Thursday, June 30, 2011

For Today

Much like a candle whose flame is not extinguished until it reaches the end of the wick, religion leaves the soul 
burned out.

Like music flowing from a well-trained musician, so are the unforced rhythms of grace: free and light.

(My response to Matthew 11:28-30)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The Message puts some Scriptures in whole new perspective for me. As I was reading Psalm 51, a couple of verses jumped out at me, and I responded with, Yes, that's my heart's cry:

Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. (v. 13)

Going through the motions doesn't please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don't for a moment escape God's notice. (vs. 16-17)

Over the past few days, my beliefs have been called into question, creating doubt in me. I've questioned God's grace, His goodness, His forgiveness and His mercy. I took my questions to Him.

Have I got it all wrong, God? If this is not who you are, show me.

Each time I prayed and searched His Word, He reminded me of the moment I was face down on my floor, weeping and begging for His grace and mercy. He reminded of the many people He's put in my path that He's prompted me to share my grace story with. He reminded me that He was gentle and merciful in the consequences He gave me.

He reminded me of my relationship with Him.

Then He gave to me the above verses. And my heart cries, Yes! I want to keep sharing His story in my life so that others can find their way back to Him. Yes! After so many years of performing, I'm finally learning "God-worship," and I never want to go back.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Job Opening: Hope

The more I communicate on a deeper level with people, the more I realize this one thing: people just want hope. Hope that God loves them. Hope that there's something more than conflict and pain. Hope.

For so long, the church has offered hope, but with stipulations. As if God's love displayed through Jesus' life, death and resurrection is not enough. If Jesus is not good news and hope, I don't know what is.

For some reason, we often want to pretend that we still live under the Old Testament law. That we all must measure up. That we holier-than-thou-Christians must be the voice of doom and gloom to those living in sin.

If all that were true, there was no need for Jesus.

I'll get personal for a minute. While I've not yet shared my story on my blog, I've referenced it often. I don't dance around the fact that while a Christian, and while being heavily involved in church ministries, I was living a lie. I was living in nothing short of a lifestyle of sin. That being said...

If someone had come to me during that time with a self-righteous, obnoxious attitude, telling me how wrong I was {which I already knew}, I probably would've turned a deaf ear. I probably would've left the church altogether. I'm thankful no one knew about my sin at the time because I'm pretty sure that would've happened.

All that to say, I now frequently communicate with others involved in the same type sin I participated in. I talk to people who are smack-dab in the middle of gross sin. And, you know what? They KNOW they're in sin. They don't have to be told what they're doing is wrong.

I've watched as some of these people made it through to the other side...the place where they've received redemption, reconciliation. And, along the way, I prayed for them, and encouraged them. I offered words of hope...that God loves them no matter what, and they could run to Him for forgiveness. I didn't have to warn them of consequences because they already knew they'd have to pay them. I gently shared my own consequences just to let them know they weren't alone.

I write all of this because, for some reason, people of the church often feel it's their job to make sure to chastise and condemn people living in blatant sin. Not so. Our job is to share with them the good news, the Gospel of Jesus. Our job is to encourage others to live in a love relationship with God which leads to repentance. We don't need to try to extract repentance from sinners. We don't need to heap guilt and shame upon others.

The Holy Spirit exists for a reason...He doesn't need us to do His job.

We only need to offer hope in a living, loving, good and faithful God...the Father of all fathers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Accounting

Some might call me weak. Some may say my faith is watered down. Some surely find fault with the measure of grace which I desire and pour out.

But it is this very grace that has changed transformed me.

The old me, who was quick to speak and slow to listen, who was prideful in my goodness, who was assertive in my opinions, who spouted off my beliefs without considering another's, who was obnoxious to the point of damaging other Christians and non-Christians alike, is mostly gone. Traces, unfortunately, remain. But I hope I am mindful.

You see, it's not some book by an author, some song by a musician, some sermon by a pastor, or some advice from a friend who brought about this radical change in me.

This change is nothing short of God's grace poured all over me, and the desire He placed in me to see it poured out on others. The grace for which I fell flat upon my face, weeping and begging.

And until you've experienced that same grace that cleanses filth, you may never understand me. But be faith is strong, my love is real, and the grace I offer comes from none other than Christ alone... from the same Jesus who did not cast stones at a sinful woman, but instead, offered her redemption...from the same Jesus whose anger was often directed at the Pharisees who were nothing but hypocritical.

Think not that I am weak or that I am led astray. Think only that I am striving to live by the grace which was lavished so abundantly upon me.

And if along the way, by design, God uses some book, some song, some sermon, or some advice to grow my faith, I am forever grateful to the ones who were obedient enough to Him to make it available to me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Be careful when you come down our street. There are police everywhere. I can't get past.

What's going on? I asked into the phone as I grabbed our fast food from the drive-thru cashier.

I'm not sure. It's at the top of the hill.

Oh no. I wonder if something's happened to one of those little boys. You know when you come up the hill it's hard to see them when they're in the road. I wonder if somebody topped the hill too fast.

I don't know. I'll see you in a minute.

On the five-minute drive to the house, I imagined every possible scenario. Except the one that actually happened.


I found out what happened from the neighbors.


The boys' mom is dead. Apparently, their step-dad killed her.


That's all I know.

Okay. See you in a minute.

Sure enough, as the neighbors whispered up and down our street, word spread. He'd killed her. The weapon was a baseball bat.

The news rattled me. It still does.

I didn't know her. I'd seen her kids outside quite often when I'd run. But I'm pretty sure I never saw her.

I've passed house number 167 many times over the last few weeks. I've watched the plant hanging from her mailbox wither and die. I've watched the yellow tape disappear. I've seen a note on the front door. And I've wondered about her.

What was she like? Was she abused often?

Last week, apparently someone cleaned out the house. Belongings were placed on the side of the road for garbage pick up. Toys. Game chairs. A microwave. A piece of art. Boxes. Things that she probably picked out to help create a home. Her things.

As I walked and ran past that pile over the past week, I glanced every time. It felt wrong to look. That pile was not ordinary trash. It was a pile of things belonging to a woman (and her children) whose life was taken from her.

Tonight the pile was gone. Pick up was today. The reminder of a life once lived, one I never knew, is gone.

And I wonder how many more broken lives, broken marriages, angry souls, and hurting people are behind the closed doors of beautiful homes. I wonder how many people on my street alone suffer in silence. I wonder, and I pray.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How Did I Miss This?

It's common knowledge; yet, somehow, I missed it!

I knew the lineage of Jesus was filled with people who had sketchy pasts or who were "nobodys" in the world's eyes. Somehow, some way, I missed David's wife, aka Uriah's wife {which, by the way, is how it is listed in the genealogy}, aka Bathsheba.

Duh, right?

But it just never occurred to me. I guess I was more focused on David since he's the more popular figure. But, yep, she was there. She birthed Solomon. This woman who, we assume, chose to have intimate relations with the king, a man not her husband.

What a dirty, little secret David and Bathsheba had...until it all blew up in their faces. The consequences of their evil were grave....literally. The illegitimate child born to them died. David's household was filled with evil for the rest of his days. The guilt and shame they must've felt. Sheer torture, no doubt.

And, still...

David and Bathsheba are both listed in the genealogy of Jesus.

How beautiful that God took their evil, their sin, and redeemed it. What hope it gives to the woman who has blown it, who has no one to blame for her actions and consequences but herself!

Bathsheba, Uriah's wife
Bathsheba, adultress
Bathsheba, widow
Bathsheba, new wife to David
Bathsheba, mourning mother
Bathsheba, living in a household of crazies
Bathsheba, mother of Solomon
Bathsheba, listed in Jesus' family tree

Talk about a life! One sinful choice...redeemed! Redemption displayed for the rest of eternity in that one family tree!

Monday, June 20, 2011


When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten, she had to learn quite a few memory verses. I would spend time saying them with her, so I learned some of them too. Together we learned two verses that I'd previously struggled to learn:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control... (Gal. 5:22-23, NASB)

We said that verse so many times, I easily still remember it.

This summer my pastor is preaching through the fruit of the Spirit. While I'd memorized the verses, I never broke down each characteristic of the fruit, and thought about what each one meant. So far, I've learned about love, joy and peace. And what I've learned has rocked my world a little bit.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the sermon on love, and how I'm learning love. The quote from the sermon that keeps making its way through my mind is: Love uses tact, and makes others feel at ease. I think that one stays with me because I am prone to be so tact-less. I often think before I speak, and what comes out is not grace-filled. Eek! I don't like that about myself.

The quote I took away from the sermon on joy is this: Joy doesn't come from a technique; it comes from a relationship (with God). There's not enough good we can do to make ourselves feel joy. Happiness, sure. But not true, deep-down, heart-filled joy.

Then there was yesterday's sermon on peace. Oh, my! Once again, I couldn't get my pen to move quickly enough to write down the words God spoke to me through my pastor. While my pastor had five points to his sermon, the second was the one that made my hand hurt from writing: Be gentle.

Here are some quotes from that point:

  • Be flexible in dealing with others
  • A lack of respect leads to being harsh with others
  • When we don't see people created in the image of God, we will abuse and bully them
  • We don't need to point out people's failings; they already know them
  • Be thoughtful
  • Find what's good in someone, not what's wrong
  • Celebrate the progress others make

At this point in my life, I can look at that list and honestly say, I'm making progress. But for most of my life, I felt the need to point out everything I saw wrong with someone else or their beliefs. I was in no way flexible; it was my way or the highway.

After seeing my own sin and realizing my desperate need for a Savior, a slow realization came upon me: everyone struggles, and everyone needs a Savior. I soon developed a sensitivity and gentleness towards those who struggle with sin. I remember what it was like to be keenly aware of my sin, yet not caring. I also remember what it was like to be keenly aware of my sin, and crushed with guilt.

Now I understand what it means to find what's good in someone, and not point out their failings. I understand what it means to celebrate someone else's progress. After all, it's often a slow process of removing one's self from living in sin to living a grace-filled life. And it's my pleasure to celebrate every step of progress someone makes toward living in grace.

Stay tuned for patience. I'm sure the notes from that sermon will make my hand fall off! In the meantime, all this talk of fruit has me craving an orange...

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Here in the Bible belt, there's a church on almost every corner. Anytime we go somewhere, we pass a variety of them. My oldest daughter and I were headed to our own church tonight for a meeting when we saw a church we've passed countless times. As we drove past, a man was walking toward the church, carrying a guitar case. As he neared the church entrance, we gasped as we saw him fall to his knees. My first thought was that something was wrong with the man, and he was falling to the ground. Upon further inspection, we realized he was kneeling in front of an angel statue, bowing his head in prayer.

I have no idea what denomination the church is or what the significance of kneeling in front of the statue is. But in my passing, as I watched the kneeling man in my rearview mirror, my heart was pierced. His worship was obvious and with abandon. I was convicted of my lack of worship lately. I remembered how it feels to worship with abandon. And I miss it.

Sometimes I'm a slave to my flesh, especially in the summertime. Before I even realize what I'm doing, I start to worship relaxation, rest and summertime fun. My mornings go awry, and days later I realize I've not touched my Bible or prayed. Summertime entertainment has become my "little-g" god.

I'm reminded of the saying, We all worship something. It's true. Every day, every minute, we all bow down to something or someone:


It so easy to get distracted and worship the here and now, the visible. It sometimes takes reminding ourselves that God is the giver of every breath, and He alone is worthy of worship.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Childhood Summer Vacations

My childhood summer vacations were unlike those of most of my friends. Instead of heading to the beach or the mountains, we were giddy with excitement over spending a few days being brainwashed. We packed our dresses and skirts, our biggest Bibles, and little more, and drove to campmeeting. We chatted about who might yell the loudest, run the perimeter of the building, or jump the pews. We were thrilled about getting our preacher-heroes to sign our Bibles. My little mind certainly wasn't aware of the emotional manipulation that occurred every year. That realization came with adulthood.

Rules {and the consequences for not obeying them} were the hot topic. I hope God's love was shared with the hundreds of people who packed the building, but I can't remember. Mostly I remember being scared to do anything wrong for fear of being called out and embarrassed. I feared that God, in His anger, would severely punish me for any wrongdoing. In fact, what I took away from all those campmeetings was that my relationship with God was based on my performance. Even though the cross was a hot topic at those meetings, {and the subject sent the most spiritual into loud hallelujahs and amens, and caused them to run and jump until they broke into sweats, pulling out their crisp, white handkerchiefs}, I don't recall being taught that the work completed on the cross leads to freedom.

I wonder where all the convictions spewed from the pulpit, blanketing all of the listeners, came from. We weren't encouraged to seek God about personal convictions. Instead, we were all supposed to be under the same convictions:

  • women were not to wear pants or shorts
  • men were to keep short, above-the-collar haircuts
  • women were to limit the amount and color of makeup
  • no rock or country music, and certainly not the new, contemporary Christian
  • stay away from the movie theaters
  • only read the King James Version of the Bible {and it needed to be BIG; otherwise, you would be classified as ashamed}

Any deviation from the convictions led one to be shamed. All efforts were made to bring the one back into the fold. If the browbeating, guilt-laden efforts didn't work, the one was shunned and talked about. Surely, they'd never really been a Christian if they could so easily disobey the rules.

Over the past five years, as I've let go of the manipulation and brainwashing, I've come to understand that God is not who I thought He was, nor is Christianity what I believed it to be. On occasion, I will see families with a hauntingly familiar appearance. I remember feeling being different, wanting to be normal, but believing that if I was like everyone else, I would be condemned. I so desperately want to wrap my arms around young girls who remind me of myself at that age, and tell them that God is not an angry monster. I want to tell them it's okay to be normal. I want to pour grace and freedom into them. Instead, I sit and watch. I watch their oppressive spirits, and I remember what it was like to carry that burden. Sadness overwhelms me with the realization that they may never know grace. Or if they do, the road they will travel to find it will be guilt-ridden, just as mine was.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning Love

Loving...must it be learned? It comes so naturally, so easily for some. Sacrifice and humility...a way of life for some. Not for me.

The morning after the conversation, I silently talked with God. Teach me to really love...because I'm not sure I've ever really known how. Like usual, the prayer slipped from my thoughts as the day progressed. But God had heard.

The next day, I was asked to learn and sing a song for the coming Sunday. As I listened to it for the first time, I sat stunned. I clicked over to perform a lyric search. Had I heard those words correctly? If I do not love, I am nothing. I knew the text from which those words came, but I hadn't heard them in song before. And I was to listen to that song countless times over the next four days in order to be prepared to sing it. Every time I listened, every time I sang, I was humbled. Tears formed often.

Sunday rolled around, and I sang. The song fit perfectly with the sermon. The text for the sermon was 1Corinthians 13. Love. While the entire sermon was valuable, several quotes pierced me:

People can fake love.
Love uses tact, and makes others feel at ease.
Our preferences are not the standard.
Love has a delete key.
Love covers, protects, defends and encourages.
Taken from "The Fruit of the Spirit Is Love" by Buddy Gray

Sometimes this loving may have to be learned by people like me, with God as our Instructor. And maybe this learning, followed by doing {with only loving as motivation}, will lead to naturally loving:

Apathy for concern...
Condemnation for encouragement...
Harsh words for kind...
Performance for authenticity...

All for no other reason but loving.