Meet some of my favorite girls from The Next Door in Nashville, TN. My friend Mary Katharine (far right) and I have been teaching a Bible study here this semester to four amazing women who are overcoming addiction (one is not pictured). We are having the best time! And two of our other friends April and Paige have their own group as well so it’s a mid-week party really!
God really spoke to me in the summer of ’08 to start engaging in my local community. I had heard The Next Door was a Christian organization for women who had recently gotten out of prison and were working diligently to enter back into free society. The director told me she needed someone to teach on Wed nights so I figured I’d have the roughly 60 women who live there in my class. When I got the list there were only FOUR names! I have to be painfully honest in admitting that this didn’t seem like the best use of my time (again, this is a shameful thing to admit, but if a blog isn’t about honesty, what would be the point really).
I had already agreed to the semester so I jumped in with my four girls not sure what to expect. That was about four groups ago, so you can see I’m hooked. And, btw, I refuse to have more than five women in my study if I can help it – that’s how much my mentality has changed. There has been something so powerful about being able to invest on a personal level with these women – and of course they have invested back into the lives of me and my friends. And to see them begin to understand the incredible personal love of Jesus Christ for them is what gives the whole experience meaning. I could go on and on about the changes we have seen as women move from their addictions to truly understanding for the first time that God has cast their sins (and mine) as far away as the East is from the West. And, that He came to heal them from all the abuse that helped set them down the addiction road to begin with.
I know this is a time of year where people are thinking about resolutions and giving and helping and extending their hands. My prayer is that you would consider investing in a new way whether it’s in your church, children’s school, a prison ministry, a relative who needs it, whatever God is putting on your heart. It will cost you, but you will never be the same.
On that note, Merry Christmas from The Next Door!
I just finished my last official dates of the year with Christmas events: hitting Phoenix, Sacramento and finally Houston! After an incredibly amazing and busy year, I am happy to report that I am now sitting on my couch across from my fireplace mostly staring… While taking intermittent breaks from staring I’ve ‘toggled’ between my systematic theology book, Bible, Facebook and SI.com for most of the morning. You would be amazed at how seamlessly Wayne Grudem’s doctrine of miracles goes along with the article on Alabama heading to Pasadina for the national championship.
At any rate, I am hoping some of you have the opportunity to rest during this season. I am committed to it this year. The Lord has been speaking to me out of both the Old and New Testaments about rest. Sabbath rest. There is something exceptionally rich about getting to linger with the Lord; something I have really longed for these past few months.
As well, I am reminded during this season of the very global, yet deeply personal, message of the Gospel. I absolutely love in Luke 1:25 when Elizabeth, who has just become pregnant with John the Baptist, says “The Lord has done this for me!” I remember this really hitting me a couple of years ago, suddenly recognizing that God’s universal will of sending a messenger of the Gospel perfectly intersected with a deeply personal blessing for Elizabeth. Yes, God was sending John the Baptist for the world, but he was also sending him for just her. (and Zechariah). Amazing!
My prayer for us this Christmas season is that we would recognize the message of the Gospel as powerfully global, without forgetting that it is deeply personal. I so believe that God wants to meet you this year. Remember that Elizabeth also continued in the same verse, “In THESE DAYS God has shown His favor.” Because of Jesus Christ we can celebrate that in these very days, the days of December 2009, God has shown, and will show, His favor. Yes, for the world. But mysteriously, for just you and just me.
I hope you will rest and take the time to meditate on all He has done for you personally, even if you’re in a remarkably difficult season. I continue to circle back to Elizabeth and Zechariah’s story who waited such a long time for a child. And yet when the angel appeared to Zechariah in the temple he said, “Your prayers have been heard!”So keep praying, keep resting, and in just the right time, He will accomplish all He has promised.
There is much joy in my heart as I type this header because – at least for a few minutes – I can take a breath. A few women came up to me at the LifeWay Women’s Forum this past weekend and asked what my next study is going to be on. I looked at them with glazed, almost twitching eyes. I wish I could have come up with something profound like, say, a study on Lamentations or the personality traits of Job’s friends, but alas, I am fresh out of ideas at the moment. At least for a few months I would like to enjoy the things I am still – and will continue – learning about the book of Ruth. In fact, one such nugget hit me just the other day and I found myself thinking, “How did I miss that?” I’ll save that thought for my next blog since I don’t seem to be one of those exceptional bloggers who can write about her couch with an audience of 20,000 pining for what she will write next (wish I was better at this).
In addition to the study, I am also exceptionally exited about the CD “Loss, Love & Legacy” that is accompanying “Ruth”. This is something I’ve never done before, but getting to make music about my favorite themes in the book of Ruth was exhilirating, as I have always found music to be. Producer Paul Moak did a remarkable job on this project. And the writers who helped me pen these songs blew me away as usual. I hope this record will be another colorful expression of some of the timeless truths and experiences tucked in the pages of Ruth; a soundtrack for your own journey.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to each one of you for the support you have shown me. I have loved hearing about your “No Other Gods” gatherings… all the way to the group of 50 year-old women who had a slumber party on their last night. This definitely surpassed anything I ever had in mind. Perhaps there will be similar stories from those who have room for a little “Ruth: Loss, Love & Legacy” in their lives – or any Bible study for that matter. Truly God’s word changes lives so just get in there one way or another. Lastly, the “Nog” girls and I have compiled some of our favorite recipes included in the Ruth study so get your cooking utensils out.
Thanks again. Can’t wait to hear about your encounters with Ruth, and more importantly, her God.
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve put the last touches on “Ruth: Loss, Love & Legacy”, the second installment in The Living Room Series. (A six week Bible study on the book of Ruth). It’s due to release on December 1st, 2009 along with a full length CD inspired by the book of Ruth called “Loss, Love & Legacy”. I’ve had the sheer fun of getting to write songs for this record that speak to the journey we all share. It will be the first time I’ve written a Bible study while also writing and recording a CD that specifically goes along with the study. I will be updating you on a lot more of the details, but for now I just wanted to let you know that this will all be coming in just a couple months.