25 Things

25

  1. I’m finding joy, freedom and peace in discovering who I am in Christ and allowing God to grow me rather than trying hard to be the person I think I should be or must be.
  2. The hands-down, single most redefining process in my life has been that of getting a tiny grasp on righteousness by faith. The situations God has been able to use to take me down this path defy my logic.
  3. As I increasingly embrace righteousness by faith, I am more able to allow me to be me, God to be God, and you to be you. It’s called boundaries.
  4. Simple pleasures for me would be a drive in the country, a book and a hammock, an iced coffee drink, a campfire, wandering through an art gallery, or a walk in the woods.
  5. I have a hard time turning my brain off at the end of the day if there is an unsolved puzzle buzzing around in it.
  6. Life is a bunch of unsolved puzzles.
  7. Since becoming single, I’m more relaxed around married men than single men.  Married men create no puzzle.
  8. My ideal set of vehicles would be a big ol’ pickup and a sleek, classy convertible.
  9. I’ve lived in 5 states and don’t know where to call home. I’m most emotionally attached to WY but there is no logical reason for me to call it home.
  10. I’m not very motivated by the quest for money or impressed with social position. Ironic for a doctor, but true.
  11. I more often tackle my fears and hurts than I flee from them ~ after I get done denying they exist.
  12. I believe most everyone is doing the best they can in life. But sometimes their best is detrimental to my well-being and their having good intentions doesn’t necessarily make a thing good for me. I believe God can read hearts and will honor their good intentions. He offers me the same grace.
  13. I still experience growing pains. Boy howdy!
  14. I’m finding the hardest part of parenting is the stopping part.
  15. Life is full of ironies. The hardest things are generally the most rewarding. Recognizing my weaknesses is a strength. Letting go allows me to fully attain.  My spiritual growth has resulted in my life looking less traditionally spiritual. Ironic.
  16. I like playing with boy toys (you know… guns, ATV’s, 4WD’s, tools… ~ sheesh ~ ).
  17. It never ceases to amaze me how my kids can be so much like me sometimes and the spitting image of their dad at other times.
  18. I’ve always wanted to explore Alaska. Wild places call me.
  19. My ideal house would be a cabin in the mountains or woods with a lake nearby.
  20. I enjoy the arts.
  21. My best memories from childhood include fishing and camping with my family.
  22. A writing project will distract me from my work most any day ~ like today.
  23. I’m grateful for my past ~ as tough and messed up as it’s been at times ~ because it’s brought me to where I am.  It’s been worth it.
  24.  I’ve always been sincere. But many times I’ve been sincerely wrong.
  25. I used to think I could and should do great things for God. Now I understand that it’s God who does great things for me – most of which are not seen and can’t be touched with your hand. The best I can do for Him is simply share what He’s doing in my life so others might choose to get to know Him for themselves.
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A Step Forward

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard! It’s too hard! It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I reluctantly shuffle my heavy foot ~ fearing the worst.

I stumble ~ but don’t fall.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard! It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I shuffle my heavy foot.

I don’t fall.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

It’s too hard!

I cry.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I shuffle my foot.

I am standing.

Move your foot forward.

He whispers.

I will.

I reply.

Just a little.

He whispers.

I step forward.

I am standing ~ with other warriors.

Smile of God

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” My thoughts turned to that classic children’s song this morning. Perhaps you also know the song but may or may not know the verse that goes like this – “Jesus loves me when I’m good, when I do the things I should. And He loves me when I’m bad, though it makes Him very sad.”

I believed every word of that song as a child. And due to my personal nature, I believed Jesus was sad when I was bad because He was disappointed in my behavior. He would still accept me, but He was disgusted with me. He still loved me – but only because He had to because He was God and He didn’t have a choice.

I think I had it wrong.

At the end of time, the saved and the unsaved will have done some of the very same things in their lives. There will be those on each side of the gates whose behaviors looked very much the same to those around them. Since the Bible tells us that all of our attempts at goodness are filthy rags in the eyes of God, this should not surprise us. So why do we think that we can earn the smiling approval of Jesus with our good works or cause His sad disapproval with our bad works?

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.

He came to save, not to condemn.

He came to restore, not to shame.

I still believe every word of the song. But rather than thinking Jesus is sad when I am bad because He is disappointed in me, I now see it this way – He is sad because He knows that the selfish thing I did is going to cause me and others pain. But He’s not frowning on me in disapproval. Nope, He’s headed to the barn to get His Muck boots. After putting them on, He holds out His hand and offers to walk through it with me, helping me grow as we walk.

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It is in reaching out and taking His hand that I bring the smile to His face.

I Hope I Cause You to Stumble

“Can I get my ears pierced?”  Perhaps for most readers, having their nearly-16 year-old daughter ask that question would stimulate a thought process no more complex than if she’d asked what was for supper.  However, coming from my Christian subculture, the topic of jewelry and ear-piercing has traditionally carried a weight similar to discussions regarding same-sex marriage or abortion.

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As my daughter made her request that day a year ago, I remembered my own similar request as a young lady. In response, I was given a booklet about why Christians who really want to follow God won’t wear jewelry. The booklet was primarily based on a couple of New Testament verses that I read and considered – but I didn’t see the connection. In my opinion the texts had been taken out of context and selectively applied. When I questioned the application of the texts, I was told that sometimes we just do things we may not understand in order to fit in with a social group. If we want to be part of the group, we do what they say. I accepted and complied. Now with 30 more years under my belt, I can accept that guidance as reasonable in regards to membership in a club or other social group, but I bristle at the suggestion that it is a good reason to follow religious traditions. You see the social group is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to fit in with us.”  The standards of the club make a statement about the character of its members. However, by its very nature, the church is saying “This is what you need to do and look like to be acceptable to God.”  The standards of a church make a statement about the character of God. That carries a whole different psychological and spiritual weight.  So while I have no problem with a social group saying I must do the happy-dance at the door or wear my hat to the left side in order to be a member, I don’t agree with a church making arbitrary requirements of its members.

The other “devout Christians don’t do that” arguments against jewelry are generally geared toward the topics of good stewardship and avoidance of vanity. While I agree those are important principles to consider when making decisions, I would have to say they apply to a whole bunch of things in life – the least of which is a $5 or even $50 set of earrings.  Yes, I could spend $5,000 more on a set of earrings, which would be extravagant for me and a poor stewardship choice. But a person could spend $5,000 more on a house or car or vacation or hobby. I don’t think we’re ready to ban those purchases or be the “extravagant” monitors.

My daughter got no booklet nor sermonette the day she asked about ear piercing. Her ears are now pierced, as are mine. She asked me for a list of rules about the when, where and what of proper earring use. We discussed the principles of stewardship, thoughtfulness toward those who don’t believe as we do, and modesty, but I didn’t give her a checklist. I trust her to make wise decisions in this area of her life, as she does in others.

Some of you might imagine that this has been a year filled with a sense of freedom for me, having broken the spiritual chains that bound me. But honestly, some aspects of it have been a struggle. The disparity between my personal tastes vs what I was taught a good Christian must look like, left me feeling uncomfortable. Ironically I have continued wearing my earrings, not out of some mid-life rebellion-based “I’ll show them” attitude, but out of the principle of the matter. I’ve found it requires me to trust more in the character of God when I accept there is no checklist of “things to do to please God” that will win me His favor. I have continued searching for fulfillment in a relationship with my Creator rather than in a list of requirements or in pleasing others. I have found my earrings inconsequential to that search.

If your church background is similar to mine, my earrings may upset you. If they do, I hope they cause you to stumble out of any works-oriented traditions that have provided a false sense of value and instead stumble into a genuine relationship, grounded in faith, with the God who made you, loves you, and longs for you.

Dare We Believe?

While growing up I attended many an evangelistic series. This was not as a result of any intense spirituality, but was my lot in life. The evangelistic series I attended were presented by my dad. His sermons were full of the good news of God’s love. Often he would end his sermons with an altar call, providing a chance for people to commit their lives to Christ. Generally at least once during each series of meetings a favorite hymn of mine would be sung during the altar call.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

The song is full of good news! Yes! What a safe harbor! What a welcome reprieve His love provides!

However, be it my own flawed perception, or be it the teaching of the day or the church, it seemed that hardly had the good news landed on the ears when the unsuspecting convert was hit with a left hook. It went something like this, “Now, here’s the deal. God loves you for sure, but you need to stop smoking. That’s not too much to ask since you know smoking’s bad for you anyway, right?  Ok. Great. Now, there’s more to the deal. God says if you love Him you’ll obey His commandments. So here, I’ll read them for you. Got it? Great. Now, hang on. Not everything you have to do is listed in the commandments. There’s some more over here. Let me read it for you. … Got it? Great. Just a few more and then we can talk about your being baptized so you can join the body of Christ. I’m so excited for you!”

The bottom line sounds something like this, “If you love God, convince Him and the rest of us by the way you act.” Immediately the list of must’s and should’s grows long and the good news becomes very burdensome and really not good news at all ~ because “now you know better, and now if you don’t ‘do it’ you’re really going to be lost!” (James 4:17)

Salvation in that setting becomes twisted into things I must do rather than a relationship I live with a God who loves me.  Immediately self fights to keep hold of the prospect of salvation and heaven. I start looking around instead of up, and comparison thinking comes to my defense, sounding something like “Well, at least I….

Furthermore, a works oriented model of salvation creates bondage (Gal 5:1) to fearful insecurity where I am plagued with questions.

“Have I done enough yet?”

“Is God pleased with me yet?”

“Have I asked for forgiveness of all of my sins?

“What if I misunderstand what God is saying and do this wrong even though I want to follow Him?”

I would sum them up in two words. “OH NO!”

The good news is, God doesn’t want more of my efforts. He offers me an entirely different quality of life grounded in the life of His Son who was the fulfillment of the law (Mat 5:17-20). Dare we allow God’s message to actually be good news?

The good news is, God says His love for me does not depend on what I do (Rom 5:8). Dare we stop scrambling for His acceptance and instead allow His peace to wash over us?

The good news is, in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), the father does not ask the son to do anything. Coming home to be with his father was enough. Dare we believe God is anxious to welcome us into His family just because He is love?

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The good news is, a leopard cannot change his spots – nor can we change our sinful nature (Jer 13:23). Dare we believe our best efforts are a waste in regards to our salvation and sanctification?

The good news is, in the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founding fathers of the Biblical people of God, outright premeditated sin was present in their lives. And God did not leave them. Dare we believe He will continue to work with us in the midst of our imperfections?

“Yeah, but…” I hear some church folk saying, “if you’re going to be a Christian, you’ve got to…”

I hear Christ saying I must seek first His kingdom of love and His covenant faithfulness with all my heart, and hang out with Him, then all the other things will come in time (Matt 6:33, Jer 29:13, John 15:1-8). 

Rather than being required, obedience to God’s law is inevitable as I spend time with Him. (2 Cor 3:18)

Living a life right with God is not a test of my relationship with Him ~ but it will be the natural long-term result of my relationship (Romans 10:4). Forcing it to happen the other way around may change the outside of me if I am determined enough ~ but it will never change the inside. Only basking in His perfect love and acceptance will change my core.

It is God who does His work in me and in you. (Phil 1:6)

Dare we believe the good news?

Let’s do Lunch

I was on fire. God had changed my life and set me free. True of anyone who has experienced something good, I wanted to share it. There was a particular couple who had obviously been searching for something deeper in their lives during the several years we had known them. They were able to verbalize their disappointment with life and the emptiness they felt within. I knew I had Something that would fill their void, and I picked her to share it with. I had a plan as to how I’d go about sharing the Good News.  I just knew I could win her to Jesus and I was so excited about it.

I asked her to lunch. She accepted. I started praying about it right away. I prayed that God would give me words. I prayed that He would direct the conversation. I prayed that He would open her heart. I prayed. I prayed. I prayed. I have never attended a lunch date that I have prayed over more.

The day arrived. We met at a small but popular sandwich shop on Main Street. It was crowded and noisy. We got our food and found a small table, small enough that we had no choice but to sit close. I was nervous. I didn’t want to be a “Jesus Freak”, but I knew I had something that could change her life. I wanted to give it to her. I prayed. My palms were sweaty. I prayed some more reminding God I had no idea how to start this conversation. Within moments, totally out of context of our conversation, my friend said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about maybe going to church.” I prayed silently again, this time a prayer of thanks for opening the doors wide.  The conversation flowed from there.

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By the end of lunch she had agreed to meet for a Bible study at the library the next Wednesday. It was going to be a women’s group. We were going to study the book of John and learn about Jesus.  I went to the library that day. She never came. I went to the library the following three Wednesdays. She never came. I called her. She agreed to another lunch date. But the night before we were to meet, her husband called me to cancel on her behalf. I never heard from her again.

I had failed. I felt horrible. I must have said something wrong. I must have come on too strong. I messed up. I felt like I had disappointed God.  I, I, I.

Several months went by. My daughter was selling cookie dough for a fundraiser at school. She, totally unaware of the inward turmoil I had undergone concerning this couple, wanted me to stop at their house so she could sell them cookie dough. I didn’t want to. But I wanted even less to try to explain my uneasiness to my young daughter. So I took the lesser of the two evils and stopped, knowing that the wife would be at work at that hour.  As expected, her husband was home. He talked at his usual non-stop pace, but avoided the purchase of the cookie dough. “No,” he said. “You’ll have to talk to my wife. Go by her work and she’ll buy something from you.” He explained how to get to her office.  Now I was really uncomfortable. I knew he would check with her to make sure I’d gone by to see her – he was just that type. Now I had two people to whom I didn’t want to explain my sense of failure.  The lesser of two evils suddenly became facing the person who embodied my failure.

With great fear and anxiety I drove to her place of work. The kids excitedly got out and ran in the building. I walked slowly behind. She was on the phone when we arrived and we were invited by the receptionist to have a seat. It seemed obvious to me this lady had no interest in ever seeing my face again and I would have been happy to have obliged her.

I heard her say good-bye and hang up the phone. “Here comes the awkward moment,” I thought. As we walked in her office she jumped from her seat and ran around the desk to greet me. Rather than a handshake, her arms embraced me in a warm hug.  Her face was beaming. “You will never believe what has happened!” she exclaimed then continued. “Remember that conversation we had at the restaurant several months ago?” I stood with my mouth gaping open. I did remember the conversation – all too well. It had ended with me failing.  I had no idea what she was so excited about. She went on to tell me that she had spent a couple of months thinking about what I had said. She had completely changed her life-style since then. She no longer worked three jobs. She went hunting with her husband now. She also took time to go visit her nieces and nephews. Her life was richer and had meaning. She couldn’t thank me enough for what I’d said to encourage her.

That was several years ago. To this day I have no idea what I said to change her life. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that I didn’t say anything at all to change her life. I can’t change lives. The Holy Spirit had been invited – and He gives people the opportunity to be changed. I don’t know where this woman is at now in her walk, but it will be interesting to see one day.  The experience gave me many very important lessons. Sometimes people don’t need a Bible study – they might only be ready for a friend.  The working of the Holy Spirit probably won’t look the way I expect. I don’t need to feel wonderful or successful for God to have been at work. And most important – it’s not about me and what I can do. It’s about me connecting with God and letting Him do.