Yeh, it’s valid ..

Do you ever wonder what your purpose in the church really is?  Truthfully, this is something that I’m always thinking about.  I’ve always got Jesus on the brain and over the years, I would say that my witness as a Christian has certainly evolved.

It started like the big bang theory.  I was explosively witnessing just out of sheer excitement for the things that God had done in my life.  I didn’t worry about doing things right or wrong .. I was seriously … excited!  Like a child exploring a new world.  I wasn’t even trying to witness.  It just happened.  I didn’t worry about where the other person was coming from or what their beliefs were.  I just lived, breathed, and acted on the new-found hope that I had found.

When reality hit that life was still just that … real … it changed my witness. I went through an evolutionary process of ‘deliberately witnessing’ to ‘learning to let God lead.’  And still, my process continues to evolve.  But along with my evolution is not just my witness, but a constant debate in my mind wrestles where my purpose lies.

I’m just being honest here, but I’ve one of those personalities that ALWAYS hears ‘you can DO more’ when I sit in on a sermon.  Sometimes I hear ‘you aren’t doing enough’ … depending on where my psyche is for the day.  Delivered with love, I know the pastors preach the right message.  It’s my filter that I wrestle with .. i.e. me.

Do I put more time at church?  Do I spend more time in bible study?  Is my intention that putting time into my family and being a witness to my family really a valid intention or am I making excuses because I’m not doing enough?

I think we’re supposed to wrestle with these things.  Not to a level that debilitates, but certainly to keep driving us forward.  At least I hope so.

Today I had a revelation that building a church is just as important at the family level as it is at witnessing to complete strangers.  I know that God has laid on my heart to prioritize my family in my witness.  Truthfully, that witness doesn’t always look like bible studies or preaching baptism and the in filling of the Holy Spirit.  But now that I consider this, it ALWAYS involves preaching repentance .. interesting.

I can’t help but see the correlation of a preacher and his wife building a congregation with that of my own family unit.  Here, my husband and I are often the ‘pastors’ if you will.  We spent some time putting out fires, building up, edifying, teaching, preaching, but mostly, loving .. even when it’s not easy to love.  Teaching forgiveness, hopefully offering wisdom, guidance and always pointing towards righteousness.

And just like in church, we .. the leaders .. make mistakes and our ‘congregation’ gets to watch us fall, get back up, evaluate our integrity or seeming hypocrisy, and in the end, it’s usually us who seem to learn the most.  We find ourselves learning the very things that we thought it was our job to teach.

In a world where there is so much work to do, it’s easy to feel as though we aren’t doing enough.  Today however, after the Connecticut shootings, I was reminded that my work in my family really is important.  We are in such a hurry to be witness to those that are hurting or those that need help that maybe we miss the strangers that are crying out for help in our own homes.

Yes, I can do more.  There’s always more to do.  Yes, I can do a better job.  There’s always things to improve on.  But in the end, I heard the voice clearly .. witnessing to my family is valid and just as important as witnessing to those outside of my home.

Sometimes it may take horrendous crimes to wake us up to this fact, but remember … despite all Noah’s preaching .. it was only his family that made it aboard the Ark.

Yeh, family as a priority .. I’m certain .. it’s valid.

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Awake not love until it so desires …

As a woman, I can say that I’ve had a good look at how the world expects us women to act.  This, of course, was before I knew Christ.

In the world, society teaches us that we are to dress a certain way … typically as eye candy to ‘please a man.’  We are to act a certain way … typically a bit on the ‘seductive’ side with flirtatious demeanor.  And in today’s world, as women, we are to even be the ‘huntress’ … typically we are expected to be the ones to lure men.

This is what society teaches our girls from a very young age.  This thought process, in my opinion, is one of the major factors that leads to teen pregnancy, broken hearts, broken relationships, and ultimately a society full of divorce.  Our girls are being taught that love is all physical, from how you look to getting a man to touch you.  And our boys are being taught that they have their pick of the litter, devaluing the real beauty of what a woman has to offer.  Every where you look there are love-sick souls seeking a love that just doesn’t really seem to be attainable.  Wounded hearts .. warped minds .. and laden with all kinds of physical and emotional diseases in the aftermath.

But the Bible teaches a different kind of love.

In the Song of Solomon, it’s a beautiful book of love and passion … romance.  It speaks even of sexuality .. embracing, kissing, and of physical intimacy through caressing using language that made me blush the first time I read it!  After all, it is the Bible.  But this is not a book about sex.  It’s a book about love and desire.  The biggest message I hear is … awake not love until it so desires.

In our society, desire drives us.  We ‘long’ to be loved and ‘crave’ it so much that we find ourselves, both men and women, doing silly and hurtful things to ourselves to find it.  Yet the Bible tells us to wait for it.

When we take time to allow it to happen and not rush it, we allow God to open the door to passion on His timing.  In our ‘NOW’ driven society, it’s hard for us to imagine waiting, but when we do, we allow God to create something that we could only know because we waited for Him.

I was reminded this morning of Christ’s love towards me.  After a short but heartfelt prayer inviting Christ in to my heart today, I felt Him draw near just a short time later.  I could feel Him embracing me.  As I continued on in my day, tears came to my eyes as something caught my attention that only He could know I had been thinking about.  I knew that He had been paying attention and listening to me.  I knew that He cared.  Honestly, I can say that I am blessed because I have those moments with God.  I have experienced an intimacy that I know others have not.  I have spent time getting to know Him and waiting for Him to reveal Himself to me.  But to me, that’s the easy part.  After all, He’s God.  He can read my thoughts and His spirit is in me.  However, I know that His desire is not just that we would have this great thing with Him, but that His church, His bride, His children .. would understand that He desires for us to experience that same level of love towards one another.

So I’m not really quite sure exactly how to do that.  Truthfully, I’m still figuring it out myself.  I sometimes want to rush into the ‘feel good’ moments with people because I too, am still in this world.  But one thing I do know is that it involves waiting.  I’m thankful that I have a close relationship with Christ because when I get impatient and want to rush, He somehow gives me a gentle look and I’m compelled to continue to wait for His timing.  When I feel I’ve done all I can do with no results and want to move on to something else, He gently puts His arm around me and somehow, waiting doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

Awake not love until it so desires …

I’m fairly certain that Jesus has big things in store for those who wait.  I’m fairly certain it involves that love that seems to be so unattainable in this world.  As a matter of a fact, I’m certain of it because He’s given me glimpses of it .. and not just with Him .. but with my beloved husband, my children, and even an occasional fellow Christian or two that I’ve encountered in my walk.

When you wait for love instead of forcing it … it’s so much more than what the world has to offer …. it’s absolutely … breathless!

 

 

 

 

Brotherly Love

As I was getting my children up for school and watching them talk to and at each other, I couldn’t help but think of brotherly love in the church.  As their mom, I have had the privilege of watching my children from the start, interact with one another.

I can assure you that 10 years ago, my littlest guy was a living doll for my little girl.  She was there to tend to his every need.  She hugged him, loved him, played with him, tried her best to feed him, and made sure mom knew when it was time to change his stinky diaper.  He of course, didn’t have much choice, but loved all the attention.  He figured out pretty quickly that if he wanted something, she was his ‘go to’ gal.  Everything was wonderful.

That is, until my little guy started growing up and getting his own opinion on things.  Until the day he started wanting to do things ‘his self.’  Until the day he started to infringe on her space or her choices.  I’d have to tell her things like, ‘Now honey, we do need to let your brother have a turn too.’  Of course, she never minded before he could do things like talk or make his own decision, but when his decisions started infringing on her own, well, I would watch my  normally sweet and helpful little girl become something … err, not so sweet.

I know, this is a normal part of growing up.  Truthfully, in my case, it really isn’t so bad because their squabbles are short lived.  I can give a stern warning and that takes care of it, for the most part.  Certainly however, there is some friction as these two young ones learn not only their way in life, but also, learn the responsibility of respecting their sibling.

I was thinking that it isn’t much different in the church, where brotherly and sisterly love are supposed to reside.  We start out all excited about the new spiritual ‘baby.’  It’s wonderful having the baby follow you and learn from you.  However, one day the baby grows up.  The baby starts making his/her own decisions and suddenly, that baby is no longer a baby.  The baby is now on the same level as you .. sometimes even challenging you.  How can they think differently than you?  Didn’t you teach them everything you know?  Many opportunities for growth for the two arise during such situations.

Of course, I look at my children from the same perspective God does us, I can see both sides .. really it’s just two kids; both valuable individuals.  Both have valuable ideas.  Both have the right to learn and grow and develop their own opinion.  But both, need to learn to respect the other without bullying or harming the other.  Sometimes mom needs to step in and clarify if one of the two has a skewed idea, but then it’s mom stepping in.

And just like real life, God does the same for us.  We may not always agree with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  As babies, we grow up and learn that sometimes we see things differently than those that we were taught from.  Or as the older ‘spiritual’ sister, we may find that our ‘younger siblings’ may develop thoughts different from our own.  What a blessing it is that we get to learn how to respect others opinions, learn how to be a guide, learn how to be a student, and learn how to get along with people completely different from us.  And sometimes, God has to step in and clarify because maybe one of us has an idea that is a bit skewed.

I’m thankful today that His yoke is easy and that it is He who leads and guides.  I’m also thankful that He really is all about family.  So many opportunities to learn and grow from one another ….  ahhh yes,  Brotherly love.

Weathering the storm

In my every day struggle of life, I do my best to walk in God’s ways.  Turns out it’s not always as easy as one would hope.  Sometimes we have to make tough decisions and stand on principles knowing that doing so is gonna’ create some waves.  Those are the decisions where my gut wrenches.  I wrestle with my own conscience to make certain, ‘Am I doing this for the right reason?  Is this principle or am I harboring vengeance?’  Literally I wrestle to make certain that my words and actions are according to God’s agenda, not my own.  Yes, I react.  However as I grow spiritually, my life is less reaction and more proactive … stop. think. okay .. act.  These have been storms that I have had to weather over the past few months.

As I’ve gone through the storms, I felt the pelt of wind damage and stood my ground, when honestly I wasn’t always sure I was right.  There isn’t always clear answers in the Bible for the minor details of life.  Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to wrestle with things that seem so insignificant to every one else.  But I do.

I remember when I was taught about the Holy Spirit and how we become dead to the old man and become a new one.  Truthfully, at first it was easy.  As a new convert, still in my little bubble, it was like nothing got in the way and putting off the old man was easy.  But the longer you walk in the Spirit, the more you realize, God expects you to get out of the bubble and start taking the reigns which means not just leaning on Him to do all the work for you, but actually paying attention to the things He’s teaching you.  I don’t have a problem paying attention.  The problem has more often been that the lessons don’t always seem so clear.  Sometimes that storm feels like I’m walking through a maze blindfolded!  Ugh!

However, there are those moment where God gives you glimpses of hope to show that you have not only maintained your footing, but were able to gain a little ground through the storm.  It’s funny because when I found out that my intuition and promptings were right on, and that my steadfast stance did what I was hoping it would, my reaction is simply … gratefulness.  I don’t like to create waves.  However, if I creating the wave is what it takes to help someone else grow and move forward, I have learned that sometimes we have no choice but to do that.

It’s also interesting to me how when you stand on God’s ways and truly allow Him to search your heart through the storm, God has a way of calming the storm and maintaining some of the landscape that surely I thought, might be destroyed.  Truly, I am grateful.  Turns out that despite the rage of the storm, the aftermath isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Almost like being in a hurricane and after it blows over, there wasn’t much damage at all.

Aah …  Yes … grateful.  That’s a miracle that only God Himself can pull off!

Thank you Jesus!

 

 

 

 

Creatively Crafty

My first-born son is going to be turning 15 soon.  I was just looking in the basement in his chest of things that I’ve kept.  Sitting next to me right now is a tattered and torn baby blue blanket that was at one time size Twin.  It’s one of those cotton weaves that has long since lost it’s sheer silky edge.  It has several holes in it, however, the few patches that still remain have a softness that you can’t deny.  I also hold a picture of my son at about age 3, wrapped up in this very blanket.  He wouldn’t go anywhere without his blanket; just like the little boy on Charlie Brown.

Being the first-born, he got the benefit of most of mom’s attention.  I had time to video tape every single day … well, at least for a while until I realized that doing so really was an impossible task.  I remember one particular taping where he kept hiding in his blanket saying, ‘No smile me, Mom.  No smile me.’  With the camera in one hand and the tip of the blanket in the other, I would gently yank the blanket to uncover him.  He would adamantly tell me again, ‘No smile me, Mom.’

I remember how he used to get excited over trying new things … like playing on that cool merry-go-round at the park.  He would jump up, put his hands at his side, and rapidly twist both hands in towards his body.  Meanwhile, his eyebrows would raise and his mouth would gape open as if he were getting ready to wrap his lips around one honker of a jaw breaker.  I also remember when we were at a park the next town over with a zoo attached.  We had been having a great time at the zoo and just a few minutes after arriving at the park, it began to rain.  My little 4-year-old was not very happy about this.  He stomped fiercely with his arms solidly at his side, eyebrows burrowed together in determination as if he stomped hard enough towards the car, it might just stop raining.  The rain still came.

Like the rain, the memories keep coming.    Now, however, my son is just a hair shy of 6 foot.  I now have to look up to the big blue eyes that used to look up at me.

I would be lying only to myself if I refused to admit that his growing up is tough on me.  I’m still learning how to transition from being mother bear to a guide helping my son enter adulthood.  Sometimes I feel bad for my son for being the oldest.  Poor guy gets the benefit of all the learning experiences that I have to go through to figure out just how to be a parent.

Sometimes I honestly wonder if he hasn’t figured it out a time or two and is using it to his advantage.  But then, that just reminds me of the time when he was 4.  I found him sneaking suckers, and the place he happened to hide them was under MY side of the bed!  OH BOY!  Jesus, thank you for the memories that make us smile and consider that craftiness was at one time cute.  But, Oh Lord,  please help us!

Needle in a Haystack

I’m pretty sure I found it this morning.  It was hiding, like a needle in a haystack.  I didn’t realize it at first because I was too busy reeling from the pain of finding it, but I did .. I found hope this morning.

See, I fell again yesterday  ….  pretty hard.  I was certain when I started that I knew exactly what I was doing and my intentions were right.  I was moving forward and I was going to take charge of this thing called the enemy.  I had a better image of what he looked like and I was not going to tolerate him invading me and my family.  Unfortunately, once again I found that despite my best efforts, the enemy got the best of me.  It got ugly and it certainly wasn’t my proudest moment.

After doing what damage control allowed to me, I really felt defeated.  I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that this is an area that I am constantly struggling with .. parenting teenagers.  I could go into all kinds of justification about how as a parent, I have all kinds of challenges that face me.  Truth is, I’m just scared of messing it up.  Having seen some of the darker things in life, it’s a place that I don’t want my children to go.  When I see them heading down that path, I have fought tooth and nail to put up every blockade imaginable.  Not only am I exhausted, I found that for every obstacle I put up, the enemy seems to find a way to create a manuever around.  It seems to be a relentless cycle and despite my best efforts, my children have made some mistakes that one day I know will grieve them.  As a mom, as a Christian, as a human being … this sickens me.  Seriously, who wants to see their kids make devastating choices?

Perhaps I should be one of those parents who just trusts that everything will be okay, smile and say ‘kids will be kids.’  I’m not wired that way.  I’ve seen too much devastation in my own life and have also been the recipient of others’ poor decisions.  While knowing Jesus provides forgiveness and a washing away of those sins, it also leaves a pit in my stomach that makes me want to scream out with every ounce of my being .. ‘NO!  DON’T GO THERE!  I beg of you, please trust me.  That is a place you don’t want to go.’

I still haven’t figured out how to gracefully say this.  I also haven’t figured out exactly what is my part and what is God’s.  To me, it’s easier to minister to someone that is not your family.  It’s easier to see your part vs. God’s part.  As a parent, it’s an entirely different story.  I didn’t realize it because I was still reeling from the chaos of the evening, but last night I was pricked with a needle of hope.

This morning, I can look at the events of last night and see how, yeh, I messed up; but I can also see where God stepped in.  I experienced God picking me up, placing me back on my feet, and directing me.  I experienced God’s holy spirit working through me to do what He would have me do.  I’ve experienced this before, but something was different this time.  The thing that is different is that when  I looked in the mirror this morning, I didn’t chastize myself and go into the cycle of self defeat.  I simply looked in the mirror and knew, ‘I’m probably gonna’ mess up again.’  I’m too passionate about not wanting people I love to go the place of darkness to not find myself in a position where my intentions get ahead of God’s direction.  But I also have the reassurance of knowing that God’s going to be there to pick me up again.  We really are in this together.  I may not be the best at hearing the exact directions of what God would have me do, but I have this hope that God shed His blood on the cross because He too doesn’t want His children to go to that dark place.