Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Courageously Resolved.

Here we are again. It is time to raise our glasses to a year completed and kiss our sweethearts as we welcome in the new. Praise God we made it through another twelve months! Time to set goals and resolutions to lose more weight or stop biting our fingernails, both of which I’ve tried and failed miserably over the last ten Januaries.

Last year I set a different agenda and resolved to use less sarcasm in my communication. I did OK. I learned very quickly how many nasty things I say all hidden behind a thin veneer of “I’m just joking”. I plan to keep up the work to use less sarcasm until I can completely wave goodbye to it. This year I plan to also strive to be less cynical and revive certain purity that is lost over past hurt relationships. It will be hard work of that I am sure.

This year I plan to be in the same house, working with the same congregation, raising my three beautiful children and loving my wonderful husband. I have very little change on the horizon and for that I am grateful. God may change and challenge my plans, but as of now I see my path ahead clearly.

I have several dear friends, however, who will make huge life changes this year. At least three families that I know of will make huge moves across oceans, countries, and states. They see it coming and have little control over where, when and how God will lead them. Over the last week I have thought about them off and on, and how much I admire and love their constant flexibility to God’s plan. I know they experience apprehension and fear, and yet they are willing to be molded and used by God in ways that many never experience or allow. They embrace their calling and set out to face a new year as a rich adventurous journey all for the sake of the Father. Their courage is inspiring and I'm blessed to call them friends.

Of all the many things I lack in my faith walk, courage is the biggest. So, this year I am adding courage to my resolution list.

I want to be brave enough to invite my neighbors to know Jesus.
I want to be brave enough to allow people to see my faith in Jesus in my actions.
I want to verbally express how Jesus has worked and changed my life to others who need Him.
I want to wear and own my Christianity and no longer hide behind a facade of “maybe they’ll notice Jesus in me because I’m a nice person.”
I want to say the name Jesus without fear of the repercussions or weird looks.
I want to be brave enough to challenge the status quo when Jesus is forgotten and traditions become god.
I want to have the courage to give till it hurts, and still have the faith that God will provide for my family.
I want to share our convictions and our faith with my children’s teachers and/or coaches and expect them to respect it and turn and walk if they don’t.
I want to turn my back on a politically correct faith and call sin sin.
I want to love those who need love and awaken the all too comfortable pews to a world that is dying for food, water, clothes and Christ.
I want courage.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. ~Deuteronomy 31:6

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

~1 Corinthians 16:13

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Several years ago we had to leave a place we loved. We had to leave behind the dearest of friends and embrace God’s lead to a new phase in life. Our hearts hurt to leave them. Through that time this song was constantly playing in my mind. I knew what God was saying to me then, and I ask you to consider it now as you embrace a new year. Take courage, my friends, courage. For the adventure is yours and it is lead by the best.

Father, hear the prayer we offer:
Nor for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not forever in green pastures
Do we ask our way to be,
But the steep and rugged pathway
May we tread rejoicingly.

Not forever by still waters
Would we idly, quiet stay;
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our Guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Father, be Thou at our side.

Let our path be bright or dreary,
Storm or sunshine be our share;
May our souls in hope unweary
Make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.


~Love M. Willis

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rethinking Christmas JOY and Stalking People in Grocery Stores.

'Tis the season for sparkling decorations, bustling shoppers, busy schedules and really mean ladies running down small children with shopping carts.

I went grocery shopping today with my two sons. (I have mentioned my disdain for shopping, right?) When I go grocery shopping I must have a list. I have a planned path through the store and I am surprising and uncharacteristically organized as I pick out my things. When my kids join me it adds an extra element to keep track of, but my children are well-behaved children by my standards and rarely step outside a three foot radius around the shopping cart.

Today Micah, my three year old, stepped away from the cart, again only about three feet away, to gaze lovingly at the Mac N Cheese. This should not surprise any other young moms out there. Who doesn't love the Mac N Cheese, right? At any rate, an older lady ran her cart into my young son's head. It was clearly her fault. I quickly pulled Micah over to my side. At this point, this lady who I am telling myself must have experienced horrible morning already, glared at me and my little boy and started shaking her head like it was our fault she assaulted him.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was rushed today. I was semi-stressed out and only had a limited amount of time to get groceries. It is after all the Christmas season and as much as I preach to Rethink Christmas, I have allowed my schedule to make me a crazy person this year. Normal behavior for me in a situation such as this would be to quietly apologize for the incident and move along avoiding the lady like the black plague. Not so today, my friends, not so today. You see, I've been in several grocery stores over the last several months and this is not the first incident I have encountered where someone ran either me or one my kids down with a shopping cart and then unapologetically moved along. Today, I snapped.

I looked this lady in the eye and said, "Excuse me. Do not shake your head at my son. He is only three. You ran HIM down." At which point, she quickly scuttled off still shaking her graying head at me.

So, I did what every other well-meaning and frustrated young parent would do...I stalked her through the rest of the store. I quietly did the rest of my shopping while maintaining a close distance with this lady. I gave her some extra time to witness how great my boys truly are. Then I followed her right into the same check-out line. Her mouth began to gape as she noticed us right behind her in line, and I'll be honest she did look a little scared of me. I then gave her a great big smile. Now I wish I would have wished her a Merry Christmas. Then, keeping in character, she was rude to the cashier and went on her merry way double checking her receipt for mistakes.

One of my biggest pet peeves of young moms is the complaining about how hard it is to be a young mom. I can't stand that. I do not want my kids to EVER hear me complain about one second of the short time that I get to spend with them. I do not EVER want them to think that they are unloved or unwanted or unappreciated. I also feel you teach your kids to whine about life being hard when they hear you whine about life being hard.

Life is tough. This time of year is stressful, sadly enough. It doesn't have to be. We make the choice to be frustrated. We make the choice of how to respond to life. Just like I made the choice to follow her through the store, just to get a chance to smile at her. I could have easily either avoided her or thrown a package of spaghetti at her head, my response, my choice.

I feel sad for that lady in the store. I wonder what makes her so upset that even at Christmas time she can't smile at a wide eyed three year old standing by the Mac N Cheese.

In the end, I simply want people to be nice and not run down my kids with shopping carts, but I cannot control the behavior of others. I can only control my response. I make the choice to let people steal my joy.

In this season of rush and want, smile. Be joyous and let the gift of Christ shine from your face, your countenance. Be nice, and remember you make the choice how to respond. You make the choice to get angry, raise your voice, or throw spaghetti.

'Tis the season to share Joy!!!

"An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord." ~Luke 2:9-11

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rethinking Christianity.

Usually when I write a blog that references a lot of scripture I do not get any comments. This has always bothered me, and I have never fully understood whether I failed in my writing attempt or if people generally avoid discussing scripture. Clearly, I am not the best writer on the planet, but I do feel that Biblical scripture makes some people nervous or is interpreted as ‘preachy’. So, as a general rule scripture is avoided by even the most faithful believer. Needless to say, today I use scripture, like it or not, because I believe in scripture and I am not ashamed to quote or discuss it.

Did you know that the Bible speaks on the less fortunate, or poor, more than 300 times? I have heard many a preacher discuss how many times the bible mentions the word ‘love’, (I believe it is around 800 depending on the version you read.) but seldom in my life have I heard a sermon on the poor or Christ’s mission, dare I say vision, for the what the church should mean to the less fortunate.

I feel that if scripture notes a topic hundreds of times it merits my consideration, don’t you?

Here are a few verses that I want to mention today, especially during this season of giving…

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ~James 1:27

Easy enough, right? We do that, right?

James immediately takes this discussion of “pure and faultless religion” to the importance of providing for the poor in chapter two. James discussion on faultless religion includes this…

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~James 2:14-17

What I don’t want to discuss today is politics. I have absolutely no interest in your politics. I also have no interest in excuses or explanations why corporate expressions of charity are wrong in your opinion. Please do not bring semantics into this discussion about what social justice means or whether government has a role to play in providing for the poor. Friend, if these are the notions you get hung up on before you open you wallet or serve the less fortunate, then you have grossly missed the point of Christianity and the role of the church.

What I do want to point out is that a true and faultless religion not only pays attention to the poor, but does something about it. Three different gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) tell about a time a faithful follower of the law came searching for salvation from Christ. Jesus told him simply…

“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." ~Mark 10:21

I will be honest with you. I am not ready or willing to sell everything I have. This definitely points to my lack of faith in God’s provision. I know that. What I do learn from this verse, and Christ’s direction, is that providing for the poor is not to be an afterthought in our Christian walk. Providing for the poor is what we do. It is who we are and it is the religion we should be keeping. It is Christ's priority and is ours.

This man who came searching out Christ was a good man. He kept the commandments. He was not called a sinner. He was loved by Christ, but he was lacking one thing. His religion was missing one thing, charity.

I don’t know about you, but these verses tell me that I can be the best worshiper, the best scripture quot-er, have the most well-behaved children, a terrific marriage, attend services three times a week, and practice a daily prayer routine, but if I’m not giving to those in need, there is something crucial missing in my ‘so-called’ religion.

I know you feel pulled in a hundred different directions this month. I know you feel the pressure to buy and buy for every teacher, postal worker and fourth cousin twice removed for Christmas. I feel that, too. I also get bills in the mail, just like you. But if just a little at time we change how we spend, if just a few more people each year give less to those who have and give more to those who don’t, then we are slowly becoming what we should be to the world.

Until we see fully Christ’s mission, His vision for the church, our religion, our faith walk, our Christianity is lacking. Until we learn that church is NOT about
dynamic sermons,
uplifting worship services,
brand new buildings,
new dynamic ministries,
competing with the church down the street,
insulating our members from the uncomfortably socially unacceptable,
playtime for our children,
fancy dinners or retreats,
social gatherings,
fashion shows,
or networking opportunities...we are lacking.

We are missing one thing, charity.

Some food for thought:

According to UNICEF in 2005, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world... or the church.

Less than one percent of what the world spent in 1999 on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen. (State of the World, Issue 287 - Feb 1997, New Internationalist)

Here is an eye opening article that includes the above quotes and more…

If you are setting an agenda to make resolutions for the new year, include a change of heart for this season and throughout the year. Include charity in your Christian walk.

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Jer. 22:3. Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Prov. 29:7. The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern.

Luke 12:33. "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

Luke 3:11. And [John] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

1 John 3:17. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rethinking Christmas.

It is hard to understand poverty unless you have lived impoverished. I never have.

My young family has certainly lived on less. We used food stamps and Medicaid during my husband's graduate work and definitely lived on the generosity of others during that time. In fact, there were days when we wondered how we would make it, but lo and behold, God provided. We are both changed because of our years spent on living with less.

I don't notice how that time changed me until the Christmas season approaches, and that's when I feel it the most. To be truthful, I get angry. I get angry when I see the excess that we spend on ourselves and our children all justified, of course, because of the "season of giving". I get angry when I hear that we over spend so much that we put our families into debt all for things we don't need. I get angry when I feel pressure to fit in or to keep up with the affluent all for the sake of the "season of giving".

My friends, if gifting our children with a hundreds of dollars worth of material things after shopping the sales to clothe ourselves in riches is what Christmas is about, then I'm ready to take down the tree.

I live outside Detroit. Twenty miles from my house is an incredibly impoverished community. The Census Bureau reports that 33.8 percent of Detroit's population lives in poverty. As I watch the snow fall from the sky while leaving a mall bustling with busy shoppers I question how it is that we have time to spend plenty of money on ourselves, but twenty miles away some child will sleep without heat tonight. These are the thoughts that plague me. This is why I don't like to shop.

You see, while I have lived in situations where my husband and I wondered how to pay for groceries, we have always had a roof over our heads and a warm place to sleep at night. This is not the case for everyone.

So this year I'm encouraging others to rethink how much we spend on ourselves, rethink how much we spoil our children, and consider for a moment what we can do to help someone who really is in need. I want to trade all the extra clothes, dolls, trucks, jewelry that my family doesn't need and instead teach my children that love and generosity and service are better gifts than ones that will go unworn, unused, returned, forgotten and/or disliked. The best gifts we give our children never are purchased.

I will give my children gifts and I want you to do that, too. But please remember, teaching our children to share is a gift that won't go uncherished and teaching our children self-control and contentment are gifts not marked by time or age.

We cannot rid the world of poverty, but we cannot ignore it and sleep well at night. Frankly, we cannot ignore poverty and still claim to be Christ-like.

This Christmas give meaningful gifts. Tell your family you love them. Give photos. Create memories. Volunteer together. Shop for a needy family together. Give to charities in someone's honor.

Give, for it is truly the season of giving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Resurrecting Thanksgiving

Where’s Thanksgiving? Have you noticed it is missing? One second we are trick or treating and gorging ourselves on free chocolate, the next we are making Christmas lists a mile long. Don’t believe me? Go to the grocery store or to Wal-Mart or really anywhere. Where did Thanksgiving go?

I’ll tell you. Somewhere in some brilliant marketer’s office the powers that be decided it was more important for us to consume and completely disregard all that we already have. Clearly, it is their job to do this. Are we falling for it?

I firmly believe that the more you have, the more you want. The less you have, the more you appreciate it.

Don’t fall victim to the ‘wants’ of the season, and teach your children to appreciate all they have. A few nights ago my daughter stayed up late with me and watched The Pursuit of Happyness, a movie that came out a few years ago staring Will Smith. Rent it. Buy it. It may be the best thing that ever happened to my daughter. In two hours she learned how blessed she truly is and I thank God for that lesson. Since that point she has not said one word about Christmas gifts except to tell me she doesn’t need anything. Praise God!

I want to buy my children things. I want to see them smile. I don’t want to train them to only smile because I give them things. More than that, I want them to know how much they already have. I want them to understand how truly blessed they are. Knowing you are blessed is much more important than owning the latest fashion, the latest toy craze, or the latest new iphone.

Don’t forget to be thankful and remind others to be thankful, too.

We are abundantly blessed most of all for the love and grace of our Father and the sacrifice of His Son. What material blessing can ever fill the hole in our hearts that God’s love fills with His ever present mercy and faithfulness?

Thank you Father for our abundant wealth! Forgive us for hoarding and gorging ourselves on things that don’t satisfy. Thank you for all we have. Please help us to appreciate the excess. Thank you for a moment in time set aside to think about our blessings!

“Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it's safe from moth and rust and burglars. It's obvious, isn't it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Matthew 6:19 – The Message

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

God at Work.

Over the last several days at dinner time I committed to asking my kids this question “How did you see God at work in your life today?”. Considering this is a deeply spiritual question for a three, five and nine year old, they’ve done remarkably well. Of course, their responses have been anywhere from “Well, you put candy in my lunch today!” to “I chose to be nice when the other kids were being mean.” Nevertheless, it is great to see their young minds think about God actively working in their lives.

This morning, just like every other morning, my nine year old daughter was stressing about the day ahead and rushing to get her shoes on about ten seconds after we should have been on our way to school. She began to rant about her planner and demanded me to sign it, a ritual we do every night when she comes home.

I said, “I am pretty sure I already signed that, Lil.” She immediately got angry and accused me of not doing it. She then began to accuse me of not making her lunch for the day. I told her it was done and waiting on the counter. She then accused me of never doing anything for her. This is an exact quote. “You never do anything for me.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Are you kidding? I’ve never done anything for you? Without going into the twenty plus hours of painful labor, I began to recount in my mind all the hours without sleep holding her when she cried, the last nine years of staying home abandoning my professional career for her, the hundreds of lunches, thousands of nail painting parties/tea parties, loads of laundry, piano lessons, and countless prayers for her safety. I just could not believe she had the audacity to say that to me!

Her dad heard this conversation. He immediately, and in no uncertain terms, explained that she was terribly wrong and owed me a big apology. Through tears she came into the kitchen and held out her little arms and said, “I’m so sorry, Mom.”

Instantly, as I wrapped my arms around my now sobbing daughter, I realized she is nine. She is a kid, a great kid who rarely does anything with hateful intentions. She is a child. Why would she remember all the countless hours of parenting? In her eyes, life is what it is, she has two parents who love her, an endless supply of food to eat and a warm place to snuggle in at night. She has no basis of comparison, yet. I hate that one day she will notice the atrocities and horrors in this world. I don’t want her to see what nightmares exist out there for some children. For now, she is a child that enjoys blessing without understanding how blessed she truly is.

I’m not much different than she in the eyes of God. So often I complain about life, and yet look how I am blessed! How dare I ever complain to the maker and provider of every breath I take when He has given so much!!!

On the way into the car for the trip to school she turned to me again and said, “Mom, I’ve already seen God at work today.”

I said, “Oh yeah, baby? How?”

She said, “Because you forgave me.”

Dear Father, thank you for my daughter! She teaches me so much everyday. She humbles me and touches my heart so deeply with her sweet spirit. Please help me to be the mommy she needs. Please don’t let her grow bitter because of my mistakes. Thank you for your endless blessings and your love. Thank you for forgiving me when I needed it so desperately! Amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eating Carbs and Spirituality.

I’m gluten intolerant. It’s terrible (Clearly, I struggle with positive thinking on this front). Consider a life of no pizza, no burritos, no cookies, cakes, bagels… etc. You get the idea. Luckily, nowadays gluten-free wonders are popping up all over the place! I do not always maintain a gluten-free diet, and often I pay the price. I won’t go into detail of what that means. Suffice it to say, it’s not pretty. Because of this special annoying dietary detail it is always easier for me to avoid carbohydrates rather than fat when dieting. Usually, going low-carb for a while can help me maintain or lose a few pounds. However, the older I get the more difficult it becomes to lose even an ounce.

I have a friend who is a diet master. She’s lost a ton of weight and looks amazing. You know the type, adorable, thin, so cute that you don’t know whether to hug her or hit her. Yep, that’s my friend. The weight just seemed to fall off of her, but I know that it took work and a lot of dedication to get where she is now. It wasn’t easy, and I’m really proud of her!

When I’m dieting I think about food every second of the day. It consumes me as I carefully monitor what I consume. To maintain a weight that I’m comfortable with I have to always be watchful of my habits and try not to slip into the "finishing the kid’s fries because there are starving children in the world" routine.

Any smart woman will tell you that “diet” is a bad word. Really, what it’s about is a complete lifestyle change. There is no quick fix and no pill that eliminates an extra 25 pounds of french fries, trust me. Being healthy takes a daily commitment, albeit a daily regime. It does not mean you can’t celebrate Thanksgiving with pies and your mother’s glorious sweet potatoes. It does mean that the week after Thanksgiving you probably should not eat the rest of the pies for breakfast or make multiple trips to the refrigerator to spray the whip cream directly into your mouth.

Spirituality works similarly. You cannot assume that punching the clock on a Sunday morning will make you any more of a spiritual giant than you were the Saturday night before. Improving your spiritual walk takes work and commitment, and must occur more than once a week. Regardless of how great or terrible the minister is at your church, your spiritual life depends on you and you alone. Your spiritual walk is a daily journey that you walk only with the Savior. Unfortunately, you can't blame someone else for your lack of spiritual depth or the number that shows up on the bathroom scale every morning.

If we take a hiatus from our prayer life, or reading the Word, then it is our own responsibility to commit to getting back on track. Spirituality is a life style. Christianity is a life style. It is a daily focus and must be a priority if we expect growth.

Too often I fear that Christians depend mountain top experiences to boost their spiritual walk. Spiritual mountain top experiences are amazing, and we all need them from time to time. However, much like our dietary habits, Spirituality is a journey with ebb and flow. We must feed ourselves to be spiritually healthy, and we can’t always wait to be fed.

Furthermore, if you are in a spiritual rut or pit, there is not always a quick fix, and if you are solely dependent on Sunday for your spiritual health, that might be a big problem.

Daily talks with the Father can be the first step to getting back on track. Reading scripture also does amazing things for a struggling soul. Either way, you must decide to get healthy and it must become a habit, just like dieting, just like exercise.

Don’t ever believe that once you feel comfortable that you can’t slip off track. Because, it happens. I’ve been there, too. Thankfully, our spirituality is a journey and not a one time test of skill.

Seek wisdom.
Pray often.
Make your spiritual walk a priority.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monkey Bars and Loyal Friends.

My daughter had a rough day last week. She and her three best friends decided to embark on a new journey to the top of the monkey bars. What may not seem like a big deal to you turned out to be a huge ordeal for my young lady and her loyal friends. You see, at Lily’s school the top of monkey bars is “reserved” for the cool kids. On this particular day, Lily and her friends decided to get into forbidden territory.

Now, for average people, climbing to the top of the circle monkey bars is easy. For my daughter (and her mother) this is no small feat. Unfortunately, we both lack a little in the coordination department. This lack of physical grace is not a big deal to us. We are not in denial and laugh it off on most days exchanging stories of when and where we tripped almost every day. We still are amazing prima donnas in the middle of the kitchen while making dinner, and we are sure God loves to watch us twirl and dance together.

Lily and her friends made it to the top of those monkey bars together that day. Once they made it, they were quickly informed by the monkey bars bouncers that they were in the wrong place and they needed to get down immediately. Easily intimidated by mean girls, the loyal four started down together.

If you are at all intimidated by heights the trip down monkey bars is much more taxing than the climb up, as the ground appears so far away and visions of falling become all too real in your head. I speak from experience.

As soon as the girls started back down, the crowd from the top began to hurl insults and ridicule the four trespassers. My daughter froze under the onslaught of the anxiety of the trip down and the layered stress thrown upon her by the onlookers.

That night as she told me how she made it down I was so touched. She shared that she could not have made down without her friends, and that every step she took they were there cheering her on. She said she kept breathing deep and trying to block out the verbal arrows from the mean kids and focused on the good awaiting her at the bottom: her three friends. She made it. That night she was so thankful to have friends who stood by her even when the popular crowd was above mocking and taunting. Those are exactly the kind of friends I want my daughter to have, and that night we thanked God together for those special girls.

In my own life I see the rich blessings that come from friendship and how completely necessary it is to have loyal friends. When things are rough the last thing you need is a fair-weather friend! I am abundantly blessed with amazing friends who don’t just tickle my ears, but who love me enough to pray for and with me, to tell me when I am absolutely in the wrong, and to walk with me through the horrors of life holding my hand and cheering me onward.

I believe that the necessity of relationship for healthy living is one of the best arguments for being a committed part of a congregation of believers. In a culture that is quickly becoming more individualistic and isolated in our means of communication, in acceptance of pluralism, and in a disregard for living a moral life, a community of believers encourages us to press on ignoring the insults that may come. A community of believers reminds us we are not alone. Churches must be a soft place for believers to come for love, discipleship, and friendship. We must lean on each other and trust in each other.

Today I am thankful for my dear friends! May I always strive to be a better friend to them every day.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Friday, October 8, 2010


Nothing drags me to the pit of doubt like unexplainable tragedy and loss. I can be walking along full of self-assured faith until I witness a horrific loss that clearly lacks sense. Suddenly I’m falling into a pit of uncertainty and disbelief. Clearly, I lack the faith I thought I had.

Whether believers will admit it or not there are things that happen on this earth that cannot be explained simply by stating “it’s God’s will”. Justifying hurt by the will of God does not help; rather, it sounds like blame. Hurt can’t be explained, at least, not in a way where those hurting will comprehend or be able to justify.

I believe it is of better consoling effort to just say, "I don’t know. I have no idea why your loved one is gone to heaven. It makes no sense, and I’m angry about it, too."

In my pit of ache within the murky waters of uncertainty, the only remaining thread to cling to is hope.

If we give up hope then our loved ones move on for no reason at all. Without hope we no longer honor their memory or their purpose. Even in our distrusting rebellion against goodbye hope can heal our broken hearts.

Hope is what gives us renewed purpose.
Hope is what we cling to drag us out of the pit of disbelief.
We hope there are reasons beyond our comprehension.
We hope that we’ll meet again.
We hope that this is not where we were meant to exist in the first place.
We hope that the rest of our lives will not be lived in vain.

Hope itself cannot be explained. Hope does not exist within negativity or even realism. Hope only exists within a man who is willing to trust in the unseen or unknown. Hope helps us look to what could be and what will be. Hope honors. Hope is our explanation. Finally, hope pulls us through to trust again.

We trust in the promise that there is a God, a waiting Father with open arms, and a home to run toward to meet Him there. We trust that all will be as promised. We trust there is another home for our loved ones, a home without loss, without pain, without goodbyes.

"I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 15:13

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Follow Your Heart or Run like your Pants are on Fire.

Every once in a while I stumble across a verse in scripture that blows my mind. Yesterday, I had one of those mind blowing experiences.

How often have you heard a well-meaning parent, teacher, coach, mentor, or even a counselor offer the soundest of wisdom by saying, "Just follow your heart." Yep, me too. Billions of times, right? Following our hearts seems to be the answer to every dilemma if you watch afternoon TV, see a chick-click, or hear a commencement address. Read this verse that God lead me to this week while studying for my ladies bible class...

"The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick; who can understand it?
I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deed." ~Jeremiah 17:9-10

Whoa whoa whoa! So all those "wise" words from "wise" folks about following your heart to be truly happy...nonsense, complete and utter nonsense.  According to Jeremiah our hearts can lead us astray. Our hearts can be desperately sick. Our feelings can lead us down a path that is not only unhealthy, but is wrought with sin which inevitably leads to death.

This verse explains that God searches the heart and tests the mind to reveal the fruit of the deeds of man. Now tell me, if we follow our hearts straight into disobedience, what is the fruit of those disobedient acts?

Think about it. How many folks do you know who "follow their hearts" right out of their marriage vows? Or "follow their hearts" into some pretty sticky, if not horrible, consequences? I know plenty. I'm certain you do too.

I think this "follow your heart" regime all goes back to one of the biggest lies satan ever told, which is God only desires our happiness and the filling of our stomachs with the simple bite of a delicious fruit. I'm sorry to disappoint everyone out in internet land, but I don't buy that. Our all-powerful creator, God, calls us to obedience. Frankly, obedience sometimes really stinks. If you don't believe me, ask my three-year-old cookie eating machine. In the end though, I know what is best for my son, and God knows what is best for us even if we are not happy following His will at the time.

From here on I think I'll be even more careful of my feelings. Feelings, although relevant, do not always speak truth. Feelings can mislead and manipulate. From here on I'll listen to the brain God gave me and pray for wisdom to discern my steps. From here on I'm going to run in the opposite direction if my heart attempts to lead me astray. I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

All the way, My Savior Leads Me

This morning was the first ladies class of the fall semester for our congregation. I’ve missed it. Truth be told, I’ve been in denial about missing it. Actually, all summer long I kept telling myself that I don’t have time for it. But, as I sat there this morning amidst friends who encourage me, I realized it is right where I need to be. Honestly, it is hard to make it, having two small people to get ready for school each day, and one following me around asking for “meeeelk” every five seconds, and one big person who grumpily requires coffee before gracing the world with his beautiful blue eyes, and to top it off having the blessing of a new job to work into the mix..and all this happens before I can look in the mirror or brush my teeth. I barely make it, and most of the time I’m late.

The truth is I like to tell myself and others how busy I am. I AM busy. So is everyone else. Sometimes I wonder if we all attempt to comfort each other with pats on our busy backs. “I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy together.” I’ll be the one to jump out there and say, there are some things that I make a priority and other things that I don’t. What I’ve noticed working with congregations is that a lot of times it’s the “church things” that get cut out when life gets busy. It is the personal spiritual growth disciplines that no outsiders witness that get cut out when the grind really gets in the way.

I had a weird conversation with my best friends the other day. Laugh if you must, but I honestly was concerned that the only time I have to talk to God lately is when I’m in the bathroom. My friends and I discussed the daily craziness associated with life and how little time is left for spirituality. I sincerely am worried that I’m offending the maker of heaven and earth that I only give him my potty break. How horrible is that?!? I don’t want more grace here. I don’t want anyone to tell me that I should not feel bad about that. It is a problem, and I can do better than a bathroom prayer session. I owe more to my creator and savior.

No matter how much I’d like to believe that I am steered around at the mercy of my militant pocket calendar. I set the dates. I write them down. I am completely capable of saying no. I can contest; it’s easiest to say no to God, the unseen. It is easiest to make a priority of what the world deems a priority. The tangible requirements are easiest to remember. I know this. I live this, too. My question is this, where's the faith behind saying yes to all the tangibles and leaving our unseen God out in the cold for another day when there's time? There may never come another day with more time.

This is what happens to me when I push prayer to the last of my agenda. I justifiably put my rigid schedule in control. Ironically, I start to control MY life. I start to panic about paying bills, putting food on the table, the education of my children, a PhD for my husband, and anything else that can squeeze its way into my self-inflicted anxiety attack. The provisions of God slip out of view, and before I know it, I’m meeting Him in the bathroom for seconds at a time. That’s when I have to look myself in the mirror as I wash my hands and see that His own creation only offers Him potty time conversation. And that, my friends, that’s when I realize my priorities are out of whack because I’ve pushed my God into the last available space on my calendar removing Him from God-status to second place, maybe third.

As I sat down to work this afternoon, the melody of an old hymn popped in my head. I heard this melody over and over as I waited for everything to boot up. This has happened to me before. I can’t figure out what hymn it is, and I have to run to the bookshelf to grab our ancient hymnal before I can let it go. Then when I read the words, I realize it is God again trying to reach me. I have to sit and absorb what God wants me to learn through a hymn that I haven’t sung in years. Yes, I unyieldingly and sincerely believe He reminds me of His truths through song.

Here is the song that came to me today. I hope it encourages you because it slapped me in the face. You see, as long as I let Him lead, and unfailingly put Him first, springs of joy will abound because He, not I, doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me

All the way my Savior leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way. ~Fanny Crosby

A note about this hymn:

This beloved hymn came to Fanny Crosby as a result of a prayer. Struggling financially, she desperately needed some money. As her usual custom, Fanny began to pray. A few minutes later, a gentleman offered her five dollars, the exact amount she needed. Later recalling the incident, she said, “I have no way of accounting for this except to believe that God put it into the heart of this good man to bring the money.” The poem she wrote afterward became “All The Way My Savior Leads Me.” As both a songwriter and a woman of faith, Fanny Crosby serves as an example to all.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Humble Pie and a Clean Face.

If you were raised by a beautiful and sassy southern lady like I was, chances are you learned about the saving grace of some good concealer and a little mascara before you started the third grade. I did. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to wear the miraculous duo till Junior High. Nevertheless, I knew the wonders of cosmetics and soon learned the priority of “putting on your face” before you left the house. As a result of this, after years of makeup training, it is literally hard for me to walk out of the house, much less into public, without a little brush of mascara.

Last week, I took my kids swimming for a play date. We were running late again, and I neglected to do much of anything to aesthetically enhance my appearance. I was lucky to have time to run a brush through my hair. On the way to the pool I pulled up beside an older gentleman at a stop light, and for the first time in my life I didn’t throw on the sunglasses and sink as low as possible into the front seat of the car to avoid meeting eyes with my stoplight neighbor. I actually thought to myself, “Well buddy, I hope you don’t turn to stone, but this is the real me.” I am positive that old guy could care less about my personal little victory of authentic living, but in that moment, I didn’t worry about hiding or the embarrassment of my reflection in the rear-view mirror. To me, this was a victory. Instantly, I had this freeing feeling of liberation. I did not worry about judgment. It was me being me, clean face, blemishes and all. This sounds a tad crazy doesn’t it? Don’t plan on seeing me at worship sans concealer. I’m not quite that transparent yet.

A few days before greeting the world un-powdered, I hurt a friend with my words. My temper got the best of me and I said things via email that I should not have said. I broke so many of my communication rules all in one day. So often I advise people to go to the source of their frustration and to never send irate emails because they always intensify problems, and yet, here I was not taking my own advice. For several days guilt controlled me. Paranoia and anxiety set in around day two, and I nearly drove my husband mad with my conspiracy theories all based on my own mistakes. I truly was humbled. I do not have the personality to easily let my blunders go, obviously. (Note, the reliance on concealer.)

I’m here today to encourage you to experience the power and liberation of the apology. Once I apologized to my friend and took responsibility for my actions I felt like a new person. The make-up came off, and I owned who I was, blemishes and all.

Too often pride tells us that an apology is unnecessary or fruitless, but, to me, owning up to your mistakes allows you to sleep easy and truly be an authentic friend. I do not ever want my mistakes to ruin a relationship or be the wall built disallowing a relationship from healing. I want to do everything in my power to keep peace between friends and sometimes peace between friends takes effort and a little pain.

I will mess up again. I am a person that requires a whole lot of forgiveness, but for the moment being forgiven feels great!

It takes a lot of labor to maintain a façade. It is exhausting to fake your way through relationships and life. I do not ever want to do that. I have seen people who do and they are tired messes at home, but happy go lucky to keep the public eye from witnessing their flaws. Well, here it is folks, I’m flawed, and I would rather face hours of scrutiny than to live an arduous life trying to hide it.

Don’t let pride get in the way of authentic relationships. Be you, mistakes and all. Christ sees you sans façade, sans concealer, and He loves you. Give someone else a chance to love the real you, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Punching Bag Moments.

Investing your money on a treadmill is a good idea. Investing your money on a punching bag is a practical idea. I’m sure there are those that would argue that one form of exercise is better than the other. Of course, it is much more fun to tape a picture of someone on a punching bag rather than tape one on a treadmill for obvious reasons. Sometimes it is nice to exercise your right to let off some steam on someone’s smiling and unknowing face without the bloody consequences or trips to the police station. But before you run to the Christmas wrap box for the Scotch tape remember that chances are your last family Christmas photo is possibly taped up somewhere too maybe even on your neighbors dartboard with little holes where your smiling eyes once were.

Over the last few weeks I’ve received a number of emails from sweet minister’s wives asking for advice when dealing with difficult people within the church. Typically in these scenarios the minister’s spouse is approached by a church member and verbally accosted, questioned or even criticized for things out of his/her control. Sadly, this is a common experience for ministering families. Situations like this usually occur when the aggravated and assaulting personality is 1) too cowardly to confront the minister directly or 2) a confrontational person. In worst case scenarios these situations lead to the minister’s spouse becoming a punching bag on any and all ministry related issues.

I thought I’d put my general advice that I offer regarding these scenarios on my blog. I assume after several emails that this problem happens to every ministering family at least once in their career. My guess is it happens more than once. I’m sure that most of this advice is applicable for everyone in a difficult relationship not just ministry related situations. On a daily basis, everyone deals with some kind of relational conflict.

When I’m approached by someone who either wants to complain about my husband or my husband’s ministry this is what I do…

Step one: With as much love as possible, and I’m not being sarcastic here, I let them know that I am not the minister. Sometimes, dependent upon the individual, I throw in a joke about missing a paycheck from the church or in the very least needing a huge raise for my efforts. Be careful with the jokes though. Some folks will take you literally and that will begin a host of other issues and questions about your theology. The mission here is to send them to the source of their frustration. The Bible teaches us to go directly to the person within the conflict. It does not say to go to the person’s spouse or best friend. Gently usher them to the minister and do not discuss the situation further.

Step two: If the person is really attacking your husband or family do not be too timid to let them know how inappropriate it is to criticize someone’s spouse. Sometimes I ask them, then and there, how they deal with situations when their spouse is criticized. A warning though, often negative personalities will pick on anyone even their own mother. So, verbally abusing their spouse may seem the norm in their household. Be assertive. Let them know you love your spouse, that you are proud of your spouse and that you will not tolerate or listen to hateful criticism. Then walk away. If you stand there and take it do not be surprised when they come to you the very next week for more figurative gut-punches.

Step three: When I make a mistake or if I am responsible for a bad situation, I own up to it and apologize. Playing the blame game and pinning it on your husband or someone else in the congregation only exacerbates a poor communication system. Be the first to take responsibility, and be a good example of holding yourself accountable. We have far too many folks who are not held accountable for their behavior or their neglected responsibilities within congregations. Be the first to be responsible for your actions. Own up to your mistakes.

Step four: Remember that someone’s opinion is not a reflection of who you are. Nor is someone’s opinion a reflection of your spouse or his/her ministry. Just because someone may choose to be dissatisfied or even grumpy doesn’t mean you must own their frustrations. If you take on everyone’s issues your shoulders will be weighted down, and trust me burn-out from ministry comes on fast when you choose to carry the burden of everyone’s frustrations.

Step four and a half: Often we forget that individuals respond to you based on outside influences that you may know nothing about. Previous bad experiences with other ministers or even difficult home situations affect the way each person communicates with you. Sometimes people develop a bad attitude toward ministers and their wives because there are deeper spiritual problems at work. How we handle our relationships with difficult people may affect their future relationship with other church members and even their spiritual relationship with God. Remember that the anger may not be coming from their frustration with you. It may come from somewhere else.

Step five (aka the step that trumps all other steps): Pray for them and I don’t mean to pray that lighting strikes them from above to fry them into charred piles of dust. Pray that God works in the relationship. Pray that you can clearly understand their perspective. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to be lovingly assertive. Even if they are the thorn in your side every day you see them, pray for them. Even if you have to pause before you get out of your car and face them, pray for them. Prayer changes your heart and God will give you the strength to be wisely assertive when it is the right time. Do not ever underestimate God’s healing power in relationships. He is the great healer after all and He wants all his children to get along even the particularly surly ones.

Finally, it is important to remember that not everyone gets along. We are all made differently with different talents and different opinions. This is a good thing not a bad thing. I always try to remember to learn something from each person that I come in contact. God made all of us to add special purposes to the world and to His church. He made each one of us to act in a special way so that congregations function properly and can accomplish God’s purposes. Each person has a place in God’s kingdom.

My encouragement to you, sweet friends, is this: do not be someone’s punching bag, but when you are, because it may happen, be a blessing to that person. Bless them with tender words, a listening ear, and prayer… lots and lots of prayer. Be the first good experience someone has in a difficult situation.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fights, Screaming, and the local Cold War.

Ah the joys of summer, sunny days with Slip n’ Slides, bike rides, ice cream cones and the knock-down-drag-out WWF in the back yard. I love having my kids at home for summer break. I try to create opportunities for memories and fun times with family, but around this time every year I begin to look forward to fall as their ability to get along with each other grows more and more tumultuous as the days go by.

Let me start by saying two things:

1. I have great kids. Most of the time they are sweet and loving. Most of the time they amaze me with their generosity and concern for their fellow man.
2. I don’t tolerate hitting, kicking, biting or screaming in my house. I have one girl and two boys and, regardless of gender, I try to teach my kids to use their brain when in a conflict, not their sometimes-instinctive response to gut-punch their adversary.

There are days when I truly believe some sort of hormone in our water transforms my sweet kids into Genghis Kahn, Al Capone and Calamity Jane. One second everyone is playing nicely. The next second our once peaceful house is rattled with slamming doors, screams of accusations, thrown toys and a terrified pug dog running to her crate for shelter from the latest firestorm. It is really quite amazing to watch the tide turn from happy Hallmark moment to survival of the fittest.

The most difficult thing for me to handle when my kids face conflict is the constant tattling. “He did this.” “She said that.” My personal favorite is when my daughter decided to tell her brother that he could not possibly be related to her and that he must be adopted. Can you feel the familial love?

Most of the time, I encourage my kids to work out their problems between each other using words and without getting physical. Sometimes the “solve it yourself” tactic works. Other times, not so much. My best effort is to sit down with the kids and help them talk it out. I encourage them to do the talking which is really hard, and let me tell you, the past two years of conflict resolution grad studies are really put to the test. Clear communication is especially difficult when you are trying to sort out how a three year old truly feels when someone beats up his Elmo with GI Joe. Since my daughter is getting older her new war tactic is to completely ignore her brothers altogether. Some days she refuses to be in the same room with them or even eat at the same table. This makes mediating between the parties nearly impossible when one party refuses to talk to the other on principle.

Today I witnessed adults amidst conflict and was reminded that these fights between my kids are mere practice sessions for their future. If I don’t train them how to get along with each other now then they will surely have relational struggles as adults. Too often I come across grown-ups who simply cannot face someone of whom they disagree regardless of topic. They simply stop talking to the other person. Other times I visit with adults who spend more time talking over their adversary rather than listening to gain a better understanding of their dissonance. The noise of their “conversation” simply creates a deeper chasm between them.

One would hope that in the church these relational problems would not exist. However, within the church the battles rage onward over trivial matters, and adults unfortunately reenact childish behaviors rather than discussing conflictual issues, as brothers should. Christ knew this would be our struggle. In fact, some of his last words were for believers to be united, to be “one”.

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” ~John 17:20-23

This is my prayer for my children: unity among them. This is also the example that I want to set for my children: unity in the church. When push comes to shove and I’m in the tumultuous relationship the healthiest lesson for my kids is to witness is me working it out by facing difficult conversations rather than avoiding them, by my example of calmly listening to others in order to understand their perspective instead of loudly expressing my own opinions, by recognizing my own inadequacies and taking responsibility for them, and above all remembering Christ’s plea for unity among us.

Today I’m thankful for moments when I am encouraged to hold kitchen table mediations regarding Popsicle inequality and the ill treatment of stuffed animals. I am thankful for moments that remind me to work toward the unity of the future.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

This Grand Illusion.

Last night during a family bike ride I experienced that deep sense of contentment following a deep breath and gratitude for peaceful moments. It doesn’t happen often. The weather was absolutely beautiful and all around us was green and growing or flowering. I had two sleepy boys riding in their trailer behind my bike. My daughter was following close behind with my husband pulling up the rear of our little caravan. This perfect ride was followed up by ice cream drumsticks on our front porch while we waited for the lighting bugs to appear. Times like these I realize how truly blessed some moments in time are and how little of anything it takes to make moments special.

So often my thoughts are invaded by this sense of longing for something better, something bigger, and something material to make me content. When I cave to those temptations and go out to purchase my contentment, the satisfaction quickly wanes and I discover something else that would make my life complete. Before I know it I’m on purchase number thirty five and I’m still not content with my wares. There is always something else on the store’s shelf that I don’t have and someone else does. It is odd how we deny attempting to keep up with the Jones’s, and yet it happens. I rarely ask myself, are the Jones’s really happy? Does their wealth or abundance truly make them content? What are they missing in their life as they try to fill it with things? Are they looking at my life with the same sense of self-malcontent?

In the end this is a grand illusion. Our ownership is a farce. Nothing I purchase will ever provide contentment. It won’t offer me happiness or a better chance at friendships. It definitely will not bless my children to train them to swim in an ocean of material goods all the while they drown alongside their parents in a sea of discontentment seeking for what really matters in life. We oftentimes raise our children like little kings and queens offering bits of plastic for a short lived high, don’t we? We treat ourselves like that too, I fear. I think I would rather live to deserve little simple moments of peace than live to glue together another bit of nothing when it breaks. I hope I can raise my children to feel this way as well.

We don’t own what we think we own. In an instant all that we spend our lives pursuing can go up in flames. In a second we are reminded of our creator when all we thought we owned is gone with one severe storm. If all we declare ownership of is swept away by the wind, we truly experience devastation. This illusion of ownership detracts from our purpose. It enslaves us. It owns us.

We don’t need what we think we need. We want. This illusion lies to us and trains us to be a slave to the world, a slave to all things material. It brainwashes us into believing that our children must have more things to be good or successful. It trains families to build their lives and happiness and worth in things. It creates competitors for enslavement. Who can be owned more than the other?

Last night I had that moment when I didn’t really need anything. My family was together. Contentment lives in simple moments. I want to be owned by the creator and nothing else. I do not want to be tied or enslaved to a grand illusion or train my children that ownership of this earth is real or good. There is one who owns and it is not us. In truth, the children and husband I lay claim are not mine, but His. All is His. All is to be used for Him. All we have is a blessing from Him. Loving the blessing more than The Bless-er is backward, isn’t it?

To be truly blessed is to understand that nothing creates contentment like gratitude for simple moments. Praise to the God of all creation. It is through Him and only Him that I am abundantly blessed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Room for Improvement.

One of the qualities I love about my husband is his ability to see the potential in people. Everyday, through his eyes, he sees the potential of what could be and what steps need to be taken to achieve this potential. If you want to really discourage him then simply ignore potential and maintain the status quo. I will confess to you that it is sometimes tiring to live with someone like this because you easily recognize his discontent with the mediocre, and you are pushed to a level of trying very hard to constantly work toward improvement. To some people of a laissez faire nature this may sound like a nightmare, but it is not. I would rather be with someone who sees the best in me, sees where we both can improve, and who wants to make things better instead of becoming complacent in our relationship. We are blessed with an amazing marriage. After fourteen years I am barely at the cusp of understanding this man, but this one part of his personality I get. I truly love him for it.

It is especially difficult to look at oneself and ask the question…”what can I improve?” This means that you must recognize what is not working or what is not going so well. Those questions hurt. Those moments hurt when you see that there is a lot of room for improvement in your life. Myself, being of a somewhat obstinate nature, I love to justify my behaviors. I have even been known to place blame on others for choices I make. My biggest struggle and temptation is to blame the past for the present. Sadly, if I had to guess, I would say I am not the only person who struggles with the blame game.

When I consider my spiritual life and what I can improve I see a long ladder to climb to get where I want to be. Thankfully, my God allows grace to his people requiring no specific ladder rung level of accomplishment.

Lately, however, I have noticed a tendency for spiritual complacency using God’s overwhelming gift of grace as an excuse. I fear that we neglect our first love of Christ for a couple of reasons. I can share the one that impacts and reflects me the most.

Legalism of the past has created a tremendous bitterness toward any commitment of worship attendance or habitual spiritual behavior. Some of us grew up in congregations that would eternally damn you if you missed a Sunday service, neglected to wear a tie during communion, and/or read from any translation of the bible other than the King James. There are still congregations out there who tout this mantra, and sadly the media has a tendency to paint Christians as illiterate uneducated warmongering haters. Unfortunately, this ill-treatment and utter ignorance of spirituality leaves a bitter taste in our mouths still, and any hint of legalism causes the hair on the back of our necks to stand up as we shudder in a cumulative and often audible shriek of defiance. Some of us vow to never ever raise our children in an environment remotely close to that of the legalists.

Let me suggest that this sense of defiance, whether justifiable or not, sometimes leads us to a place of neglect of our Savior. Out of fear of repeating the past or appearing like a caricature, we require nothing of ourselves and nothing of our children in regards to spiritual growth. Out of fear of our children’s rebellion, similar to our own maybe, we neglect to even share our faith with them and allow them to make their own spiritual decisions at an tender young age where they are instead filled with a worldview in schools and through media that demolishes faith and morality rather than encourage it.

Loving Christ means that we do not fear commitment to Him. In the same way we commit to our spouses and our closest friends, we should not fear a life of an active choice to attend worship, an active choice to learn His word or require our children to learn his word. We do not make this choice, this decision to love, out of fear of damnation. We do this because we believe in the one who sacrificed for us. We love Him so much, that we want to improve. We try to demonstrate to the world our integrity of our faith choice in this way. Otherwise, it is not what it seems at all. Otherwise, we are merely habitual social club attendees, not Christians.

Here’s the deal: I don’t want to be a fair-weather friend. I want to treat Jesus like he is the most important thing in my life. I don’t want the savior of myself, my children, and my spouse to be my last priority. I don’t want to fear the past, present, or future so much that I neglect what is truly important. The past won't embarrass me because it does not define me. The present won't discourage me because it does not forbid me to act in love for the sake of my Savior.

I truly believe He lives, and if that is true then I will commit; I will want to worship; I will want to share His truths with my children. If I truly believe, then my top priority will be to share this gift with others because I love Him and I love them.

In an age where commitment to marriage is laughable I guess I am not surprised to see the same response toward the Savior. Both relationships are born out of love, or should be. Both relationships require commitment even when it is hard, even when mistakes are obvious. I am not the first person to liken marriage to a relationship with Christ. At least in our relationship with Christ one of us won't be guilty of walking away. He will always be there.

I am just not willing to walk away and pretend Jesus never existed for my own comfort. Everyday I hope I am one step closer to understanding Him. Everyday I hope I please Him more, rather than less. I fully understand my failures. I get that. So does He.

I do not want His abundant grace to become my excuse to commit less.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't make me.

Lord, I love you, but don't make me say so too loudly.

Lord, I love to sing praises to you, but don't make me sing that old one.

Lord, I love your word, but don't make me go to bible class and learn it.

Lord, I love all your children, but don't make talk to that one.

Lord, I want to live for you, but don't make me uncomfortable.

Lord, I want to wear the name Christian, but don't make me act differently than my peers.

Lord, I want you to provide for me, but don't make me look at that homeless man.

Lord, I want everyone to go to heaven, but don't make me tell anyone about you.

Lord, I want to pray to you, but don't make me do it in public or when I'm busy.

Lord, I want to be with you, but don't make me give up my life.

Lord, I want my family to be a part of your church, but don't make me change our schedule.

Lord, I want you to forgive me, but don't make me forgive them.

Lord, I believe you are more powerful than anything, but don't make me obey.

Lord, I love you, but don't make me love you too much.

Are we so reliant on the grace of God that we forget our first love?

Praise GOD for grace.

God forgive us for living a lie of a false commitment. May we each strive to live dangerously, to walk courageously, and to stand firm, all for the cause of Christ. May we each forget ourselves and this farce we call our reality, our life, and instead work toward what is real, the eternal.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seriously Spiritual on Sunday, Mindlessly Mediocre on Monday.

On Sunday we remember Jesus. His love and grace renews us. The sins of Saturday are gone, forgotten, and forgiven. On Sunday we are rejuvenated and prepare to face a new week alive again because of Christ's sacrifice. Songs of love and victory fill our hearts and minds. Sunday reawakens us to an exhilarating state of forgiveness, and we welcome another Monday. We dare another Monday to drag us down. We defy Monday to bring us to our knees because we are forgiven and loved. We are Spirit-filled and holy. We are loving, Christ-focused, and joyous to be believers...on Sunday.

Monday greets us with cloud covered skies and a grumpy five-year-old that ate the last of the Cheerios out of a dirty bowl after spilling milk all over the new carpet. Our first precious sip of coffee now resides on our only clean pair of work pants, and the dog decides to use our new shoes for a chew toy. By mid-morning we are considering at what age the elderly should not be allowed to drive because, after-all, if it was not for that ninety-year-old we would be at work by now. At lunch, despair hits when we hear of another co-worker losing their job. We wonder if we are next and if we will ever be able to pay off the car loan. We sit in angry isolation in a line of traffic after we cut off a guy in a jeep who quickly offers an obscene gesture to show appreciation. Dinner does not even make it to the table, as half the family is somewhere else; dance lessons, ball practice, or late meetings. We scarf down too much spaghetti sometime during the evening news and watch as across the world another one-hundred people die due to war or a natural disaster. We wonder where God exists in death and suffering as we look around our empty house and feel the desperation of loneliness. As we climb into our warm bed and experience silence, the stress of the day weighs heavy in our minds, and it is hard to even muster the energy to word a prayer...on Monday.

On Sunday, Christianity is easy. On Sunday, we make one of two choices, to fill our spiritual tanks to make through the next week or to play the social club game of “I’m alright, you’re alright”. Either way, Sunday is a breeze.

All too soon on Monday, life gets in the way and the ease of Christianity is long gone. Monday has a tendency to rot every fruit of the spirit we learned about the day before. Monday brings us back down to earth.

Monday does not change the Savior.
Tuesday’s crises does not alter God’s plan for you.
Wednesday’s hectic schedule does not make Jesus less important.
Thursday’s round of lay-offs does not deplete our Provider.
Friday’s loneliness never leaves you unloved by your Creator.
Saturday’s mistakes will not ever stop His forgiveness.

Let me suggest that if there is only room for spirituality on Sunday, you are not experiencing Christianity at all. Christianity is not a weekend past time and is not a social club. Christianity is faith in times of trouble, and kindness where it’s not deserved. Christianity is friendship with those outside of your comfort zone. Christianity is a daily task, a never-ending occupation. It is not for the faint-hearted or for the easily swayed, because Monday comes to destroy all memories of Sunday. If Christianity is nothing more to you than an hour of social time on Sunday, then Monday will do it's job quite successfully.

Monday will come. It will bring terrors. The best of us will introduce Sunday to Monday and have a better week because of it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dinnertime discovery has children begging to eat veggies.

Several weeks ago I found some beautiful asparagus at the grocery store. Asparagus is one of my personal favorites. Much to my chagrin, my children did not share my delight in the green spring veggie.

My husband, Dave, irritated with our children's picky behavior, discovered a brilliant way to convince, at least the boys, to chow down regardless of their opinionated disdain for the healthy side dish. Out of sheer genius and comedic value I thought I'd share this discovery with you. Apparently, if you personify the vegetable and give it a voice, per se, your dining experience alters exponentially. Here's what you do...

Take asparagus, or any other discarded veggie, stab it with your fork and scream, "Don't eat me! Don't eat me! Please NOOOOOO!" At this point you bite off the end of the veggie and say, "Oooooh, I bit off his head." Continue killing off the veggies in such a way until the entire veggie clan is annihilated.

I guarantee that it will work. Your kids will undoubtedly be murdering innocent vegetables for the rest of dinner time. Of course, ketchup adds to the fun and gore, but only use if you don't mind PG-13 slaughterings.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Before time began there was me.
The creation was witnessed by me.
The invention of you is perfect to me,
So in all you do acknowledge me.
For all your blessings thank me.
If you long for peace seek me.
Whoever seeks will find me.
I am the way. Believe me.
Let go of you and cling to me.
Humble yourself. Glorify me.
Do not fear those that kill. They already killed me.
I died so you can forever join me.
Fear what kills your soul. Trust me.
Keep my commandments. Commit to me.
When you love others I know you love me.
And when you come together, you are with me.
Bow Down, look up. Worship me.
When darkness surrounds, look toward the light. That’s me.
I am the good shepherd follow me.
Silence your cell, your mind, and others. Listen to me.
You are loved by me.
You are forgiven because of me.
You are made perfect through me.
When you walk along, remember me.
When you see creation, remember me.
When you welcome new life, remember me.
When you say your last good-bye, remember me.
When you feel joy, remember me.
When you feel alone, remember me.
When all seems lost, remember me.
And when you take this bread and drink this cup, remember me.

Remember me.

And when all you are is forgotten, you’ll see me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Boogers on the light switch and other catastrophes.

Yesterday may win the award for worst day of my life. As I write this I'm trying to decipher who or what is to blame the nightmare that is innocently referred to as the stomach flu. It's really miserable when one child is puking violently all night long, but when two are that is a fate close to purgatory. It gets worse though. As if I didn't need any more encouragement to live a faithful life as to avoid eternal damnation...

Two nights after racing the boys to the toilet all night long (some times making it)our entire family suffered through the mess, and all I had to thankful for during the whole horrid incident was having two bathrooms. -Oh and the sweet person who brought us ginger ale and saltines just when I thought we would all die from dehydration. Right now you're thinking..."wow she's being a bit dramatic".

No my dear friends, no. Just go wash your hands and avoid anyone who is pale because I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy (a thought I actually considered while caressing my bathroom floor yesterday).

I wish I could purchase stock in bleach.

And now the clean up begins. As I walk around my house and see what occurs when a five year old and his kid brother are left to their own devices I still do not wish for yesterday to ever return. Rest assured when I finish bleaching the bathrooms, I'll start on the light switches, and hopefully I'll get to the half eaten apples that await me in the freezer.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I love my children. I also embarrass easily. These two statements mean one thing. I’m often embarrassed by my children even though I adore them. Last night my middle child ran screaming through the church building for what seemed like the hundredth time. When I stopped him to “talk” about the issue he became very frustrated and began growling responses at me loudly. Normal parents may have understood this to be the typical behavior of an irritated five year old boy. None the less, I wanted to hide behind the rack of winter coats and let him stomp off to growl elsewhere.

There were people around to witness this encounter with my growling son, and I don’t know whether it was my mood or if it was the little monster that I was currently trying to contain but I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because he was calling attention to himself and, in turn, me. I was embarrassed because once again he was racing through the sweet people who brave the weather and come to Wednesday night bible class. I realized then that I should face the fact that more indiscretions may come in my life and comparatively this is nothing.

I know another minister’s wife whose daughter became pregnant in high school. The whole congregation knew. The whole town knew. This minister’s wife was embarrassed. She placed a great deal of blame on herself and still does for her daughter’s actions. She was aware that the church was buzzing of the news. Regardless, she marched into worship time and again facing the stares, the unhelpful comments, the gossip, and even the accusations of guilt. She loved her daughter, but was wilting inside for the choices her daughter made.

Likewise, I know a mother whose son dealt with a drug addiction for years and years and was once hospitalized due to an overdose. She held her head high even though she was aching to save her son from the beast that had him by the ankle. She would have willingly taken on his addiction if it meant his freedom from it. She hurt everyday for him, worried every second, and yet she loved and smiled knowing God is in control.

There is something about being a parent that disallows us to completely differentiate from our children regardless of how hard we try. They are ours; our very flesh and blood. Our children have the ability to make up every joy and every sorrow that likewise make up our life. Being a parent truly allows one to begin to grasp the infinite and wondrous love of the creator, and even then we can’t reach the hem of his garment when it comes to comprehending it.

Our heavenly Father must have days where He looks at us and considers hiding in a coat closet. When I think of the choices I’ve made in the past, and the ones I make on a daily basis I wonder and wait for the day I get a notice in the mail that says…”No longer acceptable to enter heaven; name removed from list.”

Some days I can’t believe that He isn’t ashamed of us. Some days I sit in awe at the fact that He sacrificed and suffered humiliation for me even though I am a monster.

The bible says that while we acted ignorantly in unbelief, the grace of our Lord overflowed for us-- overflowed. And that Christ came into the world specifically to save sinners. He displays his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1:13-16). He came for us, the monsters, the growling beasts making one bad choice after another. He isn’t embarrassed of this. This was the plan from the beginning: to get us out of here, to save us from ourselves. He is willing to save us just like the mommy walking into church facing the gossip; just like the mommy holding her head high facing her son’s addiction. He won’t ever ever give up on us.

May we ever try to make him proud of his children. May we continually thank him for his sacrifice.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


For years we’ve believed that more is better; more money, more things, more work, more sex, more food, more time. What we wanted was a façade that temporarily appeased our ache for more of something else. For years in return we accumulated more debt, more depression, more stress, more anxiety, more sexual disorders, more obesity, more divorce, and less time.

What we loaded on our shoulders was more; more of everything except what mattered; more of what enslaved us rather than freed.

Somehow during the days of accumulation we taught ourselves to gain more, but convinced ourselves that we’d had enough of faith, enough of God, enough of the church. All things in moderation after all.

What we needed all along was a different kind of more; more prayer, more simplicity, more fasting, more hospitality, more patience, more silence, more generosity, more sacrifice….more Jesus.

This question remains. What do you do to help a generation lost in more of the wrong things; a generation so confused regarding all that matters that they continue to seek more burdened backs?

Some believe that the focus must be on an education on the matters of finance.

I contend that what was missing was by some small measure a lack of financial knowledge. Perhaps even more so was a complete and absolute love, if not addiction, of pleasing self.

We allowed ourselves to forget that the one that we supposedly serve owned little, maybe nothing. The one that we pledged our very souls to slept with a stone for his pillow. Did He whine about this? During His final days did he pray that we would have more material goods than He did?

In a time, where we watch the heartache of a country far away, where destruction is piled around man, where sadness dwells on every corner, let’s take time to think of what more we could offer someone who really needs it.

For me, I’m going to stop assuming that every poor person I run into deserves poverty. I’m going to stop assuming that every homeless man on the street is getting his just deserts tonight as he sleeps in the snow, while I comfortably lounge on my couch in my heated home.

It is time to really follow Christ, the true humanitarian. I’m reminded of an old hymn we used to sing…

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow that a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee”.
All of self and none of Thee, all of self and none of Thee!
When I proudly said to Jesus, “All of self, and none of Thee.”

Yet He found me; I beheld Him bleeding on the accursed tree,
And my wistful heart said faintly, “Some of self, and some of Thee”.
Some of self and some of thee, Some of self and some of thee.
And my wistful heart said faintly “Some of self and some of Thee”.

Day by day His tender mercy healing, helping, full and free,
Bro’t me lower while I whispered, “Less of self and more of Thee”.
Less of self and more of Thee, Less of self and more of thee.
Bro’t me lower while I whispered, “Less of self and more of Thee.”

Higher than the highest heavens, Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, “None of self, and all of Thee.”
None of self and all of thee, None of self and ALL of Thee!
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered, "None of self and all of Thee".

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Coming of Age.

My parents gave me the gift of a Christian upbringing. Growing up a PK (preacher's kid), my life was saturated with church life. Sometimes, to be honest, church life did not enmesh with faith, sadly. Church life, as I aged, became something that I resented. Attending worship seemed forced in my young life. I went, no questions asked. The alternative was a stern lecture from one or both parents. My familial role, by circumstance, was to be the good child, the 'obey at all costs or die' child. So, I went regardless of my personal connection to the so-called Christ.

I was baptized when I was twelve with a friend of mine. Over the years I questioned my understanding being so young at what should be a pivotal point in spiritual development. I believed, at least at that time, that baptism was so essential that I'd be damned to hell if I didn't get wet and soon. I knew what I was buying into, but it wasn't my personal faith. In a sense I ate what I was fed, not realizing baptism was only the beginning. Today, I know that my baptism met two ends. I was baptized into Christ, but lacked a true personal connection, much less, a commitment to Him. Secondly, I was also baptized into my parent's faith, and not my own. I try not to determine which end trumped the other.

As a teenager I struggled with semantics between my believing friends. I clung with bleeding fingernails to the pattern of scripture in which my parents taught me. I treasure the lessons from my parents still, but was unable to make the connections in my heart the same way in which they did. The questions came, and the answers I received at the time didn't suffice my need for more.

When I went to college my faith stagnated. I attended congregations that were comfortable and recognizable to me as holy. My one regret from my undergraduate experience was my lack of soul searching. I was in every way the picture of a Christian young lady on the outside. I went to a private Christian university. I went to worship every Sunday. I held to the traditions of my roots. I left questions unanswered and comfortably sat in a bubble of my parent's faith.

I married a minister. I married a minister with a faithless father who loved his son. The stretching and nagging began anew.

Life brought new relationships. Life brought experiences of varying belief systems and traditions. Life brought pain and loss. Life brought questions that demanded answers. Finally, a day came where all that was within me begged for me to decide what I believed. The search, the commitment of my own faith, was born.

I remember the day. I was crying out loud to God for an explanation of why He let a baby die. I bargained with HIM. I fought HIM. I was angry. I knew then that some answers are not meant to be had. Amidst this turmoil I determined that He was there, regardless of my questions. HE IS regardless of our feeble attempt to understand or make sense of life. When all around was chaos, I felt the Rock hold me up.

No longer would I ride on the coattails of someone else's faith.
No longer would I cling to the education of my past.
No longer would I deny my need and longing for a personal, emotional attachment to my maker.

He is God, and I am not. This is a fact all must come to terms with.

In the life of every believer, there comes a day when one must take ownership of their own faith. The nagging questions, the doubt, are part of that; in that, it is human to question. The journey, however, is not the same for everyone. I don't expect everyone experiences life as I have. It is good to note that if one has questions it doesn't mean that faith is not there, it means the option is there for growth. The denial of growth is death.

Some choose to stop questioning and walk away. Having one's own faith is difficult and oftentimes hurts. It means that you can't blame any more decisions on your parents. It also means you are an adult.

Some choose the journey, painful though it may be. Joy and love come, and faith grows. May God richly bless your journey today. May we each come of age in our own faith and make peace with unanswered questions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Some days I wake up and realize that I’m ten years older than I feel like I am.
Some days I wake up and feel ten years older than I am.
Some days I believe the lie that I can have it all.
Some days I believe reaching that end will finally make me happy.
Some days I think that what I have could be better if there were more of it.
Some days I want to sell everything I have.
Some days I live in the past.
Some days I can’t get past the daunting future.
Most days I waste a lot of time thinking about other days.

Some day I hope to focus on today.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Just another manic Sunday?

There's nothing like the two hours before Sunday morning worship that make me question my sanity, my salvation, and my success as a parent. Today was one of those tumultuous Sunday mornings. My four year decided to act like a two year old and throw the world's biggest tantrum over wearing a coat to bible class. Had it not been 12 degrees outside I would have let him go shirtless after that fit, but because I love my son I forced the coat. He screamed all the way to church, which thankfully is only one block. At which point I noticed that my three year old had blue marker circling his eyes from the night previous. Don't ask. We made it in the building, and that was all I had to be thankful for at that point with exception to the two Ibuprofen awaiting me at home.

An hour earlier I had horrible feelings of doubt. I have never felt called to be a minister's wife. I do not feel particularly capable or gifted with those sweet compassionate tendencies that normal minister's wives hold. I know I am not a good Sunday school teacher which is what started the whole downward cycle into a pity party as I prepared to face the kindergarteners this morning. I'm still holding some really bitter feelings toward people who picked on my mom when she held the title of minister's wife. Most of the time I feel I'm sorting out my own faith rather that being a rock for someone to cling to in difficult times. I doubt a lot. I question daily. This morning as I forced myself over the threshold of the church building (ten minutes late), I did not want to be there.

I am blessed to have good friends at this congregation who listen to me, hold me accountable, and see through my pretenses. Today, those friends helped me through. You see, everyone has bad days, not just me, not just minister's wives. Everyone's child throws a fit sometime. Everyone doubts their capabilities or their giftedness. The difference and perhaps the saving grace for all of us are our friends. Scripture teaches us that the early church spent time together. They ate together and shared everything. They were a family. This is how I know I can make it, my family.

Thank you to Laura who listened to me today for just a few minutes.
Thank you to Colleen who reminded me that children grow up and sometimes even love their mothers afterward.
Thank you to Heather who saw through my frantic craziness and just made me laugh.
Thank you to April who hugged me and reminded me of why I'm here.

Today was a good day despite it's beginning. I am ever thankful for the grace of the Father who leads us to a place of fellowship and friendship. Tomorrow please bless someone's day by listening, by hugging, by smiling, and by reminding them of what it's all about. If you do not have friends to help you through difficult times, find some. We were not made to make it through the bad days alone.

I hope I can bless people tomorrow the way you girls blessed me today.