Hello Tulsa!

Casey was 3 the first time.

“I’m going to school like my Bubba.”

I walked her to her class and signed her in.

“Bye Mommy I am going to play with my friends.”

“Wait! Give me a hug!”

She did. Some children were crying. Some didn’t want their Mommy’s to leave. Mine? She was enthralled with the prospect of friends.

I stood for a moment watching her little fearless being. Then, I turned and walked toward the door. Tears welling up. “Oh Susan”, I told myself, “pull it together it’s only 3 hours.”

It was the second week of school when she was invited to a playdate. She had made her friends.

She grew and became a little spitfire. Friendly, fun, adventurous. So when she was Senior in high school and announced that she was going to ORU in Tulsa, OK, I was not surprised. I steeled myself and tried to steel her.

“You know, Tulsa is not a drive where I can go to you if you get sick. It’s a plane ride and expensive. Are you sure you are ready for that?”

She was. She did. We flew into Tulsa, my daughter and I and her best friend. We rented a car and went to Sam’s Club to get a membership. Then to Target to get dorm supplies. Then we went to the dorms and decorated her room. We went back the next day and we found the cafeteria, and the medical office in case she needed a nurse. We looked for a church to attend. Tulsa, I had to trust you with my precious creation and I didn’t even know you.

When it was time to say goodbye. My heart pounded just like before.

“Mom, it’s going to be fine.”

“I know.” I hug her tight.

I fly home with her best friend, tears spilling over.

“Oh Susan, pull it together. It’s just 3 months.”

Hello Tucson!

Flying into Tucson for our daughter’s wedding, I can’t help think of the fun memories I have of this place. A wild child abandon was had here. As we landed I am reminded that here is where my father is from and where he seemed the most free and himself. Here is where we rode horses in the wash and didn’t comb our hair. Here is where we walked in the desert finding horned toads, tarantulas, and lizards. Here is where I broke my arm, got stitches, and kissed a boy named Paul at the Planetarium in sixth grade. Where Mr. Thurber challenged me to keep informed of current events and to speak proper English. “O’s are not 0’s, don’t confuse the two.” There was also tension here.

This was not where my mom was from. She was from the Central Valley of California and that is where she felt the most comfortable in her skin. Surrounded by her brothers and sisters and her parents, her life was not one of abandon but of responsibility and deep connectedness. It is where I learned about family, where I was deeply loved, where my baptism, first holy communion, birthday parties, Christmas celebrations and sense of well being came from. It was where my Nana and Tata lived and we created a life around them. I missed them terribly when I was away from them.

As we rented the car and headed to the hotel to change and get ready for the wedding it was there that I realized the tension in the middle of parents who wanted such different lives. As children we didn’t know about any of this. We were comfortable in both spaces perhaps because we had a sense that we belonged in both or maybe because children adapt.

Now as an adult I realize how hard it must have been for the two of them to each want such completely different things in life in what basically seemed like two different worlds.

It was in the drive to the hotel that it became clearer than ever that love is just one part of a relationship. That there are goals, dreams, lives created, and in blended families, mine was not as a child but is as an adult, children’s well being to consider. Love really isn’t enough. Oh it sounds romantic and our hearts want to make it work but the reality is that love cannot sustain the full lives of what we are called to live and how we choose to live this one life we have.

….two worlds can collide and yet not coincide…

I write today as a warning, as a sign, as a person who didn’t understand the tension we lived in until yesterday, and the realization that two worlds can collide and yet not coincide. My parents eventually divorced. My dad lived out the rest of his days here in Arizona, my mom remarried and is content to stay in the Central Valley, she and Joe do not travel far from home, a half hour drive often seems too far to go. It worked out for both of them just not in the way they would have thought or imagined. Life has a way of doing that.

Jerusalem’s Tunnels

Egypt, its root word in Hebrew is narrow mind or narrow place.

We were warned. If you struggle with claustrophobia or aren’t in shape think twice about going through the tunnels. I knew physically I could do it. I don’t have claustrophobia but I still didn’t like the idea of going through the tunnels of Jerusalem but I didn’t want to regret not going either. What’s the saying? When in Rome do as the Romans do.

The tunnels started out fairly wide and tall and I was able to walk through just fine. Ok, not so bad. I continued forward, it was damp, musty, the floor was uneven and it was hot and humid. It had its narrow parts but it wasn’t so bad. Yes, I am glad I decided not to sit this one out.

As we moved forward it got narrow and low and we began to bend as our shoulders almost touched the walls on both ends. Still not what I thought we moved through fairly quickly. It wasn’t that bad at all.

Then it got narrow and low ceilings where we were bending and walking, water dripping from the ceiling, and I began to think ok, this is hard but not impossible, surely we’re almost through.

Not so. It went on and on uphill, downhill, gaps in the floor, lower and lower we bent and more narrow. Some tripped, :I wished I had worn something other than sandals. We moved together shouting warnings to one another, “big dip on the floor”, “slippery rocks”, “narrow passage”, “watch your head” “watch the steps”. Team work felt safe as we moved through. A sign read 200 meters. We didn’t know if that meant we’d gone 200 meters, or there was 200 meters left to go. How much is 200 meters anyway? We’re Americans, 200 meters means nothing.

Then we saw light up some rocky steps. Yes! There is light at the end of the tunnel only it turned out to be a reflection and the tunnels continued. Ok, I wasn’t having fun anymore. I was sweating, I was done, I got the point, the pilgrims suffered to reach the temple. It was hard. Voices got quiet, grumbling began, and still we walked. There were no emergency exits. We were in this to the end whether we liked it or not. We didn’t know where we were and we didn’t know how much longer we would be trapped in these tunnels. The worship leaders began to sing. We joined in but my mind was trying to be on the lookout. I have to admit though the singing began to soothe me and I began to relax a little. I was going to have to bend and walk in places, I was going to slip on some rocks in my sandals so I had to watch where I stepped. I looked ahead of me and still saw no end in sight and I turned back and saw the line of people behind me and realized there was no time to stop or reorient, I had to put one foot in front of the other.

It was then that the Lord spoke to me. “Do you remember what Beni said? It is said that you cannot serve the God of Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob with an Egyptian mindset, or to put it another way, the narrow mindedness must be put out of you. Today we walk through a narrow passage because a time is coming when your American theology will not serve you. The wide expanse of the door of your upbringing will become a narrow gate. Many will fall away but you will embed this walk in your heart and you will know when to bow low and how live in the passage from one realm to another. Do not be afraid. Use your faith to overcome.”

We finally reached the end and went up the stairs in the hot late morning sun. Panting, hot and grateful we were out of the tunnel. What? We have one more tunnel about 10% of the length of the last one yet to go? Oh man! Okay, let’s go. I’m skeptical but I’m ready for what comes my way.

The Bible talks a lot of narrow paths. Are you ready? Have you been on what seems like a narrow path? Take heart. You will come out of it.

When the World Blows Up

It was our day off and we were running errands. My husband held my hand and said with a smile, “I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.”

I smiled at him, and told him I was glad to hear that, but deep down a pit formed in my stomach. You see, I had been stressing, and I honestly can’t say I’ve been in the moment with him for over a week. Self-absorbed, lost in my own thoughts, small groups starting at church, school starting, and general overload at work with decisions that had to be made and personalities to consider but time wasn’t allowing me to wait anymore. Even my dreams had been chaotic, one being forgetting to put deodorant on for a very important meeting, another forgetting to take notes for class and being clueless for a test.

Later that evening as we were night swimming, I said, “It truly makes me happy that you are the happiest you’ve been in your life. I have to apologize that I’ve been a brat this week.” He looked intently, “On purpose?” “No”, I replied, “just stressed about work. I’m checked out in many ways. You’ve had a lot of extra to do around here.”

He looked at me earnestly and said, “Listen, I get why you’re stressed but it changes nothing. You made some tough calls this week and you did what needed to happen. In the end though you have to remember that today is all that you have. You pray for tomorrow but it’s not a given. This moment, right here, is all you have and when the whole world blows up what do you want to be doing? That’s the question. Me? I settled it a long time ago. I want to be with you, swimming, making memories, traveling, playing with the grandkids, having a life. I love the work I do but at the end of the day? At the end of the day I leave whoever is mad, whatever department needs coverage, whatever nonsense is happening at the office and I come home to relax and be with you. Time goes by really fast and I refuse to allow work to consume me. Hey, we dance really well in the water.” And suddenly I am aware of the country song on the radio playing in the background and that it is perfect for this moment.

Sometimes God speaks through a moment. The sage advice of one who has lived a little, lost someone, and come back from it all to build it better and stronger. The one who has seen people come and go, programs work and fail, and through it all has seen the faithful hand of God upon his life. The song, which I will link at the bottom, that just happened to be playing during the conversation, even that, is no coincidence.

He’s right. We can be consumed by all of the work put before us. We can get so caught up in all of the things that try to capture our attention but what is the most important thing at the end of the day for any human being? The relationships we are building with one another. The lives we are building for ourselves, the memories we are making. There can only be but one priority. It was an illusion to think there were 16 priorities. It nullifies the word. At work, my priority is to do the very best I can. I give 100%. I work more hours than I get paid to. I must learn the secret of leaving work. The art of stepping out of the office and into my role as friend and wife and mother and Nana and mentor.

Where will you be when the world blows up? Stressed and worried or living in the happiest time of your life? I learned a very important lesson last night. I hope I conveyed it well and you begin to live it better than I have!

May you be blessed to find the precious important things in your life.

https://youtu.be/ilnm5vID8M8

Joy in Simplicity

Mondays are long days for me. I arrive at my trainer’s studio at 9 am, co-lead a staff meeting at 10 am and I leave the office around 9-10 pm. Most Monday evenings I take a quick dinner break and my husband usually prepares something to eat or has take-out for me. By the time I get home for the final time he typically has a fire in the outdoor fire pit and the jacuzzi going. We sit for about an hour while I download my day and he listens.

How often do I take those little acts of kindness and love for granted? How often do I not notice the effort that was made in making a relaxing resting place for my body, mind, and spirit? When was the last time I said thank you or let him know I appreciate what he does for me?

There is a story in the Bible that was the topic of the sermon in church recently.

“David again assembled all the fit young men in Israel: thirty thousand. He and all his troops set out to bring the ark of God from Baale-judah. The ark bears the Name, the name of the Lord of Armies who is enthroned between the cherubim. They set the ark of God on a new cart and transported it from Abinadab’s house, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the cart and brought it with the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on the hill. Ahio walked in front of the ark. David and the whole house of Israel were dancing before the Lord with all kinds of fir wood instruments, lyres, harps, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals. When they came to Nacon’s threshing floor, Uzzah reached out to the ark of God and took hold of it because the oxen had stumbled. Then the Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence, and he died there next to the ark of God. David was angry because of the Lord’s outburst against Uzzah, so he named that place Outburst Against Uzzah, as it is today. David feared the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” So he was not willing to bring the ark of the Lord to the city of David; instead, he diverted it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The ark of the Lord remained in his house three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his whole family. It was reported to King David, “The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s family and all that belongs to him because of the ark of God.” So David went and had the ark of God brought up from Obed-edom’s house to the city of David with rejoicing.”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭6:1-12‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Uzzah grew up in the house where the ark has resided. He was so accustomed to the presence of God that it was common. Reaching out to steady it was of no second thought. It had lost the sacredness to him.

I have been meditating on this passage this week as I go about my work. What do I take for granted in the presence of God? What do I take for granted in the presence of God’s sons and daughters? What has become such a casual matter that I no longer even notice?

Take the journey with me and ask yourself if you find blessing in the simplicity of joy? Can you see the abundant blessings in the midst of problems? What do you focus on? Could I go on? I could, but for now, let’s just take a little walk, a deep steady breath, and contemplate.

The Subtlety of a Relationship

Admittedly I am an observer of people. Perhaps because I am not an extrovert when I am out in a public setting I watch people. I examine body language and watch facial expression.

Last night we had dinner on the beach. Outdoors on a beautifully clear California day as the evening begins, people began to be seated and I went into the observatory of my mind. I simultaneously chatted with my husband and I watched co-workers sit down after a conference and order drinks and appetizers laughing and talking. Soon, others came and gathered at their table. Everyone seemed relaxed and enjoying the evening. Everyone keeping friendship distance, some standing, some sitting.

At our table the discussion was on listening to children yelling in glee in the background and when that ends? When do we stop yelling in sheer bliss? Was it when the parents told us to shush? Or did we just stop expressing ourselves in that way naturally? We commented about how Erin yells in sheer happiness but Cameron no longer does. I noticed his arm around me as he tightened his grip just a little as we talked about our grands. The subtlety of a relationship’s happiness in that one almost undetectable squeeze. He’s happy in this moment I think to myself. He is relaxed and happy. “Isn’t this a great place?” He says almost in response.

At another table a couple sat down. The husband expressed loudly, “Seriously, I came out to watch you look at your phone?” Most of the time I don’t get to actually hear conversations but this guy made no bones about his irritation. She said, “Sorry.” And put her phone down. They sat together and seemed to have a good conversation after that. Sometimes we need just a little reminder about habits. My husband laughed and said, “It is just such a habit to sit down and grab your phone. I totally understand her.” I did hear him tell the table next to him that they had been married for 30 years. They didn’t seem to share the same sort of connection though. Sometimes the cares of life get in the way of the blessing.

A couple who looked to be in their 60’s were seated. They sat on the same side of the table. They ordered cocktails and began to talk. He leaned in while she talked. He brushed her hand with his. As they laughed together she put her hand on his arm. These couples are my favorite to watch. They have fostered a good relationship. Their nuanced interactions show the work they have put into their marriage. The small merging of the life they have forged together plays out in those small gestures. The subtlety of two becoming one may go unnoticed by the daily grind that is their life but it shines through if you look close enough.

I watched as a young man walked in and sat at a small table. He looked to be a young professional maybe 30? He ordered a drink and was on his phone for about 30 minutes. A woman walked in with a friend. The friend introduced the woman to the man, the man stood and shook the woman’s hand and she sat down with the man as the friend walked away. You could tell it was awkward. His leg moved a mile a minute underneath the table. Her smile and way she sat showed she was attracted to him but very cautious.

My husband and I moved a little closer to one another as we discussed them. Once again, the subtlety of a couple’s movement that you don’t even notice unless you are paying attention. Thank you Lord, for giving me the discernment to pay attention to them. He asked me, “How would like to be that couple?” “No thank you, but you know, that is how it is done these days.” He then said, “I never went on a blind date.” “Me neither.” Reaching absentmindedly for my hand he said, “Thank God I never have to.” The subtlety of a relationship when you give each other a knowing glance and it speaks everything you have to say and more without uttering a sound.

As couples walked down the sidewalk and reached for each other’s hands or walked with their arms around each other I am always amazed about how body language plays such a part in a relationship. Whether it be driving down the road and he looks over at me and smiles, or reaches over to hold my hand or sitting side by side here at dinner talking, people watching, laughing at inside jokes and never noticing the countless times we touch or glance at one another until I stop to pay attention. Until I look up from what has caught my attention and see connectivity on a different level. Until I become acutely aware of the fact that I truly do not know anymore where I end and he begins. It just becomes unconscious movements towards one another.

It’s when we’re watching tv and he moves from the recliner to the couch and I tuck my feet under his thigh and we share popcorn. It’s when we are cooking dinner and we touch one another as we move about to make our part of the meal. The public display isn’t territorial as in the man who grabs the woman’s butt in public to mark his territory. No, this is subtle, loving, genuine.

“C’mon”, he says as he kisses my temple and puts his napkin on the table. “Let’s go watch the sunset and take some pictures.”

I grab his hand and smile. As the saying goes, we may not have it all together but together we have it all.

Supreme Court Leak

Being neither a Republican nor a Democrat I often watch with interest the politics of a society gone wild with hate and vitriol. The news that the Supreme Court had a leak, which is suspicious to me, and that Roe vs Wade may be overturned, as we round the corner to a midterm is of no surprise. Both parties begin to attack to get the voters in a panic and their candidate in office. It is business as usual to distract from the real issues but we are already fried from just coming off of a pandemic. The people of the United States go crazy. On social media the unfriending, which isn’t a word but a feeling, begins because God forbid we have a thought that doesn’t align with yours.

I don’t understand the hoopla over the Roe v Wade overturn if, in fact it happens. The genie is already out of the bottle. 60% of Americans think abortion is fine. If the Supreme Court overturns it, it doesn’t make abortion illegal, it makes it a state’s right issue. If it is a state’s rights issue then it will be on your ballot. You will get to go the polls and vote your conscience just like any other law.

I happen to live in a state where our Governor has stayed executions of criminals and promised to uphold abortions. Yes, we Californians are a little twisted but we are the model for the USA so get used to it. As you know I am a Christian and I am pro-life, even for the criminal, so that last sentence was a little sarcasm and a little truth. My state is in no danger of losing abortion rights. And now since we can have home abortions I am sure you can get a couple of pills in the mail from a state like mine.

What is at stake here is your well-being. While we fight on the pros and cons of abortion there are some real life issues happening that you need to be aware of. Please don’t get caught up in the misdirection. Just because someone yells “squirrel” doesn’t mean you have to leave your post to see if it really is there. It is coming to you sooner or later in ballot form. Get educated and exercise your rights.

Inflation is kicking in and this means more families have less to put on the table to eat. This is real.

President Joe Biden has announced that we will have a food shortage. Meaning, in a time when our dollar isn’t going as far as it could you’re encouraged to stock up. That could be a problem.

20 food processing plants have caught fire in the first four months of 2022. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but we need to figure out how to prevent them in light of a food shortage.

For every $1.00 of stimulus you received it is being reported that just over $4 was spent to give it to you. That’s a significant problem long-term and not a good business model for a country. we need to get a hold of the purse strings and ask questions.

Experts say we need to have 3-6 months worth of cash in reserve. In a time of inflation we need to understand that maybe we need to slow down the spending and tighten up our belts.

Suicides, depression, anxiety is way up. Therapists aren’t taking any more clients in my county. We have a shortage of adequate providers, and many people are being left without care. This is a great humanitarian issue that needs to be addressed.

These are just a few issues that are pressing down on us. Hopefully you get the point of my post. Don’t let someone place a fear in your heart. Since time began we humans have been a resilient bunch who somehow make it through. Just because a few commentators put out scare tactics doesn’t mean your heart has to be troubled.

My best advice is whatever side of the fence you are on, understand that you don’t have to buy in to the fear. Stay calm, pray, and trust God. Vote, kiss your loved ones, and live your life. Go to work, serve your community and keep your heart and hands clean. There is Bible for all of this.

“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you — you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭CSB‬‬

“There is nothing better for a person than to eat, drink, and enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand, because who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from him?”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭2:24-25‬ ‭CSB‬‬

“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭CSB‬‬

I Judge

I judge every single day. There I said it. It’s a fact.

I judge whether I want that second cup of coffee.

I judge how much time it’s going to take me to get to work.

I judge what the weather app is saying my day is going to look like as I look out of the window to see if I believe it or not.

I judge the songs I like vs the ones I don’t. I even judge whether I want to listen to music or listen to podcasts.

I judge what I am going to wear to work while my shower water is warming up, and yes, I put my hand in the water until I judge what the right temperature is….

to me.

I judge whether I have enough in the fridge to put a dinner together or whether I have to pull things out of the freezer.

And all of that judgement I just wrote about comes before 8 am. You could say I am very judgmental and you would be right.

And you know what else is true? All of these judgments I have come out of my heart and tell my mind what to think on these things. So when we make statements like, “You shouldn’t judge”, let’s explain exactly what that means because as humans we judge hundreds if not thousands of things every single day. It is silly to make a blanket statement about judgment when it so a part of life.

I judge right from wrong like I judge the color shoes I choose or the color lipstick I wear. So what does it mean not to judge?

It means we don’t judge motive. We don’t know why people do the things they do. We can’t see their heart and if we’re not careful we will judge them by the standards and health of our own heart’s motives and not their own heart’s motives.

That girl who we deem is wearing clothing that is too revealing? Well, maybe she has self esteem issues, maybe she doesn’t know that modesty is different in different scenarios. Maybe she doesn’t have the privilege of a dad who has spoken to her about what is appropriate and what isn’t. So before we go criticizing her for being a stumbling block, which isn’t my viewpoint on the subject at all, but that’s a different post for a different day, maybe we should find out what she knows about social norms of dressing? Before we judge how that person is spending their money, maybe we can determine that if they aren’t borrowing money from us then it really isn’t our business.

Before we go judging the person for doing something on purpose, we should try to understand why they are doing what they are doing from their heart not ours. Last week I had to buy 12 dozen donuts for my employer for an event over the weekend. I got busy and day by day I procrastinated until the day before the event. The day before the event, my boss asked if I took care of ordering the donuts. I admitted I hadn’t. He then went and ordered them for me. Clearly, I didn’t do what was asked of me. Clearly I didn’t. My first instinct was to think he wasn’t being fair and he was being slightly paranoid, “Sheesh! I was going to do it today! He sees how much I have been working.” It was in that moment when I stopped and took that thought captive instead of accusing him or worse poisoning others through gossip. How long should he give me to get my job done before he does it? What if by the time I got there, the shop had closed and the expectation of the team was a let down? Was my boss truly being unfair or was he looking out for the whole or was he doing me a favor because he knew I was overwhelmed?

Motive- mo·tive /ˈmōdiv/ noun 1. a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.

Judgments. I may not be the only one reading this who makes them all of time. Maybe you do too. I am better at not judging motive anymore since now I know I may never know the reason, especially one that is not obvious. I now know it is unfair to put my impure heart‘s reason on another’s action.

Indulgent

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Matthew 4: 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

I was complaining to the Lord about not being able to lose weight recently. I am glad that God gets me and that He often stays silent during my whining episodes or I’m afraid whining would become an ugly habit. This time though he answered in his quiet unassuming way.

“You’re self-indulgent.”

WHAT? WAIT! God doesn’t convict! All of his answers are LOVE, LOVE, and MORE LOVE.

ONLY WHAT IF THE TRUTH IS LOVE? 

I balked. “I give a lot of myself. I am in ministry one of the least self-indulgent things. How in the world am I self-indulgent?” I protested as the words began to swirl around in my mind.

Quietly He began to reveal to me the things that needed to be examined. When you’re overwhelmed, you go shopping or take yourself out to eat.

Yes, but I don’t always buy things for myself, I buy things for Cameron, for Erin or Doug, or friends, or family and I rarely eat alone, I phone a friend.

Then it hit me. He didn’t say I was selfish. He said I was self-indulgent. Meaning, I don’t ignore the needs of others but I don’t accept that I have a craving outside of the will of God. It becomes a behavior to examine carefully any time it promises satisfaction that can only be found in God.

Self-indulgence is a pleasure seeking mechanism where we can get stuck in an unproductive cycle of behavior. It doesn’t mean the behavior is bad in of itself but it means that it will do us no good and may even harm us long term. It doesn’t mean we’re using the mortgage money to buy shoes but it does mean something is missing in relationship to God.

We’re great at masking self-indulgence but the temptation of Christ following his baptism shows a necessary process to fulfilling our walk with Christ. After 40 days of fasting and prayer, Satan himself comes to Jesus and tempts his appetite.

Appetite

Let that word sit with you.

Whisper it. Appetite

Appetite, it was the first temptation of Adam and Eve right? Something is being withheld. Something that we crave. Something that God can’t fulfill or worse is withholding. Jesus passed the test when he answered that it wasn’t only physical bread that man should live on but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He didn’t say eating was wrong, he said it wasn’t the only thing, and more importantly, he said there was something even more important we needed.

Christianity in America is indulgent in nature and definitely requires observation and self-examination. We aren’t in a famine of things that feed the flesh, we are in a crisis of famine in regards to conviction. The question the Lord was posing to me was, “When am I enough for you?”

The tendency is to exalt yourself because the give to get mentality is so strong in America and comparisons run rampant. This leads you to believe that you may be in a place to judge me:

“Well, I don’t shop so I don’t have this issue.”

Only, if we’re honest, we often have an appetite for something.

Opinion maybe?

Workaholism? It feeds our ego.

Laziness? Oh, this is a big one. The excuses for appetite here are many.

“I work all day.” Honey, we all work all day.

“I attend a small group.” So we give to get.

“I just finished a big project.” Again, give to get.

“I teach a small group.” You got my attention but is this considered reasonable Kingdom service?

I’ll tell you when leading becomes self-indulgent though. When it’s more than you were told to do. When it violates the ministry code but feeds our ego.

One semester I taught four small groups. It meant 4 times a week I was absent from my husband. He was not happy, but people “needed me” and there was “no one else”. You already know what happened no need to guess. My work suffered because I had to study to stay ahead and tweak lesson plans if class was heading in a different direction. My marriage struggled because I was out of order and out of the picture. My ministry suffered because our church says teach one, take one leave time for your family and friends so I had usurped authority. Oh but I was taking one for the team I reasoned. Many want to teach one but don’t take one. So we burn bright and burn out. I noticed another thing too.

The heavens were brass during this period as I was self indulgent doing my own thing. Ok let’s move on.

“It’s time for some much needed self care.” Yes, you need self care but how much is too much?

“I haven’t had a slice of cheesecake in such a long time.” Maybe not, but what have you eaten a little too much of? Social Media? Don’t get mad I am in self examination mode.

“I deserve it.” Sometimes we think we have done something heroic when all we’ve done is what any other normal human being has done.

Or the easiest appetite temptation the appetite of self promotion and judgment of others,  “I can’t believe how they spend, how they think, how they live, how they exalt their life, I don’t do any of that. No sister and note to myself, facts are you sin in other ways but whose keeping score of that? Appetite for judgment is alive and well.

What the Lord was pointing out to me that day was that instead of taking my issues to God, I took them to Nordstroms or went to lunch and nursed it.

What do you do when God reveals a thing that has you spinning your wheels and going nowhere?

I’ll write about what I did in another post. Stay tuned. For now consider this question:

What in your life needs a little less you and lot more Jesus?

 

I’m Proud of TLC4WOMEN

I have taught TLC for women for 16 years now. It is not lost on me all that I have learned.

That women go through some stuff meant to take them out.

That the war on women often is waged by other women.

That no matter how horrific your life has been, someone else has been through things that would have taken you out. We all have our own giants to slay.

But Jesus….

Jesus took a walk through our life and called us to himself. Jesus invited us to a relationship where shame and pain could be healed. Many said no thanks, but you, mighty women of TLC, you said yes. You studied his word faithfully and took him up on his offer to endure the wound care, taking out any infection and stitching you back up to heal. You came to TLC and trusted women, the very ones who hurt you. You did the hard work of healing not because it was easy but because the idea of growing old,resentful, and bitter was not appealing to you. You did the hard work of reconciliation.

My heart is for you. If you are reading this, I urge you to find a solid group of women that can come along beside you and love you right where you are. The expectation is that they will lower your bed before the master physician.

My heart is for you Transforming Life Center 4 Women. You have been my teacher, my cheerleader, my safe place and my love for Jesus has grown exponentially through your leading.

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬