The Strong Women Beside Me

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Today we lay to rest a mighty woman of God. Terri Rivas, on the left in this picture, came to our TLC4Women bible study years ago. A quiet woman with a bible and pen in her hand, she had been invited by a pillar in our group her best friend Bernie, on the right above. Both women had been friends with each other for over 50 years. They each attended different churches but they each loved to study the word. Bernie is a solid, grounded, woman of the word and so I knew her friend would be as well. What does it say that two women are friends for 50 years? In a time when we are offended so easily and friendships tend to come and go, this was something to be admired.

It didn’t take long for me to find out that Terri was not quiet at all. She had a quick wit and would make all of us laugh with that smirk-y smile she would get right before she made a comment.  She celebrated all of our successes and she told about her escapades with Bernie. Bernie and Terri wouldn’t sit together in study because Terri would say she was afraid Bernie would get her into trouble.

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I discovered that I could go to Terri for anything and she would pray. She wasn’t about gossip and she wasn’t about drama but she could pray. I saw why she and Bernie were such great friends. Two women who stood strong on the word of God and were mentors to each of us in the group. When Terri decided to move her membership to our church, she came with a notepad, scriptures, and a word from the Lord, BUT she wanted to talk to us first to make sure that we knew she would not to be any trouble. She taught me about honor and hearing from the Lord.  She wasn’t going to walk on what she thought was the right thing to do she weighed it out, got counsel, and waited on God.

When she decided to retire from the hospital we talked about it and it turned out she didn’t have to retire she could work from home. She was thrilled to do that but again, wanted us to pray to make sure it was the right thing to do.

When Terri developed Parkinson’s she came to me with a quake in her voice and announced the news. I could tell it had shaken her and I had never seen her scared before, she had faith for so many others, in that moment I needed her to have that same faith for herself. I reminded her that the Great Physician had the final say and we prayed together. I honestly didn’t think I would lose her. I thought she would battle on. She had been through a lot in her life and I thought this would be another victory story. When she determined that she could no longer trust her driving at night she told me bible study would be out. I told her to let Bernie bring her. She instantly replied, “Have you ever been in a car with Bernie? Pastor Susan I want to live.” I answered, “Well, at least you’d go together right?” She laughed and said, “Bernie would probably survive.” But laughter or not, scared or not, there would Terri be, walking in the door of bible study with Bernie.

Terri, I love you, I will miss you. The impact you have made on my life cannot be measured. I was graced by your friendship. I was graced by your love of my children and my grandson. And even though I mourn the loss of you here on earth, you won the victory. I know that you made it home safely. That all of the promises of God are true and that we will one day be together again. I’m sure you are talking to loved ones and strangers and everyone you meet. You’re making people laugh, and you’re awaiting the time when we’re all joined together again.

Proverbs 31:29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

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What’s Coming Out?

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That’s the problem with the Pounce and Flounce isn’t it? We make definitive statements for drama’s effect only to have it boomerang.

To the significant other: “I’m leaving!”, when we know we aren’t going anywhere for long.

To the family or friend: “You hurt me and I’m not coming back until you say sorry.” Then we take every opportunity to let everyone know why we are feuding, or worse we pretend innocence and point to how people hurt us.

To anyone that will listen: “I don’t know why I stayed this long.”

Or in other words,

“You can’t tell me what to do.” 

To the Authority Figure: “Well if you’re going to do that then I’m not participating.”

Then we walk out as if we’re a commanding general who just won a war. We Pounce on the person and Flounce away to show them. Show them what though? Show them that we are masters at manipulation. This is the adult version of the two year-old trantrum being played out. 

When the trantrum is over and we calm down, and want/need, to come back, now we either have to apologize or have that awkward thing of the pounce and flounce between us that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes we pretend nothing happened. Sometimes we are violent slanderers, sometimes we are silent stew-ers, sometimes we play injured party accepting no responsibility and pointing fingers or worse we act as if all of this is so beneath us and we don’t care a bit about it in retaliation.

If we do it often enough, and with Social Media, we certainly have an easy platform, we develop a reputation of histrionics where people ignore our high drama. We become unsafe because others never know when it will turn on them and they will be the object of the next post.

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You see whatever is in our hearts comes spilling out. Now that we have a world wide platform people get to see who we really are. Hey, I’m not immune to cringe-worthy posts either. I’m not ashamed to take down posts that  I have posted which turn negative. It is not beneath me to just say no and sorry to something which may inflame people I care about.

Recently our church had 21 Days Of Prayer where prayers were written on cards and then each night we gathered together to pray for each card. There were incredible testimonies of breakthrough, miracles of healing, and in the midst of the profound and sacred some took the opportunity of prayer to chastise another. I called it the pounce and flounce of prayer. The violence of this action shows the power of our world today in which we can hide behind words not spoken face to face. Cowardly at best, the pounce and flounce has taken on new levels. The cards were quickly plucked from the pile and shredded. The Bible says that what is in the heart comes out and I wonder as believers how we think this honors God? I wonder how I honor God?

Proverbs 21:2 All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Luke 6:45 The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

So while I examine my heart for impure motive, I urge you to take a walk through your heart and settle the issues that so quickly ensnare us into behavior that will never lead us to victory.

 

If Only I Didn’t Know

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You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. ~ Matthew 5:4 The Message

Don’t you hate it when your life is cruising along in auto-pilot and you get hit with a revelation you wished you had never known? The awareness it brings is such a shock to the system. Immediately you have to think about what to do with the information. Where is the line or boundary for you? What is the right thing to do?

A friend lets you know that a person with whom you didn’t really have a problem doesn’t like you. I mean, it wasn’t like you were best friends or anything but you thought you two were fine with each other.

You’re doing your monthly breast examine and feel that lump that you thought happened to other people.

You find text messages from a co-worker on your spouse’s phone and discover something you never wanted to know.

You become a Christ follower and discover that there is that little area over in the corner of your life that isn’t consistent with this new life.

Now What?

In each of these cases you can’t ignore the next step for very long. As hard as it is to face facts, you must. They simply don’t disappear without action. Begin with a good assessment of where you are, then begin to pray for what you want the outcome to be.

Do you want to restore the possibility of friendship? Then humility and a conversation will need to take place. Often we excuse our behavior and pin it all on the other person but what is our role in this?

You’ll need a healing miracle as you make a doctor’s appointment and get that mammogram. Don’t panic, don’t delay, and don’t ask God to bless you based on your resume. Instead pray for healing and ask for mercy.

Do you want to see your marriage restored? Then you’ll need to have some tough conversations, some realizations of who the two of you really are, and if this marriage is worth saving. You’ll have to decide to never bring it up again and to begin the process of restoration. Don’t make your case before God for blessings, instead ask God to give you clarity of vision, strategy, and ask him to show himself mighty in this situation.

Do you really want this walk with Jesus to work to its full potential? Don’t make excuses, voluntarily come clean with the Lord and ask Him for His help and guidance.

You can’t ignore what you learn and have a healthy life. You can’t accept what you’re unwilling to accept. You can move forward with knowledge when you examine that area of your life with true acknowledgment of what the reality of the situation is.

Unfortunately, we can’t un-know what we know but we can move forward into an excellent future if we stop making excuses, stop listening to other voices, get clear about what it is we want, and humble ourselves before our Lord.

 

Twisted Theology

@MrChurchGuy writes: When people say that “God showed up” for their worship service, do they count Him in the attendance numbers?

If so, does He count as 3 or just as 1? 😊

God Showed Up

 

The statement that “God showed up” or “God is here” always puzzles me. Jesus shows up whenever two or three are gathered. Why are we, Christ followers, surprised when the Bible turns out to be true?

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ESV

If you are new to this Christian faith please forgive us. Sometimes we have these Christian-ese statements that we can’t back up with scripture which I’m sure may confuse you.

You see, when we are surprised that God showed up we forget that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere all of the time. We also make the false assumption that Jesus only shows up when we perform for him. If in fact, the church is the bride of Christ then that would make him a pretty bad fiancé, and since we know that he isn’t, then the statement doesn’t hold true. You can find comfort in God. At the whisper of His name He comes.

When we are further surprised that he showed up at church, well, please look around. I’m sure there were more than a few of you there and I’m taking a big leap here but I’m guessing at least two people in that group and hopefully three showed up with a heart that was ready to worship their Savior.

 

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So the conclusion I make to these statements is that these are heart issues of the person professing to see or feel Christ’s presence in a service. The fact is we all have issues of one sort or another and sometimes those issues get in the way of our relationship with God and could sometimes cause us to not have the feeling of being in his presence. It doesn’t make it so, but perception is what we have to go on as humans.

Jesus is in the unlikeliest places. Places you and I would never think he would be, and yet, there he is, whether we feel him or not.

So, grab a friend this week and pray together, if you’re blessed, grab a few friends and pray. I guarantee you he will be there for SURE. If you find yourself alone say a simple prayer and He will be there. If you find yourself not able to utter a sound, too broken to grasp for words, or too blessed to formulate the words to explain the gratitude you feel, or you just plain don’t know what to pray for, even that works, because the Holy Spirit comes and helps us.

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. ESV

God really does show up! Because the truth of the matter is God isn’t out there somewhere. If you’ve answered the call he is living inside of you and wherever you are there he is.

 

 

When You Say Nothing At All

 

Opinionnoun – a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.

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In the world of ministry, as in the political arena I suppose, your own voice becomes not your own but rather you must decide and calculate, what the cost or gain will be to actually have an opinion on something. There is a unmerciful machine that rages forward and unforgiving attitudes still prevail. Just ask Rob Bell or Jen Hatmaker two Christians who dared have opinions in our world. Books, endorsements, and speaking engagements were pulled immediately. The idea of keeping a public page on Facebook and a private page of Facebook or just getting off of social media completely is in full force. Ask people privately what they think and get a view of people who are deciding that in order to speak to everyone you can offend no one.

So I stopped writing about controversies because I didn’t want controversy in my life. I    wanted to speak to everyone about anything. I wanted to hear opinions and views that weren’t my own because that is where I either solidify my view or see a perspective I    had not seen before and thereby change my mind.

Only that goes completely against who I am. I sat as a small child at the dinner table and discussed politics and world  views with my parents. In fourth grade I wrote to President Gerald Ford and I received an answer. I don’t have an opinion because I’m a Christian, or a pastor, or a woman. I have an opinion because I have a brain who is forever learning and wants to be challenged.

“But you’re going to have to minister to people who don’t share your view and they won’t be able to receive from you because of it.”

WHY? Because we can no longer tolerate an opinion that isn’t ours. We’ve become so engrained to think that if they do not think or do things as we do then they are against us. They aren’t of our tribe so therefore they are out.

Luke 9: 49John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” ESV

Mark 9:38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. NIV

Only here’s the thing: When we say nothing we say much. While quiet observation serves while opinions are formed there are also two camps forming, those who think you are with them and those who think you are against them. Ultimately this is really not about you. It’s internal strife turned outward. It’s intolerance. Sadly, it’s prevailing in America.

What would you say if opinions truly mattered and we were really a free people?

 

Thanksgiving Before Christmas

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Jeremiah 8:7 Even the stork in the heavens knows her times, and the turtledove, swallow, and crane keep the time of their coming, but my people know not the rules of the LORD.

This time of year gets so busy that sometimes I forget that Jesus came to set us free from frantic endeavors. I  get caught up in the rush of this season. This year, I don’t want to scramble through this time feeling pressured.  I don’t want to be so busy that I  can’t  or don’t take time to bless people with the love that Jesus came to leave with us.

I found myself making a Christmas list and it was October. This season does go by fast but so does every season. I put the list away and determined to wait until after Thanksgiving to continue this list.

You see, I love Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is special. Thanksgiving is special food, special preparation, special tradition, it’s looking back on the year and being grateful for everything, the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

Christmas is a different kind of special. I love shopping for special gifts, wrapping them up and then giving them. I like to pick thoughtful gifts and I am made in the image of my Father in heaven so I know this isn’t a fluke thing, I was made to be a gift giver and so are you.

That’s what Jesus is to me. He’s the special gift that God sent especially for me and for you. He wrapped Himself plainly so we would have to look for the value of Him and the heart of the One who gave the gift. God had to wait for the perfect time to give it. Not too early and not too late but just in time. I wonder as I write this if God felt the anticipation of waiting for the season to arrive as we do? Timing is everything.

I’m not going to rush this season. I am going to take my time. I am going to bless like Jesus and not get so busy that I forget we have a Thanksgiving before we have a Christmas.  I am going to enjoy the special services. I am going to meditate on the gift. The truth is that I have trouble with receiving gifts.  I don’t want people to make a fuss about me but you know what? That’s often pride. So I’m going to learn to receive and I’m going to wait to give in the proper season. I am going to appreciate our life and take one season at a time.

So do you find yourself so busy with the hectic Christmas season that it becomes a to-do list and not a get-to celebrate season? Does it get stressful as you budget to give? Can you take time to stop this year and enjoy the moments and bless as Jesus blesses by being present as a present?

 

Don’t Grow Weary

29262-Anonymous-Quote-When-you-feel-like-quitting-think-about-why-youGalatians 6:And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

I was feeling very discouraged and weary over the past few weeks. In ministry there are lots of critics and you have to keep a good handle on your heart but sometimes your hand slips and your heart gets a little tainted with the mess of another. The best thing to do is to take a step back, cleanse, pray, and get back in the game but sometimes when it happens over and over, the shock of seeing mud again from the same source on your heart makes you sigh deeply and think about the ease of quitting and not moving towards cleansing.

I was met with a naysayer to ministry. “You’re not doing it right. If you were doing it right, you’d do it like I do.” On the left hand, “We love you and we love what you are doing.” On the right hand, “You’re wrong and it’s incredible that you have been able to get this far.” I knew intellectually this was a manifestation of a heart awry BUT, AND THIS IS A BIG LESSON, sometimes, you override what you know to be true for a false thing if you aren’t careful.

I remember in one of my psychology classes Dr. Johns said, “If I tell you every single day that the sky is green and that you have believed a lie and that you are naive in ever believing it was blue, you’ll eventually question yourself.”

And I did.

I did you guys! I questioned the color of the sky. Never mind that my ministry spoke for itself and had its own measure of success.

I questioned the color of the sky in a question, “What am I not giving the naysayer? Why do they have the need to issue a beat down? Is our ministry clueless and heading down the wrong direction?” The Holy Spirit swept in and let me see that the complaining had absolutely nothing to do with me but by then I had allowed myself to get weary. It had been months of public criticism. The problem with thinking of quitting ministry is that ministry isn’t a career, it’s a calling and if you begin to think it’s a career you’ll shop it around and miss the calling of where God called you to be.

We’ve heard it said that the average pastor who leaves the ministry leaves due to the words and actions of eight people. Eight. People in ministry, like us, choose every day to get in the truck and leave their calling behind because they let an average of eight people steal their joy and steal their calling. ~ Leading and Loving It

Folks sadly, I was below average in letting one person’s rant get the best of me. That’s what weariness does.

We must show mercy and yet stand firm and the only way to do that is knowing who you are. Good thing I had done the work for that long before this moment.

Anne Lamott says mercy is tough. In her book Hallelujah Anyhow she writes:

Mother Theresa cradling strangers at dawn is very romantic, but in life, there is also your thirsty bigoted father, your lying sister, the whole human race, living and dying and rising with Christ.  

Don’t quit. There is a harvest at the end of it all if you don’t quit.

Have you ever felt like quitting? Sometimes it is warranted but most times it delays the prize. Don’t let your feelings get in the way of what God has called you to do. Seek God. He will lead you through.