Called, loved, kept

Call, love, kept.  All four letter words, all with profound meaning.  I have for a long time understood that God “called” me for a purpose.  I have understood with my mind that I am deeply loved by God.  The idea of being “kept” by God is one I am just beginning to grasp.   I feel these are not just words but concepts that need to be not just “brain” knowledge but “heart” knowledge as well.   When it becomes “heart” knowledge that is the moment when it becomes an ingrained truth.

As I said I know I have been called by God for a purpose, a “calling” in my life.  I have limited that to my vocation or what I do with my time.  I have frequently missed the first and most important part of this calling.   Jude chapter 1 verse 1 is addressed to all who are called, loved, and kept by God.  I don’t believe the ordering of the words is random.  I am of the belief that calling is listed first because in order to know we are loved and kept by God we must first enter into relationship with him.

I have always known God loves me, but it was merely something I knew in my mind, not something that had taken root in my heart.  I didn’t think I was worth loving by anybody much less the God of the universe.  I didn’t love myself, how could anybody else love me?  Something has happened though. As I have entered more and more into relationship with God, and the more I have learned to love myself, the more I KNOW God loves me.  I don’t just understand it, I KNOW it.  I don’t doubt it.  Whatever I do, no matter how I might fail or how I might succeed God LOVES me.   Just like God loves you too.  No matter what, God loves you too.

What does being “kept” by God mean?  I think about the crown jewels of England. They are kept under protection and constant surveillance.  This is what being kept by God means.  We are never out of his sight, never out of the realm of his protection.  This doesn’t mean bad things will never happen.  I’m sure the crown jewels have been dropped a few times, and needed repairs.  So it is with us. Life happens, we get dropped, and we need repairs.  God makes a way for healing to happen. That doesn’t mean we are any less protected by God.  He sees us, he knows us, and we are always, always in his loving care.

It is my earnest prayer that first and foremost you would answer the call to enter into relationship with God.  I won’t sugar coat it and tell you it will fix everything, and life will be rainbows and roses from now on. It won’t.  But, I can promise you will be loved. And I pray that you will begin to know how deeply loved by God you are.  That you won’t just understand it as a concept in your mind, but that your heart will grasp it and you will know beyond all doubt, you are loved.  Lastly, I pray you will know that you are kept in God’s care.  Even when you are damaged, get hurt, and need repairs, you are always in God’s sight, never out of the reach of his hand.

Click here to listen to the sermon, “Someone’s Calling” by Pastor Jan

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June 6, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

What Do You Want?

    It has been said that a kind word turns away wrath and harsh words stir up strife (Proverbs 15:1).  What do we do then when faced with a situation in which we are hurt and offended? Be kind and forgive or be mean and cause more strife? This leads to a more important question. How do we want to be known, which action do we want to persevere?

    It has been my experience that when I have been hurt and in anger, hurt the person back, more strife has been caused.  A bigger argument ensued, and the relationship was much harder to repair, if repaired at all.  The strife persevered. However, in situations in which I have done the opposite and spoke kindly and forgiven it has turned out much more positively. Peace has persevered and the relationship remained intact.   Kindness and forgiveness stops strife and ends the argument. 

                    I am not perfect in this, nor will I ever be.  I am going to struggle.  I do struggle.  Especially the kind words, I would much rather spew my anger at the person who hurt me.  That is much easier than confronting my feelings in my own heart, sorting thru it in my own mind. Why?  When I am kind and forgive, I see my own faults and shortcomings in the situation.  A relationship is a two way street.  I have to look at myself as well who hurt me.  Then I grow, and the love of Christ shines more in me.

     Now, I write understanding fully that sometimes forgiveness needs to occur but the relationship cannot, nor should it, be repaired.   Examples would be abusive or unhealthy relationships.   Let’s face it.  Some people are not healthy and like to live life in constant strife and upheaval. I think in those cases it is ok to be kind to them and forgive when hurt but not maintain relationship or have very strict boundaries in place.   In extreme cases such as these, forgiveness doesn’t have or need to be a verbal conversation. You can write a letter that you will never send, say it in a prayer to God or talk it over with a pastor or therapist. In these special circumstances wisdom must be sought and used.

   One final thought.  What do you want to persevere?  As I thought this over the last few days, I know what I want. I want kindness and forgiveness to persevere.    Not so people can think I am such a great person. No. I want kindness and forgiveness to persevere so people can know Jesus and experience HIS forgiveness. 

May 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Grace and Grits

           I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the doors of “Grace and Grits”. I certainly had never been closer to a homeless person than handing them a dollar or bottle of water out of my car window. I was nervous, and maybe a tad bit scared. Serving the homeless was well out of my zone of comfort, but serving isn’t about being comfortable.

       I admit it. I was a bit judgmental before last night.   In my selfish little middle class mind a homeless person really didn’t have an identity beyond that of “homeless”. I mean surely they were drug addicted alcoholic dead beats whose bad choices led to them being homeless. Oh how the mighty fell last night.

Pastor Jan reminded us before serving that these people were people just like ourselves. They have a name too, and an identity beyond that of “homeless”.   These were people whom deserved my respect as much as any stranger I come across in a day. They deserved my smiles, and my kindness. More than that, they deserved the love of Christ.   And last night the love of Christ was the hands and feet of those serving.   Christ love was literally in my hands and the steps of my feet.   I was humbled.

       I saw a lot that made my heart break. I saw mommies walking in with their hungry babies and kids. I saw young women, old women, younger men, and old men.   Homelessness and hunger affects young and old. Here is the odd thing. These people who had nothing smiled back at me. Me, who has a home, a car, food (probably too much) in my belly, and clothes (nice ones) on my back; I have everything. Again I was humbled. Being the hands and feet of Christ, and really realizing just how blessed I am, wasn’t what affected me most. No. It was the difference between their brokenness and mine.

         In MY eyes there is but one difference between their brokenness and mine. Theirs is evident, mine is not. I see their dirty clothes, their signs as they stand on the corners of my streets. I don’t know how they got to such a broken place. Maybe they made poor decisions that led to their homelessness. I may not be homeless, but I have made poor decisions with dire consequences. I have strongholds in my life, things that have kept me from living a life of joy. You can’t see it, but the fact remains. I am just as broken as they are.   And I am humbled again.

         Christ loves those homeless people just as much as he loves me. In HIS eyes, our brokenness is the same.   We have the same identity in him. We were all “Knit together in our mother’s womb. Fearfully and wonderfully made, a wonderful work, whose days were all ordained for us before one of them came to be. His thoughts about each one of us so vast, they outnumber the grains of sand.” (Psalms 139) In the eyes of Christ we are all the same. Precious and loved.  

       I went to serve but came away with a changed heart. I will now look upon the homeless person on the street corner as a person, with a name and an identity. A person loved just as much as I am, with great worth, despite our brokenness.

   “ Oh how he loves us”( David Crowder)….

April 24, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Easter Sunday

     I admit it. I went to church this morning jaded but desperate. I have long been used to “Easter Sermons”. You know the ones; “Jesus died on the cross for your sins, rose again, accept Jesus as you Savior.” Now, there is NOTHING wrong with those kinds of sermons, those are needed and necessary. I was just desperate to hear something new. I went to church this morning and felt the shackles fall off. It was an amazing feeling.

   I have long believed a lie. The lie that I somehow had to “maintain” my salvation. That my relationship with Jesus was based on how much I read my bible, prayed, how many hours of worship music I listened to every week, and whether or not I felt “close” to Jesus.   That lie was shattered this morning when I heard my pastor say “Jesus maintains the relationship. He did the work on the cross. It isn’t about your perception or how you feel. It is about reading your bible, praying, because you LOVE him.” Mind blown. WHAT!? I thought I HAD to do all this “stuff”, and when I didn’t Jesus and I weren’t close. LIE.

               Salvation is utterly dependent on what Jesus did on the cross. It was grace given I didn’t earn, and mercy extended that I didn’t deserve.   The work of salvation was completed when Jesus died and rose again; anything I do or don’t do doesn’t add or take away from that. He doesn’t change. My feelings ebb and flow. I am human I fail miserably and often. It doesn’t matter because he is unchanging, constant in his steadfast love and righteousness (see Jeremiah 9:24).

                 Realizing this today was FREEDOM!! Now, I have a choice. I do things for my husband out of love for him not because I feel some sense of obligation as a wife. I talk to him because I want to know him better. It is after all thru communication that our hearts become intertwined into one.  So it is with my relationship with Jesus. I can talk to him, read his words to me, no longer because I feel a sense of obligation, or because I feel like it is necessary to maintain my salvation. No. I can do those things simply because I love him, and I want my heart to be intertwined with his heart. And on those days when I don’t “feel” close to him? I understand now that is ok. It doesn’t change my salvation or take away from it. There are days I don’t “feel” as close to my husband either, but the fact we are still married and very much in love remains. So it is with my salvation. It remains.

   I left church no longer jaded and with a much lighter heart. That is what Easter Sunday is all about, freedom, and a new life. I hope you find it.

   “ Oh precious is the blood…..”        

******  For the podcast of Easter Sunday’s sermon please visit  lifepointchurch.com , it usually posted by mid week!

April 20, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Black Widow…

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     Growing up my favorite female super hero was Wonder Woman. Maybe because that was all I was exposed to, maybe it was her cool invisible jet. I’m not really sure.   Fast forward a few years, and I am introduced to a different female super hero.    And Wonder Woman was instantly replaced, by none other than The Black Widow.

   I was introduced to her in “The Avengers”, and during the movie I said to my husband, “She is a bad ass.” I really didn’t know much else about her after that movie.   Recently, I saw “Captain America: Winter Solider” in which the Black Widow appears. I discovered more about her character, and my love for her grew. I present to you why I love the Black Widow.

She’s unapologetic about who she is.   She is a bad ass and she knows it. She has a history with the KGB, and is a trained assassin. She can lure men into her trap with her sexy looks, bedroom eyes, and then turn the tables on them. She kills and moves on. She apologizes for none of it.   I love this about her, not because she is a trained killer, but because she accepts who she is.   That is the place I strive to be in my own life. So comfortable in my own skin, I longer apologize if someone doesn’t like it.

   She cares about her friends.   This was blindingly evident in “Captain America: Winter Solider”. In the midst of the fighting, she is questioning the Cap about women he may like to date. Women only do that to friends they care about.   The Black Widow is also always there to back her friends up in a fight. She doesn’t leave all the fighting to them, but is quite content to do her fair share and make sure her friends get out alive.

   She’s strong. I love that the Black Widow is not just strong physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. She has to be in order to do what she does.  Again, she doesn’t apologize for this strength. She wears it and wears it well.

              I have enjoyed the Black Widow in both “The Avengers” and “Captain America: Winter Solider”. I would very much like to see Marvel give her a feature film of her own.  She’s a bad ass super hero and she deserves it.   

April 16, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Me, Religion, and Jesus

   Last week something was said to me that gave me pause. I was told I would not have been liked due to my being religious.   I’m not sure how this person defines religion, but I know how I define it and I am not religious. Do I believe in God and Jesus? Absolutely. That doesn’t make me religious. Allow me to explain.                

   I would define religion as following a list of “can”, “cannot”, “should”, and “should not”.   Let me be clear, I understand the Ten Commandments are exactly what I just described.    I agree those commandments should be followed, as does most laws and governments. Religion goes beyond those commandments. It tells you how to dress, what your beliefs are, what you cannot eat, how to pray the “right way”, and tells you not to question what you are told. The list of rules to be followed is endless. Religion keeps you bound, and allows you to hide behind excuses. Religion is life lived from a sense of obligation rather than of love. It prevents true relationship with Jesus because it is a mask that is put on. It keeps you from being real and honest about life and faith.

           I used to be religious. I have felt the shame of committing yet another sin, and the guilt of missing church. I have questioned whether my prayers were good enough, and if I was even praying in the right manner. I believed the lie that if I didn’t pray perfectly my prayers wouldn’t be heard nor answered. Religion left me confused, frustrated, and wanting.  Because of religion I walked away from church for a good long while. I was tired of the game.

             I have since discovered a life changing truth. Jesus wasn’t religious. Jesus went against everything that was religious. Jesus was real, and he had an honest relationship with his heavenly father. It was a relationship of mutual love, not obligation.  He was emotional and expressed those emotions. He asked if it was God’s will to let the pain of the cross pass from him, and then willingly endured it. He had friends, and knew what it was to be both loved and rejected. He slept, ate, partied (the wedding at Canaan), and drank wine. He ministered to those in need. He didn’t judge, he took people as they were and loved them in spite of their frailty. He lived an authentic, honest, no mask life.  That’s relationship.

               I am thru with religion. I desire to be like Jesus. And that means I pursue relationship. Notice the word “real” can be extrapolated from “relationship”. If I want a relationship with Jesus I have to be real.   I can take him my questions, my fears, my hopes, my dreams. I can love and care for others without abandon because he takes care of me. I no longer feel the weight of shame and guilt over missing church or yet another sin. I am human and a work in progress. I accept the forgiveness offered to me, and do my best to change my ways. I do this not because I feel obligated, but because I love Jesus and want to be more like him.   That is why Jesus died on the cross- not so we would feel obligated to him and follow a list of rules. No. He came so we can enjoy the freedom of a relationship with him. That relationship with him frees us and allows us to become the best versions of our true self.

   If I would have been disliked because I love Jesus and pursue relationship with him?  Then I am absolutely ok with that.   Because that isn’t religious- Jesus wasn’t and I won’t be either

March 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Habakkuk’s choice

                       Habakkuk ends with one of my favorite passages of scripture.    I love the words, as they are spoken from a heart that had come full circle in a conversation with God.    Remember Habakkuk started out angry, full of questions.   God responded with a hard answer, causing Habakkuk to look back, remember, and praise God for all he had done in the past.   He then reaffirms his faith by saying that it doesn’t matter what comes, what the circumstances around him look like, he will choose joy. 

                      Starting in verse 17 of chapter 3, Habakkuk describes some despairing, hopeless, times.  He then in verse 18 uses a very powerful word to transition to his choice of joy.  Yet.  He says “Yet, I will rejoice.”  Webster defines “yet” as now or in the future.  Habakkuk is stating that right in that moment as well as in the difficult times that were coming he was going to choose joy.  I am not sure I could choose the same.

                     I think being able to say the brave words Habakkuk did of “Yet, I will rejoice…” comes with time.  It comes when a heart fully believes and trusts God in all things.   The last few years I have been through some of the darkest days of my life. I have suffered.  I didn’t choose to rejoice or be joyful.   I didn’t resent the circumstances but I wasn’t praising God for them in the moment either.   To be honest, I am not there in my faith.   I have, however, come to the place I can say that no matter what happens it is well with my soul.   I knew thru my suffering goodness was going to come.  That the suffering was going to build my strength, and bring beauty to my ashes.  Those thoughts allowed me to choose to let it be well in my soul.   That is where I am in my faith at this moment.   In hard times, I can be at peace, but I am not ready to choose joy.  I am not ashamed to admit it either.   And that is because I believe God honored Habakkuk’s choice to choose joy, and I know he honors the place where I am- that no matter what comes my way it is well with my soul. 

                       I know this because of the words written in Habakkuk 3:19, “The sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes me as surefooted as the deer, able to tread upon the heights.”  Climbing a mountain is full of craggy, slippery places.  God gives me the strength and the sure footing I need to climb.  I know he will also help me get to the place Habakkuk did, the place of choosing joy in the darkest moments of life.     

March 11, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Habakkuk Looks Back

    We are always told not to look back.  To keep our eyes forward because looking back can only hamper our progress; make us yearn for what was instead of what is to be.  I agree, but there are exceptions to every “rule”.   There are times looking back is essential in order for us to face what is ahead.

          God had just finished giving the prophecy of what was to come to Habakkuk.  I can’t imagine the weight of the burden he was carrying. The answer was hard, and suffering was coming.  If I were Habakkuk I probably would have cowered in worry, wondering how I was going to survive.  Habakkuk did no such thing.  He started looking back.   Habakkuk began singing a song of praise about all the things God had delivered his people from.  He spoke of many things including the deliverance from Egypt and when God helped Gideon defeat the Midianites. These were stories Habakkuk had heard because they had been handed down thru the generations.    The bible doesn’t tell us, but I imagine Habakkuk praised God for some things God had done in his own life as well.    I believe nothing would have brought more comfort to Habakkuk’s heart than remembering what God had done for him personally.  Habakkuk stood there in awe of all God’s deeds.

     There have been many times in my own journey that I can only move forward by looking back.     Not only have I looked at the difficult things God has brought me through but I have remembered stories told to me of difficult things God has brought family or friends through.   In those moments I have felt that I haven’t had any strength, faith, or courage left to move on.  But when I look back? I have managed to take a deep breath and forge ahead. 

    Want to move forward? Take a look, just a look, back. 

Scripture reference:  Habakkuk 3: 1-16

March 6, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Love Wanted and Needed

          I   have had two great loves in my life, the one I wanted and the one I needed. To prevent confusion I will call them Mr. Want and Mr. Need.

          Mr. Want entered my life in the eighth grade.  He chased me, and I still remember the first time he kissed me.  He knew I would be making a visit to the nurse for my asthma med, and he waited on the stairs. Just so he could kiss me.  I let him kiss me but I didn’t let him catch me.  I still don’t know why, but I didn’t.  He moved away which made communication difficult.  In those days we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, cell phones, or Skype.   Each time he came to Muncie, however, he would contact me and we would see each other.   Mr. Want was tall, liquid blue eyes, and a voice smooth like honey.   The summer between our sophomore and junior year we made a pact to marry in seven years, and go to prom together.  We didn’t go to prom together.  Mr. Want blew in my life again the summer after we graduated.  He blew right back out like a hurricane. I was left heartbroken and confused.  I thought for sure he was the one for me.  I couldn’t understand why he had said he felt the same and then left me.  I thought our story was over, finished, but it wasn’t.  Mr. Want came back five years later.   I remember everything about those few days.  All the old feelings came rushing back, but it still wasn’t meant to be.  He left again, where I don’t remember, and for ten years not a word.    He came back around in 2009, and by this time I was living in Florida and had met Mr. Need.   Mr. Want tried to talk me into coming home to Indiana and being with him.  Did my heart skip a beat when I heard his voice? Did all those maddening feelings come back?  Absolutely. But by then I knew a relationship with Mr. Want had always been and would always be like a roller coaster; a fun wild ride that would always come to a thudding heart wrenching stop.  And it was time for me to get out of line, and not ride anymore.  So I chose to stay with Mr. Need.

   I never expected Mr. Need.   He was nothing like Mr. Want or anything I wanted at all. He wasn’t over six feet tall, didn’t wear Levi’s, had a quirky sense of humor, and was divorced and had a daughter.  He was calm, crazy about me, and our relationship wasn’t at all like a roller coaster. It was more constant like the waves of the ocean coming in.  I remember our first kiss, our first date, and what he said to me on our first date.  He bought me flowers just because, for my birthday, Valentine’s day and even Christmas.   No matter what came our way he stood by me. I saw him fight for me, and fight to be with me.   For the first time in my life, I was unabashedly adored.  For the first time in my life I was in a healthy relationship.  There was some drama, of course, but nothing that we couldn’t work through or get over.  Mr. Need was the love I needed and never knew I wanted.  It was gentle yet tough when it needed to be, constant and sure.  I married Mr. Need.

            The lesson I learned in all this is love comes in many forms, and what is wanted isn’t always what is needed.    Mr. Need makes me a better person, still unabashedly adores me and brings me flowers.  Our love is still constant, secure, and sure.  We have been to hell and back and have managed to emerge stronger.  I am so happy I married the love I needed and never knew I wanted.  

    I don’t know why I decided to write this today, maybe because Valentine’s Day was just the other day or maybe because I have just been thinking about the difference between want and need.  It might be because Mr. Want recently contacted me via social media.  I don’t really know.  I just know, for whatever reason, I am reassured that Mr. Need was and still is the perfect choice for me.

February 19, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Hard answers

     When Habakkuk poured out his heart to God I wonder what his expectations might have been.  Did he hope for a specific answer from God or simply any answer at all?  The answer he received was a doozy.  It was a hard to swallow answer.  God told him he was going to allow Judah to be turned over to the Babylonians.   History, as well as the bible, tells us how cruel and violent the Babylonians were.  I don’t think this was the answer Habakkuk was hoping for.  I feel his pain.

     I have had many answers to prayer that I haven’t liked because they were hard anwers.  The answers have elicited such responses as: “Really God?”, “Are you kidding me?”, and my personal favorite, “Why do I have to do all the changing?” While I haven’t been handed over to any Babylonians, my answers have been a battle. Why? Because when I get an answer I don’t like, it usually means I have to change or give up something.   This essentially was the reason God was allowing the Babylonians to have their way with Judah.  Judah needed to changed their ways and turn their heart back to God.  Habakkuk might not have liked the answer, nor have I, but the answer was necessary.

           I have found a great amount of suffering usually accompanies the hard answers, and as a result we grow into the person God is making us to be.  I know had God not given me some hard answers I would still be stuck in some very painful places.   I thought the pain of the answer might be worse than any current pain I was feeling, and for a while it was.  Once the suffering ended, however, I found I had peace and a healed place.   I have come to understand that is why the hard answers and suffering are necessary.  That can sometimes be the only way we can grow and heal, and ultimately find peace.

             I don’t want to miss a key point in the hard answers and suffering- God’s mercy.  Habakkuk died before he saw an end to the suffering of Judah God was allowing.  That begs the question how did he not give up and curse God?  I think it is because in the midst of the suffering he saw God’s mercy.   The bible doesn’t tell us whether he did or not, but his contemporary Jeremiah wrote this in Lamentations 3:22-23 “The unfailing love of the Lord never ends.  By his mercies we are kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies are new every morning.”     I believe those words with all my heart.  I have seen God’s mercy in the midst of my suffering many, many times.   And that is why I have never given up in the midst of my own hard answers. 

        God might be giving you some hard answers right now.   It is uncomfortable, scary, and hard.  Keep going on your journey, remembering God has a new mercy for you every day, and that the peace and freedom you will find at the end of this road is well worth it

February 9, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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