Friday, June 29, 2012

Crows And Spiritual Bullies

My front yard has been a bit of a playground the past few mornings, and the bullies are in no short supply. Black crows have been littering the yard, strutting around with chests puffed out, pecking the ground. I don't like them to begin with, but on Tuesday morning, they particularly annoyed me. A squirrel was scampering around, minding his own business when one of the crows decided to pester him. The squirrel ran a few steps away, but the crow just wouldn't stop. In fact, a few of his buddies joined him, and they ganged up on the squirrel. Finally, the squirrel had had enough, and jumped in the air to defend himself. Eventually, the crows returned to strutting and pecking, leaving the squirrel alone.

The scene reminded me of one in which I've been on both sides: that of the spiritual bully.

I've been the one to spout off my beliefs with pious arrogance and sarcasm with little concern for the person on the receiving end. I remember someone once telling me that my Jesus was an a**hole. Of course, I was immediately offended and told the person so. Looking back, I can see his point. My concept of Jesus was limited and skewed. I didn't leave room for Jesus to be be gracious or merciful or loving or miraculous or good or...{steady yourself}! I painted an ugly picture of Him for people to see based on my limited understanding of Him.

I've also been on the receving end of spiritual bullying, aka speaking the truth in love. I may be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure when namecalling begins, the truth is no longer being spoken in love. I tried to ignore the attacks, then I tried to defend myself. After much prayer, I eventually had to remove myself from the situation.

You see, Jesus is more powerful and works in more than ways than many Christians believe. We try to fit Him into the confines of our neat, little boxes and wrap Him up with our chosen theology, but sometimes He just blows all that away! To argue otherwise is pointless.

I don't know if there's ever been a time when spiritual bullying actually brought someone to Jesus, but I can think of many when grace and mercy did so. As a Christian who's been on both ends, I have to say that arguing {or debating} issues often does more harm than good. People are more receptive to the love of Jesus, His grace and His mercy than to holier-than-thou attitudes. Even Proverbs 16:24 says, Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Isn't that what this world needs? Healing from the Healer. Our words and attitudes can often lead them to Him or away from Him. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Simple Lesson

Whitewash won't hold up a fence. - Woodrow Kroll

My husband builds fences. All kinds. Wood, chain link, ornamental... They all have something in common: posts that are deeply, firmly concreted in the ground. A foundation of sorts. They're what hold up the fences. Without the posts, the fences won't stand, no matter how pretty they are.

On occasion, he repairs fences that are falling over because the builder didn't install posts deep enough in the ground.

It makes no difference if a fence is painted; whitewash, paint or stain (in essence, the appearance) has nothing to do with the structure and upholding of a fence.

What a simple truth, yet powerful lesson for the Christian to learn.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Except Jesus

Lately I'm struggling with being a Christian. Similar to past instances, I'm struggling again to find where I fit.

I love Jesus. He's my life. And I don't say that in a pious, holier-than-thou kind of way. I say it in a desperate, I-need-him-every-single-second-because-I-know-what-I'm-capable-of-without-him kind of way.

Yet Jesus doesn't seem to be enough for many Christians. Moralism is the added factor.

This weekend, as I witnessed another Christian's complete lack of grace while spewing pious, arrogant moralism, I commented: If they claim to be Christian, I don't want to be one. In another instance where someone was {understandably} completely disheartened by Christian moralism, I became frustrated and angry with the seemingly whitewashed tombs: Does the heart even matter?

I don't think I fit in the game of religion. Nor do I want to. Unfortunately, sometimes it's to the point that I want to forget it all. I want to throw my hands in the air, run away from the church, and pretend I never knew a thing about being a Christian.

Except Jesus.

He's the reason I don't completely lose faith. He's why I persevere. He's why I hope...why I write...why I sing...why I believe that maybe, just maybe, He's going to use all this struggling.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Are Part Of The Story

When I hear or read someone discounting story, I perk up to pay attention. While it's true that "God and His Word are enough," as I recently read, it's important to remember that God gave us story...His Story. We are part of The Story. And we have stories to tell. Stories He wants us to tell...and hear.

The Bible is full of stories. It is The Story...of loving redemption. I love reading about Abraham, Noah, David, Peter, Paul...their stories. I love reading the story of Jesus...healing the sick, hanging out with the outcasts, throwing a righteous fit in the temple, performing miracle after miracle, and most importantly, saving us. They're the most important stories ever told.

But the stories don't stop there! Jesus is still redeeming and performing miracles, and we have a responsibility to share those stories. We need to hear them...because if His Word is alive and active, stories are still taking place. Otherwise, His Word is a book of stories that once took place, but are no longer valid to us today.

We can point a lost world to the Bible; but most often, it's our stories...our telling of Jesus' redeeming work in our lives...that will point someone to His Word in the first place.

Call me crazy, but I believe God can speak whenever and however He wants to speak, not just through the Bible. Yes, His words will line up with The Word, but let's not discount when He speaks to us in a way other than through reading His Word.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank You And A Few Pics

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night... (Psalm 92:1-2 ESV)

Yesterday was thrilling and overwhelming. While I didn't know what to expect, the day was more than I could've imagined. It was amazing to watch and listen to the creative process of the team of talented musicians. I was more than humbled to even sit among them. The result so far is fabulous, and I am growing more and more excited about sharing the songs with you!

Thank you to all who prayed and offered encouraging words! I am beyond blessed to have you all in my life!

My producer, George Vinson

George is also an uber-talented guitarist!

My favorite photographer, Sherry Thomas
of Synergy Photography
Musicians Eugene Bates and Jim Pollard
Jim doing what he does...

I am soooo excited about this one!
An incredibly talented team

Monday, June 18, 2012


The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (Psalm 138:8, ESV)

Today I am excited, overwhelmed and nervous. It's taken ten years for today to arrive. I can't even begin to comprehend God's goodness in creating this day. His unconditional love washes over me anew today.

Ten years ago God placed a dream inside of me to write and sing. I've had glimpses of that dream. But mostly it's been distant, until last year, when I gave it up completely. I was content to write here on my blog.

But when God births a dream, He shapes and molds it, and fulfills it in His time. It may not look the way we imagine or plan. Today is proof.

Today begins the recording process for the music project He unexpectedly placed in my hands. I am almost speechless over how God is willing to use the mess of my life for my good and His glory.

It's a surreal feeling to know that later today I'll be sitting in a studio listening to the musicians record tracks to three songs. And not just any songs, but songs that speak my heart: to see people be captured and freed by Love and set in a place where He makes all things new.

More than any other emotion I feel today, I am most grateful that God's steadfast love endures forever, and He has not forsaken the work of His hands in my life.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sarah's Laughter

The story of Abraham and Sarah has captivated me for several years. Honestly, I've been much more intrigued by him than her. But as I was thinking about Sarah today, God's grace once again was evident.

If you're familiar with the story at all, you know God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. After years and years of waiting, it appeared that God might not make good on His promise. After all, they were in their nineties. A little too old to be having children {quite the understatement, I know}. But as the Lord spoke to Abraham one day, Sarah was eavesdropping:

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

I love that Sarah laughed. And not a funny, ha-ha kind of laugh, but a how-ridiculous-is-that kind of laugh. A mocking laugh. To say Sarah was a little skeptical and cynical might be another understatement. Can you just picture her inside her tent, listening to the conversation going on outside? When she heard that she'd have a son within a year, I bet she rolled her eyes and shook her head! What I think is interesting is that Sarah laughed to herself. Apparently, she didn't laugh loudly or boisterously, but God being God heard her anyway and asked Abraham why she laughed.  

I love His next question: Is anything too hard for the Lord? Then He restated what He'd already promised. By that time Sarah had apparently stepped out of the tent and was denying her laughter. I imagine it more like this: Who? Me? I didn't laugh. I don't know what you're talking about. His reply was true, gentle and swift: No, but you did laugh. And with that, the awkward situation was over.

But the promise...oh, the glorious promise...was just beginning! You see, it didn't matter that Sarah was old, that her faith waivered, that she was cynical, or that she lied. God had a plan, and it didn't depend on Sarah. His plan was to use her to fulfill His covenant promise.

How many times have we thought our circumstances or our behavior could put a halt to God's plans and promises? How many times have we rolled our eyes, laughed, and said to ourselves, God surely doesn't mean me?

I'm so thankful God's grace and His promises don't depend on us!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Phone Calls And Calling To God

Photo by G. Vinson

I'm a bit addicted to my phone. Truth be told, I'm a bit addicted to communication with the outside world. Maybe it's because I've spent the last eleven years being a stay-at-home mom with little adult interaction. Whatever the reason, I spend a lot of time on social media sites and on the phone.

I'm quick to pick up the phone and call friends or family when I have news {good or bad}, when I just want to talk, when I have a question, when...

God has been repeatedly placing a verse in my face over the last several weeks:

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jer 33:3, ESV)

I'm slow to call to God. I think it's because I'm accustomed to receiving an immediate response to my communication with people. God is not always quick or audible. Sometimes He speaks in the quiet, in a whisper, and certainly, in His timing. However, the promise remains in the verse: Call to me and I will anwer you. And not just any old answer; great and hidden things which we didn't know.

I call others before calling to God who holds great and hidden answers!

Answers to my unresolved questions.
Answers to my whys and hows.
Answers for every problem and circumstance.
Answers no one else can provide.

Still...I'm slow to call to Him. And those times when I do call to Him, I am {for some reason} repeatedly amazed when I receive great and hidden answers!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Walking Among The Dead

I grew up walking among the dead...quite literally. As a child, my family lived near a cemetery. In addition, my daddy worked for several years at a funeral home. As if those two facts alone weren't enough, my grandmother lived in the apartment atop the funeral home for about ten years. Just across the hall from her apartment was the room filled with casket samples. Between playing hide-n-seek in the cemetery, riding to school in a hearse, roaming the halls of the funeral home, and making bouquets out of the left-over burial flowers, being among the dead was no big deal.

Most people cringe at the idea of being near a dead body. Certainly, cemeteries are no place for children to play. And riding in a hearse? Well, nobody wants to do that. But like anything else, when you're around something long enough, you become accustomed to it. Our senses dull to the strangeness of it all.

Maybe it's why we aren't shocked when the church gathers and sings "My chains are gone," yet everyone looks as if they've never lived a day of freedom. Maybe it's the reason we're okay with neglecting our God-given dreams. Maybe it's why we settle for endless, mindless chit-chat, never scratching beneath the surface.

We're walking among the dead. And we don't even recognize it.

But there are some who awaken to life. And when they do, they want to run for their lives! They want to find others who've awakened, who've emerged from walking among the dead. And they cling to Life as if their very existence depended on Him.

I don't want to walk among the dead with my senses dulled. I don't want to settle for mere existence. I want to be among the living. I want to experience life and freedom.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fifteen Years

Fifteen years ago today, I stood atop the church steps waiting to enter the double doors. I felt nothing short of a princess in my elegant white dress, elbow-length gloves and handmade veil. My prince and fairytale life were waiting for me at the altar. At 21, I was naieve enough to believe that marriage would be perfect. And it was...until we almost missed our flight to our honeymoon destination. It didn't take long for stress to become a factor in our marriage. I guess that's true for any marriage.

I look back over fifteen years and realize that fairytales are just that...fairytales. More importantly, I realize that love never fails. Our marriage has been marked by breathtaking mountaintops; deep, dark valleys; and everything between. When my husband would've been totally justified in washing his hands of me, he extended grace and mercy. He, more than any pastor or Bible teacher, has taught me of God's unconditional love.

Today I'm celebrating fifteen years of being married to a man who is rich in love, grace and mercy. He's my best friend and my biggest encourager.

Mark, thank you for fifteen years of growing in love together! Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

About Not Writing

I don't consider myself a writer. But I think I've recently had some form of writer's block. I stare at a blank screen for hours...literally. I spend all day thinking about what I'll write for the next day's post. Nothing much write-worthy comes to mind. And what might be worth writing about just gets stuck in my brain. I can't force the words to my fingertips in coherent sentences.

My friend reminds me of some Bono saying (and I'm probably terribly misquoting): When you can't seem to write, write about that.

So here I write...about not writing.

I looked back through my archives to last June, and realized I didn't write much then either. Maybe the issue is adjusting to having the girls home all day, every day for the summer. After all, I am apparently now their primary source of entertainment.

In addition, I'm working on a project that's requiring more brain cells than I think I have. It's stretching me mentally, spiritually and creatively. I've been consumed with everything from excitement to anxiety over this project, and mentally switching gears to write about something different hasn't been easy.

All that to say...

Writing is one of my passions, and I find it terribly frustrating when I can't express myself through written words. It reminds me of my life before I found outlets for my God-given passions. The one word that describes those years is trapped. So when words...good words...finally flow, I experience relief, elation!

So today I write about not being able to write...simply because I have to write.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Does It Make A Difference If We Post Or Tweet That We're Not Reading That Book?

I used to take strong stands for and against issues. In fact, those stands pretty much made up who I was. If someone didn't agree with my stand, I'd debate to defend it. If I couldn't win the debate, I'd wash my hands of those who disagreed with me. Tolerance wasn't on my radar. I didn't have a clue about grace. And love had nothing to do with real-life issues.

I was annoying, to say the very least.

I've been reminded of my former self over the last few days. I remember filling my Facebook feed with political crap; stuffy, religious jargon; and stands on issues that now make me cringe.

There's a popular romance novel that's been classified as erotic fiction. A Christian blogger has written a post as to why she's not reading this particular book, and has asked her readers to post to Facebook or Twitter that they'll not be reading it either. I've seen quite a few of these posts. It's how I found the blog in the first place.

I don't really have an opinion of the book. In fact, I'd not heard of it until I started seeing the posts and tweets. I might read it; I might not.

What I find interesting is that we as Christians are quick to stand for or against a cause, forgetting that real people are involved. Let's face it: the world doesn't care if we post or tweet that we're not going to read that book. In fact, they're just going to think we're a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites, and they're not going to listen to a word we have to say. I don't blame them!

Our message might be well received if it were as simple as love God, and love others. If we actually put that message into action, lives might be changed. I'm pretty sure a post or tweet announcing that we won't be reading a book isn't going to bring a lost world to Jesus.