I'm just a wife and mother who earnestly desires to grow in my faith and it's demonstration. DISCLAIMER! I have absolutely no problem with women in the clergy. As a matter of fact, I have several female pastors who I consider friends. In my home, the pastor is a male so the pronouns I use to refer to a pastor tend to be male. This is not a statement of any kind. Just a reflection of my every day life!

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Necessary Change

I’ve been away for quite some time because explaining where I am in my own personal growth is challenging at present.  I am finding my personal paradigms blown to bits with new ones being rebuilt that look nothing like what I used to think faith was and how it worked.  This passage – from Ted Dekker’s newest publication, “Waking Up:  How I Found My Faith by Losing It” – slapped me right in the face with an intense level of personal conviction.  I have so failed letting love define me and that has to change.  Read and do with this what you will; it’s just the latest step in a new way of looking at faith and how it affects my daily behavior.

“If there is one elephant in the room among most of us who call ourselves Christian, it is that what we think and say we believe and what we actually experience are all too often two, radically different realities.  Ironically, we ourselves are often the last to see this disparity.
We think and say we believe in Jesus, but we are anxious for tomorrow and cringe with fear in the face of the storm.  We think and say we love our neighbor and our enemy, but we court jealousy of those who have what we want, and we secretly despise those who lash out against us.
We are Christians from different denominations with various emphases in doctrine, yet in our daily lives we seem to be the same, often stumbling in darkness and feeling lost and condemning ouselves and those around us.
The evidence of our lives does not match our rhetoric.
Paul’s teaching was utterly clear:  The primary evidence show by those who know the Father is this:  love.  Jesus was just as clear:  Not just any love, but an extravagant expression of love that is kind to those who are cruel to us, not only those who show us love in return.  
As Paul wrote, a love that is patient, showing no jealousy or arrogance, keeping no record or wrong, not seeking its own and not provoked by another’s behavior.  These are the evidences of true love which flows from those who know the Father and his limitless love for them.
But it seems that we show all manner of evidence but the one that matters most.  We call ourselves Christian but we are not known for the kind of love Jesus said would mark his followers.  Have we lost the tune?  Are singing the wrong song?
We show the evidence of profound words to others, speaking truth in the tongues of men and angels, but we rise up in anger at our brother and are therefore as guilty as any murderer, as Jesus said.
We show the evidence of informed doctrine and all knowledge, having studied the Scriptures, and yet we do not love the lowest person as Christ, so our knowledge is worthless.
We may give all of our possessions to the poor and surrender our bodies to be burned and have faith to move mountains and heal disease, calling Him Lord, yet these profit us nothing if love does not rule our hearts.
We call ourselves born again, baptized in water and the Spirit.  We are diligent in taking communion, singing in choirs, serving the church, paying tithes, reading the Scriptures, fasting when called to humble ourselves, gathering in Bible studies, attending conferences, going on missions, voting for the right bills, and rehearsing our doctrine.
And yet rivers of love, joy and peace do not flow from us like living waters, and so, as Paul said, all of these profit us nothing.
Can you relate?
What matters isn’t our stated belief and doctrine but how we live and what we experience in the story of our lives, as Jesus, John, James, and Paul all make so abundantly clear.  It’s our actual experience and expression of life that shows us and the world what we truly believe and to waht extent we truly love, not what we say we believe or who we say we love.  If we say we have faith, but the working of our life don’t reflect that faith, that faith is either asleep or dead.  
This brings us back to the elephant in the room, easily seen by all.  We are not being who we say we are.  And if what we say we believe and what we experience in life are in conflict, we end up in misery.  One of the two must eventually yield.”

  

Thoughts on Freedom

There has been so much anger and frustration on social media lately.  From those feeling disenfranchised to those feeling as though they are being forced into certain behaviors . . . I’ve seen far too much arguing and “mud-slinging”.

Today is Independence Day.  July 4th.  The day we celebrate the fact that a rag tag bunch of rebels stood up to a tyrant and said, “You will no longer tax us without giving us a voice in how we are governed”.  So today, I choose, for just a few moments, to ignore all the politically polarizing media nonsense and focus on what freedom and living in this country has mean for me.

As an American . . .

. . . I was given a chance at an education right alongside the boys in my community.  In some countries, young girls STILL don’t have that option.

. . . I got to decide for myself if and where I attended college.  And when I wanted another degree, I had the freedom to pursue that too!  No one decided for me whether or not that would happen.  Again, for many women in our world this type of thing is only a dream.

. . . I got to choose my spouse.  My father didn’t marry me off to someone that would add to his own wealth or influence.  In pretty much every Muslim country in the world a woman’s husband is chosen for her and her opinion on the matter just doesn’t count.

. . . I got to choose how many children I had and how they would be educated.

. . . I have the freedom to choose if/when I will become involved in a church and exactly which faith practice I will adhere to.

. . . I have the freedom to voice an opinion without fear of imprisonment.

. . . and so many other things I too often take for granted!

I know that there are some things in our country that could be better.  I know we have an educational system that needs some seriously powerful, positive impact by people who truly understand and care about the field of education.  I am aware that there are some seriously needy people among us and we aren’t necessarily managing the resources to help them very well.  I believe that those I do not see eye to eye with in the world of politics are intelligent people who would likely be very willing to engage in a polite conversation about real, workable solutions.  And the great thing is, we have the freedom in this country to do just that – to solve problems and make our little corner of the world a little bit brighter.

To those who fought for and defended our freedoms – and continue to do so even now – thank you.  It doesn’t get said nearly often enough and this level of freedom is so ridiculously comfortable that we are ALL in danger of beginning to feel slightly entitled and arrogant.  But today I am grateful that – as woman of faith living in the U.S.A. – I have freedoms that are not a reality in every corner of the world for others like me.  And I just wanted to take a moment to remind myself just how good I have it.

The Rest of You

Just recently started reading “The Furious Longing of God” by  Brennan Manning.  Each chapter ends with two “Consider This” questions and I use them as journal prompts.  The questions are always profound and get me thinking about concepts I’ve never addressed on my own.  Just finished chapter 2, and one of the questions seemed worth sharing:

“There is the “you” that people see and then there is the “rest of you.”  Take some time and craft a picture of the “rest of you.” This could be a drawing, in words, even a song.  Just remember that the chances are good it will be full of paradox and contradictions.”

So there ya’ go.  I won’t be sharing my answer.  Partially because it was lengthy but mostly because it was REALLY honest and there are some things that are just not meant to be shared with others.  At least not right now.

Whatever you do, be honest with yourself.

By This, All Men Will Know

I have this horrible habit – I try diligently to mind my own business and seem to attract those who wish to discuss things loudly within my hearing.  It’s not that I try to eavesdrop – I just seem to be surrounded by those having what should be a private conversation at a very public volume.

One such conversation occurred recently – a woman was griping to her male companion (husband? friend? co-worker? Not sure) about a woman who she has significant difficulty getting along with.  In the speaker’s opinion, the woman in question has absolutely no redeeming qualities.  At least that’s what it sounded like.  She listed several flaws this woman has.  In the end, it sounded like the woman speaking and the woman she was bad-mouthing just have different ways of approaching tasks to be completed.

Then my heart broke when the woman finished with, “I just cringe every time I see that woman walking toward me in church.”  Wait.  You were verbally shredding a fellow believer?!  Pretty sure that’s not an okay thing to do.

John 13:34-35 “Let me give you a new command:  Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other.”

It’s simple – disciples of Jesus are recognized by the love they have for one another.  Not how ornate their church buildings are, not what style of music they use in worship, not what translation of the scripture their pastor uses . . . their love for the family of faith.  There is no escape clause in that command – we are to love one another in the same way God loved us.  Period.

My heart often breaks when I see the rage and animosity that has become a part of the internet culture.  We all want others to accept/support the causes that are nearest and dearest to our own hearts but we can often be heartless and unloving when interacting with others of different views.  But my encounter today tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  If followers of Jesus cannot love one another, how on earth can I expect those who don’t agree on “big” issues to treat each other lovingly?!  I’m not going to lie – what I overheard was also very convicting.  I’ve been guilty of the behavior I observed more often than I want to think about.  I screw up this command far too many times.

Let’s face it – followers of Jesus are humans.  We fail, fall down, sin, hurt others, get hurt, deal with disappointment or cause it . . . we all screw up.  But none of that is an excuse to treat each other harshly.  The command above is pretty clear.  It is our love for our brothers and sisters that will distinguish us as follower of Jesus.  It doesn’t mean we pretend not to have differences or that we act like we never disagree.  In fact, I personally think it would have MORE impact if those outside of the faith could see us deal with differences of opinion/disagreements with gentleness, empathy, compassion, and love.

As I said earlier, it was a convicting experience.  The challenge to myself sounds simple but is going to be a challenge – all those who claim to be followers of Christ are my family and I will seek to treat them with love first and foremost.  I have no delusions – it won’t be easy!  But it’s a behavior that needs to become so deeply ingrained in me that doing anything else would be impossible.

Being a Grownup

For most kids, there are those “exciting” birthdays – the 16th, the 18th, the 21st – and we often find ourselves counting down the days.  As parents, we also get focused on 5 (ready for school), 10 (double digits), 13 (a teenager in my house, what?!) . . . you get the idea.  And many a child or teenager has said, “I can’t wait till I’m a grown up and I can ________________”.  You can fill in the blank for yourself.

But sometimes being a grownup stinks.  Let’s be real.  Paying bills, going to work, car repairs, insurance costs, home maintenance . . . you get the idea.  Despite the belief of children, adults don’t get to do whatever they want.

The toughest part of being a grown up?  Controlling your mouth.  Using tact and diplomacy.  There are times that we simply want to call another person out and let them know EXACTLY what we think of them.  We may even have really juicy weapons/evidence to use against them to advance our own cause and foul up their agenda.  But a grown up doesn’t do that.  A grown up controls his or her tongue and even sometimes has to choose to be the bigger person.  James 3:2 says “We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths.  If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.” (MSG)

It’s not fun.  It isn’t easy.  But it is part of growing up.  Yes, there are times when we need to speak up.  And it’s best if we are diplomatic, tactful, and constructive when we speak.  But there are other times – and in my experience it’s the majority of times – when we must simply keep our mouths shut and let the other person “win”.  And it’s SOOOO hard.  Believe me.  It would be so much easier – quicker, immediately more satisfying, etc. – to simply lower ourselves to the level of the other person and venting everything we know or feel.  Easier, yes.  But wrong.  And immature.

So here’s the lesson learned – love on those who need it, keep a civil tongue in your head even when other’s don’t deserve it, and in the end every piece of truth that is necessary will come to light and those who REALLY matter will figure it all out.  In the process, you will keep your integrity intact and be able to continue loving on those around you.

Quotes

Nothing super profound from my own head today.  Just some quotes from a Joyce Meyer study I’m doing!

These two deal with the painful issues from the past –

“I encourage people to let go of their past, but never to run from it.  The only way to gain victory over the pain of our past is to let God walk us back through that doorway of pain and into victory.”

We have to let God take us through things and let Him work in us so our mess becomes our message. Difficult things that we have endured in our past prepare us for God’s blessings in our future.”

(Can you tell which phrase really jumped out at me?!)

These were on the subject of joy –

“We will never enjoy life unless we make a quality decision to do so.  Satan is an expert at stealing and our joy is one of his favorite targets.  Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  In John 10:10 we are told that “the thief” comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but that Jesus came that we might have and enjoy life.  Satan is the thief, and one of the things he seeks to steal is our joy.  If he can steal our joy from us, we will be weak; and when we are weak, the enemy takes advantage of us. Weak believers are no threat to him and his work of destruction.  In order to live as God intends for us to live, the first thing we must do is truly believe that it is God’s will for us to experience continual joy.  Then we must decide to enter into that joy.

“Joy and enjoyment are available just as misery is available.  Righteousness and peace are available and so are condemnation and turmoil.  There are blessings and curses available, and that is why Deut. 30:19 tells us to choose life and blessings.”

And this was probably my favorite!

“Regardless of how it may happen or who may be responsible, it is hard to go on when everything we have counted on falls down around us.  That’s when those of us who have the creative power of the Holy Spirit on the inside can get a new vision, a new direction, and a new goal to help us overcome the downward pull of disappointment, discouragement, and destruction.”

Still “mentally chewing” on all of these so I’ll just let you do with them what you will! Enjoy!

#thankshubs Day 3: Spirit of Adventure

Those that know me would be surprised to hear me say that I am actually terrified to meet new people.  The apparent “social butterfly” behavior is a learned response from a childhood spent moving around a lot.  I learned that I had to make friends and quickly!

Hubby, on the other hand, has NEVER met a stranger.  I get extremely nervous even in groups of people I am acquainted with unless there are one or two individuals I am very close to.  Their presence makes me feel much more at ease.

I know that talking to strangers seems like a rather small thing to be referred to as an “adventure.” But trust me.  This man will find a ball cap, tattoo, t-shirt, . . . whatever! . . . that strikes a cord with him and start a conversation.  Restaurants, shopping malls, Target, doesn’t matter.  He will walk up to a complete stranger and strike up a conversation.  I’m in awe of that skill.  And, truth be told, a little envious!

Of course, this skill serves him well in his role as pastor since his job frequently puts him in contact with new people.  It’s a skill I should probably get better at.  For now, I’ll simply watch him do his thing and stand amazed at how easy he makes it look!

 

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