Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Real Church

"I think that is God's plan -- to meet me where I am, in all my ugliness, not where I pretend to be or wish I were; to meet me in my weakness and shame and fear and to give me hope that God loves me, that He can change me, and that He can use me. I need help to dare believe that though I deserve to be hated, God delights in me; that though I keep living in my mess, He is changing me and will one day finish the job; and that He can use me to change the world, to make an eternal difference in this sorry but God-loved planet." Larry Crabb - Real Church

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bank of Time

" If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400.00 that carried over no balance from day to day and allowed you to keep no cash in your account...and every evening cancelled whatever part of the amount you had failed to use during the day...what would you do? Draw out every cent, of course! Well...you have such a bank, and it's name is "Time". Every night it rules off, as lost whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose...it carries over no balance. It allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. Each night it burns the records of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. Ther is no drawing against tomorrow. You must live in the present - on today's deposits. Invest it...so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success."
- Author Unknown

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday's Quote of the Day

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
- Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stressless Saturday

Don't Quit!

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must; but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up, though the pace seems slow;
You might succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor's cup.
And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out;
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt;
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit;
It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Fun Friday

I Am a 'Kept' Woman You see, there were a few times when I thought I would lose my mind, But GOD kept me sane. (Isa. 26:3)

There were times when I thought I could go on no longer, But the LORD kept me moving. (Gen 28:15)

At times, I've wanted to lash out at those whom I felt had done me wrong,
But the LORD kept my mouth shut. (Ps. 13)

Sometimes, I think the money just isn't enough, But GOD has helped me to keep the lights on, the water on, the car paid, the house paid, etc.., (Matt. 6:25 -34)

When I thought I would fall,
HE kept me up.

When I thought I was weak,
HE kept me strong! (I Pet. 5:7, Matt. 11:28-30)

I am indeed a 'kept' woman and praise God for it!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

God is Good

The past year has been a struggle. Moving, changing churches, moving my practice, and starting over. I have faced many losses. Although I often felt that the church I had attended for almost 20 years was an island experience – at least it was a familiar and friendly experience. People knew me, respected me, and in a limited way, loved me. Limited in the way that a counselor/staff person is known and loved. I had gone from lay person to staff person back to lay person again. When I moved off staff I found I really had no place there. People in the church were distant because I was a staff member…and then when I quit my job I didn’t fit with the staff either. I had jumped ship…on both sides…and found myself swimming in very lonely waters.

So, when my husband retired we decided to move to the community where our son and his family live. I had prayed that I would find a place to belong, a place to serve, a place to be known and loved, and a place where I could know and love others without the obstacle of staff vs. non-staff history.

We started attending our son’s church at probably the worst time in the life of the church. A few months before we moved, the senior pastor resigned. A good friend of ours was on staff at the church and I saw firsthand the difficulties of working in a church without a senior pastor. In our denomination, whenever a senior pastor leaves, the rest of the pastoral staff is required to turn in a letter of resignation. The board can then decide to keep them until a new pastor comes. Once hired, the new senior pastor has to make a decision (within 90 days) if he/she is going to accept those letters of resignation.

We attended the church for seven months before a new senior pastor came. During that seven months…a time of getting used to a new community, a new home, and trying to find an office for my business, I watched as my friend struggled with “do I stay and hope the new guy keeps me? Or do I go?” The interim was hard on the church and staff, and hard on me, a former staff member whose only hope was that I would find a place to serve and a place to belong.

As a counselor and friend, I walked through those dark days with my staff member friend. I tried to help her problem solve when she told me about the issues she had with the board and the interim pastor. I prayed that the new pastor would be able to see her strengths and gifts and affirm them. I also prayed that he/she would be able to see my strengths and gifts and help me find a place to serve.

I don’t know all the details, but at the 90 day mark, my friend was let go. I grieved with her, and I grieved for myself. It seemed that this was not going to be a place where I was going to be able to serve. Partly because I had already volunteered for a few ministries and never heard back from anyone about whether or not they wanted my involvement, and partly because I recognized that the culture of the church was not welcoming. In my mind I connected the easy “disposal” of my friend with a place that was unfriendly and unloving. It didn’t help that even after a year of attending my son, daughter-in-law and a few of their friends were the only people who talked to us Sunday after Sunday.

I’m sure my attitude could have been better. My emotions ranged from anger to hurt to sadness to grief to hope and back. Not typically an emotional person, I found myself near tears after many Sunday morning services. I was grieving the loss of a familiar place where people loved me, wishing that I could find a place to fit, and longing for connection and purpose.

It has been a year since my friend’s resignation was “accepted.” I have watched her struggle as a single female try to support herself after losing her job in the worst economy since the great depression. I have walked beside her as she tried to pick up the pieces of her shattered self-esteem. I have listened to her as she worked through the fear of getting back into ministry. I have fed her more days than not as she struggled to even have enough money for food. I have grieved with her, been angry for her, prayed for her, and wondered with her “why do people get up on Sunday morning and go to church when this is what they get?”

And as much as both of us wanted to walk away and be done with church, God kept speaking. He wouldn’t let either of us go. I recently stopped by my friend’s house and on her refrigerator, on a dry erase board, was a list of the blessings she has received since losing her job. She realizes (on most days) that even though the church has rejected her, God is still caring for her. As I looked at her list I wondered if I could identify the ways that God still cares for me.

I told a friend recently that I had given up on the church. Not necessarily given up on going to church, but given up my struggle to fit in. I acknowledged that for both me and my friend God has led us through what seemed to be a desert experience. I have to tell you…I hate desert experiences. I wish that I could learn about God in the sunshine on a beach somewhere. But it is in the desert experiences that God reduces us to radical dependence on Him.

Jeremiah 32: 40 – 41 says, “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”

I heard Dr. Larry Crabb this week speak about these verses in Jeremiah. He said, “Whatever God is doing in our lives, he is doing good…and he’s having a really good time doing it!” So, if that is true, what is God doing in my life and in the life of my friend? I wish I could say that I have learned all the lessons that I am supposed to during this time, but I know that learning is a journey, not a destination. In my limited understanding I believe that God is using this time to get me to stop looking to the church, to my position, even to the people in the church to find significance. Although I have always known at an intellectual level that truth, until I was swimming in those very lonely waters I didn’t realize how much I looked for approval in the eyes of those I served.

So many times in the last year I have complained. How could they NOT want me? I would be a valuable asset to any church! I have a lot to offer! Although I wasn’t the one let go, in many ways my journey mirrored my friend’s journey. It is no wonder that it hooked my emotions at such a deep level. I felt angry, hurt, depressed, and rejected. I felt it for her and I felt it for myself.

I have found myself recently rereading some of my favorite Bible stories. The life of Joseph has always spoken to me, but never as much as it has this year. Joseph, favored by his father, chosen of God, sold into slavery, given up for dead, and imprisoned unfairly had much more to complain about than me. I often wonder if I could read the journals of some of my Biblical heroes if they would read like mine with an unhealthy dose of “poor me.” He may have complained, but at the end of the story he tells the brothers that sold him into slavery, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” Genesis 50:20a.

It reminds me of a story I read recently:

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly.
Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!

I know that God will redeem this year in my life. I know that God will bring good out of my circumstances and the circumstances of my friend. How? I don’t have the answer yet. My friend is working part time in a church. She still struggles to make ends meet financially, and she still has fears, but I see God healing her. The “dirt” that was thrown on her in her last ministry assignment is becoming her path to the future. God has not stopped doing good to her. Even the fact that she was only able to find a part time job in a small church is probably a blessing from God. She needed time to ease back into ministry instead of hitting the ground running in a large church. And I needed time to get over myself.

So, I wait…patiently some days, not so patiently other days. I don’t like sitting on the sidelines, but I am beginning to hope that God keeps me here until I am able to find my significance in Him alone.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday's Quote of the Day

"One of the main reasons people underperform in their jobs is that they don't know 'why' they are doing them in the first place."
Laurie Beth Jones - Teach Your Team to Fish

Friday, September 11, 2009

Health Care Plan

Let me get this straight.

We are going to get a health care plan written by a committee whose head says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, signed by a president that also hasn't read it and who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes,overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's nearly broke.

What could possibly go wrong?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Louie Giglio - Laminin

Colossians 1:15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday's Quote of the Day

"What if success was more about finding your calling than getting a job? What if the important thing were not making a living, but making a life? What if, instead of beguiling others into thinking we're somthing we're not, we sought to become everything we were designed to be?" Jeff Myers