Know Thy Self

“You don’t know someone until you know what they want.” It was a quote in a movie playing on the television.  I suppose it caught my attention because I have been searching for what I truly want in life.  The statement made me pause, because if I’m honest, maybe I don’t really know myself.

I feel like the last three years God has been taking me on a journey to learn more about myself and what I want.  Without hesitation there are things  that I can state “I want.”  I want my husband, children, grandchildren, and extended family to have a personal walk with God and to fulfill His plans for their lives.  I want to be able to help those who are hurting, especially women, find healing and wholeness that is found only in Christ.  I want to live my life to the fullest, bringing glory and honor to God with every word and action.  I want to build others up in their faith and encourage their personal walk with God.  I want to see the Church being the hands and feet of Christ in relationship with the hurting world around us.

Those are all very large goals, ones that have to be planted and tended too.  Yet, I know God cares about the little desires of my heart too.  Those little wants, that is where I find myself lost.  I need to know myself better to be able to put words to my wants.  I suppose after decades of daughterhood, motherhood, and wifedom I have lost track of who I am. I have forgotten what its like to know what I want for myself because I’m used to meeting the needs of others and compromising my desires in the wake of that.  I am content where I am at now, but I know there is more.  I have people who would give me what I want.  My issue is, I don’t have a clue as to what I  want.judge

I see God working in this area too.  The more I draw close to God, the more He reveals to me about myself.  I know that much of the revelation is part of the pruning process.  He is showing me things He needs removed from my life that are hindering His plans and purpose for my life.

There are still a few areas where I have to receive the Lord’s discipline.  Areas where I try to hang on to things that He has already told me need to go.  For the most part though, I see God cleaning up my life to promote new growth and more fruit.

Sometimes I see the baggage that needs to be removed as He starts peeling back the layers.  I can see what is laying just under the surface, even if I can’t quite put my hands on it.  It’s like God knows that I need the preparation time before the pruning time to be able to handle the amount of pruning that needs to happen.

I have to be careful not to allow others to put their opinions on me in areas where God wants to prune.  Others can’t see what God wants to do, only what He has already done.  I have to guard my heart and His plans and purpose or I may settle for less than He desires.  If I let the opinion of others build up what God has already done it will take my focus off what God wants to do.

Other times, I am completely caught off guard at what He reveals to me.    I realize how little I know about myself.    Sometimes as I share this area with others, they can identify it right away.  The parts of me others clearly see, but I am unaware of at least consciously.  Other areas that catch me off guard, are the deeply buried, tightly tucked away pieces of my past that have shaped who I am so firmly that I can no longer identify the origin of the behavior or thought pattern.  These are areas that God deals with slowly or when I have time to press into His presence for extended time and really allow Him to deal with the hidden places in my heart.  It is scary and liberating all at the same time.

I know that the God I serve knows me better than I will ever know myself.  He knows exactly what He created me for.  He knows what I need to remove or add to my life, and when that needs to happen.  If I take the time to really get quiet before Him, He can reveal to me everything I need to know about myself.  I can listen to His voice and allow Him to heal the broken pieces and learn what I want, and who I really am.  Only when I am seeking Him with my whole heart, will God be able to give me the desires of my heart.


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Running from the enemy

There’s a story on 2nd Samuel chapter 15-19 that begins with David running from his son.  Absalom was attempting to take the kingdom of Israel from David.  As I listened to the story, I thought “Why is the king running?”   David was the king.  He had all power and authority.  Yet he ran to avoid war with his son Absalom, to protect his city, or maybe out of fear – those details are unexplained in the scriptures.

I  thought about David running, and I realize that is what we do as Christians also.  Jesus gave His followers  authority ( Psalms 8:6 and Luke 10:19).  Victory was won and maintained by Christ at the cross and at resurrection.   We were given authority over all the power of the enemy.  Yet when the enemy attacks, we run instead of standing and fighting.  Despite the fact that God’s Word says “The Gates of Hell (which are stationary) shall not prevail over the kingdom of God;”  we run.

I can look back on my life and see numerous times where the enemy rose up.  Often, instead of standing up and fighting for what God said was mine, I quickly gave it up and ran in the opposite direction.  For instance, the Word that says “let no one split apart what God has joined together.” (Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9) This is a promise I should have stood upon instead of filing for a divorce not once, but twice in my marriage.  When I should have fought, I ran.

David ran with 600 of his followers.  They mourned as they ran into the wilderness, but the man with the heart after God’s own heart reached the mountain and turned his attention back to God.  It says “when David had come to the top of the mountain, there he worshiped God.”  Then he was given a plan of how to defeat Absalom.  He sent one of his counselors back to give counsel to Absalom.

Even when we run from the enemy, I have always been amazed that God is right there when we turn back to Him.    Sometimes we run for years, and other times just far enough to gain perspective, but God is there when we stop running.  He is there when we turn to Him is worship and call out to Him.  He will give us a plan on how to regain what we allowed the enemy to take when we ran.  I praise the Lord that in my running from the enemy that was seeking to kill, still and destroy my marriage, that God was there to provide a plan.    The plan didn’t look like I thought it would, but God not only restored our marriage, but He made it stronger than it ever was before.

The story ends with Absalom’s death at the hand of David’s soldiers in battle.  However, when David hears of the death, he mourns deeply with loyalty towards his flesh and blood.  Understandably, Absalom was David’s son, so I understand that he would still mourn Absalom’s death.   Yet, he didn’t take into consideration how his actions would impact his warriors and kingdom until one of David’s leaders called him on his actions.

Like David, we often give our loyalty to the enemy that works against us. I find I often  celebrate the very things that are seeking to destroy me and isolate those who were sent to restore me.  Like those who would feed in to my one-sided victim complaints about my husband, I kept close when I was running.  If I started thinking too much  about the good parts of my marriage, I could count on them to remind me why I filed for divorce.

LoveprayWhen I was running, those who tried to speak life into my marriage, I kept at arm’s length.   I remember sitting before my pastor with my husband at my side telling them both, I had no desire to be there and work towards reconciliation.  I was done.  I went, but begrudgingly and out of “religious duty” not desire.  I was mourning what I was loosing, but I wasn’t willing to look at the impact on my children or the effort my husband was putting forth in trying to change.

However, just as God was able to bring about justice for David and restore him to his kingdom, despite the death of his son.  God changed my marriage.  The things that caused me to file for a divorce are no longer part of our marriage.  Our first marriage ended after nineteen months.  It has been thirteen years since I filed for a divorce the second time and we just celebrated eighteen years of marriage this past May.  God is good, even when we run when we are supposed to stay and fight.  God is good, even when the one we are fighting with has been joined together with us.  God is faithful to be there when we call upon Him.  God is there to protect those who are impacted by our decisions with a wonderful thing called grace.

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Luxury Properties

POD #30: 3 Luxury Properties

Location, Location, Location, that is what immediately comes to mind when I think of luxury properties.  My husband and I have been looking at vacation properties in Puerto Rico, with his long-term goal being to move there permanently.  I think that it is more vacation-itis because we went there last year and it was an amazing, relaxing time.  I am game with a few stipulations in place if it really should happen though.

key-2323278_1920I really want something that is oceanfront, or at minimum where I can hear the ocean and be within a short walk to the ocean.  However I also want to be out of the hurricane zone since he thinks we should stay there forever.  It’s funny that I would be much pickier with where I might sleep or vacation or even for a few decades of my life than I am with what I allow in the real estate of my life, my thoughts, my heart and to occupy my time.

My Head
The property of my head I picture with very clean lines and organized – almost industrial.  I can not stop thoughts from coming into my head, but I can choose what I meditate on regularly.  The scriptures are clear about what I should let my thoughts focus on in Philippians 4:8 it says “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Yet so often I focus on the lies that have been spoken into my life.  I let those lies play over and over again in my life.  They not only vacation there, but they set a foundation and build giant buildings in my life where my mind tends to stay too long.  Or I play negative thoughts about others that are anything less than honorable and usually far from right.  I fixate on what I think others are doing wrong, and completely miss the blessing they are in my life.  I mix the thoughts that God has about me with my tainted views so that they are no longer pure.  I fill my mind with crime and mystery as I watch television instead of things that are lovely.  I focus on shortcomings instead of building on the admirable strengths in my life and in the lives of those around me.  I allow my mind to travel down inferior paths that lead to destruction.

I admit that over the past few years, I have allowed God to renew my mind and I am able to not take up residence when I do go down those more negative thought paths.  The journey is much shorter when I do head there.  I am not as negative as I used to be. I do try to believe in the best of people, even in doing this challenge I see the growth in my thought patterns more clearly.  I know I want to continue renewing my mind, and allowing God to show me deeper revelations of areas where I need to change.  I need to be open to allowing fresh insight to alter my set in thought patterns.

My heart
I picture the property of my heart with homey and with iridescent curtains blowing in the ocean breeze.  My heart is occupied with a deep compassion for people.  Although at times my mind goes down that negative path, my heart believes and expects the best of people.  My heart generally wins out.  God has given me a level of empathy that most people around me do not understand.  Not that I don’t have my limits, but even when misfortunes are of their own making, I can still enter into what they are experiencing and have a genuine desire to help them better the situation.

The Bible says in Matthew 6:19-21 Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. I can say that my treasure is people.  There are few things in my life that I hold as treasures outside of people, and the few things I do treasure are tied to memories of the people who had them before I did.  My heart is occupied with the people that have touched my life and whose lives I have been able to impact if even in the smallest way.

My prayer is that the capacity of my heart would continue to grow in love and compassion for others.  I pray that my heart would be open to continuing to see other’s with the eyes of Christ.  I pray that my heart would not be tainted by the atrocities that I am exposed to, but instead to stay pure and pliable to the Lord.

My calendar
The property of my calendar, tends to be less luxurious and more cluttered.  Not unsanitary or unclean, but the type of home with windmills, wind chimes, and lots of lawn ornaments and knickknacks.  Each has a significant meaning to the home owner or serves a purpose, but is a bit overwhelming to onlookers.  My calendar is full and often times I am over committed, but looking at my calendar there is little that I would take away from it.

This has been a big area of change in my life over the past decade, and even more so in the past few years.  I feel like God rearranged my priorities and I am finally focused on those areas that I should be.  Yes, there are still areas that I need to give more attention – like writing which this challenge has certainly helped me to do.  However, I can say that my priorities are in the right place now, and that I do have a defined plan for my schedule.  There is still areas where less structure would be helpful, but the things that are most important, the people who are important are getting the first place in my schedule instead of the leftovers of my time.  And I definitely take time for rest and me-time.

This Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders has been a great way for me to think about the keys in various areas of my life that I need to unlock, and even a few areas where I not only need to lock the door, but I need to throw away the key.  It has been helpful to focus on what I know in life, and the direction I really want to steer my life.  It has reminded me, that my life is a luxury property that I need to take time invest in and enjoy.

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Help is on the way

POD #29: Help is on the way

When I think about times that I have needed help, and received it from a totally unexpected source, my mind is overwhelmed with the examples.

  • Like the time I needed money to get to my friend’s memorial and a customer in the bank met my need as he overheard my plea to the teller.
  • Or  the time I worked in child welfare, and an adult foster child who came upon my vehicle broken down on the side of the road.  I had my three kids in the car and couldn’t get a hold of anyone to help me.  Not only did he give us a ride back home, he picked my car up and got it fixed also.  He shared his story with me as we drove and I was in awe of his help.
  • Or when I lost my job, and out of no where my husband gets a promotion that he had been trying to get for years that made up my lost income.
  • Or unexpected finances coming at just the right time so that I didn’t bounce checks – more times than I care to admit in my early adult life.
  • Or words spoken at just the right time to renew my hope and keep me from making permanent decisions based on a temporary set-back.

adventure-1807524_1920I do trust that help is on the way when I need it.  I have learned that it doesn’t always come in the way I think it will, or in my timing; but I do believe that help will be there when it is needed.  Because I believe this to be true, I do not spend a lot of time worrying about the “what ifs” the help doesn’t come.

My evidence that help is always on the way is two-fold.  First, I have never had a need go unmet.  Yes, there have been many wants that have not been fulfilled, but I have never had a true need go unmet.  Since I have always had my needs met, I am confident that other needs will be met in the future.

The second, a more valid piece of evidence, is God’s Word:

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. II Corinthians 9:8

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

 I will answer them before they even call to me.  While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! Isaiah 65:24

I realize that some would argue that there are people in third world country dying because basic needs are not being met, even in our country there are people who are struggling to see their basic needs met.  I think those needs are unmet, not because help isn’t available but because our culture is filled with greed and selfishness.  God generously provides so that we will have plenty left over to share.  When we don’t share what is left over, needs go unmet.  When we ignore that still, small prompting, we rob others of the help they need.  If help is not on the way, either it is not a true need or someone has failed to do their part.

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3 Kinds of People

POD #28: 3 Kinds of People

Pivot person
Today I celebrate my eighteenth anniversary.  We almost didn’t make it the second time around.  Five years into our second marriage together, it almost ended.  But one person was brave enough to say what needed to be said to spark a change in me that impacted my life, my marriage, and the marriages of many others that I have spoken in to since that time.  It was advise I took to heart.  When I see others struggling with the same thing, I share her question with them.

Lori and I worked together at the time, and we would often talk before our day started or after the day ended about life.  At the time, I was anything but nice about my husband.  I was focused on everything that he was doing wrong; completely looking over the things he did that were good.  And when you look for the bad, you can always find it. If the topic of husbands came up, as it often does with women, I would let anyone listening know how bad mine was.

I talk about this moment a lot, because it really did change the trajectory of my marriage and life.  One day, during one of my rants, Lori asked a simple question.  Why do you stay married to him?”   My response was simple and genuine “Because I love him.”  She stated a simple observation that was filled with profound truth.  “I just wondered because you never have anything nice to say about him.” Ouch!

From that point forward I made a point to be purposeful in my talk about my husband.  After all, I know that words have creative power and I was creating a very negative environment about my marriage.  It was a slow process, but one I am glad that I stuck through.  My husband is amazing.  He is a great provider.  He is loving and kind.  He really does his best to be a good husband.  My marriage is better and stronger and continues to grow as we speak life into each other.

Safe Person
My mom was always my safe person, someone who I could share my hopes and dreams with, who believed in me – even though she rarely had the right words to show it.  She was always in my corner.  But the prompt says currently in my world, so my mind goes to a close friend named Janna.  We connected about four years ago in a Bible Study.  She didn’t attend regularly, so I reached out one day and just let her know that she was missed.  Our friendship grew from that one small act.

Janna believes in me and encourages me to see the potential within.  She sees the best in me, even when I am at my lowest.  She provides me with a different perspective that opens my eyes to what really is before me.  Things that I see as common, she sees as unique.  Characteristics in my own life I downplay, she highlights to me.   She walked with me through two very difficult times in my life – losing a job and losing my mother.  She has been a cheerleader when I needed encouragement.  She has been a defender when I was wronged.  She has supported every thing I have put my hand too.  She helps me pour out more of myself, so that God can fill me back up again.

girls-407685_1920My People
If there is someone I enjoy spending time with outside of my family, and really gain energy from being around it is my people.  Usually those who have been hurt and are pressing through the pain to make a better life.  Sometimes it is a brief encounter that changes their life and mine.  Other times I have been blessed to maintain contact longer and really get to see the transformation take place.

I look back at my life and think when I worked with foster kids and their birth families – those were “my kids” and “my parents”.   If I needed to talk about them, I said “One of my kids.” or “one of my parents.”  People who didn’t know me well thought I was talking about my own kids and parents.  I did the same thing when I was a therapist and when I was director over a single parent transitional housing program.  They were “my moms”, “my kids”, “my families”.  Just as I want to see my own kids succeed, I wanted to see these children and families succeed.

My people are those I can invest my time, energy, and finances into and see them improve their lives.  People who will match and exceed my efforts, because they know it is their life they are working to improve.  People who are holding on to hope for a better tomorrow but just don’t know how to reach it.  My people will let me be a pivot person in their life and see me as a safe person for them too.

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How do you know what you know?

POD #27: How do you know what you know?

Who am I? It’s a thought provoking question we all ask at some point. Forming our identity is a stage of development that we all go through.  I believe that we go through it more than once.  As we reach milestones in our lives that completely change our roles, how we identify ourselves changes.  Who I knew myself to be as a child, there are still some truths there, but much of what I held true of myself at eight, changed when I became a teenager.  Who I am again changed when I became a mom, and when I entered adulthood, and again as my children became adults.  Even who I was last year is different than the person I am now, because I continue to grow personally.self

However, the fundamental truths that I know about myself don’t change.  I do come to understand them at a deeper level, but they are truths that withstand the passing of time.

A few of the fundamental truths I know about myself are:

I know that I am loved. Understand there are days I feel unloved.  I feel like no one in the whole world likes me, let along loves me.  The thought crosses my mind that others just tolerate me.  At the core of my soul, I can hold on to the truth that I am loved, regardless of how I feel.  Christ loved me so much He volunteered to take my place so I could be in relationship with God.  That is love. I am in right relationship with God, because of Christ.  I am loved, because God is love.  I am loved and that is not dependent upon me.  It is true because God is love.  I was blessed to learn this at a very young age, and it is a truth that can withstand any other voice in my life.  All I have to do is be still and listen.

I know that I am never alone.  Again, there are times in my life I feel very alone.  I feel left out and forgotten, but the truth that I can hold on to in those moments is that God promised He would never leave me or forsake me.  It doesn’t matter where I go, what I do, He is there.  Despite the rebellious life I lived as a teenager, I know this truth really kept me from going down a darker path. I knew back then God was with me.  I know that He is always with me.

I know that I am God’s child. I remember the weekend after my mother’s death, I was sitting in church and was overcome with the fact that I was now an orphan.  My father had died twenty- years earlier, but now they were both gone.  A wave of grief came over me and I felt like the world was going to collapse around me.  Then, that still small voice said, “You are not an orphan, you are My child.”  Almost seamlessly, the praise and worship team began to sing the song “No longer slaves.” My heart was filled with the knowledge that I really am God’s daughter.  I am His child and no one can take that from me.  Even as I type this, listening to the radio – the song just came on as a sweet reminder from my Father.

I know I am a work in progress. When I was a little girl we used to sing a song:

He’s still working on me,
To make me what I ought to be
It Him seven days to make the moon, and stars, Jupiter and Mars,
and He’s still working on me.”

Just as Michelangelo took years to create the statue of art David, I am a masterpiece being created by God.  It is said that Michelangelo said of his piece “I just removed everything that was not David.”  That is exactly what God is doing in my life.  He is just removing everything in my that is not part of His masterpiece.  Unlike Michelangelo, God has to deal with my desire to control the process. I am thankful that God is not deterred by me.  Instead I am just His work in progress.

I know I have a purpose in this earth.  There are days, weeks and even months that I question what that purpose is.  Yet I know that it is more about God working out things in me that would destroy the purpose he has for me.  I do not believe that God will leave me here on this earth once my purpose is fulfilled.  I believe that is part of His predestined time.  Until then He will keep working on me and I will keep growing in the plans and purpose for my life.

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The voice in your head

POD #26: The voice in your head

Very seldom do I write things off, due to the voices in my head.  I may set a goal and say “when…then.”  Like I want to go sky diving and bungee jumping, however I am morbidly obese and I don’t think that is the smartest idea.  However, I am on a journey to being fit and those two things are on my to-do list when I reach my goal.  I have little goals of things I want to try along the way as I reach other milestones in the journey.  I share them with others so they will help hold me accountable along the way.

If I really pause think about the broken record that places in my mind, the voice I listen to most often says, “You have no idea how to begin.”  I don’t really hear it as a “you can’t, as much as a “keep searching.”  The vision and dream I have before me, I really have no idea how to reach.  I know that I am walking in it, but I am not sure how to go to the next level of it.  I just know to do what I am doing, and let God connect me in His timing with the next step, and hope I don’t miss it due to my stubbornness or disobedience.

record-336626_1920About thirteen year ago I attended a conference and they talked about “One-Church, One-Child.” It was the idea that if each church in a community would support one member of their church answering the call to foster, there would be no children who had to stay in a shelter or group home because of lack of foster parents.  I loves the idea.  At the time I worked for the state in the foster care system and it felt like a worthy cause to run with.  I sent out a compelling letter to every church in our community.  I received two calls back.  I felt very defeated and saddened.  While this is just a small piece of my dream, it really did impact me.  At the same time I was reaching out to the churches in our community with no response, there was a fight at the state level to give the right to foster to same-sex couples.  People were up in arms about it, but at the same time there was little response from those who God called to step in and be a father to fatherless.

I wrote the experience off that maybe it was because at the time I was affiliated with the state. I decided that churches might be concerned about the separation of church and state – despite the fact there was a movement at the federal level to fund faith initiative programs.  I reasoned the letters were sent to the pastors, and they might not have shared it with their congregation, so people really might not know the need.  I just didn’t start in the right place. (On a side note, there was another organization that was started the same time in my home state – and the churches do answer the call even now.)

A few years later, I tried again.  I wasn’t asking anything other than to meet with churches to know what services they were offering – Celebrate Recovery, Mother’s Day out, Christian Counseling, etc.  I knew several churches in the community offered programs that would be beneficial to the birth families (Of the foster children) that I had been working with.  I thought if I could compile the resources, it would be an option for parents that would point them in the direction that would really change their life.  I also believe it could help build a healthy support system around these families that may not have had a good example growing up themselves.  Again, one call, one meeting.  I decided that I really don’t know where to begin.

When I moved away from that community, I took my dream with me.  It is still there, waiting to burst forth.  I so want to see hurting people connected with God’s hands and feet in this world.  I want to see Christian’s engaged outside the four walls of the church, being the Church to meet the tangible needs in the community.  For now, I connect people. I know the resources in my community, and if someone needs a place to get involved – I connect them to places they can give and volunteer.  When I come across people who are hurting and in need – I connect them to resources, especially those in my community with a spiritual component that I know can help them.  I get to do this weekly, sometimes daily on an individual basis.  It doesn’t look like what I thought it would, but I’m doing my part and letting God do the rest.

The other voice I hear a lot is “You don’t have time.”  When you live a pretty structured schedule, there is some truth to the statement.  However, I have learned in the past few years that we make time for what is important, so if it is really something that I want to do, I will make it a priority.  It may mean getting up a little earlier or staying up a little bit later.  It may mean saying no to other things, but I have the ability to apply my time to things that I feel that I should be doing.  I still need to work in this area.  I know I spend too much time mindlessly online or in front of the television instead of making mindful decisions of where I invest my time.  Although it is much less than I use to, it is still too much.  It is a daily decision I have to make.

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Lost (and found) arts

POD #25: Lost (and found) arts

As much as I would love to come up with some profound lost art, when I think of lost arts, I immediately think of a conversation I overheard with a man living in poverty.  He was a man who once had a promising future in the executive world, and then based on poor personal choices, found himself begging for help to make ends meet twenty years later.  We were sitting in a church looking at a picture of their first congregation standing on the footsteps of their original building.  It was a black and white photo, full of elderly people dressed in their Sunday best with stern faces.

He commented about how those were real Christians, who said what they meant and meant what they said.  Those were people who when they told you they would be there for you, would give you the shirt of their back if needed or bring you meals for a month because you were ill.  He went on to say that now people say they will be there, but if you go knocking they won’t answer the door and phone calls are ignored.  It broke my heart.

I look back on my childhood and think about how my life was impacted by the elders in the church – and by that I mean anyone older than fifteen because I stopped going to church when I was thirteen.  We went to the largest church in our community.  It ran thirteen large school buses for Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and vacation Bible school.   Yet most everyone knew everyone by name.

My thoughts are overwhelmed with the people who poured into my life, and the life of my family – that I still remember by name.  And when I run into them in the community, not having attended that church for over twenty-seven years, once they know my name, can still tell me the name of my parents.  They frequently tell stories that I have long forgotten from my childhood.  Many are upwards of seventy, some even in thier late 90s.

There was Mr. Drewry he treated me like the sun and moon set with my friendly hello and precious smile.  They yongest of five kids I often felt ignored.  He was always the first one I would search out when I got to church, I would plop down in the pew in front of him and turn around on my knees to talk to him and he listened ever so intently to my ramblings.  Seeing him three decades later, he and his wife still remembered  me.

lostandfoundMr. Nolan, he drove me crazy as a pre-teen because he insisted that we be quiet during service.  By that time, I mostly went to church for the socialization, but he was faithful to sit with us and do his best to keep us quiet.  One day he said something that stuck with me.  He told me I  never know who is being distracted in the rows around me by behavior.  He told me that could be the one chance they gave for God to speak to their life, but I was too busy whispering to my friends for the person to pay attention to what God was speaking through the pastor.  I didn’t appreciate the message then, but I sure do now.  I still hear him when I hear others talking during worship or preaching.

Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Levine were teachers in my Sunday school classes when I was pretty young.  They taught me about memorizing God’s Word.  Even though I didn’t know it at the time, those scriptures would carry me through some pretty tough times as an adult.  Both women were both so encouraging to me.  They helped me pull on the truth they had planted decades later when I found myself a young, divorced mother in need of guidance.  I wasn’t part of their church, or even a part of their life until our paths crossed one day while I was at work.  You never know where God will bring that connection.

I could talk about Ron and Jackie – some of the Children Church leaders, or Mr. Floyd or Mr. Bryant who ran the bus ministry in our neighborhood, Brother Bobby – our children’s pastor, Brother Dale our pastor, Doug, Kenny, Brent, and  Jimmy – older teenagers who took the time for a bratty little kids, The Coffees,  The Kennedy, the Meltons, and Dana – other members in our church.    They were people who walked our family though some difficult times.  I remember being at their houses, and I remember them being at ours.  We did life together.  They knew me.  They knew my family.  They knew our struggles and they walked along side us through them.  Not because they were asked to, but because they cared enough to be invovled.

Someone in the church always reached out if we missed service.  We got a personal postcard that they missed us and knew we were not there.  We often got an in person visit if we missed.  They helped with meals when someone was sick.  Someone, and often multiple people visited if a family member was in the hospital.  The drivers in the bus ministry made a personal visit to every single house on Saturday before running the route on Sunday.

The lost art in the world, that I would love to find its way back into society is  people  really being there for each other – especially in the Churc.  When Church wasn’t filled with blood family, but family by the Blood,  When fellowship meant more than just congregating  in the foyer before and after service and over a Sunday potluck.  When the Church wasn’t a building you went to on Sunday and Wednesday but the people who made up the congregation.  When people paid attention to others around them well enough to know by the look on a face when something is wrong and just reach out in concern.

I haven’t seen that is so long.  Yes, it was easy when I attended small churches for a few years.  When you have a congregation of fifty it is easy to know everyone’s name.  It is easy to see who is missing.  Small communities know when someone is in the hospital or sick and a drive across town is a small task.  Its easy to do life together when you need a weekend babysitter and you only know a few people in the small town.

We have filled our days with meetings and activities, and somehow miss the people.  As we move more and more to online communications and social media, we lose more connections.  Churches may be growing in number, and outreach may be enormous, but relationship is lacking.  People don’t know what is going on with others.  Names an faces are easily forgotten.  Needs go unnoticed.  People fade away, and no one ever knows.

I wish I knew how to bring this lost art back.  I am not always good at doing my own part.  I want it in my life, but I don’t know how to see it created.  Making connections with others seems so much harder now.  People are suffice to know about you, rather than to know you.  Social media creates a façade of relationship that is severely lacking in connection.

I want the Church to be a community that all people feel connected, loved, valued, and needed.  I want the Church to be a community that reaches out to hurting both within the community and in the world.  I want the Church to be a community that sees need and meets it, sees people and builds true relationships.  I want a community that sees the lost and loves on them until they are found.

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Annus mirabilus

POD #24: Annus mirabilus

Last week I was encouraged to read Ephesian 2 in the Message version, the entire chapter.  In it there were several lines that really jumped out at me about how to live not just a annus mirabilus, but a life mirabilus.

You let the world…tell you how to live. When I spend my time trying to do what the culture around me dictates, I am usually steered away from my purpose and led towards conformity with the world.  I am not usually a follower, but at times I do find myself going along for the ride.   I let someone else dictate my direction – even if it is just for a short period.  I was not called to walk someone else’s path; I have a unique path laid before that I must choose to walk out to see the miracles, the auspicious moments God created me for.  To live fully, I must not let the world tell me how to live, but let God tell me.

You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.  To live the amazing life I was created for, I have to stop and realize that my life is made up primarily of what I put into it.  If I want to see remarkable things happen in my life, that will not happen sitting on the sidelines of life.  I can not fill the majority of my time with unproductive activities like watching television and scrolling through social media and expect to exhale productivity into my present or future.  I have to take time and breath in things that will fill me with belief in my dreams, passion and purpose.

All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. I have seen the most amazing miracles occur when I step out of the way and just let God work through me.  When I spend my efforts to accomplish something, I can certainly do it with effort and time; but God can accomplish more in a split second than I can even fathom.  I just have to trust Him enough to listen and obey.  When I let Him do it, He not only starts it, but will complete it.  I play a supporting role, He is the director and lead role.  Just like a supporting role in a play, my role is to highlight and support the lead role and take instructions from the Director.  calendar-2052492_1920

He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. In order to have a remarkable year, to live a remarkable like, I have to allow God to tear down the walls that keep me arms length from others.  In order to accomplish what God place inside of me, I need God and I need other people.  I need people who have been where I am that can help me learn from their experience.  People who will speak discipline, correction, and encouragement to help expedite the process.  I need people to walk alongside of me, to encourage and support me.  People with a similar dream and passion who will help carry the burden of the purpose before us.  And I need people who will need what I have to offer.  People who not only will receive it, but who will take the wisdom and knowledge I impart and make it the stepping block for something bigger and better in the next generation.

You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.  To really live in the concept of annus mirabilus, I have to be willing to accept the calling God has placed on my life.  I can not walk in anything I don’t accept.  I have to accept everything He says about me, and not listen to those who tell me that I am not qualified, or don’t have a right.  I have to accept it, and then walk in my annus mirabilus. 

I can choose this year to let the life that I was designed to live roll out before me.  I can choose to see the miracles come forth that God wants to do both in and through me.  I just have to stop letting the world dictate my future.  I need to be more careful about the things I spend my time doing, as I will only get out of life what I put into it.  I need to trust God through the process and just let Him work.  I need to evaluate the relationships that I have and invest in them instead of allowing insecurities and fears to create distance. And then I need to just walk in the fullness of who my Creator says that I am and what He says I can do through Him.  This could be my annus mirabilus!

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Your Natural State

POD #23:  Your natural state

Immediately as I ready the title of today’s prompt I thought I live in the natural state!  Arkansas used to be the “Land of Opportunity” when I was born, now it is the “Natural State.”  If only it was as easy as changing a slogan or crossing a state line to be able to drop my fears and walk in the version of myself that I was designed for by my Creator.

Fear is by definition an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  How quickly, even as children, we begin to develop this sense of fear as we interpret the environment around us.  Often, the more we are exposed to the world, the greater those fears grow.  This is especially true when we live in an isolated version of the world and are interpreting danger, pain or threat from the third-hand reports of others.  One need only look at the fear frenzy caused by social media in regards to political events, community tragedies, and social problems to see this.

balanced-rock-2069028_1280I think fear comes from the unknown – not knowing what the truth is.  There are things in my life that I have faced where initially the seed of fear was placed because I did not have the factual information of what lay ahead.

The idea of going to college in a new place, away from family and friends created a certain amount of fear.  When I went and toured the school I fell in love with the community.  When I located housing for my family the fear lessened.  As I made connections in the community I had even greater peace.  The more I knew, the less I feared.  Or starting a new job creates a certain level of fear, but usually after a few weeks that fear subsides because I come to know my environment and what is expected from me.

Many people fear people who are homeless.  Having been homeless for a stent in my life, I do not fear people with no home.  I know that there are good and bad in any group.  I know some people truly chose to be homeless, others made a series of poor choices that led to the situation, and still others have ended up homeless due to events outside their control.  I also know that desperate people do desperate things, and sometimes people act outside of their character to meet the needs of those they care about.  Having knowledge about the causes of homelessness and the barriers they face helps me not to fear homeless people.

So I think that to un-acquire, divest of, shed or release any and every fear I have acquired over my lifetime takes wisdom and knowledge.  When I look at my life and the areas where I have fears, I need to educate myself.  First I need to rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom to guide and direct me. I can also do my part by researching and educating myself from the knowledge that has been given to others through talking with those who have faced what I am fearful of, reading books, and watching material that has been created.  I need to make sure that information I am obtaining is from reliable and trustworthy resources.  I need to make sure that I am not just looking for information that agrees with my opinion, but really provides a rounded view of all sides of the topic.

When I envision a version of myself that moves about the world boldly, freely and with confidence that, ultimately, everything is actually working out in my favor, it is a version that stands firmly on the promises in God’s Word. When I seek God’s wisdom, His word promises in Proverbs 8:35  “Whoever finds me (Wisdom) finds life and receives favor from the Lord.”  When I look for it, I see God’s favor on my life; but it is easy to let my fears drown out wisdom and ultimately his favor if I left it.

When I envision a version of myself that stays constantly certain that everything is alright, regardless of the current state of my circumstances it is because I am trusting fully in God.  I can be certain that it will be alright because of the promise contained in Romans 8:28And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”  When I stay focused on God instead of giving way to fear, I can look towards the process that I may be going through; knowing that despite where I am at in the moment, ultimately God will work everything out for my good.

Fear drives me to listen to the world around me, instead of the one within me.  Fear keeps me from stepping out into the gifts and callings that God has placed inside of me, and prepared for me long ago.  The fearless me, would speak out for others who have lost their voice – those marginalized by society – the homeless, the single parents, the broken, the abused child, the trafficked woman, the hopeless.  The fearless me would rally the communities around these people to reach out and support the causes that help them – to rally them to support with their time and with their finances.  The fearless me, would reach out to the churches with the urgency that Christ warns us about to begin to walk in love and unity with each other, across denominational lines, to be the hands and feet to meet the needs of those that society has marginalized, those that we have learned to fear instead of love as Christ did.  I would be fearless.  I would be undaunted in my pursuit. I would be spent on what I know God has called me to do.

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