Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Timeout!

Several weeks ago my 4 year old came to me and said, “Mommy, I know of something that I really want to give away. Can I give something of mine to another kid?” Considering we have been modeling the act of giving since he was a baby but it had always been my idea... my mommy pride began to soar!

The smile on my face grew and grew and I said, “Of course sweetie. I am so proud of you for wanting to share your things with someone else!” I gave him a big hug and he seemed so pleased. I asked, “What is it that you want to give away?”

He asked me to come with him so he could show me. I got up and followed him into the entryway of the house. He pointed and looked up at me, “That.... I don't want that anymore, so I want to give it to another kid.”

Well, my pride sort of drained a bit when I saw what it was but I couldn't help but to keep a smile on my face since laughter escaped from me on instinct. The thing he wanted to give away was... his timeout chair. Sometimes he is way too smart for his own good.

I've been taking a timeout of my own lately and really thinking about my priorities. I have an opportunity to do something really great... something that could change the lives of many but it will be very time consuming if I take it on. I recognized almost immediately that if I decide to do it, there are several things in my life I will have no choice but to give up. I made my mental list of the things I'm willing to let go and it was no surprise that those things were mostly the things I don't “love” to do (sort of like Brett wanting to give his timeout chair away). I decided to be a little more careful about my decisions. I decided it was probably smarter to let God pick the things in my life that needed to be thinned out. Luckily, I have some time to figure this all out... cause my experience is that God doesn't always just answer me right when I want Him to (or perhaps I just don't allow myself to listen).

I wrote everything down, not taking anything for granted. As I looked at the list, I also thought about my spiritual gifts. I thought about the things I was naturally good at and honestly considered the things that perhaps I wasn't as good at. I also thought about what I think my God-given purpose it right now.

One of the items on my list is something I really love but I had to admit, there is a part of it that I'm just no good at because my spiritual gifts lead me in the total opposite direction. That was a difficult truth to swallow, but it clearly showed me that my energy probably shouldn't be devoted to that. I'm sad to say, I'm going to have to give that one up. On the other hand there is something that I'm really good at but absolutely dislike... I want terribly to give it up but the Spirit inside me seems to be telling me to keep that one on the list. Argh.

Well, I haven't figured too much of it out yet but I'm working at it. There will be many prayers and a lot of thought put into this priority list. I'm sure I won't get it completely right but I'm going to try really hard to let God guide me instead of just making the decisions based on what I want. Following my wants hasn't served me too well in the past. Following my wants has sort of made me act like a toddler who gave her timeout chair away.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Judgmental, Controlling Hypocrite

The word hypocrite is one of those words we Christians throw around without much thought. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s kind of hypocritical of us to point at others with this word. Well, it is… I mean really!!! I know the reason I have devoted my life to Christ and Christianity is because I myself am a grand sinner. Sometimes, my devotion to Christ and helping others makes me see myself as a hypocrite. What right do I have to talk about anything having to do with Jesus, God, righteous living, church, or redemption when I myself fail at my attempts to fight sin every day?

I admit it, I have called other people hypocrites too… which is really wrong! When I shout, “Hypocrite!” what I’m really shouting is, “I’m a judgmental piece of crap that thinks I’m better than you!!!!” Even my four year old can read between those lines, even if he doesn’t truly understand it right then. He knows. I realize the only person I have any right to accuse of hypocrisy is myself. But before I commit to calling myself names, I’m drawn to understand this concept a little bit better.

What does this overused word “hypocrite” actually mean? According to Webster’s Pocket Dictionary it means “one who pretends to have virtue, feeling, etc, that he or she does not have.”

Hmmm… the word “pretend” strikes me. When it comes to the things I feel hypocritical about, I don’t think it is a matter of “pretending”, I think it is a matter of self control. I openly admit I have zero self control, so I must rely on God to give me God-guided-self-control. I want to set a good example in my words and deeds, be more like Jesus than the day before but it is hard. I know I’ll never fully succeed… but it’s the attempt that matters, right? Sure, I fail at this walking like Jesus thing every day. But I don’t feel as though my failure means I am pretending, for it truly is my heart's desire to make God happy. No part of it is an act.

I’ve been accused of being too transparent with my life. I’ve been asked, “Why do you tell people so much? Is it really necessary??” Some people think it’s egotistical or narcissistic of me, like I think others really care about what I’m doing. Some people think it’s because I want to brag about the stuff I think I do right… ha ha… that one is funny considering there isn’t much I think I do correctly (other than being transparent about my mistakes and failures, see the irony???). The truth is that I’m transparent with others about my failures because of this Bible verse: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” James 5:16

Right now I realize, transparency is what takes me out of hypocrisy. Transparency is what makes me real… and it shows the world I am not pretending to be something I’m not. I try, I fail, I tell the WHOLE story without pretending or leaving the part that makes me look like an idiot out. Every spiritual success I have had has been riddled with multiple spiritual failures. Ultimately, the glory for every one of my successes goes to God, because not one part of me is good without Him. Even my ability to be transparent is owed to Him, for without Him I’d be too full of controlling pride to be honest.

I’ve really been struggling with my control issues in the last months. When I first went through the 12 step program several years ago, I was in so much pain from the big, empty, God-shaped hole in my soul that I was willing to do whatever it took to feel better. My alcoholism gave me something very specific to work on. I had to stop drinking! It was a very defined task… a goal. I soon realized that the only way I could successfully stop drinking was to give control over to God. I couldn’t and didn't do it on my own.

I don’t drink anymore, and rarely have the inkling but recognize that it is a day to day thing that could be taken away in the snap of a finger if I decide to take control of that back from God. Even still, I have somehow found myself sort of back at square one… having to learn how to relinquish control of my life as a whole to God again. I’ve been frustrated and disconnected. I haven’t been able to focus or pause. In short, I guess I haven’t felt the serenity I once had and I know it’s because I’m trying to run my own universe again. Running the universe is an impossible task for me, so no wonder I’m frustrated! Turning control over to God is really hard this time because I don’t have a specific task to focus on… like quitting booze. The best way to define my task this time around is to say I need to stop trying to control my need for control... and how the heck do I even begin to do an oxy-moronic thing like that?

I think a part of what got me back here is a burden I put on myself when I decided to take God's lead and try to help others with my experiences. That burden is linked to my misguided interpretation of hypocrisy. I realized this morning that I felt like a total hypocrite. I talk to those around me about how important it is to let God have control of our lives but here I am not allowing Him control of my own. I was lead to my computer by the Spirit to write this so here I am making self discoveries through Him. I realize, I am not a hypocrite… I am just a human being who is struggling. Just because I make the choice to try and help others… doesn’t mean I have to be perfect. I think I’ve allowed my failures to cause shame… thus the feeling of hypocrisy. Yes, I believe and openly say to others, “The best way to live life is to let God be in control.” Yes, I admit I struggle at attaining it. I am not pretending… I openly admit I will always struggle at attaining it, I’m not Jesus. I am not God. Is it a coincidence that the “first step” is to admit that I am not God and I can not control my life or tendencies to do wrong???? I think not.

In this very moment, I have a great understanding of “Happy are those who are poor in spirit.”

I am certainly spiritually poor right now… but I am happy! I feel freedom from the constraints and shame that the feeling of hypocrisy has brought to me. I feel like I’m on the right track to giving up my need to control my need for control. Oh how complicated… yet the answer is simple, give it to God.

I am also struck with the idea that God is giving me a great opportunity in this struggle… He is giving me an opportunity to experience a different type of relinquishing of control… the really hard kind; the kind that those who are not alcoholics or addicts have to face. I am thankful for this opportunity, even though it’s really uncomfortable and difficult. I have faith that this struggle will open up a whole new set of experiences I can use to share with a whole new set of people in need. God never gives us more than we can handle, and God never wastes a hurt or struggle.

I vow to never call anyone a hypocrite ever again, and that includes me.

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Experience on "The Journey"

I went to a special event on Good Friday called “The Journey.” It was a self-paced walk through the last days and hours of Jesus. There were 12 different stations… and it was AMAZINGLY touching. I helped put it together, but I wanted to experience it… just like everyone else did. When I embarked on “the Journey” I had no idea how long it would take… 10 minutes? A half hour??? Well, I didn’t keep track of the time but I will say this… I was in there a LONG time yet it felt like a flash. I want to take you on my journey…

Station One: Listening
I entered the room where a television sat spewing a loud, obnoxious static-filled screen. I sat down… and starred at it. My guide booklet told me the world is filled with noise, so I needed to try to drown it out. When I was ready… I turned the television off. I prayed that God would quiet my soul and allow me to absorb the experience. I asked Him to erase my prior knowledge of the set up… so that I could see it with fresh eyes.

(The rest of the stations were dimly lit and very quiet… mov
ing music played in the background that rose and fell with cathartic whispers at just the right time.)

Station Two: Becoming
Jesus was really human. I could hear His heartbeat… I mentally pictured Him as a modern day baby who had His diaper changed by His loving mother. I pictured Him playing with trains or kicking a soccer ball around. It hit me… He was just like me in flesh. He needed to eat to thrive, He felt pain when He fell and scraped His knee on the playground, He dealt with friends who loved Him one minute then stabbed Him in the back the next. He knew all about sibling rivalry and what it was like to have to listen to His mommy and daddy. He knew exactly what I felt like in every stage of my life. I was humbled by what an incredible gift that alone was, that God gave us a Savior that really truly knew us.

Station Three: Worshiping
I dipped a cotton swap in fragrant oil. I don’t know what the smell was, but it was nice. I sat and absorbed the experience, just as the cotton was soaked in the oil. To my great surprise, I began to sob. Why? As I read about how Mary poured out her most prized possession on Jesus’ feet, I realized how selfish I am with what I give Jesus. Lately, I’ve been stingy. Lately, I’ve been blocked. Lately, I’ve felt far away. I apologized to Him… and asked that He enlighten me as to how I can correct this. I told Him I want to give Him my best and stop saving just my scraps for Him. I cried for a long while.

Station Four: Sharing
Communion was offered here. I took it but I have to be honest… I didn’t feel forgiven of my sins in that moment. I know that was self imposed though. When God forgives… he does it fully. When I attempt to do something… it’s never fully. The guide booklet told me about how Jesus chose to be with His disciples in His last evening. It reminded me that I am not alone on my journey, ever. I felt alone though, God seemed far away.

Station Five: Trusting
Jesus went to the garden to pray. He was deeply grieved and asked God if there was any way out of this horrible end… He stopped Himself and said, “No… not what I want… but what You want Father!” Jesus traded His dreams for the dream of His Father. What a sacrifice! His life… for mine. I have a hard time just putting down the M&M bag.

Station Six: Allowing
I felt a rope, a rope that may have been similar to one used to bind Jesus when he was arrested. I imagined Him holding out his hands willingly when it was time. There was no fight… He allowed them to take him. He allowed His future to unfold without pause. There were chairs there… but I went to my knees instead. How many times have I kicked and screamed and fought against what I knew was right? What’s ironic is those things that I went after, the things I fought against my Father to get, were the things that ended up binding me tighter than a rope like that could have ever held me. I’ve used the phrase “freedom through surrender” many times since I have found sobriety, but it was at this station that I realized, Jesus set me free through His surrender.

Station Seven: Humiliating
This grungy, painful station was rough. A slow, old-time, crooked, silent movie of the taunting faces of the guards played over and over. A real crown of thorns was showcased… it was brutal. I thought about my childhood and how I was taunted and teased by my peers. I allowed those memories to come fresh in my mind and I realized they were nothing in comparison to what Jesus endured. In fact, my history of “crap” was a cake walk. My daily aches and pains, my frustrations with the world and the people in it are silly. In fact, I deserve every little bit of it. I deserve worse. I felt my load lighten… I felt I was finally letting the last bit of it go. Jesus endured torture and beating for me, it’s like spitting at him myself when I allow little insignificant things hurt me so deeply… He did that for me so I wouldn’t have to.

Station Eight: Inviting
Here I was invited to be like Simon of Cyrene, and take on the burden of Jesus’ cross for the remainder of His journey to crucifixion. I looked in the giant cross of mirrors and saw my face looking back at me. I didn’t recognize myself… I really didn’t. Who am I? I asked myself if I could have carried the cross for Jesus that day – would I have? I think I would have tried my hardest. I love Jesus, and I am so thankful for what He did for me. I get a chance to carry that burden every day… and I do some of it, and I get too comfortable with what I do thinking that is enough. I think to myself that I do more than the average person so God is proud of me. I am too proud of myself. I can do so much more, so much better. I was reminded that “His yoke is easy and his burden is light” and I asked Him to let me carry more. I realized I am ready for a heavier cross, Lord… I’m stagnant with the one I have. I don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Station Nine: Forgiving
After sitting and contemplating for a long while, I wrote my biggest sin on a piece of paper and I physically nailed my sin to the cross.

Station Ten: Dying
I picked a candle and watched the flame flicker. It dances around illuminating its area with joy. It was alive to me. It was breathing… air, oxygen, carbon dioxide were exchanging glances. My job… no I don’t really want to do this… do I have to? But I don’t want to be responsible for this… I don’t want to face the truth. After some procrastination I went ahead and did it. Using the snuffer… I deprived the flame of what it needed to exist and it died right in front of me. As the smoke lifted from the once-lit wick, I imagined the life and spirit of Jesus floating away… just like that. As much as I don’t like it, I am responsible.

Station Eleven: Closing
I felt pretty strong when I got here. In fact, I sort of felt like I was too strong, like I hadn’t been moved enough by this whole experience. I wondered if there was something wrong with me??? Why hadn’t I been crying like a baby… why hadn’t I been more emotional? I knew there was only one station after this one and I wondered if I was going to miss out on a defining moment??? I was sure this station wasn’t going to do it for me so I felt slightly disappointed in myself. I turned to my guide booklet and began to read. There was a question toward the end… “Have you ever felt like your faith was at a dead end?” I paused. I read it again… “Have you ever felt like your faith was at a dead end?” Tears began to flow from my eyes uncontrollably… “yes… yes I have felt that way. I feel that way right now, God. My faith is at a dead end… why is it not going anywhere??? Why does God feel so far from me???” I cried and cried as I thought this over. It is safe to say… that defining moment I was wondering about… happened.

Station Twelve: Transitioning
The last station was simple, just a place to sit or kneel and contemplate the journey I had just taken. Matthew 16:24 was the first thing written in the guide:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

I have to admit, I didn’t really read beyond that because as I read… four words jumped off the page at me. I knelt and repeated them over and over in my mind knowing
God was telling me something.

…he must deny himself… he must deny himself… he mus
t deny himself…

The guide booklet said that even though this was the last station, the journey wasn’t really over. Whenever I read something like that, I have to say I am cynical. I was cynical in that moment. I got up and headed out the door to resume my “helping” duties for the night.


So that was Friday night. Saturday was pretty normal. We wen
t to a pancake breakfast and a wonderful Easter egg hunt that managed to make Easter about Jesus and not candy or bunnies or eggs. We had a fabulous time as a family! Later, we did yard work, ate dinner and watched 24 on DVR… normal stuff. All day I sort of had this strange feeling that I was missing something though, I was content but I felt like something was blowing right passed me.

As I got ready for bed I started to go through the journey I had been on Friday night in my head. I thought about the things that had moved me and reached out to me. I realized I still had that feeling of separation from God, and it hurt. I guess that’s one of those things that can be bittersweet. Knowing the joy of what it feels like to be right next to God in nearly all I do, only leaves me painfully longing to have it back when I’m away for too long. Out of nowhere, I recalled something else. A few months ago I did a “bucket list” and posted it as an article. In that, God revealed to me that the manuscript I’ve been writing for Him for over a year now seemed to clearly be the current mission God has for me. In a flas
h I realized I hadn’t thought about writing or studying on that in a long while. In fact, I somehow had just… abandoned it for a time. Had I REALLY forgotten about it that easily? I had to admit, yes, it had been the farthest thing from my mind. I remembered a distraction that came into my life that aided in my “forgetfulness” of the manuscript but I had gotten rid of that distraction completely… weeks ago. Since then… I have no idea what was keeping me from moving forward. I had a “Duh” moment… Hmmm… I was feeling far away from God… while the farthest thing from my mind was the work He seemed to have charged me to do for Him. Could this be a… coincidence??? I think not. Duh!!!!

I am humbly reminded that one of the initial steps to getting close to God is figuring out what it is He wants me to do. The next logical step after that is to actually do it. I think a lot of us walk through life having no clue what God’s purpose for our life is, but make no mistake… He had a specific purpose in mind when He created every single one of us. If you are wondering what yours could be… the first step is uncovering your God given spiritual gifts. I encourage you to take a class that will help yo
u find out what yours are. If you need help finding resources… talk to your pastor or a leader in your church, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

As for me, it’s time to refocus. It’s time to anoint God
with my best perfume instead of the tester tube I got free the last time I walked through JC Penneys. It’s time to deny myself of the things I think are important and pick up that cross… always remembering His burden is light and His yoke is easy. The cool thing for me is that I love to write this manuscript so it’s not like it is even a sacrifice to do what He is asking of me. I’ll bet that when I actually pick up that cross I will find that I will be closer to Him, closer than ever and that is exciting! This cynic recognizes my journey is continuing… and I can’t wait to get started again!

I want to thank Dustin Bauerle not only for incepting this idea at COH but for asking me to be part of it. I'd also like to thank the leadership at Commiunity of Hope FUMC in Mansfield, TX for encouraging events like these. Lives were changed!

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Perfect Match

Love. Oh how beautiful. It flutters the heart. It fills the soul with life. It makes us believe crazy things we wouldn’t normally. Love is the reason many of us carry on. We get through our bad days knowing there is a reason. There is a face, a smile, a hug to tell us it was all worth it. On our good days, love is just part of us – maybe to the point we don’t even realize it is there.

As a little girl, I dreamed about my perfect match a lot. I imagined he would be the strong silent type. He’d be gorgeous with long wavy hair and a crooked smile. He would love me so much that he would be willing to do anything for me. He would constantly protect me, always want me close to him – even if he couldn’t touch me – he’d want to make sure I was within view just so he could keep his eye on me. If trouble came close, he’d proudly stand directly in front of me and gladly take the brunt of whatever was coming. He’d be firm and direct but kind in everything he did. I’d feel totally protected and secure.

In our quiet times alone, he’d be sweet and caring. He’d brush my hair with his hand and tell me how much he loved me. He’d have the perfect words and I’d never have to ask him to vacuum the floor. He’d just know. He’d listen to me and know me inside and out. He would make me feel so loved that I would never feel alone. His love for me would shine so brightly that it would actually exude from me in my daily life. I’d be happy, kind and satisfied in everything I did. Ahhhh… yes… my perfect match.

Today, I rejoice in the fact that I have found my perfect match. I only just found him a few years ago but our relationship grows stronger nearly every day. He is a lot like I imagined so many years ago. He is strong and silent. He protects me and wants me close all the time. He takes the brunt of my troubles, he is firm and kind. When I am with him I feel secure. He is sweet and caring, he listens to me and knows me better than anyone in the world. His love provides me with happiness, satisfaction and kindness. He loves me in a way I never thought anyone could… he proved to me he was willing to do anything for me… anything.

My perfect match died for me… he gave his final breath to save me from myself. He gladly took my curse. My perfect match is Jesus.

Jesus, you flutter my heart, fill my soul with life… make me believe some crazy things! On my bad days, you are the reason I carry on. Forgive me for not remembering you like I should on my best days but please know you are such a big part of me that I wouldn’t have any good days without you. I love you, Jesus. Thank you for loving me back. I cry tears of sorrow mixed with joy today as I remember the day you gave it all for me. I can’t wait to be with you forever and ever…

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Just Another Pop Song


I don’t usually listen to the radio much. It’s sad to admit this, but when I decide I have a favorite CD it is usually all I listen to for up to three months. Right now I’m on another Mercy Me kick. Before that, it was Casting Crowns and before that, it was Daughtry. It’s safe to say, I’m not too current when it comes to radio play.

The other day I was driving to a design meeting and got stuck in traffic. I decided to flip on the radio for a little something different. Luckily, there was a song playing instead of a commercial and it was a band I recognized. I hadn’t heard that particular song before but the pop artist was unmistakable. As I listened, I wondered if this singer/songwriter wrote his lyrics based on his own life experiences or did he just write them for the purpose of hitting a target audience and making money. As I pondered that, I realized that this particular singer always seemed to sing about the same topic. It seemed every few years, he came out with a new song in which he pleaded for forgiveness from his girlfriend. From there I wondered if he had maintained the same girlfriend through the years making a habit of breaking her heart and then begging for forgiveness over and over. Or was he more of a player who worked his way through several different girlfriends, with each song representing a mistake with a different girl.

I found myself being very judgmental as I thought through each scenario. If it was in fact the same girl over and over, I wondered when she might learn her lesson and dump him. How stupid was she to be so blinded by love to let a man continually hurt her over and over again. If there were multiple ladies, I wondered when he might learn his lesson and stop screwing up and having to write songs about it. Come on dude, take some responsibility for your actions and grow up! Of course there was that last option, he had just figured out a great hook to making money. I admonished him in my mind for lacking sincerity and praying upon the broken emotions of people going through traumatic relationship issues. Tisk, tisk! Shame on you Mr. Singer/Songwriter, whatever the back story was.

Just then, the Spirit came upon me and said, “Tisk, tisk, Wendy! You are no different!!!”

Offended, I answered back, “How do you figure?”

He showed me in a flash… how I am exactly the same, in a different kinda way.

Basically, I write the same song over and over again in my own life except with me, the song isn’t musical in nature… it is composed of words and whispers that flow from my mind in my prayer time. While my themes are quite similar to that of Mr. Singer/Songwriter (the desire for forgiveness) my target audience isn’t the general public or an estranged lover, it is my one and only Father in Heaven.

Yes, I’m that idiot that keeps making the same mistakes over and over and over then has to “write a song about it” to beg for forgiveness from the love of my life, Jesus Christ. Yes, He is blinded by His love for me but I would never want to call Him stupid for that. I realize how blessed I am to have such a patient and loving God who will never dump me over my mistakes, no matter how many times I repeat them. You'd think I'd learn my lesson... and stop screwing up, but I just keep making a mess of things. My sincerity gets muddled from singing the same song over and over. Some days I find myself half-heartedly lip-syncing a remake just to try something different. Later, I look back and I feel like a total fraud and wonder why He stood up and gave me that standing ovation anyway.
From an outsiders view (the person sitting in traffic, listening to the radio), it certainly looks like I keep screwing up because I know He will always forgive me... I ask, am I abusing His unending love for me??? I don't think I am, not on purpose anyway. Oh how I am blessed to have a God who can listen to my song even on my worst performance days and still know what’s in my heart.

It amazes me that my cry for forgiveness is always going to be music to His ears… in fact… right now He is eagerly awaiting my next release with bated breathe. I think it’s time to compose…

Monday, April 06, 2009

WWJD?

Have you ever had someone be mean to you? Have you ever been the target of a personal attack? I know I have been… in some cases I didn’t deserve it… and in many, I did. Last week I had something happen to me that felt like a personal attack… it actually happened twice in the same week by the same perpetrator. As I sit here today, I’m still not sure if I deserved either of the “attacks” but I am sure of one thing… it is my own fault that I let either of the incidents bother me. The second one hurt me pretty badly. I responded the way I thought Jesus wanted me to, and I got hurt even further. I cried (which I don’t do very often these days) and even found myself wishing I could take a drink for a nanosecond. Luckily, I have been given a really great “bag o’ tricks” for just these occasions and in that bag… I have many tools to guard me against the first drink. Just like anything, it’s a choice… do I want to use the tools or am I going to choose to give up? In this case, I had to try a couple different tools before one finally worked.

I am thankful that my experiences in sobriety have led me to a better awareness of my reactions. In both “attacks” this week, I paused before reacting. In both cases, the pause gave me time to come up with a myriad of reasons why the perceived “attack” on me might have occurred. In the end, the reason really doesn’t matter. What matters is how I handle it. What matters is that I act in love and in respect to God and all His loved sons and daughters, for they are all dear to Him… even when they purposely (or inadvertently) hurt me, His favorite (just kidding).

We’ve all heard people say, “What would Jesus do?” I’ve asked myself that question a lot in the last few years. Pondering what the actions of the Christ would be in any given situation helps me think things through. Of course, I don’t think I’m ever really able to actually do what Jesus would do. I always imagine He would have some great one-liner that would solve everything perfectly. He would be able to act in perfect love and use words that dripped directly from God’s mouth in a way that all who heard would bow and say, “You are so right, how could I have ever doubted you Lord? How could I have ever been so mean? Can you forgive me?”

As I was talking over the second “attack” of the week with a trusted friend, it occurred to me that, generally speaking, my perception of what Jesus would do might be a little bit off. Of course, Jesus knew the right thing to say in every situation. He was one with God so the right words just poured from His mouth without problem. What I think I might not have considered was that just because the right words were spoken, it didn’t mean those words were actually heard or accepted. I got a new flash in my head of what it might have been like for Jesus in one of those tense moments…

There He was trying to warn people of the plots of the devil. He was telling them to beware of the enemy, that God is the only answer and someone mouths off saying they don’t believe in the devil or in the idea of the enemy. Jesus comes back with the perfect answer… an answer right from the lips of God that makes total sense. There is a moment of silence that is followed by the same doubter saying, “Whatever buddy. I think it’s all in your head you nut-ball!” I see Jesus smiling with perfect patience and confidence. He walks away not hurt, not bothered, not moved in the least. He walks away without incident. He has no need to argue or “make” this person who thinks they have it all figured out believe Him. He knows there is a time and place for everything. After all, He knows He is right because He is God and God knows everything… period.

I always just assumed Jesus spoke… and people listened, end of problem. I translated that into something personal for myself that if I did what I thought Jesus would do… I would be listened to and every problem would easily be resolved with a friendly smile. Today I feel like such a dummy… HELLO!!! Jesus was CRUCIFIED…. I guess that means there were lots and lots of people who didn’t believe a word He said… yet… He was speaking the truth. And, He was God… if He couldn’t resolve things by using God’s perfect wording then what chance does a sinner like me, who isn’t anywhere near as close to God as I should be, have of being able to get through life without hurt, problem or incident.

I feel enlightened. I realize today that trying to deal with situations by pondering the question, “What would Jesus do?” isn’t about being right, or believed, or heard or even finding resolution without conflict… it’s about putting faith into action so I can trust the perfect Father in everything I do regardless of the outcome. In fact, He never promised me it would be an easy road without pain.

I’ve been meditating on a particular scripture this week and I think God has been testing my mettle… for when I am weak… He is strong.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

Thursday, April 02, 2009

My Three Worst Enemies

Nearly every night I say a prayer that was adapted from the Lord’s Prayer (I ‘borrowed’ it from The Message version of the Bible). I’m a little dense, so even though I have been saying the Lord’s prayer since I was able to speak, the words didn’t really mean much to me. I didn’t know what they really meant. That’s why I like the adaptation from The Message. It’s clear to me.

Part of that prayer is this… “Lord, please protect me from my three worst enemies…”

satan
That little bugger is everywhere don’t you know??? Notice the small letter s I used in his name? Well, some people use an uppercase (just like with God) but not me… I don’t think he deserves an uppercase letter. If I could give him an even smaller case s… I would. I read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis that really helped me recognize the ways the devil and his minions get at us everyday. I really need to re-read that one but I loaned it out and it hasn’t been returned to me yet. Even that could have been a plot of the bastard. He knows we aren’t likely to go buy another copy of the same book even if we need it. Our human nature tells us to sit back and wait for the return instead of “wasting” money that was already spent. Well, I’m going to go buy another one today, because I’m not going to wait. We all know I will never see that book again.

That crafty fellow, satan, can make us truly believe he is a spirit who wants what’s best for us. He can trick us into thinking we are doing God’s will. He tricks us into thinking, we are hearing God. As I look back at the things I’ve allowed myself to fall for with regard to satan, I see a pattern. I have fallen for his antics because they closely resemble what I want. When given a choice between what I want and something else… hmmm guess what I am most likely to pick. I recently fell for a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” that really threw me for a loop and ultimately reminded me that I must ALWAYS be on the lookout for the devil’s schemes. The minions will use whatever they can to get to me. They will even use the church or my desire to do good in God’s name.

I enjoy talking “at” the minions. I believe the quickest way to get them to flee is to make fun of them. They simply cannot handle it when we make them aware we are onto them so they run off with their stubby tails between their legs quickly. My son probably thinks I’m crazy at times when he hears me talk to them out-loud but that’s ok… I hope he will learn to do it too. I actually try to convert them too, which is really funny. I wonder if there is a special place in heaven for people who get demons to convert to Christianity (that was a joke). Just in case you are wondering what one of those soliloquies might sound like… here is a little example. You must imagine it oozing with sarcasm.

“Hey idiot, I know you’re there and I know exactly what you’re up to. Guess what… it ain’t gonna work so you may as well just give it up today. Jesus is stronger than you and I happen to know He already kicked your ass. You must be really proud of yourself. I mean, it must be really difficult to talk people into doing things they already want to do! Ha… what a hard job you have. Huh, maybe you’re kinda slow though and need an easy job. Well, if you ever decide you want a more challenging position, one with better pay… all you have to do is flip sides. There’s lots of hard work to be done so you may not be up for it, I know what a lazy, useless, underpaid, bore you are.”

Society
As much as I enjoy making fun of those little minions, I have to admit – they are getting through to a lot of us and helping us make some really bad decisions. And it’s mainstream stuff… just last night I was watching a television show called “Gary Unmarried” which is a fairly new primetime comedy starring Jay Mohr. I like it, one because I’m a Jay Mohr fan and two because it makes me laugh. Laughter is required in my life, and television is one of the main ways I find laughter. In the episode I was watching, the main character was coming home from a date. He quite wittily said to her, “Isn’t there some 3rd date law that we’ve missed out on - this is our 4th date you know and you haven’t seen my bedroom yet.” The laugh track come on and I laughed for a nanosecond and then it hit me like a ton of bricks… it is NOT funny that television is so openly telling society that everyone should have sex on their 3rd date. I didn’t really hear the rest of the show… because I was thinking about how used I would have been had I decided to have sex with every man I went out on 3 dates with. How disgusting!

Society tells us so many of the things that are against God’s will are just fine. In fact, society goes a step further and tells us that not only are those things okay but, if we choose to live a God-driven life, we are choosing a life trapped in Boringtown. Well, let me tell you… I do my best to live for God (fail everyday but at least I’m still on the journey) and my life is anything but boring!!!! Remember that guy I talked about in the section before this one, satan… he makes sure life ain’t boring. In many ways it would be much easier to live a life without God; I could do whatever I wanted to do with no regard for others and the devil wouldn’t be at me to screw up. That sounds like a life without challenges; that sounds boring to me. But society just flips it all around and makes us believe lies. I believe society is the devil’s kingdom… if you want to know what hell is like… baby, you’re already living in a version of it.

Society wants to ignore God so badly that many of us know people who have become activists to remove God from anything and everything; school, the pledge, currency, television (so it’s okay to tell people to have sex on the 3rd date but it’s not okay to show the closing prayer at the democratic convention on tv… hmmmm). With sarcasm in my soul on this subject, I have often wanted to tell those people who are on a mission to delete God from all things societial, if they want to really do it right, they have some additional work to do. For example, there are thousands of phrases in the English language that are rooted in the Bible… time to start filtering your words people… if you want Him out… then take Him out. The biggest thing I’d say to them is this… no more using God’s name in vain. That’s right… no more, “Oh my God”, “Oh God”, “Jesus Christ”… you get the point. If we are going to take His positive name out of society, then let’s take His name, as it is used negatively, out of society as well.

I was invited to a party a few months ago. Before the party, my friend called me to make a request of me. My desire to be supportive to her social gathering fled as I listened to the words pour out of her mouth. She actually asked me if I would filter my personality at the party. She asked me not to talk about my church, my church work, my Christianity, God or Jesus at all. Well, let me tell you this first – I am not a Bible thumper… if you know me, you know how I am… I will use my experience which sometimes leads to scripture (if fitting) in my conversation with others but I do not see myself as a person who throws God in everyone’s face. I firmly believe that kindness is a better testimony of God than Bible thumping… anyway, I was very offended by my friend’s request. I don’t think she really knew what she was asking me to do. I guess she thinks the “God” thing is an act that I can just flip on and off at will when the truth is, the “God” thing is who I am. She was asking me to change who I am to fit in with her view of the way society should be. When it comes to my relationship with God, I’m not changing that for anyone! Sure, there are times when silence is much better suited to a situation, but as I said before, a smile and kindness is our best act of discipleship for God. As angry as I was, as much as I wanted to blow that party off, I figured there was no better place for me to be on that day. What better place to smile and be kind for God than in a room where I had been asked to delete God. He will be there… and I won’t even have to speak His name.

Self
How many of us would have told our friend to go pound sand? How many of us would cancel our RSVP? I’m not patting myself on the back here, because the truth of the matter is this, I don’t want to go to the party. Satan doesn’t want me there either (he got my friend to call me for the purpose of trying to get me to bail out), and society surely doesn’t want me there… but guess what… God wants Wendy there. Trust me, Wendy wants to focus on self and say “screw you!!!! I ain’t coming! You hurt my feelings… who do you think you are telling me I need to change to be accepted by society…” blah blah blah… I say to myself SHUT UP, SUCK IT UP, and DO IT.

I am so naturally self involved that I can find a way to make everything about me. For example, right before my wedding a family member of mine got into a really bad car accident and wasn’t expected to survive. As a result, my wedding shower was canceled because people weren’t really in the mood to celebrate. At the time, I’d like to tell you that I understood but I’m not going to lie. I was extremely disappointed; mad really. Still even today I have some “unhealthy” feelings over my non-existent wedding shower (by the way, something very similar happened with my baby shower and I didn't get one of those either). I truly believed that I wasn’t important enough for people to decide to take a moment to celebrate with me. In the midst of the tragedy, I was completely selfish (FYI: my family member survived by the grace of God). Maybe that’s not the best example… but here are a few that might be a little more close to home:

If I ever sent what I perceived to be an important e-mail to someone, and I didn’t get an answer right away... I may have gotten myself all worked up thinking I’m not important. I’d get mad at my friend for not caring enough about me when the truth of the matter was that maybe my friend just wasn’t at her computer. If someone didn’t smile at me, I would assume it was because I had done something to upset them or maybe they just didn’t like me. I would think through everything I had ever done around that person just to try and figure out why they hated me. Defensive mode would hit and I’d say to myself, “well I never liked her anyway… so there,” sticking my tongue out like a big baby and vowing to never smile in her direction ever again. If someone didn’t say happy birthday to me, I would assume it was because they didn’t care enough about me to remember. In my mind I’d be so insignificant that I’m not even worthy of a simple birthday greeting in the elevator. I’d never even consider that maybe that person had other things on their mind. Perhaps their mother was ill or their dog died, or they might be worried about money… or how about this… maybe they hadn’t forgotten my birthday at all. Maybe they never even knew it was my birthday.

Here is the simple truth, we are all so wrapped up in our own little worlds that we don’t normally take the time to consider the battles of others. We take every little thing as a personal attack, even that guy that cut you off in traffic… he was just waiting there purposefully trying to tick you off.

Me, selfish? Ah… yah (read that again with a total valley girl tone there). Embarrassingly… terribly. If you don’t like this article, I am bound to think that maybe it’s because you don’t like me, even though it could be for a different reason altogether. Essentially, I believe every single one of us (that means you too) has an addiction that we cannot overcome no matter how hard we try… we are addicted to ourselves. With that in mind, I think the world would be a much better place if each and every one of us worked a 12 step program for this addiction. “Hello, my name is Wendy and I am a Wendy-aholic.” The root of nearly every problem I have in this life can be found by looking in the mirror while brushing my teeth…. no, not bad breath or cavities but me. To remind me of this, I have a mirror with two words written on it… “The Problem.”

Yes God, protect me from my three worst enemies… satan, society and myself. Give me discernment so that I may see each for what it truly is… for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever…. Amen
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