Leading

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God can use a car to teach a lesson.

Last year, I bought a new car. I hadn’t bought a new car since 1999 so I want to keep it looking nice. Now, mind you, I had no business buying a new car. Dave Ramsey says if you don’t have a million dollars in the bank you can’t afford a new car and folks, I don’t have a million dollars. 2017 sent me off course in many ways and I am now reaping the consequences of getting back on track. So I’ll share my lessons over the next few weeks with you. Hopefully, they can help you.

I now find the farthest parking space in any parking lot because I don’t want the car to get dinged up. No matter where I park though, someone is typically parked next to me when I come back out to get into my vehicle. There can be many parking spots but someone has to park right next to me.

They can’t even skip a space.

It is so frustrating. Coming back to my vehicle the other day I see one other car in the entire row I parked in and of course, right next to me. I opened the trunk and put my bags in and got into the driver’s seat. The Holy Spirit prompted me,

“Why are you angry?”

“Because no matter where I park, someone comes and parks next to me.”

“People follow leaders.”

Not exactly the answer I wanted to hear. I am not leading at the mall. I am shopping. It’s down time.

However,

I need to think more deeply on this because there is a bigger picture that the Lord is trying to get me to see here. Oh yeah guys, he is into teachable moments and this was one.

It means I am being watched. No, not in a stalking way, but:

  • Where am I going?
  • What am I reading?
  • What am I saying?
  • What am I watching?
  • Who am I listening to?
  • Am I leading to Christ?
  • If not, then who I am leading to?

These are great questions to ask yourself. Sometimes we pick up bad habits along the way or we have an area in our life that we’ve neglected to work on. Thank God that He isn’t looking for sinless perfection but neither is he ignoring unrepentant sin or as we like to call them, bad habits because it sounds nicer and more excusable.

Where are you? This question gets asked in many forms but do you take the time to examine yourself and make sure you are still in alignment with where God has called and placed you?

Cinco

Your mommy made this video for me on my birthday and it made me cry because it’s true, I didn’t know you were my reason.

You came on your terms. You weren’t due to arrive quite yet. In fact, your parents still had things to do. From the very beginning you showed us you call your own shots, and if we’re honest, ours too. You showed up on 5/5/17. A Cinco De Mayo baby. Cameron Joshua Martinez was the name they placed on you. Cinco, Five, the number of God’s grace and favor towards man, and that is completely you Cameron. You are God’s favor upon our lives. I was so ready for you. I had prayed for you, dreamed about you, and so totally wanted you in my life. SHHHH! Don’t tell anyone but while the Prophet and Parents predicted a girl, I knew you were a boy. I knew you were a boy before you were conceived because I pray hard.

While your mommy was resting and trying to get comfortable, I put the very first diaper and sleeper on you and wrapped you in your receiving blanket. I kept tearing up as I    looked at your beautiful face, okay your handsome face.

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Your Papa, well let’s just say I think this was the day you wrapped him around your finger. He talks about you all of time and tears up because he loves you so much. He is the annoying grandparent who pulls out his phone and shows everyone pictures and videos of you. He recently announced on Facebook that you were walking even before your parents announced it. He thinks you are amazing and he called you a prodigy the other day because you love to play the drums. From his mouth to God’s ear let him prophesy over you the blessing of music and coordination.

 

 

Now, with your first birthday coming up I have to tell you that this year has flown by. I  don’t even think I  blinked and you are turning one. We go and visit you often because we want to be in your life and we want to spend time with you. Lots of time with you.  You know us and immediately come to us and we’re “in the loves” as your Tia Casey used to say, and that makes my heart happy.

 

I expected to love you. I expected to spend time with you but I didn’t know the magnitude to which this love would reach. I love you beyond measure. Everything you do is a wonder. If God truly loves us more than this, I think my heart would explode at that level.

Sometimes I look at you and I see your mommy’s face, other times you look like your daddy but always there is a quiet determination in your eyes. You will achieve what you set out to accomplish. You are a great mix of the two of them. Serious like your daddy, and yet willing to set out on an adventure like your mommy. You also have a sarcastic sense of humor which is a generational curse blessing that you get from your daddy and I. You can say, “Dada”, when your daddy is not in the room but you call him “Mama” to his face just because you can. In fact we had a good laugh the other day because it sounded like you said, “BA-ON” for Baron, our new puppy, but when your daddy was trying to get you say “Dada” you stubbornly said, “Mama”. I am proud to say that you call me, “Nanananana”, when you feel like it.

 

Somewhere along the line I started calling you Hameron because you have learned how to manipulate with your please face,  and happy face, and funny face.

 

We share our secret times together. We let you do things like eat Cheese Puffs, and drive your car inside of the house.

 

 

I’m so happy to have you in my life. I’m grateful to God for you. I bless you with a Happy 1st Birthday and of course we bought you something awesome.

 

Happy Birthday Cameron. Your Nana and Papa love you with everything they are. You are truly a blessing.

Love,

Cam’s Nan

The Fast – A Wrap Up

I took a month off of social media. At first, I must confess I missed it terribly. I had not realized how much I cared about what you had for dinner, how brilliant you think your kids are, how much you hate or love President Trump, guns, friends, and people who park in the handicap parking, but I plowed forward. I so wanted to show you pictures of our grandson Cameron, and our new puppy Baron, and share the funny stuff my husband says. Alas, it was only 30 days.

I was able to think more clearly without distractions and I was able to hear more clearly without the other voices. Here is what I  learned about myself:

1. I  joined the masses of people who are reading about the Enneagram. I read The Road Back To You and completed the study guide and discovered that I  am an 8 who wings 7.

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Which may explain my thoughts on:

2. I have spent the better part of a year with a man who feels he must mansplain me in public. I have stood down, somewhat astounded and trying to just figure it out.  Although his attacks aren’t personal as they weren’t exclusive to me, lest I think too highly of myself. Time and experience has taught me to observe before I move forward. I used to be impulsive and that got me in trouble so I have learned to proceed thoughtfully. I am still scratching my head as to why I allowed his complaining and obstinate behavior for so long but I think, if I’m honest, I was fascinated by the psychology of it his and mine.

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I read the about the #metoo campaign. What keeps us from using our voice? I heard Jane Fonda, whom I consider a feminist, meaning I  think she thinks she stands for the cause of women’s issues, say she was ashamed for not speaking up about what she knew about Harvey Weinstein.  I blame it on conditioning. Men, in general, have acted superior in the workplace for decades and women for decades have acquiesced because we were just glad we got a seat at the table. Phooey on that. While I don’t condone the accusations that are stretches, and I do believe there are political agendas, I’m seasoned enough to know they happen. It was just odd to have it happen in the church which is supposed to be free of gender inequality.

3. I really love my life. Through a series of errors that God has fixed for me through his grace, mercy, and probably because I think I make him laugh and shake his head,  I find myself here in this time and space. Is everything perfect? No, there are things in my life that I wish with all of my heart could be right. While I work on that, I must say it’s good to be alive, to be loved, to be known, to be well, to be happy, to be me.

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That’s what 30 days can do. What do you know for sure about you?

 

 

When You Say Nothing At All

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Before It Breaks

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I had been noticing that a line was forming on the back of my wedding ring but honestly, we’re pastors and the Christmas season is busy. I mean seriously, it has to wait because what pastor is working anywhere else but church during the second most important day of the year?

It began snagging things right after Christmas. Honestly, how does this happen? Sheesh! I’ll have to stop and take it to the shop, next week maybe. UGH what an inconvenience.

On New Year’s Day during our New Year’s Dinner it broke entirely. The weld came loose and my engagement ring and my wedding ring came apart. Not slowly either, just poof it was broken.

BAM! Then it hit me looking at my wedding ring on the kitchen counter that marriage is like that. The signs of trouble come up at the most inopportune times. We ignore them because we think there is a bigger picture and it will hang on, and vows, and forever, and all that.  After all, our marriage, like our ring is platinum, it’s not white gold. Platinum is 95% pure while white gold is 58% pure. We’re good, we’re in it for the long haul. These problems will wait until we have time to fix them.  So we keep going on with life as if there isn’t a problem brewing.

Things begin to hit a snag. An argument here, a passive aggressive action there, and we think we’ll get through it as we keep moving forward in other areas. We’re a team, teams have ups and downs.

Then all of a sudden it’s broken. Just like that. It isn’t like we didn’t know. It isn’t like we didn’t see it coming. It was never out of the blue. We may lie and say we didn’t know but we saw the crack and felt the snag.

Take the time to get your marriage serviced. Even the most loyal people have their limits. Even the most loving people make mistakes. Even the person with the upmost integrity breaks.

I read a study that said that 75% of all divorced couples say they made a mistake five years later they felt they quit too soon. Often it’s too late to go back and repair. One or the other has moved on. One or the other has had other children. It’s too late.

Thankfully for me, it was only my rings that are broken. My husband I work on diligently on our marriage because we know how important it is. We will alert each other to signs as they come up and we will take the time to fix any cracks as they arise. We aren’t perfect but we keep a line of communication open to one another and we examine ourselves regularly. We haven’t been opposed to getting professional help when needed either in the early years of blending our family. As my husband loves to tell people, “We’re in this for life. No one is leaving this marriage except in a box. Hmm I wonder if this is why sometimes I wake up with a pillow over my head?”

Yes, I married the comedian.

How’s your marriage?

Thanksgiving Before Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t Grow Weary

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

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

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

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

And I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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