It's not as odd as it sounds...

Prayer happens everywhere, even in the tanning bed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Have I got a deal for you!

God amazes me... I know, MJF hates it when I say stuff like that - it's all so simplistic. Of course He amazes me, He's God. But there are times in any given day that He does something that doesn't matter to anyone else but me and if He didn't do it, well, it really wouldn't change my life in any measurable way. It's the fact that He does do those little things, for me. My goodness why, after all, I am nothing. But then again, to Him I am everything because, after all, His Son did die for ME.

Let me elaborate. I had a very hectic day. Wednesdays are full every week but this week even more so because it's Kate's birthday. So I had to leave early from the house to get the cupcakes to take to her class at lunch. Then I had to leave my Precept study early to get to her lunch period to eat with her and pass out the cupcakes. Then I had to go early to my library duties so that I could leave early from my library duties so I could go to the store and get some balloons to put out front before she got home. When I got home from my library duties, before I went for the balloons, lo and behold my 19 year old had just gotten up - yes, I know, it was after noon and that's another story. The begging in his eyes told me everything so off we went to MacAlisters because, frankly, where else would we go for lunch?

I had time. I figured if I left for Kroger at 1:55 then I could get her balloons and be home before they (Kate and Josh) got home from school. It was a beautiful day and they rode their bikes. So, right on time I went to the floral dept and discussed with the girl there what I wanted. While she was filling my balloons we got to talking and realized that we were both Christians and we both had a large family and had kids about the same age. We were encouraging each other and sharing fun stories and I was desperately tracking the time and realizing all my planning was going down the drain as I continued to talk. The truth was that I had to go to make MY plans work out. And with proms coming up she alone had 120 arrangements to make TODAY! She didn't need to be talking to me because SHE had her own plans.

But, obviously, God's plans for us were different. It was clear that she needed to be refreshed and I was glad to do it. And I needed to be reminded, as I shared about my kids with her, how wonderful my kids are. So as I glanced at my watch while I was fighting a sprint to my car I just asked God to allow me to make it home before the kids did because I SO wanted to have those balloons there for Kate to be surprised by.

The truth is - if I got home after they did it wouldn't matter a bit. BUT, I pulled into the subdivision and there were no children anywhere. I drove into my driveway, pulled into the garage, pulled out the balloons and tied them around the mailbox. I looked around and still, no kids. As I leaned against the mailbox I marveled that He even cared. I guess I knew He did or I wouldn't have even asked but what I do know is that He doesn't have to care. I also know that sometimes He doesn't work things out the way I'd like.

In the end I love knowing that I don't have to live this life all by myself. He loves me enough to let me get the balloons up before Kate got home. He loves me enough to let me go through a big hassle because I told someone something I shouldn't have even though it was meant with the best of intentions. He loves me enough to allow my daughter to die in order to show me how powerful He is in my life if I will let Him be. He loves me enough to adopt all of my children so I can rejoice in knowing that no matter what else He allows to happen in my life, we will all be together in eternity. For a woman who loves being wrapped up in security, I couldn't ask for a better deal.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

46 Candles

I turned 46 on March 1st. I really can't believe it. To be honest I am not sure how this happened. If I close my eyes I can remember how horrible I felt turning 20. I was no longer a teenager and couldn't fall back on that anymore to explain my immature behavior (although at that time I would never have admitted that I had any) but I wasn't 21 and therefore was still not old enough to be considered an adult.

Only 6 months after I turned 20 I got married. Seven years later I began having kids. Just last August MJF and I celebrated our 25th anniversary. And now, I'm 46. WOW. Thankfully I can say I've learned a lot. I've become a better wife, a better mom, a better woman, most importantly a better disciple of Christ. I've been thinking this week on some of those exact roles I just mentioned and how my behavior in those roles have changed over the years.

I've been, since adulthood, a very black and white person. I wouldn't describe myself as legalistic but I find security and comfort in rules and guidelines. I have no desire to be a leader but if forced to, I will acquiesce and become one (although that still seems like following to me). I dread disappointing anyone but I won't compromise the truth in any form to please anyone. And that last bit about me is what I've been reflecting on most this week. I've actually become more determined to hold firm to The Truth than ever before. I am not sure that can be said about most people as they age. Honestly, I can say, I understand that.

The more experiences that I have, the harder it is to remain so black and white about everything. I know many people that as they age, as their experiences take them from valleys to hilltops and back again, say that there is more gray but I don't agree. I believe that although gray exists I have to be careful that I don't mistake compassion and understanding and love for those that matter the most to me for lies (for lack of a better term). It's not that I would ever set out to lie to anyone about anything but there's a big difference between telling a friend that she doesn't look fat in a dress that she absolutely does look fat in and telling someone that her child is just a little "challenge" when he's got serious discipline problems and she needs to get to work on clearing those up.

Of course we all have to have earned a place in any relationship to offer truth up to anyone but then, maybe not. The older I get the more frantic I get when I realize that pastors and lay people alike are "taking their time" sharing the truth of what expectations there are of us as believers. We, for some reason, don't want to step on toes or turn someone against us or make someone upset or worse, we don't want them to go to another church. It's like throwing a life preserver to a drowning man but leaving the attached rope untouched so that although he floats and avoids drowning he's left to wander in the sea (as the sharks begin to circle) without help to reach solid ground. Whatever the reason this is dangerous territory that church leaders are treading on. The truth is that everyone wants to see people "saved" but for some reason few want to pull the line that's attached to the life preserver.

Few would argue with me that while building their child's first bike, it's best to read the instructions carefully. If something isn't put together in the way the manufacturer intended there is a good chance the child would be injured, in some cases, severely. In the same way, if we get all excited about a visitor "walking an isle" or someone we meet praying to receive Christ but fail to disciple that person honestly about changing their behavior to become more Christlike, we run the risk of allowing that person to believe they can come to Christ without repenting of sins that they might not even realize are sins at all. What's worse, as a church body, we run the risk of seeing our church become exactly what Paul was disgusted about in the church at Corinth. It seemed that he was the only one brave enough to be honest with the church body there. By the time he wrote his second letter and referring to his 3rd visit, he acknowledged that some who were living immoral lives had repented but that there were still some who were reluctant to do so. Why, I couldn't tell you but none of them could claim they were ignorant of God's expectations of them as believers. Paul told them that they could choose to do what was right and pleasing to God and he'd come in grace and peace. If they chose to rebel, he's going to arrive with a nightstick (Ok, so he didn't say nightstick - but you know what I mean). I find it hard to believe that Paul's threats weren't all Paul's idea. I am pretty sure that whether Paul shows up or not we are in trouble because God has his own nightstick. He won't let his church get mired in sin. One way or another He will cleanse the body.

That is why, for the most part, I am not bothered by people leaving our church. Some leave for pure logistics. They move to a new community and there is an excellent church that is far closer and participating in a community church is one reason why "there is a Baptist church on every corner". Others, for one reason or another, find something they don't like about what is currently going on. I have my own problems with that because your church should be your family and most of us wouldn't leave our blood family just because we didn't like what our sister wore to school or what poster our brother put up on the wall. Most wouldn't leave even if mom or dad created a rule or a requirement they didn't like. Most would stay because as long as Christ was honored they could adjust - after all - there were probably some things about them that their sister, brother, mom, or dad didn't like but put up with because they loved them. All that said, in the end it doesn't matter what I think. I have learned though that the grass is NEVER greener. But lastly, and mostly why I don't usually shed a tear over a church defection, is because there is a great chance that the defection is going to leave our church more pure. There's an element of spiritual immaturity that comes from defecting for reasons that are purely emotional and have no basis in scripture. It's not that I don't understand defection - we've done it - but we left a church, only once, for purely Biblical reasons - mostly because much of what was being preached was becoming more and more UNBiblical as each week progressed. We did confront the pastor in a mature and loving way but could make no headway, so we left. It was horrible, it was gut-wrenching and we fielded a lot of phone calls and let a lot of people down. But to not do that would have been sin on our part. I do understand being bummed about something here or something there but if we are praying for our church leaders and on our knees for our staff and pastor, shouldn't we be assuming with great confidence that the vision that is progressing is a Godly one? After all, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever but He certainly didn't perform in exactly the same way from one generation to the next. He used different people, different tasks, different approaches, all to reach the same goal... people recognizing who His Son was and to give their lives to glorify and honor Him. I find it amazing that people expect everything to stay the same in their church from year to year to year even they everyone around them is growing and changing and NOTHING else around them is staying the same. After all - stagnate anything breeds disease. We should all -regardless of age or history - be delighted to see our pastors and staff develop new ways to reach our communities for Christ. His truth doesn't change, it NEVER changes, but we do... constantly.

Which leads me back to being 46. I've never been more excited than I am now to see the man God is bringing to our church. We have been just under a year without a Senior Pastor and it's been harder than I had ever dreamed. I have been more disappointed in my fellow believers than I thought possible and disenchanted with the lack of trust, faith, and confidence that so many around me have displayed openly without hesitation. I have prayed for our Pastor Search Cmmt. I have prayed for the man that God wants for our church, therefore, I am assuming that should our cmmt follow God in His leading, the man that He blesses us with is exactly who we need to bring us through this time in our spiritual journey. Is he going to "move our cheese"? Absolutely, and I hope he does. It's his job to look at where we are and to encourage those who are doing a great job and to speak honestly to those who aren't. For anyone to expect less is only encouraging our church toward the Corinthian model. I want God to send us a Paul, nothing less will do.

So, although my life experience pulls me toward emotional responses, I must resist. Nothing good comes from that. I don't discount what I've experienced in anyway. Understanding people at their most vulnerable is important, but leading them down a path of destruction is unforgivable. Those of you who know me... know me... Those of you who don't, or have yet to spend quality time with me will be able to count on at least one thing. I will let you cry on my shoulder until the tears dry up and then I will tell you how to get yourself up off the couch and on toward living a life that is Christ honoring in spite of what brought the tears in the first place. Well, maybe I won't wait for the tears to dry up...