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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pastor Saeed

I am sitting on my living room couch tonight, sipping a glass of wine. My kids are all tucked in bed and the last calls of "goodnight, mommy!" have ceased.

Joe is snuggled on the sectional next to me "watching TV", AKA: sleeping.

The dog is snoring at my feet and the food network is on on the background.

And my heart is absolutely heavy tonight.

By all counts, I should be enjoying life. I should be relaxing.

I live in a beautiful home. My husband is by far the most amazing man I know. My kids are precious and the absolute delight of my life. I am warm, dry, and fed.

But I can't stop thinking about Pastor Saeed.

If you're not familiar, he's an American Christian pastor who is imprisoned in Iran. His crime: he was building orphanages and preaching about Christ.

So, now he's in prison and being beaten regularly.

He has internal bleeding and he's being refused medical treatment, including receiving the medications he desperately needs, as well as pain medicine.

Because he is "unclean".

He is a Christian and that makes him "unclean" in their religion.

And as I sat here in my cozy, beautiful home, watching cable TV on my 50 inch plasma screen, I read a letter Saeed wrote to his family while in that prison. While his every breath and movement causes him excruciating pain.

He scratched this letter in the margin of a torn newspaper page and then gave to his family when they came to visit.

The letter can be found by clicking HERE. PLEASE--GO READ IT.

As I was reading through tears the words he wrote about forgiveness and love, hate was boiling inside me. Anger, resentment, loathing.

All the things he cautioned against feeling.

And as much as I want to rail-- I want to break things and scream-- I can't because Pastor Saeed is absolutely right.

If I let that anger and hate take control, Satan wins.

And that can't happen.

It's not lost on me how very much Pastor Saeed's situation parallels Paul's.

Paul spent most of his ministry in prisons for preaching Christ. He was also beaten and left to die on many occasions.

But he continued to praise the Lord.

There's a song by Ray Boltz that never fails to move me. I encourage you to watch the video and read along with the words. The video is a little cheesy maybe, but the message is so beautiful.




And I think about all the things I am doing every day that I take for granted.

I lose my patience when my kids call my name too many times.

Pastor Saeed would give anything to hear his children's laughter and hear them call out "Daddy!"

I am annoyed that Joe has fallen asleep again while we're supposed to be spending time together.

Pastor Saeed sent his love to his wife on a wrinkled piece of newsprint, across continents, probably aware he will never see her, feel her, or hear her voice say she loves him again.

I feel frustrated as I look around at the mess of toys the kids left in their wake today.

Pastor Saeed is gripped with pain while listening to sewer rats in his room.

And it all just seems absolutely unfair.

A horrible tragedy.

A farce.

This man was building orphanages.

He was preaching the love of Christ to others.

And now he is being tortured.

His wife probably replays a million times in her head the day they said goodbye. They thought it would be for a few weeks. Little did they know that he probably will die in that cell.

I wonder if she wishes the embrace would have lasted longer, her hand on his face a moment more, and her lips on his a beat longer.

How many nightmares does she wake from calling out his name?

How many times has she pleaded with God to save him? To let her take his place? To let them see him if only one more time?

He thought his ministry was in building orphanages, but perhaps his true ministry is in the way he is handling this persecution. The way he is showing unshakable love to his captors, even after they beat him. The way he spent hours speaking to a fellow captive about the love of Christ and how he had to let his anger and hatred go.

I don't think I could do what he is doing and handle it with such unimaginable grace, dignity, and most importantly, love.

His mercy is astounding.

God can do anything.

He can knock down the walls of that prison and bring Pastor Saeed home.

But I don't know that He will.

Perhaps Pastor Saeed's ministry didn't truly begin until he set foot in that prison and the first blow made contact with his face.

And I think, "God use me!"

But could I do it? Could I be a martyr?

God bless Pastor Saeed.

Please don't click away from this post without signing the petition to have Pastor Saeed released.

I pray he is released and that he gets to look upon the faces of his wife, the love of his life, and his babies and tell them he loves them at least one more time.

I pray he gets to hear his children tell them they love him.

I pray his children get to see him and snuggle into his arms again.

I pray that his valiant attitude and perseverance are rewarded this side of Heaven as well as after he dies.

And I pray for a heart that loves Jesus as much as Saeed's so obviously does.

Feel free to share this post. Not for any glory for me, but to get awareness out. Implore our government to take a stand for this man.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with his religion, he is an American citizen being beaten and tortured in another country as well as refused medical treatment. It's time we took a stand.

To share this post, click on the title at the top first (unless you clicked a direct link to this post) and look for these icons at the bottom of the post:



Monday, April 29, 2013

The imPerfect Storm

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So God speaks to me in themes.

I think I've said that before.

I've heard Beth Moore say that before about herself.

When God plants a seed in my head, he confirms it through several different sources.

For a while it was David.

I bought a study about David (Beth Moore) in March of 2012. I did a week and got off focus, so I put it away.

Exactly a year later (almost to the day) I found it and started doing it again.

It has not stopped applying to me or speaking to me since.

Here is an example of a couple of crazy weeks during study:

*Started David study
*My niece wrote a devotional and referenced David fighting Goliath
*We visited a new church and the message was about David & Goliath
*Our lesson at church in the preschool room was about David & Goliath
*The sermon at our regular church the next week referenced David.
*The hit miniseries The Bible was on and the next night's episode was about David.

There are more, but that's all I can think of right now.

It was amazing. Everywhere I turned I was seeing something about David.

I am still figuring out exactly what the message was from that...be brave against the "giants" in my life? Trust that God has it all worked out despite the way I feel or the way things look? (Like when David was hiding in caves for years to keep Saul (the king) from murdering him even though God had told David he would be king).

And along the way, God has been speaking to me in smaller themes.

But a new one has begun.

Yesterday Joe and I taught the preschoolers. We did a skit about Jonah and the "big fish".

The story was that Jonah told God "NO!" he would not go to Ninevah to tell the people there to STOP doing bad things.

So, as Jonah was running away from God, God sent a storm. Jonah was thrown out of the boat he was in, and swallowed by a "big fish".

And spit out until he agreed to go to Ninevah.

So what in the world does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Here's the thing...

I have had a long-standing tug-of-war with God.

It's about my kids.

I am fiercely protective with them.

Mama Bear X 1,000,000.

As most mamas are.

That instinct was placed in me, I believe, by God.

He considers children precious. (Matthew 19:14, Psalm 127:5)

I am so fiercely protective, however that I often place them above God's will.

I told Joe yesterday that my last "hold-out" with God is concerning the kids.

I want to say "Your will be done, not mine"

BUT....

as long as that doesn't include ANYTHING uncomfortable, dangerous, hurtful, or fatal happening to my children.

Just a small caveat.

So, God, I am allllllll yours. 100%

*unless it involves anything negative concerning my kids, in which case I am O.U.T.

* = The fine print I added to my relationship with God.

The problem with that is God is a "Go Big Or Go Home" kind of 'guy'.

He's a 100% IN or 100% OUT kind of God.

He doesn't want my half-assed devotion. (Revelation 3:16)

I think of a boiling pan of water. If you add a cup of freezing water to it, it's no longer boiling.

I can claim to have a fire in my heart, but if I douse it with the freezing water of my doubt (doubt that God will TRULY take care of my family) then that fire is dampened, at best.

I prayed, multiple times, to be a "sold-out believer".

Not being afraid what others think.

Not being afraid of being un-friended literally or virtually.

Not being looked down on for raising my kids to be believers.

Not being afraid to stand up for the unborn and their right to life.

Not being afraid to stand for God when the world wants to stand for everything but.

And so on...

So God is calling my bluff.

Do I REALLY trust Him?

Do I REALLY believe it should be His will, not mine?

Well, that's what I am asking myself.

Here's where the rubber hits the road.

After teaching yesterday, I was looking at a blog last night and reading some of the comments on it when I clicked over to read another woman's blog. It was a random chain of events. I scrolled through her most recent posts and found she had just recently written about..........Jonah.

When Jonah said no, and ran away, God sent a storm after him.

What storm will God send my way if I continue to tell Him no?

I don't know that He will. I don't believe He will "smite" me. I don't believe He's a mean, vengeful God.

But I do believe He's a Just God.

I do believe that He detests liars.

And I do believe He'll hold me at my word.

For me to say I want to be sold-out, trusting and on board--only to withhold an area of my life--makes me a liar.

Thing is...I can argue this case single-handedly in my own head! (Again...it is exhausting being in here.)

God loves me.

I love my children.

God loves my children.

Where is the disconnect??

WHY do I continue to doubt??

I think we know why.

Doubt is a seed sown not by God.

The fruits of the spirit are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.

I like the Message version of Galatians 5:22:


But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.


The kicker here, the absolute jaw-dropping Truth is that the MOMENT I turn over my faith and Trust in Him to be faithful (as He says He will be) is when I will get peace. Not before. Call it God's Trust Fall, if you will. I won't truly believe until I obey. I pray for peace, but it comes when I trust.

So, that realization seems to be the easy part.

The actual act of "Faith-ing" is where I have trouble. :(

It's not always as easy as flipping a switch.

I think *just my tiny opinion so take it for what it's worth* that sometimes the act has to come before the feelings.

If I say with my lips that I trust and then live as if I do and capture every thought that comes into my head that is contrary, I believe God will provide me with the peace to continue those activities and that commitment with my heart.

It's the letting go that kills me.

But it's the holding on that may kill my spirit.







Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hit & Run Evangelism

I have started and stalled at least 2 other posts in the past weeks.

I have SO MUCH and NOTHING on my mind and I can't seem to get it together enough to present those thoughts in one coherent, non-offending post.

Just know that going in.

I can't promise this will be non-offending, but it's on my heart.

Nothing spurs a good, passionate blog post for me quite like Facebook.

I hate Facebook.

I love Facebook.

Tonight, I want to address something that is so prevalent. Something that most, if not all, of us have done or do on a regular basis. Myself included, unfortunately.

Why is it that we feel so absolutely free to spew condemnation onto others?

Why do we feel so comfortable tearing others down as we look down on them from our ivory towers?

Do we really think we can bully someone into Heaven?

How many sinners did Jesus back-hand into repentance?

He was stern at times, and forceful at others, but always Just. And I cut Him a great deal of slack since He was the son of God and all. And perfect.

That's the key. He was perfect.

Not like John Q. Public who casts his pearls of wisdom from behind his laptop screen.

Or Susie Q who lashes out with her daggers of scripture from her iPad.

I have a reeeeeeal problem with those kinds of "Christians".

In my opinion, those are the very people that the "lost sinners" avoid. And the very reason "Christians" get labeled with names like Hate Groups and bigots.

You know that saying "Don't judge another man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins"?

I want to scream that from the rooftop.

One especially annoying sentiment in posts I've come across in multiple locations is about marriage.

Marriage is a covenant.

No doubt.

And it is a decision, not a feeling.

Got it.

However, when you post or preach things about marriage vows and referencing divorce in such a way that you cast judgment over those who have been divorced, it can have a really awful effect.

Speaking God's Truth is one thing,

Speaking God's Truth while looking down your nose at your audience is quite another.

How many testimonies are silenced and how many journeys of repentance and healing are smothered by harsh words and rebuke that's given out of line, out of context, and out of relationship?

How many souls are won to God by sanctimonious, self-serving opinions attached to a scripture?

And this isn't just about comments/posts about marriage.

Anything.

Anything that is said with an air of "I'm so glad I'm not committing this heinous sin and you'll surely burn in hell for it" will never win souls. Never.

I don't typically believe in using 'always' or 'never', but in this case, I believe I'm right.

Is divorce wrong?

Absolutely. 100%.

God hates divorce.

The Bible is clear on that. (Malachi 2:16)

But I take this very personally because I have been divorced.

Twice.

And you can imagine how proud I am of that bit of trivia.

For the longest time, I tried to hide that from everyone who didn't know my past.

I was embarrassed.

I felt like I couldn't be taken seriously if people knew I was a divorcee.

Because "good" Christians don't have big sins.

"Good" Christians only sin in ways like saying "damn", watching 'R' rated movies, or not tithing 10%.

"Real" Christians have never had affairs, been divorced, had an abortion, struggled with sexual identity, killed someone, had sex before marriage, stolen something, gotten pregnant outside of marriage, been to prison..."

We draw a line in the sand as to who we think is "good enough" to be invited to Christ's table.

Nowhere is that written in the Word...No...we have taken it upon ourselves to add that in as a footnote.

And just in case someone is daft enough to think they could be accepted into Christ's fold, we make sure they understand what they can and cannot have done to qualify.

We stand up on Sunday with our hands raised in the air, praising God with the very fingers that type status updates and Tweets that make it very clear that WE are in the clear, but woe to you who don't toe the line.

And it makes me sick.

It makes me sick for so many reasons.

One, because I have been there--the one on the receiving end of those barbs-- and two for being the one thinking those same things, all the while polishing my halo.

How many people will we chase away from the Pearly Gates because they don't measure up to the same impossible standards that we ourselves don't measure up to?

How many testimonies will we silence because they are too "damaging" to the cause and could make the rest of us "Christians" look bad?

How many souls are we chaining to hell because we tell them they will never be good enough?

It angers me and I feel my blood pressure rising.

I have so many skeletons in my closet.

So many.

Some I've blogged about and some I still hold tightly to myself.

One of those skeletons that was shoved back in my closet--one I had not told ANYONE in 18 years...I shared with a friend just this past week. I confessed. And do you know how my friend responded?

She loved me anyway.

She didn't cheer and champion my sin. She didn't scowl and tell me how awful I was. Neither did she blow it off like it was no big deal. But she loved me. And she reminded me that I am forgiven.

I promise you if that conversation had gone any other way, I would have started building a wall up between myself and her and myself and God.

And any good that could come of my sin (like ministering to another who has experienced what I have) and the way I have asked for forgiveness (and received it) would have been silenced. Gone.

Instead, I would have been filled with shame. And shame is not a tool of God. Shame is very clearly a tool of satan.

Let's look at Paul in the Bible...Paul was a Christian killer. He spurred on the stoning of Stephen (the first martyr) among many others. He took great pride in his work.

But he also became one of the most (if not the most) prolific champions of the faith. Jesus forgave him. It didn't matter what he had done. He was made new. And it wasn't as if he stopped sinning after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. He's human. He even admitted in Romans 7:15 that he struggled with doing the exact opposite of what he wanted to and knew he should do. And that was AFTER he became a Christian.

So I am more aware now. Something God has really been working on in me is judgment and how I am so free with it.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says to "take captive every thought" and make it "obedient to Christ."

I'm exhausted at the end of the day at the thoughts that run amok. The thoughts of how fat that girl is or how ugly that guy is...what a bad mom she is and what a rude guy he is...

Yes. It's a cancer.

So I am inviting you to take captive every thought. I encourage you to think before you speak, especially when it comes to speaking about sin. As I will.

None of us are good enough. Nor will we ever be. We have only one thing to boast about.

1 Corinthians 1:31: "Therefore, as the Scriptures say, 'If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD.'"

Let's not be the ones who kick the guy trying to limp over the finish line.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

That's Why There's You.

Inspired by Matthew West's song Do Something

Can't turn on the T.V.
Too afraid of what I will see.
Facebook is much worse by far
where what you post makes you a star.

This world is crumbling deeper
Selling out is by far cheaper
Than standing firm on the Word,
Not believing all you have heard.

No value placed on human lives,
Baby girls turned into wives.
Children robbed of childhoods.
We call it choice, we call it good.

In the name of diversity,
we live our lives unethically.
Where baby's lives are discounted,
simply because they're not wanted.

Bombs placed on a city street,
silence the sound of innocent feet
We cry, we rail, we shake our fist.
Did Jesus not warn us of this?

Complacency that's so much in vogue,
while evil lurks about all rogue.
We "send our prayers" but is that all?
To our knees we never fall

We cry out loud "God fix this mess!"
For our children's sake, we accept no less!
God answers back with tear-filled eyes,
"Children, I fear you bought the lies,"

"That politics can change the heart
But laws and change--so far apart
No decree or rule will end this mess
No, you must turn and then confess."

"The place where you'll finish and start
begins and ends with the heart.
You must not look down your nose
Pray for your neighbor, love your foes"

"Keep yourself free of pride
your flaws you'll no longer hide
Love the one who's full of hate
Be strong, no matter what your fate."

"The blood that's shed by evil men
is only quelled by more blood then
a life it takes to create peace
a life not filled with any ease."

"A thankless, grueling, uphill fight
is what it takes to end this plight.
My Son He died to pay the price
anything less would not suffice."

"What started up above on high
is now being fought before your eyes.
It's not with man you really war,
This battle is for so much more."

"It will take great bravery
to stand firm to the end with Me.
This is not a fight for the weak
but for those willing to speak."

We shake our heads and look around
who'll do the work, where is he found?
And as we look from left to right
Looking for who'll fight the fight

The answer comes so very clear
It is just what we all had feared
The awful job that's left to do


"My child, that is why there's you."


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ever Have One Of These Days?

Go with me.

I need to share the ridiculous day I had yesterday.

It started actually Monday night when we packed up all the kids, herded them to the garage and TRIED to load them in the van. The doors wouldn't open. Both Joe and I took turns trying every method imaginable (door, key fob, even manually wrestling them) to open them.

Apparently, in an effort to find Lego Iron Man's mask in the depths of the back seat the night before, the interior light was left on all night.

Luckily, we have Triple A.

Unluckily, they postponed their arrival time TWICE the next day.

Also, unluckily, I was set to meet up with the guy from the company who did the emergency mitigation on our old house when it flooded in February. It was a large check that I needed to get out of my hands.

I desperately needed a shower (can I get an AMEN here, moms? How many times do you postpone your shower until "after X, Y & Z is done"?) I knew the moment I disrobed would be the exact second my doorbell would ring.

So, I waited. And swatted the flies away. ;)

Finally, the guy from Triple A arrived and did his thing with the battery. It was corroded (natch) and we needed to replace it.

I carried around my debit card for about 15 minutes. Waiting to pay.

In the mean time, I could hear the kids upstairs (above the garage) screaming and fighting. I ran up the stairs 162 times to check on them/referee and at about the 159th time I found M (almost 4 yrs) naked from the waist down. His diaper *broke* (as he says). Probably because he's almost in college and still not potty trained.

I didn't have time to run upstairs to grab a new diaper, so I told him "not to pee on the floor" (knowing somewhere in the back of my mind if he was able to do that he SHOULD be potty trained and hoping he would magically train himself right then and there).

I ran back down to the garage (feeling good for getting some kind of a workout in for the day) and went to pay...only to find that I no longer had my debit card in my hand.

???

I searched the van and the house.

Nowhere to be found.

Finally, I asked the kids.

Of COURSE they knew where it was. They grabbed it and were playing with it. It was on the floor.

Is nothing sacred in this house??

During the 3rd rifling of the van, I see the door to the house open...and hear the kids *whispering* about the Triple A guy when who do I see leading the charge? M. Still bottom naked.

I shooed them all back in the house, paid and bid the AAA dude good day and finally re-diapered the naked kid.

All the while grumbling about spending $127 to replace a battery that was killed all to find a freakin' Lego toy.....

I gave the kids lunchables. Hopped in the shower. Dressed myself and everyone in record time.

Got the diaper bag ready, shoes on all 14 feet, just ready to head to the van...

when I got an email from the guy I was meeting that he was going to come to me to pick up the check.

Okaaaaaay...everyone's shoes off, try to get back to our day...

Then I passed out on the couch. Seriously, y'all. I PASSED OUT!

I could NOT hold my eyes open. Weird.

After my impromptu nap (peppered with kids yelling, tattling, and waking me up, of course) I decided to be a good wife and start dinner.

The rotiserie chicken Joe bought was sitting in the sink, finished thawing. I've made these 2 other times. This time was no different.

I should have known this wasn't going to go so well when I noticed the packaging that said "Contains up to 25% actual chicken broth."

'Scuse me? What the fudge is the OTHER 75% made up of??

I don't think I want to know.

I gagged when I cut the package open and all that disgusting liquid sprayed out. I worked the chicken carcass out of the packaging, feeling like a midwife assisting in childbirth, and held my breath while I dug the giblets and the neck bone out.

Side bar: WHY do they include these things INSIDE the animal??? Can they not package them separately so I don't have to do lamaze breathing while I'm elbow deep in this poor, defenseless (albeit dead) animal?

I held it under it's wings to rinse it with cold water, inside and out.

Right about now is when I had to take several I-think-I'm-going-to-pass-out-this-is-so-disgusting-because-it's-the-same-weight-as-our-9-month-old-baby breaths, resting my head on my arms while holding the "baby" under the faucet.

Okay...successfully having survived such an archaic and disgusting procedure, I put it in the pan and added salt, pepper, and seasoning salt. All while saying silent "I'm sorry's" to  this poor chicken, God rest its soul.

I popped it in the oven, set the timer, and congratulated myself on getting it done without actually throwing up.

At about minute 30 of baking, I peeked in to check on dinner when to my utter horror, I saw red, bumpy ISH oozing out of the dead chicken's arse cavity.

I had never seen THAT before.

I frantically texted Joe, resident chef at our house, and waited for him to get home to see for himself.

I knew we were in trouble when even his face turned green.

Apparently, all I had fished out of the cavity was the paper the giblets were in. Again, I ask you, WHY do those disgusting parts have to be INSIDE the chicken? Is it not enough that it's been butchered, plucked, and disemboweld, but I have to further violate it to remove the guts that were ALREADY removed and then PUT BACK IN?

It was a sight, people. If I hadn't been retching in the corner, I would have snapped a pic.

Or maybe I wouldn't have. It wasn't pretty.

So.....dinner is ruined, but the hubs sprang for dinner out. *score*

That was nice. The kids behaved, the pizza was good, the night was warm....so we decided to venture over to our old house to see how things are moving along...

Only to find things aren't actually moving at all. Or at least that's how it looks.

The guy who picked up the check told me things were progressing nicely with plastering and dry walling.

I know I'm a layman and all, but wouldn't that kind of mean plastering was taking place? There was not a speck of plaster to be found. Well, not on the walls. It was bagged neatly in the garage, though.

In fact, it looked like nothing had been done since the 2 days prior when I was there.

AND....to boot....the piece de resistance was when we discovered our lawn mower has been stolen.

Yes. Awesome.

This house is the problem that keeps breeding more problems.

So, dejectedly we drove back home. Cursing who would steal our mower and ourselves for being stupid enough to leave it there...

4 of the 6 kids were sleeping, so we carried/dragged them in the house when we got  home, and were greeted by an ENORMOUS, BLACK WOLF SPIDER waving hello to us inside our house.

I screamed like we were being murdered. Called frantically for Joe. The kids all had to take turns looking at it. I swear I could have saddled that thing and taken it for a ride.

Thankfully, Prince Joe stepped in (literally) and smashed the crap out of it. And then gave it a burial at sea.

Of course, my "Spidey Vision" was on high and I swore every thing that moved was another relative looking for its lost family member. I envisioned armies of them coming out from underneath walls and out of vents to seek vengeance.

I had trouble sleeping last night.

But it's a new day. And I'm trying to laugh at it all now. Trying.

But, make no mistake...should I see one of those tarantulas again today, when Joe isn't here, I'm outta here. There will be no valiant killing. I will scream and run. In that order. Hopefully with the kids.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Save $7 Tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters!

Time to break away from the serious... :)



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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

L O V E and some other controversial stuff.

That word...LOVE...probably conjures up all kinds of images and feelings.

Cupid with his bow.

Valentines and boxes of chocolate.

Weddings.

Babies.

Parents and children.

Warm, soft, cuddly, wrapped-up-in-a-cashmere-blanket-watching-the-sun-rise kind of thoughts.

How many of us automatically think of Christians?

Does 'Christian' even register as a blip on your "Love" radar?

When you think of God what is your first thought?

Is it love?

Or is it judgment? Vengeance? Anger? Wrath? Punishment? Mercy? Forgiveness?

Do you picture George Burns waving around his cigar? Do you see Morgan Freeman looking down dubiously at mankind? Alanis Morrisette? Charleton Heston? Rob Zombie?

When you think of Jesus, what do you think of?

A frail, blonde-haired, blue eyed man? A burly Middle Eastern carpenter? Jim Caviezel? That hottie who just played Jesus in the History Channel's miniseries The Bible?

I ask because I just read an excellent article posted by a friend on Facebook. Click HERE to read it for yourself.

This article, was just one of MANY confirmations that my thinking needed a HUGE makeover. My last post mentioned how God has been rocking my world. He has and it has been amazing. And scary.

To hold tight to convictions that have been shaped by one's past, one's experiences, one's perceptions, lessons taught by others...well, it is difficult to let those go. Even when you can plainly see the flaws in that manner of thinking.

It's like the baby's diaper analogy.

Oh, you've never heard it?

It goes like this...why does a baby not want to have his soiled diaper changed?

Because it's warm and it's mine.

That sounded a lot better when I heard Dave Ramsey share it. :)

Anyway...getting down to brass tacks here...it's hard to let go of what we know for what we don't. Sometimes living with the pain or discomfort of what we know is easier than the fear associated with the unknown.

But it was just too obvious to me that what I believed and how I was acting and thinking was from the gospel of Mandy. Sure, it was based on Jesus' teachings, but it was more than sprinkled with Mandy-isms.

For starters, what person do you know will fall to their knees in praise or repentance because of someone wagging their finger in that person's face, condemning them to hell if they don't repent?

Who will profess undying love to Jesus based on another's proclamation that the way they live/eat/believe/worship is wrong/blasphemous/an abomination/shameful? Even if the accuser is right?

I remember sitting with a woman many years ago when I was a freshman in high school (and knew it all, naturally). Somehow abortion came up and she asked me what I felt about it. I shared with her all of my wisdom on the subject as she listened. And I can't stress enough the "listened" part. When I finished tying my stance up with a bow, she said, "do you mind if I ask you a question?"

Of course, I said no, I didn't mind.

And then she went on to BLOW MY MIND by presenting to me a way of thinking that I had never even considered before.

Bam. Mind Blown.

And *like that* I have never looked back.

It made sense what she said. It clicked.

Here is the formula that I believe works:

*Have a relationship with someone (usually beyond acquaintance)
*Listen--actively listen-- when someone shares their views
*Reserve judgment
*Keep emotions in check
*Ask permission before sharing your view
*Share your view with respect and humility and love
*Extend the grace to the other person to make their own decision and hold their own opinion--even if it is still in opposition to yours.

That last one is really hard for me.

Especially if I am passionately, positively, absolutely certain that the other person's view is not in line with God's. And ESPECIALLY when I am speaking to someone I care about deeply.

But God is working on me with that. He's teaching me that rejection is not of me personally. It's of God. He also reminds me that there are plenty of areas in my life where I still suck. (That's not the word He uses, per se...)

I have had several things "fall into my lap" over the past couple of weeks.

A friend posted to my timeline on Facebook about a Bible study she was doing and how the author reminded her of me. I ran to check out this obviously fabulous woman...and came away refreshed and amazed at such a phenomenal approach to sharing God. You can read about it by clicking HERE.

Then, Natalie at Mommy on Fire blew me away with her post about Gay Marriage.

And I was moved. And convicted. That we are to live in love.

Okay...so what does that mean? Do we start wearing birkenstocks, dread locks, and live off the land? Does that mean I passively sit back while this world sinks deeper into the depravity and immorality it has been hurtling towards for generations? Do I water down the Truth in an effort to gain friends or someone's confidence? To avoid hurting feelings or ruffling feathers?

No, I don't believe that.

Please hear me. I know there are some who may walk away from this post thinking I am going soft, compromising the Truth, or being a fence-sitter.

But in order to figure this whole thing out (because, maddeningly, God will often place these little nuggets on my heart and then allow me to figure out the details on my own), I had to look at  the Word.

And this could be a lifetime post because there is an OVERABUNDANCE that I am learning here...

What is Love?

I think of 1 Corinthians 13...

Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I'll tell you....as I was typing those I have to admit that I NEVER remember reading the one that says "it does not dishonor others". The Message version is "Doesn't force itself on others."

Mind. Blown. Again.

Seriously....the whole reason I have started this thought-shifting journey is because I see how we ("we" being most Christians) tend to treat others who we feel are leading a sinful lifestyle.

I can guarantee you that I almost NEVER operate according to 1 Corinthians 13.

In fact, the opposite could not be more true of me most times.

And while it was exciting...it put me in kind of a cold, sweaty panic. Have I really been so blind to what is in the Bible that I have lived 30 *muffling my voice with my hand over my mouth* years believing something completely CONTRARY to what God said?

And how many people have I turned off and turned away because of my inappropriate reactions and thoughts?

Let's not even discuss the absolute and bold-faced hypocrisy that was my life as I was holding such defining and condemning thoughts of others. I am ashamed. I am sad. I am embarrassed. And I am positively flabbergasted that I didn't see it sooner.

And then I became more flabbergasted at all the ways God has confirmed that I do, indeed, need to change the way I think. And live. And love.

Joe and I had a long conversation about the whole Gay Marriage issue and struggled for a few days with how we (individually) felt about it. It was funny, because we were BOTH mulling this over without the other knowing what we were thinking. When I brought it up one night, we discovered that we felt exactly the same way!

Then...as I was laying down to bed the other night, I read the Bible App I have on my phone. I hit the button to choose what book I wanted to read and was taken to Ephesians, for some odd reason. The title caught my eye and I read it:

Ephesians 5:1-2 (The Message) Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. (Emphasis mine)

I was--again--beside myself at the amazing ways God can speak to me using His Word.

I started to think more about this...what exactly does living a life of love look  like? Does it mean I turn a blind eye to sin? Continue on like business-as-usual with my friends and relatives despite seeing things they are doing that are clearly outside of Christ's will? Do I say something? Don't I?

As I was cleaning today the story of the Good Samaritan came to me. Jesus told that parable in response to being asked "If we're supposed to 'love our neighbor like ourselves', who is our neighbor?"

Not missing a beat, Jesus told this story of the scourge of the neighborhood, so-to-speak--the Samaritan--being the ONLY one to help the man wounded on the side of the road. 2 very prominent men passed by, both active in the church, and both being careful to walk on the other side of the road, and ignored this bleeding and wounded man. It was the Samaritan who stopped to help. The people who the Jews didn't talk to because well, they were from the other side of the tracks.

I take that to mean the Samaritan either wasn't aware of or, more likely, wasn't bound by man-made rules about who could and should help whom. He was seemingly driven by a sense to help. And to love. Regardless of what sins the wounded man had committed or what the wounded man thought of the Samaritan.

For all that Samaritan knew, the wounded man could have been the head of the committee to ban Samaritans from the planet and was leading a coalition to exterminate all Samaritans from earth.

Didn't matter. The point Jesus was making was: the men you would have THOUGHT would help--the prominent and "Godly" men--did not. They passed by while carefully avoiding someone desperately in need.

Like Jen Hatmaker (the fabulous author mentioned in the beginning) said in one of her posts, I certainly wouldn't want someone waving a sign at me on my front lawn or shouting that I am an over-weight, self-absorbed, sinner who over-indulges in many things and says the "F" word. Are all those things true?

Sadly, yes. And then some.

Is that the surefire way to get me to turn away from those things? Maybe outwardly, for a time to avoid being shamed. But the real way for me to make those changes starts and ends with God. With Jesus. With changing my heart.

I fear that today we have confused sharing the gospel with a boxing match or lobbing a molotov cocktail.

When I would see issues that are hot-button and emotional being supported by my friends and family--issues that I was clearly on the other side of--I got angry.

Angry.

Not sad or concerned or convicted to pray.

Angry.

And then I got vicious.

And maybe not to their faces, but certainly the awful, venomous thoughts ricocheted through my mind over and over again.

I detailed their every short-coming and fault. I railed about their obvious lack of relationship with God. I gloried that I was not in the same mindset as they were.

Even though this rarely left my thoughts and traveled to someone else's ear, it was a cancer, eating away at me.

I was angry at someone the other day and I was berating them (again, in my head) saying, "I'm so SICK of suffering because of your inadequacies!"

And I saw it...in my mind...Jesus hanging on the cross. Beaten. Bloody. And I "saw" Him look me in the eye and say, "I'm so sick of suffering because of your inadequacies."

Yeah.

Once again--put in my place.

Does Christ speak to us that way? No. Could He? Without a doubt.

My friend Natalie said in a more recent post that it wasn't nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was Love.

And it's THAT kind of love that I want to possess and model.

Not the kind that judges and condemns.

The kind that says, "Hey...I'm a sinner. The ONLY thing I have to be excited about is that I am saved. Join me! It's an open invitation!"

And then allows the grace to let the other person make his decision.

I will never be able to bully someone into the kingdom.

My job is to Love.

Share the gospel. Stand firm in my convictions (which are God's convictions) and let the Holy Spirit take over from there. After all, it's the Holy Spirit who is the "Closer" of these relationships. I'm merely the messenger.

*I purposely did not state my views on topics above in an effort to avoid inappropriate debate. I am open to discussion, for sure. If you'd like to talk more about these or any other issues, feel free to email me at mandypmommyof4 {at} yahoo {dot} com. I am an open book...but I find it's better to engage in discussion more one-on-one than through an open forum like this one where trolls can come simply to hurl their flaming arrows and then move on after wrecking your day. :)


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