Monday, February 25, 2013

When it All Comes Down to Grace....

  I've been struggling a bit lately...with my faith and with my friendships...but it wasn't until the other day that I realised that the two things basically go hand in hand.  Usually it's when I feel disconnected from my friends, that I also start feeling disconnected from God and questioning all sorts of things about our relationship.  It's like I allow the assumptions of my relationships to spill over into my view of God and before I know it I feel completely condemned and unable (or maybe just unwilling) to bring myself before a holy God, knowing how much of a disappointment I feel like to Him.
  But then yesterday, I was driving around listening to a sermon by Tim Chaddick (You can check out some of his sermons at and it hit me that it's the Grace of God that turns my condemnation into conviction.  This changes how I live my life feeling like a failure knowing I'll never live up to some standard... to me realising that that I'm already accepted by God and how I live my life is a reflection of how much I grasp that fact.
  When I look at life through that lens, it almost doesn't matter if I ever find my place in my group of friends.  When I take the time to rest in the fact that I am truly and completely loved by God... right here and now, no matter how many bad choices I make or wrong things I say....I stop worrying so much about trying to be on my best behavior around people and I'm able to just relax and be God's servant.  Life becomes a lot more about Him and others....and less about Me.
  A part of this realization also comes from a sermon series we are doing at church on community (you can listen to the whole series here).  We've been talking the past two weeks about forgiveness and my pastor's quoted a lot of scripture, including a bunch about how much we've been forgiven and how anyone trying to live according to the law is already condemned.  
  I know it sounds funny....actually it's down right ridiculous when I really think of the implications...but often times I feel like living under the law is more comfortable for me.  I like the black and whiteness of "Do this" and "Don't do that"....I know  what's expected of me in that.  But grace is a whole different ball game for me.....while it frees me and makes me acceptable to God...i don't understand the "rules"of it as well (if there are any) and thus it's easier for me to feel like I'm disappointing God in it.  So I find myself clinging to law to try and prove myself to God.....which only leads to feeling condemned...and me pulling away from Him and others.
  I clearly still have a lot to learn on this topic.  But I think the more I learn about the grace of God, the more my focus in life shifts from Me to God...and the more I find myself living to please Him instead of others....and ultimately the more willing I am to just love people without expecting anything in return..... and the more comfortable I feel in my friendships.  So all comes down to Grace...

Monday, February 18, 2013


  This weekend....a little girl whose been battling cancer off and on for years, passed away.....a young woman who finally allowed herself to be loved, got engaged just hours before losing her fiance in a car wreck....and a mother found out her one viable kidney is on the final stages of failing her.

What a weekend....

  A lot of other things happened this weekend too....great things... things that bring light and bring hope....but tonight I can't help but sit here and grieve, ...wondering....WHEN Lord....When will you come and make it all right?!  When will you turn the sorrow into joy and mourning into dancing?!  When will you come....

....Because my arms are ill equipped to carry this pain. 

  I sit here, reading these emails and text from friends and acquaintances... I listen to their shaky voices on the phone....and all I can think of is how much this all sucks!  I want to have words of wisdom.....I want to do something to make it better....but I don't and I can't.  I feel helpless.

  But you Lord... understand understand know what it's like to have your heart broken.  And you can bring can bring

  So come Lord Jesus I pray....Amen.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

When the Smoke and Mirrors are Removed...

    I'm not a big fan of confrontation.  In fact most of the time when someone hurts me, I try to sweep it under the rug as quickly as possible and pretend like nothings wrong.......before scurrying away as far and as fast as I can. In all honesty I would pretty much rather just take the hit and  deal with hurt feelings myself, than be honest enough to tell someone they did me wrong.  I've even been known to bend over backwards to try and make things okay in my relationships, even if it means I go to bed at night crying myself to sleep over a repeated hurtful action that a "friend" does, without them ever knowing anythings wrong.  I use to think this made me the bigger person....but today, in church, I got a Holy Spirit Spanking and I realized a thing or two about myself when it comes to this.
  For one thing....pretending like there isn't a problem when there is..doesn't make me a good or better person, in fact it only makes me a liar...a fake, a phony.  On top of that, it's pretty obvious that the reason why I don't confront people is because I'm afraid that if I do, they won't understand me and will just reject me.  Thus my reason for avoiding conflict is not because I'm such a stand up person whose worried about our relationship, but rather cause I'm a self-centered coward  whose afraid of rejection.  Then, my lack of honesty only goes to show just how arrogant and hypocritical I can be, since I don't even bother to share my feelings with others because I assume how they will react and what they will say in response.  What part of that makes me a bigger person?!?!
  Now I'm not saying that I need to go out and tell every person in my life that's ever done anything wrong to me that they hurt me.  I don't even think I could remember every wrong that's ever happened.  But the point is, I need to realize that "taking the high road" doesn't mean avoiding confrontation.  Conflict is going to happen...people are going to hurt me....but things can only be made right when I am willing to communicate....and bring issues into the light.  Of course that needs to be done in a prayerful and considerate way...but none the less....sometimes, it needs to be done...and that's something I need to work on.
  Kind of a hard lesson for me this week....but as they say.......what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.


Friday, February 15, 2013

When Lessons Begin Only Two Days In...

  I do a weekly bible study with a friend, which usually consists of me asking obnoxious questions about the bible that either don't really matter or if they do, I could have figured out the answer for myself with a five minute google search.  But last night was a little different.  Taking a break from our study of the life of Jesus, we focused on John 15 and how God says, "I am the vine and you are the branches", and what that really means.
  One of the questions that came up was, "What is the hardest part for you in living out your faith", which ended up being a great question for me considering my answer very much flowed with the portion of scripture we read.
  You see, for me, my biggest struggle is remembering that I'm not self-sufficient and life is not about me!  While I had an idea of how prideful and self-centered I am, it wasn't until I starting "praying the hours" for lent, that I realized just how much I go off on my own through out the day doing things to build my name and for my enjoyment.  I seem to forget that the very fact that I have air to breathe or the strength to get out of bed, is truly a gift from God....and thus my life and all that I do in it should be for Him!
  So why is it so easy to make life about me?!  It probably has to do with the society we live in....a world that teaches you to make your own way in life and look out for yourself because no body is going to do it for you!  Or maybe it just has to do with human nature....since the fall of man humans have always seemed to try and make themselves the best.  Or maybe it's just my own personal thorn....something to keep me humble in those moments when I think I have it going on (all God has to do is shine a little light on that statement in order to show me just how much I don't).
  I don't know the exact reason or science behind it.  But what I do know is that if God is the vine in my branch, the one who sustains me and leads me, then taking time through out my day to just stop everything and get on my knees and pray this Lent, is a great reminder of who He is and my place in His world.  I think I am going to learn a lot this here's to Lent 2013... and to the God whom it's all about! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When "Doing" Something means "Sacrificing" for Lent...

  Lent begins tomorrow....40 days of sacrifice leading up to Easter Sunday (which this year also happens to be my Birthday!!!).  To be honest, even though I have celebrated Lent for the past several years, I haven't really put a lot of thought into WHY we do it.  In fact, until today I pretty much thought that the only reason why you give something up for the "holiday" is because through "suffering" we are more closely connected with Christ in His suffering. While I still think a part of that is true, after doing a little research today, I realized there's more to it.  
  Lent is also a time of repentance, prayer and self-examination....a time to purify and prepare ourselves to celebrate the greatest gift that was ever given...the gift of Salvation and new life in Christ!  Lent isn't all about US and our ability to deny ourselves, it's about GOD and what HE gave for us!  With that said, this year I decided that I wanted to approach Lent  more as an opportunity...a chance to deepen my relationship with focus myself on who HE is and to spend my 40 days of sacrifice in worship to Him. So while I will still be "giving up" something, my sacrifice is more about "Doing" something.  And thus for the next 40 days I am going to commit to praying "the hours".
  Now this is NOT my original fact up until a few hours ago I still had know idea what I was going to do this year.  Then I received an emailed copy of my church's weekly blog with a link to a blog post written by Rachel Held Evans during last years Lenten season.  I enjoy Rachel's writing very much (in fact I'm almost done reading her 2nd book "The year of Biblical Womanhood" and HIGHLY recommend both it and her previous book, "Evolving in Monkeytown"), which is why I clicked on the link, and "Praying the hours" is one of the things she suggested doing in it.  I had already been considering focusing more on "doing" something this year anyway, and so upon reading her post, this idea certainly resonated the most with me.
  To be honest, while my prayer life has certainly grown through out the years, a lot of times it mostly consists of what I can talk to God about while driving from one place to another through out my day.  It's a quick thought that escapes my mouth as I pull out of the driveway when I recognize that I'm not the best driver in the world and thus I need God's protection.  Or a short request when I'm having a bad day and think the world just doesn't understand me.  It's a one second well wish for a friend or a "thank you I made it through the day" praise while climbing into bed.  But, I think prayer is suppose to be something more than that....something more consistent....more...a way of life....a constant remembering and praying to God through out our day.   Praying "The hours"... or praying in the morning, afternoon, evening and night.... refocuses our minds back on God and reminds us that life is really about HIM and for Him.  
  I can think of no better way to spend Lent then....than by purposely and intentionally seeking God throughout my day by setting a part time to pray.  It's certainly going to take sacrifice for me to do this.  For one thing I am not a morning person, so getting up early enough to pray before having to rush to get ready and head out the door, will be a sacrifice.  I also like to spend my nights falling asleep to a good book (aka forcing myself to stay awake as long as possible to read just one more page) and thus I'm going to have to deny that impulse and instead consciously choose to close the book and seek God before my eyes are too heavy to stay open... another sacrifice.  It may mean re-arranging my afternoon plans in order to take time to pray around lunch and it may mean having to miss dinner in order to get alone to be with God, but in the end it's a sacrifice...a giving up of something...and a remembrance and repentance to God, whom it's all about!  


Saturday, February 9, 2013

When a Movie gets me Going....

  Blizzard Charl-emo (that's "Charlotte" and "Nemo" put together since depending on where you live it goes by either name) hit us here in New England last night, so I spent a lot of the night watching movies  and reading.  As a family, we watched the movie "No Greater Love", which I had been really excited about seeing, but it left me feeling......a little annoyed...after watching it.
  Basically the movie is about this married couple who are separated  because the wife leaves after the birth of their first child and then ten years later she mysteriously reappears and in the end, they end up back together as one happy family!  Sounds like a great story doesn't it.  Yet....there's this one part in the movie that just really.....rubbed me the wrong way.
  You see, the husband is a non-believer and his wife has become a christian while they are separated.  When it's discovered that they are in fact still married (the husband never signed the divorce papers) the church tells the wife she must submit to her husband and stay married to him even though after all this time she doesn't even really know this man!
  Now I am NOT saying that the church is lying or saying something completely contrary to the Bible.  They quote enough scriptures in the movie to prove what they are saying is biblical.  But what really bothered me is that the way it was portrayed (or at least how I viewed it from the movie) that the church was telling this woman what to do instead of just speaking the truth to her and allowing her to decide for herself the best course of action!
  By all means, I think The Church has every right to speak the truth of God's word into people's lives when they ask to hear it.  In fact I think it is the Church's responsibility to do just that!  However, telling some one what to do and doing it in such a way as to tell them to obey because it's a biblical law...just doesn't sit right with me!
  Yes I think we should obey the word of God.  Yes I think the Church needs to speak that law.  However our obedience to that law should be a choice we make out of our Love for God and our desire to honor Him....Not because some pastor forced us to read some passages in the Bible and then informed us "it's clear what we need to do"!
  I know it's only a movie....I shouldn't get so annoyed over a work of fiction....but...I bothers me so much because this type of scenario is played out so much in churches across America.  Now I know that is not really a fair statement for me to make!  I've only attended 5 different churches in my life time, so I can't really make such a blanketed statement about all churches......but even in those 5 churches, I've seen stuff like this....where people are told what to do, and act out of holding up some religious law, rather than making decisions for themselves out of what they know from having a relationship with God.
  If faith is suppose to be about a relationship with God and Love and Grace and Honor and service to Him....then shouldn't obedience be about that and not because of some church telling a person what the bible says?!  
  I could be wrong about this....but I'd rather have a relationship with God that is walked out in obedience to Him because of My love for Him, than some legalistic set of rules!

Just Saying....End of Rant!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When I Pray...

  This afternoon I went to a prayer meeting at my church.  There's a small group of us who gather 2 to 3 times a month to pray together, and while praying in a group setting is always quite awkward for me, I find myself drawn to these meetings and encouraged in my faith walk by them.

  Now to be honest, I don't really pray out loud a whole lot in these meetings.  I do a lot of agreeing with what others are praying out loud, but most of my prayers in the group are said in my head, through my heart, or whispered through moving lips that no one can see or hear.

  I guess the reason for that is because I seem to pray so different than others.  

  When I pray by my room, or most often when driving in my prayers are more like a conversation with an invisible friend sitting in the seat next to me.  As I pray I share things and talk things out, not in an eloquent sort of way, fishing for the right kind of words.  Instead I just speak and let honesty flow out of me whether or not it sounds good, righteous or holy.

  I tend to believe these are the kinds of prayers that God loves best.  Prayers where my heart is laid completely open to Him.

  But when I pray in a group.....I feel the need to pray differently.  Maybe it's simply that the kind of vulnerability I pray with when it's me and God, one on one, is not the kind of vulnerability that I feel comfortable sharing with a group.  But a part of me also thinks it has to do with the fact that everyone else seems to pray so....eloquently.  Their words are chosen carefully, the thoughts they voice are perfectly coherent.  It's actually quite beautiful to be honest....but it's also quite intimidating.

  It makes me stop a wonder if the fact that I speak so non-nonchalantly with God through out my day, means I've stripped prayer of it's holiness.  I wonder if because I don't strain for the right words and make sure my thoughts are clear, if I'm taking something sacred and making it mundane.

  Is it possible to make prayer too common-place? To strip it of it's sacredness by seeing God as more of a friend I'm talking to, than the Lord of all?   Or is God just pleased by the heart that seeks matter what format it takes?