An Open Letter to the World

Dear World,

Please forgive my sometimes embarrassingly bad example. I am supposed to be like my teacher, Jesus Christ.  I’m not there yet, but I press on.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Christian

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Why I Left the Church

Apparently, people leaving the church is a topic of discussion. I see articles and books discussing the reasons why.   I hear it mentioned in talks. I pass a large, boarded up church in a college town when I visit family. That stark visual jarred me into thought.

I don’t know if people are really leaving the church, or why. I can only tell you why I did.

I left the church because it wasn’t real and neither was I.

That was years ago, and I am back in church. I love the church now, as I did then. But during my absence, I got some things figured out, mostly about myself. I did Bible studies alone, at home. I spent a lot of time one-on-one with God, out in nature. I didn’t miss a day of relating to Him.  I was real, and God was faithful.  I finally faced some truths, and that changed everything.

So there you have it–why I left the church. And I’ll leave you with one last thought:

It’s good to be back. 

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Look! Our Year Names

We’re kind of excited.  Some of us named 2015:

RebeccaIntentional (Philippians 3:13-14)

Rene’ – Gratitude (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Erin – Roots (Digging down deep in relationships)

Tempi – Focus

Barbara – Truth (John 8:32)

Amanda – Get Busy (James 1:22)

Lori – Awaken

Kelly – Compassion

Sherry – Laughter (Genesis 18:12-14 and Psalm 90:12-17)

Sherry’s 2015 song:

Sherry’s view from work:

Canyon

Rainbow (2)

And Stephanie – Joy (John 15:11 and Psalm 16:11)

Did you name your year?

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Letting Go

2015 is the Year of Joy for me, and that word terrifies me. It terrifies me because I don’t want to go through something hard, and do it with joy.

In 2015, I am supposed to let go of:

  • words
  • fear
  • emotional panic

And yet, I hold onto these things with a white-knuckled, desperate power hold.

My assignment is to be real, so I share this story.  I used to be quite practiced at being fake.

All of this is hard.  

But as my pastor explained in December, God does not just equip us, He sustains us.

And I’m counting on that.

Words Fear Emotional Panic

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Scripture Memory Challenge: Join Us in Houston?

Here is my scripture memory challenge for 2015:

  • Choose 24 verses
  • Recite 1o of the 24 at the end of the year

We are partnering with Beth Moore’s ministry for her Siesta Scripture Memory Challenge.

To join us, post first verse as a comment (name, city/state, verse written out, reference, translation) under this post.

Full instructions here.

Highlight bullets:

  • First verse post comment = enrollment
  • Make a matching verse spiral
  • Post on Beth’s blog on the 1st and 15th of each month
  • Post 21 out of 24 times to go to Houston
  • Spiral = ticket in to the event
  • Recite 10 verses to a partner at the event

We would love for you to join us.

(Committed so far from our group:  Rene’, Rebecca, Erin, Lori, Barbara, Amanda, myself)

Scripture Memory book (1)  Scripture Memory book (2)

Next post:  Letting Go

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A Name for 2015

I have two words for 2015, but only one name.  Let me explain…

A group of friends and family that I am part of chooses a title/word for each year.  This choice serves as a theme, and is an exercise in learning and growing for the coming year. This is what we do in lieu of New Year’s resolutions.  We tend to stick to this better, and it is more meaningful.  We call it naming the year.  We announce our choices on New Year’s Day, and we hold each other accountable throughout the year.

As I smugly stated in this post, I thought I had 2015 named by October 31.  The word I chose was focus.  The simple, obvious reason (usually the way it starts for me) was that I needed to focus on my son’s school, because we home school, and he will be a senior in the fall.

This choice was reinforced in several ways, including lyrics from this worship song:

“Oh God, may we be focused on the least…a people balancing the fasting and the feast…”

The song seemed perfect for my Year of Focus, and it is.

I even had a scripture that went along with everything:  Matthew 25:35-40.

All of this was wrapped neatly, connected to other lessons, and tied with a bow.  The exclamation point was a painful realization that taught me that I’d better put my money where my bracelet is:

I Am Second bracelet

And then, in late December, another word came swirling out of the vapors and smacked me right between the eyes.  I didn’t see it for days.  I swatted at the pesky thing.  I tried to give it away. (“You should name your year this…”)

But the word kept hovering around me, trying to get me to see.

The Joy Woman put the word everywhere in her house and I saw it at every turn. Then, on December 21, the day the Joy Woman died, her daughter tearfully put the word on my wrist. It was to be her mother’s Christmas gift, and she wanted me to have it.

Joy on the Wrist

Shortly after that, I was surprised to pull the word out of my study tote.  My daughter-in-love tucked it there last Mother’s Day.  Looking at the word in such beautiful color was when I began to see it more clearly.

Scatter Joy notebook

And finally, I unwittingly hid the word in my heart in this 2014 memory verse:

11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

(John 15:11, ESV)

I became more deeply interested in the word as I pondered this verse just two days ago.

The word is joy.

This word  choice doesn’t make sense for a variety of reasons.  The first reason is that for the most part, the joy of the Lord is already my strength.  I do not mean that I have arrived in this area.  (Far from it.)  I do mean that when joy is missing in my heart, I learned the hard way to see such a void as clanging bells, flashing lights and lowering crossing arms, to stop me from any further progress until I run to God, one-on-one, to figure out what is going on.  If there is something (other than true grief) blocking joy, I must let Him fix and remove it.  If I don’t, I continue in misery.  If I do:  Bam.  Joy restored.

Another reason the choice of joy is strange to me is that I picture this word as the Joy Woman’s word, and not mine. And another reason is that I already had a word for 2015.

But on December 30, during my quiet time, I realized that I do want to know what Jesus means by that little, extra word in the scripture above:  full. That your joy may be full.  Doesn’t that sound lovely? And strong?

Well, it sounds lovely and strong and intriguing to me.  And although focus came first and I actually prefer it, and although the word joy is a bit frightening, and although it’s kinda-sorta supposed to be one word for each year, I have quit swatting at the thing and trying to give it away.  I’ve accepted the second word.

So, I have two words for 2015.  It’s the year to focus, but it’s name is joy.

Blank Pages NY Day

(A clean start and a Happy New Year wish to you…)  

In case you’re interested:

How We Name Our Year

Posted in Just Being Real, Naming the Years, The Year of Joy (2015) | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Ashamed (A Painful Confession)

Sometimes pain is good.  It hurts like a good massage.  This story is like that.

In the interest of illumination, I share the story, because I tend to hide things in the dark that I don’t want to be seen.  That’s why I need the Light of World so badly.

Like other stories on this blog, this is my story, and nothing more. 

Here goes:

This year (oh wonderful me) I decided to adopt two angels from our church’s angel tree. Here are their wish cards, which I received from the person who did me a favor and grabbed them from the tree:

(I had a reason for asking the person to get the cards for me, but I’ll skip that.)

ANgel Cards

Immediately, I noticed the big ticket requests:  iPad, laptop, Xbox.  And immediately, multiple points of light from the last two years of study, scriptures, our pastor’s messages, books I’ve read and other sources aligned perfectly before my eyes on those cards into one brilliant sunlight patch, but I ignored that.  More on that later…

My first reaction was shock and dismay, because I was not financially prepared to fulfill those wish lists.  My second reaction was anger, which I’ll spare myself the embarrassment of explaining further.  My third reaction was that I should return the angels to the angel tree, sheepishly admit to my missions director that I’d bitten off more than I could chew, and retire to my corner to regroup.

(If I’d returned the angels to the tree, it was almost too late for them to be re-adopted.)

That night, I lay awake distressed and mulling over my predicament.  Thankfully, I prayed over it, too, and sincerely asked the Holy Spirit to guide me.  Surprisingly (while I’m being real), He did just that, and the direction I got was not what I thought it would be.  There were big, strange lessons for me to learn from this situation.  I’ll try to explain.

I’ll start by listing a few facts I realized when the dawn broke after my sleepless night.

  1. I thought I could adopt the angels on the cheap.
  2. I thought I could adopt them on the cheap because they are disadvantaged children, and I believed they should be satisfied with less.
  3. I believed they should be satisfied with less, because I believed them to be inferior.

That’s the simple truth of the matter.

Once I stopped lying to myself, I advanced to the next stage of understanding, and I realized and connected these things:

  1. Disadvantaged children are like any other children in our society.  They want the same things our own children want.
  2. According to Jesus, there are two great rules that fulfill all other rules of Christianity, and the second one is to love my neighbor just like I love myself.
  3. I claim to be a follower of Jesus.

There are other aspects to this story and other issues represented that I am not discussing, but they are not the point.

Here is the point:

This is not a story about a simple, harmless mistake.  The superior, selfish attitude in my heart is foul, ugly and filthy to God. It is a grave and serious problem. The attitude that some people are inferior is at the root of the worst evils in society and its history:  the holocaust, racism, slavery, and human trafficking, for starters.

I got exactly what I deserved in those two angel cards.  My own son’s Christmas gifts are generous, name-brand, and were secured by Thanksgiving.  Those two angels deserve nothing less.

So, here’s what happened:

After an epic battle with my humanity, I surrendered, and raised my hand as though I committed the foul, because I did.  I realized that my assignment was to purchase every single item on those lists no matter what it cost me, and to trust God with the outcome.

That assignment was the sunlight patch mentioned earlier.  To purchase every single item on those lists was what (deep in my heart) I knew I was being called to do as I first looked at the angel cards.  In the past two years, almost everything I’ve learned spiritually pointed to the truths above, and to my assignment in this, but I just didn’t want to see it.

After I accepted the truth, and accepted my assignment, I had one of the most joyful, free-spirited days I’ve had in months.

So!  I finished my shopping.  I Googled my heart out, found the best deals, got advice from Game Stop managers, drove all over the planet, dragged shopper friends along, took family polls, hunted down the coolest clothes/shoes, and wrapped and delivered the gifts to the angel tree as fast as I could, before in my natural panic I chickened out and took it all back. The credit card (not a revolving account, entire balance due each month) is wheezing, staggering and raising a white flag of surrender.  At times during this process, I felt doubtful, fearful, and plotted human ways to make it all work. But at every turn, the sunlight blinded me and kept me walking by faith and not by sight.  I have no idea how it will all come out.

One thing is for sure:  After the surrender, the process was surprisingly fun and fulfilling.  It was also terrifying.  And  yes, it hurt, just like a good massage.

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

(Hebrews 12:11, NIV)

If you want to delve further, you might check out the links below:

Follow Me by David Platt

7 by Jen Hatmaker

Pastor Todd Gray’s sermons

How it Feels to Be a Kid on Welfare

Dear World:  Let’s Stop Giving Our Trash to the Poor

Posted in Facing the Monsters, Just Being Real, The Year Uncluttered (2014) | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments