Friday, June 16, 2017

Promise

Over time promises have lost their significance, their value. People make promises all the time and rarely keep them, either because of intentional manipulation/deception or they just forget what they promised. A promise just isn't seen as any more than an intention or goal, which is quickly overtaken by the current activities or focus. We change like shifting shadows.

No wonder we view the promises of God as hopeful ideas or good intentions rather than truth. We shouldn't be surprised when we have difficulty keeping our word that we expect the same out of God. We hope he keeps his word, but won't build our lives on that promise for fear it won't come to be and we'll have to find another way through.

Or maybe we expect that when we are intentional to thank God for his promises in advance, and our perspective and attitude changes that those around us will also change. That our circumstances or struggles will disappear into thin air or resolve themselves. Like trusting God is some magical potion, bringing God's promises to fruition as soon as we start to trust.

But this one thing I do know: God watches over his word to fulfill it. He doesn't forget or get distracted but is holding it, working it out according to his plan, teaching us to put it all on the line, to fully trust him and his ways. The time of waiting and trusting isn't for God's benefit, but ours. It's in those times our roots grow deeper, our faith is strengthened, and we realize just how faithful God is.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Impeccable Timing

This evening I got the chance to have dessert with one of my cousins and catch up with her. It was a nice time. We talked about what is going on in each of our lives. I'm so glad we made the time to get together.

One theme seemed to permeate every discussion, every update.

We serve a God of impeccable timing.

I can look back through my life, through all the struggles and be assured that when things seemed to be an utter disaster and not going at all as I thought they should, God always knew exactly what he was doing and his timing (which was so different from mine) was always perfect.

I remember when my children's church leader was asked to step down. I was crushed, but God knew what he was doing. God's plan would draw me closer to him and teach me to serve him and not man. To keep my perspective in check and my focus his direction. And his timing was perfect.

I remember being forced to put myself in leadership in kids church. Forced to learn to play the piano/keyboard and lead worship for the kids. I hated it, wanted nothing to do with it, but it is where and when God was able to grow those giftings in me and teach me to lead others in worship.  And his timing was perfect.

I remember starting to play piano in the main service at the age of 14. I remember the difficulty I had. I hated playing hymns and cried often when I messed up. But once again, that is where God pushed me. And his timing was perfect.

I remember thinking I knew what kind of leader and husband I needed and pursuing those types of people. I remember God bringing me Bj and the doubts I had about how it would ever work. He wasn't the type I thought I needed. I was wrong. And God's timing was perfect. God brought me Bj and saved me from pursuing my plans over his. Saved me from heartbreak and broken relationships. God knew what he was doing.

I remember struggling for children, begging and pleading with God to give me what I wanted. Feeling like he was punishing me or ignoring me. I remember opening my heart to the idea of adoption (that I had closed from years prior). I remember submitting our profile for three awesome kids, getting rejected once and picked the second time. I remember the fearful steps we took, one at a time, unsure in our minds but convinced in our spirits they were to be our kids. And God's timing was perfect.

I remember putting aside my perfect parenting ideas and learning how to choose to love kids that were not like me. Who didn't have my tendencies or personality, who experienced life differently, whose upbringing was world apart from mine. It was terrifying for my heart and mind. But I remember KNOWING they were ours and clearly seeing God's timing was perfect.

I remember seeing the first positive pregnancy test. The kids had been with us for 5 months. We were still finding our groove and this was the time God chose to grow our family again. I remember very often (and still to this day) people's opinions that we just needed to relax and we'd get pregnant. The comment that we should have adopted sooner or as soon as you adopt you'll get pregnant put adoption as the source of our magic provision, but I know differently. I know our ability to conceive at just this time had nothing to do with luck or "not thinking about it" but God's timing was perfect.

I remember when I first put the pieces together about the Snyder's retirement from our church as pastor's. I cried when Bj confirmed my suspicions. One more major life change I was not ready to handle. On the other side of the transition, as difficult as it was, I am again convinced that God's timing was perfect.

There are other things I'm praying about and believing God for, and the truth shows me that in those situations, God will answer when it is his perfect time. Because he is faithful like that. I may not enjoy the unknown in the meantime, but I can rest in the fact that God has impeccable timing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Connection

Today I made chocolate chip cookies and invitations to church and went on a mission to meet a few of my neighbors. This was definitely a step out of my comfort zone, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Man, we sure let the devil talk us out of things and convince us of how stupid we will look and how embarrassed​ we will be. And his intimidation techniques are all based on lies. But we choose to believe him and fall into disobedience because we are scared.

I was pushed out of the comfort of my nest today by a few things. First, I said in my previous blog I was going to do this and because keeping my word is really important​ to me, I really didn't have a choice. Second, convictions are useless if they don't lead us to action.

Our churches are full of people who are dissatisfied with what they see and yet, none of them are willing to do something about it. I couldn't be that person. Not this time. And the more you are willing to take a step of faith, the easier it is to do so in the future.

I've struggled over the years with the thought of door to door evangelism. I know that sometimes God uses this to reach people, but it feels like being a door to door salesman. And honestly, I don't even answer the door when they come around.

I don't think inviting people to church or witnessing should feel like we are trying to meet a sales quota or are imitating pushy car salesmen. Because we are "selling" love and forgiveness, something everyone wants and needs to real people, who are more than a number or trophy to be added to our wall. We have to see the need and love the people. Make connection, build trust, and let them see and know the love we have experienced is available to them.

So for me, it all starts with building connection. Not fake connection but genuine connection because we love them enough to care and be their friend. So that's what I tried to do today, to meet new people and let them know I'm available, that I care, and want to be there if they need me for anything, big or small. So there is an avenue to be Jesus to them.

And I made a few connections today, have a few friends to keep in my prayers, and planted some seeds to be watched and watered in the coming days. I'm excited to see how these connections grow and God is able to use me to show his love.







Thursday, June 1, 2017

Growth

If you've been reading my blog at all recently, you'll know that my church is in a new chapter, a time of change, a time of growth. We often at church hear people talking about wanting to grow the church and bringing people in. And while that is all good in theory, I think each of us has a different opinion of what growth looks like. And if it comes in a way that is less than desirable to us, we quickly realize that is not what we want.

Let me say from the start, that from my opinion the growth of one church at the expense of the other is not growth. I don't want a church filled with people who left their previous church for the next new thing. This is like transferring money between your bank accounts and saying you received a bonus. Now, I really believe that God can and does move people to different churches for a season of life, so I'm not invalidating that at all. But that is not how I think God wants to see his church grow.

If we are honest, we want our church to grow by God adding model Christians to our congregation. People who are just like us, who fit in with us. And we want it to happen totally by the power of God and without us having to really do anything to facilitate or manage that growth. We want growth to be easy and pleasant and not mess up our normal or require much of us at all.

Last night after church there was a guy walking in front of the church parking lot. I've never seen him before and he was kind of taking his time like he wanted to talk to someone. Haley said "we should go invite him to church." I told her to not go alone, but to grab a few of the youth to go with her. She asked them and no one would go with her. Now, I'm not stupid enough to believe that every person is nice or safe (which is why I told her not to go by herself) but I was shocked when she told me these church people, who I don't consider to be shy at all, would not go with her to invite the guy to church.

The excuses I heard from Daniel were, "We don't know him. What if he's weird? What if he wants to stalk me."  I told him we weren't introducing ourselves and handing out our address and phone number, we were inviting him to church. The church he was walking in front of obviously wanting someone to at least say hi. And as far as I know, we all ignored him because he isn't our ideal candidate for a church attendee. (Me included. I was wrangling kids, but I should have went with her when no one else would.)

So this is what we've come to. We want nice easy clean church growth, but we don't really want to actually have to be nice to people or to talk to someone we don't know.

I know this sounds like I'm picking on people and maybe I am a little, but it hits home too. I always have excuses why I can't witness or invite people to church. My biggest is that we live 20 minutes from the church so it isn't exactly in the neighborhood or convenient. I've decided I've got to stop making up what their excuse will be and just start talking. If they want an excuse, it can be on them,. but it will not longer be me not providing an invitation.

I've lived in my neighborhood 5 years. I don't know a single name of one of my neighbors. I know their kids as they come through the house from time to time, but not a single adult. Not one. So this weekend we are making cookies and taking them around to my 5 closest neighbors, introducing myself (and whichever kid decides to join me) and inviting them to church. And if they decide to come, great! If they don't, okay, but we have to start somewhere. All of us need to start somewhere.

When did we become so inwardly focused we are so afraid of an awkward conversation that we choose to let people around us go to hell? That is so selfish of us!

Which leads me back to why do we want growth anyways? So the new pastor can look good? So we can feel like we are successful at something and not forever stuck? No, because God wants to grow his kingdom and he chooses to use us. Yes, we can and should pray that God will bring people in, but we have to put some action with our faith and get to walking and talking.

This brings me back to an analogy of the eagle I heard a couple of weeks back. The first thing the eagle does when it's preparing it's eaglet to learn to fly on it's own is start stirring the nest. The purpose is to get the eaglet uncomfortable so it will get out of the place of comfort and safety, taking the risk required to learn to fly. The problem is most of the time when we get uncomfortable because God is trying to get us to take the next step, we leave one comfortable nest for another comfortable nest. That isn't forward progress! It's denial.

If we are unwilling to put some action with our faith, our inaction shows our inner selves. Maybe we just say we want growth because it seems like the right thing to say, Maybe if things get changed enough, we will have the appearance of growth without any substance. Maybe that's really want we want. 

God help us to see people as you see them! To see this season as an opportunity to follow your heart in a way we never have before. To put ourselves out there, knowing you will honor our willingness and grow your Kingdom for your name sake.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Shut Up

Yesterday was rough. I was just down on myself and generally feeling like a failure. Most areas of my life I am confident. I'm able to ignore when the devil tries to distract me and keep on trucking. I am able to decipher his lies from the truth. Maybe this is because I feel like I've been successful in most areas of my life. Like I've seen some evidence that with God's help I am doing the right thing.

But being a mom is a totally different story. I guess it's where I feel weakest, where I've seen less evidence that I am doing the right thing for my kids. It's the relationship(s) that I struggle with the most. I'm not overly social, kinda like being alone, so having to step out and get in someone's world, when it appears I am not wanted, makes me intimidated. Makes me hesitate. (On the other hand, I don't have that problem at all with my little kids. But I've always been their mom. They don't know any different. Don't know they could reject me. The big kids have a choice of which I am well aware. Somehow, that makes my relationship with the littles safe, and with the bigs, scary.)

It is easier to just ignore them and their lives sometimes than to put myself out there and risk being rejected by them. So that's what I do often. I don't ignore in the sense of not answering them or helping them when they take the first step, but I certainly don't take the step to connect with them. I focus my attention on a part of my life where I feel better about me. I dive into doing anything that will feel like a success and ignore the part where I feel like a failure.

This time of year is hard. Every parent I know is posting pictures of all the great awards their kids get, of how perfect they are and I just want it all to be over. I try hard not to compare, not to even look, but all of that just makes me sad. Makes me feel like I'm the only one who doesn't have perfect kids. I try to dwell on what is good about my kids, but with society constantly rating parents based on the academic and social successes of their kids, it's hard. There is nothing stopping my kids from being in those ranks, but for now, they aren't.


I feel guilty for not reaching out to my kids like they need me to. Rejected if I try, guilty if I don't. It appears to be a losing situation for me no matter which option I choose. So, yesterday I was saying all sorts of horrible things about myself (which I know in my heart of hearts is not true, but that's where I was emotionally, mentally.)

And BJ told me to shut up.

It caught me off guard. We don't use those words in my house generally, since they are rude and we always have listening and echoing ears and mouths. But it was just what I needed. A stiff kick in the pants.

Why do I do this to myself? I don't know, but I'm sure the devil loves it. We need to learn to tell ourselves to shut up more often.

So once again, I'm dusting myself off, getting back up, and striving for a better day. A day where one step at a time I learn to show love better, to accept and encourage rather than ignore. To depend on God's strength when I am at my weakest.

II Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Just Look Away

Comparison is the thief of joy.

And yet we live in a world where we are encouraged, taught to see what everyone around us is doing, to strive to be like the next person who we see as superior to us, to learn from them and try to be like them.

We are created to connect, to need to feel a part of our friends lives. And social media, be it Facebook or whatever, gives us access to what our neighbor is doing, or at least what they want us to see. 
People don't generally share their weaknesses, their struggles on social media. Because no one wants others to know the hard parts of our lives, to betray the confidence of their children or to portray them as less than perfect. I don't think we are trying to be dishonest, but social media is not a full picture of real life. Even on my blog I am very careful with what information and struggles are shared. I am free to share my struggles, but it is also my job to protect my kids from shame or feeling like I'm telling the world their flaws. 

I can't speak for anyone else, but there are certain people whose lives I can't watch on facebook because when I see I immediately compare. And I feel insufficient. I focus on  what is going wrong and not the blessings I have received. The grass is always greener... There are people I love and long to be connected to, but in order to protect my emotions, to keep my joy and not open myself up to feeling jealous or envious or angry, I have to look away.

Sometimes it feels lonely to not know what is going on with others, but we have to remember, a Facebook connection isn't a real connection. It's only based on the good people want you to see. It's better to have no connection than one based on half truths that leads us to compare, losing our joy, and feeling dissatisfied.

Sometimes, you have to choose to just look away and not let yourself go there.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Plan

It's been kind of an off week, or two. I guess since I blogged last.

I have all these things in my heart that I want to see, where I feel God is leading me, us, but I don't really know how to get there. I pray about it a lot. I seek Godly counsel. And it always comes back to me. I have to go for it. I have to obey. But I also have to be respectful of others and be careful not to hurt anyone in the process. Oh, yes, people may get hurt, but I don't want it be because I was careless and ignored their concerns.

If there were no obstacles, this would be so much easier. If I knew how people would respond, I would lead differently. But instead I hesitate. I overthink. I get scared.

Really, I think we all want to see the same things, but communicating my vision in a way that makes sense, that people can support is difficult. I told someone this week to get people to be on board with change, the vision has to be clear and communicated clearly.

I'm not a natural born leader (although some would argue with that). I'm a great supporter and follower, but being the catalyst of change, the mover and shaker, is not my style. I like things to change gradually, so it almost appears it was on accident. People are less affected if it's a little at a time rather than all at once, right? It gives them time to adjust as they go. I don't like to rock the boat and I definitely don't like confrontation.

But I really feel like I need to push things along faster rather than allow change to happen accidentally. So, with God's help I'm making a plan. Listing the things that I feel need to be addressed. Praying about who to talk to and I will take the next step.

Goodness, this isn't easy, but I believe it'll be worth it. God, help me!!


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