Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forgiveness Doesn't Come with a Debt

How often do you feel like you have to earn your relationships with other people? I do all of the time. I rationalize and plan, consider and hope that what I do will make up for times that I have failed, times that I have not measured up. I suppose I try to bank brownies points for those moments when I might not be the true person that I hope to be. It is exhausting. And, worse yet, it totally demeans the life that I should be leading.

You see, I believe that my savior died for me, and that when I ask him to forgive me, he does. Fully. Wiped clean. Forgiven. But, if I don't live in relation with my friends in a way that shows that I believe in full forgiveness and right standing, how can I live this way with Christ? Seems like I have been fooling myself.
Early last spring, a person whom I have known since middle school did something really unbelieveable. An adult asked for my forgiveness for hurting my feelings over a decade and ahlf ago. Can you believe it? We never were really friends back then, she didn't owe me anything, but she wanted to make things right. I was so shocked by her humility, by her honesty and sincerity that my world sort of stood still. And, while I hadn't thought about it for many years, her gentle asking for forgiveness, did right a wrong. That hurt that I had buried is gone. And all that I kept thinking about was how amazing it was for her to have the courgage to be that real with me, to be that mature, to be that kind. When this woman stood up to make things right with me, I realized a little more what it means to be an adult. I realized that it really is never too late to say that you are sorry, never to late to try to be friends, never to late to work on making yourself better.
A year has passed, I have talked to this woman, gotten to know her, gotten to love her. On Easter weekend, she packed a basket of homemade bread and Easter treats for me. For me. She showed such love, such care. Isn't it amazing what God can do? How carefully he works in our lives to teach us, to show me that forgiveness doesn't come with a debt. Love really can conquer all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Self Requires a Savior

On a quest towards sanctification, I discovered self: self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, and maybe one other self along with way. While I was busy trying to be covered in the blood and walking in the spirit, I kept tripping on all of this junk, all of this baggage, all of this me. When I finally realized that it was me that was standing in between God and myself, I wanted, and still am trying to figure out, how to get out of the way.

I always have a plan, a back up plan, and another pretty sweet plan waiting in the wings of just-in-case. I consider myself an excellent multi-tasker. This very moment, I have two huge pots of spaghetti sauce and meatballs cooking, a chocolate cake cooling, icing whipping, coffee brewing, and a load of laundry washing. All of this while trying to articulate my need for a savior, as if it isn’t obvious. I rarely ask for help. I take pride in doing things well on my own. And while this keeps me busy enough that I don’t have time to be bored, I am realizing that there is a major issue permeating all areas of my life. Trust. I don’t trust people to do things well enough for me. I worry that I will have to do it all over again, anyways. While I pride myself for being self sufficient, I push those that I love away. I have hurt friends, my husband, and my God by trying to do life on my own. Not only do I need earthly and practical help of the people in my every day life, but I need my Savior in my everyday life. I can no longer fool myself into believing that I can do all things through me. I am pretty sure that isn’t what Philippians 4:13 says at all.

Following, I stumbled on the harsh words of self-righteousness. Me? Really? I love God. I want him in my life. I need God. But, the reality is that I don’t really know how much I need God. I don’t realize my need for a savior because I ignore and brush off a lot of my sin. My sins – anger, being judgmental, impatience, gluttony, lustfulness, etc.- are so everyday, so minute by minute that they are easy to brush off, easy to justify. However, I realize that this is a lie. No matter the human view of a sin and its depth, a sin is a sin. And, for that very reason, I need a savior. And while it is hard for me to do, I trust in Him for my forgiveness. I trust in Him to fill me with more of himself as I make room for Him. I trust in Him. I trust.

Trust. It isn’t easy for me. I want to do it all on my own. I want to be in control. I want to be the boss. But, if I am to be a follower of Christ, that isn’t possible. I have to surrender to Him. I have to be happy about the fact that God is in control. I want to find joy in that. I want to find peace in that. Really, I need to. I need to trust. And, as I want to be wholly committed, overwhelmingly joyful, and truly excited about following Christ, I have to keep working on getting rid of those ugly “self” words that keep getting in the way. Self-sufficiency and self-righteousness are a lie. The only self I want is self-awareness so that I can be sure that I am allowing God to work fully in my life, less of me and more of Him.

This was my third and last installment of my thoughts during my membership classes at church. This Sunday I will be baptized and made an official member.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Gotta Take This Call

You know, when God has a call on your husband's life, in any area of employment, that means that God has a call the wife's life as well. In our house, we believe that Ryan has been called to help people who are hurting. Wrapping our heads around what that will exactly look like isn't any easy thing, especially for our kids.

Avery often asks why daddy has to go to school, why he has to work so much, why he can't play all of the time. I was telling her how he is going to be a doctor and that he has to learn a lot in order to be a good one. She flipped out about not wanting him to be a doctor, as she doesn't want him to give shots. I told her he wasn't going to be that kind of doctor, but a doctor who helps people who feel sad, feel angry, feel lost, feel upset with hopes of making them feel better. She just didn't get it. And, to be honest, some adults don't get it. And, being even more honest, sometimes I don't get how it is all going to work out and I just want to say For-get-it.
But, what I do know is that as I trust God with the life of my husband and with my own life, I don't have to understand as much. I don't have to figure it all out. I don't have to make all of the plans. I can just trust and hope and watch as God makes the paths straight. And while I don't have lots of letters after my name stating what I am qualified to do, I know that the support and love that I provide to my husband working towards those special letters is even more valuable.
If I believe that God has a plan for Ryan, that God wants to use Ryan to His good, than I have to believe that God has a plan for me as well. And, if supporting Ryan and helping him to see this dream become a reality is my job right now, I want to do it well. While I may have lots of plans and wishes for my own life, while it is natural for me to want to stay in a comfortable place surrounded by the people that I love, I Gotta Take This Call.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gray Matters

I am joining a church.  Gasp.  I know.  I have gone to church my whole life and have been a part of many great churches; however, I have never been an official member.  So, huge deal for me.  My homework for this week was to write a quick thing about faith in my life, how I have seen Christ working in my life.  I had to make a chart of the ups and downs of my faith as well, which was an interesting assignment.  Here is what I came up with.  I feel that it is kind of weak, but I am not sure what I want to change yet.  Gray matters may be popping up here again, but this is the first draft:

Gray Matters


There isn’t a time that I can recall where Jesus wasn’t a part of my life.  I was raised in a home where faith, hope, and love were the center of our being, where attending church was more important than sports, where we prayed together everyday, where we shared our issues, where we ate dinner as a family, and traipsed around town supporting one another in our various individual activities.  My parents became radically saved, a term familiar to me as we attended an evangelical church, about a year before my birth.  Prior to this new lifestyle with Christ, they had been sowing their wild oats and living a life of self that ended not working out as planned.  My mother recalls how my dad was speaking in tongues and making sure that she was “really saved” during my birth.  Not may people can say that they had an entrance like this.  Out I popped into a world that looked fairly black and white.

While my father was quite loud about his faith, my mother was more reserved or reverent.  Together I was raised by an oil and vinegar type of faith, both different, both unique, both good.  For this most part, this was an awesome experience, but at times I wondered how I was to live out my faith.  Like dad or like mom.  Today, I am finding more and more that I need my own style and I am excited about that.  And, so, from the early days of my life, God was present in my everyday life.  I am thankful for this foundation.  Like black and white, I was raised by two extreme styles of faith, and I sort of became gray. 

As I grew into adolescence, I believed that the world was black and white: a sin was a sin.  There seemed to be no middle ground.  I prayed, mostly out of fear, for the salvation of everyone that I knew.  I invited kids, who I now believe to be Christians, to my church because I wanted the to be “more saved”.  While I know now that worship services might look and sound different, and what matters is who is being worshipped, I didn’t get that then.  It was a faith lesson that I wish I had learned earlier.   It was during this time that I realized that the Church was made up of man, not always a good thing.  I had to get back to the fact that my identity needed to be in Christ, not in man. 

It seems that soon enough I was at Grove City College, where I met Ryan and things started to really change for me.  My world of black and white was starting to find hues of different shades.  Ryan is a thinker.  He challenges me to do the same.  For good, he wrecked my world of neat and clean concepts.  Out of his love of man and compassion for the hurting, he showed me that I needed to redefine a few things.  Christ brought to me a partner in life who would not make me comfortable with the easy way out.  To this day, we continue to work on a faith that is unlike anything I have ever experienced.  Boy, it is difficult sometimes to be stretched this much. 

Now, I wait for Christ.  I wait to hear what he has for me today.  This outlook of compassion and kindness helps me to focus on showing the love of Christ.  I continue to need the reminder that my identity is in Christ, that my desire is to honor Him, that my every day needs to be about Him.  I get dazed and stunned by the world at times.  Out of balance I become, focusing on pleasing man, about being good enough, smart enough, and I have to be re-centered.  Thankfully, as you might know, Christ welcomes me.  So, here I am today, out of obedience, out of a desire to know Him and be known by Him,  And, gray matters.  That’s where people fall, in the cracks of life, needing love, needing Him.  I’m excited about that.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Identity Crisis

Remember how I told you that this play group thing was a big deal?  How it was more than about healthy play time for toddlers?  How possibly it was about me needing to have some work done?  Well, I was right.  And, I haven't even scratched the surface of it.  

Amongst 20 toddlers playing dress up, tooting a trolly whistle, stacking groceries, and scooping pretend ice cream cones, I got a sermon in seconds.  A friend that I have known for nearly two decades opened her mouth and out came truth.  I got smacked in the face with the reality of me, and that slap just kept rerunning in my mind all day long.  I couldn't get over it.  Because, as you might have guessed, I'm not over it.  
You see, I asked her child to come play with my girls one day last week.  She took some time to do some shopping and possibly just get some of that precious alone time that moms desperately need and rarely get.  I was so happy to help her.  My girls liked having a friend over.  To me, it was a pleasure to do.  I didn't really think a second about it.  
Being the kind woman that she is, this friend of mine immediately offered to return the favor.  I brushed her off, saying how busy my girls are, how Emery can't be trusted, how it would be too much work.  
Can you guess what this friend said?  She told me that I have an issue with being self-sufficient, that I always have to do things on my own, that I don't let people help me.  Wow.  How did she get into my head?  She cut right to the core of most all of my issues with that sermon of seconds.  For the next 12 hours, I mulled over what she had to say.  
That night, last night, I was listening to TD Jakes once again, and while I liked the sermon, I kept waiting for something just for me.  When the podcast was nearly over and my eyes were getting heavy, I heard confirmation of my issue.  Bishop talked about how my debt is owed to Christ, about how it doesn't matter who loves me on Earth, but that what really matters is who I am in Christ.  Slap, slap, slap.  
It just keeps coming back to this.  This is the lesson I keep hearing and fail to really learn.  Who am I in Christ?  I guess I am having an identity crisis and I need to find the answer.  I thought I knew, I thought my identity was in Him, but looking back I can see where I was wanting the favor of man, the love of man, the praise of man.  
God, you are my God.  There is no other before you.  It is my desire to be found in your will, to be the person who you know that I can be.  I want to be full and complete in you.  I want to look to serve you only.  I know that by doing this, all of my voids will be made full.  I trust in you.  I seek you first.  Thank you for my friend who spoke your truth to me.  Thank you for using her.  God, may this gathering of parents and their sweet kids continue to be a place where you are uplifted, where you light can be seen, where your love can be shared.  God, I continue to be excited about what you are doing.  Please continue to put people into my life who will hold me accountable.  Teach us to be true friends.  Thank you.  Amen.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Setback or Comeback

I have been away trying to live out some of the things that I have been writing about, leaving much less time for typing.  The blogs have been running through my mind, just not making it on to the screen.  

One thing new in our family life has to do with the radio.  We love music in our house, all kinds of it.  Ryan leans towards Classic Rock; I like anything smooth and soulful.  I don't want you to get a purist impression here, but we are trying to filter out some unnecessary evils from little ears.  Quickly, I am only playing Christian music in the car, and at home we are listening to Christian music about 85% of the time.  This has really helped me to stay focused on good and uplifting things, while not having to worry about the little people in my house getting a mind full, and then a mouth full, and then a body full of things that just aren't worth their lives.  We have been doing this for a month, and now I am ready for a new challenge.
There are two other areas of my life where I was using secular music or media to fill my time:  exercising and down time in the evening.  Let me tell you, some of my workout songs have some sweet beats and can really push me to the next level; however, I would be embarassed if you caught me singing along in public as their lyrics are not so sweet.  And, during my down time, I usually facebook a million times, check various pop gossip sites, and virtual shop.  Pointless, most of the time.  So, my new goal for this month is replacing one half hour of this type of media with a more positive brand.  
Yesterday, I watched a podcast of TD Jakes entitled "Do It Again" while doing the elliptical at the gym.  Seriously, I was so excited about what he was saying that my three miles passed right by.  I only wish I had the balance to raise my hands a couple times, especially when he said, "sometimes a setback is just an opportunity for a comeback"!  Really, look that podcast up.  It is life changing.  I am excited to see how replacing this not-so-good media with something positive and potentially life changing works out.  You know I will keep you posted.  
Get out there and live life.  Want to join in some replacing?  I would love to encourage you!  And, just like the Bishop says, "that setback might be an opportunity for a comeback".  I love it.  Go live it!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What are You Doing?

God, I often wonder what You are doing in my life.  I wonder why you and how you are so careful with me.  In my everydayness, you are present.  I see you working right now and I know that it isn't just for today or just for me.  Thank you for being present in my life, always.  Amen.

When our pool closed this summer, I was at a loss.  What was I going to do with all of my time?  How was I going to stay sane with two kids ALL WINTER LONG?  
September came and brought many warm and sunny days.  And, I kept running into the same moms around town, trying to keep busy, trying to make the most of their days at home with small children.  And, so, I got the idea to start a play group.  
Our group is called Park Play Group, as my hope was that we would be able to meet at parks around town for the most of fall...And, really, I didn't think that more than a handful of moms would want to come, so I thought they could come to my house when the weather got bad.  In just a few weeks, I have over 2o moms (and two dads), making for over 35 kids on my list.  Wow.  To say the least, I am thrilled.  But, I am overwhelmed, too.  We don't have a winter home.  We have plans for fun things like zoos and museums, etc., but I want to keep this simple and inexpensive.  So, I have called my PPG counsel to prayer, and I anticipate great things.  
I haven't felt this excited or passionate about anything in such a long time.  I know that God has called me to lead this play group.  I don't know the full reason why, but I know some of the answer.  I need mom friends.  Period.  I want to surround myself with a core of moms who love God and love their kids and love their husbands.  I want to learn from them, I want their kids to be friends with my kids, I want parents with whom I can do life.  And, I think I can see God working on that.  I really want my life to count.  I know that I am called to stay at home with my kids right now.  I really feel strongly about that.  But, my life can be about more than just them.  And, I don't think that this is all about me either.  Something is going on in someone else's life.  I just don't know who or what.  And, that doesn't really matter.  What matters is that I am being available to be used.
So, I sit here really excited and really anxious all at the same time.  I feel very responsible for this group.  I love what is happening here in our little town.  I want it to last.  So, I'm prayer for our winter home.  
God,  Thank you for what you are doing in Park Play Group.  Thank you for the people who are coming out to be involved.  Thank you for the people who are praying for our group and for our winter home.  You have created this group.  You have put together parents as friends, as teachers, as supporters.  You are watching as our kids play.  You are listening as we talk.  Work in all of us.  Let our group be an honor to you.  God, provide a home for us.  Let our group be used to show love, to show generosity, to show kindness.  God let our group show others You.  Amen.