But She’s The Bride

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I just read another social media rant about what is wrong with the church. As a follower of Christ it makes me sad. Is she perfect this church of ours? No, she is far from perfect. However she is my neighbor, she is my sister, my brother, she is ME. So when you talk about her, when you disparage her, you are talking about me, you are talking about my family, and maybe you are talking about yourself.

Here is what I know for sure. She is the vehicle in which Christ chose to move his message forward. He could have picked any number of things, he is God and God doesn’t lack resources. So for better or worse, in her glorious imperfection she is here to stay. She is the only thing that will last when all is said and done. She is the one that the Lord said the gates of hell shall not prevail against, and most importantly she is the one for whom he returns to take home with him.

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You see, finding fault with her is a cheap shot. It’s too easy. She’s human and therefore fallible but finding the solution and putting your hand to the plow is the work. The harvest of beauty is there and plentiful. Are you willing to get messy? Are you willing to be a laborer or will you continue to be a critic? A critic is someone who determines the value of something and usually decides it is not good. Only that doesn’t work for the church. Because if we are saying she isn’t good then what we are saying is God chose the wrong way in which to express himself.  He made a mistake and I don’t think he did. It’s especially harmful coming from ministry leaders. They are in the wrong profession and confession when they are critical of the very thing they profess to give their life for. Let’s love her through the process of becoming. Let’s come up with solutions to the problems we see. Let’s love her to wholeness.

Packing For The Journey Ahead

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This is a picture of bags packed for a recent trip we took. Notice we humans packed quite a bit into these two bags but Lulu the Wonder Dog demonstrated a valuable lesson.  She only packed what was necessary for the journey ahead. She packed her favorite chew toy. That toy goes everywhere with her. She lays it down next to her food bowl while she eats, she takes it outside with her, she takes it to bed with her. That one thing was all that she needed.

Think about this for a minute. ONE THING! 

Matthew 6: 25“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?g 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Such is life. We carry around all these bags stuffed with memories, life patterns, and thought processes. Some are to be stored away for safe keeping. Things like lessons learned, rich fulfilling friendships, family adventures. Yet, other memories, life patterns, and thought processes are used to torment our lives and cause anxiety, worry, and fear but we’re afraid to leave them behind because we might need them on the journey.

Lulu showed us this day that you can’t leave everything behind, but taking everything with you becomes too heavy. She could only take what she could reasonably carry to keep up on the journey.

You see, she was going on a journey with her humans. She didn’t have to worry about food because that was their job. She didn’t have to worry about where she would lay her head to sleep because that was their job. She didn’t even have to worry about where she was going, it was an adventure! She was happy to be led. All she needed was her chew toy. Everything else would take care of itself. She had confidence in that. She was living by what she understood. Not everything could go with her and not everything was necessary. She opted to trust her guides.

So where are you going and what are you taking with you? Burdens? Obstacles? Fear? Anxiety? A map? Vision? A Word? A prayer? Anticipation? Are you stuffing bags just in case life fails you? Are you packing just in case God doesn’t come through? Are you packing because you have become a hoarder of insignificant things but maybe lack has made you afraid to get rid of anything? Are you stuffing things in your bags that were necessary a long time ago but that won’t serve you today?

Remember what Lulu is teaching us today:

You can’t leave everything  behind and taking everything with you is too heavy for your journey. Pack well my friends! 

 

On Loyalty

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As the world awaits here are my thoughts.

Loyalty CAN NOT be demanded.

Tyrants demand it.

Insecure managers demand it.

Let me type that again.

Tyrants and Insecure managers demand it.

What demanding an oath of loyalty does is expose the hand of a manager, notice I was careful not to say leader, who has to avoid negative feedback at all costs to soothe their EGO (Edging God Out).

There is no need to pledge allegiance as if you were pledging to a god. A manager who is demanding loyalty does so because they can’t listen to negative feedback or can’t lead without unwavering loyalty because of insecurity. They make a terrible boss and that person is not a leader at all.

You will be loyal out of a heart that believes in the mission. A covenant of mission never demands an oath to a person. An oath to a person is always bondage. Christians have dominion over the earth not over people.

Walk away from anyone who demands an oath of  loyalty to them or one who would disguise the verbiage in the word covenant. Demanding loyalty to a person is a dangerous precedent of the abuse of power to come.

I am not loyal to Doug Young because he demands it. I am loyal to Doug Young because I love him and I believe in our marriage. My loyalty can’t be made by force and doesn’t negate his leadership when I disagree. My covenant of marriage was to the mission of our marriage under God.

In the military leaders are taught not to demand personal loyalty and they teach subordinates to avoid personal loyalty at all costs. The reasoning is that eventually the tyrant will rise up and cause you to do things you never thought you’d do out of loyalty or be cast out of the ranks. It’s too high a price.

God never demands loyalty and these oaths and covenants that are demanded by men are not of God in any way shape or form. God is looking for a people with love and a heart for Him and service in the freedom of Free Will. This is not blind ambition or loyalty. This is eyes wide open, mission-focused, unity because we want to not because we must. We give our loyalty out of love not fear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B.A.T.H

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In our house we don’t say the word bath, we spell it out until we’re ready to do the deed. You see, the word bath invokes a rebellion in Lulu the Wonder Dog. Immediately upon hearing the word she goes and lies in her bed, curls up and closes her eyes. When I go to get her to take her dreaded bath she won’t open her eyes. When I grab her by the collar she becomes deadweight. When we are finally in the tub and giving her a bath her ears are down and she moans loudly refusing to move and making me maneuver to get her all cleaned up. Once out of tub and all scrubbed down and toweled down she runs throughout the house jumping on furniture that she isn’t allowed on and refusing to come near me. I offer her a treat for her misery and she takes it, but isn’t quickly forgiving.

As I bathed her this past week I wondered what God has to spell out in my presence? What am I refusing to do that ultimately is good for me? For Lulu the Wonder Dog bathing means we get all of dirt off, we hopefully avoid things like fleas, and it gives me a chance to check for ticks or anything unusual on her skin, not to mention she smells good again. Yet, the mere mention of the word brings on such a refusal of action. Honestly, this is the only thing she fights me on. It makes me wonder and stop to take inventory of what I have an absolute refusal of?

So what is it? Does the Lord have to spell E-A-T  H-E-A-L-T-H-Y? Does he have to spell E-X-E-R-C-I-S-E? Is it more like, F-O-R-G-I-V-E? C-L-E-A-N-S-E? Or is it deeper still? S-A-B-B-A-T-H? Is it a sentence like, What does the W-O-R-D say about that? What consequence does our refusal hold for us? If Lulu the Wonder Dog understood that her bath does nothing for me and everything for her would she still see it as the worst thing she has to do in life?

Do you want to know the most interesting thing about Lulu The Wonder Dog’s bath? Once she settles her issue, she gets on her dog bed and sleeps in such sound peace, snoring she doesn’t even wake up to shift positions. I don’t know if she’ll ever go willingly or understand that there is a benefit to it, all I can do is continue to do my part and that’s all our Heavenly Father does. He speaks and hopes we’ll understand the benefit.

Think about it. There is a benefit to what the Lord is asking of us. Will we be deadweight or will we rise up and follow?

 

My Weapon of Choice

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You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still
Whom shall I fear
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side ~ Chris Tomlin

Sitting in church this morning as we sang this song in semi-unison, I need to remember that the bible says make a joyful noise and even though we clap and sing to different beats and tones we are here for one purpose.  I felt such total peace. To stand under the wing of the One who formed me before the foundation of the earth knowing I am secure because the weapons of my warfare are not designed in the earthly realm, and since I don’t war people, there is no need.  I war thought processes and mindsets that crept into my soul making me feel that I wasn’t enough on my own and that there were things I needed that I didn’t have. I war perceived inadequacies in relationships that make me feel unloved, and until I gain clarity on the situation at hand, I stand feeling unworthy and helpless.  Yet when I read the bible it says I am more than enough in fact, I was created with everything I would ever need downloaded.

Isaiah 54:15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. 16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

When I read that no weapon formed against me will prevail it tells me that weapons will be formed to take me out but they can’t. It takes me back to when I was a kid and I wanted to be Wonder Woman only now I really am. I can stand as the arrows fly, and people say and do whatever they say and do and as long as I don’t respond with the same arrows, they fly by. Sure, the threat hurts my feelings, but feelings are up and down and I don’t live my life by them.

Know who you are and especially whose you are and then whatever arrows try to come to distract you from your God-given path know that they can’t harm you. You’re not out until God says you’re out.

 

Cathy

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I met her when I was 14. She was my boyfriend’s little sister but she was nice and friendly and she became my friend. We became family when I married her brother and when it was time for her to get married I was her matron of honor. She walked happily down the aisle with Eric to You Are The Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder. I will never forget it because it was so like her doing life her way. Years later I found a designer who made a necklace out of the song and sent it her. She sent back a note that she couldn’t believe I had remembered. She would invite me to absolutely every family event they had. I remember one conversation:

“Umm, thanks but I think it would be awkward to go consider I’m no longer married to your brother.”

“Did you divorce me?”

“No”

“I didn’t divorce you either. You’re my sister-in-law and the mother of my nephew and my niece and you are invited to all family functions.”

Then we’d laugh and tell secrets that only friends that know each other well can tell about things that are really none of our business.

After a three year battle with cancer I got the call from my son that Cathy was being sent home to hospice. I contacted my mother-in-law and asked if I could go and see Cathy, understanding that they have a big family and I didn’t want to intrude. She said of course I could come. I walked into a room filled with people and went to hold Cathy’s hand. She said quietly, “Susie, I have missed you.” I said, “I’ve missed you too and I came to tell you I love you.” She answered that she loved me too and that she was tired and she was sorry but she didn’t want to fight cancer anymore. I told her I understood and that I didn’t want her to feel as if she had to host me as a guest, instead I was there for her. We talked about God and heaven and she said she had seen glimpses as God was leading her spirit little by little. We told a couple of secrets that made us both smile and then her brothers came into the room and it was the four of us like it was when we were teenagers. We talked about where life had taken us and old stories about the past. We brought up phone bills, and FaceTime, and how much trouble we’d be in if were teens today and we laughed like we used to over stupid stuff. Cathy took a sip of ice water and through half-closed eyes she said to me, “See what I have to do to get us all together like old times?” I replied, “Who knew all those fights with your brothers would make you give cancer a run for its money?”

My sister and my friend is passing from this life to her next one and as I write this my heart breaks. It breaks because we distance ourselves from painful events and while we do, there is the unintended casualties of souls that are wounded. It seems necessary to separate out, to stop the pain in the moment, and are in the end are such pitifully poor decisions. To turn away love from one heart because another has been careless with your heart can never be right. I’m thanking God for second chances and a deep friendship with a wonderful woman who loved me deeply and who is forever embedded in my heart.

 

In Time

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Last October I was given a vision of my next step in ministry. I couldn’t wait to see it fulfilled. I began to research, to ask questions of those I knew, and to make plans. Each time I got ready to launch something got in the way of the plan and it was stalled. I wasn’t frustrated just chomping at the bit to move forward. God’s timing is not like our own and so I waited.

My husband began to see the vision of what I was going to do and began to pray with me. Then he began to change the ideas I had. This is when the test happens because the question becomes,

I had my own ideas, I had my own lists, I had my own plan but what happens when they aren’t where we are going in ministry?

Well, as I always say,

Submission isn’t submission until we disagree. 

So I got on board with the vision of the house, I began to input where I was asked. We launched last night, prayerfully, considerately, and mindfully, a leadership team. You see, my vision was to make a path to ordain women into ministry. My husband challenged me to think broader. Together we forged a plan of ordination for all people. We gathered our combined resources and gathered wisdom and materials for a clear path. There are 15 of us in the beginning stages of this new phase of our ministry. There were 7 women which was still important to me. Now I get to watch it all unfold. I’m excited and glad to have waited for proper timing and direction.

Sometimes things take awhile. Even though we may have a vision and it seems clear, the path isn’t always how we think it should go. I would prayerfully ask you to be mindful of this and to wait for God’s timing.  This isn’t the time to push forward your own agenda over that of the church in which you serve. A pastor friend in Arkansas preached on the Baptism of Commitment. He said,

Are you committed to your own agenda or are you committed to your leadership? 

That’s a great question to leave you with today.