Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday: A Few Words & A Re-post


It's Holy Week. 
In the life of a worship pastor and his family it means stress.
Lots to do and lots to accomplish.

But it's Holy Week.
The single most significant week in the life of the Church.
So, even in the busyness, 
I fight for being present enough to find the graces in these sacred days.
They will not return for another 12 months.

So, this Maundy Thursday, as I prepare to wash the feet of my sisters in faith, 
I am reposting this story of my first experience with the ordinance of footwashing.


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I was a junior in college when I experienced it first. I remember a dinner beforehand that I didn't enjoy...I was too anxious about what was to come. Then the trip upstairs to the church parlor with other women of faith comfortable and prepared. But not me.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Paint (Five Minute Friday)

I haven't written all week.
But it's Friday.
Time to write for 5 minutes.
And link up here.

Today's word: Paint


GO



The leader is an artist, 
called upon to sculpt  a masterpiece
from mud piles and disappointed dreams.

The leader casts a vision, 
like the graceful dance of a fishing line
that submerges beneath the tranquil sheen of water.

The leader is painter, 
commissioned to sling hope onto the canvas of the present,
a mess of beauty in Pollock style.

The leader is afraid
but ventures brave strokes 
developing a landscape,
imagining what is yet unseen,
conjuring inspiration of the yet-to-come,
forging trails through uncharted wood.

The leader
holds not a brush
but an image
expressed through words and pictures
that layer into backdrop
that shifts focus from the unrealized
to the possible invisible.

The leader is creator.
Framing past, 
shaping present, 
molding future.
Right in the thick of now.

The leader is you.
Wife.
Husband.
Mother.
Father.
Friend.
Pastor.
Employee.
Employer.
Sister.
Brother.
Writer.
Believer.
Teacher.
Nurse.
Runner.
Painter.
Sculpter.
Artist.

STOP

Friday, April 4, 2014

Writer

Linking up here.
Five minutes. Come what may.
Today's prompt: Writer.

GO

Posed like prophet
with a message
that exposes darkness
and points toward light
eager
afraid
carefully confident.

Prepared with pen
seen as hammer
that can crush or build.

Desire that rises
and releases
through letters,
words,
symbols.

Undeniable.
Unmistakeable.
Unstuffable.

This caged animal
pacing,
impatient,
only appeased
when finding freedom.

STOP

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

15 Things I Never Thought I'd Say

Sometimes life surprises us.

We do, say, experience, like, or believe things we never would have anticipated.

Here's a list of some things I never thought I would say.


1. I love homeschooling.
Homeschooling was always an educational option in my husband's mind. I resisted the idea of home education during the entirety of our dating days. And then I resisted the idea of home education during the first few years of our marriage. And then, I read this book and realized I wouldn't have to fill my closet with denim skirts, make a bun with my hair that could not be cut, or say goodbye to my mascara. (It is my cosmetic staple, otherwise my eyelashes disappear and people think I am sick.) 

Our choice to home educate was an intense time of wrestling for my husband and me, and I was scared of the burden I thought accompanied this monumental task. And I thought it would end up sucking the joy out of life and leave me worn and ragged. But I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. Home education has been one of the greatest and most surprising blessings of my life.


2. Cheesecake is yummy.

I am a picky eater. I have been since my early days. I was so picky I was subjected to a "taste of the week" by my mother who felt I needed to expand my culinary horizons. I am still slightly traumatized. I digress.

My pickiness, however, was more often determined by my whims and not from actually trying the food. Before you berate me, please understand I was an equal opportunity exclusionist. I rejected my fair share of desserts as well.  Cheesecake, sadly, was in this category for far too long. And then I got brave and tasted raspberry cheesecake during a weekend marriage retreat while facing the romantic view of a lake. The rest is history and often shows up in its double chocolate form for my birthday.


3. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables.
My mom likes to recount my double-fisted days of carrying around raw broccoli and calling them trees. As I grew, the stench from cooking this green veggie was enough to cause mild nausea. And then, as a mature and growing-up adult, I decided to actually try these cooked arbors. And now this super-food is a staple in my diet.


4. I was skinny in high school.
I thought I was overweight. Partially because I can clearly recall as a ten-year old sitting in Dr. Gaines' office while she read from the ridiculous chart that matched a person's actual height with their most desirable weight. Nonetheless, I felt fat and that mindset has lived with me all my life, regardless of my actual size. I look back now, in my post-pregancy body (x3), and realize that sweetly beautiful high school junior who'd never been kissed, was lovely just the way she was. And skinny. I never would have believed it then or ventured to say it.  But now I can. I was skinny in high school and rocked those parachute pants.


5. Sure, you can have PB & J for breakfast.
Parenthood leads you to speak crazy words. Desperate times, ya know? And sometimes, you learn the battles you thought were worth fighting aren't really that important...like the occasional odd meal at breakfast. Now excuse me while I go tell my son to stop sitting on his sister's head.


6. Using an e-reader isn't so bad.
I am old school. I need to engage all my senses (well, maybe not taste) when reading a book. I want to hear the binding as it collapses on itself and opens up a fictional world to me. I want to inhale the aroma of an old book from the library shelf. I was to touch the paper and see the bookmark keeping my place...you know, so I can see how blasted far I really am in the book. For these, and many other prejudicial reasons, I long eschewed e-readers. I turned my nose up and dismissed them. And then, I was on vacation and needed a textbook for a seminary class and Amazon saved my behind. And then a book I was drooling over was offered for like $2.99. And I actually used my Kindle and found out there's a lot of advantages to engaging only 2 of my 5 senses when reading. I can highlight passages in the color of my choice and then it logs all my highlighted sections in own special list for my use at the touch of the screen. It's pretty brilliant...and organized. I like organized. So all in all, I no long view e-readers as literary pariahs. OK, that's a little dramatic. In other words, I'll keep the Kindle and actually read some books on it.


7. Red onion tastes great on salad.
This is pretty self-explanatory. I have long cooked with onions (and then picked them out of the finished dish) but I never thought I would find myself eating raw onion on my salad and loving it!


8. Washing dishes is a happy place for me.
I didnt' grow up with a dishwasher. I was sure doing the dishes occupied one of Dante's levels of hell. For all but 3 months of my married life I have used, and loved having a dishwasher. My goal is to run the dishwasher once a day but inevitably when I have been disciplined and cooked at home (and not given my husband puppy-dog eyes so he agrees to going out) I find I have more dishes at the end of the day than space in the dishwasher. So, I shine up the sink, fill the left side with sudsy water and find a happy place. The kids leave me alone, my hands are enveloped in warmth, and I can let my mind wander as I look out the window toward the backyard. Who knew that hand-washing dishes would serve as a mini spa in my kitchen?


9. It's okay if you don't like me.
I am a recovering people-pleaser. Everyday, it's a choice to live for more than what people might think of me. Being a child of divorce can sometimes lead people to adopt the role of appeaser and I lived much of my life trying to make and keep everybody happy. Two things happened. 1) I was fatigued and 2) wait for it, wait for it...I was never successful. Winds up that you can't make everybody happy. Who knew? Oh, well, yes, Abraham Lincoln did. Anywhoo. Ever so slowly, ever so gingerly, I am bravely whispering until I can shout it that it's okay if you don't like me. I am living for more than the approval of others.


10. My worth is not determined by my performance.
There is so much baggage here for me. So many issues and reasons why but it all boils down to this...I was in my thirties before I realized I had succumb to the lie that what I did = what I was worth. And now several years later, I am finding freedom in proclaiming that my value is separate from my performance. Like all lies we've broken in over time and have allowed to accompany us, this one tries to creep in and sabotage me, but I am so on to it. My worth is NOT determined by what I do, what I say, or how I say it. 


11. God calls women to ministry.
I was raised Southern Baptist. That fact, therefore, should explain why I never, ever thought I would speak these words. I was told I would make a great pastor's wife or children's teacher. But called to vocational ministry where a women would teach men? Oh no. 

Then I was introduced to the Church of God (Anderson) when my husband was only my boyfriend. And then prominent male voices in my life affirmed the call they saw but I couldn't. And I wrestled with the teachings of my childhood that would have limited God's plans for me. And in November 2004, I stood before peers and colleagues and declared God had called me, a woman, to ministry. You see, the chromosomal configuration of females don't disqualify them from ministry. It's something I never predicted I would say.


12. I wish my clothes could smell like smoke one more time.
My papa was my hero and I was the apple of his eye. He died suddenly 23 days before my thirteenth birthday. I still remember the coral sweater I was wearing that February morning when I heard he was gone. My papa was also a smoker, which meant every weekend visit meant coming home smelling like a cigarette with legs. And I really didn't like it. one. single. bit. I hated it. But in the days, weeks, months, and years that followed his death, I found I would have given anything to complain just one more time that my clothes were Pall Mall scented. If they were it'd mean he was here and I would gladly endure any size nicotine cloud for that to happen.


13. Ice cream is delicious when infused with coffee flavor.
It does not escape me that 1/3 of my list concerns food. Don't judge. Food matters. I digress. again.

This statement is a no-brainer for java lovers everywhere. I, however, do not belong to that club. I am part of the coffee club whose mantra is "loves the way it smells, gags on the way it tastes". I have tried coffee. I really have. And then I discovered Mocha Frappes and found myself blissfully aware of the benefits of the coffee-flavor. And then I uncovered Ben & Jerry's best kept secret...Coffee Toffee Crunch (aka heaven in a cardboard container). All of this has led me to one conclusion: chocolate and coffee in frozen dairy form is one of the things that makes life worth living. After Jesus, Paul, my children, friends, and such. 


14. I would never choose to go back to my wedding day.
Life is too good now. I have never been more secure and settled in my marriage than I am now. My husband and I know how to better love each other. We have clearer perspective more of the time. We are braver. Steadier. Stronger. Surer. My wedding day was wonderful and everything it should be, but it was only the beginning. The journey is sweeter and more precious now then it has ever been.


15. I'd rather not have a fountain Diet Coke from McDonald's.
Uhh...nope. Never said it. Never will.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Desert Prayer

Today I come clean.
I bare an intimate part of my story.
A part that witnesses to the sweet faithfulness of God.

You can't tell me God doesn't answer prayer.

I know He does.

So here's my story...in less than 1,000 words.


Five years ago, my third child was born.
She joined two siblings, neither of which were old enough to begin Kindergarten.

Motherhood was kicking my butt.
My husband and I were adjusting to zone defense at home.
My expectations were too high.
My tools for everyday survival were dangerously low.
The chasm between those two felt like the Grand Canyon.
I was being swallowed up.
Expectation and reality lie at opposite ends of the continuum.
And to add insult to injury, 
I. was. exhausted.
Children do that.
So do transitions.

Our church was transitioning too.
We were without a senior pastor,
leaving my husband as the only pastor on staff.
At the point our third child was born, 
we were entering the second year void of senior pastoral leadership.

Ministry was kicking my butt.
People's expectations were unreasonable.
The tools passed on to us for navigating these uncertain waters were minimal.
The chasm between those two felt like watching an endless horizon while at sea.

This was a time of great darkness.
I was struggling emotionally.
My husband was struggling.
Some people were constantly challenging, complaining, criticizing, thinking the worst.
Nothing seemed good enough. Fast enough. Effective enough.

My husband was getting beat up.
My husband was held responsible but not given authority.
My faith brothers and sisters seemed more like rivals than teammates.
Fingers were pointed.
Trust was breached.
Hurt happened.
Defenses went up.

And I did what any sleep-deprived, ministry wife who had just delivered their third child would do.
I shrank into myself.
I walled my heart up.
I pulled away from relationships.
Relationships were, after all, the reason I was experiencing so much pain.

I couldn't take another blasted second of any of it.
Motherhood.
Ministry.
Unable to deal with the demands of three small children.
Watching my husband bleed before my eyes while I scrambled to find a tourniquet.

Each morning, when I'd wake up, I would cringe at having to face the day.
I would pray that I could just face it with my family and not have to see anyone else.
Especially at the church.
Because the church didn't feel safe.
The church was inflicting pain, not relieving it.

I was a mess.
And not the kind of mess that looks bad but can easily be cleaned up in 20 minutes.
That's my kitchen. Or my bathroom.
No, I was a MESS.
Loads of emotional baggage. Years of believing lies and seeing God for who He wasn't.
Shattered illusions of my life lay in shards at my feet.
I was a free-falling, fear-clutching, faith-questioning mess.

And then I made one of the best decisions of my life.
I went to counseling.
I still see that decision as grace.
I was in so much pain I couldn't see straight
but God allowed me to get to a brown leather couch
so I could spill it all.
Everything pent up, shut out, holed up, breathed in, spewed out.

And little step by little step, 
I began to walk through this desert time.
And at some point in the six months I sat on that couch, 
I began to whisper a prayer.
A prayer I didn't fully understand in the middle of my pain.
A hope beyond what I was able to accomplish.
A God-sized circle as Mark Batterson calls it.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

It was one of those prayers you love and hate simultaneously.
I knew it was right. I knew it was the way of health.
I could remember days of feeling the love for those who currently felt like enemies.
I wanted it again.
But to get there?
That would require the hard work of forgiveness.
and self study.
and God study.
It would require a re-assembling of my faith that still felt fragile and immensely private.
But I prayed it anyway.

Father, give me a love for your people again.

Counseling lasted six months.
My desert time lasted three and a half years.
182 weeks of relearning truth and reframing my life with that truth.
1,300 days of heart-wrenching realignment to the One who knows me best and loves me most.
30,660 hours to fall in love with the God I thought I knew but only saw in part.

Slowly I walked with Jesus out of that pit.
Each new statement of belief,
each lie rebuked, 
each day faced, 
each moment lived, 
each fear disarmed, 
each injury pardoned, 
each person affirmed,
formed a step that I placed all my weight upon
and lifted me closer to freedom. 

And two months ago, 
when our congregation was facing turmoil
and transition threatened to resurface, 
and some were revealing the uglier sides of their nature,
I realized something.

Two months ago, 
when my heart for God's church was marked by
protectiveness, 
gentleness, 
kindness, 
patience,
I recognized one, singular, glorious fact.

God had answered my prayer.
He had restored a love for His people.
My pain, my hurt, my injury
absorbed by Him
and in it's place...
new love, 
greater love.

My arms were opened for embrace
and not closed to brace for retaliation.
My eyes could see the potential for growth
and not the potential for ruin.

God had answered my prayer.
And I am overwhelmed.
And abundantly grateful.
All for His glory and for His purposes.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Random Things On My Mind



This was a recent conversation between me and my 6-year old son...
Levi: I don't want to go upstairs because I'm afraid monsters will chase me.
Me: Monsters aren't real.
Levi: When I'm scared I don't think of that.

His response is rather brilliant. His self-awareness was impressive.
And he easily explained the problem why many of us, who've accumulated more years then he,
have remained paralyzed in the face of fear.

When face to face with the things that scare us, we often forget what is true.
Truth can be a substantial aid to exercising courage.
Truth dismantles fear, piece by piece.
Truth strong-arms fear.

I wonder what more could be done,
what messes could be avoided, 
what dreams could be realized,
if the battle of fear was fought remembering what is true?

Remembering what is true in the face of fear is the evidence of right thinking and sound judgment and that comes from one place...


For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
2 Timothy 1:7


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"My attitude depends on how you treat me."

This appeared on the Facebook page of one of my cyber-world friends.
And I shake my head.
Not because I don't actually live this statement out sometimes.
I do.
There are times when I have been treated poorly and my attitude follows suit.

I shake my head because I never want this proclamation to be the way things are supposed to be. 
I shake my head because this statement relinquishes my power in choosing my own response.
This statement implies your choices will determine mine.
This statement removes my power to choose for myself.
For those who want to blame everyone else for personal troubles, this statement can be a comfort.
For those wishing to do the hard work of maturing and health, this statement is a death knell.

I aspire to treat others based on a standard outside of myself.
I wish to treat others in a way that is not dependent upon the actions of others.
The ideal for human interaction needs to be greater than you or me.
Greater than our own fragile humanity.
Greater than our own propensity toward selfish behavior.

This statement is the thinking of a child.
A playground mentality.
A swingset mantra.
And there is far too much to experience, learn, and do for life to be short-circuited by childish thinking.

Everyone of us must be willing to take responsibility for our own attitudes and choices.
That is the decision of an adult. Of maturity.
Let's get busy growing up.



When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. 
But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  
1 Corinthians 13:11

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mighty


Linking up with Lisa-Jo and Five Minute Friday.

Today's word: Mighty
Five minutes. No edits. Just words as they spill out.

GO

mighty
the lure of compromise
when desiring a particular result

mighty 
the temptation to corner-cut
when the way proves steep and long

mighty 
the allure of gossip
when another has slipped and fallen

mighty 
the hold of jealousy
when others prosper at our expense


but 

mightier still can be...

the still small voice 
that paves a path of integrity

the way of wisdom
as she beckons us to follow close behind

the sound of grace
that passes up judgment and erases shame 

the wounded brow
that wears thorns that lead to freedom

STOP