Thursday, October 25, 2012

Idolatry. Part II.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Lord first began showing me the idolatry in my heart as I began the task of identifying items to be sold at our garage sale.  Each day that week, the Lord hit my heart harder and harder with the revelation of these idols and the ways I had been bowing down to them for years.  At the end of the week I told my husband that I felt like my heart had been through an earthquake, with multiple aftershocks that didn't seem to have an end in sight.  The main earthquake uncovered the idolatry, but each aftershock uncovered more and more sin that had been ignored or forgotten and never really dealt with.  I was feeling completely exposed and raw.  And each time I began to feel slightly 'normal' again, another aftershock would come, leaving everything hazy and uncomfortable all over again. As difficult as all of it was, it's exactly what I needed!  It is by his grace that He uncovers our sin and leads us to repentance.

As it turns out, my words on Sunday night were a bit prophetic:
And that’s really just the beginning of the story, I think.  We still have lots of stuff in our house – lots of stuff I’m emotionally attached to, but rarely – if ever – use.  There are still idols, friends.  I can’t tie a pretty bow on this and tell you that the Lord has cured me of materialism and I’ll never be materialistic again.  But it’s a start and He’s working on it.
On Monday morning I read this post by my friend, Missy, and thought, "Hmm...  Approval.  I do struggle with that.  I should listen to those sermons."  And so Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while I cleaned the house during my daughter's nap, I listened to The Austin Stone Community Church's sermon series entitled, Counterfeit Love.


The first sermon was an overview of idolatry:

  • The very first commandment God gave Moses was "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • King Solomon tells us that "...he has put eternity into man's heart..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11b)  In other words, He has given us a desire to know Him, and He is the only thing who can fill that desire.
  • And the verse I clung to falsely when I was single, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)  It makes so much sense to me now:  When I delight in Jesus, He gives me more of Himself.  He is the desire of my heart.

The second sermon covered the 4 basic types of idolatry:
  • Power
  • Control
  • Comfort
  • Approval
I seriously was only listening to this series because it covered Approval, but holy. moly.  As it turns out, I want ALL of these things!!!  Seriously??!!  Gotta love the daily reminders of how deeply flawed and sinful I am because it shows me how much I need Jesus.

The third sermon covered healing.  
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6) 
He wants to heal me of my idolatry!  I'm convinced that's why He continues to shake up my heart every week - and sometimes every day!  It's the way He draws me to Himself to know Him - reminders of my completely broken, wicked heart.  A heart that whores after other gods, a heart that would often desire comfort over sacrifice; idols over Jesus.  Lord, help me!  But I am thankful.  Thankful He does not condemn me, but like the woman caught in adultery, he says, 

"Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." (John 8:3-11)  

Grace.  Unfathomable grace.  Grace that draws me near to Him.  Grace that brings freedom.  Grace that stirs a love in my heart for Him that changes who I am.  

He is good, Friends.  Know Him.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Idols and a Garage Sale

As I have come to know Jesus over the last couple years, He has begun to change my heart regarding many things.  One of those things is caring for the poor and the oppressed.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, seeing poverty in Ethiopia hit me hard.  It messed me up for months.  Now I’m at least able to think about it somewhat rationally, without being completely overcome with emotion, but I hope I never lose the ache in my heart when I recall what I’ve seen. 

After our second trip to Ethiopia in March, Rob and I began praying and talking about what we could actually do to help.  We have sponsored a little girl in Ethiopia through World Vision for the last 3 years, but it seemed like God was calling us to more.  As I thought about it, I realized there were no shortage of organizations to support; if we wanted to just give money to an organization to make ourselves feel better, it would have been easy.  And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that He had a unique opportunity for us.

One day, as I was thinking about our trip to Ethiopia in March, I realized what our opportunity was.  Before we took placement of our daughter, we were able to travel to Gondar, where she was born, to visit the orphanage where she lived for 3 months.  Bridge of Hope was amazing.  The kids we saw were happy and well cared for.  The housing was certainly adequate and each house even had its own garden.  They also have a cafĂ© that they run to earn money to support themselves.  I later ran across this video that also shows how they even support at-risk kids in the community.  Bridge of Hope is doing wonderful things.  But as we learned while we were there, although they have many ways to support themselves, they still need donations.  And specifically, children need sponsors.  As Rob and I thought and talked about it, we realized this was at least one opportunity we had to do our part in helping fight poverty.  However, we were kind of at a loss as to how we could really do that since we were down to one income and had just added a member to our family.

Shortly thereafter, we were in church one Sunday and our pastor was preaching out of Luke 12.  His actual sermon was taken from verses 13-21, pertaining to the Rich Young Fool.  I believe the sermon was about hoarding – or at least that’s what I got out of it – but it was what Jesus said in verse 21 that really caught my attention:

“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

And I thought to myself, “what does He mean to be ‘rich toward God?’  I have no idea.”  So I kept reading.  In verses 22 through 32, He talks about how we shouldn’t be anxious, but instead trust the Father for our needs – particularly our physical needs for food and clothing.  And I thought, “OK, I get that, but I’m still not understanding how I should be rich toward God.”  And then I got there:

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)


But unlike The Rich Young Ruler’s response (and frankly, my own response any other time I’ve read this), I didn’t walk away sad, I finally said, “YES!!”  What the Holy Spirit said to me that day was that I was hoarding my possessions.  We have plentyway more than we need – and we could sell many of our possessions so that we had money to sponsor a child at Bridge of Hope. 

And so we started the process of selling some of our possessions.  Rob was able to sell his PS3 within a couple days of us making the decision; then we sold all of Lottie’s outgrown clothes and gear at a large consignment sale; and then we had a garage sale where we sold lots of other stuff.  We still have several things to sell – some books and electronics that we think we can get more money through other avenues – but the Lord was faithful to allow us to sell almost every single thing we have attempted to sell. 

So, in addition to really learning that the Lord would be faithful to complete that which He has begun, I also learned how stinkin’ materialistic I really am.  As I went through the process of going through my possessions, not to simply de-clutter, but to assess what I really needed, my hoarding heart was exposed.  For those of you who know me, you might be surprised at this.  I used to have a family member who was a bit of a hoarder.  When compared to her, I could never be called a hoarder, but with every decision, every piece of clothing put in the “sell” pile, I began to feel more and more raw, exposed.  I had come face to face with the fact that I found comfort, security and maybe even status, in my possessions.  It was then that the rest of Jesus’s words began to sink in:

“Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

See, I thought that we were just going to sell some extra possessions so that we could give to those who were in need, but the Lord knew my heart, and He knew what needed to be done.  He exposed my idolatry – because let’s call it what it is.  If I found comfort in my stuff, then I wasn’t finding comfort in Him.  And that’s idolatry.  One of many idols in my life, I suspect.

And that’s really just the beginning of the story, I think.  We still have lots of stuff in our house – lots of stuff I’m emotionally attached to, but rarely – if ever – use.  There are still idols, friends.  I can’t tie a pretty bow on this and tell you that the Lord has cured me of materialism and I’ll never be materialistic again.  But it’s a start and He’s working on it.

So how about you?  Do you find yourself, like me, storing up treasure which can be stolen, and moth and rust destroy?  How has the Lord taught you about storing up treasure in Heaven?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Playing Church

What I didn’t tell you the other day about reading David Platt’s Radical was that I had actually bought it and tried to read it a few months before our church read it together.  I didn’t get very far in it before I just had to stop reading it.  It was “too much.”  At the time, I couldn’t really define what that meant, but by the time I picked it up again, I understood.  In short, it was legalism that kept me from getting more than a chapter or two into it. 

The version of Christianity I subscribed to up until a couple of years ago looked a lot like a to-do list:
  • Go to church most every Sunday
  •  Take an active role in church, such as participating in Bible Studies (or even leading them), be on a committee, or volunteer in some other capacity.  And the more you can do of these things, the better.
  • Read Bible daily
  •  Pray daily
  •  Don’t cuss
  •  Don’t drink excessively
  • Don’t have sex with anyone other than your spouse
  •  Take care of the house
  •  Be a good wife
  •  Be a good employee
  •  Be a good friend
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Volunteer with organizations outside of church

…and I’m sure the list could go on, but these are the things that immediately came to mind.  This was what consumed my life.  Some of it took work, some of it really didn’t, but I was busy enough keeping up with that list.  So when David Platt came along saying Jesus said things like:

“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)

“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33)

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

… it was just “too much.”  I already had a to-do list a mile long, I couldn’t add those crazy things to it.  So I put the book away.  I’m so thankful God had other plans for me and wouldn’t let me run from what He wanted to teach me.

What I learned between the first and second times I picked up Radical was that I had been trying my best to reconcile myself to God.  That, my friends, is the essence of legalism.  I don’t really remember being taught too much about legalism in church (ha-ha), but I think I always had a vague notion that it involved having to wear dresses, not being able to cut your hair or following a very rigid worship style.  If pushed, I probably would have said that legalists were people who felt like God wouldn’t be pleased with them if they didn’t do such-and-such.  But I don’t think I would have gone so far as to say they were trying to reconcile themselves to God by those rules.  And that’s where I was deceived.  I had a whole laundry list of dos and don’ts that were the rules I lived by – the rules that pleased God – the rules that, when followed, reconciled me to Him.  I realize now what blasphemy that was.  Now, I fully understand when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)  I needed to learn the depths of my sinfulness and trust that Jesus was the only means of salvation, rather than compiling my own list of “righteous deeds” that could somehow earn salvation.

The other day I was reading Acts 5, and came across a familiar passage:  Ananias and Sapphira.  If you’re familiar with the Bible, you might remember that this is the story where Ananias lies to Peter about some money that he’s donating to the church, Peter rebukes him  for lying and then he just falls down, dead.  A little later, Ananias’ wife, Sapphira comes to Peter, corroborates Ananias’ story, and then she falls down, dead, as well.  Harsh, right?!  I always read it as a simple story about why you shouldn’t lie.  And, to be honest, I didn’t really get what it had to do with the rest of Acts, other than to maybe show Peter’s power.

But this time when I read it, I saw a story I’d never seen before.  If you back up to the end of Acts 4, you see the first Christians taking care of each other’s needs.  How?

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:34-37)

Then what happens?

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,  and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 5:1-2)

Oh, I see.  Ananias and Sapphira want to look holy.  They want to do what everybody else is doing.  They want to be seen as self-sacrificial, generous.  But they’re not.  They can’t let all of that money go, so they hold part of it back and then… pretend.  Peter’s response just cuts to the heart of it:

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

Ouch.  That really hurts.  Because that’s exactly what I used to do.  I looked around and saw what everybody else was doing and I copied them.  I faked it.  I had no idea I was faking it, but my heart looked a lot like Ananias and Sapphira’s. 

Remember my to-do list?  There’s nothing wrong with those things.  There’s nothing un-Biblical about them.  But when they come from a heart that’s trying to earn salvation, rather than a heart that loves Jesus and trusts in His grace, then, as Peter says, we’re not lying to men, but to God. 

The reason I’m so passionate about this is simple: I can’t believe I’m the only one who has bought this lie.  I can’t believe I’m the only one who, despite years of church and Christian education, thought Christianity was all about dos and don’ts, rather than Jesus’ grace.

I don’t expect any comments on this.  And at this point, honestly, I’m not sure anybody is even reading this.  But I beg of you: ask the Lord to examine your heart.  Ask Him to show you if you’re playing church like Ananias, Sapphira and me.   And if the answer is Yes, trust that by Jesus’ grace alone, you are reconciled to God.  Burn your to-do list and ask Him to show you what it really looks like to follow Him.  He is faithful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Responding to Poverty

This is the post I’ve been struggling all year to write. 

When we traveled to Ethiopia in January to meet our daughter and go to court, my life changed forever.  Yes, I got to meet my daughter, but that’s not the change I’m talking about.  I’m talking about poverty.  Suffocating, overwhelming, never-ending, poverty.  I thought I’d seen poverty before, but living in the US had not prepared me for poverty that was so rampant and ran so deep.  Please don’t misunderstand, Ethiopia is a beautiful country filled with exquisite people.  Their history is deep and rich, and I believe their future is getting brighter.  But there are lots of people – families –  who still have a long way to go.

While I was there, I just took it all in, detached – probably because I knew that once I began to respond emotionally, the feelings would overwhelm me.  And they did for a while.  For a long while, actually.  For months.  I remember talking to Rob about it one day, telling him that I felt like we were somehow responsible for what we’d seen – responsible to tell people, or do something, although I had no idea what to do.  It still felt very overwhelming.  I remember telling him that I didn’t think I could like myself very much if I didn’t respond in some way.  Not long after that I read Ann VosKamp’s post after she returned from Haiti.  She articulated what I was feeling so much better than I had:

I’m angry that I’ve seen and I’m ashamed that I am angry and I’m angry that I’ve seen and now I am responsible. More than respons-able – we’re response-bound. Once we have seen the poor, we are responsible — we will make a response. As long as your heart is beating, there’s no such thing as unresponsive. We all look into the face of the poor and it’s either Yes, I will help. Or no, I won’t.

There’s no getting off the hook.

Faith cannot have a non-response.

We’re either responding with indifference or with intercession, either with apathy or aid.

You can’t look into the face of the poor and just plead the fifth amendment. Your life is always your answer.

Yeah.  What she said.

Before we went to Ethiopia in January, we had been told by our agency to expect that people would ask us for food or money, so we took lots of granola bars with us.  And boy did people ask us for food and money.  Actually, it was mostly Rob they approached.  I’m not sure anybody asked me for anything at all.  I mostly stood back and tried to discreetly take pictures.  I just wanted to make sure I didn’t forget – forget their faces or their gratitude.  I have struggled with whether or not to post these pictures because the last thing I want to do is rob anyone of their dignity.  My hope is that by showing you what I’ve seen, you will at the very least have a better understanding of the events that have shaped me.

This woman approached our car, asking Rob for food.  She was so grateful for the granola bar he gave her.

At the top of Mt. Entoto.  I can only assume she lives here.

Also at the top of Mt. Entoto.  This woman was filled with gratitude for what she received.

Also at the top of Mt. Entoto.

All the way up and down Mt. Entoto, we saw women carrying upwards of 150 pounds of firewood on their backs to make the equivalent of a few US dollars.

This is outside Korah, the town dump.  Many people live here.  This large hill is actually trash.  

This boy wanted so badly to wash Rob's shoes, but he didn't have any money with him this afternoon.  Even in the midst of extreme poverty, there is still such unspeakable joy.

After praying about our response for the last several months, I think the Lord has finally begun to give us direction.  We’ve stepped out in faith to do the things we know He’s called us to do, but I think there’s still more to come.  I’ll be sharing more of that in the coming posts, but for now, let’s talk.  

Have you seen poverty outside of the US?  If so, how have you responded?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting Radical

As the Lord continued to draw me near to Him, teach me the reality of my sin and the truth of His grace, affection for Jesus truly developed in a way that I had never known it before.  It was about that time that our pastor asked the church to go through David Platt’s book, Radical, together.  And from the moment I read the first words of the first chapter, the Lord grabbed my heart and said, “Listen to this!”  If you’re not familiar with this book, here’s the summary from Amazon:

What is Jesus worth to you?

It's easy for American Christians to forget how Jesus said his followers would actually live, what their new lifestyle would actually look like. They would, he said, leave behind security, money, convenience, even family for him. They would abandon everything for the gospel. They would take up their crosses daily...

But who do you know who lives like that? Do you?

In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple--then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a "successful" suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.

Finally, he urges you to join in The Radical Experiment--a one-year journey in authentic discipleship that will transform how you live in a world that desperately needs the Good News Jesus came to bring.

For the most part, he just quoted Scripture, but I read it with new eyes and a new heart.  My view of the world and my responsibility toward it began to change.  Here are some points which have deeply affected me:
  1. The version of Christianity I was comfortable with looked a whole lot more like the American Dream than the version of Christianity Jesus preached.
  2. I am rich.  I don’t mean spiritually (although I am), I mean financially.  Statistically, I live in the top 1% of the wealthiest people in the world.
  3. People who die without knowing Jesus will go to Hell.
  4. If Jesus said things like, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” multiple times to multiple people, I have to think He meant it, and maybe it didn’t apply only to the people to whom He said it.  Maybe it could apply to me in some way.

But let’s face it, I could just take all of this and make a new form of legalism.  I could make a new checklist and get going trying to reconcile myself to God.  But I’m so thankful that when I read this, I was also listening to Matt Chandler remind me that Jesus wants my heart and not my good behavior / begrudging submission.  That’s about the time I realized that if Scripture says “XYZ,” and I’m looking for ways to get out of it, then there’s a problem with my heart. 

And so these truths are steadily sinking into my heart.  The more I read the Bible, and the more I ask the Lord to transform me, the better I begin to see what this could possibly look like for me, and for our family.  Last year, the only really big difference it made was that Rob & I volunteered at an income-restricted apartment complex in our area.  We got to hang out with kids and build relationships with them, and sometimes their parents.  That opportunity ended earlier this year for us, but I look back and think what a small step of faith it was to step out and volunteer, but how much it took me out of my comfort zone.  Even still, it also kind of felt like home.  It’s hard to describe how something so foreign can at the same time feel so familiar, but I think that’s often how God’s plans work.

So what about you?  Are you following Jesus, or the American Dream with Jesus dust sprinkled on top?  What Scriptures have challenged you to ask the Lord to examine your heart?  And how has following the Lord fleshed itself out in your life?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Running from Jesus

When we started our adoption process, I felt for the first time in a long time – maybe ever – like I was doing what I was made to do.  And I think when the Lord blesses you that way, it creates in you more affection for Him. I think that’s what started the snowball effect.  About this time two years ago I remember feeling spiritually malnourished.  I was attending church every week and reading my Bible every day, but it just felt like it wasn’t enough – like I needed more.  I’d been thinking that I needed to download some Matt Chandler sermons to listen to in the car, so one Saturday morning while I was praying about feeling spiritually malnourished, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me of what I’d been wanting to do, that I had plenty of time to do it then, so why didn’t I just get up, walk across the room and make a CD for the car.  Thankfully I obeyed because listening to those sermons changed my life.

Here are some things Matt said that totally rocked my world:
  1. The Lord wants my heart, not my begrudging submission.
  2. All of my righteous acts are like filthy rags (literally: menstrual cloths (Isaiah 64:6)).
  3. I am saved by grace alone.  NOTHING I can do on my own will reconcile me to God (see #2).

OK.  Can we just take a break from the story here and talk about this.  The big question I’m still wrestling with two years later is: 

Why was this NEW to me?  

I would have been so insulted had anyone ever questioned whether or not I knew this.  OF COURSE I did!  I was always in church, paying attention, even taking NOTES!  I have an undergraduate degree in Christian Studies and a Master’s degree in Christian Education, for crying out loud!  But seriously people, until I started listening to Matt Chandler, I never really got it.  Part of me feels like I should be ashamed of that, but I’m just so thankful Jesus grabbed my heart when He did, that I just feel like the past is the past.  Nevertheless, it’s a troubling question for me because I suspect I’m not alone.  I’m not trying to solve the problem, or play the blame game here.  My goal in bringing this up is to create a space where I can be honest, and you can be honest. 

One of the things Matt talks about a lot is having a genuine affection for Jesus.  I remember the first time I heard him talk about that.  I was lying to myself, but I didn’t know it.  And I certainly wasn’t doing it intentionally.  I wasn’t trying to run from Jesus.  I just didn’t know Him, have a relationship with Him, or have any affection for Him.  So when Matt asked, “What are the things that stir your affections toward Jesus?” I didn’t know.  And it wasn’t until later that I realized that I didn’t know what stirred my affections for Jesus, because I didn’t love Jesus to begin with. 

I should also clarify that none of this happened over night.  I wasn’t immediately convicted about my lack of affection for Jesus, but after listening to multiple sermons every day for a few months (y’all, I’m so slow), so many things started to make sense.  And I began to see that the life I was living didn’t match with what I said I believed.  I think the biggest area was grace.  I thought I believed I was saved by grace alone, but practically I was living like Jesus was my supplemental insurance:  I did my part in earning God’s favor, and then Jesus got me the rest of the way there.  Two years later, I’m still realizing how legalism has been the foundation of every area of my life.  And while I am definitely recovering from legalism, it’s still an ongoing process.  I could talk a whole lot more about legalism, but that’s another post for another day, and there’s still more to this story.

But for now, what about you?  Do you have a genuine affection for Jesus?  If so, when and how did it develop?  If you’re not sure, I’m praying for you and would love to talk about it with you some time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Middle Part

After graduating from high school, I went on to attend Union University.  It was like youth camp every day, except we had classes like Calculus, Physics and Microeconomics.  Everybody was a Christian.  I learned a whole lot more about having a personal relationship with the Lord and TONS of theology.  About half-way through my college career, I sensed the Lord was calling me to vocational ministry, so I changed my major from Accounting to Christian Studies.  And while I grew tremendously over those 4 and a half years, periodically something bothered me.  Sometimes people would talk about loving Jesus, and when I was honest with myself, I had to say that I didn't really get it.  Love for God, I got.  But Jesus?  Not so much.  Everything he said was kind of obscure, and I just felt like I couldn't relate.  But I didn't let myself worry about it much, and hardly ever thought about it.

After taking a year off after college, I moved to Texas to go to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The first semester was awesome. I loved school, I loved being on my own, I loved where the Lord had me.  But after spending the summer working at a church in Montana, I struggled with coming back to Texas.  It was hard for me to put my finger on it at the time, but I now realize what I loved about being in Montana was that the people there had genuine faith that I desperately needed.  They weren't playing church; it wasn't socially acceptable for them to be Christians.  No, they genuinely loved Jesus and walked with him each day.

My second semester in seminary was terrible.  I was mad at God for bringing me back to Texas when all I wanted was to be in Montana. I had a terrible attitude; and every second of that semester was torture.  I suppose it got better after that.  I repented of my attitude, grew closer to the Lord, and tolerated school.  But by the time I was finished with school, I was completely burned out.  I wasn't really interested in anything about the Lord that would require me to think.  And I certainly didn't want to act on anything.  I just wanted to sit back and rest. 

Rob asked me out on our first date the day after I graduated from seminary, so instead of pursuing my plan to move back to Nashville and edit curriculum for LifeWay, I just stayed in Texas and took a temp job. It was quickly apparent to both of us that we wanted to get married, and 6 months later we were engaged, the temp job became a permanent job and 8 months after that we were married.  

We've been married now for about 8 and a half years.  I remember really struggling with loving the Lord for those first few years because I loved Rob so much.  I had wanted to be married for so long that it had become my functional savior – I thought marriage would be the thing to save me from my miserable life (which really wasn't that miserable, but I thought so at the time).  So then, once we’d been married for a while, I began to think having a baby would satisfy me.  As I've written before, I spent a miserable year being mad at God for not allowing that to happen.  But He is faithful and continued to show me how much He loved me.  

What about you?  How did your faith develop after you first believed?

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Early Years

Until the time I was 13, my family attended a United Methodist church.  I don’t really remember much of what was taught, but I know that I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed in middle school.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love God.  I grew up learning about Him, understanding He wanted me to be good and live a moral life. I believed He was near and that He loved me.  I could go to Him for anything, whenever I wanted.  But I don’t remember much importance (if any) being placed on accepting Jesus as my Savior. 

When my family moved from North Carolina to Indiana, we stopped going to church for a while.  But, I met a girl at school and she invited me to her church and I began regularly attending with her.  This church was a lot different than the Methodist church we’d attended in North Carolina.  After attending for several months, I began to better understand the concept of salvation and the necessity of asking Jesus to save me from my sins.  So, at youth camp, the summer I was 15, I “rededicated” my life to the Lord. I realize now I was too prideful to admit I wasn’t a Christian up until that point.  Nevertheless, I was baptized by immersion soon after and remember experiencing an indescribable joy.  I can remember so clearly being in the baptistery wanting everyone in the church to hear the answers to the questions they asked me, so EVERYONE would know that I was a follower of Jesus Christ.

As time went on, however, I lost that joy.  What I remember being taught in youth group was, essentially, legalism: Don’t hang out with non-Christians; Don’t listen to secular music; Don’t drink; Don’t smoke; Don’t have sex before you’re married; Don’t watch Rated-R movies; and the list goes on.  And I kind of get it.  We were out-of-control teenagers and our youth sponsors were just trying to keep us under control.  But while I was a really good girl, I didn’t love Jesus.  I did everything I was supposed to do, and didn’t do the things I wasn’t supposed to.  I followed the rules.

What about you?  Did you grow up loving Jesus?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Searching for Treasure

A couple of years ago, the Lord began a work in me.  It started so subtly, I didn't even realize it at first.  But now, looking back on the last couple of years, I realize transformation has begun - and is happening now.  And what I'm beginning to see is that it all comes down to that which I treasure.  Do I treasure this world and the comfort it provides?  Or do I treasure Jesus and His Kingdom?  What I am slowly starting to see is that while I say I treasure the latter, in reality I treasure the former.

I invite you to join me on a journey.  Because I believe this journey has been initiated - and is being sustained - by the Lord, it seems only fitting to glorify Him by openly sharing where I've been, where I am, and where He leads me. It's a journey that promises at times to be messy, painful, and unclear, but also fully of joy and adventure.

Will you join me?  It's my goal to be as honest as I can be, and I would love nothing more than to dialogue with you!