Chronicling 40: Day 10 of 365

taste

I love food.  I love the presentation of food, the smell, the texture, and the taste.  I don’t mind getting my fingers dirty because of a great slab of ribs on my plate, nor do I mind using special tools to eat unconventional foods.  All of these senses coming together in an experience that is supposed to be satisfying and enjoyable.  In fact, I love food so much that I am willing to try just about anything once.

I have sat down to a plate of food that looked anything but appetizing and ended up having one of the best meals of my life.  In contrast, I’ve also been presented a plate of well crafted foods… artwork on a porcelain plate… and barely able to take a second bite.  There have been foods that smell amazing, but the flavor was lacking (my husband feels this way about coffee, it’s ok… I’ve forgiven him).

Here is the thing, because I have an openness toward trying different foods… cuts, cooking styles, seasonings, etc… I know GOOD food.  A few years ago, I was at a cookie exchange and two women were commenting on how they brought the exact same cookies and they tasted so differently.  They compared their recipes, nothing was amiss.  So, I sampled them both and replied:  “One of you used salted butter, the other used unsalted butter.  That is what made the difference.”  Sure enough, I was right.

I know that it is not just about the ingredients but also how we cook it, you can do everything right in the preparation but then flub it up in the execution.  It happens, to the best of us.  There have been a few meals over the last 20 years that I have tossed right into the trash, as we waited for the pizzas to arrive.

There are so many pieces of scripture that compare words to food, or eating food.

Matt 4:4 says that we can’t live on bread alone but the Word of God.  Jer 15:16 speaks of the joy of drinking in God’s Word.  1 Peter 2:2 compares the Word to milk.  Hebrews 5:12,15 compares it to solid food.  Psalm 113 calls it “honey in my mouth”.  Psalm 119:11 we read of storing up His word (akin to how we store up food).  We are told that it is good for us, nourishing to our bodies and souls, we are told to keep it on our lips, to consume it.

We are also warned to be careful about the words that come out of our own mouths.  How do you words taste when they come out of your mouth?  Are they bitter?  Does it sting or burn?  Are these words that destroy and divide, or tear down another?

Delivering bad news, it is so hard to do.  Yet, it amazes me how gentle we can be when pushed into that circumstance.  The words may be hard, but they are spoken with sweetness, compassion, and love.

We can also take harmful words and try to envelop them in words that sound sweet.  It may look good, it may sound good, but the words are bitter to the taste.  We know they are harmful words and we do everything we can to hide that fact.  This reveals so much about our intentions, of wanting to say something that isn’t beneficial but also trying to avoid ownership for those words.  When we encase them to make them appear harmless or sweet, good intentioned… we can then claim ignorance, blame misunderstanding, or even try to convince the recipient that it is their perception of our words that is off.

There are other times when our words sting, and we mean them to sting.  When we are purposefully lashing out at another person.  It’s that old cliche saying of “hurt people, hurt people”.  Whether it is spoken in revenge, anger, jealousy, etc… these words are sharp and there is no mixed message about it.

I’m sure we can all agree that these three points are obvious, we’ve all encountered them.  But recently, I was made aware of another example that wasn’t quite so obvious.

If we are called to use our words to build up, encourage, unify, strengthen, in love, for peace, etc… than any use of our words otherwise is counter to that call.

The enemy seeks to destroy, to discourage, to divide, to weaken, to hurt, to cause chaos, and confusion.  He is also a liar and manipulator, who can camouflage his plans to look and sound like a good idea or path.

Would God present you with an opportunity that would cause division among your friends?  Would He call you down a pathway that would become a stumbling block for your family?  Would He call us to a purpose that would intersect and cut off the work of another ministry or organization that He has ordained?

Sometimes these ideas and opportunities sound good, Kingdom worthy, and they may “feel right”.  These opportunities may not be bad, evil, or destructive.  In fact, they can even be a blessing to the community (God makes beauty out of ashes, and redeems all things to be used for His glory).

How much of this has to do with our own desires impacting our perception of truth and calling?  I remember reading something to the effect of “God will never give you another woman’s husband.”  This guy may be our knight in shining armor, and everything could feel so right… so much so that you could almost catch your self thanking God for bringing this man in to your life.  No matter how wonderful it feels, the truth is that God would never destroy one marriage or divide a family in order to bring you a husband.  That is a slap in the face to the very character of God displayed in the scriptures.

It would not be of God’s character to give you something that He intended for someone else.  We must be very careful not to credit God with orchestrating things in our lives that are actually of our own doing, our own desires, or that contradict who we know Him to be.

I believe one way to flesh these things out is to taste the words of your intentions.  Do they taste sweeter than honey or are they bitter.  Do they flow easy from your mouth, or do you struggle to speak?  Are your words working toward something or against someone? Are these words that are surrounded in peace or are they littered with chaos and confusion?  Are you confident in the calling or are you trying to convince yourself that you have been called?

If we are leaning in close to God, praying for clarity and discernment, then I believe the Holy Spirit is going to reveal the truth.  I believe that if you have to struggle and attempt to justify yourself, you will taste that those words are not good.  You will feel it in your heart, mind, soul, and even body that you are going in a direction that is not right. You will feel weighted and burdened in a very negative way, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what it is that you feel so bad.

But, when you are in alignment with God’s calling on your life, you will feel freedom to move forward at His pace.  There will be excitement and you won’t need to justify it to anyone (including yourself) because you will know deeply that this is the way you should go, and you will walk in it confidently.  You will not be weighted down with burden, but soaring!

So taste those words that come out of your mouth.  Before you make that phone call, or send that email, or even schedule that face to face meeting…

Say it out loud.  Don’t embellish it with fancy explanations and trying to justify it.  Speak it in plain simple facts.  Then ask yourself, how would I feel if I was the one receiving this message.  Would I feel hurt or betrayed?  Would I feel attacked or discouraged?  Do these words sound divisive or damaging?  Do these words taste bitter, are they unsavory?  Would I not want to receive this message?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then pull back and pray over this situation.  Ask for His peace and clarity over your steps.  Remember He is not a God of chaos, disorder, or confusion.  He does not change His Word or character to bend to the will of one person, He is consistent and constant.  He will not give you peace over a decision or direction that He does not intend.

If the words are bitter, if the mind is clouded in confusion… do not rush into anything but the arms of God.

Chronicling 40: Day 9 of 365

ontarget

I’m not entirely certain if this has something to do with turning 40, or that we had a ministry training this morning on budgets, but…

I went to Target and only bought what was on my list.  I walked out with five things.  FIVE. 

I’m counting this as a victory, because I exercised restraint. I did look.  I may have laid my hands on a few things, or raised an item or two off the shelf.  The important thing is that I put it down and kept walking.

Miracles.

Chronicling 40: Day 8 of 365

stormsofheart

I live in an area where storms can roll in fairly quickly, and they often don’t stay very long.  Unless we are in for a big storm like a tropical depression or hurricane, we know that we can usually ride out the rain and resume our day.

The storms that we have had lately are very short, but very strong.  The thunder vibrates our sliding glass doors, the lightening brightens the dark clouded skies.  You don’t always see them coming either.  Just the other day, I walked out of my home to beautiful skies. As I drove toward my destination the skies opened up… floodgates unleashed.

Storms remind me of anger.  How quickly it can rear up even during the calmest of moments.  Today was a day like that, and today was a day that I remind us all that none of us are perfect parents… have perfect children… and perfect lives.  No matter how public your platform, or private your struggles… we are all battling something.

Today was off to a beautiful day.  Kids got up, dressed, and out the door on time.  We were visiting family for lunch and quality time in the pool.  My youngest wanted her older cousin to join us in the pool, he didn’t want to… she was persistent and then when he still didn’t comply….

SHE SMACKED HIM IN THE FACE.

Can I tell you that I was stunned she would do this to her cousin.  It’s one thing to see siblings squabble and get handsy… who hasn’t had to separate sisters and brothers in brawl mode at some point in their lives.  But never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined my daughter would smack her adult cousin.

Never.

As a mom, I was mortified.  I have “trained her the way she should go”.  I have talked to her about being nice to others, treating others with respect, and the golden rule.  I know that we nipped the hitting thing years ago when she was a toddler.  How then could she have done such a thing?

As a person, I was absolutely embarrassed.  I wondered what the newer family members who don’t know us well would think about such a thing happening?  Would this impact their desire to be around her? Would they question my parenting?  Would they wonder if I was a safe person to baby sit their children some day?

Yes, all of that rolled through my head.  And, then I was angry.

The tone in my voice as I reprimanded her… heavy, stern, deep, pointed.

The words I used (and hated to hear when I was a child)… I am disappointed in you.

The question asked, that always gets the same answer, but I asked it anyway… What were you thinking?  Why did you do that?

Ugh.  Why must parenting be so hard?   Shouldn’t having three kids mean that by this point I am doing most things right?  Why does it have to be my kid?  (LOL).

Of course being reprimanded was not fun for her, I could see the remorse as tears stained her cheek.  I gave her some time to gather herself together and then she needed to apologize to her cousin.  We also continued our conversation after we both calmed down, because we also needed to be reminded of our love for each other and our family… despite the needed correction and tension of the moment.

As I write this, I can hear my father in laws voice in my head:  “Your sin nature is showing!”. That is what he used to tell his kids and grandkids when they were misbehaving.  I really disliked hearing him say it.  Sometimes, I thought, they were just being a toddler… cranky… sleepy… etc.  Not everything that we do that is unpleasant is our sin nature, right?

But this moment when my daughter struck someone… that was sin showing.  She’s not been able to explain why she did it.  So, I don’t know if she was trying to be funny and didn’t mean to hit him that hard (not that it makes it ok).  I don’t know if she was trying to bully him (although with their age difference that makes no sense).  I don’t know if she was frustrated she wasn’t getting her way and lashed out.  But, if I had to put my money on it… she was trying to be a big shot.  She’s at a weird age where behavior makes no sense sometimes.  I actually remember being this age, and some of the stupid things I would do that I thought made me look like a big shot… cooler than I was.

Regardless of which reason it turns out to be, it is still sin.  I’m thankful that she felt remorse, that she apologized, that her cousin forgave her, and their relationship is restored.

Anger is like a storm, but Jesus is the one who controls the winds and waves with His very Word.  By His command the storms cease, the waters are calmed, and we are secure.

When we repent of our sin, seek forgiveness, and gaze upon the Cross… we know that we are forgiven and the price is paid for our sin that rears its ugly head.  We are redeemed, reconciled to our King, and secure in our future.

Even when we try to be the big shot.

The storms of our hearts are called by the One who dwells within.

Chronicling 40: Day 5 of 365

clock

I’m 40.  I have a child who starts college this fall, another starting high school, my youngest is only a few months away from 11.  This means that in roughly 7 years time, all of my children will be adults.  We will be paying for college for the next 12 years in a row (sans any scholarship monies), and the reality it that there will be at least 1 wedding followed by a possible grandchild.

This blows my mind.  In so many ways I feel like I am still just a youngster myself, no where even close to the vicinity of being a grandparent.  These facts have hit my husband the hardest, I think, because of his work schedule.  So much time has been called away from his family, and making sure that we relish the time we have left in this space as a family is incredibly important to us.

We are balancing our younger kids activities, our eldest having a job and college, his schedule, my ministry that is growing (and in short order will be a full time job).  You can’t see my calendar, I don’t post my daily comings and goings online for the world to see.  I am busier than most people realize, but at times that seems to be overlooked because I am a “stay home mom”.

So yes, I am going to pick family night over girls night out.

If my husband has a weekday off, I am going to choose to spend it with him over lunch at a local cafe.

As our family dynamics are changing, we have opportunities before us that have been put on hold in order to raise young children.  Health issues have taken some of our energy and strength, and as we get older we need to focus on being our healthiest selves.

So yes, I may be more interested in hitting the gym than the ice cream shop.

If I need to rest or tend to my health needs, I am going to choose to do that versus fill up my schedule to the point of exhaustion.

Time is finite.

Energy is finite.

Add into the mix having an autoimmune illness, my energy capacity is less… which means that my time is even more valuable.  Even on my best days, I am still running on less than energy than others.

I once read an illustration that compared life with an illness as to starting your day with a certain number of spoons.  Everything takes a spoon from you.  Since you are starting with a limited number of spoons to begin with… every spoon is valuable.  Somethings in life take spoons from you, and you have no say over that. Getting sick, emergencies, doctors appointments, etc.  Then you subtract all those necessary daily life spoons (tending to the house, kids, work, etc), you are left with the number of spoons to be spent on the things you enjoy.

There are a lot of things I enjoy.  I do enjoy spending time with friends, reading, painting, going to the theatre, cooking a great meal, having fun with the kids, date nights with my husband, travel, learning, etc.  Lots to enjoy, but not as much time or energy to do it all.

Spoons are nontransferable, they don’t roll over to the next day.  I can’t reshuffle my spoons for days where I need more energy.  If I take a lazy day and I don’t use up all of those spoons, I don’t get to keep them.  Each day starts anew.

This means that I am going to be really strategic about how I spend my time.  It means I may need to say no more often than others will like to hear.  I may not have time for that phone call, or to help you with that favor.  A life of spontaneity may elude me.  I may choose to stay home and do nothing.  My ringer may be turned off.  I may choose to conserve my energy for my family.

Why?  Because for this season, I know where I want all of those spoons to be spent.  I have 7 years before my youngest is off to college.  In those 7 years, we are going to see transitions in our family as the older two begin navigating adulthood.

There will come a time, when they are living life… and all of those spoons spent on my kids needs are now mine to use freely.  There will be time for coffee dates, girls night out, a girls trip to an exotic location, and so much more.

What I need today, more than anything, is understanding that in this season my family is my priority.  My husband.  My daughters.  We want to be immersed in these years in a way we have never been before.  It’s funny how when they are infants you see so much time ahead of you to do all of the most wonderful things.  Then one day you are slapped in the face by reality, time has passed quickly.  Too quickly.

Trust me, one day you’ll find yourself in this space (it usually happens when your eldest child starts their senior year).  I’ll give you grace, because I’ve been there.  Until then, please give me grace. I’m navigating a new space in this parenthood journey where I want to hold onto my family a little tighter.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I need you to be ok with that.

Here is a truth, there are people in my life that I call dear friends.  They are heading right into the same space I am in.  We have known each other for eleven years, they were some of my first friends.  We were in MOPS together, go to church together, and our kids would have play dates together.  We would see each other every single week.

Now?  We see each other 2-3 times per year.  They get it.  I get it.  No one has feelings hurt, because we understand the unique needs of this time.  None of these ladies ever has to explain themselves to me, nor have I ever had to explain myself to them.

This is the beauty of friendship, real friendship, that can survive the most trying of times.  The friendships that evolve with time, bending not breaking.  The friendships that will stand the test of time, crazy schedules, changes in life, and all the things that come along with it.

A Few Good Books

The books in this post have been provided to me from the publisher for the purpose of giving an honest review.  While the books were provided to me free of charge, the thoughts and opinions on these books are my own.

booktour1

The Bible is a really big, God sized, story of redemption from creation to revelation.  Among the pages are books, chapters, and verses that reveal this big story through small stories made up of Biblical heroes and tales of miracles.  We see free will, judgement, grace, and forgiveness unfold throughout the pages.  Our eyes are opened to The Gospel and hearts are pressed forward into The Great Commission.  As many times as we can slide our hand across the pages, and our eyes soak in every Word, there is a beautiful opportunity to learn from others who are in this same faith journey.  We go to services on the weekend, participate in small group Bible studies, attend conferences, and even watch sermons and speakers online.

We do this because we desire to understand more, learn more.  I was thrilled by The Good Book by Deron Spoo because it is a resource that I can put into my personal study library and revisit often.   Between the covers, Deron Spoo has explored forty major themes found in the Bible.  Spoo doesn’t just set us down to tell us what he thinks, but begins each theme on the foundations of the Scriptures in full content, not just a random verse or two.  Then he expounds upon the theme from the scripture and encourages personal reflection at the end of the chapter.  This isn’t just a book for reading, but a book for study, sharing, and for future reference.

I’d recommend this book for new believers who are trying to grapple with the entirety of the Bible; as well as seasoned believers who may enjoy a fresh perspective.

booktour2

 

I have had my hands on this book for a little bit, I wanted to do this book justice and held onto it until after the kids were out of school.  Rest is incredibly important, for our body and for our mind.  Also, for our soul.

As I have mentioned in the past on the blog, I have an autoimmune disease.  It can leave me feeling beat down and fatigued… even after a full night of sleep.  Part of getting a hold on my health was making decisions about what I would eat, how I would spend my energy, and the products I use on my body.  I needed to detox my body of all the bad things that could be getting in the way of my health.  This was an important step in healing my body so that I could do all that I wanted to with my life, my time, my energy.

Just like our bodies can be burdened by what we eat and drink, our heart and soul can be burdened by the sin of the world.  There are our own personal sins of days past that may haunt us, the sins of others which create anger and resentment; even the daily news can break our hearts for what is happening all around us.  If I want to improve my physical health, I must be mindful of what I eat and drink, put onto my body, and what I do with my body.  So much I take tender care with my heart and soul.  We can’t take care of the outside of the temple, and let the inside rot away or cave in under the burdens of the world.

Whispers of Rest by Bonnie Gray walk us through 40 days of detoxing our soul through devotions that remind us of how God sees us (as beloved) and what that means in our choices, our daily lives, our future dreams, and healing from the inside out.  Each day explores the theme for that day, The Word, coupled with prayers and reflections, and calls to action to reclaim our mental, spiritual, and physical selves.

booktour3

 

Remarkable Faith by Shauna Letellier is a fantastic book, truly.  Letellier explores those incidences in Biblical history where the faith of others caused Jesus to take pause.  These were people that remained unnamed and yet we talk about them to day.  We call her the “woman with the blood disorder”, and we call him the Roman Centurion.  There are others too, whom we know just by their affliction, pain, tragedy… and their display of remarkable faith.

I can’t recall reading a book from this perspective, where the focus was on the nameless people who had a faith that was stronger than their affliction; and that is so relevant today.  These are the true stories of people whom we could (and probably do) encounter in our churches every day, on the streets as we pass by, and even in the dynamics of our own families.  I think this would be a fantastic book for a small group, or even potentially a starting point for a sermon series.

I think of so many women, in particular, who feel unseen.  These nine people remind us that even those who names may be lost to history were far from unseen.  They were known by God who created them, known by the Savior who marveled at their faith

Lamenting Podcasts – #Write31Days

podcast

Can I be honest with you?

I despise podcasts.  I truly do.

I have done my very best to give them a fair shake.

The first time I attempted to listen to a podcast, was several years ago.  I was trying to make an effort to walk a mile or so per day, around my neighborhood.  I asked a few of my friends to recommend podcasts to listen to as I walked.  I needed something other than music, because as a theatre nerd … well, I am prone to sing and dance along.  Pretty much can’t help it.  It’s what we do.

I remember flipping through one after another, but nothing could grab my attention.  I wasn’t hearing anything exciting, in fact they made me sleepy.  I was bored out of my mind.  Flipped over to my mp3 player and returned to music.

Then my husband started listening to podcasts.  He would come home from work and talk about really interesting topics that he picked up through podcasts.  I remember the first time he recommended a podcast that I should just listen to.  He was convinced I’d be as fascinated by it as he was.  I got the name of the podcast, title of the show, and then he dropped the bomb shell.  It was approximately THREE HOURS of talking on the subject. My husband drives all over the county for his job.  I can understand how he can work through three hours of a podcast.  I have nowhere in my life where that sounds like a fun way to spend three hours of my life.

Finally, my husband started trying to force us to listen to them when going on long car rides.  The topics sounded interesting, but I was blown away by how boring they were.  One podcast took twenty minutes just to get through their show intro and banter before starting on the topic. Another one consisted of clips from radio shows, documentaries, and interviews. They probably had an hour of clips and two hours of their introducing the clips or repeating what was said in the clips to each other.  Oohs and ahs, and setting up questions to be answered in the next clip.  A third was full of details I really didn’t need to know in order to set up the story.  The color of your shirt, that’s just not relevant… unless the podcast is about that shirt.

I feel like podcasts take people who are long story tellers, give them 15 minutes of content, and then they extrapolate that content for a full hour show.  I keep shouting in my mind GET TO THE POINT!

There was one podcast that had the longest music intro I have ever heard in my life.

So… if you love podcasts… sell me on them.  Who do you listen to, why do you love them, and why should I give them a shot?

Successful Women – #Write31Days

successfulwomen

Quite often, when a woman wants to understand biblical womanhood… she turns to the Proverbs 31 scripture. However, this is not the only woman ever mentioned in the scriptures.  She is among the company of many notable women who fulfilled very specific roles in God’s plan.

Esther.  Deborah. Miriam. Hagar. Mary. Martha. Eunice. Lois, Priscilla. Lydia. Mary Magdalene.

And those are just the ones we have names for.  There is also the woman at the well, the woman who touched the hem of his robe… just as examples.

FaithWords provided the book Successful Women of the Bible to be reviewed, and I think it is a valuable addition to your library.  If you are a fan of Liz Curtis Higgins Bad Girls of the Bible books, you’ll have the same affinity for Successful Women of the Bible.  Washington Patton looks at these influential women in the scriptures, updates their story to a more modern adaptation that readers can relate to.

Each chapter focuses on one woman’s story, allowing you to work through this book as quickly or slowly as you wish.  It would make a great book for a Christian Women’s Book Club, Small Group Study, or broken up into a series of Women’s Ministry event topics.

Women’s Ministry – #Write31Days

MBA

Have you noticed it, a shift happening in your church in regards to the Women’s Ministry.  Are you seeing a change in attendance and commitment, or are you caught up doing the same thing you’ve always done?  I’m sensing it, a change in the air.  Women’s Ministry leaders and teams are feeling the call for a more meaningful ministry.

When Women’s Ministry starts to fade, it is due to a lacking somewhere in the ministry.  A lack of support from the church, maybe.  An inability to meet the needs of the women in the church, possibly.  A fracture in the ministry team or ineffective leader, another viable option.  A growing, thriving, successful ministry doesn’t just arbitrarily take  u-turn and fade into oblivion.  Something was happening behind the scenes.

A Women’s Ministry that is just treading water, reminds me of the lukewarm Christian.  Doing just enough to survive, be present, placate the women with an offering of fellowship events and activities without asking too much of them.  It is a ministry that takes no risk, and goes through the motions.

The Women’s Ministry that has ignited a fire in the body of women, is a ministry that has set it’s sights on Kingdom work.  They are not afraid to challenge women and take them out of their comfort ones.  It is a ministry that cares for the spiritual life of the women it serves, and consists of leaders who die to self to serve well.

It is time, Women’s Ministry leaders, to stop seeing Women’s Ministry in the scope of how we have always done things.  It’s time to take this role given to us seriously by creating a ministry that is gospel centered, and disciple making.  Our purpose to Women’s Ministry should first and foremost be ministering to women in their need.  What do women in the church need?

  • They need to be biblically literate.
  • They need to understand how to defend their faith, not just to others but to themselves when she finds herself in a season of doubt.
  • They need a community of iron sharpens iron sisters, who bear each others burdens, provide wise counsel, encourage one another, and with whom we celebrate victory.
  • They need to know what their spiritual gifts are, and given a place to use them.

Our goal should not be to make converts, but disciples.  As leaders we need to create discipleship tracks that walk women through their faith journey, instead of abandoning them at the foot of the cross.

Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

We Need Roots to Grow, To Fruit.

Have you been there?  In the place where the Lord has given you a talent and calling, and yet you don’t ever seem to be able to actually USE it?  It can be a very confusing time, frustrating even.  Perhaps, however, our eyes have been to focused on the finish line that we neglected the process to get there.

I just finished reading Banning Liebscher’s book ROOTED, and I found myself taking my sweet time to get through his message.  Usually, I can finish a book of this size in a weekend.   This time, I would often set the book down for a few days to really think about the points Liebscher was making and looking at my own calling and periods of waiting on the Lord.

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If you have any gardening experience you know the importance of a good root system.   Take a beautifully potted plant and pop it in the ground, and you’ll see the plant go into shock and die.  Why?  You didn’t take the time to tend to the roots before you planted it.  A seed dropped in good, fertile soil will produce strong plants in comparison to seeds careless scattered among the rocks. 

Banning Liebscher takes the time to set the context of his book into the Parable of the Soils, and then walks through the value of having solid roots in order that we may grow, and bear fruit.  Not just some fruit, but a lot of fruit.  Not just any fruit, but GOOD fruit.  Not just a temporary harvest, but a long and lasting life of fruit bearing.  But, in order to do this … we must have GOOD ROOTS.

Often when we are waiting for the Lord to reveal our calling or make a move, we feel like nothing is happening.  Yet, it is during this time when the Lord is working on our roots.  He has fashioned life around us, opportunities, and put people in place to create a fertile soil in which we can grow.  Then, like a good farmer, He tends to those seeds.  Weeds are pulled, water and nutrients are provided, and He carefully watches over for disease and pests.

Then after all of the work of preparing the soil, tending to the seeds, building up the roots, caring for the shoots… suddenly life bursts out of those gardens.  And it produces fruit, a lot of fruit. Good fruit.  If we want to produce a lot of good, long lasting, fruit… we have to start with our roots.  That means we dig into the Word, build our relationship with Christ, allow the Holy Spirit access to our lives to move it and shape it, and trust that the Lord’s plans will always be good.  We just need to trust in Him who we have faith in. 

If you are ready to start working on those roots, Liebscher’s book ROOTED is a great way to prepare the soil of your heart to receive, foster, and bear the fruit of God’s Word and Love.

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