Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Introducing Lift '16!

Months ago, a small group of us 30-something women started brainstorming and praying about an idea that eventually became "Lift '16." Our passion? To come alongside our 20-something sisters and say, "Lift up your eyes: God is right here with you, in the midst of the best and worst of life."

We're amazed to see what God is unfolding, and it's with a lot of prayer and love that we invite you to this special event. Enjoy our video and stop by our website for more information (and to register!).

Lift 16 from AlishaMarie on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Word to the Wise

When my son was only a few months old, I had a mother-of-four walk by me and say, “Oh, I remember the days of only one child. Enjoy it—you have it so easy!”

She was right, you know. Mothering one child is enjoyable, and it is much easier than taking care of four small children as she was.

But she was also wrong. Enjoyment doesn’t come merely from having only one child. And easy wasn’t what I was feeling that particular day: I was in the throes of post-partum depression, suffering from serious health issues, surviving on three hours of sleep every night, and learning to be a mom for the very first time.

During my 14 years of singleness, I had more than one married woman tell me, “Once I surrendered my singleness to the Lord and was completely content, God brought my husband along the very next day!”

(Why was it always the very next day?) Was contentment a destination or a daily choice? Moreover, was perfect contentment supposed to win me the prize of marriage?

Over the years, I’ve heard myriad people say, “Parenting is the most sanctifying thing in the world.”

What does this mean then for those who are single or barren? What happened to Jesus’ statement in John 17 that God’s Word is what sanctifies us? Do parents have a corner on the market of spiritual maturity?

A better Word

It would be easy for me to resent such misguided comments, except for the fact that I’ve been guilty of similar words myself. When we’re hurting, self-absorbed, or simply wanting to validate our season of life, it’s easy to think and speak “extra-biblically.” We offer commentary and advice that’s rooted in our own experiences or emotions, not in the Word of God.

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”  Proverbs 2:6

“[A wife of noble character] speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”  Proverbs 31:26

Where does wisdom come from? The Lord.

So if I want to speak with wisdom, if I want faithful instruction on the tip of my tongue, I go to the Lord, the source of all wisdom. Sure, I can draw from my own life lessons and share my experiences, but "apart from the Lord, I have no good thing." My Word-less words have no power of their own. But His Word? Oh, His Word is…

perfect, refreshing the soul
trustworthy, making wise the simple
right, giving joy to the heart
radiant, giving light to the eyes.”
(Psalm 19)

If I really want to refresh a friend’s soul, give joy to her heart, and light to her eyes, I’ll be slow to dish out my own advice and quick to direct the conversation toward the beautiful, life-giving truths of the Word.

For example, instead of comparing plights with a friend and telling her, "You have it so easy!" I might focus on the goodness of God I see in her life. Or I can steer the conversation away from the differences in our situations and instead focus on what we share in common in Christ.

Or instead of telling a single girl to be perfectly content so that God will reward her with a husband, I might share how I learned to cling to Isaiah 54 ("your Maker is your husband") and 1 Thessalonians 5:24 ("the One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it").

God’s Word will never return empty; it will always accomplish what God desires. It’s alive and active, piercing to the joints and marrow of our souls. And if we could speak with that kind of wisdom, then it would be said of us,

“Faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

Scriptures referenced: Psalm 16:2, Isaiah 55:11, Hebrews 4:12

Two related articles:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Raise That Warrior

I don’t write much about motherhood because I don’t know much yet. I have one son, and he’s just four years old.

But it doesn’t take experience to know what I’m about.

I am raising a warrior.

I’m not called to raise a cute conversation piece or a well-adjusted kid. I’m not laying down my life so that my son can be popular, cultured, or gifted. I’m about the business of raising a warrior of wisdom who loves Jesus, for “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).

Through years of teaching other people’s kids, mentoring youth, and counseling teenage girls in crisis, I saw and heard a lot. I don’t need years of parenting to know that the enemy of our souls wants to devour my son. It’s war out there, and I’m called to raise a warrior—to intercede for, train, love, and prepare him “to shine…in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15).

And I’m scared.

I’m scared because I’m called to an unspeakable task—the nurture and care of an eternal soul. I’m just one insignificant woman who has monumental weaknesses.

I’m scared because I don’t get guarantees for how my son will turn out. Just because I train him to be a warrior, doesn’t mean he will be one. He has his own soul and accountability before God.

I’m scared of raising a young man in Southern California where flesh is god and entertainment is king, where souls are suffocated by sexual perversion and materialism and hostility toward Truth.

But God understands my fears and speaks to them. In Nehemiah 4, when the Israelites were working tirelessly to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, their enemies came to taunt them and thwart their efforts. Nehemiah rallied the people to continue their noble work in the midst of hostility and danger:

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

Fight for your son, Colleen.

But how?

Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and don’t be afraid of:
…worst-case scenarios.

This great endeavor called motherhood is worth fighting the fear that accompanies it. Faith is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to believe God in the midst of great fear. Faith says, “I cannot, but God can.” Because God is great and awesome, and because His Spirit lives in me, I can fight for my son, for his eternal joy in Jesus, no matter what.

Fear vs. God
Fear complicates things and tempts me to find refuge in methods and formulas and reactions. What kind of education and home life and church and social circle will ensure my son’s safety and success?

Fear takes my eyes off of Christ. When I fear, God gets small and my what-if’s get big.

Unlike fear, God doesn’t complicate things. In Deuteronomy 6, He lays out the task of parenting with such simplicity it’s shocking: love God with everything I’ve got; keep His words close to my heart; then teach those words to my child as we go about our day together.

Fear makes the goal feel unattainable, but God says, “Colleen, do the next thing—and while you do it, tell your son about Me.”

When I recall to mind what I am about (raising a warrior to shine in a crooked generation) and Who it is that’s actually accomplishing this impossible feat (Christ Jesus Himself!), I can move past my fears and faithfully plow the fertile soil of my son’s soul. 

In other words, I fight by faith. I believe God. I take Him at His word.

And I fight on my knees. I pray. (I need to pray more.) A soul is at stake, and there is only One who can rescue and redeem him. So I talk to my Lord, I plead with Him, weep before Him for my son.

God has begun this good work in my motherhood, and He will be faithful to complete it. I will mess up a thousand times, and brokenness will mark my motherhood, but God will always draw me back to Himself, to the cross and the empty tomb, reminding me that the power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in me.

I have only a handful of fleeting years to “train up my son in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). I have no idea what tomorrow holds, but today is such a gift, and I have been given everything I need to accomplish the task before me.

So today this weak inexperienced mama can, by God's grace...

Raise that warrior.

This article also appears on the ERLC blog

Saturday, June 27, 2015

An open letter to the Bride

Dear Church,

You are Christ's bride, the stunning picture of His covenant love—the beautiful one who woos and romances the world to Himself.

But you were not always beautiful. You were once a bloodied and abandoned newborn, left in an open field to die.



Then He walked by and said, "Live!" He loved you with a fierce yet tender love, an unreasonable love, so He pulled you out of the heap of blood and briers you lay in, He wrapped you up in His arms, and He gave you life.

"Live!" was the song He sang over you as He dressed your wounds and clothed you as royalty. You were His bride, His delight, the apple of His eye, and now you were to sing His song of life over others (so that they too might live).

You loved Him back with an adoring love. Your heart beat happy with salvation and you could not stop singing His song of life.

But soon you heard the sound of your own voice over His. Oh how sweet you sang! You became enamored by your beauty, your dress, your chosenness. And you forgot. You forgot what He looked like, what He sounded like.... what He'd saved you from.

And you danced to the song of yourself. Your song deafened you to the cries of the bloodied and abandoned around you. They cried out for Life, but you could offer only yourself. They needed Beauty but you gave only bravado.

Now the bloodied rise up and cry, "Death!" and you, so consumed with self, are surprised. You resent them in their dirty desperation and point a fair finger at their misery.

Do you not see? Can you not understand? Your own song will not do, broken Bride. Your thin beauty and privileged position will not suffice. The dying need Life.... and you offer them yourself? (You, once ruined as they are.)

Oh that you would run back to Him, cling to Him as in those first days of love, and let Him sing His song over you—that they might hear and believe.

How will they believe if they have never heard?

You are chosen for this, beloved one. You were saved to go save. The Rescuer is slow to anger and abounding in love, not wanting any to perish but all to "Live!"

So return to your First Love. Hide yourself in Him till your heart beats with His, till your ears are full of His voice and your eyes are alight with His love.

Then go and sing His song to the dying:


Scriptures referenced: Ezekiel 16, Ephesians 5, Jonah 4:2, 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Zephaniah 3:17, Revelation 2:2-5, Romans 10:14-17

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On your 40th

She was the It Girl in college: drop-dead gorgeous, smart, with a slew of handsome suitors and a voice that earned her a recording label. She was going places, and we all anticipated the day when we would say, “I knew Lisa Kolbo before she was famous….”

We thought we knew what life should look like back then. The beautiful and the gifted—those were the ones God put on platforms and used in mighty ways. Because she was the whole package, Lisa and her music ministry would be unstoppable.

But He was scripting such a different story. We could not have guessed what was going on behind the scenes and what the next two decades of life would hold. But He knew, and He was holding it all together in love.

Although Lisa and I shared a propensity for music, coffee, and laughter, it was eventually our brokenness that bound our hearts together. I began to see a strength in Lisa that I could no longer attribute to beauty or giftedness. In unexpected suffering and disappointment she was pressing herself into God, and I saw Him. I could relate to her because she was weak, like me; but unlike me, she could poignantly express what was going on in her heart. I listened and learned.

We talked of love and waiting and marriage. And I watched her fall in love with and marry the best man she’d ever known—her lifelong friend, Michael Hamel. It was now Lisa Hamel, not Lisa Kolbo. But it wasn’t just her name that changed.

After six years of marriage, God gifted her with her firstborn—a beautiful boy with special needs. This former campus celebrity was now quietly caring for an autistic child behind closed doors. Day in, day out. No applause could be heard but His.

And Lisa went deeper with Jesus.

And as she did, she took us with her. Sure, her giftedness and gorgeousness could wow us, but her suffering by faith with eyes fixed on Jesus would forever change us.

Today my dear friend turns 40 years old, and I’m reflecting on God’s kindness—to her… to me through her. I’m thanking Him for derailing small dreams, for saying no to some prayers, and for birthdays that mark His faithfulness.

Happy birthday, dear Lis. Your life has made mine unspeakably rich.