Friday, December 28, 2012

Reflections on Christmas

Christians indignantly declaring, “Merry Christmas.”

Posts on popular media websites saying, “Jesus is the reason for the Season.”

Atheists angrily insisting that public places should not have any Christmas decorations.

It seems to me that both sides of this argument have made Christmas less about Jesus and more about whatever political agenda they have in this country. Do not get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love the lights, the trees, hot cocoa, and the way my kids anticipate Christmas morning, but I do not like the way Christian’s use Christmas as an opportunity to stand up for an angry Jesus that insists He is King.

And yet, the way this King was born was nothing but humble, nothing but low, and had nothing to do with declaring His divinity to the world. He was born in a very dirty, unclean place. Everything about Jesus’ birth was less about being a King, and more about being our Savior. Jesus never seemed concerned with proving himself; He just was. Jesus’ life was not one lived as a King, and yet was the mostly King-ly life ever lived. I wonder what Jesus would think of this brand of Christianity that obstinately insists that they are right while everyone else is wrong and going to hell if they don’t agree?

Christmas should be our opportunity to show the world the love, grace, peace, and hope that is in Jesus Christ. That we celebrate His birth because of what He has done for us, because He is good. If we are not showing His goodness to the world during the Christmas season, and instead using our own brand of judgment to tell everyone else that doesn’t believe in Him that they are wrong,  we are not really showing Jesus to the world. It is not our place to fight for political equality in Christ’s name. Instead, it is our mission to share the Good News with a world ridden with only bad news. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

His yoke is easy.

I have been feeling so weary the last two months. I cannot even really put a finger on why, but we are moving to another town, have had someone in our house continually sick for the last three weeks, and it has just been altogether crazy. There has not been time for rest.
This morning I was wide awake at 6:30 am, which is quite unlike me. I like to sleep. Sleeping is one of my favorite things in the world. I love the feeling of being warm, comfortable, with the blankets all wrapped around my head, while dreaming strange and (sometimes) entertaining things. I also have four kids and this is one of the few nights in the last week that they all slept through the night, and yet I was wide awake.

So, in my head, I said, “I might as well get up and read my Bible.”
In the last class I took for my Christian Ministry studies, one of our books made the specific point that reading the Bible can be a formational spiritual exercise for the believer. I had heard this before, but it had not captured my imagination and heart the way this was explained to me. I did not grow up in the Church, so my primary reasons for reading the Bible were:

1)     Proving that I was right about something.
2)     Um… the first one covers it.

Anyone who reads the Bible regularly knows how shortsighted and limiting reading it this way is. If we are looking to God’s Word to prove anything that we are trying to wield as a weapon against someone else, we are not reading it in a godly way. I have had this inkling that there had to be a better way to read it for the last five or six years, but I was never quite sure where to begin. It seemed like such a large task just beginning to change it, and I didn’t have the right tools.

This morning I studied by the way of Lectio Divina. I may not explain it the best, but I will attempt to. You start with reading a particular verse and note any key words or phrases that stand out to you. You read it again. Then you choose a word to focus on while reading it again. I chose the word, peace, this morning for my reading in Matthew 11: 25-30. I eventually narrowed the reading down to verses 28-30, because it is the verses that stood out to me the most. I need to lay down the burden I have been carrying. When God’s burden is so much lighter, His yoke is easy, and I am so weary. The word, tired, does not even come close to what I am feeling right now.

Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest.
Come to me, my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

There is so much to do each day that I feel like only a portion ever gets done. I now pray for peace, because the Lord is the Prince of Peace. I picture that peace being like the perfume of a flower, or the mist of the morning that comes each day here in Oregon, and I breathe it in. I picture this mist, the Spirit of God, changing me, forming me to Christ’s image. More beautiful than I can imagine, more lovely than I can fathom.
And I am met with the presence of God. I am met with humility and above all, peace. God knows the burden I carry, and He will carry it for me if I let him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

What I Learned About my Body

When I started to gain weight around almost 5 years ago now, it never occurred to me that it also meant gaining more pain in my whole body. The weight slowly crept up, and then the pain started creeping in. My back, shoulders, hips, legs, and feet were all hurting most of the time. I had developed plantar fasciitis, which can happen to anyone, but is more common about bigger people and those that have gained a large amount of weight. It hurt to do ANYTHING. I could not go walk around the zoo with my kids for a few hours before my hips hurt so bad, I thought I would double over.

I wish I knew then what I know now…. In that, when I first started working out, it hurt. It was embarrassing, because my body would not do the things I was telling it to at first. I am pretty sure I looked like an idiot, because my muscles were not trained to respond to my requests. This is why many people try things once or twice, then give up because they are not “getting it.” The truth is, you have to give your body time to “get it.” We have to train our bodies to respond to what our brains are telling it to do, and that only comes with practice.

I also wish I knew that once I got past the first two months, working out started feeling so much better than sitting on my behind all day. The more I hurt, the more I sat, the more I sat, the more I hurt. It was this awful cycle of pain that nothing ever helped. Now that I work out 4-5 times a week, something as much as 6 days a week, my body feels great. I am sore from working out, but that kind of sore feels great. If something hurts, I realize it quickly and take measures to help that pain. If there is anything I would like to convince those with chronic pain of, it’s that working out will not make it worse. It can only make it better. The more we work those muscles, stretch, and build them, the better we feel. It is just fact.

When I work out, I feel good about myself and my body. When I don’t work out, I feel like a slug or a busted can of biscuits. The harder I work, the better I feel.
So, stop making excuses, and learn to like exercise. And your goal should not be to get skinny; your goal should be to feel good about yourself and your body. It is all about feeling strong, flexible, and able to do anything we tell our bodies to do. It is all about living life free of pain. 

I am incredibly motivated by group exercise classes. My personal favorites are Zumba, Zumba toning, and Yoga/Pilates. I lift weights to burn fat and keep bone density, because these things are important for women to do. Many fitness clubs carry group classes and many even have childcare! Wow Fitness here in Lebanon is wonderful and there are some awesome teachers there by the names of Tamara and Amber. Just find what you love, and do it! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

We Think We Have Come So Far...

We think we have come so far.

After watching the PBS documentary, Half the Sky, which is also a book by Nicholas Kristoff  and Sheryl Wudunn, I keep thinking and praying about how I can help. The story goes something like this:

Women and girls worldwide are the highest number of people who are discriminated against on a daily basis because of their gender. During the first half of the PBS documentary, Sheryl Wudunn states that over the last century, more women and girls have died because of gender specific violence than every person who has died in every war over the same period of time. And yet no one talks about it. People are not aware that more children are aborted because they are female, than for any other single reason worldwide.

In America, we think that we have come so far from these problems. We think that through the liberation of women in the 60’s and 70’s, we have walked away from this problem, but we are living in a dream world. The world outside our own doors matters, because these women and girls matter to God. Christ repeatedly tells us to protect the weak, serve the poor, and plead the case of those who are too weak to stand up for themselves. And I am calling each one of us to stand up.
Sex trafficking, rape, gendercide, and female genital mutilation are not problems that are going to go away by simply policing men to behave. These problems lesson through education. The organization, The Girl Effect, is a movement that was organized to educate young girls and teach them that they can make better choices and life decisions. In Half the Sky and at The Girl Effect’s website, it talks about how when a boy is educated, the money he earns is often spend on himself. He spends it on alcohol, prostitutes, or whatever strikes his fancy each day. But when a girl is educated, makes good money at a well-paid job or career, she spends that money educating her children, feeding and clothing them, and giving them a better life. When we educate a girl, we are educating her children. And it keeps going from generation to generation.

As a mother of four boys, one might ask why I care. My boys will one day be husbands and fathers. My boys will one day have the physical strength to be violent toward women, and I am set on teaching them differently. I plan to teach my boys to value women by holding themselves accountable in the attitudes toward women. Women are not put on this earth to pleasure men; they are put on this earth to serve and love God, and walk a life of Holiness that only the Lord can give. I am going to teach my sons that all people, regardless of gender/race/sexual orientation/religious preference/or any other matter are God’s people, first and foremost, that the Lord loves and cares for deeply. What we do for the least of these, we do for the Father.

Educating people about this issue is the most important step we can take in raising awareness and helping others see the need for change. Men and women need to step up and say that treating anyone this way is wrong, and step in the gap for those who cannot speak for themselves.
I have often wondered that, over the centuries, the most popular scapegoat and person that take the brunt of all violence, is women and children. How can we stop this cycle and learn to protect them?

The Girl Effect’s Website:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Why I go to church.

I go to church. I like church. I really enjoy the people there, even if I may not get along with them all the time. It’s okay. Why? Because I do not walk away from my blood relations every time we disagree. I have argued and disagreed with my family over the years, but they are still my family. I love them regardless of whether or not we see eye to eye on things all of the time.
Some things are hard to do… some things, even though they are hard, are worth it. God tells us to live in community with the fellowship of believers (read the book of Acts if you don’t believe me). Yet, many times Christians forego going to Church because it can be hard. They seek to find a church that meets their needs, their family’s needs, or has a certain style of worship. But are any of these a good reason? What is the best reason for going to church?

My answer, although it will not be a popular one, is obedience. As adults, we expect our children to obey us, but we like to think we make our own choices. We have to show respect and work hard at our jobs, but when it comes to our personal lives we answer to no one but ourselves and maybe our spouses. We like to think we can make decisions independently of all outside influence, and it does not really matter if anyone disagrees with us, we do not really care.
But what if we should go to church, because doing so is being obedient to the one who created us? 

What if, as adults, God is asking us to be obedient, because the Lord knows what is best for us? Just as Jesus said in Luke 18:17, we must receive the Kingdom of God with the faith of a child. As parents, we know how important direct obedience from our children is. It is not because we like to hold our authority over them, but because we know what is best for them. WE know what keeps them safe, happy, and healthy. It is the same for God. The Lord knows where bad choices will take us, how they will distance us from relationship with Him, and how broken we can be in the end.

It is not easy to obey. It is not easy to be faithful in the midst of our misunderstandings, but God is asking us to do just that. If we are truly worshipping the God of the Bible, it comes with direct obedience to His will. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

When Parents Mess Up

In the last two days, I have seen at least three articles about parents who videotaped or took pictures of some questionable parenting moments. The first was a video of a toddler with a 300 pound gorilla in an enclosure, another was a two year old driving a car on a rainy highway, and the third was a picture Kate Gosselin posted on Twitter of her daughter wearing a pair of her heels.
The first one, I was pretty incredulous. Really… I have read of at least two stories of chimpanzees that attacked and ripped the faces off of people. Yes, they were chimps and not gorillas, but these animals are still wild animals. Parents should not be trying to live out their own Tarzan story. That one seems like a no brainer.
The video of a two year old driving had me wondering what everyone was freaking out about. We have let our boys sit on daddy’s lap and steer the van a time or two, but it was always in a parking lot. After watching the video, why in the world would a parent let a kid do that on a highway, at a high speed, on a very rainy day? The motivation to let the kid drive was okay, but they need to know under what circumstances that would be okay. There are safer ways to do that than on a highway.
And the third… are you kidding me? What little girl hasn’t walked around in her mom’s high heels? The picture was completely harmless and totally cute. Is it just because Kate is the number one hated parent in America? That poor woman cannot get any credit for anything she does. I feel bad for her, because if my parenting was under that much scrutiny, I think I would lose it and end up in the loony bin.
For some reason, people think it is their jobs to be hyper critical of anyone and anything that they deem is not a decision they would make. It is easy to accuse and cut down other people’s parenting choices because we are not the ones that bear the consequences of those accusations. There are times that parents obviously make bad choices, but what parent has not made a mistake or two? Who hasn’t done something they regret while parenting? We are all imperfect people, just trying to do our best. Let’s just stop and show one another some grace when it comes to our parenting, unless children are clearly being abused or repeatedly put in harmful situations. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teach Our Sons

We need to teach our sons:
The difference between women who will give them what the world says they want
And women who value themselves enough to expect marriage
That no matter what people say
All men are not stupid.
All men are not liars.
All men are not just “interested in one thing.”
That they do not have to give in to the desires of the flesh.
That to be Holy is more important than being happy.
That working hard and providing for their families is for their benefit as well.
That being a man is a good thing.
That how they treat their mothers is often indicative of how they will treat their wives.
That being active, energetic, curious, and spontaneous can be good things.
That the women of the world need their strength, stability, grace and love more than they even realize.
And most of all, that they were created to be fully loved, in the grace and power of the One who can redeem and justify them to the fullness of humanity, for the glorious work that God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ the Son and the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Women in Competition with One Another

Hello! I am back after spending two weeks with my beautiful sister during and after the birth of her amazing daughter, Aiyana Belle. I am looking forward to spoiling her!

I would like to address the trend in competing mothers who take everything from whether or not they breast vs. bottle feed, public vs. homeschool, clothe vs. plastic diapers, attachment vs. whatever parenting, natural birth vs. hospital births, and the list goes on and on. We constantly try to divide women because we have to do it “better” than the person next to us. We have to be a better mom, a better wife, and a better employee. Women are also told they need to be prettier, thinner, and better dressed than the mom “over there” as well.

At what point will women see how ridiculous this is? I have to admit; I have bought into some of these competitions myself, only to realize that it does not really matter. What really matters at the end of the day is how we actually treat our families and how we treat one another. It does not matter how good I am at being a mother, wife, and woman, if the only thing I am showing my children is the need to be better than everyone else. A woman’s drive to be great should not be externally driven by the people around us but be driven by a God that loves us and created us to be Holy.

This then brings to the forefront the real heart of the problem women deal with today. From the time we are old enough to walk, people are constantly trying to push being self-confident and having self-worth on us, thinking that if we can value ourselves enough, we will avoid eating disorders, sexual promiscuity, and truly be able to live up to our potential. Every magazine and talk show out there is trying to teach us that if we do not value ourselves, no one else will value us. But the truth is that it is hard to value ourselves based on us just being ourselves. Mostly because we know just how horrible we can truly be. If I did and said what I wanted to all of the time, I am sure I would look a lot like a toddler running around in an adult’s body. My head wants to be nice and loving all the time, but my will takes over and does the opposite. This is what Paul was saying in Romans, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out,” (7:18). Paul realizes that our minds often tell us the good, right thing to do, but our nature takes over and pulls us the other direction.

Nothing good can come from within me because of the sinful nature. So, if I am looking for self-worth and confidence from within myself, I am going to come up short, because I know just how hateful I can be. Which is why finding our worth and value in God, the Creator, is incredibly important. I cannot value myself based on who I am, but I can value myself based on who the Creator has made me to be. He is the one who Created man and woman, and saw the good in us.

I believe that when women begin to value ourselves based on who the Creator has made us to be, we can let go of the petty competitions that women are constantly trying to use to divide and best the other, and value one another’s choices and opinions. That does not mean we have to agree with those choices and opinions, but we are kind and loving enough to keep our differences to ourselves or to share them in loving ways. If the opinions and choices we share makes the other person feel ostracized and hurt, we are the ones who have wronged the other.

This also means that we are not hurt by the opinions of others, because we are confident that our choices regarding our families and lives are our own, and not based on what other people are doing. We can confidently own our choices, knowing that the best person to make decisions about our bodies, homes, and families are us! Let us affirm one another in educating ourselves, loving one another, and choosing not to compete with one another, because we are the only people that can let go of those competitions. Women ultimately need to learn to love one another more than we love besting each other.  

Friday, August 24, 2012

Where do you worship?

Today while Kyle and I were driving to the airport so I could catch a flight to Colorado to see my family, Kyle and I were discussing theology. We have started doing this often, since I am in school studying theology and in the process of learning what I believe about the Bible. As we were talking, the subject of “church shopping” came up. Being in the ministry for almost nine years (which by no means equates to us knowing everything), we have seen families come and go at the three churches Kyle has pastored at.

We often hear the phrase “I am shopping for a church,” and as much as I understand this concept, it is difficult to understand why or where people get this idea. Often many families are not searching for a place to serve; they are looking for a place to be served. They are not looking for opportunities to connect with a community; they are looking for a place that either confirms what they already know about the Bible, God, and Jesus, or they are looking for an emotional/spiritual high that gets them through whatever rough patch they are dealing with at the time.
As much as the Church can do these things, the church is not really meant to be our spiritual “Wal-Mart.” I shop at Wal-Mart often, and I know that I can go there and get low prices on pretty much anything I need or want, but there are a couple things that happen when I shop at Wal-Mart for everything.
1.     Most of the clothes are cheaply made. They do not last very long, and end up falling apart after a short period of time.

2.     I end up leaving with things I do not really need, they are just things that I want. I spend more money than I planned on spending, because I have it in mind that things are low cost.

There are a couple ways this connects to how we treat the church. Most people are more interested in what they can get inside the Church, than how they can serve, grow, learn, and be challenged. We are looking for our long held beliefs to be upheld, while the pastor gives us super good tips on how to be a better Christian. When what we really need to do to be a better Christian is to start loving people, living with them in community, and go to Church to live out the life of love we are called to by God.

The other claim I have heard is, “They just are not free or open enough in their worship.” My reply to this is if you are really interested in worshipping God, for who God is and what He has done in your life, what the other people around you are doing will not matter. If I am in church to worship God, the Creator of heaven and earth, then I am going to be consumed by worshipping Him. The people around me are with me, as the Body of Christ, to worship with me, but what they do or what they are not doing should not be the focus of my worship. My focus is on God. My worship is for God. Who we are as humans, is complete when we worship the Creator. And we can be who that is wherever we attend church, no matter what the other people around us are doing. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Black, White, and Grey

I hear many Christian people talk a lot about having the “right” to say whatever they believe, regardless of what that means to the person they are speaking against.
Many Christians seem more interested in sharing these beliefs than living them, and it makes me wonder what we are missing. Jesus didn’t say, “The greatest Commandment is to go out and tell everyone what you believe.” He in fact said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Does that include being obnoxious and insistent that what I believe is superior to everyone and everything else, and if you don’t believe it, you are going to Hell?

This does not sound like Good News to me. Good News is just that, GOOD. It does not hurt or wound people, it draws them in. It romances, courts, and moves them into a loving relationship with God. When fear is involved in the decision of whether or not to live in relationship with God, we are not sharing “Good News.”

As the political power of the fundamental right changes and slowly slips from their fingers, they will get louder and louder about how much of what they are saying is “biblical.” But the problem is, in the postmodern culture, the Bible is not the end of all truth within the world. Postmodern people think that truth can be found through relationships, experiences, and traditions that we take part in. The implicit change this needs to bring to how the Church teaches Biblical truth is we have to show them how Biblical truth applies to the experiences, relationships, and traditions they have. We cannot do this by preaching to them each Sunday; we can only do this through living in relationship with them. Just getting someone into the Church is not going to be enough in generations that question what it means to know what is truth and what is not. It has to be lived out, in and among them, for them to begin to understand.

Let us begin to navigate what it means to live a Holy life ourselves, in loving relationship with God and with others, and for this to become more important than yelling about what we believe to people that have heard it before and do not care. If we do not find a way to live truth in the world, we will lose the postmodern generations that do not view truth as black and white. Let’s start diving into the grey area and helping those that are in it navigate it with the power of the Holy Spirit in and among them. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tired of standing out.

I am tired of standing out. I realize there may be lots of people in this world that feel differently, because they have always been the wallflower, the person no one notices, and always left feeling on the outside of life, but I promise you, always standing out makes me feel just the same.

I have been singing since I was nine years old and come from an entire family of singers. When I say entire family, I mean it. There is not a person on my dad’s side of the family that is not musically inclined in some way (this is an exaggeration, but it is probably close). From the time I was a kid, people wanted to meet me. I remember being eleven or twelve and adult women asking me for my autograph for the one day I would be famous. Being able to sing, made me think that was all God had for me. I did not have any other plans for who I would be or what I would do growing up.

Please know that I am not asking for a pity party, but I want to point out that the grass is not always greener on the other side. Now as an adult, I have four boys age 1-8 years old and I would not switch them out or trade them for anything. But, we stand out. Everywhere we go, someone has to say something about me having four boys. It is tiring, it is annoying, and I do not want to answer any more awkward questions like, “Are you going to still try for that girl?” How exactly does one do that? Try for a girl, are you kidding me?

Being a Christian makes me stand out as well. I realize this is a good way to stand out, but sometimes I wish I could just blend in like everybody else. I wish I did not have to be different, think different, and want to fully trust God for who He is. Sometimes it is just tiring. Whenever I am somewhere in public and another lady and I will start chatting, the inevitable question is asked about what my husband does for a living, and as soon as I say, “he is a youth pastor,” a change comes over the person I am talking to. They seem to have this idea that they must constantly talk about godly things, being Christian, and going to church as soon as they know we go to church. This is good because I have been able to tell them about my faith, but on the flip side it is hard being treated differently because my husband is a pastor. Sometimes, I just want to be treated like a human being, just like everyone else.

Do any of you ever feel this way? Or do you feel the opposite? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Marriage, God, and how we view ourselves.

There are lies being told about what marriage is supposed to be; about the roles of men and women within marriage, and within the world. We view marriage as a relationship worth having as long as we feel like we are receiving something out of it, and we think that once it does not work for us any longer, it is time to leave. I would like to go against all of that, and say that marriage is about sacrifice, humility, love, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, peace, and most of all the ability to stick to the other through all our hard times. I would like to point out two ways that men and women need to learn and change so that the relationship can be stronger. These are my own observations, and things I have learned through my almost 11 year marriage. (Not that I have all the answers!)

Women: The world tells us that we are only here for men’s sexual pleasure, including our husbands. We view our relationships with our husbands through how well we are pleasing him inside and outside the bedroom. We think that relationship has to be us constantly serving him, without ever being served. But marriage is serving one another, loving one another, and it goes both ways. There are times that our husbands must serve us. During those times, be thankful that your husband loves you that much. A man that is able to truly humble himself, and show the Love of Christ in serving the basic needs of his wife and family is a man after God’s heart. Remember that most men do not think the way we do which is okay because we were made to be different. We compliment the other person’s strengths and weaknesses to become something whole within the framework of our family and world.  You also need to know what your identity is outside of the relationships in your life. God made you, yes you, for His will and purpose. Do not short change yourself by not asking God what He wants to do with your life. Whether that is being a stay at home mom, working part time, working full time, raising a family, or not raising a family at all, each of those things can be part of who God has called you to be.

Men: Self-control is a virtue that many of you have never been taught. I have four sons, and I have been convicted greatly about their need for being taught this. There has been this idea that men are completely unable to control themselves sexually, and I would like to take the opportunity to say that is hogwash. Through the grace of God, we are not slaves to the sinful nature of the body, and we have power through the blood of Jesus Christ to be free from sin. Sexuality is a gift from God that is shared between two people who love and are committed to one another. Women should not withhold sex to hurt the man or use it against him, and men should not expect it whenever they want it. It is a mutual, loving decision made between two people. Love your wives, treat them better than you treat your own body, and give them grace.

That is the main point… we are all in need of grace. We all fall so short most of the time of fully loving and cherishing our families. Our spouse’s feelings on this get expounded a hundred times more than that, because they are so connected to us emotionally and physically.

I do not have all the answers to having the perfect marriage; I just know that there will be good times and there will be hard times. There will be times you love the other person so much, that you do not want them to leave your side, and there will be times that all you want to do is walk out the door and never see them again. But, you will never fully get away from the other person. Who you are has become, partly, who the other person is. Learn to forgive, and show the other as much grace as you expect to be given. If you walk away now, realize that the other person will always, inextricably, irrevocably, be connected to you in some way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I work out!

In January of this year I decided to seriously start working on my weight. I was the heaviest I had ever been in my life, and with at least four Aunts or cousins who have had gastric bypass surgery, I envisioned myself going down a very bad road that I did not want to travel. We joined the gym, and I began working out.
I fell in love with Zumba and yoga, and started lifting weights at least twice a week. I started keeping track of how much I ate, and became more aware of portion sizes. I found out that I really tend to want healthy food… I love salads, cilantro, green pepper, onion, tomato, zucchini,  squash, water melon… to list a few. When eating out, I stay away from fried foods (I splurge on fried chicken from time to time, but very few and far between), and do not really like potato chips and other junk food that is the downfall of most people. My weaknesses are ice cream (which I bought for the first time this summer, yesterday) and homemade baked goods (which I do not bake very often).
I was pleasantly surprised to find that I do not eat very badly. So, why am I so heavy? Why have I only lost about ten pounds so far?

I am so tempted to join a shake club or take a weight loss pill just to lose it all as quickly as possible, but from what I read that is the least likely way to take weight off and keep it off. To take the weight off permanently, I must exercise regularly and change my eating habits permanently. I would like to have huge results in a short period of time, and every time I go to the gym without losing pounds of weight I want to walk away and do whatever I can to lose it. But: I know that persistence and patience will pay off. It may take longer, it may hurt more, and I might have to put aside my own competitive nature to do things quickly, but it will be done.

Yet, in the meantime, I am going to stop doing the following:
1.     Talk bad about myself or my body. Regardless of what I weigh, God is still good, I am still His Creation, and I will hold my head high and walk with confidence in who God made me to be.
2.     Not compare myself to others who may be losing it more quickly than I am. My journey is my own with God, and it does no good to expect the same results as the person next to me.

I would also like to point out that I want to be strong, not skinny. Healthy; not thin. I want muscle. I want to feel like I can run, play, hike, swim, and move without hurting myself. I have learned that I love working out! I like the way it feels when my lungs are burning, thighs are stinging, and sweat is dripping from my brow. I like feeling strong! I also enjoy having energy on a daily basis, and having an overall feeling of body awareness that I had lost in the last 9 years of having four children.
It might take me longer, but I am patient. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How do you read the Bible?

Is it something you run to, find a random verse or two that prove the point you want to make, so that you can win an argument? Or confirm a thought or belief you already had?

Is it like a self-help book, that gives you pointers and recommendations about how you “should” live, but you can never really live up to those standards?

Think about this, because it’s important. How you read God's Word is how you connect with Him relationally. Scripture is important in the Christian life, because it is the only place we can go to read what God’s story is. The point He is trying to make in this world.

Now stop, and think of how God speaks to each of us. He speaks through stories, experiences, traditions we have within our families and communities, and through His word. If all of those things are not coming together, to bring a whole picture to how we view God, ourselves, and others, we are missing the point. We are missing exactly what God has created us to be. God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others. Our relationship with God transforms and renews us, into being fully human and available relationally to every person we come into contact with, so that God’s love shines first and foremost in our lives.

I encourage every person reading this blog to stop and truly think about what it means to be a Christian. If what you believe makes you a Christian, how can we act out those beliefs in the world? Is just standing up for those beliefs truly being Christ to everyone?

Think deeply. Love Truly. And use the brain that God has given us to uncover the stories in His Word that give us the true meaning of what it means to be a Christian. Never stop learning, searching, and growing in the transformational grace of the Lord. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Broken Church

Let’s stop and take a minute to think about what it means to accept all within the church. Today in church, a girl with three small boys was there. I have chatted with her a few times, and she just started coming in the last few weeks. As we were chatting, she must have said at least four swear words in the five minutes we were talking. Was it surprising to me? Somewhat, but not for the reasons most people would assume.

It does not surprise me that she swore at church. I honestly did not even bat an eye. I was more thankful that she felt comfortable enough with me, as a new friend, to completely be herself in church. She did not feel like she had to be perfect to be there, have her life all together, or pretend to be someone else. She was comfortable coming to church broken, hurting, and in all her wounded glory. And there is glory in that.

When did the Church become a place that people feel they need to have it all together, to be a part of it? I have heard from other people that say, “Oh, I can’t go to the gym until I loose ten pounds.” That is ridiculous! We go to the gym to lose weight, not the other way around. People have a similar attitude with sin. They think they are not permitted in church unless they are not sinning anymore, and it is sad to me that people think that. Church people pretend to have it all together, and do not share their struggles and heartaches unless they have already come through them. Often their testimonies are all about things that have happened in the past, that God has brought them through, but can we start testifying as we are going through them? God is still good when we are broken. He is still Holy while we are hurting, and He is still God when we do not feel His presence.

Let us start sharing our brokenness more than we share our victories… perhaps people would then feel more comfortable coming to the Church in those broken times. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Evil, Sin, Suffering, and Redemption.

Last night, tragedy happened at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were shot, many injured and in critical condition, and countless others left emotionally scarred and torn from their daily lives. In moments like this, people ask God why. They wonder why God lets bad people live in the world, that would one day decide to shoot innocent people who have done nothing more than just go see a movie. We live in a country that is significantly removed from violence in our daily lives, and many view it as a form of entertainment to watch on television. It happens to other people, but not us.
But when it happens to us, we wonder what God is thinking. We wonder why the God; who is by definition, Love, lets innocent people become victims of evil. If this God that we worship is really oh, so powerful, why does He not just stop it from happening? Does He really care at all about us, our lives, and our children’s lives?
I have to premise all of this discussion on admitting that I, too, a pastor’s wife and Christian for many years, have asked these questions as well. I am now on the path to becoming a pastor myself, and there are times I still wonder. I am not going to offer all the answers here; I would just like to offer a few thoughts about what Christians typically say in this instance. We have many little cliché’s that we attempt to put on these situations, Band-Aids that we think may help, but really they just leave the person that is literally torn from the world that they knew, further away from going to the Almighty Comforter for comfort and peace.

    1. “It’s all a part of God’s plan.” Really? God’s plan is for evil to reign in this world, and for people to die unjustly, unfairly, and completely innocent? Babies get murdered, raped, and worse each and every day, and that’s a part of God’s plan? This is not the God I serve. Psalm 5:5 states, “Therefore, the proud may not stand in your presence, for you hate all who do evil.” God does not use evil people for His purpose. He brings life from evil situations, because He is God, but He does not create or use evil for His will.

     2. “I am so thankful God protected me.” Um… what about all those people that God did not protect? Did they do something bad today? Did God decide not to like them? Evil is meaningless, random, senseless, and useless. God does not protect some and let others be killed. It’s just not how it works. 

There are probably more out there, but I think I will keep it to these ones, since they seem to be the most popular. You see, God can bring life from death, light from darkness, but God is Light. God is Love, He is nothing but goodness. Suffering and evil cannot, and will not ever come from God. Suffering and evil is the product of sin in this world, because we chose to go our own way. God does not will sin; He allows sin because He wants us to choose to have a relationship with Him.
Through giving us the ability to choose Him, He also gave us the ability to create suffering for others. Because, inherently, sin is having a broken relationship with God and with others. Suffering happens because of the choices that humans have made to remain in sin. And even if we have chosen differently, the sin of other people ripples out to affect each and every one of us, in ways too numerous for us to count, for generations upon generations. All of humanity is still living in the effects of sin on the world.
Through the power of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we can claim new life and victory over sin, but we are still going to feel the effects from the sin of those around us. It is just a part of living in the broken world we live in, and there is not a Godly reason for it. It just is, because we make bad choices. We choose to sin.
So, there are two points I am going to make. People do not need to hear that it will all be okay, that it’s all God’s plan, and that God protected some to the detriment of others. What they need to hear is that there is no real reason for why it was them and not someone else. They need to know that there is no purpose for evil, no meaning behind sin, and no point in darkness. But there is new life in Christ, and Christ knows what it means to suffer; He understands how it feels to cry out to God and ask, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” Those moments are real, they happen, and do not be afraid to shout them.
But in those broken moments, when death and darkness seem that they have won, there is new hope in the light of the Resurrection. New beginnings, new hope, new peace, new joy, new love; in the goodness of the everlasting life of those reborn into the life of Jesus Christ. We are cleansed by the blood, but we are redeemed by the Resurrection. And in that life, suffering holds no sway. It holds no grip, and it holds no power.
Let us live in the hope of the Resurrection, the Light of the Living God, and the power of the Holy Spirit that lives, moves, and breathes among us. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giving, and being poor.

When I think of what it means to be poor, I think of how I grew up, and the childhood through which I lived. I very rarely slept on anything other than a bare mattress as a kid, remember many Christmases where toys were brought to our door, and living on boxes of Raisin Bran cereal for weeks on end because a huge box of it was given to us by the local food pantry. Most the time I didn’t have shoes to wear, all the clothing I needed, or very many toys, but does it bother me now that I missed out on those things? Not really. The ability to live compassionately for those who are impoverished keeps me from feeling that way.

This is not a story about “look how far I have come, and now I am rich!”  I do not really care for that kind of story, because I do not think that kind of story interests God very much. No matter how much or how little I have, every last part of it is Gods, and I will find ways to give to others and be generous regardless of my personal status of wealth. The more I have in my life, the more God impresses upon me that I need to give back. It is all just stuff, after all.

Have I given as much as I think I should give? Not all the time. I feel guilty because I feel like my life is so busy, so crazy with scheduling, church activities, and children’s school activities that I do not really have time to help anyone else. This really makes me sad, and when I find the opportunity to give, I do.
When all is said and done, how are we all living out God’s calling to serve and love the poor and widowed? I pray that every one of us never settles for doing as little as we can… I pray we attempt to do more than what we ever thought possible. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Now for my next post… I have been thinking and thinking about what it means to live a Holy life. The New Testament calls us to “be perfect, as I am perfect,” (Matthew 5:48), and so many of us have a hard time living up to that standard. We think of perfection in human terms, as in, never sinning anymore, being happy all the time, and having everything. But I am here to tell you that is not God’s definition of perfection. We cannot be perfect (Holy) as God is Holy, but we can reach Holiness in this life. If it was an unattainable goal that we just attempt to live up to, then why do it at all?

Just as I pointed out in the blog post yesterday, Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. As I have been reading in the book, The Story of God, by Michael Lodahl, he points out that the great theologian John Wesley was essentially saying “the holiness of loving God with our whole beings and loving our neighbors as ourselves. It is a perfection “in love” that dealt not with abstract or legalistic ideas of absolute perfection, but with the relative perfection of relations to God and neighbors “perfected” by love,” (26).

So, can we be perfect and Holy in the way Wesley points out? I believe so. Does that make it easy, uncomplicated, or something that happens overnight? No. It takes each and every day, pointedly calling on the Lord’s power, through the Holy Spirit, to reach to the inmost parts of our being and changing us from within. This is the transformational work of the Spirit that God has given to us on this earth to love Him and love others. This kind of love seeks to reconcile all hurts, absorb all pain, and live in community with those we might not necessarily like, but seek to love and support them in their Holiness journey.

Let us seek to include those we disagree with, love those who seem unlovable, and protect those weaker than ourselves so that we too, can live the glorious calling of our Lord Jesus Christ to take the Gospel to the entire world.

How do you show love to those you do not like? Who have hurt you beyond reason? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I was at the gym this morning doing my weekly Zumba routine, when I noticed the shirt that my instructor was wearing. It was kind of hard not to notice, since it was florescent pink with silver letters. On it, it said “LOVE YOUR LIFE”, in big bold letters. And in the middle of shakin’ it to a bass beat, the thought occurred to me, how do we present the Gospel to a generation that wants to enjoy life, live it to the fullest, and not escape from it?

In generations past, Christianity has always presented the Gospel and Salvation as an escape from life. We live our lives just to get through, it is miserable, we do not really want to be here, and we are told to take as many people with us as we can, so we are not responsible for them burning in hell. Sound familiar? And, to top it all off, if we do well on earth and take lots of people with us, we get a bigger mansion in heaven.

And heaven is the lap of luxury that we have never lived in. It is riches beyond imagining, food so delicious without a pound added to our frames, and whatever else we personally think is amazing. (For me, it is a quiet reading spot under a tree with a perfect 72 degrees).

But what if we already have all these things? What if, we have never lived in poverty, never been abused, mistreated, or neglected, and have never wanted for anything? What if, life is pretty  good? Would the Gospel really be appealing when there is nothing we want to escape from?

Most of the Christian world see’s people like Joel Osteen and we knock him for basically being a motivational speaker, who never preaches about sin or hell. I am definitely not saying those things are not a part of the Gospel, they are, but they are not the reason for the Gospel. Over and over again the Word tells us to live Holy lives, saved and redeemed by the power of God. God did not give us life to live in the expectation of escaping from it! He gave us life to love, live, and serve others. In fact, the first two commandments tell us to do this very thing! “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:37-40. If life is to be lived in love for God and love for others, where is the escape in that?

How do we offer a Gospel based on loving God and loving others, with salvation from sin and hell being an added bonus, instead of the reason for Salvation?