Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Cause for Celebration

Did you celebrate or commemorate your divorce or a significant breakup?

Tonight’s prompt is such an odd prompt, don’t you think?  Did I celebrate my divorce? Honestly, I can’t remember, but I don’t think I did. Was I sad about it. No. Was there cause for celebration? No, not really.  My ex-husband and I were married in our very early 20’s and I still had so much growing up to do. When we made the decision to divorce, it wasn’t done in anger or rage or sadness or even confusion.  We were great friends and even better roommates, but this does not make a successful marriage.

When I was younger and throughout my teen years, I knew I wanted something other than life in a small town and with starry eyed young love, I just pushed those feelings deep down in the crevices of my heart. Love blinded me. About 12 years into our relationship, I remembered what I had buried and I told him the truth, that I wanted something different, and he graciously agreed to a separation. Within weeks, we knew it was time for both of us to move on.

Our separation was very strange for a lot of people.  We continued to live together until I could afford to move out. We started dating other people and I even set him up with a friend. We compared dating stories and spoke often on the phone.  There was no resentment and neither of us tried to hang onto a relationship that had just run it’s course.  We managed to hold onto this friendship for a while, but I made some bad decisions that ultimately had a very negative effect on him. My immaturity and selfishness cost me my dear friend. For that, I will always be sad.

When I look back now, with a view rooted deeply in faith, I feel a little shame. The bible is very clear on divorce. God does not like nor approve of divorce, except in special circumstances and none of the reasons I dissolved my marriage met those circumstances.

“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,*” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Malachi 2:16

As much as I know that divorcing my ex-husband was displeasing to God, I also believe that it was part of God’s plan for me. When I was with my ex-husband, God was barely an afterthought in my life. Had I stayed in that relationship, I would not have the relationship I have with Him today.

Had I stayed in that marriage, I wouldn’t have met the man who would become my husband and best friend. Gil has been such an influence on me in my faith journey. He is the strong, spiritual leader of our family, and he is a faithful encourager to me. Without him and his heart for God, I might very well still be lost and wandering.

Did I celebrate my divorce? I guess you could say that I do now.  Even with the shame of disappointing God, I’m sure my divorce was the first step on my path back to God. And I have to believe He is pleased with that.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

The Decision

If you could redo one moment in your life, what would it be and why? How would it change who you are now?1968-07-lee-with-grandpa-walker

I have to start out by saying that no matter what, I wouldn’t change anything about my life, because if I did, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be where I am now.  I believe that every decision and every action thus far in my life was a vital step to bring me to this exact spot. Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve got regrets. I’ve got a lot of regrets, but I think those are important because they have shaped the woman I am today. However, for the sake of this prompt, I will describe a moment that I do wonder about sometimes.

As a child, my grandfather was the most important person in my life. I loved my parents and I loved my other three grandparents, but the bond with my Grandpa Walker was stronger than any other.  The scene played out one Saturday morning. As usual, I had spent the night with my grandparents and sometime mid-morning, I walked back home to my parents’ house.  Minutes after arriving, the phone rang.  It was my grandmother calling for help. Something was wrong with my grandfather. “Come quick!” she yelled.  

My mom grabbed my sister and me and we jumped in the car for the quarter mile ride back to my grandparents’ house.  My grandfather was on the couch just as he had been when I left less than 30 minutes earlier. It was clear he was in great distress.  My grandmother was panicking and my mother yelled for me to go get help.  

Now, I was 10 years old.  My dad and uncle were working and the next nearest neighbor was a half mile away. It was quicker for me to go for help than to call for help as my family lived over 10 miles from the nearest doctor or ambulance service.

I remember thinking that it would be faster if I just got in the car and drove for help. I know what you are thinking. I’m was TEN. But, growing up in the country had its advantages. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t driving. Before my feet could reach the peddles, my grandfather would put me in his lap and I would steer us everywhere we went. As a 10 year old, I was sort of tall, so I had finally reached the point where my tippy toes could reach and I could really drive a car with an automatic transmission. Although I had done it a few times in the fields and yards, I was never allowed to do it without an adult with me.

1971-lee-and-grandpa-walkerSo, here I am on this morning as my 10 year old self stood in the road with the the biggest decision I had made to date bearing down on me. I looked at the car, keys in the ignition and pointing in the direction I needed to go. I looked down the road to the neighbor’s house knowing that even for a relatively active child, the half mile was going to be hard. The side of me that feared getting in trouble won, and my feet began to pound the pavement as fast as my little legs would carry me. I made the first quarter mile without slowing down, but I finally had to stop for a breath. After a few seconds I took off again. I remember the stabbing pains in my side and the feeling my lungs were on fire.

I made it to the neighbor’s and luckily he was home.  I crashed into his back door and shouted through exhaustion, “something is wrong with grandpa,” and without missing a beat, he grabbed his keys and we headed back. I remember the scene so vividly as we stormed through the back door of my grandparents’ home. My mom was stooped over my grandfather giving him CPR as best she could, but the look on her face said it all.  He was gone. The neighbor stepped in and confirmed what my mom already knew.

I can remember not being able to catch my breath. I remember the sobs and most of all, I remember the guilt. Did I make the wrong choice when standing in the middle of that road? If I had taken the car, would we have been able to get back in time to save him? Was being afraid of getting in trouble the thing that killed my grandpa?

Over the next few days I remember hearing the hushed voices of my mother and grandmother telling friends and family how he had died before my mom and I ever got there, of how my grandmother heard him take his last breath before she was even able to call us for help. I heard the doctor say there was nothing anyone could have done and even if he had been closer to medical help, it would not have saved him. But none of those things made me feel better. I was so sure that my wrong choice was the reason he died. And honestly, here I am almost 40 years later and I still think about that day when he comes to mind; I still wonder if the outcome would have been different. My adult brain knows the truth,but sometimes it’s hard to shake the thoughts of that little girl who, in an instant, lost her rock and her best friend.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Stay Thirsty, My Friend

Once again, Gil and I find ourselves picking a prompt other than the NaBloPoMo suggested prompt for today. We wanted something we could both write to, and when I found this one, I knew it was the one.  Tonight we are writing about which of the Beatitudes is the  most meaningful us us and why?

The Beatitudes were declarations of blessedness Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. You can find all eight of them in Matthew 5:1-12. Each one begins with the phrase “Blessed are …” and these verses describe the ideal follower of Christ and his rewards, both present and future.

Although every one of them is meaningful, I think I would have to pick Matthew 5:6 as the one most special to me.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I find myself looking up the definition for righteousness all the time. I’ll hear or read the word used and think that it is being used incorrectly.  As a child growing up in church, my only reference to this word was when it was used to describe God, and for that reason, I get a little bent out of shape when I hear it used to describe people. My childlike brain cannot process any human being capable of righteousness.  So, once again tonight, I find myself typing the word into a Google search bar. In it’s most simple form, it is defined as the quality of being morally right or justifiable. For this blog post, I’m going to use this simple definition to describe why this particular Beatitude speaks to me.

I still see this word through the eyes of that small Southern Baptist child who went to church and above all else, feared God and wanted to be a perfect child in His eyes. I remember thinking when I would do bad things that God was watching and seeing me. I remember that I was good because I didn’t want to get in trouble with God, and not just because I was seeking righteousness. It’s funny how the mind of a child works and how the mind of an adult remembers those childhood thoughts. I thirsted for His approval because I knew He was watching and I wanted Him to be pleased with me. What my childlike brain did not process was that by being good, I was actually striving for righteousness, striving to be more like God so I could spend eternity with Him.

As an adult, it’s easy to fall into this same pattern of thinking. We are taught that goodness is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. If we are good, we get a point. If we are bad, we lose a point.  We get filled up or we get emptied out. It’s that simple, right?

As humans, we are sinners. We will never be all good.  Because of this sin, we are separated from God and we will never achieve the righteousness of God. There is no good deed or kind act or religious sacrament we can perform that will bridge the gap sin has created. Our lack of righteousness will never allow us to be with The Righteous One. But, God is not scoreboarding our actions or our lack of actions.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

God wants to welcome humankind back into His good graces, so He sent His son to wipe away our sin. If we believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin, then we will have eternal life and the bridge between man and God is built.

Our desire, our thirst, for this righteousness is what God wants from us. It’s this hunger that causes us to have faith that the Good News of Jesus is true. If we didn’t desire to be like God, to be with God, then we would not need faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

If being righteous means to be justifiable, then this passage in Romans clearly tells us that we are justified by our faith. If we have faith, we can achieve righteousness. If we are truly seeking righteousness, then we are promised God’s love will pour into our hearts…our hearts will be filled.  Matthew 5:12 describes the promise of the Beatitudes. It says “Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven…”

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved ~ Romans 10:13

God makes these promises to us over and over in the scriptures. Everyone who seeks, everyone who asks, and everyone who believes that Jesus is the bridge to carry us over our sin, will one day sit next to God in all of His righteous glory. If the promise of that isn’t enough to make you thirsty, I don’t know what is.

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Wirth a Mention

I attended a class at church today in which we learned different methods for sharing our faith. During one of the exercises we were given a worksheet  with a few questions to help guide us to write our faith story. One question had to do with identifying a person who has helped you to have a relationship with Christ.  My immediate and first answer is my husband, Gil. He is the one constant in my life who pushes me to walk out my faith every day. But, there was another who came in a close second.  It’s my pastor, Paul Wirth. I wrote about Paul back in 2011 for a website called Random Writers .  Even though I wrote this post over 5 years ago, so much of it still holds true, so I thought I would just share it with you tonight.


Random Writers Week 4 Topic: What is the greatest discovery you have ever made? (In honor of Columbus Day this week)

As a child, I attended a small southern Baptist church where a Sunday with 35 people in attendance was a good day. For me, church meant Sunday School, then preaching on Sunday mornings, Sunday night services, and let’s not forget Wednesday night’s prayer meetings. Let’s just say that as a child I attended church a lot but I was never really present. And when I was there, most of the lessons I heard were sermons preached to adults. Even though I heard what the preacher was saying to us, I’m not sure I ever truly understood what it any of it meant. At some point during these sermons, I completely missed the message about having a personal relationship with God.

My greatest discovery has been the discovery of my love affair with God. Yes, I said ‘love affair’. I read a book a few years ago called The Sacred Romance and it changed my life. (I invite you to read a blog I wrote back in January that tells a little more about just how this book affected me.) I took the message from that book and applied it to everything I had learned in that small southern Baptist church. I took those previous teachings and turned them all upside down, shook ‘em up sideways and out spilled this phenomenal new view of what it means to have a relationship with God. And not just what it means but that God is and has been romancing my heart all of my life. He has been fighting for my love and I’ve been too blind to see it.

Besides the book, there are two other things that I found on my path to this incredible discovery. The first was Relevant Church. For years I said that visiting a building once a week would not bring me any closer to God, I knew him and I loved him. It wasn’t until I discovered (through a friend) Relevant that I found out just how incredibly wrong I had been. For the first time in my life, I look forward to Sunday mornings. I crave the message that our pastor, Paul Wirth, is going to deliver. He has never failed me. Maybe I should I say God has never failed to deliver His intended message to me through Paul. Every Sunday is like the biggest Oprah a-ha moment ever. I am more often than not moved to tears by witnessing Paul’s love for God. It is impossible to deny God’s love for us when you watch what He does through Paul.

The final stepping stone on my journey to discovering God’s love for me has been the music of the band Needtobreathe (discovered through Relevant and a friend). I struggle to find words to describe how their music affects me. I’ve never been a fan of Christian music and Needtobreathe doesn’t promote themselves as a Christian band but there is so much spiritual emotion in their lyrics that it’s almost impossible for me not to find God when I listen to them. Here are a few samples of lyrics from a few different songs:

I’m giving you my heart to break again, Oh I’m leaving you a way to get back in, Return to me ~ from the song Return

I want you to know, I’m leaving to let you go, And someday we’ll walk upon, The streets of gold ~ from the song Streets of Gold

If you’re lost and lonely, broken down, bring all of your troubles, and come lay ‘em down ~ from the song Lay ‘Em Down

This new discovery of the old teachings from that small, country church Sunday school classroom has changed my life in unimaginable ways. I’ve always known that God sent His Son to die for my sins but it wasn’t until I witnessed Paul Wirth standing in front of all of us, tears streaming down his face, that I felt it. I truly got it in a way that had never been clear to me before. Today, I sit in church on Sunday mornings and I am more present than I’ve ever been.

I feel that sometimes people think of making discoveries as being something grand and on the scale of a Christopher Columbus type of discovery. Sometimes, a discovery can be as simple as finding new meaning in old ideas.

 

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

MOM!

Today was a wonderful day in which I slept late, attended a Noonday party at a friend’s house, napped, then attended a house concert at another friend’s house. I unfortunately did not have a lot of time to write, so tonight I’m going to give you a little glimpse into my past 2 nights.

This is Dudley. Dudley is very spoiled. When Mommy (that’s me) sits in the recliner, Dudley has ‘her spot’. This has been my view for the past two nights as my computer occupied Dudley’s spot instead of Dudley..  

Dudley has no appreciation for my desire to write every day this month. 

What tasks do your pets dislike when you do them? And does anyone else have a prima dona princess like this one?

Okay, I know this post is super lame, but I really wanted an excuse to share this picture because it was just too funny.  

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Gifted

The NaBloPoMo prompt for today wasn’t one I could really respond to as it was about new fall TV.  I honestly haven’t seen but a couple of the new fall shows so it would have been really hard to write to. Instead, I’m going to write about a topic I’ve been wanting to dig into a little more.

A few years ago our church provided everyone with an opportunity to take a spiritual gifts assessment.  I found the results fascinating, and somewhat baffling.  What I thought God had gifted me with, barely even registered as a blip.  But, the more I thought about what the test told me, the more I realized how accurate it was.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Spiritual Gifts, don’t think you are alone.  Until our church did this, I had never even heard the term.  I found this phrase that I felt provides a great summary.

“…spiritual gifts are God-given graces (special abilities, offices, or manifestations) meant for works of service, to benefit and build up the body of Christ as a whole.”

The subject of spiritual gifts recently came up in our growth group at church and I found that many of the women had never taken a test.  I wanted to encourage them to do it and started looking online for a free test I could point them to.  I found the website GiftsTest.com.  I didn’t want to blindly point them to a test I didn’t try first, so I took the test myself.  Below is a graphical representation of my results.

spiritual-gifts-results

My first gift is mercy and it’s described like this: The gift of mercy is the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way.

Here’s how another website describes this gift: “Those with the motivational gift of mercy are the “heart” of the body. They easily sense the joy or distress in other people and are sensitive to feelings and needs. They are attracted to and patient with people in need, motivated by a desire to see people healed of hurts. They are truly meek in nature and avoid firmness.”

I wrote yesterday about how I had been feeling all the hurt and anger someone I don’t even know personally might be feeling.  I am an overly emotional person when MY emotions are the only ones I have to deal with.  Throw in my ability to feel others’ emotions and you have a recipe for huge bouts of depression.  Throughout my life I’ve always believed this character trait was more of a flaw than a gift.  I’ve heard news stories about tragedies and spent days crying for people I have never met. A friend can share an injustice that was done to them and I feel their pain as if it was happening to me. I’ve been known to cry in my bed for days for people I love if I know they are hurting.

Before I knew this was a gift, I’ve actually begged God to take this away from me. For years I had no idea what would happen to me in those times, or why I felt like I did.  I assumed for so long that something was wrong with me.  I really had no idea.

I’ve noticed over the years how I seem to have a knack for drawing truth and honesty from people.  People I love, random people, and people I barely know.  I’ve thought it was odd, but have always tried to give my attention and offer up advice when I can.  However, one of my biggest struggles is that I often cannot find the words I feel I need to say in order to make the confessing person feel better.  What I’m learning as I read more about this gift of mercy is that in most cases, my gift to give is just my presence and attention.  My gift is not to resolve or rectify the hurt of others, but to simply share in their pain, to provide compassion to them, and to just let them know they are not alone.

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I can’t even begin to express my joy when I found out this is not only a gift God has given to me, but it’s a gift I can use to help others. There are multiple places in the bible where the gift of mercy is discussed.  In Galatians 6:2, Paul wrote “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  I can see now that my ability to help a friend carry a hurt is so much more than I ever thought. As a recipient of this gift, it is my responsibility to come alongside those who are hurting and help them carry the cross they bear. As daunting as that seems, I find comfort and strength in knowing that God is always beside me, lifting me up as I use my gift to lift others.


Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Truth or Love? Or Both?

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?

Let me just go ahead and say it… this is the worst.prompt.ever!  Ever!  How could someone think this would be a good idea?  Why would I put something in writing for the world to see if I’m afraid of having regrets by telling you to your face!?!  WHY???!!!!!  I sorta kinda begged Gil to let’s pick a different prompt to write to and he flatly refused and is holding to this one.  Dangit!  I guess that’s a battle not worth fighting for now, so I’m going to write to the prompt, but with defiance in every letter I pound on my keyboard.

I think it’s obvious at this point I’m not going to be actually sharing with you what I would say to someone if I could be honest with no regrets. I’ve really stressed about this all day.  I didn’t know what to do, so as I sat down to write, I opened up a new tab and typed into the Google search bar “What does the bible say about taming your tongue”. Cool, I found lots of verses like this one.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.  Ephesians4:29 (MSG)

Then, I typed “What does the bible say about telling the truth?” Here’s one of the verses in that result that grabbed me.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;   Zechariah 8:16

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.

I have to be honest with you dear readers.  I have not been honest with you.  As I’ve been digging around in these verses, I’ve been struggling with wanting to say something, but certain if I put it out there, I’m going to regret it later.  So, I’m going to do the equivalent of vaguebooking and tell you a partial truth.

I have spent the last week watching someone I admire (a public figure and not someone I know personally) being publicly ripped apart because of an interview that was published last week.  It’s been really ugly. I have no idea what she and her family have actually felt and dealt with, but I just can’t imagine it’s been easy. I have cried and felt anger and hurt in all the ways I think they hurt. I’ve talked about all of this with my husband and have valued his opinion and even the times when his truth telling to me was not at all what I wanted to hear. People, hear me when I say I’ve struggled with this.

Why did I feel so much pain?  Because the public vitriol and hurtful responses were ALL coming from other Christians. Christians who read the same bible I read and love the same God I love.  But, told their truths in mean and negative ways.

I think the events of this past week is what caused my immediate aversion to this prompt and why my thoughts turned to such a negative response. I think I knew writing about this would force me to acknowledge some things I haven’t been willing to allow myself to think, much less speak. I’ll deal with that little psychological breakthrough at another time.

For now, I can tell you that in all of my research tonight, I didn’t find a single verse that said to be hateful when speaking truth to someone.  I did find this one from Ephesians.  And many more about speaking truth, but in loving, non-hurtful ways. I’m not saying that direction isn’t there, but I am saying I believe God guided me to the scriptures I needed to read right now. I believe He knows my heart is just too tender to deal with anything else. Maybe later, but just not now.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  Ephesians 4:15

I think one of the greatest challenges I’ll ever face as a follower of Christ is having the discernment to know how to speak truth in love. Is it possible to speak truth in love always?  Is it possible to respond lovingly to a recipient of the truth who doesn’t want to hear your words and who perceives the truth as an attack? My prayer is that God will not only grant me this wisdom to discern when to tell the truth, but compassion to speak it with love, and the resolve to speak it even when the truth hurts.