Choosing Substance: Identity (Day 4)

Advent 4b identity

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35, 39 niv

A person of substance recognizes the all-too-often pull toward an identity crisis. She sees her insecurities deep and is truthful about them. Those who choose substance — especially at Christmastime — are not defined by what they own.

She was made in God’s image, so she unashamedly craves beauty. But tangible blessings and temporary pleasures don’t give her meaningShe’s brave enough to hold her physical pleasures with open hands, for they were not hers to begin with.

As simple as this all sounds, it’s easier sometimes to have an eternal perspective or sit in our sadness than to keep our head in the game when others admire our physical blessings — our homes, our cars, our fashion sense, you fill in the blank.

We have this broken way of seeing others’ worth based on what they can accumulate in this world. We have this broken way of seeing ourselves. We mask it by an admiration of hard work or an artistic eye, but do you ever live to impress those you’ll never talk to? Or crave approval from value systems shallow? Does honesty uncover a striving to impress those you’ve never even met?

A person of substance — she finds her identity in what Christ did for her on the cross. 

We rank ourselves high, and we rank ourselves low, but might we carry that insecurity back to Christ this season and throw our feelings of unworthiness in the shadow of the Cross?

Absolutely nothing will separate us from the love of Christ — our shallow longings, our tendency to forget, our lack of perspective, our materialism — nothing will separate us from the love of Christ and the identity His work on the Cross gives us.

And a radical miracle unfolds as I understand, again and again, who I am in Christ. As I recognize my brokenness vast and see an even bigger cross, restoration occurs even within my human relationships. Only through the lens of my own brokenness can I view others with grace. Only as I cling to the cross can I respect people simply because they, too, were made in God’s image… simply because His sacrifice saves them, too. Period.

Just a few decades after Christ, Paul wrote to the people of Colossae: Since you have been raised with the Anointed One, the Liberating King, set your mind on heaven above. The Anointed is there, seated at God’s right hand. Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone. Colossians 3:1-3

We stand in a desperate mess. Go deep this Christmas in your relationships. There’s a heart underneath every amazing outfit. There’s a story of brokenness hungering for redemption in every home.

On the fourth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me discernment to navigate the culture of today… the grace to love others well… the discipline to stop comparing.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Choosing Substance

  • What shallow longings are nagging you this advent season?
  • Reflect on your patterns. What triggers you into material insecurity? Who are you influenced by?
  • Read Colossians 3:1-3 and verses 12-15, too.
  • Who do you need to see through the eyes of Christ this Christmas?

photo source | Prodigal Pottery

Choosing Substance: Owning Your Grief (Day 3)

griefListen to my voice.
You will hear me begging for Your help
With my hands lifted up in prayer… Psalm 28:2

A person of substance sits in her sadness.

(“Wait!” you say. “This is an Advent series. Don’t turn down this path already!”)

It’s been a long time coming, but I’m slowly becoming a mom who is okay with grief. I was a Dismisser for years, determined to rescue my kids from all things sad. Watching someone suffer and grieve clashed with my need to encourage. Sometimes your talents work against you. Or worse yet, they work against the ones you love.

Maybe you’re a Dismisser, too. Do you play the role of cheerleader? Motivator? Perspective-giver? Do you grab the half-full glass and beg your friends to drink it? Do you drown yourself in it?

It’s all good — it really is — until we get imbalanced. Until we stop living life in moderation. Until our encouragement feels like an interruption, and those we love stop talking. They know we’re not listening anyway.

“Oh, friend, that’s awful. You’ll have a better day tomorrow.”
“Look at the bright side, son. It snowed a little. We don’t have a snow day, but at least we have a four-day week next week.”
“Yeah, you came in second… but there’s always next year.”
And so on. And so on.

Maybe we’re not as comfortable with authenticity as we’d like to think, for we whisk people out of realness. We whisk ourselves away, too.

While there’s a place and a need for encouragement, maybe we’re bestowing it on others a little too soon. Without winter, spring would feel ordinary. Without hunger, there is no fullness. Without suffering, we don’t understand wholeness… we don’t recognize redemption.

If we dare to see we’re lost, we long for Emmanuel all the more. If we sit in our brokenness, we long for the Rescuer. Long for Him.

Choosing substance means seeing your pain, naming it, grieving over it… even during Advent. Because we were made in the image of God, we reflect Him. Because we bear His image, we’re capable of grief. He wrote suffering into His own story, and so a person of substance does not fear the ache. The agony, the mourning, reminds us this isn’t our home.

This Advent season, might you choose to sit in your sadness a while? Might you be a companion to those who can’t hum the carols but are instead singings Psalms of angst? Injustice. Illness. Betrayal. Misunderstanding. I know the list is long.

Watch over my soul,
    and let me face shame and defeat unashamed
because You are my refuge.
    …Vigilantly I wait for You, hoping, trusting. Psalm 25:20-21

On the third day of Christmas my True Love gave to me the courage to sit in my sadness… the hope that He will reconcile the painful mysteries of this world.

…’Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth…

Choosing Substance

  • Read all of Psalm 28 (link can be found at the very top of this post).
  • Think back to how you were raised. Was your home a safe place in which to “sit in your sadness”? Who was the most uncomfortable with your grief? What did you do when you were sad?
  • Ponder your view of your Maker. Do you view God as One who was uncomfortable with your grief? indifferent to it? intimate and caring?
  • Add another concept to your definition of substance.

photo source | Camila Damasio 

Choosing Substance: The Stamp of Eternity (Day 2)

clockHe has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 niv

It’s written all over my life — and yours, too — that ache we’re scared to voice but find ourselves studying in the middle of the night or early, early morning when we can’t sleep. Is this it? Is this really it?

We scorn our discontentment as we name our blessings one by one. We scold our tendency to live in regret but still wonder what life would be ours if we just had make that one, different choice. We ponder the dreams we held tightly in our youthful hands.

And maybe you’re still waiting for the dream, or worse yet, maybe your dream has come and you’re still awake in the silent, forever night. But a person of substance, he understands his discontentment and knows the depth of meaning behind his regret. She’s not surprised when the ache whispers to her yet again… even at Christmastime.

God has placed in our minds a sense of eternity; we look back on the past and ponder over the future, yet we cannot understand the doing of God. Ecclesiastes 3:11 the voice

She’s a traveler. That person of substance, she’s a traveler made for a different world. The imprint of eternity is set in his heart, seared on his mind.

We choose substance as we journey toward eternity rather than setting down roots. We were made for another world, and our stride boasts of determination because we boast in Him. He came to us. We journey toward Him. The striving to be known by humanity is swallowed up with the truth that Our Maker sees, and understands, and even rescues us from the intricacies of our hearts and minds.

Free us from the shifting shadows, Oh God. Release us from the false security of temporary stories. Help us keep going, keep traveling.

Though we journey, we’re not restless. The people of substance hold peace despite the baggage that tries to fill up our arms. The noise that echoes throughout December is no champion over us.

On the second day of Christmas, my True Love gave to me the imprint of eternity on my heart. Will you choose your Rescuer instead of the drama this Christmas? Will you journey toward Him instead of bandaging the ache of the temporary?

Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel, and ransom captives…

Defining Substance (Grab your journal or just find solitude for five minutes)

  • Read Ecclesiastes 3:11 again. What has he made beautiful over the course of time in your own life? Has He refined your attitude? Softened your heart toward an abrasive person? Given you more patience than you thought possible?
  • What temporary story have you been re-creating to find security (false security)? Achieving at your job, creating the perfect scenarios for your kids, pretending all is well when it’s clearly not, etc.
  • What specific temporary situations are currently distracting you from having an eternal perspective?
  • Keep working on your definition of a Person of Substance. What’s God revealing to you?

photo source | Niklas Rhöse

Choosing Substance: An Advent Series (Day 1)


substance: “the quality of being meaningful, useful, or important.” (mirriam-webster)

We entered into Christmas slowly this year, choosing to wait until my son’s birthday had passed. Seasons call for different traditions, and it just seemed the right thing to do this year.

And though we came to the party two weeks late, I’ve been watching the celebration from afar, enjoying a delayed entrance into the hustle and bustle. But when the world is racing — and you’re not — it’s not long before you have to do something, too. Your something just looks different.

So I went inward and fell into Advent’s story, wrapping myself tight with reasons for Christmas instead of its expectations. Hiding behind meaning, combined with deleting two personal social media accounts, well, I feel a little more free this holiday season. Maybe try going inward before taking your seat at the table next year — the Christmas table, that is.

Our tree is finally up, pregnant with memories from years gone by hanging from its branches. There’s a plan to still sprinkle a few outdoor lights on our home, and three holiday parties echo on this week’s calendar. Advent officially has its pull on us.

But might we stay wrapped tight in the meaning this year, refusing to let truth unravel? Once you’ve danced among the tension of reality and mystery and substance, it’s hard to let that all go.

Two years ago, a dear friend who always seems to challenge me asked, “How do you define a woman of substance?”

I thought and thought. “I’m not sure,” I replied, “but I want to be that. I just know that I do.” We each wrote and wrote and wrote and came back together over coffee.

See, I crave substance because I’ve chased after shadows. I hunger for complexity’s mystery and truth’s depth because I’ve settled for the shallow before.

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… And so on and so on. Twelve rich days of gifts and professed love. I’ll take the love over gifts any day.

So here we are — 12 days out from Christmas Day. 12 days to drown in the urgent… Or 12 days to choose substance. 12 days to overspend and overeat and overthink… Or 12 days to wrap yourself tight in all your True Love has to give. 12 days to stop striving.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8

Join me? Whether you’re old or young — I know you’re navigating urgency and striving and expectations. Gather here for the next 12 Days of Christmas to choose substance. Maybe it’s beauty or truth or virtue you’re craving this year. Let’s ask God to re-reveal Himself and His strength as we countdown to December 25. It’s His story after all.

So find a few empty pages in your journal or find a receipt on your kitchen counter that you can turn over and write on the back. Or maybe you’re the type that would rather ponder in your heart. Regardless, each day you’ll unfold your own definition of what “substance” means… and hopefully you’ll share your insights with us all along the way. By December 25, you’ll have your own library of thoughts shaped by the Word of God and those in our Repurposed cyber community. See you tomorrow.

Defining Substance (Take 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Answer 1, 2, or 3 questions. You choose. Or if you’d rather, just start tackling the final challenge listed here: “Define a person of substance.” You choose. )

  • Read the Mirriam-Webster definition of “substance” at the beginning of today’s post. In what what ways are you providing meaning to another’s life? What aspects of your story have been useful in drawing you closer to the Rescuer? What’s important to you (according to what you spend your time on each week)?
  • Read Philippians 4:8 again. In what ways are you specifically rising to each of Paul’s exhortations? How are you pursuing beauty and truth in your life? In your thought-life? Where in your story have you recently (within the past year) witnessed something honorable, right, pure, lovely, good, full of virtue, and/or worthy of praise?
  • Is the Christmas season a time when you typically feel more like a person of substance? Or less?
  • And finally, define a person of substance. (You’ll keep working at this definition over the next 12 days.)

photo source | cabin co interiors, australia

Your Refugee Heart


I’m one of those. Unashamedly, I’m one who puts away Christmas as soon as I can. I’m not eager to sweep away the mystery or the miracle, but I’m hungry for new and will get there as soon as I can.

There is, though, a crude little sculpture I can’t box away into months of darkness.

Glance quickly and your mind plays a trick on you. You did, after all, see numerous Marys and Josephs and Babies last month.  You can almost dismiss this clay as just another Nativity scene, but it’s not.

Mary is on a donkey, yes.  But she’s holding the Baby in her arms, and her womb is empty. The hope and wonder has been replaced by an overwhelming sense to rescue her son so He can rescue the world someday.

See them fleeing Herod’s insatiable greed and insanity as they race to Egypt.  Joseph and Mary – and the Rescuer of the world – are refugees.

Tired. Misplaced. Unsafe. And not in control.

Are you not in control? I know. It’s terrible, isn’t it?

Dear, dear Joseph has had quite a couple of years. Just a year or so ago he was well into a career designing and producing in his carpentry studio. And now the Master Artist is radically carving his life into something else.

Does your life look different than you planned? Is your heart being carved?

And Mary. Bless her. Her days were clearly not her own, either, and this escape to protect the Son of God must have seemed almost wrong. Did we misunderstand, Joseph? Truly we didn’t hear Yahweh clearly… Her journey to Bethlehem had been full of Hope and Promise kicking inside her. What life was she giving the toddler in her arms now?

Have you ever felt inadequate? Do you maybe have regrets?

Friend, look at the refugees, holding the Hope of the World in their arms, furiously determined to do their part in helping God heal the world.

I love change. I’ve craved it. I’ve sought it many times. I’m simply fond of new.

But I do see how much of my yearning is steeped in discontentment.  Lord, quiet my restlessness. My infatuation reaches only to the point when I’m in control… when I’m the one dictating the change.

I bow to the idol of control as I resist the Author’s twists on my story. I simmer in anxiety and drown those around me with it. I scorn brokenness without noticing the Carpenter wants to reform my heart. Wants to carve away the ugliness I crudely patched on myself.

Have you ever felt the need to be repurposed?

He’s calling you to bravely live in the unpredictable. (Life has a way of shifting what we hold dear, doesn’t it?) He’s calling you to radically embrace the unknown. For in the unknown, we’re no longer pushing our own agendas. There, our purpose becomes much grander. And really, it feels so good to be part of something big instead of starring in our own little mini-dramas. (You know your own story and can read it if you want.)

But you are a chosen people… Beloved, remember you do not belong in this world. You are resident aliens living in exile… Live honorably. I Peter 2:9-12 

And though we’re refugees — tired, scared, numb — ultimately His plan is for us to travel right into His presence. Away from choices gone bad, away from insecurity and regret, away from misplaced treasures. 

Journey with me?