Name Drop, A Brush with the Greatness, Relationship

I’m not what I would consider a musician. I can play the piano some. I have family members that are musicians, which is how I became familiar with a phenomenon of the musician’s world, “Name dropping”. Name dropping is naming someone you have played music with while in a conversation with someone who may not know what level of a musician you are. The more popular or talented the musician is that you can name you have played music with/ the more talented you appear to be because of the association. All it takes is one performance/ gig with the mentioned musician and you have developed your cred.

Another game people who want to impress another might play is talking about your “brushes with greatness” Here’s a couple of mine… prepare to be blown away… #1. When I was in college I went to church with the “Miss America” of that year. She was super sweet and I’m sure she still is. #2. When my husband and I were first married and poor, we had a small duplex we rented. One time we had the then House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt’s daughter over for dinner that I cooked a meal for her in our humble abode. Long story, but she was a friend of a friend and the friend asked if I cared if she came along for the meal. Now I know you are hooked with all the credibility I have since I have spent time with some pretty famous people and on one occasion cooked for one. . Ha Ha.

I’ve been involved in this Bible study about “Abiding in Christ”. After reading today’s study on what it really means to “Abide”- live in Christ, close relationship, tight with Him, it occurred to me, so many “Christians”,including me at times, are content to “Name Drop” God instead of living in the relationship with Him. Or throw Him into the category of one of your “brushes with greatness”.

Here’s how I would define “Name Dropping God”- Saying “Yes, I believe In Jesus, I go to church at such and such place, I am most definitely there on Easter or Christmas… ” Maybe even having some religious artwork hanging around your house. OR “Brushes with greatness with God” – When I was nine, I had an experience with God, I prayed a prayer. Or 5 years ago I prayed, and God did a miracle for me, but those are my only experiences with God.” All of these are good things, but God wants to go past our “Name dropping” and “Brushes with greatness” that we have with Him. He wants us to experience Him on the regular/ daily. He wants relationship. He wants to take us from knowing of Him, to knowing Him, from feeling His occasional touch to being connected with Him like Jesus talked about in John 17:33 When He said He wanted us to realize the “I in them, and You in Me”, the interconnectedness of truly finding ourselves living in Him.

Maybe a more practical illustration would help to wrap this all up. I’ve been married for 29 years, not an easy feat in today’s world, but it has been a great 29 years, because of the “relationship” I have with my husband. We’ve been together long enough that I often know what he is thinking, finish his sentences, can predict what he will do next. And the same goes for Him with me. Now imagine if all our relationship revolved around was “Name dropping”. “My husband has street cred for being the best husband, because he can mention knowing me, but he hasn’t ever hung out with me… or “My husband is legit! One time he met “the most famous husband in the world” But he rarely sits next to me in our living room.

29 years together requires lots of time, weekends away, old people dates to Menards together, holding hands- my favorite 🙂 , working through arguments- not my favorite, being together, etc. A “name drop” or “brush with greatness” simply is not enough. We have to be as the Bible describes it “ONE”. And this is what Jesus desires from us as well. He wants us to “be in Him, and He be in Us” not just conveniently bearing His name so we some how seem “legit” spiritually and have heavenly “cred” with Him. He loves us! He wants more and may the cry of our hearts be “more of Him”!

I’m Not Superman Anymore

My oldest son Aaron lived in a land of make believe when he was 3-5 years old. He loved to dress up in costumes. So, we made sure to supply him with a bunch of them. He had a cowboy outfit complete with chaps, a vest, guns and a holster, cowboy hat, lasso, sheriff’s badge that said his name, Aaron, and boots. He had a Spider man suit. He had a hard hat and tools to be a “worker”. His favorite was his Superman suit. It was really a pair of pajamas that had Velcro to attach a Superman cape to. He would put that on and then want me to fix his hair to have a curl in the front, just like the curl on the cartoon Superman he would watch on TV. He lived in that suit. The thing about his make believe was he really identified as whoever he was dressed as that day. If I called his name for lunch, “Aaron, time to eat lunch.” He would respond, “MOM, I’m not Aaron. I’m Cowboy.” or “Batman” or “Spiderman”, etc. But “Superman” flew the halls of my house frequently. It was my duty to acknowledge him as such and keep his curl of his bangs in tip top shape.

Aaron in a serious Superman moment

One afternoon, he was invited to play next door at our neighbor’s house. When I went to get him in the evening, he threw a fit. The object of objection was his desire to wear the neighbor boy’s superman suit, even though he had one at home. He pitched such a fit that I had to drag him out of the house kicking and screaming. He did the biggest of absolute “no no’s” he took a swing at me. From what little I knew of parenting, I figured I better make the punishment fit the crime when it came time to discipline him for hitting his momma. So, I grounded him from playing at the neighbors for a while and his Superman suit. That was where it really hurt. He lived to be Superman… Each day following the grounding, he would tell me how he would be good. He would NEVER hit his Momma again. I believed him, but I had to be strong. He was grounded from his Superman suit, and he was going to stay grounded for a good while. This went on for a couple of weeks. Til, my husband came home one day from work, to see Aaron sitting on a step to our family room. With his little chin in his hands. Rich asked him, “What’s wrong son?” Aaron replied, “I used to be Superman.” There next to him was a picture of him in his Superman suit. Rich told me that Aaron had been grounded long enough. He told Aaron, “You can have your Superman suit back.” He was one happy and very well behaved boy from that point on. He never wanted to lose the privilege of being Superman ever again.

I opened my memories today on Facebook like I always do. I’ve been on there for a while. Much of my youngest son’s childhood has been documented on there, with pictures and cute sayings. Along with my oldest three kids’ teen years. It can be a memory book of sorts. Today’s memory was something that happened 3 years ago when my husband and I were very active in our local church. There was a period of time in our 7 years attending there that we had quite a few friends there, fish fries, barbeques, almost every weekend we were playing cards at one of our houses or going out to eat somewhere hanging out. There were awesome times we had of prayer, encouragement, Bible discussions, etc. We were doing life together. It was so good. Then things went awry. The church we were in went through a lot, kind of a split, and our friend base ended up going different directions. We’re all still friends, but just living out different lives than we were living back then. It hit me as I looked at that memory on Facebook from the church, “I miss those days.”

I hopped in my Jeep to run to the store, and as I was driving the memories of Aaron and his Superman suit came to me. I’m a lot like my little man all those 20 some years ago… I find myself telling God “I’m not Superman any more…” with a tear drop rolling down my cheek. Then there’s the song by Five for Fighting “Superman” that started to go through my head.

“I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one-way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
Inside of me, inside of me…
And it’s not easy.
It’s not easy to be me.”

It occurred to me; my 4-year-old son who was grounded from his Superman suit was pretty wrapped up in an identity he thought he was. I have been too. What looked like “productive” years in my Christian walk where I was being some kind of spiritual Superwoman, was also one of the times I got far away from the most important, just being me, the one who God loves. My little boy never was “Superman”. He was “my little boy”. In his mind he could fly and fight off bad guys, but the truth of the matter was he needed his momma to watch out for him and protect him from the real “bad guys” in our broken world. I didn’t love him because of some “Superman” suit he wore. I loved him because he was MINE.

Even though I dearly miss my friends and lunches at Jalisco’s every Sunday after church. I miss the card games, the fish fries, the laughter and fun and I felt “Super” back then. I know the one thing that never changed was who I was underneath my “Super suit”. I was His. I am His now. Things change, but God does not. Maybe I was “Super”, that really wasn’t what my heavenly Daddy was after anyway. He just wanted me to be what He created me to be … His beloved. He wasn’t all that impressed when I tried to fly. He just wanted me to be close to Him. That’s all that mattered anyway.

Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

Big Head/ Low Self Esteem/ Beloved- That’s Just Right

My Grandma used to say I should be careful bragging on my kids too much. She’d say, “You’re going to give them the big head”. I didn’t pay any attention to her concern, because the way I saw it, in our world a kid needs all the praise, encouraging, and bragging they could get. BUT, I do get it. Pride is an awful thing, and being a conceited little snot is not what a young mother is aiming for in her sweet little child either. Somewhere in the middle between the proud person and the person with very low self esteem is where God created us to be. Jesus called that “the meek”. Someone humble enough to yield themselves to God and understanding enough to give Him glory for all good things.

I’ve been thinking alot about Performance Based religion and true Christianity lately. It may have taken me almost 50 years, but I’ve been seeing things a lot more clearly as of late. Performance Based Religion has many roots and fruits that have been on display for Years in our world. I’ve spent my time exhibiting both the roots and the fruits in my journey with God. Spiritual pride can be one of the fruits. I’ve spent time in religious groups that thought they had it all together. You know, they were all that and a bag of chips. “Our doctrine is the most Biblically accurate, our fellowship is the closest to the Acts church. Other churches don’t get the truth like we do…” and on and on and on. Those attitudes and beliefs isolate you from a lot of Brothers and Sisters in the Church (God’s family) that may not agree with you on every little detail of doctrine, yet they still have a precious walk with God. They also set up a standard that noone can live by. “We have this truth… So we must walk in a manner more spiritual than those around us. We have to NEVER let the other ones see us sweat… or they won’t ever see how superior our walk is to theirs.” Once again, Performance Based… Noone can be that good.

Romans 12:3 has alot to say about these things. “For by the grace [of God] given to me I say to everyone of you not to think more highly of himself [and of his importance and ability] than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has apportioned to each a degree of faith [and a purpose designed for service].” Amplified. or as the Message puts it “…The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are what we do for him.”

Understanding ourselves according to who God is and what He has done and continues to do Is HUGE. Whether you suffer from spiritual pride or from extremely low self esteem. Ultimately our relationship with God and our purpose within the church has nothing to do with US. It is all about glorifying God, and we can’t even do that rightly without God’s grace giving us the ability and the faith to do so. Let that take the pressure off. We don’t have to worry about having the Spiritual Big Head when we are always pointing to Jesus, and we don’t have to worry about not ever being enough when our goal is to have all eyes off of us and on Him.

The details of our awesome attributes we think we have to bring to the table or the knowledge of everything we lack both vanish when we see God right. It is true “our righteousness is like filthy rags.” We can’t “DO” enough. Good news for the one who feels like, and rightfully so, that they can’t measure up. You can’t… But God can. It’s also true that if we think we are all that we need, we should watch our step, “lest we fall”. Because we simply cannot be good enough on our own. We need Jesus. Understanding this makes our relationship with God real. We don’t have to be a show off and we don’t have to be a slave. We just have to be HIS… His Beloved and That is just right.

Keep the Main Thing The Main Thing: Response for Uncertain Times

Several years ago my husband and I attended a smaller church that sat on top of a large hill in the middle of a small city. The Church was two story and rectangular(kind of looked like an ark in my mind) and situated right in the middle of a questionable neighborhood. It was the kind of neighborhood that I would get uncomfortable the nights we would be there if I didn’t know the door was locked. One Sunday we drove up the hill and noticed the SWAT team for the city surrounding the house next door to our church. We opted to drive around for awhile until the arrest was made. There were many Sundays that I would sit during service near a window and watch the neighborhood people walking up and down the hill on the way to the stores on the main strip. I would often think about how comfortable I was sitting in my padded chair, dressed nicely, surrounded by my family and friends. Then look out the window to see someone who looked desperate and alone walking down the hill. The image of Noah and his family sitting in the ark would play through my head. “Is this what they might have felt listening to the world fall apart while they were safe in the ark?” Lately, I’ve felt that feeling again. As I’ve watched the evening news drone on and on about riots, unrest, virus totals, statues being demolished, etc. Then I look around me in my nice country house, acreage, and miles from the closest conflicts. “Am I sitting on the ark again?” Even Noah in his time was a preacher of righteousness up until he got on the ark and it started to rain, why would I just sit here… The discussion with friends I’ve met up with lately has centered around “What on earth is going on in our country?” There’s anger and sadness over the changes that we’ve seen, and the biggest question of all is “What are we going to do?” I’ve thought of that a lot too. “What is my response?”

I’ve been contemplating Philippians quite a bit the past couple of months, and this week is no exception. The verse I’ve been chewing on is Philippians 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” NIV Actually the Passion Translation version has been resounding in my heart, “But we are a colony of heaven on earth as we cling tightly to our life-giver, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “colony” stood out. I figured it was quite a jump from “citizenship” to “colony” so I checked it out in the Greek. (It’s that deep thinker side of me coming out.) And sure enough the word “politeuma” was used which could be a state or a commonwealth, “colony” would work. Why all the fuss? Simple, it is easy to get caught up in thinking there’s nothing we can do. Our citizenship is in heaven. The earth will go to pot, and we will get out of here. We will sit on our ark and watch the world drown. But when I look at my life as a colonist of heaven. My viewpoint of today’s events changes. Colonists of Rome during Paul’s time “were expected to promote the interests of Rome and maintain the dignity of the city.” As a colonist of heaven I am to “Promote Heaven’s interest on earth and lead a life worthy of heavenly citizenship.” (notes from Life Application Study Bible on Philippians 3:20). My home, my brothers and sisters in Jesus are all Colonist of Heaven. We are here to plant heavenly citizenships all around us (make disciples) and influence the world we live in. Not hide our allegiance and wait for the great escape. We must not get our eyes off of the main thing. What is the main thing you may ask? Jesus gave us the main thing, the mission, after His death and resurrection right before He ascended into Heaven. The Main Thing is this: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV.

The American Christian, really the American anything, waits for a program. We want our kids to play in organized sports as opposed to organic sports that occurs in our neighborhoods. We want our relationships to start in organized groups and clubs as opposed to organic relationships that occur when we talk across the fence to our neighbors, smile at the cashier at Walmart, leave a significant tip for our waitress, etc. We don’t have to have a program to do what we are commanded to do! Look at who is around you and get started. “Make disciples!” Look at the tools you have around you, your home, your food, your social media, etc. and do what looks obvious to do. As colonist of heaven and ambassadors for Christ, all we have to do is represent. Represent by listening, praying, giving, and teaching others about how they too can become part of the Everlasting Kingdom that will not fail.

The other thing the American Christian is prone to get hung up on is numbers. “Great I’ll make disciples, how do I make the most?” Start with the one. The one who is in front of you. The one you run into on the regular. The one who listens when you share and when you point the best you know how to the King of your Kingdom, Jesus- who started the Colony of heaven in your heart. Simplify it even more, the one can be the ones who live in your own home, your kids/ grandkids (they are great disciples).

It is easy for me to get caught up in the drama on Social Media and the nightly news. But our current situation has not changed the mission that as a Heavenly Colonist I have embraced. I am not called to get caught up in the name calling, blame games. I am to proclaim the answer, Jesus is King over all and His Kingdom is the only one that will stand in the end.

Reset 2- New Beginnings

This Sunday morning, just like every Sunday morning, my husband and I got up and ventured off to our local Church congregation for the weekly service. It’s something I appreciate all the more since the Covid 19 outbreak. I sorely missed being “in the house” for a time of worship with the worship band and time in the word. The message today has been percolating in my heart. Probably since it reinforced my ponderings on “The Reset” I’ve been pursuing as of late. The ending of the service was a time of reflection on the times God has stepped in. You know when life appeared to be going one directions with a certain expectation of a bad outcome, and then God changed things. It may have been a time of financial uncertainty, emotional unrest, relationship turmoil, etc. Most certainly it has been a time of great darkness, sadness, pain, etc. The kind of time when there really was no way out. That’s the time the “reset button” of “New Beginnings” is pushed. God has a promise that has brought much comfort to me through the years. His promise is that He “makes all things new”. Revelation 21:5. That is a promise that I have had to dig my fingernails into and hold on with all my might at times. Because as one who has struggled with the monsters of the past lurking in the closet of my mind, that promise assures me the closet they have occupied has it’s light turned on, monsters evicted, and the New Beginning begun.

A few years ago I went in for my first session with a Christian Counselor to aid in my fight against anxiety and depression. The first thing she was quick to point out was how the battle in the mind has it’s rubber hit the road in the thoughts we think. It’s hard, but totally possible to change our focus from all the fear, pain, sadness, etc. to the things that are “True…Noble… Right… Pure… Lovely…Admirable…Excellent… or Praiseworthy.” and for us to “Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8 Then with a reassuring smile, she handed me a sheet of confessions of who I am in Christ, and assigned me with the task of speaking these truths out loud every morning. It has been a daily reminder of the “Reset Button of New Beginnings” I pushed so many years ago as a teenager at a Christian youth camp. When I asked God to take what little I had to offer, my life, and do whatever He wanted with it. The New Beginnings began. Looking back I can see that the hard times were the times that pushed me closer to Him, and the reminder of all that I wasn’t, brought the truth of all that He is and wants to be for me.

The “Reset Button of New Beginnings” starts with the first push “Salvation”. It’s the time when we see just how much what we are doing isn’t working, and just how much What He can do in us we need. It starts with an honest talk with God, an offer to give Him all of you, and watching Him do what only He can do, “Reset” your life.

Psalm 40 has been one of my favorite Psalms in the Bible. Verses 1-5 stand out the most to me. “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.” The New Beginning I have found has been when God saw where I was, heard my cries, and pulled me out. But He didn’t stop there. He set me in a good secure place and gave me a new song to sing about Him and His Goodness! I Am Not There Anymore!! That is the Philippians 4:8 stuff I am to think about. The Truth is I am His! The Noble thing Is I am the Kings Daughter! The Right thing is I have been made right with Him- righteous! The Pure thing is Me after He cleansed me from my wrong doings and sin and made Pure. The Lovely thing is Me, His master piece! The Admirable thing is the Miracle of New Beginnings He gives! The Excellent thing is His work in me! And the Praiseworthy thing is that He has done all this because He loves me, period.

That is the “Reset Button” He has given to me. That is the “Reset Button” He has given to you! Hit activate! He longs to bless you with “New Beginnings”!

Defining Moments- Pentecost Sunday

I awoke this morning earlier than I wanted to, it’s Sunday I should be able to sleep in a little. First thing to cross my mind was checking the status of the violent protests that have erupted in cities across America, specifically a city near me. One of my close friends has a son who is a Highway Patrolman assigned to a particular hot spot in that city. I have been in prayer for him.

My heart is broken for the sin sickness that began this mess. The cruelty and utter horror of watching a video of a policeman kill George Floyd during an arrest. There is no excuse for such a cold hearted atrocity. But on the same token, protest meant to cry for justice have spun out of control and erupted across our nation. Looting, violence, innocent businesses destroyed, people being killed, etc. my heart aches as I watch this unfold.

All of this occurring as the Church celebrates a traditional holiday- Pentecost Sunday.

I have always held an optimistic view of Church history. I believe the Church is not a wimpy, irrelevant organization of do gooders. The Church is the messenger, the courier of the Cure for the madness we see escalating by the hour. In the midst of this great darkness our world is spiraling in, we are the light! Church history is the world’s History and in this case the Church is what will define this moment of American History. We cannot take our role lightly, nor can we believe we are powerless and defeated by foes too great for us. Now is our time to shine!

Yesterday morning my 19 year old daughter had a friend over. They were at our table in my kitchen when I walked in to get my morning coffee going. After some light conversation, the events of the news began to be discussed. My daughter asked me my thoughts on all the craziness in the world she is just now starting to step out into adulthood within. It was then I quoted the words of Jesus from John 4:35, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” I then told them, “What we are watching is sad and horrible, but this is also a sign of a good thing. The anger, violence, hatred, etc. are a reflection of the heart of our nation. These people need an answer that political powers cannot provide. They need what we have, Jesus, and they are ‘ripe for harvest’. The question is how do we as the Church get the Cure to them?”

On this Sunday 2000 plus years ago a group of men and women waited in an upper room in Jerusalem. They were familiar with unrest, police brutality, cruelty, racism, pain, etc. They lived it. Roman’s occupied Jewish territory. The Romans were unfair/ unjust. This particular group in the upper room had watched as these oppressors’ subjected their leader, an innocent man who did nothing but good, to death on the cruelest of torments, the Roman Cross. They also experienced the joy of knowing that the current events around them could not stop Jesus. He was not confined by torture and death. He conquered them! He told them that the things they had seen Him do were going to be surpassed by the things they would do once the Holy Spirit came upon them. So it was in this environment, they waited.

God’s hope does not disappoint! HE came that Sunday! HE filled everyone in the room with His promised power to be a witness, and it was there that the world began to change. Men and women, boys and girls, were no longer confined by their mortality. God’s very Spirit had filled them to overflowing to take the Cure- Jesus to the world. And that is exactly what they did. A once cowardly denier of Jesus became a man of boldness and preached a sermon that preceded 3,000 conversions, and what was a tiny group of twelve disciples has exploded to millions and millions through the centuries.

Have we seen dark times in history before? Yes! The church has endured much. But it is time. This is our defining moment. We are to take the power of Pentecost to the world! We are to do “the greater things” John 14:12-14.

John Wimber once said, “When do we get to do the stuff? You know, the stuff here in the Bible, the stuff Jesus did, like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind- stuff like that?”

Now is the time to do the stuff! Our job is to boldly proclaim Jesus, pray for those He puts in our path, and Shine our lights. As we do these things, “the stuff” will come! Because once again the Church is celebrating a Pentecost Sunday during a time of great darkness, heartache, and oppression. And just like that day so many years ago as we seek God’s Pentecostal Power and step out in it, our world, our nation will receive the much needed cure, Jesus!

Lydia, Paula Dean, and Covid 19

Covid 19 has put a major damper on my expressions of hospitality.  It’s a bummer.  Usually this time of year marks the beginning of bar b ques, friends hanging out, fires in our fire pit, music on the patio or front deck.  I think that last year around this time we had a huge fish fry.  Not so much this year, with the gatherings of 10 or less order.  It’s a weird switch.  I’ll be the first to admit that the one with the greatest gift of hospitality between my husband and me would be him.  He’s a party all the time kind of guy.  Before quarantine hit, and some other life changes that we went through last year (God moving us to a different church, and us stepping down from leading a Bible Study/ accountability group we had been doing weekly for 4 years), our weeks were spent trying to figure out what would be the menu for the next cook out and how many people can we invite.  If I would put the brakes on, for any particular reason, he would want to know what was wrong with me.  The weekends were meant for family and friends.  Anything less was inconceivable in his mind.

The change of pace has been pretty nice for me, if I’m completely honest.  I’ve enjoyed the focus on my kids, my husband, and my new grandson.  But every now and then I miss my friends.  I miss seeing them, sitting around, and shooting the breeze. I miss the long conversations after church while everyone waited for someone to tell them where we were going to eat. (Usually Mexican/ usually decided by my husband, Not sure why. lol) The joke with our kids had always been, “mom and dad are always the last ones out of the church.  They shut the place down.” Then staying at the restaurant until 3 or 4 talking, laughing, and sharing our lives.  The waiters at the restaurant knew us by name and called us “Los Hermanos de la Iglesia” (the brothers from the church)  when they would seat us.  Alejandro always served us, we called him “Alex” because the gringos amongst us couldn’t swing the pronunciation.  I really miss those days.  Come to think of it, Monday didn’t feel so bad when we started the week because we knew Friday through Sunday would make up for it. So social isolating has been hard, but probably harder than that was the changes we went through from July til present when our solid group of friends went through a major shake up, we went to different churches, and we just don’t see each other like we used to.

It’s funny what got me thinking about all this, Acts 16 and the account of the salvation of Lydia.  Lydia was a dealer of fine linens, purple, to be exact. She went outside of the city gates to a place near a river to join in with a group of women to worship the one true God.  She was European, not Jewish, but she was hungry for God and being with people who sought Him.  When Paul and Silas arrived, they struck up conversation with the women there. Lydia listened and God opened her heart to Paul’s message and she was saved and baptized.  Then she did something that I understand, because it is pretty common in southern hospitality, she persuaded Paul and his travel companions to come to her home. Probably touting the food she would fix, the comfortable beds they could rest on, and all the proper enticements a proper hostess can throw out to attract a guest- cookies, pie, ice cream, etc.  Later after a series of events, Paul and Silas are noted as returning there “where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them.”  So apparently Lydia had a little of the “Paula Dean” touch.  She knew how to make them feel comfortable and how to enjoy their company using her home as a tool of her ministry.  Lydia’s house had become “the hub” for “Los Hermanos de la Iglesia”.  A pretty cool deal.   It made it to the Bible. 🙂 Paul then encouraged them, and then after what I’m sure resembled our 3 hour long southern good byes, Paul and his companions left. Complete with someone hollering out the window, “Watch for deer!”

There’s something about a good conversation and a cup of coffee. Topped off with prayer and encouragement.  Sprinkle some laughter and smiles.  Just what the doctor ordered.  Maybe our Covid 19 time out is just what we need to see the value in that once more.  We’ve been content to check off the boxes: work, kids stuff, church services, grocery run, etc.  And somewhere along the line we lost the Andy Griffith world we used to have of long summer evenings, singing on the front porch with friends, playing some cards, and sharing some time and our lives.  It could be that getting back to that is one of the things God is wanting to get us all about, or at least me.

In the mean time, I’m going to brush up on my dessert making skills, work on making my house more guest worthy, and try to make the best of our new “Jetson’s” type socialization – Screen meetings on Zoom.  I will pray for a time once again where the “hugger” inside of me can greet my friends with a hug and a smile as we sit down to talk about life and testify of God’s goodness to us each and every one.

May it come quickly!

 

 

The One

Finals week of my freshman year of college did a number on me. I was a walking ball of nerves. One class in particular gave me great angst, College Algebra. College Algebra was one of the main reasons I switched my major from computer programming to Spanish. The thought of taking another college level math course sent me into instant panic. It was in studying for the Algebra final I found myself broke down into tears. I was certain of the impending doom and my demise to being a total failure. One of the older girls in the campus house I lived in walked by in my time of despair. She encouraged me with words that have stuck with me through the years. It’s a southern way of saying the age old proverb of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” She said in her distinct southern drawl, “You know my daddy always told me to remember how the best way to build a brick wall is, one brick at a time.”

One brick at a time, one step at a time, one person at a time, etc. I’m not sure what makes me and probably 90% of Americans think “when you go you’ve gotta go big.” I’ve lived most of my life with a “99 brick at a time” mentality to building a wall. It needs to be done and it needs to be done now. No steps, no process, just “bam!!” Instant achievement. That thought process isn’t very conducive to success when we think “everything is all up to me right now”. It just produces a bunch of anxiety, stress, and eventually I just shut down, “Can’t fix it, so why try.” I forget how important “the one” can be in the big picture of things.

Jesus has always been about the one, the individual. He had great crowds around Him at times, but when it came down to the life changing miracles He did. It was Him touching the one. I think His desire for individuals to be touched was what spurred His statement, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew‬ ‭9:37-38 NIV‬‬. In order to touch the individual lives of so many, a lot of hands would be needed.

The American church has been very fixated on numbers. The more we have in attendance the better. I’ve heard the arguments that Jesus is into numbers as well because he doesn’t want “one to perish”. So go big or go home. But sometimes my focus on how do I reach so many runs over the obvious “one” that is sitting right in front of me “face to face”. Maybe the better approach would be for me to look for that “one”. Pray for that “one”. Offer help to that “one”. So that as “the one” is reached they in turn will see their “one” and reach them too.

So let’s break this down to where I am today. A global pandemic speaks of masses of people being affected either physically, spiritually, or mentally. It’s the elephant that needs to be ate. It’s the wall that needs to be built. It’s the “one” who needs to be found. One person at a time.

Sad to say. I’ve lived here in my house for 12 years. I can honestly say that I don’t know the first names of the women whose houses and land are on each side of me. I’m pretty sure I would have a hard time identifying them as my neighbor at the grocery store if I ran into them. My excuse for not knowing, our busy lives… I’ve been working and volunteering in so many capacities for the past 12 years, all of them noble tasks, that I’ve not had time for my neighbors, and at times, “the one”.

The other day I was on my daily walk up and down my driveway when I noticed my neighbor in his yard. I contemplated what it would be like to walk on by and maybe not be noticed. (Not sure why). But instead I decided to make a point to wave and greet him. There’s been a lot of talk about how the life of Social Isolation has actually brought communities together. Neighbors talking to neighbors (from a distance of course), checking on each other’s needs. People making calls to loved ones and friends, to catch up and make sure they didn’t forget anyone and leave them alone.

Even the churches encouraging their members to be what we’ve always been called to be, family. Call and visit, make sure they have their needs met, give, etc. Since the opportunity to minister to crowds has been reduced greatly, we’ve been refocused on “the one”. I believe when this storm all blows over and we can finally come out of our bunkers we will find something new. All this focus on the one will cause us to grow and people will finally see what they have been needing to see all along. Instead of just one giant light house pointing the way to peace and safety in the storm, the homes of Jesus lovers on every street corner will be shining its light pointing the way. Because when we look all around us there is plenty to do. It’s been sitting under our noses all the time. It’s not only some gigantic move out there that changes the world. It’s also us touching “the one” next to us with the love of God and the truth of Jesus and His power to change a life. Then the next one, and the next, etc. “The one” is waiting, Lord open our eyes to see just how close and easy to touch they can be.