Thursday, July 28, 2011

On Drowning and Falling Apart

At the beginning of this summer I read an article about drowning. I learned some facts I never knew...some signs to watch for in my children while they're swimming. You see, drowning doesn't look like drowning. The article says, Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect...There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.

In much the same way, people who are falling apart often don't look like they're broken. Our view from the outside is usually, If they look fine, they are fine.

Someone who's drowning is not going to stop, look at you, tell you they're drowning, ask for help, then go back to drowning.

Someone who's falling apart usually isn't going to stop the breaking process, tell you their deepest secrets, tell you they're falling apart, ask for help, and go back to falling apart. We usually find out when the damage is done:

an addict ends up in rehab
a couple divorces
sickness has claimed a life
a child is behind prison bars
a family member is dead at the hands of another.

We're often left wondering why they didn't tell us they needed help. Maybe it's because they couldn't. Sometimes when you're in over your head, you can't think clearly enough to take the appropriate measures to save your own life, much less ask for help.

We, friends, family, churches, need to make ourselves aware of the signs of falling...drowning. We need to get out of our comfort zones when something doesn't seem just right with another, and ask if we can help. We need to be prepared to step into the waters, and make ourselves available to help the drowning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ultimate Father

In the deepest heart of every person, God planted a longing for himself, as He is: a God of love. - Eugenia Price

My life changed when I grasped that God is loving and good. He's the ultimate Father.

I know there are many other characteristics to describe God, but good and loving Father is the concept to which I cling. Everything He does is based on His goodness and His love for His children.

I used to think of God as an abusive Father: one who sat on His throne in anger, waiting for me to mess up so He could dole out His wrath. I thought He couldn't wait to say, I told you so! as He watched me writhe in anguish at the punishment and consequences he heaped upon me.

It took an act of complete selfishness on my part, inflicting injury on others, for me to see God as good and loving.

My sin was not without consequences, but in my opinion, they should've been much worse.

What I received from God shocked me: 
  • forgiveness instead of wrath
  • gentleness instead of anger
  • mild consequences instead of a tornado of punishment
  • faithfulness instead of abandonment
  • mercy instead of vengeance
  • compassion instead of condemnation 
I'm so thankful that God revealed Himself to me as a good and loving Father.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." (Lamentations 3:22-23, ESV)




Monday, July 25, 2011

Running Out Of Time

My baby girl turned seven on Saturday. While she hasn't been a baby for a long time, the number seven seems so big girl. My middle daughter will turn nine next month, and my first born is eleven. I've been out of the baby stage for a long time, yet it seems like it was just yesterday that I was changing diapers, washing bottles and cutting the paci.

Reality forced itself into my brain this weekend about where we are as a family, and where I thought we'd be by now.

I remember a conversation Mark and I had a few days after finding out we were pregnant for the first time. We talked about how important it was for us to raise our family in a Godly home. That picture today looks a lot different than it did back then.

Looking back over the past eleven years, right up until today, I'd say we've failed even though we've done a lot of the "right" things. Oh, we take them to church almost every Sunday; we pray before dinner {if we happen to all sit down together}; we say bedtime prayers on a hit-and-miss basis; we go through spurts of memorizing Bible verses; and we talk about why we believe what we believe.

But I can't say with certainty that we're raising our girls in a Godly home. I think we've focused so much on the do this, don't do that that we've missed teaching them the heart of it all: loving Jesus and loving others.

I'm suddenly frightened that our teachable time with them is running out. It won't be long before they're asking for car keys and preparing for college admission tests.

Today I'm putting the list of do this, don't do that on the back-burner. Instead, we'll focus on loving Jesus and loving others. We'll not worry so much about a list of rules that satisfies a religious quota I had on my brain twelve years ago.

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies.
(I Corinthians 13: 1-8a, The Message)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Sin Management Program

I admit it: I'm not much of a manager, nor am I very organized. I'm not one of those people who keeps a running to-do list and checks off each completed task. Most days I don't manage my children very well, much less household chores.

This week I've come across a new-to-me term three different times, in three different places: sin management.

The first time I read the term, I wondered what it meant. The second time I read it, I thought I should probably check it out. The third time I read it, I knew God was wanting my attention on the subject. I had a vague idea of what the term means, but I needed something to compare it with to help me better understand. So I decided to do a little research on time management.

Generally, time management refers to the development of processes and tools that increase efficiency and productivity. (

Hmmm...I realized that time management is something I strive for {especially during the school year}, but rarely succeed at. Honestly, my household is usually running around like crazy people when we're trying to get somewhere on time. It's only on rare occasions that I call myself efficient and/or productive. I say all that to demonstrate my lack of {time} management skills.

There are all sorts of other management skills: anger management, business management, pain management, stress management, etc.

The common theme of management is control. Sometimes we are managed by others; and other times, we manage people or circumstances. Effective management means there must be set goals with plans to achieve those goals. Often a contingency plan is required in the event that something goes awry with the first set of plans. And in order to achieve the goals at all, action is required.

Whew! That makes me tired just thinking about it!

Okay, so now that we've somewhat established that management uses goals, plans, and actions to control certain scenarios or circumstances, let's move on to that nasty little term sin management.

When I attended a Christian high school, I had to sign a pesky little sheet of paper at the beginning of the year. That paper stated that I would not engage in any of the listed activities the school deemed as "sins." My signature was supposed to guarantee my agreement to the school's rules {or perhaps a better term would be their sin management program}. Fear of punishment for breaking the rules is about the only thing that made me stick to my signed agreement.

As an adult, my fear of God's anger over my sin, as well as the swift and sure consequences He would heap upon me, kept me in a sin management program. But, remember, I'm not a great manager. Unfortunately, I felt I could never do enough or rid myself of enough sin to make God happy with me. So I focused my attention on managing other people's sins, which by the way, didn't work out too well either.

Eventually, I was so disheartened with endlessly trying to be sinless for God's approval and acceptance that I dove headfirst into a sinful lifestyle.

One day, I fell face-first on the floor, and told God I couldn't be a good enough Christian. Actually, without even realizing it, I was telling Him I couldn't manage my sin anymore. Basically, I left my striving {and all the guilt and shame that accompanies failed striving} at the foot of the cross. I had to stand up from that moment, trusting that the moment I entered relationship with God, He forgave all my sins (past, present and future).

What I'm realizing is that trying to control, or manage, sin is nothing short of ridiculous. When we give up the sin management program and realize no amount of sin control will cause God to love us more, we can trust Him to guide us. We can hand over control to God, and as a result, live in the loving, intimate relationship with Him for which we were created. Since I entered a covenant relationship with God, He no longer sees my sin when He looks at me; He sees Jesus.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. (Galatians 2:19-21, The Message)

I've only touched the tip of the iceberg on the subject of sin management. I'm reading quite a few articles and books on the subject, so I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on it later. I mainly just needed to process what I've learned so far. If you have thoughts/opinions on the subject, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finding Church

Organized religion has really begun to cause my skin to crawl lately. I can't put my pointy finger on why, but there's something going on inside of me that is screaming for more. Something deeper. Authentic. Without boundaries of time, dress code, or any other traditional church-y remnants.

Maybe it's that I'm finally starting to learn what it means to be the church, not just be in church. I understand the importance of gathering with a body of believers, but this question begs an answer of me lately:

What good is gathering with a body of believers if we never get beyond the walls of the church building?

I've been in church, as my momma would say, since nine months before I was born. And this I know:

Lost people are not knocking down the doors of the church building, hoping to get inside for a Sunday morning service!

Why is that?

Maybe it's because they don't want the pressure of finding clothes appropriate enough to meet the local church's standard. Maybe it's because the difference they see in us and them is only as high as our turtlenecks, or as deep as our layers of makeup. Maybe it's because we try to confine worship to one hour on a Sunday morning, so maybe what we call worship isn't really God's idea of worship at all.

Maybe, just maybe, if we were truly experiencing God, lost people would be knocking down the doors, if for no other reason, to see for themselves what all the fuss is about.

But, I fear the Americanized church doesn't have a clue what it means to be the church. To be the hands and feet of God. I'm in my mid-thirties, and I'm just now starting to learn. And it's not because some church, some ministry, some person taught me; but because I have been begging God to show me what it really means to love.

And I'm finding that loving means moving beyond the church walls, seeking the lost. And in all honesty, I'm fearful to invite the lost in to church, where people are only given so long before the ultimatum of shape-up or ship-out is silently delivered.

So for me, these days, I'm finding church in the most unexpected places, the least of which is inside the walls of organized religion.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I've experienced a lot of doubt and questioning over the last couple of weeks.

But God...

faithful, as He always is, has wrapped me in perfect peace.

The more I focused on the doubt and questions, the more I doubted and questioned. I think questioning is good, but when it gets to the point of creating confusion, it's gone too far.

I finally decided I'd doubted and questioned enough over this particular subject that kept presenting itself. I had to trust God's Word and the interpretation of it He'd led me to understand. And through others, He confirmed that understanding.

This morning I was thinking about the peace I've had over the last couple of days. Isaiah 26:3 came to mind:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

I realized when my mind is set on Him, on trusting Him, instead of being set on doubts and questions, peace prevails.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'd written a long post about how volunteering at a ministry is changing me.


I didn't save it, and lost the post.

So, I'll sum it up in one sentence:

In doing ministry, my prayer has changed from Use me to Change me.

What's your prayer when you do ministry?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Looking Back

I used to think my job as a Christian was to be a spiritual police. I actually looked and listened for someone to be wrong. And when I found someone I believed to be wrong, I jumped on my spiritual high-horse and chased them away. I was quick to "correct" others. The angrier I made people, or the more hurt I inflicted, the more justified I felt in being right. And everything was either wrong or right, black or white. No gray areas.

I offended many people over trivial issues, and took pride in it. I wanted to be a martyr, and looked for ways to become one. I loved a heated debate, and would twist another's words just to start an exchange. I almost always had Scripture on hand to back me up, and I dared anyone to argue with me.

I look back and realize my "job" was nothing more than my pride on display. I often think about the people I hurt and offended. My pride was more important than their well-being or my relationship with them. Being right was more important than being loving. Oh, how my heart aches at the people who may have needed love and encouragement, but received anger, arrogance and bitterness from me. What I didn't realize was that my self-righteous attitude was a stumbling block to others, not a help.

In my desire to be proven holier than everyone else I knew, I studied Scripture for the sake of knowledge. I didn't study to be transformed. I never thought it possible that I could actually sin. I was aware of my tendency to gossip, my little white lies, my "acceptable" sins, but I justified them because almost everyone else I knew committed those same sins. Oh, yes, I would tell you that I was a sinner saved by grace, and I would claim humility, but the truth was that I really didn't see myself as capable of sinning.

The turning point...

Temptation crept in almost unnoticed. The more tempted I was, the more I thought I could handle it. After all, I was a spiritual police. I didn't think I was capable of actually sinning beyond the "acceptable" sins.

In a matter of weeks, I was among the worst of sinners. Life as I knew it was over. God relentlessly pursued me, and used some very humble and genuinely encouraging people to sustain me. The next few years were filled with brokenness and humility; with experiencing grace and mercy in ways I'd never before known. My life became less and less about being right, and more and more about extending grace.

I can now truly admit that I'm far from perfect. I've committed sins among the worst of sins, and God covered them with His grace and mercy through Jesus.

Grace showed me that being right is not important; loving others is. God taught me that He is sovereign, which means He can take my wrongs (both intentional and unintentional) and use them for my good and His glory. In this journey with Him, I've found peace and joy I didn't previously know. I've found freedom in not always being right. I've found that God grants mercy and grace to cover and protect me and those in relationship with me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forgive Me

Angry, defensive, smack-dab-in-the-midst-of-sin...Christians, church members.

God has burdened my heart for these. Even in the midst of arrogant sin and hard-hearted denial, I know they'll eventually break. And when they do, it will feel as if the world is crashing down around them. Guilt and shame will overwhelm them. And they'll feel like there's not a single Christian they can turn to for help.

I. know.

So forgive me if my heart breaks with them. Forgive me if I don't tell them, repent or else. Forgive me if grace and mercy are all I have to offer them. Forgive me if I gently encourage the breaking of sin instead of breaking off fellowship. Forgive me if all I know to tell them is that God loves them no. matter. what. they've done. Forgive me if I tell them that God can use them again, maybe now more than ever. But it's all I know...because I've been there.