Monday, September 29, 2008

American Idols Series - Week 1

Pastor Kelly started a new series entitled, American Idols, yesterday.

God really spoke to me through it. This topic has been on my heart a lot since I knew this series was coming. Through the Old Testament God continues to speak about idols. In fact it is probably the most discussed topic in the Bible. I am pretty sure Pastor Kelly said it was THE most discussed topic.

I love when PK talks about the Old Testament too. Jesus & His teaching didn't abolish the Old Testament - it put it in a new perspective. He gave it an ending. Gave it new context. I love seeing all facets of God, including the God of the Old Testament. God can't be put in a box. He can't be put in a Jesus box. He can't be put in a box we create. He can't be put into any box that religion tries to put Him in. He's so much bigger than we even imagine. It's okay to not understand Him. We're not ever going to fully understand Him. I love the God of the Old Testament. I don't really get Him or His actions all the time... but I choose to love Him. I choose to trust Him. I ask Him to help me understand Him. I realize that Jesus came for me to connect with Him. I want to continue to get to know Him. The Jesus part of Him... but also the Old Testament part of Him.

I do believe that God is a jealous God. The Old Testament shows this jealousy and His desire for us to worship Him and nothing else. The Old Testament time and time again shows how when we create idols - when we worship anything other than Him there are always consequences in our life. Either direct negative consequences...or just delayed blessings from Him. I do believe that Jesus came to take the blame and shame that my sin creates. To connect me with God. but I also very much believe that when I allow idols into my life, when I sin.... there are consequences. Not eternal consequences - Jesus saved me from that. but consequences because God is a just God. Not that He 'punishes us' but that He refines us.

He wants us to love Him so much. He gave us the free will to choose to do that --- He won't force us to love Him - but He desires us to desire Him. I believe that He even wants us to love Him for our own good as well as His --- because He knows that we will never truly love ourselves or find our value & true joy until we love Him and love Him above all else. We will constantly seek other sources for our value, validation, significance, which will leave us empty in the long term (though most will make us feel good in the short term - which is why we fall for those tricks).

I think that's all my thoughts for right now after the sermon yesterday. Let me try to summarize what else PK said that touched me most:
  • idolatry is the cause of every sin we commit
  • every sin is based on an idol
  • the sin is just the fruit. the idol is the tree the fruit comes out of
  • every person worships something!
  • the opposite of theism (theim = loving God) is NOT atheism. the opposite of theism is idolatry
  • what is your idol? popularity, passion, pleasure, power, your kids, your spouse, your parents, education, the body He created (health, looks), morality (you idolize rules & rituals more than Him), relationships, community, money, perfectionism, validation from others?
  • these things in themselves are not inherently bad --- they become bad & distorted when we put them above God!!!
  • to help you figure out what your idols are ask yourself some questions:
    1. what makes you frustrated? what do you complain about? This is a great indicator of what your idol is. what you give most of your attention to.
    2. where do you put your time & money?
    3. what do you worry about? What do you fear?
    4. where do you go when you are hurt? Where is the first place you go when you're crushed? What's the first thing you do when you've had a bad day?
    5. what makes you angry?
    6. what are your dreams & passions? What do you lust over?
    7. what brings you the most joy?
    8. whose applause do you desire most?
  • worshipping our children can be a symptom that we are trying to find significance in our roles. fame/popularity/validation from others instead of caring what God thinks.
  • worshipping your parents can be a symptom that your idol is validation / approval from people rather than God
  • if your idol is morality & your religious rituals... you can be extremely inflexible & unloving to others. you can become judgemental, arrogant, self-righteous with a critical, condemning spirit. many of our parents have passed on this idol of morality/rules on to us.
  • we have to DAILY surrender & submit our lives to God. Realizing He is above and bigger than anything we can create. We "take up our cross" by daily telling Him we will turn from the things we lust after. recognizing He is above all else. That everything in our lives is His and we are just stewards of it. That He is most important and these things are secondary. He wants us to enjoy these things, these gifts from Him. He gives us these things, so we can enjoy Him, in these gifts. not so we can enjoy the gifts above all else. If we put them above Him and make idols out of the things instead of the source... our hearts become distorted and we will not enjoy these things with a pure thankful heart like He wants us to.
  • The christian life isn't a one time choice to allow Jesus into your heart. The christian walk involves daily decisions to worship Him and not what we see, sense, feel, touch.

Whatever you put first in your life has the most power. When anything other than God is first --- it leaves room for the devil.

What's the first step to getting rid of our idols? Recognizing them. Then acquiring a thankful, appreciative heart for what we've been given. We SHOULD love and be so thankful and take so much joy in these things -- our children, our families, our financial blessings, our health, our ability to learn... but we must always remember the source. Remember who has given us these things, whose things they are... and how undesserving we are of them. It's all about thankfulness. Acknowledging God and putting the focus on Him that all these good things have come from Him. Recognizing, respecting, revering who He is. Destroying idols daily & surrendering your life to Him. Seeking out what is important to Him. Caring what He cares about. Not allowing the noise and stimulation we are bombarded with to become our focus so that everything becomes distorted. Taking time away from all of it to be with Him throughout our day.

It is a daily thing. It is always small daily steps that make huge differences. Small daily steps to get to Him and allowing Him to make us into the person He created us to be.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Pride/Discouragement Cycle

Clearly the lessons on my blog are lessons for myself. It might sound like I'm teaching - but I hope anybody who reads this knows it's me teaching myself. It's me trying to clarify what He is teaching me. This previous post on value is the battle I face continually. This post was an outpouring of all the lessons He had been teaching me about value and worth and how the standards I had always used were so wrong. I continue even to this day to go back and forth between pride & discouragement because I take my eyes off of Him. I focus on comparison and trying to find value in everything other than Him.

I have continued to pray to Him since He allowed me to become aware of this keep me away from this temptation all together (of being prideful when He uses me --- or being discouraged when He doesn't use me like *I* planned for Him to) until I was mature enough to give Him and Him alone the credit and continually deflect praise on Him. I am so glad He showed me this sin when He did.... and didn't wait until I was in too deep with no way out but a big crash...

Since I became aware of this area of temptation....He has used me in very discreet ways so that I haven't been praised by others at all. He has brought to my attention time time and time again even in the smallest of scenarios how ugly pride is and how I truly am a failure in this area of comparison and trying to find value in this world. He has shown me how this pride/discouragement battle is a by-product of my sin and focusing on the world and not Him. I will always be in that cycle until I focus on Him alone.

I recognize how unworthy of anything good I am because of my sin.... yet at the same time of showing me this sin and my unworthiness, He loves on me and shown me my value. Doesn't really make sense does it? Showing me my shortcomings & my ugliness and my value to Him all at the same time.

He has continued to bring to light that ugly attitude I get in the pit of my stomach when I hear others taking credit for ideas I know *I* planted in them. Or others 'preaching' the lesson that I had been talking about to all my close friends & family! As if *I* was the one planting those seeds. or if they were *my* lessons. please. I am just the vessel. My ugliness disgusts me. He has continued to bring to light another sign of this sin: how much I care to know when and how exactly I'm being used. I do whatever I can to avoid praise now for fear it will go to my head.... but *I* still like to know when my words or actions were used and how they were used.

but the truth is: I shouldn't care to know when and how I'm being used - but have my focus be on Him & Him alone. He keeps track of how much I allowed Him to use me. I don't have to. I shouldn't care who gets credit for anything as long as The Message is getting heard and the work is getting done. He is the one doing the work.

I am continually humbled by Him and I thank Him so much for loving me enough to let me feel the pain of this sin but at the same time being there to comfort me and lift me up when I'm discouraged with myself. I feel like He's been pouring into me soo much.... so much that I am bursting. I have never felt closer to Him. Yet the more He pours into me ---- the less I feel I know. The deeper these lessons go --- the smaller and more naive I feel.

and then I catch myself doing the same old thing. and let me be so vulnerable hear to show you what the spiritual battle is that I face:

He puts somebody in my path that tells me what they've been learning and it's the exact same thing I've been learning but then they say yeah I did ______ with that knowledge..... and then here comes the devil. The devil tells me:

see Randi everybody already knows all these lessons. You have so much further to go. You really won't make a difference because you will never apply these lessons. You will not be used because you just write about what God teaches you and talk about those lessons to others all the time. You will always just KNOW them, not use them. See, this is a perfect example.... you haven't applied this ___ lesson yet. You are pathetic that you just know all these lessons & words and don't even apply them like ____ does

and after getting beat up and allowing those seeds in I have to focus on my Savior and the power He gave me and say:

HUSH! God is at work. I am not discouraged because I'm looking at Him not at me and the world. God is going to help me break this cycle of pride/discouragement. I am living by faith and not by sight and I know He is doing a wonderful thing in me and I know this is preparation stage! I will stop focusing so much on comparison, on others, and on God using me. I will focus on Him. I will not worry that I will be left behind in some way. He has a beautiful and perfect plan for me (Jer 29:11) and I don't have to have all the answers. Faith is NOT about having all the answers --- not about knowing where He's taking me exactly - but just taking one step at a time. Right now I will continue to live out the Word in my home!! That's the first place to put this knowledge into action. I will continue to live out these lessons as a mom and wife!! I refuse to let the devil beat me up every time I fail. I know that I am forgiven and free and that Jesus came to rescue me so I don't have to be burdened and trapped by this sin anymore. He is going to lead me where I'm supposed to go. He is going to use me like He always planned to. He is going to develop me into what He designed me for. I DO have unique & special gifts. I am me and me alone. There is nobody else like me. Yes I am just a baby in so many ways.... but God loves my childlike faith & how much I am continually in awe at Him. He loves my passion and how much I love Him and His people.

I know this is a long term process. I really do understand that. It's a long term, life goal. YES it feels like you are doing SO much and pouring so much into me and that you could literally change the world with the passion I'm feeling --- but just changing my little corner of the world and my home is enough right now. Your word planted into me God never will return void. I am so afraid to fail you --- but I know I don't have to be. These lessons WILL be put to use! I know fear is not from you and I know that your timing is perfect and my job right now is just to abide in you.

God I'm listening and for right now I know that's enough. Keep the devil away. Keep me focused on you. Don't let me get discouraged. Keep me humble. Keep me passionate. Keep growing these baby seeds!!

God help me encourage people and not let the devil use me as a vessel of discouragement in any way. Help me focus on the good in people and find ways to encourage their talents and skills! Please don't let me condemn myself or the church any longer for what we haven't done. I think we have heard enough our failings - please just help me find ways to encourage the changes we all want. Help me BE the change I want to see. Help me help others realize that Jesus CAN and IS changing all of our churches and there is hope! There is good in all of our churches because He's in there. No matter how much we have detoured --- He's still here! He can get us back on track! We are not lost causes! Please help me find ways God to show people they are valued and incredible and worthy of love and that they are being used right where they are exactly as they are!

Shouldn't we have faith and trust we are being used even when it doesn't seem it? Shouldn't we have faith that we are exactly where we're supposed to be, doing what we're supposed to be doing right now? As long as we are growing in Him, with Him.... and letting Him lead - then we are where we are supposed to be. There is hope for our churches, for our communities and our countries. He doesn't let His sheep stray too far right? We just have to turn our focus back on Him and He will put us back on track! Let's encourage each other exactly where we are right now, start bringing out the best in each other by focusing on the good. Let's stop condemning our failures and just starting being the change we want to see.

Send Me

I saw this on Pastor Pete's website a while ago.... it really speaks to me so much. I feel this is what my heart is screaming right now. These words & this music bring tears to my eyes and give me the chills every time...

It's time to reach out, engage and DO what we have been talking about. Can you even tell there are churches in our community when you walk our streets? What have we been doing? Actions speak louder than words (right Robin?). It's time to get drastic, get desperate, more passionate. Who are we really reaching? Who are we helping? Are the sick being helped, poor being fed & lonely feeling welcomed?

We don't have to use our failures as an excuse to get discouraged and think low of ourselves and give up... like my previous post on growth - God has been working on the inside, we have just been going through a season - but now it's time to apply all we've learned as we've grown. It's time for our outsides to reflect what He has done inside!

Forget about around the world for now - what about in our own city? Small things, small decisions, small seeds planted make all the difference! We are so concerned with trying to change the world in huge drastic opportunities --- we are missing 'small' opportunities every day. You don't have to go on a church sponsored mission trip to another country to help people - look around.

God's doing something and I know He will send me - keep you posted :)

'Send Me' - Live at MHC Ballard from Re:Sound on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Creativity, "Church", Changes, Community, Culture


As my past 5 entries have shown - I've been thinking a lot about churches, the way the majority 'does' church and all the changes that are going on with my specific body of believers. This entry is the culmination of all those entries and everything on my heart... maybe SOMEBODY (please hubby somebody? hehe) will stick with me through this thought process.....

I'm at a point where I have no more concrete thoughts or statements that are on my heart... but just lots of questions.

I tend to always be that person that is on the middle, able to see all perspectives and why people feel/think the way they do. I don't get all the divides, animosity, divisions we have as the body. I mean... I DO get why we have them...I just don't get why we focus on them so much and allow it to divide us. How come others can't see the good in everything/everybody?

There's so much talk in the church community about being relevant to culture, about using our creative gifts as a way to glorify God and a way to reach our surrounding communities.

and I'm torn.....

The church isn't reaching people. The old 'way' of doing things isn't working. We have gotten out of touch with the sick & lonely and poor --- and spend a lot of time with people who are like us. We have failed so much that the people in our country are starting to believe it's the government's role to pick up where we have failed. It scares me! I DO NOT want the government to take over where we have failed. I do not believe in socialism/communism AT ALL. I believe in a very limited and hands off government. sorry for that tangent... my point is, we have failed as the body of Christ.

I understand changes need to be made....but what are those changes? What will they look like? Where do we start? How do we make theese changes while staying true to & not distracting from The Message?

I guess it depends on who we are trying to reach right? Are we trying to reach people in our peer group/same demographics but who just don't go to church? Or is our goal to help those in our community who are unlike us? People who live in different places --say "downtown" who are sick (suffering from addiction, wallowing in sin) poor (poorer than we are) and lost (because they don't know Christ).

The last thing I want our changes in our specific church to do is attract christians who just want a different or new 'experience'. I want to reach new people. I want to change our community. I'm ready for us to have a church body that is a microcosm of our greater society - a body that represents soo many different demographics & backgrounds! I want our church to be one of the first to cut through cultural, racial, socioeconomic barriers. Let's combine all our talents/gifts as separate groups in our city and really truly show people how to love and serve and glorify God by loving on each other and bringing out the best in each other despite our differences! Imagine how much He could use us if we were not divided!!!! There is power in unity!

I believe what our church is undertaking, this new venture... is going to reach people. but I believe it will be people like us. But one side of me says, that's okay right? Suburban middle class people need Jesus so bad too!! Maybe what we're doing is just going to be a springboard for reaching people different from us? a springboard for us to really begin to reach the hungry, clothe the needy & help the sick?

but sometimes I am just worried that what we are doing is just changing our look. Are we just changing our image, our facility, our locations, our 'look', our way of attracting others? These are just external things... are we going to make sure though the heart of our body is continually changing? Are we making sure that our heart is a reflection of our outside changes?

This I know.... God is at work and our leaders love God and love people. I have no doubt of that. God has been at work in many hearts at our church for a long time. I LOVE how the church is beginning to get creative and become relevant to culture while never watering down the meat, The Message. I believe in the leaders God has given me because I believe in Him. He has worked through them to touch me.

but I just have so many thoughts.... here's what I wrote on a fellow church member's blog:
regarding our new creative team & some of our external changes? I love it. I LOVE our creative team leader. I love how hard they are pouring themselves into this. They are totally devoted. I believe creativity is an awesome thing.... it's an awesome thing to use our talents to glorify God.

But I also believe the Word is always enough... it always has been.... and the Word doesn't NEED anything to supplement it. Is all this 'stuff' just unncessary when people in our own community are homeless, poor, sick and neglected? Should our resources go other places?... but then I think.... why not use your talents to glorify God?? We are being careful with our money & investing it for the long term right? If you were given creative talents --- shouldn't you use them to glorify Him rather than use them for secular messages?

but then my other side again says... yes the Word is always enough and it's important to never water down The Message....but God is a God of creativity and creation. What He creates and has created is captivating!! Just look around, He has lavishly created beauty all around us in extravagent ways!!

I believe He can work through us to make even more beautiful and wonderful creations!! Anything done for Him and to glorify Him can be a beautiful and wonderful reflection of Him.

Sunday mornings are only what they are ---- Sunday mornings. Who we are as a church shouldn't be Sunday mornings -- it should be what is done during the week. The real work takes place not in a building but outside of the walls. Whatever we do - we should do it to the best of our ability and whole heart. A heart poured out and expressed in any outlet can be glorifying to God. These creations that are taking place at our church are precious not because of what they are --- but because the heart behind it.

Either way we can't let this be another divide in us right?! I believe that Jesus would want us to focus on Him and allow Him to do the judging of a person's heart and motives. What is a beautiful outpouring of one's talents to glorify Him might seem lavish to others..... what is simple and stale and drab to some might be beautiful to Him --- because He is looking at the attitude and heart not exactly the content that is delivered.

I believe that's a gift I've been see beauty in anything and anybody - to seek it out. My church I went to for most of my time during adolescense was literally 10 - 20 people and it was beautifully a mess. It was a group of people slowly growing... learning to love God, each other and their community. I was able to see good in them and us as a group no matter how stale everything might have seemed to others --- I wonder why I was able to see good? I guess just because that's what I was looking for..... but others who came, would they stay around when they visited? no, never. we were a big * yawn * to them. We were so irrelevant to their world. We probably seemed real stale.

People who are searching do need to see an outside reflection of what's going on inside. They don't love The Word like we do yet. I believe it is important to attract people and just get them to stay around long enough to hear The Truth. The Truth is what changes people. God in the end IS all we need --- all this "stuff" actually becomes background music to His beautiful love & acceptance & approval of us once we know Him..... but will people stay around long enough to seek Him out? Do we show on the outside how much He has done for us!? Do we show how totally fired up, passionate, and enthusiastic we are for Him and The Message!?!? I beleive we should!!! Isn't it important for our outside to be a reflection of the inside!?

Ultimately though as seems to be my message always - we are to focus on Him -- not on these details & judging each other's motives, intentions or spiritual maturity. I think we have done enough dividing amongst ourselves & kicking of each other.... isn't it time to focus on the good in each other? TO LOVE the unique talents & roles God has given us? And to realize that ALL different kinds of people need reaching and God uses anybody and anything to get their attention! We need all different types of ministries & outreaches because the people out there are all so diferent.

My point again is... God looks at the inside, not the outside.... we should do whatever we can, to do the same for each other.

I love our leaders, I trust they love God and I believe through my 4 years with this body of Christ there is a love & passion for God... I know so many of us are ready to stop playing church and start being the church.... but all these changes, are they a reflection of how we're going to do church....or are they just external changes?

Please God change us as a body. Teach us how to do community the way you want us to. Teach us how to really reach the hurting & allow you to change them through us --- not just attract the church hopping experience addicts looking to find you in feelings & sunday morning experiences.

May our passion for these external changes be reflections of what you have done inside.

I pray that this passion to change is because we want our outside to match our inside..... and not us just trying to force the outside to change because we want to cover up our insides & how much we have failed as a body.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Growth - Part 2

continuation from yesterday........

there's another problem with focusing so much on numbers & other external indicators of 'growth' and using it as our basis for success or even confirmation we are "on the right track"..... (ex: this is applicable to groups --- growth of programs, churches, organizations... and applicable to us individually as well --- how many people we help, how many we tell The Message to)

I have heard quite frequently, "Oh we're finally seeing must be God's will....that must mean we're on the right track" .... There's a problem with this message --- not everything that grows is God-breathed. Not everything that grows is good. Cancer grows.

Growth is not a steadfast indicator that we are following God's blessing nor an accurate way to determine if a ministry or decision was godly. My post yesterday explained one reason why and that is because basically --- fruits of the spirit are hard to quantify - like Steve so eloquently put.... but

another problem with being so focused on numbers & growth --- is that if we are so focused on numbers --- we won't allow Him to give us rest and time to "sharpen our ax". He WANTS us to rest and have periods of stillness. My husband's favorite psalm (23) is a perfect example of God's desire for us to take rest in Him.... to have time throughout our life (and even in each day) to have stages of rest, rejuvenation, stillness, preparation, learning....

Haven't you heard the story of the 2 woodcutters - one going hog-wild cut cut cut cut cut never resting trying to get the highest number of trees down. The 2nd woodcutter meanwhile just focused on quality....continually took time to rest & sharpen his ax. During those times of rest & rejuvenation, it appears this 2nd ax man isn't being productive or making 'progress' or that his ministry isn't growing... he's not being successful. Some would even go so far to say that he must not be following God's will because he's just not producing visible results ---- but those assumptions again are all looking at worldly scales of success..... what the world doesn't get is that a lot of what goes in this world can't be seen....time in rest & sharpening is the ever crucial time that will make this worker more effective, efficient, and focused.

That 2nd ax man doesn't care what others say about the results he is producing at certain times --- he is in it for the long term - he is focused on the long term. He knows that believers are to live by faith not by sight. Not focusing on what the world tells them to focus on - but focusing on God instead.

Some times there will be seasons in our life where on the world's standards it appears nothing is going on.... but you and God know what's going on!! Keep on keeping on. It ultimately doesn't matter what the world thinks. Sometimes you yourself might not even feel successful, significant, or productive -- in the world's standards or even in your own standards... you might just feel.... empty, lost, wandering...but God is at work. He's there. He's a supernatural spiritual God unlike everything else in our world we are in contact with and subjected to have to listen to. We can't always sense or discern what He's teaching us, preparing us for, doing in our hearts.... but that's where faith comes in. Our flesh doesn't allow us to always see what God is doing.

So many of us quit, get discouraged, flee, and lose our faith and desire for Him during these times of strengthening because we are so focused on seeing visible results - we don't even realize He's at work. Imagine the discouragement and judgement we produce in others by focusing on the visible results in their lives or ministry.... by valuing them by their individual or corporate 'growth'.

God will do with me what He wills for my life --- my job, my focus is to be with Him and focus on Him ---- He will focus on the results. We don't have to.

bottom line of these 2 posts is:

We must value others because they are valuable and deserve to be loved just the way they are. No matter the season of their life. No matter what the world thinks of them. No matter how many know them. Value them because of who created them. Value them because they are equal in value to you. They ARE equal to you no matter your experiences, or whatever standards of success you believe you have achieved. We are to focus on God and what can't be seen. We are to give Him credit for successes people try to praise us for. We are to focus on abiding in Him - as long as we make it our determined purpose to be with Him, to be defined by Him - we don't have to worry about failing --- He will use us as He wants to.

We must submit our lives daily for a cause greater than ourselves -- that cause is Him and His people. Much of that work will not be seen. Many of the results of our work will not be seen except by God. God says to live quietly - in other words - not allow others to put us on a pedestal - to not make a big show of our life & good deeds - and to leave the results & judging of success to Him.

soooo what's on my heart now after these 2 entries?.... how about.... talents, gifts, uses of them, trying your best and excellence.... I'll try to conquer those soon :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Value - Part 1

After reading some recent blog entries from Kathy & Steve... I have realized that so many churches, so many of us individually as part of the body of Christ have adopted the world's definitions of value & success.

I spent my childhood & adolescence trying to learn & believe that I somehow deserved the Savior coming to rescue me. Trying to really 'get' that I somehow deserved the grace He was willing to give.... only to find out I didn't.

I don't deserve His grace. I can't earn it. I didn't earn it. He is just that awesome. He is just that merciful and wants me (us) to be united with Him despite our failings. I am just that valuable because He created me and He loves me. I am valuable because of His love. I am valuable because of His all emcompassing love that is never changing yet has the power to change & create each of us. We failed to live up to His holiness but despite that He still saw and knew our worth as His creations when we were at our rock bottom. We were worth saving because His love is that unbelievable.

When we find out that He sent a Savior for us, the importance and love He makes us feel is ridiculous. But do we ever get past ourselves and do we ever truly learn how unimportant we are by ourselves? So many never get over themselves and never stop trying to find worth in themselves, their roles, 'their' successes & significance. Our worth is in Him, His love alone.

So many are grasping for importance and value in THINGS in ROLES, in worldly success...

Only when we realize that we are not important without Him and without the rest of the body - do we really start being who we were meant to be.

Tasks do not give us value.
Roles do not give us meaning.
Worldy praise does not give us importance.
Being busy is not significance.
Productivity does not make us more important than others.

These are some things He has been laying on my heart that I really believe to be true. Only when we realize this can we truly love others without conditions.

No matter what we DO - we are no more valuable than the person next to us in the Body of Christ.

Only when we stop measuring life with our eyes & ears & senses --- can we begin to truly love others. Only when we learn to take away all judgements, scales, comparisons, etc.... will we learn how valuable others are.

When we finally rid ourselves of these conditions, scales, comparisons... we will learn to value the elderly as much as young trendy popular evangelists. Stay at home moms as much as famous worship leaders. New believers as much as seasoned. A member in a very small old church as much as missionaries.

God is who gives us value. He will use anybody to achieve His purposes. I believe that in His plan, the people who He uses would understand they are poor in Spirit and that their usability can be judged in Heaven alone.... but what usually happens is we get prideful and allow people to put us on a pedestal. We begin to believe we are better than others because He is using us. We try to live up to the perfection the people want us to be.... or at least present a perfect godly person like the people want us to be.

And we as the crowd get so wrapped up in the PEOPLE He is using, creating idols of them and their productivity --- that we totally lose focus of God. Then when this famous christian collapses and their humanness is revealed --- we are left confused, devastated and doubtful.

My point is, how much God uses a person - isn't a good judgement of their value, spiritual maturity or godliness. He can and will use anybody for His good.

I don't believe that spiritual maturity can really accurately be judged on earth. Why do we continually try to put people on different levels of success? My point of all this.... is that "results" - whatever scale you use to judge results - are not always accurate reflections of motives & results are never reflections of value.

Ultimately, the only One who can ever get credit for any work done is God.

Our focus should not be results. Our focus shouldn't be on judging each other's usability for the kingdom. Our focus shouldn't be trying to be valuable.... our focus should be God, putting Him first. And next others - putting them second, above ourselves. When we say putting "others" first... Others doesn't mean popular preachers, famous worship leaders.... others means those around you. Do you give your time and focus only to people who are valuable in the world's eyes --- or do you give your time and focus to those around you who are in need?

Do you value people because they make you feel important? Do you value them because of what they can do for you? Do you value them because they are on your "to help" list? People will be able to tell when they are on your list. Nobody wants to be a number. The mission is not about blowing through people as fast as we can and trying to save as many people as we can. The whole "the person who brings the most with them, wins" mentality --- I don't agree with that. WE do NOT have any power to save. And focusing on numbers only brings comparison & pride or discouragement based on who you compare your numbers to.

More on numbers & growth tomorrow....

Sunday, September 21, 2008


At some point in my spiritual journey - I realized that although the gospel presented to me at 7 years of age was very clearly the Truth... very clearly true and applicable in my life..... it wasn't the whole story. The gospel I learned as a child until I was ready again to grow spiritually (around say age 21) was all about my relationship with Jesus. All about my individual relationship with God because of Jesus. All about my access to God and access to heaven because of Jesus.

This Jesus-focused gospel was the Truth that got me to love God, to understand His grace and to start on my spiritual journey. But it was just the beginning. This 'beginning gospel' is very apparent on my blog. I know that many readers who email me are at the same stage I am --- just learning how to relate to God, to be with Him, to find out about ourselves to start on our spiritual journey.....

but I know there is so much more for me to learn. I realize that beginning gospel I know is only one piece of the gospel. Yes Jesus does love me and He is my Savior, my best friend and I do have a love & heart for God ---- but Jesus' second command to us is the 2nd part of the gospel. It's about our connection with others. He wants us to be 'right', to be restored in perfect union with Him & ourselves yes --- but He wants us to be right with others too.

So much of what is happening at Southside (see previous 2 posts) is about this same thing I am learning!!! We are re-learning how to be the church outside of our walls!

Just like my little son Raymond who believes the entire world revolves around him and believes his relationship with mommy & daddy is what love is all about --- so also I have believed that for a long time in my relationship with my Father. But God is working on me. It's time for me to grow up in many ways. He is opening my heart & eyes that there's so much more to learn. The gospel is all about the body of Christ. Yes the Message is that He came to save me ---- but The Message after we "get" that is that He came to save the world - and to create a beautiful bride for His son in the greater community of people. The next step is engaging with our communities ('communities' in the church and communities outside the church!).

As far as engaging with the church community -- we must realize that although the church is NOT what connects us to God ---- God IS what connects us to the church. He is the unifier and restorer of all relationships. We must learn to love the church as the body of Christ - all divisions - all types - above ourselves. People different from us, that we don't understand, that we disagree with, people who hurt us and who we hurt. He came to restore us to each other.

and then we are to engage with the community outside of the body of Christ --- seeking the people who don't yet know our Savior and who are not connected to us yet!!

that's the larger big picture gospel isn't it? Making the body more beautiful, stronger and bigger. The gospel is not only the individualistic approach that we are all originally taught.

We - because of our relationship with Him -- automatically are called to be a part of the community - to have deeper relationships in the community --- and to bring more people to the community.

This doesn't take away anything from my passionate pleas for us to spend time with Him individually. To understand our worth in Him. To value the ability to be with Him. To know that He loves ME individually and saved ME is the first step. Being restored to Him individually and being okay with ourselves because of Him is the gospel in the first form we learn it. The gospel the way Raymond is learning it now in his "First Steps to God" book.... but I'm ready to grow up...

...continue to teach me God how to be a better part of the Body of Christ and to help others come to know you and be right with you, with themselves AND with the community!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Southside - Part 2

Follow-up from previous post.

So with change - there is resistance. That is a known condition in any 'organization'. Being outright resistant is different than being a challenger though. Being resistant means that you aren't willing to give the change a chance. Many time resistance comes in the form of sinful complaining, criticsm & condeming.

Being a challenger means that you are willing to give it a chance -but you refuse to be the seed that Jesus talks about in Matthew 13. The seed that gets so excited & enthusiastic automatically about every new idea presented without knowing the details, without spending time with God talking about the change with Him and then when any hard times comes - bails out. I am happy to be a challenger. I will continue to love & respect our leaders and be one of their biggest cheerleaders.... but I also am going to continue to challenge.

I will challenge my own thoughts on the way our church has always done things, the way I have always done things.... and the way we SHOULD do things. I am an EXTREMELY passionate & enthusiastic person --- but I want to be behind this vision 100% not in my emotions but in my soul, my heart and my actions.... so I am going to make sure I have deep roots so I'm ready to stand firm when the wind blows. I don't want this to be another thing to get excited about --- I want others to realize that the excitement and passion they see is not a facade -- it's an external sign of what God is working on inside making me ready for long haul work & discipline.

I want to challenge, to ask questions all the while being encouraging and loving --- so that I can truly understand the vision, so that I understand the reality of the growing pains that will come so that I am willing to stick around no matter what comes. I want to be that good seed that hears and takes in the News (key being TAKES IT IN --- gives the change a chance) challenges, and then is ready to go when it's time to act!! -- allowing God to produce a harvest beyond wildest dreams. When it's time to act - there is NO looking back - it's full steam ahead -- so the time to examine & challenge is NOW!

Southside! :)

Our church is going through a dramatic awakening / change. We started going to Southside in 2004... we continued because we saw potential. We agreed with the preaching, enjoyed the worship, connected with the people around us in the pews, felt the Spirit. I 'felt' there was something big going on there. In the past months, some seeds have come up showing what has been going on. God has been at work in the hearts of the leadership & the people and as I continue to see all around me in the world - He is building His army. It has been an amazing thing to see and be a part of (be a part of behind the scenes and in the pews and being a part of it because I've been allowing God to work in my own heart). Our church has some wonderful ministries already - disaster relief, Gospel for Brazil and many others I could go on and on..... BUT this new venture which I won't talk in detail about yet is surpassing all other ventures we have been lead to.

Words were spoken today at a meeting that affirmed to me why I was lead here. The 'leaders' have the same heart I do. I will serve alongside & encourage them as they lead. They have been learning the same lessons God has been laying on my heart... they have been noticing the same things in our culture, community & church that God has been showing me.

I could go on and on and on - as everybody knows..... but to summarize....let me share with you snidbits of the heart of our teachers which is a wonderful reflection of the heart of the God I love and the Jesus I walk with. Their words are in italics.... my thoughts in regular as always :)

  • our job is to build bridges to people - God's job is to save
  • it is time to stop playing church and start being the church
  • we have been out of touch with the lost for too long
  • it is time to engage & connect with our community
  • Jesus did not set up a building or altar and sign and say ok here is the messiah - come people. He himself was the altar and the equipment and went out into the community (Matthew 10:9-10)
  • people are tired of denominations - we are tired of denominations - God is tired of denominations. Jesus never put people into denominations or separated groups
  • we are ready to get our church out of our walls

  • imagine if all Jesus lovers / christians came together and worked together at spreading the gospel, feeding people, healing the sick, taking care of the hurting, praising God!!! United, God can use us to change the world ---- divided, leaves room for the devil.
  • Each of our denominations, our church 'types' and us individually have many strengths individually --- but when we combine them - that is when God-created excellence occurs!!
  • together we are all better - my friend Tre and I were talking about such a perfect example of this is the different styles of worship. Imagine if you took the best strengths from each and put it together ---- it would be heaven! We could experience that here if we would stop having so many divisions and learn to appreciate and love each other's goodness!!! I want more diversity in all our churches so bad!

  • we are willing to give up everything, our security blanket for this God sized vision and to reach those who need reaching. we are putting so much on the back burner, forget our buildings right now, forget our programs, we are ready to be laser focused. we will no longer be luke warm mediocre in many things - but be God-driven excellent in His thing. we will cut out everything that isn't reaching the goal of making disciples of Christ, cut out anything that isn't fruitful
  • there are at least 100,000 people in our surrounding community that need reaching and don't know Christ
  • we are ready to build bridges and stop creating islands
  • we are all going to step out of our comfort zones and start engaging the community
  • we are going to get good at caring about people and spending time pouring into people's lives who are unlike us

** I would direct you to our webpage so you could learn more about us - but it's not up yet. The newly revamped sites will be up soon!!! And I can't wait to share with all of you - my bloggie friends - what God is doing at Southside as it is unveiled **

Teaching thoughts...

Some more thoughts after yesterday's post....

it never is too early to have 'school' with your child. I know that children are always learning, whether you are intentionally teaching or not. They are watching you, listening to you and learning from your attitudes, actions, habits & words. I try to keep that in mind at all times. Would it be okay if Raymond did what I'm doing? (watch what I'm watching.... read what I'm reading... eat what I'm eating...etc.) If it's not okay for him - it more than likely is not okay for me.

So I know he's always learning.... but I also very much intentionally teach him. I never really thought of myself has a great teacher or being very maternal --- so all my prayers asking for help in my parenting must be getting answered! All the credit goes to God for any good I do in my role as mommy! Ever since Raymond was little, I have a list of things I'm sort of "working with him on" as far as knowledge & learning.

At this point, my desire is just to teach him to love learning. To look at the world and all that's in it with enthusiasm and excitement about learning! I am constantly pointing out different fun things we see with enthusiasm. I want him to love learning like I always have.

In the mornings we have been "having school" -- we teach his bears different words through pictures in books. We go through the alphabet with them and name the different toys Raymond has. He just loves doing that. It's such an awesome way to teach him without making it so structured that he doesn't enjoy it. He loves school with his bears.

Nature walks and just enjoying the outside are perfect times to teach. We pick up pine cones (we love pine cones for some reason! hehe) and compare sizes. Find out which is the biggest. We learn the colors through nature. We pick up rocks and count them.

So nature walks are an awesome way to learn!! It's never too young to start teaching a thirst for knowledge! :) Did you read that article from yesterday yet!? You should! It's good! :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"A Day Outside"

I read a really cool article on entitled, 7 Special Reasons to Get Up & Get Out -- by Jane Claire Lambert I really encourage any parent to go read it.... here's the link. Please! :) go read it!

We need to get our kids outside!! I think I am so especially passionate about this topic because I love nature so much and am such a visual learner.

I could go on and on about this article - but here's my favorite parts:

In days gone by, students routinely went on nature walks at all times of the year. They learned about the animals, trees, insects, stars, rocks, weather and they learned about them in great detail through daily observation, daily lessons & daily application. What happened? Nature has NOT grown less amazing.

....The Creator has been removed from the traditional classroom. With His departure, much of the wonder and amazement with which teachers eagerly tied Him has been removed as well....

...We need to break away from the air-conditioning, televisions, video games, soccer games, and re-introduce our kids to the great outdoors! Wonder & amazement has just evaporated from most nature lessons in our culture....

...We have become more indoor-dwelling people. Away from nature, away from each other. We are losing touch with beauty and not noticing that so much of what speaks of the greatness of our God has been closed out of our lives. The very same lessons that used to be taught enthusiastically to the tiniest child & student in higher education has been boiled down to tests, labs and textbooks -- not personal adventure!

To summarize the 7 reasons to get up and get out:
1. gaining observational & life skills, as well as actually experiencing school lessons so that they become relevant
2. understanding the connectedness of life
3. experiencing camaraderie, intimacy and the joy of making rich family ties
4. developing a quiet heart... one that can actually be STILL now and then, and one that can find benefits from moments of solitude
5. becoming aware of stewardship & conservation
6. creating a rich avenue for worship
7. learning that nothing in nature is "common"

and to add in some of my own:
8. exercise!!! get off the couch! get the blood flowing
9. meeting new friends. how are we to influence others without interacting!?
10. it's beautiful outside!!! we have been so extremely blessed with so much beauty around us... by not taking it for granted, we acquire a heart of gratitude for all we've been given!

My mom said when Ryan (my oldest sibling) was little, they were walking on a nature trail and a little old lady approached her and said, "a day inside passes time... a day outside creates memories"

we were ALWAYS outside when I was little. I mean ALL the time haha. I am so thankful my parents & grandparents taught me an appreciation of nature and our surroundings. I have no doubt that is why I am such a visual learner & why I am such a naturalist. Many times when I am spending time with God - He gives me mental images to associate with my mood/emotions - and there are always of nature.

Don't get me wrong - I actually love inside too. When my mom told me that quote - I said "but mom I love inside too and make wonderful memories there too" --- and she just said, "yeah but you just love everything" --- so I guess that's true. You can make fun & make a lesson in anything you are doing!! I love playing games, love playing trucks with Raymond, love doing the alphabet with him, reading books together, and I love a rainy day with movies once in a while..... but when it's sunny out - I just have to be outside as much as I can! I start feeling so guilty - like I'm doing my parents and grandparents a disservice when I keep Raymond inside on a beautiful day.

I hope you have a blessed day and take time to enjoy the beauty, wonder, balance, peace, power and awesomeness God has created!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gratitude for His time

God's Daily Promises email really got me thinking today. Here's the verse:

Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the Lord— rejoice in his presence!
Psalm 68:4

Do you realize there is nobody in this world who wants to listen to you as much as God does? It is extremely evident to me all the time.

There is nobody else in this world who is waiting as anxiously as God is... for time with you.

Can you fathom that?

Is quiet time with Him something to just check off your list ? Does including Him in your day and talking to Him throughout the day just feel like a chore?

IF ONLY we understood even 1/1,000th of what Jesus had to endure for us to be able to go to Him anytime, everytime, all day, every day. King David calls us to rejoice in His presence. Quiet time isn't about doing things a certain way, it's not a time to feel bad about ourselves with confession, it's not about getting a nugget of revelation to share with others...... those may be parts of it.... but it's so much more.

God isn't expecting anything from you. You don't have to come to Him a certain way, doing a certain thing, saying a certain thing.... He just wants you to come. Plain & simple. That's the start - just give Him time. As your relationship grows, you can worry about the details later.... the beginning is rejoicing in His presence and realizing how absolutely thankful we should be for the ability to be in His presence, whenever, wherever!!!!

Start showing gratitude, start praising Him and thanking Him for His time --- your time with Him will be blessed. Gratitude leaves room for blessings. Without gratitude, there is no room for more blessings.

Thank you God SOO much for the ability to be with you whenever I want, wherever. I don't have to wait until heaven! I can be with you right now, in this very moment. THANK YOU!!!! Thank you a million times over. I couldn't do this life without you. Please forgive me for all the times I put quiet time on my to do list and check you off like a chore. I want to be with you at ALL times. I never want you to feel like you are 2nd. YOU are my priority and I want to show you that with every part of my day and being!!! YOU are my priority! I am SO thankful God for all you've done, all you've blessed me with! PLEASE help me not take for granted Jesus' crucifixion and willingness to take the blame, shame, guilt and loneliness that I deserve!! He tore the curtain so that I could be with you --- please remind me of that throughout my day. I don't want to break your heart anymore! I will include you in my days and I look forward to spending quiet time with you! I LOVE YOU!

More thoughts on His love & the Curtain being torn:


Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11th

I'll never forget. I'll never forget where I was & what I felt. I'll never forget the surreal sort of terror I felt.

I think I understood on a totally different level why our defense is so extremely important to our country.

Thank you so much God for allowing me to be born into America. I am SO proud to be an American!

p.s. My parents are visiting for a week --- be back to blogging next week! :) God bless each of you. I pray you are as appreciative and grateful as I am for all God has blessed us with as Americans!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Captivating - Chapter 1 Part 2

We know the expectations that have been laid upon us by our families, our churches and our cultures. There are reams of materials on what you ought to do to be a good woman. But that is not the same thing as knowing what the journey toward becoming a woman involves, or even what the goal really should be.

I know I am not alone in thsi nagging sense of failing to measure up, a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I've ever met feels it - something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough and I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive [Randi insert here --- too wordy] too opinionated, too messy. The result is shame the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.

After all, if we were better women - whatever that means - life wouldn't be so hard. Right? Why is it so hard to create meaningful friendships and sustain them? Why do our days seem so unimportant, filled not with romance and adventured but duties and demands? We feel unseen, unsought and uncertain...Aware of our deep failings, we pour contempt on our own hearts for wanting more. we long for intimacy and for adventure; we long to be the beauty of some great story. But the desires set deep in our hearts seem like a luxury, granted only to those women who get their acts together. the message to the rest of us - whether from a driven culture or a driven church - is try harder.

Man I love this book.

These beginning passages really were a reflection of my heart when I read them the first time.... it feels so good to re-read them because I really am a totally different person than the first time I read them! Now I can say, "no worries randi.... there is a Savior in this story! You are part of a wonderful beautiful story started way before you were created and that will continue way after you are gone from here!!!"

I related to these questions & the emotion and sorrow felt in the beginning of the book so much the first times I read it.... but now I can say that I am freed from the shame that the world puts on me. I am free from worrying about my significance & value. I am free from trying to please the world or create a following for myself.

God has shown me my value and I have come to realize I am His beauty! He has been pursuing me since the moment He thought of me and I am so thankful that He kept knocking until I was ready to open the door. He is my love and He is enough for me.

He is absolutely my best friend... the person I talk to most and spend the most time with. I LOVE that He is literally always there... but not only is He there and willing to listen - He is willing to pour love back to me and speak back to me. I LOVE that I never have too many words for Him. He will never say --- okay Randi you're getting a big wordy, what's your point? He is ALWAYS willing to listen and He is never taken aback at my whining or frustrations.

I am so thankful for this blog. It's one of the ways I spend time with Him. To mull over what He is teaching get out what so few are willing to listen refine the lessons He is pouring into my heart.

He is available 24-7.

Pursuing us. Watching us. Anxiously yet patiently waiting... But He won't force open the door.

Much more to come from Captivating! :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Expectations of His life-changing power!!

To follow up from this post:

For some reason righteousness is a constant thing on my heart and blog too. From this previous post, you're right Minnow... I do have high expectations. Your comment threw me off guard and caused me to really have to examine myself. Thank you SO much for it. I believe that if you knew me in person and knew my personality you would realize that those expectations I have are not dangerous because they are not my expectations on myself... not expectations on others..... let me share what I found...

I really believe I've been gifted with discernment. I think that's the right word? The ability to have a clear and distinct knowledge of right and wrong... to be able to discern what is from God and what is not. Very clear convictions..... but some in the world tell me (including many modern churches) that having strong moral convictions is wrong. That there really should be no attention to them so not to offend others....Then we have this other distinct group that only focuses on morality and being better/doing better because we need to try harder. They focus on looking better and looking like we have high morals to others.... worrying about the outside and not the inside.... both have it way wrong in my opinion.

This first group (mostly young people for some reason) believe that when Jesus came and died for our sins --- He "threw out" morality. He made our sin have no consequences. He demolished any sort of moral code. That we shouldn't even talk about morality. I disagree. From what I read Jesus did not abolish any moral code. He gave us an example to live up to and move toward. He gave us a goal -unreachable on earth - but an extremely worthy goal for us to strive for with the power of the Spirit.

God continued to point me to this passage. Matthew 5:17-18. I read it over and over and over and over again.

What I realized was that I DO have high expectations.... but it's not of my own power. I have REALLY HIGH and HUGE expectations for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. The cleansing & healing power of Jesus. I have searched and searched through all the miraculous things Jesus did while on earth and it just amazes me how much change He brought. I mean the people He healed were RADICALLY healed and changed. Like never the same again - a totally new person, unrecognizably different..... and I thought - but that's the same power we have now! I am not even talking about physical healing at all. I'm talking about the power of the Holy Spirit & Jesus's ability to cover over our ugliness. The ability to help us become more and more righteous and more like Jesus every day.

So many of us are not tapped into this power. Are we scared of 'looking' legalistic? Scared of failure? We will fail, always. We will never arrive... but why are we so scared to fail? Failure is okay. Mistakes are how we learn. It really is okay to fail. God sees us trying and Jesus is always there to bandage us up and steer us back to the path. Just because our goal of righteousness is an unreachable goal doesn't mean it isn't worthy of our efforts, right?

Jesus took on sin and became sin for us. He DID make it possible for our sins to have NO eternal consequence to us.That I do agree with. I will go to heaven purely because I believe in Him not anything I will do here. I believe that we do now have CREDIT for Jesus' righteousness in God's eyes --- and Jesus now has the BLAME for our sins.

BUT.... I don't for a second believe that sin has NO consequence. In fact, I believe our sins have huge drastic consequences in life. I DO believe in absolute morality not relative. I believe our sin keeps us away from God's blessings. Yes He can and will turn around everything for the good. Romans 8:28. but I believe our sin-detours will delay blessings and delay being most effective for God. I don't believe morality is relative, I believe that there is a morality and righteousness demonstrated by Jesus that we are to do whatever we can to get closer to. I do believe it IS our calling to allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse us daily to become more and more like Christ.

He IS the only one that will be perfectly righteous... but God wants us to strive to be morally pure right? He loves us like we are perfectly righteous; forgives us like we perfectly are; accepts us into heaven like we are perfectly righteous.... so I want to do everything I can to get closer to that standard - I want to allow His power into my life. I want to be cleansed, daily since I sin daily.

We need to stick up for righteousness and that goal!! YES too many people for too long worried about OTHER's people immorality & pointing it out to them. Too many churches for too long tried to be righteous in their own power without the spirit & without giving credit to Him (so became very self-righteous and unmerciful) it's caused a lot of confusion and rebellion. It's caused a lot of us younger generations to rebel against righteousness at all.

but to love righteousness, to strive for it, is not being legalistic!

I truly believe that the closer we come to Jesus' standards, the more we experience the blessings of God!

The way to do this - to become more and more righteous, I think is a little by little...daily thing. By immersing ourselves in His Word & learning how to listen to the Spirit. To have high expectations on the power of the Spirit in our lives. The same power that raised people from the dead... can change us daily! The girl who could never control her temper before CAN be lead and controlled by the Spirit and not her emotions (sorry that's just one experience from my life that really is such proof to those around me that Jesus's changing power is real!!)... We don't have to be the same old us we always were. We can be totally new!

Let's be real with ourselves and check the spiritual condition of our hearts. Are we sacrificing righteousness because of the unconditional love of our father? We underestimate His power? We are relying on ourself? We are denying there is such a thing as righteousness? Are we complacent because we are saved? Why aren't we striving?

The only way I see we could be 'legalistic' and like the pharisees is if we are focusing on the outside actions - by focusing on trying to be good on our own. The way to righteousness is a battle and it's a constant changing from the inside out. Clearly a disciple of Jesus is different on the outside though right?

Matthew 23:25-26. Jesus isn't teling us morality is bad. That we don't have to worry about being righteous.... is He? Isn't He telling me that change happens from the inside out. That HE will do the changing and my actions and outside will reflect what's happening inside???

I want to 'take back' discipleship in our generation and find more willing wanting to become more like Jesus every day. Let's continue to allow Him to produce tangible, positive change in our lives so we can shine that light into the world and give Him the praise & glory for it. Let's acknowledge how poor we are in spirit, how dependent we are on Him for change. Let's never stop trying. Let's not lower the standards because they are unreachable. Our failure will keep us from being prideful.

We are getting better at building communities & loving on each other....Getting better at being merciful & not self-righteous......but what about everyday healthy discipleship - changing from the inside out? Taking on Jesus' righteousness as our own. Accepting that gift.

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge & dismiss our older traditional christian brother and sisters... there's a lot we could learn from them....

some more thoughts on:

how to be IN but not OF the world:

Being the salt in our culture:

relative morality/ relative morality

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Captivating - Chapter 1 Part 1

I really do not agree with the message that the majority of the current day churches are sending women. I don't like how they present 'how to be a godly successful woman' to us. I want to share some thoughts on here regarding this topic.

This has been on my heart a lot for many reasons such as:

1) Marriages all around us are in trouble and Brandon & I know this. We see our friends under attack our families and satan even tries to get a wedge in ours. We have been meditating a lot on what the Bible says about marriage about women's roles & men's roles in this world.
2) our roles have changed a lot in the past 3 years - I never pictured myself as being very maternal or feminine - in fact I really wasn't sure I was ever meant to have kids or have a traditional wife role --- but God challenged all those prevoius notions and flipped my world upside down with giving us raymond so unexpectedly! :)
3) I am continually reading the book, Captivating. It is in my top 5 books of all time for truth telling and powerful. I can't say enough about this book.
4) The attacks on Sarah Palin have created conversations going on all around the world on gender & femininity as she makes her way to becoming the first woman in the white house.

SO those are the reasons this topic is on my heart.

I am not happy with the messages that the world tells us about being a woman, the church as a whole is no better than the world in this way. I don't like that we try to focus femininity to a concrete set of demands or roles. I don't like when I am told that to be a successful woman I just need to do the following _ things and then I might measure up somehow someday to who I am supposed to be as a feminine godly woman. I don't like that we are never told it's okay to fail.

With all the demands & expectations we put on ourselves and others put on us, leaving NO room for failure.... we are destroying the heart of women, that which makes us truly beautiful and feminine and captivating. We are worn out tired and ashamed of how we are not enough and not good enough yet too much (too demanding too emotional too conversational) at the same time. We do not need more books more people telling us how we are failing. These resources are helpful in some ways - yes - but they don't explain or describe what being a woman is all about.

These lessons on how to be better women can NOT be taught without first explaining the Holy Spirit's power in our life and what being a woman is truly all about. They can not be taught without explaining that every single one of us will never be perfect - that the goal is progress not perfection. And they can't be taught without explaining that unrealistic expectations between husband and wife is detrimental to a successful marriage. We have to communicate our expectations to each other - not worrying so much about what the world or even church tells us.

I believe these lessons on the specifics on how to meet our spouse's needs can not be taught without explaining that our spouse will NOT meet all our needs. That we need to depend on God above all else to meet our needs.... that our spouse WILL fail us and disappoint us and that's okay. And finally, these lessons can not be taught in my opinion without explaining we are all responsible for our own actions. Our spouses failures in one area is no excuse for our own failures and sins (ex: my husband doesn't meet this need so I look ____ to fill it).

So there's a lot of 'danger' in teaching these to-do lists for how to be a successful husband or wife alone without secondary teaching.

But God's message is clear - we are enough for Him and not too much at all, ever. He has shown me what real beauty is... what real femininity is. He is the only one that can meet all our needs and show us who we are. He is the One that has been able to heal all the wounds that has been inflicted on my beautiful heart from this world, myself, my culture & the churches I have been to. The majority of churches are not doing a good job of spreading God's love to us as women. God spoke to me a lot through this book, Captivating and I wish that I could pass this book to every woman I know. I believe the church means well (I don't believe the world means well) --- but let's just be honest - men do NOT get it. They don't get what being a woman is all about. They don't get what we need to hear to help us become more godly women. They don't get that femininity can't be described in roles, demands, actions, or physical looks.

I am going to continue to write summaries on the book Captivating on here and my favorite passages from it. As always - italics are excerpt. Here are some notes from Chapter 1. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on this topic coming soon! :)

I joined the feminist movement in college, searching as so many women did in the 70's for a sense of self..... but no matter how much I asserted my strength and independence as a woman ("hear me roar"), my heart as a woman remained empty. To be told you can be anything when you are young and searching is not helpful. It's too vast. It gives no direction. To be told when you are older that, "you can do anything a man can do" isn't help either. I didn't want to be a man. What does it mean to be a woman?

I really relate to this. I grew up in - liberal so open minded our brains are falling out - New Jersey and I was a total feminist throughout school. I was an athlete... I was not gentle in spirit or in personality or attitude.... I couldn't bake... I couldn't paint... I had horrible handwriting.... I couldn't sew a button in 7th grade even though all the boys kid.... what a failure as a girl in the world's eyes!! So I took the role as feminist --- since I didn't measure up to the traditional roles - I was not going to try harder at them - because I got this message that I wasn't EVER going to be good enough. So instead of trying, I was just going to give up and try to change the tradition!

I was determined to prove that women were just as strong as men in every way.... I didn't get that God made women and men differently. I didn't get that my roles, my talents, my outside was NOT what made me a woman. I missed what God was trying to tell me when I felt Him telling me I was powerful... He wasn't talking about being as strong as men... He was talking about the unique and beautiful, powerful heart given to women.

Before I was married my mother gave me this advice....a) love flies out the window when there's no pork chop on the table b) always keep your kitchen floor clean. I caught her drift.. namely that my new position as wife centered in the kitchen making pork chops and cleaning up after them. I somehow believe that upon saying I do, I would be magically transformed into Betty Crocker. I imagined myself baking fresh bread, looking flushed and beautiful as I removed the steaming loaves from the oven. No matter that I hadn't cooked but five meals in my entire life. I set about preparing dinners, breakfasts even with zeal & determination. After 2 weeks of this, I lay on the couch despondent announcing that I didn't know what was for dinner and John was on his own. Besides, the kitchen floor was dirty. I had failed.

I just have to laugh because I know this so well. I remember those first weeks how I just felt like such a failure - I realized the technicalities of being a wife were going to be WAY harder than I envisioned haha. I told you about my home economics days growing up - I must have forgotten about those and really assumed the "I do" at the altar would all of a sudden make me everything I wanted to be for Brandon. I forgot that I couldn't do anything all those typical girls could do - the girls like my sister the home economic poster child, the homecoming queen that seemed to be naturally gentle & feminine.

But something happened!! God started pouring His love into me when I sought Him out. I realized success or failure in these roles didn't define me! When I realized these roles did not make me a woman or not.....when I realized it was okay to fail and that I was still a beautiful woman ---- only then was I able to start loving myself and trying little by little to be the woman Brandon wanted (and I wanted to be!)

Do I believe all women have to learn these traditional homemaking roles? No --- some women were called for totally different things than me. Sarah Palin's unique skills & roles are a wonderful example. I believe she is completely feminine and a beautiful woman - yet look at how different her family and her life are than mine. They make it work for them.

I have to work extremely hard at being a homemaker. Even as I write this my husband exclaims, "you do? No you don't! Everything is perfect around here." HAHAHA Oh if he only knew haha. These things do not come natural to me - I ignored my mom's advances to teach me these traditional homemaking skills & tools - I missed out on a lot by not allowing her to teach me about homemaking... but I know that I just have to get better every day. I know that they ARE the role for me specially right now. I know that Brandon needs me to fulfill this role --- but most importantly now I know I can fail. It's okay to fail!!! My aim is progress not perfection. These 'things' are not where I get my value as a woman!

These acts of service, things I do are all just outward signs of what God is doing inside. I want to give my husband what he needs because I love him and want to serve him. We discuss our expectations of each other together and jointly decide how we can meet each other's needs. Traditional homemaking is important to us and I LOVE that it's the role that I have to fill right now BUT BUT's my role right now not because it's what makes me a woman ... but because of the marriage Brandon & I have and what we decided together would be best for our household based on our skills our backgrounds and our goals. The way our lives have worked out, God through Brandon allows me to stay home full time so my role right now is homemaking and taking care of Raymond.

So again - these roles do not define me as a woman, they are not where I get my value, they are not what make me feminine but they are roles I have right now and quite frankly these things are completely secondary to what's most important and that is seeking God and being close to Him. I know that the most important thing I can do as a wife is be close to God.

We have received all sorts of messages but very little help in what it means to become a woman. How can a woman of God be confident, scandalous and beautiful but not a feminist nazi or an insecure I need attention emotional whore? How can I become a strong woman without becoming harsh? How can I be vulnerable without drowning myself in sorrow?


Here is the original blog entry on Captivating:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Do you have a before & after?

The daily email from (Girlfriends in God) from today was really good.

Here's an excerpt:

We need to remember that our attitudes and conversations give off a smell as well. The apostle Paul said, "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life" (2 Corinthians 2:14-16a, emphasis mine).

Does your attitude give off an aroma of Christ? Are those around you drawn to Him as a result of the love and peace you display? Do your conversations consistently honor God, embody the fruit of the Spirit, and expel the fragrance of life...or are they sometimes laced with bitterness, resentment, anger, complaining, and gossip? It's time to locate and throw away our stinky, sour sippy attitudes, and ask the Lord to renew our minds. Let's run the race before us as women of honor who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, give off an aroma of Christ.

What does your attitude, your behavior, your love for others (or lack of), your conversations (in person, on your blog, your emails, etc.) say about Christ? Whether or not you know it -- there are eyes watching you. Whether or not you know it - you represent Christ to others if you're a christian.

When we look and examine our actions, attitudes and hearts --- we should ask ourselves -- would Jesus ever treat people the way I do? Would He have this attitude? Would He hold this grudge? Would He write, or say, these words?

OF COURSE we're going to mess up. Of course we'll never be perfect - but following Him is our goal and wanting to be like Him is our mission, right?

The next email I got fit perfectly into this theme (as usual). It was a Purpose Driven email from Jon Walker. He writes:

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
Romans 6:18 (NIV) .... prodigal return was realizing I still had a choice, starting with the foundational choice that “I can’t, but God can.”

.....I finally believed my freedom of choice left me free not to sin. I did not have to sin; I could choose not to sin. I am free from sin, not free from temptation, but free from the slavery of sin that kept me chained to ungodly choices.

....Jesus broke the power of sin in your life, and he’s empowered you, through the Holy Spirit, to make the right, corrective, godly choices.

So are we living that out? Are we letting Jesus have the power in our lives? Are there areas of your life that haven't changed from before you knew Christ? Do you hold grudges, name call, accuse, gossip, lash out in your anger or hurt? Do you find yourself always worrying about protecting yourself, your reputation, your hurt, what you deserve? Are you more concerned with yourself and your life than others?

Jesus's love is life changing. This love changes us. I remember how excited I was when I finally realized I didn't have to be the same old me!!!! I could be free from me! It's not immediate - this is not an overnight thing --- it takes time... and yes we WILL always mess it up and fall back to our old sins...... BUT do we listen to the Spirit when He is convicting us of our sin? Are we aware of our sin? Are we asking for help for our sinful areas? Do we WANT to be changed? Do we want to be a new creation or are we happy with the way we were --- because it's comfortable, safe and familiar?

I want to exude a new aroma than I always was. Above all else - I just want my aroma to be of love. I am a terrible sinner and mess up a lot - but if there's any area that He has changed me in a LOT it's the way I deal with others. It's my unconditional love of people. It's relationships. It's learning how to have mercy. It's learning to see value in EVERY person. It's learning to show people that they are so valuable and worth listening to. It's being able to see all perspectives but staying true to my convictions. It's learning how to let the Spirit control my emotions and bite my tongue a lot. a LOT. These are areas He has changed in me.

I want people to see my love for God - I want people to see my love for others above myself. I want to be able to look at my life and see a lot of before & afters. I want God's beautiful, pure aroma of love to always overpower my sour one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Won't you open the door?

God wants to speak to you, do you know that?

It still amazes me daily how much He cares for me. It still amazes me that He wants MY attention! I love how He speaks into my life. I think that He enjoys seeing me get 'pumped up' when I recognize the seeds He's trying to plant into my heart. He knows how much I love it when He gives me the same message from lots of different sources.....I get the biggest kick when He does that. Knowing those messages are for ME from Him the Creator of the earth is just mind-blowing to me.

Sometimes, He makes His message so clear to me that I feel I'm the only person in the world He's talking to (though I know that's not true). and sometimes it's extremely difficult to figure out if He's there at all (although I very much know He is)....BUT I really believe the only difference between those times are what *I* am allowing to get in the way of our relationship.

God makes it very apparent throughout His Word that if we seek Him, He'll be there. That He's always there knocking, it's our job to answer.

This opportunity is available to each and every one of us. Just because one person opens the door to Him doesn't make them better than you. Just because they are listening to Him is no reason for you to get discouraged. It should encourage you to open the door as well!! It's amazing to me how long I took this for granted. I have the ears and heart and love of the creator of this universe - ready for me. What in the world is keeping me from Him?

Much of the time it's feelings of guilt/unworthiness to be in His presence. That's the devil's lie to us. Don't you remember the garden of Eden? Adam & Eve messed up and sinned and then the guilt is what kept them from going to God. God didn't change!! God's love for them didn't change!! The only thing that changed in their relationship with God was this new feeling and conviction of shame and guilt they felt from the sin they had committed. He was still ready for them, still open to them - but the sin had laid guilt on their once-pure hearts so that they felt naked and vulnerable and unworthy to be in His presence.

That should have been our story too; but it isn't. Jesus came and took the blame for ALL of our sins. He endured the consequence of our sins... and in doing so, He made our hearts right again, taking away the same and guilt that our fallen nature causes us... so that we could have God in our lives. Are you taking advantage of that opportunity?

I remember when I didn't know God... and thinking oh man, how in this world do I start talking to the God of this universe? My relationship with God started like any young child's relationship with their parent. I just started talking to Him in whatever language I had for Him. Sometimes it was just tears (like our toddlers right?) sometimes it was small childlike words. Usually it was me whining about my problems, requests for what I wanted, complaining about other people, etc. etc. etc. and ya know what --- God met me there. He knew what I was feeling I didn't even have to say anything.

He wasn't taken aback by my words those first months of talking to Him - He wasn't upset that I was using baby talk with Him, the God of this universe, Holy Lord of Lords. He met me where I was and never once made me feel silly or foolish or childish. He showed me that He loved me and I felt His acceptance and approval from the beginning. He will never deny you. He will never push you away. He will always always always welcome you into His arms when you go to Him.

As my relationship grows with Him --- my words have changed in my conversations with Him. There's a lot less focus on me and a lot more focus on Him and others. I definitely have childish moments in my prayers --- but that's okay. He really is always there and willing to listen.

If there's one thing I could tell people or teach them it would be that God wants to be a part of their lives. Wherever you are, whatever stage you're at, no matter how many times you've messed up, or will continue to, whatever doubts or questions you have... He is standing knocking.

I truly believe that the reason He pours into my life so much is because I expect Him to. I am listening. I am seeking Him. But it all started with just talking to Him however I could. Now, in those seasons of my life that I am too discouraged to pursue, too tired to seek, and too faithless to expect....I'm so thankful that He's here because I allowed Him in. Now, when I go through those seasons.... all I need to do is somehow open the door even just a little and He will pour His love on me even when I'm not pouring my love to Him.

So I pray that we would all give Him attention today. He's ready. He's waiting. He is desiring for you to talk to Him and allow Him to be a part of your life. However you want to do it - wherever and whatever you want to say - won't you open the door even just a little?