Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Signs. Those of us who believe in an unseen singular God oftentimes look for signs from Him. How silly of us to ask for proof of something permanently unseen, right? What we truly seek is to comfort ourselves while entrenched in a worldview that screams, “Nuh uh, I don’t see it, and I'm unhappy. Therefore it is not there.”

I let these human tricks of mind and matter bog me down sometimes. I don’t stop believing. I simply buy into the human incessant nagging for signs. And yet, signs are all around existing as a reminder. I’d like to share a recent experience risking eye rolls from the masses.

A few weeks ago I reluctantly pulled myself out of bed to run on the treadmill of which I’d rather beat with a sledge. While hating every monotonous step, I began to pray for signs. Not for me, but for someone close to me. Not to prove the existence of God, but to prove this person’s need for God. Soon enough I started to dwell on the fact that we simply don’t have proof. In anger, I asked those age old questions that plague believers regularly …

"Why can’t YOU prove yourself?"

"Why can’t YOU do something?"

"Can’t you see those of us down here waiting for YOU to take a step?"

As soon as I mouthed the last question a song by David Crowder Band began on my iPod, a song that I had never heard before, one that my husband added to the mix the day previous. Usually I would not share lyrics on my blog, but here goes. (I linked it up so you can listen to it if you would like.) If it impacted my life then surely it will touch someone out in internet land…


Send me a sign
A hint, a whisper.
Throw me a line
‘Cause I am listening.
Come break the quiet
Breathe your awakening.
Bring me to life
‘Cause I am fading.

Surround me wish the rush of angels’ wings.

Shine your light so I can see You.
Pull me up; I need to be near You.
Hold me, I need to feel love.
Can You overcome this heart that’s overcome?

You sent a sign,
a hint, a whisper.
Human divine,
Heaven is listening.

Death laid love quiet.
Yet in the night a stirring
All around—-The rush of angels’ wings.

Shine Your light so all can see it.
Lift it up ‘cause the whole world needs it.
Love has come what joy to hear it.
HE has overcome!
He has overcome!

Oh the wonder of the greatest love has come.

Today we ask for signs, but the truth is our sign came and overcame death. Frankly it is selfish to ask the author of our lives for more considering what he did for us. Faith IS believing in things unseen. We won’t find proof because that defeats the purpose of faith entirely doesn’t it, and negates God's wish for us to love Him out of freewill.

Today when we believe, WE are the world’s sign. The most harm is done to Christianity when we waver and selfishly require him to prove himself over and over after all he's already done. We will be left wanting every time if more proof is required to win a love that should be based on faith and the sacrifice of a sign sent 2000 years ago. He came to overcome the need for signs, and still we missed it.

You spoke to me through music again, Lord. Thank you.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Slimy Popcorn Kernels.

When a parent witnesses a child do smart things, I don’t think it is unusual for that parent to blow it out of proportion and determine that they, through the wonders of genetics, gifted the world with the next Einstein. When a parent sees their child do suspiciously odd things, parents write it off as momentary silliness. Finally, when parents witness their children doing something completely dumb and unexplainable, that’s when they begin to worry. Ironically, questioning the same gene pool again.

The other day for a second time my near three year old shoved a popcorn kernel up his nose for fun. The first time he did this it was quite an ordeal. There was sneezing and some squealing involved along with a panicked older sister. It took a good thirty minutes to get the slimy little thing out of his nose. ~And yet, what do we have? Not a week later my son in all his genetic brilliance shoves another popcorn kernel up his nose. I couldn’t believe it.

Now, I know that he is little. I get that. Furthermore, had it not been less than a week since the last time he nearly inhaled raw popcorn I might have just disregarded it as silliness. I don’t believe my son is dumb. Quite the contrary I often fear my youngest child is diabolically brilliant. It struck me as odd that he would do this once. It freaked me out a little that he repeated the action forgetting the discomfort involved.

When the slimy little thing shot out of his nose thanks to a big sneeze, I suddenly realized that I am not much different from my nostril stuffing son.

Time and time again, I do things that must leave God questioning what I’m thinking. I make the same mistakes monotonously. I even make mistakes that I thought I had learned from. I should know better having experienced the previous discomfort, but I find myself in the same shoes as my son sneezing away trying to fix my redundant popcorn kernels…speaking symbolically, of course.

The nice thing about God is He will be there forgiving me, forgetting my popcorn kernels as long as I keep trying to do better. Clearly, this is all silliness and life is bigger and tougher than popcorn up a two year olds nose. Yet, I remember this…“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” I Corinthians 1:25.

Whether it’s popcorn kernels or a rebellious spirit my wisdom is merely God’s foolishness. He knows what is best for me, and within that omnipotence is the understanding that I will make mistakes, the same mistakes, again and again. I’m so thankful he forgives my chronicity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This month I challenge you to dwell on your blessings; to think of at least one thing each day that you are thankful for. I would like to list some of mine now…

I’m thankful for strangers. People who I don’t know, but who have helped me and my family by word or deed.

I’m thankful for teachers/professors that forced me to open my mind even when a crowbar was required.

I’m thankful for my parents who taught me faith, scripture and some amazing southern cooking.

I’m thankful for distant relatives and the opportunity to know them better. My roots are now my heart strings.

I’m thankful for friends. Friends who live all over the place, but they don’t stop loving me because of it. Friends who digitally hold my hand through everything…and I mean everything.

I’m thankful for that guy who dumped me so that I’d go to OC and find a better guy.

I’m thankful for my sweet, loyal, forgiving, patient, Godly man that I am so blessed to know and cuddle up with every night.

I’m thankful for Facebook.

I’m thankful for music. Most days I am not without it, and the days that I am are not the best. Music led me to my friends. Music inspires me to write. Music brings me to my knees and lifts me up to praise. Music is a huge part of my life.

I’m thankful for my children. I’m thankful for pink Barbie clothes and Matchbox cars all over my house. I’m thankful for how much my children teach me about life and love and faith.

I’m thankful for forgiveness. I need it so often. On that note…

I’m REALLY thankful for grace and mercy.

I’m thankful for people who still have faith even when media and everything else attempts to brainwash us into forgetting Jesus.

I’m thankful for pie…pumpkin pie and coffee. God must love us…food tastes so good.

I’m thankful for the word of God and how it brings his children closer to Him.

I'm thankful for Jesus who thought we were worth dying for.

I could go on, but I hope this short list encourages you to come up with a few blessings of your own. Peace to you this THANKFUL season.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Inconsistencies.

1. I encourage my kids to be themselves...except on Halloween.

2. I encourage my kids to not talk to strangers, take candy from strangers, or go near a stranger's house...except on Halloween.

3. I encourage my kids to make healthy eating choices and not gorge themselves on sugary sweets and chocolate...except on Halloween.

4. I hear myself saying, "Don't be scared of the man dressed in black carrying a bloody sickle"...only on Halloween.

This is but a short list of a few things that I'm doing that are probably permanently scaring and confusing my children.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

When they find out.

It is always interesting to watch the responses of people when I introduce myself and we do the ritualistic "what do you do?" routine. The question always comes around to "What does your husband do?" Usually, I get confused looks from people when I say, "My husband is a youth minister. He works with teenagers." Some people immediately stop talking to me the second they hear the scary word "minister". I can almost hear them screaming inside their head..."Run away! Run away! It's the people who marry ten women! They will brainwash you and then eat your children!" (Many thanks to all the crazy cults out there that give Christianity such an intriguing reputation!)

Most people focus on the fact that my husband works with teenagers. I hear things like, "Oh that is so special and needed." One time someone actually said, "Wow. Yeah, teens definitely need somebody. What a tough job." Sounds innocent enough right? It wasn't meant that way. The tone of the conversation was more like my husband worked for the disabled, and they pitied him. It always bothers me when people pick on teens like they are all troublemakers. I happen to really enjoy spending time with teenagers. They, much more than adults, have tender hearts that are open to self-improvement and haven't become so marred by time that they avoid growth. Not to mention the fact that they are much more willing to listen than an adult who feels so well educated by vast experience. (This may surprise a few parents out there.)

The response that really gets under my skin is the.."Oh your husband gets to play all day and never grow up." SERIOUSLY? In our short experience within youth ministry I've stood alongside my husband as he ministered to teens facing drug addiction/abuse, alcoholism, cutting habits, suicidal thoughts/attempts, homosexuality, sexual abuse, abandonment, one divorce after another, physically abusive parents/step-parents, financial ruin, teen pregnancy, emotional disorders, eating disorders, disabilities, and runaways. This just names a few of the trials youth ministers and teens deal with. It makes one re-think the "Jr. Minister" title right? If someone even suggests that all my husband does is play all day, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. Oh yes, we do play. Don't get me wrong. It's a blast! But, that is not all it is. With this in mind, consider carefully the next youth minister your congregation interviews. Make sure he/she is prepared to handle what comes with the ministry.

I often feel that I'm avoided by the masses as a general rule. Oftentimes, people are shocked when I'm able to discuss a PG13 movie or that my husband listens to an occasional Metalica song. (Believers are sometimes more shocked by that!) My impression is that people probably fear judgement from me. Even though that is NOT my occupation nor my personality to doll out the wrath of God. (Technically it is only God's duty to deliver judgement. I try to stay out of that. Again, my thanks to the pharisees out their who find wrong in all but self.)

One minister's wife/friend of mine actually was emotionally wounded once because she was informed by a not-so-nice believer that befriending minister's wives is not beneficial because they(minsters) after-all move. This is true. We do move. Sometimes we really really don't want to move, but it happens. Sometimes it's a good thing. However, refusing to be a minister's friend because they may move someday doesn't benefit anyone. No one is promised tomorrow ministers or otherwise. If I followed the logic to avoid relationship to avoid loss, then it would be better to not have any relationships at all. Not to mention the fact that we live in the digital age; I have really close relationships with people all around the globe.

Even with this weirdness that comes from the title of minister's wife, I don't feel sorry for myself. I love what we do. I am so proud of my husband. I don't fault people for feeling awkward around me. I try to prove to them that I'm loyal and not pious. I suppose my lifestyle may make them uncomfortable, but I won't compromise what I believe to appease their discomfort. It is a part of who I am and what I do. Following Christ is a choice I make. Hopefully, leading people toward Christ is the natural result from my refusal to walk away from him.

When people find out what we do and who we are I hope that my life reflects who I work for. You see, while my husband may receive a paycheck from a local congregation, my employer is actually a much higher authority. My hope is that I never feel embarrassed, and that I never force myself to walk alone in life because it's easier to avoid awkward conversations that inevitably end up as spiritual opportunities.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On the wrong side.

I'm not an athlete. (I can hear my close friends laughing right now, as they recall how many "graceful" trips down the stairs I've taken in the past.) It's safe to say I am even prejudiced toward athletes in many regards. I'm working on offering more grace to the more coordinated of our society.

Growing up a musician, I witnessed many resources from what seemed a deep pocket delivered directly to the basketball team. I watched new football jerseys grace the semi-talented team on a nearly annual basis. I remember the year our marching band actually purchased new uniforms after ten, or was it fifteen, years of the same old torn smelly uniforms. Let me tell you, it is a weird place to be when over a hundred teenagers are actually excited to wear black and gold polyester pants with weird hats. I am a advocate of the arts in schools and it makes me sad to watch these programs wane, and yet the all-influencing sports continue to capture the hearts and pocketbooks of the world. In high school (and even college), I often felt like I was on the wrong side of a losing battle or at the very least a second class citizen only allowed to sit in a specific location on the bleachers.

I'm starting to feel this way within Christianity. While, I firmly believe that many hearts are open to God's word today, I also feel that being a Christian continues to get more difficult in our western culture.

I don't like describing Christianity as a war. I feel this analogy is misconstrued into an 'us against them' theology which only causes harm. It is not us against the world. It never has been. It was not Christ's plan to set us against our loved ones ready to begin a hurtful war of words. Within spiritually divided households like Christ describes in Matthew 10:34-39, perhaps we are not abandoning. Let me suggest, we are the abandoned. We are the ones to be left in the cold and mocked for believing in an ancient tradition. We are the "ignorant" few who cling to standards that don't meet the status quo in a more "advanced" civilization. In the world's eyes, we are on the wrong side.

Let me encourage you that it is not us against them. We may be treated as the nerdy kids sitting on the bleachers sometimes, but our fight is not with the players. Our fight is with the evil that continues to consume and destroy those whom Christ loves and came to save. Our path is not to wage a war against the lost. It is to wage war against the father of lies and the patterns of this world which seem right to some, but really only destroy.

We are to love when they hate. We are to give when they take. We are to share. We are to offer open arms for the hurting. We are to serve those in need. This is how we go to battle. This is the war we wage. If we find ourselves in a war of words, we are on the threshold of being sucked into the very darkness that blinds opponents rather than climbing out of the pit together.

In a society where the noisy dog gets the bone, it may be wise to stop attempting to fit in with society. Stop barking. After all, they should know us by our love, right? Heaven forbid, they know us by our cynicism, sarcasm, hateful speech, slanderous words, politically motivated agendas or prejudiced attacks.

Maybe it's time we start getting comfortable on our little reserved section on the bleachers. Maybe it's time to wear our plastic hats with pride, and stop attempting to fit in where we don't belong.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blinking to the Mainland.

Tonight's devo with the daughter left me amazed again and wondering who the adult is. She is such an old soul! Tonight we shared how tough it can be to make wise decisions. We talked about the choice to always tell the truth, and how hard it is to be kind to our bullies. Amidst this conversation, she told me about one of the themes in her favorite fairy book series. She is a big fan of fairies. One of the first sentences she ever wrote, at the age of three, was a prayer to God in a little green diary asking to fly. I think that is when her fascination with fairies began. I will keep that diary forever.

In this particular series, the fairies can "blink to the mainland" and suddenly be either home in Neverland or on earth making flowers bloom or intricate snow flakes fall. Tonight my little one said, "life would be so much easier if we could just 'blink to the mainland' and be in heaven. Then I wouldn't have to face making anymore bad decisions."

I understand how she feels. Life would truly be great if we could blink away our struggles and hide in the arms of the Father. Therein lies the great irony. We can. When we 'blink to the mainland' we do not immediately travel across time and space to escape our burdens. When we 'blink to the mainland' we can, however, consider the wealth and beauty that awaits us there. We can hand our struggles over to the creator. We can faithfully make decisions that will lead us to our mainland someday.

I tried to convey this idea to my eight year old. She didn't really buy it, but I hope someday she'll understand. For now, I will attempt to paint vivid pictures of a peace-filled mainland without bullies, without mistakes. I will, though feebly, describe our mainland of never ending beauty where we can explore and fly together with new fairy wings that never tire. I eagerly await the day when she and I 'blink to the mainland' together forever.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tug-of-war, a spoon, and nonconsequentialism.

A few nights ago my family gathered around our table for tomato soup. After our usual prayer and usual acknowledgement of all supplies I forgot to bring to the table, I asked for someone to grab me a spoon. Out of nowhere my two eldest children jumped out of their seats and dashed to the silverware drawer. My daughter made it there first and grabbed the spoon. My son, fearing no opponent regardless of size, began a tug-of-war, yanked it from her hand and the wrestling match began. Before my husband or I could stop them, they were on the floor screaming over who gets to take the spoon to mommy. It was weird.

As a parent of young kids, I spend my days pleading with someone to take their brother's underwear off their head or begging for them to limit toothpaste usage to a minimum. Never did it occur to me that my children would want to please me because they love me. Normally, I fear that they sense the dark and vengeful wrath that will unfold if they write their name one more time on the bathroom mirror with said toothpaste. Quite honestly, there is a part of me that wants them to fear my wrath. Maybe, simple respect is more of what I'm looking for.

In my ethics class last week we discussed theories of nonconsequentialism. That is, the theory that one makes choices based on intuition, duty, or out of sheer goodness. A nonconsequentialist pays no mind to the outcome, or consequences, of their decisions. This is a simplified definition, of course. There are other ins and outs that include philosophers like Kant and Ross, but I'll save that for a paper I'm sure to have due any moment. A nonconsequentialist obeys laws because they should, not out of fear of punishment.

This has me thinking...how much more fulfilling parenting would be if my children did what I asked because they love me. Something as simple as bringing a spoon shows that they do, at the least, long for my approval.

Transfer these thoughts to our spirituality.

Do we race to please God or do we obey out of fear of His wrath? Would it please Him more if our motives were to please Him; rather than to avoid spiritual death or gain eternal life? Am I truly living out a love for the father, or am I living out a routine that keeps me out of trouble? Am I teaching my children to obey me for me, or to obey in order to please our God?

God truly reveals His feelings for us, in that He wants to be our father. He is not described as our militant dictator. He is our father. The one who loves the undeserving. The father that loves His children. The least we can do is love Him back.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." 1 John 3:1a

Thursday, September 10, 2009

When you know everything.

When I was sixteen I knew everything.
When I was eighteen I knew even more.
When I was twenty-one I questioned what I knew.
When I turned thirty I was sure I knew nothing.
It's been a slow progression of mental lapse and deterioration since then. Now...
I'm thirty blah blah years old and I know very little.

I know I love my children.
I know I love my husband.
I know that I believe in a creator.
I know that I believe in the creator's son.
I know that there are questions without answers.

I know I may never know more than that, but I sleep well at night in my ignorance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Raising the Bar.

According to Romans 8:2, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

I've been thinking about this verse lately. It is a blessing to be set free from a law that condemned instantaneously, a law where punishments were dolled out openly even to the extent of stoning a rebellious child (Deut. 21:18). We are freed from a law justifying an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth.

With this knowledge though, I don't like thinking that our new faith system, a faith of limitless grace and mercy, is easier or a fluffy version of the past. In fact, I think the opposite is true.

We were rescued from a law that we couldn't follow. We inevitably would break it. We did. Christ came to offer grace to us because we are fallible and we need grace. With this knowledge I don't believe we should consider ourselves free of trying to obey. In many ways, I feel Christ raised the bar. He internalized the law.

Instead of shooting someone in the back...we are guilty of malicious slander or hate.
Instead of cheating on our spouses...we are guilty of staring down Hollywood hotties.
Instead of bowing down to a golden calf...we are guilty of busy schedules, missed worship services and bowing to self.
Instead of stealing our neighbors cow...we are guilty of nabbing hotel towels.
Instead of remembering the sabbath...we over-extend ourselves 'till we can't serve.

Because we have grace, it is easy to not expect much of ourselves. When in reality the bar was raised to include our heart's intent. I never want to excuse myself from obedience because I fake myself into believing that I've been freed of it or that I'll be forgiven anyway.

If we love Him...we'll love the unlovable even when they don't love us back.
If we love Him...we'll be faithful to our spouses physically, emotionally, and mentally.
If we love Him...we'll rearrange everything in our lives and put Him first.
If we love Him...we'll raise the bar.

Consider this...Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (1 Peter 2:16).

The old law foreshadows the intent of the heart in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. "What does the Lord your God want from you? The Lord wants you to respect and follow him, to love and serve him with all your heart and soul, and to obey his laws and teachings that I am giving you today. Do this, and all will go well for you." My guess is God knew our hearts would be the problem. Our actions simply follow suit.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Old Tupperware and Clay Pots.

My Tupperware drawer is where plastic goes to die. I'm embarrassed to tell you that it is one of the most disorganized storage locations in my house. It is safe to say that I have one hundred various sized plastic bowls, and at least fifty percent are damaged, stained, or missing a lid. I've been eyeing those neat little stacks of self contained plastic ware for months at Target, but haven't given in to buying them. I guess I'd rather empty out an entire drawer every night and attempt an archaeological dig to find a suitable location for leftover Manwich. I recently put left over chicken in a plastic bowl and covered it with foil before I even attempted the lid search. The foil covered the top, but in the morning my fridge smelled like dinner. I remember my mom had a green Tupperware salad keeper that had been so marred by time that it had a hole melted through it. She kept it. It must be genetic. Clearly, there is a better way, as I'm sure most of you have already replaced the crazy plastic pile with neatly organized storage containment systems. Not I.

This morning I came across a verse that brought a smile to my face...

We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

~2 Corinthians 4:7-10

There are those days when I resemble my Tupperware drawer. My disheveled mess of a life does not reveal my true potential. I am marred by time. I am missing important pieces. These are the days that I don't feel like much of an example for the cause of Christ.

When I think of the metaphor within 2 Corinthians 4 that compares us to jars of clay, I realize that sometimes we allow our imperfections to define us. Our frailties and our inadequacies fake us into believing that we can do nothing for the cause or sake of Him who made us. We miss the point. He works through our missing lids. He works through our brokenness and weaknesses. You see, it isn't about me; the clay pot...the old green Tupperware. It is about who lives in me.

In every way this life on earth will try to bring us down. It will try to silence us by pointing out every flaw we have. We may feel purposeless. In our exhaustion, we may want to give up and go find a dark place to hide. Yet, He is still there waiting to use us, waiting to shine through.

For so long I believed that a true Christian looked a certain way, dressed a certain way, and talked a certain way. I don't believe that anymore. God has called ALL people to serve Him. God has called all broken, stained, old, young, misplaced, forgotten, hurt, wounded, ugly, poor people to serve Him; to reveal Him through their brokenness. When you consider what lies within, the outside no longer matters much. Let Him out. Reveal what treasure you hold. Don't let your past or your inadequacies continue to hold back the glory of God. That is what lives within you; the glory of God in a simple jar made of clay.

Our exterior does not define us. He does.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Where do you go to church?

the church of tradition,
the church of my roots,
the church of my parents,
the church of my friends,
the church of playtime,
the church that's over in fifteen minutes,
the church that serves lunch,
the church of gossips,
the church of my social class,
the church of my color,
the church of social hour,
the church that serves,
the church that prays,
the church where they dress nice,
the church where I can wear jeans,
the church where they are nice to me,
the church where I'm important,
the church that plays,
the church that is right,
the church that rebels,
the church with the best music,
the church that doesn't sing too much,
the church where the cute guy goes,
the church where the hot girl is,
the church where I don't feel lonely,
the church where my kids are happy,
the church that's down the street,
the church that feeds the hungry,
the church that kicks them out,
the church that won't make me do anything,
the church that requires much,
the church that everyone else goes to,
the church with the new building,
the church that makes me feel good,
the church that makes me think,
the church that . . .

Maybe that's the wrong question.

Why do we worship?
Who do we worship?

Sometimes I feel confused. Sometimes I feel our motivation is all wrong. Is it more about us than Him? Is it all about our comfort, our wants, our needs? The arguments of the past are null and void. Have we forgotten our first love?

To be honest...I don't feel where is the issue at all. It's who.

If we don't know Whom we worship, then it's not worship at all.
The where fails to impress as soon as you consider who.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Let's just keep it civilized.

It is so ironic and comical that while I work on improving myself with further education in the hopes of being a sophisticated professional someday soon, that my life is just the opposite. One minute I'm trying to absorb The Legal Traditions of the World , my current textbook, and the next minute I hear screams of disgust coming from my daughter regarding my completely naked two year old that is using our backyard as a toilette.

I don't really understand the genetic trait that courses through the veins of my boys that inspires their love of nudity. I don't really recall any relatives that joined those "special" beach resorts that require no clothing. What I really don't get is why this liberating, albeit refreshing, experience must be had in the open air of the front or back yard while the neighbors ogle and wonder where the crazy lady is who cares for these exhibitionists.

Most of the time I'm trying to write thought provoking material for class I start to hear the lyrics from Yo Gabba Gabba in my head. There have even been several times where I've considered citing Dr. Seuss in a paper because suddenly one of the lines from The Cat and the Hat relate so clearly to cultural conflicts.

Days like these make me wonder if I can truly make it in the real world after so many years of chasing naked miniature people. Is there a place in this world for a recovering stay-home-mom? It will seem strange to go through days at a time without potty predicaments and nosy neighbors noting nakedness.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Lovelife.

I love my family. I have amazing and loyal friends. They all are my past, present, and future. They are my roots and my legacy.

At night when all are asleep and silence surrounds me, and I'm up yet again unable to shut my brain off; I realize that I am an individual. I am connected to these wonderful people. Relationships make up what I recognize as life. Yet, people fail to be constant. People move. People change. People die. Life takes us in directions we never plan. Controlling our life or the lives of others is a grand farce.

When I consider my children all snug in their beds tonight, I know that for now I can hear them softly breathing in the next room. They are temporarily mine...temporarily. Eventually, they will wander and find loves of their own and live a life all their own. I'm excited to watch their lives unfold.

When I consider my husband, my sweet, wonderful, loyal husband, I am ever thankful of the time we share; every second we share. Still, our relationship is marked my seconds because it is temporary.

These are the reasons it is futile for me to resist a relationship with Christ. These relationships daily reveal to me that I do not wish for a life alone, an eternity alone. Most of the time, relationships mark the reason I love Him.

If there were no Christ, no eternity, then this carnal, temporary life would be all I had to cling to. Good byes, literally, would mean good bye.
Why would I want to believe that?
What is simple about that?
What is comforting about love forever gone?

I have a selfish faith. I don't want my relationships to be futile or pointless. I don't want to give and love so that I can wisp away into nothingness or watch the owners of my heart wisp away into nothingness. I want it to go on. I want my love to go on. I want them to go on. For this reason eternity makes sense to me.

It is my opinion, that it is human to seek the divine. To some, divinity in found internally, an internal journey to perfect oneself. To others, divinity is far above, an accomplishment never to be achieved. To a Christian, we walked with Divinity. He walked in our dirt, held our hands, and loved our children. He reminded us that to love one another is the second greatest achievement (to love Him is the first) born out of law that came from some of the earliest recorded moments in history. I can do that. I can love. Love is divine.

In the quiet of a still house, while all my loved ones are safe, I see that each moment is precious. I fill the moments with love, so that we recognize eternity when we reach it. I fill the moments with love, so my loved one's recognize me within eternity.

The more we cling to the temporary; the more we live a life alone.
The more we cling to love; the more we live.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Eternal Judgment and Blogging.

It's been seven months since I started blogging. I've really enjoyed being able to put my thoughts in one place. I don't know how many people actually read what I write, but that really is not why I began writing in the first place. I desired an outlet and here it is.

What I've learned from blogging: Most of the time, blogging is a fun positive experience. The people who read my posts relate to them. They are either parents, fellow believers in Christ, or both. It seems a comfort to me to discover that people share similar trials whether it is a fight with a clogged toilette or a spiritual warfare issue. It is also a comfort connecting with friends who can share and help bear my burdens, so to speak. This is the best of blogging. I like to believe that that's what blogging was intended to do; create a community of people separated by miles bringing what would be impossible relationships right into your living room, home office, or iphone (if you're lucky).

To contrast that: The worst aspect of blogging is hearing from folks who are hateful. What blows my mind are people out in digital land that take it upon themselves to rip apart my faith and my family simply because they don't like what I write. Many of you may believe I'm giving them a voice by writing this. Perhaps that is true. I will say that EVERY time I've been contacted by one of these folks it has been because of my spirituality and my belief in Jesus. My perception of these anonymous posters is...
bitterness that I have a belief system,
irritation that I have standards,
and hatred that I choose to live by them.

The commonality that each of these posts share is the clear indication that they feel "judged". Most of them express disdain with Christianity because of previous bad experiences within it. I don't blame them for resenting structured religion. I share many similar issues and experiences, I'm sure. I, however, chose to love Christ and cling to Him and all the wonderful believers in this world, rather than systematically accuse or blame all of Christendom for my personal hardships. Regardless, of whether or not anyone wants to admit it, true Christianity promotes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (the fruits of the spirit-The book of Galatians 5:22).

In respect to the "judged" feeling. I will say this. I have heard this same contention between fellow Christians. It stems from a passage in Matthew 7 where Christ says, "Judge not, that you be not judged". It seems to be the go-to verse when someone feels attacked or has sore toes from a sermon, fellow Christian...or blog in this case. However, There are also verses that describe "encouraging the fainthearted and helping the weak" (1 Thessalonians 5:14), and verses that state "if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (Galatians 6:5). You don't hear those verses very much these days. It appears to not be politically correct or tolerable in any situation to restore another person. We like to uphold the 'you take care of you, and I'll take care of me' mentality...even though that was never the case in early Christianity and pretty much a ludicrous notion considering the early church.

In reality, who wants to hear that their personal behavior could/should be modified? It is an uncomfortable feeling. I'm the first to admit that.

Here is what I examined over the last few days. The definition of judgment is... the cognitive process of reaching a decision or drawing conclusions. Being judged is being informed of one's final conclusion. It is defining the end of what a thing is or is to become.

Here's my point with all this.. We can't continue to assume that making a factual statement is a judgment, especially within the bounds of spirituality.

If I say I own pug dog, it is because I own a pug dog.
If I say my friend has red hair, it is because she has red hair.
If I say someone sleeps through a sermon, it is because I saw them sleep through a sermon.

If factual statements define you, it is an opportunity not a judgment. It is the point where you decide to determine your future. A factual statement is not a death sentence or a leaning toward an eternal resting place. I don't feel I should apologize for stating facts. If facts bother you, then readjust that which defines you.

I write about my life; my personal struggles with spirituality within a community, and my struggles with parenting. I like to hold people accountable to that which they are promised: Christ. I've been known to point out inconsistencies within the church or ask people for authenticity. None of which make mention of eternal judgment. None. On this, I will defend myself.

People actually believe they can convert me to their limited scope of spirituality by being mean and nasty. Let me clue you in on another secret...chances are if you approach me in a hateful manner, if you attack my family or friends, if you are crude or call names...you lost me the minute you clicked "post".

If you are respectful of my faith, my friends, and my family...then we can have a discussion. I welcome it.

Don't play the judgment card though. That is not my department.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Tribute to my first-born.

We were on vacation during my daughter's birthday, so I missed the chance to write her tribute post. Here it is a couple weeks late.

The minute in my sonogram when my husband heard the lab tech say those fateful words, "You're having a girl", his face turned an odd shade of green. I was thrilled. I don't have brothers, so the world of girl is not new to me. Dave, however, was obviously scared out of his mind because he is from the world of boy and knows the territory all too well. As you would expect, when she arrived we instantly fell in love with the bundle of noisy pink joy.

My daughter is an interesting girl. She put complete sentences together before the end of her first year. She has not stopped sharing her opinion since. She could read on the third grade level by kindergarten, and by the end of Kindergarten she started the Harry Potter series. (No I'm not exaggerating. Sometimes I wish I was.) She is a literary smarty pants, and continually is absorbed by several books at a time.

She is also highly dramatic. My friends and family should not be surprised by this... considering the gene pool.

My favorite memory of my girl was at her first ballet performance when she was six. Her little first-year ballet class was stars (literally)in the Nutcracker Suite. At the end of the performance during the bows, she kept dancing. She had no concept that the show was over or that the music had stopped. She was still performing in a world all her own with her own internal music, and she was the beautiful prima donna. When SHE decided her dance was done, she then gave the biggest most melodramatic bow to grace the stage in Abilene, Texas.

My daughter, much like one of her relations who may or may not be writing this post, has strong opinions about everything. Most of the time, she is not ashamed to share those opinions especially if those thoughts have anything to do with the appropriate and timely disciplining of her brothers. She loves her brothers. Sometimes I feel she can mother them better than I.

She is eight years old and a self-proclaimed missionary. She taught her little friend down the street how to pray, and she is currently saving her money to purchase that little girl a bible. How much I could learn from my sweet daughter! She has a bold faith that oftentimes keeps her up late at night. She worries about life and death. She experiences anxiety over family members who take no interest in Jesus. Her faith makes me see what I lack in mine.

I am so proud of my girl. My dreams for her are simple. I don't care if in life she is a rocket scientist or a rock star. I simply want her to maintain her real faith and devotion to the life-giver. I see in her the potential to reach so many for Jesus, simply because she is not afraid to share her faith or live it. The memory of her dancing to her own music in front of so many gawking onlookers gives me hope that she can maintain a faith in a world where she will undoubtedly be different; where she will undoubtedly hear a music that many will deny exists. I hope she dances for Him even when others do not.

Happy Birthday, Lil!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Letting You In on a Little Secret.

After nearly thirty years of being a minister's daughter and now eleven years of being a youth minister's wife, I've decided it is time to let the masses in on something that maybe they don't know.

When in front of the congregation preaching a sermon that you studied for hours upon hours before presenting, after days of prayer and often fasting before bringing the word to the congregation...it might be pertinent to make you aware...

we can see you sleeping. Did you know that?

When you complement the sermon after we watch you sleep through it, it just rubs salt in the wound.

Now, I'm not daft enough to believe, or even suggest, that every sermon is a winner. Come on, we've all struggled through some snoozers, and even the best orators will confess to butchering a sermon every now and then. Nevertheless, let's just be honest shall we?

Believe me, I know it's tough to sit still for twenty minutes after staying up all night with a screaming infant, wrestling her into a Sunday dress just so she can decorate it with last night's digested pasta, and once you get to worship notice that digested pasta is now an undesirable accessory on your skirt. I know. I've been there. I don't even really mind if you fall asleep. Let's just not deny it or pretend it doesn't happen. I just want honesty people!

There you have it...another secret revealed. I have many more where that came from.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Cup Runneth and Runneth.

The last three weeks have meant the world to me. I am up at 4AM trying to put it all into words and for what seems like the first time...I just can't sum it up yet.

For now, what I want to share with the world is...

I have an amazing husband who allows me to study, be myself, travel, and grow. He is the biggest blessing in my life and I love him. How do I deserve this guy?

I have amazing friends. Last week I reunited with my college buddies. Though separated by miles, our relationships are still in tact and growing. Thanks girls for an amazing week of laughter, music, and the stomach flu. I love each of you so much. The triad of power reigns supreme.

I live in an amazing place. I like to travel. I can feel at home pretty much anywhere. HOWEVER, it was great coming home to Michigan. We are so blessed with our church family, and I am ever thankful to God for allowing us to live here. Bring on the Vernor's and cider mills!

God is so good. Maybe I'll head back to bed and when I wake up I'll be able to compose more thought provoking material. But for now...God is truly a good God. So often I'm hung up on the little things that grow into BIG bitterness, but that is my problem not God's. When I boil it all down, I see that I am blessed...so blessed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Toast to the Mutants at Table Nine.

My daughter and I had a long talk yesterday about not fitting into the popular crowd. It appears that although time passes, music changes, and clothing styles wane; the ever constant first class "popular" table endures the test of time within the school lunch room. The conversation reminded me of my high school lunchroom buddies. This post is dedicated to them, and to all others who at one time or another are excluded either by choice or by force from the popular lunchroom table.

Adam Sandler starred in a movie called The Wedding Singer in 1998. It is one of my favorite guilty pleasures as I usually laugh hysterically through the entirety of this theatrical masterpiece. One of my favorite scenes includes Robbie (Sandler) referencing the 'mutants at table nine'. At first, the said 'mutants' appear offended by the remark. Seconds later they all nod accepting their role as 'mutant'. At first glance, this group at table nine appear ostracized. What I have decided about the 'mutants' at table nine is whether they found each other haphazardly by literally running into each other in the hall, or they were forced into the 'mutant' group by sheer neglect from everyone else; mutants stick together. It's a wonder I can come to that conclusion from such a small reference in a ridiculous movie, isn't it? Here might be the reason why...

I am a mutant from table nine. I also had the best friends in high school imaginable. None of us were exorbitantly wealthy, as far as I know. None of us were really jocks, although some may have dreamt of being such, and none of us were cheer-leading, jazz team bouncing, short skirt wearing blonds. The majority of my friends I met in band or choir or drama, which unfortunately and typically is mutant central. Here is a run down of some my friends as I remember them...

Adam, my giant friend, who towered over the rest of us like Goliath.
Teeny tiny blond, Kara was a minister's kid, like myself.
Jeremy was in love music, but even more in love with Samantha.
Samantha (aka Sam) played flute along side me in band.
Stephanie was our resident beauty queen.
Nathan, my over-opinionated friend, kept me grounded in my spiritual roots.
Tyler,the aloof piano player, who didn't always sit with us or did he?
Sarah left us all in the dust when it came to brains.
Another Jeremy, another musician, who could croon like the best of the rat pack.
Brenna was loyal, kind, a deep thinker, and listener.
James was friend to all and respected by all. He was/is authentic.

A younger group came into play that included Brianna, my constant and true best friend. Still others like John...another good listener. Jennifer, my competitor in band, yet still friend.

These are the ones who stand out the most in my memory. There are more that I haven't mentioned, but have not forgotten.

We were not the popular table. Maybe we were the mutants in someones eyes, but to us... we were friends. We had fun. We laughed together, shared life together, and set goals together. We didn't get into hoards of trouble. We worked hard on grades, music, and life. We were not invited to some of the cool parties. We had our own. The best part is, today we are not ashamed of our past. We may be embarrassed a little over prom dates, poor hair choices or minor adolescent indiscretions, but all in all we lived well. If I had to repeat high school there would be things I would change, but mostly I would stay the same with the same friends at the same table. Only I would spend more time with the people there.

Sadly, the popular table exists for adults at work and even sometimes at church. Mutants roam through the streets finding one another to lean on. Most of us don't really care to belong to segregated clicks within the popular crowd. We try to be nice to everyone though, and we never regret our lunch friends. We know that exterior judgments mean nothing. Attaining wealth and admiration from the masses means nothing. Making friends of people who only like you for where you can get them is pointless. We would rather make friends who love us for who we are regardless of our flaws, and we have. We also know that heartbreak and sickness are not prejudice, but effect cheerleaders, jocks, music nerds, and computer geeks alike.

In the end, I want my daughter to know that looking into the popular crowd may seem intriguing, but the people who are genuine, honest, talented, giving, loyal, spiritual, and life-changing might just be sharing your french fries right beside you. Don't take those people for granted, and don't be ashamed of being a mutant at table nine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Battle of Wills and Won’ts- based on actual events

In class last week we had an assignment to write a simple script, mostly for fun I think. The script had to include several examples of defensive communication behaviors. Unfortunately, my first thoughts went to my own household. I thought I'd share this and see if it sounds anything like your houses?

Battle of Wills and Won’ts- based on actual events


Lily – A seven year old independent opinionated little girl who is ready to move out of the house into her own apartment. Her parents feel she is fully capable of this move.

Elijah – A laid back sensitive four year old who simply wants someone to love him.

Micah – A precocious and obstinate two year old much like his sister, Lily.

Scene begins with Lily coming home from school finding her room not in the perfect condition she left it in. Instead there are two books out of place on the floor beside her neatly organized bookshelf. She hears noises coming from her closet.

Lily- (yelling) Get out of my room right now!

Elijah- (comes in Lily’s room from the hallway) I am not in your room. Mom! Lily is yelling at me. (Leaves Lily’s room)

In a corner of Lily’s closet hides Micah coloring in Lily’s favorite Fairy book and laughing.

Lily- (Follows Elijah) I know you were in my room. It is a mess and I heard you in there. You are always in my room Elijah!

Elijah- Nuh uh!!! Did not!! (Looks back into Lily’s room and then quietly questions) Where’s da mess, Lil?

Lily- YOU know where the mess is. Now get in there and clean it right now or I’m getting mom and then you’ll get your game taken away.

- (looking in Lily’s room) Well, I didn’t do it. My room IS messy though. Wanna watch TV?

- Well, I don’t care what you do. If you are not going to clean up your mess then I won’t watch your shows with you.

Elijah- Lily! I did not make a mess in your room. I made a mess in MY room see!! (Pointing toward his room) Where’s Micah? Maybe he wants to watch shows.

- MOM! Elijah refuses to clean up his mess in my room. It is clearly his responsibility!

- MOM! It’s not my ‘sponsibity to clean Lil’s room! I’ll clean my room. That’s my ‘sponsibity!

Micah emerges from Lily’s room with Fairy book in hand. Lily sees Micah and yanks book from his hands.

Lily- MICAH!!!

- I told you Lil. He did it.

- MOM! Micah colored in MY book!

Elijah- Lil you owe me a ‘pology.

Lily- (Not looking him in the face) Yeah. Sorry. Ugh. Now I have to completely reorganize my shelf. (Walks away to her room and slams the door)

Elijah quietly turns on his favorite show and sits with Micah on the couch. Lights dim. Fade to black.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The death and poverty gospel.

Ever heard of health and wealth gospels? You know what I mean, the minister/ies that teach that if you love Jesus and have faith you will be healthy and rich-- blatantly disregarding the mountain of struggles that early Christians faced. Well, I'm hear to tout something new. I'd like to advertise the death and poverty gospel. Wanna join?

One of my favorite worship songs is You Never Let Go by Matt Redman. The song quotes mostly Psalms. It is beautiful. It reminds me that my faith or Christianity is not about my happiness, my health, or my wealth.

Christianity is so much deeper than our earthly comfort. I know plenty of parents that scoff at the concept of a happiness doctrine. You see, they have all kissed their babies goodbye. They are faithful under the most horrible of circumstances. They live out a faith-filled gospel everyday. They have faith in eternal reunion otherwise what is the point of going on?

The truth is Jesus did not promise us happiness. The truth is Jesus did not promise an easy road. Why should we have an easier road than our savior who walked before us? Do any of us deserve that? I don't.

When your world is rocked,
when your job is gone,
when you say goodbye to a precious one,
when you face disease,
when you are alone,
when you live in poverty,
when you are spiritually/emotionally/financially bankrupt,
when you look a gun in the face,
that is when you know what the death and poverty gospel is.

When you are clinging to Jesus and crawling through the worst storm of your life, he will provide. When you have lost everything you value, he is still there. He will not abandon you...ever.

Faith, true faith, is believing with all you have when you have nothing. Faith is what keeps the empty going. It is why parents who've tragically lost children can go on. It is why the lady in your congregation who has been in physical pain every day of her life keeps coming and keeps believing and keeps praying and keeps lifting her hands to praise. It is why the apostles kept sharing the gospel even when facing certain death. Faith that HE will bring us home is real faith.

If you keep waiting for life to get easier...you may be waiting a while. Trust in HIM and not in self. Live for Him. Believe He will provide, because He will. He always does. His provision in times of need brings a joy that earthly excitement can't match. So I say,

Bring on the pain.
Bring on the poverty.
Bring on death and disease.
Bring on famine.
Bring on the armies who seek to kill us.

We are on the right side. Praise God and sing His praises through it all! My friend Paul said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain." Move past the earthly temptation to earn more, acquire more, and please self more. He is why we are here. I feel that if you are living for yourself, you will be rewarded...here. If you are living for HIM then life may hurt, but you will be rewarded...there. I don't think you can have both. I think you have to choose.

There will be an end to the struggles here. It will come swiftly although it seems slow now. He will be faithful to us, if we are faithful to Him. He will never let us go. He will be with you...always...through it all.

"I will fear no evil, for you are with me." Psalm 23:4

"If God be for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear." 1 John 4:18

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Woman in the Mirror.

A middle aged woman stood in front of her mirror one evening before bed. She was saddened by her reflection and thought back to her younger days. Suddenly, in the mirror she could see her Lord standing behind her, yet when she turned around she could not see him. They began to talk. Looking at her reflection she sighed and said,

"I'm getting wrinkles, Lord."

He replied, "You are growing in wisdom."

"I'm so tired."

"In me you will find rest."

"I'm not as pretty as I once was."

"To me, you are my perfect work of art. You are special and one of a kind."

"I've gained weight."

"I've always provided."

"I lost my job today."

"I won't stop providing."

"People confuse me and I've lost a lot of friendships over the years."

"I'll never leave you. My commitment is unending."

"I'm not sure my children even love me."

"I'm not sure my children love me either. I love you."

"I'm scared sometimes when I'm alone."

"You are never alone. I'm here."

"You are good, Lord."

"Thanks, for saying so."

With that the woman smiled at her reflection took a deep breath and went to bed.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Do you have a frog in your backpack?

I suppose there are many moments in a mother's life when she recognizes that profound willingness to jump in front of a train for the love of her child; the moments when you recognize that the love you hold for your little one causes you to sacrifice self, time, tears and freedom...anything. You know the moments I'm talking about. Today I would like to list a few of those recent occurrences in my life.

1) We are quite certain that our two year old is our last child. For that reason, I think I've tried to keep him a baby for as long as possible. I know, I know that is definitely more about me than him. Nevertheless, he is not potty trained and still uses a pacifier. By this age, both my other children were paci-less and diaper free. I've tried several times to get him off the pacifier and I've given in every time. Most times giving in out of sheer desperation to stop the incessant crying...so again...more about me than him.

Today, as we were leaving Walmart, my third kiddo dropped the paci accidentally and, of course, it rolled all the way underneath the car next to ours.

I thought: Now is the time to rid ourselves of the pacifier. I explained how it was gone and dirty and "bye bye". I expressed to our two year old the goal of being a "big boy" and not using a pacifier ever again. I offered ice cream. I offered cookies. It was pathetic. I even went over how irrational it was to retrieve a pacifier from the ground of a Walmart and the viruses/germs/anti-freeze that was sure to cover it. No go.

Two year old response: GIANT TEARS. QUIET SOBS. Pleading, "mommy, get paci. Pweeeeeese. Pweeeeeeese, mommy...my paci. Paci gone gone, mommy?"

Please understand that if this had been a tantrum, that pacifier would still be in the parking lot getting covered in motor oil. This was not a tantrum. It was pure unadulterated sadness. I could not bear it. So, I did what any other mother would do in this situation. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled under someone else' vehicle to retrieve the stupid thing. I will say, the best part came later when I heard, "oh tank u, mommy. I nuv u. I nuv my paci." It was worth it. Of course, ask me if it was worth it when he is 15 and still chewing on the thing and I'm sure to have a different story.

2) I have dolled out time outs, spankings, groundings, and toy removals all in the hopes that my four year old will stop climbing over the couch. Every day...no exaggeration...every day we go over this. I knew he was going to fall. It was imminent and he did. He fell head first into the heating vent getting a giant bruise over his eyebrow, a black eye and a scrapped up bloody nose. He was screaming.

Normally, when my children are injured my gut instinct is to be the nurturer and comforter. I hurt with them and I have never done well in bloody situations. I am a over-reactor. This time was no different. When he ran screaming into the kitchen bleeding from his face my stomach started to climb out of my throat. I immediately felt that knee jerk reaction to inform him that no other child had experienced such horrific trauma and that mommy will heal all the wounds afterward providing sugary treats until the Disney channel lulls him to dreamland.

However, I knew that I had to hold it together for the lesson learned. Sure, I comforted him, but we had a long talk about why it happened, how it happened, and how to keep it from happening again. These moments are super tough because your instinct says one thing, but your head another. I will fight my knee jerk instincts every time for him. He is worth my discomfort.

3) My daughter brought home a blue slip yesterday. This is the disciplinary sheet that our elementary school uses. Apparently she had, at the request of a friend, sneaked a frog into her backpack after recess. When her teacher asked about it...she denied doing it. Uh oh.

Firstly, I was totally pumped that she touched a frog. I really don't want a squeamish kid that won't touch worms or goes squealing down the hall at the sight of a lizard. That part did not bother me at all. I was impressed.

She lied. That was the worst part. She was very penitent. Through tears, we made her write an apology letter and had a very long conversation about lying that night. Before bed I told her stories about my past struggles with not always telling the whole truth. We talked about that even if the truth hurts someone's feelings or even if you get caught in a bad situation, it is always better to speak the truth because God says so.

At the end of our conversation, my little one prayed and asked God to forgive her (without my prompting, I might add). Then she thanked God for me...for me. I can't express in words what that meant to hear. I love her so much and when I see that just a tiny bit of my faith is passed to her...it makes every diaper, every frustration, every late night and early morning, every fingerprint or glass of spilled milk just disappear and not matter any more.

A close of mine mentioned something to me yesterday that I think has changed my life, a little. My kids are not mine. They belong to God. I get to share them for a few short years and then I must let them go. I would jump in front of a bus for each one them any day, but after all is said and done I also have to be willing to let them go. I am treasuring the moments that I have while I have them. I hope you do the same.

Happy Mother's day, my dear friends.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Memory: the Ghost that Haunts.

I've blocked a lot of memories of my childhood. I am still relatively young and I can't remember so much. I have tendency to punish myself for my past indiscretions; never really forgiving. I will let someone walk all over me and forgive them time and again...but I harbor some pretty heavy ill will for my own past missteps.

The memories that I LOVE come back with smells or particular weather. When I was really little I had a swing in a willow tree in the backyard. I remember days where I would swing for hours singing to the top of my lungs. On windy sunny days this particular memory is triggered and when I hear my daughter in the backyard belting out a tune I think of that old swing. Whenever I make pot roast (yes, i make pot roast) I think of my mom and then I think of her mom, my grandmother. I am so thankful for those Sunday pot roasts and meals with my family and the hug that particular memory provides.

Facebook has rekindled some super old friendships. I just became friends with a girl that was my bestest friend...in the sixth grade. It brought back wonderful memories of young laughter and silly first sleepovers.

I've also become friends with some folks that I don't have exceptional memories of. Friends where we've lost contact...because I stopped keeping in touch. Friends where we stopped talking over silly arguments. Now it seems silly...ten years ago not so much. Some of these memories are so cathartic and good for the soul. It's nice to see that most people grow up, start families and become respectable members of society. I know many think that of me and possibly questioned whether I was capable of growing up.

Lately, I really enjoy visiting the past. I cannot change it. Most days I wish I could. I am more thankful, even when the trip down memory lane is painful, for the lessons I learned. I am thankful for the people in my life, past and present, who made me...me. Each moment, each conversation, each argument, each broken heart all formed who I am today. I could choose to harbor ill will or bitterness because, like I said, the past is a reminder of the old me...the often stupid me. Instead, I think I've decided to grow with it. To allow my past to mature my future.

Memory ghosts are only scary if we fear them. If we face them and accept them... the fear fades. I do wish I could warn my children that although facing the ghosts of past is inevitable; whether they are scary or not depends on the decisions we make now. We will all undoubtedly make bad decisions, but scary decisions become scary ghosts that often travel with us throughout our lives. This merits the minding that decisions today affect tomorrow.

Today, my ghosts don't seem quite so threatening as they did a year ago. I hope the ones that I'm making now will be more like warm sunny days or pot roasts rather than than the darkness lurching beneath the stairs ready to trip me up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Slow Down and Fast.

Food is a big deal in my family. I am tempted to believe that this is symptomatic of my southern roots. In my family every social gathering, every church activity, and every holiday is planned around food and lots of it. It is safe to say that I'm a borderline food addict (not that I'm blaming), and I medicate with food which makes me an emotional eater. Suffice it to say, you can tell when I'm stressed because I'll have put on a few pounds.

I have experienced fasting only twice in my life. The first time was with a group of people whom I cherish. They made up the first small/cell/support group in our first full-time ministry. Our church was facing some big decisions. So, our little group decided to set a day where we would all fast and pray for our congregation. Then we came together that same evening and shared our experiences. I was eight months pregnant at the time and unable to participate literally. However, listening to the experiences of my peers and closest friends was so meaningful that I knew it was something I wanted to experience for myself.

I remember one friend sharing that every time they began to feel hungry throughout the day their thoughts were immediately forced onto God.

Fast forward nearly five years to today. Yesterday, I fasted. I didn't even have my morning coffee. Water was the gig...all day.

The first half of the day was easy. Skipping breakfast is normal for me, so no biggie there. (No lectures on the importance of the first meal of the day, please)

By lunch time, I was a grumpy lady.

By mid-afternoon I was ravenous enough that my boys instinctively evaded me by hanging out in their room.

It wasn't easy for me.

I made it through the day. I can support my friend's claim and then some. Every second of the day I was thinking about the task at hand. Every other second of the day I was trying to convince myself that one little grape wouldn't declare the fast null and void.

In my Christian walk I've always wanted more out of my personal devotion to Christ. I've wanted to truly empty myself of me and instead be filled with the word and Spirit of God. I long to hunger and thirst for Christ, like I hunger and thirst for my own selfish satisfaction.

Let me tell you what I learned from fasting. There is a battle going on inside me. One where I want to serve God and do His will, and also one where my will is served and my wants are satisfied. There is a tug of war for my heart and most of the time God is not the one that wins the battle.

I don't believe that I'm spiritually stunted because fasting is more trying for me than the average healthy human. I do believe that I AM the average human. I realize that I give in to myself too often and what may seem like a blessing of abundance morphs into a god itself whom I worship daily.

There are lots of gods out there...the god of playtime, the god of work, the god of food, the god of sex, the god of money and the all powerful god of me. How wonderful it would be if I for one day could empty myself of all the worship time I offer to the other gods and devote one day to THE God.

I'm still working on it. Praise the God of forgiveness and mercy that knows I'll never perfect it. I hope He knows how much I try.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Something to ponder.

I came across this quote last week by Miroslav Volf. Volf wrote a beautiful book called Exclusion and Embrace. His writing inspires me as it is truly art. I would like to know what you think about this short excerpt from his chapter on gender identity.

Volf said,

"In a world of enmity self-giving is the risky and hard work of love. There are no guarantees that self-giving will overcome enmity and that the evildoers will not try to invade the space that the self has made and crush those willing to give themselves for the good of others. We will have to resist such evildoers without betraying the commitment to self-giving. But though self-giving has no assurance of success, it does have the promise of eternity because it reflects the character of the divine Trinity. It is on account of self-giving that divine persons exist in a perfect community in which each is itself only by being inhabited by the others. And it is through the power of self-giving that a new community of men and women will emerge, in which distinct but dynamic gender identities that are "not without" the other will be fashioned and re-fashioned in peace."

Our example of self-giving on this day of celebration is the gift of Christ's death and glorious resurrection. Let us continue to follow His perfect and love-filled example and give of ourselves in every way we can...until He comes to take us home.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I Like Spring.

I love seasons. I find so much symbolism in nature and the natural cycle of creation. Today as I look out my window I see the sun. Today I can actually feel the warmth of the sun after the longest winter I've experienced in several years.

Over the last few months I've experienced an emotional and spiritual winter. I felt as if everything inside me went numb for a while, but today as I feel the warmth of the sun streaming through my window something is different.

Life is like that. We go through periods of winter where all inside us is dead, brown and cold. During those spiritual winters occasionally the snow comes and temporarily covers our wounds with Christ's perfection and reminds us that he heals and that his grace covers everything we bring to the earth. And then the sun rises.

We see and feel that warmth all around us. We, tempted to look down, recognize all too well the dead black remains of what was green and growing months before. As it gets brighter and warmer we feel embraced by something new. We were shivering alone before, but now we can brush off the coats that we made ourselves to try to make it through alone. We look down a second time and see the green emerge fertilized by the wounds of the past. Our garden grows again...refreshed renewed...

All because of the Son.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

To Re-friend the Un-friend.

A few weeks ago my seven year old daughter hacked into my Facebook account. I wasn't surprised that she was bright enough to achieve this, but I was disturbed that she knew my password. The night following the hacking I discovered several comments that she made under the guise of my profile. She commented on friends profiles, pictures, notes and status updates. Under one friend's status that read, "So and so is thankful for his wife of 15 years", my ever-honest child commented, "I'm glad you guys are happy because no one here is happy tonight." I was mortified to say the least.

The following day I discovered some recently posted pictures of a friend. These pictures were on my Facebook feed. I don't want to go into detail of what these were pictures of, but let's just say they were not appropriate for my daughter's eyes. As a matter of opinion, I don't feel they are appropriate for anyone's eyes. I don't know if she saw them. I hope not.

These pictures led me to ask...

why am I this person's Facebook buddy? Why exactly have I invited them into my digital reality and now allowed them to burn images into my mind and potentially my daughter's mind?

So, I un-friended.

Then, partially because I'm neurotic, I felt a pang of guilt. I became this person's friend out of nostalgia. They were a good friend to me in the past. I treasure the memories that we share. Nevertheless, we are both very different people now. I kept telling myself that I could somehow be a good influence or rekindle a long lost friendship. I think I was lying to myself.

Not everyone is like me. I'm conservative, fairly boring by our society's standards and I'm a Christian. These three things set me apart from the majority of Facebook users, I assume. I don't like labels. I really don't like it when people try to force me into a box or role or stereotype, but the fact is I've made the decision in my life to be a Christian. I don't want to hide that. I don't want to pretend that I haven't made that choice. I don't feel I should have to.

My Christianity sets me apart, but so does being a parent. I have standards to uphold not only to serve my chosen God, not only to protect myself, but also to protect my children from images and things that will harm them.

I was the kid in school who was so nerdy that I actually asked the question, "Seriously, why can't everyone get along?" I still don't understand social hierarchies. I rebel against them. I hate ignorant prejudices that hide behind political affiliations. I believe being a Christian is to love whoever, whenever, wherever...all the time...regardless. I will teach this to my children.

BUT, what I will not do is to teach my children to justify filling their mind with damaging content with the hope of a few nostalgic moments or the false assumption that typing the word "Christian" on your profile is all you must do to demonstrate your faith.

I still love my old friend. I hurt when I think of the choices that he/she makes with their life. I wish them the very best, but as much as I love them I can't bring what they sell into my home or my heart.

When I consider Jesus and the relational choices he made, the pang of guilt grows strong. Jesus spent his days with the Roman IRS, prostitutes, murderers, loud mouths, blue collar folk, and the educated elite. Jesus revealed no partiality. However, here is where the guilt ends. Jesus changed and challenged those around him. Each person that chose to follow Christ gave up their former preoccupations, otherwise they were left behind. If you doubt it see the passage the tells the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19.

I don't want to hide behind the farce of political correctness to justify harmful relationships or to silence my Christian faith. If I'm politically incorrect for un-friending someone...fine. I've said it before and I'll say it again...my allegiance and affiliation is to Christ and Christ alone. I want my standards to match his. Unfortunately, in order to do that I must make choices that might offend or hurt the feelings of old friends. I am willing to do that for Jesus and my kids.

I don't want to take Facebook so seriously that I fake myself into believing that I can have a profound influence on an old friend's spirituality by being a digital connection or sending them a birthday calendar invitation. I also don't want to downplay the importance of living out one's Christianity in every facet of life...even Facebook...even when it hurts.

Maybe the best way to have an impact on an old friend is to un-friend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It is surprising...

what my acquaintances believe plagues me while attempting grad school and at the same time parenting three young kids. I've heard mention of the struggles of getting focused on deeper texts when normally my media intake involves puppets or animation. I've also been asked how I keep my house clean or my family fed. Neither of these would happen if I didn't have an amazing husband who tolerates me and the messy house and even cleans for me at times. Of course, I've also been accused of plopping my kiddos in front of the Disney channel for hours at a time. I'm not going to lie. This has been the case during my finals or while I'm writing a big paper, but much to the chagrin of my critics, I do most of my grad work/writing during quiet time, otherwise known to parents as, nap time. Today I was attempting to do just this.

I've decided to let you in on the truth. The primary difficulty of studying during the quiet time of two little boys is this...

1. My computer is situated at one end of the house and their room is at the other... beside the bathroom.

2. You never really know when they are asleep or if they are really truly in their room. Those little sock feet are amazingly stealth.

So, my friends, the most trying aspect of grad school during quiet hour is the daily treasures that I find in the toilet when the hour comes to a close.

Here is a run down of what I found today in our family potty:

1 20 oz. plastic cup
1 Jasmine (from Aladdin) Pez dispenser
1 small plastic toy cocker spaniel
15 plastic wrappers that once surrounded 15 rose scented bath fizzies
a mountain of pink rose scented bath fizzy foam
1 pair of child size scissors
1 green Veggie Tales toothbrush

There you have it. This is what plaques me...a clogged toilette. Luckily for me I own a plunger, rubber gloves, and a slotted spoon which is never used for cooking.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Prodigal(s).

Here he comes again; the prodigal son returns. Kill the fattened calf. Plan the party. In the background stands the loyal son always laboring for his dad’s affirmation questioning, “What just happened here? He’s getting a barbecue? I have worked my tail off my whole life, and you give HIM the party.”

I never really rebelled. I never really questioned authority figures, never sowed wild oats, never really upset my parents. I was always just there. Caryn, the “good one”; Caryn, the “prude”; that is who I was/am to many people. I fear embarrassment, disappointing the people around me, and following rules always makes sense to me.

Nowadays, I have an amazing marriage and three precocious and wonderful children. I am a minister’s wife. I am still the good one, the loyal friend, the loving wife, and the crazed young mom.

I have heard the story of the prodigal son more than once as the story is retold again and again through media in various formats. I have heard hundreds of sermons on it and every time I walk away feeling sad for the loyal son. I relate to him.

One of my temptations is to question everything. I don't intend to be disrespectful with questioning. I sincerely want explanations. This is how I see the loyal son. "Explain to me again, Dad, why it's so important to celebrate someone who has hurt you over and over again?" The dad explains it simply..."Everything I have is yours, son, everything. Isn't that enough?"

For years, I would let this story anger me, questioning the logic of rejoicing over a rebellious loser who only comes home because he has reached the refuse pit in life and has no where else to go. So the prodigal returns…to mooch…then leave again on the same path he crawled in on, so I thought.

I didn’t get it.

Today, I hope I am a little wiser. Today, I see why that daddy rejoiced and held a banquet for a son he thought he’d never see again.

While I don’t completely understand everyone’s struggles in life, I do recognize that everyone struggles differently with different things. The same temptation I have to go get my third brownie of the day…yes I said third…may be the same temptation someone else has to hook up with their third sex partner of the day. Everyone has a different struggle. Mine, as you can tell, has often been to judge everyone else’s trouble but my own.

Coming home after overeating is one thing, but coming home after wrecking your family emotionally over and over again is quite another. Confessing to overeating is cake…pardon the pun. Confessing to a life of lies and deception is a nightmare. Sometimes our sins only affect us, other times our sins wound countless numbers.

Jesus came and died to clean up all of us; brownie bingers and child-molesters… all of us. That is hard to hear isn’t it? It is hard to comprehend a God that holds us all accountable with our own abilities and with our own struggles, and yet is still just.

Confessing is a humbling business. One must be completely stripped of pride to take the walk home and then to look into their families eyes and hear, “Welcome, we’ve missed you.”

There are some experiences in life where we stand in the loyal son’s shoes. We choose whether or not to forgive. We are after all not the judge, nor the jury. We are, instead, the party planners, the brothers who set the table and wait anxiously to serve the meal. The loyal son, in my mind, learned how to act from the father.

The Father wants all of us to be willing to come home. He wants all of us to strip down our pride, admit to our weakness and stand before him flawed, yet loved. He is waiting with arms wide open. It doesn’t matter how big the transgression is. It also doesn’t matter how small. We made up the sin size charts…He did not.

In the end of all things, we are all the prodigals. We all make the choice whether or not to come home.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vengeance on Children.

Here is a list of things I dream of doing to embarrass my children one day when they are teenagers. These things have all been proudly perfomed by my children... most of the time in public.

When my kids are teens I will seek retribution by...

1. Dropping to the ground in the middle of a Wal-mart and kick my legs and scream.

2. Pull something from my nose and bring it to them like a gift OR just wipe it on their pants.

3. Walk into a crowd of people and exclaim, "I NEED TO GO POOOOOP!"

4. Yell loudly from the bathroom, "I Peed! or "I pooped again!!!" (dependant upon situation)

5. Return from said bathroom with pants down and ask them to fasten them.

6. When they ask for the car keys simply reply, "MINE!!!"

7. When walking out of a crowded hall start screaming, "DON'T BEAT ME! DON'T! PLEEEASE! QUICK SOMEONE CALL 911!!!"

8. Rub an entire jar of Vicks Vaporub into my hair and style it into a mohawk ten minutes before worship.

9. Ask, "Why?"...every five minutes. (this one might really prove beneficial during adolescence)

10. Create an outfit so obnoxious with stripes and plaid and polka dots and announce proudly.."This is what I'm wearing to church today!"

Obviously for those of you who know me well, you know I probably will not have the nerve to perform these heinous acts to my kids. BUT I think it is safe to say their dad may.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I don’t want to lie anymore.

Things are not fine in my life right now. As a matter of fact I am unbelievably angry and bitter. Last week, I was crying all week. I haven’t written out these feelings because part of my job as a minister’s wife is to encourage people and try to hug away other’s pain. I haven’t been able to do that lately.

Two weeks ago I received news that shattered a false reality. Blinded by the lies of some and by my own inadequate way of watching life through rose tinted glasses, my world crumbled. I won’t go into detail of what has brought me to my knees as of late out of respect for dear ones, but I will tell you out of utter desperation to get things of my chest that I am sick of disillusionment.

So often in my life I have asked or been asked “how are you?” Easily and systematically I reply “fine”. The words “how are you?” don’t really mean…”I really want to know how you are doing”. They are just a simple greeting although, they shouldn't be.

I am not fine. Not today and maybe not for a few more days.

I think it is safe to say that I won’t ask anyone how they are doing unless I really truly want to hear. Because we should want to know how people really are doing; because we should not want to force others into lies and false realities.

There are broken people in this world. There are broken Christian people in this world. I am ready to be real. I am ready to watch Christians be real with each other.

Watching hurting people from the sidelines clues you in on a few things. Bottling up pain only creates bitterness. Sharing the load makes life lighter.

We are so afraid of each other’s rejection or ridicule. This is a real fear because there are some Christians who find it their duty to condemn after a confession. I've never quite gathered the purpose of that kind of rebuke. Once someone confesses to a problem there is no need to further destroy or ridicule them to their face or behind their back in an attempt to make oneself feel sinless.

We are also afraid to hurt other’s feelings. Let me be a testimony to you that hiding your brokenness will do more damage in the shadows for you and everyone else.

It is time we meet people where they are. There are no perfect people. There are no perfect lives only perfect lies. Being real with each other is a dirty process. People cry. They have real problems. Sometimes those problems are horrific, but life can be horrific and we are called to love regardless. Sometimes leaders make horrific mistakes because they are people too... just like you...just like me.

Whenever I am faced with a heart wrenching ache of a bombshell and whenever someone lets me down I remember King David. The bible shares that David was a man after God’s own heart. God loved this man. I’m not going to mince any words here. David was a jerk. He watched another man’s beautiful wife bathe like a peeping tom. He misused his rank and authority to have sex with her. When she became pregnant he sought out a way to murder her husband. Nice guy, huh? This is the man after God’s heart…the man God loved.

If this is true then God can love me. If this is true then God can love any of us.

Consider the world looking in on a bunch of liars. We smile and pretend life is fine on Sundays then we go home and ache alone in our little dark corner trying to hold together the pieces of a crumbling life…alone.

Forget that the world claims that we are hypocrites. Duh. They don’t get it.
Forget the world’s lie that claims that you can make it on your own. You can’t.

You and I need each other. We need people to help carry life’s burden. We need to experience forgiveness and acceptance and unconditional love. That is what the church is for. The church was never intended to be an arsenal of liars who condemn the one courageous honest soul that confesses their humanness.

Simply said, I am looking for authenticity. I want to hear about your joys. I want to hear about your successes. I want to hear about your hurts. I want to help bear the burdens.

It is time to stop lying to each other. If we have hurt or disappointment or sin that is a struggle the best way to deal with it is to share the burden.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Commiting to Community

I was raised in the church of Christ. My parents theologically brainwashed me in the fundamental beliefs of church of Christ doctrine. I hold no ill will for that. I'm ever thankful that my parents shared their faith with me. I'm probably the only person thankful for brainwashing.

My upbringing differs slightly from many members of the traditional Churches of Christ. I was raised in a church plant in a small town in Idaho. We were too small for elders and my dad was central in making many decisions for the congregation. Unlike mainstream churches in the South, we were able to cancel services on Sunday nights when the snow was up past the car door. I'm sure many eldership's of the day would have cooked my dad's gizzard for that one.

Regardless of our surroundings, our church resembled its parent churches. Bible class started at 10AM every Sunday. Worship started at 11AM, where we typically had the traditional two songs- prayer- communion- song- sermon every week. I do remember a story about my grandmother when she visited once. She was greatly disturbed that the worship closed with a song that particular week. I believe my dad received a tongue lashing from her for that. It would appear he was leading the church down a slippery slope with that closing jingle.

When I was eight I distinctly remember visiting the ACU lectureships. It was fascinating to me that so many Christians existed, and all in one place. You see, in Idaho, being about a 1000 miles from the bible belt, we didn’t often see other believers…much less members of a Church of Christ. That was an exiting trip for me. I remember hearing 'There is a God' sung by over 1000 people. That sound changed my life and perspective, and I treasure the memory still.

Upon moving to Arkansas my perspective changed again. I witnessed two friends of mine fighting over doctrine…Baptists versus the Church of Christ. I remember watching them face off, getting red faced and hostile over scripture. I suddenly wondered what Christ would have truly thought about their dissonance. At that point I received an education in the failures of my faith tradition. While we were deeply steeped with the nuts and bolts of scripture, we also became judge and jury determining who went to heaven. We often forgot grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy. We made believers our enemies because they had a different interpretation of worship practice. Instead of recognizing a common goal of heaven and team in Christ, we secluded ourselves in our own painted world of narrow salvation…ignoring the minority of Christendom in general and sacrificing many dear friendships on an alter of tradition idolatry.

In high school I swore to never ever marry a minister. I witnessed my parent’s hearts break time and again over matters of church work…whether it was not feeling supported by elderships, losing loved ones to a world view, witnessing countless ministers abandon the ministry, or simply suffer the oftentimes lonely road a ministering family faces. With all that said, I was and am relentlessly proud of my family, sores, battle scars and all.

I love the Church of Christ.
I love the smell of old church song books.
I love the sound of acapella singing.
I love the faithfulness of our older believers who put full trust into scripture.
I love being a part of a tradition that was once praised for their bible toting verse quoting.
I love pot lucks.
I love that in nearly every congregation there's an old man missing a finger do to a farming accident, and an alto that carries the tempo for the whole church during the song service.
I love that there are most definitely alpha females who run most of everything that goes on, but that they stay in the shadows out of their deep adherence to tradition and devotion to honoring scripture.
I love that there is always a supply room loaded with countless bulletin board ideas and old flannel graph pieces.
I love that we sing old hymns.
I love the guy with the tie too long on one Sunday, too short the next that still says “guide guard and direct us” in prayer at the close of every worship.
I love that we share communion every Sunday.
I love that we baptize and ask for a physical sign of commitment from believers.
This is my family.
These are my people.
This is my heritage.
These are my roots.

Family’s change. Traditions are lost in time and die silenced with a generation gone home.I’m not proud of my generation. In fact, I’m quite disgusted with us. There seems to be a movement to neglect our past and mock it dwelling only on its failures. We seem to pat each other on the back for denying our heritage.

Don’t misunderstand me…loyalty should be to Christ not to the sign that is in the front lawn. However, we have forgotten our community. We have forgotten how important it is to have community. In our country it is so easy to get what we want when we want it. We have fast food of every variety and clothes of every style. We treat marriages like underwear and leave jobs because we can. We are not loyal to much of anything…except ourselves. This plays out in how we treat our churches…our faith communities. We float here and there abandoning one place because they sing too much, another because sister so and so didn’t smile. We can’t go to that place because they have old hymnals. We’re going to leave this church because it doesn't seem as spiritual as the one next door. There are too many grey heads at that congregation. They have a choir at this one. This church body sells coffee! That one has a huge membership.etc. etc.

The Church of Christ isn’t the only fellowship that is shrinking. They all are. I think people are beginning to figure out that imperfection runs deep throughout ALL faith traditions regardless of worship styles or demographics or brand labels. So we leave…because after all... we’re loyal only to Christ…and ourselves.

I’m not bothered that people leave the Church of Christ like I used to be. I am bothered by a generation of people who think it is OK to abandon their roots with pride; to wave goodbye to communities of believers for foolish selfish reasons. I’m more disturbed about the acceptance of a worldview that teaches the ‘happy doctrine’. “Jesus wants me to be happy so I’m leaving. I’m sinning. I’m forgiven. I’m on my own…I’m happy.”

I haven’t completely sorted this one out yet. Here’s what I’m leaning toward God is our parent, right? If that is true, let me share a parent’s story. My son only ever wants to eat cookies and milk. He also neglects to watch when he runs into the church parking lot. He’s nearly been hit FIVE times. FIVE. Now…it does not make him “happy” when I put peas on his plate or yank him up from the ground and protect him from certain death. In fact, often times he screams and kicks me directly in the kidneys. BUT according to the "happy doctrine" I should let him only eat cookies and milk and run directly in front of a mini-van…because that makes him “happy”. Somehow…I can’t reconcile that kind of happiness. If you have a better idea…you tell me.

I guess, what it comes down to is this. I don’t want to abandon my roots because I’m frustrated. Frustration seems to follow people. I don’t want to adhere to a “happy” doctrine and believe that the world and Christianity revolve around my preferences or hang ups. I don't want to be ignorant and disrespectful of the wisdom of a generation that put a priority on scripture and once memorized great portions of it out deep reverence and out of fear that it would be taken away. I’m just not willing to walk away from my family.

In our culture Christianity isn't easy. We are bombarded with indiscriminate sexuality. We are justified in our gluttony. We are hypnotized by good marketing. We are praised for selfishness. We are ridiculed for having standards. We are scorned for believing in ancient theology. We are mocked for being faithful. I'm willing to ignore it...because I need community.

I need to be surrounded by people who know me. I need to be surrounded by people who witness the terrors of this world and can still come together and sing on Sundays. I need to have relationships with people who love me because Jesus does too. We all need that and we can't find that when we aren't there. We can't find community alone.

In a world where the traditional family is no more, you CAN still find a family of believers. Jesus came. He found a community with twelve. They traveled together. They ate together. They worshiped together. My guess is...they irritated each other. Jesus loved them, regardless. Jesus rebuked them. He was loyal to them. He saved them. They went on after him...together...for Him.

Please don't buy into individualistic salvation. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but Christianity is not an individualistic tradition. Yes, your faith is your own. Yes, your salvation is up to only you. BUT facing this world alone never works. It is never fruitful. Find a community. Get plugged in. Commit to it. Make them your family.

Families are not perfect because you and I are not perfect...so expect that. I find that I can appreciate imperfections because I recognize I also have many of my own. You may find a deeper faith than you ever had before when you love and forgive regardless, and when you are loved and forgiven in return.