This is My Crowd

This is My Crowd
Picture by: Photography by Vicky Campos

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Give Until It Doesn't Hurt Anymore

This past weekend I experienced a moment in the Dollar Tree store.  Yep, the Dollar Tree.
I was in the process of purchasing picture frames for photos which have been floating around our house for months, just waiting to be crumpled, when the cashier asked if I wanted to donate money toward some such organization.  Without even considering her question, I responded "No."  If you are wondering if it was, perhaps, an organization unworthy of my assistance, I would say it's not likely the case.  As I type this, I can't even recall which organization, but I'm sure they were doing good in the earth and could have used my few bucks.
If you are wondering if there was another reason, there's not one.  I'm just a jerk and what I am about to reveal to you next will show you just how big of a jerk I really am.
Despite my quick decline to the cashier, I did have a fleeting thought.  "If she knew how much I already give, she wouldn't ask me for more."
Can we all say wow!?
It was definitely a thought that gave me pause.  I would like to say it was a thought deposited into my mind from an alien land, but it wasn't; this thought was all mine.  It reflected what is was in my heart.  My lack of generosity.
You see, giving can be painful.  The thought of it can make me recoil immediately and violently.  On this day, a simple request for a menial amount of help was met with:

ANGER    bitterness   ingratitude   PRIDE   fear

and not

Love    Generosity    Joy    Gratitude
Fortunately, God didn't let me just feel bad for a second and move on with my day.  My heart pondered this for the remainder of the day; I even found myself contemplating the old saying "Give until it hurts."  Then suddenly the words "Give until it doesn't hurt anymore" drifted through my spirit.  You see, much like every other habit I've established in my life, I can choose selfishness or generosity, but I must practice. 
I must push through the pain of giving small to get to giving big. 
I must build up my tolerance for giving to people I love to delve into giving to people I, perhaps, don't care for or simply don't know. 
I must perceive this pain of giving as a trigger or demand to give without a another thought. 
I must be generous on every occasion, whether it be at church, at home or at the Dollar Tree.  Wait, that sounds familiar.
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.   2 Corinthians 9:10-13

Originally, I was going to only post the verse specific to being generous on every occasion, but when I began to read the verses before and after the one I wanted, I realized it was painting a bigger picture. 

Do you see it?
God is generous with us in order that we may be generous with others and our confession of the gospel is made complete in our obedience to God through our generosity to people.  There's so much more at stake than my $2. 

So, there it is, in black and white, just in case, you thought I was just making it up. 

Give until it doesn't hurt anymore.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Misapplication of Military Metaphors

First, I would like to confess I love alliteration and, as you will soon discover, repetition.  Oh... and just a touch of rhyming, when possible.
That, however, is not the topic of my post. 
I wanted to share a verse which rings through my head more often than I'd like, yet less often than I need.
Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?]  And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).  This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.   And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.  These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 AMP)
However, when I hear it, this is what it sounds like:
Love God.  Love people.
Love God.  Love people.
Love God.  Love people.
Maybe you're the good son and God doesn't have to repeat Himself with you, but I am not.  I am the stubborn kid who has to be told time and again. 
Love God. Love people.
What God never tells me is:
Love God.  Conquer People.
Love God.  Dominate People.
Love God.  Battle People.
Love God.  Triumph over People.
Nope He says:
Love God.  Love People. 
There are some things, as Christians, where a militaristic tone is appropriate, but those things cannot be found bound in flesh and sustained by blood.  Epheshians 6:12 says "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  Ephesians even goes on to instruct us to prepare for battle against such things.  According to verse 12, those preparations are not made to battle people.
Love God.  Love People.
If Ephesians 6 is a great picture of the method by which we should battle the unseen forces in this earth working against us, then I submit to you John 13 as a picture of how a life spent loving people should look.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. (John 13:3-5 AMP)
He was stripped down, totally vulnerable, hands in the mud, uncomfortable, humble (possibly perceived as humiliated) and about as UN-self-serving as one can be.  There was nothing that Jesus could have possibly gained from this (or the cross), except filthy hands and hearts that, hopefully, better understood His. 
What you don't see (anywhere in the Gospels) is Jesus gearing up in armor and going to battle with people, because that would be ridiculous.  Battling people is ridiculous. 
Yet, we do it all the time.
Love God.  Love People.
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15 AMP)
We cannot argue people to Jesus. 
We cannot force people to Jesus.
We cannot intimidate people to Jesus.
We cannot guilt people to Jesus.
We cannot strong-arm people to Jesus.
We can only love people to Jesus.  Because that's what He did, and it wasn't through empty words or a silent heart, but rather a life of service.
Love God.  Love People.
Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 NLT)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Worst Evangelistic Argument EVER (PG-13 for language)

It's a crisp autumn afternoon.  Two friends, bundled up in scarves, jackets, and hipster hats, are sitting on the patio of your local neighborhood Starbucks, sipping lattes.  They are deep in discussion.


I know what you are saying, man, but I'm just not buying your whole Jesus thing.  I pay enough taxes to the federal government, I don't need your "church" diggin' into my pocket too.
What does money have to do with it?  I didn't even mention...
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I've been around enough of you "christians" to know that you want me to change how I look, change how I act and then shake me down for everything in my bank account. 
I know you don't suck, too much, but you're the exception.
If you'd let me finish, I was going to say that Jesus doesn't want your money, man.  I know this sounds corny, but it's true, He wants your heart.  It's weird to say this out loud, but He's real.  He changed my life.  Even you can see that.
Yeah, you seem like you've gotten your shit... sorry, didn't mean to offend your revirginated ears, I mean stuff, together since you started your whole church gig.  I don't know, man, the whole thing just seems wrong to me.  I believe in a god, or something, I just don't know what that means for me.
(Blake's voice carries off a bit and he pauses.)
But, you do your thing, man!  Just keep doin' your thang.  Glad it works for you. 
It can work for you too.  Why is it such a stretch for you, if you say you believe in a god?  Why not believe in a God that loves you, a God that died for you.  If for no other reason than: what if you're wrong?  I mean, if I'm wrong, then I lose nothing, but if you're wrong?  Dude, I hate to say it, but you're going to hell.  If I were you, I'd check it out, just in case.
(end scene)
Do you see what just happened there?  Two friends pouring their hearts out to one another and Todd pulls the "What if you're wrong?" evangelistic argument.  I mean, If I thought there was a chance that I might be wrong and that God might be a figure of my imagination, then sure, that would be a valid point. 
I just don't think that when Peter wrote that we should "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15)," he intended that we get people to try Jesus "just in case." 
I don't know.  Maybe he did and I'm just missing it.  
For me, though, Jesus is real.  He's good to me and I'm not going to go around pretending that He might not be real, that there's a chance He really didn't die on the cross for my sins, just to get people to say a prayer.  Paul made it pretty clear that saying the words only carry a portion of the full weight of salvation, you gotta believe the words too. 
We have got to stop scaring people into saying they believe in Jesus.  The greatest testimony of Jesus is YOU and it's ME; scare tactics just prove that maybe we're not being the testimony we're supposed to be. 
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
(Romans 10:8-10 ESV)

Friday, November 2, 2012

How Much Does God Weigh?

Hey guys!  I'm honored to be over at Sammy Adebiyi's page today.  Go check me out over there!!

Here's a quick excerpt:

"Unless you've been living under a rock for the past couple of years, I think we all have seen, or at least heard of, the show Hoarders.

It’s an intense show about people, many of whom you would never suspect, literally being held captive in homes filled to capacity with stuff.

They live in anxiety, fear, shame, and embarrassment, isolated from friends and loved ones."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Inherited Religion

I come from a long line of Christians.  In that lineage are Catholics and Non-Catholics, evangelists and prayer warriors, pastors and missionaries.  Ok.  The missionary thing came along with my younger brother, but as a lineage with bi-directional implications, a couple of missionaries are in there.

You get my point though, right?  It would seem that ministry work, or at least religion, might be something that is passed down from generation to generation.  Certainly, there's an implication of it in future generations.  Or is there?

In a world where Christianity has apparently become a political leaning/agenda and more of a cultural issue than anything, I wonder what that means for me as a Christian Mom.

Conservatives raise little conservatives, who may stray into the liberal camp during college and  occasionally retreat to their conservative upbringing.  Liberals often find unity in sticking it to the man, that man usually represented by a middle-aged, white, upper-class C(c?)hristian man.  Lines being drawn, erased, moved back and re-drawn, leaving everyone who lay in neither camp, somewhere in the ever increasing gap which used to be "the greater good".

But, this is not a political post.  It's really not, I promise.

I've just recently come to the realization that being a Christ following mother of 4 is somewhat complicated by the fact that Christ is no longer treated as a Person in this country (world?), but more as a box I'm relegated to when discussing social issues.  Though, for me, party lines are irrelevant as it pertains to my firmly held beliefs.  I have registered with a party, with which I share certain values I have deemed as imperative, but I refuse to choose a representative solely based upon an affiliation.

Ok.  For real, this is not a political post.

My point in all of this is this question, "If being a follower of Christ is found in a personal relationship with the Person of Christ and having a life that reflects that relationship, how does one raise children into Christianity?"  If it were simply religion, or a bunch of strictly held social beliefs, it would be easy.  I could simply say, "Do this, don't do that, say this, don't say that." and not care if it meant anything to them, so long as I had a little robot-clone.  However, for me, that could never be the case.

I deeply desire that my children would know what it is to sit in His presence; to pray and truly know that He's listening; to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speak to them as they navigate this life.  As much as that is my deepest desire for my children, it's something I cannot MAKE happen.  It's also something I would never WANT to make happen.  I don't want to be a fake and I certainly don't want my kids to be big fakes either.

So, the other night, when my son said he wanted to ask Jesus to be his Savior and to start the journey that would make my deepest desire for him come true, I had two thoughts: (1) Have I done something where he feels like he HAS to do this right now, to which I answered no; and (2) Have I done something wrong that he didn't do this sooner, to which I also answered no.  You see, I have a strict philosophy that I will not ask my children leading questions relative to Jesus.  I refuse to encourage them to please me by not being themselves.  I value authenticity in others, and I expect it of myself.

I don't have any great advice, or heartwarming anecdotes in this post.  I just have thoughts.  Thoughts that tell me that Christianity is not some political agenda or affiliation.  Thoughts that tell me following Christ is not about the box I check when I'm filling out hospital paperwork or finding continuity with my families historical penchant for ministry work.  It's about me and Jesus.  That's it.  Further, that's what it has to be for my kids too, and if they can't make that genuine commitment until they are 12 or 32, it must be theirs to make.  

My role is simply to paint such a detailed picture of Christ in (with) my life, that when they meet Him they recognize Him immediately and want Him for themselves.  But, they can't have my Jesus, they have their own picture to paint.    

Ironically, I did not actually paint this picture of Jesus.
I just thought it was cool.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's It Worth To Ya?

I am a bargain hunter.  I love them.  I have told many a person that I am more impressed by someone getting a steal of deal than I am of someone paying big money for that same item.  Name brands don't impress me either, so saying you spent $120 on jeans will induce nothing but a face full of pity from me, no matter what name they may have printed on the back.
You know who else is a bargain hunter?  Satan.  (Wait, was that a satan juke?  Does such a thing exist?  Does the lack of alliteration take away from the effect?  Forget it.)  You know, the devil.  The fallen angel of light, Lucifer.  Now, I'm not saying that bargain hunting is evil, so before you light those coupons on fire and swear off Ross, hear me out. 
John 10:10 states that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy.  That sounds bad and very noticeable, right? 
If you've been robbed, you would probably realize it at some point.  "Well, I had my cell phone when I was at Starbucks, then... Dang it, I think that dude stole my phone!  Crap."

If you or someone you loved was killed, you might just be a bit affected.  Unless you're an atheist or have no belief in an afterlife , in which case, if you were killed you might not notice that you ceased to exist.  But, surely SOMEONE would notice.  "Did ya hear?  Tom was killed!  Yeah, real sad and crazy deal." 
Should destruction come to your home, I would think you would take note. "Geez, Martha, there appears to be some type of hole in the living room wall." 
These terms: steal, kill and destroy, have incredibly violent overtones; "take notice" overtones.  But, what happens when he shows up in a disguise and wants to bargain?  Will we even realize it?

In Genesis 25, we read about fraternal twin brothers named Jacob and Esau.  As boys can typically be, their relationship was pretty competitive.  Having a crazy, manipulative mother probably didn't help matters, but that's a story for a different day.  So, if you haven't read about them, Esau was a hairy outdoors man, an excellent hunter and, technically, the oldest.  He was his fathers favorite.  Jacob, the youngest by mere seconds, however, hung out around the house and was favored by his mom.  A small portion of the long story short, Esau came home one day from working outside or hunting or some such other grunty man activity and was starving.  In that moment, he was easily convinced to trade his birthright (a BIG deal back then) for lunch.  Yep, lunch.  The writer of the book of Genesis goes on to explain that Esau despised his birthright and later when he changed his mind and wanted it back, it was too late.
Esau was an idiot.  Am I right?  A colossal imbecile.  He was so short sighted that he couldn't even think beyond his next meal.  It's shocking, really.  I mean, who would trade something with irreplaceable value that has generational implications for something so fleeting as a meal? 
Apparently, Esau, but I would too.  Even you would.  If I were being honest, which apparently I am, I have already done it and chances are, so have you.  You might be saying at this moment: "Wait.  What?"  We'll get to you and me in a minute, let's talk about Esau some more.  It'll make me feel better. 
Esau understood deep down what he was giving up, but he couldn't hear that voice over the clanging of his flesh.  If he did, he silenced it with excuses ("but I might DIE of hunger" - dramatic much?) or flat out lies ("this isn't final, I can always get it back" - Sorry, buddy, didn't need a written contract back then).  In the end, he would lose it all to Jacob; his birthright and eventually his inheritance.  But, this post isn't about devious Jacob or manipulative Rebekah, though they certainly had their parts to play, it's about Esau and us, and how we all fall victim to the seemingly innocuous bargains of the enemy. 

Don't be fooled, this whole birthright and inheritance thing applies to us today, even if we don't fully understand it or catch the greater implications.  The Bible is full of promises God has made to each one of us regarding not just the next life, but this life we are living now.  Promises that we really should familiarize ourselves with so that we can avoid despising them simply for lack of understanding.  We also all have bodies we inhabit, sacks of flesh that try to boss us around; convince us that we need stuff NOW; persuade us NOT to do what we know we ought.  In addition to that, we have an enemy that is constantly looking for a foothold; ways to catch our attention; opportunities to gain access to our ear.

How often do we bargain our blessings away for dollar store merchandise?

The enemy can't steal your salvation, but he can make despising your birthright and inheritance as children of God seem palatable, even if just for a moment.

Church on Sunday?  Nah, I'm tired.  Fast on Monday?  But, I'll faint.  Read my Bible?  I have stuff to do.  Pray?  I'll do it later.  Lie?  It's only one slightly gray lie.  Sex with my girlfriend/boyfriend?  Man, that purity stuff is so old fashion, plus we're gonna get married anyhow.  Porn?  At least I'm not having sex.  Third dessert?  What difference does it make.  Forgive that person that abused me, abandoned me or offended me?  The pain runs deep, God will understand.  Give to my friend in need/the homeless guy/my church?  I barely have enough to pay for cable.  The list goes on and on and is crafted specifically for each of us.  So what bargaining chip catches your eye? 


The absolute truth is that none of the above or anything else on the long list of bargaining chips will keep you from heaven, but it may keep you from experiencing the best God has for you in this life.  Think this is OT and doesn't apply to us in the modern church?  Well, let me show you where this whole blog started for me. 
Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal.  You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.  Hebrews 12:16-17 (NLT)

Esau never lost the relationship he had with his father... just the blessing his father so desired to bestow upon him.  So pause for a moment the next time when the right thing feels uncomfortable or requires a little effort or sacrifice and consider what you might be giving up when you satiate that bratty flesh of yours.

Don't worry, I'm just passing along a lesson that I am in the midst of learning myself.

P.S.  What in the world do you think that girl is selling up there?

Friday, August 24, 2012

TIme Keeps Slipping

Time is definitive.  It is measurable.  One second can be no longer than the next or vice versa.  There are a known number of seconds in a minute, minutes in an hour, hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year...  and months, don't even get me started on months.


Months represent birthdays and holidays and weather shifts and anniversaries and tax returns and paydays (not the candy bar) and vacations and a spike in gas prices.  They have become the mile markers of my year.  Reminders of what comes next.

4th of July heralds the end of Summer.  Back to School escorts in birthdays (4 in 8 weeks to be exact) and Halloween.  After which we do not pass Thanksgiving, do not break out our fall decor, go straight to Christmas.  New Years arrives with fireworks and champagne just in time for, you guessed it!  Valentine's Day!  There's a green blurb in there with dozens of little men and their gold, but Easter and Spring Break are there to guide us right into Summer.  

As a parent, all of these markers are pushing us toward grade school promotions or new schools.  It means double digits or driver's licenses; puberty and dating.  I think my perception of time changed with the great 40 week countdown, though there was a  6-8 week reprieve from the stress of keeping track, just as the last grain of gestational sand fell another clock started.  

When will he smile?  When will she roll over?  When will she say mama?  When will he crawl?  Walk?  Talk?  Eat on his own?  Give up the bottle?  Pacifier?  When will she be fully potty trained?  

Oh, wait, Kindergarden all ready?  No, I'm not ready for that, but by then I'd already set the pace.  Our lives constantly consuming weekends and months and milestones, until we'd created an insatiable monster, never satisfied with today, this moment.  Always focused on what lay ahead.  

So, here I am.  

My 5th grader starting middle school and water polo.  Us, the parents, contemplating additional responsibilities and watching as the pack (yes, 3 boys with 2 year gaps are a pack) splits up, spreads out.  Different schedules, different programs, different schools, the start of different lives.  

I've done 1st grade, in fact, not counting my own trek through the educational system, this is my 3rd time through.  I've done 3rd grade once, maybe I'll keep it together this second time through.  But 5th grade?  Middle school?  

Where has the time gone?  Does it push us or pull us or evaporate when it touches us?  More importantly, does it have an emergency break?

No?  It just slips by.  Intangible yet carrying the weight of all purpose and meaning in its wake.  

You can't get it back.  You can't borrow it from another.  You can sell it though and give it away freely, or simply waste it.  I've done all three.  

Fortunately, we can only live one day at a time, one moment at a time.  God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, must have known we would try to multi-task days and limited our access.  

All I can do is try my best to fight for today and make it count.  

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matt 6:34

Perhaps God has something there.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Christianity: Not Communicable/ Not Legislatable

Yeah, legislatable... it's not a word.  I don't care.

In any case, over the last few weeks I've had some stuff forcing its way out of me. Pushing its way into my thoughts, overflowing my heart into my consciousness.

Here's what it is in summary:

Salvation can no more be distributed to people through mandated morality than it can be transmitted throught the exchange of saliva.  If it could, then my husband could have become a Christian much more quickly, and we would be able to save over 300 billion people from an eternity apart from God through a single act of legislation.  

But, that's not how God designed the system and God did design the system, not man.  (We won't discuss the system man designed in this post, because man did design his own system.)  

Free Will.  Sacrifice.  Free Will.  Sacrifice.  Free Will.  Sacrifice. 

Those two actions are rotated throughout all of History and they have brought us to this place, or perhaps, we have brought them to this place.  The fall of man was a choice of free will.  To mitigate its consequences, there was sacrifice upon sacrifice upon sacrifice until Jesus.  He freely chose to sacrifice Himself, so that we could freely choose Him and then sacrifice our lives for the lives of others, so they could freely choose Him, etc. 

Are you catching the trend?  The lives of those you are fighting for hinge on their free will to choose and Jesus' sacrifice and in many ways YOUR sacrifice, my sacrifice.  Our freedom and salvation have not been bought so that that we can sacrifice the salvation of others so that we can exercise our free will.  Confusing and somewhat circular?  Think about it, through Christ you are free, more free than you ever were under the bondage of sin, but sometimes we focus on our freedom so much that we fail to exercise wisdom and choose to sacrifice our comfort so that others can come to know Jesus.  Sometimes, we have to give up our freedom for the salvation of others.  

Isn't that the point?  People meeting Jesus?  People experiencing a grace and love unlike anything they've ever known?

I have yet to find the scripture that instructs Israelites, Jews or Christians to mandate that all those living in their geographic vicinity abide by their customs or laws outside of conversion.  If you know where that verse is, I'd love to read it.  Instead, I have noticed that the entirety of the Bible, from the Old Testament through the Gospels and into Revelation, speaks often and eagerly about self-examination, both as individuals and as a religious community.  (If, by chance, you struggle with the word religious because it's too religious, then you can either stop reading or get over it.  I'm using it!)  I believe we are to systematically correct our own known sinful behaviors, ask God to reveal those behaviors/beliefs that we have not yet identified as being sinful and correct them, and, in the order outlined in the Bible, bring to light sin in our Christian community around us and correct those.  Not find sin in the unsaved and demand that they get in-line with the Bible.

At some point, we have to admit the folly of mandating our Christian beliefs as the American belief system.  They are simply not one and the same at this point in history and we need to stop.  We have our roles as Americans and our roles as Christians and though one affects the other, we cannot confuse the two.  Jesus is not American, He is God.

Here's the thing, people need Jesus and we can't do that if we spend all of our time telling them HOW they need to live and fail miserably at bringing them into the presence of Jesus.  Living Gods way makes no sense outside of His presence.  Once they know Jesus, the Holy Spirit can start revealing behaviors and beliefs they need to change and if He uses us in revealing those issues, great, if not, great.

Regardless of how that unfolds, with ALL people we need to love always, forgive time and again, and  abound in grace.  Treating others not just how we would like to be treated, but in the same manner Jesus treated us. 

Let's choose to sacrifice our freedom so that others can find freedom in Jesus.  The American dream is great, but the dreams God has for us and those He loves are greater.

Hard?  Yes.  Possible?  Yes.  Required?  Absolutely!


Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Don't Just Think About Doing. Do.

If salvation is truly the only prerequisite for Heaven, then why does life drag on so long after we obtain it?  Is God attempting to perfect us in this life, full knowing well that it can never be?  Is He crazy or is He just giving us pointless activities to keep us busy until we die? 

Or could the unaddressed sin in our lives be a time-sucking distraction from our intended purpose? 

Are you wasting time fighting a particular sin in your own power?  Is it taking up so much of your time and energy that it is literally keeping you from your intended purpose in life?  Our lives should not be some epic "Self-Help" course at our local adult school.  The absolute truth is that Christ has overcome it all!!  Why keep striving and  struggling on our own?  Pride?  Disobedience?  Aren't those really the same thing?   

Free image courtesy of

But I Don't Wanna!

I'm a parent.  When I issue a decree (yeah, I said decree) in my household there are not just perameters for what needs to be done, but how it needs to be done and in what timeframe.  Don't even get me started on the attitude with which it needs to be done.  For the record I'm not a tyranical ruler (for the most part), I just believe that it is my job to raise my children so that they are not self-absorbed, bratty, compromising loafs when they grow up.  That's just me. 

I have noticed that when my kids don't really want to do (or stop doing, for that matter) a particular thing, they respond in one of several ways: 

1) They argue the validity of the request. (Why?  I've never had to do that before now!)  
2) They argue the fairness of the request.  (But they didn't hafta!)
3) They pretend they don't hear my voice.  (chirp, chirp) 
4) They move r-e-a-l-l-y s-l-o-o-w.  (I was gonna do that after my show was over.) 
5) They argue that they are not able to perform the request.  (I don't know how to do that.)   

If I was honest with myself, something I'm not terribly fond of doing for reasons of pride, I would admit that my responses are quite similar when it comes to God's commands in my life.

Let's be Done with Mediocrity Already!

Aren't you "over" your issue yet?  I am.  I'm so over my issue(s).  I'm tired of them.  Sick of them, even!  When I wake up in the morning, they are there to stare back at me in the mirror.  As I'm trying to fall asleep, they roll around in my head as I face another day of failure.  There's a world out there that needs to know the love of an all powerful God.  Why do I expend so much of my energy fighting my own foolish pride?  At what point will I set aside that pride and say "It's Yours God!  All of it!  The good, the bad and the ugly!"  I'm not saying that I'll become perfect here on earth, but obedient.  Well, as much as an inherently rebellious filthy wretch can, anyway. 

To make this life effective, I must allow God to tell me what adjustments to make and then make them immediately.  I know, that's some earth shattering stuff right there.  If I ---->choose<---- to ignore God, I will spend the rest of my life fighting for this ideal life, where I get to do what I want to do, how I want to do it and God still blesses me, which is simply not possible.  Ultimately the end result will be missed opportunities to accomplish God's intended purpose in my life.  And guess what?  My life is not about me.  So, my disobedience will also affect the lives of others.  I hate to burst your bubble, but your life is not about you either.  It will always be about Him and the people He loves.

The Difference Between Thinking of Doing and Actually Doing 

I have wasted too much time trying to sort out the pros and cons of God's commands; generosity, forgiveness, grace, love, purity, discipline, operating in wisdom, faith and all of the other things that I expect from others and debate for myself.  God is pretty specific about all of these topics and many more.  Why debate with an all knowing God at the risk of living a wasted life? 

We tell ourselves and our friends, "I'm just working it out."  "I'm working on it, ok?"  "Look, I'm not perfect (and neither are you, by the way!), but I'm trying."  I know that I say those things.  But the truth is that in the areas I don't WANT to adjust, I'm constantly learning and never applying the truth.  I'm THINKING of DOING, but never actually doing.  Maybe that's just me.

This life is not a school where we study and learn and keep it all in our heads.  There won't be a graduation ceremony at the end where we get a diploma for all that we learned.  This is an internship.  The hours are long, we learn as we go, the job is tiring, but rewarding, it's never about us and we probably won't get the appreciation and acknowledgement we deserve.  Let's accept this and get to work!    

Don't let your pride keep you in a holding pattern.  Who cares if you have to forgive someone that has injured you?  Who cares if that means you have to be more generous (and that pedicure just isn't going to happen this month)?  What difference does it make if you spend more time helping other people instead of doing more entertainment based activities?  Wouldn't you rather quit smoking/ overeating/ watching TV like it were a part-time job/ reading shades of various bad, bad books/ staring at Facebook/ gossiping/ being stingy/ being lazy/ being rude/ being judgmental/ watching porn/ having an emotional affair with your co-worker/ being angry/ lying/ cheating/ wasting your life/ or any such other thing that you've been "struggling" with if it meant that you could live with fulfilled purpose?!  (note: It's not about the things we struggle with, it's how we handle them.  All sins are equal, so don't think your special if your able to hide your issue better than other people.)

Look, I'm not meaning to minimize your struggle.  I understand what it is to struggle in an area for years, I still do.  But again, it comes down to: are you thinking about doing something or are you doing something?  Even if you fall, at least you can get back up and keep moving.  Again, we're not shooting for perfection, we're shooting for obedience.  I can't say that I'll never say another bad word ever again, but I can say that in the moment when the jerk in the Mercedes cuts me off in traffic, I will ---->choose<---- not to freak out.  Maybe next time I will ---->choose<---- a colorful phrase, but, then again, maybe next time it will be easier to resist the temptation. 

Be obedient in this moment. 

Maybe that's not an area God is speaking to you about.  But maybe it is.  We won't really know until we surrender all.  As we surrender our lives to Him fully, God shows us what adjustments to make along the way (hello conviction of the Holy Spirit), but we must actually make them.

Notice I said along the way. 

What is this Purpose You Speak of?
Jesus never said stay in your homes and your small church huddles, talking about your personal issues and problems and then maybe, just maybe, people will see how hard you've worked to become a better person.  No, He said go out and make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them My commands.  Your "saved" life has not been preserved in the natural so you can work out your sin issues, you're "saved" life has been preserved so that you can tell people about Jesus, and along the way work out some of those sin issues so that you can become increasingly effective in your purpose. 

We need to remember that our lives after Salvation will always be about God and about other people.  Me becoming the person He created me to be is a result of my DOING what He's called me to do.  So stop arguing that you can keep the crap you already know you should get rid of, hoping that you can still live out your intended purpose.  It doesn't work that way, so far as I can tell anyway. 

Now that I've written it... I suppose I should start doing it!  Will you join me?

Has God already shown you an area where some adjustments need to be made?  How have you responded? 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Tilled Soil of My Heart

I purposefully forgive people that have injured me or whom I perceive as having injured me. 

I pray regularly that God will lend me His eyes to see others as He sees them, in both their current condition and as He created them to be.

I make an effort to be generous in every situation. 

I pray.  I read the Bible.  I attend church services and prayer meetings regularly.  I try to connect to other women the best way that I can.  I make adjustments as God reveals them... and yet.

And yet, every now and then when God tills the soil of my heart I am still surprised by what I find just inches under the tidy surface.  Just a little tilling and things are pulled to the top.  Heart conditions I didn't even know were there. 

Photo by Free Digital Photos

Just because I didn't know something was there, buried deep in my heart doesn't change the fact that it exists.  I found that a large, ragged, black rock of jealousy was patiently laying in wait to trip me, and trip me it did.  It managed to trip me so suddenly, I didn't even realize what was happening.  I didn't see it coming.  Once my feet were underneath me again, I didn't pick it up right away, not wanting to admit it was there.  I was even tempted to cover it back up again and hope that I wouldn't trip on it in the future.  I mean, I'd gone so long without tripping over it, maybe it wouldn't happen again if I just buried it deeper.  Instead, I kept looking at it.  Kicking it.  Studying it.  Wondering where it came from.  Wondering what it meant.  I condemned myself for its mere existence and the bitterness began to creep in. 

Before service on Sunday, while talking to my friend, the trigger for my jealousy, I blurted it out.  Confessed it into the open, into the light.  It was awkward, but, fortunately for me, he was gracious. 

I went into service feeling even more odd than when I walked into the building earlier that morning. God had another plan, as He often does, and I had a little face to Face time with God during the worship part of the service and here is what God showed me:

1.  God will allow things to occur in my life, and yours, that reveal our heart issues.  Things we may not even be aware of.  But, don't worry...

2.  When that happens, we have the opportunity to bury it deeper or get it out into the open, into the light.  Always choose the light.

3.  When God does this, it's not about condemnation, but rather about the opportunity to be diagnosed and begin treatment.  If you had cancer, wouldn't you want to know so you could begin treating it right away?  These heart issues behave in the same fashion, if left to their own devices, growing and spreading and bringing destruction into the healthy parts of our lives.

4.  We are not alone in our struggle.  Not only do we have God on our side, we must give our friends the opportunity to support us in our struggles and support them in their struggles.  On some level, people must know that they need support from people who have traveled the path that they themselves are traveling.  Across the board, be it medical issues, relationship issues, addiction or trauma, there are support groups for every major life issue that arises in the natural.  Why would we believe that we could go it alone when it comes to spiritual issues, you know the eternal issues?

My point is that no matter where we are on the path of following Christ, if we are still on this earth, we have issues.  It's OK to be surprised when God reveals them, just don't bury the issue.  Dig it up.  Put it in the light!  Let God and let other's help you deal with it and then... move on!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Turning 35

Today I turned 35.  Fortunately, I stayed busy for the most part.  Able to not think about the implications of such a milestone, that is until someone would say the words... "Happy Birthday".  Then my mind would begin following the myriad of rabbit trails.

As a result of my exhaustion (which may or may not be related to my agedness) and the late hour, here is a list of my top 10 thoughts on turning 35.

1.  I have a good life (on all fronts), so I certainly can't complain.
2.  Jesus can use the aged as well as the youthful, so I'm still good.
3.  35 is not really that old.  I suppose when I'm 70, 35 will look pretty good.
4.  I would say that I don't feel 35, but I don't know whether or not that's true.  I suppose I just don't feel different.
5.  Regardless of my chronological age, I refuse to become a boring grown-up type.  I doubt that will change any time soon.
6.  A short 5 years ago I couldn't have said this, I have more than my fair share of genuinely good friends.  I'm not offering to give any of them up, but I am definitely making up for my antisocial start to life.
7.  If I had to give up what I've learned in the last 6 years to weasel my way back into my 20's, I'd pass on that deal all day long.
8.  Though I hope, hope, hope it's true, even if it's not, I enjoy being told I don't look my age.  (Don't worry, it won't cause me to favor anyone, so telling me that won't get you anywhere special with me.)
9.  There are some culturally/socially expected things I may have not done in my life... but I like who I am and I really like who I'm becoming and I wouldn't change a thing.
10.  I expect that when I turn 45 I will have an even better life, found myself continually surrounded by genuine people with whom I have a great mutual love and respect, grown in wisdom, been used by God in abundance and still won't look my age.

As my husband would say "Cheers!"  I hope you enjoyed my special day...

P.S.  Being further evidence of item 5 noted above, during my birthday weekend I played Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe, wherein I played Wonder Woman pretty consistently.  My kids begged me to switch characters, to which I replied "I've been pretending to be Wonder Woman since I was 4, I'm not stopping now."  On that note, I leave you with this:

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Am A...

I am a woman. 
My form confirmed this on the day of my birth and continues to do so each day. 

I am a wife. 
From the moment I fastened the final clasp at the top of my white satin dress and for the remainder of my days, this is a choice I make daily.

I am a mother.
September 16, 2001 was the day my identity shifted from creation to creator, consumer to provider, child to parent. 

I am a follower of Christ.
It is what I was called and created to be and become.  I am found most effective as I embrace all of the facets that God has crafted into my being.

I am a counselor*.
I share what I have gleaned, encourage, affirm and redirect all who seek my counsel to the One True Counselor.

I am a writer.
A precious gift presented to me by my Father.  One that I've left packed away and protected for far too long.  Gifts left in their packaging may never have wear and tear, but they will never be truly enjoyed by anyone. 

I am determined that my life will be a legacy of all of the things God has called me to do. 

Photo by
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

*Please note that I am not a certified counselor, nor am I professing to be such.   

This post was written as an entry into the writing contest offered by Jeff Goins, Writer. If you would like to declare to the world that you are a writer, enter the contest.  Check out this site for more information on how to enter!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Some Wise Guy

I haven't posted here in a couple of weeks, but today I am guest posting over at Some Wise Guy.  So go find me there!  Here's an excerpt:

"It being Mother’s Day, I found myself wondering why God created Moms. What occurred to me, in short, is Moms are the essence of God’s Spirit on the earth without the prerequisite of salvation."  Continue reading here.

If you don't follow the Some Wise Guy blog, I highly recommend it!  He's a Dad, he's a follower of Christ and he's got some insightful things to share.  So look through some of his previous blogs when you get a chance!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why Some Cliche's are Not Cliche.

As a Christian and Human, I can acknowledge that we Christian types jump on bandwagons as much as any other "group" of people who find they have something in common.  We have our clothing lines, bumper stickers, bracelets and tattoos.  I saw a poorly crafted florescent green yard sale sign this weekend that begged the age old question WWJD, the answer being, apparently, that He would head over to check out their wares.  I suspect that the use of those four infamous letters was a bit tongue in cheek, or perhaps, a bratty tongue simply stuck out.  Tough call.

In more recent years there's been a lot of NOTW merch.  Not Of This World, in case you weren't aware.  Yet another scriptural reference cleverly marketed into clothing, stickers, bags and jewelry.  I have a shirt.  I'm not apologizing for that.  They make some pretty cool stuff.  But the fact is, you'd be hard pressed to throw a rock at a Casting Crowns concert and not nick the windshield of car with a NOTW sticker.  I'm not hating, but the first time you see a drunk driver screaming at his wife from his NOTW bestickered SUV, the shine definitely rubs off a little, shortly after you dial 9-1-1, of course.

I won't even touch John 3:16 posters at sporting events.  But, I will question whether or not we may have flashed it so many times that it doesn't even register to people, like background noise when you live near an airport. 

That being said, there is one phrase that, despite it's use in a Christian music chart topper, manages to blow my mind every time I think of it.

As Far as the East is from the West

Doesn't impress you?  That's ok.  Let me explain.  First, it's best to review the actual Bible scripture, so here's a section from Psalm 103 in New King Jame Version (NKJV for you NOTW people out there).

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:11-12

So, in summary, BEFORE Jesus was born or was Crucified and BEFORE people understood the shape of the earth, God revealed through King David (who desperately needed some of that mercy himself, but that's a different story for a different day) that when He forgives people He separates that sin from us as far as the East is from the West.  You may be asking yourself why I care or what the big deal is or why I keep repeating as far as the East is from the West, but have you considered how far the East is from the West?  If not, take a moment now.

Photo by DigitalArt

When I considered the fact that King David did not choose as far as the North is from the South, it hit me.  The way our planet is formed, if you head North far enough, you will have no choice but to head South without ever having changed direction.  However, if you were to head out on an excursion in an Easterly direction, you could head East for all of eternity.

Does that not trip you out? 

It totally trips me out.  How purposeful our God is!  Even though King David may not have had a clue as to why it's better that God separate us from our sins as far as the East is from the West, versus North from South, God knew that one day people would know the significance. 

Are there scriptures that freak you out because there's no way the writer's could have known whatever they were charged to communicate without God instructing them?  If so, please share one! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Intermittent Ramblings

All things seem to move and progress in waves.  Light, sound, water, landscapes, even life, both for civilizations and individuals.  People throw around sayings like "History repeats itself" and "What goes around, comes around" without considering the implications.  There's a resonance in life we witness every day and it is only the lack of vision that keeps us from identifying it.

Photo by Victor Habbick

Generations of men and women alike, making choices against which they have been forewarned, only to arrive at the same end result as their parents and grandparents before them.  There is no moral cellular memory of which to speak or rely upon.  Neither wisdom nor hope is genetic.  Intelligence, sure, but intelligence lacking in wisdom and hope is really a death sentence for the soul.  The mind will always convince itself it knows best.  Wisdom says otherwise and seeks out truth. 

As children we are shown a path, hopefully a good one, but it's not the only path.  There are always choices to be made.  To follow the yellow brick road or not to follow the yellow brick road, that is the question.  Often times we look at the red road or the blue road or the overgrown footpath and believe everyone must. be. wrong.  We have taken the words "Question Authority" and interpreted them as "Disregard Authority" and "Ignore Wisdom".  So we take the dark path assuming, like Eve of the Garden Eden, that what we have been warned against is just one of those "best kept secrets", only to discover it really was the path to destruction after all. 

Each of us figures it out at some point.  Some of us decide to back track and find the Self-Illuminating Path, others wander up and down, lost, thinking that withstanding the dark is a badge of courage instead of a waste of energy.  Still others, knowing where the dark path leads, continue out of pride, clinging to the right to exercise their choice or out of fear that the lighted path is an illusion, like a mirage in the desert, ending in disappointment. 

Life waxes and wanes.  Reality surges and recedes.  At times we are drowning in a kaleidoscope of emotions or we find our selves parched flopping on the arid desert sand.  Some swim up to catch their breath, others drown.  Of those that find themselves shriveling, some dig down to where there is moisture, while the rest lay cracking from dehydration, resigned.  It just depends where on the undulating wave of existence you find yourself.  So what'll it be:  Sink or Swim?  Dehydrate or Dig?

We all start out surrounded by the brilliance of innocence only to pass through the gray pallor of adolescence to finally arrive in the great black void of the adult rat race and even that moves in waves and cycles; a path, whose pattern repeats in an overtly predictable rhythm, however boring or draining. 

Life is a song, a sound moving through time and space, unique and persistent, awaiting an adjustment, however slight or great, in order that it may discover its intended beauty.     

Search out the Lighted Path.  The path has been designed and constructed, it merely waits for a traveler. 

Burst through the surface of whatever is drowning you.  Cool, crisp air is resting just above you.

Dig down, deep if you must, to uncover refreshment.  The experience of drinking deep will be worth the effort.

Tune your song, it's already playing.  Ask yourself, when the final curtain falls and the last bow is taken, will the song resonating in my minds-ear be sweet or bitter? 

We're all in a moment... a moment that will step aside for another; each harmonizing with the last, continuing through all of eternity; a momentum that can only be redirected or halted with the purposeful interruption of a Word spoken before time itself. 

There is a better way.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Why Little Things Should Matter

On Sunday morning, as I open my eyes and consider rolling over, pulling my comforter over my head and going back to sleep, two things will come to mind:  1) I should have written the KIC (Kids in Celebration) teachers apology letters in advance for children I fully intend to drop off jacked up on at LEAST 3 different forms of sugar, and 2) how the Easter baskets left out on the floor of our living room are pretty laughable in light of the holiday they are intended to celebrate.

Photo by: Grant Cochrane
In an effort to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, my children will stumble, eyes half closed to my living room only to find a basket with some marshmallow chicks, a chocolate bunny filled with peanut butter, jelly beans in bags made to look like a carrot and a DVD I picked up off of the sales rack at Target.  In light of what the Mary's discovered at the tomb on the very first Easter morning, an angel just kickin' it, waiting to tell them the greatest news of ALL time, perhaps an empty basket would be more apropos?  On second thought, no, because that empty tomb held so much!  It held promises simultaneously made and fulfilled; victory complete and only just begun; that seemingly empty tomb held the salvation of all, whether accepted or refused.

I guess marshmallow chicks pale in comparison.  Though delicious, a chocolate bunny wrapped in gold colored foil, doesn't quite get it done, even if it is wearing an ascot and smoking jacket.  At least at Christmas we can explain the presents by declaring it's Christ's birthday.

Look, I don't really mind providing my kids with the socially expected Easter baskets, I don't.  But does it end with the bunny?  Does it end with dressing them up in their Easter best and packing them off to church so enthusiastic teachers can explain the miracle of Easter and give them color sheets?  Does it end with a nice ham dinner at the folks?  Does it end? 

I've recently considered this idea of dreaming BIG because my God is BIG.  What Jesus accomplished on the cross was BIG.  Victory over death is BIG, the purification of sin is BIG, putting hell in it's place is BIG, but where do my dreams fit in?  Does the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ end at 11:59pm Sunday night?  To me it's all connected.

I'd like to think that one day, one of my primary skills used by God would be writing.  I like it.  It's part of my BIG dream.  Would it be cool if I wrote a book and it was published?  Yep.  Would it be cool if that somehow became my primary source of income?  Yep.  Would it be cool if all of that happened on a grand scale?  I don't know.  COULD God include my dream in His plans?  Yes.  But does any of that have anything to do with my purpose in this life?

I don't think so. 

John 13:12-17
12 When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Aside from establishing taking communion, doing a final rundown on important teachings that the disciples (us too!) would need for their ministry work and praying... lots of praying, He established an example of service to others, and His example was HUGE, but is actions were small.  It was Jesus, He had the authority to have them immediately cleansed from head to toe and clothed in sparkling white robes, He could have pulled a full-on Oprah's favorite things on them.  But He didn't.  He stripped down, got on His knees and washed their feet.  He washed their filthy, mud encrusted feet.  It was small, but it was so BIG. 

Then He said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you."  Jesus always let by example.  So, it brings me back to my thoughts on dreaming BIG.  How do I define BIG?  Jesus defined big differently than our society.  Granted His entourage was BIG, but that's where the similarities end.  He performed singular, small, sacrificial acts that spoke volumes, that impacted all of eternity.  Sure, people's sins were forgiven, the dead were raised up, blind eyes and deaf ears were opened, feeble legs strengthened, demons driven out, but all done with a heart of service and in peace.  He didn't strive to do any of it.  He walked the path set in front of Him, He spoke the words given to Him, He performed the seemingly silly acts that He was given, He spent every moment saying "Yes." to the Father.   

His sacrifice on the cross was HUGE, but it was one step in front of the other on the road to Golgotha.  It was remaining silent in the face of His critics and condemners.  It was choosing to submit to God's perfect plan despite the cost to Him.  Even in the moment where the physical pain was excruciating as He hung on the cross, His earthly ministry spoke volumes and He considered the thieves surrounding Him.

Hebrews 12:1-3
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.    

Even to the very end as He saw in faith the gates of hell thrown open, the veil torn, graves being tossed open, the Holy Spirit descending in the upper room, thousands being saved in a singled day, Stephen being stoned, Paul getting knocked on his hindquarters, every person that has been saved since that day and until the very end of time. 

His joy was not found in the end of His pain, but rather the salvation of people He loves so dearly.  I am convinced that if remaining on that cross, in that horrible pain would have saved even one more, He would have done so.

So, as we enter this most Holy and fun of weekends, please take a moment to make sure that your BIG dreams are not overshadowing the small tasks of service God has given you.  After you've colored your eggs and filled your baskets, be generous.  Be gracious.  Be forgiving.  Be loving.  Then let your BIG God come in and do what you cannot, heal the hurting, mend the broken, and save the lost.

Dream BIG with God's heart and let your small actions speak loud! 

Happy Easter!  Don't wait until Sunday to thank Him for all that He has done!