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The Practice of Plugging into God’s Word

Last Sunday, Pastor Jon challenged us to unplug from our distractions and plug into God’s Word.

So, how is it going?

If you’re like me, sometimes reading the Word is life-changing. Beauty drips from every verse, fills my heart, and leaves my soul in peace.

And then there are the days when it’s just…dry.

Sometimes reading the Word of God is a time when I remember all that we say that He is and discover all that I am who He says I am.

But what about the times, the days, the seasons, the years, when life is hard and difficult and the last thing I want to do is open a book that reads like a text book instead of the Living Word? What happens when God’s Word falls on the dry ground of my heart?

We read any way.

As I write this, tears prick my eyes. My heart is so tender, bruised, torn, bleeding. All the words that describe: wounded.

How am I supposed to read the Word of God when I feel nothing but pain?

Keep Reading.

What He Says of 2019

As what happens at the close of every year, we begin to look back on the 365 days we lived and we reflect on what that year held.

We think about the highs, the lows, the mountains, and the valleys. And in more recent years, our social media accounts, which begin to reflect those things as well. Our Facebook accounts pull up memories from three years prior. Our Instagram show us our “top nine” photos of the year. Spotify tells us our most streamed genres, artists, and songs.

I personally enjoy seeing these year-end round-ups; my Instagram top nine included photos of my 21st birthday, my transformation photo after losing thirty pounds, and photos when my best friend from Boston came to visit me after the tragic loss of twelve lives in our hometown. It truly showed some wonderful mountains and some really low and dark valleys, but in the end, it reminded me of some wonderful milestones that 2018 held for me and made me excited for what is to come in 2019.

My Spotify account reflected a similar round-up: a mix of songs that got me through some serious waves of grief, a tough break up, and a multitude of other events of 2018.

You Say

I was not surprised to see my top song of 2018 was “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.

If you haven’t heard this song, drop everything right now and listen to it. I discovered this song in August when I began my senior year of college, a year that I truly did not think I would make it to, after the hardships that 2017 and 2018 brought to me and my family. As I went through the first semester of my senior year, I was constantly bombarded with questions, doubts, and anxieties about things in daily life, things from the past, and the unknown of the future.

Love Covers…

I have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

I am certain that I am not alone in this. There may or may not be breaks from work, travel, lots of food, time with family. And there is where the rub occurs for many of us.

Family.

I love my family, except in those moments when I don’t. We all have these moments. Someone says or does something that raises your ire. Maybe harsh words follow. Feelings are hurt. Then comes the awkward dance trying not to make things worse as some tiptoe around the eggshells. I am fairly certain that all of us have experienced some version of this.

I am perfectly willing to take some of the blame within my own family. I can be pretty opinionated and not always sensitive to the feelings of others. And why can’t my family see things the way that I see them? It is such a selfish position. Why doesn’t everyone else feel the way I do, why don’t they see things the way I do, why don’t they believe the same things, and more. In those moments I add to the struggles, because all I am focused on is myself and what I want or care about.

The Bible is pretty clear that relational strife has been around for a very long time. It is actually part of the curse for Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden fruit. In fact, the first books of the Bible, which tell the history of the people of Israel, are filled with stories of dysfunction. Lying, cheating, adultery, abuse, murder and more–and that’s just in one family over multiple generations. The really crazy part is this is all part of the family heritage for Jesus.

That is where things get even more complicated. As followers of Jesus we are now called part of the family of God.

What?

Advent: Looking into the Unseen

It was a sunny day, the kind that is perfect unless you are running around in heels, setting up for an event.

Which is exactly what I was doing, regretting the heels and starting to sweat–just a little bit. That evening, I was trying to make sure my three kids weren’t bothering the actors who were also trying to get ready for their performance. It was an event like any other event; if I’ve done one, I’ve done a million. But this time, as I watched my kids fold programs and chat with the actors, I knew this was different and I was especially grateful for the experience. The actors, who were eating pizza and getting their mics fitted, were members of the homeless community, here to share their experience of what it means to be unseen and unknown in Tacoma.

Long lay the world, in sin and error pining

Our family has tried to serve people who are in the midst of poverty and homelessness for quite a while now. We’ll donate turkeys, even assemble a meal. We have served at Tacoma Rescue Mission, bought socks for clothing drives. We often will purchase a water bottle for someone outside of Target, say a prayer for people as we drive by in our car, and carry extra gloves and blankets to hand out if we see a need.

 

But to be honest, anyone can do those simple actions. My heart was not affected – these actions cost me little. But about a year ago, I committed to do something simple, but much more costly. I committed to stop what I was doing, look into the eyes of the person, and acknowledge their presence. It made a world of difference and it brought me to the performance on that hot sunny day.

Creating Meaning, Embracing Joy: 6 Christmas Ideas from our Family to Yours

They took every single Christmas gift, that night our home was burglarized just before Christmas in 2012. Our house was ransacked… but the memory that stands out to all of us most vividly is all of those Christmas presents… gone.

The following year, 2013, the news came just before Thanksgiving: my husband Brian’s workplace would close its doors in December.

In 2012, when word went around about the burglary, packages, gift cards, and cash gifts began to pour in from friends, neighbors, even strangers. Our own Christmas was so provided for that we had to pass significant gifts on to others with much greater needs than ours. Our kids, though, were deeply impacted by the experience of being on such a bountiful receiving end. “Mom,” declared one of my sons, “I think we’re rich in friends.

In 2013, with discretionary money low, we tightened our belts and exchanged “gifts of service” to each other. We raided the account we have set aside for “giving to others”, and we secretly bought each other gifts like soccer balls for kids in Africa, physical therapy for kids in Eastern Europe, school fees for girls in Asia, tailored as personally to others’ hearts and interests as possible. That Christmas when we exchanged our gifts, our kids declared it their favorite Christmas ever.

2014 was a normal year. The number of gifts under the tree looked normal again. But in my journal that year I recorded this:

“By the grace of God something most not-normal has happened through those last two Christmases — our kids have learned to take extravagant delight in all of the details of Christmas that are NOT about receiving. They have learned gratitude for small things, and the pleasure of seeing others’ enjoyment. And they’ve also learned to receive a gift as it is intended when given… as an expression of the love of the giver — Once again, hard things and disappointments have brought forth fruit that looks like compassion and joy. Lounging on the floor with them, watching this play out… this may just have been MY favorite Christmas.

Christmas for us is not December 25, but a month-long flurry of lights and music that begins officially the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until the sad day when the now-turned-fire-hazard tree finally comes down in January. The Zinns LOVE Christmas. Year after year though, as the planning and the activity begin to kick into gear, Brian and I talk and pray and wrestle with the questions — “HOW do we engage all of this fun… AND help our children to be freed from that icy grip of materialism? HOW do we cut through the exhilarating exhaustion and teach ourselves of the God who speaks in stillness? And HOW do we never, never lose our wonder that Almighty God would take on flesh and draw us near?”

Who We are When No One is Watching…Except Our Kids

I have been there countless times, safe in my own home, when I let my guard down and I say something I shouldn’t, do something I shouldn’t, think something I shouldn’t.  But I think, “I am fine, no one saw me.”

Then I turn around, and see one of my kids watching me.

Oops…

Hopefully I am not the only one that has done that. If I am the only one, then I will be writing this just for myself. But if I am not the only one, then keep reading.

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Based on that measuring stick, I fail all the time.  My words and deeds are not always on point with the verse in Colossians, especially when I am at home. It’s kind of scary to think about how my words and deeds differ when I am out in public and when I am at home. I would love to think that that I am same person all the time, but if I am being honest, that isn’t the case. My family sees the real me, especially my kids.

Facing Grief and Looking Toward Thankfulness

Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday growing up. I have endless memories of times with family; cooking and watching football all day, to then gather around the table and say Grace: thanking God for another holiday together, another year of good health and good times.

No matter what that year held, nothing compared to this moment of Thanksgiving Day.

I spent Thanksgiving of 2017 in California, as usual. I remember being thankful that year, for Tacoma truly felt like home. I was thankful for my sorority sisters, my Young Life family, my classmates, my professors, and of course, my church. Discovery rooted me in Tacoma in more ways than I ever fathomed to be possible.

I left my home in Ventura after that holiday weekend and I didn’t know that when I walked out of that front door that Sunday morning to travel to Tacoma that it would be the last time I would step out of my home. We lost our home in the Thomas Fire just a few weeks later. My entire neighborhood, my entire town, even the whole county was demolished by flame. We lost everything that day and any sense of normalcy. This season of my life was a true test of my faith. I felt so vulnerable, so alone, and so unstable that I truly did not see how it was possible to wake up each day and continue on. But I did. Truly, by the Grace of God.

It took a while, but I eventually found my way back to Ventura this summer even when I thought it was the last place I wanted to be. Truth be told, it was exactly where I needed to be. It was hard coming back to an empty lot that once held my home and to the burnt hillsides that once held so much Ventura pride, but it was so good to come home to my family, friends, and my community. It was so good to go back to my home church, to my work place, and to  Borderline: my line dancing hall.

Borderline is a special place in Ventura county. It is not just a place to dance, it is a second home. It is where my best friend met her fiancé. It is where I went to dance and escape my reality of grief and sorrow for a few hours a night, a few nights a week. My Borderline family and I were there three nights a week, every single week, without a doubt.

Borderline was home while home was being rebuilt.

Why Missions?

I remember as a young child, missionaries from foreign countries would come to visit our rural midwest church with amazing stories of the work that God was doing around the globe. It was fascinating, but there was a big disconnect–these stories had no real relevance to my daily life. Even as I grew older, missions was something others did and simply shared cool stories with the rest of us.

Jump ahead a few years to my sophomore year of college. I was attending a missions conference in San Francisco. And still there was this disconnect. Missions is what other people do. That is until the final night of the conference. I distinctly remember sitting in this church in downtown San Francisco, there was a great time of worship, an impassioned speaker… And in the midst of all this, a quiet voice asked me to say “yes.”

My first thought was: “Yes to what?” That seemed like a rational response, right?

But the voice was persistent. “I want you to say yes to whatever I ask.”

Why Do We Sing on Sundays?

Like with most things that break me, I never saw it coming.

This time, the words came in the form of a letter. A smattering of broken sentences and life had come undone. My heart shattered, falling like sand through my fingers. Even if I were to gather the remaining pieces, mend them together through tears and time, I would never be the same.

Photo credit (c) Juno Nygren

My life is yours
My hope is in you only

In these moments, when my heart is breaking, sometimes I find it hard to sing. And to my surprise, it is these very slivers of time of heartbreak when it is vitally important to keep singing.

Why do we sing as part of our worship?

The Cost of Silence in the Face of Love

A friend of mine was at a gas station when a young man came inside, loud and agitated. The cashier instantly told the man to settle down or get out, but when confronted, the young man (who happened to be Black) said that he was upset because when he was outside a tow truck driver started calling him racial slurs. The cashier apologized while my friend went out to stick up for the guy, including taking the tow truck driver’s picture so she could report him. The tow truck driver started arguing with HER, swearing and calling her racial slurs!

My friend didn’t back down. She called the tow truck company.hen they heard what had happened, they were pretty upset. Hopefully, the racist tow truck driver has long since been fired.

When my friend told me this story, naturally my first thought was: “she is awesome!” But my second thought was:

“Wait, was this in Tacoma?”

Oh yes, it was. And not 1956, Tacoma, last month Tacoma.

Maybe some of you reading this are not surprised.
Maybe some of you reading this are a little surprised, but not too concerned because you know you are not racist.