I have, all we all have, reallythe Word God making our lives into lines that we throw to each other.

The lines of our stories become literal life-lines that we throw to each other when the storms come and beat hard on our lives.

So I tell you a story tonight… words I wrote on a screen and clicked the cursor on publish. I am a mess and I tell you my messy story — and it may be the story of the women who read your stories — real women looking for real lifelines.

I had typed out the title to this post – entitling it, naming me:

What to Do When You Want to Give Up and Stay in Bed

Shadows of depression can ride up like a highway man in the night and and steal away all the silver linings.

I wake on a Sunday to his cantering away.

I lay in the bed a long time.

The legs, the spirit, too heavy to move. The sun’s high already, the sheets warm. I make a point of not looking at my watch or the bedside clock’s hands ticking, vainly trying to nudge me out.

Maybe I can bury myself deep under covers, a bunker, escape today and no one will notice?

I don’t bother moving today because I already know I’ll lose.

I know I can’t get the laundry caught up this week and I know I can’t make deadlines. I know the bedrooms I tidied through last night will be dumped out by nightfall, the sink I left empty last night will be piled high by noon, the floors I washed yesterday will be tracked dirty by supper.

I will definitely lose today, tomorrow, all week. I roll over, smother my face in the pillow.

How did my daily challenge to get up and “Work!” dissolve into this apathetic
“Why?”

I think…. when I began to believe in the head that there’s no way through for the heart, when my inner world fell for the lie that nothing can change in my outer world.

When the problems before you seem to loom larger than the Power behind you, the purpose in living falls right out from underneath of you.

And it’s only a half dozen children pounding in from the barn, looking for breakfast and Sunday morning clothes, that compel me to push the feet to the floor, faith to the fingers.

Our greatest triumphs are always our most solitary ones and every great triumph begins with the decision to get out of bed.

I throw back the covers.

I lay out bowls. Clatter out spoons. Cunch across stale remnants of last night’s dinner still under the table. I’m mumbling how I can never get anything right, and how come I can never get caught up on all my lists, work, projects, and what in the world is wrong with me that is right with everyone else, when the Farmer comes in quiet from morning chores. I can hear him at the back sink, washing up those thick hands.

I cringe still.

Has he heard me muttering ugly?

“Annnnn…..” I hear his voice gentle at the tap, his love running over me like water.

I close my eyes. He’s heard me. And I know how he feels about bad self-sermons.

Boys wrestle in the bedroom. Floors shake. Then there it is, his hand on my shoulder.

He asks it soft, “Been a long time since I’ve heard you talking like that.” His hand finds the nape of my neck, strokes me kind. “You just fallen sick with perfectionism again?”

I don’t open my eyes…. To my dust and my smudges and my grime and my love-smeared mess. Why can’t I remember…

the state of my space doesn’t reflect the state of my soul.

I ring the dinner bell for boys to tumble to the table. This morning, even the cast iron bell in the hand feels like a millstone around the neck.

I eat breakfast in silence and I don’t know how I am going to get dressed for church, rustle up a meal for 10 when we get home from church, make it through Latin and spelling and the early Renaissance and piano scales and fractions and the three meals a day for eight people this week and the 4 loads of laundry a day and all the prayers between now and church again next Sunday.

I do the next thing. Clean off the table.

Thank you, Lord, for the food that filled these dishes, that I am well and here and I can clean off this table.”

It sounds mechanical. And a tad lame. It is. I am doing the next thing.

Wipe the counters. And I say it aloud,

Thank you, Lord, for water to wash off counters and that the dust bunnies around here haven’t yet grown into monsters and that the jam stuck sticky all over everything really does just wash off, and for this husband that treats me tender when I’m stuck.”

One foot in front of the other and one murmured thanks after another and underneath the everlasting arms will hold.

And when I am home and over the stove, stirring up dinner, apron over my black church dress, The Farmer slips up behind me, slides his arm around my waist and whispers, “You’ve gotten over that nasty spell of perfectionism?”

I’m surprised too.

“I guess it’s just coming to realize…” I lean back into him and I didn’t know the words until they slipped out true,

“God doesn’t ask me to be perfect; He asks me to praise.”

I don’t have to have smudgeless windows and empty laundry baskets and gleamy toilet bowls! I don’t have to have a perfect life, all problems solved! I think I hear the Hallelujah chorus!

I simply need have a grateful heart to give Him glory.

Gratitude in all things is the only thing God asks.

Can I take each seeming problem and turn it back to praise?

That alone is the one thing that is needful.

The pot on the stove bubbles over and with a quiet half smile, I wipe it clean.

And the clouds out the window drifting east, all chariots glinting silver.

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This is what I blog. Because this is who I am. I am a mess – who often doesn’t want to get out of bed.

Who struggles and preaches ugly self-sermons to herself and some days just really doesn’t know how to go on. I don’t have it all together. I blog about not having it all together. And you know what? I’m almost willing to hazard a guess that there a whole lot of other women out there like me who are a bit of a mess and who don’t know how to get out of bed some mornings and who have to fight. Hard. For. Joy.

I wrote a whole book about this, this past year,One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. It’s a book about my struggle for joy, my simply not wanting to get out of bed.

And in that book, I wrote these words:

“… and I know all our days are struggle and warfare (Job 14:14) and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly rage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy.

He sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world and I gasp to say God is good.

The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God’s glory and I heave to enjoy God . . . and Satan strangles and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor.” ~One Thousand Gifts

And when you sit down to your keyboard, and you write a blogpost — you are writing for me. You are writing for messed up me, and the messed up woman next door, and the messed up woman sitting beside you in church and messed up You. We need your messy stories. And you need your messy stories.

Why do I need your story and why do you need your story?

Because story is a way that the Spirit of God can bind our wounds.

It is in story, we meet the Spirit of God. The reader meets the Spirit of God in the reading of story — the word made flesh in your life. The writer, you, meets the Spirit of God in the writing your story – the word made flesh in your own life.

The Word God wastes nothing and He heals two broken hearts with one story – the reader and the writer.

Us who are fighting for joy from behind the laundry heap and in the trenches with the crying kids and with the bruised marriages and the crushing debts and the battered , frayed dreams, and we. Don’t. want. To. Get. Out. Of. Bed — we need your messy, real, authentic, unmasked stories. And you who are fallen and broken and scraped–  you need your messy, real, ugly stories.  Because in the hands of the Spirit, story becomes a salve to the skinned souls.

The first person that any words ever heal — is the writer of those words.

Because our words aren’t wholly our words.

They are from the Word God Himself.

T.S. Eliot says,

If the word ‘inspiration’ is to have any meaning, it must mean … that the writer … is writing something that he does not wholly understand.

This is what you do when you blog.

You come to the screen with a shimmer of your story – but you come empty, not fully sure of what you are going to write. And this is okay. Because you don’t have to have all the answers. If your writing is inspirational — you will write things you don’t wholly understand. You will be surprised by the Spirit as He speaks new truth to you through your story. Because what you think you have to say – may just be the first words of a far greater truth that God wants to speak to you.

I need your messy story… and you need your messy story.

So tell me your story, not your sermons, tell me your thrashing, and not just your theology. Tell me about your questions – and not just your quest.

Because we read so that that we know that we aren’t the only ones.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian who was martyred by the Nazi’s during WW2, he wrote these words and this is for you, and this is what it means to be a community and we are a Christ body and we are this to one another:

The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”

The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.

She needs her again and again when she becomes uncertain – and this is the power of blogging in the upside down kingdom. This is the holy work of a blog, so don’t every feel shy or ashamed or embarrassed that you blog. Because the body of Christ needs to speak to itself and it needs to speak to the world and this is the beautiful , poy of a blog. I get discouraged and I become uncertain and I fall down and His word through your words is the connective tissue in the body of Christ and we need each other. Please. Keep. Writing.

Because I am just one decision away from disaster.

Every single last person reading your story, your blog, is just one decision away from a spiritual, financial and moral mess.

Can you see them, their faces and their lives and their hearts? Me! on the other side of your screen.

There are women, men, who are reading your blog and are pondering decisions that will change the course of their lives—and their children’s lives and on out into eternity. Women who are so weary they have absolutely no idea how they are going to put one foot in front of the other today. Mother’s whose hearts are shattered into a million shards by prodigal sons. Marriages with debt around their feet like a millstone. Wives on the brink of some emotional affair.

They are sitting in front of screens, on the other side of your screen and they are looking and clicking and they are reading.

They want something REAL -honest. They are yearning for something INTENTIONAL – that you’ve prayed about. They are longing for something RELEVANT.

What are your words? What are you going to say?

This is the world God has called you to write to. Not a sermon – but your story.

Tell messy me how you handled not wanting to get out of bed. Tell broken me how you keep your vows. Tell fallen and sinning and wrecked and saved me how you see God – right where you are and how you are wrestling your faith out and how you don’t have answers but a lot of questions.

And your God is so big He doesn’t live in boxes but in your gritty-grace-filled life.

There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.

I didn’t know six years ago, and nearly 2,000 posts ago, on a September night, when I clicked “publish” on that first corn-husking post, that it would be me I’d be peeling back. ….

I didn’t know that He’d use stories to heal me. 

I couldn’t have known the cost. 

I never thought of how and when these postings might end.

 I wasn’t prepared for the fire and the heat and the Spirit and the fear-begging-to-be-made-courage.

I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.

I couldn’t have imagined the people-beauty, the souls luminous, the Glory-stories.

 I never expected so much joy.

Six years later, and I’m still pounding it out, and I have grown smaller…. hushed. I am the same and I am changed and I am less and I am more and I have seen Him.

And His name is Where-Two-or-Three-Are-Gathered and Community is a Love-Body that holds itself close in the wind. I never knew.

Six long years of tracing the outline of days with the arc and curve of letters and finding the Spirit in the story.

Finding you, the sisters in His story.

There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.

It is in your story, you meet the Spirit of God.

You just blogging, doing that word that sounds like a blob,  this thing that others may snub – may I just say: you are an artist. In the line of your Father God, you are an artist.

Ezra Pound once said that the artist’s task is this:

To “make it new.” The “it” is the truth of the world. A work of art doesn’t invent truth, but it does make it accessible to us in ways that are not normally available because words and images have been tarnished by overuse or neglect.”

And this is what you do when you sit down at the keyboard in the upside down kingdom.

You are an artist and you make the truth of the world new to be me again when you tell the truth through your story that is new to me.

You make art, and you don’t invent truth, you tell me the real honest truth, that the kids keep bickering and you yelled at everyone at dinner and you’re feeling around for the face of God in the midst of all this darkness and there are days. You. Just. Don’t. want. To get. Out. Of. Bed. and you make it accessible to me because you tell it to me in your story. You are an artist of the Word, daughter of your Father God who has always been an artist, who has always been a creator.

God speaks through prophets and poets and the pots all cracked.

And He speaks through you in these last days, these days when:

” I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.” ~Acts 2:17

There is so much at stake—souls. There is so much at risk – us.

And the upside down kingdom needs your stories of good news that there is a grace that uprights a fallen world. We need your art.

Did you know that the first people that we know from Scripture to be filled with the Holy Spirit were not priests, not kings, not generals. The first two people to be filled with the Holy Spirit were — two artists, two craftsmen, two makers named Bezelel and Oholiab — who built Moses’ Tabernacle?

Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”

~Exodus 35:29-31

When you make with words and when you craft with lines and when you click that shutter on that lens, looking for the beauty and glory and reality of God, you are an artist in the line of Bezalel, and He fills you with the Spirit of GOD, fills you with skill and ability and knowledge – and in your art, He heals you and He heals me.

There is so much at stake – souls. There are many at so risk – us.

And it is in story, we together, meet the Spirit of God.

The Word God wastes nothing and He heals two broken hearts with one story – the reader and the writer.

You in the upside down kingdom with a keyboard, you making art, you making the truth new to me, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Jesus gives this to you tonight, He gives you the Great Commission,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…and lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

And THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. How do we with blogs and keyboards go into all the world? Aren’t we all really like Peter — cowards and liars and deniers and absolute messes? I am. I am.

BUT GOD. But God, what does He do? He fills the rag-a-tag disciples, the messes like Peter – with the Holy Spirit – just like He did Bezalel… And we see it again and again throughout Acts – that the phrase “filled with the Spirit” is often linked to a consequence: They “spoke with boldness”(see Acts 4:13; 5:29; 7:51; 9:27).

Filled with the Spirit – spoke with Boldness.

YOU, with a keyboard – you are an artist.

You with a blog – you are filled with the Holy Spirit.

You telling your story – speak it with boldness.

Is that what makes a successful blog? You an artist, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking your story with boldness? What is success?

What is success for a blogger? 25, 000 hits a day, thousands of dollars of ad revenue, a book contract and a movie deal? Is success measuring your self-worth in subscribers?

Whether as a blogger, or a mom, or a wife, or a single young woman, we keep striving and we keep straining and we keep struggling and we keep seeking success – but what IS success?

Do you lay in bed some nights wondering what it is you keep stretching for… starving for?

What if you could just go to Jesus and ask Jesus, King of the Upside Down Kingdom … What is a success?

This is what He whispers to you:

Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. ~ Matthew 20:26

Whoever wants to be great – must become a servant.

Whoever wants to be a great mama, a great wife, a great woman is called to serve and a great blogger must serve with every post, serve with every story, serve with every well-ordered lines…. Whoever wants to be a successful blogger must be a serving blogger.

It’s not about you. Your blog is not about you.

Success is service.

Your success as a blogger is not determined by your hits, sitemeter, or subscribers.

You are a successful blogger, the most successful blogger, from the very first day you ever posted, if you simply do it as an act of loving service unto Jesus.

And even if no one ever reads another word you ever write, you are a success in loving service. You are always a success when you are serving because the way to be great in the upside down kingdom is not climb higher but to go lower.

Your calling isn’t to be a blogger. Your calling isn’t to be a business owner. Your calling isn’t to be a success.

Your vocation is always and only this: to be a servant of God.

Our vocation is always serving. You are always a success when you are serving because in the upside down kingdom the way to be great is not to climb higher but lower.

So if blogging success in the upside down kingdom is service, to go lower, how do you serve in the upside down kingdom, how do you go lower?

The only way to serve in the upside down kingdom is the way a duck makes a nest – with feathers plucked from her breast. With bits of yourself.

I had read it once to the children:

What a Mother Must Sacrifice

Houses may be bought, built, or borrowed.

But homes can only be made, and that with bits of ourselves.

Or so the ducks told me.

They told me without a sound, just simply as they preened and nestled, a painting, oil on canvas. The children press in close too, for a better look at Alexander Max Koester’s painting Ducks, and I read aloud the caption below the brushes of color.

Mother ducks pick feathers from their chests to line their nests.”

(Koester’s painting: Moulting Ducks)

I pause and the children gaze thoughtfully at a clutch of plump white, blizzard of feathers fallen down. But it’s those words that mesmerize me: “pick feathers from their chests, to line their nests.”

Eyes fixed on a duck breast puffed, mother plunging beak in deep, I question wondering self: “How else did you think nests were lined?”

With leftovers. With feathers discarded, the molted, the not-so-necessary feathers. I thought mother ducks picked feathers up from what was laying about, scraps, lining nests with what simply could be mustered after the fact.

But no. (Is that only the way of human mothers?) No, a mother duck plucks each feather out from the heart of her bosom, warm and soft.

She lines the nest with bits of herself. The best of her, from the deep spots.

She cups her young in her sacrifice.

Children pull at the corner of the page, anxious to see the next painting, and, reluctantly, I move on. But for weeks, part of me lives among Koester’s ducks. (Koester, captivated, painted dozens of duck paintings throughout the course of his life. I’ve come to understand.)

Days later, I am scrubbing out the arches of muffin tins after breakfast, the clock ticking insufferably loud in my ears, time running down. Children need books and learning, and I’m tuned for the expected chime of the doorbell, a service personnel’s scheduled visit. And the words rise near to the surface, “I don’t have time for this! No muffins tomorrow morning!”

Pluck.

The words sharply sink. And I, learning, line this nest with a feather. Not a leftover. But one decidedly plucked. The service man meets me with muffin tins still in the sink, and a circle of happy young. Whose tummies next morning fill with another batch of muffins. I will make time.

As the sun’s perfect globe of glow sets nears the horizon, these boys, glint in eyes, recalibrate vacuum cleaner to fire socks. Weary, I have food to find, laundry awaiting escort, math sheets to mark.

They fire sock cannons.

And I Pluck.

Bellies jiggle, peals of giggles, as old mother chases after future men, wrestling them down, tying them up in tickles. We warm here in laughter. It feels good, wild and alive. So again they fire, and again I pluck with feathers of my time, bits of me, and we pile high, one atop the other, nesting down into sacrifice, soft and small.

Some feathers for this nest, the parts of me and time I have sacrificed, have hurt, pain of the plucking lingering long. But why speak of the details? And was it really sacrifice, or just this too-tender skin? It’s done, it was necessary, it was for something better. Some nights, when all sleep, I feel along the hidden bald patches.

There are times, too many, when they call, “Read me a story?” “Wanna play a game with me?” “Can you come help me?”

And this mother refuses to pluck. Something, some task, someone (me?), rates as more pressing, more important. I deem our nest acceptable just as it is. I don’t want to sacrifice more of me.

Then comes the pecking, the scratching, the squawking. With feather lining wearing thin, the nest chafes hard. We hurt and cry. Nests need feathers deep.

Someone must pluck.

When will I learn that down sacrificed settles and soothes?

For scraps won’t suffice. Snippets of time, leftover me, a trinket, a diversion, tossed.

Mother ducks don’t line nests with feathers, dirty and trampled, the molted and unnecessary. Why would I? Nests need feathers fresh, warm with mother’s life.

Photobucket

Night descends and calls children to dreams. I lead them to their bed-gate, arms and legs under quilts worn from the ride. I read stories, stroke hair, say prayers. Prayers to Him who plucked hard from His own heart.

A sacrifice, staggering and true, for love of His very own. We learn love from His laid down.

Tired heads nestle into pillows, pillows of down.

On feathers plucked, we rest.


Related: May the Children Eat First

How to Parent: Just Guide Gently

The original Koester painting, “Moulting Ducks,” is part of the collection at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle www.fryemuseum.org

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Nests need feathers deep. Nests need sacrifice, soft and small.

This is what your home nest needs… sacrifice of you. Line your nest with bits of yourself. Pluck. Sacrifice.

And this is what your online home, your blog, needs. Sacrifices of you. Will you tell us your real, hard, painful stories – the ones that terrify you to tell? Will you peel back the masks, give up the fluff, will you get real….

Someone must serve… someone must sacrifice… someone in all this blogosphere must pluck.
If there are to be any nests in the blogosphere for souls to come find rest — someone must pluck.

With bits of themselves.

For scraps won’t suffice for our children, snippets of time, leftover me, a trinket, a diversion, tossed. And scraps of ourselves won’t suffice for real, authentic service in the blogging of our stories.

We talk about taking our blogs to the next level and I am here to say yes. In six years of blogging, I haven’t had had a sitemeter installed on my blog, and I’ve blogged 5.5 years with no comments, and I don’t have sponsors or ads but I am here to say yes, please take your blog, take your life,  to the next level.

And the next level in the upside down kingdom is to go lower – to humble yourself further.

Because the only platform in the upside down kingdom is an altar.

The only platform Jesus Christ stood on was a place to lay down and die. And we as His followers can stand only on that kind of platform—a place to come lay down as a sacrifice.

Pluck  from your breast.

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Reads for Bloggers:

 Six Things Every Christian Blogger Needs to Know

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 | writing