Friday, November 30, 2012

When Stumbling on Scripture means Forward Progress...

    A few years ago, when I recommitted my life to Christ, I made a conscious decision that I was no longer going to just  believe a certain way or do certain things as a Christian just because I was "suppose" to.  I had spent most of my Christian walk up to that point, doing just that...just going through the motions.... and I knew that in order to have a real relationship with God, I had to really know Him...for myself.  So these days I take time to study my bible and pray and worship and invest in community, not because I should, but because I want to know really know Him.... and  to love Him with all that I am and live for Him in all that I do.
  Yet, to be honest, sometimes it seem I become more tripped up now by my desire to really understand God for myself, than  I ever did just going through the motions.  For instance, take my Bible reading.....for the past several days I have been stuck in Matthew 5 and 6.....not the whole chapters though... just 7 verses.  For you see, it seems to me that in Matthew 5:14-16 when Jesus is telling His disciples to let their light shine, that He's encouraging them to go out and let their love for Him be an action that others can see and thus be point to Him.  That makes sense....even  the book of James says that Faith without works is dead and people can see your faith by what you DO, so yes.....we should be light and salt in this world by DOing God's will....Got it.  But then in Matthew 6:1-4...which is on the very same page in my bible... Jesus tells His disciples not to DO their good deeds publicly to be seen by others and that when they give they should not even to let their left hand know what their right hand is DOing!  Wait a minute?!?!?  How are we suppose to be a city on a Hill...letting our light shine...without even allowing our whole selves to see our light?  Now don't get me wrong....I don't think we are suppose to go around tooting our own horns and proclaiming how great we are.  In fact I think the whole point of any good we do, should be to point to the greatness of God....we never even get involved in the equation in terms of who it's about...But how exactly do we let our light shine in private?!  How are we to be a city on a hill....for all the world to see....but not allow even ourselves to know what we are doing?!  How does that work?!
   I don't know the answers right now.....I have to meditate on it much longer I think to have it fully make sense to me.  But I have to admit, I worry that while I'm trying to figure this out, am I dishonoring God by trying to shine a light and being aware that this is my intention?  See how I can take a simple concept and turn it into a mumbled mess in my mind.  It's kind of ridiculous!  And yet, I somehow believe that it honors God when we wrestle with His word...He delights in us meditating on His concepts and coming to understand and believe them for ourselves...He desires us to know Him and seek Him in this personal kind of way.  So maybe the mess I get lost in and all the tripping up I do in scripture, actually means I'm walking on the path....moving forward... drawing closer to Him.....after all, God's kingdom is so upside down compared to this world, that maybe...just maybe....what seems like stumbling is actually progress.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

When We Need the Catch 22....

    I have never been in war...I've never trained in the army...and to be honest, I haven't even read the book "The Art of War"....BUT  I am certain... without a doubt... that one of the biggest attacks of the enemy is to Divide and conquer. How do I know this?!?!  I see the evidence of it constantly in my spiritual walk.
  Now to be fair, I think some of it comes down to personality.  I am the kind of person who likes to do things on my own.....I like to figure things out for myself and decide what's best for me.  So in those moments when I am struggling or hurting or just first instinct is not to run to people but rather away from them.  I'd rather save face than share my burdens, which clearly does not play into community.
  However I think some of this also comes from the enemy of our souls.  Now, I don't know much about spiritual warfare, but I believe it exists...and I believe the enemy knows if he can get us alone and on our own he can defeat us.  So He plants ideas in our head...thoughts that tell us nobody cares, people don't need us to share our pain with them when they have their own, and that in sharing our struggle we are only proving how desperately screwed up we are.  And we...or maybe just I...believe Him...for a bit anyway.
  But then I have moments...where I share a cup of coffee with a friend...or send out an S.O.S. text for prayers...or even just read verses like "The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense" and I'm reminded that God created us to be a body....and the body does not work when we don't work together.  And that in working together, in Him, we can not be defeated.
  It all makes so much sense...and yet...I think community will always be one of those catch 22 things for me....something I want, something I need, and yet something so uncomfortable and messy to me that I will always be tempted to pull away. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When You Allow Life to be an Adventure....

  I have spent a lot of time over the past month or so thinking about the will of God and whether or not God has a specific plan for each of our lives that He expects us to figure out  and follow.  It's hard for me to understand how a God who is so specific in how He formed us, where He placed us in the span of history and the details of our the number of hairs on our head and the amount of tears we have cried...would not be as specific in leading us through out our said life!  I often think that I would like nothing more than to slip God a $20 and have Him hand me over a cheat sheet guide to my life.  But...then I realize...His way is so much better!
  After talking to countless amounts of people and reading many books on the topic, I have come to the conclusion that while God may know the ins and outs of our life and what we will do with it....we don't need to.  And while I long for the kind of control that comes from knowing the future and how it will all play out, that kind of life leaves no room for God.  The kind of life God calls us to is a life of faith and of trust....a life that says I don't know what the future holds but I know who holds my future and that is enough for me.  I think it's a life of sacrifice and giving up our desires, wants and have to haves in order to experience something so much better...beyond what we knew existed.  It's saying to God, I'm giving you everything...I've put all my eggs in your basket...I am expecting you to come through...because I know you will!
  I think that's what leads us to a real relationship with God.  I think having that kind of dependence on Him is what it means to actually be His children!  While it probably would be easier to be given some money and a road map and then sent out on our way, God instead invites Himself into our adventure...or rather us into His....and it makes the journey so much more exciting!  I have to wonder if in those moments when we act like the prodigal son, asking for our inheritance in order to take off once we have it....aka demanding God tell us what to do with our lives so we can go off and do it without Him...., if God's not much like the father in that story....heart-broken to see us go, but already planning the party for our return!
  I don't know what the future holds...I can't see how everything will work out and quite honestly I don't know that everything I desire today, I will still want tomorrow.  But what I do know is no matter what comes my way, I want to share the experience sitting on God's lap knowing He's got the steering wheel!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

When You're Amazed by Love...

"Amazing love, how can it be?  That you, my king. would die for me.  Amazing love, I know it's true.  Its my joy to honor you.  Amazing love how can it be? That you my king would die for me.  Amazing love I know it's true. Its my joy to honor you, In all I do I honor you"

  I believe in the power of the cross.  I believe that Christ came down from heaven, was born of the virgin Mary, lived a perfect sinless life and then gave His life for me and the whole world on the cross, only to rise from the dead three days later and now He resides in heaven at the right hand of the Father.  I believe His choice....His Sacrifice....His Gift....covers me.  And I am grateful!  Yet, there are times when all that belief...all that knowledge...just gets stuck in my head and never really makes it into my heart where it changes me.  And every once in a while I need to be reminded of it.  Today was that day.
  All weekend I've been beating myself up for being such a self-centered jerk....for assuming I know what people are thinking and why they act the way they act and thus responding in not so Godly ways.  I've been mad that while I want to live a life of love...grace..mercy...peace...and forgiveness...I often don't.  I've struggled to see how God could choose someone like me, who clearly can't seem to get my act together on a continual basis.  And  I've wondered if He's as disappointed in me as I am with myself.
  Then this morning I got up late.  I was tired and kind of cranky and still walking in the overly sensitive state that caused me to cry last night for no good reason.  From the moment I got out of bed things just weren't going my way.  I made my coffee too weak....I couldn't find my favorite scraper seemed to forget that it's sole purpose for being used is to actually scrape the ice off my nephew's friends were parking in my spot...etc.  And by the time I headed out to church the only prayer I could seem to muster up was "God, I need you".
   When I finally got to service I was feeling so distracted.  I struggled through worship drifting between not being able to focus on anything and noticing strange details like how many of the men in our church had gotten haircuts in the past week.  By the time worship ended I was feeling like a pretty bad Christian for being in a worship service doing anything but worshipping God. And so as the sermon began, I once again just began to pray, "God I need you".  The sermon was interesting and I took a lot of notes to try and keep myself engaged in what was being said.  But honestly it wasn't until the last five minutes that I actually felt like I was getting it!
  I don't want to sound all kooky and weird....but it's also kind of hard to explain without sounding a bit like that...cause it was as if, all of a sudden I was reminded of the power of the cross.....and I was overwhelmed!  So often I act like I am an island...I don't need anything or anyone...I am good on my own.  But was like God came down, put His arms around me and said... I've got you... I've covered you... I've chosen you... You are mine... and I love you.  I felt like a child lost in the freedom of knowing my father will take care of me.  In that moment I didn't have to worry about anything....not the the future, not the past, not people, not situations....I was just lost in love.....amazed by my Father.  I left service feeling somehow I was given permission to just... Go...Be...Love.
  I guess in part that is what the cross does.  It reminds you who is God and what He's done.  It also helps you to see yourself for who you really are and to fully grasp what you've been given in Christ.  It shows you a love that is not based on the standards of this world, but rather flows out of the upside-down kingdom of God where the first is last, the last is first, the poor are made rich, the hungry fed, the orphan brought into a family.  It teaches you a new way of life where it's no longer about you and them and us, but about God and doing everything for His glory!
  It's funny how I left my house this morning feeling like such a sinner because the only prayer I seemed to be able to muster up was "God I need you" and now tonight I stand here in the grace that flows out of that simple truth.  I do need God...every moment of every day....and the best part is....He's here!....the Cross is that proof!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

When You stop Being a Worm and Start Changing into a Butterfly......

  In general, I am the kind of person who won't try something if I think I am going to fail at it.  I tend not to step out into situations where I can't figure out how it will end.  And if you want me to trust you without having proven to me time and time again that you're worthy of that trust, well you can pretty much forget about it!  But lately...God's been challenging me a lot about all of that and I find I'm starting to change....maybe even to grow a's actually pretty amazing!
   The Bible Says in Romans 12 to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, or as my translation goes on to say  "let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think".  I'm not trying to be all religious, but this verse feels like the perfect explanation for what I am going through.  God is changing the way that I think and thus I am changing!
  It's like I am finally able to see that maybe failure isn't the worse thing that could happen to me, but rather it's the not trying because I am afraid that truly is robbing me...Maybe I'm not suppose to know all the steps to get from point A to point B because the adventure of getting there is the best part of the journey...and Maybe I can choose to trust you not because you've proven yourself but because the Christ in you already has!
  And now I am even starting to find myself wanting to try things I am not good at in order to improve and being willing to make mistakes without thinking they are the end all be all.  Now I am more willing to take a step forward even when it's the only step I can see at the moment.  And now I am even beginning to form relationships with people I never would have imagined wanting to know.
  I know I'm over simplifying this...but maybe that's the point.  Maybe all the things I worry about and stress about, come about because I take the really simple concepts of Loving God and Loving people and turn it into something much more complex. And it's when I allow God to change my thoughts that things become much more simple and I am freed up to live more fully for Him.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

When Did we Forget how to Love One Another...

  So I was talking on the phone today to one of my friends who was venting some pretty valid frustrations/hurts she had because of some things people had said to her and about her because she is an same sex relationship.  I tend to shy away from any sort of drama that comes with "Hot Button" issues like this...but sitting there....listening to my friend....hearing the hurt and pain in her voice....I couldn't help but get angry with and for her! When did we forget that people have feelings and that words can hurt?!?!  When did we start caring more about being right then doing right?!?!  When did we become so hurtful and forget how to love?!?!
   I've been thinking a lot about this all day and really contemplating what it looks like to love in situations like this....after all the bible says the greatest commandments are to love God and love what would love do in this situation?!?!  For love meant allowing a friend to vent....not judging her or trying to make her see where others were coming from...but just sitting there and listening....caring...being there for her.  This wasn't about me.....this was about her...and letting her know that as a person she is completely and fully others...and most importantly by God!
  And I know there are people who will get mad at me for stressing how much God loves her.  They will point to verses in the bible that speak to God's condemnation of such a lifestyle as hers.  But I have to wonder....if we truly believe that God is God and ruler/judge of all....then why are we trying to take His job and judge the world for ourselves.  God's called us to love...not to condemn!  On top of that the bible also says that while we were still sinners Christ died for us and that this is love not that we loved God but that He loved us!  God so loved the whole world He sent His Son to die for all of us....not just the people who agree with us, or act like us, or look like us, or even believe like us!  Maybe if we spent more time understanding how in desperate need of a savior we are and how blessed we are to be forgiven, we'll stop judging everyone else and learn to have love for one another!  After all aren't people suppose to know we are Christians by our love?!?!
  Just some food for thought....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When it's Not Crazy to be Insane...

  So they say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  By that definition, this past week I was feeling pretty insane.  I kept finding myself in a situation where I would get my hopes up...and then when they are dashed... I was hurt!  I would tell myself time and time again not to care and not to expect things to work out but just to be happy when it did...without being hurt if they didn't.  But sadly....I'm just not wired that way.  And while I am a big girl and know how to feel the pain and move on...disappointment still hurts...every time!
  Then last night I was laying in bed replaying some situations in my mind... winning arguments I failed to win in real life...and basically complaining to God about how I've been wronged....when I started thinking about the verse in Luke that says,"If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back"...and I was convicted!
  It was like I had this brief moment when I realized that this is the kind of life God calls us to....a life of radical love and insane forgiveness that says I will bless those who curse me, pray for those who persecute me!  Jesus showed this insane kind of Love on the cross.  God continues to show it to me day in and day out through His forgiveness.  If this is who my God is and how He loves, shouldn't that also be how I love and live?!?!
  Yeah...pretty convicting!  But also kind of encouraging in that...God's kingdom's upside down but totally right side up kind of way!  You may or may not agree with me...and that's fine, cause to be honest I don't always agree with myself in the moment...  But maybe in being a little insane in comparison to the world, we become a little more like Christ!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

When You See the Right in What has Gone Wrong...

  So this morning I had an opportunity to share with my church for orphan Sunday!  Honestly when I first heard about Orphan Sunday I was so excited about it and even (dare I say it) excited to share!  Then I forgot about it until yesterday when I got an email saying I could share today!  My thought process went a little something like this....

  Oh crap...I completely forgot about that.....I thought they forgot about it too....I didn't hear anything back that said I was certainly doing it...I thought I wasn't going to have to....why did I ever say I would share....I don't like to stand up in front on the crowd....I don't even know what to say anymore....but if I don't say something will saying something better than saying nothing....could I really let this Sunday go by without standing up for the carlos' and Pablo's of this can I not do something....of course I'll share!

(This all went through my mind in a matter of seconds! The mind is a funny thing, isn't it)!!!

  So anyway, I shared.  And to be honest I don't think I've done that bad of a job of presenting something to my church in a long time!  But....the funny thing was....I didn't really care!  It's not that I don't care for the orphans or want God's heart to shine through me for them...but I's really not about me anyway!  I could have gotten up there and said the word "Peanut Butter" and if God wanted to He could use that word to touch some one's heart!  It's not about me saying the right words, or being super eloquent or convincing people to stand in the gap for the cause!  It's about God giving His heart to His people through willing vessels!

  I ended my "share" with prayer....which if you know me you know how much I absolutely hate praying in public... it seemed so right though that I'd offer my heart to God in a moment when my words and strength of voice seemed to miss the people.  And I ended up walking away feeling like I did my part and now it's up to God to use it as He will.  To Him Be the Glory  (such a refreshing place to live)! Amen!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

When it's Christ in You...

  For the last four years I have had the opportunity to attend the Woman of Faith Conference when it's come to Hartford.  The first year I knew nothing about it but was invited by an old friend I only briefly re-connected with.  I enjoyed myself so much that the second year I invited a small group from my church go.  Then last year I went with a co-workers church and this year I was invited to go as a volunteer for World Vision.  I have to say this was probably my favorite year so far!
  For one, getting to walk around and talk with the different woman attending the conference was such a blessing to me!  I loved connecting with people and hearing a bit of their heart and their story!  Now to be honest, I am NOT...and I mean it, I'm NOT....normally comfortable walking up to random strangers and striking up conversations... even when there's a purpose behind it.  The very idea of it usually makes me want to crawl out of my skin or hide in the corner!  Yet God did something amazing in me this weekend, the same kind of amazing thing He seemed to do when I was in Ecuador this summer.  When it came time to step up, step out and carry out in the commitment I made to serve, God filled me with Himself and turned me from a shy introvert into an outgoing extrovert.  It's so weird to's almost has if in those moments I can step out of myself and only see God...and I KNOW it's God working in me and through me!  It always amazes me....I am awestruck....this is our GOD!
  Then, to go along with that, I really didn't go into this conference expecting to hear anything that would really resound with me where I am at in my spiritual walk at the moment.  In the past the things I've always seemed to walk away from this conference with were a deeper sense of God's love for me, A feeling of forgiveness, a drawing of my heart to His and a Knock on the door of my heart.  I guess I walked into this weekend thinking I was beyond all that and thus wasn't really expecting much beyound having the opportunity to serve.  Instead I felt like at some point in every message I heard a resounding theme of being chosen bubble up!  I'm not really sure what it all means...there has certainly not been enough time for me to process it all in this afternoon...but I left feeling like God was saying I can't qualify myself, but I was never suppose to....instead God truly does qualify the unqualified.  He continuously chooses to use the foolish and the weak and the confused and the ones that don't have it all together, to make His name known.  Therefore I don't need to worry about all my faults and all the ways I don't feel like I'm good enough, or capable enough, or even smart enough to do what He's called me to.  Just like today when He seemed to change the very nature of my character....God reminded's Christ IN me that is the hope of glory!
  Not bad for a weekend I wasn't expecting much from....if you ask me!

Friday, November 2, 2012

When You Fear the Thing You Want the Most...

  I think a very big part of me longs for community.  A group of people who like me and get me and can speak to my heart in a way that challenges, corrects and convicts me without making me feel unaccepted, judged and condemned.  And I long to be and do that for other people as well.  It all seems so very right. And Yet... sometimes I wonder if my personality will ever allow to me to experience that.

  It seems lately that my fear of being rejected by people outweighs my desire to know and be known by them.  I'm afraid to be real in sharing myself with thoughts, my opinions, my struggles, my fears...  because I don't want to be rejected by them (even admitting in this post that I fear being rejected makes me nervous because I know people who will judge me for not finding my acceptance in God when I claim to be a christian, and thus reject me).  It's like I think that if I don't live up to some certain standard I'll never make it into the "cool club" and so I have to choose between being who I think I'm suppose to be and thus being accepted, or being who I really am and thus risking rejection.  It's almost easier to just keep people a bay....and yet that's the last thing I want.

  I know the reality is that I should just be who I am and if people like me great and if not then oh well, but it's much harder to walk that out than it is to speak it.  And I know I should just trust God that He made me who I am and I am perfect in His sight, but clearly the world knows I'm not perfect. So how am I suppose to go about building a community when I fear the very risk it takes to build one?

I don't know, maybe I am just tried and over thinking this all.  But am I the only one who ever struggles with this though?