Saturday, December 17, 2011


I realized the other day as my sons rebelliously chased through the living room dripping bath water all over my hardwood floors how thankful I am that they can enjoy this freedom, this innocence of being completely nude. The same night my youngest opened the front door stark naked after hearing the doorbell. Luckily, it was just one my my friends who simply laughed at the little exhibitionist. She has sons too.

Little boys know no shame. They will strip down to nothing in seconds. Then they most likely run squealing through the house out into the backyard without hesitation with a joyous free reckless abandon. A mother is hard-pressed to stop them, much less, coral them without at least a smirk.  

When my daughter was three we left her in the house napping (we thought) while my husband and I painted the shutters in the front yard. Within two minutes my dear sweet daughter stripped down to nothing and plastered her little body to the front picture window. There she was in her birthday suit with her little nose squished against the glass waving and grinning from ear to ear. No shame, only freedom.

It causes me great pain to consider that my children will experience shame in their life. They will make mistakes. They will experience embarrassment. They will be will mocked. Thanks to their psychological genetic pool, pangs of guilt may steal away their smiles. One day, they may hide. One day, they may hesitate before looking in the mirror. One day their joy and innocence may be stolen. 

One of the freedoms of Christ that I hope to build into my children is an understanding of grace

Grace to run free without shame. 
Grace to stare into the mirror and see a forgiven and loved face smiling back.
Grace to joyously run with reckless abandon to our merciful Father.
Grace to be naked with imperfections washed away abandoning the ugly past behind them.
Grace to be freed from the bonds of sin and shame.

I know my children will grow out of silly streaking, I hope. For now, I treasure their sweet innocence.

Thank you, Father, for freeing us from our bonds of slavery. Thank you for washing us clean and finding us perfect and beautiful. Thank you for your grace.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:14

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Empty Places.

There is no story so sad as one of a woman who lives her life trying to please a man who never returns her devotion. Last night as my friend led an excellent class on the life of Jacob. I was again struck my Leah, Jacob's first wife. Dear Leah, given to Jacob deceptively by her own father, Laban, when all along Jacob wanted her younger prettier sister Rachel. Poor Leah, unwanted from the moment Jacob found her lying next to him the morning after a candlelit wedding ceremony.

Did Jacob jump out of bed when he rolled over to find Leah there instead of his true love? Did he leave Leah crying into her pillow confused and alone? My heart breaks when I think of those first few moments when Leah realized she was the second runner up, the less attractive. Jacob worked for fourteen years to earn Rachel. He was forced to marry Leah. He never wanted Leah from day one.
When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.  Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” Genesis 29:31
Surely my husband will love me now. I have a few friends who have spoken these very words. Surely, after I've done this, I'll be loved. After I've lost weight, had another baby, made more money, changed my hair, then he'll love me. Then I'll be accepted. Then he won't want that other woman. Then I'll be good enough.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. Genesis 29:32
Leah, the unloved, how she walks around in despair living day to day depressed knowing her place! Her hopeless situation was seen by God. He hears her. He continues to bless her, but does she really see it? Does she get it? Is she still trying to earn Jacob's love? Or is she allowing the creator to provide love for her?
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. Genesis 29:33
It isn't sinking in yet, Leah. Three healthy boys into this ill-fitted relationship and Jacob is still not into you. God is giving you joy through children, but you don't get it. Dear Leah, you are trying to fill your life with love from everywhere but from where it really matters.

God is good to me. I live a luxurious life in a country where I am free to come and go and worship as I please. I have a warm home. I have family who love me. Yet, there are holes in my life. There are days when I feel so lonely. There are bad days when something seems missing and the ache is more than I can bear. When those holes in my life gape empty I attempt to fill them myself. I fill them with food. Then I step on the scale and self-loathingly decide to run a few more miles. I stare in the mirror and berate the reflection and I fix me with a new hairdo. I buy things. I become malcontented with my blessings and blame those holes, those empty places, on my lack of stuff. I work more hours deciding that if I only make more money then I'll be filled. I determine to fill those holes, and it never works. After my futile attempts, I'm still lonely. I'm still unsatisfied with my reflection. I'm exhausted.

Moreover, some dear ones fill their emptiness with loveless affairs, alcohol, or drugs. Some of us fill our emptiness with temporary passions that only cause more pain, more solitude. Some of us simply live in want of more thinking that life is always better for someone else.

Leah is trying to fill that empty space. There is a cavern in her heart and she desperately needs love, affirmation, and attention. Leah tries to fill it on her own. It isn't as if Leah doesn't deserve love. Look how hard she works! She painstaking pleads to earn the love she desires, and time and again her attempts fall short. Leah is left standing alone with another baby to hold watching Jacob devotedly and gently hold Rachel's hand.
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. Genesis 29:34
This time she gets it. This time she gives credit to the life giver, the gaping emptiness filler. This time Leah praises the LORD. At Judah's birth Leah lets go of trying to fill a space that only her Father God can fill. And He does indeed fill that empty place in Leah's heart. Our sweet Leah never gets to see with her own weak eyes the true blessing of that last baby boy. Through the line of Judah, the child that brought Leah to praise, God blesses the earth with Jesus. Through Leah's praise and letting go, God gifted the world with the Savior, our permanent emptiness eraser.

It is enticing to attempt to fill our emptiness with anything but Christ. How often will we break our hearts as we try to patch up our empty places? Our temporary emptiness bandaids pale in comparison to the healer of all brokenness. I take comfort in that it took Leah years and several pregnancies to figure this out. The love of God and his provision is the only way to heal our loneliness, brokenness, and emptiness.

Father, fill the void within us with you and your ever-present healing love that never fades.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. Revelation 5:5

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I don't want to be a part of the noise that adds to the craziness of your life. I have not written in a while. Mostly, I blame one sentence that I heard in the movie Contagion. I don't remember the situation or context. I know the fateful quote occurred somewhere between Gwyneth Paltrow's unfortunate autopsy, the mass graves and my urge to run out screaming and scour my hands. Truthfully, I missed a big part of the movie all due to this quote,

"Blogs are graffiti with punctuation."

According to the Online Business Journal (Phoenix) the average adult is bombarded with more than 600 advertising messages in one day. My guess is if you Facebook or do online social networking that number shoots up significantly. This number only references common ads, TV, radio, print etc. It does not account for other noise: post after post on Facebook begging for your attention, email after email that just missed your spam filter, and blogs like mine coming your way begging for notice.

I guess when I write I hope to edify or encourage someone out there. Digging deeper and introspectively speaking, I need a venue to express my thoughts because I struggle to express them aloud. So, I write it down and arrogantly click the 'publish' button as if someone finds my rants thought provoking. Recently, my blogging friend and amazing writer, Pam, spoke to this near psychotic inner battle of arrogance versus insecurity regarding writers. She is right. It is a nerve-racking business to attempt to publish not meant for the faint hearted or over-sensitive. Blogging is easy. I type. I rant with or without an audience. I get the reward of expressing myself without the 'dear John' letters from Magazines or Publishing houses.

Noise. The truth is my little banjo can't compete with the marketing marching bands out there. Our American culture and philosophy throws itself at us like a desperate whore that hasn't eaten in days. It looks pretty and the price is right, but after the cheap thrill all that remains is loneliness and an empty wallet. The mirror reveals who the true prostitute is. We are used and manipulated by a culture that won't love us back. We listen to the noise, buy into it and try to blend in with the spoon-fed masses.

Noise. I've reached a certain age and people pleasing matters little to me. If I am to make noise, I will speak what my heart believes and not apologize. If I'm so moved to share what Christ has done in my life I won't hesitate to share it even through something as ridiculous and mundane as blogging. I will spray paint my faith on every corner.

Noise. If our culture will ever change, admittedly I do not believe it will, I will be one who will make noise for self-controll and Christ centered lives.
I will make noise to remind everyone, myself included, that life is not a new purse or shoes.
Life is Christ, all else is truly vanity.
Time thieves come to steal and manipulate us.
Christ remains faithful, which is why he is oft forgotten.

Christ is my muse and this is my medium. I may anger more than a few, but if one person hears my voice and even considers Christ my work is done. I simply can't go on if not to speak of Him. I love Him too much to be silent even if that means I look the fool.

Rest assured, dear ones, there is a battle raging. There are warriors out there ready to pounce and tell you how stupid your faith is. There are beautiful sirens singing lovely songs of wealth and superficiality. There are time thieves that will grow fierce when you must chose between them and Christ. You will be punished for your faith. You will lose friends. If anyone tells you the Christian life is easy, they may be on crack. Christianity is only easy if you ignore the gospel and make Christianity a logo and/or your political affiliation.

So, if you are looking for a life of loving the unloveable and undeserving,
if you are prepared to be mocked and made the idiot for believing in an awe inspiring creator,
if you are ready to forget yourself and lead of life of self-control,
if you love to hang out with the sinners, homeless, needy, smelly, diseased believers,
if you are ready to admit to not having all the answers but cling fiercely to the one who does,
if you are ready to admit Christ is Lord and make noise for the sake of the one who died,
then join the ranks of Christian.

Otherwise, turn up the volume on the TV and pretend we aren't here.

"Whoever has ears, let them hear." Matthew 11:15

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Refined by Fire, literally.

Moments ago we had an exciting adventure. I threw left over pizza in our oven to heat for lunch (reheating pizza in a microwave does not produce good results, in my opinion). Four minutes into the heating my youngest screamed, "FIRE!!!" I ran into the kitchen to find our oven full of flames.

I turned to my daughter and said, "Get Micah (our youngest) outside."
I looked straight at Elijah, our middle child, and said, "Go outside now."

No one moved. Instead they all started screaming. Great. Thinking I've totally dropped the ball on my kid's fire safety education I grabbed a bag of flour, slowly opened the oven, threw some flour at the burning element, closed the door, yanked the oven away from the wall and unplugged. Children screaming, fire still burning, smoke filling the kitchen, I grab more flour to throw on the flames more concerned about the drama ensuing around me and frustrated that I forgot to clean the oven in the first place.

Elijah screams, "Why you throwin' that, Mom? THROW WATER!!!!"
Lily, our oldest, "WHERE'S THE PHONE!!!"
Our youngest vanished completely, but I hear him crying.

I turn again to ask Lily to get Micah and get everyone outside rather impressed with myself for staying calm considering three screaming children and a flaming pizza staring me down.

For the last month my children have attempted to destroy one another physically and emotionally. The last few weeks have been tough for me not to completely fly off the handle and send every one of them to military school in Russia. They do not like each other. They rarely show love to one another. We force them to hug and say bedtime "I love yous". They are mean and nasty and intentionally cruel to each other. Since we don't allow any kind of hitting in our house even at play, my children utilize verbal artillery rather often and those word wounds hurt much worse than a black eye, and the pain from them certainly lasts longer than a bruise. At any rate, my prayer life over the last month has included the fractured relationships between my kids. Today I witnessed an answer to my prayer in our charcoaled lunch.

Finally after my third pleading, Elijah ran outside the house into the backyard. I could hear him crying out there alone. The flour finally and thankfully snuffed out the last of the flames. I turned to find my youngest standing in the middle of the living room sniffing and snuffing and my oldest sobbing about not being able to call the fire department to save our lives (no drama here, not a bit!).

I grabbed both of them and went out into the backyard. Immediately we formed a family hug. Everyone was clinging onto each other and sobbing into one another. They revealed their true love for each other as I witnessed each of them look into their sibling's eyes crying and squeezing each other tighter into the hug. I knew what was going on. They were thankful we were all OK. So am I! We stood there for a good fifteen minutes without one fuss or whine about personal space or someone's bad breath. I finally started a prayer and thanked God for saving us from the fire and always providing so much for us. Micah finished the prayer thanking God for all the firemen in the "werld". No one wanted to let go of our little family hug.

In truth, it wasn't a big deal. I've had friends who lost everything in a house fire or natural disasters, but to my children a big fire in our home was terrifying. God used this moment to first and foremost prove his provision of safety for our family. Secondly to reveal to me that my children DO love each other. They LOVE each other!!! And finally, God worked in our lives to reveal and remind us how quickly life can change. I'm so glad HE is our constant, our Rock, our Safe Place.

We walked back inside the house to find our pug finishing off our salad and, of course, the pizza was no more than a black powdery mess.  Everyone had to run to their rooms and check on special stuffed animals, and I got to work on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I guess I'll clean out the oven today and probably buy a new element. Life goes on.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Would you know Jesus if He walked right by you?

I hope and pray I would.

My fear is often we think Jesus looks just like us, like our kind of people. My fear is we are so caught up in our taste in friends, our preferences in religious practices, our wealth, our standards, our politics, our pain and suffering that we don't even notice anything but the reflection in the mirror. In essence, Jesus could walk right by and we would look the other way.

Cliques kill churches. 

Any youth minister will tell you how discouraging it is when teens call or text to find out who is coming to an event before they make the decision to attend. It is more discouraging when those calls or texts are encouraged by their parents. Relationships save churches. Cliques are meant for exclusivity and they, my friend, are the death of churches. Ministers hate cliques, and because of that we are usually and thankfully left out of them.

Jesus might not look like us at all. 

In Mark 2, Jesus is hanging out and eating with a scandalous crowd. This crowd made up of the outcast of society, the ancient IRS, and the "sinners" were all there because they followed Jesus. The religious people, the pious, looked down on the dinner friends. (Note: The religious people didn't have the nerve to ask Jesus about his dinner companions. No, they asked the disciples in true snobbish form thinking it best not to get too close to those outcasts lest they look a part of the group.) My guess, the Pharisees knew exactly the response that was coming from Christ because they, God's chosen, should know better than to doubt God's love. 

Jesus responds, "It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." What fascinates me here is, Jesus knew everyone in that room was a sinner. He came for everyone there but was sitting with those who would accept Him and with those who were open to the call.

I am an introvert. I believe that is why I like to write. It is easy. I write my feelings, and I never have to face people. To be truthful, people scare me. People disappoint. It is a daily struggle for me to put faith in people. I have few close friends. I choose my close friends very carefully. I struggle with being a "good" minister's wife because I must, I absolutely MUST, reach out to others and minister to them. I MUST get out of my comfort zone and show love to the hurting. I MUST show love to people who will definitely exclude me, or absolutely refuse to let me into their clique. I MUST reach out and keep trying and honestly it has little to do with my husband's job. I must reach out because I am called to love. I am called to eat with the sinner. I am called to have more than one close friend. I am called to be family to a world crying out for a real, undying, unconditional love. I am called to be Jesus to the world, and I am not the only one called.

Our job as the church is to wave goodbye to exclusivity.

What I want to see is a church that knows its place in the world. Our job is not to serve ourselves. Our job is not to make sure our groups are comfortable and glorified. Our job is not to make sure we don't offend anyone. Our job is not to be comfortable at all. Our job is to reveal Jesus to the world and make certain that the picture we paint of HIM actually resembles HIM.

I think John Cusack said it best in a recent article for Vanity Fair when asked about his hero. He said, "Let's go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the Right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful."I don't know anything about John Cusack's politics or religion, nor do I really care. He may have said a thousand stupid things in the past, but this time he said something brilliant. 

This is Jesus the Christ, God in man, The Savior we no longer recognize because He might not look anything like us. If we want to recognize Jesus when he walks by, then it is high time we start looking just like HIM. 

It is time to get out of our comfortable pews with our comfortable friends and reach out to those who are truly in need. It is time to stop being territorial about our relationships and let love and relationships grow beyond our comfort zone. It is time to stop hiding behind a mask of earthly status and self-proclaimed importance. It is time to stop looking down on those that might actually need your friendship. It is time to make friends with someone you never thought you could. It is time to reach out and show love to the despised, the outcast of society, the lonely. It is time to show love because you ARE called to show love.  It is time to be Jesus instead of you.

I'm on board for the transformation. Are you?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I don't want to be satisfied with apathy.
I don't want to be satisfied with dull heartless monotonous "praise".
I don't want to be satisfied with giving just enough.
I don't want to be satisfied with the least commitment possible.
I don't want to be satisfied with the mistreatment of the outcast.
I don't want to be satisfied with exclusivity and so-called fellowship.
I don't want to be satisfied with this human condition of failure, and yet I'm stuck within it's bondage.

I want to be touched with compassion whether its behind me in a pew or when I drive past on the road.
I want to stand up and sing my heart out to God when others look on and laugh.
I want to give until I'm exhausted and chase after my creator until I can run no more.
I want to commit and show up even if that means I do so alone.
I want to love the unloveable, the undernourished, the forgotten, the despised.
I want to forget my earthly need for acceptance and run into the open arms of the Father.
I want to forgive myself and others for our human condition, and experience freedom from its chains.

I will not settle for less and neither should you.

Embrace what is real. Forget all that you see, the unreal, the temporary.
Cling to what is unseen for it alone has the power to satisfy.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Giving up: A parent's daydream.

Allow me a moment to be excruciatingly honest regarding parenting.
Sometimes, albeit rarely, sometimes I want to give up. I just want to run to my room, lock my door, climb into bed, cover my head up with a pillow, and pretend that no one else exists in the world... especially people shorter that four foot nine. I want to cry myself a river about how exhausting it is to parent. I want to make mac n' cheese everyday for three weeks and then begin a regime of ramen noodles for two months. I want to refuse to clean the bathroom. I would like to never under any circumstances set one toe inside my laundry room again. I'd rather burn my refrigerator in the neighbor's front yard while wildly dancing circles around the flames than clean it out one more time. Most of all I'd just like to stop hearing myself saying 'no'.

You wanna' pick your nose and wipe it somewhere that was once clean? Go right ahead.
You wanna' refuse to wash after going to the bathroom? Here's a snack.
You wanna' kick your brother for no reason? Be my guest.
You wanna' wear bright red lipstick and eyeliner at age ten? Here, take my mascara.
Oh, you're gonna throw a tantrum because he ate the last cracker? Ok. Pardon me, my bubble bath is getting cold.

We started daily summer bible studies last year, and it proved to be a big blessing. For the most part, this summer has also been great studying the bible with my kids. They are learning God's word, which is paramount to me. This morning started out like all the others except no one was focused. It came to a head when right in the middle of a song (Get Away Devil, don't bother me!) my youngest began screaming because his older brother stomped on his foot. Then, of course, we heard the always present justification of (I bet you can guess) "he stepped on me first!" 

On any other day this would be a normal occurrence, and I just would address the stomping of feet, redirect everyone's attention and move on. Except today, of all days, the lesson was on the temptation of Christ. We had JUST talked about temptation and making good decisions even when everyone else around us is being naughty. I just sat there stunned with the realization setting in that perhaps none of this time, none of this effort will ever pay off in the end. 

Maybe my children will never accept Christ as Savior. Maybe my children will walk away from their parent's faith. Maybe the world will triumph over them and will win in this tug of war for their hearts. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it, but maybe all my prayers and love will be in vain. In the end, my children make the decision to follow or not follow Christ. I can't make that decision for them.

In that moment, I wanted to run my room and hide behind my locked door and give up. I wanted to just not try, rather than try and watch them take a different road. I wanted to drown out all whining and squealing with my pillow and somehow justify never mentioning God to them again and never making them sit and listen to another story of Christ. I mean, after all, bible knowledge won't get them into heaven, right!?! Just because you can recite verse after verse of scripture it doesn't make you holy or righteous. What a waste of time! They could be out playing and soaking up that summer sun! I need to log some hours of work anyway. They'll learn all this stuff in Sunday school. They don't need me.

Then the words of the silly song we were singing began to sink in...

'Get away devil, don't bother me. 
Jesus has set me free. 
Get away devil, don't bother me. 
For I belong to God's family.
I will, I will, I will do what God says!
I will, I will, I will do what God says!'

and I realized my temptation was to give up and walk away from my responsibility as a parent.

It is easier to not parent. 
It is easier to let children raise themselves. 
It is easier to never discipline your child. 
It is easier to never make them eat peas. 
It is easier to take all the responsibility and hand it to them and hope they end up OK.
It is easier to never expect them to memorize scripture.
It is easier to never expect anything from them.
It is easy to give up. 

As of now, I don't want to take the easier road. They are worth me trying. Even though, they will indeed make their own decisions about life and Christ, I never want to look back and regret not taking the time to teach them and prepare them just a little for what the world will dish out. Either I will fill their hearts with the knowledge of God, or the world will fill their hearts with something very different. I want to be first to fill their little minds.

I'm not giving up. True love always perseveres. I want to love them, truly. 

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Love Labels.

Ten years ago, keeping up a weekly duty, my ministering dad wrote a bulletin article. I wanted to share some tidbits from this article on Father's day to celebrate not only a faithful servant of God, but to share that I come from a long line of love and compassion for the hurting. May I ever strive to maintain and honor this legacy.

There is a noticeable change in our world today in the realm of compassion. It seems that even in the church compassion has lost its touch for fellow Christians. Compassion is seeing and understanding the hurting and distress of others, along with doing what one can to help and alleviate it, thus helping the emotional, grieving, and trying situations of others within the body of Christ. It is a spiritual consciousness of the personal tragedy of another. 
In our society there are many organizations that truly do tremendous work, and certainly we honor them for their great efforts to serve humanity. But, what we must realize is that does not take the place of our personal responsibility in the family of God. Just because we give to a charitable organization, including the collection plate at worship, does not mean that we have accomplished our duty with showing compassion. We all need to be aware of the body of Christ and not neglect to show compassion. 
This week think upon the sanctity of human life and the preciousness of life itself. Try to think beyond self and realize how precious each life is, just as Jesus did with a complete stranger, one that was caught in adultery, John 8:3-11. Many have walked out of the presence of the church because of never being made to feel a part or even feeling a heartbeat of compassion. These may be just the ones that needed so desperately to be a part of the body of Christ for their mere existence. 

I've been labeled a lot things in my life. Some labels I own. Others I do not. Certainly, the only label that matters is Christ. But here are a couple more that I wear with pride:

I am the daughter of a lover of THE LORD. I am the daughter of a man who gave years of his life to serve the hurting, the seeking, the lonely. He gave up riches and earthly status. He served with humility when doors slammed in his face. He left the land of his youth, his family, and his home to serve the King of Kings. He was faithful and loyal to his wife and raised his daughters to know the Lord. He served one Master, and one alone. He lifted his head high through mocking from even the closest of relations as he looked up to his Savior and focused on the mission. I am proud to be his daughter. If you must label me a PK (preacher's kid), do it. I love it. I own it.

I am the wife of a lover of THE LORD. I am the wife of a man who devotes his life to sharing God's love and His Word with the young. I am the wife of a man who loves an age group who takes a lot of hits just for being young, and yet he loves them. I am the wife a man who passionately wants to see the church serve the hurting, the seeking, the lonely. I am the wife of a man who left the land of his youth, his family and his home to serve the King of Kings. He is faithful and loyal to me and raises his children to know the Lord. He serves one master, and one alone. He lifts his head high through mocking from even the closest of relations as he looks up to his Savior and focuses on the mission. I am proud to be his wife. If you must label me a minister's wife, do it. I love it. I own it.

Finally, if you must label me, label me with Christ. Label me as one who will seek out the hurting and reach out to the community. Label me as the noisemaker that tries to remind the church to remember it's place as 'servant' and not 'the served'. Label me as a lover of the LORD and of the mission to serve and to share HIS love.

Thank you, Father, for my daddy. Thank you for his example of what a servant of Christ is. Thank you for his heart of compassion.

Thank you, Father, for my husband. Thank you for his example of what a servant of Christ is. Thank for for his heart of compassion.

Thank you, Father, for loving us even when we neglect to love others.

Father, help me to raise my children to remember and honor this legacy of Love. Help me to raise servants of Your cause of Love.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Main Thing.

A few weeks ago I heard a story about a man somewhere in India this year that was murdered because he called on Christ as his Savior. He was attacked after watching his mother-in-law doused in gasoline burn alive. She also was Christian. His young wife and children fled to the forest where they heard daddy scream as each of his fingers were broken one after the other while the attackers demanded him to renounce his faith. He refused to deny Christ and was buried alive after his fingers, arms and legs were broken.

His widow was quoted saying,"But God is alive, and I am surviving only through him... I just want my story to be a testimony to the love of Christ."

Dear sweet widow, you are a testimony to the love of Christ.

Here I sit. Typing on a computer in my comfortable jeans after eating left-over pizza. I ran for fun this morning. I mulled over what to make for dinner and scheduled my weekend plans. I casually mentioned to a friend today that I'd pray for her. Later today I'll drive across the street to a beautiful air conditioned church building to decorate my bible class for the next quarter with the materials provided by the church education department. I'll laminate the summer bible home-schooling material for my kids. I'll finish the laundry where I will most definitely fold countless Christian t-shirts for my youth minister husband.

I don't know why God put me here. I don't know why I have the luxury to get fat on an abundance of food. I don't know why I have the freedom to have bible studies with my friends and my family. I don't know why I'm here, and that widow is not. I do know, that I wouldn't have the graceful words that she had after experiencing the loss of her mother and her beloved husband.

I changed after hearing this story.

All of our wants and petty grievances fade when we truly recognize how great we have it. How absolutely spoiled rotten we are!

We are weak. We can't even commit our schedules to Christ. We are so busy justifying our escape from commitment. We are, however, very committed to ourselves. We struggle to appreciate our own community of believers. We prioritize all of our life and forget about the most important things...the main thing.

I admire this widow. She still believes despite all. She gets it. She knows the main thing is Christ and nothing else. How much we would confuse her as we struggle for more things, more self, and ignore masses who need the Lord.

This verse echoed in my mind when I look around to see my abundance and my freedom:
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48
May I ever strive to serve the Lord of whom I profess to love. May I ever strive to be Christ to the world.

There are many more stories like this one believe it or not. You can find them on the Voice of the Martyrs website.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When all is said and done.

It won't matter what bag I carried,
what team I cheered for,
what mascara never smudged,
what car I drove,
what my occupation was,
whether my children loved me,
whether my marriage failed or succeeded,
whether I was popular,
whether I owned a home,
whether I made any money at all,
what I wore to prom,
what state I lived in,
whether you like me or not,
what my furniture looked like,
what brand of clothing/jewelry/makeup I used,
whether my hair was short/long/or completely gone,
whether I lost the extra baby weight or not.

When all is said and done, all that matters is if I loved others the way Christ loved me.

You see, I can work my hardest to try to fit in.
I can work my hardest to lose a ton of weight or none at all.
I can work my hardest to make more money than anyone else.
I could even work my hardest to try to please everyone just so they'll love me back.

When all is said and done, my work is meaningless unless I love others the way Christ loved me.

We could build the biggest safest church building.
We could offer the best Sunday School in town.
We could create the flashiest worship service.
We could hire the most gifted preacher this side of the Mississippi,
We could sing the most beautiful songs and congratulate each other on a job well-edified.

But, when all is said and done our church is pointless and futile, unless we love others the way Christ loved us.

Christ loved the dirty, the broken, the hurting, the loud, the unwanted, the forgotten, the needy. He loved the dangerous, the threatening, the sinful, the scorned. Do we?

When all is said and done I never want to look back and question what I loved.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Unforgiving Forgiven.

Can you be forgiven if you are unforgiving? I think about this sometimes. Christ thought it was a good idea to forgive others.
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." Matthew 6:14
However, from one professional grudge holder to the other, this seems a lot to ask. So you are telling me, Lord, that I must forgive everyone...but what about that guy? You know that guy. The guy who totally ripped my heart out in high school for a prettier model? Or that other guy that I've heard about...the guy who has been accused of everything from child molestation to abandoning his own family and drowning a litter of puppies in the process?

What about that porn addict?
What about that murderer?
What about that jerk who daily cheated on his wife then left her?
What about that lady who won't say anything nice to save her life?
What about that man who killed thousands?
What about that "dad" who abused his baby girl?
What about the lady who gossips about my best friends, myself and my family but acts like my best friend at church?

Do I have to forgive those people? Do I? HONESTLY?

What about the people who hate you, Jesus? Do I forgive them?

Mark Sishel a writer for Psychology today had this to say in his article Find Freedom in Forgiveness.
"Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting and hoping that the other guy get sick. Resentment refers to the mental process of repetitively replaying a feeling, and the events leading up to it, that goads or angers us. We don't replay a cool litany of "facts" in a resentment; we re-experience and relive them in ways that adversely affect us mentally, emotionally, physiologically and spiritually. The inability to overcome resentment probably constitutes the single most devastating impediment to repairing close relationships."
I have a history of making stupid analogies that make complete sense to me, but not to anyone else. My husband routinely teases me for these ridiculous analogies. Today, I will share one with you and you can laugh from afar and I won't hear you...

Forgiveness reminds me of the hungry lion at the zoo. If you get too close to that cage that hungry lion will instinctively snatch your child and eat him. You'll be sad, of course, but you'll forgive that lion because he was hungry and acting on instinct. But what you won't ever do is walk too close to that cage with your other kid. Actually, what I would do is call for the lion's painful demise while I watch...but that is getting away from the analogy. Generally it is at this point my husband rolls his eyes and reminds me I should never try to create analogies in the first place.

Unfortunately, I often use my amazing memory of the lions in my life as an means to never really forgive. You see while God does expect me to forgive, it's the forgetting that often gets in the way. I really like to tell myself and everyone else that I've forgiven those that have hurt me, and then because I place a high priority on self-preservation I hang on to every detail of the pain and hurt that was inflicted refusing to trust the perpetrator or anyone remotely like them ever again. Often I recount the details of the wounding, just to remind myself of the injustice. You see, I love justice. I would like to avenge so many wrongs in the world. However, I am not the avenger. God is. And my ever growing memory (that eventually will inspire hatred by the way) will merely create more sin...but this time I carry the burden of sin not that guy, that guy that hurt me in the first place, that guy who in realty is likely already forgiven by God.

The unfortunate aspect of being a self-proclaimed-justice-loving avenger is that we live in a fallen world. We live in a world where all have sinned. Yes, some definitely do a better job of it than others. Some appear more despicable in our eyes. Sin, my friends, is sin, and it all requires forgiveness. A good look in the mirror reminds me that forgiveness is needed right here at home. I feel that grudge holders exist because when your focus is on the sins of others it is easier to ignore your own.

Here's the point: When we refuse to forgive we breath venom that wounds masses all based on our search for justice. We hurt those around us and we give the real perpetrator in our spiritual walk control over our lives. When we refuse to forgive we defy Christ. We become the perpetrator and make ourselves out to be the infallible judge and jury. The rub is: we are all soooooo fallible. We all need forgiveness.

In my quest to offer forgiveness to those who have disappointed me, to those who have hurt me time and again, to those who have lost my trust, I hope I never give up the journey toward reconciliation and forgiveness. A man hung on a cross for me when I didn't deserve it. I owe Him the attempt at love for the underserving. I hope that I am offering others what I expect and hope God to daily offer me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mom Lessons.

My mom deserves more than a blog entry, but my mom would never ask for more. She, like many other moms, put herself last. My mom taught me many lessons by never saying a word. These are some of those life lessons.

My mom taught me to tell people how you feel, but to recognize that you may not always be right.

My mom taught me to go to worship even when you don’t feel like it, because you may bless others by being there and worship is not about us.

My mom taught me to always put my best foot forward as God expects our first fruits not our leftovers.

My mom taught me to respect authority. She never told me not to question, but she did expect me to respect my elders in word and deed.

My mom taught me that wisdom often means turning off the TV, walking out of movies, and walking away from negative friendships.

My mom taught me to never slander and to ignore gossip.

My mom taught me to work in and outside the home and never complain.

My mom taught me to be loyal to my husband even when irritated with him. A commitment is a commitment. A vow is a vow.

My mom taught me that it is OK to move away from parents to further the gospel because Jesus is number one.  She would rather have no other number one than Christ.

My mom taught me to appreciate home cooked meals and to always try something before deciding that you don’t like it…even okra.

My mom taught me to be a professional woman who doesn’t demand respect, but one who displays it and earns it.

My mom taught me that you will, indeed, catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

My mom taught me that beauty comes from the inside… and a little mascara.

My mom taught me to appreciate the creation by planting a garden and watching God provide the increase. If the weeds come, don’t complain just get rid of them before they kill the beans.

My mom taught me to never demand gifts, never expect praise, and never pout till getting attention. Although, gifts from her were many, praise constant, and attention from her consistent.

My mom taught me that feminism was faulty, but that equality was God-given.

My mom taught me to never stop learning.

My mom taught me that money does not bring happiness, and that life is not found in things. Birthdays and Christmas are not about gifts.

My mom taught me to put Christ at number one, my husband at number two, my children at number three, and my church family at number four. All else is somewhere down the priority list.

My mom taught me that living right is a better means to teach the gospel than just talk. She said, "actions speak louder than words." Nevertheless, words are what spread the gospel and she taught me to never be ashamed to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.

My mother means many things to me: She is my role model, an example of professionalism, motherhood, ministry and womanhood. She taught me the message of Christ and passed down a rich heritage of faith. She was/is faithful to her Lord, my God. She was/is loyal to her husband, my dad.  I am who I am because of my mother.

I love you mom. I miss you, but I know, more than anyone else, you understand.

Happy late Mother’s Day, mom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Treadmills and Broken Toys.

Training your son to 'turn the other cheek' in a culture where the 'boys will be boys' philosophy reigns is more than difficult. Like most boys, my boys are active wiggly noise makers. I love them for that. From day one with each of my children, my goal has been to teach them biblical wisdom rather than merge them into the pop cultural trend of the moment. For my daughter this is surprisingly gender equalizing, thanks to my good friend Paul, the apostle. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, we are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28

For my sons, this is a wee bit more difficult.

I can't tell you which plays into gender roles more, nurture or nature. We could debate that all year, I suppose. What I can express to you, from my experience, is that to some degree both nurture and nature create who our children are and become. A fact that should wake parents up any day of the week.

My experience with my eldest son has been quite educational to say the least. He is the proverbial bull in the china cabinet... but with a heart that breaks when he discovers his guilt in breaking the china. He is a jewel, indeed. He is all boy, as they say, without a doubt! But with the addition of a rare tenderness and compassion that keeps him from walking away from a hurting friend on the playground. In our house we believe that self-control is paramount and that there is no excuse for hurting another person whether in play or retaliation hence the 'turn the other cheek' philosophy.

The last few weeks we've worked on training him to play gently with his toys rather than launch them across the house for use as artillery especially when our pug dog is in close proximity. He's doing better and better with this. We made a deal the other day that if I found another broken toy, he would lose that toy for good to someone else or to the trash can. He agreed to this and vowed to do a better job of being careful and respectful of his things.

Tonight as I tucked him into bed I noticed two toys broken on the floor. I asked him about it, and he knew where the conversation was heading. He confessed to throwing them and then began to sob. Between gasps for breath as he dramatically waved good-bye to a trick-track robot he said, "Mommy! My heart wants to be good! My heart is so good! My body, though. It messed up! It's bad, Mommy, but my heart is good! Really it is!" I stopped in my tracks.

My sweet son's middle name is Paul. Immediately, it was my good friend Paul, the apostle, that came to my mind again.

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." Romans 7:15
"For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." Romans 7:18 
I run. Every morning I run on a treadmill. I hate it, but I need to do it. I know it is good for me. Those endorphins give me energy and mood boost, and so I begrudgingly do it. This very morning as I sweat through the first half of mile 2, I just stopped. I gave up. While gasping for air and dragging myself over to my water bottle, I started telling myself how stupid it is to run on a treadmill. You never get anywhere (especially when you keep stopping before finishing your two mile goal). Suddenly, I began thinking about my life. I began to dwell on where I wanted to be by now.

I wanted to run a 5 K. Clearly, I'm not ready.
I wanted to weigh 20 pounds less at this age. Again, clearly, not happening.
I wanted to be kinder to my husband.
I wanted to publish a book.
I wanted to have a regular prayer life.
I wanted to finally organize my closet.
I wanted to have read through the Bible X amount of now.

The list goes on and on. I think our Savior sums it up nicely for us when he said, "The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41.

I climbed up to the top bunk to hug away my son's frustration and tears tonight. We talked about Paul. We talked about how hard it is to make good choices when everything around us tells us otherwise. I confessed to him that I mess up everyday. (He didn't seem as surprised at my fallibleness, or imperfection, as I had expected. I guess my kids notice more than I thought.) We prayed together that God give us the strength to try even when it seems we are not getting anywhere.

My good friend Paul, also apparently frustrated by this treadmill life, doesn't leave us alone on our worn conveyor belts hurdling our broken toys. He reveals that there is an end in sight. Praise God!
"There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of LIFE  has set your FREE from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1
Friends, bad days come. Horrible decisions happen. The attempt to try is what we cannot give up. We may lose battle after battle after horrifying battle, but our Savior has won the war. When we couldn't, he did, and I'm so very thankful we can share in the victory.

" all these things we are more than conquerors through HIM who loved us." Romans 8:37

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trampoline Anticipation and Easter.

Last summer we bought a trampoline for the backyard. I can’t describe the joy and laughter that came with the addition of this bouncy death trap. We all, yes myself included, bounced our way through the summer and learned all sorts of tricks that our ogling neighbor witnessed. I'm sure we gave him more dinner conversation than he'd like. We dismantled our new toy in late fall to keep it in good condition for the next year.

Almost daily since February my daughter has asked her daddy when he would put the trampoline back up. I'm not going to mince words here, he's sick of hearing about the trampoline. If my daughter forgets to ask, then one of the boys dutifully fill in for her. It has nearly driven my sweet husband crazy. He finally set a date to put the thing up thinking the questions would stop. (Are all the mothers out there laughing?) Now, like any other normal child, they ask him every morning while he is pouring his first cup of coffee..."Daddy how much longer till the day we put up the trampoline?" I can tell you that the day that broken-leg-waiting-to-happen goes up there will be so much rejoicing from both parties that the neighborhood will undoubtedly hear cheers and shrieks of joy. My husband may shed tears as he walks in relieved of his duties.

This same man that my children harass daily about the trampoline is also the man they eagerly wait to see everyday. Every day I hear the question, "When is daddy going to be home?" Every day I watch my six year old son sit in the window and wait with anticipation for his “best friend daddy” to come home. And when daddy gets home it is always as if he's been gone for weeks; six little feet run to hug him...and to ask about the trampoline.

On Sunday some wonderful soul had the notion to put a countdown on the screen to let us know when worship was to begin. My daughter and her close friend counted down with the timer. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2…

Every Sunday we have the opportunity to worship our Father, our awe inspiring Creator. I wish I had the sweet eagerness, expectancy, and anticipation of my children. I wish every day closer to Sunday was full of more excitement and thrill. I wish everyone who professed Christ had the keen conviction that one day a week for one small hour we have the blessing to stand together before the Lord and say "Thank you, Glorious Father for setting us free from sin and death!"

I promise you, if we all shared this anticipation for worship there would no longer be discouraged worship ministers and preachers asking themselves what they are doing wrong. Meager, monotonous and thoughtless Sundays would be replaced with joyous momentous and memorable worship where God is praised and His people are edified.

Easter is upon us, dear ones.
Easter: the day we are reminded of our triumphant Savior, our generous Savior.
Easter: when the rest of the world recognizes a Christian day that proclaims the very gospel of our risen Lord.
Easter: the day that brings us to our knees in unworthiness and exalts us to an unfathomable redemption.

I am here to tell you, every day is Easter. I am here to tell you, every Sunday praise service is an opportunity to remember Easter. He is the reason we rejoice. He is the reason we sing. He is the reason we are.

We don’t just meet together to beat the Baptists to the IHOP, friends. We don’t come together on Sunday’s to share the latest iphone purchase or compare the latest shoe sale find. We are not there to proclaim us. We are there to proclaim Him. Forget you. Praise Him.

This Easter season, may you eagerly and with anticipation make time to come together with a body of believers and worship our Savior. Recognize the wonder and unfathomable greatness of an undeserved salvation through the perfect Lamb. Praise Him with all you have. Sing without shame. Experience and share the joy of our risen Lord. Worship. Anticipate the arrival of our King. He is risen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sweater Sin.

I own a wool sweater.
I wear it everyday.
I've tried to remove it time and time again.
Yet, it stays.

I own a wool sweater.
It fits perfectly on me.
I suffocate and fall under it's weight.
Chains bind the seams.

I own a wool sweater.
I knitted it myself.
The thread I chose is my hate, my jealousy
My lust for filth.

I own a wool sweater.
Unraveling at such slow pace.
Threads slowly fall to ground as I stretch
to touch that gift of grace.

I'm owned by a wool sweater.
That I knit and mend.
My sweater owns me.
I'll wear it again and again.

I'm enslaved to my own creation;
though it slowly crushes my heart.
But, I'm comfortable in my cell, snuggled in.
Cozy in my art.

Save me from my sweater.
Save me from my sin.
Free me from this weight I wear,
and I'll finally know heaven.

I long to rip it away.
I'd gladly shrug it off.
Save me, free me
from the weight of my self-inflicted cross.

His cross is the first hole.
His death is the first pull.
He rose and the sweater unravels for good.
My freedom now is full.

I owned a wool sweater.
He wore it just for me.
He bore the weight, my addiction.
And now I'm eternally free.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Month on a Deserted Island: Week 2.

The world has changed. A Facebook fast makes TV news not really relevant again, but a revived necessity, and I am not impressed. I miss my friends' commentaries and the timely posting of news and/or updates from friends. Thanks to social media all you have to do is sign in to that blue news wonder and voilĂ  you know if your friend in Japan survived an earth-axis changing, island moving 8.9 earthquake (provided they can get to a computer). Why exactly would I choose to sit through our local traffic report when a friend across the ocean may or may not be in a life threatening situation? Internet news sources continue to threaten the populous' opportunities to improve patience.

Please continue to pray for the people of Japan.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolation he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

He says, "Be still, and know that I am God";
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

~Psalm 46

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Month on a Deserted Island: Definitions.

Superfluous communication, constrained intimacy, imaginary commitment and zero accountability: that's what I've decided defines that majority of Facebook relationships. I am the last person on earth to completely trash the medium. I love it. After being without it for almost week, I miss it. I still believe a good lunch date wins in a death match between the two relational options.

Superfluous communication, constrained intimacy, imaginary commitment, and zero accountability often define something else: the church.

As soon as the name Jesus is out there brains everywhere make the decision to turn off or look away. It is not surprising that is the case. It is a divisive name, and has been since the first miracle, I suspect. I don't really want or expect that response from the church, however. There are two issues I've struggled with over the last few years regarding the church. The first has to do with our lack of intimate relationships with each other. The second regards our lack of commitment to our creator, our Savior, and the church in general.

Are we recreating the flaws of digital media within our church walls? Is our goal to please the masses and ignore the life-change that Christ expected? Is our goal to create a safe haven for social networking rather than an intimate family of believers? Is our goal to quietly blend in with our cultural surroundings and never make definitive statements to avoid controversy? If so, I'm on the wrong ship and need to get off. I do not want these paths away from scripture to define my faith system.

You see, I shudder to think that this miraculous provision of grace becomes our permission slip to neglect our walk with the Savior and our commitment to His body, the church. In my favorite gospel, John, is the beautiful story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus draws a line in the sand separating this woman from the onslaught of Pharisees standing ready to throw stones. He saves her in two ways, he silences the accusing crowd by asking the first sin-free person to take the first shot at this woman. Secondly, He saves her from the path she was on when He says, "I don't condemn you either, go, and from now on sin no more."

Friends, he expected her to change her life. He didn't say, "yep, you are OK right where you are. We don't expect anything out of you!" He said, "Go, I'm not condemning you, but cut it out."

When Jesus fulfilled the law, his expectation for how we live did not change or diminish. Rather, he expected more out of us. He expected our thoughts, our actions, everything in our lives to be focused on living for and loving our God. He did not abandon us to depravity or to addiction. He freed us from the bounds of eternal damnation, thanks to grace. But He also didn't give us a free pass to live in sin! Read the gospel of Matthew, if you disagree. Christ was all about the denial of self. Unfortunately we live a culture that is all about pleasing self. Do we adhere to happiness doctrines rather than holiness requirements?

I am a sinner. I fall short every day. I don't excuse myself for that behavior. I know I will mess up again. I won't excuse myself from that either, none of us should. Thanks to Christ! He set me free from the punishment of the law. Grace covers my sin, but does not assume I'll still live within it. Romans 6:1 states, "Are we to continue in sin so grace may abound? By no means~ How can we who died to sin still live in it?"

I suppose what I'm looking for is an authentic search for what Christ desires from us. I long for a renewed commitment to the word of God. I seek a passion for reverent and spiritual worship. Really, I never want our churches to reflect a convenient digital connection. I am ready to define our churches as deep, challenging, authentic, and devoted.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Month on a Deserted Island: Day 1.

Cutting an addict off, cold-turkey, of social networking is deadly. OK, maybe not deadly, but at the very least ridden with emotional compulsive eating. A few weeks ago I decided to give up Facebook for lent. I’m not Catholic, but I love the tradition of sacrifice preparing for the joy of the resurrection. Last year I gave up sweets and it was no big deal with exception of the lack of Cadbury Eggs in my pre-Easter diet. This year I wanted to dig deeper and choose something that affected my daily life, something big. So, I waved goodbye to Facebook almost 48 hours ago.

Day one flew by with no problem. My best friends and family have my phone numbers and email so we are keeping in contact that way. (I developed a quick resentment of email now, by the way, but hesitate to say anything too harsh as it is my sole digital communication with the world outside of this blog and recognizing I could still be waiting for a guy to show up on a horse with a handwritten letter without it.) What in the world did we do before email? I mean, really, I wrote letters to pen pals in the third grade and waited for weeks to hear from them. Weeks! Now, if my best friend in Germany needs me she pushes a button, and there I am staring at her thanks to Skype. Thank you God for computers!

The worst hit me today. I made a new friend and we had a fun lunch together watching our boys gather germs at our local McDonald's. She tells me how much she loves Facebook, and I think to myself “Yes, a new Facebook friend!” It was actually an awkward moment in the conversation, when I’m supposed to say, “Hey, I’ll be your Facebook friend!” Instead, I opted to just change the subject rather than try to explain why I would do such a ridiculous thing as to give up my digital life for a month. Hopefully, it will work out and I won’t have a friend request waiting for four weeks. She’ll probably wonder why I won’t friend her right away and decide I'm a social network snob.

Facebook is clearly a waste of time. Yesterday I did four loads of laundry, cleaned the house, and mended a Hockey Jersey for my husband, a housework feat previously unrivaled in our home. However, I missed my friends, and I am not too proud to tell you I missed reading status updates. Wow, I feel like a loser now.

Facebook cannot nor ever will make you a better person, but I believe that for folks like me who have moved all over God’s creation, it is a huge blessing. For friends who are separated by oceans, it is God-send. I am thankful for it, and yesterday I was reminded of how I am not an island. I need people, even if just digitally. Clearly, previously established relationships make social networking more fruitful in my life. I don’t believe purely digital relationships are healthy or even 100% genuine, but for maintaining, and I would say even building on established relationships, Facebook works.

I believe God made us this way, to have real connections. We need each other, but we need more than status updates. Having lunch and laughing with a friend warms and feeds the soul so much more than checking in on profile picture changes or reading 500 fairly impersonal birthday wishes. Birthdays are much more fun when you share cake with friends.

I don’t believe the digital world will ever conquer the real world and I am so thankful to live in and have access to both. The relationships I have with my Tuesday Ladies Bible Class are so sweet and you just can't replace those kinds of relationships with well-written blogs or funny viral Youtube videos. It is so much more fun to hear laughter and to feel hugs rather than just accumulate fake pokes and useless garden apps. Today I was reminded that yes, I love my Facebook account, but if given the choice I will choose a greasy burger lunch date every time because words on a screen never actually replace the people who type them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Anxious Death.

Several weeks ago my closest friends and I determined to read a book together and discuss via facebook message chapter by chapter. We chose a book called So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore. I was reluctant to jump on the Beth Moore bandwagon, but I will tell you that I am pleasantly surprised by the blessing this book has offered my life. The funny thing is for a typical female, like me, who is plagued by the abundant amount of insecurity that this culture slathers on with airbrushed beauties begging me to buy more and weigh less, there were times while reading that I felt even more insecure simply because I was reading a book on insecurity. Sounds maniacal, doesn’t it? Welcome to my world.

This morning I received my daily text from my dad. Every morning I count on hearing from him with a weather report and an “I love you”. I treasure each message and I admire that my retirement age daddy uses texting on his phone like a teenager with tendonitis. This morning the message was a little different. It read, “Good morning Sweetheart. Beautiful day, beautiful clouds with a sunrise shining through. God is in control and we experience the beauty. My sister is getting ready to go and be with HIM. The years have been so short from Eskota (TX) to now. Make memories and treasure them. I love you. Because HE always lives! Dad”

Yesterday, I let anxiety control me. Every second of my day was consumed with worries, which lead to panic, which lead to anger. Moments that should be shared with my sweet children stole away with my arrogant demand for control in my life. This morning, I regret yesterday. I regret allowing anxiety to control me. I regret making anxiety my God. I regret making ME my God.

My dad faces the death of his sweet sister with hope and with joyous memories of a beautiful rich life. My dad leans on the everlasting arm of the Father in the face of the biggest trial of life, our earthly goodbye. Yesterday, I spent my day with obnoxious concerns over the economy and a grumpy persons ill temper when ahead what waits is the glorious bountiful eternity that my family will reach one day. I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I wasted my time.

I don’t know about you, but when I give anxiety and insecurity the steering wheel of my life, I become mean. I place blame on others. I lose my temper. I lose sense of reality. I lose time, sleep, and fingernails. I give in to my human need for control and end up frantically clawing my way through life leaving scars on everything and everyone I come in contact. I make MOUNTAINS out of molehills and stomp around like my four year old on his way to a time-out.

Here's what I've come to: Insecurity and anxiety are intentional steps taken to slap God's promise of faithfulness in the face and say "I don't trust you to take care of me". If we let insecurity and anxiety control us, we make ourselves miserable and end up stressing every relationship we have.

The blessing of a family of believers is this: There is no fear in death, only peace. The blessing of having a believing father is this: peace in a death when other anxious and non-faithful souls revel in hysteria. The blessing of having a provisional heavenly FATHER is this: He is God and HE has me and all whom I love in HIS hand. God is God and we are not, and that, my friends, is peace.

When you live a life of anxiety and insecurity you are clinging to death. With every fiber of your being you scream I want earth! I want this life! I want control! When you embrace insecurity you willingly let the evil one control you. When you embrace anxiety you make YOU and YOUR plan more important than God’s plan.

I don’t want that. I want real life, a life controlled by the Father. I want a life that allows me to hold my head high and walk away from the craziness and hysteria of imaginary control. I want a life of leaning on the arms of the Father and relinquishing control to HIM, the maker of heaven and earth.

I will not fear death. I will not fear life. I will not fear people who attempt to control either. My God is in control and my family is on their way to meet HIM. When I get there these trivial annoyances, these pebbles in my shoe will be a distant and painless memory.

I pray that I am reaching a point of spiritual maturity that my daddy reached a long time ago.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The LORD in the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh,my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I will seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in HIS temple.

For HE will hide me in HIS shelter in the day of trouble;
HE will conceal me under the cover of HIS tent;
HE will lift me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:1-5

How silly of me to think that I should be insecure! Look at my Father! Look at what HE has done! He has paid the check, made me beautiful, and taken care of my enemy. He took on anxiety and insecurity and snuffed them out with a renewed breath of life in HIS SON! He has made it so not even death is anxious. Goodbye death! HELLO LIFE!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Words on Worship.

When raised on the mission field chances are you either hear your dad preach every Sunday or, if you are like me, you hear him preach and lead singing every Sunday. Lucky for me my dad is not only an excellent public speaker, but a very gifted musician. My best memories of my daddy are not only listening to him lead singing, but watching him sing. You see, he doesn’t just pay attention to the key signature and notation, although he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t just wave his arm around and mark time. He believes what he sings, and you can tell by watching. His heart is in the music. His heart is in worship. There is no where that my daddy would ever want to be, than singing his heart out to his heavenly Father. I love him for that example.

Now, if you are going to be a part of the Hale family (my family of origin), you must sing. That doesn’t necessarily mean you must sing well, although I’d say most every one of my relatives can sing beautifully or play an instrument or at the very least pretend (like my Uncle Richard). Music, and the appreciation thereof, is a big part of family life and memories for me. I’m trying to pass that love down to my children.

My husband’s first awkward encounter with a Hale music-fest was while we were dating. Bless his heart, he tried. He must love me, because that man sat through duets of A Closer Walk with Thee, trios of the Ivory Palaces, and my dad’s relentless music education till my sweetheart was red-faced, exhausted, and certain he had entered the twilight zone. He had to know the truth about us though before the wedding certificate was signed and the bank accounts merged.

In my family we sing. We sing, and we love it. It is a little weird to the outsider, but we accept our weirdness with pride and beautiful harmonies. For this reason, our worship in song is more than a big deal to me, it is my edification, my weekly renewal. Just as I watched music breathe life into the relationships within my family, I believe music can breathe life into the body of believers and unite one hundred different souls into one glorious chorus.

Growing up in the faith, having opportunity to live in six states, and sharing in communion and praise with my European friends, I have witnessed a lot of variance in worship styles. I have preferences because I am who I am. I don’t think you can separate someone from their worship preference any more than you can separate them from their eye color. I will confess that I get homesick for my preference sometimes, and I grumble. I also confess that my surroundings often dictate my worship behavior which, personally, I believe is much worse than grumbling about my preferences.

Today we sang a song in praise that touched my heart, My God Reigns. The chorus of this song speaks to a worship without shame and shouting to proclaim that God indeed reigns. The verse of this song claims that there is no other place that I’d rather be than in worship with the Father. I wonder how often that is true with believers like me, the life-ers.

I’m going to be really open here and say that I bore easily. Routine is comfortable to me, yet mundane. Life seems to just plod by and if it gets too repetitive I stop thinking about intentionality or purpose. My mind drifts and I get easily frustrated and malcontent. God forbid that Sundays fall into a miserable monotonous purposeless routine!

I understand that worship is a week long function. We worship God in all we do every day, which is why how we live is so significant. Because, after all, how we live reflects the Father. I believe with all my heart that worship is a daily occurrence.

However, often we lose sight of the vital significance of corporate worship and praise. In the biblical texts the pattern of the people in the Old and New Testament was to set aside a specific time to worship God with physical acts of worship. The old law of sacrifice is a physical act of worship and renewal. The Lord’s Supper, in the new law, is another physical act of worship when a body of believers come to praise and remember the Son. We have examples in scripture when the first century church came together with the purpose and the intent of worship.

There is a time for corporate worship and it is not meant to be our leftovers. Rather, corporate worship should be our first fruits of the week. It is not only a time of mutual edification. It is more importantly a time of love, praise, and thanksgiving to our Creator. He doesn’t need our worship for even the rocks cry out to proclaim Him. He deserves our worship. We offer Him our best, not our routine.

You see, worship acts as a horizontal edification tool when the vertical praise to the Father occurs. People who are invested in worshiping the Father are an encouragement to those around them. If you are missing the vertical, you are probably missing the horizontal. And unfortunately, if you are missing the horizontal, it might be time to ask some hard questions about the vertical. I believe this is God's plan for worship; to be praised and to encourage those in praise.

Here’s the heart of the matter: God wants your heart. He wants you to give all you have. Just like you want your kid’s attention sometimes; GOD wants your attention, and your reverence, and your praise. He doesn’t want your “just a minute” or your “when I’m ready” or your “I don’t feel comfortable”. He wants your heart, your whole heart.

Music has this uncanny ability to draw people out when they participate fully. I believe primarily God chose music for this reason as a means to worship. Ask any soprano; music is an intimate thing. I studied classical voice for eight years and taught for three, and I promise you that the voice is the most intimate instrument. I think that is why God loves it so much when we sing. It is an intricate part of who we are and singing out often requires our submission, our authenticity, and our vulnerability. When we reveal our heart to God in worship, He is set high above in our submission. He is compassionate and nurturing in our authenticity. He is all-powerful, almighty, and triumphant in our vulnerability. What you may think of as scary, lonely, or embarrassing, God sees as beauty and wonder. He sees your heart.

My questions for you today are these: Have you let routine dictate your heart in worship? Have you let a legalistic past determine your commitment to attending corporate worship? Are you fighting to maintain control or are you submitting authentically your vulnerability to God the Father?

My God Reigns.

There’s nowhere else that I’d rather be
Than dancing with You as You sing over me
There’s nothing else that I’d rather do
Lord than to worship You.

So rejoice, be glad, rejoice, O my soul!
For the Lord, your God, He reigns forevermore!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!
So, rejoice, be glad, your Father and your Friend
Is the Lord, your God, Whose rule will never end!
I rejoice, for my God reigns!

My God reigns and I dance the dance of praise!
My God reigns with a shout I will proclaim!
“My God reigns,” and I worship without shame!
My God reigns, and I will rejoice, for my God reigns!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Minister's Wives.

I did not get to go to worship today. I have a kid at home who can't seem to stop coughing and may visit the doctor tomorrow much to his chagrin. As I snuggled into the couch this morning with my sickly son and his eerily pale younger brother who no doubt will also be coughing by tomorrow, I thought about you.

Sundays, for me, are tough. If your husband is like mine, he is on call all through the worship service which means you pretty much single-parent it through the entire morning. Our congregation has children's worship hour, of which I am so very thankful because I get to actually participate in the service and hear the sermon. I have been in congregations though with little ones without children's worship, and I know how hard that is, believe me. Regardless of your kid duties on Sunday, it is a busy day for ministering families and unfortunately a work day.

I want you to know that I said a prayer for you this morning. I am blessed to have a lot of friends who are minister's wives, and I tried my best to remember each of you this morning and ask the Father to bless you and your family.

For so long I fought this role of minister's wife. I confess to you, I even resented it. I watched my mother in some rather unhealthy situations as a minister's wife and frankly those memories left some scars and bitterness in me. I'm still working through that. Today, I can tell you that I am glad to be a minister's wife and I love my husband for what he does and who he is. Today, I can't really see myself in any other role. I do wonder occasionally why in the world God chose to put me in these shoes as I really struggle with compassion and I have a huge bubble around me of required personal space. I generally avoid huggers. Nevertheless, God gave me these shoes, and I have decided to wear them with pride and the ever present humility that a ministering life provides.

I want you to know that I am thankful for you. I want you to know that I am not the only one who is thankful for you. You see, you may never hear a thank-you or an I appreciate you, but people do love you and appreciate you. I firmly believe that ministers wives are watched with a certain curiosity and questions of "how does she do it?" I also firmly believe that ministers wives are judged for crazy things that no other female worshiper is judged for. I would be lying if I said that doesn't bother me, but at this point in my life I am capable of leaving those worries behind to some degree.

Here's the thing: It is easy to look at our husbands and think God only called him to work for the church. My friends, some of the best words I ever heard spoken were at a minister's wives conference and the speaker shared in no uncertain terms that we were also called to this role as ministers. There certainly is no greater, or more obvious, call than to be married to the ministry. I mean, you definitely won't find justification in scripture for divorcing a youth minister simply because he is a youth minister, although some of you may have looked. I guess, I've been more like Jonah in running from this ministering life than accepting it. I don't want to run anymore, friends. Frankly, I am afraid of deep water and living in a fish for a few days does not sound so appealing no matter how much I love sushi.

It is time to own it. Do your best in this role in these shoes. Protect your children and raise them to know the Father. Stop trying to fit in with everyone in the congregation, because it just won't ever happen. Be there for people. Be there. Listen. Lead. Stand up for the cause of Christ, and stand up for your husband. Be flexible, and remember you are there to serve not to be served.

I know it can be hard. I know. I know it can be exhausting. There are days when I get selfish and I think when and where do the ministers get ministered? Find a way. Go to a lectureship or a conference. Get filled. Don't catch yourself running on empty. Because your family will pay for your weary heart and, in turn, the congregation you serve will also suffer. Don't grow bitter because you let yourself reach burn-out. You are responsible for your spiritual health, not your husband, not your church family, not your mom. You. You are responsible to commit to a relationship with the Father.

More than anything, I want you to pray. I want you to protect that relationship with the Father. Sometimes it is easy to get so busy with everyone else's faith struggles that we forget our own. I prayed today that your faith will also grow. Please don't sacrifice that. Someday, we'll all be retired from paid positions of church work, but our faith, my friends, never must retire. This relationship with our Father is long term. You may move one hundred times over the next ten years, but your Father is unchanging and won't be moved unless you walk away.

Please know, that it is a wonderful comfort for me to consider that all over the world today I have friends in the same line of work. I have friends singing the same songs of praise and communing together in memory of our Lord today, perhaps right now as I type these words.

I love you and I am so thankful for you and all that you do. Your work does not go unnoticed and the choices you make to live your life today for the creator and for others will have a lasting impact that will reach farther than our imaginations.

God chose you for these shoes. He chose you because you could do it. He chose you for your frailty. He chose you for your giftedness. He chose you.

Be blessed as you bless others.