Monday, May 31, 2010

quit focusing on the storm

so, GOD, i'm feeling a little bit like a failure. i'm having trouble trusting you with a few areas.

it reminds me of when peter attempted to walk on the water to JESUS. he stepped out of the boat while the storm raged all around. instead of keeping his eyes on JESUS, peter turned to look at the waves and began to sink.

i know i should look up, but the waves are distracting me from seeing you, GOD, in all this.

just like you did with peter, you've called me to come out to you. no sooner did i get out of the boat, but i began to sink.

i suppose i should find comfort in knowing that when peter called out to you, you reached to him, pulled him up, and helped him into the boat. all i have to do is call out to you, and you'll do the same for me.

i just feel so bad when i fail. i should be grateful and thankful instead of looking at the storm around me. i guess i'm asking for you to forgive me and to help me forgive myself. i don't like doubting that you'll take care of us. i know how much i care about my kids and want good things for them, so how much, much, much more you care about me and want good things for me and my family! why do i ever doubt you?

Friday, May 28, 2010

what does it mean to be CHRIST-like?

these last couple of days, i've been meditating on the question...what does it mean to be CHRIST-like?

keep in mind, these are just my thoughts and questions, not judgements.

i ask because i went to a private christian school as do my kids, and one of the end-of-the-year awards is "most CHRIST-like." over the years, i've seen many kids be awarded this honor, and over the years, i hear much the same explanation for why.

among them?
"i've never had any trouble with this child."
"she/he wants to be a missionary and said that JESUS is her/his hero."
"she/he always smiles/greets me with a hug."
"this child always gets along with her/his classmates."
"this is the sweetest child."
"she/he always does what i ask/is very obedient."

and among other things, this is what i know about JESUS:
  • he was a revolutionary
  • he didn't aways get along with people
  • he broke the rules
  • he made the religious community so mad, they ran him out of places and eventually had him killed
  • he got angry and protested injustice
  • he took up for the underdog/rejected/sick/overlooked and spent time with the under-privileged
  • he didn't suck up; he treated people honestly and fairly
  • he was compassionate, humble, a servant, merciful
  • he was fearless and confident
  • he loved and cared for women and children, so he had to have been approachable and likable, not at all like the picture we tend to have of him... hands raised piously with solemn facial expressions saying, 'bless you, my child' to everyone he meets
  • he was a carpenter

we tend to think that the most CHRIST-like are those who aspire to become missionaries, pastors, sunday school teachers, and the like. JESUS started out as a carpenter. imagine this: a carpenter/a builder/contractor who does excellent work for fair and honest wages, who takes an interest in the families he serves. are we less CHRIST-like if we aspire to be a journalist or an engineer or a plumber? does being CHRIST-like mean we always get along with others or follow the rules?

who is JESUS? what did he do? i've been inspired to find out more for myself.

i'm just asking.

insights welcome.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

my thoughts on my church experience today

i left church this morning feeling encouraged and safe, yet challenged. i haven't heard any other church/pastor say some of the things they've said about integrity, mercy, forgiveness. it's like ... water in a hot, arid desert.

i did a couple of things that may sound kind of trivial or silly, but to me, they were huge. i filled out a visitor's card and went up for prayer for healing over my past. earlier in the week, we had discussed having other plans for today, but i really hated the thought of missing church at avalon this morning. my desire for the time being is to fall through the cracks and remain anonymous, that is, until i'm ready to emerge. they've made it easy. they respect my privacy, giving me space, while letting me know i am loved and welcomed.

will this be long-term? i don't know. and for right now, i don't care. this is where my heart needs to be for this season. and i am drinking it all in. are they perfect? you can bet they're not, but to be honest, i haven't seen any warning flags yet...and GOD knows i'm looking for them.

i walk in and want to cry as soon as the music begins...a good cry, a cleansing cry, a happy cry. and i must admit, i'm a little bummed when we're dismissed. the sermon series this month has been "captive." it's about being chained to our fears, our past, or whatever keeps us from living a blessed, whole and abundant life. it's exactly what i needed.

i've been struggling again with bitterness and holding on to past hurts and failures. i think it's time to rid myself of another layer of that baggage. it was music to my ears when the pastor said that it's not reasonable nor is it biblical to insist upon "forgive and forget." we don't usually forget, but we can forgive. we can accept. we can move on. he said that sometimes it takes forgiving a situation or person 490 times (that's 70 x 7 for all the bible scholars). if it doesn't "take" the first time, forgive again and again for as long as it takes. it's nice to hear what i've thought all along.

so i think i'm probably on 200-something. =) but that's ok. i'll keep forgiving until it does "take." i'll keep forgiving those who've hurt or disappointed me, and i'll keep forgiving myself for my short-comings and failures. one day, it's going to come together. one day, i won't fear anymore. one day, the massive amount of love and forgiveness in my heart will drive out the fear and bitterness. there won't be any room for them anymore.

it's been a good day.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

back to school!

i am one big ball of mind clutter these days!

i have a major life change...i'm going back to college! i'm really excited, but i'm a little nervous. it's been YEARS since i was in school. at least the school is making the process easy. i'll be attending georgia state university and majoring in journalism with a concentration in public relations.

life changes, though oftentimes fun and exciting, are still major times of adjustments. i tend to take 6-9 months to fully adjust. i guess that's why i'm pouring over it so right now. i figure if i can get used to the idea now, i'll have an easier time once school actually starts.

i think i'm ready for the worlds of academia and workplace. i need something different in my life. i've prayed for quite some time that my church bubble would burst, that i would find ways to really help people and get to know those outside of church. i think i'm ready.

honestly, i'm stressing over our finances. part of me knows that GOD will take care of us, but there's a part that feels the need to obsess over it. i know that's a prideful thing. it shows i don't think GOD can handle it, so i'm trying to chill and just let GOD do his thing. it's not easy, but i tend not to back down from challenges. i'm praying for lots of scholarship/grant money and a job.

so, GOD...guide my steps and grant me favor. i could really use that. well, that and a nice family vacation!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

he closed his eyes

the blind side...

leigh anne tuohy: "how did you get out of there, michael?"

michael oher: "...momma would tell me to close my eyes... and when the bad things were over, she'd say, 'now when i count to three, you open your eyes. the past is gone, and the world is a good place. and it's all gonna be ok.'"

he closed his eyes.

he. closed. his. eyes.

what a profoundly simple thought.

i remember a conversation a pastor's wife and i had a few years ago. though we'd seen so much of the dark side of church and there was so much to get bitter over, neither of us wanted to wake up one day to find ourselves old, angry, bitter and unapproachable. when that day comes, we want to be known as the sweet old lady with a great big smile and even bigger heart.

that conversation has revisited my mind many times over the past couple of weeks as i've found myself becoming bitter and angry over something. i know that if those emotions don't get taken care of, they'll take over.

a few days ago, there was nothing on television so david and i pulled out "the blind side." i love that movie. it's one of my favorites...inspirational on so many levels. and when the movie got to the scene in front of the laundromat in which anne and michael had the conversation i opened with, my heart stopped and my eyes filled up with tears.

he closed his eyes. and when he opened them the past was gone and the world was a good place. got me thinking that i have my eyes open too much. maybe i should close them more often.

i've been spending a lot of time thinking about ecclesiastes 3...there is a time for every season under the sun. i suppose if i could add something, it would be...there is a time to see, and there is a time to close your eyes.

so, i'm closing my eyes, and when i count to three, i'm going to open my eyes again. the past is gone. the world is a good place. and maybe like michael in the movie, i'll find myself a little more innocent and a lot less cynical...all right, then. ;)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

before we preach the gospel, we need to live the gospel

i read a blog a while back in which the author was voicing his aggravation with readers who inevitably comment that we don't need strategies to reach the lost, we just need to preach the gospel. my guess is that many who suggest we just preach the gospel probably don't have a very good relationship with those who need the gospel. at least that has been my experience.

john maxwell is famous for saying "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." that couldn't be more important than when we are sharing the gospel with others. before we can preach the gospel, we need to live the gospel.

and that means we need to care. we need to love. we need to live and work with integrity. we need to serve.

i know for me personally, i will listen a whole lot better and a whole lot longer if i know someone genuinely loves and cares for me. i suggest we need less preaching and more living.

i went to church this morning

what a day! this morning, we awakened early and headed to church...avalon church. for the past few months, we have had church at home. it has been good for a season. i have a feeling we'll do it again from time to time, but now i feel i'm ready to venture out again into the church world.

but this time i'm taking it slow.

i really enjoyed it. the people were nice and helpful, and they let me just be, which for now means that they let me hide. i'll emerge when i'm ready, when i feel i can trust. for now, i'm watching and taking it all in.

last night, i was encouraged as i looked at their website. it is a great site. someone has a pretty good sense of humor, and it came through. i have gotten in trouble when i have tried to make church fun in the past, so i was excited when they made jokes when introducing their staff on the website. i also was very much attracted to their outreach. this upcoming saturday, they will be ministering to single moms and shut-ins, doing practical things to help them out. one day, i will join them.

many churches talk about excellence, but few do anything about it. i get excited when i see excellence. i saw it today in everything they did. nothing spectacular, but what was done was done well. the leader in me felt the spotlight shine down from heaven with a host of angels all with outstretched hands singing, "ahhhh!"

the student pastor did a wonderful job introducing the new series called "captive." i was challenged, yet encouraged. what he said nailed me, yet i didn't feel condemned. i felt the grace and mercy of GOD washing my heart and spirit kind of like when you wash the dirt and grime off a truck you went mudding in.

i know better than most that no church is perfect, but how refreshing it is to see a minister be transparent. he didn't have it all together. he admitted it. he told on himself. he admitted his brokenness. and in so doing, he encouraged me in my own journey.

i think i'll be back. they're worth a second look.

new beginnings

new beginnings. change. expansion.

tomorrow, we visit a new church. i smiled as i did a little research on the church tonight. the name is avalon, which i found out means...yep...new beginning. that seems to be the theme of my life right now.

i've had to say goodbye to some former things. i'm working to embrace the new. and there is a lot of new to embrace.

i am a little fearful. i can't lie about that. perspective is a hard thing to find, but i'm trying to relax and open my mind in order to grasp it. i'm not the first to try something new, and i certainly won't be the last. for me to think i'm the only one who has ever stepped out of her comfort zone would be arrogant and prideful.

i have to trust that GOD will lead me in the right direction. i've been joking (though i'm kind of serious) about GOD tweeting me his will. but i remembered something i read a few years ago by erwin mcmanus...go till GOD says no.

and go i will. and with each new experience comes confidence and peace and a broader sense of adventure. as long as i'm moving, i will find that the hand of GOD guides me. it's when i stop that i get lost. i don't know if that makes sense, but it does to my heart.