Give me Back my Keys!

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I woke up this morning and realized I’d given someone else my keys. Carsick and reeling, I’d been riding shotgun through my life, driven there by my own complacency. Like Dante, I was lost in a dark wood. A spectator barely gazing at the circumstances that brought me to this place, suddenly awake to the fact that I was so far from the path I’d started upon.

The first step on the journey back is waking up, then begins the regaining, the takeover of myself in that moment when the fog has lifted and so have my eyes. Happiness comes from the deliberate life in which I take the wheel and follow truth, peace within allowed freedom from the choking vines of fear. I had no one to blame but myself for allowing them to overtake me.

Hope springs from accepting where I’ve been and deciding to move forward. Hope flows from deep within, the place where the glory dwells. Today I choose to embrace it and fight. Tomorrow I’ll be a little closer to home. In the end, I will win.

The Problem with Church

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I have been in church most of my life. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’ve been around church people long enough, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church” or “I’ve been hurt in church” at least once. It’s almost epidemic. The church, the place where people should flock to feel loved and welcomed, appreciated, needed, and safe, often times has become a source of pain or contention. This was never God’s intention. Yet , we are mere mortals and churches, though good intentioned, cease to be perfect the moment we walk through the door. Church was never intended to be a showroom full of the perfect and sinless. Church is a gathering place for the wounded. Church is a hospital for the broken. Fallible, imperfect men and women, join together as one body, with one united purpose, to glorify the Lord and draw closer to Him.

This morning I was thinking about King Josiah. His story is recorded in the Bible in the book of II Chronicles and also in II Kings. Josiah was 8 years old when he became king and at that young age he began to seek after the Lord. The real turning point for him happened 18 years later when one of the priests found the Book of the Law and read it to him. He saw himself there in the words. He realized the only hope for his nation and his people was change and he decided to act. Here’s the thing, Josiah had faithfully been serving God for 18 years by this time. Our current system of belief so often states that we are to follow after God ourselves and let others deal with themselves. Up to this point, that’s pretty much what Josiah had been doing. We cannot change anyone and we shouldn’t butt into anyone’s business. It sounds so good. But we are missing the point entirely. Our faith isn’t just about us. It never has been. Our faith is about serving others and helping them to reach the fullness of the life that God intended for them as well. In our self-absorbed culture, this seems so contrary but I contend that it’s just fundamental.

Josiah “set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.” (II Chron. 35:2. Then later in verse 6 he tells the priests to “prepare them [the Passover offerings] for your brethren that they may do the according to the word of the Lord.” After they had served each other, they were encouraged to prepare for themselves. Verse 7 says that his leaders gave willingly to the people. You see, Josiah found that the key to leadership was equipping and encouraging others to operate in the fullness of their calling. In Verse 16, the Bible says the singers were in their places. So here they all were, in their place of utility ready to serve each other: a gathering of people focused on the person next to them rather than on themselves.

Maybe if we as a church would spend more time focusing on the person next to us than we do on our own problems or even on what we think we have to offer, things might be different. Maybe if we quit waiting on the Pastor or church leadership to do all the work and instead we step up and fill in the gaps, the ministry would be more effective.

Josiah found himself in the book of the law that day and it changed him. It caused him to realize his utility was not just as a ruler, but as an encourager. He led a nation to repentance through service. Perhaps it’s time we follow his example. So often, we’ve looked at all of the things we think exclude others from ministry rather than finding their gifting and encouraging them in it. As we encourage and equip them, they draw closer to Christ and the negatives often fall away.

We all have rough edges that need to be sanded down over time. Let’s stop focusing on the edges so much and start advocating for the heart. Let’s stop condoning sinfulness in church while casting stones at the folks outside. Let’s restore true worship again where we lose ourselves in wonder at a God who sees us, broken and fallible, and adores us anyway. Let’s follow his lead and radically love those we deem despicable. Maybe we can begin to see their hearts instead of their actions. Maybe we can find the person, whom God loves unconditionally, instead of focusing on the outside appearance. We believe God saves us through faith and not through our works, yet we judge the works of those who haven’t yet come to know Him and forget to love.

If you want to change the world, do it…one word of encouragement at a time.

Masterpiece

There’s a canvas where purpose meets potential and I find myself painting there.
Blank before me the beginning of yet another chapter…one I didn’t ask for.
I sit on the edge of now, waiting, breathing in, breathing out, feeling the quiet as substance filling the caverns of fear.
I take in my hand and my heart what you give and set to work. There has to be beauty here.
Every stroke with the brush reminding me that you see me.
You paint me lovely even when my eyes cease to see the wonder.
All I am is yours.

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Why I Still Hang with the Crazies

If you’ve spent any time on social media recently, you’ve probably noticed a few quotes such as these:

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Those were just two such statements I ran across this morning, but everyday I see a new version of the same basic statement. It sounds great on the surface right. Maybe I would have, at one time, completely agreed and gave an enthusiastic “like” or “amen”, but lately, something has seemed unsettling about that idea. The ideology is simply that our own health and happiness is the ultimate priority. Therefore, we shouldn’t tolerate anyone of anything that stands in the way of our own inner peace.

There are two flaws in this logic. The first is that anyone else has the power to take our peace in the first place. True peace doesn’t come from anything in this world. People, possessions and wealth are all trivial. True peace comes from knowing who we are and from the author of peace and our relationship with him. True peace is a gift that no one should ever have the right to snatch away. Sure we all struggle to hang on to it from time to time when life bears down hard and pushes every button we have. Still, the decision to let it go is totally ours. Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Secondly, our ultimate aim should not be our own happiness. I know, I know, not a lot of people will agree with me here, but let me explain what I mean. If we are believers, our aim is to become more Christ-like. “He must increase, I must decrease” John 3:30. You’ll never see Jesus cutting off the crazies. Instead we see him embracing the broken. We see him lay down his life for others time after time. He was never shaken by those who criticized him because he knew his purpose. Even in the face of Judas’ betrayal he ate dinner with him and didn’t cast him aside.

We are called to do the same. We should be so sure in ourselves that the drama around us can’t shake us. No one enjoys criticism or being gossiped about and lied to but that doesn’t mean it should knock us over. I for one, refuse to allow anyone that kind of power over me. Our lives are not our own. They are given to others. We do this naturally to a point. We give of ourselves to our friends, children, spouses, and families daily. We give until it hurts but that doesn’t mean we stop giving. We give as unto the Lord because we love him and we love others. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Matthew 12:30-31

Let me clarify, that I don’t believe we should put up with abuse. God may call us to be martyrs for sake of the gospel, but I believe there are situations where lines are crossed and healthy boundaries exist. I don’t spend hours on the phone with my ex husband allowing him to treat me the way he did when we were married. I am a firm believer in balance. Any extreme situation is unhealthy. Pray for wisdom there. I’m more talking about “drama light” if that makes sense. Being loving to others even when they are annoying. Reaching out in love to the person who talks about you behind your back. Being a friend to that person who always has something going on and bearing with them in love even when you want to shake them or slap them upside the head.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:1-5

It is our reasonable service to lay our lives down for the un-loveable. Our mind may tell us to take care of us first but the gospel tells us to crawl on an altar and serve. Dead men don’t have rights.

So maybe I’m crazy but I will not “un-friend” the crazies in my life. I will take time out of my day to answer the phone and love someone through a crisis. I will not waiver in the face of disrespect or cower when attacked. I won’t be swayed by gossip but rather, I’ll refuse to listen to it even when it’s about me. As Eleanor Roosevelt said,  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My security comes from a higher purpose and my peace will not falter. So to all my crazy peeps, I’m not going anywhere.

Mother of the Bride

Sunlight in her hair, the girl in the long white dress walks slowly

Away from me

Toward her future

Where destiny and maturity culminate in a moment

Where dreams begin

Starry eyes look upon her love

She takes his hand and makes a vow

Little girl I carried in arms

Twinkle, twinkle light above

Carry her on

To where she’s held by you

Make them one

As I pray daily

Grateful always for being her mother

Killing Bad Music

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There are so many words in the world trapped in ice, (the icy chill of the frozen heart…not to quote Disney or anything). The past changes us like a bad song trapped in the brain – an earworm playing the tired melody so long it takes over songs of grace. In tragedy, I forget to clear it. I just keep adding new dissident chords to the same melody and unconsciously sing along. But I’m growing tired of auto-repeat and ready to start again.

 I’ll pick up my guitar and write a new progression. A “C” to open my eyes to truth, a 2minor to build the tension of something to come, the “F” chord to forget the failures as I rise to find the “G”, the savior God who lifts me higher away from the noise of the diminished chords that used to haunt with their oddities. It’s time to find a new tune for the foundation of my heart.

 New life begins the moment we make a choice to let it spring forth from the ashes. Maybe the old remains to make us who we are but we can choose where we land. The decision is ours to move forward or wallow.

 Sure, yesterday may repeat itself in subtle ways as circumstance we can’t control creeps near attempting to draw us back in to the rhythm of the madness, but we are the hands that ultimately control the strings. Will we choose to create something new or continue to settle for the old?

Why remain stuck in the old when each string holds within it, the potential for more…the promise of greatness undiscovered. Lord, give me your ears and let me hear the songs you sing over me. Help me to keep pressing forward guided by the beauty promised in your love.

I’m ready for freedom. I’m ready to embrace what you have for me. I know change is hard but nothing is worse than standing still. I promise to embrace new life as long as you keep singing…A pen in the hand of a ready writer. Move with skill and dance as I follow.

Strength

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One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that fear grows in dark places deep within when I’m not paying attention.  I particularly find this in the context of relationships. The husband and I have a rough day and I turn suddenly I’m on the bridge of the Enterprise yelling “Shields up! Prepare for battle! I’ll take the conn!” A small offense turns into an insurmountable obstacle and I fight hard to control every detail and make it all work out the way I see fit. I’m sure you can see that there are obvious flaws in this strategy. I do this out of fear. I’ve been hurt before and rather and than take the risk of being hurt again, I grab the guns and dig in.

Thankfully, there is grace that comes along and shines a little light on it, revealing to me the reality of this monstrous thing that’s been choking me slowly. I read a quote from Francis Frangipane this week that explains it perfectly. “We pray, “Lord, change me.” To answer that prayer, He will often allow circumstances or people to offend us. Our fleshly reaction illuminates the specific area where we need to grow. Thus, the Lord initiates change by offending the area of our soul He seeks to transform. He does not expect us to merely survive this adversity but become Christlike in it.”

The truth is that fear and self-preservation rarely lead to positive outcomes. True strength is being able to stand in spite of fear and love anyway. True strength is in moving beyond the things that paralyze us and give of ourselves even when it hurts. Meg Cabot said, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear; The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all.”

Today I encourage you to live! Take the risk and do that thing that makes you afraid. Go all in! If something offends you, let it go. If you’re hurting, pray. There is a Comforter who is more than able to turn ashes into beauty and He wants to fight that battle for you. He wants you to overcome. March on into the fray armed with His strength and you will find your freedom.

“Oh my soul, march on with strength!” Judges 5:21