Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In God I Trust

Election Day 2012 has finally arrived! It was a long journey, but the trip will be over in a few hours and we will arrive at our destination. A lot of of good people have very different opinions about where our journey should end. One of the things that I love about America is that we have the freedom to have differing opinions. Personally, I think that has allowed our country to have checks and balances. If one party or another held on to power at every election, our balance would be skewed. Politicians are all human and have the weaknessed and temptations that all humans share. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Still, I have my own opinions about which candidate will take our country in the direction that I believe it should go. And I will exercise my right to vote. I will take the right seriously as honorable men and women have fought hard to give me this right. However, I do not believe that my destiny tomorrow is any different than my destiny today. That is because I know that God is in control no matter who is in the White House.

Daniel tells us that "he removeth kings, and setteth up kings". The Bible is full of examples of God guiding the hearts and minds of those in control of nations. A country with a ruler who seeks God's guidance will most certainly be blessed, but God is in control even when the person in charge does not acknowledge the very existance of God.

Max Lucado, an author that I highly admire, said it this way.

"Let us be people who vote ... but let us never think that God will be baffled by a November 6 outcome. God is not troubled by one who is conservative or liberal and He certainly never inclines His ear toward a donkey or an elephant," said Lucado.

I love that my God is never caught off guard. Even when I feel like the air has been kicked out of me, when I can find no positive spin, God is already moving ahead with His master plan. For me, that is what keeps me from full panic mode when I listen to the politicians at work. They are all well-intentioned people, but they are human, just like me. They are capable of mistakes, errors in judgement, selfishness, and giving in to temptation - just as I am. Even the candidate that I choose will have days when I wonder what he was thinking. But I never have to wonder about God. He never rests and he is always working for my good, the good of my children, and even the good of my country. Granted, His definition of "good" may not always make sense to me, but I have faith that He sees a bigger picture that I am capable of and He will guide our country in the direction that He desires, no matter who is in charge.

I am proud to be an American. I am so thankful to be born in a country where I can voice my opinion without fear of retribution. On days like this, when our fellow Americans join together at the polls, my heart is full of joy and excitement. Americans love a good competition and this election promises to bring us a photo finish, according to the pollsters. But, no matter what, I will rest safe in the assurance that my status as a child of God will never change, no matter what the results of an election might be. My God will continue to sit on the throne and His grace and mercy will continue to rain down on those who love Him. May God continue to bless America!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Daring to be Vulnerable

Vulnerability. I am not fond of the word or the feeling. Being vulnerable to others means allowing them to see the real me - the imperfect me. What will they say? What with they think and not say? What will they say to others? So, instead of being vulnerable, I protect myself. I build a wall that will keep the hurt out. Problem is that the wall also keeps others from really getting to know me. They only know the me I allow them to see.  It takes real courage to let others see past the facade that I have built around myself. Sometimes I have built the wall so well, that I have a hard time identifying my own feelings. This cannot be a healthy way to travel through the journey of life!

I recently started reading a new book, well listening to a new book, by Brene Brown. The book is about how to live wholeheartedly, and the first step towards a whole hearted life is to embrace vulnerability. Talk about a big first step! I have 40 years of practice at avoiding vulnerability. Now you tell me that to be truly healthy, vulnerability is part of the answer? Where do I even begin?

In Daring Greatly, Brene quotes Teddy Roosevelt, who pointed out that "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." The arena is the game of life. We spend the majority of our time thinking about what the people in the stands are saying about us. We worry about hos we will measure up on their yardsticks. But, the people who really matter, are the ones you are on the playing field with us. These are the people who love us despite our faults. Who accept us as we are. These are the ones with whom it safe to be vulnerable.  

To this point in life, I have learned that it is not safe to be vulnerable. In fact, vulnerability is a bad word to me - a sign of weakness. Therefore I have spend large amounts of time trying to perfect myself before trying anything. My  motto was something like "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing perfectly." The trouble has been that life is messy. Perfection does not exist. I can never get something perfect enough that there is no chance of failure. And in the process, I am missing out on the opportunity to meet new people and offer my talents to bless others.  

 “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make,” says Brown. “Perfect and bulletproof are seductive, but they don’t exist in the human experience.”

So vulnerable is a concept that I must now learn to embrace "because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world."  If I want to truly connect with others, I have to learn to take down the wall that I incorrectly believed was protecting me. I have to let others see the real me. I have to take risks, be innovative, and be willing to fail. I have to be willing to share my pain and disappointment with others. Connections are what gives life a purpose. I have been fighting connections for fear that others would not like the real me. But recently, God has been opening my eyes to the reality that my worth does not come from what I have done perfectly. Instead, it comes from WHO I am - a child of God. Accepting this basic truth allows me to start taking chances - to allow others to see that I am weak and unsteady in my walk. I don't know what tomorrow  holds, but I know WHO holds my tomorrows. My weaknesses are made strong through the power of the King of Kings. He can use my disappointments to reach out to others. The pain I experience in life can be made beautiful through Him. There is freedom there. No longer do I have to try and protect myself. Now I only have to offer myself to Him - and connections with others are now the tool through which He can use my imperfections to show others about His Grace. If I am trying to show myself as someone who is perfect, why would anyone who is watching me believe that we need a Savior?

Today, I am walking out onto the field of life with my head help high. Oh, I still have the same disappointments and failures. These have not changed. But now I see them as opportunities to connect with others, not secrets to hide away and allow shame to take over my heart. I am sure I will stumble, even fall at times, but I will continue to play the game. Will you join me in the arena?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Letting Them Walk Away... and Praying for Their Return

It was recently brought to my attention that Jesus did not chase after the rich young ruler. Have you ever thought about that? We focus on the actions of the young man, but I have never really thought about the fact that Jesus loved the man enough to give him the answer to his question, but he did not chase after the young man when he walked away. That is a meaningful response in my current life journey. There are people in my life that will walk away - some already have. And they are people that I love, some that I love more than I love my own life. But just like the rich young ruler, they must make their own choices. If they are choosing to walk away right now, even if it is in sadness, I will not change their hearts by chasing after them. I cannot bring them back into my life unless they choose to turn around and come back to me.

A simple interpretation might be that I must set my own personal boundaries, and it is my responsibility to let others know where those boundaries lie. Then, the other person(s) must decide if they want to abide by those boundaries or not. If they choose not to, it is not going to help anything to change my boundaries. So, when someone chooses to walk away from us rather than to live with our boundaries, it is our responsibility to allow them to make that choice, even as Jesus allowed the young man to choose to walk away because he could not live with the boundary that Jesus presented. Jesus did not try to explain why the boundary existed. He did not try to defend it or offer to adjust it to meet the needs of the rich young ruler. He watched the man walk away. The Bible does not tell us if the rich young ruler ever turned around, but I hope that he did. Jesus gives us all many, many opportunities to turn back around. And when we do, the door is always open. In fact, He knocks at the door and invites us to come in. But He never moves the door. The door is never locked to us, but it is not one that we can walk through and still live our life in our own way. "For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required." (Luke 12:48). Jesus expects repentance. He requires an intimate relationship with Him. He loved us enough to die for us, but our salvation requires action on our part. He does not vary on that. It is a line drawn in the sand. We are invited the step into a life of following Jesus as Lord.

There will be some in my life who insist that I adjust my boundaries because they believe that to not do so is the same as not loving others. This is simply not true. Rick Warren said "Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear them or hate them. The second is that to love someone you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions to be compassionate."  I can love someone and not allow them to ignore my boundaries. The door is always open. I am here when they are ready to come back. I will forgive now. I will offer assistance when needed. I will pray for them and love them. I will never stop hoping that they turn around and come back to me. But I cannot change who I am or what I believe because they cannot accept these truths about me.

In the meantime, I will trust that God has a plan for them and for me and that His plan is good. I will praise Him through the storm. I will never stop believing that he is working on my behalf and He holds those I love in the palm of His hand. I can rest assured knowing that He is searching for His lost sheep. I will ask Him to teach me the things that I can learn from these situations. I will continue to feed myself with the word of God and spend time listening for God's guidance. I do not need to fear, as I know He is fighting for us. HIS Love will sustain us. This I know. For the BIBLE tells me so!

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fan or Follower

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:22-24 

I have felt disconnected for a while now. Maybe longer than a while. Maybe a really long while. I have prayed about it and tried to discover exactly why I felt so separated from people. What is it about me that keeps me distant, that makes me feel like there is a wall built between me and everyone else?

I am not comfortable with vulnerability. It is scary. I have been caught off guard and left myself too vulnerable to attack too many times. I suppose I thought I needed to build a wall to protect myself. It is a pretty well-established wall now. This is the wall that protects me, but this is also the wall that leaves me feeling alone and disconnected. There are so many faces of people that I see every Sunday at church, every weekday at work and on regular events at my children's schools and yet I do not even know their names. How hard would it be to make the effort to get to know people a little better? Seems so hard, but it really isn't. When the challenges in life some my way, my knowledge will not sustain me, but true connections and relationships with others will!

In Luke 7:36-50, we see a woman expressing true vulnerability. She enters the home of a Pharisee, uninvited, to sit at the feet of Jesus. She weeps tears on his feet and wipes the tears with her hair. She anoints his feet with precious ointment from an alabaster flask. I can picture in my mind the faces of those around her. We are not comfortable with the vulnerability of others, either. We have been so trained to "fake it 'til we make it". We are not supposed to show the broken places in our lives. I can picture the others in the room shifting their weight nervously and looking anywhere but at this woman who is not following the "rules" of society. But she did not care. She wanted true intimacy with Jesus and Jesus rewarded her for her willingness to be a true FOLLOWER. Jesus told her "your faith has saved you, now go in peace." The Pharisee on the other hand was just a FAN. He knew the rules, but not the spirit of the rules. He wanted to be rewarded for who he was and what he knew. This is not the relationship that God wants with us. Nor is it the relationship he expects us to develop with other people. People do not care what you know until they know that you care. God want us to passionately pursue a relationship with him and to be a blessing to others! You simply cannot do either without allowing yourself to be vulnerable.

So how do I start to take bricks down from my well-built wall? Reaching out and making connections with other people seems to be the answer. So how do we do that? Well, my husband and I have recently volunteered to work in the 4 and 5 year old Sunday school classroom at our church. And we have signed up for a small group that meets weekly so we can start to connect with 5 other couples from our church in a more intimate way. I have even started a side business that allows me to meet other women, share God's love for them and make new connections as a daughter of the King of Kings. These things are all a good start, but they won't bring the wall down. In order to truly be connected, we have to be vulnerable to others. I have to be vulnerable to others. I want to be vulnerable to others because I want to experience true intimacy with Jesus. The wall must come down.

In his book, Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman shares the difference between being a FAN of Jesus and being a FOLLOWER of Jesus. Many Christians are fans. We work hard to LOOK the part. We put on the Christian t-shirt and cheer for Jesus from the sidelines. But we are called to be followers, not fans on the sidelines. In my desire to protect myself from others, I have naturally gravitated to the sideline. This is not the life God created me to lead. Jesus wants me "in the game". We have the right idea, but it will take more than a few Sundays of our time. It will cost something to be a follower. It might cost friends. It might cost a promotion at work. But the cost is minimal when compared to the opportunity to truly follow Jesus.

Luke 7:36-50 English Standard Version (ESV)

A Sinful Woman Forgiven

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among[a] themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

God is not at all limited in the ways He can speak to us. He uses so many things. He is a very creative God, and He likes to be highly creative in the various things He uses to communicate with us.  Sometimes He uses repetition in our lives and finally it dawns on us that He is telling us something. Sometimes He uses other people - friends, family and even strangers - to give us a divine message. And sometimes, he uses things like songs, books, television or movies. It is easy to overlook many of the ways that God is speaking to us if we are not looking for them. This blog will be a way for me to document the ways God is speaking to me and encouraging me to share my discoveries with others. I pray that you will hear God's voice speaking to you as you read the words on my pages.