Chronicling 40: Days 106-109 of 365

hope

I have so many words today.  It has been a busy few days, we had company visiting … which meant prepping the house, then we were taking a day out of town ourselves for some family time.   So many things have happened in those days, so much I want to speak about.

I had so many things to do, that I literally made a spreadsheet to keep track of everything.  My days were scheduled to the second.  There was no margin.  Normal things (like posting daily) were cast aside for no other reason than the fact that I could without the world ending.

I was trying to decided if I was really going to try and recap all of my thoughts over these last 4 days into one post.  Would it make any sense?  Would it be all over the place?  Would I write one single piece or make 4 dated journal entries?  I created a graphic on canva to us for the post.  No matter how many times I tried to upload it into wordpress, it wouldn’t.  Error.  Error.  Error.   Was the enemy trying to thwart my words today?

Bound and determined, I was not giving up and decided to scroll through the graphics I’ve used in the past which sit in the wordpress media library.  It caught my eye…

HOPE.

All of these things I felt compelled to talk about are scenarios I have no control over, I can’t comprehend them, I can’t explain them.  From my own short temperedness to the shooting at a small church in Texas.  I could throw words at this screen, but what would they mean … how would they help?  They don’t.  You don’t need my words, you need the words of Hope.

1 Timothy 1:1 tells us that Christ is our hope, and hope is an anchor to our soul (Hebrews 6:19).

Matthew 12:21 tells us that we put our hope and trust in Christ, because he is a better hope than anything else (Hebrews 7:19)

2 Thessalonians 2:16 tells us that we have been given hope through grace, and purified by that hope (1 John 3:3).

1 Timothy 4:10 tells us that our hope is fixed on God, and is in God (1 Peter 1:21).

Titus 1:2 encourages us that it is an eternal hope, and we hold to that hope (Hebrews 6:18).

1 Timothy 5:5 tells us of the widow, who despite her circumstances is fixed on her hope in God… praying day and night.  Hope is active pursuit of Him.

Yes, we are in trying times.  Life is difficult.  Sometimes we feel like Job.  Our calling isn’t comfortable.  We may feel more like Jonah.  Shame weighs us down.  We connect with the Samaritan Woman.  The word is fallen, and we feel like the Israelites calling out to God to save us from our own messes.

The days are hard…

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians  5:8)

And people will look to us, because we have hope and wonder how we can find peace in the midst of chaos…

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)

We will praise Him in the storms, because we have hope…

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:12)

Will not act as the world expects, but we will be…

rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, (Romans 12:12)

So that we can find peace for today, and days to come…

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

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Chronicling 40: Day 101 of 365

Failure

I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks.  The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card.  Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like.  She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time.  Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds.  I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site.  I could just let cards fall where they may.  As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations.  Do we need to hire a tutor?  Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up?  Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?

As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light.  If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps.  If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made.  We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do.  And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.

We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success.  What about talking about what we learned from failure?  Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject?  Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?

I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate.  When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills.  Why didn’t this work?  What was missing?  Did I make a mistake?  Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process?  Or, is there simply a better way?  The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out.  I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.

Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it.  Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure.  A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time.  A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation.  A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it.   And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own.  My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.

In life failure teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work.  It helps us find our way to success.

If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.

Failure can be a beautiful gift.

Chronicling 40: Day 98 of 365

DP1

One of the questions I get asked often is about Bible Study recommendations, particularly related to Women’s Ministry programs.  I personally ascribe to a pathway that puts women on a good start to picking out good materials and eventually leading small groups themselves.  Here is my recommended pathway, click on any of the photos to purchase.  I do not make any money off of these purchases, or have affiliation with these companies.

One to One Discipling by Multiplication Ministries

121wThanks to my friend Jenny Andrews, this material landed in my lap.  I’m a huge fan.  I love this as a starting place because I believe it makes sure that those who go through the material end with a basic understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity.  Jenny’s church uses this as the first step after Baptism.  It could also be a great step for starting off a Discipleship Pathway in your Women’s Ministry.

 

Seamless by Angie Smith

seamlessAfter making sure the women in your group, or ministry, have the fundamentals in place… I like to move to an overview of the Scriptures.  Angie Smith’s Seamless moves from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  You will have a good overview of the entirety of the Bible, how God’s narrative is woven through the Old to the New Testament.

A great second stop on the pathway of Discipleship for yourself, your small group, or the women in the church.

 

Praying the Bible by Don Whitney

ptb

After the women have the fundamentals, and the basics of the Scriptures, then ensuring our owmen understand the why and how of prayer is next on the pathway.  Praying the Bible, written by Don Whitney, is a short and direct book on using the Scriptures to prompt our prayers.  How long you want to spend on this book is up to you, but it is one you could walk through very quickly (great Summer book) or spend time wading through and putting into practice.

 

 

 

Women of the Word, by Jen Wilkin

wowNow that your women have these fundamentals into place (basics of Christianity, over view of the Bible as a whole, and prayer life), my next path is about being a good Berean.  I love Jen Wilkin’s book because she walks you through the WHY and VALUE of being able to study the Scriptures for yourself.  Then, she walks you through the practical application of her study method.  Finally, you get a chance to put it into practice with the book of James.

The final chapter is about how to lead a study group.  Which is also why I save this book for the last spot in the pathway.  Not because it is less important, but rather because you have now been not only prepared for your own good habits of prayer and study but also to teach others.  By the end of these four books, you are ready to step up as a Small Group leader.  You will be able to vet materials based off of what you have learned, as well as lead confidently.

The Great Commission

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20

We have been called, as disciples, to go out and make disciples.  Once baptized, we are commissioned to teach them to obey the Lord’s Word.  Once they have become disciples, they share this commission.  The Discipleship Pathway is meant to be taught by disciples, to make disciples, who will go out and make more disciples.  It is a multiplication process that not only brings people to the loving arms of God at baptism, but prepares them to be leaders within their church.

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 95 of 365

foodwine Back and recovered from Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, can I just say I long to go back already.

If you have never been, here’s the gist of it.  Throughout the “countries” area of Epcot are special booths set up that represent countries around the globe.  For every 1 country that is normal represented in Epcot, 2 more are added.  You travel from one end to another, sampling foods from these various countries.  Either brands they are known for, or recipes that are from the country.  There are also a few booths that are sponsored by certain companies that had menu items that exclusively used their products in the recipes.

To be clear, you pay the admission to the park, and then you pay for all of the food/drink you select from the booths.  There are so many booths and foods, it would be impossible to eat them all in one day.  So, if you want to try everything or even at least 1 item from every country, plan to attend the event for a few days.  Even with walking time, taking a few bathroom breaks, and going on just 2 rides… we probably didn’t even try half of the booths.

That all said, overall the food was amazing.  Each country booth would have 3-4 food offerings, 1-2 dessert offerings, and then 3-5 beverages options.  While it is the food and wine festival, each booth had water and some offered non-alcoholic beverages that were from the country.  Also there were options of beer, wine, cocktails, champagne.  Each booth would give you a suggested food/beverage pairing.  Because each booth had just a few offerings, you really never had to wait long for anything.  And the lines at the booths never seemed to be overwhelming.

Most booth offerings were a good sized sampling, but nothing you’d qualify as a meal.  Leaving plenty of room to move on to the next booth.  But occasionally you might get a larger portion, a richer food item, or something a bit heartier that filled you up faster.  We used the few rides we went on as a break between these food items.  Overall, the quantities are small enough and with it being more of a grazing your way through the park… you don’t really end up overeating.

My Favorites:

Canada’s Soup and Steak.   Ireland’s Warm Chocolate Cake.

It’s open through November 13th.  If you are planning on going, save some money and head into the Festival Center, at one of the gift shops you can purchase a lanyard for $67+ tax that has “tickets” you can redeem for food/drinks at the booths.  There are 8 tickets.  We determined that the best value was to use the tickets for anything that cost $8 or more.  Otherwise we paid cash for anything under $8.  Many of the items on the menu were $3-$5.  I took advantage of this buy always pairing 1 high price item with 1 low price item per booth.  If the food item was over $8, I’d pick a lower price item.  Get a bottle of water at one of the first booths and refill it at water fountains along the way, and you’ll save a bit more.  We spent the entire day and evening there, and I think my total cost for food/beverages was $90-$100.

When you consider what it would normally cost to eat while traveling, breakfast/lunch/dinner… and for all the variety of food we ate… I think it was a good deal.

Would I bring my kids?  No.  My eldest who is 18, would probably find plenty to eat… but the younger two are too picky for these booths.  Also, the food is already “assembled”, so you are not going to be able to ask for special requests for kids.  For example, one booth had crispy chicken, cornbread, with red eye gravy.  The chicken was stacked on the cornbread with the gravy drizzled over the top.  You can’t ask to “hold the gravy”.  So, picky kids can’t have it their way.  And there were not very many booths that offered kid friendly fare.  You also spend a lot of time eating, and if they want to go on more rides… someone has to give. However, if your kid is an adventurous eater/foodie and could care less about the rides… you might have better luck.  They do have the normal food places in the various countries open as well, so you could choose to let your kids eat off those menus… but expect longer lines, and higher prices.

Personally, I see this as a great girls trip, or couples trip.

Chronicling 40: Day 91 of 365

fence.jpg

This morning, a little lie was exposed… but it has me reflecting on a bigger moment from the past.  I’ll get there in just a second.

I listed an item on ebay for sale a few days ago, and the auction was due to close this morning.  I received a message late last night.  The person said that their child had accidentally bid on my item and asked if I wouldn’t mind cancelling the transaction.  No big deal, I did.  This morning wake up, the auction is closed, I print out the shipping for the winner,  packed up, ready to drop off at the post office.  Another message comes in from the person who requested that I cancel their child’s bid.

In essence the message claimed that he had bid on the item, then his child bid on the item from their account accidentally.  He claimed I cancelled both bids.  I responded that I only cancelled the one & explained the process, and shared the auction ended thus the item wasn’t for sale any longer.  Another message comes back, now he’s argumentative.  Honestly, I have no idea what this guy wanted me to do about it. I responded back that the item had already shipped to the winner.  Messages flurry in.

It became apparent as I read the messages that he had lied from the start.  My first educated guess is that he made multiple bids on the same item, and panicked when he realized he was about to win all of the auctions.  Not needing more than 1, he tried to get out of the other commitments.  My second educated guess is that in the end, he probably lost the auction that he kept and now isn’t getting anything.  Again, not sure what he expected me to do about any of this… my auction ended fair and square (not to mention, I didn’t have to cancel when he requested it.  I was being kind).

In the communication he must have realized that he was getting caught in his initial dishonesty, as he back tracked to cover up.  He need not worry, I’m not reporting anyone to Ebay today.  Ha.   If I’m right and he lost out completely on the collectible item he wanted… then that is punishment enough.  Right?

All of this brought me to think about how people react when they get caught lying, or doing something wrong.  We pass the buck on to someone else (their mistake, they misinterpreted, etc.).   We lie more to cover up our error.  Or, sometimes we just try to avoid it or the person completely.

Within the last couple of years, the latter played out.  Some people said somethings they shouldn’t have, and when confronted they tried to throw me under the bus.  Well, actually all but one did so successfully.  Even though I was addressing the issue head on, and even though one other person admitted the truth… so many spoke against me that it outweighed my own defense and the one other person from the group who was totally honest.  I get it, self preservation will often win out … when you feel backed in a corner.

Knowing that I was was honest, that I had been wronged, I made two decisions.  I would face them head on, holding to the truth.  I would also forgive them, even if they didn’t ask for it.  They never have, to this day.   Even though I still showed up, said hi, met for lunches… they never said a word.  No explanation for why they did what they did, nor a sorry… not even an inquisition on the fall out from it.  The subject was the elephant in the room, you could sense it, but no one dared look at it or speak of it.

Over time, those relationships waned.  Not because of me, but rather because they distanced themselves from me.  I think the weight of it was too much to bear.  Imagine facing someone you wronged, week after week… knowing what you did, never acknowledging it, and knowing that this person has every right to be angry with you and yet they are not.  The innocent person keeps showing up, keeps loving, keeps caring.  I think this is what “heaping coals” means in the Scriptures.  Mind you, I wasn’t intentionally trying to make anyone feel guilt or remorse, nor force an apology.  I just think that over time, you begin to feel the weight of your actions that you have not repented of… to the point you must do something.

You either face them, or hide from them.  These women have hidden from me.  They can’t face me.  I am beginning to wonder if they will ever be able to face me without reconciling what they did.  Do they not realize that is all it would take for them to release this guilt they are carrying?  Needlessly, I might add… because I’ve long forgiven them.  I’m not angry, nor hurt.  Yes, I’d be super appreciative if they came clean to those involved and cleared my name.  However, I don’t linger over it.  That relationship has already been moving toward restoration (although I suppose it would happen faster if my name was cleared, but I’m ok with letting time heal this too).

I loved those friendships dearly, and I am sad that we can’t enjoy our time together like we once did.  I also know I’ve done all I can.

Sometimes being honest from the start, even if it means you are going to face some sort of consequence, is better than walking around for years avoiding people because you feel guilty.  And, even if you can’t bring yourself to come to the person and apologize… if you can go back and rectify the situation, that is at least a gift to the person.  Both speak volumes about how you feel and your desire to do the right thing.  But, if you can’t bring yourself to do that… at least own your feelings to yourself.  Understand why you are doing what you are doing, why you are avoiding that person (place, project, situation).

Not that long ago a mutual friend said:  “She thinks you are mad at her.”

I replied, “I think she’s disappointed in her self.  I’m not mad, I was never mad.  I was hurt, but I’ve already forgiven her.”

I’m 40, I’ve got no time for drama and petty grudges.  I think we can live in peace with one another.  I think we can say “hey, I goofed up here… can you forgive me” and move forward without keeping a record of wrongs against one another.  We are all imperfect, we all make mistakes.

If you hurt someone, if you never said sorry, if you never confessed the truth, if you never set the record straight about something… there is still time.  And if that person is anything like me, they’ll appreciate it.  Whether it has been minutes or years.

Chronicling 40: Day 90 of 365

signsandwonders.png

It’s been an interesting couple of years.  Natural and man made disasters, astronomical events, etc. have cause a lot of conversation about “signs and wonders”.  I’ve had people ask me directly if I believed these things were a sign of end times.  The question has rolled through my social media feed repeatedly.

I understand the human need to make sense of chaos.  The mind doesn’t like it, we need to sort it, we need reason, we also need hope.  As Christians, when we are in complete despair… the hope of Christ’s return tells us that we don’t have to endure more or much more for very long.  We long for the day He returns to make right the wrong of this fallen world.  I get it.

I also recognize the Scriptures tell us that there will be birth pains, as we draw closer to the day the Son returns… it will grow harder and darker.  We also know that signs and wonders will accompany His return.  So, it makes it really easy to look at all these things and see them as signs and wonders.

In the very generation that walked on the planet with Christ, during his life… they too sought signs and wonders.  God himself was here, and they wanted proof.

And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Mark 8:12

Since then, there have certainly been miracles.  We can read about them in the paper or on the news, people share their testimony on how God showed up in their lives in miraculous ways.   When it comes to these larger signs and wonders that will accompany the return of Christ, based on what I read, it appears that there will be no doubt to the believers as to what they are seeing.  These are not normal weather events and disasters, but things that are extraordinary.

Because of this, I have a hard time believing that an astronomical event that can be charted on a calendar qualifies as a miraculous sign and wonder.  Or, an event that has happened throughout history and has an exact date on when it will happen again.  I question weather patterns that are predictable.  And yes, even when a large amount of these things happen at one time, I lean more to coincidence than divine signs.

Why?

  1.  We are told that we will not know the day or hour that the Son returns.
  2.  Because of #1 we are supposed to live as if it could be tomorrow or any day, ready for the return.

Is it possible that these are birthing pains?  Sure.  I’m not discounting the possibility, but I’m also careful not to claim something to be more than what it is either.  Our credibility as believers matters, and if we walk around all the time shouting that the sky is falling… our voices are easily muted.  I save my voice for the thing I’m called to share, the Gospel.

I go about my everyday being obedient to what He has put on my path that day and not focused on watching for signs and wonders, nor focused on trying to interpret what all these events me.  My faith sits firm in that He is coming, I won’t know when, and that I’m to be ready for it.  Being ready for it doesn’t mean sitting at a screen watching news trying to connect dots but instead following The Great Commission.

At a conference, several years ago, one of the speakers Pastor Voddie Baucham said that our job is preparation for Heaven.  Preparing ourselves, preparing others.  I can’t be prepared, or serving others if I am tethered to my seat fixated on the news.  I trust that His Word is true, that when Christ returns it will be undeniable, and I’ll be ready…

… whenever the day arrives.

Chronicling 40: Day 89 of 365

awakenReally excited to start off a new devotion, and to do this along with some other local ladies.

It’s been a while since I’ve led or participated this kind of a group, as I’ve been busy leading other projects.

We must feed our soul, nourish ourselves with the Word and in fellowship with other believers.

If you are a leader, you can sometimes forget to feed yourself.  Sometimes, as a leader, we need to be a part of a group instead of leading it.  It helps us remember what it is like to be a participate and gives us a glimpse of a perspective we may have lost over all the years of leading.  Sometimes it feels good to be just “one of the girls” instead of the lady in charge.

So, instead of leading an official study group, we’ve come together for “Conversations and Coffee” where we are going to share how the devotion is impacting us, how these words each day are driving us to a deeper relationship with the God who speaks.