Sunday, April 15, 2018

What kind of rock?

This week our pastor preached a sermon about what an ideal New Testament described church would look like. He wasn't wrong at any point, but I don't think I got the message he meant to give. My brain took a left turn. The scripture he started with was from Matthew 16:18, which says in part, "upon this rock I will build my church". For those of you who knew me as a kid, you might remember that I was a bit of a rock nerd. I still enjoy a good gem and mineral show. Rock identification was my "sport". So, when the statement of "upon this rock" comes up, my brain defaults to "What kind of rock is it?" What kind of rock is your church built on? Is it a sedimentary rock made up of layers of a bunch of things that settled together? Weak, with lines of division?  Is it a metamorphic rock that has changed under the pressures and influence of the world? Or, is it more like the igneous rock, forged in the fire of a volcano to bring about something hard and new from ashes?
This is not even close to what the sermon was on, but because my brain took this turn, I began to think through how we "do" church. What the modern church looks like verses what the Bible calls the church to be. I thought through some of the churches of the Bible that were doing things the wrong way as well as the ones that were doing it right, which lead me to some hard thinking that I am still pondering over. I think my goal in writing this out is to see if anyone else has wrestled with this, and where you came out, or to give comfort to anyone who struggles now to know you aren't alone.
So, here goes.
What if we are doing church wrong?
What if instead of bringing people in so the pastor can tell them about Jesus, we equipped our church members to go out and witness to people themselves?
What if instead of telling people they should serve, we expected everyone to serve? If you have been in church long at all you have probably heard the 80/20 rule. There are 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. Why? Shouldn't membership come with an expectation of contribution? And that is both financial and service. Every other club requires dues and service hours. Why are we okay giving that to the Beta Club but not to God?
What if instead of handing people a standardized aptitude test with spiritual buzzwords to "find your spiritual gift" Buzzfeed style, we actually encouraged and instructed people on recognizing where God has blessed them with talent?
What if instead of worship wars (that is where you fight over music), everyone picked their top ten favorite songs that inspire them to a meaningful worship of God? Then, even when you were forced to sing a song that annoyed you, you would know that one of your church family was getting to enjoy one of their favorite songs making it harder to be upset if you truly love your family.
What if instead of trying to make a production out of church we just came in,  sat down, and studied God's word in a way that compelled us to mature?
What if we stopped treating children like they wouldn't understand what the grownups are talking about, and invited them into the service to worship and learn beside their family? After all, what's harder to understand, the book of Psalms or Shakespeare? We make kids read the bard in school, but don't require them to read the poetry of David because it might not seem relevant to them? You underestimate your child and the thirst for the knowledge that is found in real Bible study.
What if we stopped trying to be relevant and were just boldly honest? Honest about the good, honest about the bad, and unflinchingly honest about what God wants us to be.
What if instead of being hypocrites we told the truth? Instead of fake smiles and pretty words when life gets hard we told our church family that marriage is hard or money is tight or that I struggle with a specific sin every single day of my life.
What if instead of events and parties and socials we had prayer meetings and outreach and mentoring where no one brought food? That's right, I said without food!
I have attended some great churches, but if I am being honest, I have never been to that church.
I am in no way saying there is anything wrong with food or fun or even buzzword heavy programs (well, maybe that last one is a little wrong), but what I am saying is that all of that needs to take a back seat to cultivating maturity, discernment, and service among the people who commit to being part of the body of Christ.
What am I going to do with this fire that was lit in me? I hope I can help turn a little ash into obsidian.   

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Craft!

Normally I post about the horrors that have fallen on my family for Valentine's Day, but I thought I'd go a different direction this year. I was in Hobby Lobby yesterday picking up a specific doohickey for a specific project, but somehow found myself in the jewelry making section where I discovered a sudden need to make Nix a Valentine's Day present.
I wanted to make tags for a necklace, and I wanted the tags to have a couple of key words from Bible verses. The thought was that when Nix gets fidgety and starts to play with the necklace, the words will trigger the memory of the whole verse, which will then calm her spirit and ease the stress.
First up is "Be Still" Psalm 46:10
"Be still, and know that I am GOD"
I paired it with a compass because I know that one of my biggest struggles in seeking God's direction is just being still and waiting for God to set the path.

Next up is "By Grace" Ephesians 2:8
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of GOD"
This one is just a good standard reminder. We have been given a gift of salvation. We can't be good enough to deserve it, or bad enough to lose it once we accept it. It has a cross charm with it to be reminded of what giving that gift cost God. 

Last is "But God" 2 Chronicles 20:15
"Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's."
I bet you were expecting something different there. The phrase "but God" is actually used closed to 50 times in the Bible. Over and over we see men making bad plans, but God stepping in to fix it. We see people intending harm, but God showing up for protection. We see the world falling, but God sending His Son. The phrase "but God" shows love, mercy, protection, grace, guidance, strength, life, and resurrection! It is paired with an anchor because life will toss us about, but God is our anchor.
  
I recently heard someone say that obtaining craft supplies and using them are two different skills. This is definitely the case here. A few years ago I bought a cheap set of metal letter presses from Harbor Freight with the idea of trying this at some point, but just never did. Seeing a set of tag blanks on clearance reminded me of them, and set me on a mission to get it done. I am very pleased with the results. If you want to do it "the right way", craft stores have a small section of proper tools and kits to make it all come out perfect and even, Since I am not perfect or even, I think I will stick to my cheap tools for now.



For those of you who are dying to know, yes a family member did have to visit the hospital today, but for a pretty basic test and nothing too scary, I did have a stomach issue hit me during the middle of the concert I took Rocky to, but I survived without having to leave early, and the flu has been in our house, but seems to be clear now. The day isn't over, so I am not prepared to let my guard down just yet.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Chasing Peace


Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.
Psalm 61: 1-4

If you have followed along in what I have now affectionately termed "Adventures of a Wholesome College Girl", you know that Nix has had an impressively weird college life. Who gets flooded out of their dorm because a guy down the hall sets fire to his bed with a vape pen? My daughter, that's who. That hasn't even been the half of it. Really, if she were less wholesome I could turn it into a script and sell it to the CW.
This being the first week of classes for the new semester, she was determined to start it off in a much better place. Then life happened. It wasn't anything horrible or even all that dramatic, but it was enough to give her trouble sleeping and the fear that her life was doomed to be one complicated mess after another. 
Last night, I was talking with her, and it dawned on me that what has really happened is that her peace has been taken from her. Peace is one of those wonderful things that is promised to come from living a godly life. Not easy, not simple, not free from pain, but peace in the midst of the bad. We needed to stop looking at it problem by problem, and start looking for time to be at peace. That is when I said one of those things that I can't take credit for. It just came out of my mouth when I needed it to. "Honey, peace isn't going to just happen. You are going to have to chase after it, and grab it. It is there, but you won't finding it mired in the what if's and second guessing." 
To be honest, I almost had to sit down and cry because I realized that I have not been chasing peace either. Here we are letting the mac truck of trouble run us over time and again without bothering to stand up and get out of the road. 
This morning I sat down with the intention of finding a word about peace. Very quickly I was taken to this beautiful psalm. I sent it to Nix right away, and then set to work turning it into a picture to meditate on. 
One of the words that stands out to me is "abide". I wish we still used it. It is so much stronger of a word than something like stay or live. It is a word that reminds me that I can be filled with the Spirit of God at all times, and part of that means being filled with peace. It is a cool deep breath that soothes my soul. I know I am going to have to make a daily effort to chase down peace, but I look forward to the change in me that will bring.

Isn't it funny how ministering to someone else's needs can lead you to the place you didn't realize you needed so badly? God can be really interesting in His methods sometimes. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Legend of the Christmas Corn Dog

This was a bit of an unusual Christmas for our family, to say the least. My grandmother, Rixie the 2nd, has been in bad health requiring a few trips to the hospital since October. Thankfully, she is on the mend now, but Christmas was done in shifts this year. Between the hospital visits, my mother, Rixie the 3rd, had a reoccurring sinus infection. It is safe to say that Christmas decorating was the very last thing on the minds of my parents.
When we got into town we had two main missions. For me to restore a touch of normal to the house through cooking and doing laundry, and to get the house decorated for Christmas. I took advantage of my cousins' well timed visit, and got them to help us with the tree. When it came time to add the tree topper, there was an odd addition to the star's box. It looked like a wooden corn dog. We looked at it, scratched our heads for a minute, but went on with the job.
The star had a springy sort of bottom that did not want to balance on top of the tree. As soon as I got it somewhat secured, it would start to lean. It was getting really frustrating, and then a long buried memory came flooding to the front of my brain.


Bring me the Christmas Corn Dog!


Years ago my father had noticed a hole in the top of the tree just the right size to slide a dowel into. He turned a piece of wood to match the size and length of the spring on the star.


It slide right in, and blended in perfectly. I put the star on, where it stood perfectly level and steady all through Christmas.

Leave it to our family to come up with something both confusing and ingenious all at the same time.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Non-toxic

There has been a ton of talk lately about sexual harassment, and part of me hates to add to the ever growing list, but I have something positive to bring to the table.
As is my family tradition, I must start with "Everything is okay, but..." Nix recently experienced a difficult situation with a young man being inappropriate in how he engaged with her. Can you tell I'm trying to make this not sound scary? On paper it sounds pretty bad. We had to file reports and talk with officials to get it to stop, but it has stopped. We never had serious, imminent fear for her safety. We more had concern that this guy desperately needs mental health intervention, and reporting was really the only way to encourage that. Plus, I watch a lot of Criminal Minds and if this kid turned out to snap, I didn't want it to be around my kid.
It has been a true learning experience for all of us. A big part of it was trying to figure out at what point does sharing God's love for someone stop looking like compassion and start being you taking serious steps away. I actually had to stop one of the interviews Nix did to explain this concept to the interviewer. That she let this go on because, as a Christian, when we see someone in pain, we want to help, even at our own disadvantage. In the end, the God given instinct of fear overwhelmed any good she was capable of. I am beyond thankful to say that the interviewer accepted this reasoning and completely changed her approach going forward.
So, now that I have explain what happened in completely vague terms (sorry, I hate vague), I'll get to my point.
While all this was going on, the gentlemen at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) went above and beyond to keep my girl safe. They took turns walking her to her car, taking her to the bus, giving her rides, running interference, taking the guy aside and engaging him in prayer and Bible study apart from her, and even standing guard over a door while she sat in a back room trying to submit evidence to the campus police (I know that last one sounds scary, but it really is a "better safe than sorry" type thing). Every single one of these things was done with no intention other than keeping her safe. Not one of the guys who stepped up ever took advantage of the situation. Not even a little.  She always felt safe with them. She was never worried about one of them hitting on her, or getting the wrong idea as they walked her to her door. These are the men we hope we raise our sons to be.
With all of the day's talk of toxic masculinity, I am proud to tell you how I have witnessed non-toxic masculinity at work. My daughter might not "need" a man to keep her safe, after all she does carry a high powered taser, but even still, it is nice to know that there are guys out there that still embrace that protective instinct in a very positive way. It adds an extra level of security, and peace of mind for me.

If you have questions about our process for reporting the issue, what the experience was like, who we had to talk to, or what the results were, please feel free to message or email me. If this experience can in any way help someone else take steps to ensure their safety, I am glad to share.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

5 Steps to a Better Facebook Feed

I have noticed another round of people becoming aware of the need for privacy settings on Facebook. I have had numerous friends ask me how I filter my feed. I not only control who sees what, but I also control what I see from other people. It is surprising how much more peaceful and useful Facebook becomes when you filter things properly. I finally had time to sit down and make a tutorial with pictures. It is super easy.
Step 1
Locate your master friends list
 Step 2
Create lists to group people into. Facebook has a couple of defaults you can use such as close friends, local friends, and acquaintances. I have added to that a good bit to include a group for church people, geeky people, only women, and a few other categories that have been useful.
Step 3
Now click the spot where is says "See all friends" and use the drop down box to put each friend into the boxes you want them in. This doesn't take as long as it might sound. I probably did all of mine in less than a half hour.

Step 4
When you post, there is a box asking you which group of friends you want to post to. This probably takes the most getting use to. Normally, mine stays on "close friends" and only about 25 people see it. When I do switch to a different group, I have to remember to change it back for the next post. Another thing that is handy about this is there is a tiny icon that goes with the categories. Public is a globe, close friends is a star, local is a map point, and various other things. When you start to notice those, you can tell what settings other friends have used for their posts. I avoid posting on public posts, which is funny, because when I post about this I will probably make it public. 

Step 5
This is how you filter what you see from others. There are 3 little dots in the corer of every post. Click there for a drop down box. There is an option there to unfollow without unfriending. This means you don't see what they post, but you haven't unfriended them either. This comes in handy for those relatives that are still posting 3 year old memes, "only 10% of people will repost...", and outrage over satirical articles. There is also an option to just see less of the specific type of post. So, if you have a person posting game updates all the time, you can hide the game entirely. I haven't seen a Facebook game notice in at least a year. It is lovely.

There it is, 5 simple steps to a happier facebook feed. I know it takes a little time, but it is well worth it.
One little bonus tip, you can actually select to only see the feeds from a specific group of friends. All you do is go back to the friend list page from step 2 and click on the list you want to see. It will automatically filter your feed.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Big, BIG news

The past 12 hours has brought some rather unexpected news to our home.
Last night, Nix confessed to something she had been keeping a secret. Over the summer, we attended special Monday night church services with several different guest speakers. During one of these nights, Nix became convicted that she had not fully given her life to God. That night, she had asked God for help. She accepted Christ into her heart, and has felt a beautiful change come over her. As a person who remembers her first profession of faith and baptism, I didn't want to question her faith, but I knew that the fruits had just not been there. She tried, but the good seemed a passing phase while there was anger taking root. I feared for her as she was about to enter college, and then all of that changed. Not just her actions and attitude, but also my worry seemed to fade. Now I know why. She told us last night because she knew she needed to make it public and be baptized. She had backed out of saying something a few times. She was worried how we would take it. Would we accuse her of lying about her faith up until now? Would we understand? How could she explain? All of that doubt and worry were put to rest very quickly, and we helped her make a plan to walk forward today and publicly profess her desire to follow Christ. 
During our time talking, JD was uncharacteristically quiet. I looked at him, smiled, and basically said, "It's okay. You can say it. I already know." It all came spilling out. He didn't remember accepting Christ. He had no memory of his baptism. Because he has always been in church, he knew what to say, how to act, and what it should look like, but it wasn't touching his heart. He had doubts. Big giant doubts. Since Nix had just poured out her testimony to us, I shared my own, and then Rocky shared his. JD sat in silence knowing that he had nothing to share. We made it clear to him that this was between him and God, not us. He could not just say the magic salvation words, mainly because there is no such thing, but also because this needed to be serious business between him and God, and done for no other reason than wanting a true and complete relationship with Christ. He wasn't ready to make any decisions. You can probably guess how well I slept last night. The day before I thought I had two kids on a righteous path, seeking God, and all headed towards Heaven. To have that now called into question left me restless in the worst way. As I laid there trying to sleep at 12:30, I felt a sudden pull to go pray at the foot of JD's bed. I obeyed, but walked away confused not knowing why. This morning, I found out why. When I went up, JD had only been asleep maybe 10 minutes. He had been up praying to God to guide him into salvation. JD asked God to forgive his sinful life, asked for the Holy Spirit to come into his heart, and fully committed to following Christ. 
This morning, my kids walked up together before a congregation that they only knew a few of, to a pastor they had never met, and told him that they had both accepted Christ and wanted to make it public this morning.
I don't think proud is the right word for how I am feeling. Overjoyed, relieved, or happy doesn't cover it either. I think I am just very full of all the good emotions available. More than anything I am thankful. Thankful that God caught what I missed. Thankful that He moved my kids, and cared for them more than I ever could. Thankful for the salvation of my entire home.