Aiming Faithfully

Garett Kelli

The disciples were asked to watch and pray while their Shepherd soon to be Savior went off to pray. Distracted, not sensing the importance of the training and the hour they found themselves in, they quietly fell asleep. How alone Jesus must have felt. Yet in just a short while he would endure the cross and let God be famous.

Pastors feel this way sometimes too. Lonely. Yet their faithfulness to their calling keeps them steadfast knowing they are truly never alone and that Jesus is nearby. Never wavering to the allure of slumber or limelight although both sometimes seem appealing they keep moving forward. Big boisterous voices wagging fingers in condemnation or watered down gospels get applause and a sensation of grandeur for a moment while the pastors in the trenches of community work year after year to train those at the sound of their voice to listen for the voice of Jesus. Let God be famous.

Beth Moore said, “Cynicism is just arrogance pretending to be smart.” We can criticize the church and/or their leaders, tell you how we would do it, tell you that she is irrelevant but we would be exalting ourselves and not the one who reigns supreme. Let God be famous .

No, it would do us best to serve and love faithfully. When my husband was a young pastor a pastor and mentor told him, “Doug, if you want to make a difference in your community, plant deeps roots in the city, buy a pick up truck, and serve the people.” In other words, don’t quit. Make a difference where you are planted. Serve God faithfully, do what you can do for people and let God be famous.

I Wonder If She Knows…

I watch Cameron intently as he plays. He is serious, studious, loving, funny in a sarcastic way, and I can’t help but see my son in him. His profile, the way he assesses the environment before he either engages or not. The way he moves closer to us as a stranger walks into the room. His total refusal to call my mom Nana because as he pointed out, “No, you my Nana.” It points to his loyalty. The way he sees himself as protector.

I point all of this out to my daughter-in-love and while she smiles and laughs with me I recognize she has no point of reference to her husband as a toddler. Nor should she.

I wonder if she knows that as she mothers him the time flies quickly by? I wonder if she knows that the reason why he will pick a great wife is that she will raise a great man and have faith in herself that she can? I wonder if she knows the love she feels for her son will multiply a thousand times when she looks at his child?

No, she doesn’t know yet because none of us do before it happens. Instead good moms stress kindness, love, manners, respect, honor, humility, and education all while juggling a huge to-do list and worrying that we aren’t doing enough or that we are doing too much. In the meantime our children wrap themselves around our heart and we know that we will never be the same and we don’t want to be. No, no one can prepare you for those feelings that will come until they do.

I look at my grandson and my heart swells with joy. When we sing together or when he says, “Nana I will sing you a song” and breaks out in a toddler version of Amazing Grace it is as if angels are singing. Yes, yes, off key and pitch but nevertheless beautiful and a sound you wouldn’t trade for the world.

In those moments we do not have the profound revelation that all that we have lived through, all the hurts, pains, dysfunction that we all face will be worth it for the results that await us in the near future.

My daughter-in-love is beautiful. She is real, honest, loving, filled with integrity and character and the most amazing mom on the planet. She along with her husband are teaching Cameron the value of family, creating a strong and stable home where violence and love are opposed to one another. I heard Anthony say to Cameron in the middle of a toddler tantrum, “No, I don’t hit you and you don’t hit me. You can be angry but you can’t hit.” Above all their home is Christ-centered and they are laying solid foundation in our faith as Christians.

I am grateful she continues to humor me as I tell her stories of my son as a toddler, listens to recordings of his bath time, and has taken time to read through every single piece of art he made in pre-school. She is preparing Cameron to be a good big brother, a worthwhile friend, a man of character who will one day lead his family well. And although she doesn’t know it yet, she is preparing her heart to guide a daughter-in-love, to love her well, and to laugh and hold her grand babies one day.

I wonder if she knows that I hold her close in my heart because of who she is all by herself? My son’s wife, my grandson’s mom is all secondary to who she is. Her name is Frances Martinez and you are blessed if you know her.

Tribalism Continued

While sorting through my feelings of tribalism and it’s non-ending cycle of inclusion and exclusion I found Joaquin Phoenix and his acceptance speech something to be thought out. Take a listen:

Words like championing causes vs commonality of passion towards any issue doesn’t necessarily include or exclude unless we have no room for opinion. He talked of an egocentric world view and while his point was a natural world view, it wasn’t lost on me that even in discussion of causes we leave no room for difference. As he so eloquently put it we are best when we support each other instead of canceling each other out. There was another layer laid on my heart as I continue to work out my thought process on this issue.

I Didn’t Post It

Social Media is becoming the bane of my existence and yes it is not lost on me that I am typing on a blog.

It all started December 2. My husband’s birthday. Well, maybe it started before then, but this is when it clicked for me. We each have social media accounts but due to metrics which I don’t care to understand, nor research, nor change, my posts rarely, if ever, show up on his feed nor do his show up on mine. We comment to each other about it even.

I decided that for his birthday I was taking him out of town. I also made a self discovery that the long flowery post for his birthday on how great he is wasn’t for him since he may not see it. So why write it? I mean, do I need to tell the world how much he means or was I simply posting to be seen? No, instead I decided I would tell him everything I thought face to face. We arrived at our hotel and we stood out on the balcony watching the waves and I told him everything I would have written on Facebook. Eye to eye watching his smile reach his eyes cause he’s a words of affirmation guy.

Only I found myself answering questions. People noticed I didn’t wax poetic on social media they wanted to know was everything alright? Perhaps because we’ve all been sucked into believing it was the thing to do in the past. Were we in trouble? No, but at some point you have to get real, real about who you are and what you are doing. Maybe I’m changing because honestly prior to this I thought how special it was to post what I felt for my husband on social media, but really? How I feel about him shows. It shows when we sit together. It shows when we look for each other in a crowded room. It shows when we have dinner together and talk about everything and nothing. I don’t have to prove a point.

We are both pastors. Between us we host four small groups a week. We each host one alone and two together. Those two together we host in our home and so our friends are over twice a week which means we share our home with about 20 people a week. We love it. We love our friends and we love our life but there are some things we determined some time ago we would not share. So our bedroom is off limits. That is a sacred space that belongs to the two of us. There isn’t anything special about our room except it’s a room for us in our home that only the two of us share.

Can we get back to a place where something doesn’t need to be wrong to not make an over the top public declaration that the person who it was meant for wasn’t going to see? I post vacations after they happen. I don’t always post when our grandson is over. Sometimes things are in the moment and I don’t need an audience. Yes, I want to share my life. Yes I want to keep in contact with people in my life, but I want the sacred as well. I’m not a fishbowl person and I recognize that I live a fishbowl life in many ways but still there remains private, not secret, places in which I can choose not to share.

So I took a piece of my life back. I honestly don’t think anyone cares what I do all day. I don’t think you care or have time for what I ate today, unless it’s some fabulous recipe that I may want to let you know about. Beyond that, my makeup routine, coffee routine, workout routine, it’s all mundane we all have them.

I am grateful to those who reached out to see if my marriage is intact, if it’s good. It shows my friends noticed and they care. I loved that but it’s time to get real with myself and with you. I want to look into those blue eyes and tell him what he means to me and I don’t need an audience.

Intimacy can’t be found in media. When it is attempted it’s called pornography.

Intimacy is found in tangible expression.

Intimacy is real, sacred, private.

The Shadow Of Tribalism

When we began to speak of our tribes several years ago, I embraced the concept wholeheartedly. Growing up third generation American my ancestors told stories of why we needed to stick together against racism and for survivalism in a country that didn’t always embrace its diversity. Tribalism embraces a poverty mindset that says we must preserve ourselves in the midst of those who would take away who we are.

Growing up in California I was privileged to have grown up with a wide variety of culture yet even then there was tribalism. When we go to eat Chinese Food in China Town we know there aren’t going to be stores where we can buy tortillas.

So the concept of “streams” and “tribes” didn’t signal any alarms until I began to examine how we use them. We use them to keep people rounded up and to keep others out. We hang onto to a sense of who is in, who is allowed to visit, and who is definitely out.

Jesus came to dispel tribalism or at least redefine it. He brought about the discussion and complexity of community while he mingled with many. When Jesus is among the people his mother and brothers show up to talk to him.

Matthew 12:46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In fact his detractors questioned his choice of dinner companions.

Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Ultimately the inclusivity of whosoever is what brought him down. The tribe could not fathom sharing their lives with those who did not belong and that is the shadow which we walk in today because tribalism is still our thing. When we determine who is in and who is out not based on qualification but based on standing within the tribe we are acting out of the lack instead of embracing the abundance Jesus tried to bring. When we decide we can’t live in community within the confines of a tribe not because of evil but because of our perceived notions of where we stand within that tribe it shows we have yet to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

As I struggle to dispel the concept of tribalism and embrace inclusive community I doubt this will be the last post on the topic but it begins the process of discovering my role in it all.

Prayer For My Journey

1AC6FDBB-D623-4637-8A03-5AA9C70494EDI still look for your input and find it missing. I absentmindedly go to Facebook looking for your comments or look for our last text and email to see what you have to say about something. After years of your advice where does one go to hear wisdom from a godly sage?

Peers? No, my peers are on the same journey I am on. Maybe different circumstances but they aren’t looking back to advise their younger self as you were with me.

I remember the last time we spoke you said God had spoken and he was taking you on a new journey. You were so happy to hear and waiting in anticipating of what it might be. You said, “Oh Honey, at my age to be doing a new thing is exciting and scary all at once.” What we didn’t know was that the new thing was going to be your greatest calling.

A heart attack the very next week and the words that I didn’t want to hear, “Nothing more we can do.” But you rejoiced. Your voice was breathy and strong as you said, “Oh Honey, I so love you but don’t pray for my healing. Pray for my journey that I not tarry here. I am excited to see Jesus face to face.” Then in your sarcastic way, which maybe would have scared me if you hadn’t have said it but you said, “I have friends coming out of the woodwork wanting to pray for my healing. I don’t want them to pray for my healing, I want them to pray for my journey. Honey, tell them not to pray for my healing.”

So when Pastor Ida called to find out the details, I spoke up as you have taught, “She is ready to go. She asked that we not pray for her healing but for her journey.” Pastor Ida comforted me as only she can. She was a dear, dear friend to you and has been wonderful to me.

The last call when you assured me that they were treating you well and spoiling you rotten and that you loved me didn’t go unnoticed. You wanted us to know how much you loved us and you didn’t want us to worry.

Even in your passing from this temporal life to your eternal home you taught me to stand strong on my faith. You never ceased being a mentor in this Jesus life we live.

To always follow Jesus.

To put your fears aside.

To carry on because an unimaginable hope awaits.

To pray for our journey.

One step at a time.

So today if you are reading this, my spiritual mother, Doris Avila has gone on to be with Jesus. Never one to be shy about her faith she taught me to stand strong. Over and over again she offered advice, counseled, prayed, gave words of knowledge, heard my heart, told me when I was wrong, and loved me through it all.

If you don’t have a mentor, I urge you to get one. Then I urge you to listen. My very first visit to her home she corrected me. “We say Grace in this home before we put food in our mouth.” I was embarrassed at my misstep. I apologized and got on with the meal because as I was to find out, she was an excellent cook. To think, I would have lost all of that precious advice had I walked away offended. Instead I stayed and listened and gleaned. Find that one, my friend. She will make your journey one of blessing. As you read this, pray for my journey as I walk it out without one who always had a listening ear. That voice for me is gone in the physical realm but her words still ring strong in my heart. May it be so for you.

 

Manipulation

Manipulation is the skillful handling, controlling or using of something or someone. Whether it’s the sculpture you made in art class or how you convinced your friend to do your homework — both are considered manipulation.

 

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This week after having a way over the top reaction to manipulation, I kept this question in front of me:

“Why does manipulation make you so angry?”

Knowing that anger generally masks a primary emotion I examined myself. This morning as I was going through my chores doing the laundry and I realized that manipulation feeds on an unresolved need or desire. It is predator characteristic and it preys on the ones who are non-confrontational, or people pleasers. The moment I see it I get out of its way because I know its damage first hand.

Do we recognize it? 

When manipulation knocks on your door do you see it, smell it, hear it? Or do you cower to it? No one can manipulate you without your consent. So how does manipulation work? Have you ever had someone come and say these things to you?

“I’ll just go away. Obviously, I’m too much of a bother. I have done a lot for you but you have your own life now, and you’ll never have to hear from me again!”

These people get the academy award for emotional manipulation because they are a master of their craft.  You have to either confirm their statement or backtrack. When push comes to shove most people backtrack.

“No matter how much I try to get ahead, something always knocks me down and I know people are tired of helping me, but they don’t understand that life has been hard since (and you can fill in the blank of what tragedy has fallen upon them)”

Be it a death of loved one, an unfulfilled marriage, a loss of job, or whatever else they deem the stopping point of their life, it is now somehow on you to fix it. Social media makes this manipulation tactic extremely helpful as they will post their latest dilemma and then a shout out to their loss.

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“I know I said that, did that, but you don’t know what was said to me, and I don’t want to burden you with it. Never mind, I’ll take the fall for what you consider bad behavior. I always do.” 

Victim thinking and the hint of a bigger picture can keep us in manipulation’s hand.

“You’re not going to help me? Don’t you go to church? Do you think that’s the way a Christian should behave? Aren’t you being judgmental?” 

This is one I have heard a lot. As if a spiritual walks makes it necessary to give up your common sense.

“I know this puts you in a bad position but I think if you do this God will honor you for it.” 

Do you hear this person? They are actually telling you they are putting you in harm’s way and hoping God intervenes on your behalf.

“My tribe always shows up when I need them. We always have each others back and we love deep.” 

Basically, if you want to be one of us you have to conform to how we do things. We move together and if you have an opposing view or decide not to follow then you’re out of the tribe.

“You’re tired? I’m exhausted. You have no idea what I go through.”

This either puts you in defense mode or makes you feel petty for having an emotion. This too is emotional manipulation.

“<sigh> I have been putting so many hours into helping you. I don’t understand why we have to do all of this. <groan> I wish I would have known what I was getting myself into. <ha!> I am not complaining, of course I want to help you silly, don’t be so sensitive!” 

This person is the martyr. They work so hard and so tirelessly and you don’t acknowledge what they do for you. Then they make you feel like you’re insane for asking if they don’t want to do it.

So why does it make me angry? I realized this week that when I question the insanity of a manipulative person out loud that I feel shame. I should be a kind, compassionate, a willing to help person. Instead I feel hurt, resentful, and frustrated at what they are doing to others. These aren’t emotions that are becoming to anyone, and I don’t like to see these emotions in myself.

What can I do to get healthy in this arena? I can be mindful of the true needs of others in my life. I can ask myself if the person is truly experiencing a need or are they merely trying to make their problem my problem? Will this be a one-time help or is this a pattern of ongoing mismanagement of life? Are they making others responsible for their poor lifestyle choices and if so is it any of my business and I would have to say no. I want to shout, “You’re being manipulated!”, but what does that solve?

Today I realized my anger came from my assumption that if I don’t speak out then I’m an awful person. When I sat down and truly examined my feelings, I realized wisdom and discernment and saying no is not bad. I am mindful of what I help with and I am not one to nurse dysfunction and I think that is a good trait.

What about you? Do you fall for manipulation or do you recognize it? When you know you are being manipulated do you get resentful or do you just say yes to keep the peace and continue to keep the feeling of being adored? What are you going to do to get healthy?

 

 

 

 

 

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.