Tuesday, March 30, 2010

christian bubbles

a while back, i walked away from a staff position at a church. i assumed a few of my relationships would survive my resignation, but to my dismay, they really didn't. i understand on some level. we all move on, but i so hate leaving relationships behind. i felt like i didn't exist in their bubble anymore. maybe it's my imagination, but i think most of my lost relationships have been church relationships.

i'm disappointed that so many churches live in a bubble, and if someone is not in that bubble, they don't exist. my heart breaks everytime i lose a relationship to a church. here's what i mean: i make a friend. they start getting involved in church. good, right? well, before long...no more phone calls, no more texts, no more fb or twitter comments. i cease to exist. they have new friends inside the church and no more time for those outside of it. i've even attended churches in which members were discouraged from having outside relationships. seems a little cult-ish, if you ask me.

it's ok to have services and activities at church, but am i obligated to attend EVERY time the doors are open, which in some churches is every night? and what about outside relationships? when do i get to make and nurture those? i wonder if this is more of a southern phenomenon. when we lived on the west coast, we didn't see this kind of thing as much.

christians, i hate to burst our bubbles...sorry, that's dishonest...i would LOVE to burst our bubbles! GOD has called us to GO! JESUS himself associated with tax collectors, women of ill-repute, the uneducated...the sinners. if the only people we associate with are church-goers, we're living in a bubble.

i'm not going to be hypocritical here. i confess. i have a bubble, but i've become aware of that bubble recently, and i'm venturing out. yes, i have fear. i've been in church my entire life so this can be a daunting undertaking. i get that. you get used to being around people who are a lot like you, but i am very aware that there are people in this world that need GOD. if i stay inside my bubble, i can't touch them.

i've been considering some churches to attend. i must admit. i'm a little concerned about this church bubble thing. yes, i want relationships at church, but i don't want my world to revolve around only those relationships and only that church. i want to be encouraged to have outside relationships. i don't want to get sucked into the bubble, only to neglect those outside of it.

may GOD take a needle and burst our bubbles. i know that's my prayer for me.

don't sweat the small stuff?

while i've been enjoying being on top of the world, i was unaware of what was coming up beside me to knock me off the cliff! lol! i guess i had my eyes trained to look out for the big stuff, but wouldn't you know, it was a lot of little things...the proverbial straw, i suppose.

i felt a little blindsided. still do, if truth be told. i'm a little disappointed in myself for not being more aware. don't sweat the small stuff? sometimes i think the small stuff is harder to deal with than the big stuff. it's like a paper cut. those things doggone hurt worse than something more serious sometimes. i think what happened this week is comparable to about 3 or 4 papercuts. no major wounds, but you're left wondering how something so small can sting so bad.

but i'm not going to let it beat me...today anyway. i let it get me yesterday. but like a papercut, these little things are soon forgotten if not focused on. so i'm not going to focus on them, and within a day or two, i will have no memory of those little irritations.

whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable...think on things that are excellent and worthy of praise...philippians 4:8... that's the plan.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

revisiting the past

i finally have peace that has eluded me for years. i'm happy. i put smiley faces on everything! i'm spreading the happiness wherever i go. i carry on conversations with complete strangers and make eye contact with people i pass. this is huge for me because for about 8 years i've been a sanguine who's afraid of people. well, not anymore. i feel like me again! and my perspective on life is so much brighter.

but i got my first real challenge this week since my heart healed. i got pulled into a situation that i consciously and determinedly walked away from years ago. the toxicity stunted me emotionally and spiritually, made me insecure, brought me countless tears and sleepless nights. i had to get distance. i had to establish boundaries. i would suffer and work through whatever i had to in order to keep this from spreading to others and from tearing me apart.

i was forced into temporarily revisiting that past. i fought discouragement. i fought anger. and in the middle of my journey to the past, GOD spoke to me in that still, small voice. he lifted my chin and told me i didn't have to go back. he showed me how far i'd come. he confirmed to my heart that i need not engage in the turmoil. i think GOD gives good advice. i looked back, not to stay there, but to realize the goodness of GOD. and in the night when all was still and quiet, i whispered in my heart, "thanks GOD." my smile returned, and my body surrendered to sleep.

Monday, March 22, 2010

another lesson on perspective

i just have to say it: thank GOD for his favor in unfavorable situations... and that is the story of my entire day.

it started with my dryer breaking. the service call was an outrageous amount, but at least repairing it was cheaper than buying a new one. also, the technician was able to tell me what was wrong with my oven. the cure is much, much cheaper than a brand new oven. so we'll be able to save money and fix it ourselves. that was favor in an unfavorable situation.

then my cat got worse. she's been limping and looked terrible, so i took her to the vet...again. the last vet visit cost an arm and a leg and ended with them telling me they didn't know what was wrong. today's visit found the reason for the limp...an infection. the vet didn't charge me. he figured i'd paid enough already at the weekend animal hospital. he was right. again, a little favor.

on my way to the vet, i found i had a flat tire. thankfully, i was able to borrow my mom's car and get to the vet before they closed for lunch. the tire can be used as a spare, and our spare is actually a better tire. go figure.

on my way home from the vet, i got stuck in traffic by a train in downtown griffin. i was getting frustrated but tried to remain positive. i began thanking GOD for all the favor he had shown me when the next lane opened up just enough for me to slide over, catch the side road and cross the bridge over the train.

and if that wasn't enough...our dishwasher has been broken for months. someone called and wants to bless us with a new one! now that time...i cried! wow!

i had a few moments of getting down and spewing complaints. but i fought it, and ultimately, i came out positive and grateful. and GOD did an amazing thing!

my perspective made a huge difference in my day...and what a day it was! thank you GOD for your incredible favor!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

i feel closer to GOD since i left the church

sounds shocking, doesn't it? yeah, i couldn't believe the words came from my mouth, yet they did. my hubby and i were talking late one night about our church experiences, and out came the words.

let me stop and explain. it's not that i've turned my back on GOD or the church at large. our family has decided that for this season in our lives, we will have church at home. i have to admit that i'm more than disillusioned with the church as an institution these days, but that's not my only reason for taking church home. this has actually worked out well for us. we spend time studying and growing as a family, this provides us the flexibility to visit and minister at other churches, we have more relaxing sundays with more quality time with each other and our extended family. and it's giving us time to re-evaluate what we think church should be. church planting is not out of the question for us sometime in the future.

i know having church at home is not for everyone, and i'm not trying to convince anyone to leave their church. but for us right now, home church just works.

obviously, the next question was, "why do i feel this way?"

i have hit on a few reasons so far:

1. i'm not discouraged by the negatives at church: the politics, the grumbling, the politics, the grumbling. as a leader, i seemed to be a target for a lot of this. i just had enough. i've seen the dark side of church. i know people aren't perfect, but seriously, we need to have more integrity than we do. that's the example set before us by CHRIST himself. it was never about politics. it was about people. it was about relationships with GOD and with people.

2. we're so busy doing church that we forget to be the church. it's not about doing. the doing will come if we just learn to be. we've got this class, this ministry, this rehearsal, this dinner, this meeting. gotta make this payment, gotta raise money for this trip, gotta do, gotta go, gotta... one of satan's most effective tools in the church today is busy-ness, and what a powerful tool it is.

3. at "church," it's easy to get lazy in our relationship with GOD. we let our sunday school teacher, our pastor, our small group leader do the learning for us. in my home church, i have to take responsibility for my own growth. i learn more because i'm taking more responsibility for my spiritual growth. i can't slip into the habit of letting someone else do the hard work for me.

i know this can bring a lot of criticism, and i know this isn't for everyone. but that's okay. just some thoughts that have crossed my mind, and i thought i would share.

Monday, March 15, 2010

enlarging my comfort zone

i realized some time ago that my comfort zone had really shrunk, that although i have an outgoing personality i was afraid of people, and that i had the confidence of a scaredy-cat. and then something changed. it must have been when my emotional volcano erupted some time back. i hit my point of desperation, and that's when i changed.

and GOD made all things right. i did something this weekend that surprised even me. david and i were asked to lead a service at a church outside of savannah. i already knew that i was going to need to lead worship, but about midweek, i felt led to speak as well. i was so excited! i really felt like i had GOD's stamp of approval when i read a blog by mark batterson called "a fire shut up in my bones." he quoted the scripture from jeremiah 20:9-- "his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. i am weary of holding it in; indeed, i cannot." that pretty much described my feelings.

so i guess i made my "preaching" debut! lol! i spoke about wrestling with GOD. i was told years ago when i was going through a hard time that when i emerged, i would have a jacob's limp. ever since, jacob's story of wrestling with GOD has been near and dear to my heart. i know i have been marked by GOD. i know i have the blessing and favor of GOD on my life. i shared my story and shared some principles i have learned through studying jacob's experience.

i didn't get nervous at all. on the contrary, i was excited! i always get concerned about my delivery because i don't consider myself to be a great speaker by any stretch. i felt poised and confident. it felt right. i did something fearless. i stretched the boundaries of my comfort zone. and it feels awesome, exhilarating, empowering!

Friday, March 12, 2010

i love thunderstorms

i am a huge fan of thunderstorms so today has been a good day. growing up in a home with a tv repair business, thunderstorms meant lightning strikes to tv sets which meant money. thunderstorms also meant spring. and a few years ago, thunderstorms took on another meaning...GOD is great!

let me share my story from a few years ago:

i ripped off the plastic wrap from the new passion cd and listened over and over to "how great is our GOD." david and i were at the mt. gap campground, and i had to make a wal-mart run. the weather started to get pretty rough, and when i got to the highway, i came to a dead stop. apparently, lightning had struck a tree and started a fire. traffic was temporarily halted. no worries! i was singing away. and the song took on new meaning as i listened to the thunder. GOD is great and grand and majestic and awe-inspiring! well, i finally made it to the thomaston wal-mart, got the things on my list, and headed out...

as i walked out the door, i noticed the storm had passed. i looked up and saw one of the most beautiful double rainbows ever. if breaking out into song would have been socially acceptable, i'd have sung from the top of my lungs, "how great is our GOD! sing with me..." i held my composure...until i got to my car, and then i let loose again...and again...and again.

and then i saw them. on the side of that country road were two beautiful deer feasting on the grass. at that moment, as if it were scripted, "how great is our GOD" transitioned into "then sings my soul, my savior, GOD, to thee. how great thou art..." it was another awesome sight, and i felt as if i could reach out and touch GOD himself. a chill ran down my spine as tears ran down my cheek. and i paused to consider just how beautiful and lovely and grand GOD truly is.

i'll never forget that day. with each thunderstorm i am reminded of my GOD-experience. so let the thunder roll. how great is our GOD!

Monday, March 8, 2010

i get to clean up =)

once again, i'm working on my perspective. i have heard many times: "my perspective is my reality." now there may be some truth in that. however, those i've heard repeat that phrase all too often are just trying to justify their poor choices. just because we believe something doesn't make it real or true.

but like i said...there may be some truth in that depending on how we apply it. many times, my perspective becomes my reality. i was watching joel osteen on sunday, and he spoke about how we determine so much of our reality. if our perspective is sour and negative, our reality becomes sour and negative. on the flip, if our perspective is joyful and positive, our reality becomes joyful and positive. the more i tell myself something, the more apt it is to become true. here's an example:

joel osteen said we shouldn't say things like... "i have to go to work." rather, we should say... "thank you, GOD, that i get to go to work." the one that really got me? "i have to clean up." so i've decided to thank GOD that i have a roof over my head, furnished with all our needs and a good many luxuries. i get to clean up. i have something to clean up. there are many in the world who don't have that.

my perspective is my reality. and my reality is that GOD loves me and takes care of all my needs. he has given me a beautiful and wonderful family. he has given me a home. we have never gone hungry. he has given me spiritual and emotional healing, people who love me, and so much more. philippians 4:8 says, "And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." if that's my perspective, i have an incredible reality.

rejection or release?

a friend of mine wrote as his facebook status today: "we often confuse RELEASE with REJECTION." he went on to say that we should thank GOD for the release, instead of mourn over our rejection, and that sometimes acceptance hinders us while our supposed rejection brings us freedom when it's all said and done.

i have been quite guilty of confusing the two. before reading ken t.'s status update this morning, i determined in my heart that i was going to have a different perspective on the events in my life. everything that has happened has brought me to where i am. i still don't understand some of those situations, but i'm going to trust that GOD is working it all out for my benefit or for the benefit of those i minister to.

i admit it. i stew over things: things that are beyond my control, hurtful situations, people's opinions of me... but i'm doing better. i'm re-training my heart and mind to trust GOD rather than despair, worry and wallow in self-pity.

so much of life is our perspective. and i've decided to focus more on the positive. and that means that i have had to distance myself from certain situations and relationships because all they do is bring undesired toxins into my life. those poisons make me angry, bitter, and chained to undesired attitudes and behaviors.

so today, i take rejection and turn it around. i see it as release. i see it as GOD bringing freedom into my life. and i thank him for it.

ken t, you hit the nail on the head and gave me much to think about. i had trouble putting it into words. thank you for making it easy for me.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

get in the game

each of the last few summers, my family and i have been at the georgia conference campmeeting in franklin springs, georgia. one of our fun traditions each year is a basketball game between the kids and the old people. and by kids, i mean mostly teens. they're just kids to us old people who have stopped growing vertically and now just grow around the middle. the old people have to rely more on strategy with each passing year while the kids rely on athleticism and height.

i love getting out there and playing. i must confess, i do much better at volleyball and softball, but my lack of basketball skills doesn't usually keep me off the court. i tend to sub in when one of the older, out-of-shape guys have a look of panic on their faces due to their fear of not getting enough oxygen.

i kept deferring during this one particular game. maybe it's because i got a little self-conscious and insecure because others were so much better than i. one of the old guys, who is actually pretty doggone good, kept urging me to get out there and play. now, i can't exactly call what i did playing. i ran and whenever someone threw me the ball, i quickly passed it along for fear that i may actually have to dribble.

afterwards, the same guy (who would probably prefer i not refer to him as old. lol!) talked to me about how that game was like my real life. i keep deferring to others, but i need to get out there and get in the game. he's right. and this past week, i've stepped onto the court of life, and i'm giving it my all. i'm not the best player, but that's ok. i'm out there, and i'm doing my thang. i guess you don't always have to be the best, and you don't always have to have it all together. i'll just try to do in life like i do on that court...laugh, have fun, provide relief and cheer on my team.