Doris Avila

1795291_10201567281649883_1883956978_oOnce upon a time a long, long time ago a boy brought a girl home to meet his mom. His mom was a Christian woman who had raised her son in church. In fact, his mom was baptized when she was pregnant with him and she said he awakened in that water and begin to move around. She loved him so much. It was evident by the way she looked at him.

The girl he brought home was not a church girl. His mom met her son’s girlfriend and smiled at her and welcomed her. She took her into her life and we will never know if she was scared for her son, approved of this girl or not,  but we do know one thing, she invited this girl to lunch often and because she is a wonderful cook, she would serve her up a great lunch and a great bible study. I guess she figured if her son was going to marry this girl, then she’d had better get to work on leading her to Christ.

I am in awe of this woman because she could have decided that this girl was not worth her son’s time. Only this mom was wise and understood her son was stubborn and talking to him about this unsaved girl wasn’t going to work. So she set out to do what she knew to do. She prayed. She spoke a word in correct timing. She loved her. She cared for her and she showed her Christ.

Eventually, her son and this girl did get married and the girl did find her way to Jesus in a profound way. When her son died, she looked at her daughter-in-law and said, “We are now Naomi and Ruth and we will find your Boaz.” This was probably the only time that the girl felt misunderstood by her mother-in-law but you see, her mother-in-law was wise and had insight that this girl didn’t have.

That girl was me and that mother is Doris Avila whom I love to this day. I’m writing this today because memories of those days are flooding through my mind. She has moved away and there are days I long to sit with her and talk about life and the love of Jesus. To this day, we remain close and she holds a place in my heart and in my life where she speaks and I listen!

Published in: on February 1, 2016 at 8:51 am  Comments (2)  

You’re Not Allowed

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It bothers me when a spouse says in public what their spouse is allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. I can only imagine what that nightmare of a marriage looks like in private.

“My husband is not allowed to drink his coffee in the living room.”

“My wife is not allowed to work.”

“My husband knows better than to think he’s bringing home a recliner.”

I stay quiet as I hear these statements but in my mind I think, “Bully”. I believe when we try to usurp authority over a person we are in essence saying we are higher than God. The bible reads that God is not one who overrides your free will instead he offers choices. Those choices usher in his presence or not.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

My husband and I are very strong people in very different ways. I am verbal and will say what I think. He is non-verbal and votes with his action. So when we disagree we tend to stop until a compromise is reached. He has never said to me that I wasn’t allowed to do something and I have never forbid him anything. We both take into account the free will of the other.

Are there forbidden things in a marriage? Of course! Adultery, Abuse, Addiction, Manipulation, Lying are things that are forbidden in a marriage but I would think if I have to demand a ceasing of these actions then I married the wrong person who lacks love and character.

When we  continually call the shots, continually admonish our spouse as if they are our child, continually manipulate the finances, I wonder where Christ is in all of that? When it’s our way or the highway whole people sometimes cower for a season but they eventually fall away. Maybe they don’t leave the situation. Maybe they just go away emotionally. Maybe they begin to spend time alone not meeting our needs. Maybe they find someone who respects their opinion.

We can argue that the person who is experiencing the violence of the violation of free will, chose to give it up and I would say that is true. In counseling I often hear that they feel stuck because of a circumstance such as children who will be devastated by divorce, so they bide their time. Then there is the lack of work or experience where they can’t support themselves which often keeps them in this situation as well.

It can happen in the work place. There are those who feel threatened by their boss or their employee. The employee who continually threatens to quit, who calls in sick as a pattern on critical days. The boss who lords that there are plenty of people out of work over their employees. It isn’t right.

As Christians we are supposed to have no unwholesome talk come out of our mouth. When we think of unwholesome talk we think about cussing, gossip, but what about bullying? What about dragging about someone by a leash demanding our way? Isn’t that the tearing apart of a person of free will? Un-whole-some?

 

 

Near-Sighted

nearsightedI am nearsighted meaning I can totally see things up close but I can’t see things far away. To be able to see things far away I have to put glasses on. It’s a pain but hey at least there are glasses to correct vision right? There are no coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason and my journey through 2015 was no exception, my nearsighted vision would teach me a lesson.

I heard Chris Hodges say once:

“Spiritual nearsightedness shows up in our prayers.”

Every Christian has a promise over their life. I could see the promise. I could taste the promise. I could reach out to take the promise. I was working overtime and when I was honest with myself, I was unsettled. I felt the Holy Spirit speak:

“Breathe, take a minute there are things yet to teach and do together before you enter in.” 

I wish I could tell you that I went willingly but you see when you’re a workaholic, you don’t just stop working willingly. Instead you pretend you misunderstood the prompting in your spirit or you fail to hear it at all. You spiritualize it and you begin to pray nearsighted prayers. The problem is that when you pray with nearsightedness your prayers aren’t to change the world they are change your circumstances to move in your direction. Nearsightedness causes the inability to get past the right here and right now and see the future.

So there is a choice. You can reach for the promise in your flesh. Meaning you make something happen but that is vastly different than allowing God to reach for the promise for you.

If you reach for a promise and aren’t ready for it you end up birthing an Ishmael which fails in the end, while had you waited for God he would have birthed an Isaac on your behalf.

Alright that may be confusing for those of you who aren’t Christian.  Let me back up. There is a story of a man named Abraham in the bible. His story begins in Genesis 12. He was married to a woman named Sarah and she couldn’t have children. God had given them a promise that they would birth a child. In fact, the Lord told Abraham he would be the father of many nations. Sarah was just hoping for one baby. Years go by and she’s an old woman and she hasn’t given birth. In her desperation she reaches for the promise in her flesh. In other words, she makes something happen on her own. She convinces her husband Abraham to have sex with their servant Hagar (I know we see the writing on the wall right?). The plan is Hagar will have a child and give it to Sarah because Hagar’s a servant. Hagar has a child and she names him Ishmael but she doesn’t hand him over. Instead the whole scene becomes bitter and embattled.

I chose to sit still. Have you seen a workaholic wait? It isn’t at all pretty.  BUT:

Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

So what are you grabbing for that isn’t in its season? Can you wait for what God has for you?   I promise it will be better than anything you can make happen!

 

 

Published in: on December 30, 2015 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Integrated

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Integrated – Adjective – combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole:
an integrated plot; an integrated course of study.
2.organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively:an integrated economy.
3.having, including, or serving members of different racial, religious, and ethnic groups as equals:

I was sitting with my Godmother who is 89 years old. She was born in a time of segregation and being a Latina I am acutely aware of these circumstances on some levels and acutely oblivious on other levels. Meaning my heart hurts at the stories but to say I have experienced this level of treatment in my lifetime would be a lie.

My Godmother told her story with quiet assuredness,

“My mother wanted us to attend Cecil Avenue School. It was the white school and some of us our parents sent us to that school for a better education. Back in those days it was much different than it is today. We were not allowed to eat in the cafeteria because we were Mexican. Instead we had to eat outside. In the rain, in the heat, whatever the weather was, but we were kids and we made the best of it. Huddled under trees we stuck together.”

I sit and listen to her story and wonder if this is the reason she became a school secretary? She certainly never hesitated to give a student a what for. “You’re here to get an education make yourself a better person. You’re here so that if you desire you can go to college. You have been given more opportunities than we ever had. Don’t waste them.”

This is why segregation in any form is abhorrent to me. This ideal that it’s us against them regardless of the excuses for the behavior is ignorant. Studies show integration pulls people up not down. So why do we so quickly abandon the notion of equality? Because it requires we set our mindsets and our idea of who they, whichever they we are prejudice about, are aside for the truth. The truth being that we are all more alike than we care to think. That regardless of where we came from we are now here, wherever here is for you, and therefore should be working together to make here better.

On my way to see my Godmother I listened a podcast on This American Life. I have posted the link at the end of this post and I would ask you to listen to it by clicking on it please. I cried because here we are still squawking about equality by being separatists. It’s no better in the church. We elevate the segregation to doctrinal issues to make it holy.

Yet, I have hope. I see millennials who are crossing lines, untethered by pants, raised hands, and a tone of a voice which makes it male or female, and instead making an effort to make the world a better place in the name of Jesus. While CNN and FOX scream about Jihadists 24/7 there is terrorism of a different kind going on, in our neighborhoods and in the church. Let’s make a difference where we can. I think Jesus would be pleased if we extended our hands regardless of the color of our skin.

Click Here for This American Life Podcast

Published in: on November 20, 2015 at 8:16 am  Leave a Comment  

This Heart Of Mine

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Free people.

Free people.

Free people.

I don’t get to control how free people behave. I don’t get to control how free people respond. I don’t get to judge whether their response is reasonable or not. I don’t live in their head. I live in mine. They get to tell their truth. I get to tell my truth. We don’t always have to agree. We don’t always have to walk together. The response we have to free people shows our heart. It also shows our respect for others and ourselves.

That being said, it doesn’t give someone the right to trample on you. I’ve seen some pretty crazy relationships in the name of respect. Different doesn’t mean it’s good. In fact, it could be bad only you get to line it up with the word of God and decide. Where the line is drawn however is when we march off backbiting because the person didn’t agree with us or didn’t allow us to emotionally hijack them. Taking our ball and going home mad is fine when we’re 12, but it’s immature at 20, and looks ridiculous at 40.

Will we decide to keep score or will we forgive? One looks like flesh and one looks like Jesus. Our choice. Our account.

 

 

Published in: on October 15, 2015 at 8:39 am  Comments (1)  

The Art of Bouncing Back

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

As a woman in ministry there is a big target on your back and you can fall prey to the haters if you aren’t careful. I want to speak to the wife of a Pastor today because she is especially vulnerable to the arrows that hit her blindside.

It’s not about going around trying to stir up trouble. As long as you are honest and you articulate what you believe to be true, somebody somewhere will become your enemy whether you like it or not. ~Criss Jami

I am watching two very different women in ministry. A young Pastor’s wife, we’ll name her Jane, with a heart for the Lord who is being torn apart by unrealistic expectations, and a Pastor’s wife, Chris, who is being slaughtered by those who profess to wear the banner of love. It’s painful even from a distance.

In both cases you have women who love the Lord and are actively involved in their church. They are there at every event and they are there to serve. They pray. They seek the Lord. They speak words of revelation and life and yet they are lonely. They want to be a part of something that they have not been invited to.

So what’s the problem? Young Pastor’s wife Jane is an intercessor. She’s friendly but introverted. She will be at the church praying on any given day once her children are off to school, however Jane doesn’t lead a ministry. Jane has prayed over me powerfully but if I ask her to speak at our women’s conference Jane politely declines and says, “but I’ll help you serve food and I’ll help you at the altar”. Her church feels she needs to step it up. Only who decides that? I read the bible and there is this ministry called Helps and it is very necessary in the church.

Then there is Chris she is prophetic and a powerhouse speaker. Her church would like for her to stand down based on a misconception of a biblical view of women that are to be seen and not heard. Man! If only we could switch churches for them maybe their congregations would be happy. Unfortunately, their husbands were called to their place.

The biggest difference between leaders of large organizations and small organizations isn’t their location, the size of their building, the scope of their vision, the number of staff members, or their talent. In fact, some of the best leaders I’ve met have small organizations. But in all of my consulting and conferences, I’ve seen a single factor: leaders of larger organizations have proven they can handle more pain. ~ Sam Chand

So let’s do away with the expectation of a pastor’s wife. She may be called to lead a ministry or support it. She may be called to be a pastor or not. I can promise you one thing is for sure, she will fail someone at some point because no one is perfect. From a biblical view I don’t think the church gets to decide who she is to be. I think God does and I think he’s pretty sure about his expectations, and I would bet money on the fact that we’re supposed to trust Him. Let’s show a little mercy. The art of bouncing back becomes a little more difficult each time.

Published in: on October 12, 2015 at 8:35 am  Leave a Comment  

A Season Ahead

mentor

Those of you who follow this blog must have thought I had fallen away during the move to our new home. It is almost complete. July and August just ran together and by September there was a little headway. I’ve missed writing, there are so many things swirling around in my brain that are wanting to come out but I will tackle it, as I have learned to tackle many things these days, in bite sized pieces.

As believers we’re called to mentor. That seems like a daunting task. You may ask yourself what do I know about mentoring or about anything in general? Well, although you might not be an expert on most things, the question to ask is:

Am I a season ahead?

In other words, do I have something to teach the person who is asking me? Am I  a little bit ahead on this topic and could my knowledge benefit this person? Am I teachable? Do I have a mentor to go to if I get stuck? No one does mentorship alone. We all have those a season ahead to help us.

Most leaders don’t mind sharing what they know with you as long as you don’t abuse their time. True leaders are happy to meet with you and tell you what they know. What a leader won’t do is waste their time or allow their time to be abused.

If I want to know what a leader knows, I will invite them to lunch or ask for an appointment. I will go to them for advice and counsel on a topic then I’m going to begin to apply the knowledge they gave to my life to get ahead. If they give me a book to read, then I’m going to read it. If they give me counsel on an area of my life that I need to improve to get to that next level then I’m going to do it. Why would I do anything else?

It’s the same when you begin to mentor others. You mentor those who are following you. Many will come to you with pretty or flattering words and thank you but won’t move off of the couch to get ahead. Some will blame you when you didn’t pursue them only that isn’t mentoring, that’s parenting, or something like that. They failed to realize that many are leaning on you and that you don’t have time to chase someone down who says they want to be mentored. Teachers stand before a class of students and teach those who showed up.

Next  make sure you study and make sure you are learning.  Be patient. Not everyone who comes to you is ready to learn and it’s fine, just pray that they find that person who will be a blessing to them. Don’t beat your head on the wall over someone who isn’t ready.

Teach, with all of your heart. Teach them about love and the pursuit of this destiny that lasts eternally. Teach them practically and teach them well and teach them that we’re all just human and need grace. Mark them with the banner of Jesus and then go home knowing your job is done for the day and get out the bible and read it for yourself.

Plenty are the worries of the day but for you, you are a student and a teacher and you will be comforted. Do your best and then rest well in the knowledge that you helped those who wanted your help with your best effort and you have put your best effort forward to learn as much as you can.

Published in: on September 30, 2015 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Breathe

Breathe Flyer

Published in: on June 26, 2015 at 8:35 am  Leave a Comment  

You’re Supposed To Be The Church

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Here are some things I am thinking about today as I was told I am not a Christian and I am a liar because I chose to believe in our staff and our store policy.

Sometimes love say no.

Sometimes love has discipline.

Sometimes love has boundaries.

Sometimes love doesn’t allow the trampling of a soul.

Sometimes love points out wrongs.

People have this misconception about church that we are supposed to do everything anyone asks because we’re supposed to love. So we get these crazy asks sometimes. Take for example our thrift store. The conversation goes something like this:

“I’m sorry we won’t be able to take your couch, it has to be usable and without the cushions it isn’t usable.”

“Well, don’t you people help poor people? Beggars can’t be choosy. My dogs tore up the cushions but it’s still good for the homeless.”

Alright so at this point in the conversation I’m not thinking nice things, in fact my thoughts are quite sarcastic and this I realize is why I will never hold political office. My thoughts are going in the direction of why would we donate a couch to a homeless person? Sleeping bags, clothes, food, blankets, tents, yes but a couch? Not so much buddy. Not even on my radar. I know, I can’t say these things and maintain customer service as much as I would like to. These are thoughts though and I gather myself together and get back on track.

“Yes we do help people in need but this couch doesn’t help them. They can’t sit on it like this.”

“Well what I am supposed to do with it?”

“Well you can take it to the local dump.”

“WHAT? DO YOU KNOW THAT COSTS MONEY? I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE CHURCH?” Huff, puff, slam and yell, “SO YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT? YOU GUYS DON’T HELP PEOPLE.”

“I understand the dump is expensive. It would cost us $20 to take the couch to the dump. We don’t get a Christian break or anything and we run on a very tight margin here. If you’d like us to take it to the dump for you, we can but you’ll have to pay the $20.”

He elects not to do that.

Whenever I hear the phrase, “I thought you were supposed to be the church.” or “I thought you were Christians.”, what I hear is, “You’re not doing what I want.”

I know your next question. What are some things we’ve been asked to do because we are the church? Mostly things that are wrong or unwise to us.

Cashing checks for people we’ve never seen before. 

Making exceptions to policy when it will ultimately hurt us. 

Writing letters of reference for people we don’t know. 

Loaning our vehicles to people without a license. 

Doing things that compromise our moral belief. 

Where do we get this idea that Christians are weenies who should do everything that is asked even when it’s contrary to their belief system thus saying no means they are hateful or not Christian? Jesus didn’t do everything asked of him and he asked people to make some very tough choices for the betterment of their life. Yet he was Christ. Not everything goes our way nor should it.

Oh and by the way, the guy came by and dumped the couch on our property after hours. Guess he showed us! So pray for me as I work through the nonsense of a thought process that I don’t understand and learn to let it go and move on.

 

Published in: on May 6, 2015 at 8:11 am  Comments (2)  

The Hireling and The Called

The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

The Shepherd by Julien Dupre (1851-1910)

Sitting in the hot tub after a long day of ministry my husband and I were laughing and talking about a 4 year-old who was discussing the state of the world with me. Then it got quiet.

My husband quietly said, “You really shocked me a few days ago.”

Not knowing at all what he was referring to my mind began to think of what could be so shocking? I couldn’t put my finger on a single thing and yet I knew this statement was important as he’d been mulling it over, so I said, “What did I say that shocked you?”

“Well, when we began to budget for Project X you said we could take your salary and put it towards it and you didn’t hesitate.”

Trying to make this moment lighter, and being sarcastic by nature I replied, “Hey, there was a time when I had to pay to be in ministry, giving up a salary is a new level.”

We laughed and then it got quiet again and I felt I had to explain myself.

“Look, it’s not as self-sacrificing as you’re making it seem. I walk in the realm of big faith. I believe that God will take care of my needs and provide for them. I don’t doubt that for a minute. He has never let me down.”

My husband just smiled at me and said, “That’s why we’re here. We’re called. It’s not about what we can get, it’s about what we can give. Others might have given up if it was about a paycheck but because it’s a mission it becomes a lifestyle.”

John 10:12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. ESV

I thought on this conversation over the last couple of days. What makes one shift from the money aspect, which let’s face it, is a real issue and one that needs to be discussed, to the aspect of the calling? The calling is a place where you could take your education and experience and turn it into a money making proposition and sell it to the highest bidder only you wouldn’t be comfortable with yourself. It wouldn’t sit right. You’d feel a missed opportunity, you’d long for the day when you’d be called back to the ministry. Honestly, there is that space between God and reality where the bills come in and the hesitation starts. Only for me, and I don’t profess to know what it is for others, the faith that while I may not have it all, I have all I need, is the sustaining force that keeps me steady when the waves of doubt come crashing in. When the promise of being all in when the stress of ministry and the expectations of what we are called to do are overwhelming, I stop and tell myself that I promised, and more importantly, I trust my Lord.

I pray that wherever you are sitting and reading this post right now, that you are sitting under a pastor who is called and not a hireling. You will know the difference when life hits. I pray that pastors who are truly called never give up.

 

Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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