Friday, February 29, 2008

Stood Up

Sometimes the images that words create won't leave my mind. They nag at me, reminding me of where I want to be.

Such is the image of the Lord sitting in the drawing room waiting for me each morning, which Robert Boyd Munger described in his article "My Heart Christ's Home" and which Joanna Weaver included in her book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. I read that book several years ago, and think of the picture of Jesus showing up each day for me to meet with Him and waiting patiently, even when He knows that He will be stood up. This paragraph from p. 73 says it all:
[Jesus] said, "The trouble with you is this: You have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that his hour means something to Me also."

During January, with its new beginnings, I found it easy to stay on track and make time each day for a quiet time. I even tried not to be legalistic about it. I found that I enjoyed it and desperately needed it. But this month, even with the Lenten season to help me focus, I have struggled.

But I'm grateful to know that I can't make Jesus stop showing up to meet with me. Even after He's been stood up.

Lord, thank You for desiring to spend quality time with me. Help me to see this time from Your perspective instead of what it can do for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Encouragement for Writers

Last week, I emailed my friend Renae, a published Christian author and amazing encourager, whom I had met at the North Texas Christian Writers' Conference last September. I wanted to hear more about her journey to publication, and she graciously shared how God has blessed her writing careeer in numerous ways in a relatively short period of time.

Her email was such an encouragement that I suggested that she send it to author Mary E. DeMuth who has recently started a website for those who "wannabepublished." And today, Mary posted those emails on her writing website.

If you are thinking about writing, check out Mary's new site, which contains a wealth of information and interviews with numerous writers.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Scenes from the Polls

I didn't know I'd go today. I just thought I'd squeeze it in sometime before March 4. And then I saw the sign on the way back from lunch: Early Voting Site. I realized that the good weather was probably on its way out and that today was as good a day as any to step into the booth and cast my vote.

But this time it was a bit different and so were the voters. I stood in line to get my number and heard the lady ask the loaded question: "What primary are you voting in? Democrat or Republican?" The reactions varied. Tremendously.

The first man in line didn't seem to know the name of his party, so he answered, "I'm votin' for Clinton's wife."

The next man in line took the question very seriously, looked both ways, and dropped his voice to an almost-inaudible decible when he responded, "Republican."

The third man in line made some awkward popping movements before he quietly answered, "Republican."

I began to think that those men must have been raised to not mention politics in polite company, and so I answered with confidence to let them know that I wasn't offended that they had answered the loaded question in my presence.

The lady after me was downright distraught and conflicted. "I thought I was gonna switch and vote Democrat, but I'll stay Republican," she sighed.

After casting my vote and exiting the polling area, I went on my way, giggling about how everyone had responded to the loaded question.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Mystery of the Delayed Posts: Solved.

You'll notice that I posted four "new" posts for last week. And if you checked last week, you might be wondering where they were before now. The simple answer is that they were sitting on blogger in the "very rough draft" stage. Each day, I had something I wanted to write about. So, I typed a few words and then proceeded to sneeze and keep the Puffs factory busy. It seems that fighting my new enemies--no longer stress and fatigue but rather juniper and cedar elm--prevented me from finishing a single blog post last week.

With the long holiday weekend (hat tip to Presidents Washington and Lincoln), I figured I had no excuse for not finishing what I had started. And so now the posts are done, and my faithful readers have something new to read and hopefully think about.

I think it may be a long winter for me with my enemies constantly wafting through the air, so please bear with me. I'm headed to the ENT tomorrow to see what wisdom he can impart. If you are so inclined, please pray for my battle with my allergies and that juniper and cedar elm would move along and find some place like Antarctica to reside . . . permanently.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love's Day

Today, we normally think of telling "the one" in our lives that we love him/her. But that's such narrow thinking. A day celebrating love should be so much bigger in our minds. We should be celebrating The One, as well as all the wonderful people whom God has put in our lives:
  • Our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who love us unconditionally;
  • Our siblings who endured growing up with us;
  • Our pastors and mentors who teach us by example and encouragement;
  • Our friends who listen and spend time with us; and
  • Our bosses who provide us with a job and income.

And so I challenge you to expand your definition of what Valentine's Day should look like. Don't limit yourself to only those people for whom Hallmark has already printed Valentine's Day cards. If you do, you may be overlooking some of the most important people in your life and the opportunity to bless them with words of love and encouragement.

"We love because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Walking Worthy, Face to Face

I've been challenged by a couple of concepts this week. The first came from the sermon on Sunday, and I'm still wrestling with it. The message was on Paul's encouragement/instruction to the Ephesians "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called." (Eph. 4:1) Whoa, that's big stuff, especially in light of the verses surrounding that verse. The other verses compare those who are immature--people who are prideful, coarse/rude, impatient, and divisive--with those who are mature--people who practice humility, gentleness, patience/forebearance, and unity. I want to be in the latter group, but I often don't act like it. Several times this week, I've caught myself saying things that will create division, rather than unity. That temptation to gossip that I give into. Or the desire to make MY name great. But thankfully, this verse nags at me. It convicts me to walk worthy.

The other concept that I've just begun to study with my small group is the idea of worshiping God face to face. I've heard songs about how we'll worship God face to face in Heaven. But Linda Dillow's new book Satisfy My Thirsty Soul urges readers to learn how to worship God in this way right now. Every day. I continue to try to wrap my mind around this concept. I want to figure out what this will look like in my life.

I think these two concepts can go hand in hand: walking worthy, face to face with God. And, I look forward to exploring them more.

What's challenging you right now?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Church

I had the opportunity this evening to visit the building that our church is going to purchase and move into in a few weeks. In some ways, it was odd to see the building that we'll soon be calling "our church" because any notion that I had that the church is a building has been shattered over the past three and a half years.

Growing up, I attended the same church every Sunday. A church that has been around for over a hundred fifty years. It has a steeple and stained glass windows and is traditional in every sense of the word.

After I moved to the DFW area, I started attending a large church that is centrally located. The church I attend now is a church plant of that large church. We started the church in the growing southwest part of the city on August 22, 2004, without a permanent home. Instead, we entered into a contract to rent a facility from an adoption organization and set up our meeting place each and every Sunday.

The facility served us well for the first two years, but then we grew. I don't know if there's something in the water at the adoption facility or if it's just our life stage, but our children's rooms began to overflow, and the college students (who now comprise approximately one-third of the church body) had to move their ministry off campus on occasion because there was no room for them to gather. The two services were also overflowing, as was the parking. These are great problems to have!

And so our leadership embarked upon a mission to see if there was another larger facility that we could rent or purchase. They negotiated over one property for quite a while and then felt the Lord leading them to pull away. Ultimately, the leadership was approached by a church facility that was for sale. And long story short, we are purchasing that facility.

But having not had a permanent facility for the past three and a half years, I've come to a better understanding of what "the church" truly is. The church is not a building. The church is not pews or hymnals with the names of the givers inscribed on them. The church does not begin to exist once there's a sign with the church's name on it. Those things all assist with holding worship services, but if it took those things to officially be a church, our church would have been nonexistant over these past years.

Instead, when I think of "the church," I think of the men and women who've gathered with me on Sundays for worship and teaching, as well as the young adults who have gathered at my house for movie and game nights and for community group. I think of those who have taken the time to mentor me, to hold me accountable, and to encourage me. I think of the gals in my writers' group who all came together as a result of our common beliefs. I think of those who have traveled to Sudan, Belize, New Orleans, and India to be the hands and feet of Christ.

These are all people, just like you and me. Not a building. So that old hymn, which says, "I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together," has become a reality for me. All because some people stepped out in faith and were willing to start a church. The kind without a steeple.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Safety First

I must confess a new obsession: I am addicted to running searches on the cosmetic safety database. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the website is run by a nonprofit corporation that rates cosmetics from 0 to 10 (with zero being best) according to how safe they are to use. The website allows visitors to run searches to see how safe their hand soap, sunscreen, deodorant, shampoo, body wash, make-up, etc. are. The website's counter keeps track of how many searches it has performed and was showing over 44 million when I last visited, and I attributed a great deal of those searches to me. I possess this insatiable need to know what products are "safe."

When my family and I played the game Imaginiff at Christmas, the card came up asking my family to Imaginiff I had a motto and to choose one of the following to describe what my motto would be: (1) pedal to the metal; (2) stop and smell the roses; (3) take the road less traveled; (4) better safe than sorry; (5) an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; or (6) love makes the world go round. If I remember correctly, I think the winning answer was #4 better safe than sorry.

Safety. That seems to be a resounding theme in my life. I always want to be safe and protected. From sickness. From crime. From being hurt. From making foolish decisions that will harm me. And so I pray often for my own protection and for my family's protection.

This safety issue is something that has plagued me most of my life. I can remember as a child being very afraid of burglars and thinking that someone was hiding behind every tree in our yard. Maybe that fear was born out of having a father who was sick and lived in a nursing home rather than in our home. I'm not sure. But I do know that all the security systems and security personnel in the world can't keep me totally safe. That's something I have to rely on God for.

And I also have to realize that sometimes God isn't always about being safe. The words of C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe echo in my mind: "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you." (p.86)

That's often not what I want to hear. Yes, I want the goodness of God, but I also want to be safe. And so I have to wrestle with my will and turn it over to Him. Not an easy task. But one I can dedicate more attention and time to if I'd stop running searches for safe products.

Father God, You know the desires of my heart and what's best for me. Help me to rest in who You are instead of my circumstances.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Beginning of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. My writers' group will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the next 40 days, so check out today's "Reflections on Lent." And be sure to look for posts from me on February 11 & 25, as well as on March 10.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Playing with Numbers

Today I've been playing with some old friends . . . numbers. I used to play with them every day when I was an auditor. I would check to see if all the formulas had been correctly applied or whether someone had "accidentally" plugged a number to the wrong category. But because my job is not in the numbers field anymore, I only get to play with numbers about once a month when I'm balancing the checkbook and working on my personal budget.

But this month, I've expanded my budgeting project. Besides balancing the checkbook and preparing the monthly budget, I've completed a comparison of my expenses in 2007 and 2006, as well as a balance sheet. I've also entered all the figures for my taxes into Turbo Tax.

All these numbers projects are to help me set some goals for how to use my tax refund wisely. And, with Lent quickly approaching, I'm thinking that it is a good time to see what I need to fast from financially. Where am I spending money that I don't need to? That answer lies in the statements that I've prepared.

I realize that I don't dread these tasks; I look forward to them. Because the numbers speak to me. (And yes, I know that makes me a big nerd.)

And though the numbers don't care if I'm wearing make up or if I'm still in my pajamas after lunch, I can't completely relax around them. It's not always fun to see what the numbers have to say. After all, the numbers don't lie. And as much as I'd sometimes like to shift the blame for overspending in a certain area, I have no one else to blame. I have to face the numbers, confess my shortfalls, and make a plan for how to be a better steward of my God-given resources.

So, that's where I'm at in this process. Thankfully, I have a few more days before Lent begins on Wednesday to think through this. I'm looking forward to seeing what God has in store and to seeing how my planning might pay off for it is written: "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty." (Proverbs 21:5)