Tag Archives: Christian

Boot Camp

May 15, 2011

On this day last year, I found myself unemployed.  The church that had funded my full-time ministry determined that it could no longer carry the financial burden of the number of employees it had.  The leaders decided to downsize by 25%.  Although I felt that God had been preparing my heart for the change for nearly a year prior to the layoff, I was stunned.  I had not imagined the change would come in that form.  Surely what God had planned was tremendous blessing without any pain, right? 

The swirl of emotions that followed was not unusual, but it was difficult.  I have wrestled with feeling like a failure, rejection and fear.  God sustained me during the worst of the down times.  I had a sense of peace in the middle of the storm that I could only attribute to His presence.  My emotions were reeling, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, the storms soon passed and I was able to keep my peace.  Instead of being swallowed up by the negative emotions, I allowed myself to feel them, gave them to the Lord, and moved on.  That is one of the best testimonies I could ever give to the faithfulness of my Father.  With the wind and rain pounding around me, I was sheltered, safe and secure in His arms. 

There is another very tangible blessing that I see as I look back over this year.  As a single woman, no one else is here to help me carry my financial responsibilities.  No, I don’t have a family to support, but I also have no one supporting me.  I had barely scraped by while I worked full-time at the church.  I had no idea how I was going to make it without my salary.  With no choice but to trust God as my provider, He proved to me that I was not alone after all. 

I was given six weeks’ severance pay.  I felt in my heart that God would provide a new job and I didn’t need to hit the pavement, searching high and low.  But I didn’t want to completely freak my family and friends out by not applying for jobs, so out of respect for them I applied and applied and applied.  I sent out hundreds of resumes and I didn’t get one interview.  Not one. 

During that time, I needed to buy new ink for my printer.  That stuff is expensive!  I sat in my desk chair, looking online at prices, looking at my bank account balance and the bills coming in, and not knowing what to do.  I had the money to buy the ink, but with no more money coming in I was afraid to spend it.  I needed the ink.  As I wrestled with what to do, I felt like God said, “Get what you need.  Whatever you spend will be covered.”  I knew with certainty that this wasn’t a license for irresponsibility, but that God would take care of what I needed.  I spent the money for the ink and the next day a man at church handed me the amount I had spent.

My family had scheduled a vacation to the beach around the time my severance was ending.  I hadn’t committed to it because I thought I’d be starting a new job and wouldn’t have the vacation time.  But as the days neared and I still had no job and money was running out, my prayers grew louder.  I continued to hear God’s voice assuring me that it would be okay.  I felt like He told me to go on the vacation, enjoy myself, not worry about work, and He would take care of everything.  He wanted to bless me with the vacation.  I went.  As I drove to the beach that hot, summer day, I played a song over and over in my car – What’d you say to taking chances?  What’d you say to jumping off the ledge?  Never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a Hand to hold… 

I took a chance on trusting God, gave up the job search, and thoroughly enjoyed my family.  On about the fourth day of the trip, my fear took over and I allowed myself a pity party.  Of course, I missed out on a really fun day with my family while I sat alone and sulked!  I picked myself up that afternoon and placed my fears back into God’s capable hands.  On the final day of vacation, I prayed all the way back to Nashville, begging God to intervene. 

A few days after I got home, I went to a friend’s house to hang out.  As we talked, she mentioned that her nanny/housekeeper was unavailable.  She shrugged her shoulders and asked me if I’d want to help her out.  I’d helped with her kids before and loved them, but had never considered making a job out of it.  I didn’t need to pray about it.  I quickly answered, Yes, please.  She told me what she paid and the hours she needed.  I agreed.  It was extremely part-time – 13 hours a week – but it was something. 

That was my job interview.  That job soon turned into about 20 hours a week – a low-stress, physical job where I get to care for 5 beautiful children who I adore.  Besides that, I get to help out a good friend with her home.  Ministry just took on a new meaning. 

God also provided a new living situation for me.  I moved in with an elderly woman who needs someone to be present overnight to help her out a little.  Free of typical housing expenses, I had enough money to pay my bills if I lived very frugally. 

It seemed that every time an expenditure came up that wasn’t within my budget, someone would hand me the money I needed or I’d get an extra babysitting job.  I have not had one bill go unpaid.  I worked approximately 20 hours a week for six months and in that time I continued to repay debt as scheduled, and I had everything I needed. 

As I was only working part-time, I had a lot of time to nurture the new relationship that sprung up unexpectedly.  I spent hours every night on the phone with my new love interest, received visits from him, visited him, and didn’t have to miss work to do so. 

My family was concerned about how I would continue to survive financially and urged me to apply for anything I could find so I could have at least another part-time job.  I prayed about it and spoke to my boyfriend about it, asking what he thought.  Together we decided that I needed to be free to travel throughout the holidays (he and all of my family are located in different areas of the country), so I would hold off on finding a second job until after Christmas.  In January, I could start looking. 

I worried about how I’d afford Christmas presents for my loved ones.  (I love giving gifts!)  Because of all the holiday parties and events, I was needed to care for the children on nights and weekends.  The extra hours provided all the money I needed to buy gifts.  I felt so blessed. 

Right before I left for Christmas vacation, I got an email from the church, asking if I would consider a part-time job at the receptionist desk.  Although I was over-qualified, they knew I needed additional income.  I was able to work out the schedule and left for Christmas knowing my financial needs had again been met.  While on Christmas break, my friend asked if I wanted more hours at her house.  She is pregnant again and needed some extra help.  Between the two jobs, I suddenly had 40-hours a week, plus free living expenses.  When I added up the income of the jobs and added in what I was saving in living expenses, I’d gotten a raise! 

Over the last several months, I’ve been able to pay extra on my debt and I even put a little money in an emergency fund.  I still have 3 days off each week, so travel arrangements are fairly easy to accommodate.  And the home I’m living in now has separate guest quarters that make it possible for Rick to stay here when he visits and still have his own space. 

I am thankful.  My God has supplied my needs.  He has given me peace.  He has brought romantic love into my life and the joy that comes with feeling loved and accepted by someone I love and treasure.  God has allowed me the dignity of seeing my debt go down, down, down, and my savings go up.  And God is putting me through a new school these days – that of learning how to run a large household and care for many children.  I now know things I could have never learned in books – like how to put a gleam in the eye of a child who feels a little left out.  I’d like to think I know why He is putting me through this training, but I have discovered that what God does is never quite what I thought He was doing.  He is sneaky.  And while there are times that I feel rubbed raw by the hands that are shaping my life, I am delighted by the outcome. 

I asked God to put me through a sort-of boot camp, quickly teaching me the things I need to know to get where I’m going faster.  Quit dragging it out a little at a time, Lord, and just give it all to me at once.  As long as it’s by Your hand, I’ll be okay.  I can handle it.  I knew it was a dangerous prayer.  I knew I might have times where I really regretted it.  And there have been times where I’ve cried out, Enough!  I didn’t know what I was asking.  Please stay Your hand for a minute so I can catch my breath.  But He is so faithful to me.  He gives such grace.

I see this last year of my life as that boot camp.  God has humbled me, then humbled me again, and then humbled me again.  He has shown me clearly that I can do nothing without Him, and that my pride (I didn’t know it was such a problem) is an offense to Him.  He has proven to me that He will not give His blessing until I put Him first.  And yet He has given me such joy and hope as I explore the beauty of romance. 

…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)

One year later, I stand in awe of the blessing of the Lord.  Thank You, Jesus. 

Psalm 63: 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

Man in the Middle

A single woman recently wrote in to an e-newsletter I subscribe to for advice because she’s very attracted to a kind, godly man within her small church.  In spite of her attraction, she’s chosen not to pursue any type of relationship with him because… he’s married.  She’s horrified by her feelings and so she avoids him, doesn’t make eye contact, and can even be cold when he approaches her.  She said he makes an effort to be kind to everyone within their congregation and she feels even worse about not responding warmly to him; but to maintain her integrity, she avoids him as much as possible.  She doesn’t know what else to do.

My heart goes out to her because I understand her struggle well.  I started seminary in 2004, a few months before I turned 29.  I’d been engaged and if the relationship had worked out, could’ve been starting a family at that time.  My emotions were reeling from rejection, loss, and failure.  I already felt like an older bride, and it shamed me to know that I would be even older when I finally married the man God had for me.  Not marrying by age 30 felt like the worst possible failure as a woman. I felt unwanted, like something was deeply wrong with me.  Even though I had been the one to walk away, to choose shame over marriage to a man who wasn’t the best for me, I believed the lie that the failure was mine.  God knew best when He called me to Regent University’s School of Divinity:  the classes, professors, and other students revived my soul.  I learned so much about life, leadership, integrity, friendship, and becoming whole.  When I look back on that time, I see myself entering that world with a raw and bleeding heart and emerging with a whole, healed heart.

During my first week on campus, when I was soaking up the wonder of that place and hoping God had sent me there to finally meet my husband, I met a man.  He was strikingly handsome, which is what I first noticed.  I can’t lie about that…  But I’ve met many handsome men.  What made me notice him was that he was also warm and kind, friendly to everyone, and a capable leader who could think for himself.  He engaged in theological discussion (among other things) without ever making the other person feel less knowledgeable or devaluing their opinions.  He was a student leader, but he was one of the most humble men I had ever met.  I was smitten.

Then one day I saw him at a social event with a woman I had never seen before, and then I saw their children.  Stunned, I realized he was married.  Disappointment and frustration tried to swallow me up.  And a battle began in my soul.

This man and I were in classes together.  A lot of classes.  Small classes.  We worked together on projects and campus activities.  The more I got to know him, the more amazing he became to me.  And he was so kind and friendly – never flirtatious, but genuinely caring.  One day I realized I was in the middle of a daydream about what my life would be like as his wife and step-mother to his children.  Ugh!  Thoroughly disgusted with myself, I turned to God in desperate prayer.  What do I do with these feelings, Lord?

God took me through a process then of learning to die to myself.  He taught me such valuable lessons during this time.  At first, I did what the girl above did.  I avoided him.  I stopped making eye contact.  I was borderline rude.  But that didn’t sit right with me.  I cared about him and didn’t want to hurt him.  I thought about going to him and telling him I was attracted to him and didn’t want to cross any lines so I had to avoid him.  Ha!  I only considered that thought for a minute.  I knew that doing so would just make things really awkward (or if he’d been a man with less integrity, opened the door to a terrible moral failure).  I thought about going to his wife and confessing to her, but while that might make me feel better, it might also create insecurity and fear in her because she didn’t know me at all. 

In the end, through much prayer and seeking, I did two very simple things.  First, I told a trusted friend what was going on in my heart.  She is a good friend.  She didn’t judge or think less of me, but simply promised to pray and to be a sounding board when I needed it.  Secondly, I began to pray for the man and his family.  I had learned a few small details about his wife’s struggles, so I prayed for her.  At first, I had to beg God to help me mean it because the words were bitter on my tongue.  It didn’t take long before I really meant it though.  I prayed blessings on them.  I prayed for their children to be blessed.  I prayed for their romantic love to blossom and grow.  Lastly I prayed that God would help me see this man as my brother and his wife as my sister.  I asked God to help me love them in a way that is consistent with the family of God.

An amazing thing happened during this process.  The Lord replaced my feelings of disappointment and frustration with warmth and genuine concern. When I saw his family together, playing and goofing off, I felt my prayers being answered.  I began to interact with him as I do with my own brother.  I stopped idealizing him and even noticed a few of his flaws.  While I still admire him, I can now see specifically why we wouldn’t be a good match.

I am so thankful that God allowed me to experience this struggle.  Since that time, I have applied the lesson learned in countless ways.  There have been other times when a married man has caught my attention, but by immediately catching myself and praying for him in the same ways, I have kept the emotions in check and gained a brother.  A woman who greatly intimidated me at one time is now a beloved friend because I asked God to help me see her as my sister in Christ, was able to see her struggles, and then prayed earnestly for God to heal her wounds.  When I look at her now, all I see is a tender-hearted woman who simply wants to be loved and valued.

I will take this lesson into marriage one day.  I hear that just because you say “I do”, it doesn’t mean you never notice another person again.  If unwanted feelings come up, I plan to share them with a trusted friend and pray to see the man as my brother. As I write these thoughts, the prayer comes to mind:  Lord, help me to see all men (other than the man You have for me to marry) as my brothers. I also pray now that God will give me compassion and understanding if I ever notice that the man I marry is having a similar struggle and not take it personally.

The funny thing is that the married man I had idealized had character traits that I was trying to develop in myself.  He wasn’t a good partner for me, but a vision I hope to achieve personally.  He was kind to all, a good leader, humble, intelligent without being off-putting, and so on.  The man God has for me is likely to have a different style than mine, so that we complement one another and fit together beautifully.  Today I am blessed to know a man who is kind to all, humble, thoughtful, and quick-witted without being demeaning.  He leads quietly, without appearing to stand out front, living as an example that others can follow.  He leads by making choices that are full of integrity and grace.  While I tend to be emotional and on-the-move, he is as steady and stable as a rock.  And, praise God, he is somehow single and in love with me.

4 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

Learning to Breathe Under Water

Psalm 29 (NLT)

 10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
      The Lord reigns as king forever.
 11 The Lord gives his people strength.
      The Lord blesses them with peace.

Today I wrote this in my journal: “The Lord DOES rule over the floodwaters.  It may appear that my life is under water right now, but God rules over those waters and I am safely held.  God has given me peace, just as the psalmist writes.  God is my strength during this time of testing, when my life seems to be metaphorically under water.  I think I might be just as blessed right now, in the middle of such strange circumstances, as I have ever been.  I can FEEL God’s arms around me.  I can feel His embrace, His love, His acceptance, His mighty protection and peace and joy.  What else do I need in life?  If all I ever have is this, I trust God to expand my ability to endure and to become the woman He is making me to be.  Change me, Lord.  Help me to endure and to become stronger.  Let the sun shine on me, causing the waters to reflect off me and display Your glorious shine even in this deep place.  Help me to learn to breathe under water!!!

God has supplied my every need, given me tremendous peace, and filled me with wonder.  Circumstances do not determine my joy and peace.  My relationship with the Lord takes care of that. 

These things are hard to explain in words, but I’m trying.  If I have to be covered by floodwaters to learn that the joy and peace of God are mine, regardless of my circumstances, then it is the greatest blessing I have ever received and I stand in awe of God.  Circumstances have just lost their power over me. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  (Ps 23:4 KJV)

After you’ve been “wowed” by God, there’s no turning back.  I pray that each one of you reading this today will come to understand the beauty of what I’m trying to communicate.  My words are feeble, but my prayer is that my life will reflect the glory of God in a way that will speak volumes more than I could ever say or write.

7 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

The Need for Speed

I love to drive.  I began driving when I was around eight years old.  Rather than going on a family vacation that year, my parents bought us a little four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (ATV).  We lived out in the country with plenty of land and I made good use of every square inch of it, whizzing around trees and over hills.  The faster I went and the more things I jumped over, the better. 

When I turned fifteen, Mom took me to the DMV in her mini-van to take my driver’s test for a learner’s permit.  Two weeks later, I was eligible for a restricted driver’s license, but Mom and Dad made me wait a while longer.  The wait just about drove me nuts.  I wanted my license so badly.  When Mom finally took me back for the driving test, I was ecstatic.  I walked away with that precious piece of plastic with the horrible picture on it as proud as could be.  I was allowed to operate a vehicle by myself during daylight hours and with an adult after dark.  When I turned sixteen, the after-dark restriction was lifted and I was FREE.

My parents bought me an orange Ford Fiesta that was as old as me.  I was assured by my parents that if I ever got a speeding ticket, my car would immediately be taken away from me.  I was also assured that if my grades weren’t good, if I talked back to them, or if I got into any trouble of any kind, my car would be GONE.  It was a good deterrent to getting into trouble, but I still believed I was invincible and had no intention of driving slow.

I’m not sure how I kept from getting a speeding ticket.  I got pulled over for speeding on a fairly regular basis.  I was used to the four-wheeler, where the point was to go as fast as possible around anything in my path for the thrill of it, and I didn’t realize that wasn’t a good policy for driving a car.  My car was a little orange torpedo!  But somehow, every time I got stopped, I was merely given a warning.  One highway patrol officer who stopped me on the interstate spoke very firmly to me and didn’t let me go until I understood the impact one of those eighteen-wheelers could have on my little tin can of a car.  I’m grateful for that man today.  He really did slow me down quite a bit, at least on the interstate.

I still like to run as close to the maximum speed I can get away with on a daily basis.  If I’m in a hurry, then I push it a little further.  But a few months ago I heard that still, small voice of God whispering in my ear, “Slow down.”  I tried to ignore the feeling, hoping it would pass.  But it was like God’s face got closer to mine, right beside me, and again the whisper came, “Do you trust Me?”  If I turned my head fast enough, I was sure I’d be able to catch a glimpse of Him.  That was how real the voice was to me.  I thought the question of trust was a little odd, considering that we were talking about driving too fast.  But the answer to His question was, “Yes.  I trust You.”  And so I slowed down. 

I often travel on a highway where the speed limit is 55 mph.  Other highways in Nashville have a 70 mph speed limit, but not this one.  I typically run in the left lane, going as fast as the cars in front me will go.  The first time I set my cruise control to 55 mph, everything inside of me rose up, screaming and crying like a two-year old who has been told to take a nap when everyone else is playing games.  Cars were flying by me, practically honking as they passed, totally annoyed by my slowness.  I wanted to scream out the window, “I know!!!”  I tried to go a few miles over the speed limit to be less obnoxious, but the question returned, “Do you trust Me?”  Grr….  So I dropped back down to EXACTLY 55 mph.  Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, frustrated beyond belief, I poked along.  Inside I was about to boil over in total frustration, but I kept the speed down in obedience. 

I worked through the frustration and irritation and learned a new way to drive.  Rather than looking for the holes in traffic so I could pass everyone else, I learned how to stay out of the way.  I also learned something that totally amazed me:  driving the speed limit didn’t really slow me down much.  I still arrived at my destination in about the same amount of time as when I had driven much faster.  Driving around town that fast might have saved me three or four minutes, and out of town trips might save me a whopping twenty minutes, but not enough to make a big impact.  I also discovered that slowing down saves a huge amount of gas!  The screaming inside me died down and I began to relax as I drove.  Driving that way has probably lowered my blood pressure significantly – once I got over the frustration, that is.

I’ve been driving the speed limit for several months now.  But about a week ago I was really late to teach a class at church, so I hit the gas and sped the whole way, hoping God would understand.  (I was speeding in order to be on time to serve Him, right?)  Oh, the wonderful feeling of driving fast!  I felt like I could breathe again…  And so I fell back into my habit of driving too fast.  I stuck my fingers in my ears and attempted to ignore the prompting to slow down.  God let me have my way for a few days and then He showed up in my car again, face right up next to mine, impossible to ignore, but as usual speaking to me in a loving whisper.  “Why are you speeding?” 

“I really like to drive fast, God.  You’re killing me here.  Can’t You just leave me alone on this one?”  Um, yes…  I was trying to bargain with God.

“Why are you speeding, Kimberly?”  Uh, oh.  He asked the question twice.  God’s about to make a point. 

Why am I speeding?  I was doing so good for several months.  After calming the volcano inside myself down, why am I allowing it to erupt again?  And then the answer came to me so clearly that I nearly stopped the car.  I was driving on a little stretch of road where the speed limit is 30 mph (which is CRAZY) and I was driving 45, right along with everyone else.  Okay, so maybe I was passing everyone else…  But really, 30 mph? 

The answer was, “I’m speeding because at this time in my life, everything is moving so slowly that at least when I drive, I can speed things up a bit.”  And to get really honest, I had to add, “I’m kind of mad at You, God.  You’re taking too long.  You’re moving too slowly.  Could You please move things along a little faster?” 

With that reality smacking me in the face, I slowed down to 30 mph and moved into the right lane.  The speed junkie inside me got all nervous and tried to have it’s fit again, but I told it to shut up.  I finally understood why God had asked me the question, “Do you trust Me?” 

To say that I’ve been frustrated at the speed of my life is a vast understatement.  I fully expected to be married by 24 years old, to have all my children by age 30, and be a rock-star pastor’s wife.  I wanted to run a dynamic ministry, letting my husband preach and play golf with the guys, and take care of the rest of it myself.  I probably would’ve been one of those nightmare pastor’s wives I hear about, but I’m just sharing “The Plan.”  When I wasn’t married at age 28, and saw that my career was not taking off the way it should if you’re still unmarried at age 28, I read all the books and talked to all the successful people about how to jump-start things and at least have a stunning career.  I was told to find my passion, go after it, and then it wouldn’t feel like work and I’d find great satisfaction in what I did.  With that much love and passion for my work, promotions and praise would naturally follow. Plus, a good man would be working alongside me and we’d just match up naturally and marital bliss would follow.  So I followed my heart and went to seminary

Upon graduation, I was hired at my church in Nashville.  I threw myself into the work, passionately pursuing my dream with the highest expectations.  I love my church and support the leaders; however, I did not find the great success and promotion I had dreamed about.  Instead, I felt constantly frustrated and held back.  I believed for a breakthrough, smiled brightly, and pushed ahead.  I just knew that one day my sacrifice would pay off.  I was privately praised by the leaders, received great performance reviews, and felt the anointing of God on my work.  I was called into a meeting where I thought I’d finally receive that promotion, but instead had to wrap my mind around the words I was hearing:  my position was being terminated

And so with frustration building inside me, I began to speed again.  Without even realizing it, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the speed of His timing in a passive-aggressive way.  One of my friends posted a new blog about God’s perfect timing and it was everything I could do not to comment on it, “Yeah, He’s SLOW.” 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

As I’ve pondered that question, driving around town without speeding, I’ve had to acknowledge that it’s very hard to trust Him when He isn’t meeting my expectations.  I’ve given my life to serve Him and I think that entitles me to something amazing in life.  If I don’t have a loving husband and babies, then I should at least have a shining career to point to as some greater purpose for my life.  How am I to handle the reality that I’m single, childless, jobless, without a home of my own, and can’t even drive my car as fast as I want to??? 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

I’ve comforted myself over the years with the stories from the Bible:  Joseph was taken from prison to the palace in a matter of days; Noah appeared crazy to everyone around him until the rain started; David lived in the wilderness running for his life until he became king; and Peter was a simple fisherman until Jesus decided to make him the rock upon which He built The Church.  But what if ten more years go by and I’m still trying to figure out why some guy I was dating and having a great time with suddenly won’t call me back, and I’m working as a receptionist through a temp agency, and I’m living in someone else’s home because I don’t make enough money to save for a house? 

Well, what if that does happen?  Do I still trust God?  Does God owe me anything for serving Him?  Will that frustration and disappointment of being the most educated receptionist in the world give me the right to drive as fast as I want to? 

As I’ve been reading the One Year Bible, I’ve been confused by the way God seems to randomly allow people to remain in their sin at times, then at other times He strikes them dead.  The kings of Israel (Ahab, for example) were total pagans, but they were allowed to live and reign.  King Herod Agrippa (in Acts) took some credit for God and got worms and died.  As I’ve pondered these things and prayed for God to reveal more of His character to me, I got hit with a profound sense of God’s mercy and compassion.  We ALL deserve to be struck dead, but He gives us chance after chance to do the right thing and serve Him.  He is so merciful and patient with us. 

Rather than question why God allowed these evil things to take place and why He isn’t raining down blessings on my head, I am going to praise Him for His mercy and compassion.   He gave His people chance after chance after chance to serve Him.  He waited for them, as He waits for me.  I get frustrated with how slow God is, but how slow am I?  I cannot honestly say that I understood true submission to God and embraced it until the last year or so.  And now that I have, I demand that He bless me immediately?  Who am I to demand anything of God? 

There’s one more thing He’s teaching me through this slow driving thing.  I’ve really been struggling with bumping up my speed to at least 3 mph over the speed limit, just to keep people from shaking their fists at me as they rush to their next appointment.  God asked me about that one too.  “Why do you care what they think?  Why do you care if you annoy them?  Who are you living your life to please?” 

Yikes!  If I am more concerned about what others think of me than about what God thinks, where does it end?  Does it end with driving a few miles over the speed limit?  What other little compromises will I make out of concern for what others think of me? 

I cannot tell you that it never bugs me to drive slowly.  I cannot tell you that I’m perfectly content to wait for God’s timing on my job situation.  I cannot even say that I’m okay with remaining single indefinitely.  But what I can say with total confidence is that I believe God is working out the details of my life and that it is His great pleasure to bless me.  I’m thankful for the joys that God has allowed me in life.  He has made me rich in friendships, has given me a loving family, and has blessed me with numerous other things that it would be obnoxious to list out here.  If that’s all He ever gives me, I will continue to thank  Him and serve Him.  If He ever chooses to give me more, I will be grateful and give Him all the glory for it.

8 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

Just Friends?

   Jennifer Knapp is gay.

At least, that’s what I read this week in a Christianity Today article.  I had heard the rumor before, but this time it’s in her own words.  She’s been in a relationship with a woman for the last eight years.

I love Jennifer Knapp’s raw and honest music.  I’ve been walking around humming, “I am weak/I am poor/I am broken, Lord/But I’m Yours/Hold me now” for a few days.  Honestly, I feel sad and frustrated.  I’m frustrated because I wish I understood the issue from God’s perspective more.  I know some amazing people who live in committed relationships with same-sex partners and profess to love God with all their hearts.  I can’t claim to fully understand the issue, but I do have an opinion I’d like to share on the topic. 

I believe as a society, we have lost our boundaries.  We have elevated the sexual relationship to the “highest” form of a relationship and undervalued the genuine goodness and fulfillment of friendship. 

If I am so blessed to have a dear female friend who I absolutely adore and with whom I thoroughly enjoy spending my time, plus I also happen to think she is attractive, then it is insinuated that I need to act out sexually with her.  Or that I already am.  What?!  (Do all my female friends need to be ugly or uninteresting?)

I get very frustrated and offended by this line of thinking.  Recently, I told a funny story to a male friend that included a reference to “my pretty friend Sally.”  This Christian man’s eyebrows shot up and he winked and asked me how pretty I think Sally is.  He wanted to know if I want to date Sally.  Grrr….   I was so irritated.  It was the third time in as many days that a Christian male had made some sort of reference to me about either being sexually aroused by lesbians, insinuating that I might be interested in a woman sexually, or suggesting that a female friend might be interested in me sexually. 

I bit the poor guy’s head off.  I told him he was perverted and I was sick to death of Christian men referencing lesbianism like it’s desirable.  He hung his head and apologized and I felt bad for shaming him.  I’m just so tired of having those thoughts placed into my head, inviting me to feel suspicious or to think there’s a sexual motive behind every compliment or smile. 

I’m just saying that friendship, in and of itself, is a good thing.  Sexuality is a good thing within the bonds of marriage.  But when we lose the boundary of marriage for our sexuality, does every type of sexual relationship become fair game?  Where is the line drawn?    

Why would Christian men even think it’s desirable for two women to be together sexually?  I have to wonder how much pornography they’ve been watching recently…  But it’s also very clear to me that pornography isn’t needed to stain our minds.  Our society has done all it can to elevate the sexual relationship to the highest level possible.  We can’t watch a primetime television show without seeing people begin a sexual relationship within moments of declaring their interest in one another.  At other times, the third date has some magic appeal as the time when a new couple has sex.  We’re told to use hand sanitizer after we touch a menu or a doorknob, but these people barely know one another and have no problem exchanging bodily fluids and all kinds of possible diseases with one another?  Yuck!  Not to mention what it does to the soul to be joined with another…

I have dear friends for whom I am extremely thankful.  They are beautiful, fun, entertaining, deep, spiritual, challenging, and engaging.  I love spending time with them.  At times they know me better than I know myself.  They are God’s gift to me, not to be placeholders until my husband comes along, but to fill my life with richness that cannot be found any other way.  My friendship with them is one of the highest forms of relationship I have ever found. 

I believe that the love of a godly, smart, intriguing man is possible.  When that day comes, my pretty friends will stand by my side and rejoice with me.  They will listen to me cry when he disappoints me and makes me mad.  They will make sure I stay accountable for my behavior as a wife and challenge my decisions.  They will offer advice, laugh with me, get me out of the house, and tell me if I’m wrong.  What would I do without my friends?  It would be a lonely, empty life. 

Sexuality is to be reserved for that one person with whom we covenant to spend our lives.  We are to exchange bodily fluids with that one person alone. I think if we all understood that concept more, if we understood godly boundaries better, the world would be a much less confusing (and diseased) place.

I’m not sure what to say about Jennifer Knapp.  She mentions in her interview that people questioned her non-sexual relationships with women when she was in college and told her to “re-negotiate” them.  Maybe I’m over-simplifying it, but I wonder…  If that insinuation had never been made, would she have enjoyed her friendships with women and never felt the need to become sexually involved?  I don’t know.  I just know what I’ve experienced and if men feel comfortable talking to me, a minister, that way, then I can only imagine what other women are experiencing these days.

15 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart

It’s been hard to know what to post recently.  Some of the things I’ve been going through don’t seem like things that need to be blasted on the internet for all to see…  Some things are deeply personal and too precious for publication. 

I hope the look on my face says it all.  I am happy.  I am full of peace.  God is good and He is blessing me in some wonderful ways. 

I looked at some pictures on Facebook tonight of a high school classmate.  She is beautiful; was a beauty queen many times over.  She married a handsome, successful man and they have lovely children.  It appears that they have everything anyone could want.  But the look in her eyes is far from happy.  She is smiling, she is wearing clothes that flatter her surgically enhanced figure, but there is not one speck of joy in her vacant eyes.  It made me sad. 

I wish I knew how to share this joy I have found with everyone.

I have written this before, but I will do it again.  This joy is only found in a deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We can have that relationship by getting to know Him through His Word:  Scripture, The Bible.  If you don’t like to read, listen to an audio-version of it.  Fill yourself up with God’s Word, spend time in prayer, talk about what you’ve read with others, think about it, write about it, study it.  Get involved in a Bible study with other believers, find a good church you enjoy going to and get involved, find creative ways to express your love for the Lord – but more than all of those things, learn His Word.  There is no substitute.  Spending time with God is the only way to have an intimate relationship with Him. 

I know it sounds boring, tedious, and time-consuming.  We don’t want to be dorks who can’t talk about anything else and start wearing our pants really high on our waists.  I get it.  I felt that way myself in spite of the fact that I was living my life in service to Him as a committed Christian.  I prayed and asked God to give me a love for His Word, and amazingly He did it.  Everything has changed now.   I’m even wearing my pants really high on my waist.  (So that’s not true, but you all let me know if I start looking like a dork, okay?)

Loving God isn’t easy because it takes work, just like being in human relationships takes work.  But It is worth it.  I promise.  Pick up a One-Year Bible and join along with me.  If you decide to give it a try, I’d love to hear from you. 

Jesus saves and He makes all things new.

*Photographer:  Leslie Coelho

8 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life

A Good Day

    

I’ve been through some dark times, days when I wondered if God had forgotten I existed or had simply decided to punish me for my many sins.  I have faced depression and anxiety, rejection, loneliness, fear, hatred, being over-looked and discarded, and other negative emotions and experiences.  I have also faced days when I thought the world was crashing in because I couldn’t meet a deadline or my laundry wasn’t done when I wanted to wear that special shirt.  None of you have ever done that, right?     

One day several years ago, I got frustrated over an assignment that couldn’t be completed without the input of colleagues who were not cooperating.  After work I called a friend to complain about what a bad day I was having.  She listened to me for about 60 seconds and then told me to turn on the news.  In stunned silence, I watched the end of a report on foster parents who had just been arrested for sexually abusing the children in their “Christian” home.  When the report ended, my friend quietly told me that she was the social worker who had trained those foster parents and placed the children in their care.  She was responsible for overseeing them.  She had no idea of the abuse taking place.  There were no signs.  She was devastated.  Can you imagine?     

I’ll never forget her words to me:  “This is a bad day.”      

That situation taught me a lot about perspective.       

During one of my darker days, I longingly remembered some good days I’d had.  I had good friends and an active social life, a good job with relative calm, and there were no major problems shaking my world.  But as I looked back I realized that I had not fully enjoyed nor appreciated those days.  I had allowed worry over things like losing 20 pounds or not having enough money to get a facial to steal my joy.     

That day I made a commitment to appreciate the good days.  Using the perspective I had learned, I’d put aside temporary struggles and be thankful for the day I had been given.  I would learn to declare good days GOOD.  So these days I often stop in the middle of a day to evaluate how things are going.  There is such joy in recognizing the good days when they come.  I declare the day GOOD, thank God for it, and try to be fully present in each moment.  Rather than missing the joy of that moment because I’m fretting over something I won’t remember in two weeks, I soak it in and use all five of my senses to enjoy it.     

March, 2010 - In front of cabin at the retreat center

 

Last week I spent the night at a spiritual retreat center.  Alone in a little cabin on 225 acres in the country, I could be as loud or quiet as I wanted to be.  The weather was perfect and I had nowhere else to be.  It was just me and God, and He gave me a peaceful spirit.  I explored creeks and woods, sat by a fire, read some good books, wrote in my journal, and prayed.  I sat in the sun on my flagstone porch and listened to the sounds of nature all around me.  I disciplined myself not to dwell on my problems, but to enjoy the moment.  After leaving there, I got to hang out with many good friends in a relaxed, casual atmosphere full of celebration.  I came home happy, tired, and satisfied.    

It was A GOOD DAY.    

How long has it been since you had a good day?    

My "Hermitage" at the retreat center

 

The creek I explored

16 Comments

Filed under Spiritual Life