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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Divorce Is Not a Simple Never

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I hear Malachi 2:16 quoted often. It’s the verse generally quoted out of context that says God hates divorce. God also doesn’t like, manipulation, lying, violence, gossip, and a whole host of other things but when we’re counseling couples this is the go-to scripture. Except when it’s not. I’ve been in ministry for over 15 years and just when I think I’ve heard it all, something new pops up. The question then becomes do I counsel and meet the status quo of the church or do I counsel in love?

In the case of the minor infidelity, I recognize it sounds like sarcasm but it isn’t because honestly infidelity is minor compared to what I hear, you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again when he has a crack.

In the case of the porn addiction you can transfer the fear of intimacy and get a marriage back on track but these are minor compared to the shattering realities of some marriages.

What do I tell the mother who has just found out her husband is molesting his child? Do I tell her God hates divorce?

What do I tell the wife who comes in and shows me her burn marks and bruises of abuse? “Go back home Daughter of the Most High King, for you see, your Father hates divorce.”

What do I tell the woman who has been told that her husband is going to be staying at their house sometimes, and his girlfriends house sometimes?

What do I tell the woman whose husband was having sex with her daughter and selling the video tapes to his friends for extra money?

What about the woman who has lost her home because her of her husband’s _____________ problem? Fill in the blank, I’ve heard them all, drug, gambling, spending, loaning.

Why am I only speaking about women and not men? Trust me, I know men have been wronged often more deeply than these examples if you can believe it. I get it but you see, I minister to women. I am surrounded by women. So I hear stories from women.

So instead of telling them that God hates divorce, instead sometimes I say, “Get to a safe place where you can think about what your next move is.” No where, not one place, in the bible does it say we must stay in an abusive situation, nor does it say God tolerates abuse. In fact, it talks of love, of bearing one another up. We must be wise, but we aren’t to be heartless and we certainly should never line up with sin.

The dogmatic response of never can’t stand in the face of truth. Life is complicated and sometimes nightmares and horror stories become real life. When I hear Never Divorce I wonder what you would tell your daughter? Well she’s God’s child and she wasn’t created for some of the things she has gone through.

 

 

 

Genuine Kindness

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Proverbs 17:17 – A friend loves at all times. 

Something happened at TLC last week that just made me smile!

I preached a message on purses. I talked about the stuff we carry in our purses, what is necessary and what isn’t.  I grabbed the purses in my closet and went to church and set them up. There were 8 of them. Four of them are going to be cleaned up to donate to the RMA thrift store and four of them I keep for sentimental value. A purse that my husband bought me on our first Christmas, one which was handmade in Africa, one that is from the 40’s that I use for decorative purposes, and one which was a splurge.

One of the women of TLC asked, “Susan are those all your purses?”

I said yes and then held my breath……..

I love clothes and shoes and purses and as a woman in ministry it is often a place of criticism. I had a Pastor’s wife come up to me once and say, “Just how many pairs of boots does one woman need? Don’t you know there are people who have no shoes?” I do in fact know that, and I do in fact, give to many missions projects but this type of judgment happens all of the time, not just to me, I’m not special. I once heard a person say, Bill Gates wasn’t being generous when he gave a gift of $100,000.00 to a project. They said, “$100,000 is like me giving $10. Bill Gates could afford to give more. Only, to me, $100,000 is not like $10, it’s like $100,000. Bill Gates could have given nothing at all.

So why did I hold my breath?

The comments. The people who are ready to pounce with condemnation. I held my breath because even though I work through the comment,  it still makes me sad that I live in a space where it even matters. I realize that the comments are not my problem. 

The response surprised me.

“Susan, we need to trade purses sometime. You have some I like.”

YAY! There was no negative comment or judgment. I loved it. It made me happy.

I went home and told my husband.

I told a few close friends this past week, each time with a smile on my face.

So I asked her which of the purses she liked the most? She liked an animal print one I had. You know something?  I was going to give her whichever one she chose, sentimental one or not. Someone who was genuinely happy. I shared it at TLC last night and there were lots of smiles! It felt good not to be on the hot seat. It felt really, really good!

God is working on me. I pray he is working on you as well this week. May you experience little moments of happiness as you cross hurdles into your most excellent future.

 

 

Dead or Alive?

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Luke 24: 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?

I woke up with the sentence in my head :

Why do you seek the living among the dead? 

 

Why do we seek the approval of man instead of Jesus?

Why do we uplift others opinions as fact rather than the words that Jesus spoke over us?

Why do we find our identity in who are friends are?

Why do we seek to glorify ourselves?

Why do we offer up our bodies as sacrifice to artificial love?

Why do we care more about people on Facebook than God?

Why do we care so much about our filtered image on Instagram when this flesh is just a tent?

Why do we speak death instead of life?

Why do we yoke up with worry?

Why do we yoke up with disdain?

Why do we yoke up with gossip?

Why don’t we pray when things are good?

Why don’t we care more?

Why do we not know what is going on in the world?

Why are we not concerned with the political arena?

Why do we dismiss dominion and embrace bondage?

Why do we dismiss self control and embrace victimization?

Why do we make excuses to continue to move, and breathe, and have our being in dead carcasses and not live in a breathing, moving Holy Spirit?

Why not look again into a mirror and see the reflection that can bring us a life worth living eternally?

 

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Why do we continue to seek the living among the dead? 

 

 

Walking It Out TLC4Women’s New Season

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TLC4Women is getting ready to start its new year. It’s a special year for us since it’s our Seventh! I can’t tell you how excited I am to be with this group of women and the new ones they will bring to the class.

When TLC first started we started because we wanted a different kind of bible study. One that would bless us as women, teach us the word, and give practical tips to applying principles to our lives to make it better. I wanted a group with a promise. One that said, if you’ll come and study, your life will change. The banner over our ministry was “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Romans 12:2 so Transforming Life Center was birthed.

On Monday we will all gather to worship, to pray, to set the pace for how walking this life out will look like in the 2013-2014 season. We plan on tackling three big areas this year.

1. What are the weapons of our warfare as women and daughters of the Most High King? Prayer, praise, tenacity, and a strong love of God and his Word.

2. What does it mean to be a disciple and even better what does it mean to make a disciple?

3. Who is the Holy Spirit and how do we keep him at the forefront guarding our steps and making sure we don’t break our ankles?

Prayer, Disciples, Praise, all led by the Holy Spirit and that would be a great year but we have to more to learn. Then we’re going to study the Prophet Malachi. Word for word, verse by verse. Who was he and what can he teach us?

It’s going to be a great year and I can’t wait! See you all on Monday at 7.

Being Present

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Genesis 22:1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Genesis 22:7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Genesis 22:11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.”

There is so much distraction these days. I find myself reaching for my phone out of boredom. When faced with an uncomfortable silence I will grab the phone. How much I must miss out on!

There is joy in being present in the moment. There are things that could change our lives but I wonder what we miss when we are too distracted? As I was reading this passage of scripture this week I noticed that Abraham was experiencing life altering blessings as he lived in the moment. Abraham was attentive to the voices in his life and he was responding obediently to each of them.

Here I am

What powerful words. In context of which Abraham speaks here, he is present to God. He is present to His son, and he is present to His messenger. Three simple words and yet, in the tyranny of the urgent, we often miss them. We tune out more often than not. There are messages coming across the screen as I write this, that I am trying to ignore in order to get my point across without losing it. How many times have I had what I call lonely lunches when my spouse gets a phone call in the middle of our time together and he says, “Oh, I’ve been waiting for this call all morning.” You might think this is rude but it’s more normal today than ever before and I have to admit there are times when I am guilty. Yet! What do I miss? At the end of the my life what will matter most, the phone call that interrupted my lunch or the conversation with my man?

Here I am. I am going to practice that sentence. For you see, if you read it again:

Here I am 

you begin to catch a glimpse of something even bigger. Here I am. In this present moment I am. In this present moment I am truly in the image of my Father. Not early, not late, just in time. In this sacred space I am truly a representative of what He is to us all. Present. In our time of trouble, in our time of sorrow, in our time of joy, in our time of doubt, in our triumphant time, and our defeat. Here I am. Let’s practice it.