Friday, February 16, 2018

Lent 2018- Day 3

"a reminder that some of us beautiful, broken, redeemable humans still act like our own belonging isn't complete until we've made belonging difficult for someone else."  -Gareth Higgins

"Maybe the best way to oppose a bad thing is just to do something better."  -Gareth Higgins



Today I wake up early to go spend some time with good friends.  I am caught up in the words from Gareth.  Sometimes we as humans are awful.  What in us tries to make others feel like they don't belong.  We go out of our way to use harsh words, to gossip about each other, and to genuinely make others feel excluded.  I spend some time watching The Real Housewives of Orange County, and I am always amazed by the awfulness that makes that show.  The potrayal of the human condition is so evident in that show again and again.  The backstabbing, the gossiping, the only being out for your own good, putting yourself first.  It is also a reminder to me of how money doesn't bring happiness. 

Maybe for today my focus isn't on all the ways that I see people being excluded.  Maybe my focus for today is on just doing small things to make them feel included.  My love for today, my part of lent is including those that I find it hard to engage with. 

That's what I am called to.  I am called to make this world better, to be love, and to touch the  lives that I encounter. 


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lent 2018- Day 2

Today my focus is on the Lent Devotion that I get sent to my inbox.  If you are wanting something that makes you a better peacemaker, then search out this link:

http://www.michaelmcray.com/


As I read today's reader I just couldn't help, but be overwhelmed by the questions asked and the thoughts processed.  So I am going to do a little journal/blogging on here today:


  • What is your work of peacemaking? What struggles with the work are you bringing into the season of Lent?
I am just in the beginning stages of this work. I don't even know what my role truly is, I just know that it is necessary.  I know that I need to help this world, my country be a more peaceful place.  I think my first steps are to listen to people's stories.  To put my whole heart into understanding where each individual comes from, and what they are bringing in their communication, their daily interactions, and the triggers that they have.  My goal is to help people feel loved and valued.  I truly believe that if everyone felt loved and valued, this world would be a more peaceful place.  
  • What is the state of your mind? What questions and thoughts are prominent, what is preoccupying you?
I feel like I am wrestling with this misunderstanding of people that believe it is okay to hurt others.  I don't understand why we can't be loving and kind.  Why do we have to judge, and try to force our ideas on others?  Why do we have to tell people what they should value, what they should believe?  Why do we as Americans think we are better than everyone else?  That wasn't Jesus' story, was it?  He didn't walk around with this arrogance, and condemnation did he?  He was there for the poor, the outcasts.  He was there for those that had no voice.  Why do we insist on stomping on those that we don't see as "fitting in" to the Christian mold we have created?  Why?  
  • How is your heart? Open or closed? What feelings are strong in you today?
I feel like my heart is open.  Open to helping those around me, to feeling their pain and suffering.  Today I feel sad and filled with grief for the violence, and judgment going on in our world.  I want it to end, I want to be able to stop it.  How do I do this?  How am I able to not feel defeated the minute I turn on the news?  
  • What is the prayer of your spirit?
My prayer is for those that are hurting today.  Those that are unsure of their future, caught in violence, and injustice.  Those that have no food or safe place to sleep at night.  Oh Lord, I long for this to change.  I long for your people to provide for those that are hurting.  No matter what it takes, no matter how much we have to sacrifice.  I long for this world to be a world of peace.  I pray for peace, and love to surround those that are deeply hurt, afraid, and in danger.  Protect your people, provide peace.  
  • What is the word of God to you today? What is the still small voice speaking?
He hears my prayers, and He knows the needs around the world.  I believe that He is listening, and urging His people to stand up for injustice.  He continues to provide, and move in ways in me that I didn't know were in me.  I can hear him giving me strength.  He wants His people to stand up for love and truth.  To sacrifice, to give whatever it takes, to provide for those that don't have.  

Lent 2018- Day 1

I'm making it my goal to post a blog a day during Lent.  I am not sure what it will exactly evolve into, but I am excited to see how it goes.  Already today I have been able to read a couple of devotionals, and think about what this season is supposed to mean for me.  Thinking about the sacrifice, thinking about what it means to love beyond myself.

Today one of my devotionals was about God being present in grief.  In the past month I have had a lot of friends lose loved ones.  Their lives are so filled with grief.  How do we see God in that?  How do we find comfort in the grief, in the process?  To see others grief is to love them.

If I don't look at others and see their pain and suffering, what good is it?  What am I doing in this world if I am not trying to help ease what others are going through?  Today my focus is on that.  The pain and suffering that happens on a daily basis in this broken and fallen world, and how I can love people through that mess.

I don't claim perfection, and I know I won't get it right... but I am going to try. 

Today ended with finding out there had been a school shooting in Florida.  I'm so sad right now for that community, and for our world.  What pain must someone be going through to need to shoot up a school that they were expelled from.  Why?  I don't get it?

So, I grieve for the lost lives.  I grieve for the families, and I hope that one day soon there is no more pain caused by school shootings.  We have to figure this out.  

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Rachel, Leah, and Rahab.... when you are too much, not enough, or don't matter

I didn't know how much I would get out of this weekend conference, until I was sitting there soaking in everything that was being taught alongside some pretty amazing women.  It struck me that everyone that I was surrounded by this weekend was from my initial small group that I had been a part of when I first started attending The Crossing.  The thought crossed my mind of how much I have changed since I walked into that room for the first time.  So many emotions in becoming a part of a church that I know feel I can call home.  Meeting friends that I know I can count on, that aren't going to gossip about me the minute I turn my back, and would drop whatever they were doing in a moment's notice if I needed something.  As I listened and soaked in our conversation it made me realize just how thankful I am for God's hand in my life.  Not everyone believes in a God orchestrating our lives, but when I think about the different places that I have been, the people I have met, and how they have changed my heart and life... I know that God is real, and working. 

This weekend's theme was from Genesis 18:14, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?"

Jen Wilkin, one of the best teachers I have heard led so well.  She taught from the Bible, making sure that she dived into the truth of the Word....  and I am SO thankful that she did! 

We discussed three women... Rachel, Leah, and Rahab....  here are my thoughts.....


Rachel....

How am I Rachel?  I want to control EVERYTHING!  Not just the things that directly involve me, but the things that don't.  Even tonight watching the olympics, I wanted so badly to help those athletes that fell.  I wanted to be able to go back, and let them not make any mistakes.  Isn't that what control is about?  Sometimes for me I don't know what God's promises are specifically for my life.  I struggle with understanding if God is slow in fulfilling His promises to me, or did I just get His promises wrong?  How do I interpret His promises?  How do I make them something that is real to me without trying to be in control.  How do I pray when I don't understand His promises for me? 

I think that is the hardest part, and I don't know that I have the right answers, even right now.  But I do know that when things get frightening, when I don't understand what God is doing....I trust that God will keep His promises to take care of me, to always love me, and to lead me through whatever journey He has for my life.  Nothing is too hard for Him, right?  He sees my struggle to understand His promises, and He wants to walk alongside me guiding me and directing me.  He is in control, and that IS the BEST way for things to be. 

I want to control, but I also want to trust.  That's the battle that I believe I will continue to fight with forever.  So, one day at a time, I give up my control, and try to trust.  I understand that me being a bit too much isn't my defining role.  It isn't what God sees when He looks at me.  He sees His daughter, who needs Him to show her His Resurrection Power. 


Leah....

How am I Leah?  Oh... this one hit the nail on the head.  I have never been the "beautiful" one in my friend group.  I am not the one that gets asked out all the time, or the one that guys flock to.  More often than not, I am the one that guys befriend, so that they can ask out my much more "beautiful" friend.  The one that guys see as their buddy, their confidant.  The one that will be there for them, but never in a romantic way.  So, in many ways I completely understand how Leah felt.  To not be loved by her husband, to be looked over again and again.  To be in a marriage where she never felt loved.  To be in a family where she never felt loved.  My heart breaks for her.  My heart breaks for the moments I myself have wasted chasing after the love of men that would never return that love.  But it isn't just in the relationships that I have done this.  It is in friendships as well.  Wanting so badly to be loved by people that will never return that love.  For one reason or another they are not able to give that love back.  Yet I have continued to give of myself, love beyond all measure, and allow myself to believe that I am not enough... for what?  I haven't gained anything by those feelings.  and thoughts.  I've only lost.  I've lost out on knowing people that would see me as a worthy created being.  I've lost out on community that I could have been part of. 

I want acceptance and love.  Especially because our society, our culture puts such high value on marriage, and parenting.  It seems that even within the church if you have not done either of these things, then you are not enough.  You are looked down on, seen as someone that needs to be "fixed."  Why is that?  If we were all looking to God for acceptance, then I think that we would cease to judge others so harshly on where we think they don't measure up.  So, when I start going down that path of listing the reasons that I am not enough...I am going to remember that I don't have to be.....  because just as Jen said.... Jesus is enough, and that's all that's needed. 




Rahab....

Here's where things might get a little dicey.  So, I will understand if you don't want to keep reading at this point.  Rahab's story struck me SO much especially as Jen was talking.  How am I Rahab?  I am a woman that has been seen as an object.  I am a woman that has been used in ways that I wish I hadn't.  I am a woman that has been judged because of words that were spoken about me that were untrue.  I am a woman that has lied and manipulated.  I am a woman that has given in to sexual desire when I shouldn't have.  I am a woman that has been thrown away, seen as nothing, trampled on, and misrepresented.  I am a woman that has had things taken from me, that I can never get back.  I am a woman that has been accused of being too vocal, too independent, not a Christian.  I am a woman that has been harassed, called a slut and a whore.  I am a woman that has been used for sex.  I am a woman that has had to block numbers because men won't stop calling or texting me after I have said no.  I am a woman that has said yes, because I didn't think I could say no.  I am a woman that has chosen non-Christian men because the Christian ones seemed to only want a submissive, non-opinionated, stay in the kitchen and don't speak kind of woman.  I am a woman that has been hurt by words that were spoken by men that say they are following Jesus.  Words that put me down, put other women down, and should never be used by someone who claims they love Jesus.   I am a woman that was told I wasn't pretty enough, by a Christian man to see as anything beyond friendship.  I am a woman that has been viewed only as a sexual object by men, Christian men, men that claim Jesus.  Men that would never admit this out loud. 

These are the ways I connect with Rahab.  But you know how I also connect with her?  I believe in God's promises.  I believe that God will do what He says.  I believe that His purposes in my life are far greater than anything I could ever imagine on my own.  I believe that He has given me a desire and passion to preserve the life of His people.  I believe that it is my role on this earth to intercede for others.  To share His love with them, no matter what that might mean for those around me that don't understand that.  I believe that there is nothing that I have done or will do in the future that will disqualify me from the love of God. 

So... yes I probably connect with Rahab the most.  But I am not ashamed of that.  I have struggles, and sins.  I have cycles of sin that need to be broken. I have allowed myself to be in situations that I shouldn't be in.  I am working on all of that.  But you know what I learned today.... I learned that God knows all of that, He meets me in it, and He sees me through it.  He doesn't love me less because of it.  He doesn't put me in the category of outcast.  There is never anywhere that I can go that is going to be out of His grasp, out of the reach of His love.  My life is worthy, I am worthy.  I was created to be more than an object.  I was created to be more than someone's wife, daughter, mother.  I was created to worship the Creator, to know Him more, and to share His love with those around me.


I am sure as the weeks go, there will be more things that I learn as I ponder read and pray.  For now these are what's on my heart.  Thanks for reading.  May you know that there is nothing too hard for the LORD. 




Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lent.... 2018

I can't believe that we are less than a week away from the beginning of Lent 2018.  I am so thankful for these last 5 years when I have been able to participate in this time of preparation for Easter.  It's hard for me to decide what to "give up" for Lent, and most of the time I just end up giving up FB because it is the most waste of time for me.  So, this year I want to really think about it, and replace whatever I decide to give up with more worship, meditation, and service.  I don't want my life to be "busier," but I do want it to be more contemplative. 


Lent should be a sacrifice.  It should cause me to think about where my focus is.  It should cause me to put more focus on Him, and less on me.  I don't often times focus on Him first.  I have gotten into this bad habit of waking up, and the first thing I think about is me. I  know I am not alone in that. I know that there are a lot of people that just like me, lose focus on what's important.  We go through our day thinking that we are the only person struggling, or judging others for their struggles.  We go through the day leading a life that is selfish, and unloving.  A life that counts the wrongs of others, puts people into categories, and doesn't allow for mistakes. 


What will it take for me to put my focus where it needs to be?  What will it take for me to look upward for approval, healing, grace, and mercy instead of outward?  What's going to lead me to sacrifice, forgiveness and love? 


So, for Lent 2018, I'm giving up all social media, and replacing it with worship.  Worship in many different forms.  But I won't be on FB, IG, Pintrest, or Twitter.  I am going to stay away from the news online also, and pick up a paper or two if I want to read what is going on. 


The thing about Lent is that it isn't just about giving something up, but it is about putting something in place of that thing.  Focusing less on fake news outlets, mediocre interactions with friends that aren't getting to the heart of where you are, and likes that lead you to think that you are popular and that's what matters. 


Instead I want to find my worth in Jesus.  I want my focus to be on who He is, what He did, and how it should be changing my heart, my life every single day.  I feel like this is a time to get my focus back, to rededicate my life to what He wants.  A time to understand what sacrifice means, and how it should be changing my life daily minute by minute.  A time to interact with people face to face, instead of behind a screen.  A time to open my heart to where He might be leading me.  A time to get to know Him more intimately.  A time to break away from this world, and the holds that it has on me. 


I am going to try my best to blog everyday throughout Lent.  Some days it might be more personal what He is teaching me.  Other days it might be just a little glimpse into people's stories that I am meeting along the way.  I am not sure what exactly it will be, but I am excited about the changes that will be made in me. 


Maybe you don't participate in Lent, maybe you do.  Whatever you choose to do during February 14th-March 31st I hope and pray that you find time to rest, to contemplate, and to listen to His voice that wants to call you deeper and love you more. 


I would also love to hear what you do during Lent! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Death, Judgment, Forgiveness, and love....

My heart pounded as I listened to what he was saying.  Thinking and pondering over what it means to forgive.  To put others first.  To stop thinking about myself all the time, and how this affects me or my journey.  A tear trickled down my cheek as I thought about the times that I have even recently put myself before others' thoughts or feelings.  How many times I have had an attitude that I don't care about what someone is going through, or cease to see people for who they are. 


This past week I knew of 4 people that passed away.  Some of them I had lost contact with, and only know their present stories through others.  One of them I found out today, was a self-inflicted fatal wound and it breaks my heart.  I don't know how to process someone that I grew up watching live out their faith take their life.  But you know what?  I know what it feels like to be so deep in pain and sorrow that I don't want to keep going.  I don't know who this person is today... I knew them 15 years ago.  I am not sure of their present story, or what kind of sorrow happened to cause this end result.  But I know they left behind people that loved them.  They left behind a community of people that would have been there in a second if they had only known.  What could have gone so wrong that this was the only choice?   Do we really need to be adding to each other's hurt and pain?  Do we really need to be putting others down at every turn? 


As I ponder and think I want us all, mostly myself to realize what an impact my words have on others.  Even though I say that I am not living for other people's opinions, my friends, my family, sometimes even complete strangers... what they think of me does matter.  It matters, and sometimes I let it matter too much.  Sometimes I take those words that are said in the heat of the moment, or in a joking way and I let them eat me up inside.  I allow the things people have done to me, be a wall that keeps them out, instead of forgiving, and seeing who they were created to be.  It makes me human.  Because I think if we were all really honest, we would admit that we keep people at an arms length most of the time.  We put up walls, so that we don't get hurt.  We friend zone that person so that our heart doesn't get broken once again.  We choose to not forgive, because it is easier than constantly being vulnerable enough to feel pain. 


None of us are perfect.  We do things, and say things that we shouldn't.  I'm so guilty of failing every single day.  I'm so guilty of saying one thing and doing another.  Even this past weekend, I allowed myself to be in a situation that I knew wasn't going to be good for me, and I did it anyways.  A lot of the time I focus on what I think is going to be good for me, especially in a temporary moment.  I focus on what I think is the best thing, instead of putting my focus on God, and others.  Instead of seeing things the way He does, I see them the way I want to. 


My heart hurts right now as I continue to watch people that I know and love allow politics, name calling, and hatred come between them and those around them.  It hurts me to listen to people make fun of those in a different political party, or a different social setting.  It hurts me to not understand how people that I love and admire can want others to be hurt, and put down because of what they are standing for.  We judge so harshly, don't we?  We put on this air of being better than someone else because we think we have all the right answers and all the right views.  We think that we know best what God has called us to, and what this life is like.  But if we stopped for one second and thought before we spoke.  If we stopped and looked into the eyes of the person that we are trying to argue with, and berate... if we stopped and asked ourselves what we see in them that is like Jesus.  I think we would have a lot less room to criticize, and a lot more room for love. 


I am not great at letting people in.  In fact I am pretty good at shutting people out, and most of the time my heart stays pretty guarded.  But in the quiet still moments I am able to understand that my life is better when I choose forgiveness and love.  Life is better when I reach out to that person even though it is going to mean that I have to admit I was wrong.  Or make the first move.  I have made a dozens mistakes, even just today.  But the best way I can live, is to show people how important they are in my life.  Forgive people when they treat me horribly, and love beyond myself. 


So.... today I choose those things.... forgiveness and love. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Mercy is for Everyone

The trees looked dead as I walked along the narrow path.  Not really understanding what this journey was going to be about, but just knowing that I needed to take it.  As I did, I listened to a sermon entitled, "Am I a Good Samaritan?"  Whew, as I looked at the world around me I thought about mercy.  I thought about what mercy means.  Too often I think that I have expected God's mercy.  I have just taken for granted the fact that He gives it so freely.  I can't do anything to earn it, but He gives it to me.  One quote from this sermon is "Mercy sees need and meets it!" - Keith Simon

What does that mean to me?  It means that where there is need, my mercy should be meeting that need.  I have gotten a little bit of flack from some people that think I am not spending enough time just resting and too much time doing things.  I will admit that a couple of weeks ago I felt pretty run down and I almost quit volunteering for a little while.  But then I had this moment where I thought... this year is about sacrificially giving up my time for others.  Then I heard this sermon today and I thought about all the ways that I don't give mercy. 

I thought about how much of the time I put my needs before others.  I put my feelings above someone else and I forget to just give without expecting anything back in return.  That is the key, right?  Not expecting anything back in return.  Mercy meets the need without expecting needs to be met back.  Mercy says I see how much pain you are in, and I am going to do something about it.  That right there is my conviction.  I don't want to just say.... oh that really stinks, I am so sorry!  No, I want to DO something, I need to do something.  If I don't take action when I see someone in need, then what point is there? 

My human nature though doesn't want to give mercy to everyone.  I want to give mercy to those that show me kindness.  I want to give mercy to those that I think deserve it.  I don't want to give mercy to those that are rude, or mean, or I feel don't contribute to this community.  As I walked I wrestled with that human nature of mine.  I thought about the people that I come in contact with that I should be going out of my way too help.  Everyday I come in contact with at least one person that needs to feel loved.  What am I doing to show them mercy?  How am I meeting those needs? 

I don't get to pick and choose who gets mercy.  Mercy is for everyone.  To love well is to show mercy.  To love well, is to meet needs.  To love well is to give sacrificially.  To love well, means understanding people, their stories, and seeing what they have come through.  So this week, I hope I can be a giver of mercy to everyone I meet.