Thursday, December 30, 2010

time for resolutions

i know...

some people don't believe in new year's resolutions. that's ok. i think of them more as new beginnings. even as i write this, i smile about the term "new beginnings" because it seems so appropriate. the year of 2010 started out with us having home church, but during the spring, we decided to give a new church a chance. the name? avalon, which means "new beginning." i guess i'm carrying my time of new beginnings into 2011.

a few days ago, our pastor blogged about the church's annual daniel fast. i've never done that before. to be honest, it seemed more like a spiritual fad to me. i've not always been a fan of fasting, partly due to a "super spiritual" couple i used to know who, every two weeks, would brag about just having come off another three-week fast. as a result, i tend to roll my eyes when people start talking about fasts. however, avalon and pastor ritchie have been winning my trust over the past few months, so i decided to talk to david about it, who seemed pretty positive about us joining the fast.

so i've been thinking about what i feel i need to focus on during this fast. i have once again been turning to food to fill the holes in my soul. this is both a physical and a spiritual issue for me. i realized on my walk today that i have toxins in my body and toxins in my spirit. and they need to go away. and i need to deal with them. i also have some questions about what paths i need to choose in regards to life and ministry. and i'll be joining in with my church in our collective prayers to find and know the will of GOD for the church.

already, i can feel GOD gently speaking to my heart and dealing with me about letting go of the things that cause me harm both physically and spritually. i know GOD wants me to have a new beginning, but i know i can't go into a new beginning until i let go of the past. even now, my heart is torn. even now, my spirit aches. i know this won't be easy, but i know that the journey will be worth it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

what if...

i suppose i've seen "it's a wonderful life" a few too many times because every year around this time i begin to wonder "what if..."

what if my sister was still alive?
what if i had never met my hubby?
what if we had stayed there?
what if that church had hired us instead?
what if we hadn't gone through that?
what if the birth control had actually worked? (so glad it didn't)
what if...what if...what if...

sometimes i think i would like a glimpse of how things might have been. where would i be now? how would life be different?

i know. i probably think too much. but really...wouldn't it be cool to get the chance to see what could have been?

i don't know though. i guess in many situations in life, i can see the hand of GOD guiding. i don't know what could have been, but i can't imagine life without my family. and those experiences? well, they've made me who i am today, and i kinda like who i am. =)

yet still i wonder...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

my decision to get involved at church

lately, i've been toying with the idea of getting more involved at my church. i've dreamed for some time about how church could be, and so many of the ideas i've had, i actually see going on at avalon. even today, i leaned over and told my hubby..."if i had done that, i'd have gotten into trouble. I LOVE THIS PLACE!"

i love going to church in blue jeans and a sweatshirt. i even went last week without any makeup, and it didn't bother me a bit...and no one gave me "the look." i'm a good person, but church people have a tendency to make me feel like i don't measure up, that i'm not acceptable, that i'm a troublemaker, that there's something wrong with me. but i don't feel like that at avalon. one of my kids and i were talking a couple of weeks ago about church in general. he said he liked avalon and that it helps that they're nice there. and nice, they really are. and relaxed. and happy. and non-judgmental. i really fear being judged by church people. i hate feeling inferior and lacking. but in the months we've been at avalon, i can honestly say that i have never felt that way...and no one is more surprised than i.

and now i think i've waited, watched and tested them enough. i told the hubby this morning that i think i want to get involved in their outreach program called HOPE. i'll take it slowly. i don't have a problem with GOD consuming my life, but i never want to get myself into another situation in which i let church consume my life. my family comes before my church. and GOD comes before all else.

just making the decision to show interest in a ministry at any church is a huge step for me. i think it's time though. i finally feel like i'm home. i finally feel like it's safe. i finally feel like i've found a place i can be myself and get into some really fun trouble with some really good people. and somehow, i think GOD would approve.

i think that's GOD's way of telling me, "merry christmas!" and what a wonderful gift it is! GOD, you totally rock, and i sooo adore you!

below is the link to MY church! check it out! =)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

thinking about thinking

my oldest son used to have a basketball coach when we lived in northeast georgia who was loud, demonstrative, and passionate. he was a nice guy though some feared him.

the thing the coach was famous for was his repeated use of a one-word instructional phrase, which could be heard many times...and very loudly, i might add. someone would do something wrong or careless on the court, and you knew it was coming. his hands would ball into a fist, his index fingers would extend and beat at his temples, and he'd start yelling, "THINK! THINK!" image i will not soon forget. our family has mimicked it many times. good times. good times.

i don't know what brought that memory to mind today, but i started thinking about thinking.

i hear so much in the church world- fallacies in our thinking and reasoning, and inconsistencies in our beliefs and behavior- and i get this all-too-familiar picture in my head again of the coach yelling "THINK!" and i wish he were around to say it.

thinking is a powerful thing, and we should do more of it. i try always to encourage my children to think for themselves and to search truth for themselves. though i guide them, i try not to tell them what they should think. i want for them to learn to think critically. i think that will better prepare them for life. i know some parents who fear their children being exposed to schools of thought different from their own particularly when it comes to religious ideologies and traditions, but since i firmly believe that JESUS is the truth,  i don't fear my kids questioning what they've been taught. when they question, we take the time to explore. the words, "because i said so" are rarely used and usually are applied to the completion of undesirable household chores. if you're a parent, you sooo know what i mean. the nike slogan, "just do it" applies to the cleaning of rooms.

we've discussed clothes, tattoos, cussing, fairness, spiritual authority doctrine, and music to name a few topics. we're real, open and honest with our kids. i'm fine that my kids occasionally address the "elephant in the room." truth be told, i'm glad they can spot one. i'm also glad that they don't "drink the kool-aid" just because someone told them that it's the submissive, christian thing to do. don't get me wrong, though. we do teach that when we challenge, we must do so with respect. the Bible says to be aware, to be shrewd, to study, to test, to ask. i believe that GOD encourages us to think and to question. i think he loves it when we do. it shows we are working out our salvation and learning to walk what we're talking. he created us to think, to learn, to mature. and i don't think GOD gets angry when we question him. i think he enjoys opening up the dialogue and revealing himself to us.

so the next time someone tells you what to think, think about it. think critically about it. ask questions. seek truth and understanding. know not just what you believe but why you believe it. simply having an opinion doesn't make you rebellious or disrespectful. it does give you power, though, so handle it with care...and probably a little prayer.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

reflecting on my first semester

it feels so good to accomplish something. a few months ago, i took a leap of faith and applied to georgia state university. this past friday, i finished up my first semester of classes. i only have finals, and then i'm done until january. i can hardly believe it.

i used to be afraid to drive in atlanta. now, i do it three days a week or more. i used to be afraid of large schools. now i attend one with over 30,000 students. i used to be insecure and unsure. now i'm inching ever-so-closely to confidence. i experienced so many "firsts" and comfort-stretching situations. and now i'm a better person for having done it. i've learned persistence pays off...if you haven't heard, i FINALLY got awarded the hope scholarship this year!!!

i wanted to get started on my career, but i also wanted to get out of my church bubble and meet new and different people. that's been my favorite part. i'm going to miss the ones i've gotten to know over the past few weeks, but i'm looking forward to making even more friends. i have enjoyed chatting it up with muslims and atheists and people from all over the world. and i thank GOD that he has allowed our paths to cross. i hope i've added as much value to their lives as they've added to mine.

looking forward to new challenges..but first, i have to get through finals week! it's all good, though!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

open and honest communication with GOD

i haven't felt much like blogging lately with all the essays and assignments i've had for school. sorry about that.

i was clearing out some emails this evening, and i came across a blog post from one of my heroes. she goes to therapy. good for her. i've wondered if i should, too, sometimes. trying to heal from my past and deal with junk as it comes becomes a bit of a daunting task at times. anyway, she wrote something that kind of hit me hard...she's decided to be honest in her sessions even if she sounds like a jerk. i love her honesty and real-ness.

i think i've not been so honest with GOD lately in my relationship and in my talks with him. i'm feeling like i'm holding back because i don't want to give him the junk in my life. as i read the blog tonight, i had a stupid is it to withhold who i really am and what i'm really feeling from the one who knows it all?

so, this week, i'm determined to be more open and honest in my communication with him. as i've said countless times over the years...GOD already knows what's in my heart; he's just waiting for me to be honest with myself. so, GOD...ready or it comes!..even if i sound like a jerk...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

what i love about my church

church should be a place where a person can be himself/herself. a place where the honesty, acceptance, love and real-ness just melts away everything plastic, everything artificial about us. i smile every time i start to walk into my church, avalon church, in mcdonough, georgia.

though everything they do for the service on sunday morning is done with more excellence than i've ever seen at a church before, it's obvious that the sunday morning service is not the sum of all they do at avalon. it's a part of the whole. and it makes me feel good knowing that church there is more than one meeting a week. it's about who we are. we are the church, and worshiping and serving GOD is something we do all the time, not just on sunday mornings or in a small group.

i love that my pastor is not the only preacher (although he's a very good one). i love that outreach is part of the ethos. i love that we can speak frankly, that we can come as we are, that creativity and excellence are what's normal. i love that i'm encouraged to be part of something greater than myself. i love that i'm greeted by people who seem to genuinely love, who are happy to be there, who are happy that i'm there.

i'm proud to say that avalon is my church, and for those who know my struggles with the institution of church, that's a pretty major thing. =)   check it out! and come join us!

Monday, November 8, 2010

young people know it all...what a relief!

i love college. i really do. i love meeting new people. i love being challenged intellectually. it's a great experience. but there are a few things i'm not fond of. for starters, twenty-year-old snots giving me lectures about the "real world" and their idea that somehow they are intellectually superior as well. i've been a stay-at-home mom for years. i'll admit that i don't have much paid work experience, but that doesn't mean i'm stupid. the majority of stay-at-home moms don't have time to sit in front of the tv all day watching soap operas. we volunteer, we manage households, we become experts in time management, we chauffeur children back and forth, we make appointments, we teach our children, we diagnose ailments, we stay up late working on school projects, we organize activities, we create meals, we purchase goods, we work with other moms and groups of people, and much, much more. we may not get paid, but we certainly aren't stupid. well, guess what...this mom has better grades than you! ha!

call me a goody-goody because i value honesty and reliability. in the real world, i get to keep my job and credibility. call me a suck-up (language cleaned up due to young readers) because i'm nice and respectful to others. in the real world, that behavior gets me respected and furthers my career if i'm sincere, which i am. you may think you know it all, but here's the thing. i got married about the time you were born. i think i have a clue about this real world of which you speak. don't worry about me. i'll be just fine. and when you wonder why i have a smile on my face when you're trying to teach me about the real world, it's because i'm laughing at you on the inside and wondering what adults thought of me when i, too, knew it all.

Monday, November 1, 2010

so... what if you're wrong?

why are we so quick to assume that we are right  and everyone else is wrong? why do we act like we have cornered the market on what is true? why do we think our interpretation is the correct one or better yet, the only one? why do we demonize those with differing opinions?

here's a question...

what if we're wrong?

seriously...what if WE are wrong? what if there are many ways to look at a situation? what if what we thought was black and white turns out to be a beautiful shade of gray? what if there are multiple interpretations of the same text? what if those people who have different opinions are not evil, angry people with agendas?


according to research by dave kinneman and gabe lyons in unchristian, christians have an image problem. i'm not surprised by this. i've known it for quite some time. outsiders to christianity between the ages of 16 and 29 were asked about their perceptions of christianity and its followers. here's what they found:

91% see christians as anti-homosexual.
87% see christians as judgmental
85% see christians as hypocritical
78% see christians as sheltered (old-fashioned, out of touch with reality)
75% see christians as too political
70% see christians as proselytizers (insensitive to others, not genuiune)

surprised at how we're perceived?

the one i want to concentrate on is the stat about christians being judgmental. it doesn't surprise me. i used to be very judgmental. i was taught to be. it was considered  a christian virtue in the legalistic circles in which i operated.

and then one day, i had a moment. perhaps it was my own version of the damascus experience that the apostle paul had. WHAT IF I'M WRONG? my whole perspective changed. i began to question everything.  i realized that i had judged people unfairly. i realized that i taken on an attitude that i was somehow superior to others because of what i didn't do, because of what i considered sin. i realized that i didn't hold a monopoly on truth.

i could curse those who believe differently from myself.  why not ask questions and learn from them instead?

i could state emphatically that what i believe is correct and that others' interpretations are in error. why not listen to the opinions of others? why not be open to the fact that i could be wrong or that they could have a valid point?

i could demonize others for pointing out that what i've believed all along has fallacies. why not thank them for their courage to challenge the status quo?

here's the point...we need to listen more and judge less. we need to celebrate our diversity. diversity is beautiful. we need to respect each other more. i've heard it almost a million times it seems...people don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. we earn the right to share our opinions when first we've listened and respectfully acknowledged the opinions of others.

so...what if you're wrong?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

ugliness is part of the journey

the butterflies in my stomach began to flutter, and i had this feeling of "oh, crap" come over me. i knew i had to speak up. the leader had asked at least three times if anyone else had something to say. i tried to talk myself out of it, but it was no use. i waited as long as i could. i cleared my throat, swallowed my fear, and began to share my story.

i know how it feels to be hurt, to hate, to feel worthless, to be lonely and depressed, to want to end it all. i've been there. i was broken.

but i'm not broken anymore. and i had something to say.

the discussion was about spiritual healing and wholeness. i am no therapist. i hold no credentials in psychology. but life has taught me well. my heart found comfort that we were discussing such matters. these discussions were way overdue.

for years, i struggled, mostly in silence. i was hurt by organized religion, but because i still worked in it, i "sucked it up" and trudged along. i carried so much emotional baggage that i almost physically ached. one difficult day, i had what i think was an anxiety attack. i knew that something had to change. the stress was becoming overwhelming.

i began to write. i thought i would explode if i kept all these feelings bottled up much longer. i made my journey to wholeness available to anyone who wanted to read by starting a blog, my online journal...journey of hope.

it was an ugly journey. it was long. it was painful. i had good days and bad. sometimes i felt sick like i'd ridden a roller coaster non-stop for hours. and one day, it happened. i erupted. the pain and hurt that i released was incredible...and so very ugly. i let GOD have it. more accurately, i cussed him out. i hated him for everything he allowed to happen to me. he could have struck me down, could have allowed the earth to swallow me up. instead, he quieted my spirit and spoke these words to my heart, "finally. now we can get somewhere."

some people get offended when i share that. that's okay. i know GOD's big enough to handle it. his kindness and mercy that day brought freedom, forgiveness and peace to my life. the ugliness is gone today because GOD was my safe place. he allowed me to hate and be venomous, and he loved me through it.

we need to take off the masks, face the ugliness, and let GOD make something beautiful out of our brokenness. GOD is our safe place. and once we've dealt with the reality that we are broken, we need to be that safe place for others.

i think a lot of us are unprepared for how ugly the journey to wholeness is. but it's time: time for transparency and time for honesty. GOD will be there to pick up the pieces, and he will make something beautiful out of them. we will smile again, a real smile. we won't take others' woundedness so personally because we have dealt with our own. and peace will be ours.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

rolling with the punches

i received news that i got turned down again for the hope scholarship. i do have some interesting circumstances that make my situation unique; however, reason should win out here nonetheless. so, once again i'm moving on up to the next person with hopes that someone who can extend an exemption will understand and grant it to me.

it's very frustrating. can't lie about that. but i'm not altogether bummed.

GOD keeps sending me little bits of encouragement and perspective. he's quite relentless, to be honest.

songs on the radio saying it's going to be all right, blogs that i subscribe to in my inbox talking about rolling with the punches, quotes regarding flexibility. OKAY, GOD, I GET THE MESSAGE! loud and clear! lol!

so, today, GOD's message to me is to roll with it, i'm guessing.

and roll i did. i guess i'm realizing that life is full of setbacks and disappointments, but that doesn't mean GOD's not actively working on my behalf. i have to trust that he's taking care of me and my situation. this i know: i am learning some valuable lessons about dealing with people in frustrating circumstances, and i must be getting better at pleading my case and winning them over. they seem to want to help me now. i have a feeling it will work out like it should. no need to worry about it. i'll keep doing my part. all i can do is the best i can do. i'll leave the rest to GOD. if the money doesn't come by this way, it will come by another. still praying for favor, GOD! =)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

gossip destroys

the cartoon is admittedly a little funny, but gossip is not. gossip destroys. there's just no other way to put it.

most of us have done it, but it's hard to admit to it. i'll start. i'm guilty. i've engaged in it. and i feel bad about it. truth be told, you've most likely at least listened from time to time. be honest. you've probably spoken it as well.

it's never harmless, it seems. some people do it and don't even realize it. sometimes, before we realize it, we're doing it.

we call it venting. we call it concern. we call it a prayer request on occasion (not to say it's wrong to have prayer requests, but we all know when a line is being crossed). we call it lots of things.

we need to stop.

we judge other people for things we consider ungodly sins, yet we participate in our godly sins almost daily.

listening to it is just as bad as speaking it.

it's easy to get involved. it draws us in. we believe it. and even if we don't, it still affects us. we listen, and we're hooked.

you know... we really don't need to know. most of the time, it's none of our business.

i'm sorry for the times i've allowed myself to get sucked in. i think i'm being a friend by being there for someone. i don't want to be rude, so i listen. before i know it, i've added to the conversation. i may tell them to talk to the person about it, but it's already gone too far. or i get upset, and i feel the need to the wrong person.

and it hurts that some of it's been about me or those i love. and people who i thought were friends listen to the gossip and start acting weird. trust is broken, and chances are, so is a relationship. and it hurts. as much as i don't want to be hurt by gossip, i don't want to hurt others either.

so why do we do it? i think sometimes we engage in gossip because we are...broken ourselves. it's always easier to point the finger at others than ourselves. it's easier to deflect. sometimes we have valid feelings, but it's easier to tell someone else than it is to tell the person we should really be talking to. sometimes it's just a way to pass the time. sometimes we're just nosy. sometimes we're jealous. sometimes we're hurt. sometimes we're angry. i'm sure there are other reasons as well.

but here's the bottom line: gossip destroys. someone always gets hurt.

once it's spoken, you can't take it back.

if we're not part of the solution, we become part of the problem. and if we don't have the ability to bring solution, it's none of our business.

and if someone is talking TO you about someone else, there's a good chance they're talking ABOUT you to someone else.

here's a question: would we want someone else saying this about us or our children? no? then chances are we should just keep it to ourselves. and believe me, i'm stepping on my own toes as much as yours. but i want to be a better person, so it's worth it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

i thought i knew what faith was, but that was before...

yep. i used to think i had faith, but nothing could've prepared me for this:

this week, my oldest son got his ...

wait for it...
can't believe i'm about to say it...
here it comes...

driver's license!!!

i'm still trying to figure out how i feel about this. i saw images in my mind of this itty-bitty 7 lb baby, a toddler sliding in a puddle of water at the park, a little man holding his dad's hand walking across the wal-mart parking lot...

when did he grow up and start ... (gulp)... DRIVING???

i try to take deep breaths and chill. i've got to let him grow up. the hubby and i have done a good job, i think, of helping our kids become independent.

but then the day comes, and it's like...LIFE, SLOW DOWN! I'M NOT READY YET!

i tell him all the time when he goes out with friends or when he's about to drive,"don't do anything stupid." ...and then i pray. i thought leaving the hospital with my newborn son was scary. looking back, that was nothing. =)

wow! my son is driving. i think i've concluded that you don't know what faith really is until you hand over the keys of your car to your child. that's when faith really kicks in. i'm excited for him. i really am. however, i'm thinking GOD and i will be having many conversations for a while that go a little like this: "keep him safe, and don't let him do anything stupid. amen."

Monday, October 11, 2010

the little "i"

so far no one has asked, but i feel the need to explain anyway.

what am i talking about? my odd capitalization in my blogs.

it's something i do intentionally. it's a spiritual thing for me.

a few years ago, i read a book called i am not but i know i am by louie giglio. it's an excellent book that i highly recommend. the title is a little play on words. GOD is the "i am" in scripture. that makes all the rest of us "i am nots." louie wanted us to always remember the greatness of GOD, and if ever we decide to get the "big head," we should remember, we are "i am nots," the little ones.

i wanted a reminder of that. soooo, i gave it some thought, and the idea hit me, "why not make everything i write lower-case, except for GOD?"

and it has worked. every time i write, i am reminded of the power and big-ness of GOD, and i am reminded with every little "i" of my little-ness.

so the next time i start thinking i've accomplished something great or that i have become something great, i just write a little bit. and before long, i see that "i" am little and "GOD" is the big guy! i am not, but i know i am...very cool. very cool, indeed.

btw, you can check the book out on amazon.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

politics and religion

everywhere you look, you see political ads. nothing wrong with that, i suppose. there is an upcoming election if you didn't already know.

i got burned out on politics years ago, though. i get criticised for that from time to time, but that's ok. different strokes for different folks. i do take the responsibility of voting seriously. it's a privilege i enjoy and do not take for granted. but politics is not something i enjoy.

one of the things that turned me off to politics a few years back is ...well, the religious community and republicans. before i go further, i should point out that i am part of the religious community, and i do mostly identify with a republican platform. and it's not that i think christians shouldn't care about social and political issues, i just think there needs to be balance.

a few months ago, i asked people on facebook to be nice and respectful towards those with opposing views. i got blasted for it, accused of being a democrat, people tried to convert me over the issue (funny thing, i already agreed with most of what they were trying to convince me of)...

i believe that christianity is not a political movement and that GOD is neither republican nor democrat. sometimes, we confuse spirituality and politics. we sometimes equate the two. but we really shouldn't do that. i read something interesting in the BIBLE tonight. in acts chapter one, we read the words of JESUS: "Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I have told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." we then go on to read what was on the minds of his disciples: "So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, 'Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?'"

guess those closest to JESUS made the same mistake we so often make. JESUS spoke of spiritual things, yet his disciples were thinking about political matters. i guess if they can make that mistake, we can just as easily do the same. perhaps i shouldn't be so hard on us when we "go there." not much has changed, i s'pose.

GOD cares about us and our world. don't get me wrong. he does have his hand on governmental matters, but GOD and all that he is about, is so much more than a political issue.

i just think that we need to have perspective and balance. we need to listen more to each other and judge a whole lot less. i've heard people say that there is no way a christian can be a democrat, and yet i know a few. =) they really are out there. i promise. and if we just listen to each other, we may find we're not as far apart as we originally thought.

should christians be involved in social matters? absolutely. should we care about politics? i think so. but everything in moderation. politics does not equal religion. just saying. =)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

the voice of truth

one day...
i'm singing a corny, happy song, and the next, i'm trying hard not to break down and cry.

i have always been sensitive, too much so. i take things too personally. i fear rejection. i'm introspective to a fault. it's not bad to be sensitive. it's normal to not want to be rejected. but seriously, i take it all too far. i realize that. i've worked to change the extreme degree of it, but much to my dismay, i have been unable to change that about myself.

i hear that when you know you haven't done anything, you shouldn't worry about it. that's no consolation to me. i don't know why. it probably has something to do with my being introspective to a fault. when someone is upset with me or mistreats me, the first thing i have always done is wonder, "what did i do? did i say or do something wrong?" maybe that doesn't sound too bad. if more people would ask that of themselves first rather than lash out, maybe the world would be a better place. however, i don't just stop there. whether or not i can identify something, i start playing the tape in my head, "you must have done something. it's your fault. no one likes you."

it's funny how lately GOD has taken many opportunities to have all the christian radio stations at my disposal play the song, "the voice of truth" by casting crowns. i hear it more now than when it was popular and first released. i think he's trying to help me develop a healthier way of dealing with this. for some reason, however, i can't seem to accept that truth.

GOD, don't give up on me. if it's my fault, help me see it and deal with it. if it's not, me see it and deal with it. don't stop telling me words of truth, and help me know when the lies are winning. help me silence them. i could ask you to do it. you probably would. but i want to be a part of the process so that i don't keep ending up here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

what a difference a day makes

so yesterday, i was struggling, and i prayed for peace. today, i'm walking around with a goofy smile on my face, and joke, i'm singing...

oh what a beautiful morning
oh what a beautiful day
i got a wonderful feeling
everything's going my way

yep, surprises me, too! but when GOD answers prayer, he REALLY answers prayer.

have my circumstances changed? nope. not really.

has my attitude changed? you betcha.

i don't know what it is, but i woke up this morning with the attitude: the best i can do is the best i can do. i can't ask anything more from myself. i know i'm not perfect. i know i'll make mistakes. i know not everyone will like me. but "at the end of the day," if i gave it my best shot, i can be proud of that.

it truly has been a beautiful day. i feel like GOD smiled on me today. and i am beyond blessed.

i'm going to my kids' cross country meet tomorrow, going to enjoy hanging out with my family this weekend, and i'm going to soak in all of GOD's goodness.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

vroom vroom! a prayer of desperation!

if something doesn't change, i'm going to be tempted to run them over with my truck!

now how's that for a prayer of desperation!?!?!

GOD, here's the thing. i know that i can't change the ones who appear to have it out for me. i realize that the only thing i have control over is myself and my and even that's questionable most of the time.

it seems that right about the time things should be settling down, i have a moment where i just want to explode. by now, nothing that is said or done should surprise me. they've done about everything. yet i get to the end of my rope, i've had it, and i can't seem to stop myself from finally taking action.

but i don't want to do that this time. i just know in my heart that you're dealing with this junk, and that i don't have to take care of it myself. i know you will handle it. but that doesn't stop me from really getting angry.

i don't want to be angry. i have a feeling that those who have it out for me got angry and got stuck and that's why they do the things they do. i do not want to be like them. life's too short to be that miserable!

i just don't feel like i have it in my power to forgive right now. you know i can't forget. yeah, i know that forgiveness doesn't make what happened all makes me all right. i should be an expert by now, but i'm not. i have no desire to be nice to them. that's what got me into trouble to begin with...on each account going on right now. i still don't get it. i still don't understand. but i'm tired of always asking why. i'm thinking ignorance just might be...bliss.

i'm pretty agitated. i could really use some peace right now, the confidence that comes with knowing you have it all under control and that you've got my back.

so, help me with changing my heart and attitude. keep all this junk minimized. i do see it spreading, and it pains me to know there's no good way for me to stop it. people just don't fight fair. i don't like how it has affected other areas of my life or other relationships. i don't know why they have it out for me. maybe you can work out a change of heart for them, too. help me learn to love and forgive them. help me learn to pray for them. help me learn to let go. help me learn to move on. and i'll be demolition derby for me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

keeping my eyes on the goal

i have truly been loving school, but i have to admit these last 2 days of classes have been kicking my butt. add to that, my financial aid woes are starting to get me down. still praying about that.

one of my professors calls this "fall fever." i call it my "what was i thinking" phase. i know this, too, shall pass. i'm just feeling a little overwhelmed right now as i am studying for tests and starting to write papers.

i knew there would come a time when the new-ness of school would wear off. i knew it would get tough.

and since i knew these times would come, i tried to prepare...

i see myself walking across the stage to receive that paper for which i've long labored. i see myself depositing that first paycheck and taking my family shopping and buying them everything i haven't been able to afford these last few years. i look forward to the day when i can say "yes, you can have that. we have the money for it now." and i can't wait to save a little of each check to give to those in need, especially those in ministry. and so far, those thoughts are getting me through.

it's easy to think that i'm behind the game since i've been out of school for so long. and it's easy to get overwhelmed by those thoughts. but then i look around and see that i'm not the only one not getting a concept. i'm not the only one that looks lost or confused. there are others. and i take comfort in knowing i'm not alone. not to mention, i know i'm smart enough and determined enough to get through this.

so i'm trying to keep focused on the big picture, on the future that awaits me, and not get bogged down in the details.

the way i figure's kind of like the story of peter walking on the water to JESUS. like peter, i got out of the boat. i know there's a storm. and i have a choice: i can keep my eyes on JESUS, where my destination lies or i can get overwhelmed by the storm. i'm trying to keep my eyes focused on my goal, but i do know that if i start to sink, i can count on JESUS to rescue me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

throwing christians to the lions?

"if you send your kids to a secular college, you are throwing them to the lions." -anonymous

i cringed when i heard this.

i fully intend to research the topic of college students losing their faith and dropping out of church due to attending non-christian colleges. my initial research is quite interesting and contradictory at times. i can't wait to really delve into this. ...should be interesting.

in the meantime, however...

what bothers me at first glance is the assumption that the world is a horrible and hostile place. i've been praying for some time that GOD would help me get out of my christian bubble, and that i could see the world through his eyes. going back to a large urban school, i am definitely outside the bubble...and i love it! yes, there are at times anti-christian sentiments and ideas presented, i hear cursing a little more than i do in christian circles, i sit in classes with people who live alternative lifestyles. once again...i have to say...i love it! i'm not afraid of that world. it's not a horrible and hostile environment. it's a rich environment in which to share GOD's love and light. i'm not preachy. in fact, i've yet to share that i'm a christian with anyone. i smile, i talk to people, i listen, i walk to class with them, i encourage them, i thank them when they help me with something, i ask them about their plans and families, etc. just recently, i met up with someone that appeared to be involved in some alternative lifestyle. she immediately lashed out as if to hurt me before i could hurt her. i didn't let it phase me. instead, i treated her with respect, and by the end of our conversation, i think i opened the door for friendship. you see, i think she expected to be mistreated. but i know something that she may not...GOD loves her. and if i want to share GOD with her, i need to be a safe place for her just as GOD is a safe place for me. we're all afraid of the world being a hostile place. but i don't need to fear. GOD is with me. and i can share his light and peace with others.

i think a lot of our judgments about public schools being bad is rooted in a lack of faith. this has nothing to do with my research, just some observations. when we say things like "our kids will drop out of church if they go somewhere other than a christian college," i think we downplay the power of GOD. if we really believe in GOD, i think we have to believe in his power to overcome the world. i guess when i hear that we're throwing our kids to the lions, i hear "the faith that my kids have is weak. they won't make it." that's fear. that's lack of faith. but maybe we have a point there.

let me explain...

in our christian bubble, we tend to tell people what to think. this is right. this is wrong. do this. christians don't do that. but we forget something really important...WHY! why do we believe this? why do we do that? and if our response is...because the bible says so...that's a copout. we need to know what the bible says, but even deeper...why does the bible say that? does it really even say it? my philosophy...question everything. know what you believe and why you believe it. if you search for truth, you will find it. i believe in GOD, but i didn't take someone else's word for it. i questioned his existence as well. i searched and i found. and GOD seemed fine with that. i don't believe GOD is afraid of our questions. i think he relishes them.

i think we are not to fear the world. i think we should see the beauty and opportunity. the beauty is that GOD created each person and loves each and every one, and we have the opportunity to share love and light where there is little or none. i think we need to search for truth. i think we need to ask the hard questions. i think we need to hear what others believe. i think we need to spend time with people who are different from us. i think we need to learn to respect diversity. i think we need to say with our actions and attitudes more than our words that we love and follow after CHRIST. i think that when we do, we will be given the opportunity to speak the words that can bring salvation and hope to the world in which we live.

now, these are just my opinions, but i think they're pretty darn good ones. i know from experience that not everyone who goes to a christian college is a christian. i also know that not everyone who goes to a secular college is going to fall away from the faith. i'm saying let's think about this and have a little perspective.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

the next psalm

a psalm (of hope)...

GOD, i know you know all things
you know people inside out
you know their motives
you know what makes them do what they do

why is it that some people don't have to play by the rules?
why is it that they can say and do whatever they want?
where is your justice?
where are you when the brokenhearted needs you?

don't let those who cause me harm win
don't let them get away with this
call them out
expose their evil deeds

they smile to my face
yet they set a trap for me
they lie about me behind my back
and pretend to be innocent

i wish you'd fix this
make what was broken whole again
make what is wrong right again
restore what's been lost and taken

you have the power to heal
you have the power to restore
you can set all things right again
you can make things better than before

GOD, hear my cry
listen to my plea
restore my place
restore my reputation

you are a just GOD
merciful and understanding
you value integrity
you honor what is right

so do your thing, GOD
do what is right in your eyes
bring honor to your name
bring glory to this situation

Sunday, September 5, 2010

prayer is an ongoing relationship

we started a new series at avalon church this morning called unspoken. pastor ritchie did an incredible job spelling out what prayer is and what it is not. it was a great service. i am so glad i was there.

we tend to treat prayer like it's a christmas list for GOD to fill, but there's so much more to prayer than that. prayer is not just a time for asking for stuff. and it's not just to be done when there's an emergency. prayer is about an ongoing relationship with GOD.

pastor ritchie said something today that stuck with me. he said that we talk to those we love, those we want to have a relationship with. we don't talk to those we don't love.

for me, that's true. i love my husband. i talk to him a lot throughout the day. when we can't talk, i text him. when i can do neither, i still think about him and when i'll get to see him next. those i don't like, those that i don't want to have a relationship with, i don't talk to. and honestly, i don't want them talking to me either. i prefer to be left alone.

i guess if you talk to those you love, then i must love GOD a whole lot. i talk to him almost constantly. we have little conversations throughout the day. i never feel alone...honest. i know that at any time during the day or night, i can continue my talk with GOD. and it's not just me doing all the talking. he speaks to me, too. sometimes he uses people. sometimes he uses objects. sometimes he uses that still, small voice and guides my conscience. i love the way he speaks to me, and i do feel loved...even when he's telling me something i don't want to hear. he's my safe place, and i know that he cares deeply for me and wants what's best for me.

oh yeah...

one thing i always try to do is remember to tell GOD, "thank you." just thought i'd throw that in since we so often forget to do that. i know i used to. i just assumed he knew, but even GOD desires to hear that from time to time.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

keep away from the small people

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great ones make you feel that you, too, can become great. -- Mark Twain

with my long commute to atlanta 3 times a week for school, i have a lot of time to think, reflect and process. i have really enjoyed my time singing and listening to music, chatting it up with GOD, working through issues, translating everything i think and hear on the radio into spanish, and basking in the silence when i'm finally tired of hearing traffic updates that tell me my commute will last just a little bit longer than i would like.

i catch myself smiling a lot and dreaming about my future, too. these past few weeks have been great. and i'm grateful for how good GOD has been to me.

but these last few weeks haven't come without some challenges. isn't it "funny" how right as you embark on a great journey, something happens and someone attempts to bring you down? well, funny is not the right word. i could offer a few alternatives, but i'll be nice and refrain. =)

there are people who don't want to do what it takes to be successful. that's their prerogative. but what does that have to do with me? why is it so important that they drag me down with them? what's worse is when they make it their goal to destroy you. misery loves company, i guess. i feel sorry for them on some level because i believe that hurting people hurt people. i wonder what causes them to be so spiteful and vengeful. but then, i think we all have choices. they don't have to wallow in the muck of life. they can choose to get help, to work on themselves, to strive for wholeness, to learn to forgive. that's what i've spent years doing. i chose to have a better life. it hasn't been easy, but i'm doing it.

life's too short to be this dang miserable!

i confess that i haven't always been encouraging to others. i haven't always given lift to their dreams and aspirations. i regret that.

these last few years, though, i have tried really hard to change that. and it is my desire that people live their dreams. it is my desire that i live my dreams. i want others to feel like they can be great. the success of others has no bearing on whether or not i'm a successful or good person. and my success doesn't mean someone else is inferior in some way. we all have our own paths to follow.

so i pray for the favor of GOD, not just for me but also for others who aspire to be more. i pray for focus, that we will stay on the right path and not be distracted. and i pray for selective hearing, so we can listen to what is encouraging and block out the negativity from the nay-sayers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

i will be safe in his arms

i was thinking yesterday about how far i've come in the last couple of years. i've carried much baggage over the last decade, and it's not been easy lugging it around. so i decided something had to change. i had to deal with that baggage and begin to rid myself of it.

that's been so hard at times. i cried. i screamed. i ached. i cursed. i threw things. i walked. i wrote. i prayed. i got numb. i accepted. i forgave. i let go. i smiled. i laughed. i experienced peace...finally!

these past couple of weeks have been challenging, as once again, i faced rejection and pain. however, i noticed something different in myself. i didn't have past baggage weighing my present down. it was gone. the hurts from the past weren't around to influence my thinking and my emotional state of being. i didn't relive the past. instead, i dealt with my present. and now i can move on to a blessed and wonderful future.

my favorite song right now is "safe" by phil wickham (check out the link below). "the hands that hold the world are holding your heart." i cry every time i read or hear those lyrics. others don't always take care of our hearts. heck, we don't always take care of our hearts. but GOD, who holds the world, takes care of my heart. he won't betray it, smash it, break it, throw it away. he knows its worth. he knows its value. my heart is precious to him. and he loves me so much that he holds my heart and cares for it when i and others don't.

today, i will be safe in his arms. the hands that hold the world are holding my heart. what a beautiful thought. hmmmm...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

obstacles are my life

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. ~Fr. Alfred D'Souza

i was looking for a different quote when i came across this one. perfect. exactly what i've been thinking lately. i was feeling the same life was about to begin, and then an obstacle appeared. but then i realized obstacles ARE life. and if life were free from obstacles how boring it would be. it's the wrinkles in life that give it character. it's the wrinkles in life that give US character.

now, drama, i can do without. but i'm learning that when life throws you a curve, you don't have to back out of the batter's box for fear you'll get hit. sometimes, you just need to stay in the box, face it and swing. sometimes, you strike out. sometimes, you hit the ball out of the park. it's all part of the game. it's all part of life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

motherly advice

i was blessed a number of years ago to get to know a state senator's wife. we attended church together, and i loved how friendly and down to earth she was. so when i got the opportunity to spend some time with her, i jumped at it. we spent a few hours together that day at the state capital for a right to life march, went by the university to say hello to her son, and went out for lunch.

we talked a lot about family that day. i was pregnant and very willing to hear whatever wisdom she offered. and years later, she still impacts me as a mom. my season of motherhood was just beginning. she was approaching the empty nest season. i soaked in everything she told me that day like a sponge.

she told me that life flies by way too quickly. enjoy each moment. enjoy my children.

and here's the best advice i got that day...something i kept tucked away for the right time. when her sons reached high school, she read everything she could on empty nest syndrome, so that when the time came, both she and her children were ready.

yes, she cried as they left her nest, but it was sweet. she didn't let it sneak up on her. in preparing, she learned to cherish the short time that was left. no regrets. her children were ready for the adventures that lay ahead, and she was prepared to let them fly.

and that's where i find myself. who knew those years would pass so quickly. one day, the labor and delivery nurse was handing me my firstborn all wrapped up snugly in a blanket. and now that baby is almost 17 years old and a junior in highschool. and he has 3 younger siblings that will leave the nest soon after he does.

i cherish our moments. i love my children and their friends, who feel like my taylor fletcher and leyah brown (see, i wrote about you!!!) i'm grateful for the time i have with them all. i'm excited about their futures. they mean the world to me. this is such an exciting time for them, and i'm blessed to be able to share it with them...and that goes for taylor and leyah and all my kids at gca and gchs!

i consider that day with my friend to be one of those "GOD moments" in life. i had no idea how that bit of wisdom would impact me years later. i'm grateful for that yesterday, i'm even more grateful for my today, and i'm filled with anticipation for the future. life is good. =)

forgiving mistakes

trying to take some of my own advice today.
a couple of days ago, i heard a sermon on perspective, and i jotted down some notes and personal applications.
don't take everyone so personally, including myself. sometimes we say and do hurtful things to other people, and it's not because of anything they have done. it's because of what's wrong or what's missing in our own lives. people make mistakes. sometimes, they make them intentionally. but either way, mistakes are made.
i have worked really hard to forgive and heal this past year. it hasn't been easy. and i'm not "there" yet, but i have really come a long way.
when someone hurts us, it's easy to demonize them. but rather than do that, i've been trying to tell myself that hurting people hurt people. when someone attacks me personally, it's not always because i did something to deserve it. sometimes it's because they are hurting on the inside or they feel they are lacking something. we tend to lash out at others rather than deal with the junk in our lives. it seems easier at the time. in the long run, however, it just adds to our problems.

so today, i'm faced with a situation that requires forgiveness and understanding. i'd like to share a facebook status i read a few days ago. the young lady who wrote it has no idea how GOD has used her and her comment, but i do.

"i don't forgive people because i'm weak. i forgive people because i'm strong enough to know people make mistakes."

i hope i can follow through on that. i hope i'm being strong today.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

to move forward, you need to face your past

i've heard many times over to always look ahead and never look back, but sometimes in order to move forward, you need to face your past.

today, i revisited some difficult times from my own past. some memories brought tears to my eyes, but the visit resulted in some good, healthy emotions.

i'm ready to move forward with my life, and many of those experiences have prepared me for my future. if i hadn't gone through what i did, i'm not sure i would have ended up where i am now. as difficult as they were, i think i'm grateful...grateful for who i am as a result of those experiences. or at least grateful they are part of my past and not my present.

i have always tried to hold on to what was good in every bad situation, but now i have plans to turn what was bad into something good.

and today i am at peace with my past. i'm content to let it remain where it is. but i have to say that i am amazed to see where i was in comparison to where i am now. only by the grace of GOD, i s'pose i should say. yeah, only by the grace of GOD.

Friday, August 6, 2010

the year was did 2010 get here so fast?

over-sized collars, polyester, harvest gold and avocado green, high inflation, datsun, watergate, oil crisis, the exorcist, abba, the six million dollar man, kung fu...

and then there's me. arguably one of the best things to come out of the 70's. lol! at least my husband thinks so...or rather he'd better!

i remember turning 6 years old and wishing i could hurry up and grow up.

i blinked, and i was a teenager in love not so patiently awaiting the day i could marry my sweetheart (btw, we will celebrate our wedding anniversary on august 10th...the best 19 years of david's life...for sure!).

then i couldn't wait to have a baby. all of a sudden, i had 4, and i longed for the day i would have all my children out of diapers. i had 3 of them in diapers at the same time, and i hadn't slept in years. oh, that my kids were older so they'd sleep through the night.

i blinked again, and all my kids were in school everyday.

and this morning, i woke up to find that my firstborn is a junior in highschool and is driving, and the baby of the family is playing jv volleyball. and my middle children are already making plans for college and career. and my hubby is talking retirement. whaaat?

where did the time go? why does it have to pass so quickly?

i'm 36 today, and in some ways, i feel i'm starting over. in a few weeks, i'll go back to school to finish up a bachelor of arts degree and embark on a new career. i've loved being at home with my kids and watching them grow up. i think this is the coolest time of my life. i love talking with my kids about their future plans and what we're going to do when i graduate and start making big bucks and what kind of wedding they want to have and all that good stuff.

life is good.

but i wish it would slow least a little. i feel like i've spent most of my life wishing it away. and now that a good portion of it has passed by, i'm wishing i had some of it back.

it's taken some time, but i'm learning to be present. i read a quote years ago that said, "wherever you are, be there." and that's what i'm trying to do...enjoy the present and be attentive. no more wishing away life. i have my memories, and i have my moment right now.

even as i write, precious seconds tick away. i can't get a single one back.

my gift to myself this live in the present. to be where i am. to enjoy everyday and make the most of it. to laugh more. to stress less. to encourage others more. to challenge myself. to hug my kids more. to have more dates with my hubby. to not take life too seriously.

life is good, and life is short. my first 36 years have been rough at times, but hopefully i've learned enough that i will be sure to enjoy and make the most of the next 36.

today's my birthday, and you know what i asked for? nothing out of the ordinary. just another day in the life...and perhaps a nice dessert because GOD knows as do my bathroom scales that i have a love affair with sugar... =)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

learning to trust again

it's hard to trust after you've been beaten up by organized religion. where it gets sticky is that you don't want to punish the new people in your life, but you don't want to let your guard down for fear your heart and spirit will get trampled...again. that hurts, and healing comes slowly. at some point, you think you're in a safe place, yet the whole time you're bracing yourself for the fall when the rug gets pulled out from under you. you want to serve and love unconditionally, but how do you know you can really trust? do you dare let down your guard, even just a little?

forgiveness is a key ingredient in learning to trust least for me. even more basic is honesty, and i can say with great confidence that honesty can be very, very ugly. here's the can't forgive until you can be honest. honest about your real feelings. honest about your situation. honest with yourself. honest with GOD. it's always hard for me to begin my journey towards forgiveness, but i always remind myself that forgiveness doesn't make what happened ok; forgiveness makes me ok. forgiveness comes easy compared to trust. and just because i forgive, it doesn't mean i have to put myself back into a toxic situation. it's ok to love from a distance. the goal is restoration, but you must use wisdom. some relationships are for a season. some can be salvaged and can even thrive. just make sure that whatever you do, you have some nice, long talks with GOD about them.

allow yourself time to grieve. you lost something very important. more likely, you've lost a few things like relationships, confidence, a job, security, happiness in addition to trust. grieving isn't only reserved for the death of a loved one. we grieve when we experience loss. don't rush this, but don't get stuck here either.

talk to a friend or mentor you know you can trust. lean on them. let them help you. don't go through this alone. we need each other. or talk to a counselor. we all need to process life's events. needing others is not a sign of weakness. you make yourself available to others. keep in mind that others want to be there for you, too.

get back out there. after you've given yourself some time, ease on out again. you don't have to jump in all at once. take your time. get some good experiences under your belt. and start loosening the grip on your heart. i have found that when i try to guard my heart, i make it hard. but when i give my heart back to GOD, he guards it in such a way as to keep it soft and loving.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

take down the signs...women in ministry

I've been researching the treatment of women during biblical times. Here are my thoughts on what I've found so far.

Gender bias is still widely accepted and remains unacknowledged in many churches and denominations.

Back at the beginning of time, GOD created humankind. Male and female he created them…in his own image. Men and women are different, yet both are made in the image of GOD. Allow me to stereotype for a moment so as to make a point. We tend to think of men as being rock-solid, thinkers, strong, decision-makers. Women are thought to be softer, emotional, intuitive, nurturers. All of these are characteristics of GOD. When we fill our ministry positions with only one sex, we almost completely miss out on half of who GOD really is. We handicap ourselves. GOD, I dare say, has both masculine and feminine aspects to his character.

During the time of Jesus, women were allowed to enter the temple and observe worship but only up to a certain point, and they were not to actively participate in worship.

I don't know this from my research, but I imagine that perhaps there were signs posted in strategic places in the temple that let women know where they were allowed and where they were not and what was acceptable.

Jesus made it a point to challenge those limitations placed on women. He disregarded the signs in his ministry.

Take the account of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. During this time, Jewish women were expected to be hospitable, but the teaching of women was considered taboo. Women were considered on the same level as children and slaves.

Granted, I'm taking a little artistic license with my re-telling of this story. But just hear me out.

Jesus goes to the home of Mary and Martha. While Jesus is in the living room speaking and teaching his disciples, Martha is where she is expected to be…in the kitchen preparing food for those in her home. She notices that yet again Mary has sneaked out and is now sitting at Jesus’ feet. Mary knew better than that. People who sat at the feet of a teacher were considered disciples. That was not a role befitting a woman. What was Mary thinking?

In my opinion, Martha has been scrutinized and misunderstood over the years. (I was told a few months ago that she was not much more than a nag. I have to respectfully disagree.) Martha was doing what any good, godly woman would do. Hospitality was a role she considered as her godly duty (Let me interject that it is very noble, but women are not limited to just this gift). How presumptuous of Mary to place herself on the same level as the men! A disciple. Really?

So, naturally, Martha asks Jesus to intervene and tell Mary that she needed to do her expected duty just as she, herself, was doing. When Jesus rebuked Martha, I believe it was not a negative thing. I don’t think he was chastising her about being a busybody or a nag. I think his heart was breaking. Martha had a self-imposed sign in her own home and heart. She was settling for the status quo, the widely accepted belief that women didn’t have the capacity to learn and grow. Jesus wanted her to know that she was valuable, worthy and able. After all, he was there when she was created. He knew she had the capacity to be so much more than what society dictated to her. He formed her brain, her heart, her soul, her body. He, more than anyone else, knew that she could be so much more. And he wanted her to know it, too.

Mary ignored the oppressive, restrictive sign. She understood that with Jesus, signs like those were non-existent. *Jesus spoke to women, he spoke highly about them, he looked at women, he taught women, he released women to minister, he invited women into his inner circle, he allowed women to touch and talk to him. He broke rules that held women back. He was revolutionary. He refused to make signs that put out of reach the good news to women, that excluded women from learning, from worship, from ministry.

And here's where it gets personal...

Imagine walking into your church this week and seeing a sign that reads, “no women past the third row from the back.” No one would dare to do that, yet I challenge you to take a closer look at your ministries and your vocabulary.
  • Do you have some ministries for which you don’t consider a woman when filling positions? Like ushers, parking lot attendants, greeters, deacons or elders?
  • Do you not hesitate to let women speak to women’s groups or Sunday school classes or children's ministries yet you haven’t had a woman preach from the pulpit...and on a Sunday?
  • When assigning titles to people, do women regularly get “leader”, “director”, “worker” and “coordinator” while men get “pastor” or “minister”?

Women can be teachers, mentors, ministers, prominent business people, presidents, pastors, denominational leaders, and much, much more.

If you have such signs in your church, I challenge you pastors and leaders to take them down.It doesn’t matter how they got there or who put them there whether it be men OR women. As in the account of Martha, she imposed those limitations on, not only herself, but on other women as well. And I ask you not to do it quietly either. Educate the women and men of your church and your denomination. Be intentional. They need to understand.

And follow the example of Jesus who acknowledged the value of women, who encouraged women and showed them their worth. Help them see their potential. Sometimes we women are so busy nurturing others that we neglect to see our own beauty and talent and potential. Take the time to appreciate beauty in all people. Take time to develop and nurture the talents and abilities in both men and women. It's not about one sex over the other. It's about reconciliation and working together and respecting each other and sharing the good news.

And remember this the next time you find yourself needing to fill a ministry position:

“There is only one calling. Not one for men and another for women.” –Vonette Bright.

Take down those signs. Take 'em down.

*see John 4, Luke 18, Luke 8 for additional reading.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

live intentionally

Life is an arrow – therefore you must know
What mark to aim at, how to use the bow –
Then draw it to the head and let it go!
- Henry Van Dyke

our reality? life is short.

i was hit with that reminder this week with the passing of a friend. and after the initial shock began to wear off, i found myself reflecting on the thought that if i want to live a life of no regrets, i must live intentionally.

i remember being told during my childhood things like..."your room won't clean itself" and "that paper won't write itself." a clean room and a class assignment required effort on my part in order to reach completion. the same applies to a full life. it won't happen unless i decide to do something about it.

people don't know we love them unless we take the time to communicate that to them. relationships don't flourish unless we cultivate them. fences don't get mended unless we tend to them.

phone calls don't get made unless we pick up the phone and dial the number. books never get written if we don't write the first sentence. masterpieces never get painted until we pick up the brush. marathon's don't get run if we never train.

here's the thing...if you don't live YOUR life intentionally, other things and other people will live your life FOR you.

don't let that happen.

here's a thought for reflection: imagine yourself coming to the end of your life. what do you want to have accomplished? what relationships do you want to have intact? what do you want to see when your life flashes before you? now take the steps today that will give you that life. start today. live intentionally.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

a few words about wendi

from my heart, i just wanted to say a few words about a beautiful person that passed on this week. her name is wendi stinchcomb steger.

there are others who were much closer to her than i, but she meant a lot to me, too. and i feel it appropriate and necessary to say a few words in her memory.

i knew wendi when we were just kids. my mom told me that we used to go by and pick her and her sister up for church sometimes. she was a little over a year older, and i kind of looked up to her because of that. at our ages back then, one year was a big deal. of course, i would have never let her know that then.

we lost touch for a few years, but i never forgot her. she's one of those people you always remember. we reconnected briefly as teens. that's when i realized how beautiful she was both inside and out and what a sweet spirit she had. i've read a lot today how everyone knows her for her beautiful green eyes, but i remember her for her warm and welcoming smile.

once again, we drifted apart. but thanks to facebook, we were able to reconnect as 30-somethings. i was excited to catch up and renew our friendship. i gave her a hard time about her relationship with her husband jeremy. she was always telling someone she loved them. usually it was jeremy. and usually located right under her statement of love for him was a comment reciprocating that love. i actually began to look forward to seeing that daily exchange. it made me smile.

even if you didn't know wendi that well, it was pretty obvious that family was very much important to her. she was pregnant with who everyone thought was baby girl lanie. turns out it was baby boy eli. =) and many updates came about that little one and all their preparations for him.

wendi was always posting some funny incident in the steger home. i think the last conversation we had was over a status update about jeremy getting stuck in the dryer. he was trying to help his pregnant wife by doing the laundry. they were always doing sweet things for each other. what a shame she didn't have the camera ready. i almost fell out of the chair laughing as i read about the incident.

i will cherish wendi's last few months. i was inspired by her zest for life and her love for others. had i known that she wouldn't be with us much longer, i would have taken the time to tell her that i had been inspired by all her silly little updates. i started telling those closest to me how much i love them more often. i smiled a little more, probably mostly due to reading her status updates. and i remembered to stop and celebrate life. i was constantly looking for updates about her pregnancy.

the world lost a wonderful person, and heaven shines a little brighter.

eli, we never got to know you, but you were one very loved little boy. and your momma was incredible.

wendi, you will be missed. and i won't stop letting others know that i love and adore them. we've drifted apart again, but we'll reconnect someday. we always have. and i look forward to that, but until then, i plan to honor your memory by cherishing life and love.
wendi stinchcomb steger
december 12, 1973- july 19, 2010

Saturday, July 17, 2010

do decisions ever get easier?

i've seen and heard that question a lot this week. truth be told, i've been wondering that myself.

i grew up being taught everything is black and white, right and wrong. no gray. no in-between. life is fair. the good guys eventually win. what goes around comes around.

and then i grew up and found life was...well... a little more complicated.

here's what i've learned. it's easy to make a judgment on an issue. but it's harder to make a judgment when that issue becomes a person with a face and a heartbeat. black and white wash into gray.

here's what i've learned. it rains on the just and the unjust. sometimes life is hard and unfair even when you say and do all the right things. sometimes those who don't follow the rules win. disillusionment becomes the word of the day.

here's what i've learned. what may be wrong for one person may not be wrong for another, and what may be right for one person may not be right for another. personal convictions are not the same for all across the board. they are...personal. and while i'm at it, christianity is not a political party. GOD is not a republican, nor is he a democrat. and we are all entitled to think for ourselves. the line between right and wrong becomes blurred.

i've wondered recently about some of my decisions and personal convictions. i wish life were more concrete, but the beauty of life is that it's more fluid than that.

i don't know sometimes if i'm right or if i'm wrong, but when faced with a judgment call, i now remember every issue has a face. not everything works out as i think it should because at the end of the day, life isn't only about being fair. and GOD loves diversity, and that's why we're all unique with unique perspectives.

i'm learning that if i must decide, decide with selflessness. if i must act, act with integrity. if i must err, err on the side of mercy.

i won't always make the right decisions, but i hope my heart's always in the right place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

how to make GOD laugh

Like Billy Mann's song, "if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

that's what a friend told me when i told him about the direction GOD seems to be taking us these days. i was making my plans, and i was pretty sure GOD understood them. then he goes and throws a wrench into some of those plans. i swear i think i heard him chuckle! =)

GOD does indeed work in mysterious ways, and just when you think you have everything perfectly planned out, GOD starts changing your heart and mind.

now i don't know for sure what GOD's plans are (notice this time i said GOD's plans rather than my plans), but i'm starting to get an inkling. i have the sneaking suspicion that i'm going to be ok with these plans. i guess we'll see.

sometimes i think GOD really gets a kick out of me. i wonder if he ever falls off his throne laughing. after some of the things i've said and done, i wouldn't be at all surprised! =)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

does GOD care?

Has there ever been a season in your life when you looked at your circumstances and wondered if GOD really cared?

plan b
pete wilson
chapter 1: reality

yep. in fact, that's happened on a few occasions. there have been times when it seemed no matter what i did or said, i couldn't find him. i'd cry out only to be met with silence.

at other times, i felt him as if he were sitting right next to me. it's as if i could feel his breath. but even with him right there, my circumstances didn't change. these times were probably harder than the times of silence. more than once, i would scream out, "don't you care? you see what's going on. you could stop this if you wanted to. why don't you want to?"

i grew up being taught that you don't question GOD. you just accept without question whatever comes your way. however, as i read my BIBLE, i came across scriptures like...

James do not have, because you do not ask.
matthew 7:7...ask and GOD will give to you. search and you will find...

i wanted answers.

when i began asking and searching, GOD started showing me things. i still have some unanswered questions. some questions took days, weeks, months, even years to be answered. i've even forgotten some of my questions until GOD reminded me of them by answering them.

GOD is big enough to handle our doubts, fears, questions, anger. and the very fact that he hasn't mowed me down with lightning after some of the conversations we've had may be proof enough that he cares. whether or not he answers my questions, he always manages to let me know he hasn't forgotten about me. little reminders of his love just seem to pop up at just the right time.

i know how it feels to think GOD doesn't care, but after all our time together, i can't deny his faithfulness or patience or gentleness in my life. and our past history together keeps me going during the tough times.

Monday, July 12, 2010

reflections on plan b

i started reading a book this past week called plan b: what do you do when GOD doesn't show up the way you thought he would? by pete wilson.

i'm only in chapter 2, but already, i'm being affected.

i used to think i had life figured out, that GOD's plans for my life were the plans that i had laid.

and then...BAM! life got turned upside down. life wasn't fair. GOD wasn't fair. i didn't know how to handle that. my plan A went right out the proverbial window. i wasn't sure there was even a plan B.

it has taken me years to learn trust and acceptance and faith. i still don't have it all together. even as i write, my plan A is being shaken up. i have to just shake my head and laugh this time as GOD shows up completely different than i imagined he would. well...on to plan B...again.
i LOVE a book that gives discussion questions/study guides so that i can dig a little deeper. and this book has that. good goin', pete!

so... i guess i have a number of blog topics for a while.

for anyone reading this, i encourage you to answer those questions for yourself...and while you're at it, you might as well grab the book. looks like it's a good one thus far!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

i have more to offer than i thought...go figure

a while back, i made the decision to go back to school to pursue a career in public relations. i start in august. guess what i found out?!?

businesses pay BIG BUCKS for stuff i've done for free in churches for years!

i've developed and led ministries, systems and teams, worked to integrate people into churches aka assimilation, assisted and coordinated summer camps, trained leaders, produced children's musicals, worked up outreach plans and radio church ads, worked with revitalization teams. i've worked in various ministries including children, youth, adult, music, hospitality, small groups, and i've assisted my husband with his responsibilities and goals. and with the exception of about a year's time, i've done it on a volunteer basis. ...and i did it with 4 kids and all that comes with being a wife and mom.

i'm not trying to toot my own horn. honest!

here i was thinking that i have zero experience and nothing to offer the world. i think i may have been wrong about that.

what got me thinking about this?

i read an article about stay-at-home parents and job experience and resumes and all that good stuff. there are others who have the same feelings and insecurities as i. we have a lot more to offer than we knew. contrary to what i thought, i have been honing those skills needed for public relations for years.

that suprised me and put a smile on my face.
i'm feeling just a wee bit smarter... and experienced!

and if anyone else is reading this...perhaps you know this feeling. perhaps you feel like you don't have much to offer. my guess is that you're more valuable than you realize.

Monday, July 5, 2010

perfect love dispels fear

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. --1 John 4:18 (NLT)

i have to admit something. though i've been trying for so long to deny it, i just can't get around this anymore. i am afraid of church. i'm also afraid of anyone who talks about church or speaks christianese.

i fear being hurt, being judged, being guilted into throwing myself into the busy-ness of churchwork.

i don't fear GOD. i mean, i do, but not in the same way. i have that healthy fear and awe of GOD being a just and all-encompassing high being and creator of the universe. but i'm not afraid to carry on a conversation with him and reveal my innermost thoughts and shortcomings. i trust him enough to expose my heart to him. that has not come easy. it has been a long journey, but i do trust him. i believe in him.

GOD is LOVE. love expels all fear. yet i fear a lot. most people don't realize the extent of my fear.

GOD knows. we talk about it. and when we talk, i'm not afraid. i know he won't take my heart that i entrusted to him, throw it on the ground and stomp all over it.

i long for the day when i can open up my heart to people again, especially those of the christian ilk. perfect love casts out fear. there is shortage of perfect love.

i don't like guarding my heart. i hate the disconnect. it makes me cold and self-preserving.

GOD, show me how to love. show me how to accept love. make evident that perfect love that dispels fear. remove the fear that keeps me from living life to its fullest, that keeps me from loving, that keeps me from being loved. continue to heal my heart and make it strong. i trust you to do that. i trust you with my heart.

Monday, June 28, 2010

getting rid of the clutter

while on vacation this past week, i realized something. we lived a whole week with a whole lot less...possessions, that is. i decided when i got home, i would start down-sizing.
do i really need all this stuff?
what is it with this longing to hold on to everything?

a cluttered home. a cluttered heart. a cluttered mind.

and all this clutter brings anxiety.
i abhor that feeling.

i need and desire peace.

and with peace and uncluttered surroundings come a feeling of pride and accomplishment.

my goals this week:
  1. keep clean what has already been cleaned

  2. throw away or recycle what i don't need that isn't worth keeping

  3. let go of 15 things each day that will bless someone else