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.

 

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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.

1478311300882_image

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 Uncategorized

From Reeling to Reborn

2013; It’s been quite a year. A year filled with heartbreak and disappointment. A year filled with love, family and friends. 2013 was a year that brought me to my knees in desperation, and in gratitude.

As I reflected on 2013 for this blog post, I thought about skipping over the bad stuff. However, the single most important thing I want to do with this blog is to be authentic in who I am and who I want to be. And skipping the bad wouldn’t be true to that. However, upon further reflection, I could think of only one bad thing worthy enough to even write about. It was a single heartbreak, although it’s probably not the kind of heartbreak you would think. It wasn’t a person, per sé, that broke my heart. No, it was a company. Specifically, my employer.

In order to protect myself just a little bit, I’ll forego the down and dirty details, but I can assure you that my heart was metaphorically ripped out, put in a blender, and turned into mincemeat. I had bounced back from the previous year’s disappointment, and even began to thrive and enjoy my role in the company. Then, in late January, some news came down that changed everything. I was given a new role, a new boss, new employees, and new responsibilities.  Ironically, I was given almost everything I wanted the year before, but in the worst possible way it could have been done. I know we all experience professional disappointments from time to time, but this was the kind of ongoing mental beat down that makes you want stay down. It’s the kind that breaks most people.

But, you know what? It has not broken me. I’m hurt and disappointed by what’s been done to me, but I know in my heart that what I’m going through is all part of God’s perfect plan for me. If there is one thing that’s come from this experience, it’s that I find myself growing closer to God. In 2013, my soul exploded with His love. I’ve read more books, listened to more music, and received more messages of God’s Word than ever before. I’ve found that in my very darkest times, God continues to fan the flame in my heart. That flame was bigger and brighter than ever on August 4 when I was baptized for a second time. There’s something about making that decision and commitment as an adult that means so much more than my childhood decision thirty-five years ago. It was the #1 moment of the year, made even more special when Gil surprised me by taking my hand and joining me in a commitment to live out this faith journey together, side by side.

2013 could also be summarized by the “F” word. Well, three little “F” words actually: faith, family, friends. I know it is cliché, but this was the year that those three words began to morph into the same entity. I cannot speak about one without talking about the others. My faith brought so many incredible friends into my life, friends that are now as important as any family member could be. And speaking of family, the most important person in my life, my husband, is also my best friend and a guiding source of God inspired love and service. I’ve seen Gil’s faith really grow this year, and I am so proud of him and so blessed to be his wife.

If I had to pick one word to describe 2013, it would be metamorphosis. This was my, “Year of the Butterfly”. I found my happy place right in my own back yard during the late summer months. Over and over again I watched something ugly become something beautiful. Sometimes it was in the birth of a pinhead sized caterpillar, or a bee sucking nectar from an alien looking passionflower bloom.  Sometimes it was in the sparkling sunlight reflecting off drops of rain on a vibrant, orange flower. Mostly, it was in the moments glorious new life emerged from an ugly, hardened chrysalis. These were the moments that took my breath away. These were the moments in which I remembered God’s grace. While the voices in my head wreaked havoc on my thoughts, I found moments of beauty and stillness in those fluttering, beautiful insects. The beauty would take my breath away and silence the demons in my mind. In those moments, I was reminded that God will make beautiful things out of all of us. I felt a kind of rebirth, very much like the moment of my baptism.

Metamorphosis is defined as a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something. My metamorphosis is happening. I can feel it from the inside, in very much the same way that the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly inside a chrysalis. You can’t see it happening, but you watch, and you wait with giddy anticipation. With hope. With faith that something beautiful is coming. I believe God gave me those experiences last year to remind me that He’s not finished with me. I believe I needed to see that the ugly doesn’t last. I needed to feel that special kind of hope.

So, it’s with giddy anticipation I enter 2014 filled with hope that God’s hand and His grace will continue to transform me into the person He wants me to be.

Posted in Inspired by Music, My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

293/365 Twice as Nice

Due to some scheduling conflicts, I attended church all alone today, which I rarely do, which I really don’t like to do.  However, I’m really glad I didn’t just skip out because it was a super powerful message AND the band did back to back NEEDTOBREATHE songs. The first was my favorite, Something Beautiful. The second was The Reckoning. This is by far my favorite live NEEDTOBREATHE song, so I was a little nervous when I quickly recognized the first few chords from the band this morning. Our band is amazing and I had no doubt they could kill it, but….nothing in this world can compare to the live performance. Carl and the boys in the band did not disappoint one little bit. There was no drum line, but the heavy thumping of the drums on our little church stage, coupled with the incredible service Paul had just delivered,  was just powerful enough to leave me sobbing in my seat. Of course, that is nothing new as I’m regularly leaving the worship area while wiping the tears away.

I don’t have a photo for you today.Instead, I would love to share an example of what I consider to be one of the greatest live onstage moments (one amateur video captured performance of this song), start watching at about 2:30. However, to get the full effect, I would strongly encourage watching the whole thing.

I know an amateur recording doesn’t completely do the song justice. For your listening pleasure, I’m including a link to the song on Spotify.

NEEDTOBREATHE – The Reckoning

Posted in My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

261/365 Here Chicky Chicky

I will never get tired of this. Don’t tell anyone but I only go to church at Relevant so that I can visit the chicks in Ybor.  These little cuties totally distracted me as Gil and I headed from the parking garage to the church for a small group class.

PS…I love when the teacher becomes the student. That was the case in the small group we led tonight. I was completely schooled by these beautiful Christ followers.

And.I.Loved.IT!

Posted in My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

247/365 Joyful Endings

We wrapped up our small group tonight. I think that next Wednesday, when I’m not gathering with this amazing group of Christians, I just may sink into a serious depression. However, I have this absolutely beautiful gift from Jen and Manny to fill me full of joy every time I look at it. The significance of this gift means so much to me.

Gil also wrote about our evening here. I invite you to check out his gift. It’s pretty incredible as well.

 

Posted in My life in pictures, Post A Day Challenge

215/365 Easter is Here

Six weeks ago I posted a picture from our very unusual church service that day. On that February Sunday, the entire worship area was directed out of the back doors and onto three awaiting tour buses. We weren’t told where we were going but watched Pastor Paul deliver his communion message via recorded video displayed on the bus’s TV monitors. He explained that we were heading to Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa. This was to be the site of our church’s Easter celebration and we were going there to pray over it. Upon arrival at the park, we were handed a Sharpie as we exited the bus and instructed to write the names of those we wanted to join us for this epic Easter celebration on pieces of pine bark mulch lining the various flower and plant beds.

I took a seat on the ground and grabbed a  few pieces of bark. I wrote my mom’s name first, then my nephew and sister. I knew that having them join us today would be a long shot but I wanted their names in that pile of mulch that so many have prayed over in the past few weeks.

Next, I sat and thought about who else I would want to join us. The list was long, but I wanted this to be special. I thought about those local friends and acquaintances who could use a serious boost of our Father’s message and honestly, no one came to mind. I’m sure if I had been given more than 10 minutes to think about it, I could have come up with a decent list but the time just wasn’t there.

Then, it hit me. I knew that my blood family would most likely not be able to be with us so I immediately thought about my other family. If I couldn’t have blood with me, I would at least want to celebrate this special Holy day with those I consider family by choice.

This is the piece of bark that I scribbled on.

Today was proof that God does hear and answer our prayers. For 12 months our church has prayed about this day and for His glory to shine in the city of Tampa. We asked for 5,000 people to show up and 5,560 did indeed. Pastor Paul asked for beautiful weather and at the start of today’s service, the thermometer registered a comfortable 73 degrees with not a cloud in the sky. We all prayed God would speak to those who needed him and at the end of the day, 30 people became new Christ followers.

One more prayer was answered today. That was my prayer said six weeks ago in a park over a piece of pine bark. I prayed that our friends Matt and Michelle (Matelle) and Jeff and Ellen (Jellen), along with their families, would join us for this special celebration. As you can see, they did just that. I am so blessed to call these people my family.

Back row: Ellen, Jeff, Tanner, Gil, Kurt, Michelle, Matt. Front row: Abby, Emma holding Olivia, Lee, Natalie, Chloe.