Worshiping God Alone

Writing over at The Glorious Table today! Preview and link below:

Worshiping God Alone Lights

Growing up in Kansas City, I experienced a unique Thanksgiving tradition. We did all the common things: the turkey, the pies, the gathering of family. But then we would bundle up, leave the house, and make the trek to “The Plaza.” Just south of downtown Kansas City, the Country Club Plaza is a beautiful fifteen-block shopping district modeled after the Moorish architecture of Seville, Spain.

For some ninety years, from Thanksgiving through January, these incredible buildings are covered from top to bottom with Christmas lights. Thousands of people like our family walk their turkey-stuffed selves down the hills into The Plaza to listen to music, mingle with humanity, and ultimately participate in the countdown as those beautiful lights come on.

It is an incredible tradition and a beautiful sight, but I admit I don’t often go anymore. As a mama of littles, I am a little intimidated by the growing crowds. I tried to find an accurate headcount somewhere but only found phrases like “tens of thousands” and “up to 100,000” people. Suffice it to say there are a whole lot of souls packed into a fifteen-block area. When I can’t discern the end of myself from those around me, I tend to bow out and watch the merriment from the comfort of my living room. Recently, it was these very crowds that God used to show me something.

To continue reading link here to The Glorious Table.

Be Available

Be Available Anne Rulo

I’ve been watching a lovely little movie, The Bookshop. It was never released in the United States but it is currently on Amazon Prime. It is delightfully full of mid-century British people, spunky, driven women, and lots of books…all things I love dearly. As the film opens, we meet Florence Green, a war widow who shared a passion for literature with her late husband. Now 16 years after his passing, she has summoned the courage to purchase a property and open a bookshop in the quiet coastal town of Suffolk.

Mrs. Green and her bookshop encounter quite a bit of opposition, with more than a few people offering passive-aggressive suggestions about her lack of experience, ability, and financial competence. Others, in an effort to cut her down more “kindly”, patronizingly offer veiled comments about how innocent and naive her dream is.

Despite all the flaming arrows of discouragement, Florence perseveres for her bookshop. Shortly after opening, she recognizes the need for an assistant. The scene opens with Florence peering skeptically over a cart of books at Christine, the young girl with a stern face who has been charged as her help. The following conversation ensues…

Florence (rising slowly): You mustn’t think I don’t want to consider you for the job, it’s just that you don’t really look old enough…or strong enough.

Christine: That’s hard to say after first glance. You look old, but you don’t look strong. It’s all the same anyway. We’re all available.

I about fell off the elliptical (where I watch movies) trying to manipulate the screen to go back and forth several times, rewatching this scene. In less than twenty seconds, these two summed up and solved a problem that has plagued women for, well, ever.

Ladies, we have an uncanny ability to decide that we aren’t enough for something. We think we aren’t strong enough or smart enough, brave enough or polished enough, old enough or young enough, experienced enough or well-studied enough. We absorb these things within ourselves and it keeps us from adventure and (gasp!) we sometimes speak it over others and that keeps them from theirs. To that end, I want to let you in on a little secret…

It is not our job to be enough. It’s our job to be available.

In this one tiny film clip, young Christine sums up the truth we see about so many of God’s people:

Peter had zero experience, but He had a boat for Jesus to climb in. Moses had no eloquence but he had a connection back in Egypt. Rahab had a scandalous past but bravery in spades. Sarah was too old. Timothy was too young. Jonah was a procrastinator. Thomas was a skeptic. And Zaccheus was too short.

Listen to Christine you guys, “It’s all the same anyway. We’re all available.”

I don’t know your “not enough” reason, but it’s all the same anyway. It’s a reason you can either keep listening to or, you can press the mute button on that nonsense and say, “Here I am! Use me!” (Isaiah 6:8, NIV)

I’m available.

Spiritual Frankensteins

Spiritual Frankensteins Anne Rulo

“It’s aliiiiiive!” You can hear the line in your head, can’t you? Even if you’ve never seen the classic 1931 film adaptation of Frankenstein, you certainly know the general concept. Lit in crude black and white, a scientist and his assistant steal bodies, sewing the parts of people together to create another. They set the body in motion with electricity, thrilled with their craftsmanship. The piecemeal monster is initially gentle, only to get out of control as they discover they put in the wrong brain. The scientist had hoped to combine all the “good parts” to create something he thought was a better design. Too bad those parts weren’t meant to go where he put them.

The concept of sewing mismatched parts together to create a person seems far-fetched but honestly, we attempt this sort of thing all the time. You will be hard-pressed to find a person who has not tried to make themselves into something they’re not. Satan (the original horror movie) is often subtle. If he can’t make you outright miserable, he’ll try to distract you into sewing yourself in the wrong place.

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:4-8, NIV)

Scripture literally describes us as the “body” of Christ, each with our own “function.” In addition, it also says “each member belongs to all the others.” So, not only do we have our own specific jobs, but we are also responsible to one another to do them! The more we stay true to our “function” the more the body will work as He designed.

Now, I can already hear some of you panicking. “Uh oh, what if I am serving somewhere I am not supposed to be?!” No worries, dear reader. This message is intended for freedom, not condemnation. Here are a few examples from when I have “mis-sewn” myself:

When I felt guilty for not serving in children’s ministry because I’m a woman and I have small kids…even though I’ve always been broken for teenagers and I write devotionals for grown women.

When I said yes to leading a ministry because my husband is a public figure and I felt lazy “just” working behind the scenes…even though I’m an introvert, NOT a visionary and I really enjoy being a “doer.”

When I took on an entire family Thanksgiving meal because I wanted people to think I could do it…even though I’ve never enjoyed cooking and others had offered to help.

I want you to see the words/feelings in those examples. Guilt, comparison, envy, pride. Motivations that are not from God and not out of love. Motivations that left a spiritual Frankenstein eating a very cold, poorly seasoned Thanksgiving dinner. While God can still shower our ill-advised efforts with grace, we are far more likely to be fulfilled and effective when we are operating in God’s body rather than creating our own. He has designed you with some very specific tasks in mind. So, unless you are getting some neon sign to do something totally and completely against your design just do the thing that makes sense and lights up your heart and blesses God’s people. Is serving God always an easy fit? No, but it’s not always hard either. Sometimes it just “works.”

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

So please hear this. We need you. We, the members of this body, we need you to serve. We need you to recognize how essential you are and commit to being sewn in exactly where He designed you because we all do better when you are doing your job and we are all doing ours. The body of Christ is the most beautiful being ever created, quite literally His bride. Let’s help her walk gracefully until He comes to collect her.

 

 

 

Please Don’t Travel Alone

Anne Rulo Please Don't Travel Alone

“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13, NIV)

This week has been an odd emotional sandwich. I spent Tuesday on “cloud 9” celebrating a dear friend. This sister spent to the ends of her finances, pride, and comfort to establish Sseko Designs. Now, ten years later she is running a huge, amazing, purposeful company. Her dream became a reality and she is literally changing the lives of women all over the world. I’m so happy and proud of her I could bust. She has “made it” in all the ways that really matter because she is loving people and changing lives.

But on Monday and Wednesday? I cried. I cried deeply and fiercely for two young men in neighboring communities who took their lives. We knew one. We knew the coach of the other. Babies. Sweet teenage baby boys who found themselves with such a loss of hope that no longer living seemed better than the pain. There’s been too many of them in the years we’ve done this work. Too many.

We have to keep fighting.

I want you to look carefully at that italicized sentence. The word that probably stands out is “fighting.” It stands out because it is the big word and the active word. It is the word that commands all the attention. But, it’s not the word I want you to see. The word that actually matters is little and you may have glanced right over it.

It’s the word “we.” And it applies to the entire spectrum of the human experience.

If God calls a woman to an incredible adventure like establishing a shoe company in a land-locked country in East Africa so girls can go to college, she cannot do that alone.

And if a teenage boy has reached the point he would take his life, he cannot handle that alone.

And if (insert your biggest dream and your greatest heartache), you cannot handle that alone. You weren’t designed to.

From top to bottom, end to end, life is meant to be shared. God is relational to His very core and we are designed in His image. If you are to get anywhere close to reaching the tippy-toe tops of His call and design on your life you better get yourself some Aarons and Hurs to hold up your arms and maybe a Joshua to help you fight. And if you are to resist the temptation to despair, end things, and cope with the really freaking painful things everyone sometimes endures? You better have some Aarons and Joshuas and Hurs there too.

So, just for today, we are going to pretend your name is Moses.

Hey Moses? You can’t do this life alone. You can’t win your greatest victories or manage your greatest tragedies alone. You are going to get tired no matter if you are headed toward the top or the bottom of life. So please, don’t travel alone. You never know when you may need to take a rest on a rock, have your friends hold your hands, and let someone else take the sword for a while.

 

Being Thankful for Our Scars

Being Thankful For Our Scars Anne Rulo

The other day I went for a run. Now, don’t get it in your head this is a regular occurrence. I’m super high-maintenance when it comes to running. It can’t be too hot, it can’t be too cold, I need to have my headphones with the right music and of course, someone to watch my young children. And yet, by some miracle, all these things came together so off I trotted on a gorgeous fall day.

Feet pounding on the pavement, music in my ears and surrounded by nature, I spent practically all my time looking at the trees. This is the most incredible time of year with the leaves changing, giving us new beauty almost by the hour as the colors shift from green to crimson, yellow and brown. It got me wondering what makes the leaves change color and what makes them fall. So, I did what any high-quality researcher does…I Googled it.

As it turns out, in the spring and summer, leaves are green due to the presence of chlorophyll. Then, when the season changes, the tree does not need those leaves (or the chlorophyll) anymore. The green pigment breaks down and the leaves change color. Additionally, in order for the leaf to fall away from the tree, a special layer of cells develops at the end of the stem. The tree then seals that area, cutting the leaf off from the tree where it eventually falls away.

Here’s the cool part. That spot where the leaf falls away? It leaves a mark. And it’s called a leaf scar.

Now, that’s just beautiful.

You guys, we are covered in leaf scars. There is no way to exist in this life, and certainly, no way to serve Christ, without getting moved in and out of seasons many many times. I’ve always thought of scars as something that results from a wound. The product of a hard or painful season. Turns out God also “leaves” scars where there was life. Where there was beauty. Where He dropped leaves out of our lives just because it was time for another season. They are reminders of His love and faithfulness.

A great leap happens in our faith when we become grateful for every season, no matter what kind it is or what scars it leaves behind. We develop this gratitude by believing in His love for us in all seasons, difficult or abundant. By this, we come to appreciate every scar because we know He was in it all.

Remember, it was Jesus who used scars to help a doubting Thomas recognize His resurrected body. It is this same Jesus who uses our scars to help us recognize our resurrected lives. Thankful for the scars…

(All rights credited to I AM THEY)

Trust in God’s Grace

Here’s a piece I wrote over at The Glorious Table

Anne Rulo the glorious table grace filled reminder

I’m not sure how the tradition started. When my children were young, we did not co-sleep. I am not against co-sleeping; it just wasn’t something that happened in our family. My son was a super noisy baby (read: laughed out loud in his sleep) and my daughter was particularly independent. I didn’t want to sleep with the giggler, and my daughter simply wouldn’t sleep with us; she preferred her own space.

Many years down the road, we are now a co-sleeping family once a week. My son is now a sweet, sentimental seven-year-old, and he cherishes his “Monday nights with Mommy.” In fact, this November his birthday falls on a Monday and he has been reminding me for the entire year. Since he now sleeps quietly, this arrangement works out well. It is on these Monday nights that we get to read, talk, and snuggle in a way I am sure I will miss years from now.

It was on one of these Monday nights a few months ago when I noticed he seemed particularly quiet. He’d been at Vacation Bible School all evening, so I assumed he was just tired from all the activities. We were reading beside one another when he turned to me and asked, “Mom? What do I have to do to go to heaven?”

My eyes widened. This is the question all believing parents wait for. We nurture and love these little people in the deep hope that someday, they will ask us these very words. And then we have the incredible privilege of sharing the good news with them.

The only problem was, something was off about my son’s question. He sounded worried. An unusually precocious child, he has known and understood about Christ’s love and redemption for a long time. I quickly realized he wasn’t asking me about salvation through faith. This child was asking me what he had to DO. As in earn. As in how to work his way to heaven…

To see how I answered him and read the full post go to The Glorious Table here.

Learning to Grow Love Plants

Love Plants

This week I am growing love plants.

(That’s gotta’ be the best way I have ever started a blog post.)

Last weekend we left a town and people I love to visit another town and people I love. Due to our ministry as a coaching family we are, and perpetually will be, in “the wedding years.” No matter how old we get, we always have former players reaching that precious time when they fall in love with their forever person and we get invited to the ceremony. It’s one of the coolest perks of the job to watch these young men grow up, get married, have kids, and live out the seeds you hope you planted in them years ago.

It’s an odd sensation when we go to this other town. We are so very happy in our new place. We have friends and community and events that are becoming traditions. But when we get to that old place our hearts bust open as we hug people, relive the memories, and somehow miss them, even more, when they are standing right there in front of us.

It really shouldn’t surprise me I guess. When you plant your heart among people and places it’s bound to happen. As my husband says, we “spilled a lot of blood in the mud” in that other place. I guess blood makes for some pretty good fertilizer as it seems a piece of our heart is permanently planted there.

I wanted to share this for two reasons…

1. Because I know some of you who live in each of those places will read this. I need you to know that we love you and we ache when we are away from you, both of you.

2. And because some of you have it in your head that “bloom where you are planted” means that you can’t have blooms planted anywhere else. That’s just hogwash. I have exactly zero knowledge of horticulture, but even I know you can divide plants. A little bit of what was once one thing can exist beautifully in two different places.

One of the most incredible qualities of God is that He is omnipresent. That means He is fully present in all places at the same time. We can’t do that, obviously. But you guys, we are reflections of God. And we can do things in our lives that reflect His character because we were designed in His image.

God can allow for our hearts to be in many places at once without painfully cutting it into pieces. Rather than being made smaller, love can just divide and grow again in that new place, and that old place. Your heart can live in multiple places.

You. Do. Not. Have. To. Choose.

If you have lived in a place, worked in a place, loved a person, lost a person, gone on a mission trip, served a people, had an experience, cherished a home, created a memory, created a baby or just had your heart raptured by a sunset…you can let part of it stay there. In fact, I encourage it. We are less likely to withhold our hearts when we’ve learned how to give it away.

Remember, God’s greenhouse is the perfect environment to let Him split your heart and plant it again somewhere else. It will always regrow there.